Stacey Teo

Stacey Teo

For the conscientious chef, sustainability is more than just a fashionable catch phrase, as our columnist explains, it is both a moral obligation and our best chance for the future. STACEY TEO

I am not a professional writer, I’m a chef, but I do know that when writing an article it is good to grab the readers attention right away. How’s this for an attention grabber? According to the World Wildlife Fund, over 73 million sharks are killed each year just to feed consumer’s demand for sharks fin soup. That’s not a typo. 73…million. It’s a shocking number and the saddest part is that in most cases the shark is pulled from the water, its fin is hacked off and the rest of the majestic animal is unceremoniously dumped back into the sea.

More numbers? According to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, 85% of the world’s fisheries are either fully exploited, over exploited, depleted, or recovering from depletion. It’s no wonder. Singapore alone consumes an average of 100,000 tons of seafood each year and the global seafood market is expected to grow another 50 million tons by 2025. On land things aren’t much better. Millions of tons of food go to waste each year. It is estimated that in the US, 14% of food purchased at the grocery store is thrown away. This is an incredible waste of resources – not just to produce the food but also to ship, process and store it, all for nothing.

Something needs to be done and as chefs I believe that we are part of the problem but hopefully, we’re also part of the solution. For too long we have been abusing our resources and it is now time we start thinking about how we can stop destroying the raw materials we need to run our businesses. We have to set the example for our clients to follow. Yes, we face difficult questions and tough steps will need to be taken, but I am confident that if professionals and clients work together, we will not only sustain but actually begin to replenish.

This is the goal towards which we have already taken some important steps at our newly opened Montigo Resort, Nongsa. Before we opened our doors we began reaching out to area farmers to purchase as much locally produced food as possible. On the property itself we use organic fertiliser and we are planning to create our own gardens where we will grow vegetables, herbs and fruits to use in our restaurant.

We do not have items like cod and instead of industrially caught tuna we serve a locally caught variety. Salmon is occasionally served but we have replaced it on the menu with similar types of fish as often as possible.

Finally we do our very best to only buy what we will be using. Many restaurants over-buy which is not only environmentally wasteful but also bad for the bottom line. We ask our suppliers to deliver our products in minimal packaging without compromising on freshness and sanitation. Aubergine really does not need to be individually wrapped the way it is in the supermarket.

Sustainability can be achieved without compromising on flavour

Sustainability can be achieved without compromising on flavour

When planning the menus I thought long and hard about how to make each dish sustainable. To  be truly sustainable you need to do more than just strike an item like shark fin soup from the menu. Buying locally sounds great but the reality is that not everyone starts out on an equal playing field. In Batam the main agricultural product is cassava leaves. That doesn’t give you a lot of menu options. Limited local crop variety means chefs have to become much more creative to develop a menu that offers a bit of variety but there is only so much one can do. Relying on local, seasonal harvests also means certain products are not available during certain times in the year. In consequence dishes need to be changed more often leads to more menus printed which adds to the restaurant’s overall costs and increases the carbon footprint.

It’s also difficult for a chef to select the right local farmers. Not many use organic compost these days and it’s difficult to keep track of who is using what in their growing cycles. To be sure a chef has to keep a list of farmers who support sustainable initiatives but how many of us have time to check-up on these things.

One thing we can control is the education of our staff. At Montigo, having everyone on the same page and fully understanding the reasons behind our initiatives is key. We are hopeful that some may start coming up with their own ways to help the cause and that it will carry over to their home lives and they will help spread the message if they ever decide to change jobs. Our guests also need to be aware that the future depends in great part on what they order when they are out and what they cook at home. As industry professionals, we are just the tip of the ice berg. We need to lead by example but it is up to our clients to follow. Ultimately our goal is not only to sustain but regain.

Want to help? There are a number of things you can do. First take a stand against unsustainable fishing by pledging to buy MSC (Marine Stewardship Council) certified seafood. It is still not readily available everywhere so if you can’t find seafood with the MSC label in your local store, please ask for them because businesses do listen to their customers. Next, inform yourself. You can find a lot of great information on the WWF website. There are sites for every area in the world. I love the Singapore site. It has useful information on what you can do to help preserve the area’s waters, from taking a Save the Sharks Pledge, to seeing what restaurants are shark-fin free and best of all, you can download an easy to carry guide to sustainable seafood shopping. I also like to check in at the Marine Stewardship Council’s website where apart from a lot of useful info on sustainable fishing there are some tasty recipes. Stacey Teo, Executive Chef at KOP Hospitality, 


Reading time: 5 min



Sweden is going back to its own. No longer satisfied with following the dictates of the French, the demands of the Spanish, the inventions of the Americans, Swedes are making a stand. Organic, traditional, simple, smoked, foraged and served, the Swedish food movement is embracing its homegrown tastes and getting its hands dirty. In more than one way, they are going back to their roots.

My visit to Sweden starts in twilight, at 3pm in the afternoon on a winter’s day. By the time my friend Rory, a discerning foodie, and I arrive in the city known as the “Venice of the North”, night has fallen. We bumble our way through the old town streets of Gamla stan, pausing to take in the view across the lakes, ornate pristine facades and street lights reflected in the water, or to peer past the curtained covered windows of cafes promising bowls of hot chocolate.

At the unlikely location of a motorway junction, we find our first stop. Strömmingvagnen, the herring stand, is the Swedish equivalent of a burger van. For over 20 years, the small trailer under a large golden fish has served herring in different forms to late night snackers and adventurous tourists. Ravenous from the journey, we examine the faded images displayed behind the counter and opt for rye bread, gravalax, dill and herring. Warm, gooey, salty and sweet, it is impossible to eat neatly and without noises of appreciation. Hands still a little sticky, we head for our hotel.

Hotel Rival, owned in part by Benny Andersson of Abba fame, is a converted cinema. The huge theatre, filled with 700 red velvet covered seats, is still used for screenings – Abba, the movie was premiered here – theatre productions and comedy nights. On performance evenings the foyer and bar are lively and the hotel has more spirit than most. Swedes love their coffee shops, a welcome escape from the winds that whip across the waterways, and Hotel Rival’s cosy art house style cafe tucked in the corner is a good spot to grab something smothered in cinnamon.

Each room is decorated with a wall sized print of a famous golden moment in cinematic history, a teddy bear and, of course, an Abba “The Greatest Hits” Album. Unsurprisingly, the sound system is not only crystal clear, but available in a variety of guises. If you haven’t had enough after singing along to “Dancing Queen” in the shower, you can request a speakerphone pillow from the menu and allow Benny, Agnetha, Björn and Anni-Frid’s dulcet tones to sing you to sleep. Buoyed by the burst of Swedish pop, we head out for our first taste of the food.

Volt is discreet. Situated on an elegant street in Ostermalmstorg we walk past it a couple of times before noticing that the clean framed front with elm branches in the window is the entrance. The decor – black carpet with white walls, the occasional pencil sketch hung on the wall – sounds stark, but is surprisingly relaxing, even comforting. Perhaps it is the quiet friendliness of the staff, who are so closely involved in the restaurant they pick everything from the art on the walls to the berries used in the tea at the end of your meal, that makes the restaurant feel familiar. Their music choices, which sounds as though they should be the soundtrack to an indie film, mummer in the background. Brass pipes cross geometrically along the walls with the occasional tap, used to refill the jugs with icy cool water.

The six course tasting menu, paired carefully with wine from Germany and France, focus on in season ingredients. Plates are balanced, but flavoursome with interesting pairings; smoky tinges are encouraged but not dominant, berries present but used sparingly. The Normandy cider, made only from fallen apples from a Michelin starred producer was a confident match with the cheese plate from local farms. With understanding and careful delivery, the menu wins even initial sceptics round.

“This place is one gravedigger short of Elsinore.” Rory says as we wander the isolated path towards the nursery gardens in Djurgården.

There is something Hamlet-esque about the Rosendals Trädgård in winter. Black mud sucks in the green tendrils of the grass and stains the solid grey boulders, silver birches hold cawing ravens. The bright light of daytime cuts the outlines of the surroundings into clear focus, so that we can see a horse drawn cart dragging its way through the mud in the distance with distinct clarity. We come across an art installation, the words “this is the corner of a larger field” written in swirling handwriting, created in white wire 10ft long, its stand planted solidly in the marshy ground giving the impression that it has been scrawled across the landscape.

The gardens are in the stately home of Rosendal palace. An organic haven, they grow seasonal produce for local restaurants and their own cafe, an expansive, steamy greenhouse with painted blue picnic benches laden with plates of Swedish biscuits and rosehip tea. In summer the gardens are full, but in the colder months, the cafe is filled with dog walkers and knowledgeable foodies. It is a curiosity, not quite bleak and not quite twee. We wander the garden’s paths past artistic bamboo structures and carefully pruned topiary to find a locked greenhouse, empty but for a leaf strewn dinner table, decorated for a dinner party that never came or is perhaps yet to arrive.

Henrik Norström is viewed as the pioneer of the Swedish food movement. Formerly a chef at a Michelin starred restaurant in central Stockholm specialising in French and Spanish cuisine, Norström decided that he was tired of meals dominated by flavours from other countries. He wanted his dishes local. In 2003, he opened Lux, a converted staff canteen for the Electrolux company, overlooking the lake on the small island of Lila Essingen. In 2004, they won a Michelin star.

“From here you can see the changes in the season,” he says. “If you have a restaurant in the city you have your four walls and you cannot see if it’s summer, winter, autumn or spring.”

Even a trained eye might find it difficult to spot the distinction between each of Norström seasons; there are 16. He is an innovator in tune with his subject.

“If you came back here this time next year there would be different items on the menu,” he says. “I use the same produce, but I never go back and use old dishes.”

Over the past decade Norström has developed a relationship with each of his suppliers, be they the fisherman, apple growers or reindeer farmers in the northern reaches of Sweden. Not unlike its owner, the restaurant is elegant and understated; the focus is on the food and a lifestyle, not brash gimmicks.

Back in central Stockholm, Swedish restaurants are fast becoming a la mode. With the food’s hunter gatherer ethos, some restaurants have adopted a macho edge. Ekstedt is bold. Red brick walls, black granite surfaces, bare light bulbs and a scorching fire behind wisely placed glass barrier, this is a hearty restaurant. Dishes are smoked, sizzled and grilled at the flame before being prepared by chefs in leather aprons at the central table and presented carefully on slate plates and wooden charred slats. The food is rich and creamy, the meat tender and the flavours strong. Butter soft reindeer meat, baked in ember and served with truffle proves a highlight, and their lemon ice cream with smoked almonds and salty caramel mixes textures well. The chef and creator behind it, Niklas Ekstedt, researched traditional methods to give his food the authentic Swedish edge; you can certainly imagine that their five-course tasting menu would sustain you through a long winter.

