ISSUE 15 FEB-MAR 2017
KUALA LUMPUR LANGKAWI • KOSRAE • JABAL AKHDAR UBUD • SAM McKNIGHT • LONDON'S MEMBERS' CLUBS • ARNAUD LARHER
H OT E L S T H AT D E F I N E T H E D E S T I N AT I O N ™
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HIGHLIGHTS FEB-MAR 2017
Presided over by César Pelli's gleaming Petronas Towers, Nicholas Chrisostomou explores Malaysia's energetic and multicultural city in the jungle, KUALA LUMPUR, and is taken by its varied sights, welcoming people, colonial past, modern architecture, and charming fusion of Oriental traditions and European inﬂuences.
RUNNING IN THE FAMILY
Part of a family with a ﬁne hospitality pedigree, it's little surprise that Swiss-born hotelier, CHRIS K. FRANZEN, has made such a name for himself in the hotel industry. The seasoned operator chats with The Cultured Traveller about his career, overseeing multiple properties and juggling his schedule with a family and two rescue dogs.
FINE IRISH FARE
Dublin has become a mecca for food lovers, and a number of renowned chefs have set up shop to cater to the maturing taste buds of the Irish population. Merging ﬁne Irish ingredients with traditional French ﬂair, Gordon Hickey ﬁnds that L’ECRIVAIN caters to diners looking for a more sophisticated culinary experience.
4° south of the equator, FREGATE ISLAND PRIVATE is a sensitively developed verdant Seychellois paradise, which still embodies the spirit of a primordial wildlife heaven. Completely uninhabited with the exception of a stunning private lodge, here you're more likely to run into a giant Aldabra tortoise than another guest.
More than a century ago in 1910, a French pastry chef, Louis Durand, created a dessert to resemble the wheel of a racing bike, to commemorate the PARIS–BREST bicycle race. Arnaud Larher gives us his recipe to recreate this great dessert at home.
LORD MURUGAN STATUE AT BATU CAVES, MALAYSIA
Win a two-night stay in PARK HYATT ABU DHABI's magniﬁcent 275m2 PRESIDENTIAL SUITE, boasting spectacular vistas of the Arabian Sea, complete with sprawling balconies, personal plunge pool and private outdoor massage area. This prize is worth a whopping AED 43,000 and includes breakfasts, Wi-Fi, dinner for two at The Park Grill and a late checkout. Feb-Mar 2017 The Cultured Traveller 05
CONTENTS 100 84
08 EDITOR’S LETTER 12 NEWSFLASH The Cultured Traveller’s rounds-up the must see events, seasonal happenings and festivals taking place around the globe in February and March 2017, including Taiwan’s LANTERN FESTIVAL, the Swiss WORLD SKI CHAMPIONSHIPS, ST. PATRICK’S DAY in Ireland, ULTRA MUSIC FESTIVAL in the States, and the DUBAI WORLD CUP in the wealthy gulf emirate.
16 REST YOUR HEAD 12 36
Hotels featured in this issue include the stunning new FOUR SEASONS HOTEL LONDON AT TEN TRINITY SQUARE, the luxurious Emirati AL WADI DESERT resort sitting within a 250-acre nature reserve in Ras Al Khaimah, THE NOMAD in New York, the skilful marriage of heritage and modernity at CAPELLA SHANGHAI, JIAN YE LI, and the historic KEMPINSKI SUMMERLAND HOTEL & RESORT in Beirut.
70 SUITE ENVY 2,000-metres above sea level and 90 miles from the Omani capital of
06 The Cultured Traveller Feb-Mar 2017
70 Muscat, exists an unspoilt Arabic haven of peace and tranquility, AL JABAL AL AKHDAR. Here Nicholas Chrisostomou experiences a unique 350m2 hotel villa, positioned in a central section of the Al Hajar Mountains, in the centre of the highest range in the Eastern Arabian Peninsula.
84 BOARDING PASS MALAYSIA AIRLINES' ﬂeet of six double-decker superjumbos each have 494 seats in three classes, and are amongst the most spacious in the sky today. Alex Benasuli road tests the airline’s A380 business class between Heathrow and Kuala Lumpur, and shares with The Cultured Traveller his feedback about the Malaysian ﬂag carrier’s premium inﬂight product.
86 NO SHOES REQUIRED With one beautifully manicured foot rooted ﬁrmly in the architectural modernity of the West and the other equally pristine foot nestled deep in the unwavering charm of the East, THE ST. REGIS LANGKAWI provides the perfect example of how a modern hospitality fusion can exceed all
86 expectations, including those of Kelly Johnstone.
95 SPOTLIGHT Ubud’s Indonesian charms have attracted countless visitors over the generations. Ten minutes from the town centre and far from the madding crowd, Alex Benasuli visits MANDAPA, an enchanting self-contained Balinese world of rice paddies, rivers, rolling hills and sweeping vistas, where he experiences a whole new level of hospitality.
100 TRAVELLER LOWDOWN Situated 8 hours west of the Hawaiian capital of Honolulu and 5 hours south of American Guam, Samantha Henderson drops anchor at an unpretentious eco-resort on the tranquil Polynesian island of KOSRAE, a Micronesian jewel in the Western Paciﬁc Ocean, known for its sparkling coral reefs, lush vegetation, peaceful islanders and relaxed pace of life.
112 TASTE & SIP The Cultured Traveller chats with the
much celebrated Parisian pâtissier and chocolatier, ARNAUD LARHER, about his path to pastry success, his time working at Fauchon, winning the coveted Meilleurs Ouvriers de France and his current collaboration with Hellenic hospitality icon, Hotel Grande Bretagne in the Athenian capital.
122 MUSIC & NIGHT LIFE London's private members’ clubs may have been around since the late 17th century, but today they are more popular than ever, with swanky new venues regularly opening their veiled doors to the privileged few. The Cultured Traveller investigates this booming sector of the British capital’s social scene, and reveals London’s most popular members’ haunts.
144 STYLISH GLOBETROTTER With a major exhibition and book celebrating his four decades from the late 70s to the present day, SAM MCKNIGHT is still at the top of his game, years after cutting oﬀ Princess Diana's hair for a photoshoot and styling more than 100 Vogue covers. The famous hairdresser talks exclusively to The Cultured Traveller about his remarkable 40-year career.
Feb-Mar 2017 The Cultured Traveller 07
EDITOR’S LETTER Once the new year is well underway, the silly season is but a distant memory and at least one slightly annoying person has already informed you that Christmas is X number of days away, I ﬁnd it a little perturbing to read the recommendations of travel magazines as to their “hot” hotels, “gold standard” resorts and destinations you simply “must see”. There is a diﬀerence between being pushed to visit a destination and covering one in print. It's my feeling that adventurous and open-minded travellers like you, seeking a cultured and diﬀerent vacation experience, are the greatest diplomats of the global travel industry, not just for 2017 but for many years to come, and you shouldn't follow the recommendations of publications which are largely driven by advertising revenue. Beware of “gold lists” because hotels and resorts that spend the most money to advertise in a publication often drive these. Instead follow your travel gut, keep your mind open, plan to visit a destination that interests you and then look for a feature in a travel publication about the place you want to go. Not the other way round. Our ﬁrst full issue of 2017 leads with a cover story about the multicultural Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur, a vibrant metropolis bordered by jungle, which has been close to my heart for a decade. Sam Henderson drops anchor at an eco-resort on the tranquil Polynesian island of Kosrae, a Micronesian jewel in the Western Paciﬁc Ocean (p 100). Alex Benasuli visits an enchanting self-contained micro Balinese world, where he experiences a whole new level of hospitality (p 92). The Cultured Traveller chats with much celebrated Parisian pâtissier and chocolatier, Arnaud Larher, about his path to pastry success (p 112). Kelly Johnstone visits the Malaysian island of Langkawi where a new resort exceeds all of her high expectations (p 86). And famed international hairdresser, Sam McKnight, who is still at the top of his game many years after cutting oﬀ Princess Diana's hair for a photoshoot, talks exclusively to The Cultured Traveller about his remarkable 40-year career (p 144). We also delve into the privileged world of the London members’ club and reveal which are currently making the biggest social waves (p 122). I hope the ﬁfteenth issue of The Cultured Traveller will stimulate you to explore some of the incredible destinations on our planet, rather than follow the masses. If you have any ideas of destinations for us to cover in TCT we want to hear them – please email email@example.com and we’ll do some research. After all, the real fun of travelling is in the exploration, not following the recommendations of others!
Nicholas Chrisostomou Editor-in-Chief
THE ST. REGIS LANGKAWI
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CONTRIBUTORS Kelly Johnstone
No Shoes Required
Kelly Johnstone’s passion for writing has enabled her to enjoy some fabulous roles, including that of lifestyle writer, spa and restaurant reviewer, celebrity magazine editor and travel PR guru. Although Kelly originally hails from the UK, she has spent more of her life outside of Blighty than in, having called Saudi Arabia, Dubai, Qatar and now Malaysia home. And while she is the ﬁrst to admit that being an expat has plenty going for it, Kelly’s longing for English seasons, long country walks, pub ﬁres and local libraries is unwavering.
Alex Benasuli Spotlight
Alex has been traveling the world his whole life. Growing up in New York City, he would accompany his family every summer on visits to relatives in Spain, France and Germany. A successful two-decade career in ﬁnance often took him to Brazil, Mexico, Turkey, Russia, India, Indonesia and all over the Far East. Today, as an avid yoga practitioner and part-time teacher, Alex has a keen appreciation for combining luxury highbrow urban travels with oﬀ the beaten track alternative destinations and experiences.
Dawn Gibson is a multi-tasking journalist who is passionate about travel, fashion, food, culture and the arts. Never happier than when about to board a plane en route to a far-ﬂung part of the globe, she is also a keen scuba diver always in search of the perfect coral reef. Dawn has worked as a senior news reporter for a leading city daily newspaper in Australia and as editor for a glossy lifestyle magazine in the Middle East. Her work has appeared in numerous international print and online publications, including Qatar Airways’ ﬁrst class magazine Oryx Premium.
Taste & Sip Review Gordon Hickey hails from Dublin and whilst he is a proud Irish man at heart he’s also a child of the world. Travelling has been his number one hobby since his parents put him on a Trans-European train at the age of 10. Since then Gordon has travelled to 56 countries on 6 continents and savouring the local ﬂavours of every stop is always top of his agenda. From freshly deep fried scorpions in Beijing, to foie gras in the French Alps, Gordon has tried it all. Eating is one of Gordon’s greatest pleasures.
Travelling is a passion, hobby and way of life for born globetrotter Sam Henderson. She has lived in and travelled throughout Germany, Ukraine and Japan, can speak their mother tongues, and is a pro at setting-up home in foreign climes. In 2006 she ventured round the world to Canada, the States, Western Samoa, New Zealand, Australia and South Africa with her husband and two children. Right now Sam is again on the road, this time for a year with her three kids (aged 9, 11 and 13) driving across the USA from coast to coast, then on to various Asia Paciﬁc destinations. Feb-Mar 2017 The Cultured Traveller 09
WIN A TWO NIGHT STAY IN THE PRESIDENTIAL SU Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi's magniﬁcent top ﬂoor 275m2 Presidential Suite boasts spectacular sweeping vistas of the Arabian Sea, complete with sprawling balconies, personal plunge pool and private outdoor massage area. The plush living room is perfect for entertaining, furnished with a grand piano, dining table seating up to ten guests, multiple sofas and armchairs and a state-of-the-art entertainment centre. The master bathroom boasts a private steam room, walk-in rain shower and an oversized freestanding deep soaking bathtub, complimented by Le Labo signature bath products. This incredible two-night prize worth AED AED 43,000 3,000 not only includes breakfast every morning, but also dinner for two at The Park Grill including a bottle of wine, Wi-Fi and a 2pm lazy checkout on day three. With its clear blue waters and endless pristine white sand beach, Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi on Saadiyat Island is the ultimate retreat back to nature, seamlessly blending ﬁve-star luxury with a chic laid-back ethos. Perched along an unspoiled stretch of environmentally protected coastline neighbouring Saadiyat Island Golf Club, Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi boasts 306 luxuriously appointed rooms, suites and villas. All guest accommodations are designed with the discerning traveller in mind - a testament to the philosophy of the premium Park Hyatt brand - complete with elite service and reﬁned modern Arabian décor incorporating tasteful references to classical Islamic art and a white Cubist exterior. Savour fresh ﬂavours and local delights in a variety of on-site gastronomic experiences, including the award winning Park Bar and Grill, The Library and The Café, not to mention the hotel’s popular Beach House bar and restaurant – a plush spot to catch the breeze coming oﬀ the ocean, while enjoying delectable tapas and hand-crafted cocktails. This exclusive hospitality sanctuary also features a deluxe spa, a multitude of swimming pools, tennis courts and a ﬁtness centre. ABUDHABI.PARK.HYATT.COM FACEBOOK.COM/PARKHYATTABUDHABI • INSTAGRAM.COM/PARKHYATTABUDHABI
To enter this prize draw, email your contact details (name, city email and mobile number) to WIN@THECULTUREDTRAVELLER.COM All prize draw entrants will be added as subscribers to The Cultured Traveller's mailing list. The draw will take place after 31st March 2017 and the winner will be notiﬁed via email. This prize can be used until 20th December 2017, is not transferable and is subject to availability of the Presidential Suite at Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi. Blackout dates 22-28 November 2017. Other blackout dates apply. The Cultured Traveller will not share your contact details with third parties. 10 The Cultured Traveller Feb-Mar 2017
UITE AT PARK HYATT ABU DHABI HOTEL & VILLAS PRIZE WORT AED 43 H ,000
Feb-Mar 2017 The Cultured Traveller 11
LANTERN FESTIVAL TAIWAN
Dating back to traditional agricultural celebrations marking the arrival of spring after new year, the Lantern Festival is one of the most important and romantic dates on the Taiwanese calendar. Thousands of shining decorative lanterns, bearing the wishes of their owners, illuminate the sky over the Pingxi District while ﬁrecrackers are set oﬀ at the Wumiao Temple in Yanshui District, a ceremony known as “ﬁreworks in the south, sky lanterns in the north.” Locals eat the traditional fare of tangyuan, rice dumplings with sweet and savoury
SAPPORO SNOW FESTIVAL JAPAN
The ﬁrst Sapporo Snow Festival was held in 1950, featuring just six snow statues made by local high school students. Since then the event has snowballed into a winter wonderland, which attracts around two million people from around the world to the capital of the mountainous northern Japanese island of Hokkaido, a popular ski spot also known for its beer. The annual festival, known as Yuki Matsuri locally, is centered on Odori Park in downtown Sapporo, where giant sculptures of snow and ice are erected alongside a 1.5km trail that is illuminated at night. There are two other sites: Tsudome, a community dome with large snow slides and a
Denmark’s winter jazz festival has been thawing the Scandinavian chill with smoking tunes since 2001, mushrooming into one of the biggest European festivals of the genre. Taking place over 24 days this February, it features around 600 concerts by Danish and international musicians held at 100+ venues across the country, including West African fusion artist Richard Bona & the DR Big Band, the Jeﬀ ‘Tain’ Watts Trio from
ﬁllings, and take part in lion and dragon dances, acrobatics and mock battles. Giant high tech light installations give the festival a futuristic edge, while times past are reﬂected in traditional handicraft markets selling painted fans, Chinese knotwork, snacks, paper craft and, of course, lanterns. 4-17 February 2017 www.english.gov.taipei
SUPER BOWL LI HOUSTON USA
tobogganing zone, and Susukino Ice World which features an ice sculpture contest and show, the opportunity to touch and ride the sculptures and an ice bar serving hot drinks. 1-12 February 2017 www.snowfes.com 12 The Cultured Traveller Feb-Mar 2017
USA, Danish jazz indie and urban folk outﬁt Girls in Airports, and Brazilian musician Ed Motta. There will also be a session devoted to instrumentals of 1970s David Bowie songs and plenty of jam sessions. A counterbalance to the renowned Copenhagen Jazz Festival, a ﬁxture of the summer music calendar for almost 40 years, Vinterjazz covers the gamut from electronic to experimental, funk to free jazz, mainstream to modern. 3-26 February 2017 www.jazz.dk
This is the most important day of the professional American football season, when millions of fans who can’t make it to the stadium are glued to the couch for
WORLD SKI CHAMPIONSHIPS
RIO CARNIVAL BRAZIL
SWITZERLAND Held every two years and the most important event in Alpine ski racing, the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships are held in the exclusive Swiss lakeside resort of St. Moritz. Winter athletes from more than 70 nations will be competing in a packed two week schedule of racing, while away from the slopes visitors will be entertained by a variety of shows, DJs and live bands, including Swiss folk rock group 77 Bombay Street, rapper Knackeboul, not to mention an Abba tribute band, as well as aviation displays from Patrouille
ROSENCRANTZ & GUILDENSTERN ARE DEAD UK If you’re going to see one London theatre production this year, skip the musicals and see this instead. Even without the draw of Daniel Radcliﬀe in one of the lead roles, Tom Stoppard’s fabulously witty take on the story of Hamlet promises to be as fresh as when it ﬁrst debuted at the The Old Vic theatre 50 years ago, making the playwright’s name overnight. Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead follows the fortunes of two minor characters, played by Radcliﬀe and Joshua McGuire, as they weave in and out of the central narrative of the duration of what is often the most watched US television program of the year. Super Bowl LI will be played at Houston’s 72,000-capacity NRG Stadium, home of the Houston Texans and the venue where Janet Jackson had her infamous wardrobe malfunction during 2004’s half-time show. Hopefully, Lady Gaga will be able to avoid any such mishaps when she headlines the entertainment this year, perhaps playing it safe in a buttoned-up suit like she did when performing the national anthem at the same event last year. Or perhaps not. In its 51st year, the Super Bowl LI reverts to the National Football League’s tradition of using Roman numerals, after they were left oﬀ for Super Bowl 50 in 2016. 5 February 2017 www.nﬂ.com
Suisse and the PC-7 TEAM. This is the ﬁfth time St. Moritz has hosted these championships since ﬁrst staging them in 1934. 6-19 February 2017 www.stmoritz2017.ch
Riding on the coat-tails of the 2016 Rio Olympics, this year’s carnival is expected to be one of the most glittering ever as an anticipated 500,000 visitors ﬂock to Brazil for the party of their lives. Get ready to samba the day and night away, catch the action of the main parade and revel in the energy of this renowned ﬁve-day celebration. While carnival is held in traditionally Catholic communities around the world in the lead-up to Easter, Rio has long been regarded as the biggest and the best. Beginning with the crowning of King Momo (the Fat
Shakespeare’s famous tragedy. Made into a movie starring Gary Oldman and Tim Roth in 1990, the script is razor sharp, funny and thought provoking. 25 February-29 April 2017 www.oldvictheatre.com King), who is presented with a over-sized silver and gold key by Rio’s mayor, street bands, dancers and party folk take over the squares and the streets as the festivities get underway, led by traditional samba schools hailing from the city’s favelas. We recommend you attend a samba school night rehearsal plus at least one outrageous party - try the Gala Gay Ball at the Scala where you will see some of the wildest costumes. 24-28 February 2017 www.rio-carnival.net
THE OSCARS USA
Hollywood’s night of nights is a prime opportunity for some serious star gazing. As the celebrities walk the red carpet at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles for the 89th Academy Awards, those in the know will have already set themselves up in comfort and style at the Beverly Wilshire hotel in the heart of Beverly Hills, or The Polo Lounge of the Beverly Hills Hotel, both favoured haunts of the Hollywood elite for decades. This year the musical La La Land is tipped for best picture, Emma Stone for best actress, Denzel Washington and Casey Affleck are among the contenders for best actor, and American comedian
and talk show host Jimmy Kimmel will make his hosting debut at the acting world’s biggest night of the year. 26 February 2017 www.oscars.org Feb-Mar 2017 The Cultured Traveller 13
ITB BERLIN GERMANY This could be just the ticket if you need inspiration for your next cultured travelling experience. The world’s largest tourism trade fair, ITB Berlin is billed as a trip around the globe in just a few hours, and an opportunity to explore
destinations in over 180 countries. With more than 10,000 exhibitors it might be a nightmare to navigate, but thankfully it’s made easier by being divided into regions and thematic sections, such as cruises, cultural tourism, adventure travel, medical tourism, business travel, technology and new trends. A map of the exhibition layout is available online, so you can plan what to see beforehand. This annual event has surprises around every corner – expect everything from ﬂamenco dancing to henna hand-painting, massages to cooking demonstrations, EDM to folk dancing. For travel professionals there are also press conferences, talks, product presentations and networking events. 8-12 March 2017 www.itb-berlin.de
LAS FALLAS INDIA
Otherwise known as the Festival of Colours due to the bright powders participants throw at each other, this ancient Hindu ritual to mark the beginning of spring is a two-day celebration of the triumph of good over evil. The ceremonies begin with the lighting of Holika bonﬁres – symbolizing how the God Vishnu helped burn the devil Holika according to Hindu scriptures – and continue with Rangwali Holi the next day, which is when people delight in covering their neighbours in water and a rainbow of gulal, or paint powder (apparently Lord Krishna, a reincarnation of Lord Vishnu, liked to prank village girls in this manner). While Holi is observed throughout the world, the best places to see the festival are India and Nepal, especially Delhi, Varanasi, Vrindavan and Jaipur.
