Most people have probably heard of the Savoy Hotel on the Strand in London and equally most are probably aware of the Savoy Grill Restaurant at the hotel. It wasn’t exactly on my radar of places to try when in London as I thought it would be a bit over my budget but I was lucky enough to get a Red Letter Day gift for lunch for 2 with a glass of bubbly for Christmas just gone.
What I wasn’t aware about the Savoy became the first luxury hotel in the whole of Britain when it opened in 1889. Built by Richard D’Oyly Carte next to the Savoy Theatre, which opened in 1881 it was the first hotel to be run completely on electricity. Frequented by many a famous patron over the years since then including serving Prime Ministers such as Winston Churchill who often held lunch meetings at the restaurant, Royal Families and musical royalty with the likes of Jimmi Hendrix, The Beatles and Frank Sinatra.
The hotels first manager also happened to be CÈsar Ritz. Don’t know who he is? Neither did I but he went on to open his own hotel some years later, The Ritz.
With the hotel staying in the family until the passing of the final link in the bloodline who failed to bear any children in 1985 nearly 100 years after opening. The Savoy Hotel has changed hands a couple of times since then but has been under the direction of Fairmont Hotels since 2004. Closing in 2007 for a massive refurbishment originally estimated at around £100m, it finally opened back up in 2010 having passed the £200m mark.
This goes some way in evidencing the elegance and grandiuer art Deco styling of the Grade II listed Savoy Hotel and it’s adjoining restaurants and theatre.
The Savoy Grill serves mainly French affair with several different menus whether dinning for lunch, a la carte, pre theatre, tasting menu and they’ve even recently launched the Escoffier Signature Dishes menu in homage to the original chef in 1889 Auguste Escoffier.
As I was in receipt of a lunch offer our options were limited to the lunch set menu, which included a choice of starter, main, dessert and glass of champagne priced at £100 with Virgin Experience. What they do is take off the price of the lunch fixed menu and the champagne (at a cost of £90 if you just go direct with the restaurant) then you pay for any extras including service charge of 12.5% of the whole bill, this also happens to include the £90 they’ve already wiped out with the voucher.
We were given the most amazing basked of bread to nibble whilst we pondered over the menu and found it very endearing that a waiter pushed a cart showing off the special of the day like a prized possession to each table. The special on the day, which was a Friday was a sort of seafood wellington containing Salmon instead of the usual beef, scallops and all mater of herbs and seasoning that I would of snapped up had it not had Salmon as I’m really not a fan sadly but the rest of the dish sounded amazing.
The lunch menu did seem pretty limited compared to the other menu’s and not exactly something I would of pictured on a Michelin Star restaurant but then it was probably half the price of the other menu’s and it’s more for the experience I told myself.
As always myself and Mwsh deliberated over who would have what so we could do a sharsies so she went for the smoked ham hock. Not one for soup and because I’ve got a slight obsession with goats cheese of late I opted for the goats curd with beetroot, hazelnut, lemon and dill.
As expected my starter didn’t have me clutching at my trouser waist band with the portion size with 4 little goblets of goats curd speared with micro dill stalks, dainty beets and little droplets of beetroot puree.
It tasted ok but I wasn’t bowled over really and didn’t leave me overly impressed. The goats curd wasn’t all that flavoursome and could of done with a bit of seasoning. The beets were just beets, you can’t really go too far wrong cooking them but overall I was hoping for something a bit more tantalising on the taste buds.
Mwsh’s ham hock terrine starter was a bit more generous with a healthy slab of meaty goodness to chomp with crispy bread, pickled carrot and extra hit of protein with the quails egg. A lot better seasoning with the terrine and tanginess of the pickles. This was definitely the better dish of the two.
With the limited options for mains and not taking a fancy to the special of the day I opted for the pan fried cod, purple sprouting broccoli, coco bean puree and smoked bacon veloute. Pre-empting the micro portions I thought ahead and decided to pad my dish out with dauphinoise potatoes at £6 and cauliflower cheese gratin for £5.50.
This course definitely made up for the average starter. As expected the portion size of fish was fit for a child although cooked perfectly and flaked under the most gentle of pressure from my fork. The veloute added a nice saltiness to the fish from the bacon too. The coco bean puree just added a bit of substance to the small dish but the saving grace was the dauphinoise and gratin.
