The Biltmore offers glamour and relaxed fine dining in the green heart of Mayfair. LUX checks in

Mayfair, the historic luxury heart of London, is the only place many people will stay when visiting the UK capital. While there is no shortage of hotels, there is a dearth of hotels with anything resembling a view or a sense of space around them. In most cases, even the best rooms have an outlook across the street to another building.

The Grosvenor square suite

This, we realised, would rather presently not be the case with the Biltmore. The hotel occupies most of the south side of Grosvenor Square, the most spacious historic square in the area, an expanse of grass and trees and light. We were whisked up to our accommodation, one of the presidential suites, which itself took up a large portion of the hotels front facade. The view from the two bedrooms, living room and dining room was suffused with green.

The Grosvenor Square view suite

The Biltmore can be best described as contemporary glamorous. Our favourite element was the leather padded person-sized bar cabinet, whose door opened to reveal the line after line of cut crystal glasses standing ready for a monster Negroni session. But it would have been a shame to have too many Negronis (the hotel will happily send a bartender up to make them for you in the suite), before visiting the vibey Pine Bar on the ground floor, whose cool atmospherics lend themselves to lingering over a few signature De La Louisiane cocktails (rye, absinthe, vermouth and Benedictine). Dress contemporary glamorous, or you will look like you are in the wrong place: Etro or Cavalli will do just fine.

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The bar, though, was just a prequel to the highlight. And along the hotels marble floor, Grill 88 is the hotel’s showcase restaurant. At first, you might be deceived as the casual chic decor is not much of a stand out from the other high-end restaurants in the area. But you would be well advised to sit down with a glass of champagne, relax and listen to the explanations of the concept provided by the super knowledgeable staff. This is a restaurant that takes its food and is sourcing very seriously indeed.

Grill 88 at the Biltmore

While there is a variety of dishes on the menu, the specialty here is steak, and our thoughtful, server pointed us in the direction of a tasting menu of steak from different regions: Australia, the US, Japan, the UK and Brazil. After a couple of (excellent) oysters and a superb heritage tomato salad with fruit that was firm and plump, but usually and interestingly flavoursome, a tasting board arrived with ready sliced and seasoned cuts.

Head Chef Luis Campos

The chef appeared to explain how each was sealed and cooked. The quality was superb: sourcing attention to detail clearly runs all the way through the operational process of Grill 88. And there is a broad wine list, as you might expect, but, as you may not expect, there is plenty of unusual and reasonably priced wine that matches the food very well – Puglia was well represented.

The Pine Bar at the Biltmore

In the morning, breakfast was served in our suite at exactly the requested hour, and laid out beautifully at the dining table off the living room. The ingredients in the Arabic breakfast were not quite as meticulously sorest as those in the Grill for dinner, however: the tomatoes adid not quite match that level of quality.

Altogether, an experience that combines relaxation and glamour with a perfect location, and one of the most interesting menus in Mayfair.

Find out more: thebiltmorehotels.com

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big tall building skyline

Has Rosewood’s Sonia Cheng created the best city hotel in the world, with the Rosewood Hong Kong? Darius Sanai revisits, five years after the grand opening

rooftop pool with view

The Asaya Kitchen. The Rosewood is built along the water’s edge in Tsim Sha Tsui, facing the towers of Central Hong Kong.

Standout new hotels in cities are hard to create. If you are building a resort on a tropical island, as long as you have the right hardware – pools, beaches, spa, restaurants and bars, leisure facilities and access – and the right people to operate and sell it, then the right crowd should start flowing in.

The world’s great cities are different. They tend to have existing hotels which are part of the social fabric and history of the city – think of the Pierre or the Carlyle in New York, Claridge’s or the Ritz in London, the Plaza Athenee or Bristol in Paris. Newcomers can’t just win by offering the right suites and chefs. They have to establish their own legend among the locals. And they are hypersensitive to location. Claridge’s wouldn’t be what it is if it had been built 200m north across Oxford Street.

In this context, Hong Kong’s Rosewood had a battle on its hands when it opened in the spring of 2019. It was a new building, part of a broader complex created by one of the city’s big families, the Chengs, on the “wrong” side of the water, in Kowloon. There was no history or legend: despite being from Hong Kong and operating hotels around the world, Rosewood’s owners had never had a Rosewood Hong Kong, One of the city’s landmark properties, the Peninsula, was just down the road.

hotel bedroom with view

A Manor Suite. There is an intellectually-driven curation of design detail throughout the rooms

Just weeks after the lavish launch party, which I attended, Hong Kong was thrown into social unrest as political protestors barricaded streets, burned buses and fought running battles with police in full body armour firing tear gas. No hotel was immune to having its guests risk walking into a teargas barrage. Then came the pandemic, with Hong Kong suffering among the most severe lockdown restrictions in the world; at times any visitor from the rest of the world had to self-quarantine, at their own cost, for weeks on arrival.

Now, nearly five years later, I have been back to the Rosewood Hong Kong for the first time since its launch party. I expected a fine luxury hotel in the mould of other new-ish city hotels, still finding its feet, perhaps. After a four day stay, I am increasingly convinced I found something that changes the game.

room with view

LUX checked into a Harbour Corner Suite. We were dreamily distracted by the coffee table book selection, the view, and just out of picture, the drinks trolley, and telescope.

Rosewood’s dramatic tower sits linked to the equally new K11 MUSEA complex on the Victoria Dockside in Hong Kong. The hotel’s designers have made a virtue of its waterfront location across the water facing Hong Kong Island: I tried three rooms, each with an unbelievable view across the water, through floor-to-ceiling windows, of the city’s skyline and the Peak mountain rising up behind. By night, it is a Supernova-style light show. By day, you are distracted by pleasure boats and other traffic floating back and forth along the water.

Design is a difficult element at a time when the wealthy are going through a generational change: do you create interiors aimed at the older or the emerging generation? Rosewood has succeeded in doing both, primarily through the sheer thoughtfulness and quality of the materials, designs and public areas. If it were a luxury brand, this hotel would be Hermes: traditional yet playful, compromising nothing on cost or quality, with a clearly executed and thoughtful vision.

butterfly cafe

The Butterfly room, featuring Damien Hirst’s Zodiac series.

Lift lobbies are created as drawing rooms, with beautiful furniture and cabinets containing everything from Chinese vases and models of 1970s cars to the best curated selection of coffee table fashion and design books I have seen anywhere. In the bedrooms, it’s all about the quality of detail. My coffee machine and waste baskets were nestled in cool contemporary leather pouches. The bath had a wooden book and magazine holder on one side .

The glass bottles of Votary shampoo, shower gel and conditioner were encased in their own glass cabinet, swathed in light wood, within the two-person, walk through marble showers. The extending reading light had its stem swathed in stitched leather. The drinks trolley, with its curved metals, contained a beautifully presented nest of hyper-artisanal bottles of spirits and liqueurs and a couple of good cocktail books.

marble bathroom

From the door fixtures to the lacquering, from the choice of marbles to the design threads of the bathrobes and staff uniforms, everything at the Rosewood is a level above your average luxury hotel.

The look is not fussy or traditional. It’s firmly up to the minute, yet unites a Gen Z fashion leader and a Boomer conglomerate owner. The creativity of the design combines hints of art-deco, sprinkles of 20th-century modern, and a very up to the minute aesthetic which somehow takes in classicism. Solid woods, brass, and other metals are everywhere. Things that should ring hollow, literally, make a “thunk”. Yet there is no brashness, not a hint of bling.

Outside the rooms and lift lobbies, I spent quite some time in the Manor Club, a 40th-floor refuge containing a dining room, bar, snooker room and drawing room. Again, everything was about the detail. Lighting was exquisite, and slightly different for each area – I liked the darkness of the two-seat table by the floor-to-ceiling window in the bar area. The cocktail list combines the confidence of a family that owns one of the world’s bar legends, Bemelmans at the Carlyle in New York, with a next-gen curiosity and edge. Even the wines by the glass are perfectly curated – I remembered that Sonia Cheng’s husband is, independently, the most respected importer of fine wines in Hong Kong, and although I he doesn’t input directly on the lists, this is a place that is obsessive about details.

pool with skyline view

The Asaya Spa has indoor and outdoor wellness facilities, giving an island resort feel

Meanwhile down on the 6th floor the spa is another feast of organic, artisanal design detail, with a room devoted entirely to which herbs, extracts and smells should accompany your treatment and an outdoor terrace with a view. The outdoor pool (closed for annual maintenance when I visited) is open year-round and a destination in itself with its dramatic views.

None of this would work without service and local engagement – nobody wants to stay at a tourist hotel – and the Rosewood has both, and how. Staying in a suite, I was assigned a team of butlers, nattily dressed in the group’s trademark grey and black check. Butlers can sometimes be a mixed blessing in hotels. Unlike your own personal Jeeves, tomorrow’s butler may have no recollections of your conversations with today’s, meaning for sometimes tiresome repeat conversations. These ones had nailed it with their handovers: it’s as if butlers on different shifts had the same brain but different faces. They were charming, too, not service robots: chic young locals. I had a lively conversation about my sneakers with one, a big Off-White fan.

aroma therapy spa

Working out exactly which potions and lotions you wish to avail yourself of before your treatment is a relaxing experience in itself

You could, frankly, just spend your F&B time in the Manor Club, so special is its design, vibe and service, but the Rosewood has numerous other restaurants to try, and is umbilically linked to K11 MUSEA, the art, culture, retail, gastronomy and craft showcase created next door by Sonia’s brother Adrian Cheng – this is a creative family, creating stuff at a level not seen anywhere else.

