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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.

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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: Following the fire yesterday at the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park London the hotel is closed until further notice. No cancellation fees will be incurred for guests with upcoming bookings. For guest enquiries call +44 (0) 20 7235 2000 and for reimbursement enquires call +44 (0) 20 7201 3643 or email kgisler@mohg.com]

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).

MOLON Lobby Lounge (L)

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.

MOLON 2017 TURRET SUITE BEDROOM

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

Feeling Like Royalty at Raffles

[UDPATE: Raffles Singapore is now closed for restoration. The hotel is due to open in mid 2018 with updates including three new suite categories and a restaurant under the direction of Alain Ducasse.]

Checking into Raffles is an uplifting experience. When you pull up the gravel driveway outside the white wedding cake of a hotel in the heart of Singapore, you’re greeted by a toweringly tall sikh doorman, bearded and turbaned and wearing an imposing sashed uniform. He ushers you into the lobby, all cool marble flooring and fluted columns that reach up three lofty storeys. There is none of the hubbub of other hotels – only guests or “residents” are allowed inside – so the atmosphere is reassuringly calm and rarified. To borrow from Holly Golightly, you feel as though nothing bad could ever happen at Raffles.

Raffles’ lofty and serene lobbyWe’re shown, not to the Presidential Suite, where William and Kate recently stayed, but to the Somerset Maugham suite, number 102, overlooking the Palm Court. There have been many additions and alterations since Raffles first opened 125 years ago in December but this wing is the most serene. The view invites you to sink into a rattan chair on the balustraded veranda and sip a welcome Singapore Sling brought to you by your butler. So we do.

All the suites (there’s nothing so hum drum as a room at Raffles) are vast compared to modern hotels. They come with a veranda and a sitting room to the front and a huge bathroom to the back. Don’t expect a zen wetroom but instead Victorian tiles, a liberal amount of marble and brass fittings. Number 102 was Somerset Maugham’s favourite and is now the hotel’s most frequently requested suite. As well as the usual dark wooden floors, half tester bed, oriental rugs and antiques, our suite has framed pictures of and letters from W Somerset Maugham lining the walls, a writing desk and a smattering of the author’s novels. I suddenly feel under pressure.

The hotel’s Palm CourtTime for a cocktail. We cross the courtyard into the main building to the Writers Bar. Some people will encourage you to visit the famous Long Bar and throw peanut shells on the floor but the Writers Bar is lovelier; an exclusive little nook off the lobby. Billecart Salmon Ultra Brut champagne is on offer here – an exclusive in Singapore, cleverly chosen for its lightness in the searing Singapore heat.

After the resident pianist plays Noel Coward’s I’ll See You Again at 8pm on the dot, we move into the adjoining Raffles Grill for dinner. An engaging waitress talks us competently through the menu and to start I choose the steamed foie gras which has a delicious salty topping and served with a pear that’s been poached for two hours in red wine.

The halibut main course comes with a nice crust of butter on the skin with punchy tomatoes on the side and is paired with a wonderful minerally Pouilly Fume. To finish, there’s a chocolate souffle which is all that it should be. Eric appears with a gigantic bottle of ’88 Armagnac and it would be churlish to refuse but after that it really is time for bed.

The next morning we climb the Gone with the Wind staircase that leads up from the lobby and head to the swimming pool, tucked away on the third floor. Set in a walled roof terrace with trellises covered in climbing plants, terracotta urns, flowering trees and striped towels on sun loungers, it’s part Italian garden, part beach club. Wonderfully I have the pool to myself save for a dragonfly.

The outdoor swimming pool oasis at Raffles Singapore

The outdoor swimming pool oasis at Raffles Singapore. I’m just about hungry now so we go for breakfast in the Tiffin Room – an airy, colonial style restaurant with white pillars and ceiling fans on the opposite side of the lobby to Raffles Grill. There’s the usual five star buffet arrangement which is very well done but also an interesting a la carte menu. I order the Raffles Omelette – a spicy empire days inspired dish of eggs, peppers and chilli powder. Just the trick after a late night.

We return tot he Tiffin Room for lunch to try Raffles’ famous Indian buffet (while you’re staying here you really should eat inside the glorious main building as often as you can). the buffet is a spread of northern Indian hot and cold starters, chutneys, curries and vegetables with standouts such as cucumber masala salad and vohrnignt cooked black lentils. The highlight though is the chef’s specially prepared curry (on this occasion a rum soaked lamb dish) served as a generously proportioned amuse bounce and mopped up with freshly made naan breads.

The grandfather clock in the lobby is chiming signalling that it’s time to leave. I do so reluctantly. So long Raffles, I’ll see you again.

http://www.raffles.com/singapore

Alain Ducasse returns to stellar form in Hong Kong with Rech restaurant

Rech by Alain Ducasee Interconti HK.jpg

[UDATE Rech by Alain Ducasse at the InterContinental Hong Kong has been awarded one star in the Hong Kong and Macau 2018 Michelin Guide.]

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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Aman Shanghai to open in January

Antique Villa Exterior_High Res_14959.jpg

Aman Resorts’ fourth hotel in China, named Amanyangyun after the ancient Chinese phrase Yang Yun meaning “the nurturing of clouds” and will open on January 8th 2018.

This “renovation like no other” has been a ten year plus project to save and transplant endangered ancient trees and historic buildings from the flood planes of Jiangxi.

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Some 50 Ming and Qing Dynasty houses have been preserved and reconstructed by master craftsman in their new home just outside Shanghai. And traditional Chinese architects have added new buildings to blend with the historic structures.

Antique Villa

Pool Deck

Pool Deck

10,000 camphor trees have also made the 800 kilometre journey, overseen by expert botanists. They’ve been replanted in native soil and face the same direction as they had previously. Three years later they are said to be flourishing.

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As well as the historic houses which are now four bedroomed villas with pools, there are newly built one bedroom club suites designed by Kerry Hill Associates the architect behind Aman Tokyo.

Club Suite

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Amanyangung also features several dining options, a Club Lounge, banqueting hall and of course a spa – set to be one of the biggest in the Aman collection.

[A version of this story was originally posted in February 2017]

Dining Terrace

Dining Terrace

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http://www.aman.com

The Orient Express Revisited

VSOE-EXT-SCE-08.jpg VSOE

Now synonymous with Agatha Christie and that infamous journey, the original Euro Night train number 469, monikered the more romantic sounding “Express d’Orient”, made its inaugural journey from Paris bound for Constantinople in October 1883. The train which Christie caught, and placed her fictional sleuth Hercule Poirot onboard, however was the Simplon Orient-Express – one of several luxury sleeper trains that cropped up as an offshoot linking the port town of Calais in northern France with Istanbul (previously Constantinople) and ran through the 1920s and 30s.

