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fireworks over the thames at henley and the night sky

fireworks over the thames at henley and the night sky

The UK’s only black tie music festival, Henley Festival, returns for its 42nd year, this week. LUX has a look

Mud, sweat and beers. That’s what one associates with music festivals. Well one hopes that there’ll be sun, a friend or two and some good music to make your voice worth losing back at the work the next day. (‘Been off ill, have you?’, one hears the boss ask. ‘Yes, yes’ one surreptitiously croaks. ‘Not at Glastonbury?’ ‘No, no; just a cold…’) Not, however, at Henley Festival…

a stage little up with red lights in the dark

Henley Festival features not only music, but art, comedy and what it calls the ‘Roving Troupe’, groups of roaming entertainers of various sorts.

The town, renowned across Britain for the home of the Royal Regatta, has been pulsing to the UK’s only black tie music and arts festival. The dress code reads somberly that if you are spotted in casual attire, you’ll be ‘refused entry to the event.’ One pictures security guards in morning suits rather than fluorescent jackets. 

boats on the river with people sitting on the side

Henley-on-Thames in Oxfordshire, England, is home to the Henley Royal Regatta, first held in 1839 as a local festival but now an internationally renowned competition.

Henley, in line with its dress code, ensures that both art and gastronomy are focuses of equal measure to the music, which itself proves to be strong and eclectic.

In the past, Henley Festival has featured Jess Glenn alongside the Heritage Orchestra, Melanie C alongside Goldie, and the Pet Shop Boys as well as Chaka Khan. This year, the lineup has procured artists from across the pop, classical, world music, and jazz settings, from Nicole Scherzinger to Dave Stewart’s Eurythmics Songbook, to Trevor Nelson, Gladys Knight and Sam Ryder. Oh, and a minor addition – the semi final of the Euros will be shown as part of the festival this year, on July 10th.

a woman with a guitar singing into a microphone

KATYA, winner of the Rising Star Initiative, rose to fame with her debut single, ‘I’ll Take Your Number’, featured on Spotify’s Fresh Finds UK & IE playlist.

2022 saw the 40 year anniversary for Henley Festival, and marked the founding of RISE – a platform lifting up emerging young musicians, comedians and visual artists. This, as Jo Bausor, CEO of Henley Festival, contents, is ‘rapidly becoming the beating heart of Henley Festival and is at the core of everything we do.” And this year, one will find the inaugural Westcoast RISING Star Award – awarded to multi-instrumentalist KATYA, who has impressed the UK’s largest festival, Glastonbury, as well as BBC Radio 1, for her electronic beats, jazz overtones and soundscapes.

two fine dining plates

The range of dining and drinking options spans from riverside fine-dining to grazing, to various bars across the site.

It’s no surprise that a music festival in Henley – the second most expensive market town in England for property – has opted for black tie. But what is surprising is how radical it seems that, despite the obvious discomfort of mud, sweat and beer, no other festival in the UK has gone for the comfort and sophistication of bow ties, velvet and Veuve Clicquot. For now.

See More:

henley-festival.co.uk

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The Bryant Estate’s 13-acre vineyard, overlooking Lake Hennessey

Bettina Bryant, owner of California’s iconic Bryant Estate, is a wine-world legend. She is also a philanthropist, a significant art collector and cultural polymath, and an advocate of nature and biodiversity. Darius Sanai meets Bryant over a thoughtful dinner in Mayfair, and she, in turn, presents a first-person meditation on her life and work

Encountering Bettina Bryant for the first time, in a Mayfair restaurant, I would not have imagined that she was in the wine industry. Elegant, compact of movement, considered and thoughtful, Bryant has an academic poise. She is an art historian (she studied at Columbia University), a collector and a former dancer. If anything, I would have imagined she was an academic: there is a precision to the way she gives answers, the sign of a mind that does not indulge in irrelevant debate.

Matt Morris: A Cabernet Sauvignon grape seen as a heavenly body – Bryant grapes are harvested according to the lunar cycle.

But Bryant also owns one of the world’s wine legends. Lovers of California’s renowned Cabernet Sauvignon-based red wines, which are as acclaimed and sought after as the most celebrated of Bordeaux, know that her Bryant Estate is one of the region’s own “first-growths”, the equivalent of a Château Latour or Château Lafite. (Unlike France, California doesn’t have an official first-growth categorisation system, but everyone knows that Bryant would be one of them if it did.)

In that, though, there is heartbreak. It was her visionary husband Don Bryant who first established the reputation of Bryant Estate alongside the likes of Screaming Eagle and Harlan Estate, before succumbing to Alzheimer’s, with which he remains gravely ill.

Follow LUX on Instagram: @luxthemagazine

Bettina Bryant, the art historian, collector and former ballet dancer (she was mentored by Mikhail Baryshnikov at the American Ballet Theatre), unexpectedly took over the reins. Speaking with her, the conversation swoops between art, literature and, of course, wine. Although she is a born-and-bred American, Bryant’s parents had immigrated from Maienfeld, Switzerland – perhaps, coincidentally, the heart of that country’s fine wines.

The mineral-rich terroir

They were not in the wine industry: her father, Fridolin Sulser, was an acclaimed psychopharmacologist, an academic and scientific pioneer. You sense this in Bryant, in that precision and compactness of thought, which is common enough for scientists, but not so much for art collectors (this author does not know enough ballet dancers to comment on that side).

Since 2014, Bettina has been Proprietor and President of the winery, dedicating herself to maintaining the legacy established by her husband

Bryant has commissioned some fascinating and distinctive artists, including Ed Ruscha, to work with her winery: a particular favourite of mine is Sara Flores, a native artist from the Peruvian Amazon, whose art is at once deeply organic and somehow tightly graphic, rather like the mathematical forms of nature itself.