Full to the brim and as it is our final night in the city, we wrap up and meander through the old streets of Gamla stan past churches and narrow passages. Heading for home, we find ourselves in front of the big golden fish over the small trailer. We pause. There is always a little room left for herring.



The Rival Hotel:


Reading time: 7 min
Grande Cuvée Brut, the product of as many as 1,000 tastings

Grande Cuvée Brut, the product of as many as 1,000 tastings


“Bring anything you like as long as it starts with K and ends with G.” So I was instructed before a dinner at which only the best would do and it was up to me to bring champagne. So why is Krug considered by true connoisseurs to be the best among many fine champagne houses? To help answer this question I was invited to Krug on a cold winter morning. In contrast to the many splendid champagne ‘Maisons’ in Reims, France, the Krug headquarters is an unprepossessing building that does not prepare you for the splendours inside. I was invited to a special tasting by Margareth Henriquez, the president of Krug. We were joined at the tasting by Eric Lebel, the chef de cave.

The wines to be tasted were Krug Grande Cuvée, Krug 1996, Krug Clos du Mesnil 1996, Krug Clos d’Ambonnay 1996 and Krug 1998. The wines were very different yet all had some things in common. First was a core of firm acidity, the backbone of Krug. All had a very fine mousse and were wonderfully fresh. All were richly aromatic with multi-faceted flavours that danced across the palate, suggesting perhaps grilled nuts for a moment, then a touch of honey followed by toasted brioche or dark red fruits. The sensations went on and on. All had an impression of size and volume yet were so elegant that the aromas and flavours seemed to be balanced on the point of the finest needle. Finally, a long finish that lasted minutes rather than seconds. The wines could be enjoyed on two levels; immediate pleasure certainly, but they also repaid contemplation when so much more was revealed. They are not showy wines but really quite cerebral.

The two wines closest in style were the Krug Grande Cuvée and the Krug 1996. The Clos du Mesnil, a 100% Chardonnay champagne, reminded me of a young Montrachet, but the flavours were much finer. Totally harmonious, very complex and like a ballerina poised on tip toe, supremely elegant. The Clos d’Ambonnay 1996, made entirely of Pinot Noir, had the same Krug backbone as the Clos du Mesnil but its taste profile was entirely different. The texture silkily smooth, the bouquet and flavours hinting at dark red fruits, a touch of toasted brioche, dark chocolate and as Eric Lebel suggested “that classic burgundian feature, sous bois”. There is no equivalent word in English: ‘boskiness’ gets about 20% of the way there. The richness and power of the fruit perfectly balanced by the firm acidity which is a feature not only of Krug but also of 1996. The taste went on and on, the long finish was of almost symphonic complexity. Among wine snobs it is common to look upon the Grande Cuvée as a sort of entry level Krug, a mere nonvintage wine. This is a great error.

So how does Krug achieve such outstanding quality? Apart from insisting on only the best for every small decision that has to be made during the whole process there are several key factors that elevate Krug above their competitors.

Of utmost importance is the raw material. As their own vineyards provide just 40% of their needs, the remaining 60% have to be bought in. The source of their grapes is not a few very large vineyards but dozens of tiny plots, some no larger than a large garden. Each terroir being subtly different, this brings great complexity to the final blend. The growers keep the yields low and the contracts with Krug often go back many generations. Several growers told me that it is considered an honour to supply Krug with grapes. It should be noted that Krug buy only grapes, never wine. Every parcel bought is kept separate. Many Champagne houses mix the many lots bought in large tanks. Not so at Krug. Amazingly, the grapes from each plot of land from each grower are fermented separately. There is a severe triage and the wines are fermented in old 205 litre oak casks. Krug is the only great Champagne house that still ferments all its wines in oak. The casks are old because the aim is not to add tannins but to allow a slow interaction between the must and the tiny amount of oxygen that the casks allow through. This method ensures a long, slow evolution of the wine and contributes enormously to its legendary longevity. A further contribution to longevity is that the malolactic fermentation is never induced. In March the growers come and taste their wines at Krug. It is quite possible to find, from one grower for example, that one wine is fine and fruity, one more structured while the third is over-ripe. This last wine will be rejected by Krug and sold elsewhere.

The most difficult task of all is the assemblage, especially for the Grande Cuvée. For a vintage Champagne, those casks whose characteristics best represent the unique character of the year will be set aside. But for the Grande Cuvée where consistency is paramount, Krug can call upon its amazing array of reserve wines which are stored in stainless steel. For the blending, Olivier Krug and a tasting committee of seven spend five months with as many as 1000 tastings, seven wines at each tasting. They will have as many as 7000 tasting notes. These are all reviewed by Lebel who will then suggest certain blending combinations to the committee until that special Krug character, taste and quality is achieved.

Clos du Mesnil

Clos du Mesnil

Krug use about 15-20% Pinot Meunier in their blends. Some find this surprising as it is often considered to be an inferior variety. It was explained to me by Eric Lebel and Margareth Henriquez. “The character of Pinot Meunier is the most variable of the three grape varieties. It is not so much Pinot Meunier per se that we seek but a little touch of spice or fruitiness or je ne sais quoi that a certain grower in a certain village can produce,” said Margareth. It is incidental that it happens to be Pinot Meunier. It also acts to enhance and enrich the other two varieties so that the final blend is a more complex, exciting and harmonious wine.

They have a similar attitude to grand and premier cru rated villages. The tasting committee never discusses the benefits of adding say a little more grand cru village wine, preferring to suggest perhaps a little more Chardonnay from a certain grower in say Trépail for its extra elegance and finesse or a little more Pinot Meunier from a grower in Sainte Gemme whose Pinot Meunier has, say, an extra charm, fruitiness or spiciness. In other words, the grapes used depend solely on their quality and character regardless of what the grape variety is or which village it comes from. There is no formula though it almost always ends up with Pinot Noir being the most used followed by Chardonnay and then by Pinot Meunier.

Krug is not afraid of modernity. They use giro pallets for the riddling of the standard sized bottles but for all other sized bottles the riddling is done traditionally by hand. A rosé wine is also produced as is Krug Collection which is a vintage wine. This is exactly the same wine as the standard vintage wine. However it has been stored in Krug’s cellars for at least 20 years prior to being released. This guarantees the provenance and therefore the freshness and condition of the wine. The actual date when Krug Collection is released depends on when the wine attains a new phase in its life story, a sort of second life when new flavours of maturity emerge. One will pay accordingly.

As Olivier Krug told me, “there are no short cuts to quality and at Krug every tiny detail is carefully considered and has only one aim which is to make the best possible Champagne in that totally unique Krug style”.

Howard Ripley founded his eponymous wine merchant while practicing as a dentist in London. He became a global legend among connoisseurs for his deep relationships with some of the most important producers of Burgundy’s wines.. He is now retired.

Reading time: 7 min

From ‘Princess Kate’ Middleton to Lady Gaga, celebrities are nobody without a Philip Treacy hat. But what drives London’s divine milliner? Caroline Davies probes for the answers from the god of gorgeous headwear

“It’s a bit like being a missionary,” Philip Treacy says. “I’m preaching, ‘hats are good.’”

To many Philip Treacy is not just a dedicated evangelist of millinery; he is one of its gods. His designs adorn the heads of Royal Princesses and Harry Potter characters, Sarah Jessica Parker and of course, Lady Gaga. He has collaborated with designers of every ilk including Chanel, Versace, Givenchy, Alexander McQueen, Valentino and Ralph Lauren. But while he is adaptable – his designs may be outlandish, ironic, classic or surreal – they are recognisable. A small quirk, a way of designing, of seeing the world, a creation of this designer is unmistakably a ‘Treacy’.

His hats are eccentric and dramatic. They pull your stare, captivate and amaze. They are unapologetically whimsical, direct but from a new perspective.

“When you meet somebody you meet their face not their foot,” Treacy says, bluntly. “It is a very potent part of the body to decorate and embellish.”

Is what he does challenging? “When you design hats people want something new that they have never seen before, has never been invented and that’s not easy,” he says. Does he worry he will run out of ideas? “Every day. But it hasn’t happened yet.”

With constant demand flying in from around the globe – “Lady Gaga likes a hat a week” – the ideas need to flow thick and fast. “It is catching all over the world,” he says. “We have interest from cultures that didn’t necessarily think they could wear our hats before. Fashion is a big communicator today. Lady Gaga has introduced my hats to 11 year olds. That’s quite fun, because she’s a hat wearer of the world. She’s a 21st century Isabella Blow.”

Treacy tone changes, softer and almost conspiratorial. “I’m not giving her Isabella’s crown, that’s not mine to give. But she reminds me of her, rather alarmingly. I don’t think anyone has any doubt about that. They do have a certain similarity. What’s most interesting is that Isabella was a very, very sweet person and so is Miss Gaga. A very, very sweet person.”

Gaga’s appearance at Treacy’s 2012 September London Fashion Week show, his first in 8 years, was the surprise entrance of the season, even to Treacy. “She said if she went to my show, she would come in her own way,” he says. “It was all her idea to come to the show. An hour before, she called me up and apologised that she was running 10 minutes late. “She said ‘I’m wearing a brown wig and I’m channelling Isabella’ and I said ‘Ok, I hear you’ thinking ‘Yikes’. And then she turned up looking like her.

“She’s a conceptual artist. She told me what she was going to say and I said ‘please don’t say that, they are going to think I told you to say that.’ She said ‘Philip, don’t worry, I’m not going to mess up.’”

Dressed in a florescent pink shroud that covered her entire face, draped over her arms, Gaga walked down the catwalk with echoing footsteps. She stopped, raised her arms and said in a deep, echoing voice “Ladies and gentlemen, the greatest milliner in the world, Philip Treacy.” She was cut short by the crowd as they erupted in applause.

Born in Galloway, Ireland, Treacy began making hats – “because I was good at it” – while at Fashion College in Dublin. In 1988 he began his MA at The Royal College of Art. Aged 22, he met Isabella Blow.

“Oh God.”

Speaking about Blow, an illustrious magazine editor and then legendary style editor of Condé Nast’s London-based Tatler magazine, Treacy’s voice becomes softer. It is clearly a story he has told before, but one he doesn’t mind revisiting.

“The first time I met her, I was in Tatler’s art department. It was the late 80s and the power suit look was in; navy, white, red suit. It was very suit with pearls.

