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

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

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

A restaurant with red tables and white chairs

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

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

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

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

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

A swimming pool surrounded by chairs and grass

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

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

chinese food in a black bowl

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

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

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

A lounge with green and red chars and dim lighting

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

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

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

Find out more: zurich.fivehotelsandresorts.com

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people in a shopping centre in Milan
people in a shopping centre in Milan

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

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

Alan Hooks

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

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

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

A restaurant with brown leather chairs

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more: Chef Heston Blumenthal: The Culinary Resurrector

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

Find out more: juliusbaer.com

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luxury hotel bedroom

hotel facade

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

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

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

luxury hotel bedroom

A junior suite with french balconies

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

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

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

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

restaurant interiors

Balausta, the hotel’s restaurant

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

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

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

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stone sculpture
stone sculpture

A sculpture by Sean Scully at Newlands House Gallery. Photograph by James Houston

When it comes to contemporary art, Petworth in West Sussex isn’t a destination that immediately springs to mind, but with the recent opening of a new gallery, headed up by famed art dealer and LUX contributor Simon de Pury, the historic village is beginning to attract a more international crowd. We travelled down from London to see for ourselves

Contemporary art gallery Newlands House opened its doors in 2020 with two blockbuster exhibitions, a presentation of photographs by Helmut Newton and a survey of works by designer, architect and artist Ron Arad, but what makes the gallery truly unique is its setting.

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Petworth sits amidst the glorious rolling hills and valleys of the South Downs National Park, but due to its proximity London (roughly an hour and a half drive), Cowdray Park Polo Club and Goodwood, it feels less remote and more buzzy than many of England’s historic country towns. Visitors arrive in sleek Porsches and Lamborghinis, and leave clutching bags filled with objets d’art.

Newlands House, however, bridges the gap between old and new. Occupying an expansive 18th century townhouse that was previously home to Augustus Brandt‘s antiques showroom, the exhibitions weave through twelve homely rooms, with works hanging beneath low wooden beams, above fireplaces and on hessian covered walls. The current exhibition, From the Real (on show until 10 October), features a compelling series of large-scale abstract paintings and sculptures by husband and wife art duo Liliane Tomasko and Sean Scully. Tomasko’s quick, bold gestures recall the language of street art while Scully’s shiny surfaces (some of the works are painted onto sheets of aluminium) and cool marine colour palette evoke more smoothing architectural forms.

Where to stay…

We checked into The Angel Inn, an upmarket gastro pub with a pretty walled garden and seven quirky guest-rooms, all of which have been recently refurbished with tasteful interiors by Augustus Brandt. It’s worth bearing in mind, however, that as its an old building, the rooms do vary quite extensively in terms of size and amenities. Scots Pine is by far the most luxurious and characterful with an orange velvet sofa, large bathroom and free-standing bath.

hotel suite

The “Scots Pine” bedroom at The Angel Inn. Photograph by James Houston

For larger groups and families, there’s East House, a self-catering apartment spread across the top floors a Grade-II listed Georgian building, or Ryde House, a grand 19-century home with three spacious bedrooms and a courtyard garden.

Where to eat…

E. Street Bar & Grill offers a laid back fine dining experience with a strong focus on local, seasonal ingredients. We had oysters to start, followed by warm roasted fig and pecan salad, and tuna steaks from the grill served with thick, crispy chips. Everything was cooked to perfection. Sitting in the courtyard on a balmy summer’s evening with a chilled glass of white wine, we almost felt like we were in the south of France.

street view of a pub

The Angel Inn, Petworth. Photograph by James Houston

What else…

Petworth is famed for antiques. If you’re feeling energetic, the antiques market is piled high with furnishings, ceramics, glassware, books, maps and all other manner of curiosities, while Tallulah Fox stocks a smaller, curated collection of textiles and elegant home accessories.

A busy through-road and lack of pavements make wandering through the town a little stressful, but there are plenty of easily accessible walking routes through the surrounding  countryside. We particularly enjoyed the”Shimmings Valley” 5k trail which leads through expansive, undulating fields, and the parkland around Petworth House, a 17th-century mansion now owned by the National Trust, is spectacular. The nearby Nyetimber Vineyard, producers of award-winning English sparkling wine, is also worth visiting, but tickets need to be booked in advance for all tastings, tours and dining experiences.

Don’t miss…

The wide array of local and artisanal produce at The Hungry Guest, especially crayfish sandwiches and huge, squidgy chocolate chip cookies.

Find out more: discoverpetworth.uk, newlandshouse.gallery

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outdoor lounge area
outdoor lounge area

The Garden Room at The Lanesborough hotel, Knightsbridge

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

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

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

smart hotel bar

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

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

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

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

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

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

cocktail and cigar

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

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

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

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

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Octopus tentacles
Exotic mushrooms

Steam cooking can preserve the nutritional value and flavour of delicate vegetables such as mushrooms

The ancient art of steam cooking has gained new impetus with the revolution in healthy and mindful cuisine. Lisa Jayne Harris looks at the artful kitchen innovations from design-led German luxury appliance maker, and chefs’ favourite, Gaggenau

Alice B. Toklas, the celebrated 20th-century literary salon hostess, had one golden rule for cooking: “one must respect the quality and flavour of the ingredients”. Steaming is the most direct way to achieve her objective; it is an efficient way to cook that leaves the food tasting exclusively of itself. Just consider the simple excellence of steamed asparagus with French butter, one of Toklas’s stand-by dishes for entertaining.

