Night facade of Mandarin Oriental Singapore

Recently reimagined Singaporean elegance at Marina Bay: LUX Checks In

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

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

Singapore skyline with a pool

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

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

A cake store with lavish decorations

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

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

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

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

Read More: Nira Alpina, St Moritz, Review

Night facade of Mandarin Oriental Singapore

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

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

See More:

mandarinoriental.com

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

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

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

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

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

Read More: Mandarin Oriental, Zurich, Review

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

a table, a moon, and the sea

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

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

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

a pool, the sea, and a floor

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

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

boats on the sea

Bespoke boat trips are offered for guests across the hotel

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

Find out More:

borgosantandrea.it

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

Shisen Hanten’s signature steamed sliced kurobuta pork with chilli

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

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

a chef with lots of fire

Shisen Hanten’s Executive Chef, Chen Kentaro

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

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

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

a bowl with soup in it

Shisen Hanten’s Foie Gras Chawanmushi with Crab Roe Soup

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

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

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

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

a bowl with a red spicy-looking soup

Chef Chen’s Original Spicy Noodle Soup

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

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restaurant with bar and bottles

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

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

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

sashimi on a blue plate with flowers

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

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

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

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

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

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

food on a plate with a leaf

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

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

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

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Reading time: 2 min
a room with big window and lights and bar

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Big red brick building with trees and blue sky

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

DS: What were your biggest challenges in its creation?

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

two men in suits sitting on steps

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

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

LG: Curious, creative and kind people.

 

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

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

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Reading time: 5 min
A palace in the hills surrounded by gardens
A palace in the hills surrounded by gardens

The 19th-century building and Foster + Partners extension overlooking the city

Darius Sanai checks in at the Dolder Grand, Zurich, for a palatial blend of the old and the new

The wow factor

There’s no shortage of that at the Grand. Driving along a forested residential hillside above the city, you turn into the grand driveway and hotel plaza that has a view of all Switzerland, it seems, beneath you. The building, too, is all drama. A luxurious 19th-century building with a Norman Foster extension, it has some of the most original art of any hotel.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

People-watching

We bumped into friends attending a birthday lunch here. It’s a hotel where Zurich high society comes to play.

Show me to my room

We stayed twice at the Grand within a week, interspersed by a trip to a wedding in Mallorca. The first visit, we had a room in the Foster + Partners wing – all curves, glass and modernity. Next time, our room was in the old building, cleverly refreshed to the same colour scheme and cosy. Which you prefer depends on your creative makeup. The modern rooms are efficient and striking; the classical wing has more character.

A room with red wooden beams and red leather chairs on white rugs

The Maestro Suite living room at the Dolder Grand, Zurich

Come dine with me (and other things)

The Grand is a city and country hotel simultaneously. It’s a 10-minute taxi ride to pretty much any business location in the city, yet you are living on a forested mountainside with sweeping views and space. The Saltz restaurant has the biggest outdoor dining terrace of any city hotel we can recall. In the summer months, you have the smell of Alpine forests (and the sight of them in one direction; the city and lake on the other). It makes for a memorable dining experience.

Read more: The Woodward Geneva, Review

The menu was a dream for lovers of clean, contemporary food: whole artichoke à la barigoule, white asparagus (in season) with new potatoes and hollandaise sauce. Another killer factor for us was the indoor pool in the new wing – all black tiles and very Norman Foster. There’s also a terrace and garden where you can relax with a green juice, and an extensive spa.

Find out more: thedoldergrand.com

This article first appeared in the Autumn/Winter 2023/24 issue of LUX

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A house in a green field
A chef with a basket picking vegetables in a garden

Chef Davide Guidara in the garden of Veuve Clicquot

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

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

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

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

A group chefs standing next to eachother

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

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

A table with yellow and wood chairs set

The Garden of Gastronomy event in Paris

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

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

Dario Cadonau’s Garden herbs with yellow beets

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

A chef preparing ravioli in green leaves

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Find out more: veuveclicquot.com

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Reading time: 3 min
Huge green field with a cluster of small houses in the middle
Huge green field with a cluster of small houses in the middle

Photo courtesy of Fresh Del Monte

Hans Sauter is the Chief Sustainability Officer at Fresh Del Monte. He speaks to Trudy Ross about the company’s sustainability journey and the importance of creating a culture of respect for the environment

LUX: Could you provide an overview of the company’s sustainability journey and a few key milestones you’ve achieved in recent years?
Hans Sauter: Let me mention that I’m not just Chief Sustainability Officer but also senior vice president for Research and Development. That’s not just out of coincidence. We approach sustainability from a scientific and data-based point of view, not a marketing or sales perspective. I have been with the company for 35 years; I started at the farms doing agricultural research and worked my way up to corporate. I know our global footprint in great detail and have accompanied this process of incorporating sustainability into our operations all along.

About 30 years ago, we started designing our farms to make the best use of the soil, carving out the areas which would be best adapted to our own crops and then leaving those other areas to re-forest and create opportunities for conservation. Starting all the way from water conservation to erosion control, pollination, etc, our operations have transformed themselves over time into combined systems where we see nature and large-scale agriculture co-existing. That’s very exciting.

A green Del Monte farm in costa rica beneath a sunny sk

Photo courtesy of Fresh Del Monte

A few milestones: in 1998, we got our first ISO 14001 certification around sustainability systems. In 2010, we set our first global sustainability goal to reduce our consumption of key resources, like water and fuel, by 10%. In 2015, we got our first carbon neutral certification at one of our operations, specifically the banana farms in Costa Rica. We escalated that last year, to estimate our carbon footprint going all the way from the farm to the consumer. We established programs where we promote those efforts, such as the Del Monte Zero pineapple, where we have sequestered enough carbon through our own on-site forests to compensate for greenhouse gas emissions all through the supply chain up until the consumer’s table.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

LUX: Do you think it is important to engage with the consumer and make them aware of sustainability initiatives, or are you more focused on the problem itself?
HS: We started this journey so long ago that we initially attacked the problems where they were occurring. On our farms, being in tropical and rural areas which are normally the most vulnerable areas and communities, we saw a great need for action. We engaged ourselves in projects to collaborate with our neighbours and see how we could improve conditions there.

We now understand that the consumer needs to hear about those efforts. In the last five years we have been more vocal about those efforts, because we have truly strong programs to talk about. It’s not making a lot of noise about little things; we’re talking about legitimate programs. We have carved close to 30% of our land just for conservation, and that’s what nations are trying to accomplish now – we’ve done it already.

Jumble of pineapples

Photo by Justine Alipate

LUX: Do you have faith that the rest of the food industry is going to continue to engage with sustainability and make this a key focus, or do you worry that there is an element of greenwashing and shouting about sustainability efforts when there aren’t concrete initiatives to back them up?
HS: There’s a little bit of both. There has definitely been some greenwashing and more talking than acting; but on the other hand, I don’t think anything can stop this train. The current events are making us brutally aware that we need to act. I’m convinced that the only thing that is needed is to get to the tipping point. If you have strong leaders that move the needle, the rest of the industry will follow. Just look at the electric motor industry – who would have said we would be moving at the pace we are moving at today? I’m definitely optimistic about the food industry.

LUX: How would you describe Fresh Del Monte’s approach to responsible sourcing, and does this impact your supplier chain further down the line?
HS: That’s probably the most difficult point at this stage. All of us are struggling with scope 3, which is essentially our suppliers. Rapid engagement of that part of our supply chain is crucial and not as easy to move. One of the advantages we have as a company is that we grow close to 45% of what we sell, so we are heavily invested in farming and understand what farmers are going through. That gives us an opportunity to talk to them on a one-to-one basis with a hands-on approach. We collaborate with them and we share experiences.

I think our example will help us leverage some moral authority when it comes to protecting the environment because we have done it, and we continue to do it and invest in it. Definitely scope 3 will continue to be a more difficult area, particularly because margins in the food industry are small. Here the retailers could be very effective in moving that needle because they are the intermediaries between the grower and the final consumer, making sure that they also are a part of this shared responsibility.

LUX: What is the biggest challenge facing the food industry and the agriculture industry?
HS: I would say the biggest challenge is time. The climate is changing so fast and most of us don’t realise that the clock is ticking. We could run out of time to implement large-scale solutions that make a difference.

Vineyard in the setting sun

Photo by Sven Wilhem

I see no shortage of solutions available, but there needs to be a lot of resources invested in research, specifically for many crops in tropical regions where regenerative agriculture practices have not been developed. We are very optimistic about regenerative agriculture in temperate regions, but the rest of the world has not had that privilege and we need to invest in those areas.

LUX: How much of this responsibility for climate change lies with big corporations like Del Monte, and how much do you think lies with the consumer?
HS: We are all in it together. Consumers make the difference with their purchasing decisions. That’s one of the reasons we decided to launch the Del Monte Zero. It’s a small, boutique program. We wanted to make a statement by allowing the consumer to choose a climate-responsible product, so that we are all made aware of what we are going through.

Each of us, in large companies and small companies as well, each of us has a huge responsibility at this point. We are working with our communities and we are looking at our impact on a watershed level, rather than just ‘my farm’. Because it doesn’t matter how much I protect the forest that runs through the river that runs through my own farm, if I don’t bring all the neighbours to protect that watershed, that river will eventually dry. We need to act as communities.

LUX: Waste reduction is a very important issue taking place in the food industry. Has Fresh Del Monte implemented any strategies to minimise waste reduction, and have you seen any outcomes?
HS: This is a very exciting area of opportunity. It can bring more business to the food industry. We initially started investing in waste reduction a long time ago, in our pineapple operations, using food which could not go to market to produce concentrate and juice. With that kind of systematic investment we have reduced waste at the farm level, and almost 95% of our product is used and not wasted. We are working on solutions to compost and to work with cattle-growers.

Food is too valuable to throw away. There should never be a reason to send food to landfill. What we are doing now is taking that one step further and looking at our crop residues, because that’s also a huge area of opportunity and we’re working aggressively to develop composting solutions and also other opportunities. It’s just investing in research and time.

Orange tree branches against a blue sky

Photo by Dan Gold

Read more: Unilever’s Rebecca Marmot on the Sustainable Everyday

LUX: What sustainability developments are you most excited about at Fresh Del Monte?
HS: I would say the most exciting thing which I have seen over the course of 35 years is the development of a culture of respect for the environment. No systems, no programs beat culture. If your team members have a culture of respect and admiration for the planet and your community, everything comes out of there and you have success with your systems and your programs.

We have seen engagement all the way from the farm workers, who have been sharing pictures of the biodiversity that they see while they are doing their field work. The excitement and the passion that we see is huge. When your own farm workers are excited and are taking pictures of biodiversity while they’re working, you have made an impact not only in your farm but also in the community. That multiplies by four every effort in education you have brought in.

LUX: How do you envision sustainable practices in the food industry in ten years?
HS: I envision it having huge contributions from new bio-science discoveries. There are companies which are working on deploying microbes that can fix nitrogen so that you don’t have to apply so much synthetic fertiliser. Synthetic nitrogen is one of the biggest challenges we have in agriculture as an emitter of greenhouse gas emissions. That will definitely make a big difference in the future.

Find out more: freshdelmonte.com

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Reading time: 8 min
Alessia Caruso Fendi in Rome
Alessia Caruso Fendi in Rome

Alessia Caruso Fendi

The doyenne of the Rome fashion family Alessia Fendi speaks to LUX about Cleopatra, Mick Jagger, her insider tips, and her latest venture in the city

Why Rome is the eternal city

It is in an eternal renaissance, always evolving. Rome has everything visitors could want, from beauty and romance to food, history and culture.

Who I’d take on a tour

Cleopatra and Mickey Mouse. The Queen of Egypt was the lover of two of Rome’s most powerful men, and when she first came here in 46 BC there was the largest procession the city had seen. I’d take her through the winding streets of bohemian Trastavere, full of people, restaurants and bars, and home of the Horti di Cesare. I’d show Mickey Mouse how a Disney character would fit perfectly into the frenzy of the city. I’m sure he would speed on a scooter to reach Minnie!

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My favourite place here

Rhinoceros Roma is a place like no other in the city. It was founded by my mother, Alda Fendi, in 2018. The gallery shows works by artists from Michelangelo to Picasso, and there are 25 luxurious apartments for guests. It was designed by French architect Jean Nouvel and has a vibe where new meets old, luxury meets state-of-the-art tech. It’s a special haven near many of the city’s most beloved historic sites.

Rhinoceros Rome gallery

Rhinoceros apud Saepta by Raffaele Curi in the Rhinoceros Roma gallery

My ideal dinner guests

I’d host Barbara Jatta, Director of the Vatican Museums, and Mick Jagger for dinner at Rhinoceros Roma’s new rooftop restaurant, Entr’acte. It combines breathtaking views over Rome’s red rooftops with delicious cuisine.

My favourite Roman dish

Coratella is a typical dish that dates back to ancient times. It is a combination of lamb offal, artichokes, white wine, garlic, olive oil, rosemary, salt and black pepper.

The Entr’acte terrace in Rome at dusk

The Entr’acte terrace at dusk

Michaelangelo or Leonardo?

I’d have to say Michelangelo. He is one of the city’s most prominent artists and there are many examples of his genius here, from the Sistine Chapel and the Pietà in St Peter’s, to the Piazza del Campidoglio.

If you have one afternoon in Rome…

Go to the Baths of Caracalla – you will be amazed by the Roman architecture. Then dash to the Colosseum, Circus Maximus and relax at the Palatine Hill. Rome is very romantic The perfect place to propose is Giardino degli Aranci. The park has wonderful views across the city. Then celebrate with a meal at Entr’acte.

Old meets new in a sitting area in a Rhinoceros Roma apartment

My dream collaboration

I wish I’d worked with Issey Miyake to glorify his mix of craft, materials and technology through colours and geometries. I’d love to show his collections at Rhinoceros Roma. Italian artists I am looking at now I admire Pietro Ruffo, for his intricate pieces into which he incorporates ethical issues, with symbols such as dragonflies. I love Alessandro Piangiamore, whose beautiful works imprint flowers and leaves on concrete slabs. Alberto Di Fabio’s huge representations of the cosmos and the natural world are awe-inspiring.

Read more: Fausto Puglisi Interview: Refashioning Roberto Cavalli

One place I’d love to visit

Porquerolles, an island in the Parc National de Port-Cros in the Mediterranean. It’s been on my list for ages for its beauty and serenity. Coming from Rome, I am always on the lookout for quiet places to recharge in.

Find out more: rhinocerusroma.com

This article was first published in the Spring/Summer 2023 issue of LUX

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A hotel on a golf course
A hotel on a golf course

The Sheraton Mallorca Arabella Golf Hotel is the first golf resort on the island

This month we head to Mallorca for a stay with a view of the mountains, ten minutes from the thriving capital Palma

The lowdown

In the summertime, Mediterranean island stakes, LUX is very pro-Mallorca. There is competition from everywhere, ultra-chic individual Cyclades and party-central Mykonos to old establishment Sardinia, and even from its neighbours, vibier younger sister Ibiza, and newly arty Menorca. And dozens of others, many of which could justifiably stake a claim to be the ultimate Mediterranean island to visit.

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And yet: Mallorca has the spirituality and culture of Deia in the west, the intricate beauty and cuisine of Palma in the south, high quality local wines, some celebrated restaurants, and a huge variety of sports, including truly world-leading golf and cycling. It also has the deepest yacht harbour in the Mediterranean, in case your boat doesn’t fit in Monaco’s harbour. And it’s big enough not to bore you.

A swimming pool surrounded by palm trees

The hotel has both indoor and outdoor swimming facilities

Which takes us to the Son Vida estate, in a valley and on a hillside outside the city of Palma. The Arabella Sheraton (originally an Arabella hotel, then taken over by Sheraton) is built in the style of a local finca, or farmhouse. It is surrounded by mature gardens and shrubbery; arriving felt more like walking into at a boutique hotel than an international chain, a feeling that persisted throughout our stay.

The arrival

The reception and bar area lead out onto a broad terrace with a curving balustrade facing across the estate and to the mountainside across the valley; beneath are three large, curvaceous pools, all surrounded by trees, beyond which are tennis and other sports facilities. The public spaces are hung with distinctive and compelling art, much of it by local artists, all part of the private collection of the hotel’s German owners. The feeling is more of staying at a private estate than a hotel, amplified by the staff, who all seemed to be local, warm, friendly and professional.

Fried shrimp on a black plate

La Bodega del Green serves classic Spanish tapas as well as other local delicacies

On our first night we ate at the Bodega, a wine bar on a terrace on the lower floor; sea bream with capers and courgettes. The atmosphere was casual though the service was anything but. The wine list was broad, although perhaps could have championed wines from Mallorca and the nearest mainland area, Catalonia, a little more.

Take me to my room

Our room, with a long balcony, faced out beyond the pools and the canopy of trees, where Mallorca’s most renowned golf course, Son Vida, was on display. While the clubhouse is less than a long tee shot from the hotel, the Arabella doesn’t feel at all like a golf hotel: no groups, no taking over. Couples and families were equally in evidence.

A room with a view of a golf course

Hole in One Suite’s living room

On our second night, we had some light bites on the upper terrace, with its sunset views of the mountains: crystal bread with iberico ham and local olive oil, a very delicate gazpacho, a salad of local tomatoes of various shapes. A very attentive and thoughtful bar manager kept everything coming like clockwork; and as throughout our stay, we felt, if not alone, then certainly very much with the luxury of space.

Read more: One&Only The Palm, Dubai, Review

At night, a chorus of frogs from the lake beyond the gardens joined the cicadas.

Out and about

During the days we discovered a great advantage: the hotel’s perfect location. 15 minutes from the centre of Palma – one of the most underrated cities in Europe – 45 minutes from Deia’s beauty, 20 minutes from the beaches, and 25 minutes from the airport. (And if you play golf, that clubhouse is less than four minutes by foot).

A table looking over a garden with trees and pink flowers

LA Bodega overlooks the peaceful Son Vida golf course

So there you have the Arabella Sheraton: a rather nice synthesis between a boutique hideaway and a luxury hotel, and proof that, with excellent management of a very nice property, an excellent hotel can be even more than the sum of its parts.

Rates: From £300 per night (approx. €350/$385)

Book your stay: marriott.com/-sheraton-mallorca-arabella-golf-hotel

Darius Sanai

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A pool outside a lit up building at night
A pool outside a lit up building at night

The Fairmont Pacific Rim was designed by James KM Cheng Architects

Luxury, comfort and convenience come together at the Fairmont Pacific Rim in Vancouver. The perfect place for a stopover before making your way to Whistler for your Summer or Winter holiday

The Arrival

You might question whether you’ve walked into the right place when you first arrive at the Fairmont Pacific Rim, as it looks more like a hip new bar in Manhattan: full of people, live music every night, drinks flowing and food circulating. With sculptures and artworks all over the walls, the lobby lounge is a lively setting and a real Vancouver hotspot for the locals. It’s a great feeling to walk into a hotel and not feel like a tourist.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

A fireplace with large sculptures of children on top of it

The lobby of the Fairmont Pacific Rim full of artworks

The Room

The main asset of the room is the floor to ceiling window overlooking the Pacific Ocean and the mountains ahead. At night the skyline of the city is spectacular and in the mornings it’s a treat to watch the sea planes take off and land (don’t worry there isn’t any noise!).

The room is simple in design but very spacious and full of high-tech appliances.

The Le Labo body and hair care in the bathrooms also add that little extra touch of luxury.

A room with cream chairs and wooden tables overlooking the sea and mountains

A suite overlooking the Pacific Ocean

The Experience

The hotel is situated in the perfect location: downtown, and right on the waterfront, so it’s easy to get the water taxi to Granville Island, next to all the high-end and mid-range shops that you’ll find around Robson Street.

Whilst food options in Vancouver are endless, the hotel restaurants are a must-try. The sablefish roll in miso sauce and tuna tataki at the Raw Bar were the highlights of our meal. You could taste the quality of the fish as it melted in your mouth.

A fish dish in the shape of a pink rose

Beautifully plated dishes at the Botanist restaurant

We asked the waitress about the tuna in particular, and were told that the best part of the tuna isn’t even served in the tataki (that would be the belly) and yet it tasted better than most fine dining sushi restaurants you might find yourself at in Central London.

