Three Queens’ Gin Sails on the high seas
Pickering’s Gin launch exclusive expressions for the Cunard fleet
30 June 2017
The Four Seasons Gresham Palace occupies prime frontage, with one of the most enviable vistas in all of Budapest and possibly Hungary. Built on the western side of the Danube, it’s situated so it faces directly across the Széchenyi Chain Bridge, a remarkable chain bridge spanning the river directly into a tunnel, next to which a funicular rises at a vertiginous aspect to Castle Hill. Gazing back at the hotel from the ramparts of the Budapest Palace, it’s difficult not to be moved by the majestic Art Nouveau architecture, retained from when the edifice was originally constructed in 1906 as an apartment residence. Symmetrically apportioned and flanked by two towers, the pale-hued building glows in the sunlight, with the occasional gleam of light reflecting off mosaic tiling. During the evenings, dramatic lighting helps to showcase architectural features, and teases out the building’s character.
Entering through the triple height, intricately detailed, wrought iron gates and into the reception area rivets the senses. Essentially, you are walking into a courtyard that has been enclosed with a magnificent glass cupola, with panelled glass craning skywards in a contortion of arresting beauty. The reception desk is situated on the opposite end of a wide walkway with decorative tilework, underneath a chandelier of Hungarian blown crystal recalling the work of Dale Chihuly.
Our very comfortable room, one of Gresham Palace’s 179, proved difficult to leave on a number of occasions. Exceptionally high, vaulted ceilings imbue the space with pomp and grandeur. Behind a lavender and gold curtain running nearly the entire length, we discovered a balcony with a stunning view of the Danube. The bed, however, is particularly enthralling. Custom fabricated with a supple mattress and some of the softest linen on the market, leaving in the morning proved to be a challenge.
The bar adjoining the lobby is a great place to unwind after a busy day of sightseeing. It’s reasonably priced but with remarkable drinks mixing and service. Their trademark Tea Leaf cocktail was shaken with lime-infused tea specially made for the hotel, with a touch of lemon balsamic vinegar stirred in. Unorthodox as it sounds, it was quite refreshing and easy on the palate. However, if you want to drink a classic like a bone-dry gin martini or sparkling grapefruit spritzer with Aperol, you can rest assured that it’s in competent hands. Drinks come with complimentary amuse bouche – a rillette of smoked salmon with paprika was a highlight.
KOLLÁZS, the Four Seasons Gresham Palace’s flagship restaurant, is situated on the opposite side of the entryway. They serve up a phenomenal breakfast with a grand buffet and dishes such as truffled eggs benedict and egg white frittata with paprika-spiked turkey sausages. However, to experience the full range of head chef Árpád Győrffy’s culinary chops, dinner is recommended. There’s a beautiful rotisserie where you can watch game, poultry and meat perform slow revolutions as well as a Josper grill, where the aforementioned are kissed with a charcoal smoulder.
During our visit, we enjoyed local wines, including a stunning Tokaj dessert wine, as well as an array of delicious dishes. A starter of steak tartar could have easily been a main. It was lashed with creamy mustard and topped with a veritable garden of caper berries, quail eggs, radish and anchovy. A beef consommé with beef tongue and cepes was a bit more demure but no less delicious. Rotisserie roast duck with a green peppercorn sauce was well-executed comfort food, whilst a dessert of French toast with strawberry ice cream and fresh strawberries was a work of glassine art.
Spending even an hour in the bar or restaurant necessarily engenders a long walk or trip to the gym, and Gresham Palace boasts a stunning example of the latter, complete with state-of-the-art technology, a beautiful pool, saunas, steam rooms and a Jacuzzi. If you look out of the porthole window on the way to the spa, it also boasts one of the city’s best vistas of the Chain Bridge. The spa offers a raft of treatments for men and women, including Hungarian body wraps, Omorovicza gold sugar scrubs and Hungarian Moor Mud Therapy.
The Four Seasons Gresham Palace puts the grand in The Grand Budapest Hotel, but paradoxically it’s the small things that make you feel as if you’re staying somewhere extraordinary. Upon leaving after a weekend, we had a laundry list of personal touches that had made our stay extra special. We arrived to find a handwritten welcoming note, local candied nuts and a demi-tray of plus fours in the room. We were served high tea each afternoon with branded Hungarian honey cakes. We would return to the room to find our cables immaculately coiled and fastened, or an open page in a novel marked with a personalised bookmark. After dining at an excellent Michelin-starred wine bar named Borkonyha Winekitchen, the concierge was happy to send someone up with bubble-wrap and cello-tape to package the wine bottles we took away from the restaurant safely for the flight. Finally, on an excursion to the Széchenyi Baths, the concierge pre-booked access and cabins and supplied us with a kit complete with towels, shower slippers body wash and shampoo to bring along.
The Four Seasons Gresham Palace holds sway as Budapest’s best hotel and looks well situated to remain so for years to come. For anyone that wants an experience that’s grand but ultimately intimate, a weekend here will hit the mark.