Phil Fanning, the executive chef and owner of restaurant Paris House in Woburn and Gaggenau culinary partner, agrees: “You’ve got nowhere to hide with steam: It’s all about the quality of ingredients.” This is essential when you are working with delicate seasonal vegetables like asparagus, new potatoes or peas, but it is just as significant with good quality meat, baked goods or pastry.

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However, healthier eating is another powerful motivator behind the steamed food trend. Boiling vegetables reduces much of their nutritional qualities, such as vitamins C and B1, and other mineral salts readily dissolve in water. Lightly steaming does not disturb the food’s cellular structure or its aromatic compositions the way boiling does, so you preserve more vitamins as well as the colour and texture for a more health-conscious cuisine. “Gentle steam cooking can actually improve the nutrient status of food like asparagus, spinach and tomatoes,” advises registered nutritional therapist, Catherine Arnold, “It makes their nutrients more bio-available to the body.”

ovens displayed in art gallery

Gaggenau’s 400 and 200 series combi-steam ovens are ideal for the precise cooking of seafood

Gaggenau has pioneered steam cooking in the home for the past 20 years and continues to do so, including combination steam ovens: “Whether you’re cooking in pure steam, or in combination with traditional heat, you’re getting the health benefits of steam cooking, as it maintains food’s nutrients, colour and shape,” says Gaggenau’s category manager, Simon Plumbridge. Steam can improve other healthy eating habits such as juicing, too: “Our juice extraction setting gently steams hard-skinned citrus fruit such as oranges, so you get a much higher juice yield without impacting nutrients.”

Steam cooking is also gaining traction with chefs and home cooks because of the innovations in steam-cooking technology. For all its benefits – puffed soufflés, sumptuous bread, those crisp layers in a croissant – mastering the technique used to require an intimidating level of precision. Today, keen cooks are investing in internal temperature probes, gadgets and state-of-the-art appliances to emulate high-end restaurants at home. “The UK’s food scene has massively improved in the past 30 to 40 years, and this growth in skill and quality is reflected in passionate home chefs’ kitchens too,” Fanning reflects. Our private kitchens are becoming more technologically advanced, and ovens that enable amateurs to cook like professionals are both a luxury and an enabler of creativity.

Fresh black lobster

Embracing both the old and the new makes us all better cooks. “Lots of traditional techniques benefit from having precise control over the humidity,” says Fanning. “Take bread for example. For the perfect crusty baguette, you need about 30 per cent humidity for the first five minutes and then very little for the remaining bake. In a traditional convection oven that requires guesswork, but it’s easily and consistently achieved in a combi-steam oven.” Brands like Gaggenau are making this trend for precision steam cooking more accessible. Their combi-steam ovens can be controlled to within one degree, which continually revises the estimated cooking time based on temperature-probe readings from three different sensors. There is no more guessing: “Steam in its basic principle is an ancient way of cooking,” says Plumbridge. “But controlling the level of steam in combination with a fan is only achieved by modern technology – and that’s what brings professional results into the domestic home.”

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

Steam is also about convenience; rather than waiting for an oven to preheat, a good steam oven heats to temperature immediately. When you combine that with smart, Wi-Fi-enabled technology that lets you control the oven remotely from your office, or even set the bread to prove whilst you’re watching TV, you have all the benefits of ancient cooking just a voice command away. “Connectivity in the home has a lot of momentum at the moment,” Plumbridge observes, “But we’re more interested in future-proofing, so our ovens have the capacity to integrate with apps on any system such as Alexa or Cornflake smart homes.”

As much as new food trends are about keeping pace with technology, steam cooking also allows you to take your time. Next generation combi-steam ovens can sous-vide for up to almost 24 hours on a mains-connected water system or 11 hours with a tank, and cooking meat low and slow with a good level of humidity means it won’t be subjected to heat expansion and contraction, allowing for a more tender and juicy dish. Chefs also use steam to impart more subtle flavours into a dish, laying herbs under a piece of salmon to infuse the fish or steaming couscous in a traditional couscoussier, in which spices, onions and meat cook in the lower compartment and impart their flavour to the grains above.

Octopus tentacles

“Remember that with a combi oven, steam doesn’t have to be 100ºC,” Fanning advises. “You want to cook vegetables as quickly as possible at that temperature, but steaming a piece of turbot at 60ºC or even lower will give you a much more delicate result. Oxtail or lamb shanks can be very gently cooked sous-vide in a combi-steam oven for hours with virtually no chance of overcooking, and duck legs, pork belly, haricot beans or lentils – if vacuum packed with a fat or oil – can be very gently and accurately made as a confit.”