“Isabella was in evening dress; transparent Galliano cobweb top with a satin skirt and yellow Manolo Blahnik satin shoes. Evening wear while everyone else was in day wear. Today that is a common look, but then it was very unusual. She stood out, she was different. It wasn’t an extreme outfit but she was certainly different. And she had lipstick on her teeth.” He pauses. “She wasn’t friendly, she wasn’t not very unfriendly… but she was checking me out.”

Treacy had been called in by Michael Roberts, then fashion editor of Tatler, to create a green hat, the centrepiece for a fashion story based on the 1920s novel of that name.

“It’s difficult to find a green hat, because weirdly enough people can be superstitious about them. I’m not, I love green hats.” When Treacy returned to college, he had a message. It was from Isabella. She wanted him to create something for her wedding. “I was used to white brides, so I thought she meant a veil. But Isabella was wearing purple. Velvet. With Aquitaine embroidery. So I made her a golden wimple.”

The hat and wimple sparked off a fashion partnership far more significant than designer and muse. After graduation, Blow not only wore Treacy’s creations, but arranged for him to set up his workshop in the basement of her house. “She changed my life.”

Today, Treacy rarely stands still. I have caught him while he is momentarily in his London studio. His itinerary over  the next week alone will take him to New York for Grace Jones’ concert, back to London and on to Melbourne for the Melbourne Cup before working on hats for Armani’s couture collection. London, however, remains his home.

“England is the home of the hat,” he says. “I make hats for very conservative English women who think my hats are normal. That’s why I work in England, I love it here. That is the epitome of English eccentricity as far as I am concerned. Many of my customers are very conservative dressers, but when it comes to a hat they like a very stylish hat. They want something more from a hat.”

Treacy’s craft can be divisive. The image of Princess Beatrice in his creation, a swirling cream, pink hat, at the Royal Wedding in April 2011 caused a stampede of criticism from twitter to the mass media. A month later it sold for a record breaking £81,101 on a charity eBay auction.

“Hats are provocative, they always have been,” says Treacy. “You love it, you hate it, you think it’s wonderful, you think it’s ridiculous. Hats have always brought about conversation. People are attracted to that person; they want to talk to that person.”

Treacy’s recent partnership with Asprey, a company that has centuries of experience in catering to the most extravagant eccentric tastes, is not unusual. The outcome is. He has designed a Christmas cracker.

“They thought I was joking,” he says. “I wasn’t. I love Christmas. Christmas reminds us of our childhood when we were at our happiest.” The cracker is unexplored territory. It’s another version of a hat. It’s something you don’t need, but you do need. It’s food for the soul. A cracker can be beautiful too.”

Every detail of the cracker, on sale at Asprey Bond Street in November 2012, was overseen by Treacy, from the pop up hat that unfolds when you remove the ribbon, the sterling silver thimble engraved with his signature, to the jokes curled inside. His vision, rendered completely, translated to something new.

“We live in a world of shape and I make shapes,” he says. “I have my own style of shape so I can adapt what I do to anything potentially. Designing a building would be fun, in Shanghai, China; they are very open to the future. Sydney Opera House is my favourite hat in the world. It’s not a building, it’s a hat. It’s a symbol of Australia, it’s the most exquisite building.”

“I’m happy with my lot,” says Treacy. “When Isabella [Blow] started wearing my hats first, no one wanted them. Now they all want my hats, her style of hats, interesting hats. People are much more adventurous than they have ever been before.”

Philip Treacy by Kevin Davies, published by Phaidon now available 

Reading time: 7 min



Roja Dove’s worst nightmare is to catch a cold. “I find it frightening. I become very panicked. It is like someone, I imagine, would feel if they lost sight. We take in so much about our world through a sense of smell. It gives you the power of memory whether you like it or not.

“I haven’t travelled on the underground for years. If you imagine smells are music, it is as though someone has put all their records on at once at top volume.”

The curator of Harrods Haute Parfumerie, creator of bespoke perfumes for the global elite and his own range – the number one and two best selling perfumes in Harrods – Dove is The Nose. Commonly renowned as the most significant perfumer of this century, he has helped pull back his industry from the brink.

“There was a point when most houses were launching with 30ml sprays with a free gift,” he says of the old days. “People forget that, that’s how debased it had become. I was embarrassed to tell people my profession after 15 year of training. 15 years! Surgeons take eight.”

Carefully combed back hair, Indian-yellow coloured silk cravat bulging illustriously from his open crisp, white shirt, cuffs just hiding gold bracelets and a chunky watch, Dove is dressed precisely and flamboyantly. His manner is soft and careful, punctuated with the occasional dignified sniff. With the wafts of breakfast, coffee and the floral display, I catch only a whisper of his scent, “something I created just for me, one of the perks of the job.” Those devoted to his work can tell his creations from just a sprinkle.

“There are elements I come back to, because I like them,” he says. “When I was little, my mother used to bake something between a bread and a cake. She made it very rarely, perhaps twice a year and  only in the evenings as we were going to bed. It would go in the oven and as we were up in bed, the scent of this thing, laden with spices and a lot of cinnamon,” Dove wafts his hands “would fill the room. I like very soft spices and I have no doubt that is where it came from.”

Dove began his career at Guerlain, where he stayed for 20 years. Harrods approached him.

“I was invited in for a cup of tea” says Dove, delicately. “Before I was seated they said “We would like to open a perfumery with you”. I said “I would just like tea please”. I didn’t know what they wanted to see me for, but that wasn’t in my realm of consciousness.”

Harrods persuaded Dove to curate his own ultimate collection within their store. “If we were going to open a perfumery, it had to have a raison d’être,” he says. “The world does not need another  regular perfumery. Everything in there is my personal edit of what I think is great perfume. It’s not about whether it is old or new, it’s not particularly driven by its price, it is whether I think it is a good example.”

A perfume historian, Dove found that he often had a better knowledge of a perfume house’s work than they did.

“I spoke to the managing director of Dior to request Diorama and Diorling,” he says. “He told me that they didn’t make them. ‘You do make them, you never stopped making them, but that they only sell them in the Avenue Montaigne.’ They found that they did sell it and allowed us to stock it.”

Dove pauses and shrugs, raising his eyebrow slightly. “Eight years later, those scents have now been re-launched and you can buy them from any Dior counter in the world.”

Although he had been creating bespoke perfumes after his lot gained a storm of interest at a Christie’s charity auction, raising more money than a Mercedes sports car or a holiday for 8 in the Maldives, Dove steered clear of creating his own range until he had dinner with an old friend.

“She said to me ‘wherever I look in the world of perfumery I see your name. Your shadow is enormous. As a client, if I read about you and I want to walk into your shadow, how do I because I can’t find your products anywhere. You need to create your own range so that customers can discover your work.’ I realised that she was right.”

Dove launched his own house in 2007. “Within a month I had the number one selling perfume in the shop, which was one of the pinch, pinch, pinch, pinch, is this really true, moments,” he says, eyes shining, pinching his shoulder. “Now we have the number two best selling perfumes in the shop.

“What I find the most amazing is that we don’t advertise. What seduces the client is actually the perfume. People find my work beguiling enough it seems so that when they smell it they say I will take one.”

Today Dove’s reach stretches across the world. London –“in Harrods, the only truly international address”–Dubai, Russia –“I speak it a little, but only enough to make a Russian smile” – Switzerland and Abu Dhabi . This year he will open in Oman –“I have always wanted to visit, they have the best frankincense” – Germany and Jeddah. He is careful to avoid the mistakes of the other major perfume houses.

“I don’t want to be in lots of places,” he says. “It is very important that wherever we sell the perfumes I will always go to the store and explain to the staff what the stories are and the ideas behind them. I don’t want someone else doing it. It’s too personal for me.”

Dove’s way of introducing scent is unique. Working with a palate of smell across four different families – three feminine, three masculine and two crossing in the middle – he guides you across the spectrum to find your favourite.

“When you meet people who are informed about scent, they talk to you about ingredients. “This contains heliotrope and celiac and exotic benzoine.” How does that help you? We need to get people to understand that a perfume is sweet and sexual. It is a bit like when you go to a restaurant. Do you actually care what the chef was doing in the kitchen? You want to know that what you eat is delicious.”

Dove’s kitchen is a complicated concept. “There are fewer perfumers on earth than there are astronauts,” he says. “If you want to understand my world, close your eyes and try to think of a colour you have never seen using no reference point; so you  can’t say a peachy shade of turquoise because you already know those two colours. Then try to imagine a smell you have never smelled before.

“My world is trying to think of an idea. I sketch an idea of the sorts of smells that might be part of that idea, put them on blotters then put them on a wheel. They mix in the air and you try to see if that will give you what you want. It is trial and error, patience, memory and hopefully having a little bit of good taste.”

Inspired by a selection of adjectives which become the tongue in cheek names for his creations, Dove creates a story, an image behind each. “Take something like mischief,” he says. “I knew I wanted a fresh floral in my palate. Freshness suggests movement and lightness. I thought mischief is perfect. If you think of a child when it has been mischievous what does it normally do? It normally nips there and does the thing it shouldn’t, stands there looking very innocent or it zips out again” he whistles. “You can feel the movement in your nose.”

Some of Dove’s perfumes have a much darker, seductive edge. “When I created Reckless, the name came about in a totally different way. I was on holiday with my partner Peter and he read out a fabulous line; “reckless maybe, foolish never,” he says, gently. “It put an idea of a woman in my mind, a woman who has got what she wants out of life. I saw this woman in the theatre or opera house in the half light with a big open décolleté and a diamond necklace. I had the idea of how the diamonds would shimmer and tremble; the same effect is created in the perfume by the aldehydes. I wanted to create a scent where you imagine the woman going home, slipping out of her silk dress and if you picked it up,” he pauses and takes a deep sniff, far into the back of his nose. “You would smell the softness and warmth of her skin and her perfume.

“It is the antithesis of a man’s world, but something they find irresistible. The woman knows that. She will always take risks and follow her heart, but she will never do anything to damage herself as she is reckless maybe, foolish never.”

So how should you discover if you are a ‘Mischievous’ or a ‘Reckless’? Dove recommends trying each first thing in the morning, firstly on blotters, comparing each one to another until you find the one you prefer. Do not use hand cream or hand wash, wear it and let the perfume sink in.

“Scents are like love affairs, you only know whether it works when you have spent the night together.”

And how do you know if you have found the one? “If you spent the night with a lover,” says Dove, leaning in conspiratorially, “You would know whether or not you would want to go back a second night.”

