REVIEW ‘LIFE. STYLE.’
Jodie Kidd NEW PUBLICAN ON THE BLOCK
FIJI ON FILM
SUPER YACHT CUP
HIGH HOROLOGY SONEVA STYLE
A NEW DAWN
SAILING FOR PALMA
MATRIMONIAL BLISS MONACO
From the desk of the
LAITH AL-KAISY PETER J ROBINSON MAT HAMILTON GREEN
HAMILTON WILLIAMS STEPHEN KATZ
KIMBERLEY SAWYER DAVID MAHONEY SUSAN RICE CLAIRE TINDRED
Editor-In-Chief Publishing Director Publishing and Technology Director Director of Marketing Digital Business Development Manager Director, Finance & Operations Business Manager Advertising and Marketing Coordinator Sales Director
THE EDITOR-IN-CHIEF ‘April is the cruellest month’. Meh. T.S. Eliot needs a tequila and a smile. My springtime is full of the waking rays of sunshine, the first glimpses of summertime flesh, longer days, pub gardens, booking vacations, getting one up on the taxman, and the last of the Creme Eggs. So long miserable, sodden winter. Hello good times.
Your editor’s life has changed quite significantly since we last met on these pages. For starters, I got hitched. Never thought I would; never liked the idea of saying ‘I do’, sharing stuff, or looking after someone whilst they disintegrate. But off we went – me and Gemma, the beauty editor of this magazine – to Fiji, to get married on some rocks in the ocean, with no one else there. No save-the-date, no invitations, no seating plan, no menu, dietary requirements or allergic reactions, no second guessing, no embarrassments, no maudlin speeches, no comparison to other weddings, no Living on a Prayer, no bouquet fights between the swipe-lefters. It was bliss. We’ve just bought a place together too. It’s in Clifton, my favourite part of Bristol, on the same road as The Ivy. Wanky, for sure – but I find most things are as we get older. In fact, the wankier, the better. Everything suddenly feels terribly adult and planned and dutiful, and I’ve unconsciously slipped into it with utter embrace; total osmosis. So, for me, April’s fulfilling its poetic trope of rebirth and rejuvenation. And I hope, for you, 2018 is all you imagined it to be – with
mustard. Now, some of what we’re here for. The Review. Q1. 2018.
You can find out exactly what happened in Fiji, as I review a handful of its top resorts. I’m also at Regnum Carya, doing nothing but eating, sunbathing, and discovering a new side to the high-end market in Turkey. Our publishing director, Peter Robinson, hits the powder in Morzine while staying at the majestic Chalet La Ferme du Lac Vert. We find out how StrataJet is redefining private air travel, tailoring experiences with a choice of plane, food, wines, and route. Our resident road warrior Oli Smith takes the Ferrari 488GTB for a spin and tours Paris, where he visits the Shangri-La. Here in Blighty Gemma Phelan reviews two grand country retreats, Taikoo and Marsden Manor. Sarah Morgan, our globetrotter-at-large, sinks into the isolation and indulgence of ‘hippy’ Ibiza, with a review of Casa Munich. (And I’ll be letting you know where best to stay in party town in the very near future.) She also looks at how barefoot luxury is being refined by Soneva resorts in the Maldives. And finally, our shaman of indulgent stuff, Rob Bellinger, meets with Regis Camus, Piper-Heidsieck’s cellar master, to discuss fine fizzy plonk, as well as Maximilian Riedel, who explains why a glass is as important as the drink itself. Until next time,
Laith Al-Kaisy Editor-in-Chief
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â€œ... English tradition ... in the spirit of American engineeringâ€?
Bringing together two unique materials; fine leather, handcrafted in the English tradition and aircraft grade aluminum, honed precisely in the spirit of American engineering. All products are designed in New York and handmade in London.
MADE IN LONDON W W W. P A S S A V A N T A N D L E E . C O M
W W W. P A S S A V A N T A N D L E E . C O M
ROB BELLINGER LIFESTYLE EDITOR
Bon Vivant Bellinger. He goes by many names: Man About Town and Modern Day Hemingway. None are so notable as Officier de L’Ordre des Coteaux de Champagne . Always armed with a magnum, an international race license, and an arsenal of cars, he’s the life, soul and ambience of the soirée.
GEMMA PHELAN BEAUTY EDITOR
Aside from reviewing the hottest new beauty products and services, she also runs her own digital marketing agency, DigitalBinx. Phelan has previously worked at the Daily Mirror and Elle Magazine and is a lover of red lipstick, vintage fashion and ‘oldies’ tag radio.
ASSISTANT TRAVEL EDITOR
Taking us to school since the 80s, Thompson can cable, arc and install just about anything. Xbox devotee and flat screen hoarder, he loves nothing more than taking the world’s coolest tech to task. This year, his focus is AV, photography and aerial platforms. Play on, sir.
An astute marketing professional with over 20 years’ travel, hospitality and leisure campaigning under her belt. Sarah is passionate about the consumer-brand experience. She now works on the other side of the table, and later this year will launch WanderlistTV, a new travel feature coming to UK screens.
IGGY BRABON TRAVEL WRITER
New to the writing team this year, Igraine (or Iggy for short) is making her name in the world of journalism, and we’re glad to have her on board with us. Iggy loves to travel the world in pursuit of the finest wine and the most Michelin of meals. The only thing she loves more is writing about it for our discerning readership.
DANIEL EDMUND FASHION EDITOR
Edmund is an influencer, activist, Prince’s Trust ambassador, and now TEDxBristol alumnus who redefines masculinity through style as well as substance. One of his biggest aims is to help combat the male suicide rate in the UK which continues to be the leading cause of death for men under 50 through his organisation Milk for Tea.
PETER J ROBINSON PUBLISHING DIRECTOR & TRAVEL EDITOR
Rebel without a cause. Robinson has spent the past six years working in lifestyle and finance publishing. This we feel may have jaded him slightly. He also heads up film production with The Review’s partner film company and so you are more likely to find him on set than at an editorial meeting.
OLIVER SMITH MOTORING WRITER
By day, he is the lead man at Pointer Media looking after an array of prestige and heritage clients. By night... well... just don’t give him cigars and a magnum of champagne. The Hangover doesn’t come close. Pointer lover and Series 2 driver, all he needs is a Chesterfield, a decent side by side and a country pile and he could well retire.
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AUTOMOTIVE FERRARI 488GTB
P-66 P-194 STRATAJET
INTERVIEW JODIE KIDD
PHOTOGRAPHY BUKI KOSHONI
P-230 P-250 P RIEDEL
AUTOMOTIVE ROLLS ROYCE
DINING OUT HALF MOON
P-220 P-216 P-100 P-106 CITIZENSHIP
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DINING OUT VERMEER
PALMA SUPERYACHT CUP
SPEND IT LIKE YOU MEAN IT
HEAD GEAR RUROC
AUTOMOTIVE FORD MUSTANG
P-272 P-264 P-300 P-354 VOLVO XC90
THE REVIEW 2018 15
Film: SCREAMING EAGLE PRODUCTIONS Words: ROB BELLINGER ‘Whaddya think?’ There is clearly a genuine sense of pride and immense enthusiasm behind the question. Jodie Kidd’s transition from supermodel to racing driver and polo player has clearly been sprinkled subtle references throughout the interiors of The Half Moon. Cushions are held in place by bridles and bespoke bar stools are studded and shaped like early racing seats. It made for a perfect location to sit down, quietly set up the cameras and talk to Jodie about her new lease for libations. Click the page to the right to see the interview.
I N T E RV I E W : J O D I E K I D D
PUSH PLAY TO WATCH THE FILM
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Dawn Words: OLIVER SMITH
When I called Rolls-Royce to ask if I could borrow a Phantom Drop Head, I was a little despondent when informed, “I’m terribly sorry, sir, but we’re phasing them out”. In the most first-world way possible, I was sad about this. Although that was quickly swept away by the follow up of “…have you tried the Dawn?”
AU T O M O T I V E : R R DAW N
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hinking that, as a consolation, they were going to send me to lunch with the lady who cleans the offices, I enquired gingerly as to what he was talking about. Well, it transpires that the Dawn is just over seventeen-foot of wood, leather, aluminium and automotive pornography. Because (in England, at least) we all know that walking around wearing a sandwich board saying
‘I have more money than god’ could be considered a little gauche. SO, Rolls-Royce have come to the rescue, which means you can now do that not only without the sandwich board, but whilst sitting down. Huzzah! The real point of this car, though, is that instead of being flash and overt, they’ve managed to produce something effortlessly cool. It’s not the slightly shouty aging ruddyfaced Major with hairy ears and red trousers, or for that matter the fire-damaged scrotum that is Alan Sugar. It’s the sharp-suited chap who worked his way up to the top of the tree
“I set the stereo to Duran Duran, left the top down and wound the old girl up on the A40.”
AU T O M O T I V E : R R DAW N
doing mostly legitimate business. I was lucky enough to have the Wraith last year and of all of the cars I’ve reviewed, the Rolls-Royce elicits the best reaction from people. I parked it in Tetbury and a chap came up to me and actually shook my hand. The Dawn, of course, is based on the Ghost platform and not the Wraith, but it cuts a handsome figure. I had the car for a week and covered probably 500 or so miles. I usually find that whilst driving around analysing a car, you often get a false impression. Owning a car is very different to reviewing one, in the sense
that if you live with something, you don’t often spend a great deal of time scrutinising it. You just go about your business, and the item in question does its thing. For this to work, you need a distraction or a destination to focus on. In the middle of the week, I had to drive the car from my home near Tetbury to a meeting in Marlow. After said meeting, I dropped a colleague off in Oxford and had to drive to Barnsley (the one near Cirencester), as my other half was riding a horse that I needed to see. I was late leaving Oxford and had to be in Barnsley on time.
I set the satnav to shortest route thinking that, with 565BHP, I could then make that the fastest. No. I was stuck in a long line of traffic just outside of a village called Swinford. Unbeknown to me, the traffic was a queue for a toll bridge, which was the only route through. I sat there growing ever impatient, when it dawned on me that I should find some money for the toll. Craning my next out with the top down, I could see the sign that told me the toll was 5p. Not a large sum in anyone’s book, let alone a man driving a new Rolls-Royce could afford. Well, I had no money, and I do mean no money. This would be embarrassing in
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the extreme. I ‘Rolled’ up to the toll and sheepishly said to the man in fingerless gloves “I’m sorry, I have no money”. He looked at the car and then looked at me and said “Clearly! Go on!”. The delay had set me back, so I put Duran Duran on the stereo, left the top down and wound the old girl up on the A40 to a point where, if caught, capital punishment would be considered. The sun was setting, Simon LeBon was talking about his ordinary world and the Rolls was in full hyper-waft. I was on
a timescale and that was that. As I arrived at the stables, the gravel softly crunching under the tyres, I switched the car off and slid out of the enormous suicide door. As I walked away I turned to look at the car sat there silently in the early dusk. The dust from the driveway was still hanging in the distance behind it. For a time, I forgot where I was, and it felt good! Rolls-Royce will sell you a motorcar if you want, but what you’re really paying for is the experience. And crikey, what an experience.
Specifications PRICE: £264’000 ENGINE: 6592cc V12 / 563 hp TRANSMISSION: 8 Speed Auto 0-60: 4.9 seconds TOP SPEED: 155 LENGTH/WIDTH/HEIGHT: 5285/1947/1502mm WEIGHT: 2560kg unladen.
AU T O M O T I V E : R R DAW N
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HOROLOGY : ROGER SMITH
THE CRADLE OF
Words: MICHAEL SENDEROVICH
orology is a huge part of my life. It’s my biggest passion. So, naturally, it pains me to say that not much in the world of watches blows me away anymore. The truth is, I have been very lucky. Many of the people that I am fortunate to call my friends happen to be some of the world’s most recognised collectors of horology. Living in Los Angeles also helps. With watch boutiques galore and a steadilygrowing network of collectors, I find myself attending a watch-related event seemingly every week. Not only do I get to see, play with and wear some amazing watches, I get to do it with a belly full of hors d’oeuvres, washed down by endlessly-flowing, top-shelf liquor conveniently delivered via silver platter by the next Denzel Washington, or better yet, the next Scarlett Johansson. It’s a tough life, I know. All kidding aside, that type of exposure has desensitised me a bit. I used to light up when given the opportunity to witness the mechanical complexity of a perpetual calendar, or to hold a watch showcasing the beautifully hypnotising, and gravity defying acrobatics of an exposed tourbillion. Complications used to be special, but now all they seem to be are the watch industry’s defense mechanism. Pun completely intended. Intricate parts that used to take weeks to make can now be stamped out by automated machines in minutes. The parts are then handed off to watchmakers, or “assembly workers” as I like to call them, who promptly and efficiently pump out watches in numbers that are truly impressive. A market flooded with watches that have the same old complication fitted to a familiar regurgitated design shortly follows. There is an upside here, however. More precise and higher quality components result in great wristwatches, and there are without question a lot of great watches on the market. But great is not enough for those obsessed with horology. Great is for logical and sensible people. The kind of people that purchase a Rolex Submariner to celebrate ten
absence-free years at the firm… for themselves. Our kind is far from logical. We yearn for emotional attachment. We’re the type of people that buy and sell the same watch several times over just to see if we miss it when it’s gone. If it’s just great, I can promise you it won’t be missed. To make watches more than great requires creativity, and an obsession for what horology is in its purest form – mechanical art. To escape the monotone cacophony of commercialised horology, I decided to immerse myself in the emerging world of independent watchmaking where the watchmaker once again reigned king. I discovered the once thought to be extinct atelier style of watchmaking quietly thriving in various tiny workshops scattered around the world. Japan, Russia, Sweden, and countless others were all home to independents. All with their own style, all with their own obsession for horology. Watchmaking was not dead. Along this journey, I found myself impatiently staring at the startup screen of my trusty MacBook early in the morning. I barely slept the night before, but I was strangely wide awake and energised. My Skype account was charged up with ten-dollars’ worth of credits that I loaded the previous night just in case. I entered the country code and number. Immediately after I clicked the blue headset an unfamiliar dial tone rang loudly in my ears. I couldn’t remember the last time I was nervous interviewing someone, but this time I was. I have never spoken to someone commonly attributed as being the “world’s best”. At the end of the second dial tone my mind was all over the place. I kept thinking “I hope I don’t sound like a bumbling idiot, I hope that I can at least construct a sentence”. All the sudden, I hear it, a gentlemanly “hello Michael”. Stupidly I respond with “Roger?” as if I called the wrong person who coincidently happened to expect a call from someone called Michael. As if that wasn’t enough, after an awkward pause, I blurted out “good morning!”, even though he was eight hours ahead, and for him it was 4 in the afternoon. Luckily, I never reached a third moment of dull-witted speech on
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that call. My nervousness dissipated as I shifted my focus on learning about a man and his work. We spoke for just under an hour. Roger W. Smith is not the typical face of modern horology. He is not a geared up and ready-to-talk-my-ear off Gucci suited CEO of a major brand with the ulterior motive of “sell, sell, sell!”. He has no need to go on about how revolutionary his new cases made of forged carbon ceramic titanium layered with carbide are capable of withstanding repeated assaults by what is the bane of a watch wearers existence – a door knob. That’s all nonsense to the only man on this planet with a skillset impressive enough to earn the late George Daniels’ blessing to build a series of watches bearing the Daniels name. Prior to that achievement, he was also Daniels’ one and only proper apprentice. With those type of credentials, you would think that staying humble would be as big of a challenge for him as crafting a watch from scratch, but he has more important things to do than to flaunt his non-existent ego.
horology. He is fueled by the legacies of British watchmakers before him, who prior to the Swiss were the world’s elite timekeepers. Hear that ticking resonating from the Swiss Made Patek Philippe on your wrist? That’s coming from something called the “Swiss lever escapement”, an improvement on the lever escapement, invented by Thomas Tompion, a Brit. Or perhaps you have chosen to wear an Omega with “Co-Axial” stamped on the dial instead? In that case, your Swiss Watch, once again, has a British heartbeat courtesy of Roger’s mentor, George Daniels. But bringing an entire country back into the forefront of horological glory needs something more than heritage and the development of specific enhancements to watchmaking, it needs Smith and the ten hand-built watches that leave his workshop e v e r y year.
Instead, Smith is on a mission to reestablish Great Britain as the cradle high of
That’s right, just ten, so if you want one, prepare to wait. A lot. It’s worth it, trust me. Every new Roger W. Smith timepiece begins in the form of a sketch, done of course, by hand. With the dimensions jotted, and calculations finalised, all without the use of computers mind you, the time to make a watch has approached. It all starts with a single rod of gold or platinum that is hand bent, and torched repeatedly in the hope of achieving a perfect circle that will eventually become just one out of the three necessary components of a watch case. Room for error doesn’t exist within these workshops walls. There are few machines here, and apart from a modern CNC, they’re all somewhat archaic. None of them possess the ability to save Smith and his team from anything less than masterful operation. He relies solely on the brilliant communication that is the delicate yet powerful dance between his mind and his hands to control them, millimeter by millimeter.
Of the thirty-four skills of watchmaking that are
known as the Daniels method, Roger and his team utilise all but two – balance spring making and engraving. That means that a Roger W. Smith timepiece is quite possibly the clearest definition of what it means to be “in-house”. Correction, British in-house. This makes a difference. So, if he’s so talented, why can’t he form a tiny little spring and engrave a bridge or two? The answer is simple. The most powerful watch brand, Rolex, only recently mastered the art of making the balance spring after Millions in research and development. Before that, like nearly all manufacturers and watchmakers, Swiss and beyond, Rolex bought the springs from suppliers. And engraving? He leaves that up to someone whose only craft
is engraving. Besides, as he said himself on the call, he’s more “practically orientated” anyway, so cut the man a little slack, will you? Was all this mastery the reason I was nervous to interview him? No, I was nervous because before our call I experienced a Roger W. Smith timepiece in person, albeit with “Daniels” name on the dial. The Daniels Anniversary Watch, numbered 35/35 by the request of the owner, rested in front of me for quite the while before I mustered up the courage to pick it up, even though I was closest to it in proximity. I was the last person to touch it for a reason. I hesitated not because of its value, nor due to its rarity. This was my “I have been to the
mountaintop” moment. How would it make me feel compared to everything that I have ever owned and experienced? Would it completely ruin all other watches for me? Or worse yet, would it disappoint me and send me back into the depressive spiral that I was attempting to claw myself out from? The room was not well lit, and just to the right of me was a bottle of 12-year old Scotch. I considered taking down a few drams to ease myself but ahead of me was a drive home, so I refrained. As the few people in the room whirled around the seven other marvels of horology sharing the same table, I reached out with my right hand, grasped the watch securely, and proceeded to move it closer to my line of sight. Undenounced to me, somehow that same motion resulted in me being no longer seated. Standing still, head tilted and with both hands on the watch, it was clear that what I was holding was far and beyond anything I had ever experienced, watch related or not. Slowly, I made my way over to better lighting, away from the horological banter, and began to do what every horology
A gentle flip, and there it was, the sublime sight of perfectly executed British innovation proudly engraved with “Co-Axial Escapement”. j u n k y does. Every angle, every detail, every shape, was examined. The cynic in me was looking for it, but not a sign. Not a
single flaw. It all began with the dial. The simple, yet highly complex symphony of dials and sub-dials surrounded by gold chapter rings was symmetrical perfection. Inside each sub-dial, a different pattern, done completely by hand on an engine turning machine. The hands, all with their own character and shape. The slightest change in light on the dial and there I was, holding a brand-new watch. Amazing. The case, seamless. Not a clue indicating what used to be three separate rods of raw gold. From afar, it is understated, just like the dial, yet at the same time curvaceous and dominant. The gentle bulge mid case made it strong and powerful visually and by feel. The final test, the movement.
Aside from the Manx Triskellion quietly residing by the balance wheel, there was no indication of the watches country of origin. Not on the dial, nor on the movement. There were no insecurities held, and nothing to prove about the point of final assembly. The watch hides nothing. As my friend and lucky owner of the watch said, “it’s reserved, it’s powerful, it’s British”. And so is Roger. This may sound strange, but I felt like I knew Roger before I even spoke with him. Not because I have watched the dozens of YouTube videos of him going through each step to make a bezel, and not because of the countless articles and blog posts about him and his work. I knew him because a piece of Roger W. Smith was right in front of me, in the form of a perfectly imperfect watch. What happened to me that night was exactly what I had hoped for. I was in the presence of a watch that finally had soul. The partial effort that I was used to with other
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“It’s reserved, it’s powerful, it’s British”. And so is Roger.
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watches was nowhere to be found. There were no crutches. No scapegoats. I could not find a damn thing to criticise, and that made me nervous, but in a very good way.
and sometimes humorous answer that helped me learn more about him as a person and what his philosophy is on watchmaking.
In speaking with Roger, I experienced more of what I experienced with watch number 35. My guard was up, but there was no expectation nor preparation in having to deal with an upcoming sales pitch. I suppose my nervousness was just excitement in disguise, mixed in with a little bit of “don’t meet your heroes” potential for disappointment. He wouldn’t have been the first independent watchmaker to act like a diva with an ego the size of a hot-air balloon, after all. But that’s not Roger. He’s a nice, easy to talk to guy. Every question I posed him with received a great,
I found Roger to be very much a purest. He constructs watches the way he believes watches should be constructed, by hand. His watches are focused on timekeeping first and foremost, with legible configurations and movements harnessing the unrivaled accuracy of the Co-Axial Escapement. Along that process, his keen eye and dedication to historically accurate design results in watches that are timeless, bold, supremely beautiful, and quintessentially British. Take a good hard look at his latest creation, the Series 4, if you’re not yet convinced. TR
VERMEER - AMSTERDAM Words: IGRAINE BRABON
s we strolled around the Gallery of Honour, the heart of the Rijksmuseum, it was not without amusement that my mother listened to my thoughts, or rather criticisms, of the revere in which Vermeer is held by the Dutch people. Boring was my general complaint. She asked, not unreasonably, why if I held Vermeer in so little esteem had I decided to reserve a table at a restaurant whose namesake was that very
artist. I raised my eyebrows in response and my mother replied by informing me that I was ‘completely wrong about Vermeer, by the way’. But then she would say that. She is, after all, Dutch. The interior of Restaurant Vermeer matches soft, muted greys with a now typical copper pairing and the effect is warm and inviting. As my mother and I settled at the bar, the question again arose—why Restaurant Vermeer? Well, Executive Chef Chris Naylor was awarded a Michelin star, I replied, but with little enthusiasm as what does that really mean
these days? The truth was that when perusing the various restaurants that Amsterdam had to offer, I based my choice of reservation on one thing: fallow deer. I did not want to inform my mother that I had broken a substantial rule of dining out, which is to never base your future happiness on one dish. To do so is just asking for trouble. Not least because there was no guarantee that I would get fallow deer; at Vermeer there is no menu, but instead a produce list detailing the seasonal ingredients that may be used that evening. We chose to have six courses and this brought
DINING OUT : VERMEER
with it a considerable number of amuse-bouche; enough for it to get confusing about what was a course and what was not. I must confess to often being let down by the amuse-bouche, this being an area where regularly the result falls flat. An amuse-bouche of potato foam and oriental granola was forgettable, so much so that I only remembered that I had eaten it when Vermeer kindly emailed me details of the courses a week later. For the most part, however, Vermeer did the opposite, taking the common and simple, but executing it very well. The ‘ordinary’ to which refer is the bouillon. If you don’t enjoy bouillon, then Vermeer is
probably not the place for you—but you would be missing out. The highlight, a carrot and argan oil bouillon with Jerusalem artichoke ravioli, was uncomplicated perfection. Three courses were not what I would call innovative, but I did not get the impression that they were trying to be. Instead, it’s a celebration of Dutch locality: mackerel prepared three ways (including a bouillon) zander (with a dahi beef bouillon); and barbequed pear in almond sauce. Courses modestly done to allow respect for the produce. They show attention and care, and are worthy of more credit than is
perhaps usually afforded to them. The scallop course appears to be the instagrammer’s favourite; one must break through warm bread to open the shell. It sounds gimmicky, but it’s not. I was a little quick at breaking the bread and was just about to cut into the scallop when I heard a ‘wait!’ and Maître D’ Bjorn van Aalst arrived to pour a celery reduction. This would usually horrify me, being a fan of eating scallops raw and fresh off the Scottish sea bed, but it worked, and the course was faultless.
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As we waited for the next course, there appeared to be more people around our table than during previous courses, notably the chef, and I got the sense that everyone was proud of what was to come—the hallowed fallow deer from Amsterdam’s waterleidingduinen. I felt proud as well, as if congratulating myself for having made the right decision, even though the deer had not yet arrived at the table. It is with a certain degree of smugness (and that really is the right word) that I inform you that Restaurant Vermeer did not disappoint. The accompaniment, a simple vegetable cous cous, was overshadowed by focus on the game. It has been a long time since I’ve been served game of such calibre. Justifiable proudness. Flawless fallow. After an agreeable digestion period (it matters), the Dutch cheese supplement followed and we
were advised by sommelier Simon Veldman (who is a joy and warrants special mention) as he refreshed us with two glasses apiece. ‘Eat the five cheeses in a clockwise order: three cheeses for the first wine, the final two with the second’. He was very clear, one must finish the first wine before touching the second. ‘You cannot go back’, he says, and for good reason. It’s the strongest stuff of the night, drinkable, but I was suffering. I liked Veldman , and so wanting to enjoy it, I attempted to persevere. He did not support these attempts and a replacement of golden port arrived making me like him even more. Things were going superbly, so it was not without excitement that we awaited the evening’s desserts. Unfortunately, I could not help feeling let down. The apple caramelised chicory was good, and apple is usually a
principal of Dutch cuisine, but I was expecting something more—a sharpness or tartness, a flash of De Stijl perhaps, anything that wasn’t cream, custard, caramel or honey to follow a cheese course. Is there now a Vermeer to be revered? It was more Rijksmuseum than Stedelijk in concept, but that’s not a bad thing. I’ve frequently referred to its simplicity, but such language is not to be equated with boring. Throughout the evening, I never wished to be anywhere else. The food, the staff, the wine and the surroundings made me feel content, cared for and well-fed. The fallow deer – the unquestionable Dutch master of the evening—was supported by courses further celebrating Dutch locality and deserving appreciation. Gezellig, the Dutch would say. And highly recommended says I. TR
Words: PETER J ROBINS
It doesn’t matter how you position your lips, or h voice is as you say it. The name ‘Givench
B E AU T Y : G I V E N C H Y
how breathy your hyâ€™ is sexy.
THE REVIEW 2018 41
t makes one pout more than any usual word would and forces a slight French accent. It conjures up images of an effortlessly beautiful woman with engrained Parisian style, dressed in feted Bettina blouses, wafting L’interdit into the air. The head of the Givenchy House, Hubert James Taffin de Givenchy, was born in the late 1920s and was the younger son of Lucien Taffin de Givenchy, the Marquis of Givenchy. It should be no surprise that Givenchy was adored by some of the world’s icons, like Grace Kelly, Jackie Kennedy and Elizabeth Taylor. Not forgetting, of course, Audrey Hepburn, who once said “His are the only clothes in which I
am myself. He is far more than a couturier, he is a creator of personality”. Brands are indeed built over generations, so their history and legacy must be protected and closely guarded. In April this year, the House of Givenchy opened its doors at the Hotel Metropole in Monte Carlo. This marks the third launch of a Givenchy SPA worldwide, with Mont Pèlerin in Switzerland and the Hotel Sahrai in Morocco already established. So how does Givenchy stand out amongst the unwavering glitz of Monaco? Keep picturing Audrey, the cigarette holder, that little black dress, we’re looking at era-defining old-world glamour, that’s how. As I approached the drive of the Hotel Metropole, with its neat rows of Cypress
trees, I remembered why I stopped driving large cars on the Riviera. The Rolls-Royce Dawn is a beautiful piece of engineering, but the entrance to the Metropole, whilst wide enough, fills my very being with fear. Luckily for me, the Dawn’s Salamanca paintwork and the hotel’s groundskeeper, the footman sees me approaching and steps out into the road to halt traffic and ushers me onto the drive. After two hours of shopping in Monaco, I needed some calm; the sort of calm prescribed by a bartender. Givenchy’s newest luxury enclave features a sauna, hammam, chromatherapy bathtub, ice fountain, caldarium, sensory showers, nail studio by Bastien Gonzalez, and a fitness centre. So yes, it has more than the basic spa
B E AU T Y : G I V E N C H Y accoutrements one has come to know and love, but it is delivered in such a flawless way. The entrance is ensconced in marble, crafted by Parisian designer Didier Gomez, the spa is supposed to evoke the brand’s dedication to fine materials. His bold lines, lighting and colour palette certainly accentuate the spa’s grandeur. After I arrive and fill in the obligatory information, I go through a fragrance test with one of the team. It appears that scent is a sense that the spa intends to be fully engaged whilst I am in residence. The combination is created, applied to a pocket square and lightly placed in my top pocket. It is at this point I wish I’d brought my silk robe with me. If you were ever going to wear it outside
of the home or hotel room, this would be it. To be honest, I have never been a fan of walking around in a robe, whilst others are not. People that walk around hotels in white fluffy robes on their way to the spa could be forgiven. But really, they should pack their own statement piece. Once greeted by my beautician, I opted for a neck massage and anti-ageing L’Intemporel facial. After four days on the Riviera from Antibes to Monaco, my face needed some help. As I laid there, I couldn’t help but notice the music being played into the treatment room was a host of classic pieces by composer Béatrice Ardisson. This included Trust in Me from the Jungle Book – cue much merriment and laughter as I tried to explain
to my therapist the cultural significance of the song for me. Regardless, the facial uses Givenchy’s discovery of age-defying black algae sap concentrate to replenish the skin for a long-lasting effect. The black and white swirl content in the mask works in unison, with the black-and-golden algae sap helping to regenerate from a cellular level, and the white concentrate protecting the cells from UV rays while brightening the skin and correcting pigment flaws and dark spots. Once you have fully rejuvenated and moisturised every inch of yourself, all that remains is to head up to the pool, conceived by Lagerfeld no less. TR
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SONEVA Words: SARAH MORGAN
To date, the magic of The Maldives has eluded me, despite the regular encounters I have with overenthusiastic ambassadors, who preach its virtues the world over. I have a rather misguided idea that, if I avoid these precious islands, I will protect them from the ravages of tourism. The very essence of The Maldives – their purity, rarity, fragility – is what’s kept me away. Until now. And it seems I, too, have now joined the ambassadorial chorus, having found the perfect islands to feed my appetite for high-end luxury and low-impact travel.
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et me introduce you to Soneva Fushi and Soneva Jani, two distinctly different islands, created by husband-and-wife team Sonu and Eva Shivdasani. Soneva Fushi quickly established itself as a leader in desert island,
barefoot luxury, with an eye on conservation. They call it ‘intelligent luxury’, a way to rejuvenate their guests’ love of a SLOW LIFE (Sustainable, Local, Organic, Wellness, Learning, Inspiring, Fun, Experiences) whilst being diligent to mitigate tourism’s impact and make a positive contribution back to the planet. A heady promise – but having made
a pitstop at the sister islands, I have now experienced this ethos, and can now preach to the congregation. Clearly this intoxicating SLOW LIFE and intelligent luxury is connecting with discerning travellers, having met guests that were on their eighth or ninth trip to Soneva. It appears once you have visited these islands,
T R AV E L : S O N E VA F U S H I & J A N I you’ll always come back.
The original barefoot luxury island and one of the largest in The Maldives. Often imitated, but never equalled, it’s this heritage that motivates Soneva to keep its reputation as the
best in its class. Ilfan, our own dedicated Mr Friday island butler, wins our hearts from the moment we meet him at Malé airport, as he whisks us through to our waiting speedboat. He asks if we were happy to swap our footwear for the “no news, no shoes” way of life on the island. Thankfully primped and pedicured, I’m
happy to abandon my shoes for the short stay and step into the barefoot bliss and simplicity – an essential part of the experience. The act of removing your shoes is an effective way to shift from normality and connect to the beautiful island environment and yourself. “With bare feet, you simply feel everything”. The eco-chic villa keeps the Robinson Crusoe
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feel, with a voluminous indoor-outdoor vibe: an open garden bathroom that includes a sunken bathtub, two showers, and your own private waterfall. The interior design is smart rustic with lashings of driftwood and crisp cotton and linen. A few footsteps from the villa, past the inviting hammock, is your own piece of crystal-clear, turquoise Indian Ocean, fully stocked by Mother Nature with an abundance of snorkel-friendly sealife, not to mention a few blacktip reef sharks. The island offers 57 private villas on its 100 acres, each one discreetly hidden among natural dense foliage that spills onto its own
stretch of pure white beach, with access to the pristine UNESCO-protected reef. Whether it’s being barefoot or using the only mode of transport on the island (pushbikes), there is a wonderfully childlike feeling in this laid-back playground of desert-island indulgence.
saunter to the Maldives only open-air cinema. Sitting under the stars, popcorn in hand at Cinema Paradiso is a special experience – but the bragging rights really got better when one of the film’s actors, who had been flown in, took part in a Q&A with the guests. Priceless.
The private beach has a range of water sports, a jogging trail, and floodlit tennis court, if you get bored of sunning yourself. Or you can turn the dial down lower and opt for a yoga or a tai chi class at the island’s wellness centre.
The resort even has its own cheese humidor, a six-foot by eight-foot glass display, offering up the world’s finest dairy. Not to mention the ice cream and chocolate rooms equipped to have you in a diabetic coma in no time.
Take dinner at a starlit table in the observatory of the Fresh in the Garden restaurant, then
For something stronger, the underground wine cellars 300 wines should keep you
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occupied. Once you are thoroughly inebriated, the team at Soneva take the recyclable bottles to their glass studio to turn into works of art. Soneva has two marine biologists on location, Jess and Tom, whose passion for the study of the sea is palpable. On our third day at the resort, they tracked down the feeding grounds of the great manta rays. As the rays fed on the annual flux of plankton, we swam with them unabated, though keeping a distance that wouldn’t encroach. Now, let me put on my eco-warrior hat.
Responsibility and sustainability seem to go hand-in-hand with all aspects of the resort. Every guest is charged a 2% levy, which has raised over $ 5.7 million towards environmental projects. Tick. Since 2008, all drinking water is created on-site through desalination and the savings from no longer importing water have been invested in the SLOW LIFE Foundation that gives 600,000 people access to safe drinking water. Tick. Soneva Fushi has one of the largest solar power plants in the Maldives, its mission to be totally powered by solar energy alone. Tick. The resort recycles over 80% of its waste through its Waste to Wealth Programme. Tick.
Food is grown organically and sourced locally wherever possible and fish is only bought from sustainable local sources. Tick. Various marine conservation programmes have been set up to support the local turtle population, and Soneva has created its own coral nursery. Tick. There is even a ‘Stay for Good’ programme that allows guests to combine their stay with helping the conservation programmes, offsetting some of their stay costs. Double tick. In my view, this island is green, glamorous and chic – but definitely leave your Laboutins at home. This is the epitome of barefoot luxury.
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‘Jani’ The second resort, sitting just 5 degrees north of the Equator, seems to rise up out of the crystal clear lagoon like a high-end Waterworld. Medhufara Island was uninhabited agricultural land before becoming the latest Soneva destination offering the barefoot luxury experience, with 25 deluxe overwater and island villas. Arriving by speedboat, it really feels like entering a different realm, where the
natural world is king. The stilted, whitewashed villas have uninterrupted 360-degree views of the Indian Ocean and are connected to the main island by a meandering, 41-meter jetty. The island itself is home to four mangrove forests and the Soneva’s signature facilities, such as Cinema Paradiso, its own organic garden, and its Waste to Wealth plant that recycles the majority of its output. Designed to reconnect owners and guests with nature, the overwater villas embrace the ocean
with floor-to-ceiling wall panels that stretch along the entire front of the property. There are also quirky windows in the floor that reveal the colourful marine life swimming below. Each villa has its own infinity salt-water pool, and in the indoor-outdoor bathrooms there is a discreet plunge pool. Another first for Soneva is the retractable roofs atop each villa. At the flick of a switch, the roof opens to show the magnificent, star-filled sky. Where else can you can lie on your bed in the middle of the Indian Ocean and stargaze. ‘Jani’ in Sanskrit means wisdom, and it appears
T R AV E L : S O N E VA F U S H I & J A N I that many of the lessons learnt from Soneva Fushi have been rolled into a new wisdom to create this spin on barefoot luxury with sustainability at its heart. Everything is made on the resort with local materials, with only one exception: the pine from a sustainable source in Australia. Driftwood has been used to create stylish furniture and lampshades, wood from the red river shingle gums are used for the roofs, and recycled glass from its sister resort Soneva Fushi is used throughout.
The highlight for me was dining in the observatory at the Stargazing table; being given a guide to the heavens by leading astrologers under sterling silver. It probably helps that they have the largest telescope in the Maldives. Seeing Saturn, the Scorpio constellation, Jupiter and its Galileo moons was pure wonder. Soneva made history in 2012 by being the first resort to offer private homes in The Maldives. Both on Fushi and Jani, a limited number of these exquisite Soneva private residences are now available for purchase, on a renewable leasehold basis.
