THE METROPOLE HOTEL
The Metropole in Venice is an hotel for those “in the know”. It is comfortable, well-located and has a Michelin star twinkling over its restaurant. But it also has something else which nowadays is quite rare: character. Character is difficult to define, but when you encounter it you recognise it immediately. In a world in which too many hotels seem to strive for the same ghastly blandness, The Metropole stands out as a beacon of hope. The owner and General Manager, the charming and vivacious Gloria Beggiato (pictured, with your correspondent), runs her establishment with enormous panache. The result is that hers is the very best sort of luxury establishment.
As soon as you enter, you are surrounded by the gorgeous confection of crimson velvet, shimmering gold and sparkling crystal which is The Metropole’s style. If I might be permitted a sweet comparison, it is like walking into a box of the finest dark chocolates (and I do love my chocolates). These sumptuous surroundings are entrancing. And there is more. There is the hotel’s astonishing collection of artefacts. This is displayed in the illuminated cabinets which are in every nook and cranny of the property. Fans, visiting-card cases, candlesticks, evening bags, corkscrews, crucifixes, hairbrushes… there must be hundreds – no, thousands – of them. The Metropole, then, is no ordinary place.
My Junior Suite on the third floor was far from ordinary, too. Number 341 (up to 1,400€ a night, bed and breakfast for two, but much less out of high season) was a lovely apartment, with walls covered in turquoise silk, a high beamed ceiling and wall lights of Murano crystal. In the hall were fitted wardrobes and a private safe, and in the bedroom was a four-poster bed with a walnut and parcel-gilt frame. From the two windows the delightful view was of roof-tops, domes and church towers. The bathroom, startlingly, was covered in mosaic of gold. The Metropole is the sort of hotel which remembers one’s preferences, so the bed had been made wonderfully soft and a cd player was on hand to provide me with my daily dose of Elgar.
But where was the television? All hotel rooms nowadays have television sets, and I was sure there must be one – even if I seldom avail myself of such a machine. Then I looked into the mirror on the wall. Could its heavy gilt frame be containing more than the silvered glass? It could, and it was. I pointed the control and pressed a button and there was the magical picture. I entirely approved of this clever conceit.
From this welcoming apartment I sallied forth to enjoy the delights of Venice. The Metropole has a privileged location on the Riva degli Schiavoni. From its front door the view is straight across the water to the monastery of San Giorgio Maggiore, and St Mark’s Square is but a brief stroll to the right. Equally important for me is its close proximity to the church of San Zaccaria, which houses my favourite painting in Venice, the Sacra Conversazione by Giovanni Bellini. It is always a joy to be able to go to Mass and gaze at this masterpiece.
I wondered whether Sigmund Freud had done the same. He stayed at the hotel in the 1890s, only a few years after it had opened. It changed its name to The Metropole in 1939, and has been run since the 1970s by the Beggiato family. The original building on this site had a chapel, in which Antonio Vivaldi gave music lessons and, it is suggested, composed The Four Seasons. The great man’s church is right next door. So The Metroplole – quite apart from the patronage of your correspondent – has some serious claims to fame.
Perhaps that is why people seem to enjoy working here. Certainly, every member of staff I encountered was full of charm and good humour. Of course, such courtesy is particularly important at breakfast time – which is one of the reasons I enjoyed so much my times in the elegant, silvery breakfast room. Here Laura, the lady in charge, looked after me particularly well. Installed at a corner table with a cushion for my back, I tucked into excellent comestibles, including my Grandfather’s Breakfast (of porridge made with water, brown bread and butter and sliced raw onion). From the buffet I secured bacon, scrambled egg and tomatoes, slices of crusty bread with marmalade (from Messrs Wilkin & Son of Tiptree in Essex), cake, ham and fresh fruit. To my table the jolly waitresses brought pots of coffee and dishes of ice cubes. And, of course, each day I concluded my breakfast with a cappuccino.
One further detail I must mention: the proper Kellogg’s cornflakes. On a previous visit these were absent, and had to be secured specially for me by the Chef, Luca Veritti. Now they are standard fare on the buffet, and are an example The Metropole’s admirable determination to maintain high standards.
Admirable the chef certainly is. And I am not the only person to hold this opinion. The aforementioned Michelin star is a tribute to a cuisine which takes the finest ingredients and presents them in sophisticated dishes. These are described as ‘contemporary’ or ‘traditional’. The dining room is called the Restaurant Met. With candles and soft lighting, its atmosphere is calm. The glassware is good (by Riedel), the napery is beige and the waiters wear black. The staff is young, efficient and friendly. Prices on the menu run from 100€ for 3 courses to 200€ for 8 courses.
If it is the season of the white truffle, you can chose dishes from a special truffle menu, on which you will find dishes covered with the divine fungus – like a soft boiled egg with taleggio fondue and morchia sauce, tagliolini with butter and fillet of Fassona beef, with foie gras and mashed potatoes.
The wine list is impressive. Grape varieties are noted. 26 wines are available by the glass. The list’s 565 offerings span the world, and range in price from 40€ for a white from the Emilia Romagna region to 1,800€ for 1999 Mouton Rothschild. Other grand clarets include 1998 Latour (1,200€) and 1998 Margaux (1,300€). Those who like super-Tuscans will note 2013 Tignanello (170€) and 2011 Masseto (750€). From California 2006 Opus One is 600€.
Another (all-day) dining opportunity is offered in the hotel’s Oriental Bar, a chamber of panelled walls, plush red seating and canned music of the jazz variety. Here I tucked into a well-balanced seasonal salad of herbs and nuts, a fine piece of Fassona beef fillet (with spectacularly good chips – a side dish not to be missed) and a lovely version of tiramisù. (Allow around 75€ for three courses.) These dishes were washed down with a bottle of earthy, easy-drinking amarone (Masi, 2019 – 90€).
Each evening after dinner I walked to St Mark’s Square. Can there be a lovelier spot on earth for one’s post-prandial stroll? And then it was back to my comfortable billet at The Metropole – Venice’s hotel for those “in the know”.
THE METROPOLE HOTEL
Double rooms from 225€-420€, bed and breakfast, according to season
See the hotel website for the prices of rooms for specific dates and for special offers.