One of the Rosewood bars is called The Dark Side, a self-ironic reference to what those on Hong Kong Island call the Kowloon side of the water where the Rosewood sits. There is a private members’ club on the 53th floor, Carlyle & Co, teeming with locals; apparently the hotel as a whole is a favourite for wealthy Hong Kongers on staycations.

dark bar

The Rosewood has the confidence to be self-referentially ironic. The Dark Side bar is a humorous reference to what locals in central Hong Kong across the water call this side of the Harbour

And what about that location? The area has become a destination in itself, with K11 MUSEA and notably the new M+, Asia’s best contemporary art museum, along the road. If you need to get to Central Hong Kong for meetings or visits, it can take 10 minutes with no traffic, or more on a bad day. There is also direct access, via K11 MUSEA, to TST MTR (subway) station from which it is one stop to Admiralty station in the heart of Hong Kong Island. Or you can take the Star Ferry across the bay.

The ambition of Rosewood Hong Kong is immense, and it has been executed with a combination of mathematical thoroughness – Sonia Cheng is a mathematics graduate from Harvard – exquisite taste in design and materials, deep knowledge of how hotellerie should work, and an innate awareness of how to create timelessness, which always starts with quality. I can’t think of a better newly built city hotel anywhere in the world. Rosewood, originally an American hotel company, is Asia’s luxury brand now. Maybe we can expect some handbags and silk scarves next.

rosewood.com

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Reading time: 8 min
bedroom with view of safari

LUX recommends our top hotels to check into this year. Compiled by Olivia Cavigioli

Glenmorangie House, Ross, Scotland
For a retreat into the Scottish Highlands, whisky distiller’s Glenmorangie House is the place to go. The brand just recently celebrated 180 years of craftsmanship, their single malt distilled and encompassed by the idyll of the Highlands, ‘Glenmorangie’ translating to ‘Valley of Tranquility’ in Gaelic.

Situated along the coastline on the Easter Ross Peninsula, the house is a a stone’s throw away from the distillery so guests are immersed in the whisky making process and the land from which it is crafted. Designer Russel Sage brought the brand’s protected Tarlogie Springs to the Tasting Room, and the barley fields to the guilded Morning Room, curating the hotel with the Glenmorangie story in mind.

The brand hosts an exclusive weekend, ‘A Tale of Tokyo Experience’, in collaboration with drink connoisseurs Joel Harrison and Neil Ridley, where guests can experience the mythologies of two whiskey making cultures. Celebrating Glenmorangie’s new whiskey, marrying Japanese processes and flavours with the classic Highland drink, the weekend offers a cocktail masterclass and Kintsugi cup-making, a touring of the distillery, and unique dining experiences by design of Head Chef John Wilson, as guests will partake in both a Scottish Highland diner and A Tale of Tokyo inspired tasting menu.

22nd-24th March 2024, at £950 per room for a two-night stay in a Standard Room or Cottage.

colourful living room

Find out more: glenmorangie.com

 

The Lana, Dubai – Dorchester Collection

rooftop pool with view of dubai

The Lana Dubai Rooftop

For a culinary whirlwind, Dorchester Collection’s first Middle East location, The Lana Dubai, is one to watch. Set to open in February 2024, the hotel is something of a gastronomical meeting of the minds in the countless dining experiences. Celebrated chefs Martín Berasategui, Jean Imbert and Angelo Musa create four distinct concepts out of the eight restaurants The Lana hosts. Accoladed with twelve Michelin stars, Martín Berasategui develops Jara, a love letter to Basque cuisine and the first of its kind in Dubai.

For modern Mediterranean cooking and cocktails, guests can flock to Riviera by Jean Imbert, who has also created High Society, an after hours lounge located on the rooftop of the hotel. Angelo Musa’s Bonbon Café will bring French patisserie with his own avant-garde approach to The Lana.

Designed by Foster + Partners, the hotel is bound in bright vistas, positioned along the Dubai Canal, a vantage point from which guests can revel in the city’s famed sunsets. The Lana’s spa, and 225 rooms and suites, with interiors designed by Gilles & Boissier, brings together the contemporary and traditional, in Dubai’s trademark style.

The Hotel is now open as of February 1st, now taking bookings. Rates start from £735 per night.

hotel resort in Dubai

Find out more: dorchestercollection.com/dubai/the-lana

 

ROAR Africa’s ‘Greatest Safari on Earth’

beautiful landscape

ROAR Africa’s ‘Greatest Safari on Earth’, is  a pilgrimage through some of Africa’s most iconic destinations, as ten guests can become intrepid travellers over twelve days, going from Zimbabwe’s Victoria Falls to the Okavango Delta in Botswana, to Kenya’s Great Migration and ending ceremoniously in Rwanda.

The African odyssey will bring guests to the most splendent views amidst natural phenomenons, such as Victoria Falls, one of the seven natural wonders of the world, upriver from which guests will reside at the Matetsi, where they can immerse themselves in 55,000 hectares of protected wilderness.

Along the Okavango Delta in Botswana, guests will have the  opportunity to see Africa’s ‘Big Five’; lion, leopard, elephant, rhino and buffalo. Guests will stay at the Xigera property, described as a ‘living gallery’, showcasing design inspired by the Delta, and works by the continent’s most celebrated creatives. After a few days in the Mara North Conservancy in Kenya, where guests will have experienced the breadth of wildlife from walking safaris to a hot air ballon ride along the Mara river, the trip ends with guests coming into intimate contact with the world’s last wild mountain gorillas at Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park.

Two trips will be taking flight in 2024 aboard the ‘beyond first class’ Emirates A319 Executive Private Jet, with carbon credits matched to emissions.

August 10-22 2024 and August 25 – September 6 2024 are the two trip dates. Limited to 10 guests each and $148,000 per person.

bedroom with view of safari

Find out more: roarafrica.com/emirates-gsoe

 

Suvretta House, St. Moritz

snowy landscape with hotel

The Suvreta Hotel

Nestled in the valley of the Upper Engadine, St. Moritz, Suvretta House offers storybook winter-scapes and a plethora of Alpine activities to its guests. The resort sits in a natural park two kilometres west of St. Moritz, untarnished by the bustle of winter tourism, promising luxurious refuge in the snowcapped Engadine, with a private ski lift providing direct access to the slopes for guests who wish to embrace the winter sport season.

Bathed in the history and culture of the region, guests can expect elaborate horse-drawn sleighs reminiscent of Schlitteda custom, where young couples would go on rides together. Other attractions include opera and culinary festivals, horse races on the frozen St. Moritz lake, and overwhelming views to accompany a Savoyard lunch from the Suvretta House mountain restaurant ‘Trutz’.

You’d however be remiss to not take advantage of the 350km of ski runs available to guests, along with 220 km of cross country skiing trails, through sunlit valley floors or the illuminated night courses. The resort has even adopted curling, with its own unique Curling Guest Club and natural ice-curling field. Guests can also follow in the footsteps of former world champions who have skated on the Suvretta House ice rink, returning to the elegance and respite of the Alpine castle.

Winter season runs from 8th December 2023 to 1st April 2024. Rooms start at CHF 630. 

hotel living space

Find out more: suvrettahouse.ch

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A man sitting on a blue couch with yellow cushions
A man sitting on a blue couch with yellow cushions

Francis Sultana in his apartment in Albany

World renowned interior designer Francis Sultana has been taking the world by a storm through his residential, hospitality and commercial projects. Here, he speaks to Samantha Welsh about how he went from designing his mother’s home in Malta to leading the design team at the Hotel Palma in Capri

LUX: What was your route into the design industry?
Francis Sultana: I come from a very small island off Malta called Gozo. Growing up in the 80s meant there was little access to the world of design and so I had to read magazines like House & Garden, and World of Interiors. I was lucky my mother was hugely supportive and so she let me start decorating her house, which in fact appeared on the front cover of World of Interiors – so I must have been doing something right!

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When I was 19 I moved to London. I had read about David Gill and how he was establishing a gallery offering collectible contemporary design and art which was functional as well as beautiful. Many artists from the turn of the century had created collectible furniture as part of their work, but David really began to champion artists such as Jean-Michel Frank, Garouste and Bonetti and Donald Judd and so I began to learn from him. I also spent a lot of my time at the Victoria & Albert museum where I taught myself all about the history of design and furniture. It is why the V&A is still so dear to me now and why I sit on the museum’s Advisory Council, and why supporting museums like the Design Museum, the Serpentine Galleries and now MICAS in Malta is so very important to me.

