I’m an Aunty again! My wonderful sister had her third child on Wednesday and he is utterly divine! Naturally this had to be celebrated, and so we celebrated in expat style… with a brunch!
There are so many on offer at the moment that it was a tough choice, but after reading Lil One Of The Ashes review on Giardino it became a lot easier. A brunch with pool access is combining two of my favourite things… even more so when The Entertainer’s monthly offers has a 241 voucher!
6am Friday morning I was up and fretting though. What do you wear to the Palazzo Versace when you’re not even a plus size model shape? (Plus size? They are a UK12. That’s called human. Grr!)
The answer came to me in a blinding flash of inspiration: anything you bloody well like because you’re not a sheep! That made it much easier. The choice of what to wear to a pool and brunch mix was harder.
By 8pm I was having breakfast and by 9am I was was on my way to what turns out is one of the best brunch experiences I have ever had!
I arrived at the hotel and was blown away by the decor and the details. I am not a fan of Versace – either in the Giannini or the Donatella periods, but I appreciate the detail that goes into the designs. And those designs and that attention to detail is everywhere from the stones in the valet area….
Anyway, back to point… I was there early so that I could grab a couple of hours relaxation before brunch, and so with the kind assistance of the lady that I randomly asked, I was shown through to the East Pool which is where Giardino overlooks.
I found myself a nice spot away from the baby swimming classes – which I would go to if I had children as the teacher was wonderful with them, but is more than a little grinding when you haven’t and are trying to leave a stressful week behind you.
As I lay back on my Versace embroidered towel, with the smaller Versace emblem’d towel rolled up behind my head, I contemplated the wisdom of choosing white towels for the pool rather than having a bright Versace print. My conclusion was that white was classier. It would however have been amusing to see how far they could go with the “face” design being embroidered too!
A very nice chap whose name sadly escapes me came over and bought me some lovely cucumber infused water. It was delicious. It also really tickled me that they don’t serve water in common old bottles, but in jugs with cucumber. You can also get Aqua Panna, but the infused water was so much more thirst quenching that there was no decision to be made.
I would also like to say at this point that they have done really well picking the staff. They are absolutely a cut above the average. The pool waiter (I really wish I could remember his name) was not only polite and helpful, but he had a sense of humour and ability to tease. The Brits would say he had “banter”, but I really am not a fan of that term!
Back to the relaxing and tanning, and thanking my genius self for coming up with this new brunch plan, and there was a giant roar of a crowd from somewhere nearby. I knew it wasn’t the parents cheering on the baby swimmers, but had no clue what was going on.
Turns out that the Creek was hosting a dragon boat race! I’d never seen that before so I grabbed my towel and my phone, and found myself a good vantage point to see what was happening. It all took too long to stay for the next race, but I got to see them tow back in and then the next teams take over the boat.
It’s not as elegant as the rowing as I know, but by the chanting and the cheering, it’s just as popular. More so probably. It was much louder than any Oxford/Cambridge race or Henley Regatta I’ve seen!
It really was too much like hard work so I ambled my way back through the plush garden to my relaxing little spot by the pool.
I spent a glorious 3hrs laying there, gossiping with my friend, and attempting to get in the pool. I have no clue how those adults got the babies in the water without more screaming. It was absolutely frigid. I am a big fan of chilled pools but this was a little much even for me. That said, had I not been trying to keep my hair dry I would have just launched myself in and gotten over the shock with the blissful cooling sensation. Damn my vanity!
All too soon it was time to change into something more covering and head to the brunch. At this point I was a little disappointed that I was leaving my lovely lounger and the delicious cucumber water, but that didn’t last for long once brunch began.
Firstly, let me tell you about the decor. It is Versace. Very.
It’s what they do best. Over the top. Way over the top. According to our lovely waiter the print had been designed specifically for the restaurant to that you felt as if you were in a garden. I would say a drug induced garden state, but the theory is there. Everything from the walls to the shirts were in this same print which, after a couple of glasses of grape juice (which was surprisingly good), I decided was utterly wonderful and worked splendidly!