Read more: One&Only The Palm, Dubai, Review

The Botanist, one of Vancouver’s most highly rated restaurants, is also based in the Pacific Rim. We chose golden French toast with berries and eggs florentine with crispy potatoes from the fantastic breakfast offering, serving as the perfect brunch before heading out for a day in Vancouver.

Rates: From £365 per night (approx. €430/$475)

Book your stay: www.fairmont.com/pacific-rim-vancouver

Candice Tucker

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A silver piano in a bar with black and gold interiors
A long sitting room with black and gold pillars and couches with tables

The Dorchester London’s iconic Promenade’s revamp

Christopher Cowdray is the Company President of the Dorchester Collection. Here he speaks to Darius Sanai about the iconic London hotel’s latest renovations and maintaining brand identity in the process of modernisation
A man with grey hair wearing a suit with a blue tie

Christopher Cowdray

LUX: Can you tell us about the renovations over the last 18 months at the Dorchester London?
Christopher Cowdray: The Dorchester last had a major re-fit in 1989. It gets to a point where you really need to go behind all the walls and change all the pipes and make sure it’s ready for purpose. That’s what we’ve been doing: we remodelled the ground floors, the bar and the promenade, the Vesper Bar, and all the front entrance, while always ensuring we retain the hotel’s identity. What happens a lot in luxury hotels is that people will come in and rip everything out and modernise it without keeping the essence of what the hotels are.

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We are also redoing all the guest rooms. At the moment, the first and the second floor are about to be finished and will be ready for bookings in the next two or three weeks. They have been designed by Rochon from Paris who has done the ground floor as well. Martin Brudnizki did the Vesper Bar and will continue designing more in the upper part of the hotel. The final renovation will be the rooftop where we are going to create a new restaurant. During the pandemic when we weren’t allowed to entertain inside the outdoor seating area upstairs became so popular and got such great feedback, so we are creating a permanent fixture there and then extending the top floor. We are really restoring the Dorchester back to its rightful place as one of London’s leading, if not leading Hotel.

A silver piano in a bar with black and gold interiors

The Liberace piano in the Promenade

LUX: Are you worried by new competition in the market, for instance, Peninsula and the Rosewood coming soon?
CC: With any competition coming in, it actually ends up bringing more business into the city. It’s the same with Rome; there’s a lot of competition coming into Rome, and what it does is bring a lot more awareness to the city. One has to be aware of competition, of course, and when you are at the top of the market you want to make sure you are doing everything to remain there. A lot of this comes down to service levels. I think what the Dorchester has to its advantage is incredible service, location, and history. It has a significant history in the city, and we have an amazing staff. It takes time to build your staff and your reputation.

LUX: You mentioned you didn’t rip everything out and make it completely different. Is that decision dictated by the nature of the property? For example, would you avoid doing that at the Plaza Athénée, but consider creating super modern interiors in new builds?
CC: Yes, in a new build it’s different, but it has to be authentic to the area that we are in. For example, in Dubai we have a Norman Foster building. It has a lot of glass with light coming in, overlooking a beautiful marine area. It was trying to decide what the right interior for that would be, and Dubai today is a very vibrant progressive modern society. So how do we create a luxury and comfortable interior in this modern building? It’s not minimalistic but it is light, and it has modern undertones to it.

A courtyard with leaves over the windows and red umbrellas

La Cour Jardin at Hotel Plaza Athénée

LUX: If somebody had been a guest of Le Meurice and they walked into The Lana without knowing it was part of the collection, is the intention that they would realise it is a Dorchester Hotel, or is it more subliminal?
CC: It’s subliminal. They will know from a marketing point of view that it is, and they will receive the top quality welcome and service, but the interiors are very much about the building and the relevance to that building.

Skyscrapers in Dubai

The latest hotel in the Dorchester Collection is The Lana which will be unveiled in 2023 in Dubai

LUX: Is there a tension now between the young generation of the very wealthy who have very eclectic tastes, and an older, more conservative generation?
CC: We are finding that the younger generation like more traditional interiors as well as more modern ones. A good example is probably Le Meurice in Paris. It’s a younger generation going there at the moment, with the Belle Etoile nearby. At the Plaza Athénée you’ve got a bit of Art Deco and you’ve also got tradition, so there are people who love Art Deco and people who love tradition, but they still love the Plaza overall. Some people have certain tastes and I think as we go forward it’s about how to make sure that there’s room for everyone to be comfortable and to appeal to a wider audience.

LUX: What does a luxury group like yours need to do now that it didn’t have to do ten or fifteen years ago in terms of its experience and offering?
CC: The experience side of it is important and, I suppose, more relevant to some travellers, but the underlying essence of ultra-luxury comes down to the investment that you put into the property. The sub-furnishings and the whole design must be of high integrity. Then it’s about the service, it’s about the recognition, it’s about the efficiency of the service, it’s about the atmosphere and the friendliness, and so a lot of it revolves around the people.

A large white house with a field of yellow flowers in front of it

Coworth Park in Ascot

In other cases, it’s location. I see hotels being built today, even in cities like London, with the intention that they will become wonderful luxurious hotels and attract the luxury traveller. But that doesn’t end up being the case because your luxury traveller wants to be at the heart of where things are happening. They don’t want to be 5 or 10 minutes away; they want to be able to go down to the shops or the cinema right away.

LUX: You have celebrated restaurants in your hotels with many Michelin stars. Is it all about getting the Alain Ducasse and the 3 stars, or is this changing?
CC: The dining experience is very important. It’s about creating excitement for the hotel. It’s not only about appealing to the international traveller, but also very much about how you appeal to the local community. You want the hotel to be a part of that local community, you want them to come in and experience it and then talk about it, so the food and beverage and the restaurant are very important. We are very fortunate here to have Alain Ducasse – he’s been here since 2005 when we opened and has been very successful. He used to be at the Plaza Athénée, but then we brought in Jean-Philippe Blondet, a young chef.

A restaurant with a tree in the middle and red cushioned chairs

Hotel Eden’s Il Giardino Ristorante in Rome

With food and beverage, we did well with Alain, but there wasn’t always that excitement there. Today, food and beverage and the restaurants are doing exceptionally well because there’s just so much excitement around the energy that Jean has brought to the hotel. There are the people who really love to go to your fine, gourmet, 3-star Michelin restaurants, but there’s also a lot of people who just love food and want to try upcoming chefs and different cuisines. That’s no longer about French cuisine, it’s about the influences of Asia, influences from the Middle East, influences from anywhere. Food is so important today and people just love trying different experiences.

A table with a view of the Eiffel Tower

The Eiffel’s Suite signature dinner at Hotel Plaza Athénée

LUX: And what about the more casual F&B type of experience?
CC: Bars are doing very well on the promenade, and we’ve introduced a lighter menu there. Afternoon tea is always going to be incredibly popular for us; it’s not about heavy meals. There is definitely an emergence of clubs, and I’m not too sure where that’s going to go at the moment because there are so many clubs opening up, particularly in London. People are paying for a membership to be part of it, but at the end of the day it’s just another restaurant and you are really paying for a formal degree of recognition.

A gold bar with barstools around it in a semicricle

The Dorchester London’s new Artists Bar

LUX: How do art and artists come into the renovated Dorchester?
CC: At the Dorchester specifically, we’ve got the artists’ bar which is new. The Vesper Bar is completely new and very popular so I think you will start to see more and more happening there.
45 Park Lane has a very strong following from the art community. They have an artist circle there which was started when we opened in 2011. Different artists did different floors: Peter Blake did the penthouse and Damien Hirst did the ground floor, and they always retain their connection. Of course, we have all the exhibitions there, so it’s been very successful, and it continues to be. With the renovation we spent a lot of time selecting the right art to be featured. It’s about what art is relevant.

Art is becoming very important to us. We’ve had some great exhibitions in Los Angeles – the Warhol was phenomenally successful. In Paris, there’s the association with Museums and tours going on, and we are doing a lot of work there at the Plaza Athénée.

A bar with blue and green chairs

The Dorchester London’s Vesper Bar

LUX: The Dorchester collection has not expanded at the pace of some of the Luxury groups. Is that deliberate on your side?
CC: Very much so. Any hotel we add to the company has to be relevant. For a lot of hotel groups, expansion is just about putting their name on something. But we value our reputation, how we can retain our reputation and deliver on our promises. There’s not a need for us to expand at a tremendous rate. We want to expand, but it’s much more about finding the right hotels to complement the existing brand.

For instance, Dubai is at the heart of what is going on in the Middle East. We found a wonderful property there, not on the beach, but on the Marina, and it’s going to very much appeal to our travellers from around the world. In Tokyo we have the Torch Tower, which is under construction at the moment, but is going to sit at the top of the tallest building in Japan. This will be a great compliment to the company because the Japanese market is very important to us, and the American market going there is important.

A modern building on the sea with boats in front of it

Foster and Partners were challenged to create a building for the Lana that would stand out in a city known for it’s skyline

LUX: Are there any cities where you wish you had a property?
CC: We would love to be in Hong Kong, Singapore, Beijing, Shanghai, Sydney and New York. We used to have a property in New York, the New York Palace, but we sold that because it was a 900-room hotel and although it had a wonderful location, we just felt it wasn’t relevant enough to the company. It came into the company by default, and we thought it was too big and in need of phenomenal renovation. We haven’t found what we want in New York yet. It’s a very challenging market, but we’re getting there.

LUX: How has your guest profile changed over the years in terms of age and demographics?
CC: Guests are definitely getting younger. They used to always be in their fifties and sixties, but now we are certainly seeing very young people in their thirties and younger. We see people from the technology world in particular, who are usually young people who can afford to travel and want to experience the finest.

In terms of origin, America is very important to us, as is the Middle East and Europe, so we are not reliant on one market. Asia is only just recovering so the vulnerable pandemic. Asia was a growing market for us, but then completely dried up over the pandemic. Now it’s coming back slowly. I think it will take a little while to recover.

A balcony with red and wooden chairs overlooking London

The Penthouse terrace at 45 Park Lane

LUX: You’ve been here since 2004 at this property as CEO, and have just been appointed Company President. It’s been an evolution rather than a revolution. Have you ever felt like you want to experiment and go wild and create something, do something completely different?
CC: No, I’ve never wanted to do that. We had a very clear vision from the outset, and we knew that we were never going to grow fast, but that we had to stay relevant. It’s been an incredibly busy 15 years, with the hotels going from five to where we are now, because during that period of time we not only added hotels but have also done very significant renovations in all of them. It’s a fascinating and exciting part of my job, but it’s also very time-consuming.

Read more: Four Seasons Hotel London at Ten Trinity Square, Review

LUX: There are a number of luxury hotel brands that have become very big on branded residences, which you are doing in Dubai. Is this a main pillar of your plan?
CC: It’s not a main pillar, but it is a positive edition to the brand. Mayfair Park residences, which is attached to 45 Park Lane, has brought a new facility and a new market to the hotel. People who stay there also want to use the facilities and go to the restaurants. Then in Dubai, the Lana residences will open at the end of this year, and we’ve got various other ones coming up. The individuals who are buying these apartments are also becoming guests in the hotel, so it is creating a very strong market for us. The service that they are receiving is of a standard that meets and exceeds their expectations, and therefore they now feel that they are part of the Dorchester “club” – though it’s not a club, as such.

Find out more more: www.dorchestercollection.com

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

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

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

Carrara, Les Airelles, Courchevel

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

A table by a window with red velvet chairs

Carrara offers an immersive transalpine gastronomic experience

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

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

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

a table with pasta, bread and wine on it

Marco Garfagnini is head chef at Carrara

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

Find out more: airelles.com/restaurant-carrara

CUT by Wolfgang Puck, 45 Park Lane, London

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

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

CUT was opened by Wolfgang Puck in 2011

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

A dining room with white curtains

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

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

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

raw steak with rosemary on a tray

The menu offers the widest selection of Wagyu beef in London

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

A bowl of tomato and basil pasta with prawns on top

Elliott Grover is now the executive chef at CUT

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

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

Al Nafoorah, Jumeirah Al Qasr, Dubai

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

A restaurant on a terrace with palm trees around

Al Nafoorah is located in Dubai’s Palm Jumeirah

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

A salad wth nutes and figs

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

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

chicken on a plate with stuffed mushrooms

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

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

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

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

Chotto Matte, London

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

A bar with coloured green and orange lights

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

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

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

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

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

a restaurant with blue and green chairs

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

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

Find out more: chotto-matte.com

Sumosan Twiga, London

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

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

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

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

sushi rolls with orange sauce on top

Isobe Maki

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

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

Wagyu sando sandwich

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

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

People dancing in a restaurant

Wednesday live music at Sumosan Twiga. Photograph by Dominic Martin

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

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

Find out more: twigaworld.com/sumosantwigalondon

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

Perrier-Jouët Belle Epoque 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

two chefs working in a kitchen with beige aprons

Pierre Gagnaire and Boris Campanella

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

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

Celebrating the 120th Anniversary of Perrier-Jouët

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

Read more: Thought leadership at the Cliveden Festival

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

Find out more: perrier-jouet.com

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Reading time: 3 min
A woman in a yellow top and grey blazer standing in a kitchen
Sakshi Chhabra Mittal is the founder and CEO of FoodHak, a startup revolutionising the food industry by combining science, tech and traditional Ayurvedic principles to make healthier meals more accessible to all. Here Sakshi, speaks to Samantha Welsh about starting an innovating company and the potential for food science

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

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

soups and curries with rice in bowls

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

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

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

A curry in a bowl

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

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

food dishes in bowls

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

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

a chocolate cake with a piece on the spoon.

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

Read more: Chef Rasmus Kofoed: The Vegetable King

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

Find our more: foodhak.com

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Reading time: 5 min
An orange on a brown plate
An orange on a brown plate

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

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

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

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

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

Chef Heston Blumenthal. Photo by John Scott Blackwell

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

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

Eggs in Verjuice, after an 18th-century recipe

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

A dining room with brown leather chairs

The dining-room at The Fat Duck

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

Read more: Chef Yannick Alléno: The Innovator

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

pink yellow and gold foam and mousse desert on a plate

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

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

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

Find out more: dinnerbyheston.co.uk

This article appears in the Summer 2022 issue of LUX

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the entrance of a hotel with arched windows and doors and plants
the entrance of a hotel with arched windows and doors and plants

Exterior view of the new Maybourne, Beverly Hills

In the second part of our luxury travel views column from the Spring 2022 issue, LUX’s Editor-in-Chief Darius Sanai checks in at The Maybourne, Beverly Hills

The most curious thing about the Maybourne Beverly Hills is its tranquillity. Here you are at the new US flagship of London’s swankiest hotel group (Claridge’s, The Connaught, The Berkeley), in LA, metres from Rodeo Drive, and yet the overarching feeling is one of peace. How does that happen?

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The first impression of a curious quietude was from the hotel’s rooftop pool terrace. In cities, these are often rambunctious things, squeezed in, next to a spa and a restaurant, a few sun loungers and a square of blue with a highway of guests and staff running through. Not so here: rows of loungers, immaculate staff waiting to serve, a big, blue pool, and a view across rooftops to the Hollywood Hills. You could come here for a week and not feel agitated by noise. Sure, there’s a terrace restaurant but the vibe is more Ibiza chill than urban thrill.

a bar with stools

The Maybourne pool

Our suite was all pastel shades and 20th-century modern furniture, rethought for the 21st century. A kind of Hollywood-meets-resort feel, with some gorgeous photography and art. Maybourne’s owners are significant movers in the art scene, and you can tell: even the lift lobby on our floor featured an Idris Khan edition.

Downstairs, the Terrace restaurant seemed to be a breakfast, lunch and dinner hangout for the Beverly Hills crowd and the Beverly Hills chihuahua (along with a nice variety of other breeds). Opening out onto a public garden, it was also very quiet: no fumes, no traffic noise, no honking horns. All the more interesting because the hotel was originally built in the grand style of iconic US palace hotels (think Boca Raton resort): but here, the style is everywhere, and the noise nowhere.

swimming pool

The hotel’s rooftop pool

The food was also consistently brilliant: sunny and fresh, like pan-roasted dayboat scallops with girolles and sunchokes, and an absolutely vivid, meaty whole grilled branzino with Napa cabbage and basil. The Terrace is a people-watching place, and if you want to watch people more closely, and with a slightly different lens, just move to the Maybourne Bar or the Cigar and Whiskey Bar. What’s the difference between the two? Same as the difference between the Blue Bar at the Berkeley and the Fumoir at Claridge’s (with additional cigars in the case of the Cigar and Whiskey Bar).

Read more: Luxury Travel Views: Mandarin Oriental Ritz, Madrid

It was a bit of a mystery to me how Maybourne expected to create a global brand, given that its London hotels are so distinctive, unified by a crossover in clientele and a certain appeal to the fashion crowd through their louche artiness in their public spaces. Here they are in LA, and they have done just that. Quite an achievement.

Find out more: maybournebeverlyhills.com

This article appears in the Summer 2022 issue of LUX

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Reading time: 2 min
a chef sitting at a table
The entrance of a grand home with yellow walls and an artwork coming out the house

The entrance of Pavillon Ledoyen with an installation by Tadashi Kawamata

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

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

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

a chef sitting at s table in a restaurant

Chef Yannick Alléno

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

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

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

pastry style dishes on separate plates

A dish created by Alléno for the Pavillon Ledoyen

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

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

a restaurant with a flower on the blind

The dining-room at Pavillon Ledoyen

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

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

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

Read more: Chef Rasmus Kofoed: The Vegetable King

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

A chocolate pudding in a bowl with gold leaf on it

A dessert created by Alléno for the Pavillon Ledoyen

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

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

Find out more: yannick-alleno.com

This article appears in the Summer 2022 issue of LUX

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

Chef Elena Arzak

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A lit up restaurant at night with a blue sky

The restaurant building in San Sebastián

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

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

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

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

The dessert call ‘Enigma’

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

Read more: Chef Ángel León: Ocean Sustainability Supremo

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

A restaurant with a large grey light hanging over the table

The restaurant’s dining room

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

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

Find out more: www.arzak.es

This article appears in the Summer 2022 issue of LUX

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A dog and picnic hampers and blankets in the boot of a car
An ancient British stone building

Exterior of The Lygon Arms Hotel

The Arrival

Halfway down the high street, no, make that pretty much the only street, in a village on the western edge of England’s Cotswold Hills, the Lygon Arms makes you feel like you have arrived in the 15th century. But in the nicest way. Broadway, the village, is light and open, set on a slope leading up to the highest ridge of this area, beloved by writers, nobles and more recently politicians and celebrities, for centuries. Opposite the Lygon’s little driveway is a village store selling everything from soy cappuccinos to focaccia (it’s not really the 15th century here) and beyond you see the outline of hills and woodland. Beautiful.

A dinner table set by a fire with tartan chairs

Private dining room

Walk inside the arched entrance and you have a coaching inn that has been refreshed by England’s most upmarket country hotel group: low ceilings, worn stone floors and gentle lighting are all there, but so are zippy, eager staff and a bar bristling with very 21st-century cocktails.

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The In-Room Experience

No two rooms are the same in this ancient hostelry, and we are grateful the latest owners didn’t decide to hire some Paris-based super-interior-architect to turn the interior all generic rich person chic. Our room consisted of three separate areas, an entrance lobby, mini-reception area and bedroom, all in a long line, followed by the bathroom.

A room with a white bed and sofa leading to a courtyard

The Courtyard Suite

The windows looked out over the courtyard at the centre of the hotel, which has been converted by the most recent owners from a car park to a garden-cum-terrace. A view of vintage Astons and Bentleys, not without its virtues, has been replaced by people-watching from up high: in the courtyard were a mix of hipster English couples, multicoloured American groups, and Belgian and French families undeterred by Brexit and its resultant border bureaucracy.

red and white wooden bedroom

Master Suite

But just because the Lygon has retained its authenticity and hasn’t had its corridors turned black and uplit (thank goodness), don’t start thinking you’re in for the less good aspects of the traditional British country experience, namely beds you can feel the springs through and bathrooms with a dribble of warm water. The bed was huge and luscious, the bathroom beautifully appointed. A copy of The Mistresses of Cliveden by Natalie Livingstone was on the writing desk, and (full disclosure) LUX is also usually in the rooms alongside their in-house publication.

