fireworks over the thames at henley and the night sky

fireworks over the thames at henley and the night sky

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

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

a stage little up with red lights in the dark

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

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

boats on the river with people sitting on the side

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

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

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

a woman with a guitar singing into a microphone

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

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

two fine dining plates

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

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

See More:

henley-festival.co.uk

Share:
Reading time: 2 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

Share:
Reading time: 3 min
luxury hotel bedroom
luxury hotel bedroom

One of the hotel’s garden suites

The Jumeirah Carlton Tower is a London legend, recently lovingly refurbished. In an unmatched retail location in Knightsbridge, can it regain its 1960s glamour? Darius Sanai checks in to our Hotel of the Month

It’s peak pre-Christmas shopping season and the Jumeirah Carlton Tower is a short stroll from Harrods and Harvey Nichols and basically inside the Sloane Street branch of Hermès, preferred by locals to the Bond Street boutique for its more thoughtful buying. It’s also a dash from the Hyde Park Winter Wonderland.

What’s the lowdown?

Fashion week tribes all have their favourite hotels, and it’s safe to say that until the pandemic, the Jumeirah wasn’t on their radar. It was more old-fashioned luxury where international visitors sipped tea in the lounge while their kids came back from shopping at Hermès next door. All that changed with the biggest refurbishment in the hotel’s 60 year history, which happened during the lockdowns.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

Everything from the bar, to the public areas, to the restaurant, spa and rooms, has been recreated with a contemporary eye. That in turn refocusses attention on the standout points the hotel always had, but which became lost as its original star faded. It’s in Knightsbridge, right on Sloane Street, but overlooks a peaceful garden square and has views across the city from all sides, unlike any of its competitors. It has the biggest and best indoor pool in London, and, did we mention, it’s right next to Hermès?

italian restaurant

Al Mare Restaurant

The new Italian restaurant, Al Mare, takes the superstar corner position on the angle of Sloane Street. It’s a big, light, airy, New York midtown type of space, and it’s been transformed into a casual chic venue with just the right mix of both, like a grown up Soho House. We recommend one of the booths by the window, and picking from the imaginative and light options from the menu, like tuna tartar with oscietra caviar and ponzu – though there is plenty of comfort food also (we enjoyed a rigatoni al tartufo after a long night out).

You don’t need to go out though, as the hotel’s bar has been pole-vaulted into the top tier of London bars courtesy of an all-star bartending team and some very original cocktails, and relaxed, cool decor.

Getting horizontal

Our suite had a view along the length of the garden square, where we could see locals walking their dogs and children, from a great height: and across the rooftops to the whole of London, from the Battersea Power Station to the City. Even more striking were the bespoke touches: a Berluti shoe polish kit, slippers and products all monogrammed for us, as were the pillowcases. Delightful and very relaxing.

Read more: A tasting of Dalla Valle wines with the owners

Even more relaxing were the new poolside cabanas, replete with an excellent selection of magazines (including LUX). Given the conservatory feel of this huge indoor pool, on a sunny day in February you could settle down and pretend you were, well, somewhere sunny.

hotel swimming pool

The spa and swimming pool

Flipside

Staying at the Carlton Tower doesn’t have the bragging rights of nearby hotels like the Berkeley or the Lanesborough, but we feel that is going to change quite fast.

Rates: From £750 per night (approx. €900/$1,000)

Book your stay: jumeirah.com/london/the-carlton-tower

Darius Sanai

Share:
Reading time: 2 min
luxury hotel bedroom

hotel facade

Málaga might not be the first place that springs to mind as a luxury destination, but the recent opening of sophisticated boutique hotel Palacio Solecio alongside the first international outpost of the Pompidou centre and a super-yacht marina signals a new future for the historic Andalusian city. LUX checks in for a weekend of food, art and culture

We arrive on a warm spring evening. Our taxi drops us on the edge of the pedestrianised cobbled streets of Calle Granada, Málaga’s old Jewish quarters, where our hotel, Palacio Solecio, is located in a former 18th century Andalusian palace opposite a peach-coloured 14th century church. This part of the city has a serene, almost earthy feel to it, perhaps partly due to the plethora of historic buildings and narrow winding alleys but also because it feels lived in. There are none of the Irish bars and nightclubs that are so popular with hen and stag dos – although if that is your thing, the central strip is a matter of minutes away too. That said, Malaga has done much in recent years to shake its reputation as a party destination. With a new sleek port, a first-class culinary scene and a growing clutch of artistic attractions, it’s slowly beginning to attract more culturally-orientated visitors.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

After we’ve checked in and been shown to our bedroom – an elegant junior suite with an enormous four poster bed and a french balcony overhanging the street – we head back out to find somewhere to eat and stumble upon El Pimpi, a rustic tapas bar where, in true Mediterranean fashion, local families are crowded around tiny tables for a late night snack and glass of sherry. The menu is scrawled in Spanish on a large blackboard behind the bar and we pick a few plates, largely based on words we recognise. A few minutes later, a thick yellow wedge of tortilla arrives on our table along with boquerones en vinagre (white anchovies in oil and vinegar), patatas bravas drenched in a rich tomato sauce and crispy calamari. Málaga is renowned for having some of the best tapas in Spain and this is strong start.

luxury hotel bedroom

A junior suite with french balconies

The next day is bright and fresh – warm enough to go without a jumper in the sun. We have been given an extensive list of recommendations by the hotel’s staff (all within walking distance), but decide to spend the morning wandering and set off without any particular direction in mind.

What strikes us the most is the sheer beauty of the city: its sun-washed palette, patterned ceramic tiles, hidden churches and vibrant plazas,  the way in which the ancient and modern coexist so seamlessly. One minute we’re walking past high street brands and the next, we’re standing in front of the ruins of a Roman theatre. The cathedral is especially astounding both for its monumental scale and the lush gardens that surround it. On our visit, a woman is sitting against one of the walls, singing a slow, haunting tune.

Read more: A tasting of Dalla Valle wines with the owners

For lunch, we take the hotel’s advice and find a table on the edge of the famed Atarazanas food market, listed as one of the best markets in the world by The Guardian in 2019. The food is exceptional: tortillitas de camarones (crispy prawn fritters) followed by fresh tuna kebabs with thick slices of beef tomato and pepper, and two enormous grilled king prawns. We then head down to the waterfront to visit the Pompidou Centre Málaga, the first international branch of the Pompidou Centre outside of Paris to view its permanent collection which includes a promising range of works by the likes of Picasso (Málaga’s most famous son), Bacon, Giacometti and Frida Kahlo. Although some of the pieces are compelling, we find the experience as a whole disappointing: the space is disorientating and the display lacks any curatorial concept. The Carmen Thyssen Museum, however, is wonderful. The permanent displays on the lower levels offer an intriguing insight into Spanish art history with a strong collection of Old Masters, while the upper galleries stage visiting exhibitions – during our visit, there’s an excellent presentation of works by American photographer Paul Strand.

restaurant interiors

Balausta, the hotel’s restaurant

That evening, we dine at Balausta, the hotel’s restaurant, located in a light-filled atrium edged with pillared archways. The menu focuses on Andalusian dishes made with fresh, local produce. Our waiter recommends we choose a few plates to share and  we opt for the tomato tasting platter and kale salad followed by the red tuna tartare and scallops cooked in tomato stew (a local recipe packed with flavour). The dishes are modestly sized, but perfect after our indulgent lunch while the unpretentious serving style feels very much in keeping with hotel’s relaxed, homely atmosphere.

After dinner, we make our way to Hammam Al Andalus (a five minute walk from the hotel) where we bathe in candlelit heated pools until midnight when the baths close and we drift back to our room for one of the best night’s sleeps we’ve ever had.

Rates from €179 per night on a room only basis. For further information or to book, visit www.palaciosolecio.com/en/

Share:
Reading time: 4 min
luxury ski hotel
luxury ski hotel

Suvretta House is surrounded by forest with sweeping views of the mountains

Why should I go now?

Seriously? Because January is the best month for winter sports in the Alps. Properly cold with powder snow, but, in the Upper Engadine valley by St Moritz where Suvretta House sits on its own forested ridge, with plenty of sun. It’s also refreshingly empty. Yes, St Moritz may be a place to socialise with the Von Opels and the Sachses, and you’ll be doing that at New Year and in March: this is a time to go and enjoy the mountains for what they are, and enjoy one of the greatest hotels in Europe when you’ll have the staff to yourself (well, not quite, but at least you won’t have the holiday season little princes and princesses underfoot in the hotel and on the pistes).

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

What’s the lowdown?

A five star palace hotel with its own ski lift and piste to its garden (currently an ice skating rink) is a hard proposition to resist. But Suvretta House is much more than that. It’s a couple of hundred metres outside the limits of St Moritz, surrounded by forest, at the foot of the great Corviglia ski area, and has views across the broad, high valley to Lake Silvaplana and up to the other great mountain of the region, Corvatsch.

Unlike almost every other luxury hotel in the area, you can ski in and take a lift out; Suvretta House also has its own mountain restaurants. Trutz, high up the mountain, is a lunchtime bratwurst-and-rösti stop with broad views across to the Italian Alps. Chasselas, just above the hotel above the nursery slope, may look, with its lively and cheerful manager Livia, and its chequered-tablecloth-and-wood interior, like another cosy Alpine refuge, but it’s actually a refuge of cuisine as haute as its 1900m altitude. Essence of wild mushrooms with shiitake and agnolotti followed by lamb saddle with aubergine, Jerusalem artichoke and wild Brussels sprouts: simple but sophisticated.

Suvretta is actually a one-hotel dining itinerary. Arriving tired one lunchtime (St Moritz is quite a distance from the commercial airports if your Gulfstream has let you down) you may delightedly sink into the soft seats and jazzy ambience of the Stube – broadly translated, the cellar. But amid this gentle comfort, you will find refreshingly un-Alpine options: Endive and spinach salad with apple, walnut, dried cranberries, radish, fennel, quinoa and honey balsamic dressing; or Tuna Poke with jasmine rice, avocado, cucumber, edamame, mango, seaweed, sesame and ginger, as zingy as they sound. Did we mention the Grand Restaurant? Pack a proper frock, honey.

Then there’s the huge indoor pool and chill-out zone with picture window views to the forest, and the spa, and the very elegant and high-ceilinged lobby where you’ll imagine Lauren Bacall and Ella Fitzgerald playing poker together.

Getting horizontal

Our room was light, airy, refreshingly free of pine and frills, taupe carpets, wooden panels, light greys, a big marble bathroom.

hotel bedroom

Flipside

We loved being just out of St Moritz and having the ski lift and piste at the door. It is a taxi ride into town for the clubs and bars, although at this time of year, we recommend staying just where you are.

Rates: From CHF 630 per night for a standard double room with mountain views (approx. £500 /€600/ $700)

Book your stay: suvrettahouse.ch

Darius Sanai

Share:
Reading time: 2 min
rooftop dining
rooftop dining
Chef Alain Ducasse, who currently holds twenty-one Michelin stars, has teamed up with Dom Pérignon and renowned chefs Albert Adrià (one Michelin star), Romain Meder (3 Michelin stars) and Jessica Préalpato to create ADMO, an exclusive dining experience on a roof terrace overlooking the Eiffel Tower. Candice Tucker travelled to Paris to find out more

ADMO bills itself as an ephemeral restaurant experience due to the fact that it’s open for 100 days only, but it doesn’t really seem the right way to describe a fourteen course, multi-sensory menu, created by five of the world’s best chefs and paired with Dom Pérignon Rosé 2008. Decadent is the word that comes to mind and perhaps, a touch hedonistic.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

Situated on the top floor of Musée du Quai Branly, the restaurant has a prime position overlooking the Eiffel Tower, which as the clock strikes the hour, is illuminated by brilliant lights. Cynics might pass it off as naff, but it feels suitably sparkly for a champagne feast.

fine dining

The fusion of philosophy and food makes ADMO stand out from other gastronomic experiences. The menu specifically excluded meat products, to emphasise its green credentials. Being presented in a minimalist fashion, it further highlighted the importance for people to appreciate food for its refined quality whilst fully satisfying one’s appetite.

Read more: Standard Chartered’s Eugenia Koh on Next Gen Investors

The small tables and dim lighting, made the grand culinary experience, warm and intimate. Between each course, there was lively conversation amongst the journalists, food and champagne connoisseurs, but as each course was placed in front of the guests, the room fell silent. Every plate – notably, the crispy pastry sheet with red mullet and fried scales – provided an explosion of perfectly balanced, fresh flavours that were enhanced by the champagne pairing.

rooftop dining

© François Goizé

Speaking at the launch event, Alain Ducasse explained how each dish at ADMO aims to encapsulate a philosophy of sustainability (all ingredients are locally sourced except the caviar which comes from the north of Shanghai), suggesting that this will, increasingly, define the future of fine dining. “There will be more of these types of projects. There will be more attention on better food, thinking more about the food we can eat and food that is better for the planet,” he said. “I believe this is the roadmap [for the future] and it will not end.”

Vincent Chaperon, Dom Pérignon’s Chef de Cave, also commented on the importance of taking a sustainable approach: “I believe that if we focus on [sustainability], more people will embrace this approach. More doesn’t mean quantitative, it’s qualitative. This kind of project encourages people to recognise a new art of living [that centres around] our relationship with nature. We have to preserve and not only interact.”

If ADMO is a taste of what the future will bring, we’re very much on board.

ADMO is open from Tuesday to Sunday for lunch and dinner at Les Ombres au Musée du quai Branly. For more information, visit: admo.lesombres-restaurant.com

Share:
Reading time: 2 min
beachfront hotel
beachfront hotel

© Monte-Carlo Société des Bains de Mer

In the second part of our luxury travel views column from the Autumn 2021 issue, LUX’s Editor-in-Chief Darius Sanai discovers a new side to Monaco at the Monte-Carlo Beach Hotel

Just getting to the Monte-Carlo Beach Hotel puts you in the mood. Unlike some of the grand hotels of the principality, the Beach is what it says it is. We drove past the entrance to a huge outdoor swimming pool and waterfront water-sports complex, and then down a narrow driveway to the entrance of this pink stone mini-Palace.

The vibe is deliberately casual, boutique glamour rather than formality. A low-key reception area, then up to the room with a balcony overlooking the terrace, swimming pool and sea, looking back out at Monaco in the mountains above. It was only from here (or from the yacht) that you recognise the vertiginous nature of the place: Monaco is built basically at the bottom of the cliff face, the land rising relentlessly upwards to become the Alps.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

It’s a few steps from the front entrance to the swimming pool and beach area. The pool is huge, and you have the choice of sunning yourself there, in a cabana or on the pier – when we were there, this seemed a little too adventurous as it was being washed by some rather lively waves.

beach restaurant

The Monte-Carlo Beach’s La Vigie Lounge and Restaurant. © Monte-Carlo Société des Bains de Mer

We had a pleasant aperitif on the seafront terrace and were then whisked off to Yannick Alléno at the Hôtel Hermitage in town for dinner. A new addition to the Monaco dining scene, this restaurant is overseen by superchef Alléno and occupies a crescent-shaped, sea-facing terrace amid the grandeur of the Hôtel Hermitage. It is a quite spectacular gastronomic experience: Alléno was inspired by the years he spent in Japan, and the precision, focus, perfection and lightness of the cuisine – without being in any way ‘nouvelle’ and shrunken – is mind-blowing. The best new restaurant of 2021?

Breakfast and lunch the next day were both taken at the hotel, by the sea at the beach – it is the one place in Monaco where you feel you are away from the admittedly glamorous hustle of the town. The lunch terrace restaurant, Elsa, is noted for being the first 100 per cent organic restaurant to receive a Michelin star; wild-caught fish play a starring role here and my local white fish, in a vegetable broth, was just what was required ahead of an afternoon’s swimming in the pool, accompanied by a reviving glass or two of Deutz.

Book your stay: montecarlosbm.com

This article was originally published in the Autumn 2021 issue.

Share:
Reading time: 2 min
people gathered round dining table
people gathered round dining table

One of La Cura’s intimate supper clubs hosted by Olivia Muniak in Los Angeles

In her first column for LUX, Los Angeles-based chef and entrepreneur Olivia Muniak traces the historical and modern significance of coming together to drink and dine

woman holding plate of food

Olivia Muniak

Gathering together to drink and dine has a long, primal tradition as a social glue of humanity. In Roman times, banqueting was an important social ritual involving extravagant menus with multiple courses, luxurious tableware, and diverse forms of entertainment. There were even civic feasts offered for all of the inhabitants of a city, often accommodating large numbers of diners.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

Of course, food or rather the lack of it has also given rise to revolutions. Marie Antoinette infamously uttered the phrase “Qu’ils mangent de la brioche” (“Let them eat cake”) on hearing that the peasants had no bread during one of the famines in France under the reign of her husband King Louis XVI. While it’s uncertain whether or not Marie Antoinette actually spoke these words, the phrase has acquired symbolic importance as an illustration of the upper classes’ ignorance, and the beginnings of the French Revolution.

If we look at religious holidays and the types of food that have been and continue to be served, we can also find connections with history. Lamb, for example, is served on Easter as a good omen, and is said to represent Christ while on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, apples and honey signify hope for future.

All of that is that is to say: food does not influence culture, it mirrors it and provides an important insight into the evolution of humanity. A pivotal point in American culture, for example, was the advent of the TV dinner which represented a huge shift in the archetype of family and our modern world. In the early 1950s, millions of white women entered the work force meaning that mothers were no longer at home to cook elaborate meals and pre-made frozen dinners provided the perfect solution: all you had to do was pop them in the oven, and thirty minutes later the family could be eating a hot supper while enjoying the new national pastime: television.

In Italy, food, drink and socialising go hand in hand. An aperitivo (pre-meal drink) is a cultural ritual, signifying the end of the working day. The Milanese take their aperitivo so seriously that the slang term apericena came about as a description of when drinks spill over into dinner. In Spain and some Latin American countries, sobremesa is the tradition of relaxing at the table after a heavy meal to relax, digest and converse, and in Sweden, it’s considered essential to make time for fika, a short coffee break, every day. We Americans go for all of it: cocktails, fine dining, street food, food trucks, coffee shops. We love a reason to get together with friends and indulge. The point is: humans have an appetite for good food and good company.

In 2019, I founded La Cura, a sustainable catering and event production company, based on that principle, but also because I was yearning for experiences that supported meaningful connection. I had recently moved to Los Angeles from New York and was eager to build a sense of community, and so it began, as a supper club in my backyard. I sold tickets to multi-course, family style meals. The first event was 32 guests, all different ages and from diverse backgrounds, crammed around one table. Guests had to pass platters of food to one another, share bottles of wine and the warmth of these very ordinary gestures created fast bonds between perfect strangers. The best story I heard from one of those events is that two guests (who both randomly ended up getting a ticket because a friend couldn’t go) began a podcast together.

Read more: Shiny Surfaces, Lawsuits & Pink Inflatable Rabbits: In Conversation with Jeff Koons

Over the last year or so, we have been starved of this simple, sensory act of gathering over food and drink. Instead, we met across screens – on Zoom, Facebook and Whatsapp – or hosted the same small circle of friends or family. When it became safe and socially acceptable to gather again, my company was booking a month plus in advance for brand events and dinners centred mainly around intimate dinners, which provided an escape from the ordinary. And this trend is only set to continue with many people hosting their own dinner parties having honed their cooking skills and invested in tableware over the various periods of lockdown. Alongside my company, which curates the menu and the evening, there are many consumer facing tabletop rental companies such as Social Studies which make it easier to throw larger events or themed parties within the comfort of your own home.

dinner party scene

 

These kinds of social acts are good for us: they break up our days, increase productivity, provide a space for us to unwind, relax and have fun. They add colour and depth to our lives, and now, in the wake of the pandemic, meeting for a drink or meal has become more meaningful than ever. What this time has taught us is that food and drink is what binds us. It connects us to our personal memories, a sense of self, as well as to our cultural histories and traditions. I have a childhood friend, whose mother makes a marble cake for every birthday celebration and every time I see a marble cake, I think of both her birthday and my family’s restaurant, where is also served it by the slice. Wherever I am in the world, it brings me a sense of comfort and nostalgia.

No matter our background or culture, the act of eating and drinking together is something we all share. It’s a basic human need and a communal pleasure. More importantly, in this hard-to-predict time, the ritual of dining and drinking brings a sense of grounding and normality to our lives.

Olivia Muniak is the founder of La Cura, a Los Angeles-based catering and events company. For more information, visit: thisislacura.com

Share:
Reading time: 5 min
luxury living space
open plan living room

An impression of the ‘Tiger’s Eye’ bespoke decorative scheme for one of the Chedi Gems, a series of penthouses in The Chedi Andermatt hotel

A major hotel, property and infrastructure development has swept the village of Andermatt in Switzerland onto the world stage of luxury. Karen Chung speaks to some of the key shapers of the future of this still-expanding project, which has attracted real estate buyers from around the world

For such a little place, Andermatt punches well above its weight. With its seductive mix of luxury hotels and apartments, restaurants, boutiques and a chic cultural centre nestled around the historic village, it is a glamorous playground in the heart of the Swiss Alps.

This sleepy little skiing village was reawakened with the arrival of The Chedi Andermatt, the five-star hotel and residences masterminded by Jean-Michel Gathy, the lauded hotel designer behind the soaring Aman Canal Grande Venice, LVMH’s Cheval Blanc Randheli and the soon-to-open Aman New York. Launched in 2013, The Chedi Andermatt pulled off a pleasing paradox: a relaxed riff on the classic Swiss chalet with an undeniably Asian influence, ultra-aspirational yet delightfully relaxed and unstuffy. With 50 hotel rooms, 107 residences and 13 penthouses, award-winning restaurants, a first-rate fitness centre and a state-of-the-art spa, cigar and wine libraries, ski-in ski-out facilities and even a flotilla of ski butlers to warm your boots, it swiftly won a slew of awards, including Gault Millau Hotel of the Year in 2017.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

Over the phone from Kuala Lumpur, where he has lived for 40 years, Gathy muses over The Chedi Andermatt’s show-stopping design interpretation of Swiss chalet heritage. “People ask me, why did you design in an Asian style, but the stone, wood, fireplace, leather, everything is Swiss! The Chedi Andermatt is totally Swiss. The window size, balustrades, materials, everything follows Swiss codes – and believe me, Switzerland has a lot of codes! There’s no one single architectural or design feature that’s Asian. What is Asian is the layering of the space and the lighting, which enhances the layering by creating depth of field.

“I’m from a traditional European background, but when you live in Asia this long you unconsciously assimilate the attitude, the culture, the habits, the values. You do it consciously at first, then you just absorb it. For me, design is an emotional expression of an inner feeling. You just feel this is the way it should be.

Jean-Michel Gathy. Courtesy Jean-Michel Gathy

“And what makes The Chedi Andermatt different is the layering. Think of Europe and how you move from room to room. In Asia, it’s not like that. You don’t have a door from one room to another, you have screens. The flow is very different. You’re always somewhere but you never know where. I don’t do this on purpose anymore. It’s the way I think. In luxury, there’s more emotion. So, when you apply that layering to the logic, you get The Chedi Andermatt. It’s dynamic, layered, pleasant, comfortable, and it serves its purpose.

“I’ve designed luxury resorts my whole life, and know my clientele very well,” he adds. “I’m very lucky. In luxury there’s room for creativity and emotion, and I know how to use the tools to translate that understanding. I design exactly the way I am and create every single project by hand. It’s very natural.”

luxury living space

A render of a living space in one of the penthouses at The Chedi Andermatt

Indeed, your first instinct as you arrive is to kick back, curl up and gaze at those expansive mountain views from the comfort of the capacious sofas. Gathy’s response to an exacting brief was an intuitive one, perfectly fitted to how we want to live now.

Read more: How to create a truly sustainable luxury hotel

The wealthy have long been attracted to Switzerland but buying here has been notoriously hard. All residences in Andermatt, however, are exempt from the Lex Koller law, which limits foreign ownership of Swiss property, while a popular scheme that manages and rents out apartments while owners are away adds to buyer appeal. It’s seriously accessible, too – just 90 minutes’ drive from Zurich, two hours from Milan and four from Munich, while private jets and helicopters can fly to Buochs Airport, a 45-minute drive away.

spa bathroom

An impression of a private penthouse spa at The Chedi Andermatt

“The past year changed everything,” says Russell Collins, the amiable British head of real estate who’s also on the Andermatt development board. “But we really didn’t envisage how busy we were going to be. We’ve sold over CHF500 millions’ [£394.5m] worth of apartments – almost everything we had available – and 2020 was a record year. There were obviously a lot of people sitting at home thinking, we could be skiing now…! Roughly half the buyers are Swiss, half are international – many from neighbouring countries such as Italy and Germany, as well as from the UK, and also Singapore, Hong Kong and Russia. We’re selling the last few remaining Chedi Andermatt penthouses now, which can be fitted out by our team of architects and interior designers, who work with the buyer to their exact spec.” Penthouses start from CHF6.2 million [£4.9m] for a 333 sq m space.”

Developers are also working with Protect Our Winters (POW) to preserve the unique microclimate that makes Andermatt a skiing paradise. Sustainability has been at the heart of the development from the start, with The Chedi Andermatt and all private residences built to stringent Minergie standards for low-energy-consumption buildings. Services run on natural resources (and, refreshingly, are hidden below ground), and in winter an electric bus zips round the car-free development.

swiss mountain village

Andermatt with the new village quarter of Andermatt Reuss to its left. Photograph by Valentin Luthiger

Perhaps the biggest challenge for Andermatt is nailing that all-important lifestyle mix as it becomes a year-round destination without losing its still relatively low-key charm. Its burgeoning mix of hotels, apartments and chalets nestle alongside traditional historic buildings and an expanding boutique retail and restaurant offering. And in summer, as well as hiking and walking, there’s the option of golf on the award-winning course. And after coming to an abrupt halt, its annual music programme is also reviving after an 18-month hiatus.

“I think residents are really encouraged by the fact that we’re so committed to making this a great place to live,” says Collins. “The danger is that we just become a ski resort for the winter months, but we’re looking hard at the year-round offer, creating life at street level and making it a joyful place to spend time.” It’s for the next wave of pioneering buyers to see how well Andermatt achieves that.

The Chedi Andermatt Spa and Health Club

There are spas, and then there is the spa at The Chedi Andermatt, a multi-award-winning, divinely decadent 2,400 sq m temple to wellness. Exclusive organic products are a key feature of the spa; particular highlights are the Tata Harper Natural Glow from Head-to-Toe Ritual and the divinely relaxing Oromovizca Golden Full Body Massage, inspired by the curative properties of Hungarian thermal waters and which includes an invigorating gold-and-sugar peel. The health club boasts the very latest TechnoGym equipment and there’s a hydrothermal spa with a seemingly endless array of baths and saunas, as well as a stunning 35m indoor pool, the longest in Switzerland.

cheese selection

The cheese tower of local Swiss cheeses at The Restaurant

The Restaurant at The Chedi Andermatt

“A sense of occasion for our guests is key,” says Armin Egli, Executive Chef at The Chedi Andermatt, “and creating great experiences is a big part of that. In our four open-plan kitchen stations in The Restaurant, guests can take a seat at the chef’s table to watch food being prepared, whether that’s Asian-inspired delicacies, traditional Swiss fare, or simply see our pastry chefs at work. We also have a five-metre-tall cheese tower, currently showcasing 43 cheeses unique to Switzerland; guests can taste and learn the story behind each one. And we often reinstate favourite dishes. Black pepper beef is a stand-out favourite from the Asian kitchen that we keep having to bring back by popular demand. If it’s not on the menu when you visit, just ask…”

Find out more: andermatt-swissalps.ch

This article was originally published in the Autumn 2021 issue.

Share:
Reading time: 7 min
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.

Share:
Reading time: 2 min
stone sculpture
stone sculpture

A sculpture by Sean Scully at Newlands House Gallery. Photograph by James Houston

When it comes to contemporary art, Petworth in West Sussex isn’t a destination that immediately springs to mind, but with the recent opening of a new gallery, headed up by famed art dealer and LUX contributor Simon de Pury, the historic village is beginning to attract a more international crowd. We travelled down from London to see for ourselves

Contemporary art gallery Newlands House opened its doors in 2020 with two blockbuster exhibitions, a presentation of photographs by Helmut Newton and a survey of works by designer, architect and artist Ron Arad, but what makes the gallery truly unique is its setting.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

Petworth sits amidst the glorious rolling hills and valleys of the South Downs National Park, but due to its proximity London (roughly an hour and a half drive), Cowdray Park Polo Club and Goodwood, it feels less remote and more buzzy than many of England’s historic country towns. Visitors arrive in sleek Porsches and Lamborghinis, and leave clutching bags filled with objets d’art.

