Sunday 26 June 2011

Sorrento and Capri

After touring the sights of Rome for four days it was time to head south. I stayed at an amazing hostel (why can't all hostels be like this?). There is a sundeck, two bars, four common rooms, the cleanest bathroom I've seen thus far and the hostel organises private boat cruises to Capri daily.

I decided to join the charter for a day of swimming, snorkeling and sightseeing for Capri. After a group of angry Canadian's insisted of having a private tour and kicked us of the boat (a long story but suffice it to say that they were very rude and insulting and have upset all the staff and most of the guests here over the past few days). Accordingly, the rest of us (a Taiwanese couple and two other single girls) were put onto another boat that can best be described as a rubber dinghy with a motor (like a Zodiac).

Our little 'boat that could' was very small so we felt every wave and bump and I was violently ill (twice) on the way to Capri. It is one of the worst feelings in the world and I desperately wanted to reach dry land, or even drop anchor as swimming would have been more enjoyable than rocking in the waves.

The blue grotto was closed on the day we visited but we sailed past it and other small grottos before stopping for some swimming.

We then headed for land (thank goodness) and spent about 3 1/2 hours touring Capri and Anacapri. I used the time to try to settle my stomach and double-dose on travelcalm pills so I was good to go for the boat trip back.

The view from Capri

The view from Anacapri

The waves had picked up significantly on the return trip and it was quite a wild ride on the way home but enjoyable as motion sickness was no longer an issue. Upon arriving, we spoke to the captain about our charter and how it was not what we were promised (i.e. no nice boat, no snorkeling) and he agreed and apologised profusely providing us a significant discount.

Even with our dodgy little boat, the day was highly enjoyable and a lovely way to see Capri. However, no matter how hard I try to convince myself that I do not need motion sickness drugs, this boat cruise has proved once and for all that there is no such thing as "mind over matter" when I'm on a boat!

Wednesday 22 June 2011

Ristorante il pagliaccio

In keeping with my tradition of having one spectacular meal in each major city, I reserved a table at Restaurante Il Pagliaccio for dinner. I had picked this restaurant for a few reasons. One, because the most acclaimed restaurant in Rome, La Pergola, was fully booked. Two, because Il Pagliaccio is a two-star restaurant with a menu that combines Italian and Asian flavours. Being Eurasian myself, I love fusion food and thought it would be a nice departure from the traditional Italian menus seen on every tourist restaurant in Rome. The Chef, Anthony Genovese, takes inspiration from the many countries where he has worked and has created a wonderful menu.

In the morning of my reservation, I visited the Vatican on a group tour and made friends with two ladies from the United States, Shannon & Paige, who asked if they could join me for dinner. Of course, being a two-star restaurant, tables are hard to come by so I called the restaurant to see if there was any possibility of changing my “table for one” to a “table for three”. I could hear the hesitation in the booking manager’s voice when I called but he the stated “he would do his best”.

Shannon is Paige’s aunt and was treating Paige on a European holiday as a reward for finishing high school. I thought that was fantastic and would love to be able to do something similar for my nephews (when the time comes). Shannon is the CEO & Founder of so it was nice to talk to her about websites and get some advice for my blog.

Shannon & Paige were staying at a lovely 5-star hotel only a few blocks from the festering hellhole of a hostel that I was residing in so we agreed to take a taxi together. The taxi ride was an event in and of itself! Having travelled extensively through Asia, I thought that I was pretty conditioned to wild taxi rides but our Roman driver definitely took the prize. Poor Paige started to get carsick on the way to the restaurant.

We arrived promptly at the reservation time and were greeted at the door with friendly smiles and a comment of “yes, the table for one that’s now three”. I apologized if I had caused them grief but they simply smiled and said “no, we have to seat you at the chef’s table, hope that’s OK”.

Shannon, Paige and I

The chef’s table was in a separate room to the main dining hall and had a view into the kitchen. On one wall was a bookcase stacked with the cookbooks of other famous restaurants (e.g. The Fat Duck, Arzak, Alinea, El Bulli etc) and I could have happily sat there for hours reading.

The meal started with an aperitif of champagne and a small plate of food to accompany it. On the right was a rolled and fried chicken thigh filled with hazelnut mousse, in the middle was a cucumber jelly and on the right was strawberry gazpacho. Eaten in order from left to right, the chicken was homey but very tasty, the cucumber was light and cleansed the palate and the strawberry gazpacho was simply delicious. A whole bowl of that on a hot summer’s day would be the perfect lunch.

