Hotel Eden reopened 1 April 2017 after a 17-month facelift, which cost more than a small fortune but – despite seemingly having lost most of his hair – charismatic GM Luca Virgilio is justifiably smiling.
What was a tired but beautiful old hotel is now a ravishing luxury beauty, sumptuous and stylish (opulent might imply bling, and Signor Virgilio is having none of that). Suave doormen still usher you into the lobby, reception on left, concierge on right, but now ahead of you there is an absolutely gorgeous bar, complete with pianist on the grand.
Luca Virgilio is back home here. He was deputy for years to his predecessor, Marcel Levy. Now, as big boss of what is after the renovation a 98-room hotel, he has one of the world’s most elegant hotels in his care. Of course this is Italy, so think style… naturally. Suite 208 has walls and moulded ceilings in creamy white, with amazing icy-white marble (studded with slate-grey shards) for the foyer floor, and framing all doors, and completely lining the bathroom. Want colour? Well, much of the collateral, say stationery folder and pen, is bright sunshine yellow, matching the exterior, and the interior doors, of what is a stunted coffin to hold the minibar (I even had a matching leather wallet, with my initials on it, to hold my key cards).
There is now a proper spa, with Anmin, Santa Maria Novella and Sonya Dakar, and OPI for nails. The gym has risen from have-to-have to proud-to-have, with Citterio-Technogym equipment. And as for the seventh floor rooftop, this is unrecognisable (do yourself a favour, go up there for the sun). One end is now the more casual Il Giardino where you can sit outside or inside around a central, real, olive tree. At breakfast there is a most elegant and tasty buffet here, not too much of anything put out at any one time. Whenever you are in Il Giardino, you will want, like me, to run your hands over the silk-smooth wood chairs. Although Bruno Moinard did the rest of the hotel, the restaurants and the spa were designed by Patrick Jouin, working with Sanjit Manku.
The adjacent rooftop area is the dinner-only La Terrazza, and here you are in for a culinary treat. Initially, tables are merely set with a croquet ball-sized china apple, but then cutlery and other things start to arrive (one server brings tongs and a stack of white and grey napkins, to match the upper grey or under white, tablecloths – which would I like?. The amuse-bouche turns out to be cherry-sized arancini lollipops, sticking out of a stone, and phials of orange juice in a big glass pot filled with living grass. Fabio Ciervo’s menus, in a yellow cover, offer three, five or eight courses, with or without paired wines. Happily, they let me just choose two dishes, seafood tartare and kalamata olives, followed by braised beef with seasonal mushrooms and horseradish. This is, simply, one of those luxury hotels where you, the customer, are king or queen. I went downstairs to my gorgeous suite highly satisfied. Rooms are, thanks to Bruno Moinard, pale champagne-coloured havens highlighted by such sunflower-yellow sparks as exteriors and interiors of the entertainment centre bureaux, and compendiums, and writing pens, and pouches, with your initials on them, to hold key cards.
But it was time to head across Rome. My final night in this gorgeous city was reserved for a unique dining experience, a three Michelin-starred restaurant, La Pergola, on the top of Rome Cavalieri, Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts. Yes, there are some other Michelin three-star restaurants that happen to have a few bedrooms, but there are only a handful of serious hotels that, among other highlights, host top-star restaurants (that select list has several Ritz-Carltons, two Dorchester Collection hotels, and one Four Seasons). The Cavalieri is certainly a one-off in Italy, plus it not only has the outstanding La Pergola but its chef is German. Heinz Beck is one of the most charming, and talented, culinarians in today’s haute cuisine world, as a few lucky gastronomes in Los Angeles and New York will find out as he is going with the hotel’s GM, Alessandro Cabella, for promotions in those cities the first week of April.
We arrived at our table as if we were onstage in a ballet. Every one of the servers here glides, in unison with their peers, but from time to time each breaks out to do a solo, but then moves seamlessly back into the chorus. Tables are set with pale lemon Pedersoli cloths, and napkins embroidered with your initials. Bronze show-plates go with bronze cutlery, all later removed, and little green bushes. We were offered a 12-page water menu (does anyone actually choose the €340,000 Fillico, its bottle encrusted with Swarovski stars and a crystallised rhinestone crown, a miniature of the one belonging to Emperor Frederick II (1194-1250)?). We had Evian, at €9. Instead of the 10-course tasting menu we went à la carte, starting with the most sensational tuna and tomato confection, strips of tuna on top of a white paste, not burrata or mozzarella, but something miraculously resulting from a Beck culinary experiment.
What does make three stars? Amuse-bouche that consisted of three one-bite delights, including a small green sponge with something creamy on top of it – and eight salts, each in big glass jars – helped. I had pink Peruvian. Another amazing touch was, on leaving, being presented with a card that shows one of the hotel’s many art treasures, an Aubusson tapestry, signed M.R.D.B. Fourie, The Palace of Circe: inside was printed a reminder of my dinner’s menu. Tuna with tomato variations was followed by a Heinz Beck creation, Fogottelli La Pergola (half-open pasta balls, light as air), and Seabass all’acqua pazza. Wines were Olivini Lugana 2016 and Montevertine Le Pergole Torte 2011. Even the young woman who handed the card over was Italian three-star, as are many who work here. In the seventh-floor Club lounge, for instance, female servers wear, by day, the most gorgeous floral dresses that match the china teapots. At night, they change into black cocktail gear, with pearls.
Many things add up to Italian style. Bedrooms at Rome Cavalieri, Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts are a riot of colour. #765, which had breathtaking views down over Rome and Vatican City, dominated by St Peter’s dome, was a confection of sunflower and blues, from periwinkle to gentian, and everything matched (wood furnishings even have discreet blue stripes). Leaving the comfortable cocoon of my room, I was amazed as always by the art and beauty in public places, with classic sculptures, and, in the lobby lounge, the three famous Tiepolo paintings, secured firmly behind glass. Yes, there are many touchpoints to take away from here.
Mary Gostelow travels over 300 days a year, doing one-night stands in top hotels around the world. Read her daily travelogue, www.girlahead.com