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Indoor Indulgence from the Downton Abbey Creator: Belgravia

 

 

Belgravia Baby Monster

Belgravia – ITV and Epix

Belgravia the new lavish costume drama by Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes based on his best selling novel of the same name is just the sort of television indulgence we need right now. The series showing on ITV and Epix features an ensemble cast of impressive British actors including Tamsin Greig, Philip Glenister, Alice Eve, Harriet Walker and Ella Purnell (“baby monster” in the Sweetbitter TV show). Fellowes’ story follows the upwardly mobile Trenchard family from the Duchess of Richmond’s legendary ball on the eve of the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 to London’s grandest new neighbourhood, Belgravia, in the 1840s.

The Trenchards’ beautiful young daughter Sophia falls for the dashing Lord Bellasis, who is several rungs above her on the social ladder, in the heady days before Waterloo in Belgium. A few decades later the families become entwined again as they move to the newly fashionable Belgravia where old and new money live side by side though not necessarily in harmony. Here’s five things to know:

Belgravia Sophia and Bellasis

Belgravia – ITV and Epix

The story combines fictitious and real characters

Fellowes details the lives of the fictitious (newly wealthy) Trenchards and the (aristocratic) Brockenhursts interspersed with real historical figures including the aforementioned Duchess of Richmond, pioneering builder Thomas Cubitt who created the Belgravia area of London and the Duchess of Bedford who invented the concept of afternoon tea.

This exclusive enclave was created from scratch on swampland

The “spangled city for the rich” as Lady Brockenhurst describes it in the television series was developed in the 1820s. Ship’s carpenter turned master builder Thomas Cubitt designed the wedding cake style white stuccoed and porticoed town houses on the smart streets, crescents and garden squares. Behind were cobbled Mews to house the staff. “It was a total concept,” Fellowes told The Telegraph. “It was an attempt to build a society that was going to work. You build places for horses, carriages, upper servants. The interesting thing about Belgravia is that it was made up from scratch. If you dig through Belgravia, you don’t get to Georgian London, there’s just swamp. There’s not much in London that is equivalent.”

Belgravia cast

Belgravia – ITV and Epix

Filming actually took place in Edinburgh.

“It’s quite impossible to shoot in Belgravia,” the show’s producer Gareth Neame told History Extra website. “There’s no way you can shut down these parts of London and have horses and carriages going around for four days. So what we did was to go to the New Town of Edinburgh.”

Belgravia is owned by one family

Bordering Buckingham Palace, Knightsbridge and Hyde Park the land was, and still is, owned by the Grosvenors. The name Belgravia stems from the location of their country estate in Belgrave, north west England after which the centre piece square was called. Eaton Square is named the family’s seat, Eaton Hall. The current patriarch is 29 year old Hugh Grosvenor, 7th Duke of Westminster.

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Peggy Porschen, Belgravia

Belgravia has some of London’s chicest boutiques and cafes

While largely residential as well as being home to several embassies, shops and cafes have cropped up on picturesque Elizabeth Street. These include Beulah the sustainable designer label worn by the Duchess of Cambridge, Jo Loves by beauty guru Jo Malone and the much Instagramed Peggy Porschen bakery.

 

Self Isolate in Style

Timothy Oulton spaceship capsule

Timothy Oulton Studio

In Timothy Oulton’s spaceship capsule – based on the dimensions of real life Apollo 11 one. You’re welcome.

http://www.timothyoulton.com

 

What it’s like to sleep in the world’s most exclusive bed

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Bedroom in the Royal Suite at The Savoy, London

On World Sleep Day a look back at Chopstix’s stay in the Royal Suite at The Savoy:

When it comes to sleeping I’m definitely in the Princess and the Pea camp, I tend to toss and turn throughout the night rarely getting a restful 8 hours. So I was intrigued to check into the Royal Suite at The Savoy, London where an exclusive handcrafted bed has been installed promising a superlative sleep.Befitting the vast suite (it takes up the entire river side of the fifth floor) decorated in an elegant Edwardian style, the bed itself looks straight out of a fairytale. And the ornate four poster king with draped canopy has added advantages in a handmade box spring base, mattress and topper valued around SG$150,000.

The Savoy Royal Suite Sitting Room .jpg Sitting room in The Savoy’s Royal Suite

As with all the best mattresses The Savoy’s are made with horse tail between pocket springs. The one in the Royal Suite also features a hand tufted topper made by yarn specialist Tengri from rare fur – hand combed once a year from yaks roaming the Khangai mountains of Mongolia. Their hair is softer than cashmere with exceptional temperature regulating properties so perfect for aiding sleep.It’s the creation of prestigious British brand Savoir which has been hand making beds for the hotel for over 100 years. When Richard D’Oyly Carte opened The Savoy in 1889 he set new standards for luxury hotels in London. He couldn’t find a bed maker that met his exacting criteria so Savoir was formed to create beds for The Savoy.

The Savoy entrance.jpg The Savoy hotel London

My first impression is that the mattress is surprisingly firm. But it also has just enough flexibility and I don’t feel any points of undue pressure – it’s just right, as Goldilocks would say. I close my eyes with the intention of a 20 minute afternoon nap and I wake up over an hour later.The true test though comes after supper in the suite’s dining room overlooking the Thames (the view that Claude Monet painted) and impeccably served by morning coated butlers. While I still wake up several times in the night as is my wont I immediately fall back to sleep each time. Even more remarkably the back pain I’d been feeling the day before had disappeared.

 

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Dining Room in the Royal Suite at The Savoy, London

 

Usually (and frustratingly) I’m not able to lie in, restless to get up by 7am, but here I found the opposite. The only thing that eventually tempts me out of bed is the thought of Omelette Arnold Bennett for breakfast: made with smoked haddock, hollandaise sauce and cheese, perfected for the writer while he stayed at The Savoy in 1920s. After a call to the butler I’m tucking into this moreish dish and taking in the marvellous London view. Did I feel I’d slept in a bed fit for a king or queen? A resounding yes.

https://www.thesavoylondon.com

[UPDATE: Savoir Beds is opening a store at the refurbished Raffles hotel in Singapore in August 2019.]

Savoir Beds Raffles Hotel Arcade #02-08, 328 North Bridge Road, Singapore 188719

Tel : +65 6261 2788

Singapore@savoirbeds.com

[This story was originally published in July 2019]

Au Revoir Rech Hong Kong

[UPDATE: InterContinental Hong Kong announces that its 1-MICHELIN Star Rech restaurant has closed as of today, March 12, 2020. The hotel will continue to work with Ducasse Paris on the development of a new restaurant concept to be launched following the hotel’s major renovation and consequent rebranding to Regent Hong Kong, with an anticipated reopening in 2022.]
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Legendary chef Alain Ducasse’s first foray into food was not a runaway success. As a child growing up in France he would watch his grandmother cooking and aged about 11 he decided to make a chocolate roulade himself. “My grandmother let me attempt this, although I was not up to the task,” Ducasse recalls. “Chocolate ended up everywhere and in the end the cake did not resemble a roulade at all!”

Luckily for the culinary world Ducasse was not put off by his early endeavour. Last month saw the opening of his 25th restaurant worldwide. He has chosen Asia for the first international outpost of Rech Alain Ducasse, a French seafood restaurant replacing his Spoon concept at the Intercontinental hotel in Hong Kong

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“I have a long relationship with Intercontinental Hong Kong so together we looked at the Hong Kong dining scene, local tastes and global travelers’ expectations and we agreed that the new restaurant should keep its French inspiration,” he says. “We decided that a fish restaurant with a Parisian history would be a great addition to the market.” (The storied Rech was created in Paris in 1925 by Adrien Rech and brought into the Ducasse fold ten years ago.) “And the location offers the best views of the harbour,” Ducasse adds with a nod to the seafood menu.

Alain Ducasse was one of the first world famous chefs to open a restaurant in Asia with the launch of Spoon at the Intercontinental Hong Kong in 2003. “The opening started a trend in Hong Kong with other internationally acclaimed chefs openings outposts there,” he says. “Over the past decade the city has seen a culinary boom with many interesting restaurants showcasing every type of cuisine imaginable.”

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Now head of a hospitality empire that spans restaurants, inns and colleges, Ducasse began training as a chef in France at 16. At the age of only 33, the 33 month old restaurant Le Louis XV which he helmed at the Hotel de Paris in Monaco became the first hotel restaurant to be awarded three Michelin Stars. Then in 1998 Ducasse became the first “six star chef” with three Michelin stars for Le Louis XV and three stars for Alain Ducasse in Paris. The latter has this year regained a position on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list. In Hong Kong though, Spoon dropped a Michelin star in 2016 and lost it’s remaining star in the 2017 Guide – surely one of the driving forces behind the new Rech restaurant.

More Alain Ducasse restaurants are planned for Asia in the near future including Japan, adding to Beige and Benoit both in Tokyo, and an eatery in Macau is slated to open within the next two years. Ducasse Education, the educational arm of the Alain Ducasse empire, is also expanding including in Asia.

Alain Ducasse

 

The first franchise college opened in Manila, the Philippines in 2009 and at least two Ducasse Education Institutes will open in Shanghai and Hong Kong by 2019. In fact the chef and restaurateur cites his work in culinary education as his proudest achievement: “What is really important to me is to pass on what I have learned and am still learning, and to motivate the younger generation so they embrace this profession.”

Ducasse credits the great French chefs and pioneers of nouvelle cuisine Michel Guerard, Roger Verge and Alain Chapel along with celebrated pastry chef Gaston Lenotre as his biggest influences. It was through Roger Verge who a young Ducasse worked for at the renowned Moulin de Mougins that he encountered the flavours of Provencal cuisine which were to become an integral part of his own cooking.

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While he is no longer in the kitchen, Ducasse still creates the recipes for his restaurants with inspiration coming from mother nature. “I was born and raised on a farm and when I was growing up my grandmother cooked for the entire family using vegetables from the garden and poultry and eggs from the farm,” he says. “For me, nature comes before cooking. I get my inspiration from sourcing the very best ingredients and produce. I am very demanding with the quality and seasonality.”

This is much in evidence on the menu at Rech in Hong Kong. “Most of the fish is sourced in France from small, independent fisherman who are strongly involved in the protection of natural resources,” he says. “We will source some ingredients locally such as lobster and some of the vegetables.”

Specialities include four types of French oyster and pan seared sole from Brittany in France filleted table side. Camembert from the French region of Normandy and matured for 30 days is the only cheese served while desserts include Mr Rech, comprising hazelnut meringue, hazelnut ice cream and warm chocolate sauce made with Alain Ducasse’s own chocolate. Extra large eclairs designed for sharing are also on the menu – probably a far cry from the chef’s first chocolate creation back in his family’s farmhouse.

Pics by Pierre Monetta

https://hongkong-ic.intercontinental.com/en/dining/rech-by-alain-ducasse/

[This story was originally published in April 2017]

The only way to visit the Taj Mahal

Oberoi Amarvilas

 

 

 

If like the Trumps you’re planning a visit to the Taj Mahal, there’s only one way to do it in style and that’s by staying at the Oberoi Amarvilas, Agra.

Not only does this glamorous, film set of a resort have a bird’s eye view of the iconic monument from most of its rooms and terraces, it’s also the only hotel in Agra to have private access via golf buggy right up to the gates.

http://www.oberoihotels.com

Love Letters Straight from the Heart…

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Fortnum & Mason

 

To your beloved’s stomach. Chopstix is partial to a hand decorated iced cookie and these writing themed ones well, they take the biscuit. Today is the last day to order from Fortnum & Mason for Valentine’s Day deliveries.

Krug puts the Fun into Fungi

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Krug x mushroom dish at Jaan

[In homage to the Mushrooms: The Art, Design and Future of Fungi exhibition opening at Somerset House in London today, including edible tours and a pop up feast, Chopstix looks back at the Krug Mushroom experience in 2017.]

Krug has launched an exclusive champagne and mushroom tasting trail across top restaurants in Singapore as part of its latest single ingredient showcase. Chefs at five eateries in the city have created mushroom focused dishes designed to pair perfectly with Krug Grand Cuvee, a champagne blended from over 120 wines from more than 10 different years and aged for a further 15.

“We want to show the individual character of the champagne,” Moet Hennessy brand manager Lucie Pugnot says of the collaboration which sees Krug select one ingredient for chefs to work with. “The first year we chose the simple potato, then last year the humble egg. This year we chose the mushroom which is also familiar but multifaceted.”The beauty of this fascinating fungi is that it comes in many varieties, including the luxurious truffle, with some types only available in certain months. So the Krug mushroom dishes may evolve according to what produce is available on the day.

_DSC2890.JPG Chef Kirk Westaway at Jaan

“The mushrooms keep changing throughout the year and we are all about what’s in season in Europe, particularly in France and the UK,” says Kirk Westaway, head chef at Jaan. So while we sampled the very last morels of the season in his exquisite langoustine with Hollandaise sauce course, this month the dish will segue into grey and blue chanterelles. It’s part of a six course menu matched with three types of Krug champagne including the Grand Cuvee.

_DSC3139.JPG Krug x Mushroom dish at the Tippling Club

Similarly at Tippling Club, chef owner Ryan Clift has moved on to girolles sourced from a small farm near Lyon in France along with black truffles as part of a six course menu. “I like to lightly sautee the girolles in butter and add salt at the end,” he says. “Mushrooms should never be seasoned until the last minute – if you add salt at the beginning you draw out the moisture and lose the caramelisation.” A surprisingly delicious component on the plate is a cocks comb which has been confited and pan fried to crispy perfection.

_DSC3090.JPG Chef Ryan Clift at the Tippling Club

At the fine dining Song of India restaurant Manjunath Mural is presenting a platter for two people including a tandoori chargrilled portobello mushroom stuffed with Roquefort cheese and spiced with two types of cardamom, chilli and a tamarind foam, matched with a half bottle of Krug Grand Cuvee. “The cheese pairs well with the champagne and I think Indian spices also go very well with it,” says Mural and we have to agree.

_DSC3295.JPG Krug x Mushroom dish at Song of India

“We have a lot of very good mushrooms in Japan,” says Hashida Sushi’s Chef Hatch who is originally from Tokyo. “I chose the shitake because it is juicy and has good flavour.” The chef has cleverly transformed the four day fermented mushrooms into an ice cream served with tempura vegetables in a stunning mix of hot and cold on the same plate. The Shitake Ice Cream comes as part of an omasake menu and vegetables featured in the tempura will change according to produce available.

