restaurant
restaurant

Set between Belgravia and Knightsbridge, Pétrus by Gordon Ramsay is a Michelin starred restaurant serving exceptional modern French cuisine.

LUX heads to Gordon Ramsay’s classic London restaurant, which has just celebrated its 25th anniversary, and experiences effortless gastronomy at its best

Petrus is located in one of the quietest and most bijou parts of the Duke of Westminster’s Grosvenor Estate, in London’s Knightsbridge. We parked right outside, on a Friday night, which is an achievement in itself in London – although most of the residents here had likely left for their country manors immediately after school on Thursday.

The restaurant’s seasonal menus include A La Carte, Lunch, Kitchen Table and Prestige Menu

The ambience of the restaurant  is peaceful and refined, although not at all stuffy or pressurising. There is plenty of space between the tables, which are laid out cleverly so you are not sitting either in rows or with numerous other diners in your eyeliner: this is a discreet place, to go when you don’t really want to be seen, rather than the opposite. In fact there wasn’t really a “bad” table in the place: given a choice, I am not sure which table I would pick, the layout is so intelligently done.

dinner

As one would expect from a restaurant named after one of the world’s finest wines, the wine list features many different vintages of Château Pétrus and is the first restaurant in Europe to offer it by the glass.

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The menu is best described as clean modern British: Isle of Skye Scallop with coastal herbs, lemon and olive oil sabayon, smoked eel with oscietra caviar, celery and apple: these were as fresh tasting as the country landscapes they came from. Rack of Dover Sole with with white asparagus. Chervil and citrus Hollandairse was beautifully and gastronomically wrought, although it prompted a debate at our table about whether sole should only ever be served on the bone, rather than as a rack – none of us felt like arguing with Gordon about it in person, though.

Read more: La Fiermontina, Palazzo Bozzi Corso, Review

As much as the food was memorable, the service and theatre was even more so. This is a place that really knows how the theatre of gastronomy works, and it wasn’t so much that it was all seamless, as you would expect; it was fascinating to watch the staff in their silent dance as they whizzed about their duties, never conspicuous but never absent. We also engaged the very engaging sommelier in a discussion about small grower champagnes; people here seem to love their work, as well as their food and their wine.

Available for up to eight guests, you will be greeted by the restaurant team and served a seven-course bespoke menu.

Petrus is not for every Friday night, just as you wouldn’t take the Ferrari GTO out every weekend. It’s for when you really want an immersive and inspirational gastronomic experience, with someone you are close to or want to be discreet with.

The restaurant has held one Michelin star since 2011

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hotel mandarin
hotel mandarin

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

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

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

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

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

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

balkon

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

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

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

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

mandarin

Guests can have drinks and light bites in the Mandarin lounge

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

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

food

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

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

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

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

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mountains
mountains

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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restaurant with bar and bottles

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

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

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

sashimi on a blue plate with flowers

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

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

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

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

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

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

food on a plate with a leaf

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

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

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

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restaurant asian
restaurant asian

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

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

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

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

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

Asian restaurant out of wood

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

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

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

Read more: Rosewood Hong Kong review

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

Stylish bar with red chairs

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

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

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

cocktail being poured into a glass

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

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

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japanese restaurant

LUX visits one of London’s hidden gems, an atmospheric and authentic Japanese restaurant a mochi ball’s throw from Hyde Park

japanese restaurant

The decor is minimal-chic, the ambience relaxed and buzzy

A row of townhouses in central London is not where you might expect to find Japan, But, turn left from Marble Arch, walk a few paces up the street and up a couple of steps and..abracadabra. Tokyo. Or is it Kyoto?

Tokii is the very authentic-feeling restaurant in the heart of the Prince Akatoki hotel, a boutique-chic five star London sleepery that seems to be the city’s best-kept secret. The hotel lobby, just up those steps, is minimal and Zen, but with authentically switched-on staff and thought-of design detail, just as you would find anywhere self-respecting in Japan (which is everywhere).

Tokii itself is a few steps further on: inside, you are swirled into a world of dark lacquered woods and gentle lighting and intricate design detail. It’s large enough not to feel oppressive, like some high-end Japanese restaurants, and yet has an intimate vibe.

Service is friendly and prompt: our aperitifs of sparkling saké and champagne arrive swiftly. Sparkling saké is an acquired taste, we decide. The champagne is excellent, though we would have liked more choice than just the big brands: Veuve Clicquot, Krug, Dom Perignon. The finesse of Japanese food matches well with champagne, even more so with blanc de blancs, made only from Chardonnay, or precise, small-grower champagne from single plots.

yellowtail sashimi and wine

Sashimi paired with a brut champagne – or sparkling saké, though we preferred the champagne

There is plenty of choice in the menu, We choose starters while nibbling on salted edamame: yellowtail maki rolls, pork belly skewers, yellowtail sashimi. All are super-fresh, richly flavoured, perfectly prepared, not too meagre and not too hefty. Superb. Some good white Burgundy arrives to accompany, although champagne would do even better with a spectrum of colour to match the salt, umami, and hint of sweet and fat in the food.

For mains, we try the shabu shabu, a Japanese broth in which meat and vegetables are cooked at the table, fondue-style. The wagyu version arrives with slices of wagyu beef laid out on a plate alongside, and vegetables already cooking in the bubbling broth. A few seconds of cooking sees these come out as slices of fleshy unctuousness. The vegetables stay crunchy while cooking in the umami, slightly sour broth, a bitter counterpoint on the tongue. Two shabus are enough for three of us.

beef

Cook your own wagyu beef shabu shabu. The broth is delicate and beautifully balanced

The great surprise is the yellowtail shabu shabu. Also thinly sliced, it should be a disappointment after the wagyu but is triumphant. More restrained, a slow release of recognition on the palate, and then joy.

We braced ourselves for disappointment with the dessert of chocolate fondant – this is a Japanese restaurant after all – but the breaking of the fondant led to that slow ooze and a richesse of combined flavours that spoke of a chef pâtissier who loves flavour and experience as much as looks, and isn’t scared of a little opulence.

dark chocolate fondant

Outrageously good chocolate fondant, just in case the rest of the meal was too healthy

We were among the first to arrive at Tokii, and among the last to leave. Why is it such a secret? Let’s get it out of its boudoir: Tokii deserves the limelight.

tokii.co.uk

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a room with big window and lights and bar

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Big red brick building with trees and blue sky

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

DS: What were your biggest challenges in its creation?

