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.

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mandarinoriental.com

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

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

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

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

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

Read More: Mandarin Oriental, Zurich, Review

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

a table, a moon, and the sea

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

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

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

a pool, the sea, and a floor

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

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

boats on the sea

Bespoke boat trips are offered for guests across the hotel

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

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borgosantandrea.it

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A chef in an apron standing by a wall with geranium hanging by him
A chef in an apron standing by a wall with geranium hanging by him

Geranium Head Chef, Co-owner, Rasmus Kofoed. Photo Credit Claes Bech-Poulsen

Rasmus Kofoed, star chef of three Michelin-starred Geranium in Copenhagen, is influencing an entire generation of young chefs to feel confident in offering haute cuisine based on strictly vegetarian principles. During the pandemic, he temporarily opened Angelika, a restaurant within Geranium, with a wholly plant-based menu.

LUX: After bronze and silver, how important was it to you to finally win the Bocuse d’Or?
Rasmus Kofoed: I did it because I wanted to win; that was the first priority. Winning was great, but I enjoyed the process leading up to the competition very much. You develop, you create new ideas, you optimise what you do. It was everything around the competition that I enjoyed.

LUX: What did you change between winning the bronze in 2005 and the gold in 2011?
RK: I think I was more confident with what I loved to cook and eat myself. It was totally based on Nordic and Danish ingredients, like wild forest garlic, elderflowers and lump fish roe. We had just opened Geranium at the same time as I won the competition and a lot of the elements that I made at Geranium I used in the competition, just combining them in a new way.

3 plates of different coloured foods, yellow, pink and grey

desserts at Geranium including milk chocolate and rose hip petals, and chocolate egg and pine

LUX: Having won the gold, and with a three Michelin-star restaurant, do you have any unfulfilled ambitions left?
RK: Not really. Of course, I enjoy achieving those prizes, and the motivation is very good for the team as well, but I enjoy the training. I also enjoy the days which focus on the work leading up to creating a great experience for the guests. I don’t think about the awards when I’m here. I think more about how we can optimise everything and how we can work better with the team, and create a better work–life balance. That’s the priority. If you’re happy, it’s easier to make others happy.

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LUX: What does a better work–life balance for the team look like?
RK: We just focus on it a bit more. We did not let anyone go because we wanted to keep them; they are a part of the future and we believe in them. Another thing is to try to balance all the working hours, eat a lot of vegetables. They also have gym memberships and that’s very important. It’s not a secret – if you feel good, it’s easier to make others feel good.

A restaurant with round wooden tables and grey chairs.

The dining room at Geranium

LUX: Do you think that vegetarian restaurants like Angelika will be the way forward, given the climate crisis and the pressure to reduce meat?
RK: I think so, and that’s why I opened Angelika. It was a year ago and I could not just go back and open Geranium like we normally did. I felt that, after the first lockdown, we needed to do something different. I’d been on a plant-based diet for the last year and a half, so I was very much into that way of cooking, which is not easy, but when you can do it, it just feels good. I also wanted to pass on my love and care for the planet, and health, to other people. That’s why we opened Angelika: to inspire people to eat more vegetables.

LUX: How has your relationship with sustainability evolved over the years?
RK: I live in the countryside, so I am very close to the forest and to the sea, the ocean and nature, which I really enjoy. It’s very peaceful to go out there and I think it’s something we all need to do sometimes.

I focus a lot more on it at home, but it’s something we care a lot about at Geranium. You can always be better, but we use a lot of biodynamically farmed vegetables, and in that way of farming you give good energy and vitamins back to the soil, not just take them out, and that’s a good mentality, to treat Mother Earth with respect.

A flower shaped crust on a plate with flower petals in the centre

Crispy Jerusalem artichoke leaves and pickled walnut leaves

LUX: Where did your love of working with vegetables stem from?
RK: I was raised eating biodynamic vegetables because my mother was vegetarian and she wanted to give the best and healthiest food to her kids. It’s something I’ve been using for a long time, not because it’s trendy, or for PR. I do it because I care and think it’s important to look after the planet. At Angelika, the idea was very much ‘from kitchen to table’, not spending a lot of time plating. At first, it was difficult for the chefs, because they’re used to working with tweezers and taking their time, but you need to be faster, otherwise you lose the energy in the food.

Two white plates and gold cutlery with onion and a green dish

Grilled lobster, elderflower and dried onion

LUX: How did the pandemic affect you professionally?
RK: If it wasn’t for the pandemic, we would have never opened Angelika. It was because of the lockdown that I was saying that we need to open a plant-based restaurant. Since I was on a plant-based diet myself, I wanted to show people that plant-based cooking can be delicious and healthy at the same time, and that you can actually have a great meal, and feel good in your body after. A lot of horrible things happened because of the lockdowns and the coronavirus, but Angelika was this green shoot growing out of the dark times.

Read more: Chef Clare Smyth: Core Célèbre

LUX: What legacy do you hope to leave on the culinary world?
RK: I do it because I love my craft. I love to be in the kitchen, with the energy, the flavours. I love creating new ideas, new ways to serving things. I enjoy cooking delicious food, but I also enjoy eating something which is good for my spirit, my body. As the ancient Greeks said: “Food should be your medicine, and let the medicine be your food.” I love to inspire with my love for the green kitchen.

Rasmus Kofoed is head chef and co-owner of Geranium in Copenhagen. Angelika is temporarily opening on special dates.

geranium.dk

This article appears in the Summer 2022 issue of LUX

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A double staircase looking over at a terrace
A double staircase looking over at a terrace

The leafy terrace at Mandarin Oriental Ritz in Madrid

In the first part of our luxury travel views column from the Spring 2022 issue, LUX’s Editor-in-Chief Darius Sanai checks in at the Mandarin Oriental Ritz in Madrid

“A little bit more, Sir?” A bartender is holding up a bottle of artisanal gin, having already emptied what seemed like a half-gallon of it into a bowl-shaped glass, filled with ice, slices of limon (a kind of lemon-lime cross) and juniper berries. I look up at the trees, the expanse of the square behind them, the outline of the grand Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum beyond, and the moon above, and think: yes, why not. I have arrived.

