restaurant with bar and bottles

Is it a club, an Italian restaurant or a sushi house? Actually, Sumosan Twiga on London’s Sloane Street is all three, and all the better for it

Top quality food with a fun vibe has taken off in the world’s cultural capitals over the past few years. For a showoff dining experience, you are no longer restricted Ito temples of gastronomy. Top-quality ingredients and cheffing can now combine to make the ultimate comfort food.

But there’s still a challenge. What if you want a vibe, but can’t work out whether to go for a perfect pasta with beef and herbs, or some top-quality sushi? Or what if your party has split opinions and nobody wants to compromise?

sashimi on a blue plate with flowers

Launched in November 2016, Sumosan Twiga is the combination of the Japanese restaurant, Sumosan, and the brand Twiga

What you do is secure a booking at Sumosan Twiga, on London’s Sloane Street. Past a couple of intimidating doormen – to ensure the maki rolls are not consumed by the wrong type of customer, presumably, to be greeted by a glamorous receptionist, you are then whisked up in an elevator and enter a world of DJs and a partying crowd all dressed in Cavalli and Etro.

Ponder the menu over a couple of Bellinis and you soon note, if you didn’t know already, that Sumosan Twiga is effectively a sushi restaurant and a high-end Italian wrapped into one place. Back in the day, that might have meant some compromise – a chef practiced in one cuisine trying to master the other, with limited success. But not here: whether you stick to Italian or focus on sushi or (as we would recommend) you sample both, this is top-quality cuisine which, a little like the clientele, is here in in generous and beautifully presented portions.

cocktail with a mint leaf and a man pouring sugar over it

The menu offers an array of classic Italian dishes and flavours paired with contemporary Japanese cuisine.

We started with burrata with datterino tomatoes, Kobe mini sliders (OK, more Meatpacking than Milan), and lobster with lollo blondo salad as a pre-starter; ingredients with beautiful and it was put together with care. From the Japanese menu we went on to seared salmon, lime soy and mustard miso, as delicate and umami as it sounds, and some rolls: buba, seabass with jalapeno and cucumber, wasabi tobiko and albemarle and salmon with orange tobiko: meatily fulsome and also featherlight.

food on a plate with a leaf

Sumusan Twiga is the brain child of Flavio Briatore, of Formula One fame & Janina Wolkow, pioneer of the luxury Sumosan brand.

Mains were veal milanese with rocket and cherry tomatoes, hugely satisfying, what might be London’s best tagliatelle bolognese with chunks of feelsome beef, and Alaskan black marinated miso cod.

The only discord in our party was over whether it’s better to keep things pure by having Japanese starters and Italian mains (or vice versa) or just order a huge selection; the general agreement was one cuisine per course (whether that’s two or five courses) was better, so your palate does not train itself for the slicing umami of the tuna sashimi and freshly grated wasabi only to have a piece of breaded Milanese and pasta pomodoro, from a different gastronomic planet, with the next mouthful. The general consensus was to split the cuisines by course. But then we ordered another caipirinha, got up and danced, and forgot all about it.

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The Biltmore offers glamour and relaxed fine dining in the green heart of Mayfair. LUX checks in

Mayfair, the historic luxury heart of London, is the only place many people will stay when visiting the UK capital. While there is no shortage of hotels, there is a dearth of hotels with anything resembling a view or a sense of space around them. In most cases, even the best rooms have an outlook across the street to another building.

The Grosvenor square suite

This, we realised, would rather presently not be the case with the Biltmore. The hotel occupies most of the south side of Grosvenor Square, the most spacious historic square in the area, an expanse of grass and trees and light. We were whisked up to our accommodation, one of the presidential suites, which itself took up a large portion of the hotels front facade. The view from the two bedrooms, living room and dining room was suffused with green.

The Grosvenor Square view suite

The Biltmore can be best described as contemporary glamorous. Our favourite element was the leather padded person-sized bar cabinet, whose door opened to reveal the line after line of cut crystal glasses standing ready for a monster Negroni session. But it would have been a shame to have too many Negronis (the hotel will happily send a bartender up to make them for you in the suite), before visiting the vibey Pine Bar on the ground floor, whose cool atmospherics lend themselves to lingering over a few signature De La Louisiane cocktails (rye, absinthe, vermouth and Benedictine). Dress contemporary glamorous, or you will look like you are in the wrong place: Etro or Cavalli will do just fine.

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The bar, though, was just a prequel to the highlight. And along the hotels marble floor, Grill 88 is the hotel’s showcase restaurant. At first, you might be deceived as the casual chic decor is not much of a stand out from the other high-end restaurants in the area. But you would be well advised to sit down with a glass of champagne, relax and listen to the explanations of the concept provided by the super knowledgeable staff. This is a restaurant that takes its food and is sourcing very seriously indeed.

Grill 88 at the Biltmore

While there is a variety of dishes on the menu, the specialty here is steak, and our thoughtful, server pointed us in the direction of a tasting menu of steak from different regions: Australia, the US, Japan, the UK and Brazil. After a couple of (excellent) oysters and a superb heritage tomato salad with fruit that was firm and plump, but usually and interestingly flavoursome, a tasting board arrived with ready sliced and seasoned cuts.

Head Chef Luis Campos

The chef appeared to explain how each was sealed and cooked. The quality was superb: sourcing attention to detail clearly runs all the way through the operational process of Grill 88. And there is a broad wine list, as you might expect, but, as you may not expect, there is plenty of unusual and reasonably priced wine that matches the food very well – Puglia was well represented.

The Pine Bar at the Biltmore

In the morning, breakfast was served in our suite at exactly the requested hour, and laid out beautifully at the dining table off the living room. The ingredients in the Arabic breakfast were not quite as meticulously sorest as those in the Grill for dinner, however: the tomatoes adid not quite match that level of quality.

Altogether, an experience that combines relaxation and glamour with a perfect location, and one of the most interesting menus in Mayfair.

Find out more: thebiltmorehotels.com

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Reading time: 3 min
a room with big window and lights and bar

A nice interior with big lights and a bar. Big windows

Picture Ladbroke Hall – a cocktail of Beaux Arts elegance, Edwardian grandeur, modern creativity. This ex-car factory has transformed itself into a sprawling arts complex, from gallery to jazz bar to fine-dining. LUX Editor-in-Chief Darius Sanai meets its mastermind and co-founder, Loïc Gaillard

Darius Sanai: Ladbroke Hall is a major development. What made you want to do it?

Loïc Le Gaillard: Ladbroke Hall has been an incredible journey! The inspiration behind this project was simple – we aimed to establish a unique arts and social club, a central hub for creativity. From contemporary art to collectible design, encompassing culture, dining, and music, all within a single space. Beyond being a physical location, Ladbroke Hall is a meeting place for everyone – the public, friends, Patrons, and collaborators alike. It tangibly serves as a haven for those who appreciate the arts and seek meaningful connections, bringing together diverse minds and kindred spirits.

Ladbroke Hall also houses our flagship gallery, Carpenters Workshop Gallery in London. After 17 years of developing Carpenters Workshop Gallery, we made the decision to expand on the traditional gallery model to facilitate artistic exchange through a more immersive experience.

 

DS: It has elements of members’ club, but it’s not. Who is your market, and why are they coming?

LG: Ladbroke Hall is a distinctive haven for our community of art and design enthusiasts. In response to the growing need for spaces that foster community and connectivity, we introduced the Patron’s scheme. This scheme is designed to give our Patrons exclusive access to Ladbroke Hall’s vibrant community. This includes special privileges such as entry to private spaces like the Lamyland Patrons bar, ensuring that our Patrons are involved in every facet of Ladbroke Hall’s endeavours. Priority access to the live programme of Patron only events, the restaurant, and private dining experiences further enhances the Patron experience. Despite these exclusive perks, our commitment to inclusivity remains unwavering, ensuring that the enriching ambiance and offerings at Ladbroke Hall are accessible to all.

Functioning as a dynamic stage for the Arts, Ladbroke Hall creates unforgettable experiences. Our philosophy centres on providing Patrons with unparalleled access to the thriving artistic community, emphasising the shared experience within this vibrant creative hub.

 

DS: Tell us about how the commercial gallery, F&B and cultural programming work together.

LG: At its core, Ladbroke Hall is a stage for the Arts – a place to experience multidisciplinary arts all under the same roof. When visitors dine at our restaurant, Pollini, they are not only savouring the finest Italian cuisine by Chef Emanuele Pollini; they are doing so in a designed space crafted by one of our core artists and fellow Italian, Vincenzo De Cotiis Architects. The space features a specially commissioned, site-specific sculptural chandelier by Nacho Carbonell and four paintings by Sir Christopher Le Brun PPRA.

Visitors are also invited to enjoy our weekly Friday Jazz, accompanied with a specialised dinner menu. This event welcomes both jazz enthusiasts and new audiences, featuring some of today’s top musicians with a focus on high-quality straight-ahead jazz. The essence of this musical genre, breaking barriers and fusing cultures, resonates with Ladbroke Hall’s ethos as a multidisciplinary creative hub.

Recently, we’ve introduced the Classical Masters series, showcasing performances by some of the most distinguished classical musicians. Additionally, Carpenters Workshop Gallery currently hosts three solo exhibitions by Michele Lamy, Roger Herman, and Wendell Castle, all running until April 26th.

We also are excitingly opening Ladbroke Hall’s garden this spring designed by Luciano Giubbilei – so stay tuned! Ladbroke Hall has something for everyone, providing a space for people to gather and enjoy the Arts.

Big red brick building with trees and blue sky

Ladbroke Hall is an imposing building, just a few minutes from the heart of London’s shi shi Notting Hill.

DS: Why has it taken a French person to create such a visionary construct in London?

LG: London has long been a melting pot, drawing incredible talent from across the globe. It has been my home for half of my life, a place that continues to surprise and inspire me daily. London will always be international. As the London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, once said, when the UK officially left the EU, “London is open and no matter where you’re from, you will always belong here.” Therefore, I do not see it as a French person in a British city constructing something so visionary. Several years on from Brexit, London continues to attract the world’s most exciting artistic talent and in turn collectors. It’s a hub for exchange and that is exactly how we see Ladbroke Hall.

 

DS: You opened less than six months ago; what would you want people to be saying about Ladbroke Hall in ten years?

LG: That’s a great question. I envision Ladbroke Hall in ten years to be the premier social and arts club where everyday visitors create wonderful memories and forged new friendships and collaborations. It is exciting to think what else Ladbroke Hall has in store, making it a journey we can only fully appreciate by waiting and enjoying the ride.

 

DS: What were your biggest challenges in its creation?

LG: Crafting Ladbroke Hall was in no means an easy feat. It is thanks to our team, collaborators and artists who helped create Ladbroke Hall. My business partner, Julien Lombrail and I pulled together a band of artists that were keen on joining the vision for this ecosystem.

two men in suits sitting on steps

Loïc Le Gaillard and Julien Lombrail are the co-founders of Ladbroke Hall, which blends a high end restaurant, a bar, a commercial arts-ace, a jazz club and a new garden space.

DS: What do you seek to achieve, and who do you seek to attract, through your programming.

LG: Curious, creative and kind people.

 

DS: You run the restaurant yourselves, yet you are not a restaurateur. Why? Is that challenging?

LG: The desire to open a restaurant has been a lifelong dream of mine. London’s competitive scene presents its challenges, but it’s an honour to collaborate with Chef Emanuele Pollini, who brings his brilliant culinary expertise to us.

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Reading time: 5 min
green vineyard with tree and building and sun

Picasso, Miro, Dali, Richter, Braque: supreme Bordeaux Chateau Mouton-Rothschild has had them all, and many more, create its wine label over the decades. Candice Tucker speaks to Julien de Beaumarchais, from the owning family of the esteemed first growth, about the latest label artist, Chiharu Shiota, whose work adorns the excellent 2021 vintage

LUX: How has your relationship with art changed through the process of commissioning these label artworks?

Julien de Beaumarchais: Before the passing of my mother, Baroness Philippine de Rothschild, in 2014, I spent more than 15 years working in the market for Old Master paintings and drawings, the creators of which had been dead for a very long time. So it was a radical change for me when, after 2014, I became responsible for the artists who would illustrate the label for our next vintage. I found myself in contact with famous people with strong personalities who were very much alive, accompanying them throughout their creative adventure for Mouton. From Miquel Barceló to Shiharu Chiota, it has been quite a voyage of discovery into all the diversity and complexity of the leading names of contemporary art.

wine barrels with lights and under the tunnels

Château Mouton Rothschild Winery. Photo by Alain Benoit

LUX: Can you illuminate the relationship of the family with this particular artist Chiharu Shiota? How do you choose your artists?

JB: The choice of the artist is a family affair, made in consultation with the other two owners of Château Mouton Rothschild, my sister Camille Sereys de Rothschild and my brother Philippe Sereys de Rothschild. The artists are chosen first and foremost because we like their work and that they are world renowned. My mother, the late Baroness Philippine de Rothschild (1933- 2014) used to give the following answer to this question, which still holds true today: “I have no particular method or five-year plan: my choice is based on my enthusiasm for an artist’s work. I always establish a personal relationship with them, which often turns into friendship, because I deeply love the art of the painter I ask, and for me each work is an expression of the artist’s love for Mouton and its magic.”

A long time ago my mother told me she had been fascinated by one of Chiharu Shiota’s works, shown alongside those of other young artists, at the Galerie Daniel Templon in Paris. For her, on that day, Chiharu Shiota really stood out, and the future has proved her right. The artist’s fame has grown with the passing years, as has the number of exhibitions of her works around the world, and I in turn have been fascinated by her striking, captivating installations. Chance played an important part too: in 2019, on the occasion of a visit to Château Mouton Rothschild, the director of the Mori Art Center in Tokyo offered me a copy of the magnificent catalogue of the great Chiharu Shiota retrospective at the Mori. Leafing through it, I said to myself “One day I will ask Chiharu Shiota to create an artwork for Mouton”.

 

Read more: Prince Robert de Luxembourg on Art & Fine Wine

 

LUX: Which artists do you wish you had secured in the past, who are now either unavailable or dead?

JB: That’s a very hard question to answer: there are so many wonderful artists we would have liked to work with, but there is only one a year. Those missing from the list who died before we were able to ask them include Louise Bourgeois, Cy Twombly, Vieira da Silva and, more recently, Sam Szafran in 2019… But the most important thing is to focus on the artists to come.

 

LUX: How do you feel the context of the artwork by Chiharu Shiota is influenced by the wine and the vineyard?

JB: When I discovered Chiharu Shiota’s artwork for Château Mouton Rothschild, I was fascinated by her vision, so close to the world of wine, especially in the relationship between humankind and nature. Indeed, the human figure is a fragile silhouette facing nature, gorgeous and generous but seemingly dominant, in the same way that the vinegrower is exposed to the unpredictable power of the vine. Yet the four threads that link them, symbolising the four seasons, show that the grower is also capable of channelling it and guiding it towards the ideal of a great wine. I really love this bright red colour, one of her trademarks, so reminiscent of a fabulous cluster of grapes or of new wine running out of the vats…

Plus, Chiharu Shiota said of his visit to Château Mouton Rothschild: “When I visited Château Mouton Rothschild, I was very inspired by their relationship with nature. They depend on the weather and do not interfere with mother nature. They accept the conditions in which the grapes grow. I think Mouton is holding on to the balance of human and nature.”

a label for wine with an artist image on it

Château Mouton Rothschild 2021 Vintage label by Chiharu Shiota

LUX: Can you further speak to the wider context of art in untraditional spaces, which these commissions exemplify?

JB: It is true that nowadays artistic creation is to be found on a wide variety of media, and sometimes in highly unexpected places. But art on wine labels is not exactly untraditional, at least not for us, and we seem to have set an example for others. However, Mouton occupies a unique position for two reasons: it was the first château to feature labels illustrated with an original artwork (Jean Carlu in 1924), and after that to have asked the greatest names in contemporary art to create an artwork for the label.

