Located in truly exceptional locations around the world, Rocco Forte Hotels offer luxury hotel and resort services as well as exquisite culinary experiences
Today encompassing ten five-star luxury hotels situated within some of the finest cities in Europe, Rocco Forte Hotels was founded in 1996 and has continued to grow to include both fully-owned and part-owned locations, with new openings scheduled in Jeddah during September 2016 and Shanghai in 2018. All of the hotels are landmarks, both old and new, occupying magnificent buildings in exceptional locations with their own individual styles, incorporating the zeitgeist of their locations. Brother and sister Sir Rocco Forte and Olga Polizzi originally established the business, which today continues as a family-run operation with sisters Lydia and Irene Forte joining the group in recent years.
“Each Rocco Forte hotel has an individual identity that harks back to their location, we try and appeal to a local market so that each hotel, restaurant and bar is a fully unique concept, tailored to the city it’s in and individual in its food and service offering. No chains,” explains Bar & Restaurant Development Manager, Lydia Forte. “Also, because we are still a small company, I can personally visit every restaurant and bar and develop the details. For example, we just launched Sophia’s in The Charles Hotel in Munich – the concept was developed around the botanical gardens next door and the beautiful terrace we have because the hotel is in a very green area, with lots of dishes and cocktails focusing on fresh herbs, spices, vegetables and fruits. Each restaurant is really created for the local population and we want all of the venues and bars in our hotels to be a local meeting point as well as a reference point for the city.”
The group’s Balmoral hotel is no exception as it is set within a magnificent and historic building. It was the first of the great railway hotels in its vibrant location at the heart of Edinburgh. The Balmoral hotel offers 188 suites and rooms, designed by Olga Polizzi to include a touch of Scottish charm. It is also one the group’s strongest hotels in terms of food and beverage offerings with its Number One restaurant retaining its Michelin star for the 14th year in a row in 2016. “Number One is all about modern Scottish cuisine, the emphasis is placed on using delicious local ingredients to create innovative, contemporary dishes whilst keeping the friendly, inviting atmosphere that the restaurant has had since its opening in 1997,” Lydia elaborates. “Jeff Bland is our Executive Chef and has held the Michelin Star for 14 years – he is truly excellent and a brilliant asset to the team. Equally, our head chef Brian Grigor is incredibly talented and as he is from a family of gamekeepers, local produce is of the highest importance. My aunt Olga has designed the restaurant in a way that retains a warm atmosphere, with eclectic artworks from Scottish artists, in combination with touches of Scottish heritage.”
While the Number One restaurant offers an outstanding culinary experience featuring modern Scottish cuisine, Hadrian’s Brasserie offers a more casual dining experience that still guarantees diners the very best of regional Scottish produce. The lavish setting of Palm Court is enhanced by the beautiful accompaniment of a harpist to create the perfect setting for champagne and some delicious teas, coffees and pastries. These dining experiences are further enhanced by two outstanding bars, which offer a staggering array of beverages to suit all tastes. “The Balmoral Bar is perfect for both pre and post-dinner drinks with delicious cocktails, wines and beers from across the globe. Scotch is a particular favourite and with over 500 malts, blends and vintages of whisky, the bar boasts one of Edinburgh’s largest collections,” Lydia explains. “The Whisky Ambassadors are on hand to help guests make a selection from amongst the varieties and are complete experts in the field. It’s easy to spend hours there learning about the processes whilst tasting Whisky and the delicious specially selected snacks that accompany it.”
Throughout the Rocco Forte Hotels group there has been a growing focus on delivering a healthy as well as a relaxing experience, which has been driven by the introduction of the brand wide spa proposition, Rocco Forte Spas, which includes the Forte Organics bio-cosmetic range and the continued use of nourishing healthy food offerings across all of its premises. “The use of seasonal and local produce has been a trend for a long time and is something the group never compromises on. Now more than ever, there is a strong push towards foods that are good for you, but still delicious. Rocco Forte Nourish is something I have developed with my sister, Irene Forte, partnering with local nutritionist personalities across the group to develop healthy menus. Not only are these available throughout the day in the hotel restaurants, but we also have healthy in room bar and breakfast buffet offerings. Having access to healthy food and drink at all touch points of the hotel is vital nowadays, when society is very health focused,” Lydia details.
“In the restaurants we are currently focusing on food that is fresh and light, with ingredients like vegetables and fish. In Florence for example, we launched the new restaurant Irene at Hotel Savoy – named after my grandmother who was an amazing Italian cook. Fulvio Pierangelini, Creative Director of Food for Rocco Forte Hotels, developed a menu there that is Tuscan, but a fresher, lighter version of what is often a very heavy cuisine, filled with fried food and lots of bread,” she adds. “We also did traditional Tuscan dishes but in a very feminine way and introduced lots of lighter soups and fresh, seasonal dishes where vegetables are the protagonists of the dish rather than an accompaniment.”
Working within the multifaceted hotel industry certainly presents several exciting opportunities to deliver breathtaking culinary experiences and taking into account the global presence of Rocco Forte Hotels, the potential to experiment with local cuisines only magnifies this potential. Indeed, the company has big plans for the future with several new and tempting venues due to open over the coming months and years. “The Assila is opening during September 2016 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia and will include five wonderful restaurants opening with five completely different concepts including the Il Café Italian coffee lounge; Twenty Four, the all day dining restaurant that will play host to specially themed evenings; the Argentine steak restaurant, Pampas that features a colourful and eclectic design, by the famous interior designer Martin Brudninski; Aubergine restaurant, located on the top floor of the hotel, by the pool, serving Arabic Mediterranean dishes, including Lebanese, Turkish and Armenian dishes as well as more local specialities; and finally the Coco’ba chocolatier bakery,” Lydia concludes.
“Currently, we also have a very exciting project in development in Shanghai, China. We will be opening a hotel there in 2018, in the bund district, surrounded by galleries and shops. The hotel will house three restaurants, a tea lounge and a cocktail bar and focus on a variety of cuisines. Authentic Italian and Chinese food will feature. We are lucky to work in an industry that is multifaceted and exciting. This does also mean however, that we also need to be up-to-date with trends. We are constantly updating and renewing our restaurants, ensuring that we have the best offerings.”