Friday, June 10, 2016

London 2015 Day 8: Savoy Hotel Tour and Gala Dinner

London 2015 Day 8: Savoy Hotel Tour and Gala Dinner

Our day started at Kaspar's restaurant in the Savoy hotel for brekkie. I chose something called the Salmon Royale (mmmmm) which was like a Salmon Benedict. Also: best chilled graprefruit wedges ever.

We then took a walk towards the Borough Market, what people had told us was essentially the Ferry Building of London. Needless to say, I was psyched to visit. We saw on the way in a shop a tiny remote control Lamborghini -- the same one that was parked out front of the hotel!

We walked past The Globe theatre first and then towards Borough Market. The Market was really amazing... especially because they had several places which sold... Biltong?!?!??!! I couldn't believe it and obviously got some. We also picked up some great bread and Veggie Pad Thai, and tried some Turkish Delight in a variety of flavours.

We had just a quick visit at the market but will definitely come back. Apparently the Whisky Exchange is here?!!! I will have to come back when I have more time to see it all and spend a while there. I gotta see if I can get Boerewors too, if there is so much Biltong available! Back we went to the hotel after this and Spring went to some meetings. I went on a tour of the hotel (which culminated in a tour of the incredible Queen's Suite!) with some of the staff there and it was really cool to hear all the history. The talked about the Victorian style, Edwardian Style, and Art Deco style in the hotel. They said in the past the hotel design was "very busy" - the hotel went "all out" - not necessarily originally matching the rest of the room style/decor. Now in the modern day, the hotel is painstakingly refurbished, added fire exits, wall plugs, etc. This was the first electrically lit hotel, I think they said!? Amazing.

Two plush Kaspar the Cats that come along in a children's suite that they showed us

A very famous old drawing room at the hotel which is now a function space

Cool sculpture at the Kaspar's Restaurant -- if you look at the reflection of the sculpture, you see the Kaspar logo

To celebrate the end of the war in 1945, the hotel celebrate by turning all the lights on! They also had saved cardboard throughout the entire war so that they could serve on Cardboard Menus for the American Bar that evening! For many years they had printed on more and more degraded paper, worse and worse, but saved the best for when the war ended. Wow amazing history.

Then we were given a tour of the amazing Queen's Suite. WOW.

But first, a snack! We had a Salmon "Rose", goat cheese croquettes with berry jam, tea and pastries, and then split into two groups -- one to go with the Bartender, and one to go with the head Butler.

I had a huge appreciation for the Bartender, it was amazing to see him talk about crafting cocktails, it was his artwork. It was very cool, I've never seen someone speak so passionately about making cocktails before! People really enjoyed his creative ideas. "How much to follow the recipe vs. mix-and-match?" someone asked. Sortof like the cooking vs. baking question. He said "Good question. First learn the rules. Then get creative." Good advice :) He then crafted us 3 amazing drinks.

The first was called "Normand Conquest", was tasty and bourbon-based. The next was called "Diamond Jubilee Punch" -- the name was chosen by Buckingham Palace from 5 names and was used for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Celebration.

The bartender wanted to server the drink to the customer in a way that would still be there in 50 more years... so he decided to serve it OUT OF THE FOUNTAIN in the front of the Savoy Hotel!!!! The Engineer first said to him, "How?!?!", to which he answered, "Don't ask me, I just make the drinks!" The solution was to make new lines just for that day, and people would put their cup into the fountain! Epic! He said he spent hours upon hours the night before making 20 bottles of fresh orange zest juice, he needed 20 bottles of Bombay Sapphire, 30 bottles of fresh Lemon Juice, etc!

Our Bartender was the winner of a TV competition, and this year 3 of the 8 of his staff from the Savoy had made it onto this show. Pretty amazing.

The third drink he made for us was called "Green Park" and started with crushed basil. It was so tasty, smooth, no sharp taste. What an artist! He travels around the world, instructs people, gives talks, researches. So cool! What an honour to meet such a legend of the Bartending world! He finished off the basil drink with a spray of perfume!

Following this interesting chat (and a little warmed up by all of our tasty beverages), we headed down the hall in the Queen's Suite to meet the Head Butler of the Savoy. "I am not a servant, I choose to serve", he said is his motto and the spirit in which the butlers at the Savoy work. He picks new staff very carefully, by a "good feeling", based on personality. Someone who is keen to help people, to help people have a unique experience. Presumably also detailed-oriented people! This was a fascinating discussion and interesting to see the hotel from his very interesting point-of-view. His staff is able to pack and unpack for guests, so he taught us some very detailed clothes folding techniques!

I got to fold a shirt with him watching after he taught us and he said I did a good job. :) He had lots of fun stories and said "We can do anything, as long as it's legal!" If you want something one way and tell them during one visit, it will always be the same way for all future stays (WOW). This was really cool to see someone take so much pride in this sort of hospitality work. He was very dedicated and very serious about real service... quite impressive indeed. It really gave you a huge appreciation for the craft. He's like a constant problem solver, directing teams to help solve issues immediately. It was an excellent talk.

After the wonderful tour of the hotel, I headed back to my room for a nap before the big Gala and party that evening. We got up and got dressed and headed to the party, which was full-on!! It started with a casual meet-and-greet, a champagne toast, and dinner. It was a beautiful setup in Simpson's-on-the-Strand, the restaurant attached to the Savoy. I had smoked salmon and beef, potatoes, and some awesome Whisky -- they had Oban Distiller's Edition and Talisker 10!

They had an amazing dessert display -- Peanut chocolate pudding, Litchi Rose Religieus WOW with a real Rose petal on it!!!! Truly incredible. We danced/cut a rug as you do, and did some silly dress-up photos again with some props that they had at a photo booth.

After another round through the dessert table, some tea and chatting, it was bed time. Whew, what a day!

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