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Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants Rolls Around Again

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A dish at Narisawa – Asia’s inaugural Best Restaurant

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

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

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

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A dish at Narisawa – Asia’s Best Restaurant 2013

By 2007 San Pellegrino was onboard as a sponsor and the list evolved into an awards ceremony in London garnering worldwide publicity as the likes of The French Laundry in the US, El Bulli in Spain, The Fat Duck in the UK and Noma in Denmark topped the list. Proclaiming one restaurant as the best in the world was controversial enough, even more so was which restaurants (and their chefs) were included and excluded in the next 49 places.

For several years the list endured some criticism not least because a disproportionate amount of placings were UK-centric. Mainly because that’s where the judges were based – we were all industry acquaintances of the Restaurant magazine staff. You knew then that if you voted for a restaurant in say, Hong Kong, the chances of it appearing on the list were very slim since no one else would be voting for it.

So an effort was made to turn the whole affair more international. Now, there are 27 food expert “academy chairs” based around the world, and each has a panel of around 30 judges in their region.

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Bo Songvisava of Bo Lan, Bangkok – Asia’s Best Female Chef 2013

For the inaugural Asian list to be announced at a ceremony in Singapore on Monday, the academy panels covering Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, South East Asia, China, Korea, India and Japan, will be voting. So why the launch of a dedicated Asian list? “We felt that Asia’s restaurant scene was under represented on a global stage,” says Restaurant magazine editor William Drew. “We knew the quality of restaurants in Asia and we believed that many of them ranked amongst the best in the world.”

Grant Thatcher academy chair of Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan adds: “These awards are all set to place Asia’s amazing culinary scene firmly under the spotlight where it belongs.” Indeed, there’s a scanty showing of Asian ventures on the 2012 World’s 50 Best Restaurants: one restaurant in Hong Kong (Amber), one in Thailand (Nahm), two in Singapore (Iggy’s and Waku Ghin) and two in Japan (Nihonryori RyuGin and Narisawa). All of them appear in the second 25 of the list.

No wonder then restauranteurs on this continent welcome the launch. “I think it’s great for Asia,” says Alvin Leung, chef proprietor at Bo Innovation, Hong Kong. “It will allow recognition for Asian restaurants that otherwise would not have made the international 100 list let alone the top 50.”

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Iggy’s Singapore

“It is one of the best things that can happen to the restaurant industry in Asia,” affirms Ignatius Chan, owner of Iggy’s in Singapore which has been a long standing inclusion on the World’s 50 Best list and is currently the highest Asian entry at number 26. “Asia has a very diverse culture and heritage, it has a long history of civilisation and food culture. The list will propel the best restaurants in Asia to the world and it will better profile all the great cuisine we have.”

Tetsuya Wakuda the Japanese chef behind Waku Ghin in Singapore which appears at the number 39 on the international list agrees: “It is great to see further recognition of an area which has given and continues to give so much culinary inspiration to the rest of the world.”

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Chef Tetsuya Wakuda, Waku Ghin

It will be interesting to see though whether the new list will be dominated by Asian cuisine restaurants or Western, namely classical French, restaurants based in Asia. The Miele Guide Asia’s Finest Restaurants 2013 launched last month , featured six French restaurants and one Italian (Hong Kong’s 8 1/2 Otto e Mezzo Bombana) in its top ten. [UPDATE: Chef Umberto Bombana of 8 1/2 will be awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award at Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants event on Feb 21st 2017.]

“Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants is designed as a showcase for the best restaurants, chefs and cooking in Asia, regardless of their style or origin,” says William Drew. “It is a showcase for the best food in Asia, rather than Asian food.”

Alvin Leung agrees: “I think the list will be based on the merits of the restaurant irrespective of which cuisine it serves. I have been told you get better Italian in Tokyo than in Italy so I don’t think that Asian food will have priority on the list.”

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Richard Ekkebus of Amber

However others are hoping and expecting to see more of an Asian cuisine showing. Notably Richard Ekkbus at French restaurant Amber who says: “I am certain there are many Asian restaurants cooking Asian food that could be part of this list. I’m very excited about this and the fact that David Thompson’s Nahm entered the World’s 50 last year is a great sign.”

David Thompson himself says: “There are some great restaurants throughout Asia, many of which do not have the recognition they so deserve. Hopefully Asian cuisine will be more represented, I would be surprised if it isn’t. Certainly on my part there is an expectation that an Asian cuisine restaurant will be number one.”

David Thompson in the kitchen

David Thompson of Nahm

All the chefs I spoke to for this article cited Hong Kong, Singapore and Japan as the countries they expect to see heavily represented at the awards. With Iggy’s currently the top Asian restaurant in the World list, there are expectations of it gaining top billing. But Chan says: “I don’t really know how everyone sees this but I certainly do not see that as automatically making us number one on Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list. There is an ever rising number of new and exciting restaurants sprouting and many talented professionals have chosen Asia as their base.”

Instead, Chan’s money is on a Japanese restaurant: “Japan is a great agricultural nation filled with passionate food lovers. Its major cities such as Toyo, Osaka, Kobe and Kyoto have the highest concentration of exceptional restaurants in the world.” Ekkbus agrees: “I am not very good at making predictions but I wouldn’t be surprised if one of Japan’s restaurants leads the list.”