After our aperitif, we were presented with the food menus. There is an a-la-carte menu and a choice of an 8, 10 or 12 course tasting menu. We opted for the eight courses to ensure that we would be able to finish the meal (which we weren’t). Like Le Chantecler, no course descriptions are provided, you are in the hands of the chef.

On the menu it also states “Dear Guest, for privacy reason avoid using mobiles or photocameras, filming it’s forbidden without permission”. Not one to be easily deterred, I asked the waiter if I could have permission to photograph and he confirmed that would be fine as long as no flash was used.

To begin with, we were served an amuse bouche of grilled melon with prosciutto and sangria. A modern twist on the classic Italian starter that graces so many menus here in Rome. By grilling the melon, the chef has intensified the sweetness of the fruit and the salty prosciutto is the perfect offset.

The first course of the tasting menu was a potato roll with crab salad and a salsa of mango, pineapple and banana, served with a warm rice soup with coconut milk and Japanese tea. The potato roll was served cold which allowed for the fresh taste of the crab to shine through. The salsa added a nice kick but the star of the dish was the coconut milk soup. It was light but bursting with flavour and the rice added an interesting textural crunch.

The second course was grilled mackerel with clam jelly filled with mozzarella and semolina and tomato water. The clam jelly looked like an amoeba on the plate but was very tasty. The mackerel was well cooked but it is strong fish and overpowered the other flavours.

The third course was fried mini cannelloni filled with artichokes and topped with smoked sardine and miscellaneous foam of indefinable flavour. The cannelloni had a great texture and the smoky filling of artichokes was complimented by the sardine. The waiter, noticing that Paige didn’t finish the fish course and enquiring why (she’s not a fan of fish), informed the chef and served her plate with smoked eggplant instead. I thought that was a really nice touch.

The fourth course was fagottini (similar to ravioli) stuffed with fig and nduja (a pork sausage from Calabria that is spiced with red pepper and spreadable in texture). All three of us listed this as one of our favourite courses. The nduja had the perfect amount of heat, plenty of kick but you didn’t need to reach for your glass.

The fifth course was a risotto with tomato, oregano, lemon, black olive and cream. It was one of the finest risottos I’ve ever eaten. The rice was far less cooked than the risottos I have had in Australia or Hong Kong but I enjoyed it immensely.

The sixth course (the meat course) was grilled veal with a herb and pepper crust, served with apricot and chickpeas, with galletti mushrooms and grilled eschallot. I found the meat to be a tad overcooked (tough) and although it was tasty, I found it to be the weakest course thus far (perhaps a little too safe).

The seventh course (the cheese course) was a passionfruit and apple cream, served with a waterflower and coffee waffle, ricotta topped with coffee, olive oil, orange and sour marmalade and a white yoghurt cream. The ricotta was pleasant and served as a nice neutral base for the other flavours.

We were then treated to a palate cleanser served in a martini glass: a watermelon granita, with vodka jelly, mint and lime. We were getting full at this point so were relieved that it was quite light.

The eighth course (the dessert course) was a zabaglione tart with apricot sorbet, thyme jelly and apricot cream. The tart was airy and not eggy as some zabagliones can be (if not cooked properly). The thyme jelly was a strong counter to the sweet apricots. A highly successful dessert.

Finally, it was time for the mignardises and we were served a long plate of macaroons, sour cream cake, chocolate gateaux and other petit fours. At this point, we were too full to finish this course. We were also given a complimentary glass of coffee liqueur to accompany the mignardises which was most appreciated.

Interestingly, the dress code at Il Pagliaccio is casual which is unusual for a two-star restaurant. However, the majority of the patrons chose to dress to a higher standard and I think casual dress does not suit the style of the restaurant.

By far, this was my most enjoyable meal in Italy to date. Each dish was predominately Italian, but with a modern twist. Based on my observations thus far, modern Italian does not seem to be embraced here in Rome and I didn’t come across any other styled restaurants each day as I walked the town. Perhaps it was because I was in the tourist areas but every other menu I saw was almost identical offering the same standard fare. I commend Chef Genovese for a truly wonderful meal.

Our waiter and I

Rome and Vatican City

I have finally made it to Rome, the cradle of western civilization. As a city, I find it to be stunning and the mix of modern and ancient architecture is lovely. You may be walking down street lined with modern buildings, turn the corner, and there's a building that's been standing 2,000 years.

