London's Savoy hotel continues to serve up luxury and elegance in the grandest of styles.
I walk with the ghost of Alfred Hitchcock in London’s Savoy — for we’ve been given the sumptuous suite which “he loved” on the fourth floor. The suite has a stunning view of the Thames and London Eye, the giant Ferris wheel on the South Bank, dazzling red at night amid a myriad of other lights.
Hitchcock was one of a long line of celebrities synonymous with the hotel in its 129-year history: royalty, Charlie Chaplin, Fred Astaire, Judy Garland, Humphrey Bogart, Cary Grant, Coco Chanel, Marilyn Monroe, the Beatles and Elton John. An inscription on the photo beside the king-sized bed tells us Hitchcock always stayed in the suite with his wife Alma on London visits in the 1940s and 1950s.
The suite has an English country feel, rural and seascape prints on off-white walls, rich, gold satin drapes backgrounding the bed and around the wide windows, complemented with curtains in country garden themes looped at the top; a magnificent, gold chandelier on the high ceiling; the furniture antique.
The living room’s marbled fireplace is topped with a gold-framed mirror; a pale gold and green sofa, thoughtfully stocked bookcase, huge portrait of 19 century, red-coated military officer and dog, bar with Moet, wide ranging spirits and beverages; the teacups Wedgewood. The marbled bathroom with shower and clawfoot tub is almost as big as a standard room.
If our suite, which costs almost $3565 (£2000) a night, is seemingly the last word in elegance and luxury, the Royal Suite, one floor above, is even more — overwhelmingly — so. It’s as big as a house interior with colonnade pillars, two bedrooms, dining room, commercial-sized bar, fully equipped kitchen, spa — and sweeping vista of the Thames.
The master bedroom has a huge, four-poster bed with canopy, the mattress, we’re told, costing $35,600 (£20,000); rich wood panelling, antique furniture throughout. Patrons include the royal family, heads of state, and celebrities who pay $26,700 (£15,000) a night. On the next floor, we’re intrigued to note in the smaller, though sumptuous, $10,600 (£6000)-a-night, one-bedroom, contemporarily furnished Savoy Suite, computerised toilets where one doesn’t have to expend energy to lift the seat.
Within minutes of arriving at the Hitchcock suite, our butler Mihai, appears, offering to meet our every need. Then the butlers’ manager, Sean, who has been at the Savoy for almost 30 years, to ensure it’s all done to our entire satisfaction. We find its all indicative of the Savoy’s impeccable service.
Since we’re Australians, we’re greeted with a replica map of our country in confectionery with miniature cakes. And when we mention at dinner in Kaspar’s Seafood Bar we’re celebrating a wedding anniversary, the chef creates a platter extending good wishes in chocolate sauce together with petit fours and sweets.
We precede dinner with drinks in the American Bar where Londoners mingle after work, the friendly buzz competing with Sinatra favourites from the piano. I feel overdressed in a tie in the laidback surroundings.
Dinner at Kaspar’s, with its forest of glittering crystal chandeliers, is memorable: lobster and Cornish bisque with the signature royal fruits de mer platter: oysters, scallops, crab meat, poached prawns, complemented with a 2015 chablis from Burgundy
The Thames Foyer, with white metal gazebo, huge glassed cupola, and grand piano, too, is an experience, not only for the perfection of the Savoy Breakfast’s bacon, eggs, sausage, baked beans and mushrooms, but the tall, tiered stand of croissants, Danish pastries and muffins. On the walls, images of Sinatra, Gardner, Monroe and other movie stars. We’re told the dinner dance originated in the room, the piano continuing the tradition of live music at afternoon teas.
The Savoy underwent a $392 million (£220 million) restoration, sensitively maintaining the best of its rich history, reopening after three years in 2010. Staff tell me while rates fluctuate according to seasons, rooms on average start from about $866 (£486), including VAT, with suites about $1780 (£1000) and beyond. Packages are offered throughout the year.
Churchill regularly dined his wartime cabinet at the Savoy. Oscar Wilde added to its fame: it was the location of his affair with Lord Alfred Douglas. Whistler and Monet painted London scenes from the Savoy’s windows.
Those windows then and now, like Alfred Hitchcock’s movie Rear Window, have always offered something intriguing — and memorable.