Ever since the HOSHINOYA resort opened in the scenic Arashiyama region of Kyoto in December 2009, I’ve been dying to check into this very special property. While Kyoto, one of my favourite cities in the world, is home to both modern (Western) hotels and ultra-pricey, ultra-exclusive traditional ryokans, HOSHINOYA is unique in that it offers the best of both worlds, in a resort setting unlike any other.
When my darling wife S and I choose a hotel to stay in, one of the most important factors (for us) is the food. While I realise that there are many that choose not to eat in the hotels they stay in, we tend to have at least one real meal (other than breakfast) if not more on property. To me, the food and beverage side of a hotel is as important as the room size, the service, and the architecture. When I choose to stay somewhere nice, I want to experience all that the hotel offers. And that means checking out their restaurants and bars (as well as their spa, gym, etc). When S and I checked into The Siam a few weeks back, knowing that the owners Kriss and Mel are real foodies, we were very much looking forward to exploring the hotel’s restaurants.
Over a decade ago, my next door neighbor, a stunning half Chinese, half British gal from Hong Kong met an equally handsome Thai rock star and fell in love. A number of years later, Kriss (the rock star, now also an actor) led S and me on a fun, rather amusing tour of his favourite old buildings in Bangkok, which culminated in us being chased out of the former Russian Embassy by security guards at two in the morning. Another couple of years later, Kriss showed us an amazing plot of land, on the river and in the old part of the city, that had been in his mother’s family for decades. He told us how he wanted to build a truly stunning, riverside, five-star urban resort there – something that would fit within his mother’s hotel company but that would also embrace his love of antiques, architecture, vintage glamour and luxury. That dream would eventually become The Siam, one of the most stunning hotels in Asia and easily the most significant new property to open in Thailand this year.
Women are spoilt for choice when it comes to buying great shoes. I know I can rattle off over a dozen names of amazing designers that create gorgeous kicks, ranging from elegant ballet flats or electrifying stiletto heels. The very best designers make shoes that are a both a joy to wear and that make us gals look simply sensational. Unfortunately, for the boys, the choices are a little more limited. As the devoted girlfriend to a metrosexual hunk, I admit that I devote quite a bit of my free time sussing out cool designers that I can introduce to my sartorially-inclined beau. Being in London for a summer of leather accessories courses at the London College of Fashion meant that I recently had the delightful opportunity to meet George Glasgow, owner of cult bespoke shoemaker George Cleverley.
My wife S and I, like so many in our generation, are passionate about wine. That doesn’t make us experts. In fact, I’d say we’re pretty far from being considered experts. But we’ve tasted enough to both know what we like as well as to appreciate something really special. Unfortunately, the kind of wine we both enjoy the most, and drink the most of, is Champagne… I say “unfortunately” because Champagne is far from cheap. Sometimes it feels like we’re constantly stocking up and running out of bubbly, while our other white and red wine supplies stay pretty much constant.
A friend of mine said something really interesting the other day. He asked me if I’d ever noticed that while Bali has several stunningly beautiful restaurants, with gorgeous views and great design, and some great local restaurants, that serve both fantastic Balinese and other regional Indonesian dishes, it was pretty much impossible to find a restaurant that combines all of the above. The more I thought about it, I realized he was right. It was hard to name a restaurant that could offer breathtaking vistas, a cool vibe with great style and design, and really sumptuous, authentic local food. The combination was only logical. Why wouldn’t some smart restaurateur design a restaurant like this? Why shouldn’t there be a place as cool as Ku De Ta, or as pretty as Mozaic, that offered really delicious Balinese fare? After all, when I travel somewhere, I want to explore and learn about the local cuisine. I want to tuck into really well-prepapred authentic (and not touristy) dishes. But I’m also a slave to style and I’d like to not have to always be eating such food in less than chic environments.