Newlands House, however, bridges the gap between old and new. Occupying an expansive 18th century townhouse that was previously home to Augustus Brandt‘s antiques showroom, the exhibitions weave through twelve homely rooms, with works hanging beneath low wooden beams, above fireplaces and on hessian covered walls. The current exhibition, From the Real (on show until 10 October), features a compelling series of large-scale abstract paintings and sculptures by husband and wife art duo Liliane Tomasko and Sean Scully. Tomasko’s quick, bold gestures recall the language of street art while Scully’s shiny surfaces (some of the works are painted onto sheets of aluminium) and cool marine colour palette evoke more smoothing architectural forms.

Where to stay…

We checked into The Angel Inn, an upmarket gastro pub with a pretty walled garden and seven quirky guest-rooms, all of which have been recently refurbished with tasteful interiors by Augustus Brandt. It’s worth bearing in mind, however, that as its an old building, the rooms do vary quite extensively in terms of size and amenities. Scots Pine is by far the most luxurious and characterful with an orange velvet sofa, large bathroom and free-standing bath.

hotel suite

The “Scots Pine” bedroom at The Angel Inn. Photograph by James Houston

For larger groups and families, there’s East House, a self-catering apartment spread across the top floors a Grade-II listed Georgian building, or Ryde House, a grand 19-century home with three spacious bedrooms and a courtyard garden.

Where to eat…

E. Street Bar & Grill offers a laid back fine dining experience with a strong focus on local, seasonal ingredients. We had oysters to start, followed by warm roasted fig and pecan salad, and tuna steaks from the grill served with thick, crispy chips. Everything was cooked to perfection. Sitting in the courtyard on a balmy summer’s evening with a chilled glass of white wine, we almost felt like we were in the south of France.

street view of a pub

The Angel Inn, Petworth. Photograph by James Houston

What else…

Petworth is famed for antiques. If you’re feeling energetic, the antiques market is piled high with furnishings, ceramics, glassware, books, maps and all other manner of curiosities, while Tallulah Fox stocks a smaller, curated collection of textiles and elegant home accessories.

A busy through-road and lack of pavements make wandering through the town a little stressful, but there are plenty of easily accessible walking routes through the surrounding  countryside. We particularly enjoyed the”Shimmings Valley” 5k trail which leads through expansive, undulating fields, and the parkland around Petworth House, a 17th-century mansion now owned by the National Trust, is spectacular. The nearby Nyetimber Vineyard, producers of award-winning English sparkling wine, is also worth visiting, but tickets need to be booked in advance for all tastings, tours and dining experiences.

Don’t miss…

The wide array of local and artisanal produce at The Hungry Guest, especially crayfish sandwiches and huge, squidgy chocolate chip cookies.

Find out more: discoverpetworth.uk, newlandshouse.gallery

Share:
Reading time: 3 min
entrance to villa
tuscan landscape

Dievole is surrounded by the endless green and gold hills of Tuscan legend. Photograph by Marco Badiani

The second half of our journey through Tuscany takes us to Dievole, a luxurious wine resort in the heart of the region’s famous rolling hills

Where

On a ridge surrounded by vineyards, olive groves and forests, in a wild part of Tuscany just 20 minutes’ drive from Siena.

The arrival

Dievole is surrounded by the endless green and gold hills of Tuscan legend. Arriving from Florence, you divert south towards Siena and turn northeast along a winding country lane, great houses appearing suddenly on hilltops, wild boars popping out of the vineyards. This is not a highly touristed part of Tuscany, you feel you are a visitor among locals, yet it is easy to get to Siena and the villages on the Chiantigiana trail. The last part of the journey takes you down a dust track to a tidy car park at the back of imposing stone buildings; there is also an old chapel opposite the pleasant reception office.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

italian villa

The Dievole winery and hotel. Photograph by Alexandra Korey

The views

This is deepest northern Tuscany, the land of Chianti and olives. The hotel’s main pool has an infinity edge overlooking vineyards and a forest in the valley; forest and vineyard extend for miles up ridges and down dells. There is another pool of equal size on the other side of the hotel. Above the pools and below the main buildings are grassy gardens where you can sit and have lunch or a drink on a wonderfully casual scattering of garden furniture. The formal terrace, for breakfast and dinner, sits behind one of the gardens and has a symphony of cicadas at night time.

Read more: Professor Peter Newell on why the wealthy need to act on climate change

The rooms

Modern Tuscan chic without trying too hard: high ceilings, plenty of marble and space. Some rooms have the same views as the pool, others look more inwards, but all are generous, genuine, authentic and light.

entrance to villa

views of vineyards and hills

The entrance to the villa (top) with views across the estate’s vineyards vineyards and the northern Tuscan landscape. Photographs by Alexandra Korey

Wining and dining

Breakfast is the standard Italian luxury fare of a buffet biased towards fruits and cheeses. Lunch was our favourite meal here, just sitting at a table on the lawn above the low wall, beyond which the ground dropped down into the valley below. The nearest other guest was 20 metres away; indeed, Dievole is a magnificent place for not feeling on top of anyone. For lunch, our favourite pick was a grilled turkey breast with a salad of local tomatoes, whose punchy flavours went with the flavours of the air.

Within a 20km radius of Dievole are some of the top wineries of the region and the hotel’s relaxed, professional staff seemed happy for us to sample their wares during lunch. Dievole’s own wines are served at the restaurant during dinner. Not as famous or profound as other local wines, theirs were well priced and a good accompaniment to the food.

The highlight

The views changing colour and texture daily; and the staff, who made things run beautifully without ever falling into the old Italian trap of getting in the way too much. Tuscany for true connoisseurs.

LUX rating: 9/10

Book your stay: dievole.it

This article originally appeared in the Summer 2021 issue.

Share:
Reading time: 2 min
hilltop hotel in vineyards
hilltop hotel in vineyards

The Castello Banfi wine resort. Photograph by I. Franchini.

Staying at two wine estates at opposite ends of the region, LUX experiences fine wines, history, cuisine and the spiritual tranquillity that only Tuscany can offer. First up is Castello Banfi Il Borgo, a wine estate and historic hilltop hamlet transformed into a luxury hotel

Where

On a hilltop in the far south of Tuscany, above a broad sweep of valley and plains, with the massive, looming forested ancient Etruscan volcano of Monte Amiata in the far distance.

The arrival

You know you’re in wine country when you drive to Castello Banfi. The land for miles in every direction is covered with vineyards; a smooth, quiet road leads to the estate from the main road connecting Montalcino, on its hilltop to the north, with Sant’Angelo Scalo in the flat valley below. Banfi is not just a wine estate, it is a hamlet, all converted into a luxury hotel (il Borgo), wine estate and celebrated restaurant. There is even a museum of glass bottles. The feeling is that you have arrived at a very exclusive destination, but a working one, with the vines all around making some of the most famous wines of Tuscany. The ‘hotel’ is the cluster of buildings down the single cobbled road of the hamlet, which have been artfully and expensively restored.

historic fortress

rose garden

The restored hilltop fortress (above) with its rose garden

The views

The place to be here is the pool, which looks out to the south, over vineyards, agricultural land, and plains, over to forested hills in the far distance, many miles away, beyond which are the beaches of the Maremma. At night, you can sit on the grass by the pool and try and guess how far away each point of light in the blackness of the land is: 10km? 20km? In contrast to northern Tuscany, the views here are vast, unending, almost unsettling in their scale. Or is the best view from the bedrooms, which look out over a terrace and to the Monte Amiata volcano in the distance to the east? You are spoiled for choice with different vistas here.

swimming pool and vineyards

The swimming pool with views over the vineyards. Photograph by Darius Sanai

The rooms

The old hamlet’s rooms have been cleverly repurposed into a luxury setting, with beautifully treated woods, marble and fabrics. They are less about light and more about texture, although throwing a window open always reveals a dramatic sight of vineyard and horizon.

Read more: Why Maslina Resort, Hvar makes the perfect summer destination

luxurious hotel suite

One of the suites at the Hotel Il Borgo

Wining and dining

Banfi is known to connoisseurs around the world as one of the most significant producers of Tuscan wines. We were given the rare pleasure of a tasting personally overseen by the estate’s director Enrico Viglierchio. The Poggio alle Mura, one of the prestige cuvées of Banfi, is made from a blend of some of the best vineyard sites in the area, many of which you drive through as you approach the estate. Deep, powerful and rich, it’s a Brunello di Montalcino for those who love their wines to resonate. Meanwhile the range-topping Poggio all’Oro is elegant, almost delicate, its older vintages having a complexity of earthy layers, a connoisseur’s wine. You can choose from those and many more at the Sala dei Grappoli fine dining restaurant, in a medieval courtyard, which serves elaborate, intricate, complex cuisine like total black crisp egg, pallone di gravina cheese foam, avocado and Cinta Senese pork dust (and that’s just a starter). There’s also La Taverna for more relaxed, hearty Tuscan dining indoors.

taverna style restaurant

The Taverna restaurant

The highlight

Apart from the wines, it’s the architecture of this intimate private village, and the way you and the other guests (never many of them) feel that you have a whole, perfectly tended, luxury hilltop community and all its astonishing sightlines to yourselves.

LUX rating: 9/10

Book your stay: castellobanfiwineresort.it

This article originally appeared in the Summer 2021 issue.

Share:
Reading time: 3 min
hotel bedroom with plush furnishings
chateau hotel

Photograph by Anne Emmanuelle Thion

In the final part of our luxury travel views column from our Summer 2021 issue, LUX editor-in-chief Darius Sanai discovers the subtle grandeur of Domaine Les Crayères in the Champagne region of France

If the method of departure from a hotel leaves a lasting memory, so too does a welcome. The luxury hotel where the doorman ignored you, or wasn’t there in your moment of need, is likely emblazoned on your heart. And the welcome at the Domaine Les Crayères was something else. It was a five-hour drive, roof down into the sun, from Baden-Baden to the outskirts of Reims in the Champagne region of France; after some moments of interest passing through (but sadly not stopping in) the wonderful hills of Alsace, the road was relentless. Crunching down the drive and drawing up to the grand mansion, I felt like nothing more than passing out on a cool bed for half an hour before an early dinner, ahead of my day of meetings the following day.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

The doorman whisked my door open and ushered me in; reception was a brief formality; all good. And then: “We would like to invite you onto our terrace for a glass of champagne, monsieur.” Really, I thought, like this? I was wearing black jeans and a polo, not evening wear. I was assured it would be fine. Still swaying from the drive, I walked out onto a broad terrace above a long stretch of parkland garden, was shown to my table and poured a glass of their champagne. Canapés appeared. The sun was about to set but still a few centimetres above the treetops; it was warm, and the terrace was scattered with lively and appropriately spaced couples. What had seemed like a slightly bad idea on arrival – shouldn’t you have a glass of champagne before dinner? – turned out to be a stroke of genius. A blanc de blancs champagne is reviving, not soporific, and when I finally went up to my room at sunset, I felt energised.

hotel bedroom with plush furnishings

One of the hotel’s elegant bedrooms

My room, at the top corner of the château, was elegant and elaborately decorated, with a view out over the same parkland. Although it is on the edge of Reims, the feel is peaceful: you have no sense of being in a big city, but nevertheless I walked to my meetings in the centre of town the next morning (full disclosure: it was a couple of kilometres each way, and I was working on my step count after a lot of driving).

Read more: Professor Peter Newell on why the wealthy need to act on climate change

You come to Champagne to drink champagne (or in my case to meet clients who own champagne houses), and you come to the Crayères for the best possible base while doing so – and to drink champagne and most of all to dine in its two Michelin-starred restaurant.

The atmosphere here, in its intimate dining room, was surprising in a positive way: it wasn’t so grand and formal that guests felt they had to dine in a hush. And yet the chef Philippe Mille and his creativity were very much front and centre. As well as à la carte, you can choose from various menus including an ‘Escape into the Vines’ menu. This was an astonishing piece of imagination and artistry, and so far beyond a mere manifestation of its ingredients that it would do it a disservice to describe it by the ingredients of each individual course.

fine dining dish

A foie gras dish from the two Michelin-starred restaurant at Domaine Les Crayères

There were seven courses, created to work in sequence like a story and woven together by a freshness and life so often missing from formal French dining where heavy saucing is a substitute for imagination. Oh, OK, I will describe just one of them: lobster from the Iles de Chausey, grilled on vine shoots, with shells juice (no typo there) and pinot meunier.

The champagne list – encyclopaedia, really – is extensive but what is really impressive is the selection of small-grower champagnes, many of them just farmers making champagne on their smallholding, many of them cheap, unavailable elsewhere and absolutely delicious. I do not usually seek the advice of sommeliers, finding them too often beholden to their own tastes or trends, but here, stay away from the brands you know, and seek one of these out. A unique and highly repeatable experience.

Book your stay: lescrayeres.com

This article originally appeared in the Summer 2021 issue.

Share:
Reading time: 3 min
swiss palace hotel
swiss palace hotel

Suvretta House overlooks the Upper Engadine valley. Image courtesy of Suvretta House. 

High in the Swiss Alps, LUX indulges in a gastronomic tour like no other, all under the auspices of one hotel

It’s summertime, and what we crave is sunshine, blue sky, space, views, freedom and a change in cuisine. All uncontroversial except for the last – why would we want to change the way we eat? Perhaps because for many of us in the fortunate minority in the world, even during the lockdown cycle, a great variety of cuisines has become the norm. Temaki and uromaki delivered tonight; Vietnamese cha cua and mi quang tomorrow; miso Chilean sea bass the next. Freed from choosing restaurants for the experience they offer, we have spent a lot of time choosing them purely for their variety of cuisine.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

We reflected on this last summer, during a release from the first wave, sitting at the Chasellas restaurant above St Moritz. For generations, great European dining has been about being welcomed by a host who recognises you; typically, a besuited maitre d’ of an older generation, as comfortable giving orders to staff as he is joining favoured customers for a cognac after hours. We were welcomed by Livia Sterki, a smiling young woman ostensibly as far removed from the traditional maitre d’ image as can be imagined: her charm and efficiency were so memorable it made us want to go back every night.

fine dining

The hotel’s cuisine focuses on local ingredients. Image courtesy of Suvretta House. 

The Chasellas is decorated in Alpine mountain inn style, lots of pine, bare-backed wooden seats, and a terrace with a view over the rooftops of the village of Champfèr, across forests and lakes to the towering mountains of the Bernina range across the valley. The cuisine of chef Marco Kind is not only fine: it is unlike anything you will ever find in a metropolitan hub.

There’s a combination of mountain purity, local ingredients, and a local Swiss authenticity, and a lightness of touch. Beef entrecôte sous-vide, datterini tomatoes and summer truffle was both satisfying and light; essence of wild mushrooms with shiitake and agnolotti was a kind of ultimate consommé (and vegan); and even the non-vegetarians went for the variation of peas with mountain peach, radish, asparagus and macadamia. Another vibrant main course was spring chicken braised in apple with young vegetables, local potatoes and wild mushrooms.

Beef tartar with oysters, miso and caviar. Image courtesy of Suvretta House. 

The cuisine was like eating the Alps and went delightfully with what is commonly referred to as the “local chardonnay”. In fact, the Engadine valley is too high for growing grapes, but the modest moniker refers to chardonnay from the Bündner Herrschaft, two valleys over at lower altitude, which is in fact emerging as one of Europe’s most brilliant yet unknown fine-wine regions. The wines have the same freshness as the cuisine.

Read more: The beauty and biodiversity of Andermatt’s golf course

The Chasellas is part of the dining offering of a single-hotel resort, Suvretta House, which brings us to the second point of this story: being able to luxuriate in different dining experiences under one resort banner is not confined to swanky brands on tropical islands. Interestingly, Suvretta House’s owners and its managers, the mind-bendingly hard-working Peter and Esther Egli, have decided not to bring in outside brands, but to create all their dining themselves.

terrace

The hotel’s terrace with views over Lake Silvaplana and Lake Sils. Image courtesy of Suvretta House. 

It’s a five-minute walk downhill to Suvretta House from the Chasellas, past a couple of very nice chalets (or a 20-second ski in the winter season, past the hotel’s own lift). Suvretta is one of St Moritz’s original palace hotels, and everything about it suggests old money, aristocracy and a clubbish feel, in the nicest possible way. You’re more likely to see a classic Ferrari parked outside than a new one.

alpine river

horses in woodland

Idyllic paths through the meadow and woodland around the hotel bring unexpected sights. Images by Isabella Sheherazade Sanai (top) and Darius Sanai.

The hotel overlooks a wavy forest, stretching up the valley towards the Italian border; St Moritz itself is out of sight just around the corner of the mountain. Just above the swimming pool and huge lawn overlooking the view is the Stube restaurant, cosy and hearty in design, where you might expect to eat rib-thickening traditional mountain food. But not here; or not quite, anyway. Isaac Briceño Obando, the chef in charge of this culinary hotspot (each of Suvretta House’s restaurants is a destination in itself), blends simplicity (Wild Kelly flat oysters; Iranian beluga caviar) with purity (saddle of lamb smoked in hay; A4 wagyu tenderloin plain grilled) and tradition (sliced Zurich-style veal in cream) with just a touch of the exotic (Maine lobster salad, pumpkin, kalamansi and miso). So relaxing is the Stube experience that the lockdown limitations on seating times (gone soon, we hope) felt almost intrusive.

fine dining dish

Chicken with carrots and a Sauternes jus

Upstairs, the centrepiece of the hotel is the Grand Restaurant, a dining room with a Belle Époque flair whose New Year’s Eve parties are the stuff of legend (and many years of waiting lists). Watching Europe’s grand aristocracy waft back and forth there one evening was an experience in itself (at the time of going to press, the hotel is not sure whether regulations will allow the Grand to reopen for the summer season). High on the mountainside above Suvretta there is also the Trutz restaurant with a kind of rustic-Swiss chic serving air-dried beef, pastas, barley soup and salads with local cheeses – an excellent tonic after hiking up there.

Read more: Umberta Beretta on fund-raising for the arts

alpine valley

The river En (Inn) beneath the hotel

There is far more to the Suvretta House than its cuisine; the rooms, fresh and Swiss-luxurious, have an eternally epic view across forests and mountains; the indoor pool-with-a-view is huge; and the gardens (and utterly charming woodland childrens’ playground) are addictive. But this summer, there is nothing that will stop us indulging in a gastronomic tour of its restaurants and the sublime service and views. Something no home delivery service will ever offer.

Find out more: suvrettahouse.ch

This article was originally published in the Summer 2021 issue.

Share:
Reading time: 5 min
terrace views
terrace views

The view from the terrace of the Royal Penthouse suite at the Mandarin Oriental Geneva

In the first of our four part luxury travel views column from our Summer 2021 issue, LUX editor-in-chief Darius Sanai enjoys fine dining and Alpine views at Mandarin Oriental, Geneva

Geneva is a city that will be known to LUX readers as a place to park the jet ahead of a skiing holiday, and a city to visit a few times a year on banking business.

It is also a centre of tourism, although its hotels tend to be focused more on the business traveller: plenty of exclusive restaurants and conference rooms, less in the way of relaxation and views.

During the lull in the pandemic last summer, I decided to combine visits to clients in Geneva, Andermatt, Zurich, Germany and Champagne into one single drive, rather than the more fraught process of taking planes, trains and taxis.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

Arriving in Geneva by car rather than the usual plane/taxi combination opens your eyes to the city’s location. To arrive from northwest Europe, you make your way down a winding motorway through a valley in the Jura Mountains, with the Alps opening out in front of you beyond the lake.

It was a summer’s day with deep-blue Alpine skies, and I would rather have camped out in a deckchair then be cooped up behind the sealed windows of a business hotel, however luxurious.

Fortunately, the Mandarin Oriental is a place to combine both business and leisure. After a Covid-secure check-in, I was ushered into a lift by myself, and checked into my junior terrace suite. In many hotels, even expensive ones, a junior suite is really an excuse to charge a higher rate by sticking a sofa into a king-size bedroom. But not here.

To the right, a big glass-walled bathroom, with an electric blind you could lower for privacy. To the left, an extensive dressing area, and in the room itself a big glass desk, cabinets and bookshelves, plenty of oriental chic furniture, a triple-bed corner sofa and coffee table, with a lot of space in between. Not a suite of rooms, but a very large, well-designed and light bedroom, which could easily have been divided in two – which would have ruined the effect.

Outside was the pièce de résistance, certainly on a sunny summer’s day (less useful in Swiss winters): an extensive private terrace with sun loungers, chairs, a table, outdoor candles and a Buddha. The terrace looked out over the Rhine river at the point it tapers from the lake, across the old town and the rest of the city to the Alps beyond.

hotel bedroom with views over a river

A guest bedroom in the Royal Penthouse suite at the Mandarin Oriental Geneva

Furnishing was in a pleasing contemporary classic green and gold, and the glass bathroom answered a question Nick Jones, founder of the Soho House group, posed in my head some 20 years ago. At that stage, Nick was just planning to launch his first hotel, Babington House in the British countryside. He told me over lunch that the rooms would be completely different to anything anyone had seen before in a hotel, starting with the bathrooms. “Why should there be a bathroom on the right or left as you go in?” he said, somewhat gnomically.

Read more: Superblue’s experiential art centres & innovative business model

Now, as anyone who has been to any of the Soho House properties and their imitators will know, you can find a bath almost anywhere within the perimeter of the room. But the problem is that people want privacy and cosiness in bathrooms, sometimes; and at other times they may wish to see the world or the world to see them. The glass-walled bathroom in my terrace suite was the perfect answer: with the blind raised, this was a large, wet, marble part of the bedroom and terrace. And with it down, total privacy.

On my last night I had that welcome rarity on business trips, an evening alone, due mainly to pandemic caution deterring any formal dinners with clients. It was a warm evening, and I ordered room service on my terrace from Yakumanka, the hotel’s acclaimed Peruvian restaurant.

Three staff members arrived and swiftly moved to the terrace to set the table; the courses arrived separately, so they would not get cold.

This is pure, focused cuisine. White fish with calamari, tamarind sauce and tartar; grilled calamari with white chaufa and Szechuan leche de tigre. Particularly memorable was the sautéed rice with calamari, lettuce, bok choy, Chinese cabbage and tortilla.

All accompanied by a creamy but fresh bottle of Deutz champagne and that view across the city to the Alps. A business hotel and a relaxation zone all in one in the heart of town and with the flawless professional service, swift yet relaxed, the group has made its name for.

Book your stay: mandarinoriental.com/geneva

This article was originally published in the Summer 2021 issue. 

Share:
Reading time: 4 min
country hotel
country hotel

Minster Mill sits on the edge of the River Windrush in the Cotswolds

Why should I go now?

Bluebells, blossom, and undulating greenness rolling into the distance. So long as the weather plays ball, there are very few better places to be then the English countryside in May, and specifically the Cotswolds. Add to that the opening up of Britain post lockdown and you have the makings of a perfect spring break.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

Minster Mill is a relatively new Cotswold hotel, created by the chi-chi Andrew Brownsword hotel group. Pitched more at the contemporary chic market rather than traditional luxury, it has an interesting story to tell, as a converted mill and outbuildings alongside a stream with extensive grounds.

First Impressions

Minster Mill is literally on the edge of the Cotswolds. Just 20 minutes from Oxford, you turn off the main road, down a narrow lane, through a hamlet of sandy Cotswold stone, and through a gate and short drive that leads charmingly alongside a stream. The property comprises several buildings clustered around the stream, together with croquet lawn, spa, a tennis court, outbuildings with a table tennis table, and pathways leading off into fields adjacent.

The welcome is informal and friendly, part English country house, part Soho House. Decor is crisp and contemporary country, but not so fashionable that it would make you feel like an interloper.

restaurant dining room

The restaurant at Minster Mill

The Experience

Certain types of hotel tend to offer similar experiences, in English country house hotels you expect drawing rooms, and dining room is looking out over a lawn. That’s the case for the most traditional, like Minster Mill’s stablemate Buckland Manor, and the most contemporary, like Babington House.

Read more: An exclusive private tasting of Ornellaia with Axel Heinz

The most memorable parts of Minster Mill are completely different. Breakfast by the stream, looking across ancient woodland and fields. Croquet, a little further up of the same stream. Wandering off past the tennis courts into semi wild countryside, and into a natural maze in a field, looping back to the same stream where the swing slung over a high branch could act if you wished as a launch point into a bigger river. Dinners of grilled trout and extremely pert green vegetables, outside by the stream. The stone walled dining room inside would be a pleasant enough alternative if the weather turned bad, as it always can in England.

These all add up to an experience that is unique (in the best possible way) in the Cotswolds. The rooms are comfortable, relatively simple, light: blonde woods, beige and taupe fabrics and throws, light green and light grey paint. Service is low-key and good – this is not the place to go if you expect to be fussed over, and it’s a four rather than a five star, but everything is efficient and friendly.

luxurious drawing room

The drawing room of a junior suite

Takeaway

Minster Mill is not far from the apotheosis of contemporary country house hotels, Soho Farmhouse. Although they are at a similar price and appeal to a similar market, they are very different: you are more likely to lose yourself at Minster Mill, and you’re more likely to bump into a celebrity designer at Soho Farmhouse. Which you prefer is perhaps a matter of taste and mood, but we left Minster Mill feeling like we had had an authentic and truly relaxing getaway.

Rates: From £210 (approx. €250 / $300)

Book your stay: minstermill.co.uk

Darius Sanai

Share:
Reading time: 3 min

Restaurant Markus Neff and The Japanese at the top of Gütsch in Andermatt

Two of our favourite mountain restaurants have just received Michelin stars. You can’t get in there right now because of the pandemic, though they are open for very stylish takeout, and as soon as they open up, LUX will be first in line

It’s a familiar scene. You do a couple of speedy red runs and take the gondola up from the village down in the valley, and within a few minutes you are above the tree line and the view has opened out – in this case, to a crossroads of four high valleys in central Switzerland, marking more or less the centre of the Alps.

At the top station, the sky is a deep ultramarine, and though the sun is strong, the air is chilly. It’s time for lunch.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

At the top of Gütsch in Andermatt, you have the option of two restaurants. But there is no tartiflette, fondue or rösti available here.

The dining terrace. Image by Valentin Luthiger

To your right is The Japanese, run by the team from the Chedi hotel down in the valley. You can luxuriate in a feast of salmon, tuna, hamachi, Swiss shrimp, scallop, sea bass, waghu and tamago nigiri. Or you can just sit on the terrace and nibble on teppanyaki dumplings and drink Krug.

sushi

A selection of sashimi from The Japanese menu

Next door, and reached by an interconnecting terrace, is the Restaurant Markus Neff at Gütsch. Here you have similarly haute cuisine in every sense of the word, but in a very different style: bisque of Swiss Rheinfelden shrimp; saddle of venison, brussels sprouts and chanterelles.

Read more: Juanita Ingram on empowering women in the workplace

It’s a tough choice, for which the only answer is to ensure you have two lunchtimes to sample them both – though you will need to book well in advance.

The interiors of Restaurant Markus Neff. Image by Valentin Luthiger

And as the proof of the pudding is in the awarding, we are delighted but not in the least surprised to hear that both restaurants have just been awarded a Michelin star, in their first full year of operation. Quite an achievement for restaurants where the ingredients arrive by gondola. But that’s kind of what we’ve come to expect at the swanky new development of Andermatt Swiss Alps in Switzerland.

For more information visit: andermatt-swissalps.ch/en;  thechediandermatt.com/en/Restaurants/The-Japanese-by-The-Chedi-Andermatt/;guetsch.com

 

Share:
Reading time: 2 min
alpine resort
alpine village

Looking down onto the Bad Moos Dolomites Spa Resort in the Drei Zinnen Dolomites

The little-known area of Drei Zinnen, in the German-speaking Italian Dolomites, offers a cultural, culinary and slopeside experience like no other, as Darius Sanai discovers

‘Atmosphere’ has become an almost meaningless word when describing a place. A hotel describes its bar as “atmospheric” as a matter of course. But a real atmosphere, in terms of travel, is not about a room, or a building, or even a town. It is about a sense of place that is imparted by the location, the light, the scenery, the buildings, the weather, people, detail… Everything.

