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Francis Bown, Bown's Best

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See below for the latest March 2017 Reviews

Hotel Gritti Palace, Venice, Italy | Bown's Best


Those of us who love Venice must also love The Gritti Palace. For it is the quintessential Venetian hotel. Like the city it adorns, it is grand, beautiful, luxurious, stylish and unique. Hotels simply do not get any better than The Gritti. It is no wonder, then, that I have loved The Gritti Palace for many, many years. Indeed, it has long been my belief that there is only one thing better than arriving in Venice, and that is arriving in Venice when you know you are staying at The Gritti. Of course, as one of the most famous hotels in the world, The Gritti – like a glamorous woman of a certain age – is used to dealing with admiration. She knows she deserves it, but still she responds with a delicate and becoming modesty. If I may be permitted to say this about a lady, she has been ’restored’. Yet the restoration, which has cost many millions of pounds, has been so discreet and so expert that – and I mean this as the highest compliment – it is as if nothing has happened. Perfection still reigns. And the welcome I received on my recent visit was still as warm and as genuine as always – as genuine as the fine pieces of antique furniture and the gilt-framed Old Masters which continue to decorate its sumptuous salons.

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Ristorante Do Forni, Venice, Italy | Bown's Best


How do you find a really top-class restaurant in Venice? One way is to seek out a dining room which has been patronised by some of the world’s most important persons – perhaps the President of the United States and the Head of a Christian Church. Thus you might find yourself at the Ristorante Do Forni, where both Richard Nixon and the Œcumenical Patriarch of Constantinople have been guests. Of course, I do not suppose that they were there at the same time. But, still, it shows that they shared a love of culinary tradition. I imitated these gentlemen and headed for what is surely the most famous restaurant in La Serenissima. For over a century, persons of taste and means have flocked to the Ristorante Do Forni, close to St Mark’s Square, to treat themselves to wonderful food and remarkable wines, served with flair and panache.

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Antinoo's Restaurant, Venice, Italy | Bown's Best


It really lifts my spirits when I find that a good restaurant has got even better. Improvement, I am sure, is good for the souls of all those who encounter it, and improvement in a restaurant means blessings for that most important of the senses – the taste buds. My expectations were high when I headed for Antinoo’s, because my previous visit – when it was still quite new –  had been a happy one, and I had heard reports of its progress up the ladder of gastronomic attainment. And then, of course, it is always exciting to get off the public boat at the Salute stop. The great church of Santa Maria della Salute stands proudly before those who alight here. No artist worth his salt visits Venice without painting at least one canvas of Longhena’s masterpiece. Its bravura is astonishing. And a few pleasant steps away stands the Centurion Palace.

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See also Dining in France & American Farm to Table

Francis Bown 2003
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