Kiaran MacDonald, general manager of the Savoy, is relieved that the hotel's refurbishment is finally over and that he can get back to doing what he loves best - running one of London's most iconic hotels.
"I'm now looking forward to introducing the Savoy to the London marketplace and shall be doing so with a great deal of pride," he says.
While major structural difficulties have turned what was originally a 16-month project into one that has lasted two years and 10 months, the question everyone is asking - what does it look like? - is answered here with Caterer and Hotelkeeper‘s preview of one of the most anticipated hotel reopenings in years.
The Savoy's regular guests will be pleased to see that many of the familiar aspects of the hotel are easily recognisable - the Thames Foyer, for instance, is still at the heart of the 121-year-old, 268-bedroom hotel - and the Edwardian and art deco themes which have long been the property's trademarks are still there.
But there are new elements: most impressively, the sophisticated Beaufort Bar which is set to be a key late-night destination for those looking for a spot of glamour. Interior designer Pierre-Yves Rochon has remained faithful to the original hotel, but has given the hotel a lighter and glamorous touch, with exquisite design details which its competitors in the capital will be monitoring closely.
While the front hall was originally used for guests to check in and check out, it is now somewhere to meet and greet people. The original mahogany panelling, which has been stripped and French polished to a lustrous sheen, is topped by the renovated Idols of a Golden Age frieze by Bertram Pegram. Dating back to 1904, the frieze has been considerably lightened and is now white on Celadon Green, in place of the dowdier brown on beige before. Re-clad marble columns match the new flooring, a replica of the original. A large mahogany desk to the right of the main entrance is where the concierges are now based. Meanwhile, the reception desk has been removed and relocated to the Reading Room, open only to guests - allowing them to check in in private.
UPPER THAMES FOYER
The stairs (left) leading down from the front hall to the Upper Thames Foyer mark the move from the newer, front part of the hotel, dating from 1904, to the original building, which opened in 1889. To the right is the new Savoy Tea, inspired by Edwardian shopping arcades such as Burlington's. Here guests will be able to purchase Savoy tea blends, jams, and pastries as well as the Savoy tea service commissioned by Wedgewood. A touch of live theatre is also provided by the chef-pâtissier, in an open kitchen. Opposite is a seating area, where the fabric wall-covering depicts the Chinese origins of tea. All artwork here, and throughout the hotel, reflect the history of the surrounding location and have been selected by the Savoy's art consultant, Peter Millard.
Situated at the heart of the hotel, the Thames Foyer is where guests can dine informally throughout the day. Natural light now floods into the room via the new 7.5-metre glass dome, the design of which has been copied from a drawing of the original found in the hotel's archives. Rochon has reintroduced the idea of a smaller wooden gazebo which was removed in the early 1980s and installed a grander one to give focus to the grand piano. Afternoon tea here is £35 per head.
Closed in 2004, the River Restaurant has been given a new lease of life with a slick, contemporary art deco design featuring a leopard print carpet, Macassar leather-upholstered chairs and cherry wood tables. Here chef de cuisine Ryan Murphy will oversee a modern French menu, under the guidance of executive chef Bernhard Mayer. In the summer, the windows fronting on to the river will open fully, providing an alfresco feel to the space.
Located just off the Thames Foyer, the Beaufort Bar is a sexy new space, refurbished from the room where the BBC broadcast the music of the Savoy Hotel Orpheans during the 1920s and 1930s. Strongly inspired by the art deco era, the black velvet furnishings and £38,000 of gold leaf on the walls provide a glamorous venue for late night cabaret, which is being reintroduced to the Savoy. A Champagne bar is situated on the original stage where George Gershwin played his premiere of Rhapsody in Blue.
Where previously the bedrooms were a jumble of the Savoy's two design themes - Edwardian and art deco - Rochon has rectified this, with each bedroom working to just one architectural style. Each of the 174 Edwardian rooms (below) has silk wall coverings, dramatic window dressings and Murano glass chandeliers, while the 94 art deco spaces have maple headboards and simpler furnishings (left). All rooms boast Mascioni bed linen, Loewe flatscreen TVs, Meridian sound systems, and Bill Amberg leather desk accessories. Beds are generally by Streams & Foster, while the top suites have Savoir beds. The bed in the Royal Suite cost £25,000. All bathrooms feature the trademark Savoy rain shower head and Miller Harris toiletries.
Little has changed in the popular American Bar, with familiar Terry O'Neill black-and-white portraits of the likes of Faye Dunaway, Judy Garland, and Liza Minnelli on the walls and the white grand piano resuming its central space.
THE SAVOY'S GREEN POLICY
In the run-up to the reopening of the Savoy, the hotel's Green Team, headed by Debra Patterson, has put in place an extensive programme of carbon reduction and environmentally friendly initiatives which will help it lay claim to being one of the greenest luxury hotels in the UK:
â- Heat from all kitchen appliances is reclaimed and used to reheat hot water. The automated energy management system includes smart metering and 24-hour energy consumption monitoring.
â- Smart thermostats in all bedrooms and suites are designed to control lighting and room temperature and use natural ventilation to regulate the temperature inside the room.
â- Low-energy light and low-flow water systems have been introduced where possible.
WASTE MANAGEMENT â- As well as the usual items of paper, glass, plastics and batteries, the Savoy will be recycling candles, spectacles and stamps.
â- The Savoy will be reducing excess packaging waste and has joined with its office stationery supplier, UKOS, in its launch of the Box4Life Project, a sustainable reusable packaging option.
â- The hotel's waste contractor, Brewsters, is recycling most of the Savoy waste and is providing data to help the hotel monitor its carbon footprint.
FOOD WASTE â- All food waste is being recycled into renewable energy, through the UK's largest food waste contractor, the PDM Group. As a result, the equivalent energy generated provides sufficient power to light 20% of the hotel's bedrooms.
â- The Savoy operates PDM's oil management system, Oilsense. As well as reducing health and safety risks, it also improves operational efficiency and ensures that used kitchen oil is recycled into biodiesel.
PURCHASING POLICY â- The hotel aims to source products and services from companies that endorse similar responsible purchasing practices, standards and values.
â- As a member of the Sustainable Restaurant Association, the Savoy is buying produce which supports local growers.
COMMUNITY PROJECTS â- The Savoy has joined forces with Thames21, a charity set up with the aim to transform the neglected and littered London waterways. Through the charity's community project, Adopt-A-River Scheme, the hotel is looking after the stretch of the River Thames that flows directly outside the Savoy. Groups of hotel volunteers have spent hours clearing tonnes of litter from the shoreline.
THE SAVOY'S HERB GARDEN â- A herb garden has been created in partnership with the management team of Westminster's Victoria Embankment Gardens, adjacent to the Savoy's river entrance. Utilising an underdeveloped area of land, the garden is supplying seasonal herbs from Thai basil to lemon thyme to the hotel's restaurants.
â- In next week's issue of Caterer and Hotelkeeper (dated 15 October) Kiaran MacDonald, general manager of the Savoy, tells how he and his team of 670 staff are reintroducing the hotel to the London market
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