Clearly there’s an advantage, not just of being deemed number one but being on the list at all, with restauranteurs reporting increased bookings by inclusion on the worldwide list. As Thompson says: “I did notice that bookings did not slip as most Bangkok restaurants tend to do as the weather heats up and then begins to rain.”

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Yoshihiro Narisawa, Narisawa

Chef Yoshihiro Narisawa of Narisawa, the highest placed Japan based restaurant on the worldwide list, raises other concerns: “We were glad to have guests from all over the world via our inclusion on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants,” he says. “A dedicated Asian list will become a great resource for the Asian market however it may end up that Asian restaurants are left out in the cold from the world’s markets.”

One thing is certain, not everyone will agree with the awards. Stand by for the fireworks on Monday night. [UPDATE: Narisawa was named Asia’s Best Restaurant in the inaugural 2013 list.]

This piece was originally published in 2013.

The Rise of Bangkok’s Hotel Residences

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

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

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

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

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

Stafford cites a growth in “medical tourism” where families stay with relatives for pre and post op periods as well as interest in customers from Middle eastern countries  and Asian countries, particularly Japan.

“Our strong Japanese business market has led us to offer more services specific to their needs including 6 Japanese TV channels, in house Japanese barber and two golf simulators as well as pitch and putt practice area,” he says.

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137 Pillars is the first of three new exclusive hotel residences slated for Bangkok. The appeal is understandable: customers are getting the ethos of their favourite hotel brand with added benefits such as 24 hour concierge services and in some cases increased privacy.

Both the Four Seasons and the Mandarin Oriental are opening residences to buy in the city. The upcoming Four Seasons Private Residence Bangkok, adjacent to a new Four Seasons hotel on the Chao Praya river, is due to open in 2018. The all corner apartments are being designed by renowned architect Jean-Michel Gathy of Denniston.

four-seasons-bangkok-residence-corner-unit-view-992x672.jpg A rendering of The Four Seasons Residences, Bangkok

Due to open around the same time, on the same stretch of the river are The Residences at Mandarin Oriental Bangkok, the first MO residences in Southeast Asia. Situated diagonally opposite the Mandarin Oriental hotel, each unit – ranging in size from 130 to 230 sq m and penthouses from 380 to 710 sq m – will have a river view.

Buyers will have the option of a full interior design service by renowned designer Joyce Wang who recently revamped the guest rooms at The Landmark Mandarin Oriental in Hong Kong.

MOBKK_RES_2Bed_MasterBedroom.jpg A rendering of the Mandarin Oriental Residences, Bangkok

“Hotel residences are often second or third homes so owners have a “plug and play” expectation,” says Wang. “The design has to function intuitively so they don’t have to learn new ways of operating a household, from light switches to bathroom and kitchen fittings. A hotel residence should make one feel pampered and looked after.”

http://www.moresidencesbangkok.com

https://residences.fourseasons.com/private_residences/bangkok/

http://www.137pillarshotels.com

First Look at the Aman Shanghai

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

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

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

Antique Villa

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

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

Club Suite

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

Dining Terrace

Dining Terrace

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

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Rose gold – tick, diamonds – tick, LOVE.

http://www.tiffany.com

Raffles Rings in the Changes for the Singapore Sling

Raffles 1915 gin by Sipsmith Raffles 1915 gin by Sipsmith

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

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

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

“I’ve always felt an emotional connection with Raffles because Sir Stamford Raffles was my great, great, great, great, great grandfather,” says Galsworthy, whose first name is officially Stamford. “When I mentioned this to Nigel [Moore], I saw his face light up as I hoped it would. But I was blissfully unaware that 2015 would be the centenary of the Singapore Sling.”

Raffles Hotel Singapore, home of the Singapore Sling Raffles Hotel Singapore, home of the Singapore Sling

The timing of Galsworthy’s visit was serendipitous as Diana Banks, Raffles vice president of brand and luxury sales explains. “We had started thinking about what we could do to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Singapore Sling. It had to have elements of both the old and the new and we thought that a bespoke gin would be an excellent way to do this but had not thought of a partner we could work with,” she says. “I had heard about Sipsmith and their growing reputation for catalyzing the revival of gin culture in London. They share so much of the attributes that Raffles has.”

When it launched in 2009, Sipsmith was the first new copper gin distillery in London for 200 years. Like Raffles, they pride themselves on heritage and high standards, producing London dry gin in the authentic way with no short cuts. As well as producing their spirits in copper stills (they have three – nicknamed Prudence, Constance and Patience), they use the “one shot” process where no extra alcohol is added to stretch and dilute the gin.

Originally the Raffles team suggested creating a gin in a style similar to one around in 1915. But the idea was quickly over-ruled by Sipsmith’s master distiller. “He said we certainly will not,” said Galsworthy. Apparently 1915 was not a great year for gin quality.

Raffles 1915 gin by Sipsmith has an overlay of local spices Raffles 1915 gin by Sipsmith has an overlay of local spices

Instead, for the Raffles 1915 gin, Sipsmith incorporated spices and ingredients of Southeast Asia. The spirit is inspired by the hotel’s location but is also a nod to Sir Stamford, who developed Singapore as a port for the spice trade and had a keen interest in botany. He had even cultivated spices on Government Hill, now Fort Canning in Singapore.