Reading time: 8 min
The Lodge seen from across the Snake River

The Lodge seen from across the Snake River

Caroline Davies doesn’t care for beaches or spas when she’s on summer holiday. Perhaps foolishly, she mentioned to LUX’s editorial team that she had a taste for adventure. Not long after, she found herself on a plane, headed for America’s wildest bear country. And she survived to tell the tale

“Got bear spray?”, the park warden asks.

My guide nods and gestures with his chin to me. I helpfully hold up a hairspray size can labelled “50 times stronger than mace”. It has a vivid warning photo of a man gushing blood from a bear sized bite in his forehead.

“Well alright then.” The park warden opens the gate and our 4×4 rumbles down the open track and into the woods.

Welcome to Idaho, America’s real life adventure playground. Unlike the well-visited Yosemite to the south west and Yellowstone to the north east, the wilds of Idaho are the well kept secret of those who like their nature without burger bars.

Reaching Idaho Falls, population 60,000, was no mean feat. A few hops across America on United Airline planes of ever decreasing sizes I buzzed over flat fields, deeper and deeper into the American heartland. Touching down, I had been met by Ian, the general manager of South Fork Lodge. Broad and affable with a sarcastic sense of humour, he is in town to pick up me, some groceries and to stop by the Sportsman Warehouse, a cavernous huntsman’s store on the outskirts. Under the gaze of your future targets – glass eyed moose heads and stuffed eagles hang from the soaring rafters – you can browse the racks of rifles and rails of hunting outfits.

“Camouflage isn’t a method of disguise here,” says Ian, catching me quizzically browsing a selection of camouflage bikinis. “It’s a fashion statement.”

We drive through the valleys of low growing potato bushes and dry farming plots of hay. The summer bush fires from neighbouring states have brought a haze to the city and valleys, blotting out the hills in a dense blue until you are almost upon them. After an hour, we begin to descend through the river worn valleys to the lodge. Curled around a lazy bend in the Snake River in Swan Valley, South Fork Lodge is located on 65 miles of dry fly fishing river, making it one of the fishing destinations of the North West.

Tucked away from the main road, past their fly fishing shop, the lodge’s cabins scatter their way across the gentle slope down to the river. Designed to fit with local architecture, the warmth of the honey coloured wood, grey stone chimneys and slate roofs blend with the burnish tones of the forests, the bubbling pebble colour of the river. The main lodge holds the suites, all with their own grey stone fireplace and private terrace looking out to the river. For a little more privacy or larger groups there is an eight person cabin complete with pool table and your own deck on the river. For families or smaller groups the vast double bedrooms with connecting doors give you more than enough space and come with a balcony or veranda. I dump my bags, hit the hot tub and curl up on the rocking chair outside with the wine and jerky from the welcome basket.

A double suite at South Fork Lodge

A double suite at South Fork Lodge

Inside, the lodge is decked with original art works by local artists, hung next to panoramic windows that look out on the landscapes and wildlife that inspired them. The relaxed restaurant, which spills out from the polished wood octagonal dining room on to the flagstone terrace, has recently had a shake up. The newly appointed chef was chosen for his menu of local flavours and produce, created with a twist. Rainbow trout sushi is popular, as is their lamb, and the hen of the woods, served with a reduced cherry dressing to add sweetness and balance to the slight bitterness of the mushrooms, is a flavoursome update on the traditional dish.

Over dinner, watching the few remaining boats sidle past, I meet a few of the lodge’s guide and the sous-chef. He is only a few rounds away from a place in the smoking finals in Memphis, I am told. I look blank, mind whirling with images of grizzled men manically smoking multiple Marlboros simultaneously in a Memphis shed, their eyes on a cigaretteshaped trophy.

“Meat smoking is big business around here,” explains Ian. “Ribs, chicken, all sorts of meat. Our guy came 3rd out of 2000 in the last competition.”

Steamy morning views

Steamy morning views

The lodge holds rib evenings throughout the summer, but the next big event is in a few days time at a local music festival. Despite competition from across the valley, they always sell out. The morning arrives misty and fresh, condensation spotting my boots as I brush past the long grass on my way up to breakfast. Ovals of folded grass, like amateur crop circles, spot the fields; the only remaining sign of the deer that bedded down here the night before. After a large plate of sticky soft French toast with maple syrup I set off. We drive the short distance to Wyoming, past rock strewn drops, dense pines and a winding roadside queue for ‘the world famous square ice cream’ parlour. Stopping in a gravel lay-by we perch above the river to watch the rapids. The river courses through the bolder littered banks, hurling inflatable rafts up and over. Children shriek with excitement, bumping downstream. In summer the water is comparatively low, but the river swells in spring and has taken the lives of a few daring rafters with it. We turn back, pausing to watch the dam that feeds into the Snake River. Built in the 60s, the dam is partly responsible for the rich fishing in South Fork, pushing cooler, oxygenated water from the bottom of the river through and encouraging the creatures that feed the fish to multiply.

By the time we return to Idaho, the dew has dried. I am dropped at the bottom of a steep crag, the edge of a range of hills. Being British, they seem more like small mountains, rough and shrub strewn, thin grey wires bend up and across the peaks.

“T-bar or harness?” Ian asks. I hesitate. I’ve not zip wired before and my palms are already a little clammy. He laughs. I think he’s joking. Helmeted and trussed up in a harness, I clamber into an open air all terrain vehicle next to the driver, an octogenarian with a deep tan and a hearing aid. He beams at me, then starts the near vertical ascent.

“You’re up.” I step up to the small wooden platform, the last point before the slope disappears, becoming a flat rock face. I’m clipped in and edge forward, trying to absorb all of the instructions. “Don’t worry if you start going backwards, particularly when you reach the end, that’s normal. If you go upside down, keep your knees tight and give us a big wave. Ready?” I nod, walk off the edge and drop.

Eight wires later, and jumping off a cliff feels quite normal. I even go upside down while backwards willingly. Blood still pumping a little, but feet now back on the ground, I follow my nose firstly for a dip in the sulphur hot springs next door and then the pizza parlour for a Hawaiian and a jug of ice cold beer watching the sun creep down.

Heading out for a trout of two

Heading out for a trout of two

I wake early to hit the river. Not early enough. The hard core crews have been and gone, setting off at six to catch the first fish of the day and watch the valley waking. Leave as the sun rises and you should catch deer, moose, perhaps even the odd bear, strolling to the water’s edge for a morning drink. Foolishly travelling without a hat, I drop by the lodge’s shop to pick up a floppy khaki number complete with draw string chin strap and a friendly-looking embroidered fish. Feeling the part, I saunter to the car park to meet my fishing guide, Dave.

Dave is a man of few and select words. He has the deep tan of a fly fisher that has spent every summer on the river, black reefer shorts bleached grey by the sun. As I approach he pushes his cap over his salt and pepper hair and I notice that the backs of his hands and knuckles are speckled with small cuts and scrapes, presumably from manly outdoor activities.

“Can you see ok in those sunglasses?” he asks.

My Jackie O style glasses have always served me well before, but as we push off down the river I realise quite how little I see. We bob under a bridge and I squint to spy the nymphs Dave points out stuck on the pillar, brushed by the waterline. Dave gamely hands me his, in a case labelled “welcome to the city”. They are rose tinted. “Not only clever, but they make the world look cheerier.” He says.

We drift downstream, resting up against gravel banks, wedging the boat among the rapids and fishing out. Focusing hard on casting and not catching Dave on my hook – a possible explanation for the cuts – you can almost forget to look up at the soaring canyon around you. Sandy coloured grass and 3ft tall bracken sweeps down the lower reaches of the reddish tinged rock formations, camouflaging the wildlife sheltering from the midday sun. Although you need keen eyes to spot a deer, birdlife is easier to notice, either tucked among the reeds or circling against the azure sky. The water bubbles past, so clean you can see the pebbles on the river bed.

“Gin clear.” says Dave, seeing me watch a failed catch as it slips away down river.

We fish until the sun begins to set, turning the river from blue to copper. As we pull in to the bank and our camp for the evening, a fire is crackling, the beers are chilling and the red wine is breathing in the last of the day’s heat. Ian and his fiancée Haley are at the stove, cooking steaks that fill an entire pan. After a competitive game of horse shoes, someone suggests clay pigeon shooting. Ian mocks me up a makeshift set of headphones – folded tissue paper tucked into a bandana – and gives me a quick tutorial. With no machine to fire the clays, Ian throws them out like a Frisbee. As night falls, we tuck ourselves into the sturdy wooden picnic table to eat platefuls of tender meat and buttery vegetables by torch and candle light. By dessert, a sizzling hot berry crumble, we are all sitting around the glowing embers of the fire, draining the last of the bottles of wine. After a heated discussion with Dave about which really was the greatest Rolling Stones record, I pad into the tall white tent and clamber into my cot.

We wake to a hearty breakfast and a cold dip in the river for the brave. The camp packed up, we jump into the waiting boat and skim back upstream to meet our transport back to the lodge; three glossy steeds, two red and one white. We amble our way gently on a path that takes us through the undergrowth, the trees and finally out of the canyon into field upon field of chest high corn.

Lodge dining with views of the river and beyond

Lodge dining with views of the river and beyond

Back in the ranch there is a buzz. It is the last night of the music festival and it seems everyone is going. The “Young Dubliners” are headlining, an Irish folk band. The park in Victor town centre is rammed, barely an inch of grass between picnic rugs strewn with plates full of ribs, burgers and noodles as people balance bendy plastic pint glasses on the grassy mounds. South Fork’s stand queue winds around the stall; they are nearly out. We grab some of the last rack of ribs and manoeuvre our way to the front. The band starts up, authentic Irish accents, violins and guitars and the audience stands to its feet, jumping around in fake jigs, beer splashing the ground.

My final day at South Fork and I go east to Jackson Hole, Wyoming with my trekking guide, Bob. We stop just outside the centre for a big breakfast at Nora’s and necessities for our walk. I loiter outside the store, admiring the number of different states on the number plates. Jackson Hole is a well known spot for nature tourists and adventure holidays are big business, especially when the adventure feels real. We buckle up in the 4×4 and Bob hands me a bag with the bear spray.

“Just in case, always best.” He says as I scrutinise the directions for use. We head towards the mountains.

Summer may be short but it’s extremely lush

Summer may be short but it’s extremely lush

A boutique ski resort in Winter and outdoor activities centre in summer, Jackson Hole is one of the wealthiest regions of America. “The billionaires are buying out the millionaires.” Bob says as we drive past the airport, sleek private jets lining the runway.