One note: women should avoid walking about alone during Holi as some men take it as an opportunity to get a little too close for comfort. 12-13 March 2017 www.goindia.about.com
SPAIN Hundreds of thousands of visitors from Spain and around the world congregate in Valencia for this very noisy, exuberant celebration, which involves masses of ﬁreworks and the burning of giant puppets. Held in honour of St. Joseph’s
Day on 19th March, Las Fallas is believed to have originated in a pagan celebration of the spring equinox, and is recorded as ﬁrst being held from the late 15th century. Each neighbourhood in Valencia funds the construction of its own ‘falla’ - the wood and papiermâché sculptures at the heart of the ﬁesta - which can reach up to 15 metres high and usually poke fun at local and international politicians and celebrities (expect at least one Donald Trump this year!) The fallas are placed at key points around the city, so visitors can wander about and check them out, before they are burned in a ceremonial explosion accompanied by a giant ﬁreworks display at midnight of the ﬁnal day. 15-19 March 2017 www.visitvalencia.com
IMPERIAL THREADS QATAR
Doha’s breathtaking Museum of Islamic Art is worth a visit at any time, but especially so from March, when a new exhibition opens showcasing one of the best Persian carpet collections in existence. ‘Imperial Threads: Motifs and artisans from Turkey, Iran and India’ will explain how carpets and other valuable works of exquisite craftsmanship were at the heart of cultural exchanges between the Ottoman, Safavid and Mughal empires between the 16th and 18th centuries. MIA is a wealth of historic treasures, housing one of the world’s most complete collections of Islamic artifacts from across three continents, dating back to the 7th century. The building is a work of art in its own right, a contemporary landmark drawing inspiration from centuries of Islamic architecture and designed by IM Pei, most famous for the glass and steel pyramid entrance to the Louvre in Paris. 15 March-4 November 2017 www.mia.org.qa 14 The Cultured Traveller Feb-Mar 2017
ST. PATRICK’S DAY IRELAND Celebrated in more countries than any other national festival, St. Patrick’s Day is a tribute to the far-reaching inﬂuence of the Emerald Isle’s expatriate population. However, there’s nothing like experiencing 17 March in Ireland itself, where the public holiday is the climax of a week-long party. The oﬃcial St. Patrick’s Festival, established by the Irish government 22 years ago, will this year include four days of street parades, concerts, céilithe (traditional music sessions), theatre performances and ﬁreworks. The best place to join the revelry is Dublin, but cities, towns and villages throughout Ireland hold their own parades and festivals. Held to commemorate Ireland’s patron saint and the arrival of Christianity, St. Patrick’s Day has been an oﬃcial
Christian feast day since the early 17th century. Legend has it that the association with shamrocks and the "wearing of the green” stems back to Saint Patrick’s use of the three-leaved plant to explain the Holy Trinity to the pagan Irish. 17 March 2017 www.stpatricksfestival.ie
2017 F1 CHAMPIONSHIP OPENER AUSTRALIA
The upcoming Formula One season is being tipped to be the fastest yet, with Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari all working on new wider cars that could shave up to ﬁve seconds oﬀ a lap. The ﬁrst round of the season, the 2017 F1 Rolex Australian Grand Prix, will be the ﬁrst opportunity fans have to catch a
glimpse of the new supercars, driven by the likes of three-time champion Lewis Hamilton and his new Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas (who has replaced retired world champion Nico Rosberg), and Australian Daniel Ricciardo with his Dutch team-mate Max Verstappen for Red Bull. Melbourne’s famous Albert Park circuit is an exhilarating setting for drivers and spectators alike, a thrilling combination of fast straights and demanding slow speed turns with multiple overtaking opportunities. 23-26 March 2017 www.tickets.formula1.com
ULTRA MUSIC FESTIVAL USA Major Lazer, Ice Cube and Tiesto will be among the headliners when one of the world’s favourite electronic music festivals gets cranking across beautiful Bayfront Park in downtown Miami this March. Last year’s edition of Ultra, featuring performances from deadmau5, Eric Prydz and Pendulum, was voted the world’s best festival by a DJ Mag survey, so the 2017 show is expected to be pretty special, to put it mildly. For its 19th incarnation, the line-up across seven stages includes Justice, Underworld, David Guetta, Dubﬁre, DJ Snake, The Prodigy, Afrojack, Alesso, Above & Beyond, Tale of Us and Jamie Jones. British DJ Carl Cox has been named as the ambassador of the Resistance phase
of Ultra, which will for the ﬁrst time span two stages, the Arcadia Spectacular ‘Spider’ and the ‘Megastructure’. Meanwhile, Dutch megastar Armin van Buuren will orchestrate the A State of Trance arena for the seventh year in a row. 24-26 March 2017 www.ultramusicfestival.com
DUBAI WORLD CUP UAE
Get the hatbox down from the top of the wardrobe and dry clean your best designer outﬁt – the world’s richest horse race is on again. Attracting the cream of Dubai society as well as a fair few international glitterati, the region’s leading equestrian event is as much about being seen as a tribute to the beauty of the Arabian horse. The culmination of Dubai’s World Cup carnival, the event at Meydan Racecourse will see USD 30 million of prizes presented to the winners of the day’s nine races, which include eight thoroughbred contests and one for purebred Arabians. The after-race concert typically draws some of the biggest names in pop – the past three years have seen Jennifer Lopez, Kylie Minogue and Janet Jackson take to the stage – and the day concludes with a spectacular ﬁreworks extravaganza. 25 March 2017 www.dubaiworldcup.com Feb-Mar 2017 The Cultured Traveller 15
LONDON, UK FOUR SEASONS HOTEL LONDON AT TEN TRINITY SQUARE Rest your head in the annals of history at Four Seasons’ new London property, fronted by undoubtedly the capital's most spectacular hotel façade. Right across from Big Ben, it’s only ﬁtting that the iconic ﬁrst-class hotel brand has chosen to open its second London hotel in one of the city's ﬁnest buildings, complete with its own illustrious history. Designed by the renowned architect Sir Edwin Cooper, and ﬁrst opened in 1922 having cost more than GBP 1 million to build (an astronomical ﬁgure at the time), the Grade II listed headquarters of the London Port Authority managed to survive the barrage of the Blitz during the Second World War, and the imposing Corinthian structure went on to host the inaugural reception of the United Nations General Assembly in 1946. Now lush interiors and sleek colour palettes dominate the halls where heads of state once convened, and 89 guests rooms, 11 sumptuous suites and 41 apartment residences ﬁll its hallowed portals. All accommodations boast beautiful furnishings, understated grey and violet tones, and all the trimmings when it comes to personal amenities. The complex’s 18,000ft2 Roman spa, including a 46ft heated pool, will be at the disposal of elite members of the hotel’s private members’ club when opens in March, a collaboration with premium First Growth French wine estate Château Latour. Gourmands can indulge in a variety of culinary delights via several outlets within the hotel, already open and worth their gastronomic salt (and pepper). Ambrosial afternoon tea – as only Four Seasons can procure so adeptly – is served in the hotel’s art deco Rotunda Bar & Lounge, crowned by a striking domed ceiling. Meanwhile, classic French cuisine is served in La Dame de Pic, courtesy of Anne-Sophie Pic, currently the only three Michelin-starred female chef in France. A less formal Asian restaurant, slated to open on 1st May, will oﬀer innovative takes on both Japanese and Chinese dishes. ASHLEE STARRATT www.fourseasons.com/tentrinity 16 The Cultured Traveller Feb-Mar 2017
Rest Your Head London, Fregate Island, Ras Al Khaimah, Bhutan, New York Perth, Marrakech, Shanghai, Cape Town, Montreal, Beirut
Feb-Mar 2017 The Cultured Traveller 17
KEMPINSKI SUMMERLAND HOTEL & RESORT First opened almost ﬁfty years ago in 1978 by Raja Saab, a prominent Lebanese businessman, the original Summerland Hotel & Resort quickly became a place where people could stem the tide of worry brought on by the grim reality of the country’s long and bloody Civil War. If you ask almost any long-term Beirut resident about Summerland, they will get all misty eyed before recounting a childhood memory involving the cascading waterfalls, the hotel’s legendary nightclub or attending a wedding on the property's private sandy beach. Countless stories abound about this historic resort. Summerland closed in the 90s for maintenance, but largely stayed that way until reopening just a few months ago after a massive transformation project that reputedly cost USD 500 million. Now owned by a Saudi-Lebanese joint venture, the complex's swish new incarnation is managed by Kempinski, Europe’s oldest luxury hotel group which was established in 1897, and hence the property has been rebranded Kempinski Summerland Hotel & Resort. Beirut's 21st century Summerland oﬀers a complete waterside existence, encompassing top end apartments, marina lifestyle, a variety of leisure amenities, a selection of onsite restaurants and bars plus a world-class 5-star hotel. The resort's private sandy beach has been restored, nestled around a lagoon, complimented by the famed waterfall and vast freeform swimming pool, along with a private harbour including a marina restaurant and a deluxe full-service Resense spa. Whilst the resort's structure, look and feel have been greatly changed and updated, many key features with which locals have emotional ties were retained. These include the 583 private pool cabins which are still owned by their original owners. As soon as the resort was reopened, 18 The Cultured Traveller Feb-Mar 2017
many cabin owners ﬂocked to Summerland to rekindle happy memories and make new ones with their families. In reinventing Summerland, its lead designer and partner in Hirsch Bedner Associates, David T’Kint, said that his team took inspiration from natural Lebanese elements, such as the cedar tree forest, sunshine and blues of the Mediterranean Sea, when rendering the resort's new architectural credentials and interior design aesthetic. Various aspects of Lebanese culture were also reinterpreted to create a continuous thread running throughout the property. These delightful touches are evident everywhere, from the beige ﬂooring at the hotel’s entrance - cut to include an eight-pointed Rub el Hizb star pattern, derived from the traditional Muslim symbol - to a 30ft-high water wall symbolising the mountains and the water that ﬂows through them. On the right side of the lobby, the walls are fully clad with grey wood, inspired by the country's cedar tree forests, whilst a staircase that leads guests down to the bar and all-day dining restaurant has a handrail inspired by the branch of the cedar tree. The countless references to Lebanon's natural beauty throughout Kempinski Summerland, transform what might otherwise be a sprawling, over-sized hotel, into a warm and inviting building which it's a delight to amble around and discover. Not least, the hotel’s superb 100-piece art collection by Lebanese and Arab artists, on display throughout the complex and grounds, stands alone in its exceptional quality and is in itself worthy of a visit to Kempinski Summerland. NICHOLAS CHRISOSTOMOU www.kempinski.com Feb-Mar 2017 The Cultured Traveller 19
FREGATE ISLAND, SEYCHELLES
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FREGATE ISLAND PRIVATE More than 100 million years ago, the landmass that is now India broke away from the Gondwanaland supercontinent, beginning a long, slow drift across the ocean. In its wake, more than a hundred small granite fragments were left behind, forming a cluster of islands scattered across one of the remotest spots on the planet, a thousand miles from the nearest mainland. Untouched by humans throughout much of their history, the Seychelles, as they’re now called, were once home to some of the world’s most unspoiled environments, since the archipelago was left to evolve in splendid natural isolation until the 18th century. What the ﬁrst French settlers found here was both a virtual Eden and positively primitive, with forests of prehistoric trees inhabited by huge tortoises and exotic birds, and powdery white sands fringed by turquoise waters. Yet during the plantation era, which ended in the 20th century, intensive crop farming left many of the Seychelles' islands stripped of their native woodland. Just four degrees south of the equator, Fregate Island is a sensitively developed verdant Seychellois paradise, which still embodies the spirit of a primordial wildlife heaven. Completely uninhabited with the exception of a stunning private lodge, Fregate’s owners have worked for more than two decades to restore the island’s ecosystems, and replant indigenous ﬂora following the country’s destructive plantation era. Thanks to their eﬀorts, unique and endangered wildlife are ﬂourishing again, amidst restored forests and picturesque beaches. Several rare and endemic species are also being conserved, including the Seychelles magpie robin and the Seychelles warbler, both of which have been brought back from the brink of extinction. With the establishment of a nursery for Aldabra giant tortoises, Fregate’s resident ecologists and conservationists have successfully increased their population from 150 to more than 2,200 over the course of 25 years. The lodge comprises 16 private pool residences, ranging in size from 400m2 to 700m2, plus one grand estate. Beautifully crafted, the traditionally styled villas have been fashioned from native mahogany and topped with thatched roofs. Large, spacious and luxurious as they are - with private inﬁnity pools, rainforest showers and every conceivable mod con - they appear to be hidden away on the island’s shores. Some are nestled in the trees or surrounded by lush tropical gardens, whilst others are perched along the rocky shoreline or tucked in amongst granite cliﬀs. All provide the perfect base from which to explore the part tropical dreamland part wild isle, enjoy beaches which are some of the only in the world where sea turtles nest during daylight hours, watch thousands of rare and endemic tropical birds ﬂit through the trees, or just ﬂop out and be looked after. On Fregate Island absolutely everything is taken care of, and you're more likely to run into a giant tortoise than another guest. NICHOLAS CHRISOSTOMOU www.fregate.com Feb-Mar 2017 The Cultured Traveller 21
AL WADI DESERT In the moonlight the pool is a luscious cobalt blue, echoing the almost surreal hue of the vast desert sky. Away from the glare of city lights, the stars are as bright as diamonds, glittering sentinels over a peaceful landscape of terracotta sands, stretching to the gentle waters of the Arabian Gulf and the rugged beauty of the Al Hajar Mountains. While not as well known as Dubai or Abu Dhabi, Ras Al Khaimah is a UAE destination rapidly becoming a byword for relaxation among cultured travellers. An hours’ drive from Dubai, the emirate enjoys constant sunshine, perfect for exploring the endless kilometres of white sandy beaches, playing the tourist on a camel trek or venturing to the UAE’s highest mountain, Jebel Jais. Amid this tranquil environment is the luxurious Al Wadi Desert resort, sitting within a nature reserve of almost 250 acres, where indigenous desert animals such as Arabian gazelles and oryx roam free, while eagles ﬂy majestically overhead. Named after the Arabic word for valley (wadi), the resort pays tribute to local tradition while oﬀering all the modern comforts one could ever want. Previously a Banyan Tree property, Al Wadi was rebranded a Ritz-Carlton Partner Hotel in December 2016. The resort encompasses a total of 101 luxury villas dotted around the desert sands, comprising 31 tented pool villas with curving canopied ceilings based on Bedouin desert dwellings, plus a further 70 deluxe pool villas with gardens. Each villa has its own temperature-controlled pool to aid contemplation while looking out over the timeless desert landscape, while interiors are a lush mix of stunning lattice work and carved wood, high ceilings, plump cushions and silk brocade furnishings worthy of an Arabian Nights tale. The onsite spa is an experience worth savouring, as much for the beautifully appointed pampering pavilions as its holistic signature treatments using locally sourced herbs and spices. There is an exquisite contemporary hammam as well as a series of connected hydrotherapy facilities designed to awaken your senses and revitalise the whole body. The resort also oﬀers a variety of on-property leisure activities, from falconry shows to archery, guided nature walks to horseback riding and desert drives. DAWN GIBSON www.ritzcarlton.com
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RAS AL KHAIMAH, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES
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SIX SENSES BHUTAN For a country whose infamous insularity is matched only by its mysticism, the Kingdom of Bhutan may just be the last untainted bastion in a mad world. Virtually untouched by mainstream tourism, it didn’t welcome its ﬁrst international visitors until the mid-1970s. This extreme isolationism coupled with its pristine nature, make it a terra incognito for the soul-seeking traveller. Thus, it only seems ﬁtting that holistic luxury resort brand Six Senses, is slated to map its course in the country. Six Senses’ established ethos of wellness, above all honouring environment, culture and tradition, will be demonstrated across its ﬁve satellite Bhutanese resorts, slated to open in the second half of 2017, with 82 guest suites and villas spread out across the regions of Thimpu, Gangtey, Punakha, Paro and Bumthang. Each with its own distinctive character, all guest accommodations will share a tapestry of rustic attributes that beckon an elemental commune with nature. The woven bamboo, rattan and mud brick interiors of Punakha’s farmhouse-style retreat; the verdant warmth and weathered timber of Gangtey’s chalets, complete with bird-watching lodge; or the lush woodland surroundings and natural palette of Bumthang – all will have you knocking at the door of Mother Nature’s inner sanctum, and give you a unique multi-centre insight into this fascinating nation. ASHLEE STARRATT www.sixsenses.com
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NEW YORK, USA
THE NOMAD Sydell Group, a partnership between billionaire grocery store magnate Ron Burkle and founder Andrew Zobler, is the creator and operator of trend-setting lifestyle hotels across the United States, each deeply rooted in its location and architecture. A prominent feature among the group’s portfolio of properties is the restoration and re-imagination of historic buildings into unique hospitality experiences. Collaborations with original talent in the worlds of design, food and beverage and retail also come together in the conception of compelling new hotels, that positively engage the communities around them once they’re up and running. Opened in 2012, The NoMad is set in the immaculately restored turn of the century former National Cash Register Beaux-Arts building, north of Madison Park above the Flatiron district. Fully restored to its original grandeur, with interiors by French designer Jacques Garcia, the hotel reimagines Broadway in its golden era, both literally and ﬁguratively, the ﬁrst thing you walk into being a gilded lobby with soaring ceilings. Whilst the hotel is intended as a fresh take on the classic grand hotels of Europe with a distinctive added New York sensibility, The NoMad’s overall design ethic was inspired by the Parisian ﬂat of Garcia’s youth. The 168 rooms are residential in feel and convey an ideal of maple-ﬂoored, old world elegance, alongside every modern luxury, and are decorated in Garcia’s classic, timeless style, each appointed with hand chosen, richly textured custom-designed furnishings and original artworks. Double rooms start at just USD 250/night including free Wi-Fi, which is very reasonable for Manhattan. Pets up to 25kg are also welcome for no additional cost. An exceptionally good onsite eatery showcases seasonal ingredients courtesy of chef Daniel Humm, whilst the hotel’s glamorous Library Lounge bar completes this perfect Parisian-chic hospitality oﬀering in the heart of New York. NICHOLAS CHRISOSTOMOU www.thenomadhotel.com 26 The Cultured Traveller Feb-Mar 2017
PERTH, AUSTRALIA CROWN TOWERS Fringed by some of the world’s best city beaches, Perth is a visually pleasing modern metropolis on the banks of the Swan River. It is a place of big blue horizons and a captivating skyline, almost always perfect Mediterranean-style weather, and balmy evenings tailor-made for barbeques. There are few cities quite as perfect for early evening cocktails, to a backdrop of the sun seductively setting into the Indian Ocean in a glorious kaleidoscope of orange, violet and scarlet. For all of these reasons, it would be madness to book a room without a view, a mistake akin to forgetting your swimwear or calling an Australian an American. This was clearly much on the minds of the architects and designers of the new Crown Towers, an impressively lavish new addition to Western Australia’s luxury hotel oﬀerings, which overlooks both the city and the river and opened in December 2016. The towers are the latest addition to Crown Perth, Western Australia’s leading hotel and lifestyle resort and home to Perth’s only casino. Clearly a great deal of thought was invested in the hotel’s design. The exterior undulates and rolls, inspired by its environs, as well as the Aboriginal story of the Dreamtime creature, the Wagyl, who is said to have been responsible for the creation of the waterways. The curves cleverly dissolve the barriers between guests and the views, meandering gently around the resort’s tempting swimming pools. To fully appreciate the panorama, take the lift to the 15th ﬂoor and step out into the exclusive guest-only Crystal Club, a custom-designed lounge with an expansive al fresco terrace, which manages to ooze both worldly sophistication and laidback Aussie charm. Throughout the hotel the ﬁne detailing often catches the eye. Bespoke features include an indoor garden suggestive of a Roman piazza, and works by contemporary artists, including a mesmerising circular installation by Jennie Nayton, inspired by the colours and shapes of Western Australia’s ancient landscape. When it comes to the gastronomic side of things, the resort doesn’t disappoint, with numerous notable restaurants to tempt the palate, including an outpost of the world's most recognised Japanese restaurant, Nobu Perth, and award-winning Rockpool Bar & Grill helmed by Australian celebrity chef, Neil Perry. For a spot of pampering, Crown Towers’ guests can visit the resort’s world-class luxury spa, boasting vitality pools tiled in gold and platinum, marble showers and decadent La Prairie treatments. DAWN GIBSON www.crownperth.com.au
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RIAD EL FENN A boutique hotel in the shadow of a minaret, with an artful heart as rich as the ancient ambiance of the Grand Bazaar…it must be Marrakech. With just 22 lusciously bespoke rooms, Riad El Fenn is a hidden gem of an abode – a cultured traveller’s ultimate respite when the stakes are ﬂung in favour of the authentic. Here, it’s a balance struck like ﬂint – with spark. Very much a bohemian’s hideaway, an unobtrusive door opens oﬀ the streets of Marrakech and into a sinuous maze of corridors and courtyards that beckon visitors to give themselves over to its inner sanctum. With an array of open-concept suites – six of which are outﬁtted with custom-built baths and ﬁreplaces, plus six-foot-wide beds adorned with Egyptian cotton – your surroundings are entirely your sanctuary. Indulge in a ritual hammam at the hotel’s spa, sip a Moroccan tea in its hanging garden, or retreat to the onsite library and lose yourself in a book while lounging in one of the hotel’s heated reading pools. Pretty much all paths lead to Zen. El Fenn even oﬀers yoga mats and oil and watercolour painting kits for so inclined creative types. Dine in Moorish surroundings on the hotel’s rooftop terrace and drink in the views of the Atlas Mountains, before capping oﬀ your night with a few libations in the stylish Krug bar. Although here you’ll want to watch the sun rise over the old city – and we really don’t blame you. ASHLEE STARRATT www.el-fenn.com
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CAPELLA SHANGHAI, JIAN YE LI The marriage of heritage and modernity, Oriental and occidental, centuries-old temples and futuristic steel and glass pinnacles reaching towards the stratosphere are all hallmarks of the pulsing megalopolis of Shanghai. Few urban hubs blend old and new quite like China’s biggest city. Shanghai’s intoxicating history is the dramatic background to an opulent villa-based luxury hotel in the ancient heart of the city. The same project also marks the ﬁrst foray into the Chinese market by exclusive international resort and hotel group Capella. Scheduled to open in March 2017, Capella Shanghai, Jian Ye Li, is located within the cultural preservation area of the Xuhui District, the only all-villa Shanghai resort in the ﬁnal remaining cluster of a historic ‘shikumen’ estate. The word ‘shikumen’ translates to ‘stone warehouse gate’, and is a traditional architectural style, combining Western and Chinese inﬂuences, that dates back to the 1860s, a legacy of the city’s forced opening to foreign trade as a result of the ﬁrst Opium War. ‘Shikumen’ homes used to make up the majority of the city’s housing stock, but over time most have been replaced with modern apartments. The Jian Ye Li property, originally built in the 1930s by a French real estate company, will showcase a savvy combination of restored Chinese courtyard houses and Parisian style, comprising 55 ‘shikumen’ hotel villas and 40 plush residences. There will be a Capella library, a French brasserie, a holistic beauty spa by Auriga and a retail gallery of niche lifestyle brands. Nearby attractions include the serene Yu Gardens – a magniﬁcence of pavilions, water features and rockeries originally laid out in 1559 during the Ming dynasty – and Shanghai’s oldest and largest temple, Longhua, which dates back about 1700 years and houses a 3.3 ton bronze bell traditionally used to ring in the New Year. DAWN GIBSON www.capellahotels.com Feb-Mar 2017 The Cultured Traveller 29
CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA
THE SILO Along the jutting headland where two oceans meet, sits Cape Town – Mother City and jewel of South Africa. A mosaic of history, languages, art, culture and cuisine abounds here, against the stark backdrop of the nation’s iconic Table Mountain. It’s this recipe of ingredients that makes the heart of the city beat on the tip of the continent. And when it comes to inspired re-invention, Cape Town has always been at the top of its game. So it’s hardly surprising that in in a city with such an artful heart, that The Royal Portfolio would open a designer ﬁve-star luxury boutique hotel within a re-purposed grain silo, within the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront. Occupying six ﬂoors of what is slated to become the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa, The Silo will transform the elevator house and seven silos of the seminal structure into an architectural marvel. Pillowed glazing panels will balloon gently outward from the building’s façade and, when lit up at night, will transform the hotel into a beacon in the middle of Cape Town’s working harbour. 30 The Cultured Traveller Feb-Mar 2017
With 28 rooms and one expansive penthouse suite, all designed and decorated by Liz Biden, industrial architectural motifs are interspersed with carefully cultivated furnishing for a pop of colour and eclecticism. All rooms will be vertically spacious due to the composition of the building’s structure, and will boast ample views across the city, mountains, harbour and coastline. Meanwhile The Silo’s central location will make it an ideal nucleus for guests, oﬀering easy access to city site-seeing routes or, for those who prefer to make the most of this striking home base, the chance to unwind with a glass of bubbly on the hotel’s rooftop terrace, a private tour of the adjacent museum, or a comforting treatment in the complex’s plush spa. ASHLEE STARRATT www.theroyalportfolio.com/the-silo
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HOTEL WILLIAM GRAY The aptly named Old Montreal neighbourhood is the best place to discover the rich history of Montreal, one of North America's most stylish and forward-thinking cities, and also one of its oldest. The French-speaking city is considered the cultural capital of Canada, and is a veritable cosmopolitan celebration of Québécois style. In the center of town, all within just a few blocks, quaint cobblestone streets, early architecture and fascinating historical sites blend with trendy shops, ultramodern art galleries and exceptional restaurants stirring up magniﬁcent culinary inventions in their kitchens. Montreal is very much a city of deep historical roots, unbridled creativity and contemporary cool, and nowhere is this more skillfully brought to life than Hôtel William Gray which opened last year. A progressive fusion of two 18th century stone houses, plus a glass atrium and an eight-storey tower of 21st century design, the hotel opens onto Montreal’s famed pedestrian-friendly Place Jacques Cartier, where vibrant street life brings together locals and tourists alike, complete with buskers and curiosity stalls. Whilst William Gray looks and feels like a boutique hotel, in reality it is everything but, and oﬀers travellers a complete and well considered package via 127 rooms oﬀering stylish abodes laden with modern day creature comforts. A warm, residential atmosphere abounds, courtesy of wood, brick, leather, stone and bookshelves ﬁlled with unique ﬁnds. Glass walls and roofs provide bags of light, whilst bold artworks add splashes of colour. The devil is in the details and here there is detailing everywhere. The Living Room has an über-cool high-top Scandinavian-style communal table, but also low chairs and sofas for traditionalists. The bijou bar serves exceptional handcrafted cocktails. The stylish 180-seat restaurant, Maggie Oakes, facing bustling Place Jacques Cartier, serves terriﬁc food. A supremely successful marriage of old and new, if the hotel feels smaller than it really is, this is likely to be due to the personable ground ﬂoor staﬀ, who are super keen to help guests enjoy all that the city oﬀers. Topping the property like an al fresco crown is its rooftop wow factor, a 180-degree panoramic terrace, oﬀering vistas of the St-Lawrence River, Marché Bonsecours, the Old Port and the Casino de Montréal. If design really matters to you then Hôtel William Gray is basically the coolest place to currently rest your head in Old Montreal. NICHOLAS CHRISOSTOMOU www.hotelwilliamgray.com Feb-Mar 2017 The Cultured Traveller 33
GROSVENOR HOUSE SUITES For generations a townhouse in fashionable Mayfair has been a symbol of high society, a place where one could spend the London season entertaining friends and making enemies green with envy. A short stroll from both the bustle of Oxford Street and the serenity of Hyde Park, Mayfair has endured as one of London’s most elite addresses. Named after the annual ‘may fair’, which took place in the area from 1686 to 1764, the suburb began to take shape from the early 18th century, through the development of land owned by a cluster of wealthy British families, including the Grosvenors and the Burlingtons. While several thousand well-heeled residents still call Mayfair home, it is best known for some of the world’s most prestigious luxury hotels, and as a backdrop for retailers of the wares of top international and British designers. A walk along Bond or Mount streets is an exercise in self-restraint: each shop window is exquisitely set out and glittering with the latest oﬀerings from the likes of Chanel, Bvlgari, Louis Vuitton and Dior. Fronting Park Lane, overlooking Hyde Park and less than ﬁve minutes on foot from the temptations of the boutiques, Grosvenor House Suites by Jumeirah Living is the next best thing to owning your own Mayfair pad. Each of the 130 suites is sumptuously spacious and designed in the style of a chic high-end apartment. The sleek kitchen designed by B&B Italia is coupled with a large dining room just in case you fancy throwing a dinner party. High-tech features include touch-screen room controls and electronic blackout blinds. And after a long day of retail therapy, you can look forward to unwinding in the oversized tub in the under-ﬂoor-heated bathroom. As part of the international Jumeirah group, which also includes Dubai’s iconic Burj Al Arab, Grosvenor House Suites prides itself on oﬀering personalised experiences, under the guise of ‘At Home with Jumeirah Living’. For example, along with standard luxury oﬀerings such as in-room spa treatments, Grosvenor House holds regular events to give guests unique opportunities to meet famous authors, Michelin-starred chefs or West End theatre stars. The property also oﬀers access to bespoke personal shopping services, and the use of its exclusive contacts at top stores like Harrods and Selfridges to help track down that hard to ﬁnd item. DAWN GIBSON www.jumeirah.com 34 The Cultured Traveller Feb-Mar 2017
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KUALA LUMPUR NICHOLAS CHRISOSTOMOU EXPLORES MALAYSIA'S ENERGETIC AND MULTICULTURAL METROPOLITAN HUB IN THE JUNGLE
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Long before the world's current tallest building, Burj Khalifa, was even an idea in the minds of Dubai's turbo-charged urban planners, CĂŠsar Pelli's gleaming Petronas Towers were some of the tallest buildings on the planet, and have shined above the multicultural city of Kuala Lumpur for two decades. With its varied sights, range of languages, mix of old colonial past and modern architecture of today, and charming fusion of Oriental traditions and European inďŹ‚uences, Malaysia's capital city is unique amongst its metropolitan contemporaries, in that it is more culturally diverse, welcoming and accessible than many of its Asian peers
Feb-Mar 2017 The Cultured Traveller 37
KL has really come into its own in the past decade, shaped by everyone from British colonists and Indian migrants to Chinese tin miners and rich oil barons
ou get an inkling about the Malaysian capital's unique juxtapositon between the tropics and a metropolitan jux hub way before you exit the country's largest airport. hu At the centre cent of Kuala Lumpur International Airport is a section of rainforest transplanted from the jungle. Is it an airport in the forest or a forest in the airport? Either way, this lushness in the midst of one of the most prominent airports in the region, coupled with a striking combination of sleek architecture, futuristic technology and rich local culture, sets the tone for visitors arriving for the ﬁrst time in the country's ﬁnancial heart. Bedecked with tumbling planting and surrounded by lush botanicals, the proliferation of greenery hints at the tropical climate and warm Malaysian welcome awaiting you past the arrivals hall.