A room with a large colourful painting behind a striped blue couch with touches of gold around the room

In Francis Sultana’s palazzo in Valletta

LUX: Where have you most enjoyed living?
FS: I love London and I really owe my success to this city. However, my heart is still Maltese and several years ago I bought a palazzo in Valletta (the capital of Malta) and have lovingly restored it back to magnificence. I love interiors and I love travelling, so tying myself down to one place or location is very hard to do! I recently became custodian of King Henry’s Hunting Lodge, a National Trust property in rural England, that was once home to two legendary interior designers, John Fowler and then later, Nicky Haslam. I cannot wait to spend time relaxing, drawing, designing away from the hubbub of London.

LUX: What is your typical working day?
FS: I get up around 5:45am everyday and check my US and also my Middle Eastern/Asian emails and then go and do my work out – as one passes a certain age this becomes a necessary daily chore sadly, but I have a fabulous trainer Jack Hanrahan who keeps me on my toes. I get to the office and have a black coffee and Eloise, my EA, goes through my diary for the day, before my daily meeting with my teams. I then go downstairs to David Gill Gallery, of which I am also CEO, and check in with the team there as we will be planning new exhibitions. I usually have lunch meeting with artists or clients and am then often dealing with the architects and designers who are working on our projects that are based all over the world – so when one time zone ends, another wakes up, so it’s pretty relentless. However, luckily I do a job that I adore and get to work with amazing clients and artists who make all the hard work so worthwhile.

A blue bench in front of a beige stone exterior entrance

Part of the Chatterley Collection by Francis Sultana

LUX: You offer innovative solutions for large scale art installations, yet are renowned for the focus you bring to bespoke design and aesthetics. How do you take a brief and adopt your clients’ requirements?
FS: I am an editor, I am very lucky that my clients usually have a very advanced sense of aesthetics and often have collected their own works over many years. I also know many of my clients quite well, so I understand what they need to accommodate in their homes – from their family life, to socialising and entertaining, to their comfort and wellness. My clients all have very big personalities and so I design around them, to complement them and their lives. I bring an understanding of how to work with contemporary art and design for sure but I also love introducing clients to artisans and traditional skills and materials that really make their homes something very unique and elegant and not like anything they will see elsewhere. The word bespoke is rather overused these days but for me, each house or hotel is a special journey and I never create a one size fits all approach, I create homes and spaces that defy time, that will remain relevant. I do not do fleeting trends.

LUX: How can design also contribute to conserving heritage?
FS: One shouldn’t be scared of period houses but one should also honour the history of a house. I have worked on quite a few historic houses – my first commission was for a piece of furniture for Spencer House in London. My own apartment in Albany which was built by Sir William Chambers required meticulous attention to detail to get the correct colours and plaster work, recreating rooms, whilst not suspending them in aspic. It is important to make a property your home, to suit your needs but the history of it should always be sitting beside you. My work on Poston Court, an estate in Herefordshire (and another Chambers construction) was similar. We respected the past and paid huge attention to the details of the building but we also made sure it was a house fit for purpose for the 21st century. The Hunting Lodge is no different. We are taking huge pains to respect the house’s unique history with the work of both John Fowler and Nicky Haslam, but I am also making it a lasting home for me.

A dining room with a round table and green and wooden chairs with a purple patterned carpet

At Poston Court

LUX: In the Summer of 2023 you launched your first hotel project, for the Oetker, at ‘La Palma’, Capri; what was the appeal for you about this mandate, and how did your concept exceed expectations?
FS: I travel a lot. So I suppose I am my own perfect client – I know what works in hotels and what doesn’t – I also think a hotel must always reflect its location – what I would design for Capri would never be the same for London or Rome or Paris. Capri is about escape, about calm and peace and about going back to nature and this is what I did at La Palma. I created a beautiful home away from home, I looked at the hotel’s iconic history but also made it work for a new luxury traveller. The reviews have been amazing and I am thrilled that this project exceeded all expectations and will introduce the hotel to a new audience without alienating those who already love staying there.

LUX: Your passion for Italy is evident, where especially do you draw inspiration?
FS: Capri for me is inspirational which is why I created an entire collection of furniture and lighting entitled Capri – based on a white colour palette (with a touch of Verdigris) with materials like white plaster, white bronze and marble. It’s a big move for me to do an all white collection but people seem to love it. Earlier this year I collaborated with Italian brand Bonacina – who I have worked with for years. It is a large indoor/outdoor collection that we launched in Milan and really is all about summer living and La Dolce Vita which the Italians do so well. I also did a plate design for Ginori 1735 for David Gill Gallery which is rather pretty. I just love Italy and Italy seems to love me back, which is nice!

A white lounge with white furniture and two green chairs and some trees

Hotel La Palma in Capri

LUX: Outside Europe, where would you say there is a tradition and appreciation for design, be it architecture, furniture, craft?
FS: Funnily enough I recently started several projects in the Middle East and I find that my clients there are incredibly knowledgeable on design matters – if you don’t care about good design then I am probably not the best designer for you as it’s really at the core of what I do! But luckily it seems that across architecture and furniture as well as crafts and artisanal skills, this is something that a growing coterie of clients across the region are really focusing on right now. It’s not about new new new, it’s about finding something more lasting.

LUX: Do the destinations for multiple home-owners such as Monte Carlo, St Moritz, Middle East and the US influence how design ideas mutate?
FS: Of course – groups of friends tend to know each other and go to the same hotels, restaurants etc and so there are styles that move from one country to the next for sure – however I feel with most of my clients with multiple homes, whilst they like some elements to remain consistent like quality of bathrooms and bedrooms, they really like to have a sense of place in each of the homes – there is no point creating the same look in New York as in St Moritz – the climate wouldn’t suit and the past times are completely different after all.

A colourful blue, green, brown and yellow room with a mirror over a fireplace

Francis Sultana’s drawing room in Albany

LUX: In 2018, you were appointed Ambassador of Culture for Malta; what is your cross-cultural vision for MICAS, Malta’s new museum space opening in 2024?
FS: When I was growing up I didn’t have anything in Malta to help educate me – I had to go to Paris and to London to learn. For MICAS we are really focused on creating an international space for art and design that will be for the Maltese people, not only in terms of the level of global exhibitions that can be hosted in a space that can truly accommodate large pieces of work, but also providing educational platforms for the young Maltese to learn and be inspired so they don’t have to leave their home country to achieve a career in the arts.

Read more: Winch Design’s Aino Grapin On Sustainable Yachting

LUX: How do you feel London will hold its own against the fast-evolving Paris art ecosystem?
FS: London is London and Paris is Paris. They are two very different places which both have their roles. London has always been about business. Paris has always been about desire. I think the cultural heart of London is still very much here and people love London and living here, so whilst Brexit caused shockwaves that still have consequences for us all, London will always have its place at the heart of many deals.

Find out more: francissultana.com

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Reading time: 9 min
A silver piano in a bar with black and gold interiors
A long sitting room with black and gold pillars and couches with tables

The Dorchester London’s iconic Promenade’s revamp

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

Christopher Cowdray

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

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

A silver piano in a bar with black and gold interiors

The Liberace piano in the Promenade

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

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

A courtyard with leaves over the windows and red umbrellas

La Cour Jardin at Hotel Plaza Athénée

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

Skyscrapers in Dubai

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

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

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

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

Coworth Park in Ascot

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

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

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

Hotel Eden’s Il Giardino Ristorante in Rome

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

A table with a view of the Eiffel Tower

The Eiffel’s Suite signature dinner at Hotel Plaza Athénée

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

A gold bar with barstools around it in a semicricle

The Dorchester London’s new Artists Bar

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

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

A bar with blue and green chairs

The Dorchester London’s Vesper Bar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A balcony with red and wooden chairs overlooking London

The Penthouse terrace at 45 Park Lane

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

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

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

Find out more more: www.dorchestercollection.com

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Reading time: 12 min
A hotel lounge with leaves hanging from the ceiling and plants on the floor
A hotel lounge with leaves hanging from the ceiling and plants on the floor

The Whiteley Members Club

A man sitting on a chair wearing a navy suit

Neil Jacobs, CEO at Six Senses

Neil Jacobs is CEO of the iconic hotel and residencies group, Six Senses. Here, he speaks to Samantha Welsh about the brand’s wellness model

LUX: How far are your wellness beliefs rooted in your personal values and lived experience?
Neil Jacobs: It started after studying Hotel Management at the University of Westminster, French Civilization at La Sorbonne University and Italian culture and art in Florence, knowing I wanted to travel and use the languages I’d learnt; I figured the hotel business was a great way of incorporating it all.

My personal passion and love for wellness, sustainability, and travel then played a part in my next steps to joining Six Senses and, naturally, my aim has been to elevate the brand in terms of responsible design, green initiatives and wellness programming. By broadening the company’s global footprint, we’ve been able to create these wonderful spaces and opportunities for people to live and create their own experiences with these things, in a plethora of environments.

Having the opportunity to apply my skills and experience to this unique brand, whilst leading a group of dedicated and likeminded professionals on a daily basis, is a personal joy.

An infinity pool with a view of the sea and a terrace with a table and chairs

Six Senses Kaplankaya, Turkey

LUX: What is the approach to embedding sustainable values from ground up through every resort? How do you measure their impact?
NJ: Sustainability is embedded into the very fabric of every resort, something we can only achieve if it is the first thing we think about when we approach a new project.

