The iconic Belmond Copacabana Palace hotel dominates Rio de Janeiro‘s Copacabana Beach, says the gal, but for the superlative on Ipanema Beach, head for Hotel Fasano Rio de Janeiro (interestingly, both gorgeous properties are run by women, both sensationally stylish, caring and professional). Fasano‘s GM is Cristiana Kastrup, who as well as heading an 89-room hotel manages a pair of lively eight-year old twins, fortunately with the help of two nannies, one of whom brought up her own siblings a generation ago. We have the best sunsets, visible from our eighth floor rooftop pool, says Cristiana Kastrup. Look right at the colours out to sea and behind the islands off Barra da Tijuca.
The Fasano hotel brand evolved from Fasano restaurants started by the Fasano family, descendants of Milan-born Vittorio Fasano who, like many Italians, sought a better life in Brazil in the first decade of the 20th century. Here, the hotel’s restaurant, Fasano Al Mare, is one of the many reasons chic São Paulo-based millennials head for high-octane weekends in Rio, though they are likely to cancel at short notice if the weather forecasts turn pessimistic. These are the same high-octaners, by the way, who until recently would fly to Miami Beach for a weekend, but now, thanks to an exchange rate that means their real is worth only 25 US cents, they are far more likely to stay home, which is not good for Florida but great for Brazil’s hotels. Lunch here at Fasano Al Mare is preceded by lots of hugs and lots of handshakes – Brazilians are touchy-feely, and it quickly becomes quite normal to make physical contact even at first time of meeting.
The meal itself starts with one of the biggest-ever amuse, a complimentary from the chef that turns out to be a sunset-coloured bowl of soup with a small cracker. My salad comes with fresh fig, and slices of goat cheese. Pulled São Paulo leg of lamb arrives as a chocolate-coloured block, with spinach and artichoke. Now you MUST have tiramisu, insists the size-zero Cristiana Kastrup. Listen to it crunch. She delicates brings the edge of a dessert spoon down through the confection. As luck would have it conversation around us momentarily ceased, as if by magic, and sure enough there was a distinct crunch as metal hit meringue. Conversation carried on immediately (memo to self for next trip to Brazil, some gyms here, like gyms everywhere, are not good on acoustics but in Brazil personal trainers tend to talk at the top of their voices, or even shout, which is very disturbing when concentrating on mentally-stimulating sudoku while physically working out on a Technogym elliptical – pack earplugs). Book a Fasano room via Quintessentially, incidentally, and personal training is included.
I am also reminded that every luxury hotel I visit should require a trip to the ladies’ washroom. The facilities at One Aldwych London, at Felix atop Peninsula Hong Kong, and at Jade On 36 at Shangri-La Pudong, Shanghai, come to mind. Now the bathroom off the lobby of Fasano Rio de Janeiro joins the list of memories. I cannot find a washbasin. I am just about to put my bag – fortunately not a $3,000 Hermès Birkin – down on a back-lit marble tabletop. Fortunately I notice the surface is wet. This IS the washbasin. The table’s sculptures are taps, and water flows over the tabletop to barely-perceptible gulleys around the table’s periphery. Towels are stored in a giant shell-shaped receptacle, and discarded in a bowl beneath. Another memorable touch, when leaving the washroom, the brick wall outside has framed written commendations from happy hotel guests.