palazzo
palazzo

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

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

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

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

outside

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

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

room

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

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

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

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

room

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

hotel lobby with lots of plants

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

Read more: Waku Ghin, Singapore, Review

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

nice room with great interior

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

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

big hotel building with lots of green

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

shangri-la.com

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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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case-study-01

Advisory / Luxury hotel

LUX x Deutsche Bank

As global content and marketing partner for Deutsche Bank, we create content, virtual and real life events, business, academic, institutional and individual introductions, and collaborate on ESG strategy.

andy-mann

Photo by Andy Mann

ben-thourad

Photo by Ben Thourad

Case Study

strip

Deutsche Bank x LUX ESG Strategy

The Mission

To help Deutsche Bank position themselves as the lead banking institution to be pioneering ocean conservation and the blue economy.

Execution

Sourcing and securing key leaders to participate in events and conferences around sustainability and in particular ocean conservation and the blue economy.


Thought leadership content streams created for Deutsche Bank over multiple channels.


16 page section in LUX magazine and online featuring leaders in the ocean economy, investors and philanthropists developed over several years with a special edition dedicated to the conference.


Introductions to partners who can enhance Deutsche Bank’s involvement in the ocean conservation space.


Direct Introductions to potential clients who are interested in investing in the blue economy or philanthropically towards the Deutsche Bank Ocean Resilience Philanthropy Fund.

Result

Created high engaging, original and successful events conference connecting ideas, entrepreneurs, thinkers and leaders.


Formed long term-partners and clients in the ocean conservation space.


Produced content for the intended audience showing Deutsche Bank’s commitment to ocean conservation.

Case Study

strip

Deutsche Bank x LUX ESG Strategy

The Mission

To help Deutsche Bank position themselves as the lead banking institution to be pioneering ocean conservation and the blue economy.

Execution

Sourcing and securing key leaders to participate in events and conferences around sustainability and in particular ocean conservation and the blue economy.


Thought leadership content streams created for Deutsche Bank over multiple channels.


16 page section in LUX magazine and online featuring leaders in the ocean economy, investors and philanthropists developed over several years with a special edition dedicated to the conference.


Introductions to partners who can enhance Deutsche Bank’s involvement in the ocean conservation space.


Direct Introductions to potential clients who are interested in investing in the blue economy or philanthropically towards the Deutsche Bank Ocean Resilience Philanthropy Fund.

Result

Created high engaging, original and successful events conference connecting ideas, entrepreneurs, thinkers and leaders.


Formed long term-partners and clients in the ocean conservation space.


Produced content for the intended audience showing Deutsche Bank’s commitment to ocean conservation.

ben-thourad-02b(1)

Photo by Ben Thourad

ben-thourad-02

Photo by Ben Thourad

ben-thourad-02a

Photo by Ben Thourad

Case Study

strip

Deutsche Bank x Frieze Art Fair x LUX

The Mission

Amplified Deutsche Bank’s leadership role as a bank in the art world, produced content for the intended audience showing Deutsche Bank’s commitment to art, and formed partnerships and client relationships.

Execution

Year round content creation and coverage in print, online, social media
and video.


Introductions to collectors and artists.


Exclusive events at Deutsche Bank, Frieze lounge and collectors’ homes.


Interviews and interactions with artists and collectors.


Special issues of LUX devoted to Deutsche Bank x Frieze.

Result

Amplified Deutsche Bank’s leadership role as a bank in the art world.


Produced content for the intended audience showing Deutsche Bank’s commitment to art.


Formed partnerships and client relationships.

Case Study

strip

Deutsche Bank x Frieze Art Fair x LUX

The Mission

Amplified Deutsche Bank’s leadership role as a bank in the art world, produced content for the intended audience showing Deutsche Bank’s commitment to art, and formed partnerships and client relationships.

Execution

Year round content creation and coverage in print, online, social media
and video.


Introductions to collectors and artists.


Exclusive events at Deutsche Bank, Frieze lounge and collectors’ homes.


Interviews and interactions with artists and collectors.


Special issues of LUX devoted to Deutsche Bank x Frieze.

Result

Amplified Deutsche Bank’s leadership role as a bank in the art world.


Produced content for the intended audience showing Deutsche Bank’s commitment to art.


Formed partnerships and client relationships.

mag--image 20

Read Deutsche Bank
special edition

mag--image 20

Read Deutsche Bank
special edition

Contact us

For partnership, event and advertising enquiries
please contact
[email protected]

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Contact us

For partnership, event and advertising enquiries
please contact
[email protected]

Follows us on Instagram

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Reading time: 19 min
A grey sports car outside a vineyard
A grey sports car outside a vineyard

The Aston takes in the Clos de la Roche vineyards in Burgundy, France

In the second part of our Great Drives series, Darius Sanai travels, in an Aston Martin DB11 V8 Coupe, from the Jura Mountains, Switzerland to London, UK via Burgundy and Champagne, France for a quick tasting of Amour de Deutz, 2008

In the Vallée de Joux in the Jura Mountains in Switzerland, signs for watch manufactures (factories) come as thick and fast as signposts for whisky distilleries on Speyside. Tempting though it was to make a stop (we at LUX know the watch manufactures well, but they require a little planning to visit), we dropped down a gear in our xenon-grey Aston Martin DB11 and zoomed out of the valley along snaking roads through deep forests. Every mile or so, the trees dropped away to reveal a lake or another valley. We opened the windows to hear the thrumming of the Aston’s V8 engine, a low, mellow but not over-loud rumble, bouncing off the slopes on either side of the road. This was a joyous drive.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

The DB11 Coupe is a piece of automotive architecture, sculpted, so it seems, from a block of granite. It feels satisfying to drive, even if you are not moving. It is very satisfying, and not a little fun, to drive when you are. The empty French roads allowed us to accelerate a little faster and farther than perhaps we would have done in Switzerland, where we had started that morning, or back in England, our final destination. It’s not overly challenging, but it is nicely weighted to give you a sense of Aston Martins of old, which were slightly macho and brutish as well as beautiful, like Sean Connery as James Bond, or perhaps a young Marlon Brando. Fortunately, too, it does not succumb to the latest trend of making extremely fast cars too easy to drive.

the black leather interior of a car

A peek inside the Aston Martin DB11

You would not buy the DB11 if you just wanted a very fast car, we mused, as the road, having descended down through the north side of the mountains, straightened out along a plain lined with wheat fields. These days, almost any electric car – and there seems to be a new one every day – can be programmed to go as fast as a moon rocket, but where’s the fun in that? This Aston, with its masterpiece of an exterior and equally chiselled interior, and lovely waffles of leather all around inside, is an event to be in and to arrive in. The hotel we were staying at that night in Burgundy, Hostellerie Cèdre & Spa Beaune, gave it pride of place in its car park.

A car behind an arched gate

The Aston Martin DB11 V8 Coupe in the courtyard of the Deutz champagne house, France

The Cèdre is exactly the kind of place you want to arrive at when touring France. A little palace or big mansion (take your pick), on the edge of the old walled town of Beaune in the centre of Burgundy’s wine country, it has a driveway lined with very smart cars that show the measure of its clientele, who travel from all over the world to stay and taste wines here. There is a maze of a garden with ornamental ponds and seating dotted around the foliage. We sat there that evening and enjoyed a glass of poignant 2019 Château de Meursault, salty and nutty and balanced, from a small producer just a couple of miles away. The air smelled like the wine. Inside, the Cèdre is traditional and rich, like the home of a wealthy merchant. By the bar, an Enomatic machine, which preserves open bottles of wine, serves a selection of the great vintages of Burgundy – no need to visit a wine estate, just stay here and taste.

the outside of a white hotel with tables and parasols in a garden

Garden dining by night at the Hostellerie Cèdre & Spa Beaune, Burgundy

Our room was characterful and split-level, with bedroom and bathroom on one floor and a living area in a gallery above, big enough for a group of four to stretch out on the sofa and chairs, fine wines in front of them, and chat into the night. The room didn’t have a big view but it had an interesting one, across the outskirts of Beaune to the vineyard slopes creating its eponymous, and delicious, red wine. One of the world’s most ancient vineyard sites, its history can be traced back 1,000 years. This is a soulful hotel.

A massage chair with a brown towel on it surrounded by stone and glass walls

The stylish Nuxe Spa in the vaults of the Cèdre

Our focus the next day was a drive across the countryside of central France, from one of its great winegrowing regions, Burgundy, to another, Champagne. These are connected by an autoroute, and getting there can take fewer than three hours. But that would not do justice to a car like this, so we took the back roads instead. First, we wound our way up the low, but very definite ridge of the Côte-d’Or, where we saw the same Burgundy vineyards we had seen from our hotel room, and then through forests, glades and ancient villages on the Plateau de Langres. This is Charlemagne territory, one of the most historic but unexplored parts of France. In each village there were at least a few grand houses, hundreds of years old, that wanted to tell a story.

A lounge with a fireplace and leather brown chairs

A cosy ambience at the Cèdre Lounge Bar,

The Aston ambled happily through them, like a big dog strolling with its mistress, then roared down the empty byways when the countryside emptied out a little. After a couple of hours, wanting to make it to Champagne for our next meeting, we headed back towards the autoroute, joining it near Charles de Gaulle’s home village of Colombey-les-Deux-Églises. On the smooth French highway, the Aston reverted to its alter ego of relaxed grand touring car, purring quietly.

Champagne bottles lined up

The sublime tasting at the Deutz champagne house, France

Deutz is not a champagne house that is familiar to so many international wine collectors. It doesn’t market itself like the region’s more famous names. Perhaps it doesn’t need to, we reflected, as our taxi dropped us at the maison’s cobbled courtyard (the Aston having been parked safely at our hotel for the night). After a tour of the massive underground cellars, we were shown into a beautiful historical house, its decor preserved as the Deutz family created it in the late 19th century. The tasting room was really a garden room, looking out onto lawns and intricately planted borders.

A window with flowers behind it

Window views from the garden room at the Deutz champagne house

Deutz is about quality more than marketing – more than anything, we thought, as we were guided through a selection of the maison’s champagnes. The vintage rosé, 2013, was delicate, balanced, floral and beautiful. They only got better. The prestige cuvée, Cuvée William Deutz, had a power, a richness and a kind of nobility to it – the sort of champagne you would serve at the coronation of a king (a shame the French got rid of theirs), or perhaps at a dinner to mark the 200th anniversary of your watch manufacture. But it was another one of their champagnes that really got into our souls.

three wine glasses on a table

Tasting of Cuvée William Deutz and Amour de Deutz

Amour de Deutz is made from 100 per cent Chardonnay, the best picks of the white grape that the maison gets its hands on every vintage. We tasted the 2013, 2009 and 2008. They were sublime: complex nutty creaminess, a savoury edge, richness yet ethereal lightness and a kind of golden flavour. Each was more powerful than the last, yet as gentle as a butterfly. Featherlight yet eternal.

Read more: Great Drive: Santa Monica to Napa Valley, Califonia

The next day, powered by memories of the Amour de Deutz, we cruised back to the UK in the beautiful, purring Aston, a case of golden champagne treasure in its (small but adequate) luggage compartment. The perfect little grand tour in the perfect grand tourer.

Find out more:

astonmartin.com

cedrebeaune.com

champagne-deutz.com

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

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Reading time: 7 min
luxury hotel bedroom
luxury hotel bedroom

One of the hotel’s garden suites

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

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

What’s the lowdown?

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

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

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

italian restaurant

Al Mare Restaurant

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

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

Getting horizontal

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

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

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

hotel swimming pool

The spa and swimming pool

Flipside

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

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

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

Darius Sanai

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Reading time: 2 min
luxury hotel bedroom

hotel facade

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

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

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

luxury hotel bedroom

A junior suite with french balconies

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

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

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

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

restaurant interiors

Balausta, the hotel’s restaurant

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

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

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

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art exhibition installation
riverview at night

Walking back after dinner. Image by Darius Sanai

Paris, the eternal city, never changes. Or perhaps it does. After a two-year hiatus, Darius Sanai notices some interesting happenings during a week of meetings with luxury CEOs, art dealers and creatives

Meeting an old friend for the first time in two years, I wonder if she will have aged and find her instead fizzing with renewed life.

The friend is Paris. I am here for the first time since just before the pandemic hit Europe. “Since Brexit, people are coming here instead of London because it’s easier to get a job,” says Kai, a graphic designer I bump into at a gallery opening. Estonian, she moved to the vibey/slightly scary 19th arrondissement from Dalston, in London, in September.

That doesn’t mean that Paris hasn’t suffered from city flight, like London, New York and most other metropolises. Prices of apartments in the centre of Paris are down 2.5% year on year. The sellers are not like Kai. They are wealthy and middle aged. Maybe an exchange of the wealthy bourgeoisie for edgy graphic designers in their 20s is the reason for the vivacity. Property prices in the dodgy/cool 19th are up 3.8%, from a much lower base.

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To dinner on the Left Bank with Francois Pinault’s CEO of Artemis Domaines wine estate group. Frédéric Engerer has Château Latour, the celebrated Eisele and Clos du Tart estates in Napa and Burgundy respectively, and several others, under his thumb. I get the feeling from Frédéric that these may not be the last: luxury goods titan Pinault is buying great wine estates like he once snapped up Gucci, Bottega Veneta and Saint Laurent.

At Les Climats, the Parisian restaurant with “the best wine list in the world”, according to numerous magazines, the sommelier at first doesn’t recognise Frédéric, who is arguably the most powerful man in French wine. This could have been embarrassing but Frédéric is understated, leafing through the list as anyone would. The penny drops. “Ah…sorry, I didn’t realise who…” stammers the sommelier. It’s fine.

We do a side-by-side blind tasting of his own Clos d’Eugenie against another excellent Burgundy. Frédéric and I both manage to identify both wines correctly, simple for him, and a 50/50 for me. Having had a bottle of champagne and two bottles of Burgundy on a Tuesday night, with meetings all day Wednesday, we decline the suggestion of a dessert wine.

luxury bedroom

Our suite at the Hotel Costes Castiglione. Image by Darius Sanai

Back at Hotel Costes, I am walking slightly unsteadily towards the lift in the arresting, Christian Liaigre-designed lobby of the new Castiglione wing, when I am greeted by someone walking out of the bar. After establishing I am who he thinks I am (two years absence and a compulsory face mask have that effect), Jean-Louis Costes invites me for a drink in his bar.

Over a late-night glass of Badoit, the man who first created a new vibe for Paris with the Hotel Costes in 1995 tells me his plans to expand the Costes even more. A boutique is becoming a palace. It’s also turning into my kind of place: I found the Jacques Garcia-designed original Costes a bit self-conscious, or perhaps it’s the people I met there over the years. The Castiglione, with its high ceilings, visual drama and flair, is Paris showing Dubai, London, New York and anywhere with pretensions of grandeur, how contemporary luxury style is done. If Marie Antoinette were alive and holding court in 2022, she would do it here. I reflect on how the most talked-about hotel in France among the social and media (and social media) sets is owned and run by a man who doesn’t do interviews (the profiles I did with him for LUX and Condé Nast Traveller in 2021 were the first he has ever done for the international press) and isn’t on social media.

Read more: Why you should get your new car ceramic coated

The next morning, I walk downstairs as Jean-Louis walks into the lobby. He offers me on a hard hat tour of the new spa and swimming pool, under construction beneath the hotel, and the next wing, to be a loft-style chill out zone, opening later this year. I promise to say nothing about them until the time. Only, the pool is very big and will be special. “I don’t want to build something for three people doing lengths,” he says. Jean-Louis reminds me of Nick Jones, founder of Soho House. He looks at the same space everyone else looks at, and sees an idea for something nobody else can see.

photoshoot in paris

Bird’s eye view of Angie Kremer’s photoshoot for the next issue of LUX. Image by Darius Sanai

I walk to Montparnasse, to the Photo House studio where Angie Kremer, a happening young photographer and videographer, is doing a shoot for the next issue of LUX on young creatives in Paris. Gen Z Parisians entering the workforce seem far more open to culture and ideas from the rest of the world – and outside the Peripherique – than the previous generation of twenty somethings. A positive impact of social media.

Vanessa Guo & Jean-Mathieu Martini. Courtesy Galerie Marguo

Vanessa Guo and Jean-Mathieu Martini are not Gen Z. They are globally connected millennials on a mission. Vanessa, former director of Hauser & Wirth in Hong Kong, moved to Paris and opened Galerie Marguo in October 2020. The gallery is in in a former government building in the Marais and looks out onto a newly rebuilt courtyard – the Square Arnaud Beltrame – where public art and outdoor private views take place next to a kids’ playground. (No Takashi Murakami works here.)