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If the arrival is a key part of any hotel experience, the post-arrival at the Mandarin Oriental Ritz, Madrid, was pretty important, too. I had left my bags to be taken to my room as I wanted to catch the last embers of daylight from the bar’s terrace, which sits above the garden restaurant, itself almost contiguous with the trees of Retiro Park. You are in the centre of one of Europe’s most vibrant and dusty metropolises, but surrounded by nature (and, in my case, soon immersed in a very good small-producer gin).

round bedroom with a sky painted on the ceiling

The hotel’s royal suite

Neither of Europe’s other two grand Ritz hotels, in London or Paris (the three were born siblings, created by César Ritz to redefine the grandeur of hotels at the start of the 20th century, but are now owned and operated separately), offer such an outdoor experience, or indeed such a refreshing one. I am not speaking of the gin here, but of the decor: Mandarin Oriental’s magic wand over the previously grandiose but fusty Ritz Madrid has created lavishness with a certain elegance and contemporary class.

It’s a perennial question: what to do with a grande dame hotel – in this case, one of the grande dame hotels – to bring it into line with what a new generation of traveller expects, while not destroying its soul. I have seen hotels with decorative ceilings ripped out, with hip bar designers imposing darkness where there was once light, and with questionable contemporary art replacing dusty but meticulous classics.

A white corner of a building with trees and a garden in front of it

The hotel’s Belle Époque façade

Fortunately the Ritz does not fall into these traps. Our Mandarin suite combined fresh but classic colours – pale walls, pale gold furnishings – with hints of MO style, such as black lacquer detailing. The service was up to date, effortless and effective without being stiff: just the right balance to cater for a wide variety of traveller.

Read more: Chef Ángel León: Ocean Sustainability Supremo

And the food in the Jardin (Garden) restaurant was also spot on: kimchi chicken skewer, Thai sea bass ceviche, grilled sole with artichokes. You can delve into the paella menu, as many others were doing. The hotel may claim it has updated its Belle Époque origins to work in the luxury travel world 110 years after it opened (I don’t know, I didn’t check, but it’s the kind of thing a hotel would say) and in this case, they would be absolutely right.

Find out more: mandarinoriental.com

This article appears in the Summer 2022 issue of LUX

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Chef in kitchen
Chef in kitchen

Chef Clare Smyth at work in the kitchen of her London restaurant, Core by Clare Smyth

As the first British female chef to acquire three Michelin stars, Clare Smyth is demonstrating to women all round the world that it is indeed possible to be a leading chef in the 21st century. She’s fearless in the kitchen, having worked under the likes of Gordon Ramsay and Alain Ducasse, and is now not only sharing her talent in London, but in Sydney, too.

LUX: You have previously mentioned that if you weren’t a chef, you would have been a showjumper. So, what attracted you to the culinary world over the equestrian one?
Clare Smyth: I started cooking at a young age and loved it. I decided it was more attractive to me because I wanted to travel and see the world, rather than being a showjumper training in one place all the time.

LUX: Gordon Ramsay famously once said that he didn’t think you would last a week in his kitchen. What do you make of this? And what were the biggest challenges you faced early on in your career?
CS: That’s always misconstrued, because most people didn’t last a week in his kitchen! It was tough, but I chose to work at the most difficult places so I could challenge myself. I knew that if I wanted to be the best, I needed to work with the best. It was long, intense hours and a lot of pressure, but I thrived in that environment.

Food

Scottish langoustine, served at Core by Clare Smyth

LUX: Is it true that sexism is still rife in the culinary industry?
CS: There is a lot of work to do everywhere you look, not just in our industry. It’s part of society and awareness of it is what will help change it. Going back 10 or 15 years, I would often be the only woman in the kitchen. Half of my team now, front of house and in the kitchen, is female. I’m hoping that in the next 10 years there’ll be plenty of women at the top level.

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LUX: You have noted before that it’s the punishing working hours of the culinary industry that accounts for so few women running the world’s best restaurants. Do you still believe this to be the case?
CS: Yes and no. It’s not that women can’t do it; a lot of women choose not to. The profession is generally not conducive to a work-life balance, especially right at the top level.

Restaurant

A view of the dining room at Core by Clare Smyth

LUX: What’s your take on British cuisine?
CS: British food is hearty and rustic, but I approach it in a very fine dining, skilful way. We are so lucky to have phenomenal produce here – the most incredible shellfish, game and beef. At Core, we take British ingredients and elevate them to a fine level.

LUX: You catered for the royal wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex – what’s your favourite memory of this experience?
CS: The stealthiness of the project. It was going on for months and our team managed to keep it all quiet. They were great fun to work with and are brilliant people. They made it fun for all the team.

Food

Potato and roe, served at Core by Clare Smyth

LUX: How do you approach sustainability at Core?

CS: We approach it more than just environmentally. We do it culturally, economically, paying fair prices, working with people who farm in ethical ways and being creative in limiting food waste.

LUX: How do you think the fine dining industry can, as a whole, be more sustainable?
CS: We can help educate people and our staff to be more aware of where the produce comes from and where you are buying it from.

Food

Morel tarts, served at Core by Clare Smyth

LUX: Your new restaurant, Oncore, opened in Sydney in November last year. What led you to open a restaurant on the other side of the world?
CS: I lived in Sydney when I was younger and fell in love with the city. It was a fantastic opportunity to open a flagship restaurant in a new building overlooking one of the most incredible views of the harbour, near the Opera House.

Read more: Chef Ángel León: Ocean Sustainability Supremo

LUX: How did you tackle opening a new restaurant amid a pandemic?
CS: It was incredibly difficult – there were lots of challenges. I have a phenomenal team in Sydney who took, and still take, everything in their stride.

Clare Smyth is the owner and head chef at Core by Clare Smyth in London and Oncore in Sydney. Her debut cookbook, Core by Clare Smyth (Phaidon), is out this summer.

Corebyclaresmyth.com

This article appears in the Summer 2022 issue of LUX

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A chef standing in front of a wall with painted blue jellyfish
A chef standing in front of a wall with painted blue jellyfish

Chef Ángel León

Ángel León is most famously known for his innovative use of seafood at his three Michelin-star restaurant, Aponiente, in his home province of Cádiz, Spain. He is an environmentally minded forager of the sea, leading him to find a quinoa-like grain in eelgrass, known as zostera marina. As well as being a superfood, seagrass is a natural solution for capturing carbon and a hotbed of biodiversity – meaning cultivated seagrass forests could benefit us and the planet

LUX: Why are you known as ‘The Chef of the Sea’?
Ángel León: Actually, the nickname was coined for the first time by the press. And later became the name of a television mini-series about our work. It defines me. My cuisine focuses on the sea, especially on products that others do not want or do not see. However, my kitchen has also opened up to my closest environment, the marsh and those intertidal zones with halophytic vegetation (saline plants), which fascinate me.

