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.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

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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hotel mandarin
hotel mandarin

The Mandarin Oriental is in the beating banking heart in the old town of Zurich

Zurich has seen the transformation of one of its oldest hotels into a gem in the historic heart of the city

For those unacquainted with Switzerland’s largest city, a visit to Zurich always comes as a positive surprise. You may expect banks and pharmaceutical company HQs in a clinical row; instead you get a bijou medieval old town on the banks of a river filled with swans and storks, a dramatic lakeside waterfront with a view of the Alps, and plenty of olde-Europe atmosphere.

The spiritual centre of the town is the Paradeplatz, the point, a few hundred metres from the lake, where the chic Bahnhofstrasse luxury shopping street meets the edge of the old town, amid some serious-looking private banks housed in historic buildings and trams coming and going (cars are banned from this part of town). And now, for the first time in decades, the Paradeplatz has a hotel to match its stature as the world’s centre of discreet wealth management.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

The Savoy has been on the Paradeplatz for generations; it was one of Switzerland’s original luxury hotels, but until recently had slipped off the pinnacle of hotelerie and was a rather uninspiring and old-fashioned five star hostelry. Now, following a magic wand by the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group, it is the talk of the town.

The LUX lodgings certainly deserved to be making waves. After walking in and being recognised by the staff without saying our name (always impressive, even if pretty easy with a quick online search), we were whisked upstairs to a corner suite, beautifully and elaborately decorated, with a view over the little square and the streets around. Decor was fresh, light and airy, with thick light taupe carpets and some beautiful marquetry.

balkon

Guest can enjoy their morning coffee on their balcony overlooking the famous Paradeplatz

Read more: Visiting Ferrari Trento: The sparkling wine of Formula 1

One of the fascinating questions about the hotel was: how do you meld old Switzerland (the Savoy) with Mandarin Oriental, a luxury brand with its roots in East Asia? While there were hints and accents of contemporary Hong Kong in the design cues, this was, pleasingly, not an attempt to insert one culture inside the other.

Dinner the first night was at the Savoy Brasserie & Bar,  blending just a hint of Swiss formality (white coats for the wait staff) with an ease of spirit and sense of life. Oysters were a feature here – to go with an art deco theme – and we particularly enjoyed a main of monkfish escabeche, with bell pepper and crispy rice chips.

mandarin

Guests can have drinks and light bites in the Mandarin lounge

The culinary highlight was the next evening; Orsini is technically in the adjacent Orsini building from the 14th century,, but to reach it you stroll around the side of the building, with a historic church reminding you of where you are, and into a narrow entrance opening out into a bijou dining room. Our fellow diners included two highly wealthy finance people of international origin, quietly celebrating a deal, a couple celebrating an anniversary, and another finance person quietly making his next billion on his iPad.

The cuisine was as rarefied as the atmosphere. Artichoke with “cacio e Pepe” milk, grapefruit and Mazara red prawn tartare; potato gnocchi with grilled eel, “Giulio Ferrari” Spumante sauce (that’s a top Italian sparkling wine), fava beans and caviar; both were outstanding in their subtlety. Bravo to Mandarin Oriental for running two such brilliant but contrasting restaurants under the same roof

food

There are two superb dining options in the hotel: The casual Savoy Brasserie & Bar and the intimatefine dining restaurant Orsini

Those would have been the hotel’s public space pieces de resistance, but while LUX was staying there, the MO opened its rooftop bar. And we learned something quite spectacular about Zurich rooftops. Even if the building is not very high – the MO is just one storey higher than its neighbours – they can make for astonishing views, because as soon as you rise above the buildings around you, you are greeted not just by a view of the city’s churches and other landmarks, but the sweep of the Alps and lake on one side, and dramatic forested hills on the other. A few floors and you are in another world. So the MO is not just the most chi-chi spot in town, but one of the vibeiest also.

This is a boutique MO, not a grand one, but the company has over the years shown it can do old-world boutique (Munich) just as well as it does new and palatial (New York), the sign of a hotel brand immensely comfortable in its own skin and flexible enough not just to move with the times and spaces it operates in, but lead with them.

www.mandarinoriental.com/de/zurich/savoy/

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palazzo
palazzo

Dating back to 1775, this building is nearby the Basilica of Santa Croce in Lecce

Authentic. immaculate, aristocratic, contemporary family-curated luxury in a Baroque palace in a city that’s a living museum? Take us to the Palazzo Bozzi Corso in Lecce, Puglia

Authenticity is becoming an ever greater part of the luxury travel experience. People want experiences when they travel, and cookie-cutter luxury simply doesn’t cut it anymore.

That’s why you get French and Italian fashion and luxury creating spectacular hotels in territories as far apart as Australia and Las Vegas. But authenticity cannot be created through replication or over the Internet; by definition it is something that comes from inside.

outside

The hotel was designed by the 18th-century architect Emanuele Manieri, this historic building attained its unique blend of traditional and contemporary features when it was developed in conjunction with the La Fiermontina Family Collection.

That, more than anything else, is what strikes you when you walk into the Palzzo Bozzi Corso. You are walking along a historic street in Lecce, in the heart of Puglia, buzzing with tourists, locals, craft shops, wine bars, local food markets.

room

Dedicated to the memory of the boxer and actor Enzo Fiermonte, La Fiermontina Palazzo Bozzi Corso offers its guests spaces with ornate furnishings and artworks

This is and was a wealthy town and the Baroque era buildings are grand and imposing. Then you walk into the Palazzo and you are whisked into the private home of a wealthy merchant of hundreds of years ago: the equivalent of walking into a Rockefeller house in a different era.

Except the Palazzo Bozzi Corso has been sylishly and impeccably updated so it feels almost like a perfectly curated exhibition, a museum of contemporary and 18th century Italian design, immaculately reimagined as an intimate luxury hotel.

Art by the likes of John Lennon (a friend of the owning family) and Fernand Leger sits among the Renaissance artefacts; no interior designer in the world could create a passion project so warm and thoughtful. This is a place to live, or at least to stay for as long as possible.

room

The building is also home to original drawings by John Lennon, donated by Yoko Ono, a friend of the owner’s mother.

There are only 10 suites here and every one is different: ours had a stone arch above the bed, church-like high ceilings, modernist furniture, a combination of ancient and contemporary art, eggshell walls, vast mirrors. Bathrooms are out of a show suite at Milan Design Week, except the work, both physically and in the destination.

Walk out of the building and you are in the living museum of Baroque that is Lecce; there is a roof terrace, and you can use the pool in the garden at the nearby sister hotel (also gorgeous), La Fiermontina. Authentic luxury doesn’t even begin to describe Palazzo Bozzi Corso.

Guests also have access to the secret garden and rooftop terrace to see the sunset

www.lafiermontinacollection.com/en/palazzo-bozzi-corso

Darius Sanai is Editor in Chief of LUX and an Editor in Chief at Condé Nast International

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mountains
mountains

The hotel is located at the highest point in the village of Surlej, just 5 kilometres from St. Moritz. As a result, the hotel offers ski-in ski-out to the slopes

With a spectacular view of the Engadine Valley, and located right by one of the region’s best ski and hiking mountains, Nira Alpina is a hip hotel to inspire the soul – and palate

The Nira Alpina is not actually in St Moritz, and is all the better for it. It’s in a location that is far more dramatically connected with the landscapes of the Engadine valley, ten minutes’ drive away, in the village of Surlej.
The village is by a deep blue lake of the same name, and the hotel itself is connected to the lift station for Corvatsch, the area’s most challenging mountain. You avoid St Moritz town centre, which is not as pretty as it should be, while enjoying easy access to everything.
table

Nira Alpina offers views of untouched natural scenery and is suitable for both summer and winter adventures

We arrived there one sunny summer evening and immediately were whisked to the rooftop bar, at sunset. Sunsets at sea get a lot of love, but this mountain sunset was quite astonishing in a completely different way. The Nira Alpina is high on the valley’s eastern edge, just below the forest that coats the slope as it rises up towards the peaks.
As the sun lowered over the opposite side of the valley we had an astonishing array of colour, from rose snow on the peaks, to green-blues of the valley air, thick with forest resins but devoid of the sunshine that still lit the rocks above. The valley below became green black while the sky above the peaks was a still a brilliant late afternoon blue.
spa

The spa of the hotel offers a relaxation room with coloured mood lighting, a steam room, a sauna, a vast whirlpool, and five large treatment rooms

After a couple of Aperols it was an easy slide along the same long, light and airy floor, past the bar, to the restaurant, similarly filled with light and view. Here at Shanti, the cuisine is brilliantly and refreshingly global, from the Shanti salad, Swiss with a Southeast Asian touch, through tuna sashimi and an excellently presented hummus platter, to a very Swiss carrot and ginger soup, a very Thai (and absolutely vivid) Tom Yam Gang, various absolutely delicious varieties of dim sum, and mains varying from a schnitzel Cordon Bleu to miso cod with glass noodles and a dramatic Thai red curry.
As the Nira Alpina is a place you will likely stay several days in, the excellent execution of the different dishes meant you could eat a different cuisine every night without going out – and you wouldn’t wish to go out as the view is utterly memorable.
,mountains
Our room had doors opening directly out onto the hotel’s lawn, with a vast view in either direction down the Engadine valley. Walk onto the lawn, turn left, and you quickly reach the path that leads up through the forest on the Corvatsch mountain; from our door we could have walked up to the pass at the Fuorcola Surlej hut, high above the treelined, down the glacial Roseg valley on the other side, and then climb up the glaciers to ascend the snow-encrusted 4000 metre giant Piz Bernina, in crampons, without passing another building.
Feeling rather less adventurous, we instead walked down to Lake Silvaplana, the centre of watersports in the area, for a kitesurfing lesson, and around the lake and through the forests.
Then it was back to our room, sitting outside on the grass, and watching another memorable sunset as the mountain moon and stars (you’re that bit closer to them at an altitude of 1800 metres) came out of the aquamarine sky; before another beautiful dinner.
mountains

In the summer the hotel offers multiple outdoor activities like hiking, mountain biking, skiing and watersports.

Nira Alpina also has its own patisserie, where we spent the mornings choosing from a variety of buns and pastries, and a yoga class in a suite with a vast mountain view.
The Zen of the yoga class was appropriate: this is a luxury Alpine hotel that feels like a forest retreat on an island, for the sense of sheer balance and calm it creates. We visited in summer; in winter, with its connection to the Corvatsch lift station, the Nira is apparently quite a party spot in the early evening, but the views, cuisine, and uplifting nature of the place would not change. And for summer and winter sports, the connection up the mountain could not be more convenient.
chalet

During the winter guests have a wide selection of winter activities, including ice skating, winter hiking, sledding, bobsledding, horse riding, hang gliding, sky diving and Nordic walking.

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bodrum
bodrum

The MedBodrum festivities took place at the Maçakızı Hotel and Villa Maçakızı in Bodrum

Experiences are the future of luxury. Darius Sanai visits MedBodrum, a visionary new type of festival, combining fabulous cuisine, vibey music, art and culture, in one of the hottest Mediterranean destinations

An assemblage of famed and Michelin-starred chefs cooking in the open air by the Mediterreanean; a mellowness of Bossa Nova from Bebel Gilberto, singing just with an acoustic guitarist as an accompanist, just centimetres from the water’s edge;

guests moving seamlessly from Chandon wine to Caipirinhas; a semi-outdoor display of art dotted around two properties, a boat ride from each other, featuring works by Marina Abramovic, Antony Gormley and LUX’s own chief contributing editor, the collector and artist Maryam Eisler, among others.

food

The festival features top international cuisine

Welcome to MedBodrum, a new type of festival, whose inaugural edition took place last week over four days in the spring sunshine and moonlight in a bay surrounded by deep forest just outside the chi-chi Turkish Riviera resort of Bodrum.

Follow LUX on instagram @luxthemagazine

chef

Carlo Bernardini’s recipes are inspired by his late grandmother’s cooking

The aural and sensory entertainment, in what promises to be an annual festival, was stunning. The music came from Skip Marley on the first night through Mestiza and to Gilberto as the grand finale.

There were different presentations of cuisine – from formal dinners to the memorable beachside BBQ cookout – from chefs including Aret Sahakyan, Carlo Bernardini, Alejandro Serrano and Deepanker Khosla.

food

Michelin-starred cuisine for all palates

Never have art collectors been quite so spoiled for choice for sampling everything from exquisite langoustines to a dairy-free vat of pasta with fresh tomato, in a Med-side luxury location – except possibly in their own homes.

And that’s what made MedBodrum special: given the organic villa-style architecture and intimacy of Macakizi, a resort that is a go-to stop off from many superyacht summers, it felt like a big house party, your house party, but organised by someone else who knows all the right chefs and musicians and artists.

Festival guests enjoyed DJs and a variety of top international acts

(Fru Tholstrup and Jane Cowan‘s curation of artworks was seen both at Macakizi, the eco-hotel at the heart of the festival, and the Villa Macakizi private palace a boat ride across the bay.)

But the most compelling memory is that of a wholly new concept created by Sahir Erozan, Macakizi’s owner and the creative mind behind this celebration.

Erozan is a restaurateur and hotelier, and he is wrapping together three areas – gastronomy, art and music, with a good dash of fine wine thrown in – in a way that nobody else does.

medbodrum

Sahir Erozan, the owner of the Maçakızı Hotel in Bodrum, with friends art the MedBodrum evening events

ski marley

Skip Marley, grandson of Bob Marley and Rita Marley, performing at the event in Bodrum.

Luxury consumers love eating well, collect art, and enjoy bringing performers in for private concerts. And yet these activities are too often separated: there is no art at the Miami Food & Wine, no music at the Venice Biennale, and anybody who has been to an Art Basel or Frieze knows the issue with the cuisine and hospitality (there is none).

Erozan is bringing them together all under the banner of the Mediterranean.

Read more: Leading MACAN, Indonesia’s first contemporary art museum

It’s a new kind of luxury experience, one that can travel. Everyone knows that experiences are the new obsession for luxury consumers. There remain challenges: how to integrate the art (and what kind of art?); who to invite and who not to invite – the hotel remained open to regular paying guests; which brands to involve, or not; how to create a “tribe” like the most successful clubs, from Studio 54 in 1980 to Soho House in 1999 and Oswalds in 2024.

art

Artworks by Matous Hasa. Art is one of the pillars of the festival, along with cuisine, music and sustainability

And there is a sustainability element which was a little uncertain: we would say be bold and have conversations with regenerative ocean innovators in the mornings and afternoons, before the music and cuisine (and caipirinhas) really kick in.

For MedBodrum felt like a visiting a club (LUX is too young to have been to Studio 54 but we understand it was an invigorating experience), albeit a virtual one.

People were in their own tribe, curated, like all the best clubs, by one all-seeing owner, in the shape of the permanently cigarred Sahir.

darius sanai

Medbodrum guests on the beachside deck at the Macakizi

With the tones of Bebel Gilberto purring “happy birthday to me” still in our ears (she performed on her birthday, and Erozan presented her with a gift, a cake and some Dom Perignon at the end of her set) we look forward to seeing how MedBodrum develops onwards and upwards for a new and even more international generation.

www.medbodrum.com

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Big pool at a nice hotel
Big pool at a nice hotel

The stunning pool area of the Shangri-La Hotel in Singapore

The Shangri-La Hotel in Singapore offers a tropical sanctuary  in the heart of the city. LUX checks in

Singapore’s hawker food is the street food of legend and even features in gastronomic guides. But while the food is astonishing, the stress of getting a table is less so. And much as it is fun to be crammed in with others buzzing with the same experience, sometimes you crave peace. And you do need an appetite for the equatorial heat. We took our Singapore laksa with vintage champagne, in pure tranquillity, in a temperature-controlled garden room, looking over lush plantations, a lawn and a swimming pool. How? The Shangri-La brings the street food to the hotel guests, that’s how.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

At the Line kitchen pop-ups, real street-food chefs from guest hawker stalls, including Habib’s Rojak, cook in the hotel kitchens. It doesn’t replace the authentic experience, but having just landed from Qatar it suited us. After lunch, we wandered down to the huge outdoor pool to swim a few lengths before drifting into the spa for a restorative treatment. The Shangri-La is not among the newest of Singapore’s luxury hotels, but, as seasoned travellers know, newness does not always mean improvement.

hotel lobby with lots of plants

The Hotel Lobby Lounge is equipped with a lot of green plants in the Tower Wing

Read more: Waku Ghin, Singapore, Review

A new developer might have been tempted to build over the rich tropical gardens, or make a smaller pool. There’s also the danger of design to social media. A space made to look good on Instagram is not always good to be in, and this is very true of bars, where bold shapes detract from the dreamy ambiance that makes a good bar. And the Shangri-La has a good bar. The Origin is dark, full of corners and has a long wooden bar for sitting at. We asked for a gin southside margarita, a hybrid cocktail of my own invention, and were pleased, although not surprised, that the bartender knew the ingredients.

nice room with great interior

The rose veranda has a high tea set menu, designed to continue afternoon traditions of luxurious tête-à-têtes over dainty sandwiches, delectable pastries and freshly baked scones served with clotted cream.

This joint effort was so delightful we had another. And another. In Singapore, you want a room with a view, and our suite had just that: high over the gardens and high-rises of the Orchard area. The room was conventional luxury, and all the better for it. To end the day, a charming wander through the gardens, then sitting poolside by a tropical fruit tree at midnight, bracing for another day.

big hotel building with lots of green

Nestled within 15 acres of tropical landscaped gardens, guests are warmly embraced by the hotel’s distinct service and smiles.

shangri-la.com

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restaurant asian
restaurant asian

Designed by award-winning Japanese designer Yohei Akao, the dining space integrates natural materials and intricate details, an ode to nature and heritage

Hidden away on the second floor, overlooking hundreds of croupier hands shuffling and dealing in the casino below, is Waku Ghin. LUX inspects the two-Michelin starred Japanese fusion restaurant in Marina Bay shopping centre, Singapore.

Past the suave darkness of the main area, with walls adorned with dark wood and striking art, and a bar teeming with sakés, is a private room, reserved for the chef’s omakase. One sits, cocooned by lighter wood panneling, at a table opposite the chef’s knives and metal, a stove, spices. The chef, in arm’s reach, sharpens his knives. His sous-chef – stick of fresh wasabi in hand, resembling something between a turnip and a thick leek – mashes it to its bright green pulp. The ancient Japanese ritual begins.

The chefs bring out a vast white polystyrene tray, as you see in fishmongers, with fresh fish. Abalone, twitching at the touch, Carabinero prawns, sea urchins, snapper, uroko. But fusion can be flimsy, and non-committal. Would we lose the natural juice of the French Royale oyster to the overpowering salt and spices of ginger and rice vinegar?

Follow LUX on Instagram:  luxthemagazine

A chemist’s nose follows these flavours and textures, balanced rather then strewn. As with the marinated prawn in sea urchin – the balance of sweet, almost fruity tastes is careful, rather than overbearing. It’s a visual pleasure, too, its orange body sitting boldly in a black shell.

Asian restaurant out of wood

Experience the new sushi omakase at the private Sushi Room customised for four where diners can get a taste of the finest regional delicacies of Japan

Black truffle and caviar are not attention-seeking but sit subtly alongside, with Oscietra caviar preserved at the very lowest salt-level. The carabinero prawn, vast and dealt with by some sort of saber and a dome, flashed in from of us like an elegant medieval duel. And fear not the fiery wrath of wasabi paste; fresh wasabi is a far milder and more succulent cry. (This makes resoundingly clear the sad fact that most so-called ‘wasabi’ consists solely of turnip and flavouring.) And it prods rather than murders its accompanying red marbled, tender and peppery wagyu sushi, slung elegantly across rice with a dip of citrus soy sauce.

After this we are presented the Amadai Uroko with Maitake Mushroom and Mizuna. The uroko, a type of Japanese tilefish with very thin skin, easier to pincer, puffs up immensely under the heat of the metal stove in front of us, under the expert hand of Executive Chef, Masahiko Inoue. And here is the freshness of the mushrooms; quiet, modest, delicious.

Read more: Rosewood Hong Kong review

Goodbye to the chefs – we are whizzed off to the dessert room, and eased slowly back to reality. One remembers than one is not in a cave in Mount Fuji but, overlooking chandeliers and Gucci, in Singapore’s shopping centre. After many courses, I manage one last one, of Mandarin Granita and White Rum Jelly, luckily unlike the English trifle, where jelly can be a tyrannical dictator. Alongside, the balance of sesame ice-cream and hojicha Chantilly (a type of Japanese green tea, served in puffs) provides a conversation of nut and herb, of temperatures, of colours.

Stylish bar with red chairs

For a more casual night out, the extended bar dining area features Chef Tetsuya’s timeless cuisine

Lest we forget the wines… after a deliciously dry saké at the bar, wines with notes of green apple, honey and lemon lended a staccato crispness, structuring and pierces these flavours, after a deliciously dry saké at the bar. From the Rhone, a delicious Julius Pylon 2021, made specially for Chef Tetsuya, served in a burgundy glass to elevate its spicy aroma, finishing with a glass of Pantelleria, the Sicilian dessert wine which cuts through dessert perfectly with a sort of Scott-Joplin hops of sweetness.

Japanese-born, Sydney-based Chef Tetsuya hinges on untampered fresh produce, Japanese umami and meditteranean herbs. Entering back into Marina Bay Sands, beyond the casino deck, beyond its twinkling lights, to Singapore’s skyline: it has, like Tetsuya’s fusion, that balance of careful, winking acuity.

cocktail being poured into a glass

Pair your experience with an extensive list of handcrafted drinks including bespoke brews from Isojiman and Masuizumi.

https://www.marinabaysands.com/restaurants/waku-ghin.html

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Arnaud Champenois is Senior Vice President, Global Brand, Marketing and Communications at Belmond (LVMH). LUX Leaders & Philanthropists Editor, Samantha Welsh speaks with Arnaud Champenois about hospitality, sustainability, and how 2024 is set to be a game-changing year for Belmond

Pink hotel with pool

Belmond Legends – Mount Nelson Hotel (Photographed by Rosie Marks)

LUX: ‘One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.’ (Henry Miller). When did the first shoots of experiential hospitality emerge?

