Savoy Hotel Returns After World's Priciest Makeover

There are few things you won’t be able to get at London’s famed Savoy hotel following its re-opening on Oct. 10, but don’t ask for a table for 13.


As the story goes, South African diamond magnate Joel Wolff was forced to dine at a table of 13 at the Savoy in 1898 after one of his guests cancelled.

Upon his return to Cape Town, Wolff was shot dead.

To avoid the unlucky number, guests are now joined by Kaspar the cat, a wooden cat that sits at the table and is served every course, just like another member of the party.

Visitors will enter the hotel via Britain’s only right-hand driveway, an exception to the country’s left-hand traffic, which the Savoy has managed to retain since the 19th century when it allowed guests to alight from their carriage safely and walk straight into the hotel.

After the three-year refurbishment, what is arguably London’s most prestigious hotel re-opened on Sunday. But the upgrade did not go according to plan.

The works, originally set to last 18 months, ran over schedule. And with the delays, the costs rose.

The cost of the refurbishment spiraled from £100 million ($159 million) to £220 million, a spokesman for the hotel said.

The upgrade has given the Savoy, owned by Saudi Prince Alwaleed’s Kingdom Holding Company and Lloyds Banking Group , a much more modern look while retaining its original art deco features and Edwardian architecture, Kiaran MacDonald, General Manager of the Savoy Hotel said.

“You’re dealing with a 121-year-old building. The services and infrastructure needed attending to and the condition was worse than we anticipated,“ MacDonald told

'Understated Elegance'

When it first opened, the Savoy was famous for its cutting-edge innovations, such as “ascending rooms,” known today as elevators.

The latest modern technology has been subtly incorporated in the new Savoy too.

More than 1000 craftsmen and women, artists and artisans have worked to create and upgrade the interiors.

Interior designer Pierre-Yves Rochon has opted for “understated elegance”, MacDonald said.

With views over the River Thames that inspired Whistler and Monet, the 268 guest rooms - five more than when it closed in 2007 – will once again host politicians, musicians and film stars.

Some of the bathrooms have retained their 1930s Vitrolite glass ceilings and sycamore wood furniture has been carefully restored.

The rooms include 62 suites and a royal suite featuring two bedrooms, a study, sitting room, dining room, master bathroom, dressing room (with a specially ventilated shoe closet) and a master bedroom.

A night at the Royal Suite will set you back £10,000.

Nine “Personality Suites” will pay tribute to a few of the celebrities who stayed at the Savoy, including Maria Callas, Charlie Chaplin, Marlene Dietrich and Frank Sinatra.

The Marlene Dietrich suite will include the 12 pink roses the actress always requested on arrival.

Established in 1889, the hotel quickly became known for its glittering parties and glitterati guests.

“That has been a real part of the Savoy’s flavored history. There is a real emotional attachment,“ MacDonald said.

Famous British actor and comedian Stephen Fry was the first guest to check in when the hotel opened its doors at last at 10:10 on Sunday morning.

Fry is also the hotel’s first blogger in residence, adding a modern twist to its long tradition of writers in residence, which include Faye Weldon and Michael Morpurgo.

The Beaufort bar, a sultry “almost sexy” art deco-style evening bar will bring cabaret back to London, MacDonald said.

Add to that the River Restaurant, with executive chef Bernard Mayer and head chef Ryan Murphy, and guests will not be left wanting.

Except for a table for 13, maybe.