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Our eco-conscious approach to real estate starts with thinking about how we preserve, celebrate and enhance the local and global environment, as well as the local community and cultural heritage of the location. Naturally, this means taking a bespoke approach to each resort. We make smart use of our land topography and use renewable building materials, and use local materials wherever possible to reduce our environmental impact.

A wooden staircase in a minimalist designed hallway

The Forestias in Bangkok

We undertake rigorous analysis to ensure we can successfully and accurately measure the impact of each project and continue to learn for future projects. For example, in 2020, the renewable electricity that was generated across our resorts reached an amount powerful enough to power fifteen world cup football pitches.

To us, sustainability doesn’t just mean our buildings are sustainable, it’s also about encouraging residents and guests to live sustainably long term. Many of our resorts and residences now feature Earth Labs, where otherwise discarded materials are recycled and reused. Guests and residents can join workshops and sessions to learn how to reduce their own consumption and re-use materials, the aim of which is to instil long-lasting sustainable mindsets.

A jacuzzi looking over a forest

The Forestias is made up of 27 residences, set in a purpose-grown forest in Bangna, Bangkok

Over the coming years, as we learn more and more from our existing projects, sustainability will continue to show up more meaningfully through in-resort environmental impact reduction, including passive cooling of the properties, electric transport options for guests and the use of biodegradable cleaning products.

Across our resorts, we are already working hard towards being fully plastic free. Resorts have never used plastic bottles or miniature plastic amenities, and plastic straws were eliminated before 2016. For example, in 2018 alone, more than 5 million plastic items were eliminated, including over 1,200,000 coffee capsules, over 52,000 plastic bags, over 26,400 toothbrushes and over 460,000 bits of packaging.

LUX: How does your vision for the Residences’ portfolio translate into screening macro market opportunities and micro-locations, masterplanning site assembly, partnerships, local collaborations?
NJ: Because the approach to each project is so individual, we make decisions on a case-by-case basis as to whether we incorporate residences into new resorts, as buyer motivations can differ greatly to those that drive people to stay in resorts as guests.

A swimming pool overlooking Dubai city

The Penthouse pool at the Six Senses Residences, The Palm, Dubai

We aren’t afraid of delivering resorts in remote locations, but sometimes this isn’t the right fit for residences, and vice versa in other locations. Thanks to our teams and their knowledge and understanding of the local market and global appetite, we can make fully informed plans and decisions on what we build and where we build it.

It’s key that the project and location is innately right for us, and an important initial step is getting onto the land to make sure it is speaking to us, and we can feel the connection. We like to conduct meditations or rituals, and in the past have bought in a sacred geometer to analyse the energy of the land.

A lounge with blue chairs, a checked black and white floor and a large light chandelier

The Whiteley Six Senses Hotel is opening in London in 2023

Once we’ve made these decisions, we begin conversations with potential development partners. With such strong company values, we’re highly selective with who we choose to work with and always ensure our partners share our vision and values.

For example, we are working alongside Finchatton for the first UK Six Senses Residences at The Whiteley. This was a significant milestone for us; to expand into one of the world’s most iconic gateway cities, and we wanted to wait for the perfect opportunity and partner. Finchatton’s hallmark quality matches our own, and the opportunity to collaborate and transform a significant architectural landmark was too good to miss.

LUX: Where did your idea come from, to bring nature, wellness and healing to the global metropolis?
NJ: If you look at the history of people who come to our resorts, it would typically be for a short getaway – a couple of weeks maximum. They’d immerse themselves in the wellness programming, enjoying the facilities we have on offer, resetting in our beautiful and remote locations but then quickly return to their fast-paced lives back in their home cities.

We wanted to find a way to connect the dots, and create these retreat-like spaces, offering relaxation and reconnection, in a location that is much more accessible for everyone: the awareness that often the global elite, while they have the means, don’t always have the time. This is where the migration into urban locations began for us.

houses on a resort by the sea

Each residence at The Forestias comes with a private pool, rejuvenating onsen and organic gardens where seasonal fruits and vegetables can be grown

When we are considering bringing a residential component to our urban locations, it is almost a no-brainer. Alongside our exotic, rural and alpine locations, we want to be in gateway cities, located in the prime neighbourhoods of the best urban communities in the world. The market for this type of home for the ultra-high-net-worth is very strong, which meant there was also a clear and compelling business decision to grow our portfolio here.

LUX: What is the membership model? How is it differentiated from other hospitality Groups’ super prime residences?
NJ: We offer a unique experience to our residence owners; combining the luxury and sought-after amenities of resort life, but with the privacy and personal touches of owning your own space. Owners benefit from exclusive resident savings, as well as VIP status recognised across all Six Senses hotels and resorts around the world.

At Six Senses, we pride ourselves on offering a best-in-class service, and our level of care and attention to detail is what sets us apart from other luxury developments. This unparalleled level of service is in part thanks to our hospitality roots, extended so that all of our owners can fully enjoy the privileges of a hotel or resort, with every aspect taken care of.

A swimming pool and palm trees

At the core of the Six Senses Residences The Palm, Dubai is Six Senses Place, providing residential owners unique space purely for mental and physical wellness

Owners have the option of placing their home into hotel rental portfolio, which opens up an additional income opportunity via renting their homes when they are not staying there. As properties are wholly managed by Six Senses, it’s a completely hassle-free process.

Read more: Coworth Park, Ascot, Review

Owners who place their home in our rental programme automatically take advantage of our furniture packages as standard – with each home inspired by, and designed in line with, the nature of its environment and local community. Dependant on the resort and stage of construction, there are also sometimes opportunities for owners to personalise design details, such as material choices.

LUX: What is next for U/HNWs who seek multi-based sustainable superluxury living? And do you have your personal capstone?
NJ: The Six Senses brand was born from the desire to help people reconnect with themselves, others and the world around them. One of our core goals, is to continue to create a global footprint and allow people to experience our brand in different environments.

A building with pillars and a dome roof

The exterior of the Whiteley Six Senses

Looking ahead at 2023, we are expecting a continued increase in the philanthropic buyer across the branded residences sector. High-net-worth buyers are increasingly seeking a home that has been created in a socially and environmentally mindful way, rather than just investing in purely bricks and mortar.

We are already well placed to respond to this rising demand, thanks to our responsible approach towards all projects through our thorough and sustainable practices.

In terms of a personal favourite of mine, I couldn’t quite say. That being said, part of the richness of my job is the opportunity to interact with our hosts around the world and the buy-in to the brand that shows up in each location. So, my favourite tends to be the project I’m visiting at the time!

Find out more: sixsenses.com/residences

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Reading time: 8 min
people in a shopping centre in Milan
people in a shopping centre in Milan

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II mall in Milan: The city has long been a magnet for the world’s wealthy

LUX speaks with Alan Hooks, Managing Director, Head of Private Clients UK at Julius Baer, about the Swiss private bank’s 2022 report on the changing consumption and spending habits of the wealthy around the world
A man in a navy suit, red tie and white shirt

Alan Hooks

LUX: Are we seeing a generational change in the way high net worths (HNIs) and ultra high net worths (UHNIs) spend and invest, taking into account sustainability considerations?
Alan Hooks: Certainly we have seen that shift in approach from a next generation perspective, and that’s where the acceleration of these conversations are coming from. So when you talk about investment habits, the majority of those conversations are held with the future custodians of the wealth of the family, so we are seeing that manifesting itself quite considerably in those conversations.

When it comes to consumption habits, the report also shows that high net worths, and ultra high net worths are typically early adopters of new technology, new product design, that will have a positive impact on the environment. With that advocacy comes some responsibility because typically that early adoption will mean others will start to follow. I think that’s an important trend to observe, and we’ve seen that come out of our Global Wealth and Lifestyle Report over the last few years.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

If you look at the shifting patterns of consumer spending, you’ll see a move from possessions to experience. In particular, that can be seen from the report in terms spending on health, and travel and leisure have been quite significant in the in previous years. During the pandemic were not able to freely travel as much as they would have done, but now it’s over, that is strong. We are certainly seeing from a London perspective the leisure and tourism sector is an area where discretionary spend is high.

A restaurant with brown leather chairs

Heston Blumenthal’s restauarnt The Fat Duck, outside London. High net worth individuals are spending more on experiences according to the report

LUX: You rank various cities in the world in terms of their cost and desirability. Any place stand out of particular interest?
AH: What’s great about the report is that we highlight cities around the world where there is still great opportunity, Sao Paulo for example, has a significant population, high degree of a younger (wealthy) demographic signifying great opportunity.

LUX: What other elements are important for HNIs and UHNIs?
AH: What recent months have shown us is the focus on security and safety and countries and cities that can offer that level of security and stability, are important. In this demographic that becomes important as a factor in terms of where people are basing themselves or may be relocating. Other considerations such as lifestyle, education and so on are also important. The cosmopolitan nature of cities around the world, certainly for international families, is important.