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

two men in suits sitting on steps

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

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

LG: Curious, creative and kind people.

 

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

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

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Reading time: 5 min
A pool surrounded by grey sun loungers and white umbrellas
A pool surrounded by grey sun loungers and white umbrellas

The Fairmont Tazi Palace Tangier pool

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

What drew us there?

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

A terrace with arched walls and blue and white chairs

A suite’s private panoramic view terrace

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

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

How was the stay?

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

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

The Deluxe King room with views of Tangier

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

A restaurant with dangling lights and pink cushions on the benches

Crudo, one of the five dining options at the hotel

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

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

The Speakeasy Innocents bar, inspired by West Africa

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

Read more: St Regis Mardavall, Mallorca, Review

Anything else?

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

Two marble beds with towels on them

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

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

Find out more: fairmont.com/tangier

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A yellow hotel with a lake and mountains behind it
A yellow hotel with a lake and mountains behind it

Summer at the Kulm Hotel, St Moritz

The hotel that invented the winter holiday also offers an escape from over-sultry summers – as well as some of the most thoughtful luxury in the world

As summers get warmer, summertime in the mountains becomes ever more attractive. At the end of July, sitting on a balcony with warm sunshine by day and cool air descending from glaciers by night seems a positively refreshing prospect – particularly if it is combined with some of the greatest hospitality the world can offer.

A man holding a mirror on a dry mountain with a town in the dsisance

Rocky mountains and a camera magna photograph of the scene at St Moritz by photographer Daniel Meuli

The Kulm Hotel, St Moritz, was the original luxury hotel in the Alps. From your balcony, you can see over the whole town, the lake and a 270-degree view around the mountains beyond.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

Downstairs, you are in a subtly modernised grand dame of an hotel – the kind of place where a new generation understands and pays homage to the class and style of generations gone by.

beige and ref furniture in a living room

Modern-classic elegance in the Corvatsch Suite

If you want a break high up in the forest, you are here already – the resort is surrounded by hundreds of miles of woodland and meadow. If you want to feel you are amid the heart of the jet set, you are also in the right place, as you can stroll across to the Kulm Country Club, a restaurant and members’ club serving some of the greatest food in Switzerland.

red chairs by a window overlooking a lake and mountain covered in trees

A glorious view from a nook in the lobby

There is a large indoor pool, an open-air pool, spa with everything from steam room to saltwater grotto, and gardens with that mesmerising view.

Read more: Jean-Baptiste Jouffray on the future of the world’s oceans

An outdoor pool with steam coming out of it surrounded by grass

A breath of fresh air at the outdoor wellness pool

The Kulm may be more famous as the original and greatest of all Alpine ski hotels in winter, but for sunshine, purity of air, cuisine and some very classy encounters, summer is the time to come.

Find out more: kulm.com

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

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A lounge with a patterned carpet and cream chairs

Ritz-Carlton LA elegance in the Club Lounge

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

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

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

A bedroom with windows overlooking a city

A corner hotel room with a view

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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dark bar with black chairs and white flowers
dark bar with black chairs and white flowers

The lobby in the new Castiglione addition to the Hotel Costes in Paris

In the third part of our luxury travel views column from the Spring 2022 issue, LUX’s Editor-in-Chief Darius Sanai checks in at the Hotel Costes in Paris

My first encounter with the Hotel Costes was in the early 2000s, when I was meeting a Vogue photographer for a drink in the bar, on an evening a fashion house was also having a small gathering there. Despite being well turned out, and spending my working days at Vogue House, itself then a kind of office catwalk, I endured scrutiny by the beautiful boys on the door and by the beautiful girls inside before being let in, to a bar and lounge space, designed by Jacques Garcia, which gave the impression of sitting inside the bloodstream of a human being.

Jean-Louis Costes, the hotel’s owner, whom I interviewed in the last issue of LUX, is an iconoclast and an original. He created the velvet womb of the Costes and decorated its rooms with 19th-century oil paintings in the minimalist, contemporary-art obsessed 1990s.

A hallway and white marble staircase

A hallway and marble staircase

He has now opened a new wing to the hotel, or more precisely a new Hotel Costes adjoining the old one, making the second stroke of an L shape on the corner of Rue Saint-Honoré and Rue de Castiglione – without doubt the most desirable address in Paris. To check into the Costes, you now enter a grand, light, high-ceilinged lobby in the Rue de Castiglione.

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If you are staying in the old Costes, you can walk through the lobby and pull back a curtain, like passing through a looking glass, and voila. I, however, was sampling the new Costes: up on the second floor my suite was designed with the whimsical perfection of an obsessive and talented owner. A white carpet, like walking on a Persian cat, a bed with the black stained outline of a four-poster; a blood-red ottoman, a purple sofa and a lot of empty space. The bathroom had chandeliers and glass wardrobes: the message here is that your clothes had better be great, because they’re all on show. The walk-through shower and bath in light marble were immense: there is scale here that the original, boutique Costes, adjoining, never had. From the balcony you look out to Place Vendôme. From some of the suites, you have a view across Paris to Montmartre and Notre-Dame.

white bed

One of the new luxury suites

There will be a resort-style pool in the basement spa, currently being completed, and at the moment you still dine in the original and excellent courtyard restaurant of the original Costes. Another courtyard restaurant is being built at the Castiglione wing.

Read more: Paris Revisited: A Diary of Art and Culture

Every detail is both original and edgy: the Costes is the hotel that invented the hotel DJ and soundtrack, and bespoke hotel scent (both hard to believe now, as all the greatest and most pervasive inventions are). Twenty-seven years on, Jean-Louis hasn’t lost his touch.

Find out more: www.hotelcostes.com

This article appears in the Summer 2022 issue of LUX

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

The entrance of Pavillon Ledoyen with an installation by Tadashi Kawamata

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

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

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

a chef sitting at s table in a restaurant

Chef Yannick Alléno

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

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

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

pastry style dishes on separate plates

A dish created by Alléno for the Pavillon Ledoyen

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

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

a restaurant with a flower on the blind

The dining-room at Pavillon Ledoyen

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

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

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

Read more: Chef Rasmus Kofoed: The Vegetable King

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

A chocolate pudding in a bowl with gold leaf on it

A dessert created by Alléno for the Pavillon Ledoyen

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

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

Find out more: yannick-alleno.com

This article appears in the Summer 2022 issue of LUX

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

Chef Elena Arzak

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

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

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

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

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

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

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

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

A lit up restaurant at night with a blue sky

The restaurant building in San Sebastián

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

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

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

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

The dessert call ‘Enigma’

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

Read more: Chef Ángel León: Ocean Sustainability Supremo

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

A restaurant with a large grey light hanging over the table

The restaurant’s dining room

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

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

Find out more: www.arzak.es

This article appears in the Summer 2022 issue of LUX

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Reading time: 5 min
Chef in kitchen
Chef in kitchen

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

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

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

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

Food

Scottish langoustine, served at Core by Clare Smyth

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

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

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

Restaurant

A view of the dining room at Core by Clare Smyth

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

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

Food

Potato and roe, served at Core by Clare Smyth

LUX: How do you approach sustainability at Core?