Arnaud Champenois: Experiential travel continues to grow in popularity as the world has become an increasingly mobile place. Prior to the 1980s, airfares were sky-high and the majority of commercial flights were to highly anglicized locations, very much on the beaten track. During this time, travel was also fairly limited to western travellers.

As ‘untrodden’ locations became an option, boomers were somewhat pioneers of experiential travel – which in that time was defined more as ‘activity-packed’ exploration holidays. Then came the internet, followed by social media and the trend snowballed from there…

Since then, the term ‘experiential travel’ has evolved. Modern luxury travellers now want something different. Tick-box, fast and thoughtless travel is in the past. Travellers want to go much deeper into a destination rather than purely seeing it and ticking it off their list. They wish to stay longer, try local delicacies, enjoy traditional music and crafts, understand the people, discover the real local treasures. They want to live the stories, not just hear them.

Follow LUX on instagram: luxthemagazine

Luxury travel is now providing this kind of experience, but to do this long into the future, it is vital that we as travel companies play our part in protecting and preserving the most cherished traditions and heritage of the destinations and communities travel relies upon and strive to make a net positive impact.

LUX: Looking back or looking forward, what is Belmond’s approach to restoring heritage buildings?

AC: History in built environments is fundamental to creating a sense of community and character. They are examples of a particular time and style of architecture that would otherwise be long forgotten. Whether it’s a building’s historical roots, its distinctive architecture, the materials used or some aspect of the decoration that’s particularly interesting, these buildings are visual reminders of an area’s cultural heritage, the people and industries that once and still do, establish an area.

But the hospitality industry caters to the travellers of today. Though many are interested in the historic cultural elements, they want to experience that heritage in an authentic way, whilst being allowed modern-day comforts.

white building night time lit up

MITICO 2024 – Copacabana Palace (Daniel Buren, Escala colorida para Copacabana Palace, trabalho in situ, 2023)

We believe we have a responsibility to be custodians of this timeless heritage, and to help preserve and enhance it for future generations. Our renovation and rejuvenation strategy follows our property-first approach to honour each renovation’s storied and timeless heritage; whilst celebrating the authenticity of each place and injecting contemporary soul to ensure they live on for years to come. We need our more historic assets to live and breathe and be enjoyed, not just be consigned to a museum.

Last year (2023) we revealed four major rejuvenations – the painstaking renovation of Maroma in Riviera Maya, the re-imagining Coquelicot, Belmond’s new luxury barge Coquelicot, Venice Simplon-Orient-Express and Splendido in Portofino. We will continue to reimagine and rejuvenate, arming each property with the contemporary allure, enriched storytelling and meaningful guest experiences that propels them to be the best in their markets.

MITICO 2024 – Daniel Buren at Mount Nelson Hotel, 2023

LUX: What is the role for art in offering responsible hospitality?

AC: Art is a powerful medium which can support local communities giving both local established and upcoming artists a stage to reach new, larger audiences, whilst connecting guests to local cultures, inspiring and facilitating the appreciation of art.

One such example is Belmond’s partnership with internationally renowned contemporary art gallery, Galleria Continua in which we host large-scale art installations by global artists, across several of Belmond’s legendary properties. Entitled MITICO, the installations invite guests to see cultures through a different lens. Through MITICO’s acclaim and the representation of globally renowned artists through Galleria Continua, we have been able to further support local artists. Such as with the following two initiatives, equally launched with Galleria Continua: La Residencia in Mallorca’s “Artist in Residencia” programme, now in its second year. And PANORAMA, a city-wide exhibition conceptualised and organised by Italics bringing ancient, modern and contemporary art to the town of Monferrato, where Belmond will be a proud partner for the third year running.

In Cape Town at Mount Nelson, we’re working with young talented curators Heinrich Groenewald and Shona van der Merwe of RESERVOIR, who have curated an exhibition across the hotel with works from the Norval Foundation. Whilst at Castello di Casole in the undulating Tuscan hills, the hotel works closely with the archaeological museum in Casole d’Elsa, as most of their artefacts were found on the property grounds and even exhibit across the hotel.

Beyond events and installations, the curation of a rich portfolio of guest experiences centred directly around traditional art practices is a great way to support local communities. At Belmond we have a rich portfolio of experiences such as, traditional Peruvian pottery painting hosted by local pottery artists, exclusive Mexican folk art – ‘Mojigangas’ – workshops with resident artists and Balinese egg painting with third-generation egg painters, to name a few. Not only does this support the livelihoods of local artisans, but these guest experiences also help to ensure the continued existence of their crafts.

sculpture on balcony with view

MITICO 2023 – Villa San Michele ( Sun Yuan and Peng Yu’s Teenager sculpture greets arriving guests. Photography by François Halard)

LUX: Why is l’art de vivre a core value for Belmond?

AC: The French concept of l’art de vivre takes its cues from France’s particular penchant for the finer things in life: art, wine, dining, fashion, even romance. At Belmond, we understand the components that make up the wonderful world of luxury and, with more than 45 years’ experience, we like to think we are well placed to help our guests appreciate the art of living well!

Contemporary creativity is wonderfully engaging in helping guests celebrate l’art de vivre of the destinations we operate in. Beyond in-person art installations and photography exhibitions, a good example of how we have celebrated the distinct character of our destinations is Belmond Legends, which is a contemporary photography series that offers alternative perspectives.

With camera in hand, exceptional talents from the likes of Jalan and Jibril Durimel, Thomas Rousset and Rosie Marks immersed themselves in each iconic hotel and destination to encapsulate intimate, dynamic and authentic moments that provide a glance into genuine guest experiences within these destinations. The photographs offer a progressive and personal perspective on these already iconic destinations – showing each property in a new light.

Beyond the topic of art, we help guests celebrate l’art de vivre through many experiences that enrich the mind, body and soul; from historical tours and enriching activities such as open water swimming in the Scottish Highlands as part of the Royal Scotsman itinerary, truffle foraging in Tuscany, or private culinary classes at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons.

fruit on table

Belmond Legends – Villa San Michele (photographed by François Halard)

 

LUX: And finally, can you share a taste of this year’s art program?

AC: Since Belmond’s inception, we have had an intrinsic connection to the arts community, with our portfolio spanning heritage buildings and vintage trains – museums of ancient decorative crafts. Our ambition is to continue highlighting this historical aspect of our portfolio, whilst maintaining its relevancy in contemporary culture through photographic artistic collaboration.

BELMOND LEGENDS brings this concept to life with its incredible roster of international contemporary artists, whilst we lend our properties’ remarkable landscapes as their canvas.

So far, the project has brought an entirely new perspective on 11 of our legendary properties as captured by 10 internationally acclaimed photographers – Chris Rhodes, Francois Halard, Letizia Le Fur, Coco Capitan, Jalan and Jibril Durimel, Thomas Rousset, Rosie Marks, Jeano Edwards, and Jack Davison. With more announcements to come at Photo London in May 2024.

two boys in bed on train

Belmond Legends – Venice Simplon-Orient-Express (Photographed by Coco Capitán)

belmond.com

 

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Reading time: 7 min
lakeside hotel
lakeside hotel

The Lakeside building of La Réserve Eden au Lac Zurich which dates back to 1909

The venerable Eden au Lac, one of the landmark lakeside hotels in Zürich, was recently taken over by the flamboyant La Reserve group, and transformed into a luxe-chic destination for every destination. LUX checks in and samples the champagne on the rooftop

The Wow Factor

The rooftop terrace of the Eden. Sitting on a corner table, wearing a light gilet against a cool breeze blowing from the Alps. The rosé champagne you are drinking has a pedigree related to the hotel: this is no ordinary house fizz, but a champagne made by Michel Reybier who owns both the La Reserve hotel group which the Eden belongs to, and some of the most prestigious wineries in the world, including Châte au Cos d’Estournel, and this champagne house, Jeepers. Sitting here, you are distinctly amongst the Zürich in crowd.

People Watching

Behind us, two paper thin American women were discussing travel, plans, deals, and their yoga routine. A gentleman from southern Europe wearing a rare Patek Phillipe, who would have looked very at home in the Yacht Club of Monaco, is sipping cocktails with a young lady. The people here are international, glamorous, wealthy, and wanting to show that they are here.

 

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Show me to my room.

Our room faced out from the front of the hotel, over the lakeside road and directly onto a park and the bathing area of Lake Zürich. A small balcony was an excellent place for breakfast with a view of the forest of hills on the other side of the lake. The opera house is almost next door: this is a very centrally located hotel. The bed with the centrepiece of the room, with the bathroom behind. here it is all about high quality material finishes and details: the wood marquetry is exceptionally beautiful, reflecting the craft traditions in the nearby Alpine forests but presented in a contemporary way, with plenty of shiny metals and exquisite accessories from the glassware to the in room amenities.

green tiled kitchen, chefs

The street level Eden Kitchen which features all day dining

Come dine with me (and other things)

We loved La Muña, the rooftop Japanese Pacific restaurant and bar, which has been designed as an imaginary yacht club by Phillipe Starck. As well as the
superb quality of drinks (as one would expect from this group), the maki, sashimi and ceviches were exquisite. When the weather was less good, we dined inside: no views, but a chic cosiness and intimate style.

 

Find out more: lareserve-zurich.com

 

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

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Reading time: 2 min
Bar with lots of drinks and lights and chairs and mirror
We check in to the Principe di Savoia, a palace hotel offering grandeur and glamour for anyone visiting Italy’s fashion capital, Milan
outside of a hotel with green plants and blue sky and balcony

Le Principe di Savoia is a grand palace building in central Milan

The trend among contemporary hotels to integrate the bar (and sometimes a dance floor) into the main reception lobby area was started by the original boutique hotelier Ian Schrager back in the 1980s. It accelerated with the development and corporatisation of hotels like the W hotel group, in the ’90s and 2000s, and now whether you are in the Alps or LA, you are likely to be greeted by a receptionist standing next to a bartender.

And while this works for a certain category of oriented hotel, where the vibe is more important than the room and everyone is invited, a good hotel bar needs its own space and should be a unique and compelling concept, not a funky alcoholic addendum to a reception desk.

red and yellow sofas under wood ceiling in lavish, carpeted room

The presidential suite encapsulates the classic grandeur of this Dorchester Collection property

Nowhere makes this more clear than the Principe di Savoia in Milan. We arrived after a delayed flight and a traffic-filled entrance into Italy’s biggest city. It was too late to go for dinner, but we did crave a little atmosphere, rather than just room service. A quick change in the room, and then we went into the Principe Bar, a grand room located in pride of place at the centre of the ground floor at this Milanese palace.

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A luscious sweep of a room, with perfectly dimmed lighting, the whole place is focused on the showpiece bar counter. We were immediately swept into another world, a universe where everyone is glamorous, drinking a Bellini makes you Sophie Loren. Not that you should really drink a Bellini, with a list of decorative gastronomic cocktails at your disposal: a particular favourite was an Indian Summer 22, with Chrysanthemum gin, Monin Paragon White Penja Pepper cordial, homemade cordial, Teapot Bitter, and a garnish of flower powder.

Bar with lots of drinks and lights and chairs and mirror

Le Principe Bar is a place in which to get lost with friends and disappear into a world of gastronomic, cocktail-inspired glamour

The Savoia is a proper palace, an imposing building right on the edge of the old city centre of Milan. Arriving there, whether it is the cocktail hour or not, is dramatic as you sweep up a flower lined driveway and are whisked into the hotel by a phalanx of door people. And across the big square in front of the hotel is the city’s finest park.

Read more: Hotel Crans Ambassador, Crans-Montana, Switzerland Review

Our suite had rich art deco panelling, high ceilings, dark floral drapes, a marble-clad bathroom and a sense of utter still in the heart of a great city. Walking down into the lobby from your suite, you feel you need to be imperious, as if this hotel expects a certain standard of style – although the attentive and delightful staff (this is a Dorchester Collection hotel) certainly wouldn’t bat an eyelid if you came down in a onesie.

But if you’re that kind of person, maybe you won’t appreciate the classic chic of this true Grande Dame.

Find out more: dorchestercollection

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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.

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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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Reading time: 2 min
A red restaurant with a large window at the back and long rows of tables with benches and chairs on either side and crystal chandeliers over the bar
A rom with with a white sofa and wooden tables with red flowers on them

A view of the glamorous Baccarat suite at the Baccarat Hotel, New York

LUX’s Editor-in-Chief Darius Sanai checks in at the Baccarat Hotel New York for some Midtown glitz

Midtown Manhattan, directly opposite MoMA: until recently, something of a luxury hotel desert. But not now. Exit your car, breathe the interior perfume as you are ushered into the elevator and emerge on a mezzanine floor that is like a very chichi boutique townhouse of the type that might appear in the TV series Gossip Girl.

The mezzanine is a series of interwoven rooms that actually more resemble a series of townhouses melded together. A little reception area here a living-room area there, a bar here and an outside balcony/terrace over there.

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A townhouse owned by a billionaire, then. The decor is very out there:  Baccarat crystal chandeliers everywhere, quite beautiful craftsmanship on mirrors (also everywhere), deep-pile carpets, bold darks and bright lights contrasting on the walls and ceilings. The Baccarat feels like a French château reimagined for 21st-century luxe Manhattan.

A red restaurant with a large window at the back and long rows of tables with benches and chairs on either side and crystal chandeliers over the bar

Baccarat crystal chandeliers contrast with checkerboard floors in The Bar

And that’s before we got to our room. Light carpets, a modern four-poster bed, huge windows looking out beyond the roof of MoMA and quite the most striking in-room bar. This comprised a fold-out, red-lacquered piece of marquetry containing a set of striking and heavy Lalique cut-crystal glasses, silver tongs and accessorise, and an array of spirits and bottles. Not feeling like any Blue Label during our stay, we used the glasses for water.

Le Jardin terrace was abuzz with young, wealthy New Yorkers sipping some quite original cocktails, all served in Baccarat crystal, of course. We enjoyed a Magic Eye, comprising tequila, mezcal, cinnamon syrup, green apple and cereal milk, refreshing and quietly deadly. You can eat on the terrace, or in the adjoining Grand Salon, where we had dinner the following night. Jamón ibérico, langoustines de St Tropez, crab daikon roulade – a panopoly of modern European with a brush of East Asian.

Read more: Hotel Crans Ambassador, Crans-Montana, Switzerland Review

The Baccarat’s location is also refreshing in many ways, midtown being literally in the middle of it all, so, even if your meetings are on the Upper East Side, Hudson Yards and SoHo, as ours were, it’s not too far from anywhere, and indeed makes New York walkable. Not that many guests at the Baccarat would do that, I suspect. They would rather get their exercise in the very stylish indoor pool, and add additional glow at the Spa de la Mer, before jumping into the complementary city car service, or jumping into their awaiting Escalade. Chic.

Find out more: baccarathotels.com

 

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An outdoor terrace with yellow cushioned deck chairs and tables
An outdoor terrace with yellow cushioned deck chairs and tables

The roof terrace looks out over Notre Dame cathedral

Darius Sanai checks in to the newest luxury hotel in Paris. Does it have the substance to match the style?

It’s a winter’s afternoon in Paris and, laden with big bags from Moynat and Hermès, and a smaller one from JAR, you decide to walk the few blocks from Place Vendôme to the Rue de Louvre, the big wheel of the Tuileries Christmas market appearing and disappearing to your right and Francois Pinault’s Bourse du Commerce museum an apparition in front of you.

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Your arrival at Madame Rêve, the newest luxury star in the unrivalled Parisian swanky hotel galaxy, is a little unexpected – or ours was, anyway. There is no palatial lobby with a concierge desk a marble tennis court distance away from reception. The building is impressive enough, a palace from the Hausmann era, but you enter through a simple door on one corner and are immediately presented with two small reception booths beyond richly mosaiced floor area.

A bedroom with white pillows and duvets and beige wooden chairs, floors and walls

Junior Suite at Madame Rêve

Our receptionists were young, friendly and eager – evidently they had skipped the module of “Parisian hauteur” at hotel school – and soon we were rapidly whisked up via a lift, and two long, right angled corridors named after the streets that they line, to our room. The darkness of the corridors made the surprise of the room even greater: instead of a view across the street to a man in the apartment opposite sipping an espresso and smoking a cigarette afforded by so many Parisian hotels, there were angled skylight-type windows, letting in a sky’s worth of light, and looking over rooftops to the church of Sacré-Coeur on the hill of Montmartre.

plants on an outdoor roof terrace

Outdoor terrace surrounded by plants in the heart of Paris

Furnishings are delicious, swathed in caramel leather with bespoke throws, rosewood panels and a bathroom and separate toilet room on either side of the vast bed, located so you can prop yourselves up and watch the light change as the sky turns into night.

All rooms are situated along the quadrangle of corridors on the same floor, officially the third floor, but in effect the eighth floor as the lower floor ceilings of this former post office and repository are so high. So, with the exception of a few rooms facing the inner courtyard, every room will have a view, whether of the Eiffel Tower, mid-restoration Notre Dame, or our view of Montmartre.

A yellow couch in a wooden room with windows on the walls with a view of a large cathedral

Light-filled rooms at Madame Rêve

The hotel is celebrated for its rooftop terrace and bar, but this being winter, it was more compelling to have dinner downstairs on the ground floor in the casual chic restaurant/bar Kitchen. We recommend a pre-dinner aperitif seated at the long bar itself, where you can appreciate the wooden panelling and seemingly Eiffel Tower height ceiling of the room, while rubbing shoulders with art collectors and film producers who have made this their local hangout since the place opened a year ago.

A vegetable opened up with food inside it on a plate next to a glass of wine on a wooden table

Contemporary-classic cuisine at Kitchen by Stephanie Le Quellec

Then, retreat to the lounge style seating all around, order another Negroni and choose from a menu from two Michelin-starred chef Stephanie Le Quellec that blends super-contemporary and traditional, the dishes split into categories like “Healthy Trendy”, “Flashback” and “Gluten Free But Not Vegan”. Roasted cauliflower cacio e pepe style was influsingly spicy, and the Prime Rib of Normand Beef Blazed with Bourbon was served on the bone and had a succulent tang – although the brick-style fries could have had a little more crispness and contrast between skin and interior. A salad of red leaf lettuce with ginger vinaigrette was zingy and uplifting.

Paris has never been wanting for luxury hotels, but until quite recently, the choice of style was fairly constrained to old-fashioned high luxury, aimed at an international private jet and business traveller set rather than a new generation of more stylish and culturally demanding traveller.

A grand wooden dining room with yellow lights

Dramatic high ceilings at the ground-floor bar and restaurant, both hot social locations for Parisians

Madame Rêve addresses this, and how? The serving staff are less formal, more the type of people you might imagine bumping into at the right kind of bar, though they do their job just as well as their penguin-suited peers. As with any hotel with an innate sense of style, not built simply to please anyone and everyone, you may disagree with certain touches: we weren’t sure about the darkness of the long corridors on the room floor, for example.

Read more: Hotel Crans Ambassador, Crans-Montana, Switzerland Review

But that only provides even more of a contrast to the lightness and tranquility of the rooms. And did we mention the location? You are minutes’ walk away from the Louvre, the Marais, the Seine and the Pompidou Centre, as well as the retail temples of St Honoré. And when you come back from an exhausting day of meetings or museums, you have one of the most compelling social scenes in Paris inside your own hotel. Chic!

Rates: From £410 per night (approx. €480/$515)

Book your stay: madamereve.com

Darius Sanai

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Reading time: 4 min
The woodward, Geneva exterior

The Woodward, Geneva, a discreet all-suite lakefront hotel in a classical building

Darius Sanai checks in at The Woodward, Geneva, where luxury meets discreet elegance

The wow factor

The Woodward is situated in a lakefront building facing the Alps, like a few other luxury Geneva hotels, but there the similarity ends. You enter via a discreet door and are shown up in a lift to a mezzanine floor, where the receptionist sits behind a small table. It is all marble, light furnishings, art and views, like arriving at a beautiful home.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

People-watching

It was as if we were at a friend’s cosmopolitan party, with expensive-looking international couples on the mezzanine floor, but the main feeling was of space and privacy.

L'Atelier Robuchon

The hotel’s Michelin-starred restaurant, L’Atelier Robuchon

Show me to my room

The Woodward is an all-suite hotel and ours, one of 26, was like a private apartment. The design is by Pierre-Yves Rochon, a king of contemporary hotel and residence design. Furnishings are light, off-white and taupe; coffee-table books are artfully chosen; art is thoughtfully hung.

Read more: Hotel Metropole Monte Carlo, Review

Come dine with me (and other things)

At street level, the L’Atelier Robuchon is all dark lacquer and red leather. We sat at long bar, where we saw the chefs at work and our cocktails being mixed. The atmosphere was buzzing; a contrast to the tranquillity of the hotel above. The food was superb in the Atelier group’s weekend-gourmet style: line-caught turbot fillet poached with verbena, sea lettuce, cockles and clams had a fresh umami taste; farro wheat with mushrooms, black garlic, trompette consommé and Barolo vinegar was an all-time, all-star vegan dish. Then, a sliding door, and you disappear into your apartment and that view.

Find out more: oetkercollection.com/hotels/the-woodward

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

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A terrace with a fire pit in the middle surrounded by chairs with cushions and a parasol
 A terrace with a fire pit in the middle surrounded by chairs with cushions and a parasol

Alpine views from a snug Crans Ambassador terrace

In the first installment of our luxury travel views columns, LUX’s Editor-in-Chief Darius Sanai checks in at the Hotel Crans Ambassador in Crans-Montana, Switzerland

All holiday locations go through phases of being in and out of fashion. St Tropez, so Bardot-chic in the 1960s, was not a place to boast about in the 1990s, but came back with a bang in the Zeros.

Similarly with ski resorts. St Moritz took a yo-yoing in the cool stakes; Courchevel, always upmarket, was really made by Russian money following French fashion and may have plateaued Klosters peaked with (then) Prince Charles in the 1980s and has faded mildly ever since.