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Once much more shy and self-contained, when it was basically a central trading post for merchants from all over the globe, KL has really come into its own in the past decade, shaped by everyone from British colonists and Indian migrants to Chinese tin miners and rich oil barons. All helped to fashion this sultry, noisy capital in the jungle, and each has left its indelible mark on its streets, from crumbling architecture and soaring skyscrapers, to sparkling shopping malls and historic museums brimming with antiquities. I've noticed considerable advances since ﬁrst visiting KL ten years ago, all of which have contributed to the city's 21st century status as one of Asia's biggest crossroads for tourists. The arrival of Malaysian Airlines' ﬂeet of A380 superjumbo jets ﬁve years ago saw the country's national ﬂag carrier, together
The Malaysian capital now hosts vastly more tourists stopping oﬀ for a city break or longer urban immersion, since there is so much to keep visitors occupied
with Tourism Malaysia (www.tourism.gov.my), drive to grow KL into a metropolitan destination in its own right, and a worthy stopover for travellers en route to the tropical islands of Penang, Langkawi and Borneo, or on to Australasia. And it's working. The Malaysian capital now hosts vastly more tourists stopping oﬀ for a city break or longer urban immersion, since there is so much to keep visitors occupied. Kuala Lumpur being hot and humid most months also means that the city is ideal to visit year round. Since the climate is tropical KL experiences occasional rainfall, the intensity of which varies throughout the year. But shielded by mountainous valleys in several directions, the weather in Kuala Lumpur is relatively cooler than most other places in Malaysia, with temperatures that ﬂuctuate between 29°C - 35°C during the day, and
26°C - 29°C at night. It sometimes gets a little chilly after heavy rains, but on the whole KL is one of the least aﬀected by monsoon winds. National Day on 31st August and the F1 Grand Prix (29 Sep-1 Oct 2017) at the Hermann Tilke-designed Sepang International Circuit - one of the most technical in Formula One - are good times to visit the loud and vibrant Malaysian capital. If you're ﬂying light the KLIA Ekspres is undoubtedly the most convenient way of travelling into the city centre. The journey takes just 28 minutes, operating at 15-minute intervals during peak hours and 20 minutes oﬀ-peak, and with free 4G Wi-Fi onboard you're immediately connected. Even if like me you don't travel light, the train's VIP service costing MYR 210 Feb-Mar 2017 The Cultured Traveller 39
(EUR 45) includes meet-and-greet in the airport baggage hall, a dedicated porter accompanying you onboard the KLIA Ekspres, and a Mercedes E-Class to take you onwards to your ﬁnal destination (www.kliaekspres.com/vipservice). With Kuala Lumpur's streets often gridlocked with traﬃc, especially during paralysing rush hours, the KLIA Ekspres is by far the fastest way to make the 75-kilometre journey into the city centre. Moreover, in the past year or so, not only is KL Sentral (where the KLIA Ekspres arrives into) a hub for the city's transit network, but the area surrounding the station has morphed into a happening neighbourhood brimming with bars, restaurants and new hotels. These include a swanky St. Regis unveiled in July 2016 and built from the ground-up at immense expense, and a hip and funky Aloft oﬀering fun and functional hotel accommodation at exceptional value for a major capital. In fact, you can bag a 60m2 Breezy Suite at Aloft for just MYR 700 (EUR 150) per night and be 10 mins by taxi from downtown KL (www.aloftkualalumpursentral.com). This time next year, another of Starwood's successful hospitality brands is set to debut in the Malaysian capital, when W Kuala Lumpur throws open it's designer doors on Jalan Ampang, just across from the Petronas Towers. Since the unveiling of any new W hotel is a blatant hospitality acknowledgement that the host city is hip and happening, this opening is surely one to watch in March 2018. When visiting a city for the ﬁrst time, I almost always recommend purchasing a 24-hour hop-on-hop-oﬀ bus ticket to get your basic bearings on day one. KL has a few of these operating, the best of which is www.myhoponhopoﬀ.com/kl, but the traﬃc is so often congested, my advice is to get above the city and see it 40 The Cultured Traveller Feb-Mar 2017
for the ﬁrst time from up high. From KL Sentral you can hop on the city's monorail system, which zips to Bukit Bintang and Bukit Nanas (serving the Golden Triangle of malls, markets and skyscrapers), the Petronas Towers and KL Tower. Of these latter two options, the most dramatic is to ascend the 452m-high Petronas Towers that utterly dominate KL's skyline (www.petronastwintowers.com.my). The view from the Skybridge that links the towers is breathtaking, and will give you an immediate feel for the sprawling and varied (if not altogether pretty!) cityscape beneath you, and where all the major areas lie. These include Little India to the north near Chow Kit station, Merdeka Square in the old colonial quarter, and Chinatown east of the vast Lake Gardens area. All of the city's main neighbourhoods are visible from atop the Petronas 42 The Cultured Traveller Feb-Mar 2017
Towers, making KLCC, the heart of Kuala Lumpur, the perfect place to kick-oﬀ your KL experience. For a close-up view of the twin towers, grab lunch or Sky-High Tea at Nobu KL, famed Japanese chef Nobuyuki Matsuhisa's Malaysian outpost, on the 56th ﬂoor of the third (much shorter) Petronas tower, adjacent to its famous siblings. For a diﬀerent, altogether kitsch experience, a visit to Atmosphere 360 revolving restaurant, complete with galactic-inspired décor and more twinkling lights than a Xmas tree, 282-metres up KL Tower, makes for a fun and eye-opening afternoon. Even better if you visit the tower towards the end of September, when adrenalin junkies base jump oﬀ the top, during the annual Sitting On The Ledge extreme sports fest (www.menarakl.com.my).
Merdeka Square is at the core of KL's past and is bordered by a number of notable buildings, including the Royal Selangor Club and the beautiful Moorish copper-dome-topped Sultan Abdul Samad Building
After lunch you really should have a wander around one of the city's vast refrigerated malls, to get a sense of how much global commerce is pivotal to the economy of the Malaysian capital. The biggest is Suria KLCC, at the base of the Petronas Towers, which is home to a cinema and concert hall as well as hoards of shops and food outlets (www.suriaklcc.com.my/shopping). But I much prefer to blow my ringgits at Pavilion, an altogether more pleasurable and reﬁned retail experience, in the heart of stylish Bukit Bintang district (www.pavilion-kl.com). Excellent people watching opportunities abound at the many juice bars and cafés on street level outside Pavilion mall. Stop for a coﬀee and observe Kuala Lumpans rushing about their hectic business. It can often be exhausting just watching them!
To enjoy the sun setting on the Petronas Towers from the city's best vantage point, stroll over to Traders Hotel (within walking distance of both Suria KLCC and Bukit Bintang district) and head up to the 33rd ﬂoor SkyBar. You'll need to reserve to get a good table for sundowners, but it will be worth the tiny amount of forward planning (www.skybar.com.my). Once night has fallen and if you've feasted on a fancy lunch, amble towards Jalan Alor in Bukit Bintang for a down-to-earth culinary experience in the evening. As a melting pot of vibrant Asian cultures and traditions, eating-out in Kuala Lumpur is diverse to say the least. Jalan Alor is one of the most famous food roads in Kuala Lumpur, Feb-Mar 2017 The Cultured Traveller 43
and is home a multitude of street stalls serving many dishes that cannot be found in the city's fashion-conscious eateries. KL being an immigrant city, the variety of food available in Jalan Alor is astonishing. Start with some skewers of octopus and chicken at Fat Brother Satay, and then move along to Cu Cha for some scrumptious Chinese pork belly. The vast array of barbecued meats, noodles and desserts prepared in Jalan Alor are some of the tastiest in the city, and there is usually something for everyone. JALAN ALOR
Despite being a Muslim country, for those whose appetites for fun rise once the sun has well and truly set, Kuala Lumpur has plenty of late night venues. Ranging from cocktail bars, swishy rooftops and speakeasies, to DJ bars and world-class nightclubs, KL boasts an array of lively nocturnal options. From Bangsar's bars to Bukit Bintang's see-and-be-seen nightclubs, there's no shortage of happening haunts to frequent on a night out in Kuala Lumpur. One of the best is Elysium Bar+Terrace, in the heart of the city centre, oﬀering two diﬀerent nightlife venues under one roof. Lounge outside on the 32nd ﬂoor terrace and sip on a hand crafted cocktail, to a backdrop of beautifully mixed soulful house music. Or let your hair down inside where the music is deeper, the temperature is hotter and the party often rages until dawn. Either way, Elysium is a cool place to end a hot night in the Malaysian capital (www.facebook.com/pg/elysiumkl). In the tropical heat and amidst the chaotic roads and three-lane highways (which often appear to spring from nowhere), you'll need patience and plenty of chilled beverages to do any walking in KL. But if you keep things simple, stay hydrated and hop in and out of taxis from time-to-time to regroup, a day out and about in the city, 44 The Cultured Traveller Feb-Mar 2017
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with no ﬁxed agenda, can be fun. SIM cards are easy to buy and Uber is a godsend for tourists visiting the Malaysian capital, so if you're connected before leaving the comfort of your hotel you'll not get lost. Start at Merdeka Square in the centre of the city. Close to the Gombak River, Central Market, China Town and Jamek Mosque (one of the city's oldest mosques, built in 1909), the square is at the core of KL's past and is bordered by a number of notable buildings, including the Royal Selangor Club, National History Museum and the beautiful Moorish copper-dome-topped Sultan Abdul Samad Building. A 100m ﬂagpole, close to the museum, marks the spot where the Malayan ﬂag was hoisted on 31st August 1957, signifying the country's independence from British rule. Learn about the city's history at the excellent City Gallery at the southern end of the square (www.klcitygallery.com), then head east, over the Klang River, to the Art Deco façade of the covered Central Market. Here you can peruse local handicrafts and tourist trinkets, before making your way to KL's Chinatown on Jalan Petaling. Unless you're in the market for fake goods, most of what's BIBLIOTEKSGATAN on sale here won't interest you, but some of the hawker stalls serve yummy street food if you're peckish. From Petaling Street jump in a taxi for the 10-15-minute ride to KL's central Lake Gardens, a vast verdant relic of British rule, and a haven devoid of concrete and steel. After a leisurely turn around Perdana Lake, walk on to KL Bird Park, a gigantic walk-through 20.9-acre free-ﬂight public aviary billed as the world's biggest (www.klbirdpark.com). Five minutes away, the city's largest and most peaceful place of worship, Masjid Negara, the country's 15,000-capacity National Mosque, is worth seeing for its stunning modernist architecture 42
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alone. In between prayers, appropriately dressed tourists can explore this monument to modern Malaysian religion, where Buddhism, Christianity and Hinduism thrive side-by-side. End your day in airy white splendour, in the peaceful surroundings of the much under visited Islamic Arts Museum, 5 minutes up the hill from the National Mosque. The museum is a divine showpiece for the culture and artisanship that have uniﬁed the Muslim world, and the permanent collection of vessels, embroidery, jewels and dazzling bejeweled swords is super (www.iamm.org.my). I've rarely had time to explore out of the centre, despite visiting KL on more than half a dozen occasions, but for the more determined and organised amongst you, a visit to the Batu Caves, seven miles north of the city, is a spectacular way to end your time in Kuala Lumpur. Watch native monkeys make light work of the cliﬀs, as you climb the 272 steps towards the entrance to a truly magniﬁcent series of limestone caves and gorgeous temples. Presided over by a giant 42-metre golden statue of deity Lord Murugan, the site is one of the most popular Hindu shrines outside India, and the focal point of the annual festival of Thaipusam, when celebrations take place on a supremely grand scale. In a city where monkeys scamper close to skyscrapers and a boa constrictor can just as easily slither across a palm-lined six-lane highway as a Rolls Royce, Kuala Lumpur is unique in that it not only oﬀers something for everyone in its vivacious concoction of cultures, but also provides space to breathe, contemplate and relish in amongst its exotic urban mélange. 48 The Cultured Traveller Feb-Mar 2017
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STAY THE ST. REGIS KUALA LUMPUR Shortly after its Langkawi property was the ﬁrst of the St. Regis brand's to debut in Malaysia, its larger high-rise 48-storey parent, located in the heart of the nation's bustling capital, swung open its glitzy glazed doors, instantly setting a new luxury hospitality benchmark in Kuala Lumpur. Such is the richness and attention to detail with which St. Regis KL has been festooned, that the rest of the Malaysian hospitality industry is going to ﬁnd it very diﬃcult to exceed. Elegant and sophisticated yet airy and accessible all at the same stroke, St. Regis KL is positioned at the heart of the fast-growing KL Sentral district, directly opposite the station. Within walking distance are Lake Gardens, Brickﬁelds (Little India), the National Mosque, the Islamic Arts Museum and a handful of interesting historic architectural gems, including the Moorish-inspired Kuala Lumpur Railway Station and the Houses of Parliament. And the KLIA express train, just across the road, can whisk passengers directly to and from the airport in half an hour. Once inside the hotel's grand soaring lobby, presided over by a huge specially commissioned diptych of two 4.9-metre hand-etched leather murals by Mark Evans, depicting a powerful polo charge, the full scale of the property's lavishness and size become apparent, and it is immediately obvious that literally no expense has been spared in the construction of St. Regis KL. Not least, the Mark Evans artworks are the tip of the hotel's extensive collection, which also includes a spectacular 3.5-metre 'Botero Horse' bronze sculpture, by famed Colombian artist Fernando Botero, all 2.5 tones of its weight resting on a bespoke ﬂoor slab. In fact it’s rumoured that the hotel was actually erected around this monumental piece of art. A three-dimensional birds and butterﬂies artwork by Barnaby Hosking also vies for attention with acres of marble and granite, rich woodwork, polished metal ﬁnishes and countless sparkling Austrian crystal chandeliers. The lobby ceilings even contain hand-painted gold tiles. Unsurprisingly the overall eﬀect is regal and impressive, and the smartly dressed staﬀ are amongst the best in KL – chirpy, attentive and eager to assist. Upstairs the hotel's 208 rooms including 56 suites are amongst the largest in Asia, decorated in a palette of cream, gray and teal, and brightened by full-height windows. Even an entry-level room of 63m2 features a walk-in wardrobe, dressing room and swish marble bathroom, complete with concealed TV, rainforest shower and Remède amenities. And every room category – from the least expensive right up to the mammoth 353m2 Royal Suite – beneﬁts from St. Regis' signature butler service, providing discreet, personalised and anticipatory attention, including complimentary pressing, unpacking and packing and in-room hot beverages on demand, including morning tea and coﬀee service. The Cultured Traveller spent the weekend in an outstandingly comfortable 138m2 St. Regis Suite, reminiscent of a deluxe Manhattan apartment, the ﬁnishing and exactness throughout second to none, complete with a private massage room that was put to good use. Add to the generously proportioned guest rooms six food and beverage outlets – including Taka by Sushi Saito, courtesy of 3 Michelin-starred Japanese chef Takashi Saito – multiple palatial ballrooms, a sixth-ﬂoor swimming pool with deluxe cabanas, 24-hour ﬁtness centre, a yoga studio and a ﬁrst-class Iridium Spa, and it's little wonder that St. Regis KL has already been repeatedly name-checked as the best hotel in the city, attracting a cosmopolitan crowd of international business people, affluent locals and relaxed moneyed tourists. www.stregiskualalumpur.com 50 The Cultured Traveller Feb-Mar 2017
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STAY VILLA SAMADHI In Sanskrit 'samadhi' is the highest state of meditation, the moment when the mind achieves stillness, akin to a state of meditative consciousness. All Samadhi Retreats group's boutique properties are designed and built within this philosophy, with the aim of delivering a transcendental experience, where the anxieties of daily life are surrendered at the door and guests transition to a relaxed state of mind. The complete antithesis to KL's shiny and high-rise urban core, and the center's big business corporate hotels, staying at Villa Samadhi in the heart of the upmarket diplomatic area, is a breath of sub-tropical air in the shadow of the Malaysian capital. Once through the villa's gates, guests ﬁnd themselves in a rarely experienced city oasis, where one can truly switch oﬀ in between bouts of frenetic Malaysian metropolitan activity, recover in a veritable paradise after a night on the town, or ﬁnd the antidote to restore one’s soul after a period of urban over-immersion. Surrounded by embassies and lavish private residences, on the leafy edges of the city centre, even KL’s taxi drivers have trouble ﬁnding this bijou boutique hotel of just 21 rustic luxe rooms and suites, all of which ooze character and charming attention to detail. Staﬀed by a resident team that is both polite and super-friendly, which appears to invisibly glide around the property attending to the needs of guests, almost nothing is too much trouble. Essentially, staying at Villa Samadhi is akin to feeling like a guest at a friend's rather large and lovely home, and is the perfect juxtaposition to a city break in KL. Inspired by traditional Malay architecture while preserving the sanctity of its natural surroundings, each room and suite at Villa Samadhi oﬀers a deluxe sanctuary, with plenty of space to spread out and relax. Local accents married with a collage of natural elements, create a raw yet sophisticated Asian dwelling. The extensive use of wood, glass, black cement, stone and bamboo render a simplistic and modest design foundation to Villa Samadhi semi-minimalistic style. The embossing, layering and composition of these raw and natural materials, together with colourful Southeast Asian hill-tribe fabrics and complemented by landscapes of water and ﬁre, really create a unique sense of place. And by using bamboo and other local elements sourced from Malaysia's indigenous tribes, together with wooden furnishings handmade by Villa Samadhi’s own craftsmen, both conservation and community are integrated into a distinctive hospitality environment, resulting in a supremely balanced and relaxed stay experience for guests. The Cultured Traveller stayed in a ground ﬂoor Luxe Sarang room at Villa Samadhi, of which there were only four. These combine a bijou private walled garden, trickling waterfall and soothing ﬁsh ponds, with a private secluded heated al fresco jacuzzi, together with direct pool access to the villa’s central lagoon. The delightful overall eﬀect was that of staying in an unpretentious, yet super comfy, urban nest. www.samadhiretreats.com
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SEE MAP When enlightened developers decided to creatively jazz up the Solaris Dutamas housing complex, the result was an instant arts district. Still very much a work in progress, MAP is an arts and cultural platform that serves as a catalyst for producers and creative types from multidisciplinary backgrounds, to develop their ideas while promoting compelling encounters to a broad audience. Comprising a public piazza surrounded by several exhibition venues, plus rows of arty shops, MAP and adjacent Publika play host to a diverse range of activities, including fashion shows, music gigs, community bazaars, lectures, seminars and workshops. There's almost always something worth checking-out at MAP when you're in KL. www.instagram.com/mapkl_publika/ KL FOREST ECO-PARK Kuala Lumpur is the only city in the world that has a natural rainforest situated right at its centre. Back in 1906, the KL Forest Eco Park (formerly known as the Bukit Nanas Forest Reserve) was gazetted as a reserve, and is now the only remaining stretch of tropical rainforest within the city limits. Located in the heart of the city, next to KL Tower, expert guides escort visitors along fascinating nature trails and eagerly talk about the huge range of ďŹ‚ora and fauna that grows in the forest. Meanwhile a 200-metre canopy walk provides an aerial view of the treetops and the city beyond. www.menarakl.com.my LITTLE INDIA & JAMEK MOSQUE The Indian community accounts for around 10% of the nation's total population. When they came to Malaysia, not only did they bring their culture but also unique temples, delicious cuisine and colourful garments. One of the oldest parts of the city, Jalan Masjid India, or Little India as it is aďŹ€ectionately known, is the community's original shopping centre that dates back to more than a century ago. Grotty steam-table joints alternate with groceries peddling papaya-tomato soap, while spices waft along with tabla rhythms and the range of stacked embroidered textiles easily outdoes any tropical sunset. Think of it as Madras without the madness! Don't miss the eye-catching Masjid Jamek Mosque built in 1870. 54 The Cultured Traveller Feb-Mar 2017
KL FOREST ECO-PARK
CENTRAL MARKET Erected in 1928 and just a short 100m walk from China Town's Petaling Street, along Jalan Hang Kasturi, KL's Art Deco-façaded Central Market, also known as Pasar Seni, is one of the city's most familiar landmarks. The building used to be a simple wet market until it was revamped in the early 1980s into a handicraft centre. Now the focal point for the city’s artistic community, inside the building is a rabbit warren of boutiques, handicraft and souvenir stalls, with traders selling local merchandise including Malaysian batik prints, alongside portraitists and street artists, a smattering of eateries and an alternative free space for the arts in the annex. www.centralmarket.com.my
ISLAMIC ARTS MUSEUM
BATU CAVES One of Malaysia's most distinctive geographical features is the labyrinth of awe-inspiring natural caverns, found within the country's limestone abutments, some of which are located on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur. KL's biggest blasts of nature and a popular spot for rock climbing enthusiasts are the Batu Caves, estimated to be 400 million years old. A total of 272 steps lead up to the main caves and temple and obviously the climb is not for the faint hearted! Batu consists of three big caves, plus the world’s tallest statue of Murugan, a Hindu deity, standing at some 130 feet high at the foot of the steps. The view from the top, of KL's skyline, is simply stunning. www.batucaves.com ISLAMIC ARTS MUSEUM Situated in airy white splendour ﬁve minutes up the hill from the nation's beautiful Modernist National Mosque, and housing ancient artifacts from China, Southeast Asia, India, the Middle East and Iran, this outstanding museum is home to one of the best collections of Islamic decorative arts in the world. Aside from the quality of the exhibits which include fabulous textiles, carpets, jewellery and calligraphy-inscribed pottery, the building itself is absolutely stunning inside, with beautifully decorated domes and glazed tile work in abundance. There's also a rather good Middle Eastern restaurant and probably Kuala Lumpur's best museum gift shop. www.iamm.org.my