The Out-of-Room Experience

You walk out of the front door into the middle of possibly the prettiest village in Britain, which probably makes it the prettiest village in the world. Turn left and, beyond a very scenic adventure playground for adults and children, is a good walk up to the Broadway Tower, a 300-year-old folly with a view across to Wales. Castles, Roman ruins, the Cotswolds Way walk, villages, and highly fortified estates owned by oligarchs are within a few minutes’ drive. Isn’t that enough? In case it’s not, the hotel itself has more tricks up its sleeve than you might expect from what seems from the outside like a coaching inn.

A large swimming pool

The indoor swimming pool

The central courtyard restaurant, for starters. This is now a restaurant and we had a fabulous long lunch here. The menu is a California-style, healthy take on country food: poached turbot with salsa verde, charred cauliflower steak with romanesco (fabulous), sort of idea. Margaritas were so punchy that one member of our group had to sober up with some berry cordial, bought from a local store, in the garden after lunch. Behind the hotel is a quite extensive garden, invisible from the hotel itself: croquet and tennis are available, and we hear there will be more activities opening for next summer.

A berry crumble in a pan with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top

Homemade crumble

What we liked the most was the staff. British country hotels seem to think they have a binary choice: formal, removed and (because this is Britain) a bit spluttering and Fawlty Towers; or chummy, inclusive and Soho House-ish, which can get a bit tiring if a) it’s not actually Soho House and b) you don’t want a long chat with your server about the latest music, you just want to be served.

The Lygon Arms seems to have found a happy medium. The staff are there to serve, not to be your friends, but they’re also not glaring at you like hawks. Very nice.

Read more: Chef Rasmus Kofoed: The Vegetable King

Drawbacks

a cosy lounge

The Lygon Lounge

Although it’s in one of the loveliest locations in Britain, if not the world, the Lygon Arms is a village hotel, not a full-on country house in its own grounds. If you have children or animals or indeed humans who need a lot of space to run around and sweeping vistas, you should try somewhere else – including another hotel in the same group, the magnificent Cliveden, across the other side of the Cotswolds towards London. There, you’re also likely to see all the classic cars that can no longer lodge in the courtyard at the Lygon Arms.

Rates: From £230 average per night (approx. €275/$280)

Book your stay: lygonarmshotel.co.uk

Darius Sanai

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A restaurant with round wooden tables and grey chairs.

The dining room at Geranium

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

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

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

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

Crispy Jerusalem artichoke leaves and pickled walnut leaves

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

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

Grilled lobster, elderflower and dried onion

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

Read more: Chef Clare Smyth: Core Célèbre

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

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

geranium.dk

This article appears in the Summer 2022 issue of LUX

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

The leafy terrace at Mandarin Oriental Ritz in Madrid

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

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

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

round bedroom with a sky painted on the ceiling

The hotel’s royal suite

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

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

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

The hotel’s Belle Époque façade

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

Read more: Chef Ángel León: Ocean Sustainability Supremo

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

Find out more: mandarinoriental.com

This article appears in the Summer 2022 issue of LUX

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Chef in kitchen
Chef in kitchen

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

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

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

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

Food

Scottish langoustine, served at Core by Clare Smyth

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

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

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

Restaurant

A view of the dining room at Core by Clare Smyth

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

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

Food

Potato and roe, served at Core by Clare Smyth

LUX: How do you approach sustainability at Core?

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

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

Food

Morel tarts, served at Core by Clare Smyth

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

Read more: Chef Ángel León: Ocean Sustainability Supremo

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

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

Corebyclaresmyth.com

This article appears in the Summer 2022 issue of LUX

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

Chef Ángel León

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

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

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

orange liquid being poured into a stone

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

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

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

chefs working in a kitchen with dangling lights

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

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

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

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

a green salad that looks like a stone and grass

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

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

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

shrimps and peas on a large round cracker

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

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

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

aponiente.com

This article appears in the Summer 2022 issue of LUX

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

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

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

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

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

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

eggplant prepared on a black plate

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

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

a chef preparing a plate with leaves on it

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Durjoy Rahman with Kishwar Chowdhury

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

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

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

plates prepared and food in a crate

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

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

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

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

Find out more: @kishwar_chowdhury

This interview was conducted in association with the Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation

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Artwork
Woman

International gallerist Pearl Lam

Art-world doyenne and owner of Pearl Lam Galleries on the foodie culture of her hometown of Hong Kong, why NFTs are hot and how there’s always more room for Asian artists on the global stage

My favourite museum in the region

There are so many incredible museums: Mori Art Museum in Tokyo, National Museum of Korea in Seoul, as well as Rockbund Art Museum, Power Station of Art and Chi K11 Art Museum in Shanghai

Where I go after a busy day at work

Back home to meditate

The last piece of art I bought

I bought two pieces, both from Mexico – one work is by Eugenia Martínez and the other is by Taka Fernández

Lam says that Hong Kong is fast becoming a global art hub

My favourite dining experience in Hong Kong

I usually have Cantonese cuisine, cooked in a private kitchen in the Wan Chai neighbourhood. It’s known for its upscale twist to Hong Kong classics. My favourite dishes are minced-fish soup and barbecued pork

What I think about NFTs

NFTs are hot! NFTs give artists and musicians the freedom to sell to end collectors or consumers directly – and it is already expanding from cryptocurrency to traditional currency investors. People in California and China seem to be particularly interested in building NFT platforms at the moment. It’s a new digital world that has pushed the art world to adapt

The artists I currently have my eye on

Woman

Annie Morris, courtesy of the artist and Tim Taylor Gallery

I love Annie Morris, Idris Khan, Philip Colbert and Gordon Cheung, who are all, coincidentally, UK-based artists. From sculptures to multimedia works and epic landscapes, their art is diverse and I love it

How the Hong Kong art scene has changed over the past 10 years

The art world was previously dominated by Europe and North America, but that has changed with the increase of international art fairs. In Hong Kong, we now have many world-class museums and galleries, which is exciting to see. Hong Kong is becoming a global art hub, especially since the opening of M+ was a success. It’s rare to have an Asian institution with sculpture, installation, photography and paintings that challenge the convention of traditional art

 

Art

‘Mr Doodle in Love’ exhibition at Shanghai K11

My most memorable experience of the city

Hong Kong is my home, so I have many memories. But one that will always stand out is opening my gallery in the historic Pedder Building, which was built in the Beaux-Arts style in 1923

What frustrates me

I wouldn’t say it’s frustrating exactly, but I think there is always more room for Hong Kong artists on the international stage. For me, personally, it’s always been very important to support local artists by showing their work to new audiences

What I miss about Hong Kong when I’m travelling

I miss my friends and my foodie companions. Food is an important part of Hong Kong culture. When a dining experience combines art, through a discussion with artists or friends, it’s even more fun

Find out more: pearllam.com

This article appears in the Summer 2022 issue of LUX

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selection of potatoes
potato farm with mist over the hills

Lucy and Anthony Carroll’s farm in Northumberland

Artisanal growers may be small scale but their care for the land and their produce is making a big impact on how we eat and drink. Torri Mundell meets two nominees for the luxury home appliance manufacturer’s Respected by Gaggenau initiative which celebrates this new generation of producers
couple on their farm

Lucy & Anthony Carroll

At Tiptoe Farm in Northumberland, Anthony Carroll is telling LUX about the “awkward” pink fir apple potato. “They grow vertically and have stems that can reach two metres tall. They’re so knobbly, they can’t be dug up with a modern potato harvester,” he says. They are, in short, more demanding than your average supermarket potato. “But,” he points out, “they have so much more to give.”

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

Carroll and his wife Lucy used to farm more conventional potato varieties until in 2000 Carroll had, in his words, a “light-bulb moment”. A supermarket retailer had approached him to produce a potato variety that would “look great in a plastic bag”, but that tasted, by the retailer’s own admission, “filthy”. Carroll not only refused the offer, but he also resolved to start growing some of the more flavourful potatoes that, after the two world wars, had been abandoned for inexpensive, high-yield varieties.

Today, the farm’s portfolio of heritage potatoes, including the Victorian-era spuds they brought back from near extinction, occupies most of the 28.5-hectare farm. Lucy Carroll describes how these varieties have restored some nuance to the potato’s range of flavours: “Some are very full-bodied, some are very light and fluffy, some retain that green, new potato flavour through the whole year.” The farm supplies Michelin-starred restaurants which often list the variety of the potato on their menu. “Just seeing the name Mr Little’s Yetholm Gypsy can bring a bit of history alive on your plate,” she says.

selection of potatoes

A range of heritage potatoes produced by Lucy and Anthony Carroll

Working outdoors with lower-yield, less disease-resistant species in a landscape often battered by unpredictable weather is challenging, but the farm has maintained its LEAF (Linking Environment and Farming) Marque certification for integrating environmentally sound practices such as monitoring water consumption and planting bird and insect-friendly crops, grasses and flowers.

At the end of 2020, the farm was put onto the Respected by Gaggenau shortlist, an initiative developed by the German luxury home appliance manufacturer to promote small producers or craftspeople in the culinary world who “harbour a passion for exceptional craftsmanship or the preservation of rare and unique species”. Not only does the initiative celebrate traditional skills and techniques, but it also addresses our current preoccupation with provenance and supporting small businesses. The UK’s Crafts Council reported that in 2019, 73 per cent of UK adults purchased something handmade.

The longlist of 60 Respected nominees was assembled by a panel of 25 high-profile curators, including chefs, viniculture experts, design editors and food critics. The 2021 accolade will bring global recognition and support to the finalists, who have all weathered a difficult year.

vineyard

The Albury Vineyard in Surrey at harvest time. Photograph by Jonathan Blackham

Also on the shortlist is Nick Wenman, who founded in the Surrey Hills in 2009. Having a vineyard on the southern slopes of the North Downs “wasn’t the huge gamble that you’d expect,” he says, pointing out that the cool English climate lends itself to creating grapes with high acidity and low sugar content, a prerequisite for good quality sparkling wine.

Read more: Speaking with America’s new art icon Rashid Johnson

His work is not just about international awards and appearances on royal barges or on the wine list at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons – though Albury Vineyard has clocked up all three. Wenman and his team, including his Italian manager and his daughter Lucy, are often up at 5am to tend to the vines. Almost every April, a spring frost requires them to work through the night, lighting thousands of wax ‘bougies’ to warm up the vineyard by a couple of degrees.

bottle of white wine and two glasses

The Albury Estate blanc de blancs is made from chardonnay and seyval blanc grapes. Photograph by Simon Weller

The team not only contends with the variable UK weather but with the “extra layer of planning and stress” that comes with operating an organic and biodynamic vineyard, a tightrope act that wine expert and Respected by Gaggenau curator Sarah Abbott MW describes as “heroic”. “You can’t use any systemic chemicals to knock out the diseases that vines suffer in wet and damp conditions,” she says. Nor can you deploy non-organic ‘sugar movers’, sprays which would hasten the ripening of the fruit when faced with a run of bad weather.

Wenman estimates that organic vintners have to devote 40 per cent more time to their harvest, but he is motivated by a “passion for the environment and a belief that [organic and biodynamic principles] create better quality wine”. While the vineyard’s biodynamic status brings constraints, he notes that it inspires innovation, too. One of his favourite wines, the Albury Estate Biodynamic Wild Ferment 2015, is the first of its kind, “produced using only a chardonnay and a wild ferment grown from the yeasts that occur naturally in the vineyard”. His appreciation for small-scale artisanship among his fellow English winemakers echoes the spirit of the Respected by Gaggenau campaign. “In the UK, there are no bulk wine producers churning out the same old stuff,” he says. “And because they’re smaller, they might give the vines an extra bit of care, so you end up with a better product at the end of the day.”

man working on vineyard

Albury’s owner Nick Wenman burying manure-filled cow horns in the vineyard in winter for fertilising the soil in the spring

Underlying our appreciation of craft and artisanship is a desire to connect with its creator. Three curators for the Respected by Gaggenau accolade tell us why authenticity in food, wine and design matters

portrait of a chef in apronChef and culinary curator
SANTIAGO LASTRA

There is always a story behind every dish and as the chef, you are responsible for telling that story. Before I opened my restaurant, I spent a year travelling around the UK to find the producers I wanted to work with, getting to know the farmers, the fishermen, even the potters who make the plates. I can see the connection they have to the land, the struggle with the weather, and the care that goes into their ingredients. They are part of a fascinating ecosystem of people that believe in a sustainable future, and I have learned that quality is not about rarity or luxury – it means only that something has been made with respect.

man in front of book shelfEditor-in-Chief, LUX Magazine and collectibles consultant
DARIUS SANAI

This campaign is centred on a theme that is in the air at the moment: identifying authentic creators and originators, goods and services. This is important in the broader luxury and collectibles industry in which we operate, where you have on the one hand dominance by a number of big commercial players who are brilliant at marketing and branding, and on the other you have the emergence of a new class of producer that has made its name by creating, rather than marketing. The challenge for the curators of the initiative – as well as for informed consumers and retailers – is to get beyond the PR to find genuinely great producers creating or curating really original products of high quality but that were made in a very personal way.

chef in the kitchenChef and culinary curator
CYRUS TODIWALA OBE

At my restaurants, we have always concentrated intently on how we source and use ingredients in our day-to-day cooking, and we championed artisanal producers long before they became fashionable, so working on this initiative with Gaggenau feels like a perfect fit. The appreciation of artisans, producers, the environment – and everything we do to make our lives meaningful – slides tidily into this simple word: respect. The best producers begin with a belief in themselves and what they have set out to do. Their produce is unique – there are no boring similarities from one to another. And easy money isn’t on their radar; they are driven by the joy they find in delivering ethically produced, beautiful quality food.

Find out more: gaggenau.com/gb

This article was originally published in the Summer 2021 issue.

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man outside in shirt and tie
portrait of a man

Abdullah Ibrahim by Lex van Rossen

Abdullah Ibrahim was discovered by Duke Ellington, fought against apartheid, and played at Nelson Mandela’s inauguration. The South African jazz legend speaks to LUX from his Cape Town home about his hopes and dreams

My favourite view…

The stars in the night sky over the green Kalahari.

The best place to listen to jazz…

Where your chosen jazz musicians are playing.

Where you’ll find the coolest new bands…

In the place you least expect.

The only thing I’ll queue up for is…

A masterclass with a master.

Most overrated tourist spot…

The beach.

Most undiscovered tourist spot…

The unlisted one you discover.

man outside in shirt and tie

What I love about Cape Town…

The flowers and animals.

My favourite smell…

Musk.

I feel most at one with nature in…

The desert, hills and rivers.

The best local dish…

The traditional dish prepared at home.

My favourite memory is…

The next one.

What I think of the youngest generation…

I was once like them.

If I live to be 200 I would like to see…

If that bird at daybreak still sings the same song.

My proudest achievement is…

Realising and accepting that the process of learning is boundless.

My greatest fear is…

Becoming complacent and lapsing into a comfort zone.

My biggest regret is…

Not doing enough to seek for knowledge.

Find out more: abdullahibrahim.co.za

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

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hands holding grapes

The Respected by Gaggenau initiative recognises excellence in the categories of food, wine and design

German luxury appliance maker Gaggenau begins its search for three extraordinary makers and producers for their Respected by Gaggenau 2021 campaign. LUX reports

The inaugural Respected by Gaggenau prize aims to bring global attention to three exceptional regional producers in the categories of food, viniculture and design. A team of global experts have put together a long-list of 80 nominees from across Europe, which will be whittled down to 15 by Dr. Peter Goetz, Gaggenau’s Head of Design Sven Baacke, viniculture expert Sarah Abbott MW and culinary critic Tom Parker Bowles before the announcement of the final recipients in January 2021.

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The winning producers will receive a promotional package to support their business and showcase their craft, including videography and photography created by Gaggenau. They will also become an official Gaggenau global brand partner for 2021 giving them access to the brand’s high-net-worth customer base.

The Respected by Gaggenau 2021 long-list nominees from the United Kingdom were selected by LUX’s own editor-in-chief Darius Sanai, Kol restaurant chef Santiago Lastra and celebrated chef Cyrus Todiwala. Nominees include:

Culinary

Caroll’s Heritage Potatoes @carollsheritagepotatoes
Elchies Estates @elchies_animals
Keltic Seafare @kelticseafare
Langley Chase Organic Farm – Jane Kallaway @langleychasefarm
Rhug Estate Organic Farm – Lord Newborough @rhugestate

Design

Billy Tannery – Jack Millington @billytannery
Cara Guthrie Ceramics @caraguthrieceramics
Retrouvius – Adam Hills & Maria Speake @retrouvius

Viniculture

Albury Organic Vineyard @alburyvineyard
Coates and Seely @coatesandseely

Watch the campaign video below:

For more information visit: gaggenau.com

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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

 

 

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Parmesan and grapes

Orange peeled with glassware. Image by Patrice de Villiers

In this series of interviews conducted in partnership with Gaggenau, LUX speaks to four artists, who are seeking to alter our perspectives of the world through their innovative practices and meticulous craft

Creativity is an essential part of humanity. Whether it’s a painting, sculpture, building, object, or a plate of food, we make things to better understand and appreciate the world in which we live.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

As one of the original pioneers of kitchen design, German-brand Gaggenau has long supported craftsmanship through the making of its own range of elegant high-tech products, and through collaborations with like-minded makers. Each of the four artists below was asked to create a work of art to celebrate the launch of the brand’s new steam oven range, engaging with the themes around sensory experiences, sustainability, and innovation. Here, we discuss their unique forms of creativity.

The Dance of the Flying Fish. Image by Patrice De Villiers

Patrice de Villiers

Food photographer

What made you decide to specialise in food photography?

I studied photography, film studies and English Literature at university. Back then, my photography element mainly consisted of shooting portraits of aspiring musicians and actors. It wasn’t until I came to London to assist a still life photographer that I was introduced to the concept of using food as a subject matter, and looking at it in a different way. Still life is a difficult discipline I think, but with food you have everything already there; it’s got form, texture, and colour. It gives you a head-start in making what’s hopefully an amazing and impactful image. 

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What comes first the ingredients or the photographic concept?

If it’s a commercial job, I’m given a brief and an ingredient and the concept comes out of observing it, thinking about it. I always try to think about it differently so that if you look at the image of parmesan or asparagus or whatever it is, you think I would have never seen it visually in that way. But then at other times, as I do now with a new project, I have a particular concept in mind and in my forays to the markets, I’ve been thinking about which ingredients would best suit the idea. 

How do you think an image can contribute to a person’s experience of food?

It can inspire. If you see an ingredient or dish photographed in a beautiful way, then why wouldn’t it inspire somebody to go off and create something? A publisher once said to me that most cookbooks are aspirational, meaning that an awful lot of cookbooks are bought not necessarily to cook from. People have them as pieces of art to simply look at. 

The Octopus and the Belt. Image by Patrice de Villiers

Parmigiano with Grapes. Image by Patrice de Villiers

Your images often have a distinct painterly quality, how do you achieve this effect with a camera?

It’s less to do with the camera and more about the lighting craft so I observe the object and I experiment with light on it in various compositions. With experience, you learn instinctively where things should be and equally, where they shouldn’t be.  When I come up with my ideas, I certainly don’t do it all on set; I sketch out almost all of my work. 

When I was at Uni, I was particularly struck by Edward Weston and his beautiful photographs of peppers. They’re black and white so you’re not distracted by colour. He just wanted to focus on the incredible form and texture, but the beauty of the ingredient, of course, is in the eye of the beholder. When I’m shooting a food editorial that needs let’s say a pepper or an orange, then I will go and get it because if you’ve only got that one thing in the image, as Weston only had his pepper, it has to have character. 

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

Jan Wines (with sketches) by Patrice de Villiers

‘Food is definitely a natural form of art. The joy of photography is that I get to […] abstract it so that what people might view as something purely edible becomes something else.’