_DSC3262.JPG Krug x Mushroom dish at Hashida Sushi

At Atlas you can enjoy a glass or bottle of Krug Grand Cuvee with a gourmet snack befitting its gorgeous bar area. “As an Italian, when I was growing up mushrooms to me meant porcini,” says executive chef Daniele Sperindio. As such he has used porcinis to make a rice “bark” crisp and as the basis of a “Mont Blanc” paste topping along with blue foot mushrooms from France and Singaporean king oyster mushrooms. The result is a striking and richly flavourful canape.

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Krug x mushroom dish at Atlas bar

A version of this article was first published in August 2017

A Hotel for a Happy Year of the Rat

In celebration of the Year of the Rat we bring you the University Arms where copies of The Wind in Willows, the tale of Ratty, Mole and Badger written by Kenneth Grahame, are in every guest rooms and a recording of Alan Bennett reading the book is transmitted in the restaurant/bar loos…

University Arms exterior

University Arms, Cambridge, UK

What’s the story?

Cambridge’s oldest hotel, the University Arms which began life as a coaching inn in 1834, has reopened following a four year, £80m refurbishment. The original classical façade overlooking Parker’s Piece (a green space that was the scene of Queen Victoria’s coronation banquet) has been retained but the interiors have been rebuilt and an out of place 1960s extension has gone. In its place the new building is in keeping with the original style.

 

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University Arms, Cambridge lobby

It looks so authentic…

Architect John Simpson has worked on such grand projects as Buckingham and Kensington Palaces and a couple of Cambridge University colleges so knows a thing or two about classical refurbishments. His design for the University Arms includes a striking porte cochere – a columned, covered carriage entrance, for cars rather than horses these days and a grand lobby inside. It’s hard to believe the new addition to the hotel building hasn’t always been here.

What about the interiors?

They’re down to Martin Brudnizki, designer du jour (responsible for the new Annabel’s clubhouse in Mayfair and the refreshed Ivy in Covent Garden). Overall the feel is of a contemporary private members’ club: Farrow and Ball painted walls, reclaimed wooden floors, antique rugs, on trend ottomans and armchairs and sofas that beg to be sat on.

 

University Arms suite

A suite at the University Arms, Cambridge

What about the rooms?

They span cosy (19-22sq ft) to superior plus there are 12 suites named after Cambridge alumni including Charles Darwin, Virginia Woolf and Stephen Hawking. All the bathrooms have black and white tiles, underfloor heating and DR Harris of St James’s products. Twenty six of them have (roll top, claw foot) baths as well as showers.

 

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Parker’s Tavern restaurant, University Arms

What’s the food like?

The hotel has cleverly recruited talented local (by way of London and Mustique) chef Tristan Welch. With the restaurant, Parker’s Tavern, taking inspiration from a college dining hall with stained glass windows and leather bench seating, the menu offers a modern take on traditional British fare using East Anglian produce including smoked trout, potted shrimp, a daily roast trolley and pie of the day. Don’t miss the Cambridge Burnt Cream pudding – a British take on Crème Brulee.

Is there a bar?

As the name suggests, Parker’s Tavern is split between a restaurant and a sizeable lounge bar where the members’ club atmosphere continues. The bar itself is lined with vintage style leather stools plus there are plenty of velvet sofas, a vast spirits list and strictly no beer on tap.

University Arms bar

Parker’s Tavern bar, University Arms

What about my fellow guests?

Visiting academics, students being treated by their parents, tourists from the US and China and tech people (Cambridge is becoming known as the Silicon Valley of the UK).

What is there to do?

The hotel is on the doorstep of the city centre so the historic colleges are a short stroll away – or take one of the hotel’s bicycles in signature light Cambridge blue. Tours as well as punts on the river Cam can be arranged. The hotel will even whip up a picnic for you. If you’re looking for the willow tree celebrated in Xu Zhimo’s poem, Second Farewell to Cambridge, it has recently been removed but a cutting has been planted nearby at the newly opened memorial garden in the poet’s alma mater King’s College.

 

University Arms library

The Library, University Arms

Anything else I should know?

Playing on the learned location the hotel has made books a feature. Rather than the usual untouched, artful collection the hotel’s guest sitting area, The Library, has a selection intended to actually read curated by the renowned Heywood Hill booksellers in London. Each of the suites includes literature by or about the namesake while the other bedrooms each has a copy of The Wind in the Willows, Porterhouse Blue and Hilaire Belloc’s Cautionary Verses.

What’s the bottom line?

Prices for rooms start at £205 for cosy rooms and £505 for suites.

The hotel is on Regent Street, Cambridge CB2 1AD Tel +44 1223 606066. http://www.universityarms.com

[A version of this piece was originally published in the South China Morning Post in 2018]

The King of Cakes for Twelth Night

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Marchesi 1824 panettone

The twelve days of Christmas culminates today, January 6th, on epiphany when there three kings arrived. We hope you have invested in the made to order, Marchesi 1824 (the “Prada patisserie”)’s crown shaped panettone which sets you back a princely £200.

Our Best and Worst Hotel stays of 2019

Two hotels in New York for this year’s pick. One a legendary grand dame undergoing a gentle nip and tuck that more than lived up to its reputation, the other a new, much hyped opening that failed to deliver.

 

The Best of Times: The Carlyle

 

The Carlyle entrance

The Carlyle, New York

 

We booked a three night stay at The Carlyle to celebrate a special occasion and the whole experience was superb. The hotel embodies wonderful Upper East Side New York glamour, just as we’d envisaged. A discreet entrance just off Madison Avenue leads to the small, elegant lobby decorated in Art Deco monochrome with splashes of golden velvet. While the hotel is exclusive we found the service friendly and attentive throughout. And everyone seems to be greeted with “nice to see you” whether it’s your first or hundredth visit.

The Carlyle is being subtly refurbished in parts but cleverly all the classic features that make it special are still there including the famous Bemelmans Bar and the elevator attendants. Our room was one of the recently refurbished ones and successfully blended classic with contemporary. There were some lovely touches such as Central Park murals and quirky rabbit objects reminiscent of the Bemelmans bar downstairs. The room wasn’t huge and the bathroom a bit tight but that’s usual for New York and the beautiful décor made up for it.

 

Bemelman Bar

Bemelmans Bar at The Carlyle, New York

We enjoyed fabulous breakfasts every morning in the chic Carlyle Restaurant. And dinner there was the icing on the cake of our stay. We were given the type of table we’d requested beforehand (a corner banquette) and the classic menu and slick service matched the stylish setting perfectly.

For exploring the Upper East Side the hotel’s location was also superb. We had the Met museums and Central Park right on our doorstep and of course the shops of Madison Ave. There are newer, trendier hotels in more fashionable parts of New York but for sheer class this is hard to beat.

 

The Worst of Times: TWA Hotel

 

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TWA hotel, JFK, New York. Credit: Max Touhey

 

When we heard the TWA Hotel opening was coinciding with a trip we had booked to the US, changing planes at JFK, we switched our onward flight so we could stay the night at the hotel. We wish we hadn’t.

The problems started when we looked at the website a few days before our arrival and noticed that the hotel’s only sit down restaurant was fully booked for the evening of our stay. We contacted the hotel direct to ask if they were keeping any tables back for hotel guests and were flatly told no by the Assistant Director of Front Office. He suggested we try the “grab and go” take away outlets in the lobby instead. As we’d been looking forward to an elegant dinner in a “Jean Georges Vongerichten” restaurant it was hardly the experience we hoped for. He also confirmed as per the website that the restaurant was fully booked for breakfast – something we have never encountered in a hotel before.

On top of that, we’d booked the hotel some three months ahead of time and had not been advised then to reserve a restaurant booking as we have with other hotels with popular eateries. When we pointed that out the Assistant Director replied: “reservations didn’t start being booked until mid April.” He did not respond when we questioned why we hadn’t been contacted at that point – still a month before arrival.

The hotel was easy enough to get to when we landed at JFK and the architecture is truly stunning so we still hoped to enjoy our stay. However we were surprised to be told when we tried to check in at 3pm that the room wasn’t ready and that check in wasn’t until 4pm. It seems puzzling to have such a late, inflexible check in at an airport hotel when guests are arriving at all times. After an early start and a transatlantic flight the last thing we wanted to do was hang about for the room.

When we eventually checked in the room (we had booked a Deluxe King with a Heritage View) was very attractively designed. Small, but we expected that in New York. But the lack of wardrobe and the fact that my husband could barely walk around one side of the bed was an issue. There was no room for chargers on the bedside tables either. The floor to ceiling windows gave us a great view of the stunning Saarinen building but it also meant we were completely on show to everyone inside that building.

We tried to find the much publicised roof top swimming pool and bar but were told that they weren’t yet open. This too was disappointing as pictures of the roof top had been heavily promoted as part of the hotel’s appeal.

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Sunken Lounge, TWA hotel. Credit: Max Touhey

On the plus side the Sunken Lounge was fun for a cocktail (at Manhattan prices). Plates of olives ($10) and cheese ($20) were not enough for dinner and nearing 8pm we were hungry so went in search of the “grab and go” only to find most of the stalls closed. We managed to buy some gyro from the Halal Guys just minutes before they too closed. No offence to the Halal Guys (they were the only reason we had sustenance that night –there’s no room service) but a donor kebab was not what we had envisaged after our martinis. On returning to our room we found the television didn’t work.

In the morning we checked out first thing and headed to the airside of Terminal in search of breakfast, we’d had enough of the TWA experience. To add insult to injury when we looked at our bill we had been charged $10 plus tax (note this is payable per room per night) “facility fee”. This purportedly covered “free” wi fi “complimentary” access to the fitness centre and luggage storage on arrival/departure. Leaving the wi fi aside, we have never before been charged for fitness centre access (which incidentally we didn’t use plus the pool wasn’t open) or luggage storage in any hotel.

The following week we needed to travel through JFK again and then on to Upstate New York. It would have been ideal to check into the TWA hotel and then travel upstate the following morning. Based on our experience we chose not to – instead we took a cab to Manhattan to stay the night.

We Wish you a Merry Beary Christmas

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Polo Ralph Lauren bear sweater in sequin tux with champagne

And a Happy New Year!

 

Aman set to Become Even Bigger in Japan

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How Aman Niseko on Mt Moiwa, Japan will look

Just when we thought Aman in Japan couldn’t get any better, the luxury hotel brand has announced plans to open a fourth property in the country.

Aman Niseko will be a retreat situated on the high slopes of Mt Moiwa on an untouched nature reserve in Hokkaido’s Niseko region.

The Niseko region is known for abundant snowfall and long ski runs. The resort will be all season and the mild weather in the summer months make the area appealing for hiking, mountain biking and river rafting.

 

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An Aman Niseko Villa

 

Again designed by Kerry Hill Architects the resort will be made up of just 30 guest rooms and an extensive spa.

 

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Aman Niseko Entrance Reception

The Aman Spa will feature single and double treatment suites, pre-treatment lounges, relaxation pods and extensive thermal spa areas, including saunas, Watsu treatment chamber, cold plunge pools, steam rooms, hammam, experience showers and onsen.

An indoor lap pool and an aqua fitness pool will overlook an outdoor terrace with forest and mountain views.

You’ll have to wait until 2023 to check in though.

 

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Aman Niseko Spa Swimming Pool

For more details visit http://www.aman.com/niseko

 

 

This Christmas you can follow in Henry Golding’s footsteps across London

Last Christmas ice rink close up

Emilia Clarke and Henry Golding at Alexandra Palace ice rink Credit: UPI

Critics may have been divided about Last Christmas the movie (for the record, Chopstix loved it) but one thing they agreed on about Henry Golding’s new film co starring Emilia Clarke and Michelle Yeoh is that it makes London look wonderful. Director Paul Feig is a huge fan of the British capital and says the film is a love letter to London. The movie was actually filmed last Christmas when all the city’s festive decorations were in place. A lot of scenes took place in the middle of the night for maximum light sparkling and minimum crowds. Here’s where you can find the most scenic locations.

Tom and Kate’s Meet Cute, Apple Market

Last Christmas meet cute

Henry Golding and Emilia Clarke at Apple Market Credit: UPI

Flakey Kate (Emilia Clarke) first spots suave Tom (Henry Golding) through the window of Yuletide Wonderful Christmas shop where she works in Covent Garden Piazza, owned by Michelle Yeoh’s character “Santa”. Alas the shop doesn’t actually exist. IRL the site is a covered walkway cutting through the neo classical buildings of the former fruit and vegetable market. On the plus side it’s flanked rather deliciously by Ladurée tea room and Godiva chocolatier. And you can visit the spot where the two meet outside Yuletide – underneath the blue metal arches in Apple Market where a certain incident involving “looking up” seemingly brings them together.

Meet Cute Part Two, Covent Garden

Last Christmas Brydge's Place

Emilia Clarke and Henry Golding in Brydges Place Credit: UPI

When Kate and Tom run into each other again it’s also in the Covent Garden area. Though it looks like a film set, this quaint lane is real life Cecil Court. Linking Charing Cross Road with St Martin’s Lane, the pedestrianised street is lined with independent stores selling books and artworks. “London’s narrowest alley” where Tom takes Kate as part of his magical mystery tour of London is real too. Keep a close eye out for Brydges Place next to the Coliseum theatre on St Martin’s Lane – the alley measures only 15 inches across. As for Tom’s “secret garden”, it’s The Phoenix Garden an urban retreat hidden away between Soho and Covent Garden (the entrance is on St Giles Passage).

Last Christmas secret garden

Emilia Clarke and Henry Golding in The Phoenix Garden

The two part company at a bus stop on Regent Street which has just turned 200 years old – well worth a visit to see the wonderful illuminated Angels flying above the length of the thoroughfare at this time of year. Tip: the scene was not actually filmed at real bus stop as it’s opposite Hamley’s toy emporium and outside Hackett where no stop exists.

St Mary’s, Marylebone

Emilia Clarke outside St Mary's

Emilia Clarke outside St Mary’s Credit: UPI

The gorgeous honey stoned building depicting the exterior of St Benedict’s homeless shelter in Last Christmas can be found in Marylebone, north of Oxford Street. While the photogenic Georgian columns, festooned with twinkling lights, provide a backdrop for several scenes featuring Tom and Kate, the ornate interior is the setting for the Christmas concert.