Vanessa says a new generation of collectors is interested in collecting a new generation of artists. Back to Brexit: with taxes and paperwork on art in and out of the UK, Paris is vying to take over London’s preeminent role in the European art world. The collectors are coming here too, she says. So long a museum of culture and brands managed carefully by a closed elite, Paris is opening out. The imminent arrival of Art Basel, displacing the more local FIAC from its seat at the Grand Palais, will change things even more.

art exhibition installation

Installation view of “Ziping Wang: Obsession Indifference and Onionskin” at Galerie Marguo, Paris

Amin Jaffer, collector and curator of the sublime, is out of town this week so I can’t take him up on his invitation for tea at his beautiful home, where his art collection is so beguilingly put together that I never want to leave. Instead, he organises for me to have a tour of the new Al Thani collection, which he curated, at the (also) new Hôtel de la Marine. The building is on Place de la Concorde, directly in the centre of the north side. The collection is a sliver of the art from Persia, Mesopotamia, Egypt, India and surrounding regions, collected by Qatar’s ruling family over the last decades. It is presented delicately, clearly, warmly, with excellent descriptions that are both clear and authoritative. And have no “side”. Curators of far lesser intellectual worth writing dreadful, biased descriptions in some of the leading institutions of the Anglo-Saxon world should take note and learn from the Qataris, and Amin. I make a note to ask him to give me a personal tour next time.

Read more: Richard Curtis on the Power of Pensions

At meetings at Kering‘s HQ, at a former military hospital on Rue de Sèvres, I reflect that Francois-Henri Pinault’s sustainability strategy and introduction of environmental P&Ls for his brands felt revolutionary and a bit weird when I first spoke about them ten years ago. Now, it feels normal, the least you can do. Meanwhile the metaverse feels revolutionary and a bit weird now.

contemporary art sculpture

A sculpture at the Al Thani Collection. Photo by Darius Sanai

A final lunch with the LUX team and Angie Kremer at Château Voltaire. This new mini five-star hotel with 1970s themes is where Kanye West stayed for the last fashion week. I have tuna tataki with ponzu and frisée salad. Angie points out that frisée can misbehave when covered with dressing and goes for haricots verts. We plan a little party and exhibition for her shoot after the next issue is out.

Time to catch the Eurostar, where the security still doesn’t provide trays, so your Balenciaga coat sits on the conveyor and your Fragonard perfume bottle gets chewed up between the ramps.

At the Eurostar arrivals area of London St Pancras, the huge Dent clock above the Tracey Emin neon has stopped. It’s an easy omen for a writer. London hasn’t stopped, but in Paris, something has restarted.

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luxury hotel
luxury hotel

The Royal Champagne is built into south-facing vineyards on the Montagne de Reims

In the final part of our luxury travel views series from the Autumn/Winter 2021 issue, LUX’s Editor-in-Chief Darius Sanai checks into Champagne’s newest and most luxurious hotel: the Royal Champagne Hotel & Spa in Épernay

If the devil is in the detail, the Royal Champagne is a devil of a place. In the best possible way. What detail to pick on? The barista-style Italian espresso machine in the room? The pale-leather welcome box containing a bottle of boutique Leclerc Briant champagne in an ice bucket, two champagne glasses and some fruit slices? The delicate mesh on the light wood occasional table? So many.

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In truth, Champagne has been in need of this hotel forever. I have been visiting the region on business and pleasure for years, and the choice has been between a couple of old-school country luxe hotels with little in the way of contemporary pleasures, and an array of functional places wholly out of keeping with champagne (the drink) and its image of indulgence.

From the very start, it’s plain that the Royal Champagne is something else: an indulgent hotel created with extreme love and style (and budget) by deep-pocketed owners wanting the best and hang the cost. (That is my impression, and I challenge them to prove me wrong.)

spa swimming pool

The pool overlooks the champagne vineyards of Épernay

You approach from Reims by driving up the Montagne de Reims, the forest-topped big hill with vineyards on both sides that demarcates the territory between Reims and Épernay, the two capitals of Champagne. Through the forest at the top of the hill, onto a lane through the vineyards, and the hotel entrance appears out of nowhere.

The Royal is built into the hillside, a contemporary building and a feat of engineering beside the historic building that gives it its name.

Read more: LUX Editor-in-Chief Darius Sanai on Effective Climate Action

Inside, everything is light, open. The welcome is professional and swift, and our room, like all of them, faced out over the vineyards, with a big balcony and vista down to Épernay and to the hills of the Côte des Blancs beyond. The balcony table shaped as a hollow-sided mini-barrel was particularly cute. Inside, everything was generous, light grey, cream, gold: the big bathroom has a sliding wooden screen to the bedroom so you can bathe with a view.

The temptation to hang out in the beautiful bedrooms is extreme but should be resisted. A couple of levels below, an indoor pool stretches the length of the main building of the hotel, all with picture windows out to the vista; there are beds on pedestals at either end to relax on, as well as more conventional loungers all around, and on an expansive terrace outside there are more chill-out spaces and an outdoor pool, warmed to cope with the north European weather, on the edge of the vines.

luxury hotel bedroom

Then there’s the aptly named Le Bellevue restaurant, with a vast terrace with a view, where you can choose from an array of specialist champagnes and – amazing for the region – choose from a light, modern, organic-based menu. Bulgur and coriander tabbouleh, baked monkfish with chard risotto, that sort of thing. And do yourself a favour and allow the sommelier to choose for you from one of the small-grower champagnes: you may never have heard of them, because they only sell locally and make in tiny amounts.

The Royal Champagne is so good that it could be a destination hotel and resort for someone not interested in drinking champagne. It manages the trick of being desirable for couples, friends or families without overwhelming with one. The service is brilliant without being corporate (it’s not part of a group) and like another LUX favourite, the Alpina Gstaad, it redefines contemporary hôtellerie. It really is that good.

Book your stay: royalchampagne.com

This article was originally published in the Autumn 2021 issue.

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hotel on a harbour
hotel on a harbour

The Idle Rocks boutique hotel sits on the edge of St Mawes harbour in Cornwall

Located on the harbour’s edge of Cornish fishing village St Mawes, The Idle Rocks is a coastal-meets-contemporary hotel and locavore hotspot. Ella Johnson checks-in for a weekend of fine dining and relaxation

At 19 rooms, The Idle Rocks is an intimate hotel. Mementos of the owning family, which bought the hotel in 2013, are dotted about the place: photographs and well-read books populate the shelves; a pair of child’s red ballet pumps, un-pristine, sit poised beneath a bell jar. Soft furnishings are in exuberant and mismatched fabrics. The wall art – all by the same local artist – offers colourful, child-like iterations of the surrounding landscape. Signature scented candles and a log fire burn all day and night; shell-shaped light fixtures bathe the communal spaces in glow. Yet there is no music or forced ambience here: only the sound of the sea just outside the window.

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The Idle Rocks is located on the harbour’s edge of St Mawes, a small fishing village on the Roseland Peninsula. Described by The Times in the 1940s as ‘a kind of British edition of St. Tropez’, a mild climate means that St Mawes is attractive year-round, and some prefer coming here away from the hectic summer months when crowds of ‘staycationers’ from across the UK fill the county’s narrow lanes and surfing beaches.

luxury hotel bedroom

One of the hotel’s grand seaview rooms

You can hear the waves wherever you happen to find yourself in the hotel: bath, breakfast, bed, or otherwise. We took the corner room with the two Juliet balconies overlooking the harbour and slept with the doors open for maximum effect (the complimentary night-time hot water bottle meant there was no risk of getting cold). In the daytime, the room is light-filled; Breton-striped curtains, raffia rugs and a travel trunk nod to the nautical while letting the view do the talking.

Head to the fireside when it is time for aperitifs and plan a culinary trip around the peninsula. Of chef Dorian Janmaat’s seven-course seasonal tasting menu, our favourite course was the venison loin with celeriac, cavolo nero, and blackberries, washed down with a glass of Black Ram Cornish red from the local Trevibban Mill Vineyard.

Read more: Designer Ali Behnam-Bakhtiar on the future of luxury events

Seafood lovers will also enjoy the lemon sole with braised salsify, cep, Cornish caviar and verjus, or the Cornish monkfish with roasted chicory. (We tried both: with the water’s edge just metres away, it would have been rude not to).

hotel lounge

The lounge area with colourful artworks by local artists

If you book out the whole hotel for exclusive use, you get the keys to the Idle Rocks-branded Land Rover thrown in. Take it out for a day of shooting or beach walking with friends, stopping off at noon at the Hidden Hut in Portscatho to warm your bones with a bowl of fish chowder on the beach.

When we returned to the hotel, we booked in for a massage in the hotel’s treatment room. While the Aromatherapy elixirs were a tonic after a day braving the Cornish elements, none was so therapeutic as lazing about in our own private cinema afterwards. The Secret Cinema is located at The Idle Rocks’ sister establishment, the St Mawes Hotel, just across the road, and is a good alternative for those looking for something a little more laid-back.

Rates: From £230 incl. breakfast (approx. €250/ $300)

Book your stay: idlerocks.com

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luxury ski hotel
luxury ski hotel

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

Why should I go now?

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

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What’s the lowdown?

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

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

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

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

Getting horizontal

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

hotel bedroom

Flipside

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

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

Book your stay: suvrettahouse.ch

Darius Sanai

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luxurious outdoor swimming pool
luxurious outdoor swimming pool

The Club Dauphin pool at the Grand-Hotel

In the first of our four part luxury travel views column from our Autumn 2021 issue, LUX Editor-in-Chief Darius Sanai experiences a taste of old world glamour at Four Seasons Grand-Hôtel du Cap-Ferrat

Cicadas trilling down a long avenue lined with high walls, behind which some of the world’s most expensive real estate lurks. Glimpses of the Mediterranean through the hedges. A security-guarded gateway, a short driveway and doormen opening doors on either side at the entrance to a Belle Époque mansion.

Arrival at the Four Seasons Grand-Hôtel du Cap-Ferrat could barely be more grand. You are in an unchanged south of France of 1920s flapper legend. Not here the camper vans, beach-going day-trippers and crowds of normal people that besmirch even the swankiest Monaco boulevard. Cap Ferrat is a place where the rich can be rich, and the Grand is the sea-facing jewel at its tip. High ceilings, light marble, big windows: first impressions are of a Parisian palace hotel transplanted and reworked to suit the setting, rather than anything like a resort. But wait, that comes later.

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Our room was light, a bedroom connecting through sliding doors to a living area with a taupe sofa, white and light grey colourways everywhere. Open the window (there was no balcony) and lavender and thyme and the sound of the cicadas pour in in one sensual flow.

luxurious hotel facade

The gardens and Le Cap. Image by Darius Sanai

Down through the palatial lobby, out of the door at the top of the staircase at the back of the building (or is at the front?), and down towards the gardens, it’s as if you are descending through layers of formality into total chillout.

Read more: Art Basel Miami Beach is Back and it’s Buzzing

The terrace of Le Cap restaurant is on the first layer of terrace, shaded by mature trees. Next layer down is a casual dining terrace and the bar where a rather good jazz band played under the canopy of the trees every evening. Carry on walking across the big lawn of the hotel and you can take various paths into a labyrinth of flower beds and trees – quite an indulgence in the place with the highest residential real estate price in the world. The gardens are on a gentle slope down towards the sea, and at night the combination of starlight, the bouquet from the plants and the sound of the jazz is intoxicating, even without a champagne cocktail.

luxurious entrance hall

The entrance hall

Directly across a little road from outside the back gate at the bottom of the garden is the entrance to Club Dauphin, the hotel’s beach club (local people can also join as members). You can take a funicular down the steep hillside that descends towards the sea, or walk down along the flower-lined path. You’re then presented with the club restaurant and swimming pool, at the very tip of the Cap. It seems that there is sea for 270 degrees around you, and what isn’t sea is either swimming pool, or a terrace where very expensive people are nibbling tiny amounts of vibrant food and being served out of magnums of Provençal rosé wine.

Here, the palace hotel you are staying in feels a long way away, and you have reached the pinnacle of informal chic as epitomised by somewhere like St Bart’s – or indeed, the Grand-Hôtel du Cap-Ferrat.

Lunch at Club Dauphin and dinner at Le Cap seems to be standard practice at the Grand – preceded in our case by an aperitif next to the jazz band, our bench seat offering a gorgeous view across the lawns and trees to the sea. The food is a kind of ultra-superior Provençal: razor clams and cockles with seaweed and fennel bavaroise; grilled asparagus in thyme jelly; and a particular favourite, grilled red mullet with olive tapenade, tomato hearts and basil, fish and tomato reduction. The only thing that was missing was David Niven chatting to Audrey Hepburn at the next table.

Book your stay: fourseasons.com/capferrat

This article was originally published in the Autumn 2021 issue. 

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grand hotel facade

Why should I go now?

In the lead up to Christmas London really comes into its own. With sparkling light displays, artisanal markets and towering Christmas trees, it’s one of the best places to go for festive cheer.

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Great Scotland Yard hotel occupies one of the city’s most historic buildings and retains a grand old world charm. Plus it’s now home to one London’s hottest new restaurants, Ekstedt at The Yard, reinforcing the hotel’s well-established reputation for dining and drinking.

First Impressions

Few approaches to a London hotel can rival that of Great Scotland Yard. You’re surrounded by the capital’s beguiling mix of history and heritage, architectural styles and even touches of pageantry with the Horse Guards on watch at Whitehall Palace.

The Lobby at Great Scotland Yard Hotel

The area known as Great Scotland Yard dates back more than a thousand years, but was most famously the former home of London’s Metropolitan Police. More recent incarnations included an army recruitment centre and Ministry of Defence office, but today elegant glass street-lamps illuminate the hotel’s Edwardian exterior and brickwork, beckoning in guests from the quiet street outside.

The Experience

An unconventional hotel arrival immerses guests straight into a number of f&b offerings, with a compact reception desk tucked away around the corner. It’s a deliberate move to emphasise the hotel’s growing reputation for gourmet experiences including Forty Elephants Bar, named for a ruthless all-female 19th century gang of robbers and a perfect spot for an aperitif or social drinks. The Parlour is a sensory and design delight where afternoon tea is a big draw for foreign guests while the Veuve Clicquot Champagne Terrace is a real find, a rooftop hideaway for bubbles overlooking the Westminster skyline. But the biggest draw has to be Swedish chef Niklas Ekstedt‘s Michelin-starred restaurant, where dishes are cooked over wood fire, using Scandinavian techniques and British ingredients, and accompanied by natural wines.

elegant interiors of a cafe bar

The Parlour serves afternoon tea from Saturday to Sunday

Elsewhere, a gymnasium, an innovative events space, a hideaway whisky bar and an intriguing collection of art and police artefacts from over the centuries ensure constant stimulation whether you’re staying in-house or visiting to drink and dine.

Takeaway

A perfect spot for tourists wishing to discover London, or a fun bolthole for Londoners looking to drink and dine in style, Great Scotland Yard mixes the historical and contemporary to great effect in a storied location.

Rates: From £315 per night

Book your stay: greatscotlandyard.com

Chris Dwyer

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hotel bar with mountains in the distance

Lauber’s Hotel CERVO uses recycled materials and geothermal heat. Photograph by Darius Sanai

As COP26 brings together world leaders to discuss climate change, Daniel Lauber, owner of the CERVO Mountain Resort in Zermatt, gives us his six guiding principles on how to create a truly sustainable luxury hotel. No greenwash included

Walk into the CERVO Mountain Resort in Zermatt, Switzerland, and you know you are in game-changing sustainable luxury. All the fixtures, fittings, furniture and decorations inside and outside the main Bazaar restaurant are of found, recycled or second-hand/vintage materials, down to the cloth screens separating tables for Covid-19 security. In the rooms, there are no disposable plastic bottles, either in the bathrooms or minibar; no disposable plastic at all, in fact, as even the bedroom slippers are made of recycled felt (they are then recycled again).

And there’s no greenwashing; Lauber knows the difference between offsetting and zero carbon. His aim is for the hotel to have a zero-carbon footprint or better, an immense challenge.

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Deep boreholes mean all the hotel’s heating is geothermal; electricity is all renewable; produce in the restaurants and bars is discernibly local, sourced from within a 150km radius. All of this is even more challenging in a remote ski resort at 1650m altitude, ringed by some of the highest peaks in the Alps, than in most places.

It’s also one of the funkiest hotels in the Alps; its bar and terrace at the bottom of the Sunnegga mountain piste are the place to be seen at the end of the ski day in Zermatt.

1. Do your homework, set targets and become your own expert

The (geothermal) heating is installed. Now we are trying more and more to go zero footprint or at least a compensated footprint. That’s the next goal, and we are aiming to get to zero waste, maybe by 2024/25.

We work together with myclimate, a Swiss organisation. We are evaluating how big our footprint is. So, the first step is to evaluate and the second step, by the end of 2022, is to try and minimise it with actual plans for things we can change, and what we can’t change then definitely to compensate for it. The end goal is to be zero footprint and then even positive, so we don’t produce a negative footprint at all. As a hotel, that’s quite a challenge, especially as we take into account construction, which always has a negative impact.