I was shooting some endives for the Independent a few years ago. It was when I went closely in with a longer lens that I could see they had tiny hairs coming off the leaves. It was about the intimacy [of the image]. The hairs of the yellow endive were just close enough to slightly touch the red one – it’s a tiny thing, but it’s about finding that beauty. I’ve photographed practically everything on the planet in the edible world and there’s usually something incredible about it whether it’s something quirky or beautiful.

Touch Softly. Image by Patrice de Villiers

Tender Kiss. Image by Patrice de Villiers

Celery Cheese (with sketches) by Patrice de Villiers

Has this current period affected your perspectives and relationship to food?

During this time, working from home, being isolated, I think food and meal times have become the punctuation for many people’s days. It gives you some sort of schedule, something to focus on when everything else is so hazy, something to look forward to.

How do you think your practice aligns with Gaggenau’s ethos?

I feel that we come from entirely the same place. There’s a shared dedication to craft and to [producing] the ultimate in quality. We both pay attention to the really tiny details and have an eye for beauty.

@patricedevilliers
patricedevilliers.com

‘The Rising Tide’ (2016), The River Thames, Vauxhall, London by Jason deCaires Taylor

Jason deCaires Taylor

Underwater artist

How did your interest in ocean conservation progress into making underwater art?

I studied public sculpture at university so I always envisioned a career in the arts, but at the same time, I had a love for the sea and I trained to be a diving instructor, which I thought could be a hobby or part time thing, but then slowly, I started to think about the two things being connected. I became disillusioned by public art because besides its inherent message and aesthetics, I felt that it also needed a practical reason to occupy the space. It was through diving and exploring the underwater world, that I realised I could create artworks that also worked on a practical and functional level.

Read more: How Andermatt Swiss Alps is tackling climate change

What are some of the challenges of working underwater?

They are all very challenging projects; I haven’t done an easy one yet. First of all, there are the materials. Most public sculpture uses metal either foundry castings or armatures, but underwater, that’s not a very sustainable material, and practically it’s quite difficult to implement so we use types of cement that are formulated with marine biologists. We have to make the works extremely heavy to survive the harsh marine elements as there are a lot of forces taking place underwater. There’s a balance between trying to make the works that are solid and can be attached to the sea floor without creating monumental logistical challenges on land.

How much does the location of the sculpture influence its form?

It’s really vital that each project has a strong connection to the place where it’s set. There are a lot of community consultations and for a lot of the projects, I’ve actually lived in the locations for many years. It’s only by spending time with people, learning the languages and getting to know the local culture, that you’re able to produce designs that are relevant. I’ve also cast a lot of people from local communities so that they feel more connected to the work. On a practical level, there are many different regional currents and the transparency of the water differs, along with the marine life, which are all important considerations when creating a work. 

Top image: ‘The Coral Greenhouse’ (2019) at MOUA, The Great Barrier Reef, Queensland, Australia. Below: Installing ‘Disconnected’ (2016) at Museo Atlantico, Lanzarote. Both pieces by Jason deCaires Taylor

Jason planting fire coral on his sculpture entitled ‘Man on Fire’ (2011) at MUSA, Mexico

As your works are naturally transformed by the sea, they appear as ruins from another age or culture. How do you think this contributes to the way viewers respond to the works?

I always felt that it was like looking at ourselves from a wider angle or from much further away. We have this inbuilt desire to conquer nature; there’s that traditional mentality of ‘man over nature’. I hope that my work shows that we are integral part of nature, but also that we are, ultimately, at its mercy.

‘The Coral Greenhouse’ (2019) by Jason deCaires Taylor at MOUA, The Great Barrier Reef, Queensland, Australia.

‘There’s something about seeing ourselves in a different environment and with a different sense of time that contextualises our lives, but also makes us aware of our underlying fragility.’

What role do you think your art plays in wider discussions around the environment?

We need a fundamental reset of our relationship to the natural world. The capitalist system of us looking at the natural world as a giant resource has to change, and it will change because we can not continue as we have been going. From a marine point of view, it’s a harder challenge because it’s an environment that’s out of sight and out of mind for most people. I hope my work brings the underwater world into urban environments.

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

Scientists put forward all of these figures and stats, but we’re extremely emotional beings and we respond much better to an emotive argument than to a factual one. I think that’s where art, and hopefully, my work, can play a fundamental role; it can transform those facts into an emotional message, and also bring these kinds of issues to a more mainstream audience. 

What led you to collaborate with Gaggenau?

Over the years, I’ve been approached by quite a few different brands and I very rarely do them, but Gaggenau has a good appreciation for the arts and supporting artists. Their products are about quality, good design and engineering, which I think complements my own practice.

Calcareous tubeworms on part of a piece entitled ‘Crossing the Rubicon’ (2018) by Jason deCaires Taylor at Museo Atlantico, Lanzarote

‘Inertia’ (2014) by Jason deCaires Taylor at MUSA, Mexico

Have you managed to create in lockdown?

I have two young children so it hasn’t been that easy to come up with new ideas or designs, but at the same time, it’s an opportunity to reset. We have all been living too fast, and it’s a time to re-evaluate what’s important. In terms of actually creating, I get excited about an idea, and then, sometimes I feel that things are a bit futile, that I’m just finding ways to preoccupy myself.

Are you afraid of the future?

Yes. It’s hard to comprehend the magnitude of what’s happening. There are three monumental challenges that we are facing: the virus, the economy and climate change. I think it could go one of two ways. It could be an amazing opportunity to rebuild ourselves in a more sustainable way, but it’s also going to really test humanity as to whether people will think only about their immediate reality and their families, or whether they can look past and see themselves as part of a global entity. It’s tricky when fear is involved. Fear can be used for manipulation, and I worry that might happen.

@jasondecairestaylor
underwatersculpture.com

Prudence Staite and her team creating an edible countryside landscape from popular breakfast foods to celebrate Farmhouse Breakfast Week. The artwork used 11 different types of breakfast cereal, including 169 wheat biscuits and 42 shredded wheat parcels, 500g of porridge oats, 21 slices of bread, 14 bread rolls, 14 crumpets, 2 jars of marmalade, 12 rashers of bacon and 42 apples.

Koala CFA made from nuts & seeds by Prudence Staite

Prudence Staite

Food artist

When did you decided to combine your passion for food with making art?

When I was doing my art degree, I got bored of what we were supposed doing – it was an old fashioned art school, very traditional – and instead I started creating artworks out of chocolate and sugar. The idea was that people could interact with the artwork; you could go into the gallery and actually eat it. Art to stimulate all the senses. Initially, my tutors were totally against it and said that art isn’t something you’re supposed to touch, it’s something you’re supposed to look at, but my degree show was made out of food. It was a room that you could actually go into; you could look through chocolate windows, and you could eat the chocolate skirting boards. The idea was to make people think how interiors link to real food. For example, how ceiling patterns sometimes look like frosting. That was back in 2000, and I set up my company the day after I graduated. 

Giants Codway by Prudence Staite

Are all chefs are artists?

The way you set up to create a painting or a sculpture is quite similar to how you set up a plate of food. You’ve got a canvas or a plate and you have to collate ingredients or your artistic materials, and you plan and you prep. So yes, I think artists are chefs and chefs are artists.

What are some of the challenges of using food as an artistic material?

One of the main challenges is the lifespan of the food substances. Also, all of the work that we tend to do has incredibly short deadlines. We’re always chasing our tail and juggling different jobs. We try to always come up with new things that haven’t been done before, but often, we don’t have time to see whether it will actually work so we just have to figure it out whilst we’re making it. It’s fun and I love it, but it can be challenging. 

Read more: In conversation with ballet dancer Sergei Polunin

We had one job where we had to use edible insects and chocolate. Since a lot of our artworks are eaten, we always have to make sure that it’s  safe and meets food safety standards so for this project, there was a legal limit of how many insects you can have per ratio of chocolate and we had to get a veterinary certificate to make sure the insets been harvested correctly. For that kind of thing, there’s a lot of paperwork and a huge amount of planning. 

Much of your artwork is assembled on site, why did you decide to work this way?

For me, it’s that part of the theatre of my artwork. I like that people can see it all coming together. Often they see the vegetables, cheese, chocolate or whatever we’re working with, but they can’t see how it’s going to turn out. I think that seeing that process adds something to the eventual eating experience. Having people watch me work can also be a little bit stressful because things do go wrong, but overcoming the problems is part of it. Also a lot of the projects we do are large scale so you can’t transport them easily in one piece.

‘The Girl with a Pearl Earring’ created by Prudence Staite for Gaggenau’s steam oven launch, 2020

‘My whole philosophy is to give people a different viewpoint so that they can appreciate the art of food.’

What led you to partner with Gaggenau?

I was approached by the brand and asked whether I could create something that reflected the ingredients that could be used in their new steam ovens. Their ethos is very much that the products are masterpieces in themselves, they’re works of art, and that really fitted with my philosophy that food is art. The ovens are not so much of a tool, but a vehicle to create masterpieces at home. I love that idea. Gaggenau’s colour scheme had the feeling of Dutch Old Masters [paintings] with lots of rich greens and purples, which inspired the idea of re-creating The Girl with a Pearl Earring using vegetables.

How do you think your artworks contribute to the viewers’ experience of food?

My whole philosophy is to give people a different viewpoint so that they can appreciate the art of food. Food should be an enjoyable experience and not something you just quickly shovel down your throat to fulfil a calorie intake. It’s about getting people to stop and think about where we get food from and how it’s grown.

The making of ‘The Girl with a Pearl Earring’

Chocolate Motorbike Exhaust by Prudence Staite

Have you been creating in lockdown?

We were working on three different projects and they were all put on hold because a lot of what we tend to do is in a public place or in a restaurant. So, I’ve been looking at new inspirations and I’ve been experimenting with making a series of chocolate vinyl records that are actually play music. I’ve also been trying to get a rainbow, the light spectrum, captured in chocolate, which I’ve managed to do by using diffraction grading so when you move the chocolate around under the light, you can actually see a rainbow.

What’s next for you?

I never really know what’s coming next – it has been like this for twenty years. One day I’d love to do a twelve course dinner which are  all individual works of art served within a chocolate art gallery. So you can go and eat all the walls, the doors, the floors, ceilings, the chairs that you’re sitting on and chocolate records are playing music as entertainment whilst you eat. I would also like to work with more fresh produce and flowers, and to experiment with immersive produce installations.

@prudenceemmastaite
foodisart.co.uk

Brill from the menu at Paris House

Paris House in the Summer (top) and Phil Fanning in the kitchen

Phil Fanning

Executive Chef & Owner of Paris House 

Your cooking focuses on seasonal British produce – where do you generally source your ingredients?

The general principle is that we find purveyors of the best quality produce and we rely on their connections with suppliers, farmers and producers. We are keen to use local people as long as their product is good. The quality of the product is paramount.

Read more: Fashion designer Erdem Moralıoğlu’s guide to east London

What appeals to you about Japanese cooking techniques?

I’ve always loved Japanese culture. My wife and I are sushi addicts. I’ve been into martial arts all my life and I’m an amateur carpenter; Japanese carpentry is incredible. When you set up a business, you need some kind of USP or direction so it made perfect sense for me to follow that route. The principle behind Japanese food is the quality of technique, driving towards a kind of simple perfection. It’s to do with extracting the best flavours from what you put in. What I especially love about Japanese culinary techniques is that you don’t necessarily know it’s Japanese from a flavour point of view so you can enhance British ingredients with Japanese techniques without turning it into Japanese food. 

Native Lobster at Paris House

How are you incorporating sustainability into your kitchen?

We have a kitchen garden so all of our vegetable trimmings go on the compost heap and the compost heap goes onto the garden and the produce from the garden comes back into the kitchen. We are closely advised by our fish suppliers as to what is the best fish to be using that season. We very recently flipped our entire kitchen to induction services and low energy refrigeration, which saves us a huge amount of money and also means that we’re not wasting energy. We also recycle everything we possibly can. There’s plenty more we could do, but we have already improved in many areas. 

Who or what do you think influenced your tastes in food and cooking?

It stared off with Gary Rhodes who was on TV. His passion and enthusiasm was infectious. Then my grandpa, bought me a Ken Hom wok when I was about ten – I’ve still got it and it’s used on a regular basis – which opened my eyes to the Asian route. I also had a very powerful mentor: Michael MacDonald who now owns the Vanilla Pod in Marlow. He directed my skill set and greatly influenced my understanding in the kitchen. Then, there’s my chef idol: Thomas Keller.

How do you think your cooking style has evolved over the years?

As the years go by you work out what it is that the guest wants, more than what it is you think they want. In other words, you become better at understanding your customer base’s requirements. So I think I’ve become closer to what my customers like and I’ve definitely focused more on Asian techniques.

Read more: Sassan Behnam-Bakhtiar & the artistic revival of Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat

Craftsmanship is the cornerstone of what we do. Over the years, I’ve become better and better at my craft, but I don’t think I’ve drastically changed what I’m doing. Every time you go out for a meal you get inspiration and gain a deeper understanding, but you always cook what you like. Fundamentally, if you wouldn’t eat it, you shouldn’t cook it. Yes, you have to listen to your customers and ensure you fit into the market, but you have to cook food that you love. 

‘The fundamental principle is that you eat with your eyes. A good dish needs to taste, feel and look amazing; all three of those things have to be right.’

What’s your process for developing new recipes?

Our current format is heavily driven by tasting menus. We have a six, eight, and ten course tasting menu, which are influenced by the Japanese concept of Kaiseki. It’s an incredibly seasonal and locally driven food concept, and as with all things Japanese, there’s always a reason for dishes to be in a specific order, combination or at a specific time of the year. There’s a set of principles that you follow to build the Kaiseki menu.

By using some of the same principles in our menus at Paris House, we have a better and more consistent way to develop dishes. Now, we have dish “holes” so we know, for example, the dish at the beginning has to be slightly bitter, it has to be really fresh and probably seafood or vegetable-based. The next one down has to be hot, vegetable-based and with a fried element. These principles build a nice flow. Point one for us is to think about those principles, and then to look at what’s seasonal and whether there are any new or exciting ingredients, and the third point is if we want to try and incorporate any new techniques into the menu. Then, there’s experimenting and tasting. It takes about three to four months to bring a menu together. 

Crab (top) and Beef Rib dishes from a menu at Paris House

A plum dessert at Paris House

Do you consider yourself an artist, and is cooking an art form?

I think I’m a craftsman, but you could argue that all craftsmen have an element of artistry. The fundamental principle is that you eat with your eyes. A good dish needs to taste, feel and look amazing; all three of those things have to be right. The taste and texture of the piece is definitely down to craftsmanship, but the visual representation requires an artistic perspective.

What led you to collaborate with Gaggenau?

We’ve worked closely with Gaggenau for many years now. They’re a massive producer of technology, but they’re so artisan about what they do. For Gaggeanu, it’s never about mass production, it’s about quality, which fits with what we do at Paris House.

What have you been cooking in lockdown?

I’ve been cooking more than I have for years. At work, I’ve been doing the take-out menus, but at home, we’ve been baking baguettes, pizzas, sausage rolls. My favourite thing to eat in the sun is bouillabaisse so we made a big batch with mussels, which was incredible. Usually I don’t have a chance to bake bread at home, and in the first few weeks when the restaurant was closed, I was baking pretty much every day. I love baking bread – it’s such a therapeutic process. Spending more time with the kids has also been a huge silver lining.

@parishousechef
parishouse.co.uk

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Reading time: 26 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

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Reading time: 1 min
Asian model stands in desert setting wearing a bikini and jacket

graphic banner in red, white and blue reading Charlie Newman's model of the month

Portrait of Asian model Grace Cheng

Model and entrepreneur Grace Cheng. Instagram: @gracepcheng

LUX contributing editor and model at Models 1, Charlie Newman continues her online exclusive series, interviewing her peers about their creative pursuits, passions and politics

colour headshot of blond girl laughing with hand against face wearing multiple rings

Charlie Newman

THIS MONTH: 24-year-old Taiwanese/Chinese model Grace Cheng was born and raised in the suburbs of Los Angeles. She has appeared in numerous fashion campaigns and walked for the likes of Bottega Venetta, Moschino and Marc Jacobs. A year ago, she launched oatmeal company Mylk Labs by reinvesting her modelling earnings. She chats to Charlie about healthy eating, handling success and future ambitions.

Charlie Newman: Were you passionate about fashion and food as a child?
Grace Cheng: Not at all! I was a tomboy and never wanted to be a model, even though I stuck out as a lanky, tall girl. The most fashion I experienced was shopping every weekend at the mall! Never did I cook either – this was something I grew into when I was around 19.

Charlie Newman: So how and when did you get into modelling?
Grace Cheng: I was scouted at 17 and started modelling at 18. I never wanted to pursue it despite the many relatives and friends who told me I should, being the lanky, tall girl that I was and am! I had no idea what to expect and it kind of just fell into my lap but I’m glad it did because I’ve grown so much as a person since then.

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

Charlie Newman: And then your career rocketed very quickly! Tell us about your experience of rising to success.
Grace Cheng: There’s no question I find it hard: all of the travelling, long e-commerce days and tons of castings that never come into fruition. Travelling is something I struggle with especially since I’m someone who loves being organised and prefer a set routine. My mindset has always been “nothing in life is easy” so I knew I had to put in the work. I have friends who send me screenshots of ads or campaigns that I’m featured in, it’s always so fun to be spotted and that makes it all worthwhile.

Charlie Newman: Whilst modelling full-time you were also studying at USC – how did you balance those two commitments?
Grace Cheng: Yes! I studied business and graduated in 2016. It was really hard to balance if I’m being honest. If a young girl were to tell me they want to skip college for modelling, I’d advise against it even though it’s tough. I was commuting from home and hour and thirty minutes drive one way, and took classes twice a week. They were 10 hour days so I could bang out all my classes in one go and model for the other three days of the week. I’d be studying and doing homework during my lunch and snack breaks during my jobs too! The hardest week I had looked like this: 10 hours of school on Tuesday and 3 midterms, then go to LAX airport to get on a red eye fly out to Philadelphia, arrive 6am on Wednesday to shoot 10 hours, then head back to the airport to fly home, land at 1am, wake up at 5 am for another 10 hour day of school!

Asian model sitting on a white box in a white setting wearing a red dress and black hat

Instagram: @gracepcheng

Charlie Newman: You launched your company Mylk labs just over a year ago now. How was the idea born?
Grace Cheng: I was traveling so much for modelling and I just wanted my homemade, daily oatmeal. With my background in business, I knew I always wanted to start my own company but I just never knew what it was going to be. After my first fashion month in NY, London and Paris, I came back and knew oatmeal is what I wanted to create because it was all I could think about the entire time I was gone!

CEO of Mylk Labs holding a tower of three pots

Instagram: @gracepcheng

Charlie Newman: As a woman, how have you found the experience of setting up your own business and what advice would you give to others wanting to do the same?
Grace Cheng: It’s been so exciting, but a lot of work. It took one full year of planning, sourcing and putting everything together before execution. My advice is: make sure you’re passionate about what you do, keep pushing and don’t be afraid to explore outside the box.

Read more: Designer Piet Boon on avoiding trends

Charlie Newman: Have you found the fashion world to be supportive of your newfound project?
Grace Cheng: Yes, my bookers and everyone is very understanding and supportive of my company. I’ve still yet to bridge the two together, but rest assured, it’s currently in the works. I want to be able to serve wholesome, convenient food to those in the fashion industry. This includes educating young models on eating well and being good to their own bodies.

Charlie Newman: With so much conflicting advice surrounding healthy living, it’s very easy as a
consumer to get lost within it all. What advice would you give to anyone trying to change their eating habits?
Grace Cheng: Eat based on ingredients versus calories. I always read the label to see what’s in my
food before buying and eating it, unless it’s at a restaurant of course. Always focus on wholesome
and real food as that will always be best in the long run, rather than restricting yourself on calories or low fat foods and diets.

Charlie Newman: Your products are non GMO, wholegrain, vegan and free from gluten, artificial additives and refined sugar. Why do you think it has taken the fast food industry so long to catch up with health conscious eating?
Grace Cheng: Well, to be honest, there are so many good options now so I can’t say that the fast food industry hasn’t caught up exactly, but it might have taken even longer because our world moves on “trends”. It’s weird to say it like that but people will only start to acknowledge and try something once everyone else is doing it.

