An inside look at the Copacabana Palace, Rio de Janeiro

The Copacabana Palace in Rio de Janeiro is without doubt the most famous and iconic hotel in South America. Directly opposite Copacabana beach, the tall white building is a pretty spot, oozing glamour and style. Over the decades the hotel has welcomed film stars, musicians, politicians and royalty and the staff are expertly trained to ensure that anyone who walks through the door is treated to the highest level of service.

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The lobby of the hotel is immediately striking, with gigantic flower displays and polished marble. Thick luxurious carpets cover the corridors and fresh flowers adorn every floor. One has the impression that the décor at the Copacabana Place has not changed much over the years and yet it is still pristine, the style here works as an icon of the golden age of hotels when service was everything and it was all about Copacabana.

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The rooms themselves do not disappoint in this hotel. Marble bathrooms are equipped with luxurious robes, classic Gramado toiletries from Brazil’s oldest pharmacy and more towels than you know what to do with. The hardwood floors are polished to perfection and the beds are vast and extremely comfortable. If you are lucky enough to be staying in an ocean view room, the view speaks for itself.

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The pool sits in the centre of the hotel surrounded by the restaurants, bars and some of the rooms. One of the largest hotel pools I have come across, it is a perfect spot for getting in some lengths or lounging with a cocktail. The bar at the Copacabana is as stylish as one would expect with a cocktail menu to match, all sumptuous red with leather booths and subtle lighting, it has echoes of the forties and fifties in its décor and feel.

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Breakfast is served in the Pergula restaurant and guests can choose from a table inside or outside overlooking the pool. The buffet is enormous and offers everything from fresh tropical fruits to pastries, cooked breakfast, meats, cheeses and cereals and of course the essential Brazilian Pao de Queijo.

The real stars of dining at the Copacabana Place however are the two principle restaurants, the Italian Cipriani and Ken Hom’s Michelin-starred Mee. Dining in both is a very special experience and I have been lucky enough to eat in both of them.

One of the best ways to experience the Cipriani is at the Chef’s Table, something I have been lucky enough to try. This is located inside the kitchen of the Cipriani restaurant in a small booth directly in front of the serving shelves and so begins your exclusive experience. On arrival guests can choose from an aperitif in the restaurant or to head straight to the Chef’s Table in the kitchen. We were introduced to our waiter for the night, Fernando along with André our sommelier and perhaps most importantly to Luca Orini, the Head Chef. He told us how dinner would unfold and that we were ultimately in charge of the types of dishes he would present to us in the form of a tasting menu. He discussed whether we had any specific likes, dislikes or allergies so that we could get the most from our dining experience before André brought over our first drink of the evening, a bottle of Perrier Joet Grand Brut Champagne and Fernando followed up with an extensive bread board.

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As the first dish was presented by Fernando our waiter, a carpaccio of beef with burrata, Chef Orini came over to explain the elements of the dish. André then appeared with a wine to pair with the dish, a crisp Chilean Marina Bravado Sauvignon Blanc.

Luca-RSZ

This was to be how the remainder of the evening would pan out with the incredibly attentive and friendly Fernando and André returning with dish after dish, each paired with a beautiful wine to match. Each time chef Orini would take time out from the hotplate and come and speak to us about the dish. The service was attentive at all times however at no time did we feel as though we were being crowded as can often be the case when you are the only guests at a restaurant. I would say it was probably the best service I’ve ever experienced.

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Andre-RSZ

The tasting menu was broken down into 5 distinct sections with 2 light starters to begin, followed by 3 fish courses, 4 pasta dishes, the ‘main courses’ and then 4 different desserts. We sat down for dinner at 8pm and left the restaurant just after midnight having consumed 14 different dishes with 9 different wines all of which were truly superb. At the end of the meal we were presented with a signed menu by the head chef as a special memento of our evening.

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Gnocchi-all-Romana-with-lob

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Dining at Mee was a very different experience but excellent once more. We were seated in the restaurant this time which is decorated in an elegant Asian style. Guests dining here can choose from the a la carte or tasting menu. We chose the latter, known charmingly as the Meechelin Menu.

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Each dish was carefully crafted to perfection, a perfect balance of flavours and delicious Asian fusion. Highlights were the dim sum, always a favourite of mine in Chinese restaurants, delicate, soft mouthfuls that slipped easily down the throat. The wagu beef was melt in the mouth tender and delicious and the scallops were beautifully presented and delicately flavoured.

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The star of the show though, were the duck pancakes. Presented on the bone and then hand pulled at the table by the waiters, they came with all the trimmings and were as delicious as those served in the best Beijing eateries.

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We ended the meal with a delicious sake, the perfect light finish to a superb menu.

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The Copacabana Palace is one of those hotels that still remains an icon and a visit there will ensure that it remains in your memory for years to come.

Simon Williams is Director of The Bespoke Travel Group.

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Comments (1)

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  1. Maya Russell says:

    This look like a very luxurious hotel right on the beach. I like the look of the food – if a bit fancy for me. I bet it is tasty!

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