On Soneva Fushi, there are one and twobedroom villas on the sunrise or sunset side of the island, starting at $3.5m. Or three and 4-bedroom villas on the sunset side starting at $8.5m. On Soneva Jani, your choice is between the main island, with villas starting at $3m, or overwater villas starting at $4.5m. So you can now own a little piece of paradise. TR
For more information, go to soneva.com/soneva-residences
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The Superyacht Cup is the longest running regatta in Europe. Having become a firm favourite with owners, captains and crew who visit Palma de Mallorca annually for the fourday event, 2018 will be the super yacht mainstay’s twenty-second edition. With early summer conditions forecast and reliable sea breezes, the bay of Palma will once again offer some of Europe’s most idyllic racing conditions. I wonder if now is the right time to lay out my sailing credentials, in case any crews need an extra hand, or perhaps someone to help lighten the yacht’s ballast of champagne. Pictures: CLAIRE MATCHES
Words: PETER J ROBINSON
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M A R I N E : T H E S U P E RYAC H T C U P - PA L M A can count my most memorable nautical experiences on two hands. My earliest memory (playing with Destroyers in the bath to one side) is visiting an old fort off the coast and joining the other spoilt children in the hot tub, whilst the parents hid in the bar on the top terrace. It might be a distant memory now, but it serves as the moment my brain was programmed to love the ocean. This was followed by my school’s annual RYA sailing academy. What right-minded educator thought dragging a mini bus of preteens to a lake and unleashing them with dinghies was a good idea needs a medal. A brief half-decade in Bristol meant attending the annual harbourside festival. Despite the lovely old wooden yachts that moored to watch the event in private, you avoided the promenade like the plague. This was indeed
“Whilst it was a beautiful trip with a stunning coastline and good friends, we capsized more times than I would care to admit.” Bristol’s cashcow for the waterside, taking in as many families with screaming children as it could. Perish the thought of attending without a private mooring and well-stocked bar. Perhaps the most harrowing was sailing a small catamaran off the coast of Placencia in Belize. Whilst it was a beautiful trip with a stunning coastline and good friends, we capsized more times than I would care to admit. We brought no water or supplies, and my diving watch almost became the sole casualty when It got caught in the rigging. Also, of our three-man crew, only I knew how to tack convincingly. Although by the end of the three-hour excursion, I had managed to teach the chaps enough to get us back to the coastline before sunset. Sailing away from the shore at a rate of knots and realising that none of your friends are that confident, makes the fear very real. By far my best method of transport though,
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was a 126-foot gaff rigged schooner, built in 1930 by one of the most acclaimed American naval architects, John G. Alden. The Spetses Classic Yacht Regatta was a beautiful affair, and of course any event that allows me the opportunity to fully stretch out my formidable collection of white jeans and chinos gets my seal of approval. It was certainly a rural affair though, and one that required a sherpa to get to. Now that a modicum of my nautical experience is out in the open and captains begin to call my references to ensure my credentials, let us turn our attention to the Superyacht Cup Palma, which returns on June 19th for a four-day stint. The regatta is run by the Real Club Nautico de Palma, and its organisers are proud supporters
“Now in its 22nd year, the Superyacht regatta returns on the 19th of June for a four day stint.” of the cause to protect the world’s oceans, having launched their Sailors for the Sea’s Clean Regattas programme. Renowned for its atmosphere and fierce racing, the Superyacht Cup Palma is one of the most hotly-anticipated events on the Mediterranean’s superyacht regatta circuit. The three days of racing in the Bay of Palma unites sailors from all corners of the earth, with the camaraderie on board and between boats always reigning supreme. The regatta will also incorporate three days of J Class racing alongside the superyacht division. Some of the most legendary sailing yachts on the regatta scene have signed up to compete at the upcoming edition, with newcomers and veterans alike taking up the limited 20 berths in the regatta village.
If you want to take in the action from a luxury charter yacht, visit 212-yachts.com or call 212 Yachts on 0033 (0) 4 92 95 83 06.
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Ferrari is probably one of the most recognised brands in the world, let alone the motoring industry. Steeped in so much tradition that even the uninitiated can often name at least one of the models. With this, you can imagine my excitement and also palpable sense of responsibility when the phone rang and the publishing director tells me that Iâ€™ll be taking the new 488GTB to France for a week. There are worse jobs, I suppose. Words: OLIVER SMITH
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ast-forward three months and there I am, staring the car in the face, about to be handed the keys. The first thing that strikes me is that it’s not finished in the famous Rosso Corsa. Instead, this particular car has the optional Rosso Dino paint: a very orangey red from the archives, which was worn by the 246 Dino upon launch in 1968. In some light, it’s full-on orange; in others, it’s a lighter red. Pleasing nonetheless, and a refreshing change from the retail-red that
seems to grace so many cars. The interior is trimmed in a dark charcoal alcantara with orange stitching and the superb carbon-bucket seats have an orange leather strip running down the middle along with horizontal detailing, reminiscent of the 365GTB/4. There is, as you can imagine, carbon fibre in abundance (part of the £79,829 worth of options fitted to this particular car) and the fit and finish is up there with anything from Stuttgart. Beautifully built with a handmade feel, but excluding any imperfections.
Pulling out of the Ferrari HQ car park, the heavens open and disappointingly the brisker driving had to take a backseat. This did, however, come as a blessing, giving me time to get comfortable in the car. Despite it having the ability to be a very serious machine, the Ferrari does have a more compliant side. Pop it into wet mode using the Manettino dial and all settles down with a comfortable suppleness. A bit like a sleeping lion, danger is still present, but for now you can relax a fraction.
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After a brief stopover in Kent, at the superb Five Bells Inn in Brabourne, an early start sees me gunning the car towards the channel tunnel as dawn turns into day. After queuing up for the lorry carriage (this machine is a whisker under 2m wide) I board the train and steal a 20-minute snooze. On arrival, the sun is shining in la belle France and I nose the Ferrari onto the A16 heading south for Paris. The temptation to open the car up on the deserted sunny AutoRoute has to be tempered by the fact that driving a brightly coloured, British registered, post-Brexit Ferrari is probably the fastest way to find
yourself in the Bastille using your one legal phone call to tell the Ferrari UK press office about your new plans to join the foreign legion. This reasoning evaporated at a speed almost as remarkable as that of the Nissan GTR that overtook me. Like a slightly orange rag to a prancing horse, I decided that the food in the Bastille may actually be okay. With this, I popped the car into race mode, dabbed the steering wheel-mounted indicator and set off in pursuit of some nonexistent trophy. As I squeezed the power on,
the LED shift lights began to illuminate in their carbon fibre housing on the top of the steering wheel. I could hear the enormous volume of air being sucked into the intakes over each shoulder, and that unmistakable hollow V8 exhaust note that only Ferrari appear to have perfected. This is a mighty fast car. Very shortly, I caught up with the GTR, which was unsurprisingly piloted by what looked like two aspiring Gumballers. Complete with â€˜radâ€™ baseball caps and Monster Energy t-shirts. They did, however, think that the Ferrari was wonderful and showed their approval by giving me the
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universal hand gesture for ‘rock on’. Down with the kids. Upon arrival in Paris, the driving began in earnest. As I mentioned earlier, this is a very wide car and with £3,500 worth of forged wheels, the width was in the forefront of my mind. Rumbling across the Parisian cobbles I used the ‘bumpy road’ mode setting,
which again brings a suppleness that you would expect to find in something far less sporty – well done, Ferrari. I pulled up outside of La Reserve Hotel just off the Place de la Concorde, and was greeted by an intrigued concierge. “Bonjour, Monsieur Smith. Your car is orange”. I couldn’t help but laugh at how
emblazoned on peopled minds it is that the only colour for a Ferrari is Rosso Corsa. “It is,” I said with a smile. And then, in the most self-deprecating and modest manner I could muster, I threw a five euro note on the floor, kicked him up the arse and shouted “These bags aren’t going to take themselves up to the room, Pierre!”
Over dinner that night, I found myself becoming extremely fond of the Ferrari. Initially, I thought it would be highly-strung and a little diva-esque, but as the miles went by, I was beginning to understand the Ferrari magic. Probably tainted by the millions of videos on YouTube of wealthy children crashing supercars (into bus shelters, other cars, each other, etc.), I was concerned that
they may be wandering toward form over function; a toy for people to pose in. How wrong I was. The 488GTB was certainly beautiful and basically catnip for the pretty, stern-faced beanpole beauties that only Paris attracts. But first and foremost, it’s a driver’s car. Brutally fast, an aural feast, and handling that rewards you, but never makes you feel like you’re on boring rails (take
note, if you have an R8 to chop in). The following day would take me to Epernay in search of fabulous driving roads and champagne. In the undulating hills of the northern Champagne region, the rural roads are not the pothole fests that we have in the UK, but billiard-smooth, grippy tarmac. They obviously care about the
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transport of their grapes, as do I about mine. Back into race mode, and with paddles set to manual this car comes alive. The grip through the corners is stunning and the torque in almost any gear is abundant. The full 760nm is 3000rpm in seventh gear (the car limits the torque in the lower gears to stop you using tyres quicker than fuel). The big difference here, though, is that many modern supercars can only be enjoyed at the top end, and often by this
point that puts you well into three figures, and a lot closer to God if things go wrong. This car certainly has that capability, but what Ferrari has done is also pay attention to the fact that driving needs to be enjoyable, even when you’re not after lap times. The 488GTB is engaging all the way through its ability, and that is really something. Fast, enjoyable, stunningly beautiful, and with that badge. I’m genuinely struggling to see what more I could want. Maybe a £250,000 discount? TR
Specifications PRICE: £250,000 ENGINE: 3.9 Litre V8 / 661 hp DRIVETRAIN: quattro permanent all-wheel drive 0-60: 3 seconds TOP SPEED: 205 LENGTH/WIDTH/HEIGHT: 4568 / 1952 / 1213 WEIGHT: 1475kg unladen.
Words: LAITH AL-KAISY
Bula. A word said so many times, it’d lose all meaning by the end of the trip. Which is sad because, in Fiji, it’s a sound, an exchange, a feeling, which embodies positivity and means almost everything: hello, welcome, ‘sup, health, happiness, love, life, existence, sex, yes, thank you, and pretty much everything in between. Fijians like to philosophise about the subtle abstraction of the word, but there’s nothing subtle or abstract about Fiji or its people. They’re best amongst us: the pure of heart, the good Samaritans, the hopeless inertia of honesty and hard work, the transnational smile, the lazy breeze that cools your temper, and the shade of palm when God brings the sun in too close.
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e drive – we drive and we drive – and everyone knows where we’re going: one of the five-star resorts. But unlike other countries I’ve visited, there’s no resentment, no embarrassment, no hostility, no trying to make this whole luxury thing work. Driving – taxiing – is one of the most prestigious and rewarding jobs a person
can do here. There’s nothing menial about anything that Fijians do. Like the Japanese, every job, every task, every action has purpose; its owned and lived, and everyone wants to talk about it. Not just talk, though, but thank you for listening, for being there, to make you understand the magnificence of Fiji, the magnitude of your presence, and how you are supporting a newly-created welfare system that is funding healthcare, infrastructure and education. I feel odd, stupid, regressive. The public and social services we’re blindly relinquishing
in the UK, due to the austerity and Brexit, are the very things Fijians are only just discovering. I can’t explain this to them; they couldn’t even begin to understand. They can barely believe their own turn of fortune, let alone comprehend how and why a model society like ours would systematically selfdestruct. This is a country that was recently hit by a cyclone, which, as our driver told us, has set the country back 10 years. How could I possibly tell anyone that, back in the UK, a country so revered by Fijians, we’ve just voted to do the same.
T R AV E L : F I J I The difference is that Fiji is literally building its way out of destitution. Here’s a place that’s only just discovering indulgence and excess. It’s investing in luxury hotels, making exclusive resorts out of paradisiacal desert islands, and importing refined gastronomic knowledge from its more pretentious neighbours. In parts, it’s working. However, driving through the villages is like turning over a big rock. Reality sets in like rigor mortis. You
begin to see what’s going on away from the private jets and espresso martinis. Technicolour washing lines border the roadside. Second-hand clothes wave like flags of hardship and scarcity. Jumble-sale children wear t-shirts emblazoned with the names of American cities and sports teams that they’ll never get to see. Billboards sell crackers and chewing gum with slogans and imagery that was last seen in the 80s, yet the people here still can’t afford them. In this post-cyclone land, your house is a corrugated iron shanty; bleak, even in the brazen sunlight, and devoid
of everything except dirty deck chairs and the desperate need to turn the clock forward ten years. It’s the side of Fiji that we’re not meant to see; the Fiji without marble bathrooms and overhead showers. This Fiji is the small child we see washing under a hose tap along the dusty roadside, blind to the inert future that lies ahead; oblivious to her oblivion. And, at least for now, she’ll remain unaware of where the tourists go, as they speed past to discover the promise of a Fiji she doesn’t know exists.
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Likuliku Lagoon Resort
T R AV E L : F I J I The sound of choral singing skips like sunlight across the sea as we approach Likuliku. The staff are out to greet us, stood on the edge of the long wooden pier, dressed in traditional garb of sulus and bark-made warrior skirts, with guitars strumming to the echo of the ocean. I can taste the water spraying in my face as our boat speeds toward the resort. As their carol gets louder, the joy is palpable; a welcome as warm as the climate. We didn’t know it yet, but this type of reception is typical in Fiji: serenaded on arrival, gifted with a traditional seashell garland, and showered with cocktails. Typical, sure, but that doesn’t mean it gets any less special. And that’s the beauty of Fiji: there’s no expectation, no image to be shattered, no wish to be fulfilled. Fiji isn’t at the top of anyone’s places to visit, only because so little
is known or imagined about it. But you don’t need to be here for more than a day to know that it’s the place you’ve always wanted to visit. Heck, I didn’t even know people like this existed. Flying in from London, where service is a smug inconvenience between taking your bags and paying the bill, the ongoing hospitality here can seem somewhat alien. “Welcome home,” is the familiar greeting. It’s even written in leaves and flowers on our bed as we arrive at our bure: an oversized hut, made of wood and handwoven thatch, which is anything but shanty on the inside. Instead, we’re met with colonial décor that’s offset with Fijian charm and high-end amenity. The bed sits in the middle of the room – an arrangement that is characteristically Fijian – with a living space that leads to our private, beach-facing decking at the front, and a bathroom with secluded outdoor showers at
the back. The decked-out courtyard is replete with loungers and a dreamy daybed pavilion, which is where most of our time is spent here. But the point is, you won’t be spending much time here. We’ve barely arrived before heading for lunch at the resort’s only restaurant, Fijiana. The lunch menu changes daily, with three starters, three mains and three desserts to choose from – things like mahi, salt and pepper prawns, tea-smoked chicken, or simple salads. We both went for the chargrilled octopus with fries and glass of cold sauvignon blanc, a perfect antidote to the early-afternoon heat (and a perfect choice of wine, what with New Zealand next door). Like a precious handful of resorts in Fiji, Likuliku is its own island, sharing its ancient terrain with just a few villagers. With such an expanse to explore, we decided to start
the trip with the best of intentions and go jogging. The most important feature here is sheer nothingness. You can stop and not see a person for a mile in either direction. The vast empty coastline is eerie, almost haunting, with our path occasionally blocked by the giant limbs of dead trees, which at first look like the carcasses of mythological creatures. Proper Planet of the Apes stuff. That evening, we’re taken on a private boat ride at sunset, where our guide, Tiare, explains each island we pass, and I start to get a sense of the history and stratified culture of this place; a place where each village still has a chief – or ratu – and antiquated customs like mat-giving and kava-drinking are not only polite custom, but sacrosanct. We sup some champers, share some local meats and cheese, and watched the sun get swallowed by the ocean.
Dinner is convivial, with formalities changing nightly: some nights are la carte, others are tasting menus. This is obviously done to keep things interesting – but when it comes down to it, if you’re not up for the night’s arrangements, you can dine in any style you like. Even as a restaurant reviewer, the food here – not Fiji, but Likuliku itself – is interesting. I’ve never been anywhere that serves up a whole mud crab as part of a tasting menu, but the chef here, Shane Watson, has a grasp of what people want, even if they don’t know it themselves. Other dishes include gnocchi with cauliflower and almonds; aubergine with pearl barley, bush lemon and wild herbs; wood-fire beef fillet with smoked onions and mushrooms; snapper with cucumber, bele and dill; and duck with braised green lentils, pistachio and cranberry. Simple yet clever dishes, with unexpected extras like
amuse bouches and palate cleaners, which are carefully judged and moreish. Breakfast is probably the best I’ve had anywhere in the world that’s not a full English. Two dishes, in particular, I’ll never forget: mud crab omelette with chilli and papaya relish, and cassava hash brown with prawns, caviar hollandaise, parsley and caper oil. Not an average way to start the day, but flawless sunny-morning dishes. We’re headed to Modriki island, where the movie Castaway with Tom Hanks was filmed. Our speed boat rushes through the ocean, leaving a white avalanche of waves behind us, passing islands that look like mountains; igneous castles that have erupted from the sea. Arriving, we stop about 50 metres from the shore, so snorkel over. I say ‘we’ – I hate snorkelling. I swim like a duck: calm above water, frantic below, getting to my destination
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quickly so that the shark doesn’t get me. Gemma, though, snorkels on every bloody trip, and enjoyed bobbing around the crystalline waters here. Modriki is a proper desert island. No one’s born here, no one lives here, no one dies here. I’ve never experienced the feeling of being the only person – well, one of two people – on an island, all to ourselves. Knowing no one else is here, yet the paradoxical feeling of being watched, with the dense, neon flora blazing against the albino sands. It’s beautifully disorientating. The only
signs of human life are the words ‘help me’ written in sticks and coconut shells in the sand (yes, just like the film). Back at the resort, one of the guys takes us on a medicine trail, guiding us through the resort’s gardens, explaining how everything in Fiji is remedied with plants and fruit and vegetables and herbs; things that cure headaches to broken bones. And of course, the majesty of the coconut tree. “The coconut tree, we call it the Tree of Life,” he tells us. “The flesh to eat, the water to drink, barks and husks for clothing and filtering and sweeping,
leaves and branches to build a shelter. If you’re stranded with a coconut tree, you’re okay”. And it’s this innocent optimism that was beginning to characterise Fiji and its people. I’ve never been to a country or a resort where I knew instantly that I’d want to go back. Staying for seven nights at this adult-only resort will cost you around $10,000 in Fiji money, which is about £3,500 to us, with breakfast, lunch and dinner included. Crazily inexpensive for a place with such utopian charm, where you’ll start to miss it before you’ve even left. TR
I’ve never raced crabs before. Didn’t even know they could run. Thankfully we’d got down to the bar early – but how long had we been gone? We’d only left to shower, shed our Jekylls and don our Hydes, after a feral afternoon on the sauce, which ended with us recreating the not-so-famous cocktail scene from Kylie’s ‘Lucky’ video. And now we’re back – only something’s different: concentric circles crudely drawn in chalk on the floor, all esoteric and invoking, like something devised to speak to the dark side of the moon. But the closer we look, the less sinister it becomes. And through
pina-colada eyes, I can make out the words ‘CRAB RACING’ innocuously scrawled in the middle. Perhaps disappointingly, this was no Fijian ritual to resurrect the dead, but rather a weekly custom of racing creatures that can only walk sideways. Crab racing. Racing crabs. It all sounds like a terribly big deal to these people, so luckily we’re early enough to have first pick of the crabs we want to use to put the other guests to shame. This isn’t entirely why we’ve travelled to the most southern point of Fiji – that’s 25 minutes by private helicopter (£500 per
person) or 25 minutes by 4-seater plane, coupled with a 30-minute speed boat (£200 per person). Situated in Beqa lagoon, the USP at Royal Davui is utter, remote seclusion. But at this time of year, privacy comes at a price (on top of the £1,000ish-a-night you’ll pay for a suite). And that price is the weather. Shame, really, because it’s one of the nicest suites I’ve ever stayed in. Seriously, no superfluity or hyperbole – it’s amazing. Levelled and serene. Relentlessly high-end. Idiomatic of what luxury truly should be: form over function, without compromising function. On the top level, we have a bar and living
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space, with 180-degree views of the ocean: a vastness of angry, grey waves that smash against the rocky coastline. Steps lead back down to the ground floor, all stones and greenery that brings the outside in. Here’s where you’ll access your own private plunge pool, a front-row seat to those sweeping views that will come to define Davui’s charm. Then into the bedroom-cum-bathroom, with king bed, jacuzzi bath, showy shower, and his-andhers sinks. It’s a great space to actually spend time in; to imbibe and enjoy; to while away an afternoon without feeling like you’ve wasted it. Which is lucky, because there isn’t a hell of a lot to do
here except relax. And eat. And drink. And race crabs. The restaurant and bar, named Banyan, after the tree that ascends through its middle and keeps watch over the entire island, is basically a huge treehouse, with communal areas and pockets of privacy that overlook the gorgeous flora. The menu changes daily, with the popcorn shrimp being a highlight, along with a consistently good breakfast. However, the beef carpaccio and the chicken with lentils weren’t really up to it. The burger I had for lunch was fine; the squid wasn’t.
Cocktails were excellent – as the afternoon was testament to – with the bar staff superattentive and amiable. Not only do they remember your name, but your drink too. That said, our habit of working our way through the drinks menu did keep them guessing. But I guess getting you lubricated is the part of the plan. I mean, how else are they going to round people up to race crabs at an adults-only resort? You start by picking three crabs, assuming you’re a couple: one for the guy, one for the girl, and one for the suite number.
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Everyone stands around, cheering on their crab, like some medieval cockfight, as the crustaceans stagger their way from the bullseye to the edge. And this happens three times. The whole thing would have been pretty throwaway had my crab not bloody won. But he did – and with it, free cocktails. The next morning, I felt like feedback from
a guitar. Blunt and fuzzy, a true bum note. We decided to check out the fitness centre, hoping to feel human again. Everything was as you’d expect: running machine, crossfit, weights. There’s also a wellness spa here, which focuses on natural body care, offering the gamut of massages and therapies, all in line with Fijian thinking and practice. I was torn by Royal Davui. It mostly lived up
to its reputation: the suite, the surroundings, the remoteness, the privacy, the social areas, the sealife-teeming waters. And in fairness, my main gripe is something the resort has no control over: rain. So absolutely, when you’re in Fiji, jump on a private helicopter and see why Royal Davui is always name-dropped as one of the best resorts in the world. Just check the weather first.
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It’s raining. ‘What’s Plan B, Barry?’ There is no Plan B. Other than “the bride’s done a runner,” these are the last words you want to hear on your wedding day. But here we are: Taveuni Palms, north east Fiji, hoary clouds sagging low in the sky, and a tangible unease as we quaff champagne and smoke cigarettes, praying for the sound of patter to dissipate.
team who manage Taveuni Palms, is here to meet us. It’s very kind of her, considering the two-villa resort is barely a stone’s throw from the airport. But this is the type of above-and-beyond service that we were about to experience for the next three days.
I hadn’t done much prep work for Taveuni, despite the fact we were going to get married We’d arrived the day before, landing at Matei there. Everything leading up to the big day, including where and when it would happen, Airport, which more closely resembles a wooden shack, where one man sits, glances was undecided until a week or so before we at your passport, and waves you through with left. The whole trip – a mix of work, pleasure a resounding ‘bula’. and matrimony – was an unfolding surprise, Coleen, one half of the husband-and-wife a discovery. But none more so than Taveuni
Palms. Just two villas make up this high-end estate, set amongst the biggest paradisaical clichés you can imagine. I would list them, but I’d run out of magazine. Ours is the Horizon Spa Villa, which is all white Italian tiles and dark polished wood. Walking in, we’re welcomed with a bottle of champagne that’s waiting on the kitchen island in an ice bucket. To the right, the living space is savvy and comfortable, high ceilinged, with large sofas, a long dining table, essential tech (TV, blu-ray, iPod, portable speakers), a huge mirror, all centred by a majestic bouquet of
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here for us.
The bedrooms are tastefully minimal, just a bed and wardrobe, colonial white sheets and canopy, and a stone-floored bathroom, which continues to the outside, where you’ll find an outdoor tub and showers. This place is the blueprint of luxury, an idea of luxury, a reality that I didn’t think was actually possible. And I’m not talking about the décor or the space, splendid though it is. I’m talking about the relationship with the staff and the environment. For starters, we’re the only people at the resort for the first two days, which essentially means that everyone is
Barry and Coleen take us on a tour of the villa. Outside, on villa-level, is an infinity swimming pool that runs into the lush, emerald flora. Up a bit of coral pathway, there’s a hot tub. Down the path is a sunbathing spot and a dining area. Down some more, you reach your own private acre of beach, where hammocks sway in the lazy breeze, and a canopied daybed gives shade from the mid-afternoon glare. There’s also the choice to dine here too, any time of day – and I do mean any time. Taveuni works entirely to your clock: as soon as
you’re hungry, as many times as your belly demands it, simply pick up the phone and let the kitchen know what you’d like. And they already know what you like, because Taveuni asks before you arrive, so that your experience is tailored, down to how many ice cubes you like in your drink. For me, it’s the perfect setup, liking nothing more than lounging around, getting a tan, eating fine food, drinking wine and cocktails, and generally not seeing any other people. And being in our azure infinity pool, glass of champagne in hand, was the first of a few moments I’ll never forget: watching the frenzied twilight hit the ocean like static on a
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TV, and the faint smell of firewood from the burning torches that set the tone for dusk. I can’t even remember going to bed that night. Waking up that first morning – and oh shit, it’s our wedding day – unlike any other morning, anywhere, ever. Coleen and Barry had shown us a bunch of spots where the ceremony could potentially take place, but the instant they told us that a few people, including a Hollywood director, had recent swapped nuptials on a small island of rocks in the sea, our minds were made up. A rain shower was forecast, but we stayed optimistic. Our phenomenally talented photographer, Ropate, arrived and we drank beer and tried
to work out how this thing was going to pan out. All the while, the sky slowly began to drain of any colour. I look across to see Gemma, sat on a lounger, dripping cool in her Catherine Deane dress, and keeping the energy level high. No rain was going to ruin this day. And with that, it was showtime – any longer and we’d be at the mercy of the tide too. Me first, umbrella in hand, taking the long walk along the coral path to the other side of the beach. Barry is there to meet me, along with all the Taveuni staff, and a small boat waiting to take me across to the island of rocks. I won’t be able to board without getting my boots wet, so one of the guys
kindly picks me up and carries me over (because wedding days aren’t surreal enough, right). As I stand on the island, I have another moment: me, surrounded by the ocean, a part of its rippled consciousness, connected to everything and nothing, and this beautiful sense of empty time where nothing else matters. The only thing missing is Gemma, who’s preceded by the sound of Fijian drums, a quartet of warriors, and the choral sounds of the Taveuni staff – our family for the day. It’s the most fitting entrance for the most beautiful girl, who, like me, is lifted on board the boat and drifts closer to the promise of future together. Alongside the registrar and two warriors, we
T R AV E L : F I J I stand hand-in-hand, speaking those words we’ve all heard a thousand times, but finally understanding the enormity and importance of their meaning. And in another poignant moment, the rain stops. We look up at the sky and a rainbow appears, stretching from one side of the resort to the other. We’re married. The others get back on the boat, leaving me and Gemma to enjoy a moment on the island alone. The tide, which until now had been patient and forgiving, started to swallow the rocks, inch by inch. I was so busy rolling up my trouser legs to realise one of my boots had floated away, much to the laughter of everyone. At least I wouldn’t have to be carried off the boat again.
Barry and Coleen made sure everything was just as perfect as the ceremony. Barry had even made a cake, one of the best I’d ever tasted (so good, in fact, we finished it for breakfast the next morning).
the most romantic setting I’ve ever been in. Ceviche, lobster, and of course Barry’s wedding cake – the menu we wanted without even thinking about it.
I’ve been travel writing for about 8 years now, but there’s no place like Taveuni Palms. As the light faded, we sat poolside at the It’s the intimacy of service coupled with a villa, drinking champagne with Ropate realisation of what high-end can be. And and Charlie, one of the staff who had been stunning location aside, it’s purely down to playing traditional Fijian songs on his guitar. Barry, Coleen and the tireless Taveuni family. Though it wasn’t long before him and Ropate It’s no wonder they’ve recently added three were taking it turns to play some more more awards to their growing collection. western singalongs – cue Time of Your Life, This time, World Travel Awards for Luxury Wonderful Tonight, and House of the Rising Romantic Villa, Luxury Private Villa, and Sun. Our wedding dinner was on the beach, Luxury Private Pool Villa. in the crackling glow of burning torches, And for me? The best place I’ve ever stayed.
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“Anything you want, just let me know”. It’s always a risk how far you can test the promise of a concierge. But Nanuku Auberge is certainly a place where anything is possible. It’s the most western, the most petit bourgeois of the resorts we visit in Fiji. That’s not to say traditionalism is compromised. But if it wasn’t for the warriors and the ceremony, there’s nothing idiomatically Fijian about it – which is a welcome respite. Nanuku is like a little village, set on the coastline of Viti Levu, comprising 24 suites and villas. And it’s grand – like the Texas of Fiji, where everything is better because its bigger. Walking through the huge gated entrance, past reception, via the bar and restaurant, you’re suddenly confronted by a
vast opening, with an altar and gong in front of you. All that’s missing is Fay Wray tied up, ready to be sacrificed to Kong. Half-coconuts are thrust straight into our hands and a garland round our necks, as we’re marched to the sound of the welcome-home drums. A theatrical welcome, which thankfully isn’t drawn out too long before its business as usual. Lunch was much needed after the 5am start and 4ish-hour drive to get here. Gemma’s tuna with papaya was a good sign of things to come. I had pizza, which you can’t really get wrong. And we shared a bottle of sauvignon blanc, which was excellent.
thing until you visit. The space is enough for about 6 people to live comfortably together – though just checking the website, it can actually accommodate 9 at a time. There are suites and villas too, but if you’re travelling 10,000 miles here, you really should just pay for the best. This beachfront residence has its own 300 square foot swimming pool. Ours had the words BULA REVIEW written in stones at the bottom – a warm touch. A private garden complex surrounds the residence and pool area, with jade palms and thickset grass that leads to your own slice of beach. Back inside, the theme is unequivocally hut-like, designed in the modest Fijian style Now, the villa – or ‘residence’, as ours is called. of wood and woven grass, with trinkets and You won’t really grasp the magnitude of this artefacts tastefully placed in each room. On
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the ground floor, there are two living spaces, plus a movie room with a projector. And the family-sized kitchen is stocked daily with water, booze, juices and snacks. Upstairs are three bedrooms. The bed is in the middle of the master room, with living space in front and bathing space behind, including his-and-hers sinks, a bathtub big enough for two, and access to a long balcony, where you’ll find daybeds and loungers. This overlooks the outdoor dining area, which has everything you’d expect, as well as a cabana, hot-tub, outdoor shower, and a barbeque. This place will be even better for us in 10 years, when we’ve got a couple of kids in tow, or even to bring the wider family. And yes, Nanuku is child-friendly – it’s built for
families, though having just missed the season, beach, we were invited to learn about Fijian there weren’t any kids there during our stay. cooking with some of the locals who work Phew. at the resort. I thought this might include the traditional cooking method, using a The resort has a villa mama, buddy and nanny lovo, where food is wrapped in a banana service: a mama to clean and take care of the leaf, put om shallow hole, and covered with residence; a buddy to arrange activities, plus smouldering rocks. Then you forget it about it chauffeur you on the buggies; and a nanny to for a few hours. look after the little ones, while you get on with But this was lunch, not dinner, and we didn’t adult matters. have a few hours to kill. We start by filling The rest of the day is spent exploring: poolside tubes with a mixture of fresh prawns, tomato, fun, playing with the outdoor games, shooting parsley, and chilli, which are placed into a some pool, and supping some cocktails. gentle fire to cook for about 15 minutes. In Pooped, we decide to take dinner back at the meantime, we’re shown how to make the residence – a perfectly good pasta dish – kokoda, a Fijian version of ceviche, made before slipping into a much-needed slumber. with white fish (in this case, maki maki), After an early morning jog to the end of the fresh coconut milk, pepper, onion, and
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vinegar. This national dish is outstanding, particularly the way they make it here; better than any Michelin ceviche I’ve had. The fire-cooked prawns were fine for something we made ourselves. Eating them was a tad messy – something that always makes me self-conscious, which in turn makes it less enjoyable. I don’t order unshelled seafood for this very reason, despite the fact I love it. That evening, a few of the guests gathered with the staff for a traditional kava ceremony; a root drug, not dissimilar to marijuana in its effect, which is a customary ritual for
practically any occasion. There’s politics too – and I don’t mean simply passing to the left. If there’s no chief present, someone assumes the role. Typically, this was me. The chief gets a cup of kava between every other person, so by the end of the session, I was well and truly stoned. Out came the guitar, and there were about 20 of us – guests and staff – knocking back kava and booze, and having a singalong (the highlight of which was Hotel California). Nanuku is pretty much the only place to stay when you’re on the mainland. Especially if
you’re coming as a family, with a rainforest and eco-park nearby, and bunch of cool marine activities, including shark diving, and an 18-hole golf course next door. It pains me to say ‘there’s something for everyone’, but there really is. Nanuku is truly the Fiji you see on a postcard – which is a funny coincidence, because I received one the other day. “Bula Vinaka! Laith and Gemma, we hope you remember us. Nanuku team would love you to come back”. Don’t worry, Nanuka. We’ll definitely be back.
Once you’ve made footfall in Nadi, it’s just a 15-minute helicopter ride to the island resort of Vomo. But we’re in no rush today and jump on a leisurely cruise boat from Denarau instead. It’s a 90-minute slice through the north-west, so we get to brush against some of the other islands too. I try to spot the private boat that’s picking us up. Then suddenly, the tannoy booms: “Ladies and gentlemen, just ahead is the five-star, luxury resort, Vomo”. Everyone clambers to the side of the deck, just
to get a glimpse, just to take a photo. I quickly realise that we’re the only ones getting off this boat, onto a private one, heading straight to this symbol of collective reverence. And it’s one of the coolest moments I’ve ever had – total glamour. I don’t even look back as we speed towards the two nights that would bookend our trip. The greeting is a familiar one – singing, guitars, a cocktail, a cold scented towel. Looking around, it’s all dainty sands and draping hammocks. The one unfamiliar sight
is children. Vomo prides itself on welcoming families and is geared up to give you and any ‘little islanders’ the best possible experience. We’re staying in one of the beachfront havens (their name, not mine), which is perfectly nice for what it is. Though I can’t help feeling that it’s a little overpriced for the space (£1,000ish per night), especially compared to the other resorts. There’s nothing overtly lavish or impressive about it, plus we’re semi-detached to another suite. If you want total privacy
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with a touch of grandeur, go for one of the swimming, we check out the terra-firma beachfront retreats or huge residences (costing activities. Tennis isn’t really my thing, but there up to £5,000 per night). are courts here with synthetic grass. Basketball, however, I can play (adequately) for hours. It’s not often you fine a dedicated court at a resort, We head to the poolside restaurant, which is bright and relaxed, exactly the place where you so I made the most of it during our stay. want to eat a quick or lengthy lunch. The three There’s also a pitch-and-putt course, where you can while away a couple of hours, sauntering courses are included with your stay, and the between the coconut trees, supping bottled menu is fish, steak, pasta, salads and burgers, beer, whilst trying to whack a ball into a hole. with a strong wine list. Much fun, even for non-golfers. But the best way to spend a morning or Having had enough of water-sports and
evening is to simply walk. Walk and walk. Not just because Vomo is so serene and stunning, but because the nature trail leading to the eponymous Mount Vomo is an experience that stays with you like a stamp in your passport. Nearly everyone has a go at conquering the ‘mountain’ – mostly at 6am to catch the sunrise, so be sure to ask for a wake-up call. It’ll take about 40 minutes to hike, but the 360-degree views from the summit will make your achy calves worth it.
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That evening, everyone gathers for the kava ceremony, along with a bit of am-dram from the staff. This is much different to the kava ceremonies at the other resorts; there’s about 80 people here. Having already taken part in four or five ceremonies, we’re happy to just observe. This is where Vomo works for families, but not for me: participation. Everyone is encouraged to mingle and dance. Tonight’s theme is ‘Fiji Night’ – communal seating and buffet dining – but this isn’t my idea of a good time, especially when there’s no private alternative on offer. And for the price you’re
paying, nothing should ever seem like a special request. But they did understand and we were quickly accommodated with a private table, away from the rabble of families and kids and buffet-food madness. Dinner at the resort’s new restaurant, The Reef, however, was a completely different experience. You arrive, take an outdoor seat facing the ocean and watch the sunset with a cocktail. The perfect holiday snapshot: bliss. The restaurant seating area stands about 20-foot above the ocean, so your soundtrack is the calm
lapping of the tide against rocks. The menu that evening was three styles of food – Chinese, Indian and something else – where you can pick a selection of dishes from each. We shared crabs and curries, which were interesting, exotic and, above all, tasty. Vomo keeps its end of the bargain, especially for families, giving kids an endless source of entertainment, and parents a chance to capture the kind of island luxury that’s usually reserved for adult-only resorts. And you’ll leave feeling as much the superstar you did when you arrived. TR
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XC Heroes 90 Champagne Words: ROB BELLINGER
When the telephone call came from Simon Stockton, ambassador for Piper-Heidsieck, to say one of champagne’s greatest cellar masters was heading my way to showcase his new vintage, it was an invitation I couldn’t resist. I was incredibly flattered that a bottle was being brought into the UK for me in complete secrecy. When I found out later that it was to taste their vintage prestige cuvée Rare (pronounced ‘Rarr’), I became more intrigued. Rare itself is something of a phenomenon; very much an educated quaff. It quietly stepped onto the champagne scene in 1985, delivering the 1976 vintage, and is produced in relatively small quantities. So, to drink their vintage prestige cuvée with its creator would be an honour.
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prestige cuvée, by definition, is the best wine that a producer makes in their range. Unsurprisingly, this usually comes from the first pressing of the best grapes, harvested from the best villages in Champagne. Some brands may be very familiar to you from their yellow cellophane wrappers, glow-in-thedark bottles, or even owners that are rappers. A prestige cuvée can be non-vintage, but the most easily recognised are those that have become brands in their own right. I always express a certain amount of skepticism toward the larger nightclub-style brands. This is because I want the bang for my buck to be in the bottle, not in the packaging and advertising. A celebrity endorsement or feature film deal will not turn my palate – that I can assure you. I found myself a few weeks later furtively making my way from Regent Street into the periphery of Soho, into a dimly lit, but chic boutique hotel bar. I found Regis Camus, Piper’s cellar master, sat relaxed with Simon, with not one bottle, but the whole of Piper-Heidsieck’s range for me to revisit. And sat glinting in its very subtle, rose gold faceted bottle was the then-unseen Rare Rosé 2007 awaiting me on ice.
as giving the vineyard an “unusual year, with extremely early growth.” This growth was then constricted by some very cold weather following the awakening from Spring. As a result, there was a strong pinot noir harvest, making production a possibility. The lesser chardonnay harvest nearly scuppered plans, due to the quantity available. Regis says he particularly favours chardonnay from the village of Trepail on the Montagne de Reims. This is traditionally a pinot noirbiased area. He likes it for the additional minerality it adds. The chardonnay available was concentrated and of a high quality; it was purely the volume that was of concern. This
“Piper-Heidsieck is now the most awarded champagne house of the century. And with the focus being truly on the winemakers, this looks sure to continue.