Enter The Warung at the new Alila Villas Uluwatu resort. This swanky casual restaurant at this glamourous new property, perched on a cliff overlooking the ocean on Bali’s southern coastline, delivers the total package. And I know I was just recently waxing lyrical about another Alila property, but I have good reason. These guys, at least at the Alila Villas level, just seem to be able to get things right. And that’s worth shouting out about. The Uluwatu resort, an ultra-luxe (and yet also sustainable) development designed by Singapore starchitects Wong Mun Summ and Richard Hassel of WoHA, is strikingly chic. All clean lines, bright colors, and natural materials, Alila Villas Uluwatu is the kind of place you’d expect to see movie stars and billionaires sunning, sipping cocktails and trading secrets.
NOTE: The resort is no longer managed by Alila. It is now the Park Hyatt Maldives Hadahaa.
So you’ve finally amassed enough leave days (and moola) to plan that dream vacation. She’s been pestering you about escaping the cold weather for weeks now. And you want to surprise her with something really stunning — so special that all her friends’ husbands and boyfriends are going to be hating you for months to come. You’ve scoured travel magazines and surfed the right websites and you’ve made your decision. You’re going to bring your hunny bunny to Alila Villas Hadahaa in the Maldives.
Now, you might not need any convincing to head up to the Hunter Valley on your next trip to New South Wales, Australia. Knowing it’s the country’s oldest and one of its most exciting wine regions may be all the reason you need. But just in case you needed a little extra motivation, S and I have sussed out two amazing places that alone are reason enough to head up to Hunter.
1. The Rock restaurant and Andrew Clarke’s stunning food
There are good vineyard and wine country restaurants and then there are great ones. The Rock restaurant at Poole’s Rock Wines is definitely one of the latter. It’s been named the Australia’s Best Restaurant in a Winery at the 2008 Restaurant and Catering Association awards. It is the Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide’s highest ranked restaurant in Hunter, and the only restaurant in the region with two hats. Housed in a glass-walled building, overlooking a block of 90-year old shiraz vines, the clean modern room and its views are equally inviting. The Rock is actually two restaurants in one. By day, it is the Firestick Cafe, a cool, contemporary cafe that serves simple but beautifully made cafe food: wood-fired, thin crust pizzas; a luxe wagyu burger with caramelized onions and fries; pork schnitzel and crushed potato, rocket and waldorf salad. The pizzas looked especially gorgeoous. And I love Chef Andrew Clarke’s combination ideas, like the confit pork belly, caramelized fennel and gherkins pizza.
After spending an incredible day attending the Mundaring Truffle Festival, S and I decided we had to see The Wine & Truffle Company‘s operations in Manjimup first-hand. Manjimup is located in the very beautiful Southern Forests area of Western Australia. By car, it’s a four hour drive. But one that is well worth it. The Southern Forests, while not as popular or as widely known (internationally) as the Margaret River region, is rich with vineyards, cute places to stay, picturesque towns, fabulous produce, and amazing scenery. It really is a gorgeous part of WA. Having always stopped at Margaret River, I was kicking myself for not having discovered this area sooner.
My greedy but gorgeous wife S and I have wanted to try El Bulli for almost a decade. We first heard about this exciting Spanish restaurant in the late 90s/early naughties. In 2001, at Tasting Australia, we were lucky enough to attend an incredible two-hour long private demonstration during which Ferran Adria showed off some of his more innovative cooking techniques to a room full of journalists. Later that day, we were given a few minutes to interview this revolutionary artist-philosopher-cook.
While theoretically we’ve wanted to dine at El Bulli, I have to admit we never really did anything about it. We never tried making reservations or tried planning a trip. We just assumed that we’d get around to it one day. Of course, as the years passed by and booking a table went from hard-to-get to almost impossible, we started to wonder if maybe we’d been waiting too long. So, when a good friend — a restaurateur who is friends with Ferran — called me two months ago and said, “Hey, I’ve decided to swing by El Bulli on the way to the States in May. I have a table for 6 and am calling you first. Do you want to go? But…um… I need to know right now,” S and I jumped at it. And even though we had just decided to postpone a trip to Italy that we had been planning for September 08 to sometime in 2009 because we weren’t sure we could afford it, we said, “what the halibut” and have put ourselves into even greater credit card debt than we already are.