Lunch at the Savoy- The Savoy Grill
The Savoy Hotel London has always been famed for the Savoy Grill Menu; today’s incarnation of the Savoy restaurant is big, bold, robust, yet timeless.
Listen, until the other day I had never been to The Savoy Grill. Sorry. If you thought your restaurant critic was one of those writers who really rather preferred the old Connaught, Savoy, Dorchester, Ritz, whatever, to all this fancy new foreign muck, and had a regular table at each and knew the waiters by name. So as each dusty old dining-room smelling of the wee and mothballs of ancient regulars closes down to be re-opened by a chef who doesn’t look like Hercule Poirot and serve custard with everything, I celebrate.
So if they have stripped the Savoy Hotel restaurant ‘s yew-panelling to bring out its original pale hue, re-upholstered the green banquettes in chocolate and caramel stripes, changed the net curtains for blinds and got rid of the “trolley” then, frankly, my dear, it means sod all to me.
Among the old-time regulars who won’t be showing up any more is Adam Faith, who died doing the only thing he enjoyed more than eating at The Savoy a few weeks before the reopening. On the first day of service, Wednesday May 7, his regular table was left empty apart from a large vase of red roses. On the second day it was left empty. What greater tribute could they offer? Clearly, now that Faith is gone, it is my table. A Peter Pan of popular culture with a love of fine food and smooth young girls, who doesn’t always get his financial planning quite right. That’s me.
As for the food, the day I ate I am sure there was not a better meal served on this silly old island of ours (and even the rankest tightwad can enjoy a set lunch for £21).
Celeriac velouté was nutty with truffle and wild mushrooms. Little savoury cappuccinos served in a coffee cup are probably new to the Savoy London and the gentility of the place would have made me wonder again whether to use the spoon or just slurp from the cup, if I gave a toss. Get it down you, mate, and get on with the damn sweetbreads.
But first some slow-cooked rainbow trout under fennel hearts and caviar to ease the way, and some truffled summer vegetables with a chilled vichyssoise for the boss. Exquisite, twice. I didn’t order the smoked salmon because no critic would go to a place with a chef this good and order the smoked salmon. But it looked astoundingly good on the trolley: the dark meat, clearly wild and fine, was being expertly carved for those nonagenarians who dared not change the habits of three lifetimes.
And then the glands arrived. One each. Gland of hope and glory. Gland of my fathers. Gland of the free. England. It’s just the best thing you can eat, the way this incarnation of the Gordon Ramsey Savoy does it, and I don’t care how he does it. It makes you want to dance on the table with a top hat and sing: “I’m getting married in the morning, ding dong the bells are gonna shiiine” Today they came on asparagus spears, which didn’t bother me, but there’s no need to pay lip service to spring produce with a dish of this eternal, timeless greatness.
The braised Wiltshire pork belly was spellbinding. My spell was well and truly bound. I cook a lot of belly, mostly because it’s cheap and when the ponces down my local organic butcher have taken the expensive bits there’s a lot of prime paunch left for next to nothing. I like it because it’s big and sweaty and tastes of the farm. Here, it was delicate and tender as an after-dinner confection: the fat mottled to a marbly gold, the meat darkened to within an inch of saltbeefiness, tender and newly flavoured like a whole new mammal on gently competing artichokes, onions, apples and sauce Banyuls. The very rare pigeon on pommes Anna and foie gras was equally eye-opening. The cheeseboard was immaculate, and I never have pudding unless I’m completely rat-arsed. So I had the angelic meringue millefeuille of pistachio ice-cream.
I’m sorry I was rat-arsed, Marcus (my pleasant maitre d who had to suffer through my sweatbread and wine induced ecstasy). Whenever you come out to see how I enjoyed my meal I’m lying there at the table like a dog that’s been hit by a Volvo. It doesn’t look very professional. But it’s want to fit in.
The Savoy Grill may be located inside The Savoy Hotel, The Strand, WC2R 0EU
Open daily from 11.30am-11pm