I was taken aback for two reasons. First, because I wasn’t aware Piper were declaring ‘07 a vintage, and second because Rare had never been made as a rosé before. Regis, however, had been thinking about this since the millennium, could have created potential problems in but wanted to take time to get the assemblage, blending 2007 to deliver the finished product the blend of grapes. And also the colour. and certainly dictated the resulting vintage and its size. But then, a vintage is a snapshot This tasting was made all the more special, as of grapes from a particular single year, so only 120 bottles of 1500 made were to be initially perhaps it was most fitting that Rare Rosés’ released in the UK. 750 remaining precious debut should be one to test the great master. bottles, I learnt, were destined for America, where demand for prestige cuvée has grown Camus says he could see the grapes were massively. This made the bottle in front of me optimised for the champagne he wanted to more exclusive than many of the other lifestyle produce. This was ascertained when the vins or familiar brand-driven champagnes. Fittingly, clair (the still wines before the fermentation Rare Rosé is presented in an understated black that add the fizz) were assessed. At that point, lacquer box with subtle rose gold fittings and only five or six people in the world were carries its own individual number to remind aware that he would be declaring a vintage you how restricted the contents are, in the for Piper-Heidsieck. The final resulting blend bottle you’re holding. was 44% pinot noir and the 56% chardonnay. His patience for accuracy in the glass provides For Camus to deliver this meant that it must a clear line of sight into Regis’s talents. A have been an outstanding year; one worthy to minimum of eight years in the cellar, like the take Rare into the rosé world (all other vintages blanc, allows for the true initial development had been blanc until this time). I quizzed him of aromas and flavours to begin. on this and he described the weather conditions
Piper-Heidsieck was established in 1785 and delivers between three and four million bottles per annum of its various cuvée. It is the sixth largest of the champagne house and has seen ingenious partnerships with some of the most revered designers and organisations, such as Jean Paul Gaultier, the Oscars, Cannes Film Festival, and Christian Louboutin. It was even Marilyn Monroe’s champagne of choice, so no doubt Arthur Miller would have been partial to a glass or two. It was then no wonder the 1976 Rare came to fruition, released in 1985 to celebrate 200 years of the marque. The house retains a focus on its people, who drive the success of the brand. Originally a farmer’s son, from a wheatharvesting background, Regis learnt about agriculture and the growing cycle virtually from birth. This was to serve him well later, as it enabled him to understand the viticulture behind the product that would become his driving passion. This has always given him true insight and affinity with the growers that supply and tend ’s grapes. These relationships are essential in the region, to ensure there are enough grapes to satisfy demand, as no major house owns enough land to produce their own champagnes without these. He joined the maison in 1994, working alongside Daniel Thibaut, who was also revered as one of the most important cellar masters in champagne. Daniel, unfortunately, passed away before he could work his magic on Piper with Regis by his side. It then became Regis’ sole project and a great testimony to his old friend and mentor that Regis’s wines are now so lauded. Camus says the most important thing Daniel taught him was communication. This gave him the ability to relate to people at all levels, and how to describe what he required. I ask how it felt handling his first vintage alone, as chef de cave. Regis says without hesitation that, thanks to Daniel, he was ready for it – adding with a smile that, just in case, he had a bag packed ready to head for California. Piper-Heidsieck is now the most awarded champagne house of the century. And with the focus being truly on the winemakers, this looks sure to continue. The chef de cave, or cellar master’s job is often viewed as a mystery, if not the dark art of alchemy. Regis’s day starts by arriving at work,
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checking the winery and talking with colleagues until 10:30 am. He then tastes, as he considers this to be the optimum time to undertake this important ‘chore’. Something I shall now be subscribing to personally. Afternoons are kept aside for meetings and other important engagements. He is well known for both his intuition and audacity. Regis had been considering producing Rare as a rosé since 2000. This careful preparation has enabled him to make some great vinification decisions, showing great foresight as now with Rare Rosé. “Boldness is a cardinal virtue,” he says, and that one of his skills as a cellar master is “negotiating one’s way through a year, which presents the most challenging climatic conditions. Procuring fruit which is almost luminous in its intensity and then creating a vintage cuvée of rich complexity and finesse.” Succession planning has been key at PiperHeidsieck in the past, and Séverine Frerson works with Regis now as deputy cellar master. Regis, however, has no plans to give up the tasting glass for many years to come, and says he learnt the importance of work-life balance from his colleagues. He also remarks on how quickly time passes. I ask if he felt pressure to declare a vintage in the year 2000 for the millennium? He quickly smiles, and replies that he did not, as the harvest was
of an appropriate quality to do so; describing it as ‘accomplished’. As an afterthought, he adds, “It was also good to leave my stamp on a millennial wine, as I don’t think I will be here for the next one to make a wine.” He also comments that he would never make a vintage due to commercial pressures and it is his sole decision if a vintage happens. His tone becomes authoritative and reinforcing, as he says “Moi, je decide.” He then insists as chef de cave, “Jamais, jamais, jamais” – or never, never, never. He foils this to show no arrogance and qualifies that he still listens to and observes his consumer and taste trends to aid his direction.
oriental vanilla high note and an inherent warmth and spiciness with blackberries, and just a hint (dare I say) of cold-climate British cherries. A slight hint of wild strawberry also prevails, fresh and concentrated.
The finish is full in the mouth and long, fruity toasted brioche notes bring that perfumed edge to this pink effervescent wine. There is a great prospect for aging here, and I can see these flavours developing and becoming more prominent effusing into a delicious mélange over time. It is great to drink now, but four to five years cellaring will allow further development; nine to eleven years will see a unique maturation and a further treat And so, to the liquid in the glass. The colour for the palate. is the most gorgeous, light, rusty, salmon pink hue, with apricot and clementine. The style Regis was undoubtedly right to wait and is very fruit-forward and luscious, hinting at stamp his talent onto a vintage that is unique, the strength of the pinot noir harvest in 2007. complex and that required great skill. It was The depth in this Rare Rosé is astonishing, brave to do so, with such a relatively small and I believe it has longevity, unlike other release due to a limited harvest. But this wines I have tasted from 2007, which seem makes Rare Rosé 2007 all the more special. remarkedly advanced. Chardonnay has It also shows that Piper-Heidsieck is firmly helped temper this adding richness with focused on making great wines, and not its lemon balm notes. This is a remarkably the commercialism often applied to vintage rich and multi-faceted glass that usurps champagnes. Regis laughs when I describe most prestige cuvée. This complexity brings some of these as “chi chi”. If this first vintage forward herbs from far-off lands that have is an indication of the power of Rare Rosé, been roasted by the sun. My first impression is then please let there be many more vintages of lychees, persimmon, and just a hint of pink as carefully selected as this one. In Camus we peppercorns and paprika. There is a slight trust.
TO PROCURE THE 2007 RARE ROSÉ PLEASE SEE ONE OF THE FOLLOWING STOCKISTS:
a beginnersâ€™ guide to
Investment Migration Words: Hugh Morshead, Group Director, Henley & Partners
The investment migration industry is growing at a faster rate than ever before. Each year, thousands of wealthy individuals apply for citizenship and residence in foreign countries, and by the end of 2017, there were over 30 active and successful programs in existence, with a total of 80 programs available worldwide. The range and breadth of programs are constantly expanding, with residence and citizenship options now available in most of the major world regions, including the Caribbean, North America, Europe, Southeast Asia, Oceania, and even, most recently, Central Asia.
INVESTMENT : HUGH MORSHEAD
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itizenship-by-investment has grown into a roughly USD 3 billion industry, while residence-byinvestment — slightly more difficult to approximate — most likely encompasses tens of billions of dollars. Rather than mysterious, rarefied topics off-limits to ordinary citizens, as was largely the case in the industry’s early years, citizenship- and residence-by-investment are slowly becoming household names. But for those still new to the industry, what exactly do these terms mean? What is investment migration all about, and why should you care? A brief history of investment migration In its most basic form, citizenship-byinvestment denotes the process whereby qualified, vetted candidates are granted full citizenship in exchange for their substantial economic contribution to the passport-issuing state. Residence-by-investment denotes a similar process, but candidates in this case are granted temporary residence, which can be extended to permanent residence or, in some cases, citizenship. The history of the citizenship and residence industry can be divided into three distinct ‘waves’. The first wave, which marked the industry’s haphazard inception, stretched from the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s. In 1984, St. Kitts and Nevis launched the first citizenshipby-investment program in the world. Four years later, the Republic of Ireland created a controversial naturalization program, which was terminated the following decade. Dominica launched its Economic Citizenship Program in 1993, becoming the second Caribbean nation to enter the investment migration space. In the residence space, Canada introduced its Federal Immigrant Investor Program in 1986, and the US opened its now-famous EB-5 visa program to investors in 1990. The UK and New Zealand followed suit in the mid- and late 1990s, respectively. The second wave, spanning the late 1990s to the mid-2000s, can best be described as a ‘cooling period’. In 2001, Grenada closed its citizenship-by-investment program amid heightened security concerns following 9/11. No new citizenship programs were launched worldwide during this period. Activity in the competing residence-by-investment space experienced a comparable slow-down, with both the US and Canada experiencing the lowest inflow of investors since their programs’ inception. The ‘boom period’ of the past ten years
or so has seen the industry regenerating itself. The European island of Cyprus legalized citizenship-by-investment and began developing a program in 2011. In the two years that followed, both Antigua and Barbuda and Grenada in the Caribbean launched citizenship programs. In 2014, EU member state Malta introduced its Individual Investor Program, which is the only program of its kind that is recognized by the European Commission. In terms of residence options, 2012 saw the introduction of five new programs: Singapore’s Global Investor Programme, Australia’s Significant Investor Visa, and residence-by-investment programs in Portugal, Hungary, and Ireland. Greece and Spain added their own residence programs in 2013. While Canada closed its residence program in 2014, the Quebec program remains active and highly popular. Also in 2014, the US and the UK reported a record number of investors, with the uptick fueled mainly by growing interest from the Chinese market. In 2015, Malta added a residence program (the Malta Residence and Visa Program) to its investment migration offering.
“What is driving the increased demand for alternative residence and citizenship in recent years?” Risk-hedging for discerning citizens What is driving the increased demand for alternative residence and citizenship in recent years? The contributing factors are wideranging. In the unpredictable times in which we live, acquiring a second or even a third residence or nationality is seen as an astute move — a sort of wholesale insurance policy that provides the comfort of a ‘plan B’ for individuals and families, hedging them to a great extent against the risks associated with an uncertain future. Another major pull-factor is, of course, the prospect of expanded global mobility. The need for greater visa-free access to key business and lifestyle regions has grown in tandem with the rapid globalization of the world economy, and being able to travel easily and extensively
is now less a luxury than a basic requirement for modern businesspeople. Investment migration enables wealthy individuals to transcend the constraints imposed on them by their passport and country of origin, tapping into financial, career, and educational opportunities on a global scale. Citizenship-by-investment in particular also eliminates a great deal of the inconvenience and waiting time surrounding visa applications and passport renewal or replacement processes. Perhaps most importantly, an additional passport can quite literally save a person’s life in times of political unrest, civil war, and terrorism, or in other delicate political situations. Most residence programs offer a clear and defined route to citizenship, but residence in regions such as the EU is in and of itself a life-altering privilege. EU residents can travel freely within and across member states and can access all the professional, healthcare, educational, and housing benefits available to citizens in a particular country. Benefits untold Crucially, investment migration is not a oneway transaction. Those who are overly critical of the industry tend to focus exclusively on the benefits to private clients: they are concerned by what they perceive to be the undue ‘marketization’ of citizenship, and they are distressed by issues of tax evasion and money laundering. While the former concern is rooted in an increasingly oldfashioned attachment to arbitrary determiners of nationality such as birthplace and marriage, the latter concern is usually overstated: due diligence mechanisms within the industry are incredibly rigorous and strict, with hundreds of exceptionally qualified and upstanding individuals vetted and accepted into programs each year, but the rare, highly publicized exceptions to this norm tend to cloud public perception. More pointedly, industry skeptics typically disregard the transformational effects that inflows from residence and citizenship programs can have on receiving economies, which become more competitive and internationally relevant as a result. Foreign direct investment brings in capital to both the public sector — in the form of government donations, tax payments, or treasury bond investments — and the private sector — in the form of investments in businesses, startups, or real estate. The economic benefits are cumulative: receiving states tend to experience rapid growth in the real estate sector, accompanied by growth in the construction
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industry and among local businesses, plus increased liquidity in the commercial banking system and job creation. There are also various intangible benefits tied to granting citizenship to people from other countries, who bring diversity, scarce skills, and rich global networks. Given the growth and developmental potential of citizenship and residence programs, it is hardly surprising that the number of states offering or exploring investment migration is on the rise. Qualifying investors can now become citizens of Antigua and Barbuda, Cyprus, Grenada, Malta, and St. Lucia, to name just a few options, or obtain residence in countries such as Australia, Canada, Portugal, Singapore, Thailand, the UK, and the US. There are still many countries where it makes sense to start new programs, so the industry looks set to continue to thrive and diversify. Expansive options As the number of available programs expands year-on-year, potential clients are confronted with a wealth of options. Europe is highly
desirable owing to its solid social and legal infrastructure and excellent security; however, it is more expensive to acquire citizenship in Europe than in the Caribbean, for example. The Caribbean offers an appealing — and more economical — alternative, with all Caribbean program-countries offering visa-free access to Europe’s Schengen Area. Generally speaking, those who are predominantly seeking enhanced travel freedom opt for the Caribbean programs, while those with longerterm, security-based aspirations look towards Europe. The two key destinations for citizenship in Europe are Malta and Cyprus due to their combination of regulatory accessibility and cost and the reasonable demands that they place on applicants. For residence, the Portugal program is extremely popular. In the Caribbean, Grenada offers attractive and unique benefits, including visa-free access to China. Asia is also developing a strong suite of programs: the Thailand Elite Residence
Program allows qualified foreigners to live in Thailand for up to 20 years, depending on the residence option chosen, while both Singapore and Hong Kong offer appealing residence alternatives for businesspeople looking for a base in some of the most advanced societies in the world. In navigating these various choices, the first port of call should be an established, reputable advisory firm, even if this means paying a little extra for the assurance of accurate advice and sound guidance. The consultation process should include an in-depth exploration of the most suitable option available, based on the individual’s or family’s specific circumstances and requirements. The firm should also assist the client through each stage of what is usually a rather complex and protracted application procedure. Looking ahead Dr. James Canton, CEO and Chairman of the Institute for Global Futures, has earned the titles ‘Digital Guru’ and ‘Dr. Future’ from
CNN and Yahoo, respectively, for his insights into the major trends that are shaping the 21st century. Canton stresses that to achieve the state he calls ‘future-readiness’, countries need to build ‘predictive awareness’ — but he is equally convinced that trend-watching, analysis, and hedging against loss and adversity are not in and of themselves enough. Rather, leaders need to be proactive in building systems that will ensure their continued viability in what is poised to be an ‘extreme future’. As far as investment migration is concerned, a strong culture of self-regulation and due diligence is essential to the industry’s continued success. A very important first step in this direction was the formation of the Investment Migration Council (IMC) in 2015. The IMC has two main mandates: on the one hand, establishing and maintaining professional standards and codes of conduct within the industry, and on the other hand, improving public understanding of the intricate processes and systems involved in citizenship and residence programs.
Given the importance of stringent applicant screening, programs with thorough due diligence processes that allow adequate time for the government to process applications should be viewed in a positive light. Although the path to citizenship or residence is generally slightly longer in such cases, following a meticulous process guarantees the integrity, sustainability, and therefore longevity of the program (as well as the reputation of the passport or residence permit itself). Malta has the strictest due diligence mechanisms in the world for its citizenship and residence programs and has in many ways set the standard in this regard. In a recent interview with the Investment Migration Insider, Peter S. Vincent, General Counsel for Thomson Reuters, said, “If we’re looking for a model, not just for the European Union but for the entire world, I would look to a country like Malta.” But innovation and adaptiveness are equally necessary for the industry’s survival. Already, there are countries that are challenging
customary program parameters and considering payment via non-traditional currencies, including cryptocurrencies. St. Lucia in the Caribbean, for example, is now accepting foreign currencies such as euro and yen and is contemplating adding Bitcoin to the equation. Around the world, governments and intermediaries are digitizing traditionally paper-based processes, and clients are now able to ‘travel’ to potential investment destinations and ‘explore’ potential property options without having to leave the comfort of their own homes. The current challenge for the industry, then, is to build future-readiness while carving out its place within the global community as a beacon of innovation, collaboration, professionalism, and responsible investing. The more proactive stakeholders are in leveraging technology to streamline application processes — all the while keeping strict legal and regulatory mechanisms in place — the more sustainable and prosperous the industry as a whole will be. It is an exciting time in investment migration history. TR
Dr. James Canton, CEO and Chairman of the Institute for Global Futures
FOR FURTHER DETAILS AND ADVICE REGARDING INVESTMENT MIGRATION T: + 44 (0) 20 7823 1010 W: www.henleyglobal.com A: 20 Grosvenor Place, London, SW1X 7HN, UK THE REVIEW 2018 111
THE GLOBE & RAINBOW - TN17 Words: LAITH AL-KAISY
Goudhurst. I couldn’t even pronounce it properly, let alone find it on the map. But this is where Gemma, the other half, decided to take us for my birthday. We’ve been scouting villages around London, making a shortlist of places that are charming enough to call
home—you know, buy a house, get nestled, and eventually fire out some little ones. So this was as much a reconnaissance as a celebration. One of the great, inarguable truths about England is that, deep down, we’d all rather be in the countryside. If you don’t feel it now,
you will. The English weren’t built for the city and its Faustian promises. We’re too polite for success, too self-conscious to overreach, too cynical to believe, too apologetic to dream big. I watch you, just as you watch me, awkwardly navigating our godless cities, our Munchian
DINING OUT : THE GLOBE & RAINBOW
mouths aghast, our eyes bleak with the flailing embers of civility, where we’re defined by job titles and postcodes, and communicate in choking conversations and panic-swallowing haste. The rat race is no longer about who can get ahead, but who can get the hell out; the chutzpah to turn their back on the devil, recalibrate, and start living the hushed middleclass dream of allotments, bumpkins, cider, organics, localism, hen-keeping, self-sufficiency, crisp air, azure skies, muddy boots, cow shit, a bucolically-designed kitchen, and saying ‘good morning’ without being met with surprise or suspicion.
and open-door dining. Like fashion, décor in the country is a by-product of agriculture and climate, all firewood and weathercocks. It’s the same twee feeling you get when opening a picnic basket, or watching Samantha Cameron make a gingerbread David on Celebrity Bake Off. The menu is the best I’ve seen in months: short, confident, and created by someone who actually wants to feed me: pigeon with wild mushroom, pearl barley and sweetcorn; red mullet with fennel, apple and artichoke; pork belly with bacon jam and pickled onion; duck
But there is one thing I’ll miss about city-life: the food. Not just any food, but the plates of art and forkfuls of ambition. I’m not saying the countryside doesn’t do decent grub (after all, your boiled egg couldn’t be closer to the freerange vagina that laid it), but as with everything in the sticks, aesthetic is an afterthought of purpose. In the city, food is about concept, meaning and experience; a Rorschach test on a plate. Here, it’s about sustenance, conviviality, and talking with your mouth full.
“The rat race is no longer about who can get ahead, but who can get the hell out; the chutzpah to turn their back on the devil”
We asked Nettie, the lady who owns the barn, to recommend somewhere to eat. Her reply was utilitarian, almost evasive, talking about how long it takes to get there, how much it costs, who the patrons are, but nothing about what she’d actually put in her mouth. The Globe and Rainbow sounded good enough, so I pressed her for an opinion on the food: “Delicious,” she finally conceded, with all the platitudinous flair of a Tripadvisor review. Situated in the least Kentish bit of Kent, the Globe and Rainbow is a proper pub in the mud. The décor is indistinguishable from its neighbours’, which is no bad thing, as long as you’re in for pull-up-a-haystack hospitality
breast and confit with carrot, kale and baby turnip. Proof that, in the country, you needn’t look further than the barrel of a shotgun for inspiring ingredients. I asked the waiter to choose my starter, to which he hesitantly agreed. I’ve been annoying waiting staff with this request all year, simply to make eating out more interesting. He opted for monkfish scampi with saffron mayonnaise. For what was essentially tempura fish, it was unimpeachable: sweet flesh cocooned in featherweight batter. The dish was a whisper of the greatness to come, but not memorable enough
for me to stop wishing he’d chosen the pigeon. Gemma’s scallop with chicken wing and black pudding was enviable, a delicate balance of surf and turf, bolstered by the earthiness of the blood and oatmeal. Her venison fillet with celeriac and beetroot fondant was even better, and a contender for my dish of the year: buxom and blushing, and bold enough to withstand the gruffness of the root veg. Faultless cooking. My lamb rump, although forgivably rare, was elevated by the aubergine, crispy potato and black pudding. The plate was holistic and cohesive, and the meat, despite being slightly underdone, tasted of grass and mud and grazing—a testament to its quality. Spotted dick, blood orange, crème anglaise and whiskey marmalade: no, not a Freudian inquiry into Nigella Lawson’s pantry, but the first of a quartet of desserts served on a board the size of a tractor wheel. This is Willy Wonka theatre, a properly grown-up gang of puddings, ingeniously executed by a chef who remembers what it’s like to be a customer, and who doesn’t let ego or overthinking get in the way of simplicity: dark chocolate fondant with peanut, brownie and a pistachio parfait; vanilla cheesecake with rosemary, ginger and rhubarb; and crème brulee with espresso milk foam, cinnamon doughnuts and caramel popcorn. Despite sounding like a Soho gay bar, the Globe and Rainbow gives a romping city nosh without the botox and poppers. This is as close as you’ll get to the neurosis of metropolitan cooking, but with ingredients that are recognisable, native, and put together with forensic care. Here is a restaurant with its head in Pollen Street and its heart in the Harwood Arms, yet self-aware enough to not alienate the locals, who like nothing more than to tuck a tablecloth into their collars and talk about the preposterousness of London with their mouths full. TR
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Established in Holland in 1993, Protest have been going strong since the Americans lost the Mars Observer and Intel introduced the Pentium Processor. Thatâ€™s right, Holland. One of the flatest places on earth gave birth to Protest Sportswear. They are the first to tell me that the Netherlands is the home to exactly five hills and fourteen waves. Officially. The Protest team is made up of sixteen international designers, each with backgrounds in sports and fashion and my word do they love to slide about. Words: AMBER EDDILSTON
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Carmacks SNOW PANTS
Nocton 17 snowjacket
BLAINE thermal pants HYPNOTIC SNOWBOOTS
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LIMITED EDITION FAT BIKE
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I N T E RV I E W : M A R K E T E S O N
Words: PETER J ROBINSON Imagery: AARON GARCIA We’re the middle children of history. No purpose or place. We have no great war, no great depression. Our great war is spiritual. Our great depression is life. We’ve all been raised by television to believe that, one day, we’ll be millionaires and movie gods and rock stars. And some of us will – you just need a craft and a work ethic like no other. I met Mark Eteson on a fairly normal day, in a grey office, in our hometown. He was already jetting off at weekends to play international shows, but staying grounded and grafting a dull office job during the week. 13 years later, he’s a triple threat, playing shows at Jewel, Hakkasan, and Omnia in Las Vegas. Grafting.
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arky, if you look over your career, where do you think the clinch point was? When did you know that you were making it happen?
That’s a tough one. Believe it or not, there was a stage where I was on the dole with another DJ friend of mine who I lived with. Not naming names, but the purpose was to allow us to continue trying to make that break happen while trying to alleviate any financial struggle. The problem with any self-employed career is keeping yourself afloat, and when it comes to such an aggressively competitive industry like the music business, you sometimes have to do everything-plus-one that your competitors do. I know for sure that most people in my position would’ve seen this as a hurdle they couldn’t jump over, but there wasn’t a chance I was giving up, at any cost. That, plus a few of my stand-out tracks that transpired not too soon afterwards paved the way for me to keep taking steps up the ladder. What was the first single and album you bought? That is almost impossible to remember! Album-wise, I remember listening to cassette tapes, a musically diverse taste spanning the likes of Mariah Carey, Jan Hammer, Chicago and Steely Dan (which I’m actually listening to now). My dad’s taste helped me garner a broad cross-section of all music. I thank him wholeheartedly for that. As far as singles, probably something from way back in school like ‘No Diggity’ or ‘Gangsta’s Paradise’. Funnily enough, I’ve since met Coolio and he’s invited me back to his pad to party. I couldn’t take him up on the offer, unfortunately, but here’s hoping it happens again some time. When did you start DJing, and what or who were your early passions and influences? I learnt in my third year of secondary school. I was 15 years old and it was the heyday of happy hardcore. I was listening to DJ Hixxy, Sharkey and Dougal. Dougal recently came out to Vegas and we all had dinner together. It really is mad how the whole wheel keeps spinning and now I’m where he was. Lovely chap. I then slowed my music down to trance, where early influences were Armin, Tiësto and Judge Jules on Radio One at the time. Those are my beginnings, and it went from there, coupled
with the early festivals – Global Gathering, Homelands and Creamfields – that shaped my style as a DJ as well as a producer. Do you think it was harder to ‘make it’ when you were cutting your teeth learning to mix than it is now? In many ways, yes. Back when I began DJing and producing, there were a lot of DJs who were simply DJs. There was no requirement to also be producing music. There was also no such thing as social media back then, or music platforms like Soundcloud and Mixcloud. Spotify didn’t exit. People still bought albums. If you wanted to release a track, you had to hire a studio, an engineer, pay to have vinyl pressed. Nowadays, you can create music with a little bit of inspiration and a laptop filled with pirate software, then upload it to Soundcloud and start building a fanbase. The better your music is, the quicker that will happen. I was handing out tapes (and later CDs) I’d mixed with homemade artwork I’d designed in Photoshop back in college. I’d invested in a CD burner (yes, this really was before the time you could do it on your computer), so I was ahead of the curve
“I used to think I could get it all in my basket, now I realise it’s ten tracks or less” compared to other DJs promoting themselves. I built a name for myself. I feel like it was much more about the hustle back when I began. You couldn’t rely so much on building a cool image for yourself on Instagram. Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty of shady shit going on under the surface – that has always been there – but it was easier to weed that out when you didn’t have the army of, for instance, 144,000 followers to hide behind or promote with. Whether they’re real or not is anyone’s guess nowadays. Some promoters find out the hard way when booking new talent. What are currently your main challenges as a DJ? What is it about DJing, compared to,
say, producing your own music, that makes it interesting for you? They’re two very separate things for me. As a DJ, it’s instant – the gratification, the impact, the energy, the adrenaline. You have to be a quick thinker. You have to be ahead of the crowd. Almost like chess. You have to read them, what they want, and how to craft the set to get you there. In the studio, it’s the other way around. Sometimes I’d spend an entire day and come up with a percussion loop. Your crowd is your own mind, which can be equally rewarding as it is frustrating. But there’s no feeling that quite matches the moment when you’ve produced something huge and you know what it’s gonna go like when it drops in the club. What do you usually start with when preparing for a set? An intro. Ha, sorry – I couldn’t help myself. But typically, that all depends on the space, the crowd and the vibe of the night. Believe it or not, this changes massively from one venue to the next. I’ve played entirely different opening tracks for a terrace set versus an Ibizan beach set versus a headline in Vegas. Again, it’s about reading the situation and applying something that, as a professional, I think will work. I couldn’t come on the Zurich Love Parade at 3pm with a drum-and-bass track, but I could get away with that at an underground rave at 3am in London. What can’t you live without when you’re in the booth? When it comes to my necessities, it’s threefold. My Hublot for starters. I’m obsessed with being on time and matching that with the flow of the set. Think about how DJing works, it’s all bars and beats per minute. My life revolves around staying in time. So, I’ll do that with the best in the biz. How important is building a real relationship with the music you’re playing for your own approach? There’s so much music out there, is it even possible to build meaningful long-term relationships with a particular track or album? Not so much in dance music unfortunately. People tend to release singles over albums nowadays. Especially with the implementation of streaming apps, such as Spotify and Apple Music, the concept of a flowing album have all but disappeared. You can’t tell a story
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from beginning to end like you used to on a CD, when your chosen streaming app will spit out whoever it wants, in whatever order. Also, with the sheer amount of new music being churned out only the strongest really stick around for longer than, say, 3 months max. This is a positive and a negative part of it being so easy to get your music out there these days. Positive because anyone with talent and laptop can show us what they’re made of; negative because the safeguards that used to be in place to make sure that only good quality, professional studio-produced, vinyl-pressed music got out there, are obviously no longer there. No complaints, of course, I’d rather take an abundance of music than a lack of it. But it sure as hell makes the process of being an A&R more difficult, and selecting music for sets can become an extremely long process of sorting the wheat from the chaff. When did ‘house’ become the ubiquitous term for everything Electronic Dance Music? A long while ago. Unfortunately, the genres thing is something I (along with a lot of other DJ friends) despise in the scene. I used to love when everything was just ‘house’. Then along came garage and messed it all up! But seriously, it’s now to a whole new level. We’ve got house, deep house, future house, shoe gaze, power pop – where does it stop?! I remember once reading Paul van Dyk, the godfather, name everything EDM. Electronic Dance Music. That fitted perfectly. All under one roof again. I loved it. But then, somewhere along the line, that too got chewed up and spit back out and all of a sudden, EDM now carries the stigma of what should really be called ‘big room”, those tracks with not much substance other than being slamming and having huge ear-blistering build-ups and drops. It’s always difficult when people ask me what I play. I now just say dance music, and pray they don’t ask any more questions! What makes you decide to play a particular record during one of your sets? Is there any criteria other than pure subjectivity? There could be a record I absolutely love to pieces, but it just won’t work in a particular environment or setting. Let’s go back to the Ibiza example. I played on the beach at a wedding. But I couldn’t be dropping something they’d fire the confetti to in Vegas to a crowd of people on the beach at sunset, could I? I suppose that means there’s no real criteria other than me liking a record. When there’s more music than one can possibly take in, it is becoming increasingly hard to know what constitutes an original and a remake anymore. What’s your opinion on the importance of roots, traditions, respecting originals and sources?
Very true, but I was once sat with Jono from trance super-act Above & Beyond in his London studio and he remarked that all music was just pieces and parts of various other puzzles rehashed and put back together in different ways and formats to create new meaningful records. There is, after all, only a finite amount of chord changes you can work with. It’s more about the method, the delivery and the constant pushing of sound design and forward thinking that keeps this scene growing in such an exponential way. Obviously, I’m biased, but I don’t see any other avenues of music, be that pop, rock or rap, with as much raw creativity, unique sound, and young genius producers spawning every day, as I do in the music scene. And that makes it extremely exciting to be a part of. What’s next for you? You’ve been playing Vegas for a number of years now, do you feel settled here? As settled as you can in such a strange and man-made adult Disneyland. Plan was never to be here forever, but I certainly wanted out of Swindon! There really are few other places that would be able to offer men such a mixture of incredible food, fantastic cost of living, 24/7 entertainment, weather, and of course, the most amount of shows I’ve ever done in a year. Most people don’t know that you can leave Vegas and in 45 minutes be on Lake Mead jet-skiing or BBQing. There really is a lot more to offer here than the strip. Next up, I think maybe California. But I’m good here for now. New York would also be incredible, but the cost of living there is about 16 times what I pay to live in a penthouse here. TR
Biggest extravagance in life? Back to the Hublot. Anyone would think I’m trying to get A sponsorship DEAL! What’s the best thing since sliced bread? Amazon Prime. Literally, one order a day. They’re killing me. Who is ‘smashing it’ right now? Andy Murray. ilan Bluestone. Harry Kane. Porter Robinson. Zedd. Grey. Andrew Bayer. The Chainsmokers. Not Donald Trump. THE REVIEW 2018 131
T R AV E L : R I T Z C A R LT O N A B A M A
Calima As the Saharan winds whip up a dehydrating frenzy, the Calima blocks out the sunrise across the ocean to the east. That’s right, I’m in Tenerife doing my best Attenborough. British holidaymaker staple since the 1940s, banana plantation extraordinaire, and proud to boast of 362 days of sunshine a year, it’s pretty ubiquitous, whether you travel often or occasionally.
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on’t be fooled by the fruit machines in the airport or the footballshirt-wearing Luddites on the promenade though, there is something
changing in the night sky.
I landed on the island on a humid Thursday afternoon in July. For some ungodly reason, I had chosen to travel out in the first week of the school holidays, so the airport was a seething mass of parents and spawn. This week, it didn’t matter where you landed, you were in for a ride. Our driver made short work of the 30-minute transfer across the southern tip of the island. The roads make you long for something sporty and mid-engined to drive yourself though. The hotel appears on the horizon like a terracotta Tuscan palace in the middle of the desert. The Ritz Carlton Abama is sprawling, to say the least. I sauntered into the cathedralsized lobby, complete with boutiques and piano bars, and up to the reception desk for human signage. Our check-in takes place over cocktails at Club Level. This is the Ritz members’ style club – a hotel within the hotel, if you will. Perched on the tenth floor and presumably accessed by elevators with controls too high for children, Club Level is a sanctuary for those who need their hotel stay to have a modicum of privacy. There are complimentary drinks and an additional army of staff along with a private pool and culinary creations throughout the day. When you’ve travelled to a UK tourist hotspot in the middle of the school holidays, you’re glad of the sanctuary. It is, of course, family-friendly, though the children here are all dynastybound, not crayon-chewers. Our suite is across the courtyard from the lobby, past the jazz band and tropical gardens complete with koi carp, next to the rather tranquil Persian garden. Mentally, I am already planning a world record-breaking
game of hide and seek. Although I am sure that parents across the resort are also playing this game competitively, ensuring that their spawn become someone on the staff’s charge for a precious moment of respite. Or until the child’s name is heard on the tannoy. If you did lose your namesake I expect there is a high chance you would be passed a crisp white envelope by a doting member of staff with your child’s’ location enclosed for collection. As and when you should so wish, of course. When you go into a suite, there are things that count. The bed needs to be Sinatra-grade. The wardrobe needs to be walk-in, and you need to be able to block out the light to a Las Vegas standard. Dark-side-of-the-moon dark. Everything was in order. I did see other suites whilst I was there, of course, lying dormant with thousands of square feet on offer. I could never find them twice though. The first order of business was dinner. Our reservation at Txoko was for 9:00 pm. It had passed 9:00 pm. I was doing my best to remain courteous and entertain everyone, though secretly visualising the chef tapping his foot and sharpening his knife. I needn’t have worried – this modern Spanish restaurant conceptualised by Martín Berasategui was a far more relaxed affair. But I should be clear: The Review strictly frowns upon arriving late for supper. Especially for a chef that holds eight stars. Thick marble tables, thousands and thousands of polished black tiles, and very natural wood panelling were the culinary cocoon for this dining experience. Spain meets Scandinavian design. The time was 9:10 pm, yet there were still some very polite and well-dressed children dining with families. Come to the Abama for the people-watching alone. I watched a gentleman’s family-of-four get up after dinner, kiss him politely and leave. I couldn’t work out if he was being punished or rewarded. “You spend an hour here darling, I will pop the kids to bed”. “THANK CHRIST”. There were more pressing matters that required my attention over and above the Swiss father’s predicament though. The menu arrived and, as the time was now 9:30 pm, I wondered if it was still acceptable to order
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a starter. I haven’t eaten in a hotel that had more than one restaurant for some time. I scanned the menu and saw oysters, Iberian chorizo, and white fish ceviche (Peruvian style). Despite all these carnivorous options, my choice was tactical: I asked what was good. Most waiting staff take this question 50/50. “You couldn’t spend the five minutes I was away choosing something using your own free will and the piece of cardboard with instructions I handed you?” Or “let me grab some of tonight’s cuts of meat for us to talk through”. Sweet release. Txoko
knows me already. It realises that dining is a collaborative process and everyone has a part to play. Mine is to be interested in food, to be engaged, at which I score very highly, I assure you. Iberian charcuterie casalba and a selection of cheese. Meat, dairy and an Aperol Spritz for garnish. Perfection. This allowed me maximum time to continue watching the soap opera of lonely Swiss dad. He had that retired look, but in the way Obama does. Michelle’s there just prodding him gently saying “how’s that book deal coming along? I need to see some pages, okay?”
The main course arrived with a little more pomp and ceremony than expected. When I was shown the 45-day aged tomahawk, I thought ‘I have to’. I have to. I shrugged my shoulders gently like Scorsese and looked at my dining companion as if to say ‘you’re wearing the right dress to take this on with me, right? And even if you aren’t, the suite is less than 50 metres away’. I don’t know the exact weight because I was a little overcome trying to work out how punchy the wine needed to be – but it was formidable, put it that way. You must know the best steak restaurant you have ever eaten in. Everyone
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has that place. It’s sacred. Mine, which shall remain nameless, was my go-to establishment for five years until Martín Berasategui prepared a banquet. Even though we still had a quarter left, we went for lemon pie, coffee, and brandy. This was a cut of meat prepared in such a way that I had to ensure it was safeguarded for generations, so had it wrapped and delivered to the room in my absence. With only three nights to fully immerse ourselves in the experience, it was becoming clear that dining out was going to play a big part of our trip. The following morning, we contemplated
having breakfast down in the tropical gardens, but decided that the slight din of families would be too much to bear with heavy heads. So, we made our way up to Club Level to nibble delightful pastries and drink freshly-squeezed orange juice. The club faces out towards the hotels par-72 championship course designed by former Ryder Cup player Dave Thomas. As I slide into my thirties, I am often asked if I play golf. Like most people, I can practice comfortably at a driving range, but wouldn’t want to hold up proceedings of real enthusiasts by actually playing. The island itself has nine golf courses, with the Abama being generally regarded as one of the
toughest in Spain. I think 22 water hazards alone confirms that. For us, the morning would be spent exploring the southern tip of the resort and heading towards the islands Playa beach and pier. Given that the resort has 313 rooms and 148 villas, moving people around is a serious task. There are shuttles to take you down to the beach or up to the golf course, but if you really want to get around, book a villa with a golf cart. We decided that, rather than wait for the shuttle, we would enjoy the resort and walk the 600 metres to the Funicular Panormaico. Your options are to walk down the winding
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lane to the beach, adding 15 minutes to your journey, or take the idyllic cable-car down. It is, of course, manned by a gentleman who has honed his act, repeating this short 60-second journey hundreds of times a day. “Please keep your arms and legs inside the aircraft at all times”. The beach is open to guests and public alike, but the majority of people sunning themselves here or dining at the beach club are staying at the resort. Take a stroll around the cliffs and along the pier whilst you are there and head down the stairs in the rocks to the natural swimming pools. Watch the kids diving off the rocks and cliffs, and when it all becomes too much, head back into the shade for a cocktail
at the Beach Club. Facing out towards Gomera Island, the restaurant is a great place to watch the sun come down. We decided after lunch to go and explore the adult-only pool and area around the villas. It seemed to be filled with couples and groups generally taking it a lot easier than some of the parents I’d seen over the weekend. Waiters are ferrying champagne to day beds whilst people sip cocktails on the pool’s edge, overlooking the ocean. This is clearly my pool. I don’t mind the families and children. If you have them, then more power to you, but I don’t. So, I’ll enjoy my pool, you enjoy yours. Life choices.
The hotel has a huge offering for families. The Annabel Croft tennis academy offers yearround programmes based on the coaching model created by Annabel at the academy’s National Tennis Centre headquarters in London. The resort also has its Ritz Kids programme for children aged between 4 and 12 years between 10:00 am and 6:00 pm. What surprises me more than the number of balls in the pit or toys in the soft play area is the mere €6 per day cost. That must be the most cost-effective childcare package in the world. They have films, sports, stories, cooking classes, workshops, music lessons, and much more. We have our own activities planned for the evening though, so we return to the suite to prepare for the night’s manoeuvres.