Now, there isn’t as much selection as some of the bigger brunches but what you soon realise is that it doesn’t matter a jot when the quality is as good as Giardino offers. I can hand on heart say that with the exception of the steak on the bbq, it was all utterly divine. A big shout out to the eggplant parmigiana which was categorically the best I have ever tried. It was so good that I went back for a second helping which is super rare at brunch where you have to keep room to try as much as possible!
There is so much more than that though… there are 4 pastas to start with. There is a roast section which boasted beef, prime rib, lamb, turkey, chicken and duck. Sadly they ran out of duck before I got there. There was an Indian section which I didn’t have space for. Ditto the fresh seafoods and salads. The sushi was really very good, but you needed sharp elbows to get through the swarms of people overloading their plates with it! There was also an outdoor cooking station with lobster, steak and jacket potatoes.
Then there was desserts. They were absolutely beautiful. Each and every one was perfectly executed and you did feel a little guilty for eating them, but really not so much because they were just gorgeous. I naturally went for every nut free chocolate option available, and with the exception of the coffee one (I hate coffee!) that sneaked its way onto my plate, and each and every one tasted as good as it looked!
I do want a moment to highlight the raspberry one though. You ALL have to try this when you go. It was amazing and I wish I had discovered it when I wasn’t quite as full so I could have had another one (or two). I don’t know if I can adequately describe it, but it was a moist brownie type cake, with chocolate fondant in between the layers, with a hard dark chocolate shell, crunchy raspberry bits around the bottom, a dark chocolate leaf on top, and a frosted raspberry on top. Not to overpowering on the raspberry flavour, and a really yummy crunch when you bite into it. Amaze! Just delicious and moreish!!
There were a couple of things I wasn’t a fan of, but it’s about personal taste more than anything… For example, the prosecco was incredibly sweet. I didn’t even finish my first glass. Also, the steak on the BBQ was a bit “hacked to pieces” for my liking and the flavour was ruined by cooking it on top of where the lobster had been. I tried the lobster as I’d never had it bbq’d before and I didn’t like it at all. I appear to have been the only one though as people were heading back for seconds and thirds!
The service was both fantastic and a little lacking. For example, there was no issue at all with the friendliness, and the product knowledge of any of the team. No one scowled or looked like it was an imposition to take a moment to talk to you. This is often the case in the named hotels (Armani for example). They honestly couldn’t have been any nicer.
The only issue was with the drinks service. While the table was all drinking bubbles or grape, it was flowing very well. One of our party was on soft drinks and that was much harder to get right. Then when we switched to spirits and mixers nearer the end of the brunch, we struggled to get the right drinks even after 3 times of asking. My one friend wanted to stay on the bubbles and in the end had to go off and bring someone back to top her up as despite standing with a bottle in their hands while we asked about the others, and despite her and I both asking, they forgot to top up before they walked away.
Much as I have pointed out this little flaw on an otherwise impecable service, it didn’t impact our day. It was so lovely and relaxed. The music helped with that too, I think. It was a lady who can actually sing (not as common at brunches as you would think) with a saxophonist accompanying her. For my liking it got a little loud towards the end, but they were very good so you didn’t mind. I couldn’t tell you what they were actually singing which is a mark of how good they were. I can tell you every song when someone is messing up!
One thing that I very much appreciated was that we weren’t rushed out at the end of brunch. There was no nippy little waiter huffing around you trying to snatch the drink out of your hand before you had finished, it, nor was there some giant wall of a rude doorman bullying you out of your seats (think Westin’s Bubbalicious if you don’t know what I mean). We were just left to sit and finish off our experience in our own time. They were setting up around us, and no one even so much as coughed to let us know. We finished our drinks and sat nattering for ages and all that was said as we stood up was “thank you” – and not even in a sarcastic way but a genuine ‘thanks for joining us’ way. Impressive!
We didn’t go far though… just up to the Gazebo as we thought we should have one little cocktail for the road. It would have been rude not to, especially where there is a 241 voucher on Cheers. Once again, fantastic service and my cosmo was divine.
Thank you once again to the fabulous team at Giardino and the East Wing Pool for giving me such a memorable celebration of being an Aunt to the beautiful and strong baby James.