Zafferano, Hotel Four Seasons, 1 Neftchilar Avenue, Baku
Tel. +994 12 404 2424 www.fourseasons.com
The Four Seasons in Baku is arguably the most elegant hotel in Baku. The generous foyer with its antique style furniture, inviting fire place and impressive flower arrangements and, most of all, its sweeping marble staircase, instantly bring to mind the grandeur of times gone by. It’s easy to imagine Scarlett O’Hara descending those stairs, her silk skirts rustling, lacy pantaloons, and brocaded slippers peeking out from under them, her beautiful haughty face scanning the room for someone she may deign to bestow her smile upon. Its GM, Sam Ioannides, tall, dark and handsome, and very charming, fits this picture perfectly, making a convincing modern day version of Rhett Butler. Except that this man, frankly my dear, does give a damn.
In May of this year, the lovely husband and I took my wonderful mother-in-law, who was visiting us in Baku, to the terrace of the Zafferano restaurant on the ground floor of the Four Seasons for, what we hoped, would be a memorable and spoily Afternoon Tea. Alas, things went uncharacteristically pear shaped and we left, disappointed. Within hours of posting this experience here on Fizz of Life, I received a very kind and generous email from the GM, thanking me for highlighting the issues, promising me immediate review and substantial improvement and inviting us to return for a tip top Afternoon Tea in line with what the Four Seasons brand stands for.
Summer came and went and I did not return but just recently, as a Thank You for baking cakes and providing the most delicious homemade fudge for sale the German Charity Christmas Bazaar, I took a very glamorous friend to retry the new, reinvented Afternoon Tea at Zafferano, crossing fingers and hoping for the best. Of course, they knew we were coming, so I imagine a little bit of extra effort was put in, but even if it had been only half as good as it was, it would have been fabulous! We were most courteously greeted by the staff, addressed by name, no less, and seated at a pretty window table. The table itself was laid to perfection. And you know, it’s always the little things that make for a good impression, proper butter knives, linen napkins, well presented butter pats, everything just so. Ah, and then the cake stand arrived with the most delicious canapé sized offerings, salmon blinis, cucumber sandwiches, egg and shrimp bites, parma ham crackers and more, divine little cakes, a tiny fruit tart, small cheesecake squares, a light and moussey chocolate cake mini slice, yummy little one bite eclairs, fresh macaroons and, on the bottom plate, warm little ginger loaves, wholemeal and fluffy little white flour scones, clotted cream, lemon curd, excellent jam. This was the business, the real McCoy! All this in this festive, elegant atmosphere and service at its finest, attentive but unobtrusive. We both chose coffee instead of tea and that was so good, that I had more than my usual one cup limit. A whole new superb experience!
A couple of days beforehand, another friend had reported having an excellent lunch here with the best risotto ever, according to her. Things have truly changed! Rhett Butler aka Sam Ioannides joined us briefly for a chat and told us that very soon, a new chef is expected, an exciting development and much to be looked forward to. We also got to see the Christmas and New Year’s Eve menus for both, The Zafferano Restaurant and also Kaspia. Well hello, they look very promising and enticing and starting from AZN40 for three courses at Zafferano for Christmas Eve, they also look like pretty good value considering what’s on offer. Let’s not beat about the bush, an Afternoon Tea at Zafferano is not a budget meal but, these days, it is a big treat and completely delightful and, in my view, worth every gepik.
“Well, my dear, take heart. Some day, I will kiss you and you will like it. But not now, so I beg you not to be too impatient.” (Rhett Butler to Scarlett O’Hara, Gone with the Wind). It seems our patience with Zafferano has paid off and the end result has been well worth waiting for!