2. Make your clients your ambassadors

Doing all this is sometimes (though not always!) more expensive. Then it’s up to us to tell the story to the customer. If they understand it and appreciate it, and most of them do, then we can try to compensate the higher cost of buying with a slightly higher price; and we are lucky that our customers are able to pay that.

3. Go local, but also support family business, and be realistic

The social aspect is very important, as is the economic aspect, because you can be very social and very environmental, but if the business doesn’t work you’re going to lose.

We can work with suppliers who are smaller family businesses to find new ways of being sustainable. I really like that. And I like to give those smaller companies a platform.

For example, most of our ice cream is home-made, but in the summers we have ice cream stands and we sell ice cream from Basel. We could find ice cream that’s closer, but the people producing the one from Basel have a social work space for people who have some health issues or other disabilities and I think that’s nice. It might be 100km further away than other producers, but the mindset they have is so great, it’s worth it.

Read more: Professor Peter Newell on climate responsibility

4. Make a virtue out of your ethical sourcing

Generally, we try to use furniture that also has a sustainable approach. For example, the beds are handmade with organic materials. With whatever furniture we created ourselves, we tried to use local carpenters. In the Bazaar restaurant it was a bit different, it’s more themed, so in that instance we tried to work with young designers and companies in Morocco to support emerging designers or the all-women enterprises there. The chairs, the cushions, the carpets were made for us by small enterprises and that’s nice. It’s different to just ordering a fake Moroccan-style cushion produced anywhere.

5. The hard work is on what clients can’t see

It was quite an easy change to be plastic free in the amenities and rooms. It’s good that the customers see that. The bigger challenge to being plastic free is when it comes to the supply chain. Some stuff we need to order comes shipped stupidly wrapped up. And now that’s the second goal. We can’t do it alone, but we try to talk with those companies and ask if they can ship it differently, to see if they can use multi-reusable packaging, for example.

6. Create a virtuous circle and inspire, but don’t proselytise

We have a lot of feedback when customers say, “Ah this is a good idea”, so we do what we can to inspire customers and staff. If you inspire 10 people, it’s already worth it, and if those 10 each also inspire another 10, then it quickly escalates.

To be inspiring is very important for a hotel but it should never pushy. It’s great to inspire guests but if they don’t care that’s fine, too. Inspiring people can also be a bit educational, but I don’t think it’s our job as a hotel to educate.

Find out more: cervo.swiss

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Reading time: 4 min
hotel bar
hotel bar

Over a century after Vincent van Gogh moved to the Provençal city of Arles with the intention of setting up an artists’ commune, Maja Hoffmann, Swiss art collector and founder of the city’s contemporary art centre LUMA, is reviving his dream with l’Arlatan, a hotel and artist residence occupying a 15th-century palace. Filled with more than a million handmade, glazed ceramic tiles in vivid shades of yellow, tangerine, lavender and blue, the historic building has been transformed by Cuban-born American artist Jorge Pardo into an inhabitable piece of art. LUX Contributing Editor Maryam Eisler photographs its kaleidoscopic surfaces

curved stone staircase
swimming pool
lounge area of hotel
swimming pool
vase of flowers
ceramic tiles in bathroom
colourful hotel restaurant
colourful glass bottles
hotel bedroom
light fixtures hanging in stairway
hotel room with tiled floor
courtyard restaurant

Book your stay: arlatan.com

 

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Reading time: 3 min
swimming pool at night
swimming pool at night

The El Mirador swimming pool at the Ritz-Carlton, Abama. Photograph by Gary Schmid.

Seclusion, service, tropical weather, Michelin-starred dining, multiple pools, golf, gardens and sports: The Ritz-Carlton, Abama offers an escape for everybody

As we all endure multiple lockdowns of varying strictness and duration, the idea of an escape from the past year’s febrile world is an attractive one. Time for a break from the pandemic fallout accompanied by multiple heated global conversations, including one which would have brought tears to Voltaire’s eyes, about whether we should actually be allowed to have a conversation.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

All of which makes your own beachside villa a delightful prospect. Although for some people, the attractiveness fades when you start to examine the details. It may have full service, but your chef realistically isn’t going to be able to rustle up a Michelin-starred Japanese meal one night and some molecular gastronomy the next. Your pool, while potentially big, will be just that, a pool, not a choice of numerous pools in different locations. As to the atmosphere, you’ll either have to make your own, or travel to the nearest establishment which has one.

Then, there is The Ritz-Carlton, Abama. Perched on a cliff at the southern edge of the Canary Islands, with a spectacular view across the sea to a volcano bursting out of the ocean and looking as if it might come alive at any moment (don’t worry, La Gomera hasn’t erupted for three million years). Abama has a sense of geography that would be the envy of many places in more exotic settings, in a location that is a short flight and transfer from the major cities of Europe.

view of red domed building

A view from the hotel’s Citadel building. Photograph by Roger Mendez Fotografo, S.L.

The luxury Ritz-Carlton hotel is at the heart of the complex, but we stayed at one of the villas, located on a series of pathways traversing exotic hanging gardens tumbling down the peak of the cliff. Despite the name, these are not villas per se, as they do not have a kitchen: ours was a large private apartment, with two big bedrooms with vaulted ceilings, marble bathrooms with North African touches, a marble living and dining room, and no fewer than four balconies, all facing the sea, the volcano and, at night, a view of the stars for which the islands are famous.

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

On our first night, we became addicted to room service, taking it on the biggest of the balconies, itself the size of a decent suite. Iberico ham, local Canarian potatoes with an intensity of taste served with a spicy vegetable sauce, the day’s catch of local white fish, and as secluded as you might ever want to be. Eventually one evening we headed out to El Mirador restaurant. This is located below the villas with its own pool, on the edge of the cliff itself. We dined on the restaurant’s speciality, its seafood paella with clams, mussels, white fish and calamari.

The resort exists in an elevated sphere of gastronomy. A short ride in your own dedicated golf buggy takes you up the hillside to Kabuki, an outpost of the famed Madrid restaurant of the same name, with a 100km view in three directions, a Michelin star and dishes that remain in the soul, like butterfish and white truffle nigiri, and white fish and Iberian pancetta sushi.

beach club

The Beach Club. Photograph by Roger Mendez Fotografo, S.L.

There are more outdoor pools than we could count – we gave up at ten. Each set of villas has its own long, sinuous, sneaky 40m-long pool at whose side socially distanced sunbathing on the garden terrace, accompanied by butterflies and exotic flowers, is not just possible, it happens naturally. This is a place with a luxury of space.

At the bottom of the cliff, accessible by lift, hotel transport or a short walk, is the only white-sand beach of the island, with its own beach restaurant, bar, rock diving spots and a sheltered swimming area where even short swim brings you into visual contact with an array of multicoloured fish. And at the top of the resort, high on the mountainside, is one of Spain’s most celebrated 18-hole golf courses, and a set of championship quality tennis courts.

The facilities of one of the world’s greatest hotels with the seclusion of a villa? The best, as Voltaire’s Candide would say, of all worlds.

Book your stay: ritzcarlton.com

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Reading time: 3 min
luxurious drawing room with plants
grand building facade

The Park Avenue entrance to Waldorf Astoria New York’s luxury residences, The Towers

Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts, the luxury hotel and resort brand of Hilton Worldwide, recently embarked on a major transformation of its historic New York hotel, creating 375 luxurious private residences which are set to open, along with the hotel, in 2023. Here, the group’s Senior Vice President and Global Category Head, Dino Michael discusses the importance of creating memorable experiences, understanding your guests and building local partnerships

1. What makes a luxury brand?

Experiences are everything. Truly personalised touches that create unique moments and memories are what distinguish a luxury brand. There is more license to be whimsical in luxury now more than in the past, to be familiar and welcome guests as if they are visiting someone’s home. Yet while the luxury industry is becoming more approachable and inclusive, luxury customers still appreciate and want a certain level of prestige and truly seamless, elegant service from their luxury brands. Waldorf Astoria, for instance, is a brand known for its effortless service and for creating unforgettable moments for our guests while making them feel at home no matter where they are around the world.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

2. How do you approach global brand development for companies like Hilton, which already have a firmly established reputation and history?

In times of uncertainty, consumers gravitate towards brands they know and trust, and we want our loyal customers to be confident that they can continue to find that with Hilton. It is because of this deep connection we have with our guests that we are able to expand and further develop our brands, particularly Hilton’s luxury category.

We are looking forward to continuing to grow and develop our luxury footprint in both established urban destinations, such as the Waldorf Astoria London Admiralty Arch opening in April 2023, as well as within more remote resort locations like the Seychelles, to give consumers a trusted place to stay while exploring the world. In addition to our hotel offering, we are also seeing momentum with our residential portfolio, most notably with Waldorf Astoria New York’s luxury residences, The Towers, and Waldorf Astoria Hotel & Residences Miami, both open for sales and seeing incredible buyer interest.

luxurious drawing room with plants

The “Winter Garden” at The Towers

As an organisation we work tirelessly to meet the evolving needs of the luxury traveller, including having a long-term approach and being able to forecast where and how our discerning guests will want to travel. With privacy and exclusivity more important than ever for our guests in the post-pandemic travel landscape, unique offerings such as the recently unveiled Private Island at Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi provide both a safe and reassuring way to travel, as well as the ultimate in luxury experiences.

In addition to Waldorf Astoria, Hilton’s two other luxury brands, Conrad Hotels & Resorts and LXR Hotels & Resorts, both have aggressive development timelines in the next five years. LXR, Hilton’s collection of luxury hotels and resorts, recently launched in the U.S. with the debut of the oceanfront Oceana Santa Monica which will be closely followed by openings in the Seychelles, Las Vegas and Kyoto, Japan. Conrad, our contemporary and design-forward luxury brand, continues to expand its global presence with recent openings in Punta de Mita and Abu Dhabi and upcoming openings in Las Vegas, China, Morocco and more.

3. You have worked across the hospitality sector – from culinary to residential. How does your approach to brand development vary depending on the industry?

Ultimately it is about understanding your guest as they are the heart of the hospitality business, no matter which part of the industry you work in, whether that be hotel, residential or F&B. A good example can be seen with our two Waldorf Astoria developments – both with a residential and hotel component- in New York and Miami. Waldorf Astoria New York is being restored to resemble the hotel’s classic grandeur yet will blend the old and new in a balance of modern comfort with Art Deco opulence that celebrates the scale and beauty of the iconic property. The hotel, residences and F&B components will also reflect the New York City guest and resident in a way that caters to every need they might have visiting and living in Manhattan.

Read more: LUX’s Editor-in-Chief Darius Sanai on media

On the other hand, we have Waldorf Astoria Miami – another residential and hotel development- which
Soars 1,049 feet above Biscayne Bay as the tallest building south of New York City and a new modern architectural wonder in South Florida. We’ve taken the rich culture of Miami and let it inform how this property comes to life, while still maintaining the personal service and best-in-class experiences people come to know from Waldorf Astoria. Like all properties we develop, this project will be truly unique to its destination, offering a sense of geography and locale first, followed by the comforting reassurance of being “home” second.

This guest-centric mentality is also integral to how we develop our culinary programs across Hilton’s luxury portfolio. Overseeing the evolution and growth of our luxury F&B program is a passion of mine that stems from my humble beginnings in food and beverage within the hospitality industry. As food tourism continues to be in high demand in the luxury travel market, we continue to innovate and showcase the natural bounty of each destination through the work of world-renowned chefs like Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Dave Pynt, Michael Mina, Bryan Voltaggio, Richard Sandoval, Heinz Beck and more, bringing our guests exclusive and truly unforgettable dining experiences.

luxury apartment living room

The living room of one of the private residences at The Towers

4. Given the hotels you work with span many locations across the globe, are there any golden rules to ensure consistency of brand quality?

A defining factor of the Waldorf Astoria brand is that each property is a true representation of their destination and captures the culture and essence of locale. We aspire to create hotels for their destination, not merely in a destination which means that guests should feel that sense of place and localisation first and the Waldorf Astoria brand second.

With that said, Waldorf Astoria properties across the globe work tirelessly to deliver personalised, elegant service, unforgettable experiences, and award-winning culinary excellence, all in marquee destinations which, while perhaps a world away from home, feel like a refined, welcome haven for our guests.

5. Has there been a particular strategy by the hotels under your aegis to survive the global pandemic, given they have had to shut down for the most part?

With ever-evolving guest expectations and comfort in travelling during the pandemic we, as an industry and company, continue to innovate and find unique solutions for the unprecedented challenges of the pandemic and post-pandemic climate.

We are seeing increasingly blurred lines between business and leisure travel as people have more flexibility in their work environment. As many people are choosing to “work from home” in a variety of locations outside their home, our luxury properties have capitalised on this trend by offering specialised packages catering to the extended stay traveler as well as offering alternative work spaces for those wanting to stay closer to home, including an “Escape Longer” package at Waldorf Astoria Los Cabos Pedregal and an “Office with a View” getaway offer at Waldorf Astoria Trianon Palace Versailles.

indoor swimming pool

The “Starlight” indoor pool

For a property like Waldorf Astoria New York, many of the restoration changes already happening for the hotel and residences naturally work in a post-pandemic environment, such as fewer, larger guest rooms and residences allowing for more personalised attention and service for each guest and resident. Scaling down to 375 guest rooms will enable us to concentrate on delivering our renowned Waldorf Astoria service.

Read more: Louise Cottar of Cottar’s Safaris on meaningful luxury experiences

Additionally, Waldorf Astoria continues to align with and implement Hilton’s industry-defining initiatives and cleanliness protocols to adapt to the needs of our guests. Programs like Hilton CleanStay, an industry-leading standard of cleanliness and disinfection, along with EventReady and WorkSpaces by Hilton, allow us to provide our guests with the peace of mind and assurance that our hotels are not only operating at the highest cleanliness and safety standards, but that we are working to create programs and initiatives that allow guests to still host events, work remotely and travel in a way that makes them feel not only comfortable, but catered to.

6. To what extent does relationships with the local community play a role when establishing hotels in new locations?

Local relationships and partnerships are extremely important as we expand because they drive our impactful and authentic destination experiences across Hilton’s luxury properties. We engage with local shamanas and curanderas for native healing and wellness rituals; partner with elite establishments on private excursions that deliver a sense of place and culture in an intimate setting; and bring the region’s natural ingredients and resources to our restaurants for memorable and immersive dining experiences.

Our Conrad hotels across the globe take local engagement and social impact especially seriously, with many of our hotels offering dedicated programs that directly engage or give back to local communities. For example, the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island collaborates with several local environmental groups to help promote sustainable travel and encourage guests to reduce the use of materials that impact the environment and ocean. Our Conrad property in Washington, DC also embeds sustainability into its operations, integrating Hilton’s food waste training program into the kitchen culture as well as partnering with Clean the World to recycle and redistribute soap from guest rooms to communities in need around the world.

Conrad Washington D.C. will partner with DC Central Kitchen on a culinary internship and training program for youth. The hotel will the world. All of these programs are part of Travel with Purpose, Hilton’s corporate responsibility strategy to redefine and advance sustainable travel globally.

Another example of our engagement with the local community can be seen at The Towers of the Waldorf Astoria New York, where last year over 15,000 furniture pieces from the original hotel were put up for auction with Kaminski. The proceeds from this auction were given to support St. Bartholomew’s Conservancy in its mission to help restore and preserve the exteriors and gardens of fellow neighbourhood landmark St. Bartholomew’s Church and Community House, a celebrated local historic site and marvel of Byzantine-Romanesque architecture directly across the street.

Find out more: hilton.com/en/waldorf-astoria/

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Reading time: 8 min
entrance to villa
tuscan landscape

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

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

Where

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

The arrival

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

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

italian villa

The Dievole winery and hotel. Photograph by Alexandra Korey

The views

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

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

The rooms

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

entrance to villa

views of vineyards and hills

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

Wining and dining

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

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

The highlight

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

LUX rating: 9/10

Book your stay: dievole.it

This article originally appeared in the Summer 2021 issue.

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

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

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

Where

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

The arrival

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

historic fortress

rose garden

The restored hilltop fortress (above) with its rose garden

The views

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

swimming pool and vineyards

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

The rooms

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

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

luxurious hotel suite

One of the suites at the Hotel Il Borgo

Wining and dining

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

taverna style restaurant

The Taverna restaurant

The highlight

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

LUX rating: 9/10

Book your stay: castellobanfiwineresort.it

This article originally appeared in the Summer 2021 issue.

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house hidden in trees
house hidden in trees

Maslina Resort sits within a former olive grove on the edge of Maslinica bay. Photograph by James Houston

Why should I go now?

For endless blue skies, crystal clear water, and the slow, seductive pace of island living. Croatia remains one of the most popular and reliable summer destinations in Europe, and thanks to the sheer number of islands (there are over a thousand), there are still a handful of unspoiled spots to be found.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

While Hvar town might be bring to mind superyachts and glitzy parties, the island itself is rugged and wild with dense pine forests, remote fishing villages, and a rich, layered history. Maslina Resort opened quietly in 2020, mid-pandemic, and offers a wholesome, earthy kind of luxury.