This commune with nature is important for Bryant. Her wines are biodynamic, and she has a scientist’s fascination for how natural cycles, and nature itself, interact with not just her vines, but with humans and our creativity. The wines themselves are creations of the utmost elegance and eloquence. Bryant Estate, the original legend, is deep, philosophical, somewhat Kantian in its uncompromising synthesis of nature.

A series of the renowned Bryant Family Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon

Bettina, a newer wine, has a lightness of being (is it autosuggestion to say it dances on the palate?), but also a persistence and gravitas. Bryant has also released a Chardonnay, a white wine of oceanic depth and character. All are made by Kathryn “KK” Carothers, her winemaker, a gentle soul with quiet wisdom and playful eyes who accompanies Bettina on many of her journeys around the world, like a family member. Enough from us.

Matt Morris. Weiferd Watts: The Cabernet Sauvignon vineyard

Bryant speaks about her life and her wines in her own words. We suggest a sip or two of Bettina, the wine, from an Ed Ruscha-designed magnum, as you drink them in.

A former dancer, Bettina’s creative story is interwoven with the wines, including the Bettina wine and this Bryant Estate logo

My journey to the helm of Bryant Estate was unexpectedly swift and accompanied by heartbreak. Six years after my arrival in Napa, my husband, Don, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and was unable to continue day-to-day oversight.

I am immensely grateful for the time we had to work together, for the opportunity to shadow him and ask questions. I also worked early on with oenologist Michel Rolland and helped create the Bettina wine. Establishing myself in the process sooner, the time Don and I shared at the vineyard and our travels to other wine estates was deeply informative and invaluable.

Untitled (Pei Kené 1, 2022), 2022, by Sara Flores

Don was extremely generous with me, opening iconic bottles from his cellar, dispensing advice on running the business, managing and mentoring people and, of course, always maintaining an uncompromising attitude when it comes to quality. For more than a decade, I have been putting his lessons to use as I work to evolve the winery.

Among the things I have implemented are:

Biodynamic farming: I am perhaps most excited to have transitioned the vineyard from organic to biodynamic farming. We use no pre-emergent herbicides and rely wholly on elemental forces, such as fire, to coordinate vegetative growth. We replaced plastic ties with biodegradable twine and, in following the lunar cycles, have discovered that vines pruned during the descending moon recover more successfully than on the ascending moon.

Swell (PICA PICA), Five Rings of Magpie Feathers, 2020, by Kate MccGwire

Already, improvements to vine physiology and vine stress resilience are demonstrable, particularly in recent drought years. We have never witnessed more soil vitality, and I firmly believe that this translates into more expressive and pure wine aromatics. Being in deep connection to the land and its gifts teaches us that we must be in right reciprocity in all aspects of life. For me, this holistic view encourages harmony, balance and beauty in the wines. Much of society has become too extractive. We must engage in good practices and be mindful in giving back to nature. 

Education: I had wonderful mentors in my life and encourage my team to seek out opportunities for continued learning. I created two educational support programmes to encourage employees to pursue deeper learning, both in their chosen fields and in external areas of interest.

Philanthropy: I am passionate about philanthropy and have embraced four areas of support at the winery. First, the arts, emphasising arts education, creative learning and emotional healing through art. Second, the environment, spanning clean energy, climate action, conservation and environmental justice. Third, social impact, covering access to food, safe spaces, tribal support, job training and social justice.

California Grape Skins, 2009, by Ed Ruscha

And fourth, mental health, encompassing research, advocacy and support.

Read more: Visiting Ferrari Trento: The sparkling wine of Formula 1

Immersive moments: I recently engaged the French architect Severine Tatangelo of Studio PCH to collaborate with me on a Tasting Room / Dining Pavilion at the vineyard. She has designed several hospitality projects, including Nobu properties in Malibu, Los Cabos, Santorini and Warsaw.

My desire is to holistically integrate wine, nature and art. I want to honour the vineyard, the wine and the talent behind the wine, and inspire people to be present, to connect with nature, light, music, or maybe even silence. The design approach will be sympathetic to and harmonious with the contours of the existing building and landscape, so much so that it practically disappears, and will utilise materials such as stone, wood, clay and natural fibres.

Supporting small producers: The Napa of today has many other pressing factors at play, compared to when Don founded Bryant Estate in the mid 1980s. Not only has the number of wineries increased exponentially, but we are facing unprecedented environmental factors and supply pressures.

One of my biggest observations over the nearly two decades that I’ve been involved is that many of the new players sweeping in to acquire smaller family-founded wineries seem to have little respect for the essence of what made these small producers special. Post acquisition, I find many of the wines unrecognisable. This was a big impetus to create Bryant Imports, to cast light on – and hopefully protect the stories of – these special producers.

Das Angebot (The Offering), 2016, by Neo Rauch

The art of wine: My background as a dancer and art historian informed my art collecting, and I approach winemaking with a similar lens. To cite music producer Rick Rubin, author of The Creative Act: A Way of Being, “Being an artist isn’t about your specific output, it’s about yourrelationship to the world”. For me, art and wine go hand in hand. The emanative, visceral power of visual art, music and architecture is no different for me than sharing a glass of wine with someone who understands that they are experiencing something ephemeral.

During the pandemic, I invited my friend Tom Campbell, Director of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, to join me and my winemaker in a lively Zoom discussion around art and wine. Tom and Renée Dreyfus, his Curator of Ancient Art and Interpretation, talked about objects and depictions of wine in the museum collections, and my winemaker, KK, examined the artistic process of winemaking.