LUX: Where did your interest in ocean conservation come from?
AL: My passion for the sea was instilled in me by my father when I was little. My father loves sailing and fishing, and we always used to do it round the Bay of Cádiz. I was never a good student, and the sea was my escape route, where my diagnosed hyperactivity rests. When we went out fishing and came home with everything we had caught, it was my job to clean it up. I appreciated the smoothness of the fish scales and would cut their bellies to find out what they ate, and therefore know what bait to use.

orange liquid being poured into a stone

LUX: What is more important to you, the innovation behind your cooking or the taste and presentation of your food?
AL: There was a turning point in my cooking career when I decided to cook only seafood. I never thought of it as a sacrifice to stop cooking other products from the land. Some predicted that our journey would be limited because we would run out of resources, the most apparent raw materials of the sea, but quite the opposite. Earth is covered by 75 per cent salt water, and we only know 40 per cent of the marine supply.

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However, on a menu where there are only products from the sea, we like to include trompe-l’oeil ‘meat’ options for our customers. We must open our minds – we are very selective and limited to unknown flavours. That is why we ‘dress up’ meat dishes with marine products. A perfect example of this idea is our marine charcuterie. Everyone is used to pork charcuterie, so what we do is make those same sausages, but with fish. We give it the same shape, the same colour, but we use fish. Sea bass mortadella, mullet chorizo…

chefs working in a kitchen with dangling lights

LUX: What are the benefits of using your sea grain in your dishes?
AL: We’re not cooking with it yet – this project is still in the research and development (R&D) phase. But I did have the opportunity to cook it in the limited harvest that we achieved. Gastronomically speaking, it is very similar to a grain of quinoa in the mouth. After more than three years developing this project and analysing the seeds, we can affirm that the nutritional qualities of the zostera marina are superior to those of rice or wheat. It has glucose. It has more dietary fibre than pasta. It contains protein, carbohydrates and fats that are assimilated more slowly than those in rice, wheat or semolina. It’s also high in fibre and complex carbohydrates.

A gold plate with cream flowers and an orange ball in the centre

LUX: Having worked in various regions of Spain and also in France, which area has had the greatest impact on your cooking and why?
AL: Certainly France. My character as a cook was forged there, and I was able to understand the reality, the discipline and the sacrifice of this profession.

LUX: How has your culinary approach changed since you studied at the Taberna del Alabardero?
AL: My approach from then until now has nothing to do with it. Actually, at that time, aspiring to have three Michelin stars did not even cross my mind, and I had already mentally defined what I wanted my philosophy to be. I am grateful for all the stages that I have had and for forging ahead to make the Aponiente project a reality. Not even in my wildest dreams did I imagine having a restaurant with a crew as committed as we have. Everything has fallen into place little by little. We have certainly been through challenging times. Many years of swimming against the current, because the client did not understand our concept, but now we see how the client has grasped it.

a green salad that looks like a stone and grass

LUX: With regards to sustainability and saving the planet, what is the biggest change the hospitality industry needs to make in the next 10 years?
AL: Dependence, in all senses, on products that are not from our environment. We must look at our local environment with hunger and take advantage of the resources that we have closest to hand. From the farm to the fork, from the sea to the plate. We must be less erratic. We must be less selective.

Read more: Kishwar Chowdhury On The Bengali Influences Within Her Cuisine

LUX: If you weren’t a chef, what would you be?
AL: A marine biologist.

shrimps and peas on a large round cracker

LUX: If you could choose any chef to prepare a meal for you, who would it be and why?
AL: I am a man of simple tastes. It’s been a long time since I’ve been to a restaurant on my favourite beach in Cádiz, Bolonia. There is a restaurant there called Las Rejas, where I am happy eating whole fried fish, and happy spending time with the owners. I love going out fishing with them and then cooking. Nobody fries fish like them.

LUX: Have you got any exciting projects
or discoveries coming up?
AL: I am restless, and Aponiente develops many research projects. But, today, our main effort is focused on the research and development of our marine cereal.

Ángel León is the owner and head chef of Aponiente in El Puerto de Santa María, Cádiz, in southern Spain. Since 2016 he has also been the gastronomic director of the nearby Alevante restaurant.

aponiente.com

This article appears in the Summer 2022 issue of LUX

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Kishwar Chowdhury showing a chef wearing a top hat how to prepare many plates of food
Kishwar Chowdhury showing a chef wearing a top hat how to prepare many plates of food

Kishwar Chowdhury’s Bengali heritage is a crucial part of her approach to cuisine

Australia based Bengali chef Kishwar Chowdhury was a finalist in the 2021 series of Masterchef Australia. Here she speaks to LUX Contributing Editor, Samantha Welsh about the ways her heritage influences her cooking

LUX: Dhaka, London, Heidelberg, Las Vegas, how has living in all these very different locations shaped your outlook?
Kishwar Chowdhury: Having lived on a few different continents and constantly traveling through my work has definitely shaped who I am. When I finish my kitchen projects in a city, I’m often roaming the markets, finding where the locals eat and befriending anyone who’s love language is food! I find that you can get to know people and learn about cultures very intimately, in a very short space of time by immersing yourself in their food. I carry these encounters with me and it definitely shapes my creative process.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

LUX: You had several career options but you seem drawn to something beyond personal ambition. How did you find this back home?
KC: Before moving into the world of food I was happily immersed in the printing, packaging and design industry. But food allowed me to express the deeper inquisitions and thoughts I had about the world. I feel very fortunate that I have an audience that is interested in that voice, whether it’s about ethnicity and ownership or ecology and waste. I feel I can wholly express myself through this medium and in doing so, found a collective global audience that resonated with me. I can see the impact that this has on the next generation, including my children and that to me is reason enough to be here.

eggplant prepared on a black plate

Chowdhury takes pride in using techniques from many different cultures in her cuisine

LUX: Congratulations on having the drive and talent to make it to the final of Australian Masterchef! What made you do it and what have you learned along the way?
KC: The short answer to that is my son, Mika, made me do it. During the lockdown, we were living on a farm outside of my hometown of Melbourne. Like many others, it was a time that made me reflect on what I really wanted to do with myself and what it was I would be leaving behind. It became integral to me to pass down to my children all the things my parents had spent a lifetime teaching me. I spent a lot of that time cooking, writing and drawing. My son was the one who urged me to apply for Masterchef after seeing an ad on TV and the rest is history.

a chef preparing a plate with leaves on it

Kishwar Chowdhury came third place in the 2021 series of Masterchef Australia

My biggest takeaway from the Masterchef experience was finding who I am as an Australian-Bengali. I think many of us around the world who belong to minority cultural diasporas live with their feet planted in two boats. Masterchef gave me an opportunity to express who I am through my dishes and represent both the Australian and Bengali sides of my identity.

