LAST – NEXT
Press Trip Part 4
The Esplanade Zagreb has the stately elegance that only an old hotel can have. But because it was totally refurbished a few years back, it also has the mod-coms that travellers today expect.
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Hotel Esplanade Zagreb is an elegant hotel dating back to the 1920s. Totally renovated a few years back, it combines old world elegance with all the requisite mod-cons you would expect at a 5 star hotel.
As we tumbled out of our airport shuttle bus in downtown Zagreb, I heard someone scream, “It looks just like San Francisco!”
As someone that grew up in Northern California, I couldn’t help but think, “Where are the hills? Where is the bay? Where are the pigeons? Where is that blustery wind?”
A sleek blue tram rumbled past – in San Francisco we call them “street cars”. “I am starting to see the resemblance,” I thought.
“Maybe I shouldn’t be so quick to judge.”
After checking into the Regent Esplanade Zagreb, I checked out my room. It was comfortable and well thought out.
The bathroom had a rain shower, a separate bathtub, and l’Occitane toiletries. Those are always good signs – especially the l’Occitane toiletries.
The desk had outlets on the wall behind it. No need to get down on my knees and search for them. There was a spacious closet, comfortable furniture, an inviting bed.
These are the kinds of things I care about when I spend nights away from home.
We had been thoughtfully given a few hours before taking a tour of the hotel and having dinner.
So after plugging in my computer and checking my email, I was back in the lobby, asking the concierge for directions.
I showed her a list of the places I wanted to visit. She seemed to agree that the list was right on target. She told me to walk out the front door, turn right, walk half a block, turn left, and then follow the tram tracks.
“You’ll be where you want to be in about 15 or 20 minutes,” the concierge said.
Since many of the places I wanted to visit were on the following day’s itinerary, the concierge said I had two options.
I could either head in a different direction and check out one of the parks or museums that I wouldn’t be visiting the next day.
Or I could spend the afternoon at a coffee house. The concierge showed me on the map where the best coffee houses and sidewalk cafés were clustered.
Zagreb really WAS starting to feel a bit like San Francisco!
“You can find a nice café, order a cup of coffee, and spend the afternoon reading the newspaper,” the concierge suggested.
Reflecting on what she had just said, she added: “But the news kiosks don’t sell English newspapers. You should learn Croatian!”
I don’t know how much Croation I could learn in four days. Was she suggesting that I might like it so much here that I would want to come back?
Hotel Tour and Dinner
The Regent Esplanade Zagreb is a hotel with a history, as we were to learn during our fascinating tour of the property.
Located a short walk from the municipal train station, the Regent Esplanade Zagreb opened its doors in 1925, where it served as a stopover for passengers traveling on the legendary Orient Express railway, which linked Europe with the Far East.
It has played host to Hollywood movie stars, European royalty, world famous authors, Pop stars, and all manner of politicians and heads of state. Not to mention Man’s Best Friend!
The Regent Esplanade Zagreb is a pet friendly hotel. With special doggie menus, baskets, and toys, dogs are made to feel more than welcome at this historic property. It recently underwent a complete renovation.
The hotel has 208 rooms and suites. There is a spa and fitness centre. There are conference facilities. There are four food and beverage outlets.
We had dinner our first night at the hotel’s fine dining restaurant. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to sample the hotel’s other food and beverage outlets. The café, apparently, is very popular with locals.
Hosted by Ivica Max Krizmanic, Acting General Manager, and Sanda Sokol, PR and Marketing Manager, we enjoyed a sumptuous candlelight dinner in elegant pink on white surroundings.
The delightful meal was probably the best we had in Croatia. Unfortunately, I didn’t take notes – we were too busy chatting.
But I clearly remember the mouth watering risotto – rich and creamy – I couldn’t get enough! And there were those succulent strips of perfectly cooked beef fillet! And those yummy sautéed artichokes – I hadn’t had those in years!
Our menu follows:
- Amuse bouche – Balik salmon tartar, cucumber caviar and lemon grass cream Lobster Thermidor.
- Starter – Creamy risotto, baked foie gras and sautéed asparagus, with veal juice.
- Main course – Sea bass fillet, asparagus pie and truffle sauce or beef fillet, sautéed artichokes, green pepper bisque, and baked potatoes.
- Dessert – Warm and liquid chocolate cake with vanilla cream sauce and vanilla ice cream.
The highlight of the evening, however, was getting to know our charming hosts, Ivica and Sanda. I don’t recall any awkward pauses in the conversation. It was more like hanging out with old friends.
Comment and Analysis
If I had to come up with just one thing that sets this hotel a part from the other hotels I’ve stayed at recently, it would have to be the breakfast buffet.
To start with, I’m not a big fan of hotel buffets. I tend to eat more than I should, but I go away feeling unsatisfied – and annoyed that I wasted so many calories on things that I didn’t really enjoy all that much.
But in this case, I’ll make an exception.
There was a table laden with delectable pastries, which I admired, but studiously avoided.
I wasn’t tempted because there was also a table with about five different types of muesli and granola. And get this – in addition to milk and skim milk there was soy milk, my favourite!
Nuts to Cheese
There were nuts, fruit, smoked salmon, crackers, cheese, and lots of other things that made a big impression on me at the time, but that I can’t remember now.
At your table, meanwhile, you could order eggs, breakfast meats, pancakes, potatoes, and other breakfast foods off the menu.
And healthy options, such as egg white omelets, were given equal billing with the more decadent choices.
So if you wanted to indulge, you could. But you could also order healthy dishes without having to feel deprived.
I ate indoors on day one. On day two, I had breakfast on the terrace.
And that’s, perhaps, where any comparisons with San Francisco should end. Breakfasting outdoors is not something I would normally want to do in that usually wind swept city by the bay!