The Savoy Buildings

Last Christmas Simpons on the Strand

Emilia Clarke and Henry Golding outside Simpson’s in the Strand Credit: UPI

Kate’s calamitous audition takes place inside the Savoy Theatre, an Art Deco jewel tucked away next to The Savoy hotel’s main entrance on the Strand. It’s worth buying tickets to anything showing here just to see the interiors. Nearby is the spot on the river Thames where Tom gives Kate another pep talk, opposite The Savoy’s riverside entrance on the Embankment. The pair sit on the steps next to Cleopatra’s Needle, where the Thames bends at just the right angle to have the London Eye over on the South Bank appealingly illuminated in the background. Simpson’s, a restaurant owned by The Savoy, outside of which Kate and Tom sit with their skates on (see below) is back up on the Strand. There’s no bench outside Simpson’s but there is a bus stop should you wish to catch a double-decker like Kate.

Alexandra Palace

Last Christmas Alexandra Palace

Emilia Clarke and Henry Golding at Alexandra Palace ice rink Credit: UPI

While the ice rink where the couple have an illicit late night skate appears in the movie to be a short skip from the Embankment, you’ll need to visit far flung north London. Alexandra Palace is a vast Victorian era building known to locals as “Ally Pally” which houses a huge indoor ice rink among other venues. The rink is in a stunning high ceilinged space lined with French windows and it’s open all year round not just for Christmas.

Tom’s Flat, East London

Tom’s tiny, ultra neat flat is located on the corner of Brick Lane and Cheshire Street in East London. Brick Lane has long been famous for its curry houses and more recently for cafes, shops and street art. By coincidence Henry Golding actually used to live in a flat here, just around the corner from his character’s fictitious one. How’s that for a twist of fate.

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Dreaming of a White Christmas?

evening-bag-turquoise-resin-strass-silver-tone-metal-resin-strass-silver-tone-metal-packshot-default-as1200b01616n5031-8819790086174

 

You may want to settle for this Chanel evening bag, inspired by a ski resort cable car (snow not included).

Price upon request. www.chanel.com/en_GB/fashion/p/hdb/as1200b01616/as1200b0161610601/evening-bag-resin-diamante-silvertone-metal-white.html

 

Christmas Countdown: The Nutcracker

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Francesca Hayward in The Nutcracker ROH Tristram Kenton

The Royal Ballet is giving The Nutcracker a miss this year so if you’re missing your Christmas fix you may want to catch a Live Cinema screening at a cinema near you between today (December 9th 2019) and January 16th 2020.

This performance, recorded live at the Royal Opera House, London in 2016, features the exquisite Francesca Hayward as Clara and Alexander Campbell as Hans-Peter with the ever entertaining Gary Avis as Drosselmeyer.

Francesca is soon to be seen playing Victoria the White Cat in Cats the movie. Also look out for her in the movie Romeo and Juliet: Beyond Words screening in selected cinemas.

http://www.roh.org.uk/showings/the-nutcracker-recorded-2019

 

The Story Behind Tatler’s “Status Symbol Turkey”

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Paul Kelly and his Kelly Bronze turkeys

Upper crust British magazine Tatler has included Kelly Bronze turkeys on its list of Christmas status symbols. This coveted breed of bird has been celebrated by top chefs including Gordon Ramsay, Jamie Oliver and Michael Roux JR, so what makes them so tasty?

Kelly Bronze turkeys spend 70 per cent of their time out of doors. It’s a beautiful bright day when Chopstix visited the Essex farm (Kelly Bronze’s are now also bred in the US, in on a farm in Virginia) and the turkeys are scampering through the trees. They have acres of woodland to run around and masses of nettles to snack on. “They love nettles, they eat them like crazy,” says renowned turkey breeder Paul Kelly, second generation owner of Kelly Bronze turkeys.

Until they are 12 weeks old the birds are kept indoors. As we walk towards the large barn an excited chirruping emanates. “You can tell how everything is from the noise,” says Paul, opening the barn doors to reveal hundreds of chicks bobbing about among bales of straw. “No noise is a bad sign. Squawking is a bad sign. You want to hear a nice chirp.”

Another good sign is how the turkeys may vary in weight year to year. “The more naturally you grow the bird, the more it can be affected by the elements,” says Paul. “In a mild autumn the turkeys are lighter, if it’s cold they eat more.”

It’s hard to imagine that in the 1980s the Kelly family farm run by Paul’s parents faced a tricky future despite breeding award winning turkeys. But then in 1990 Delia Smith visited and was so impressed with the turkey she bought there that she referred to it by name in her Christmas book. The business has never looked back.

 

Christmas Countdown: Adorable Baubles

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Mice in teacups Cox & Cox

 

Sledging polar bears, skiing mice, fluffy alpacas…. Cox and Cox has nailed it with the cute animal tree decorations. Here are some of the most adorable to cheer your day. You’re welcome.

 

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Alpaca tree decoration Cox & Cox

 

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Mouse on a swing tree decoration Cox & Cox

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Sledging Polar Bear tree decoration Cox & Cox

Mouse ladder

Mice climbing ladder tree decoration Cox & Cox

Ski mouse

Skiing mouse tree decoration Cox & Cox

http://www.coxandcox.com

 

Christmas Countdown: Advent Calendars

Fortnum-Mason-Musical-Advent-Calendar_trans_NvBQzQNjv4BqqVzuuqpFlyLIwiB6NTmJwfSVWeZ_vEN7c6bHu2jJnT8

Fortnum & Mason Wooden House Advent Calendar

 

Advent calendar opening begins tomorrow, December 1st, and while there’s been a lot of hype this year about ultra luxury versions but Chopstix’s favourite remains the traditional wooden one by Fortnum & Mason. The Wooden House is based on Fortnum’s flagship store on Picadilly, London and you can keep it year after year, filling the little windows with new sweets. There’s just time to pop into the new Fortnum & Mason store  in Hong Kong to snap one up.

http://www.fortnumandmason.com

Fortnum's Hong Kong

Fortnum & Mason Hong Kong

 

 

Christmas Countdown: Gifts

 

Net a Porter jewellery box

Jessica McCormack jewellery  box for Net-a-Porter

For the woman who has everything: an exquisite jewellery box *complete with jewellery selection* for £280,800.00.

Jessica McCormack has designed this treasure for Net-a-Porter. Turn the tassled key of the orientalesque wooden box to reveal velvet lined trays decorated with Alice in Wonderland inspired, hand stitched designs.

The Botanical Heirloom box also includes eight rings, four pairs of earrings, four necklaces and a diamond charm. And the lucky recipient will have the chance to visit Jessica McCormack’s London boutique to finalise personalised touches with the designer herself.

You may want to add to your Wishlist…

For more details visit http://www.net-a-porter.com/gb/en/product/1228309?resType=single&keywords=jewellery%20box&enableAjaxRequest=false

 

6 Christmas markets to visit in Europe

It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas with the traditional European markets opening from mid November. The chalet style wooden stalls selling gifts and edible goodies, perhaps with the addition of ice skating rinks and carol singers, put the magic into the festive season. Here’s Chopstix pick of the best.

Prague Christmas market - credit Prague Tourism

Prague Christmas market credit: Prague Tourism

Prague, Czech Republic

Held, appropriately enough, in Wenceslas Square as well as the Old Town Square, a fairytale backdrop for the stalls selling local handicrafts such as Christmas decorations, carved wooden toys and glasswork. Treats included trdelniks (a distinctive looking dough rolled around a stick then grilled and coated with sugar), barbecued sausages and hot honey wine as well as Czech beer. A highlight is the nativity scene in the Old Town Square featuring live animals where children can stroke sheep and a donkey.

November 30th 2019 – January 6th 2020

Nuremberg, Germany

Nuremberg is known for making gingerbread so you can literally smell Christmas when you visit here (along with roasted almonds, gluhwein and rum punch). Possibly the most famous of all the markets, the Christkindlesmarkt here has been going since the 16th century and now spills throughout the charming medieval streets selling arts and crafts from the region. Take a ride around the market on a horse drawn, bright yellow stagecoach. Nuremberg is also well known for its bratwurst so you can sustain yourself with grilled sausages served with sauerkraut or potato salad or both.

November 29th  – December 24th 2019

Brussels, Belgium

Brussels Plaisirs d'Hiver - Winterpret - Winter Wonders_EDAN0296_© visit.brussels - Eric Danhier

Brussels Christmas market © visit.brussels – Eric Danhier

Belgium’s biggest Christmas market covers various squares throughout the city centre with some 200 stalls as part of its Winter Wonders festival. It also features a giant Christmas tree and sound and light show at the stunning Grand Place, an ice skating rink at Place de la Monnaie and traditional fairground rides such as a carousel and huge ferris wheel as well as choirs singing at the Black Tower. There’s plenty of Belgian grastronomy to sample too including warming waffles and hot chocolate of course.

November 29th 2019 – January 5th 2020

Vienna, Austria

Elegant Vienna has Christmas market stalls sprawling throughout its pretty squares with the biggest and most colourful outside the town hall (Rathausplatz). As well as Christmas gifts and decorations to buy expect sweet treats such as pastries and doughnuts, roasted chestnuts and confectionary to feast on and plenty of hot punch as you listen to the carol singers. In the adjacent park the trees are draped with lights and a 3,000 metre squared ice rink is in place. For the little ones there’s a reindeer train and sleigh rides.

Dates vary for each market, the Rathausplatz is November 15th – December 26th 2019 and the ice rink is open until January 6th 2020 (closed December 31st.)

Copenhagen, Denmark

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Copenhagen Tivoli Gardens Christmas market Anders B ggild

Copenhagen is another city that goes large on the festive period and is home to several Christmas markets. The best is considered to be at Tivoli Gardens, not hard to imagine when you consider this picture perfect Victoriana amusement park which is lit up after dark inspired both Hans Christian Andersen and Walt Disney. As well as the usual rides expect countless fairy lights, snow covered trees, and Santa’s reindeer. Better still, among the decorated wooden huts, there are Scandi-chic gifts to buy plus honey cake and mulled wine.

November 16th – December 22nd 2019

Strasbourg, France

Strasbourg in the Alsace bills itself as “the capital of Christmas” and has the oldest Christmas market in France. Held over several locations including beneath the striking cathedral, it goes all out with over 300 stalls, a huge Christmas tree and shows and concerts. The area is also known for vin chaud and Bredele cake – biscuits that are traditionally baked at Christmas. They come in different shapes and flavours such as almond, orange or cinnamon and are given as gifts or even used to as tree decorations.

22nd Nov – December 30th (closed December 25th) 2019

A version of this story was originally published in the Robb Report Singapore

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Top Rugby Shirts

The Rugby World Cup 2019 held in Japan has sparked a trend for rugby shirts. Here’s Chopstix’s pick of the top three.

Polo Ralph Lauren rugby

Polo Ralph Lauren

All the Polo Ralph Lauren “rugby shirts of the world” featuring a cute kicker bear are great. Here’s the USA one. From $119.99 (reduced from $168).

 

Hackett Wales rugby shirt

Hackett

Hackett’s “home nations” vintage style shirts are lovely including this striking red Wales jersey (£135).

 

Kent and Curwen England rugby shirt

Kent and Curwen

Kent and Curwen has a range of vintage, England style shirts such as this embroidered number (£135).

Chopstix Loves…

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Sofia footstool, £595, Soho Home

This delectable velvet footstool by Soho Home reminds us quite fittingly of a pumpkin.

Seen in Soho Houses around the world, the Sofia footstool is now available to buy as part of the House Favourites range:

www.sohohome.com

 

Cometh the Hour, Cometh the Bear

The Rugby World Cup 2019 semi finals kick off in Japan tomorrow: England v New Zealand on Saturday followed by Wales v South Africa on Sunday. Make sure you don’t miss kick off with one of these cute Kicker Bear watches by Polo Ralph Lauren ($1,850). Sorry Springboks fans there doesn’t seem to be an SA version, or perhaps you’ve bought them already.

http://www.ralphlauren.com/men-accessories-watches?prefn1=brand&prefv1=Polo%20Ralph%20Lauren&webcat=men%7Caccessories%7CWatches%20%26%20Straps

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Countdown to Aman Kyoto

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Living Pavillion at Aman Kyoto

Aman’s third hotel in Japan is on course to open on November 1st 2019.

Aman Kyoto, designed by Kerry Hill Architects who also designed Aman Tokyo and Amanemu, is set within 29 hectares of forest and three hectares of exquisite gardens. Stone pathways and steps meander through the garden leading to upper platforms bordered with yama momiji maples and kitayama-sugi (Japanese cedar).

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Exterior of Living Pavillion at Aman Kyoto

At the heart of the resort is the Living Pavillion opening up onto a terrace overlooking the gardens. The restaurant will serve breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner, to guests and non residents with advance booking.

Executive Chef Kentaro Torri will serve home cooked Kyoto style cuisine as well as innovative Western chef using local, seasonal produce, many sourced from the hotel’s garden.

Taka-an is the resort’s Japanese restaurant. Here, seasonal, local produce will be prepared and served with meticulous precision in keeping with the Japanese art of hospitality.

 

TAKA-AN Restaurant, Aman Kyoto Taka-An restaurant at Aman Kyoto

 

TAKA-AN Restaurant, Aman Kyoto

TAKA-AN Restaurant, Aman Kyoto

Aman has 26 guest rooms housed in six stand alone pavilions designed as contemporary versions of traditional Japanese ryokans. The rooms have floor to ceiling windows showcasing the spectacular surroundings and come with tatami mats covering the floors. Large bath tubs in each guest room have been crafted from the native hinoki cypress wood.

Two presidential suites, the Washigamine and Takagamine Pavillions, are set within the most secluded and highest part of the property with expansive views. Both pavillions have two bedrooms, living area, dining room, kitchen and tatami room.

 

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Living room in Suite at Aman Kyoto

 

The bucolic grounds at Aman Kyoto provide a serene setting for the spa. The natural spring water that flows underneath the resort provides traditional onsen bathing facilities at the spa with both an indoor and outdoor hot water spring.

 

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Outdoor onsen at Aman Kyoto

For more information and bookings visit http://www.aman.com/resorts/aman-kyoto

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Bear with us for the Rugby World Cup in Japan

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Cheer on your team at the Rugby World Cup 2019 in this adorable Ralph Lauren Polo Bear rugby shirt. Take your pick from the host nation Japan, Australia, England, France, Ireland, New Zealand, Scotland, South Africa, USA and Wales.

http://www.ralphlauren.co.uk/en/men/inspiration/rugby-shirts-of-the-world/10508?webcat=men%7Cfeatures%7CRugby%20Shirts%20of%20the%20World

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Aman Tokyo’s Spooky Afternoon Tea returns for Halloween

Aman Tokyo halloween tea

Aman Tokyo has again launched its annual Halloween Afternoon Tea in The Lounge. The savouries and sweets include ghost shaped macaroons, bat and witches hat cookies, spider web candy and a chocolate “bomb” with a surprise inside.

