Luxury Hotels

How grand cuisine helps a luxury hotel

Normandy oysters, Utah Beach

Bangkok had its first Michelin ratings December 2017 and the historic Normandie, atop the original wing of Mandarin Oriental, went straight in with two stars. Austrian F&B Thomas Kinsperger, who learned a lot of his finesse while working at another of the world’s great luxury hotels, Hotel Sacher in Vienna, says that covers instantly soared by 35% and have remained there ever since.  Certainly, when the gal popped in for lunch with him, and the Hotel Manager Franck Droin, every table was taken, mostly by chic young Bangkok fashionistas in latest styles.  Even at lunch many had at least a glass of Champagne or wine (tax in Thailand is a staggering 380%, and on beer, too).

Asparagus, Sylvain Erhardt

Chef Arnaud Dunand-Gauthier is from Normandy, which shows in his menu, specialising in most-perfect products – the butters, which include my beloved seaweed-studded – are Bordier. I had green asparagus, from farmer Sylvain Erhardt and here served with a divine sabayon.  I followed this with another starter, a couple of oysters from Normandy’s Utah Beach, near Pouppeville. Of course I later researched the name, and it was code for one of the five sectors of the Allied invasion during the Normandy Landings June 6th, 1944.

Looking down at the hotel’s landing stage

History is prevalent everywhere at this iconic 396-room hotel, which traces its roots to what is now the Authors’ Wing, built in 1876 (Normandie tops this block). From Normandie today I can look down, over the pool and manicured garden to the Chao Phraya River, at this time of year studded with the weeds that flow downstream every May through July.  Looking across the river, to the right is a soaring new block that will house 140 residences-for-sale, to be managed by Mandarin Oriental. Many of them are apparently already sold.

Authors’ Wing lounge

Down on the ground floor of the Authors’ Wing we walked past the Rimowa store and other boutiques to the main lobby, to admire ceiling-hung flower art that surprisingly lasts up to three months (showing it off in the photo above are Thomas Kinsperger, on the left, and Franck Droin). Then we walked through the elegant reception rooms of this block – its walls are hung with historic mirrors and memorabilia of Graham Greene and other notable writers associated with this luxury hotel over the years. We went on out to the landing stage, where a private boat was already waiting to take the Champagne-hued Rimowa wheelie and its owner over the water…

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Luxury Hotels

Sybaritic Single’s fortnightly thoughts on luxury hotels

Coming back soon…

Many would remember that the Sybaritic Single adores when luxury hotels and retail walk hand-in-hand. There should be more such collaborations, be it the Sacher-Torte or the Westin Heavenly Bed.

One of his favourite places, the Raffles Hotel in Singapore, is undergoing a shockingly large-scale refurbishment and, as it inevitably happens, its re-opening is delayed. Could it be some ancient curse that hoteliers inevitably fail to deliver an opening on time (and very often, on budget)?
Nevertheless, the Raffles could never imagine depriving hundreds of thousands of visitors and residents of its favourite cocktail, the Singapore Sling. That’s how a pop-up Long Bar appeared on Seah Street, around the corner from the hotel’s grand entrance – with just 15 seats. What a clever thing to do, considering that the bar sells more than 2,000 cocktails a day, at USD 27 each. Those who consider themselves true aficionados of Singapore Sling can also purchase a box of chocolate truffles infused with the cocktail at the adjacent ephemeral gift shop.
The Sybaritic Single walked in well before midday to start the day with a glass of his favourite drink and could barely find a table – he was not the only one wishing to finish breakfast with a signature rosy hurricane glass in hand. While sipping the sling, he kept thinking of Ngiam Tong Boon who invented the cocktail back in 1915. Could the humble Hainanese barman imagine becoming the Christian Dior of Singapore – and a true icon of its most famous luxury hotel, with his creation generating close to 20 million US dollars per annum 100 years later?
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Luxury Hotels

Luxury hoteliers and owners meet in Bangkok

Minor Group CEO Dillip Rajakarier is interviewed off-stage

There are so many reasons for luxury hoteliers to gather together – this very week, for instance, all InterContinental area directors networked in Dubai.  This next week there will hundreds of luxury operators in Singapore for the first-ever ILTM Asia-Pacific.  And then there are investment conferences, sometimes gatherings of be-suited men who never smile. The gal was delighted to find that the second South East Asia Hotel Investors’ Summit SEAHIS did not fall into that category.  Serious business was interspersed with real friendliness and continual laughter – and not surprisingly there was a chance to reconnect with such long-time friends as Andrew Steele (above), the former Shangri-La lifer who now heads a company called The Potato Head family.

This delegate wanted a hamburger pink

There were 250 delegates at SEAHIS, held May 14-15, 2018 at Westin Grande Sukhumvit – and well done to the hotel, who arranged quick WiFi everywhere, and breakouts and meals that included a lunch buffet with an outstanding sashimi station, and made-to-order burgers with your choice of black, pink or yellow buns. It was meticulously organised by Simon Allison, Chairman of HOFTEL, set up specifically for owners, to allow them to level the playing field when dealing with brands, OTAs, banks and sharing-economy entities. The invitation-only organisation has 82 members, who incudes such names as Blackstone, Host, Sun Hung Kai, Swire and other significant players.

Tony Ryan in action

Australian lawyer Tony Ryan is honestly the most charismatic, and professional, moderator in the business. In a one-to-one session, Taj’s Puneet Chhatwal explained his reason for continuing with multi-brands: luxury-only would impede growth, and luxury has lower margins, which stock exchange does not like – and, in addition, there is a legal obligation to give owners the brands they originally signed. In general Vietnam seemed to be a hotspot. Many speakers said they had never, despite government and visa challenges, seen anything like its growth (it has taken a mere eight years for incoming visitor numbers to rise from six to 15 million, and in addition domestic tourism has seen 18% growth in the last year).

Mark Hehir, left, talks Maldives

Maldives incites jealousy from elsewhere, although Centara’s Markland Blaiklock did  boast there are some Thai resorts that can command $1,500 average rates. High charges, said Mark Hehir, Small Maldives Island Co, are boosted by demand for the exclusivity of all-island resorts, and rates are necessitated by exorbitant construction costs. Excluding land reclamation, typical luxury resort development cost is about a million US a key: one resort is currently being built, prefab-style, in Singapore, to be shipped in, but containers might still be delayed, say for a month, waiting to get into Malé port, which distorts planned budgets. Now I am looking forward, already, to the 2019 SEAHIS, to meet more owners and operators of luxury hotels and resorts – Simon Allison says the exact date should be finalised soon.



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