Luxury trains fell out of favour with the advent of the second world war and airplane travel. Then American businessman James B Sherwood bought a few antique carriages at auction in Monte Carlo in 1977 which seemingly sparked a quest for him to seek out more vintage carriages. After finding them variously abandoned in sidings and people’s gardens across Europe, used as pigeon transporters and in one case a brothel, they were lovingly restored to their Art Deco splendour and launched as the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express in 1982.

One of the carriages bought by Sherwood at auction in Monaco was sleeping car 3425. It is the oldest of the sleeping cars on the VSOE having been built in 1926 and was marooned in a snow drift 60 miles from Istanbul for 10 days in 1929 (allegedly sparking the idea for a certain murder mystery).

And the Venice Simplon-Orient Express (a mouthful but now the official name for legal reasons) is in the spotlight once again with the release of the new Kenneth Branagh film Murder on the Orient Express starring Judi Dench, Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfieffer and Penelope Cruz. So what’s it like to travel onboard? You’ll be greeted aboard by your be-capped and white gloved personal cabin steward who’ll take care of you for your entire trip. Firstly by showing you to your cosy cabin where your luggage will already be waiting.

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The twin cabins come with bunk beds – probably the most deluxe ones you’ve encountered with an upholstered ladder. During the day time there’s no sign of your sleeping arrangements but when you return from dinner your cabin steward will have cleverly transformed your sofa into cosy beds with crisp sheets and fine blankets. After breakfast perhaps while you’re taking a stroll the length of the train, your steward will whisk away the beds and your cabin will once again become a sitting area. In true authentic fashion, each cabin has a concealed washbasin while loos are found at the end of each carriage.

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As well as the famous sleeping cars the train is made up of three dining cars and a bar car complete with grand piano and resident pianist. Each carriage features polished wood, beautiful marquetry, plush fabrics and antique details.

 

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The VSOE operates on continental Europe – contrary to popular belief the it does not travel to the UK. Rather, the train is embarked or disembarked at Calais and the journey to or from London is completed through the Euro tunnel and the Belmond British Pullman train once in Britain.

While the most popular route is to and from Venice, just once a year the VSOE makes a five night journey between Paris and Istanbul. The exclusive journey follows the route of the inaugural 1883 train journey stopping in Prague, Budapest and Bucharest along the way.

 

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While the Venice journeys have a feel of celebration the journey to Istanbul is about adventure, says general  manager Pascal Deyrolle. The six day journey from Paris Gare de l’Est station follows in the footsteps of the original train route in 1883. As the VSOE journeys towards the edge of Europe passengers stop for overnight stays at hotels in Budapest in Hungary and Bucharest in Romania with the rest of the nights spent onboard.

After crossing the Danube from Romania into Bulgaria the train arrives in Varna, a beach resort town with a surprisingly grand station building with a wonderful Art Nouveau roof. You’ll spot the Black Sea and then smell the scent of the ocean in the air when you disembark, just as the original passengers experienced. On the early routes, passengers would disembark at Varna and cross the Black Sea by ferry before picking up another train.

Crossing the border from Bulgaria to Turkey, the train stops and all the passengers alight to have their passports stamped in person at the customs booth. Pascal admits to being worried about how passengers would react but has found that they think it’s fun and enjoy chatting to their fellow passengers on the platform as well as the passersby who gather to look at the train. “It’s a social element on the platform. It’s absolutely my favourite aspect of the trip,” says Pascal.

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VSOE

Guests are encouraged to dress up onboard so cocktails and dinner is particularly fun with everyone in Art Deco inspired frocks and Black Tie. The bar car can be a bit of a crush with guests crowding in between the two dinner sittings but a Champagne Bar has been created within one of the dining cars. Most importantly, like all the best bars it doesn’t close until the last guest has gone to bed.

https://www.belmond.com/trains/europe/venice-simplon-orient-express/

 

 

 

Amanbagh: a Rajasthani Retreat

Pool and main building at night

Deep in the Rajasthani countryside Amanbagh is the perfect antidote to energetic Jaipur.  The former royal hunting ground turned exclusive retreat is part of the elite Aman resorts. As we draw near the landscape becomes rockier and the road bumpier until we reach the ancient walled grounds of Amanbagh. Within are palm, mango and fig trees and a camel trots down the driveway ahead of us. “He is Babu, our in house camel,” explains our driver. Lucky old Babu being an Aman camel I can’t help but think.

Although Amanbagh is 21st century built it’s classic fairytale India in its design: all romantic domes and archways, colonnades and courtyards, in pink marble and sandstone. Our room is a Pool Pavilion, a standalone villa with its own private swimming pool. We spend most of our time in the terraced garden and are joined variously by families of monkeys and colourful butterflies and birds that swoop over the pool.

Main pathways

Pool pavilion pool

Some guests come to Amanbagh for safari trips to the nearby Sariska Tiger Reserve (further afield Ranthambore may be more well known but Sariska is less crowded and has a high rate of tiger sightings); others book in for the four to 21 day Ayurvedic programmes. And there are easily doable day trips to lesser visited sites such as the temples of Neelkanth, serene Somsagar Lake (good for picnics or meditation) and the abandoned city of Bhangarh where you are more likely to encounter monkeys and peacocks than other tourists. As such it makes for a special place for a yoga session. But one of the unique, unforgettable experiences of Amanbagh is simply to witness rural Rajasthani life around you.

One evening we joined aarti at the local roadside temple where devout locals banged drums, rang bells and chanted to herald the last hour of prayer. Another night we joined The Cow Dust Tour, so named after the Indian phrase for the time of day when the cows are lead home, stirring up dust as they go.

Ajabgarh fort

Just before dusk we head out in an open topped jeep and pass a smattering of chhatri, a hillside fort and temple (once connected by tunnel) and a “haunted” village. In the golden light we pass camel and carts and goats being herded. Long, loopy tailed langur monkeys regard us from stone walls and smaller macaque monkeys crouch overhead in the trees. There’s an abundance of peacocks and it’s easy to see why this area is a bird watchers’ paradise even though at the time of our visit many have already migrated.

Women in brightly coloured safaris and headscarves of orange, yellow and purple farm the fields for wheat or okra, the former impressively balanced on their heads in huge parcels and the latter a local speciality that later we see being sold in the village centres. As we drive through tiny enclaves small children run out waving and calling “goodbye!” to us and we are invited in for chai several times.