LUX: Your recipes have reached an international platform and you champion your Bengali culture, as distinct from ethnicity or religion; is that important to you?
KC: Being born and bought up in Australia to Bengali migrants from both India and Bangladesh meant that I grew up identifying with Bengali food and culture beyond national borders. My food reflects the history and cross cultural influences that landed in the Bay of Bengal. Being a major trade port for the British East India Company, Mughals who bought their Persian cuisine and sharing porous borders with South East Asia, the layered food tapestry in this region is incredibly diverse, delicious and largely undiscovered. It’s impossible to write about Bengali cuisine and confine it to a certain ethnic group or religion.

A woman standing in a blue t shirt next to a world refuge campaign board

Kishwar Chowdhury has worked closely with the UN World Food Programme and ASCR to combat issues of hunger and food distribution

LUX: You could be said to subvert tropes about women’s work and women’s place in South East Asian society. How has this been received?
KC: I always say cooking has been a privilege for me. I get to approach it from a creative space and head kitchens, which is still, across the world, an anomaly. I do find frustrations in breaking stereotypes when people think cooking is a natural skillset for women or something that should be imparted on girls. I grew up in a household where both my mother and father cooked and believe that cooking is a basic life skill that every person should acquire. The burden of cooking still predominantly rests on South Asian women and women across all cultures in general. It is twice as difficult in that space to break that mould and to be seen as a chef rather than a cook.

LUX: How do you deal with preconceptions about how and where it is appropriate to serve South East Asian food?
KC: There has definitely been a hierarchy of cuisines that have been considered worthy of fine dining spaces. I do think that mould is being broken and we see a rise of restaurants showcasing heritage cuisines taking out Michelin stars and getting global accolades.

Durjoy Rahman in a white shirt standing next to Kishwar Chowdhury in a chef apron

Durjoy Rahman with Kishwar Chowdhury

I find that the hardest preconceptions to break are within one’s own cultural confines. Often, I recreate dishes that are historically peasant dishes or “Andarkhanna” food that is served at home. People who have never come across these dishes are receptive to the incredible techniques and subtle flavours that exist in heritage Bengali cuisine. But often the beauty and rarity of these dishes are overlooked when they’re cooked at home.

LUX: How did you come up with the controversial concept to repurpose leftovers to haute cuisine?
KC: Some of the greatest restaurants in the world, notably the famous René Redzepi’s Noma, have been exploring this concept for years and shed a global light on the importance of sustainability in this industry. This, together with the cultural significance of eating nose to tail, repurposing food scraps and using every part of an ingredient, whether it be a fruit, vegetable or a whole animal, led me to carry that ethos into my kitchens.

LUX: Tell us about your activism, particularly the UN World Food Programme and Feast for Freedom.
KC: I’ve never considered myself an activist, but feel a deep sense of responsibility to do something about the disparity in food distribution. Whilst one side of my work is about creating magical experiences, there is also a very real side of the food industry that entails waste, hunger and lack of access to basic nutrition for millions. Through working with the UN WFP and ASRC and having the platform and the ability to shed light on these matters is how I push for change.

plates prepared and food in a crate

Preservation and legacy are at the core of Kishwar Chowdhury’s cuisine

LUX: How can you capture a cultural legacy and preserve it for the next generation?
KC: It starts with preservation through practice and the written word. In my case, recipes, particularly from this part of the world, are difficult to preserve, as they are not scientific, like baking. They require a tactile understanding of spices and ingredients, seasonality and also locality. I’m currently writing my book on recipes from the Bay of Bengal and trying to pass on more than just recipes, but a way of life. As for the next generation, I think immersing my children, as I was, in art, cultural experiences, rituals and festivals, creates a muscle memory so that they too will want to recreate all this as they get older.

Read more: Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation: Bridging Global South And North

LUX: What would you tell a young chef embarking on their career?
KC: I would say find your voice in food. What is it you want to share with the world through your food, find the people and kitchens that will help you attain the skill set you need and always follow your stomach!

Find out more: @kishwar_chowdhury

This interview was conducted in association with the Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation

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Reading time: 7 min
bedroom terrace
palatial hotel on edge of mountain

The Splendido with its legendary pool and restaurants, above Portofino. Image courtesy of Belmond/Mattia Aquila

In the third part of our luxury travel views column from the Autumn 2021 issue, LUX’s Editor-in-Chief Darius Sanai experiences la dolce vita in Portofino

My one encounter with the Splendido Mare, the village-based sister hotel of the celebrated hillside Splendido in Portofino, was a little over 10 years ago. Since then, the port area of the village has been pedestrianised, and the Mare has been upgraded with its own character (to reflect a kind of village-chic identity, escaping from the shadow of its showy sibling). What a difference! Artful touches, gentle lighting and townhouse style abound, and getting to our “village view” room along a labyrinth of corridors was a delight, with a feeling of staying in a real house. “Village view” could mean a wall, but actually it was out along the Via Mare, the cute main street, which, now pedestrianised, was a blush of colourful visitors eating ice-creams and pizza at the outdoor restaurants. Perfect insulation meant it was quiet, also.

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We arrived late one evening, met at the other end of the Via Roma (all of 100 metres away – Portofino is tiny) by the hotel porter who took our luggage while another parked our car. On the stroll into the hotel we noticed the restaurant at the front of the building, on the main piazza on the harbourfront, was buzzing; twenty minutes later we were installed at a table on its front row, with a perfect vista of the evening passeggiata as the light dimmed over the hillsides on either side of the harbour.

bedroom terrace

The terrace of one the bedrooms at Splendido Mare

The Mare has a family-run vibe, despite being part of an international hotel group; the fritto misto of fish and shellfish with fruit and vegetables was a spectacle in the serving, and worked extremely well with a bottle of Lagrein red from northeast Italy, although a more conventional choice from the wonderful wine list would have been a Frascati or even a chardonnay-based Franciacorta. Next time.