And so to Crans-Montana, a rarity in Switzerland in being a meld of traditional village and newish (late 20th century) resort. All the rage in the 1980s, it faded from the global spotlight (while keeping its loyal clientele, largely drawn from old-school European money) in the ensuing decades as Verbier, opposite and down the valley, grew in stature due to its big off-piste offering.

orange food on a grey plate with sauce

Fresh Peruvian/Asian fusion flavours at La Muña

Now, Crans is coming back. This was evident in our first night at the Ambassador. In the soulful La Muña restaurant, looking out over snowfields to a vista of mountains glowing in the moonlight, the sommelier recommended a Swiss red wine. After sampling it – a delightful balance of spice, delicacy, savoury herbs and black fruits – we asked where was from. “Just here,” was the response, with a smile and a gesture to the snowfields. The vineyards making this magnificent wine were a few hundred metres down the slopes.

Not that have great wine estates (there are a number in the Rhône valley below) is a marker for a hot ski destination, but, as cuisine becomes more local and clients more discerning, the Ambassador is a showcase of how that should work.

Our room – all lavish- cosy Alpine chic, had a breathtaking view over snowfields and the Rhône valley to the high peaks of the Valais, and a broad balcony big enough to play ice on (almost).

The Crans Ambassador is 20th-century class remade for the 21st: a place for wealthy families to visit over time, which has refreshed itself over the years without ever becoming a slave to fashions.

Find out more: cransambassador.ch

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Tall and grand white building surrounded by plants

A view of the Hotel Metropole’s grand exterior

In the heart of Monaco is a grand yet intimate hotel that offers fantastic dining, a world-class indoor/outdoor pool, one of the best spas in Europe and a mystique that makes it even more than the sum of its parts. Darius Sanai checks in

The arrival at a great hotel is a key part of its story. The Metropole is situated on the Casino Square of Monte-Carlo, one of the most celebrated public destinations in the (luxury) world. And yet your arrival is refreshingly discreet. Your car turns into a driveway, lined with supercars, away from the public gaze. You are ushered into the lobby as if arriving at a grand private home. The lobby itself is a visual feast, but a discreet one: no overbright lights and high ceilinged grandeur, but a dramatic floral display, tapestries on the walls and intriguingly lit corners and a segue into a bar area to the right. This is a place for insiders – those who really know Monaco.

The hotel lobby’s floral displays change according to the season

Our room, a Prestige Suite, was lavish and contemporary, a hard act to get quite right. Chandeliers and rich drapes, pale furnishings and walls, blonde wood loungers, floor-to-ceiling windows. A place of light, comfort and silence in a town that can sometimes be very hectic.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

The Metropole is famous for its food, and on the first evening we had a highly memorable meal, not at one of its celebrated restaurants but in the cosy heart of the bar, off the lobby. This is where Monaco residents go for casual dining. It’s comfort food, Monaco-style: a fabulous gazpacho, delicate artichoke with parmigiano, and a brilliant summation of Mediterranean cuisine: minestrone with monkfish, black beans and guianciale. Sublime yet simple.

Dark and glamorous retro bar

The glamorous Hotel Metropole Bar was designed by architect and interior designer Jacques Garcia

The bar is a place to see friends as they swoosh back and forth to the lobby and the restaurants beyond: so we chose an excellent Pink Kiss, the house cocktail, gin-based, refreshing and balanced, to toast them.

The hotel recently opened its gastronomic restaurant, Les Ambassadeurs, by chef Christophe Cussac, who has overseen the food and beverage option at the hotel for almost two decades.

For LUX, though, the Metropole’s culinary piece de resistance is Yoshi, a small but exquisite Japanese restaurant situated in the courtyard, with a flower garden outside – a great indulgence considering the price of real estate here. The lacquered chicken – a delicious dish somewhere between teriyaki and yakitori – was memorable, the grilled black cod fleshy and fulsome with miso, and the miso soup refreshingly umami.

Carefully arranged bento bowl on a green placemat

The Obento menu at the hotel’s Michelin Star restaurant Yoshi offers a light refreshing lunch option

Beyond the rooms and the cuisine is the spa, the hotel trying its hardest to ensure you never have to go anywhere in Monaco outside its domain. A wander down a corridor leads to a big terraced pool area, with views across town, a health food restaurant attached (with requisite, impossibly perfect men and women perched at the bar). The service at the pool is magnificent, intuitive and thorough without being overbearing. The pool miraculously turns into an indoor pool in winter, the walls of its pavilion swathed in Karl Lagerfeld frescoes.

Read more: Badrutt’s Palace St Moritz, Review

Just downstairs from the pool, we were wafted into the transformational world of the Bastien Gonzalez ‘Pedi:Mani:Cure’. If you ever wondered why women in Monaco have hands that look 20 years younger than they are, you now know the answer, although seeing a teenage girl emerging from the spa after us did beg the question of whether her hands disappeared altogether into a pre-natal state.

A blue indoor pool with lights at night

Designed by Karl Lagerfield, the ODYSSEY installation and heated pool is covered throughout the winter and al fresco during the rest of the year

But we digress. More than the magnificent hardware, any memory of the Metropole is dictated by the even more magnificent service. Not a given, even in this part of the world, it gives this uber-chic grand hotel in one of the world’s most iconic destinations the feel of a fantastic, extensive private home – albeit one with some of the world’s best chefs cooking for you, and a butler who can rustle up a fantastic club sandwich and cocktail if you just feel like chilling with your house guests in the drawing room. The Metropole is an absolute LUX favourite.

Find out more: metropole.com

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A coastal town with red roofed houses
A pool with straw chairs and palm trees around it

The Beach House terrace at the Rosewood Le Guanahani

With its gleaming white sands and jet-set visitors, St Barths is known as the most exclusive and extravagant of the Caribbean islands. Candice Tucker discovers natural wonders, beautiful hotels and a party spirit

It may be an exclusive destination today, but it is possibly that the early Arawak communities of the tropical island of St Barths were never sufficiently impressed to put down roots – poor soil and water sources saw to that. St Barthélemy has always relied on imports- from food to fresh water and, for the past half century, the super-wealthy.

Restaurants, beach clubs, taxis, villas -all are expensive on the 25sqkm island. unlike other Caribbean destinations, there are no cheaper options. Only the best is available. An unexpected benefit is that local workers expect salaries high than those in London, New York and Hong Kong.

A coastal town with red roofed houses

A view of Gustavia, capital of St Barthélemy on the west of the island

To enjoy the island’ delights, visitors must first arrive. This is slightly hair-raising as your six seater plane has to land between two mountains on one of the world’s shortest runways. not recommended for nervous fliers.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

My first stop was the Rosewood Le Guanahani, located on a private peninsula in the northeast and featuring 66 contemporary rooms and suites, each with a private terrace, in villas and cottages.My experience began by being escorted to a spacious yellow bungalow whose overlooked small green islands in the sea. The room was light and airy with pale walls, white wood-beamed ceiling and soft furnishings offset by dark wood floors and furniture.

A white bedroom overlooking a beach with turquoise sea and chairs and tables outside the room

The two-bedroom Lagoon Suite, situated directly on the beach, at the Rosewood Le Guanahani

The hotel, unlike many in St Barths, enjoys a calm sea and is ideal for families. Its spa features a serene adults-only pool and offers a variety of relaxing treatments. However, you might find simply lazing on a loungers at one of the hotel’s two beaches, being offered ice-cold mango sorbets and accras de morue (a delicacy of spiced salt-cod fritters), enjoying uninterrupted sea views, is relaxing enough.

In the evening, I joined the hotels live music barbecue. The ceviche stand offering a choice of sliced fish with limitless toppings of tomatoes, cucumbers, onion, and exotic fruit was a highlight, as was enjoying sunset overlooking the sea. Set in 18 acres, the resort is St Barths’ largest, and amenities include non-motorised water sports and a private gentle hike to the hilltop, from where you can view half of the island.

Bungalows on a hilltop overlooking the sea

The hilltop bungalows and villas of Villa Marie

For a different but equally special experience, I stayed at Villa Marie’s Gyp Sea Hotel, a boutique hotel of 22 bungalows and villas in the northwest. As it is situated in the hills near the island’s highest point, there is no direct beach access, but Villa Marie cocoons you in a tropical paradise, with spectacular views from each room’s terrace.

A curved swimming pool with trees around it

The palm tree-shaded pool in the Secret Garden at Villa Marie

Hikes around the property give you various views of the island and beyond to Anguilla, 43 km away. A walk through a forest, surrounded by goats, down to Colombier Beach is not one to miss. The hotel’s own beach club, Gyp Sea on Pelican Beach, is a few minutes from the hotel and, whether you stay at Villa Marie or not, it’s a must-see – all white sand and turquoise waters.

Read more: Badrutt’s Palace St Moritz, Review

The menu offers rustic-chic specialties including albacore tuna on toast and heavenly platters of profiteroles. At 3pm the music starts and everyone dances on the tables, in true St Barths spirit.

A room with white walls, a blue sofa and dark wood furniture

The elegantly bohemian living room of the Pool Suite at Villa Marie

Another day, I enjoyed a massage at the hotel listening to the chirping rainforest sounds, followed by a dinner at the hotel’s Restaurant Dolce Vita. The aubergine parmigiana and tiramisu were as good as you would find on the Amalfi coast, and the live music that plays every night was the perfect end to this alluring escape.

Find out more:

rosewoodhotels.com/le-guanahani

gypsea-stbarth.com

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

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A lit up hotel at night in front of mountains covered in snow
A lit up hotel at night in front of mountains covered in snow

Badrutt’s Palace Hotel was first opened in St Moritz in 1896 by Caspar Badrutt

There’s a fairytale palace high in the Alps where everyone is a Royal – or feels like one

Hotel trends come and go. Some may remember the white cube rooms of the 1990s, the lobby-bar obsessions of the 2000s, the hotel-as-club revival of the 2010s, and the genericization of hotel bars into David Collins Blue Bar clones at some stage in between.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

Yet the greatest hotels, like the greatest luxury brands, remain effortlessly eternal while never seeming old fashioned, or not to anyone except the most craven and uninformed observer, in any case.

Two grey chairs and a table facing a window overlooking mountains and trees

Views from the Tower Penthouse Apartment

We were collected from St Moritz station by Badrutt’s Palace in a 1960s Rolls Royce Silver Cloud. The two minute ride to the hotel was effortlessly majestic. It suited a palace hotel so entwined with royalty that the Shah of Iran, in his famously vainglorious attempt to recreate Darius the Great’s Persian empire at Persepolis in 1973, flew the Badrutt’s staff out to run the occasion. Nobody else would suffice for the King of Kings.

Breakfast at Badrutt’s is in some ways the encapsulation of the place. In many luxury Alpine hotels, you have a homely, nutty buffet. Here, you sweep down the stairs, past a harpist, into a vast grand dining room. The buffet stretches the length of the room on one side, with picture windows facing the lake and mountains on the other. People dress up for breakfast here, even though it’s not a requirement. The buffet itself starts with an intricacy of cut fruits, segues through a vast array of hot European foods, a forest’s worth of different seeds and berries, and finishes at the far end with “hausgemacht” miso soup, bao, and dim sum. Among all the other guests, it’s quite easy to spot the regulars and long-termers, looking like a Hollywood portrayal of European aristocracy.

A terrace with chairs covered in fur blankets looking over snow covered mountains

The terrace from the Tower Penthouse Apartment looking over St Moritz’s mountains

Our rooms at Badrutt’s were outliers: the Tower Penthouse occupies the whole of the iconic top part of the hotel, and is effectively a three floor private residence, with a huge living area, private terraces, kitchen and dining room, and more bathrooms and bedrooms than we could count. The master bedroom was by itself at the top of a spiral staircase, with views across St Moritz and the lake and mountains.

St Moritz has an appeal as broad as the Palace: in winter you can ski, cross country ski, walk or simply socialise (assuming you know the right people, darling); in summer you have some of Europe’s best hiking to hand, as well as a variety of mountain sports.

A lounge overlooking a large window with mountains covered in snow outside it

Le Grand Hall

Generations of European aristos, meanwhile, have learned how to dive, belly flop or jump from the top of the rock garden that has been built into one end of the huge indoor pool; swimming lengths in the pool involves a constant view of the next gen wealthy adapting their jumping techniques; meanwhile the outdoor spa pool has full drinks and food service, so you can sip your aperol while gazing at the mountains and having a water massage.

A living room with a long dining room table and chairs and cream couches with a black coffee table in the middle

The Tower Penthouse Apartment drawing and dining room

But while the hardware of the hotel has an eternal class, the software – the people hosting you – are even classier. This is where luxury hoteliers go to learn how to be luxury hoteliers. One efficient young chap serving at breakfast, who we vaguely recognised from our last stay four years previously, effortlessly remembered our coffee orders from last time and brought Tabasco sauce to the table unheeded, again a memory of the last stay.

Read more: Francis Sultana: The life of a leader in design

Does he have an astonishing memory or was he just very well briefed? It doesn’t really matter – and what is remarkable in this era of high staff turnover is that the staff at Badrutt’s are always there and always remember.

A terrace overlooking a lake and green mountains

Views of the lake in summer time from the Tower Penthouse Apartment

In that, they feel like they are your personal staff; unlike many hotels, it’s a place you feel like you could move into and live in, because, despite its grandeur and array of offerings – as well as the restaurants inside the hotel, Badrutt’s also owns the wonderful and iconic Chesa Veglia pizzeria across the road – each guest somehow feels like the staff are just there for them. Quite a remarkable achievement.

Rates: From £1500 per night (approx. €1725/$1850) for double room.

During the winter months, the Tower Penthouse Suite starts at £13,580 per night (approx. €15,550/$16,625) 

Book your stay: badruttspalace.com/reservations

Darius Sanai

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A pool surrounded by grey sun loungers and white umbrellas
A pool surrounded by grey sun loungers and white umbrellas

The Fairmont Tazi Palace Tangier pool

LUX checks in for a resplendent yet restful stay at the Fairmont Tazi Palace, Tangier in Morocco

What drew us there?

The hotel is a super impressive, sprawling 5-star establishment, high up in the hills above the Medina in Tangiers. It used to be the home of the Sultan of Morocco’s representatives in the city, and has been restored to the highest standard. Everything feels opulent and grand; the reception area’s 12 metre high ceiling was particularly memorable, as well as the slick pool and vast surrounding area featuring daybeds and cabanas. The grounds are peppered with eucalyptus, pomegranate, palm and olive trees.

A terrace with arched walls and blue and white chairs

A suite’s private panoramic view terrace

Authentic Moroccan touches are everywhere, from the artwork to textiles and mosaics from local artisans decorating its 7 stories. Whichever floor you find your room on, incredible views are a certainty, as the hotel looks out onto the entirety of the buzzing city from high above. You have the privilege of surveying the busyness from your own secluded, peaceful space.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

How was the stay?

Out of the 133 rooms at the Fairmont Tangiers, we enjoyed a classic and comfortable Deluxe room. It was bright and airy with white and blue accents. Despite the Tazi Palace being a hotel of considerable size, we felt very tranquil throughout our stay.

A bedroom with a large window and blue, white and gold details

The Deluxe King room with views of Tangier

We’d never been to Tangier and the hotel staff could not have been more accommodating – nothing was too much trouble. Fabien, Yassine, Zineb and their team were fabulous, organising a personal tour of the Medina and a drive around the city and the wild beaches where the Mediterranean meets the Atlantic.

A restaurant with dangling lights and pink cushions on the benches

Crudo, one of the five dining options at the hotel

We loved being shown the Penthouse and Katara Suites, with the Katara being almost 4000 square feet. Other key highlights included our meals at Parisa, where we were lucky enough to dine twice. Authentic Persian and traditional Moroccan cuisine were both on offer. We highly recommend the slow cooked lamb shoulder in tomato sauce.

A bar with yellow and blue furniture and African art on the walls

The Speakeasy Innocents bar, inspired by West Africa

We stayed during Ramadan so were able to experience the Ramadan Iftar Buffet at Crudo, another one of the hotel’s dining offerings. This was an experience in itself; I have never seen so many different dishes on offer in one restaurant! Crudo was centred around sharing delicious food, as opposed to à la carte. There is also the Rose Room, where we enjoyed a delicious light lunch one day.

Read more: St Regis Mardavall, Mallorca, Review

Anything else?

The Spa is seriously smart and refined, with staff second to none; I indulged in a wonderful massage. Another option for relaxation is to grab a cocktail from Innocents, the uber trendy bar with live music and West African art covering the walls.

Two marble beds with towels on them

The spa which combines Moroccan-inspired techniques with products from Sodashi, Maison d’Asa and Swissline Cosmetics

Finally, convenience is always key: the hotel is only 10 minutes from the city centre and 20 minutes from the airport, so it’s an easy option for a quick round trip or a longer stay.

Find out more: fairmont.com/tangier

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A white hotel building with an outdoor pool surrounded by grass and trees
A white hotel building with an outdoor pool surrounded by grass and trees
LUX check in to a spectacularly remastered resort hotel on the edge of Zurich, with a rich rock music history and a deliciously gastronomic and partying present

Sometimes first impressions are wrong. I arrived at the FIVE hotel and resort in Zurich, and walked into the brightly lit, modernist lobby with brown pillars and a wooden island of sofas and magazines in the middle of its white floor, with young black clad staff behind the desk. I sensed I had arrived at a US-style designer hotel, where cool matters more than function, and staff are more interested in their next screen test or modelling job than guests.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

But this is Switzerland, not LA, and I was wrong – in the best possible way. The reception staff were young and informal, but also highly efficient, trained and motivated. That extended to everyone, from the spa receptionist to the bar staff and brilliant teams in the restaurants, who were swift, helpful, chatty, and remembered requests and ideas the next day, without being formal or tiring.

A restaurant with red tables and white chairs

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The FIVE is a new iteration of a historic hotel, in 20th century terms anyway, the Atlantis, which hosted most of the 20th century’s major names in pop and rock. Behind the Reception desk is a tribute in the form of album covers: ABBA, Grace Jones, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson.

The latest reimagination of this hotel, on a hillside on the very edge of Zurich (to one side there is deep woodland, with the city starting below a public park on the other side) blends funky, contemporary vibes with a thick dash of 70s and 80s nostalgia.

A bedroom with a view of a city and beige headboard and throw on the bed

Our room had a huge view over the city, to the lake on one side, and forested hills beyond. The hotel brands itself as the hottest hotel and nightlife destination in Zurich, which could be a mixed blessing; thankfully some bass thumping from a rooftop party, during the day on the Sunday we arrived, stopped in the early evening and never reoccurred. There was a small balcony, a huge bed, more than 2 metres across, a big contemporary bathroom and a generally very relaxed vibe – there is not a car or street sound to be heard at the FIVE.

One of the hotel’s showcases is its outdoor pool, 25 metres long with a huge jacuzzi to match; apparently there is quite a party scene there every weekend, but unusually rainy weather for the duration of our stay meant we couldn’t experience it. There is a chic indoor pool, with a water feature outside the picture window the lines it, and a smaller jacuzzi.

A swimming pool surrounded by chairs and grass

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An undoubted, and slightly unexpected, highlight, of the FIVE is its cuisine. There are four restaurants, most of them situated on a single mezzanine floor with a picture window view across the city and a vast terrace outside. Inside, the decor for each is quite different even though they are effectively in one big open plan space; outside the huge terrace area was sadly out of bounds during the rainstorms of our visit.

I tried the Chinese restaurant, Maiden Shanghai, on my first night,. The decor was a bit bright – Chinese restaurants should be dark, but this is the same place they serve breakfast, and dual-use always leads to compromises. I was a little sceptical about Chinese food on the edge of Zurich but – wow. The hot and sour chicken soup was vivid, vibrating with flavour, no glutinousness, the chicken pure, the spicing zingy. Over many years of travelling Hong Kong and neighbouring provinces of China, this is possibly the best example of this soup I have tasted – perhaps a bit Europeanised in terms of leanness and no fat, but brilliant.

chinese food in a black bowl

The “hand folded mushroom dim sum” had a sweetness to its parcel, and an intensity and umami to its fungi, that again suggested a detail and quality freak was in charge of the kitchen. Meanwhile the quality of ingredients in the sea bass broth main course, including the fleshy and firm fish and wonderful trumpet mushrooms, was superb, as was the flavouring, but there was a layer of oil (perhaps from the fish itself) that slightly marred the purity.

Read more: Great Drive: Lake Zurich, Switzerland to the Tuscany Coast, Italy

On my second night, over to the Vault Wine Bar, just a few metres along the same floor, which has better (darker) lighting and comfortable armchair seating. From the iPad based menu I chose a minestrone, an “insalata” (salad) and the grilled baby chicken main course, Straightforward comfort food to accompany some cocktails, or so I thought, The minestrone was a light, intense tomato broth into which there had been infused some beautifully diced and cooked vegetables: once again, the flavour was beautiful, intense. The “insalata” could have been a standard mixed salad, again, the quality of ingredients – avocado of wondrous flavour, herbs from a nearby hillside, black Italian tomatoes and a splash of balsamic vinaigrette – made it superb. The chicken was as good as the poulet de bresse in a three Michelin starred restaurant I visited recently.

A lounge with green and red chars and dim lighting

FIVE Zurich is a rare place, where the food far exceeds the expectations set by the descriptions on the menus.

My bar meal was accompanied by some Moscow Mules with intense fresh ginger, served in the correct copper mug, and highly flavoursome limes. It’s as if no average ingredient can make it through the door of the FIVE.

All of this, and FIVE is on the edge of one of Europe’s premier art cities (and Zurich also has an excellent array of bars and clubs); a 20 minute Uber from the centre of town (it’s too far to walk), yet on the edge of a forest. You could go during a business trip or for a holiday – and my superb experience even excluded all the extensive outdoor areas because of the weather. Quite special.

Find out more: zurich.fivehotelsandresorts.com

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The spacious garden and pool at the St Regis Mardavall, Mallorca

In the fifth installment of our luxury travel views columns, LUX’s Editor-in-Chief Darius Sanai checks in at the St Regis Mardavall in Mallorca

What drew us there?