Some places simply don’t have an atmosphere, and cannot create it however luxurious the hotels, restaurants and facilities they create. Other places have elements of an atmosphere – spectacular views, fascinating buildings – but they do not add up to a whole.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

And some places have an atmosphere that is more than the sum of its parts, that envelops you as soon as you arrive and increases in intensity the longer you stay.

Drei Zinnen is one of those places. Step out of the car that has whisked you there on a relatively easy drive from Innsbruck airport, and there is the sense of being somewhere quite apart from the rest of the world, yet not secluded, claustrophobic or shut away.

Crunching the few steps in the snow to the door of the hotel Bad Moos, you are in the middle of a wide, high, tree-lined bowl, lined with crannies, streams and villages, and backed by the dramatic fingers of the Dolomites.

gothic dining room

The gothic dining room at Bad Moos. © Hannes Niederkofler

Inside the hotel, the atmosphere is only heightened. This is an exquisitely tasteful, contemporary take on Alpine (or specifically, South Tyrolean) chic. Rooms have lavish wooden floors, fabulous wool throws, beautiful modern fireplaces, glass-walled bathrooms, and finishes and details (the furry slippers!) that puts many more hallowed luxury Alpine hotels to shame.

Read more: Auctioneer & Collector Simon de Pury on curating the Waldorf Astoria’s art collection

A wooden-lined tunnel leads to a spa zone that is split between equally large indoor and outdoor pools, and swimming through the divide that leads outdoors into the moonlit night, surrounded by snow, in winter, there’s that word ‘atmosphere’ again. Lie on the long (everything is done generously here) hydro massage rack at the far end of the pool, look down the broad open valley to the peaks of the Tre Cime mountains in the distance, spot planets and stars overhead above the gently forested slopes, and there is more of a sense of place than in many Alpine resorts.

hotel bedroom

A ‘Tre Cime’ Junior Suite. © Hannes Niederkofler

Wonderful as these facilities are – particularly for a hotel not classified as one of the region’s official palaces, and all the better for it, having none of the pomp and intrusiveness of staff looking down on you – the best part of the Bad Moos experience is in the dining room.

It’s a big area that manages to be spacious (all the best for social distancing this winter) and atmospheric at the same time, split into three broad rooms at slightly different levels. The picture windows have views out over the snow fields and over to the village, a couple of hundred metres away across the bottom of a piste.

The service is a kind of perfect concoction of the best of the Alps. The South Tyrol, where the hotel is located, was part of Austria until the end of the Habsburg Empire at the end of the First World War, just over 100 years ago. It was then taken over by Italy, and has remained in Italy ever since, albeit under an autonomous government. Like everyone else in the area, staff speak both German and Italian. There is an Austrian cosiness, a Germanic efficiency, an Italian sense of style and gastronomy – and generosity of spirit. If delicate Italian fish dishes and perfectly ethereal pasta finished with home-made Austrian strudels and tarts are not your idea of culinary perfection, perhaps a choice of some of the greatest wines of the northern Italian Alps or alternatively an icy Austrian Pilsner beer, is. The cuisine and ambience are simply transported outside onto a generous terrace at lunchtime at the bottom of the piste.

alpine swimming pool

The outdoor pool at the hotel’s spa. © Hannes Niederkofler

Ah, the pistes. It’s easy to forget about the skiing as you enjoy the originality and brilliance of the hotel, but the tree-lined slopes above and around the hotel are deceptively extensive. This is one of the most serious ski areas in the Alps, and the black run descending directly to the hotel terrace via a twist in the mountainside is officially classified as the steepest black run in the Italian Alps. The gondola to send you to the top is located directly outside the terrace; at the top you emerge onto a mountain pass, just above the tree line, with a boggling view of the Dolomites, a range that looks like it has been transported to Europe from another planet.

Read more: Artist Shezad Dawood on the endless potential of virtual reality

From here, you have a choice of entertaining red runs to take you down to a variety of excellent runs on the other side of the huge valley junction; or you can head in the other direction, and set off on the Unesco World Heritage ski trail. This tracks gently across and down the mountainside, through forests and past lakes, with a series of mesmerising views unfolding, seemingly miles from inhabitation or any lifts. You arrive at a small hotel on another mountain pass, with a couple of lifts to take you up, and from where you ski away along the mountain trail again, ending up in a long traverse at the far end of a huge meadow, in a village, Padola, that is not only in a different ski area, but in a different province of Italy, where they speak no German at all. To get back, there is a regular ski bus – although it operates with a more Italian than German concept of regularity, and it would be worth checking this season how it will operate if there are social distancing requirements still in place.

alpine restaurant

The panorama restaurant. © Hannes Niederkofler

If you’re looking for a replica of Courchevel or Verbier with sushi bars and nightclubs, and dancing till dawn, Drei Zinnen is not for you. And if you’re looking for a place to take the family and friends on an easy ski holiday with everything immediately at hand, then it’s probably not for you either – try Meribel. Which may sound strange, but let me explain. On our third day, as the sun was heading towards the crest of the mountains after another day of blue sky and deep snow, I headed, in my moon boots, across the kilometre-wide field separating the hotel from the little village of Moos. (I could have taken the bus, but that would’ve defeated the purpose.) Walking across the field you are surrounded by a 360° amphitheatre of the Dolomites. Such a view in just one of those directions would have been impressive; it was replicated in every direction, and this is at the bottom of the valley, let alone the top.

After 15 minutes, I found myself on the village High Street, and walked past a bakery into what appeared to be a mountain accessory shop but which also had a supermarket sign on it. This was the ‘everything store’ of the village, selling a unique selection of local products (south Tyrol jams, embroidery, cloths) along with high-tech ski gear, and an excellent wine selection, from tiny producers in the local area that sommeliers in Europe’s metropolises would fight over, and local hams and cheeses. Everything was in two languages, German and Italian, and their lack of similarities can make for extra fun: the wine was from the Alto Adige, Italian for Sudtirol (South Tyrol); cured ham was both Speck and Prosciutto; even the area is alternatively called Drei Zinnen or Tre Cime, and the mountain above the village (housing the main ski area) was called Helm until 1918 (and on half the signs) and Monte Elmo since 1918 (and on the other half).

Walking back to the hotel, wine bottles weighing me down, I felt that I had discovered a striking cultural and geographical part of Europe on holiday, and, just coincidentally, enjoyed some of the best and most interesting skiing in the Alps. It is a unique combination, and not for everybody, but true atmosphere rarely is. A place for intermediates, experts – travellers, and connoisseurs.

Drei Zinnen, Italy

We travelled to Drei Zinnen via Innsbruck and a private transfer, with Crystal Ski Holidays, which offers a week’s half board at the Bad Moos Dolomites Spa Resort from £1,165 per person when booked online (based on two adults) including flights from London Gatwick to Innsbruck and transfers. Transfer time from Innsbruck airport is around 90 minutes via an easy, mainly motorway, route.

For more information visit: dreizinnen.com

This article originally appeared in the Autumn/Winter 2020/2021 Issue. 

Share:
Reading time: 7 min
luxury hotel bedroom
hotel lobby

The lobby of Sofitel Paris Le Faubourg

In the final edition of our luxury travel views series, LUX Editor-in-Chief Darius Sanai enjoys the Parisian elegance and ease of Sofitel Paris Le Faubourg

Location, location, location. What is the nearest luxury hotel to the epicentre of Paris shopping, the original Hermès flagship store on the corner of rue Faubourg Saint-Honoré and rue Boissy-d’Anglas? I would understand if you were thinking Crillon, Ritz or Bristol, but you would be incorrect. The Faubourg is so close that you could fish a Birkin out of the Hermès window display with a fishing pole and a hook.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

The frontage, in a road now closed to traffic for security reasons as it is so close to the Élysée Palace, belies the grandeur of the entrance hall when you walk inside. The welcome is swift, efficient and friendly, as you would expect from this significant European luxury hotel group.

luxury hotel bedroom

The Faubourg Suite

My room was well-appointed in a very Parisian style: vintage mirrors, Vogue photography, plenty of plush. With the rue Boissy-d’Anglas closed to traffic, it was also wonderfully quiet for a city-centre room.

Read more: Life coach Simon Hodges discusses the complexities of familial relationships

I had declined the offer of dinner with a business contact, as I had some research to do ahead of a meeting the next day, so I slipped downstairs with my iPad and found a place in the bar, a cosy, jazzy little room at street level.

luxury hotel interiors

The Blossom restaurant

Sometimes, on travels, after a number of meals offered where different levels of cuisine are showcased, there is nothing you feel like more than a Caesar salad, which the bar provided with no qualms and in very Gallic style, with corn-fed chicken and proper fries on the side. Paris is near enough to Burgundy to justify choosing a medically necessary Macon-Uchizy from the excellent 2016 vintage as an accompaniment.

My meeting the next day was not at Hermès but at a brand located next door. A 90-second commute. Now, that’s luxury.

Find out more: sofitel-paris-lefaubourg.com

This article originally appeared in the Autumn/Winter 2020/2021 Issue. 

Share:
Reading time: 1 min
restaurant interiors
restaurant interiors

Hive restaurant is located on the third floor of Selfridges, London

Tomorrow, Hive restaurant officially opens its doors on the third floor of Selfridges with a creative honey-based menu

For thousands of years, honey has been used as a natural sweetener and remedy to help reduce anxiety, calm insomnia, and combat fatigue. Drawing on this multitude of benefits, Khalid Samata, the founder of Selfridges’ newest concept restaurant Hive, has created an innovative menu incorporating different types of honey into an all day-dining menu which includes a cheese and honey afternoon tea and honey-based cocktails such as the Nutty Naughty Bee – a mix of gin, lemon juice, Tonka bitter and chestnut honey. The breakfast menu features decadent dishes such as fig on toast with ricotta and honey, and truffle honey omelette, whilst the lunch and dinner menus focus on fresh, lighter options.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

honey pots

honey

Hive’s range of honey includes flavours such as acacia, chestnut and buckwheat

The restaurant produces and harvests its own range of flavoured honey from a collection of rooftop hives, and the interiors of the dining room itself have been designed to create a calming, elegant atmosphere with gold detailing and a collection of colourful flower boxes which have been pollinated by the resident bees.

Hive opens on 4 December 2020 on the third floor of Selfridges, London. For more information visit: hiverestaurant.uk

Share:
Reading time: 1 min
cable car
cable car
October is not usually known as a ski month. But at the Andermatt Swiss Alps development, you can cruise the slopes down the 3000m Gemsstock in the morning, and be back for some witches’ brew at the Chedi in the evening.

There are many time-honoured ways to get thrills and excitement on Halloween; skiing, traditionally, has not been one of them. Yet if the fancy catches you, that is exactly what you can do this October 31, on one in Switzerland’s most serious ski mountains.

The Andermatt Swiss Alps ski region, located bang in the centre of the country, is opening this October 31 with its top run, descending from a dizzying 2955 metres, the first to open, followed by two steeper and more challenging glacier runs later in November.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

Andermatt’s Gemsstock mountain, where the action is taking place, is one of the most exciting in Switzerland. From the top you can see over to Monte Rosa, near Zermatt, on the Italian border to the southwest, and to Piz Buin, on the Austrian border, to the northeast. There is a vertical drop of more than 1500 metres from top to bottom. Many of the pistes are north facing and benefit from big snowfall caused by the “barrage effect“ of winds sweeping across north-western Europe and hitting the Alps. In simple terms: lots of snow.

ski mountain

Andermatt’s 3000m Gemsstock mountain

This year, after a hot autumn and early September, temperatures plummeted and the mountain has already seen several significant snowfalls, augmented by their own “snow farm” which preserves snow from the previous winter throughout the summer and feeds it into the slopes for the next season.

Read more: OceanX founders Ray & Mark Dalio on ocean awareness

Sadly, Halloween skiers won’t be able to take advantage of the full vertical drop down to the village at the bottom, which will only open in December. But the village of Andermatt itself is a new gem of the Alps, a tiny traditional village of cosy shops and restaurants augmented by a new luxury development.

ice rink hotel

restaurant dining room

The Chedi with its private ice-rink (above), and Japanese restaurant

Aficionados will know that its highlight is the Chedi hotel, with its Japanese at the Chedi restaurant at its heart. There is also a burgeoning new residential development village created around the Piazza San Gottardo up a little further along the road, with apartments – uniquely, open for purchase by foreigners – restaurants, shops, bars, two hotels (one already open) and even a concert hall.

luxury apartment

A rendering of Andermatt’s latest apartment building Enzian

Later in the season proper you can also sample Michelin-level fine dining on the other mountain, Gutsch. For the moment though, it’s time to put on a Halloween costume, book your place in the cable car up the mountain (a new service for coronavirus times) and whizz down from the top on your broomstick, or even the latest pair of Stöcklis.

Find out more: andermatt-swissalps.ch

Share:
Reading time: 2 min
afternoon tea
afternoon tea

Aqua Shard donates a percentage of the retail price of every Peter Pan Afternoon Tea to Great Ormand Street Hospital

Earlier this month, Aqua Shard in partnership with the Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s charity GOSH launched a Peter Pan themed Afternoon Tea, inspired by J.M Barrie’s infamous tale. Abigail Hodges experiences the creative menu

Whilst admiring the stunning views over the Thames from the panoramic windows of Aqua Shard, a boat appeared on our table in plumes of billowing smoke. This wondrous craft cradled a creative exhibition of savoury and sweet treats: finger sandwiches wrapped in paper denoting the ‘Lost Boy Rules’, an ‘Enormous Mushroom Chimney’, The ‘Codfish’ Captain Hook cod brandade croquette (named after Peter Pan’s nickname for his nemesis), a Tinker Bell shaped cookie sprinkled with gold fairy dust, a deliciously rich chocolate swirl (representing Peter Pan’s Secret Hollow Tree Entrance) and a chewy Tick-Tock the Crocodile dessert of raspberry and rooibos jelly. We sipped Veuve Clicquot champagne alongside vanilla and rose ‘Darling Tea’, and finished the occasion with warm scones, which came hidden within a special treasure chest, accompanied by sweet apricot marmalade (or ‘mammee-apples’) and a rich coconut clotted cream. A delightful afternoon indeed.

For more information visit: aquashard.co.uk

Share:
Reading time: 1 min
sushi plates
sushi plates

Sumosan Twiga offers a fusion of Italian and Japanese cuisine

Editor-in-Chief Darius Sanai discovers the culinary delights of Italian Japanese restaurant Sumosan Twiga

An Italian Japanese restaurant in London does not necessarily sound promising. Add the location, Knightsbridge, and you will be forgiven for having visions of yet another in a long line of smart restaurants with fabulous decor and just good enough food catering to a crowd of wealthy socialites who either have smoked too many cigars or are going on too many diets to notice about quality.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

Well, you’d been wrong about Sumosan Twiga. About the food, anyway – the decor is as snazzy as you would hope in this two floor hangout.

fine dining restaurant

There are two cuisines on show here, Italian and Japanese, and many of the offerings are comfort food staples.

The Best of Both menu features the likes of tuna tartare, grilled Angus tenderloin with sweet chilli soy, California roll and tuna and salmon sashimi. Each dish was astonishing: the best of its type, the sashimi rich and full and melty, the tenderloin ripe and unctuous, the tartare delicate, the avocado freakishly fulsome.

Fine dining dish

Tofu steak with a spicy teriyaki sauce

We added a tagliatelle bolognese, which came in a large dish served onto your plate, Monaco-style; it could have been overcooked and bland, but it was meaty, chunky, bitey. And a spicy tuna maki. Which had more flavour than a maki should ever have.

Who would have thought it – top quality comfort Italian and Japanese, in the same funky setting. Oh, and there’s a DJ. Who needs Monaco?

Book your table: sumosantwigalondon.com

Share:
Reading time: 1 min
beetroot gnocchi

Beet gnocchi from Le Clarence cookbook of recipes by head chef Christophe Pelé. Image © Richard Haughton

Earlier this year, Domaine Clarence Dillon, the luxury French company who owns the iconic Château Haut-Brion estate, published a cookbook of recipes by Christophe Pelé from its two-Michelin-starred restaurant Le Clarence in Paris. Here, we pick three of our favourites to cook at home

Beet gnocchi with amaranth leaves

20 red and green amaranth leaves

For the beet gnocchi
(10 gnocchi per person)
2kg raw beets
3 big Charlotte potatoes
100g flour
2 eggs
40g butter
75g milk
Parmesan cheese
fine sea salt
nutmeg

For the beurre blanc
300g shallots, finely chopped
200g white wine
100g alcohol vinegar
1 bay leaf
5 black peppercorns, crushed
a sprig of thyme
a sprig of rosemary
100g unsalted butter
1 tablespoon Banyulus vinegar

To finish
40g tofu

For the beet gnocchi
Push the beets through a juicer to obtain 500g of juice. Reduce to obtain 100g of juice.

Make a pâte à choux: combine the milk, 50g of reduced beet juice and the butter in a pot and bring it to boil. Remove from the heat and sift the flour into the pot, stirring vigorously to combine.

Dry the dough over a low heat, continuously stirring until it clears the sides of the pot. Transfer the dough into a round-bottomed mixing bowl, and add the eggs one by one. Add the parmesan, salt and nutmeg to taste.

Cook the potatoes in a pot of boiling water. Then, remove from the water, peel and smash into a puree. Add the hot puree to the pâte à choux and knead well until the dough is smooth.

Transfer dough into a piping bag and refrigerate.

Bring a pot of salted water to a simmer. Remove pastry bag from refrigerator, and squeeze and cut 1cm gnocchis directly into the water. Poach for 2 minutes, then remove and return to the cooled beet juice.

For the beurre blanc
Combine all ingredients, except the butter, in a pot. Cook over a low heat for 30 minutes, reducing it almost completely. Transfer 150g of the reduced mixture to another pot over a low heat. Little by little, incorporate the butter, whisking to emulsify.

Strain and add 50g of reduced beet juice and Banyuls vinegar. Allow to cool.

To finish
Drain the tofu and cut it into cubes. Arrange the gnocchi, dried amaranth leaves and tofu cubes on the plate. Finish with the beurre blanc.

Barbajuans. Image © Richard Haughton

Barbajuans with ricotta & spinach

Makes 50

For the filling
200g spinach
400g ricotta
black pepper
the zest of 1 lemon
a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil

For the dough
500g flour
5g salt
265g water
25g extra virgin olive oil
fine semolina
olive oil for frying

To finish
Kuro shichimi (a speciality of Kyoto, generally composed of white and black sesame sees, red chili pepper, sansho peppercorns, poppy seeds, linseeds and green seaweed).
fleur de sel

For the filling
Blanch the spinach for 1 minute in boiling water. Drain and finely chop.

Mix the chopped spinach with ricotta. Season with lemon zest, salt, pepper and olive oil.

For the dough
Combine the flour and salt in a mixer fitted with a chopping blade. Mix, adding water and olive oil little by little. Once a dough begins to form, remove and knead by hand until smooth.

Cover with a kitchen towel and let sit for 20 minutes. Then, roll it finely (2mm thick) and place a small spoonful of filling onto the dough, cover with another strip of dough and then cut into squares.

Line a baking sheet with a dish towel, and dust fine semolina over the towel. Transfer barabjuans onto baking sheet and refrigerate.

Before serving, fry the barbajuans in oil heated to 180 degrees centigrade, until they are golden. Drain on paper.

To finish
Dust with a pinch of fleur del sel and kuro shichimi.

Baba au rhum. Image © Richard Haughton

Baba au rhum

For 45 mini-babas
300g flour
10g sugar
5g salt
15g fresh yeast
150g eggs
120g milk
80g butter, room temperature

For the soaking syrup:
500g sugar
1 litre water
1 orange
1 lemon
2 vanilla beans, split and scraped

For the grapefruit caramel
150g sugar
300g grapefruit juice
50g butter

For the goat’s cheese cream
150g heavy whipping cream
50g fresh goat’s cheese

For the mini-babas
Combine all ingredients except the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Knead until a dough begins to form, then add the butter in pieces. Knead on medium speed until the butter is completely absorbed, then on high speed for 2 minutes.

Transfer the dough into a stainless steel bowl, form a ball, cover it and allow to rise for 15 minutes.

Punch the dough back down and allow to rise for 10 more minutes.

Transfer dough to pastry bag and squeeze to fill three-quarters of each mould. Allow to rise 5 to 10 minutes, until the dough is nicely puffed.

Cover the mould with parchment paper and place a second baking sheet on the top. Bake at 180 degrees for 20 minutes then remove from the oven and allow the babas to cool completely.

For the soaking syrup
Slice the orange and the lemon into rounds. Combine all ingredients in a pot and boil until the sugar is completely dissolved.

Remove from heat, allow to infuse for 30 more minutes then strain. Soak the babas in the cooled syrup. Remove them when they have doubled in volume and use a pipette to inject 3ml of rum into each baba.

For the grapefruit caramel
Make a dry caramel with the sugar. Meanwhile, warm the grapefruit juice. When the caramel is golden, remove from heat and dilute, adding 1/3 of the grapefruit juice at a time. Return the pot to low heat and reduce to obtain 250g of caramel. Remove from heat and allow to cool to 40 degrees. Use an immersion blender to incorporate butter.

For the goat’s cheese cream
Whisk the cheese into the cream until smooth and firm

The above recipes are taken from Le Clarence cookbook, written by Chihiro Masui and edited by Glenat Production. Purchase the book via: lcdc.wine

Find out more about Domaine Clarence Dillon: domaineclarencedillon.com

Visit Le Clarence: le-clarence.paris

 

 

Share:
Reading time: 7 min
fine dining restaurant
hotel facade

Located in heart of Knightsbridge, Mandarin Oriental London backs onto Hyde Park

Why should I go now?

The last few years haven’t been easy for Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park. Following the hotel’s biggest ever refurbishment, a major roof fire broke out in 2018 causing significant damage and almost two years of closure. It reopened at the end of 2019 with a bright new contemporary look, only to face closure again due to Covid-19.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

Thankfully, the hotel reopened its doors to guests on 23 July, and for those looking for a luxurious and relaxing summer staycation, there’s no better place; London is at its best in the summer and the hotel boasts one of the best locations from which to enjoy it. The back entrance of the hotel (reserved for the Queen) opens directly onto Hyde Park where you can jog, picnic, meditate, horse ride, row on the Serpentine and wander through Kensington gardens whilst the other side (the public entrance) sits opposite Harvey Nichols. Down the road is Harrods and South Kensington, Mayfair and the West End are all a 15-minute stroll away.

What’s the lowdown?

The hotel was originally built in 1889 as a gentleman’s club and the  grand red-brick Edwardian exterior remains beautifully preserved as a relic of the city’s past. The interiors, however, have been given a hefty make-over by designer Joyce Wang. A light, floral colour palette reigns throughout with flashes of gold and copper detailing; flower-shaped lighting features hang from the ceilings and huge vases of fragrant seasonal blooms designed by McQueens stand on almost every surface alongside misty terrariums filled with giant succulents. The atmosphere is joyful, calming and a tiny bit eccentric. Entering through the double doors (held ajar by men in top hats and red blazers) and up the grand staircase, feels delightfully cinematic and otherworldly.

grand hotel entrance

The entrance into the hotel from the street; the Hyde Park entrance is reserved for the Queen

The underground spa is moody and sexy. Redesigned by Adam D Tihany, it features a slim 17-metre heated pool with a good-sized gym, but the real highlight is the wellness experience. The experience begins in the changing rooms where there are a variety of (gender separate) pools, steam and sauna rooms followed by a relaxation room, featuring exceptionally comfortable loungers, snacks and mindful activities such as colouring, breathing exercises and meditation. If you’re having a massage, facial or scrub, this is where the therapist collects you from (it’s worth remembering to arrive in plenty of time), but even without a treatment, it’s a deeply calming space to spend time in. We went twice during our stay and on both occasions, we had the facilities to ourselves.

Read more: CEO of Azumi restaurants Sven Koch on the future of hospitality

underground swimming pool

Redesigned by Adam D Tihany, the spa features a 17-metre underground swimming pool

In terms of dining, Bar Boulud is the hotel’s all-day French bistro. Situated on the lower ground floor and accessible by a separate entrance from the street, it offers a relaxed, easy atmosphere and a menu of refined comfort food; our favourite dishes were the rich onion soup and creamy, white wine moules served with thin, crispy pommes frites. Despite its name, Heston Blumenthal’s Dinner serves lunch or dinner in a more high end setting with a range of a la carte and tasting menus and an exclusive chef’s table experience.

The prettiest of the restaurants, however, has to be The Rosebery. Open throughout the day, The Rosebery serves one of the most impressive hotel breakfast menus we’ve ever experienced. Alongside the usual array of  pastries and cereals, there are detox juices, bircher museli, exotic fruit platters and beautifully cooked dishes with lots of healthy options. The afternoon tea is also something of an occasion with a bespoke menu designed to match the chosen tea blends.

fine dining restaurant

The Rosebery is open throughout the day for breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner

The service throughout the hotel is impeccable. Every member of staff, even the ones we hadn’t met, seemed to know our names, but we also liked that it never felt intrusive. Many of the hotel’s guests are public figures (we spotted a few familiar faces who we won’t name), so privacy is respected and prioritised.

Getting horiztonal

Our Deluxe room overlooked the streets of Knightsbridge and straight into the windows of Harvey Nichols, which was a somewhat surreal but amazing experience. We especially loved watching the transition from day to night as the sun dipped and the lights began to glow through the windows.

Read more: SKIN co-founder Lauren Lozano Ziol on creating inspiring homes

The room itself felt spacious and airy with pale grey walls, soft-coloured contemporary furnishings and a huge double bed with mountains of pillows. There was a stylish drinks cabinet by the door complete with crystal champagne flutes and a coffee machine, and the  marble bathroom featured a powerful walk in shower.

luxurious bedroom

The Knightsbridge Suite

Flipside

While there’s a lot to love about Bar Boulud, the interiors could do with a refresh to match the new, brighter, youthful elegance of the hotel.

Rates: From £740 (approx. €800/ $950)

Book your stay: mandarinoriental.com/london/hyde-park

Millie Walton

Please note: This review was carried out before the breakout of coronavirus and the subsequent closure of the hotel. Dinner by Heston Blumenthal and Bar Boulud are due to reopen soon, whilst the spa currently remains closed due to government guidelines. The Rosebery is open for all-day dining and afternoon tea, as well as 24-hour in-room dining. Please check the hotel’s website for further updates.

Share:
Reading time: 4 min
fine dining restaurant
sushi platter

A sushi platter from Zuma’s menu

When chef Rainer Becker opened the first Zuma restaurant in Knightsbridge in 2002, it set a new benchmark for informal high end dining. Sven Koch joined the restaurant group Azumi Ltd Worldwide in 2011 and now, their portfolio includes ROKA, ETARU, Oblix at The Shard and INKO NITO, with locations spread across the globe. Here, Editor-in-Chief Darius Sanai speaks to Sven Koch, the group’s CEO, about embracing competition, working collaboratively and handling the challenges of Covid-19
portrait of man

Sven Koch

LUX: You opened Zuma in Boston last year. How is that going?
Sven Koch: Zuma Boston has done very well; I am pleased to say it was an instant success. We have a beautiful bar area at the front of the restaurant which quickly turned into “the place to be” within the city.

Obviously, Covid-19 has affected things hugely and the restaurant has been closed for a significant amount of time, but we are positive about building the business back up once we reopen.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

LUX: You have a number of different brands in the portfolio. Do they all have different customer bases, or is the idea that clients can flip between them?
Sven Koch: It’s a mix really. We have some crossover between the brands, in fact individual locations more so, like Zuma and ROKA Mayfair, due to the proximity a lot of guests dine at both. Other than that, I would largely say they have their own customer bases. The ROKA locations have more a neighbourhood vibe, a lot of people frequent specific locations because it’s close to where they live or work, although obviously there are destination diners. Both INKO NITO locations, in London and LA, are young, vibrant area’s and very much represents the type of clients that the brand is aimed at. Oblix at The Shard, has a vastly different clientele as its our only non-Japanese restaurant and due to the restaurants location.

luxurious dining room

Zuma Boston is the brand’s latest opening

LUX: Which is the more powerful brand, between Zuma and Roka, and why?
Sven Koch: It’s hard to say if one is more powerful than the other, they are both strong in their own right but obviously different. Zuma has more international recognition due to its global footprint and the nature of the clientele who travel a great deal and regularly will eat in our locations in other countries. ROKA is predominantly based in London, with four locations, and has a huge following locally but this is also growing. We recently opened ROKA Dubai which has been very successful, and we have plans for other international locations. Ask me again in a year or two and I may be able to give you a more concrete answer!

