- Detailed Review
- Facts & Amenities
I know it has been said time and time again but really, location is paramount. The super-slick Fasano Hotel Rio de Janeiro is smack in the thick of it all, in Ipanema, and it is the only place you want to be seen here in town these days.
Right on the eastern end of Ipanema Beach and the adjoining Leblon Beach (the latter is less crowded and quiet and overlooked by the stunning Dois Irmãos Hill), it’s a lovely spot for a walk or a swim. The hotel also has a private beach, especially nice for honeymooners or those who like a quiet day in the sun with a book and some very good service.
While the other two main luxury properties in the Zona Sul (south zone) – the Belmond Copacabana Palace and the Sofitel – are not terribly far from here in the Copacabana district, that location is not nearly as desirable as it was back in 1978 when Barry Manilow popularised it in song. Here on the Avenida Vieira Souto, however, the surroundings are a whole lot friendlier. Walk a few blocks from the hotel and you’ll find a tree-lined street of fashionable cafes, lovely restaurants and hip and happening bars to while away a few hours.
Opened in 2007, Fasano Hotel Rio de Janeiro was the talk of the town in all the right circles. Celebrities, Brazil’s rich and famous and the very well heeled came to stay in this exclusive Philippe Starck-designed hotel (the first in Brazil) of under 100 rooms with its bossa nova-vibed lobby, ear-shaped Daliesque mirrors by Starck himself and the uber-sexy infinity rooftop pool and bar.
In the lobby decidedly Brazilian materials such as Ipe flooring and the enormous piquiá tree stump used as a reception desk are mixed with Grecian marble and Chinese onyx. And the Union Jack flags draped against the 19th-century Argentinian brick walls and leather chairs featuring an embroidered iconic image of the Queen of the United Kingdom add a touch of fun.
The design ethos – swinging Rio of the cocktail-sipping, bossa nova-swaying 1950s and 1960s – is light-hearted and glam; you’ll immediately feel you’re on holiday.
The hotel sent a suitable car to collect me at the airport. I say suitable because you would not want to rock up here in an economy category Hertz rental. The doormen themselves may not even notice you. Pricey models only, please. I felt like I was in Monaco.
The hotel itself, from the outside, doesn’t look like much. It’s sleek and modern but not ostentatious; it’s discreet, which is no doubt what the high-profile guests who come here are looking for. Inside, the lobby is, again, modern and unfussy, with staff members busying themselves behind the counter and the concierge desk. Next to the reception, in a quiet curtained-off area, is an elegant, comfortable lounge with book-filled shelves. They say the books actually belong to the owners, the Fasano family, who own and operate several hotels and restaurants in South America.
I checked in and was escorted straight to my room with a view.
Rooms and suites
The modern-looking guest rooms come with private balconies and sweeping views, provided, that is, you opt for an ocean-facing room. At 30m² (323ft²), the lead-in category room, the Superior as it’s called, is on the small side, and if you go for the courtyard view you risk looking out at another building and the room being quite dark and closed in. On all fronts, go for the higher floor rooms as the views are better and there’s a lot less noise from the street.
In my Deluxe Oceanfront room I could see the blue waters from the comfort of my bed, for it was in the middle of the room and had a view out of the large floor-to-ceiling glass doors. Those doors opened up to a spacious balcony, where I could sit and enjoy the weather and the views, day and night. In the room were some comfortable furnishings, including a writing desk, a large leather chair where I flung all my clothes, a TV on the wall, a well-stocked minibar and touch-lighting dimmers.
But there were also a few minor negatives, such as electric sockets in the wrong places, room keys that often failed to work and spotty Wi-Fi, the cost of which is not included in the room rate and, even worse, works on a 24-hour pay-as-you-go system, a real peeve of mine.
The room’s feel was simple, almost minimalist – sophisticated, with Mr Starck’s playful touches all over the decor, from more of the hotel’s signature ear-shaped mirrors on two walls to the curvy light fixtures glowing like ghosts. My room had dark hardwood floors leading out onto a sizeable balcony with wooden chairs designed by Brazilian architect Sergio Rodrigues, who also created the armchair inside the room.
On arrival I was happy to discover a complimentary pair of Ipanema flip-flops in the cupboard and, fresh off the aeroplane and excited to have left the British winter weather behind, I slipped them on and headed straight for the beach. A nap on a beach lounger, as the steward suggested, sounded heavenly.
The bathroom of the Deluxe category room wasn’t exactly spacious but, in keeping with the theme of the hotel, came with a unique design. I liked the fact there was no tub but the large walk-in rainforest shower and wall-to-wall white marble felt luxurious, as did the fluffy bath towels seemingly the size of the room itself. The sliding bathroom door featured a black-and-white mural of 1950s-era Rio celebrities – a decorative touch even if it did prove difficult to open and close.