 

LUX: Do you think people buy the wines because of the labels?

JB: Yes and no. Château Mouton Rothschild’s success is due above all to the quality of the wine. But art lovers or admirers of a particular artist who has created an artwork for a label may acquire a certain bottle for that reason, or else a wine collector may want to buy a specific vintage to complete their collection of Mouton Rothschild with illustrated labels.

 

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

 

LUX: Would you be able to share about the vineyard’s involvement in the artists process and their work for this commission?

JB: It is very important for us that the artist should come and spend some time at Château Mouton Rothschild, to get a feel for the place, a better understanding of our history, our terroir and the way we make our wine. The visit is often a source of inspiration.

Artists are not given any particular instructions when they create a label for Château Mouton Rothschild: they have entire creative freedom. That being said, many artists have chosen to base their illustration, each in their own way, on subjects related to Mouton, such as the ram and the vine.

There is a long and impressive line of artists who have contributed to these labels, with public access to the original works.

vineyard in yellow light and sky

Château Mouton Rothschild estate. Photo by Alain Benoit

LUX: Can you tell us more about how you may hope to amplify this exhibition?

JB: The exhibition amplifies itself, since a new work is added to the collection each year! But more than amplify, what I would like most is to diversify, in terms of both creative techniques and the geographical origin of our future artists.

Find out more:mouton-rothschild

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Reading time: 6 min
People sitting at tables in front of a large window overlooking a city
A pedestrian area with white parasols and a view of a city

Adrian Bridge, opened Porto’s Cultural District, WOW, in 2020

Starting his career in the British Cavalry Regiment, Adrian Bridge moved to Portugal in 1994 and is now CEO of The Fladgate Partnership, which produces Taylor, Fonseca, Fonseca-Guimaraens, and Croft Ports. Here, Bridge speaks to LUX’s Leaders and Philanthropists Editor, Samantha Welsh about being a driving force behind wine tourism in Porto and developing the city’s new Cultural District WOW
a man in a suit holding a glass of port

Adrian Bridge

LUX: What do you think your training at Sandhurst taught you?
Adrian Bridge: The military teaches a great deal about leadership and confidence. You also learn to make decisions based on the available information, no matter how imperfect. However, in planning action it is in the details where success lies. That requires breaking down a problem to its parts and thinking through all of the details. I believe that all business is about the detail and that is where success lies.

LUX: How would you say this has influenced your dynamic style of leadership?
AB: The moto of Sandhurst is ‘Serve to Lead’ and I strongly believe in leading from the front. This creates a company culture where everything should be possible. I do not ask people to do things that I would not do myself. I think that this allows us to push forward, to take risks, to do things that others might not attempt.

A bar with a decorated ceilings

Angel’s Share is the name given for evaporation process that takes place when wine is ageing in barrels. It is also the name of the WOW wine bar

LUX: Why is the house so good at innovating?
AB: To me, innovation is all about pushing boundaries. To remain at the top, you simply can’t sit still. You have to continuously question, push and evolve or someone will overtake you.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

Established in 1692, we are one of the oldest companies in the world simply because we don’t sit still. We are continuously expanding and innovating to appeal to both new and existing audiences. We have a reputation for quality and excellence that has been built up over time and continues to be sustained through the generations.

One of our best examples of innovation has to be the creation of Croft Pink; the first ever Rosé Port. We launched this product in 2008 with the goal to introduce Port wine to a younger generation. In 2011 we continued to expand this concept and launched a canned “ready to drink”- Rosé tonic.

 grapes in boxes and woman picking through them

The Fladgate Partnership produces Taylor, Fonseca, Fonseca-Guimaraens, and Croft Ports

LUX: Oporto is already a UNESCO World Heritage City, so what was your vision for WOW?
AB: Porto is a beautiful city full of history, charm and culture – all of great significance to Portugal’s identity. The vision of WOW was to bring a totally new set of cultural concepts to Porto and in this way offer quality content to the region.

We wanted this to be a game-changing space for both locals and travellers that really celebrates the culture, gastronomy, history and industries of Portugal. WOW is as educational as it is fun. To achieve this, we needed to make sure this was a dynamic district that featured regular exhibitions, unique events and seasonal experiences.

A lit up walkway with rocks on either side

The District is over 55,000sqm and includes 8 museums and experiences and 11 restaurants and bars

LUX: What does an immersive experience offer that can complement the traditional vineyard visit?
AB: One of the reasons WOW originally came to be was in response to the booming number of visitors coming to Porto – demand that we helped to create by building The Yeatman – and the lack of experiences that Porto had to offer. To appeal to this market, we continuously try to ensure that there is something new for people to do and see in the district. Technology really allows us to engage with guests in a more interesting and meaningful way.

After the traditional vineyard visit, I would definitely suggest spending a day at WOW. It’s a good idea to choose one or two museums, do a workshop at The Wine School or at The Chocolate Story – the chocolate museum, enjoy a typical dish in one of our restaurants, appreciate the sunset in our Angel’s Share bar while drinking a Port Tonic and stay to be amused by the video mapping in our main square.

steel factory with chocolate dripping

The Chocolate Story Museum

LUX: What is a sustainable vineyard model and how are you working to secure the future of viticulture?
AB: We are committed to protecting the environment and the future of our vineyards and the Douro Valley where our family has produced Port wine for centuries.

Our sustainable model incorporates a number of techniques and strategies which work together to create a balanced, diversified and sustainable vineyard environment. The basis of the model is the construction of narrow terraces each of which supports only one row of vines.

People sitting at tables in front of a large window overlooking a city

The view from Angel Share’s Wine Bar

This model was awarded the prestigious BES Biodiversity Prize in 2009, which recognises achievement in the fields of conservation and environmental sustainability.

In order to encourage industry change on a global level we established the Porto Protocol – the wine industry’s climate action network. Since our first summit in 2018, we have brought together more than 230 wine and wine adjacent companies from 22 countries to share solutions to combat climate change in the wine industry.

LUX: This year you have opened a new museum with a ground-breaking exhibition from TATE at the Atkinson Museum, what was the strategy behind that?
AB: The vision of WOW is to bring a totally new set of cultural concepts to Porto. The new exhibitions, especially the Atkinson Museum, reinforce this destination as a “must visit” hub for international travellers.

At the centre of WOW is the Atkinson Museum. Originally built in 1760, we have meticulously restored and modernised the space to meet international museum standards and attract exhibitions from the international art pool.

A sculpture of a hand pouring wine into a glass

Adrian Bridge has a private collection of 2,000 vessels and glasses which tell the story of  the evolution of drinking vessels from earliest civilisations to the present day with some of the collection dates back to 7,000BC

Our most recent exhibition, The Dynamic Eye was produced by the TATE Collection and featured over 100 works from 63 artists – this was the largest number of works travelling from TATE to Portugal. This is an amazing example of the quality of major exhibitions we are bringing to Gaia.

The idea is to bring new and different major international exhibitions, such as The Dynamic Eye, every year.

Read more: Italy Art Focus: Patrizia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo

LUX: How can cultural philanthropy shine a light on the house values?
AB: As a family business, we are built on a set of strong shared values. We are continuously seeking opportunities that align with our core values. At the moment, one of my key priorities is sustainability in the wine industry and coming up with new ways to create new industry practices.

a blue map on the floor in a room that looks like a boat

Porto Region Across the Ages Museum

LUX: What would you like to be remembered for?
AB: When I came to live in Porto in 1994, I came to into a Port Wine Trade that was very traditional. Our company helped to consolidate that industry and lead it forward, not least with the innovation of various new styles of Porto. This was an achievement and in doing this I hope that I will be remembered for helping to enhance one of the greatest wines and wine regions in the world. This also includes putting Porto on the map as a destination and through that work we have helped to stimulate the development of the town and create jobs and wealth. However, I will probably just be remembered for altering the city centre through the construction of The Yeatman and WOW.

Find out more: fladgatepartnership.com

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Reading time: 6 min
A house in a green field
A chef with a basket picking vegetables in a garden

Chef Davide Guidara in the garden of Veuve Clicquot

The champagne house Veuve Clicquot hosted a lunch in Paris in which eight chefs, hailing from Switzerland, France, Italy, Japan and the UK created dishes using only the produce from Veuve Clicquot’s garden in Reims to perfectly match La Grande Dame, its prestige champagne. The results were anything but expected. Candice Tucker reports

Over 200 years ago Madame Clicquot, the founder of Veuve Cliquot is said to have said, “If, in the search for perfection, we can take two steps at a time, why be content with just one?” This single statement was the inspiration behind Veuve Clicquot’s plan to gather some of the world’s greatest chefs to create a fine dining meal solely using produce from the estate’s garden, where “Grand Cru” vegetables mix with Grand Cru grapes. The event was intended to show that La Grande Dame, is a champagne to be enjoyed at the heart of any meal to compliment the fine food.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

The participating chefs were picked from regions renowned for their culinary traditions. Representing France were esteemed chefs Amélie Darvas and Emmanuel Renaut. From Italy, Domingo Schingaro, Enrico Crippa and Alberto Toè. Sally Abé represented the UK and Dario Cadonau, Switzerland. Japanese culinary excellence was demonstrated by Kanji Kobayashi.

A group chefs standing next to eachother

Left to right: Emmanuel Renaut, Sally Abé, Kanji Kobayashi, Alberto Toé, Dario Cadonau, Enrico Crippa, Amélie Darvas, Domingo Schingaro

What made this event so extraordinary was not just the culinary talent on display, but the unique constraint faced by each of the chefs: dishes had to be crafted using only products from Veuve Clicquot’s garden, while perfectly matching La Grande Dame champagne.

A table with yellow and wood chairs set

The Garden of Gastronomy event in Paris

The dishes that emerged from this culinary challenge were nothing short of spectacular. Among them were Cadonau’s garden herbs and yellow beets presented with an intricate lace pattern detailing framing the plate, constructed using herbs to adorn the dish with edible flowers, resembling the picture of a garden.

A dish with green lace herb detailing framing a plate of beetroots in a white source with herbs and edible flowers

Dario Cadonau’s Garden herbs with yellow beets

Domingo Schingaro created a dish based on lettuce with almond and anchovies; whilst anchovies might normally be the focal taste of a dish, they were simply used as a condiment in this case, not taking any attention away from the star of the show, the lettuce cooked to crunchy perfection in a yuzu sauce.

A chef preparing ravioli in green leaves

Amélie Darvas working on her Marigold ravioli, Hungarian Blue Squash, tomato water and fig leaf maceration

The champagne’s complexity, with its layers of citrus, floral, and fruity notes, found its perfect companions in the carefully composed dishes. The result was a symphony of flavours that danced on the palate, highlighting the quality of both the champagne and the garden produce.

Read more: Veuve Clicquot CEO Jean-Marc Gallot on the spirit of the iconic brand

The champagne was also poured into both narrow and wide glasses, depending on the meal, changing both its taste and texture to match the food being eaten.

A chef wearing a long white hat and uniform holding a bottle of champagne in a field

Chef Tadayoshi Kimura in the Veuve Clicquot garden finding produce to match La Grande Dame

Veuve Clicquot’s Garden of Gastronomy event in Paris was a celebration of culinary creativity. This event highlighted the versatility of prestige champagne in fine dining  and showed how a delicate complex and multi-layered champagne like La Grande Dame can be a brilliant match to an astonishing variety of food.

Find out more: veuveclicquot.com

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Reading time: 3 min
a white plate with a tuna tartar and a leaf on the top
A room with large stained glass windows and red velvet chairs around a table with a white table cloth and wine glasses

Carrara is situated in one of Courchevel’s most iconic luxury hotels, Les Airelles

LUX correspondents are based around the world, and our other staff travel on a regular basis. Here are some of our favourite culinary destinations

Carrara, Les Airelles, Courchevel

At the next table, which wasn’t really a next table because it was a couple of miles away, such is the setup of the Carrara restaurant at Les Airelles, a couple were finishing their meal just as we sat down for ours. He had the look of an heir to an old-money European fortune, bespoke Brioni loafers and a Cifonelli blazer. She, animated, flicking her hair, not much younger than him but dressed for a ball. They left around a third of their bottle of Chateau Latour, and probably another quarter of the bottle was sitting in their glasses as they rose to leave. Depending on the vintage, which we couldn’t quite make out (distance between tables, and all), that could be thousands of euros of wine casually left aside.

A table by a window with red velvet chairs

Carrara offers an immersive transalpine gastronomic experience

That’s the kind of place Carrara is: huge comfort for the hugely well off. Big red velvet chairs are as relaxing as rocking chairs after a day’s skiing (or a day spent dining at La Soucoupe). White tablecloths and the kind of serene yet highly organised service seen only in classical European hotels gives an extra feeling of comfort. We didn’t go for the Latour, but started with an equally impressive Louis Roederer Blanc de Blancs 2010. The cuisine at Carrara is described as a “tour of Italy” and you could indeed choose from an array of Italianate dishes as classical as Michelangelo’s David. Mediterranean tuna with oscietra caviar and seared scallops wth basil vinegar were limpid starters, better in the execution, with very high quality vivid ingredients, than in the description.

The food is not only Italian but a blend of Mediterranean flavours

Sticking with the seafood as it was so good, despite us being 1900m up in the mountains, we moved on to a shared clam orchiette, clams bulbous and feelsome. Sea bream with sautéed vegetables is a summer-in-Porto-Cervo dish that works equally healthily in the Alps; herb-roasted free range chicken breast in a kind of calzone was original and more hearty, accompanied by some volcanic Sicilian red wine. Desserts looked historic but were not feasible; portions are hearty.

a table with pasta, bread and wine on it

Marco Garfagnini is head chef at Carrara

Carrara is an intriguing blend of comfort food and clean, California-style Italian: clearly a place that knows its clientele. Across from us, a well known business leader from London was celebrating a birthday with his family. They were at ease, as were the staff serving them. We didn’t want to leave Carrara; unlike some establishments in Courchevel, you have to check your brashness in at the door, relax, and, as long as you can afford it, chill out. A lovely combination of old and new world Italian, right on the most famous slopes in the world.

Find out more: airelles.com/restaurant-carrara

CUT by Wolfgang Puck, 45 Park Lane, London

Glamour is the number one ingredient in many types of fine dining these days. Sure, there are no tablecloth Scandi caverns of cool where foraging minimalism and sustainability are the key components; but many people spending a small fortune on a meal just want glamour, not grass. The question is, how do you create glamour? Plenty of expensive feeling restaurants are not glamorous, and a few vice versa.

a white plate with a tuna tartar and a leaf on the top

CUT was opened by Wolfgang Puck in 2011

Wolfgang Puck’s CUT on Park Lane in London has it all, the moment you walk in. We attended a kind of soft relaunch of this London icon recently with Puck himself in attendance. It may be a hotel restaurant, but the moment you sweep in past the Damien Hirst‘s and sit down you feel a million dollars. The light wood panels, gold lighting and curtains and elaborate Venetian chandeliers, appearing like sea anemones at intervals along the ceiling, give it a kind of modern-Versailles hauteur.

A dining room with white curtains

CUT is located in 45 Park Lane which is owned by the Dorchester Group

During our visit, owner and restaurateur extraordinaire Puck was there himself, patiently going round all the tables greeting diners. Puck himself is glamour personified in a chef: and he seemed far more enthusiastic talking about art (Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein were early collaborators) than talking about cuts of steak. Artists collaborated with him on his first menus, and he retains an interesting balance of Mitteleuropean grace (he is originally from Austria) and the go-getting, art-culture edge of his adopted homeland in the US.