Six botanicals that would have gone into an original London gin, and go into every Sipsmith bottle, form the base of Raffles 1915: juniper, coriander, orris root, angelica, cinnamon and lemon peel. On top of that Sipsmith has added pomelo, lemongrass, jasmine, nutmeg, mace and clove.

After some 40 variations, the Sipsmith team got down to a long-list of nine formulas that were whittled down to two. These were sent to Turkey, where the Raffles top brass were attending a conference, for the final sampling. “It was the best part of the three days,” laughs Simon Hirst, general manager of Raffles Singapore. “There was one clear winner that had a unique freshness and brightness.”

Raffles 1915 is designed for all gin cocktails Raffles 1915 is designed for all gin cocktails

From this month Raffles 1915 is available across F&B outlets in Raffles Singapore and Paris. And the exclusive gin is not limited to making Singapore Sling cocktails which also include cherry brandy, Cointreau, DOM Benedictine, Angostura bitters, grenadine and pineapple and lime juice. “It will be used in Singapore Slings but it’s not anchored to one specific drink,” says Galsworthy. “Gin is so versatile and Raffles 1915 has an incredible mouth feel and warmth so I love it on the rocks or in a martini.” Galsworthy also suggests a garnish of one of the overlaying Southeast Asian ingredients such as lemongrass or pomelo. “I love crushed jasmine flowers in it. Whichever you choose will really bring that ingredient to the fore.”

By the end of the year the gin will go into Raffles hotels in Siem Reap, Phnom Penh, Beijing and Hainan. All remaining Raffles properties will take delivery in 2016, as Raffles 1915 is not solely being produced for the Sling’s centennial year. “It’s definitely a long haul product,” says Hirst. “I think we have our own copper still?” he asks Galsworthy who confirms that Patience is exclusively dedicated to crafting Raffles 1915.

“It’s one of those great opportunities where everything fell into place at the right time,” Hirst continues. “This is a hotel that’s built on stories and this is the latest one. It’s a match made in Singapore.”

http://www.raffles.com

This piece was originally published in November 2015.

Longines Masters Lands in Hong Kong

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

http://www.longinesmasters.com/en

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

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VSOE

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

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Strut Your Stuff in the Year of the Rooster

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

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

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

Or for US residence receive a complimentary gift card:

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

The Allure of Chanel Couture

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

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

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Looking for a London Bolthole for Valentine’s?

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

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

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

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First look at Aman’s new Spa Houses

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Spa House, Amanoi

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

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

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

Kowloon side:

The Intercontinental

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View of the fireworks in the harbour from the Intercontinental hotel

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

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Asia’s New Luxury Travel Club for Chinese New Year and Beyond.

 

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Afini

 

If you haven’t yet booked a Chinese New Year break you may want to sign up to Afini, a new luxury travel club, pronto.

Asia based Afini promises the privacy and home comforts of a luxury residence combined with the consistent quality and top service of an exclusive hotel which sounds like a dream come true to Chopstix. As such they are particularly appealing for groups of friends or extended families – and perfect for a CNY reunion dinner.

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Best Feet Forward for 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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Foodie Cruises

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Seabourn Encore

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

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The Good, the Bad and the Ugly – Best and Worst Hotels of the Year

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Taj Lake Palace, Udaipur, Rajasthan, India

The Good

Good is an understatement: exceptional would be more apt when describing the best hotel Chopstix checked into this year: the Taj Lake Palace in Udaipur, India.

There are some hotels that have such a stellar reputation that staying at them can be a disappointment. Not so the Lake Palace which actually exceeded  our expectations.

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Early Alert for Smythson Sale

Attention luxury lovers: the Smythson sale will begin on Sunday December 25th at 7am. For 40 per cent off select Smythson products click on the link below.

[UPDATE: Sale is now up to 50 per cent off]

Smythson

New JW Marriott opens in Singapore

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[UPDATE: South Beach hotel has reopened at the JW Marriott Singapore South Beach. While retaining the design features of the original, the hotel includes five new F&B concepts including the Court Martial bar (below). More additions, including an Alan Yau restaurant and a spa are expected in March 2017.]

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Two Fat Ducklings in the Lion City – part three

Harvest Salad at Bacchanalia, Singapore Harvest Salad at Bacchanalia, Singapore

[UPDATE: We bid a fond farewell to chef Ivan Brehm who completed his last service at the Kitchen at Bacchanalia last night. Sous chef Mark Ebbels also left the restaurant earlier this month. Chopstix thanks them for bringing great food, integrity and passion to the Singapore dining scene and can’t wait to see what they do next.]

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Is a Woman’s Place in the Professional Kitchen?

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[UPDATE: Hong Kong has clocked up a second Asia’s Best Female Chef award with May Chow (pictured above), chef and owner of Little Bao in Hong Kong and Bangkok (home to the award’s inaugural winner, ‘Bo’ Songvisava of Bo.lan), being named Asia’s Best Female Chef 2017. Chow, who opened Little Bao as a pop up in Hong Kong in 2013 and has staged at Bo.lan says: “I hope I can serve as a role model for other Asian female chefs, providing hope and opportunities for those who want to pursue their passions.”]