Icelanders have steamed their bread buried next to hot springs for generations and Chinese steaming baskets have been piled with fluffy rice buns and hot dumplings for thousands of years. Steam cooking might be an ancient art, but revolutionary technology, a modern regard for putting ingredients first and a drive to lighten up our diets means that the technique is equally relevant today. True innovation combines the heritage of centuries of steam cooking with precision and performance that inspires. “That’s why Gaggenau ovens are all hand finished,” Plumbridge says. “Only when you piece a product together by hand, the good old-fashioned way, are you actually putting soul into a product. And that’s what really means something to people.”

factory worker

Gaggenau’s factory on the French-German border

Precision Engineering

Darius Sanai takes a rare tour of the Gaggenau factory, pictured above, on the French-German border, and is struck by the melding of industry and creativity

The huge sheet of matte-silver metal looks, somehow, tempting and edible as it sits on the machine bed, like a giant slice of space-age food about to be sliced and diced. Lasers home in on a pattern of points on the sheet, and an instant later, it has a precise latticework of holes and is being washed clean. A few metres away, an operator is in charge of a machine that bends metal. It bends it a tiny bit, almost invisibly, but the bend makes all the difference, our guide explains, as it allows the finished product a smooth, textured finish with no sharp edges.

There is a lot of this in the Gaggenau factory; a lot of working with metal, bending and shaping it, machining it, turning it from sheets, delivered through an entry doorway in one building, into the slick kitchen appliances so beloved by professional chefs.

Metalwork in a factory

Yet metalwork was not what I expected when walking into the factory of a manufacturer of the world’s leading kitchens. It’s hard to know exactly what to expect; my experience of factories is confined to manufacturers of cars and watches. Both of these are very obviously made of metal in a way high-end ovens, cloaked in a kitchen design and so proud of their electronics and technology, are not. Yet there is far more metalworking going on at Gaggenau than in, for example, the Mercedes-Benz factory at Sindelfingen an hour’s drive to the east, or the IWC watch manufacture at Schaffhausen an hour’s drive to the south.

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

Perhaps this ought not to be surprising. We are after all in a real factory, rather than a mere assembly plant where components made elsewhere are put together. Gaggenau may now be synonymous with expensive homes, but, as a timeline in the visitor experience centre where we had arrived earlier demonstrated, it has a history in metal. It was founded in 1683 as Eisenwerke Gaggenau, an ironworks which made everything from agricultural machinery to road signs, by Margrave Ludwig Wilhelm von Baden. Gaggenau itself is a town in the Black Forest of Germany, which, catalysed by von Baden, became a significant industrial centre and still houses one of the biggest Mercedes-Benz factories.

Gaggenau also made stoves, and eventually specialised in the high-end, highly designed, highly technical kitchen appliances it creates today, eventually moving to its current site from its original home. From the sloping road leading to the current factory in Lipsheim, you can see the curved outline of the Black Forest clearly. “I live there, it takes 30 minutes to cycle in every day,” one of our hosts tells me cheerily. The fact that he lives in Germany and we are just across the border in France’s Alsace is irrelevant: this is the new Europe, and there is, in effect, no border.

It’s a scenic setting for a factory, and also an interesting one: just down the road is Bugatti’s factory (really, a very chic assembly plant), so you could in theory pick up your Chiron and then watch your new steam oven being made. (Actually, the factory tours are not yet open to the public, which makes it even more special.)

factory worker bending metal

The factory is a series of buildings each of which is filled with numerous sections and stations doing different creative activities. Gaggenau’s production process is still very manual; there are 350 workers, many of them trained in astonishingly particular skills pertaining to components or electronics of particular products. There is an air of extreme concentration among the small pods of workers, but unlike in watch manufactures, you don’t get the sense that you are the nth tour to visit that day. Workers are not slickly trained to respond to your questions; some of them are so lost in concentration in operating a particular piece of hot, huge or smelly machinery that they seem surprised to see you there.

What does remind me of a watch factory, or perhaps a pharmaceutical firm, is a ‘clean room’, which we observe from the outside. The room, which sits in a corner of the factory, and the people inside, assembling delicate electrical components of Gaggenau ovens, look like characters in a sci-fi movie of their own.

There is, in another section of the factory, a testing station, where every creation is subject to testing on its accuracy, function, and so on. I lingered a minute or two here, eager to see a malfunctioning multi-thousand-euro oven chucked on a scrapheap (or actually, returned to production to be corrected), but it didn’t happen.

The tour ended and we walked back to the Experience Centre, with its view of the Vosges and walls of the latest steam ovens, slick and architectural, beauty made out of, if not exactly chaos in the factory but certainly industrial creativity. More interesting than any watch manufacture I have been to.

Find out more: gaggenau.com/gb

This article was originally published in the Summer 2020 Issue, out now.

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Reading time: 10 min
Man wearing glasses
Man wearing glasses

Erdem Moralioglu by Tom Mannion

Erdem Moralıoğlu’s flagship store is in Mayfair, but the heart of this designer to the stars is in hip east London, where he lives and has his studio. He gives LUX a pre-lockdown tour of his home patch

My favourite view…

The view from the restaurant at the top of the National Portrait Gallery

The most romantic spot for dinner…

St John on Commercial Street

The best spot to read a book…

The London Library

The best place to take a selfie…

No selfies!