A huge rolling lawn, two swimming pools, trees and flowerbeds, beyond which stretches more thick grass, the cliff edge and the sea. Face inland and beyond the pools there is a graceful low-rise building, and mountaintops beyond. It’s not what you expect of a hotel in Mallorca, which, by folklore has been split into crowded coastal regions and beautiful but isolated inland areas. Yet here we were, by the sea in the southwest, with as much space as you could imagine. The space between sun loungers could be measured in tens of metres, rather than centimetres, as in many Mediterranean resorts in midsummer. We could have popped a champagne cork from our sun loungers, watched it fly and descend, and still not meet guests on the nearest loungers. You can get that and more in a villa, but few villas have the facilities of a luxury hotel to hand, and, anyway, we rather like seeing elegant strangers at a distance, rather than just our own wonderful guests.

The indoor-outdoor terrace with its endless view

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

How was the stay?

You can, of course, enjoy delightful isolation at the Mardavall. This was amplified in our rooms: we had a suite at garden level with its own private pool, separated from the rest of the grounds by a floral hedge. The private pool was situated in our own private garden, with outdoor dining table, sofa, chairs and loungers – and a similar setup inside in case of bad weather (very rare here). If one of the definitions of luxury is unexpected peace, then this was luxury. The Mardavall is also beautifully located. It’s a few steps from the beach, and fewer than 15 minutes drive from Palma, the island’s capital, which has transformed in recent years from a slightly down-at-heel port with a rich history to a rather beautifully preserved historic city: Barcelona without the tourists. We made the foray into Palma a couple of nights, but, in the main, one could be very happy just at the resort. Es Fum, its one Michelin-starred restaurant, is an extremely elegant place to enjoy a lingering dinner, and we also liked the beach vibe and food of the Pool Bar Sa Badia. It’s not a Mykonos beach club, and that’s precisely why to go.

The relaxing St Regis bar

Read more: Royal Riviera, Côte d’Azur Review

Anything else?

Med-hotel beach shops vary in quality, but the little boutique here is quite magnificent for its selection of hard-to-find boutique brands. Not what you’d expect and kudos to its manager. The Mardavall is the kind of place you miss all winter and look forward to returning to in the summer.

Find out more: www.marriott.com

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

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A blue car on a road by some trees
A blue car on a road by some trees

The Lexus NX 450 on the road

In the third part of our Great Drives series, Darius Sanai travels, in a Lexus NX 450, from the Lake Zurich, Switzerland to the Tuscany Coast, Italy, ending his trip on a bottle of Masseto 2015

What is the best vehicle for transporting a lot of clothes – the spoils of a visit and meetings in various Italian fashion houses – and a lot of wine – the result of a spontaneous drop by the vineyards of Franciacorta in northern Italy? Sitting comfortably just above the speed limit on the Italian autostrada, cruising carefully while listening to the GreenBiz 350 podcast, we were fairly sure we had the answer in our Lexus. Its full name is the NX 450h+ F Sport, but for our purposes it was the car that could just do everything.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

The interior design of cars is becoming increasingly important as we do more things in them (they are effectively 3D extensions of the internet), and driving becomes more controlled and less of a sport. And here was a car with a truly beautifully designed interior. It was light, high enough off the road to give confidence – you could see everything that needed to be seen, but not so high that you felt domineering or unstable. Controls that needed to be easily touched were within sight and within reach without any fuss. Displays were clear with excellent typography. The air conditioning was a notch above the usual in terms of its ability to separate climate zones. Like any good design, it didn’t shout about itself, and it had grown on us over the previous two weeks.

A blue car next to a mountain and lake

The journey started in a small town near Lake Zurich on the northern side of the Alps. The road rose and became increasingly winding as it made its way towards the mountains we were due to cross, and we wondered briefly if we had chosen the right car. This is a hybrid SUV, efficiently powered by both electric and petrol engines, but it is also a high car, with plenty of ground clearance, excellent for driving across fields. So would it be right for twisting mountain roads?

A beach at sunset

The beach and pine forest at the Riva del Sole hotel, Tuscany

We need not have worried. This new-generation Lexus uses technology to miraculously minimise the amount the car leans when taking corners, a key consideration when driving to the Alps, as you do not want something lurching from one side to the other like an old Range Rover. The Lexus drove flat, smooth and responsive, even over the highest points of the Julier Pass, between north and south Switzerland. Sure, it wasn’t the thrill of racing a sports car to the edge of its abilities on a sinuous mountain road, but that would not have been possible anyway, given the rest of the traffic and also the strictness of Switzerland’s traffic police. Fast enough was, well, fast enough.

A bedroom with grey and gold colouring and hints of red

The Exotik Suite

Over the border in Italy, after more mountain passes and ice cream, the Alps fell into the low, hilly meadows of Franciacorta, which is where our favourite sparkling wine from Italy is produced. At its best it is creamy, complex and refreshing, like a good champagne, but with the added joie de vivre. At the main farmers’ outlet store for all the producers (and would that there were one of these in every wine-producing region), we picked from producers and cuvées impossible to find in other countries.

A sign of a well-engineered car is that it doe snot flinch when loaded up and driven hard, and this was very much the case with the Lexus. Onwards, it seemed to say, after a couple of days in Milan, as we arrowed through straight autostradas in northern Italy towards Tuscany. Here, we spent an excellent few days enjoying this car’s other attributes: its economy (fuel stations are very hard to find in rural Tuscany), its ability to deal with rough roads and unmade tracks with no fuss, and the comfort and efficiency of its interior in a hot summer. The full-length sunroof also came in for much praise, although it was mainly open at night, when it let in views of the stars and the cries of owls. A car for all reasons, indeed.

A room with a stage and a large vase in the centre of a table

Objets d’art at the Riva del Sole

Our final destination was a place well known to a certain class of intellectual Italians, roughly the equivalent of Britain’s Cotswolds set, but without the pretentions. Castiglione della Pescaia has none of the bling that has been acquired by its fellow Tuscan resort, Forte dei Marmi, but it has nature, and culture, on its side.

A swimming pool lit up a night

The hotel swimming pools by night

There is one resort hotel to stay in at Castiglione: the Riva del Sole, a resort built in the idealistic style of the mid-20th century, when Europe was thriving and confident, and nobody flew to the Maldives or Bali. You approach along a long, straight coastal road flanked on both sides by the stone pine trees that are a feature of the Italian coastline. The hotel appears amid the pineta (pine forest) on the left, between road and sea, a low-rise 20th-century modern building (Swedish owned) that, when you enter, reveals a cavalcade of original and updated modernist designs.

A wooden divider next to a bed looking out to trees

The Coral Suite

The reception area is out of a 1960s David Niven film (duly updated, of course) and our room, while compact, had a lovely aspect across the trees towards the sea. You wander from reception, past a dramatic Italian restaurant housed in another forest building, past a little newsagent shop straight out of a Jacques Tati film (magazines, beach balls, sweets) and a boutique-chic deli. A huge outdoor pool complex – several pools, really – appears on your right, with keen sports swimmers doing their lengths from the early hours. Past a hut serving snacks and drinks (there is some excellent Franciacorta on the menu), the path rises over a dune and down onto the resort’s lengthy private beach.

A restaurant with white table cloths, green chairs and plants around the room

Modern dining at Riva del Sole, Tuscany

Part of a strip of sand that stretches for 15km in a gentle arc, it is one of Italy’s most famous private beaches. The sea is warm and shallow, and the most memorable aspect is stepping out 20 metres into the sea, your feet still standing on white sand and your chosen drink in hand, looking back at the beach. The hotel and all of Castiglione have been subsumed into the pineta, such is the attention to detail of the design. All you can see is beach, forest and the mountains rising up behind. No wonder it is a haunt of the discerning Italian intelligentsia.

A blue car on a patch of grass next to a castle with a tower and turrets

The Lexus making a pit stop at the fortress of Montalcino – ancient Tuscan hilltop village and home of the celebrated wine Brunello di Montalcino

Hidden inside the pineta, the hotel also has a sophisticated Tuscan restaurant, La Palma. Sweeping interior architecture and the forest visible through windows all around combines with a wine vault of Tuscan wines – particularly from Montalcino – that a collector would die for. We chose a Masseto 2015. All savoury power and a wealth of flowing flavours, it is one of Italy’s great wines, and comes from just up the coast from Riva del Sole. In the main hotel there is also a glamorous 1960s-style piano bar, where you sit inside or out on the terrace and are served Bellinis.

Read more: Great Drive: Jura Mountains to London via Burgundy and Champagne

This is not high luxury, but it is high class; a place where the intelligent, artistic and sophisticated go to enjoy themselves with friends. And throughout, inside and out, the interior design, a subtle 21st-century take on mid-century modernism, is both playful and gorgeous. Chapeau to designer Eva Khoury. There are hotels with grander views and bigger rooms, but very few we would want to spend more time in than the Riva del Sole.

Find out more:
lexus.co.uk
rivadelsole.it
masseto.com

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Reading time: 6 min
A pool surrounded by grass from a bird's eye view
A pool with deckchairs by the sea

The Mandarin Oriental, Costa Navarino is the first of the hotel group’s properties in Greece

Looking to extend your summer in the sun? Getting weary of your guests on your yacht? Drop by the brand new Mandarin Oriental, Costa Navarino in Greece, opened this month

A sunset and a hotel overlooking the sea

Mandarin Oriental collaborated with TEMES, a leading developer known for their commitment to sustainability, to develop the resort

A pool surrounded by grass from a bird's eye view

The hotel has an 18-hole golf course on the property designed by premier golf course architect, Robert Trent Jones II

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

A deck chair and parasol with mountains and see in the distance with a sunset

Mandarin Oriental, Costa Navarino is located next to the recently opened Navarino Agora, a marketplace with curated retail, dining venues, artisanal street food and an open-air cinema

A beige bedroom with a floor to ceiling window sliding door to a terrace overlooking the sea

The hotel has 99 suites designed by Tombazis & Associates Architects and K-Studio, the team behind the renowned Scorpios beach club in Mykonos

A terrace with beige and wooden chairs and a pool overlooking the sea

The hotel used locally sourced materials to create its bioclimatic design, drawing inspiration from local agricultural traditions and the region’s heritage

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A swimming pool surrounded by a hotel trees and hills and fields
A swimming pool surrounded by a hotel trees and hills and fields

Glorious exteriors at the Como Castello del Nero, Tuscany

In the fourth part of our luxury travel views column from the Spring/Summer 2023 issue, LUX’s Editor-in-Chief Darius Sanai checks in at the Como Castello del Nero, Tuscany

What drew us there?

What didn’t draw us there would be the more pertinent question. This 12th-century castle hotel is on a ridge overlooking half of Tuscany. In the far distance to the north, you can see the domes and spires of Florence; on another ridge to the south, the terracotta shapes of Siena. Both are a short drive away. In between are hilltop villages, and what seems like an endless expanse of forest, vineyard, field and wild boar.

How was the stay?

Our favourite spot was at the northeast corner of the extensive outdoor pool. It is on a terrace that drops away to fields and villages below. At the pool edge is a huge old oak tree, and we set our sun loungers to its left for a view of the hotel, the pool or the Tuscan wilderness, depending on how we turned our heads by a few degrees. The breakfast terrace, relatively newly created in a refurbishment by Como Hotels and Resorts, is a few metres away and has a similar view.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

Or perhaps our favourite spot was above the pool on the higher terrace leading to the hotel. This is a huge space, with sofas, chairs, planters and shrubs. The panorama stretches outwards and upwards, as this is an excellent observation station for shooting stars in summer.

A beige bedroom with white curtains around windows

The ancient-meets-modern elegance of the Loft Suite

The Castello has a couple of different wings that feature stylish and softly pared-back rooms and suites. Ours was in a corner on the ground floor, with views out and down the slopes.

A decision on whether or not to leave the hotel each day was a question of one irresistible urge meeting a countervailing irresistible urge. We resisted the temptation to visit Florence, but did drop by Siena, a pleasant 25-minute drive away. We enjoyed being back at the hotel for champagne as daylight disappeared.

Read more: The Ritz-Carlton Millenia Singapore, Review

There are innumerable wineries to visit in the surrounding Chianti region: you feel you could jump into them from the terrace. Of course, that would be too much effort and the option we preferred was to sit and enjoy the magical views and order wines to come to us. The hotel has decided not to mess around with the food.

A table and chairs in a wine cellar

Atmospheric dining in the Wine Cellar

Some of the best ingredients in the world, from olive oil to meat, cheese and fruits, speak for themselves at breakfast, lunch and dinner. At the Michelin-starred La Torre, guests can dine on the terrace in summer, while Pavilion offers all-day alfresco summer dining.

Anything else?

Italy is full of ancient buildings that have been converted to hotels with views. But there is nothing quite like the Como Castello del Nero.

Find out more: comohotels.com/tuscany/como-castello-del-nero

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Hotel balcony overlooking Marina Bay at night

Looking over Marina Bay from the Club Lounge, Ritz-Carlton Millenia, Singapore

In the third part of our luxury travel views column from the Spring/Summer 2023 issue, LUX’s Editor-in-Chief Darius Sanai checks in at The Ritz-Carlton Millenia, Singapore

What drew us there?

Some city hotels have spectacular views of nature – such as those in Rio de Janeiro and Cape Town. Others have dramatic city views, as in Hong Kong and Tokyo. From our suite on the 26th floor at the Ritz-Carlton Millenia, Singapore, we had both. At night, the irregular oval of Marina Bay lit up before us, the spires and curves of its buildings encircling the bay, while the Apple and Louis Vuitton buildings floated on the water amid the ferries. Beyond the skyscrapers was the oil-tanker traffic on the Singapore Strait. We had the nature of an equatorial peninsula and one of the world’s most dynamic financial centres, all in one view.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

The refined living room of the Ritz Suite

How was the stay?

Stroll through the Ritz-Carlton lobby and you are in the centrepiece luxury hotel of a self-confident city. Ceilings are high, artworks are dramatic and well curated, and the energy levels suggest this is the place to be, in the place to be.

A perfect way to experience the hotel’s vista is from the Club Lounge on the 32nd floor. Here, we watched the sky turn orange, purple and blue (a mix of haze and effects from the rainforests of Indonesia and Malaysia), while drinking Rothschild champagne. The lounge has alcoves and a private room and feels very grown up.

Singapore has become a city that celebrates fine drinking as much as it does fine dining, as we saw later, downstairs in the Republic bar. The bar, voted one of the best in Asia, is 1960s themed. Decor is suitably period, and bottles of spirits and liqueurs from the era are available for drinking or mixing. You can order a Singapore sling, but that is considered a little touristic, and we weren’t brave enough to try a shot of Ramazzotti liqueur from 1960, but the stylish bartender mixed us two excellent dirty martinis. They say Singapore has taken some of the creative zing from Hong Kong. At the Republic, at least, that seemed true.

For a different experience and view, head to the hotel pool. Set in a tropical grove just below the entrance, it is sheltered from the rest of the city – a huge outdoor pool with a restful vibe.

Read more: Royal Riviera, Côte d’Azur Review

Our room was as peaceful as the bar is lively. A Club Deluxe suite, its large windows offer an ever-changing vista of the city and the Marina Bay. Decor is gentle: light pine and muted pastels, eminently suitable for a hotel that is both a high-powered business centre and a resort, which is a great strength in a hotel.

1960s cool at the Republic bar

Anything else?

The hotel is a stroll to both Marina Bay Sands – one of Asia’s most extensive luxury malls – and the hawker food markets in the other direction.

Find out more: ritzcarlton.com

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

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A swimming pool surrounded by white umbrellas and deck chairs with a hotel in the background
A swimming pool surrounded by white umbrellas and deck chairs with a hotel in the background

Belle Époque meets contemporary at the Royal-Riviera, Côte d’Azur

In the second part of our luxury travel views column from the Spring/Summer 2023 issue, LUX’s Editor-in-Chief Darius Sanai checks in at the Royal Riviera, Côte d’Azur

What drew us there?

Many of the great hotels of the French Riviera are places to see and be seen. They are the kind of destinations where wardrobe prep and social diary-checking can take as long as the stay itself.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

Wafting through the understated reception of the Royal-Riviera, you realise you are somewhere quite different. Walk to the pool area behind the main Belle Époque building and there is a low-rise building, Villa l’Orangerie, that houses capacious rooms and suites; to your left is an elegant restaurant beyond which you see the Mediterranean stretch to Monaco. Behind the hotel is a dramatic vista of mountains plunging to the sea. Although the hotel sits in the most desirable residential area of the coast, this is an enclave, a place where you put on your Chanel sunglasses only to protect yourself from the sun. Your fellow guests are as discreet as you are; they don’t need to shout about who they are.

A terrace with deckchairs looking over a pool with palm trees and the sea

The perfect private terrace

How was the stay?

Our suite was in the Villa l’Orangerie, whose rooms and suites are all newly renovated, as is the terrace surrounding the swimming pool and the garden deck, giving us much to admire. We had our own little private garden and could go from our living room to the pool in 12 steps.

Sit by the pool and you won’t feel like leaving: the view of the mountains and the Mediterranean cuisine served poolside or in the restaurant see to that. If you do go out, this is super-prime Côte d’Azur. The village of St-Jean-Cap-Ferrat is five minute’s walk one way along a pretty coastal path. The centre of Beaulieu-sur-Mer – another chichi resort in this hallowed region between Nice and Monte Carlo – is five minutes the other way. Outside the hotel is a little sandy beach, a section of which is for hotel guests only. It is delightful and very different to some Mediterranean hot spots: no Instagram celebrities, just people chilling in one of the most spectacular parts of Europe.

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

One afternoon, we took a taxi halfway up the mountain to the hilltop village of Èze, a medieval scramble of streets with unbelievable views in every direction. Another evening we went for dinner with friends in Monte Carlo, around 25 minutes away. In both cases, we were pleased to get back to the peace of the Royal-Riviera.

A bedroom with a yellow throw on the bed

Discreet Mediterranean styling in a Junior Suite

Anything else?

Breakfast is on an arcaded terrace in the original building, where, later, a glass of vintage champagne sets you up well for the evening. From there, it’s a short stroll to the terrace of the Jasmin Grill & Lounge for a glass of Whispering Angel and a main course of grilled turbot.

Find out more: royal-riviera.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 red and orange building behind a swimming pool with deckchairs around it

The iconic colourful terraces overlooking the pool at the Byblos Hotel

Antoine Chevanne is the owner of the legendary Byblos Hotel in St Tropez. Opening in 1967, the hotel is known for its exceptional service, hosting many of the greatest celebrities in the world and for having the most exclusive location in the area. Here Chevanne speaks to Candice Tucker about how the hotel has kept its status and its future plans to keep it’s  iconic reputation as the ‘it place’ to stay in St Tropez
A man wearing a blue suit with his arms folded

Antoine Chevanne

LUX: Has there been a consistent theme running throughout the ownership of the Byblos?
Antoine Chevanne: We continue to honour the same values and high standards that were originally instilled by my great grandfather, Sylvain Floirat. The impeccable service is our main consistent theme that has been running through our hotel for the past four generations alongside an incredible sense of loyalty and sincerity. Those values are shared by the staff, some of whom have been at the hotel for over thirty years now. From the beginning, we have wanted to preserve a comforting “family” element so that our guests feel at home, whilst still in tune with what is expected from a “Palace” hotel. With an unrivalled sense of hospitality and an unequalled attention to detail, Hotel Byblos highlights the very best in terms of French “art de vivre”.

LUX: How have the type of guests, staying at the Byblos, changed over the decades?
AC: We pride ourselves in offering a sense of warmth in our service which guests appreciate, and ultimately this is a big reason why we have such a high number of returning guests every year. Over the years, we have seen generations of guests coming back for our ultra-personalised service, with guests who came when they were younger, bringing their children and now their grandchildren. Same goes with our employees. Our guests love seeing them again every year. This is part of the “homely” and “family” feel I mentioned before. That’s partly what makes this hotel so special. And just like our guests, the hotel continuously evolves whilst still finding ways to cater to all generations.

An entrance to a hotel with a mosaic above the door and leaves on the walls

The entrance to the Byblos Hotel

LUX: How have guest demands changed since the hotel was founded by your great grandfather/
AC: My family has owned the Byblos since the beginning (1967), so we are uniquely placed to see how guests demands have changed over the years. Our guests’ lifestyle has changed exponentially in the last 50 years, with people wanting more flexibility when they come on holiday. This has been reflected in our services – such as longer opening times for breakfast so that guests still retain some freedom and don’t have strict timings imposed on them. We also have a large variety of food offerings (such as French gastronomy, Italian cuisine, tapas or even by the beach with Byblos Beach) so that guests have a wider selection to choose from. Having choices is a true luxury. When guests come to a Palace like the Byblos, they do not want to be constraint – in fact our hotel adapts to their lifestyle.

LUX: What makes the Byblos, the standout hotel in St Tropez?
AC: One of the key aspects that makes Hotel Byblos stand out is its unique heritage. Over the years, the hotel has remained far-removed from the flashy, ostentatious luxury of the grand hotels of the Riviera and continues to offer an oasis in St-Tropez for guests to escape to and relax under the ever-watchful eye of our attentive staff. It is a village within a village which offers high levels of gastronomy in an intimate and relaxed atmosphere while still keeping that sense of luxury intact. Our employees demonstrate daily their exceptional professional know-how, dedication and high-quality service to each and every guest while creating an atmosphere of pure contentment.

Another of our key standout aspects is the location of the hotel, right in the centre of St Tropez and just a stone’s throw away from La Place des Lices and the port.

A blue and white bedroom with views of the hills in St Tropez

The Two bedroom Suite at the Byblos overlooking the hills of St Tropez

LUX: What has been your fondest memory of the hotel?
AC: There have been so many good memories that it is difficult to choose just one. The one that comes to the top of my mind is probably the extreme satisfaction of having been one of the first hotel’s on the Côte d’Azur to have received five stars in 2010 followed by the “Palace” recognition in 2012. It’s a huge reward to the whole team who have worked so hard over the years to make the hotel what it is today. This achievement is even more rewarding when you remember that we are independent hoteliers and we do not belong to any big international group. To put it simply, we are a French family who – with a great team – managed to build the Byblos’ status over the years.