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Come on in – to Six Storeys on Soho

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Six Storeys on Soho

If you’re in London this month, do yourself a favour and book a spot at the new Six Storeys on Soho, a townhouse turned events space on Soho Square.

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A Trip to Remember

Four Seasons Tented Camp, Golden Triangle

Four Seasons Tented Camp, Golden Triangle

[UDATE: There has been a lot of discussion recently about whether elephants and tourists in Thailand can ever be a good mix. Here’s John Roberts, the founder of the Elephant Foundation (which works with the Four Seasons Gold Triangle) on the subject: “Certainly elephants should all be wild, where they’re free to make their own decisions and perform ecosystem services. This is the reason a large amount of the Foundation’s money and effort is spent keeping wild elephants wild.

“Thailand, however, has around 3,500 non-wild elephants and we also need to find ways to look after them. There isn’t enough wild to put them back into, so a well-planned tourism activity such as ours is a great way to do that – they get to walk around as a group, meet new people and lead a rich and varied elephant life. The elephants enjoy it: there seems to be a modern misconception that captive elephants live entirely in misery and fear no matter how you look after them. I have to say that in 16 years of living among elephants I have seen no evidence of this – I have seen elephants looked after badly and I would never seek to bring a wild elephant into captivity but I’m entirely comfortable with this as a way to keep those already in captivity fed, watered and amused.”]

Sitting on top of an elephant, I look down over Thailand, Myanmar and Laos meeting at the Mekong river as the sun begins to rise. I’d ridden the gentle giant, called Thong Kam, up the mountain to watch dawn breaking over the Golden Triangle and now she’s taking a well deserved break and snacking on banana trees. Her foot effortless crushes the tree trunk into smithereens and she eats enthusiastically – it’s time for me to dismount and breakfast myself on fresh fruit and coffee the guide has set up for me.

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A Knack for Design

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Eyewear artisan Naoki “Nacky” Nakagawa’s path to success reads like a real life fairytale. As a seventeen year old sales assistant in a spectacles store in Japan he realised there were no styles on offer that he liked so despite not having any design training decided to design them himself.

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Happy Birthday Hong Kong and Shanghai Hotels

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Today is the 150th anniversary of the Hong Kong and Shanghai Hotel group, owner of The Peninsula hotels around the world. The group’s first hotel was the legendary Peninsula Hong Kong opened in 1928. Like most grande dame’s who look fabulous for their age, she’s had a bit of work having been recently refreshed with HK$450 million worth of minimalist luxe decor and impressive technical wizardry.

Each guest room now features sophisticated but reassuringly foolproof technology. Anyone who’s ever been defeated by how to close the blinds/adjust the temperature/turn out that last light in over complicated hotel rooms will rejoice. LED touch screen control panels placed on the wall (in every room if you’re in a suite) allow you to dictate all the aforementioned functions, plus flick on the privacy alert or valet call, as easy as child’s play.

 

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The best champagne for a sparkling Christmas

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Some 30 metres beneath the streets of Reims lies a labyrinth of chalk cellars housing millions of bottles of champagne. These ‘crayeres’ – limestone mines originally dug in the 4th century purely for materials – form a natural habitat for storing the French fizz. The caves’ temperature, humidity and tranquility are perfect for holding the bottles while the wine undergoes the secondary fermentation that will turn it into champagne.

Piper-Heidsieck, the champagne house that landed on the map when founder Florens-Louis Heidsieck presented his wine to Queen Marie-Antoinette, owns 47 of these chalk pits. Unlike some of the neighbouring champagne houses that own chalk cellars, Heidsieck is not open to the public, so the crayeres have a gentle, ethereal quality, enhanced by the ‘cathedral’ style in which the caves have been dug out.

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Return to Splendour

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The Strand hotel in Yangon, Myanmar has now reopened after a six month refurb to return it to its colonial splendour as well as adding modern in room technology.

As part of the revamp the hotel’s bar, formerly a gathering place for the likes of Rudyard Kipling, Noël Coward and Orsen Welles, has been renamed The Sarkies Bar in honour of The strand’s founders, the Sarkies brothers who also created Raffles hotel in Singapore.

To celebrate its reopening, The Strand Yangon is offering a special ‘New Era’ package, offering guests booking a Superior Suite for two nights or more for stays from 15th November 2016 to 30th April 2017 a complimentary upgrade to a Deluxe Suite (subject to availability) along with return airport transfers, High Tea for two, a bottle of wine in room on arrival and a Myanmar degustation menu for two at The Strand Café.

http://www.hotelthestrand.com

Castle in the air

Alila Fort Bishangarh

Alila Fort Bishangarh, Rajasthan

UPDATE: Alila Fort Bishangarh in the Aravalli hills, Rajasthan, will open in February 2017.

http://www.alilahotels.com

Looking for a London Bolthole?

45 Park Lane Entrance copy.jpg

Look no further: 45 Park Lane has won Best Boutique Hotel at the European Hospitality Awards 2016.

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

What is the design concept?
A homage to Art Deco glamour. Right from the eye-catching entrance, clad in curved metal, and the lobby dominated by a striking, over sized light fitting. A theatrically illuminated staircase leads enticingly to a mezzanine level bar. The furniture throughout is all rounded, glossy black lacquer and gleaming chrome. You’ll feel as though you’ve walked on to a lavish Hollywood set.