Dining Terrace

That evening we sample both okra and goat on the Amanbagh’s superb pan Indian menu. We eschew the pleasant air conditioned dining room each meal for the terrace, overlooking the fabulous swimming pool and serenaded every night by traditional musicians. There are also opportunities for private dining on the lantern lit roof terrace or more intrepid locations in the surrounding countryside.

Experiences Chhatri dinner

As with all Amans there’s a calming energy about the resort that’s hard to leave. And of course the spa is fantastic (the suites are particularly stunning). As well as ayurvedic treatments, following a consultation with a traditional Indian medicine doctor, there’s a range of body treatments on offer such as the Maharaja or Maharani massage which I opt for. The masseuse applied just the right amount of firm pressure to sort out my back tension and I emerged feeling as if I was walking taller.

Spa

And if you haven’t had your fill of shopping by the time you reach Amanbagh, the boutique here has a tight, expert edit from some of Jaipur’s finest including The Gem Palace and Kashmir Loom. This being Aman they promise to fetch more from Jaipur if you wish.

https://www.aman.com/resorts/amanbagh

 

In the Pink at Sujan Rajmahal Palace

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Sujan Rajmahal Palace

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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Sujan Rajmahal Palace

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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Sujan Rajmahal Palace

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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Sujan Rajmahal Palace

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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Sujan Rajmahal Palace

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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Sujan Rajmahal Palace

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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Sujan Rajmahal Palace

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

 

In Singapore for business or the F1 or both?

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View of Singapore skyline from the Lantern Bar, Fullerton Bay Hotel

Then follow Chopstix’s guide to Singapore’s CBD and beyond…

The small city state island of Singapore is immaculately clean and lusciously green with gleaming new skyscrapers juxtaposed by colonial era buildings and plenty of glossy shopping malls and restaurants. Dig a little deeper and you’ll find traditional shophouses with shuttered windows and fronted by undercover walk ways in Chinatown and Little India and a melting pot of cuisines in Singapore’s signature hawker centres.

Being practically on the equator The Lion City has two types of weather: hot and wet or hot and wetter. Although the “wet” season is around September to February there is no bad time to visit. Carry an umbrella with you at all times anyway – either to protect from the downpours or the sun.

 

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The Lantern Bar, Fullerton Bay Hotel

If you’re doing business in the CBD you’ll be spoilt for choice for lunch spots after work hang outs in this compact area bordered by the Singapore river and the bay. A perennial favourite is The Lantern Bar, a glamorous pool side terrace on top of the chic Fullerton Bay hotel and overlooking the water.

The art deco-esque Black Swan is great for salads and surf and turf in a sultry but casual while a short hop over the river, Gunther’s in a charming shophouse serves contemporary French fare to the expense account set.

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Odette at the National Gallery Singapore

The city’s Civic District has recently been spruced up with the main gem being the National Gallery, a stunning monolith that’s actually two colonial structures conjoined with some clever modern architecture. Inside holds the largest collection of Southeast Asian art and the F&B outlets are equally impressive including French fine diner, Odette, and National Kitchen by Violet Oons, the doyenne of Singa’s dining scene with her Peranaken cuisine – a hybrid of Chinese and Malay cooking. Smoke & Mirrors on the top floor is a terrace bar that overlooks the Padang, the bay and CBD

Further afield on Orchard Road is Iggy’s. Owner, wine connoisseur and convivial host, Ignatius Chan was at the forefront of bringing fine dining to Singapore. Newer names have come on the scene but Iggy’s still holds its own with a recent refurb and new chef. 

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Iggy’s, Singapore

A short taxi drive away is the glorious Singapore’s Botannic Gardens. This sprawling tropical eden includes lakes, secluded pathways and the famous Orchid enclave. Go early in the morning or late afternoon like the locals do when the heat is less oppressive. 

Uniquely Singaporean are the Hawker Centres – food stalls grouped together in covered settings and complete with health and safety ratings – so essentially street food for softies. The centrally located Lau Pa Sat is the prettiest with its Victorian wrought iron carousel design. If you’re only going to order one thing make it the satays

Stay

The Warehouse Hotel

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Singapore’s most talked about hotel opening of the year is a converted riverside warehouse among the busy eateries of Robertson Quay. The space retains its industrial design flavour with some quirky details thrown in. 

Parkroyal on Pickering

Based on the fringes of both Chinatown and the CBD the hotel has a spectacular, verdant design and includes an infinity pool with city skyline view.

Krug puts the Fun into Fungi with champagne and mushroom trail

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Krug x Mushroom dish at Jaan

Krug has launched an exclusive champagne and mushroom tasting trail across top restaurants in Singapore from now until September 30th 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

An added amusement, and unique to the Lion City, is that diners can collect stamps for a Forest to Fork “passport” after they sample the dishes at each restaurant. Krug lovers probably don’t need any incentive to try the entire trail but even so the first 10 people to collect three stamps stand to win a bottle of Krug Grand Cuvee Edition 163 and for all five stamps, the first five win a magnum.

 

“The Lamborghini of Ice Cream”

 

Morelli's hot fudge sundae

[UPDATE: If you’re heading to Malaysia or The Philippines over the stifling hot summer, make a stop at Morelli’s Gelato for some soft scoop Italian ice cream.]

As a child Bibi Morelli use to watch her grandfather, father and uncles make ice cream at the parlour her great grandfather, Mario, opened in Kent. Mario’s father, Giuseppe Morelli, emigrated to the English seaside resort of Broadstairs in 1907 where, like many other newly arrived Italians, he set about making ice cream from a family recipe. He’d churn the fresh cream, milk, sugar and eggs the night before and the next day, when the ice cream was ready, he’d sell it from a cart attached to the back of his bicycle.

Morelli ice cream became a hit with the locals and eventually Mario took over the business followed by his son, also called Giuseppe, and then his son – Bibi’s father – Marino. Clearly she has fond memories of her childhood. “I remember when I was growing up we used to have pasta followed by ice cream for dinner – that was my favourite meal,” Bibi laughs.