As does his menu. CUT is primarily all about beef, and where else can you have a tasting of the same cut of three different types of beef, simply presented and gorgeously cooked? Each one of the Tasting of New York Sirloins (USDA Prime Black Angus, Japanese Wagyu, Australian Wagyu) was fascinating, changing in character the longer it rested on the plate, as did our order of preference. Perhaps surprisingly our ultimate favourite was the Australian: delicate yet piercing in flavour.

raw steak with rosemary on a tray

The menu offers the widest selection of Wagyu beef in London

Perhaps strangely, given the nature of the restaurant, the raw and chilled seafood section of the menu had proved just as memorable. Raw seafood is all about preparation and extreme subtlety, and the chefs proved that they can master both with the bigeye tuna tartare, tosa soy, ginger and wasabi aioli; and also the yellowtail sashimi, black ponzu truffle and pickled wasabi.

A bowl of tomato and basil pasta with prawns on top

Elliott Grover is now the executive chef at CUT

The greatest meals are ones which seem to proceed in phases: the warm, elegant entry, thoughtful taking care of the order, a wait of just the right period between courses, lights dimming slightly as the evening progresses, the atmosphere, more intimate yet still lively. CUT had it all. It’s not cheap, but true glamour never is, and even in a city and area (Mayfair) full of some of the worlds greatest restaurants, it stands out. Some high-end restaurants are ultimately not worth the price as they charge. This one certainly is.

Find out more: www.dorchestercollection.com/cut-45-park-lane

Al Nafoorah, Jumeirah Al Qasr, Dubai

In the rambling, animated and increasingly glamorous metropolis that Dubai is becoming, sometimes you need a break. So it was with an increasing sense of relief when we stepped down the stairs of the palatial Al Qasr hotel, near the beach, walked through a calm high ceilinged restaurant swathed in Mediterranean colours, and were seated at a table at the edge of a long terrace overlooking trees, gardens and what at first we thought was a swimming pool and then realised, in the evening light, was a waterway. Beyond, more trees and night time birdsong with spots of lighting illuminating the dark parkland.

A restaurant on a terrace with palm trees around

Al Nafoorah is located in Dubai’s Palm Jumeirah

Al Nafoorah is a Lebanese restaurant, and in a country where nobody is quite what they seem, it was even more refreshing to discover that the manager, both bustling and friendly, is Lebanese himself. We immediately established ourselves as customers to be remembered (hopefully for the right reasons) by asking if they had any Lebanese pickles to go with the assorted cucumbers and carrots they had put on the table as a refreshing meze pre-starter. Another staff member wandered past offering me Shisha (we declined) and after a glass of 2020 Chablis by Domain Laroche (not Lebanese, but very apposite in being a refreshing yet fleshy white Burgundy) we felt 1000 miles, not one mile, from the hubbub of downtown Dubai.

A salad wth nutes and figs

The restaurant is inspired by the Berdawni Riviera, known as the ‘city of wine and poetry’ in Lebanon and is headed by chef Ali Fouad

The menu is a panoply of Lebanese classics and it’s probably best explored with a group to be able to try all the sharing options. For example, it would be ideal to dip into a table of fattoush, moutabal and jergier – all variations of salads and vegetables in various sauces – rather than ordering just one as a starter. As it was, our fattoush salad starter, in a delicate pomegranate dressing, provided further refreshment in the warm evening, and after a little debating about whether we should go for the possibly more typical Lebanese lamb dishes, we opted for a whole seabass main course, plain grilled, with a side of taboulleh and steamed vegetables – not conventional Lebanese food as we know it, but light and healthy and very nicely put together.

chicken on a plate with stuffed mushrooms

The restaurant is both artistic and nostalgic in style, embracing Beirut’s cosmopolitan feel but also Lebanon’s more historic culture

The heat of the evening was finally dissipating as we ordered dessert, in our case single scoops of home-made raspberry sorbet, surprising and delightful for not being too sweet.

We went for a wander along the waterway and in the gardens and then departed to a smiling wave from the manager, feeling ready for the rigours of Dubai again the next day.

Find out more: www.jumeirah.com/dubai/al-qasr-al-nafoorah

Chotto Matte, London

Readers who know Chotto Matte from its other locations described it to us as “Nobu with a vibe”, and while we were not sure that was how the owner of the group, Kurt Zdesar, would have described it, it seemed tempting enough. The latest branch of this international group is in Marylebone, a genteel part of London more known for its affluent young families and private clinics than for its vibe, but Chotto Matte is one of a number of newcomers starting to define the area as a culinary destination. You certainly appreciate the restaurant’s design and concept as soon as you walk in from Paddington Street: it’s a theatre of art and design, and a big feature bar at the back, a horseshoe design so smart that you have to overcome the temptation to perch there all evening and ask the bartender to dream up variations on Martinis.

A bar with coloured green and orange lights

There are two Chotto Matte restuarants in London: the first opened in Soho and the second restaurant has now opened in Marylebone

The menu is also a work of art, contemporary in style and concept. Starters include Redefine Meat Gyoza, El Jardin Maki and BBQ Huacatay Broccoli: in fact all the starter concepts were so tempting we were slightly lost. So, kudos to our server for suggesting she put together a compilation of the best of, although perhaps in future the restaurant can be reminded there can be a tad more customer input. Enthusiasm about star dishes is excellent, but customer choice needs to be balanced (we don’t eat lychees, for example).

sushi, vegetables, salads and edamame on plates and in bowls on a table

The executive Chef at Chotto Matte is Jordan Sclare. Before joining Chotto Matte, Sclare opened Buddha Bar in London

What emerged as starters was delicious, trim, healthy, poignant in flavour; and then it all kept on coming. The spicy tuna with crispy rice? A memorable signature dish, as good for breakfast as dinner. BBQ mushroom salad and pollo piccante were also memorably vivid. Seabass tempura was merely good, in comparison, while the black cod aji miso was an original dish and split opinion: some preferred it to the Nobu version, some did not, but quality was undeniable. In the end, a restaurant can be remembered for one memorable signature and the spicy tuna has it all.

a restaurant with blue and green chairs

Kurt Zdesar is the founder of Chotto Matte which is part of NZR Group

Chotto Matte is proud of its pisco sours, which are offered on arrival as other restaurants might offer water or prosecco. These were pretty good, with a satisfying crema to sip through. But the restaurant’s wine list, probably underexplored due to the cocktail bar vibe throughout, is memorable. A beautifully selected array of specialist champagnes (which would match the clear, bright and clean flavours of much of the food) as well as some world-beating white and red wines. And we didn’t even try the martinis. Credit to Zdesar for enlivening the London restaurant scene with not one but two of these sites – the other, in Soho, has a guaranteed vibe due to its location, but Marylebone is trying hard and so far, succeeding nicely.

Find out more: chotto-matte.com

Sumosan Twiga, London

Glamour is out. Barefoot, or bare table, style is in. Ritzed-up instagrammers clumping together around flaming magnums of champagne on the Cote d’Azur have been replaced by pared-down TikToks of imperfect ceramic plates of foraged plants in Oslo. That’s a conclusion you might be justified in drawing on looking at current social media food trends.

A man in a green suit playing guitar next to a man singing in a purple striped suit

Alessandro Ristori & The Portofinos performing at Sumosan Twiga. Photograph by Dominic Martin

So it is both refreshing and surprising to walk into Sumosan Twiga in Knightsbridge. A DJ plays house tunes in the centre of the floor. Booths of highlighted highlifers dance, eat, drink and video, simultaneously. There’s a serious vibe, even on a Wednesday night. It’s also quite private: you have to get past the receptionist, into a lift, and up two floors and past another receptionist.

sushi rolls with orange sauce on top

Isobe Maki

Some of the vibiest places compromise on food. Sumosan Twiga serves parallel menus of Italian and Japanese, which shouldn’t work, but it really does. The Raw Bar offers nigiri, sashimi and maki rolls. Our buba roll (seabass, cucumber wasabi tobiko, jalapeno) was more than the sum of its vivid, intense ingredients. Spicy scallops and orange tobiko were curiously mesmerising.

A cut up steak sandwich into a square with a bowl of french fries

Wagyu sando sandwich

You have to be careful not to over-order. Off the “Italian” menu (which is not that Italian, but probably all the better for it), we had seabass ceviche, again intense and crisp in flavour, no disguising with heavy sauces, and not too thickly sliced) and Kobe beef sliders which were as wonderfully rich and well formed as our fellow guests.

Those guests were getting livelier all the time, but the restaurant has enough space that nobody’s in your face. You could go on a date and be unfazed by the partying tables.

People dancing in a restaurant

Wednesday live music at Sumosan Twiga. Photograph by Dominic Martin

As for the mains, it’s pretty astonishing to be able to deliver a Wagyu sando sandwich, a kind of uber-glamorous burger, and a comfort-food tagliatelle alla bolognese (we like that they don’t even try to call it “ragu”, the Italian way), each of the best possible quality. This kind of food just doesn’t get better; you’d pay Sumosan Twiga prices to have it delivered to your room, even without the vibe. And the vibe just got vibier as midnight approached.

Sumosan Twiga knows its market very well, and then delivers even more than what they expect. It’s a smart formula. It ain’t a repurposed wooden table at a silent restaurant in Copenhagen, and it doesn’t try to be. The world is, after all, a diverse place, and this is a joy.

Find out more: twigaworld.com/sumosantwigalondon

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Reading time: 13 min
two chefs and a man in a suit holding glasses of champagne smiling at the camera
A bottle of champagne with flowers and butterflies on it

Perrier-Jouët Belle Epoque 2013

Champagne house Perrier-Jouët teamed up with the Rosewood Crillon and legendary chef Pierre Gagnaire in Paris for a series of evenings to remember on its 120th anniversary. You could almost smell the scent of the engraved wildflowers on the art nouveau bottles, says Samantha Welsh

In a world where luxury brands are digging up whatever tenuous historical links they can find to burnish their heritage, it was both reviving and exhilarating to be at the 120th anniversary of something very tangible. In 1902, botanist and artist Emile Gallé decorated a magnum of Perrier-Jouët champagne with a spray of Japanese anemones, to symbolise the stylish, floral freshness of the wine inside.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

The anemones became both the calling card of the champagne house, and a lasting symbol of the art nouveau influence on the flourishing Paris of the Belle Epoque, the first decade of the 20th century, when art and culture and gastronomy flourished in the French capital. In due course, Perrier-Jouët created its prestige cuvée – its luxury champagne – carrying the Belle Epoque name and the anemone engraving, and the rest is history, particularly for lovers of its poetic, natural, and complex yet subtle style.

A dinner table in a white and gold room with flowers along the tables

Nature is at the heart of the champagne house’s narrative

Now, 120 years after Gallé first created his design, Paris is once again flourishing as a centre of arts, catalysed in part by London’s exit from the European single market. And nature is once again at the centre of the luxury narrative, as the value of natural capital and the importance of nature-based initiatives become increasingly apparent in an era of climate change.

Meanwhile, two things haven’t changed: Paris is still the world’s centre of gastronomy, and the Crillon, now the Rosewood Hotel Le Crillon and run by the sophisticated, Hong Kong based luxury hotel group headed by aesthete and entrepreneur Sonia Cheng, is still its most spectacular address.

two chefs working in a kitchen with beige aprons

Pierre Gagnaire and Boris Campanella

So it was apposite that we – champagne connoisseurs, art collectors, thought leaders and media – gathered together at the Rosewood Le Crillon to celebrate the 120th anniversary last week. At a dinner cooked jointly by Gagnaire and Rosewood Le Crillon chef Boris Campanella, we started by selecting our own, personal, Belle Epoque era glass from an array of beautiful vintage glassware arranged on a table. We then bespoked the engraving on our own personalised bottle of Belle Epoque, from a choice of anemones, petals, butterflies and bees. In terms of the celebration of biodiversity, Perrier-Jouët was exactly 120 years ahead of time. (It also owns the largest private collection of Art Nouveau furniture and collectibles in Europe.)

people sitting around a table, having dinner with flowers in the middle

Celebrating the 120th Anniversary of Perrier-Jouët

The maison is very current as well, as the artist it collaborates with this year, Garrance Vallée, has created works showing the diversity and importance of nature, “Planted Air”, exhibited at a nomadic exhibition in Paris this month.

Read more: Thought leadership at the Cliveden Festival

None of this would have mattered had the champagne itself not been of the highest quality. But it was sublime, and the only challenge was – which do you prefer? As a standalone, one could only admire the purity, freshness, and breadth of the 2012 Blanc de Blancs Belle Epoque. But as a collaboration, when you have Gagnaire and Campanella in the kitchen, the pairing of the 2012 Belle Epoque Rose with dessert was, well, art.

Find out more: perrier-jouet.com

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Reading time: 3 min
A valley of vineyards in the sun
A valley of vineyards in the sun

Château Quintus, so named as the “fifth child” of the Domaine Clarence Dillon family group

From Bordeaux to Paris and back again, Domaine Clarence Dillon, under the stewardship of HRH Prince Robert of Luxembourg, is delivering two of those most signature luxuries of French life, haute cuisine and Haut-Brion – and more besides, discovers Anna Tyzack

At Le Clarence, just off the Champs-Élysée, in the golden triangle of Paris, the staff are used to seeing familiar faces: not only the actors and politicians who dine there, but the guests who keep coming back. One distinguished French couple returns two or three times a week to enjoy haute cuisine and traditional service à la française in château- like surroundings; afterwards, they head back to their apartment to dance. So successful is head chef Christophe Pelé in recreating the French art de vivre, that Le Clarence, which opened in 2015, won two Michelin stars in one year, and in 2022 was honoured as the second finest restaurant in France, with a global ranking of 28th, in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list.

two wooden doors opening to a room with a red chair and table with chandelier hanging over it

The group’s Le Clarence, which has won two Michelin stars and is ranked 28th in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list

Le Clarence echoes the tastes and spirit of its founder, HRH Prince Robert of Luxembourg, whose great-grandfather, Clarence Dillon, a Harvard-educated banker and Francophile, revived the fortunes of Château Haut-Brion, a Grand Cru on Bordeaux’s Left Bank, in 1935. The group also includes Château La Mission Haut-Brion, bought by Prince Robert’s mother, Joan Dillon, Duchess of Mouchy, in 1983.

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Prince Robert is devoted to his family legacy and became group president in 2008. Like his ancestors, the prince knows that the best way to preserve it is to innovate. Hence his decision in 2011 to expand the repertoire by acquiring a property now known as Château Quintus (meaning fifth in Latin, as the group’s fifth child), a Right Bank wine estate in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of St-Émilion, and in 2015 to bring the spirit of Domaine Clarence Dillon to a 19th-century townhouse, Le Clarence, in what could be described as the Mayfair of Paris. According to his devoted staff, the prince is not a man who likes to sit still and is permanently seeking new ways to capitalise on the company’s past to build its future.

A man wearing a blue shirt standing by a table and red curtain

HRH Prince Robert of Luxembourg, the fourth-generation scion of the Dillon family to look after its winemaking legacy

The building was in a sorry state when the prince first stepped inside. Built in 1884 as an hôtel particulier (grand residence), it had been an ophthalmologist’s for many years and was in need of major renovation. Yet the prince could see it was the perfect private mansion to house the passions of Clarence Dillon – fine wine and gastronomy – in Paris. Over the next five years, he meticulously restored the courtyard, marble staircase and exquisite formal rooms. He designed the interiors by researching and imagining how each room would have looked in the past, sourcing 18th- and 19th-century furniture, paintings and carpets from auctions around the world. When builders discovered a vaulted wine cellar beneath the building, the prince resolved to open a fine-wine boutique, La Cave du Château, in the style of the grandest cellars of Bordeaux and Champagne, stocking Haut-Brion (which had been enjoyed by Samuel Pepys and Thomas Jefferson), along with other fine wines, spirits and secret vintages.

little finger food on a silver tray

Seasonal, creative haute cuisine at Le Clarence

The prince knew, however, that it was people who would bring Le Clarence to life – in particular a head chef to recreate the ethos of Domaine Clarence Dillon in Paris. He was determined to find a chef with their own ideas, style and expertise who would bring a blast of modernity to this historic house. After many months of searching, Prince Robert came across Christophe Pelé through word of mouth; Pelé had worked at some of the best restaurants in France before shocking the gastronomy world in 2012 by closing his two-star restaurant, La Bigarrade, to focus on learning more of his art. Prince Robert invited Pelé to cook for him at Haut-Brion, where, along with creating a world-class gastronomy and wine library, he has installed a kitchen fit for Michelin star- winning chefs. First thing in the morning Pelé headed off to the local market, then spent the day creating a menu that combined ingredients from earth and sea; Prince Robert was so impressed by Pelé’s ingenuity and creativity that he invited him to collaborate right away.

someone using a spoon to drizzle raspberry coulis on a dessert

Le Clarence has earned two Michelin stars since its opening in 2017

By 2017, Pelé had earned Le Clarence two Michelin stars, adding the ranking of 28th best restaurant in the world in 2022. There is no formal menu: each artful dish is inspired by a classic recipe and prepared uniquely for each guest to express terroirs, cultures and seasons, and served with a number of smaller dishes to complement the flavours. Pelé, a horse rider and nature lover, devotes a huge amount of time to cultivating relationships with his favourite farmers and producers.