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Thanksgiving To Go

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Mandarin Oriental’s Thanksgiving Top Hat Takeouts

If you’re new to Hong Kong you may not know that every year the Mandarin Oriental offers a Thanksgiving feast take out so you can celebrate at home with minimum hassle.

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A Spooktacular Hamper for Halloween

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How spooktacular is this Fortnum & Mason Wicked Wicker hamper? Fortnum’s have reworked their classic picnic hamper in Halloween inspired black and orange and filled it with spooky treats. Chopstix is not usually a fan of All Hallow’s Eve but we’ll make an exception for this.

The Cream of Chinese Couture

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Guo Pei – Singapore Fashion Week 2016

As Guo Pei opened Singapore Fashion Week last night Chopstix looks back at meeting the couturier at Haute Couture Week in Singapore:

Beijing born Guo Pei has been called “the Chanel of China” and credited with inventing Chinese haute couture but the 45 year old, now in her 15th year of designing*, is philosophical about the monikers.

“In China, we sometimes believe in destiny,” she says matter of factly. “Haute couture was right there in my way of working at the beginning but I didn’t know it. I was merely trying to get the best out of my designs. It was not until a year or two later that I was told that what I was doing was called ‘haute couture’ in global fashion.”

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Bringing Bar Snacks Deluxe to HK

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In one of the more surprising moves of the year, chef Uwe Opocensky left his decade long role as executive chef at the Mandarin Oriental to join burger joint Beef & Liberty. The switch has been cheekily described as swapping fine dining for flipping burgers but chef Uwe very definitely won’t be asking you if you want fries with that (even sweet potato ones). Instead he has been busy refining the concept of bar snacks at Beef & Liberty’s recently opened California Tower outlet (itself a new departure for the group with an industrial design by Autoban).

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China in your hands

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Hot and Sour Soup. Pic: DL Acken

China: The Cookbook is an  impressive tome by husband and wife Kei Lum Chan and Diora Fong Chan. Kei is the son of a former renowned Hong Kong food writer who together with his wife Diora has come up with over 650 recipes from 30 areas of China.

Drawing on their experience of writing Chinese cuisine cookbooks, the Chans have covered famous crowd pleasers to lesser known gems, all doable by the home cook. The recipes are backed up with a cultural history of this vast nation and a handy glossary of ingredients. Here’s what the couple have to say about their magnus opus:

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Best Hong Kong Hotels (and their restaurants) for National Day

If you’re in Hong Kong for October 1st make sure you have a room with a view – of Victoria Harbour for the National Day fireworks.

Kowloon side:

The Intercontinental

Fireworks Intercont

View of the fireworks in the harbour from the Intercontinental hotel

The Interconti is perched right on the harbour’s edge giving it some fantastic views from many of its guests rooms where you feel you’re right on the water and the rooftop Presidential Suite as well as the Lobby Lounge and Harbourside restaurant plus Alain Ducasse’s Spoon and Nobu if you can bag a window table.

All the restaurants have special menus planned for October 1st including a six course tasting menu at Alain Ducasse and an eight course omakase menu at Nobu.
http://www.hongkong-ic.intercontinental.com

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A Smattering of Michelin Stars for The Peninsula Shanghai

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Sir Elly’s

Given the mystifying exclusion of The Peninsula hotel’s restaurants in the Michelin Guide Hong Kong, it’s good to see The Pen’s Shanghai counterpart recognised.

Yi Long Court and Sir Elly’s at The Peninsula Shanghai have been awarded two and one Michelin star respectively in the inaugural Michelin Guide Shanghai, announced today.

Chopstix dined at both restaurants earlier this year and can wholeheartedly give them the thumbs up.

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Model Cooks

World's Best Female Chef Helena Rizzo

Helena Rizzo former World’s Best Female Chef

Food and models are not an obvious pairing. Rather than going together like crispy duck and plum sauce, the modelling industry is more likely to make you think of faddy diets or eating disorders. Yet these rarefied sylphs are moving from the catwalk to the kitchen.

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Best Restaurants for Singapore F1

Singapore skyline at Sky on 57, Marina Bay Sands

Singapore skyline at Sky on 57, Marina Bay Sands

In Singapore for the F1? In between watching the Night Race and Kylie here’s Chopstix’s pick of the best restaurants near the race track.

Saint Pierre

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Scallop at Saint Pierre

A long time darling of Singa’s fine dining scene, Saint Pierre has recently moved to a new location in one of the Fullerton heritage buildings overlooking the Marina in the CBD.

Chef Emmanuel Stroobant’s fancy fare sits better in this table clothed, chandeliered setting though the vibe is modern rather than stuffy. Stroobant combines French techniques with tip top Japanese ingredients with wonderful results. The service is top notch too.

Tasting menu only for dinner ( choose between six or ten courses, meat or vegetarian) plus a spectacular French cheese cart and a petit fours trolley.

Around 7pm you’ll catch the jaw dropping sunset reflected in the Marina Bay Sands spectacular across the bay.

1 Fullerton Road

http://www.saintpierre.com.sg

Gunther’s

Gunther Hubrechsen doesn’t get as much glory as the showier chefs in Singapore which is a travesty because his food (mod European) is superb and his eponymous resto makes a refreshing change from all the shopping mall and hotel set ups in the Lion City.