Although she was born into an ice cream dynasty, Bibi had no thoughts of joining the family firm herself. “Absolutely not,” says the glamorous blonde who until a few years ago worked as a lawyer in the City of London. “I was quite happy working in the banking world and then my dad said he was going to retire. I thought: ‘It’s all going to end now, after all these generations,’ and that was really sad so I resigned from my job.” Bibi learned everything about the business in less than three years and has set upon an expansion plan that will see Morelli’s open in Las Vegas and Dubai [there are also now outlets in Manila, Kuala Lumpur and Subang]

Morelli's Amore

Meanwhile, Morelli’s ice cream parlour in Broadstairs is a homage to retro. From the chrome and neon signage outside to the rattan chairs and Formica fittings inside, there’s no mistaking that this is a company with a heritage. At the time when hip new ice cream brands seem to be launching every week, the retro aspect is what marks Morelli’s out and Bibi has been keen to play on that. “The ice cream parlour was built in the 1930s and was last remodelled in the 1950s and I won’t let anyone touch it!”

Until recently the parlour still used its original 1930s silver: dinky ice cream pots, long handled spoons and elegant teapots. “But people started stealing them,” says Bibi. Not that the brand hans’t moved with the times. At the end of 2003, Morelli’s Gelato opened with Harrods Food Hall – an ice cream bar as slickly modern as the Broadstairs parlour is charmingly nostalgic [now closed]. But the recognisable touches are there – the ice cream comes in a glass sundae or Knickerbocker Glory dish, adorned with over the top umbrellas, pompoms and teddy bear wafers. And there’s a gorgeous old fashioned ice cream cart – a nod to the original one used by Giuseppe available to hire (price on application).

“Although we have the provenance I want to be contemporary as well,” Bibi emphasises. “We have everything from traditional to modern but there are elements that will never change. I want Morelli’s to be the Lamborghini of ice cream!”

Morelli's Baccio

Certainly the product is top notch. “Most people don’t realised there’s a difference between fresh ice cream and frozen,” says Bibi. “Frozen could have been hanging around for months. We make all our own ice cream on site and anything that isn’t sold at the end of the day is discarded.” Only fresh double cream, eggs, milk and sugar are used and ingredients are souped from Italy with Bibi herself making trips to her father’s homeland to deal with suppliers and seek out produce. “We get the pistachios from Sicily and the hazelnuts from Piedmont,” she says as we look at the tantalising range of ice cream on display.

Morelli’s makes some 60 flavours of ice cream and while vanilla, chocolate and strawberry are the most requested, their new creations include fig and mascarpone, Parmesan and pear, and Gorgonzola and honey. Then there’s the bespoke service where you can have any flavour you desire made for you.

Morelli's Berry Pavlova

With such exotic concoctions laid out before me I’m almost too embarrassed to admit that vanilla is my favourite flavour but Bibi confesses it’s hers too: “But ours is a soft vanilla, you have to try it.” Gino Soldan, who looks like a young Frank Sinatra and is the Morelli’s ice cream maker at Harrods, appears with a scoop of ice cream. It is absolutely divine.

“Try one of these,” Bibi urges as Gino slides a silver dish in front of me. It’s one of Morelli’s new ice cream truffles – a small chocolate sphere containing hazelnut ice cream. Again it’s a sign of Bibi’s forward thinking, taking hold fashioned Italian ice cream and wrapping it up in a sophisticated package.

Bibi is off to Italy this afternoon on another sourcing trip – to San Remo where her grandmother lives. “there’s a fantastic restaurant there where every dish uses mushrooms,” she enthuses. Obviously she knows and enjoys good food but surprisingly that doesn’t extend to her being diva in the kitchen. “If anyone who knows me reads me staying Enjoy cooking they’ll laugh!” she says. And then she dashes off to catcher her plane, and no doubt enjoy grandma’s home cooking.

[This piece was originally published in 2006]

Morelli’s Gelato has outlets in Manila at the Shangri La and Rockwell Mall as well as at Bangsar in KL and the Empire Shopping Gallery in Subang.

Five Luxury Family Holidays in Asia

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Villas overlooking the rice field at Dhara Dhevi, Chiang Mai

Luxury resorts catering to multigenerations have evolved enormously in recent years offering children’s cooking classes and spa treatments to wildlife excursions and cultural activities for the whole family. And multigenerational or 3G holidays where grandparents, parents and kids holiday together, are on the rise fuelling even more demand for a great family getaway. Here are five of the best luxury resorts in Asia that offer more than the usual kid’s clubs.

Dhara Dhevi, Chiang Mai

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Dhara Dhevi, Chiang Mai

This northern Thai resort resembles an impressive film set of a Lanna style enclave. A paddy field at its heart is surrounded by two storey teak villas some with their own pools. Both kids and adults can ride on the paddy’s resident water buffalo and learn about rice planting (above). Over at the rustic Arts and Crafts Village families can try out traditional Lanna skills such as rice pounding, bamboo weaving and paper cutting. There are also child specific activities including meditation and yoga in a one hundred year old wooden house. Leaving parents free to visit the stunning spa.

http://www.dharadhevi.com

The Datai, Langkawi

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The Datai, Langkawi

With its enchanting rainforest setting, The Datai has access to mangroves and waterways as well as being close to the sea. Accommodation spans rooms in the main house to Rainforest or Beach Villas. There’s a variety of restaurants too most beguiling of which is the treehouse like Pavilion, on 30 metres high stilts and shaded by the forest (above). Monkeys roam freely around the resort. Resident naturalist Irshad Mobarak guides complementary morning and evening walks through the rainforest pointing out plants and wildlife such as flying lemurs. Families may book a number of adventures including kayaking through the mangroves to spot kingfishers and eagles, trekking though the jungle and swimming in natural pools.

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Children’s Beach Combing at The Datai

http://www.thedatai.com

[UPDATE: The Datai closed on September 4th 2017 for refurbishment and will re open July 2018]

Cheval Blanc Randheli, Maldives

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Teens’ Club at Cheval Blanc Randheli

Part of the prestigious Cheval Blanc stable, Randheli has been slickly designed by the starchitect Jean-Michel Gathy. There are trademark romantic over-water pavilions but also family friendly Island villas which have two bedrooms and a large outside dining area. No details have been overlooked with specially designed mini furniture and food and drink menus for kids. As well as dedicated play areas for children and teenagers with wall to wall activities, the resort organises Mini Olympics where the whole family can take part in swim races, volleyball, beach football and rope pulling. Finished off with a barbecue on the beach.

http://www.randheli.chevalblanc.com/en

Soori, Bali

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Pool villa at Alila Villas Soori

Soori, on the quieter West coast of Bali, is an all-villa resort, all of which with plunge pools and most have direct access to the beach. The pared back, modern design carries on in the restaurants (though in villa dining is very popular here) and the spa (which has children’s treatments). Journeys for the Little Ones offer children an insight into local life and culture. Choose from visiting a nearby bat cave, traditional Balinese kite making (and flying), creating terracotta pieces with a local craftsman, learning to bake with the pastry chef or dressing up and learning to dance like a Balinese princess. Move over Disney.