A chef sitting in his apron on a green couch

Head chef Christophe Pelé, who prizes classic service à la française alongside his modern cuisine

He is adamant that if his guests are to taste the seasons, he has to be great friends with his fishermen, farmers and suppliers. For example, Pelé works with family company France Ikejime for the freshest fish, while the organic sourdough is from local Parisian bakery Ten Belles. But while his cooking is unashamedly modern, Pelé’s presentation and service is resolutely traditional. “Some say that the art of service à la française is outdated, but what we offer is as relevant now as it always was: the extraordinary luxury of taking your time,” Pelé maintains.

a white small starter with green leave son top on a white plate

Le Clarence has achieved the rank of second finest restaurant in France

A little over 600km away from Paris on Bordeaux’s Right Bank, the staff at Château Quintus are also aware of the significance of time and deep-rooted relationships. In 2013, the prince expanded this newly named estate, where some of the vines, planted to Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec, date back 100 years, with an average age of 30 years. In 2021, he added another venerable château. Along with Jean-Philippe Delmas and Jean- Philippe Masclef, Haut-Brion’s most senior winemakers, the prince has adopted the same vine-by-vine, plot-by-plot approach used at Château Haut-Brion and La Mission Haut- Brion. “At Haut-Brion there are centuries of knowledge; here we’re starting afresh but we have the fundamentals,” explains Delmas, who is the third generation of his family to be in charge of producing Château Haut-Brion wines. “Château Quintus is deeply rooted in the heritage of St-Émilion, one of the oldest vineyards in the world. Now we’re applying principles from our other properties to get the very best from this ancient terroir.”

Vineyard with green leaves and red flowers with a blue sky and the sun shining

Château Quintus vineyards, lined with trees and wildflowers to nurture the terroir and promote biodiversity

The prince set out his intention for Quintus to become the new star of St-Émilion when he commissioned a huge sculpture of a dragon to tower over an estate promontory. The outlook of Le Dragon de Quintus is nothing short of intimidating, as surrounding vineyards belong to the Grand Cru estates of Château Ausone, Château Angélus and Château Le Dome, as well as Château Berliquet and Château Canon, whose owners, Alain and Gérard Wertheimer, own Chanel. Yet the first vintages of Château Quintus have received critical acclaim. At a blind tasting with 28 top wine tasters in spring 2022 in London, three of the Quintus vintages were scored in the top 15 of 48 peer wines, with the 2016 Quintus ranking fourth. Of four perfect scores, three went to Quintus. It seems Prince Robert’s ingenuity is paying off. “The aim at Quintus is to make elegant wine in the spirit of Haut-Brion with typicity of St Émilion’s Right Bank,” explains Mariette Veyssière, manager of Quintus, who previously worked at both Haut-Brion and Pétrus, and whose father and grandfather are both cellar masters in St-Émilion. “The fact that there are 42 acres of vines on three orientations surrounded by oaks and acacia gives us a huge palette when it comes to the blending process.”

A contemporary bottle of wine and an antique bottle of wine

A first vintage of Château Quintus, 2011, with an antique Haut-Brion bottle found in a pirate’s cache

As a fourth-generation wine producer, Prince Robert is well aware that, to make the best wine, you need to nurture the terroir – not just for the next vintage but for the coming decades. “‘Terroir’ is a big word in France; it means more than just ground – it’s the whole ecosystem,” says Veyssière. “We are very gentle with it; not just with each vine but the whole terrain; we have to try to envisage what it will be like in 10 and 20 years time.” At Quintus, 800 types of auxiliary fauna with more than 80 species of wildflower have been recorded, as well as a profusion of bats, bees, insects and birds. Each year, parts of the vineyard are replanted, hedgerows are relaid and more trees and wildflowers are planted. No insecticides are used, and any ploughing is done with care to avoid soil erosion. “In order to have the best grapes, the vines have to suffer a little; at the top of the limestone slope where it is rocky there is a natural limitation to how much they can thrive, but where the soil is more sandy and fertile, we grow grass to prevent the vines from growing too vigorously,” Veyssière explains.

Read more: Prince Robert de Luxembourg on wine, gastronomy & storytelling

Harvest at Château Quintus is a painstaking three-week process with each plot (74 per cent Merlot, 24.3 per cent Cabernet Franc and 1.7 per cent Malbec) harvested by hand. “We’re gradually learning the soul of the plots and the grapes,” Veyssière continues. Once the grapes are off the vine, they’re sorted in terms of quality using a gravity sorting system: the best flow down into tanks: steel and concrete for Merlot and Malbec, oak for Cabernet Franc. Then, in November, an expert panel, including the technical teams from Haut-Brion and La Mission Haut-Brion, decide on the blending of Château Quintus and the second wine, Le Dragon de Quintus. Only afterwards will it be put into barrels. “We decide on the blend first to ensure the oak is not masking the berries’ potential,” says Veyssière. “We use a ratio of 35 per cent new oak, 65 per cent old, as the newer the barrels, the oakier the taste of the wine.”

Flowers and leave with a church and it's spire in the background

A view of Château Quintus looking towards the spire of St-Émilion church

For Prince Robert, who in 2018 joined Primum Familiae Vini, an association of the world’s most historic and celebrated wine-producing families, Château Quintus is a cherished fifth child, not only as it expands Domaine Clarence Dillon into St-Émilion but because it fulfils the wishes of his great-grandfather. Clarence Dillon had great affection for the ancient vineyards around St-Émilion, yet he never succeeded in buying a château there. Nine decades later, the Quintus estate, like Le Clarence, is a nod both to the past and the future of Domaine Clarence Dillon. “When Prince Robert is here, he likes to walk slowly through the vines and oak copses, taking it all in,” says Veyssière. “There’s no better place to catch up with his team than walking through the terroir with the butterflies and bees and the church spire of St-Émilion in the distance.”

Prince Robert on creating a new legacy

HRH Prince Robert of Luxembourg has been expanding the family business since taking over at the helm of Domaine Clarence Dillon, owner of Château Haut-Brion and other prestigious estates, in 2008. He speaks to Darius Sanai about the past, present and future.

On creating wine and gastronomic experiences
Wine is an experience. It has always been valuable only because it is something we share,
a shared experience. The fine-dining restaurant in Paris, Le Clarence, is part of that: we are bringing people into the heart of the world we have created. The style of the place is a reflection of the style of our Bordeaux château which I saw born around me when my mother redesigned and decorated it back in the early 1970s. I wanted to recreate that atmosphere in Paris. The cooking is totally different because it is hypermodern and the chef is innovative yet respectful of the ingredients. His cooking, to me, is close in style to the wines of Haut-Brion because it is subtle and elegant. It’s a composition. He treats all the contents of the plate in the same manner that our oenologues would the composition of the wine. You have a little bit of everything, but not too much of anything. It is a real art.

The exterior of a Parisian building with green awnings

The group’s Le Clarence restaurant, with wine boutique La Cave du Château, elegantly housed in a renovated 19th-century Paris hôtel particulier

On building a new carbon-neutral winery at Château Haut-Brion in Bordeaux
The mandate I gave to the architects emphasised that it is not about a cult of personality, about the architect or about ego – whether that is the winemaker, the owner or the architect. We have an extraordinary story here, and we have to really put the focus on that and share it. It can’t be heavy-handed. The design element should not be too important, either. As much as I like Disney and am a big fan, we can’t recreate that kind of experience at Château Haut-Brion. It is like our wine and food: it has to be very subtle.

The carbon-neutral project was born 10 years ago, so we have been working on this with the architects. The technology we are using has improved significantly over that time, so we are going to be in better shape than we anticipated when we started, whether it is the geothermal energy we are using or solar cells. It is important for all of us and the planet, but especially important when you have a long-term vision of a family company that we represent. We are farmers, and our most important asset is our soil and our planet – without that we are nothing, so we have to look after it. I think that is why we see a lot of positive messaging coming out of this space. We are physically using our soil to build our buildings because the construction is going to be significantly made of rammed earth, so we are extracting our soil and we will have that reflected in the walls of our chai building. It is an exciting message, and we will literally be able to see quite gravelly soils within the actual walls. Some of it will be more traditional construction, but much of it will be rammed earth.

On creating a new St-Émilion first-growth wine, Château Quintus, on land that was previously three older properties
Creating a new name and brand ultimately means the promise of quality to the consumer. The reason for creating a new name is that we are not trying to make a better version of what was there before. We are making a totally different, better wine than all those estates. The selection process of the grapes for the wine is so drastically different compared to what was done beforehand. It is a totally different way of making this Right Bank wine. We are adopting the same kind of principles that we have at the Left Bank at Château Haut-Brion and Château La Mission Haut-Brion. It is daunting, but, ultimately, it is very exciting.

While the reconstruction of Château Haut-Brion continues, visitors can experience the group’s wines and hospitality at its new Pavillon Catelan, Bordeaux

Find out more:
domaineclarencedillon.com
le-clarence.paris
chateau-quintus.com

This article first appeared in the Autumn/Winter 2022/23 issue of LUX

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Reading time: 13 min
A woman in a yellow top and grey blazer standing in a kitchen
Sakshi Chhabra Mittal is the founder and CEO of FoodHak, a startup revolutionising the food industry by combining science, tech and traditional Ayurvedic principles to make healthier meals more accessible to all. Here Sakshi, speaks to Samantha Welsh about starting an innovating company and the potential for food science

LUX: What were your first entrepreneurial steps?
Sakshi Chhabra Mittal: I started working with doctors while in a full time job, to create a health-focussed line of food that was anti-inflammatory, low glycaemic index, gluten-free, dairy-free and free from refined sugars. Their patients heard about this and asked to subscribe. This pushed me to do a soft launch from my home kitchen; intended to be one week, it stretched to over four months with strong demand (purely word of mouth) and nearly 100% retention. I then found a kitchen near my office, woke every day at 5am to start operations with a part-time chef, kitchen assistant and an operations team. We learned a lot, most importantly, if you are building a business in the D2C space, your product becomes your life!

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

LUX: How did this evolve into a tech specialism?
SM: While I was studying for my MBA at Wharton in US, I was fascinated how tech can help scale science and business innovation. After graduating, I joined an early-stage tech VC where I invested in Babylon, Deliveroo and Darktrace, and was then invited to join SoftBank in Silicon Valley where I used my biotech training to invest in companies innovating in oncology, immunology, data science.

soups and curries with rice in bowls

LUX: What brought about the pivot to food science?
SM: I had studied diseases professionally but personally I developed a rare liver breakdown during my first pregnancy. Known as OC, Obstetric Cholestasis recurs in subsequent pregnancies in more than 90% of cases. There is no known cause or cure but as our bodies are machines, science can offer answers, so I did clinical research into food types, changed my diet and managed to avoid OC recurring. I had found a gap in the market! Food science can help us potentially reduce chronic disease, relieve government healthcare budgets, live more sustainably, foster education in nutrition.

LUX: Clinical evidence links poor gut health with inflammation and disease; how does FoodHak’s proprietary tech bespoke complementary dietary solutions?
SM: We have built proprietary data models, taking all published clinical research on food, and making ingredient-disease links. This is our personalisation engine. We are launching personalisation features on our website, where people select meals according to their health goals, for example, to aid in adjusting cholesterol, blood pressure, immunity. We are also developing a personalised AI recipe generator App.

LUX: Tech or taste, what comes first?
SM: TASTE! Food is an experience, you have to get the taste right, everything else like lifestyle changes and customer retention follow on.

A curry in a bowl

LUX: How does FoodHak fit within the fast-growing plant-based nutrition market and what is your USP?
SM: We are a first mover in the ‘food as medicine’ space. We bring clinical research to the table via delicious dishes that can help people live a long, disease-free life. Tech companies tell you what you should and shouldn’t eat based on data sets but none completes the loop and personalises food. Our proprietary data models create bespoke recipes, our AI recipe generator varies and extends choices. The market opportunity is the vast population suffering allergies, inflammation, sugar-related issues etc. FoodHak’s dishes are plant-based using around 30 varieties with superfoods. We focus on a low glycaemic index, being gluten free, dairy free, free from refined sugars, we use science and tech, and we deliver bespoked gourmet meals to your door!

LUX: How do you achieve operational efficiencies with this model?
SM: We use sophisticated food packaging technology where we heat seal food in pouches. This gives us a naturally longer shelf life on fresh food and helps us with our zero-food waste policy. Our customers enjoy the extra flexibility in the shelf life as well. This enables us to run large-scale batches in food manufacturing, which reduces workshifts, encourages less frequent deliveries, and so saves on operational costs.

food dishes in bowls

LUX: How has working in diverse industries influenced your leadership style?
SM: We make a deliberate effort to interview women to join the company. I learnt from working in finance that if you don’t seek out women to join the company you will never have an equal opportunities workforce. Over 50% of our employees are women. I am also proud that virtually 100% of our workforce is diverse, including minorities and people from developing nations. Diversity of opinion around the table is critical to making the right decisions.

LUX: Has Covid changed corporate culture at FoodHak?
SM: I believe to build a strong culture and values from day 1 in a start-up is impossible with people working from home (WFH). The feeling of connection and ownership comes when you sit with your team and see them problem-solve in their respective areas. You see your product being made and packaged with love. You see the values exhibited by the senior leadership on a day-to-day basis. There is no reason to be WFH unless you really need to. It’s also important that each employee at FoodHak has equity from Day 1. They have a sense of ownership over the business, the product they are making, they want to come into work and give it their best shot to make the company succeed. We believe that the early employees have sacrificed so much to help build the product and they should be growing their wealth as the company grows.

a chocolate cake with a piece on the spoon.

LUX: How successful have you been in attracting investment?
SM: We went out to raise $5M but were oversubscribed and ended up extending the round. It became clear that our proposition is strong, the product is differentiated, and the time is now to lead the future development of food, which is not into fake meats or other processed alternatives. It is real food powered by science and tech. We have one of the best cap tables (possibly) in Europe, with Venture Capital firms like First Minute Capital, Urania Ventures, strategics like Holland and Barrett, and influential business angels like CEO of the Vision Fund, CEO of Palo Alto Networks, Jim Mellon, Jeremy Collar, Mervyn Davies, Lydia Jett and others!

Read more: Chef Rasmus Kofoed: The Vegetable King

LUX: How do you see tech continue to drive FoodHak’s success forward?
SM: We can use this tech to create any food in any category really quickly, while continuously adding variety on a weekly / monthly basis. We can also use ingredient swaps to create personalised recipes at scale. So, think of us as the new age, health-focussed, food conglomerate that’s powered by science and tech!