Available from now until October 31st 2019, 11.30am – 5pm.

¥4,600 (plus consumption tax and service charge)

For reservations call +81-3-5224-3339 or click here to reserve a table online

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What to do in Tokyo when you’re not watching rugby

Me and my “chocolate sundae”

 

I’m standing at a kitchen sink in Tokyo shaping a sheet of submerged plastic into a “lettuce”. Fake food samples are a familiar sight in the windows of restaurants in Japan. They entice customers into the eateries and simplify menu ordering for foreigners. And I’m learning to make them – thanks to The Peninsula hotel’s Fun With Faux Food academy programme.

There are some 200 food sample factories in Japan but Yamato is one of the few making small batches by hand. Second generation owner, Mr Yuichi Ito, was born in Gujyo-Hachiman in the Gifu prefecture, birthplace of the food sample industry in the 1940s, and still known as “wax food town”.

The windows of his workshop are packed with incredibly realistic replicas of sushi, yakitori, grilled fish and Western dishes. Originally they were made from wax but now they are more durable PVC that won’t melt in restaurant windows.

I’m feeling intimidated but my teachers, Yuichi, his son Ryo and their assistant, Aomi Chino, couldn’t be more welcoming with beaming their smiles.

We start with tempura – or more precisely its side serving of lettuce. Ryo had made it look so easy: a scoop of white liquid lowered gently into the warm water then spread into an oblong with the spoon, three scoops of green liquid gently lined along three sides. The oblong I’ve made is not as uniformed as Ryo’s so I fear my lettuce is going to be a giant monstrosity unlike Ryo’s neat baby one.

Then the fun begins. I’m told to dip my hands into the water and pull the plastic downwards. Remarkably, a definite lettuce texture and colour emerges. Suddenly I’m directed to scoop the sides of the oblong together. It’s all quite frantic and I keep scooping away. Then something miraculous happens: a lettuce shape appears. “Cute!” says Ryo.

The experience reminds me of the retro British TV show, The Generation Game, where hapless contestants attempt to make something after a talented pro has demonstrated. They usually failed woefully much to the hilarity of the audience but with the Itos at hand there’s no chance of any disasters here.

On to the tempura. A plastic “shrimp” and “pumpkin” are waiting on the table, it’s my job to make the batter. Having watched Ryo’s demo I drip yellow liquid into the warm water in a zig zag to make a Jackson Pollock like pattern. Then I repeat in reverse, careful to get the height right: not too high or low. The resulting bubbled matter definitely resembles batter. I’m getting into this.

The Fun of Faux Food Hands-on Plastic and Wax Modelling (1)-2

Next is ramen. I could have made curry or pizza but have chosen Japanese dishes. Frankly I’m nervous about attempting this one, eying the realistic example next to me. But it’s more straightforward than I imagined.

I’m instructed to pick up a batch of “noodles” and place them, vertically, in a bowl of warm water then wrap them centrifugally. Easy peasy I think, but there’s more to come. I’m told to pick up three strands at a time, form a circle with them in the air, followed by a figure of eight then place them in another bowl. It’s fiddly and I’m painfully slow but I find it strangely relaxing.

Task eventually completed I pour a golden gelatin over the whole lot to form the broth. I’m pretty pleased with this but Ryo has spotted several air bubbles so patiently flicks a cigarette lighter over each one until they’re dispersed. Meanwhile, I soak some ready made, plastic spring onions, meat, spinach and bamboo shoots and, to use the technical term, knock-them-about-a-bit to look more realistic. Then I place them, artfully I think, on the top of broth. Et voila, ramen!

As a finale there’s an ice cream sundae to make but first my Peninsula guide, who’s driven me here in the hotel mini and is translating, proffers a packed lunch; great timing as I’m strangely ravenous due to the tempura and ramen making.

Sundaes are made with silicon so the tops – the “whipped cream” – are surprisingly bendy. I choose chocolate ice cream so Aomi adds a brown dye to the silicon in a piping bag. Home bakers will come into their own here for I’m to pipe the mixture, circular wise, into a glass to create a chocolate and vanilla swirl. Then for the tricky bit: piping the whipped cream topping. The results are impressive but I must admit to getting a lot of help from Ryo.

The chocolate in the chocolate sundae

The chocolate in the chocolate sundae

The “whipped cream” topping

Yuichi presents a tray jammed with hand made, plastic accoutrements: wafers, cookies, strawberries and cherries. It’s refreshingly fun to choose from, thinking about the different heights for the design and then placing them strategically. I must admit to being tempted to tuck into my creation. I go back to the Peninsula and order a real chocolate sundae at Peter.

http://www.peninsula.com/Tokyo

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What is it about Les Amis? Now elevated to 3 stars in the Michelin Guide Singapore

For the first time, Singapore gets two Three-MICHELIN-starred restaurants

Les Amis’ Sebastien Lepinoy (left) with Michelin’s Gwendal Poullennec and Julien Royer, Odette

[UPDATE: Les Amis which was awarded two Michelin stars in the inaugural Singapore guide 2016 has tonight been elevated to three stars in the 2019 guide. For the first time Singapore has two three Michelin starred restaurants with Odette also being elevated. Here’s a look at the restaurant with a rich pedigree of talent.]

French born head chef Sebastien Lepinoy and award winning pastry chef Cheryl Koh joined Les Amis in Singapore after sister restaurant Cepage closed in Hong Kong in 2013.  Both restaurants share the same enticing formula of sophisticated food and slick service mixed with an unstuffy atmosphere; a recipe that has made Les Amis as popular with food writers in the region as it is with regular customers.

Lepinoy, who was head chef at L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon Hong Kong prior to Cepage, and Koh are the latest in a glittering alumni that includes Ignatius Chan owner of renowned restaurant Iggy’s. Les Amis was at the forefront of the French fine dining scene in Singapore when it opened in 1994.

Award winning sommelier Chan and chef Justin Quek, who’d worked his way around several classical French restaurants in France and the UK, were the brains behind the concept. With Chan’s experience, the restaurant became known for fine wines (it still has one of most extensive wine lists in Asia with some 2000 labels) as well as Quek’s cuisine.

Justin Quek

Justin Quek at Sky on 57

“Ignatius and I drove the operation for 10 years,” says Quek who now runs his own restaurant Sky on 57 at Marina Bay Sands where he cleverly combines classic French cooking with a Chinese influence. “We were the first stand-alone fine dining, French restaurant with a great wine list in Singapore.”

Quek says what he gleaned most from his time at Les Amis was wine knowledge and how to pair wine with food. “I tasted a lot of great wines in those ten years,” he says. “I remember the first new year’s eve menu with truffles, caviar and lobster on the menu paired with Krug champagne, Chevalier Montachet by Domaine Leflaive, Chateau Latour, Chateau Yquem…”

Quek became friends with many of the guests who came to the restaurant, often bringing their own rarefied bottles with them, and still returns to dine there with them.

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Iggy’s

Both Chan and Quek left and sold their shares at the end of 2003. Chan set up the now famous Iggy’s while Quek opened a restaurant in Taipei. Following his departure, Gunther Hubrechsen took over as head chef and continued Les Amis’ reputation for exemplary fine French food. After over five years Hubrechsen too left to set up his own establishment, Gunther’s, in Singapore. Gunther’s is another fine dining experience, this time in a converted shophouse, and much loved by business people, tai tais and romantic couples alike.

Gunther's interior

Asia’s Best Pastry Chef 2013 & 2014, Janice Wong, worked a 6 month stage under Hubrechsen at Les Amis following her training at the Cordon Bleu in Paris. Wong, who now owns the acclaimed 2am Dessert Bar in Singapore, says: “Working with chef Gunther on the line was my most memorable experience of working at Les Amis. From him I learnt about the balance of flavors and right pairings of different ingredients in each dish.

Janice-Pastry-300x300

Janice Wong

“What I’ve taken with me to the 2am Dessert Bar is the importance of team spirit in the kitchen and that a choice of fresh produce and ingredients is key to a good dish.”

Sebastien Lepinoy’s appointment marks the end of an 18 month search since head chef of nearly four years, Armin Leitgeb, left in May 2012. Under Leitgeb (who has since moved back to Austria and is currently working on a new restaurant project), Les Amis joined the exclusive Le Grandes Table Du Monde. The honour is usually reserved for Michelin star winners but since Les Amis has none as the Michelin Guide does not operate in Singapore [it’s due to launch late 2016] the feat is even more impressive.

Pastry chef Daniel Texter, who previously worked at Noma, left a few months after Leitgeb (to helm Adrian Zumbo’s new bakery in Melbourne). So Leproy has brought over Cepage’s Cheryl Koh, a Singaporean who began her career at Raffles Hotel.

Since joining in September [2013] Lepinoy has put his own stamp on the menu introducing Japanese influences. “In Singapore, Japanese cuisine is well received,” he says. “So I decided to use familiar Japanese ingredients and a lot of my dishes are Japanese-inspired.” These include angel hair pasta with lobster, crispy Sakura ebi and a touch of parmesan; pan seared Hokkaido scallops with teriyaki sauce, pan seared foie gras and French River eel accompanied by citrus fruits and dashi broth; and Daikon veloute with black truffle.

The ethos of the restaurant will remain the same though: “Les Amis means “The Friends” so we exist to create a warm and welcoming environment without the pompous façade that the fine dining image commonly portrays,” say Lepinoy.

Raymond Lim, Les Amis’ spokesman puts the restaurant’s longevity and success down to consistency. “The core experience which we want to deliver is the same – food that is tasty and not cerebral with a pared down, friendly approach to service,” he says.

[A version of this article originally ran in November 2013]

Odette, Asia’s Best Restaurant, elevated to three Michelin stars

For the first time, Singapore gets two Three-MICHELIN-starred restaurants.JPG

Odette’s Julien Royer (between Gwendal Poullennec and the Michelin man)

 

[UPDATE: Odette has been elevated to three Michelin stars in the Singapore Michelin Guide 2019. Earlier this year the restaurant was announced number one on Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list 2019.]

Julien Royer, formerly head chef of the acclaimed Jaan, now has his own restaurant in the form of Odette, a bread roll’s throw away from his alma mater, within Singapore’s stunning new National Gallery. Odette is named in homage to Royer’s grandmother. And the family theme continues as the dreamy design is down to artist Dawn Ng – wife of the restaurant’s co owner, Wee Teng Wen of the Lo and Behold group – in conjunction with Universal Design Studio.

 

Odette -  Interiors 7

Odette restaurant, Singapore

 

With its romantic, cream interiors, Odette is the White Swan to Lo and Behold stablemate, Black Swan nearby in the CBD. But back to the food. Royer is continuing to mix classical French with modern techniques in his new home. Some of his greatest hits from Jaan are on the menu: Mushroom “tea”; 55 mins Onsen Egg; Heirloom Beetroot Variation; and Hay Smoked Pigeon.

In it’s new incarnation though the Pigeon is served two ways: the breast cooked sous vide then grilled and the leg cooked for six hours. And the Onsen Eggs are smoked on a bed of pines – foraged by the chef’s father and sent over from France (another family link).

Odette - Chef Julien Royer.jpg

Julien Royer of Odette, Asia’s Best Restaurant 2019

Royer has also added some new creations such as the standouts Hokkaido Uni with Apple, Mussel and Caviar and Trout with Miso Glazed Kurobuta Pork. The welcome champagne trolley includes Chartogne-Taillet rose, Henri Giraud for Odette and Krug – said to be Royer’s favourite.

Desserts, by pastry chef Nicolas Vergnole, are also impressive including Confit Victoria Pineapple (below): toasted coconut ice cream, banana cake, passionfruit coulis, tapioca and Kaffir lime.

Odette - Confit Victoria Pineapple.jpg

This piece was originally published in 2016

Where to stay when you’re visiting Downton

oldswan_exterior

The Old Swan

[UPDATE: IRL the village of Downton is actually filmed at Brampton, Oxfordshire. Our pick of where to stay if you want to visit is the Old Swan in nearby Minster Lovell. The hotel will arrange a guided tour of Brampton.]

The Old Swan, Minster Lovell

Imagine the ideal country inn and you’ll picture The Old Swan. Exposed beams and brick, flagstone floors, log fires, cosy nooks, inviting bar… this is a wonderful weekend retreat in the Cotswolds countryside.

When it comes to eating, choose between the more formal restaurant with vaulted ceiling and rich wool tapestries or the pub like but equally appealing dining room.

Old Swan & Minster Mill

Old Swan

Settle down by the fire for a nightcap (the snug is for residents only) before climbing the wooden stairs to one of the most comfortable beds you’ve ever slept in.

Bring your hiking boots as there are walks aplenty almost from the front door.

http://www.oldswan.co.uk

You can now stay in Rachel Chu and Nick Young’s suite at Raffles Singapore

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Nick and Rachel in the presidential suite at Raffles Singapore

When the film Crazy Rich Asians was released last year the spotlight was as much on Singapore as the ensemble cast. Understandably there was a surge of interest in the locations featured (some of which were in Malaysia, masquerading as Singapore). One of the best was Raffles hotel the grandest hotel in town where of course Nick Young “the Prince Harry of Asia” took his girlfriend Rachel Chu to stay.

Their scenes were shot in the Drawing Room above the lobby and the Sarkies Suite, one of the hotel’s two presidential suites named after the original owners and where the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge stayed.

At the time of the film release the hotel was part for a major refurbishment but has now reopened. The Presidential Suites, like the rest of the hotel, have been refreshed by interior designer Champalimaud.

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Entrance to Presidential Suite, Raffles Singapore redesigned by Champalimaud

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Bedroom in Presidential Suite Raffles Singapore redesigned by Champalimaud

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Presidential Suite at Raffles redesigned by Champalimaud

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Bathroom of Presidential Suite, Raffles Singapore redesigned by Champalimaud

Also in the film when Nick’s mother visits him at in presidential suite they stand on the private verandah overlooking the Palm Court.

 

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Terrace of the Raffles’ Presidential Suite

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Palm Court at Raffles Singapore showing Sarkies Suite terrace

The suite costs upwards of £5,000 per night plus 17 per cent taxes. Opening rate packages are available until October 31st 2019.

http://www.raffles.com/singapore/

Malaysia Airlines

Wine Not? What it’s like to stay at Les Sources de Caudalie vinotherapy spa near Bordeaux

 

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Les Source de Caudelie

[UPDATE: From today until September 30th the InterContinental is serving a Grape Antioxidant Afternoon Tea in conjunction with Caudalie. Here’s the story behind the vinotherapy brand.]