Read more: Nayla Al Khaja on filmmaking and female empowerment

The beauty of the Mare is you can step right out onto the harbourfront (now with zero traffic and no noisy Vespas – a true transformation) and, in our case, onto the hotel’s boat for a whizz around the coastline: to the lighthouse point at the tip of the peninsula and back along the coast to the resort town of Santa Margherita Ligure, playing a game of spot the mansion (Dolce & Gabbana; Versace; Berlusconi; Agnelli) and spot the yacht (pass – seems like stalking).

italian harbour

The harbourfront at Portofino, home to the Splendido Mare. Photograph by Darius Sanai

And then it’s a short shuttle ride or walk up through the gardens to the original Splendido. This grande dame is perched high above the village, and there’s no better introduction than a long pizza lunch (those pizzas! That tomato sauce!) accompanied by a longer bottle of Ca’ del Bosco rosé Franciacorta (Italy’s splendid alternative to pink champagne); the pizzeria is metres from the pool, where you can revive yourself afterwards.

The Splendido’s curved pool is a historic place to gaze out over the bay and dream; we had an even better alternative in the form of our balcony, which had the same view and no other people. Aperitif, quick change, down to the bar above the pool for a little jazz piano and the same view, seen from within the gardens; and then dinner. Definitely the place for the ravioli with Ligurian herbs, lobster and bisque.

Book your stay: belmond.com

This article was originally published in the Autumn 2021 issue.

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fields in Scotland
golf course

Torrance golf course at the Fairmont St Andrews

Located on the east coast of Fife in Scotland, the Fairmont St Andrews is a grand resort hotel with a championship golf course, spa and multiple restaurants. LUX checks in for the weekend

Arrival

A challenge with some of Scotland’s great hotels is that they are quite an ‘interesting’ drive away from an airport. No such problem with the Fairmont St Andrews, to which you whiz from Edinburgh or Glasgow airport along smooth roads. An hour later, the countryside reveals a view of the North Sea, and the resort grandly perched in front of you, surrounded by farmland and, given the location, a golf course.

Fairmont is a North American brand, and you could be forgiven for thinking you had arrived at a resort in northern California, with a grand driveway, ornate signs and a swanky entrance. The grandeur continues inside. Having checked in, you walk into a huge atrium lobby from where a lift takes guests to their appointed floors.

The Room

The views were tonics, and quite different to those in the Scottish Highlands. We looked out over the grassland dropping down to the steely endlessness of the North Sea, which sounds bleak but to the right were rolling hills dotted with picturesque farmhouses, and the East Neuk art colony down the coast.

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Continuing with the North American vibe, the room was huge and lavishly appointed, with marble bathrooms, excellent lighting and air-conditioning, which you often don’t get in hotels in this part of the world, where quaintness is too often an excuse for neglect. Perhaps there could have been more Scottish character in the rooms, but there was plenty of that outside the windows, and in St Andrews next door.

Hotel suite

One of the hotel’s deluxe suites 

The Experience

Unlike some places which install a treatment room and call themselves a resort, the Fairmont St Andrews really is a resort. There is a big spa, indoor pool and one of the most renowned championship golf courses in the world. A couple of miles down the road, there is also the course of the Royal and Ancient.

All this means you could entertain yourself without ever leaving the resort. There are several restaurants in the main building, but we chose to dine at the St Andrews Bar & Grill, a few minutes’ walk away on the golf course with a fabulous sea view, which served lobster, charcoal-oven steaks and oysters, along with a superb selection of champagnes. We will have to save La Cucina, the Italian restaurant, for next time.

Read more: Culture and Cuisine at La Fiermontina, Puglia, Italy

Exploring

St Andrews is famous for its golf, but is also one of the country’s most attractive old towns. We spent the day exploring the streets, the university quad, the castle and cathedral, and enjoying the astonishing variety of restaurants of different cultures packed into the tiny town with its very cosmopolitan student base.

restaurant booth

Squire Restaurant is just one of the hotel’s dining options

The Verdict

Super-swanky American resort service and standards meet one of the most desirable locations in the Old World. Our only regret is having to cut our stay short.

Find out more: fairmont.com/st-andrews-scotland 

This article was originally published in the Summer 2021 issue.

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luxurious hotel suite with arched ceiling

luxurious hotel suite with arched ceiling

Suite “Antonia” features the building’s original high-vaulted stone ceilings

Occupying a restored masseria – farmhouse – on a quiet street in the historic town of Lecce, Puglia, La Fiermontina is a five-star hotel with a homely, boutique feel. LUX discovers its quiet charm

Arrival

Like many beautiful Italian cities, Lecce has an unprepossessing ring of suburbs. But drive through an archway and a magical vision appears like an ancient Roman city, even more mesmerising at night, still and lit by gentle oranges and yellows on the ochre walls.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

Past the arch and La Fiermontina is down a quiet street. Walk up a stone staircase lit by uplighters into a walled courtyard, turn into the reception area, and then exit again to wander in a garden enclosed by the hotel’s ancient buildings and the old city walls. The light from the sky and the garden lighting is otherworldly.

The Room

Our suite was reached via a short staircase (there is a lift also, but it seemed a bit inauthentic) and seemed to span two buildings, old and new. The huge terrace balcony looked out over the courtyard, from where gentle jazz wafted up each evening. The bedroom had a vaulted ceiling and light stone walls, with contemporary furniture, art books and little clutter. If there is a more compelling bedroom in the whole of Italy, we would love to see it.

The Experience

We arrived on a weekday evening, slightly frazzled after flying in, renting a car and navigating the racetrack/autostrada for the hour’s drive. (Taking a taxi, easily arranged by the hotel, might be a better option next time.)

Read more: The Best of Tuscany’s Wine Resorts

Walking down from the room in search of the bar and a bite, we came across an enchanting sight. The hotel holds occasional evenings for locals and guests to sample regional beers and wines, and local cuisine in a buffet style. Puglia has been acclaimed for its wines but what is less known is that it’s part of Italy’s microbrewery revolution as well. It was hard to choose between the local beer and a local chardonnay. For the cuisine, we chose from a giant pan of pasta with sausage and melted cheese, and some antipasti.