In 2020, I released my first artistic wine collaboration with UK-based artist Rachel Dein. Using our vineyard cover-crop botanicals, she created a unique impression that we transferred to the interior of the wine box. Many of my collectors claim that this presentation box holds pride of place in their cellars. Art that demonstrates virtuosic ability, wrought by an artist’s own hand, has always compelled me.

I studied a lot of theory at university and, while that can be a very intoxicating and cerebral exercise, I find that I really appreciate the gesture of the human hand in a work of art. No wonder I appreciate the craft of winemaking! My husband and I collected a lot of minimalist and abstract art (Ellsworth Kelly, Brice Marden, Gerhard Richter, Richard Serra), and in 2015 I installed a particularly beautiful grouping in the Great Room of our St Helena home. In 2016, I acquired a wonderful Neo Rauch painting titled Das Angebot (The Offering), and I repositioned a Kelly to accommodate this work. The energy in the room instantly electrified.

The Rauch painting features a central, brightly hued female figure surrounded by male figure en grisaille. The female figure offers fire in her cupped hands, alongside a muscular hand digging its hand into the earth. With this installation, I realised an affinity for figurative work that clearly harkened from my time in dance.

I now realise that this painting was perhaps prophetic, as I lost my home in the 2020 fires that swept through the valley. Thankfully, my connection to the earth remains solid. During the Covid pandemic, I was inspired by how the environment benefitted.

Artist Rachel Dein’s impression of botanicals from the estate, which featured within a wine box

The waterways cleared, air quality improved, turtles were returning to their natural breeding patterns, and so on. I also discovered the astonishing foraged feather pieces of Kate MccGwire and commissioned a large concentric work from her.

My interest in the utilisation of natural materials in art also led me to the Peruvian painter Sara Flores, a 74-year-old Shipibo-Conibo artist, who sings to the trees before she extracts the bark to make her pigments. I find that so touching and am excited to support a documentary film on her life and work.

And Ed Ruscha [who designed the 10th-anniversary artwork for the Bettina bottle] was a dream to work with and very receptive to my ideas – a genuinely generous artist (and human being). It was a complete honour to work with him.

The vineyard is located in a moderate microclimate that fosters natural sugar development and a gradual ripening of the grapes

Tapping more deeply into my creativity and understanding the opportunity to learn and grow is one of the greatest gifts of life. One of my particular joys is supporting others on their learning and creative paths, whether encouraging my winemaker to source and craft our new Chardonnay, commissioning works by artists or evolving my new business venture supporting other small wine producers whose values resonate with my own.

On a more personal level, I am about to begin meditation and mentorship work with a Buddhist teacher. With art and wine and luxury, it is imperative that we recognise the gifts we have been given and treat them responsibly.

Art and beauty have such potential to be catalysts for positive change. I have always loved Gerhard Richter’s quote: “Art is the highest form of hope”. In these turbulent times, I feel more compelled than ever to create and deliver a wine and experience that resonates and inspires.

bryant.estate

 

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Veronica Colondam champions the field of social entrepreneurship in Indonesia with the establishment of YCAB Foundation in 1999

Veronica Colondam was the youngest ever recipient of the UN-Vienna Civil Society Award, a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader, and received accolades throughout her career including Globe Asia’s Most Powerful Women in Indonesia, Forbes’ one of 10 most inspiring women in Asia and one of Asia’s 48 Philanthropists, and one of UN’s Solution Makers;  through YCAB Foundation she helms a social enterprise that aims to improve welfare through education and innovative financing, running programmes that have reached over 5 million underprivileged youth. She speaks with LUX Leaders & Philanthropists Editor, Samantha Welsh about creating a sustainable system that scales change.

LUX:  How have your spiritual beliefs informed your leadership values?

Veronica Colondam: I established YCAB Foundation in 1999 when I was 26 years old. Yayasan Cinta Anak Bangsa Foundation (YCAB) means ‘Loving the Nation’s Children Foundation’) and reflected my love for all Indonesia’s children and my aspiration to nurture intelligent and innovative young minds. As a committed Christian, I believe we are called to be the Salt & Light of this world, to be a Good Samaritan, to love our neighbour and to help all those in need. My leadership values foster a culture that prioritises Integrity, Service, Empathy, Resilience, Vibrancy, and Excellence (iSERVE.)

LUX:  Was there a catalytic ‘aha’ moment, when the scale of social injustice in Indonesia impelled you to set-up YCAB to drive change?

VC: For me it all started with education injustice.  About three years after YCAB was founded, I realized that the school drop-out rate in Indonesia was very high.  Millions of students did not complete their primary education. Further, the ASEAN Free Trade agreement 2010 put Indonesians at a competitive disadvantage as our schools did not offer teaching in tech and English.  In response, we launched our first Rumah Belajar (Rumah = house, Belajar = learning to improve English and tech literacy.  The ‘aha’ moment was when my 12-year-old daughter, Adelle took me as parent chaperone on her school community project and introduced me to the concept of microfinance.  This catalysed our YCAB family intervention model.

YCAB Foundation is the founding and flagship organisation in the YCAB social enterprise group which bases its operations on a mutually reinforcing and financially sustainable social change model

LUX:  What was the thinking behind that?

VC: We implement a family intervention model that empowers both mothers and children – ‘prosperous mothers smart kids’.  We can transform low-income families and lift them sustainably out of poverty. We focus on the mothers because research shows the critical impact of a mother’s prosperity on the household.  Economically-empowered earning mothers are in a better position to support their children’s education, reducing high school drop-out rates and lifting the family unit.

Follow LUX on instagram @luxthemagazine

LUX:  Why is YCAB’s microfinance model sustainable?