T R AV E L : R I T Z C A R LT O N A B A M A We met our waiter at the Club Level entrance and he escorted us to the rooftop terrace of the Citadel. Tonight, we would be stargazing and dining alfresco with the team from M.B. The restaurant holds two Michelin stars and aims to offer an authentic exploration of Basque cuisine. They also only accept children over six years old and the dress code isn’t listed as formal. It’s elegant. We are, however, on the roof watching the sunset through the Calima, dressed equally elegantly, but without an audience. I should point out now, due to a wedding taking place at the Beach Club, we were unable to take the customary MB picnic on the sand for the stargazing, so the wonderful
resort team decided to host us on the roof. Had I not been told this by our waiter, I would have been none the wiser. As with any culinary experience, I find it best to be led by the chef. If there is a tasting menu, I will almost always ask the sommelier to pair accordingly and arrange a wine flight. The wines of Tenerife are a triumph, so be sure to ask your sommelier for some. Our first tipple was a magnum of Ruinart Blanc de Blancs. My apéritif of choice is always champagne. It clears the palate and reminds you that you’re there to relax in equal measure. Next time you are out with friends that you don’t usually dine with, when the waiter asks if you would like an apéritif, choose champagne.
See how many of your friends order the same. Lead, follow, or get out of the way. Our first uncorking that night was accompanied by caviar and a selection of artisan butter. As the sun set lower in the sky, we were joined by a clipboard and laser-pointer extraordinaire, Javier. A tour operator and astrologer, Javier would be joining us throughout the evening to help study the stars. There are 200 billion in our galaxy alone and 8,000 or so are visible to the naked eye. I assumed that he would be in possession of a telescope of some kind, but apparently not. He explained that this was because Tenerife is host to the largest solar observatory in the world, so when something needs to be seen in the night sky, he goes to the Teide observatory. If we didn’t have
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another six courses planned that evening, I would probably have bitten his arm off to have a behind-the-scenes tour. Alas, another reason to visit again. Having had our astrologer stood on the terrace with us watching the sunset for 45 minutes, I asked if he wanted to join us for a drink. If someone is going to join you during a Michelin-starred meal with only a clipboard and various official-looking lanyards for sustenance, the least you can do is offer them a chair. What followed was translucent king crab cannelloni on bearnesa and citric green apple juice. A triumph of flavours and plating. The two stars are well-earned. The truffle gelatin on a bed of smooth foie-gras cream with sweet and salty elements was concerning to read at first. ‘Truffle gelatin’, I thought,
‘We spotted satellites, constellations, learnt about the movement of the Earth, and how to navigate celestially.’ ‘that could go so well or so wrong’. Not surprisingly, the richness of the truffle and the foie gras paired beautifully. Every time I go out to dinner, I inevitably find a dish that I would love to be able to recreate at home. This time,
it was the calamari in textures on an unctuous cream of bacon and crispy parmesan cheese. It was rich and creamy, the sort of appetiser that you only get in single numbers when really you need a large tray. By the time we got to the fresh pasta ravioli stuffed with truffle, emulsified with mushroom juice and sheets of black truffle, I was trying to see Mars and Venus and ask a million questions at the same time. Javier did a great job of conversing during the waiter’s several trips downstairs to the restaurant, and then monologing when it was time to dine again. The Ley de Cielo or Sky Law limits outdoor lighting, and the cloudless nights make the Canary Islands one of the best locations to stargaze in the world. We spotted satellites, constellations, learnt about the movement of
the Earth, and how to navigate celestially. The final main courses of the evening arrived: grilled bluefin tuna belly on Iberian dashi broth spaghetti, spring onions stuffed with raifort and crispy seaweed and pigeon breast flame on a cocoa bed, pickle foam, beetroot and crunchy yoghurt. I am a big fan of pigeon; it is entirely underrated game that has such rich meat. As the hour was approaching 11:00 pm and dinner had begun in earnest at 8:00 pm, Javier suggested we move the party to the other side of the hotel roof as ‘that was where the action was’. After fumbling around with the maintenance team for twenty minutes whilst I sipped brandy and looked upward, I suggested that by now the wedding would have moved inside, so perhaps we should venture down to the beach. This also offered the opportunity to gatecrash a Spanish wedding. Everyone agreed and we decamped, brandy and wine in hand, to the front entrance to await transport. After ten minutes and no sign of a vehicle, we decided to hop into Javier’s people-carrier and drive ourselves. Large resorts are great at providing amenities at allotted times, but sometimes things get lost in the scale. The beach was indeed empty, and we finished the evening led in a row on sun-loungers, staring up at the Alpha and Omega. The following afternoon we had treatments booked at the spa. My interest in having a stranger massage me is entirely linked to my state of mind and physical wellbeing. Having spent a late evening on the beach, I was happy to sit and let the various jets and steams wash over me before escaping to the bright sun in the garden cabana with a coffee. Having spent the better part of an hour watching an amorous mother and daughter take ridiculous selfies in the spa pool, they eventually got their comeuppance for being so garish. The daughter slumped onto a lounger, clipped
a shelf, and sent a sizeable vase tumbling to the floor. She spun around just in time to see me mouth the words ‘oh dear’ in my best David Niven tone of voice. I then sauntered off to join my partner in the sauna. As with all locations, 99% of the people are well-heeled travellers. Then there are the 1% that won a competition or haven’t seen running water before. For our final evening, we had an early reservation at Abama Kabuki, the resort’s Japanese fine-dining restaurant at the top of the estate, nestled in the golf courses tropical palms. I don’t really know how I initially felt about going to a restaurant on a golf course,
in a smoking jacket and white chinos. To my knowledge clubhouses and golf club restaurants have always had a stiff upper lip to them, but I certainly wouldn’t describe them as standalone. I looked into the eyes of our golf buggy driver and asked “too much?” “No señor, perfect”. I don’t know what the driver’s opinion was really going to do to convince me that I wasn’t overdressed, but my grandmother always said ‘better to be overdressed than underdressed’. It transpires that the Michelin-starred Abama Kabuki is below the Club House with a picturesque panoramic garden terrace that looks out over the sunset-lit coastline. We were seated with an aperitif just in time to
watch the sun crest over the water below. As I surveyed the clientele in attendance, it was clear that this group had travelled from all over the island. The restaurant opened a few years after the Abama launched and is one of two restaurants on the estate open to the public, so of course, the level of service is exemplary. When a new resort opens, each restaurant must strive to make a name for itself over and above the noise created by the launch. By opening after the initial launch furore, Kabuki has been able to assess the clientele frequenting the resort and tailor itself as such. For sure, Ricardo Sanz menu is a fusion of Japanese and Mediterranean cuisine that intersects at the point where modernity
harmoniously meets tradition. The restaurant’s flagship in Madrid holds a Michelin star for this very reason. I adhere to tradition with a give-and-take approach: I like to adhere to certain protocols and bend others. The restaurant asks that you wear long trousers because, in all fairness, we are a long way from the beach. That you don formal shoes, presumably not patent, and that your child be at least six years old. Once again, I have made my position on children very clear. I don’t mind their company, I just would prefer to not hear your toddler screaming at 11:00 pm during my tea ceremony. Luckily, tradition is upheld at Kabuki. Victor, our sommelier, is the first to greet us at the table.
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I can make a vain attempt at pairing wine with most things, but Japanese cuisine is not one of them. I decide that I am out of my depth and order sake. I think Victor spots my trepidation though and offers a wine flight with the tasting menu, thank Uke Mochi. We begin with nasu no kiso, kumquat, gyoza and goma edamame: a collection of well-manicured hors d’oeuvres that define the word moreish. The ginger and pineapple flavours of the bright orange kumquats act as a palate-cleanser. For a brief moment, I think the overall meal is going to be one of artistic canapés, the sort of dishes that circulate at events, leaving you watching the waiters out of
the corner of your eye, hoping they will return to your group with another platter. I finish off my final gyoza and watch the last pink hues vanish from the clouds outside on the terrace. The overall style of kabuki is in many ways ceremonial. The decor is striking yet relaxed, once again fusing the Mediterranean and Japanese styles. Next to arrive is the otsukuri or sashimi: thinlysliced fatty tuna with bread and tomato; white fish with cumin and citrus; and tuna tataki with tonnato sauce. It is rare that I can dine and feel smugly healthy at once. I am eager to see the fish that these meticulously-plated dishes have come from, but I decide to forgo my usual request to tour the kitchen. Not because
I am worried about my fellow diners, but to some extent, because I don’t want to pull down the veil on this theatrical encounter. As you would expect, the sashimi is rich and delicate in equal measure and seasoned with a delicate coalition of spice and citrus. I don’t remember the last time I talked so much about the dishes during a dinner service. As dish after dish arrived at the table and all too quickly vanished in a delightful whirl of culinary elation, I almost missed the wagyu beef loin nigiri. As we reached the witching hour, Victor does his utmost to continue the libations, we out-
dine him, and he sadly finishes his shift. The time is gone 1230am, and whilst there’s still a smattering of guests, I feel that it is a little later than it should be, so decide to retire. With the tip weighted down under an empty sake bottle on the table, we slowly make our way towards the staircase. It’s at this point that our attentive party of waiters approached us to ask if we are okay. “Everything was wonderful,” I say, trying to convey more sincerity in my voice than I ever have. “Have you had the matcha tea ceremony yet? You simply must”. I realise that we have missed the final part of this eastern puzzle. “We were just taking a
quick look around”. I hope to god they haven’t found the tip on the table and realised that I am secretly a Japanese cultural luddite. My mother travelled the world when I was a boy, leaving me to be managed by a variety of friends and relatives. She continued to expand her cultural lexicon, leaving me to squander my teenage years in Blighty. She had visited Japan twice, so no doubt was all too familiar with the matcha tea ceremony. We returned to our table, having left a sufficient amount of time to maintain the ruse and not give ourselves away. Now you don’t need to be a Zen master to officiate a tea ceremony, but you do have to be highlytrained. The graceful choreography requires an exacting standards are a time-honoured tradition. The matcha has a vibrant green colour and smells light, fresh and grass-like. It’s silky smooth on the palate and, when powdered, resembles a smooth eyeshadow. I wonder what the caffeine count is. As the clock strikes 1:00 am, we sit calmly, sipping our tea in silence, staring out to the coastline through the palms. It really does make for a rather poetic end to the evening. Ultimately, I have never really been a resort type of person – assuming the hype that surrounds the idea of there being ‘something for everyone’ is simply too much for any hospitality task force to live up to. The word ‘resort’ is too often used to denigrate a location though. If you pair a handful of industry-leading restaurants, undeniably perfect weather, and the ability to have that boutique edge, you really are leading the field. The Ritz Carlton Abama is an elder statesman, a patriarch, safe and secure in its residence as an innovator and a location that is changing the perception of what a family friendly luxury resort can be. TR
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La DolceVita Words: ROB BELLINGER
La Dolce Vita has always been difficult for me to define. However, I now know for sure that, in Italy, it is a winding stretch of mountain road, with quality audio accompanying, but not egressing on the sound of a V8 reverberating endlessly around the mountains.
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his sensory feast and definition was to be found just outside Brescia, the legendary home of the famous Mille Miglia, and around the lakes and mountains of the area. This is an evocative area – for all the right reasons: it is home to classic road racing at its best, great Italian speedboats, and craftsmanship in its most detailed form. Closing your eyes, you too can return to 1957; imagining being aboard a 200SL hurtling around these honeyed stone, narrow roads with its bonnet trident flashing in the sunlight. However, you could equally imagine being at the wheel, head-scarfed partner at your side, and picnic hamper aboard, heading spiritedly for the hills in your 3500 GT; the first Maserati to bear the original designation of Gran Turismo. A more fitting place for us to appraise the 2018 Maserati Gran Turismo than the
Franciacorte wine region probably couldn’t be found. Rather like the car itself, Franciacorte has a ‘fizzier’ and more obvious Italian cousin that lacks the refinement I evidenced. Like Maserati, this is an area with a finesse that whispers rather than shouts when compared to its more obvious cousins.
the rear of the mid-front positioned engine. This configuration gives great sports driving, as well as delivering ride comfort, these two requirements are at the heart of any true grand tourer. With regard to overall design, there is, however, something we must deal with first.
The styling of the 2018 Gran Turismo follows similar proportions to the 1957 GT, a long bonnet with slightly set back passenger compartment, sloping into a neat smaller rear. The car was penned by Jason Castriota under Pininfarina, giving it both pedigree and youth inbuilt to its original design. The resulting proportions are pleasing to the eye, yet the weight distribution has been cleverly apportioned to give a split of 49% front to 51% rear. This translates through to the car’s handling. And in manufacturing, dictating that the gearbox has been attached directly to
The Gran Turismo was first delivered in current overall guise in 2007, with special trims and facelifts having appeared over its now 11-year life. This is often seen as an Achilles heel, when manufacturers retain a proven model long term and are often berated by other pundits who cry “give us something fresh”. In supercar terms – and particularly in this case – I prefer to view this as a great advantage. And if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. This is a classic yet fresh signature design, faithful to the original principal of Gran Turismo. When you look around, there
AU T O M O T I V E : M A S E R AT I G T are other ‘long-term’ designs, but none still showing this youthful exterior. With a car of this pedigree and the combinations of upgrades made, as well as new interior and exterior design with aerodynamic improvement, think of this car as now being the most refined it can be. That does not mean there have been unnecessary comfort sacrifices, or that it can’t show the competition a clean set of heels.
The Gran Cabrio is powered by a 4.7-litre Maranello-built V8, delivering 460bhp. The power unit is lightweight in real terms, weighing in at 175kg, thanks to an aluminum crank casing and cylinder heads. That signature Maserati sound is skillfully delivered by a cross-plane crankshaft that is so evident on switchbacks in the hills. It’s worth remembering that this is still a naturally aspirated engine, giving authenticity to the exhaust note, which isn’t marred On paper, the Maserati Gran Cabrio MC is by the wheezing or blowing of fan-driven the ultimate evolution of the Gran Turismo, trickery. The power plant has been fused to instantly ticking several boxes. It is designed a 6-speed ZF gearbox, which operates slickly to carry four adults in complete comfort and seamlessly; the paddles beg to be pulled on a long journey, while providing driver through and the instantaneous response is enjoyment and passenger comfort. It has the advantage of being convertible for sunny days, your reward. In the MC, there is a super-fast change in sport mode that allows a change in or warm evening drives. There is usually a sacrifice made for the convertible version of a just one hundred milliseconds. There’s also auto-blipping on down change, adding to the car, but that’s not the case here.
aural experience. The gearbox also facilitates MC Start Strategy, a well-honed launch control “recommended for racetrack use”. Once selected, this engages simply by holding the brake pedal down and maintaining 2,3002.500 RPM and, on release, propels the car to 100km/h in an impressive 4.7 seconds for a car weighing 1873kg. This weight, however, does have its pros, giving great balance, stability, and an impressive rigidity to the vehicle. It also does not compromise the car under braking, thanks to Brembo dual-cast technology, developed jointly with Maserati. This reduces unsprung weight by 15% and gives direct and agile handling with improved steering dynamics. Both the Gran Turismo and Gran Cabrio are available in Sport and MC derivatives. MC refers to ‘Maserati Corse’, adding styling cues and features, reinforcing track heritage, and
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providing additional driver experience and on track flexibility. On appearance alone, the MC differs from the Sport, in that its bonnet is carbon fibre, it has specific side skirts, and the grilles have different vents and air scoops. The MC also has restyled bumpers to take advantage of downforce benefits to facilitate a higher maximum speed. When in sport mode, a valve channels the exhaust gases, bypassing the silencer, resulting in reduced back pressure, and creating a breathtakingly sporty sound. Both Cabriolet and Coupe have new front splitters and a new bumper shape, which
improves aerodynamics. The resulting changes give better airflow and a 10% increase in efficiency. Enhanced airflow means the underbody works more efficiently to negate lift force and broken air behind the cars, so that they effectively ‘slip’ through the air. Gran Cabrio also has one of the least offensive rooflines in the soft-top world, resulting in a drag coefficient of 0.33 – only 0.01 behind its hard-top sibling. These technical changes also create a more aggressive look, which further highlights the front trident and hints more strongly at history and heritage. On the road, these changes leave you in no doubt that, when
being followed by these Maserati, you have a fairly aggressive snout behind you. You will unlikely look at the front-end treatment in the rear-view mirror for long though. Because, before you know it, you will be admiring the lines of the rear and the MC’s carbon-fibre boot lid spoiler as it passes.
On entering the Italian equivalent of Cheddar Gorge – or is that ‘Cheddar Burrone – we find the road has been closed for us by the Policia Stradale; resplendent in cavalry trousers and inciting us to fully enjoy our cars on the closed public thoroughfare. This a befitting show
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of Maserati’s great influence on home soil. In fact, in a show of Italy at its finest, we have already passed the home of Riva, vineyards, lakeside tunnels and all surface driving, which proves how confident the manufacturer is in the latest incarnation. The barriers are rolled aside and we are let loose into the ravine. It’s a hairpin right to start under acceleration, highlighting the controlled weight shift of the vehicle and its great acceleration. So great, in fact, I confess I almost totally miss my gear change. This is a big car that, in sports mode, takes on the guise of a well-guided missile. The 49/51 weight
distribution is appreciated from here on in, as well as the great manners from the car under braking. We are on almost full lock into the second left-hand bend, and I try to induce understeer ready to shift my line and the car responds instantly and with eagerness, balance and desire to perform. It’s a sprint through undulating and cambered light bends next, with the Gran Turismo dedicatedly scrabbling for grip, so I can squeeze every inch of performance possible out of the refreshingly high-revving, throaty block as it heads towards its 186mph maximum. And all too soon, before that limit, the outward run is over. Adrenaline surges and it’s a hand slap
from the Maserati test driver sat alongside me, before the cacophony of the reverse run between the rocks. It’s now time to sensibly rest the car before heading for the mountains and our final destination allowing us to examine the interior. The cabin and switchgear are at hand and everything is logically placed. I particularly like the heater controls being so positive, something you need in a Cabriolet. And the level of heating and ventilation means that the Gran Cabrio could be used ‘hood down’ all year round. Electric heated seats also performed well, allowing for a perfect driving
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position and (again) year-round use. Storage is a little fiddly in places and the centre cubby a little restricted. There are ample USB sockets and also an SD card slot. The steering is well weighted and, again, the best set up I have experienced in a Gran Cabrio. As you would expect, the leather finish and piping is opulent but practical; a Maserati cockpit always feels special and this is no exception. The mid angle of the dashboard focuses you towards the Maserati clock, reminding you gently where you are. The rear seats are supportive and very comfortable, with the centre bolster providing enhanced support and reassurance for passengers during ‘enthusiastic’ driving. Rear comfort with the roof down is excellent, with it being quite possible to travel all day in the rear seats without feeling like you’ve been buffeted to the point of surrender. The roof operates cleanly and quickly with no drama. The usual
cabriolet squishy luggage packing is required if you are to satiate the vestment needs of all passengers. Audio has also been enhanced on the Gran Cabrio, with a total of 11 speakers delivering 825 watts of sound, which can be regulated by SCV speed-sensitive adjustment, ensuring acoustic pleasure is uninterrupted on every kilometer of your drive. The upgraded Premium Harman Kardon systems also include Apple car play and Android auto on 8.4-inch touchscreens, which brings Maserati ahead of some in class and gives the cabin a more modern and invigorated feel than ever before. Wind noise roof up is minimal and the audio fills the car with ease – the woofers and tweeters coping well with the range of music styles we tried. On the open road, the ride quality is good by
supercar standards. The Gran Cabrio retains that ‘in touch’, taut style that I personally favour for cars of this type. It gives positivity and allows you to hug the ground as you consume the road. Heading uphill we find hairpin bends with straights in between them, and Gran Cabrio comes into its own. The Maserati steers into the bends tight and cleanly, then climbs whilst squirting past other traffic effortlessly. Motorway driving is without drama, other than the section of the Italian ring road we are negotiating, which is covered with average speed cameras. Cruise control helps us out here, engaging simply and feeling like we are literally gliding to our next port of call. Alongside, we gain another Maserati driver, who smiles and nods his approval, before waving as we leave the autostrada.
AU T O M O T I V E : M A S E R AT I G T Thanks to the Maserati, we arrive unruffled at our final destination. The Beretta factory brings together the craftsmanship of Maserati with that of the family-owned gun specialist, established in 1526. This highlights another feature of the car: it would be just as acceptable to arrive in the Gran Cabrio MC at a race circuit as it would a restaurant, hotel or business meeting, without creating the social overtones that other cars do. A Maserati, like Beretta, always feels like a more thoughtful, tailored, and less obvious purchase.
true weapon of choice was actually the Beretta 418. Again, rather like the Gran Cabrio, it’s a more ‘considered’ choice. In Mr Fleming’s case, more so than people realise: he had relied on the gun personally during World War 2.
Stepping back from the vehicle at Due Colombe in Borgonato gives an opportunity for reflection. There are few cars that can offer such road presence with immediate recognition, or that are named so accurately The parallels between the two brands are clear. to describe their purpose. The bloodline I am seated in a bespoke metal and leather carries through from the 3500GT of 1957, chair crafted on site, which, outside of the Gran traceable at every stage, to the 2018 Maserati Cabrio, is probably one of the most comfortable Gran Turismo and our Gran Cabrio MC. It is and unique seats in Italy. The quality of likely that the current incarnation could be materials and heritage are again symbiotic, and the last of the naturally aspirated V8s with that we watch as a shotgun is carefully customised uniquely wonderful rumbling sound. This with engraving for its new owner in minuscule is a car capable of great comfort, true grand detail. It’s no coincidence that James Bond’s touring, whilst equally being able to provide
unprecedented feedback and experience for the most demanding tarmac pilot. The Gran Tourismo and Gran Cabrio have been revitalised and repurposed for 2018, and I heartily approve and accept that I am now a member of the ‘tridente’. Perhaps this is just really living the La Gran Vita. TR
Specifications PRICE: £114,330 ENGINE: 4.7 Litre V8 / 460 hp TORQUE: 384lb 0-60: 4.7 seconds TOP SPEED: 155 LENGTH/WIDTH/HEIGHT: 4910 / 1915 / 1343 WEIGHT: 1873kg unladen.
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THOM E VA N S Words: DANIEL EDMUND
Images: BUKI KOSHONI
It’s a typical grey and overcast afternoon in London when I first meet Thom Evans. We’re in a chic and quirky parlour room at Flemings Mayfair Hotel, and all plans are running smoothly. Thom has been a busy man lately. The rugby-player-turned-model has found success in the fashion industry and is now ready to sink his teeth into acting.
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hom Evans is special, alright –you get that impression from him immediately. He has “it”, the x-factor. You speak to him and feel there’s a quiet but strong sense of self. I sit down to find out more about the new man on the rise. For those who don’t know, where are you from and what was your upbringing like? TE: I was born in Zimbabwe, my parents live in Portugal, I went to school in England and played for Scotland. So it was a crazy mix. How was it growing up playing rugby? TE: It was interesting. I started much later than most other players, but I loved it. There’s such a freedom in the game. I’ve always been fast and being able to use my speed in a sport like rugby was amazing. How did you first get into rugby? TE: My dad played a bit of rugby league, which is slightly different, and my mom was a sprinter from South Africa. So luckily, I had decent genes as a starting platform. What are the biggest differences between amateur and professional rugby. Were there any challenges making the transition? TE: The biggest difference for me was the discipline. Like every other guy, I like to go out at the weekend and enjoy myself. But if you really want to succeed on the
professional level, you have to make sacrifices. I think that goes for every sport. When I made the transition, the going out had to stop. As a rugby player, what were the highlights for you? TE: Playing for Scotland for the first time with my brother Max. Obviously representing your country is an amazing thing in itself, but having the opportunity to do that with my brother, who I’m very close with, was the icing on the cake. What are some of the biggest lessons you learned from playing sport? TE: Again, to be very disciplined. You can get away with a lot of things, but if you
“The best advice I could give is to find that other passion sooner rather than later.” haven’t done the training, if you haven’t put the dedication into what you eat, it makes a huge difference. I found that even the finest margins were the differences between playing for your country or just playing club
rugby. People, today, don’t always commit to doing the things they say they’re going to do. What are your thoughts on that? TE: That’s an interesting point. I think the use of social media, which when I was back playing rugby was non-existent, can be a distraction. I see with a lot of youngsters these days, they’ll finish training and head straight right back to their phones. It’s obviously the way times are moving, and you can’t fault that. But without that distraction, it’s a lot easier to focus on the goal itself. In 2010, you suffered from a life changing injury. What was that like for you? TE: I was playing against Wales in the Six Nations, it was a huge game. We started really well – we were up 15-0. I got an accidental elbow to my lip, which I quickly got stitched up off field. As soon as I got back on the field I was given the ball, ran through the first line of defence, but ducked my head to protect my lip and in doing so ended up paralyzed from the waist down after being hit. I knew straight away there was something severely wrong. Fortunately, the medical team was impeccable, and I’ve made a full recovery. Obviously, rugby was your passion. When you could no longer play, what was that like for you? TE: It’s really hard when you work your whole life to get somewhere and then one day it’s just taken from you. But as hard as it
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was to accept that I would never play rugby again, I was overwhelmingly grateful that I could still walk and continue to live life to the fullest. So, the disappointment of not being able to play was overshadowed by the fact that I could go out there into the world and live a very happy life.
TE: It wasn’t just tough, it was horrible. Again, it was about getting outside of my comfort zone. I feel that’s where you really live and grow. But Bear Grylls was really tough for me, because I love to eat, I love my food, and we just didn’t catch any. I just crumbled away.
How did you decide on your next career step?
Career wise, what are you trying to achieve?
TE: Acting was always something I wanted to do, and I had been approached to model during my athletic career. But it’s hard to do that with all the black eyes you get. As soon as I was able to function again, I started on the journey pursuing these two goals.
TE: Acting is what I really want to do. I take any workshops that I can in the States and the UK. I’ve learned a lot and I’m trying to better my craft in any way that I can. I recognise that I’ve come into the game late, but I’m passionate to succeed. It’s the same principle as rugby – what you put into it is what you get back. I’m hungry for it.
What advice would you give to other people out there who have lost a dream, passion or even a job, and are trying to find that next step? TE: Find that other passion sooner rather than later. The more time you’re in that unknown territory, it becomes that much harder. When you find a new passion, your mind and body get submerged in it, and it helps to take away the memory of what you’ve lost. I’m a believer in not looking back, just forward. How has it been going into modelling? TE: Transitioning to the modelling world was strange for me. I was used to being beaten up on a field, covered in mud, and there’s nothing really fancy about that. Now it’s lovely locations, being dressed up and not being beaten up. That said, I grew to enjoy it – who wouldn’t? What are some of your fashion related goals? TE: To get the best possible campaigns that are suited to me. Growing up, I idolised Mark Walberg when he did the Calvin Klein work. Brands like Armani that are sporty but still have that strong fashion element to them are appealing to me as well. Along with Strictly Come Dancing, this year you were on Celebrity Island with Bear Grylls. Needless to say, it looked tough. What was the experience like?
What would be your ideal role? TE: Something in a period drama. I love Downtown Abbey and Pride and Prejudice. It would probably be Mr. Darcy, if I had to choose.
“Again, it was about putting myself outside of my comfort zone. I feel that’s where you really live and grow.” What challenges, if any, have you experienced with your life being more public? TE: It doesn’t affect me too much. The only annoying thing is being linked to women who I’ve never met before. I’m a single man and I read some stories and they’re just completely untrue. Apart from that, it’s been relatively smooth. When it comes to handling pressure, suicide is currently the number one cause of death for men under 50 in the UK. As a British man,
what do you think may be some contributing factors to this? TE: I’m quite aware of this statistic. Men aren’t always great at opening up and showing emotion. In some ways, it’s a pride issue. In my experience, when some guys are struggling in their lives, you don’t even know. I think there needs to be a system that encourages men to express themselves and seek help. How important is confidence in your profession? TE: I think confidence is important in every aspect of life. I meet some people who have so much going for themselves, but still don’t believe in themselves. Who do you reach out to when you need advice? TE: My brother. We’re very similar and sometimes he can see things that I can’t. I’m proud to admit that I’ve had a few wars in my life, times that I’ve gotten really down with low self-esteem. Having that person to go to makes such a huge difference. How do you want to be remembered? TE: As someone caring and honest, who was fun to be around. If you can have dinner with three people, dead or alive, who are you inviting? TE: That’s a tough one! Muhammed Ali would be one. I met him when I was younger. Connor McGreggor and Mark Walberg. What’s one of your most important life lessons? TE: Appreciate life. Sometimes I can feel down about small and insignificant things, but if you have your health, that’s what I believe truly matters. One thing I learned from being in a hospital bed for six months is to live every day as it comes and really enjoy it. There were people in that hospital room who weren’t as fortunate as me. Appreciate life, because it can be taken at any time.
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Eden Words: PETER J ROBINSON
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ou can understand why any self-respecting yacht owner would moor up in Mahé – or to be more specific, Eden Island, the tiny 141-acre plot that lies north-east of Mahé. I was largely out cold for the duration of the four-and-ahalf-hour flight from Abu Dhabi. Once changed and freshened up, I found it hard to refuse another meal. At this point my consumption over the past day must have been a world record. As we made our approach into Mahé, the captain dutifully informed us that the weather on the ground was cloudy with light rain, but still 28 degrees. Not exactly what I had envisaged, but you take the rough with the smooth in this part of the world. As we descended, tiny islands begin to emerge from the deep blue palette of ocean, and the destination began to take shape. I arrived at Eden Bleu on a balmy afternoon, with the temperature peaking at 31 degrees. It doesn’t matter how light your linen shirt is, it doesn’t matter how much water you drink, unless you’re an acclimated local, it’s hard to maintain any degree of style as you melt into the floor. The hotel’s entrance is structurally formidable, styled as a traditional plantation house that harks back to the island’s European colonial roots. I was actually a little shocked to learn that, despite the being largely English speaking, the island was not initially colonised by the Brits; it was the French that first ‘claimed’ the Seychelles, under the administrator of Mauritius, Bertrand-Francois Mahé de La Bourdonnais. In 1735, Bertrand’s mandate was to protect France’s sea route to India. As a former sailer, he took it upon himself to find a speedier route and dispatched an expeditionary force under the command of Lazare Picault to chart the islands northeast of Madagascar. In November 1742, the Elisabeth and the Charles anchored off Mahé at Anse Boileau. Picault named
the island Ile d’Abondance, due to its plentiful food and fresh water supplies. Picault’s mapping was actually so poor that, in 1744, Bertrand sent him back with some sharper pencils and, I expect, a monocle. He renamed the main island Mahé after his patron, which I’m sure he was under no duress to do. It wasn’t until the late 1700s that the British Navy arrived with a squadron of three ships to enquire as to what was going on and why no one had observed sundowners for at least six years. It turns out the French were having a little internal turmoil deciding whether absolute monarchies were still de rigueur and had taken their eye of the ball. Jean-Baptiste Queau de Quincy had taken command of the colony in 1794 and decided that because the French couldn’t get their act together, he would govern, and the Seychelles should run itself. When commodore, Henry Newcome arrived in late 1794, he decided that the status quo seemed legitimate and that to take the Seychelles as a prize would be a waste of resources. Terms of surrender, a guarantee of honour, and property rights were agreed between the Commodore and Jean-Baptiste, and the British were on their way. Oh, were you not expecting a history lesson? Well, if a well-travelled individual intends to spend any amount of time operating ‘in-country’, a certain appreciation for the lay of the land must be observed. And so, with a stack of luggage and a sizeable peli case, I decided that the ample staff were more than well-equipped to handle all the usual check-in misery and made my way towards the bar. With a beautiful view from the entrance to the hotel’s marina, the bar area is extremely inviting, even without all the cocktails. Poolside, a majestic panorama over the mountains of Mahé awaits you. Your choices are the Bourgeois Bar, Empereur Terrace or Marlin Bleu Restaurant. I thumbed through the drinks menu like a ham-fisted toddler, eagerly trying to find something with umbrellas or at least half a fruit bowl, but decided on a Kir Royal. Now I can only try to convey the level of warmness and sincerity that comes from a Seychellois accent. You really believe that their intention is to keep you propped up at the bar or sunning yourself on the terrace, feeding you
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cocktails until you fall into a zen-like, Creme de Cacao-induced coma. Long may they reign. One thing to take into consideration though: you will have tone the pace down a little. You are here to relax, possibly even more than the barman is. Your drink will get there, it will be great, it might not be served to you with the same speed as the bar at Claridge’s, but when it’s this hot, no one should move fast. “What have you ordered us?” one of the group asked. Kir Royals, I said. “Are you trying to get us drunk?” she retorted. Well, I’m to get me drunk. So, if you want to join, you’re more than welcome. “After 24 hours without a real bed – where concrete starts to look like great lumber support – our room were ready. Sure, the
first-class lounge in Abu Dhabi had a relaxation area, but with the occasional lead-footed traveller coming in and out, about as discretely as a politician’s mistress, it was hard to really hit REM. Still, the woodpanelled, brandy-serving humidor inside the lounge gave them hero status. The accommodation at Eden Bleu is well-appointed, with 75 deluxe rooms and 12 suites. Eden Bleu also has the country’s only bullet-proof presidential suite. The space is light and, not surprisingly, nautically-themed – the sun hats in each room are a great touch. I found myself wondering if the glass shower in the middle of the room really called for closed curtains. With a marina of yachts and small boats a stone’s drop from your balcony, you might want to consider your level of
accidental voyeurism. After a power nap, I headed out to explore Eden Island, expecting sea shacks and beach bars. It turns out that the hotel is next to a small and extremely-relaxed shopping centre that includes a micro-brewery, yacht charter outfit, and countless cafe’s. If you’re exploring, slink past the Havana Club and make your way to one of the island’s beaches. I sadly didn’t make it to the latter. There are actually four pristine beaches available, each with white sand and crystal-blue water. Had I known they were as close as they were and had more time, I would have left all digital devices and vanished. I returned to the hotel that afternoon to change for supper and meet the team on the terrace of the presidential suite for a
bullet-proof cocktail. Sadly, due to weather or perhaps an incoming guest, we had to move from the terrace to a conference suite. The Eden Bleu signature cocktails begin to land like a catalyst to my jetlag and existing level of alcohol consumption. After several libations, we made our way out of the lobby and up to the conference area. I have never had the pleasure of dining in a conference room, but desk chairs provide super support, even if glass tables prove a little troublesome for my heavy-handed wine swilling. Anyway, we’re here for the food. Appetiser: water melon gazpacho with mango borchetta. Starter: bullion blanc, octopus and avocado salad with calamansi dressing. Main course: grilled red snapper, bread fruit croquette,
local spinach, tec-tec nage. Dessert: coconut delight or fruit skewer with lemon lassi. This indeed is an island of plenty. The foliage and fish are local; the t-bone steaks are flown in. The menu is delicious and, as the conversation pivots from corporate law to the quality of the yacht owning clientele and their contribution to the GDP, I decide to visit the team in the kitchen. This is something I began doing without warning some years ago when, before dining at the Rosa Alpina in the Dolomites, my team and I were asked to join Norbert Niederkofler in the kitchen for an aperitif. The team at Eden Bleu are all extremely courteous behind the scenes. I head into the back room of the enormous kitchen to join the pastry chef, who shows me the delicate madeleine palm tree cookies he had planned on serving.
Someone had moved them from his ‘secure’ fridge and broken the lion’s share. All that was left was for me to nod in a conciliatory fashion whilst mumbling “yes, a grave shame,” while stuffing them into my mouth. Eden Bleu has managed to straddle that rather large divide between business and pleasure. It’s the sort of location where I could see myself spending a week. And on the other hand, a great place to close a big deal. Or better yet, an all-expenses-paid corporate retreat. The following morning we woke early for the ferry ride across to La Digue and Praslin Island. If you want to explore and still make it back each day to Egyptian-cotton sheets, Mahé is a perfect base of operations. Better yet, hire a boat or take the hotel catamaran on an island tour.
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We meet with Nigel, our tour guide, who is knowledgeable and seems to know everyone. He later tells us that he was a police officer for 20 years, so perhaps there’s a certain amount of local residual respect. He first takes us to the Vallée de Mai, a UNESCO world heritage site regarded by many as the actual Garden of Eden. The coco de mer is the symbol of the Seychelles and can grow up to a weight of 30 kilograms. The seeds are the largest in the plant kingdom and so the coco de mer has spawned fables across lands far beyond the Seychelles. With the obligatory cultural awareness portion of our day and a tour through the protected and preserved forest complete, it was time to find a beach. We travel to Anse Lazio which epitomises what Western travellers have come to expect from the Seychelles. Sand as white as powdered...sugar. And water as clear as crystal. The beach is practically empty; sure there are people, it’s a famous beach, but there are no stalls, no one pushing sunglasses to row after row of tourists, and no children under eight in sight. That isn’t to say this untouched paradise isn’t child-friendly, of course. But it is the sort of location I could see myself spending a week schlepping from beach to beach in a straw hat, always on the hunt for
the perfect Dark and Stormy. More ferry-hopping then ensues and we find ourselves at the Fish Trap restaurant and bar. It seems everywhere we go is the epitome of the Seychelles lifestyle. The food is caught that morning and a welcome respite from the heat. Our next stop is L’Union Estate at the other end of the island. We depart via an old flatbed truck. I can imagine in the evening, with several glasses of rum and tiki torches, it’s brilliant fun. Our momentum is only slowed briefly to allow a giant tortoise to cross the road. Everyone piles out, takes an obligatory photo and gets back in, a little taken a back at seeing nature of this size roaming freely. The Seychelles is a natural wonder in terms of wildlife, of course, and this would certainly not be the last tortoise I would have to avoid on my way home. At one point the main industry on the island was coconut farming. As we arrive at L’Union, Nigel tells me that the property is run as an informal tourist attraction of sorts. He then demonstrates the dehusking process in a way that proves that it’s coded in his DNA. Less than a minute later, I’m sipping coconut milk whilst strolling around the Old Plantation House. As the group starts to fan out, I get drawn to what sounds like an old man taking a slow fall. It turns out to be the estate’s pen of giant tortoises mating in the afternoon sun. I laugh at myself a little for thinking it so funny, until
“Eden Bleu has managed to straddle that rather large divide between business and pleasure.”
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Nigel tells me the reason they are making the noises: because the male is not positioned accurately. He explains that the sound of shell on shell is supposed to be much more subdued and intimate. Right. Once you’ve seen all the property has to offer, I urge you to take a stroll to Anse Source d’Argent. As perhaps one of the world’s most photographed beaches, it deserves a visit. With pink sands offsetting towering granite boulders worn by decades, it’s easy to see why they shot many a Bounty advert here. When I realise that my group are focused on sun bathing, I decide that I must climb the boulders, until I come across an Eastern European couple taking some slightly racy
photos. No sooner have I found a decent boulder and the perfect track and we’re on the move again. Ferries are a fast and efficient way of getting around a network of islands. Is it glamorous? No. Charter, people. We depart the island with a Guinness in hand and the sun setting on the horizon. It sounds idyllic until you realise there are a couple of hundred other people onboard just commuting home from work. At dinner that night, back at the hotel, it appeared that a memo had circulated, as everyone appeared to be wearing monochrome outfits, as if by black magic. All feeling more than a little tired after our lengthy flight and tour of the islands, almost everyone hit the sack by 11pm.
