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Hotel Review: Hotel Fasano Rio de Janeiro

Published: July 19, 2009

The Hotel Fasano was the talk of Rio in 2007, eclipsing the fabled Copacabana Palace as the top play den for Brazil’s rich and famous. While the initial hype may have faded and celebrity sightings are less common, the Philippe Starck-designed hotel still retains an aura of exclusivity, especially from its bossa nova-chic lobby and sexy rooftop pool. Almost makes you feel sorry for those slumming it down below on Ipanema Beach.


The 91-room Fasano rises along the eastern end of Ipanema Beach. The immediate surroundings are unspectacular, but walk a few blocks and you’ll find a tree-lined street of fashionable cafes, pricey restaurants and crowded bars.


Slip past the phalanx of armored S.U.V.’s and enter a lobby enveloped in glass and billowing curtains, which everyone from Yoko Ono to Madonna has paraded through. These days, it’s filled mostly with dapper middle-age men and their svelte, much younger arm candy. Nestling poolside are playful honeymooners. Average age difference: 30 years.


The rooms are understated and not very spacious — whitewashed walls, dark wood floors, smallish flat-screen TVs. But they come glazed with nice perks, from touch-lighting dimmer switches to free flip-flops. Mr. Starck’s hands are all over the décor, from the Dalí-inspired oblong mirrors to the curvy light fixtures that glow like ghosts. My corner room had a wraparound balcony but faced another building and felt as dark as a dungeon. Rooms in the back may be quieter, but seaside rooms offer views and soothing waves.


No tub but the rain-forest shower head and wall-to-wall white marble felt luxurious, as did the bath towels the size of Luxembourg. The sliding bathroom door featured a black-and-white mural of ’50s-era Rio celebrities, but it proved to be a bit tough to crack open.


Room service from the Fasano al Mare, the hotel’s chichi Italian restaurant, is available around the clock. But why bother when you can order food and drinks poolside? A plate of sliders (38 reais, or $19 at 2 reais to the dollar), a bowl of tropical fruit (18 reais) and coconut water (8.5 reais), ordered from a pool attendant, arrived in a brisk 13 minutes and was served on a table with umbrella. The fresh-faced staff members are polite and seem to memorize every guest’s surname, though the man who guards the velvet rope on Saturday nights could benefit from charm school.


The rooftop bar and restaurant are top-notch. A private cabana on Ipanema Beach dispenses free beach chairs and bottled water to guests. But there are minor annoyances: electric sockets shorn from walls, room keys that repeatedly fail to work and spotty Wi-Fi (at 50 reais a day). It also took three calls to the front desk before maid service, which somehow neglected to clean our room one day, finally showed up. The spa and gym are also disappointingly skimpy.


Pricey and pretentious? You bet. Pull up in a compact car instead of a stretch Hummer and the doorman may not acknowledge you. But hit the roof bar around, say, sundown and all annoyances are forgiven. Rooms start at 1,120 reais, $560, and suites start at 2,975 reais (but can be less online).

Hotel Fasano Rio de Janeiro, Avenida Vieira Souto 80; (55-21) 3202-4000;

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