The Savoy – London, England (English Leather Edition)
Andreas Augustin and Andrew Williamson
over 290; Contemporary photography by Rupert Tenison
Leather bound / gold stamping
2 postcards, 2 reading marks (HIS and HERS)
155 x 235 mm, 840 g
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Here is the story of the craddle of British hospitality — told by Andrew Williamson and Andreas Augustin. In the summer of 1889 – the days of Gilbert and Sullivan, the heroes of English operetta – The Savoy opened its doors. It was the creation of theatre impresario Richard D’Oyly Carte. He engaged Swiss hotelier César Ritz to run the hotel. Ritz brought his friend Auguste Escoffier – the ‘Emperor of all chefs’. The Prince of Wales at the time coined the line 'Where Ritz goes, I go.' In 1898, Ritz and Escoffier had to go. After a century of confusion behind the fall from grace of this celebrated hotelier and his faithful chef this book discloses the sober facts.
Enrico Caruso sang at The Savoy, Sarah Bernhardt arrived, Oscar Wilde had his scandaleous homosexual affair right here, and Dame Nellie Melba of Pêche Melba fame (created at The Savoy by Auguste Escoffier) – made it their London residence.
Hollywood arrived. The American Bar became the watering hole of prohibition refugees. Every Prime Minister chose The Savoy as a refuge of privacy (Sir Winston Churchill founded ‘The Other Club’ at The Savoy, which still meets here).
This book talks about the people who created this legend. The personalities who make The Savoy one of the most successful and famous hotels in the world. The stars of yesteryear parade through these pages where they meet the names of today. From Chaplin to Pavarotti, from James Bond to Harry Potter – this is the place to be seen, to party, or to hide away. The choice is yours.
It’s not easy to decide where to go first in this high society adventure park, disguised as a hotel. It’s afternoon, so let’s have tea. In the Thames Foyer, trays laden with finger sandwiches and scones are carried in; tea is poured into delicate china cups. Tourists gaze out over their cups, watching neighbouring tables, looking out for a glimpse of glamour, a slice of fascination. A class of schoolchildren has discreetly appeared. It is their first visit to London. Tea at The Savoy – this British national ritual and part of their heritage – is the high point of their trip. At the next table, two generations of Savoy regulars exchange experiences: ‘Beneath here was a courtyard,’ a lady explains to a charming girl. She indicates this very hall; ‘my grandfather used to come to The Savoy for luncheons. He met Sir Arthur here, one day.’ ‘King Arthur, Grandmother?’ the little girl asks excitedly. Grandma throws a merciful look at her before she gracefully explains: ‘Sir Arthur Sullivan, my dear. The composer.’ ‘Oh.’ Sullivan. This touches a chord. Gilbert and Sullivan. Oscar Wilde. Melba. César Ritz and Escoffier. The mind wanders back to the days of horse-drawn carriages, to a time when this hotel was first opened. Please follow me.
Mr Ritz, You are Fired!
By Andreas Augustin
In 2000, Michael Shepherd, General Manager of The Savoy (today Hilton Parklane) was sitting on a very old history book about The Savoy. It had been written by Stanley Jackson in 1964. He knew that we update our books every year - he needed a fast moving publishing partner and in fact, he needed a professional history researcher. He called famoushotels.org.
I moved in the A team. There was Andrew Williamson, the historian, a graduate from Oxford University. Rupert Tenison, the photographer with a great London coffee table book on his record. I packed my suitcases and flew to London. We started our job. We received contributions made by the 'old guard' of The Savoy, among them Ramón Pajares, Duncan Palmer, Willy Bauer, Herbert Striessnig, Dodie Cotter, Rudolf Schreiner, Julian Payne and Derek Picot. Geraldine McKenna, the Director of Marketing and Sales of The Savoy Group, was of great help. Groups appeared offering their help, among them the Savoy Gastronomes (Virginia Masser) and the Savoy Society (Andrew Phillips).
The Savoy is a high society adventure park, disguised as a hotel. In the 1880s, theatre impresario Richard D'Oyly Carte brought the two giants of musical entertainment, Gilbert and Sullivan together and managed them to fame and fortune. He built an Opera House, The Savoy Theatre and then The Savoy Hotel. With hotelier César Ritz he brought professional help. With him came Auguste Escoffier to London, introducing haute cuisine to a whole nation blessed by culinary ignorance.
The Savoy Hotel was the first link in a group of luxury hotels. Richard D'Oyly Carte and his son Rupert, George Reeves-Smith, Sir Hugh Wontner and Ramón Pajares were the legendary names that managed The Savoy Group. Its head chefs – from Escoffier to Latry to Edelmann – made The Savoy a temple for connoisseurs.
Over 100 years later we were introduced to a wooden cat called Kaspar, the hotel's most-frequent diner (right). Whenever 13 people dine, Kaspar is called upon to even up the number. He duly takes his place around the table where, a napkin tied around his neck, he is served the full complement of courses. We met the members of the 'Other Club', founded by Winston Churchill, still meeting at the hotel. At night the ghost of Oscar Wilde seemed to appear. The playwright had a gay old time at the hotel in days when the word gay still stood for lighthearted and carefree, cheerfulness or pleasure. The Thesaurus also says: brightly colored; showy; brilliant. In Wilde's case the modern meaning 'homosexuality' would have been all right, too.
Claud Monet had painted famous works from the balcony of his suite, Whistler had left us an etching of the construction work of the hotel and in the 1890s the company had acquired the most famous restaurant of Paris only to seize Joseph, the legendary headwaiter who filled pages of anecdotes of our book. It is that sort of hotel.