VC: This comes down to the integration of financial support with educational advancement.  We deploy capital to fund low-income women entrepreneurs ensuring their children’s education is a precondition for loan access.  This dual focus on immediate financial aid and long-term educational goals fosters a cycle of empowerment.  Additionally, YCAB’s transition into a self-reliant social enterprise, where profits from its ventures are reinvested into its mission, underpins its sustainability. The model’s success is evidenced by its recognition and supervision by the Indonesian Financial Services Authority, highlighting its impactful and sustainable approach to breaking the cycle of poverty and promoting community welfare

YCAB’s change model has one clear mission which is to improve welfare through education and innovative financing. YCAB aims to vitalize underprivileged youths to become self-reliant through economic empowerment and education, bringing them from mere subsistence to sustainable livelihood

LUX:  Twenty five years on, how successful has YCAB been in mobilising resources throughout Asia?

VC: We mobilized more than $120M US to reach over five million low-income young people, together with hundreds of thousands of mothers. This is equivalent to a per capita increase from $2 to the threshold of an aspiring middle class at $8.

LUX:  How did YCAB evolve from a not-for-profit to a social enterprise model?

VC: Honestly, I didn’t know anything about the concept of social enterprise back in 1999!  In fact, the term “social enterprise” only began gaining recognition in Indonesia about 12-15 years ago. I initially founded YCAB with financial sustainability in mind and after the first year, I started-up a company as the first business unit of the foundation.  Over time, we developed several business units to support the foundation’s mission and around 10 years’ later, after my INSEAD program, I realised we were operating under a social enterprise model.

LUX:  Where does microfinance fit within social impact entrepreneurship?

VC: Microfinance operates as a business model and enables the poor to access capital. This embodies the essence of social entrepreneurship, where business and social impact are integrated into the model. We leverage our for-profit businesses to support the mission of YCAB, the foundation, so we operate our education program under the YCAB Foundation structure, and the economic empowerment program for mothers (or MFi) under YCAB Ventures, a company licensed by the Indonesian Securities and Exchange Commission (OJK) since 2015. Under the Ventures structure mandated by OJK, we engage in equity-like investments to support SMEs and have expanded into impact investment. This structure allows us to consolidate all our companies that support YCAB’s mission into a portfolio — from our original business units to new impact investments. The Ventures structure provides us with the flexibility to engage in financing (MFi), investments across all business units and new impact ventures, all while advancing our agenda of empowering families out of generational poverty towards a prosperous future.

YCAB believes in the power of education to improve welfare. To date, YCAB has brought impact five millions underprivileged youths and hundreds of thousands of low income families

LUX:  YCAB’s partners rank among the world’s leading corporates;  what is it about your approach to partnerships over 25 years that secures engagement at this level?

VC: We are commited not only to meet the needs of our beneficiaries but also to align closely with the objectives of our partners, some being the world’s leading corporations. One key aspect of our partnership strategy is our engagement with governments. Sustainable change requires collaboration across sectors, so partnering with governments allows us to leverage their resources, expertise, and influence to optimise our impact. Furthermore, our board members bring their expertise, networks, and insights to the table which enhances the value proposition for our partners, because partnerships are strategic, impactful, and mutually beneficial. Successful partnerships are built on a foundation of trust, collaboration and a shared commitment to driving positive change.

Read more: Zahida Fizza Kabir on why philanthropy needs programmes to achieve systemic change

LUX: Was there any time that you overcame a barrier that, in retrospect, catalysed a systemic solution to a particularly challenging social problem?

VC: The first standout catalytic moment was our shift in focus from preventing youth drug addiction to primary prevention through education and soft skill development, addressing the root causes of youth curiosity toward substance abuse. However, gaining access to schools, the focus of our target audience was a significant challenge. In 2002, in a pivotal moment for YCAB, I and our board member Professor Rofikoh Rockim met the former Minister of Education, Mr. Yahya Muhaimin. He granted us his influential letter of recommendation so we could access schools and campaign with authority. This shows the impact of personal connections, advocacy, and strategic partnerships that sparked transformative change and empowered communities throughout Indonesia.

The second catalytic moment was the covid pandemic. During lockdown, we could only help people who had basic literacy and smartphones to access e-support, including e-donations.  We also used a WhatsApp-based chatbot. This revolutionised the financial literacy of mothers, the clients of our MFi program.  The pandemic also opened the door to financing social goods using capital market products, such as mutual funds. To coincide with YCAB’s 25th Anniversary in August 2024, we will launch financial products that offer financial returns with social impact. This is gamechanging because with philanthropy in Indonesia, there is generally no tax deduction for donations aside from Islamic zakat giving which is regulated by a national zakat collection body. For non-religious non profits like YCAB, giving is not tax deductible so private corporate CSR donations are taken from EBITDA, contrary to public-listed companies.

YCAB is now exploring ways to implement the last link in its change model, that is, to create a sustainable system whereby students who graduate and become entrepreneurs or employed can pay it forward

LUX:  What is impact exactly for a social impact entrepreneur and how can you measure it fully?

VC: At YCAB, we embed impact measurement into all our programs. With our microfinance initiative, for example, we conduct our “welfare survey” with our beneficiaries tracking our impact on their increased earnings, business expansion, and perhaps most significantly, the educational opportunities their children receive as a result of our interventions.

LUX:  Finally, how do governments and financial institutions benefit by partnering with SIEs?

