Luxury Hotels

Everyone’s smiling at the luxury Peninsula Tokyo hotel

View from suite 2019

No wonder everyone was smiling at the gorgeous Peninsula Tokyo. That very day it was announced the luxury hotel has 2017 Forbes five star awards not only for the hotel but also for its spa. There were lots of other celebrations, too. Sakura, cherry blossom season, starts officially March 24th, 2017, in Tokyo but the gal found that here they were already trialling sakura cakes – see them above, and on the video. The curate’s stand delicacies were displayed next to a vase of early blossom that the hotel gets from Gunma Province, 30 miles away from Tokyo. As of the official blossom period, sakura specials will see the lobby filled with hundreds of ten-foot blooming trees: there will be sakura-inspired cakes with 20 different teas, and, à la carte, sakura buns, sakura latte. sakura popcorn and even sakura margaritas.

Mark Koyabashi and Sonja Vodusek

This is such a year for celebration. The hotel reaches its tenth anniversary, and all the passionate staff wear mizuhiki, twisted robe, designer pins. As part of the celebrations, Peninsula Tokyo will be partnering with Rally Nippon, a four-day road event for 80 old cars, all pre-1974. Organised by Rally Nippon, the route takes in several UNESCO heritage sites as it progresses from Kyoto to Tokyo, where it finishes October 24th, 2017 here at the hotel. Two nights later a gala will be hosted, to celebrate the rally, the ten years of ITS existence and, more important to global luxury hospitality than anything else, the first decade of THIS hotel. Chefs from all Peninsula hotels worldwide will fly in to cook. There is a lot of flying going on this year. This April a culinary team from Peninsula Tokyo heads to Peninsula Paris for a promotion. In August, Peninsula Tokyo’s energetic Australian GM Sonja Vodusek flies to Los Angeles personally to escort 80 excited travellers taking part in the first Peninsula Grand Inaugural Crystal Aircruise, as it circumnavigates the world of Peninsula in a specially-converted B777-200.

Fifteen-ingredient Peter salad

From Tokyo, the global travellers  will be escorted on the next leg of their private jet circumnavigation by the GM of Peninsula Beijing.All this news tumbled out as we dined up on the hotel’s 24th floor top floor, in Peter, named for the one and only Peter Borer. Of course, as I looked through 360° around Yabu Pushelberg’s fairytale interior and the real theatre of the Imperial Gardens far below, I knew I had to start with the signature Peter salad, with 15 healthy ingredients (as a surprise, the individual cones of Bordier butter had dried Japanese seaweed sifted over, table-side). My glass of Peninsula Pinot Noir, Keller Estate Sonoma, 2013, then went brilliantly with 40-day dry-aged striploin, with sides of cauliflower purée, and pan-fried asparagus.

Benoit Perie at work

And then I went to bed, leaving Sonia Vodusek and her colleague Mark Kobayashi to while away the night supervising the switching of the hotel’s WiFi connectivity to support unlimited devices – of course, being Peninsula, and in Japan, it was back working, and perfectly, at the stated hour of 5 a.m. on the morrow. Naturally, too, there was consistency, like the world’s finest omelette – best described as fluffy scrambled eggs in a light shell, magically produced with rubber-ended chopsticks. There were more surprises. Bastien Gonzalez’ top disciple, a Toulouse podiatrist called Benoit Perie waited personally to give my feet 75 minutes’ pampering, far more than all the tender loving care they had had in the previous couple of decades. After that I imagined I was on a silver cloud, or at least in one of the luxury hotel’s Rolls-Royces.  SEE A VIDEO OF MY LOVELY SUITE, BELOW

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Luxury Hotels

Sybaritic Single luxuriates in Grimaldi land

A perfect vintage on one’s private balcony

Earlier this week, the Sybaritic Single spent a few days in Monaco which has become his usual February sojourn. The most civilised two kilometres on the planet shine with nine Michelin stars and boast an enviable concentration of luxury hotels complete with splendid dining rooms, from the glamorous Le Louis XV at Hôtel de Paris to the casual Nobu at Fairmont Monte Carlo.

