London’s Savoy Hotel

The Savoy Hotel, London


I noticed the rather nice topiary cats outside The Savoy when I was on The Strand today. I hope they aren’t plastic. There has been a trend for plastic topiary outside hotels that baffles me.
The Savoy Hotel is famous for very good teas, its association with Gilbert and Sullivan, and César Ritz.
Richard D’Oyly Carte built the hotel, the first luxury hotel in Britain, with the money he made from his association with Gilbert and Sullivan’s comic operas. He hired Auguste Escoffier as chef, and César Ritz as first manager.
It was the first hotel lit by electric lights. This was an irony I always appreciated whenever I used the ladies loos there, because the lamps still had round pin plugs on them until the fairly recent renovation.
Ritz left under a cloud. Actually, he was dismissed when he was implicated in the disappearance of large sums of money. Not quite the reputation one associates with the founder of the prestigious Ritz Hotel on Piccadilly.
Everyone who was anyone stayed at the Ritz; Sarah Bernhardt, Edward VII, Laurence Olivier, Claude Monet, Oscar Wilde, Bob Dylan, Josephine baker, Marlene Dietrich, Charlie Chaplin, John Wayne, Barbra Steisand, The Beatles. The list goes on and on. Those who didn’t stay entertained: Frank Sinatra, Noel Coward, George Gershwin. Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue had its British premier at the Savoy in 1925. Even amy Winehouse has entertained guests at The Savoy.
Winston Churchill took the Cabinet to lunch there regularly during the Second World War. Can you imagine the headlines if David Cameron were to do the same today? In fact during the Second World War the place was thronged with exiled leaders and military figures from de Gaulle to Mountbatten.
It was the first place the then Princess Elizabeth was seen in public with Prince Philip at a wedding reception shortly after the war ended.
Curiously, Savoy Court, the road in front of the hotel that leads to it from The Strand, is the only road in London where you drive on the right.

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