VC: We are not sitting behind our desks, we are out there in the heart of communities, listening, learning, and understanding their real needs. These grassroots connections mean our initiatives are genuine and address issues where they make impact, right where people live and breathe. We are always pushing boundaries, finding fresh ways to tackle age-old problems. When governments and financial institutions join forces with us, they are tapping into that spirit of innovation. When we innovate together, that vision becomes more than just a dream – it becomes our shared reality.

ycabfoundation.org

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Roia
Roia

The modern fine dining restaurant Roia offers a division between Asia and Europe. The Chef-Partner Priyam Chatterjee explores traditional French techniques with a focus on the flora found in the Botanic Gardens from where they source key herbs and flowers.

In our Spring/Summer 2024 Print Edition, the opening page of our LUX Report is dedicated to an intriguing new development from a fascinating Singapore entrepreneur. Kishin RK’s new fine dining destination, Roia, is located, unusually for Singapore, in a historic building surrounded by lush tropical foliage. It’s a new landmark destination, as Kishin explains to LUX Editor-in-Chief Darius Sanai

Kishin RK, owner of the new landmark Roia restaurant set in a réapplication of a Unesco World Heritage site in Singapore and featured on this page, is something of a paradox. Softly spoken and understated, he eschews the glitz and high profile sought by some of his fellow young(ish) billionaire entrepreneurs from Singapore and its sibling, Hong Kong.

Roia

The restaurant’s ambiance is a reflection of its culinary philosophy

When LUX meets him in a café in an upscale Singapore mall, he is full of boyish enthusiasm for his new projects – enthusiasm backed by the forensic eye for detail that made him the country’s youngest billionaire. But Kishin’s paradox is that he doesn’t want to just be a dealmaker, acquiring wealth through real estate and his other investments: he also wants to be a game-changer, a place-maker.

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His family has already achieved this through the redevelopment of Robertson Quay in Singapore, home to the swanky 1880 private members’ club (a kind of Soho House for the finance sector); and, in a subtle way, through the reshaping of the heritage site at the Singapore Botanic Gardens that now houses Roia.

restaurant

Chef Priyam Chatterjee’s dishes, are reflections of blending his experiences and artistic inspirations into each course.

Kishin has international ambitions for his place-making, with London at the top of the agenda. His philosophy? “The most exciting and fascinating thing to me as a developer is focusing on districts and creating a very strong energy, shaping the behavioural patterns of people who visit.”

Read more: Mandarin Oriental, Singapore, Review

restaurant

From power lunches that talk business to intimate gatherings, Roia has a space for every kind of meeting

His philosophy – casual but distinct, energetic, with a tailored style and high standards in cuisine – will be arriving in London, his favourite European city, soon. Watch this space.

www.roia.sg

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Night facade of Mandarin Oriental Singapore

Recently reimagined Singaporean elegance at Marina Bay: LUX Checks In

Checking-in from the heat of a long day, MO’s calming presence of a vast ring of concentric rooms welcomes one in. Across its new colour scheme of pinks and greens, one feels that Wimbledon might just take some notes, to be lifted to a quiet Singaporean elegance.

The room had an immense view of Marina Bay’s iconic skyline (but safe from its heat): lay back, feet up, and helped myself to delicious Singaporean chocolates.

Singapore skyline with a pool

Up on the 5th floor, Mandarin Oriental’s 25-meter swimming pool looks over the Singapore skyline

Wandering around vast zen corridors, I checked out for myself what are supposedly world-renowned cocktails at the MO Bar. Dark blue suave, art deco chic – I had a reclaimed Singapore Sling to begin, naturally. It had a sweetness without overdoing it – and cutting beneath with jagged sourness  it was balanced by a bright lollipop – a humorous play on Singapore’s original historic drink.

A cake store with lavish decorations

Mandarin Oriental has various food stores and its cake shop has artisanal confectioneries, specialising in cakes, pastries, festive treats, and premium gifts for all occasions.

After their recent revamp, I’d like to see the room where the chemistry of cocktails takes place – it seems a Willy-Wonka-cum-James-Bond enterprise – and it delivers. Onto the ‘White Rabbit’ cocktail, made with an edible layer of an image of a White Rabbit, the type that slips onto the tongue and dissolves. But the real taste lies underneath, with a laksa tang.

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From fresh Singaporean breakfast to lunch the next day, I swanned up to the pool for a dip with another view of the skyline, before a welcome Italian twist. Ruinart blanc de blanc, antipasti, fish and exquisite cheese looking over the pool – what more could one want, apart from an Italian waiter himself serving with Mediterranean charm and gastronomic expertise? Well, it had that too.

Read More: Nira Alpina, St Moritz, Review

Night facade of Mandarin Oriental Singapore

Mandarin Oriental has 510 rooms, and 8 restaurants, also including MO BAR, The Spa, and a lounge and club HAUS 65.

A much needed massage at The Spa after months of London brought a zen which – well, I only wish I could maintain it in London, but without the Singaporean skyline and fresh noodles it won’t be so easy.

See More:

mandarinoriental.com

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LUX checks in to Borgo Santandrea, a sweet spot on the Amalfi coast which feels far from the madding tourist crowds

‘Everybody should have one talent, what’s yours?’ Or so says Dickie Greenleaf in the thriller – most recently a Netflix hit – TheTalented Mr Ripley. If it was Italy, rather than criminal Tom Ripley, responding, the answer would not be ‘forging signatures, telling lies, impersonating practically anybody’, but, perhaps, ‘Venezia, Roma, Toscana… Amalfi’. But how could one pick just one? Across its various shooting locations Ripley’s Amalfi shone out in staggering blue. I couldn’t resist.

A private beach, a pool, and ancient buildings look out onto the Amalfi Coast

A private beach, a pool, and ancient buildings look out onto the Amalfi Coast

It’s hard not to reach for clichés when, checking into the room, one is faced with a vast abstract painting of two blues – that is, sea and sky – contained like a Rothko in their window frame. The room seems to lead one towards this, across bespoke furniture and their signature tiles of blue and white.