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

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

Food

Morel tarts, served at Core by Clare Smyth

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

Read more: Chef Ángel León: Ocean Sustainability Supremo

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

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

Corebyclaresmyth.com

This article appears in the Summer 2022 issue of LUX

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palm trees and city skyline
cityscape

Image by Sterling Davis

As the art world’s elite flock to Los Angeles for Frieze art fair, Olivia Muniak, founder of catering company La Cura and LA resident, shares her guide on the best places to drink and dine around the city
woman holding plate of food

Olivia Muniak

Growing up in the restaurant business, I learned to appreciate the subtleties of what makes a restaurant succeed. I saw my parents transform a casual European cafe into New York’s coolest lunch spot after which they launched two chic Italian fine dining restaurants in the heart of Greenwich Village and having worked myself in pretty much every front of house position, I know how much hard work it takes to deliver an exceptional dining experience. It goes without saying that the food has to be good, but the best restaurants know that it’s also the lighting, the decor, the people that define their identity and keep clients coming back for more.

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

Since moving to Los Angeles in 2017 to set up my business La Cura, I’ve made it my priority to scope out the city’s best places to eat and below are just a few of my favourites. Some newly opened, other’s mainstays in my book.

Bicyclette

The sister restaurant to the famed French cafe République.

Stepping down into the bistro feels like midnight in Paris, it’s a lively, warm space and almost every seat in the house gets a peak into the kitchen. Reservations are a must and make sure you arrive a little early for an aperitif at the bar. The food is classic bistro style, but so thoughtfully prepared. The soft egg, onion tart and bouillabaisse are amongst my favourites. Whether you go for a bottle of wine, or by the glass (my tip: ask for half-pours so you can explore the by-the-glass list), talk to the sommelier for their recommendations.

bicyclettela.com

luxurious restaurant interiors

The interiors of Gigi’s Hollwood. Image: @gigis_la

Gigi’s Hollywood

A trendy favourite for a late night dinner that begins and ends with cocktails.

The emerald green and gold interior, and white tablecloths feel fresh and luxe in contrast to the sporty-clad staff – it’s a vibe and we’re all into it. The quintessential California-french menu has many hits including the baguette with butter and caviar, but the most unexpected dish, at least for LA, is the Schnitzel and it’s delicious. Be sure to make a reservation.

gigis.la

Read more: Michael Xufu Huang on Supporting Emerging Chinese Artists

Cafe Stella

A tiny garden restaurant tucked away behind an even better bar.

Go for dinner, plan to stay late for drinks, and possibly, a spot of dancing. The interior is a bit worn and rustic, but that’s what makes it cool. The menu is also French bistro style and has all the favourites: Moules frites, Steak frites, Poulet Roti and Sole meunière.

cafestella.com

Crudo e Nudo

A very casual “fish market” with sidewalk seating, natural wines and the best crudo you will ever taste – trust me!

Crudo e Nudo takes sustainable seafood sourcing  to a new level. The chef knows every fisherman that brings in the day’s catch, and how that fish was caught. You can see the Japanese influence on a very Californian menu in the seasoning of the dishes but also in the discipline in the way the food is prepared. It’s worth striking up a conversation with the chef who’s friendly face you’ll see at the counter. The menu rotates but you can always find these dishes: Vegan caesar with Furikake and  Tuna Toast.

crudoenudo.com

Read more: Koons, Kitsch & the Evolving Art Market

Grá Pizzeria

A funky local spot in the Echo Park area.

The interior is pared down with exposed brick and an open garden patio. A few things worth mentioning about the pizza: the dough is made with a long-fermentation sourdough recipe that the owner brought over from the UK, and cooks in a wood-burning stove so it’s crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside. More importantly, it holds it shape when folded (a true sign of a quality pizza). The Margherita is my favourite but the seasonal pies are always worth a taste. The plate of prosciutto and green lovage salad should also be on your order.

xn--gr-nia.com

outdoor dining

The patio at Gjelina. Image: @gjelinarestaurant

Gjelina

A well-known spot but deserving of the hype.

The menu is a journey through California produce, with some of the most creative, seasonal vegetables, pizzas and pastas. As soon as a vegetable is not at it’s peak, it’s off the menu. Gjelina is equally great for brunch, lunch or a relaxed, yet elegant dinner. If you can’t get a reservation, try  their sister restaurant Gjusta, which doubles up as a deli.

gjelina.com

 

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

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

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

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

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

The dining terrace. Image by Valentin Luthiger

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

sushi

A selection of sashimi from The Japanese menu

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

Read more: Juanita Ingram on empowering women in the workplace

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

The interiors of Restaurant Markus Neff. Image by Valentin Luthiger

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

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

 

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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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luxury alpine hotel

The Alpina Gstaad’s main building and gardens, which opened in 2012. © The Alpina Gstaad

Artistic, playful and utterly spoiling, The Alpina Gstaad may just be the best hotel anywhere in Europe. So why don’t you know about it?

A contemporary jazz duo is singing and playing its heart out. Your champagne bottle is emptying steadily as you look out from your sofa at the array of contemporary art around you, and the rolling mountains in the distance. It’s time for Japanese, and you and your companions wander over, just a few metres, into a different world into Megu. This is Switzerland’s highest-rated Asian restaurant, a Michelin-starred area decorated by blonde Alpine wood, antique kimonos and slatted wooden partitions.

