Rio de Janeiro is a huge seaside city in Brazil, famed for its Copacabana and Ipanema beaches, 38m Christ the Redeemer statue atop Mount Corcovado and for Sugarloaf Mountain, a granite peak with cable cars to its summit. The city is also known for its sprawling favelas (shanty towns). Its raucous Carnaval festival, featuring parade floats, flamboyant costumes and samba dancers, is considered the world’s largest.
From the oceanfront rooms of Ipanema’s Fasano, it’s easy to fall in love with Rio all over again. The sun rises over Arpoador’s rocks to the left and sets behind the iconic Dois Irmãos mountains to the right. In between, the hotel hasn’t just harnessed Ipanema’s irrepressible, effortless magic, but enhanced it. Paulistano Rogerio Fasano and the French designer Philippe Starck certainly had the credentials to pull off the hippest hotel in town back in 2007, but the impact of its opening, drawing the world back to Rio’s bounteous charms, was akin to the Copacabana Palace launching the city’s golden age in the 1920s. Lenny Kravitz was cooing about his first stay within a matter of weeks, Madonna practically took over the building during a world tour, and Kanye West’s love of Isay Weinfeld (who, ironically, designed all the Fasano hotels and restaurants except for this one) brought him to sample its five-star charms. The three suites are almost identical, but it is the highest, number 707, that is called Seventh Heaven. From the pair of Sergio Rodrigues Voltaire chairs to the huge, two-person shower and the panoramic beach view, the subtle luxury is impressive, rather than excessive.
One of Brazil’s most successful new designers, Isabela Capeto is inspired by museums, books, countries and phases of life. The themes of her collections are as diverse as Matisse, Peru, childhood and even tiles, in homage to the ornate colonial azulejos still found around Rio. The clothes are handmade: embroidered, dyed and pleated in a variety of jewel-like colours, and often trimmed with antique lace, sequins or tulle. Capeto likes to “make women feel beautiful wearing romantic clothes”. This dreamlike vision is doing well; in over fifteen years the business has expanded from Rio to São Paulo to the world. Her children’s line will delight any little girl.
Alberto Landgraf’s formative years as a backpacker who fell in love with Europe, then a trainee chef in London, and finally as the driving force behind one of São Paulo’s most celebrated dining experiences, Epice, continue to inform his style in the kitchen. Seeing him front the young team stationed throughout the open kitchen of his first Rio labour-of-love Oteque is as pleasurable as every stage of the carefully constructed tasting menu. The Humaita space is a gorgeous reconstruction of a crumbled townhouse: the shuttered windows, exposed brickwork and soft lighting keep the focus firmly on the tasting menu’s eight courses, which arrive and are whisked away in perfect time: an oyster served on a bed of Brazil-nut milk atop a rock-salt tower, a baked onion stuffed with sea urchin in a mussel cream, and a perfect chunk of cherne fish in a delicate salsinha(parsely) sauce. Sommelier Leonardo oversees a broad list that runs from classic 1999 Fleury champagne to a 2013 Peverella and Slovenian Rebula.
Instituto Moreira Salles
This institute is named after the filmmaker Walter Salles, director of the The Motorcyle Diaries and On the Road. Instituta Moreira Salles was the movie maestro’s lavish childhood home, built by his ultra-successful banker father at the foothills of the Gávea mountain, and now operates as a museum displaying photography exhibitions and works from the family’s private collection. The space hasn’t lost its homey vibe, and the galleries that hold exhibitions of pioneering Brazilian photographers like Marc Ferrez and Sebastião Salgado still feel like they were lived in only yesterday. The living room still holds the Modernist chairs used by the family, as well as a magnificent nacre-coated cabinet. The photography and other visual arts exhibitions compete with the graceful abstract garden, designed by Brazilian landscape artist Burle Marx, that surrounds the Modernist home. Surprisingly, the institute is rarely crowded, giving visitors the opportunity to soak up the mastery of the artists’ works or just lounge in the space’s natural splendour.
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