Read More: Mandarin Oriental, Zurich, Review

Tucked away, 52 metres above sea level, one sleeps cocooned in something which is clean, refreshingly modern. And yet, at the beach bar, Marinella Beach Club, one still feels that one might just hear the fisherman, raising a glass of limoncello up with a clinking ‘salute!’ after a long day of hauling nets into its ancient building.

a table, a moon, and the sea

Alici, for fine dining at Borgo Santandrea, is a 1 Michelin star restaurant

Holding onto both old and new is the Marinella Restaurant. A Cardinale Twist to begin, for me. Its bitter freshness is what I want in the salt air, while I browse the menu. It seems wrong to bypass fish while sitting by the setting sun over the sea. Borgo Santandrea do it as they should – tender, fresh, not overdone or too spiced up; the ingredients are as fresh as they can be, so I begin with a platter of shellfish sprinkled with Amalfi lemon zest.

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Next comes a confession. I’m afraid I have a weakness for ‘Zucchini alla Scapece’. It’s that type that has its natural sweetness balanced by the acid of its vinegar marinade and freshened by mint. It brings me back to a Neapolitan chef in Tuscany, who – unable to comprehend how one of his customers didn’t like garlic – would stamp about the kitchen, thumb to fingers shaking his hand in the air, muttering histrionically, ‘è aglio, dio mio’. But fear not, here – garlic brings out the juices of a tender, grillet fillet of fish, paired with potato.

a pool, the sea, and a floor

Each room at Borgo Santandrea is styled in a different way, looking at various shades Meditteranean styles

Not that a need a ‘pick-me-up’, or ‘Tiramisu’, following this, but it did the trick. And my swim provided a salty digestivo, and, under its soporific gauze, I fell into a deep slumber, back in the bedroom of signature artisan chic, just 50 metres above the sea.

boats on the sea

Bespoke boat trips are offered for guests across the hotel

I have no doubt that The Talented Mr Ripley will be sending lots more people Amalfi’s sun-warmed way, and I’m lucky I had got there before. Lucky, too, that – contrary to ‘telling lies… impersonating practically anybody’, Borgo Santandrea provides a rare pocket of honesty along an increasingly tourist-ridden place. It seems to pare itself back to the essence of Italy’s talent – if there is just one, that is – that laidback elegance and spirit that can’t help but leak into one, and see the utter necessity of shaking one’s fist at garlic.

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a plate of food with green vegetables and red chilli
a plate of food with green vegetables and red chilli

Shisen Hanten’s signature steamed sliced kurobuta pork with chilli

Michelin-Star Singaporean Restaurant – renowned for high levels of food, and a view of Singapore from 35 levels high. LUX checks it out

Muted chandeliers, an almost debonair charm welcome one in – and the lights across night sky waving from fellow tall buildings, silhouetting the Singapore skyline.

a chef with lots of fire

Shisen Hanten’s Executive Chef, Chen Kentaro

We were served what is called the ‘Opulent Menu’ – something that Chef Kentaro likes to nimbly stretch across Szechwan cuisine with an embition menu, celebrating signature flavours of Shisen Hanten – a fusion, if you like – and traditional Cantonese flavours.

A fine Devaux Cuvée to start, to accompany a selection of (particularly succulent) prawn, pork and specially delicious bang bang chicken.

Next a Foie Gras Chawanmushi with Crab Roe soup. And the crab was so fresh that some guests, who didn’t like tripe, enjoyed these just fine.

a bowl with soup in it

Shisen Hanten’s Foie Gras Chawanmushi with Crab Roe Soup

But the freshness of a Wagyu Beef rose above itself, complimented by a glass of Torbreck. Tender, and served across an array of dishes.

a room with mood lighting, a large table and lots of chairs

Shisen Hanten is located on the thirty-fifth floor in Orchard, Singapore

Steamed lobster was cooked confidently, amply seasoned with its Yuzu soya sauce – retaining its juicy tenderness, and matched confidently by an Australian Chardonnay of a calm dry and the stir-fried tofu had a signature Singaporean fire unmatched.

a bowl with a red spicy-looking soup

Chef Chen’s Original Spicy Noodle Soup

Night was closing in, lights were beginning to turn out in the disciplined buildings of Singapore, but time for just one Szechwan jelly with delicious fresh fruit. One last sip of Chardonnay, before descending the many flights to the heart of the city below.

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woman
woman

SAJIDA Foundation is a value-driven, non-government organisation. It embodies the principle of corporate philanthropy.

From a garage school start-up with 12 children educated for free with two meals a day, fast forward 30 years and SAJIDA’s annual budget is close to US$13 million with a microfinance portfolio of approximately US$300 million and seven independent portfolio companies.  CEO Zahida Fizza Kabir speaks with LUX Leaders & Philanthropists Editor, Samantha Welsh, about relieving extreme poverty through systemic interventions in climate change resilience, women’s health and livelihood, mental health, and urban poverty.

LUX:  How did SAJIDA come about?

Zahida Kabir: In 1972 my father was MD & Chairman of Pfizer Bangladesh, which in 1991 reincorporated as Renata. Renata is the fourth largest pharma company in Bangladesh. SAJIDA Foundation was the brainchild of my father, who was driven by compassion and a strong sense of duty towards the less fortunate. It started modestly in 1987 as a school for underprivileged children in my parents’ former garage.

In 1993, my father gave 51% of Renata’s shares to SAJIDA as a 25th wedding anniversary gift to my mother. I have been with SAJIDA since the start, shared my father’s vision, and helped it grow to the organisation you see today

LUX:  How did you evolve your leadership role?