On a more personal note, I cherish a lot of memories based on some of the unique encounters I have had over the years: from Lionel Richie to Bruce Willis, as well as Naomi Campbell and Quincy Jones. We’ve also had incredible concerts by the pool such as Joe Cocker, Roger Hodson from Supertramp and Niles Rogers.

red chairs and white table clothed tables on a terrace next to colourful buildings

Restaurant Arcadia

LUX: What has been the most surprising aspect of running the hotel?
AC: The most surprising aspect of running a hotel is discovering the true nature of mankind: this encompasses both good and bad surprises though. You learn a lot about yourself at the same time. You have to learn to stay in your lane, to not be judgemental no matter what happens and find a solution. When you’re in charge of a hotel as unique as the Byblos, nothing can prepare you to live such an experience. Why? Because our clientele is different. They have seen everything, experienced everything, and they want more novelty. This means that we are constantly reinventing ourselves whilst still remaining true to our DNA. This is why I often tell people that if they have worked at least two years at the Byblos, they can easily work anywhere in the world.

A view of boats in the sea and a sunset

St Tropez

LUX: Why has St Tropez retained its special reputation as one of the leading summer destinations?
AC: There’s so much to discover in Provence, especially in St Tropez. We are surrounded by beautiful landscapes, views, forests, lakes and coasts. St Tropez also has a great connection with art, culture and traditions qualities that are equally reflected in the hotel. It has retained over the years an authentic character thanks to its origins as a fishing village while keeping a charming aesthetic thanks to the old, winding streets and daily Provencal markets. Many artists during the 19th and 20th century came to St-Tropez to find inspiration and contributed to the growth and popularity of the destination. The well-known summer parties are also one of the many reasons St-Tropez has a reputation as a leading summer destination. However St Tropez managed to combine this with exceptional service and a large variety of diverse dining concepts which sets it apart from other summer destinations like Mykonos or Ibiza.

St-Tropez merges the old with the new, authenticity with glamour, and offers something for every generation.

colourful Missoni print bedroom

The Missoni Suite

LUX: Where is your favourite secret place to visit in the Côte d’Azur?
AC: I don’t wish to reveal too much about my favourite place as it wouldn’t be a secret anymore!  There is however a little cove along the Côte d’Azur, close to St Tropez which is beautiful when the sun rises…

LUX: What do you think will be the next big trend in the hospitality industry?
AC: The next trend is something I’ve been working on for years which can now be revealed. We live in a world that is constantly connected, where we are travelling and performing at a high level. Having time for oneself has become a luxury. Being able to reconnect with oneself and with others is what will guide our industry in the future. We have just started on this journey with the new version of the Sisley Spa.

A wooden Arab style spa room

The Lebanese room in the new Sisley spa

LUX: How does the Byblos meet the increasing demand for environmental responsibility?
AC: Hotel Byblos, alongside all Groupe Floirat properties, is part of an eco-friendly movement that respects the surrounding environment of each hotel. We are wholly committed to a programme of sustainable development and over the last year have implemented a sustainable development charter. The charter is founded upon five key commitments with the goal to reduce all three hotel’s environmental impact in various means. These commitments comprise of: waste and used product management, integrated water resources management, optimum energy consumption, socially oriented initiatives and the enhancement of local economy.

With our Executive Chef Nicola Canuti, we also worked on increasing our sustainable offering in our kitchen and through our food. Chef Canuti is passionate about Mediterranean food and aims to offer our guests local and highly qualitative products that he cares about. To hold to his promise, the hotel features a 300sqm vegetable garden that offers the best of Mediterranean fruits, vegetables and aromatic herbs. We also produce our own honey, served at breakfast from our very own beehives.

A beach with sun beds and umbrellas

Byblos Beach

Our environmental responsibility is also to protect the natural beauty of St Tropez and its region. With our beach, Byblos Beach Ramatuelle, we worked on ensuring as little impact as possible was made on the coastline in an effort to preserve our environment. The Byblos Beach Ramatuelle has a strict “no plastic” policy and the entire structure can be dismantled at will, being made of 100% wood, meaning the beach can regenerate during the winter months.. Water and electricity consumption is eco-oriented.

LUX: If you could give one piece of advice to a prospective hotelier what would it be?
AC: To know your guests, what they want and anticipate their needs. This is ‘key’ in producing and offering the best product!

LUX: Why do you think your regular clients return again and again?
AC: We believe that luxury means being able to provide our guests with a level of convenience and attention to detail that enables them to find the time they need for themselves. Through our service and staff, we offer exclusive guest experiences that reflect the spirit of Groupe Floirat and its legacy.

Find out more: byblos.com

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A palace surrounded by palm trees and a swimming pool at the front
A palace surrounded by palm trees and a swimming pool at the front

Moorish styling at the One&Only The Palm, Dubai

In the first part of our luxury travel views column from the Spring/Summer 2023 issue, LUX’s Editor-in-Chief Darius Sanai checks in at the One&Only The Palm, Dubai

What drew us there?

Driving to the One&Only The Palm, Dubai, you realise how exclusive its location is. Your driver turns from the mainland and sweeps along the trunk of Palm Jumeirah – the vast residential development made of reclaimed land in the Gulf. At the top, you turn left from Atlantis (the resort, not the lost city) and proceed down the Palm crescent, past exclusive developments on one side, coastline on the other. Finally, you reach an oasis of lush plants and drive through a gate to the resort, overlooked by precisely nothing.

We were offered a choice of walking to our villa or being taken in a buggy. The latter would be useful in the hottest months, but we walked, passing a swimming pool; a grove of tropical trees; a row of villas bordered with gardens, grass and beautiful pet rabbits; and arrived at our villa.

A restaurant with a view of a skyline in Dubai at night with buildings lit up

A view at night looking across the Gulf to Dubai

How was the stay?

Our residence was on the first floor, opening to a view of the beach, the sea and Dubai. It was so peaceful the urban view seemed like a projection.

Decor was light taupe with hints of gold, and with dark wood furniture. The bathroom featured a huge freestanding bath and walk- through shower. There were hints of Gulf excess in the light fittings, but in a gentle way. The huge balcony had dining and relaxation areas, and the evenings, though warm, were delightful there.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

The main pool is huge, with alcoves where small children played, leaving the rest of the pool largely empty. We had a poolside cabana – a little villa, really – and a private terrace area with an outdoor bed, hammock and chairs. It was hard to resist the siren call of a lunchtime daiquiri, and service was hyper-anticipational and prompt.

A sand island in the sea with a hotel resort on it

The pristine sandy beach surrounding the hotel

Once at the resort, you don’t need to go anywhere else, even to dine. The main restaurant, Stay, is run by Yannick Alléno (whose Pavillon Ledoyen in Paris has three Michelin stars), and is probably the top destination in the Emirate. Our outdoor table overlooked the pool, and Alléno’s purity of execution was evident throughout dinner. We dined the next night at another hotel restaurant. Alléno oversees 101 Dining Lounge & Marina, where locals arrive by boat at the private marina, a DJ plays and Dom Ruinart flows.

Read more: Kulm Hotel, St Moritz, Review

Breakfast was memorable. It had everything from dim sum to Persian salad, pancakes to eggs Florentine, in a vast inside-outside space that kept us delightfully distanced from other guests.

Anything else?

The beach is peaceful, although very hot. It’s a half-hour drive to the Dubai Mall, but well worth it. The One&Only is in another world.

Find out more: oneandonlyresorts.com/the-palm

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

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A dining room with a window view of Tower Bridge
A dining room with a window view of Tower Bridge

Views of the Tower of London and Tower Bridge surround the residence

Our hotel of the month has grandeur, a high-energy Japanese-Chinese restaurant, jazz under an Imperial dome and much more, right next to the Tower of London

What drew us there?

Arriving at the Four Seasons, Ten Trinity Square, is a monumental experience. Literally. The building, in the city of London, and directly facing the Tower of London, is the former headquarters of the Port of London Authority. Walking up its entrance steps you feel as if you are due to be summoned inside for a meeting with the First Sea Lord about the Imperial Fleet in the South Pacific.

A bar walkway with a blossom tree

Mei Ume offers traditional Chinese and Japanese dishes with a modern approach to the cuisine

Those days have long gone, but fortunately, the building’s new incarnation as a Four Seasons hotel is rather more user-friendly. After checking, in, waft into the domed lobby area with its bar at the far end, the former rotunda at the heart of the orginal building, and you feel you are in a different world to the busy city outside. This is the only true luxury hotel in the city of London, and given that it is also a souvenir’s throw from the Tower of London, it offers an excellent location for an alternative view of the British capital.

The Experience

Our rooms, or should we call them chambers, with vast and high ceilings, were on the ground floor, with a palatial bedroom, connecting into an equally palatial living room, cupboards the size of small apartments, and a bathroom that looked like it might have been a bank vault in a previous incarnation.

Decor is rich, dark and masculine, and you feel you are secure in the heart of the establishment – in this case, the luxury hotel establishment. The Four Seasons also has a significant pool, running across a large portion of its footprint downstairs, with a bank of wellness pools and an adjoining spa.

A bedroom with beige and grey interiors

The bedroom in the Heritage Suite

We were staying one night, it was hard to decide whether to eat light bites in the Rotunda bar under the dome of the lobby, which featured a live jazz band, or go for a more celebratory dinner in the Mei Ume Chinese and Japanese restaurant beyond.

We went for the latter, a vibey place with groups of slickly dressed people in their 20s and 30s looking highly photogenic for their instagrams. The Negronis were cutting edge, and we loved being able to dip into both cuisines: a signature beef rice bowl (with wagyu sirloin, egg and fried rice) along with some Har Gu and Chiu Mai dim sum, ginger and spring onion chicken buns that were just the right puffiness and bite, unagi and cucumber uramaki…it was not fusion cuisine, rather two distinctive cuisines in one high-energy restaurant. And then, we mellowed out with a digestif glass of champagne and some piano jazz in the bar. Beautiful.

A swimming pool with grey walls and lights

The indoor swimming pool at the Spa

Anything else to know?

For business travellers, the hotel is super convenient for the city, and pretty close to Canary Wharf. For tourists, it is right next to the Tower of London had a short walk along the riverbank promenade to the Tate Modern. However, it is a little further from the traditional sites of the West End.

Rates: From £700 per night (approx. €795/$875)

Book your stay: www.fourseasons.com/tentrinity/

Darius Sanai

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A white house white house with daffodils around it
A white house white house with daffodils around it

The exterior of Coworth Park, originally built in 1776

The Dorchester Collection’s country hideaway near London combines serenity with spa and some brilliant cuisine

Country factor:
15 minutes from Heathrow Airport, less than an hour from central London, this country house is set in a sprawling estate of parkland, lakes and polo fields. You feel like you are in the deepest rural idyll.

What to do?
A more pertinent question is, what not to do. There is, just across the way from the main house, an extensive spa with a swimming pool and hydrotherapy. There is an equestrian centre linked to the polo fields – come at the right time of year, and you can see the British royals play their favourite sport. Otherwise, you can ride. There is an all-weather tennis court, archery, and extensive grounds to get lost in doing long walks. In short, all the benefits of an English country house hotel without having to take a helicopter or drive several hours to get there from civilisation.

A blue glass building on the grass surrounded by trees and a statue in front of it

The Spa which works in collaboration with Germaine de Capuccini

What to eat?
Not so long ago, the cuisine was the question mark hanging over almost any British hotel outside London. Michelin-starred chef Adam Smith shows at Coworth Park how things have turned full circle.

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Particularly admirable is what we would call his concept and execution platform. Across the menus in the different venues, it seems the dish is conceived, and can then be executed in different ways: traditional, vegetarian, vegan, or gluten-free.

A terrace with green blankets on chairs and outdoor gas heaters

The Drawing Room terrace which overlooks the grounds

There is no primacy of any style. Ingredients are piercing and local. It’s thoughtful and contemporary. Cooking thought leadership at its best. The main restaurant, Woven, has a delightful, classic modern feeling in its decor: no tablecloths, but as formal as you want it to be, with clever and expensive lighting.

Read more: Waldhaus Sils, Switzerland Review

The other restaurant, The Barn, is a more informal, but still highly polished and sophisticated offering. We would go to the former for dinner, and the latter for lunch. Or perhaps the other way round. Who knows.

A bedroom with a cream bed and sofa

Mansion House Junior Suite bedroom

Lying in
The decor in the rooms is perfectly judged, for where we are: not trying to be deepest wooden beam country style, but not city imposed on a rural dwelling either. Bathrooms are huge, beds almost as huge, and there is all the glitz you would expect of a luxury hotel.

Rates: From £570 per night (approx. €654/$700)

Book your stay: dorchestercollection.com/ascot/coworth-park

Darius Sanai

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On the border of California and Nevada, Lake Tahoe offers spectacular views, world-class skiing courtesy of the Heavenly region and divine lodging at Edgewood Tahoe Resort. And right now, the snow is better than it has been for years, due to a succession of Pacific fronts

California is not a place you immediately associate with skiing. Coastline, beaches, social-media giants, wine and the Beverly Hills Chihuahua, check; shooting through deep powder, maybe not. But skiing is exactly what is on offer at Lake Tahoe, in the Sierra Nevada mountains in the east of the state.

The lake was formed from volcanic and faulting activity, is bigger than Lake Como and so wide you can’t always see from shore to shore, although you are always aware of the mountain ring around. It is located at an altitude of 1,900m, more than enough to make up for its relatively southerly location, while the influence of North America’s vast and icy interior means winters here are usually colder than in the Alps. The lake straddles California and Nevada and there are a few significant ski areas in its mountains. The most famous, and the one we chose, is Heavenly, one of the premium mountain destinations owned and operated by Vail Resorts Hospitality, the luxury-travel company for the great outdoors.

A wooden room with tables and chairs large windows

Luxurious mountain-cabin design in the North Room

Rising up across steep forested mountains at the southeast of Lake Tahoe, Heavenly’s ski area is split between California and Nevada. At its base on the lake’s edge is the resort town of Stateline, Nevada. This being the US, Stateline is a high-altitude mix of wonderful, wacky and tacky. While the natural location is among the most spectacular of any winter-sports resorts in the world, drive down the main street and you find a panoply of strip mall-type boutiques and a casino complex that could have been airlifted out of the suburbs of nearby Las Vegas.

But the area was a resort for the well-to-do from the outset and, just beyond the border in a Nevada forest glade, the buildings disappear as you cruise along the driveway of Edgewood Tahoe Resort. With giant Jeffrey pines beside the lake near the tasteful low-rise hotel complex, you are suddenly in a ski location of dreams. The welcome from the valets is amenable and efficient. The resort has significant eco-credentials: the main Lodge is Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver Certified, and it has received plaudits for its water and land management. Walking into the high atrium, you have the feeling of being in a giant mountain cabin.

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Turn right and you enter the open bar and restaurant area, which looks out over a stone terrace into which is built a huge outdoor pool, steaming in the subzero temperatures of winter with vitality pools all around. Beyond the pool are a few more giant trees before the gardens drop into the lake.

Arriving after a drive from San Francisco, we switched between the pool, very hot Jacuzzi and sun loungers. Warmed by the Jacuzzi, it was remarkably pleasant to lie on the terrace as the sun descended towards the mountains to the west, in a temperature of -3°C. It is a hotel ritual to grab a cocktail from the bar and watch the sun disappear behind the mountain ridge beyond the lake, which separates the resort from the low central valley and population centres of California. It is an astounding welcome by nature and one that no European resort can replicate.

a pool surrounded by snow and trees

The west-facing terrace, complete with Jacuzzi and heated pool

Sunset over and empowered by our margaritas, we wandered to another part of the atrium, which features a bookstore and an exhibition on the hotel’s history. It was founded in the late 19th century as a mail stop for traffic drawn by horses between New York and San Francisco and the gold-rush lands. Just beyond is the hotel sports shop, where we were measured for rental skis and boots by a young and very friendly team. The equipment would be ready and waiting for us at the hotel entrance, from where we would be shuttled to the slopes in the morning.

Heavenly’s ski area is accessed by a long, panoramic and rapid gondola ride, rising from the town a five-minute drive from the hotel. The view from the gondola as it scythes between the trees, while the bowl of Lake Tahoe opens out in its full glory, are worth the journey in itself. The ski area is a delight, with a mix of undulating red and blue runs and eye-popping views of the lake and California on one side, and the Nevada desert on the other. The snow is granular and dry, making turns a treat, with the most exciting routes through the trees. The forest glades are spaced apart, so you can pick your own route through the snow between runs. Wonderful.

A mountain and hotel on a lake covered in snow

Heavenly’s mountains rise behind the eco-friendly complex

The many lifts are efficient and quick, our only bugbear being the mountain food, which is generic (chilli, burgers, chicken). But we had Edgewood to return to at the end of the day, for excellent tapas-style platters in the bar, and vibrant California cuisine in the bistro and restaurant: our favourite dish of seared ahi tuna with togarishi rub, avocado crema, ponzu vinaigrette and Asian greens sums up the style.

Read more: Switzerland, our top pick for summer

Our room was large with some lovely woodland details in the décor and furnishings made of found forest materials. Our balcony overlooked the pool and lake; others overlook the forest, which is equally peaceful. You would, I suspect, have a very tranquil and resetting break if you went to Edgewood and never set foot outside. But combined with the skiing above at Heavenly, it’s a match made in, well, paradise.

Find out more:

vailresorts.com
edgewoodtahoe.com

This article first appeared in the Autumn/Winter 2022/23 issue of LUX
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Our hotel of the month is a resort on a tropical island, surrounded by lush rainforest. It’s also in Singapore, one of the most densely populated places in Asia. Read on to see how The Capella on Sentosa has created a tropical island hideaway, less than 15 minutes from Singapore’s downtown financial district

The arrival

It’s slightly surreal. We got in our car, having finished meetings in Singapore’s hyper-urban financial district, near the landmark Marina Bay tower. Barely 12 minutes later, raising our heads from our phones, we were heading up a winding driveway lined with lush green foliage and surrounded by a tropical forest.

a pool surrounded by green plants in a rainforest

One of the Capella’s three outdoor pools. Photograph by Darius Sanai

We were greeted by a striking, long, whitewashed colonial era building – built for British army officers in the 19th century. Whisked through reception, we were in a garden leading to another long building, modern and curvy – Sir Norman Foster‘s creation, more than 100 years later.

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Through the arches in Foster’s building we saw glimpses of swimming pools, more foliage and the sea.

The Room

The juxtaposition of old and new British – colonial and Foster – was notable, but our room was something else. We were in a kind of Zen rainforest retreat, the vibe as tranquil as a Balinese yoga hideaway. Open plan yet cosy, it had a bedroom with bed facing the forest and sea through picture windows; the living room had a similar view, and there was a small sheltered (from the frequent tropical rains) balcony to one side.

a sitting area with blue and wooden chairs and sofas

The Colonial Manor sitting area

The bathroom ran the length of both rooms, with a bath overlooking the forests, and a striking sculpture made of a rainforest log as a feature. The art all over the hotel is memorable: the owners are among the most respected art collectors in the region.

Exploring

Landscaped grounds drop down from the back of the hotel into the sea. Mostly, they are occupied by rainforest trees and exotic birds, although there are also three showpiece swimming pools each built on a terrace at a different level. The lowest one, the lap pool, is almost completely surrounded by thick foliage.

A bath by a window with a view of the sea

Our bathroom overlooked the Singapore Straits

You can chill on the terrace (very attentive wait staff and Aesop Factor 50 suncream in glass bottles await) around any of them; above the top pool is the broad terrace of Fiamma, a new Italian restaurant. We recommend the seafood carpaccios, delicate and beautifully done. There is also an excellent list of Italian wines, including some expertly-chosen Franciacorta, the ideal sparkling wine for a hot climate and often much better than champagne, which can taste gooey in the heat.

Read more: Hôtel Plaza Athénée, Paris Review

Above Fiamma, on a broad terrace, is Cassia, a contemporary Chinese restaurant with light laquered interior designed by the peerless Andre Fu. It also has an expansive bar terrace where you can sip on a grower champagne and ponder the greenery.

a table at a restaurant with a lantern light over the table

Cassia restaurant serves contemporary Chinese food amid interior splendour designed by Andre Fu

We had a very reviving revitalising treatment at the Auriga spa, which has a delightful little private garden outside its relaxation room: we too several turns of the lawn, enjoying the solitude and greenery.

Drawbacks

Sentosa, the island the Capella is located on, is 15-20 minutes by car from the Marina Bay business district and a little further from the Orchard business and shopping district. So it’s away from the heart of the action, but that’s price worth paying for staying in such a sophisticated tropical island resort, we feel.

Rates: From £740 per night (approx. €840/$915)

Book your stay: capellahotels.com/en/capella-singapore

Darius Sanai

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A lounge with a patterned carpet and cream chairs

Ritz-Carlton LA elegance in the Club Lounge

In the fourth part of our luxury travel views column from the Autumn/Winter 2022 issue, LUX’s Editor-in-Chief Darius Sanai checks in at the Ritz Carlton, Los Angeles

We are sitting on sun loungers by a rooftop swimming pool. On the table beside us are two unfeasibly green apples and two slightly darker green juices in long glasses. The view to one side stretches to the Pacific Ocean. To the other, a ridge of blue-grey mountains wobbles in the heat haze. It could be any Pacific-rim resort, but it is where such an experience would have been unfeasible a few years back: downtown LA.

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The area, a few miles from my usual LA haunts of Beverly Hills to the northwest and Santa Monica to the west, has never been a tourist attraction. Now, driven by its proximity to the studios of artists who have trained or landed in the city, fleeing more expensive locations, downtown feels, if not the place to be, then a central location from which to explore greater LA.