The waitress is so shocked she can hardly contain herself: I’m not having wine with my lunch? After a few seconds of stunned silence, she adds with further disbelief: “And I suppose you’re not having pudding either?”

Okay, so I’m in France, where not partaking in the finer things in life is practically sacrilegous, but I am in a health spa. Then again, this is the world’s only vinotherapy centre and it is dedicated to beauty treatments derived from grapes. Denial is definitely not on the agenda here – as well as a cellar of 13,000 wines, there’s a Michelin-starred restaurant and a cigar room. You’re even encouraged to join a wine-tasting session at the nearby chateau.

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Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte

 

The name of this unique spa is Les Sources de Caudalie, and beauticians at the centre, 15 minutes’ drive from Bordeaux, believe that as well as imbibing a couple of glasses of wine a day, we should be bathed and massaged in it, too. The theory is that the humble grape pip is highly effective at countering skin damage caused by free radicals (smoking, pollution and sunlight).

Which is why, later that afternoon, I find myself lying on a plastic sheet being slathered with wine and honey. The sheet is wrapped around me, then covered with what looks like a thermal blanket and I’m left to doze in a gloopy cocoon for 20 minutes. Not only is this bacchanalian-sounding process strangely relaxing, it is meant to render me lithe, toned and youthful to boot.

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Les Source de Caudelie hotel

 

First Look at the New Look Raffles Singapore

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Raffles Hotel Singapore

Raffles hotel in Singapore has today reopened following a two and a half year, multi million dollar refurbishment. Here’s what to expect from the revamp by interior designer Champalimaud and architect Aedas.

The grand lobby has a fresher feel and a new, stunning take on a chandelier. Afternoon tea will now be served here rather than being side lined to the Tiffin Room (more on which later). The heavy wooden reception desk with pigeon holes behind has been replaced by a more inviting desk and chairs, more in keeping with luxury 21st century hotels.

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Grand Lobby at Raffles Hotel Singapore

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Reception at Raffles Hotel Singapore

 

Off the lobby, the Grill restaurant has been replaced by a new venture from chef Anne-Sophie Pic whose restaurant in France holds three Michelin stars.

The room is almost unrecognisable from the former Grill with softer tones and furnishings though the white columns and French windows overlooking the Palm Court remain.

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La Dame de Pic at Raffles hotel Singapore

It’s also gratifying to see that the alcove tables in the restaurant still in situ, albeit with a more modern edge. Statement lighting abounds here too.

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La Dame de Pic at Raffles Hotel Singapore

On the other side of the lobby the Tiffin Room, serving Northern Indian cuisine, has re opened. This too has been given a transformation with the addition of open shelving displaying tiffin boxes (naturally) and Chinese porcelain and again, statement light fittings. The new furniture with a nod to colonial style (dark wood and rattan) is said to be inspired by the hotel’s archives.

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Tiffin Room at Raffles Hotel Singapore

Elsewhere in the hotel, a new Alain Ducasse restaurant in the Bar and Billiard room and Yì by Jeremy Leung are due to open in September.

All the suites have been restored and look lighter while retaining a heritage feel. The separate parlour room has been retained in the Stateroom, Promenade, Courtyard, Palm Court and Personality suites – a good choice since it’s so synonymous with guest rooms at Raffles.

Updated technology and bathrooms also figure with Peranakan inspired tiles in the latter – in homage to the Chinese Malay settlers in Singapore.

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Courtyard Suite at Raffles Hotel Singapore

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Courtyard Suite Parlour at Raffles Hotel Singapore

To celebrate the opening Raffles is offering two special rate packages:

Opening Package
From now till 31 October 2019 guests may upgrade their stay for S$120 plus taxes
per night including additional privileges of daily breakfast for two either in their suite, on the verandahs poolside or at Tiffin Room. They will also receive a $100 daily
credit for spending at the Raffles Spa or at one of the restaurants. A commemorative Raffles heritage souvenir and guaranteed late checkout until 3.00pm is also included.
Staycation Package
Available to residents of Singapore, this staycation offers a 50% reduction
on an adjourning suite for families to stay together. The package includes daily semi
buffet breakfast for two adults at Tiffin Room, where children can dine for free (for
two children aged 12 and under), S$50 Raffles Spa Credit per adult per stay, Raffles Children Customised Programme, Complimentary souvenir for children from the Raffles Boutique, guaranteed late check out till 3pm, early check in at noon, subject to availability, 10% off Raffles merchandise at the Raffles Boutique. Adjourning suites are subjected to availability of interconnecting suites.
More details on offers are available at www.rafflessingapore.com and enquiries
or reservations can be made via singapore@raffles.com

Inspired by Beecham House? Check into this Jaipur palace to soothe your withdrawal symptoms

Entrance to Rajmahal Palace

Sujan Rajmahal Palace

[UPDATE: Beecham House the lavish costume drama set in Delhi was IRL filmed in Jaipur, Rajasthan. Here’s Chopstix top pick of where to stay in the Pink City.]

In the middle of negotiating the hectic roads of Jaipur our driver suddenly swings the car into a discreet driveway. We pass through a turreted “elephant gate” painted a pretty pale pink and follow the graveled route flanked by verdant gardens before pulling up outside a palace painted in the same sugary shade as the regal entranceway. Jaipur was painted pink for the visit of Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s husband, but while the Rajasthan capital is more terracotta toned, this is a delightful, millennial pink.

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Smiling and smartly dressed men each wearing a distinctive candy coloured turban wait to welcome us. We are greeted – rather fittingly for The Pink City – with a glass of rose sparkling wine. So far, so Jaipur perhaps but inside is a complete surprise. Sujan Rajmahal Palace, now a luxury boutique hotel, may be approaching 300 years old but it has been interior decorated in a refreshingly contemporary way. Each of the public spaces is adorned with fantastically striking, custom made wallpaper from bright pinks and turquoise blues to sultry Art Deco chinoiserie and Indian inspired designs. The chandeliers, antiques and paintings remind you however that you are staying in a royal residence.

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As palaces go Rajmahal is on the petite side rather than a mammoth mausoleum with just 14 guest rooms – it was commissioned by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II for his wife. Society interior designer Adil Ahmad, recently commissioned to spruce the place up, has achieved a sumptuous cosiness that feels like a private home albeit a very grand one.

Jaipur’s royal family still own Rajmahal (it is run by Sujan the renowned company behind luxury tented camps throughout Rajasthan), the queen mother’s Thunderbird takes pride of place in the entranceway and the princess has an office in the grounds though they reside in the far larger City Palace in old Jaipur (the hotel can arrange a private tour of this palace as well as secure you a set in the royal box at the polo).

While still a royal residence, Rajmahal played host to the likes of Queen Elizabeth the second, the Prince and Princess of Wales and Jackie Kennedy as the framed black and white photographs and the names of the suites attest. Beautiful carpets gifted by another distinguished visitor, the Shah of Iran, hang on the walls as the Maharini magnanimously wanted everyone to enjoy them. The family’s love of “the sport of kings” is also reflected in The Polo Bar, lined with trophies and photographs.

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Our Palace Room is reached via a stunning marble staircase and curved corridor and like all the guest rooms and suites lies discreetly behind mirrored doors which adds to the feeling of a private home. Inside our host tells me “A Maharini does not make her own coffee,” before explaining that there are no facilities for hot beverages in the room: “You ring and we will bring you coffee.”

Another special touch is that afternoon tea is served to hotel guests every day between 4pm and 6pm. You may have it wherever you wish but an especially charming spot is on the manicured lawn under a series of charming open sided tents (pink hued of course).

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A pleasant surprise for the (relatively) diminutive size of the hotel is that there are three dining rooms, each more strikingly designed than the other: the grand Orient Occident is open for dinner while the cool mint Colonnade and 51 Shades of Pink (decorated as the name suggests) restaurants both serve breakfast and lunch. All offer the same menu of Indian and Western dishes, we stuck resolutely to the former which is excellent.

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We also tried one of the Sujan Rajmahal Palace’s private dining experiences one evening, dining in one of the aforementioned tents on the lawn. At night the scene is enticingly lit by lanterns and makes for a very pretty venue.Once you’ve ticked off sightseeing inside the old walled city and the Amber Fort; and shopped ‘til you’ve dropped in the bazaars and boutiques, Rajmahal Palace provides a whimsical oasis. We spend our days exploring in the early mornings, after breakfasting on fresh juice and stuffed parathas, and retreating to Rajmahal in the heat of the afternoon.

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The hotel has the bonus of a large, glamorous looking swimming pool surrounded by inviting sun loungers.  The designer has had fun here too with a shady terrace complete with mirrors and modern chandeliers which looks spectacular at dusk.

And a note for shopping fans: there’s a branch of the revered New Delhi based Kashmir Loom at Rajmahal so you can stock up on the best cashmere shawls without leaving the grounds.

www.sujanluxury.com

[This post was originally posted in September 2016]

Etihad - India Banners

What it’s like to Sleep in the World’s Most Luxurious Bed

 

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The bed at The Savoy’s Royal Suite

[UPDATE: Savoir Beds is opening a store at the refurbished Raffles hotel in Singapore in August 2019.]

When it comes to sleeping I’m definitely in the Princess and the Pea camp, I tend to toss and turn throughout the night rarely getting a restful 8 hours. So I was intrigued to check into the Royal Suite at The Savoy, London where an exclusive handcrafted bed has been installed promising a superlative sleep.

Befitting the vast suite (it takes up the entire river side of the fifth floor) decorated in an elegant Edwardian style, the bed itself looks straight out of a fairytale. And the ornate four poster king with draped canopy has added advantages in a handmade box spring base, mattress and topper valued around SG$150,000.

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Sitting room in The Savoy’s Royal Suite

As with all the best mattresses The Savoy’s are made with horse tail between pocket springs. The one in the Royal Suite also features a hand tufted topper made by yarn specialist Tengri from rare fur – hand combed once a year from yaks roaming the Khangai mountains of Mongolia. Their hair is softer than cashmere with exceptional temperature regulating properties so perfect for aiding sleep.

It’s the creation of prestigious British brand Savoir which has been hand making beds for the hotel for over 100 years. When Richard D’Oyly Carte opened The Savoy in 1889 he set new standards for luxury hotels in London. He couldn’t find a bed maker that met his exacting criteria so Savoir was formed to create beds for The Savoy.

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The Savoy hotel London

My first impression is that the mattress is surprisingly firm. But it also has just enough flexibility and I don’t feel any points of undue pressure – it’s just right, as Goldilocks would say. I close my eyes with the intention of a 20 minute afternoon nap and I wake up over an hour later.

The true test though comes after supper in the suite’s dining room overlooking the Thames (the view that Claude Monet painted) and impeccably served by morning coated butlers. While I still wake up several times in the night as is my wont I immediately fall back to sleep each time. Even more remarkably the back pain I’d been feeling the day before had disappeared.

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Dining Room in the Royal Suite at The Savoy

Usually (and frustratingly) I’m not able to lie in, restless to get up by 7am, but here I found the opposite. The only thing that eventually tempts me out of bed is the thought of Omelette Arnold Bennett for breakfast: made with smoked haddock, hollandaise sauce and cheese, perfected for the writer while he stayed at The Savoy in 1920s. After a call to the butler I’m tucking into this moreish dish and taking in the marvellous London view. Did I feel I’d slept in a bed fit for a king or queen? A resounding yes.

https://www.thesavoylondon.com

Savoir Beds Raffles Hotel Arcade #02-08, 328 North Bridge Road, Singapore 188719

Tel : +65 6261 2788

Soho House expands homewares range with Mumbai Collection

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Soho House Mumbai

Soho House has expanded its coveted homewares range with the addition of the Mumbai Collection.

The range was specifically designed for Soho House Mumbai which opened last year, the first House in Asia, and was inspired by the city.

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Soho House Mumbai

‘We wanted it to be so you would go in there and see all these amazing little details that reminded you of [Mumbai] culture but also created loads of layers so it felt like you were coming into a Soho House,” says Soho House Mumbai lead designer Scarlett Supple.

 “It’s a whole serene space that you can relax in, like sitting at home, which is really unique in Mumbai because lots of their hospitality spaces are really contemporary and really clean.”

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Soho House Mumbai

Pieces to buy include the Priya cushion found in the bedrooms and rugs found dotted around the House.

“Our three cushion prints were designed bespoke with hand block printing and feature traditional craftsmanship and skilled techniques,” says Soho Home product developer, Kirsty Orr. “The geometric elements and the colour palette of on-trend shades such as  blue and mustard easily fit into people’s existing colour schemes at home.”

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Soho House Mumbai

The team also collaborated with Samarkand Design for a range of lampshades which individually hand-cut from vintage silk sarees sourced in India and hand-pleated by skilled craftsmen in Devon. The shades are available in the same tones of teal, saffron, oyster, chartreuse and coral found around Soho House Mumbai.

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Soho House Mumbai

 

Soho House Mumbai is in Juhu, an area north of the city. The club is housed in a striking white, neoclassical building, surrounded by palm trees and has views across the Arabian sea.

Soho House Hong Kong is slated to open in September 2019.

Mumbai Collection is available at http://www.sohohome.com

 

Ode to Odette – Asia’s Best Restaurant

 

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Odette restaurant, Singapore

[UPDATE: Odette has retained its position as Asia’s Best Restaurant and Best Restaurant in Singapore 2020. UPDATE: Odette has been awarded number one on Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list 2019.]

Julien Royer, formerly head chef of the acclaimed Jaan, now has his own restaurant in the form of Odette, a bread roll’s throw away from his alma mater, within Singapore’s stunning new National Gallery. Odette is named in homage to Royer’s grandmother. And the family theme continues as the dreamy design is down to artist Dawn Ng – wife of the restaurant’s co owner, Wee Teng Wen of the Lo and Behold group – in conjunction with Universal Design Studio.

With its romantic, cream interiors, Odette is the White Swan to Lo and Behold stablemate, Black Swan nearby in the CBD. But back to the food. Royer is continuing to mix classical French with modern techniques in his new home. Some of his greatest hits from Jaan are on the menu: Mushroom “tea”; 55 mins Onsen Egg; Heirloom Beetroot Variation; and Hay Smoked Pigeon.

In it’s new incarnation though the Pigeon is served two ways: the breast cooked sous vide then grilled and the leg cooked for six hours. And the Onsen Eggs are smoked on a bed of pines – foraged by the chef’s father and sent over from France (another family link).