ZK: I have always believed in empowering women, particularly mothers; SAJIDA recognizes the pivotal role women play within the family, community, and broader social context. At SAJIDA, we advocate for the holistic empowerment of women within the context of their multifaceted roles and contributions. Bangladesh is still a country with about 32 million people living below the poverty line. Women in particular face significant barriers to recover in health and education. SAJIDA is committed to mitigating the gaps by focusing on women’s and mothers’ welfare.

woman

The organisation, founded in 1993, aims to empower communities, catalyse entrepreneurship, build equity and establish enterprises for good with an overarching vision of ensuring health, happiness, and dignity for all.

LUX:  What are SAJIDA’s standout impacts?

ZK: Thirty years on, we have representation in 36 districts impacting lives through our Development and Microfinance programmes. Microfinance Programme empowers over 700,000 participants, mostly women, to benefit from our USD 377 million portfolio.

This lifts more than 6 million individuals, or 1.5 million households, annually. At SAJIDA, we see all our work through a gender lens. How is our work benefiting women? Are we investing in the welfare of the mother?

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LUX:  How are women’s rights reflected in SAJIDA’s governance?

ZK: SAJIDA is a family of over 6,000 employees, each contributing to drive meaningful change.We advocate strongly for our female employees at all levels when it comes to implementing safeguarding policies at in their workplace. We also advocate for female leadership at all levels.

Since founding, SAJIDA has been led by a woman. Women encounter disproportionate challenges across various domains, yet their invaluable contributions are often overlooked for short-term gains.  At SAJIDA we understand that empowering women leads to exponential impact.

LUX:  What are the main areas of SAJIDA’s work?

kids

SAJIDA’s operations in Bangladesh have touched over 6 million individuals through its multi-sectoral development programmes which focus on poverty alleviation, community healthcare and climate change.

ZK:  SAJIDA interventions are under two main umbrellas – healthcare (which includes Renata Ltd) and financial inclusion. Our development programmes blend both within our main themes: climate change, women’s health and livelihood, mental health and urban poverty. Our Climate Change Programme targets vulnerable communities, utilizing a Locally Led Adaptation approach.

Uttaran Programme focuses on women’s health and livelihood development striving to improve Reproductive, Maternal, Neonatal, Child, and Adolescent Health outcomes. We recognize the unique multiple challenges faced by the urban extreme poor with our SUDIN programme adopting a holistic approach encompassing economic, health, education, community mobilisation together with our Mental Health Program.  Indeed, we are dedicated to advancing mental health care in Bangladesh and have one of the country’s largest multidisciplinary mental health care teams.

LUX:  How is this work supported at grass roots level?

ZK: We support the health programs in a number of ways. We have a 80-bed hospital equipped with ICU, NICU and dialysis facilities; our Home & Community Care service for the elderly; Inner Circle Private bespoked suite of services for special needs and autistic children; and, most recently, Neuroscience & Psychiatric provides mental health care. My commitment is to prioritize solutions to social challenges over purely profit-driven ventures and we catalyse entrepreneurship to empower communities through our financial inclusion interventions. Our Microfinance Programme fosters economic empowerment. We have also established our Impact Investment Unit to offer investment opportunities to smaller ventures.

LUX:   How do you teach women to value entrepreneurship?

ZK: SAJIDA’s Microfinance Programme prioritises women’s economic empowerment by providing collateral-free loans. Our interventions are also at point of inter-generational wealth transfer, as it is important to guide second-generation women and affluent women to make good decisions and use their resources effectively. To extend our entrepreneurial ecosystem, we collaborate with Orange Corners to launch initiatives to support innovative ideas provided the company has at least one female founder.  We believe using tech is a driver to women’s effective entrepreneurship and innovation. Digitally-literate women entrepreneurs deliver 35% higher ROI compared to their male counterparts.

Read more: Leading MACAN, Indonesia’s first contemporary art museum

LUX:  How is SAJIDA using tech to scale engagement with your programs?

 ZK: Our goal is to be a fully-digitised organization so we have launched several mobile and web Apps to offer a range of functions and services to our beneficiaries, stakeholders and SAJIDA employees. Our Microfin360 FO collection App is a digital credit system that synchs all transaction history in real-time with a web application, allowing Field Officers to view essential daily reports such as due reports, unrealised collection reports, and loan settlements. We are developing a Digital Passbook ‘Agrani: Amar Pashbook’ to give our Microfinance Programme clients access to their financial information, facilitate communication, and offer essential services.

Our Field Force Management Platform (FFMP) is an App which automates outdoor workforces and facilitates easy monitoring of field employees in real-time with its instant notification feature. In 2022, we launched our Monitoring Module to streamline our Monitoring and Evaluation processes through a dashboard for our monitoring officers to access data, analyse, share and report on impacts from their laptops.  We favour a programmatic approach over projects if we are to maximize lasting impact. And for this we need sustainable, long-term funding.

school

The foundation enables communities to have agency over their own development, be their own drivers for change and instill a vested interest in their own futures.

LUX:  How can microfinance help communities, for example, to become climate resilient?

ZK: Bangladesh is the seventh most extreme disaster risk-prone country in the world.  To build climate resilience we have to open up access to water and sanitation infrastructures. Microfinance can facilitate tailored loans and microloans for constructing rainwater harvesting systems, ensuring communities have access to clean water during the dry season, significantly improving community health and resilience. Customized financial products, including savings, credit, and insurance, which are tailored to the local context can be instrumental in supporting smallholder farmers in disaster-prone regions. Microfinance can facilitate investments in climate-resilient practices and the adoption of environment-friendly technologies by designing loans to support MSMEs to purchase environment-friendly technologies and agro-machineries. Weather-indexed insurance and bundle insurance for both crop and livestock can act as a shield against unprecedented climate events.