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The vibe is lively but not raucous, stylish but not gaudy, expensive but not stuffy. Everywhere at the Alpina has a contemporary mountain chic laced with a global sensibility, a generosity of spirit and space, and a sense of future.

contemporary sculpture

Dritte Tier by Thomas Schütte, part of the hotel’s extensive collection of contemporary art. © The Alpina Gstaad

The Alpina in, or to be precise, above Gstaad, is the one example of a European resort hotel that surpasses its surroundings. Some of the great legacy hotels of Europe have been defined by the locations they sit in and need to live with the legacy. Others feel as if they might have been transported from any exotic location in the world.

asian restaurant interiors

The hotel’s Japanese restaurant Megu. © The Alpina Gstaad

The Alpina does something else: it redefines the location it is in. Given that Gstaad is the hub for some of the world’s wealthiest and most discerning people, that is quite an ask. Yet breeze in amid the local granite and reclaimed wood, walk up the sweeping staircase to the bar, lounge and outside terrace, enjoy the light and the art collection, and you know you’re in a place which is writing its own story.

Read more: Chopard’s Caroline Scheufele on versatile jewellery design

There is nothing particularly Swiss about a salt room, a cavernous underground lounge and juice bar, or a huge indoor pool and hydrotherapy area in a grotto. Or about a Japanese restaurant with 16 Gault Millau points and a ‘gastronomic’ yet contemporary informal restaurant, or Sommet, also with a Michelin star and 18 Gault Millau points. Like Schrödinger’s cat, the Alpina is, and it isn’t. Maybe it’s the owners: one is a local Swiss, one is decidedly international, together they give the Alpina its confidence.

views from a jacuzzi

luxurious hotel interiors

The duplex Panorama Suite with its outdoor jacuzzi. © The Alpina Gstaad

But this is not a place where comfort is sacrificed on the altar of credibility. The rooms have a gorgeous mix of local wood (much reclaimed from barns), stone, contemporary art and giant glass-cowbell light fittings – with perfect sheets and massive bathrooms. And huge balconies; whatever side of the building you are on you have peace, a sense of place and a magnificent view.

Gstaad is moving to its own tune, there is something of a real-estate boom in the area right now. Among the most fortunate are those who bought one of the residences within the hotel building: these are effectively buildings within the building, to match the most opulent chalets anywhere in Switzerland. Unfortunately, they have all sold, but if you know the right people, you may be able to persuade them to rent them to you or, who knows, even sell them to you, one day. Meanwhile, just check in.

Darius Sanai

Book your stay: thealpinagstaad.ch

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

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park in summer
Our party page could have been blank this issue, but the human spirit always finds a way to emerge. Meghan MacKillop photographs London’s international soul, finding it alive, well and defiantly sipping aperitifs in Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens and Notting Hill

Top row, from left: Oana Piriiac (left) and Tadas Radvilavicius; Lara WT (left) and Isobel Kelly; Julia Raspberg (left) and Amelia Persson. Middle row, from left: Brendon X (left) and Tony Soprana; Chloë Casel (left) and Alice Pickard; Cindy van Niekerk (left) and Johanna Kriisa. Bottom row, from left: Niki Asal; Debbie Smith; Louis Henbrey (left) and Chris Nam; Sly Augustin

This article features in the Autumn 2020 Issue, hitting newsstands in October.

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dining table
dining table

Woolsery Cottage, a private residence with interiors by Hannah Lohan

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

1.Where does your design process typically begin?

Hannah Lohan

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

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

interiors hotel bar

bedroom interior

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

2. How do you utilise theatrical and storytelling techniques?

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

restaurant interiors

Hook restaurant at The Fish hotel in the Cotswolds

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

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

pub interiors

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

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

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

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

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

luxury treehouse

treehouse bedroom

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

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

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

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

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

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

6. Does good design last forever?

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

Find out more: hannahlohaninteriors.com

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beetroot gnocchi

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

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

Beet gnocchi with amaranth leaves

20 red and green amaranth leaves

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

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

To finish
40g tofu

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

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

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

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

Transfer dough into a piping bag and refrigerate.

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

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

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

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

Barbajuans. Image © Richard Haughton

Barbajuans with ricotta & spinach

Makes 50

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Baba au rhum. Image © Richard Haughton

Baba au rhum

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Find out more about Domaine Clarence Dillon: domaineclarencedillon.com

Visit Le Clarence: le-clarence.paris

 

 

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fine dining restaurant
sushi platter

A sushi platter from Zuma’s menu

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

Sven Koch

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

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

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

luxurious dining room

Zuma Boston is the brand’s latest opening

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

fine dining

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

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

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

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

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

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

fine dining restaurant

ROKA Aldwych. Image by Richard Southall/Agi Ch

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

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

sushi plate

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

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

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

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

Find out more: azumirestaurants.com

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Reading time: 8 min
luxurious restaurant interiors
Chefs wearing masks

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

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

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

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

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

luxurious restaurant interiors

Sliced steak

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

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

We had to try out Novikov 2 Go.

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

asian restaurant interiors

Asian salad

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

Image by @sheherazade_photography

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

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

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

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

red prawns

Novikov’s Italian Sicilian red prawns

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

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

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

This could become habit-forming.

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

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Reading time: 3 min
luxury dining
luxury dining

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

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

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

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mushroom broth

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

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

fine dining dish

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

For more information visit: onefinedine.com

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Reading time: 1 min
Interiors of restaurant bar
Interiors of restaurant bar

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

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

Bald man wearing chef's jacket

Daniel Kent

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oysters on a bar of restaurant

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

2. What defines your cooking style?

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

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

Slicing salmon

The menu at Wiltons focuses on seasonal British produce

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

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

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

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

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

Formal interiors of restaurant

Wiltons offers a formal dining experience with stately interiors

5. What are your everyday essential ingredients?

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

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

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

Find out more: wiltons.co.uk

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Reading time: 4 min
Monochrome portrait of man wearing sunglasses
Monochrome portrait of man wearing sunglasses

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

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

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

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

Contemporary interiors of a restaurant

The restaurant Maia offers a swinging sixties-inspired ambience

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

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

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

Plate of fish and an flowers

Bowl of pasta and wine on table

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

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

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

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

Avocado and egg salad

Francesca Giacomini’s protein salad bowl at Maia, Knightsbridge

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

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

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

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

Find out more: maiamood.com

This article was originally published in the Spring 2020 Issue.

