Savoy Opts for Casual Dining With Help of Kaspar the Cat

The Savoy, which opened in 1889 and was known for the gastronomy of Auguste Escoffier, king of chefs and chef of kings, is to embrace a more casual style of dining.

Kaspar’s Seafood Bar and Grill, which opens on May 2, will serve customers all day, seven days a week, with a range of dishes, from smoked brown shrimp & eel cocktail at 14 pounds ($21.16) to lobster club sandwich with chips (25 pounds).

The venue, on the site of the short-lived River Restaurant, is named after a three-feet-high (0.9 meter) cat sculpted in 1926 by Basil Ionides to stave off bad luck following the death of the South African diamond magnate Woolf Joel in 1898.

Joel held a dinner for 14 and one guest said death would come to the first person to get up from the table, according to hotel legend. Joel took the risk and was shot in Johannesburg a few weeks later, the hotel said today in a news release.

After that, tables of 13 were offered the company of Kaspar, who would be given a seat at the table. Winston Churchill, who adored him, insisted that the cat join him for meetings of his The Other Club dining group.

“Not only in its name does Kaspar’s keep alive the wonderful history that this four-legged friend brought to the hotel almost 100 years ago, but as an informal yet chic brasserie-style restaurant it will also meet the demands of today’s regular diners,” the release said.

Oyster Bar

The central feature of the Art Deco-style restaurant, designed by Robert Angell Design Studio, will be an oyster bar.

The head chef will be James Pare, a Canadian, who has worked with Fairmont Hotels & Resorts Inc. for more than 13 years. He joined the Savoy for three years, having previously worked at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler, Canada, and the Fairmont Olympic in Seattle.

Kaspar’s replaces the River Restaurant, a French establishment that opened after a 220 million-pound restoration of the hotel that was completed in October 2010. Prince Charles, heir to the U.K. throne, reopened the property the following month in the presence of Saudi Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Al Saud, who owns a stake in the hotel.

(Richard Vines is the chief food critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. He is U.K. and Ireland chairman of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards. Opinions expressed are his own.)

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