In the midst of Florence’s city centre, The Wordrobe’s Editor Sophie Ritchie finds herself falling for the culinary charm of Irene, Hotel Savoy’s smart casual spot.
It’s not often I find myself swept off my feet. I’ve been known to be as cynical as Blackadder upon occasion, as blunt as a rusty spade on dates. Of all the bones in my body, not many are romantic.
But there’s something about Florence that always captures my attention and leaves me swooning. And at Irene, the suave restaurant located smack bang in the city centre, I find myself entirely captivated by culinary charm.
Found in the very heart of the city awaits a Rocco Forte hotel known for impeccable hospitality. Stylish and suave, Hotel Savoy stands out along the cobbled streets with its grand facade and porter-flanked doors. But far from feeling oppressive, I feel right at home from the moment I announce my arrival.
The sense of family seems fitting, as Irene is named after Sir Rocco Forte’s very own mother. The name pays homage to her culinary skill and hospitality, along with the talent of other Italian mothers and grandmothers, to whom recipes and food are pivotal. The indoor decor also has a more feminine feel, with hardwood floors and modish lime green seating.
We’re shown to our table outside on the shaded terrace and settled in with a glass of Champagne. Dining in the middle of the street is a unique experience – you sit amongst the heaving crowds of tourists making their way through the centre. It’s quite entertaining to people watch as we peruse the menu, scanning our eyes across the simple but delectable selection.
The menu is inspired by local and seasonal produce, with most ingredients sourced as locally as possible to offer diners an authentic Tuscan experience. Presented in contemporary, simple style there’s plenty to choose from, with everything from fried calamari to quinoa-packed salads.
I opt for a fish-led feast, choosing the Octopus salad with red turnips and coloured chicory (€19) to start, followed by Turbot, sea asparagus, scarola and summer truffle (€34). Considering the venue’s prime location, it’s a very reasonably priced menu.
My salad arrives arranged delicately upon a pristine white plate, with beautifully textured octopus and fresh salad leaves. It’s very light and a good choice if you’re looking for something refreshing after a long day in the relentless summer heat. Choose the pasta if you prefer heartier courses.
The turbot main is equally delicious – a pretty plate of greens, aromatic truffle shavings and flakey fish. Again, it’s very light and not too filling. Should you be after a carb fix alongside, there’s bread and plenty of potato-led sides to order.
The food at Irene is good – but it’s the service here that captures both my attention and imagination. You can tell that everyone from the maître d’ to the waiter pouring our water absolutely loves working here. There’s an energy about it, a sense of components all working together smoothly from start to finish. And that makes all the difference – it’s a little magical to watch.
Even the chef comes out to greet us mid-service, stopping by our table for a quick chat about the restaurant. She tells us passionately about the menu – and she’s even peeked a glimpse at The Wordrobe. I’m flattered.
Full from breadsticks and bubbles, I skip on dessert – but my dining companion opts for the hot chocolate cake to finish. I can’t help but snare a bite of gooey fondant heaven, sweet tooth satisfied.
Meal complete, our visit to Hotel Savoy is far from done. Instead, we’re offered a tour of the hotel’s grandest suite to round off the night. With a bathroom decked in marble, a living room furnished in signature Olga Polizzi style and a terrace boasting stunning views of the Duomo and square, I’m drooling as much over the interiors as I was over the main course.
The Wordrobe verdict
For something fresh, friendly and fun, Irene makes the perfect pitstop. Consider me charmed.
Make it happen
Where: Piazza della Repubblica, 7, 50123 Firenze FI, Italy
How: Click here to make a booking