First Impressions

The colours are the first thing you notice: the vivid blue and white spray of the Adriatic sea as the speed boat curves around the base of Hvar island and into Maslinica Bay. From a distance, the wooden-clad buildings of Maslina Resort are barely distinguishable amidst the earthy green of the olive and Aleppo pine trees, but inside is everything is bright, open, and bare with smooth, cream walls, terracotta-tiled floors, and white floaty curtains, which divide the reception, library and a sunken lounge. Each space is filled with beautiful objects and eclectic furnishings, including a spectacular 12-ton rock from the island of Brač which serves as the reception desk.

It has the feel of a fashionable, much-loved pied-à-terre, which in a way, it is: the owners are French financiers who fell in love with the raw beauty of the island and purchased the land to build their own little hideaway.

sunken living room

The public spaces are open-plan, creating a sense of light and space. Photograph by James Houston

The Experience

Guests spend their days padding around barefoot in their swimsuits, wandering between the restaurant, poolside, spa and the sea. Bedrooms are divided between six-interconnected pavilions; some have their own private plunge pools or gardens, but for the best sea views, check into a panoramic suite. There are also three spacious seafront villas for groups of friends or families.

swimming pool amidst trees

The view over the bay from the balcony of a top floor bedroom. Photograph by James Houston

There’s a strong focus on holistic living that connects with the local culture and landscape. Spa treatments involve botanical oils, scrubs and baths, and for those checking in for longer stays, there are wellness programmes designed for stress-relief and detoxification. One of our favourite experiences was guided meditation under the shade of a tree in the organic garden, which sits just behind the beach, providing a soothing soundtrack of rolling waves.

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

The main restaurant makes the most of the home-grown seasonal produce, pairing Mediterranean flavours with Japanese cooking techniques (think herby salads, fresh fish, flat breads, and olive oil), while the beach bar (open from 5pm onwards) offers a more causal menu of tapas and seafood dishes.

fine dining restaurant

The indoor dining room at the main restaurant. Photograph by James Houston

As the staff come mainly from the surrounding communities, they have an expansive knowledge of island’s sites, histories and customs. We spent a wonderful afternoon with one of resort’s expert guides,  who took us on a tour of the ancient town of Stari Grad followed by wine-tasting in a beautiful, candlelit cellar, and dinner at a konoba-style restaurant, perched high up on the hillside. 

Takeaway

Unlike a lot of luxury island resorts, Maslina feels genuinely rooted in its surroundings, which has less to do with its architecture, and more to do with the people and natural landscape. The atmosphere is laid-back and unpretentious; you feel at home, almost instantly.

Rates: From €300 per night, including breakfast (approx. £250 / $350)

Book your stay: maslinaresort.com

 

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

Photograph by Anne Emmanuelle Thion

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

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

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

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

hotel bedroom with plush furnishings

One of the hotel’s elegant bedrooms

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

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

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

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

fine dining dish

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

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

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

Book your stay: lescrayeres.com

This article originally appeared in the Summer 2021 issue.

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spa swimming pool overlooking forests
luxury hotel in a park

An aerial view of Brenners Park-Hotel & Spa and, to the right, the parkland of the Lichtentaler Allee

In the third edition of our four part luxury travel views column from our Summer 2021 issue, LUX editor-in-chief Darius Sanai checks into Brenners Park-Hotel & Spa in the scenic spa town of Baden-Baden

Drive north from Switzerland into Germany and along the flatlands of the Rhine valley, and you would have forgiven me for wanting to leave as quickly as I arrived. Yet just a few kilometres to your right you can see the undulating crest of the Black Forest (in reality a range of low mountains, not just a forest). Baden-Baden is a spa town set at the entrance to a valley; above it the road winds into the mountains, and the town itself is pleasingly encased by a variety of greens from meadows and trees.

The heart of Baden-Baden is a park, which runs along the mountain stream that flows through the town and beyond its famous opera house. This was a celebrated 19th-century retreat for the aristocracy, and the grandest location then is the grandest location now, the Brenners Park-Hotel & Spa.

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Stroll through the hotel’s lobby from the entrance on a quiet street (Baden-Baden is mostly about quiet streets) and through onto the terrace and garden on the other side, and you can walk across a private bridge across the river, with its panoply of ducks, through a gate for the guests of the hotel only, into the park and surrounding gardens. From there it is a five-minute walk to the cafés and promenade at the centre of town. Perfect for a Victorian used to being shuffled around in their landau carriage.

The hotel itself remains true to its history. This is part of the impossibly aristocratic Oetker Collection, which runs, among others, the old money Le Bristol in Paris, the Hôtel du Cap-Eden-Roc in Antibes, and The Lanesborough in London.

elegant cocktail bar

The Art Deco bar in the Fritz & Felix restaurant, where craft beers vie with cocktails and local wines for your attention

There is a tranquil feel about this place, particularly if you choose a room overlooking the park – really, the only option you should consider. Your view is a canopy of trees and the stream: no roads or traffic in sight. Wander downstairs and sit out on the terrace for a drink, surrounded by trees.

Read more: Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava on light and space

It was a warm night when I stayed, and the combination of a very genteel 19th-century ambience and the very 21st-century cuisine of Fritz & Felix, the hotel’s contemporary-cool restaurant, was addictive. Corn salad with quinoa and pomegranate; local char (a hugely underrated fleshy white fish) with pumpkin, coconut, chilli and mandarin; pata negra with string beans and pied de mouton mushrooms. The southwest of Germany also makes some excellent pinot noir wines: it is very close to Burgundy, but as the climate is a little warmer and more continental, the Baden pinot noirs are a tad richer and softer than a typical Côte-d’Or red; and mine matched the pata negra very well.

spa swimming pool overlooking forests

The spa swimming pool

The Brenners is fabled for its spa, which is the kind of place you go to for a six-month programme to reshape your body and soul, rather than a simple treatment, though you can do that, too. There’s a big indoor pool with French windows opening out onto the gardens, and you can lounge outside when it’s warm.

Anyone who knows the Oetker hotels also knows the staff are among the best in the world at personalised treatment of guests, a kind of old-world je ne sais quoi without ever being too formal or in the way. A warm wave goodbye, water bottles installed in the car, just concluded a perfect memory. If I’d had more time, there would have been plenty of exploring Baden-Baden and its theatres, and the surrounding Black Forest and its walks and inns.

Book your stay: oetkercollection.com

This article was originally published in the Summer 2021 issue.

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swiss palace hotel
swiss palace hotel

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

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

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

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

fine dining

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

terrace

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

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

alpine river

horses in woodland

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

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

fine dining dish

Chicken with carrots and a Sauternes jus

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

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

alpine valley

The river En (Inn) beneath the hotel

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

Find out more: suvrettahouse.ch

This article was originally published in the Summer 2021 issue.

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terrace views
terrace views

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

hotel bedroom with views over a river

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Book your stay: mandarinoriental.com/geneva

This article was originally published in the Summer 2021 issue. 

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grand swiss hotel
grand swiss hotel

The Badrutt’s Palace hotel’s grand frontage and its iconic tower.

High in St Moritz, the grandest hotel in the Alps has just been revitalised. There’s nowhere better to take the summer air with your entourage than Badrutt’s

What could be better than the Helen Badrutt Suite at Badrutt’s Palace? Yes, we know there are some pretty swanky hotel suites out there. The Abu Dhabi suite at the St Regis in the namesake emirate has its own spiral staircase and cinema. The Presidential Suite at the Mandarin Oriental in Pudong, Shanghai, has floor-to-ceiling windows over the city and its own wine cellar and roof garden. Stay at Seven South at the Ritz Carlton in Grand Cayman and as well as 11 bedrooms, you get a free painting to take home.

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But still. Enter the Helen Badrutt and you don’t feel like you have arrived, or paid what it takes, so much as having been granted entry to a very exclusive club, in one of the world’s most desirable pinpoint locations. Badrutt’s Palace is the acme of palace hotels in St Moritz, the world’s most exclusive mountain resort. It’s the fact that it has been so for more than a century, despite its location 1,800m up in the Swiss Alps, that provides a clue to the exclusivity: this is where blue bloods, royals, pretenders and their circle have played for more than 100 years.

luxurious hotel drawing room

The drawing room of the Helen Badrutt Suite

When the Shah of Iran decided to celebrate the 2,500th anniversary of the Persian Empire with the grandest dinner in the history of the world in Persepolis in 1971 (an act of indulgence that ultimately contributed to his downfall in the Islamic Revolution), he flew in the staff from Badrutt’s Palace. And staying in the Helen Badrutt, you are the crème de la crème of the hotel’s guests (or perhaps the Shahanshah).

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

It might be the living room, with its grand décor, bottomless drinks cabinet refilled with spirits in decanters (no tacky miniatures here), Persian carpets and chandelier; or the balcony terrace looking out over Lake St Moritz and the mountain beyond, big enough to host a party for 20 people (we did); or the silent-quiet bedroom or marble bathroom; or that it can interconnect privately to form an entire wing of ten bedrooms.

outdoor swimming pool

The Badrutt’s Palace pool overlooking Lake St Moritz

Maybe it’s the butler service, which, unlike some more thrusting hotels, is almost entirely seen and not heard, Jeeves-style (we don’t know about you, but we don’t need butlers knocking on our door and asking what to do; they should know already, as they do at Badrutt’s).

In any case, staying in the Helen Badrutt bestows upon the visitor a sense of history, transforming the humble paying guest into a multi-suffixed European aristocrat with seats in each major city of the Holy Roman Empire and a foundation in a castled town in Westphalia from where a tweed-suited team of faithful retainers disburse philanthropic goodness to worthy institutions around the world. Or so it feels, anyway.

Read more: Sophie Neuendorf on Georgia O’Keeffe’s enduring influence

And even if that nuance escapes you, there is the rest of this glorious destination to enjoy. The Palace driver (there is a Rolls-Royce, of course) will whisk you to the foot of the Languard chairlift in nearby Pontresina, for example, from where you waft upwards through a magical larch forest where unknown creatures seemingly create tiny gardens in tree stumps; and from the top of which there is a view to the end of the Roseg valley where mountains live in permanent winter.

hotel suite drawing room

A newly refreshed St Moritz Suite

Or if you prefer to stay in St Moritz, Cartier, Louis Vuitton, Hermès, Chopard, et al, are metres, or in some cases centimetres, from the Palace. And if you prefer to stay in the
hotel itself, there’s the swimming pool with its celebrated rock garden to dive from (a kind of mini Alpine Acapulco) and spa, tennis courts, adventure playground and kids’ club.

And the best thing? Well, even old money needs refreshing sometime, and during lockdown the Palace has had more than 40 of its rooms and suites redecorated – the official word is “refreshed” – by New York design studio Champalimaud, which has brought fresh blues and whites and a kind of Alpine light to the rooms. Which means that even if you’re not old-guard enough, there’s a place for you.

Book your stay: badruttspalace.com

This article was originally published in the Summer 2021 Issue.

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country hotel
country hotel

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

Why should I go now?

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

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

First Impressions

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

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

restaurant dining room

The restaurant at Minster Mill

The Experience

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

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

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

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

luxurious drawing room

The drawing room of a junior suite

Takeaway

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

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

Book your stay: minstermill.co.uk

Darius Sanai

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outdoor lounge area
outdoor lounge area

The Garden Room at The Lanesborough hotel, Knightsbridge

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

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

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

smart hotel bar

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

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

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

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

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

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

cocktail and cigar

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

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

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

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

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alpine resort
alpine village

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

gothic dining room

The gothic dining room at Bad Moos. © Hannes Niederkofler

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

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

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

hotel bedroom

A ‘Tre Cime’ Junior Suite. © Hannes Niederkofler

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

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

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

alpine swimming pool

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

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

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

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

alpine restaurant

The panorama restaurant. © Hannes Niederkofler

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

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

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

Drei Zinnen, Italy

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

For more information visit: dreizinnen.com

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

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Reading time: 7 min
hotel suite drawing room
hotel suite drawing room

The Jackie O. Suite at the Villa Kennedy

In the third edition of our luxury travel views series, LUX Editor-in-Chief returns to Villa Kennedy, a Rocco Forte hotel in the centre of Frankfurt, to discover how it stands the test of time

Frankfurt is not a city known for either its romance or its luxury experiences. So, if someone suggested flying there for a romantic weekend, you might start doubting their sanity.

But bear with me here. Having landed at Frankfurt airport, a 15-minute taxi ride through a forest into Sachsenhausen, an area of grand villas, took me to the Villa Kennedy. A villa hotel with a spa a long way metaphorically from the skyscrapers of the city centre – although Sachsenhausen is just across the river from the financial district.

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I had been to the Villa before, when Rocco Forte first opened it in 2006, and was curious to see how Europe’s most endearing (and indeed enduring) hotelier has adapted it to the times.

exterior of castle hotel

luxurious courtyard

A view of the hotel’s façade (above), and the gardens

This is a very exclusive hotel and the Zen-like atmosphere virtually wafted me up to the Jackie O. Suite, whose library room was bigger than that in many a decent home, and looked out over a tranquil central courtyard, via an extensive private terrace. The decor was sixties inspired, with swathes of gold, and the coffee table was laden with books on art and design. The bedroom was separated from the extensive bathroom area by corridor so long that you could take your exercise at the Villa Kennedy just by walking the length of your suite.

As well as being a financial capital of Germany, Frankfurt is close to the Rhine winelands, and it was pleasing to see a good selection of those wines by the glass at the Italian restaurant, Gusto, that evening. Gusto is on the ground-floor level by the internal courtyard, and while the weather was not good when I visited, I imagine sitting at a table in the courtyard would be a delightful Italianate experience on a sunny summer’s day.

Read more: How to shop for art online by Artnet’s Sophie Neuendorf

I needed to finish off a presentation ahead of my meetings the next day, and the calm atmosphere and efficient service were just what was required to accompany a laptop, a glass of Trocken Rheingau Riesling and some tuna tartare with ricotta and cucumber. Perhaps, though, the restaurant has missed a trick in being too efficient, feeling like a better place for a corporate dinner or an editor working on a laptop, than a more lingering and languid romantic dinner.

swimming pool

The spa swimming pool

That’s probably due to the nature of Frankfurt, although it’s a bit of a shame. The hotel also has a celebrated spa, which I didn’t have time to visit on my overnight, but which caters to the Frankfurt elite. Combined with the efficient journey, the architecture, location, and magnificence of the suite, a visit to the spa would’ve been a perfect ending to a romantic break, as long as there was a cuisine experience to match. Turn Frankfurt into a lovers’ location: Sir Rocco, you have overcome many challenges in your colourful life, and here’s the next one. It just needs a softening of the dining area to add the right mix of atmosphere, and ecco. Done.

roccofortehotels.com

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interior restaurant
interior restaurant

La Muña restaurant at La Réserve Eden au Lac Zurich.

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

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

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

hotel bathroom

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

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

Read more: How ethical blue economy investments support ocean conservation

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

luxury bedroom

The Eden Suite at the hotel

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

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

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

Find out more: lareserve-zurich.com

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

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hotel lounge area
hotel lounge area

The reception area at The Fullerton Bay Hotel Singapore

In the first of our four part luxury travel views column, our editor-in-chief Darius Sanai recalls the breathtaking views and chic ambience of The Fullerton Bay hotel in Singapore

A first-time visitor to Singapore before would be forgiven for being rather surprised arriving at the rooftop swimming pool at The Fullerton Bay hotel. The city state has a reputation for being efficient but unexciting – a business city for the wealthy, not a tourist destination.

Walk out of the lift on the top floor of the hotel, and you realise that reputation is outdated. In front of you is a huge outdoor pool with sunloungers both beside it and along both sides, inside it – meaning you can have both a wet bar and a wet sunbathe. Or moonbathe, in my case, as I had just arrived on a long-haul flight in the evening. Beyond the pool was a bright and throbbing outdoor bar area, the front row of which looks directly across the water of Marina Bay at the celebrated skyline of the Sands landmark on the other side, beyond which is the ocean and, in the distance, the islands of Indonesia.

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It may seem ‘normal’ if you are a resident of Singapore but coming from the western hemisphere this tropical city skyline-bar-swimming pool combination is literally breathtaking. A quick swim, then down to my room to get changed ahead of a couple of drinks in the bar, refreshing the palate before a long day of meetings the next day.

hotel roof bar

The rooftop Lantern bar at The Fullerton Bay Hotel, Singapore

While I was swimming, my room had been transformed. Normally, the ground floor is no place for a suite in a luxury hotel, but at The Fullerton Bay, the ground floor is located directly on the water. No road, no path, nothing in the way – the screens in my room had been folded back by the turndown service so I had a 180-degree view of the harbour, and when I stepped out onto the balcony and into my own personal swimming pool, I could also have taken a couple of steps more and jumped into the sea.