Where you’ll hear the coolest music…

The Glory in Dalston

The only coffee I’ll queue for…

Violet on Wilton Way (they also do the best cinnamon bun in the world)

The perfect spot not in a travel guide…

The stacks at The London Library – I could spend hours getting lost in all the books

A tourist destination that’s worth the hype…

The Turbine Hall at Tate Modern

The best spot for some people-watching…

Broadway Market on a Saturday

The taste that reminds me of my childhood…

Mangal 2 on Stoke Newington Road, which is my favourite Turkish restaurant in London

My favourite museum/gallery…

The Enlightenment Gallery at the British Museum or anything at Maureen Paley

The shop I never want to leave…

My shop in Mayfair. I spend a lot of time there and many of my clients say it feels like home

The best place to soak up some nature…

In the pool at London Fields Lido in winter

The perfect weekend brunch…

Allpress Espresso on Dalston Lane

I’m prepared to make a detour for…

The National Portrait Gallery

I’m at home in….

Hackney

View the designer’s collections: erdem.com

This story was originally published in the Summer 2020 Issue, out now.

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Reading time: 1 min
Contemporary building sitting on ski slope
Contemporary building sitting on ski slope

The new building at Gütsch-Express mountain station in Andermatt, designed by London architect Christina Seilern. Image by Roland Halbe.

Last weekend saw the opening of two new restaurant concepts at the Gütsch-Express mountain station in the Swiss ski resort of Andermatt. LUX discovers

Perched at the 2,300 metre-high Gütsch-Express mountain station in Andermatt is a sleek building home to two new fine dining concepts: The Japanese by the Chedi Andermatt and Gütsch by Markus Neff. Designed by London architect Christina Seilern, the building provides two distinct spaces for each restaurant, with panoramic views through floor to ceiling windows and spacious terraces for alfresco dining.

Ski lift station and contemporary building

Follow LUX on Instagram: luxthemagazine

The Japanese by the Chedi Andermatt is the more intimate of the two, only seating 44 people inside with additional seating outside. The menu features the likes of shidashi bentō, omakase and kaiseke meals, as well as sushi and tempura specialities.

Interiors of a small restaurant with a fire

Here: The Japanese by The Chedi Andermatt. Below: A selection of the dishes on the menu. Image by Roland Halbe

Plates of Japanese food laid on a table

Read more: An evening of contemporary art and fine dining with Gaggenau

Meanwhile, Gütsch by Markus Neff offers a more traditional alpine ambience with a large, bright dining space, two terraces and a menu focusing on fresh, local produce. Reservations are a must for both.

Alpine restaurant with tables laid for lunch

Gütsch by Markus Neff focuses on fresh, local produce

For more information visit: andermatt-swissalps.ch

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Reading time: 1 min
Luxury hotel interiors of a drawing room with painted walls and soft furnishings
Facade of a grand mansion house

The Rocco Forte Balmoral hotel in Edinburgh, Scotland

Since he created it in 1996, Sir Rocco Forte has grown his eponymous luxury hotel group to include multiple properties in key destinations across Europe, with a major expansion this year within his family’s native Italy. And there are plans for the boutique group to move into the US, Middle East and Asia. LUX’s Editor-in-Chief Darius Sanai speaks to the group’s chairman and founder about new openings, changes in the hospitality industry and what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur
Colour portrait of a middle aged man in a suit

Sir Rocco Forte, Chairman of Rocco Forte Hotels

LUX: Rocco Forte hotels is currently in a period of planned rapid expansion – why now?
Sir Rocco Forte: We had a period of consolidation after the financial crisis and have gradually come out of that and the business profitability increased. We’ve improved the quality of the management team. Generally taking the company forward, it was the right moment to start expanding again and looking at adding additional properties…

There are a huge number of different luxury brands within Marriott. Having said that, I think there’s an opportunity for the niche player somewhere, a business that is much more personalised in its approach to its customers, where attention to detail is extremely important. I think people are looking for things which are more individual, more related to where they are going. They want the rubber stamp wherever they go. I think it is going to get more and more difficult for these big companies to actually deliver that, and for a smaller organisation like mine, it’s easier because the top management is hands on. The business and the detail of business has some advantages.

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

LUX: How has the landscape and your business philosophy changed since you started?
Sir Rocco Forte: It’s changed significantly on the technological side, the way people buy hotels in particular is much more a business done through the internet than there was than it was before, there are online travel agents who are becoming quite powerful. Customers are now more inclined to book through the web than going to direct to hotel. Then there’s the social media aspect which is also becoming more important, as a means of communication and promotion of properties. There is an interaction between guests who have tried properties and posted comments and so on. This is picked up by other people and used to validate their choice. TripAdvisor type sites didn’t really exist before and now people use it to make up their minds about hotels. Then you have the back of the house side of things; technologies have come in there and give management a greater ability to know their guests. There is increased technology in the rooms, television, wi-fi. Wi-fi became available 20 years ago and now people complain unless they had the fastest band available in the hotel. People used to pay for wi-fi and now they don’t want to pay for it anymore. Telephones, actual landlines have gone out of the hotels; they are hardly used.

In terms of the actual service side, the principles remain the same. The customer wants to be treated as an individual, wants to feel a warm welcome when he goes into a hotel, wants to be recognised. Maybe the relationship between the customer and the staff members has changed to some degree, it’s become slightly less formal, which is something that we did from the beginning.  I wanted to de-formalise the service to some degree. Then you’ve also got to keep up to date in a hotel because there are things that people have in their own houses that they expect to find at a hotel and it is a competitive market place.

