Luxury Hotels

Simply Sunday – HELLO guest

Welcome to Claridge’s

There are welcomes and welcomes, and some luxury hotels get it absolutely spot-on. Memories include the fresh lemonade, with a personalised – with photo! – label at Four Seasons Miami, and the made-in-front-of-you Daquiri, complete with mixologist, at W Koh Samui.

As one might expect, the discreetly-stylish Claridge’s in London gives the gal what she wants, a beverage, whole fruit with a banana – and knife and fork – and a hand-written card, in an envelope sealed with wax (though I do appreciate that actually busy travellers also like a simple card, no envelope to open, the card stuck in a slotted holder on the desk top).  On the fruit side, by the way, Shangri-La is to be commended for giving proper fruit knives that really cut, and anyone who includes lots of fresh berries, in my case, gets extra marks.

We all know welcomes we do not want, so congratulations to those who get it right. That is one qualifier for luxury status that all hotels should note.

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A luxury hotel, its orchid house and its drone

The orchid house, left, is in the garden

One thing the gal had yet to learn was how to fly a drone, but now she did, at the luxury Shangri-La Singapore. This mammoth hotel, the one that started the Kuok family’s entire Shangri-La empire, seems to have everything (well, not quite everything – the hotel’s 458-room Tower block is out of action, for nine months from last August, for a complete Bond design re-do, which includes a new high-up, own-run Japanese restaurant, with a grill going in the venue formerly occupied by the leased-out Nadaman). Never mind, there was plenty else to see. Shangri-La Singapore finally opened its unique orchid house, thought about by the Kuok family for so long and designed, as an open-slat teepee, by Franklin Po of Tierra Design.

Chef Vincent Wong in the Orchid House

It is, well, not only unique but stunning. See how – photo at top of the story –  the structure’s open top allows you to look out at the sky, or a drone to look in. Take one of the dinner-in-the-Orchid-House packages, indeed, and a drone video is part of the amazing experience. Since its opening just a few months ago, the Orchid House, with its 300 orchid plants suspended from vertically-set wood-veneer planks from Germany, has become THE place for proposal and anniversary dinners. I had met the Orchid House chef, a tatooed artist called Vincent Wong, a couple of years ago when he was the Meat Master at Jing’An Shangri-La in Shanghai. Now he is the maestro here, producing holistic dishes that tie in with his love of mother nature. To go with our Veuve Clicquot, he produced tiny dishes of vegetables with micro cress and edible soil; little dishes of calx, salsify and tomatoes.

Pebbles, or potato balls on real pebbles

Another of his canapés is what he calls Pebbles, a dish of real pebbles topped by what look like other pebbles but they are in fact baby potatoes, with hol sin mayonnaise; and, hanging from a small, leaf-less tree on the table, his Leaf, Leaf, celeriac chips dusted with kimchi salt. Ten out of ten for imagination, Vincent Wong, and similar marks to your boss, hotel GM Reto Klauser, who being a former chef himself understands the publicity and marketing appeal of doing things differently. Buy a dinner in Orchid House, by the way, and you are offered a drone video of the event. Oh what fun! As I said this was my first experience and initially using the luxury hotel’s own machine I had it soaring up and down at Usain Bolt speed, but I soon learned moderation. This was an evening I will never forget. Now see a somewhat topsy-turvy video below!






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Luxury cars outside luxury hotels tell a story

St Regis entrance (red ribbon sculpture, Anthony Poon)

How much do cars outside a building say? A couple of years ago Harrods, in London, saw a jaundice of bright yellow or orange designer cars, from SUVs to racing supercars, parked outside. The ensuing publicity in the UK media was such that all the relevant car manufacturers must have cringed. Well, asks the gal, the Qataris own Harrods so why shouldn’t their princelings park outside? The problem is that today nobody seems to appreciate princelings, be they Brandon Trump through to the heirs to, say, Hong Kong’s great fortunes. You never see the heirs to the Cheng dynasty, of Rosewood fame, showing off their wealth. At true luxury level no-one flaunts wealth. I headed round to St Regis Singapore, owned by another ultra-discreet family, the Kweks. Led by Kwek Leng Beng, this is the family that owns so many hotels (in New York, its Millennium Broadway last week unveiled the re-ropening of the hotel’s own Broadway theatre). But, like Chinese anywhere, especially throughout south-east Asia, the Kwek family aim to come out ahead, which is one of the reasons they like their hotels. In Singapore, for instance, the Kwek portfolio has added the newly-branded J.W. Marriott South Beach Singapore.

Origami under the New Year tree

Right behind the Kwek-owed St Regis, Singapore will probably have an Edition hotel, same owners.   So what? It is a great spot and in times past every gold merchant, for instance, would want to be near other gold merchants. Think today of London’s Bond Street or Mount Street stores, or, in Paris, rue Saint Honoré, where signature brands are side by side. So it is, often, with hotels. In Bangkok, the Heinecke-owned St Regis Bangkok will soon have the Waldorf Astoria Bangkok as its neighbour. Here, having another hotel, also part of Marriott, surely only increases the appeal of the destination. Meanwhile, St Regis Singapore makes the most of the present. Parked outside today were the customary designer cars, including a McLaren (see above).

GM Klaus Christandl

I go in, past a 20-inch long glass miniature of the Frank Gehry fish shape that dominates, in full glory, the rear of Hotel Arts, Barcelona. Here in Singapore right now, there is a Chinese New Year tree in the lobby. But it has more. Klaus Christandl, GM of this luxury hotel, has introduced a display of 28 stunning origami statues, all crafted by one of Singapore’s top origami masters, Leong Cheng Chit, a former engineer. Buy one of these treasures and you benefit the local charity chosen by Mr Leong, the Halogen Foundation Singapore.


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