From our memories, no trace of the River Restaurant is now evident and the space has enjoyed what we can only assume is a (multi?) million pound makeover to create something that is entirely new. With no expense spared, the quality of the finish is outstanding and brings to bear the full class of The Savoy experience, yet Kaspar's is pitched as an all day dining restaurant where there is no dress code. With a decor that sparkles and a menu that pleases all tastes (see below), it is a very nice place indeed to take a lunch or dinner, or something in between if you prefer.
Returning to the menu, the seafood bar, centrally placed in the room, offers a offers a variety of smoked and cured fish in a small(ish) plates format (choice of two £14, or four £22) and these include on the smoked option: various salmons, eel and sable fish; on the cured side: halibut, sea bass and monk fish. There's also a fruit de mer (£34) that makes an excellent shared starter providing oysters (2x rock, 2x native), poached prawns, scallop and Cornish crab. Not included, and to be honest, not missed, was the often space filling item of winkles and whelks that too often are more effort than they're worth. The quality of the seafood served was first class.
If seafood is not your thing, other starters include snails, beef tartare, chicken liver parfait and oxtail consomme as well as a variety of salads. Even in listing all these, we have not covered all of the available choices. Dedicated mains similarly offer over 20 options where more than half are not in fact seafood.But seafood was our choice and we opted for a grilled Cornish lobster (£36) and a Dover sole (£34) that was so expertly filleted and plated, you could be tempted to believe sole is a boneless fish. On a second visit, we also tried the Hereford rib-eye steak (10oz, £28). The verdict on each of these was the same, the ingredients are excellent, well cooked, and served honestly, without unnecessary fuss on the plate.
For dessert, there's Savoy classics like Peach Melba, as well as a chocolate sphere, a version of which I had so thoroughly enjoyed at the River Restaurant we named it as a dessert highlight of the year back in 2011. In keeping with the move away from fine dining, it too has changed with again less fuss on the plate (though it still sees a hot sauce pour melting the sphere tableside). While the previous version offered white chocolate and marshmallow inside, this has now been replaced by 'passion fruit sensations' providing crisp acidity rather than unending sweetness.
While the old River Restaurant was enjoyable, it was not a venue we might consider regularly, except perhaps for entertaining our parents. Kaspar's however is a restaurant that we envisage using a great deal. It is a high class environment but not gaudy or pretentious, the menu much more than seafood (for those who don't want to be shackled) and the service always smart (this is The Savoy after all) but still friendly. While we were lucky enough to be guests at the pre-opening, we enjoyed it sufficiently to return just two days later for lunch and we already have a further return visit booked. A small part of us is sad to see the River Restaurant go, but in Kaspar's, they have created a fabulous, and no doubt significantly more popular, successor.