The slopes, now devoid of snow, still run a cable car throughout the summer, offering one of the best ways to see the Tetons. We clamber onboard, joined by a group of five T-shirted men in their twenties wearing three-foot backpacks; paragliders. “We have seats left if you want them.” one says to the rest of the car. I smile, but Bob turns to see if anyone is taking them up on the offer. They are serious.

We follow them up to the peak and watch as they piece together their equipment on the slope. Those with passengers strap them in tightly and point their instructions; run down the mountainside and don’t stop until told or the mountain ends. The first one catches a gust, untangles his parachute and runs, full pelt, off the edge. For a moment he is still, feet just off the ground, parachute hovering above him, then the force of the wind takes him up and off, smoothly gliding. Mesmerised, we watch them each as they follow one another, circling like a bird of prey before curving out of sight behind the mountain. When we reach the bottom, I follow them to their landing spot, watching them bump down.

One of Wyoming’s largest national parks, Grand Teton National Park spans around 31,000 acres, including peaks of Teton range, lakes and forges. Driving past the entrance, we zigzag our way through the trees, as I keep an unnecessarily close watch for wildlife. We are pulled over by an officious looking ranger, tight lipped and severe.

“You sure you guys want to head down this way?” he asks. “There are a lot of grizzlies around and they’re hungry and grouchy. Where you walking?”

“Death Canyon.” Says Bob unflinchingly

Our ranger sucks his teeth. “You sure you wouldn’t rather go to Jenny Lake?” Jenny Lake does sound preferable, but after jumping off cliffs, learning the difference between a Rainbow and a cutthroat trout and wearing a floppy khaki hat without shame, I’m fairly committed to following South Fork’s expertise. We soldier on.

Thinking it’s best to be prepared, I ask Bob for some bear advice. “Well they used to say make yourself small, then they said make yourself big. Neither of those work particularly well though,” he says. “Probably the best advice is to run.”We park at the bottom of the trail. “Bears don’t like to be surprised so if you make a lot of noise that can scare them off.”

I talk non-stop up the mountain, jumping once at a chipmunk. Thin reddish trees flank the path, row after row, disappearing to fine lines in the distance. We pass a thick tree next to the path, freshly shredded by bears in search of food; they were here a few hours before us. The path ahead clears to one gnarled tree, its roots bursting out through the dusty ground, its branches framing the spectacular view; a deep blue lake, pine green forests, jagged mountain sides and tiny bays. Slightly out of breath from my constant conversation, I stand at the edge in silence, leaning against the tree, drinking it in.

Our final stop is Jackson Hole town centre, an idyllic scene with a wooden sidewalk lined with art galleries and boutiques. The highly manicured, lacquered stores gleam with wares of country living; furs, fishing, a bronze of an eagle. It is well equipped. As we ride out of town, we pass a row of tents with a handmade sign reading “Art Fair.”

“Now art,” says Bob, sighing. “That’s the thing that will wear you out.”

Caroline Davies travelled as a guest of Natural Retreats who provide luxury holidays in secluded locations of natural beauty in Europe and the USA. They have recently introduced Natural Retreats properties to buy, South Fork Lodge

Reading time: 14 min



I’m not a car fanatic, a speed freak or adrenaline junkie. I don’t particularly enjoy driving fast. When I learned to drive, I made a conscious effort at smoothness. The goal of any good driver, I thought, was to drive so that your passenger hardly noticed the movement. No sudden turns or slamming of brakes. Right?

“Wrong, all wrong,” comes a voice on a walkietalkie by my side. “You have to hit the brake much, much harder. Jam it as hard as you can and pull the steering wheel to the left.”

Sitting behind the wheel of a Mercedes-Benz CLS63 AMG, stopped in the middle of a racetrack, I had have obviously blown my first test. The voice is Former British Formula 3 and DTM racer Marco Engel, my team leader. I’ve just finished the first leg of the first day of training and I am already coming up short.

The racetrack is in Andalucia, Spain and I am here as part of an AMG Private Lounge event. My co-drivers are all AMG Mercedes owners. The chassis number on their cars qualified them to join the AMG Private Lounge, of which there are now more than 20,000 members. The thirty or so here with me are mostly from Germany and the UK but also from as far away as Brazil, the US and Lebanon. These are people who are serious enough about their cars and driving not only to have paid the price of an AMG but to have splashed out a few thousand extra to spend two days speeding around a racetrack having orders barked at them by professional race car drivers.

The Lounge event is taking place at the Ascari Race Resort. We were helicoptered in the day before from Marbella. From above, the track is a beautiful expanse of tarmac that twists its way through the rolling hills. This 5.4 kilometres track with a total of 26 total turns was once called “the most challenging race track in the world,” by some guy named Fernando Alonso and I get the feeling I’m soon going to find out why.

Earlier this morning we were divided into groups and now each is out on a section of the track being put through their paces by one of the instructors. AMG has brought along an impressive group of rock-star drivers like F1 and Le Mans racer Karl Wendlinger, endurance racer Roland Rehfeld and four-time Mercedes DTM champion Bernd Scheidner.

They have their work cut out for them with me. Back on the track I am finding that this Lounge is anything but relaxing. After my initial break and turn failure, we move onto a series of warm-up exercises including a combination of fast slalom, cornering technique, trail braking and handling parcours, skid pad and lead and follow training. At the end of each exercise we stop just long enough to switch cars between the AMG CLS 63, SLS, SLK and my soon-to-be favourite, the C63 AMG Black Series.

And off we go again. Around and around. I soon find I am pushing the limits, if not of the car then at least my own. I’ve been bitten. The faster I go, the faster I want to go. At one stage in the loop, we get to drag race against another driver. Each time I punch the gas a little harder and break a little later. I’m surprised by how much I want to win. I never do, except once when the other driver was penalised for stopping outside the box.

And it is not only the speed that’s got me. It’s the sound. The primitive, guttural rumble of an AMG is exhilarating. No wonder owners say it was one of the main factors in their decision to purchase one.

Later that day I get a chance to see how it should be done, this time as a passenger in a Pagani Huayra. Equipped with a Mercedes-AMG V12 engine that produces 720 horsepower, this brandnew Italian hypercar has a top speed in excess of 230 mph (370 km/h). By the time I get myself strapped into the passenger seat, my Italian driver is already giving me the thumbs-up. “Ready,” he says and something suddenly pushes me deep into my seatback and I find out what 0–60 miles per hour in just three seconds feels like. The rest of the lap is a jostling blur that proves once and for all that I knew nothing about real driving. There was nothing smooth about that, I say to myself as I walk away on wobbly legs.

Looking at the itinerary the next morning I thought that the “On Road Experience” and the  chance to take a leisurely drive through the Andalusian countryside at the wheel of a classic AMG would be more my pace, but my pace had obviously changed. Halfway through the drive, beautiful as it was, I found myself itching to get back on the track. Before I could however, I was taken off road in a Mercedes-Benz G63 AMG. The vehicle proved to have impressive power as we slogged our way over the muddy hills around the resort grounds but I was here for speed.

Which is exactly what I lacked as we lined up for the big event of the day, a team trail where all the times are added together and the lowest total time receives a prize. I really want this one, or at least I don’t want to let my team down. They’ve been so patient. So this time I really go for it, pushing myself faster and faster until I come skidding to a stop, dead centre in the box. Perfect. I look over to see that my time is just a few seconds worse than the slowest member of our team. Not bad for a non-speed freak. The proud moment is short lived. It appears I’d missed two gates and hit a cone along the way too. It all adds up to 15 seconds of penalty time and knocks my team out of any chance for a victory.

Fortunately everyone’s attention quickly turns to the last event of the day and the chance to run a few laps in a true race car, the SLS AMG GT3. The top-of-the-range of Mercedes-Benz cars, it is a strictly limited edition and so extreme you are not allowed to use it on the road. This was universally considered the highlight of the whole Lounge by my co-drivers. Personally I found the asbestos suit, the helmet with just an opening for the eyes and a driver’s cage that took a Houdini-like effort to get into, almost unbearably claustrophobic. On the track, the car’s raw power is scary and I am afraid it remains beyond my skill set. The experience, however, certainly gave me a new-found respect for race drivers.

I may not have come here much of a “car person,” but by the end of the three days, having driven, and heard, enough horse-power to propel a horde of Mongolians across the Steppe, something in me has changed. Now as the shuttle slowly winds its way back to Malaga airport, I sit leaning over the seatback in front of me like a restless child, watching the road ahead. “Are we there yet,” I ask the driver. “No, about another hour,” he answers. After my AMG Private Lounge experience, I’m confident that I could do it in half that time. And as I watch the olive groves move slowly past my window, one thing becomes perfectly clear, I’d sure love the chance to try. 


Reading time: 6 min

DARIUS SANAI’S Luxury travel views Where our Editor-in-Chief ponders culinary conundrums from his sojourns around the world

Not so long ago, to experience the best of the world’s cuisine, you had to travel to their origins. Interested in exploring Escoffier’s legacy? Fly to Paris, Burgundy or Lyon. Want to know what the greatest sashimi tastes like? Try the stalls at Tsukiji Market in Tokyo. To taste the best Shanghainese seafood, you’d need to be looking at the Yellow River.

Now, everything has changed. Now there’s no question about being inauthentic if you taste Tuscan food in Vegas, or sample Joel Rebouchon in London, or Nobu in, well, anywhere. The greatest ingredients, and the greatest chefs, are where they are.

Which makes Miami such an interesting conundrum. The only food the city can really, authentically claim as its own is Cuban, imported by the hordes fleeing Fidel Castro from the 1960s onwards. That, and the ubiquitous stone crab, served by the pile, a food to eat with fries and a big Sonoma Chardonnay and to grow fat on.

But Miami is also South Beach, host of America’s biggest annual food festival, home to some of the most glamorous restaurants and hotels in America outside Vegas; the place where Russian oligarchs and New York tycoons gather under the sun to talk art, women, wine and song on megayachts and in megaresidences.

And I was intrigued by what my megahotel in SoBe, the Fountainebleau, would have to offer. On the culinary side, that is. As a resort hotel, its offering is pretty evident to anyone arriving up its driveway crowded with limos and Lambos: about 10,000 rooms in various buildings, Art Deco and mock; a properly mega swimming pool which I estimated as around 60m curved end to end, which would have been perfect for lengths, had it not been overoccupied by smooching couples taking advantage of its uniform shallowness; a private shopping mall; a stretch of private beach with uniformed staff shifting sunloungers to the evermoving gaps in the afternoon sunlight as the sun set beneath the giant structures of the hotel itself.