LUX: It is famously hard to create a group of restaurants operating around the world. Why have you succeeded where others have failed?
Sven Koch: Honestly, it’s down to the people – our teams! We have always operated on the philosophy that it’s important to nurture and grow good people within the business. We have a lot of staff that have worked in multiple locations around the world for us and we really support these internal transfers as it helps to spread the company’s DNA, they are effectively like ambassadors. Additionally, we try to empower the teams in individual restaurants, they are on the ground and understand customers the best.

Read more: SKIN co-founder Lauren Lozano Ziol on creating inspiring homes

LUX: You are one of the first pioneers of informal high end dining. Is the scene moving on? If so, to what?
Sven Koch: I don’t think so, you only have to look at the influx of international restaurant brands opening in London to realise that the trend is not going anywhere. That is not to say that the industry is not diversifying because I believe it is. The lifestyle element is key, people don’t simply want to go out for a meal anymore, they want to be able to spend an evening in that location; enjoy drinks before and/or after dinner, music, atmosphere… We are fortunate that all of those elements have always been part of our concept and that Japanese food is timeless as many other cuisines go in and out of fashion.

LUX: How will the coronavirus crisis affect dining out in general and your group in particular?
Sven Koch: Sadly, it seems to have affected everyone, although the hospitality industry has been particularly badly hit. We had to close all of our locations internationally, bar one (Hong Kong), at the peak of the crisis. Slowly we have been able to reopen the majority, but some cities or areas are still suffering from the aftermath so we have made the choice to wait. I think we’ve been very fortunate on the whole with government support in the countries we have restaurants in, additionally our landlords have been very understanding during this difficult time.

LUX: For years, we have seen an expansion of global travelling young wealthy people – are these your base? Is that now changing, with political and global uncertainties?
Sven Koch: Yes, they definitely are the Zuma customer base. Obviously Covid-19 has had huge effects on travel both nationally and internationally and I think it is too early to determine the long-term effects at this stage.

Having said that I just returned from the South of France for work and it was packed. It almost felt like Covid had never happened, international travellers everywhere… Prior to this trip I would have said it will take some time for travel to recover but now, you tell me?!

fine dining

Oblix at the Shard is the group’s only non-Japanese restaurant, offering a rotisserie and grill menu

LUX: Is food miles an issue? Will it be?
Sven Koch: Food miles is certainly something that we need to be conscious of. It is a tricky one for our restaurants as so many of the speciality products we use can only be sourced from Japan. You obviously try and buy as locally as we can but in some cases its just not possible. In recent years we have experimented with making our own products, like soy sauce for example which was fantastic. I think that this and the resurgence of smaller artisanal producers are the way forward…If anyone knows people producing miso in the UK then let us know?!

Read more: Two new buildings offer contemporary Alpine living in Andermatt

LUX: Is the food offering at Zuma and ROKA evergreen, or does it involve constantly? Would a diner from 12 years ago recognise the menu now?
Sven Koch: I would say 70% of the menu is evergreen but honestly that’s dictated by our customers who sometimes uproar if we take dishes off. We have several new seasonal dishes that are added to the menu and change quarterly which are developed by the individual restaurant teams. If one of those dishes happens to sell exceptionally well then, we add it to the menu permanently. In answer to your questions, yes, they would recognise it 12 years on.

LUX: You have a lot more competition now. How has that affected things? Do you get irritated by imitators?
Sven Koch: Competition is good, it keeps you on your toes and pushes you to keep evolving. When new restaurants open in competition with us we generally feel it for the first month or so. Customers love to try the latest new thing and we do see a small downturn in business which is always a little difficult to deal with, but they soon return to us, which is a testament to the quality of our product and our team.

Ha! Do we get irritated by imitators?… Good question! I must be honest; it is irritating when you see another restaurant directly ripping us off, it happens regularly that I go to another restaurant, open the menu and its surprisingly so familiar! I always just think: why don’t you make it your own? Be a bit creative, work a little harder – fundamentally I think it’s a very lazy approach.

fine dining restaurant

ROKA Aldwych. Image by Richard Southall/Agi Ch

LUX: Are we facing a speed bump or a new paradigm?
Sven Koch: 2020 has been a difficult year to say the least and things have certainly shifted but I would love to think this a speed bump and we are approaching as such. We are pushing ahead with plans, albeit a bit more cautiously from a budget perspective. Between Zuma, ROKA and Oblix, we aim to open in excess of 15 new locations in the next 3  years.

LUX: What cities or countries would you like to be in, which you are not in currently?
Sven Koch: As I mentioned we have substantial expansion plans in the not too distant future and are looking at sites in Europe such as Paris, Cannes, Saint Tropez, Monaco, Madrid and Capri, and further afield in Cabo, Mexico, and Morocco… I don’t think that leaves much left! From a personal perspective, I would love to open something in Germany – as would Rainer [Becker] – given that it’s our home country but so far, the right opportunity hasn’t presented itself. Watch this space!

sushi plate

Sliced yellowtail with green chilli relish, ponzu and pickled garlic from Zuma’s menu

LUX: How do you and Rainer Becker share duties?
Sven Koch: We don’t really share duties to be honest, we have never sat down formally and assigned roles as it has always been a lot more natural and organic than that.

Obviously, Rainer created the restaurant concepts and he is still heavily involved in the creative side of things including the food and design. I tend to take care of the day to day running of the company including the expansion and growth. We are very collaborative however and always tend to bounce ideas off each other.

LUX: What has been your greatest challenge, and how did you overcome it?
Sven Koch: For sure Covid-19 has been the biggest challenge both personally and professionally. The pandemic has hit everyone hard and its devastating to see people’s families effected and being so hard hit financially. As a business we are working hard to ensure we can bring as many members of staff back into the business as possible. It really is a frightening time.

Find out more: azumirestaurants.com

Share:
Reading time: 8 min
luxurious restaurant interiors
Chefs wearing masks

Novikov 2 Go is a new service from the innovative Mayfair restaurant, offering tasting menus cooked, packaged and delivered to your door.

Novikov, the famed Mayfair restaurant, is now offering perfectly prepared cuisine from its Asian and Italian kitchens, delivered to your London home. Our Editor-in-Chief Darius Sanai had to check it out

Your chef and brigade are back with you, thank goodness, being tested every day after a trying time in isolation during lockdown during which you had to try to fend for yourself.

But while her involtini di salmone con senape e marscapone is as divine as ever, you are missing the innovation, the intricacy, not to mention the vibe, of your favourite go-to restaurants.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

Enter Novikov 2 Go. A new service from the modern-legendary Mayfair restaurant, this involves the chefs creating a tasting menu of up to 15 dishes for you, your loved ones, and the guests you are inviting to sit in your garden (suitably physically distanced) and delivering it cooked, packaged, and ready to serve, at the time of your choosing.

luxurious restaurant interiors

Sliced steak

Above: The Italian restaurant at Novikov in Mayfair and below, Italian tagliata with rocket salad and Parmesan

We have been fans of Novikov ever since Russian dining maestro Arkady Novikov, who owns the Vogue café and Tatler Club in Moscow, came over to Mayfair to open this huge, innovative space containing an Asian restaurant, Italian restaurant, and a bar. It should not, perhaps, have worked, but the place is packed (or rather, it was when it was allowed to open) simply due to the quality of its food, as well as its vibe.

We had to try out Novikov 2 Go.

We placed our order, mentioning that we were slightly more biased towards seafood than red meat, sat back, and let it happen. At the appointed time, a black cab rolled up outside with eight Novikov branded paper bags, containing an array of packages and boxes. The food was steaming hot. (It helps if you live near the restaurant).

asian restaurant interiors

Asian salad

Above: the Asian resturant and below, Novikov’s crab apple salad with wasabi dressing

Image by @sheherazade_photography

A beautifully presented menu, printed for each guest, explained what we were getting. Starters included the Novikov duck salad, a crab and avocado salad, salmon tartare with yoghurt dressing (which came, like all the dressings, clearly marked in separate containers so you could add them just before eating), and ultra-creamy burrata with Sicilian datterino tomatoes.

Read more: How ionic cars are transforming classic cars for an electric future

The next course skipped into Asia: delicate hamachi yuzu truffle maki, and scallop jalapeño Maki with a sting in the tail. (Plenty of soya sauce and wasabi was provided). These went particularly well with the icy bottle of Louis Roederer Brut Premier (a classy champagne for a classy meal) that came with the meal in its own white cooler bag.

An unexpected treat was Novikov’s signature pizza with black truffle, fior di latte and soft cheeses (a COVID kilo in one go). The miso baby chicken, which I had not tried before, was the highlight of the meal, rich and detailed; and the miso black cod was like welcoming an old friend, together with its signature bamboo leaf.

red prawns

Novikov’s Italian Sicilian red prawns

Old favourite accompaniments were also there: grilled asparagus skewers with an umami sauce on the side, sauteed spinach, excellent egg fried rice and Singapore noodles that were light, bright and full of flavour.

We didn’t have space for the desserts and kept them for the next day. Ok, the Rocher XL, a giant ice cream and extremely rich dark chocolate ice cream and nut coated Ferrero Rocher ball, was devoured, but the hazelnut profiteroles, Tiramisu and Panna Cotta just had to wait.

Was it as good as going to Novikov? In some ways, it was even better. We had cuisine from both restaurants at once, something you can’t do there; we didn’t have to leave our home, and we were sitting in the garden. It was like having the chefs and all their ingredients turn up at your home, but with zero disruption, and served exactly when we wanted.

This could become habit-forming.

Novikov to Go delivers to selected address in London. Private jet orders can be delivered direct to the runway. For deliveries, customers will need to email [email protected] or call 020 7399 4330. To view the menu visit: bbot.menu/novikov2go

Share:
Reading time: 3 min
outdoor restaurant
outdoor restaurant

Elsa at Monte-Carlo Beach hotel is the first 100% organic Michelin-starred restaurant, as certified by Ecocert

Ahead of the re-opening of Monte-Carlo Beach hotel’s Michelin-starred restaurant Elsa, we speak to newly appointed Head Chef Benoît Witz about his commitment to seasonal, organic produce, sustainable kitchen practices and authentic Mediterranean cuisine

Chef standing in doorway

Chef Benoit Witz

1. What can we expect from Elsa when it opens this summer?

Our focus is on local products and seasonal cuisine. We are keeping the products as simple as possible to highlight their true flavours.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

2. How do you define modern Mediterranean cuisine?

I always look for simplicity. Mediterranean cuisine, to me, is a dish that shows off the natural taste of a recognisable product. We often forgot about what’s essential. My goal is to highlight our local products, and I always choose organic ones. It is necessary to show all the beautiful products we have around us thanks to Mother Nature.

3. Do you pay attention to cooking or eating trends?

I follow clients’ wishes more than trends. I am inspired by the products I can find in the markets, or in the restaurant’s fruit and vegetable garden. My cuisine’s personality is about elegance and health. I want to follow what our body needs.

Read more: Driving from Alsace-Lorraine to Lake Constance

4. What’s your process for creating a new recipe?

I am inspired by old cooking books. I love trying new recipes and using products that have been forgotten and mixing them with new ones. It’s something unusual for food lovers. Most of the time, it’s a success and clients love that.

Table setting by the sea

Headed up by Benoît Witz, Elsa offers a menu of authentic and seasonal Mediterranean cuisine

5. How are you incorporating sustainability into Elsa’s kitchen?

There are a number different ways. First of all, our teams are trained to pay close attention to sustainability. We have constant discussions about how we can do more as it is very important to the wider company Monte-Carlo Societe des Bains de Mer and our property the Monte-Carlo Beach hotel. For example, we group the orders together in order to avoid waste, we ask all our providers to avoid plastic and all of the kitchen waste is sorted and organised. We also only buy local and organic produce.

6. What’s your favourite dish to cook at home?

I love cooking fruit and vegetables, together or separately. I often mix them with cereals such as lentils or chick peas. Since I discovered chick pea flour, I enjoy making pancakes with vegetables. I often use artichoke or salade shavings and then add pepper, salt and herbs. I simply sauté the vegetables, which is how I prefer to cook them. It’s a very easy, filling and tasty meal to make at home. You should try it!

Find out more: montecarlosbm.com/en/restaurant-monaco/elsa

Share:
Reading time: 2 min
Country hotel
luxury historic hotel

The Lygon Arms in the Cotswolds dates back to 14th century

A couple of unspoilt Cotswolds rural idylls from the 14th and 17th centuries, a rare luxury hotel in Champagne with a touch of the contemporary, and the best place to stay in medieval Heidelberg, LUX recommends four historic country hotels to visit post-lockdown

The Lygon Arms, Cotswolds

THE LOCATION

Broadway is a Cotswold village straight out of central casting. This includes the tourists wandering down the exquisite High Street lined with low buildings of local stone, with the Cotswold Hills rising beyond. The colour palette of nature and history is a perfect sand yellow/deep English green.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

THE ARRIVAL

The Lygon Arms looks like a combination of coaching inn and hotel. You expect a ruddy-faced local, fresh out of the local country estate, to appear and help you with your bags, and that is exactly what we got. Parts of the structure of the hotel date back to the 14th century, and the feeling of a cosy history, lovingly recreated by its current owners, is all around you.

Luxury bar and restaurant

The Lygon Bar and Grill

THE STAY

Our room, the Charles I suite with a four-poster bed, was swathed in Tudor dark wood. We ate dinner in the courtyard at the Lygon Bar and Grill: the grilled chicken with chestnut mushrooms and tarragon was highly satisfying. The achievement of The Lygon Arms? To offer true history, nicely updated with casual contemporary service and simple high-quality food.

ANYTHING ELSE?

A 20-minute walk from the end of the High Street and up a hillside takes you to the Broadway Tower, from where you can view the invading Welsh armies swarming across the Severn River Valley. Behind the tower stretch the sweeping green uplands of the Cotswolds proper, with exquisite nature walks.

Book your stay: lygonarmshotel.co.uk

luxurious hotel bedroom

Le25bis is the first of its kind in Épernay

Le 25bis by Leclerc Briant, Champagne

THE LOCATION

It’s long been a matter of bemusement that you can spend your day being serenaded by a major champagne house in Épernay and then find yourself in a disappointing, generic hotel. Le 25bis, owned by a champagne house and refurbished in a luxurious modern style, promises to change that.

Read more: Driving from Alsace-Lorraine to Lake Constance

THE ARRIVAL

There is nothing quite like driving along the avenue de Champagne which radiates from the town centre. Le 25bis is fronted by a delightful courtyard with a few tables and as you walk to the reception desk, you walk past a couple enjoying a champagne tasting, a perfect scene setter.

bathroom

THE STAY

Le 25bis belongs to a well regarded boutique champagne house, Leclerc-Briant, which has a shop at the front of the house. After a long day of visiting champagne houses, there’s nothing quite like tasting the champagne made by your hotel. There are only five rooms, which are huge and have clearly been refurbished with little regard for budget, with pale contemporary furnishings with antique twists, aesthetic floral arrangements, intricate wallpapers and beautiful vintage-style (but very modern) bathrooms.

ANYTHING ELSE?

Make time to visit the Leclerc Briant house itself, and when buying from the shop at the hotel (our preferred cuvée was the eponymous entry-level cuvée, and the rosé was also delicious) make sure you buy in magnum. It is always better.

Book your stay: le25bis.com

Country hotel

Lords of the Manor is located in Upper Slaughter, a pretty hamlet in the Cotswolds

Lords of the Manor, Cotswolds

THE LOCATION

If The Lygon Arms is in the low Cotswolds, Lords of the Manor is in the high Cotswolds. To get there, you wind slowly through Lower Slaughter (probably Britain’s prettiest village, and that’s saying something), past an estate and into the hamlet of Upper Slaughter. Down a drive, there is a manor house with gardens dropping to a lake, and meadows and woods beyond. This view hasn’t changed much since Shakespeare’s time.

Read more: Fashion superstar Giorgio Armani on his global empire

THE ARRIVAL

Walking into the wood-lined great hall feels like arriving at a friend’s country house. You are taken to your room up a suitably creaking staircase. Ours looked out over the drive, lawn and lake, and was decorated in lavish country house style. All around was silence.

contemporary interiors

The bar at Lords of the Manor

THE STAY

Crunching through the grounds you feel like there is nothing more you would need from your English country estate. A walk across a little wooden bridge leads to a path alongside a stream taking you to Lower Slaughter, where you can slake the thirst in an inn. The dining experience at Lords of the Manor is very proper and British: venison and foie gras pithivier with creamed butternut squash and brandy sauce.

ANYTHING ELSE?

You could explore the many sites of this glorious region, but we wager you’ll stroll from the hotel on the secluded walks, and chill out on the hotel’s terrace with a glass of champagne, looking at the grounds, and do nothing else.

Book your stay: lordsofthemanor.com

luxury hotel bedroom

Grand Hotel Europäischer Hof is Heidelberg’s only five-star hotel

Grand Hotel Europäischer Hof, Heidelberg

THE LOCATION

Heidelberg, one of the world’s oldest university towns, lies at the edge of the Rhine river plain at the point at which it rises up sharply into the mountains of the northern Black Forest. It’s one of Europe’s prettiest towns, and also infused with a feeling of intellectual history – and current intellectual power.

Read more: How Hublot’s collaborations are changing the face of luxury

THE ARRIVAL

The hotel, the city’s only five-star property, is located on the edge of the old town, making it easy to get to when arriving by car or train. The family-owned luxury property is big and relatively modern. You turn into a grand driveway and are greeted by a uniformed doorman, and taken up some steps into the reception hall that leads to a jazz bar on the left and around the corner into a U-shape into a formal restaurant, the Kurfürstenstube.

hotel entrance

THE STAY

The hotel is grand and generously proportioned, as was our Executive Suite, which was light and airy with high ceilings, baroque-style furnishing in creams and beiges and rustic golds. While parts of the hotel are old, much of it has been built recently, including the large spa area. You will inevitably use the hotel as a base for visiting Heidelberg and beyond.

ANYTHING ELSE?

The hotel’s delightful concierge’s recommendations are now ours: the Kulturbrauerei, a centuries-old dining hallcum-beer hall with hearty, meaty cuisine and its own beer; and a walk down from the Königstuhl mountain, reached by a funicular.

Book your stay: europaeischerhof.com

Note: All reviews were carried out prior to the global lockdown

This article was originally published in the Summer 2020 Issue.

Share:
Reading time: 6 min
Luxury lakeside hotel
Luxury lakeside hotel

Badrutt’s Palace overlooking Lake St Moritz

St Moritz is well known as the winter playground of Europe’s rich and aristocratic. But don’t dismiss the resort, and especially its venerable and truly grand hotel Badrutt’s Palace, as a summer destination

One single word: Badrutt’s. Among a certain crowd, it conjures up associations: dancing in King’s Club after a long day’s skiing and après-skiing; bumping into billionaires in their Moncler in the wood-panelled corridors; and probably the most desirable (in a conventional way) New Year’s Eve gala in the world. (It may also whip up associations of bedrooms looking out over the frozen lake, though that would mean you don’t actually own a place of your own to winter in St Moritz – tsk.)

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

But there’s another Badrutt’s, in another St Moritz. They may be geographically identical, but the summertime town, and Palace, are a different world, and perhaps not yet as well discovered.

Our suite (declaration: we don’t own a place in St Moritz) opened out onto a balcony terrace on which we strolled on the first night, gazing across the lake, up to the mountains beyond, and along the broad Engadine valley in both directions. In summer on the mountains, myriad textures and colours replace winter’s uniform white and brown of snow and rock. A deep-green forest around the grey-blue lake; emerald meadows; high pasture the colour of a dying weeping willow; peak rockscapes in black and grey, slashed by snow, still there from the wintertime blizzards, high up. All looking back at us on our balcony.

luxury hotel room

One of the hotel’s Village Deluxe rooms

Unlike some self-proclaimed palace hotels, Badrutt’s really does feel like a palace. The grand state rooms are places to stroll through in your most formal clothes (you can wander around in hiking gear, but somehow it doesn’t feel right) and in Le Restaurant, the grand dining room, you need to dress formally to match the ambience.

And what an ambience; here it seems you are walking past le tout of Europe’s old aristocracy. The lady at the corner table wearing a gown at breakfast reading the international New York Times every morning; that cluster of teenagers who look like the Romanovs; the artist wearing a smart deep-blue blazer who doesn’t just look like X; he is X. (We wouldn’t name names.)

Read more: Fashion superstar Giorgio Armani on his global empire

And there’s much more to the dining experience than that. We spent one delightful evening in Chesa Veglia, an old house across the street that has been converted into possibly the world’s most upmarket pizzeria (they sometimes allow children to make their own pizzas here, but we’re not supposed to say that). This is relaxed Palace, informal Palace, Palace with its hair down, wearing an Italian-stallion leather bracelet, drinking Ornellaia by the gallon. The food is perfect pizza, and the staff seem to be having as much fun as the guests.

yachting on a lake

Sailing on the lake in the hotel’s yacht

St Moritz in summer is more influenced by the weather of the Mediterranean than northern Europe, so long sunny days are likely; on the one day of cloud we had in our week, we escaped into the vast indoor pool area, which has its own rock mountain off which kids can dive. The deep-tissue massages are as thorough as you would expect a mountain spa to offer.

There are rumours of more developments soon, including a Badrutt’s chalet in the mountains to escape to. Watch this space, or better still, just go.

Darius Sanai

Book your stay: badruttspalace.com

This article was originally published in the Summer 2020 Issue.

Share:
Reading time: 3 min
luxury dining
luxury dining

is new high-end delivery service provided by private-jet catering company On Air Dining

With restaurants still closed across the UK, One Fine Dine offers an easy and creative alternative to enjoying a fine dining experience at home

One Fine Dine is a new high-end food delivery service provided by On Air Dining, but don’t let the name put you off. Headed up by Daniel Hulme (who has worked in Michelin-starred restaurants across London and catered for superyachts), On Air Dining provides luxury dining experiences for private jets. This latest initiative aims to bring the same level of quality and finesse into UK residents’ homes.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

mushroom broth

The menus span breakfast, lunch, dinner and canapés along with options for wine pairings and dietary requirements. Different from a traditional recipe delivery box, the separate elements of each dish are cooked and prepared by expert chefs, and then boxed up and delivered with instructions for heating up (if required) and plating. It’s not exactly ‘cooking’, but it still provides some level of creative satisfaction as you carefully arrange edible flowers, delicate dollops of purée and zig-zags of balsamic glaze to create the perfect-looking dish. It doesn’t really feel like cheating as the dishes are complex and would be difficult to make unless you’re highly-skilled in the kitchen.

Read more: Four of our favourite historic country hotels to visit post-lockdown

fine dining dish

Our favourite picks from include the vegetarian scotch egg served with truffle, seaweed wrapped cured salmon with pickled radish, North Atlantic blackened miso cod with a rich and earthy shiitake broth, and for dessert, granny smith apple pie with crème anglaise followed by the chef’s handmade petit fours.

For more information visit: onefinedine.com

Share:
Reading time: 1 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

Share:
Reading time: 5 min
Interiors of restaurant bar
Interiors of restaurant bar

Wiltons is one of London’s oldest restaurants, serving high-end British cuisine

Wiltons first opened its doors in Mayfair 1742, offering a menu focused on fresh British produce. Whilst the restaurant remains true to its origins, Head Chef Daniel Kent is set on progressing tradition with a new focus on sustainability. Here, we speak to the chef about his mission to reduce plastic waste, finding ways to innovate and cooking at home

Bald man wearing chef's jacket

Daniel Kent

1. Did you always dream of becoming a chef and how did your career evolve?

Growing up I had many dreams of what I thought I wanted to do later in life but none of them involved being a chef! It all occurred almost by accident and serendipity took its course. When I left school, I took a job as a pot washer in a local restaurant to earn some pocket money. It was here that the chef asked me if I was interested in being part of the kitchen crew as he thought I might be good at it.

Curious of what this would involve I took him up on his offer and found that I really enjoyed working with food. My parents encouraged me to go to university and study hospitality, so I applied to Manchester University and completed the degree in Hospitality Management.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

Although I had enjoyed working with food so much university was guiding me to an operational role, however the creative aspect of working with food kept calling me and I continued working in kitchens.
Over the years I’ve had the opportunity and privilege to work with several very talented head chefs, all of which have taught me something new and gave me a different perspective. I have used their wise words and knowledge to develop my own management style which I comfortable and happy with.

Some of my mentors have included Rowley Leigh at Kensington Place, Chris Galvin, Jeremy King and Chris Corbin at The Wolseley. Their collective positive influence has assisted me in developing the skills required to run a kitchen in the way that I’ve always desired.

Over the years I have developed a team around me that allows me to coach and mentor new chefs coming into the industry and pass on all the skills I’ve learnt rising up through the ranks. At Wiltons I am exceptionally fortunate to have the incredible opportunity to use the finest, seasonal produce from all over Britain.

Oysters on a bar of restaurant

Wiltons is known for its oysters and runs monthly oyster masterclasses, designed to teach diners shucking techniques

2. What defines your cooking style?

My true passion is using the very best British products to create dishes that reflect and do justice to their provenance. I would say that I like to develop dishes with modern European cooking techniques, which I can use to great effect with the dishes on our weekly set menus.

While the majority of Wiltons menu does not change, something our guests appreciate and expect we also like to introduce various specials on a daily basis which keep the brigade on their toes and creative. Wiltons is a great British classic and the food we serve needs to reflect this, but by implementing contemporary twists, keeps it relevant.

Slicing salmon

The menu at Wiltons focuses on seasonal British produce

3. Which is your favourite dish on the Wilton’s menu and why?

Skrei cod, morels and fish veloute is on the menu at the moment and it’s delicious. This cod comes in season at the end of January and we’ve just introduced a wonderful fish dashi consommé. The main course dish we use a fillet of Skrei cod, finished with a classic bonne femme sauce and serve it alongside baby leeks and morel mushrooms. It’s a classic but we’ve collectively adapted it with ideas and techniques we’ve learnt from our travels and working in other restaurants and the guests are thoroughly enjoying it!

Read more: Comme des Garçons protégé Kei Ninomiya’s cult fashion label Noir

4. How are you tackling sustainability issues in the kitchen?

This is a gradual process. Wiltons was the very first restaurant in the UK to join the ‘Chefs Against Plastic Waste Campaign’. All of our chefs’ jackets are made from recycled plastic bottles that have been pulled from the shores of the British Isles. I requested that suppliers use reusable crates to deliver produce and this has been adhered to and we are very mindful of food waste. Bit by bit, we can all do our part. Sustainable practices are key, and we are addressing these.

Formal interiors of restaurant

Wiltons offers a formal dining experience with stately interiors

5. What are your everyday essential ingredients?

Without a doubt, salt and butter! They can change a sauce, elevate a dish and are so basic, yet very versatile!

6. What’s your go to when you want to cook something quick and easy at home?

Chicken schnitzel and cucumber salad. It’s nutritious, quick and delicious and light too! I also enjoy preparing it.

Find out more: wiltons.co.uk

Share:
Reading time: 4 min
Mountainscape of peaks and glacier
Mountainscape of peaks and glacier

Monte Rosa, the second highest mountain in the Alps at 4,634m (left), towers over Zermatt’s Gorner Glacier. Lyskamm (right) is another of the 33 peaks higher than 4,000m surrounding Zermatt. Photograph taken from the Gornergrat observatory station by Isabella Sheherazade Sanai

Zermatt, in Switzerland, has mountain views and activities that are the stuff of legend. It also has the highest altitude luxury hotel in Europe. Darius Sanai checks in and is mesmerised

We arrived for our stay in Riffelalp Resort 2222m by taking four trains from Zurich, each one more quaint and tiny than the previous. The first was a double-deck express that arrowed smoothly through luscious lowlands and past lakes; alighting at the bottom of a deep valley at Visp, we changed to a more pared-back, basic train that made its way up a narrow, steeply inclined V-shaped valley, more gorge than valley in places. Shards of rock sat on the valley floor among trees and cows, a fast-flowing river accompanied us upwards. There were glimpses, as we ascended, of glaciers and snowy peaks, even in mid-summer.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

Arriving at the top of the valley in Zermatt, we crossed a tiny station square, gazing up at the citadel of the Matterhorn looming over the village like a rock god. The next train was a cog railway, which headed in a meandering zigzag through the larch forest up the valley sides; we crossed over a high iron bridge above a waterfall, in and out of deep larch groves, the ground disappearing below us.

