Recently reimagined Singaporean elegance at Marina Bay: LUX Checks In

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

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

Singapore skyline with a pool

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

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

A cake store with lavish decorations

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

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

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

Read More: Nira Alpina, St Moritz, Review

Night facade of Mandarin Oriental Singapore

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

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

See More:

mandarinoriental.com

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A corridor with blue walls and arched doors and lights hanging from the ceiling
A lounge with wooden floors and cream chairs and sofas

The OWO Whitehall, Residents’ Lounge. Image courtesy of Grain London

London’s hottest luxury residential area? Westminster, next to the Houses of Parliament and Downing Street. So what took it so long, asks Samantha Welsh

Big Ben, Downing Street, Whitehall, Parliament Square, Trafalgar Square: all names intimately associated with London, and now the administrative and touristic heart of the world’s high net worth capital. The area, broadly known as Westminster, is (pandemic excepted) the epicentre of tourism in Britain.

A bedroom with a green headboard, red cushions and throw on the bed

The OWO Whitehall, principal bedroom. Image courtesy of Grain London

And now you can live in high style down the road from the Prime Minister and the royals, with the creation of one of the most opulent residential developments in the world, inside the heart of the area’s grand buildings.

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The Old War Office (OWO), in Whitehall – opposite Horse Guards Parade and almost directly opposite Downing Street, and so near to the Prime Minister’s residence that you could shout from rooftop to rooftop to see if you could borrow some milk (or champagne for a lockdown party) – has been transformed into 85 apartments.

red velvet chairs on a landing with a curved brown staircase

The OWO residence turret. Image courtesy of Grain London

They are serviced by Raffles, the appropriately peripatetic luxury hotel brand now owned by the French Accor group. A new Raffles hotel, London’s first, is opening next-door and residents will have a full suite of luxury services. The building’s redevelopment has been done with thought: the best of British material and design, along with other high-end touches, like bespoke appliances by the German manufacturer Gaggenau.

Read more: Maryam Eisler On Tim Yip’s ‘Love Infinity’

Residents will have priority access to 11 restaurants and 3,000sqm of leisure facilities, gardens and terraces. The building’s heritage has been conserved in partnership with Historic England, with design overseen by Thierry Despont. As an OWO resident your local chiming clock is Big Ben.

A corridor with blue walls and arched doors and lights hanging from the ceiling

The OWO residence entrance hall. Image courtesy of Grain London

This is the building from which Winston Churchill directed efforts in the Second World War of what was then the British Empire. The apartments now are suitably imperial, but have a contemporary smoothness. On your Sunday morning strolls in St James’ Park (assuming you haven’t decamped to your weekend home in the Cotswolds or Ramatuelle) you will bump into the Prime Minister, and numerous spies – the important ones are there on Sundays. Arguably the best school in the world, Westminster, is along the road. And if you need to lobby the government, you can just lean out of the window, while puffing on your Romeo y Julieta and sipping a glass of Pol Roger, Winston Churchill-style.

Find out more: theowo.london

This article appears in the Summer 2022 issue of LUX

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A bedroom
A bedroom

Castle View Bedroom

Why should I go now?

The Scottish capital is at its most glorious in late spring, bathed in light for 18 hours a day. The student population gives it extra life, and the big tourist crowds of high summer are not yet here. The Sheraton Grand is in a perfect location: many rooms have views to Edinburgh Castle, a forbidding looking edifice on a hilltop across the gardens from the hotel, and it’s at the end of Prince’s Street, the main drag.

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What’s the lowdown?

There are Sheratons and Sheratons, and LUX would like you to understand that this one is grand in both name and nature. It’s a relatively modern building with a light, airy restaurant and bar, casual chic in style and contemporary in feel. And the jewel in the crown is its spa facilities, unrivalled in urban Scotland: a huge indoor pool, and extensive rooftop vitality pool area.

A bronze tiled sauna space with white towels

Hammam at One Spa ©2018 Matthew Shaw

Too often, rooftop pools in cities are tiny things; in this case the vitality pool is vast, and has sweeping views for you to take in while breathing the clear air gurgling down from the nearby Highlands. There’s an indoor vitality pool also, in case the weather gets really bad, though the outdoor pool is well heated so we can’t see why we wouldn’t use it.

An outdoor rooftop pool with steam coming out of it

The outdoor hydropool at One Spa

Getting Horizontal

Our bedroom had big windows and a big view over to the Castle; to its left, people wandered up and down Prince’s Street Gardens; to its right, a sheer rock face more redolent of the Highlands than a city. There was an overarching sense of space and light, so much so that for one dinner we decided to dine in-room, enjoying a very long summertime twilight and some excellent quality, simple cuisine done well: a salmon salad and green vegetables, some local ale. Furnishings were soft and quite masculine.

Read more:Switzerland, our top pick for summer

A lounge with a window ceiling

The Club Lounge ©Matthew Shaw

Flipside

The hotel is modern, spacious and comfortable, although if you’re looking for a historic interior, you won’t find it here. We loved the efficiency and comfort, and there are plenty of historic buildings to visit in Edinburgh.