Luxury hotel interiors of a drawing room with painted walls and soft furnishings

The front hall at Brown’s, a Rocco Forte hotel in London. Photo by Janos Grapow

LUX: The marketplace is much more crowded nowadays with new players coming in and there’s Airbnb. What is it that has allowed you to keep going and growing with so much more supply?
Sir Rocco Forte: Airbnb doesn’t really effect the luxury end to any great degree. Airbnb has already started to show problems with consistency. There are plenty of niche players coming in and it does eat into the marketplace, but if you have a well-located hotel and you deliver an excellent service and have a regular clientele that like the place, it’s very difficult to prize a luxury customer away from a hotel that he’s used to and where the staff are trained to his needs. There have been a lot of new openings in London and there are more in the pipeline; there’s always a supply and demand equation. I think you’ve got to try and distinguish your hotel group from others and make a potential customer feel that they will get something special, something different if they come to you. The staff are the people who deliver the service and you’ve got to ensure that they’re motivated in the right way. They need to have the right training, the right philosophical background. We put a lot of effort into induction where we tell them about the family, the history of the company, the history of the hotel and something about the city where the hotel is located  so everyone has a sense of heritage and belonging as a family. It is my sister and myself and three children running the hotels, we know a lot of the individual staff members and it creates a sense of warmth in our hotels which you cannot necessarily find anywhere else.

Read more: Chaumet’s latest exhibition reveals the symbolic power of tiaras

LUX: Is it important that your guests can recognise the brand when they’re staying at one of your hotels?
Sir Rocco Forte: Yes, part of having a group is that, you get cross fertilisation and you get customers using more than one hotel, following the brand. So the brand is important because the customer knows that if he comes to Brown’s or goes to Hotel de Russie in Rome, he will get a certain type of service and a certain type of welcome.

LUX: A lot of your properties are significant and historic properties in individual cities, how do you imbue them with the Rocco Forte brand?
Sir Rocco Forte: The induction is consistent throughout the company that creates the blueprint on which the hotel is based. My sister who leads the decor has a strong agenda and sense of place. It is very difficult sometimes to please everybody. The thing is you get a hotel designer to design the hotel and there are the prototype rooms, but it is never quite finished, it is a design hotel, you are always adding little bits and pieces and so on, which gives a more personalised touch. My sister does that very well. She usually buys locally, which give the rooms a more homely feel.

Views from a luxury terrace over a European city

The view from the Popolo Suite at Hotel de Russie in Rome

LUX: You have lots of developments happening in Italy at the moment – is Italy a particularly important destination to you?
Sir Rocco Forte: Italy is not the easiest place to do business, so in a way that is an advantage for us. Italy is a tourist destination, it is the prime tourist destination in the world. The American market loves Italy and that’s a very important market for travel. About 40% of our business comes from the States, you can get high prices for the rooms you sell, which in some destinations it’s impossible to do. So from that point of view, it’s attractive. The bureaucracy and the labour laws make it difficult, but the demand is there if you get the right hotel in the right location and at the price.

LUX: And Italy is underserved by luxury hotels, isn’t it?
Sir Rocco Forte: Yes, there’s no luxury chain across Italy, and we now have the opportunity to create one. We have six hotels and the three new hotels that we’re developing — we are doing a second hotel in Rome, a small 40 bedroom hotel in Puglia, and we have just taken on a place in Palermo, which is a 100 bedroom hotel and used to be a jewel of a place, but is now very run down and it’s been badly run for many years. It is a wonderful destination hotel. The city Palermo is having a revival, a lot of people are buying houses there, and doing them up. It is quite a good time to go in there and I already have a resort in south of Sicily, and Palermo is the airport you use for that so having the two properties working together is beneficial. But obviously, I need to be in Venice and Milan, I’d like to be on the Amalfi coast and some of the other heritage cities with smaller hotels. I am pushing to try and get there.

I also still want to be in the States…New York and LA and Miami maybe, I’d like to be in Paris, I’d like to be in Moscow, and probably another German city. Hamburg or Dusseldorf would complete the German equation. We are doing our first hotel in the Far East, in Shanghai, which will open next year. We don’t have a clear date, things get delayed quite a lot there.  It is moving forward, but slower than it is supposed to. That will be our first step into that part of the world. We will see. If I am going to travel to my hotels and if they are way out, that’s less attractive. I have to think carefully about it, about how far we extend geographically. Within Europe it is fairly straightforward.

Read more: Maryam Eisler’s new photography series reimagines pastoral romance

LUX: With the new portfolio that you are developing, are most of the hotels owned or managed, or both?
Sir Rocco Forte: The Palermo hotel we bought, but we probably won’t keep the ownership. We are talking to a partner about taking it on and leasing it back to us. The other two are leases, I prefer leases to management contracts because we’re in control with a lease. You have complete control of the property and you can do more or less what you want. With a management contract, the owner tends to interfere all the time. He thinks he knows how to run the property better than you do. If the hotel is doing well, he doesn’t need you, if the hotel is doing badly it is your fault. You take on more risk with a lease, but then it is a bigger upside and you have control over your own destiny.