Find our more: foodhak.com

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An orange on a brown plate
An orange on a brown plate

‘Meat Fruit (c.1430)’ is a signature dish of chicken-liver parfait set in mandarin gel, by Heston Blumenthal. Photo by John Scott Blackwell

As one of the world’s most recognised chefs, it’s easy to forget that Heston Blumenthal is the proprietor of two three-Michelin-star restaurants. He is a leader in resurrecting historic culinary dishes, and his equally famous approach to scientific cooking has led him to become an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry

LUX: How did you become interested in historic cuisine?
Heston Blumenthal: I went to Books for Cooks, the cookbook shop in Portobello in west London, to look at kids books, when I noticed a yellow paperback called The Vivendier. It was by Taillevent, who was the chef to the Palais-Royal in Paris in the 14th century; I only picked it off the shelf because Taillevent was the name of a three Michelin-star restaurant in Paris. The book fell open to a recipe on how to roast a chicken and bring it back to life.

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You take the chicken, you pluck it while it’s alive, then you pack it with wheat, German saffron and dripping, and apparently it makes it look like it’s cooked. You then put his head under its belly and rock it to sleep. Then you put it on a roasting platter with two roasted chickens and bring it into the great hall of your master – maybe a court jester’s jumping around – and you start carving the roasted chicken. Then you kill this poor thing and before you roast it, you stuff sulphur and mercury down its neck and – according to the recipe – when you roast it, it makes a clucking noise. So, you’d bring it back to life. I thought, “Well, my God, this is brilliant.” But I later learned that it was fake. The chefs in the châteaux were showing off to each other, so they’d just make up these recipes – there’s no evidence that anyone ever did them.

A bald man wearing a v neck black t shirt and glasses staring at the camera

Chef Heston Blumenthal. Photo by John Scott Blackwell

So wouldn’t it be amazing if a modern chef with modern techniques didn’t actually replicate these recipes but took ideas from them? We started working with historians at Hampton Court Palace. The food historian Marc Meltonville said to me, “You might be interested in this: it’s called ‘Pommes d’Or’.” It was minced pork and veal formed into a ball, put on a spit, then basted with a parsley custard so it looked like an apple. That was where my inspiration for ‘meat fruit’ came from.

An egg yolk with a blue shell on crispy noodles and brown sticks on a plate

Eggs in Verjuice, after an 18th-century recipe

LUX: With so many options, can chefs be more creative now than in the past?
HB: I think our creativity is actually in danger. We live in a world where we’re so distracted and the paradox is that we invent things like the iPhone to make our lives easier, then we become slaves to them. They are incredible but they’re not as incredible as human beings. We’re in danger of losing the very essence of being human – and that’s imagination.

A dining room with brown leather chairs

The dining-room at The Fat Duck

LUX: How does sustainability figure in your businesses?
HB: We go to see every farm and we make sure we’re carbon neutral. Everything gets used. All of the bits that we don’t serve goes to staff food.

Read more: Chef Yannick Alléno: The Innovator

We were one of the first restaurants ever to use day boats, because a couple of blokes on a fishing boat with a rod and line are not going to do any harm to the sea, unlike a big trawler with a net destroying the ocean floor. But the solution is not to stop eating fish.

pink yellow and gold foam and mousse desert on a plate

The chef’s Botrytis Cinerea dessert. Photo by Jose Luis Lopez de Zubiria

LUX: Who do you cook for?
HB: Who am I cooking for? Me. The big-me to cook for the mini-me and the mini-me to cook for the big-me, both at the same time.

Heston Blumenthal is proprietor of two three-star restaurants, The Fat Duck, in the Berkshire village of Bray, and Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, in London. His other restaurants include The Hind’s Head, in Bray, and The Perfectionists’ Café, at Heathrow Terminal 2

Find out more: dinnerbyheston.co.uk

This article appears in the Summer 2022 issue of LUX

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Reading time: 3 min
a chef sitting at a table
The entrance of a grand home with yellow walls and an artwork coming out the house

The entrance of Pavillon Ledoyen with an installation by Tadashi Kawamata

Yannick Alléno is one of France’s top chefs, famous as much for his drive and ambition as he is for his expertise with sauces. He is redefining haute cuisine with a combination of playful and seriously researched innovations while challenging the classics. Alléno is also introducing a revolutionary new concept of bespoke dining at his flagship restaurant, Pavillon Ledoyen, in Paris.

LUX: Tell us about what is going to change at your restaurants.
Yannick Alléno: I think that the luxury, first-class restaurant has to think about the way it picks its customer, so I created the ‘conciergerie de table’. The Michelin concept is that for three stars, it’s worth making the trip, taking the plane, but the restaurant with a ‘no choice menu’ is over. Today, the customer’s freedom is very important. Of course, the creativity is fantastic, but when you are a customer, you would like to make your own choices.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

LUX: Is this thinking just for you or is it going to be a trend everywhere?
YA: I think we need new models, even for the staff. Pastry chefs are stars now, but you miss 30 per cent of the restaurant when you say that – you are missing out the service staff and it is the service that has to be at the centre of the conversation today. Our vision is to push them. We have to work on the education of service staff in their schools. We are changing the way we cook for our customers. They often want the menu dégustation, but we must go deeper with their choices. For example, the concierge calls you and introduces himself as your host when you come to Paris. He needs to know why you’re coming – it could be a special occasion, such as your wife’s birthday. He would ask what type of flower she likes, and we would arrange to have some for her. You could say that your son is allergic to certain things, which needs to be discussed. It is easier to speak about these things in private and knowing them in advance means the chefs can work on them. These are the fine details you can get with this new way.

a chef sitting at s table in a restaurant

Chef Yannick Alléno

LUX: Can this only happen at three Michelin-star-level service?
YA: For the moment it’s a premier-class treatment. There is another advantage in that the same food is ordered for each table – you don’t have multiple preparations. The écologie, the financial way of the restaurant is very important.

LUX: Why hasn’t this happened before?
YA: There was a development in the 1970s and ’80s, which was a time of new ways of making food and plates became more and more sophisticated. Now, it is a time to think differently again and create the next generation of those kinds of restaurants. Service in the service of taste – this is how I would explain what we have to do.

LUX: So, you could have 60 couverts, each of them with a different dish?
YA: Yes, but the difference is that the energy in the kitchen is more controlled – you know in advance what you have to do, you have the right information. Instead of different information for 12–15 tables, and the chef going crazy, now they have in advance any details and know the situation for tables. When people arrive at 8.45pm, immediately the food is on the table, and you’re happy that the champagne is ready at the perfect temperature. You know it is all in good hands.

pastry style dishes on separate plates

A dish created by Alléno for the Pavillon Ledoyen

LUX: Do you expect that you will start to invent new dishes in response?
YA: Yes. Let’s talk about a chicken dish. I can say to a chef, “Roast that chicken for our customers”, so two days before the customer dines I put cognac and vin jeune in the chicken’s mouth, and the inside becomes very perfumed. I don’t take anything out, I preserve everything in the kitchen. Before, I wouldn’t know how many chickens I’d have to save for one night, so I’d have to prepare it in advance. Today, I have time to cook the chicken for you. I want you to tell me it was the best chicken of your life – this is the key. In some restaurants, you don’t remember the taste – maybe the show, but not the taste. I prefer to give you a memory of the taste.

LUX: Can a new sauce be created by instruction, or is it completely personal?
YA: Sauce is the ‘verb’ of French cuisine. If you don’t have the verb, you can’t write the sentence. Without sauces, we can’t do any of our dishes. Sauces, for me, are 80 per cent of the success of your plate. You have to know how to make sauces, like a grand béarnaise. Creativity has to be founded on the real basics – the chef has to know how to create a fantastic base. We have just created the École de la Sauce. I say to the chefs and the professeur, it’s better that the young chefs learn the sauces first. A fantastic sauce will make a fantastic memory. This is the key to creativity.

a restaurant with a flower on the blind

The dining-room at Pavillon Ledoyen

LUX: When you were 15 and you started working, what did you dream of?
YA: I just wanted to cook. Nothing else. You have to remember it wasn’t the same as today – now you have TV, Instagram, and chefs are stars. I just wanted to work and my parents were happy because in that job you never missed food. In this city, this job allows you to do something with your life.

Today, I have to give young chefs and young female chefs a chance. I come from the Paris suburbs and it wasn’t easy to come to the middle of Champs-Élysées. I was not from that world. Today, it’s even harder. We have to tell them that they can actually do something and that we will help.

a fish with a side of green vegatablesI have said to my team that I want 50/50 women and men on my team by 2023. We have to be open to anyone coming to enjoy their life in our restaurant. Of course, we have to take care of our business, but they are free to say: “Friday night, I can’t be here”, so we tell them they can come on Friday lunch and they have the opportunity to do their shift and take a night off. This is the key to helping a woman become a grand chef. There are not enough grand chefs because it is very tough to acquire the knowledge. But you can have a normal life and become a grand chef. Three days a week you can work at the three- star restaurant. I think this will be a big evolution for our business.

Read more: Chef Rasmus Kofoed: The Vegetable King

LUX: Has this last year, with the pandemic, softened you?
YA: Yes. How can I accommodate disabled people in my restaurants? We have to be a better restaurant. Not in terms of food, but in terms of social consideration. We have a lot of young chefs with motorbikes and one of them could have an accident and end up in a wheelchair. I’d never thought of making a space for him. Being disabled doesn’t mean that he can’t learn to cook. Why don’t we make a space for him to create his dishes? If we were to close the door because he’d had an accident, what kind of people would we be?

A chocolate pudding in a bowl with gold leaf on it

A dessert created by Alléno for the Pavillon Ledoyen

LUX: Do you think that sustainability is becoming more important?
YA: Yes. We have to push in that direction. We have to tell people we won’t buy their food because it’s not made naturally. If you sell it, you have to produce it correctly. Customers place their trust in us, and they want to be sure we can take care of this for them. It is our responsibility to do this.

Yannick Alléno is chef patron of the three- starred Alléno Paris au Pavillon Ledoyen in the French capital. His other restaurants include L’Abysse, in Paris, La Table, in Marrakech, Stay, in Seoul and Dubai, Le 1947 at Cheval Blanc, in Courchevel, and Pavyllon Monte-Carlo at the Hôtel Hermitage, in Monte-Carlo

Find out more: yannick-alleno.com

This article appears in the Summer 2022 issue of LUX

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Reading time: 7 min
A steak on a plate with a cracker that has the words ARZAK burnt into it
A woman with brown hair wearing a white shirt

Chef Elena Arzak

Award-winning Basque chef Elena Arzak is the latest in a long line of chefs from the same family. Working in the same eponymous restaurant that her great-grandparents began as a tavern in San Sebastián, she creates innovative yet traditional dishes alongside her father, Juan Mari Arzak, who pioneered the New Basque cuisine in the 1970s

LUX: Tell us about your restaurant’s history.
Elena Arzak: The restaurant has existed since 1897, and I am a fourth generation chef. The restaurant has been in the same building in San Sebastián. When I was a little girl, I lived next to the restaurant, and I used to come round a lot during the summer holidays to visit my grandmother who was a chef, and my mother who also worked here. And to be with my father, who I have now worked with for 25 years.

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LUX: You travelled a lot. Has your cooking been inspired by any particular place?
EA: I’ve always maintained my family’s philosophy that travelling is a constant source of new ideas. You can get so many ideas in a small neighbouring village, as well as abroad. I like to visit other cultures because the food and ingredients that for them are familiar, for us they are new. And Basque cuisine has a code of flavours. I can pick up ideas and adapt them to my own code of flavours.

A steak on a plate with a cracker that has the words ARZAK burnt into it

Elena Arzak’s ‘vacuno selado’, a salt beef dish

LUX: Is it correct that your father started the New Basque cuisine?
EA: Well, he started serving nouvelle cuisine in 1976 in Madrid. The Gourmet Review organised a round table where they invited young chefs from Spain and the French chefs Paul Bocuse and Raymond Oliver. My father and his colleague from the three-star restaurant Akelarre in San Sebastián were so impressed with what they heard that they came back to the Basque Country and started a cuisine revolution with a group of chefs. They corrected Basque recipes that were overcooked or made with poor ingredients. They started to introduce new flavours like exotic fruits and ones that were not Basque. And they wanted to get closer to the people in San Sebastián, who love to eat – they went round small villages speaking and giving cooking demonstrations, and sometimes they introduced special prices in the restaurants so that ordinary people could come.

LUX: Do you feel that you have a duty to encourage women?
EA: In Basque culture, women are very strong. When I was growing up, my grandmother was a chef, my mother worked in the restaurant and three quarters of the staff were women. I grew up thinking that this was normal. When I went abroad and I saw I was the only woman in a team of 40, I thought, what happened? Perhaps if I’d been born in another part of the world, I wouldn’t be talking with you now.

A lit up restaurant at night with a blue sky

The restaurant building in San Sebastián

LUX: Has the core philosophy of Arzak changed much over the years?
EA: Yes. In the beginning, it was a popular traditional restaurant, a tavern. They served wine, Basque cider and a little bit of Basque food. Then my grandmother changed that style to modern Basque while always thinking of local traditions and flavours. We always like to be up to date – we don’t cook like we did 10 years ago, and we won’t cook the same in 10 years.

LUX: What trends do you see emerging in the next 20 years?
EA: Everybody wants to be eco-social and to be helping producers. For me, the future is going to be about a cuisine that looks simple but is not. There are trends in cuisine – before, we wanted “Wow”, “It’s spectacular”, we needed lights, and now it’s going to be calmer but very interesting.

LUX: How has the rise of sustainability affected you?
EA: Well, here we are very lucky because in San Sebastián there are many farmers who live nearby. But we don’t have curry in the Basque area, or Himalayan salt, and I like to use things like that, so what can I do? Spices have always been traded around the world. But for me, the most important thing is to support the local suppliers.

Pink powder logo on a plate that has been stencilled on top of yellow cream and a silver logo on the plate

The dessert call ‘Enigma’

LUX: How has the pandemic affected your creativity in the kitchen?
EA: It affected our way of thinking, sleeping, behaving; everybody was in shock. I was so frightened, and if you are frightened you cannot create. But I said to myself that I am a chef and creating is what really makes me relax, so I will create, because it’s the one thing that is mine. I got a lot of positive ideas during this pandemic. My children like to drink infusions so I drank rooibos tea with vanilla with them, and now I want to do an ice cream.

Read more: Chef Ángel León: Ocean Sustainability Supremo

LUX: Which is your favourite of the dishes you’ve made?
EA: I remember the first plate I presented to my father. It was a tuna salad with strings of vegetables. I was 19 years old. For me it was a challenge and I was so nervous, and when he accepted my plate, that for me was the beginning of everything.

A restaurant with a large grey light hanging over the table

The restaurant’s dining room

LUX: Is there a favourite dish you have by another chef?
EA: The last plate that has really impressed me was by chef Andoni Luis Aduriz at his restaurant Mugaritz. He let me taste a dish called ‘How Long a Kiss Lasts?’ It’s a tongue of ice with sea-urchin cream at the tip.

LUX: Arzak has a strong family dynamic. What has that added to the restaurant?
EA: It has added personality and identity, and people know us. And there is, of course, a super team. Some of the staff worked with my grandmother – imagine that! Being a family business is a plus.

Find out more: www.arzak.es

This article appears in the Summer 2022 issue of LUX

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Tuscany Wine Estate
Salvatore Ferragamo has been an Italian luxury legend ever since its footwear was adopted by Hollywood sirens in the 1920s. Recently, Ferruccio Ferragamo, son of the eponymous founder and currently president of the company, and his own son Salvatore, have ventured into the world of fine wine and hospitality (following in the footsteps of Ferruccio’s younger brother Massimo, who owns the Castiglion del Bosco wine estate and luxury hotel). As part of our Luxury Leaders series, Salvatore Ferragamo speaks to LUX about restoring the medieval Tuscan village of Il Borro, ponders luxury’s demand for authenticity, and reveals his favourite Italian dish.
Ferragamo family restore medieval village Il Borro

Salvatore with his father Ferruccio Ferragamo

LUX: What kind of experience does Il Borro offer guests and what makes it unique compared to other luxury estates?
Salvatore Ferragamo: Il Borro is truly unique because at the heart of the estate lies a medieval hamlet, dating back 1000 years which has been transformed into luxurious suites and villas through careful and respectful restoration. Authenticity is the cornerstone of all past and present activities at Il Borro. This place is one of a kind because of its tradition, at Il Borro, history, art, Tuscan culture and nature offer exclusive experiences and atmosphere that are impossible to find anywhere else.