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TASTE NOBU KL Nobuyuki Matsuhisa is responsible for the modern wave of Japanese fusion cuisine, which updated classic sushi and other traditional dishes with global and South American inﬂuences. Next time you bite into a piece of sushi topped with mango or jalapeño, or dig into an entrée of black cod with miso sauce, you have chef Nobu to thank for the marriage of ﬂavours exploding in your mouth. Designed by French architect Severine Tatangelo, Nobu KL is unique in that it’s located on the 56th ﬂoor of Menara Petronas 3, oﬀering diners a spectacular close-up view of the Petronas Towers and a 360-degree vista of the surrounding cityscape. Unique to Nobu's Malaysian outpost, don't miss executive head chef Philip Leong's new-style salmon sashimi - thinly sliced salmon combined with heated olive oil, a sauce that together with thin slivers of ginger, spring onion and sesame seeds, subtly alters the qualities of the raw ﬁsh in a unique way. www.noburestaurants.com/kuala-lumpur
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FIVE SEN5ES Home to an authentic array of Cantonese cuisine, from simple tasty dim sum to decadent abalone, Five Sen5es at the city center’s Westin KL hotel, delivers expertly prepared and beautifully presented dishes in a serene and reﬁned environment. A Koi pond sets the calming tone of this tranquil eatery, where the well-constructed and broad menu features an extensive selection of true local Cantonese dishes, each paying homage to the ﬁve human senses of sight, taste, scent, touch and sound. The presence of these ﬁve elements is evident in the preparation, cooking and presentation of the restaurant's ﬁve excellent signature dishes, complemented by a selection of well-executed Chinese delicacies. Together with the restaurant's open kitchen’ concept, and ﬁve private rooms named after the Tang, Qing, Zhou, Han and Ming dynasties of China, a visit to Five Sen5es is a veritable modern day culinary adventure rich in the culture and heritage of Asia. Don't miss the Portuguese egg tarts, ﬂaky char siew pastries with parmesan and wok-fried Hong Kong soft noodles. www.westindining.com.my/ﬁvesen5es LAFITE Located just oﬀ the grand lobby of Shangri-La Kuala Lumpur, Laﬁte is one of the Malaysian capital's most enduring ﬁne-dining establishments. Right from the start, a large amount of space between tables sets the elegant dining room apart from KL's other top end restaurants. Diners are seated in over-sized armchairs to enjoy the delectable farm to table dishes expertly prepared by globally-inspired French chef de cuisine, Rémy Lefebvre, who hand picks his fresh vegetables from the Cameron Highlands district in Malaysia’s most extensive hill station, together with seafood from sustainable sources and seasonal farm 58 The Cultured Traveller Feb-Mar 2017
produce. Guests can choose from an eight-course tasting menu, seasonal tasting menu of 4 courses or dine à la carte. Lunch guests can partake of a very good value two-course menu at RM 98, or three courses at RM 145. Lefebvre's classic lobster thermidor main course - served in a mustard and béchamel sauce and grilled with emmental cheese - is a gastronomic triumph. www.shangri-la.com/kualalumpur NEO TAMARIND IIn the heart of Kuala Lumpur's city centre, Neo Tamarind brings together the best elements of a relaxing garden oasis, stylish club, and professional kitchen under one sleek roof. After stepping oﬀ the bustling streets of Malaysia's capital, ascending a stone staircase lined with lush botanicals lends the feeling of leaving behind the city and entering a tropical retreat. After crossing a small wooden bridge at the top of the stairs to enter the main venue, guests are treated to Neo Tamarind kitchen's eclectic and creative dishes, each assembled with love and attention to detail. The Asian European fusion cuisine is ingenious and tasty, blending countless elements in each plate. The bar continues the fusion theme with a refreshing ‘East meets West' cocktail menu. At the weekends local DJs take over and shake-up the atmosphere with luxe-lounge sounds until the early hours. Whilst many of KL's dining and drinking venues often struggle to balance food, cocktails and music, Neo Tamarind somehow manages to ﬁnd just the right balance. www.tamarindrestaurants.com THE BRASSERIE Located within the city’s most sumptuous hotel, the sophisticated brasserie at The St. Regis Kuala Lumpur oﬀers a modern Feb-Mar 2017 The Cultured Traveller 59
European café experience by day, and transforms into a contemporary French restaurant by night. Soaring high ceilings, elegant decor and an extremely comfortable dining room, populated with high-end beautifully ﬁnished furnishings and laden with expensive classic tableware, are hallmarks of the brasserie's stylish environs that exude pure luxury. The excellent menu oﬀers a variety of ﬁne fare, including Hokkaido Scallops Carpaccio (RM 101) to start, pastas including Gnocchi Beef Stew (RM 64) and a variety of ﬁsh and meat including Australian Lamb Rack (RM 165). The evening oﬀering is dominated by delicious French-Mediterranean sharing-styled plates. Every dish produced throughout the day, from breakfast through to dinner, is cooked to perfection and expertly served. For an intimate special occasion, there's also a plush private dining room that seats up to 14 guests in decadent comfort. www.stregiskualalumpur.com MADAME KWAN KL culinary legend, Madame Kwan, has been serving her customers Malaysian cuisine since 1977 and has dedicated her life to this culinary cause, delivering hawker and wok themed dishes in the comfort of a café-style restaurant. Located within the bustling food court of the Bukit Bintang's Pavilion shopping centre, Madam Kwan oﬀers a variety of local favourites, all reasonably priced and delivered to the table quickly and eﬃciently, making this restaurant just perfect for a lunchtime pit stop. From Madame Kwan's signature nasi lemak, to her wok style hokkien mee, there’s something for everyone on the huge Malaysian menu. Madame Kwan is the perfect place to explore this most eclectic of cuisines without breaking the bank. www.madamkwans.com.my 60 The Cultured Traveller Feb-Mar 2017
Stay Exquisite Experience the modern day glamour combines with old-world elegance, The St. Regis Kuala Lumpur comprises of 208 elegantly furnished accomodations, featuring the largest guest rooms in the city. The signature St. Regis Butler Service provide discreet and anticipatory attention, every need is catered to.
ÂŠ2016 Marriott International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Preferred Guest, SPG, St. Regis and their logos are the trademarks of Marriott International, Inc., or its affiliates.
The St. Regis Kuala Lumpur No. 6, Jalan Stesen Sentral 2 Kuala Lumpur Sentral, 50470 Kuala Lumpur Malaysia t. +603 2727 1111 stregis.com/kualalumpur
Stay exquisite at more than 40 St. Regis hotels and resorts worldwide. @stregishotels
SIP MAI BAR Located in the heart of fast-rising Sentral district, considered by many to be KL's new CBD, is the funky buzzing Aloft Kuala Lumpur Sentral, a 465-room fun-ﬁlled hotel, ﬁlling 25 ﬂoors of a glistening modern tower. Up on the 30th ﬂoor, boasting sweeping views of Kuala Lumpur and set around an sleek elongated central bar, is Tiki-themed rooftop destination venue, Mai Bar, where international DJs lay down groovy tunes and the city's young and hip drop in to gather post work for tasty cocktails courtesy of Aloft's talented mixologists. The perfect place to kick-oﬀ a night out, this sprawling attitude-free VENUE also oﬀers a variety of gourmet tapas which is exceptionally tasty and great value. Don't leave without sampling Mai Bar's signature concoction, the Malaysian Princess Mai Tai. www.aloftkualalumpursentral.com BLUE ELEPHANT If you're looking for a stylish bar that combines a fun and glitzy ambience with original cocktails and imported single malt whiskies, then you need to ﬁnd Blue Elephant within the Plaza Damansara commercial building. But popular amongst locals and expats alike who’ve grown weary of overcrowded bars and congested traﬃc in the city centre, this hidden bar makes you work for your post-work tipple by being hidden. Follow a trail of posters up the walls of the staircase and you’ll ﬁnd it. Once inside the decor is decidedly Hollywood inspired. The bar's signature Blue Elephant is made with vodka, Australian Chardonnay, passion fruit syrup, apple juice, grapefruit juice and blue curacao. Scrummy bar snacks come by way of A Li Yaa, the Sri Lankan restaurant located behind the bar. www.facebook.com/blueelephantkl ASTOR BAR Past a huge pair of imposing ﬂoor-to-ceiling entrance doors which gracefully glide open to swish guests inside, The Astor Bar at The St. Regis Kuala Lumpur is such a sophisticated space, literally exuding class from every pore, that once inside you may think you've been teleported into an uptown Manhattan gentleman’s club. All dark wood-clad walls, polished brass, horsehair seats, velvet sofas, leather wingback chairs and glittering gold accents, a hugely impressive long bar is presided over by Austrian crystal chandeliers for a touch of shimmer and sparkle. Here cocktails are lovingly hand-crafted and exquisitely presented, more 62 The Cultured Traveller Feb-Mar 2017
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than 650 wine vintages are poured into crystal goblets and ﬁne single malt whiskies are served in weighty engraved tumblers. If you order a Rat Pack Rusty Nail, made with Maker’s Mark bourbon, Drambuie and triple sec, your potent cocktail will be delivered to your table smoking. www.stregiskualalumpur.com TATE BAR Private and discreet, and one of the pioneers of secret 1920s prohibition-style bars in Kuala Lumpur, is the upmarlet Tate Bar at the Intermark KL, about 15 minutes’ walk from Petronas Twin Towers. Its wall-camouﬂaged entrance is quite a challenge to ﬁnd - you need to look for a light ﬁxture that’s shaped like a top hat, give it a push and you'll ﬁnd yourself in the company of well-dressed patrons and waiters dressed in retro-inspired uniforms. Emulating the style of an expensive speakeasy, cocktails are presented in crystal-cut glasses while straight pours are served in fat heavy tumblers, perfect for a well aged bourbon. www.thebiggroup.co/tate/ NO BLACK TIE The expat nightlife strip of Bukit Ceylon features an ever changing selection of venues oﬀering everything from English ale to Cuban mojitos. The scene is small enough that you can table-hop until dawn, but the only place that delivers consistently is No Black Tie, the city's singular spot for jazz, Brazilian funk, poetry and the occasional dose of Chopin. Founded in 1998 by Sarawakian born classical pianist, Evelyn Hii, this once humble establishment located ﬁve doors from it’s original home has now become something of a KL institution, routinely hosts some of Malaysia’s top singers and musicians, and is the watering hole of choice for many of the city's cultural and social bunnies. www.noblacktie.com.my MR BROOKS Primarily a gin and cocktail bar, although its entrance is far easier to ﬁnd compared to other speakeasies in Kuala Lumpur, Mr Brooks’s witty cocktail oﬀerings and discreet and sophisticated ambience makes it one of the best nightlife spots in the city. Located on the third ﬂoor of Bangsar Shopping Centre, where you’ll ﬁnd a makeshift garage with a purple Sunbeam Alpine Car parked inside, visitors need to look for the tool panels on the wall and push through to reveal the bar's entrance. Deﬁantly decorated in the manner of a gentleman’s den, the decor is classy and the glassware is vintage. Be sure to order a Margarita Thatcher cocktail and nibble on some of Nan’s Carrot Cake. A wide selection of cigars is also available. www.thebiggroup.co/mr-brooks/ 64 The Cultured Traveller Feb-Mar 2017
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SPEND From massive refrigerated malls of 500+ stores, to the arts and crafts of Central Market, the backstreet stalls of Petaling Street and the city's most renowned shopping district of Bukit Bintang, for many visitors Kuala Lumpur is nothing short of a shopaholic’s dream. And what the city's retail sector lacks in independent stand-alone boutiques is more than made up for by the sheer range and variety of what's for sale in the vastly diﬀering shopping environments. But if you're only in town for a few days and you're on a mission to spend, deciding where to start is not easy. So here are The Cultured Traveller's suggestions for some top places to hit in KL to indulge in some serious retail therapy: ARIZALI Within three-storey Parkson department store inside Pavilion mall, on the 4th level you will ﬁnd Arizali, where you can buy ﬂowing garments and chic accessories unique to KL. Fashioned from beautiful hand-dyed batik fabrics in ﬁne cotton voile, linen, silk and chiﬀon, Arizali's founder and designer, French-Lebanese Nashka Solotareﬀ, produces an original resort collection featuring a large range of sarongs and kaftans, tops and dresses, scarves and shawls, plus a superb capsule collection of menswear including shirts and casual trousers, all perfect for gifts and super light to carry. www.arizali.com PAVILION Open since 2007 with close to 500 outlets in the heart of Bukit Bintang, this haute couture shopping mecca provides a winning mix of luxury boutiques and high-street stores, together with a superb food court in the basement, where Madam Kwan’s is perfect for a Malaysian lunch pit stop (www.madamkwans.com.my). Upstairs you'll ﬁnd high-end designers such as Celine, Salvatore Ferragamo, Burberry and Gucci, as well as a slew of well-known international chains including Topshop and Zara. If you're looking for unique Asian fashion visit Pavilion's Tokyo Street, where Kawaii-Kawaii and Kenji Corner amongst others retail their on-trend wares. www.pavilion-kl.com
LOT 10 Around since the early 90s, Lot 10 in the heart of Bukit Bintang is enjoying something of a renaissance, since Swedish retail giant H&M opened its biggest south-east Asia store within the complex - a three-ﬂoor behemoth brimming with aﬀordable, on-trend fashion. In total Lot Feb-Mar 2017 The Cultured Traveller 67
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10 contains around 40 fashion labels, running the gamut from international luxury brands such as Calvin Klein, Ed Hardy and Versace, to the more aﬀordable Braun Buﬀel, Nike and Timberland. By comparison to the massive malls, Lot 10 provides visitors with a fairly intimate shopping experience, akin to visiting Bloomingdales. A bridge on the ﬁrst ﬂoor connects Lot 10 to Bukit Bintang monorail station. www.lot10.com.my
STARHILL GALLERY Just across from Pavilion, Starhill Gallery is an upscale luxury retail mall, almost exclusively populated by premium labels including Dior, Fendi, Louis Vuitton, Missoni and Alexander McQueen. Perfect for big spenders and label queens and fun for window shoppers, the main concourse is a spacious open-concept area, which plays host to a stage as well as a variety of exclusive cafés that surround it. The ﬁrst ﬂoor is KL's go-to place for jewellery and LUXURY watch brands, whilst the third ﬂoor is home to a 50,000ft2 spa and relaxation zone boasting almost 100 treatment rooms and oﬀering pampering services by some of the city's best therapists. www.starhillgallery.com SUNGEI WANG PLAZA Packed to the brim with a heady combination of cult brands, local designers, street style stalwarts and independent stores selling everything from fashion-related products and electronics to at aﬀordable prices, Sungei Wang Plaza is a haven for bargain hunters but a complete nightmare for the claustrophobic. Some of the center's quirky and often wacky stalls can suck you in for hours, as you sift through racks looking for something's that's right. When you tire of the bargain shops on the lower levels, head up to the sixth ﬂoor where you'll ﬁnd everything from cutting-edge fashion to eccentric vintage wear. www.sungeiwang.com
PATTERN STORE Subang Jaya, located approximately 20km from the city centre, has transitioned from a humble suburban city to a neatly self-contained hub of education institutions, eateries and independent retail stores. SS15 (Section 15), Subang Jaya's central business area, is most deﬁnitely a go to place for visiting shoppers, featuring a variety of funky independent shops including Pattern Store. Here you'll ﬁnd a great selection of clothing from local labels like The Deciders and Obliq, Voluspa candles produced by the now-defunct Thimble, plus stationery, specialist magazines and even vintage Polaroid cameras. Well worth heading a little out of town for. www.facebook.com/patternstore.co Feb-Mar 2017 The Cultured Traveller 69
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Villa Rummanah, Alila Jabal Akhdar
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igher above sea level than the famed Swiss alpine resort of St. Moritz, some 90 miles from the Omani capital of Muscat, exists an unspoilt mountainous Arabic haven of utter peace and tranquility, which relatively few seasoned global travellers have yet to discover. Particularly if you live and work in one of the Gulf countries, and you haven't yet escaped the ridiculous heat of the summer months to the Sultanate's milder peaks, you my friends really are missing out. In 2011, Qaboos bin Said Al Said, ruler of Oman, issued a decree establishing Al Jabal Al Akhdar (Arabic for Green Mountain), as a designated nature reserve. This was done in a bid to conserve the region's unique yet fragile biodiversity and exceptional natural beauty. The measure eﬀectively conferred protected status on the mountainous swathe, popular for its dramatic massifs, plunging ravines and temperate summertime climate. Located in the interior of the nation, Al Jabal Al Akhdar had long been a draw for nature lovers and tourists, attracted by its unique setting plus locally grown grapes, pears, apricots and a variety of other fruits. Even Prince Charles and the late Princess Diana had sought out its breathtaking heights in 1986, alighting from their helicopter for the best part of a day to
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revel in the incredible vistas, his royal highness even pausing to paint. Alila Jabal Akhdar was groundbreaking when it opened almost three years ago. It was the Alila brand's ﬁrst project outside its tropical Southeast Asian base, and made the Green Mountain area accessible to luxury travellers for the very ﬁrst time, opening-up a once-hidden corner of Oman. My high-altitude Arabic adventure began when I landed in Muscat, still a relatively unreﬁned arrival experience for the Middle East, until the new airport ﬁnally opens – soon apparently. There’s something romantic about a long quiet journey in a 4WD, on the way to a much-anticipated destination. Like the wistful calm before a hospitality storm, albeit my endpoint was to be a sanctuary. After passing through a checkpoint near Izki, a couple of hours drive southwest of Muscat, I was awoken from an impromptu post-ﬂight snooze by our vehicle commencing a rather steep climb. Our ascent suddenly became something of an eye-opener. Peering out of the windows my eyes were met with glimpses of a virtually lunar landscape, not to mention the incredible feat of highway engineering upon which we were travelling. As we progressed onwards and upwards the journey was
increasingly more remarkable, both for the spectacular views and the tremendous variety of ﬂora and fauna on display. I was dead tired but what I observed kept me awake. We were told that the pomegranates growing here are amongst the ﬁnest in the world. At such a high altitude, the villages we passed enjoyed an almost Mediterranean climate, with orchards and ﬁelds sustained by ingenious irrigation systems and terraces dug out to grow crops. Some 2,000 metres above sea level, Alila Jabal Akhdar is located in a central section of the Al Hajar Mountains in northeastern Oman, in the epicentre of the highest range in the Eastern Arabian Peninsula. The resort lies very much at the end of the road by Hayl ad Diyar, perched on the edge of a ravine overlooking a dramatic gorge. A new cave 100 metres long and 40 metres deep was recently discovered in Hayl Al Diyar, and as soon as I stepped out of the 4WD I realised that I was in a location of rich natural geology. Vacationing at Alila Jabal Akhdar is most certainly not a run-of-the-mill experience, and with just 78 suites plus two villas, it is also a rather private and boutique aﬀair, which adds to the allure and exclusivity of the place. You won't see a coach here and you certainly won't see crowds
of people either. In a world that is becoming more connected and intense by the day, a stay at Al Jabal Al Akhdar is a breath of fresh mountain air and imbues a real sense of vitality in oneself. Designed by UK-based architects Atkins, with interiors by Thailand’s P49 Deesign, the LEED-designed green building certiﬁed complex was constructed using local materials and traditional techniques, inspired by ancient forts. The resulting resort is interesting and understated, authentically reﬂecting Omani history with subtle contemporary hints. Local stone sourced on-site during the project’s excavation clads the buildings' exterior façades, enabling the sprawling, eco-friendly resort to blend gently and seamlessly into the landscape without upsetting the rocky setting. This restrained construction style is at the very heart and feel of the hotel, rendering the entire site virtually invisible at night when the lights are out, allowing the stars up above to truly shine down onto the raw landscape below. Spread out between the main building and half a dozen low-rise clusters dotted around the grounds, guest rooms are calm and uncluttered, with neutral tones, dark woods and locally crafted accessories prevailing. All beneﬁt from
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spectacular vistas across the main gorge or towards the ridge. Of the seventy-odd rooms, those with the best views are the standard Mountain View category in the main building, and the Jabal Terrace suites, of which there are eight featuring large outside terraces with oodles of space to spread out. Alila Jabal Akhdar's crowning glory (aside from the inimitable views, of course) are two enormous private villas, set away from the main complex, quite apart from the rest of the resort's accommodation. Named Rummanah and Jowz after the pomegranates and walnuts the region is famed for, these exclusive two-bedroom villas oﬀer plush and spacious surroundings, each large enough for a family or a select group of friends. At the end of a private carriage driveway with it's own covered parking area, behind a dramatic pair of huge dark-wooden front doors, Villa Rummanah was to be my home for the next four days. In a world where ﬁrst impressions tend to matter Villa Rummanah does not disappoint. Once past the unpretentious exterior, inside the surroundings were truly wow and it was immediately obvious that no expense had been spared furnishing and accessorising the massive 350m2 villa. The interior was decorated in soft nutmeg, rich chocolate tones and dotted 74 The Cultured Traveller Feb-Mar 2017
with sprigs of colour, with hand-carved furniture and individual statement pieces in abundance and original artworks adorning the walls. The detailing was literally everywhere, from vintage trunks and handmade woolen rugs, to colourful woven curtains and antique coach lanterns, and artisanal works and original artifacts. What I especially enjoyed about the space was that everything was on one level, with the master suite at one end of the building and the guest bedroom at least forty metres away, oﬀering plenty of privacy within the villa as well as from the outside world. In between the bedrooms were a collection of large interconnected rooms all deferring to walls of ﬂoor-to-ceiling windows, including a large lounge, separate formal dining room, and a salon cum oﬃce with enough seating for more than a dozen people, behind its desk a impressive statement wall brimming with pots, boxes, dishes, glassware and other objet d'art. Out back and running the length of three rooms, was a show-stopping inﬁnity pool facing the gorge, with an open untamed space of indigenous rocks and botanicals beyond. At one end the curtains surrounding a massive double daybed, laden with cushions and pillows, danced in the mountain breezes. At the other end of the heated pool, a
