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The Savoy Grill by Gordon Ramsay – Dreaded Rebrand or Gentle Refinement?

The entrance to the Savoy Hotel with the Savoy Grill on the left

I am naturally highly suspicious of re-brands. Rebranding something, to me, is always the sign of a failing product, desperately trying to reverse its ailing fortunes.

Truly enduring products surely never need re-branding. Sure, they might refine their marketing and tinker with their logos around the edges as tastes change but a wholesale re-brand is never on the horizon for a successful product.

Take Apple; Apple has had the symbol of a *checks notes* apple since their creation in 1977 and while it’s gone from a motley rainbow of colours to a rather more dull corporate grey lately, the brand itself remains as strong as ever. Coca-Cola has persisted with the iconic Frank M Robinson Spencerian script logo design since 1886, and apart from that disastrous New Coke experiment in the eighties, the brand remains as strong as ever.

The Savoy Grill London

inside the savoy grill with tables set and huge glass chandeliers

So, when I heard that my beloved Savoy Grill had recently undergone a “bit of a re-brand”, my first reaction was one of outright concern. Surely not. Visions of the cosy and intimate existing tables being trashed and replaced with modern Formica furniture rushed through my mind.

There’s a huge amount of rich heritage in this little corner of London and the risk of it being updated was enough to make me need a good sit down and cup of strong tea, which for the benefit of any overseas readers, is the English equivalent of having a full-on panic attack. Refinement is fine. Rebrands are bad news.

I’d calmed down slightly when I further read that the Savoy Grill was in fact, being taken over by Chef Gordon Ramsay. This is quite a good thing because unless you have been living on Mars since birth, you’ll be aware that Chef Ramsay has very, very high standards and a short temper to boot when those standards aren’t met.

the bar in the savoy grill
The bar in the Savoy Grill

You might have seen his Kitchen Nightmares series both in the UK and the USA where underperforming kitchen staff find out just how high his standards are.

My son particularly loves this, because a number of his sayings have been turned into internet memes for the younger generation and, as a result, my son can often be found shouting “Where’s the lamb sauce?!” at the most inopportune of moments.

Regardless, with Chef Ramsay and his legendary high standards at the helm, surely the future of the Savoy Grill was in safe hands? There was only one way to find out, so when Mrs B suggested a family trip to London on Mothering Sunday, the natural option was to book the family into the Savoy Grill for a spot of dinner before catching a show that evening.

The grand entrance of the Savoy Hotel, with the entrance to the Savoy Grill on the left

I’ve written about the Savoy Hotel itself before and it’s absolutely one of my favourite places to stay in London, firstly because it is great, but secondly, it’s where Mrs B and I had one of our very first dates.

I knew Mrs B was the girl for me because, given the choice between pushing a lettuce leaf around a plate or tucking into a decent fillet steak, she’d chose the filet steak every time. With the creamed spinach. And crème fraiche. And red wine.

Bookings for the Savoy Grill by Gordon Ramsay can be made online via the very simple to use booking tool on the website and, because I am constantly thinking about food, I took the opportunity to also check out the menus for the day, several weeks beforehand and made a great show of pretending to myself that I was interested in anything that wasn’t a medium rare steak.

Dress Code at the Savoy Grill

I was also pleased to see that there was now a separate children’s menu, although I held off making any decisions on that prior, as depending on the mood of my children, they could have selected anything from fresh air through to the caviar, depending on their mood. I also checked out the Dress Code, as the last time I went it was a strict collar, no jeans or trainers type affair.

Nowadays, it’s slightly more of a relaxed affair and the only stipulation is no hats, shorts, tracksuits or hoodies are permitted, which I think most people would be fine with. Frankly, anyone who dines while wearing a hat should be soundly horsewhipped through the streets of London anyway.

And so it came to pass that on a bright Sunday afternoon, we rolled up (hatless) to the doors of the Savoy Grill for an early Sunday dinner. As soon as we walked through the doors, I audibly sighed with relief as I saw that the snug interior remained pretty much unchanged as it has been since 1904 when it moved to the front of the hotel.