A living room with cream chairs and a blue sofa

The Grand Suite Living Room

Rates: From £321 average per night (approx. €380/$400)

Book your stay: marriott.com/hotels/sheraton-grand-hotel-and-spa-edinburgh

Darius Sanai

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Luxurious hotel bedroom
brutalist building

The exterior of The Standard hotel, Kings Cross. Image by Tim Charles

East London-based architecture and design practice Orms masterminded the renovation of Camden Town Hall Annexe in Kings Cross for The Standard hotel group’s first UK property. Here, James Houston speaks to one of the company’s directors John McRae about the project and its challenges

1. How does your approach differ when working with an existing building versus a new build?

On all of our projects we undertake extensive research and analysis to understand the site, its context and history. When retaining an existing building our research is forensic in order to establish the parameters and rules that will inform and guide the design. We believe it’s important to understand the thinking behind the building, its structural principles and construction techniques. We were fortunate to work with structural engineers Heyne Tillett Steel who share the same research ethos and they were able to build a Revit 3D model from the archive drawings.

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2. What are the challenges when refurbishing a brutalist building?

The use of raw concrete defines Brutalism and in nearly always used on both the structural frame (insitu) and facades (precast). This building was no exception and to add to the complexity it was a two way spanning ‘waffle’ slab that transferred the load of the façade back onto a very deep first floor slab and the inboard columns. This fully integrated structure and façade solution meant that major internal interventions or a new facade would not be viable. Surprisingly, the residual structural load capacity within the building structure was limited and this needed careful consideration when adding the new top floor extension.

Luxurious hotel bedroom

The 9th Floor Suite with views of St. Pancras Station. Image by Tim Charles

3. How do you see The Standard fitting into the wider redevelopment of the Kings Cross area?

The vast majority of regeneration projects within the Kings Cross have been to the north of the Euston Road so it was always an aspiration of the project to draw that energy to the south. A key component of this strategy was to have an occupier such as The Standard, a respected brand with an established following, that can attract people and act as a catalyst for further regeneration within the area. The hotels variety of spaces to socialise, listen to live music and talks means there are reasons to keep coming back.

library space

The hotel’s library lounge offers a space to meet, socialise and read. Image by David Cleveland

4. Do you have a favourite room or space in the hotel and why?

My favourite space is the library lounge on the ground floor. Set within an eclectic collection of eating, socialising and drinking areas that provide visual activity to the street but a moment of calm in the hustle and bustle of Kings Cross the library lounge is a nod to the former Camden public library. Surrounded by carefully selected and arranged books the space is used for meetings, live music and talks.

Read more: Entrepreneur Dr. Li Li on the importance of global relationships

5. What was the inspiration behind the external lift pod?

A new lift was required to supplement the main bank of lifts and serve the 10th floor restaurant and bar. Given the complexity of the existing structure the idea of an external lift was explored to provide a visual marker and signal that something special was going on at the top of the building. The red lift demarcates the entrance to the restaurant, which was always intended to be able to be separate from the hotel entrance. The concept and look and feel of the lift was led by Shawn Hausman Design and inspiration for the form came from the Mercedes Benz museum elevator and the iconic Routemaster bus for its red colour.

architectural sketch

External lift pod

Orms’ preliminary sketches of the hotel’s external lift (above) which takes its colour from London’s iconic Routemaster bus. Image by Tim Soar

6. Do you have a favourite brutalist building in London?

London is spoilt for choice with respect to brutalist buildings but one of the hidden gems is Space House (now often referred to as 1 Kemble Street), a 1960’s office development by Richard Seifert & Partners for the developer Harry Hyams. It is a great speculative office building, whose exteriors reflect many of the themes at play at their Centre Point development. Its innovative use of a precast concrete grid, partial prefabrication that allowed for rapid construction without the use of scaffolding and striking visual effects makes it an exemplar even for today’s commercial developers and architects.

Find out more: orms.co.uk

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Luxury cruise ship on the ocean at sunset
Luxurious cruise ship pictured floating at sunset

Sirena is the newest addition to Oceania Cruises’ fleet

Luxury cruise brand Oceania Cruises is in the midst of multi-million dollar project, which will see the refurbishment of their six ship fleet and the introduction of new exotic itineraries. We speak to the brand’s Senior Vice President and Managing Director Bernard Carter about the changes to come, fine dining at sea and how the brand is tackling sustainability

Portrait of a business man

Bernard Carter

1. Can you tell us about the OceaniaNEXT initiative and what it means for the brand?

Our $100 million OceaniaNEXT initiative is a sweeping array of dramatic enhancements designed to elevate every facet of the guest experience; from thoughtfully-crafted new dining experiences and reimagined menus, to the re-inspiration of our six luxurious and intimate ships.

The ships are being completely transformed – with brand new designer suites and staterooms and stunning new décor in the restaurants, lounges and bars – which will result in ‘better-than-new’ ships.