Choices made, sit at your table in the gardens, under the olive grove near the pool, next to the walls of the ancient city, listen to the jazz and you feel far from the airport transfer.

restaurant with outdoor tables

The hotel’s outdoor restaurant focuses on local, seasonal produce

Exploring

The hotel is in the heart of the most compelling city where you can wander through the latticework of ancient streets. You can get a guide or allow your instincts to guide you. Doing the latter, we stumbled upon a hidden square with a single restaurant and terrace where lunch turned into an after-lunch digestif and into an early evening aperitif.

Verdict

The most mesmerising way to stay in one of Italy’s most interesting cities, and with a homegrown, not a big chain feel. Exquisite.

Find out more: lafiermontina.com/hotel

This article was originally published in the Summer 2021 issue.

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glacial alpine lake
glacial alpine lake

The Göscheneralpsee reservoir west of Andermatt is fed by the Dammastock glaciers.

Climate change is creating challenges for mountain resorts the world over. In Switzerland, a new luxury resort is leading the way in incorporating ecologically sound design into every aspect of their development. Jenny Southan discovers the innovations and advances being made in Andermatt

We all know that climate change is a problem, but for ski resorts, which rely on consistently sufficient snowfall, the challenge is particularly pressing – as snow, especially at lower altitudes, decreases, many will be forced to shut down (hundreds have already been abandoned across the Alps). And as the number of ‘snow-certain’ destinations dwindle, there is the added problem that by 2050, half of Switzerland’s 4,000 glaciers are forecast to have disappeared.

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However, the good news is that humans are incredibly innovative, and if serious steps are taken now to combat carbon emissions, the negative effects of climate change could be mitigated. Leading the way in Switzerland is the Andermatt Swiss Alps (ASA) development project, which is one of just a small handful of resorts that is taking serious steps to up its eco credentials and ensure its longevity as an outpost for winter sports.

Stefan Kern, head of PR and communications for ASA, says: “The project is heavily dedicated to sustainability. This is a core value of all our activities – from energy consumption to construction and gastronomy. We are proud to be on the way to being a fully carbon-neutral holiday destination.”

Alpine views

Looking down into the Ursern valley from Schneehüenerstock. Image by Valentin Luthiger

Demonstrating its commitment to the cause, ASA teamed up last year with the Swiss branch of American NGO Protect Our Winters (POW), which is helping it to devise sweeping, longterm initiatives to reduce its carbon footprint, as well as consumption of single-use plastic (none is sold at resort sites). At the beginning of 2020, ASA also launched Andermatt Responsible, a platform that “looks at the whole company’s footprint from heating to energy to water,” as Nicholas Bornstein, head and founder of POW Switzerland, explains.

Read more: Van Cleef & Arpels CEO Nicolas Bos on the poetry of jewellery

A political scientist with a Ph.D in Swiss environmental policy, there are few people better equipped than Bornstein to discuss combatting climate change in mountainous regions. He says that POW “allows me to combine my love of the outdoors with meaningful action”. He explains that his organisation works to “mobilise our community to implement climate change protection measures” via groups of local activists, professional athletes, companies and mountain guides, who act as ambassadors.

Alpine golf course

The Andermatt golf course. Image by Martin Wabel/Bildsektor.

How is climate change affecting Alpine ski resorts? In addition to making ski seasons shorter, Bornstein says: “The snow line has risen approximately 300 metres in the past 40 years, and is predicted to go up a further 500 to 700 metres by the end of the century, and this is putting a lot of ski resorts out of business.”

He also notes that conditions are becoming more dangerous. “We have seen avalanches in mid-winter of the kind that we would expect in April and May. They are becoming harder to predict.” Why? If the ground isn’t cold enough when it starts snowing, an insulating layer is created by the snow where heat is trapped and snow can slide off more easily. “We call these ‘fish mouth’ avalanches,” says Bornstein.

Read more: Jason deCaires Taylor on underwater art & ocean conservation

ASA has identified key contributors and is taking steps to reduce their impact. Bornstein says that approximately 50 to 70 per cent of CO2 emissions in Andermatt are from people coming to the resort by car so they are putting on extra trains from Zurich at weekends, offering discounted ski passes for people who don’t drive (driving in general here is restricted and there is a good bus system for those who don’t want to walk, including an electric bus). Andermatt Reuss is for pedestrians only.

Alpine village ski lift

Andermatt seen from the Gütsch ski lift

Food production and logistics are also big polluters, especially in Switzerland which imports a lot of goods. Bornstein says that POW has been working with restaurants in ASA to
put a more regional and vegetarian cuisine on menus. Andermatt’s gourmet restaurants are also reducing the amount of plastic-wrapped ingredients they buy.

Even more impressive is the fact that the entire SkiArena of Andermatt (from homes to ski lifts) is 100 per cent powered by hydroelectric and wind-powered energy supplied by Ursern electricity works, which exclusively serves the Gotthard region. (On the Graubünden side of Andermatt, Energia Alpina also provides 100 per cent renewable energy.) Not only that but all the buildings are heated in a totally carbon-neutral way through the burning of locally sourced wood pellets and surplus heat captured from Swiss army computers buried deep in secret bases in nearby mountains.

Read more: How Gaggenau is innovating the ancient art of steam cooking

“People want to see companies stepping up to the challenge and we believe it is going to become more important to position yourself with a ski resort that cares about the future of the environment,” says Bornstein. Even during the summer when people play golf surrounded by green meadows, ASA has ensured that its 20-plus species of birds have plenty of areas to nest around the course – in fact, there are more birds here today than there were before the course was built, demonstrating that being responsible can benefit both nature and mankind.

RING IN THE NEW

architectural render

Arve Chalet Apartments

Arve Chalet Apartments
Arve is a five-floor block of 17 residences (73–116 sq m in size), each with open-plan living and dining spaces, and window seats offering views of the mountains.

Alpine apartment with mountain views

Enzian Alpine Apartments

Enzian Alpine Apartments
Enzian  is a modern, three-floor Alpine villa housing 12 apartments measuring from 62 sq m to 136 sq m. Some come with saunas, private roof terraces and gardens.

Find out more: andermatt-swissalps.ch

This article was originally published in the Summer 2020 Issue.