Instead, Gunther’s is based in a converted shop-house on an historic side-street. A tiny but cute belle époque-esqe bar leads to a surprisingly modern dining area.

Star attraction is the vast tray of impressive raw ingredients, including live seafood, shown to each diner at the start of the meal and testament that produce is king here. Signature dish is cold angel hair pasta with caviar.

That the customers are overwhelmingly regulars is proof of Gunther’s appeal.

36 Purvis Street
http://www.gunthers.com.sg

Beetroot Collection at Jaan, Singapore

Beetroot Collection at Jaan, Singapore

Jaan
Restaurants with a knock out view usually don’t bode well on the food front but that’s not the case with Jaan. Although the 70th floor vista of central Singapore will impress even the most spoilt and/or jaded traveller, the cuisine – and the service, also match it.

All tables at this compact restaurant are cleverly set up to enjoy the outlook overlooking the river, marina and beyond to the Straits sea.

The kitchen is in good hands with Kirk Westaway the long time sous promoted to head chef whose notched up a Michelin star. Food-wise we’re talking tasting menu only at dinner. Expect high end French with contemporary twists and trickery that elicit lots of smiles and admiring “aahs”.

First comes a plinth of amuse bouches that looks like a work of art. Then a 55 degree cooked egg is cracked and poured into a dish before you in a cute nod to Singaporean coffee shops way of serving soft boiled eggs.

Level 70, Swissotel The Stamford, 2 Stamford Road
http://www.jaan.com.sg

Shinji by Kanesaka

This menu-less, omakase (“I’ll leave the choice up to you”) restaurant has caused quite a stir in Singapore and has been awarded a Michelin star in the city state’s inaugural Michelin Guide. It’s the brainchild of renowned Tokyo chef Shinji Kanesaka, as the name suggests.
In Singapore, a team of Japanese chefs work under the watchful eye of master chef Koichiro Oshino who has been with Shinji for over 20 years.

They work behind a wooden counter carved in a single piece from a 220 year old hinoki or Japanese Cypress tree which is as stunning as the food they prepare.

Only fish and seafood is served but not just sushi and sashimi there’s plenty of grilled dishes too including 5-hour steamed Hokkaido abalone.

Raffles Hotel, 1 Beach Road
http://www.shinjibykanesaka.com

[UPDATE: Shinji at Raffles is now closed while Raffles Arcade undergoes refurbishment.]

Marinated shrimp with sea urchin and caviar at Waku Ghin, Marina Bay Sands, Singapore

Marinated shrimp with sea urchin and caviar at Waku Ghin, Marina Bay Sands, Singapore

Waku Ghin

Exclusive has become an over used word but it’s a fitting description for Waku Ghin. There are just 25 covers, dotted among four private rooms each with a chef preparing a 10 course tasting menu on a teppanyaki grill.

This is Sydney-based chef Tetsuya Wakuda’s first foray outside of Australia and is an extremely hot ticket in Singapore – especially since it zoomed into the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list in 2012. The restaurant has since earned a Michelin star.

To start is raw seafood, maybe sea urchin and abalone, followed by “salads” such as scallops with daikon and oyster. Standout dish is the marinated shrimp with sea urchin and caviar.

The the real magic begins as your private chef cooks a succession of fish and meat dishes such as crab legs steamed on a salt bed and wagyu beef with grated wasabi. It’s part theatre, part cooking lesson.

All dishes can be expertly paired with wines or saki from biodynamic Sancerre to an Australian chardonnay produced especially for the chef.

Casino level 2, Marina Bay Sands, 10 Bayfront Avenue
marinabaysands.com

Waku Ghin, Marina Bay Sands, Singapore

Waku Ghin, Marina Bay Sands, Singapore

Sky on 57
Local enfant terrible Justin Quek trained with some of the best chefs in France and now mixes Singaporean Chinese flavours with classical French techniques and vice versa.

His impressive menu includes foie gras braised in soy sauce in the same style as Teochew braised duck and xiao long bao filled with foie gras and truffle consomee.

A particular triumph is JQ’s Beef Broth with Braised Tendon, Ribs & Slices of Wagyu. The chef says it’s inspired by Singaporeans eating Beef Noodles at hawker stalls at the end of a night out to avoid a hangover the next day. His version comes with a shot of Jack Daniel’s added.

Level 57, Sands Skypark Tower 1
marinabaysands.com/restaurants/sky-on-57

Goat's cheese ravioli at Osteria Mozza, Marina Bay Sands, Singapore

Goat’s cheese ravioli at Osteria Mozza, Marina Bay Sands, Singapore

Osteria Mozza

There’s always a gathering outside Osteria Mozza of those without the foresight to book ahead at this popular Mario Batali outpost.

Inside, the dark wood, white table cloths and sizeable bar transports diners from Marina Bay Sands mall to New York. Batali’s trademark rock soundtrack adds a convivial atmosphere but never detracts from the attentive, friendly service.

Under the helm of executive chef, David Almany, the menu is Italian American boasting half a page of mozzarella and a full page of pasta as well as exemplary antipasti, meat, fish and of course, dolce. There’s also a great selection of Italian wines, thanks to co owner Joe Bastianich.

If you can’t get a seat here, Batali’s other joint next door does the best pizza in Singapore.