Alpine hotel nestled into mountainside

The Riffelalp Resort 2222m sits high above Zermatt in the valley below, with views of the surrounding peaks, including the Matterhorn

After 15 minutes, and feeling a lightness in the air, we emerged at Riffelalp station, right on the tree line. On the other side of the open-air ticket barrier was a tiny, open, narrow-gauge train, and a smiling drive/porter in full uniform, with a peaked cap. This little train, more toy than real, with no windows and waist-height doors, had room for around 20 people and a little luggage. It ground along a mountain path through the forest, at little more than jogging pace, for five minutes, as we were enmeshed in the aromas of pine cones and herbs, until it reached a clearing. Here, 600m above the valley floor, at a height of 2,222m (thus the name) we were greeted with a cluster of pretty Alpine chalets and a view, across and above the confluence of three glacial valleys, over to the Matterhorn, and several other peaks, lit only by moonlight and starlight, glaciers staring at us from across the dark night-time green haze.

Luxury drawing room of a suite room

Bedrooms at Riffelalp benefit from sweeping views over the mountain peaks

If the view was mind-bending, stepping inside the hotel was even more so. For this was no high-altitude mountain hut; we were inside a luxury palace hotel, beautifully created with Alpine woods and finishes, with a long and wide corridor leading down from the lobby area, past a jazz bar with a live band, and towards a restaurant, whose large windows perfectly framed the night-time Matterhorn. All the details were done beautifully, from the lighting, to the granite, wood and artisanal tables in the gently curving lobby/corridor area, whose large windows perfectly framed the mountains: at night, you could spot the helmet lights of the climbers on the Matterhorn.

Luxurious hotel bedroom

Alpine terrace

One of the resort’s bedrooms (above), and (here) views of the Matterhorn from the terrace

We stayed in the Matterhorn suite, an L-shaped series of rooms, decorated in blonde woods with contemporary furnishings, each of which had a balcony looking out over the high-altitude drama of a dozen peaks of more than 4,000m. This is the highest luxury hotel in Europe, and from the bedroom balcony, it certainly felt it. The granite and marble master bathroom was a masterpiece of design and sheer size – in contrast to many Alpine mountain hotels’ compact dimensions.

Read more: Back to school with Van Cleef & Arpels

What was particularly compelling about the resort is that it is just that: a place you don’t need to leave. On the roof of one of the buildings is an indoor and outdoor pool and sun terrace – it gets surprisingly warm on a summer afternoon, notwithstanding the altitude. Inside is a spa. There is a bowling alley, table tennis, billiards, trampolines in a play area outside, and perhaps our favourite part was the garden terrace downstairs.

Indoor swimming pool

The indoor swimming pool at the hotel’s spa

The buildings are located just where the trees start to peter out, giving way to high-altitude grass and tundra, meaning you can sit at a table outside the hotel, watching hikers and climbers go past during the day while sipping a glass of wine – and you have the mountain to yourself at night. Kicking back with a drink after a long hike, as the sunset turns ever more blue, watching the other tourists disappear down the valley to Zermatt, or the serious climbers striding on and upwards towards their bivouacs, is an infinitely relaxing feeling.

Grand restaurant dining room

The Alexandre restaurant serves fresh, light Alpine cuisine

There are three restaurants and a bar (the two main restaurants are open in summer). The Alexandre is the one in the main hotel building and any fears that it will be an old-fashioned Swiss grand restaurant serving heavy cream and food are quickly dispelled. The Swiss Alpine salmon fillet with wild spinach and venere rice was light and umami; meanwhile the Simmental beef with mountain vegetables and potato purée really tasted of Alpine meadows.

We had slightly feared that staying at Riffelalp would mean feeling cut off from the village below, a 20-minute train ride down in the valley. In fact, it was quite the opposite: we felt like we were the privileged ones, in a kind of contemporary, tasteful luxury Nirvana high up in the view, and we never felt like going down. Indeed, we never felt like leaving at all.

Book your stay: riffelalp.com

Pine forest trekking

Larch and pine forests coat the steep slopes immediately above Zermatt. Image by Isabella Sheherazade Sanai

Four unmissable summer activities in Zermatt

Hike the Mark Twain Trail. Named after the American writer, it loops upwards and around the mountain from Riffelalp, revealing more and more vast, glaciated peaks at every turn, past high-altitude lakes and meadows, until you reach Gornergrat, the station and observatory at 3,100m with probably the most spectacular 360-degree view in the Alps. The trail is not particularly steep and can be done in three hours, but it’s not for those who have a fear of heights. There are hundreds of other mountain paths, over mountain top and through forest, valley and meadow.

Take advantage of the mountain gastronomy. Zermatt’s mountain huts may look quaint and weathered, but many of them house restaurants of Michelin-star standard, or rustic cuisine of the highest quality, with fine wines from around the world to match. And you need to walk or trail bike to get to them, making them justified. Some of our current favourites are: the Findlerhof, on a forest trail with a mesmerising view of the Matterhorn, where we had fantastic forest cuisine: a local mushroom salad and herbed chocolate fondant, cooked and served by the delightful owner; Restaurant Zum See, in a tiny
hamlet in a lush glade just above Zermatt, where the platter of local air-dried beef and cheese was sublime and the owners charming; Edelweiss, a characterful hut on a cliff directly above the village, accessed only by a short but very steep walk, which felt cosy and atmospheric; and the Whymper Stübe, in the oldest hotel in the village, where Edward Whymper, the English tragic hero who first climbed the Matterhorn in 1865, stayed, and where the fondues are superb and the atmosphere even better.

Mountain path

A panoramic path down from Zermatt’s Stellisee lake with the peaks of Dent Blanche, Obergabelhorn and Zinalrothorn in the background. Photograph by Isabella Sheherazade Sanai

Visit the Forest Fun Park. A high-wire park in a forest on the edge of the village, run by mountaineers, its trails, of varying difficulties, are ingeniously devised and variously involve zip-wiring over the river, down above rapids, and across a football pitch, and clambering from treetop to treetop, all in safety and with a stunning view of the Matterhorn.

Climb the Matterhorn. If you’re fit and fearless, plan ahead and book your guide and accommodation, Europe’s most famous mountain can be climbed by capable non-experts. But take heed of advice and guidance: after a gradual decline in accidents in recent years, in 2018 there were at least 10 deaths on the mountain. If you’re not quite up to climbing, a spectacular second best is a hike up to the Hornli Hut, known as Base Camp Matterhorn, on the leg of the mountain, which anyone can do if they are fit and don’t suffer from fear of heights. It’s two hours up from the Schwarzsee lift station, and pretty dramatic in itself.

Matterhorn mountain with fields of wildflowers

Wildflowers grow in the unique microclimate of Riffelsee, at 2,800m one of the Alps’ highest lakes, protected by ridges from northerly winds. Photograph by Isabella Sheherazade Sanai

Other places to stay

Up in the mountains above the village, there is nowhere that comes close to Riffelalp Resort 2222m. When staying in Zermatt itself, we like to stay in Winkelmatten, a hamlet on its southern edge, at Chalet Banja. Available for private hire, Banja is beautifully built and detailed by a local doctor and his artistic wife, with four floors of exquisite local stone, wood, artefacts and detailing. It sits above a riverbank amid conifer trees, with uninterrupted views up to the Matterhorn; on the lowest floor is Zermatt’s biggest private (indoor) pool, with the same views, and a gym and sauna and steam rooms. The Alpine library in the atmospheric kitchen/living/dining area is engrossing.

This article was originally published in the Spring 2020 Issue.

Share:
Reading time: 8 min
Monochrome portrait of man wearing sunglasses
Monochrome portrait of man wearing sunglasses

Italian entrepreneur Flavio Briatore’s newest restaurant opening offers a lad-back fine dining experience in Knightsbridge

Flavio Briatore has never stood still. From Formula One racing, to a nightclub empire, to high-end restaurants, he has transformed all the industries he has been involved with. At the heart of all his work is glamour and luxury, and his latest dining offering, Maia in the heart of London’s Knightsbridge, takes this to a new level. Kristina Spencer investigates

Adrenaline, excitement, adventure – these have been a part of Flavio Briatore’s life since the early days. Born in 1950, the Italian tycoon worked as a ski instructor and a door-to-door insurance salesman before meeting Luciano Benetton, founder of the eponymous clothing company. Known for his business wit and endless charm, Briatore was soon appointed Benetton’s director of American operations and went over to the US to open more than 800 stores during the 1980s.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

In 1988 in Australia Briatore saw his first grand prix and a year later was named commercial director of Benetton’s Formula One team. The Italian understood that, for the audience, racing was less about the mechanics behind the operation and more about the spectacle and the excitement. Formula One had never seen anything like him before – Briatore transformed the sport into one of the most glamorous on the planet, and made a fortune along the way.

Contemporary interiors of a restaurant

The restaurant Maia offers a swinging sixties-inspired ambience

It was Briatore’s ground-breaking vision that made Benetton a winning team within five seasons. Demonstrating his skill as a talent spotter, in 1991 he signed the driver Michael Schumacher, who won his first titles in 1994 and 1995. In 2000, after Renault bought Benetton’s team, Briatore signed a contract with Fernando Alonso, who was 18 at the time. Five years later Alonso won his first World Drivers’ Championship.

Briatore’s vision was one of success, and he loved what came with it. He dated models Naomi Campbell and Heidi Klum, launched a luxury clothing brand and eventually entered the luxury hospitality industry. Why? “My whole life has been about luxury. It’s where I feel most at home, and I wouldn’t do anything else,” he declares.

The businessman owns a Spa resort in Kenya and nightclub-restaurants in Monte-Carlo, Tuscany, Dubai and London. His most recent addition is Maia, on Hans Crescent in the heart of Knightsbridge, offering both traditional Italian dishes and plant-based choices. With Maia, Briatore wanted to create an “around-the-clock venue,” where you could spend anywhere from an hour to the entire day. “You can have a business lunch or an early evening aperitivo and carry on through to dinner. Maia is dynamic and adapts to the time of the day with a different atmosphere and offerings.”

Plate of fish and an flowers

Bowl of pasta and wine on table

Maia’s menu features traditional Italian dishes as well as healthier options

Maia is open all week for breakfast, lunch, dinner and everything in between. Its mission is to bring the soul back into the neighbourhood and create a go-to place for the locals, be it for a laid-back afternoon aperitivo or a family celebration. “Many Knightsbridge residents are already regulars,” says Briatore. “They come back because the staff know them by name and they feel they are taken care of.”

The menu has an array of contemporary versions of Italian classics, with vegetarian and vegan options. But can Italian food really be healthy? “Italian food is so versatile,” laughs Briatore. “Beyond the clichés, you will find a choice of fresh, seasonal dishes,” created by Michelin-trained Head Chef, Mauro di Leo. There are the usual suspects: cacio e pepe, veal Milanese and white fish ceviche with veggie crisps. But there is also a detox Maia salad (chopped kale, broccoli, cauliflower, parsley, carrots, sunflower seeds and lemon-ginger dressing) and an abundance of avocado on the menu. Maia might be onto something.

Health and wellness have been buzzwords for some time, but over the past couple of years they have changed the food industry. Rather than simply a trend, wellness has become an ongoing commitment, especially amongst millennials and Gen-Zs who deeply care about having a healthier lifestyle; and although it comes at a premium, they are ready to pay.

Avocado and egg salad

Francesca Giacomini’s protein salad bowl at Maia, Knightsbridge

Which is where Maia comes in. “All around us, we are being given more and more opportunities to eat a plant-based diet; it’s good for us and good for the planet so I can’t see that going away,” says Briatore. “Being Italian, this trend is actually what our food culture is based upon, and not that different from what our parents and grandparents put on the dinner table every day.”

The restaurant offers a healthy and nutritional menu from its in-residence wellness advocate Francesca Giacomini of ‘Francesca The Method’ fitness and nutrition plans. But Maia shouldn’t be mistaken for a health parlour: the afternoon tea is a treat with freshly baked cakes and pastries, and if you are after something stronger, Richard Woods, the award-winning mixologist, will mix you a drink.

Maia’s interior is subtle, referencing the 1960s with comfortable chairs and soft furnishings in dark leather around dark, glass-topped tables. Come evening, the curtains are drawn over floor-to-ceiling windows and the lights go down. It is important not to distract from the atmosphere, according to Briatore, as “the guests are at the heart of the restaurant – clients are the best decor we can get”.

The restaurant may be the newest addition to the Billionaire Group, yet it is certainly not the last one – early in 2020, Briatore will be opening a Crazy Pizza in Monaco, following its success in London, and Billionaire Riyadh will be launched. Briatore’s ambition is to continue to grow his empire – he brings a lifetime of experience with him . “I believe in calculated risk” he says “and I have learned you can’t always win but it sure feels great when you do!”

Find out more: maiamood.com

This article was originally published in the Spring 2020 Issue.

Share:
Reading time: 5 min
Grand dinner in palace
Grand dinner in palace

Dinner hosted by the owners of Château Mouton Rothschild at the Palace of Versailles. Image by Leif Carlsson

Menu of winesThe Palace of Versailles hosted one of its most opulent evenings since the times of Louis XVI, as the owners of Château Mouton Rothschild invited guests, including royalty, winners of some very special auction wines and LUX, to an evening of music and cuisine catered personally by Alain Ducasse. All in aid of the Palace’s restoration fund

Guests at the Versailles Celebration Gala Dinner, including (see below image) Catherine Pégard, Prince Albert II Monaco, Julien de Beaumarchais de Rothschild, Camille Sereys de Rothschild, and Philippe Sereys de Rothschild, enjoyed a menu created with the personal oversight of Alain Ducasse, accompanied by legendary vintages of Mouton Rothschild, including the celebrated 1982 and near-mythical 1945, direct from the estate’s cellars.

For more information visit: chateau-mouton-rothschild.com/ chateauversailles.fr/

This article was originally published in the Spring 2020 Issue.
Line of black tie guests

formal dance in a palace ballroom

Bottle of vintage wine held by a waiter

Fireworks over a lake

Share:
Reading time: 1 min
Mountainside city at night
Mountainside city at night

Georiga’s capital Tbilisi sits amidst the Caucasus mountains, on the border of Europe and Asia. Image by Denis Arslanbekov

Why should I book now?

Thinking of booking a spring break? There are few places more lovely than the Caucasus mountains, on the border of Europe and Asia. And in the region, Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, is unmistakably the most beautiful city. In a broad valley surrounded by mountains, at its heart is a medieval old town with a fortress towering above. The country has two millennia of history and feels like it was once the centre of a culture and empire – which it was. Winters are cold, summers are hot, and spring, with the trees and blossoms in full bloom, are perfect.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

What’s the lowdown?

The Radisson Blu is the best-located hotel in the city, at the top end of the broad Rustaveli Avenue, the magnificent boulevard, lined with palatial buildings, that bisects the town centre like a more elegant Champs-Elysees. Rooms have views across the city to the mountains beyond. It’s a modern, light and airy place with a lot of glass everywhere. Climbing out of our car and being greeted by the doorman was our first taste of hearty, genuine Georgian hospitality – we had two recommendations of things to do before even entering the reception area. The receptionists were equally friendly, and, you felt, from their hearts: this was genuine national pride, not just training.

Interiors of a chic restaurant

Filini is the hotel’s chic Italian restaurant (above), and in the warmer months, guests can dine on the rooftop terrace (below)

Chic rooftop restaurant

Getting horizontal

Our “superior” category room was spacious and very light, with full glass walls on two sides, and gorgeous views across to the churches of the old town. Decor is contemporary and minimal: whites, creams and light greens. The minibar was filled with local snacks – creamy Argo beer, and packets of local pistachios. There are two restaurants in the hotel, both of them contemporary-chic, and an excellent selection of neighbourhood restaurants just across the square. Wander down Rustaveli Avenue, where a highly fashionable passeggiata takes places every evening in the warmer months, and you get to the Old Town’s wonders, but as a place to stay, we preferred being slightly out of the tourist main drag at the other end of Rustaveli.

Read more: Galleria Continua’s Lorenzo Fiaschi on opening a space in Rome

Luxurious hotel bedroom with floor to ceiling glass windows

The rooms on the higher floors offer the best views over the Old Town

Flipside

The Radisson Blu Tbilisi really didn’t have any drawbacks. Although we would advise anyone visiting to pay more for a room on a higher floor, to maximise those views.

Rates: From GEL 424.80 (approx. £100/€150/ $150)

Book your stay: radissonhotels.com/en-us/hotels/radisson-blu-tbilisi

Darius Sanai

Share:
Reading time: 2 min
High altitude restaurants on ski slopes
High altitude restaurants on ski slopes

The new building housing the restaurant, and its modern Swiss interior

Two of Europe’s highest restaurants have opened amid contemporary chic architecture, high above Andermatt, Switzerland

Hold onto your chopsticks. A pair of new high altitude dining outposts is open 2,300m above sea level, on top of a ski slope in the heart of Switzerland. Far from being a place for humble beer and fondue, Andermatt Swiss Alps (ASA) has brought high-level dining of another kind to the slopes by opening a pair of destination gourmet restaurants with the aim of being among the most celebrated in the Alps.

Overlooking the peaceful village of Andermatt and facing the famous Gemsstock ski mountain, they are located in a newly constructed timber building. Designed by London’s Studio Seilern Architects, the structure was pre-fabricated off-site and then lifted into place by crane, ready for its stone façade to be put in place.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

Following the success of The Chedi Andermatt’s Michelin-starred The Japanese Restaurant, a second branch has opened on the Gütsch within Studio Seilern’s building in December 2019. Complete with feature fireplaces and views of the Gotthard mountains, The Japanese by The Chedi Andermatt has 44 seats inside and 45 outside on the terrace, where diners can feast al fresco on sea scallop sashimi and Kombu-Jime mountain trout on a south-facing, high altitude sun-trap. Headed up by executive chef Dietmar Sawyere, there are high hopes that this restaurant, too, can win a Michelin star. “We don’t carry it over,” says Sawyere. “But we will certainly be the highest Japanese restaurant in Europe.”

Kitchen team and chef standing outside window

Chef Markus Neff with the team running Gütsch (at centre wearing black) and at work (below)

Chef in the kitchen

The Japanese is alongside a second restaurant called Gütsch by Markus Neff, on the ground floor of the new landmark in contemporary architecture. Welcoming skiers for lunch in the day and guests for private parties in the evening, the venue seats 66 people indoors and another 145 outdoors across two terraces. Neff is running it with a team of three other people who also worked with him at the Fletschhorn in Saas-Fee near Zermatt, which was awarded 18 Gault&Millau points until 2018. So, it’s in good hands.

“We want to make a restaurant that is unlike any of the others around here – something special, something new,” Neff says. “You won’t see sausage and rosti here, for example. It is not a mountain hut where people eat in 15 or 20 minutes. We’re a high-class, fine-dining Swiss-French restaurant where we make it all from scratch, from handmade pasta to bread. People will come for three or four courses chosen from our à-la-carte menu.” Gütsch is building on the concept of mountain-top restaurant Spielboden in Saas-Fee, where Neff and his team also worked.

Luxurious restaurant interiors alpine

Gütsch offers a Swiss-French fine dining experience

Pastry on a wooden board

Gütsch offers a Swiss-French fine dining experience

Unlike traditional Swiss lodges and cabins, Studio Seilern’s new project is something far more cutting edge and ambitious. Christina Seilern, principle of the firm, says: “Due to the extreme weather conditions in winter, there was only a short time frame that allowed for construction. For this reason, it had to be built in two summers.” Seilern says that it was also a challenge to create a design that catered for two different restaurants. Inspiration came from the idea of a Swiss hamlet, known as a hameau, “where a collection of smaller buildings creates a harmonious whole”, says Seilern. Inside, there are exposed timber beams and wood panelling, while The Japanese also has an open kitchen and sushi bar.

Read more: Francis Alÿs receives Whitechapel Gallery’s Art Icon Prize 2020

What can visitors eat when they visit The Japanese? It isn’t all raw fish. Chef Sawyere explains that people forget that Japan is a mountainous country that has a lot of snow, especially in the north, so their cuisine, which is distinctly seasonal, reflects this. “They have very hearty, warm, winter dishes, too”, he says. As a multi-course kaiseki restaurant, its diners can sample four to 12 courses, but for those who don’t want to take so long eating, there are also bento boxes that hold six to eight small dishes. Sawyere says: “There might be a couple of pieces of sushi, a piece of tempura, a braised dish, a sashimi dish and a grill. I think it will be popular.”

Chef in the kitchen of a sushi restaurant

Chef Dietmar Sawyere preparing a dish at The Japanese restaurant

Plate of sushi and soy sauce

The restaurant imports its seafood from suppliers in France, Spain and even Australia, while specialist ingredients such as Kobe beef (at £270 a kilo) need to be flown in from Japan, but they have also managed to locate a supplier in Basel that has started farming prawns. “Previously it was impossible to buy fresh prawns in Switzerland,” says Sawyere. He is also excited to be working with a local farmer who is rearing cattle for Japanese-style wagyu beef. “It’s been three years in the making and in February we will have our first taste,” he says.

Sake also plays a big part at The Japanese, benefitting from the fact that The Chedi Andermatt has the largest collection of Japanese rice wine in Switzerland. The mountain restaurant has 60 to 70 different labels on the menu – and there is even a sake glühwein (mulled wine), which makes a warming welcome for people when coming in out of the cold.

Read more: Luxury in the wilderness at SUJÁN Sher Bagh, Rajasthan, India

Thanks to developer ASA’s unprecedented transformation of the village, Andermatt has become a desirable place to visit the whole year round. Not only does it have incredible hotels such as the five-star The Chedi Andermatt but also an 18-hole, Scottish-style golf course, and the SkiArena, which is the largest and most up-to-date ski area in Central Switzerland, with 180km of pistes stretching as far as Sedrun and Disentis in the next canton. Just 90 minutes’ drive from Zurich and just over two hours from Milan, each of the buildings in ASA’s development has been designed by a top architect, thus creating a consistently beautiful resort that looks particularly magical under snow. And now, visitors can have a dining experience in the sky to match the very best in any Alpine valley or European resort.

Architectural render of alpine house

Renders of new apartment blocks Enzian (here) and Arve (below, left) to be built in Andermatt

Rare new properties for sale

Architectural renderIn 2020, the building of two new residential properties will commence for those who are looking to own in Andermatt Reuss, located between Andermatt’s Alpine golf course and the village. Apartment House Enzian has 12 high-spec apartments (from 62 to 136sq m), some featuring fireplaces and saunas, as well as private roof terraces and gardens. Apartment House Arve has 17 apartments for sale, in a building clad with horizontal wooden boards reminiscent of traditional chalets. Inside there will be common areas for skis and bikes, as well as stylish open-plan homes looking out over the mountains. All are eligible for foreign ownership.

Find out more: andermatt-swissalps.ch

Jenny Southan

This article was originally published in the Spring 2020 Issue

Share:
Reading time: 6 min
Luxury dining experience in wilderness with monkey running across
Luxury dining experience in wilderness with monkey running across

A monkey runs across the private pool terrace of the Royal ‘Burra Sahib’ Suite at Sher Bagh. Image by James Houston

Why should I go now?

Thanks to  stricter wildlife policies, India’s population of endangered Bengal tigers has increased by 33 percent since 2014, and with 60 tigers roaming 500-square-miles of wilderness, Ranthambore National Park remains the best place to see them.

The park was once the private hunting ground of the Maharajas of Jaipur, and is still home to many ruins of hunting lodges as well as a majestic crumbling fort from the 10th century. The landscape itself is varied with everything from dense jungle to open plains and desert-like areas; each safari jeep is assigned an area on arrival to prevent overcrowding and limit the impact on the habitat.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

The park tends to be quieter at this time of year, making the safari experience especially peaceful and whilst seeing a wild tiger is never guaranteed, it helps to have a knowledgeable guide. SUJÁN Sher Bagh is known to have not just the best guides and trackers, but the luxury group is also committed to conservation, meaning that every guest who stays at the camp is contributing to the group’s philanthropic initiatives.

Sun loungers underneath tree canopy

Sher Bagh’s swimming pool overlooks the wild grasslands. Image by James Houston

What’s the lowdown?

Sher Bagh is a luxury tented camp pitched under a canopy of indigenous trees on the fringes of Ranthambore National Park. There are only 12 tents with the majority arranged in a semi-circle and the royal suite secluded behind mud walls, giving the whole place an intimate, homely atmosphere, emphasised by the warmth of the staff. The place is designed to evoke the romance of old-world travel with wood panelled floors, leather furnishings, vintage trunks, crystal decanters of whiskey and golden oil lamps that light the pathways and hang from the branches come nightfall. The staff are mainly all from the local villages, and everything from the tents to the interior decorations and even the smooth mud surfaces of the pathways are created by local craftspeople, whilst the kitchen uses ingredients grown in the gardens and cultivated on the camp’s farm.

A white lily on lily pads in a pool of water

Image by James Houston

Man hanging golden lanterns onto a tree

Sher Bagh’s staff hang lamps on the trees at every dusk, creating a magical ‘fairy-tale’ atmosphere. Image by James Houston

Breakfast and lunch are generally served in the beautiful grand dining tent with a menu of delicious Anglo-Indian dishes, whilst dinner is traditional Indian cuisine served in a surprise location each evening. The thali and the buttery flaked parathas were amongst the best we’ve ever tasted, and we also loved the selection of canapés served with pre-drinks round the fire every evening, but the bespoke dining experiences were the real highlight. After a morning game drive, our jeep pulled up into the farm yard where a decadent breakfast buffet was laid out underneath the shade of a tree. Before eating, we were given the opportunity to try milking one of the cows and collect eggs from the henhouse, which were then cooked by the chef with fresh herbs and spices. On our final night, we arrived back at our tent to find a table set up on our private pool terrace, surround by hundreds of glowing lanterns.

Dining tables inside luxury tent

Breakfast and lunch are generally served in the main dining tent (above), but bespoke experiences can also be arranged. Below: breakfast served on the camp’s farm after an early morning safari. Images by James Houston

Breakfast buffet in the bush

The park’s animals naturally wander into the surroundings areas. This is especially the case with the monkeys who, during our stay, swung between the branches overhead, played on the roof of our tent and drank from our pool. In the mornings, the camp naturalist showed us the tracks and trip-camera images of nighttime visitors to the farm, including a leopard, sloth bear and hyena. Understandably guides are required to accompany guests back to the tents after dark, but the real magic of the place comes from not knowing what you might encounter, who might be peeping at you through the branches or sharing the same pathways.

Read more: The must-visit destinations of 2020 by Geoffrey Kent

Indeed, most guests come to Sher Bagh for the wildlife experiences. The camp’s luxury 4×4 vehicles depart for safaris every morning and afternoon, with stops halfway through for drinks and snacks in the jungle. Whilst tigers are the main draw, the park is also home to leopards, sloth bears, deer, mongoose, wild boars, hyenas, jackals, crocodiles and an array of tropical birds. For us, one of the most beautiful experiences was watching the monkeys walking amongst the villagers on their way to morning worship. In between drives, the camp is a very peaceful place to relax, swimming, reading or listening to the hum of the jungle.

Getting horiztonal

We stayed in the largest and most luxurious tent: the Royal ‘Burra Sahib’ Suite. Enclosed behind  mud walls, the tent is the most secluded area of the camp with its own private heated swimming pool overlooking the grasslands. The interiors follow the camp’s colonial theme with cream linens, and rosewood and teak furnishings, including a beautiful four-poster bed and two open wardrobes each equipped with a branded safari fleece (the morning drives can be very chilly). There’s a separate sitting room with a curated selection of books, and a spacious bathroom, featuring natural, sustainable bath products. Laundry and ironing are complimentary and the suite comes with a high-tech DSLR camera for guests to borrow on safaris.

Luxury safari tent

Most of the tents are arranged in a semi circle (above), whilst the Royal ‘Burra Sahib’ Suite is secluded behind mud walls (below). Images by James Houston

Inside a luxury safari tent

Flipside

Sher Bagh manages to balance the highest level of luxury with authenticity and honesty. Sustainable practices are integrated into every element of the camp from the homegrown ingredients to the local staff and use of natural materials. The air conditioning units in the rooms and communal areas are the only contradiction to this ethos that we noticed, and although it’s understandably necessary to keep the rooms cool during the hotter months, it seems a shame that these can’t be replaced with a more environmentally friendly option.