The Fountainebleau is not short of celebrated options, with Hakkasan and Scarpetta operating there. Just to be different I chose to entertain my guests at the hotel’s nouveau-Japanese restaurant Blade, which registers there as one of the ‘casual’ dining options. ‘Casual’ meaning informal service and a lack of tablecloths, rather than low prices.

It was eye-opening. The straight sashimi and nigiri – yellowtail, sea bream toro – was as good as sashimi can be, flown in from Tsukiji as it is in any fine sushi restaurant. A mark of standards and craft, but nothing else.

It was the speciality rolls that would make or break Blade. These were ambitious: the Geisha, with yellowtail, ooba leaf, orange, asparagus wrapped in soy paper with a yuzu miso glaze. The Chateau with spicy snow crab, spring onions, cucumbers, and spicy tuna. The Dragon, with deep-fried shrimp, asparagus, avocado, barbecue eel, miso wasabi and aioli. And what about the Ronin: salmon, mozzarella, tomato, cilantro, Serrano ham, chilli, and crispy onion – about as derivative as you can get and still claim Japanese roots, sort of.

We tried all these rolls and more, and my conclusion on Blade reflects the conclusion on cuisine in general, which in turn reflects a contemporary worldview. They were on the whole beautifully made, with ingredients that had plainly been sourced from the very best possible sources, and hewn together by a chef who understood the intricacies of the human palate. I entertained at Blade every time I could during my sojurn; even ate there by myself once.

But the fact that I was eating at a soi-disant Japanese in a corner of the United States was irrelevant: this is the new food, inspired by everywhere, with certain splashes of somewhere more prominent than others, meticulously made, perfectly served. Just as the model in the corner was a mix of Chinese, Persian, Russian and German, from everywhere and nowhere, so was Blade’s food. Once that meant the worst: international cuisine. Now it is the trademark of a new contemporary quality.

Many hotels thrive these days by attaching luxury brand chefs’ names to their restaurants: these bring in visitors who otherwise would not be seen dining at a hotel restaurant, for fear of appearing like tourists. One of my favourite hotels in the world, though, has another take. The Parkhuus restaurant, in the Park Hyatt Zurich, is as cool, and spectacular in its internal architecture, and as imaginative in its menu, as any high-concept chef ’s: but the restaurant is entirely the hotel’s own.

A sweeping open kitchen dominates the room; ceilings are high, as are windows; tables lack formal dressing, instead bedecked in contemporary architecture. The menu effortlessly combines the casual and the formal, the haute and the bas: you can simply choose ‘Chop, Wood Roasted, 400g’; or go for the Swiss ‘pike-perch fillet, pan fried, herb crust, herb salad, tomato jam’ accompanied by the wood-roasted seasonal vegetables. Both were sublime in their delicacy with the signature of the Parkhuus wood oven.

The menu at Parkhuus is brutally seasonal, in the best possible way: there are no signature dishes, only seasonal dishes, so if you go in autumn you would be crazy not to try the products of shoots in nearby Burgundy, for example. As befits one of the very best restaurants in the city that serves as the capital of Europe’s wealth management business, the wine cellar is breathtaking in its breadth, although I have recently favoured the local draft beer, served swiftly and ice-cool, its hoppy bitterness a welcome counterpoint to the slight caramel sweetness that arises in some of the woodroast dishes.

Parkhuus is an interesting room in that it runs counter to what I normally admire about restaurants. It is a big space, with big windows, and a view technically of nothing but the other side of a quiet Zurich street. Yet it feels sexy, alive, because of the lighting, the attitude, the décor, the service, the style. You feel this is a destination for locals, not because of the name of a chef above the door, but because of the sheer quality.

Around 1000 miles north of Zurich, on a very different kind of lake, is the Scottish Highland hotel of Cameron House. Cameron House is on Loch Lomond, a long lake that stretches like a finger into the Highlands, and you can’t quite imagine the barren beauty that unfolds before you as you stand on the lochside of the hotel, without having been there. On one of Scotland’s most famous lochs, this is the perfect location.

The hotel’s main restaurant has fine views over the water, but on my latest visit I stopped in on the Boat House, the more casual option, on the water’s edge. You feel as though you are floating on this untamed loch, and the casual atmosphere is enhanced by the engagingly informal staff – and the crowds, for this is a popular place.

The menu is created by the Loch Fyne people, they of seafood bars across the UK, and that guaranteed a level of quality: excellent selection of salmon of various smokes, mussels that were well cooked in white wine and parsley; spectacularly presented oysters. Good quality for a seafood lover, if nothing too ambitious, but the view of a snowstorm whitening the head of Ben Lomond across the water (this can happen at any time of year) was ambitious enough.

In the course of my annual travels I stay in quite a number of luxury hotels, and those that disappoint usually outnumber those that excel. So it is a delight when a hotel that was supposed to do nothing other than perform solidly, does so with flair and a panache of proper hotellerie, like a mid-division football team suddenly matching Barcelona at their own game.

That was my experience, shortly after Cameron House, with the Hilton Central in Glasgow. Hilton has been demeaned as a brand over the past years, the sometimes glorious towers of Hilton International now replaced by business lodges stamped with the brand. Some exceptions remain, for me in the U.S., and London’s Park Lane: but Glasgow’s Hilton is evidently in a category of its own. The service was not only attentive but intuitive; the rooms well-arranged, a sort of cookiecutter- plus, for road warriors who want to know where everything is but also have high standards. It was the food that surprised, a sequence of room services arriving swiftly and with pride, steaming hot, sea bass cooked a point, a perfectly herbed soup: the kinds of things you wish room service would do around the world, but it so rarely does. And with staff that took pride: they were neither overtrained, nor obsequious, nor over-aware, nor over-cool: just spot on. Hilton Glasgow, you outdo many of your more glamorous five-star rivals.

Back very much closer to home, I am delighted at the reopening, after a few months’ refurbishment, of my favourite part of one of my favourite restaurant/food shops, Villandry, in London’s NoHo. Villandry is part café, part food hall, part restaurant, and the latter two have just reopened, accompanied by a fine wine theme and a bank of those fine Enomatic machines at which you can taste fine wine by the small pour. Redecorated in exquisite taste by Claire Sheppard and her team, it retains that light, airiness so rare in central London venues, as well as fine ingredients cooked simply, whether for breakfast, lunch or a prix-fixe dinner. Bon appétit.

Darius Sanai is Editor-in-Chief of Condé Nast Contract Publishing

Reading time: 8 min


Christopher Boffoli is the photographer and inspiration behind the astonishing ‘Big Appetites’ series of photographs, of which we publish a selection here. Largely self taught, the Seattle-based photographer decided to take up a creative career after witnessing the events of 9/11 first hand and then sustaining a serious injury at high altitude while mountaineering on Mount Rainier in the Pacific Northwest.

The witty, original and thought-provoking Big Appetites was a finalist for a 2012 James Beard Foundation award and is the subject of a forthcoming book from Workman Publishing, to be released in Autumn 2013. His fine art photography has been showcased in exhibitions across the US and in London, Monaco and Singapore. His work has been published in more than 95 countries and can be found in galleries and private collections in the US, Canada, Europe and Asia.


 What inspired Big Appetites?

The original genesis of this series was a childhood fascination with miniature things. As a young boy I was an avid model builder and a collector of Matchbox cars. Growing up in the late 70’s and early 80’s there was also a lot of television and cinema that exploited the concept of scale juxtaposition. The list of shows and movies with tiny people in an over-sized world is long. It was a very common theme. Actually, it recurs surprisingly frequently in our culture, from the Science Fiction films of the 1950’s to the present day, most likely because it was a cheap, easy special effect to pull off and also one that offered much dramatic and comedic potential. In fact, the idea even suited Jonathan Swift in the 18th century’s Gulliver’s Travels. And if you consider that many museums around the world are filled with miniature idols and other tiny representations of the real world, human beings have had a fascination with minuscule things for tens of thousands of years.

What informs your food photography?

Food was a conscious choice as one of the elements of my work from the start. I thought that it offered a broad palette of beautiful colour and texture, especially when photographed with natural light. Of course I also realized that food would make the work broadly accessible cross-culturally, as whether you eat with a fork, chopsticks or your fingers everyone has a familiarity with food. The surprise was that food really isn’t that beautiful. We tend to see most food from a certain distance at the supermarket or at a restaurant. I discovered that photographing it up close with macro lenses revealed all of its imperfections. Likewise, as a North American I thought there was something to say about the dysfunctional parts of our collective relationship with food that exist amidst the tremendous bounty that is available to us as consumers. Humour and surprise are definitely the top notes in my work. But I hoped this work would open a conversation about portion sizes, over-consumption, industrialized food production and the degree to which we have become food spectators in America, consuming gorgeously photographed food through the media (with our eyes) but over-relying on prepared and processed foods at meal time.

How did you first become interested in it and why?

I saw an exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery in late 2002 (a Chapman Brothers diorama) which used miniature figures in an artwork. Around the same time I saw the brilliant work of Walter Martin and Paloma Muñoz (Travellers) with scale figures presented in snow globe dioramas, often in somewhat disturbing scenes. I loved the idea of luring in the viewer with something whimsical and then surprising them with something they perhaps weren’t expecting. Those two works are what motivated me to begin conceiving what would eventually become my Big Appetites series of photographs. I worked away at the idea for the better part of a decade without anyone at all paying very much attention to what I was doing, save for my young niece who loved the images. But then some of the work in the series was spotted by an editor in Europe in 2011 who syndicated the images in the British press. Judging from the reaction, combining two of the most common elements in just about every culture in the world (toys and food) was more powerful than I ever realized it would be. And I’ve found it compelling to explore both the human fascination with detailed miniatures and with food.

What are your forthcoming projects?

I’m continuing to work on the Big Appetites series. In fact, I have just completed a few months of shooting many new images for an upcoming book to be released worldwide by Workman Publishing (NY) later this year. I’m continuing to show large-format, fine art photographic prints from this series which in the last year have had exhibitions in Seattle, New York, Los Angeles, Toronto, London, Monaco and Singapore. In the UK the limited edition prints are represented by the Flaere Gallery ( I’m also keeping busy with a range of editorial and commercial commissions.