On top of this, we have announced we are preparing to take delivery of two new Allura-class ships in 2022 and 2025. This new class of ship will represent an evolution of the Oceania Cruises’ experience with all the elements our guests treasure: a warm, intimate, residential style, the most spacious standard staterooms afloat, amazing suites, and of course, excellent cuisine.

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2. How do you provide fine dining services onboard?

Along with destination and service, we believe that cuisine is a key element of the cruise experience and this is what Oceania Cruises has been built on. Our promise to offer ‘The Finest Cuisine At Sea’ stands at the very heart of our business.

The key to offering such incredible food at sea is planning. We plan menus months in advance to ensure the smooth running of onboard operations.

This meticulous planning sits hand-in-hand with the need to build an impeccable network of trusted suppliers, who can deliver the quality goods we demand for ‘The Finest Cuisine At Sea’. Meats, fish and produce from specific and dedicated farms, some where we are the only customer – every detail is covered with care and attention to ensure we only use the very best ingredients.

Fine dining table with wine and bread

Oceania Cruises has a reputation for high quality cuisine onboard their ships

More than a quarter of all crew onboard an Oceania Cruises’ ship is dedicated to the culinary experience. Our high ratio of culinary staff to guest means that each dish is able to be created in our state-of-the-art galley à la minute.

Alongside the fantastic food on offer in our restaurants, we love to engage with our guests and offer them the chance to have a hands-on experience at The Culinary Center, our cookery school onboard Marina and Riviera. Here, our guests can cook along with our talented master chefs at fully-equipped individual workstations. We also offer a range of culinary excursions, giving guests the chance to see well-known destinations through an alternative ‘culinary lens’.

3. With a career spanning 25 years in the industry, what are some of the biggest changes you’ve noticed?

There’s been a real and meaningful shift towards wellness in the last ten years or so. Where once, the likes of offering fitness classes and having fully-equipped gyms onboard were seen as a nice-to-have element, they are now a crucial element of a holistic suite of wellness options for guests.

Just last month, we unveiled our new ‘Aquamar Spa + Vitality Centre’ the most unique and comprehensive spa and wellness centre at sea. This will be introduced across all ships by mid-January 2020 as part of our OceaniaNEXT enhancement.

This extends well beyond a traditional spa, offering a complete and original collection of holistic wellness encounters both onboard and ashore, including wellness cuisine options, land-based tours in ports of call, and onboard treatments and classes.

Our guests are active, they are leading rich and fulfilled lives. For them, wellness is not a pursuit, it’s a lifestyle.

Read next: Jetcraft’s owner & chairman Jahid Fazal-Karim on global trading

4. Do you think the expectations of luxury cruise clients differ from the demands of customers at luxury hotels, and if so how?

In a word: no. Guests who appreciate, and seek out luxury do so in all areas of their life – from cars to jewellery, from cuisine to travel.

At Oceania Cruises, our guests are a like-minded group who appreciate the same things, and our onboard operation being akin to an English country hotel, or a private members club lends itself to discerning individuals that want to explore the world from the comfort of their own home away from home.

Dining room onboard a cruise ship

Luxury bedroom onboard a ship

Here: The Penthouse Suite onboard Insignia. Above: the ship’s grand dining room

5. How are you tackling issues of sustainability?

Our environmental commitment is continually evolving and expanding into additional areas of our operations, both shipboard and shoreside.

Our industry is inextricably linked to the condition of our oceans and as such, continual improvement is one of our core responsibilities. In line with this accountability comes our commitment to preventing accidents and incidents involving pollution, reducing the environmental impact of our operations, and managing waste through recycling and reusing materials.

A great example of this is earlier this year, Oceania Cruises became the first cruise line to introduce VERO Water, the Gold Standard in still and sparkling water service onboard. All guest accommodation is be stocked with refillable and reusable VERO Water decanters as well as all restaurants and bars. With the introduction of VERO, we will eliminate more than three million single-use plastic bottles per year from onboard use

This is being extended further to include keepsake refillable water bottles for each guest to take VERO Water ashore with them, eliminating several million more bottles per year.

6. What’s been your most memorable voyage to date?

I have been lucky enough to experience many amazing cruise destinations during my career, but my most memorable has to be the 14-night journey onboard Nautica from the historically pivotal city of Istanbul through to cosmopolitan and vibrant Barcelona.

After an overnight stay onboard in Istanbul (which allowed us to really explore the city in depth) we set off around a variety of Greek islands, each with their own unique charm. These included Rhodes, Mykonos, Santorini and UNESCO heritage site, Monemvasia – where only a limited number of visitors each year are allowed onto the Old Town, built into a massive rock that can only be reached by a half-mile causeway.

Having spent a week living the ‘island life’ we headed to the western Mediterranean to experience the beauty of Sicily, the Italian gems of Rome and Florence and then to the billionaires’ haven, Monte Carlo. This second week was quite simply a majestic parade of history, culture and luxury – and as we ended in Barcelona it actually felt like we had been on two holidays in one!

For more information visit: oceaniacruises.com

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