separate jacuzzi was sunk in the ﬂagstone terrace outside the master bathroom. Together with a steam room and a mammoth oval bathtub carved from one piece of pale marble (which resembled one half of a giant ostrich egg and weighed more than two tons), the master suite basically had its own private spa. The bathroom alone was larger than most hotel rooms. I could see, in that instant, that I wouldn't want to leave when the time came, such were the warmth and usability of the place. With the exception of the kitchen door, (which when open prevented easy access to the fridge/freezer to prepare drinks quickly!), everything throughout Villa Rummanah functioned beautifully, and settling-in was easy and pretty much immediate. Subsequent days were spent lazing around the pool on thick-mattressed teak loungers, soaking-up the sun, reading, listening to music and gazing out across the incredible sight in front of us, whilst sipping on wines selected from the hotel's perfectly adequate cellar. One day we took a day-trip to a deserted Omani village, and on the way back I picked juniper berries for my gin and tonics than night. Evenings were spent dining privately in the villa on exquisite cuisine prepared by the hotel's executive chef, Alex Ensor, or feasting at the very good onsite Juniper Restaurant in the main building. Watching movies and sitting on the terrace gazing up at the stars also featured nightly, because staying at Alila Jabal Akhdar felt tantamount to being told by the universe to stop for a moment, a suggestion it was diﬃcult to resist. After a couple of astonishingly good nights sleep, coupled with some excellent treatments at the in-house Asian-inﬂuenced spa, at the hands of Balinese therapists practicing age-old traditional techniques, it was nigh on impossible to persuade me to leave my luxe surroundings, even for a few hours. When it was eventually the day to depart my mountain retreat I was genuinely sad to leave, nothing having been too much trouble throughout my stay. In my business I can honestly say that this is something of a rarity these days. Alila’s ﬁrst Middle Eastern property successfully provides a true escape from urban life and all its complexities. Despite a fast-moving hospitality industry and new larger and ﬂashier hotels opening in the vicinity, Alila Jabal Akhdar is still unique in numerous ways that resolutely set it apart. The beauty of this hotel lies not only in its splendid location, but the intimacy and exclusivity of the property. After a few days guests know many of the friendly staﬀ, and this is where true hospitality and the essence of Alila Jabal Akhdar shine through. If your budget can stretch to one of the hotel's gorgeous villas, your stay at Alila Jabal Akhdar will undoubtedly be an experience you are unlikely to ever forget. I know I won't. Nicholas Chrisostomou visited Alila Jabal Akhdar in October 2016 In February and March 2017 the average nightly rate for Villa Rummanah is OMR 915 plus taxes www.alilahotels.com/jabalakhdar 76 The Cultured Traveller Feb-Mar 2017
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CULTUREDCHAT WITH CHRIS K. FRANZEN PART OF A FAMILY WITH A FINE HOSPITALITY PEDIGREE, IT'S LITTLE SURPRISE THAT SWISS-BORN HOTELIER, CHRIS FRANZEN, HAS MADE SUCH A NAME FOR HIMSELF IN THE HOTEL INDUSTRY. THE SEASONED HYATT HOTEL OPERATOR CHATS WITH THE CULTURED TRAVELLER ABOUT HIS CAREER, OVERSEEING MULTIPLE PROPERTIES IN TWO COUNTRIES, AND JUGGLING HIS HECTIC SCHEDULE WITH A DEVOTED FAMILY AND TWO RESCUE DOGS
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Were there any indications during your youth that hospitality was to be your calling? Coming from the small alpine village of Zermatt, in the heart of the Swiss Alps, I had nothing else in mind other than to be a hotelier. Having built a hotel in Zermatt in the middle of the 20th century, my grandfather and father were hoteliers. The resort has barely 5,000 year-round residents but more than 120 hotels, so I grew up immersed in the culture of tourism. Visitors to Zermatt are lured by the famous Matterhorn, of course. The hours are long and, unless you make it to the top, the pay is not amazing. So what persuaded you to follow the family tradition? Growing-up in a hospitality environment all I saw was the glitz and glamour of the industry. Since our guests included Audrey Hepburn, Roger Moore and Madame Cartier, hotels had a certain attraction! Charles Bronson also stayed in our hotel while shooting a movie in Zermatt. These were just a few of many fabulous guests, and we still have long lasting friendships with some who regularly visited us for decades. In some cases we now have the second and third generation of families returning to Zermatt each year. The long hours were never something I thought about. Time passes easily when
you are doing something you enjoy and I’m deﬁnitely not in it for the money! Before heading oﬀ to hotel school in Australia you qualiﬁed as a chef and sommelier in Switzerland. How would you say that this training prepared you for the future? Switzerland has an almost unique apprenticeship system; I think only Austria and Germany have similar schemes, which basically ensure that you’re working in your chosen profession as a chef or sommelier while being educated at the same time. Even before I entered hotel school I had worked for several years. Work experience combined with a Cornell School of Hotel Administration education prepared me extraordinarily well for my future. I have also been fortunate to have some exceptional mentors over the years. You held various managerial positions in diﬀerent hotels until joining Hyatt. How important was it for you to work your way up through the ranks, and which experiences had the most positive impact during the early years of your working life? You can’t replace experience with education - both are very important. No single experience had the biggest impact on me, but overall having been a chef was probably the toughest though most rewarding part of my career. It helps tremendously when you understand the challenges and problems that your colleagues face. You’ve been in their position and it makes problem solving that much easier. An added bonus is that they can’t get away with anything! What persuaded you to join Hyatt in 1999 when you were on the verge of joining InterContinental? I had two oﬀers of which InterContinental’s was for a more senior and much better paid position. But after speaking with directors of both hotels it was clear I would take my chances. Josef Kral, a Hyatt hospitality legend, simply said, “You are a chef, you know how to work hard. If you are as good as you think you are, you will have a career with Hyatt”. The InterCon director basically oﬀered a job and said, “There will be no opportunity for promotion or transfer for two years”. So Hyatt it was and I’ve never looked back since. Which hoteliers do you most admire and why, and did anyone in particular inﬂuence your early hospitality career? My Dad was the ﬁrst to inspire me since he was a very passionate host. The other two people, who still answer my
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biggest operation in Europe, Africa and the Middle East. Please tell us about this experience. Dubai was a diﬀerent place in those days. There were a handful of 5-star hotels and everyone knew each other. There was great camaraderie in the hotel. We would not only spend our long working hours together, but we would also get together on our days oﬀ. In many ways even the guests were diﬀerent. There was not as much leisure tourism as there is today and many business travellers were returning guests who became friends over the years. As in any hotel, we had exciting days and terrible days. Work was tough and we worked hard but it all paid oﬀ. After a 4-year stint at Grand Hyatt Muscat, your next posting was Director of Rooms at Ararat Park Hyatt Moscow in 2005. How did working in the capital of the world's largest nation diﬀer from the Middle East and what did you glean from your time in Russia? We left beautiful 30°C blue-skied Muscat and landed in cold grey -30°C Moscow! The guest proﬁle was completely diﬀerent, and the colleagues I worked with were mainly Russian, whereas the work environment in Dubai was very multicultural. We had a tremendous time in Moscow. It is a fantastic albeit expensive city to live in, with people who have a lot to oﬀer, combined with a fascinating history.
GROWING-UP IN A HOSPITALITY ENVIRONMENT ALL I SAW WAS THE GLITZ AND GLAMOUR OF THE INDUSTRY. SINCE OUR GUESTS INCLUDED AUDREY HEPBURN, ROGER MOORE AND MADAME CARTIER, HOTELS HAD A CERTAIN ATTRACTION! calls today when I need advice, are Josef Kral and Ashwini Kumar. Josef was the General Manager of Hyatt Regency Dubai. Ashwini is currently the General Manager of Park Hyatt Jeddah, has been an invaluable mentor and I speak to him almost daily. Your ﬁrst post for Hyatt was assistant revenue manager followed by front oﬃce manager at Hyatt Regency Dubai, which, back then, was the brand's
You returned to the Middle East as Executive Assistant Manager at Grand Hyatt Dubai, and then General Manager of Grand Hyatt Muscat. Please tell us about your years in the Omani capital? Returning to Oman was simply a dream come true. The Sultanate holds a very special place in my family’s hearts. The country is simply breathtaking, with the sea, mountains and fjord-like wadis in and around Muscat. As a passionate motor biker I also enjoyed Oman’s beautiful mountain and coastal scenery from the back of my BMW adventure bike. Most importantly we treasure our Omani friends who are the more kind and warm people. We had two 4-year postings in Oman and our kids absolutely loved the place. They still miss it and often ask to visit friends there. On a professional level, for me Grand Hyatt Muscat is an Arabic hospitality gem. Its unique architecture, superb location and variety of restaurants are amongst my favourites of any hotel on the planet. How would you describe your management style, and what sets apart Chris Franzen from the thousands of other hotel GMs around the world? Being approachable and hands-on. I work alongside my Feb-Mar 2017 The Cultured Traveller 81
teams and make swift decisions. There is nothing worse than managers who drag out processes because they are afraid to make decisions and take responsibility. I also enjoy forming relationships with guests – looking after many of them personally. At all times I always strive to add an extra touch of personal service. You’ve amassed a wealth of experience after two decades in the industry. How have you seen the role of a GM evolve over the years? We have to be careful that we, as GMs, are not moving from being guest centric to process driven. I sometimes feel that we are tangled up in administrative processes that keep us oﬃce bound instead of being visible in the hotel operation. As we all try to keep up with the Instagram era, is the convenience of touch-of-the-button technology beginning to surpass millennial travellers' needs for one-to-one interaction, or do guests still enjoy the personal touch? I do not believe so. On the contrary, it allows us to interact with our guests and fans even when they are not in the property. We can even stimulate a desire to travel if tools are used properly. We can emotionally engage with our guests
and colleagues through social media and be constantly present. We have also moved away from traditional job listings and changed the way we hire - producing videos of our staﬀ that explain roles to potential employees. Since you took over as GM four years ago, Grand Hyatt Doha has become a hospitality landmark in the Qatari capital. How do you keep its service, oﬀerings and ethos fresh in a city where brand new ﬁve-star hotels open regularly, and provide a unique and memorable guest experience? Being present, interacting with guests, evaluating and trying out new ideas and trends. Basically listening to the needs of guests help us to craft a unique experience and ensure we constantly evolve in what we do, how we do it and whom we want to touch. There was great potential when I arrived in Qatar, since I felt we had neglected people living in Doha and were too focused on too few elite hotel guests. We have changed this with great success. A year ago you were promoted to a regional role, looking after Hyatt's properties in Oman and Qatar. What is the diﬀerence as far as your challenges are concerned? As the Area Vice President for Qatar and Oman I travel a lot more and am involved to a greater degree with our owners. I also interact more frequently on a corporate level within Hyatt. These are all areas I tremendously enjoy being exposed to, since it gives me an opportunity to inﬂuence our hotels’ directions and how we manage and improve guest and colleague experiences. Exploring new food and beverage concepts with my colleagues from Dubai regional oﬃce I also greatly enjoy. When a TripAdvisor review can often make or break a hotel's reputation, how have hoteliers adapted their marketing and customer service strategies to accommodate the digital deluge of today? There is no question that this technology has fundamentally changed the way guests book and travel. Guests are no longer gullible and can see, diﬀerentiate and make an educated decision as to whether a hotel will suit them or not. Both hoteliers and travellers have grown-up and learned to live with guest feedback via social media. We have processes in place to collect guest feedback, analyze it and pinpoint areas in a hotel for improvement. At the same time we also use these tools to see where we are excelling. We still come across guests who are unreasonable in their
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If you can achieve these two points you are halfway there. If I cannot change something I don’t lose sleep over it. If I can make a diﬀerence I work on it. I apply this to everything I do and everyone I deal with. Being honest, down to earth and straightforward makes my daily processes and workload much easier to handle. I am also blessed by having a fantastic family, my wife Rachel and our children, Ashley and Lex, who support me all the way. Doha has attracted a number of celebrities during recent years. Please tell us about your most memorable encounter with one? I’m lucky to have met many stars from the movie and entertainment industries, as well as sports personalities and politicians. In Doha, I would probably say my favourite celebrity moment was meeting Kylie Minogue. On a day-to-day basis I meet many of my football heroes from when I was a kid, including Graeme Souness, Kevin Keegan, Peter Reid, Clive Alan, Alan Shearer and Ian Rush. My two favourites are beIN Sports presenters Andy Gray and Richard Keys who have become close friends. As someone who lives, sleeps and breathes ﬁve-star hospitality for a living, we want to know your favourite hotel in the world to stay (not a Hyatt) and why?
I WORK ALONGSIDE MY TEAMS AND MAKE SWIFT DECISIONS. THERE IS NOTHING WORSE THAN MANAGERS WHO DRAG OUT PROCESSES BECAUSE THEY ARE AFRAID TO MAKE DECISIONS AND TAKE RESPONSIBILITY demands and threaten us with a bad review on social media, but we have learnt how to ignore such individuals and keep on doing what we do best – looking after guests. You oversee a number of Hyatt properties in the region and are working on some new hotels in development. How do you maintain your energy levels and drive on a typical workday? A good night’s sleep and a strict rule of having fun at work!
I haven’t found that hotel yet! But when I do, it will be perched atop a mountain with a fantastic host who raises a glass with his guests, the basics are spot on and luxury is left outside the door. You travel continuously for work yet are a dedicated family man with two kids. How diﬃcult is it to make this work? My wife Rachel has worked in the industry so she knew what to expect when we married. In my job it is important to have an understanding spouse, otherwise one is not able to fully function and work the necessary hours. It’s always great to return home to my wife and kids and our two rescue dogs, Chewbacca and Han Solo. Where and how does Chris Franzen best relax? On a motorbike - anywhere in the world. I have ridden in South Africa, Lesotho, Vietnam, Bhutan, Australia, the USA and Europe. There is something magical when you put on that helmet and no one can talk to you. In the absence of a bike, in the company of fantastic people and a good bottle of Champagne! Feb-Mar 2017 The Cultured Traveller 83
MALAYSIA AIRLINES’ A380 BUSINESS CLASS Airbus' A380 was something of an aeronautical marvel when it ﬁrst took to our skies almost a decade ago in October 2007. A two-storey ﬂying phenomenon, carrying almost 600 passengers distributed over two 50-metre decks in one aircraft, it both captured the mood of ﬂying aﬁcionados and fed the growing demand for air travel. Whilst the A380 could only land at a limited number of airports when it was ﬁrst launched, some carriers saw the cost beneﬁts in transporting so many passengers in one plane, and so a number of the world's busiest airports adapted their facilities to accommodate the huge aircraft.
Malaysia Airlines raised eyebrows in 2011, when it announced that it would not accept infants in the ﬁrst class cabins of its A380s, and so began a period when it seemed that the airline just couldn’t catch a break. The mysterious disappearance of ﬂight 370 in March 2014, followed by the unfortunate and unintended shooting down of another ﬂight a little more than four months later, cast a dark cloud over the airline from which it took years to emerge. But now under new management, Malaysia’s national carrier is trying hard to reclaim its position as one of South East Asia’s leading airlines.
Emirates is Airbus' biggest A380 customer with 142 ordered,
I recently had the opportunity to road test the airline’s A380 business class product from London Heathrow to Kuala
of which 92 have been delivered and are currently in operation. The conﬁguration, capacity and internal layout of these massive planes often varies tremendously from airline to airline. Emirates has recently introduced its highest-density conﬁguration yet for its Airbus A380 superjumbos, with 615 seats in two classes, economy and business. Whilst an A380 has a maximum capacity of 853 seats in an all-economy class conﬁguration, the densest current conﬁgurations to date had between 507 and 538 seats. Air France, Lufthansa and Thai Airways are a few of the carriers ﬂying A380s with more than 500 seats. At just 407, Korean Air oﬀers the lowest seating capacity on the A380. Malaysia Airlines' ﬂeet of six A380s has 494 seats in three classes and is amongst the most spacious in the sky today.
Lumpur. London is one of only two European gateway cities to which Malaysia Airlines ﬂies directly, the other being Amsterdam. As a member of the Oneworld alliance and boasting a code share agreement with Emirates, its network in the western hemisphere is greatly enhanced. Malaysia Airlines operates two A380 ﬂights daily between London and KL, a testament to the popularity of this busy route. Operating out of Terminal 2 at Heathrow, Malaysia Airlines has its own dedicated and recently refurbished lounge space for business class passengers (ﬁrst class has its own space within the same lounge). Although, pleasantly appointed with plenty of natural light courtesy of a wall of ﬂoor-to-ceiling windows, the lounge space is a bit cramped to handle the 66-passenger capacity of the airline’s A380 business class cabin.
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The boarding process at Heathrow was well organized and straightforward. All business class seating is located on the upper deck, allowing for a dedicated boarding process through a separate door at the gate. On board the conﬁguration was a standard 2-2-2. I opted for the middle section, thereby assuring that not only I would have an aisle seat but my neighbour would also, meaning that I would not be disturbed during the almost thirteen-hour ﬂight to KL. Despite the initial excitement of boarding the upper deck of the aircraft, disappointment quickly crept in upon realizing that the cabin was in fact rather dated. This was despite the fact that Malaysia Airlines received its ﬁrst A380 aircraft just ﬁve years ago in 2012. The plain and uninspiring décor showed noticeable signs of wear and tear. Similarly the washrooms were quite basic for business class and
surprisingly small. Although the seat dimensions looked good on paper (74 inch pitch with 22 inch width and 180 degree lie ﬂat), there were some noticeable ﬂaws. The footrest didn’t extend far or high enough for someone of my moderately tall height. The seat cushion itself was quite hard and not particularly comfortable. And whilst the entertainment system functioned well, despite an extensive ﬁlm collection I struggled to ﬁnd a decent movie to watch. While the overall cabin, seat and entertainment system were decidedly average at best, the airline does however meet or beat passengers’ expectations when it comes to service. Fight attendants were eﬃcient, friendly and well turned-out, and reﬂected the multicultural society that is
inherent to Malaysia. As did the in-ﬂight menu, with Malaysian, Indian and Western dishes oﬀered. The meal service began with generous helpings of chicken and beef satay and peanut sauce, a nice nod to the national carrier’s culinary heritage. Surprisingly however, there was only one full meal service during the long-haul half-day ﬂight. To compensate, on-demand food options ranged from breakfast and light snacks to hot dishes, and these were available to order at will until two hours before landing. Despite Malaysia being a Muslim country the airline does serve alcohol, though true oenophiles will probably be let down by the limited selection of wines, especially by comparison to Gulf carriers’ enhanced A380 business class oﬀerings. Whilst my ﬁrst Malaysia Airlines A380 business class
experience left me feeling disappointed, ironically on my return ﬂight two weeks later (with my expectations aimed a little lower), I was grateful for the eﬃcient service and an acceptable lie-ﬂat bed for the long ﬂight. Malaysia Airlines’ business class is often priced at a discount to its Asian peers. When taking this into context, although the product is showing signs of age compared to the competition and it falls short in some key areas, for price sensitive business class customers and with excellent forward connections via Kuala Lumpur International Airport, the Malaysia Airlines A380 business class product does have some appeals. Alex Benasuli travelled in business class on a Malaysia Airlines A380 on 24 December 2016 Feb-Mar 2017 The Cultured Traveller 85
KELLY JOHNSTONE discovers that Langkawiâ€™s newest resort for a decade provides the perfect example of how a contemporary fusion of tropical surroundings and modern hospitality can exceed all vacation expectations 86 The Cultured Traveller Feb-Mar 2017
No Shoes Required
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outh East Asia is awash with glittering islands that dot its coastlines like bright, twinkling stars on a clear dark night. Some are mainstream, over-populated tourist traps that oﬀer little more than cheap places to drink and a sandy beach on which to relax, whilst others are so far oﬀ the beaten track that only die hard back-packers with a need to escape everyone and everything dare venture there. Langkawi falls somewhere in between. Aﬀectionately known as the Jewel of Kedah, Langkawi is an archipelago of more than 100 islands scattered some 30km oﬀ Malaysia’s northern west coast, where the balmy Andaman Sea merges with the Strait of Malacca. Langkawi is steeped in an engaging history full of magic and myth, in which spurned princesses, scorned maidens and dangerous pirates unwittingly come together to earn the tropical paradise it’s fabled reputation as an island of legends. In fact, mention Langkawi to a Malaysian, and prepare to be regaled with countless tales of the island’s rich folklore. Perhaps the most well known (yet tragic) story is that of the beautiful maiden, Mahsuri, who was falsely accused of adultery and then sentenced to death at the hands of brutal villagers. Legend says white blood ﬂowed from her wounds portraying her innocence, and that as she lay dying she cursed Langkawi to endure seven generations of bad luck.