Luxury hotel suite with plush furnishings

A Junior Suite at Hotel de La Ville, one of two Rocco Forte hotels in Rome

LUX: As an entrepreneur, what qualities have you needed to get to this stage with RF Hotels?
Sir Rocco Forte: Very difficult to say. I think you have to have a passion for what you’re doing, what you want to do, and you have to really care, and have people around you who believe in what you’re trying to do, who will help you to do it. You have to have determination. Where there are obstacles you have to overcome them. You have to have the determination to overcome them, not take no for an answer, continuously try to move things forward. It is easy to get dispirited, upset and to give up. A lot of people do, but I am not made that way and I am always looking forward, always looking to see if I can do things better. It is that, and I think the minute I stop having a passion, then I should stop working. But I hope that will never happen.

LUX: Do you have dreams of passing on the business to your children one day?
Sir Rocco Forte: Yes, but my kid are still in the early stages and they might well reach a stage, where they don’t want to take on responsibility so we’ll see. At the moment, that’s the idea. And it’s good having them working the business, it gives a certain continuity to the business and it adds value to the business. In the short term, it makes us different to a lot of other companies and from a personal point of view, it gives me a huge amount of pleasure: my kids have left home, but I see them all the time. We’ve got something in common to talk about and to argue about, and to enjoy. You never know — I could go under the proverbial bus tomorrow. And then what happens? The business is in a position where it can continue to go forward, but then my family would have to decide what they want to do.

LUX: Talking about the younger generation, do you think that, as customers, their demands of the hospitality industry are different?
Sir Rocco Forte: Apart from the technological side that we were talking about it earlier, the way they dress is differently, but in the end of the day they still enjoy service and being looked after. It depends…a lot of them are brought up under very comfortable circumstances and they understand that way of life and I don’t think they are particularly different. All the ones I’ve seen using my hotels, seem to enjoy the facilities like anybody else. I suppose there is more of a consciousness of wellness and well-being and looking after yourself than there was in the previous generations. We meet those demands through the facilities that we have in the hotels already. But I wouldn’t say there is anything dramatic and to build a hotel for a specific sector of a population is narrowing your market quite considerably. I also think people whether they are millennials or older people, like the idea of heritage and like the idea of history, and they enjoy it when they experience it — I don’t think that has changed. Most people want to know what is the next thing? I don’t know what the next thing is, but I think hotels tend to follow trends rather than set them. Mine do anyway. I think in the luxury sector, that is more so than it is anywhere… You have hotels now that have no staff, you put a credit card in a slot, you get a room key and you go up to your room. And there isn’t a restaurant, there are communal rooms for people to use, you help yourself, all these sorts of things, but not at the top end of the market. I don’t see anything dramatic on the horizon.

Read more: Where I would invest £100m in property by Knight Frank’s Andrew Hay

LUX: Your portfolio is predominantly city-based. Have you ever been tempted to start a resort hotel in tropical climates? And if not, why not?
Sir Rocco Forte: Because anything I’ve looked at hasn’t really worked financially. I haven’t managed to find anything. The hotel in Puglia has a beach facility available, but it is not on the sea. And then there is a seasonality thing, which is difficult. When you are building a new hotel from scratch, to finance that on quite a short winter season, for example, is difficult because it closes, then it opens for a very short summer season and then it closes again…

Luxury contemporary style villa with a private pool and wooden terrace

A luxurious villa at Rocco Forte’s Verdura Resort in Sicily

LUX: And what about the residences model that a lot of new hotels seem to have now, is that something you’d ever consider?
Sir Rocco Forte: It depends on the property, the location and the size of the property. But in Rome we’re now doing five luxury apartments, which are situated on the corner of Piazza de Spagna, which is within walking distance to our hotels (one is on top of the Spanish steps and the other one is on Piazza del Popolo). So that’s a new endeavour. Also we’re building some villas now in Verdura, which initially will be let as basically a sort of extended stay or hotel accommodation for families who want to stay together in one unit. We’re starting to get into that market.

LUX: Are there any other new developments in the pipeline that we should know about?
Sir Rocco Forte: My daughter has been working on the spas. The spa in the new hotel in Rome will be her spa design, which she thinks will be the first properly designed spa. She thinks that it has more activity and treatments and so on, which will encourage people to come and see. There are a range of creams that she produced which are properly organic so that is a bit of a new venture. Otherwise, we are continually looking to improve the facilities in our hotels. We are looking at the food side particularly. It is difficult for hotels to do restaurants well. We are always searching. A lot of places that have successful restaurants started out being run by restauranteurs, rather than hoteliers and then they have a few rooms as well. For example, Chiltern Firehouse or Costes originally, they had a few rooms and then they bought the hotel next door extending it. I haven’t found the key to creating really successful restaurants. Our restaurants are doing well by the standards of hotel restaurants. If we are doing 120 covers a day, we are happy, but there are restaurants doing 250 covers a day. Some hotel restaurants you go into, you never see anybody there. That is not the case with ours, but we can do a lot better than we do.

