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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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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.

Jacobean Suitr

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).

The Sitting Room 1.jpg

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

Inside the Capella hotel on Sentosa Island, Singapore

Capella Singapore swimming pool day copy.jpg

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.

Capella-Singapore_Aerial-View

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.

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

 

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

 

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