Galleria Level 42-46, Marina Bay Sands, 2 Bayfront Avenue
marinabaysands.com

Osteria Mozza, Marina Bay Sands, Singapore

Osteria Mozza, Marina Bay Sands, Singapore

When Hong Kong met Spain – El Celler de Can Roca comes to the Fragrant Harbour

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Suckling Pig by El Celler de Can Roca for Amex at The Peninsula Hong Kong. Copyright David Loftus.

High above Hong Kong inside Felix restaurant at the top of The Peninsula hotel Joan Roca the head chef and eldest of three brothers behind one of the world’s most famous restaurants, El Celler de Can Roca, is assembling two dishes.

The first, a sous vide fish, Joan explains is inspired by his home of Girona in Spain and can be found on the menu at the Rocas’ three Michelin starred establishment there which has twice been crowned the World’s Best Restaurant.

The second, crispy pork, is a new creation that’s an homage to Hong Kong his host city today. The demonstration, and the reason Joan is so far from home, is part of an exclusive dining experience the Rocas are holding at The Peninsula organised by American Express Invites for Centurion cardholders.

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Dear Smythson Diary

Smythson 2017 diaries

Smythson 2017 diaries

It’s that time of year when my Smythson diary prompts me with a little note that I should be ordering my new agenda for next year. Smythson’s 2017 diaries have just been launched and if you order online between today (August 22nd) and next Monday (August 29th) there’s free shipping on the new Panama Diaries. Click on the link below for happy shopping:

Smythson

Still Time for Tiffany Tea at The Pen

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Good news for afternoon tea lovers: The Peninsula Hong Kong has extended its popular Tiffany & Co inspired tea until the end of this month.

The New York Spirit afternoon tea includes cupcakes in Tiffany blue and white, New York cheesecake with blueberries and cream and Tiffany & Co boxes in cake form: vanilla mousse, strawberry marmalade and almond joconde sponge.

The New York Spirit Afternoon Tea set is available at The Lobby, The Peninsula Hong Kong, until 31 August 2016.

http://hongkong.peninsula.com/en/special-offers/tiffany-afternoon-tea

Her name is Rio…

Chloe tracksuit spring/summer 16

Chloe tracksuit spring/summer 16

Well, actually it’s Chloe, and this is probably the first and only post from Chopstix about the Rio Olympics: a Chloe “tracksuit” priced at a reassuringly expensive £2,000 at Net-a-Porter. You’re welcome.

http://www.net-a-porter.com/gb/en/product/685112/Chloe/two-tone-silk-blend-jersey-sweater

http://www.net-a-porter.com/gb/en/product/685090/Chloe/jersey-wide-leg-sweatpants

The Rise and Rise of the Hotel Residence

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The Residences by Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok

Aman is synonymous with luxury resorts so it comes as a surprise when CEO Olivier Jolivet tells us they are not in the hotel business. “Aman is not a hospitality company, but a lifestyle brand that operates much like a club. It’s about like-minded people enjoying each other’s company,” he says when Chopstix meets him in Singapore – home to Aman HQ.

Residential sales, Jolivet says, are at the heart of the Aman business. “The majority of our private residence owners are ‘Amanjunkies’ who returned many times to our resorts, often with friends, and wanted to have a permanent piece of this lifestyle,” he says. “It gives our guests a sense of belonging and is a legacy that is passed onto the next generation.”

Real estate experts in Southeast Asia agree that demand for residences by luxury brand hotels in the region is on the increase fueled by High Net Worths.

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Amanoi, Vietnam

At the very least they are second homes and often third or fourth. “Our guests are buying one, two or three residences,” says Jolivet whose customers are celebrities and Ultra High Net Worths.

The appeal is understandable: you’re buying into the ethos of your favourite hotel brand with added benefits such as 24 hour concierge services. Some are seeking privacy as well.

“Typically, the buyers residences managed by five star operators are end-users who want the hotel services,” says Julien Naouri, Director of Investments, Asia Pacific at Savills. “On the other hand, some buyers seek an investment return, where the unit is going back in the hotel unit managed pool.”

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Amanoi, Vietnam

Sarkunan Subramaniam, Managing Director of Knight Frank Malaysia says it can be a combination of both: “Most buy as holiday homes for themselves as well as capital appreciation and rental yields.”

Having well known architects and interior designers linked to the property also increases the appeal, Willson Kalip, Country Head of Knight Frank Indonesia points out.

Currently Aman residences for sale include Amanoi in Vietnam where buyers have the chance to collaborate with star architect Jean-Michel Gathy of Denniston on designing their home. Gathy is also working on the upcoming Four Seasons Bangkok residences, adjacent to a new Four Seasons hotel on the Chao Praya river. The all corner apartments are due to open in 2018.

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A rendering of The Four Seasons Residences, Bangkok

Due to open around the same time, on the same stretch of the river is the Mandarin Oriental Bangkok Residences where buyers will have the option of a full interior design service by renowned designer Joyce Wang who recently revamped the guest rooms at The Landmark Mandarin Oriental in Hong Kong.

LMHKG redesigned L900 dining & living room Sheer down (1MB)-2

Joyce Wang designed suite at The Landmark Oriental Hong Kong

“Hotel residences are often second or third homes so owners have a “plug and play” expectation,” says Wang. “The design has to function intuitively so they don’t have to learn new ways of operating a household, from light switches to bathroom and kitchen fittings. A hotel residence should make one feel pampered and looked after.”