Charlie Newman: Is there a health food brand you particularly admire?
Grace Cheng: Sweetgreen here in the US! They are a chain of quick service salad shops and it tastes amazing, they’re always my go to when travelling. Sweetgreen inspires me because their ability to make healthy food accessible, affordable and most importantly, delicious!

Charlie Newman: Where would you like to see your business in 5 years time?
Grace Cheng: I would absolutely love to create new product lines! I hope to become more than an “oatmeal company”. My goal is to create a company that people can recognise and trust in their daily lives, to create a culture and community of people who show themselves love through mindful living and eating. Being mindful is similar to being aware and considerate. Whether that be overall in life or day to day habits like eating a meal or staying active for example.

Charlie Newman: Lastly, who’s your role model of the month?
Grace Cheng: Coco Rocha. She’s a model turned business woman. She has her own book of poses and started a modelling camp to teach aspiring models how to move comfortably in their own skin.

Follow Grace Cheng on Instagram: @gracepcheng

Discover Mylk Labs: mylklabs.com

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Reading time: 6 min
Abstract artwork of microbe type shapes floating in a colourful background
Colourful illustration of corn cobs against a pale green background

Art by Grace Crabtree

Genetically modified organisms have courted controversy since they were first developed. Mark Lynas’ new book explores the surprising extent to which politics has trumped science in the GMO debate, says Shannon Osaka

When Mark Lynas slouched onto the stage at the 2013 Oxford Farming Conference, he looked decidedly uncomfortable. After all, the British environmentalist and science writer — known for his well-researched and detailed books on climate change — was about to face his peers in a format best resembling a confession. ‘My lords, ladies, and gentlemen,’ he began. ‘For the record, here and upfront, I apologise for having spent several years ripping up GM crops.’

Lynas wasn’t speaking metaphorically. In the late 1990s, dressed in a black hoodie and clutching a machete, Lynas took part in ‘direct actions’ against geoengineering, in which he and his fellow activists dodged police and landowners to destroy GM crops. Their call to action was a milieu of anti-corporate sentiment, anti-capitalism, and resistance to the modification of nature. In advance of one early action, Lynas wrote on a flyer: ‘Huge corporations…are using genetics to engineer a corporate takeover of our entire food supply. There is still time to stop them.’

From the beginning, the producers of genetically modified organisms (GMOs or GMs for short) – including such unsavoury companies as the US-based Monsanto – have been embroiled in a war of attrition against environmental activists. Those ideologically opposed to genetic modification spent the late 90s and early 2000s planning protests and spreading misinformation about the dangers of the new crops. They called GMOs ‘Frankenfoods’. They demonised the scientists and researchers who developed them.

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And they were overwhelmingly successful. In 2005, a Gallup poll found that a third of the US population believed that crops made with biotech posed ‘a serious health hazard to consumers’. By 2015, over half of the countries in the European Union, including Germany, France, and Italy, had enacted bans against the cultivation of GM crops. While GMOs are still grown today in the United States, their spread has been slowed or halted in Europe, Asia, and Africa.

To date, however, the deleterious effects of GMOs remain merely speculative. Ninety percent of scientists think that genetically modified foods are safe. The American Medical Association, the World Health Organization, the Royal Society of London, and many other science organisations worldwide have stated that GMOs are safe or, at the very least, not any more dangerous than organisms developed through conventional breeding methods.

It was the realisation that his position was not only unsupported by, but in fact the antithesis of, the scientific consensus that led Lynas to his emotional confession before the Oxford Farming Conference. It also led him to write Seeds of Science: Why We Got It So Wrong on GMOs (2018), a book that is at once memoir, polemic, and technology explainer; it is at times frustrating and at other times revelatory.

It is also timely. In an age that has been called ‘post-fact’ and ‘post-truth’, trust in science is on a decline amid a deluge of internet-spread misinformation, partisan politicking, and privately-funded denialism. A BBC documentary in 2010 declared that science was ‘under attack’ and the March for Science, founded last year in response to the inauguration of Donald Trump, attracted 100,000 participants in Washington, D.C. alone. On both sides of the Atlantic, doubt has spread on every scientific question from the veracity of anthropogenic climate change to the safety of vaccines.

Amid such conflict and uncertainty, Lynas’ recantation seems hopeful: a triumph of reason over emotion, of evidence over partisanship. But the real story is more complicated. As [Shawn] Otto explains in his lengthy and thorough The War on Science (2016), scientific reasons for supporting one position or another all too easily bleed into ideological ones – whether the issue is conservative opposition to climate change or liberal distrust of GMOs. Yes, Lynas changed his mind: but was he motivated by fact or ideology?

*

The story of GMOs begins with a misnomer. All organisms that we eat are, in one way or another, ‘genetically modified’. We have crossbred similar species of plants and animals to select for particular, idealised characteristics. That’s why carrots are orange, large, and sweet rather than small, white, and woody. That’s also why we have domesticated dogs that range in size and shape from the dachshund to the Great Dane.

But it can’t be denied that GMOs have an extra ick factor. Genetically modified organisms, in the sense that we use the word today, contain genes that have been extracted from some other, often completely unrelated, organism. Donor DNA which codes for a particular useful protein is removed and implanted into the recipient, imbuing it with the superpowers of (in the case of food) pest or herbicide resistance. This type of genetic engineering is cool, but also frightening. As Lynas said in his conference speech, ‘This absolutely was about deep-seated fears of scientific powers being used secretly for unnatural ends … We employed a lot of imagery about scientists in their labs, cackling demonically as they tinkered with the very building blocks of life.’ There’s something about modifying the genome itself that smacks of technological overreach.

Abstract artwork of microbe type shapes floating in a colourful background

Art by Grace Crabtree

It doesn’t help that GMOs are a poster child for the corporatisation of farming. Monsanto, a multinational conglomerate formerly based in St. Louis, Missouri, was one of the first companies to produce and commodify genetically engineered seeds. (Monsanto no longer exists as an independent entity: in June 2018, it finalised its sale to German chemical giant Bayer). Lynas traces how Monsanto engineers stumbled upon a highly potent, surprisingly safe herbicide called glyphosate, which the corporate eventually dubbed ‘Roundup’. Combined with a soybean genetically modified to resist glyphosate – aka the ‘Roundup Ready’ soybean – Monsanto could sell farmers seeds and herbicide simultaneously, ensuring a steady stream of profit.

Although the company touted its ethical bona fides at every opportunity, its business practises looked suspect. GM crops had promised to help the environment by removing the need for toxic herbicides and pesticides – but Monsanto’s first big biotech release required an herbicide: one that was produced only by Monsanto. The company had also pledged to reduce poverty in developing countries with its new crops. But it aggressively patented its products to lock out competitors, and seemed to seek a kind of monopolistic control over the world food system

Lynas and his fellow activists exploited this narrative to the best of their ability. Companies like Monsanto, they argued, were ‘playing God with DNA, and using customers as guinea pigs’. In one press release from 1997, Lynas claimed that under the biotech company ‘the natural world is being redesigned for private profit’. In these communications, multiple forms of GMO opposition were intertwined and blurred. Were Lynas and his colleagues worried that ingesting GMOs would cause illness, disease, or death? Were they reacting to the commodification of agriculture, food, and nature – a long-standing environmentalist raison d’etre? Or was it a purely philosophical opposition against human technological hubris?

The answer matters. The recent twist in Anglo-American politics has created an illusion that all science denial emerges from the right. Denial of climate change has become a near-fundamentalist belief from pro-industry conservatives, while right-leaning religious groups and conspiracy theorists contradict evolution and (in some bizarre cases), the fact that the earth is round.

But, as Otto argues, distrust of science is equal opportunity. It affects thinkers on the left and the right, when science conflicts with dominant ideologies. The anti-vaccine craze, beginning in England with now-discredited physician Andrew Wakefield, began as a movement of well-educated liberals who inherited the holistic health fad of the 1970s. Other historical leftist anti-science positions have included fear of fluoride in tap water, or suspicion that mobile phones and microwaves can cause cancer.

One of the mysteries of GMO opposition, however, is how the same left-wing environmentalists who espouse a 97% scientific consensus on climate change ignore – or even criticise – the similar consensus on the safety of genetically engineered foods.

Read more: Inside one of the world’s most exclusive business networks

Lynas was once one of them. Lacking a scientific background and propelled by green values, he wrote blithely in the 90s about the dangers of GM crops, with little empirical evidence beyond anecdotes shared among eco-advocacy groups. But over the next decade his focus changed. Inspired by what he saw as rampant rejection of global warming science (he once pied climate denier Bjørn Lomborg in the face during a book tour), Lynas started pouring over the research on climate change. He wrote two popular books explaining climate science: Six Degrees and High Tide.

In 2008, shortly after winning a science book prize for Six Degrees, he was asked by The Guardian to write an op-ed on GMOs. He was startled to find that he couldn’t locate any legitimate peer-reviewed sources to back up his usual claims that genetically modified crops could contaminate local environments, or that they led to the use of more hazardous chemicals in farming. ‘Facts are stubborn things,’ John Adams once wrote, and Lynas, overwhelmed, felt he was at a crossroads: all his environmentalist colleagues opposed GMOs. ‘I could betray my friends, or I could betray my conscience,’ he writes. ‘Which would it be?’

*

In the end, Lynas prioritised his conscience. In the first half of Seeds of Science, he attempts to debunk every wrongheaded GMO belief he ever harboured, from claims that GM crops cause environmental devastation to the moral culpability of Monsanto. In some places, such as in his polemic against ‘fake news’ peddled by the environmental movement, his interventions are long overdue. In 2008, news outlets widely reported that thousands of Indian farmers had committed suicide because they couldn’t afford to pay Monsanto for genetically-engineered cotton seeds. The story was pushed by Vandana Shiva, a high-profile Indian activist who has called GMOs a form of ‘food totalitarianism’ and referred to the introduction of insect-resistant Bt cotton into the state of Maharashtra as a ‘genocide’.

But, as Lynas points out, all available evidence shows that suicides among Indian farmers are no higher than other countries in the developed or developing world – including Scotland and France. Journalists, including Lynas himself and New Yorker correspondent Michael Specter, travelled to Maharashtra and found no evidence of the massive suicide waves Shiva and anti-GMO campaigners pointed to. Lynas writes, ‘The Indian farmer suicide story is a myth, built … by those like Vandana Shiva with an ideological axe to grind and little concern about the true facts.’

In other places, however, Lynas seems blinded by his own enthusiasm. Eager as he is to debunk GMO fears, he conflates the connection between GMOs and health – a question that science can answer – with more philosophical oppositions. We can think GMOs are safe to eat, but still question whether humans should be modifying genomes in the first place. We can believe GM crops are safe for the environment, and still critique Monsanto’s patenting process and its monopolisation of the global food supply. When Lynas writes a chapter lionising the history of Monsanto, he sounds less like a rational man of science, and more like a man who has traded one ideology for another.

And while science itself may not be ideological, its interpretation, and the public’s belief in its findings, certainly is. Otto argues that the role of values and ideology in scientific trust has plagued communication (and democracy) for decades. The British philosopher and scientist Francis Bacon put it best when he wrote, in 1620: ‘…What a man had rather were true he more readily believes. Therefore he rejects difficult things from impatience of research … [and] things not commonly believed, out of deference to the opinion of the vulgar. Numberless, in short, are the ways, and sometimes imperceptible, in which the affections colour and infect the understanding.’

While Lynas initially wanted to believe that his change of heart was based on cold, hard, scientific facts, modern psychology has proven the opposite. Science communication is often based on an ‘information deficit model’; if only the public were more informed, scientists argue, they would accept findings from anthropogenic climate change to the safety of GMOs.

But the truth is more complicated. For example, on the issue of climate change, studies have found that greater scientific literacy actually increases polarisation. According to a 2008 Pew Research Center Study, highly-educated conservatives in the US are less likely to believe in climate change than their less-educated counterparts. Otto attributes this to an educational model overly focused on critique, combined with never-before-seen political polarisation. He writes, grimly: ‘We are inculcating the attitude of scepticism without teaching the skills of evidence gathering and critical thinking needed to discern what is likely true.’

Read more: Knight Frank’s Chairman Alistair Elliott on research and tech

The problem is that in the human mind, values run hotter than evidence. Essential knee-jerk moralisms (like opposition to sexual taboos) and partisan ideologies, whether pro-corporate or anti-establishment, take centre stage in the battle for our minds. Psychologist Jonathan Haidt, author of The Righteous Mind (2012), argues that when faced by evidence contradicting a deeply-held belief, people ‘reason’, but not to find truth. Instead, they reason to support their emotional reactions. ‘If you ask people to believe something that violates their intuitions, they will devote their efforts to finding an escape hatch – a reason to doubt your argument or conclusion,’ Haidt writes. ‘They will almost always succeed.’

When it comes to the politics of science, a set of ideologies divide the public on controversies. Otto, with a chart that resembles a tuning fork, separates science sceptics into two broad camps. On one side, an odd couple of ‘old industry’ (oil, chemical, and agricultural companies) and ‘old religion’ have banded together to form right-wing anti-science. Otto calls it a ‘marriage of convenience’. ‘The fundamentalists needed access and legitimacy and the business interests needed passionate foot soldiers,’ he writes. Together, this right-wing group doubts the science of climate change, evolution, and reproductive health. On the other side, pro-environment liberals have joined with anti-corporate activists to question mainstream medicine, the safety of vaccines, and worry about the deleterious effects of GMOs.

This is certainly an oversimplification of a problem that is more granular than Otto lets on. Anti-science doesn’t split so neatly along partisan divides. (For example, while liberals tend to be the most active anti-GMO activists, many conservatives are suspicious of GM crops as well.) But his premise helps to unlock the puzzle of why climate change believers like Lynas are often also GMO sceptics. For an environmentalist, belief in science is not the tantamount value, but rather belief in preserving a particular vision of ‘nature’, one that is external to society but vulnerable to human influence. Within this worldview, anthropogenic climate change makes sense, but so do the dangers of genetic engineering. When value-centred beliefs clash with science – and with an increasingly entertainment-focused news media that, as Otto argues, is no longer a ‘marketplace of ideas’ but a ‘marketplace of emotion’ – consensus and evidence take a backseat to more heartfelt beliefs.

That’s a deeply troubling sign for a democratic society. Otto believes that science is essentially anti-authoritarian, that it relentlessly challenges received wisdom through a rigorous system of peer-review and hypothesis testing. What are we to do, then, when research shows that both the left and the right are unable to set ideology aside when facing scientific questions?

In the final few chapters of Seeds of Science, Lynas begins to understand the real reasons behind his change of heart. His polemic against anti-GMO activists gives way to a sincere exposition on the role of partisanship in science belief. His recantation came, he notes, on the heels of his acceptance into a community of scientists and science journalists, and thus into a new ideology (albeit one that placed science first). ‘Deep down,’ he writes, ‘I probably cared less about the actual truth than I did about my reputation for truth within my new scientific tribe … It wasn’t so much that I changed my mind, in other words. It was that I changed my tribe.’ It’s a dark takeaway from a book ostensibly written about the importance of facts and evidence.

Read more: A journey to the Kimberley with Geoffrey Kent

There are still reasons to oppose GMOs. One of Lynas’ friends, the Oxford-based environmental journalist George Monbiot, believes that the consensus that GMOs are safe changes little about the movement against them. ‘For me, it was all about corporate power, patenting, control, scale and dispossession,’ Monbiot told Lynas. In short, many of the villains countered by the environmental movement. Monbiot thus understands what Lynas initially ignored. Science can tell us about risks, benefits, and safety, but the decision about whether to genetically modify organisms (or, for example, whether to geo-engineer the climate to prevent catastrophic climate change), is a social and political one. It can only be made through use of all-too-human values and deliberation.

What is needed, then, is science as a platform, a foundation on which politics can be built. ‘Wherever the people are well informed they can be trusted with their own government,’ Thomas Jefferson wrote in a letter in 1789. At the end of his book, in a section optimistically titled ‘Winning the War’, Otto suggests science debates, a scientific code of ethics, journalistic standards for science coverage, and much more. He is a cheerleader for an evidence-based democratic society.

In the ‘post-truth’ era, where expertise is scoffed at and fact held in disdain, Otto’s scientific city on a hill seems a long way off. Humans that we are, we prefer narrative to evidence, linear stories to complex truths. We accept science when it aligns with our worldview; we doubt it if it does not. But, despite his flaws, Lynas represents the faint hope that under the right conditions we can change our minds. That, over time, the stubbornness of fact can – and might – outweigh the obstinance of ideology.

Shannon Osaka is a postgraduate student in geography at Worcester College, University of Oxford. She writes about technology, science, and climate change.

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Reading time: 15 min
Tin boxes of shortbread from superchef Thomas Keller's restaurant
Chef Thomas Keller pictured in the grounds of his famous Napa restaurant The French Laundry

Thomas Keller at pictured at his Napa restaurant, The French Laundry. Image by Deborah Jones

Ever since legendary chef Thomas Keller opened his restaurant The French Laundry in California’s Napa Valley more than twenty years ago, he has been inspiring diners – and chefs – with his forward-thinking food. Keller tells Emma Love about his latest plans for fine dining without the fuss

Three years ago, American chef Thomas Keller reached a milestone in his illustrious career. The French Laundry, the Napa Valley restaurant he opened in 1994 and which quickly garnered international acclaim as well as three Michelin stars, reached its 20th anniversary. Some might use an occasion such as that as an excuse for throwing a party but Keller decided to spend $10 million on completely re-designing the kitchen and restaurant grounds. “There is a time that comes in life to push the envelope and explore new methods to stay relevant,” he says, citing the new state-of-the-art kitchen equipment and the 15,000-bottle wine cellar as examples of the changes that were unveiled in April this year. “That quest for evolution and wanting to shake things up has always been part of my DNA.”

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This comes as no surprise: Keller is a chef who has spent years challenging the industry with his restaurants (as well as The French Laundry, he is also behind Michelin-starred outposts of Per Se and Bouchon) where his ‘law of diminishing returns’ philosophy of cooking means that tasting menus come with multiple tiny courses where ingredients are never repeated. “The less you have of something, the more you appreciate it,” he reasons sensibly. “For me, not repeating ingredients is a challenge. If you use corn more than once in a ten-course menu that’s kind of lame, don’t you think? There’s so much variety out there and so many vegetables, we don’t need to use something twice.”

His quest for evolution – and changing the way we think about food – seems to be at the heart of all his projects from his wine label Modicum, which is used as an educational tool for his sommeliers, to Finesse, the bi-annual magazine he publishes in place of a newsletter which focuses on themes he considers to be important, such as community and design. “Modicum was set up so the sommeliers could work with the winery to understand about harvesting, blending and the many different aspects that go into producing wine,” he explains. “With Finesse we are also trying to educate and inspire by giving people an insight into what we do and touching on those topics where we can tell stories. It’s another way of having an impact.”

renovated kitchens at the michelin-starred napa restaurant the french laundry owned by Thomas Keller

The new kitchens at The French Laundry. Image by Michael Grimm

Then there’s Cup4Cup, which he began in 2010 in collaboration with his then research and development chef at The French Laundry, Lena Kwak. Initially offering a gluten-free flour blend which is a substitute for all-purpose flour, more recent products in the range (which is sold at Whole Foods in the US) include mixes for pizza, waffles and pie crusts. “I never thought I would produce flour,” says Keller. “When Lena started, her first task was to come up with a recipe for our signature salmon cornets. It’s the way people begin their meal at The French Laundry and they are iconic but the problem was that anyone who is food intolerant couldn’t eat them. We thought it was something that everyone should be able to enjoy so we created a gluten-free flour. The brilliance behind Cup4Cup is that you can literally replace a cup of regular flour with a cup of gluten-free flour and you can’t tell the cornets apart.”