Rates: From ₹55,000 for a luxury tent including all meals (approx. £600/€700/ $750)

Book your stay: thesujanlife.com/sher-bagh

Millie Walton

Share:
Reading time: 5 min
White dessert with layers of pastry
White dessert with layers of pastry

The White Millefeuille is chef Anne-Sophie Pic’s ‘masterdish’ at her restaurant inside the Four Seasons Ten Trinity Square London

Anne-Sophie Pic’s London restaurant La Dame de Pic has already been awarded two Michelin stars for its innovative French cuisine, but there’s one dish that everyone’s talking about – and Instagramming. LUX visits Four Seasons Ten Trinity Square to try the infamous White Millefeuille
Female chef in white shirt inside kitchen

Chef Anne-Sophie Pic

Millefeuille is one of the most classic French desserts – even if you don’t recognise the name, you’ve probably eaten, or at least seen it in the window window of a smart pastry shop. Traditionally, a millefeuille is made up of three layers of puff pastry divided by layers of crème pâtissière. French chef Anne-Sophie Pic‘s millefeuille, however, is something quite different.

The dessert arrives on our table in the shape of a perfectly seamless white cube. If you’re active on Instagram, you’ve most likely seen hundreds of pictures, but for those of you who haven’t: it looks a little bit like a giant marshmallow surrounded by foamy white puffs (see above).

We’re anxious as to how to actually eat it. Which side are you supposed to start with? Will it collapse? Will something jump out?

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

Fork in and it holds its cubic form perfectly to reveal layers of thin pastry interspersed with Jasmine jelly and vanilla cream. More importantly though, it’s completely delicious: light and sweet with an unexpected hint of spice from Madagascar pepper.

‘The desire of this dessert was to make a monochrome dish, which is as elegant in its visual approach as it is in its taste,’ Anne-Sophie Pic says. ‘And for me, elegance, then and now, is white. ‘

Contemporary of a stylish restaurant

La Dame de Pic is Anne-Sophie Pic’s two Michelin-starred restaurant at Four Seasons Ten Trinity Square

Read more: Why Hôtel de l’Etrier is the perfect alpine hotel

It’s an elegance that resonates throughout the restaurant from its glassy, bright interiors and crisp table settings to the service and inventive presentation of each dish. The bread, for example, comes as a complete miniature round loaf, served on a bed of smooth white pebbles, which we mistake for dough balls and almost eat.

‘The White Millefeuille lends itself to playfulness: deriving from its perfect shape a signature dessert for each of my restaurants is a game, both for me in creation, and for the customer taking a tour of the Dame de Pic,’ says Pic, whose culinary creations have recently earned the restaurant its second Michelin star and Pic’s seventh.

If you haven’t made it to the restaurant yet, now is the time to go.

For more information visit: fourseasons.com/tentrinity/dining/restaurants/la-dame-de-pic-london/

 

Share:
Reading time: 2 min
Contemporary building sitting on ski slope
Contemporary building sitting on ski slope

The new building at Gütsch-Express mountain station in Andermatt, designed by London architect Christina Seilern. Image by Roland Halbe.

Last weekend saw the opening of two new restaurant concepts at the Gütsch-Express mountain station in the Swiss ski resort of Andermatt. LUX discovers

Perched at the 2,300 metre-high Gütsch-Express mountain station in Andermatt is a sleek building home to two new fine dining concepts: The Japanese by the Chedi Andermatt and Gütsch by Markus Neff. Designed by London architect Christina Seilern, the building provides two distinct spaces for each restaurant, with panoramic views through floor to ceiling windows and spacious terraces for alfresco dining.

Ski lift station and contemporary building

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

The Japanese by the Chedi Andermatt is the more intimate of the two, only seating 44 people inside with additional seating outside. The menu features the likes of shidashi bentō, omakase and kaiseke meals, as well as sushi and tempura specialities.

Interiors of a small restaurant with a fire

Here: The Japanese by The Chedi Andermatt. Below: A selection of the dishes on the menu. Image by Roland Halbe

Plates of Japanese food laid on a table

Read more: An evening of contemporary art and fine dining with Gaggenau

Meanwhile, Gütsch by Markus Neff offers a more traditional alpine ambience with a large, bright dining space, two terraces and a menu focusing on fresh, local produce. Reservations are a must for both.

Alpine restaurant with tables laid for lunch

Gütsch by Markus Neff focuses on fresh, local produce

For more information visit: andermatt-swissalps.ch

Share:
Reading time: 1 min
Sculpture of a head standing on a counter in a kitchen
Sculpture of a head standing on a counter in a kitchen

A sculpture by LouLou Siem installed in Gaggenau’s Mayfair showroom

Last Wednesday evening the doors of Gaggenau’s Mayfair showroom were locked for a private party hosted by LUX with an exclusive art installation by LouLou Siem. Here, we recall the event

If you happened to be wandering past Gaggenau‘s showroom last week, you might have raised an eyebrow as sculptures of human heads were passed through the door. These were the works  installed by LouLou Siem for a private evening event hosted by Gaggenau in collaboration LUX.

A small gold head sculpture inside an oven

Sculptures shown in kitchen setting

Here and above: sculptures by LouLou Siem installed inside the Gaggenau showroom

The artist’s heads and various other sculpted objects appeared looming on counter-tops and illuminated in ovens, lending a touch of macabre to the sleek kitchen interiors. The space provided a unique setting in which to not only view the art, but also appreciate the contrasting textures of the sculptures and Gaggenau’s appliances.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

The evening began in proper with a champagne tasting led by LUX Editor-in-Chief Darius Sanai. A champagne collector and self-professed geek, Sanai introduced four champagnes showing the different styles of what he considers an under-appreciated wine. Guests started with a Louis Roederer Brut Nature 2009, a champagne with zero dosage (effectively, no sugar added) with a label designed in collaboration with Brut Nature fan Philippe Starck. Next was a Louis Roederer Blanc de Blancs 2010, made with 100% Chardonnay in a clear, bright style. Next, a Blanc de Noirs, a champagne made with 100% Pinot noir grapes, showing a richer, deeper style. And finally, Louis Roederer Vintage 2012, which was full-bodied, broad and complex.

Artist with artworks in showroom

Two women in conversation on high stools

Above: LouLou Siem with her artworks. Here: The artist in conversation with LUX Digital Editor Millie Walton

Then followed a live Q&A in which LouLou discussed her practice and installation concept with Digital and Arts Editor Millie Walton. After which, guests descended downstairs for dinner and to admire LouLou’s table installation of gold heads arranged on a bespoke table-cloth with small ghostly faces placed on each napkin.

Read more: Why Crans-Montana is the perfect early-season ski resort

The menu, devised by acclaimed chef Henrik Ritzen, followed a Swedish theme with a main course of fallow deer, caramelised celeriac puree, and lingonberries, followed by frozen vanilla parfait and warm almond cake served in soup made from dried rose hips.

Artworks on a table setting

Small ceramic face on napkin

Guests dined amidst the artworks with a menu by acclaimed chef Henrik Ritzen

For more information visit: gaggenau.com

 

Share:
Reading time: 2 min
Snowy mountain village of St Mortiz
Snowy mountain village of St Mortiz

The Alpine village of St. Moritz offers more than just an exclusive social scene; the winter sports are first rate too, say Darius Sanai

With snow already falling in the Swiss Alps, LUX Editor-in-Chief Darius Sanai looks forward to another first-class ski season in St Mortiz

The first Alpine snowfall of the season has already happened – there is up to 30cm of fresh powder across Switzerland, particularly in the south of the country, due to a weather system recently pushing up from Italy. So naturally our thoughts are turning to St Moritz. Think St Moritz, and you probably think lavish New Year’s Eve parties, long evenings drinking Masseto in friends’ houses, and early evening aperitifs at Pavarotti’s.

It’s easy to overlook the winter sports when you’re so familiar with the social element – and St Moritz has such an engrossing social, cultural and artistic life that you’d be forgiven for never having snapped on a pair of Rossignols while there. Forgiven, but mistaken.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

So here’s a snapshot of what you could, and should, be doing as soon as the lifts open in a few days: it’s our perfect day in St Moritz. We started our day on the slopes at Piz Nair, the top station on the Corviglia mountain, one of three big ski mountains in the area, and the one directly above the village.

It was snowing lightly when we entered the funicular station in St Moritz; we travelled through a layer of thick cloud, fearing a whiteout day, and then, suddenly, we emerged upwards into a blue and white high mountain peaky wonderland.

Cable car on the way up a snowy mountain side

The Signal cable car is the first stage of the journey towards Piz Nair, the peak at the top of Corviglia, the most celebrated of the many ski mountains around St Moritz

At Piz Nair I shuffled over to a snow shelf to look at the view properly. In every direction, triangular peaks were poking out of a soft, uniform blanket of cloud below us. There was no end to the sea of peaks: St Moritz is famous for its “champagne air”, supposedly the purest in the Alps, as it is so well surrounded by high peaks on every side.

Read more: Why now is the time to book into the Bulgari Resort Dubai

The mountain has a superb selection of mainly red runs, suited to good intermediates; we particularly liked the long run all the way from Piz Nair down to Celerina, below St Moritz, which ran through two valleys and finally descended through the trees, with fantastic views of the Piz Bernina mountains, higher than 4000m, opposite. The clouds melted away during the morning, with more panoramas revealing themselves.

fine dining in an alpine restaurant

The White Marmot restaurant with panoramic views of the mountains

And then – lunch. Lunch on the slopes in St Moritz is almost a religion: you are judged by where you go, and where you sit, so here’s some advice: book a table, as soon as you know when you’re going, at White Marmot. This is the restaurant at the Corviglia mountain station, three quarters of the way up the slopes and directly above the town itself. You can easily access White Marmot without skis, by taking the funicular train up, and many people do. Huge picture windows give you an unremitting panorama, and the decor – bare wooden tables fully dressed with huge Riedel wine glasses, 20th century modern design elements, colourful throws, magnums of Dom Perignon sitting on ice – makes White Marmot look like there’s a party going on even before the party has started. The cuisine is beautiful too, varying from Swiss mountain specialities with a contemporary twist to modern Italian haute cuisine.

Luxury alpine hotel within a forest

The Suvretta House is a palace hotel overlooking forests and lakes, with its own ski lift

After lunch, we took a final lift up to Piz Nair to take in the view of what seemed like all of Switzerland again, and headed down, via a series of lifts, to Suvretta House. One of St Moritz’s classic luxury palace hotels, it sits amid a forest on its own ski slope, with its own ski lift. Having skied to the door, we sat in its grand drawing room, looking out over the forest and the valley, sipping on local Pinot Noir, and preparing for the second feast of the day, at Suvretta House’s celebrated Stube restaurant.

The Stube has an informal atmosphere, plenty of Alpine pine, and serves a perfected selection of Swiss, Asian and contemporary American specialities. The chicken wrap is to die for. And all you have to do after dinner is wander up to your room, with a view over the forests and frozen lakes, and prepare for a reprise the next day. Book for early December, and you’ll have fresh snow this year and no crowds.

For more information visit: engadin.ch
Book your stay: suvrettahouse.ch

Share:
Reading time: 4 min
facade of Victorian townhouse with red brick and white windows
facade of Victorian townhouse with red brick and white windows

St. James’s Hotel and Club is tucked into a quiet corner of Mayfair

London might seem spoilt for hotels, but if you’re looking for small-scale, intimate luxury it’s not so easy to find – especially in Central. This is where St. James’s Hotel and Club comes in with a Michelin-starred restaurant and hands-on masterclasses

Tucked in a quiet residential street on the edge of Green Park, almost directly behind The Ritz, St. James’s Hotel and Club benefits from proximity to Piccadilly and Regent’s Street, whilst also offering a sense of relative seclusion. The building itself was originally a members’ club for travelling diplomats, founded in 1857 by English aristocrat and the Sardinian minister. It played host to the likes of Winston Churchill, Henry James and Ian Fleming, among others, until it closed in the 1970s. In 1980, the doors were reopened by Peter de Savary (owner of The Cary Arms in Devon) as a hotel and a club. Now owned by German hotel group Althoff, the hotel has been refurbished with contemporary touches, whilst still preserving a sense old-world charm.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

Our room is the Westminster Suite on the seventh floor. The ambience leans slightly towards the corporate side, but it’s elegantly furnished and features a private terrace, large enough to host a cocktail party. On a less drizzly evening than ours, it would be a very pleasant place for a warming glass of mulled wine whilst admiring the rooftop views. As it is, we have a chocolate masterclass to get attend.

Luxury hotel bedroom with contemporary furnishings

Rooms are decorated with elegant, contemporary furnishings

Luxurious private rooftop terrace

The Westminster Suite’s private terrace

The masterclass is just one of the hotel’s offerings for guests, alongside cheese and wine pairing, and cocktail mixing. Our class is held in a smart basement meeting room and is led by the convivial pastry chef, who shows us how to make and roll truffles whist we sip on glasses of champagne. The class, unlike those at many five-star hotels, is very hands-on, and whilst our truffles come out oddly shaped (some collapsing completely) it’s a lot more fun making than watching. Better yet, our truffles are whisked away to solidify and then returned to our room in ribbon tied bags with a kit containing ingredients and recipes so that we can make more at home. White chocolate passion fruit truffles are a revelation.

Read more: Oceania Cruises’ Managing Director on luxury hospitality at sea

Bowls of chocolate truffles and recipes

The hotel offers a series of masterclasses including chocolate truffle making with the restaurant’s pastry chef

Pre-dinner drinks are served in William’s Bar and Bistro – a cosy and eccentric cocktail bar with a particularly impressive collection of paintings. These are part of the Rosenstein Collection, which includes more than 450 artworks in total, many of which are portraits and can be found dotted around the hotel. We thoroughly enjoy discussing the work whilst sipping cocktails and nibbling on British tapas plates. Guests can also dine here if they choose.

Read more: Panerai x Bucherer launch their latest BLUE collection timepiece

Tonight, though, we have a table booked at the hotel’s Michelin-starred Seven Park Place restaurant. The dining room is comprised of only a handful of tables tucked into a curved room with elaborately patterned walls and soft velvet seats. The menu – here and in the bar – is overseen by Head Chef William Drabble with a focus on the best of British produce which means seasonal plates and locally sourced ingredients. During our stay, the emphasis is on fresh fish and seafood, which, as pescetarian diners, suits us perfectly. Our favourites include the poached lobster tail with a buttery truffle sauce, and the seabass with braised Jerusalem artichokes, wild mushrooms and a red wine and tarragon sauce. Since the wine menu is nearly fifty pages long, we’re more than grateful for the sommelier’s assistance who pairs our courses perfectly to suit our individual tastes.

The service, in general, is friendly and relaxed, which makes for a very welcoming atmosphere. It’s perhaps not the most family-orientated hotel as noise levels are kept to a low hum, and the property itself is small, but for a luxurious city-break or staycation, it ticks all the boxes.

Book your stay: stjameshotelandclub.com

Note: Seven Park Place restaurant closed for refurbishment after our stay, but has recently reopened with a new look. For more information visit: stjameshotelandclub.com/en/restaurant-seven-park-place

 

 

 

Share:
Reading time: 3 min
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.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

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

Share:
Reading time: 5 min
Gorilla with a baby in the forest
Mountainous landscape with blue skies

One&Only Gorilla’s Nest Rwanda overlooks the Virunga Mountain Valley

One&Only Gorilla’s Nest is the luxury brand’s second resort to open in Rwanda, offering guests the opportunity to trek after mountain gorillas and relax within a secluded setting. LUX takes a look inside the newly opened property

Located two and a half hours from Kigali International Airport and five minutes from the entrance of Volcanoes National park, One&Only’s newly opened Gorilla’s Nest resort offers guests a luxurious base from which to explore northwest Rwanda’s extraordinary ecosystem. The park, which takes its name from its five dormant volcanoes, is home to the highest number of mountain gorillas, which guests can trek after through the rainforest.

Luxurious hotel bedroom with large windows overlooking forest

The Silverback Suite with a private swimming pool

Alongside safari expeditions, the resort also offers a variety of experiences including tasting locally farmed coffees, learning photography, traditional dance and basket weaving.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

The camp itself is comprised of 21 elegant rooms, each designed to blend into the natural landscape with cosy in-room fireplaces, private viewing decks and outdoor bathtubs built high-up amongst the trees. The aesthetic is contemporary with a focus on natural materials, whilst paying homage to the colours and patterns of African culture. Our favourite is the Silverback Suite with its own private pool and unparalleled views of the surrounding forest provided by the floor-to-ceiling windows in the bedroom.

Gorilla with a baby in the forest

Luxurious private living room

The Virunga Suite features a spacious living room

When it comes dining, the main restaurant, Nest, utilises locally sourced produce as well as home-grown ingredients from the Chef’s Garden. Or else, guests can choose to dine at the Pool Bar or in a secluded location within the camp’s grounds.

There’s also a small, beautifully designed spa, with two treatment rooms, an open-air heated pool, plunge pool and Fitness Centre with a stream room and sauna. The therapies on offer are all holistic and use plant-based African ingredients, such as coffee and coconut.

Terrace restaurant of a hotel with fireplace

The terrace of the Nest restaurant

Relaxation room inside a luxury spa

The spa’s relaxation room

For more information visit: oneandonlygorillasnest.com

Share:
Reading time: 1 min
Two men sniffing a glass of white wine in a restaurant
Two men sniffing a glass of white wine in a restaurant

Sommelier Marc Almert (right) perfume training

Marc Almert was recently named Best Sommelier in the World at the Association de la Sommellerie Internationale (ASI) championships in Antwerp. Originally from Cologne, the 27-year-old is currently the Head Sommelier at luxury hotel Baur au Lac in Zurich. Here, he gives us an insight into the work and passions of a top sommelier 

Young man wearing a shirt standing in front of an orange wall

Marc Almert

1. Where did your passion for wine come from?

What initially got me interested into wines was a question. I started training as a hotel specialist in my home city of Cologne and I wasn’t drinking any alcohol at the time, because I did not like it. During my training, I noticed I liked some wines and some spirits, however only on certain occasions or paired with certain foods. This intrigued me, and I wanted to understand why certain wines and beverages differ so greatly. And by asking questions and diving deeper into the topic the passion was aroused.

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

2. What is more important for a great sommelier: knowledge of wine, or the ability to deal with customers?

A mix of several features makes a good sommelier. Of course, a profound knowledge of wine and other beverages is crucial. However, having an encyclopaedic knowledge and not being able to apply can be done by books to. A sommelier is a host, entertainer, coach and of course also a waiter – he or she needs to adapt to different kind of guests and their needs and tastes within mere seconds and then ensure they have a great experience throughout the entire evening.

Young man standing in front of a black wall at the Gaggenau sommelier awards

Marc Almert was also the winner of the prestigious Gaggenau Sommelier Awards in 2016

3. What is the most pleasurable part of your job? And the most frustrating?

As a sommelier you should be intimately familiar with most wine growing regions, with their geographic features, their cities, their people, their food, language and of course their wines. This is a most pleasurable and informative way to learn. Taking these new learning points back to your team and then sharing them in trainings with the Baur au Lac staff but even more so with curious guests in the restaurant is one of the most satisfying parts of my job; enhancing the guest experience at the Pavillon [restaurant] by being the vintners’ ambassador.

Wine is a natural product. Many wines are also sealed with a natural product: cork. It is often disappointing when a lot of work has gone into a great bottle of wine on behalf of the vintner, it has been stored in perfect conditions over years or even decades, the guests and myself are excited to open and try it – and then it’s tainted by its cork. That can be quite frustrating, hence I am very happy for the cork industry to keep minimising this problem with new technologies and developments.

4. Are the world’s great wines worth the price?

What do you expect from a bottle of wine you buy or open? Essentially to me it is this question that defines its worth. If it is from a legendary winemaker, a highly rated vintage and a coveted provenance, which has made it quite rare, it can well be worth its price. The price of such bottles does not necessarily reflect the mere production costs, but much more the special moments they create when sharing such a bottle amongst fellow wine lovers, the memories they bring back to trips, countries or even challenging years of history. And of course, then pairing it with intriguing food, such as from our two star chef Laurent Eperon.

Read more: Savills’ selection of luxury chalets in St. Mortiz

5. How has your job changed with the rise of wine bloggers and comparison sites?

The wine world has become a lot more transparent. This has especially led to trends evolving much faster, and quickly becoming more global than it used to be. Due to many crowd sourced comparison sites the industry has also become a little more democratic in its ratings. Furthermore, we see more and more guests coming to the restaurant that are very well informed about the wine world in general and current trends and upcoming winemakers and regions in particular.

6. You are allowed to drink only one wine (or champagne) for the rest of your life. What is it?

For a sommelier it is almost impossible to choose one single wine. If I had to though, it would probably be a well matured Riesling Kabinett from the Mosel. These wines have a great structure and depth to them, vibrant acidity, low alcohol and just the right amount of sweetness – an eternal pleasure.

For more information visit: aupavillon.ch/en/marcalmert.html

Share:
Reading time: 4 min
Andermatt Swiss Alpine village in summertime
Andermatt Swiss Alpine village in summertime

Summer in Andermatt with bike trails, the historic village streets, the Radisson Blu hotel and the new golf course

Andermatt is rapidly becoming one of Switzerland’s best year-round Alpine destinations. Already famed for its winter sports, the resort is now offering activities, accommodation and dining for summer, too, thanks to a major new development. Rob Freeman discovers the joys of the village’s new season

As the winter snows melt on the slopes above Andermatt, the year-round allure of this Swiss village becomes apparent. Thanks to the charm and the beauty of its summer meadows carpeted with white, blue, yellow and pink Alpine flowers, the resort has become a multi- faceted, all-season destination.

As glorious as it is in winter – Andermatt is now a world-class winter-sports centre and part of central Switzerland’s largest linked ski area – the resort, thanks to some remarkable developments that are taking place there, is equally stunning in the summer. In many ways, the contrast between the verdant valleys and the glistening white peaks above in summer makes this landscape even more striking.

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

Andermatt’s parish records go back 800 years, with many of its houses being centuries old, so it’s small wonder that there is a palpable sense of history and tradition in its streets. With such a background, it’s intriguing to see the village enter a new phase, underlined by the recent opening of the elegant shopping and dining square, the Piazza Gottardo, which is part of a visionary development by Egyptian investor Samih Sawiris that will see the village double in size. There’s a distinct yet subtle style to this new car-free area, known as Andermatt Reuss, of which the Piazza is the centrepiece. The trick is having every building individually designed by one of more than 30 Swiss and international architects to create an eclectic rather than uniform appearance.

Swiss village street view

Each new building, as architect Christoph Langenberg, the project manager of the developer Andermatt Swiss Alps, explains, pays homage in one respect or another to the traditional styles of the local architecture. The Edelweiss apartment building, for example, has distinctive shutters with chevron patterns in contrast to the broad arches that protect balconies against the sometimes severe weather. But its most extraordinary feature is its exterior colour, which starts from a dark base and gradually lightens as it rises until seeming to fade into the sky. Diamond shapes are scored into the façade, with wavy lines accentuating the lightness. In another building, House Wolf, the design incorporates the careful gauging of the sculptural effect of the roof overhang.

“The buildings are clustered together more closely than is usual in new projects like this,” Langenberg adds. This is deliberate, to reflect the traditional way in which these villages evolved. The buildings have always been close together for warmth and security. We wanted the new developments to be an extension to the old village, rather than something separate.” One to five-bedroom apartments are available, and the whole project, which will include 30 individual chalets, has no purchase restrictions for foreigners.

Two cyclists riding their bikes around an alpine lake in the summer

The square, complete with fountain, is fringed by shops, restaurants and bars. Restaurant Biselli already epitomises Piazza Gottardo’s village spirit and, from 8am to 11pm, is a focal point for holidaymakers and residents. Occupying the ground floor of the six-storey House Alpenrose apartment building, the restaurant is also a bakery, providing rolls and croissants every morning, and a chocolate shop where the chocolatier can often be seen creating little masterpieces. It also has a small section selling holiday necessities such as milk, butter and jam, even toothpaste. The softly lit restaurant, which is romantic and stylish, has a menu embracing dishes such as goose liver mousse with cognac and truffles, and sea bass baked in puff pastry, as well as local specialities such as tarte flambée of onions, bacon, sour cream and mountain cheese, and dumplings with roasted pork belly.

Read more: Maryam Eisler in conversation with Kenny Scharf

The Mammut sports shop opposite is a high-end ski-rental shop in winter and a bike, hiking and climbing emporium in summer. A Victorinox store has a large selection of Swiss Army and kitchen knives, designer luggage and watches. A pharmacy and small supermarket will soon join the line-up.

Exterior of a building designed as a large chalet

Radisson Blu Hotel Reussen

The impressive Radisson Blu Hotel Reussen opened recently, and its Spun restaurant, highlighting Swiss and Italian cuisine, also fronts onto the Piazza. The hotel also has a fitness zone including two saunas, steam bath and 13 treatment rooms and extensive gym, as well as a 25-metre public indoor pool with floor-to-ceiling windows facing the mountains of the Urseren Valley. A new concert hall with state-of-the-art acoustics and seating 700, designed by British studio Seilern Architects, is attached to the hotel. Further accommodation for the village will include a hotel aimed at families, featuring a water-slide through reception!

Summer offerings include walks from gentle strolls to challenging hikes, and climbing for novices as well as experts. Also popular are e-bikes with auxiliary motors to tackle distances and gradients that would otherwise be out of the question. The Four Headwaters Trail links the nearby sources of four rivers, the Rhine, Reuss, Ticino and Rhone. The 85-km family-friendly route can be split into day trips or a five-day tour staying at huts. And days out on the Matterhorn Gotthard Glacier Express are spectacular. There’s no more marvellous way to enjoy these glorious mountains.

Green of a golf course surrounded by mountains

Andermatt’s 18-hole golf course

The new 18-hole, par-72 championship Andermatt Swiss Alps golf course

Designed to complement its spectacular natural setting, Andermatt’s 18-hole golf course is immediately adjacent to the village. Although it only opened as recently as 2016, it has already achieved the highest possible accolades, including being named Switzerland’s Best Golf Course in the World Golf Awards every year since. Designed by renowned German golf-course architect Kurt Rossknecht, it has the feel of a Scottish links course and meets international tournament standards. Importantly for holidaymakers, it is open to the public on a pay-and-play basis.

Find out more: andermatt-swissalps.ch

This article originally appeared in the Summer 19 Issue.

Share:
Reading time: 5 min
Luxury hotel cottage rooms made from red clay with cactus trees in the foreground
Luxury hotel resort on a hillside

Blue Palace sprawls up a rugged hillside with spectacular views over the ocean

Why should I go now?

Most people go to the Greek islands in summer, but springtime is a far more pleasant time to visit. It’s breezy and warm, rather than insufferably hot (right now, for example, temperatures are in the low to mid twenties) and much less crowded. Plus, Crete is at its most beautiful and fragrant with the wild flowers in full bloom.

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

What’s the lowdown?

Blue Palace sits tucked away in the Gulf of Elounda, roughly an hour’s drive from Heraklion Airport. It’s a big resort, with hundreds of rooms sprawling up the side of rugged slope, but since its built entirely from local stone, it blends beautifully into the landscape and has the appearance of a pretty hillside village. Guests are driven up a private road to the impressive open-air lobby, with huge arches framing the ocean and a long pool that comes halfway inside. This is just one of the many pools at the hotel, many of the rooms have their own infinity pools and there are several down on the beach. As you wander through the grounds you have the impression of being surrounded by soothing blue – the pools, sky and ocean.

A grand luxury swimming pool area with arched building and palm trees

Blue Palace’s grand lobby area and one of the resort’s many swimming pools. Photography by James Houston

In the distance, lies the historic Spinalonga Island, an ex-leper colony and UNESCO World Heritage site. It’s close enough to swim to (or so we’re told), but we take a speed boat accompanied by a wonderfully passionate guide, who tells us that she escorted Lady Gaga on the same trip not so long ago. Other activities include water-sports and various cultural trips. The wine tasting on-board a traditional wooden caïque was one of our highlights, where we got to sample local wines and cheese whilst floating on the azure waters of a secluded cove. On the private beach, suite guests are granted access to the VIP area where they given baskets containing fluffy towels, magazines and refreshing wipes. There’s also a spa with a hammam, sauna, indoor swimming pool and treatment rooms.

Read more: 6 artists creating experiential art

True to Greek culture, the resort is hugely passionate about food with five excellent restaurants to choose from. Anthós is the most romantic (reserve a table on the terrace to dine alfresco and for the best views), but Blue Door is the most fun. Housed inside an old fisherman’s cottage right on the edge of the sea, its in the style of a traditional Greek taverna and serves delicious, authentic Greek cuisine. On the feast nights, there’s live music and dancing. The food comes in vast quantities with an array of delicious dips, breads, fresh fish and “antikristo” lamb, which is slowly cooked for five hours above a bonfire. Be warned: entrance to the restaurant is granted after a large shot of ouzo and guests tend to be coerced into dancing later in the night. This is all part of the wonderful Greek hospitality that makes the resort’s staff some of the warmest, most genuine that we’ve encountered.

