J K PLACE
Those seeking elegance and comfort on the isle of Capri should seek out the J K Place. It is not only the hotel building which manifests these qualities. When I first met the delightful General Manager, I saw at once that he was without a tie. (As readers of Bown’s Bespoke will know, the wearing of a collar and tie is one of my sartorial Ten Commandments.) Immediately, I expressed my alarm – to general amusement. The following day, the bearded Mr Martino Acampora – for it was he – appeared dressed properly (and very smartly). My picture shows him thus attired, alongside myself and the chefs from the restaurant. This modest tale of the triumph of Virtue takes us to the heart of why the J K Place is such a good hotel: nothing is too much trouble if it will please the guests.
I had arrived on the island at the Marina Grande. There I had been met by a gentleman from the hotel and whisked up the hill in a swish little electric buggy. During the brief ride I recalled my memories of this building – a handsome 19th Century villa – in its previous incarnation as a less grand hotel. Then its exterior had been bright red. Today it is white and cream and discreet – and altogether more suggestive of the luxury which is now within. To turn it into the J K Place the interior was completed gutted and given to the interior designer Michele Bonan. His nautical theme – manifested in the sea blue of the walls and the foam white of the sofas – works well. The sense is of up-to-the-minute opulence and thoroughly traditional comfort. Carefully chosen objets d’art are all over the place. It is a style which is both welcoming and elevating of the spirit, and it is an entirely appropriate counterpoint to the views from the windows and from the terraces of the sea and of the beach below.
There are just 22 rooms. Mine, number eleven (1,000€ a night, bed and breakfast for two), was on the first floor. Its colours of cream and dark blue were certainly to my taste. In the small hall fitted wardrobes (with a private safe) were behind louvred doors. To the left was the bedroom, a chamber I judged to measure about 16 feet by 9 feet. Each of the two French windows led to a small balcony. Above the bed was a stylish canopy. Black and white photographs of sailing boats in competition (the Americas’ Cup?) hung on the walls. Two easy chairs provided the seating. A leather topped writing desk was in the modern style. The air conditioning was quiet and effective.
I really must remember that nowadays more and more hotels are responding to those people who express a preference for the vigorous shower over the old-fashioned, relaxing bathe. Then I would be sure always to ask for a tub. In this bathroom of grey, white and sparkling chromium, I found two wash basins, a loo, a bidet, a large walk-in shower and… no bath. The hotel certainly has tubs in some of its bathrooms, so if, like me, you like your ablutions to imitate a return to the maternal womb rather than a soaking in a thunderstorm, you need only to make your views known when you are making your reservation.
Eating at the hotel is done at the J K Kitchen – a rather inappropriate name for an intimate and comfortable dining room and its outdoor terrace. Its charm is enhanced by a colour scheme of grey and white, crisp white napery, sparkling glassware by Bormioli, cutlery by Sambonet, discreet lighting, formal service from waiters and waitresses in blue aprons (napkins are replaced) and two of the largest porcelain jars I have ever seen.
Here I enjoyed the kind attentions of the Restaurant Manager, Giuseppe Iacono, and the food of Chef Eduardo Estatico. Mr Estatico is from Naples and his cuisine derives from that city. My dinner was exceptionally good – so good, indeed, that if the Michelin inspectors are looking for another dining room on Capri which deserves one of their stars, I suggest J K Place is a strong candidate.
I began with an egg, cooked gently at 65 degrees, with white asparagus, black garlic and an orange sauce – as soft and subtle a combination as I could have wished, well-conceived and impressively executed. My pasta was hand-broken ziti, with the most glorious morel mushrooms. Then came the highlight of the meal: a wonderful piece of fillet of beef with foie gras and flecks of truffle. This was a tribute to the great composer, Giachino Rossini – one of history’s great gourmands – and it was a fitting one. I finished in style, with what appeared to be a chess board, but which was, in fact, a confection of dark, white and milk chocolate. Delicious. (These four courses were 122€.)
The wine list whizzes around the world to good effect. Prices begin at 50€ for a chardonnay from Lombardy and end at 2,000€ for the 2014 vintage of Margaux. The sommelier, Riccardo Russo, is a fine young man, and introduced me to the champagnes of Bruno Paillard. These are very fine indeed. Other bottles to catch my eye were: 2012 Masseto (800€), 2016 Cervaro della Sala (100€), 2016 Planeta chardonnay (80€), 2012 Gaja barbaresco (400€), 2014 Sassicaia (500€) and 2009 Solaia (500€). My own drinking also included a port-like, damson-laden primitivo, which was ideal for the beef (Primitivo di Manduria, San Marzano, 2012 – 70€).
For breakfast, I thought it might be right to eat al fresco. But a few spots of rain sent me back into the dining room, there to order a plate of bacon, mushrooms and tomatoes – which turned out to be exceptionally good. While this was being prepared, I conveyed to my table some of the handsome comestibles from the buffet table. These included pineapple, melon, strawberries, sweet peppers in olive oil, apricot tart, muffins and All Bran. (As is my custom, I managed effectively to assuage my morning hunger.) From the kitchen the charming young waitress brought me pots of good coffee, dishes of ice cubes and, of course, my concluding cappuccino.
I certainly appreciated the J K Place. If you seek elegance and comfort on Capri, you should try it.