Patter of mice fails to stop Savoy winning top award

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The Independent Online
Presumably none of the business travellers who nominated The Savoy the best hotel in the world had had the pleasure of meeting a mouse during dinner.

The very same hotel which only last month hit the headlines because rodents were on the loose in the famous River Restaurant and adjacent Thames Foyer, prompting a visit from Westminster Council's environmental health officers, yesterday scooped the Executive Travel magazine's top award: Hotel of the Year.

For the first time in 15 years, the annual readers' poll by the magazine produced a Western winner. Previously, Asian establishments have wiped the board, but this year the Savoy, which is wedged between the Embankment and the Strand in the heart of London's theatreland, came up trumps. Not only did it take the top title, but it was also voted best UK hotel and best in the UK for rooms and for food.

The Savoy, the brainchild of the Gilbert and Sullivan impresario Richard D'Oyle Carte, first opened its doors to the public in 1889. It boasted unheard of features including full electric lighting and a startling number of baths (67 in total). Over the years, the hotel has had numerous expansions, most recently the renovation which famously disturbed the mice and has entertained almost every star in the book.

Of the many glittering parties that have been held at The Savoy, one of the most famous is the Gondola dinner, hosted by George Kesler, the Champagne millionaire and Wall Street financier, in July 1905. The old forecourt was recreated as Venice, lit by 400 Venetian lamps. Other highlights were a baby elephant and a five-foot birthday cake.

Royalty has allegedly patronised The Savoy in such numbers that the special bell heralding their arrival had to be abandoned. By 1914, The Savoy Grill had established itself as a rendezvous for leading stars, impresarios and critics. Sir Winston Churchill was what the hotel calls "a devoted Savoyard", visiting every week when he was in London.

Guests yesterday gave the hotel a resounding endorsement. Hugh Winthrop, 58, mangaging director of an advertising agency, said The Savoy was "a great meeting place" as he took another slug of his bloody mary while waiting for his companion. "The girls like it,'' he added. "I think women like it because its not too pushy, you know. You feel safe. You could leave your wife here for an hour if you were delayed ... I don't think I've got a complaint really."

Timothy Harris, a solicitorentertaining colleagues, summed up the hotel, which is part of The Savoy Group, which includes The Berkely, Claridge's and The Connaught in London and The Lygon Arms in the Cotswolds. "The service is very good, the food's excellent, the wine's expensive...It's a special place that I come to on special occasions."

The Savoy was not the only London hotel to be singled out in the award ceremony at the Sheraton, in Park Lane. The Metropolitan took the world best new hotel title, beating off challenges from Bangkok and Beverley Hills establishments.

"It is refreshing to see London hotels not merely matching but exceeding the high standards which have been set by Asian hotels in recent years," said Mike Toynbee, editor of Executive Travel.

The Sheraton Skyline at Heathrow was voted the UK's best airport hotel and another Heathrow hotel, the Ramada, was voted best UK conference hotel. The magazine's readers voted ITT Sheraton the best hotel group.