http://www.sooribali.com

Amanpuri, Phuket

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A pool villa at Amanpuri

Set in a coconut grove on an isolated peninsula of the island, Amanpuri is designed to appeal as much to Aman Juniors as Aman Junkies. Two bedroomed pavilions overlooking the sea come with a private swimming pool and outdoor dining area. With their parents present, Aman Juniors may try spa treatments, snorkel and kayak in the Andaman Sea or take a dingy out to an ocean platform to feed the fish. Amanpuri also has its own fleet of boats from sleek yachts to a Chinese junk for swimming, snorkeling or scuba diving or a cruise to nearby islands.

http://www.aman.com/resorts/amanpuri

Best Presidential Suites in Hong Kong

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The Peninsula Suite

 

The Peninsula

The grande dame of Hong Kong hotels has had a little nip and tuck recently including the presidential show piece: The Peninsula Suite.

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Top 3 Hotels (and their Restaurants) for Hong Kong’s 20th SAR Anniversary

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View of Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbour from the Kerry Hotel

2017 marks the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong’s SAR so expect an even more fireworks than usual (ahem). The celebrations start at 8pm on July 1st so make sure you have your hotel room and restaurant booked. These are our three top spots – all on the Kowloon side for optimum viewing:

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Countdown to the second Singapore Michelin Guide

[UPDATE: One week to go until the second Michelin Guide Singapore is announced on June 29th 2017 at The Fullerton Hotel. The inaugural event was held at RW Sentosa and pundits were a little surprised when four of that venues restaurants were awarded Michelin stars. With the gala held at The Fullerton this year can we expect to see one the hotel’s eateries such as Jade awarded?

The evening will include a five course dinner with dishes created by the chefs Seita Nakahara of Terra, Singapore (one Michelin star), Jason Tan of Corner House, Singapore (one star), Tam Kwok Fung of Jade Dragon (two stars), Macau and Curtis Duffy of three Michelin starred Grace in Chicago. Read on for our thoughts on the current, 2016 list]

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The Rivers Less Travelled – New Journeys in Myanmar

 

The intriguing Southeast Asian country of Myanmar, flanked by Thailand, Laos, China and India, has opened up to tourism in recent years and one of the best ways to see the country is by boat. As many of the roads in Myanmar are in poor condition, some villages and areas can only been accessed via the waterways. Belmond Orcaella, a boutique sized river cruiser, is designed to reach remote, less travelled areas of Myanmar between July and March, avoiding the hottest and rainiest months of the year.

As a passenger you may choose to start your journey in the bucolic central region of Myanmar at Bagan or Mandalay, or alternatively at Yangon in the south of the country near the Bay of Bengal. Yangon, the former capital, is home to the stunning Shwedagon Pagoda, fascinating markets and historic colonial buildings as well as Southeast Asia’s largest reclining Buddha. Waterways connect Yangon to the great Ayeyerwady River which runs north to south through the centre of Myanmar. So for guests staying at Belmond’s Governor’s Residence hotel in Yangon (below) it’s possible to begin your trip here.

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Back to Bombana

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Chef Umberto Bombana is the recipient of Asia’s Best Restaurants’ Lifetime Achievement Award 2017

[UPDATE: Never let it be said that Chopstix isn’t prepared to admit changing our minds from time to time. On our recent return visit to 8 and a half Otto e Mezzo Bombana we were pleasantly surprised at the vast improvement in service. There seems to be a high ratio of staff to customers and the whole operation is now very slick. We’re still not sure about the 3 Michelin stars but nonetheless less, bravo Bombana. Read on for our original review.]

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Veuve Clicquot’s Extraordinary new Champagne

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This week Veuve Clicquot launched its newest champagne in Hong Kong and Singapore. While the name Extra Brut, Extra Old may not roll off the tongue this champagne is certainly very pleasing upon it.

Extra Brut, Extra Old is made entirely from the house’s reserve wines – a first for Veuve Clicquot, and it is thought, for champagne. Blending still wines from 1988 to 2010 cellar master Dominique Demarville has achieved a champagne that is delicate, fresh and silky.

“The lower dosage is a consequence of using the reserve wine. And it’s Extra Old because of the double ageing,” says Dominique. “It’s a traditional at Veuve Clicquot to age on the lees to get the complexity of taste and the creaminess of texture. [For this champagne] we put the wines the bottle for a second ageing.”

The reduced sugar of the lower dosage also means it pairs well with food so look out for it on wine lists across the Fragrant Harbour and the Lion City.

http://www.veuveclicquot.com

Rocking the Red Carpet at Cannes

70th Anniversary Red Carpet Arrivals - The 70th Annual Cannes Film Festival

In the darkest of days sometimes it’s good to have some beauty to look at and frippery to indulge in. Here: dazzling diamond jewels by Chopard worn by Charlize Theron and Liu Wen on the red carpet of the 70th anniversary of the Cannes Film Fesitval.  Because they Cannes Cannes Cannes…. (with apologies to Baz Luhrmann and Moulin Rouge!)

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Some thoughts on the first Singapore Michelin Guide

Michelin announced the first selection of the MICHELIN guide Singapore 2016-2

The Michelin Star winners in Singapore

[UPDATE: The Michelin Guide Singapore will be announced on June 29th 2017 at The Fullerton Hotel. The event will include a five course dinner with dishes created by the chefs Seita Nakahara of Terra, Singapore (one Michelin star), Jason Tan of Corner House, Singapore (one star), Tam Kwok Fung of Jade Dragon (two stars), Macau and Curtis Duffy of three Michelin starred Grace in Chicago.]

Before the inaugural Michelin Guide Singapore was launched on July 21st I was sure of two things: that at least one hawker stall would gain a star and that Joel Robuchon would be awarded three. The former because I could see the headlines about “the world’s cheapest Michelin starred restaurant” pinging around the world (and so could Michelin, I’ll wager) and the latter because Robuchon tends to collect three Michelin stars around the globe as naturally as breathing.

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Star Chefs on the Rise in Hong Kong

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Pierre Gagniere in Central, Hong Kong

 

Hong Kong is set for another influx of Western celebrity chefs as Yannick Alleno’s long awaited bistro, Terroir Parisien, is slated to open in Central this summer, Bjorn Frantzen has opened Frantzen’s Kitchen and Jean-Georges Vongerichten has returned to the city with Mercato. David Thompson and Wolfgang Puck are also thought to be searching for sites here. But Asian expansion doesn’t mean guaranteed success: Mario Batali’s Carnenvino has closed in Hong Kong, Gordon Ramsay shut his restaurant in Tokyo and both Guy Savoy and Jason Atherton shipped out of Singapore. So what makes some international restaurants thrive in foreign markets while others falter?