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Reading time: 5 min
Restaurant dining
Restaurant dining

Interiors by Jouin Manku at the recently reopened restaurant Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester in London. Image by Pierre Monetta

With 21 Michelin stars to his name, Alain Ducasse is one of the world’s most decorated chefs. Over the course of his career, he has opened over 25 restaurants across the globe, launched a cooking school and an artisan chocolate company. Following the reopening of his flagship restaurant Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester, we speak to the chef about sustainability, collaborating with Jason Atherton and the importance of telling your own story
Monochrome portrait of a chef

Alain Ducasse

LUX: Can you tell us a bit about your background and how you started as a chef?
Alain Ducasse: My first memory is the smell and taste of the dishes my grandmother used to cook. We used to live in the countryside, and she was often sending me to the garden to pick vegetables. I loved to look at her cooking our Sunday roast chicken, and transforming the produce of the garden into delicious family dishes. She is my biggest source of inspiration, even today.

LUX: Your company Ducasse Paris comprises numerous establishments, how do you ensure a consistent level of quality across the restaurants?
Alain Ducasse: All of my chefs have been working with me for many years, sometimes for more than 20 years. This is the best way to ensure a consistent level of quality across my restaurants. They are totally instilled with my vision and I know they can perfectly interpret it with their own personality.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

LUX: What’s your process like when you’re creating a new recipe? Where do you typically find your inspiration?
Alain Ducasse: When I create a dish, it is all about the local resources: what can I found locally? Where am I? What are the influences around me? Then, I apply the technics and DNA of French cuisine to create.

LUX: Over the course of your career, how have fine dining expectations changed?
Alain Ducasse: All the guests have nowadays all the information they need through social medias, and internet. You are now able to share all your experiences with millions of other customers, so of course now the expectations are higher and the customers are unfaithful because they have a lot of choice.

artistic dining dish

Salsify amuse-bouche. This dish is based on the contrast between a noble produce (the truffle), and an humble one (the salsify).

LUX: How much attention do you pay to dining trends?
Alain Ducasse: It’s all about moving with our times. The most important is to tell your own story. Each restaurant must be true to the location where it is situated, in tune with the lifestyle of the guests it is welcoming from all over the world.

Read more: The Thinking Traveller’s Founders Huw & Rossella Beaugié on nurturing quality

LUX: This year saw the reopening of Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester. What’s changed?
Alain Ducasse: I am delighted to partner once again with Jouin Manku to visually bring to life the most recent evolution of Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester. The new concept is a sensorial feast that champions nature’s unrivalled beauty and pays homage to our vibrant Mayfair location.

In the main dining area, Jouin Manku have opened the room, introducing curved wood and leather banquettes which anchor the tables within the space. In contrast to the dark, smoky colours of the furniture, the green and silver tones of the carpet suggest a mist through the park, progressively darkening to the edges.

Fine dining restaurant

The new concept of Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester is “a sensorial feast” says the chef

LUX: How did the idea for a dinner in support of Hospitality Action with Jason Atherton come about and what can guests expect from the evening?
Alain Ducasse: I have followed this young chef for a while now. I love his vision and his open mind. To support Hospitality Action with this one-off dinner is a great occasion to work together for a charity we both love and to welcome our guests in the freshly refurbished restaurant.

LUX: What’s your collaborative working process like when you’re working with another chef?
Alain Ducasse: It is going to be a four hands dinner, with our two executive chefs. We will brainstorm all together to create a special experience. The dinner will be composed of a 5-course menu with a wine pairing and it is going to be awesome.

Read more: High altitude luxury at Riffelalp Resort 2222m, Zermatt

LUX: How are you incorporating sustainable practices into your kitchens?
Alain Ducasse: By changing all of our habits. I always say that a habit is a bad habit. More than ever, we have to change the way we work to take care of the planet and the health of human being.

I relaunched my restaurant Alain Ducasse at The Plaza Athénée five years ago with a new concept called naturalness, based on vegetable, cereals with less salt, less fat, less sugar, and less animal protein but better ones from sustainable fish.

It is very important to act and show to the industry that we are able to create differently, even in a three Michelin-starred restaurant.

dish of vegetables and fruits

Cookpot of seasonal vegetables and fruit

LUX: What has been your most memorable dining experience to date and why?
Alain Ducasse: It will be my next discovery for sure, the one I don’t know yet. I am an eager traveller, always looking for new discoveries. The world is full of talents, waiting to be discovered. It is not only about French cuisine and French chefs. You can find talented chefs all over the world, with multiple ways to express themselves.

LUX: What’s next for you?
Alain Ducasse: The next steps are the development of Le Chocolat Alain Ducasse in Asia, and my schools “Ecole Ducasse” too. We are launching an exceptional new campus in Meudon specialising in culinary arts which will welcome students from September 2020, with an English education. This Paris campus will be ultra-contemporary; a customised school with the aim of teaching and promoting world-renowned gastronomic expertise.

Alain Ducasse & Jason Atherton’s charity dinner for Hospital Action will take place on 22 April at Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester. For more information on Hospitality Action visit: hospitalityaction.org.uk

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Reading time: 5 min
Contemporary architectural steel work on the facade of a glass building
Chais Monnet is a luxury country hotel in southwest France with striking contemporary architecture

The spectacular architecture of the Hôtel Chais Monnet, designed by Didier Poignant

A new kind of luxury hotel in Cognac sets new standards of comfort, cuisine and architecture for those exploring the region that’s been in the shadow of nearby Bordeaux for too long, says James Richardson
A grand piano in a rustic wooden setting

Le 1838, the hotel’s jazz and cognac bar

A short drive from the city of Bordeaux, the newly opened Chais Monnet is the swankiest hotel in southwest France and the first of a new breed of destination – the super-luxury auberge. The hotel and spa (and conference centre) are situated in and around a very expensively converted former cognac-aging warehouse by the Charente river. Lavishly designed by architect Didier Poignant, the hotel’s spectacular exterior complements the welcoming contemporary chic of the interior.

Follow LUX on Instagram: the.official.lux.magazine

The 92 rooms (and 15 apartments) are decorated with a sophisticated rustic charm, the spa features a 24-metre indoor-outdoor pool, and the jazz bar, in its own converted building, is hugely atmospheric. The greatest revelation is in the restaurants, in the former cognac warehouse itself, headed by Sébastien Broda, who earned a Michelin star for Le Park 45 in Cannes. There is a real Soho House vibe (not surprisingly, since owner Javad Marandi also owns the legendary Soho Farmhouse in Oxfordshire in the UK), with the cuisine both light and delicious – the memory of a super-umami fish pot au feu at Saturday brunch remains with us still.