Finally we touched the secret heart of the house. The Savoy not only had a PR department headed by Pam Carter. It also has its own archives. They are in a dark room for a hundred years, a room that hasn't been dusted in decades. The shelves are about 3 metres high (30ft). They are overlooked (or better: looked at) by Susan Scott, a historian. Her office is on the other side of the corridor. One Monday morning, Susan handed us the keys to the archive room. I didn't notice the hint of an amused smile in the upper left corner of her sealed lips. That much about our admirable work in famous hotels. Every morning I walked in my oldest jeans back- and downstairs to the executive floor in the basement of the hotel, where the archive room was. I unlocked the door and took my last deep breath of fresh air for hours to come. The computer and the scanner stood on a small table at the far end of the room. Day and night a small lamp and faded neon lamps barely lit the room. It was a spooky scene. Opening the first boxes made it clear: It's all there. They contained the first letter of complaint, a pair of spectacles of a general manager from 1899, the menus of all New Years Balls – and everything in between.
One day we stumbled over the Ritz files. Ah! Cesar Ritz, the fabled hotelier. He was the first general manager of The Savoy. Here his handwriting and that of his wife Marie Louise (below). There his signature. And letters by Auguste Escoffier. We slowly pushed open the gates to the secret past of hospitality industry. One by one the story unfolded. From the acquisition and opening of the Grand Hotel in Rome and Claridge's to the 'The Savoy Hotel Mystery', as titled in The Star. On 8 March 1898, The Star wrote: 'During the last 24-hours The Savoy Hotel has been the scene of disturbances which in a South American Republic would be dignified by the name of revolution. Three managers have been dismissed and 16 fiery French and Swiss cooks (some of them took their long knives and placed themselves in a position of defiance) have been bundled out by the aid of a strong force of Metropolitan police.'
Taking a deep breath, we returned to the surface of the Savoy. Upstairs, at the halls and the lobby there was business as usual. A group of young actors celebrated the first night of a movie called "Harry Potter" (left). We took a shower, put on the Ritz (that seemed still all right), and sipped an aperitif at Salim Khoury's American Bar, then still with Peter Dorelli behind the counter. Later we dined at the restaurant, where Escoffier had served Nellie Melba and Sarah Bernhardt. Now that we knew what had happened here a hundred years ago, the glamour of the days of Ritz appeared in another light.
P.S.: Of course we treated the case with the necessary respect for the great hotelier.
in the series
The Most Famous Hotels In The World
In 2001 we wrote: Very special thanks go to Michael Shepherd, general manager of The Savoy, who believed so much in this project and who made this book possible.
Thanks to John Kukral, managing director of the Blackstone Group International Limited. Deepest gratitude for their help and kindness go to the wonderful staff at The Savoy, who made every stay over the past decades such a memorable one.
We particularly appreciated contributions made by the ‘old guard’ of The Savoy, among them Ramón Pajares, Duncan Palmer, Willy Bauer, Herbert Striessnig, Dodie Cotter, Rudolf Schreiner, Julian Payne and Derek Picot.
A special thank you to Geraldine McKenna, the Director of Marketing and Sales of The Savoy Group, to Nicola Gold and to the PR department with Pam Carter. Thanks to the Savoy Gastronomes (Virginia Masser) and the Savoy Society (Andrew Phillips).
We thank Philipe Krenzer, the Manager of The Savoy as well as all department heads of the hotel for pulling the right strings at the right time: at the River Restaurant, Peter Romerio and Philip Osenton; at the Grill, Angelo Maresca and Franco Becci; at the front desk Paul Pugh, and his colleagues.
It was a delight to meet maître chef Anton Edelmann and witness him in action. We enjoyed relaxing hours in the presence of Peter Dorelli and Salim Khoury.
A debt of gratitude is owed to Elizabeth Wesson for her important editorial advice, to Abel Zahran for deep insights into ‘rev-par’, to Sarah Trueman for her VIP updates and Susan Scott, the archivist of The Savoy for inspiring conversation and editorial input. Thanks to Clive Taylor for the IT know-how, Rory F. Purcell, the group’s chief engineer and his assistant Phil Hillman, who took us to the giddy heights of new roof and room constructions.
Thank you to Olivier Thomas, the Director of Food and Beverage and Lionel Benjamin, the Banqueting Manager and his predecessor Andrew Coy for facts, figures and good stories, Anne Atkinson and Natali Juste, the lovely twins Caroline-Jane and Anne-Marie Houston and Stephen Blackburne. Ian Smith from security for opening the doors of the hotel archives at odd hours.
Thanks to all the others who have contributed so generously to this book and last but not least to Sherry Noman.
Thanks to Mike Leigh for the many inspiring moments in his wonderful Oscar-winning film Topsy Turvy. In this connection, thanks to Nik Head of The Savoy Theatre and The D’Oyly Carte Company.
To Cherry Chappell, special thanks to a special friend.
Recommended music: Gilbert & Sullivan, Ian Gomes, Salena Jones, The Rolling Stones (the early, The Savoy years), Ruth Allen and Bazz Norton from The Savoy.
All rights in this publication are reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronically, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise without the prior permission in writing of the copyright owner (except for book reviews for inclusion in magazines, newspapers, radio or TV broadcast).
Photographs: The Savoy Press Office, Rupert Tenison (© The Most Famous Hotels in the World), Joplin Sinclair
Archive material: The Gilbert & Sullivan Very Light Opera Company; Archives of The Savoy; The Guildhall Library; London, Historical Archives of The Most Famous Hotels and the Classic Movie Picture Archives.
Production: Harrison Dolittle
English-language editing by Francesca Brizi
A limited leather-bound edition is available