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Alain Ducasse revitalises Hong Kong presence with Rech restaurant

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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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A Private Island Paradise for World Earth Day

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What’s the story?
Cempedak (pronounced Chemp-e-dak) is a new private island resort in the Indonesian archipelago, five years in the making. This just opened venture is from the same team behind nearby Nikoi Island, another Robinson Crusoe-esque set up.

How does it differ from Nikoi Island then?
It’s a few notches up on the design and cuisine front. What they can’t better is the service which is legendarily good on Nikoi – it’s as equally smiley and attentive on Cempedak. The main difference is that Nikoi is geared more towards families with young children whereas Cempedak is for adults only.

You’ve got my attention, how do I get there?
Catch a ferry from Singapore to Bintan (an hour’s crossing) where you’ll be picked up by private car and driven across the island (another hour) then it’s a 30 minute speedboat ride to Cempedak. Trust us, it’s worth it. Or you could arrive direct by yacht.

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Feeling Like Royalty at Raffles

One of the three imposing doormen at the entrance to Raffles

 

Checking into Raffles is an uplifting experience. When you pull up the gravel driveway outside the white wedding cake of a hotel in the heart of Singapore, you’re greeted by a toweringly tall sikh doorman, bearded and turbaned and wearing an imposing sashed uniform. He ushers you into the lobby, all cool marble flooring and fluted columns that reach up three lofty storeys. There is none of the hubbub of other hotels – only guests or “residents” are allowed inside – so the atmosphere is reassuringly calm and rarified. To borrow from Holly Golightly, you feel as though nothing bad could ever happen at Raffles.

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Is there a need for Best Female Chef awards?

Lanshu Chen at the pass

Asia’s Best Female Chef 2014 Lanshu Chen at Le Mout, Taiwan

[UPDATE: The World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2017 have been announced amid the usual controversy. Not least because of the lack of female chefs at the helm of restaurants on the list. Highlighted by the fact that the restaurant run by The World’s Best Female Chef 2017, Ana Ros, doesn’t even make it onto the World’s 50 Best restaurants list. (Hisa Franko in Slovenia is number 69 on the “long list”).

Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants awards are no better. Lanshu Chen of Le Mout in Taiwan remains the only recipient of the Asia’s Best Female Chef accolade to be (sole) head chef of a restaurant that’s also recognised as one of Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants. While Bo.Lan in Bangkok which consistently makes the top 50 is helmed by another previous winner, Bo Songvisava, she does so with her husband Dylan Jones (the “Lan” in Bo.Lan).

This year’s Asia’s Best Female Chef May Chow’s eatery, Little Bao in Hong Kong, doesn’t feature in the top 50, neither did any of the restaurants overseen by last years’ winner Margarita Fores of the Philippines or the Tate Dining Room in Hong Kong run by Vicky Lau, Asia’s Best Female Chef 2015.

Which begs the question, is there any point in naming a Best Female Chef if their restaurants are not deemed good enough to be voted one of the Best 50 Restaurants? Or is it further proof that more spotlight on and awareness about female chefs is needed?]

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Is this the best restaurant in Hong Kong?

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[UPDATE: Amber is now number 24 on The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list 2017 and remains the only restaurant in Hong Kong to be recognised on the list.]

This month the iconic 50 Best Restaurants in the World awards roll around again. Last year, a Dutch born, French trained chef working in Hong Kong achieved something no one else in China has managed for six years – an entry on the coveted list.

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5 Minutes with Guy Savoy

Guy Savoy

Restaurant Guy Savoy in Paris has retained three Michelin stars for 15 years running. Chopstix caught up with Guy Savoy himself, one of the most personable chefs in the business, on a recent trip to Asia.

Who inspired you to become a chef?
My mother. Firstly, I liked to eat and my mother was a good cook. I didn’t imagine how much work went into it though then I watched my mother one day. I saw how she blended flour, butter, eggs, salt and sugar. The ingredients were not interesting separately but then they became a cake. For me, it was like magic.

What is your food heaven and hell?
I love ice cream; it is an addiction. I don’t like capsicum. When they’re cooked they’re ok but I can’t eat raw ones.

What do you like to cook for yourself?
For a snack: toasted rustic bread with a thick layer of cold bread and some sardines and ground pepper on top. The most important thing is to have cold butter.

What would you be if you couldn’t be a chef?
Nothing. I can’t imagine being anything else.

Who would you most like to cook for?
Me.

What would you prepare as a last meal?
I am too too young to think about that!

What’s the strangest food you’ve eaten?
Crocodile finger at Justin Quek’s restaurant in Singapore [Sky on 57 at Marina Bay Sands] and then a month ago, ants in The Amazon. In France we eat frog’s legs and snails, that’s part of our culture. Eating ants is not normal for us.

What’s the best restaurant we’ve never heard of?
My mother’s. I’ve never found better.

The Bling Ring arrives in Hong Kong

The Pink Star_mounted

Feast your eyes upon The Pink Star, a 59.60-carat oval mixed-cut pink diamond that’s the largest Internally Flawless Fancy Vivid Pink diamond that the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) has ever graded.

It’s up for auction at Sotheby’s Hong Kong on 4 April 2017 with estimated sales price in excess of US$60 million / HK$468 million.

Paddles at the ready…

Magical Mallorca

 

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Chopstix makes a special European foray this month in homage to the annual reopening of the Belmond La Residencia hotel.

The hillside village of Deia, on the north west coast of Mallorca, embodies “the other side” of the largest of the Balaeriac islands. One that’s altogether more sophisticated and relaxed. Distinctive honey stone buildings with their terracotta roofs and green shutters are staggered in tiered terraces down the hill, punctuated by verdant trees and reached by tiny winding streets. Added to all this is the appealing weather: warm in spring and autumn and balmy in high summer. It’s little wonder that this enchanting enclave with its special energy has become a refuge for artists and the internationally famous. At its heart sits Belmond La Residencia.

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Ode to Odette

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Odette restaurant, Singapore

[UPDATE: Odette has entered Asia’s 50 Best Restaurant 2017 list at number 9 making it the highest new entry and the highest new entry since the list was created.]

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.