A bedroom with windows overlooking a city

A corner hotel room with a view

It needed a world-class place to stay, and in The Ritz-Carlton, it has that. At ground level, it looks like a luxury city tower, with separate entrances for the expensive apartments, sorry, “residences”, on one side of the building, and the hotel on the other. I quickly clocked that the Ferraris and Porsches being parked out front by valets belonged to residence owners, rather than hotel guests with seriously exotic rental cars.

On the roof terrace, high above the city, you are in a different world. True, between you
and the ocean and mountains is the LA sprawl, although the pool is sufficiently high that you don’t realise unless you walk to the edge and look.

Unlike the slightly patchy service we can get in some hip boutique hotels springing up in the city, here it’s Ritz-Carlton service all the way. In my experience, this means less formality than, say, Four Seasons, but professionalism all the way.

Arriving late from the airport, we elected for room service, slightly dreading the standard hotel-menu options of club sandwich, pasta or steak, but ordering pistachio pesto campanelle with broccoli, fennel pollen and pecorino. When it came and was set up for us on our big round table by the window, complete with correct wine glasses, we ended up with a chic dinner and a magnificent Californian Chardonnay, with a view of the city lights few LA restaurants could match. We had to make our own atmosphere, but that’s called private dining in a restaurant, and those rooms rarely have this kind of view.

Read more: Luxury Travel Views: Castillo Hotel Son Vida, Mallorca

Next day I saw the real advantage of downtown LA. It’s central. Meeting an artist in south-central? Five-minute drive, not 45. Dinner in Venice? West Hollywood gallery visit? While downtown LA may not be the place you do things, it is a great place from which to do them, without those painful, hour-long drives. Perfect for the traveller with a cross-city schedule.

Find out more: ritzcarlton.com/en/hotels/california/los-angeles

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

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A hotel building with a red awning at the entrance and turrets around the roof and a palm tree

The exterior of the Castillo Hotel Son Vida, compete with turret

In the third part of our luxury travel views column from the Autumn/Winter 2022 issue, LUX’s Editor-in-Chief Darius Sanai checks in at the Castillo Hotel Son Vida, Mallorca

On any luxury visit to Mallorca to date, you might have expected to spend your time in a villa or hotel deep in the countryside or on a secluded coastline, or amid some of the most delightful and unique experiences in the world.

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As I arrived at Castillo Hotel Son Vida, it became clear that here was a different luxury experience. The hotel, originally a 13th-century castle, is on a hilltop overlooking the bay and city of Palma. Day or night, the views from its huge terraces are mesmerising and, while the hotel is located at the forest edge, with a large outdoor pool, it is only 10 minutes to Palma itself – more of which, later. The arrival is as grand as you might expect in a development of an original estate once owned by one of the great Mallorcan families. The hall leads to a dining room where paintings depict classical scenes.

A dining room with wooden walls and large glass chandeliers over the table

A grand dining space at the hotel

My room was everything you might expect in a grand Mediterranean hotel, only bigger. There are excellent hotels on Mediterranean islands where guests can feel constrained by the size of the building and rooms, dictated by a lack of space in the location. This had more of a French Riviera feel. Open the windows and there is a balcony with a view across the terrace to the city below and the bay and mountains beyond. Dinner on the terrace was sea bass baked in salt crust with local vegetables, with some floral sparkling wine from Catalonia – and that view. Almost as impressive was the breakfast, which focused on Mallorcan flatbreads and local jams.

A large terrace outside a yellow stone building

The huge main terrace, which overlooks the bay

You could spend your visit lazing by the pool, playing golf next door (this is one of the best courses in Spain) and enjoying the tranquillity (the hotel is 16+). But it would be a shame not to take advantage of the unique location and visit Palma itself. I combined a walk around the quite magnificent and recently refurbished cathedral with tapas in the old town and an after-dinner drink in the Santa Catalina area, just as it was getting lively. In revitalising Palma, the authorities are driving a far more upmarket type of tourism than is associated with some of the island’s beach resorts. Palma’s old town is all about gastronomy and sitting on terraces enjoying an Aperol spritz or a glass of Mallorcan
white wine. It felt like discovering Barcelona’s little sister.

Read more: Luxury Travel Views: Four Seasons Napa Valley, California

At evening’s end it’s just 10 minutes by taxi back to Son Vida, where you can decide whether to chill amid medieval surroundings next day, take another excursion into town or visit a beach. That, and the pleasantly high standards offered by this Luxury Collection hotel, make it very much a destination as Mallorca becomes a haven for upscale travellers.

Find out more: marriott.com/pmilc-castillo-hotel-son-vida

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

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A ski village from a mountain with a cable cart
A ski village from a mountain with a cable cart

Crans-Montana sits on a south facing shelf and is one of the one of the sunniest ski resorts in Europe

Crans-Montana was one of the destinations for skiers in the 1980s looking for Swiss chic, extensive pistes, high quality dining and spectacular views. It was overtaken in the fashion stakes by the likes of Courchevel, but is now coming back with a bang into the consciousness of high-end winter sports visitors. Darius Sanai visits, and likes what he sees

7:30 am at the LeCrans hotel in Crans-Montana, Switzerland. Wandering the considerable distance in our wood panelled room between the bed and the glass door to the balcony, past the living area, I draw back the curtains. A sea of white and blue floods in. We are on a south-facing shelf high above a broad valley far below. In front of me, far away on the other side of the valley, is a jagged range of peaks. The view extends for 40 km in either direction.

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I step onto the balcony. It snowed all night, before clearing at dawn. My bare feet crunch through the powder. I wonder about spending the day in the spa, pool and jacuzzi. I could admire the view, go for a walk, progress effortlessly from lunch through dinner in the classy, intimate dining spaces in this uber-chic boutique luxury hotel in a forest above Crans, the old-new (more on that shortly) swanky destination in Switzerland.

A terrace with a mountain view and sunglasses and a book on the table

Terrace with a view at the hotel, Le Crans

But that would be wrong. I order room service: some home made Bircher muesli, green juice, an oat latte, taken inside with a view onto the whole of Switzerland, so it seems. So many resorts in the Alps are buried deep in valleys: you need to take the lift up for the views. Or they have featureless views of anonymous mountainsides with endless motorway pistes. Here I am gazing from Mont Blanc to the St Bernard Pass, through the Zermatt valley and the sabre-tooth shaped Weisshorn, to the peaks above Andermatt, looking at the full range of the highest peaks in Switzerland, the focus of Alpinists through the generations, without moving from my room. Below (way below) are the vineyards of the Valais.

A winter chalet style hotel on the mountains covered in snow

Le Crans hotel sits in a forrest above a village

I have to move. I squeeze on my boots, walk out of the ski room and across a snow covered lane, and clip on my skis. There is a shuttle to the lift station in Crans, visible below through the woods. But where’s the fun in that. Skis on, I follow a track made by a couple of other skiers across the woods, gently downwards, close to the trees, and shoot down a little vertical section, turning smartly onto the piste. I am on the main run into the resort, before anyone has had the chance to explore it.

A bed with a picture of bear above it and a brown throw and cusions

Contemporary alpine chic at Le Crans 

It’s an old-fashioned piste, in the nicest way. It weaves and turns and flattens through real scenery, forests and glades and past lakes. Not a motorway with slip roads and parallel pistes leading to the same place. There’s a fun chicane near the new Six Senses Resort, and then the lift station appears.

An outdoor pool steaming

Le Crans spa has a heated outdoor pool

Crans-Montana is having a moment. Prominent in the 20th century as a ski/golf resort, a year round destination before that was fashionable, it lost social kudos to places like Verbier (across the broad Rhône valley) and Courchevel more recently. Now, it has rediscovered its own qualities. Its sunshine and views are exceptional, as it is on a high shelf above the deep Rhône valley, facing south. It has a good, if not exceptional, vertical drop for skiing and both high and tree-lined pistes. Being less than a kilometre (vertically) from some of the best vineyards in Switzerland guarantees excellent wine and, not coincidentally, some very gourmet focussed resort and mountain restaurants – it has four Michelin-starred restaurants.

An untouched snow covered mountain

The top slopes at Crans-Montana are at around 3000m altitude

It also has good snow: at 1550m, it is at a good altitude, with top station at just under 3000m. On the one hand, the south facing, sunny aspect means warm spring days create early melt, but being high above a deep valley in the west of the Alps means relatively high snowfall during the winter, when fronts come in either from the west or the southwest, as a counterpoint. When it snows in Switzerland, it really snows in Crans.

A restaurant with large windows at night

The Michelin starred restaurant Le Mont Blanc at Le Crans

The last couple of years have reflected this revival: where previously it was the domain of smart middle class families from northern Europe, Crans is now seeing more LUX-type people move in. The Six Senses opens this February, with Residences being snapped up by ultra high net worths. We hear of the Swiss elite snapping up apartments near the resort centre. It’s not as expensive to buy property in Crans as in Verbier or Gstaad, and it may lack the ski breadth of the former and the social kudos of the latter, but it is sunnier and less hectic than Verbier and higher than Gstaad. Locals say prices are heading up: but as a counterpoint, there is a lot of property in Crans and its neighbour, Montana, and parts of the resort are a bit 20th century modern for some tastes.

An outdoor pool with a sunset

Sunset with a view of Mont Blanc

I ponder all this while in the gondola up to the top station. I spend the day shooting down an array of high and low runs, all of them interesting in a classic kind of way. I don’t know enough about ski resort design to analyse why Crans, like Lech or Klosters, seems classic in the way you ski. There’s something about the shape of the pistes, shaped to the mountain rather than trying to conquer the mountain; compromised but interesting, unpredictable. It seems organic and classical, somehow, compared to skiing at Courchevel or Val d’Isere, which have bigger ski areas, but also many runs that look like each other. The runs below the tree line here are gorgeous, wide and curving through the forest.

a photo of mountains and trees covered in snow

Winter morning view from the hotel Le Crans

Getting back to the hotel from the main run down, you have to know which section of trees to turn off at, and then whiz along a flattish forest path which finishes at the hotel’s doorstep. It’s not officially a piste, but it’s a lot of fun. (You can always ski down to the end of the piste and the hotel will collect you).

Read more: The serene beauty of little-known Alpine resort Drei Zinnen

That evening, I dine at Le Crans. The hotel is snuggled in the forest above the resort. There are a few other chalets dotted around, otherwise only trees. The design, a reworking of a 1960s hotel in contemporary wood and stone, is both relaxing and striking. The restaurant, with its Michelin star, is quite minimalist and relaxed in feel, with plenty of space and broad views. The menu is poetry: dishes called They Flutter in the Light Wind (Jerusalem artichoke, fig, hay, lime and shimeji) or Like A Melancholic Garden (chestnuts, chanterelles, salsify, broccoli). The wine is also poetic: I try a Cornalin, made from a Swiss red grape, from a vineyard in the valley below. It is spicy, with autumn berries and a soft, velvet length. The best Swiss wines are worthy of shining on the international stage, but are prevented from doing so by the Swiss, who know that and have the means to buy them all themselves.

a small hut on a mountain covered in snow and trees around it

Views extend over the deep Rhône valley to the mountains above Zermatt

The next evening, after skiing the length of the resorts runs to above Montana, a considerable horizontal and vertical distance, I go for room service along with a bottle of Heida, made with another Swiss grape, from a terraced vineyard below Montana. The Heida is full of lemon-herb creaminess, and stands up to a very high quality grilled chicken salad. I sip the last glass on the balcony; the snow has melted a little during the day and now refrozen under the stars. A gentle wind blows the scent of pine cones from the woods and the silhouette of 100 kilometres of Alps stands out in the moonlight in front of me. Whether or not Crans’s new moment has truly come, I, like many others, will certainly be coming back.

Find out more: https://lecrans.com/

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ocean villas on an island in the middle of the sea
ocean villas on an island in the middle of the sea

The Ritz-Carlton, Fari Islands, in the Maldives

A new resort complex in the Maldives seeks to combine ocean exploration and conservation, extreme luxury, sustainability, and a cultural vibe the islands have never seen before. Candice Tucker checks in

Fari Islands in the Maldives has been created by its developers, the Singaporean Kwee family, as a completely new type of destination for the region. As well as the usual beach and island isolation, the islands, which include three hotels, have a small cultural and resort centre called Patina Island, aimed at providing alternative distractions and activities.

I am staying at The Ritz-Carlton, on one of the islands, which is proud of its programme combining social and environmental innovation. There is almost no plastic used on the island and, increasingly, energy is generated from solar power. The ocean villas, designed by the late Kerry Hill, were built with sustainably managed timber, from sustainable European forests. The most impressive initiative is Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ambassadors of the Environment programme. Guests can watch marine biologists at work, led by Cousteau, scion of the celebrated ocean exploration and conservation family. As part of the programme you can help search for plastics and ghost nets in the ocean, and work on ecological restoration around the island. Combining luxury with purpose, it is a harbinger of holidays to come.

A bedroom leading to a swimming pool that leads to the sand on a beach with plants and trees

One of the hotel’s beach-pool villas

It helps if you understand the undersea world, and for that I set off, on my first day, on the Ritz-Carlton snorkelling experience. After a short boat ride, we stopped far out to sea. Surrounded by nothing but blue water, the hotel diver said, “This is where we jump in”.

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Imagine being transported to another universe. Rainbow fish, turtles, guitar sharks (their name comes from their shape) and colourful corals of pinks, purples and oranges. I had arrived on the film set of Finding Nemo. Watching the hotel divers remove abandoned nets, without harming sea life, brought home the delicate balance between observing and protecting this precious world.

A room with two massage beds overlooking the sea

A treatment room inside the Polo mint-shaped spa

Personalised luxury is the new buzzword in the travel industry, and I found it here – or, it found me. One day I commented innocently on the quality of the chocolate cookies at dinner. The next day, on returning to my room, I found that a bath had been prepared, with coconut bath oils – and a plate of the chocolate cookies on the side. And waking up each morning, pressing a button next to my bed and seeing the uninterrupted view of the turquoise Indian Ocean, became a daily ritual I couldn’t tire of. The décor in the room was a mix of light browns and whites, reflecting the colours of the island, leading to a private infinity pool and round sun lounger, offering complete privacy to enjoy the view.

At the centre of the 39 ocean villas is a Polo mint-shaped building, which is the spa. The only noises you can hear are the wind and sometimes the splash of a flying fish. Now, imagine walking round the inside of that Polo with a view of the sea on the inside and scores of treatment rooms on the other, each with the same tranquil vista.

A a white and light brown bedroom with a bath overlooking the sea

Ocean-pool villa

The beach, carpeted in powdery white sand, and the occasional hermit crab, meets the turquoise sea, which becomes increasingly transparent the closer you peer. When I was feeling more sociable I visited the buzzing Patina beach, the social centre of the islands, with its pool bars, art galleries and upscale food trucks. However, as an urban dweller, I was more tempted to spend time back at the Ritz-Carlton relaxing, where palm trees hang over sparsely spaced sun loungers, spread across the white sand, making you feel not isolated, but rather exclusively pampered. The only interruption was the occasional offering of fruit sorbets and beverages. For me, it was the perfect spot to read, and dip into the sea when I felt like it.

A woman standing by a food truck

The Tum Tum food trailer, serving up Asian street food, at the Fari Marina

The social centre of Patina does allow for a wider variety of cuisines and styles of dining than you might get in most resorts. Arabesque, an Indian-Arabic fusion restaurant, a link to the history of the Maldives, demonstrated the cultural crossroads. I recommend the Goan fish curry, cooked with coconut, tamarind and local reef fish.

In fact, the Fari Islands offer seven restaurants. One evening I dined at Iwau, the Ritz-Carlton’s Japanese restaurant, at the chef’s table under the stars. The tasting menu was presented as abstract art, an explosion of colour on each plate. The slow-cooked buttered salmon teriyaki, with asparagus and avocado cream was the highlight.

a vegetarian pizza on a wooden cylinder tray

Vegetarian pizza at the hotel’s beachfront Eau Bar

The Italian at the Ritz-Carlton, La Locanda, is a hub for all-day dining. Guests can order off-menu. On a whim, I asked for pasta with seabass and tomatoes, which the chef quickly prepared to perfection. Warm focaccia infused with garlic was a satisfying starter.

The resort’s operators are fond of saying that the combination of art galleries, beaches, restaurants and cultures mean Fari Islands has a hint of St Tropez to it. That may be true, but in terms of marine life, conservation and space, it offers rather a lot more.

a cinema on a beach

Ritz-Carlton cinema

The Cousteau Connection
At the heart of the Ritz-Carlton is JeanMichel Cousteau’s Ambassadors of the Environment programme. This is personally run by the 84-year-old celebrated veteran of ocean exploration and film making. The programme introduces guests to ocean conservation through education and interaction. Activities range from using ocean drones to spot sea life and searching for ghost nets to collect, to learning to pilot a submarine. Scuba diving (for anyone from the age of 10) and snorkelling allow guests to witness the rich marine life along the reefs.

Read more: Responsible Luxury Travel: Keythorpe Hall, England

Cousteau also says the involvement of Ritz-Carlton is crucial, particularly in the Maldives. “When I was diving in the Maldives, I was surprised to see the number of dead corals. We need to do everything we can for the corals, because they are a very important part of the protection of the coastlines. Corals help to feed hundreds, maybe thousands of species, and we need to conserve everything around the Maldives. Ocean Futures’ approach, which I created to honour my father’s philosophy after he passed away, is if you protect the ocean you protect yourself, and if we protect what’s around the Maldives we will protect the people there, and we want to help as much as we can.”

Find out more: ritzcarlton.com

This article appears in the Summer 2022 issue of LUX

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A palace surrounded by green grass, a river and mountains
A palace surrounded by green grass, a river and mountains

Exterior view of the 19th-century Grand Hotel Kronenhof in the Swiss Alps

In a high valley near St Moritz, the Kronenhof in Pontresina combines Swiss culture with a Mediterranean mountain vibe. Who needs Portofino?

One of the drawbacks of being in the mountains is that you are at the bottom of a valley, in the shade, when all around you is bathed in sun. This is not a problem that the Kronenhof, in Pontresina, will ever have. The village of Pontresina is located on a south- facing shelf, above the bottom of the valley that connects St Moritz, in Switzerland, with the Bernina Pass over to Italy.

The entrance of the Grand Hotel Kronenhof

The Kronenhof, in prime position on this shelf, feels like it is floating above the forest coating the valley floor (and dropping into a precipitous gorge, if you look closely enough). And from the lawns outside its swimming pool area in summer, you can see the Alps lined up, facing you, glowing gold-green in the sun.

A whirlpool by a window with a forest outside

The whirlpool inside the hotel’s spa

It’s a strange and wonderful feeling, being here in summer. On the one hand, you are 1,800m (about 6,000ft) up in the mountains; the air is very precise, very pure, and will leave normal people puffing if they try to run.

A whirlpool by a window with a forest outside

The whirlpool inside the hotel’s spa

But on the other hand, this is the southern side of the Alps, contiguous with northern Italy and the South of France.

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The mountains to the north hold back the wet northern European weather and this is one of the sunniest parts of the continent, meaning you can sunbathe most days during the summer, while gazing up the valley, opposite, at the glaciers of the Bernina mountain range.

a bedroom

The luxury Bellaval suite, offering the most spectacular views in the hotel

If it does rain, just step inside. The pool, possibly the best in Switzerland, has a glasshouse view of the scenery, as well as a very therapeutic series of vitality pools and spa, above.

A bar with wooden walls and ceilings and red velvet chairs

The Kronenhof Bar

Upstairs, the newly refurbished bar has brought a little urban chic to this mountain outpost, but, above all, this is a classic Alpine luxury retreat. The bars and clubs of St Moritz might be just a 10-minute drive away, round the forest, but you come to the Kronenhof, with its contemporary-chic bedrooms and light and views, to be in the centre of the high Alps, and also away from everywhere.

Read more: See The Light: Cascais, Portugal

Hike up the mountain and to the Segantini Hut with its views across half of Switzerland, visit the Alp Languard panoramic restaurant for a lunch of local roesti and meats, and be back for an apero in the bar. And then there’s the 200-year- old Kronenstübli restaurant with 16 Gault Millau points…

Find out more: kronenhof.com

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 room with wooden chairs and tables and a large glass window leading to a terrace
A lounge with a floor to ceiling glass doors and a terrace with plants

L’apartement at Château Voltaire

The Arrival

We walked into Chateau Voltaire the wrong way, or was it the right way? The hotel is a striking corner building on a side street, Rue St Roch, just off the Rue du Faubourg St Honoré and a couple of minutes walk from Place Vendôme, in the luxury heart of Paris.

a lounge with an orange velvet chair, a blue velvet chair and a cream wooden chair

The lobby at Château Voltaire

We entered via the door on the apex of the corner and found ourselves in a buzzing brasserie; it was like walking into an auberge near a country town, and we were smiled towards the interconnecting reception area by a waitress. The small lobby is very chi-chi and relaxed at the same time. Check in was quick, and we caught a glimpse of a relaxed-looking bar and lounge area across the way.

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The in-room experience

Chateau Voltaire is a boutique five star hotel, and our room, while not big, was beautifully put together. It spoke of a lot of individual thought and craft and artisanship, rather than a single, overweening interior designer.

a cream and white bedroom

A bedroom at Château Voltaire

The marquetry was exquisite, with solid wood furnishings and intricate carvings, hinting at the building’s history, and 20th century modern art providing a juxtaposition. The hand-made bed was huge, the coffee machine grand and complex enough for a Turin caffe and the high-ceilinged bathroom was all white-and-chocolate tiles.

A dark bar with dim lighting

La Coquille d’Or bar

The out-of-room experience

The restaurant through which we had originally entered, Brasserie Emil, is an upscale brasserie, as casual as it is fancy, with handmade tiles, beautiful wood tables, no tablecloths.

wooden bar chairs on a marble bar

Brasserie Emil

The cuisine is also modern and fresh, rather than weighty and historic: we enjoyed a lunch of endive and olive salad, artichoke salad, and yellowtail carpaccio with ponzu. The lounge-bar is intimate and open; perfect for a quick glass of champagne pre-event.

