Dining at The Savoy has always been on my all time bucket list. The atmosphere, quirky history and the sheer opulence of the famed hotel meant that I’ll take any possible excuse to nip into the American Bar for a cocktail or just use the 5-star luxury hotel as a cut through – sorry, I mean coffee stop – but I wanted a thoroughly special reason as a celebration meal to remember our visit with.
Deciding that my milestone birthday was a worthy enough occasion (after that sentence I feel like selling T-Shirts that say “if something isn’t worth waiting a few years for, is it worth it?”) after opening some of the lovely cards on the doormat, we ignored the unpacking from my surprise trip to Gothenburg completely (one of the joys of living in Europe is definitely the ability to use carry-on) and made our way up the Strand for a leisurely lunch.
Divested of coats and seated swiftly in a snug corner booth of the Grill, a glass of champagne was the order of the day.
The dining room presided over by Gordon Ramsay is an art deco inspired cocoon of scarlet and gold, and our tables was set traditionally with damask white table cloths and heavy silver. As it was just the husband and I this time, sadly we didn’t need the services of Kaspar – a marble cat mascot used to ward off the superstitious ramifications of having only 13 guests at a table.
Kaspar’s story begins with the legend of an 1898 dinner at the Savoy given for 14 guests by a South African diamond tycoon. One of the diners was unable to attend, leaving the number of guests an unlucky 13, and another diner predicted that whoever first left the table would soon die. The first to leave was Joel, who was shot dead a few weeks later in Johannesburg. After this, the hotel offered to seat a member of its staff at tables of 13 to ward off bad luck.
Finally, in 1926, the designer Basil Ionides sculpted a 3-foot high art-deco black cat called Kaspar, which is used as the 14th guest. Kaspar is given a full place setting, a napkin is tied around his neck, and he is served each course. I also rather adore that Winston Churchill liked Ionides’s Kaspar so much that he insisted that the sculpture join his parties of any size when dining at the Savoy.
We began with fresh bread and generous blocks of beautifully salted butter as all the best meals do.
Even skipping over starters We over-ordered a little. Ok, a heck of a lot.
I went for suckling roast pork handcarved from a trolley wheeled to our tableside, whilst my meat-eater couldn’t resist the slab of Sirloin steak. What we hadn’t realised when ordering was how generous the portions sizes were going to be. Assuming they would be the typical delicate servings of high-end restaurants, alongside my honeyed cabbage and roasted potatoes (I assumed I’d get a single roastie and a couple of leaf scraps) we ordered a serving of Cauliflower Cheese Gratin to share, plus new potatoes and creamed spinach to accompany his steak. All of it was hearty and utterly delectable, especially the Cauliflower, causing silence bar for the clink of cutlery.
Reliving our meal is literally making my mouth water all over again. #bloggerproblems
For dessert, I couldn’t resist the siren call of the plum frangipane tart served with a carefully molded sphere of clotted cream, but Mr Kiwi chose the chocolate Marquise with blackberries and star anise ice cream. Both were exquisite (especially the spoon tips I managed to sneak from his plate.) Unfortunately once desert was served and after a meal of faultless serivce, the waiting staff appeared to forget about us and we waited nearly half an hour to even pay for the bill, before making our way to the American Bar for a post-feast prandial.
My only disappointment of the day – and this is piffling in the scheme of world problems – was that despite telling the Savoy it was my birthday when he booked our table, it wasn’t acknowledged in any way. In comparison, at the Ritz, in the Winter Garden at the Landmark Hotel, Marcus Treadwell’s restaurant at the Berkeley Hotel, Dinner by Heston Blumenthal (two reviews that I still need to draft – hey, it’s my birthday and I’ll write when I want to) even if you hadn’t specified whilst booking the table the waiting staff always seem to check in if you’re celebrating a special occasion. It just seemed a shame as The Savoy is such a iconic London restaurant.
Luckily birthday cake awaited us at home so all was not lost, but if you excuse the pun, some acknowledgement would have been the cherry on the proverbial cake.
After the obligatory birthday bathroom selfie, we said goodbye to Kaspar and threw off the rest of our plans for my birthday day, deciding to
nap on the couch watch my favourite movie with my own feline snooze-purring in our satiated laps.
We enjoyed a royal breakfast at Simpson’s-in-the-Strand a few years ago (which I suspect provided the catalyst for my London brunch addition) which our lunch reminded me that we must revisit (for thorough blog testing purposes you understand.)