Read next: Gucci’s Robert Triefus on how to create a sustainable fashion power house

Gluten free pie crust by Cup4Cup founded by thomas keller and lena kwak

Gluten free apple pie by Cup4Cup

As the Cup4Cup brand happened organically, so did his collaboration with friend and Italian olive oil producer Armando Manni, whose extra virgin olive oil is used at The French Laundry and Per Se. One day in 2010, the pair were in Keller’s Yountville backyard chatting about Manni’s idea for a chocolate bar made with olive oil (which preserves many of the natural antioxidants found in cocoa beans); Keller agreed to be his partner for the project on the spot. “Armando worked with the University of Florence and a laboratory in Paris on scientific trials to develop a new method that replaces cocoa butter with olive oil, but still retains the taste of chocolate,” recalls Keller. “At the eleventh hour, we realised that we couldn’t use a traditional factory because we required a fundamental change in the way the equipment was made.” Their solution? To modify the equipment and build their own factory, which added another two years to the development process. Finally, the K+M Extravirgin Chocolate bar launched in March.

Now he’s turning his attention to other projects, one of which is curating the restaurants at Hudson Yards, the largest retail, commercial and residential development in New York since the Rockefeller Center. “What we want is to create a community of neighbourhood restaurants. Not Michelin-star fine-dining necessarily, but places where you return again and again because you love their Dover sole or steak.” In other words, restaurants – such as Extebarri in Spain’s Basque country where he once ate what he described as “the most perfectly grilled sardine that I’ve ever had” – that create memories so people want to return. “If a chef executes a philosophy that gives you a positive, lasting memory, that’s what success is. That’s what we try and achieve at The French Laundry.”

thomaskeller.com

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Reading time: 4 min
Garden maki sushi
Sushi Shop is a ground-breaking global sushi chain, combining takeaway casual, fine-dining quality, experimental cuisine, and collaborations with some of the world’s greatest chefs. Kitty Harris floats between branches in London and Paris to discover more
Salmon Gravlax roll at sushi shop

Salmon Gravlax Roll

Grégory Marciano has brought gastronomic sushi collaborations to the Paris dining scene. His Sushi Shops, 36 in Paris and more than 130 in total around the world, combine a chilled-out takeaway twist alongside annual partnerships with some of the greatest chefs in the world.

Unsurprisingly, at their core is a blend of French gastronomic culture and Japanese heritage. Being a regular at his London, Marylebone store (kumquat and yuzu sunny roll and detox poke bowl, please) I jumped on the Eurostar to try the latest creations of Kei Kobayashi, this year’s collaborator, in the 8th Arrondissement of Paris. I started with the Salmon Gravlax roll, a reinterpretation of Kei’s signature dish, with turnips, carrots and mint with a spicy tapenade-style sauce. Followed by the Gyu special roll, on top of which the beef carpaccio was blow torched twice to lacquer the teriyaki sauce.

Kei Kobayashi

Kei Kobayashi

Kobayashi is one of a number of celebrated chefs who had worked with Sushi Shop. Others include Joël Robuchon, the most Michelin-starred chef in the world; Jean-François Piège, of the two Michelin star ‘Le Grand Restaurant’ in Paris was followed by Thierry Marx of ‘Sur Mesure’, the two-Michelin starred restaurant at Mandarin Oriental, Paris.

Japanese-born Kobayashi has just received his second star at his French restaurant ‘Kei’ in Rue Coq Héron in Paris. He trained with Piège, the legendary Alain Ducasse, and Christophe Moret of the Shangri-La Hotel, Paris. “My inspiration comes from the products. Each product is unique and the ways to cook them are infinite. Especially vegetables…I couldn’t live without vegetables.” His Sushi Shop creations, the garden maki and red miso cucumber salad with peanuts, maple syrup, chilli and yuzu zest are testament to this.

Back in London, Marciano tells me that the plan is for high-end sushi collaborations to take over the world. Currently in more than 130 locations from New York to Madrid, he is well on his way, with Amsterdam and Zurich opening this year. A true raw revolution.

mysushishop.co.uk

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Reading time: 1 min
Delhi by Igor Ovsyannaykov
Delhi by Igor Ovsyannaykov

The streets of Delhi. Picture by Igor Ovsyannykov

In the past, India’s heaving capital has been a fly-in, fly-out destination for most tourists, but with a booming art scene and the recent opening of the Hyatt hotel group’s, coolest counterpart, Andaz, Delhi is fast developing its own allure. Yet, it’s the chaos, culture and complexity, that makes Delhi so fascinating, says our Digital Editor, Millie Walton.

It’s daybreak in Delhi and the streets are singing with car horns as taxis and rickshaws muscle past each other, weaving in and out of stray dogs, pedestrians and the occasional cow. India’s capital is more than overwhelming: it’s explosive. Every year the city, consumes huge mouthfuls of landscape, stretching it’s borders further in order to accommodate it’s 9 million and growing population. It’s a heaving labyrinth of sounds, smells and bodies. It takes a few minutes to be able to focus in the sensual chaos. This isn’t London busy: heads down, too busy to stop, see or speak. This is India busy that centres around interaction and trade. There’s something calming about the vibrancy.

The sunlight cuts shapes through Chandni Chowk’s crammed streets, holding dust in the air and illuminating passersbys. It’s one of Delhi’s oldest and busiest market areas, but fortunately the mundane outweighs tourist curiosity so you can play the invisible observer, without being coerced into buying a trinket, batteries or silk scarves (if you want to purchase cheap merchandise of almost any category this is the place). Huge blocks of golden brown sugar lie stacked at the front of the stall, whilst the man next door makes Jalebi, dropping coils of batter into a copper bowl of spitting oil, and a dog hopefully pushes its nose through the litter on the road. There’s less traffic here and most of the rickshaws are pedalled, but the force of bodies is enough to keep you moving underneath the overhanging tangle of electrical wires and pipes. It’s better not to plan a route, not just because there’s little indication to tell you where to turn, but because you can let your surroundings fill you without limitations. I stop at the call of a chaiwala to buy a small cup of steaming, spicy, sweet Indian tea underneath a blackened building that looks as frail as an empty shell.

Read next: The 10th anniversary of Jaipur Literature Festival

I break out of the market onto a wider main road, slipping in behind a local as he crosses the road. The Jama Masjid is the largest and most imposing mosque in India, standing at an elevation of 10 metres with two tall watchtowers guarding the entrance. For visitors there’s an entrance free but it’s well worth it if only to stand barefoot courtyard, eye to eye with ornate yawning mouth that some 25,000 pass through for worship. Locals seem to stop here too, to rest on the steps and watch life sprawling below.

Igor Ovsyannykov image of Delhi life

A cup of hot Masala chai exchanging hands. Picture by Igor Ovsyannykov

In a rickshaw some time later, I sit alongside the dense pocket of traffic jostling towards Connaught Place, the commercial and business district where most of the luxury hotels cluster. My driver holds down his horn as a man on a motorbike pushes ahead, the woman perched sidesaddle on the back throws back a stare that silences. Then we’re there, in a circle of colonial style white columns and designer shops. It’s another city entirely: New Delhi. The huge flag of India lazily ripples in the sky above, while smart Indians strut into designer shops. It’s beautiful, but lacks the visual seduction of the older areas. Here you’re less able to blend into the surroundings, as foreigners are quickly spotted by locals as affluent and therefore, targets for money making schemes.

Read next: British model Joanna Halpin on blogging and inspiration

The wider parts of New Delhi though are more pleasant and offer an interesting insight into India’s contemporary art scene. DAG Modern is the place to begin, with an impressive collection of modernist works, experimental art forms and paintings by some of the country’s most respected names. The theme of memory and identity that’s gripping the art world globally, reveals itself here with a display of works from 14 diaspora artists interpreted through western and Indian writings. I stand captivated by Satki Burman‘s swirl of moving colours that’s acutely relatable in this vibrant setting.

Hyatt group hotel

The Hyatt Regency Hotel, Delhi

Outside the heat has settled and the air is visibly thick with pollution. I retreat to India’s oldest luxury residence, the Hyatt Regency that’s cool and sultry with recent renovations.

The bakery at the back is still where many of the wealthy local families buy their bread and pastries, sending their drivers to make the most of the end of the day 50% discount. I sit downstairs in the cafe for a Indian high tea of chai, samosas and pani puri ( crisp balls filled with potato and spicy tangy water) before soaking in the jacuzzi pool, in the hotel’s gendered spa. As it’s Chinese New Year, dinner is at the hotel’s famed China Kitchen for a feast of crispy duck and dumplings. Oddly, it’s the best Chinese food I’ve ever tasted.

As I wander upstairs to bed, it strikes me that it’s incredibly still within the hotel walls, and I wonder, perhaps whether that’s the ultimate luxury in a city that’s endlessly restless.

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Reading time: 4 min
Mr. Pig pop up by nobu's ex-head chef

Ex-Nobu head chef, Scott Hallsworth, provides Londoners with a rare insight into some of his favourite foods at a wonderfully wintery pop-up that will have your taste-buds tingling and your eyes all aglow this festive season.

Mr. Pig pop up by nobu's ex-head chef

Mr. Pig’s cosy Christmas interiors

Kurobuta, the recent brainchild of Scott Hallsworth, and now a permanent fixture in Marble Arch and on the Kings Road since it outgrew it’s original pop-up due to overwhelming popularity, takes its inspiration from the Izakayas of Japan, where tapas-style plates are served to accompany drinks in a casual setting. This December, Hallsworth has gone back to his roots and installed a painfully cool pop-up below the site on the King’s Road, to showcase his love for unusually-combined ingredients – derived from both Japan and beyond.

super-chef scott hallsworth

Scott Hallsworth

Hip, relaxed and with just a hint of East-London edginess, diners sit on metal chairs at communal wooden tables, with chopsticks in recycled tins ready to be tackled, with Hallsworth himself making the dishes to order in the open kitchen a few feet away. This is stripped-back rock ‘n’ roll exemplary gastronomy at its best.

Settle in, get cosy and dive straight into the cocktail list. A sake-based tipple is compulsory, but for those otherwise inclined a ‘Pink Rabbit’ consisting of Patron, Campari and Strawberry Jam, that arrives in a champagne glass with a puff of candy floss sets things off with a bang. Mr. Pig’s real draw however is, of course, the food. The specially-chosen 10-dish-only menu is designed to be enjoyed ‘tapas style’. One could (and should), easily make their way through the entire list. Hallsworth’s favourite – Short Rib Rendang with Coconut and Crab Sambal is a joy, the Eringi Mushrooms baked with Sake, Butter, Garlic and served with Beurre Blanc are mouth-wateringly good, and the Grilled Pork Belly and Pickled Mussel Ssäm with Chili Jam and Roasted Rice is crunchy, juicy and packed with flavour. The best dish? The Crispy Oysters with Nam Jim and Umami Mayo, without doubt. These light, citrusy bites of flavour are enough to make any foodie feel that Christmas has come early.

Hallsworth has done it again. With its low-lighting, cosy atmosphere, relaxed ambience, festive tipples and a perfectly-crafted menu, Mr. Pig is the place to indulge in some festive cheer this December. Open Thursday to Saturday for dinner only, be sure to not miss out.

kurobuta-london.com/mr-pig-london/

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Reading time: 2 min
artisan bakery in Stockholm

Stockholm is undergoing a quiet gastronomic revolution in an understated Swedish style. Francesca Peak selects the coolest places to taste crisp-bread, cinnamon buns, sushi, salad and reindeer.

Sturehof

Sturehof fine dining in Stockholm

Sturehof was rated by Monocle as one of the 50 best restaurants in the world.

This fashionable hangout just off the main shopping street is the result of an affair between classic Swedish plates and homestyle French cooking. Red and white gingham tablecloths, a bustling, but intimate vibe and a lengthy menu all hint to the comforting meal ahead. Cocktails are top-notch and there’s a generous wine list to keep you busy after you’ve perused the fish-heavy menu (to choose meat here is a sin). Choose a typical Swedish starter of herring and cheese, or indulge in the fresh seafood platter, before moving on to the poached turbot or salted cod. The liquorice crisp-bread is dangerously addictive.

sturehof.com

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Café Saturnus

When you arrive at a small cafe off a fairly nondescript street and see a queue at 8.30am on a Saturday, you know you’ve picked a good spot. Tear your eyes from the mesmerising mosaic floor to the kitchen and you’ll see huge breakfast burritos and bowls of steaming porridge being rushed onto tables, along with the heady smell of fresh, rich coffee. However, it’s the buns that are the real star of the show: enormous cardamon and cinnamon buns are stacked at the front of the counter, tempting you as you place your order for a chia bowl and skinny latte. Give in to temptation: they’re packed with flavour and will keep you full until you’re craving another mid-afternoon.

cafesaturnus.se

Hantverket

Dining in Stockholm

Restaurant Hantverket overlooks Stockholm’s beautiful park, Humlegården

A short 10-minute walk from the bustling Stureplan is Hantverket, the city’s newest self-aware cool place – thankfully without a snotty attitude – to enjoy a bite while spotting the latest trends on young Stockholmers. Although the entrance leads you straight into the restaurant, veer left to the bar and enjoy a perfectly crafted martini while perusing the rather succinct dinner menu. What they lack in length they make up for with innovation: try the duck with blueberries and rose petals for a more fragrant take on the typically heavy bird, and be sure to try a locally-sourced slab of reindeer.

restauranghantverket.se

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Vete-Katten

artisan bakery in Stockholm

Selection of buns and pastries at Vete Katten

Stockholm institutions don’t get much sweeter than this. Founded in 1928 by the determined Ester Nordhammar, the patisserie serves freshly baked treats and bread, and the most indulgent hot chocolate the city has to offer. Pop in to grab a baguette and coffee or venture behind the glass counter and into the traditional house with its tables tucked away into secret corners and adorable design details. Like stepping into a grandmother’s cottage, the smell of baking draws you in, and before you know it, you’re sitting at a table with a blueberry bun and pot of tea. Some places just have that effect, and this is certainly one of them.

vetekatten.se

East

best japanese restaurant in stockholm

East’s cool, sleek interiors are inspired by contemporary Japanese culture

When you’re in a country famed for its minimalist designs, it seems only natural to look to a cuisine loved for its simplicity and neatness. Sweden, meet Japan. The sushi-heavy menu here is dotted with Asian favourites, from curries to noodles and dumplings, with the odd ceviche thrown in for good measure. Every dish packs a punch, whether in its subtle flavours or the spiciness of its chilli flakes, and all are brought to your table sharing-style with scary efficiency. Go for a sushi platter at lunch and while away the afternoon with a carafe of warm sake.

east.se

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Doctor Salad

Stockholm salad bar: doctor salad

Doctor Salad uses 100% organic ingredients. Above: two boxes of “a vegan délice” with glasses of fresh mint water

The very thought of going out for a salad may strike fear into the hearts of some, but there’s no chance you’ll leave Doctor Salad with a rumbling tummy. Served in huge boxes with optional protein on the side, vegetables are spiralised, dressed and chopped to delicious perfection, and each box is a mesmerising kaleidoscope of health. Pair your box with a soup and pile of homemade flaxseed crisp-bread and have a seat in their kitsch but tiny cafe, watching the world go by.

doctorsalad.net

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Reading time: 3 min
Cocktail from East London bar Discount Suit Company
Czech beers, Bloody Marys, live jazz and padrón peppers, East London’s gastronomic scene is more vibrant than ever. Digital Editor, Millie Walton picks some of her favourite spots for drinking and dining in the city’s hottest neighbourhoods
Discount Suit Company
Bar snacks at Discount Suit Company

Elegant bar snacks: Neal’s Yard cheese board

This low-key little bar hides in the basement of an old suit tailor’s storeroom (hence the name), five minutes walk from Liverpool Street station so not so far off the beaten track that you start clutching your pockets, but still safely removed from the groups of city slickers swarming into every pub in sight come 5.30. Discount Suit Company attracts a genuinely cool crowd, the type who look like they’ve recently raided a thrift shop, matching the bar’s own ramshackle interiors and Motown soundtrack. The cocktail menu is impressive, but the bar tenders will also happily whip up something bespoke to suit your mood. There’s no kitchen as such, though you can order olives or a cheese platter courtesy of Neal’s Yard.
discountsuitcompany.co.uk

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Lounge Bohemia
Lounge Bohemia drinking spot East London

Laid back interiors at Lounge Bohemia

Everything about Lounge Bohemia is cool. Firstly, there’s absolutely no way you’ll get in without an appointment, arranged in advance via text. Then there’s finding the unmarked door and being approved for entrance (there’s a very rigid no suits policy). It can be a little intimidating to say the least, but inside the atmosphere is relaxed and causal. Water is served in caravan style plastic jug and cups, whilst the menus are hidden in volumes of classic Czech literature, pages of which are also plastered over the walls. There’s a large selection of Czech beers on offer as well as shots served in test tubes and cocktails paired with tiny spoonfuls of canapés designed to enhance each alcohol’s flavour.
loungebohemia.com

Nightjar
Speakeasy style bar, Night Jar

Night Jar’s elegant interiors

Old Street’s once secret, underground watering hole is fast gaining reputation for London’s best cocktails. The menu is mind blowing with page after page of classic and experimental alcoholic concoctions divided into three historic periods and the bar’s signatures. Order something at random and it’s guaranteed to stun purely for its creative presentation. Hug a Wild Cat (a delicious mixture of tequila, juices and jam), for example, is served in a Peruvian puzzle jug. The bar’s interiors invoke a sense of old school glamour as does the almost nightly live performances of jazz. It’s about as close as you’ll get to Fitzgeraldian decadence without a time machine.
barnightjar.com

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Black Pig with White Pearls
Black Pig with White Pearls dining menu

Octopus Salad

This unassuming tapas bar started out life as a one-off pop-up before planting permanent roots in the increasingly trendy Stoke Newington neighbourhood. The menu specialises in Iberican ham sourced from farmers in Spain and served in generous portions on wooden boards, though there are also great seafood and vegetarian options for the less meaty minded, particularly the sauce drenched octopus and the classic favourite, padrón peppers. Partners and co-founders, David and Melvin are always welcoming and eager to recommend.
blackpigwithwhitepearls.co.uk

Rotorino
Dinner dish at Rotorino

Clams & Mussels

The brainchild of talented trio chef Stevie Parle (Petersham Nurseries), Jonathan Downey (Street Vin Wine) and Ruth Spivey (Rotary bar and diner pop up) is a hugely welcome addition to the heaving Kingsland Road. Not only can you actually hear yourself talk (a rarity in these parts), but you can also relax in an elegant environment with hearty servings of really great Italian food and wine. The delicately flavoured gnocchi is undoubtedly the highlight of the menu, complimented by a chilli watermelon salad that freshens up the typically heavier dish. It attracts a more mature crowd to most of the usual Dalston haunts without feeling too pretentious or Mayfair smart.
rotorino.com

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Andaz, Eastway
Make your own bloody mary at Andaz Eastway

The Bloody Mary bar at Andaz Eastway

The more informal of Andaz Hotel’s five drinking and dining spots has become a weekend brunch favourite amongst hungover hipsters. Partly due to it’s inventive menu, which includes the Spitalditch Benedict (bbq pulled pork, Sriracha hot sauce, poached eggs and hollandaise sauce) alongside more timid options like bircher muesli and homemade granola, but mainly because of it’s DIY Bloody Mary bar. With bottles and bottles of infused vodkas, spicy sauces, juices and various pickled vegetables, it’s overwhelming even to the less blurry-eyed visitors. Thankfully there’s usually someone nearby to offer gentle advice without robbing you the satisfaction of ‘inventing’ your own bloody concoction.
eastwaybrasserie.co.uk

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Reading time: 4 min

By Darius Sanai
Editor in Chief

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

OZONE - Private Dining Room

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

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

OZONE - Bar Area

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

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

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

Aqua Interior ML03

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

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

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

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

 

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Reading time: 4 min

Barricaia Masseto 1 (media)[1]

By Darius Sanai
Editor in Chief

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Darius Sanai

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Reading time: 4 min

Presiding over a global restaurant empire, spanning Bahrain to Boston, Wolfgang Puck is one of the world’s most celebrated chefs. He speaks to Alice Clarke about food, family, canned pineapple and Coco Chanel

Top Tables Wolfgang Puck's restaurants include Hotel Bel-Air in Los Angeles (above), and CUT at 45 Park Lane, London

Top Tables
Wolfgang Puck’s restaurants include Hotel Bel-Air in Los Angeles (above), and CUT at 45 Park Lane, London

Alice Clarke: Did you love cooking as a child?
Wolfgang Puck: My mother was a chef and I helped her to cook at home. I loved pastries and sweets more than anything back then. When I was 14 I left home to start an apprenticeship with a chef 50 miles away. That was a long way and it was hard when you had to work on the weekend and all your friends were playing or going skiing. It was only when I went to France that I realized that this is what I wanted to do. I was working in a restaurant in Provence called L’Oustau de Baumanière, which had three Michelin stars and was run by the legendary Raymond Thuilier.