Read more: Hotel of the Month: Cervo Mountain Resort, Zermatt

 An arch leading to a pool in a spa

The Spa

Drawbacks

Château Voltaire is perhaps the perfect boutique luxury hotel. It’s not a drawback per se, but if your taste is for big, grand hotels with swanky extensive lobbies, you will prefer the bigger Parisian hotels.

Rates: From £470 per night (approx. €550/$560)

Book your stay: chateauvoltaire.com

Darius Sanai

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people gathered for a photo

Left to right: Frédéric Rouzaud, Maria Sukkar, Maryam Eisler, Akosua Viktoria Adu-Sanyah, Carrie Scott, Brandei Estes, Darius Sanai

The Louis Roederer Photography Prize for Sustainability was launched in London last week, attracting some stellar names from the two fields to the new Nobu Hotel, for the inaugural awards evening.

The prize was developed by LUX’s sister company Quartet Consulting and Louis Roederer, the acclaimed champagne house behind Cristal, which it makes from 100% organic vineyards. The aim is to raise awareness of the sustainability issues facing the planet, using photography as an artistic medium.

Jasper Goodall and Frédéric Rouzaud

Cheryl Newman

Ina Sandmann Sarikhani, Alexandra Tilling, Richard Billett

Judges’ chair Darius Sanai spoke about the urgency and interconnectedness of the crisis of biodiversity and sustainability, and Frédéric Rouzaud, owner of Louis Roederer, presented the prize of  £5,000 and a magnum of Cristal to the judges’ choice of winner, Akosua Viktoria Adu-Sanyah. Jasper Goodall and Sahab Zaribaf were equal runners up and also received a magnum of Cristal each.

Guests included Sir Guy Weston, Ina Sandmann Sarikhani, Maria Sukkar, and Ola Shobowale. Moving forwards, future editions of the prize will be developed by Quartet Consulting and the Fondation Louis Roederer in Paris.

superannuation by Sahab Zaribaf

a boat in the sea in front of a snowy mountain

Point In Time [Sanata Inés Glacier, Seno Ballena] by Akosua Viktoria Adu-Sanyah

BirchWood (from Twilight Series) by Jasper Goodall

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Emilie Pugh

Booklets created about the Louis Roederer Photography Prize

Darius Sanai

The White Box space at Nobu Hotel London Portman Square

Carrie Scott

The exhibition of the works of Akosua Viktoria Adu-Sanyah, Jasper Goodall and Sahab Zaribaf are on display at the Nobu Hotel London Portman Square until 29th May.

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A room with gold walls and cushions and blue couches and chairs
A room with gold walls and cushions and blue couches and chairs

The library at L’oscar

Michel Reybier, owner of La Reserve, has just bought L’oscar, a London luxury boutique hotel. Darius Sanai drops by and looks forward to a new star of the scene

I first met Michel Reybier when I interviewed him for a feature in a Hong Kong luxury magazine I had just launched, LE PAN, about his celebrated wine estate, Chateau Cos d’Estournel in Bordeaux. Much of the interview was about the other businesses he ran, how he had made his first fortune in the food industry (selling high-end packaged charcuterie), the medical clinic group he had bought and was expanding, and his little boutique luxury hotel group, La Reserve.

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Having gotten to know him a little more over the years, I noticed that he is not a man who likes to talk about himself. He lets his businesses do the talking; and now his small hotel group, renamed Michel Reybier Hospitality, has become quite a significant one. In the last few years he has bought the Seiler hotel group in his adopted home of Switzerland (which includes some of the country’s best-known traditional hotels, including the Mont Cervin Palace in Zermatt, where my parents went on their honeymoon – very thoughtful of him) and the La Reserve hotels in Geneva, Paris, St Tropez and Zurich have become must-visits for the contemporary-minded high net worth set.

Purple velvet couches in a restuarant

The restaurant at L’oscar. Image by Ben Rice

Any luxury hotel group worth its salt needs a property in London, but great hotels in London are hard to come by: by and large scarce and overpriced. But where there’s a will, and a canny owner, there’s a way, and so last week I dropped by his new acquisition in central London, L’oscar. In Holborn, near Theatreland and surrounded by offices of affluent workers (lawyers, digital, entertainment), L’oscar opened in a blaze of publicity around five years ago, with dramatic, Costes-comes-to-London design, then faded away a bit. In buying it this year, Reybier intends to make it a new star of the London scene. His experienced team are aware of its slightly off-centre location – you don’t have the Mayfair oligarchs and PE titans coming to play here – and will doubtless make a virtue of its local qualities.

A gold and black bedroom

L’oscar’s bright and spacious suites

The hotel will undergo some light refurbishment and what is now the bar, under a dramatic rotunda, will become the restaurant, which will move from its street side location – a logical move.

Read more: LUX Art Diary: Exhibitions to see in April

Reybier naturally owns a champagne house, and I dropped by the bar for a glass or two of Jeeper champagne a couple of days back.

A marble bar with purple seats and a man serving behind the bar

The bar at L’oscar’s restaurant. Image by Gregoire Gardette

The staff seem energised, the room is as glamorous as any in a London hotel – in fact, makes many London luxury hotels look quite ordinary – and as I mentioned to him, it’s a place that could become a hub in an area that needs one. The Jeeper champagne was excellent too, balanced, understated, very nicely put together – rather like its owner. The magic wand wielded by Reybier and his wise CEO, Raouf Finan, turned a fusty old palace, the Eden in Zurich, into the most glam hotel in town, just before lockdown. L’oscar needs much less of a makeover, being pretty glam already, but London will only benefit from the arrival of a Euro star.

www.loscarlondon.com

www.michelreybierhospitality.com

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luxury hotel bedroom

hotel facade

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

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

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

luxury hotel bedroom

A junior suite with french balconies

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

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

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

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

restaurant interiors

Balausta, the hotel’s restaurant

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

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

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

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bedroom terrace
palatial hotel on edge of mountain

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

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

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

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

bedroom terrace

The terrace of one the bedrooms at Splendido Mare

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

Read more: Nayla Al Khaja on filmmaking and female empowerment

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

italian harbour

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

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

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

Book your stay: belmond.com

This article was originally published in the Autumn 2021 issue.

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fields in Scotland
golf course

Torrance golf course at the Fairmont St Andrews

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

Arrival

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

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

The Room

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

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

Hotel suite

One of the hotel’s deluxe suites 

The Experience

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

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

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

Exploring

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

restaurant booth

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

The Verdict

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

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

This article was originally published in the Summer 2021 issue.

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hilltop hotel in vineyards
hilltop hotel in vineyards

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

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

Where

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

The arrival

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

historic fortress

rose garden

The restored hilltop fortress (above) with its rose garden

The views

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

swimming pool and vineyards

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

The rooms

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

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

luxurious hotel suite

One of the suites at the Hotel Il Borgo

Wining and dining

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

taverna style restaurant

The Taverna restaurant

The highlight

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

LUX rating: 9/10

Book your stay: castellobanfiwineresort.it

This article originally appeared in the Summer 2021 issue.

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Reading time: 3 min
corridor and stairway
corridor and stairway

Inside the new Castiglione wing of the Hôtel Costes. Image by Alex Profit.

The legendary celebrity magnet Hôtel Costes in Paris is reopening with 38 spectacular new rooms and suites in a new wing on the rue Castiglione. Owner Jean-Louis Costes, who has never before given an interview to the international media, tells LUX Editor-in-Chief Darius Sanai about his lack of design philosophy and why the hotel owes its success to discretion

1. What is your design philosophy?

I don’t know what you mean by a design philosophy. I choose people; all my life, I have chosen people. My first designer was Philippe Starck [for the Café Costes, which propelled Jean-Louis and his brother Gilbert to fame in 1984], who was unknown at the time. Then I took Jacques Garcia [for the original Hôtel Costes in 1995], also unknown at the time. And now, as I am getting older, I have taken on Christian Liaigre, because we are both young fathers and our sons were at the same school. Each morning we would have a coffee together and he would tell me “Jean-Louis, I want to redo your hotel”.

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2. What is the ‘legend of the Costes’ that people talk about?

There is no legend. I don’t know. I didn’t do anything deliberately, but it happened. We are different. People talk about the music, the scent. There was no music in hotels 25 years ago. We had a CD that played on a loop, I got sick of having to turn it off all the time, so I spoke to one of our old waiters who had just come out of rehab. I said to him, “Take this space and play music all day”. He knew a few labels and artists and asked if he could make our own compilation CD, and I let him do it and we sold five million CDs. It became a legend, but it was by chance.

As to the scent, everything in the Costes has a little story. I was sitting downstairs when we had just opened, and an attractive woman stopped and said, “Monsieur, are you the owner of this place?” I said yes. She said, “I like it a lot, but it smells bad.” And at that stage it was true – we were just trying to get rid of the smell of the original building works. A few days later I saw her in the pages of Elle; she was the star perfumer of France, Olivia Giacobetti. When I saw her again, I asked, “So, what should I do?” She said, “You have to create something yourself.” And I told her to go and do it, and she created our candle, which is now famous and sold around the world. Before that, hotels just didn’t have their own scents. But I created it on the spur of the moment. There was no strategy, no marketing.

women leaving a hotel

Joan Smalls, Kendall Jenner and Lily Donaldson leaving a Paris Fashion Week party at the Hôtel Costes. Image by Ben Eade/GoffPhotos.com

3. What do you like your guests to do?

I don’t like people who stay in their rooms. The guests have to meet and see real Parisians. People eating in the restaurant need to feel like they are in their own town.

Read more: The gastronomic delights of Suvretta House, Switzerland

4. What makes the Costes different?

I wanted to make an urban resort, not a business hotel, even though we have a lot of business guests. I’m also not part of a group, which makes a difference; we can be more joyful, more dynamic. I am one of the hoteliers who, over the past 25 years, has created this ‘entertainment’ style. And it’s not enough to be in a good location. You have to treat guests better than anyone else does. Your hotel needs to be more beautiful and have better facilities. I am always amazed when people build ugly little hotels and they do well with them.

marble staircase

A staircase in the Castiglione wing. Image by Alex Profit.

5. What makes the new wing, the Costes Castiglione, so special?

I’m not sure. I treat this hotel as if it’s my home, and not just the current enlargement, but from the beginning. I always created it as if I were decorating my own home.

hotel bedroom

A suite in the new wing. Image by Alex Profit.

6. Why don’t you give interviews?

To speak about a place is interesting, but to speak about myself is not. It’s just not my thing. It’s not necessary to create media to succeed. You have to be a bit enigmatic. These days, any hotel which opens and changes its bathrooms wants an article about it.

Jean-Louis gave his first international media interview for this article and asked that we do not publish a picture of him.

Find out more: hotelcostes.com

This article was originally published in the Summer 2021 issue.

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Reading time: 4 min
outdoor lounge area
outdoor lounge area

The Garden Room at The Lanesborough hotel, Knightsbridge

The Garden Room at the Lanesborough hotel is one of the world’s most glamorous cocktail destinations. Darius Sanai celebrates the end of London’s lockdown with a glass of fine wine and a cocktail

Have you ever wondered what it must be like to be on the other side of the luxury hospitality industry? We love the service at the world’s great hotels and restaurants, from Lombok to London. But to be in the hospitality industry, to be serving demanding, wealthy, privileged, and often entitled customers literally 24/7?

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There are LUX readers who will know the answer, perhaps because they own a hotel or group of restaurants, or trained in the industry before becoming senior executives. From my own conversations (and my limited experience of working in the industry at a very low pay grade when I was younger) there is one thing that unites any institution with great service, and that is the love of providing great service. All those stories about staff going home and cursing and sticking pins in dolls of their customers? Not really, not in the greatest hotels and restaurants. You have to love what you do, however exhausting.

smart hotel bar

And that’s what I realised I had missed when walking through the doors of the Lanesborough in London last week, my first entry into a luxury hotel since last year, unprecedented in my current life. If you are fortunate enough to be able to stay and visit such establishments – not confined to marble and gold taps luxury, but anywhere at the peak of the hospitality industry – you will have missed being with people who genuinely love and get a thrill out of looking after their guests. This goes as much for the old couple who welcome you in to sit on a table (that’s right) in the mountains of northern Iran and treat you with a banquet of tea, local fruits and Petit Beurre biscuits as it does for a luxury hotel.

But if you are visiting a luxury hotel, there are very few that will give you better service than one of the Oetker Collection, comprising among others the Eden Roc, the Bristol in Paris, and the Lanesborough in London.

Read more: Hermès perfumer Christine Nagel on the emotional power of scent

Stepping into the doors of the Lanesborough, being ushered at a distance down the up-lit marble hallway to the grand stairs leading down towards the Garden Room – the outdoor space that they are now permitted to open – was, after London’s lockdown, a luxury experience in itself.

Even if you wouldn’t dream of smoking a cigar, you would be tempted by the cigar wall on your right downstairs and the subsequent cigar library – with delicious looking cigars dating back for decades – on your left as you enter the Garden Room.

It’s a kind of combination of a bar and a terrace. A short selection of excellent wines served in cut crystal glasses, heavy enough to make a thud when you put them down on your table. (Note to the sommelier: while each of the wines is superb in its own right, you have three Sauvignon Blancs as the first three wines on your list.) A Chablis Lechets Bernard Defaix was an excellent match to our dinner of crispy squid, very nutty homemade hummus, garden salads, and a sea bass with olive and tomato (and truffle fries) that flung us, metaphorically, to the Cote d’Azur in June.

cocktail and cigar

This is a cocktail bar above all else, and a virgin mojito (always a hard drink to make brilliantly, without the balance of the Havana Club) was sweet-sour mint perfection.

And the service: it felt like the staff had been waiting for months of gruelling lockdown just to get back to work – which may or may not be true, but they made us feel it was true, which is the suspension of belief of every luxury experience.

The Garden Room may not be for the stogiephobic – although semi-outside, it has the waft of well-aged Havanas in its DNA – but aside from that it is a London destination, now reopened, with glamour. That’s what we have been missing, and as glamour is almost by definition provided by other people, it’s impossible to recreate at home in a lockdown. The Garden Room has it by the magnum.

Find out more: oetkercollection.com/hotels/the-lanesborough/

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Reading time: 3 min
interior space
interior space by Culture A

Culture A’s hospitality projects include London’s new wellness hotel Inhabit, which will open this summer. Image courtesy of Inhabit Hotels

Anne T. Rogers is the founder of Amsterdam-based art consultancy  Culture A, which curates collections and experiences for a range of clients from hotels to luxury retail and residential. Here, she speaks to Candice Tucker about visual storytelling, AI-generated art and how to curate a collection at home

monochrome portrait

Anne T. Rogers

1. What inspired you to create Culture A?

I’m a trained art historian and experience strategist. After years of working in curating, interior design, and retail design, I saw the opportunity to position art as an experience as well as an investment. I started Culture A to curate and produce art as something that transforms a public space. Art is an important design differentiator, particularly for clients such as hotel owners, property developers, and retail brands. We find the best art suitable for investment, visual storytelling, or pure aesthetics.

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2. Why do you think there’s been such a dramatic rise in experience culture?

It’s an interesting time where we’re focusing on the benefits of community, but not at the risk of the individual. Self-love, self-care, wellness: these are all hot topics right now. I think the rise of experience culture is tied to this. Generally speaking, we like to be a part of something that feels bigger than ourselves, but also have the space to find our own interpretation and act upon that feeling. Experience culture is about encouraging engagement and acting on it. For me, art is visual storytelling, and visual storytelling is a key component to experience design. Looking at art encourages discussion, individual interpretation, and personal connection. How many other consumer goods spark such freedom of expression?

abstract artwork

An artwork by Amsterdam-based artist Camille Rousseau for Inhabit London. Image courtesy of Culture A

3. Where does your curation process begin for a hospitality project?

I adopt the mindset of a guest, dig into the brand story, and ask: how can the art experience enhance the customer journey? For hospitality projects, I approach curating through the lens of experience design versus museum design. It allows me to consider diverse audiences and how to best integrate art into the context of a brand. For example, when curating the art collection for Inhabit, a new London hotel focused on wellness, I really wanted to illuminate the brand’s vision for health and wellbeing. To start, we did a deep dive into research around wellness, urban oasis, colour psychology, and nature in London. We then developed curatorial themes in relation to Inhabit’s ethos and sourced our pieces accordingly.

Read more: Alia Al-Senussi on art as a catalyst for change

4. Could you share any tips on how to curate and frame art in your home?

Build a collection slowly and one that reflects your tastes and interests. Frame it professionally to avoid damage and maintain the investment. Don’t ignore key vantage points in your home. Where does the eye instinctively go when you scan the space? Hang art in those areas and study how each work relates to the other in the context of the space. This could be done thematically, by scale, by colour, or a mix of all three.

artist scarf

An art scarf designed by designer Lisa King. Image courtesy of Culture A

5. What artistic and design trends do you foresee emerging this year?

A growing demand for slow and considered art and design. People will ask themselves, “What do I really need and what do I really enjoy?” It’s a time to re-configure and refresh the spaces already lived in. As for design presentations and sourcing, virtual viewing rooms are certainly on the rise. I recently completed a project that was largely approved because of how successful the artwork looked in our virtual reality demo. Right now, we’re also experimenting a lot with AI-generated art driven by a brand’s heritage and image archive.

6. Which contemporary artists are you currently keeping your eye on?

Landon Metz, Matt Gagnon, Sarah Crowner, Kapwani Kiwanga, Martine Gutierrez, Miya Ando, Loie Hollowell, Douglas Mandry, Tyler Mitchell, Nicolas Party, Anne Hardy, Hugo McCloud, Emily Kiacz, and Wyatt Khan. Also, anyone working with AI technology to generate art and design.

Find out more: culture-a.com

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Reading time: 3 min
interior restaurant
interior restaurant

La Muña restaurant at La Réserve Eden au Lac Zurich.

In the second of our four part luxury travels view column, our editor-in-chief Darius Sanai discovers the elegant alpine charm of La Réserve Eden au Lac Zurich

Have you come across a La Réserve junkie? They are fans of one of Europe’s most distinctive and chichi luxury hotel groups, a kind of micro-version of the original Aman concept. There are La Réserves in Paris, Geneva and Saint-Tropez. The Geneva and St-Trop (in fact, Ramatuelle, on the coast just outside) properties have similarities. They’re both resorts, with delicious swimming pools – Geneva’s is the city’s most bijou pool and spa, as well as an outdoor pool with a country-club feel for the summertime.

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So, I was interested when the owner of the La Réserve group, Michel Reybier, told me that he was opening a La Réserve in Zurich, not a city known for the quality or variety of its luxury hotels. But where would it be? Just outside town, on a greenfield site near the lake, like Geneva? Or a city centre hotel like Paris?

hotel bathroom

The view from one of the hotel bathrooms. Image by G Gardette

The answer is, a bit of both. The La Réserve Eden au Lac is, as its name suggests, set on the shore of Lake Zurich, a ten-minute walk or five-minute taxi ride from the heart of downtown. It is still in the city centre, a conversion of one of the city’s most celebrated properties, Hotel Eden, which had become a little neglected.

Read more: How ethical blue economy investments support ocean conservation

My room, on the second floor, with a small balcony, had an entrancing view across the lake to the Alps beyond. The interior was just delightful. The bed was in the centre of the room, with a writing desk behind, a blend of 20th-century modern and contemporary touches in the design, bare walls, Ibiza-style white drapes and some beautiful Swiss marquetry.

luxury bedroom

The Eden Suite at the hotel

Reybier has made the Geneva and Saint-Tropez properties destinations in themselves due to their dining and bar options. Would Zurich be the same? The Eden Kitchen & Bar is melded into the lobby restaurant and, while many people would enjoy their Cecconi’s-type vibe, I like my hotel bars to feel a little bit more exclusive, more club-like.

Fortunately, Reybier also appointed Philippe Starck to create La Muña on the top floor. With a view across the lake and city on a clear summer day, it’s also a curious and rather wonderful mix of Alpine and ‘yachty’ (the concept is ‘an imaginary yacht club created by Starck’) in an attic-type space in the rafters of the building. It really feels like an Alpine chill-out bar serving fabulous Japanese food, with a hint of South America. Creamy spicy salmon tartar with tobiko, sesame, jalapeño and fried rice was gorgeous, as were the grilled vegan gyoza. La Muña also has a very painstakingly sourced list of Swiss wines, the best of which were superb and hard to find.

Chapeau, Monsieur Reybier, you may just have created your best Réserve yet.

Find out more: lareserve-zurich.com

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

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Reading time: 2 min
dining table
dining table

Woolsery Cottage, a private residence with interiors by Hannah Lohan

Since launching in 2015, Hannah Lohan Interiors has developed a reputation for designing uniquely decorative spaces. The studio’s portfolio includes numerous residential properties, boutique hotels, restaurants and spas with two ambitious hotel-village projects currently in development. Here, we speak to the studio’s founder Hannah Lohan about creating immersive environments, the return of maximalism and collecting vintage furniture

1.Where does your design process typically begin?

Hannah Lohan

It starts with the client – we spend as much time as we can getting to know them and developing a deep understanding of how they want their space to feel to their guests. We get them to list their key adjectives – do they want to create somewhere calming, nurturing and tranquil, perhaps? Or would a buzzy, vibrant and eccentric environment be more appropriate? It sounds basic, but the act of narrowing down to just five words can really focus the design process, as well as being a useful reference to prevent the project veering into another direction.