Discover the full Rocco Forte portfolio: roccofortehotels.com

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Reading time: 15 min
Cocktail from East London bar Discount Suit Company
Czech beers, Bloody Marys, live jazz and padrón peppers, East London’s gastronomic scene is more vibrant than ever. Digital Editor, Millie Walton picks some of her favourite spots for drinking and dining in the city’s hottest neighbourhoods
Discount Suit Company
Bar snacks at Discount Suit Company

Elegant bar snacks: Neal’s Yard cheese board

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

Read next: In the saddle with Hermés 

Lounge Bohemia
Lounge Bohemia drinking spot East London

Laid back interiors at Lounge Bohemia

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

Nightjar
Speakeasy style bar, Night Jar

Night Jar’s elegant interiors

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

Read next: The art market has gone global, says Simon de Pury 

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

Octopus Salad

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

Rotorino
Dinner dish at Rotorino

Clams & Mussels

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

Read next: Adam Brett-Smith’s on the world’s thriving wine culture

Andaz, Eastway
Make your own bloody mary at Andaz Eastway

The Bloody Mary bar at Andaz Eastway

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

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Reading time: 4 min

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

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

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

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

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

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

Screen Shot 2015-05-27 at 15.44.22

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

wolfgangpuck.com

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Reading time: 7 min
Brindisa in London’s Borough Market

Brindisa in London’s Borough Market

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spicey chorizo sandwich from Brindisa

Spicey chorizo sandwich from Brindisa

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

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

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Reading time: 4 min
Hutong, fiery food, fiery views

Hutong, fiery food, fiery views

In which our Editor-in-Chief travels from a neo-Mongolian skyscraping culinary landmark in Hong Kong to a 17th century tithe barn in Hampshire, and points between

Arriving in Hong Kong from London in the early evening, being whisked to my hotel and being checked in in-room, the call of mild has never been more powerful. A thorough room service menu, ranging from Cantonese to club sandwich, the assurance of brisk service and a half-bottle of 2009 Sauzet Puligny-Montrachet, a view from the sofa across to Kowloon, and a four-day schedule of meetings starting with no respect to jet-lag at eight the following morning: why would you venture out of your luxury hotel room?

Because… well, just because a friend who owns a tour operator had told me the Star Ferry to Kowloon is the best introductory experience to Hong Kong, and because otherwise the city would be viewed for the first time through the rose-tinted spectacles of dinners, lunches and parties with friends.

And so with pockets jangling with change for the ferry ticket machine, and the hotel doorman’s slightly perplexed ministrations that it would be much more convenient for me to take a taxi to Kowloon, uncomprehending of the fact that the journey was the destination, I headed through the tropical rain, along a latticework of walkways, past hurrying locals and the odd sauntering tourist, and took my place on a seat by the window. The churning journey across the few hundred metres to Kowloon plunges you into a valley of sea between mountain ranges of human endeavour and show, the edifices on either side; and then you are in Kowloon, and ducking into the lobby of an office skyscraper just before the downpour starts again.

Strange for a Westerner to travel to an acclaimed restaurant in the lift of an office building, but exit on the 28th floor and this is the world of Hutong, a sort of Inner Mongolian gastronomic temple (I later learned that it is designed to mimic Ancient Peking) complete with contemporary bar and ravishing guests. I sat at a table by the floor-to-ceiling window and gazed at the jumble of skyscrapers, each bigger than the last, spreading up and across and out, of Central, Hong Kong, obscured sometimes for seconds by drifting low clouds of the storm and then switched on again as the sky cleared. I toasted the view with a half-litre of draft Veltins, one of German’s finest, most aromatic lagers served icecold and surprising at Hutong. The cuisine is a meld of northern Chinese with whatever else they wish to serve, and my beef fillet with Sichuan chillis was edgy, precise and focussed.

The following evening I was taken by a friend to his new(-ish) restaurant, The Principal, in Wan Chai, a formerly sleazy, now rapidly yuppifying, area along the seafront that mixes massage parlours and ultra-cool shops in roughly equal measure. The Principal is unusual for Hong Kong, I was told, in that its entrance is on street level, which makes it very usual for where I come from. You walk through a gleaming bar area and into a restaurant room that is pared back, minimalist contemporary chic. The menu is Australian in its imagination, and quite contemporary London in its simplicity. The signature starter of baby beet, yoghurt, black quinoa and micro herbs was a quadratic equation of flavours with a very complete resolution; saltbush tenderloin of lamb with sweetbreads, aubergine, chickpeas and Moroccan ras-el-hanout was not North African so much as mid-Indian Ocean, and perplexing and delightful. My friend also owns a wine business, so the Wine Atlas, with picks of the most interesting wines from around the world, was very compelling. This sort of laid-back glamour is the new Hong Kong style, apparently, and London could rather do with some of its own.

The Principal, a culinary highlight in Hong Kong’s cool Wan Chai area

The Principal, a culinary highlight in Hong Kong’s cool Wan Chai area

Business finished at lunchtime on the last day in Hong Kong, a Sunday, so a friend who runs an auction house and I wandered down at teatime to the Captain’s Bar, a legendary institution in Central, the heart of town. In a part of the world where high floors and astronomical views are de rigueur for bars, it was arresting to be in a windowless space on a ground floor, an L-shape punctuated by glass tableaux of a chess game, low banquettes, and private jet set businesspeople of no fixed abode muttering deals to each other.