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Julien Royer of Odette, Asia’s Best Restaurant 2019

Royer has also added some new creations such as the standouts Hokkaido Uni with Apple, Mussel and Caviar and Trout with Miso Glazed Kurobuta Pork. The welcome champagne trolley includes Chartogne-Taillet rose, Henri Giraud for Odette and Krug – said to be Royer’s favourite.

Desserts, by pastry chef Nicolas Vergnole, are also impressive including Confit Victoria Pineapple (below): toasted coconut ice cream, banana cake, passionfruit coulis, tapioca and Kaffir lime.

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This piece was originally published in 2016

MO London to Fully Reopen in April

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The Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, London

[UPDATE: The guest rooms at the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park will reopen on April 15th 2019 along with two new penthouse suites. The hotel is offering a ‘Be the First to Stay’ package available from 15 April to 30 June 2019. Priced from £659, inclusive of VAT, the promotion includes daily breakfast, a bottle of Champagne on arrival, plus a daily credit (ranging from £75 to £250 depending on the room or suite category booked) to be used in the new Spa, Mandarin Bar, The Rosebery or Bar Boulud.]

Opposite Harvey Nichols, around the corner from Sloane Street and down the road from Harrods, the Mandarin is a shopaholics’ dream. Check in to one of the newly refurbished Knightsbridge rooms and you’ll have a view of the designer mothership, Harvey Nicks, at all times.

The guest rooms and public spaces have been revamped by Joyce Wang, the designer responsible for The Landmark M.O. Hong Kong rooms and suites. Wang’s signature style of a light and contemporary take on 1930s glamour is much in evidence here. The designer has also taken inspiration from nearby Hyde Park with witty touches such as using horse hair as a feature in the hallway light fittings.

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The Mandarin Oriental Penthouse

The two new penthouse suites, the two bed Mandarin and the one bed Oriental have also been designed by Wang. The two suites can be interconnected to offer three bedrooms, three bathrooms, a private dining room, two kitchens, and expansive views of Hyde Park and the London skyline.

Fans of chef Daniel Boulud will be pleased to know Bar Boulud is still in residence at the hotel, a favourite with the well heeled Knightsbridge crowd mid or post shopping. As well as signature charcuterie and burgers, the restaurant has introduced French regional specialities which will change seasonally. For Spring it’s the Basque Country with dishes such as traditional tapas and monkfish tail wrapped in Bayonne ham with crush potatoes.

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Bar Boulud, MO London

 

The spa, redesigned by Adam H Tihany who is also responsible for the moody ground floor bar, reopened in December 2018.

https://www.mandarinoriental.com/london/hyde-park/luxury-hotel

[This piece was originally published in June 2018]

Update on the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park

 

[UPDATE: The Spa, Rosebery Room, Bar Boulud, Dinner by Heston Blumenthal and the Mandarin Bar re opened on December 4th 2018. The guest rooms are expected to reopen in spring 2019.]

Opposite Harvey Nichols, around the corner from Sloane Street and down the road from Harrods, the Mandarin is a shopaholics’ dream. Check in to one of the newly refurbished Knightsbridge rooms and you’ll have a view of the designer mothership, Harvey Nicks, at all times.

Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park London lobby 2017 Joyce Wang designed Lobby Lounge

The guest rooms and public spaces have been revamped by Joyce Wang, the designer responsible for The Landmark M.O. Hong Kong rooms and suites. Wang’s signature style of a light and contemporary take on 1930s glamour is much in evidence here. The designer has also taken inspiration from nearby Hyde Park with witty touches such as using horse hair as a feature in the hallway light fittings.

Fans of chef Daniel Boulud will be pleased to know Bar Boulud is still in residence at the hotel, a favourite with the well heeled Knightsbridge crowd mid or post shopping. As well as signature charcuterie and burgers, the restaurant has introduced French regional specialities which will change seasonally. For Spring it’s the Basque Country with dishes such as traditional tapas and monkfish tail wrapped in Bayonne ham with crush potatoes.

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Bar Boulud

The spa is due to reopen next month, redesigned by Adam H Tihany who is also responsible for the moody ground floor bar while two new penthouse suites will be revealed this July.

[This piece was originally published in June 2018]

66 Knightsbridge, London SW1X 7LA

Tel +44 20 7235 2000

How to Holiday like a Crazy Rich Asian

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SkyPark Infinity Pool at Marina Bay Sands Hotel

[UDPATE: Raffles hotel Singapore is now re opened – August 1st 2019, Chijmes is now closed.]

Sarah Jessica Parker once remarked that New York was the fifth star of Sex and the City, similar could be said of Singapore in the Crazy Rich Asians movie. Not only does the Lion City hold its own among the ensemble cast that includes Gemma Chan, Awkwafina, Ken Jeong, Contance Wu and Michelle Yeoh, it’s a veritable scene stealer.

Based on the book by Kevin Kwan the film is about a young American Chinese woman, Rachel Chu, visiting the home land of her fellow Chinese New Yorker boyfriend, Nicholas Young, and discovering his family and friends are part of the super rich Singapore elite.  The small, tropical city state dazzles in sweeping shots of the Marina Bay area and skyline although most of the movie was filmed in neighbouring Malaysia (sometimes masquerading as Singapore or New York).

You won’t find Tyersall Park, Nick’s grandmother’s estate, in Singapore for example. The location is two heritage houses, Carcosa Seri Negara,  in the botanical gardens in Kuala Lumpur . The mahjong showdown between Rachel and Nick’s mother was filmed in Penang and the beach scenes on Langkawi. Here’s where to find them all:

Raffles Hotel Singapore

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Raffles lobby and Drawing Room

Of course Nick Young “the Prince Harry of Asia” takes his girlfriend Rachel to stay at the grandest hotel in town: Raffles. Their scenes were shot in the Drawing Room above the lobby and the Sarkies Suite, one of the hotel’s two presidential suites named after the original owners and where the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge stayed. And when Nick’s mother visits him there they stand on the private verandah overlooking the Palm Court. The suite costs upwards of £5,000 per night plus 17 per cent taxes but you can’t check in just yet – Raffles is currently closed until early 2019 [UPDATE Raffles has now re opened ].

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Nick (Henry Golding) and Rachel (Constance Wu) at the Sarkies Suite Raffles

It should be worth the wait though, a major refurb is underway which promises to keep the old world glamour while adding modern amenities and tech. One big change is that the spectacular lobby which was previously only accessible to hotel residents will become a new lounge area where afternoon tea will be served to non guests. Restaurants overseen by the much Michelin starred Anne Sophie Pic and Alain Ducasse are also opening. [UPDATE: click on First Look at the New Look Raffles Singapore at end of post.]

The Fullerton Hotel

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The Fullerton Hotel

If you can’t wait until next year to make your trip you could book the Fullerton Hotel instead. This handsome columned building (formerly the post office HQ) on the river and near the bay crops up as a back drop throughout Crazy Rich Asians. Most notably in two key scenes between Nick and Rachel and Nick’s elegant cousin Astrid (Gemma Chan) and her husband.

Newton Food Centre

Any film set in Singapore has to feature hawker centres, outdoor food courts with stalls selling a medley of Asian street cuisines that the city is famous for. Kwan’s novel has Nick scorning Newton Food Centre as “only for expats and tourists” and championing Lau Pa Sat instead. Ironically though it’s the latter with its easy location next to the Central Business District (CBD) and charming Victorian wrought iron structure that is usually dismissed this way by Singaporeans. And Newton is the actual location for the street food fest in the film that’s had critics salivating.

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Sonoya Mizuno at Newton Food Centre

Foodies’ favourites are Maxwell and East Coast centres but hawker food guru KF Seetoh, author of the Makansutra guide, rates many a stall at Newton as well. Seetoh recommends Hup Kee Fried Oyster Omelette, Kwee Heng Duck Noodle, Kwang Kee Teochew Fish Porridge, Bee Heng Popiah, Soon Wah Fishball Kway Teow Mee (for fishball noodles) and Chong Pang Huat for barbecued chicken wings.

The travel tissue packs in the Crazy Rich Asians scene are authentic. Locals always take them to the hawker centres not only to use as napkins but also to reserve a table. And if you’re thinking how unlikely it seems for UHNWIs to eat here, literally everyone in Singapore does – or they send their maid and driver to pick up.

Four Seasons Langkawi

Four Seasons Langkawi

Royal Beach Villa at the Four Seasons Langkawi

It girl Araminta Lee’s lavish hen do on “Samsara Island” was in reality filmed on Malaysia’s Langkawi. More specifically at the stunning, Bill Bensley designed, Four Seasons which is set between a white sandy beach and soaring limestone cliffs synonymous with the Malaysian archipelago. You’ll need to book the Royal Beach Villa if you want one of the enviable pads Araminta stayed in.

The spa here is even more gorgeous than shown in the film: the spacious treatment pavilions are set over water and have a dramatic close up view of the limestone cliffs.

Chijmes

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Araminta Lee (Sonoya Mizuno) walks down the aisle in Chijmes Hall

Across the road from Raffles this colonial era compound (strangely spelt due to Singaporeans’ love of acronyms but pronounced Chimes) was variously a convent and a school and in its most recent incarnation is populated with F&B outlets. At its heart, the 19th century gothic chapel renamed Chijmes Hall and now turned into a function space is the location for glamorous couple Colin Khoo and Araminta Lee’s society nuptials, “the event of the century”.

The white wedding cake architecture, shown as backdrop to the red carpet arrival of the guests in the film,  is worth a look but while you’re here don’t miss Whitegrass, one of Singapore’s truly outstanding restaurants. Chef Sam Aisbett fuses ingredients from his home country of Australia as well as Japan with some Asian flavours to create a fantastic contemporary menu.

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Australian jade tiger abalone with three treasures at Whitegrass

Bukit Pasoh Road

This picturesque stretch in Tanjong Pagar, part of Chinatown, is lined with preserved Peranakan shophouses making a photogenic al fresco meeting point for Rachel and her college friend Peik Lin. The actual spot is the terrace outside Humpback seafood restaurant, across the road from The Reading Room (a coffee house by day and bar by night).

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A few doors down is The Straits Clan one of Singapore’s new breed of private members clubs housed in the attractive building that was until recently the New Majestic Hotel. Although members only, its street facing Straits Cafe is open to the public. Bukit Pasoh used to be known as “the street of clans” and this slice of heritage Singapore makes a welcome change for anyone suffering shopping mall fatigue.

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The Straits Clan, Bukit Pasoh Road

The Blue Mansion, George Town

While the exterior implies it’s on Ang Siang Hill in Singapore, that exquisite courtyard setting where Nick’s ice maiden mother played by Michelle Yeoh meets Rachel over the traditional Chinese game mahjong is actually in Malaysia. George Town, the capital of Penang province, is a picturesque little place filled with brightly painted “shop houses” with shuttered windows.

The Blue Mansion

Among them you’ll find the grander Cheong Fatt Sze Mansion, named after the 19thcentury tycoon who lived there (14, Leith Street, George Town +604 262 0006). Also known as The Blue Mansion, this scene of the mahjong showdown is a boutique hotel (rooms from £100 per night) so you can check in and enjoy the mansion when all the day trippers have gone.

Supertree Grove at Gardens By the Bay

Supertrees

Colin and Araminta’s Gatsbyesque evening wedding reception was held at Singapore’s man made, multi million dollar Gardens By the Bay amid the Supertrees. And night time is really the only time to visit these man made, multi-million dollar gardens (the outdoor sites are open until 2am). During the day the Supertree Grove is punishingly hot so arrive in the evening when the extraordinary “tree” structures – between 25 and 50 metres tall and covered with plants – are illuminated and the delightfully OTT music and light show takes place at 7.45pm and 8.45pm nightly.

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Eleanor Young (played by Michelle Yeoh) at the Supertree Grove

Make a booking for dinner at Pollen in the nearby Flower Dome with its Mediterranean climate and associated flora. The pretty setting and excellent mod Med cooking aside, the beauty of dining here is that you can walk around the Dome after all the visitors have gone at 9pm.

Marina Bay Sands SkyPark

MBS Infinity pool day

Infinity pool at Marina Bay Sands hotel

Sweeping vistas of Singapore’s Marina Bay area and Marina Bay Sands hotel, the building that looks like a ship marooned on top of three skyscrapers, abound in the film and the finale was shot around the hotel’s SkyPark infinity pool on the 57th floor.

Whatever you do don’t buy a ticket to the SkyPark observation deck – you won’t get anywhere near the swimming pool. Access to the pool area requires a room key card so to swim in the pool (and take that obligatory selfie with the skyscrapers as a backdrop) you’ll need to check into the hotel but is it worth it? The vast scale of MBS attracts large tour groups and the infinity pool, like many Insta famous locations, is always jam packed. Even or especially at night.

Better to have a cocktail at adjacent Ce La Vi which serves one of the best Singapore Slings in the city and has a panoramic view of Singapore’s skyline. To overlook the infinity pool you’ll need to be in The Sky Deck area of the Club Lounge (not to be confused with the Sky Bar). If you want fireworks thrown in, coincide your visit with the Formula One Night Race (September 16th this year) or National Day (August 9th).

Malaysia Airlines

Raymond Blanc Gardening School launches Japanese Garden Course at Le Manoir

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The Japanese Tea Garden at Le Manoir

When chef Raymond Blanc bought the manor house and grounds in the English countryside which he transformed into Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons two Michelin starred restaurant and luxury hotel, the first thing he did was create a vegetable garden. Having grown up helping his mother grow produce at their family home in France he wanted to recreate the “living larder” of his childhood.

Thirty years on the grounds have flourished and encompass vegetable, salad and herb gardens, apple orchards and a mushroom “valley”. This year [2017] Blanc has responded to requests from guests and opened a gardening school – the first to be set in a hotel.

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Raymond Blanc

The link between the kitchen and garden at Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons is palpable. On the front of the dining menu, namechecked alongside the chefs is Anne Marie Owens, Head Gardener. “The admiration I have for gardeners is beyond measure,” says Blanc. “The gardens are an essential part of Belmond Le Manoir – you will spend as much time in the garden as you will at the table.”

Looking at the menu itself, whether it’s fresh apple juice at breakfast, herbs and salads in a side dish or vegetables as the star such as the signature Stuffed Courgette Flower or the Beetroot Terrine; as much produce as possible is garnered from the grounds. Head Chef Gary Jones has a walk about every Tuesday and comes up with a “picking list” of produce and at 8am every day the chefs take it in turns to attend the cropping with the gardeners.

Chefs are also encouraged to take some time out in the gardens before service and many can be found in the Japanese Tea Garden. Blanc was inspired to create the garden following a visit to Japan. Working with landscaper and gardener Robert Ketchell, who studied in Japan, he learned that gardens are both an art form and healing space that can help with the stress.