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The next step is to consider the architecture and locality of the building. We try to draw on the surroundings as much as possible, including local artisans and makers in the design wherever we can. Personal touches and stories from the owners are also so important. The Dunstane Houses in Edinburgh, for example, was a lovely project for us as the owners were keen for us to include references from Orkney, where they grew up. We looked into Orcadian culture and history and came up with a design story for their whisky bar, the Ba’ Bar, based on the Kirkwall Ba’ – the traditional street football game that has been played in Orkney for centuries. We celebrated this with a picture wall full of historical photographs of the games, and even an old Ba’ ball that sits proudly on the shelves. The heritage and history of the building and its owners can play a huge part in shaping the character of the space.

interiors hotel bar

bedroom interior

A bedroom at The Dunstane Houses hotel in Edinburgh, and above,Ba’ Bar, the hotel’s whisky bar

2. How do you utilise theatrical and storytelling techniques?

I think my passion for theatre in design comes from years of running a creative events company, designing immersive environments that transport people to other places. We love designing boutique, independent hotels, because they allow us to incorporate that sort of theatrical detail and employ unique elements that create truly memorable spaces. Good interior design isn’t just beautiful, it tells stories and sends you on imaginative journey as you experience it. That can be achieved by including elements of the unexpected and the playful – from treehouses and luxury safari tents hidden in the grounds, to pop-up bars in old horse boxes or disarmingly offbeat boot rooms.

restaurant interiors

Hook restaurant at The Fish hotel in the Cotswolds

3. Is it more important to have a recognisable aesthetic or to be adaptable?

As designers, it’s our job to be adaptable and to tell our clients’ stories by guiding them through the creative process but I recognise that, as our studio has grown, we’ve become known for a more layered, decorative aesthetic. We wouldn’t be a good fit now for someone wanting a truly minimalist look. I don’t want us to be pigeonholed, and we never, ever take a cookie-cutter approach to our projects, but I am proud of all the work my team and I have put in over the years to research and build a fabulous library of materials, finishes and interesting furniture suppliers and makers, so it would be foolish not to see this as one of our biggest strengths.

pub interiors

The Farmer’s Arms, a Grade II listed pub in Devon, with newly renovated interiors by Hannah Lohan

What makes a design rich and interesting is layer and detail. We have to love what we do and be fully invested in order to create something truly magical. The hardest thing is to get clients to trust you – this is why we work best with creative owners who are willing to push themselves out of their comfort zones and understand that designing a hotel is very different to designing a home.

4. What do you think have been some of the most interesting evolutions in design in recent years?

Hotel design has evolved very quickly in a short space of time. My brother and his wife, James and Tamara, are the founders of boutique travel company Mr & Mrs Smith. When they started 17 years ago, they struggled to find enough hotels with strong enough interior design to fill their first book. Today, it’s completely different; you can really pick a hotel that appeals to your personal taste or go for somewhere that offers something completely different. This has pushed designers and hoteliers to be braver and bolder and makes for a really exciting era in design.

One trend that has been really interesting to be part of is the demand for quirky, outdoorsy places to stay, from cabins and shepherds’ huts to treehouses, like the ones we designed in the grounds of the Fish Hotel in the Cotswold. From the gorgeous Bert’s boxes at The Pig hotels to the luxurious treehouses at Chewton Glen, they’ve proved that you can connect guests to nature without compromising on style or comfort. And as we discover more and more about how important the countryside is for our mental wellbeing, this trend is going to continue to thrive.

luxury treehouse

treehouse bedroom

The treeperches at The Fish hotel in the Cotswolds designed by Hannah Lohan interiors

Provenance is another key trend – guests are engaging with food much more deeply and taking an interest in ingredients and where they come from. This has led to a boom in hotels opening cookery schools (there’s a lovely one at Thyme), and in hotel restaurants opening up their kitchens – first by adding windows, then kitchen theatres, then chef’s tables, and now it’s gone even further, with glass cabinets of butchered meat and wine cellar tours. This has a direct impact on interior design – what was once storage is now display.

The return of maximalism is another trend I find fascinating. Minimalism is such a niche style and shabby chic has evolved in to a more finished and polished look. Amazing designers such as Martin Brudzinski, Kit Kemp, Abigail Ahern and the Soho House design team have shown that maximalism and chintz is all about layering to give a more modern, curated and very glamorous interior. We’re even seeing the trend towards coloured bath suites again – at our project in Devon, we’re bringing back the avocado tub, thanks to the stunning Water Monopoly supplier who we love!

5. Your concepts often combine vintage and modern pieces – is there a design era that you’re particularly drawn to?

I’ve always been attracted to vintage furniture and I love nothing more than finding an old tired chair and giving it a new look with modern fabric and a good French polish. It’s so satisfying to see something old look current again; it just takes a little imagination – maybe contrast piping or a different pattern on the back. We sell a lot of revamped 1950s and 1930s chairs like this through our shop at the Old Cinema in Chiswick. I’m certainly not an antiques expert like lots of my fellow dealers there and I don’t have a preferred era. I buy on instinct, so you’ll find anything from old industrial factory tables to Victorian dressers to French vintage tableware. It’s a constantly evolving collection of lovely finds from our travels and contacts we’ve built up over the years of designing hotels. We love using these pieces in our projects; they add character and it’s a much more sustainable approach.

Hannah Lohan Interiors shop at The Old Cinema in Chiswick, London

6. Does good design last forever?

What is considered ‘good design’ is constantly evolving – but that doesn’t mean you have to do a total refurb every five years. It’s amazing what can be achieved with some simple styling and up-cycling certain pieces of furniture. My favourite design studio, Roman and Williams, headed by Robin Standefer and Stephen Alesch, are such an inspiration to me. They started off their career as set designers for movies and then went on to design amazing hotel interiors, such as the Ace Hotel and the Standard in New York. Their designs are all story-led, as though they were following a film script, which makes them brave in their approach. They don’t follow trends or rules – they love to surprise and disrupt traditional ideas by doing things like painting a Georgian cabinet red, or mixing eras to create a really eclectic, unexpected design. This, to me is good design – having the vision and confidence to adapt what’s there, rather than replace it as trends change.

Find out more: hannahlohaninteriors.com

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Reading time: 7 min
Luxurious hotel bedroom
brutalist building

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

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

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

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

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

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

Luxurious hotel bedroom

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

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

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

library space

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

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

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

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

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

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

architectural sketch

External lift pod

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

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

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

Find out more: orms.co.uk

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Reading time: 4 min
Contemporary kitchen interiors with wine storage cabinet
Contemporary kitchen interiors with wine storage cabinet

Eurocave’s wine storage cabinets can be built into kitchen interiors, such as this cabinet from the Inspiration range

LUX Editor-in-Chief Darius Sanai shares his experiences of storing and spoiling wine, and explains why Eurocave cabinets offer the optimum storage conditions

Wine is a subject that can engage a vast cast of humans in discussion, from friends wondering what to drink on their terrace in St Tropez next summer that won’t give them a headache, to full-on geek discussions about the grape picking dates in the grand cru vineyards of Gevrey-Chambertin in 2017, via speculation on which wines will be the next to jump in price and provide a payoff for speculators.

But storing wine? I can’t remember the last time I spoke to anyone outside the wine trade about that. You buy it, you store it somewhere not too hot until it’s ready, then you drink it. What’s there to discuss?

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Quite a lot, as it happens, as how you store wine is an essential element not just of ownership, but of the point of the stuff, which is how much you enjoy drinking it. There is an old adage that there is no such thing as a great wine, just a great bottle of a wine, and much of the truth in this emanates from the extreme sensitivity of wine – any wine – to how it is stored. Wine is fermented fruit juice, and some of the finest wines contain minimal amounts of (natural) preservative, so rely almost entirely on a natural process to improve in the bottle, and also not to spoil, like any other foodstuff.

The first rule of buying wine – any wine, whether it’s a case of Domaine de la Romanee Conti, or a bottle over dinner – is provenance, which means being as sure as you can that it has been stored correctly to date. A single morning in a hot warehouse, or lying on a wharf in direct sunlight on an August day in the Mediterranean, is enough to ruin a wine, permanently. Sometimes there may be telltale signs, like the cork pushing out through the capsule, or rivers of dried wine, escaped from the bottle when the liquid expanded as it heated. Often, though, there are no signs, which means you need to trust your consignor, or know you are taking a gamble with your money.

Read more: Why responsible travel means authenticity

If provenance is what has happened to a wine until you lay hands on it, storage is what happens to a wine after you buy it. If you happen to live in a country pile with a deep, windowless cellar, or have a professional cellar in your house – congratulations, there’s no need to read on. (But even you have a proper cellar in your main home, you may not have one in every place in which you serve wine.) If not, and you plan on keeping any wine or champagne in your house more than 24 hours, ask yourself if you would store any other perishable foodstuff in a rack by your oven, in a spare room, or in a garage.

Large standalone wine cabinet

Eurocave’s Royale cabinet can store up 122 traditional Bordeaux bottles or up to 50 magnums

My own enlightenment on wine storage came after many years, and many false starts, and thousands of pounds’ worth of spoiled wines, after trying almost every alternative to spending money on the highest quality storage cabinets for wine. Here’s what happened to me and why (actually, I present those two in reverse order for reasons I hope will become evident) – hopefully this will allow you to travel a smoother route to enjoying your wines as they were made to be enjoyed:

1. Heat kills wine.

And so does direct sunlight. Once, I took up a friend’s offer to store my wine collection in his country house basement. What could possibly go wrong in damp, cool England? I was horrified to discover, on paying a social call, that the dark, damp basement I had deposited the wines in during January became a bright, hot basement in July, as its high-level windows caught the summer sun and created a greenhouse effect. The result was a lot of French wine vinegar.

2. Even if it’s dark and never hot, temperature variation kills wine.

After the country house episode, I bit the bullet and bought some wine cabinets. Declining to buy expensive “restaurant” type cabinets, I purchased small, attractive and cheap wine cabinets from a fashionable homeware store. Six months later, every bottle I opened from these cabinets was nasty. Extensive investigation revealed that these cabinets only imposed a temperature ceiling, through cooling – they had no heat facility. They were placed next to a draughty French window at home, which, in winter, when winds came from the east, let in icy air. When the wind changed, the area of the house was the same temperature as the rest of home. A 15 degree variation, often in a single day. More vinegar. (Cold conditions by themselves can also damage wine, as the liquid contracts and the resulting vacuum can suck in oxidising air).

Read more: How Hong Kong’s M+ museum will transform Asia’s art scene

3. Sunlight kills wine.

Extensive laboratory testing has proven that even a few minutes of direct sunlight can irrevocably damage a wine. That few minutes can be the sun shining onto your meticulously installed home shelving for half an hour a day during a certain month, while you’re at work and unaware. This resulted in some very rank champagnes.

Finally, a few years ago, having spent years making significant investments in wine, only to see a fair amount of that destroyed by the above, I made an investment that changed my wine life. I bought the best specification wine cabinets I could find, and since have housed every bottle I own in them. Eurocave make the fridge-sized cabinets you see in restaurants and hotels.

Wine storage cabinet shown in living room

The Eurocave Tête à Tête wine cabinet stores up to 12 bottles

Eurocave cabinets work because:

a) unlike many other species of wine cabinet, they are made to both cool and warm the air inside them, allowing a constant temperature no matter what happens outside (mine are in a garage) – this is enormously important, per point 2 above, and buying a wine cabinet which can’t do this is like buying a chocolate teapot.

b) they are extremely well insulated. This means that the effect of any outside temperature variations, or a power cut, is minimised. A lot of wine cabinets have a metal wall between inside and outside – metal is an excellent thermal conductor, meaning it is a terrible insulator.

c) they have either solid or UV-tinted doors, meaning no spoilage due to light is possible.

Within the range, there is an enormous amount of choice in terms of size, capacity and function – you can have sliding shelves for individual bottles, or fixed shelves for piles of bottles of cases. They aren’t cheap, but nor are the wines I store in them. So until you buy the country pile, or install a full cellar room (Eurocave do those) in your house, buy one. Your wines, and your future self, will thank you.

Find out more: eurocave.co.uk

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Dinner table laid out with champagne bottles and antique plates
Dinner table laid out with champagne bottles and antique plates

Hotel 1729, a one-bedroom hospitality concept designed by Ruinart x Jonathan Anderson

This week, Ruinart opens the doors to a one bedroom luxury hotel concept created in collaboration with fashion designer Jonathan Anderson
Man stands leaning against a pillar with the plaque 1729

Designer Jonathan Anderson outside Ruinart Hotel 1729

Last year, it was designer Tom Hingston and Primrose Hill. This year, Ruinart’s pop-up hotel is the creation of fashion designer Jonathan Anderson inside a Notting Hill townhouse. Named Hotel 1729, guests can check-in for a one-night only experience hosted by the champagne house’s Maître D’, Olivier Livoir.

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The dining experience is the focal point of the evening, designed to cater for up to eight guests in total, who will be taken on a sensory culinary exploration through Ruinart‘s history. Whilst the exact details of Anderson’s concept are kept strictly secretive, his main inspiration comes from a recent visit to the Ruinart Maison, and the 1735 artwork Le Déjeuner d’huîtres (The Oyster Lunch) by Jean-François de Troy which includes the first appearance of a champagne bottle in painting.

Antique painting of a huge chaotic feast in a stately home

‘Le Déjeuner d’huîtres’ (The Oyster Lunch) by Jean-François de Troy (1735), Musée Condé (Chantilly, France)

The menu itself has been specially created to perfectly pair with Ruinart cuvées by Chef Luke Selby, who previously worked as head chef at Ollie Dabbous’ HIDE. All drinks and courses will be served using antique glassware and ceramics from the 17th century, the same era in which Ruinart was established.

Curious? So are we.

Hotel 1729 in Notting Hill, London is open from Thursday 4 July until Sunday 14 July 2019. For more information visit: ruinart.com/en-uk/news/ruinart-hotel-1729

Rates: £1200 for a one night stay for two people including chauffeur transfers in partnership with BMW, dinner, breakfast and a selection of Ruinart Cuvées. Hotel residents can invite up to six guests to share the dining experience at an additional £160 per person.

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hotel bar restaurant with view over New York City
glass hotel facade

The entrance to the Moxy Hotel in Chelsea, NYC

President of Lightstone Mitchell Hochberg has put his stamp on New York with multiple real-estate developments, including luxury residences 130 William Street and 40 East End Avenue. In partnership with Marriott International, Lightstone are also developing lifestyle hotel brand Moxy, which has multiple properties spread across the US, Europe and Asia. LUX speaks to the entrepreneur about succeeding in a saturated market, New York real estate and working with the world’s biggest architects. 

Man stood in front of sculptural wall in a hotel

President of Lightstone Mitchell Hochberg

LUX: Lightstone is one of the largest privately held real estate companies in the US with your focus mainly in New York City. How do you succeed in such a saturated market?
Mitchell Hochberg: We’ve been able to distinguish ourselves by staying true to two common threads – across each of the various real estate segments in which we develop, each of our projects is entirely unique and as well, features a strong design aesthetic.

For instance, with our Moxy hotels, we saw an opportunity to be the first to develop an affordable micro-room, macro-amenity lifestyle hotel in New York, defining a new category of hotels amidst a sea of luxury lifestyle and lacklustre select service properties.

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In each of our projects, we strategically partner with architects and designers who have a strong design aesthetic, allowing us to create buildings that are provocative but contextual with interiors that are functional yet memorable. With our first two Moxy Hotels, for example, we worked with Rockwell Group to design the restaurants, bars, and clubs and Yabu Pushelberg for the rooms – both known for their luxury projects and unconventional choices for an affordable product, but key to creating the well-designed environments that make our properties special.

In the condominium space, we’ve partnered with two leading architects to design 130 William and 40 East End Avenue. At 130 William, we worked with world-renowned architect David Adjaye to create a 66-story building that pushes against the conventions of tall glass towers with a hand-cast concrete façade that will surely redefine the New York City skyline. At 40 East End, we worked with Deborah Berke, Dean of the Yale School of Architecture, to create a boutique condominium that represents a modern interpretation of local historic architecture.

LUX: Do you have a favourite residential area in New York?
Mitchell Hochberg: There’s an enclave on the Upper East Side of New York abutting Carl Schurz Park and Gracie Mansion (the Mayor’s residence) called East End Avenue. It’s a beautiful, bucolic neighbourhood that is fully immersed in the natural surroundings of the East River and the park, with nothing commercial in sight. In this setting, you have the advantage of both being in Manhattan and simultaneously not really feeling like you’re there – a result of the harmonious combination of the waterfront, the park, and the low density residential buildings. It’s the neighbourhood where we’re currently developing 40 East End Avenue, a boutique condominium, and it’s actually the one that I live in.

Read more:  Life on the thrillionaire trail by Geoffrey Kent

LUX: You’re currently working with Marriott International to develop their new lifestyle hotel brand Moxy. How did that come about?
Mitchell Hochberg: After spending many years investing in and studying the hospitality market, we saw an opportunity to develop a new type of lifestyle hotel that could offer efficient rooms at an affordable rate without sacrificing design. In the U.S., everything is bigger – the cars, the TVs – and indeed the hotel rooms. So at the time, nobody was doing this. The Moxy brand incubated in Europe, where travellers have long been accustomed to smaller room sizes, and we felt it had the potential to align perfectly with our vision. So as our ideas evolved, we decided to approach Marriott about forming a partnership to bring the Moxy brand to the United States. We have a longstanding relationship with Marriott, and as the most highly regarded international hotel brand with over 110 million loyalty members, we knew that they would prove to be a huge asset to our developments. Together, we reimagined Moxy for the New York market.

building overlooking a bridge

130 William Street’s view over the East River, NYC

LUX: How does your approach to developing for hospitality differ from other projects?
Mitchell Hochberg: The short answer is it doesn’t. What we’ve learned from our hospitality projects is that our guests don’t want to stay in their rooms – they crave social connections and memorable experiences. So our design has to accommodate that, with lobbies, bars, and restaurants that appeal equally to locals and integrate into the fabric of the community. Our residential projects – from rentals to luxury condominiums – all take this philosophy into account. We dedicate immense amounts of space in each of our projects to amenities – from the 20,000 square foot courtyard complete with a year-round greenhouse at ARC, a rental property in Long Island City, to the IMAX Private Theatre at 130 William (one of the first in New York City), we design spaces that our residents want to spend time in. Similarly to our Moxy hotels, we also consistently activate our residential properties with innovative programming, from wine tastings to yoga classes, allowing our residents to interact and get to know each other. That’s where the magic really happens.

Read more: Maryam Eisler’s Icelandic photography series

LUX: What’s been the most challenging project for Lightstone so far and why?
Mitchell Hochberg: It would have to be Moxy Times Square. From a pure design standpoint, the project had just about every challenge you could think of. The building was an adaptive reuse of a 110-year old office – not exactly an easy canvas for the flexible, vibrant, and memorable spaces you see today. Working within the confines of an existing building is always challenging, but in this particular instance the building was also landmarked, meaning we had to preserve the façade and all of the windows as well. The sheer scale of the project also brought its own complexities – the hotel is 612 keys in total with over 22,000 square feet of lobbies, bars, restaurants, and meeting spaces, including the largest indoor/outdoor rooftop bar in New York City.

Despite all this, I think the biggest challenge was bringing something entirely new to the New York City hotel market. We had to prove ourselves to guests who had never seen anything like this before, and convince them to buy into our “deal”: in exchange for an affordable rate, we could provide a room that’s efficient but stylish, along with public spaces that are engaging and well designed.

Hotel lounge and bar

Moxy’s luxurious lounge bar at Times Square, NYC

LUX: What are your future predictions for the real estate market in NYC?
Mitchell Hochberg: The real estate market in New York over the long term is always going to be strong. There will obviously be hills and valleys based upon macro issues, but you have to keep in mind that New York City is an island and there’s only so much space. People will always want to live here, work here, and visit here, and as a result it will always be a strong market.

LUX: Will Lightstone ever expand overseas?
Mitchell Hochberg: We’re currently discussing investments and development overseas. I think our first projects will probably be somewhere in the UK where we’re a little more familiar with the language and business customs, but we are always open to new opportunities.

hotel bar restaurant with view over New York City

The botanically inspired Fleur Room at Moxy Chelsea, NYC

LUX: How do you switch off from work-mode?
Mitchell Hochberg: One of my biggest passions is travel – I try to travel as often as possible. I’m naturally very curious, and find that my creativity is often sparked by wandering around and getting lost in cities and fully immersing myself in all aspects of the culture, which is both fascinating and inspiring. While I do switch off when I travel, appreciating architecture and design, as well as learning how different people live, serves as the inspiration for a lot of the development we do. In Italy, for example, which is one of my favourite places to travel, I’m constantly awed by the art, architecture, fashion, and yes, even the food. But above all, I’m struck by the genuine warmth of its people. You’ll see a lot of that reflected in the restaurants and bars and Moxy Chelsea. For example, Feroce, our Italian restaurant, took inspiration from some of my favourite spots around Italy: the Caffé and Pasticceria from the bar culture in Italy, where people visit the same spot for an espresso and cornetto in the morning and an Aperol Spritz in the evening; the outdoor dining garden from my favourite restaurant in Rome, Antica Pesa; and many of the design details from my favourite restaurant in MilanDa Giacomo.

When I want to completely chill out though, there’s nothing better than being on a beautiful beach. One of my favourites is Belmond Maroma in Riviera Maya, Mexico. It is casual and relaxed but with incredible service reflected by the culture of the local team who treat you as if you are in their own home. It is the epitome of barefoot chic!

Find out more: lightstonegroup.com and moxy-hotels.marriott.com

 

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Reading time: 7 min
boat cruise
boat cruise

On board Saffron, Spice Routes’ double-storey houseboat. Image by James Houston

Beyond Kerala’s humid, bustling cities lies a subtropical maze of secret waterways and verdant rice paddies. LUX discovers the singular beauty of the backwaters, aboard a luxury houseboat

We arrived in Fort Cochin, dusty and bleary-eyed from a long train ride down from Mumbai, into the thick humidity of an early Indian summer. Fort Cochin is the prettiest and oldest part of Kochi. It was once occupied by the Dutch and the Portuguese, and the cobbled streets and architecture retain the appearance of old-world Europe. The food is fresh with tropical flavours that differ from the rich, creamy sauces of Northern India. We ate best at the tables beside little huts which sit beneath palm trees along the waterfront, where the fish is caught practically before your eyes and served simply with fried spices and rice.

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Whilst this part of the town used to be busy trade port (there’s plenty to be discovered in various museums), the rhythm of life is now sleepy and tranquil, with tourists drifting between air-conditioned cafes, craft shops and independent art galleries. During our stay, we caught the last few days of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale, stumbling across various installations and exhibitions hidden within courtyards and gardens as we wandered the streets.

Mountains

Views over the rolling hills of Waya