An iceberg in the sea with people looking at it from a speed boat

Expensive but exclusive adventure experiences like Sven Lindblad Expeditions gives guests the opportunity to see sites like this iceberg in Ilulissat, Greenland

LUX: Crystal ball gazing, what do you expect to see in next year’s report?
AH: I think I would expect to see trends continuing in terms of continued focus around health and well-being. I would be interested to see whether the challenges that we’ve observed in the 2022 report will remain in the future, or whether that starts to settle. For example, if we look at some of the findings on London in leisure, we see a significant demand for leisure, tourism, hotels and restaurants. We are also hearing from hoteliers and restauranteurs about the challenge around finding staff.

Read more: Chef Heston Blumenthal: The Culinary Resurrector

It will be interesting to see and hear from respondents over the next 12 months whether this trend is continuing and how things are faring as a result of things settling down after the pandemic. It will also be interesting to observe the levels of creativity we find from businesses in product design and in servicing high net worth and ultra-high net worths. What we have learned in the pandemic is that typically there has been innovation and creativity in these areas.

Find out more: juliusbaer.com

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Reading time: 3 min
An infinity pool overlooking a lake and green mountain
deckchairs on the grass with a view of the lake and mountains

A grassy terrace overlooking Lake Garda at Lefay Resort

In the fourth part of our luxury travel views column from the Spring 2022 issue, LUX’s Editor-in-Chief Darius Sanai checks in at the Lefay Resort in Lake Garda

Infinity pool? Haven’t we seen enough of those to stop being impressed? The pool stops, the sea beyond it starts, pretty and pleasant, and every villa on every island has one. End of story.

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Except, the pool at Lefay Lake Garda is different. It’s true that when you are swimming in it, you can’t tell where the pool ends and Lake Garda starts. The difference is that the lake is about 600m (2,000ft) below you, down a steeply forested mountainside. Look across the lake, and you are at the same height as the top of the Alps lining the other shore. Look up, and you are just below the peaks of the Italian Alps at the point at which they drop into the northern Italian plain. It’s like being in an infinity pool in a hot air balloon.

An infinity pool overlooking a lake and green mountain

The infinity pool

Everything here is about the views. Our balcony terrace looked at yet another peak, behind the hotel, and the surroundings were pure Alps: meadows, wildflowers, forests and rocks. No hint at all that the biggest and most touristic of the Italian lakes was immediately below on the other side. The room was contemporary cool, all peaceful light colours, and absolute silence on the terrace at night, barring the cry of some or other mountain bird.

There is plenty of space to spread out here – no cramped pool terraces like you get at many hotels on the edge of the Italian lakes, which are constrained by the steep mountain sides rising up above. You can stroll from one garden to the main pool terrace to another garden and lawn, all with a different aspect of the view. The clientele when I went was mainly couples, who would stroll into the spa (just inside from the pool terrace) and emerge glowing from treatments.

restaurant on a terrace with green tablecloths and a view of the mountains and lake

Trattoria la Vigna

For lunch, up a level (of mountain and hotel) there was a broad, informal terrace serving osteria-style food: salads, cured meat, pastas.

Read more: Luxury Travel Views: Hotel Costes, Paris

Once you are here, it is tempting not to leave (during your stay, or ever). But venture out for a day trip and within 20 minutes you will be on the shore of one of Italy’s most celebrated lakes, with ochre-hued villages teeming with gelaterias (and tourists: Lake Garda is nothing if not discovered). A little further round the lake is Verona, the city of Romeo and Juliet, and its summer opera in the Roman amphitheatre a perfectly feasible evening out from Lefay. Dinner at the opera and breakfast on a mountaintop: that’s infinite variety for you.

Find out more: lagodigarda.lefayresorts.com

This article appears in the Summer 2022 issue of LUX

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mountains and an alpine lodge on the grass
mountains and an alpine lodge on the grass

Photograph of the Zermatt valley by Sheherazade Photography

The yacht’s being refurbished, you’ve done Ibiza too many times, the Hamptons are too cliquey and Bodrum is so 2021. So where to head this summer? Allow LUX to offer you some recommendations from one of our absolute favourite summer destinations (and no, this is not paid-for content): Switzerland

Switzerland in summer: panoramic views, (mostly) blue skylines, clean air, no crowds, teeming wildlife, one of the highest concentrations of Michelin-starred restaurants in the world, some of the best hotels in the world, and activities from kitesurfing and kayakking to glacier skiing and wine tasting. What more could you want? Perhaps, just a little guidance through the options, to get the very best out of your Helvetian experience.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

1.Zermatt
Zermatt is, in effect, the epicentre of the Alps, in a valley surrounded by more than 30 of the highest peaks in Europe, which glow white with permanent snow even on a hot summer’s day. And it’s usually warm and sunny here: the resort is on the border with Italy and if you take a telescope to the top of its highest peak, Monte Rosa, you can see the spire of Milan cathedral.

Every type of mountain activity is available, including summer skiing at the top of a Swarovski crystal-encrusted cable car. It is also a paradise for mountain dining, with more fine dining spots than St Tropez, better views, and fewer crowds. Try the Findlerhof for its beautiful local farmers’ meat and cheese platter, and epic Matterhorn views; and Restaurant Zum See for an idyllic gourmet experience in a meadow at the foot of the peaks. In the village, we had a highly memorable meal at the restaurant in the hotel Omnia, all pared-back boutique chic and astonishingly vibrant flavours.

A bathroom with a view of the Matterhorn

The view from a bathroom at The Cervo Hotel

Stay at: The Cervo is Zermatt’s eco-resort, and its owner, Daniel Lauber, is a passionate and thoughtful sustainability pioneer. One of the most thoughtful sustainable hospitality experiences, from the biodegradable slippers to the renewable energy heating system – tough, at 1600m altitude. The food, all sourced locally, is both hearty and magnificent and the staff have risen impeccably to the challenge of finding excellent wines and cocktail ingredients with a local remit.

2.Badrutt’s Palace, St Moritz

A brown grand hotel exterior with a garden in front of it

Badrutt’s Palace Hotel, St Moritz

Badrutt’s is St Moritz, or so you will probably think after staying there. The hotel dominates the valley and lake like a citadel. The service became legendary even before the former Shah of Iran flew its staff out to serve a banquet marking 2500 years of the Persian Empire at the palace of, near Shiraz, in 1972. It’s the kind of hotel where the staff know what you’re thinking, before you do.

Read more: A Tasting At One Of The World’s Great Champagne Houses

The facilities make it, effectively, a holiday in one property: huge indoor pool with picture window, lawns and gardens (in the middle of St Moritz!), fine dining in a formal banquet hall which makes you feel like Audrey Hepburn (whoever you are), and across the road, its own pizzeria at Chesa Veglia – in reality a top social spot in its own right. And the views across to the mountains are inspiring.

3.Gstaad Palace

A large palace style hotel with a pool in front of it

The piscine at Gstaad Palace

The Palace is a hotel that will whisk you into the jazz era even by thinking about it. This is a place where generations of European aristocrats have visited to stay and dine at; or to play tennis on its impeccable clay courts, or dance at its Greengo nightclub (in summer, it incorporates the indoor pool as a bar and terrace). It’s a perfect base for walking tours, or for strolls around Gstaad’s chi-chi high street, or just to exist in and take the air and dream of eternal youth.

4.The Alpina Gstaad

A palace and a garden

The Alpina Gstaad

Two luxury hotels in one place? Mais oui; the Palace and the Alpina are like Meursault and Margaux, we couldn’t live without either of them. The Alpina has contemporary style and vibrancy within the envelope of Alpine glamour (unlike some new luxury hotels in the Alps, it’s not pretending to be in Brooklyn), an outdoor pool with heart-melting views over the mountains, an equally gorgeous indoor pool and spa, and one of our favourite Japanese restaurants outside Japan.

5.Dinner at the Nira Alpina

a wooden restaurant with a panoramic view of the mountains

Nira Alpina Stars Restaurant

The Nira Alpina is a hotel and restaurant resort on the edge of the high Engadine valley, between Lake Sils, inspiration for poets and artists, and buzzy St Moritz. Its rooftop restaurant, Stars, has a dramatic view across the valley and lakes where daytime kitesurfing gives way to reflections of the moon by night, and over to the jagged mountains on the other side. It’s at the foot of the Corvatsch mountain, which makes for energetic hiking in summer; at the end of a long walk down from the Fuorcola Surlej pass, we love indulging in a glass of Franciacorta here, followed by a bottle of vibrant Chardonnay from the nearby Bündner Herrschaft wine region, accompanied by its delicate, locally-sourced mountain food, big on herbs and vegetables from the nearby high valleys. We haven’t stayed at the hotel, but the restaurant is an experience in itself.

