“It was the food” he cried

The Savoy Hotel was once the most beautiful and prestigious hotel in London. Currently closed for refurbishment*** and due to reopen shortly, I’d love to attend a dinner party there like the one George Kessler held for King Edward VII’s birthday in 1905.

Edward VII, his son and grandsons

It is a balmy July evening in London. A silk-lined gondola, strewn with 12,000 carnations, bobs on a Venetian canal, escorted by pearl-white swans. A baby elephant, groaning under the weight of a 5ft-high birthday cake, is escorted on board the gondola, accompanied by Enrico Caruso, who croons “O Sole Mio” under a paper moon. The scene is illuminated by 400 hand-made paper lamps. In the air above them flutter¬†100 white doves.

Caruso image

Waiters costumed as gondoliers served twelve courses to twice that number of diners seated on gold chairs. Three impressive lions carved out of ice bore trays of peaches and glace fruits while a bevy of Gaiety Girls drank the health of the monarch in Moet et Chandon champagne.


The al fresco dinner saw the Savoy’s forecourt, which was later turned into a Japanese garden to entertain the Japanese Royal Family, and now lies under the Lancaster Ballroom, flooded and turned into a reproduction of Venice. The bill came to ¬£3,000, a fortune at the time. (Kessler presumably also had to pay for the swans, which were overcome by the blue dye in the mock canal).

Blue swans by Jeff Sie

*** one of the highlights of the auction held when the Savoy closed was the oak parquet dance floor. Rumour has it that Marlene Dietrich made love in the ballroom five times, but not, presumably, on the same night


*** another auction highlight was a mahogany chest of drawers from the room Richard Harris lived in.

“In 2002, Harris was taken ill while in residence at the hotel. As he was carried out on a stretcher he is famously remembered as calling out “It was the food!” to anyone within earshot.”

Richard Harris image

Published in: on July 21, 2010 at 8:31 am  Comments (37)  
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