Read more: The problematic stereotypes cast by the male nude in art

Luxury contemporary interiors of a hotel lobby

The hotel’s decor is casual contemporary luxe

A luxurious hotel bedroom with rustic interiors

The guest rooms have been carefully incorporated into the original structure of the buildings

Luxury spa swimming pool with sun loungers

The indoor/outdoor pool in the spa

While it’s tempting not to leave the hotel, the experiences on offer in the area are compelling, from cycle tours along the river to driving to picnics in the local vineyards in a vintage car supplied by the hotel. Then there’s the serious business of tastings at the celebrated local cognac houses, such as Martell, Rémy Martin and Courvoisier, or sampling the wines of the great Bordeaux châteaux not far to the south.

For more information and to book your stay visit: chaismonnethotel.com

This article was first published in the Winter 19 Issue.

Picturesque setting of a house on the edge of a river in Autumn

The Cognac region offers bucolic summertime relaxation and historical sites aplenty

A salad arranged artistically on a black ceramic plate

A chef working in industrial kitchen

Chef Sébastien Broda in the kitchens, and one of his dishes that use locally sourced produce and that are served in the hotel’s Les Foudres and La Distillerie restaurants

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Reading time: 2 min
Sake No Hana Sakura celebrations
Japanese, Sake No Hana cherry blossoms

Rebecca Louise Law’s cherry blossom canopy at Sake No Hana

Mayfair’s Sake No Hana restaurant by the Hakkasan Group celebrates the Japanese ‘sakura’ season with an installation of intertwining cherry blossom branches and a limited-edition menu. LUX enjoys Hideki Hiwatashi’s contemporary take on hanami – the Japanese feast that celebrates cherry blossom season and the start of spring – beneath the seasonal blooms.

Cherry blossoms at Sake No HanaSakura begins in the south of Japan around February and finishes in the north at the end of May. Fortunately, the 24,000 flowers carefully installed by East-London artist Rebecca Louise Law at Mayfair’s Sake No Hana are hand-dried and preserved to last forever. However, they’ll only be visible on the restaurant’s wooden beamed ceiling until the end of June, providing the ideal backdrop for a contemporary hanami feast.

Read next: Tailoring for the modern gentleman 

Traditionally served at a Japanese cherry blossom picnic, Head Chef, Hideki Hiwatashi has dreamt up a new take on the traditional feast; a culinary reflection of the season’s celebrations and the transient beauty of the blossoms.  The special hanami cocktail blends lavender bitters and Akashi-tai honjozo, whilst the culinary offerings are typically innovative of the brand.

Sake No Hana cherry blossom menu

The sakura sushi platter

 

Our highlights were the bamboo leaf wrapped sea bass nigiri, tied prettily with a golden wire (it looks almost too good to eat), and the char-grilled rib eye beef with chilli ponzu. The most decadent option is the salmon served with a reach champagne yuzu miso sauce and pickled carrot and celery, which resemble pink blossoms. And for desert, a bitter chocolate, cherry delice that melts in the mouth. Enjoy the transient tastes while they last.

The sakura menu and art installation will be available at Sake No Hana until 18th June

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Reading time: 1 min
Supermodel alicia rountree

Unique design title model of the month

Model and chef Alicia Rountree

Mauritian model and restaurateur, Alicia Rountree

Sydney Lima

LUX contributing editor and Storm model, Sydney Lima continues her online exclusive series, interviewing her peers about modelling life and business.

THIS MONTH: Mauritian-born Alicia Rountree leads a hectic life doubling as both supermodel and restaurateur. Since signing to Models 1 at the age of 17, Rountree has travelled extensively shooting campaigns for the likes of L’Oréal, Victoria’s Secret and Ralph Lauren. In 2010 whilst living in New York she opened ‘The Tartinery’ with close friend Nicolas Dutko. Situated in the Nolita district, the restaurant specialises in open faced sandwiches and tartines, inspired by Alicia’s love of french cuisine and the simplicity of fresh ingredients.

Sydney Lima: How did you first get into modelling?
Alicia Rountree: I was scouted a few times as a teenager when I was in London spending summer holidays, but I was too young to get into the business. I was then scouted at 17 at a Vogue event and I was more then ready to start modelling by then.

SL: What’s been your favourite shoot to date?
AR: It was a shoot for Italian Elle, shot in Mauritius. The team loved my family so much that they added them into the story. We all have alicia rountreewonderful memories from that shoot.

SL:What do you love about modelling?
AR: Travel, discovering new places and cultures, meeting new people and making friends along the way. I obviously love clothes and fashion
in general so I love the dressing up part too!

SL: What do you hate about modelling?
AR: It can be very lonely sometimes. Always packing and unpacking your suitcase. It is sometimes quite hard on your body shooting for long hours and travelling non stop.

SL: What inspired you to open your own restaurant?
AR: A restaurant like Tartinery did not exist in New York. We found that there was a place missing where you can meet up and have fresh local food, easy to share in an industrial-chic environment with nice music.

 

Read next: Copenhagen’s youth on why their city is the greatest

Sydney Lima: Where did you love of French cuisine come from?
Alicia Rountree: I went to Paris a lot as a child and have so many memories eating at French cafes. French people have a love of food that is different to anywhere else. Also they don’t care about eating carbs, they love a good fresh baguette or croissant!

SL: Did you get involved with much of the interior design and aesthetic of the restaurant?
AR: Yes it was important to have the place be charming and sophisticated. I remember even painting the chairs myself to get them done the right way.

alicia rountreeSL: What inspires you on a daily basis?
AR: Being grateful. I know that I am very lucky to have the life I do and I never take anything for granted. I love my family and friends and make sure that they know it.

SL: Do you have a role model within the industry?
AR: Not really. I like people who stand for their own beliefs and are strong. But I don’t really have a role model.

SL: How do you rate your cooking skills?
AR: I am a good cook. I get it from my mum. But I don’t really have the time to cook much. Only in Mauritius with all the family, then it’s so much fun to cook for everyone.

SL: What would be your signature dish?
AR: Avocado toast! Can you call it a dish? I do many delicious variations.

SL: What plans do you have for 2017?
AR: Learn more and share my knowledge with whoever wants to listen.

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Reading time: 3 min