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

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

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

Chef Anne-Sophie Pic

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

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

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

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

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

Contemporary of a stylish restaurant

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Reading time: 2 min
Tin boxes of shortbread from superchef Thomas Keller's restaurant
Chef Thomas Keller pictured in the grounds of his famous Napa restaurant The French Laundry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gluten free apple pie by Cup4Cup

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

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

thomaskeller.com

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Reading time: 4 min
Chez vrony zermatt

The breathtaking views of the Matterhorn are worthy of any postcard and a million selfies

Above Zermatt, Switzerland’s most spectacular mountain village and home to the Matterhorn, high-altitude restaurants like Chez Vrony combine tradition with chic, and put the haute into cuisine, as Darius Sanai discovers
The Matterhorn and Chez Vrony

All-round views are breathtaking

Mountain hut cuisine will be familiar to anyone who has skied the Alps; raclettes, fondues and other dairy confections. Fresh in the best sense of the word – sourced locally, recently – but rarely sophisticated.

We were looking forward to a little mountain cuisine as we approached Chez Vrony, in Findeln, high above the resort of Zermatt. It was a clear, warm summer’s day, and we had been hiking down from Fluhalp, a hut positioned high above a former glacier I enjoyed gazing at in my childhood in the 1980s (now melted, due to global warming, Mr Trump). The hike had taken us through a fantastical rock wonderland – where part of the mountainside above had simply collapsed into several football fields of Mini-sized boulders. We strode along the side of Stellisee, a lake whose reflections of the famous Matterhorn, facing us from across the broad Zermatt valley, have featured in a million postcards. We edged along a narrow path, a sheer drop to our left, as the glacial valley disappeared into a stream far beneath us; we could just make out the sound of a stream, a distant, constant swirl, like a giantess shushing its infant.

Read next:Kazakh artists make world art breakthrough at Venice Biennale

Descending, we walked past the highest trees, stumpy starter Christmas trees that had the temerity to grow above the otherwise uniform treeline; and skirted around another lake, this one more green, where children splashed and a thousand tiny frogs appeared and vanished into the grass on its edge.

Dinner in the Swiss Alps

The restaurant’s idyllic terrace, above the Findelnbach stream

Past a rock ridge, we gazed down and saw the hamlet of Findeln, home to Chez Vrony; only another ten minutes of descent down the well-made, sand-covered path and we were there. Chez Vrony is a wooden village hut from the outside, a sophisticated terrace restaurant from the other side. Ushered in by a lady who knew everyone (was this Vrony? Her daughter?), we were whisked past groups of well-dressed hikers (a curiosity in itself) and sat on sheepskins atop benches by a broad wooden table. The Matterhorn stared down, a world of ice, rock and snow, across a forest and a valley. We could have been served supermarket sandwiches and would have declared it the most wondrous refuge in the world.

But Vrony has other ideas. The menu was haute cuisine in both meanings: ingredients plainly sourced from the mountains, like the ‘pink-roasted entrecôte of Swiss lamb served with a port-steeped fig and hazelnut potato purée’, but with real panache and delicacy. (For a simpler option, the beef in the Vrony burger was sourced from the pasture above the hut.) We could have stayed all afternoon; indeed I think we did.

Vrony serves mountain cuisine with a sophisticated touch

Afterwards, it was 45 minutes’ rapid downhill hike through a scented forest as dusk approached, to the outskirts of Zermatt. The Matterhorn, changing angle and mood, always there with us, always a reminder that, however civilised the food, and however much we melt the glaciers, above Zermatt, this greatest of all Alpine villages, is a wild world, not our own.

chezvrony.ch

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Reading time: 3 min
Massimo Bottura
Massimo Bottura chef

The crunchy part of lasagne. Massimo Bottura at Geneva Motor Show 2017

Massimo Bottura has the world at his feet: his three Michelin-starred Osteria Francescana in Modena, Italy, achieved the ultimate award in 2016, being voted best restaurant in the world in the prestigious San Pellegrino awards. And yet, rather than open multiple clones in parts of the world where wealthy foodies cluster, he is focusing on helping the needy – and cutting down food waste. Starting at the EXPO World Fair in Milan in 2015, Bottura has been setting up mini-gastro temples using ‘recovered food’ – ingredients that other food operations would otherwise throw away – with the proceeds going to charity.

His next, and most ambitious, cultural-social project using ‘recovered food’ will be the Refettorio Felix in London in June, with the collaboration of Alain Ducasse, Angela Hartnett, Daniel Boulud, Giorgio Locatelli, Jason Atherton, Michel Roux Jr, Nuno Mendes, and numerous other star names from in and around the capital. Darius Sanai spoke to the super-chef and brand ambassador for Maserati (the luxury car company also hailing from Modena) about his passions and plans.

LUX: Your original inspiration for these projects came from a childhood recipe for food that would otherwise be thrown away..
Massimo Bottura: The one that I developed specially for the project in Milan is called ‘Bread is Gold’. It’s what I thought as a child, the best bite before going to bed was a big cup of milk with breadcrumbs, sugar and a bit of chocolate or coffee (depending on what was left). For me it was the best meal as a kid. So we developed this beautiful dessert about bread, milk and sugar that we presented.

Another very simple example that we created (in Milan) was the breadcrumb pesto. All these people were passing through and they needed energy. And they were asking for pasta. So I said okay – tomorrow I am going to cook pasta for you. And because I saw some basil, I was thinking of making pesto.

I went to the kitchen the next day, and there wasn’t a lot left, only one case, which for 100 people is nothing. So I started thinking…I took out all of the herbs thyme and mint which matched perfectly with basil, and I start putting in some Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and some extra virgin olive oil. But I was missing the pine nuts, and I couldn’t go and buy them because they were too expensive [for the project]! So, I had an idea – I put everything in the blender, with a little bit of garlic and then I started adding very cold still water. If I keep the mixer at low temperature there is no oxidation with the extra virgin olive oil. Then, instead of putting pine nuts, I used breadcrumbs by grating the leftover bread from two days before. Then I strained with a strainer, got all the impurities out, and then I re-grated it. It got very creamy but extremely light because the only fat was the extra virgin olive oil and it came out as an amazingly creamy basil pesto with breadcrumbs! Then I rescued all the herbs we had, and the mint (it was summer) gave the freshness. We served it to 100 people. It was one of the biggest hits of the summer.

Osteria Francescana

“Oops I dropped the lemon tart”. Dessert at Osteria Francescana. Image by Callo Albanese & Sueo

Read next: Spring in the world’s most romantic city at Hôtel Plaza Athénée

LUX: As a chef, you like to be innovative. Is that the right word?
Massimo Bottura: Contemporary. I think it’s more contemporary. Osteria Francescana is the place where we develop ideas. It’s like the bottega del rinascimento: the renaissance story where the master gives the ideas to develop and to the guys who are working together as a family and we create culture everyday. We develop, and we bring tradition to the future.