Trevi Fountain

For my first full day in Rome, I had booked tour of the Vatican with 7 Hills Tours (the number one rated tour guides on Our guide for the day, Andreas, was fabulous! I can't imagine visiting the Vatican without a guide as you would miss out on so much detail and understanding.

We went through the grounds, the Vatican museum, visited the garage with the Pope-mobiles, walked past a Vatican/Australian tourism exhibit, and then headed for the Sistine Chapel and finally St Peter's Basillica. There was so much to see; from every piece of artwork to the way the ceiling of a hallway is painted, it is truly magnificent.

LinkThe entrance to the Australian exhibit

Our tour was limited to 20 people and we all very given those little headsets so we could hear the guide no matter where we were standing (embarassing but highly useful). I was struck with a sense of wonder and awe but it was also very humbling. I do know that words will not be able to articulate how special it was but there were two sights that stood out as my favourites:

Housed in St Peter's Basillica, the Pietà is Michelangelo's first sculpture of a number of works he created of the same theme and it is also the one piece of art I was most looking forward to seeing on this entire trip. It is beautiful; tragic but stunning.

Pope John Paul II was beatified in May 2011 and his body has now been laid inside St Peter's Basillica (previously underneath in the tombs) and is a focal point for many pilgrims.

The new tomb of Pope John Paul II

I cannot recommend enough utlising a guided tour when visiting the Vatican. Not only will your understanding be so much greater, but you get to skip ALL of the lines and I can't think of anything worse than standing in the hot Roman sun for 1-2hours just to enter the Vatican.

Standing infront of the Swiss Guard

Preparations for the papal mass

Without doubt, the visit to the Vatican has been the [non-food related] highlight of my trip thus far.

During my stay in Rome, I also took a tour of the Colloseum and Roman Forum; by booking in a tour, you are granted access to the underground levels and tunnels (where the slaves and animals were kept) that are not otherwise open the public. The guide was very quick to point out that whilst she LOVED the movie Gladiator, it was a highly flawed account of Roman history!

The outer ring exterior of the Colloseum

The rest of my time in Rome was spent shopping, eating and touring the city sights. Visiting Rome in summer requires a lot of patience, stamina and bottled water; it is crowed and very very hot. The concrete and stone that forms so much of the city retains the heat and the surface temperature can be many degrees hotter than the official air temperature.

The burning sun over the upper stands in the Colloseum

On my final night in Rome, I headed back to the Vatican and St Peter's Basilica as I wanted to spend more time visiting it than the guided tour allowed. As I arrived, the guards were closing off the front of the church becuase mass was about to commence. After inquiring if I could attend mass, I was let through.

It seems that a lot of other tourists realised this "trick" and quickly informed the guards that they too would like to go in mass. In reality, they walked right up the centre aisle as the priest was talking, took photos with their flash on during the service and one even answered his cell phone before exiting. This pattern of behaviour continued during the full service as new rounds of tourists were enter, disrupt and leave. I found that lack of respect to be simply astonishing.

In any event, the service was beautiful and, for me, it was truly special to be able to experience it.

The perils of travelling solo - the Fat Duck

I have started to plan ahead some of my trip to the UK and have started to make reservations for the key restaurants on my list.

Unfortunately, the Fat Duck has a minimum table size of two people.

So to my friends, relatives and other avid foodies: anyone free in late August for lunch at the Fat Duck?

Sunday 19 June 2011

A Tale of Two Cities: Pisa and Lucca

It was check-out day in Cinque Terre and I was torn between one final long sleep-in in my lovely queen size bed and the feeling that it was somewhat irresponsible to not make the most of every minute of this trip and therefore leave the hotel early so that I could visit Pisa. I had to change trains there anyway so I decided that I really should see it (if only so I could say that I had).

In short, Pisa is a dump, Desserted, old, vacant - dead. There were no shops open, nobody in the streets, no traffic, nothing. If it wasn't for the odd tourist making the trek from the train station (like ants on a window frame all following the same path), I would have thought that I was on the set of a post-apocalyptic movie. It's only when you are within 50m of the tower, that the usual hawkers pounce and there is some life to be seen. For a town that's whole claim to fame is basically a construction job-gone-bad, I really didn't see the appeal.

Where are all the people?

Needless to say, it took 20mins to walk to the tower, 2 mins to get a photo and 20 mins to walk back to the station. Sitting on the train platform for half an hour, reading Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain and eating an orange was actually more enjoyable that visiting the town of Pisa. Perhaps I was just there at the wrong time. It was a Sunday; perhaps the entire village decided to stay in that day or the priest gave a really really long homily at mass and everyone was still in church. I'm glad I went because now I can say I've seen it, but I can't recommend Pisa for a visit.