Christopher Boffoli’s work is available at

Reading time: 4 min
Berry pie at De Kas, Amsterdam

Berry pie at De Kas, Amsterdam

Michelin stars are so twentieth century. Karys Webber rounds up 21 establishments around the world where you can have a meal on the wild side, whatever your tastes

MOTO, Chicago

Michelin-starred Moto in Chicago is molecular gastronomy at its best. Chef with a hint of mad scientist Homaro Cantu creates the most inventive, surprising and bizarre dishes for a multi-sensory food experience using high tech equipment and intricate techniques. The menu and ingredients change regularly and dishes are given mysterious names like ‘River’ and ‘Paradise’ that give little away. But one thing is consistent, nothing is quite as it seems: expect hard to be soft, savoury to be sweet and inedible to be edible. In a bid to avoid the use of paper in the restaurant, even the menus at Moto are edible, printed onto rice paper using a modified Canon i560 inkjet printer in which the print cartridges are filled with food-based ‘inks’, including tomatoes and purple potatoes. The science theme also extends to the laboratory style decor, which features walls of the periodic table of elements and displays of glass flasks and beakers.  

Acrobats and fine dining, Circus, London

Acrobats and fine dining, Circus, London

CIRCUS, London

If you favour a side of acrobatics with your dinner then head to Circus in London’s Covent Garden, a late night cocktail bar and cabaret restaurant rolled into one. A surrealistinspired décor, dreamed up by designer Tom Dixon, is striking in black and white with gold Harlequin wallpaper and mirrors galore whilst a Pan-Asian menu offers up dishes such as Chilean sea bass, lychee and aubergine green curry and red pepper lamb chops with chilli and honey. Performances from acrobats, fire eaters, trapeze artists and burlesque dancers occur spontaneously during dinner but come into full force afterwards when the glossy white platform that dominates the main dining room transforms from communal dining table to stage and runway for the entertainment.

DISASTER CAFÉ, Lloret de Mar

If you are someone who thinks going out for a meal is just too easy, perhaps you should make a visit to Disaster Café in Lloret de Mar, Spain where they make eating that much more of a challenge. The bizarre underground restaurant simulates an earthquake equivalent to 7.8 on the Richter scale during your dinner. Waiters don protective headgear and reflective vests and guests, unsurprisingly, are advised to wear machine washable clothing as inevitably things get messy. Even more bizarrely, the restaurant is a hit; tables are booked up weeks in advance by diners who clearly aren’t put off by the fact that the majority of the meal will end up on the floor.


Situated in a restored greenhouse, De Kas grows its own fruits and vegetables

Situated in a restored greenhouse, De Kas grows its own fruits and vegetables

DE KAS, Amsterdam

De Kas is the project of Michelin-starred chef Gert Jan Hageman who in 2001, rescued Amsterdam’s Muncipal Nursery from demolition and turned it into one of the city’s coolest and most beautiful restaurants. Located in Frankendael Park, the 8-metre high greenhouse, which dates back to 1926, now operates as a unique restaurant-comenursery serving up fresh, seasonal and organic vegetables grown on the premises and locally sourced meat and fish. A fixed menu of simple, stylish dishes inspired by rural Mediterranean is created each morning based on the day’s harvest. Recent offerings have included smoked halibut with celeriac ravioli and lemon panna cotta with pomegranate seeds, melon and basil ice cream. The conservatory dining area is minimalist in design, courtesy of Dutch designer Piet Boon, letting the impressive glass structure take centre stage and a four-seat chef ‘s table is also available in the kitchen if you’re interested in seeing all the action. Alternatively, weather permitting, you can also dine outside in the picturesque herb garden.

Underwater dining at Ithaa Undersea Restaurant, Maldives

Underwater dining at Ithaa Undersea Restaurant, Maldives


If you fancy dining with the fishes there’s no more magical an experience than Ithaa Undersea Restaurant on the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island. Residing nearly five metres below the surface in the Indian Ocean, Ithaa – which means ‘mother of pearl’ in Dhivehi, the native Maldivian language – allows its diners to marvel at some of the richest marine life in the world whilst sipping champagne cocktails. Sharks, turtles and stingrays are all regularly spotted along with swarms of tropical reef fish and with a seafood heavy Maldivian-Western fusion menu, there’s a high chance you’ll be able to spot what’s on your plate swimming above your head. Intimate with only 14 seats, the 5 x 9 metre restaurant is encased by 12.5mm thick clear acrylic glass and cost $5 million to build.


Nyotaimori is the obscure Japanese practice of serving sushi on the body of a naked woman. Inspired by this, a restaurant in Tokyo has taken the concept to new levels with a macabre twist. Definitely not for the squeamish, at the Cannibalistic Sushi restaurant, guests are presented with an edible ‘human body’, wheeled out on a gurney by a waitress dressed as a nurse. The chefs at the restaurant ensure that the life size corpse is as realistic as possible, using dough to create the flesh, sushi and sashimi inside to replicate organs and blood red sauce embedded in the skin layer to create realistic bleeding when you make your incision. You can even choose between male and female bodies.


If you suffer from vertigo then this one may not be for you, however for spectacular views and your meal with a side of fear then Dinner in the Sky is a must do. The bespoke experience dangles 22 guests 100 feet in the air at a location of your choice with a chef, waiter and entertainer enclosed in the centre to tend to your needs, plus the swiveling chairs allow you to enjoy 180-degree views. Just make sure you take a bathroom trip beforehand, the whole table has to be brought down if anyone needs to go to the toilet during dinner.

A zip-lining waiter enroute to the Soneva Kiri Treetop Dining Pod

A zip-lining waiter enroute to the Soneva Kiri Treetop Dining Pod


Also taking dining to new heights is five star eco-resort, Soneva Kiri, on the Thai island Koh Kood. Soneva Kiri offers its guests a unique Treetop Dining experience using a rattan pod that seats up to four people. Boarded at ground level, the bird’s nest-esque pod is then hoisted up 16 feet into the native massang trees so guests can enjoy their meal at one with nature and with stunning views of the island and out to sea. The menu also follows a jungle theme serving up dishes such as ‘Canapés in the Canopy’ and ‘Forager’s Basket’ using produce predominantly from the island’s organic gardens. With such a secluded, uneasy to reach location you may be wondering how your food arrives. In fact, the waiters glide elegantly through the trees using zip wires to reach you. However, designer of the Treepod, Louis Thompson, has said, “we are also looking into guests being able to fly on the zip line through the jungle themselves, as there is a certain amount of envy when they watch the waiters.”

OPAGUE, Los Angeles

Everyone enjoys a candlelit dinner so why not go one step further and ditch the light completely? You can do just that at Opaque in Los Angeles where they promise a ‘more stimulating dining experience’ based on the theory that removing your vision heightens your remaining senses, enhancing the smell, taste and texture of your food. Guests at Opaque enjoy their meal in a completely pitch black room aided by waiters who are all blind or visually impaired.

The Wrapping Gallery combines a restaurant with a contemporary art gallery

The Wrapping Gallery combines a restaurant with a contemporary art gallery


The venture of Australian-born theatre director and curator Jules Wright, The Wapping Project in London brings together a restaurant and contemporary art gallery in a disused hydraulic power station. With utilitarian furniture, high ceilings, bare-brick walls and looming industrial machinery, it’s not the cosiest of settings to settle down for dinner, but it is impressive. The daily changing menu offers up treats like veal rump with winter tomato, wild fennel, herb, almond and ricotta, courtesy of newly appointed chef Matthew Young, plus an all-Australian wine list handpicked by Wright. A cavernous art space at the back plays host to a variety of installations and exhibitions each month.


El Diablo restaurant crowns the top of Islote de Hilario, the tallest of Timanfaya National Park’s famous ‘Fire Mountain’ volcanoes in Lanzarote. What makes this circular, glass-walled restaurant unique though is not just the spectacular views and odd location choice, it’s the way they cook the food. The chefs use the semi-dormant volcano itself to grill your dinner to perfection via a cavernous black pit, which reaches to the ground to utilize the natural 400°C heat that emanates from below the ground’s surface. The restaurant itself was designed by the late artist and architect, César Manrique, who was responsible for much of Lanzarote’s development.  LAINO SNOW VILLAGE ICE BAR, Ylläsjärvi, Finland The Laino Snow Village Ice Bar resides in the town of Ylläsjärvi in Finland, just north of the Arctic Circle, and as you may have guessed, is made entirely of ice and snow. Diners here can enjoy local specialties such as reindeer, Lappish potato soup and vodka-lingonberry jelly (served in ice glasses of course) and as the restaurant is kept at a cool -2 to -5 degrees Celsius at all times, fur rugs are considerately draped over the solid ice chairs to keep you warm. The restaurant only exists however during the winter season when the weather is cold enough to sustain it, for the rest of the year it disappears entirely and is rebuilt from scratch when winter next arrives.


For a somewhat tense dining experience, try Fortezza Medicea restaurant in Volterra, near Pisa, which just happens to reside inside a maximum-security prison. An experiment in prison rehabilitation, all the waiters and chefs that work in the restaurant are convicts who inhabit the 500-year-old facility, based on the idea that the inmates will learn valuable skills to help them find work upon release. Unsurprisingly, security checks are thorough: would be diners are required to submit a two-month background check before their reservations are considered and upon arrival at the restaurant, guests have to pass a series of checkpoints and hand over mobile phones and handbags before settling down for their meal. Armed prison wardens are stationed around the restaurant and, just in case, all cutlery and plates are plastic. The menu consists of Southern Italian dishes like mini frittatas and gnocci with a fava bean puree, plus a pianist doing life for murder serenades diners during their meal.

Fully automated service at `S Baggers, Nuremberg

Fully automated service at `S Baggers, Nuremberg

‘S BAGGERS, Nurenberg

At ‘s Baggers restaurant in Nuremberg they’ve done away with the traditional table service in favour of a fully automated electronic system. Customers simply place their orders themselves using the touch screen computers at each table and when ready, your food will come whizzing towards you from the kitchen above on the spiraling metallic tracks that dominate the dining area.


The motto at vegetarian restaurant Annalakshmi in Singapore is simply, ‘eat what you want, give what you feel’. That’s right, it’s up to you to decide how much you’d like to pay for your dinner. To entice your generosity however, the money you pay is donated to the Temple of Fine Arts, an artistic and cultural organization dedicated to serving the society through arts, music and dance, and all the staff at Annalakshmi are volunteers who hold regular day jobs and view their work at the restaurant as ‘service’. The unusual restaurant also has outlets in Kuala Lumpur and Perth.