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Langkawi is the biggest and most inhabited of the islands in the archipelago, and in 2007 was declared a Geopark by UNESCO. Boasting 550 million years of geological history – including some of the world’s oldest, naturally formed gems – Langkawi was shaped by plate tectonics, volcanic activity, ocean submersion and erosion. Today, many diﬀerent rock formations have evolved into enticing natural habitats. Areas as diverse as mangrove forests, sand stone mountains, tidal ﬂats, caves and reefs coexist in abundance and harmony. And it is here, on the southern tip of the island in its own secluded cove, that Langkawi’s ﬁrst new luxury resort in over a decade is situated, The St. Regis Langkawi. Served by its own international airport, Langkawi is just a 60-minute ﬂight from Kuala Lumpur and 90 minutes from Singapore. A window seat on the ‘plane will aﬀord you the opportunity to take in the full glory of this paradise island, surrounded by crystal azure waters and elegantly rimmed by white powdery beaches. After a smooth 25-minute airport transfer, the contrast between the misty jungle canopy we stepped out of the car into, and the plush elegant interiors of the hotel, was staggering. It was like being whisked from a steamy rainforest into a smart upmarket Hamptons townhouse in the blink of an
ST. REGIS POOL SUITE
eye, and was totally unexpected. Contrasts play a large part in the composition of the resort, where hot tropical magniﬁcence appears to blend eﬀortlessly with crisp and modern interiors more synonymous with a European home. Moorish inﬂuences accentuate the classic contemporary aesthetic of the expansive lobby, whilst muted tones add glamour and a sense of opulence without being overpowering or gaudy. With some of the world’s most revered designers and architects having played a part in the creation of this unique vacation destination, it’s little wonder that the ﬁnished hotel has achieved such a perfect balance. As we sipped our welcome drinks, ﬂoor-to-ceiling windows provided uninterrupted views of the dramatic surrounding landscape – the emerald green of the Andaman Sea set against a backdrop of lush, hilly vegetation. Even whilst lunching at the hotel’s L’Orangerie restaurant, the manner in which the cool indoor spaces blended seamlessly with the characterful outdoors was utterly charming, and reminded us that we were on a tropical paradise island rather than in a chic Manhattan mansion. Boasting just 85 suites plus 4 villas, our domain for the weekend was a St. Regis Pool Suite of almost 100m2, located on the ground ﬂoor of the main building. Rich, creamy colours fused with über-modern accents provided a calm and
spacious yet contemporary and connected environment in which to relax and unwind. The pièce de résistance was a large outdoor terrace leading to a private plunge pool, sheltered from the sun by a chic blue and white awning, surrounded by lush landscaped gardens, just steps away from the resort’s main pool, beach lagoon and powdery sands. I handed my shoes to our charming butler so he could put them somewhere safe, though so entranced was I by the splendour of the suite that it didn’t occur to me to ask where at that particular moment. For those needing some downtime away from a hectic lifestyle the semi-isolated location of the resort may be a blessing, but for some it might be a slight issue. A taxi is a must if you want to see anything outside of the hotel, since it is situated on the opposite side of the island to the markets, restaurants, hawker stalls and bars. Traipsing through a street bazaar and doing a bit of haggling can be fun, but before long the call of the resort’s tranquillity was louder, and we were speeding back to the relative haven of the St. Regis. Rejoicing in having been able to leave stilettos and proper shoes behind, we sloped down towards the sea for a romantic stroll along the beach, because this, after all, is what real barefoot luxury is all about. With the tide out we watched as Feb-Mar 2017 The Cultured Traveller 89
literally thousands of hermit crabs went about their business, scurrying from tiny hole to tiny hole. It was fascinating – if not a tad exhausting – to watch them. When the heavens opened up and the rain came down rather hard, we started to run back up the beach towards the dry sanctuary of the resort. But the rain was warm and the sand felt delightfully squishy underfoot, so we change tact and decided to take our time, revelling in every second of being outside, gazing at the way the resort looked as though it had been carved into the side of the verdant hills behind. When the heavens opened up and the rain came down rather hard, we started to run back up the beach towards the dry sanctuary of the resort. But the rain was warm and the sand felt delightfully squishy underfoot, so we changed tact and decided to take our time, revelling in every second of being outside, gazing at the way the resort looked as though it had been carved into the side of the verdant hills. Perched on stilts above the hotel’s private lagoon, Kayuputi has been designed to resemble a vintage beach house, in what is another delightful interior contrast to those seen in the rest of the resort. Colourful armchairs in varying tones of blue and gold, coupled with theatrical tables and white wooden
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ﬂoors, give the space a unique and dramatic feel. The Asian-inspired haute cuisine was pure culinary theatre, with some courses served in a ﬂurry of dry ice and sauces poured at the table, making the food as much a feast for our eyes as it was for our bellies! Entertained, contented and happy, it was hardly surprising that we slept blissfully well that night. When the sun put in an appearance the next day, we couldn’t resist the temptation to slip oﬀ our sandals and cosy up on the deep sun loungers atop the soft white sand of the resort’s private cove, alongside the natural sea water pool. But it wasn’t long before I had to head oﬀ to Iridium Spa, for a two-hour Urut Melayu signature bespoke massage. Wrapped in a cocoon of cascading water falls, visible through the windows of the spa, the serenity I experienced here was perfectly in keeping with the laidback nature of Langkawi life, and despite being such a long treatment it was over far too quickly for my liking. The same could be said for the entire weekend – the end came way too soon. Indeed it was a struggle to acknowledge that our ﬂight back to reality would depart in just a few hours, but all good things must come to an end. Realising that I was packed and ready to go but my feet were still bare, I was reminded by my husband to call our trusty butler to ask, “Where did you put my shoes please?”
Ten minutes from the centre of Ubud, ALEX BENASALI stays in an enchanting self-contained Balinese hospitality world of rice paddies, rivers, rolling hills and sweeping vistas
Ubud’s charms have attracted countless visitors over the generations. In many ways it is more popular now than ever. Known for its temples, river valleys, jungle forests and cultural heritage, Ubud attracts an earthier and less hedonistic crowd than those who ﬂock to Bali’s beaches. Luxury hotel operators such as Four Seasons and Aman have operated properties in the area for decades. A number of Indonesian and Asian hotel brands also have presences here, many occupying prime spots on the verdant slopes of the area’s beautiful rolling landscape. There is of course a vast array of mid-market options, as well as guesthouses, geared to the many holistic activities that are so 92 The Cultured Traveller Feb-Mar 2017
popular in Bali. Mandapa made a huge splash when it opened in the late summer of 2015, and was widely acclaimed as one of the most globally important hospitality unveilings of the year. While many hotels in Ubud can boast beautiful natural settings, only a handful can be considered as truly exclusive. What makes Mandapa unique is how it combines exclusivity and a gorgeous natural setting by positioning the traditional Balinese village concept â€“ including terraced rice ďŹ elds and temples â€“ at the very heart and soul of the resort. Nowhere in Ubud, or for that matter Bali, does this come together so seamlessly and luxuriously as it does at Mandapa. Feb-Mar 2017 The Cultured Traveller 93
bout ten kilometers from the center of Ubud, past a roundabout with an oversized Balinese gargoyle warrior ﬁgure at its center, down an unassuming single lane track, the entrance to Mandapa appears with little fanfare or advance signage. What emerges, however, beyond the security gates, is nothing short of remarkable. It’s as if you’re an explorer from a bygone era rediscovering a paradise lost. Mandapa means temple in Balinese, and the hotel is a shrine to the traditional Balinese way of life. A self-contained world of rice paddies, rivers, rolling hills and sweeping views creates an enchanting backdrop for the suites, villas, restaurants and spa that blend the very best of Balinese design with 21st century luxury. Mandapa’s main temple is a sweeping open-air reception area, a collection of impressive stone spaces with soaring ceilings and a bird’s eye vantage point over the entirety of the resort. It’s like being amongst the gods gazing down 94 The Cultured Traveller Feb-Mar 2017
upon the earthly realm below. The Ayung River sweeps in an arc at the perimeter of the grounds. The Ayung is Bali’s longest waterway, running from the northern mountains through Ubud on the its way to the sea. Its tropical forested banks, cascading rapids and waterfalls are amongst Bali’s most appealing and sacred natural wonders. At Mandapa these wonders are literally on your doorstep. The other deﬁning feature of Balinese landscapes is the patchworks of terraced rice ﬁelds that proliferate throughout the island. At the heart of Mandapa is a series of terraced rice ﬁelds that create a mesmerizing undulation of green shades, reﬂected by the watery irrigation system. Mandapa is a Ritz-Carlton Reserve property, which is the group’s premium boutique brand. All Reserve properties have less than one hundred rooms and deeply integrate their host home as part of their design and spiritual identity. Reserve properties are intended to be one-of-a-kind exclusive
destinations. Mandapa fulﬁlls these requirements ﬂawlessly. From the top of Mandapa what unfurls below is nothing short of a deluxe recreation of a bucolic Balinese village scene. It‘s almost too much to take in all at once - the site has so many nooks to explore and crannies to discover. A personal butler is assigned upon arrival who promptly ferries guests by buggy to their rooms to check in. However ‘room’ doesn’t do justice to the accommodation on oﬀer at Mandapa. The 25 pool villas are extraordinary. Dotted throughout the grounds in clusters of two or three, each stands alone surrounded by jungle landscaping. Approached via a long private stone walkway giving way to a water feature, a hand-painted traditional wooden Balinese doorway marks the entrance to your personal dream compound, the focal point of each a generously sized private plunge pool. On one end of the pool is the main villa, with sliding doors oﬀ the bedroom opening up directly onto the pool deck and beyond. With a large entry foyer, walk-in closet, massive bedroom on one side and equally spacious bathroom on the other, the proportions of the main villa are more than ample. High and vaulted ceilings as well an abundance of natural light enhance the space. This connection to nature and the outside is a deﬁning feature of Mandapa’s villas. Oversized windows on three sides of the bedroom - including a window directly behind the bed - look out over the pool and jungle forest beyond or towards garden walls carefully adorned with botanicals, water features and Balinese stone sculptures. From inside the villa your eyes catch the outdoors from every angle. At night a series of cleverly designed panels and window treatments make everything feel cozy and secure. In true Balinese style, natural materials are used generously throughout. The exterior cladding and decks are stained teak. Inside a combination of dark tropical timber walls combined with pale stone and sisal rugs create a striking and soothing contrast. Colourful silk and cotton accent cushions, as well as ﬂoor to ceiling painted reliefs of Balinese villages and nature scenes enhance an elegant yet restrained design aesthetic. Kudos to the designers for keeping the décor luxurious but in sync with a contemporary take on traditional Balinese design. In the bathroom shades of white and cream dominate. A massive freestanding bathtub sits just in front of an even larger window. Nature aﬁcionados will love the outdoor shower. Pool villas also have a standalone lounge on the far side of the pool, akin to a summerhouse, complete with desk, sofa and library. This room can be closed oﬀ to 96 The Cultured Traveller Feb-Mar 2017
ONE BEDROOM POOL VILLA
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the elements or opened-up to bring the outside in. The pool villa I occupied was so spacious and perfect in everyway, that I was tempted to cocoon myself in my private Balinese bubble of paradise for the duration of my stay at Mandapa. But I soon realised that there was much more to discover and be enamored with at Mandapa. Midway between the property’s peak and the Ayung River are Mandapa’s main pool, restaurant and bar, positioned just above the rice terraces. The Pool Bar oﬀers daytime light bites and refreshments. Later in the day and early evening the action moves to the adjacent Library, where high tea and cocktails are served. Dark wood furnishings contrast with the blue and white geometric tiled ﬂoor. The bamboo, thatched roof, ceiling fans and lantern lighting set the stage for what seems like a 1930s South East Asian gentlemen’s club. The cocktail list is indulgent. An ‘Ayung’, more or less a Balinese Caipirinha, combines mango, ginger, cardamom and 98 The Cultured Traveller Feb-Mar 2017
cachaça, and is the perfect aperetivo with which to usher in the evening whilst drinking in the incredible views. On the banks of the Ayung lies Kubu, Mandapa’s Mediterranean-European ﬁne dining oﬀering. Kubu not only occupies a stunning setting but it is also housed in an extraordinary structure. A series of elliptical-shaped open-air bamboo pavilions, of diﬀering heights, join to manifest a ﬂowing sensation, much like the ﬂowing river that roars past. Nine of the tables are actually enclosed cocoons that open directly onto the river, oﬀering a sublimely private and romantic dining experience. Together the stars, the moon, the cooling eﬀect of the river and the otherworldliness of the Kubu’s unique structure deliver a truly unique gastronomic experience. Mandapa is situated in Ubud, the cultural heart of Bali, home to numerous museums and temples and a haven for activity enthusiasts. VW Safari tours are very popular. For either a
half or full day, guests accompanied by a guide can visit the surroundings in style in a classic Volkswagen Type 181 convertible. For the more active an array of hikes, bike trips and river rafting expeditions are on oﬀer. For spiritualists private audiences with priestesses, gurus and healers can be arranged. Within the grounds of Mandapa a variety of complimentary activities are available daily, including tours of the rice ﬁelds, a horticultural circuit of the reserve’s lush and carefully planned landscaping, and lunar ceremonies that take place in the two actual temples located on site. Spa junkies have special reason to rejoice at Mandapa. Located on the riverbank, Mandapa spa oﬀers a variety of personalized treatments utilizing a range of ESPA and local products. The spa’s signature Mepijet massage - a combination of Balinese and Javanese techniques including acupressure and long deep tissue strokes - is truly sublime. To further de-stress there is a vitality pool and a multitude of relaxation areas. The yoga shala boasts a particularly idyllic
setting over the riverbank. There are two complimentary yoga classes every day. The sympathetic integration of natural materials, water features and breathtaking views makes the spa yet another facet of Mandapa easy to fall in love with. Seamlessly blending a traditional Balinese village setting with divine nature, 21st century elegance and contemporary luxury makes Mandapa utterly unique. The experience is both chic and down to earth. Jungle-like forests, rice terraces and the Ayung River conspire to create a near spiritual backdrop to this incredible resort. Close your eyes and listen to the sounds of the birds, the monkeys and the water. Feel the languid air and gentle breezes. Imagine yourself as an intrepid adventurer or the lord of your own Balinese manor. Open you eyes and realize that there was no need to imagine, since it’s all at Mandapa and yours for the taking. www.ritzcarlton.com Feb-Mar 2017 The Cultured Traveller 99
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TRAVELLER LOWDOWN SAM HENDERSON dropped anchor at an unpretentious eco-resort on the tranquil Polynesian island of Kosrae, a Micronesian jewel in the Western Paciﬁc Ocean
f you’ve seen Walt Disney’s 2016 animated movie Moana, set on a series of islands in the South Paciﬁc, you’ll have met Te Fiti, a Polynesian princess with the ability to create life. Te Fiti gifts the movie’s heroes a magical ﬁsh hook, an outrigger canoe and the winds to sail it, before she lies down to sleep, her body forming the shape of a verdant green isle. The “Island of the Sleeping Lady” is what locals call Kosrae in the Western Paciﬁc Ocean, since the volcanic island also resembles the ﬁgure of a reclining woman. Situated 8 hours west of the Hawaiian capital of Honolulu and 5 hours south of American Guam, Kosrae is the smallest of the Caroline Islands, and is often referred to as the jewel of Micronesia due to its sparkling coral reefs, lush vegetation, peaceful islanders and relaxed pace of life. More than a millennium ago, Kosrae was settled by Malayo-Polynesian seafaring peoples attracted by new lands rich in ﬁsh, birds and vegetation. By the Middle Ages its population had grown to around 40,000, and there are fascinating ruins and archeological sites on the island dating back to this period. The following 200 years saw the establishment of a Spanish colony and the decimation of the population by smallpox to less that 1,000. Coupled with the Feb-Mar 2017 The Cultured Traveller 101
Kosrae is the smallest of the Caroline Islands, and is often referred to as the jewel of Micronesia due to its sparkling coral reefs, lush vegetation, peaceful islanders and relaxed pace of life islanders’ conversion to Christianity, Kosraean culture was almost lost during the 1800s, a time when the island was a routine stop for whalers. After a 15-year period of German rule followed by 40 years of Japanese occupation until 1945, Kosrae became part of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), an independent sovereign island nation consisting of four states - from west to east, Yap, Chuuk, Pohnpei and Kosrae. Thankfully, despite a history punctuated by invasions and conquering, it is still possible to experience some of Kosrae’s original culture, not least via the island’s food, music and deep-rooted traditions. Of more interest to most travellers visiting Kosrae however, is the prospect of observing in close proximity multiple diﬀering ecosystems in coexistence. The island’s coastal mangrove forests and extensive fringing reefs are considered to be some of the healthiest in Micronesia, and support a small but growing
diving and ecotourism industry. Such intense, natural ecological richness is still present in very few locations around the world, making Kosrae something of a unique and beautiful destination. A short 30-minute drive from the airport via the island’s single 25-mile ring road, our base for a week on Kosrae was Paciﬁc Treelodge Resort. Built in 1988 by the Sigrah, one of the oldest families on Kosrae, Paciﬁc Treelodge was one of the ﬁrst hotels to be erected on the island and is now the most established and intimately in tune with local culture and customs. The resort’s environmental, economic and social policies include measures to recycle waste materials, conserve energy, protect the mangrove forest and monitor the health of the ocean. Consequently Paciﬁc Treelodge plays host to many of the island’s eco-friendly visitors, including scientists, health Feb-Mar 2017 The Cultured Traveller 103
professionals, government oﬃcials and US military personnel from the nearby Marshall Islands. The atmosphere is relaxed, casual and laid-back. Guests are treated as friends rather than visitors, and the resorts welcoming and sociable owners, Mark and Maria, are brimming with 20 years worth of knowledge, tips, ideas and connections. Outdoor paths and bridges made from an ingenious mix of crushed recycled glass and cement - crisscross the tropical grounds between the reception, restaurant and white-walled guest rooms topped with red tin roofs. The air-conditioned accommodation is simple, bright, clean and functions perfectly, as does the Wi-Fi, which is a rarity in Micronesia! Our room was veiled by mangroves and mere footsteps from a white sandy bay, lapped by warm clear blue waters and fringed by coral reefs. A few hundred metres away was the famous Blue Hole, a large natural opening in the reef ﬂat. Set on the water’s edge, boasting views of The Sleeping Lady Mountain, the resort’s onsite Bully’s Restaurant oﬀers a selection of tasty dishes made from a variety of fresh daily catch, including lobster, crab and yellowﬁn tuna, married with locally-grown produce and complimented by hand-crafted 104 The Cultured Traveller Feb-Mar 2017
cocktails, a range of fresh juices and chilled ﬁltered drinking water. The local specialty soup - made with small pieces of tuna, breadfruit and freshly squeezed coconut milk - simply must be sampled. It’s absolutely delicious. And at the end of a busy day out and about on the island, Bully’s is the perfect place to watch the sunset whilst sipping a cold beer (www.kosraetreelodge.com). A short note about water on Kosrae: Only larger facilities and resorts have ﬁltration systems to provide safe drinking water. Kosraeans rely on the rains for their water and there is no safe public supply, so bottled water must be carried when adventuring around the island. We started our Kosrae adventure by paddling upriver in kayaks, into the heart of the mangroves. The closest full moon of the year meant that we could venture further than usual on exceptionally high or 'king' tides, following tranquil seawater channels miles upstream. Within the intricate mesh of roots we spotted small crabs, colourful ﬁsh and giant red mangrove crabs. That evening we gazed in awe at the moon rising on the beach.
