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Francis Bown, Bown's Best

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See below for the latest April 2015 Reviews

Hotel Monaco & Grand Canal & Grand Canal Restaurant, Venice, Italy | Bown's Best


Everyone who stays in Venice – particularly when it is a first visit – wants a spectacular view. Of course, La Serenissima offers gorgeous views at every street corner. But we all know which is the most desirable: the view of the Grand Canal. The Hotel Monaco & Grand Canal therefore has a head start in the race to win the cup for the city’s most popular hostelry. Through its windows can be seen the gorgeous watery highway which captivates the world. On my first encounter with Venice, the boat from the airport sailed slowly down the Grand Canal. Nothing I had seen hitherto had prepared me for this feast of beauty. Indeed, I do not think that, before that moment, I had believed that humankind was capable of producing so perfect a panorama. That was over forty years ago. I have returned to Venice many times since, but I am still thrilled by this visual feast. To stay at an hotel which offers this joy from my very own window morning, noon and night is therefore a privilege.

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Ristorante Do Forni, Venice, Italy | Bown's Best


It had never occurred to me that President Richard Nixon and the Œcumenical Patriarch of Constantinople would have anything in common. But there they were: both down as guests of the Ristorante Do Forni in Venice. Of course, I do not suppose that they were there at the same time. But, still, it shows that they shared a love of culinary tradition – and, if you cannot enjoy a bit of culinary tradition in Venice, you cannot enjoy it anywhere. That is why I imitated these gentlemen and headed for what is surely the most famous restaurant in La Serenissima. For over a century, persons of taste and means – the sort who might be heads of state or leaders of churches – have flocked to the Ristorante Do Forni, close to St Mark’s Square, to treat themselves to the best of good, old-fashioned Venetian cuisine, served with flair and panache.

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Bistrot de Venise, Venice, Italy | Bown's Best


Is it not a wonderful thing that a restaurateur should be interested in academic subjects? After all, his chosen occupation requires him to master the many skills which are involved in running a fine dining room. If he can master those, he already deserves the title of Renaissance Man. Is that not enough? Not, it seems, if you run the splendid Bistrot de Venise. There I found not only interpretations of Venetian recipes from the 14th to the 18th centuries, but also a programme of events which included both wine tastings and talks on intriguing aspects of art and culture. ‘Saint Mark, from Alexandria to Venice’ sounded like a lecture I might have encountered when I was studying Theology at Oxford, not a diversion at a popular restaurant in Venice. All credit, then, must go to le patron, Sergio Fragiacomo, for the imagination and enthusiasm with which he runs his establishment.

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Francis Bown 2003
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