I, of course, stayed up with a band of dedicated individuals. So late was the hour, in fact, that despite the 24-hour room service, the bar closed and the night porter was unable to fix me any form of drink unless I ordered it from my room. I found this, let’s say, a little trying. Luckily, however, as I said earlier, next door you will find the Havana Club which serves until the wee hours. Eden Bleu is a Seychelles mainstay. If you choose to purchase property on the island, it will become your local haunt. If you need to close a serious deal, do it on the hotel’s yacht. Or if you’re visiting for a week to explore, charter a boat and use this gem as your base of operations. TR
EDEN BLEU LOBBY
T: + 248 4 399 100 W: WWW.EDENBLEU.COM A: EDEN BLEU HOTEL, EDEN BRIDGE, SEYCHELLES
THE GREAT Words: PETER J ROBINSON
I remember packing an old suitcas petulant and all too precocious natur fered to help me pack my luggage so my shoulder? No, no, no, I was f Enid B
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se when I was about seven years old. My re had boiled over and my mother had ofI could move out. A napkin on a stick over far beyond my years for a traditional, Blyton escape.
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packed my leather suitcase and satchel, red-faced and mildly enraged, adding all my Ladybird books as a pseudo-guide to life. I had told my mother that I wished to live with my grandparents. This was on the basis that they were willing to buy me all the toy cars I could fit in my Corgi carriage and would continue to buy me diabetes-inducing amounts of sweets from the local shop on a Sunday after church. Sadly though, I’ve wanted to run away from life a lot more in my adult years than I ever did as a kid. The need to explore our world, to escape, to seek one’s fortune, or to grow physically and mentally on a journey, is strong in my family. When each generation before you emigrated from a different country, you know that you’re destined to traverse the globe at some point in your life. Every year I tell myself I will spend more time at home base, build this, fix that, start the other. Inevitably though, projects land on my desk throughout the year that are of such significance, they are impossible to refuse. Seven degrees south of the equator, 250 miles south-west of Mahe, in the heart of the Indian ocean, the Seychelles, is Alphonse Island. To be specific, Alphonse Atoll, Bijoutier and St. Francois Atoll together are the Alphonse Group. Alphonse isn’t a desert island, but it’s about as close as I’ve ever got to a Robinson Crusoe moment. At 0.66 square miles and at a zero elevation, when you come into land on Alphonse, everyone is all too well aware of your imminent arrival. The weekly flight is an occasion observed with all the civility of a colonial outpost, except the natives are not serving tea and are certainly not flying the Saint George. The island’s entire shoreline is 3.42 miles and plays host to lagoons, sea flats and, at last count, a population of only 108. As I step off the plane, I’m greeted as if I’m an old war buddy. Gordon Rankin, Gordie, or Flash the GM, has an infectious enthusiasm. The man does live on a desert island after all and is busy populating it with more fellow South Africans. Much like the main island of Mahé, Alphonse is a melting point of nationalities all drawn to its cult-like travel status. Passport control involves coconut milk and cool towels, followed by a stroll from the airstrip to a people-moving
truck. There is little room for bureaucracy here on the Atoll. The ‘roads’ around the island are little more than jungle paths cut through the trees, with nature dictating life here on the island. As we make our way towards the resort area under the canopy of palm trees above us, I play back the main title from Out of Africa in my head. The team unloads at reception, which is a rather grand affair with natural wood and soft furnishings. Our group of arrivals is made up of game fishers, solace seekers and escapists. Historically, Alphonse Atoll has always been regarded as a fishing mecca amongst those seeking world-class fly and game fishing. With multiple species caught on a fly, diversity gives anglers the opportunity to target a myriad of species during their stay. The resort only permits twelve anglers to fish per week, ensuring
“Gordon Rankin, Gordie or Flash the GM, has an infectious enthusiasm” that the expansive, hard white sand flats provide the background for the fly fishing experience of a lifetime. The atolls are home to incredibly large populations of bonefish, three different types of triggerfish, barracuda, snapper, grouper, permit, eight species of trevally (including the GT), and the incomparable milkfish amongst a myriad of others. I can’t say I’m a super-keen fly fisher; I much prefer to list lazily on the deck of a well-appointed yacht with a cooler of drinks and an endless supply of Marlboro Lights at hand. The banter to be had on a fishing trip is unparalleled, I assure you. The temperature seldom drops below 22 degrees on Alphonse. Gordon has a sure-fire way to combat this, however. As we sit down in the beach bar with its magnificent views out to sea, we order a round of Seybrews in some vain attempt to battle the midday sun. We’ve also already been informed that
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this trip will be a 99% digital unplug. The island does have sat-phones and wifi, but it’s effectively the 1990s, so if you want to send a text or upload a picture, there’s a process. Make the necessary arrangements, push send or post, place your phone down on the bar, order another drink – and after one or two, it’s likely to have been sent. Your best bet, of course, is to fully surrender to the way of the island. This is season seven of Lost: ‘the island has them now’. That isn’t to say that the bar area isn’t without it’s ample share of luxuries. You can order Bollinger, Dom Perignon and Laurent Perrier, or Layton and Sheena can mix almost any cocktail known to man. My single biggest expense on the island was my drinks tab. It’s the central hub to the pool, restaurant, reception and back office. And of course, there’s the fact that I am a highly-functioning alcoholic. After an hour and a few drinks, I was starting to settle into island life. If you are infirm or lazy, you can traverse the small island on a people mover or golf buggy, but the general population uses bikes to get around above all else. The possession and security of which becomes a priority after your first walk home having had your bike taken by someone else. This doesn’t happen with any intended malice, but only because after that third shot of tequila and second bottle of wine, you hop on the first bike you can find. The island has 22 private beach bungalows and five one-bedroom beach suites. The bungalows are set out on the eastern shoreline of the island, no more than a few metres from the beach. The island is populated by all manner of wildlife. One of the privileges of visiting is the ability to walk amongst the giant Aldabra tortoises that roam the island. These gentle herbivores live up to 120 years and can weigh in at well over 400 kilograms. There’s one that, at the right time of day, will stand up and raise his front leg like a dog in exchange for a neck rub. The thing that I feared most on the island, however, was the entirely nonvenomous palm spider, spinning large sticky webs. As someone who is more than happy to catch and release spiders, I was not willing to walk under or near them and would have happily beaten a stranger to death to avoid them. Luckily, the beach bungalows are laid out in their own private gardens with obligatory tortoise roaming back and forth rather than any arachnids. The bungalows are well laid out with all the usual creature comforts, and fit effortlessly into the surroundings, blending ecological awareness with first-class service. The properties were designed by Florence
Masson, a Mauritian decorator who pairs deluxe accommodation with a rather low-key island atmosphere. Each property is set on pillars with a thatched roof, deck and wonderful open-air shower. Despite the beautiful dwelling, our itinerary wasn’t going to allow a lot of downtime to take in the king-size bed; we would be tackling the islands many activities head on. Later that night, we sat down to dinner on the beach with the other guests; a relaxed affair where service is attentive yet discreet. The Bijoutier restaurant combines Creole specialities with international cuisine. If you are travelling to the island, you can call in any dietary requirements in advance. However, in this millennial world of no dairy, no wheat, no animal fats, I would urge you to pull yourself together and dine on whatever the kitchen prepares. If you want, go out with the team on their weekly run to see just how fresh fish is. You haven’t had fresh until you’ve eaten tuna sashimi that you’ve just reeled in. There is no terminal tackle fishing on the reef, however, and all game fishing is done below 80m for pelagic fish, Alphonse stays true to its strict sustainability principles. Without a firm set of credentials, there wouldn’t be such strong biodiversity in the region.And this place of boundless beauty might not survive for generations to come. After a hearty meal and a few rather good bottles of white, Gordon drives us out to the runway for a spot of stargazing. Sitting at the north end of the runway on giant beanbags, sipping a decent sauvignon blanc, we couldn’t be further from civilisation as we know it. Sure, there’s wine and good food and air conditioning, but the beautiful thing about Alphonse is the marriage of sustainability with modernity. People’s modern day needs are not entirely sacrificed in order to maintain the ecosystem of the island. Those luxuries that can be delivered without causing any harm to the island are carefully considered. The stars would have shone just as bright without the beanbag and sauvignon; they may have even been a little clearer. What knocks you sideways is the vacuum of silence. I have spent many a day in the mountains on ski trips and there is a stillness and silence to be appreciated in this world that few locations have managed to maintain. There are not many places that could be considered truly remote. For a brief moment, I consider packing it all in and moving out here. I could live on the less inhabited west side of the runway, fish and hunt for food, and grow a Forest Gump grade beard. When you truly consider how infinitesimal our existence is, you wonder
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why you don’t spend every waking moment doing whatever the hell you want. The following morning, I drag my body out of the air conditioned bliss, down the stairs, and out onto the beach for a wakeup stroll. There is nothing to be seen: no boats, no people, no debris from human life, just the occasional breach out to sea from the wildlife. It’s hard to wonder why people don’t stay and just jack it all in. You would be forgiven for wanting to spend your days cycling around the island, reading thick novels and working on your tan. There is much more to do here than just fish. As you cycle around the island, you will find tennis courts along with a juice bar set in a sizeable garden serving fresh smoothies and botanical goodness. Most of the west side of the island is uninhabited, so whilst there are paths clearly marked out for cycling, if you’re looking for escapism and to get away from the very few people that are here, this is the place to go. Sam, the island’s conservation officer, explains that the Island Conservation Society, ICS, is a Seychelles NGO that promotes the conservation and restoration of islands ecosystems along with their sustainable development. Your stay directly contributes to maintaining the island and the ongoing clean-up effort and research programs.
THE BAR OF DREAMS
Now, despite my years, I have never been diving. Even with a visit to Belize and Koh Samui under my belt, I have never even touched a regulator. If you wish, you can dive all week on Alphonse with groups going out as and when it suits, from the dive centre on the south of the island. As an inexperienced diver, my first port of call was a ‘basics’ lesson in the resort pool, with Byron the dive instructor. You learn signals, breathing techniques, how to avoid panic, and ultimately the safety principles that allow for a safe and enjoyable dive. Of course, Sam and Byron would be there on dive day to take myself and another inexperienced diver out. After a few hours in the pool with Bryon making that we knew the signals and, most importantly, how to secure our regulators should they become estranged from us, we were let loose to swim laps around the rather shallow pool. I had decided that this was absolutely for me. I was mentally making a list of all the items I would need to dive in the future and totalling up the brands to speak with on my return. I was utterly ensorcelled by the process. Now, no one wants to dive when hungover or with alcohol in their blood. I did, however,
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claim the award of ‘last man standing’ for a second night. On an island with some 50+-plus guests, I think some form of award needs to be given for this willingness to die by the time I hit 40. I did manage to take advantage of the wifi now that everyone had vanished in the pavilion and was only moderately concerned when I started hearing rustling in the bushes and coconuts falling on the roof. After my short cycle home, I clambered into bed, and expecting another blissful night’s sleep, I was out cold within minutes. Until, at 2am, the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse arrived. No one ventured outside to see if there had been a lightning strike, but when the bungalow shook after the third thunderclap, I knew it was pretty near. How near? Near enough to stay in the god damn bungalow. After all, there was a mini fridge full of snacks and beer should I need to spend any considerable amount of time here. At 0630 hours, I arose like Jacques Cousteau drinking a cocktail of equal parts trepidation and excitement. I arrived early to the dive centre to collect my gear and slow my breathing rate as best I could. There were many quiet and considered looking faces on the dive boat that morning. I could
EN-ROUTE TO THE DIVE
tell everyone was excited, but the usual conversation had been surpassed by either a feeling of deep contentment or nerves. People looked out to sea with that 1000-mile stare you expect from seasoned snipers. I am last into the water and calm as a Hindu cow. Byron does a final safety check to make sure that we all understand the requirements and can fulfil the PADI check list. Sam takes myself and another diver by the reins and guides us down into the depths. Well, 9-12 metres, so not exactly the depths. And I can still see sunlight, which was pleasing. The water is French-Alps clear with outstanding visibility. I stare down to the ocean floor as the life aquatic unfolds in front of me. After about five minutes of Sam steering us around from above, he makes a hand gesture to calm down or relax. I’m perfectly calm. But as I start to wonder what intimates that I am not, I begin to panic a little. I say to myself ‘your calm and his calm, are two different things’. It transpires his calm means breathe in a more regulated fashion to preserve your air supply. The ocean floor is teeming with life. Whilst diving off the atoll you can see hammerhead, whitetip reef and silvertip sharks, as well as large napoleon wrasse, giant sweetlips, catfish, and even bumphead parrotfish. There
had been wide sightings of manta ray that week, so everyone out on the water stays in communication to allow guests to travel to any sightings. After about 17 minutes, Sam asks what level my air supply is. And after a few more minutes, we surface together. He tells me that I have gone through my air supply rather quickly, checks I’m okay. and submerges again. From that moment, I am hooked. After we arrive back on shore, everyone cycles back to their bungalows and presumably crashes in a similar fashion to me. Diving certainly takes its toll. There is little respite though. Within the hour, we return to the dive centre for the famous flats lunch. We journey twenty minutes out to St. François, in a location that I doubt any other will be able to top. The sand flats that overlook the lagoon are a huge expanse in the middle of the atoll that become submerged during high tide. During the afternoon, the kitchen team setup camp on the flats and cook a buffet BBQ that I still yearn for today. Parasols keep us covered whilst we dangle our feet in the water eating pulled pork, beef fillets and brownies that make life worth living.
As the tide starts to rise and the water laps at our knees, the fisherman return to their skiffs in earnest whilst we head back towards Alphonse. As the current begins to flow towards Alphonse, we don our snorkelling gear for one of the most exhilarating experiences, as we let the current carry us over the endless coral beds and shoals of fish. Zero effort is required at this point. Simply float motionless as the current takes you closer to the island, your guide ensuring your safety and the chase boat staying close by. We drifted for over fifteen minutes totally emerged in another world. Diving and snorkelling might not be your thing, and you may well prefer to keep your feet on dry land or deck. Alphonse Island has a small armada of vessels including a 54-foot catamaran called A’mani. So, whether it’s fishing, day tripping or just toasting the sunset, you needn’t always have to get your feet wet. Whilst on the Island I urge you to take a day drip with Sam to the uninhabited island of St. Francois. Mangrove grabs scuttle around whilst nursing baby sicklefin lemon sharks swim around your feet. Alphonse and its surrounding islands boast the second highest number of recorded bird species, with over
100 listed. This is about as remote as it gets; St Francois is effectively untouched. Expect for the all too familiar pieces of debris that float onto its shores every year. The most frequent sights of western civilisation are worryingly high amounts of plastic waste. In 2016, a simple two-hour volunteer cleanup effort removed 423 kilograms of debris. The stranger sights are fish aggregation devices. These large rafts, fitted with tracking buoys and usually made from synthetic fishing net, are deployed in their thousands by tuna-fishing vessels. They often drift away from fishing grounds or lose their buoys, entangling sea turtles sharks and marine life, before washing up on coral reefs causing hazard to wildlife. The Alphonse team plays a crucial role in ensuring these remote and uninhabited islands maintain their fragile ecosystems. After a strong three-hour trek around St. Francois, we make our way back to the boat, which is now a few hundred metres offshore, across the flats as the tide is rapidly heading out. I assume that on most holidays, I will able to come home heavier or equal to my take-off weight. Not in the Alphonse Atoll. My final ocean-bound trip that week would
be on the kitchen run with Steven and Bertrand. Once a week, the fishing teams head out to fish for the incoming guests. They’re looking for all manner of fish, but careful not t overfish. Sailfish, Wahoo, Dogtooth Tuna, Yellowfin Tuna and Dorado are all there for the taking. It’s clear when the first tuna and wahoo come onboard, not everyone in our group is entirely captivated by the idea of fishing. There is a certain amount of blood that goes with catching and hunting food. As a society, we are entirely removed from the cultivation process that goes into securing our fish, meat and poultry, so it is not surprising to see a few shocked faces. Keep note: if you want your ethically sourced pancetta panini, you’re going to need to spill a little claret to get it. Our goal was to secure a quota of 240 kilograms of fish, but we weren’t past 40 at this point. And whilst the skipper didn’t look worried, I wondered what would happen without a sizeable catch. With that, about 100 metres in the distance, birds began circling and the water became frenzied. Bertrand threw the boat into reverse as Steven began to cast out into a large shoal of tuna. I have never seen a cast that far in my life. These guys are hardened fishermen. Sadly, we are too late to the party, and the
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THE FAMOUS FLATS LUNCH
tuna get a free pass as we make our way out to deeper seas to try our luck. Having watched two of the girls pull in tuna and wahoo and landing one of the latter myself to the tune of 8 kilograms, we decide it’s time to crack open a Seybrew and toast ourselves. After all, sport fishing is as much about enjoying the experience and being out at sea as it is the catch. Had I known what was to come next, I would have likely stayed on water. My turn had come up in the rotation, so I began to stand, feet planted, looking down at the water below. Bertrand suggested that I reel a little, and with that, I felt a sharp tug, then nothing. We looked at each other puzzled.
I continued to reel, but could feel the line getting more and more tense with almost no give. Bertrand took over and couldn’t work out if the line was caught or if we had simply landed something that was hiding out under the rocks. After about ten minutes of Bertrand walking up and down deck assessing the situation, the fish took off and Bertrand proudly handed me the rod. Now, my experience with game fishing is minor. Line trawling off the Cornish coast is not game fishing. It felt like reeling a car up through syrup. After thirty minutes of battling the fish up and away from the light, I tapped out. Bertrand said “I you need me to take over, there is no shame. It’s probably massive”.
By this point, my arm is numb my grip wavering, but I tag back in after ten minutes for another stint, counting the line as best I can. Just when we both have very little left to give, about twenty metre out, it surfaces, motionless. We haul the huge fish into the boat as Bertrand tries to work out what it is. He thinks it’s a dropoff grouper; the team back at the fishing centre are not so sure, but also have no idea. Later that night, when it’s weighed in by the kitchen staff, it comes in at 23.5 kilograms. The fish is so large, it gets placed in its own body bag. How to ensure the strongest bond with another human being, go fishing together. It turns out that Bertrand was actually born in London to Seychellois parents and only moved back to the Seychelles when he was 17. He regularly
Alphonse Island: +248 4229700 Reservations@alphonse-island.com or firstname.lastname@example.org www.alphonse-island.com visits his father in London and we agree to meet in the UK for a drink sometime. Later that night, at the bar, the earnest evening ritual that bonds this group, who come from far and wide, takes place. A bell is struck for each noteworthy catch, shots distributed and badges given. It appears that the most prestigious of these is for catching a giant trevally. The GT is one of the world’s most powerful nearshore game fishes and are known to reach weights in excess of 72 kilograms. It is a catch worth celebrating for sure. As my name is read out for largest catch of the day, along with the weight, I try to stroll to the bell nonchalantly, knowing that most of the fisherman at this bar are not easily impressed. I notice out
of my peripheral vision a lot of surprised looks around the bar and a warm round of applause rings out as I neck my shot and return to my bar stool to a few handshakes. Later that evening, Bertrand joins us at the bar for drinks. This week’s flight will be arriving at Alphonse Airport in the morning and we will all be making our way back to reality before the sun sets again. I tell him that he cannot pay for a drink tonight, which he dutifully battles before lamenting. I had packed three H. Upmann half coronas in my travel holder and decide that tonight is the night to annoy all non-smokers. To their credit, the fisherman and guests who were staying on were actually interested to see if there was a box of cigars hiding somewhere,
and if any more could be secured. Alphonse Island was a trip of many firsts for me – and certainly not one that will be forgotten or beaten anytime soon. The whole team is welcoming and very quickly becomes an extended family. The facilities and sheer depth and breadth of options to fill your time will keep you enthralled. But the location itself will leave you spellbound. There is nothing like it. Creating an island culture of enthusiasm and fun for a hardened luxury and fishing clientele is a tall order, but one that they have perfected. I assure you that a trip to Alphonse Island might be your first, but certainly not your last. All I need to do now is see if that old suitcase is still in the attic, pack my Corgi cars, and run away. TR
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STRATAJET Words: ROB BELLINGER
There’s something overwhelmingly satisfying about private jet travel. Is it the fact that your bag is taken from your vestibule and you see it next on the bed of your hotel suite? Is it the convenience of departing when you choose, be that after a second glass of Veuve Clicquot or just one more artisan biscuit? All these may be valid justifications for taking to the
virtually-turbulence-free, uncongested airways at 41,000 feet, rather than those of lesser mortals at 36,000 feet. For The Review, private air travel is all about accessibility, saving time and maximising life experiences. Until now, it is the mechanics of organising private jet travel that has perhaps been the most
time-haemorrhaging and clumsy part of trying to take full control of flying arrangements. There are now a couple of applications and headline companies promising to ‘take the strain’ when it comes to making personal air travel arrangements. Sadly, the reality behind these is that they still subscribe to doing things the old way, in the style of the broker.
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The broker process itself is very cumbersome behind the scenes. Your personal assistant uses the glossy-looking app in the magazine advert or calls a broker directly. And then it might as well be a case of your arrangements becoming steam-powered. The broker or company will then email their favourite five or so companies, who will then spend around
45 minutes manually calculating a quotation. For complex trips, or those with special requirements, this takes even longer, as you bring into play multiple airports and customs restrictions. Not only does this quote process take time, but also adds an inherent cost for both traveller and jet company. You ultimately end up paying for these quotations as they will
be priced into carrierâ€™s charter costings across the year. You will also be unable to see exactly what you are paying for, as the intricacies of these quotations are traditionally hidden from view. It has been suggested in the past that they are a combination of rolls of the backgammon die, hybrid with a roulette wheel with a healthy dose of â€˜what can we get away withâ€™.
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The market was recently shaken to its core by Stratajet, the vision of Jonny Nicol – a pilot himself. Enjoying the freedom of the airways, he could see that preparation was the key to success in the market. He could also see how the secrecy and unwieldy nature of chartering a plane was putting off even the most time-poor traveller. Jonny’s aim was to make the industry more appealing and increase traffic by making it more accessible. In the end, it took five years to prepare for Stratajet to take to the air, during which Nicol has risen to become one of the most prominent and influential figures in the private aviation industry. Jonny could see the time savings that were to be had, and that if algorithms could be brought to play effectively, then there were cost and efficiency savings to be had for all parties. A self-taught computer scientist, Jonny had previously developed a passion for using
technology to disrupt typically traditional industries – his first two businesses doing precisely that in the recruitment and military sectors. He then decided to focus his approach on his main passion in life: flying. An unexpected benefit was seeing that environmental concerns could be addressed on harnessing jets more efficiently, by redirecting them or moving them from locations close to clients to fulfil demand. Unsurprising this helps drive down costs, as planes returning on empty legs become less likely. The technology required to decide which was most cost effective – move a plane closer or dispatch a new one – is where years of research and development pays dividends for the consumer. The biggest giveaway to Nicol’s past is the desert ‘camo’ rucksack by his side, as we board
Zenith Aviation’s brand new LearJet 75 bound for Palma. A veteran of Afghanistan, Stratajet’s CEO is not only a fighter pilot, but he also served for ten years as an officer and pilot in the British Army. Combat has clearly added to the honest, can-do attitude of this pathfinder. On meeting Jonny, there is a cool confidence about this softly-spoken, bright-eyed, calculated maverick of the airways. Reclining over a glass of champagne, he describes the industry as having been like “a private members club, making booking private air travel unnecessarily difficult”. What he wanted to achieve with Stratajet was “increased efficiency and truly immediate booking”. This became his sole aim and, after development, naturally led Stratajet to enter the market, changing perceptions of private jet travel. But not in as short a time as it takes our winged missile to get airborne from Biggin Hill.
T R AV E L : S T R ATA J E T Nicol continues “Streamlining the industry was no mean feat, involving five years of highly advanced computer programming and overcoming major hurdles”. It feels to me like dilution of all that he has achieved, given the extraordinary capabilities of the platform. But Stratajet has been dubbed ‘the world’s most sophisticated price comparison site’. At cruising altitude, you realise how tailored your experience can become, and how you take tweak the experience with your choice of plane, food, wines and naturally your route. One of the most complex exercises the Stratajet algorithm undertook was transporting a family pet across the world with a minimum number of stops, while passing through favourable customs environments. This ensured the canine and its owners travelled stress-free, due to the minimum of vet intrusion and unfamiliar environments. There
is of course no requirement for your pet to be constrained in a cage in the hold when you fly privately. In the departure suite at Biggin Hill, we had encountered two springer spaniels heading home to Nice after a UK sojourn. Their owners couldn’t recommend the use of private air travel strongly enough, as they would have had to leave their beloved pets for six months, as the husband no longer drove, and one spaniel had shown extreme anxiety after a commercial flight. Our landing at Palma is incredibly swift. Custom formalities are lightning fast, our bags are unloaded and scanned for us before disappearing into our chauffeured car. To complement the quality experience that Stratajet provides our overnight destination lay in Port Soller, reached easily in under forty minutes.
On arrival at the Jumeirah Port Soller, we were left in no doubt that Jumeirah and Stratajet seem like the perfect combination. If you feel like flexing your wings and trying private jet travel, then why not try a short break like this for your debut. From the moment you arrive at the Jumeirah, the standard of service is not only excellent, but also very genuine. The cliché ‘nothing is too much trouble’ could have been born here, complementing wonderfully our Stratajet booking and flight experience. Having been shown to our suite overlooking the Mediterranean, you become aware of the clever design of this beautiful hotel. Spread over many levels, the linear design sits on the cliff top overlooking Soller bay. The use of rustic local stone, timber and ironwork on the exteriors contrasts with the ultra-modern appointment of the rooms. No detail is left to
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chance, and everything has been considered, even down to the locally woven basket for the daily commute to the pool. The Talise Spa, is cleverly disguised into the hillside with panoramic views of the Tramuntana Mountains from its sauna and terraces, which shield the bay from the island’s interior. Lying in the outdoor spa pool surveying the limestone peaks, brings the opportunity to muse that only five hours earlier we were leaving the wilds of windy Royal Berkshire bound for Biggin Hill. The area most recently saw the spotlight in ‘The Night Manager’ and having taken to the water,
we glide past C’as Patro March restaurant. It is easy to recall Jonathan Pine infiltrating Hugh Laurie’s character’s shady arms dealer world at this beautiful rock hewn location. This is undoubtedly best envisaged from the water, having swum in the underground caves en route, courtesy of the hotel’s favoured catamaran company. Having switched from Cava to Moët et Chandon sailing back to Port Soller, after such a sensorily indulgent day, it is easy to feel that you have entered the luxurious world of Dickie Roper. On our return for dinner, the terrace of Cap Roig sits sympathetically in the Mallorcan landscape, providing the perfect venue to
observe Balearic sunsets ‘entre dos’ whilst sipping an aperitif of the neat local Mahon gin. Our wish was to experience Catalan cuisine at it’s best, on which the Es Fanals restaurant delivers. Chef impressively presents superior modern and traditional tapas, using the finest local ingredients. It is perhaps the best showcase of Mallorcan gastronomy, even down the the impressive Soller Olive Oil which is rich, smooth and specially bottled for the Jumeirah Port Soller. The hotel also boasts an impressive cellar which features some remarkably good local
T R AV E L : S T R ATA J E T wines. The following lunchtime, The Review was given an exclusive tour of its cellar, sharing one of only sixty bottles of its Flor de Muga, Rioja rosé allocation. Flor de Muga is made solely from Garnacha grapes, grown on old vines owned by the winery, and left on fine lees for four months. This is a wine that’s subtle pink in colour, with violet glints. It’s complex, fresh and delicate, with a nose revealing strawberries and rose petals and a velvety feel overwhelming its palate. Mineral, balanced, and in a word rather like Stratajet’s own approach: unique.
will not leave until we are ready. We are not running to a conflicted agenda or worrying about check-in windows. A feeling of calm is prevalent, knowing that the cattle crush of standard check-in, security and lounges no matter how plush will not spoil this experience. Luggage once again vanishes before we join it transiting to the airport; swiftly through the private jet reception and straight across the tarmac onto already running plane. The time saved through using the portal has once again allowed us to experience the true freedom of air travel that was envisaged at its inception.
Lying in the sun is made even more therapeutic in the knowledge that our plane
On our return leg, the application usage figures speak for themselves. The new experience-led,
social media and mobile technology driven culture has prompted a surge in the number of millenials searching for private jet flights on booking platforms. This was previously a stagnant market, partly due to the mysticism, inaccessibility and perceived costs of booking. 69% of searches on the Stratajet platform are by people aged 44 or under. 25 to 34-year-olds represent the largest group, and the number of women searching for private jets has doubled since 2016 and is rising far faster than men. Stratajet seems to have a very bright future ahead of it. Once you develop the habit of flying privately, it is certainly not an experience
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you would want to give up. With the simplest, fastest and most cost-effective way to search, compare and book private jets at your fingertips, this becomes easily accessible. The first portal of its kind, it also gives customers access to the largest range of aircraft and at the best price, guaranteed. The platform can also return accurate costings in seconds, all of which can be booked instantly. In my personal view, money gives you choices, and life is all about experiences. Thanks to using Stratajet, we maximised both. Our
overnight jaunt to Mallorca felt like we had been away not merely for hours, but days. This is because, at all stages, Strataje maximised our enjoyment time (this could easily have been business time) by removing any unproductivity from the trip – all the while knowing we had achieved the best price. Bespoke jet travel removes lost time due to no parking, no check-in, no terminal transit, no ‘stacking‘ on final approach, and no baggage reclaim. Supposed upper or first-class options with charter airlines still do not eliminate these
things, despite some careful son et lumière with in lounge spas, priority boarding and gimmicks. In the traditional private aviation sector, you then also need to factor in the time and cost associated with the provision of nontransparent quotes through a broker. Private jet travel is mildly addictive. Whilst taxiing on arrival, we were already looking at costings for a future trip with friends to the south of France, and received these immediately. And before you know it, you will also be using Stratajet to plan your next flight.
YOU CAN DOWNLOAD THE STRATAJET APP HERE
Regnum Carya Words: LAITH AL-KAISY
500 miles away, our country is at war. You wouldn’t imagine it here though, where despite warnings of terrorist attacks, the only immediate threat is running out of champagne. Antalya’s coastline is a tinny concentration of the photo albums you thumbed through as a child. There’s a sense of nostalgia and familiarity here, one that typifies the great British holiday: that hot-but-not-too-hot, different-but-not-too-different compromise to get on a plane and test our burdening Britishness against cultures that are generally friendlier, happier, less self-loathing, and not half as pretentious.
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But tourism has changed a lot over the years—as has the world, for that matter—and the simpering irony of sending a luxury-travel writer to this corner of the planet isn’t lost on me. Turkey, now, is one of the insidious lies that defined the EU referendum. The lie that washes up on our shores, steals our jobs, sucks our taxes, and drains our NHS. The same lie that makes us vote leave and drop bombs in Syria next door, yet doesn’t blush when offered cheaper holidays and the kind of overblown luxuries that remind you how cold and pinched ours are at home.
Regnum Carya is big. Like, properly vast. The brochure says 350,000 square metres, and I don’t think it’s lying. It’s so big that there’s a fleet of golf buggies on constant duty, ferrying people between different parts of the resort.
But Turkey hasn’t changed. It’s still as familiar as a handshake; as welcoming as a smile. Only now, the Turks have learned that hospitality is about more than just good food and a comfy bed. Like most newly-developed countries, it’s found itself with capitalism and an economy—and with it, a tumescent culture of bigger, better, and more expensive. You only need to step into the lobby of Regnum Carya for gawping proof of this. It’s all impossible abundance, refined extravagance, and palatial swank; an ornate painting sprawling out of its frame. Above me, a giant, teardrop-shaped chandelier hangs from the 100-foot high ceiling. Fairy tale, beanstalk-like leaves sprout from behind the reception desk, no doubt a link to the Laconian princess, Carya, who was turned into a walnut tree by her father, Dionysus. And a marble table serves an endless supply of champagne and Turkish sweets and patisserie, all day and night.
The suite décor is a contrast of beech and maple. Simple, if a little corporate—but then, this is a golf resort, something which, not being a golfer, I keep forgetting. Either way, it’s elegant and contemporary and immaculate. The room is ample, with a fine French bed, lounging chairs, and the usual fiddly-but-impressive tech. It’s somewhere I could happily spend all day. There’s a walk-in wardrobe, a dressing room, a black marble washroom, a huge bathtub, and a shower room with Bulgari toiletries (which, along with Acqua di Parma, is probably the only brand worth stealing). Together, it creates a space you want to live in, sleep in, and get ready in: relax, take your time, listen to music, sip some fizz, shower, and dress for the occasion.
It’s this marriage of sumptuousness and open-handedness that makes hospitality here so genetic, so native, so effortless. We’ve barely had time to check in before two glasses of champagne have materialised in our hands. I’m travelling with Gemma, my other half, and this magazine’s beauty editor. Landing at midnight after a four-hour, standard-class flight, our hunger levels are high and sense-of-humour levels low. I tell myself, just like the last time I flew economy, that I’ll never do it again. Thankfully, looking around Regnum Carya, those painful hours on SleazyJet were beginning to seem worth it. And before you can say ‘speedy boarding’, we’re shown to one of the restaurants and I’m face-down in a bowl of spaghetti.
The main hotel has some 400 rooms, but really, if you’re coming all this way, you should stay in one of the 100 villa suites, which range from 50 to 150 square metres, each with a private swimming pool and an endless supply of booze and snacks. Really, what more do you want on vacation.
That said, you won’t be spending much time inside anyway. What truly makes this one of the best suites I’ve ever stayed in is the garden terrace. Because if you’re not at the beach, you’ll be here. Unless you have kids, in which case you’ll be at Aquaworld (best of luck with that). The terrace leads straight onto the private pool, which is deep azure and spotless. The surrounding flora and foliage looks so good it’s like reality’s been photoshopped. Everything’s as it should be, from the chiselled trunks of the palms and their draping leaves to the neat jade hedgerows that stand guard and keep your business private. Speaking of which, if Antalya has the best beaches in Turkey, then Regnum Carya has the best private beaches. Pretty much everything that’s culturally accepted about holidays comes from beaches; wavy memories that crash against the rocks of reality. Beaches are essentially what we prepare for,
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what we shop for, what we pack for. They’re the circled date on our calendars, the out of office emails, the pictures on our postcards, the #nofilter photos we post to Instagram. They’re also the promise on which holidays are sold. Escape. Paradise. I’ve been on hundreds of beaches and seen a thousand more, which is why it’s both remarkable and moving to have something that’s so familiar feel so new, so stunning, so blissful. It’s hard to describe a beach without being slightly stuttered or patronising. It’s like being asked to describe a house, or a fire, or an ear. What’s familiar isn’t important. What’s important is mood and feeling… and perhaps being served the Turkish equivalent of afternoon tea with bottomless champagne, in
a private pavilion that juts off a pier, about 10 feet above sea level, with its own decking and hammock for sunbathing. This is the postcard, the promise, the holiday snapshot of my mind. Our waiter for the day—and for almost every day we’re here—arrives at the press of a button or the wave of a hand, whichever’s easiest. He brings seafood, vegetables, fruit, baklava, macaroons. It’s all freshly caught or picked, and the pastry comes straight from the resort’s own patisserie on the lower-ground floor. The idea of paradise is a platitude that every travel writer knows to avoid, but this was it. And if you think that’s all just puff and hyperbole, then it’s probably a good time to men-
tion that it was so perfect, so fatedly aligned, that I proposed to Gemma. Yep, 500 feet above the ocean, in a parasail, after what was probably the most beautiful and indulgent day of my life. And I need to thank Regnum for creating the space for it to happen. And to Gemma for saying yes. Now, from the heights of the sky back down to the lower-ground floor. Here is where you’ll find six of Regnum’s seven restaurants. All of them specialise in a type of national cuisine, except one which offers a 24-hour banquet— the most plentiful and diverse I’ve ever seen, with bloated fruit overhanging like flowers in baskets, every conceivable veg that grows in this patch of the world, and of course what Turkey does best, fresh meat and fish, which
is cooked in front of you by a teppanyakistyle chef. And this goes on all day: breakfast, lunch, dinner, and drunken midnight binging. Of the specialist restaurants, the first and best we try is Sandal, a seafood restaurant, and the only one you’ll find on the beach. It’s all colonial tenting and fairy-lit palms that dance in the twilight. We sit in a miniature boat that’s been decked out with table and chairs. It’s total privacy, quietly removed from the main dining area, nearer the tiding ocean, and hopelessly romantic. We both order the mixed fish grill, which is bountifully stacked with lobster, scallops, prawns and monkfish. Friends and readers of my restaurant column will know that seafood served like this—simply, humbly, with frothing waves lapping at
the shore—is my gastrogasm. The other restaurants are a Far Eastern, an Italian, a Brazilian, an indoor seafood place, and a Turkish (which, if only for its sophisticated modesty, is also outstanding). Drinks are also included in the stay, which means, really, once you’re here, you don’t have think about parting with another penny, or that jaw-dropping bill that usually slips under your door the night before checkout. Complimentary drinks also come in handy at the on-site nightclub, where spirit measures are literally a case of ‘say when’. Then there’s the golf course, which I can’t even remember seeing, but it’s what a lot of the people here come for. People who don’t need an excuse to indulge. People who want for
nothing. And that’s the point of this place: it’s a transnational metaphor for new money. Without wanting to trivialise the despair that plagues this part of the world, the reason we come to places like Regnum Carya is to escape the wrecking ball of reality. We all know truth that festers under the rock of civilisation. There’s political strife, terror attacks, coups, an increasingly authoritarian government, a veritable warzone across the border. But the point is, you’d never realise it. Why would you, when the only thing that jitters here is the sunlight across the ocean. All you need to know is that Regnum is basically a village of everything you’ll ever need, designed for people who already have it all. Except the love of your life—you’ll need to bring that yourself.
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Words: SARAH MORGAN
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here are few places in the world that I have resisted going to, even with my insatiable travel appetite. One of those places, I’m embarrassed to admit, is Ibiza.