Drinks at the Savoy

a cocktail in a cocktail glass on a table
A non alcoholic cocktail

Winston Churchill (who used to dine here a lot) would have approved. The ever-efficient reception team took our coats and ushered us to a table for four, where they settled us down with menus before the equally efficient and friendly Sommelier wandered over to help us with the wine list.

One of the (many) things I like about the Savoy Grill is that the wine and drink list is pretty much, less of a list, more of a phone book-sized menu of delicious drink options, ranging from a bewildering number of wines to the more popular cocktails (including non-alcoholic ones) available from the American Bar upstairs, as well as every spirit and soft drink you’ve ever heard of, and quite a few you haven’t.

With Mrs B having renounced alcohol, and The Boy not being quite old enough to appreciate a good Merlot, it was alcohol-free pre-dinner cocktails for everyone, except me, who accidentally ordered a pre-dinner Singapore Sling. As one, we all decided they were exceptionally good.

The Savoy Grill Menu

a food starter
Beautifully presented starter

Then we came to the food selection. As previously mentioned, the children have variable tastes. The Girl is a strict carb lover and will happily devour cheese, pasta, or her current favourite, cheesy pasta, but at a push anything carb-based will do for her.

The Boy, however, likes entirely different things (making mealtimes at home fun and not at all stressful) and will happily munch away at anything from the contents of his own nose, through to 16oz steaks without blinking.

A quick look at the children’s menu showed that the sausage and mash would do nicely for The Girl, but for a carnivore such as The Boy, only a steak from the A La Carte menu would do apparently, so with a small sense of pride in the tastes of my son, we also ordered three medium rare steaks, with sides of fries, creamed spinach and glazed carrots.

sausage and mash on a plate

As we were waiting, The Boy, with the charming innocence of youth, took the opportunity to ask our waitress when Gordon Ramsay would be turning up. Funnily enough, he was apparently in the day before to cast his exacting eye over the restaurant to make sure it was good before heading off to, I think she said, the football.

This news greatly cheered my children who are always weirdly pleased to hear how their favourite internet memes are getting on, but also reassured me that standards were being maintained.

After a short while, our steaks appeared and with a flourish were served. Everyone agreed that the steaks were of the very highest standard and cooked perfectly medium rare with a gentle amount of seasoning.

When it came to the creamed spinach, you could probably just inject it directly into my veins for the same dizzying euphoria effect and the seasoned fries and carrots were spot on.

a steak on a plate
Image: Savoy Grill (we were enjoying our steaks so much, we forgot to take photos!)

Of course, halfway through eating the children decided they needed to visit the toilets, so jumped down, and in a mark of the attentiveness of the staff at the grill, their food was immediately covered by a solid silver cloche to stay warm while they did whatever it is children suddenly need to do at dinnertime.

Sadly, we didn’t have time for dessert as our show was about to start, so there was no time to linger over some of the delicious-looking desserts, which I was a little sad about as I had my eye on a sticky toffee pudding.

Again, thanks to the attentiveness of the staff who overheard this, I was delighted to be gifted a small box with some small treats, on the way out to enjoy during the show.

the bar and dining area of the Savoy Grill

It’s those little things that make the Savoy Grill stand apart from their peers when it comes to looking after customers and as always, I felt a sense of genuine sadness that the Savoy experience was over for another day when I shrugged my coat on and headed for the door.

I think one of the marks of getting older is that you do start to hate change, hence my opening comment about rebrands. You sort of get comfortable with life, with routine and with products and services you love, and as a result, dig your heels in and are determined not to enjoy anything as impudent as something new.

But The Savoy Grill by Gordon Ramsay has simply taken an already great product and refined, not rebranded it. The same excellent service is still there. The food is as good as it ever was and they make you feel as truly welcome as they ever did, regardless of who is in charge.

So if you’re looking for somewhere for a treat for a loved one, I can confidently state that the Savoy Grill is still on my list of best recommendations in London. Because, yes, people dislike change, but there’s another equally true saying that reassuringly applies here.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Contact details:

The Savoy Grill is close to both Covent Garden and Embankment stations at the Savoy Hotel, Strand, London, WC2R 0EU, call 0207 592 1600 or book a table online.

The official website is here and you can read TripAdvisor reviews here.

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