Shortly after breakfast the next day, we borrowed the resort’s snorkel gear and reef shoes and walked, at low tide, over sandy sea-grass banks and corals to the Blue Hole, where we spent a couple of hours snorkeling its unspoiled coral-fringed edge. We’d heard that about a quarter of the corals oﬀ the coast of Kosrae were sadly showing signs of bleaching, but here they were varied and beautifully formed, and hundreds of brightly coloured tropical ﬁsh darted amongst them. We were also on the look out for turtles and rays, known to swim across the hole’s sandy bottom. Sundays are sacred on Kosrae and only church going is permitted, but tourists seem to be able to quietly carry on with approbation. So later that day we embarked upon our ﬁrst hike, a gentle climb of an hour each way, to the prehistoric Menke Ruins in the centre of the island. Built years before Lelu (Kosrae's other ruins which are in a sad state of repair), Menke is a religious archaeological site where islanders used to worship Singlaku, the goddess of breadfruit. Our aﬀable local guide, Salik Wawuk, part of the family that owns the ruins, was kind enough to cut some sturdy walking
sticks for us. We ate crunchy sweet mountain apples from the rainforest and drank fresh water from tree vines. We learnt about the three types of tropical ginger - one for cooking and wrapping, one for ﬂavouring and one for shampooing and conditioning. We pounded the roots of the Ka trees, which grow in only three places on the planet, and have been used for centuries to build local canoes. We were told that the red clay used to paint the boats came from between the Sleeping Lady’s legs along which we were hiking. Our second hike a day later was to the top of one of the Sleeping Lady's breasts, Mount Oma, 1,555 feet above sea level. It was a steep and strenuous 4-hour climb, but at the summit we were rewarded with breathtaking vistas of the entire island and the Blue Hole. On the way down we wandered around cool caves dug by the Japanese Army to protect them from American bombing during the Second World War, and swam alone under natural crystal clear waterfalls. We hired a fascinating local botanist cum guide, Carlos, who had travelled from Puerto Rico to Kosrae with the Peace Corps 40 years earlier, married a local and never left. He told about the Feb-Mar 2017 The Cultured Traveller 105
Such intense, natural ecological richness is still present in very few locations around the world, making Kosrae something of a unique and beautiful destination local ﬂora and fauna, helped with the paperwork needed to hike on the mountain – there’s almost always a fee involved whenever you access private land on Kosrae. That one day Mount Oma hike was pricier than a week in Yosemite! After a few days rest we hired Carlos again, to take us kayaking through the uninhabited mangrove channels of Utwe-Walung Marine Park towards the ocean. We stopped en-route to snorkel the calm waters of Utwe's coral gardens, where we saw various sponges, tropical ﬁsh and an amazing conger eel. When we reached the ocean, we swam out through the breakers to see massive mushroom-like coral structures, in a variety of colours, growing up from the seabed. The sight was incredible. When we weren't exploring the island, Mark and Maria at Paciﬁc
Treelodge made sure we participated in a host of local activities, including basket-weaving using coconut leaves, cooking traditional Kosraean soup, and sunset cruising in the resort’s own boat, moored close-by. Together with yoga classes, massages with hand-pressed oils, and visits to the local papermaking factory, there was always something to keep us all occupied, the kids included. For more adventurous types, you could even spend a night in a traditional Kosraean house in the isolated oﬀ grid village of Walung, famous for the longest uninhabited beach on the island. After spending a week lost in Kosrae's tranquil mangroves, crisp hiking paths, pristine beaches and calm waters, we came to the conclusion that rather than a lady, the island was the Sleeping Beauty of the Paciﬁc, occasionally woken by the gentle kisses of visitors. Feb-Mar 2017 The Cultured Traveller 107
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TASTE &SIP REVIEW
L’ECRIVAIN DUBLIN Food Atmosphere
trolling through the center of Dublin you will be bombarded with as diverse an array of gastronomic temptations of any city in the western world. Ireland’s largest metropolis has become a mecca for food lovers, and a number of renowned chefs have set up shop to cater to the maturing taste buds of the Irish population. This is because the epicentre of this tiny nation, perched on the edge of Europe, is also home to an ever-increasing international community. Some of the biggest tech companies in the world have their European bases in Dublin, and the international workforce they employ has brought with them the ﬂavours and tastes of the world to Ireland’s vibrant capital. In Dublin there are restaurants that cater to everyone, from Venezuela to Venice and Brazil to Bombay. Merging ﬁne modern Irish ingredients with traditional French ﬂair, L’Ecrivain caters to diners looking for a slightly more sophisticated culinary experience. Travelling to L’Ecrivain will see you pass through some of the ﬁnest areas of Dublin city centre. Lovingly preserved Georgian Feb-Mar 2017 The Cultured Traveller 109
red brick townhouses are dotted around beautifully manicured squares that were once the playground of wealthy residents and literary geniuses. Now home to fashion houses, TV production companies and model agencies, the streets surrounding the restaurant are buzzing with life during the day. Come evening time footfall disappears to almost zero, the beauty of this elegant neighbourhood positively shines and walking to L’Ecrivain verges on magical. L’Ecrivain’s entrance is nestled between the two busier ends of Baggot Street. After passing through an archway that reveals a quaint courtyard, in the entrance hall diners are greeted by a moody room brought to life by a huge multicoloured racing helmet. The bar sits just behind this piece of art, that looks to be covered in Joseph’s amazing technicolour dreamcoat. Ascending the stairs from the bar, we entered a warm and airy dining hall, dominated by huge stained glass windows, which ﬂood the space with a golden glow. The ceiling is high, which is why it's a hall rather than a
mere room. Huge supporting trusses ﬂoat about 25 feet above the crisp white linen-covered tables below. Wood paneling covering two walls lends understated grandeur to the room. A mezzanine ﬂoor sits quietly above the main dining area. Large artworks ﬁll the remaining wall space, but nothing too crazy or brash, after all, it’s the food that L’Ecrivain is famed. Owner and culinary driving force behind L’Ecrivain, Derry Clarke, often graces TV screens in Ireland and could be described as something of a celebrity chef. His natural charisma and handsome looks ﬁll cooking segments on many of the magazine shows that ﬁll slots on Irish TV, and he has turned himself into a brand as well as a chef of nationwide fame. His wife, Sallyanne, welcomed and seated us warmly. Whilst the main purpose of our visit was to sample L’Ecrivain’s food, Sallyanne was very much part of the experience from the get go. Seemingly clued-in to the needs 108 The 110 The Cultured Cultured Traveller Traveller Feb-Mar June/July 2017 2016
A T STE
of every guest, she immediately won us over with her charm, and had us giggling when she oﬀered us still, sparkling or “Cháteauneuf du Tap” water, setting a light-hearted for the evening’s proceedings. The consummate host, we immensely enjoyed watching Sallyanne ﬂoat around the room like a glamorous butterﬂy draped in black sequins, ensuring that her customers wanted for nothing while in her domain. Pre-dinner nibbles and a glass of bubbles arrived at our table as we discussed the tasting menu options. The amuse bouche was fun. A light fois gras layer set between 2 heavenly onion meringues was a simple and
perfect start to the meal. Followed by veal sweetbreads, which were succulent and tender, and paired perfectly with a mushroom puree, morels and onion. I tend to opt for a single glass of wine when ﬁne dining so as to savour every ﬂavour without diluting my memory with lashings of booze. Sallyanne recommended Chablis Grand Régnard to accompany the ﬁrst few courses. It was the perfect accompaniment to the succulent Castletownbere scallops with white asparagus, oxtail, lardo and apple, and made my tongue do a little jig as it engaged with each tiny bite. The olive oil poached Brill that followed was moist and tender. Served with tender artichoke, mussels, lardo and sea beets it was the perfect seafood encore. At this juncture Sallyanne recommended that I move onto an Australian Longview Shiraz. There may not be a dedicated sommelier at L’Ecrivain but this lady really knew her stuﬀ! Our next course was Wicklow hogget which I’d never heard
of before. Sallyanne explained that it was meat from a sheep aged 12-18 months, before the animal is mutton but just passed the age of being a lamb. This was slightly tougher than I had expected but still bursting with ﬂavour. Accompanied by creamy yogurt, samphire and a ransom jus, it was an educational course that I shan’t forget. At this stage we were beginning to feel the eﬀects of our gourmet blowout and so we paused to reﬂect. Scanning the room, couples were enjoying dinner à deux, ladies and gents in business attire were discussing deals, and friends were sharing stories over glasses of wine.
Whilst I was slightly hesitant of the impending desserts since I was unsure whether my taste buds could have any more, a palette cleansing parfait of apple, blackberry, sorrel and lime meringue paved the way for a dessert of juicy Gariguette strawberries with smooth basil cream. L’Ecrivain’s tasting menu was the perfect balance of ﬂavour and style. Artsy courses were visually pleasing and tantalized our taste buds. Even after what seemed like too many courses, I was satisﬁed but hadn’t overeaten. The food was outstanding. It’s easy to see why L’Ecrivain is consistently within Dublin’s top 10 restaurants. Sallyanne is as essential to the restaurant as the food. What sets apart a great restaurant from a good one, is the extra steps taken to impress and understand diners. Surprise courses, personal contact and extra treats like a simple glass of bubbles go a long way when eating out in the 21st century and L’Ecrivain is brimming in warmth and attention to detail.
L’Ecrivain Food: Atmosphere: Executive chef: Derry Clarke Address: 109a Baggot Street Lower, Dublin 2, Ireland Telephone: +353 1 661 1919 Email: email@example.com Website: www.lecrivain.com Cuisine: French fusion Lunch: Thursday & Friday 12.30-14.00 Dinner: Tue-Sat 17.30-22:00 Reservations: Essential Wheelchair access: No
Dinner price: 3 courses EUR 75.00 Tasting menu EUR 90.00. Add EUR 60.00 for paired wines. Pre theatre menu EUR 45.00 Ideal meal: Castletown Bere Island Scallops with Jerusalem Artichoke, Pire, Crisps & Smoked butter Dashi. Followed by 32 Day Dry Aged Beef served with Celeriac, Chanterelles, jus for main course. And Poached Champagne Rhubarb for dessert. Children: Welcome Credit cards: All major Parking: On Street Reviewed by: Gordon Hickey, April 19th 2016.
Ratings range from zero to ﬁve stars and reﬂect the reviewer’s feedback about the food and service, and separately the atmosphere in the dining room.
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TASTE &SIP INTERVIEW
ARNAUD LARHER THE CULTURED TRAVELLER CHATS WITH THE AWARD WINNING PÃ‚TISSIER AND CHOCOLATIER ABOUT HIS PATH TO PASTRY SUCCESS AND HIS COLLABORATION WITH HELLENIC HOSPITALITY ICON, HOTEL GRANDE BRETAGNE
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WHERE DOES YOUR LOVE FOR BEING IN THE KITCHEN COME FROM? My love for cooking and, more speciﬁcally, pastry making, started when I was a child and I felt an irresistible pull to anything sweet. Pâtisserie windows especially transﬁxed and enchanted me. On Sunday mornings I used to prepare Oeufs à la Neige for my family, but the mere preparation of the dish wasn’t enough for me. I enjoyed the whole ritual, including laying the table to resemble a restaurant. Once complete only then was I content. DO YOU REMEMBER THE FIRST CAKE, PASTRY OR CHOCOLATE ITEM THAT AWAKENED YOUR SWEET PALATE? I jumped in the deep end with my ﬁrst pastry undertaking, a Brittany specialty, the Far Breton (or prune tart), one of the region’s most authentic desserts. However its preparation poses certain diﬃculties, not least, for the tart to turn out well, the chef must pay special attention when heating the milk so it reaches just the right temperature, otherwise the tart will break in two. At the same time, the pastry should be soft on the inside yet very well baked on the outside. These challenges were both the source of inspiration and the driving force that started my journey through the world of pastry making. HOW OLD WERE YOU WHEN YOU REALISED THAT BECOMING A PASTRY CHEF WAS YOUR DESTINY? When I turned 16 I realised that the only profession I wanted to follow was to become a pastry chef. I never looked for an alternative or came across anything I enjoyed as much as calculating, weighing and mixing ingredients with accuracy, binding them, checking the temperature, paying attention to detail and delivering the best result. EVERY GREAT CHEF WILL TELL YOU THAT MASTERING THE FUNDAMENTALS OF FRENCH PASTRY IS THE BEST WAY TO START IN THE COOKERY BUSINESS. PLEASE TELL THE CULTURED TRAVELLER ABOUT YOUR FORMAL AND INFORMAL TRAINING IN PASTRY MAKING. In my opinion it’s most important to be fully versed in the fundamentals of the profession. If the basics are well known and practised, then new pastries and sweet dishes can be designed and created in the future. I learnt the art of pastry making at the CFA Ecole Pratique des Métiers, after which I continued my professional career development in large celebrated pâtisseries, including Fauchon, Dalloyau and Peltier. Feb-Mar 2017 The Cultured Traveller 113
WHO HAVE BEEN YOUR MENTORS AND IN WHAT WAY DID THEY HELP YOUR CAREER? I have been very lucky to meet some professionals who have shared with me their valuable pastry-making secrets. These include Monsieur Guillerm, the city of Brest's ﬁnest pastry chef, where I began my apprenticeship at the age of 15. And French pastry chef and chocolatier, Pierre Hermé, who amongst other things taught me how to respect and handle ingredients correctly. FOUNDED IN 1866, FAUCHON IS A RENOWNED FRENCH GASTRONOMY AND CULINARY REFERENCE POINT OF EXCELLENCE AROUND THE WORLD. WHAT DID YOU LEARN BY WORKING FOR FAUCHON FOR FIVE YEARS? The ﬁve years I worked for Fauchon were an invaluable time that taught me a great deal, including to always aim for perfection in quality, to constantly strive for excellence in everything I undertake to cook, and to continuously search for new raw materials and products. Attention to detail is what diﬀerentiates a good pastry chef from a brilliant pastry chef. Whilst at Fauchon I had the opportunity to prepare the sweet works of art that were served after dinner at several Parisian restaurants. This provided me with an invaluable opportunity to visit many outstanding Paris gastronomic establishments, and at the same time meet some famous faces from the entertainment world.
my country, Meilleurs Ouvriers de France is the most important pastry-making title, and so it was a great honour when it was bestowed upon me. WHAT WAS THE THEME FOR YOUR MOF PÂTISSIER FINAL, AND WHAT WERE THE ITEMS YOU PRODUCED FOR THE JUDGES THAT EVENTUALLY WON YOU THE TITLE? The theme of the MOF competition was ‘’Wedding’’. I prepared a buﬀet with sweet croissants, brioches, wedding cake, various confectionaries, chocolate pastries and a lot of petit fours. The competition lasted three days. YOU OPENED YOUR FIRST PARISIAN PASTRY SHOP WHEN YOU WERE IN YOUR MID-TWENTIES. PLEASE TELL US ABOUT THIS EXPERIENCE. I opened my ﬁrst pâtisserie on Rue du Ruisseau at the foot of Montmartre Hill in Paris. I was young but it felt good to be independent and able to create anything my heart desired without restrictions or directions. This realisation gave me wings to come up with ﬂavours, experiment freely and dare. It was a small shop, typical of Montmartre, in a street with little passing trade, but word of mouth spread quickly, and within three years we had to move to bigger premises at 53 Rue Caulaincourt.
I opened my first pâtisserie on Rue du Ruisseau at the foot of Montmartre Hill in Paris. I was young but it felt good to be independent and able to create without restrictions
THE MEILLEURS OUVRIERS DE FRANCE - CREATED NEARLY A CENTURY AGO TO HELP PRESERVE THE QUALITY OF FRENCH ARTISAN TRADES - IS A NATIONWIDE COMPETITION HELD EVERY THREE TO FOUR YEARS TO CELEBRATE OUTSTANDING FRENCH WORKERS IN 100 DIFFERENT CREATIVE PROFESSIONS. HOW DID WINNING THE MUCH-COVETED TITLE OF MOF PÂTISSIER CHANGE YOUR PROFESSIONAL LIFE? When I was awarded the title of Meilleurs Ouvriers de France in October 2007, what changed for me was the way people regarded me. From the moment the title is awarded, the professional bar is raised. People consider you to be an expert in your ﬁeld, and so of course you then have to be mindful to continue to meet the expectations of the people who have faith in you. On a personal level nothing changed – I was simply exceedingly delighted. In 114 The Cultured Traveller Feb-Mar 2017
YOU HAVE BEEN CALLED THE ‘STAR OF MONTMARTRE’. ONE LOOK THROUGH THE WINDOW OF YOUR RUE CAULAINCOURT PÂTISSERIE LEAVES NO DOUBT AS TO WHY, AND YOU NOW HAVE THREE SHOPS IN THE FRENCH CAPITAL. WHAT WOULD YOU SAY ARE THE SECRETS OF YOUR COMMERCIAL SUCCESS IN WHAT IS A HIGHLY COMPETITIVE PARISIAN MARKET? I believe that the secret to success lies in frequently reinventing your pastries, oﬀering a wide variety and continuously working to improve tastes and textures. It is also important for pastries to have ﬁnesse, in other words their own individual signature, which strikes the perfect balance between taste and texture. PLEASE SHARE WITH US THE CREATIVE PROCESS BEHIND A NEW PASTRY CREATION AND HOW IT MAKES IT INTO THE WINDOW OF AN ARNAUD LARHER PÂTISSERIE? Everything I create and present in my pâtisserie is because
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QAR 750 FOR TWO Toro Toro has something for the true gentlemen of Doha every Wednesday from 7pm. Choose two cold starters, two hot starters, unlimited Picanha steaks, two side dishes and share a delicious dessert for only QAR 750 including a bottle of Argentinian grape. All while you're entertained with Pan-Latin beats from DJ Csom.
Marsa Malaz Kempinski | The Pearl - Doha |+974 4035 5101
I want people to try it. I am proud of my creations and enjoy sharing them with my customers. Sometimes the creative process for a new dessert lasts for months, until what I have in my mind eventually becomes a reality. For example the creation of a dessert to mark the launch of perfume L’Exquis by fragrance house L'Artisan Parfumeur. Since the fragrance was a very complex product, it took me six months of endless testing in order to create the perfect dessert to do justice to the scent. L'Exquis by Arnaud Larher is made of shortbread, Colombian coﬀee cream, orange marmalade, maple syrup biscuits and crème Chantilly made with chestnuts from the Ardèche region. This dessert is now one of my signature creations. WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE AN EMERGING PASTRY CHEF TODAY? Choose this profession only if you truly love making desserts and pastries. Pastry making is an art and just like any craft it requires love, devotion and patience to ﬂourish,
to yield fruit and to succeed. Be the ﬁrst to try what you make and don’t stop until you are 100% satisﬁed with the ﬁnal result. CAN FRENCH PASTRIES EVER BE LOW FAT, HEALTH CONSCIOUS AND STILL BE TASTY? There is no doubt that French pastries can be created with less sugar and less fat. This can be achieved by using alternative ingredients that result in the same taste as pastries made using traditional constituents. I have created in my workshop a healthier yet just as tasty Tarte Citron, using no butter whatsoever when creating the lemon cream, nor corn sugar, thus preserving the freshness of the lemon and letting it shine through even more. WE SEEM TO BE LIVING IN AN AGE OF MORE AND MORE CELEBRITY CHEFS. DO YOU THINK THIS IS A GOOD THING FOR THE GLOBAL GASTRONOMIC SCENE? I don’t believe that the modern trend of celebrity chefs has
I learnt the art of pastry making at the CFA Ecole Pratique des Métiers, after which I continued my professional career development in large celebrated pâtisseries including Fauchon
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harmed the profession of the pastry chef. On the contrary, since it requires an enormous amount of eﬀort to succeed in this profession, generally shining a light on gastronomy has breathed new life into the industry, increased the number of customers in cookery shops and attracted the interest of many young people who now see cooking as a viable vocation. HOTEL GRANDE BRETAGNE IS PROBABLY GREECE’S MOST WELL-KNOWN HOSPITALITY ICON. HOW DID YOUR ALLIANCE WITH THE FAMED ATHENS HOTEL COME ABOUT? We ﬁrst met in Paris and I liked the hotel’s ideas very much, especially being given complete freedom including the selection of pastries presented in Hotel Grande Bretagne. HOW ARE YOU TAILORING YOUR FRENCH PASTRY CREATIVENESS TO APPEAL TO THE DISCERNING GUESTS THAT FREQUENT HOTEL GRANDE BRETAGNE? Hotel Grande Bretagne is famous for its hospitality and the unique culinary oﬀerings presented to its guests. It’s for this reason that the hotel chose to team up with me, i.e. to do what I do best, create delectable pastries. So, rather than change what I already do well, exactly the same pastries oﬀered at Arnaud Larher pâtisseries in Paris are now oﬀered in Athens exclusively at Hotel Grande Bretagne.
a tremendously constructive and creative relationship and I relish it. ARE YOUR CREATIONS FOR HOTEL GRANDE BRETAGNE TAILORED TO EACH SEASON OR THEMED IN SOME OTHER WAY TO APPEAL TO THE HOTEL’S CLIENTELE? I create separate winter and spring-summer menus, and in each of the hotel’s restaurants I ensure that there are not only chocolate but also fruit pastries so as to satisfy every guests' tastes. For example Monte Cristo sandwiches and Tiramisu were very successful in the summer. For the current winter menu I experimented with hazelnuts in the Paris Brest and the Casse Noisette, and fruits in the Tarte Hawaï. IF YOU COULD INVITE ANYONE TO DINNER, WHOM WOULD YOU INVITE AND WHAT WOULD YOU SERVE FOR DESSERT? I would invite my parents and make their favourite pastry, a lemon tart, taking great care to prepare absolutely everything carefully, and serve it to them in the most beautiful, elaborate setting.
It is important for pastries to have finesse, in other words their own individual signature, which strikes the perfect balance between taste and texture
HAVE YOU REWORKED ANY TRADITIONAL GREEK PASTRIES INTO CONTEMPORARY VARIATIONS WITH A FRENCH TWIST, EXCLUSIVELY FOR HOTEL GRANDE BRETAGNE? Not yet but I intend to do so very soon. What guides me when making adjustments to a pastry or creating a new dessert is the product itself and the likes and needs of my customers, which in this case are the guests of Hotel Grande Bretagne. WHAT DO YOU MOST ENJOY ABOUT WORKING IN ATHENS? The hotel management literarily welcomed me and my team with open arms, so it’s an intensely pleasurable experience to visit Athens every month, and share with the hotel’s culinary department the secrets of my craft. Ours is 118 The Cultured Traveller Feb-Mar 2017
WHAT DO YOU DO IN YOUR FREE TIME? One of the few disadvantages of my line of work is that there is little free time outside the creation of my pastries. But when I do happen upon some me time, I enjoy walking and swimming.
PLEASE SHARE WITH US AN OFF-THE-BEATEN-TRACK GASTRONOMIC TIP IN PARIS. I really love Restaurant Auguste because it combines classical and modern cuisine with a variety of ﬂavours in light, elegantly presented dishes. The calf sweetbreads are incroyable! (www.restaurantauguste.fr). WHERE DOES ARNAUD LARHER HOLIDAY? Holidaying near the sea is for me the ideal place to relax, unwind and enjoy myself, since I literally adore being close to the water. My vacations are usually spent at my holiday home in La Trinité-sur-Mer, in Brittany in north-western France. My favourite restaurant in the area is Michelin-starred L'Amphitryon in Lorient, which serves high quality Breton cuisine (www.amphitryon-abadie.com). www.arnaudlarher.com
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TASTE &SIP THE FOOD PARIS-BREST MORE THAN A CENTURY AGO, A FRENCH PASTRY CHEF, LOUIS DURAND, CREATED A DESSERT TO RESEMBLE THE WHEEL OF A RACING BIKE, TO COMMEMORATE THE PARIS–BREST BICYCLE RACE. HERE ARNAUD LARHER GIVES US HIS RECIPE TO RECREATE THIS GREAT DESSERT AT HOME. CHOUX PASTRY INGREDIENTS
PRALINE CREAM INGERDIENTS
Water 125ml Milk 125ml Butter 112g Flour 137g Eggs 215g Sugar 5g Salt 5g
Milk 638ml Cream 113ml Egg Yolks 150g Sugar 135g Cornﬂour 70g Vanilla Pod Butter 355g Gelatin Powder 6g Water 30ml Hazelnut Paste 40g Praline (from above) 370g
PREPARING YOUR CHOUX PASTRY • Bring the water, sugar, salt, milk and butter to the boil in a saucepan. Then stir in the ﬂour and continue cooking the mixture for 2-3 minutes. • Transfer the mixture to a mixer with paddle attachment and beat at medium speed. Add the eggs one at a time and remove the pastry mixture from the mixer. • Remove the air from the mixture with the aid of a spatula. • Put the mixture in a piping bag with a no. 12 nozzle, and pipe out four rings of 18cm diameter each on a baking sheet sitting on a baking tray. • Bake at 165οC for approximately 23 minutes. 120 The Cultured Traveller Feb-Mar 2017
PREPARING THE PRALINE CREAM • Bring the milk, cream, egg yolks, sugar, corn ﬂour and vanilla to the boil in a saucepan to obtain a classical Crème Pâtissière. • Remove the pan from the heat and add the gelatin, hazelnut paste, hazelnut praline and butter. • Leave in the fridge for one day then beat in a mixer with whisk attachment until light and ﬂuﬀy.
FOR THE CARAMELIZED HAZELNUTS
Hazelnuts 600g Water 130ml Vanilla powder 2g Sugar 400g Fleur de sel 8g
Hazelnuts 250g Water 66ml Sugar 100g
TO MAKE YOUR PRALINE
MAKING CARAMELIZED NUTS
• Make a brown caramel with the water and sugar. Stir in the roasted hazelnuts. Then add the salt and vanilla. • Spread out on a Silpat non-stick baking sheet and leave to cool before pureeing in a blender.
• Roast the hazelnuts on a baking tray in the oven at 165οC for 15 minutes. • Bring the water and sugar to the boil in a saucepan until they reach a temperature of 115οC and make a caramel. • Mix the caramel with the roasted hazelnuts until caramelized.
ASSEMBLING YOUR PARIS-BREST Slice each choux pastry ring into two. Fill one half with the hazelnut praline using a piping bag. Place a layer of caramelized hazelnuts on top of the hazelnut praline, and cover with a layer of praline cream using a piping bag. Place the top half of the choux pastry ring on top, sprinkle the top with icing sugar and serve.