The dish had a thumbs up anyway but do not make the mistake of not ordering side dishes because you will be heading for the first burger joint on the way home as you’d be famished soon after. Dauphinoise being my favourite potato dish this did not disappoint. Ample portion between two with it being so rich although I think I might of just held it together to fight through and polish it off on my lonesome. The Cauliflower cheese gratin was made with a good powerful cheese and had me licking the spoon after dolloping each portion on our plates. Both came in their roasting dishes, which I thought was a nice touch too.
With only a veggie pasta dish or having to opt for paying a £12 supplement for a steak the only other option left on the lunch menu was the cottage pie for Mwsh with cheddar mash and horseradish. Also being wise the inevitable portions of the main she also topped it up with roast field mushrooms in garlic butter for an additional £4.50.
I was a bit surprised at the portion size of the cottage pie to be fair. Ok it wasn’t massive and wouldn’t of filled me on it’s own but it was bigger than I though. Then again you are paying £30 for it with a starter and dessert.
Taste wise I knew this wouldn’t be your average Whetherspoon popty ping cottage pie being the Savoy and it was deeply rich with the gravy and meat filling with an equally as moreish potato topping. Mwsh isn’t the biggest fan of horseradish but she was left with little option to go for this on the menu with the small selection of mains but it was faint if not at all made out on it’s own against the other flavours of the dish. Lovely garlicky mushrooms, now who doesn’t like those?
As had been the feeling for the whole menu, the starter really didn’t get me all that excited considering the venue, history and grandeur of the surroundings. They sounded more like pub grub that Michelin Star lunch menu but I had a dessert in with the fixed menu and I was going to eat one.
Having already opted for one course I didn’t fancy another and the buttermilk yogurt, blueberry jam with oat and seed granola sounded a bit like my breakfast overnight oats so those were out. That left just two options so we both took a stab and one each to compare. I went for the old favourite sticky toffee pudding with vanilla ice cream.
Moist, sticky, spongy and moreish sponge topped with healthy slathers of toffee you can’t deny it wasn’t a decadent dish and I wolfed every morsel down but you can have sticky toffee pudding anywhere and I wanted something that would wow me on this occasion.
Being the only option left Mwsh went for the chocolate mouse with polenta shortbread. Rich and chocolaty with nice crisp shortbread. Again it tasted fine just nothing to write home about or put a big massive smile on my face after discovering something new.
We also got the softest most intense chocolate truffle and a meringue after we had finished our 3 courses on the house too.
Apart from my beet and goats curd starter everything oozed flavour and richness but there was nothing in the dish I couldn’t have knocked up at home. You’re paying for the experience of dinning in such an historic hotel in a stones throw from Trafalgar Square.
Ok it is a lunch menu and it is cheaper than the a la carte but don’t be fooled by the original price of the set menu if you’ve had it as a gift. We had the 3 courses and glass of champagne at a cost of £100 but going direct with the restaurant you would have saved £10 costing £90 instead.
That champagne isn’t going to last you 1 hour 30 minutes to 2 hours so you’re going to order a bottle of something else too. We opted for a Marlborough Sauv Blanc around £43 and the enthusiasm of the waiters that won’t sit long in the ice bucket before they keep topping up the glass. We opted for 3 sides, which I’d thoroughly recommend because what comes with the menu will not fill you up unless you stock up on bread at the start and the waiter was happy enough to ask us if we required more after the first basket. We had a 2nd and they would of given us a third but we kindly declined. It was a bloody good selection of bread mind.
So the sides added another £16 to the bill making it about £60 on top so far and then when you get the bill don’t be surprised to have 12.5% of the whole bill added to the cost of the gift voucher. So what started as a gift voucher for a free 3 courses and glass of champagne came to a total of £167, subtract the voucher value of £90 and we had to stump up nearly £80 extra. I don’t know about you, but that’s a pretty expensive lunch.
So would I recommend the Savoy Grill? Just to say you’ve tried the first luxury hotel in Britain’s restaurant and the chance to sample a restaurant under the guidance of love or hate him Gordon Ramsey then yes I would. I can’t see me rushing back for lunch there but I’m glad I tried it and would say the same to anyone else thinking about it but just bear in mind of the extra or other hidden costs you might encounter if you see a 3 course lunch for £30 that’s all.
The lunch will set you back £30 direct and the glass of bubbly was about £15 making it £45 each but we had it for £100 for two with Virgin Experience. Even though it’s £10 more than direct it does make a good present for a foodie lover as it lasts between 6-12 months and can be booked as and when they wish to dine there. I had mine for Christmas but waited till just after my birthday in May so they can keep it for a more suitable time rather than just booking the restaurant and offering to pay.
The dishes although most of them full of flavour I think they could come up with a few new and more exciting dishes if I’m being honest.