LUX:  Where do you collaborate to scale climate resilience?

ZK:  In areas where SAJIDA microfinance branches are not present, we collaborate with other Microfinance Institutions (MFIs) to reach a wider range of climate-vulnerable communities. By providing first-loss guarantees, or credit guarantees, SAJIDA facilitates the provision of zero-interest loans through partner MFIs. This strategy maximizes the impact of our resources, enabling us to extend the benefits of reduced-interest loans to a broader population, acting through intermediaries.   It is important to take a collaborative approach with public and private agencies to enhance the effectiveness of microfinance interventions. Remote consultancy and weather advisory services can increase the community members’ capacity to implement resilient practices. Matched savings products where the community members can collectively save and receive matching funds from the programme and rotational savings products to facilitate savings and investment in resilient agricultural practices, can further empower these communities. The programme can also support the green skills enterprise within these communities, which are necessary for implementing and maintaining climate-resilient practices

LUX:  What is the role for NGOs? 

The foundation covers four thematic areas: catalysing entrepreneurship, fostering equity, community empowerment and enterprises for good.

ZK:  As Bangladesh’s journey progressed, and the country graduated from an LDC to an LMIC, we, at SAJIDA also evolved our approaches accordingly. We transitioned from a service delivery mindset to a system-strengthening approach. This evolution involves enhancing existing public systems rather than operating separately.  NGOs have a crucial role to play in shaping broader climate financing and sustainable development strategies at the macro level. NGOs also serve as incubators for innovation, testing, and refining models that can be scaled up and replicated across diverse contexts.  However, they should engage with the public administration, private entities, and policy-making bodies from the outset so that real-world needs are aligned with broader development goals.

LUX:  What is the approach to public private partnerships?

ZK:  The start-up and social enterprise ecosystem is at a nascent stage in Bangladesh and many parts of Africa. To support ecosystem development, sector-specific incubation and accelerator programs need to be introduced and the deployment of blended patient capital will be critical. As mentioned, this is why SAJIDA is currently implementing the Orange Corners program, to provide heavy-touch mentorship to budding entrepreneurs to develop effective business models.  SAJIDA also implements smart solutions in the areas of WASH, agriculture, and health to empower and uplift communities. I believe an empowered community will be attractive to the private sector and thus paves a pathway for mobilising additional capital.

LUX:  Philanthropists talk about taking ‘baby steps’, how would you guide a philanthropist starting on their journey?

My father was a caring, compassionate and empathetic man.  From a young age he was deeply troubled by the inequalities in the world around him.  He wanted to solve a very complex problem, that of poverty.  I believe that behind every desire to make a change is a passion to challenge and to stand up for the most neglected in society. We all have to believe that it is our responsibility to make a contribution to the betterment of our society. The size of the contribution does not matter – no amount is too small.  Ask yourself this, what will be my legacy?  What kind of a world do I want to see for the next generation? I urge everyone to take that leap. Take that small step to see what you can do.

www.sajida.org

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restaurant
restaurant

Set between Belgravia and Knightsbridge, Pétrus by Gordon Ramsay is a Michelin starred restaurant serving exceptional modern French cuisine.

LUX heads to Gordon Ramsay’s classic London restaurant, which has just celebrated its 25th anniversary, and experiences effortless gastronomy at its best

Petrus is located in one of the quietest and most bijou parts of the Duke of Westminster’s Grosvenor Estate, in London’s Knightsbridge. We parked right outside, on a Friday night, which is an achievement in itself in London – although most of the residents here had likely left for their country manors immediately after school on Thursday.

The restaurant’s seasonal menus include A La Carte, Lunch, Kitchen Table and Prestige Menu

The ambience of the restaurant  is peaceful and refined, although not at all stuffy or pressurising. There is plenty of space between the tables, which are laid out cleverly so you are not sitting either in rows or with numerous other diners in your eyeliner: this is a discreet place, to go when you don’t really want to be seen, rather than the opposite. In fact there wasn’t really a “bad” table in the place: given a choice, I am not sure which table I would pick, the layout is so intelligently done.

dinner

As one would expect from a restaurant named after one of the world’s finest wines, the wine list features many different vintages of Château Pétrus and is the first restaurant in Europe to offer it by the glass.

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The menu is best described as clean modern British: Isle of Skye Scallop with coastal herbs, lemon and olive oil sabayon, smoked eel with oscietra caviar, celery and apple: these were as fresh tasting as the country landscapes they came from. Rack of Dover Sole with with white asparagus. Chervil and citrus Hollandairse was beautifully and gastronomically wrought, although it prompted a debate at our table about whether sole should only ever be served on the bone, rather than as a rack – none of us felt like arguing with Gordon about it in person, though.

Read more: La Fiermontina, Palazzo Bozzi Corso, Review

As much as the food was memorable, the service and theatre was even more so. This is a place that really knows how the theatre of gastronomy works, and it wasn’t so much that it was all seamless, as you would expect; it was fascinating to watch the staff in their silent dance as they whizzed about their duties, never conspicuous but never absent. We also engaged the very engaging sommelier in a discussion about small grower champagnes; people here seem to love their work, as well as their food and their wine.

Available for up to eight guests, you will be greeted by the restaurant team and served a seven-course bespoke menu.

Petrus is not for every Friday night, just as you wouldn’t take the Ferrari GTO out every weekend. It’s for when you really want an immersive and inspirational gastronomic experience, with someone you are close to or want to be discreet with.

The restaurant has held one Michelin star since 2011

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Reading time: 2 min