AC: Do you look back and think of Thuilier as your mentor?
WP: Yes, he was in a way. I remember when I came to Los Angeles with a friend who’d also worked there and we said, ‘OK, we’re going to open a restaurant like Baumanière’.

AC: It’s interesting to see how some chefs have been so influenced by those who they trained under.
WP: Well, I think you get into a certain style and if you’re happy with it, you don’t change. For me it was different – I always tried to experiment and do new things. That’s why I’ve been married three times! Just kidding… But with regards to restaurants, I was interested in so many different things. After I’d opened Spago [in West Hollywood in 1982] I didn’t want to open another branch next, that would be too boring. Instead, I wanted to have a Chinese restaurant, so I launched Chinois [in Santa Monica, 1983], which was the first Asian-American fusion restaurant. I didn’t even know how to make fried rice at the time but I said, ‘I’m going to learn my own way’.

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Head Chef: Austrian born, Los Angeles-based Puck oversees almost 30 restaurants worldwide

AC: Is there one particular cuisine that you enjoy the most?
WP: I love spices, but I also love the simplicity of a restaurant like CUT [with branches in Beverly Hills, Las Vegas, London, Bahrain, Dubai and Singapore], where you know exactly what you’re getting and it’s the best quality. It’s almost like if you get a great dress and it fits perfectly, you don’t need too much jewellery. Or if you have great earrings, you don’t need a necklace or rings. Coco Chanel said that before you leave the house, you should take two things off; that way you’re going to look better. I think it’s the same with food. If we pair it down, make it more minimalistic, it’s often better.

AC: There seems to be a real movement towards organic, fresh, sustainable food at the moment. Are you on board with that?
WP: Well, I grew up on a farm in Austria, so when we had salad we got it from the garden, and if we had vegetable soup we picked some carrots, cauliflower, beans or whatever, cut them up and made soup. So for me, there has never been anything so new about that. What was exotic and interesting was canned pineapple. I remember the first time somebody bought me canned pineapple from Hawaii, I thought: ‘Wow that’s exotic, that’s amazing’. I opened it and ate it really slowly. When I was younger we went to the forest and picked raspberries, blueberries, blackberries and white strawberries. In early spring my mother planted radishes and things like that, so by Easter we had the first fresh salad. Now all of a sudden in America everyone talks about ‘from farm to table’. I’ve never known anything different!

Fresh Start: Proving breakfast is the most important meal of the day, CUT is also a top spot for brunch

Fresh Start: Proving breakfast is the most important meal of the day, CUT is also a top spot for brunch

AC: Do you cook to relax?
WP: Oh yes. When I tell people I cook at home they say, ‘What do you mean? Don’t you already do enough?’ But I really like it. My children love it, too. My nine-year-old loves food. If he doesn’t get out of bed, I tell him I’m going to make scrambled eggs without him. He jumps up, comes downstairs, breaks the eggs, and has to cook it with me.

AC: Are there any chefs at the moment who you are particularly impressed by?
WP: I think Grant Achatz is one of the most talented chefs in America. He makes his own thing, a little bit out there, but very interesting– like Heston [Blumenthal] with The Fat Duck.

AC: What is your latest cookbook about?
WP: Wolfgang Puck Makes it Healthy is about eating better and exercising. I go skiing with the likes of [downhill champion] Franz Klammer but for about nine years, even if we weren’t going fast, I had to keep stopping to breathe. Similarly, I was playing tennis in Maui, where it is quite hot and humid, and after about 10 minutes I had to sit down as I couldn’t breathe anymore. I thought to myself, ‘I have to change my lifestyle and also start to exercise and eat better’. This book is really a result of that.

AC: How do you get people to eat more healthily?
WP Even if you go to a cheap grocery store, that’s still better than buying canned or frozen food. We should say to ourselves, ‘Okay, I like rice, why don’t I buy brown rice’, which has more flavour and is better for you. And the same with pasta. Once you get used to eating wholewheat pasta, you realize it’s really tasty and all of a sudden you think regular pasta is bland. So little by little you can try things out and begin to understand what is good and not so good for you. I also think that, in America especially, the portion sizes are too big. People think they have to eat a lot, but they don’t. In fact, they say you actually live longer if you eat less.

AC: You do a lot of charity work. Can you tell us about your philanthropic endeavours?
WP:In 1982 we started to do events with some chefs and wineries, so we called it The American Food and Wine Festival. We donated the money raised to ‘meals on wheels’, which provides food for old people, for people who don’t have any money and so on. We then started a cancer benefit for people who can’t go to hospital for treatment. We do a big event in Las Vegas for Alzheimer’s sufferers, because my mother had Alzheimer’s. We also do a big event in Cleveland for children at a cancer clinic there, too. We do a lot of work with schools, plus my wife has an orphanage accommodating 700 children in Ethiopia. So that alone is quite a lot of work!

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Shooting Stars: Spago in Beverley Hills is one of only three restaurants in LA to hold two Michelin stars

AC:Do you find it hard to juggle everything?
WP:Sometimes, yes, it’s complicated and difficult. I have very good people who have worked with me for a long time though, so that helps.

AC: What has been your favourite meal recently?
WP: I had dinner last night at Alain Ducasse’s latest restaurant at the Plaza Athénée in Paris. I liked it a lot because it was so different; it was a really interesting experience. Sometimes the whole experience is better than each dish. I told them I only had one hour and they served me 10 different dishes. Three-star fast food!

AC: Your first restaurant, Spago, opened in 1982. Do you still feel as inspired by food today as you were back then?
WP Oh yes, I still love it just as much. If not, I wouldn’t be here.

wolfgangpuck.com

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Reading time: 7 min

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

1. KAKILIMA BY THE SEA, CANGGU

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

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2. TOWNHOUSE, SEMINYAK

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

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3. OLD MAN’S, CANGGU

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

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4. MOTEL MEXICOLA, SEMINYAK

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

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5. BARBACOA, SEMINYAK

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

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Reading time: 2 min

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

EVOLVE WELLNESS CENTRE
Holistic Healing

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

NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM
Science and Nature

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

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© Trustees of the Natural History Museum, London

HEXAGON CLASSICS
Motoring Marvels

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

AUX MERVEILLEUX DE FRED
Pastry Perfection

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

THE LIBRARY
Menswear Chic

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

STAR OF INDIA
Upscale Indian

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

BUMPKIN
Brit Bites

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

SLIGHTLY FOXED
Rollicking Reads

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

CHRISTIES
Arty Endeavours

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

ECLIPSE
Lounge Lover

london8

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

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Brindisa in London’s Borough Market

Brindisa in London’s Borough Market

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spicey chorizo sandwich from Brindisa

Spicey chorizo sandwich from Brindisa

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

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

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

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

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

I had a dream.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More interesting articles
Eating Right
A Feast for the Eye

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

Sweden is going back to its own. No longer satisfied with following the dictates of the French, the demands of the Spanish, the inventions of the Americans, Swedes are making a stand. Organic, traditional, simple, smoked, foraged and served, the Swedish food movement is embracing its homegrown tastes and getting its hands dirty. In more than one way, they are going back to their roots.

My visit to Sweden starts in twilight, at 3pm in the afternoon on a winter’s day. By the time my friend Rory, a discerning foodie, and I arrive in the city known as the “Venice of the North”, night has fallen. We bumble our way through the old town streets of Gamla stan, pausing to take in the view across the lakes, ornate pristine facades and street lights reflected in the water, or to peer past the curtained covered windows of cafes promising bowls of hot chocolate.

At the unlikely location of a motorway junction, we find our first stop. Strömmingvagnen, the herring stand, is the Swedish equivalent of a burger van. For over 20 years, the small trailer under a large golden fish has served herring in different forms to late night snackers and adventurous tourists. Ravenous from the journey, we examine the faded images displayed behind the counter and opt for rye bread, gravalax, dill and herring. Warm, gooey, salty and sweet, it is impossible to eat neatly and without noises of appreciation. Hands still a little sticky, we head for our hotel.

Hotel Rival, owned in part by Benny Andersson of Abba fame, is a converted cinema. The huge theatre, filled with 700 red velvet covered seats, is still used for screenings – Abba, the movie was premiered here – theatre productions and comedy nights. On performance evenings the foyer and bar are lively and the hotel has more spirit than most. Swedes love their coffee shops, a welcome escape from the winds that whip across the waterways, and Hotel Rival’s cosy art house style cafe tucked in the corner is a good spot to grab something smothered in cinnamon.

Each room is decorated with a wall sized print of a famous golden moment in cinematic history, a teddy bear and, of course, an Abba “The Greatest Hits” Album. Unsurprisingly, the sound system is not only crystal clear, but available in a variety of guises. If you haven’t had enough after singing along to “Dancing Queen” in the shower, you can request a speakerphone pillow from the menu and allow Benny, Agnetha, Björn and Anni-Frid’s dulcet tones to sing you to sleep. Buoyed by the burst of Swedish pop, we head out for our first taste of the food.

Volt is discreet. Situated on an elegant street in Ostermalmstorg we walk past it a couple of times before noticing that the clean framed front with elm branches in the window is the entrance. The decor – black carpet with white walls, the occasional pencil sketch hung on the wall – sounds stark, but is surprisingly relaxing, even comforting. Perhaps it is the quiet friendliness of the staff, who are so closely involved in the restaurant they pick everything from the art on the walls to the berries used in the tea at the end of your meal, that makes the restaurant feel familiar. Their music choices, which sounds as though they should be the soundtrack to an indie film, mummer in the background. Brass pipes cross geometrically along the walls with the occasional tap, used to refill the jugs with icy cool water.

The six course tasting menu, paired carefully with wine from Germany and France, focus on in season ingredients. Plates are balanced, but flavoursome with interesting pairings; smoky tinges are encouraged but not dominant, berries present but used sparingly. The Normandy cider, made only from fallen apples from a Michelin starred producer was a confident match with the cheese plate from local farms. With understanding and careful delivery, the menu wins even initial sceptics round.

“This place is one gravedigger short of Elsinore.” Rory says as we wander the isolated path towards the nursery gardens in Djurgården.

There is something Hamlet-esque about the Rosendals Trädgård in winter. Black mud sucks in the green tendrils of the grass and stains the solid grey boulders, silver birches hold cawing ravens. The bright light of daytime cuts the outlines of the surroundings into clear focus, so that we can see a horse drawn cart dragging its way through the mud in the distance with distinct clarity. We come across an art installation, the words “this is the corner of a larger field” written in swirling handwriting, created in white wire 10ft long, its stand planted solidly in the marshy ground giving the impression that it has been scrawled across the landscape.

The gardens are in the stately home of Rosendal palace. An organic haven, they grow seasonal produce for local restaurants and their own cafe, an expansive, steamy greenhouse with painted blue picnic benches laden with plates of Swedish biscuits and rosehip tea. In summer the gardens are full, but in the colder months, the cafe is filled with dog walkers and knowledgeable foodies. It is a curiosity, not quite bleak and not quite twee. We wander the garden’s paths past artistic bamboo structures and carefully pruned topiary to find a locked greenhouse, empty but for a leaf strewn dinner table, decorated for a dinner party that never came or is perhaps yet to arrive.

Henrik Norström is viewed as the pioneer of the Swedish food movement. Formerly a chef at a Michelin starred restaurant in central Stockholm specialising in French and Spanish cuisine, Norström decided that he was tired of meals dominated by flavours from other countries. He wanted his dishes local. In 2003, he opened Lux, a converted staff canteen for the Electrolux company, overlooking the lake on the small island of Lila Essingen. In 2004, they won a Michelin star.

“From here you can see the changes in the season,” he says. “If you have a restaurant in the city you have your four walls and you cannot see if it’s summer, winter, autumn or spring.”

Even a trained eye might find it difficult to spot the distinction between each of Norström seasons; there are 16. He is an innovator in tune with his subject.

“If you came back here this time next year there would be different items on the menu,” he says. “I use the same produce, but I never go back and use old dishes.”

Over the past decade Norström has developed a relationship with each of his suppliers, be they the fisherman, apple growers or reindeer farmers in the northern reaches of Sweden. Not unlike its owner, the restaurant is elegant and understated; the focus is on the food and a lifestyle, not brash gimmicks.

Back in central Stockholm, Swedish restaurants are fast becoming a la mode. With the food’s hunter gatherer ethos, some restaurants have adopted a macho edge. Ekstedt is bold. Red brick walls, black granite surfaces, bare light bulbs and a scorching fire behind wisely placed glass barrier, this is a hearty restaurant. Dishes are smoked, sizzled and grilled at the flame before being prepared by chefs in leather aprons at the central table and presented carefully on slate plates and wooden charred slats. The food is rich and creamy, the meat tender and the flavours strong. Butter soft reindeer meat, baked in ember and served with truffle proves a highlight, and their lemon ice cream with smoked almonds and salty caramel mixes textures well. The chef and creator behind it, Niklas Ekstedt, researched traditional methods to give his food the authentic Swedish edge; you can certainly imagine that their five-course tasting menu would sustain you through a long winter.

Full to the brim and as it is our final night in the city, we wrap up and meander through the old streets of Gamla stan past churches and narrow passages. Heading for home, we find ourselves in front of the big golden fish over the small trailer. We pause. There is always a little room left for herring.

Volt: restaurangvolt.se

Ekstedt: ekstedt.nu

The Rival Hotel: rival.se

Info: visitstockholm.com 

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DARIUS SANAI’S Luxury travel views Where our Editor-in-Chief ponders culinary conundrums from his sojourns around the world

Not so long ago, to experience the best of the world’s cuisine, you had to travel to their origins. Interested in exploring Escoffier’s legacy? Fly to Paris, Burgundy or Lyon. Want to know what the greatest sashimi tastes like? Try the stalls at Tsukiji Market in Tokyo. To taste the best Shanghainese seafood, you’d need to be looking at the Yellow River.

Now, everything has changed. Now there’s no question about being inauthentic if you taste Tuscan food in Vegas, or sample Joel Rebouchon in London, or Nobu in, well, anywhere. The greatest ingredients, and the greatest chefs, are where they are.

Which makes Miami such an interesting conundrum. The only food the city can really, authentically claim as its own is Cuban, imported by the hordes fleeing Fidel Castro from the 1960s onwards. That, and the ubiquitous stone crab, served by the pile, a food to eat with fries and a big Sonoma Chardonnay and to grow fat on.

But Miami is also South Beach, host of America’s biggest annual food festival, home to some of the most glamorous restaurants and hotels in America outside Vegas; the place where Russian oligarchs and New York tycoons gather under the sun to talk art, women, wine and song on megayachts and in megaresidences.

And I was intrigued by what my megahotel in SoBe, the Fountainebleau, would have to offer. On the culinary side, that is. As a resort hotel, its offering is pretty evident to anyone arriving up its driveway crowded with limos and Lambos: about 10,000 rooms in various buildings, Art Deco and mock; a properly mega swimming pool which I estimated as around 60m curved end to end, which would have been perfect for lengths, had it not been overoccupied by smooching couples taking advantage of its uniform shallowness; a private shopping mall; a stretch of private beach with uniformed staff shifting sunloungers to the evermoving gaps in the afternoon sunlight as the sun set beneath the giant structures of the hotel itself.

The Fountainebleau is not short of celebrated options, with Hakkasan and Scarpetta operating there. Just to be different I chose to entertain my guests at the hotel’s nouveau-Japanese restaurant Blade, which registers there as one of the ‘casual’ dining options. ‘Casual’ meaning informal service and a lack of tablecloths, rather than low prices.

It was eye-opening. The straight sashimi and nigiri – yellowtail, sea bream toro – was as good as sashimi can be, flown in from Tsukiji as it is in any fine sushi restaurant. A mark of standards and craft, but nothing else.

It was the speciality rolls that would make or break Blade. These were ambitious: the Geisha, with yellowtail, ooba leaf, orange, asparagus wrapped in soy paper with a yuzu miso glaze. The Chateau with spicy snow crab, spring onions, cucumbers, and spicy tuna. The Dragon, with deep-fried shrimp, asparagus, avocado, barbecue eel, miso wasabi and aioli. And what about the Ronin: salmon, mozzarella, tomato, cilantro, Serrano ham, chilli, and crispy onion – about as derivative as you can get and still claim Japanese roots, sort of.

We tried all these rolls and more, and my conclusion on Blade reflects the conclusion on cuisine in general, which in turn reflects a contemporary worldview. They were on the whole beautifully made, with ingredients that had plainly been sourced from the very best possible sources, and hewn together by a chef who understood the intricacies of the human palate. I entertained at Blade every time I could during my sojurn; even ate there by myself once.

But the fact that I was eating at a soi-disant Japanese in a corner of the United States was irrelevant: this is the new food, inspired by everywhere, with certain splashes of somewhere more prominent than others, meticulously made, perfectly served. Just as the model in the corner was a mix of Chinese, Persian, Russian and German, from everywhere and nowhere, so was Blade’s food. Once that meant the worst: international cuisine. Now it is the trademark of a new contemporary quality.

Many hotels thrive these days by attaching luxury brand chefs’ names to their restaurants: these bring in visitors who otherwise would not be seen dining at a hotel restaurant, for fear of appearing like tourists. One of my favourite hotels in the world, though, has another take. The Parkhuus restaurant, in the Park Hyatt Zurich, is as cool, and spectacular in its internal architecture, and as imaginative in its menu, as any high-concept chef ’s: but the restaurant is entirely the hotel’s own.

A sweeping open kitchen dominates the room; ceilings are high, as are windows; tables lack formal dressing, instead bedecked in contemporary architecture. The menu effortlessly combines the casual and the formal, the haute and the bas: you can simply choose ‘Chop, Wood Roasted, 400g’; or go for the Swiss ‘pike-perch fillet, pan fried, herb crust, herb salad, tomato jam’ accompanied by the wood-roasted seasonal vegetables. Both were sublime in their delicacy with the signature of the Parkhuus wood oven.

The menu at Parkhuus is brutally seasonal, in the best possible way: there are no signature dishes, only seasonal dishes, so if you go in autumn you would be crazy not to try the products of shoots in nearby Burgundy, for example. As befits one of the very best restaurants in the city that serves as the capital of Europe’s wealth management business, the wine cellar is breathtaking in its breadth, although I have recently favoured the local draft beer, served swiftly and ice-cool, its hoppy bitterness a welcome counterpoint to the slight caramel sweetness that arises in some of the woodroast dishes.

Parkhuus is an interesting room in that it runs counter to what I normally admire about restaurants. It is a big space, with big windows, and a view technically of nothing but the other side of a quiet Zurich street. Yet it feels sexy, alive, because of the lighting, the attitude, the décor, the service, the style. You feel this is a destination for locals, not because of the name of a chef above the door, but because of the sheer quality.

Around 1000 miles north of Zurich, on a very different kind of lake, is the Scottish Highland hotel of Cameron House. Cameron House is on Loch Lomond, a long lake that stretches like a finger into the Highlands, and you can’t quite imagine the barren beauty that unfolds before you as you stand on the lochside of the hotel, without having been there. On one of Scotland’s most famous lochs, this is the perfect location.

The hotel’s main restaurant has fine views over the water, but on my latest visit I stopped in on the Boat House, the more casual option, on the water’s edge. You feel as though you are floating on this untamed loch, and the casual atmosphere is enhanced by the engagingly informal staff – and the crowds, for this is a popular place.

The menu is created by the Loch Fyne people, they of seafood bars across the UK, and that guaranteed a level of quality: excellent selection of salmon of various smokes, mussels that were well cooked in white wine and parsley; spectacularly presented oysters. Good quality for a seafood lover, if nothing too ambitious, but the view of a snowstorm whitening the head of Ben Lomond across the water (this can happen at any time of year) was ambitious enough.