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Produce at the Raymond Blanc Gardening School

Set in a handsome glasshouse in Le Manoir’s grounds, The Raymond Blanc Gardening School offers half day and full day hands on courses including growing your own vegetables, mushrooms, micro herbs and edible flowers as well as classes for children. Instruction is given by Le Manoir’s own gardeners as well as visiting experts and the courses are tailored to the season, in keeping with the hotel’s ethos.

This summer sees the introduction of the Japanese Garden course. Guests will also get the chance to take a walk around the Japanese Tea Garden with Ketchell to find out about the traditions and practices involved with creating a Japanese garden.

 

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A suite at Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons

For the ultimate horticultural experience, book one of the hotel’s Garden Suites for your stay – the theme of each room is reflected in the plants and flowers enveloping your private terrace. Paradise.

[UPDATE: The Japanese Garden course at Belmond Le Manoir takes place on 21 August 2018 and costs £235 per person. The day includes tea and coffee on arrival, materials and guidance to create a ‘trayscape’ garden and lunch with accompanying wines, coffee and petit fours.]

https://www.belmond.com/hotels/europe/uk/oxfordshire/belmond-le-manoir-aux-quat-saisons/

A version of this piece was originally published by the Robb Report Singapore

 

 

A Cut Above: a Taste of Chinoiserie on Park Lane

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Cut at 45 Park Lane

[UPDATE: Wolfgang Puck is bringing his signature Asian French fusion dishes from his Santa Monica restaurant Chinois to Cut at 45 Park Lane, London for a pop up celebrating the restaurant’s 35th anniversary. From today until 30th June the menu, featuring Asian flavours fused with French techniques, will include Shanghai lobster with curry sauce and whole sizzling sea bass with ginger and ponzu sauce. As well as an a la carte lunch there’s two tasting dinner menus – six courses priced at £115 per person and eight courses £165 per person including a welcome cocktail.]

Wolfgang Puck, one of the most famous of the world famous chefs, is reflecting on how times have changed for his profession; “When I moved to Los Angeles in the 1970s I used to go to discotheques,” he recalls. “Once I asked a girl to dance, she asked me what I did for a living and I told her ‘I’m a cook’. When the song was over, she left! Nowadays that scenario probably wouldn’t happen.”

He is more than likely right – since then chefs have become celebrities and Puck has become as famous as the stars who flock to his LA restaurants. Though the native Austrian, who learnt to cook from his mother and trained at Michelin starred restaurants in France, is not entirely comfortable with that either.

“I don’t like the name celebrity chef but I think that television has put chefs in the public. Television has really helped elevate our profession. I think it’s great because this has become an important profession, before it wasn’t,” he says. “Fifty years ago, you probably wouldn’t know who the chef was anywhere. Now chefs are like rock n roll stars.”

But for Puck, whose empire includes Cut, Spago and Chinois restaurants around the world, being a great chef still comes down to learning the basics. “The funny thing is, a lot of these television people, they don’t know how to cook,” he says. “I did a programme a few years ago where I asked the six chef contestants to make me an omelette. And you know what? None of them could make me a good omelette. That’s the problem with a lot of younger chefs today – they don’t start with the proper foundation.”

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Wolfgang Puck

“Learning how to cook is like learning how to paint,” he continues in the first of many arty analogies (he has said that he would have liked to have been an artist if he hadn’t been a chef). “When you learn how to paint, you learn how to mix colours. Cooking is the same. If I have ginger, garlic and scallion, a dish would taste more Chinese. If I add basil and remove scallion, it would taste more Italian. When you really boil it down, it’s really not that complex. That comes with experience and, of course, a full understanding of the basics.”

Having mastered the basics, Puck eschews recipe books for his own instincts. “I know a certain flavour I want to have, then I try to get there my way. I don’t want to look at a cookbook to find how the Chinese, Indian or Vietnamese make it, I want to make it my own style,” he says.

“It’s just like writing a song, or painting. If you paint like Picasso nobody cares but if you created your own style, people would say, ‘oh, that’s interesting.’ Or if you’re a singer and you sing Lionel Richie songs all day long, you’re never going to become Lionel Richie – no matter how well you sing it. It’s the same with food – you can use lamb, fish, whatever but you still have to create a dish out of it your way.”

It’s an ethos that Puck encourages from the head chefs across his restaurant empire. “I create two lines here, and I let the chefs operate in between these lines. They have been working with me for many years, so they think like me anyway. But I want them to be creative, I want them to add something of their own to the menu.”

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Steak at Cut

At Spago Singapore, the first in Asia and Puck’s second restaurant at Marina Bay Sands in the city state following Cut, the global fusion elements he describes can be found on the menu alongside American classics. “I opened Spago in Los Angeles in 1982 and then I opened Chinois in 1983 – essentially I opened an Asian restaurant but not in the traditional way. I made it my style,” Puck says.

The global menu at Spago Marina Bay Sands includes versions of two Singapore specialities: kaya toast and laksa. “We take something that’s already popular here and make it our own. And people still like it!” says Puck. As well as the luxurious versions of foie gras kaya toast and lobster laksa available at dinner, there’s a chicken “laksa” spring roll on the lunch and bar bites menus.

Big Eye Tuna Tartare

Big Eye Tuna Tartare at Spago

As well as the dinner menu, Spago has several lunch options to choose from depending on your mood and time allowance. Alternatively, a compact selection, still offering signature classics such as the tuna tartare cones and hand cut agnolotti, is available in the terrace lounge and at the al fresco rooftop bar. Perhaps to go with a cocktail or two although Puck prefers champagne. “I drink cocktails but not too much. With champagne, I can drink a whole bottle and still feel fine.”

When it comes to his own tastes Puck says he prefers strong flavours including chilli and spices in his food. “For me, French food is too subtle. One or two French dishes are fine but if I had to eat eight, I’d fall asleep.” While he has often tried chilli crab and fish head curry in Singapore these days he likes to stick to his own restaurants in Marina Bay Sands. “Even in my home country I go out less than I used to,” he says. “Here, if I want to have a really good meal I ask my chefs to cook me something.”

Although, or perhaps because, Wolfgang Puck has a couple of Michelin stars under his belt, he seems unfazed by the launch of the prestigious restaurant guide in Singapore later this year. “We don’t open a restaurant with the aim of earning Michelin stars. I know what I should do if I wanted to get the stars – open a restaurant that serves only 30 people a night and prepare 10 or 12 course meals. But I would only get people who try us once,” he says.

“For me, the stars are our customers,” he continues. “They are the ones who are going to come back, they are the ones who pay me and the rest of the people. So if the Michelin Guide gave me three stars but I have no customers those stars wouldn’t mean anything. I’m not saying Michelin stars are useless, but the most important thing for me is taking care of the customers.”

Great hospitality is a recurring theme for the chef and restaurateur. He sees good service as just as vital as good food. “Like any major city today, Singapore has a lot of great restaurants so to set ourselves apart we don’t just focus on the food. I think it’s important that people get recognised, that people feel like they are at home,” he emphasises.

“Yesterday at Cut, I saw a German family who has been living in Singapore for 40 years. I remember them from last time I was here. They came up to me and said, ‘Oh, it’s so good to see you again. We come here at least twice a month.’ That to me is more important than earning Michelin stars.”

[A version of this story was originally published in 2016]

Catch Le Mout, Taiwan, While You Can

Lanshu Chen at Le Mout, Taiwan

Lanshu Chen at Le Mout, Taiwan

[UPDATE: Make a booking at Le Mout while you – Lanshu Chen has announced she is closing the restaurant this year.]

Taiwanese born, French trained chef, Lanshu Chen is describing her favourite meal to eat off duty: “Yaki soba. It’s a childhood memory – my favourite dish from my mother. It accompanied me many times when I stayed up late studying.”

The yaki soba-fuelled late nights and hard work have paid off. At 33 years old, not only is Chen owner and head chef of Le Mout, a fine dining, Relais & Chateaux restaurant in Taichung, Taiwan, she has been named Asia’s Best Female Chef.

Read more

Inside the Capella hotel on Sentosa Island, Singapore

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The Capella Singapore, Sentosa

Of all the islands in all the world they had to meet on mine. Or at least my ex island – until a few months ago I was a resident of Sentosa, the islet off Singapore, connected to the “mainland” by road bridge. I was in proud possession of the coveted card that allowed me to pass fuss free through the toll booths that mark Sentosa’s entrance.

When we first moved to Singapore we thought fellow expats were misguided to live on manufactured sounding Sentosa. If Singapore itself has a touch of The Truman Show about it then Sentosa seemed to represent that writ large. But we quickly came to realise that the relentlessly humid climate of The Lion City made a coastal apartment with sea vistas and a swimming pool an attractive proposition.

Yes it was “living in the bubble” but we enjoyed our breezy evening walks around the island, sundowners on the balcony and dinner any night of the week overlooking the marina. It was like being on holiday all year round.

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Capella hotel with Sentosa golf courses and Singapore skyline

While your first glimpse of Sentosa as you cross the bridge is the fairytale towers of Shrek’s castle within Universal Studios, and the island’s toll booth gateway announces that you are entering The State of Fun in giant glittering letters, that’s not the whole story. Taxi drivers would often delight in telling me that Sentosa meant Island of Death (and it certainly has a bloody past including pirates and Japanese soldiers). But they would equally be likely to tell me how when they were children the area was a jungle where monkeys abounded. The monkeys are a rarity now but peacocks roam free – and have right of way when they veer into the road.

Locals also like to tell you “It’s so far away, lah!” (It’s fifteen minutes door to door in a taxi to the Central Business District) but most take their kids to Universal Studios and the impressive SEA Aquarium as well as the man made beaches. Further east, the casino and the vast hotels feeding off it are aimed at the mainland Chinese and visiting South East Asians (Singaporeans have to pay for entry in a bid to discourage gambling). It’s also the venue for Joel Robuchon’s two restaurants – one of which has three Michelin stars (although don’t get too excited about that in Singapore. In fact Robuchon has announced the close of his restaurants at the end of this month). The west side of the island is more residential encompassing two golf courses and Sentosa Cove, home to some of Singapore’s most exclusive addresses, backing on to waterways, as well as a marina and yacht club.

 

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The Capella hotel sits in splendid isolation on the island on a slight elevation and in its own leafy grounds. The remarkable colonial era entrance, all white columns and terracotta tiles, was part of a British army base in the 1880s and now houses the reception and lobby as well as a library.  These original heritage buildings segue into a stunning, Norman Foster designed, resort. The curvaceous modern building leads down to tiered terraces culminating in the infinity pool, arguably one of the most scenic in the world. Bob’s Bar is a popular spot for al fresco drinking overlooking the pool and the South China Sea beyond. The hotel’s Auriga spa is the best in Singapore in my experience. As well as the excellent treatments there are heat and water rooms to enjoy before hand.

Capella treatment room

Treatment room at the Auriga Spa, Capella

We’ve spent a wedding anniversary staycation (a popular pastime in Singapore) in one of the garden bungalows complete with private terrace and plunge pool. For a sea view you’ll need to book a regular room or suite in the main hotel building but for even more lavish seclusion there are several three bedroomed “contemporary manors” and  two presidential suites – both occupy standalone colonial villas and all the manors have private swimming pools.

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Contemporary Manor, Capella Singapore

Peacocks roam free at the Capella resort too. Any world leader with cavalcades be warned: they are particularly attracted to black cars and have been known to attack their reflections in them.

Inside Trump and Kim’s Presidential Suites in Singapore

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Presidential Suite at the St Regis Singapore

Kim Jong-un: St Regis

The hotel’s Beverly Hills meets Versailles vibe is writ large in its Presidential Suite. Lavish furnishings include painted silk panels, custom made crystal chandeliers and a water wall feature.

There’s also a baby grand piano and original works by big name artists.From the wraparound terrace there’s a panoramic view of the Botanic Gardens – and a hand polished brass swing from which to enjoy it.

A private chef will whip up dinner on the grill out there for guests or inside in the more genteel, 12 seater dining area if they prefer.

Presidential Suite, St Regis Singapore Presidential Suite, St Regis Singapore

As well as a gym there’s a Jacuzzi, jet shower, and marble steam chamber. Plus the option of complimentary daily massages for two in suite.

From SG$12,450

Shangri La Suite Singapore

Shangri La Suite Singapore

Donald Trump: Shangri-La Singapore

Not only will Shangri-La Suite guests arrive at the Valley Wing entrance – more exclusive than the main hotel lobby – they’ll also have their own personal entrance there. Then it’s a private elevator ride to the vast Shangri-La suite.

His ‘n hers dressing rooms (in the unlikely event Melania should accompany her husband), a gym and sauna await as well as personalized bathrobes, pillow cases and stationery. Butler service is available around the clock. Want gourmet cuisine or hawker food served on fine china at the walnut dining table? No problem.

As well as the master bedroom, there’s an ensuite twin – usually utilized by guest’s security detail.

From SG$8,800 plus taxes

Colonial Manor, Capella Singapore Colonial Manor, Capella Singapore

Should either leader wish to take a break during the summit itself, luckily The Capella has two presidential suites:

The summit: The Capella

The two presidential suites at this luxury Sentosa island hideaway (guests are picked up by from the airport by complimentary Mercedes) are actually standalone, historic houses. The two storey, three bedder manors – all perfectly preserved white columns and shutters – and are so special they have conservation status.

Colonial Manor, Capella Singapore Colonial Manor, Capella Singapore

And while the houses look 19th century colonial on the outside they’ve been furnished with a mix of tasteful shades of greige mod and antique Asian artefacts. Each manor also comes with the luxury of its own private garden and swimming pool (and we’re not talking plunge pool size). Watch out for the resident peacocks.

From $SG $11,000 plus taxes

 

In Celebration of World Gin Day

Raffles 1915 gin by Sipsmith Raffles 1915 gin by Sipsmith

[UPDATE: Raffles is closed for refurbishment until the end of 2018 but a pop up Long Bar is open at 3 Seah Street, next to the Raffles Gift Shop, and serving Singapore Slings.]

Take equal measures of quality and tradition, add a dash of modernity and a splash of serendipity, and you have the perfect recipe to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Raffles Hotel’s Singapore Sling.

The gin-based cocktail is said to have been invented at Raffles, Singapore by barman Ngiam Tong Boon in 1915. By chance Sam Galsworthy, the co-founder of Sipsmith artisan gin, visited the iconic hotel and requested a meeting with the F&B director the year before the landmark anniversary. And Galsworthy happens to be a descendant of Sir Stamford Raffles – the British statesman who founded Singapore and after whom the hotel was named.