The world's most famous construction mishap

Lucca, on the other hand, is absolutely lovely. Before I left Australia, my friend, James, was adamant that Lucca was a fantastic city to visit and I am so glad that I followed his advice and made the effort. It is only accessible by regional train and about 1/2 hr from Pisa and 1 hr from Florence. Located in Tuscany, Lucca is famous for it's still intact city walls (from the Renaisssance era). With the miltary importance of the walls now lost, the walls are used as a pedestrian and cyclist promenade that circles the old city.

The view from outside the city walls

Inside the city walls, the town is filled wih old and winding alleys and lots of little shops. The hostel I was staying at helpfully listed the directions from the train station as "only a 15 min walk" and nothing else. I had a mud-map from google but after 20mins of going round in circles and unable to find any of the streets on my map, I jumped in a cab. I'm sure I got gypped though as he seemed to do a huge circle around the town and drove for quite some time considering how small the old city is. When we arrived, he mysterisouly added another 4euro surcharge (he said it was for my bag and because it was a Sunday). I remain highly doubtful!!

The view on top of the city wall

But I digress...Lucca is picturesque. After finding the hostel, I walked around for a while and then hired a bicycle to ride around on top of the city walls. Lucca reminded me a lot of X'ian with it's wide city walls that are now pedestrianised. After cycling for while, I headed for the shops and found the pasticerria.

A tiny selection of the goods on offer

In short, Lucca is a romantic town. It's old streets and winding alleys belong in an era past and it is so charming. Unlike Pisa, I can happily and strongly recommend a visit if you are ever in northern Italy and I could definately consider returning.

Lucca at twilight

Cinque Terre, Italy

Cinque Terre, meaning five lands, consists of five villages set along the picturesque west coast of northern Italy (between Genova and La Spezia).

I chose to stay at the northern-most village, Monterosso Al Mare, as it seemed to be largest and has to longest beach. I also decided to splash out and booked into a 4-star hotel (I'd say 3-star by Australian/US standards) Hotel Palme just 50m back from the beach. Oh the luxury! My own room, my own bathroom, a queen-size bed instead of a bunk bed and no one to wake me during the night with their incessant rustling through their suitcases (seriously, anyone who stays in hostel and wraps individual pieces of clothing in plastic bags so they "rustle" every time they try to get something out, should be banned). But I digress.....

Besides the beach and crystal clear blue water, the main attraction of Cinque Terre is the famous hike between all five villages. Only 12km in length but advised to take 4-5 hours due to incredible changes in altitude throughout the hike.

Looking down on Monterosso from the path to Vernazza

Corniglia (foreground) and Manarola (background)

By starting at the Monterosso end, you attack the hardest section first, with each subsequent section getting progressively easier. I pity the poor souls who start at Riomaggiore end as the last two legs would kill them.

Vernazza from the hiking path from Monterosso

A little out of breath, but otherwise doing well

Being my first stop in Italy, I couldn't help but notice the obvious change from Nice (only a few hours away by train) and that some stereotypes did ring true. The women in Cinque Terre talk at a louder volume and gesticulate a lot with their hands (I now know that I can blame my Italian ancestry for my lack of a "volume" button). The food is decidedly different - gone are the eclairs and baguettes; in their place are foccacia, pizza and gelato shops every few metres.

I had spent the first six weeks of my trip promising myself that I would not eat gelato, pizza or pasta until I was in Italy and I managed to make it through 2 of the 3 in Cinque Terre.

For dinner one night, I headed to the Old Town in Monterosso to La Cambusa. Being in the Ligurian region of Italy, the culinary specialties are pesto, seafood, and a pasta called trofie (shaped like corkscrews). I ordered the "trofie alla scampi" and it was truly wonderful; packed with flavour and the pasta perfectly al dente. It was a real eye-opener into how little variety of pasta (shapes and sauces) we have back home both in the supermarkets but also in the Italian restaurants.

My "trofie alla scampi"

There was one glaring downside of the meal: the service. It was appalling. I was basically shoved in the corner of the restaurant and after my order was taken, the only time I saw the waiter was when he unceremoniously dumped the plate of pasta on my table. I had asked for a carafe of tap water for my meal to which he replied "no, we only have bottle, you have Acqua Panna". However, of course, when the restaurant started to fill up with the regular customers, they were all given complimentary carafes of tap water. The add insult to injury, a 2euro cover charge was imposed. Yes, that's right, even though you pay for your food and drink, you will also be charged for the privilege of sitting.

