Inside the Grand Hotel et Des Palmes, a jewel of Palermitan Art Noveau, a restaurant and cocktail bar where the charm of the Belle Époque marries that of the international temples of mixology, where you can be pampered by the 5-star staff and a legendary story that has inspired dozens of essays and novels.
The history of the Grand Hotel, located in the center of Palermo, is so singular that makes it not only unique in the world but also as a whole with the history of the city itself. Built in 1856 as the home of the Ingham-Whitaker family of English entrepreneurs, it was sold in 1874 to Enrico Ragusa who transformed it into a luxury hotel.
To do this, he relies on the greatest Sicilian architect of the Belle Époque, Ernesto Basile, who together with his father also designed the nearby Teatro Massimo, who will expand it by combining the Liberty style that was fashionable at the time with the international modernist avant-gardes. We owe him the marvelous winter garden, the stained glass windows in colored designs, the marble features, as well as the conservative restoration of the most beautiful rooms part of the previous Ingham Palace.
Palermo was lovely. The most beautifully situated town in the world – it dreams away its life in the Conca d’Oro, the exquisite valley that lies between two seas.(Oscar Wilde)
The Sensus Mixology Bar and the Neobistrot Restaurant are located right inside the ancient Ballroom of the Ingham-Whitaker family, known as the Hall of Mirrors, where, among stuccos, exotic plants and red velvet armchairs, stands out in the center of the room a large bar counter featuring a spectacular full-height bottle rack. All around, elegant round tables separated by columns with golden decorations and compositions of ferns and flowers.
While at lunch the offer is more informal with a wide choice of sandwiches and salads, in the evening the lights go down, the background music becomes more romantic to the rhythm of jazz and, all of a sudden, one is catapulted into the elegant fin de siècle social life and you will almost seem to see Oscar Wilde, who was a guest here, intent on discussing opera with some Sicilian baroness.
The restaurant offers an exclusive and refined culinary journey that draws inspiration from tradition with a fascinating contemporary touch. Thus, on the menu we find dishes that are a hymn to Sicily such as spaghetti with garlic, oil and chilli pepper with chopped red prawns, many raw fish selections, as well as more creative recipes such as pigeon breast with fried thigh bon bons, 72% chocolate and baby spinach.
A reference point for all lovers of good drinking in the city, the bar offers a selection of over 100 gin labels. In its rich cocktail list you can find the great classics revisited, such as the Gin Tonic 2.0 with Vodka Ketel One, Mediterranean Cordial and Tonic Water, or more original drinks such as the Wagner based on Rye Whiskey, Campari, Vermouth Del Professore Chinato, Coffee Tincture and Chocolate Bitter.
In the summer, the Grand Hotel, perhaps before a romantic dinner in the Sala degli Specchi, also offers the possibility of booking an aperitif on the new Ouverture Terrace, with a splendid panoramic view over the roofs of the city.
Certainly, a break at the Grand Hotel et Des Palmes is a must during a stay in Palermo for all lovers of beauty, even if just for a café and a rendezvous with the history of one of the most fascinating and culturally rich cities in the world.
The journalist Melinda Zacco wrote the book “Grand Hotel et des Palmes History and Mystery” which tells the “secrets” of the Grand Hotel. In the second part, we find the interview with Toti Librizzi, bar manager of the prestigious hotel for over forty years, who sagaciously describes anecdotes about the various celebrities who have been guests of the structure.
Grand Hotel et Des Palmes
Via Roma 398
Tel. +39 091 8048800
Cocktails: from 18 euro
Lunch: sandwiches & salads from 16 euro
Starters: 18 — 34 euro
First courses: 20 — 28 euro
Second courses: 20 — 36 euro
Tasting menu: from 95 euro, wine pairing 90 euro