Yes, I know the Ibiza groupies will be shaking in their itsy-bitsy-teeny-weeny beachwear. But the all-night rave culture,
combined with its rebellious Peter Pan spirit has not drawn me into the annual pilgrimage of beautiful people, who religiously pay homage to the White Isle’s shrine of eternal youth. I can party with the best of them, and who doesn’t love a bit of sparkle, glitz and glamour, but its reputation as the frenetic clubbing capital of the world and the most expensive island in Europe
(although recently out gunned last year by Mykonos for the most expensive bottle of champagne ever bought) had somehow seeped deep into my subconscious and removed it from my wish-list. Clearly, I should know better than to judge a book by its hedonistic partycentral cover. So a trip to experience Ibiza in October (just after the season), when
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everyday banter is woven with references to the legendary Pacha, Ushuaia, Hard Rock, Space and the new Hi, has forced me to rethink this super-hip destination. Itâ€™s no surprise to the regular Ibiza crowd that the original tribe to touch base here was in fact the hip hippies of the 60s and 70s, who migrated to the island in pursuit of a simpler free-spirited way of life and discovered the stillness and rural
charm that forms a deeper part of Ibizaâ€™s heartland. This is the vibe that resurfaces when the DJs and beach parties have packed up and headed off to global binge in another part of the world. Itâ€™s now that an entirely different Ibiza re-emerges. In October, the climate is blissful with daytime temperatures ranging from mid to high 20s. The beaches and bars are less party and adrenalin fuelled, with a much
more peaceful energy that spreads across the island. Many of the locals who had left for the high season gently return to settle back into their winter homeland. There is a shrewd crowd who also come now to enjoy the hammock-style holiday that characterises the time of the year. Check out the rural interior and the beaches to the north, especially Benirras Beach (or the drumming
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beach), where you can watch the sunset ritual accompanied by a herd of local drummers. Or head to the Sunset Ashram to hang out with the latter-day hippies and dine while watching the memorising circus-like entertainers salute the passing of another day in paradise. We stayed at the delightful boutique hotel Casa Munich, a property that is located on a small hill in the Ses Salinas Nature Reserve; a stone’s throw from the salt planes of Salines, and a short drive to some of the best beaches and spots on the island. Yet it’s also only 10 minutes from Ibiza Town, Playa D’en Bossa and the
discreet yet attentive hospitality.
The hotel, which was set up 30 years ago by the Brauns and is still family-run, offers guests a luxurious laidback feel, and is boutique in every sense of the word.
As Ibiza has evolved and reinvented itself over the years, so too has this little hotel that has graciously expanded, along with its reputation, to offer a variety of rooms including beautifully appointed adult-only spaces that wrap around a wellness and spa area and pool.
A sense of tranquillity is evident as you arrive at the original 400-year-old Finca, with its traditional bougainvillaea-clad whitewashed walls. It’s delightfully informal, allowing you to be as invisible or pampered as you choose. The team at Casa Munich are well-versed in managing every request; they’d have to be with so many A-list celebrity guests who demand
The rest of the rooms are spread liberally around pleasant courtyards, winding pathways and lush gardens, ensuring space and privacy. There are 3 demur pools, a tennis court, football pitch, basketball court and a small gym, as well
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as push-bikes should you ever wish to venture out and leave the haven. You’ll find a friendly bar and restaurant next to the main pool – but as there are so many foodie destinations on the island, the hotel is realistic about its offering, keeping its choices simple and relatively small, with oodles of fresh local produce. One of the greatest gifts that comes with staying at Casa Munich is that the family, who are clearly part of the island’s chic DNA, has expanded their portfolio. This includes access to two of the most stunning beach clubs on the uber-cool
Playa d’en Bossa; the infamous Nassau Beach Club where the too-cool-for-school crowd hang out, and its younger, more family-focused sister club, the Tanit Beach. Our day at Tanit was spent languishing on a rock star-like beach cabana sipping cocktails, listening to some tunes, and demolishing some of the best vegan food I have ever tried. Tanit was apparently an ancient goddess of love, prosperity and good fortune. By the end of the day, I can honestly say I felt it all. The group also has two local restaurants, Dunes and Cas Costas, a wonderful grill and tapas style menu with adjoining
organic market stuffed to the brim with amazing local produce. After just four days on this magical island, I realised it is both hedonistic heaven or hippie hideaway: the two tribes blend together in a weird yet beautiful cocktail. And staying at the delightful Casa Munich was like having a best friend on the island, one who knew all the best places to kick back. I love Ibiza. And while the raves may have to wait for me, at least I discovered the other side to this wonderful island, and the idyllic sanctuary of Casa Munich. TR
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THE HALF MOON - KIRDFORD Words: ROB BELLINGER
or this foray into the countryside, there could be only one choice of dining partner: our illustrious publishing director, Gatsby himself, Peter Robinson. This ensured four of the most critical eyes present, and both some great observation and conversation. Arriving in the village of Kirdford, we find ourselves in some disbelief of what we are seeing. We seem to have been transported to a place that bears a startling resemblance to a 70’s episode of The Avengers or Doctor Who. At any moment you expect to hear the whine of John Steed’s 6.5 litre Bentley, as they trundle past the manicured
telephone box and Saxon church, on their way to solve a conundrum. There is something very British about this village and its surroundings.
detail, as well as a great sense of humour. Said host, Jodie Kidd, greats us warmly with ‘whaddya think?’ There is clearly a genuine sense of pride and immense enthusiasm behind the question. The transition from supermodel to racing driver and polo player has clearly been sprinkled with subtle references throughout the interiors of The Half Moon. Cushions are held in place by bridles and bespoke bar stools are studded and shaped like early racing seats. The original wallpaper, featuring wine regions, has been painstakingly recreated adding an authentic feel.
The Half Moon is a modestly presented long, tile-fronted building, giving no hint that it dates back to the fifteenth century. Its grounds show great attention to detail and are presented as both leisure and working spaces. Tasteful tables and umbrellas cajole you to dine or enjoy a drink outside. There are also some great surprises to be found, such as the geometric wave of hand-laid fencing at the rear boundary, raised herb garden and model potager complete with Styling her village pub has clearly been a labour of love and, in later conversation, architecturally thrusting artichokes. you can sense how she has revelled in the The interior hints at quiet satisfaction, quality, challenge. Jodie is rightly proud of the and that our host clearly has a keen eye for fact she has self-styled the interiors, rather
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than using an interior design team, even selecting all glassware and cutlery herself with input from her hostelry team. The restaurant itself is comfortable and relaxed. Jodie herself is characteristically hands on. During our lunch, she doesn’t seem stop for a second, serving drinks, taking orders, and leading by example. Our table is set with chic but practical glassware, and the Robert Welch cutlery is well weighted and both ergonomically and aesthetically pleasing. Both beg you to pick them up and cradle them in anticipation. Again, Kidd’s attention to detail shines through. Now it is time for chef to step up and justify the excellence of our surroundings. Having been eyes-down over the menu, we
sense that this may have to become four courses. The menu is cleverly planned and has locally sourced and seasonal ingredients. Proof, indeed, that this is not just a restaurant, but still a pub functioning as such at the heart of the village. Robinson and I hit the snacks menu first, not being able to resist stalwarts like pork and black pudding scotch egg with homemade brown sauce; pork scratchings with beer emulsion and burnt apple sauce; and crispy pheasant with garlic mayonnaise. All are wellpresented, portions are generous, served with seasonal garnishes. These in isolation, after a brisk country hack, would sit perfectly with a pint of Half Moon Eclipse, the pub’s own brew.
its variety, and unique its approach (it’s influenced by Jodie’s own travels around the world, she tells me after lunch). There is a great showing of English sparkling wine from the nearby Bolney Estate, and also a generous selection by the glass. For aperitif, we opt for the purity of Champagne Drappier’s Zero Dosage by the glass. It is light, lemony and cleans the palate wonderfully (due to having no added sugar after disgorgement). We follow with a fresh, mineral and slightly saline Sardinian Vermentino ‘Silenzi Bianco’ to follow, and a velvety Malbec ‘Lo Tengo’ to balance Peter’s main course.
Presentation is to the fore again with the delivery of our starters. The plate is not After a brief pause, we turn our attention over-fussy. Everything has relevance and to the wine list, which is remarkable in feels right, proper and in its place. The
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Selsey crab is sea-fresh, retaining just the right hint of saltiness, having only travelled thirty miles. It is expertly picked, lightly dressed and sat amongst a salad of grapes, tomatoes and nasturtium flowers. With a similar mileage provenance, the charred day boat mackerel is accompanied by molasses yoghurt, fennel and hazelnuts – the latter proving chef’s textural flair and complementing the charring of the fish. Both starters were excellent, with great understanding of ingredients. Main course is always a bone of contention when assessing a kitchen’s skills. Do you let chef show his mastery of technical ability? Or choose a traditional benchmark instead? We are so blown away by the our starters
that we opt to go both ways. Robinson selects the sirloin steak with peppercorn bone marrow reduction and skin on chips; I opt for the hay-smoked pork fillet with turnip, carrot and cumin purée, black pudding and pommes Anna. Hay-smoking is an artform. Get it wrong and it can impart a bitter flavour and infuse the dish with acid tones; cooking steak again gives no point of refuge. The first porcine mouthful is firm but juicy, the black pudding having been selected to balance the meat with more earthy, spiced flavours. Presentation again scores highly, and there is nothing on the plate that shouldn’t be there. Each element complements the other. Portion sizes are the right side of generous; you will leave replete, not overly full. Robinson is strangely quiet,
his Malbec lovingly warming in his hand. He finally summons a
“Nothing appears to be too much trouble and service is delivered with genuine enthusiasm.” raised eyebrow and smile to confirm his
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dish exceeds expectation, as he greedily coats his chips in homemade béarnaise. Dessert in such indigenous surroundings doesn’t fail to deliver either. Again, the strength of The Half Moon’s menu is that it offers a good selection to suit all tastes. Sometimes a plethora of choices can detract from the overall experience. Gluten free selections are highlighted, and dietary issues dispatched without drama. Of the four desserts on offer, we decide to explore the local cheese selection and the milk chocolate crémeaux, coconut sorbet, crisp lime and coconut meringues. The cremeaux is smooth and rich parried by the fresh, not over-sweet coconut sorbet. The meringues deliver the texture required to
bring aural and tactile pleasure, the lime fizzing deliciously on the palate. The cheeses are firm, at correct temperature, displaying further thought with an assortment of artisan crackers and homemade chutney, best shared between two. Our coffee arrives steaming hot, with acidity and smoky chocolate notes combining into a final delicious curtain call. Even this has not been left to chance, as the house blend is made for The Half Moon by Surrey Hills Coffee in their artisan roasting house. There is clear vision in all that is presented at The Half Moon. Nothing appears to be too much trouble and service is delivered with genuine enthusiasm. The respect with
which ingredients are treated by our highly talented chef is obvious; nothing that arrives on the plate is superfluous. The food presented on the plates is driven with real purpose, pleasuring both the eye and the palate. Venues with a celebrity connection are bound to produce some skepticism. However, this is a great place with a real passion for hospitality driving it. In a rural location, your neighbours are your judge and jury, and for longevity you really need to deliver. The Half Moon certainly does this. Indeed, Gatsby and myself agree that we can’t wait to return to The Half Moon – and detours when in West Sussex or Goodwood-bound are now a certainty for The Review. TR
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La Ferme du Lac Vert Words: PETER J ROBINSON Film: SCREAMING EAGLE
We arrived late at La Ferme du Lac Vert, in early January. Given that our previous chalet had been without power, the romanticism and affection in which we had spent the last 24, candlelit hours were fading fast. We longed for the warmth of a glowing bulb filament, the feeling in your palms as the tap water begins to run hot and the ability to check in on social media to see what the world had for supper. My main concern was being two hours late for dinner as no one likes to keep strangers waiting. Not to mention it doesn’t solidify a great first impression. As always, I was overthinking. The kitchen team was well aware of our impending late arrival, and the other guests were well-lubricated by the time we sat down, just after 10pm. “Yes, I would love a glass of wine. Thanks, and can you roll that jereboam of génépi over please, I have to make up for lost time”.
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a Ferme du Lac Vert has been on our call sheet for a number of years. When I enquired into the availability of my team, notably Dr. Paul Farrow, who remains benched due to the onslaught of continued and relentless childbirth, said “Wait, what? La Ferme du Lac Vert? In Morzine?”. I am a firm believer in the Six Degrees of Separation theory. For example, earlier this year, when we chose the photographer for the Q1 spread, we went with an individual who, upon further inspection, shot a modelling campaign featuring an acquaintance of mine who lives in Jamaica. We live on the smallest of worlds. Dr. Paul had met the owners of La Ferme du Lac Vert, Rob and Lucy Mundell, at a music festival in Blighty, where their son was playing some years earlier and apparently popped it in my inbox then. Rob and Lucy’s chalet is an old nineteenth century Savoyard farmhouse, originally built in 1842, and lovingly restored over what I can only assume was many years. They tell me, however, that the renovation took about a year. That might sound like a lengthy build to the uninitiated, but for those of you who have ever taken on the task of buying land or building bricks and mortar, you’ll know that a year turnaround is admirable. It’s impressive for a new build of similar size, let alone restoring what we would easily list as a Grade 2 building in the UK. The speed of the renovation and furnishing might have something to do with Rob’s background as an electrical contractor and Lucy’s as a graphic designer. La Ferme sleeps 20-24 people in a selection of beautifully-appointed, traditional double, twin and triple rooms. Of course, should the mood take you, I imagine that you could easily and adequately have a couple of hundred people strew themselves liberally about the place like the last days of Rome. The property is fitted out with 14 en-suite bedrooms, all styled differently, La Petite Ferme, the main chalet’s former mazot, and a separate apartment on the ground floor with three en-suite rooms. The chalet is complete with everything we adore in vintage alpine posters: fur throws, roaring fires, exposed wooden beams, and enough candles to light a cathedral. If you are looking for an uber-modern property, the sort that the locals protested when it was erected, then La Ferme probably isn’t for you. Sure, she has all the modern conveniences of hot tubs, DVD players, fast broadband and staff,
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“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilised people are beginning to find out going to the mountains is going home; that wilderness is a necessity…” John Muir.
but ultimately, it’s a living, breathing piece of history. With rather comfy cushions and fine cuisine, of course – but essentially, history. I relish meeting new people, and despite the social stigma that many people young and old attach to properly socialising, I have always found it to be exceptionally good fun. Many years ago, on a trip to the French Alps, with a ski brand that shall forever remain nameless, I realised that the intended accommodation would be shared. Perhaps I wasn’t particularly lucid when it was booked. A baptism of fire it certainly was, and despite remembering a few of the more interesting characters, my memories are of the skiing. This was also a chalet of menial size within a modern complex, where perhaps the word ‘chalet’ should be replaced with something a little more befitting. What you really need for group engagements is a property you can get lost in and hosts you adore, La Ferme has both. But if you aren’t into the idea of sharing, then simply call your bank manager and authorise the transfer for either the apartment, La Petite Ferme, or indeed the whole estate. Just ensure you book with plenty of time, as La Ferme has a string of corporate clients that return every year (so the kitchen and hosting team must be doing something right). The following morning, I awake with the mental vigour of a springbok, but the physical prowess of biltong. The late nights and libations are starting to take their toll. A skiing holiday really isn’t a restful experience, and no matter how much soft furnishing and staff, you’re always going to find yourself creaking back into the middle of the week. Try a little yoga or pilates before you strap in next time; the arthritic you will thank the athletic you in years to come. If, like me, you like to travel without skis and poles, the nearest decent ski-hire shop is Sport 2000 Ardent, 200m from the front door of La Ferme. From there, it’s a straightforward 2-minute drive or 20-minute walk to the François Baud Footbridge, which will take you the last few hundred meters to the Super Morzine Telecabine. The chalet has a transfer service, in the form of a van fleet and Lexus hybrids. As part of the Portes du Soleil ski area, Morzine offers up a calf-straining 650km of terrain with slopes to suit all levels. As someone that regularly skis with a mixed group, I find exploring the terrain on my own for a few hours helpful. Especially when answering to the chorus of “where are we?” “Follow the signs for 32 and Pleney guys.” “Which one?” Patience is indeed
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a virtue when playing ski guide, but luckily I could utter four-letter words to my heart’s content in my Ruroc full-face helmet. I decided from the get-go that, rather than spend the day playing ski-dad, I would slope my shoulders and force the ski-kids (all of whom are over the age of 25) onto someone else for the day. Organising a group of amateur skiers is a lot like open heart surgery, except you desperately want the surgeon to fail and ensure there is a ‘do not resuscitate’
order on the patient. When we sprawled out of the car on a wave of ski gear outside the ESF ski school, I think the time was about 10:30am. The first lift this was not. I made my apologies to our lovely instructors, MarieLaure and Yanni, and proceeded to ensure the parking was taken care of, alongside the team popping into a few shops to purchase essentials they had forgotten. The ESF ski school is based opposite the Pléney cable car, so if you are looking for instructors or an overtrained babysitter, you know where to find
them. My reason for dragging along two unwitting members of the ESF ski school was, first, to take my bunch of amateurs on a tour of the slopes, under the guise of them being ‘guided’. It was a little more like sending a triage nurse into battle. Marie-Laure became very affectionately known as ski-mum, and had the team tackling runs and altitudes I could only dream of dragging them to. She was incredibly overqualified though, and whilst her group of ski-children for the day only
spoke two languages between them, she spoke six. To make sure I wouldn’t have to oversee the group’s safety, or become the tour-guidein-chief, I doubled-down by learning to snowboard with Yanni from ESF – meaning I’d have as much skill on the slopes as the rest of the group. Yet, within a few hours, I was easily navigating the child slope on my board, with only minor casualties. I wonder how long it takes to become a proficient boarder,
because god knows the footwear is more comfortable, and at least 30% of your time is spent sitting down. After watching JC attempt to snowboard down the children’s run with Yanni, I realised that I didn’t have the time he needed, so took it upon myself to start boarding down the gentle slope solo. After three solid runs, I had burned through my water supplies, finished my snacks and was beginning to look like a wet sponge. I decided that it was all too much and took off my board and led down
on the covered magic carpet up the children run. It transpires that the female French lift attendant took umbrage to my lying down, in need of a cardiac massage, and stopped the carpet mid-ascent. I quickly jumped to my feet, a little embarrassed, but it was worth it to see so many parents and children stumble. As the day went on, we headed for Le Vaffieu, a small restaurant in between Les Gets and Morzine. I have grown accustomed to entering all establishments on a ski trip
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wearing my chrome Ruroc helmet in the hope that everyone assumes I am a Russian of repute. All that really happens is I am asked a barrage of questions about where one can be purchased from. If you are looking for traditional savoyarde food and wine on piste, then try the rack of lamb or the mille-feuille at Le Vaffieu. Sublime. Lunch was filled with ‘daring’ stories, of course, as ski-mum and the ski-brats told ever loftier stories about their exploits that day. It was nice to hear this from the other side for a change, having not had to coach everyone onto and off the mountain. Once all the team were assembled on the ground, we strolled along the road to a small bar-cum-ski shop called Action Sport. The French are gifted wordsmiths, of course. After a few obligatory beers, Euro-Pop and a crêpe, Liam arrived in the La Ferme people-carrier to ferry our weary bodies back to the safety of the chalet. We all agreed that the hot tub would be the best idea – so with little fuss, we convened on the chalet’s terrace and slipped into oblivion.
There is even a buzzer to call the bar and request another round of drinks. I assume every hot tub owner has at one point realised the very real and present danger of mixing intrinsically drunk people and glass in neckdeep water. I can totally empathise: I have personally broken a few in my time, but it still doesn’t mean I want to drink champagne out of plastic. The alternative is to sip your champagne from a glass outside the hot tub whilst your feet satisfyingly freeze and forge to the wooden decking or the Persian rug. As cocktail hour approached, we all knew the reality of what was coming: the debilitating schlep from the hot tub back to the room to change for supper. Dinner was always an extremely convivial affair, as guests told stories of the days out on piste and offered advice on where the going was particularly good. The chef and kitchen team offered up ever more enticing canapés and cocktails as the week went on, with no shortage of variety. As courses followed one after another, and the red wine continued to
flow, guests would move around the 20-plus seat table to chat to each other, occasionally popping out onto the beautiful balcony to take in some fresh alpine air. As dinner was rather salubrious, not many made it onto the inviting sofas and chairs in front of the roaring fire. A distinct lack of TVs in the main living area meant that conversation and quiet contemplation were the order of the day, which is rather refreshing in this day and age. There is, of course, a games room off the main living area for children (or anyone wishing to take in some blue light). La Ferme du Lac Vert is clearly a special property; one with no shortage of brand fans. Beautiful architecture and artisan interior aside, the staff and service is akin to the finest boutique hotels I have experienced. The choice is whether to be greedy and book it all to yourself, or treat your stay as an opportunity to meet new alpine enthusiasts. My preference would be to book Petite Ferme and choose when to play with the pack – and then, when to invite those whose company you really relish back for a nightcap. Or seven.
The love for fashion, film and the human form is evident in the artwork of Buki Koshoni as he continues to integrate identity, personality and the body aesthetic. Taking an intimate approach to his subjects, his photography celebrates personal narratives whilst creating images that draw the audience into this visual journey, representing a discovery of cultures, genders, ethnicities, sexualities and identities. After honing his craft at St Martins, Buki has released a number of books celebrating the art of portraiture, in addition to directing music videos for EMI and Sony Records along with a wide range of commercials and television programmes.
C U LT U R E : B U K I KO S H O N I amy bailey - london
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“The subject of personal identity has always been an ongoing conversation in my personal life, and through photography, I’m able to capture and explore this dialogue. I like to shoot narrative portraits, placing people in costumes and situations that either compliment, validate, or disassemble their public or personal persona.” - Buki Koshoni
mike edwards & perri shakes-drayton
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mike edwards & perri shakes-drayton
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JASON FLEMYNG - LONDON
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JASON FLEMYNG - LONDON
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CONSTANTINA P. EVRIPIDOU, CYPRUS
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patrick grant - LONDON
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LEON JACKSON & ZOE SOPHOCLEOUS
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XC V erum in speculo 90 Words: ROB BELLINGER
Maximilian Riedel can only be described as the foremost authority on the power of glassware. A brief look at his instafeed shows a life spent travelling the globe and drinking some of the worldâ€™s finest wines with their creators. Iâ€™m never jealous, but often wish I could be in the same location, smelling the bouquet and tasting what Maximillian is often cradling in his hand. Drinking with him is always a pleasure; he has a wicked sense of humour and a keen eye and palate. THE REVIEW 2018 251
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n observation it’s certain that there is a penchant for bordeaux, burgundy, and a lot of champagne! In quiet times, Riedel is often sighted enjoying Msr Geoffroy’s fine Dom Perignon. But he has a genuine love, respect and empathy towards all the liquids and producers that grace his vessels. This after all, he is the man that developed and produced the ‘Joseph’ signature glass for Krug.
This is not simply for PR, but to prove the ability a glass has to change how a wine performs and tastes once poured. Naturally, Riedel believes they have the ultimate tweeters and woofers for the task in hand.
The Royal Horticultural Halls’ atmosphere is almost as ‘fizzy’ as the Moët et Chandon before us. This evening we will taste both Brut Rosé and Brut Imperial, as Riedel takes us on his voyage of discovery. In front of me, I see assembled some very familiar glass shapes, four with a sparkling wine bias in all. Max takes to the stage and the room falls silent; you could almost hear the whisper of cleaning cloth on glass as he begins like a His mission is about adding another dimension conductor to direct the room. to the tasting and drinking experience. He sees glasses as tools to facilitate sensory pleasure. We start with the Brut Impérial and follow When imbibing privately with Maximilian, it is clear he has no allegiance or producer bias; he enjoys various styles and makers depending on his mood. When you are the eleventh generation CEO and president of a business established in 1756, there could be a tendency to rest on the family’s laurels. Not so for Maximilian, who clocks up thousands of miles annually promoting the family business, and whose hands are firmly on the company reins. He is involved first-hand in all ground-level decisions, helping suggest and develop new glass ranges and concepts. You may find Riedel under its own name or in restaurants and bars under the familiar names of their trade ranges – Spiegelau and Nachtmann. He is constantly looking to improve packaging and online presence to enhance the consumer experience. A driven individual, always impeccably dressed, with a wicked sense of humour and a private love of Italy’s prancing horse. Maximilian says of his work: “I never stand still, always look for new paths and explore how my ancestors also managed to do just that.” He sees it as inherent that, like Walter Gropius and the great exponents of Bauhaus, ‘form must follow function’. His simplistic yet honest paraphrase is that ‘a glass should be to wine as a speaker is to music’. It is this, married with a sympathetic attitude toward wines and spirits, that has led to the event that The Review is here to attend. Riedel has chosen to put on the largest tutored champagne tasting that the UK has ever seen.
As to taste from the coupe. The first thing you notice is that the wide surface area removes all the effervescence quite speedily. The bubbles are not concentrated, and the lack of mousse explains those all too familiar ‘flat’ glasses of warm champagne we have all experienced at weddings and sporting engagements. The coupe again accelerates the warming process with its lack of depth and wide flat surface. There is a lack of nose, as all the aromatics carefully blended by the cellar master have left as soon as it has been poured. After the first few minutes, this is a lacklustre glass of flat, almost unscented golden liquid. This has no doubt contributed to the views of those that claim they do not like champagne.
Moving onto that familiar beast – the flute – you immediately notice the effervescence powering bubbles and aroma skyward. There is more smell leaving the glass than the coupe, but it flies upwards so quickly, and in such a concentrated fashion, that it misleads the olfactory. This can also lead to that social faux pas: bubbles up ze nose. This is termed ‘carbonic bite’ and causes sneezing and coughing, often at the most inappropriate moment. The more derogatory effect is that it allows the precious fabricated aroma to escape quickly resulting in just a palatal experience. Again, in the mouth Moët’s stalwart now feels constrained and very tight. this as a theme through the first three glasses. It is pleasant, but in no way matches what we Our opener is that doyen of the wedding taste next. reception – the low, saucer-shaped ‘coupe’. This familiar glass is often reputed by your As an intern, Maxi was a guide at Champagne local wine-bar bore as having been modelled Taittinger. Aged eighteen, he observed that on Marie Antoinette’s breasts. Or Helen of the true champagne enthusiasts sampled Troy’s, Madame Pompadour’s, Madame du from wine glasses. This sowed the seed for Barry’s, Diane de Poitier’s or even Napoleons’ him to look to develop, when his time came, a Empress Josephine’s fine ‘nubbies’ (c17). champagne wine glass, specifically designed Yet none of these stack up. Champagne is a to exploit the best facets of this worthy 17th century refreshment, and the glass itself beverage. His rationale was that ‘champagne was first designed and made in England in is a wine and deserves to be treated as such’. 1663. This removes all contenders from the equation due to chronology and supports The Riedel Veritas champagne wine glass this was mere entertaining male fantasy from is the culmination of Maxi’s idea, and also the point at which it was produced. It may the great craftsmanship at the factory in have prospectively been an endearing line Kufstein, Austria. The setting between the or two that the procurer of the champagne Brandenburg Alps and the Kaiser Mountains would use to turn his trophies mind to other itself helps focus the mind to achieve clarity. matters. This was further perpetuated by the This clarity is so important when applied claim that the final test to become a dancer to sensory focus through touch, taste, sight at the Folies Bergère was to assess whether or and smell improvements that fine glassware not a dancer’s breast would fit into a coupe. can provide. The glass is handmade; no If the glass were to spilleth over, they would mean achievement when you consider it is not be joining the burlesque turns on stage. delivered with the kind of accuracy that only
He sees it as inherent that, like Walter Gropius and the great exponents of Bauhaus, ‘form must follow function’.
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‘On pouring the Impérial Rosé into the Veritas rosé champagne glass, we are dealing with wholly different beast.’ a machine-made glass normally achieves. In shape, the champagne wine glass resembles a traditional wine glass shape, and stands approximately 24 centimeters tall. It is light, with a fine stem and a slightly more pointed, pronounced bowl at the bottom. The glass curves up to a rim diameter of approximately five-and-a-quarter centimetres, which is some 20 percent wider than the average trusty flute. The larger rim allows the scent of the champagne to be released in a more evenly concentrated way, and for it to fully emerge. Deep in the bowl is a ‘sparkling point’ to aid formation of fine, even bubbles to keep life in the glass at the optimum level and maintain the important part of the ‘champagne experience’.
when tasting. Riedel’s delivery gives a more accurate appraisal of a wine’s taste, and a far more accurate portrayal than just using receptors at the back of the tongue. After all, by delivering this way, the rear olfactory receptors will get their chance later.
to foil acidity. The wider lip also precisely delivers just the right amount of liquid onto your palate. This is particularly important with some rosé champagnes, such as Piper Heidsieck Non Vintage Rosé Sauvage, where the style is fruit forward and non-autolytic. To create the fruit forward style in nonvintage champagnes, paradoxically, the bottles often age for less time than their brut cousins. But this can bring more acidity which this glass deals with admirably. Vintage rosé champagnes age, on average, for twice as long than their golden brethren, to allow aroma, depth of flavour and softening of tannins. Veritas also enhances these softer wines with their slower mousses, thanks to its design.
When we revisit the flute with the Moët et Chandon Impérial Rosé, the effect of the long, tight cylindrical bowl is more apparent. The effect of the glass upon the champagne is more obvious and pronounced: it bubbles quickly, the mousse becomes fine and bright pink, but just too frothy. What was a relaxed wine has now effused, rather like a small child fed too many blue smarties. The concentration leads to a haphazard and powerful column of slightly confused bouquet. This can bring forth acidic notes The coupe is now really only suited for Martinis, the flute a required symbol of Is this hype or clever marketing? The answer and over-concentration of fruit. champagne and acceptable for toasting is most definitely no. A non-vintage brut suddenly came alive in the glass, losing its On pouring the Impérial Rosé into the and celebrations. But to really enjoy and tightness and over concentrated nose it Veritas rosé champagne glass, we are dealing ‘taste’ your champagne at its best, it’s time delivered in the flute. It begged to be drunk with wholly different beast. The bubbles rise to indulge and invest in some of Riedel’s and instantly softened. This was ably assisted slowly and elegantly from the deep wide champagne wine glasses. This experience by the glass delivering the champagne directly bowl, before aromas are concentrated in can become addictive, so prepare to make to the tip of the tongue, something the coupe the tulip-like neck. This allows the bubbles some cupboard space as Riedel offer a could never do; its saucer shape slopping carrying their precious cargo of nasal tones varietal specific glass for most of the world’s champagne Gatsby-style to the back of your to mix deliciously and reconstitute. Standing popular grapes. mouth and directly into your throat, with no at a similar height to its sibling, it boasts a stopping en route for savoring. The tip of the 7-centimetre aperture, some 40 percent I’ve no doubt that ‘in the glass, there is tongue is the most effective delivery point, larger than the flute. This allows the smells truth’. But it needs to be the right glass for as it allows us to balance acidity and fruit to spread evenly under your nose and also ultimate truth. TR
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Marsden Manor is a 16th century former-farmhouse w house. Weathered honeystone walls framed with clim Agra rugs and more history than you can shake a st immediately fe
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with all the archetypal qualities of a Cotswold country mbing ivy and roses, exposed wooden beams, antique tick at. Pulling up the long, winding driveway you eel important.
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iana, the groundskeeper, met us at the front door. Although, calling it a ‘front door’ is an understatement. The entranceway is more like a godly, gothic gateway with a large hefty latch, a lock-out-the-rest of-the-world-and-throw-away-the-key type of
door. We entered and closed it behind us, leaving our inane inner-city existence on the doorstep. Diana took us round the manor explaining there’d been some considerable renovations done over the years, that the further half of the house had been completely rebuilt. It didn’t show. The experience from old to new was seamless. Marsden Manor has 10 super-king bedrooms and sleeps 20 people. There
are three large living areas with TVs and a working fireplace. The kitchen has a traditional Aga, a dining table that comfortably seats 18 and there’s easy access to the garden, which makes ferrying to-and-fro for al-fresco dining a doddle. Outside, the sprawling gardens lead off to private tennis courts and there’s a heated pool too. On our tour, Diana told us about the history of the manor. There’d been a tragedy way back when the Marsden family owned
the manor. The ‘Nanny’, who worked there and lived in one of the rooms, had died in such a way as to warrant a postpartum-like presence on the property. Apparently, she’s often sighted waking round the manor and even round the village, shrouded in a black cloak and veil. The cliched quality of the tale didn’t dilute its effect. We were shit-scared. After a couple of glasses of wine and a bucket load of coaxing, we mustered up the courage to venture up into ‘Nanny’s’ room to see the au-pair’s apparition for
ourselves. No such luck. If you’re not into that kind of thing, then there’s plenty of offsite activities to keep you busy. You can hike or hack through the surrounding countryside on foot or on horseback, there’s fishing, golfing, quad biking, boating and even clay pigeon shooting a short car journey from the manor. We spent the most part of our Saturday daytime by the pool, basking in the June sunshine, retreating back to the kitchen
intermittently to carve off and consume wedges of the chocolate cake kindly left there for us by Kate and Tom’s. On the Sunday we got out the mallets and had a couple of competitive rounds of croquet. Good, honest fun. There’s something incredibly homely about Marsden Manor, like I grew up there in another life. It’s cosy but elegant, sophisticated yet simple, country living at it’s very best. I’d go back there in a heartbeat.
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Words: GEMMA PHELAN
T R AV E L : TA I KO O
Dartmoor sits in the small south-westerly pocket of the UK. Itâ€™s far enough away from London to feel like youâ€™ve gone away, but not so far that it takes 6 hours and two tanks of petrol to get there. A favourite for the outdoorsietypes, Dartmoor is characterised by vast open spaces and rolling hills, punctuated with woodland valleys. Looking proudly over one of these valleys is Taikoo, an oriental-style building with red dormers and steep gables. It certainly stands out against the mature beeches and bushy hydrangeas that surround it. We arrived late in the evening. Winding through the slender streets of Belsotone, the village that precedes it. It felt like we were in an eerie movie; not an unpleasant feeling, more one of apprehensive excitement at what we were going
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to find at the other end of this road, and if was going to be easy to get in, in the dark. We punched in the code from Kate and Tom’s things-you-need-to-know welcome pack and the large red gate angled open with a groan, adding to the feelings of trepidation. The keys were easy to find, but I would recommend taking a phone with a torch if you plan on arriving in the dark. Once inside, we were greeted by a wide hallway with a 14-chair dining table down at the far end. To the right of the entrance, a doorway leads to a traditionally-decorated sitting room with comfy couches, floral finishings and a working fireplace. Despite its oriental outer shell and decorative accents, inside Taikoo feels like a west-country cottage. The kitchen is no exception: an emerald aga stands out against the rustic backdrop of creams and pastel greens. Panel-door cabinets line the walls filled with all the crockery and cutlery you need. Waiting for us on the table was a hamper filled with goodies, a really lovely touch when booking with Kate and Tom’s.
On the ground floor, you’ll also find a TV room, games room and am ample-sized area to feed and clean your dogs. The pets area can be accessed using a seperate door; super handy if you and your pooch have spent the day trekking over the moors and through boggy woodlands. In the daytime, sunlight streams in through the skylights above the upstairs landing, giving a bright and airy feel to the whole house. All of the bedrooms lead directly off from the main walkway and have their own bathroom. Every bedroom offers uninterrupted views of the rolling Dartmoor countryside, covering four different aspects. In holiday cottages like these, especially if travelling in a large group and only for the weekend, you want all of the information necessary to operate the thing to be close by, all in one place and easy to understand. The guys at Kate and Tom’s provide guests with easy-to-follow instructions on how to make things work. They’ve done the hard work upfront to make your stay as hassle-free as possible, which we really appreciated.
Within the grounds, a short walk from the main house, there’s a large and well-kept indoor swimming pool. A quick dip in the morning and we were ready to gear up and explore the surrounding countryside. We decided to try one of Dartmoors most famous walks, the Teign Gorge classic circuit. The best way to get to the trail is to drive and park at Castle Drago. Castle Drago was constructed between 1911 to 1930, it was the last castle to be built in England. Unfortunately, when we visited the castle was encased in scaffolding, due to ongoing works to make the place waterproof. An impressive building nevertheless. From here, follow the signs to the Hunters Path and Fingle Bridge. The path descends and crosses the river at Fingle Bridge and returns along the river surrounded by oak woodland. We stopped halfway at the Fingle Bridge Inn, a delightfully-cliched country pub sat gently on the bank of the Teign River, overlooking Fingle Bridge. It’s a truly beautiful and peaceful place to have a pint. One of those places you’ll make a point to come back to if you’re ever in the area – we certainly will be.
‘R P T
My last experience of driving the Ford Mustang was on the Pacific Coast Highway from Los Angeles to Napa Valley and back. I vividly remember stopping en route at Pismo beach, to dig holes in the sand, rather childishly with the big V8 and its rear tires. I burnt badly in the sun with the roof down, ensuring I wasn’t the only lobster for dinner. And there was a gap between the rear and front windows wide enough to get your hand in to lift the locks. Some prodigious stops at wineries led to my precious cargo of some sixty bottles of wine to be locked in the boot whilst the luggage travelled in plain view on the back seat. I forgave that car everything – after all, it was a Ford Mustang. I was in California and driving the American dream.
AU T O M O T I V E : F O R D M U S TA N G
Words: ROB BELLINGER
ERSES THE ROB BELLINGER REV RTH WITH POLARITY OF THE EA ANGâ€™ THE NEW FORD MUST
PUSH PLAY TO WATCH THE FILM
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he Mustang came into being in 1964, having been a concept since 1962, with just 101 horsepower on tap. As a model, it has been available from Ford ever since, immediately becoming the doyen of the drive in, and over 9.6 million sold between 1964 and 2017. This ensured its roots in the American way of life. In the UK, however, it was available only as an unofficial import, though it soon became the chosen
weapons of those living a USA lifestyle in its iconic status and instant recognition as the UK, complete with Brylcreem and a true American muscle car. Its major fault, previously, was that it was only available as double denim. a left-hand drive variant – but now all that From the seventies, Europe had the Capri has changed. at its behest, and there wasn’t demand for the Mustang to officially cross the Atlantic. It seems rather strange in 2018, then, to be This is despite its first UK appearance looking over the familiar bonnet hump on in Goldfinger, in 1964, piloted by Tilly a B-road outside Midhurst in West Sussex. Masterson when 007 turns the toys on the You couldn’t get a road and its surroundDB5 to his advantage. After all, only a bit of ings more British if you tried. After all, we ‘Q’-magic could stop Miss Masterson from are skirting Goodwood’s boundaries with escaping in her far more reliable Ford up our course set for Thruxton. Our Cabrio the Furka Pass. Often spotted in Norfolk, has its roof down, despite the light drizzle, around US airbases and in Essex close to and we are motoring gently to keep dry. To Ford headquarters, the Mustang was a bit of say the car has presence on the road is an a curiosity in the UK. However, it retained understatement. It feels wide – yet at just
AU T O M O T I V E : F O R D M U S TA N G tang, but the lines are much sleeker, more aerodynamic. This means it stands out less than before, though this is an advantage in my view, giving the car greater appeal. Boot space is excellent in both coupé and Cabrio variants, probably aided by the fact the haunches on the vehicle are now wider. The design cues of triple-lens rear lights and front bumper ensemble are still there, delivering the DNA of the vehicle in its purest form.
doubt, though, this is a five litre V8 pushing out 410bhp. When it shows a clean pair of fetlocks, it can hit 60mph in 4.6 seconds. It does so with a deep rumble akin to a roll of thunder in the Grand Canyon; deep, controlled and reverberating back from the road surface. The exhaust note sounds like pure undoubted power as it urges you to apply more, the delivery being smooth and consistent as you move up through the gearbox.
