Owner Saudi investor Prince Al Waleed bin Talal has upped the budget for the refurbishment of the legendary Savoy hotel in London, which he bought earlier last year, from around $50 million to $190 million. But the starting date for works has been put back to next autumn giving guests a final chance to enjoy the old Savoy before its rebirth.
Clearly a $190 million refurbishment is going to be one of the most expensive makeovers of a London hotel in recent times. And The Savoy will stay closed for the duration of what we will be practically a re-building, although perhaps the hotel will manage to keep its signature Savoy Grill Room open for its business and media clients' power lunches.
For a glimpse into the future guests should visit the beautiful art deco Savoy Theatre adjacent to the hotel. It was restored by Bovis in the late 1980s to great admiration at the time.
No doubt the refurbished Savoy will be magnificent, but there is still an opportunity to wallow in the 1920s luxury of The Savoy in the year while the designers, architects and contractors get their plans in order.
For this remains one of London's top hotels, with a superbly central position, magnificent views over the River Thames and wonderful places to entertain and be entertained. Or dine at Simpson's-On-The-Strand next door in a style unchanged since Charles Dickens met his friends there.
Just off the theatre district of Covent Garden this hotel has long been a thespian favorite, and this reviewer bumped into BBC comedy star Caroline Quentin stepping out of a lift. A theatrical and artistic ambience pervades the whole hotel now managed by Fairmont.
From the exquisite breakfast room – which will be turned into a full restaurant in the refurbishment – guests have a window seat on The River Thames, a view painted by Monet during his stay at The Savoy. And The Savoy breakfast is a joy with a hugely varied buffet and many cooked breakfast options.
Above this room are the private dining suites named after Gilbert & Sullivan operas, including one where Winston Churchill used to meet his friends at 'The Other Club'. In this correspondent's time as a financial journalist these rooms were always a great favorite for City results presentations, not least because of the excellent food and wine served afterwards.
Ripe for refurbishment
Many professionals and business folk will also fondly recall conferences and annual dinners at The Savoy which has some great facilities, even if they look a bit tired right now.
Head for one of the river rooms if you want to have what is arguably the finest view in London. In fact these rooms have been relatively recently refurbished as part of an ongoing program, and so the facilities are modern down to a rainfall shower to please the most discerning transatlantic visitor.
What you will either love or hate about The Savoy is its timeless elegance and sense of place. And from a practical point of view it has one of the most convenient locations for doing business in London as well as enjoying yourself. Go there and stay while you still can!