We are also ambassadors of agriculture. And you know in Italy we are crazy and obsessed about the quality of the ingredients. And then we also train people: we have thousands of CVs from people waiting to come and learn from Osteria. And then tourism – we developed tourism for the first time in history in Modena, tourists from all over the world. They speak English, Japanese, Chinese and Spanish. People come to see where Osteria is, matching with the people coming to see Maserati and Ferrari [in nearby Maranello]!

Massimo Bottura at Geneva Motor Show 2017

LUX: You haven’t tried to create copies of Osteria around the world. Why is that?
Massimo Bottura: Because I believe in it. Because excellence and quality is one. And when I am in Modena I have to be there and be respectful of all the people who come from all over. Of course I have to travel because I have to spread ideas and explain the word and my point of view. Yesterday at my conference in Milan there were around 5,000 people, listening to me. People like the CEO of Gucci to the Mayor of Milan from the Minister of Agriculture to the most important journalists. It’s about that too. It’s not just about the quality of the ingredients, it’s about the quality of the ideas that’s the most important thing.

Osteria Francescana

Osteria Francescana. Image by Callo Albanese & Sueo

Developing different restaurants is all about making money, and we have enough. We don’t need a private jet or a helicopter on a big boat. To me personally, it is much more satisfying to give joy to people and because I am a chef you cook for others to give joy and transfer emotion. Even in this social project, it is all about culture. Knowledge consciousness and sense of responsibility. The sense of responsibility is not about to getting rich but to give back after having all of the success that I’ve had.

LUX: Tell us more about your ‘Soup Kitchen’ projects.
Massimo Bottura: They are are not a charity project, they are a cultural project because I involve all the best chefs in the world to cook the waste from supermarkets and other restaurants. It is enormous. The mayor of Tokyo said he would love a project like that in place for the Tokyo Olympics. The United Nations, hospitals in New York..we are working on all these things. The next one will be the Reffertorio Felix in London in June.

We involve artists, designers, architects to build beautiful spaces and to rebuild the dignity of the people. It’s not about serving just some hot food – that’s fine and beautiful. But this is a different project. I am doing different things, with a different perspective. For me, inside a beautiful space I can rebuild something. Dignity of people, or give pride to the food that has been considered waste for 99.99% of people. Through my knowledge, and through our knowledge, because it’s a project that involves all of the best chefs in the world.

I can see the reaction of people around the world which is so interesting. Numbers are numbers. 160 million people are starving. 1.4 billion are overweight and 1.3 billion tonnes of food is wasted every year. 33% of food production is wasted. It’s 50% in Brazil. Every single day in Rio de Janeiro 10 food trucks full of food are burnt. Vegetables and fruit. Why? Because…I don’t know. There is no explanation. It’s not about producing more, it’s about wasting less.

Massimo Bottura

Refettorio Gastromotiva. Image by Angelo Dal Bo

LUX: Is the Soup Kitchen business sustainable? Do you need support? How does that work?
Massimo Bottura: We need local partners like we had in Rio, Gastromotiva; in Milan Caritas. We need a local partner that takes care of everyday life, so that every single one is sustainable. In Rio de Janeiro they are selling the space for companies to hold meetings. They donate money to sustain the dinners. Caritas too is doing that.

There is zero food waste in Osteria and we develop ideas in our everyday life and project these ideas into the soup kitchen all over the world. Now there is a beautiful movie that is coming out from the experience in Milan. There is another one that is in production for the experience in Rio. There’s Anthony Bourdain supported by the Rockefeller Foundation that is going to presented at the Tribeca film festival. There is book; we signed yesterday with Phaidon. A beautiful book about 150 recipes on waste – what you can do with an over ripe banana with some breadcrumbs or some ugly tomatoes – you can do beautiful, beautiful things. And these are ideas that have to be spread everywhere.

Read next: William Fan on the androgynous future of fashion

LUX: What is your idea of achievement? What are you satisfied with?
Massimo Bottura: Next, I want to build a university. I want to build a university in the most amazing villa outside of Modena. It’s abandoned. Now we have started restoring it with Emilia Romagna’s regional government and the Minster of Agriculture. It was an old villa with a full circle of life. There is small place to make two different wheels of parmigiano every day. There is a vineyard for the balsamic vinegar. There is the land all around for pasture.

LUX: What will the future bring for food?
Massimo Bottura: I think in the future the most important ingredient is culture. The chef will know more about soil, and the farmers of the future will know more about taste. Growing up together, studying together.

Donate to Food for Soul at www.foodforsoul.it
Our thanks to Maserati for the interview www.maserati.com

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Reading time: 8 min
Mr. Pig pop up by nobu's ex-head chef

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

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

Mr. Pig’s cosy Christmas interiors

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

super-chef scott hallsworth

Scott Hallsworth

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

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

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

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

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Reading time: 2 min
Robert De Niro and Nobu Matsuhisa

Robert De Niro and Nobu Matsuhisa

It is a quarter of a century since Nobu Matsuhisa first teamed up with Robert De Niro to open a restaurant in LA that would change the way the A-list eats. DARIUS SANAI sat down with Nobu recently to talk taste, celebrity, and hotels

Everyone remembers their first visit to a Nobu. Mine was quite a few years back, in London, accompanied by a number of hard-worn journalists determined not to be star-struck either by the other guests or the food. After chatting to Queen Rania of Jordan, exchanging hellos with Uma Thurman and tasting the original black cod that made Nobu famous around the world, it was hard to remain skeptical.

Nobu himself is an intense, modest man, with huge presence but little noise. As his empire, still owned in partnership with De Niro, has expanded, to 22 restaurants around the world and now hotels in Las Vegas and Riyadh, with others coming soon in London and Bahrain, he is no longer spending his days in the kitchen but remains very involved with the creation of the dishes. Nobu-style food, while Japanese influenced, with hints of South America, is as distinctive and original as the highoctane, dazzling service and venues.

As a brand, Nobu envelops a highly contemporary concept of healthy, expensive, minimalist dining and socialising that is the polar opposite of the traditional Escoffier-influenced fine dining experience; it speaks of the casual yet highly stylised living experience of today’s image-conscious high net worths. Which is why celebrities from Kate Moss, Elton John and Brad Pitt to Naomi Campbell, Tom Cruise and various royals remain regulars. And every slick Asian-fusion restaurant in the world, from Zuma to Sushisamba Las Vegas, owes a debt to Nobu, the man, and his restaurants.

