24-hour Room Service: Hotel Fasano, Rio de Janeiro
Lap up the cool vibe and ocean views
Saturday 09 October 2010
"Look at the stars, look how they shine for yooooou..." OK, I'll admit I am not a star, but having a crowd of teenagers camped beneath the balcony of my bedroom, apparently serenading me as I shook Ipanema's finest sand from my beach towel, helped some way to feeling like one.
Disappointingly, they were aiming slightly higher than my balcony. Several floors above me, sipping – I presume – smoothies around the rooftop pool of the Hotel Fasano, were the writers of the song, Coldplay. The band were in town for a gig at the Samba-drome, the enormous carnival venue, and were staying two floors above my room.
The night before their arrival, what seemed to be the entire contents of a small toy shop – including a mini tepee and crocodile sleeping bag – was being conveyed into the deluxe ocean-front suite, for one of the younger members of their entourage.
Coldplay can make these kinds of demands. But it's this attentive, can-do attitude that has been pulling the stars into the hotel's Philippe Starck-designed rooms since it opened in 2007. A prosaic trip to the business centre reveals a wall of framed thank you notes from previous guests: Madonna, Francis Ford Coppola, Radiohead and Lenny Kravitz set the bar.
The Fasano is, implausibly, the first design hotel in Rio which lives up to the city's cool, cosmopolitan image. Hitherto, accommodation was limited to old-school grand or new-wave bland. The hotel was opened three years ago by Rogério Fasano, a fourth-generation Italian immigrant who made his name in Sao Paulo with a small empire of upmarket restaurants and later his first Fasano hotel.
Where Fasano Sao Paulo resides in a brick skyscraper planted in the middle of Louis Vuitton, Armani and Cartier stores, the Rio outpost is its off-duty sibling, standing sentry at the eastern end of Ipanema Beach in an area of ultra-expensive seafront apartments. The eight-floor building is crowned with a rooftop marble pool and bar with magnificent views of the beach below, birds wheeling above and the verdant peaks of Tijuca Forest topped with Christ the Redeemer in the distance behind. Here, in a refreshing change from the standard boutique hotel soundtrack of ponderous synth and doo-bah-ooh vocals, a loop of bossa nova versions of The Buzzcocks and The Rolling Stones accompanies the whir of the smoothie-maker at the bar.
Starck has gone for a fittingly 1950s and 1960s beach aesthetic, where glass and dark wood dominates the scene. Wafting white curtains separate the Al Mare seafood restaurant, lobby and reception at ground level with floor-to-ceiling windows proffering breezy views. The furniture is a considered mix of nautical-leaning Italian and Brazilian mid-century finds (a rope-net and wood chair for example), modern design pieces and a reception desk reclaimed from a single Amazonian tree trunk.
At night, the pace picks up at the Londra bar, Fasano's homage to one of his favourite cities (rumour has it he may soon bring the Fasano brand to our own shores). The clubby environment is dark and moody, with a backlit display of cachaca bottles, leather armchairs embossed with The Sex Pistols' God Save the Queen motif, Union flags and framed album covers – signed, naturally, by the artists who have stayed at the hotel.
Fasano overlooks Rio's most glamorous beach and the glamorous people that populate it. Outside, cycle lanes are pounded by posturing joggers, while lithe Cariocas play futevolei on the sandy courts beyond. The Arpoador rock, a popular spot for watching the sun set, is around five minutes' walk to the east, while affluent Leblon, an extension of Ipanema, continues west until it is bookended by the split peaks of Dois Irmaos. The focus in this part of town is the beach. Since Copacabana has taken a turn for the seedier, Ipanema and Leblon are where locals hang out – the beaches get packed at weekends. While the area is a way from the centre and night spots in Lapa, it is blessed with a safe atmosphere that makes it one of the nicest places to lay your hat.
Two nice touches that greet the weary traveller after a long flight: a slab of chocolate cake and a 15-minute massage in the spa, both complimentary. You can then park yourself in a low-slung armchair on your balcony and soak up the Ipanema vibe. All of the 91 rooms and suites open on to balconies, though some are blessed with Ipanema vistas, others with less covetable "courtyard" (read: alley) views. However, the interior design is universal: walls the colour of Ipanema sand, hardwood floors and injections of tropical colour via banana-yellow blankets.
Amusingly, the sliding door to my bathroom featured a black and white image of a top-and-tailed dancer; apparently Starck may have mistaken a tango dancer for bossa nova. But we'll forgive him for the other rooms that feature more authentic images of an erstwhile diving platform in Guanabara Bay.
The Fasano features in our film 48 Hours in Rio; see independent.co.uk/rio
Hotel Fasano, 80 Avenida Vieira Souto, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (00 55 21 3202 4000; fasano.com.br).
Double rooms start at $520 (£347), room only.
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