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A Private Island Paradise for World Earth Day

Cempedak Island 1

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

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

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

Cempedak Villa 4

What does the resort look like?
As your chosen vessel approaches the tiny, verdant island, a series of striking structures hone into view. These thatched roofed, curved bamboo buildings make up the villas and public areas of the resort.

So it’s designed to look like a pretty tropical paradise?
Well yes but Cempedak is not just a pretty face, the owners are committed to eco-friendly practices. Bamboo is sustainable and the open sided, high ceilinged designs cut down the need for air con. The resort has been built by local workers using locally sourced materials and employs only Indonesian staff. Added to that, the owners have set up The Island Foundation to help improve the income, health and education of surrounding communities.

Cempedak villa

Tell me more about the guest rooms
They’re all villas and they come in two types: beach fronted or set back and elevated with a view of the sea. Both have airy, open sitting areas, terraces and a plunge pool large enough to get a couple of strokes in. A spiral staircase leads up to a bedroom complete with sitting area to further soak in the view and en suite bathroom with semi open shower.

Cempedak Villa 2

What about the food?
Breakfast, lunch and dinner are all held in the main restaurant (though in-villa or on a nearby deserted island are also options) but with a choice of terraces and some hideaway nooks, you can move around for each meal and feel like you’re having a new dining experience every time. All meals are set menus and alternate between Indonesian and western cuisine, using local produce including seafood, fish, vegetables and fruit, and all of a high standard.

Is there a bar?
There are three: one part of the restaurant and one next to the pool plus the gloriously designed Dodo Bar perched on top of a huge rock and with a multi storey thatched roof. There’s a story behind its curious name. Ask the bartender to tell you when he’s fixing your drink from the impressive array of boutique spirits.

Walkway to Dodo Bar

What is there to do?
For active sorts there’s a whole heap of activities on offer including watersports, tennis and croquet. Or you could just loll about by the swimming pool, the beach bar within easy reach. And if you’re even too lazy to do that (mea culpa) you could loaf about on your own terrace next to your own plunge pool. After all, the in room magazine is The Idler.

Cempedak Main Swimming Pool 3

Is there a spa?
Spa treatment rooms are planned for later in the year but for now massages are available in the none too shabby environs of your villa.

Anything else I should know?
This is very much bare foot luxury. There’s no room key or air con, you’ll need to bring your own hairdryer and the walkways do not invite high heels. If you like your luxe resorts hermetically sealed and Disney sanitised this probably isn’t the place for you. If however you like the feel of a sea breeze and being lulled to sleep by the sound of lapping waves, you’ll love it.

I’m sold, what’s the damage?
From SG$450 per night (plus taxes) for a Sea View villa; SG$95 per person per day for full board. For more visit http://www.cempedak.com

Feeling Like Royalty at Raffles

One of the three imposing doormen at the entrance to Raffles

 

[UPDATE: Singaporean residents can book a staycation at Raffles for rates starting at $S499 plus taxes including accommodation, tour with resident historian Mr Leslie Danker, welcome Singapore Slings and personalised check-in at Writer’s Bar, afternoon tea for two your suite, buffet breakfast at the Tiffin Room and late check-out at 3pm.
Book your stay by 30 June 2017, valid for stays before 12 August 2017.]

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

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Is there a need for Best Female Chef awards?

Lanshu Chen at the pass

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

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

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

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

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

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Is this the best restaurant in Hong Kong?

Amber.jpg

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

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

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5 Minutes with Guy Savoy

Guy Savoy

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

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

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

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

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

Who would you most like to cook for?
Me.

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

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

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

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