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Beyond Rio

Accordingly the guests1 expectations were high on this August weekend. "These dinners are always exciting" sad Fabio Liberman. the fortyish CEO of a Sao Paulo holding company and publisher of di Vino, a Brazilian wine magazine.

I asked if he had been here before.

"We've been here 17 times," Libermans wife, Milena, said. "And sometimes we bring friends."

In fact, the Libermans were among the first to discover the resort. "This place was a success from the beginning," said Fabio.

Nicolas Peluffo, managing director of the resort, did not dispute Fabio's claim, but he said that he would not advise anyone to follow what had been the business plan for the resort."Actually" he said,"we had none."

About 10 years ago, Peluffo had just returned from a backpacking and surfing trip when his father, who owned two shoe factories in southern Brazil, informed him that he and a business partner were going to build a hotel, and that Nicolas would one day run it.

"I knew nothing about hotels," said Peluffo."I was 22 years old, still a business student in college. I had traveled with my father on business and stayed at a few Hiltons and Sheratons, but that was it."

But the senior Peluffo would not be denied; he already had traveled to the town of Ganchos to check out the hotel site and found a sea lion lying on the very spot where he wanted to build. "He took that as a good omen," said Peluffo.

Nicolas' father and his partner, Nicholas Razey, assumed the roles of developers—creating the concept, investing the capital, and hiring the builders—while his mother,an architect, designed the hotel: his younger sister became guest-relations coordinator in 2005 and is now pursuing her master's degree at Funda^ao Getulio Vargas.Toward the end of 2001, 10 months after the Peluffos began building the resort, they completed it and welcomed their first guests.

The property features villas set on a peninsula overlooking emerald waters.The accommodations are spacious, and each contains a wine cellar, a fireplace, and flat-screen televisions. Most also have a hot tub and a sauna, and 10 of the villas feature a plunge pool and bathrooms with separate his and her facilities.

Still, when they opened the resort, the Peluffos were not sure whether they were on the right track. "We worked month to mon:h," the junior Peluffo recalled. "I didn't know what our standards should be. Our goal was simply to create the best beach resort in Brazil, the kind of place I might like to stay."

ROBB REPORT february 2011

Ponta dos Ganchos had been open a year or two when ore of its best customers, the country's leading cardiologist, offered Peluffo some advice: "He said the hotel was bound to succeed, and when it did, I should resist the temptation to get bigger. Instead, he said,'Just raise your prices.'"

Peluffo has not followed this counsel to the letter. The resort opened with 15 villas and now has 25. And the dining options now include a private dinner for two on a tiny island accessible from the rest of the property by a long pier. But, as his friend the cardiologist suggested, he did raise the prices, from $250 a night for a standard room in 2001 to as much as $6,000 a night for the most expensive accommodation during Carnival this year.

Fabio Liberman brought bottles of Chateau Cheval Blanc and Chateau Angelus to share with his tablemates during this night's dinner, which featured the artistry of the resort's consulting chef, Laurent Suaudeau. A native of France, Suaudeau began his carecr at Paul Bocusc's L'Auberge du Pont de Collonges. In 1980 Bocuse recruited Suaudeau, then 23, to head the kitchen of Le Saint-Honore at Le Meridien Copacabana in Rio. In 2000 Suaudeau created the Laurent School of Culinary Arts in Sao Paulo, where his skill in interpreting French dishes with Brazilian ingredients earned him one of the most prestigious titles in the world of French cuisine, Maitre Cuisinier de France. Dinner included appetizers of smoked ham with melon. raisins, and caramel; oysters and foie gras; braised octopus with passion fruit and mustard caramel; scallops and salmon pave with small zucchini ravioli; and beef tenderloin stufled with mushrooms and served with a sweet nianioc-cream-and-sesame sauce. For dessert we had chocolate ice cream with a peanut-and-vanilla emulsion. Everything was spectacular.

The next day I found the Libermans sitting in the sun while a guitarist nearby played light bossa nova tunes. The moment moved Fabio to reflection."You ever find yourself in the middle of nowhere, with nothing to do?" he asked. "Well, here we are in the middle of nowhere, and there's nothing to do." And he could not have been more content. 03

Casas Branca s Boutique-Hotei & Spa, $300-$5HH per tlight, +55.22.2623.1458, wuw.casasbrancas. cotn.br; Pest an a Angra Beach Bungalows, $522-S601 per night, +55.24.3364.2005, unvw .pcstana.com; Ponta dos Ganchos Exclusive Resort, about $735-$2,590per night, +55.48.3953.7000, uwv.pontadosganchos .coni.hr (Room rates for all properties do not include holiday premiums.)

"Our goal was simply to create the best beach resort in Brazil, the kind of place I might like to stay."

NICOLAS PELUFFO, MANAGING DIRECTOR, PONTA DOS GANCHOS EXCLUSIVE RESORT

RaJaasa: Sio/aVMcjs & faniarmc). iVfetyadnas lot AJ

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