Luxury beach with swimming pool and views of islands in the distance

The resort’s private pebble beach with views of Spinalonga island (to the left) in the distance. Photography by James Houston

Getting horizontal

Our suite, named Santorini after the blue and white isle, followed the same theme of nautical colours with elegant, contemporary furnishings, a separate living room, bedroom and a secluded courtyard with a private pool. It was the perfect balance of luxurious and homely.

Flipside

The only thing that felt inconsistent with the resort’s relaxed vibe was the VIP area at breakfast, where suite guests are led to tables on a roped-off platform. It felt a little too exhibitionist for our tastes, and if necessary, it could have been arranged more subtly as it was on the beach.

Millie Walton

Rates: From 235 EUR for a Superior Bungalow Sea View room incl. taxes & breakfast (approx. £200 / $250)

Book your stay: bluepalace.gr

Share:
Reading time: 3 min
A sommelier in the act of pouring wine into a table of glasses
Gaggenau formal dinner layout with black table dressing

The scene of the 2018 Gaggenau Sommelier Awards ceremony gala dinner, held at the Red Brick Art Museum in Beijing

More than sheer knowledge of wine, it takes dexterity, impeccable service and the ability to inspire the diner to be a top sommelier, as the finalists of the 2018 Gaggenau Sommelier Awards in Beijing discover. Sarah Abbott, a judge at the final, describes the peaks of that fine wine world

We are watching Kei Wen Lu about to extinguish a candle. He pinches – does not blow – the flame out. I breathe a secret sigh of relief, and discreetly tick my scoresheet. Beside me, fellow judges Annemarie Foidl, Yang Lu MS and Sven Schnee mark their scorecards.

A sommelier smells a glass of red wine

Kai Wen, one of the 2018 finalists

Such is the assessment of elite sommellerie. Kai Wen won the Greater China heats of the Gaggenau Sommelier Awards, and he is now performing the “decantation task” in the grand final, in Beijing. He faces a room of Chinese and international press, and the relentless gaze of we four judges.

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

For this task, there are 40 elements on which our young finalists are judged. Decanting seems straightforward, perhaps: open a bottle, pour it into a decanter, leaving any sediment behind, and serve a glass to each of your four guests. It is the attention to tiny details that transforms the everyday to the excellent, and the exigent to the sublime.

This task has been created by judge Yang Lu, Master Sommelier and Director of Wine for the Shangri-La Group. Yang has passed the toughest sommelier exam in the world and knows what it takes. Mentor and hardened veteran of elite sommellerie, he challenges these young recruits with his relentless eye for excellence.

Two men and a woman stand in front of Gaggenau sign and sleek metal cabinet

From left to right: David Dellagio, Mikaël Grou and Emma Ziemann, three of the finalists, in front of Gaggenau’s wine storage cabinets

The guéridon must be wheeled smoothly to the right of the host. The bottle must be eased from the shelf and placed gently into the wine basket. You must remove the capsule foil cleanly, and the cork smoothly, without disturbing the bottle in its cradling basket. Ah, but have you remembered to light the candle before you’ve uncorked the bottle? And to wipe the bottle lip with a clean napkin before extracting the cork? And have you assembled those napkins on the guéridon before you bring it over? Kai Wen’s hand is steady as he decants the wine over the lit candle. The room is eerily silent, a camera man is panning up close, and Kai’s every move is magnified for audience and judges on TV screens.

Yang has set traps. He has planted dirty glasses. And he has set out two different vintages of the requested wine. One ‘guest’ decides that she doesn’t fancy the red wine. Can she have a glass of sparkling wine instead? Contestants will lose six marks if they pour the sparkling before serving the other guests their decanted red. More points are ripe for deduction for forgetting the side plate or to offer to remove the cork, or for unequal pours. And for puffing out that candle.

Kai Wen is friendly, focussed and diligent. He avoids most of the traps and completes the decantation within the scarce nine minutes.

Read more: How politics trumps science in the GMO debate

Despite the rigour and specificity of the marking scheme, the personal style of each contestant comes through. Emma Ziemann is the Swedish finalist. Confident and authoritative, she impresses by greeting the judges as if in the theatre of a busy service. She holds our eye, and sails through the decantation, coping well with a dastardly technical question from Yang – designed to put the contestants off mid-pour – about the Saint-Émilion classification.

The pressures of time and occasion are merciless, and most evident during the blind- tasting challenge, in which contestants must taste, describe and identify seven wines and drinks. All identify the Daiginjo Sake without problem, but the old stalwart of French crème de cassis liqueur stumps several. These non-wine beverages are served in opaque black glasses, masking any colourful clues.

A sommelier in the act of pouring wine into a table of glasses

Mikaël Grou, the eventual winner of the 2018 Gaggenau Sommelier Award

South African finalist Joakim Blackadder shows relaxed charm and cool humour. Mikaël Grou, the French finalist, excels. Engaging and poised, he tastes, describes and correctly identifies five of the seven wines and beverages within the allotted twelve minutes. Mikaël impresses for the range and precision of his technical vocabulary, and for his enticing, consumer-friendly descriptions.

All instructions from the judges are spoken and may be repeated only once. It is easy to miss a critical detail. Young, enthusiastic Zareh Mesrobyan is the British finalist. Originally from Bulgaria, he works for Andrew Fairlie’s renowned eponymous restaurant in Scotland. Annemarie Foidl, head of the Austrian Sommelier Association and our chair of judges, gives the instructions for the menu pairing task: Zareh has thirty seconds to read the menu, and four minutes to recommend one accompaniment for each course. “Please include one non-alcoholic beverage and one non-wine beverage.” Zareh seems to love the task. He does triple the work, giving not one but three creative and detailed pairings for each course. Sadly, he cannot gain triple marks.

Read more: Artist Rachel Whiteread on the importance of boredom

The structure of sommelier competitions is well-established around the world, and ours includes many of these classic elements. But Gaggenau is looking for that extra spark, so Annemarie has devised a new task called Vario Challenge, after Gaggenau’s new wine storage units. Built into the stage wall are several wine storage units, calibrated to different temperatures. Each contestant must work their way through a delivery of twelve wines, describe each wine to the judges as if to a customer, and put the wine in the correct cabinet. Swiss finalist, Davide Dellago, excels, wheeling between judges and Vario with grace, and summing up the style and context of each wine with wit and confidence.

The world of sommellerie can seem elitist and arcane. The cliché of the stuffy sommelier
persists, rooted in an increasingly faded world of starched cloths and manners, and of
knowledge used as power, not as gift. As Yang Lu says to me later, it’s critical that sommeliers retain their love for and connection with customers. They must work the floor. Taking part in competitions is a means to an end, not a job in itself.

And what is that end? After a gruelling day of competing, our six finalists worked the floor at a gala dinner. Here is the theatre where sommellerie performs. And this was quite a production. The Red Brick Art Museum, a young, bold architectural venue in Beijing’s art district, was a hip, stylish space. Banqueting tables were dressed in silver and late-season flowers and berries, evoking autumnal birch and harvest bounty. It was time for our young sommeliers to serve not clipboard-wielding judges, but honoured guests.

A chef and assistant plating up dinner in the kitchen

Chef André Chiang plating up for the gala dinner

Our finalists presented six wines with six courses, to each table. The menu was created by André Chiang, the Taiwanese-born, Japanese-raised and French-trained chef, who won two Michelin stars for his Singapore restaurant, Restaurant André. Thoughtful and visionary, Chiang is a revered superstar of contemporary Asian culinary culture. So, the pressure was on.

Sommelier talks guests through wine choices

South African finalist Joakim Blackadder

The finalists had been given just two hours on the previous day to taste the wine with the judges and acquire the facts they needed to tell their wine stories with conviction and colour. All the wines were Chinese. Just five years ago, matching exclusively Chinese wines to food of this nuance, precision and individuality would have been a tall order. Big, gruff, blundering Cabs were the rule. But the ambition and accomplishment of Chinese winemaking today has soared, and these were excellent matches. So it was that our contestants were able to tell a new story of Chinese wine to guests. Of six different styles, of six different grapes, and from six different regions.

Grace Vineyard Angelina Brut Reserve 2009, an intricate and sabre-fresh, champagne- method sparkling, was served with the pure, enticing first course of braised abalone with green chilli pesto and crispy mushroom floss.

They presented Kanaan Winery’s mineral, elegantly aromatic 2017 Riesling with the softly textured, seductive second course of asparagus, caviar broken egg and non-alcoholic Seedlip Garden 108 herbal spirit.

Read more: PalaisPopulaire & Berlin’s Cultural Revolution

Contemporary Chinese wine is inspired by European traditions, but the deeply traditional aged 2008 Maison Pagoda Rice Wine thrilled our sommeliers with its tangy, nutty intensity. Both strange and familiar, it recalled old Madeira or Oloroso, but with a deeper, salty well. It was superb with the dark marine crab capellini, laksa broth and curry-dust sea urchin.

There is one dish that Chef André never removes from his restaurant menu (I suspect, having tasted it, for fear of riots). European culinary tradition and Asian technique come together in this dish of foie gras jelly, black truffle coulis and chives. Part jelly, part mousse, this intelligently decadent dish was paired with the delicately sweet, honeyed 2014 Late Harvest Petit Manseng from Domaine Franco-Chinois.

The first and only red of the evening was perfumed and confidently understated. 2015 Tiansai Vineyards Skyline of Gobi (yes, as in the Gobi Desert). This scented, floral and plush syrah/viognier was a surprisingly successful pairing with chargrilled Wagyu beef.

You know that a wine culture is developed when signs of an iconoclastic counter-culture peek through. Our final wine of the night was, in essence if not in name, a natural wine. Bottled in one-litre flip-top bottles and made from the too often dismissed hybrid grape vidal, the 2017 Mysterious Bridge Icewine was as wild and fresh as the mixed-berry jelly dessert with which it was served.

Our sommeliers told these stories. They blossomed in service, freed from the heat of their earlier competition but also strengthened by it. They delighted our guests with their own delight in these new discoveries. This is the calling of sommellerie – to notice, describe and share the beauties of wine with new ideas of what is beautiful.

In the end, Mikaël Grou was victorious. But, as fellow judge and head of Brand Gaggenau, Sven Schnee said, each of those young sommeliers were winners. They, and we, were touched by this experience of Chinese history, culinary culture and pure vinous potential.

Discover more: gaggenau.com

This article was first published in the Winter 19 Issue

Share:
Reading time: 8 min
Exterior of luxury ski hotel on the edge of a piste
Exterior of luxury ski hotel on the edge of a piste

Guests of five-star hotel Aman Le Mélézin can step straight out of the ski room onto the piste

Why should I go now?

The snow in the French alps this season is sensational; the skiing is velvet-powder perfect and Courchevel 1850 is a white-dusted fairy-tale.

It’s one of the prettiest and most exclusive resorts in the heart of the world’s biggest ski area, Les Trois Vallées. Courchevel somehow manages to balance quaint with outrageous; wooden shutters, horse and carts and traditional French boulangeries sit alongside designer boutiques, Michelin-starred restaurants and luxury hotels, of which ski-in ski-out hotel Aman Le Mélézin is one of the most sophisticated.

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

What’s the lowdown?

The Aman is an elegant, grey chateau-style hotel right on edge of the Bellecôte piste, an easy green run down to the main ski lift station and the central village. Everything from the warm wooden panels, stone flooring and soft grey armchairs to the bonsais, artwork and Japanese sake cups has been carefully selected to create an atmosphere of calm, seamless luxury. It feels effortless and homely. Many of the doors melt into the wooden panelled walls so it takes time to find the hidden areas. Guests are invited to roam at leisure without the constant presence of staff breathing down their necks and with only 31-rooms it never feels busy. One afternoon, we had the spa entirely to ourselves and spent a few blissful hours drifting between the pool, hot tubs, hammam, sauna and rainforest shower, which pours to the accompaniment of tropical birdsong.

Luxurious sitting room with green velvet sofas, log fire and snowy landscape through the window

The cosy bar and lounge area at the front of the hotel

Meals are all served at Nama, the hotel’s restaurant which serves a limited but delicious French-style breakfast, and at night, becomes Japanese fine-dining. The kitchen is headed by chef Keiji Matoba, who creates innovative, authentic Asian dishes such as platters of melt-in-the-mouth fresh sashimi served on a bowl of ice, grilled black cod marinated in sweet miso and mochi sakura ice cream. The sake list is extensive with the option of a bottle or carafe, which comes in a hand-made Japanese ceramic jug.

Read more: Philip Colbert’s “Hunt Paintings” at Saatchi Gallery, Los Angeles

Downstairs is the new, spacious piste-side ski room where knowledgable staff literally put your feet into your boots and more or less onto your skis. If you’re feeling energetic, you can take the lift straight up and ski down into Méribel and over to Val Thorens all in time for lunch, or else enjoy the staggering views and mountain air with a vin chaud on the terrace of a restaurant whilst private planes fly overhead to land on the high-altitude altiport.

Sushi and sashimi arranged on a bowl of ice

A sushi platter at the hotel’s restaurant Nama

Getting horizontal

Our room was high-up on a corner of the building with two balconies providing views over the piste and village. The space was light and relaxing, minimally furnished in creams and light wood with white orchids. There was a horizontal window at the end of the bathtub, from which we could watch skiers gliding past.

Luxury ski hotel bedroom with a double bed and windows looking onto snowy landscape

Chambre Melezin with two balconies overlooking the piste and Courchevel

Flipside

The hotel is a little bit behind the times when it comes to tech, which may frustrate guests used to contemporary conveniences (there are no bedside iPads or digital concierges), but when you’re in the quiet of the mountains, perhaps it’s no bad thing to be dragged away from hyper-efficiency.

Rates: From €1, 100 (approx. £950 /$1,250) per night, half board

To book your stay visit: aman.com/resorts/aman-le-melezin

Millie Walton

Share:
Reading time: 3 min
Luxury hotel complex on top of a hill overlooking Lake Lucerne in Swtizerland
Luxury hotel complex on top of a hill overlooking Lake Lucerne in Swtizerland

The Bürgenstock resort complex sits atop a mountain ridge overlooking Lake Lucerne

At the new Bürgenstock resort in Switzerland, medical science meets luxury indulgence. Darius Sanai gets checked out at the spectacular retreat with high-end dining as well as top doctors and testing facilities

Medical spa. Two words to strike fear into the  mind of any traveller; or into my mind, at least.  For in my experience, such places fall into one of two categories. One follows the pseudo- scientific line: where you are ushered into a world of energy types, detox, alkaline cures and naturopathy. That’s not to denigrate mystical and ancient health rites, many of which might have a positive psychological effect in these stressed-out times, but if I want to know if there’s something wrong with me, I want to really know, not be treated by someone who tells me I need to eat spinach to increase my body’s pH and therefore its alkalinity (if our stomachs were not highly acidic, we would be dead).

The other type of medical spa historically employs real doctors, but in a joyless, alcohol-free environment more akin to a prison camp than a luxury retreat, so, while you may emerge genuinely more healthy and with a good idea of what’s gone wrong with you, you’re also likely to decide you’d rather die young than return.

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

So it was with fascination that I approached the Waldhotel at Bürgenstock, in Switzerland. Bürgenstock has a place in European history, as a hotel, once beloved of Hollywood stars (Audrey Hepburn lived here), high up overlooking Lake Lucerne. It was recently developed into a series of super-luxe hotels, including what claims to be one of Switzerland’s best medical hotels, and restaurants, by its new owners from Qatar. I decided to check in for a couple of days for a full checkout; like many men, I have no qualms about spending thousands maintaining my collection of classic cars in perfect shape, but have never even had so much as a spark-plug examination on my own body.

Bürgenstock sent me a very thorough, and beautifully presented, programme. I would stay at the five-star Waldhotel for three days; after my blood was taken on the first day, I would mingle a series of tests and scans (the most important one being a full examination by a cardiologist) with feel-good spa treatments, relaxation in the pools, and some dining in their restaurants.

Luxury indoor spa swimming pool

The pool at the Waldhotel, where medical and spa facilities are combined

The resort is a series of buildings, built out and along from the original Palace hotel, along a ridge some 500m above Lake Lucerne. The sharpness of the ridge means you have two completely different perspectives, as if you are on a movie set. In one direction, the mountain drops away almost vertically, through vertiginous forests, into the lake; from the café terrace of the Palace hotel, you can see boats, quays and summer houses far below, like dolls house parts. The lake spreads out with Lucerne itself sprawling at one end, and beyond, numerous ridges of hills behind which other lakes alternate with forest and meadow, all the way to Germany in the distance.

In the other direction, there is almost no drop at all: just a gentle bowl of high Alpine pasture, fluorescent green, cows tinkling their bells, giving way to forest beyond, and then neck-strainingly high peaks, covered with snow even in mid-summer, in the far distance.

Read more: A VIP ferry ride from Dover to Calais with DFDS

My hotel room had the latter view, which was very relaxing. The room was large, modern and coolly decorated in blonde woods and taupe furnishings, with a big balcony on which you could relax with a cigar at night (having done your lung function test already, of course) and feel the sounds and smells of the meadows.

The medical centre was just a few floors down. My blood was taken efficiently in a lab-like room, and I went off for breakfast on a roof terrace with a wider view of the meadow and mountain side of the resort. There are no hints here that you are in a place where you must deny yourself; the breakfast provided everything from pancakes and omelettes à la carte to home-made cornflakes. I spent the rest of the day swimming in the main pool in the Bürgenstock hotel, a five-minute walk away through the resort, and gaping at the quite astonishing view from its wraparound spa pool which overhangs the cliff face down to Lake Lucerne. Dinner at Sharq, along the ridge, had equally magnetic views, as day turned to dusk and the lights of one of the world’s richest areas popped up all around below us. Sharq serves Persian and Lebanese cuisine, and its khoresh dishes and marinaded grills were as good as any Persian restaurant’s, anywhere. The wine list focuses on Lebanese wine, but you can also order from the main restaurant list.

Luxury contemporary facade to Waldhotel, Switzerland

The entrance to the Waldhotel, newly built in 2017

The next day, Dr Verena Briner, head of the medical centre and one of the country’s most prominent physicians, went through my blood test results with me. Page after page of measurements revealed – nothing at all. I was fine. I didn’t even need an oil change. But that was just the beginning. She handed me over to a consultant cardiologist, who put me through a variety of physical exertions while examining my heart with an echocardiogram. All fine. Next, I was scanned for bone density, and body fat vs body muscle. All fine, despite the Persian meal the previous night. A lung function test was OK also, meaning the cigar was on the cards that night. A full pass, with no red flags, or even yellow lights. After all that effort, I was almost disappointed – but not, of course, and no medical can test for absolutely everything that could be wrong with you – but Bürgenstock did well, all while I was having a fabulous holiday.

On the last night, I celebrated at Spices, the Bürgenstock’s flagship restaurant, which is cantilevered over the cliff’s edge. You could pick between Cantonese and Japanese, and all the lights below added to a Hong Kong vibe. It was astonishing, but true: one of Europe’s most spectacular contemporary luxury experiences is also home to a brilliant medical spa.

Vital Statistics

Dr Verena Briner, Medical Director of the Bürgenstock Resort, on the key elements you have to be aware of to ensure a long and healthy life, and how they are tested

The basic check-up focuses on the most common diseases. The programme includes taking the patient’s history and conducting a clinical examination. We screen for diseases that affect the blood  (eg. anaemia), the liver and kidney, metabolism (such as diabetes and atherosclerosis), and vitamin deficiency. We measure blood pressure, run an ECG, use bone densitometry to identify any risk for osteoporosis and carry out an ultrasound scan of the abdomen. For anyone over 45, a colonoscopy is recommended as carcinoma of the gut becomes more likely as we get older. The lung function test may show signs of smoking-induced damage. Measuring body mass index and body composition is important, too, as obesity often leads to high blood pressure, diabetes, impaired lipid metabolism, sleep apnea (snoring) and arthrosis in the joints.

We check also for cardio-vascular diseases, of which the majority of the population of the Western world die. Since the development of interventional cardiology, people rarely die from a sudden heart attack but are much more likely to have a chronic condition such as atherosclerosis of the blood vessels, which may be treated with drugs, angioplasty, stents or bypass operation. The risk factors that accelerate atherosclerosis include high blood pressure, diabetes, being overweight, smoking, high cholesterol, and little or no physical activity. A history of coronary artery disease in the family increases the chance that the patient will develop it as well. The cardiologist supervises a stress test and uses echocardiography to spot any impaired heart muscle function. If there are signs of reduced blood flow in the coronary arteries, we recommend a coronarography or a heart CT scan.

The Waldhotel works with the Lucerne central hospital where this can be done. Anyone short of time may prefer to come to the Waldhotel Medical Centre where we can organise all the tests during their stay.

Book your stay: buergenstock.ch

This article was originally published in the Winter 19 issue.

Share:
Reading time: 7 min
Luxury dining room with large windows into the gardens
Luxury dining room with large windows into the gardens

The winter terrace at Rampoldi restaurant in Monaco

First opened in 1946, Mediterranean restaurant Rampoldi is legendary in Monaco for hosting Hollywood icons such Princess Grace and Roger Moore. Now with a fresh new look and a young star chef at helm, the restaurant has its sights set on Michelin status. LUX asks chef Antonio Salvatore 6 Questions.

Portrait of Rampoldi restaurant's head chef Antonio Salvatore

Chef Antonio Salvatore

1. What are some of the food markets across the world that inspire (or have inspired) your cooking?

Food is emotion. I believe food generally serves as a natural gateway to a more profound understanding of culture and history, people and places. I’ve made no secret of my affection for cooking with fresh produce. Some markets that have really caught my eye are: La Boqueria in Barcelona, Mercado Saint Miguel in Madrid or Rungis in Paris. Wherever I go, I take inspiration from what I see and bring that into Rampoldi’s special gourmet dishes.

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

2. Which dish are you most proud of at Rampoldi and why?

I think it would definitely have to be the roasted baby goat with aromatic herbs. My attachment to this dish is deep, dating back to my childhood. The rugged terrain of Basilicata [in Southern Italy], where I come from, makes the area well-suited to goat grazing. The tender, tasty meat of baby goats from the area is very valued. I love this dish for its simplicity and unparalleled flavour… some our clients come especially for this.

3. What’s the secret behind your famous tomato sauce?

A true classic of Italian cuisine! It’s perfect for so many dishes, but especially for pasta. Fresh tomatoes from the garden and the best olive oil are two of the main ingredients. For the rest, you’ll have to come to Rampoldi to try it out…

Luxury dish served at Rampoldi restaurant in Monaco

Beef steak tartare with Royal Premium caviar and apple sorbet

4. With so many luxury dining options in Monaco, how do you stand out?

Our clients understand that dining out at Rampoldi is a great opportunity to unwind, relax and enjoy a delicious meal in a great atmosphere. I have always believed this is what most people are looking for when they decide to dine out. Our clients are at the core of everything we do. We have created a very strong connection with our regulars over the years. I know all of their favourite dishes and flavours!

Read more: Geoffrey Kent’s hottest travel experiences & destinations for 2019

5. Where do you see the restaurant in five years?

My heart is in Rampoldi. My everyday goal is to see my clients happy. Rampoldi has become a feeling, a state of mind. Over the next few years, I’m aiming to achieve our first Michelin star, which would be a great validation of our work. We also have plans on expanding internationally in the next couple of years.

a gourmet dessert elegantly served at Rampoldi restaurant

Rampoldi’s ‘Le Citron’ – lemon and mint pieces covered in white chocolate mousse, coated in a crispy shell

6. What’s the most important lesson you’ve learnt as a chef?

Over the years, I have had incredible opportunities, working alongside some of the world’s most famous chefs. After spending so much time with these incredible and successful individuals, I now better understand the meaning of creating a compelling vision for my life: understanding the power of a decision, working harder than anyone else to achieve my goals, and learning to adapt in life and my career when things don’t go as planned. However, the most powerful lesson I’ve learnt is to respect and understand the power of relationships. This is something I brought with me at Rampoldi and is at the core of everything we do.

Find out more about the restaurant: rampoldi.mc

Share:
Reading time: 3 min
Mountainside hotel overlooking lake pictured at night with snowy surroundings

Perched on top of a mountain, the Bürgenstock Hotel boasts unparalleled views of Lake Lucerne

Bürgenstock is the most ambitious resort development in European history, a spectacular complex of luxury hotels, spas, contemporary restaurants and a high-end medical clinic perched on top of a mountain overlooking Lake Lucerne in Switzerland, on the site of a historic hotel and developed at a cost of 550 million Swiss francs by the Qataris. LUX Editor in Chief Darius Sanai speaks to Managing Director Bruno Schöpfer about the challenges and delights of creating something on a scale never done before
Portrait of a man wearing a suit with glasses and a purple tie

Bruno Schöpfer

LUX: Bürgenstock is not just about creating something for now, it’s also a vision of the future in many aspects. How did that come about?
Bruno Schöpfer: That’s a big question! First of all, the Bürgenstock Resort has a past, so it’s not something created from scratch. When I took over the whole development, I created a slogan called the ‘future has a past’ and, as an example, we held an exhibition with historic elements and future elements in order to show not only the press, but also internal people working on the project that we will honour the past. We want to protect our heritage because one day these global visitors will want to visit us to see not only our clear mountains, our air, our lakes, but also to see our history.

And then of course we wanted to recreate the stories about all the famous visitors such as Mahatma Gandhi or Audrey Hepburn (who lived here for 12 years). What great stories to have and to build on for the future. We have included all of these elements in the development of the resort.

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

Another important element is food and beverage, especially for Asians, [for whom] food is immensely important. At breakfast they talk about what they want for lunch and at lunch they talk about what they want for dinner. So the food element is key to the resort. We tailored it to our future visitor markets. Not that we wanted to forget our Swiss.We know the Swiss are also well travelled and will enjoy Spices restaurant with its Chinese, Indian, Japanese, Thai cuisine, and they will enjoy Sharq, the oriental restaurant with Lebanese mezze and Persian grills. All of these elements together, I think, are a cocktail for success. The resort, as the largest of the developments in Switzerland, is what we call the beacon – in German we call it the leuchte – to bring visitors to Switzerland.

LUX: How did you choose the brand name for the emerging group?
Bruno Schöpfer:  We have three historic brands: the Schweizerhof, the Royal Savoy – which, in my opinion, has the biggest potential for international development because it is unique – and of course the Bürgenstock brand. Again, it is very much a Swiss brand – it has been in place for 145 years – and we decided this would become the umbrella brand for the properties.

Luxury hotel bedroom with views of a lake through the window

A Deluxe Lakeview Room at the Bürgenstock Hotel

LUX: Is there potential for expanding the brand beyond Switzerland?
Bruno Schöpfer: There is potential, but for the last ten years we have been focusing on conceptualising and renovating these wonderful assets – we’ve spent one billion Swiss francs on them – and I think the next focus should be to market these globally. And then as a next step yes, I can see an expansion, but one step after another. Now we have established, next is to market it globally and then, yes, there could be an expansion.

LUX: In the past F&B was more incidental to the hospitality concept in Europe, whereas here the restaurants are really a destination in themselves, with their own identity. You didn’t bring other brands in to run your restaurants – what was the thinking behind that?
Bruno Schöpfer: My passion is F&B. I started off my career as an F&B manager in famous hotels such as Mandarin Oriental Bangkok and in my spare time, my hobby is to look at amazing hotels and restaurants. Because of that knowledge, I’ve met and worked with some amazing talent. I basically felt that we would be able to manage with our own global talent. We do have one association and that’s with Marc Haeberlin, who has a three Michelin-star restaurant in Alsace and is the consultant chef at RitzCoffier. We very much put a focus on absolutely great talent. I myself have worked in Thailand, Malaysia and the Philippines; the executive chef/culinary director worked in the Philippines, Thailand, Switzerland and the US.