Read more: Activist José Soares dos Santos on environmental responsibility

If I’d been on my own, I would’ve stayed right there on the balcony, ordered some champagne, and chilled in the equatorial moonlight.

Up on the roof, by 10pm, the bar was turning more into a nightclub, with people dancing in an area cleared of tables. I sat at a table on the corner of the bar terrace, a 360-degree view of Singapore city centre all around. A pretty exhilarating introduction into the city.

living room

The living room of its Robinson Suite

In a time when eating outside is advisable as well as enjoyable, The Fullerton Bay has no shortage of options, as I discovered at my outdoor breakfast the next day. It is served à la carte, with tables well spaced, and a choice of Malaysian/Indonesian (nasi goreng), Chinese, and western, it would have been perfect on a luxurious break. On a business trip, though, I recommend you don’t make the same mistake as I did and go down in a crisp white Margiela business shirt to wear at your meetings – 8am, Singapore weather is hot enough to turn you into a sweat ball, meaning a rapid return to the room to change.

rooftop jacuzzi

The hotel’s rooftop jacuzzi

Fullerton is a legendary name in the Asian luxury industry, owned by the redoubtable and charming Ng family (who are also active in Hong Kong) and the more famous hotel and original of the same name is located 100m along the waterfront. The Fullerton, a local institution, is the colonial-era palace but is not priced at the same high-level as its more exclusive sister hotel. It is where you have to go for spa treatments, and I arranged one for just before my flight home. It was a mixture of Chinese pressure-point massage, ginger, rosemary and lavender oil, and stretching and soothing that was the perfect end to the Singapore stay-over. Over the years, I have changed my pre-long-haul flight routine flying back from Asia from champagne and sushi to a swim and a spa treatment, which is definitely more effective if you want to feel fresh on landing the next day.

Find out more: fullertonhotels.com

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

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historic building facade
historic building facade

The Gainsborough Bath Spa occupies two Grade II Listed buildings in the heart of Bath

The Gainsborough Bath Spa is located in the heart of the historic city of Bath, but with access to natural thermal waters, extensive spa facilities and a calming atmosphere, it’s no ordinary city hotel. LUX checks in for a midweek stay

Staycations have soared in popularity this summer and it’s likely to be a lasting trend not only for pandemic reasons, but also for travellers seeking a more sustainable alternative to travel. For London residents especially, Bath is a no-brainer. One of the UK’s most beautiful and historic cities, it’s just over an hour by train from Paddington Station or an easy two and half hour drive, and if you’re staying at The Gainsborough Bath Spa you don’t even have to worry about parking. The valet is there to meet you at the bottom of the hotel’s steps and on check-out, the car’s ready and waiting, stocked with water bottles and a little tin of mints for the journey. It might not sound like much, but these are the kinds of thoughtful extras that contribute to a completely stress-free experience.

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The YTL group (to which The Gainsborough belongs) is known for its acute attention to detail. Added to the top-notch valet service, all the rooms, regardless of category, have complimentary mini-bars stocked with artisanal snacks and juices, and the bathrooms are filled with an abundance of good-sized Aromatherapy Associates toiletries and fitted with underfloor heating.

Luxury hotel bedroom

One of The Gainsborough’s courtyard rooms

The rooms are smart, modern and spacious, decorated in a soothing colour palette of duck-egg blue and gold with varying layouts. We stayed in a two bedroom suite, which takes the form of a maisonette with a double room and bathroom upstairs, and an additional double (or twin) room downstairs with a small sitting room. Both beds were exceptionally soft with piles of pillows, but the downstairs room was somewhat lacking in natural light whilst the rest of the suite benefited from towering ceilings and huge windows.

Read more: Diango Hernández’s disruptive Instagram art project

spa interiors

bathing pool

Aromatherapy bar (above) and one of the thermal pools in the hotel’s spa village

The Gainsborough features the only hotel spa with access to the city’s natural thermal waters. Currently, visitors are required to pre-book one-hour bathing sessions to prevent overcrowding, but that still leaves plenty of time to dip into the different pools, sauna and steam rooms with breaks in-between for shots of thick, spiced hot chocolate (a favourite of the Romans). In terms of treatments, there’s usually a wide selection including various acqua therapies, but due to current Covid restrictions, the signature massage is the only offering, beginning with a foot bath in neroli water infused with rosemary and pine essences followed by a full body massage using calming lavender oils. Spa experiences begin with a mini workshop making scented salts using a selection of Aromatherapy oils, and end with a cup of pink Hibiscus tea on the terrace overlooking the baths.

Read more: Holly Chandler of boutique travel company Fish&Pips on travelling post lockdown

restaurant interiors

Dan Moon’s restaurant is currently only open for breakfast

Dan Moon’s restaurant, which usually serves elegant dishes made from seasonal and locally sourced ingredients, is only open for breakfast at the moment. In the afternoon, tea is served a chic mirrored lounge known as The Canvas Room and the bar is open in the evenings for cocktails.

It’s a hotel that prioritises its guests’ relaxation and privacy. Staff are warm and attentive, but generally leave you to wander freely, creating a pleasing sense of homeliness. It’s the kind of place you can imagine returning to year after year.

Rates start from £325 per night for a Deluxe Room including breakfast (approx. $400/ €350). Book your mid-week getaway: thegainsboroughbathspa.co.uk

Please note: This review was carried out before the global lockdown. Valet parking is currently not available to guests. 

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fine dining restaurant
hotel facade

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

Why should I go now?

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

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

What’s the lowdown?

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

grand hotel entrance

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

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

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

underground swimming pool

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

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

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

fine dining restaurant

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

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

Getting horiztonal

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

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

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

luxurious bedroom

The Knightsbridge Suite

Flipside

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

Rates: From £740 (approx. €800/ $950)

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

Millie Walton

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

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Reading time: 4 min
Country hotel
luxury historic hotel

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

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

The Lygon Arms, Cotswolds

THE LOCATION

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

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THE ARRIVAL

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

Luxury bar and restaurant

The Lygon Bar and Grill

THE STAY

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

ANYTHING ELSE?

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

Book your stay: lygonarmshotel.co.uk

luxurious hotel bedroom

Le25bis is the first of its kind in Épernay

Le 25bis by Leclerc Briant, Champagne

THE LOCATION

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

Read more: Driving from Alsace-Lorraine to Lake Constance

THE ARRIVAL

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

bathroom

THE STAY

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

ANYTHING ELSE?

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

Book your stay: le25bis.com

Country hotel

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

Lords of the Manor, Cotswolds

THE LOCATION

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

Read more: Fashion superstar Giorgio Armani on his global empire

THE ARRIVAL

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

contemporary interiors

The bar at Lords of the Manor

THE STAY

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

ANYTHING ELSE?

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

Book your stay: lordsofthemanor.com

luxury hotel bedroom

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

Grand Hotel Europäischer Hof, Heidelberg

THE LOCATION

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

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

THE ARRIVAL

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

hotel entrance

THE STAY

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

ANYTHING ELSE?

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

Book your stay: europaeischerhof.com

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

This article was originally published in the Summer 2020 Issue.

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Reading time: 6 min
Luxury lakeside hotel
Luxury lakeside hotel

Badrutt’s Palace overlooking Lake St Moritz

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

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

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

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

luxury hotel room

One of the hotel’s Village Deluxe rooms

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

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

Read more: Fashion superstar Giorgio Armani on his global empire

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

yachting on a lake

Sailing on the lake in the hotel’s yacht

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

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

Darius Sanai

Book your stay: badruttspalace.com

This article was originally published in the Summer 2020 Issue.

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Reading time: 3 min
Luxurious hotel bedroom
brutalist building

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

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

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

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

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

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

Luxurious hotel bedroom

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

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

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

library space

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

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

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

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

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

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

architectural sketch

External lift pod

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

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

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

Find out more: orms.co.uk

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Reading time: 4 min
interiors of lounge
Luxury country estate house

The grand exterior and park of the Brenners Park-Hotel & Spa in Baden-Baden

Our editor-in-chief reflects on travels to some of the world’s great hotels, old and new, across Europe and Asia

Brenners Park, Baden-Baden

Swing open the balcony door at the Brenners, and you are in a fairytale land of luscious trees and deep lawns, with a stream running along the end of the garden in front of you. Locals and tourists stroll along the path beyond, kids run in the flower-bedecked meadow.

Not that long ago, Baden-Baden in Germany was pretty much the place in the world to come to get away from it all. In the days before jets, the view from the Brenners Park, overlooking the gardens, with the tops of the hills of the Black Forest immediately beyond, and the opera house just down at the end of the park, was as good as it could possibly get.

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It feels pretty good right now. I ease myself into one of the balcony chairs, listening to the birdsong, reflecting that we are in the heart of Europe, a tiny distance from my home, somewhere unencumbered by the over-commercialisation of modern tourist destinations, and without hurricanes, typhoons or sweltering heat.

The hotel is in a little valley which itself is the centre of the spa town of Baden-Baden. Walk out through the grounds, over a little bridge, turn right and you are in a Baroque town centre within around four minutes’ walk. The park itself feels like the hotel’s back garden. Arriving at the grand entrance, you are aware of drawing up at an institution that has attracted the world’s great and good since 1872. Emperors from Germany to Persia stayed here. The reception area has the feel of the ground country house, rather than a city hotel, and a short climb up an oak-panelled staircase (or in a cute vintage lift) took us to a grand corridor with our suite at one end, and the connection to the adjoining villa containing the hotel’s famous wellness and spa area.

True to its history, the Villa Stéphanie is a health, medicine and recuperation centre in its own right. Sure, you can swim lengths in the conservatory pool and chillax on wooden sun loungers inside facing the park, or outside in the park in summer. You can also have a treatment and a tour of the wet facilities in the 5,000sq m spa, with its pool areas overlooking the gardens. You can also get proper medical consultations and physiotherapy along with everything else – the medical centre is housed in yet another building, adjacent to Villa Stéphanie.

Interiors of restaurant

The subtly modernised Fritz & Felix restaurant

I settled for an excellent analysis and treatment session of physiotherapy regarding my tennis elbow (conclusion: too much phone use, and too little actual tennis) after which a refreshing 50-length swim gave me an appetite. We wandered down for dinner at Fritz & Felix, an art-deco styled but distinctly contemporary culinary concept, a restaurant/ bar/kitchen. It was a refreshing contrast to our expectations of a historic German hotel. The menu, all in lower case, featured a delicious looking selection of high-quality but simple dishes: sole with capers, parsley, lemon and olive oil; local pike perch with lentils, balsamic, thyme and olives; fillet of beef with chimichurri and broccoli. The rack of lamb with chick peas, raisins and cumin went down particularly well.

The Brenners Park is part of the same group as the Hôtel du Cap-Eden-Roc in the south of France and the Bristol in Paris, and you can tell with every flutter of perfect service. Pure class.

Book your stay: oetkercollection.com

Rooftop Swimming pool

Mandarin Oriental Singapore’s swimming pools with views across Marina Bay

Mandarin Oriental Singapore

It was late when I arrived at the Mandarin Oriental Singapore. The transfer from the airport was quick, only 15 minutes. But the flight had been delayed, we had circled during a storm, and I had missed my dinner arrangement, so was feeling rather irritable.

I explained this all to the pleasant young lady who met me at reception and took me to my room (in-room check-in is such a slam dunk for a luxury hotel that they should all be required to do it to retain their five-star status) and she sympathised and, in that luxury Asian hotel way, immediately came up with a solution. Why didn’t I go to the poolside lounge bar, Bay@5, still open, for a glass of wine and a bite to eat?

Read more: Back to school with Van Cleef & Arpels

There aren’t many city hotels in the world where the swimming pool bar will be open, let alone tempting, at 11 o’clock at night, but this Mandarin, it turns out, was very much one of them. On exiting onto the pool terrace, I was greeted with a night-time-hued blue pool and surrounding tropical foliage and, across the waters of Marina Bay, an archipelago of black liquid and skyscrapers that is one of the most intimate yet dramatic night-time cityscapes in the world. Being on the fifth floor, we were just raised above the streetscape of the bay area.

The storm had passed over, the sky was starry with a warm breeze. The terrace of the bar area had a few couples and a small group sipping wine, and 80s music playing. I sipped on a beer so cold the condensation poured and reformed and poured again onto my lap, and instantly I felt much improved.

Contemporary interiors of a bar

The bar at Mandarin Oriental Singapore

The food was exactly what you might want after a long and jet-lagged journey: I had a vegetarian pizza with San Marzano tomatoes and grilled vegetables, and a hamachi ceviche with coriander. There was a selection of cocktails from Mandarin Oriental bars across the world, some fine Australian wines, and Ruinart Blanc de Blancs champagne, but the draft beer suited me fine that evening – I was the last to leave, and back in my room I was half tempted to leave the curtains open so the harbour lights lulled me to sleep, although in the morning I would have been woken by the tropical sun.

I had a morning in my room before meetings in the afternoon, which was nothing if not invigorating. The decor was contemporary Asian luxury: lots of greys and taupes, some piano blacks, and floor-to-ceiling windows. Fortunately, Mandarin Oriental has not yet fallen for the trend of assuming everyone works lying down propped up on pillows in their beds, and there was a proper office chair and desk, which I shunted around to face the view. On my final morning I had an hour spare, and went back to the pool deck, this time to do some lengths of the huge pool and spend 10 minutes lying under the overhead sun. With a view directly across the harbour and out of the sea, it felt like we were on a tropical island, and in a sense we were. Pretty impressive for a city-centre hotel, and I can’t think of anywhere that beats it for a resort in a city of glamour.

Book your stay: mandarinoriental.com

Grand country house

The Four Seasons Hampshire brings a modern style to its 18th-century English manor house and park

Four Seasons Hampshire

The clouds were dramatic as we headed up the drive towards the brick manor house that is the Four Seasons hotel in Hampshire. The hotel is on a slight hill above open fields of English countryside, and on a sunny day, puffs of white and slabs of grey fought each other for places in the Atlantic-washed sky. Arrival was made even more atmospheric at the sight of three fawn-coloured horses, their riders gently leading them across a lawn to the stable block.

The feeling here is of space and light; you (or your kids) are free to roam down the slope leading around the hotel to the restaurant, café and eventually the shooting field at the back. Inside the building, a covered passageway in the conservatory leads to a spa block with a big indoor pool with a glass roof, and outdoor Jacuzzi and sunbathing area, completely private on an Italianate terrace.

interiors of lounge

The lounge are of the Wild Carrot restaurant at Four Seasons Hampshire

Our room was a blend of traditional English coloured cushions – pinks, dark pastels, and burnt orange – a combination of leatherwork, ornate wallpapers, with windows looking over the open fields. Less than 40 minutes from Heathrow, you are plunged into a serious English country house experience.

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

We were expecting a slightly formalised English dining experience, but fortunately the management had more sense than that. Wild Carrot, the main restaurant, has been reborn as a kind of grand Parisian bistro. There were leather banquettes, bare wooden floors and no tablecloths, and a menu featuring lots of raw and local ingredients. Typical was the very welcome lightly torched house-cured mackerel with pickled radish and hollandaise, and a main of Somerset salt-marsh lamb rack with roasted cucumber, Greek yoghurt, tomato chutney and mint. All the vegetables are locally grown.

Luxurious indoor swimming pool

The hotel’s pool is attached to the converted stables

Unlike some traditional English country house hotels, signs proclaim children and dogs are welcome, and there are plenty of activities for both. The riding stables offered us a trek across the fields and around the lakes and hacking around the woodland on horses which had been perfectly matched to our height, weight and experience. There is also a high-wire adventure park, which involves zip wires, ladders and perilous bridges to clamber across, all with highly professional instructors.

There is also tennis, clay pigeon shooting, cycling, croquet and an immensely satisfying spa. The grounds are vast – a walk down to and around the lake and back is enough to work up a full day’s appetite. Altogether, it’s impossible to think of another English country house hotel which offers such a complete range of experiences in such luxury, let alone one so near Heathrow Airport and the capital.

Book your stay: fourseasons.com

Grand palace in snowy setting

The Gstaad Palace was once called, for good reason, the ‘Winter- Palace’

Gstaad Palace

A memory of a place is first recalled by rapid-fire still or moving image (or maybe now a GIF?) in your brain. A few weeks after my visit, my instant memory of the Gstaad Palace was our table at Le Grill restaurant. Wood-panelled walls and ceilings and a thick Alpine carpet, and veneered wooden chairs and occasional tables gave it a mountain chic. Formally dressed waiters bustled around, chatting with guests they have known evidently for years or decades.

They were no less courteous to us, to their credit, although of course we had no common anecdotes to share with them. With Alpine flowers on the thick tablecloths, and cuisine rich and local ingredients, including flambéed dishes prepared at the table by the waiters like a glorious piece of 1970s revival, it was an evening experience unlike almost any other.