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Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants Rolls Around Again

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A dish at Narisawa – Asia’s inaugural Best Restaurant

With the fifth incarnation of Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants being held on February 21st, Chopstix looks back at the launch of the list in 2013:

On Monday evening [February 25th 2013] the best restaurant in Asia will be announced. Whatever your viewpoint on awards and rankings, the winner is certain to be thrust to international fame and a year of being officially referred to as “Asia’s best restaurant” across the media. At least, such is the precedent of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, the creators of which are behind this launch.

Back in 2002, journalists at the UK industry magazine, Restaurant, came up with the idea of running The World’s 50 Best Restaurants as a feature which they knew would ruffle a few feathers and create publicity in the process. They couldn’t have predicted quite how huge their creation would become though.

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The Rise of Bangkok’s Hotel Residences

ICONSIAM-MO_living.jpg The Residences by Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok

This week sees the opening of 137 Pillars Residences, a hotel residence concept at the top of an exclusive Bangkok tower block from the owners of the luxury boutique 137 House in Chiang Mai, northern Thailand.

The furnished residences are available to rent and come with access to hotel-like facilities including fitness, wellness and all day dining.

“The market for serviced residences with inclusive services and convenience is expanding in Bangkok,” says Christopher Stafford, COO of 137 Pillars Hotels and Resorts.

“The trend in residential rentals is changing from long term stays to shorter term visits. We will also provide temporary storage of personal effects for this highly mobile group of business & leisure travellers.”

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First Look at the Aman Shanghai

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Aman Resorts new hotel just outside Shanghai, its fourth in China, has been named Amanyangyun after the ancient Chinese phrase Yang Yun meaning “the nurturing of clouds” and will open in autumn this year.

This “renovation like no other” has been a ten year project to save and transplant endangered ancient trees and historic buildings from the flood planes of Jiangxi.

Some 50 Ming and Qing Dynasty houses have been preserved and reconstructed by master craftsman in their new home just outside Shanghai. And traditional Chinese architects have added new buildings to blend with the historic structures.

Antique Villa

10,000 camphor trees have also made the 800 kilometre journey, overseen by expert botanists. They’ve been replanted in native soil and face the same direction as they had previously. Three years later they are said to be flourishing.

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As well as the historic houses which are now four bedroomed villas with pools, there are newly built one bedroom club suites designed by Kerry Hill Associates the architect behind Aman Tokyo.

Club Suite

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Amanyangung also features several dining options, a Club Lounge, banqueting hall and of course a spa.

Dining Terrace

Dining Terrace

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Love is all you need (especially when it’s a Tiffany diamond pendant)

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Rose gold – tick, diamonds – tick, LOVE.

http://www.tiffany.com

Raffles Rings in the Changes for the Singapore Sling

Raffles 1915 gin by Sipsmith Raffles 1915 gin by Sipsmith

[UPDATE: The Long Bar at Raffles Singapore is closed from today for refurbishment until 2018 but Singapore Slings will be continue to be served at the hotel’s Bar and Billiard Room during 2017.]

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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Longines Masters Lands in Hong Kong

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The Longines Masters show jumping event is in town until Feb 12th. We absolutely adore their artwork by Italian artist Riccardo Guasco who currently lives in Wales.

http://www.longinesmasters.com/en

The Romance of the Railway: On Board the Venice Simplon Orient Express

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VSOE

Now synonymous with luxury train travel, Agatha Christie and that infamous journey, the original Euro Night train number 469, monikered the more romantic sounding “Express d’Orient”, completed its inaugural journey from Paris bound for Constantinople (Istanbul) in October 1883. The train which Christie caught, and placed her fictional sleuth Hercule Poirot onboard, however was the Simplon Orient-Express – one of several luxury sleeper trains that cropped up as an offshoot linking the port town of Calais in northern France with Istanbul and ran through the golden age of travel in the 1920s and 30s.

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Strut Your Stuff in the Year of the Rooster

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These red frill sandals by Gianvito Rossi are perfect for wearing throughout the Chinese new Year of the Rooster.

Available at Saks Fifth Avenue, currently with free shipping to the UK and Hong Kong on this link:

Enjoy Free Express Shipping on orders of $100 or more to the United Kingdom.

Or for US residence receive a complimentary gift card:

Earn a Gift Card up to $700*. Use code FEB2017. Valid 1/31 – 2/2. Online Only 1/31 – 2/1. Online & In Stores 2/2. Shop Now!

The Allure of Chanel Couture

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Lily Rose Depp wearing Chanel Haute Couture Spring 2017 Pic: Lucile Perron

“A wedding is very special at Chanel,” says Madame Marie-Louise de Clermont-Tonnerre, the gloriously named and exquisitely dressed international spokeswoman who oversees the house’s couture division. The House of Chanel shares the same superstitions as other bridal establishments: garters are encouraged, the presence of anyone other than the bride’s mother and bridesmaids at the fittings is discouraged, and the groom is not allowed to see the dress beforehand to guard against bad luck – but there the similarities end.

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Looking for a London Bolthole for Valentine’s?

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Look no further: 45 Park Lane is the Best Boutique Hotel in Europe (according to the European Hospitality Awards 2016.)

[UDPATE: Couples staying at 45 Park Lane can dine on a three-course Valentine’s Dinner at Wolfgang Puck’s CUT restaurant in Europe (£115 per person on February 14). 45 Park Lane’s Valentine’s package includes one night accommodation for two with a complimentary upgrade subject to availability, a bottle of Lanson Champagne and English breakfast for two. From £610 in a Superior King, £955 in a Park View Studio Suite; valid February 10-19, subject to availability.]

What’s the story behind it?
Not just a glitzy address, 45 Park Lane is the newly opened younger, cooler sibling of The Dorchester hotel. Based next door to the grande dame, it’s more of a boutique affair with just 45 rooms and one restaurant (headed by a celebrity chef) packaged in a more modern design than The Dorch.

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First look at Aman’s new Spa Houses

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Spa House, Amanoi

Aman has unveiled a new Spa House concept, a first for the exclusive resort group and part of its recently launched Wellness programme, at Amanoi, Vietnam.

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Best hotel restaurants in Hong Kong for Chinese New Year Fireworks Dinners

If you’re in Hong Kong on January 29th make sure you have a room with a view – of Victoria Harbour for the Chinese New Year fireworks. Here’s our lucky number eight for firework dinners:

Kowloon side:

The Intercontinental

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View of the fireworks in the harbour from the Intercontinental hotel

The Interconti is perched right on the harbour’s edge so many of the guest rooms have fantastic views as well as the Harbourside restaurant and Nobu if you can bag a window table. Both restaurants are offering a Chinese New Year Fireworks Dinner Menu.
http://www.hongkong-ic.intercontinental.com

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Best Feet Forward for 2017

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[UPDATE: The Pedi:Mani:Cure Studio at The Oriental Spa, Hong Kong is the first to feature BGA InSoles, tailor made to slot inside your shoes. Studio manager Albin Brion will custom make the insoles to fit your feet and address your specific needs after assessing  your posture and weight distribution. Turns out the ballerinas by a very famous designer that Chopstix has been wearing religiously have been terrible for our feet as they provide no support whatsoever.

