The Savoy in London is renowned as a luxury hotel and we were excited to be staying there, albeit for one night only. The booking was made through Fairmont's travel agent scheme, thus we paid a discount rate of around £165 for a Sunday night (the public rate was approximately £350 but included dinner).
On arrival, we were shown through the impressive lobby to check-in. Here, we were greeted professionally, although without warmth, and the formalities taken care of. We were surprised that the check-in process was less polished than expected. At first, we were advised that we would have to pay for WIFI. When I explained that we were members of Fairmont President's Club and one benefit of joining was complimentary internet, the agent seemed surprised that we were members of their frequent guest scheme, despite having provided the number when booking. We were also disappointed to be told that if we wanted a room with a stand-alone shower, we would have to pay another £50+VAT for the privilege. Surprisingly enough, we passed on this and felt somewhat annoyed by the lack of flexibility, especially as we had been offered an e-upgrade at time of booking to the next category of room for £15 if available at check-in.
As we were only staying one night and were feeling tired after attending a family funeral, an evening picnic from the nearby Tesco Metro seemed the best option, so we didn't try any of the in-house restaurants. For breakfast, we ate at the wonderful Delaunay nearby and would recommend doing the same - we had perused images and menus for the hotel breakfast online but decided the Delaunay offered superior choice at better value.
However, the Savoy has a wide range of eateries, from Kasper's Seafood Bar and Grill (check TravelZoo and Groupon for deals), Simpson's in the Strand, which offers traditional British food, and the Savoy Grill, managed by the Gordon Ramsey franchise. Afternoon tea is offered in the beautiful, light-filled Thames Foyer, although at £52.50 per person, you would expect something special. The American Bar is a casual space serving cocktails at a reasonable £15-20 each. Alternatively, you can enjoy the art-deco Beaufort Bar, which has a cabaret and burlesque night on the first Sunday of each month - booking is recommended for this or weekday nights.
We were escorted to our Superior Queen room by the check-in agent. The hotel public areas are opulent and you feel that you are in one of the Grande Dame hotels of Europe. Thus, it was disappointing to enter the room and feel that you were entering a 4* corporate hotel. At 30 square metres, standard rooms are reasonable size for London, but are not luxurious by any stretch of the imagination. Furniture feels somewhat cheap (not helped by the closure on some of the draws not working properly) and we were surprised by the lack of tea or coffee making facilities and lack of fresh flowers or fruit (usually a given in a hotel of this standard). The bed was comfortable, there was plenty of storage space and bottled water was provided after we pointed out that this was the first time we had stayed in a room without any provided on a complimentary basis. The bathroom was ok, although the lack of storage space around the sink meant we had to keep bathroom bags and all toiletries on the window-sill instead. Le Labo toiletries were pleasant and enough were provided.
At night, we were shocked that one of the criteria to make a hotel 5* was missing - it was impossible to create black-out, with light entering through multiple windows in the room as the blinds didn't fit correctly.
Unfortunately, we had forgotten our swimwear and work-out gear so were unable to use the leisure facilities. One of the great benefits of Fairmont hotels is that they loan gym wear, but as we were short on time and energy, we didn't feel that it was worth the service fee. The gym itself was reasonably equipped with TechnoGym equipment and also provided complimentary bottled water and fresh fruit.
Unusually for London, the Savoy boasts a pretty swimming pool, which is situated in it's own atrium thus very light and airy. Although only 10 m long, swim trainers create a current for those wishing to exercise and the pool is plenty big enough for a quick dip. When we visited to take photos, there was no-one using the facilities, perhaps partly because the website doesn't make the most of this feature.
Staff in the spa were very friendly and showed us the treatment rooms, manicure room, sauna and steam rooms.
To be fair, we didn't arrive at the Savoy feeling the best, as we had just had a 4 hour drive after the funeral of a close family member. We were in the mood for a relaxing, luxurious time to recuperate prior to returning to work. Unfortunately, the Savoy did not deliver. The soft product was professional but without warmth or flexibility to meet guest preferences. Despite the hotel re-opening in 2010 after a £220 million refurbishment, the room felt decidedly 4* and we were shocked by the lack of basic amenities, such as a kettle or blackout curtains. The public areas are grand, so the hotel bars and restaurants may be worth a visit, but we wouldn't advise staying. There are so many luxury hotels in London, the only thing unique about the Savoy is its proximity to the Thames and the name.