I refer, for instance, to our Wine & Art Gallery, an artistic description of the history of wine through my father’s collection of prints and artworks from the 15th century to the present day which include works by Mantegna, Goya, Rembrandt, as well as modern artists like Warhol and Picasso. The gallery introduces guests to our cellars, which have been enlarged to enable a higher production of wine, yet still represent a respectful extension of the area beneath the 19th century villa.

At Il Borro we take care of our soil with an old-standing organic method and all our products are both pesticide and preservative free. We harvest the grapes, go horse-riding on the estate, pick olives and cultivate vegetables in a spectacular one-hectare garden. Il Borro is a lively place, where we work the land to reap the fruits that our customers can taste in the Tuscan recipes prepared by our chef, Andrea Campani.

And of course there is a relaxation area, with eco-friendly pools and a spa free of machines, where guests can enjoy a range of treatments carried out by our professional team.

[Best_Wordpress_Gallery id=”9″ gal_title=”ferragamo”]

Read next: Motoring Maverick Joe Macari’s investing in classic cars

LUX: What inspired the project of Il Borro Ferragamo wine estate?
Salvatore Ferragamo: It was the history of this place – all we had to do was bring the traditions of this land back to life. Our vineyards are spread over about 50 hectares and we make 4 red wines in total; Il Borro, Polissena, Pian Di Nova and Alessandro dal Borro, our white wine Lamelle is 100% Chardonnay. We also make an exquisite Vin Santo and the jewel in the crown of our wine cellar, Bolle di Borro, a sparkling Sangiovese Rosé made in the classic method.

LUX: How do you compete against more established names and estates in the world of winemaking?
Salvatore Ferragamo: We do this through authenticity and excellence. We could produce three times as much wine, but instead we prefer to offer a product of the highest quality. We don’t exploit our land, we take care of it. Our wines are the result of oenological research, aimed at making premium wines through challenging combinations and effectively looking after the grapes of our territory. On top of all this, we have a unique place: the medieval hamlet where our guests can enjoy an unforgettable experience in an authentic atmosphere, with all the comforts.

Ancient wine cellars of Il Borro

Salvatore Ferragmo pictured in the Il Borro wine cellars

LUX: How has the rise of digital marketing and social media affected the way you approach business?
Salvatore Ferragamo: Digital marketing and social media are the tools of today and they represent a great opportunity for us. Every day we strive to make improvements, using creativity and lots of energy. They offer us the opportunity to communicate in real time and with emotional impact all of Il Borro’s values: hospitality, winemaking, food, health, nature, history, and traditions.

Read next: Frieze founder Matthew Slotover on the future of culture

LUX: Have you always been passionate about wine?
Salvatore Ferragamo: I can’t think of a time when there wasn’t a bottle of wine on my family’s table. Wine is part of Tuscan culinary traditions and being a food lover I cannot imagine dinner, and sometimes even lunch, without a bottle of good wine. Taking care of Il Borro’s winery just came naturally. The best moment of my day is when I start work with a walk through the vineyards.

LUX: Wine and hospitality are relatively new territories for the Ferragamo family. What are some of the challenges you’ve had to face along the way?
Salvatore Ferragamo: Yes, that’s true. But some elements are not new to my family: the Made in Italy mission, craftsmanship, and the Tuscan lifestyle. Il Borro encapsulates all of these elements. The real challenge at Il Borro is respecting the estate, the land and its gifts, through innovations on which we invest considerably, to preserve the authenticity and, at the same time, offer high quality hospitality.

Andrea Campani heads the kitchens at Il Borro

Chef Andrea Campani is renowned for his grilled dishes prepared in a large artisanal oven

LUX: Is your name a passport or a burden?
Salvatore Ferragamo: My name is an honour…except when somebody thinks that I’m “the shoemaker of dreams”, that was my grandfather!

Having said that, I am fortunate to have examples of very successful entrepreneurs within my family, and I can honestly say that it’s a great source of energy and a positive challenge.

Read next: Luxury is making the impossible, possible, says CEO of Heesen Yachts, Arthur Brouwer

LUX: The Relais & Châteaux group, of which Il Borro is a member, is renowned for the best culinary hotels across the globe. What do you think makes food exceptional and what’s your favourite Italian dish?
Salvatore Ferragamo: This is a difficult question, since food, like wine, is a sort of magic. The creativity of a wine-maker or a chef together with high quality ingredients that, in the end, make the difference.

My favourite Italian dish… another difficult question. Probably Tagliatelle with Wild Boar Ragù in winter and Risotto with Tomatoes and Burrata Cheese in summer followed by a barbecue of our Chianina beef.

LUX: How do the other aspects of the Ferragamo family business influence the running of the Estate? Do you see it as a collaborative project?
Salvatore Ferragamo: We prefer to keep the two family businesses separate, however, I would say it is the strong core of business and entrepreneurship which has been inherited from Salvatore Ferragamo (my grandfather) to my father and my father to me, and of course the Ferragamo name, which links the two together.

LUX: Does Tuscany hold any particular relevance for the Ferragamo family?
Salvatore Ferragamo: Tuscany is my land even though my grandfather was from Naples and my mother is English. This is where I grew up, where my family established the brand, and also where a large part of the new Ferragamo generation lives. Tuscany represents Ferragamo’s creative inspiration at all levels, and we are very proud to be recognised as one of the leading Tuscan/Italian brands in the world.

Read next: Driving through the Italian countryside with Jude Law

LUX: How has the world of luxury hospitality evolved in recent years?
Salvatore Ferragamo: I think there is a growing demand for authenticity. Travellers seem to be less interested in serial/signature hotel concepts, and the magnificent but cold buildings without history, without a soul. Travellers want to live and feel the experience alongside luxury and this offers a truly unique opportunity.

Outdoor activities at Il Borro Tuscan estate

Activities at Il Borro include horse riding, cooking classes, trekking, golf, tennis and mountain biking

LUX: What’s next for Il Borro?
Salvatore Ferragamo: We have so many exciting projects in the pipeline, most notably: the launch of a 100% organic wine; the opening of Il Borro Tuscan Bistro in Dubai, the first restaurant in our franchising project, with the aim of eventually taking Il Borro’s Tuscan cuisine and wines around the world; the implementation of the biological production of our honey; and we also plan to provide Il Borro with an olive oil mill to produce our own biological extra virgin oil.

LUX: How do you manage to balance work and pleasure?
Salvatore Ferragamo: I believe I’m lucky, because I love my job. I could never have spent my days behind a desk. Since I love going horse-riding and playing golf, everything is within reach here at Il Borro and I can easily make the most of the little free time I have, doing what I love!

ilborro.it

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Reading time: 7 min

By Darius Sanai
Editor in Chief

Ozone at the Ritz Carlton in Hong Kong, the highest bar in the world, has a long row of bar stools along its floor to ceiling picture window. You settle on a stool, place your Mojito on the counter in front of you, and stare out at a view of… nothing much. Where is Hong Kong? You lower your sights and, far below you, is a meandering stretch of water lined by buildings. The city that takes your breath away with its architectural glamour from the ground is now so far beneath you, from the 118th floor, that it almost loses impact; I was reminded of looking at Paris from a helicopter once, and pondering that human achievement needs to be appreciated at the scale it was created on.

OZONE - Private Dining Room

Why do we so love views, and in particular, bars with views? From London’s Shard, you can gaze down from any of three lively and extensive bars at sweeping views of the city, from floors in the mid-30s: a perfect height for admiring a low-rise city like London. In Dubai, you can head to the Burj-al-Arab’s top-floor bar, and perhaps you will be as disappointed as I was at the tawdry collection of plump men and sad Russian hookers desecrating a surreal vista over the inky Gulf. The Rainbow Room in New York is still the most atmospheric bar with a view in the world, wearing its Jazz Age history on its sleeve (and try drinking Martinis there during an electrical storm for a genuine out of body experience).

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And perhaps that – slipping out of reality – is why views and bars are so intimately attached. For these watering holes are all in the middle of man-made firmaments, cities aching with crowds and claustrophobia and high anxiety; just as a Beluga vodka Martini provides an escape from the everyday, so does a vista stretching along, above and away. Together, they are an irresistible combination.

OZONE - Bar Area

And so it was at Ozone. Slowly, the eyes adjusted to the relief map of Hong Kong spread out far below. Even in the gallery facing oblivion, the lighting was (correctly) kept low, so you could start to pick out ships and landmark buildings. The crowd was lively: low on suffocating young gents in finance talking about money markets, high on a blend of skin colours and nationalities, out for fun, not for expenses. And, as a slightly disingenuous counterpoint, Ritz Carlton levels of service, which you somehow don’t associate with somewhere so…groovy. Cocktails and champagne whizzed through the crowds with old-fashioned efficiency and deference. My Moscow Mule was refreshing and long, made even more revitalising by a cool breeze blowing in from the open roof. At 490m altitude, it was a discernible couple of degrees less hot than Hong Kong below.

Read next: Investing in a Porsche 911 Turbo

You exit Ozone via the lobby of the Ritz, a surreal interlude of calm elegance, and outside, suddenly, Hong Kong towers over you again.

If Ozone looks down at the view, Aqua is the view. This spot, a kilometre or so from the Ritz, is on the 30th floor, some 88 floors below Ozone. Also in Kowloon, the fast-emerging half of the city across the water from the historic centre, the city centre of Hong Kong – known to locals as Central – is a bristling wall of multi-coloured towers. In the foreground, fishing boats, ferries and old Chinese junks chunter through the water, which is multi-coloured, from the reflections of the buildings facing. It is the urban equivalent of being in the heart of the Alps, except instead of glacier whites and granite greys, green, pink and silver neon light up the cityscape facing you and the water below.

Aqua Interior ML03

If you can take your eyes off the view, you will note that Aqua takes its cocktails and food quite seriously. Less of a party spot than Ozone; more of a place for an aperitif that turns into a thoughtful dinner, with good friends. The Moscow Mule here packed a punch, with real ginger and a dab of mint, and one of my favourite vodkas, Ketel One, still made in an old gin pot still. It adds texture and class.

The chef’s selection of sushi came with an instruction not to ask for wasabi as it mars the flavour; the lobster, wagyu beef and toro nigiri were indeed delicate, buttery, nutty, gentle. For all the correct international conversation about human beings desecrating the planet, and the follies of modern urbanity, an evening at Aqua may lead you to conclude that humans are still capable of adding beauty, soul, and delight to the world. And that this bar high in the heart of Hong Kong is one of the very best places to appreciate that.

Meanwhile, a good friend tells me that the bars on the other side of the expanse of water are less spectacular, but more edgy. To be continued..

Ozone, Ritz Carlton, Hong Kong ritzcarlton.com; Aqua Spirit, Hong Kong aqua.com.hk

 

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Reading time: 4 min

Barricaia Masseto 1 (media)[1]

By Darius Sanai
Editor in Chief

On business in Italy, my route takes me along the coast of the Maremma, the beautiful and curiously unspoiled Tuscan coastlands. Combine the words Tuscany and Mediterranean and images of overcrowded beaches and packed rows of villas interspersed with batallions of ice-cream wielding middle-class children come to mind. But in reality, the Maremma, which stretches down from Pisa towards Rome, is one of the least-populated and least-touristed parts of Italy. Partly, this is because it used to be dominated by marshlands (and was once a malarial zone) and has little of the community history of the rest of Tuscany. But that changed 100 years ago, and the lack of tourism now is a mystery: there are beaches, the pineta (the long stone pine forest that wraps along the entire Mediterranean coast, when it is allowed to), picturesque hills, and now, no malaria.

What the Maremma does have, famously, if you are a wine lover, is some of the most interesting wines in the world. A few decades ago, Mario Incisa della Rocchetta, a member of the Tuscan wine aristocracy, planted vines here and created a wine called Sassicaia, which shocked the then conservative and inward-gazing world of wine. This was a wine from nowhere, which was of the quality of the Bordeaux first growths (the likes of Lafite and Latour). Was it a freak?

Sassicaia came from a sloping benchland called Bolgheri, between the sea and the wonderfully-named Colline Metallifere, the Metallic Hills, that border the area. To prove it wasn’t a freak, Incisa della Rochetta’s cousin, Ludovico Antinori (from a branch of the famed wine family, but not the main branch) planted his own wines nearby and in the early 1980s created another Bordeaux-style wine called Ornellaia. While not quite as celebrated as Sassicaia, it also make its mark at the top (or rather bottom) of the world’s wine lists.

There was a patch of land just outside the original domain of Ornellaia that Antinori planted to Merlot, one of the grapes of Bordeaux, and the dominant grape of two of Bordeaux’s legends, Chateau Petrus and Le Pin. Like a great patch of land in Burgundy, it was planted on a slope, slightly concave, with different soils and bordered by wild forests at the top. Like the land of Chateau Petrus, the soil was mainly clay. One day, Ornellaia’s owners decided to make a separate wine just out of grapes from this new vineyard, which was called Masseto, just for fun. The wine was so good, they have told me, that they decided to continue making it formally, in 1986.

And a legend was born, because Masseto is now the single wine of Italy that can take its place in the world’s private jets with the luxury brands of Bordeaux (Lafite, Petrus, etc) and California (Screaming Eagle, Harlan Estate, etc). There may be other wines of Italy which the professional wine tasters find equally good in some years, but they are obscure. Step into a restaurant in Moscow, Dubai or London and order a Masseto, and your companions, whether or not they are wine buffs, will know the card you have played.

“That is the middle part of the vineyard”, Axel Heinz tells me, inching along a sloped dirt track in his Audi. Heinz, handsome, articulate in several languages, and from some theoretical geographical combination of Germany and Bordeaux, is the winemaker for Masseto and Ornellaia, and has been for the past 10 years. “It is the grand cru of Masseto.” He is pointing to a slight hollow in the gentle slope, where grapes of a deep red hang from rows of green leaves. It’s just a vineyard, but I feel the same frisson as when walking the soils of Chambertin or La Landonne in France. The Mediterranean glistens in the middle distance, at its edge the delightfully empty beach by Bolgheri. Brooding forests rise towards the deep blue sky behind.

Vigna Masseto 1 (madia)[1]In the winery, a modernist building constructed in 1989 to blend into the earth, in a tasting room looking out over vines and hills and swathed in late summer sun, we taste some Massetos. The 2012, very young, remember, is deliciously, surprisingly open, broad, layered with bright fruit and cedar. It will be released to the world this autumn. The 2010 is older but tastes younger, more tannic, more closed, proud, just revealing hints of its couture gown from underneath a gabardine Burberry trenchcoat. I make a mental note not to drink the cases I have at home until 2020.

There are others, but the memorable wine, an astonishing wine, is the 2006. It has the breadth and openness of the 2012 but also a tunnel of depth, you can taste all kinds of bosky, subtle, sexy, bedroom-parlour touches and tones. These can only intensify over time. I make another mental note, to buy a case of the 2006 and drink a bottle a year over the next 12 years. Or to use it as perfume.

As I leave, I ask Heinz about the abandoned farm building next to the Masseto vineyard itself. It had been sealed off with fencing; a suggestion that there were plans afoot. “Yes, we are building Masseto’s own winery there,” he says. “Work starts this year and will be finished by the time we harvest the 2017 vintage”. So, Masseto is going it alone within the portfolio? “Yes,” he smiles. I see the flowering of a new, solo, luxury brand.

