Budapest: A Room With The View
The first urge I have as I enter my lush suite is to yank open the curtains. The result is breathtaking – a small balcony outlined in old stone with a smattering of ancient gargoyles looking down from the art nouveau façade, them and me both greedily taking in the majestic landscape of gardens, river, hills and the beckoning town of Buda all at once.
What’s inside of the hotel is equally spellbinding. Built in the early 1900s as a residential complex for a wealthy few, the Gresham Palace came under the Four Seasons umbrella only in the millennium year of 2000 and the hotel opened its carefully restored iron gates to guests five years later. Original features like the two million-piece mosaic tiling, an opulent staircase, a traditional elevator, richly painted stained glass panels and the imposing outer façade were carefully preserved. A guided tour around the property is a historic lesson that is time well spent.
As is the case with most Four Seasons properties around the world, one needs to keep a day aside to enjoy the calm luxury of the hotel and though this is hard to do given the incredible sights that Budapest offers, I am glad to take a bunch of leisurely hours off to lounge in the rooftop Jacuzzi adjoining the infinity-style pool. Hungary’s renowned Omorovicza products are liberally used in the signature treatments at the spa, ensuring an experience of greatly relaxed proportions.
I cannot resist retiring to my room soon after to gaze through my windows yet again, intermittently dozing before I reluctantly shake myself awake to head through the buzzing streets of Pest (the modern half of Budapest). If I walk around a few minutes in each direction, I can find myself by the Dohány Synagogue or else, the magnificent St. Stephen’s Basilica. Restaurants, bars and shops are but a few steps away as is the unique Gozsdu courtyard, a series of small interconnected eateries that keep going 24-7 and create a hub of local life at its best. For a signature souvenir remembrance though, nothing comes close to a private sit-down dinner at the statuesque Hungarian State Opera House, with a gifted orchestra playing only for your ears – a special treat that can be singularly pulled off by the hotel concierge, naturally, with adequate notice and availability.
But the lure of Gresham Palace is one-of-a-kind and I somehow find myself at the cosy bar, sipping on my martini, as I wait for my table at the adjoining restaurant that is edged with green foliage and looks out onto the hum and buzz of the street outside. Settling into crunchy breadsticks with a creamy green pea dip is a welcoming sign of things to come as my companion and I tuck into a selection of appetisers and entrées from a menu that is part Italian and part Hungarian. The meal is superlative; from the beef tartar with truffle granola and a poached egg to oxtail terrine followed up with spinach and ricotta ravioli slithering in brown butter and a sophisticated lemon rubbed sole and scallop with fennel puree, lentils and olives. I don’t regret overdoing it by ordering dessert; the traditional chestnut cake and the ‘Rigó Jancsi’, an adaptation of the popular Love cake, a gooey mass of creamy chocolate with biscuit crumble, are both stupendous finales to a world-class dinner. The local wines recommended by the hotel sommelier finely complement this gastronomic success.
Whether you’re holidaying with your partner or on a brash girls weekend break or even settling in for a vacation with your family (the hotel is adept at providing babysitting services, essentials like kids’ bathrobes and menus and also an extensive selection of products for newborns), I can safely vouch for the fact that the Four Seasons, Budapest, will create the postcard-perfect trip for you. After all, who wouldn’t want to call an elegant palace their home for a few days…