Story by Norma Davidoff
Photographs courtesy Corinthia Hotel Budapest
Corinthia Hotel Budapest
Erzsébet krt. 43-49
1073 Budapest, Hungary
Fantasy Comes True
at the Corinthia Hotel Budapest
Loved the feature film, “The Grand Budapest Hotel”? I just “lived it.” The Corinthia, formerly known as the Royal is indeed grand and was the model for the hotel in the film. But it is smack in the middle of the city, not in the countryside, as depicted. We were just a few blocks from bustling Andrássy Út (Avenue), a main thoroughfare. We were in walking distance of the Liszt Academy of Music, which has been exquisitely restored to its art nouveau green marble grandeur. Even if you don’t take in a concert, you can enjoy the photo exhibit of its history. The Corinthia is also near the Jewish quarter and its famed Dohany Synagogue, the largest in Europe.
But back to the “real” Budapest Hotel. Smartly updated, it still retains an Old World turn-of the century ambiance. Its marble floors and pillars, elaborate chandeliers, and rich furnishings impart a contemporary feel. Instead of the goofy, idiosyncratic service people in the film -- porters, bellman, concierges, desk clerks -- the real ones at the Corinthia are top-notch pros, looking to make you very happy at this atmospheric hotel.
Here’s one example of good service. I was ill, requiring a house call by a physician pronto. The concierge had a doctor at the hotel within an hour. He kept abreast of the situation. That evening, Laszlo Jarmay, Duty Manager, called to check on my condition. He said they always follow up when a doctor is called to the hotel. The next day, when I needed to go to a clinic, the concierge again took charge, made all the arrangements, and guided us through on how to get there.
That was only one example of the many gracious and effective staffers at this grand hotel. The wait staff is solicitous but not cloying. The hotel’s main restaurant, the Brasserie, is in a stone white courtyard seems both intimate and elegant at the same time. This restaurant offers delicate Hungarian cuisine as well as gluten-free choices… even Paleo diet options. I had a wild mushroom and cream soup, but could have opted for a consommé with quail egg and matzo dumpling. My king prawns were six succulent shrimp dusted with herbs. Grilled vegetables were done just right.
My husband’s pike had a mild yet satisfying flavor. But dessert, at only 124 calories, was particularly good because it was a chocolate mousse, without sugar. Part of their Paleo, low-calorie selections, the secret ingredients are banana, whipped to create a mousse, and a touch of honey. Heaven-in-a-bowl.
Breakfast offered wide choices in cuisines to satisfy global palates. Everything you could want from porridge to herring to varied egg concoctions, pastries, even bubbly to mix with fruit juices. And bracing java, always a must.
We stayed on the Executive Floor with a room facing out onto a lovely courtyard with marble floors. The Executive Lounge on the second floor is intimate, yet sophisticated. Guests may use the Board Room right off the Lounge. It is a great place for a glass of wine or spirits, a coffee (cappuccinos, etc. made to order), or creative snacks, all gratis, as part of the rate for Executive rooms. It overlooks the lobby, nice for listening to strains of music or using the Business Lounge next door.
The hotel can accommodate business clients, families, and cruise ship passengers. A whole wing caters to conventions and business meetings, with plenty of conference rooms and flexible facilities. They easily can handle 1,000 people or more. Want to put a car on display? No problem. The grand ballroom is one space that has not been modernized, thank the Lord. Stately portraits of famous Hungarians look down on you from on high. The musician’s platform above the marbled floors is still there in this evocative formal space.
The Espa spa at the Corinthia is big, gracious and inviting. The swimming pool, in aqua mosaics, is big enough for strong lap swimming and more. A balcony overlooks the green dappled pool. Immaculate treatment rooms and a gym complete the picture. Seaweed or chocolate massage anyone?
Tibor Meskal, Senior Duty Manager, led us on daily tour of the hotel. I recommend it. He has been with the hotel many years, and seen so much. The history of the hotel, built at the turn of the century, includes serving as headquarters for the Hungarian revolt in 1956. In 1961, it was rebuilt as a luxury hotel. Although it became rundown and closed in 1991, it has been lovingly restored and enhanced by its new owner, Corinthia Hotels.
As I wandered through the vast stately lobby, there were mementos from early guests like American singer/dancer Josephine Baker. In recent years everyone from singer Ella Fitzgerald to actress Isabella Rossellini, billionaire George Soros and former prime minister Gerhard Schroeder have stayed here… not to mention author Ken Follett and actors Donald Sutherland and Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Along with guiding us through an exhibit of the hotel’s history in the lower lobby and a quick tour of the pastry-centric café, we went to see the Presidential Suite. Besides its two bedrooms, it has a study with a separate entrance, a dining room, and a kitchen. On the highest floor facing the boulevard, its 2,400 square feet create a thoughtfully designed “home.”
And my stay on the Executive Floor felt like home, too. But, alas, there were no zany antics or intrusions, as in the film. It is just a first-rate, 5-star hotel to call home for a few days.
© February 2016, LuxuryWeb Magazine. All rights reserved.