This is one of Asia’s most celebrated cocktail bars, but with a 12-hour flight ahead we weren’t in the mood for cocktails, instead finding solace in the metal tankards of extremely cold, perfectly headed Asahi lager. As the Germans and Belgians – and evidently the Hong Kongers – know, beer benefits from being served correctly as much as any wine appreciates its appropriate Riedel stemware. I had never had lager in a metal tankard before, but after two, we agreed that your own personalised, engraved tankard at the Captain’s Bar was an essential item for any gentleman of the world. My friend had auctioned off two of these for charity a year or two before, but sadly they are no longer available, so I left Hong Kong with a slight sense of yearning.

Frank Gehry-designed fish on the seafront at the Hotel Arts, Barcelona

Frank Gehry-designed fish on the seafront at the Hotel Arts, Barcelona

I have wanted to visit the Hotel Arts in Barcelona for more than a decade, but despite a number of trips to the city, never quite managed to make it. Back in 1998, the world, or Europe in any case, had seen nothing like it: a new build skyscraper devoted to showing off artworks to its guests, more six-star than five. In a city as earthy as Barcelona, it is a strange and rather liberating feeling to be hoisted 20 floors into the sky and survey the scene from above, Asian-style. My room was a paragon of contemporary comfort: silence, a perfectly-sprung bed, a bathroom with the glass walls that are essential parts of a hotel designer’s repertoire now (affording more physical space as well as a feeling of it). And if you tire of Barcelona’s rather impressive (for a big city) public beach on the doorstep, you can view what is probably Spain’s finest overall collection of contemporary art or retire to the hotel’s own pool, stretched out just below the landmark Frank Gehry fish sculpture, which could be said to have kickstarted the whole contemporary design trend in northern Spain. The pool’s architecture is such that it reminded me rather of the Villa d’Este’s pool on Lake Como, famously floating in the lake on its own pontoon, even though the Arts’ pool is very much on dry land.

Without wishing to belittle the hotel’s art offering, which is compelling and makes a stay rather like staying in a contemporary museum, my highlight was art of a different form, in the restaurant Arola. This is food with wit, taste and just enough conception: cod esqueixada with tomato pearls, very particular patatas bravas, sea cucumbers and razor clams with kalix (which reminded me of samphire) were wonderful and not overdone. The artistry of the form of the dishes was matched by their culinary execution; here is another example of modern Catalan cuisine taking its inspiration from Ferran Adrià’s now departed El Bulli but painting with its own palette, so to speak. And one of the most refreshing factors was its informality: Arola is conceived as a modern take on a tapas bar, so the service was swift and down-to-earth, not remote and Michelenic.

Home territory this summer featured a tour of the ancient hillsides of the Cotswolds, and a delve further south. I was struck a few years back when a friend who owns some of the coolest hotels in the world told me he considered Barnsley House as his favoured retreat in the now-ultra-fashionable hillsides and wooded folds between Oxford and Gloucester. England has recently been host to a number of spectacular country hotel openings, and I went expecting a grand super-Cotswold resort, only to be greeted by a bijou little property, all higgledy rooms and hidden staircases, tastefully refreshed in a contemporary style.

Our suite was in a former stable, approached along stepping stones in its own private garden – very St Tropez and perfect for a shy rock star making an escape with the wrong person’s girlfriend, in its seclusion. Inside the palette was light and contemporary, an offset to the building’s history. It was all very refreshing, although the garden and private water area could perhaps have been more organic, more easy on the eye. For those who want country without Country Life, Barnsley House is probably a perfect weekend stop.

As traditional and cosy as Barnsley House is New Gen Chic, Woodstock’s Feathers hasn’t changed much, barring the required investment in keeping everything up to date, since I used to escape there on Sunday evenings with friends while a student at Oxford in the late 1980s. This establishment fixture can accurately claim to be the Gateway to the Cotswolds; it is also on the doorstep of my favourite stately home in the area, Blenheim Palace.

The Feathers has been nurtured lovingly into the modern era, not jolted into it: fabrics and warm and autumnal, grandfather clocks still stand, history is alive, but there is a lack of fust and fuss. There is a feeling of cosiness, enhanced by the enclosed (in the best possible way) nature of its 17th century buildings. Service is friendly and country, not town, and you get the feeling that a gin and tonic, rather than a raspberry Martini, will be the favoured drink here for a century to come – although naturally they will serve you both.

Fifty kilometres is a distance that means nothing in China (unless you’re breaching the border between Hong Kong’s Special Administrative Region and China proper). In England, it takes you to a different part of the country, as a foray to Norton Park from the Cotswolds attested. Steep rolling hills are replaced by broad downs and open plains, and Norton Park makes the most of these views and its wonderful and vast 17th century tithe barn. Here is a new-style country hotel of a different perspective; the simple, well-sourced and thoughtfully cooked country cuisine tells the tale of a country whose culinary history has been jolted out of a shameful past in just the last 10 years.

Norton Park’s new building is removed by some ancient woodland from its original manor house, where we found snug ceilings, secret passages, and a lawn leading to a duckpond and an overgrown copse; ancient meeting modern.

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

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Reading time: 9 min