Sound of Silence, Australian barbecue in the Outback

Sound of Silence, Australian barbecue in the Outback


If a romantic, starlit dinner is more your thing then try the awardwinning Sounds of Silence experience which offers a memorable meal in the secluded Australian outback. Champagne and canapés kick start the evening at sunset on a lone sand dune overlooking Ayers Rock followed by a traditional Australian barbecue in a candlelit desert clearing, serving up classic Northern Territory dishes kangaroo, crocodile, emu and barramundi. After dinner, you can indulge in a spot of stargazing with the resident astronomer on hand to guide you through the night sky. In the chillier winter months a campfire is also lit to keep things toasty.

HAJIME, Bangkok

At Japanese restaurant, Hajime, in Bangkok they’ve come up with a novel, if slightly terrifying, way to serve customers. All food here comes courtesy of enormous, bug-eyed robots, dressed in snazzy samurai outfits. What’s more, they also perform clunky dance routines to Asian pop music for your entertainment. Owner Lapassard Thanaphant invested nearly $1 million to create the boogying robot waiters.

THE SPAM MUSEUM, Austin, Minnesota

Brilliantly dubbed The Guggenham, The SPAM Museum in Austin, Minnesota is 16,500 square foot dedicated purely to the canned meat. Visitors to the museum can experience ‘the world’s most comprehensive collection of spiced pork artifacts’ with exhibitions ranging from a short film entitled ‘Spam…A Love Story’, vintage SPAM brand advertising, SPAM trivia and a World War II exhibit that includes a letter from former U.S. president, Dwight Eisenhower, thanking the company for keeping the troops well fed during the war. Of course, you can also swing by the museum store on your way out to stock up on priceless SPAM collectables.

MESTIZO, Santiago

Mestizo restaurant in Santiago, Chile, doesn’t really look much like a restaurant. If it wasn’t for the arrangement of tables and chairs, catching sight of it you’d be much more likely to mistake it for an art gallery or a museum. Designed by architect Smiljan Radic Clarke, what makes the structure so unique is the use of large boulders to support the wooden roof that stretches over the kitchen at one end, the indoor section of the restaurant in the middle and an outdoor deck patio at the other end. Occupying a corner of Parque Bicentenario, the restaurant overlooks picturesque water gardens and serves an eclectic mix of Chilean and Peruvian cuisine.


As ‘the culinary emblem of Germany’s capital city’, naturally the currywurst should have a museum dedicated to its greatness in Berlin. Opened in 2009 to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the dish, the museum claims that ‘no national dish inspires as many stories, preferences and celebrity connoisseurs as this one does’ and holds interactive exhibitions including a Spice Chamber which features a sausage sofa, sniffing stations and a ‘Currymat’ that will tell you what curry type you are.


Yes, you have read that right. Every September, the people of Marlinton, West Virginia hold the stomach-churning Roadkill Cook-Off Festival. Thankfully, the dishes are merely inspired by common roadkill in the area as opposed to participants actually using animals scraped off the country roads. The rules state that competitors’ main ingredient must be an animal that often meets it’s grisly end in a road accident, be it a possum, beaver, raccoon, deer, squirrel or even a rattlesnake. Previous dishes have included teriyakimarinated bear. Vegetarians need not apply.

Reading time: 13 min

To mix art and wine is a heady contemporary combination: fine wine and contemporary art are two of the hottest ‘investments of passion’ in the world right now. One of Italy’s greatest wine brands, Ornellaia, beloved of oligarchs and thought leaders from Moscow to Hong Kong, has been working with contemporary artists for the past five years, and has just announced the results of its latest collaboration, with Italian artist Michelangelo Pistoletto.

The 2010 vintage marks the 25th anniversary of Ornellaia, from the celebrated Tuscan coastal region of Bolgheri. Pistoletto has interpreted ‘La Celebrazione’ (The Celebration) for the labels of a limited and numbered series of large-format bottles of Ornellaia 2010 that will be sold at auction in London later this year. If you don’t manage to secure one of the ‘vendemmia d’artista’ – artist’s vintage – bottles, don’t fret. Not only is 2010 an excellent year for Ornellaia in particular and Tuscan wines in general: Ornellaia and its sister wine Masseto have been among the best-performing wines in investment terms over the past 12 months. Secure a few cases, and either enjoy with a Chianina beef tagliata in five years time, or sell them and buy a Pistoletto painting for your wall. Perfetto. – Darius Sanai 

Reading time: 1 min
Giorgio Sermonetta

Giorgio Sermonetta


When I arrive in Giorgio Sermoneta’s flagship store in Rome, things get off to a slightly unnerving start. Squeezing into the multi-coloured glove store – floor to ceiling of outstretched elegant hands, greens, yellows, browns and blacks, studs and bows, cut-outs and ruffles – I muscle my way over to what Google images had promised me must be Sermoneta. Bright blue eyes, square figure, neatly cut white hair and a serious mouth. I tap him on the shoulder.

“Mr Sermoneta?”

He looks blank.

“Me? I don’t work here. You’ll have to ask someone over there. I’m just browsing.”

There is an awkward pause as I hurriedly scan the room. The serious mouth twitches then beams and the blue eyes crinkle. “I got you then!”

Before I have time to force a relieved laugh, he says we are heading off for lunch. I follow, past the browsing crowds into the glaring sunshine. Sermoneta’s first glove shop could hardly be in a more perfect location. In the shadow of the Spanish steps, its rainbow colours and glowing reputation attracts passers by and those in the know. While the

tourists marvel at the sheer number of ways you can decorate a hand, connoisseurs march to the front desk for the owner’s advice. Wise decision. Were it not for a helping (well-dressed) hand, you could easily spend hours hypnotically running through the options. Some wide-eyed, open-mouthed wanderers in the corner look like they might have done just that. Carefully crafted, beautifully dyed and exquisitely designed, Sermoneta gloves have graced some of the most influential hands in business, fashion, music, film and politics. Without knowing it, you have watched them seduce and enrapture, part a crowd and denounce dictators. With that sort of power, you had better pick the right pair.

And if you were looking for a guide to gloves, you would be hard pressed to find one more knowledgeable or experienced than Giorgio Sermoneta. He first established his glove business in 1964 after he left the army at the age of 21. Keen to make his own mark away from the family business, he adopted the idea of glove making from his 17-year-old girlfriend’s family, now his wife. With little experience in business or gloves, Sermoneta relied on his wits and wide-eyed creativity to pull him through.

Carefully crafted, beautifully dyed and exquisitely designed

Carefully crafted, beautifully dyed and exquisitely designed

“When I started, I knew nothing about gloves. I was surrounded by monsters in the business,” he says. “Big names. It was like a comedian between mummies. They were old, dedicating their gloves to blue blood; they had only black and brown leather. We wanted to bring something new.”

It isn’t particularly difficult to imagine Sermoneta as the only one refusing to take glovemaking quite so seriously. We take our seats on a busy side street tucked moments from the Piazza di Spagna, but no sooner have we sat down then Sermoneta is up, greeting friends who pass by in streaming Italian, always ending with a husky laugh and a teasing joke as he waves them on.  Unfortunately, to start with, Italy didn’t seem to like his sense of humour.

“At the beginning it was very, very, very, very difficult,” he says, fixing me with a serious stare, emphasising each “very” with a soft bang on the table. “Then I started to find a new way to do business.”

Before I can venture a guess, Semoneta continues.“Tourists!” he says, triumphantly. “They want to buy gifts for their family, maybe five, 10 people to make happy, but they do not have much space in their suitcase. Gloves are very easy, very easy to carry. People started saying to people ‘Go to Sermoneta.”’And this is how I started.”

Trade picked up rapidly.

“I remember the time we didn’t even go to lunch. Starting from 9 o’clock in the morning to 8 o’clock in the evening,” he says of the early days. “No lunch.”

The waiter approaches our table with a hefty maroon coloured menu. Sermoneta waves it away and orders several plates of fresh mozzarella, tomatoes and basil and a mysterious local dish of spaghetti and pancetta, mixed in front of your eyes in a hollowed out bowl of hard parmesan.“

Do you like cheese?” He asks. I nod. He gives me an approving smile.

In his time, Sermoneta has seen many stores come and go. What is the secret to his success?

“Nobody is perfect,” he says. “Something could happen to a Mercedes, a 777 plane, anything, so we give a guarantee. Even from Rome, Japan,  Australia and we still do it. We always put our customer first.”

It probably helps that Sermoneta is an outstanding salesman. Watching him at work is a marvel. As smooth as his leather, he glances at each hand, perhaps gives one a small squeeze then burrows into the rolls of gloves tucked in the shelves behind him, barking ‘what length?’ over his shoulder. Finger gloves to elbow length, embellished or classic; with a no nonsense, experienced tone, he will cut down your options, flicking through the layers of leather hands as though they were pages of a notebook.

“The first pair of gloves you have should be black, because you can do so many things. You can go to a party, an opera, they go with everything, even if you don’t like black,” He says. “Then you can progress.”

And goodness, is there room for progress. The sheer variety is impressive. I ask Sermoneta where his ideas come from.

“Sometimes I wake up in the night, make a little sketch and go back to sleep,” he says. “I came up with the idea of the iPhone touch glove which everyone is copying. This year, I’m doing denim.”

You can see how a love for gloves can become an easy habit to slip into. Some visitors return so regularly that they become friends. When she was U.S. Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright once diverted her cavalcade simply so she could pop by to say hello.

“I was in my store in New York,” he says. “There was one lady trying on gloves while her friend smoked a cigar outside the window. I came out and started talking to her. ‘Do you like gloves?’ I asked. ‘I have a pair of gloves my father left me 30 years ago. They are so worn. No one in the world can make these gloves.’ I asked to see them and she pulled out a pair of beautiful chicory yellow gloves, so used and damaged they looked like they should be in a museum. ‘It is easy. I will make them for you, but I don’t want to be paid. Give me your name and address and I will deliver them’ ‘Annie Leibovitz.’ I didn’t realise who she was. She was so happy though.”

The most beautiful gloves you'll own

The most beautiful gloves you’ll own

Despite the variety of celebrated hands that now boast Sermoneta’s gloves, he realises that gloves are not for everyone.

“If they don’t match your personality or your dress, it is better not to wear them at all,” he says. “It is like having chocolate on a pizza. Disgusting. When you see certain people who have matched their gloves correctly you can say ‘There is a gentleman with a capital G.’”

We stroll out onto the afternoon sunset streets of Rome, Sermoneta chatting to tourists – even once bursting into Japanese – waving at shop keepers, punching the arm of a passing leather goods man.

“Now you have had a long day, I think you must have an ice-cream.” He does not, however, have gloves designed specifically for ice-cream consumption. Yet.

Reading time: 6 min