Susie Rushton: Savoy bucks the credit crunch

Urban Notebook
Click to follow
The Independent Online

Running along the Strand on Monday night – I was late for dinner at Simpson's – I noticed that the Savoy hotel next door is still covered in tarpaulin. In December 2007, the Savoy closed for an overhaul. The work was supposed to take 16 months – "a little optimistic", admits Julian Haddon, director of sales and marketing – but visiting divas and dignitaries will now have to wait until July to be dropped off at its private entrance in Savoy Court (the only road in London where, due to an anomaly enshrined in an Act of Parliament, one is obliged to drive on the right).

"Optimistic" is germane. Everything about the Savoy's facelift has a stalwart sense of pre-recession glitz: Gordon Ramsay, pictured, is running the Savoy Grill restaurant; there'll be a new 46-seat Champagne bar; and the building work, costing at least £100m, is the most ambitious refit of any hotel in London. Let's hope the girlfriends of Russian and Saudi billionaires are badgering their partners for a Westminster mini-break this summer. "We are conscious of the economic landscape, and I don't want to sound arrogant," says Haddon, "but it is the Savoy."

Happily, all the pampering and orchids and state-of-the-art check-in has required a massive recruitment drive, and dozens of senior jobs at the hotel are being advertised on Caterer.com – from hostesses to royal service agents (regally polite phone operators).

One of the choicest on offer is door attendant. "Doorman" would be sexist, I suppose, and besides, women can whistle for taxis, although applicants must be able to "lift 50+ pounds at a time and be able to stand and walk for long periods of time". The newly unemployed Big Phil Scolari could do that, couldn't he? His fine moustache is textbook hotel-doorman, and he'd certainly have no trouble fulfilling the ad's final requirement: "Be an active colleague of the Savoy team in our mission of 'Turning Moments into Memories' for our guests."

There could also be a job for P45-owner Sir James Crosby – that of senior butler, a role boasting a "competitive salary" (no mention of bonuses but I'm guessing there will be tips) which involves not only pressing trousers and fetching tea but "handling difficult situations efficiently and effectively". On second thoughts, maybe Crosby's not quite right – though it is pleasing to imagine him and his kind cringing as another pop star hurls a Louis Vuitton trunk across the Savoy's 3,350sq ft Royal Suite.

understatement.lizrules.ok

The Queen is the ruler of understatement. A guest at yesterday's relaunch of Royal.gov.uk tells me that one speaker in particular at the Buckingham Palace event made an impression on our monarch. "Tim Berners-Lee," said HRH of the inventor of the web, "He's on to a good thing, isn't he?"

Comments