A sumptuous dining room with a dose of theatre sets the stage for a modern menu showcasing an informal side to the Savoy. Janet Harmer reports
In response to the growing demand in the capital for flexible eating options within a more informal setting, the Savoy hotel has launched Kaspar's Seafood Bar and Grill in the space previously occupied by the River restaurant.
It was a bold step to take, having reopened the River restaurant just two and a half years before as part of the £220m refurbishment of the hotel. However, according to general manager, Kiaran MacDonald, the restaurant, "didn't sing like everywhere else in the Savoy", so action was taken to rethink the concept.
The result is Kaspar's, a 114-seat restaurant which serves breakfast to guests from 7am before switching to the all-day dining menu, which runs from 12 noon until 11pm. At its centre is a fish counter with an oyster-shell bar where chefs prep seafood and inject an element of theatre into the room, creating an atmosphere that was missing from the hushed dining room of old.
While the intention was to create a more informal vibe, being the Savoy, this is still an exceedingly swish space with Murano glass columns and a silver-leafed ceiling highlighting the art deco-inspired look.
Informality, however, does come to the fore in the menu, which is intended to be more approachable than the classic French offering of the River
restaurant. "We hope it provides something for everyone," said head chef James Pare, a Canadian who joined the Savoy as banqueting chef five months before the hotel's reopening in 2010. He is supported by a brigade of 21 chefs and 30 front of house staff.
While fish and seafood is its focus, the menu provides plenty of choice for vegetarians and ardent meat-lovers, with sweet potato and goat's cheese ravioli with roasted salsify and truffles (£19), Wiener schnitzel (£18) and beef bourguignon and mashed potato (£19) among the main courses.
However, the fish and seafood are undoubtedly the stars of the show. Alongside a choice of 10 starters, a wide selection of smoked fish (types of salmon, eel and sable fish) and cured fish (star anise salmon, gravadlax, beetroot halibut, citrus-cured wild sea bass and peppered monkfish) is proving to be a popular means of kick-starting a meal, with a selection of two costing £14, or four for £22.
Pare said that he is not surprised that one of the best-selling dishes on the menu is the Dover sole, simply grilled and served off the bone with a brown butter caper sauce (£34). "It is a quality fish and everyone loves it," he said.
Also popular is Kaspar's lobster club sandwich with fries (£25), which has rapidly become a signature dish. Made with the Savoy's own rye sourdough bread and packed with Isle of Skye lobster, sweetcure bacon from Suffolk, avocado, tomato jam and roast garlic mayonnaise, it requires a healthy appetite.
Meanwhile, the eclecticism of the menu is shown with a Thai green seafood curry with cashews and jasmine rice (£18). "I created the dish with one of my Indonesian sous chefs after researching and tasting a considerable number of curries," said Pare. "We use scallops, mussels, salmon and cod, which are cooked in a light sauce, flavoured with green chillies, green bell peppers, lemongrass, galangal, ginger, lime and coconut milk."
Desserts are dominated by comforting and familiar dishes with the likes of vanilla rice pudding with caramelised plums (£8), apple tart tatin and clotted cream ice cream (£8) and sticky toffee pudding with cherries, butterscotch sauce and vanilla ice cream (£8).
For a more theatrical end to a meal, the choice has to be the Valrhona manjari chocolate sphere, filled with passion fruit meringue and sorbet. A warm passion fruit coulis is poured over the sphere at the table, melting the chocolate in front of the customer.
Sample dishes from the menu
Pan-roasted diver scallops, tomato verbena jam £16
Yellow fin tuna tartare, avocado £12
White asparagus soup, smoked salmon and wild garlic beignets £8
Kaspar's smoked salmon sausage, apple sauerkraut, horseradish sauce £18
Pan-fried sea bream, seafood bouillabaisse, fennel gratin £22
Salt marsh lamb cutlets, roasted garlic and rosemary jus £26
Apple crème brûlée £8
Gooseberry and amaretto trifle £8
Strawberry and elderflower cream, Champagne strawberry sorbet £8
Kaspar's Seafood Bar and Grill
London WC2R 0EU
020 7420 2111