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

There was a fantastic Hungarian traditional string band playing in adjacent bar, alternating with a soulful jazz band. The house Burgundy, poured from magnums, accompanied everything extremely well. You could choose Le Grill to propose to your other half, for a family get-together, or a casual dinner for one – it’s that versatile.

When we drew back the thick red curtains of our suite in the morning, we were greeted by the Alps as drawn by Laurent de Brunhoff, creator of Babar the Elephant. Big, forested round hills dropped into a broad bowl, above which jagged rocky peaks loomed. The Palace is the cornerstone of Gstaad, the reason the village has become one of the epicentres of wealth in Europe. In winter, after dinner at Le Grill or one of the other restaurants, you would roll down to the GreenGo nightclub, with James Bond and Pussy Galore sitting on corner sofas sipping two olive martinis as Julio Iglesias rocks the dance floor.

cosy lounge area with open fire

Today, the hotel’s modern spa adds a warmer kind of seclusion from the outside world

In summer, when we went, the nightclub is a swimming pool, connected to the spa (open year round) and looking out onto a garden with a cute kids’ playground, and lined by the hotel’s famous clay tennis courts. Here, you can play as if you were born with a pro living in your garden house (as many guests likely were) with a 270-degree view of the mountain bowl of the Bernese Oberland. If you need something bigger than the hotel’s internal pool, wander up to the Olympic-sized pool the hotel shares with the village (it has its own sun-lounger area, and this is a very posh village). We loved our simple, abundant mountain-food lunch at the pool bar.

The Palace is the kind of place which makes you feel very welcome, but at which it is always evident that there are layers of society into which money simply won’t buy. In its lavish lounge and bar area, just behind reception, old families from Germany, Switzerland and Italy, whose forebears have been coming here for generations, chat easily about art, girls and boys, and schools. The windows in the corridor leading down to the restaurant contain watches and jewellery, from famous brands, that simply might not be available to you unless you know them personally.

The service, however, is sublime for everyone – there was not a flicker of an eyebrow when we booked a tennis court, arrived on the court, and realised we didn’t have any rackets or balls. They were served up in an instant. I just enjoyed sitting on the terrace at breakfast, picking out a gluten-free croissant, looking out over the view, and catching snippets of cultured conversation in several European languages. Perhaps we will be coming back here for generations also.

Book your stay: palace.ch

This article was originally published in the Spring 2020 Issue.

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Reading time: 12 min
Mountainscape of peaks and glacier
Mountainscape of peaks and glacier

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

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

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

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

Alpine hotel nestled into mountainside

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

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

Luxury drawing room of a suite room

Bedrooms at Riffelalp benefit from sweeping views over the mountain peaks

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

Luxurious hotel bedroom

Alpine terrace

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

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

Read more: Back to school with Van Cleef & Arpels

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

Indoor swimming pool

The indoor swimming pool at the hotel’s spa

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

Grand restaurant dining room

The Alexandre restaurant serves fresh, light Alpine cuisine

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

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

Book your stay: riffelalp.com

Pine forest trekking

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

Four unmissable summer activities in Zermatt

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

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

Mountain path

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

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

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

Matterhorn mountain with fields of wildflowers

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

Other places to stay

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

This article was originally published in the Spring 2020 Issue.

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Reading time: 8 min
Luxurious lounge area of town house
Luxurious lounge area of town house

Residents of Clivedale London’s latest luxury development can enjoy branded services and amenities provided by the Dorchester Collection

Mayfair-based developers Clivedale London recently unveiled the interiors for a townhouse at Mayfair Park Residences, an exclusive residential development managed by the Dorchester Collection. Chloe Frost-Smith takes a look inside

Mayfair Park Residences is a collection of 24 private apartments, all fully-serviced with five-star amenities by the adjoining Dorchester Collection hotel, 45 Park Lane. Ranging from spacious pieds-à-terre to an eight-bedroom penthouse complete with rooftop pool, the generously proportioned apartments are spread over eight floors with sweeping views over Hyde Park.

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Incorporating the character of a Grade II listed townhouse, Lee Polisano of London-based PLP Architecture has created a contemporary yet complementary counterpart to the refurbished historic Georgian façades, one in black-painted brick, the other in Portland stone and white travertine. Fronting two streets and presenting six distinct exteriors, Mayfair Park Residences blends into the surrounding eclectic architectural styles.

Luxurious double bedroom

Grand dining room with piano

The spacious dining room of a townhouse at Mayfair Park Residences, and (above) one of the bedrooms

The classic Georgian period details are continued in the interiors, which draw on historical references combined with bespoke features by Parisian design studio Jouin Manku. With a number of previous Dorchester Collection hotel projects in their portfolio, Jouin Manku has taken a fresh approach to the group’s first residential development, focusing on an organic, natural colour palette and luxurious materials. Soft, muted tones are paired with elegant marble work, floor-to-ceiling windows, and wood-panelled spiral staircases.

Read more: Film director Armando Iannucci on David Copperfield & Fleabag

Contemporary spiral staircase of apartment

Interiors by Parisian design studio Jouin Manku blend historical references with contemporary details

Residents will enjoy access to an impressive selection of services available on an à la carte basis, including 24-hour room service, concierge, security, and valet parking. In addition to 45 Park Lane and The Dorchester amenities, residents can also make full use of the heated swimming pool, sauna and steam rooms, and hydrotherapy pool.

Find out more: mayfairparkresidences.com

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

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

Why should I book now?

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

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What’s the lowdown?

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

Interiors of a chic restaurant

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

Chic rooftop restaurant

Getting horizontal

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

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

Luxurious hotel bedroom with floor to ceiling glass windows

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

Flipside

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

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

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

Darius Sanai

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Exhibition installation shot
Exhibition installation shot

Installation view of Maturation by José Yaque (2020) at Galleria Continua Roma, St. Regis. Image courtesy the artist and Galleria Continua

Founded in 1990 by three friends in the Tuscan town of San Gimignano, Galleria Continua now represents the likes of Ai Weiwei, Anish Kapoor and Michelangelo Pistoletto with spaces in Havana, Paris and Beijing. Last week, the gallery opened its first location in Rome within the St Regis hotel. We spoke to co-founder Lorenzo Fiaschi about the opening, artist residency programs and the year ahead

Man wearing pink suit jacket and red trousers

Lorenzo Fiaschi, Co-Founder of Galleria Continua

1. Why Rome and why now?

The people, situations and places we encounter are what inspires us, our projects don’t come from how the “market” works or from collecting. When we find somewhere with which we feel a certain type of harmony, we launch ourselves into it, body and soul. We let ourselves get swept away by passion and luckily, results follow. In Rome, we have collector friends who follow and appreciate us, so we’re happy to create this new adventure in order to see them more often.

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2. How did you first develop a relationship with the St. Regis?

We started our collaboration with The St Regis Rome through a project with Loris Cecchini. His exhibition had great success and created a lot of interest and buzz. Some Romans were curious about the installation Blaublobbing that you could see from outside and entered the hotel to discover the other works. A place that hosts international artists while creating a dialogue between the works, the space and the guests that stay there is something new and it worked. We then followed that with an exhibition by Pascale Marthine Tayou, an artist who celebrates life through his works. Forms, colours and a mix of human and geographical oddities invaded The St Regis and it was another thrilling experience.

The General Manager, Giuseppe De Martino, from the beginning has been a promoter of an open relationship towards the world of contemporary art, at this point he showed us a very unusual wing of the hotel, unknown to guests, the Sala Diocleziano. We liked it and so accepted the challenge, imagining what it could become and deciding to open a new exhibition space.

Artist installation in hotel lobby

If I Died (2013), sculpture installation by Beijing artist duo Sun Yuan & Peng Yu installed in hotel lobby at St Regis Rome by Galleria Continua. Image courtesy: the artist and Galleria Continua. Photo by Ela Bialkowska, OKNO Studio

3. What are some of the challenges of opening a gallery within a hotel?

The challenge is to stimulate and draw in people who don’t know, or don’t frequent the contemporary art world. The challenge is to bring the gaze of the hotel guests onto forms and languages that are unusual for them. Art opens us up to new realities and new ways of thinking.

The educational aspects of Galleria Continua Roma’s program aim to bring children closer to contemporary art by providing them with suitable reading keys, not only for the understanding of an artistic language for the time they live in, but also for the creation of creative knowledge and stimulants. The intent is to educate about art through art.

4.Can you tell us about the concept behind José Yaque’s exhibition Maturation?

José Yaque, as the first artist in the new space, represents a continuation of the Cuban experience which began with the opening of Galleria Continua Habana. He’s a witness and representative of a gallery experience which aims to weave relationships between cultures, geographies and diverse individuals, Yaque conceptually represents a bridge between Cuba and Rome.

Read more: Artist Richard Orlinski on pop culture & creative freedom

For Maturation, he presents a series of new paintings and an installation from the ‘Tumba Abierta’ series, an archive in transformation made up of natural elements (plants, seeds, fruits, leaves); new forms of landscape where matter, colours and smells magically transport the viewer to other places. José Yaque’s paintings are like windows opening onto a landscape. Mixing and applying the colours using his hands, a sort of magma is formed and transformed when he wraps the works with plastic film before removing the protective layer, once dried, resulting in an eroded painting.

Installation view of exhibition with artworks hanging on walls

Installation view of ‘Maturation’ by José Yaque (2020) at Galleria Continua Roma, St. Regis. Image courtesy the artist and Galleria Continua

5. How will the artist residencies work?

We’ll also be launching an artist residency program that will be selected by an expert committee every 6 months, giving an opportunity to young artists from emerging countries to stay in the capital, to increment their personal and professional growth by confronting themselves with the immense contemporary, and antique Italian artistic heritage. The works done during these stays will be presented to the public in the spaces of the gallery.

6. What other developments do you have planned for this year?

Coming up, with the Chinese artists Sun Yuan & Peng Yu (their exhibition constitutes a third stage in the collaboration project with The St Regis Rome, after Loris Cecchini and Pascale Marthine Tayou) we organised talks at the Accademia di Belle Arti di Roma and a talk at the Accademia di Belle Arti di Carrara. We’re always open to any collaboration that can create an exchange and a dialogue.

In 2020, we are celebrating the thirtieth anniversary of Galleria Continua so there are many exciting things to come. At the end of the summer we are opening a new location in Sao Paulo in Brazil in the Pacaembu stadium, a historic building in the heart of the city, since 1940 it has been a central part of the city’s cultural life.

In September, we will be celebrating this anniversary where everything began, in San Gimignano with an exhibition of Chen Zhen inaugurating on 18, 19 and 20 September 2020.

‘Maturation’ by José Yaque runs until 28 March 2020 at Galleria Continua at The St Regis Rome. For more information visit: galleriacontinua.com

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Exterior of an alpine hotel in winter
Exterior of an alpine hotel in winter

Hôtel de l’Etrier is located in the sunny Alpine resort of Crans-Montana

Why should I go now?

While many Swiss resorts suffer from “deep valley” syndrome in midwinter, with the sun hidden by peaks for most of the day, Crans-Montana is both snowy (it sits at 1450m and its top station is at 3000m) and sunny, as it’s on a south-facing shelf high above the deep Rhône valley. Hôtel de l’Etrier is a Crans-Montana institution: take one of its recently refurbished, Alpine-contemporary pine clad, coolly lit south-facing rooms with a big balcony, and you have one of the best views of any Alpine hotel, and one of the sunniest locations.

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What’s the lowdown?

L’Etrier is a three minute walk from the main Crans lift station (you can leave your skis at the lift station rental store, which incidentally does an excellent line in Swiss Stoeckli skis, among our favourites). Step into the hotel and you have a picture-window view from the bar across the Valais Alps; there are few better places to relax with a long cocktail after (or maybe before) a day on the excellent Crans slopes.

Luxurious indoor swimming pool with loungers

The hotel has a spa and indoor pool, which connects to an outside swimming pool in summer

You also have access to two of this foodie village’s most well-known restaurants without even stepping outside, as a passageway leads to the Michelin-starred Pas de l’Ours restaurant and its more casual counterpart, the Bistrot de l’Ours, serving signature dishes such as candied pig shank with curry, beer cabbage, juniper and apple vitelotte.

Alpine lounge area with armchair and fire

The bar offers a cosy atmosphere for casual dining, whilst le Fer à Cheval restaurant (below) serves traditional Swiss alpine cuisine

Detail image of a table with wine and hams

The bar in the hotel itself is supremely relaxed and serves casual food, and this was our favourite hangout of all, in a deep armchair by a picture window looking out at the dramatic view. Many Alpine hotels nestle deep in valleys and views are limited; not so here. There is also an indoor pool (connecting outside in summer) and spa/wet area.

Getting horizontal

Our “superior” room was just that. It wasn’t the last word in high luxury, and l’Etrier is not priced as such, being a four-star hotel. But we preferred it to rooms we have had in some of Europe’s (and Switzerland’s) grandest institutions. The light pine and modern lighting decor were just right; the furnishings were light and contemporary without being irritatingly over-designed and the emphasis was on comfort.

Read more: Andermatt’s new high-altitude restaurants

Spacious bedroom with pine fittings

One of the hotel’s spacious suites

The balcony had such magnificent views across the resort, below, the woods around it and across the Rhône valley to the giant peaks of the Pennine Alps surrounding the distant resorts of Zermatt and Zinal, that we spent an evening sitting and admiring the rose-coloured sunset, despite the increasing Alpine winter cold. Some rooms are just right in terms of general vibe: this was a room you didn’t want to leave, in the evenings, as the canopy of stars emerged above the mountains and valley.

Flipside

Crans-Montana is quite a spread-out resort and none of its top hotels can claim to be quite in the centre of things; L’Etrier is no different, and while it’s very near the main lift, it’s an eight minute walk (or two minute shuttle) to the centre of Crans, one of the two villages.

Rates: From 200 CHF  (approx. £150 /€200/ $200)

Book your stay: hoteletrier.ch

Darius Sanai

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Cosy hotel bar lounge area with fireplace
Cosy hotel bar lounge area with fireplace

Boutique hotel Les Manoir de Portes de Deauville offers a homely kind of luxury in the heart of Normandy

Located just two hours from Paris, Deauville has long been a chic weekend destination for Parisians and now with the newly opened boutique hotel Les Manoirs des Portes de Deauville, it’s perfect for families too. LUX Managing Editor Serena Hamilton discovers

Europeans tend to lean towards the same destinations in France. They go every summer, stay in the same house or hotel, get croissants from the same boulangerie and eat dinner in the same bistro. There’s something undoubtedly comforting about that kind of routine, knowing that your expectations will be met year after year, and yet, comfort as everyone knows doesn’t necessarily equal excitement or adventure. So this year, we decided to try somewhere new.

Deauville and its neighbouring town Trouville are often referred to as the “Parisian riviera” not just because of their proximity to the French capital, but also for their chic ambience. Deauville, for example, boasts a year round calendar of film festivals, yachting regattas and vintage car rallies as well as great shopping and a beautiful, albeit busy white sandy beach complete with Instagrammable candy-coloured parasols. The streets are immaculate and everyone is stylishly dressed, which is wonderful if you don’t have children hanging off your arms. For us, holidays are generally more about relaxation, and we tend to look for places which can offer adult-orientated calm whilst simultaneously catering to the children’s endless energy. Not a lot to ask for is it? Thankfully, Les Manoirs des Portes de Deauville fitted the bill perfectly.

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Located a few minutes outside of Deauville town, the boutique hotel only opened its doors this summer and straddles the line between country manor hotel and Parisian chic. It’s set within acres of lush parkland, with a 16th century manor house at the centre and nine surrounding private cottages.The furnishings throughout are a mix of contemporary and antique, whilst the colour palette of pale pinks and creams pairs perfectly with the dark exposed beams and more rustic touches. Some of the rooms and shared spaces also have beautiful old brick fireplaces. More importantly, though, it feels like a space to be lived in rather than just admired, which means you can properly relax rather than stressing every time a child clambers over an armchair.

Historic manor house and lawn

The hotel is set within stunning parkland and gardens (see below) with bedrooms in the main manor house as well as private cottages

Garden of a manor house

We were staying in a very pretty little cottages (adjacent to the one booked by our family friends), which provided more space and the added luxury of total privacy, whilst still in easy access of the outdoor pool, sauna and jacuzzi. As parents it was pure bliss to sit drinking our morning coffee on the lawn whilst our children ran around the park and tipped each other out of the hammocks.

Read more: Half Moon Bay Antigua reveals Rosewood Residences

Sadly, the restaurant wasn’t yet open during our stay, but there were plenty of excellent nearby options including the historic town of Honfleur, where we enjoyed several lunches of delicious moules-frites on the harbour’s edge. In the evenings, after tucking the children into their beds, we strolled across the lawn to the main house for a cheese and charcuterie board with local wines in the cosy lounge bar. No need for hushed in-room dining, or babysitters.