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Reading time: 4 min
A building
A building

The OWO by Raffles, Whitehall, London

man wearing a suit

Jeff Tisdall

The Old War Office was the centre of operations for the UK war effort. Three quarters of a century later, The OWO has once again become a focal point, but this time as one of the leading hotels and branded residences in Central London. Ahead of the hotel’s opening next year, Samantha Welsh speaks to Jeff Tisdall, Senior Vice President of Development, Residential & Extended Stays at Accor, about Raffles’ first London-based project

1. How significant is Raffles’ arrival in the UK and London?

It is difficult to underestimate the importance of Raffles’ arrival in London. Really, there is an argument that this is the most important milestone in the evolution of the brand since the opening of Raffles Singapore back in 1887. Raffles Singapore takes its name from the British statesperson Sir Stamford Raffles, founder of the modern city-state. It has been setting the standard for luxury hospitality for more than 130 years, introducing the world to the concept of private butlers. There is something very fitting and meaningful about bringing the brand back to the UK as part of this extraordinary development.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

2. Why does The OWO standout in the London super prime market?

The OWO has really set itself apart in London’s resilient, super prime residential market. Over the last decade, branded residences have really come into their own and often dominate the very highest end of leading property markets around the globe. In this market context, The OWO Residences stands out as a one-of-kind opportunity. The dedicated Raffles team will deliver an unmatched service offering. We spent a lot of time during an extensive planning phase, curating the offering and designing an unrivalled set of private facilities that are exclusive to residents.Without question, this will be an extraordinary address to call home.

dining room

The dining room at The OWO. Image courtesy of Grain London

3. Have you seen as much branded residential development in London as has been observed in other super prime markets?

I think it is fair to say opportunities to develop luxury branded residences have been more constrained in markets like London, where we see greater reliance on historical conversions. The integration of the hotel and residences at The OWO ensures an array of services will be available to residents, with an internal courtyard that provides the residences with some physical separation from the hotel. It is this perfect balance between service on one hand, and privacy, exclusivity and security on the other, that is often so elusive, and perfectly achieved at The OWO.

Read more: Pioneering Artist Michael Craig Martin on Colour & Style

4. How does The OWO compare in scale to other Raffles residences?

Each Raffles Residence project forms part of a global portfolio of extraordinary private homes – all meticulously designed, luxuriously appointed, and of course infused by Raffles legendary passion for service. Yet, each project is entirely unique.

In terms of scale at The OWO, our partner, the Hinduja Group, has taken the private amenities available to a new level of luxury. Residence owners will have access to an extremely generous 30,000 square feet of exclusive residential facilities. Of course, The OWO will also be a culinary destination, featuring nine restaurants and bars.

a bedroom with white sofas

Principal bedroom at The OWO. Image courtesy of Grain London

5. Why have branded residences become so appealing post pandemics?

For many, the pandemic has served to help bring what is important in life back into clearer focus. The fact that for purchasers at The OWO, their homes will be serviced by Raffles, a brand with experience and trust accumulated over more than 130 years, brings tremendous peace of mind. Today’s UHNW buyer is also looking for authentic, meaningful luxury. From a service perspective, we focus on what we describe as emotional luxury. How we make a resident feel is every bit as important as the services we deliver. From a dedicated concierge team to fitness and wellness attendants, dog walking and sommelier services, private chefs and legendary Raffles Butler services, there really is no detail overlooked.

6. What benefits do residents of The OWO receive?

The Residence Director leads a dedicated residential team of 25-30 people. This team is focussed solely on The OWO residents. In-residence dining, catering for private events, spa treatments and housekeeping are just a few of the optional a la carte services that can be arranged. Homeowners will also be embraced as VVIPs at Raffles London, enjoying priority reservation privileges at dining venues and preferred pricing. The effect is to create a sense of belonging, recognition, and privilege. Additionally, through the Raffles Owner’s Club, this preferred status is extended beyond The OWO to 5000+ participating hotels and resorts worldwide, and more than 40 brand portfolios.

Find out more: theowo.london

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Cary Arms luxury hotel in Devon
Cary Arms hotel luxury beach huts on Babbacombe Bay

The new luxury beach huts at Cary Arms

Digital Editor Millie Walton rediscovers the charming imperfections of the English coastline from the cosy luxury of a cliffside beach hut at five-star boutique hotel The Cary Arms

Many of English coastal towns have fallen off the tourist map. Flights are now so cheap that it’s just as easy, if not easier (consider traffic, extortionate British railway prices, inevitable delays) to hop on a plane to France for the weekend as it is to drive down to Devon. Take a turn around Torquay and you’ll be able to see the desperate attempts to lure in tourists.

This is not how it used to be, though; the Babbacombe Cliff Railway is living evidence of a more vibrant past. Built in 1926, the railway (which is actually an old-fashioned kind of cable car) has shuttled thousands of holidaymakers to and from Devon’s Oddicombe Beach. Antique photographs in the makeshift museum/visitor centre show crowded scenes of men in suits on deck chairs, women in wide-brimmed sun hats and 1920s style swimsuits. You can barely see the sand between the well-oiled bodies, supine on rows of pastel coloured towels.

Read next: The best of East London’s gastronomy

Babbacombe Bay is as staggeringly beautiful as it would have been back then. Red cliffs covered in dark green forest drop down into deep, clear waters. If it weren’t for the slight chill in the air, this could be Croatia or the South of France. The real appeal though is exactly that: this isn’t Croatia or the South of France. This is England and when you go to the beach, it’s rustic, makeshift and quite often, a little bit blustery. That’s not to say, however, that English seaside holidays can’t be luxurious. Babbacombe Bay, in fact, is home to one of Devon’s most charming coastal boutique hotels: The Cary Arms.

Reached by a treacherously steep drive down the cliffside, The Cary Arms sits poised right on the ocean’s edge. The hotel belongs to the exclusive de Savary group and it provides a homely kind of luxury where wellingtons and dogs are welcome (even in some of the rooms). The hotel has been poised on its rocky perch since 2009, but it has recently opened six private beach huts and suites, with a new spa currently under construction.

The huts are painted in nautical colours as you’d expect of these shores, reached by a little walkway through the hotel and out the other side. They are built to maximise the natural light and views with glass doors that fold open onto the balcony for especially balmy days and porthole windows upstairs so that the first thing you see when you open your eyes is the sea. The interiors are cheerful, bright and quirky with a spacious living room downstairs and the bedroom on the mezzanine floor.

Read next: Luxury is simpler than it used to be, says Eric Favre of The Alpina Gstaad

Sea views from Cary Arms restaurant

Dining with sea views

The details are what makes these huts extra special. Champagne in a cool box with a glass bowl of strawberries awaits new arrivals, along with a stick of rock on each pillow, a well-stocked, complimentary mini fridge with snacks and a decanter of sloe gin. It’s generous, but not flashy, befitting of the British coastal lifestyle.

The restaurant is also excellent and a destination in itself. The menu changes according to the catch of the day and the season. For us, the highlights were a half pint of cold prawns that came with a little pot of garlicky mayonnaise and crusty bread, and the Monkfish cooked whole in butter and herbs, served with new potatoes and green beans. We washed it down with a glass of Baileys on ice, in the study over a game of scrabble. It was all delightfully British.

Overnight stays at the beach huts cost from £375 per night, beach suites from £475 and luxury doubles in the main hotel from £245 per night. For bookings and further details visit: caryarms.co.uk 

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The Matterhorn put Zermatt on the map

The Matterhorn put Zermatt on the map

DEEP BLUE SKIES, PERFECT TEMPERATURES, NO TEEMING CROWDS, EXCELLENT CUISINE, CLEAN AIR, ENVELOPED BY NATURAL BEAUTY: WHAT’S NOT TO LOVE ABOUT THE SWISS ALPS IN THE SUMMERTIME, ASKS Darius Sanai

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Beau Rivage Palace overlooking Lac Leman

The deep midwinter is when residents of the western hemisphere traditionally make their plans for the summer holidays, and the world’s travel industry has long been shaped around these rhythms. Things are changing, as a rapidly increasing number of travellers from countries where ‘summer’ is a far less clearly defined concept (think Singapore, Hong Kong, Brazil, India) make their presence felt. And even among those for whom seasons are clearly demarcated, the tendency towards last-minute travel means booking in July, for July, is more than a temporary trend.

But still: you’ll be reading this in the traditional Western winter, and you won’t have missed the flood of television and magazine advertisements enticing you towards your next grand trip. You may well hear the howling of a winter gale outside, and you might have gritted the drive this morning ahead of the forecast snow.

All of this might go some way to explaining why a quite perfect summer holiday destination for anyone with an active family, a love of luxury, culture, cuisine and the great outdoors, rarely appears at the top of people’s list. Switzerland is associated with many great things, but intense heat and sunshine are not among them, which is a great shame because I and the family picked up the most lasting tan in years during the couple of weeks we spent touring some of this country’s most interesting Alpine destinations last summer.  Switzerland may be mountainous, but the southern half of the country is also Mediterranean – it borders Italy, makes wine, serves antipasti and pizza, and some of it even speaks Italian – so sunshine is coupled with clean air and moderate temperatures. The latter is a boon as anyone who has ever tried to take small children to Sicily in August as we did the previous year may know. Forty degrees is OK for sipping rose in the shade, but not for actually doing anything much. In the mountains, strong sun combines with temperatures in the 20s to make for perfect days.

Before I continue, a note: this article has been strung together below from a series of visits at different dates to the destinations below. However, there is no reason at all why someone might not combine some or all of them in one trip, as Switzerland is as compact as it is mountainous.