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music& NIGHT LIFE
Since the dawn of civilisation, exclusive private members’ clubs have existed as hubs of business and networking, socialising and solicitation, and often somewhat more naughty activities. From the Mithraic Mysteries practiced in the ancient Roman Empire, to the Masonic Lodges of Freemasonry and the undergraduate senior secret Skull and Bones society at Yale University, the private members’ club has always been a place for those hungry for wealth and power to meet and conspire, as well as those aspirational of higher social status or increased recognition. There are all manner of reasons why an individual deigns to part with often thousands of Pounds or Dollars per annum, to be part of an exclusive club of what they perceive to be their ﬁtting social class. London's private members’ clubs have been around since the late 17th century, but the English aristocracy in London’s West End, mostly around St. James’s Park, established their modern incarnation in the late 19th century. The illegal activities which went on in these exclusive venues for London’s rich and nouveau rich, including gambling and prostitution, were largely ignored by the police, creating an air of mystery and scandal among those who could only speculate about what went on inside their hallowed portals. Up until the 1950s, membership of these clubs remained extremely exclusive, prohibiting people of certain races, nationalities and the female sex from joining. As a way of accommodating pressure to liberalise their membership policies, some clubs began opening up public spaces where non-members could dine and socialise. Over the years several exclusively women only clubs were also formed, the oldest and most famous being the University Women’s Club on Bond Street, established in 1883. Throughout much of the 20th century, members’ clubs in London existed primarily as retreats for men, allowing them to escape from their families and jobs, to a place where they could smoke, drink, relax, socialise and network in comfortable surroundings with like-minded gentlemen. In time, the role of these clubs expanded to provide places for newly qualiﬁed or graduated young men to make connections, or rent a room before they could aﬀord to pay for a house or ﬂat in central London. 122 The Cultured Traveller Feb-Mar 2017
LONDON’S BOOMING MEMBERS’ CLUBS Like everything else, the traditional gentleman’s club was forced to change in order to keep up with the times, and in doing so enjoyed an increase in popularity among those who wanted to be socially and professionally connected. Nowadays members are often still from professions which have traditionally been associated with London clubs – such as ﬁnance, politics, law and medicine – but also include a growing number of young entrepreneurs, graduate students, start-up business owners and others who want to be part of the London business scene. New clubs no longer exclude people based on race or sex, but will often keep their clientele exclusive by setting exorbitant membership fees, or requiring the endorsement of two current members to join. Whilst long-established men-only venues including White’s (founded in 1693) and Boodle’s (founded in 1762) still persevere as domains for London’s most affluent, private members’ clubs have undergone a massive transformation over the past few decades and are now more popular than ever, especially in London. Today there’s a new guard on the scene, and the private smoking rooms of the aristocracy and their glasses of port have been replaced with oﬃce pods, screening rooms, rooftop swimming pools, indoor bowling alleys and all manner of high-tech gadgetry, in order to attract fast-paced businessmen, creative types, fashionistas and designers. The stylish new members’ club guard includes swanky Devonshire Club in the heart of the City of London, Pavilion on High Street Kensington, Searcys Club The Gherkin on level 38 of one of London’s most iconic buildings, and One Alfred Place in Fitzrovia. All are vying to replace the old guard as the places to network and socialize, and this new breed of London members clubs is doing rather well. Gone are the days when the young and rich frequent the private, darkened rooms of Mayfair in the hope of running into a star of stage and screen. Nowadays the affluent, upwardly mobile and fashion-conscious want to mix with their contemporaries in bright engaging spaces, where they can drink, spend, eat, socialise and party in luxury and private. What follows on the next twenty pages, is The Cultured Traveller’s round-up of the most happening members’ clubs in London right now, from where Kate Moss climbed onto a piano to sing, to where David and Victoria Beckham held their engagement party. Feb-Mar 2017 The Cultured Traveller 123
DEVONSHIRE CLUB The brainchild of hospitality and members’ clubs guru, Brian Clivaz, who was behind Home House in Portman Square and the drastic relaunch of The Arts Club in Mayfair, Devonshire Club was the most talked-about London hospitality opening of 2016, and for good reason. Not only did Devonshire Club set a new standard of plushness in London’s members’ club scene, but it also opened in the very center of the City of London, the capital’s beating ﬁnancial heart. Set within an 18th century East India Company warehouse plus a large adjoining Georgian townhouse, the club space is spread across two ﬂoors and incorporates characterful lounges and glamorous bars, conservatory room and outdoor winter garden, plus an elegant brasserie featuring a beautiful long marbled seafood counter. Upstairs 68 bedrooms and suites continue the rich luxe décor aesthetic, making use of solids hardwoods, Carrara marble, deep carpets and beautiful soft furnishings to create warm, comfortable and luxurious guest accommodations. Add to all of this a state-of-the-art gym with separate weights room and yoga studio, plus a wellness spa headed-up by renowned plastic surgeon and founder of 111 Harley Street, Dr. Yannis Alexandrides, and you have the makings of a complete London base to meet, work, play, keep ﬁt, dine, drink and stay. www.devonshire.club 124 The Cultured Traveller Feb-Mar 2017
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NED’S CLUB Part of the new 252-room Ned hotel complex, Ned’s Club is housed within the stately Grade I listed former Midland Bank headquarters in the City, designed by Sir Edwin 'Ned' Lutyens in 1925. Ned’s Club is operated by a partnership between Soho House Group and Sydell, and is the newest private members’ club to open in London, slightly bucking the trend by oﬀering facilities at the very top and very bottom of the building, above and below the hotel in between, plus outdoor and indoor pools which is a ﬁrst for a London members’ club. Ned's Club Upstairs has a heated swimming pool with terrace, a Canopy Bar & Restaurant plus two Dome bars for eating and drinking. Not to mention some of the best views in London. Also exclusive to members, the club’s basement bar is set in the atmospheric former banking vault. Here guests sit amongst the original stainless steel engraved safety deposit boxes and sip on classic cocktails and food from Cecconi’s restaurant. Further down the building, Ned's Club Relax boasts a members-only hammam, sauna, steam room and underground swimming pool. www.thened.com/neds-club Feb-Mar 2017 The Cultured Traveller 127
GROUCHO While the point of the majority of members’ clubs is not to be seen, The Groucho is a place for those who rather enjoy the opposite. One of London’s most well-known private members’ clubs, Groucho was established by subscription in 1985, when a group of ﬁfteen agents, authors and publishers asked friends to contribute GBP 500 towards the cost of refurbishing an old Italian restaurant, Gennaro’s at 45 Dean Street in Soho. The Groucho soon became the original "hot industries" members' club - before the term had even been coined - to describe the loose clique of extrovert media types who ﬂocked to sign up. Still going strong more than thirty years on – not least due to its location in the bohemian heart of London – the self-proclaimed “original arts & media private members club” features three bars, a brasserie and a formal dining room, plus 20 bedrooms should media types and suited business execs wish to continue the party upstairs. www.thegrouchoclub.com
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CENTURY Discreetly hidden behind a modest door on Shaftesbury Avenue is Century Club, one of the capital’s best-kept hospitality secrets which opened its doors in 2001, located in Theatre Land in the heart of the West End. Named ‘Century’ after the club’s one hundred steps, once past the bell, members ﬂurry between four ﬂoors of exclusive facilities, including the venue’s pièce de résistance, Soho’s largest rooftop terrace, aﬀording guests views across the rooftops of London towards the river. A calm oasis from the frenzy of London and less brash than many of its Soho members’ club neighbours, Century oﬀers a haven for discerning drinkers and business execs. Handcrafted cocktails and culinary delights and served in a variety of warm, unpretentious and semi-chic voguish settings. At Century the atmosphere is relaxed yet sophisticated, providing a home-away-from-home vibe in the very centre of the bustling British capital. www.centuryclub.co.uk
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UPSTAIRS A veritable hidden gem, this relatively new Club Privé, situated above L’Escargot on 48 Greek Street, has already established itself as a destination rendezvous to while away a few lazy hours with friends. Above London’s oldest French restaurant, beyond the spiral-carpeted staircase is a labyrinth of eccentrically designed rooms in which to work, socialise and play. Upstairs provides a discrete and unpretentious environment to meet with clients, and somewhere unassuming to eat and drink away an afternoon or two. The club also oﬀers a multitude of eye-pleasing shabby-chic rooms, liberally decorated with classic and contemporary art, to host a private dinner without drama and fanfare, and usually without stupid room hire charges that so many venues levy these days. At Upstairs the food is decently priced, drinks are not extortionate, service is friendly and dogs are welcome. The jewel in the club’s crown is the top ﬂoor Salon Grand Siècle, a dramatic barrel-vaulted space complete with baby grand piano where regular live music events are staged with ﬂair. www.lescargot.co.uk/upstairs/ Feb-Mar 2017 The Cultured Traveller 131
THE HOSPITAL CLUB A few minutes stroll from Covent Garden piazza and within a stone’s throw of Holborn and Bloomsbury, The Hospital Club was founded by Microsoft's Paul Allen and Dave Stewart, formerly one half of Eurythmics, and is surrounded by theatres, clubs and shopping. Catering to the creative industries – whether it be publishing, PR or other media roles – the club is spread across seven ﬂoors of a relatively modest 18th century brick building on the corner of Endell Street, which was formerly St Paul’s Hospital. Behind the façade are a number of event spaces, a bar and lounge, meeting rooms, 36-seat cinema, private dining room and 15 bedrooms, plus high-tech music and TV production facilities in the basement. The vibe is retro-chic, furnishings are cool, members’ spaces are sophisticated, bedrooms are luxurious, the food is hearty and the staﬀ aﬀable. Contemporary art hangs on the walls and there are handsome terraces with chimney pot views. www.thehospitalclub.com 132 The Cultured Traveller Feb-Mar 2017
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M AY FA I R CHIC MEETS EAST LONDON STYLE
London’s newest and most glamourous hotel lies within the Devonshire Club – London’s refreshingly distinctive Private Members’ Club. Book directly with us and mention The Cultured Traveller to receive our lowest available rate. T&Cs apply. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 0203 750 4545 for enquiries and bookings. 4+5 DEVONSHIRE SQUARE, LONDON, EC2M 4YD
INFO@DEVONSHIRE.CLUB +44 (0)20 3750 4545
ANNABEL'S This famous high society members club was founded in 1963 by Mark Birley, and named after his then wife Lady Annabel Vane-Tempest-Stewart. Everyone from The Prince of Wales, Aristotle Onassis and Frank Sinatra, together with tycoons and Hollywood stars, have frequented Annabel's, many of whom blearily emerged in the early hours of the morning. Annabel’s also has the distinction of being the only members’ club that Her Majesty the Queen has visited. Last year the club’s owners submitted a planning application for a major expansion, to provide its members with a less louche all-day experience, and (subject to planning permission), Annabel’s is set to reborn in elegant new premises, two doors down at 46 Berkeley Square, boasting multiple lounge areas, meeting rooms, bars, dining rooms and an outdoor terrace restaurant with a retractable roof. There will also be a gym and a health club open from 6am, just two hours after the nightclub closes! www.annabels.co.uk
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SHOREDITCH HOUSE The original Soho House opened in London in 1995 as a private members’ club for people in the creative industries. Since then, Soho House & Co has opened clubs across Europe and North America, as well as restaurants, cinemas, workspaces, spas and bedrooms. These include two clubs in New York, beach clubs in Miami and Malibu, a club within a 19th century palazzo in Istanbul, and two British country estates, the most famous being Babington House. Occupying six storeys of a former tea warehouse in painfully trendy East London, Shoreditch House has spaces to eat, drink and relax, a rooftop pool heated to 26°C year-round, a secret garden, Cowshed spa and 26 bedrooms. The club’s pool and bowling alley have made it one of the hottest year-round scenes in the city. www.shoreditchhouse.com Feb-Mar 2017 The Cultured Traveller 137
THE ARTS CLUB This private club was founded in 1863 by, amongst others, Charles Dickens. The venue was refurbished in 2012 and nowadays the walls are lined in cashmere (seriously). Famous members and guests have included Dickens, Monet, Rodin and Whistler. Current members include Gwyneth Paltrow and HRH The Prince Philip, while everyone from Prince Harry to David Beckham have frequented the club’s famous Dover Street address. Live musical performances are held in the basement club (Dionne Warwick and Lauryn Hill are among the artists who have played there) and members’ talks have been held by the likes of Diane von Furstenberg and Darcy Bussell. Having dinner at the club’s buzzy Brasserie restaurant (one of three dining venues at the club) is an unpretentious and beautifully executed gastronomic treat, way above the standards of most central London members’ clubs. Upstairs the 16 bedrooms and suites start at GBP 650/night and are only bookable by members and their friends, making it one of the most exclusive hotels in London. www.theartsclub.co.uk 138 The Cultured Traveller Feb-Mar 2017
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THE CLUB AT THE IVY Sandwiched between Covent Garden and Soho, The Ivy needs little introduction. Since the upper ďŹ‚oors were turned into a private members' establishment in 2008, the club has become synonymous with celebrity and style. A central London meeting place for the powerful and glamorous of London's theatreland, The Club At The Ivy is an all-day version of the starry but cosily private restaurant downstairs. It's a place for socialising and schmoozing, chatting and living-it-up. Art by Andy Warhol and Marc Quinn adorns the walls and the cocktail bar boasts heated seats. The dĂŠcor is subtle and mainly comprises dark wood, soft leather and dim lighting. There's a piano bar, drawing room and an outdoor nook for unrepentant smokers so they're not forced onto the pavement. It was here that Kate Moss famously climbed onto the piano one night to sing, and David and Victoria Beckham held their engagement party. www.the-ivyclub.co.uk
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BLACKS On the site where Samuel Johnson used to convene his famous literary society, Blacks is a rare incarnation of a genuinely bohemian London club, situated opposite The Groucho in Soho. Founded by Giuseppe Marsoli and set within a three-storey Georgian townhouse, dog friendly Blacks is all about timeless understated glamour, with wood-panelled walls and roaring open ﬁres in most rooms. Much of the décor hasn’t been touched since the venue opened, but it doesn’t feel at all outdated. On the contrary, A-listers congregate here by the dozen thanks to its discreet, laidback vibe, excellently priced wine list and fabulous fare. Blacks is so full of writers and artists that the club’s committee has to go out of his way to attract a percentage of professionals. Blacks also hosts the very distinguished Authors’ Club, and members can use the Groucho when Blacks is closed for two weeks in the summer. www.blacksclub.com
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SAM McKNIGHT WITH A MAJOR EXHIBITION AND BOOK CELEBRATING HIS REMARKABLE 40-YEAR CAREER FROM THE LATE 70s TO THE PRESENT DAY, SAM McKNIGHT IS STILL AT THE TOP OF HIS GAME, YEARS AFTER CUTTING OFF PRINCESS DIANA'S HAIR FOR A SHOOT AND STYLING MORE THAN 100 VOGUE COVERS.
Was Sam McKnight particularly creative as a child? If I’m being honest, I wasn’t actually particularly creative as a child – at least not that I can recall. I believe the creative element was really brought out of me through my work and experience in the industry – collaborating with amazing artists that were like-minded and full of inspiration.
become your career and was there a deﬁning moment? When I moved to London in the 70s, aged 19. I joined Molton Brown hair salon on South Molton Street in Mayfair. This is where I really absorbed the technical side of hairdressing. I met Kerry Warn who introduced me to session styling and I also did my ﬁrst Vogue shoot in 1977. By the end of the 70s I moved solely into session styling.
Please tell us a little about your upbringing? I lived in a tiny Scottish village, born to and raised by a working class family. My father was a coalminer and my mother worked in the local Co-Op until she was 60.
What was the ﬁrst well-known salon you worked in? Molton Brown, which was originally founded as a hair salon in 1973, before moving into skin and beauty products.
Who were your biggest fashion inﬂuences in your teens? David Bowie and Mark Boland.
Whose hairdressing work did you most admire in the 80s? Leonard Lewis, who launched Twiggy's career by creating her radical crop, and Kerry Warn best known for his work on a host of movies including The Great Gatsby.
How did you come into hairdressing? Purely by accident. I was training to become a teacher but hated it and dropped out. Then I started working for friends who owned a salon in Prestwick, Scotland – where I was brought up. I did odd jobs around the salon, and this is how I started. At what age did you realise that hairdressing was to
Tell us about your ﬁrst paid job for a fashion magazine? Well at ﬁrst I didn’t get paid to do the shoot work. The salon would send us out to do the jobs, so they were paid the fees. But by 1980 I was spending more time out of the salon than in it! The salon wanted to change this, so that’s when I left Molton Brown and started working for myself. Feb-Mar 2017 The Cultured Traveller 145
What part of the industry did you most enjoy as a young hairdresser? I think it has to be the shoots. It’s the glamour, the creative process, the various collaborations. It’s the thrill of seeing your work published. It’s amazing. There’s generally always a moment in a professional’s career that sets an individual on a trajectory of international success and recognition. What was Sam McKnight’s? My ﬁrst few shoots and working with Vogue really started me on my journey, but I think it was when I moved to New York in 1982 and working with Vogue US and Allure etc. which really put me on the international circuit. Which would you say were your most career-deﬁning hairstyles? Probably some of my work with Princess Diana, Agyness Deyn and Tilda Swinton. Anything with Lady Gaga and the supermodels of the 80s. And of course my endless collaborations with Kate Moss. Who introduced you to Princess Diana and how was she, as a person, to work with? French fashion photographer Patrick Demarchelier and Anna Harvey from British Vogue ﬁrst introduced me to Princess Diana. She was great – lovely, funny and always a complete pleasure to work with. Which of your professional collaborative relationships have deﬁned your career? All the people already mentioned as well as, of course, Karl Lagerfeld and Dame Vivienne Westwood. How have you seen fashion shows change in the past 30 years? Just the sheer scale of the shows has increased astronomically. The number of people attending or tuning-in, the intensity and the ease of accessibility backstage. Fashion shows have become global events with huge reaches. Feb-Mar 2017 The Cultured Traveller 147
Tell us about your working relationship with Karl Lagerfeld. Our relationship is about respect, understanding and oﬀering each other new challenges every season. We get to really push the boundaries at Chanel and I love being pushed by Karl as he’s such a visionary. How do you feel about the rise of social media and how has it aﬀected your industry? It has changed the industry. On the one hand it’s a good thing – I enjoy Instagram and sharing my work with people. The ﬂip side is that the mystery is slowly being eaten away. The elegance, glamour and fantasy are disappearing – which is a little sad. How has the industry changed since you ﬁrst salon cut? I don’t work in a salon anymore but in terms of the changes in the fashion industry, well it’s just grown enormously. It used to be about the smaller, fashion houses and now it’s all big brands and names that are taking over. What type of woman’s hair do you prefer to cut and style? Every woman is welcome in my chair! Do you have an in-ﬂight routine and what essentials must always be with you on board a long ﬂight? I always take a book and I never wear smart clothes. Always loose ﬁtting clothes – it’s about being comfortable and relaxed! How important is it for you to continue to challenge yourself as a hair stylist? The challenge is the most important part of my role. I work with people who have very imaginative ideas for their shoots, collections or shows. I challenge myself with every job I take. One should never be working on autopilot. Every season and shoot brings a fresh set of 148 The Cultured Traveller Feb-Mar 2017
new challenges. This is what makes life so interesting and compelling. Please name one talented young hair stylist to look out for? Declan Sheils, who has been my ﬁrst assistant for the past three years. What have been your two most memorable vacations to date, and what made them so unique or special? Beautiful Costa Rica, which is simply breath-taking. And Ibiza in the summer, which is a magical place for me. What is your favourite hotel in the world and why? I love Claridge’s - it’s just fabulous. Not least the old English charm, the service and the food. It’s iconic and still, for me, the best hotel in the world. Where and how do you relax? At home in my garden. Who cuts your hair? I go to a small barbershop on Queensway in London and I have been going there for the past twenty odd years. What’s next for Sam McKnight? Last year we launched the exhibition at Somerset House and the book, Hair by Sam McKnight, which was a humbling experience and I’m truly grateful to have been given such wonderful opportunities. 2017 is looking equally exciting, with a few things in the pipeline, although it’s too soon to be speaking about them just yet. So just watch this space. www.sammcknight.com The exhibition Hair By Sam McKnight runs at London’s Somerset House until 12th March 2017 www.somersethouse.org.uk. The book Hair By Sam McKnight published by Rizzoli is available at all good bookstores and www.amazon.co.uk priced at GBP 22.75. Feb-Mar 2017 The Cultured Traveller 149
AL WADI DESERT www.ritzcarlton.com/en/hotels/uae/al-wadi-desert
GROSVENOR HOUSE SUITES www.jumeirah.com/en/hotels-resorts/london/grosveno r-house-suites/
ALOFT KUALA LUMPUR SENTRAL www.aloftkualalumpursentral.com ANNABEL'S www.annabels.co.uk ARIZALI www.arizali.com ARNAUD LARHER www.arnaudlarher.com
H HOTEL WILLIAM GRAY www.hotelwilliamgray.com
ASTOR BAR www.stregiskualalumpur.com
ISLAMIC ARTS MUSEUM Malaysia www.iamm.org.my
BATU CAVES www.batucaves.com
ISLAMIC ARTS MUSEUM www.iamm.org.my
BLUE ELEPHANT www.facebook.com/blueelephantkl
KEMPINSKI SUMMERLAND HOTEL & RESORT www.kempinski.com/en/beirut/kempinski-summerland -hotel-resort/
C CAPELLA SHANGHAI, JIAN YE LI www.capellahotels.com/shanghai/
KL FOREST ECO-PARK www.menarakl.com.my KLIA EKSPRESS www.kliaekspres.com/vipservice
CENTRAL MARKET www.centralmarket.com.my CENTURY www.centuryclub.co.uk
KUALA LUMPUR BIRD PARK www.klbirdpark.com
KUALA LUMPUR HOP-ON HOP-OFF www.myhoponhopoﬀ.com/kl
DEVONSHIRE CLUB www.devonshire.club
LOT 10 www.lot10.com.my
MADAME KWAN www.madamkwans.com.my
FIVE SEN5ES www.westindining.com.my/ﬁvesen5es
MAI BAR www.aloftkualalumpursentral.com
FOUR SEASONS HOTEL LONDON AT TEN TRINITY Square www.fourseasons.com/tentrinity
MANDAPA A RITZ-CARLTON RESERVE www.ritzcarlton.com/en/hotels/indonesia/mandapa
FREGATE ISLAND PRIVATE www.fregate.com
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MENARA www.menarakl.com.my MR BROOKS www.thebiggroup.co/mr-brooks/
T TATE BAR www.thebiggroup.co/tate/ THE ARTS CLUB www.theartsclub.co.uk
NEDâ€™S CLUB www.thened.com/neds-club
THE BRASSERIE www.stregiskualalumpur.com/dining-brasserie
NEO TAMARIND www.tamarindrestaurants.com/neo-tamarind.html
THE CLUB AT THE IVY www.the-ivyclub.co.uk
NO BLACK TIE www.noblacktie.com.my NOBU KL www.noburestaurants.com/kuala-lumpur
THE HOSPITAL CLUB www.thehospitalclub.com THE NOMAD www.thenomadhotel.com THE SILO www.theroyalportfolio.com/the-silo
P PACIFIC TREELODGE RESORT www.kosraetreelodge.com PATTERN STORE www.facebook.com/patternstore.co PAVILION KUALA LUMPUR www.pavilion-kl.com PAVILION www.pavilion-kl.com PETRONAS TWIN TOWERS www.petronastwintowers.com.my
THE ST. REGIS KUALA LUMPUR www.stregiskualalumpur.com TOURISM MALAYSIA www.tourism.gov.my
V VILLA SAMADHI www.samadhiretreats.com
R RIAD EL FENN www.el-fenn.com
S SAM MCKNIGHT www.sammcknight.com SHOREDITCH HOUSE www.shoreditchhouse.com SIX SENSES BHUTAN www.sixsenses.com/a-journey-through-the-kingdom-of -bhutan-with-six-senses SKYBAR www.skybar.com.my STARHILL GALLERY www.starhillgallery.com SUNGEI WANG PLAZA www.sungeiwang.com SURIA KLCC www.suriaklcc.com.my/shopping
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