So, they’ve at last finished sprucing up The Savoy. The plan was to spend a measly £100 million and have it done and dusted within 16 months. But things didn’t quite work out like that, and the refurbishment has taken three years – at a cost of £220 million.
Only a small proportion of this enormous outlay and time has been spent updating the famous American Bar. Traditionalists will be soothed by the white ceiling and sleek curves of the bar, the art deco mirrors and fittings, the Terry O’Neill monochrome portraits and the gleaming piano complete with smooth, tuxedoed pianist playing jazz and crooning every night of the week.
It looks a bit lighter, a bit brighter and fresher but it’s not changed very much at all. Which, in some ways, is no bad thing. After all, you’d be daft to muck about with such an iconic imbibing institution.
Regarded by many as the capital’s classiest custodian of the classic cocktail, the American Bar has been doing a refined line in dapper drinks since 1898.
‘The Savoy Cocktail Book’, written by head bartender Harry Craddock in the 1930s, remains the quintessential cocktail recipe guide, while, among mixologists, the role of head bartender at the American Bar is still regarded as one of the industry’s most prestigious of pouring positions. It’s currently occupied by the award-winning Erik Lorincz, formerly of The Connaught, who has helped compile an American-accented cocktail list updated with a few twists and some of The Savoy’s signature knee-tremblers.
The cocktails are excellent and executed with all the elegance you’d expect for £14 a pop. Thing is, with so many London bars now manned by some of the world’s best mixologists, it’s no longer enough to rely solely on the quality of the drinks.
A revamp of the American Bar must pay homage to the past, but it seems to be stuck there.
Don’t expect to breeze in. On our 6.30pm visit on a Monday, there was an orderly queue waiting for seats to become free (bookings are not taken). Beats standing on a Shoreditch street corner, though.