This marks the first Mandarin Oriental residences in Southeast Asia with a second slated for Bali. Situated diagonally opposite the Mandarin Oriental hotel, each unit – ranging in size from 130 to 230 sq m and penthouses from 380 to 710 sq m – will have a river view.

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A rendering of the Mandarin Oriental Residences, Bangkok

The Peninsula has chosen Shanghai for its first foray into residences. Based right next door to The Peninsula hotel, overlooking the Bund, it comprises an exclusive clutch of 36 one to four bedroomed apartments. All are designed by Pierre-Yves Rochon who was also responsible for the hotel and so share the same 1920s influenced aesthetic.

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The Peninsula Residences Shanghai have similar designs to the hotel rooms

While residents can order room service and catering from the hotel’s chefs, they are given priority bookings at The Pen’s restaurants as well as the spa facilities. They also have access to its famous fleet of Rolls Royces.

Expect to see more Aman residences in city locations too. “We are listening to our customers, they are telling us that when they are travelling they want a pied-a-terre right in the centre,” says Jolivet.

Aman Tokyo guest room

Aman Tokyo suite

They’ll be based on the suites at the recently opened Aman Tokyo. These 141 sq m spaces encompass lounging, dining, sleeping and bathing areas in a minimalist apartment-like setting that can be cleverly divided or opened up by slick sliding doors.

As Jolivet puts it: “a perfectly managed, top of the top property that is a club of the happy few.”

Designers in Demand

Joyce Wang
Hong Konger Wang has designed projects in LA and London as well as her home town. Most recently she revamped the guest rooms at The Landmark Mandarin Oriental in Hong Kong bringing a residential feel to them with the use of tactile, luxurious fabrics and creating different experience areas such installing a cocktail cabinet rather than a minibar.

Jean-Michel Gathy
Gathy is one of Aman’s go to architects and has also designed iconic resorts such as the Chedi Oman and the Cheval Blanc Randheli in the Maldives. He is responsible for many hotel design trends including over water hammocks and spa like bathrooms.

Pierre-Yves Rochon
The acclaimed French designer is behind stunning hotels such as the Shangri-La Paris, Grand Hotel Cap Ferat in the South of France and The Savoy, London and has brought a deluxe Art Deco yet contemporary feel to The Peninsula Shanghai hotel and Residences.

Win a Gold Bar

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Yep, you read that correctly. To celebrate the launch of the BFG film, Harrods has launched a competition to win an exclusive gold bar from its own bank. Now that’s what we call a competition. Here are the details: https://www.harrodsbank.co.uk/bfg?cid=email_crm_emagJUNE16_pub_emag_05_2016_nonrewardsMALE_all_030616

Luxe for Less at Joel Robuchon Restaurant

A canny way of eating at Michelin starred restaurants in London and Paris has long been to opt for the set lunch. Now you can do the same in Singapore with Joel Robuchon Restaurant being awarded three Michelin stars.

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Will Pippa Middleton plump for Packham?

G&J

The Bride wore Jenny Packham

Fashion experts say the smart money’s on  Jenny Packham for Pippa Middleton’s wedding dress. Fabulous choice P-Mid!

http://www.jennypackham.com

Some thoughts on the first Singapore Michelin Guide

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

The Michelin Star winners in Singapore

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

And so, as you’ve probably heard, Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle and Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle became the proud recipients of a Michelin star apiece while Joel Robuchon clocked up another three stars for his fine dining establishment in Singapore (read on for the full list). All announced, in a world first for Michelin, to much fanfare: a songstress in glitter crooning When You Wish Upon a Star and dancers in chefs uniforms waving giant forks and spoons. Even the three star reveal had some drama: director Michael Ellis teased us at first that not every location was worthy of three Michelin stars before announcing he did indeed have a red envelope and that it was not empty.

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A Cut Above

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Porterhouse steak at Cut by Wolfgang Puck

As Cut was awarded a Michelin star in the inaugural Singapore guide, launched yesterday, Chopstix looks back on meeting chef Joshua Brown:

Californian chef Joshua Brown had never visited Singapore before moving here with his family to open CUT restaurant at Marina Bay Sands. But the protege of Hollywood’s favourite chef, Wolfgang Puck, took to researching his new home city with a passion. “I hit the ground running,” he says. “There was all this fantastic food available 24 hours a day. I think I must have gained 20 pounds in the first month I got here.”

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Is A Woman’s Place in the Professional Kitchen?

 

 

Vicky Lau, Veuve Clicquot Asia's Best Female Chef 2015

Vicky Lau, Veuve Clicquot Asia’s Best Female Chef 2015

Asia’s Best Female Chef 2015 is Vicky Lau of Tate Dining Room, Hong Kong. Lau becomes the third winner of the award and will be officially presented with it at the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants ceremony at the Capella Hotel in Singapore on March 9th.

“The aim is to promote and celebrate female talent in an industry that remains very male dominated,” says William Drew, spokesman for the award, sponsored by Veuve Clicquot – a drinks brand associated with a strong, woman boss. “We would love to reach a position where this award becomes unnecessary but I think we are some way off that situation yet, unfortunately.”

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