What are the most exciting things you are doing at the moment?

You know, I’m a chef, and I now travel every three or four days, seeing the different restaurants in different cities. I see the chefs, I see the managers, and then I talk to the chefs about creating something; about creating new dishes; about cooking. That’s exciting. It used to be that I was much more involved with training, but now we have four teams around the world – two in America, one for the European restaurants, one for the Asian restaurants, and we’re opening the Nobu hotels, so everyone’s excited about getting involved in the new projects.

When you started out did you ever think it would come to this?

No, no, no. My first restaurant opened in 1987, I was so happy and it was only a 38-seat restaurant. I didn’t think at all about the future, I just like to try my best day to day. And then here I am, opening restaurants all over the world…

Nobu Berkeley ST -  Located in the heart of Mayfair, the lounge is located within the twostorey restaurant

Nobu Berkeley ST – Located in the heart of Mayfair, the lounge is located within the twostorey restaurant

Do you still work in the kitchen?

The first time I create something I have to show to them how to do it, so then I teach one chef, so this chef can teach all over the restaurant. Recently I went to Dubai, we created one dish, so this Dubai chef then taught this recipe [to his colleagues]. Then we went to Moscow, and did the same, and London. These days I teach them how to do things. I don’t stay in the kitchen all day any more.

When you started in 1987 the world was very different to now…

It’s good because I appreciate it when people understand my food and also when they appreciate quality. When I first opened in LA, we were using frozen fish: yellowtail, eel, shrimp, mackerel, a lot of frozen produce. Now it’s all fresh produce, and that means I know that people now appreciate what fresh fish tastes like.

But you have a lot of competition now.

The competition is very good because it means people understand. We have a lot of new restaurant openings, but each restaurant has its own character. I don’t want to say we are the best, because each restaurant has its own character. I try to do my best, make new creations, and customers come because it makes them happy. When new restaurants open they can compare, they can think, I love this restaurant but Nobu is better. The competition means, we always have to try our best.

Restaurants come and go – how have yours stayed up there for so long?

It’s a passion, I think any kind of job requires this: writing, movies, music. If you try your best, at least you’ll make one plus one equals two. But my way, I like to make it one plus one equals plus one hundred. Without passion, that is impossible.

How important is everything apart from the food? Service, ambience, décor?

It’s all about food and service, because the restaurant business is hospitality, people are spending money not just for the food, they have to enjoy the experience from the beginning to the end.

Interior design?

Number three for me.

Is your celebrity clientele important?

I’m very happy celebrities come, and regular customers also. Regular customers come and spot celebrities. But celebrity people are very sensitive about what they eat. People like Victoria Beckham and David Beckham come because they trust our food, which is very important.

How much has the food changed over the last 25 years?

I create sushi and fish dishes. It used to be that people were wary of fish; they thought the smell was off-putting. But fresh fish does not have any smell, or “fishy” taste, it has clean flavours. More people have understood this over the past 25 years. And a lot of people like fish now because it is healthy.

Does cooking come from the heart?

Yes. If I see a beautiful girl I want to approach her with my cooking. To show off what I can do.

Is your food becoming technically more complex?

Everything in Nobu has a Japanese background. Best example: the burger uses bread, but you know in Japanese cooking we never use bread. So we made a tofu bun, very good and very healthy. So this is like a Nobu style: I like to keep the Japanese concept of food. It would be easy to make pastas or sausage or ham, but the Nobu restaurants have a background in Japanese cooking.

Do you overrule your chefs in your restaurants?

Yes. Yesterday a chef showed us one of his new dishes. It was with turbot, which has a very nice white meat. He did a smoke, but too strong a smoke so you couldn’t taste any other flavours. So the chef asked how was it, and I said, “I didn’t like it, please remove it.” Sometimes, when you work too hard on something it doesn’t work. My way is simple, but with heart and detail.

How important is being on TV to a chef like you?

Actually, I don’t like being on TV.

Is it necessary?

To do interviews about the cuisine, yes, because a lot of people watch it. You are starting hotels now. Tell me about that.

We had a lot of restaurants in hotels, all over the world. My partner, Robert De Niro, has his own hotel, the Greenwich in New York City. Then one day he said, “Wait a minute, we do restaurants in hotels, why don’t we do hotels ourselves?”

How important is the Nobu food element in the hotels?

In the Las Vegas hotel, you can have 24- hour room service of anything from the Nobu menu. Anytime you like.

Will Smith and son, Jaden The restaurant regularly attracts an A-list clientele, including celebrities such as Smith

Will Smith and son, Jaden The restaurant regularly attracts an A-list clientele, including celebrities such as Smith

What irks you when travelling?

When you go to a restaurant you are excited about, and the food is good, but the service is so slow, or they don’t pay much attention, it is so disappointing. Training staff for watching tables is so important.

What is your service philosophy – Nobu is not formal like traditional fine dining restaurants?

We are not looking to be a Michelin-star restaurant. I like to show energy, and also, not too much service. Too much service means that the customer gets tired. But if the customer is looking for something then the waiter is immediately there, then that is my perfect service.

Any new types of dish you are creating?

I like to stick to my Japanese concept. We don’t use creams, we don’t use butter much, and no cheese. Food has fashions, but I want to keep my concept, my ingredients.

Black Cod with Miso

Black Cod with Miso

What do you think of all the imitators?

I opened in 1987 and a lot of chefs said it’s not a Japanese restaurant. Now after 27 years, there are a lot of restaurants with a ‘Nobu influence’, with the black cod; a lot of people have copied us. Some restaurants even call it “Nobu-style black cod”, and we complain. People want to use our name, and I don’t like this. There is a cookbook, they can copy my food, but no one can copy my heart. Nobu is cooking with a heart. Now black cod is all over the world, the price of black cod used to be 70 cents per pound, now it is US$8 dollars per pound, the price has gone up but I support this: Japanese produce is growing in popularity all over the world, which is very good.

What’s your latest creation?

I have created soya salt. Try some.

Wow. It’s… like nothing else. Does it come from Japan?

No. I created it a couple of years ago. I’ll be selling it.

How do you define your food? What would you call it? Japanese? Japanese-influenced?

Nobu-style food.

Where do you experiment to make this? Do you have a laboratory?

We talk to customers and they give me homework to do!

Nobu London

Nobu London

Umami is very important to you?