Another reason why’s there’s so much deference to this American icon on the road is that, when in conversation, people are The overall design is now much more a never quite sure what a Mustang is capable global concept. It is still undeniably a Mus- of, or how its horses are allocated. Be in no
One of the first things you notice behind the wheel is how much the handling has improved: responsive and well mannered. Under braking you feel you are still kicking hard with the stirrups and pulling back
under two metres, it’s no wider than an Audi A5 Sportback. It is the classic design that gives it the amazing presence; the family face that screams “this is a Mustang”. On the road, this is almost an advantage, as traffic moves from the outer lane to the inner lane of the dual carriage way in part recognition, part curiosity, as it sees you approaching. The sculpted bonnet and snakelike eyes highlight the dark grill, with the familiar running horse beautifully framed by the almost elliptical mesh. But the fact that we’re on a 2018 number plate is what confuses most. This is, after all, the bestselling sports car in the world.
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on the reins – but that’s probably due to me enjoying the V8 and late brake application, as I try to squeeze every bit of fun out of the Ford. With the engine being front-mounted, there is a slight weight-bias towards the nose. You can turn this to an advantage by exploiting the understeer when required. The car, in normal use, is well-balanced and decidedly respectful. Kerb weight comes in at around 1893kg, so a little heavier than others in its class, but this leads to a solid ‘bomb proof’ feel, which I like. It rides over potholes and road imperfections with ease, almost bullying them out of the way. The steering is weighted just enough to give feeling yet leave you in no doubt where the rubber is pointing.
Seating is supportive and, given the dimensions of the vehicle, there is plenty of room for everyone. The car is genuinely comfortable and, as a 2 plus 2, allows four adults to be well looked after. I’m not sure I would want to be in the rear seats for more than an hour, though, due to snugness. Roof action on the Cabrio is slick – unlock one handle whilst stationary and the great extent of canvas drops quickly and undramatically. Move on, there’s no German roof ballet to be seen here. Handling-wise, Ford have clearly listened to feedback and judged its offering to the European marketplace well. MacPherson struts are reassuringly Euro-biased at the
front of the vehicle. The rear of the car gains an integral multi link at the rear. This is a far cry from the previous live axel variant which gave that American boat-like handling under pressure. The modifications don’t stop there: the upgraded front brakes and additional cooling ensure this will be a car to savour on the B roads on days like today. Interior plastics have reached a new level, and are sturdy, functional and smack of quality. There is, however, a lot of plastic to be seen. That said, the whole brand is going through a renaissance, and trim levels are easily equalling their Teutonic brethren. I particularly like the central three aircon
AU T O M O T I V E : F O R D M U S TA N G vents in the dash, which are nicely accented in tungsten grey. This circular theme continues through all dials and gauges. Switches are reassuringly industrial, stressing the functionality they convey. I never object to the positive ‘click’ of a toggle. Some would quibble all this and cry that the car is not luxurious enough – but not me. This all leads to a feeling of reassurance. Electronic gadgets and gizmos are top class, refining the Mustang offering. The Ford Infotainment system, with 8-inch display, has all you could require at your fingertips. It is simple to operate and not full of useless, smokescreen menu features. The Mustang is all about form and functionality, helping
to retain and reinforce its identity. Ford’s intention was for the Mustang ‘to be styled and not designed’ and this has been inherent since its conception. The surprises don’t stop there, however. In 5 litre guise you get Brembo brakes and launch control. as well as a drag-like mode called ‘line lock’. This gives the car a competitive, fun edge over its rivals, particularly if you are considering track day or sprint use. The reversing camera is a nice addition, given the car’s wide rear end; I found it to be extremely accurate. On a wet Thruxton, the car begs to be driven. Surprisingly nimble, given the weight, it gallops willingly out of the pits. Around corners, it is responsive and supple, taking
real effort to step out of shape. In fact, I must confess, I thought I’d see at least one spin pushing it towards the edge of its performance envelope, but not so. Weight transfer on all axes, particularly through the chicane, is predictable and can be used effectively to give a clean, fast, controlled lap. Fuel economy on track was eyewatering. Perhaps my only real criticism is that the fuel tank feels a little small, requiring frequent fill ups as a result. On a long road trip, this could be a mild annoyance – but then refuelling does give you the chance to admire the lines of this American beauty. The Mustang has taken a long journey since 1964, and you could view the vehicle as a modern classic. You are buying the
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heritage and associated lifestyle, but with reliability and flexibility. This car is both a good-natured commuter and an enjoyable tourer. Why choose the anonymity of another Eurobox in the coupe class when you can really make an impression, showing some original thinking wherever you go? The other Eurolookalikes never sound like this V8. And certainly, other contenders in this price bracket are just wheezing, testosterone-infused hot hatches. This car is an ideal transition vehicle for someone looking to move from a trendy, two-seater road-
ster or small coupé. On that basis alone, the Mustang becomes a more educated choice. It would make a great modern addition to a car collection, or as a Cabrio for summer use. This will never be the sensible choice, though, in the same way some old Scandinavian cars, often driven by architects, were seen as ‘quirky’. The Ford being in righthand drive now gives it the ability to make a big carpark impression; a chance to show some open thinking, to be an unrestrained spirit, like its namesake, running wild and free.
Specifications PRICE: £40,000 ENGINE: 5 Litre V8 / 410 hp TORQUE: 390lb 0-60: 4.6 seconds TOP SPEED: 155 LENGTH/WIDTH/HEIGHT: 188 / 75.4 / 54.9 WEIGHT: 1757kg unladen.
RG1-DX Words: PETER J ROBINSON Imagery: RUROC
Am I safety conscious? Not really. Not when it comes to my own personal safety. I have skydived, but not bungee jumped. I like scuba diving, but don’t feel the need to climb into a shark tank. So, somewhere in the back of my psyche, I do have a safety ripcord that I pull in the name of self-preservation. I watch the social media climbers hopping around skyscraper ledges in the Emirates thinking ‘If you fall, it’s natural selection, you dumb shit’.
ON PISTE : RUROC
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o, there it is: my limit. Somewhere between getting into water with an apex predator and running around the top of the Burj al Khalifa, there is a big red warning sign. My most extreme pastime has always been skiing. The groomed pistes of the Swiss alps are hardly a hazardous environment, but without a helmet, I have historically come in for a lot of flack. As a frequent guest of tourist boards and usually within groups, my lack of head gear always draws criticism. So much so that, last year, I took to skiing with a helmet clipped to my belt. I didn’t wear it, of course, just kept it in case anyone wanted to throw scorn. It doesn’t matter whether you stack it on piste tackling a tight, tree-lined run, or somewhere in Cham ripping through a
I wish I could sit here and be sanctimonious and say ‘I wear a helmet because it’s about safety’ couloir; without a helmet, you are at risk. I wish I could sit here and be sanctimonious and say ‘I wear a helmet because it’s about safety’. Truthfully, I love nothing more than sashaying down the piste with a pair of wayfarers on my head to keep me
safe. To make it even more interesting, I like to ski with headphones, so that I can be completely blinkered from any safety advice the nearest skier might be screaming at me. For the 17/18 season, I started the search for decent ear candy a little late. I spent the better part of an hour googling various snow-sports outlets, looking for earphones that wouldn’t spark out if I stacked it. So they needed to be waterproof, bluetooth, and ideally able to change track, volume and pause without my phone leaving my pocket. Having scrolled through at least thirty different options, I remembered an in-helmet setup a friend had shown me years ago. A hybrid, somewhere between a fighter pilot helmet and a call-centre headpiece that you implant. Luckily, this was six years ago, so the tech has come considerably further along. Enter Ruroc spraying a huge wave of powder. I wasn’t in the market for a helmet – I was looking for a considerably smaller setup – but once you see them: ‘shut up and take my money’. The RG1-DX range is the platform on which Ruroc’s snowboard and ski range is built. The helmets comprise of a hardened ABS shell, a patented RAID EPS liner, magnetic frame MagLoc goggles, the world’s first fully-ventilated magnetic lens, a high-impact face mask, an action camera mount, x-visor, a washable comfort liner and an optional shockwave audio adaptation kit. The bragging rights people, the bragging rights. If you’re thinking £195 is expensive for
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bragging rights, firstly your insane, and secondly think about the safety aspect to justify it instead. I never wore a cycle helmet. The wonderful granny Robinson lovingly went out and brought me a top tier cycling helmet. Did I wear it? No. I wouldn’t have been caught dead. But had that cycling helmet been made by Ruroc, I would have become a brand ambassador overnight. We took the RG1-DX Ghost, Chrome and Titan out to Morzine to see how the brave new world of safety would fare on the slopes. Basically, I became a selfie-magnate. Never with the full helmet on, though. People saw the brutal exterior and knew better than to bother me. They waited until I had taken it off and placed it on the deck before coming over for to scope it. For me, the most outlandish of the three was the limited edition Chrome. As the name suggests, the entire helmet is chromed out. Nothing says ‘look at me’ louder, I can assure you. Not usually my default approach to life, but it’s just that cool. It doesn’t need any more explanation than that. I found myself wearing it into bars on-piste, before taking it off just to gauge reaction. I should have brought business cards. The face mask section clips out allowing you to sup that all important first beer whilst playing full stereo audio in-helmet and take calls on the lift up. Sure, it gave me an additional two things to lose, but it’s hard to lose something the size of your head, unless it’s a full yard sale. Not sleeping on the job, the guys at Ruroc also have the Atlas Shockwave system for you. Yes, it is designed for road use, but there has to be a way we can get the 4-way rider-to-rider system into a snow-sports setup. Anything that saves me explaining to airport security why I have eight walkie talkies in my bag every trip. Oh, and this snow-sports movement isn’t being led from the US, no. Sure, they have global reach and a hardened retail network, but this revolution is based in the UK. That’s right: the alpine mecca that is Gloucester is home to the Ruroc team. You don’t have to buy British, but when a myriad of international random snowboarders are sliding up to you for details, it’s just nice to put down a thin layer of national supremacy. TR
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Evian Resort Words: SARAH MORGAN
T R AV E L : E V I A N R E S O RT
he fascination of ‘taking the waters’ for health and wellbeing seems to be imprinted in the human condition.
From the Turkish baths of the Ottoman Empire, and the great bathhouses of the Roman Empire, to the modern sophisticated spa, we have used water as part of many social, physical and spiritual rituals. Hot springs, cold springs, sulphur springs, sea water, river water, mountain water: this precious natural commodity has provided external and internal therapy for every generation and culture. So, given the opportunity to review Evian, the source of one of the world’s best-known mineral waters, and home to the renovated Evian Resort, I jumped on the short flight to Geneva, crossing over the Swiss-French border to discover more about this extraordinary village, its history and magical waters, whilst also experiencing the equally-magical Evian Resort. The Evian Resort is grand in every way, comprising two luxury hotels, three distinctly-different spas, a stunning golf resort and academy, a casino, and the extraordinary Grange Au Lac, a 1,200-seat venue crafted entirely out of pine and red cedar. An extraordinary collection of best-in-class amenities, all born from one simple fact: that this area, with its unique geographical mix of lake and mountains, delivers one of the purist waters in the world. The genesis of the Evian story is in the Belle Epoque era, in 1789, when the Count of Laizer, a man of science, discovered the benefits of drinking the crystal-clear, ‘easily-absorbed’ mountain water that surfaced in four original springs in Evian. The unique nature and composition of the mineral water, after its extraordinary 15-year journey from raindrop to spring, through a hydro-geographical site formed over 35,000 years ago, is simply a miracle of nature. And no surprise, it has been drawing people from every corner of the earth every since it was discovered. Indeed, Evian is considered to be the most evenlybalanced mineral water in the world. The first thermal baths started
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European bourgeoisie in 1824, when they came to take the water for its healing properties. Whilst our European ancestors may have started the trend, it is one that has continued with as much vigour to this day. In fact, the therapeutic benefits of Evian’s water are formally recognised by the National Academy of Medicine, allowing many doctors across Europe to ‘prescribe’ regular visits to Evian to embark on a specific health programme related to rheumatology, bone and joint problems, digestive and urinary complaints, metabolic disorders, as well as help with overall health and well-being. Unsurprising, therefore, that Les Thermes Evian is at the heart of the Evian Resort, a stunning, light-filled contemporary thermal spa that sits overlooking the majestic Lake Geneva and offers over 30 therapy rooms, one thermal pool, two steam rooms, one sauna, three training rooms,
and one leisure pool. Refurbished in 2012, by architect Oliver Chabaud, the spa blends views of the lake with the snow-capped mountains. In turn, this creates the perfect balance of a medical clinic and relaxed atmosphere. Visitors benefit from over a century’s experience of using Evian’s powerful natural resource, with the very latest techniques to help heal and rebalance the body. And as I stepped into the space, something definitely shifted down a gear. Needless to say, the spa’s vast list of hydro-treatments is matched by a list of aristocratic, celebrity and well-heeled guests, who have travelled over the years to enjoy this stunning place and imbibe the water. Indeed, as discerning travellers came to take the waters at Evian, so a collection of glorious facilities emerged to host, entertain and fulfill their needs.
In 1905, the Evian Water Company commissioned the construction of a luxury hotel and named it in honour of the prestigious guests that it was geared to host. Originally designed by Jean Albert Hebrard, the hotel is a true Grande Dame of her era, sitting majestically like some sort of cruise liner overlooking the Lake Geneva in over 45 acres of pristine, manicured grounds; her style is a mix of Art Nouveau and Art Déco. Everything about this hotel exudes class and elegance, as if you’re stepping back in time to an entirely more genteel existence. But the hotel’s past was not always glittering, having served as a grand convalescent rest home for wounded soldiers who, during World War Two, came to recover from physical and mental trauma. In 2012, under the guidance of interior designer Francois
Champsaur and historical architect Francois Chatillon, this highlyregarded Centennial hotel was restored to its former radiant glory, whilst introducing a sprinkling of contemporary style and design. The result is extraordinarily beautiful. Both grand and gracious, it is situated in the most prestigious of locations, offering all the luxuries and mod cons that you could possibly wish for. The Royal offers 150 rooms and suites, a chic bar, La Veranda and L’Oliveraie and, its showpiece gastronomic restaurant, Les Fresques, which offers signature dishes that truly celebrate the local produce. The Royal also boasts its very own spa, the Evian Source, which unlike its sister spa, is less contemporary, but oozes light and serenity with its stunning indoor and outdoor infinity pool, an outdoor hydro contact trail, aqua gym, jacuzzis, steam rooms, sauna and gymnasium.
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The Royal has a dedicated sport and culture team, who are on hand to arrange anything and everything, including skiing, dog sleighing, paragliding, mountaineering, hiking, canyoning, white-water rafting, sailing, or water-skiing on Lake Geneva. They even offer a full-rental service, so you can fly in with just your overnight bag and they will kit you out from head to toe. For a more relaxed family stay, The Ermitage, situated a short stroll from The Royal, offers a quieter splendour. Built in a grand Savoyard chalet style, the hotel neither sacrifices the breath-taking views of Lake Geneva, nor the excellent standards of service and design. Like its sister hotel, The Ermitage also has a history of attracting the chicest of guests, particularly in its early days, before becoming a dedicated hospital. The Evian Water Company has taken the hotel back to its halcyon days and created an entirely more intimate cosy atmosphere, with big log fires, bars and games rooms, as well as numerous restaurants including La Table, La Biblioteque, Le Birdie and La Chaise Longue.
The spa here is the Spa Quatre Terres, which has nine treatment rooms, a relaxation area, a gym, sauna and steam, as well as two heated pools. So, after a day in the mountains, you can return to this haven to be pampered, before curling up next to the fire with a book. Guests staying at either The Royal or The Ermitage can use the wonderful kids club that has everything to entertain from toddlers to teens. And if that wasn’t enough, for the adults, there’s the Evian Casino and Golf Club too. The golf course, made in 1904 , was one of the first ever courses opened in France. Now, this magnificent 18-hole green and Academy features an inspiring alpine backdrop and views overlooking Lake Geneva. The ‘mineral’ par-72 course and its facilities ooze the same standard of excellence and attention to detail that are so apparent at every place that make up the resort. Whilst it may have originally been the purity of the water that drew people to Evian, this luxury resort and the local area, is what makes it even more special now. Evian water may be pure, but the Evian Resort is pure luxury. TR
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AU T O M O T I V E : V O LV O X C 9 0
XC 90 Words: PETER J ROBINSON
My first encounter with a Volvo came in the form of a friendâ€™s motherâ€™s 245, sitting outside her modest home like a trusted family friend. The Volvo 200 series ran from 1974 to 1993, selling over 2.8 million units and becoming ubiquitous with British life in the process. It was overtly safety-conscious; the equivalent of fitting your child with lifelong orange armbands. But the idea that a car represents a certain set of society is becoming rarer as the automotive industry rushes to build as many vehicles with international appeal, using as few distinctive parts as possible.
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espite being regarded as decidedly Swedish, fast forward to 2017 and we’ve seen the Americans take a decade’s turn in the driving seat, and even the Chinese manufacturer Geely take the wheel. Rather than run into fire with
an immediate new model aimed at the European market to revitalise profits, Volvo have transformed back into a Swedish car company with a remit to develop a global perspective, and an $11 billion research and development budget. The Swedish car brand synonymous with security was being given a big reboot.
The new Volvo XC90 is the brand’s second-generation edition, the former was launched at the 2002 North American International Auto Show and went on to be Volvo’s bestselling model worldwide in 2005. Such was the appetite for the XC90 that 3,500 UK customers didn’t even need to smell its nappa leather or hear the Bowers and Wilkins stereo before transferring the
AU T O M O T I V E : V O LV O X C 9 0
funds to purchase one. The first 1927 of the individuallynumbered cars sold out in just 47 hours. The initial production run represents the date the Swedish brand was launched. The first was given to Carl XVI Gustav the King of Sweden, whilst number ten was offered to Swedish football pro Zlatan Ibrahimović.
It has been a long time since a press vehicle arrived at my door in black – onyx black to be precise. It cut a rather handsome figure and was taller than I had expected. That isn’t to say that Volvo hasn’t stayed somewhat true to its boxy architecture to incorporate 5-foot 9-inches of human in its third row of seats. The last time I drove something that could comfortably carry seven-plus luggage
was likely a long wheel base Defender 110. That said, ‘comfortably’ is the entirely wrong word to use; it was more like being shouted at through an impeller blade whilst watching the road through a blender. The XC90 is a far more civilised affair. Our flavour of the XC90 was the T6 petrol-engined AWD inscription with
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charcoal interior. It was so understated I could visualise the Swedish PM in full convoy across the Øresund. The inscription sits at the top of the tree with the R-Design and Momentum packages picking up the rear and throws a rather hefty list of options at the XC90’s polished exterior and interior. Now I have spent some years testing out the performance-car world’s great and good – mostly so I can speak with confidence at various motoring dinners – and the XC90 is the first SUV I have climbed into. My first impressions were how ergonomic the dash and driving position were. With less than ten buttons, the main control of the vehicle’s bellsand-whistles comes in the form of a 9 inch dashboard screen. In a world occupied with the user interface, we do appear to approach new layouts with a certain amount of trepidation. We’ve all become accustomed to the layout stylings of the late Steve Jobs, and generally balk at the prospect of being presented with a new daily drive interface. However, with the XC90 paired to my iPhone, the tablet-style screen organised the usual clutter found in the modern cockpit with stern efficiency. Cue Luciano Pavarotti singing Vesti la Giubba from Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci. My music taste can often be described as eclectic, so this should
a little homogenised. You only have to look at the Evoque and Discovery Sport to see what I’m talking about. Seeing identical marques of your beloved car on the road is nothing surprising, but for me, it can make the experience feel a little less special. I didn’t spot another new model XC90 the entire time I had the vehicle, which could also be a testament to just how rural our testing area My first outing was to Lower Slaughter was, as the old model was prevalent on each Manor with obsessive petrolhead Alexander and every A-road. Jaskowski, who is occasionally capable of The real test, of course, came when non-car based conversation – though rarely. I first had to explain that this was not a diesel hauling a family of five plus myself and or a hybrid; it was actually the T6 petrol ample luggage. With the boot open you model which is arguably a thirsty inclination can lower the rear suspension with the push of the marque. The D5 is a rather relaxed of a button to allow for easier loading and performer, whereas the T8 Hybrid is the unloading. Not entirely necessary for three quickest (so I’m told). We circled the XC90 suitcases and a rucksack, but it certainly for 15 minutes, muttering to ourselves and made all the difference when the XC90 was proclaiming how handsome it was before filled with production gear. With the rear trying to work out what this model conveys cover removed, the third-row seats popped up with ease, so the shortest amongst us to passers-by, let alone other Volvo drivers. settled in for his two-hour journey to Upper I remember driving around Cheltenham Swell. The family were quick to point out on my travels and becoming aware of just their favourite fixtures in the Volvo. Built-in how many Range Rovers there are on the sun-blinds, thick pile floors, and the range roads today. With the disappearance of the of simple yet effective audio options were all Defender, I am inclined to agree with my highlighted as exemplary features. peers that the brand is becoming more than not be a surprise to anyone. As I scrolled through the XC90 console in search of the equaliser controls for the 19 Bowers and Wilkins speakers, I found myself switching to the Gothenburg Concert Hall. The sound is tremendous, although when hauling the family, I was gaslighted into keeping it in the lower end of the sound spectrum.
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AU T O M O T I V E : V O LV O X C 9 0
On the road, the XC90 certainly had some grunt, the T6 8-speed automatic delivered pulling power in Eco, Comfort and Performance without me ever needing more. If you buy an SUV for the purpose of hauling the family for the occasional holiday across country, you shouldn’t really need more than a 6.1 second 0-60 time. That’s what you buy the additional two-seater sports car for. The one area that gave me most joy was the XC90’s pilot assist. With limited time to fully research and evaluate the cars autonomous functions, the only option I had was to trial her south bound on the M5. My research program was somewhat unconventional, how much of a beautiful baked artisan sausage roll from the Gloucester Farm services could I dip into a tiny pot of ketchup in Pilot Assist mode. It turns out the whole thing, with only minimal flaky pastry being lost to the ether. It transpires that the function is best deployed during traffic, keeping in lane, starting, stopping, and generally allows you to sit back and relax with the massaging seats in full effect. It does work up to 80mph and will allow you to accurately dip your sausage roll into some form of sauced based confectionary with ‘no hands’. With a family in the car and some of the Cotswolds finest winding roads ahead of us, I thought it best to take the family off the beaten track, so they could see the hills of the British countryside. At around 60mph, there were some concerns from the rear that should I want to avoid redecorating the rear seats with a child’s inflight meal, I should hasten our progress a little. I did explain that driving at less than 40 mph on a national speed limited road was criminal for all but a few octogenarians that may have fought in a war, but I did eventually relent. Not before explaining that a vehicle with less than 2000 miles on the clock and a kerb weight of 2 tons couldn’t possibly create motion so vigorous as to cause a regurgitation. It transpired however that upon my first ride in the back seat I can confirm that the ride is a little less wafting than I had expected. The adaptive air suspension was clearly doing its best but with six people in tow and a less than happy child on board, I did relent to a slower pace. I honestly don’t know how parents do it without fitting some form of ejector seat to their children. One element I was keen to evaluate was the auto-parking feature. As someone who feels that reverse parking a sports car
doesn’t need much effort these days, I was eager to see how hands-off the seven-seater experience would be. I tried briefly to reverse park the car using the auto-park function in Broadway into an entirely feasible space, but clearly hadn’t set the system up correctly. So, after 30 seconds of panicked-looking tourists in unsuitable countryside cars flying past, I decided to go manual. The true test of the cars prowess came during an outing to Stow on the Wold a few days later when we watched the Volvo reverse park itself in a show of engineering excellence rivalled only by the first test flight of concord. The idea of a vehicle manoeuvring itself unaided was more than a little inspiring for the group. Zero temperatures were braved and the inevitable stroll to the pub was temporarily postponed to test the XC90 in a variety of tight spots. All of which were dispensed with ease, making it the bad parker’s family car of choice. If you’ve never come across the 360 bird’s-eye view cameras, now becoming a standard install on larger vehicles, you’ll swear they are witchcraft. If you’ve opted for the 21-inch alloy wheels that come with the Inscription Pro, you will need it. All things considered, the Volvo XC90 took a much firmer grip on my senses than I had expected. It feels much less like an SUV and more like a large passenger car on the road. With enough storage space to satisfy even the largest of trips to Ikea, it’s a formidable marque. It might have cost the brand a pretty penny to bring the XC90 to life, but it’s money well spent. The XC90 is available from £49,905. Our model as tested comes in at £69,880 with a three-year 60,000 mile warranty, and its resale values are amongst the best in the class. TR
Specifications PRICE: £69,990 ENGINE: T6 / 320 hp 0-60: 6.1 seconds TOP SPEED: 143 LENGTH/WIDTH/HEIGHT: 4950 / 2140 / 1776 WEIGHT: 2750kg unladen. CONSUMPTION: U:28.0 EU: 40.4
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T R AV E L : D O N N I N G T O N B R E W E RY
Words: PETER J ROBINSON
Images: SCREAMING EAGLE
I grew up with a generation that drank beer from dimpled glass mugs. Now a well-documented supping receptacle of the hipster elite, the Great British dimpled beer mug is, for me, a relic of a simpler time. Before pop-up bars and men without enough testosterone tried to grow moustaches, we finished work at Manual Labour Ltd and headed for the local. I suppose it helped that my grandfather came from West Hartlepool, served in three branches of the armed services and did, indeed, drink from a P404. That was the factory name given to the humble mug in 1938 at the Ravenhead Glassworks in St Helens, Lancashire. My grandparentsâ€™ family home had pewter pint tankards, Babycham saucers and steins, not to mention some pretty-formidable homebrew bottled in old Grolsch bottles.
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y grandmother has never been a drinker though, despite being raised in India to an IrishFranco family. My grandfather, however, the hardened Geordie, loved an IPA, Sour Mash, Canadian Club, or a Stout. Not to mention his efforts at brewing and making his patented rocket fuel. During my twenties, I never had a taste for the sort of stiff drinks my uncles imbibed, let alone my mother, but that’s a biography for another time. Beer was the weapon of choice for every
family celebration or commiseration I can remember. And I’m sad to say, I never really had the taste for it in my twenties. It actually took a trip to a brewery, with beer literally on tap, to acquire a taste for the tipple my kin held dear.
were as keen as I to open a beer. As I pulled into the courtyard with the XC90 in full lock at a couple of corners, on a decent camber, I was faced with an Alice-in-Wonderland-grade estate. The occasional gate aside and, yes, there are livestock to be kept in check, this was untouched British countryside.
I arrived at Old Brewery House at the Donnington Brewery after briefly assessing the coordinates of the location somewhat inaccurately. I had missed two entrance roads, made a U-turn and gone past a road-closed sign to find the mythically-placed brewer. It was a mild enough evening in December, believe it or not, and with a family of five in tow, they
A hearty English home with lengthy tables and shutters to keep the proper tourists out. I rolled the XC90 onto level ground, opened all the doors and released the Dutch contingent to the wind. They were here for a fleeting weekend invasion to celebrate Sinterklass. Plainly put, it’s Dutch Christmas. Same Santa and buying toys for people with kids but
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with less alcohol and more civility. Also, their monarch doesn’t give a speech which we can all agree is a bad show. On the other hand, I was in a brewery, so if Willem-Alexander sits quietly in the corner and doesn’t bother anyone, he can choose not to address his Dutch subjects. So, having reeled in the ring leader of the Dutch and their consignment of diabetesinducing treats from the garden, I set them to finding the keys and front door. I counted about 10 fully-fledged battering-ram-worthy entrances. Arguably, some were to the brewery, but a door’s a door, people. Luckily, there was a shelf filled with nine crates of beer. It
made for a strong start. The house is a pretty blank canvas in terms of styling. Oversized boot room, mammoth kitchen, front room with stove and views of the guard peacocks. Not to mention the TV room to pile in the spawn, four sizeable bedrooms – and a fucking brewery. What more do you honestly need for god’s sake. I spent the weekend organising a culturally-relevant, child-friendly, beautifully-landscaped, piss up. This book writes itself, and it’s titled ‘Build It & They Will Come’. After a night spent being thanked and appreciated for effectively doing my job and sinking
four beers, I retired to a bed that enveloped and coddled me in equal measure. I woke to a view from Jane Austen: ivy and moss liberally covering old Cotswold stone, a waterwheel and stream attached to a boat-worthy lake, and an army of white and black swans – which, I should point out, will follow you around the side of the lake path like you’re a featherless messiah. Seriously. They are in the foreground of every picture I took, through their own personal choice. Free willed swans appreciate a brewery. Established in 1865, the Donnington Brewery serves some 17 pubs in the Cotswold region. Throw a stone, you’ll hit one. Someone knew
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this location had potential. It’s effortlessly beautiful, remote, untouched by modernity. Now, you can’t access the chemical element of the brewing process during the weekend at will of course. Other people need to drink that precious beer, and you filling your glass up by hand from a barrel isn’t what our forefathers had in mind. No. You tie your horse up and you order your beer properly, by walking in and picking up a crate. Or by using the outside fridge. Take the beer, leave the funds, country life is trusting and deserves respect. It has moral fibre, but doesn’t beat its chest. It knows its elite compared to the city. Usually because of the side-by-sides and people riding on horseback. As homely as we all felt and as committed to emptying a brewery as I was, we did intend to show the Dutch what it means to ‘escape
to the country’ in England. Stow on the Wold for a host of traditional fair, not to mention some decent eateries, and ten-minutes’ drive further, you’ll find Daylesford Farm. It’s like John Lewis, Fortnum and Michael Eavis got
“A Hearty English home with lengthy tables and shutters to keep the proper tourists out.” together and thought ‘how can we make this organic farming profitable in a way that leaves people spell bound?’ Get supplies, get cheese and cram as much from the deli into your family bus as you can. It sells itself.
Next on the list was the Slaughters. Upper or Lower. You’ve got a few options, but whichever you go for, visit the Old Mill gift shop at the end of the village. Anyone stocking furs and leather bags that make me look twice knows what they’re doing. I still have a Martley Gladstone bag on my shopping list. The Riverside tea room is also a welcome escape from the handful of tourists that make it through the village. If you are looking to cater to a larger group, then the Slaughters Manor House is a beautiful 17th century, three AA rosette establishment that has typical English country home charm. Best to call ahead, though, as they are more likely to be hosting a wedding than lunch. I have arrived twice at the property to meet friends for drinks to be told that the manor is booked for a private event. The onus should be on me to call ahead and book, or at
least check availability, but I like to be able to walking. I did not lay eyes on the Motoring arrive anywhere without a reservation and be Museum or Model Village. I was so close to welcomed with open arms. walking into the model railway area, I had my modest fee in hand before being hastily beckIf you’ve made it to the Slaughters, follow the oned outside. The rule is simple: beer is served river Eye for about one kilometre south and in England and Wales to those of 18 years or you’ll find yourself at The Coach and Horses, older; do not bring anyone of non-drinking a Donnington Brewery pub. Pop in for a pint age. Unless you are a family, or grandparent, or of Gold and watch the world go by. Post-pint, have absolutely no choice. I wanted to do eveI absolutely recommend taking a stroll down rything that a 10-year-old does: models and to the Model Village, Cotswold Motoring cars. It isn’t my fault that ten-year-olds aren’t Museum or Model Railway in neighbouring what they were. Bourton on the Water. Sadly, having frogmarched the Dutch, including a filthy pu- Then next destination on my hit list was bescent teenager, across the fields to the next Broadway Tower, an idyllic Saxon tower built town, spirits amongst the younger members of by James Wyatt in 1798, featuring turrets, batthe troop were low. As such, it was suggested tlements and gargoyles, not to mention balcothat having arrived and briefly looked around nies. I remember being dragged by my mother the Railway Shop on the high street, I return to see it on a few occasions. It transpires that to collect the Volvo to avoid any unnecessary you can no longer park your car in the local,
hastily-built small car park and ascend to the tower. Now you must park in the visitors’ centre and pay some £50 as a family to visit. I personally would advise climbing over a fence and walking the 100 metres to the tower to see it as I did when I was a child. In a perfect world, you will be met with a local volunteer complete with walky-talky and tabard, who will hastily ask to see your ticket, just so you knock them to the floor with anything heavy you have. Perhaps the beer was starting to take effect. One location that typifies what a traditional Cotswold market town looks like is Broadway. And as we couldn’t see a thing at the tower, we decided it was time for tea and cake. Broadway is beautiful, and there is no better place for a winter or summer stroll. The art gallery is of such repute it boasts a security guard out front to keep the tourists away.
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After a busy day sightseeing, all you really yearn for is an open fire and a pint. Every evening, we would return to base to cook a family meal and talk about the day’s adventures. The pace of life slows dramatically when surrounded by nature. Plus the fun we had dodging the guard peacocks and trying to spot fish in the stream
or seeing exactly how friendly the swans were. Donnington Brewery is a true escape; one of the last bastions of rural escape. Even if it hadn’t had gallons of beer, black swans, or a low flying chinook at breakfast, it would still be a magnificent property and estate.
Spend a week at Old Brewery House with Olivers Travels from £1785 - £3749 per week. The property sleeps eight people, has four bedrooms and four bathrooms. For more information contact Olivers Travels on 0800 133 7999 or go to www.oliverstravels.com
First-time buyers need to put down an average £33,000 deposit to get on the property ladder*.
Saving is a very fine thing, especially when your parents have done it for you. S I R W I N S TON C H U R C H I L L
Contact your St. James’s Place Partner for more information about investing for children. Halifax First-Time Buyer Review, 2017.
The value of an investment with St. James’s Place will be directly linked to the performance of the funds selected and may fall as well as rise.You may get back less than you invested.
T R AV E L : S H A N G R I L A PA R I S
Paris Words: OLIVER SMITH
Having worked in marketing for many years, I take an interest in the branding of products and what the companies behind them choose as a name. Itâ€™s is often quite revealing, as to the intentions or perception that a company has for its product. You must also bear in mind that it sets a level of expectation for the consumer â€“ so when a bold claim is made, they had better back it up.
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ne such claim is naming the Shangri-La hotel in Paris. your hotel group Shangri-La. After spending a long weekend with some friends at their beautiful chateau just outside of Novelist John Hilton Epernay, I hopped into the new Aston Martin (no link) came up with Vanquish and headed off on the short blast the concept in his 1933 to Paris for the night. I always tend to build a novel, Lost Horizon. It was described as a picture in my head of how I remember places mythical place at the western-end of the Kunlun that I’ve been to, and they never seem to live up Mountains. This ethereal paradise is famous in to it upon my physical return. Paris, however, is popular culture and certainly sets the bar for one of those places that persistently surpasses
and delights my expectations. With that is the driving: fast, furious and very tight (particularly at the wheel of someone else’s £250,000 carbonfibre, hand-built supercar). Upon arrival at Shangri-La, you drive off the road into a small concourse in front of a truly stunning piece of architecture. It’s so unashamedly chic that you subconsciously feel yourself reaching for the Gauloises and ordering Pernod.
Tapping lightly up the steps to the entrance and swishing through a large glass door into an air-conditioned sanctuary is bliss to escape the 35-degree Parisian heat. The foyer is breathtaking, warm marble and high ceilings with fresh flowers and no sense of overcrowding. The perfect antidote to the rush hour in France’s heart. The staff are slick and helpful without being sycophantic. I am shown to my room, and the view that awaits me is quite something. I laze on the bed with my sights full of the Eiffel
Tower. I am told reassuringly that “We are the French architecture (as you may think). Many closet hotel to the Eiffel Tower, sir, by almost of the guests are from China and the Far East, ten meters”. Every bit counts. which bodes well for the table that I have booked in the hotel’s Michelin-starred restaurant The bathroom is bigger than most people’s that evening. Initially I felt hypocritical about living rooms, and the only thing that surprised coming to this city and eating Chinese, but then me about the tub itself was the fact that it didn’t I realised that I was still harbouring the British have lanes and its own lifeguard. preconception that Chinese food is a slightly lazy takeaway and never fine dining. I was very The hotel has a strong oriental flavour running much looking forward to challenging this and throughout, which doesn’t clash with the learning more about what the East had to offer.
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Post-brush-up, I headed down to the restaurant. After tripping over numerous wealthy Chinese individuals dressed in a manner that can only be described as an explosion in the most vulgar luxury-branded t-shirt shop, I arrived. I’m not afraid to admit that I have little notion surrounding the etiquette with Chinese food, so I was happy to follow the waiters lead when it came to the ins and outs of the various courses. They blew away any preconceptions that I may have had: fresh food with stunning light flavours, which worked very well with the wines that the sommelier picked. If you find yourself in Paris, then I cannot recommend highly enough that you give Le Deus Magots a rest and visit this place. You will not be disappointed.
Tottering off to bed and feeling content, I slept like a baby (a baby full of wine and Michelin-starred food). The next morning, I was given a tour of the hotel by the delightful Clemence. They have a secondary, more traditional restaurant on site, which was closed for refurbishment during my stay, but is high on my list of return visits. I was shown the upstairs rooms that resemble a mini-Versailles, with their floor-to-ceiling mirrors, and was told that during Paris fashion week, many designer brands hire this space for their catwalk shows. The icing on the cake was the 20,000 euro per night suite which overlooks the Eiffel Tower. I enquired about how often it was occupied, and Clemence told me that it was taken 70% of the time, mostly to block bookings of 3-4 weeks. You do the maths.
