The name is a byword around the world for style, luxury and a damned splendid cocktail, dinner or night’s sleep.
Most of us could never afford to stay at The Savoy, the high end London hotel on the banks of the Thames, but its secrets are being revealed in a new documentary series airing in the UK.
The four-part series The Savoy, takes viewers behind the scenes of one of the most sumptuous shows of hospitality there is.
In the fly-on-the-wall production, butlers attend to every desire, whimsy and fantasy of the rich and famous — however extravagant or downright strange, and as long as it’s on the right side of the law.
Savoy Grill owner Gordon Ramsay serves up expletive-laden tirades and staff reveal some of the most outlandish requests of the uber-wealthy clientele.
The 131-year-old hotel on the banks of the River Thames has 37 butlered suites, no less, which start from $2700 a night and escalate to a dizzying $32,500 — the sort of bill that would surely preclude all but the most minted.
“The Savoy’s a glamorous old girl,” head butler Sean Davoren told The Sun.
“She’s been around a long time but she still knows how to strut her stuff.”
The hotel has, throughout its gilt history, attracted the biggest VIPs on the planet — from Marilyn Monroe, The Beatles, Bob Dylan and Joan Baez, to Rihanna, Taylor Swift, Pink and Britney Spears.
Kim Kardashian and Kanye West are such fans of the place, they reportedly splashed $900,000 kitting out their home with the same super-luxe beds that guests enjoy.
It’s also been the setting for lavish music videos, such as for Duran Duran’s 2011 song Girl Panic, in which Naomi Campbell and fellow ex-supermodels Cindy Crawford and Eva Herzigova party in a Savoy suite.
In the documentary series, viewers see Baywatch star David Hasselhoff and British TV personality Denise van Outen stay at the hotel — and butlers go the extra smile to please and delight, with tasks ranging from masterminding cocktail parties to polishing designer high heels.
Mr Davoren, the head butler, heads a crack squad of ten butlers serving clients right up the scale to the grandest of all in The Royal Suite — spread over the entire riverside of the fifth floor, with a view of the London Eye and a list of former guests that includes Princess Diana.
The 62-year-old, who started at The Savoy in 1978, is a most obliging sort of bloke, for whom nothing is a problem.
“I will do anything for you — as long as it’s legal,” he said.
He recalled how one supermodel once asked him for a bathtub full of goats’ milk and Evian water.
“Goats’ milk is easy to get, I can go to Waitrose or Fortnum & Mason and buy it,” he said.
“But she wanted it straight from the goat, non-pasteurised. I thought, ‘Oh my God, what am I going to do?’
“I had to send to Wales for the milk. It arrived and she said, ‘Sean, will you heat the milk to the temperature I like for my bath?’”
He also recalled how another guest once sent him to collect a bagged-up purchase from a jewellery shop and let him unwittingly stroll down the street with a million-dollar diamond ring in his pocket.
“When I brought back this small bag, I took it to the gentleman and put it on his desk. He said, ‘Sean, do you know what’s in the bag?’ and I said, ‘No, Sir, I don’t know’,” he said.
“It was only a pink diamond ring worth over a million pounds. I nearly had a heart attack.
“First of all, I wouldn’t have walked in the street. Secondly, I would have had security men with me going there.”
The shocked butler congratulated the big-shot on a beautiful piece of jewellery for his wife but revealed: “He turned around and said, ‘Oh no, Sean, that’s for my mistress’.”
The seven-storey Savoy gets through $450,000 a year on flowers alone and has two and a half staff per guest, while all Thames-view suites come with their own butler.
It also boasts four high-end restaurants — assuming one would rather not nip out on to the Strand for a cheeky Macca’s — and is home to the oldest cocktail bar in London, the American Bar, where one drink can set you back $45.
In the documentary, Mr Davoren is seen putting newbie butler Michael Peluso, 37, through the ringer to get him up to Savoy standard.
“I’m a little bit of a tyrant,” Mr Davoren said.
“When I was being trained they would hit you, throw things at you and say, ‘You’d better do better or you won’t be working here.’ It was a good lesson but wouldn’t be appropriate now.”
Also starring in the documentary are car firm boss Damien Cuming and his wife Jacqueline, from Cambridgeshire, who have been going to The Savoy for 26 years.
Their go-to treat there is beluga caviar, at $300 a pop, and the sky is the limit for their Savoy splurges.
They stayed 20 nights last year, with Ms Cuming saying: “We could have bought several houses.”
Likewise, accountancy firm owner Simon De-Lacy Adams has stayed at The Savoy 70 times over the past five years, has chowed down in the Savoy Grill 251 times and, for his efforts, was even presented with his own monogrammed pillows and bathrobes.
“My husband is not as good as a butler — the bell doesn’t work and I’m told to naff off if I ask for anything like that,” Mr De-Lacy Adams said.
Guests at the Savoy can take their pick from four restaurants — The Thames Foyer, 200-year-old dining club Simpson’s, seafood specialist Kaspar’s and the Michelin-starred Savoy Grill.
The latter is run by Maitre D’ Thierry Tomasin, 51, whose elegant acquaintance we make in the show.
The exacting Frenchman knows a thing or two about posh grub, with 30 years’ experience in the game.
In 1997, he once served one of the world’s most expensive meals at Michel Roux Jr’s Mayfair restaurant La Gavroche, where the bill came in at nearly $27,000.
But he insists Savoy service is just the same whether you are a big spender or watching your bill a little more closely.
“I want our team to be the best every day,” he said, “You need to push all the time. Guests pay our wages.
“You’ve got guests who can afford to come every day but you have guests who save for one, two, three years in order to come to The Savoy Grill. You have to respect that.”
It must have been doing something right because, since it opened in 1904, customers have included Winston Churchill, Grace Kelly and James Dean.
“We are not waiters, we are salesmen of pleasure,” Mr Tomasin added. “We do the je-ne-sais-quoi but I want the ooh-la-la.”
If Mr Tomasin is general of the Savoy Grill, its field marshal is owner and celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay.
The series captures the staff nervously awaiting Ramsay’s arrival to try out two new dishes and put the front-of-house team through their paces.
Each item on the menu — including a $216 beef Wellington — has been meticulously tasted and approved by the gastro-king.
He is pleased with the turbot, tells kitchen staff their omelette needs more haddock — and lets fly over a chipped plate:
“Put it in the f*****g bin. It’s The Savoy, guys, not the f*****g Golden Egg down the Old Kent Road,” he said.
Waiters must immaculately flambé, carve and fillet dishes in front of diners — and while demonstrating his carving skills for Gordon, Mr Tomasin is devastated when his freshly sharpened knife has been switched for a blunt one.
Ramsay is also not best pleased by the sliced duck he is served. He says: “It looks like it’s been served in my f*****g granny’s Spanx.”
But Mr Tomasin takes it on the chin.
“For me, Gordon is the best,” he said.
“If you are not at your best, of course you might get a bollocking and rightly so. He’s got his name above the restaurant. That’s why he is a top chef.”
But will the COVID-19 pandemic knock the Savoy off its stride? The staff insist not.
“In 130 years, if you look at the history, they’ve always adapted, whether it be world wars or what have you,” the newbie butler, Michael Peluso, said.
“They’ve always managed to deliver exceptional service. It’s a national institution.”
This article originally appeared on The Sun and was reproduced with permission