In the course of my annual travels I stay in quite a number of luxury hotels, and those that disappoint usually outnumber those that excel. So it is a delight when a hotel that was supposed to do nothing other than perform solidly, does so with flair and a panache of proper hotellerie, like a mid-division football team suddenly matching Barcelona at their own game.

That was my experience, shortly after Cameron House, with the Hilton Central in Glasgow. Hilton has been demeaned as a brand over the past years, the sometimes glorious towers of Hilton International now replaced by business lodges stamped with the brand. Some exceptions remain, for me in the U.S., and London’s Park Lane: but Glasgow’s Hilton is evidently in a category of its own. The service was not only attentive but intuitive; the rooms well-arranged, a sort of cookiecutter- plus, for road warriors who want to know where everything is but also have high standards. It was the food that surprised, a sequence of room services arriving swiftly and with pride, steaming hot, sea bass cooked a point, a perfectly herbed soup: the kinds of things you wish room service would do around the world, but it so rarely does. And with staff that took pride: they were neither overtrained, nor obsequious, nor over-aware, nor over-cool: just spot on. Hilton Glasgow, you outdo many of your more glamorous five-star rivals.

Back very much closer to home, I am delighted at the reopening, after a few months’ refurbishment, of my favourite part of one of my favourite restaurant/food shops, Villandry, in London’s NoHo. Villandry is part café, part food hall, part restaurant, and the latter two have just reopened, accompanied by a fine wine theme and a bank of those fine Enomatic machines at which you can taste fine wine by the small pour. Redecorated in exquisite taste by Claire Sheppard and her team, it retains that light, airiness so rare in central London venues, as well as fine ingredients cooked simply, whether for breakfast, lunch or a prix-fixe dinner. Bon appétit.

Darius Sanai is Editor-in-Chief of Condé Nast Contract Publishing

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Christopher Boffoli is the photographer and inspiration behind the astonishing ‘Big Appetites’ series of photographs, of which we publish a selection here. Largely self taught, the Seattle-based photographer decided to take up a creative career after witnessing the events of 9/11 first hand and then sustaining a serious injury at high altitude while mountaineering on Mount Rainier in the Pacific Northwest.

The witty, original and thought-provoking Big Appetites was a finalist for a 2012 James Beard Foundation award and is the subject of a forthcoming book from Workman Publishing, to be released in Autumn 2013. His fine art photography has been showcased in exhibitions across the US and in London, Monaco and Singapore. His work has been published in more than 95 countries and can be found in galleries and private collections in the US, Canada, Europe and Asia.

 

 What inspired Big Appetites?

The original genesis of this series was a childhood fascination with miniature things. As a young boy I was an avid model builder and a collector of Matchbox cars. Growing up in the late 70’s and early 80’s there was also a lot of television and cinema that exploited the concept of scale juxtaposition. The list of shows and movies with tiny people in an over-sized world is long. It was a very common theme. Actually, it recurs surprisingly frequently in our culture, from the Science Fiction films of the 1950’s to the present day, most likely because it was a cheap, easy special effect to pull off and also one that offered much dramatic and comedic potential. In fact, the idea even suited Jonathan Swift in the 18th century’s Gulliver’s Travels. And if you consider that many museums around the world are filled with miniature idols and other tiny representations of the real world, human beings have had a fascination with minuscule things for tens of thousands of years.

What informs your food photography?

Food was a conscious choice as one of the elements of my work from the start. I thought that it offered a broad palette of beautiful colour and texture, especially when photographed with natural light. Of course I also realized that food would make the work broadly accessible cross-culturally, as whether you eat with a fork, chopsticks or your fingers everyone has a familiarity with food. The surprise was that food really isn’t that beautiful. We tend to see most food from a certain distance at the supermarket or at a restaurant. I discovered that photographing it up close with macro lenses revealed all of its imperfections. Likewise, as a North American I thought there was something to say about the dysfunctional parts of our collective relationship with food that exist amidst the tremendous bounty that is available to us as consumers. Humour and surprise are definitely the top notes in my work. But I hoped this work would open a conversation about portion sizes, over-consumption, industrialized food production and the degree to which we have become food spectators in America, consuming gorgeously photographed food through the media (with our eyes) but over-relying on prepared and processed foods at meal time.

How did you first become interested in it and why?

I saw an exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery in late 2002 (a Chapman Brothers diorama) which used miniature figures in an artwork. Around the same time I saw the brilliant work of Walter Martin and Paloma Muñoz (Travellers) with scale figures presented in snow globe dioramas, often in somewhat disturbing scenes. I loved the idea of luring in the viewer with something whimsical and then surprising them with something they perhaps weren’t expecting. Those two works are what motivated me to begin conceiving what would eventually become my Big Appetites series of photographs. I worked away at the idea for the better part of a decade without anyone at all paying very much attention to what I was doing, save for my young niece who loved the images. But then some of the work in the series was spotted by an editor in Europe in 2011 who syndicated the images in the British press. Judging from the reaction, combining two of the most common elements in just about every culture in the world (toys and food) was more powerful than I ever realized it would be. And I’ve found it compelling to explore both the human fascination with detailed miniatures and with food.

What are your forthcoming projects?

I’m continuing to work on the Big Appetites series. In fact, I have just completed a few months of shooting many new images for an upcoming book to be released worldwide by Workman Publishing (NY) later this year. I’m continuing to show large-format, fine art photographic prints from this series which in the last year have had exhibitions in Seattle, New York, Los Angeles, Toronto, London, Monaco and Singapore. In the UK the limited edition prints are represented by the Flaere Gallery (flaere.com). I’m also keeping busy with a range of editorial and commercial commissions.

Christopher Boffoli’s work is available at bigappetites.net

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Reading time: 4 min
Berry pie at De Kas, Amsterdam

Berry pie at De Kas, Amsterdam

Michelin stars are so twentieth century. Karys Webber rounds up 21 establishments around the world where you can have a meal on the wild side, whatever your tastes

MOTO, Chicago

Michelin-starred Moto in Chicago is molecular gastronomy at its best. Chef with a hint of mad scientist Homaro Cantu creates the most inventive, surprising and bizarre dishes for a multi-sensory food experience using high tech equipment and intricate techniques. The menu and ingredients change regularly and dishes are given mysterious names like ‘River’ and ‘Paradise’ that give little away. But one thing is consistent, nothing is quite as it seems: expect hard to be soft, savoury to be sweet and inedible to be edible. In a bid to avoid the use of paper in the restaurant, even the menus at Moto are edible, printed onto rice paper using a modified Canon i560 inkjet printer in which the print cartridges are filled with food-based ‘inks’, including tomatoes and purple potatoes. The science theme also extends to the laboratory style decor, which features walls of the periodic table of elements and displays of glass flasks and beakers. motorestaurant.com  

Acrobats and fine dining, Circus, London

Acrobats and fine dining, Circus, London

CIRCUS, London

If you favour a side of acrobatics with your dinner then head to Circus in London’s Covent Garden, a late night cocktail bar and cabaret restaurant rolled into one. A surrealistinspired décor, dreamed up by designer Tom Dixon, is striking in black and white with gold Harlequin wallpaper and mirrors galore whilst a Pan-Asian menu offers up dishes such as Chilean sea bass, lychee and aubergine green curry and red pepper lamb chops with chilli and honey. Performances from acrobats, fire eaters, trapeze artists and burlesque dancers occur spontaneously during dinner but come into full force afterwards when the glossy white platform that dominates the main dining room transforms from communal dining table to stage and runway for the entertainment. circus-london.co.uk

DISASTER CAFÉ, Lloret de Mar

If you are someone who thinks going out for a meal is just too easy, perhaps you should make a visit to Disaster Café in Lloret de Mar, Spain where they make eating that much more of a challenge. The bizarre underground restaurant simulates an earthquake equivalent to 7.8 on the Richter scale during your dinner. Waiters don protective headgear and reflective vests and guests, unsurprisingly, are advised to wear machine washable clothing as inevitably things get messy. Even more bizarrely, the restaurant is a hit; tables are booked up weeks in advance by diners who clearly aren’t put off by the fact that the majority of the meal will end up on the floor. disastercafe.com

 

Situated in a restored greenhouse, De Kas grows its own fruits and vegetables

Situated in a restored greenhouse, De Kas grows its own fruits and vegetables

DE KAS, Amsterdam

De Kas is the project of Michelin-starred chef Gert Jan Hageman who in 2001, rescued Amsterdam’s Muncipal Nursery from demolition and turned it into one of the city’s coolest and most beautiful restaurants. Located in Frankendael Park, the 8-metre high greenhouse, which dates back to 1926, now operates as a unique restaurant-comenursery serving up fresh, seasonal and organic vegetables grown on the premises and locally sourced meat and fish. A fixed menu of simple, stylish dishes inspired by rural Mediterranean is created each morning based on the day’s harvest. Recent offerings have included smoked halibut with celeriac ravioli and lemon panna cotta with pomegranate seeds, melon and basil ice cream. The conservatory dining area is minimalist in design, courtesy of Dutch designer Piet Boon, letting the impressive glass structure take centre stage and a four-seat chef ‘s table is also available in the kitchen if you’re interested in seeing all the action. Alternatively, weather permitting, you can also dine outside in the picturesque herb garden. restaurantdekas.nl

Underwater dining at Ithaa Undersea Restaurant, Maldives

Underwater dining at Ithaa Undersea Restaurant, Maldives

ITHAA UNDERSEA RESTAURANT. Maldives

If you fancy dining with the fishes there’s no more magical an experience than Ithaa Undersea Restaurant on the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island. Residing nearly five metres below the surface in the Indian Ocean, Ithaa – which means ‘mother of pearl’ in Dhivehi, the native Maldivian language – allows its diners to marvel at some of the richest marine life in the world whilst sipping champagne cocktails. Sharks, turtles and stingrays are all regularly spotted along with swarms of tropical reef fish and with a seafood heavy Maldivian-Western fusion menu, there’s a high chance you’ll be able to spot what’s on your plate swimming above your head. Intimate with only 14 seats, the 5 x 9 metre restaurant is encased by 12.5mm thick clear acrylic glass and cost $5 million to build. conradhotels.com

CANNABALISTIC SUSHI, Tokyo

Nyotaimori is the obscure Japanese practice of serving sushi on the body of a naked woman. Inspired by this, a restaurant in Tokyo has taken the concept to new levels with a macabre twist. Definitely not for the squeamish, at the Cannibalistic Sushi restaurant, guests are presented with an edible ‘human body’, wheeled out on a gurney by a waitress dressed as a nurse. The chefs at the restaurant ensure that the life size corpse is as realistic as possible, using dough to create the flesh, sushi and sashimi inside to replicate organs and blood red sauce embedded in the skin layer to create realistic bleeding when you make your incision. You can even choose between male and female bodies.

DINNER IN THE SKY, Worldwide

If you suffer from vertigo then this one may not be for you, however for spectacular views and your meal with a side of fear then Dinner in the Sky is a must do. The bespoke experience dangles 22 guests 100 feet in the air at a location of your choice with a chef, waiter and entertainer enclosed in the centre to tend to your needs, plus the swiveling chairs allow you to enjoy 180-degree views. Just make sure you take a bathroom trip beforehand, the whole table has to be brought down if anyone needs to go to the toilet during dinner. dinnerinthesky.co.uk

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

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

SONEVA KIRI TREETOP DINING POD, Koh Food, Thailand

Also taking dining to new heights is five star eco-resort, Soneva Kiri, on the Thai island Koh Kood. Soneva Kiri offers its guests a unique Treetop Dining experience using a rattan pod that seats up to four people. Boarded at ground level, the bird’s nest-esque pod is then hoisted up 16 feet into the native massang trees so guests can enjoy their meal at one with nature and with stunning views of the island and out to sea. The menu also follows a jungle theme serving up dishes such as ‘Canapés in the Canopy’ and ‘Forager’s Basket’ using produce predominantly from the island’s organic gardens. With such a secluded, uneasy to reach location you may be wondering how your food arrives. In fact, the waiters glide elegantly through the trees using zip wires to reach you. However, designer of the Treepod, Louis Thompson, has said, “we are also looking into guests being able to fly on the zip line through the jungle themselves, as there is a certain amount of envy when they watch the waiters.” soneva.com/soneva-kiri/home

OPAGUE, Los Angeles

Everyone enjoys a candlelit dinner so why not go one step further and ditch the light completely? You can do just that at Opaque in Los Angeles where they promise a ‘more stimulating dining experience’ based on the theory that removing your vision heightens your remaining senses, enhancing the smell, taste and texture of your food. Guests at Opaque enjoy their meal in a completely pitch black room aided by waiters who are all blind or visually impaired. darkdining.com.

The Wrapping Gallery combines a restaurant with a contemporary art gallery

The Wrapping Gallery combines a restaurant with a contemporary art gallery

THE WRAPPING PROJECT, London

The venture of Australian-born theatre director and curator Jules Wright, The Wapping Project in London brings together a restaurant and contemporary art gallery in a disused hydraulic power station. With utilitarian furniture, high ceilings, bare-brick walls and looming industrial machinery, it’s not the cosiest of settings to settle down for dinner, but it is impressive. The daily changing menu offers up treats like veal rump with winter tomato, wild fennel, herb, almond and ricotta, courtesy of newly appointed chef Matthew Young, plus an all-Australian wine list handpicked by Wright. A cavernous art space at the back plays host to a variety of installations and exhibitions each month. thewappingproject.com

EL DIABLO, TIMANFAYA NATIONAL PARK, Lanzarote

El Diablo restaurant crowns the top of Islote de Hilario, the tallest of Timanfaya National Park’s famous ‘Fire Mountain’ volcanoes in Lanzarote. What makes this circular, glass-walled restaurant unique though is not just the spectacular views and odd location choice, it’s the way they cook the food. The chefs use the semi-dormant volcano itself to grill your dinner to perfection via a cavernous black pit, which reaches to the ground to utilize the natural 400°C heat that emanates from below the ground’s surface. The restaurant itself was designed by the late artist and architect, César Manrique, who was responsible for much of Lanzarote’s development. lanzarote.com/timanfaya  LAINO SNOW VILLAGE ICE BAR, Ylläsjärvi, Finland The Laino Snow Village Ice Bar resides in the town of Ylläsjärvi in Finland, just north of the Arctic Circle, and as you may have guessed, is made entirely of ice and snow. Diners here can enjoy local specialties such as reindeer, Lappish potato soup and vodka-lingonberry jelly (served in ice glasses of course) and as the restaurant is kept at a cool -2 to -5 degrees Celsius at all times, fur rugs are considerately draped over the solid ice chairs to keep you warm. The restaurant only exists however during the winter season when the weather is cold enough to sustain it, for the rest of the year it disappears entirely and is rebuilt from scratch when winter next arrives. snowvillage.fi

FORTEZZA MEDICEA, Volterra

For a somewhat tense dining experience, try Fortezza Medicea restaurant in Volterra, near Pisa, which just happens to reside inside a maximum-security prison. An experiment in prison rehabilitation, all the waiters and chefs that work in the restaurant are convicts who inhabit the 500-year-old facility, based on the idea that the inmates will learn valuable skills to help them find work upon release. Unsurprisingly, security checks are thorough: would be diners are required to submit a two-month background check before their reservations are considered and upon arrival at the restaurant, guests have to pass a series of checkpoints and hand over mobile phones and handbags before settling down for their meal. Armed prison wardens are stationed around the restaurant and, just in case, all cutlery and plates are plastic. The menu consists of Southern Italian dishes like mini frittatas and gnocci with a fava bean puree, plus a pianist doing life for murder serenades diners during their meal.

Fully automated service at `S Baggers, Nuremberg

Fully automated service at `S Baggers, Nuremberg

‘S BAGGERS, Nurenberg

At ‘s Baggers restaurant in Nuremberg they’ve done away with the traditional table service in favour of a fully automated electronic system. Customers simply place their orders themselves using the touch screen computers at each table and when ready, your food will come whizzing towards you from the kitchen above on the spiraling metallic tracks that dominate the dining area. sbaggers.de

ANNALAKSHMI, Singapore

The motto at vegetarian restaurant Annalakshmi in Singapore is simply, ‘eat what you want, give what you feel’. That’s right, it’s up to you to decide how much you’d like to pay for your dinner. To entice your generosity however, the money you pay is donated to the Temple of Fine Arts, an artistic and cultural organization dedicated to serving the society through arts, music and dance, and all the staff at Annalakshmi are volunteers who hold regular day jobs and view their work at the restaurant as ‘service’. The unusual restaurant also has outlets in Kuala Lumpur and Perth. annalakshmi.com.sg

Sound of Silence, Australian barbecue in the Outback

Sound of Silence, Australian barbecue in the Outback

SOUNDS OF SILENCE, Ayers Rock

If a romantic, starlit dinner is more your thing then try the awardwinning Sounds of Silence experience which offers a memorable meal in the secluded Australian outback. Champagne and canapés kick start the evening at sunset on a lone sand dune overlooking Ayers Rock followed by a traditional Australian barbecue in a candlelit desert clearing, serving up classic Northern Territory dishes kangaroo, crocodile, emu and barramundi. After dinner, you can indulge in a spot of stargazing with the resident astronomer on hand to guide you through the night sky. In the chillier winter months a campfire is also lit to keep things toasty. ayersrockresort.com.au

HAJIME, Bangkok

At Japanese restaurant, Hajime, in Bangkok they’ve come up with a novel, if slightly terrifying, way to serve customers. All food here comes courtesy of enormous, bug-eyed robots, dressed in snazzy samurai outfits. What’s more, they also perform clunky dance routines to Asian pop music for your entertainment. Owner Lapassard Thanaphant invested nearly $1 million to create the boogying robot waiters. hajimerobot.com

THE SPAM MUSEUM, Austin, Minnesota

Brilliantly dubbed The Guggenham, The SPAM Museum in Austin, Minnesota is 16,500 square foot dedicated purely to the canned meat. Visitors to the museum can experience ‘the world’s most comprehensive collection of spiced pork artifacts’ with exhibitions ranging from a short film entitled ‘Spam…A Love Story’, vintage SPAM brand advertising, SPAM trivia and a World War II exhibit that includes a letter from former U.S. president, Dwight Eisenhower, thanking the company for keeping the troops well fed during the war. Of course, you can also swing by the museum store on your way out to stock up on priceless SPAM collectables. spam.com/spam-101/the-spam-museum

MESTIZO, Santiago

Mestizo restaurant in Santiago, Chile, doesn’t really look much like a restaurant. If it wasn’t for the arrangement of tables and chairs, catching sight of it you’d be much more likely to mistake it for an art gallery or a museum. Designed by architect Smiljan Radic Clarke, what makes the structure so unique is the use of large boulders to support the wooden roof that stretches over the kitchen at one end, the indoor section of the restaurant in the middle and an outdoor deck patio at the other end. Occupying a corner of Parque Bicentenario, the restaurant overlooks picturesque water gardens and serves an eclectic mix of Chilean and Peruvian cuisine. mestizorestaurant.cl

THE CURRYWURST MUSEUM, Berlin

As ‘the culinary emblem of Germany’s capital city’, naturally the currywurst should have a museum dedicated to its greatness in Berlin. Opened in 2009 to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the dish, the museum claims that ‘no national dish inspires as many stories, preferences and celebrity connoisseurs as this one does’ and holds interactive exhibitions including a Spice Chamber which features a sausage sofa, sniffing stations and a ‘Currymat’ that will tell you what curry type you are. currywurstmuseum.de

ROADKILL COOK-OFF FESTIVAL, West Virginia, USA

Yes, you have read that right. Every September, the people of Marlinton, West Virginia hold the stomach-churning Roadkill Cook-Off Festival. Thankfully, the dishes are merely inspired by common roadkill in the area as opposed to participants actually using animals scraped off the country roads. The rules state that competitors’ main ingredient must be an animal that often meets it’s grisly end in a road accident, be it a possum, beaver, raccoon, deer, squirrel or even a rattlesnake. Previous dishes have included teriyakimarinated bear. Vegetarians need not apply. pccocwv.com/

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