The final flourish was their ‘slightly cheaper’ offering at 18,000 euro per night. This was the most fabulous suite I have ever seen, which encompasses one of the emperor Napoleon’s old rooms. Apparently Angelina Jolie likes to stay here after a hard day of highlighting the plight of the poor. What can I say about Shangri-La Paris? Well, the clue, I think, is in the name. It’s traditional in the way that you feel at ease, but at the same time, it’s the right side of chic. Not pretentious, but fabulous. It doesn’t feel like some edgier Parisian hotels and that is certainly to its credit. At the end of the day, folks, it’s a five-star hotel in the most beautiful city in the world. What do you expect? TR
FIVE BELLS - BRABOURNE Words: OLIVER SMITH
he rain in ‘the Garden of England’ was coming down, as only it can in August: heavily. As I nosed the car into the car park of the Five Bells Inn, I was pleased to see the warm light emanating from the bar area. I was en route to Paris and wanted a civilised overnight stop not too far from the Eurotunnel terminal at Folkestone (20 minutes away to be precise) the night before. Civilised
is certainly the word for the Five Bells. Standing in the doorway, giving off the appearance of a wet dog, I was greeted with a smile and shown through the warm bar, busy with the hubbub of lunchtime, and up to my room. The creaky narrow staircase is full of old-world charm and adds to the cosy feel of what was looking to be a real find. The room I was staying in was called ‘Ortega’. It had a wonderful combination of rural charm and country chic. The centrepiece has to be the enormous freestanding copper bathtub that dominates the beautiful bathroom. Roughing it? Not a chance! The far-reaching rural views add to the tranquil-
lity as you begin to feel nestled in a small, untouched corner of old England. Ablutions performed and a drink beckoned. Once downstairs, the lunchtime diners had ebbed away and I perused the bar. The selection of gins is particularly impressive, and the fishbowl glasses add a sense of tradition to the British classic. I ordered a pint of the local bitter and was asked the question of questions: ‘Would you like a glass with a handle?’. As I flicked my imaginary silk scarf over my shoulder and wondered if I had left the keys in my Hawker Hurricane, I responded with delighted (and excited schoolboy-esque)
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‘YES PLEASE!’ You cannot beat a pint with a handle. It felt a little like being at home. Not in the way that everything was covered in dog hair and the washing up needed doing, but that a relaxed atmosphere flowed throughout. Some places feel a little overmanaged with lots of dos and don’ts preventing you from truly relaxing – but not here. A home from home. The Five Bells is part of a small group of inns, under the heading of Ramble Inns. The reason for the ‘Ramble’ in the title is that they are within rambling distance of each other (the Woolpack in Warehorne and the Globe Inn Marsh in Rye). If you like
the idea of a walking holiday, though not the idea of people who have no concept of personal space, wear gaiters, and think that a Porsche is a small building on the front of your house, then all is saved. However, if the walking all gets a bit much and you suddenly find yourself sober, then they will send a broom wagon to sweep you up, take you onto your destination and see that you are returned to a suitable state of refreshment. As the dull rainy afternoon turned into night, thoughts of filling one’s belly beckoned. The relaxed feel continues with a sit where you like policy for dinner, which allows you to hunt out cosy corners. As you would expect
from an establishment in a county with so much coastline, the variety of seafood on offer was plentiful and, from what I saw of other diners’ orders, tempting. However, if you prefer your fish in small plastic bags, handed out to children by gypsies – as I do – then there is a good selection of land-based delights. My choice of steak, paired with a well-recommended Malbec, was certainly no regret. The experience was enhanced tenfold by the staff. As a self-respecting Englishman, I’m happy to admit that I don’t really like people, and usually try to maintain a healthy
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“As a self-respecting Englishman, I’m happy to admit that I don’t really like people , and usually try to maintain a healthy weather-chat based distance.”
weather-chat based distance, but these folks are genuinely superb. I really mean that. Helpful and attentive without being sycophantic, as well as friendly and full of useful suggestions. It’s a pity that a career in service in the UK is often viewed as a stop-gap between jobs, as it’s a profession that takes skill, professionalism and capability. Because of this, we seem to suffer poor service from stroppy, resentful people. But not here. The staff at Five Bells Inn should be proud. Alas, with departure at 6am to catch the
Eurotunnel, I unfortunately had to skip breakfast. Not relishing the prospect of a journey on an empty stomach, you can probably imagine my delight when an unprompted chopping board of croissants and jams were presented to me to take up to my room after dinner, along with fresh orange juice to keep me going early the next morning. These, ladies and gentlemen, are the differences, the little touches, which create the gap between just a great stay and something you tell others about. As I climbed the wooden hill to bed, it did
cross my mind that perhaps Paris could wait for another day, and I could stay to sample more of the delights that this place has to offer. In fine weather, I challenge you to find a prettier spot. The following morning, departing the inn as dawn began to turn into day, I felt a little wistful to be leaving. Whether it’s a stop-off on the way to la belle France or a romantic weekend away, I really would recommend that you stay here. All the best bits of Blighty in one place.
THE COLLEGE HOTEL Words: PETER J ROBINSON
Fifty-five minutes. How could this be possible? Had the earth dramatically shifted on its axis whilst I was sleeping? Or was my infantile grasp of European geography that bad? I remember paying close attention during school lessons, especially when we were building volcanoes. Perhaps I was skiving at the end of the school field when the Lowlands were covered. It astounded me that I could board a flight and be in the Netherlands in an hour. Clogs, gouda and local knowledge to one side, I clearly needed to go back to school.
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boarded my KLM flight on a bitter December afternoon in the somewhat grey area between Christmas and New Year. That period when you lay motionless on the sofa or in bed like a corpse, knowing that you should move to work off that festive feast, but lack the will to do so.
Pitiful. Rather than fall into the territory of mirroring the sloths on Planet Earth II, I booked myself lodgings and left Blighty for somewhere surprisingly colder. A flight, train and Uber later, I arrived outside The College Hotel. This four-star urban escape is housed in a former school building, built in 1895. It houses 40 rooms,
a restaurant and bar, and is located on the Roelof Hartplein in the centre of the fashion and museum district. Donâ€™t worry about dressing to impress, though, just find the thickest warmest coat you can and sew yourself in. Itâ€™s colder in Amsterdam in December than a Belstaff can handle. I live and learn.
T R AV E L : T H E C O L L E G E H O T E L The negative temperature wasn’t on my mind when I checked in with my own personal Dutch guide, Florean. High ceilings and a design sensitivity to the buildings history match plush furnishings and impressive chandeliers with a prep school sensibility that is really rather gezellig. For those that have never encountered a Dutch person, there is no literal English translation for the
word. It means cozy, quaint or warm – but to the Dutch, it conveys so much more. The College Hotel gave me my first new lesson. It is staffed by a combination of full-time employees and students seeking to perfect their standards. The ratio is about 60/40 staff to students, so expect highservice level. The need to please and offer five-star interaction is beyond reproach. You remember how eager and attentive you were when you started out in a new job; it’s like that, every day, but without being overbearing. With minimal luggage, we took the lift to the first floor and checked into a smart junior suite. There seems to be a trend towards dusky lighting this year with some hotels replacing standard ceiling fittings with romantic mood lighting on the walls. The College Hotel is one of the few places where this works very well. Dark furnishings with the heaviest curtains known to man provided an air of ‘seal the doors and don’t disturb’. I had two errands to complete before stepping out into the crisp night air: the first, to order some champagne (the house standard is Laurent Perrier); the second, to wrap no less than five presents. Note to self: glitter-accosted wrapping paper is on the embargo list next year. It took me days to remove the twinkling flecks from a deliberately dark travel wardrobe. Having exchanged gifts and unpacked, I was eager to see what the local area had to offer. I’d heard conflicting stories about Amsterdam’s famous canals and gregarious nightlife, and remember groups of eager friends hopping on flights to Amsterdam for weekends of debauchery. They returned days later looking dishevelled and sleepdeprived, thus affirming it was everything they expected and more. On the other hand, many had told me of groups of British teenagers roaming the streets dressed in gymnasium-style clothing being picked off by hardened Dutch cyclists. If you are looking for a visual treat, take up a good position in a coffee shop next to a canal with no safety barrier (so any then), and wait for a typical tourist to be dunked. Amsterdam, like any city, has its mix of tourists and locals alike. The further you stray towards the Red-Light District, the more likely you are to find the cast of Shameless. The College Hotel is situated in an area that was stark of visiting nations making it ideal for blending in and relaxing. Florean wanted to stroll a little and ensure that we saw Amsterdam’s De Pijp area, famed for
its bohemian cafe culture and the Albert Cuypmarket. Make absolutely sure you have a stroopwafel. It’s the sort of baked snack that makes you believe in god. Especially when served warm with a hot coffee. We decided as it was late and we weren’t in the mood to dine for hours, we would seek an establishment that could offer us swift service without being too formal. The Bazar is a converted church in the heart of De Pijp, serving Middle Eastern fare till 11pm in warm and cosy surroundings, with just the right amount of souk-like traditionalism. The food is plentiful and hearty. Sure, it wasn’t typically Dutch, but once you’ve sampled kibbeling, stroopwafels and herring, you’re well on your way to hitting your Dutch dining quota for the week. As we made our way back to the hotel, along the canals of the Oud Zuid area, beautiful appointed house boats were moored next to what looked like the Bombay Bicycle Club. The area has one of the greatest concentrations of art in the western world. The Rijksmuseum and Stedelijk museum, not to mention 200 paintings, 400 drawings and 700 letters in the Van Gogh museum, are all within the famed Oud Zuid borough. If you’re looking to flex your wallet rather than your intellect, you might be well placed to visit the P.C. Hooftstraat, housing a number of boutiques such as Chanel, Burberry and Hermes. Having taken in the idyllic sights, it was time for a nightcap. The College Hotel bar is certainly well-appointed, with a top-shelf selection of the usual suspects. Fireplaces and striking artwork mixed with plush furnishings make this the sort of den you could easily spend the evening in, completely forgetting about the time or day. The weapon of choice for a nightcap, an unconventional mojito. The waitress did apologise for the double measure, for some reason, and even offered to remix the drink should it prove too strong. Too strong? Is that something we chastise now? Perish the thought. The following morning, we decided that there was far too much effort involved in dressing and schlepping downstairs to breakfast. It would be much safer to call room service and have a hearty breakfast delivered to the suite. I am usually pretty quick to order eggs benedict. Creamy hollandaise and well-cooked eggs are a luxury hotel staple, but I decided on this occasion that the pancakes looked too good to pass up. When the doorbell rang and the porter arrived, I was presented with, well, everything on the menu. It turns out that
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the kitchen were unable to conjure pancakes and so, in a conciliatory manner, decided to furnish us with everything else on the menu. It was a breakfast tour-de-force that resulted in a check out almost two hours later than planned. I am sure the 20km that were
walked that week were more than enough to burn it off. At check out, wanting to avoid carrying a suitcase around Amsterdamâ€™s occasionally small streets, the concierge was more than happy to take over. Had we wanted to
expedite our travel, there was also bicycle and Vespa hire on offer. With a warm coat and full stomachs, we strolled out into the crisp Amsterdam air arm in arm. The College Hotel, we salute you. TR
s the Audi RS6 thrashes down the half-mile drive towards the Georgian-era white Palladian mansion, the classic sounds of ‘She Sells Sanctuary’ play wistfully in my ear. I look to my codriver, a young Daniel Craig, who seems to be deep in thought about our impending
meeting with the self-styled Jimmy Price. If you haven’t seen Layer Cake, the seminal work by Matthew Vaughn, from 2005, you really ought to. For no other reason than it would have introduced you, like me, to the rather splendid Stoke Park.
Book. Up until 1908, the estate was used as a private residence before becoming the UK ís first country club. There ís an argument that the British Empire had country clubs before this time – we simply called them colonies.
In deepest, darkest Stoke Poges, you will find Stoke Park Estate, sitting comfortably at 300 acres with a self-assuredness that comes from featuring in the Doomsday
After a dismal drive from Bristol down the M4, with traffic issues all over, we arrived at the entrance to Stoke Park on a cold winter evening. The fog had settled across the
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Words: PETER J ROBINSON
grounds, so our entrance was somewhat with the soft light bouncing off the many clandestine. Luckily the Union Jack flies well-appointed chandeliers. high across the horizon and serves as a Unlike many that would seek to appear suitable lighthouse to guide you in. to have the patronage of the great and The decor is as you would expect, a homage the good, Stoke Park has an enviable list to classic English style. It is, in the truest of historic owners. Lord Chief Justice sense, sumptuous with a sultry ambience. Sir Edward Coke notably owned the Think Claire de Lune playing softly as estate in 1599 and entertained Queen a Rose and White-suited, St. Moritz ski Elizabeth in 1601. The suites in the main instructor sashays down the grand staircase, house are subsequently named after the
establishment’s well-heeled lineage. The Coke suite lived up to my high expectations. With full knowledge of the Presidents Barís cocktail list, I was pleased to see that the four-poster bed was resplendent with full surrounding drapery. The traditional four-poster is effectively the ‘eye mask’ of our forefathers and can leave you in a state of perpetual darkness for days on end.
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diamond deal. I decided to light the fire, open some champagne and light a cigar on the terrace. The view over the 27-hole championship golf course is impressive, even if you think golf spoils a good walk. I wasnít halfway through my cigar when a knock at the door revealed Ian Freeman, a friend and club member who had popped over to catch up. I like a suite with room to entertain and not feel like you are partaking in a seedy
With our reservation time fast approaching, our brief boys’-night sojourn was cut to an untimely end as I donned my jacket for supper. An aperitif in the bar is a must. If you do order a complicated cocktail that includes an infusion of ether or angels’ tears, expect to wait for it. It was at this beverage-less moment that I realised the best aperitif is and always has been
champagne. Perrier-JouÎt, Bollinger, Ruinart, Mumm — no Taittinger, but nobody’s perfect. Humphrys is the Park’s restaurant, the name taken from Humphry Repton, who designed the bridge it overlooks in the 18th century. The kitchen produces modern British cuisine under the tutelage of head chef Chris Wheeler, and the gifted senior sous chef Tom Addy.
We had opted for a midweek jaunt, so the restaurant was decidedly quiet. There were two other couples dining that evening. To be honest, I would have preferred the entire restaurant to be empty. That’s just the kind of heretic I am. I can enjoy Italian-style dining, up-close-and-personal, but give me a private dining room any day. Stoke Park is good for hosting weddings, corporate events, and of course, the good old-fashioned knees up.
The menu was a little tricky though. Not in terms of its creation, but my inability to choose, so strong it was. When you are presented with less than ten options, you know that the team are presenting a well-honed and rehearsed performance. Children under 12 aren’t allowed, nor are trainers, t-shirts and sportswear. This means that the kitchen team don’t have to allow for a children’s menu and can get on
with the business of serving adults very, very well. I was a little shocked at this point to realise that my guest hadn’t tried foie gras before. Not wanting to cause a scene, I quietly stood up, went out to my car, drove home and never looked back. I jest. Therefore, glazed foie gras with spicy bread and Yorkshire rhubarb and ginger was the order of the day. I opted for the
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pan-fried scallops, baked apple puree, pickled fennel, toasted hazelnut and apple. It’s fairly easy to see why the team have earned three AA rosettes – their dinner service is rather smart.
editor, Rob Bellinger, I try to open up that spongey part of my brain to pour the knowledge in. So, when it comes to dining without him, which is obviously usually the case, I must reply on ‘knowing what I like’ and hoping that the restaurant team aren’t too graceless. Now I say this devoid of a soapbox or a megaphone, but here it goes: let your sommelier serve you a wine flight. You might have a penchant for a certain grape variety or region, but the pairing of wine with morsel-sized gastronomic delicacies is a fine art, and one that you would do well to appreciate. This public service announcement was bought to you by someone who wants to better you and himself.
I do find there is a thick red line between the good and the great, though. For the most part, the hospitality industry has some extremely dedicated individuals working within it, but you can tell when you interact with someone if they enjoy the role they play, or their eyes have glazed over, longing for that lost career in the arts. Both Cristian and Bruno have the table side manner that eludes many restaurant management teams. Now, I wouldn’t say I am a wine connoisseur. When I find myself tripping the light fantastic with our lifestyle Next on the chopping block was a fine piece
of Brookfield Farm beef with truffle potato terrine, sherry-glazed onions, watercress puree and red wine jus. The beef fell away from the sharpened knife in a way that pleased me in a very carnal way. Perfectly browned with a beautiful pink interior and clearly rested and aged well. You would do well to remember that a wine flight will render you incapable of selfcontrol, of course. I was sure that by this point that pudding wasn’t really a necessity, but I can soldier on like a member of the Saturdays and Sundays Club when needed. Especially for a sable breton. It was at this point that we were joined by the senior sous chef, Tom Addy. Our conversation extended through pudding and well into the digestif round of proceedings. I
remember calling time at some point in cafetiere, and sat back to admire the view. the early a.m., as my dining partner was It doesn’t make a huge difference which window you look out of, you can spend starting to sway. hours admiring the beautiful landscaped I wish I could tell you that I fought the gardens of Lancelot Brown. good fight, but that would be a lie: I awoke the following morning, ensconced Stoke Park has both the mansion house in a blackout, cave-like, Anderson-shelter- and the pavilion. The newest rooms can grade, four-poster bed. The hangover be found in the pavilion, if you prefer a wasn’t A-grade, but just enough to remind modern edge. This accommodation does me of my age. I slid my way into the marble- of course benefit from close proximity to floored bathroom thinking sunglasses at the spa. brunch was a given. Steam and relaxation rooms, a private Having made my way down the sweeping atrium, Scandi sauna and hot tub, along staircase, it was nice to see that the restaurant with a plethora of beauty treatments. As setting was subdued with people flicking a man that has come to fully appreciate through the morning papers without a care the benefits of both a decent massage in the world. I ordered eggs benedict and a and some kind of skin treatment to the
body and face, the next step had to be a pedicure. I spend a large portion of my working life on my feet where possible, and so I find my toes in need of some TLC quite often. Whilst my partner in crime vanished for a massage and to enjoy the hot tub, I booked myself in for a pedicure. Now, I had tried this once before at the Aria Sky Suites in Vegas. However, upon learning that I would have to walk from the spa to the nail salon on the ground floor of the casino in a robe, I was immediately against the idea. Why would anyone walk around a casino in a bathrobe? Even to get to one’s destination, it’s simply not done. So, when I was collected to go to the salon at Stoke Park, I was hoping for an altogether more clandestine affair. I will
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admit, there is a level of embarrassment in attending a nail salon. Regardless of my god complex and assured levels of confidence, something about sitting in a chair whilst a suitably pretty girl scrapes your feet filled me with dread. She was terribly good about it, though, offering conversation about her experience and training in the area. Admitting that she had initially hated feet; this filled me with confidence and a wide eyes expression. By the time my feet were polished and shiny again, I was back into the atrium admiring the five-metre tropical aquarium. I fell asleep after about twenty minutes, only to be awoken by my partner
â€œStoke Park is an homage to simpler timesâ€?
advising we go for a dip in the hot tub. Rested, I headed for the crisp outdoor air that comes from 300 private acres. Stoke Park is an homage to simpler times, when guests arrived with the intention of spending a few weeks at the property to find reprieve from the maddening crowd. A time when the staff knew your name, how to address you, your tipple, and how you liked your cigar cut. The team at Stoke Park have been perfecting and exacting their high standards of service to a level befitting of this estates lineage for many years. In the service of King and country. TR
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Las Vegas was, in many ways, a final blow out; an attempt to survive in the desert with no sleep or water, sustained only by endless cocktails, nightclubs, sports cars, and gambling. This would not only be my first time in Vegas, but on the East Coast. Not that I expected much of a culture shock. New York and I are well-acquainted, and I’m no stranger to a theme park. Las Vegas is a playground through and through, so don’t expect to be bowled over by its collection of museums and art galleries. They do exist,
I’m sure, somewhere, beyond the all-youcan-eat breakfast buffet and the headline acts collecting a healthy pay cheque. Luckily though, Vegas doesn’t hide from itself: it is self-aware, confident, and strolling along in gold trousers. Truthfully, Vegas is utterly intoxicating. I landed in LAX as the sun was setting over the city in late October. The call-to-action was a friend’s birthday. Same first name, same birthday, same penchant for trouble and
T R AV E L : L A S V E G A S ability to push the boundaries of polite society. The difference was that the bastard was three years younger and turning 30. I had resigned myself to the reality that this would be a liver-altering event. One that might actually result in a post-mortem doctor pointing to my liver as his students surround him saying “Here’s Vegas, you can tell by the blackness of the area”. You can get transferred from Vegas to the airport in a private car or coach complete with IV and medical professional. The way I felt six days later, I should have booked in advance. I was delayed a few hours, but luckily opted for lounge access, on the off chance that the flight would be delayed. Take note: LAX almost guarantees a delay if you’re connecting – it’s aerospace law. Three hours later, I made it to Sin City, only to find that Peter, Jake, Jason and Michael were out for the count. No welcoming party, no arrival drinks. They had arrived two days earlier and proceeded to get so inebriated that a small scuffle had broken out. So, I was
flying solo. Deliver unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s. I decided that a strip staple would be my first port of call. I did two laps around the casino as it approached 11pm. I even took steps into Omnia, the casino-nightclub. To be brutal, it was quiet. But then, it was a Monday night. I managed one drink before realising that drinking in nightclubs alone is weird, even for me, and I didn’t fancy mixing with the Mexican drug cartel that was in attendance. The slots were the place for me. I slid a crisp $50 into a machine and gleefully pushed the buttons whilst ordering a bourbon and lighting a cigarette. This was more my jet-lagged pace. Someone earning minimum wage, pouring Vegas-grade hospitality on me, whilst serving hard liquor as my weary eyes stared at the shiny lights. I’m not a big fan of gambling. I don’t dislike it. My bank balance preservation system just kicks in before any real money is lost. It’s a blessing really. Half a bourbon later and I had miraculously pulled $300 dollars out of whatever illuminated daemon I was playing. I propped myself up at a suitable, darkly-lit bar, hugged the
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mahogany and ordered a good scotch. I had landed. The following morning, I awoke with a decent appetite and an urge to know why I had been left to make such a clandestine entrance into the city. I decided to walk and meet the team, half of which were ‘shopping’ at the mall. It wasn’t the artisan breakfast buffet I had expected. At this point, it was clear that Peter Lloyd was in charge of the operation and that I should be worried. The order of the day was Kiss crazy golf at the Rio All Suite Casino. Not exactly what I had in mind. Not
until the competitive edge appeared amongst us all, beers in hand, luminous-painted Gene Simmons watching with his forked and pointed tongue. It’s worth it – get some friends and go. What you might not know about the Strip is that the more exclusive the location, the more expensive the minimum bet. If you want to win decent money, then go for it, But if you want to slump with your beer at the blackjack table with the crew and ask inane questions, head for the side streets. “100 each on black,” said Pete with a 50/50
look on his face. When Chris Evans presented the Big Breakfast in the 90s, if the crew were slacking or the comedy was getting a little stale, Evan’s would throw himself off his chair for comedy value. It worked too. Pete, I sensed, was trying to do the same. His ADHD had kicked in and it was time to step it up a gear. Never one to leave a man in need, we threw down on black and boom. I was up for the day. Once a few shots had sailed past and the beer was flowing, it was time to head for a small heliport outside of Vegas. Why wouldn’t you want to land in the Grand Canyon after a few
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beers. The sheer depth and breadth of crazy options in Vegas are astounding. Weâ€™re up in the air with our pilot in full control in 20 minutes. Itâ€™s absolutely worth the trip. There are some amazing sites surrounding the lit fortress that sits in the desert. The Hoover Dam alone is worth climbing into a chopper for. Sadly, we had just refuelled in what appeared to be a military fuel dump when bad weather turned us back. The sun setting over the city was quite breath-taking, despite watching it through the sickening heads of two other passengers. Note to self: book a private tour, use the empty seats to pile up more in-flight drinks.
I checked into the hotel that evening with jetlag in full effect. The Sky Suites at Aria had all the trappings that befit my high-minded ideals, personal concierge, private lounge, great views and fantastic service. What will take you aback is the scale of Las Vegas hotels. Aria cost $8.8 billion to construct and is the most expensive private construction project in US history. She has 4,004 guest rooms, 16 restaurants, 10 bars and nightclubs and, of course, a casino. You are never getting out. Never. Twice I picked up the wrong valet ticket to the wrong car and I cursed the ground I walked on every step back to the room. Unless you stay at the Sky Suites.
serviced by a private entrance, it could well be the quickest way to check into a Vegas hotel, given they are notorious for check in and out times. There are no queues at Aria though. Or at least, I never saw one. Suites are up to 2,060 square feet, complete with 1-3 bedrooms, a powder room, separate living area, wet bar, and unabated views over the strip. It very quickly became the destination for all post-club and bar parties, with everyone piling back into the suite for late-night card games. I saw the sunrise far too many times in Vegas. Standing in the mirror, I was beginning to wonder if white chinos were really the fashion
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choice I wanted to make every day this week. I had developed a predilection for them over the summer, and now I was resigned to the fact that they were my go-to colour of choice in the summer months. Anyway, Vegas certainly wasn’t saying ‘go for something more reserved’. Sin City recommends you emulate Tony Montana at every turn. We decided to congregate at The Wynn. The sparking 631-foot purple and mahogany tower
stands at the end of strip and was launched in 2008. Vegas is a constantly changing face. Gone are the main players from the 60s. The iconic and original Viagra-shaped Las Vegas sign isn’t even on the strip anymore. They moved the main boulevard from its original location some years ago. This means that the infamous ‘Welcome to Las Vegas’ sign now sits alone on the original strip, offering a photo opportunity to tourists. I won’t stand in the way of progress, but anything that involves
queueing with camera-happy tourists is a strict veto for me. Selfie sticks, kids, screaming parents – tackle these areas using a sharp stick, bin lid and VX gas. After a few laps of the hotel, we decided to pop back to the members’ bar in the ‘suites’ section of the hotel. I like an AAA pass as much as the next person, but Vegas takes it to a new level. There are private bars, tables, restaurants, and entrances to the hotels that
T R AV E L : L A S V E G A S few step foot in. “Vodka red bull and a James Franco please,” I uttered to the waitress, having waited for an actual five minutes. “Same,” I heard back like a gospel choir. The Wynn was not winning points on waiting time. We clung onto the hope of alcohol for another ten minutes at which point our waitress returned with a tray of snacks, drinks, and enough pomp and ceremony to satisfy an ambassadorial order from the presidential suite. I would have settled for a cold can by this point. Thoroughly
unimpressed, we decided to pop up to Pete and Jake’s hotel room for shots and a libation or six. Vegas, baby. Vegas. Having given The Wynn the opportunity to impress, we decided to venture across to Caesars Palace. Now, if you form a decent crew and find a good bar area, you can rack up a fairly-astounding drinks tab within a few hours. I can testify. The real party wouldn’t start until about 11:30pm back at the suite.
The solution to waiting to be served in Vegas is to book a sky suite with a wet bar and take a crew back. The drinks are cold, the butler is on call, and no holds are barred. I awoke the next morning like Buddy ‘Aces’ Israel, played by the iconic Jeremy Piven in Smokin’ Aces. I strolled through the suite surveying the damage. Apart from an empty bar, it seemed like a game of 3,500 card pick up had been played. Pete was indisposed, so I
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showered in the dressing room-cum-bathroom and made my way out the door in pursuit of super car bliss.
Don and his business partner have been operating in Vegas since 2007. They’re operation is slick. Whether they recognise you We’ve all hired cars. I imagine most of you have as a self-made man, sports star or oil magnate, the impeccable service will be the same. No had the pleasure of hiring an exotic marque large deposit, no blood samples, no mileage in the South of France. I usually take umbrage limits – it’s as if they designed a super car with the process, so much that, unless I’m hire service with me in mind. This does mean dealing with a reputable company, I avoid the they are in high-demand though. So much middlemen that occupy the majority of the that their new premises, on 3081 Business market. There are, however, some specialists: Lane, has been expanding considerably. After companies that understand their audiences 30 minutes chatting and strolling around a needs and proclivities. Sure, you might want a host of cars, the Orange McLaren was the Wraith for a weekend to spin around in. You might also yearn for the new Corvette, McLaren weapon of choice. The collection is updated as soon as a new marque comes out, so this or Ferrari and some desert road. I arrived at Vegas Luxury Rides early that morning with all marque had a mere 3,000 miles on the clock. The only rule: don’t leave State lines without the get-up-and-go of a damp squid. I was low prior consent. I wired the bluetooth, cranked on endorphins and no amount of coffee was up ‘White Tiger’ by The Heavytrackerz, and going to do it. I drove along the Strip looking headed to the highway. for ‘drive in adrenalin shots’. What I needed was 570 horsepower of British made super car. This is Vegas after all. It’s entirely possible to get I picked up the team, who were recovering nicely at The Wynn, and we drove to Machine both at a drive in.
Guns Vegas. Okay, it’s a bit of a cliché, but the American gun laws aren’t changing any time soon, and as much as I love a side-by-side, an M4 full auto is impressive. Even with a moderate amount of gin still sloshing around my system from the night before, I managed to outshoot both chaps. If you do decide to fire off the Smith & Wesson 500, be warned: it will take your hand clean off if you don’t hold it correctly. With a full fix of guns and ammo, the night’s manoeuvres were almost upon us. It had been at least seven years since I had seen locallad-now-Vegas-DJ Mark Eteson in the flesh, so we decided that dinner at Nobu would make for a civilised start to proceedings. After about an hour of some of the finest seafood and steak known to man, my fellow birthday brother starts to look increasingly worse for wear. Vegas is about to spit him out rather unceremoniously. His head is dropping, his conversational skills have devolved, and even with a host of new faces at the table, his social
T R AV E L : L A S V E G A S skills are not in full effect. “You need a power nap. Take the room key, head upstairs”. Sometimes it is better to regroup your psyche in a quiet corner in Vegas and power up for the evening’s events than solider on at half-mast. We dispensed with dinner and the obligatory birthday cake, minus Pete, and segwayed through the casino, across the rope line and, with no more than a nod from security, into the club. Mark’s had a residency with the Hakkasan group for years now, so uttering the obligatory ‘these guys are with me’ is probably fairly common place for him. The last fully-blown super-clubs I visited were in Ibiza, and that was back when Eric Morillio still played a regular set at Pacha. Omnia is spread out over 75’000 square feet and can comfortably host parties of 5000 people. The chandelier forms the centrepiece of the light show, dropping down from the ceiling at stages
through the evening, delivering a spectacle so otherworldly that people on the dance floor duck as it comes down. Now, when the great and the good accept awards, they have a tendency to thank their manger, agent, family and God. Some seats in the house at Omnia can be purchased with the understanding that small fortunes will be spent on champagne and spirits. The DJ booth, however, is reserved for the entourage, groupies and varying degrees of hangers-on. As an Englishman abroad, who’s friends travel far to visit, Mark is well-versed in taking groups in hand and ensuring they roll out the club at 5am with a sense of euphoria. When the group behind the DJ booth started spraying each other with bottles of champagne, heads turned. ‘Impressive,” Mark shouted in my ear. “A waste, sure, but a quick-fire way to show everyone in the club that your trust fund just matured and that you’re clearly not from an American Dynasty,” I replied.
“You can’t buy everything,” Mark said as he gestured towards the main wall of the club, as xxxx foot high, neon blue letters appeared, spelling out Happy Birthday Peter. I had such a good night. I pushed back my plans in LA and headed out with Mark and a new group, fresh in from Quatar and San Diego. Would you believe that the local lads collective continued with the addition of Steve, from Chippenham of all places. The details of which remain sealed in a burn bag, should anyone ever ask what occurred. What I will say is that we had a night so heavy that Mark asked if I fancied flying back that night to press repeat. My survival instinct kicked in at this point. Endless nights of drinking, partying, and 5am finishes had taken their toll. Vegas has a reputation for being a den of iniquity, where trouble follows you wantonly and temptation is glaring. They say it like it’s a bad thing.
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SPEND IT LIKE YOU MEAN IT
Perhaps your shoes do need to be encrusted with diamond spikes. And perhaps you like your cars gold-plated. Maybe, though – just maybe – you know that money doesn’t and won’t ever buy good taste. But by god, it does take the sting out of being poor. This issue, we look at everything from the LG’s range of OLED TV’s to the No 25 Briefcase by Passavant and Lee. Shop on, people, shop on.
SPEND IT LIKE YOU MEAN IT : HEAD GEAR
ANGELO 91 - AM EYEWEAR AM Eyewear was founded in Australia in 2003. Inspired by an Australian palette, we’ve been stopped in the street more than once in the summer season.
Beoplay PLAY E8 There are some benchmarks in consumer AV. Bang & Olufsen has been setting the standard for as long as we can remember. When a certain fruit based tech firm decided to do away with the humble headphone jack, we all knew there would be an uptake in Bluetooth headphones across the board. The B&O Play E8’s are pretty much the crème de la crème of the market. With intuitive touch control, a case that doubles as a charging station and four hours of play time from one charge, we’ve found our best and brightest. Of course, the sound produced is of the B&O standard we’ve all come to adore but these little buds have a trick up there sleeve. Transparency mode. Feeling like you need to know what’s going on around you? Tap the touch interface to open up the mic in the earbuds to let a little bit of the real world in.
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Anastasia Beverly Hills Lip Palette An 18-well professional lip palette with shades ranging from primaries and neutrals to bold brights helping you create an array of lip looks by mixing and customizing highly pigmented, long-wearing matte shades.
no 25 briefcase The No. 25 Briefcase is formed of aircraft grade aluminium, covered in exquisite, vegetable-tanned leather and made entirely by hand to maintain quality and precision. The rigid outer shell and design provide outstanding protection for its contents, while classic lines and a silver-plated lock create a definitive statement accessory for any discerning gentleman.
S P E N D I T L I K E Y O U M E A N I T : ac c outrement S
CHANEL BELT There are some items that everyone should have in their collection. A Chanel belt is absolutely one of them. Lambskin, calfskin, silver-tone metal and diamantĂŠ all wrapped around you.
FAIRFAX & FAVOR REGINA BOOT Handmade from rich, sumptuous suede, the elegantly, tailored design provides a sleek and most flattering silhouette for any leg. Weâ€™re quite in love with them.
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PELICAN CASES Our first thought was, ‘why the loop for a chain or lanyard?’. We expect it’s because after organising your shoot or securing your data, the by-product sits in the palm of your hand in SD and MicroSD format and having put that much work into it, you might want to keep them around your neck. Of course after all that effort you need peace of mind that the cards are safe. The 0915 card holder takes 12 cards, is water resistant and is constructed from Polycarbonate resin. You’re only getting in with a diamond drill.
SANDISK EXTREME & PRO You might think that storage media is created equal. Well, you are wrong. We’ve all had experiences of storage cards made of less stern stuff failing during a shoot or corrupting data. It is a nightmare to say the very least. The SanDisk Extreme range is great for capturing UHD 4K footage with speeds of up to 95MB read and 90MB write. With a crew travelling so much overseas, it’s also good to know that the cards are shockproof, temperature-proof, waterproof and x-ray-proof. Basically bomb proof. We tested the Extreme PRO 128GB SD and Extreme 256GB Micro SD using the Sony A7SII and DJI MAVIC PRO. Not only have we not filled a card yet which is entirely down to the user of course but the cards continue to work flawlessly on set, reset after reset. There is a reason why we have so many of these in the office, it is the unofficial brand of choice by pure team choice.
SPEND IT LIKE YOU MEAN IT : FLIGHT TECH
CRYSTAL Sky MONITORing If you’ve ever flown your drone out in the sun, which is pretty much 90% of the time, you will know the reality of trying to make out details on a washed out iPad screen. Whilst we love the diversity of being able to use a range of devices for monitoring, DJI has listened to their customers once again and launched the Crystal Sky range.
DJI have come a long way since we tested the DJI phantom 2. Faster, stronger, safer and predictably smaller. This little bot has a range of up to 13km thanks to DJI’s new Ocusync transmission technology. It is also considerably harder to crash than its earlier incarnations with Flight Autonomy mode. allowing the Mavic to sense obstacles some 15m away and brake or hover. Whilst the Mavic might be a sixth of the size of the Phantom 4, it has a flight time of 27 minutes. That is long enough for any take or race. We like the Mavic pro’s small form factor so much, we’re issuing our travel photographers with them , and hoping to try some interior property shoots very soon. Check in next issue, when we will review the Inspire range and take the DJI Ronin 2 and Ronin MX out for a walk.
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2TB My Passport Wireless Pro
We don’t know how long WD had this box of tricks in R&D but it was long enough to pack in one touch SD transfer, 4K Streaming, a mammoth 10 hours of battery life and a built-in power bank. The most exciting thing for us was that the device can be As you would expect, our throughput of rich media at The Review sometimes looks like a data Tsunami. Photographers administrated, updated and managed entirely from a web and DOP’s can utilise online storage and delivery, cards and browser or app making a laptop redundant. of course storage devices. But does every single shoot need The drive is made of anthracite-coloured ABS plastic and a RAID array backed up to a data centre buried in the side of a mountain? We don’t think so. Having spent a week on feels like it could be sealed in a Peli Case or take some knocks and keep spinning. a yacht shoot last year with a failed 2TB storage device, we found ourselves in a bit of a hole. Sure there are some One of the devices additional features is that it is fully decent electronics shops in Greece but they come with an idiot tax attached to them that can leave you paying double compatible with the Adobe Creative Cloud suite and can the price. But when you have an ongoing shoot what choice support up to 8 devices making it an ideal solution for an do you have. Enter the Western Digital My Passport Wireless internet hotspot for a smaller network. Pro. The WD Passport Pro also supports pass-through so you can connect to a Wi-Fi network to access the internet at the
same time. Another great addition is the inclusion of Plex, allowing you to enhance your existing media archive. Fundamentally one of the major benefits here is the time-saving element, with a small team trained to use the intuitive system, each can upload their material direct to the device at the end of a days shooting with the DOP or Data Manager checking in remotely. It is also ideal for remote shoots where having mains power during the day can be an issue. It is rare that clients want storage cards immediately to review material pre-edit and grade but if it’s a case of looking over rushes, the Wireless Pro serves as a great media server on set allowing the team to stream material to a projector. We think the wireless review system could well be the way forward and with Western Digital pushing out solid solutions with very few pain points, they’re going to lead the charge.
LG OLED77W7V 77” Smart 4K Ultra HD LG TV OLED
I have been obsessed with all things mechanical, electronic and digital since I can remember. It’s a disease really. The humble simpleton might not need the extra horse power, pixels or wattage – but I do. When the LG OLED TV arrived, I dispensed with the usually careful unpacking and tore into it like a 4-year-old at Christmas. Even with glasses I had to widen my retina to take in the massive 3840 x 2160 resolution screen. I take my viewing pleasure very seriously, and so the amount of research that went into what new TV to buy personally went above and beyond the customary flick through the brochure. LG has relied heavily on the ground breaking OLED (organic light-emitting diode for those who are technically inclined) range over the past year, so I was
keen to see why this award-winning tech was picking up so many consumer awards. You might think, ‘Well, it’s a flat screen’. What more is there to understand, apart from size and clarity? It isn’t often that I am stopped in my tracks, mouth agape like a slack-jawed chimp, but my already-high-minded expectations were surpassed instantly. The vibrant room filling whites to blacks that genuinely made me check the TV was still on. It drew me in like a moth to a flame. The LG OLED wasn’t replacing the living room TV though – this was for the new snug. Because this was mine. It begged to be pride-of-place, smack in the middle of the room with a sizeable piece of loafing furniture in front of it. It quickly became something to drag friends and family in to see to show off. Beware anyone popping around to see the family, you’ll very swiftly become the next victim. This TV was made for a snug. No need to dress the room with chairs, pictures and ephemera; it filled the man cave amply. For me, the highlights were easily switching from
console to console with 4 hdmi slots. The ability to dual screen, making it possible for me to keep an eye on the cricket whilst tucking into the latest first-person shooter. Also, the ability to use multiple HDR formats, the TV switches seamlessly from gaming to viewing. With a magic remote making it easy to switch platforms. There is even voice control, though I’ve never really felt comfortable using this. With two children more than happy to barrage in and take control of any room, silence is your best weapon in a family house. Not to mention the dedicated Netflix and Amazon buttons – so voice control can be left to those living the single live. Now, it may sound like I am completely smitten with this machine, but there is one drawback: sound quality. Although it boasts being the first to combine Dolby Atmos and Dolby Vision, the sound did not keep up with the picture quality I was getting. With such an engaging picture to pull you in, I felt it needed more immersive sound. Of course, team this model up with a great sound bar and you might well have one of the best viewing platforms I have seen this year.
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