Rustic elegant interiors of a hotel bedroom

Luxurious hotel suite with contemporary furnishings

The interiors blend rustic chic with contemporary furnishings and a calming colour palette

The staff, especially, made us feel immediately welcome and were wonderfully patient with the children’s endless requests for hot chocolates and snacks, which isn’t always the norm with luxury hotels. They were also very knowledgable about the local area and suggested child-friendly activities such as a cute petit train ride through the heart of Deauville, and strolls through the stunning countryside.

It might not be quite the place for the usual Deauville crowd, but for anyone wanting to relax in an elegant, unpretentious setting that’s within easy distance of a beach as well as upmarket restaurants and shops, it couldn’t be more perfect.

Rates start from €120 per night including breakfast (approx. £100/$150). Book your stay: portesdedeauville.com

 

 

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Luxurious rooftop terrace of a hotel suite
Luxury city hotel on the riverside

Mandarin Oriental Geneva sits along the banks of the River Rhône

Mandarin Oriental Geneva is now home to one of the biggest and most luxurious suites in the city

Spanning 325 square metres across the hotel’s top floor, Mandarin Oriental Geneva’s Royal Penthouse is well placed for breath-taking views. Through the floor-to-ceiling windows, guests can survey the city and the winding River Rhône with snow-capped mountains looming in the distance.

Spacious luxury bathroom

The master bathroom in the Royal Penthouse Suite

Designed by BUZ Design, the suite is open-plan with a master bedroom, hammam shower, two further en-suite bedrooms and a spacious living room with a fireplace. It also features a sound-proofed entertainment room with the latest audio-visual equipment.

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The interiors take inspiration from seasonal colours; the bedroom reflects spring with bright shades of yellow, whilst the other bedrooms favour a summery palette. The living room is filled with warm, autumnal hues and the cinema room is decorated with cool, winter colours.

Luxury dining room area of a hotel suite

Luxurious living area with silver sofa and curved walls

The suite’s interiors are designed around the seasons

The terrace is one of the suite’s main draws for not just its views, but also for the laid-back ambience created by soft furnishings and flowerbeds.

Luxurious rooftop terrace of a hotel suite

The Royal Penthouse suite terrace boasts spectacular panoramic views

The Royal Penthouse can be converted into a one-bedroom suite or combined with the Royal Suite on the 6th floor, via a connecting private lift, to form the Imperial Residence, a sensational six-bedroom suite offering 577 square metres of luxurious living space.

For more information visit: mandarinoriental.com/geneva/rhone-river/luxury-hotel

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facade of Victorian townhouse with red brick and white windows
facade of Victorian townhouse with red brick and white windows

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

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

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

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

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

Luxury hotel bedroom with contemporary furnishings

Rooms are decorated with elegant, contemporary furnishings

Luxurious private rooftop terrace

The Westminster Suite’s private terrace

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

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

Bowls of chocolate truffles and recipes

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

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

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

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

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

Book your stay: stjameshotelandclub.com

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

 

 

 

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Luxury hotel on peninsula at sunset
City beach landscape with skyscrapers in background

Bulgari Resort Dubai is located on the white sandy beaches of Jumeira Bay

Why should I go now?

Still dreaming of that perfect glass of chilled Puligny-Montrachet at sunset on the beach? Keep your memories of those warm summer nights alive, by heading over to Dubai, where the perfect season to visit is just beginning. From around November to March, temperatures come off the searing heat of summer months, so don’t pack away those shorts and sandals yet.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

The city has an over-achieving buzz about it that always bring you back to experience something new. Straight off visiting the top of the Burj Khalifa, we were swiftly introduced to a model construction of the Creek Tower, which will stand at 1.3 kilometres high, surpassing the current tallest skyscraper by 472 meters. The new addition to Dubai’s iconic skyline is projected to be completed in time for the World Expo in 2020.

What’s the lowdown?

If walking through a hall of a hundred doors to get to your room puts you off, Bulgari is the luxury boutique answer to your fear of mega hotels in Dubai. It is a 20 minute drive from the airport, on the seahorse-shaped white sandy beached island of Jumeira Bay, the latest addition to the Bulgari Hotels and Resorts collection comprising six properties in five different countries.

Here, you get the opulent and glamorous experience that Dubai is famous for, without the garishness and glitz. The coral-influenced panel design of the exterior structure coincidentally looked a lot like melted parmesan crisps, perfectly exemplifying the brand’s philosophy of blending their Italian heritage with the region’s maritime influence.

Luxury beach side swimming pool

The resort’s main swimming pool sits just above the ocean

From the lobby to the rooms, one could easily mistake oneself to be at the annual Salone del Mobile in Milan. Recognisable signature designs of top Italian furniture brands (Flos, B&B Italia, Poliform, Rimadesio – to name a few) will definitely inspire you to add a few new pieces to your own home. Throughout the resort’s walls, you are reminded of Bulgari’s 130 year legacy with glamorous photography and design sketches of the brand’s timeless jewellery and the famous people they adorned.

Read more: The luxury concierge company that provides the perfect holiday wardrobe

Should the weather get too hot to go outdoors, and it often does, the spa also offers one of the longest and most impressive indoor swimming pools in Dubai complete with private relaxation cabanas. Yes, fly to the sun, and sit indoors. Wise, as the locals know.

Getting horizontal

We stayed in a two-bedroom family villa, which can be best described by one word: home. The moment we arrived, we were greeted at the door by our personal butler, catering to our every need. As we enjoyed fresh fruits, house-made chocolates, dates, and Amaretti biscuits, our butler helped to unpack our luggage. We loved the spacious living area furnished with a large leather sofa of rich mocha, and almond nougat-coloured marble tables. Most of our family time and meals were spent there, where they even set up a cute tent filled with toys and activities for our children.

Luxury beach villa in contemporary design

Luxurious living room space inside hotel suite

Here and above: one of the resort’s luxurious beach villas with a spacious living room

Given the exclusive, honeymoon vibe of the resort, it’s surprisingly kid-friendly with an all day Kids Club which even features a shallow plunge pool. If it’s too hot to relax on the beach, each villa has a personal pool, which we found perfect for a refreshing dip after our indulgent breakfasts. Our ever-present butler made sure that we were comfortably cool with Bulgari-branded fresh coconuts, sorbet popsicles, and ice cream-filled mochi. Needless to say, we found ourselves always looking forward to going back “home” to the comforts of our little retreat after a long day out.

Anything else?

If you stay at a villa, try the private barbecue dinner with a personal chef. We had lobster, sea bass, and wagyu steaks straight off our own sizzling grill, with no danger of the husband donning his chef’s whites and making like a BBQ cook-off king. Trust us: there’s nothing like being able to walk just ten steps back to your bedroom after an amazing dinner that puts you in a food coma. Don’t worry, you’ll work it off the next day with a serious cardio session of shopping at Dubai Mall.

Japanese interiors of a restaurant

The resort’s intimate Japanese restaurant Hoseki

And before you leave, do leave yourself in the hands of Chef Masahiro Sugiyama at resident Japanese restaurant, Hoseki, meaning “ Gem Stone” in Japanese. This sleek and modern restaurant with just 9 seats has a perfect view of Dubai’s glittering skyline and serves only an Omakase menu. You’ll get intimate with Chef Sugiyama who comes from 6 generations of sushi chefs before him. As he serves curated sushi, he explains in detail how each ingredient, all flown in fresh from Tokyo, comes into perfect harmony on your palate. Here, you can truly just sit back, relax and sip on a cup of ice-cold Junmai Daigin Jyo sake. Make sure to book ahead.

Rates: From 2,000 AED for an entry-level room during low season (approx. £400/€500/ $550)

Book your stay: bulgarihotels.com

Emily Lee

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Gorilla with a baby in the forest
Mountainous landscape with blue skies

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

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

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

Luxurious hotel bedroom with large windows overlooking forest

The Silverback Suite with a private swimming pool

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

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

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

Gorilla with a baby in the forest

Luxurious private living room

The Virunga Suite features a spacious living room

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

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

Terrace restaurant of a hotel with fireplace

The terrace of the Nest restaurant

Relaxation room inside a luxury spa

The spa’s relaxation room

For more information visit: oneandonlygorillasnest.com

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Grand facade of luxury five star hotel
Grand facade of luxury five star hotel

The newly opened Fullerton Hotel Sydney, located in the city’s historic General Post Office

Earlier this month, the opening of the Fullerton Hotel Sydney marked the Singapore-based brand’s first expansion overseas. LUX takes a look inside the heritage property

The latest opening by Singapore-based brand Fullerton Hotel & Resorts offers guests more than just luxury hotel. Housed in Sydney’s historic General Post Office, the hotel is the result of a careful restoration project which involved building 416 guest rooms and cleaning the sweeping sandstone façade.

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Luxurious hotel bedroom with city views

One of the hotel’s luxurious suites

Grand staircase inside luxury hotel

The grand staircase at the Fullerton Hotel Sydney

During its former life, the GPO was known as a gateway to the world, functioning as the centre of NSW’s telephone and mail communication for many years, and Sydney’s postal headquarters until 1996. Designed by colonial architect James Barnet and built in 1866, the building was and still is regarded as one of the city’s major landmarks.

Vintage photograph of worker typing in office

Vintage photographs of workers inside post office

Here and above: Archive images from the Telegraph Section at the G.P.O., November 1953

The hotel’s programme of complimentary heritage tours aims to introduce guests and members of the public to the building’s history with a 90-minute walk involving unique anecdotes and insights.

For more information visit: fullertonhotels.com/fullerton-hotel-sydney

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Hilltop luxury villa hotel surrounded by forest
Hilltop luxury villa hotel surrounded by forest

Borgo Pignano sits within a stunning 750-acre estate

Why should I go now?

Tuscany is always beautiful, but especially so when basking in firey Autumnal hues, the ground scattered with crispy orange and red leaves. Set in the hills between Volterra and San Gimignano, boutique hotel Borgo Pignano is remote and staggeringly beautiful – the perfect place to disappear for a few days, especially when the hotel is nearing the end of its season (the hotel closes early November and reopens in April). If you’re lucky, you can go the whole day without spotting a single other person.

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What’s the lowdown?

Just over an hour’s drive from Florence, Borgo Pignano is 750-acre estate encompassing 15 rooms, 12 cottages and apartments, an organic farm and various workshops that produce everything from the hotel’s sustainable bath products and candles to the jars of honey and jam that you find at breakfast. A gorgeous 18th century villa sits at the centre of the property surrounded by gardens and forest land, with the main swimming pool carved into the original quarry stone of the hillside.

Luxurious library room

The hotel’s library

Once a hilltop hamlet, the property has been lovingly restored to preserve its original grandeur and romance. The rooms are decorated with painted frescos, patterned textiles and antique furnishings. In the evenings, guests are invited for drinks in the living room where the in-house mixologist makes cocktails whilst waiters circulate paired canapés. It feels old-world in the very best sense, fostering an atmosphere of earthy, cosy luxury in which guests are treated like old friends rather than moving bank cards.

Luxurious grand living room space

The living room, where evening drinks are served

Meals are generally served in the main villa’s dining room, with a menu featuring local and organic ingredients which are grown on site including dishes such as herb-filled goat’s cheese salad with pollen from the estate’s honeycomb. Guests are encouraged to freely roam the farm to learn more about the hotel’s sustainable efforts, and can also pick up walking routes from reception to further explore the surrounding landscape. There’s also an art gallery on site with contemporary exhibitions and a spa that offers treatments using natural remedies such as flowers, herbs, plant extracts, oils and honey.

Read more: Louis Roederer’s CEO Frédéric Rouzaud on art and hospitality

Getting horizontal

Located in the main villa, our room was once the bedroom of the marchesa with an adjoining single bedroom for her child. Elegantly and simply furnished with a large four-poster curtained bed, wooden shutters and stone tiled floors, it was a unique and calming space. We especially loved the hidden doors, painted to blend in with the walls.

Luxurious hotel suite decorated with grand furnishings

The signature suite, located in the hotel’s main villa

Flipside

The swimming pool isn’t heated so the water is very cold at this time of year, but we very much enjoyed a bracing swim before breakfast. It’s also worth remembering to pack a few jumpers as the evenings get quite chilly.

Rates from: €220 in low season with breakfast included (approx. £200/ $250)

Book your stay: borgopignano.com

Millie Walton

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Luxurious beach side resort
Luxurious beach side resort

The Abama overlooks the volcanic island of Gomera

LUX steps into a different universe of tranquillity, colour and cuisine at The Ritz-Carlton Abama resort in Tenerife, a short hop from western Europe

Stepping out of your room into a kaleidoscope washed by warm salty air is a delicious feeling. The kaleidoscope was the lavishly planted sea of flowers in multilayered, terraced tropical gardens around the villa where we were staying. A short stroll along the path took us past even more plants, trees and flowers of every conceivable colour, which rose first past several organically shaped pools and then onto the terrace where breakfast was served.

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The Ritz-Carlton Abama is located on top of a cliff overlooking the ocean and a volcanic island opposite. During breakfast time, this island was always covered in a mysterious, horror-movie murk, almost indistinguishable from the light-blue sky around it. The sun rises slowly in equatorial zones, and even though the morning air had a hint of chill in it, due to the coldness of the sea currents, we were indeed in an equatorial zone off the coast of Africa. The Canary Islands may have become host, in part, to unglamorous mass tourism recently, but they first came into Western awareness as a hive of distinctive species and ecosystems.

Luxurious pink villa in tropical garden

The villas are set in lush gardens

The days soon took on a familiar rhythm. Adjacent to the breakfast terrace, a 50-metre pool, curvaceous and irregular, is boarded by rows of sun lounges with a view down over the gardens to the sea. As the sun became stronger, we moved down to the beach, where a seafood and grill restaurant was washed by calling breezes and salty air. There is cliff jumping from either side of the bay where the long, sandy beach is located, and in the next bay you can jump from black volcanic rock to black volcanic rock admiring great schools of crabs, blue and orange, living in the twilight zone beneath them, between land and ocean.

Read more: Gaggenau’s latest initiative to support emerging artisans

Swimming in the clear sea, sheltered by a breakwater, involved being accompanied by fish – sometimes individuals, sometimes in shoals, occasionally monochrome, usually in an array of colours to match and even outdo their plant-based counterparts on land, with fluorescent blues and oranges all the vogue.

If we had not had the energy in the morning, an early-evening game at the tennis centre based around perfect clay courts next to the (celebrated) golf course was a way of adding to the exercise quotient, before either moving to one of the restaurants, or dining on room service on our own terrace overlooking treetops, banana plantations, the ocean and the volcanic island of Gomera. In the evening, this was lit up in pinks and greens, and strung by lights from its occasional roads, just visible from our vantage point 20 miles away across the water.

Luxurious outdoor swimming pool

Abama’s main pool – one of seven at the resort

Fine dining is not often associated with the Canary Islands, something the original creators of Abama sought to change when building this resort. Unusually for an island in the Atlantic, 1,000 miles from the southern tip of Spain, it has Michelin-starred restaurants and an array of other dining spots with specialised cuisines and, often, spectacular views.

The most notable is Kabuki, a Japanese restaurant high above the resort and the 18- hole championship golf course. The whole resort is built on a steep volcanic slope, meaning the view down from Kabuki to the gardens, plantations, swimming pools and the sea is particularly captivating at dusk. Aperitifs are served on the terrace, and inside, the restaurant serves a celebrated blend of local and Japanese cuisine. The flame-seared fish nigiri is easily the most memorable thing on the menu.

At the other end of the resort, although by no means at the other end of the scale, El Mirador is an eagle’s nest atop cliffs that plunge down to the ocean. From the tables you can hear the sea crashing against the rocks far below and smell the ocean spray. Appropriately, El Mirador serves grilled fish and seafood, and is also celebrated for Spanish cuisine from a different part of the country: black rice paella. Like a number of the restaurants in the resort, it also serves a mean bowl of Canarian potatoes, which maximise on intense, nutty taste, accompanied by red and green chilli sauces.

Restaurant outdoor terrace with tables

Contemporary style open kitchen

The kitchen and terrace at El Mirado

The cascade of colours at sunset at El Mirador is a match for any oceanside location in the world, and a fitting end to a day that began with the kaleidoscope of flowers outside the villas. The villas themselves are the most secluded category of accommodation in a resort that is bigger than it may seem, so well blended is it with its natural context. We had a seaview suite, including a large living room, huge bedroom and two balconies, which should be plenty for any couple. It can be combined with an adjoining (equally large) bedroom for a family area big enough to match many people’s homes. Interior décor is all cool stone and tiles, with equally large bathrooms to match. And that fabulous morning cascade of colour as soon as you draw the curtain, or open the door.

One-bedroom suites in villas at The Ritz-Carlton Abama Tenerife start from €615, plus tax. Find out more: ritzcarlton.com/abama

This article was originally published in the Autumn 19 Issue.