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Update on the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park London

MOLON 2017 EXTERIOR DAY

[UPDATE: The Spa, Rosebery Room, Bar Boulud, Dinner by Heston Blumenthal and the Mandarin Bar re opened on December 4th 2018. There guest rooms are expected to reopen in spring 2019.]

Opposite Harvey Nichols, around the corner from Sloane Street and down the road from Harrods, the Mandarin is a shopaholics’ dream. Check in to one of the newly refurbished Knightsbridge rooms and you’ll have a view of the designer mothership, Harvey Nicks, at all times.

Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park London lobby 2017

Joyce Wang designed Lobby Lounge

The guest rooms and public spaces have been revamped by Joyce Wang, the designer responsible for The Landmark M.O. Hong Kong rooms and suites. Wang’s signature style of a light and contemporary take on 1930s glamour is much in evidence here. The designer has also taken inspiration from nearby Hyde Park with witty touches such as using horse hair as a feature in the hallway light fittings.

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Fans of chef Daniel Boulud will be pleased to know Bar Boulud is still in residence at the hotel, a favourite with the well heeled Knightsbridge crowd mid or post shopping. As well as signature charcuterie and burgers, the restaurant has introduced French regional specialities which will change seasonally. For Spring it’s the Basque Country with dishes such as traditional tapas and monkfish tail wrapped in Bayonne ham with crush potatoes.

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Daniel Boulud’s  Bar Boulud

The spa is due to reopen next month, redesigned by Adam H Tihany who is also responsible for the moody ground floor bar while two new penthouse suites will be revealed this July.

66 Knightsbridge, London SW1X 7LA

Tel +44 20 7235 2000

A Tantalising Time at the Capella

The Capella hotel, Singapore

Before I left London I had become mildly obsessed with fake tan. A new generation of self tanning treatments that promised non-orangey, non-streaky results coupled with a new awareness of the damage sunbathing can do to the skin meant that most women I knew were hitting the (fake tan) bottle. When I moved to Asia, it became evident that looking suntanned wasn’t so big among the Hong Kongers or Singaporeans in fact it was positively spurned. Slowly I began to embrace having pale skin too.

Recently though, following a trip back to London where everyone looked so golden limbed, I’ve been hankering after a tan again. And with the super strength of the rays here in Singapore a self tan seemed the way to go. Healthier still is the idea of a self tan from The Organic Pharmacy which rather than using chemicals is based on a 100 per cent natural ingredient derived from sugar beet. Auriga at the Capella hotel on Sentosa, which offers The Organic Pharmacy treatments and products, is one of my favourite spas in Singapore so I was pleased to see they’ve introduced the self tan. (Tip: If you do book a session here be sure to go a good half hour early so you can enjoy the heat and water rooms.)

Entrance to the Auriga Spa at the Capella Entrance to the Auriga Spa at the Capella

My friendly therapist explained the process to me – no oils on the skin beforehand, no showers afterwards for eight hours. As such she removed my make up with a non-oil based cleanser. She then used expert, massage strokes to first apply an exfoliator (green coffee which as well as sloughing off deadline skin tackles cellulite – bonus!). After a shower, the self tan cream was similarly expertly applied. I was asked how deep I wanted the tan to which I replied fairly light but you can go as dark as you like.

After a few minutes I noticed something: there was no strange chemical smell you normally associate with self tan lotions. Instead the aroma was more like an exotic massage oil. Better still, the cream took only one minute to dry and there was no feeling of stickiness or greasiness (a bug bear of mine).

I was told the tan would develop in three hours but after one I could already see a healthy glow. The next morning I woke with a lovely golden tan. If I’m being picky it was a bit patchy around the soles of the feet but that anyone would notice and had a faint fake tan, chemical smell but that disappeared the next day.

I was happy with the “natural” honey shade, not too dark for my colouring, just as I’d asked. The therapist told me the tan should last week, starting to fade after three days. I’m on day four and that seems spot on. I’m not sure my diary or my bank balance would allow me to go every week for a top up (although you can also buy a bottle to apply at home) but I would definitely return before a party or holiday.

[This piece was originally published in 2014]

Which Presidential Suite will Trump Plump for in Singapore?

Presidential Suite at the St Regis Singapore

Presidential Suite, St Regis

The hotel’s Beverly Hills meets Versailles vibe is writ large in its Presidential Suite. Lavish furnishings include painted silk panels, custom made crystal chandeliers and a water wall feature.

There’s also a baby grand piano and original works by big name artists.From the wraparound terrace there’s a panoramic view of the Botanic Gardens – and a hand polished brass swing from which to enjoy it.

A private chef will whip up dinner on the grill out there for guests or inside in the more genteel, 12 seater dining area if they prefer.

Presidential Suite, St Regis Singapore Presidential Suite, St Regis Singapore

As well as a gym there’s a Jacuzzi, jet shower, and marble steam chamber. Plus the option of complimentary daily massages for two in suite.

From SG$12,450

Shangri-La Suite, Shangri-La Singapore

Not only will Shangri-La Suite guests arrive at the Valley Wing entrance – more exclusive than the main hotel lobby – they’ll also have their own personal entrance there. Then it’s a private elevator ride to the vast Shangri-La suite.

His ‘n hers dressing rooms, a gym and sauna await as well as personalized bathrobes, pillow cases and stationery. Butler service is available around the clock. Want gourmet cuisine or hawker food served on fine china at the walnut dining table? No problem.

As well as the master bedroom, there’s an ensuite twin – usually utilized by guest’s security detail.

From SG$8,800 plus taxes

Colonial Manor, Capella Singapore Colonial Manor, Capella Singapore

Colonial Manor, The Capella

The two presidential suites at this luxury Sentosa island hideaway (guests are picked up by from the airport by complimentary Mercedes) are actually standalone, historic houses. The two storey, three bedder manors – all perfectly preserved white columns and shutters – and are so special they have conservation status.

Colonial Manor, Capella Singapore Colonial Manor, Capella Singapore

And while the houses look 19th century colonial on the outside they’ve been furnished with a mix of tasteful shades of greige mod and antique Asian artefacts. Each manor also comes with the luxury of its own private garden and swimming pool (and we’re not talking plunge pool size). Watch out for the resident peacocks.

From $SG $11,000 plus taxes

Extreme Wow Suite, W Singapore Extreme Wow Suite, W Singapore

Extreme Wow Suite, W Singapore Sentosa Cove

The W’s Extreme Wow suite lives up to its name with an abundance of marble and purple furnishings. And that’s just the start of it. All the pieces fall under the category of statement from the eye catching lighting and wall designs to the semi circular sofa and the standalone bar.

Extreme Wow Suite, W Singapore Extreme Wow Suite, W Singapore

Particularly stunning is the bathroom with a striking chandelier hanging over a circular bath, plush day bed and designer exercise bike. The overall feel is a cross between a nightclub and a playboy crash pad, right down to the DJ booth and inside and outside hot tubs. There’s also a pretty nice marina view for anyone who can tear their eyes away from the interiors.

From SG12,000 plus taxes

Chairman Suite, Marina Bay Sands Singapore

The Chairman Suite, Marina Bay Sands

Marina Bay Sands’ VIP Guests (they’re keeping schtum but we read that as celebrities and high rollers at the adjacent casino) are put up in the The Chairman’s suite.

With four bedrooms and bathrooms (all with Jacuzzis) and two living rooms it’s a biggie. As well as a sky scrapper view of the bay and South China Sea, there’s more than enough to keep an attention deficit celeb happy: a baby grand piano, media room and Karaoke plus gym, steam and sauna, massage room and hair salon (perfect for those impending media appearances).

Unfortunately though it’s only available by invitation.

Rates: Priceless

Top New London Hotels

If your appetite for UK travel has been whetted by Harry and Meghan’s wedding, you’ll be pleased to know that the flurry of new and refurbed luxury hotels in London recent years shows no sign of slowing down. Here’s the best of the most recent batch.

Best for a Couples Weekend:

Kettner’s Townhouse

Soho institution Kettner’s, one of London’s first French restaurants opened in the 19th century and frequented by the louche likes of Oscar Wilde, has been bought by the Soho House company. Based next door to the inaugural Soho House private members’ club on Greek Street (rumoured to be the setting for Harry and Meghan’s first date) it’s now a boutique hotel and is open to non House members.

Renamed Kettner’s Townhouse, the establishment has been restored to its deliciously decadent glory along with some urbane Soho House touches including Cowshed spa toiletries and fully stocked drinks trolleys. Purists may rest assured that both the Piano Bar and the Champagne Bar remain (the latter now open to hotel guests only) while the addition of bedrooms means you don’t have far to go after a night cap.

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Jacobean Suite at Kettner’s Townhouse

All the guestrooms are sumptuously decorated with opulent fabrics in rich colours. The Medium and Big categories feature roll top baths in the rooms while the showstopper Jacobean Suite has original wood paneling, a large sitting area and a stunning bathroom with a copper tub. This corner suite also has its own private entrance onto Soho.

In the revamped restaurant Kettner’s original fin de siècle spirit joyfully lives on. From the banquet seating and antique silverware to the classic French menu and white jacketed wait staff. Try the excellent chicken liver parfait followed by the truffle roast chicken with pommes anna. Even if you’re the sort who usually skips dessert, don’t miss the pink grapefruit coupe – a champagne glass of sorbet topped up with Ruinart, deliciously refreshing.

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Kettner’s Townhouse restaurant

In keeping with the Soho House creative rather than corporate ethos, laptops are frowned upon so the place feels more pleasure than business. And breakfast is served until an ultra civilised 12pm.

29 Romilly St, Soho, London W1D 5HP

Tel +44 207 734 5650

Best for Culture Vultures:

The Mandrake

The first sign that this is no ordinary hotel is the eye catching sculpture in the window. Then there’s the fact that the dramatic tunnel entrance manned by a sharply dressed greeter feels more like a nightclub than a hotel. Inside, the public areas feature a bounty of fascinating and eclectic artworks and artefacts collected by the owners on their travels. A monthly changing artist in residency means there’s also a constantly evolving selection of art on show throughout the hotel.

In the basement of this former television production studio, cultural wellbeing classes are held regularly. Weekly Gong Baths – a meditation class using Tibetan prayer bowls – are particularly popular with locals working in the creative Fitzrovia area, just north of Soho and close to Theatreland.

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The Mandrake

While the suites at The Mandrake are also dark and theatrical, the Terrace bedrooms open out onto a shared deck lined with living walls of jasmine and passionflowers and overlooking the courtyard below.

Jewel in the crown is Serge et le Phoque, first outpost of the Michelin starred Hong Kong restaurant. Go for the omosake Chef’s Tasting Menu which is a magical mystery tour of clever cooking through Frédéric Peneau’s artfullyexecuted modern European dishes. While the entire table must order the menu, unusually a succinct three courses are on offer as well as five or seven. Opt for the wine pairings as well – the somm here, Bert Blaize, is Young Sommelier of the Year.

20-21 Newman Street, London W1T 1PG

Tel +44 203 146770

Best for Business:

The Principal London

This imposing terracotta tiled and turreted mansion on Russell Square first opened as a hotel in 1898 and has just been refurbished and rebranded. The new owner, Principal, has retained the former Russell Hotel’s Victorian grandeur including marble columns, mosaic floor tiles and soaring ceilings but the place has been brought firmly into the present with the help of top interior designers including Tara Bernerd who has brought a cool and calming aesthetic to the lobby and guestrooms.

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A Tara Bernerd designed suite at The Principal London

Of the several F&B outlets, Burr & Co is a casual space for a meeting over coffee while Fitz’s, designed by Russell Sage, has a part Belle Epoque, part traditional London gentleman’s club feel (depending on which side of the bar you choose) for evening drinks.

The City Singles rooms featuring custom made single beds with wraparound headboards are a hit with the solo business traveller (The Principal is on the doorstep of commercial district Holborn which separates the City from the West End). A clutch of meeting rooms are due to open over the next few months and there’s a 24 hour gym if/when jet lag strikes.

1-8 Russell Square, London WC1B 5BE

Tel +44 203 553 6112

Best for Shopaholics:

Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park

Opposite Harvey Nichols, around the corner from Sloane Street and down the road from Harrods, the Mandarin is a shopaholics’ dream. Check in to one of the newly refurbished Knightsbridge rooms and you’ll have a view of the designer mothership, Harvey Nicks, at all times (sweetie).

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The Lobby Lounge at the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park

The guest rooms and public spaces have been revamped by Joyce Wang, the designer responsible for The Landmark M.O. Hong Kong rooms and suites. Wang’s signature style of a light and contemporary take on 1930s glamour is much in evidence here. The designer has also taken inspiration from nearby Hyde Park with witty touches such as using horse hair as a feature in the hallway light fittings.

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A Turret Suite at the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park

Fans of chef Daniel Boulud will be pleased to know Bar Boulud is still in residence at the hotel, a favourite with the well heeled Knightsbridge crowd mid or post shopping. As well as signature charcuterie and burgers, the restaurant has introduced French regional specialities which will change seasonally. For Spring it’s the Basque Country with dishes such as traditional tapas and monkfish tail wrapped in Bayonne ham with crush potatoes.

The spa is due to reopen next month, redesigned by Adam H Tihany who is also responsible for the moody ground floor bar while two new penthouse suites will be revealed this summer.

66 Knightsbridge, London SW1X 7LA

Tel +44 20 7235 2000

Best for Families:

The Bloomsbury

Practically opposite the British Museum, The Bloomsbury has completed a major face lift including bright new bedrooms and an enchanting outdoor restaurant, Dalloway Terrace (a nod to famous past resident writer Virginia Woolf of the Bloomsbury Set).

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Dalloway Terrace at The Bloomsbury Hotel

The terrace is charmingly decorated in foliage which changes according to the seasons so right now it’s filled with spring flowers which will segue into summer blooms in the coming months. (And yes, there are heaters and blankets for colder times.)

The hotel offers a concierge service tailored to children, kid’s robes and toiletries await in the room and there’s milk and cookies for your little ones at turn down. If you’re staying in a Studio Suite or Luxury Suite you can also book a Teepee for up 12 year olds to sleep in.

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The Coral Room at The Bloomsbury Hotel

Take advantage of the baby sitting service to enjoy a cocktail in The Coral Room, the hotel’s gorgeous new art deco inspired bar.

16-22 Great Russell Street, London, WCIB 3NN
Tel +44 20 7347 1000

A version of this story was originally published by Robb Report Singapore

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