Yes.

In everything? Are there different types of umami?

Japanese umami has no calories, so that is why Japanese food is very healthy. So the basics are umami, then you work out how much salt, how much sugar, how much sour, all the different combinations, then comes the perfect balance and it automatically tastes good.

Is umami one taste, like salt? Or is it a range of flavours?

Soya sauce has umami because of the glutamate, miso too. It is a balance, it’s about deliciousness. It is a balance in the whole flavour. Spain has ham, Italy has cheese and tomatoes, China has dry seafood, you know, each country has its own umami. Japanese umami has no calories. You know the mother’s milk for the baby after it is born, this is also umami. All over the world, the kids have the taste of umami, it is the mother’s milk, no salt, no sour, no bitter, no sweet, just umami.

noburestaurants.com, nobuhotels.com

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Reading time: 9 min
Test Kitchen - A specially designed on-site ‘test kitchen’ allows for constant experimentation

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

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

I had a dream.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More interesting articles
Eating Right
A Feast for the Eye

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Reading time: 3 min
Berry pie at De Kas, Amsterdam

Berry pie at De Kas, Amsterdam

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

MOTO, Chicago

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

Acrobats and fine dining, Circus, London

Acrobats and fine dining, Circus, London

CIRCUS, London

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

DISASTER CAFÉ, Lloret de Mar

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

 

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

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

DE KAS, Amsterdam

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

Underwater dining at Ithaa Undersea Restaurant, Maldives

Underwater dining at Ithaa Undersea Restaurant, Maldives

ITHAA UNDERSEA RESTAURANT. Maldives

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

CANNABALISTIC SUSHI, Tokyo

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

DINNER IN THE SKY, Worldwide

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

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

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

SONEVA KIRI TREETOP DINING POD, Koh Food, Thailand

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

OPAGUE, Los Angeles

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

The Wrapping Gallery combines a restaurant with a contemporary art gallery

The Wrapping Gallery combines a restaurant with a contemporary art gallery

THE WRAPPING PROJECT, London

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

EL DIABLO, TIMANFAYA NATIONAL PARK, Lanzarote

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

FORTEZZA MEDICEA, Volterra

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

Fully automated service at `S Baggers, Nuremberg

Fully automated service at `S Baggers, Nuremberg

‘S BAGGERS, Nurenberg

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

ANNALAKSHMI, Singapore

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

Sound of Silence, Australian barbecue in the Outback

Sound of Silence, Australian barbecue in the Outback

SOUNDS OF SILENCE, Ayers Rock

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

HAJIME, Bangkok

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

THE SPAM MUSEUM, Austin, Minnesota

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

MESTIZO, Santiago

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

THE CURRYWURST MUSEUM, Berlin

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

ROADKILL COOK-OFF FESTIVAL, West Virginia, USA

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

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Presentation is an important part of any dining experience, but can the look of the dish really make or break a meal? STACEY TEO
We’ve all heard the expression “you eat with your eyes”, but how true is it? What importance do aesthetics really have on ones’ enjoyment of a meal? It wasn’t until the advent of nouvelle cuisine that food presentation began to take on the importance it holds today. It was an exhilarating time for the culinary world with never-before-seen creations coming one after another. Plating-up became an industry buzz word and the dish suddenly offered an empty canvas which chefs used to create their own personal form of gastro-art.

In the early days Paul Bocuse, Michel Guerard and the Troisgros brothers not only lightened up traditional French cooking, they also paved the way for the kind of sculpted dishes we see today. Presentation was an exciting new tool that allowed chefs to put their signatures on their dishes. But now, fifty years down the line, nouvelle is no longer new and a lot of what we see is either a copy of a copy, extremely overthought or downright silly looking.

Checking out how the food looks is the cook’s last task and the diner’s first. Food that is well-presented makes the diner want to eat it and allows them to identify the ingredients and their quality while poor presentation gives a bad first impression and means you face an uphill struggle to win over the client. The Japanese, as with so many other things, have turned food presentation into a high art. They even have a word, Moritsuke, which applies to seven very specific rules of food arrangement.

Personally I think presentation counts for about 30 per cent of the experience, the other 70 per cent of course is taste, but I have colleagues that would argue for a 50/50 split. To me one of the most important aspects of plate presentation is what it represents. Whether you are dining out or entertaining at home, presentation attests to the artistic nature of the experience, the effort behind the meal and helps set it apart from an everyday experience. This kind of attention to detail indicates that you value your guests enough to go to the trouble to try and achieve something beyond the mundane, it shows you care and that they are important to you.

As long as a dish is presentable then I’m happy with it. Don’t get me wrong, by that I mean it must look clean and simple with fresh, inviting colours and it should never look messy. I also follow the rule that everything on the plate should be there for a reason and that everything should be edible. I think the biggest mistake chefs make is to try too hard to impress with the presentation. It often makes the dish look pretentious and means they are focussing too much of their attention on aesthetics which normally is not something that makes or breaks a meal.

Pierre Gagnaire’s shrimp with gaya and popcorn

Pierre Gagnaire’s shrimp with gaya and popcorn

As a colleague of mine, Michelin-starred chef Marc Fosh says, “Food should look as natural as possible and every element should be there only if it serves to enhance the flavour of the dish. I hate inedible garnishes and towers of food that collapse and then look like a mess when touched by a fork. I know I have it right when the food looks like it was born on the plate. Of course presentation is important, but at the end of the day, it is the flavour that will bring clients back time and again.”

True, no matter how beautiful it looks, if the flavour is wrong nothing else matters. We are not making sculptures only to be admired. Eventually the client is going to taste the food, they always do, and then nothing that came before really matters.

I have been asked many times if I ever studied food design. Many culinary schools teach specialised courses in food presentation but I have always felt that they are nice but unnecessary for a chef. The most important thing is that the ingredients themselves look as good as possible.

To achieve this takes a skilled hand in the kitchen. Cooking temperatures and timing are key. For example when blanching vegetables, the water must be exactly 100 degrees Celsius, you have to add a dash of salt and then immediately run them through ice water. A good chef knows that not following these steps will mean colourless and unappetising vegetables. Likewise, overcooked ingredients not only lose their flavour but also their natural shape and colour too. Once that happens, no matter how you sculpt it, your dish will look as bland and uninteresting as it tastes. So although you may eat with your eyes, it is the cook’s hands that truly make or break the dish. My advice then, perfect your cooking techniques and the food will present itself.

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