It's always a challenge breathing new life into an institution, so spare a thought for the team charged with rebooting the Savoy Grill. Yes. That Savoy Grill. The dining room of French culinary artist Auguste Escoffier. A dining room frequented by generations of many families, that hosted Queen Elizabeth II, Winston Churchill, Oscar Wilde, Frank Sinatra and Noël Coward to name but a few. The place that invented "Omelette Arnold Bennett", peach melba and melba toast among other things. Yes, it may have been looking a little tired, a little old fashioned, but if there was ever a case for "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" it was, surely, the Savoy Grill?
In which case, this new, improved, more-accessible Savoy Grill by Gordon Ramsay is a textbook example of how to do it. Traditions have been maintained, but modern needs and foibles are also acknowledged and absorbed. The structural changes – most notably, the new wine experience room – are a genuine improvement. The culinary tweaks are clever and gently applied. In short, it's a "swan" of a renovation: effortlessly graceful on the surface, but with some seriously hard work going on out of sight.
The interiors and menu
The smart wood furniture, the crisp white linen, the luxurious carpet and the faultless service are very much present and correct and are, actually, bolstered by the new design and layout. It's also better lit, making the room feel more accessible and less like a members' club than before. As for the menu, it remains steeped in the classics but, thanks to the introduction of more modern techniques, also straddles the 21st century.
Subscribe to The Week
Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.
This is particularly evident on the "Taste of Savoy" menu, a decadent five classic courses that shows both what the Grill was and what it's become. By current standards, it's also a relative bargain at £110 a head, particularly for a meal of this quality and generosity.
It kicks off with a small, but intensely-flavoured amuse-bouche, a goujère of aged Comté, and black walnut, that delivers an umami hit that defies its modest size. It's a very good start, but, even so, things rapidly improve. Next up is a Louët-Feisser oyster, with a seasonal dressing. At the time of writing, it's being served with a Bloody Mary of datterino tomato, celery and vodka, and an excellent Yorkshire rhubarb mignonette, with a hint of fermented rhubarb hot sauce – a fun, warming and clever twist on a classic combination.
From there, it's to a dish that will always be associated with The Savoy. Legend has it that Arnold Bennett, a long-term resident of the hotel, challenged the chef to find him a new way to enjoy his favourite ingredients: smoked haddock, cheese, and eggs. The resulting, decadent omelette has borne the English author's name on menus across the globe ever since. And it's always been on the Savoy's menu… until now.
And before you bristle and write a strongly worded missive to the authorities, don't panic. It's now the Arnold Bennett soufflé, which gives all the flavours but in much lighter, less decadent form. I'm informed that "guests are loving it and we sell over 100 a day". Guests, for the record, are right. It's a very smart update and an utterly superb dish.
This is followed by an impeccable (and generously sliced) beef wellington, with pomme purée, green beans and red wine jus. This, for the record, has not been tweaked for lightness and remains as spectacularly rich and luxurious a main as one would hope.
Dessert also changes with the season. At the time of my lunch, it's an éclair, flavoured with hazelnut, blood orange and chocolate. It is, almost inevitably, a delightful blend of flavours and textures in the lightest of choux pastry.
It probably almost goes without saying that the service is phenomenal and that the wine team is also at the top of its game: the accompanying glass (or three) are superb matches. The new Savoy Grill is not just a fine reinvention, it's a very good restaurant.
Sign up for The Week’s Food & Drink newsletter for recipes, reviews and recommendations.
Create an account with the same email registered to your subscription to unlock access.