Glory boy

by David Tarpey , Thursday 28th July 1994 00:00

Frank Sinatra would probably agree that Paolo Biscioni deserves to win a string of awards. The old crooner once enjoyed a very restful night's sleep when Biscioni persuaded the Milan authorities to redirect traffic away from the luxury hotel where the singer was sleeping.

Such gestures mark out an award winner and Biscioni is happy to think of himself in that category.

Swollen with pride from the receipt of another award, the Hyde Park Hotel's general manager confesses that achieving the recent five-star AA accolade was part of the business plan.

The trophy joins a crowded sideboard in Biscioni's office where previous plaques jostle for attention on the walls. These are adorned with photos of the great and the good who have visited the Knightsbridge property down the years. It is clear that this amiable general manager loves his job and its glamour.

Biscioni took up the reins at the 185-bedroom luxury hotel in 1987. His brief was to craft an establishment worthy of being called Forte's leading light. Its grooming for star status was deliberate and determined.

As the first of the group's hotels to receive this latest prestigious endorsement of its standards, that brief has now been fulfilled. The £10m-plus refurbishment will have played no small part.

"Siamo forte" (we are strong) was his motto in Italian. In English, the pun is unintended, but the sentiment about teamwork is still valid.

As a foretaste that the hotel was on the right track, it received the RAC's Five Star Hotel of the Year accolade during its centenary in 1992.

Then there's the Marco Pierre White-run ground floor restaurant which boasts two Michelin stars. Biscioni now wryly refers to the hotel's rank as seven stars.

Noted for his charisma and innovation, Biscioni's career path has switched between the UK and his Italian homeland, but has led him steadily through the luxury hotel world.

The son of a civil servant and the beneficiary of traditional Italian home cooking, he notes: "My mother was my food and beverage teacher."

The young Biscioni's appetite for the hospitality sector was whetted by early memories in his native Florence. "I was fascinated by all the tourists and visitors and I wanted to learn English so I could speak to them. I've always felt this need to communicate."

After a brief, hapless spell as a waiter, he started to gradually work his way up the luxury hotel ladder. Ciga and the Savoy Group were among his employers, but destiny led him back to London in 1987. He had loved the city since the swinging 1960s and he refers to the place as "a truly great world city".

His reason for returning was to steer the Hyde Park Hotel through refurbishment and a relaunch of its identity.

As might be expected, he bubbles positively about Forte and its vision of running a luxury hotel portfolio of 18.

Part of his job is to act as diplomat and liaison officer with the top duo of the Forte dynasty: both Lord Forte and Rocco take a strong personal interest in the Hyde Park's welfare. Biscioni says he is delighted with the pair's involvement.

A possible test of strength of character might have come in dealings with the downstairs chef. Yet Biscioni has turned this relationship into a positive one. "We give Marco the autonomy we are allowed in running the hotel."

Plans in the Hyde Park pipeline include a new exclusive health centre, a dedicated floor for state visits and the building of an underground garage.

On the distant horizon, Biscioni envisages repositioning the hotel's entrance to face the scenic foliage of Hyde Park.

He also sees himself on that horizon and says: "As long as there are enough challenges for me here, I would love to lead the hotel into the next century."


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