While the bathroom was not huge, the available space was quite well used with a partitioned-off WC plus a bidet and a single sink with lots of storage space next to it. The toiletries provided were of high quality and the shower pressure was good. The large, again ear-shaped, mirror on the wall and ample lighting provided a good place to fluff up for a night out on the town, with a drink at the pool bar first, of course.
Before they became hoteliers, the Fasano family were, and still are, restaurateurs, and their celebrated tradition in gastronomy is evidenced at the hotel’s restaurant, Fasano al Mare, where all meals are served in the main dining area or on the adjoining terrace.
Designed by Philippe Starck, a miniature gondola became the symbol of the award-winning restaurant, brought directly from Venice by Rogerio Fasano and given a central spot in the restaurant’s art deco mirrored bar. The kitchen is run by chef Paolo Lavezzini, formerly of the famed Enoteca Pinchiorri of Florence; his focus here is on Mediterranean-style seafood dishes that dazzle.
I ate here on my first night in town, and while there’s plenty of meat on the menu, I went with an arugula salad followed by a mains of fish baked in salt, my all-time favourite, which was expertly cooked and beautifully presented. This is dining of the highest standard, very tasty, very precise and very enjoyable.
The restaurant is large, light and airy, and the serving staff all understand the menu well, offering suggestions every step of the way. Ditto the sommelier, who had a wine list to make a grape-lover weep with joy, as well as several select choices by the glass.
At breakfast, the buffet selection of juices, cereals, dairy products, pastries and hot food to order was nice, but for the cost, not overwhelming.
Other restaurant options
You must stop at the Baretto-Londra bar before sitting down to, or heading out for, a meal. It pays tribute in design to the city of London in a very fun fashion. Here, Union Jacks are playfully exchanged with the colours of the Italian flag; the ambience is relaxed and smooth, and the seating is comfortable and cool.
It’s where the who’s who in town come to see and be seen, including, on my watch, several middle-aged men with arm candy (younger obviously) in tow. Luckily I had brought along some suitable glad rags or I would never have dared darken the door of this bar and enjoyed what I would deem to be the best caipirinha I’ve ever had. Well, when in Rio…
Spa and wellness
There is a spa and a Vichy shower room for hydro treatments, as well as a small, well-equipped gym, but I wouldn’t say they are the focus of this hotel.
Pool and beach
The rooftop pool and adjoining bar are beautiful. I came up during the day for a drink and, feeling healthy, ordered an acai smoothie, which was delicious. It’s probably one of the most famous hotel pools in the Americas, with its infinity edge seeming to lead onto the ocean, and from up here you get an uncompromised, panoramic 180-degree view over the neighbouring beaches and the city.
Stay for sundowners and it’ll be a sunset you’ll never forget. There’s a superb bar menu as well, and several very attentive waiting staff serving food and drinks throughout the day, so you can stay awhile and just enjoy the fabulous ambience. When I say ‘you can stay awhile’, I do mean you, the guest in the hotel. Any friends or outsiders may only join you if they pay an entry fee, something I found a little gauche considering the sizeable chunk of change I’d already paid out for the room. But I guess there must be reasons…
If you must, bring them along. There are interconnecting rooms and such but this is decidedly not a venue for family gatherings.
Staff and service
The staff-to-guest ratio is high here, so you’ll never go without the attention you may need or want at any given moment. Smiling staff members are polite and seem to know every guest’s surname. Across the board, the staff are in tune with the guests.
The concierge team spoke fluent English and were friendly, knowledgeable, attentive and very adept at getting last-minute dinner reservations at restaurants I wanted to go to in town.
There are cell phones in each room that work throughout the hotel, pre-programmed with numbers for front desk, the concierge and room service. I felt very secure and safe while staying here, and a lot of that had to do with the staff of the hotel.
One evening, I sat down to watch a film and my TV’s movie connection wasn’t working properly. Within minutes, someone from reception was there to fix the issue in a flash, and she asked if I would like some beer and popcorn to enjoy with my film. I, of course, said yes, and fifteen minutes later the doorbell rang and a steward was there with a huge bowl of warm, buttered popcorn and an ice-cold beer. Now that’s service.
Businessmen and holidaymakers, young and old, but all, decidedly, well groomed and well travelled. This establishment attracts visitors who are looking for a stylish, discreet property and an exceptional experience.
I had ordered a car to collect me at check-out time, which was waiting for me as I came downstairs and prepared to leave. The cashier went over the bill with me and I settled up before being helped into my car, sorry that I wasn’t staying longer.
How to get here
30 minutes by road from Rio de Janeiro International Airport
89 rooms and suites