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Swellboy on… concierges

In defence of the stalwarts of the pantheon of hotel dignitaries

Swellboy on… concierges

Image: Brijesh Patel

January 05 2012
Nick Foulkes

I do sometimes question the necessity of a concierge. He or she is a member of the pantheon of dignitaries that greets one on entering a fancy hotel, whose role is to be a temporary Jeeves, and yet in this age of internet knowledge and instant information I wonder whether they are really necessary any more. At least I wondered this until I had cause to call on the concierge of the Luna Baglioni hotel in Venice.

I was ensconced in one of the hotel’s suites, and jolly pleasant it was too, albeit featuring the unusual addition of an exercise bike among the furnishings. I did my best to shield my eyes from this contraption that was a constant reproach and reminder of my own indolence and found that it made a most excellent coat stand; the handlebars fitting perfectly into the shoulders of my calf-length Bedford Cord overcoat. That coat, made for me by Terry Haste at a time so remote as to be obscured by the swirling mists of time, was in fact a good partner for the exercise bike as, so important and heavy is this garment, that struggling into it is a workout in itself and, comforted by this thought and feeling myself fully exercised, I trotted down to the concierge in search of nourishment.

When I am in Venice I eat at least once at the Trattoria of the Madonna; you probably know it. It has remained unchanged since the first time I visited it more than 20 years ago. Even the menu is the same (only the prices have changed) and there is much comfort to be derived from knowing that while the world is busy changing and inventing things such as iPods and the internet, some things like the Madonna have been sitting there unaltered awaiting my return visit once every couple of years.

However, having had my ration of Madonna squid cooked in its own ink with polenta, I wanted to experience squid in its own ink (preferably preceded by a plate of baccalà mantecato) somewhere else. I reeled off a few names that I had learned from Google and asked the concierge’s opinions of them and he gave me instead the name of and directions to a restaurant called the Good Fork, which he told me had about four tables and catered to local tastes.

Of course it sounded to good to be true, the gastro-snob’s grail, but for once the reality exceeded the expectation: a mound of light fluffy baccala and then squid so soft it almost dissolved in the mouth.

It was a good dinner and, more importantly, restored my faith in the institution of the concierge.

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