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Facade of a hotel at night lit with a purple sunset behind
Facade of Le Negresco hotel

Le Negresco hotel is the epitome of the French riviera

Why should I go now?

July is the month the city of Nice, capital of the French riviera, comes alive. Beaches are lively but not yet as teeming as in August, the nightlife is in full swing, the weather is warm and the sea is blue. If only there were a place to rise above it all – oh, wait, there is.

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What’s the lowdown?

Le Negresco is the epitome of the French riviera, with art and glamour at its heart. Whether you’re a fan of Princess Grace or Niki de St Phalle, Dalí or Louis Armstrong, there is something in the hotel to touch you – the grand facade even hides a roomful of street art.

Luxurious classic style dining room

The hotel’s two Michelin-starred restaurant Le Chantecler

Meanwhile you can hone your Riviera as it suits you; there’s live music every night on the Terrace, which looks out onto the Promenade des Anglais, the classic curved boulevard looping along the Mediterranean seafront; or disappear into old-world elegance in the two Michelin-starred Le Chantecler restaurant, with its 18th century grandeur.

Read more: Ruinart x Jonathan Anderson’s pop-up hotel in Notting Hill

Getting Horizontal

There are different styles of room as well as different price-categories. Decor in the rooms is a blend of classical and super-contemporary with suitably artistic touches in fixtures, fittings and funky wall coverings; meanwhile a sea view junior suite transports you to a time when the French riviera was pretty much the only seaside destination for anyone wealthy enough to visit on their Grand Tour, with rich classical furnishings.

Luxurious hotel suite with a balcony and views of the sea

One of the luxurious suites at Le Negresco

Flipside

Nice is a city with a rich cultural programme, and teeming with restaurants, bars, museums, gardens and artisanal shopping. The Negresco is the seafront hotel literally at the heart of it all, so it’s not a place to be if you want to be away from the world. But for a few nights of summer living, we love it.

Rates from: €155 per room ($200/£150)

Book your stay: hotel-negresco-nice.com

Darius Sanai

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

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

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

Designer Jonathan Anderson outside Ruinart Hotel 1729

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

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

Antique painting of a huge chaotic feast in a stately home

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

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

Curious? So are we.

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

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

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Luxury mansion building with manicured gardens and an outdoor swimming pool
Luxury mansion building with manicured gardens and an outdoor swimming pool

Once the residence of the Grand Duke of Tuscany Leopold II, L’Andana sits amongst olive groves and vineyards

Why should I go now?

Long, bright days, undulating fields of wild flowers and balmy evenings. Tuscany is beautiful all year round, but many locals will tell you that June is when the landscape is at its most spectacular. You’re also ahead of the crowds. Come July the region is flooded with tourists, and temperatures are soaring – admittedly both are more urban issues, but if seclusion and romance is what you’re after, you’re best to avoid the height of peak season even in rural areas.

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What’s the lowdown?

L’Andana is located in the Maremma region of Tuscany, roughly a 2 hours drive from Pisa and Florence, and a 10 minute drive from the pretty seaside town of Castiglione della Pescaia, and the beach. If you’re keen to explore, it’s pretty much essential to hire a car, but there’s no real need to leave the hotel grounds; there are acres of fields, an outdoor swimming pool and a small, but lovely spa with a heated pool, sauna, steam room and jacuzzi.

Luxury spa pool with surrounding loungers

Luxury living room with sofas, armchairs and potted plants

There are lots of spaces for relaxing, such as the spa (above) and the reception lounge, a conservatory which joins the two villas

The main villa was once the residence of the Grand Duke of Tuscany Leopold II and the traditional Tuscan grandeur has been maintained to give the whole place an elegant, stately feel. There are lots of cosy corners for relaxing and enough space that it never feels crowded. The reception lounge is one of our favourite spots come six o’clock when the fires are lit and the barman takes up his position to mix cocktails.

Luxury restaurant with tables laid for dinner and bare, brick walls

Michelin-star restaurant La Trattoria Enrico Bartolini

The Michelin-star restaurant La Trattoria Enrico Bartolini is well-known in the area and reservations are a must even for hotel guests. The tasting menu is superb and creative; tables are treated like canvases with each course artistically arranged on a crisp linen table cloth. The Porto Santo Spirito prawns served two ways (raw and fried) is our highlight along with all of the various desserts. Guests can also take part in cooking classes here, whilst Restaurant La Villa offers casual dining in the gardens or conservatory at the front of the villa.

Read more: Masseto’s spectacular new underground winery

Luxury hotel bedroom with large double bed with breakfast tray and antique furniture

Bedrooms are decorated in traditional Tuscan grandeur with antique furniture

Getting horizontal

The rooms are simply, but beautifully decorated with vintage furniture and fine fabrics. The best are those on the top floor of the main villa for their sweeping views of the olive groves, vineyards and rolling hills. We loved lying with the shutters open, basking in the bright morning sunshine.

Outdoor sofas and table with waiter serving champagne on the lawn

Flipside

At this time of year, there are a surprising number of mosquitoes buzzing around which rather spoils the bliss. By the pool there’s a little table with a bottle of repellent (and suncream) for guests to use, but still, it’s worth being prepared.

Rates from: €440 per night based on two sharing, including breakfast ($500/£400)

To book your stay visit: andana.it

Millie Walton

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Luxury hotel cottage rooms made from red clay with cactus trees in the foreground
Luxury hotel resort on a hillside

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

Why should I go now?

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

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What’s the lowdown?

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

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

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

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

Read more: 6 artists creating experiential art

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

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

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

Getting horizontal

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

Flipside

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

Millie Walton

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

Book your stay: bluepalace.gr

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

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

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

Le 1838, the hotel’s jazz and cognac bar

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

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

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

Luxury contemporary interiors of a hotel lobby

The hotel’s decor is casual contemporary luxe

A luxurious hotel bedroom with rustic interiors

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

Luxury spa swimming pool with sun loungers

The indoor/outdoor pool in the spa

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

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

This article was first published in the Winter 19 Issue.

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

The Cognac region offers bucolic summertime relaxation and historical sites aplenty

A salad arranged artistically on a black ceramic plate

A chef working in industrial kitchen

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

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Luxury hotel skyscraper building against a blue sky
Luxury hotel skyscraper building against a blue sky

The new flagship Rosewood hotel in Hong Kong

Hong Kong’s brand-new Rosewood Hotel is a triumph of taste and style, says Darius Sanai

It was the party to end all parties in Hong Kong last weekend, as the Cheng family, HK’s answer to London’s Grosvenors or New York’s Vanderbilts, opened their global flagship Rosewood hotel here.

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Moving speeches, fabulous conversation, amazing design, O Toro from Japan, Hospices de Beaune Meursault from Burgundy, pata negra from Andalucia, and a feeling throughout that you are in a very swanky, perfectly curated version of a Soho House.

The hotel, the brainchild of Sonia Cheng, third generation scion of the family, was nearly a decade in the making and is one of the centrepieces of the Victoria Dockside development, Hong Kong’s answer to New York’s Hudson Yards, masterminded by her elder brother Adrian.

Four people standing on a stage in front of Rosewood Hong Kong sign

From left to right: Ms. Katherine Mei Hing, Dr. Hendry Cheng, Ms. Sonia Cheng and Dr. Adrian Cheng at the opening part of Rosewood Hong Kong

Three asian women at an after party in a club setting

From left to right: Ms. Sonia Chen, Ms. Katherine Mei Hing and Ms. Pansy Ho attend the Rosewood Hong Kong opening party

Every detail is both exquisite and tasteful – the Rosewood Hong Kong is the polar opposite to those gold plated, taste free monoliths in the Gulf.  All around, you feel that you are surrounded not just by expensive things, but by extremely thoughtfully chosen ones.

Our favourite bit? The Manor Club, on the 40th floor. Shelves are lined with gorgeous art books, there was an extremely professional game of snooker going on in one room, and a door behind the bar opens up to the most stunning view of Hong Kong, and the Peak behind, of any hotel.

Worth visiting now, and even more so when the Victoria Dockside finishes in all its cultural glory later this year.

Book your stay: rosewoodhotels.com/en/hong-kong

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Exterior of luxury ski hotel on the edge of a piste
Exterior of luxury ski hotel on the edge of a piste

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

Why should I go now?

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

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

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What’s the lowdown?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sushi and sashimi arranged on a bowl of ice

A sushi platter at the hotel’s restaurant Nama

Getting horizontal

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

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

Chambre Melezin with two balconies overlooking the piste and Courchevel

Flipside

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

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

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

Millie Walton

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the rolling mountains of the swiss engadine in summertime
the rolling mountains of the swiss engadine in summertime

A view across the Engadine valley from Muottas Muragl, above St Mortiz

Switzerland’s Engadine region has been the enchanted holiday home of the likes of Friedrich Nietzsche, Gerhard Richter and some of the world’s most discerning wealthy. LUX takes a summertime tour of this romantic paradise

Landscape photography: Isabella Sheherazade Sanai (@sheherazade_photography)

There was a moment in the evening, a point in the flow of time each day, when the colour on the mountain was perfectly balanced. Just below my balcony, the larch forest rising out of the lawn was an almost vanishing green, turning to black. The same forest was a dark emerald high up the mountainside. The high pastures above, a thin carpet of melded brown and dry, light, green. And the peak of the mountain, that minute, was just straining to catch the last of the day’s sun, emanating from behind the hotel, on the west side of the valley. It was the colour of a tarnished gold ring, glowing with the pride of being in daylight, today, while the rest of us had fallen into tonight.

Out of the trees and grass around me, the image was accompanied by a rising smell of damp, green, earthy life, its textures matching those in the glass of wine that would always accompany this ritual, a glass of pinot noir from two valleys away, in what the Swiss call the Bündner Herrschaft.

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The Waldhaus Sils, where my room and balcony were, is known for its magic. Artists, writers, musicians and poets are guests there, sometimes invited by the hotel for the inspiration they bring. Gerhard Richter, arguably the greatest living artist, unarguably one of the most expensive, was staying while I was there;  as were others from these worlds, whom I won’t identify as I didn’t spot them personally (the Waldhaus is very discreet about its guests).

The hotel sits on a forested ridge (thus the name Waldhaus – ‘Forest House’) above the village of Sils, once home to Friedrich Nietzsche, and overlooking Lake Sils, considered by many in the art world to be the most beautiful lake in Switzerland. The lake is at the southern end of the Engadine, a broad, flat, high-altitude valley making a slash through the most mountainous part of the country, its southeast corner, from Austria to Italy.

Sils Lake in Switzerland pictured in the summer

The Waldhaus Sils sits in a forest above the mystical Lake Sils, which has inspired poets, artists and writers since the 19th century

There is something about the Waldhaus Sils that no amount of money could create in a new hotel. The furnishings, from light fittings to tables, chairs, cabinets and even the signposts, look like they have come from a mid 20th-century Modernist sale at Phillips auction house. They are so perfectly positioned, as if everything has been looked at with aesthetic sight-lines in mind, and yet none of it feels Designed (with a capital D); this is just the aesthetic of the family who own the hotel. No wonder Richter and others love it so.

The Waldhaus mixes old, in the sense of mid-20th century, with a very up-to-date cuisine and wine list. Most guests take the half-board option, with dinners in a broad gallery of a dining room, with picture windows looking into the forest. Most memorable were the variations on a consommé, each night made with a different base stock; and the choucroute and pork fillet served by a visiting farmer-chef one evening.

Luxury hotel bar decorated in maroon colours

One of the bars at the Waldhaus Sils

One day, we walked out of the hotel down through the trees until we reached the floodplain of the lake, a flat meadow between the shore and the village. It was a summer day of intense mountain sunshine – you burn much more quickly here at altitude than down on the Mediterranean – but a flapping, chilly wind reminded us of exactly where we were. Along the lakeshore, a child and a dog were paddling in the water, on a tiny beach sprouting out of the path. The path itself curved past a tiny jetty housing a couple of rowing boats, and onto a forested promontory. Dipping and rising between larch trees and the water’s edge, it offered a different perspective every minute, with changes of light and in the colour of the water on the lake. The mountains beyond emerged bigger with every step we took away from them; my own mountain, which I had watched from the balcony, was revealed to be no more than the leading ridge of a much larger cluster of peaks at the end of what was a hidden valley.

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We walked along that valley the next day. To get there, we first took a cable car from Sils up to a station above the treeline, from where we looked down at a string of lakes extended all the way down the Engadine past St Moritz, and were greeted by a pack of manic, crested chickens sprinting around a coop with a view most humans would crave. We walked along a path skirting the edge of the mountainside, past uncurious cows, until a luscious green valley, alternating meadows, streams, forest and hamlets, appeared beneath us. Invisible from the Engadine, this is Val Fex, home to some of the most ancient communities in Switzerland, who used the secret nature of the place (its entrance is sheathed in a deep, forested gorge which looks impassable from below) to shelter from invaders from Italy and the Germanic lands.

Along a woodland path at the bottom of the little valley, home to thousands of butterflies, we reached the Hotel Fex, where we had a fantastic lunch made of foraged and farmed local ingredients – young beef, herbs, grasses and flowers – while gazing at the high end of the valley. It was an hour’s walk, down past the butterflies and the meadow and through the gorge, to the Waldhaus and a balcony view back up to the sunset peak.

Idyllic forest scene with a river running through

The forested peninsula on Lake Sils, nearly 2km above sea level

St Moritz is fifteen minutes’ drive down the Engadine valley from Sils, and it has a roster of legendary palace hotels. Our destination was just outside the town of St Moritz, on a hillside. Suvretta House, one of the oldest grande dame hotels of Switzerland, surveys the surrounding scenery like a majestic ocean liner atop a wave. As we approached from Lake Silvaplana, it was almost as if nature had bent to the grand hotel, according it its centre-stage position, with nothing around it except forest and lakes, on a ledge in this long, high valley.

That was an illusion; within a couple of kilometres of Suvretta House lies one of the highest concentrations of (vacation) wealth in the world, but part of this area’s appeal is that it doesn’t look like it.

Luxury five star hotel Suvretta in Switzerland

The facade of the historic Suvretta House hotel

Our junior suite at Suvretta House had six windows opening out onto a carpet of forest below, the lakes ahead, and the peaks of the Bernina range on the east side of the valley beyond. The décor was clean and crisp, a kind of safe contemporary Swiss, with plenty of rich fabrics to please luxury’s traditionalists.

The Bernina mountains are one reason for the particularly attractive climate here; they protect the area from storms sailing up from the Adriatic beyond, while to the north and west, several ranges of high mountains stand as a kind of climatic Berlin Wall to prevent the moist Atlantic air of northern Europe arriving. The result is that this is the sunniest spot in Switzerland; and Suvretta House itself lies on a sun-trap of a ridge. We discovered this the next morning, on a pre-breakfast frolic in what must be the most picturesque children’s playground in the world, carpeted in lush grass, banked on three sides by Alpine forest and on a fourth by a slope leading down to the hotel.

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At the front of Suvretta House, the 25-metre indoor pool stretches through a conservatory alongside a broad lawn, on which sun-loungers, a giant chess set, and other leisure accoutrements are set (in summer, anyway; in winter, it would be under several metres of snow).

Luxury indoor swimming pool surrounded by glass windows

Suvretta House’s swimming pool

High mountain restaurant in the swiss alps

The Fuorcola Surlej restaurant above St Mortiz

Breakfast was served at the Arvenstube restaurant, and featured about 36 different types of bread, cooked (and shaped) in their own in-kitchen bakery every day from three in the morning. The buffet seemed lavish enough, until we found it extended around the corner with dozens of combinations of freshly cut fruit, more permutations of gluten-free cereal than would fit on the biggest yoga mat, an array of nuts, seeds and other health-giving items that would embarrass a health food store, and still plenty of indulgences on the pancake/ chocolate/Nutella/cooked bacon front.

We returned to the Arvenstube for dinner, at first a little apprehensive. Almost every hotel in the German-speaking Alps has a restaurant called a stube; in humble hotels these are often beer-cellar-type places serving humble food (sausages, dumplings) and good beer. Luxury hotels sometimes persist in the belief (mistaken, in our views) that a luxury stube ought to be a play on these dishes, with lashings of old- fashioned Michelin-chasing creams, foams and drizzles, and tiny portions that make you wish you had gone out for some fondue instead.

What we found instead was a revelation. In the beautiful evening light as the valley turns to night – the Arvenstube faces south – there was a menu based on the concept of ‘Switzerland  meets Latin America’ from chef Isaac Briceño Obando, and it really worked. Examples: Puschlaver lamb, baby corn, roasted spring onions, tortilla powder and mountain honey; or Swiss cheese, guava jelly, tamarind jelly and paprika coulis; or tepid char with grilled peach, palm hearts and pine nuts. It was the distinctive, balanced, vivid cuisine of someone with a real ability to understand how and by whom his dishes would be consumed. We returned there three times and always had clear, crisp options.