Darius Sanai

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Reading time: 4 min

There’s a whole lot more to Bali than makeshift beach bars and hippy zone-outs. Make like a dude with ANDREA SEIFERT’s guide to the island’s spectacular cocktail hotspots

1. KAKILIMA BY THE SEA, CANGGU

This charming, family-friendly seaside spot in Canggu sits on an expansive grassy lawn that gently slopes down to meet the sparkling water. Fast becoming known as the hotspot for sundowners, the postcard-perfect sunsets have to be seen to be believed and are best enjoyed with a pitcher of Kakilima’s signature sangria. The extensive menu of Mediterranean-inspired fare offers beautifully presented tapas, fresh seafood, an excellent mahi-mahi burger and the best pork ribs in town. On weekends, you’ll find acoustic live music and a crackling bonfire to add to the atmosphere.

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2. TOWNHOUSE, SEMINYAK

Renowned New York nightlife impresario Mark Baker has brought a hip, new multi-concept five-story space that is drawing Bali’s in crowd day and night. Raw food enthusiasts and art lovers can peruse the ground floor photo gallery and organic juice bar and then slip up to the roof garden terrace to take in the 360 degree panoramic views. Dinner is served at Bistro, a welcome precursor to bespoke cocktails and dancing in the sleek, opulent third and fourth floor lounge. thetownhousebali.com

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3. OLD MAN’S, CANGGU

Old Man’s is a barefoot beach bar with a view of one of the busiest surf breaks in Bali, which just happens to be called Old Man’s. Bamboo, surfboards, Lucas Grogan murals, dogs and kids make this quite the interesting scene. Pop in any time for an easy menu of staples for the beach – baby coconut juices with bircher muesli in the morning, and a mixture of Balinese and Western favourites to fill you up once out of the surf. Live music, sunset DJs and a relaxed vibe will have you dancing here for hours. facebook.com/oldmansbali

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4. MOTEL MEXICOLA, SEMINYAK

Head south of the border to a quirky, rainbow-hued riot of Latin tunes and tasty tacos. Every night at Motel Mexicola is a fiesta in the retro tropical surrounds, filled with candle shrines, floral table clothes, bright artworks, rosaries, knickknacks, and twinkly lanterns. Food is as flavourful as the decor, and it doesn’t get any more authentic than the pork rib, a special recipe handed down to Chef Silverio by his Mexican granny. This is a place for merriment and margaritas. motelmexicolabali.com

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5. BARBACOA, SEMINYAK

Hungry carnivores come to South American fusion bar/restaurant Barbacoa to feast on whole lamb and suckling pig, slow-roasted for eight hours over an open fire. The menu also features lighter options like Peruvian snapper ceviche and grilled octopus, which can be washed down with a cold bottle of white from their wine cellar. The grand, airy fit-out marries urban exposed brick with colourful floor tiling, and the mezzanine level is home to a tequila bar with low Chesterfields overlooking the serenity of a rice paddy field, a rare sight in urbanised Seminyak. barbacoabali.com

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Reading time: 2 min

It’s the combination of history, hospitality and a superb location in the heart of South Kensington that makes Cranley Hotel the ideal home away from home in London. Explore the neighbourhood with ANDREA SEIFERT

There are few hotels that make you feel instantly at home from the moment you set foot through the door, but The Cranley is one such place. Tucked away on Bina Gardens, a quiet side street in elegant, historic South Kensington, it is an intimate hotel more akin to a friend’s grand home. It is perfectly placed for exploring the myriad of charming shops, legendary auction houses and world-class museums that the area has to offer.

Distinctly British, with the nostalgia of yesteryear evident in the classic fit-out of antiques, grand oil paintings and gilded mirrors, The Cranley is comprised of three intimate Victorian townhouses that date back to 1869.

Each of the 39 well-appointed bedrooms is comfortable. The focal point of mine? A Beaudesert four poster canopied bed with handstitched Irish linen – certainly a decadent cocoon to slip into at night. Modern amenities are not forgotten – a contemporary limestone bathroom houses Penhaligon’s toiletries and all rooms boast LCD flat screens and complimentary WiFi.

The inviting sitting room with its Regency blue palette is a relaxed setting to indulge in the champagne and canapés that the hotel serves each evening. During winter, sink into an armchair and enjoy the roaring fire. The terrace is heated, but I had the luxury of languorous mornings in the sunshine with numerous cups of tea and freshly baked pastries.

The Cranley is well-served by Gloucester Road station just a few blocks away, and the shopping areas of Knightsbridge and Kings Road are also close by. But for those who would like to really feel like a local resident, the staff can let you in on the gems that are but a few steps away.

You really don’t have to venture far to enjoy the riches of London; you’ll find a vibrant neighbourhood teeming with things to do, right on your doorstep. Read on to explore some of the highlights

EVOLVE WELLNESS CENTRE
Holistic Healing

london1I try to maintain a consistent yoga practice whilst on the road, and a brisk eight-minute walk to a dear little leafy mews off Old Brompton Road brought me to Evolve Wellness Centre. A vine-clad façade opens up into a tranquil haven from the busy London streets. Evolve offers not only superlative walk-in yoga classes and Pilates instruction, but also integrative holistic medical therapies. Acupuncture, massage, craniosacral therapy and osteopathy by well-regarded practitioners are heaven-sent for weary travellers.
evolvewellnesscentre.com

NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM
Science and Nature

Take in nature’s wonders at this impressive free museum: there are over 70 million specimens to view from botany, entomology, mineralogy, paleontology and zoology. The Diplodocus dinosaur model and colossal 1,300-year-old sequoia tree are worth the visit alone, but one should also explore The Vault, home to extraordinary treasures, gemstones and meteorites.
nhm.ac helpful hints.uk

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© Trustees of the Natural History Museum, London

HEXAGON CLASSICS
Motoring Marvels

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Car buffs will enjoy a visit to this fine showroom, exhibiting vintage racers and roadsters. Established in 1963, Hexagon has a storied 50-year history in car dealership, having traded just about every type of fine motor. They also deal in historic racecars and truly exotic models such as the Aston Martin DB4 Zagato, DB3S Coupé and the Ogle-designed Aston Martin DBS V8. Hexagon can source rare models, restore them and ship internationally.
hexagonclassics.com

AUX MERVEILLEUX DE FRED
Pastry Perfection

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Frédéric Vaucamps’ London outpost of this decadent homage to the meringue is a veritable parlour of sugary sin. His creations come in six flavours and three sizes, beautifully displayed underneath a gleaming counter. The eponymously named Merveilleux consists of a marvelously more-ish meringue base, encapsulated in lightas– air chocolate whipped cream and hand-rolled in shavings of dark chocolate. Enjoy your treats alongside a cup of coffee or tea. So simple and yet so divine.
auxmerveilleux.com

THE LIBRARY
Menswear Chic

Peter Sidell is the owner of this luxury multilabel menswear boutique. He has an exacting eye for selecting edgy threads, and this is a good thing for the fashion-forward gentleman customer. Expect heavy weights like Alexander McQueen, Saint Laurent Paris and Lanvin alongside cult labels Carol Christian Poell, LGB, The Label Under Construction, Lost and Found, Lumen et Umbra and many others. They also carry a selection of accessories, shoes and books, and a small women’s range.
thelibrary1994.com

STAR OF INDIA
Upscale Indian

Feast like a Maharaja at this world-renowned Indian stalwart. The family-owned restaurant has been going strong since 1954, attracting a loyal following of locals and visitors alike who come for their favourite dishes from all around India. Light and crispy poppadums, tangy chutneys, fiery curries and sizzling tandooris are on the menu alongside a good wine list. The ambience is cosy with an Italian-style frescoed ceiling complementing an otherwise simple décor in slate grey and earthy, muted beige.
starofindia.eu

BUMPKIN
Brit Bites

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The rustic environs of Bumpkin channel country-chic, with the open-plan kitchen adding a convivial and relaxed atmosphere to the Brit-centric eatery. Their seasonal menus use only the freshest of UK produce sourced directly from farmers to ensure sustainability and quality. Enjoy quintessentially British dishes like lightly spiced cured Highland venison with beetroot relish and foraged leaves, british beef pie, award winning English cheeses and sticky toffee pudding. Beverages are similarly patriotic – try Bumpkin’s house ale brewed in Kent.
bumpkinuk.com

SLIGHTLY FOXED
Rollicking Reads

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With the advent of the digital age, bookshops large and small have been under pressure. That makes a place like the Slightly Foxed bookstore even more special. Luckily there are enough bibliophiles that agree. What could be better than browsing the shelves of antiquarian, out-of-print and secondhand tomes for hours on end? There is also a curated selection of new reads, and “The Sly Fox”, their resident bookworm and literary advisor is available to answer all your bookish questions. Email him at [email protected].
foxedbooks.com

CHRISTIES
Arty Endeavours

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Founded in 1766 by James Christie, the world renowned private sales and auction house has enjoyed an illustrious reputation for dealing in all areas of fine and decorative arts, jewellery, photographs, collectibles and wine. Over 450 auctions in more than 80 categories are held here annually. Prices range from a prosaic $200 to a cool $100 million. Don’t let that put you off though. Browse the lovely South Kensington showroom for a slice of history and you just might see a thing or two you’d like to bid on…
christies.com

ECLIPSE
Lounge Lover

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This mainstay of the South Kensington bar scene is not the newest kid on the block – far from it – but it has maintained its reputation as a happening spot. The bijou, dimly lit art deco setting is perfect for pre- or post-dinner sips from a stellar cocktail list. Later, adjourn to their subterranean club for a gander on the dance floor. It also happens to be right opposite The Cranleyvery handy for stumbling home.
eclipsebars.com

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Reading time: 5 min
Robert De Niro and Nobu Matsuhisa

Robert De Niro and Nobu Matsuhisa

It is a quarter of a century since Nobu Matsuhisa first teamed up with Robert De Niro to open a restaurant in LA that would change the way the A-list eats. DARIUS SANAI sat down with Nobu recently to talk taste, celebrity, and hotels

Everyone remembers their first visit to a Nobu. Mine was quite a few years back, in London, accompanied by a number of hard-worn journalists determined not to be star-struck either by the other guests or the food. After chatting to Queen Rania of Jordan, exchanging hellos with Uma Thurman and tasting the original black cod that made Nobu famous around the world, it was hard to remain skeptical.

Nobu himself is an intense, modest man, with huge presence but little noise. As his empire, still owned in partnership with De Niro, has expanded, to 22 restaurants around the world and now hotels in Las Vegas and Riyadh, with others coming soon in London and Bahrain, he is no longer spending his days in the kitchen but remains very involved with the creation of the dishes. Nobu-style food, while Japanese influenced, with hints of South America, is as distinctive and original as the highoctane, dazzling service and venues.

As a brand, Nobu envelops a highly contemporary concept of healthy, expensive, minimalist dining and socialising that is the polar opposite of the traditional Escoffier-influenced fine dining experience; it speaks of the casual yet highly stylised living experience of today’s image-conscious high net worths. Which is why celebrities from Kate Moss, Elton John and Brad Pitt to Naomi Campbell, Tom Cruise and various royals remain regulars. And every slick Asian-fusion restaurant in the world, from Zuma to Sushisamba Las Vegas, owes a debt to Nobu, the man, and his restaurants.

What are the most exciting things you are doing at the moment?

You know, I’m a chef, and I now travel every three or four days, seeing the different restaurants in different cities. I see the chefs, I see the managers, and then I talk to the chefs about creating something; about creating new dishes; about cooking. That’s exciting. It used to be that I was much more involved with training, but now we have four teams around the world – two in America, one for the European restaurants, one for the Asian restaurants, and we’re opening the Nobu hotels, so everyone’s excited about getting involved in the new projects.

When you started out did you ever think it would come to this?

No, no, no. My first restaurant opened in 1987, I was so happy and it was only a 38-seat restaurant. I didn’t think at all about the future, I just like to try my best day to day. And then here I am, opening restaurants all over the world…

Nobu Berkeley ST -  Located in the heart of Mayfair, the lounge is located within the twostorey restaurant

Nobu Berkeley ST – Located in the heart of Mayfair, the lounge is located within the twostorey restaurant

Do you still work in the kitchen?

The first time I create something I have to show to them how to do it, so then I teach one chef, so this chef can teach all over the restaurant. Recently I went to Dubai, we created one dish, so this Dubai chef then taught this recipe [to his colleagues]. Then we went to Moscow, and did the same, and London. These days I teach them how to do things. I don’t stay in the kitchen all day any more.

When you started in 1987 the world was very different to now…

It’s good because I appreciate it when people understand my food and also when they appreciate quality. When I first opened in LA, we were using frozen fish: yellowtail, eel, shrimp, mackerel, a lot of frozen produce. Now it’s all fresh produce, and that means I know that people now appreciate what fresh fish tastes like.

But you have a lot of competition now.

The competition is very good because it means people understand. We have a lot of new restaurant openings, but each restaurant has its own character. I don’t want to say we are the best, because each restaurant has its own character. I try to do my best, make new creations, and customers come because it makes them happy. When new restaurants open they can compare, they can think, I love this restaurant but Nobu is better. The competition means, we always have to try our best.

Restaurants come and go – how have yours stayed up there for so long?

It’s a passion, I think any kind of job requires this: writing, movies, music. If you try your best, at least you’ll make one plus one equals two. But my way, I like to make it one plus one equals plus one hundred. Without passion, that is impossible.

How important is everything apart from the food? Service, ambience, décor?

It’s all about food and service, because the restaurant business is hospitality, people are spending money not just for the food, they have to enjoy the experience from the beginning to the end.

Interior design?

Number three for me.

Is your celebrity clientele important?

I’m very happy celebrities come, and regular customers also. Regular customers come and spot celebrities. But celebrity people are very sensitive about what they eat. People like Victoria Beckham and David Beckham come because they trust our food, which is very important.

How much has the food changed over the last 25 years?

I create sushi and fish dishes. It used to be that people were wary of fish; they thought the smell was off-putting. But fresh fish does not have any smell, or “fishy” taste, it has clean flavours. More people have understood this over the past 25 years. And a lot of people like fish now because it is healthy.

Does cooking come from the heart?

Yes. If I see a beautiful girl I want to approach her with my cooking. To show off what I can do.

Is your food becoming technically more complex?

Everything in Nobu has a Japanese background. Best example: the burger uses bread, but you know in Japanese cooking we never use bread. So we made a tofu bun, very good and very healthy. So this is like a Nobu style: I like to keep the Japanese concept of food. It would be easy to make pastas or sausage or ham, but the Nobu restaurants have a background in Japanese cooking.

Do you overrule your chefs in your restaurants?

Yes. Yesterday a chef showed us one of his new dishes. It was with turbot, which has a very nice white meat. He did a smoke, but too strong a smoke so you couldn’t taste any other flavours. So the chef asked how was it, and I said, “I didn’t like it, please remove it.” Sometimes, when you work too hard on something it doesn’t work. My way is simple, but with heart and detail.

How important is being on TV to a chef like you?

Actually, I don’t like being on TV.

Is it necessary?

To do interviews about the cuisine, yes, because a lot of people watch it. You are starting hotels now. Tell me about that.

We had a lot of restaurants in hotels, all over the world. My partner, Robert De Niro, has his own hotel, the Greenwich in New York City. Then one day he said, “Wait a minute, we do restaurants in hotels, why don’t we do hotels ourselves?”

How important is the Nobu food element in the hotels?

In the Las Vegas hotel, you can have 24- hour room service of anything from the Nobu menu. Anytime you like.

Will Smith and son, Jaden The restaurant regularly attracts an A-list clientele, including celebrities such as Smith

Will Smith and son, Jaden The restaurant regularly attracts an A-list clientele, including celebrities such as Smith

What irks you when travelling?

When you go to a restaurant you are excited about, and the food is good, but the service is so slow, or they don’t pay much attention, it is so disappointing. Training staff for watching tables is so important.

What is your service philosophy – Nobu is not formal like traditional fine dining restaurants?

We are not looking to be a Michelin-star restaurant. I like to show energy, and also, not too much service. Too much service means that the customer gets tired. But if the customer is looking for something then the waiter is immediately there, then that is my perfect service.

Any new types of dish you are creating?

I like to stick to my Japanese concept. We don’t use creams, we don’t use butter much, and no cheese. Food has fashions, but I want to keep my concept, my ingredients.

