ATRIUM LOUNGE, FOUR SEASONS HOTEL FIRENZE
Of all the lovely hotels in and around Florence, the Four Seasons Firenze is one of the most impressive. It inhabits both a 16th Century convent and the 15th Century Palazzo della Gherardesca, and it has one of the largest gardens in Florence (11 acres). These wonders have been restored with flair, sensitivity, taste and, I feel sure, eye-watering expense. If you like frescoes, stucco, carved stone, gilt, crystal and sumptuous fabrics, you will be very happy indeed here. I have not yet stayed at the hotel. Nor is this article about its Michelin-starred restaurant, Il Pelagio. But it is about a part of the establishment which I can recommend to your attention.
The fact is that, on the evening of my visit, the main dining room – Il Pelagio – had been taken over by a private function. So I ate instead in the Atrium Lounge. This is a plush and comfortable space. And – like the rest of the hotel – it is full of interesting things, not the least of which for me was the excellent (and supportive) armchair in faux bamboo in which I sat. Nor was I obliged to ‘make do’ with an inferior table setting because I was not in the main restaurant: the glassware was by Spiegelau and the crockery was by Bernardau. The service, too, from the smart waiters in dark suits, was as correct and as proper as I could have wished – and the Bar Manager, Massimiliano Prili, looked after me exceptionally well throughout my visit.
Indeed, the great Executive Chef himself, Vito Mollica, was present to cook for me some of the dishes for which that Michelin star has been rightly awarded. (A set menu is offered for 90€. For four courses from the carte you should allow around 120€.) I began with game terrine with foie gras, quince compote and beetroot. Since I love each of these ingredients as individuals, it was no surprise to me that I delighted in their company as a group. This was a fine, robust and tasty start to my meal. Next, for the hearty trencherman, came a large risotto, coloured green by broccoli leaves and topped with fillets of delicious red mullet. This was a combination new to me, but it was highly effective. My main course was quail, its sweetness highlighted by apricots. I have always liked the pairing of meat with fruit. To finish, a selection of puddings demonstrated the skill with which this kitchen caters for those with a sweet tooth.
The wine list (also used for the restaurant) has hundreds of offerings, most of which are Italian or French. Prices run from 35€ for a prosecco to 9,800€ for the 1995 Romanée-Conti. Krug Grande Cuvée champagne is 380€. Lovers of super-Tuscans are catered for very well: there are 11 vintages of Sassicaia (the 1990 is 1,550€), 10 vintages of Ornellaia (the 1990 is 920€) and 10 vintages of Masseto (the 1997 is 3,000€). Mr Prili’s recommendations resulted in some lovely drinking. From the famous Mr Gaja came a supremely elegant and austere chardonnay, its notes of cream and vanilla integrated into a structure of impressive clarity (Rossi-Bass, 2011 – 130€). My red was a Bolgheri Superiore, a blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot and cabernet franc, which was youthful but still accessible (Argentiera, 2010 – 110€).
One day I will make it into the dining room of Il Pelagio. But meanwhile I am pleased to have enjoyed the culinary skill of Chef Vito Mollica in the luxurious surroundings of the Atrium Lounge.
Four Seasons Hotel Firenze, Borgo Pinti 99, 50121 Florence, Italy.
Telephone +39 055 26261
Fax +39 055 2626 500