Inscribed on the wall outside its entrance door is a catchphrase that accurately sums up one of the prime attractions of the 5-star Hotel Epoque in central Bucharest – ‘retreat in the heart of the city.’
Close to the charming, century-old Cismigiu Park and tucked away among a maze of quiet backstreets of an historic neighborhood, this modern-style hotel certainly provides a sedate sanctuary removed from noisy capital city traffic.
It even grants views over what is known colloquially as ‘Ceausescu’s Wedding Cake,’ a giant, multi-story cream-colored building that the former Communist dictator built to reflect his self-glorified status and is also a short walk from such tourist highlights as the Romanian Athenaeum, home of the national philharmonic orchestra, the Bucharest Opera House, the Royal Palace, now hosting the National Art Museum, and Piata Constitutiei, where frequent open air concerts are held.
An impressive wrought-iron gate beckons guests to enter the hotel’s short circular driveway adorned with quaint sculptured lamp-posts, decorative bicycles and a landscape of small, manicured bushes. An impressive glass and metal canopy stands above the entrance door either side of which are two small terraces complete with tables and chairs suitable for alfresco dining or informal drinks and snacks.
The property’s rotund restaurant, L’Atelier, with seating for 30 people, overlooks the hotel’s entrance driveway and garden. Weather permitting, guests can also enjoy dining in the winter garden area. Under the close direction of executive chef, Samuel Le Torriellec, a comprehensive menu has been designed that ranges from traditional onion soup with aged Emmental cheese to black Angus ribeye with Béarnaise sauce and potatoes and octopus fricassee with aromatic herbs served with barbecue sauce and endives in Thai vinaigrette.
Ambience here is cozy, with a glass surround permitting ample natural light, and an overlying chic black and white decor, complete with crisp white tablecloths.
My wife and I began our dinner with a Caesar salad with shrimp tempura and boiled quail eggs and a caramelized duck liver terrine with lime mousse and homemade brioche with Guerande sea salt, the latter being presented in a nest of parsnip chips and decorated with laced crisp beetroot. Encouraged by the well balanced tastes, we chose the veal sweetbreads and potatoes cooked in Barigoule style for the main dish and were richly rewarded by the flavors of this delicacy, braised with onions, garlic and carrots seasoned in a broth of wine. A delightful dessert comprised traditional mille-feuille with crème anglaise, mango jelly and raspberry sauce.
An impressive wine menu constructed by Sommelier Eduard Jakab includes a wide selection of French, Italian, Spanish and South American productions, but we enjoyed a Romanian wine – still not so known internationally but rapidly gaining a good reputation – such as Stonewine from Balla Gheza, using an old variety of grape called ‘cadarca.’
Rooms range from junior and executive style to grand, luxury and VIP suites, varying in size from 40 to 110 square meters, with multiple rooms in each. The largest, the Epoque suite, accommodates up to six guests, with two bedrooms with king-size bed, two bathrooms, a separate living room, a kitchenette and a large terrace.
Our room, a junior suite, comprised a king-size bed, living room with spacious working desk, expandable sofa bed, a French balcony and two plasma television sets.
Leisure facilities at the Epoque include an intimate, 6 by 4 meter, indoor heated swimming pool in the basement, with hydro massage and water jets, as well as dry sauna, steam-room, a fitness room and various spa treatments. There is also what hotel staff term ‘emotional showers,’ offering a combined experience of water, colors, lights and fragrances.
Whether for business or vacation, Hotel Epoque, with its central city location, overall tranquility and thoughtful classic design, is a serious contender as hotel of choice for the discerning traveler to Romania.