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London, United Kingdom
March 9, 2004
The subtle charm of the famous watering hole starts with the tale of its founding. Whilst working in a hotel bar, Giuseppe Cipriani lent a not inconsiderable sum of money to a young regular customer who was down on his luck and needed to settle some large bills before returning home to Boston. Two years later in 1931, the recipient of the loan came back from the United States having experienced an upturn in fortunes, and repaid five times the original amount. The generosity was conditional on barman opening his own establishment, which had to take its name from the American donor, Harry Pickering. The rest, as they say, is history.
From the unusual beginning, it has grown into the best-known drinking venue in the city. The classy vintage décor, which makes much use of polished wood, suggests that little has changed since the days that Humphrey Bogart, Charlie Chaplin, and of course Ernest Hemingway all drank there. However, such grandeur and glamour is not necessarily obvious when joining the mass of tourists that vie for standing room at the bar during the usually busy evenings. The formally dressed members of staff provide a level of service in keeping with the surroundings. Normally in charge is Claudio, a real character with a comfortable and authoritative manner that reveals that he has been working there for time immemorial. The tipple of choice is the Bellini, the archetypal Venetian cocktail, which is made simply from prosecco, the region's sparkling wine, and peach nectar, and is so called because the works of artist Giovanni were being exhibited nearby at the crucial moment. Although available almost everywhere nowadays, normally for a lower price, the quality varies quite a lot, so the surest bet is to pay a little extra and sample the concoction where it was invented.
Although most renowned as somewhere to enjoy a drink, Harry's is one of only two local restaurants that have a Michelin star. Although I cannot personally vouch for the quality of the food, it is reputed to be the most consistently good gourmet fare in the city. That so many people dine there despite the huge cost involved supports such hype, and also means that reservations are essential. The menu consists of high quality local dishes, with an emphasis on seafood, and a full meal is likely to cost over 100 euros. It is possible to dine in the area adjoining the bar, and there is also a room upstairs that has excellent views.
From journal Venice - The serene city of canals
February 9, 2003
From journal An afternoon in Italy
San Clemente, California
July 12, 2000
From journal Inside Venice