By The Shores of Leman: The Beau Rivage Palace, Ouchy

Anyone who knows Lac Leman, or Lake Geneva, from its reference in TS Eliot’s rather depressing Wasteland poem might be expecting a rather gloomy place, but arriving in Ouchy, a bijou port village appended to the city of Lausanne, the feeling is just the opposite. The streets – formerly vineyards, which still surround the village – slope steeply down to the lakeside, the pastel coloured buildings speak of Romantic architecture, and the lake itself stretches thick and blue and still, some 10km across to the spectacular mountains on the French side, and as far as the eye can see both left and right. It’s a south facing location, not so much bathed as drowned in delicious southern sunlight: the point at which northern Europe becomes southern Europe. From here, all rivers flow south, to the Mediterranean, and the North European Plain is left behind.

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Beau Rivage Palace overlooking Lac Leman

The location deserves a great hotel, and it has one, courtesy of the Belle Epoque travellers who flocked here in search of sunshine and clean air. It pays to be wary of 100 year old palace hotels in Europe, as some of them have fallen into disrepair as travellers take their money away by jet; but I was delighted to see that it was precisely the opposite with the Beau Rivage. The ceilings are high, the corridors palatial and the ballroom is a wonder, but everything has been refurbished to top global standard at what must be an absolutely eyewatering cost to the private owners. Our rooms had two balconies looking out over manicured lawns, a wood, tennis courts, a large outdoor pool and a considerable terrace area – the hotel seemed to stretch in every direction, a great relief after the cramped conditions one encounters even in the very best Mediterranean hotels. The view stretched to the Mont Blanc massif, looming opposite over the lake (Mont Blanc itself is hidden behind its siblings), and to the Upper Rhone valley to the left.

The pool turned out to be two pools, indoor and out, with diversions to tennis, table tennis, giant chess and simply meandering through the grounds as appropriate. The surrounding area is home to one of the world’s highest concentrations of Michelin-starred restaurants, but, frankly, why bother? We started in the hotel’s bar, which has been remodelled with advice from some extremely cool Londonbased consultants in a super-contemporary style that is somehow still in keeping with the location – plenty of greys and dark woods, not too many urban whites. Mojitos, alcoholic and otherwise, provided a good counterpoint to the day’s heat, and I can’t imagine there are many other places in Switzerland where you can get a Mojito as good as at Claridge’s Bar.

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Gstaad Palace’s New Lounge

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Private spa suite at Gstaad Palace

The oriental-style bar snacks were spot on, but for dinner on our first night we revisited the same spot we had lunch, where I couldn’t resist revisiting a salad of rocket, artichoke, pine nut and parmesan, whose texture still lingers delightfully in the memory. The organic salmon nigiri with yuzu lemon and oyster espuma was a sort of aristocratic sushi that makes one wonder why more Japanese restaurants in Europe are not more adventurous with their nigiri variations. The menu is constantly changing, so you will likely not have what I did, but the conceptualising and cooking were pinpoint sharp. As was the wine list: a Crozes Hermitage from Jaboulet, from the excellent 2009 vintage, accompanied beautifully (although I was later to regret not having tried one of the excellent selection of Swiss wines).

The Cafe Beau Rivage is somewhere you could eat every meal of every day, but the hotel also owns a highly popular Italian trattoria/pizzeria in the neighbouring building whose terrace is the meeting point of the young cool set of the area, and a highly regarded traditional Japanese restaurant, Miyako, in the main building.

We left feeling rather guilty that we hadn’t indulged in a private boat trip on the lake, or visits to neighbouring vineyards, but it is always best to leave something for next time. The Beau Rivage palace is that rare example of a contemporary classic that makes its destination what it is: without it, Ouchy (pronounced Ooshy) would be a pretty lakeside village like many others in Switzerland and Italy (and it does have an Italianate feel).

Gstaad and the Palace

Ouchy may have views of high mountains, but in Swiss terms it is a lowland destination, on a large lake at a mere 375 metres altitude. From now, our trip would take us ever higher into the Alps. A little way down the lake from Lausanne is the town of Montreux, known for its globally-celebrated jazz festival but a slightly humdrum place otherwise. Montreux’s railway station is the starting point of the Goldenpass, one of the Alps’ most famed train rides. The train, with a special panoramic viewing roof, makes its way not along the lake, like the main train line, but up the mountainside abutting the lake. It climbs quickly to 1000 metres, over a pass, and then descends gently into a wonderland of deep green Alpine meadow, woodland, lush valleys, streams, and chalets.  The children kept a lookout for Heidi, and I kept wondering if it was all a projection by the Switzerland Tourism, the sophisticated national tourist authority, but no: it was real. The air was cooler but still warm, the sunlight tempered by dark forest, the slopes rising to snow patches below rocky peaks.

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Train arriving in Gstaad from Montreux

Gstaad is at the end of this expanse of Alpine perfection, a little town in a bowl of big hills and small mountains, with an open view in every direction. And the Palace in Gstaad sits atop the town like a fairytale castle, with its own tennis courts, spa hewn into the rock, and permanent residence (or so it seems) of clients who have either just arrived or are just about to leave in their private jets from the nearby airstrip. The rockfaces of the mountains turn gold in the dusk sunlight as the conversations on the terrace turn to what the next generation will do with the wealth amassed by this one. Not having to worry unduly about such things, we sipped our aperitifs every evening and spent daytimes split between the hotel’s own spa and exploring the mountains.

The spa feels very Swiss, hewn out of the rockface under the hotel, with a granite-lined pool that stretches in an Lshape to a glass wall that opens fully on summer days. The treatments are perfectly thorough and correct as you would expect, my massage unclicking a joint that had been frozen for months; and the adults-only hydrotherapy pools are a fine place to spend a while amid the view. It was here that I noted another key advantage over traditional summer destinations: you are not overwhelmed by other people’s children; in fact, they are a mere footnote to the rather discerning adult clientele. The Palace is a lively place in winter with its louche nightclub Greengo, but in summer it is altogether more chilled out.

Gstaad’s mountains are not toweringly high by Swiss standards, but it’s an excellent place to start: we took a lift up to a restaurant atop one of the mid-size mountains from where the view stretched to the next range behind, and after a rustic lunch of veal (adults) and veal sausages (children) the offspring spent an enjoyable hour or two amusing themselves by seeing if there was anything in the meadow the restaurant owner’s pet goats would not eat. Branches, dandelions, weeds and wildflowers alike were consumed by the goats-with-a-view.

The people, like the goats, traditionally ate what was available locally here, which explains the surfeit of excellent veal which, being local, comes with fewer animal rights worries. And then there are the products, notably the local Gstaad cheese and the considerably more famous Gruyere from just down the valley. These combine most notably in a fondue, and on the recommendation of the local tourist office one evening we took a twenty-minute journey to Gsteig, the next village in the valley, for a fondue at Baren Gsteig.  Amid low beams and cowbells, we settled down to the freshest fondue I have experienced. It may sound odd to call a cheese fondue fresh, but I suspect the fact that all the cheese used

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Edward Whymper was the first to climb the Matterhorn

was unpasteurised hard cheese made a significant difference to both the bite and the minerality of the dish. The bread was just right too, slightly stale (one day old, we were told) crusty local sourdough – if it’s too fresh, it flops into the melted cheese. The fondue also contained a dose of the local brandy, adding more bite and fruit freshness.

Another evening we went to the oldest restaurant in Gstaad proper, at the Hotel Post, on the bijou little high street, where the steak (local, again) had a combination of metallic earthiness and butter-tenderness I haven’t encountered elsewhere.

The Palace is a most civilised place to return after such rustic outings: the lobby and bar have a chalet-like feel, but the view is all around. On our last evening, the moon lit up the glacier at the side of the far peak up the valley. We were due to visit the glacier, accessible by cable car, but this was not to be this time. Again, something for another time.

To Zermatt

If there is one place in Switzerland, or indeed the Alps, that can claim to be as important in summer as it is in winter, it is Zermatt. Skiers may know the resort for its challenging black runs, excellent apres-ski, and cosy haute-cuisine mountain dining. But Zermatt is that rare resort, where visitors and global celebrity predated going down mountains with two planks tied to your feet. Like many chi-chi Alpine villages, it was for centuries a remote and impoverished farming hamlet, but its transformation came in the 19th century when Victorian-era Britons, bent on surmounting every challenge the world held, came to conquer its iconic mountain, the Matterhorn.

In the 1860s, successive climbing parties arrived in Zermatt bent on scaling the Matterhorn (now known to anyone who eats chocolates or buys Caran d’Ache pencils) and other peaks in the amphitheatre that surrounds the valley: along with Chamonix, the French

village at the foot of Mont Blanc, Zermatt can lay claim to being the home of Alpinism, of mountaineering as we know it.

Even 150 years later, with the arrival of the big-money skiing parties and the accessibility of higher and more challenging mountain ranges in Asia and South America, Zermatt still attracts the Alpinists in summer. The Matterhorn’s most accessible ridge, first climbed by the Englishman Edward Whymper in 1865 in a tragic expedition that involved the death of four of its members and which cemented the mountain’s ominous reputation, is now more accessible. With the help of fixed ropes, a carefully mapped route, and modern equipment,

hundreds of people climb it every year. But its other aspects, and in particular its vertical North Face, remain a monumental challenge, as do a number of the 30 other 4000 metre high peaks that surround Zermatt.  Oddly, none of these other peaks, the largest collection of 4000 metre mountains in the Alps, are available as the train ascends the valley to Zermatt.