Read more: New levels of sophistication in Ibiza Town

LUX: You’ve created a new dining concept in each of the locations – was that with an eye to the future market?
Bruno Schöpfer: That’s a very good question. If a Swiss goes on holiday to China, after one week he is looking for his Swiss sausage salad. Today’s international traveller from, let’s say, China or India, is no different. After a couple of days, they want their authentic, national cuisines. We know that in Switzerland there are very few really good oriental restaurants. So the key to our success will be to create many cuisines in the hotels in which we operate. I know very well that these markets will change and develop, and before long – especially the Chinese and Indian markets – they will become a lot more sophisticated, and the need for their cuisine will always be there. We always have the future markets in mind. And we’re not surprised that we’re seeing a Swiss liking for such cuisines; the Swiss are a big travelling nation and you see them in all the markets. For them, it’s very emotional if they can eat a good Thai, Japanese or Indian meal here at home.

Luxury restaurant dining room with large glass windows providing views of a lake

Spices Kitchen & Terrace overhangs Lake Lucerne with an open kitchen

LUX: What’s the difference between creating Bürgenstock as a resort and creating Bürgenstock the brand?
Bruno Schöpfer: One advantage is that the brand goes back 145 years. It was once a great brand, but a lot of people will agree it is much easier to reenergise a brand than to create one. We are not a large company here who can put hundreds of millions of dollars behind the creation of a brand. We made the decision with the Schweizerhof, the Savoy and Bürgenstock to keep the historic branding; they have a following and a history. It’s all about brand protection and brand management. If you start a new brand it can be quite a challenge just to be registered. We have succeeded with ours because they have been in the market for so long, all of them. But now it’s a matter of how we reload and reenergise them, because a brand is only as good as its content.

LUX: Is Bürgenstock a reason to come to Switzerland for your many of your guests who otherwise wouldn’t? Are they coming here instead of going elsewhere?
Bruno Schöpfer: I think Bürgenstock should become a reason for people to come to Switzerland. We compete when it comes to the inter-continental travel market for travellers’ time. We need to give an international traveller enough attractions, or what I call ‘wow’ factors. It’s all about ‘wow’ today. We want people to come to our resort, pull out their phone and send a WhatsApp picture to their friends. They call it mouth-to-mouth advertising. We want that to happen.

We want to create not one USP, but many USPs, and if you look around here in the resort, you see lots of ‘wow’ factors. Is it the spa with the infinity pool 500metres above Lake Lucerne? Is it the Spices restaurant overhanging the lake and with its amazing open kitchen? Is it the health and medical wellness facility? There are lots of ‘wow’ factors. The reason is very simple. We want the people who visit us for a restaurant to be so impressed that next time they will stay here three days. And we can see that happening right now – it’s high season and we have a lot of Middle Eastern traffic. Most of the people who check-in extend their stay. Just yesterday I had someone staying for two nights who extended his trip by another two nights because, he says, ‘I cannot see it all in two days, I need four!’

Stunning outdoor infinity pool overhanging a lake with snowing landscapes in the distance

The infinity pool at the Alpine Spa, 500 metres above Lake Lucerne

LUX: You’ve been in the luxury travel industry for a while now. How has luxury travel and the leisure traveller changed over the last twenty years?
Bruno Schöpfer: The biggest change happened, in my opinion, with 9/11. From then on we’ve been seeing a lot more private air travel. Here we have the great advantage of a private air strip and four helicopter pads, so we’re seeing more people arrive by private planes and helicopters. Another change is that people are having more holidays. The historic holidays of people staying in the resort for two weeks are now less common. When it comes to our Bürgenstock Hotel and the Palace, the average stay is two or three days.

LUX: Are travellers’ demands higher now?
Bruno Schöpfer: As a whole, yes, demands are much higher. I would say that in the luxury sector generally service has improved. We are a lot more customer-oriented than in the past. Social media and online rating systems put everyone on their toes and make it more demanding, because people can read about it for themselves on Google. But I think the key has to be employing talented people who are interested and passionate about what they do. I always say I’ve never worked a day in my life. In other words, you have to have fun. If you’re not having fun then what are you doing? If it’s not fun then it’s really boring. We need more people who really enjoy what they’re doing, and I think here we offer a surrounding that gives you that. But of course it’s a tough job…I don’t want to glamourise it. It’s a tough job with high occupancies, full restaurants and lots of check-ins and check-outs. If you don’t enjoy what you’re doing it would be difficult.

Read more: Sassan Behnam-Bakhtiar in conversation with Jean Cocteau

LUX: You’ve been open a year now – what have been the greatest challenges?
Bruno Schöpfer: How long do we have? First of all it was a challenge to just get everything ready. When you’re building thirty buildings all to a certain standard, with high interior design specifications, you need to have an amazing team and really passionate people around you. You need to communicate well with your builders. There are so many elements that have to come together from all over the world: marble from Italy, case goods from China…it’s a fantastic logistical masterpiece. And of course you have delays. When things are not there you have to be creative and know how to overcome a certain shortcoming.

Another challenge is the defects: when you take a building into operation it looks great, but you flush a toilet or have a shower for the first time and you realise there are a few issues that you need to fix. That’s normal for building projects. These rectifications are very strenuous and time-consuming because they involve not one but sometimes half a dozen parties. That’s challenging.

Luxury spa with relaxation beds

The silent room at the Alpine Spa

Another challenge for us is the weather. When we have wonderful weather we have perhaps three times more visitors than when we have bad weather, and the implications of that can be tremendous in both cases. You might have full fridges, but the weather is less good so you have less day visitors. But then you might suddenly have wonderful weather and you have three times more visitors than expected. We had amazing weather in September, so when people heard the resort was opening we were flooded with thousands of people. That put a lot of strain on the team and the restaurants, all of which were not yet used to the operation.

There’s also training and retaining staff. The fact is, when you hire a team, not everyone will stay. Twenty percent might leave because they don’t like the job, or you don’t like them, and so you need to re-recruit. So that was basically the first year. But the main challenge besides the usual delays of construction and the defects was the tremendous level of business we had. We opened with full hotels, full restaurants and that has been quite a challenge.

Read more: Wendy Yu on building bridges between the East and the West

LUX: The resort must require a big team – how do you find your staff?
Bruno Schöpfer: There is a staff issue in Switzerland. We have a big pharmaceutical industry and a banking industry; in other words, we have many competing industries with tourism. Fifty percent of our graduates from École hôtelière de Lausanne, my alma mater, join banks, the famous food companies. So, how do we bring 700 people to work here? One strategy from day one was to build at least two hundred staff rooms in the resort to provide convenience for staff members. We now have 200 staff members who live in the resort, so we provide them the fantastic convenience of walking five minutes to work. No commuting – that’s one way to bring staff here. People who are interested and passionate about the industry love to work with such an amazing brand because it’s great for their CV. The chefs love to work here because we are not a boring Swiss restaurant. Young people find this a very interesting and enriching resort to work in. They can learn. When it comes to these great restaurants we needed specialists from these countries. In Switzerland we have very strict labour restrictions, so we couldn’t hire someone from Thailand without a labour permit. We had to obtain what are called third-country permits to hire people from Iran, Lebanon, India, Thailand, China and Hong Kong, who bring the authentic know-how of these cuisines to us. We don’t want to create fusion food, we want to create original dishes. To achieve this we need the right employees.

LUX: We have a lot of readers and friends who historically will go for their detox weekends to Lanserhof or Merano; will this be an alternative?
Bruno Schöpfer: We would love to be an alternative, but we are also aware that we cannot create that in twelve months. You’ve actually just touched on a business I’m very passionate about. I have visited – although I don’t look like it – every place under the sun when it comes to the likes of Lanserhof and Merano, and when I created the concept of the resort in 2008, I asked myself what the next big thing in Swiss tourism was. Nowadays every hotel has residences, ballrooms, the traditional spas. We must be able to take advantage of the reputation of Swiss medical treatments. The King of Saudi Arabia comes to Geneva for medical treatments, the ruler of Doha flew in after he broke his leg for treatment in Zurich, we have a lot of Chinese who come to Switzerland for what we call the ‘sheep’ treatment [a treatment involving the injection of stem cells from sheep]. So there is a lot of history and outstanding medical treatment here in Switzerland.

When we developed this concept I had the help of a doctor and I created a medical advisory board. We basically looked at five business segments which we have now developed. One segment is what we call the medical recovery where people recover from musculoskeletal operations and cancer treatment. But we are not a hospital and we don’t want to be one because that is a totally different investment. We don’t want to be in competition with hospitals – there are plenty of operating theatres in Switzerland – we want to work with hospitals. So the rehabilitation section is where people are rehabilitated after they have been operated on in surrounding hospitals.

outdoor pool surrounded by snow with steam rising and plush surrounding sun loungers

The outdoor pool at the Waldhotel Spa

We have a detox and weight-loss segment. There is also a basic need for the medical check-up, not a ‘hocus-pocus’ one but a proper medical check-up which analyses bone, muscle and fat density, hormones, etcetera. Another special element is psychosomatic rehabilitation, which I approached from a business point of view. Together with cancer, burnout is the fastest-growing condition in the population, especially in a place like Switzerland where we are all in the tertiary sector and under immense pressure to deliver. Burnout is prevalent. This is big business for us – sorry if I call the wellbeing of others a business – but we have a facility here which is pristine, where you can have a perfect sleep in the perfect surroundings, with green mountains and fresh air where you can recharge your batteries. We are in a fantastic location to do this. That is one of our other areas of expertise. The last one is all to do with anti-ageing, because people want to look better. I hate the word anti-ageing – we call it ‘better ageing’ – but it’s everything about skin and looks. We have Dr Jalili, a very good dermatologist, and of course botox is a part of it all too; that’s basically what the Waldhotel offers.

At the end of the day, the resort is a one-stop shop in one place and in two days you can do a total medical check-up on the spot. It’s very efficient.

LUX: Where will Bürgenstock the brand be in 10 years?
Bruno Schöpfer: I’d love to see another couple of hotels. I hate to say ten hotels in ten years…I don’t believe in that. I’d much rather see two or three hotels that are just right rather than growing for the sake of growing. Let’s just do it right. A good brand needs to develop in its own time. It’s also very difficult to recreate a place like the Bürgenstock Resort. It’s unique.

LUX: That was my next question – how will you find anywhere else, is there anything else like this?
Bruno Schöpfer: There could be, there could be. But one has to look very carefully. It’s difficult to find a place with this amazing history, this privileged location, these amazing buildings and atmospheric hotel village. But never say never..

For more information on the resort and facilities visit: buergenstock.ch

Share:
Reading time: 16 min
Rooftop restaurant with tables laid ready for dining and views of the sea and a fort in the distance
Colourful entrance to Mikasa with turquoise tiled staircase and the shadow of palms

The entrance to recently opened boutique hotel, Mikasa.

Most luxury travellers know that the most beautiful corners of Ibiza are in the North, far away from the strip of infamous clubs, but the opening of new boutique hotel Mikasa in the centre of Ibiza Town is a game changer, says Digital Editor Millie Walton – and it’s open all year round

It’s early evening in Ibiza and we’re sitting on the rooftop terrace of the newly opened Mikasa hotel at the Lebanese restaurant. The surface of the sea is shimmering gold with the light of the setting sun and the super yachts loom almost spectral in the rosy hue. As it’s not yet 8pm, we’re the only ones on the terrace (in the Med, the evening begins proper at 11pm) and it’s almost completely silent apart from the occasional drift of voices from the street below and the call of seagulls. It’s hard to imagine that this is the heart of Ibiza Town, a stone’s throw from the infamous nightclub Pacha, in full swing of high season. Of course, it’s not all like this, Ibiza hasn’t miraculously transformed into a quiet paradise island, but Mikasa, somehow, has found a calm corner in the midst of the carnival.

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

Rooftop restaurant with tables laid ready for dining and views of the sea and a fort in the distance

Mikasa’s rooftop Lebanese restaurant with views of the Marina and Ibiza Old Town.

The hotel opened earlier this year, by the same people behind Beachouse and Finca La Plaza, two of the island’s most exclusive venues, and it offers the same level of sophistication with 16 beautiful rooms, furnished simply with natural woods and linens. None of the rooms are enormous, but the best have their own balconies which catch the sun at various times of the day depending on which way you’re facing. Ours overlooks a small courtyard, whilst the other side benefits from glimpses of the sea.

Read more: Sassan Behnam-Bakhtiar in conversation with Jean Cocteau

Downstairs, there’s a restaurant where breakfast is typically served and trendy looking freelancers perch throughout the day on their Macs, sipping freshly pressed juice. A famous blogging duo arrived earlier this morning to pose against the turquoise tiling at the entrance — you can tell that the design of the hotel has taken the Instagram culture into account without being gimmicky, but in the sense that there’s bright, photogenic colours and well curated ornaments. Even the food is presented to seduce the camera lens.

detail image of luxury bedroom with gold overhead lamp, plus pillow and gold railing

Mikasa’s 16 rooms are named after the monthly moons.

Our tasting Lebanese mezze arrives just as the tables around us begin to fill and within half an hour, the place is full. Mikasa is the group’s first hotel, and up till now they’ve been mainly known for exceptional dining with Finca La Plaza regularly being listed amongst the island’s top restaurants. Located in the gorgeously picturesque town of Santa Gertrudis (a fifteen minute cab ride from Mikasa), Finca La Plaza serves seasonal Mediterranean food in a secluded courtyard laced with fairy-lights. On a previous evening, we dined on fresh, oozing burrata with anchovies and baba ganoush, tender octopus with sweet kumquat confit and wild seabass with sautéed broccoli and sweet garlic.

So we have high expectations for tonight at Mikasa. Whilst there’s initially some confusion with our waiter on what we, as pescetarians, can and cannot eat, the meal is fabulous; rich creamy humous paired with a crunchy fattoush salad, falafel and tangy marinated prawns which are cooked to mouthwatering perfection.

Detail photograph of grilled octopus tentacle with salad and sauce

Octopus with sweet kumquat confit at Finca La Plaza restaurant in Santa Gertrudis.

Beachouse is the group’s daytime venue (also a fifteen minute cab drive away), located on the far end of Playa d’en Bossa, far away from the crowded package hotels and the spill of tipsy tourists. We arrive early one morning for a dynamic beach yoga class, followed by a wholesome breakfast. The classes are held every weekday morning at 09.30am and are donation only – the proceeds go towards the keeping the sand and sea clean.

Read more: Wendy Yu on building bridges between the East and the West

Beach yoga lesson in front of beach restaurant

Morning yoga on the sand in front of Beachouse.

The Beachouse is by far the most beautiful venue on this strip of sand with plush double or single sun-beds, waiter service and a cool, open sided restaurant. During our trip, there’s a party with a live DJ playing a set from 6pm whilst people sway on the beach and barefoot children race between legs. Unlike a lot of Ibiza’s party venues, which are essentially overpriced sticky clubs, Beachouse has a relaxed, hippie kind of vibe and attracts a high-class cliental.

Luxury beach club with plush sunbeds and a tall palm tree set against a blue sky

Luxury double daybeds can be reserved at Beachouse with a minimum spend of 100 euros.

Our only gripe is that calling a taxi is tricky at nighttime in Ibiza Town. Even with the help of Mikasa’s reception, we have several cancel on us last minute. It would make more sense for the hotel to offer their own private transportation to and from their various venues, that way guests could drift with ease in a perfectly sealed bubble of luxury.

Mikasa is open all year round, to book a room visit mikasaibiza.com; for a reservation at Finca La Plaza – fincalaplaza.com; and for more information on Beachouse – beachouseibiza.com

All photography by James Houston

Share:
Reading time: 4 min
Open restaurant kitchen with window showing chefs preparing food
sleek exterior of HIDE restaurant with glass windows reflecting the trees of the Green Park opposite

Hide sits in prime position on Piccadilly, overlooking Green Park

Michelin-starred chef Ollie Dabbous’ latest restaurant Hide is one of the hottest openings in London this year. A joint venture between the chef and Hedonism wines, Hide offers a dining experience for all the senses, says Digital Editor Millie Walton

Hide may seem like an ironic name for Ollie Dabbous’ new restaurant that sits on the north side of Piccadilly with almost entirely glass walls, but think of the name more in relation to a hunter’s hide, i.e. a camouflaged shelter used to observe wildlife and then, it doesn’t seem quite so ironic. The restaurant’s theme is nature; Hide Above is accessed by a spectacular wooden spiral staircase that takes the appearance of an ancient tree trunk, leading up to a floor of sparsely positioned tables that overlook Green Park.

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

Open restaurant kitchen with window showing chefs preparing food

The partially open kitchen at Hide Above

We are led to a table in the far corner, right up against the glass. This could easily have been a moment for panic for both myself and my guest as we’re both wary of the exhibitionism of dining out, but surprisingly, we both find it a very relaxing place to be. It’s far enough from the neighbouring table so that we don’t feel that we’re being spied on and the elevation makes it feel removed and private.

Read more: Painter John Virtue’s monochromatic world at Fortnum & Mason

This has a lot to do with the restaurant’s atmosphere, which unlike a lot of restaurants in this part of London, is friendly, informal and welcoming. Our waiter – French, dressed in a beautiful cream linen apron to match the natural colour scheme (apparently designed by Dabbous’ mother) – is natural, funny and puts us instantly at ease. After gently placing my handbag on its own special stool – a touch which always makes me giggle – he hands us both a cream embossed box, which as, he has to explain, contains the menu. The Hedonism wine list comes on an iPad – it would take several people to carry a printed version to the table.

Waiter crouching to lift bottle from the wine cellar at hide restaurant

Inside the Hedonism wine cellar at Hide

Hide is a partnership by Ollie Dabbous and Yevgeny Chichvarkin (the owner of Hedonism) and together they have managed to create a multi-layered (quite literally) experimental fine dining experience. Each level of the restaurant has its own unique mood. Hide Ground is the sultry, cool hang-out, where you can order à la carte breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner – at night, when we arrive at the restaurant, its packed full of trendy fashionista types. Whilst Hide Below, the bar, is cosy and intimate with several private dining rooms tucked into cave like alcoves, and the Hedonism cellar. Our sommelier kindly gives us the grand tour, explaining that if there’s anything a guest wants and the restaurant doesn’t have it, they’ll order it in straight away from Hedonism round the corner. You have to admit, its a slick operation.

Hide Above is tasting menu only with the option of eight courses, or ten if you choose the Cornish fish courses. And it really is an incredibly beautifully space, with light wood tables, soft cream furnishings, textured walls and hanging lights which look like a broken egg shell with a gold leaf interior.

Read more: Dara Huang, Founder of Design Haus Liberty on the importance of balanced design 

plate of artistically arranged baby vegetables on a white plate with bread basket in background

To begin: a bowl of broth, raw vegetables accompanied by a tangy dip and bread basket. The dining experience is designed to be sensory and interactive in a use-your-fingers, mix-it-all-together kind of way, and aside from being completely delicious, it’s a lot of fun. This is followed by the most flavoursome avocado we’ve ever tasted, served with a light basil sauce and gooseberries, and the first of our wines: Samuel Billaud “Les Grands Terroirs” Chablis 2016. Dabbous is a master at pairing delicate flavours, and in a tasting menu – where it’s so easy to overdo it – you appreciate that skill even more. Then – one of our favourites – delightfully cold, cured wild salmon with crème cru (we have to restrain ourselves from lapping up the remains of the sauce) & Exmoor caviar, paired perfectly with LUNAE Colli di Luni Vermentino.

Dabbous’ famous dish: the nest egg ( an open-topped egg containing a scrambled, mushroom sauce, nestled into a bed of smokey hay) comes served in a black clay pot. The waiter lifts off the lid dramatically, to release the scent of wood-fires, setting us both reminiscing about winter, family evenings and all things cosy. Both Cornish fish courses are delicious (especially the sashimi) and the steamed turbot with nasturtium broth is one of all time favourite dishes for the surprising and delicate flavours.

detail image of fish fillet in bowl of green broth decorated with nasturtium

Tasting menu highlight: steamed turbot with nasturtium broth

Full, but not unpleasantly so, we welcome the (bright green) Garden Ripple ice cream which arrives on a large ice block containing frozen flowers. My dining partner asks, with wonder, whether they have a whole fridge full of these beautiful ice blocks and we’re shown to the kitchen to meet Dabbous himself, who opens a drawer containing said blocks whilst we both gush about the meal, and the wine, and the interiors until we’ve suitably embarrassed ourselves and everyone around us. We finish the meal with an elegant stick of liquorice decorated with golden marshmallow and a gold chocolate leaf.

Hide is well on its way to starry success (ehem, Michelin). Make sure to get in while you can, the waiting list is growing by the minute.

To book a table and view the menus visit: hide.co.uk

Photography by James Houston

Share:
Reading time: 4 min
curved Georgian building with columns and lawn scattered with yellow leaves
curved Georgian building with columns and lawn scattered with yellow leaves

The impressive facade of The Royal Crescent Hotel, Bath

English country house hotels are wonderful, but it can be a challenge to get to them from the capital; and they can be teeming with families at weekends. LUX Managing Editor Serena Hamilton experiences the best of both worlds with a midweek break to the Royal Crescent, a hotel in the historic city of Bath with a country feel – and just over an hour in a first class carriage from London’s Paddington Station (and the Heathrow Express train)

Finding a hotel that’s not a million miles from London for a mid-week break isn’t as easy you’d think. Whilst there are a lot of beautiful hotels in the UK, many of them are hidden deep in the countryside so that when you arrive at the train station you still have to travel to get there, which is a big deal when you’re only going away for a couple of nights.

luxury outdoor seating area with tables and unmbrellas

The Taittinger Spa Garden is just one of the few outdoor relaxation spaces at the hotel

The Royal Crescent is located right in the heart of Bath – from door to door it took us just over two hours. Spread across two tall, columned Georgian townhouses, the hotel is immediately striking and hides a beautiful, pristine garden dotted with statues and benches tucked into secluded corners – perfect for long, lazy afternoons reading in the low dappled sunlight. The buildings themselves are steeped in history and much has been done to preserve the ancient grandeur; think sweeping staircases, classical busts, antique furnishings, chandeliers, and exquisite oil paintings.

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

We stayed in one of the spacious Master Bedrooms which featured a huge marble bathroom, and its own elegantly decorated living area, which was especially useful as we needed to do some work, but with staggering views over the city, it was a very pleasant and relaxing place to do so. We loved the bright interiors, which felt decadent and luxurious without being stuffy or overdone.

Luxury modern interiors of hotel restaurant with white tablecloths and purple seats

The award-winning Dower House Restaurant

Dinner at The Dower House restaurant was a real treat with tables overlooking the leafy gardens or the choice to dine alfresco on warm evenings.The roasted stone bass with crispy wild mushroom, confit pink fir, brown shrimp, pistachio paste and crumb comes highly recommended as does the slow cooked duck egg to start. We were very impressed by the charming sommelier Jean-Marc Leitao who expertly guided us through the wine list. The Montagu Bar also serves food and has a lovely laid-back atmosphere. Perhaps seduced by the nostalgia of the surrounding old-age glamour, we chose prawn cocktail as one of our small plates, which turned out to be one of our favourite dishes during the stay.

Read more: andBeyond CEO Joss Kent on creating luxury in the wilderness

luxury indoor pool surrounded by light stone walls

The Relaxation Pool at The Spa & Bathhouse

The Spa & Bath House is one of the hotel’s big draws. Located opposite the main hotel, across the courtyard and gardens, it feels like an escape its own right. The main communal area includes a  12-metre indoor relaxation pool, a vitality pool with massage jets, sauna and steam room. The Royal Crescent Signature Spa Treatment, known as the ‘Hero’, was a real highlight targeting the back, face and scalp. Afterwards, guests tend to relax in the tranquil Taittinger Spa Garden where you can order drinks, snacks, afternoon tea and of course, champagne.

Whilst the hotel is extremely conveniently located – a short walk from most of the heritage sites and shopping areas – it still manages to feel secluded and serene. We returned to London, after only two nights, feeling refreshed, rejuvenated, and better equipped for the week ahead.

Rates start from £330 per night (approx. $450/ €400). Book your mid-week getaway: royalcrescent.co.uk

Share:
Reading time: 3 min
Saint-James-Paris-facade-5
red and gold luxury bedroom with decadent silk curtains and chandelier

A decadent Junior Suite at the Saint James Hotel, Paris

Paris is by no means a new luxury destination – the international city of love is home to the world’s best restaurants, haute couture and the avant-garde art scene – and yet its charm never gets old. Digital Editor Millie Walton ventures into one of the city’s lesser known neighbourhoods, alongside the Bois de Boulogne, to re-discover Le Corbusier, Monet and the lasting allure of authentic French decadence 

It hasn’t felt much like Spring the last few weeks in London and when we arrive in Paris, it seems Spring hasn’t arrived there yet either. It’s lightly, prettily snowing, in a way that’s so picturesque, it feels as if we’ve stepped inside a snow globe, but still it’s cold, bitterly so and we’re pleased to cocoon ourselves in the warmth of Saint James’ hotel for lunch at the one Michelin star, The Restaurant. However, in Paris, Michelin stars are scattered so densely across the city that it’s not really the accolade that stands out, but rather – and rightly so – the service, the atmosphere, that irresistible aura of je ne sais quoi.

Grand interiors of the Michelin starred restaurant at Saint James Hotel Paris

The Restaurant, headed by Chef Jean-Luc Rocha

It helps, on a day like this, that The Restaurant, like the rest of the hotel, is snugly grand as opposed to cool minimalist with dark walls, warm bulbs, velvets, silks and portraits of buxom ladies hanging on the wall. It feels oh so Parisian and decadent, and even without dining it would be an experience to sit and observe the well dressed guests arriving to be seated with their Chanel handbags perched on their own cushioned stalls alongside the table. Lunch is hotel guests only, so it’s quieter, more relaxed; we’re greeted by Chef Jean-Luc Rocha who recommends the escargots with souffléd crepes as his favourite dish (it happens to be ours too), along with the lobster and chestnut ravioli to start followed by scallops cooked in saffron-flavoured risotto and the filet of turbot. Each mouthful is bursting with flavour, rich, delicate and precisely the right portion sizes so that we’re satisfied rather than overwhelmed. Halfway through the meal, we’re joined by Pilou, the hotel’s resident black cat, who swirls round our legs and then curls up on a velvet bench in a corner. An enviable life he must lead – we’re almost tempted to do the same, to retreat to the spa then to our suite, but later, later, we’re here to explore.

Black cat sitting with a red collar and green eyes

Pilou, the hotel’s resident feline roams freely throughout the property. Image by James Houston

Le Corbusier’s Villa La Roche was designed in 1925 as a resident for Swiss banker Raoul La Roche, who was also a collector of avant-garde artwork and the residence was designed as both gallery and home. It’s located in a lesser-known – or at least lesser to tourists – neighbourhood and it takes us a few loops to find our way, down an alleyway and through the door at which we’re stopped to pull plastic slips over our shoes, like at the Taj Mahal, which might seem like an odd comparison but to many architects and aesthete’s this villa is one of the ultimate monuments to modern housing. The interiors are playful and flowing with a curved sweeping walkway leading to an upper gallery, dark grey, lucid blue and pale sienna walls and cut out sections that serve as platforms and frames. The house leads you through a very particular kind of spatial experience, culminating in the rooftop terrace from which we gaze over the Parisian rooftops, puffing clouds of breath like a line of small human chimneys.

Close by too is Musée Marmottan Monet, which houses the greatest collection of Monet’s paintings worldwide – from his earlier years to the development of his signature style, the famous water lily scenes – as well as various temporary exhibitions. There’s something particularly special about standing in front of a Monet in a 19th century mansion in Paris, it feels right and proper and yet, we’re disappointed by the lighting (a mistake by the museum) which casts an usual glare over some of the more delicate pieces, slightly disturbing their enchanting atmosphere.

man with face glowing in a bright bulb inside a minimally decorated room

A curious visitor inside Villa La Roche. Image by James Houston

Outside the snow has settled – nature’s art-  so we wander back to the hotel on foot; about a 30 minute brisk walk that takes us by the Eiffel Tower and whilst many French artists and aestheticians of the late 19th century – including writer Guy de Maupassant who reportedly at lunch in the tower’s restaurant every day for years so that he didn’t have to see the structure itself – despised the monument, it’s always a delight to see and I’m filled with a childish kind of excitement. ‘Can we come back at night?’ I beg my travelling companion who agrees no trip to Paris is complete without seeing the tower at least a handful of times day and night, even if it is freezing and the snow has turned to sleet.

We thaw our frozen limbs back in the hotel’s library bar with a glass of Bailey’s before disappearing into the fairy-tale romance of our royal red and gold suite. Springtime in Paris, snow or not, is brimming with aesthetic delights and real decadence; we’re thirsty for more.

Stay at Saint James Paris from €390 per night (approx. £ 350 /$ 500) for a Boudoir Room. 

Share:
Reading time: 4 min