The exterior of the restaurant (where I didn't sit)

My second foray into eating Italian culinary stereotypes was the gelato. At the completion of my walk I decided to finally treat myself to gelato and I was delighted to see that you could order it in a brioche.

I had only tasted this once before, about 20 years ago, when my father took me to a culinary trade show. Yes, that was my father's idea of a good father-daughter bonding excursion! At the show, the brioche was filled with gelati and the whole thing was then put in a sandwich-press type machine that quickly heated the bread without melting the gelato. To this day, I have remembered how wonderful it was and was so delighted when I saw it in Italy.

Alas, however, it was not the same. The brioche came in a plastic bag (you know the type that has been sitting on a supermarket shelf for months with an almost indefinite use-by date), was dry and tasted like packet-mix and it was served at room temperature. Needless to say, I only ate the gelato which was lovely, but no different to the gelato back home (other than it's about 1/3 of the price here).

Nutella gelato in brioche

On my final day in Cinque Terre, I had booked a sunset cruise along the coast (with dinner). However, the weather turned ugly and it went from a peaceful little cove beach with no waves whatsoever, to a raging surf beach and the tide was so high the beach disappeared. As a result, the cruise was cancelled. Considering I'd planned my days so I was meant to lie on the beach all day on my final day, it did put a spanner in the works but there was still plenty to explore.

The southern end of Monterosso beach (usually)

The southern end of Monterosso beach (on my planned "beach day")

Friday 17 June 2011

Le Chantecler, Nice

It was my last night in France and I wanted to eat somewhere truly special. Le Chantecler is the signature restaurant at the Hotel Negresco which is considered the finest hotel in Nice. It is been awarded by Michelin and was also listed in my Les Grande Tables Du Monde 2011 book which was given to me at Arzak so my expectations were high. Les Grande Tables Du Monde describes Le Chantecler as:

The magnificent setting of the Negresco hotels holds a jewel of gastronomy: the Chantecler. In a “Regency” period décor filled with artwork and woodwork by famous designers, the dining room is an invitation to a rare gastronomic experience. Jean-Denis Rieubland, winner of France’s 2007 Best Chef Award, offers a cuisine that is both novel and rich in traditions. Tableside, Olivier Novelli is there to provide his attentive precise and friendly service. In their expert hands, seafood and farm produce come to reflect the passion and the commitment that motivate these men. Each dish then becomes an initiatory journey lined with discoveries that awaken unique and distinctive sensations.”

Dinimg room interior

I was welcomed warmly by the dining room manager, Olivier Novelli, the chef sommelier, Lionel Compan and my two waiters when I arrived and was shown to my table which had a lovely view of the interior of the restaurant and also of the promenade.

Once seated, a champagne cart was wheeled to my table and I was offered a choice of two champagnes as an aperitif and I selected the Duval Leroy 2004 which was very fine and smooth. To accompany the champagne was a selection of canapés: salmon maki, foie gras mousse and sparking chocolate and melon water with jamon. The size of each was very delicate and the taste was a wonderful prelude of things to come.

Olivier presented the menu to me and explained it in great detail, noting the specialties of the house and the a la carte courses that have won awards for Le Chantecler and Chef Rieubland. There were also two set menus offered: "Le Chantecler" which is a set four-course menu, and a seven course "Discovery Menu" simply described as “Presented in tasting portions, our Chef is an innovator and regularly adapts his specialties for your pleasure”. No further details were provided. I did not feel any pressure from Olivier to order anything in particular or within a price range, but did not hesitate in ordering the Discovery Menu. Oliver asked if there was anything that I didn’t eat; I lied and replied “No”. I asked to be placed in the hands of Chef Rieubland and would be happy to try whatever he decided to sent out. So I sat back and hoped for the best……

Immediately, my waiter brought over a selection of breads to accompany my meal: rosemary, olive, wheat or baguette and that was quickly followed by the amuse bouche which was an asparagus cream with fresh asparagus. It was foamy and light and took best advantage of the now in season vegetable.

All of the staff at the restaurant were very friendly and would talk to me in between courses as I was dining alone which was most appreciated. Olivier also gave me a copy of the Negresco magazine to read which details the history of the hotel, recent news and had a few feature articles on Le Chantecler. I found that to be very considerate.

