HOTEL/CHEF PROFILE DECEMBER 2015
JEWEL OF BUDAPEST - FOUR SEASONS GRESHAM PALACE
by Bonnie Carroll
FOUR SEASONS GRESHAM PALACE, Budapest Hungary
The site where the Gresham Palace now stands originally housed a neo-classic palace called the Nako House, designed by József Hild and built in 1827 by wholesale merchant Antal Deron. In 1880, the London Gresham Life Assurance Company bought the Nako House as its foreign headquarters on this site but then, in 1903, decided to demolish the Nako House and build a new venue from the ground up. The Gresham Palace, which was designed by Zsigmond Quittner and the Vágó brothers took three years to build, finally opening its grand gates in 1907.
Gresham Palace & Chain Bridge View
The building was conceived as a kind of monument to Sir Thomas Gresham, the 16th century financier to Queen Elizabeth I. The time of completion occurred during Hungary’s Golden Age and some of the most famous artists and craftsmen of the time worked to make the Gresham Palace one of the most glamorous buildings in Pest, and one of the finest examples of Art Nouveau architecture in the world.The artist Géza Maróti created many original sculptures for the building.
Sculptor Ede Telcs created the relief at the top of the facade of Thomas Gresham looking like a sea captain staring out at the Danube and across the Chain Bridge towards Buda, and it was one of the first buildings in Budapest to have its Art Nouveau exterior illuminated at night with no expense spared on the decor and the embellishments. The wrought iron peacock gates came from the prestigious Gyula Jungfer workshop and furniture maker Endre Thek was commissioned to fill the rooms with his elegant designs.
Peacock Gate Entrance
The ground floor and first floor hosted the Gresham Company’s offices, the Gresham Café and a finishing school for daughters of the aristocracy called “English Young Ladies”. The second and third floors were comprised of a collection of luxury apartments where many of the country’s elite took rooms. Government minister Count Gyula Andrássy, close friend of Elizabeth Queen of Hungary, took rooms in the Gresham Palace, and his brother Géza was the chairman of the board of the Gresham Company’s Hungarian subsidiary.
The fourth floor contained modest apartments for the company’s traveling insurance salesmen while the fifth floor just under the roof housed the servants’ quarters. Between the wars, the Gresham Café was the meeting place for the Gresham Circle of artists. The Podium Cabaret in the basement was the place where Bohemian artists rubbed shoulders with fur-clad aristocrats while they watched the risqué and satirical shows.
Pool & Spa on the Fifth Floor
During World War II, the building was bombarded from across the river by revolutionaries trying to dislodge the Russians from the Interior Ministry next door, and in the winter of 1944-45 Soviet soldiers occupied the Gresham Palace and burnt much of the furniture to keep warm. In 1948 the Hungarian Communist Government nationalized Gresham Palace and scores of new tenants moved in, sub-dividing the palatial apartments into smaller flats. The Gresham Café managed to keep going through the grim fifties and sixties, and in 1957 even had the first Wurlitzer organ in the country.
Between 1948 and 1990, the building declined into a sad state of disrepair, however, with the change of politics in 1997 Gresco arranged for the Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts to manage and operate Gresham Palace. Gresco agreed to the National Board for the Protection of Historic Monuments (OMVH) which had earlier granted license on condition that the exterior, the ceramic decorations, the glass interior arcade and the stained glass windows on every staircase be restored in a sensitive manner.
Chain Bridge View Suite
Today the hotel offers a delightful spa on the top floor with a pool, where treatments include use of their signature Omoroviza of Budapest products for rejuvenating treatments, and the cocktail lounge in the lobby is a delightful respite after touring. Guests enjoy signature cocktails with names like Pretty Petals, made of Ketel One Vodka, rose water, lemon, egg white, and absinthe Infused with Hibiscus or a Kollázs Classic Cherry Soup Daiquiri cocktail. They also make a perfect Cosmopolitan served with wonderful little hors d'oeurve to savor while listening to a live pianist before dinner.
Lobby Lounge Cocktail Time
Needless to say, every detail of this property is exquisite, and the suites are no exception, featuring understated elegance, with every possible amenity at your fingertips. The views of the Chain Bridge, the Danube and the Buda Palace literally take your breath away, and the staff are all Four Seasons outstanding.
The Kollázs Brasserie & Bar is a contemporary European brasserie in a landmark Budapest location, overlooking the Chain Bridge and the Danube River. The Hungarian word for “collage,” Kollázs highlights creative combinations in all aspects of the Magyar dining experience. It is a warm atmosphere where the staff are dedicated to providing a memorable experience, and do just that.
Kollázs Brasserie & Bar
Appetizers to be enjoyed include tastes like Foie Gras Terrine with rhubarb compote and elderflower jelly. Soups are amazing and the beef consomme with Morel mushrooms and beef tongue is a must. Main courses include wonderful fish selections, lamb, venison, beef cheek goulash (my favorite), as well as duck, home made sausage, beef tenderloin, and rib-eye steak. Salad, caramelized steamed cabbage, macaroni cheese gratin, vegetable skewers and truffle mashed potatoes are a few sides to be enjoyed.
The signature Sea Bass Baked In Sea Salt (For 2 People) served with a green salad and fresh vegetables was simply outstanding. The fish is baked in a thick layer of salt, and then completely cleaned at the table to be served with a delicious warm sauce and peppers. This was one of the most unusual and delicious dinners I have ever experienced. I hope you enjoy the attached video.
Our sinful ending dessert was deep fried strawberry shortcake with fresh strawberries, kirsch and strawberry ice cream. Dinner wines selected for us from their exceptional wine list included Grof Buttler, EGRI Chardonnay, 2013, Hungarian and Markrurt Kadarka 2015 Szekszard. Also featured on their extensive wine list are Barta, Late Harvest Furmint, Tokaj, Hungary, 2010 Lenkey, Édes Szamorodni, Tokaj, Hungary, 2007 Oremus, 5 Puttonyos Aszú, Tokaj, Hungary, 2006.
When entering Kollázs Brasserie & Bar the first thing guests see is a special showcase of the fine champagne offered, and some favorite after dinner drinks included Dictador 20 Years Rum, Brill Williams Pear Palinks, Park V.S. Cognac and Spiritus Primus Pók Tamás, Törkölypálinka (Pomace).
A treasured opportunity at the hotel is a night at the opera dinner that provides guests the opportunity to dine centre stage at the Hungarian State Opera House, one of the most splendid and acoustically impeccable theatres in the world. This is an experience available only through Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace Budapest, where you’ll take your seat onstage for a dinner that’s a once-in-a-lifetime performance exclusively for you. To create this magnificent evening, the Opera House closes its doors for three full days, preparing every last detail according to your personal request. When the curtain rises and the lights dim, a live orchestra begins your private concert. Although I did not experience this dinner I have heard from others that it is an experience of a lifetime, where the guests become the stars. Reservations: +36 (1) 268-6000. Availability dependent upon Opera House performance schedule. Please contact the Hotel for more details.
Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace Budapest
Széchenyi István tér 5-6.
Tel. +36 (1) 268-6000 Fax. +36 (1) 268-5000