Simply Sunday. At the Arabian Hotel Investment Conference (AHIC) this last week in Dubai, Erik Saelens, Founder and CEO of Belgium-based Brandhome Group, asked the audience if anyone had a Hermès handbag at home. Next question, aimed at the raised hands, would you now be happy with a Gucci bag? No, said the raised hands. That was Erik Saelens’ way of suggesting to hoteliers that standards of luxury are soaring up the whole time – a Gucci owner still aspires to a Hermès but not vice versa.
Luxury hotels do take note. At Park Hyatt Tokyo, for instance, a forthcoming promotion in the 52nd floor New York Grill is themed N.Y. C&C. This pairs Krug Champagne with an exclusive variety of Miyazaki 1983 caviar from rare Siberian sturgeon that has been farmed for eight years (see the image, above). Now that is the luxury to which many can aspire, and it helps put that luxury hotel on the map – again.
There is always a smile when a luxury hotel finds ways of upgrading its offerings yet again. Up and up forever is the marching song, and it certainly works, says the gal, at Four Seasons Resort Dubai at Jumeirah Beach. When the hotel opened on December 1st 2014 it already had the stunning Mercury rooftop bar, indoor or out and oh so many trendy locals flocked there, and ladies loved martinis-and-manicures on Mondays. Now there seems to be more emphasis on all age groups. Recently-arrived Italian GM Leonardo Baiocchi, for instance, has replaced a knick-knack shop on the lower ground floor by an absolutely stunning boutique for little ones – look at the boss, above, showing off one of the creations.
.. tiny calamari
And he is building up food awareness, both inside the hotel and out. If local magnates moor their designer yachts near the property, a waiter zooms out on a jetski to take any ‘room service’ orders. If they are sensible those privileged sailors would choose exactly what I had that hot weekend lunch, outside on the beach-set terrace. I started with salmon sashimi, wen on to crispy calamari. Of course we started talking about food, and I heard about the restaurant village in the carpark in front of the hotel, and after our espressos we went to have a look. There are about seven restaurants there, with more to come, and all are ultimately owned by the Sahenk family, who own Dogus. The family is also into a myriad of other interests. They are, for instance, now part-owers of Hilton Athens.
Beef ready’n waiting
At the carpark-set restaurant village it was actually the Turkish beef emporium that fascinated me the most. Called Nusr-ET, after the theatrical butcher-chef Nusret Gökce, it is a modern taken on Vlado’s in Melbourne. There, Vlado, metaphorically larger than the tiny shop he owned, would similarly cut one piece of meat after another, give you a single bite of cooked neck, and then some cubes of wagyu and so on. As the photo shows, it is pretty much the same here only the sizes of the cuts are, well, enormous. Nusret Gökce is also known as Salt Baa and his almost-slapstick method of cutting and swirling meat has become an internet sensation.
Leo Baiocchi – after lunch
This January 7th, indeed, one video, Ottoman Steak, was viewed 10 million times on Instagram and Nusret Gökce was interviewed by NBC News. ‘The shape of the meat and the taste of it starting from the top down is a part of me. All of my feelings are coming from inside of the meat down to putting salt on to it.’ Did anyone say that Four Seasons is not keeping up with the times? Thinking of Le Sirenuse at Four Seasons at the Surf Club, FL, a couple of weeks ago and now this raw meat theatre here in Dubai, I make a wry smile.
Once upon a time there was endless sand that formed an extensive beach along the beautiful Arabian Gulf. Fast, really fast, forward to 2017 and we have Dubai. Get stuck in a solid traffic jam along Sheikh Zayed Road, with elevated trains sliding overhead and soaring, gleaming, sculptured highrises either side – and you do not see any sand. But at Jumeirah’s newest luxury hotel, Jumeirah Al Naseem, which means sea breeze, you can look down at sand. Oh, says the gal, this 430-room hotel is absolutely gorgeous. All rooms face the sea, and have full-wall windows that slide back to give a feeling of being completely open to the elements. My room looked down at a pool filled with dozens of turtles, of all sizes: there are also adult-only, and family-friendly, swimming pools
The barrel-topped exterior of Rockfish
See how lovely room 475 is – look at the video, below. Designed by the South African company DSGN, plus Bill Bensley, the colours are cream and soft mushroom, and there is lots of beautiful satin-smooth oak (the fittings were all done by a company called H&H, which coincidentally owns Four Seasons Resort Dubai at Jumeirah Beach). H&H was also closely involved in this stunning hotel’s restaurants and bar. I loved our lunch at Rockfish, which again seems to open up to fresh air. It is a memorable restaurant, and not only for the barrels on its roof – lunch was a dream, masses of crudo, followed by a big skewer of salmon and scallops. Interestingly, at the hotel’s all-day Palmery restaurant, the design element is inside: go in and 430 copper cooking pots hang overhead, one for each of the hotel’s bedrooms.
Honestly, this is a hotel for outstanding food, which perhaps is not surprising since the GM, Richard Alexander, came up through the F&B route, including three years heading restaurants and bars at Wynn in Las Vegas. I had dinner with Richard and his children at Il Borro, one of two of the hotel’s restaurants that are leased out. Il Borro is a duplicate of the Ferragamo family’s Il Borro in Tuscany, and all the ingredients are specially imported (do try their mozzarella, with Il Borro-label). The staff, half-half Italian and other nationalities, are also all Ferragamo employees, and living in separate housing from the rest of the Jumeirah team members. The other leased-out restaurant will be a Katsuya, designed by Philippe Starck.
Three little girls from school, in the hotel lobby lounge
A luxury hotel that is only four months old, it has already become a regular meeting spot for younger-generation locals. To be part of the crowd, indeed, you should really pair your black abaya, with its shorter sleeves and length to allow your bracelet and designer shoes to be seen, with a fluffy pink handbag. But there are others here, and in the full-occupancy lobby lounge, a champagne-coloured theatre with masses of white flowers, I ran into two travel agent friends, one from England, one from Turkey, both here for the massive Arabian Travel Market ATM. Expats who live in Dubai say it is actually one big village, but it can also be described as the leading 21st city, complete with a new Opera House, that grew out of the sand. NOW SEE THE VIDEO BELOW