The wine list is as thick as a phone book and weighs just as much. The Sommelier, Lionel, advised that wines were available to be purchased by the glass so I ordered Les Deux Tours Sauvignon Blanc 2009 which was fantastic, very light and crisp. I usually stick to NZ Sauvignon Blancs but will now have to consider the French varieties as it was splendid.

The first appetiser was a Duo of Blue Lobster cooked like carpaccio; served with orange ginger flavoured jelly, broad bean bavaroise, citrus fruits marmalade and gold leaf. The combination of the citrus and the lobster was lovely; clean and fresh, tasting like summer.

The second appetiser was a course that has won awards for Le Chantecler: Langoustines roasted with Espelette peppers, sautéed calf’s head with rocket leaves and garlic foam. The Espelette pepper added a lovely flavour to the langoustine, similar to paprika but not as pungent. The calf’s head was encased in a fine crumb and fried and complimented the langoustine well.

The restaurant was the finest example of silver service I have ever witnessed. The wait staff were dressed in coats with tails and the main courses were presented under cloche. If you needed anything, the service was instantaneous but not hurried. You knew that the staff were always watching and being attentive, but you didn’t feel like you were being watched. It was the perfect balance.

For the fish course, the chef kindly sent out another signature dish: John Dory grilled with basil oil and served with champagne sauce, together with zucchini cannelloni with Aquitaine caviar and turned vegetables (carrot, zucchini and pink potatoes). The fish was perfectly cooked and moist, with expertly applied grill marks.

The meat course is an award winner for Le Chantecler: Veal sweetbread studded with chorizo, fricassee of chanterelle mushrooms and pearl onions, golden-brown macaroni and braising juice. I now understand what the fuss is about! It was delicious. The chorizo imparted a meaty flavor into the otherwise smooth and mild sweetbread.

The cheese course was Burrata from Italy simply served with salt and rocket. It is a very smooth cheese that lacks texture but it was a nice light course to prepare for dessert.

The pre-dessert was a petit crème brulee of Tahitian vanilla served with raspberry sauce and fresh raspberries – what’s not to like?

I had noticed that Chef Rieubland had been kind enough to send out his signature dishes for my tasting menu so I was hoping that my good fortune would continue for the dessert course. The patisserie chef, Jean-Charles Boucher, also has an award-winning signature dessert: the Blown Apple: “sugar blown like glassblowers do and fashioned in the shape of forbidden fruit”. A hollow apple concealing within the fruit in every conceivable form: “green apple spume, apple flambéed in calvados, strudel with almonds, Breton shortcake with fine sea salt, and Granny Smith sorbet”. It was culinary artistry at its finest and the attention to detail was incredible – even the stem of the apple had been blown from sugar. Simply exceptional!

Finally, it was time for the mignardises and another cart was wheeled over to my table displaying a large assortment of confectionary, petit fours and fruit. I only nibbled on a few as I was too full at this point.

I cannot speak highly enough of Le Chantecler and would recommend it to anyone travelling to the French Riviera. The food and the service were both exceptional and I truly appreciated how welcoming they were to me as single diner. When Chef Rieubland was outside the dining room, the staff immediately informed me and asked if I would like to meet him.

Chef Rieubland and I

As I was leaving, I was thanked graciously by the staff and also given a box of Negresco chocolates to make with me as a souvenir.

Sommelier Lionel Compan and I

The whole experience was truly wonderful and I hope to return when I am next in Nice.

Hotel Negresco at night


I did have one criticism though, and it wasn’t of Le Chantecler but of one particular staff member at Hotel Negresco. I have put it at the end of the article as I didn’t want to tarnish to review of the meal with a negative comment up front. In booking and confirming my reservation, all the staff that I dealt with were courteous and professional with the exception of the hotel doorman who almost refused to let me into the hotel the day prior when I sought to confirm my reservation in person, for no apparent reason. The level of snobbery and presumption that he showed was inappropriate especially given that I was dressed nicely (in the same dress I wore to Arzak) and not in swimwear like other guests that he happily opened the door for. I was instantly reminded of the now famous incident when Condelezza Rice went into a shop and asked to see the earrings. The clerk showed her costume jewelry and when Condelezza asked to see something nicer the clerk reportedly whispered something snide under her breath. Condi is reported as saying "Let's get one thing straight, you are behind the counter because you have to work for minimum wage. I'm on this side asking to see to good jewellry because I make considerably more."