Black Cod with Miso

Black Cod with Miso

What do you think of all the imitators?

I opened in 1987 and a lot of chefs said it’s not a Japanese restaurant. Now after 27 years, there are a lot of restaurants with a ‘Nobu influence’, with the black cod; a lot of people have copied us. Some restaurants even call it “Nobu-style black cod”, and we complain. People want to use our name, and I don’t like this. There is a cookbook, they can copy my food, but no one can copy my heart. Nobu is cooking with a heart. Now black cod is all over the world, the price of black cod used to be 70 cents per pound, now it is US$8 dollars per pound, the price has gone up but I support this: Japanese produce is growing in popularity all over the world, which is very good.

What’s your latest creation?

I have created soya salt. Try some.

Wow. It’s… like nothing else. Does it come from Japan?

No. I created it a couple of years ago. I’ll be selling it.

How do you define your food? What would you call it? Japanese? Japanese-influenced?

Nobu-style food.

Where do you experiment to make this? Do you have a laboratory?

We talk to customers and they give me homework to do!

Nobu London

Nobu London

Umami is very important to you?

Yes.

In everything? Are there different types of umami?

Japanese umami has no calories, so that is why Japanese food is very healthy. So the basics are umami, then you work out how much salt, how much sugar, how much sour, all the different combinations, then comes the perfect balance and it automatically tastes good.

Is umami one taste, like salt? Or is it a range of flavours?

Soya sauce has umami because of the glutamate, miso too. It is a balance, it’s about deliciousness. It is a balance in the whole flavour. Spain has ham, Italy has cheese and tomatoes, China has dry seafood, you know, each country has its own umami. Japanese umami has no calories. You know the mother’s milk for the baby after it is born, this is also umami. All over the world, the kids have the taste of umami, it is the mother’s milk, no salt, no sour, no bitter, no sweet, just umami.

noburestaurants.com, nobuhotels.com

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Reading time: 9 min
Brindisa in London’s Borough Market

Brindisa in London’s Borough Market

It may not have the adrenaline rush of free falling from an airplane but for our columnist there is nothing quite as thrilling as making a new culinary discovery – Stacey Teo

Travellers today are given the choice of dozens of kinds of adventure holidays. For me though, instead of zip lining over a 300-foot gorge or swimming with great whites, I like my adventures served to me on a plate. There is a real excitement in trying a local dish for the first time or discovering a new flavour.

In my wanderings I’ve stumbled upon some excellent places. I will never forget, and still long to return to, a busy little stall in Bangkok’s Otoko Market for their perfectly grilled Mekong River prawns. I had another memorable experience many years ago on a trip to Hong Kong where I discovered some of the world’s best egg tarts at the Tai Cheong bakery.

Those were lucky moments. Really special finds like those have been rare. In between I’ve had my share of dreadful food experiences. I know I can limit the risk by picking up a guide, and there are a lot of good ones out there, but I have made it a personal rule to go by word of mouth instead. Of course this doesn’t included big name, award winning restaurants. I don’t need a guidebook for that. I normally reserve a Michelin star, or two or three, before ever packing my bags. No, what I’m interested in finding are the places that only the locals know. Finding these little gems is the kind of adventure I want in my travel.

Basically wherever I go, I am in search of the rustic fare that forms the base for that destination’s cuisine. As a chef, I know that in order to appreciate the flower one must understand the root. Ferrán Adrià’s brilliantly deconstructed tortilla means nothing to anyone who has never had a slice of the humble Spanish potato omelette.

One of the advantages to working for a company with a multinational staff is that, without leaving the office, I can get great insider tips on local restaurants that normal tourists would never find. Before I set out on any journey I ask around to get a few pointers and now that I have a pretty good idea of whose culinary instincts to trust, the system works like a charm.

This is how I ended up at Mak’s Noodles in Wellington Street, Hong Kong. I’d been in the city countless times but it was thanks 01 to a co-worker that I enjoyed one of the best plates of wonton noodles I’d ever had. Thanks to another recommendation I also had one of the best pizzas in my life at a place called L’Antica Pizzeria Da Michele in Naples where the Condurro family has been making pizza since 1870. Five generations later it is no longer a tightly held secret, especially since Julia Roberts in the film Eat, Pray, Love ate here, but the two types of pizza they serve (Neapolitana and Margherita, that’s it) are out of this world and the plainly decorated dining room still has a very local feel to it.

One sure sign of food globalisation I have noticed recently is that I am no longer being recommended just the fish and chips in England or the tacos in Mexico. Like my office, the food world has gone international and I am just as likely to hear about a good paella in Washington DC as a fantastic burger in Madrid. A recent trip to Paris was highlighted not by the French food of a famous chef, although there was plenty of that too, but by the falafel served at Chez Marianne followed by a sorbet at Maison Berthillon.

Spicey chorizo sandwich from Brindisa

Spicey chorizo sandwich from Brindisa

Before my last trip to London a colleague steered me to a little place called Brindisa in the Borough Market where I had a chorizo roll served with rocket and roasted Navarrico Piquillo peppers. I had to wait out the 20-minute queue that snaked its way into the market (I had been warned) but the smoky intense flavour of the barbequed chorizo was well worth it and probably just as good as anything I could get in Spain.

Next up? A colleague from Montreal who insists there are two stops I simply must make if I’m ever in the city. One is to a humble little establishment called Patati Patata for an order of what she says are the very best fries in the world. The secret apparently is to use a little basil in the frier. The other is to Schwatz’s deli for a thin sliced pastrami sandwich. Normally I’d choose New York for my Jewish deli sandwiches but I’ve dined with this woman numerous times. I know her and trust her taste, so I’ve promised myself that if I ever make it to Montreal I will make time, and room, for both.

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Test Kitchen - A specially designed on-site ‘test kitchen’ allows for constant experimentation

Test Kitchen – A specially designed on-site ‘test kitchen’ allows for constant experimentation

Customisation continues to be the craze that consistently dominates the top of food trends and chefs are constantly challenged to satisfy and suit individual taste buds while balancing kitchen work flow and costs. Our columnist questions whether science can help and delves into the thorny issue of whether the menu is a thing of the past STACEY TEO

I had a dream.

A first-time patron walked through the door of the restaurant and immediately the kitchen knew. ‘Filets de perche, sans beurre’. Guest is ushered to the seat and after waiting for a short while without ordering, the maître d’ appears with the desired dish. Service is seamless; the diner is left totally in awe and completely satisfied. If only the dream would come true.

But what if it was actually possible? In the not-so-distant future, it is predicted that the exploration of neuroscience in food would perhaps provide a breakthrough in determining and detecting diners’ desires with exacting accuracy. Imagine: a device, like say, a gantry that scans the brain as a guest walks through the door and immediately profiles every preference, whims and fancies, known — and unknown — food allergies and transmits them on the spot into the system. But until such technology is developed — a matter of time, surely — perhaps science, though able to solve such perennial problems for the kitchen, will however still not be the best answer for restaurants because the dining experience will be impacted forever and the people behind service would lose their purpose. Let’s keep in mind, the human side of dinner service is, after all, pretty sacred.

I firmly believe that cooking is more art than science. Wholesome cooking that titillates the senses to evoke an Anton Ego moment like in Disney favourite Ratatouille would require something rather special, a creation that is out of the blue. I recall one such ‘wow’ moment of opportunity occurred some time ago; my most memorable career challenge came in the form of a themed birthday party ‘Suzie Wong style’ (yet Dubai camels were involved) featuring an exciting modern Australian menu with a distinctly Asian influence, incorporating fresh western ingredients and cooking techniques. How then do we incorporate such specifications in a considered, detailed, quantifiable manner?

Enter stage right, the menu. Throughout the ordering process, the menu serves as a tangible tool that is part and parcel of the meal experience. However, a number of restaurants have ventured further to the extreme end of the spectrum when they decided to ditch menus altogether. Fuad’s in Houston, Texas has been successful with the ‘No Menu’ concept for 37 years and running (cheekily enough, when customers check out their ‘menu’ on their website, it would reveal itself as a blank white page). The pioneer Parisian steakhouse, Le Relais de l’Entrecôte still simply serves steak frites where you just have to indicate your desired doneness. Tetsuya Wakuda’s eponymous restaurant in Sydney surprises with his 10-course degustation menu albeit keeping a few firm favourites alive. Personalisation at these institutions are pretty much non-existent and yet they pack in a solid crowd day after day, week after week, so what gives?

Sydney Tetsuya’s consistently ranks as one of the world’s best restaurants

Sydney Tetsuya’s consistently ranks as one of the world’s best restaurants

Customisation has and will continue to drive customer satisfaction, as guests are offered more opportunity to control what is served to their table. However, chefs would prefer to exercise that same element of control to express a certain level of creative culinary freedom, so there has to be a balanced approach. The key is to break down barriers between the kitchen and the table. In order for restaurants to understand and grasp guests’ preferences better, there has to be greater interaction and direct communication between the chef and diners.

Does that mean more restaurants ought to join the fray in exiting stage left by removing menus altogether and leave the choice to the chef completely? Or should diners dictate the dishes on their table? That will depend on how willing consumers can relinquish control and be open to surprises. I say go ahead, trust the chef. But like Fuad’s menu or a Japanese omakase, the verdict is wide open.

More interesting articles
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A Feast for the Eye

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thenewcantonese1A couple of years after The Arts Club shook up London’s already buzzing members’ club scene, Hong Kong is getting its own world-class den of artistic cool. Duddell’s is a new type of space for the city, with its laid-back interior design by Ilse Crawford (of Soho House fame), impeccable arts credentials courtesy of Yana Peel, co-founder of the Frieze Outset Art Fund, and ahead-of-the-curve founders. Alan Lo and hyper-restaurateur Paulo Pong are among the dream team behind the venue in Central, near all the best galleries. And the presence of Pong, one of Asia’s most respected wine traders, also ensures the wine is as good as the art. Now get yourself nominated as a member!

duddells.co

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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

wwf.org, msc.org 

 

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SWEDEN IS CELEBRATING ITS OWN, UNIQUE GASTRONOMIC CULTURE LIKE NEVER BEFORE, AS Caroline Davies DISCOVERS ON A TOUR OF THE CAPITAL

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.

Volt: restaurangvolt.se

Ekstedt: ekstedt.nu

The Rival Hotel: rival.se

Info: visitstockholm.com 

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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

THERE ARE CHAMPAGNES, VINTAGE CHAMPAGNES, PRESTIGE CHAMPAGNES, AND, FOR A NUMBER OF CONNOISSEURS, THEN THERE IS KRUG. OUR COLUMNIST, HIMSELF A LEGEND IN THE WINE TRADE, EXAMINES WHAT IT IS THAT MAKES THIS CHAMPAGNE SO SPECIAL

“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.

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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

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Reading time: 8 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. motorestaurant.com  

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. circus-london.co.uk

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. disastercafe.com

 

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. restaurantdekas.nl

Underwater dining at Ithaa Undersea Restaurant, Maldives

Underwater dining at Ithaa Undersea Restaurant, Maldives

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. conradhotels.com

CANNABALISTIC SUSHI, Tokyo

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.

DINNER IN THE SKY, Worldwide

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. dinnerinthesky.co.uk

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

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

SONEVA KIRI TREETOP DINING POD, Koh Food, Thailand

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.” soneva.com/soneva-kiri/home

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. darkdining.com.

The Wrapping Gallery combines a restaurant with a contemporary art gallery

The Wrapping Gallery combines a restaurant with a contemporary art gallery

THE WRAPPING PROJECT, London

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. thewappingproject.com

EL DIABLO, TIMANFAYA NATIONAL PARK, Lanzarote

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. lanzarote.com/timanfaya  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. snowvillage.fi

FORTEZZA MEDICEA, Volterra

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. sbaggers.de

ANNALAKSHMI, Singapore

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. annalakshmi.com.sg

Sound of Silence, Australian barbecue in the Outback

Sound of Silence, Australian barbecue in the Outback

SOUNDS OF SILENCE, Ayers Rock

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. ayersrockresort.com.au

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. hajimerobot.com

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. spam.com/spam-101/the-spam-museum

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. mestizorestaurant.cl

THE CURRYWURST MUSEUM, Berlin

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. currywurstmuseum.de

ROADKILL COOK-OFF FESTIVAL, West Virginia, USA

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. pccocwv.com/

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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 

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Presentation is an important part of any dining experience, but can the look of the dish really make or break a meal? STACEY TEO
We’ve all heard the expression “you eat with your eyes”, but how true is it? What importance do aesthetics really have on ones’ enjoyment of a meal? It wasn’t until the advent of nouvelle cuisine that food presentation began to take on the importance it holds today. It was an exhilarating time for the culinary world with never-before-seen creations coming one after another. Plating-up became an industry buzz word and the dish suddenly offered an empty canvas which chefs used to create their own personal form of gastro-art.

In the early days Paul Bocuse, Michel Guerard and the Troisgros brothers not only lightened up traditional French cooking, they also paved the way for the kind of sculpted dishes we see today. Presentation was an exciting new tool that allowed chefs to put their signatures on their dishes. But now, fifty years down the line, nouvelle is no longer new and a lot of what we see is either a copy of a copy, extremely overthought or downright silly looking.

Checking out how the food looks is the cook’s last task and the diner’s first. Food that is well-presented makes the diner want to eat it and allows them to identify the ingredients and their quality while poor presentation gives a bad first impression and means you face an uphill struggle to win over the client. The Japanese, as with so many other things, have turned food presentation into a high art. They even have a word, Moritsuke, which applies to seven very specific rules of food arrangement.

Personally I think presentation counts for about 30 per cent of the experience, the other 70 per cent of course is taste, but I have colleagues that would argue for a 50/50 split. To me one of the most important aspects of plate presentation is what it represents. Whether you are dining out or entertaining at home, presentation attests to the artistic nature of the experience, the effort behind the meal and helps set it apart from an everyday experience. This kind of attention to detail indicates that you value your guests enough to go to the trouble to try and achieve something beyond the mundane, it shows you care and that they are important to you.

As long as a dish is presentable then I’m happy with it. Don’t get me wrong, by that I mean it must look clean and simple with fresh, inviting colours and it should never look messy. I also follow the rule that everything on the plate should be there for a reason and that everything should be edible. I think the biggest mistake chefs make is to try too hard to impress with the presentation. It often makes the dish look pretentious and means they are focussing too much of their attention on aesthetics which normally is not something that makes or breaks a meal.

Pierre Gagnaire’s shrimp with gaya and popcorn

Pierre Gagnaire’s shrimp with gaya and popcorn

As a colleague of mine, Michelin-starred chef Marc Fosh says, “Food should look as natural as possible and every element should be there only if it serves to enhance the flavour of the dish. I hate inedible garnishes and towers of food that collapse and then look like a mess when touched by a fork. I know I have it right when the food looks like it was born on the plate. Of course presentation is important, but at the end of the day, it is the flavour that will bring clients back time and again.”

True, no matter how beautiful it looks, if the flavour is wrong nothing else matters. We are not making sculptures only to be admired. Eventually the client is going to taste the food, they always do, and then nothing that came before really matters.

I have been asked many times if I ever studied food design. Many culinary schools teach specialised courses in food presentation but I have always felt that they are nice but unnecessary for a chef. The most important thing is that the ingredients themselves look as good as possible.

To achieve this takes a skilled hand in the kitchen. Cooking temperatures and timing are key. For example when blanching vegetables, the water must be exactly 100 degrees Celsius, you have to add a dash of salt and then immediately run them through ice water. A good chef knows that not following these steps will mean colourless and unappetising vegetables. Likewise, overcooked ingredients not only lose their flavour but also their natural shape and colour too. Once that happens, no matter how you sculpt it, your dish will look as bland and uninteresting as it tastes. So although you may eat with your eyes, it is the cook’s hands that truly make or break the dish. My advice then, perfect your cooking techniques and the food will present itself.

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Reading time: 4 min