The village still bans cars, so train is the only way to arrive. Alight at the train station, in a mini urban sprawl, and you may wonder what the fuss is all about. But take a few paces over towards the river, look up, and there is the Matterhorn, as otherworldly as it ever was, rising to 4478 metres above Switzerland and Italy.

For me there was only one place to stay in Zermatt. The Monte Rosa hotel is the village’s original hotel, built in the 19th century to house those climbing parties, and gently renovated since. Its heart and soul are in Alpinism: the walls are festooned with souvenirs from climbing parties, letters of good wishes from the likes of Winston Churchill to resident climbers, some of them triumphant, some doomed.

The bar is cosy, low-ceilinged, a place to exchange stories about the day’s adventures, although today’s climbers are no longer all gentlemen of the aristocracy and many of them stay in the town’s youth hostel instead. The restaurant is a classic white tablecloth hotel dining room where you dine on the set menu and choose from the array of Swiss wines on the list, including some very interesting Pinot Noirs from the east of the country, and, my personal favourites, some rich, spicy satisfying single vineyard wines made with the local Cornalin grape in the sunny Swiss Rhone valley nearby.

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Monte Rosa, the home of Alpinism

The Monte Rosa still occupies its original site in the very heart of the village on the square, and the hotel itself attracts carefully limited numbers of tourists come to visit the original home of the Alpinists. Its sister hotel, the Mont Cervin, a couple of hundred metres away, has a large pool, spa and garden that guests can use. The view from our suite was directly to the Matterhorn’s north face, with the village church beside us. And Zermatt, you rapidly learn when you arrive there, is not about lounging about in your hotel: it is about activity. There is a cog railway station opposite the main railway station in the village, and here we boarded a narrow gauge train that inched its way through the village and up through the thick forest on the steep valley sides. So far, Zermatt had remained an enigma, the Matterhorn towering over it, but the vast amphitheatre of mountains that accompany it remaining hidden behind the steep valley sides.

As the Gornergrat train climbed, peaks started to reveal themselves on the opposite side of the valley. Like an animal revealing its sharp teeth, they emerged, pyramidal rock faces rising above the glacier and pricking the sky, and within minutes we were faced with a panorama of jagged edged 4000 metre mountains, from the Weisshorn to Dent Blanche, that climbers the world over come to conquer.

The train’s track rose above the treeline and still we carried on climbing. Another towering series of jagged peaks emerged on our side of the valley, plunging down into scree, valley, and forest. The Gornergrat mountain we were ascending flattened out, the train climbed over a ridge, and suddenly the most spectacular view of all confronted us, a huge series of snowy giants looming at us from directly across the long tongue of a glacier. This was the Monte Rosa, the highest mountain in Switzerland, and its associated peaks.

Emerging, blinking, onto the rock and summer snow patches of Gornergrat, 3100 metres up, we climbed to a rocky viewing point. There was a 360 degree view of peaks higher than 4000 metres, and very little sign of human civilisation.  Below us on one side a near vertical slope dropped to the glacier, where we could just pick out the figures of some climbers tramping their way back from an expedition.

Walking down a little from Gornergrat, trying not to get vertigo, we passed a heavenly mountain lake, surrounded on all sides by wild flowers, in which a rockpool of tadpoles swam, and where an elegant green frog sat sunning itself on a grass patch. The path picked its way through more high meadows of wildflowers, around the ridge, and to the Riffelberg train stop, where we boarded the train home.

On another day we took a lift up the neighbouring mountain, past a little green lake, and strolled down to Findeln, a little hamlet in a sainted position facing the Matterhorn across the valley. We sat on the terrace at the Findlerhof restaurant and enjoyed astonishing food: sashimi with a lime dip; beautifully cooked sea bass; veal in a gentle white wine sauce. The terrace was spacious, wooden and rustic with an astonishing view; the food was perfect urban sophistication. Apparently there are dozens of restaurants like that on Zermatt’s mountains, something the original climbing parties plainly missed.

Pontresina and the Engadine

There is a train that connects Switzerland’s two most famous resorts, Zermatt and St Moritz, directly. The Glacier Express runs several times a day in summer, and while it neither goes through a glacier (although you see plenty) or goes very fast (rather the opposite), the seven hour journey was a great way to kick back, relax and watch central Switzerland proceed slowly past.

Our destination was not St Moritz itself but its chic neighbouring resort of Pontresina, and its flagship hotel, the Kronenhof. Pontresina is a tiny Italian-feeling village on a ledge above the high Engadine valley that cuts through the mountains of eastern Switzerland, near the Austrian and Italian borders. The Kronenhof has a grand courtyard on the village’s main street and a dramatic view across the valley and up towards the glaciers of the Piz Buin.

It was remarkable and rather wonderful to find a hotel of such sophistication so deep in the mountains. The huge indoor pool has been built onto the valley side of the hotel and, surrounded by glass, gives a feeling of flying, with mountains all around. Our suite’s balcony looked down onto forest and up onto glacier, and the jazz bar, again with dramatic views, felt very F. Scott Fitzgerald.

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Pontresina’s flagship hotel, the Kronenhof

The Kronenhof is a big hotel with a panoply of distractions, including one of the region’s finest restaurants (which we have saved for next time), an extremely spacious and throrough kids club, replete with a proper children’s library, and a spa, attached to the pool, so good that it attracts the glitterati from nearby St Moritz all winter. Our room was decked in contemporary Alpine cool, plenty of blond wood, stone and grey, with generous panorama areas to look at the views, and a bathroom squarely aimed at the demanding international traveller.

One morning, leaving the hotel, we took the quaint, twoseater chairlift up through the forest to Alp Languard, a restaurant on a ridge overlooking Pontresina’s valley and the Engadine; another high mountain lunch of extraordinary quality ensued, and a hike up towards the high ridge at the top, which, eventually, defeated us. We took the chairlift down through the forest, amid the scent of pine and wildflowers.  Tea at the Kronenhof involved the magnificent sight of the mountains turning rose, as the sky at this high altitude (the village is at 1800m) turned pink then midnight blue.

Perhaps the most memorable aspect of our stay was the evening we made our way down the 10 minute walk to the bottom of the valley, to be met by a coach and two – two horses pulling an open carriage. The children were thrilled, and the horses made their way up the secret Val Roseg. It is secret because it is a nature reserve, with no cars or even mountain bikes allowed – only horses and hikers. At the end of the high valley loomed a great white dome of a mountain, above the Roseg Glacier, and it was to the edge of this glacier that we made our way, up the enchanted valley, along a river, past a family of marmots, the most elusive of Alpine creatures, who stood to attention as we rode past.

Dinner was at Alp Roseg, another spectacular mountain restaurant with a vast wine list and haute-rustic cuisine, where steak in cafe de paris sauce was consumed with so much gusto you might have thought we, and not the horses, had done the climbing. The journey back in the starlight was equally memorable.

The Waldhaus at Flims

Flims is a resort that has become something of a legend among the snowboarding community. It sits on a very sunny, south facing shelf above the Rhine valley, in eastern Switzerland, halfway between Pontresina and Zurich.  On the forested plateau adjoining Flims, in its own generous grounds, sits the Waldhaus resort, a Victorian-era grand hotel that has been developed and brought up to date.  The grounds are generous enough to incorporate forest, copious lawns, an adventure playground, and a large petting zoo where the children spent amounts of time befriending donkeys, goats and chickens – the animals were so well fed by the hotel that their attempts to feed them usually ended in failure.

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The Waldhaus resort in Flims

The hotel has a glass-encased indoor pool and interconnected outdoor pool, and, next to it, a natural swimming pool where you can swim in non-chlorinated water among frogs and small fish.

We enjoyed a memorable cocktail and canapes on the terrace of the pavillion one evening as the sun set over the mountains opposite, and a very sophisticated meal at one of the hotel’s fine dining restaurants, Rotonde, with its floor to ceiling windows looking onto the forest; those in search of even higher cuisine can venture to Epoca, which has 17 Gault Millau points.

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A trip on a chairlift took us to the Berghaus Naraus, a restaurant on a south-facing ledge with sweeping views and an excellent line in barley soup and air-dried beef – and yet another quite astonishing wine list, which we resisted, it being lunchtime. Instead

we saved ourselves for dinner at the Arena Kitchen Flims, a cool, urban bar,

club and restaurant that could have been in Vermont or Colorado, in the city centre. It was quiet in summer, but you could imagine the teeming hordes in the ski season.

And that, I think, is the way I like it: clean sunshine, pure air, astonishing views, focussed cuisine, excellent service, Europe’s best hotels, and no teeming hordes. I’ll be back to Switzerland in summer.

Beau Rivage Palace: brp.ch

Gstaad Palace: palace.ch

Monte Rosa: monterosazermatt.ch

Grand Hotel Kronenhof: kronenhof.com

Waldhaus Flims: waldhaus-flims.ch

The best way to travel around Switzerland is by train. See swissrailways.com for details

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