The insoles are designed for flats rather than heels and we suggest taking a pair that are one size bigger than your usual shoe size – luckily we had pair of Common Projects leather sneakers in our usual size but which tend to fit a size too large. Following the 30 mins consultation your unique insoles will be made in an hour. Wearing them, Bastien says, will result in improved comfort and stability. We certainly found them immediately comfortable and after a month a chronic foot pain has improved.]

The Oriental Spa at the Landmark Mandarin hotel is Chopstix’s favourite spa in Hong Kong. As well as the spacious, gorgeously designed heat and water rooms there’s another reason to love it: Bastien Gonzalez who tends to the talons of celebrities and supermodels has a mani pedi studio here.

The Oriental Spa at The Landmark Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Hong Kong

The Oriental Spa at The Landmark Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Hong Kong

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Foodie Cruises

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Seabourn Encore

[UPDATE: Thomas Keller oversees The Grill onboard the luxurious Seabourn cruises including the Seabourn Encore which departs from Singapore tomorrow for her inaugural voyage around Indonesia. The Grill by Thomas Keller, designed by Adam Tihany, is inspired by traditional American chophouses and features updated classics such as steaks with creamed spinach and Lobster Thermidor. Caesar Salads and ice cream sundaes will be prepared table side. http://www.seabourn.com]

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Top New and Revamped Hotels in London

The flurry of new and refurbished 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.

Kettner's Townhouse restaurant.jpg 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 5HPTel +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.

the-mandrake-london-l-xlarge.jpg 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 artfully executed 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 1PGTel +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.

VIL_8880.jpg 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 5BETel +44 203 553 6112

Best for Families: The Bloomsbury

Practically opposite the British Museum, The Bloomsbury has recently completed a major redesign including new bedrooms, guest sitting room, clubby basement bar and an enchanting outdoor restaurant, Dalloway Terrace (a nod to famous past resident writer Virginia Woolf of the Bloomsbury Set).

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The Sitting Room at The Bloomsbury

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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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

Best for Shopaholics: Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park

[UPDATE: The Mandarin Oriental is currently closed and will reopen soon.]

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.

MOLON Lobby Lounge (L) 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.

MOLON 2017 TURRET SUITE BEDROOM 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 re designed spa and two new penthouse suites will also be revealed.

66 Knightsbridge, London SW1X 7LATel +44 20 7235 2000

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

The Best Mani Pedi in Singapore

In Singapore, with the year round hot and humid weather, feet and hands are on show a good deal of the time. It stands to reason then that manicures and pedicures have become essential maintenance for men as well as women. But not all mani pedis are created equal. Luckily the ultimate hands and feet grooming treatment is available here – at the St Regis hotel.

Bastien Gonzalez pedicure

Bastion Gonzalez’s tricks of the pedicure trade

The concept: Bastien Gonzalez tends to the talons of supermodels and celebrities (though he’s far too discreet to name names) so as you’d expect his isn’t any old run of the mill mani pedi. Following a skiing accident Gonzalez trained as a podiatrist and studied how the feet effect the entire body, earning him the moniker of foot virtuoso. He’s more concerned with the health of your feet and nails than applying the latest limited edition colour.

Where to find him: Originally flitting between Paris, London and New York to see clients, he now has studios in exclusive locations around the world (mainly five star hotels in financial cities and luxury resorts) where handpicked podiatrists personally trained by him put the Bastien Gonzalez principles into practice. In Singapore, that’s Steve Desobeau at the St Regis hotel’s Remede Spa.

Why the treatment’s different: For a start the tools used look more suitable for the dentists and the doctors than a beauty salon – with good reason: they are actual dentist drills and surgeon’s scalpels chosen by Gonzalez. Don’t worry though, it doesn’t hurt a bit. “A mani pedi should be completely painless,” says Steve Desobeau. “The nail is dead and the skin we remove is dead so you shouldn’t feel anything.”

And the treatment is dry – no soaking hands or feet in water beforehand. That way the podiatrist is in total control and never removes too much. Nails are smoothed and cleaned and dead skin around the fingernails removed with a diamond dust drill while hard skin on the feet is nixed with a scalpel. Cuticles are never removed, a la most beauty salons, as they are essential to the health of the nail.

To paint or not to paint: Bastien’s method is not to use polish (though he will apply laqueur if asked). Instead he buffs and shines the nails with a chamoix leather and a crushed pearl cream. The result is shiny nails that gleam with health.

“I don’t tell people not to wear nail polish but I tell them to see it like make up,” says Desobeau. “You wouldn’t wear make up for a month so don’t keep your nail polish on that long.” He advocates taking polish off after three days and allowing a 24 hours breather before re applying.

The experience: From looking at my feet Desobeau, a former professional footballer who like his mentor trained as a podiatrist after a sports injury, deduced that on my left foot I walk more on the back than the front. He ventured that I might experience pain in my knee as a result (I do). He then gave me a strong massage on the soles of the feet and calves to help address this (the manicure includes a firm hand and arm massage too)using a  hydrating but light cream. The treatment is finished off with a liberal dousing of talcum powder – “invisible socks” says Desobeau, and essential for the Singapore climate.

The verdict: I leave with neat, natural looking nails and super soft soles but most unexpectedly, feel like I’m walking on air.

Upkeep: Don’t assume you’ll need to go back every week or even month. “A good pedicure should last three months, a manicure one month,” says Desobeau. But every treatment is different depending on each person and how their feet and nails respond.

The last word: No feet are too gnarly for the Bastien Gonzalez approach. In fact, Desobeau says he finds the worst cases the most interesting. “I like to take feet that no one would want to touch and turn them into feet someone would like to kiss.” Vote with your feet and go see him.

[UPDATE Steve Desobeau is now at the Ritz Carlton in Singapore, Bastien Gonzalez’s studio continues to open at the St Regis.]

The details: Pedi:Mani: Cure Studio by Bastien Gonzalez:

Spa Remede, St Regis, Singapore. Tel: 65 6506 6896

www.stregissingapore.com/bastiengonzalez

 

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