However, Alain Ducasse has once again escaped the fork of the Sybaritic Single. with a promise to re-open in March, Ducasse closed the most Michelin-starred establishment of the principality, Le Louis XV, precisely the day before Sybaritic Single arrived . A box of artisan chocolates from his Parisian manufacture was all the concierge of Hôtel de Paris could arrange in lieu of the celebrated chef himself.
Joël Robuchon followed his colleague’s example when he closed doors of his own restaurant at the nearby Hotel Metropole during the same period. Returning to Nobu for the fifth time definitely not an option and the Sybaritic Single was left with no other choice than to try the trio of international flagships: Buddha Bar, Cipriani and La Marée.
These three establishments stand apart from luxury hotels yet are popular among the jet-set landing in Monte-Carlo at any time of the year. Reservations are essential even in February and being 15 minutes late almost inevitably means that the table is given away to the eager public waiting at the door. The service is less personal while more efficient, with dishes flying-in sooner than expected and wines poured less elegantly than desired. Their menus taste precisely as expected: one would question the scientific approach of seemingly robotic chefs recreating the flavours so identically well in Monaco, Moscow, Dubai or Hong Kong. The consistency feels satisfying to the taste buds yet lacks the authenticity of local gastronomy. Very different in their styles, these international establishments have inevitably evolved into upscale fast-food chains which are more about attracting the crowd and turning tables than well-paced and memorable dining.
Now more than ever, the Sybaritic Single looks forward to the re-opening of Le Louis XV as well as his favourite grill at the top of Hôtel de Paris. Even in uber-sophisticared Grimaldi land, luxury hotel dining still remains his firm favourite. Until then, there is a Fauchon boutique in the shopping gallery of Hotel Metropole with a great champagne cellar. Its finest vintages are best enjoyed on a private balcony overlooking the monumental casino.
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Luxury Hotels

A fascinating lunch at the luxury Four Seasons hotel in Tokyo

Tomato still-life, in front of a framed carpet

Life is full of surprises. What the gal had expected to be a most enjoyable lunch at the luxury Four Seasons Hotel Tokyo at Marunouchi turned out to be a culinary masterpiece in a divine airy ambience paired with an education in Japanese female life. There must have been at least 120 adults in the hotel’s seventh-floor Motif Bar and Grill, which seats 135 maximum. Of that number, all but two were Japanese, and of those only two were male. There were, however, at least five babies or toddlers, all in Recaro or other branded buggies. Yes this was, as it is every day here, ladies-who-lunch time. Hotel GM Takuya Kishi, a sociology graduate whose wife is a homemaker for their five year old son, explained. I heard later, elsewhere, that many Japanese men simply do not want their wives to work.

Lotus root, right, and covered with yuzu foam, left

Japanese women legally get maternity leave of six weeks before a birth and eight weeks after, during which they get around 67% of their base salary, paid by social insurance. If they wish, either parent can then opt for a further year off, for what is called child care, again covered to the same amount by social insurance. After that, what then? There is a dire shortage of nursery schools in Tokyo, where land prices are astronomical, so some mothers simply have to stay home – or do lunch, which is probably less expensive than heading for Christian Dior or a department store. If they are smart they and their friends will choose Motif, the two year-old light and bright reincarnation of what had hitherto been rather a dark space on the hotel’s top, seventh, floor.

Main course: soft roe covered with crisp, and ginger strips

This hotel is owned by Hong Kong gourmet Richard Li, son of Li Kai-shing. and it was obviously essential that the new look be conducive and complementary to food that is overseen by Sapporo restaurateur Hiroshi Nakamichi. Designer André Fu has put in wood floors, taupe colouring, two big wall panels of pale grey ceramic shapes that look like sheets from an old book half turned into historic tiles: next to these hangs a swirl-design carpet in shades of soft buttercup. Most of the colour, however, comes from the food. At lunch, the appetizer and dessert buffets are meticulously labelled – see the photo at the top. A server then brought us entre-acte cups of stewed lotus root topped with yuzu foam (and some lotus roots, to show what they look like). And then you choose your main course from a list that is short but exceedingly well-chosen.

Takuya Kishi

Kishi-san had a chicken roll and reminded me that two years ago, when we dined just before the opening of Motif, I chose a burger. Today, being brave for once, I opted for soft roe with a crust, and ginger. I was brought up that soft roe is served on toast but honestly, this presentation, by hotel chef Asano Hiroyuki, is elegantly tasty – the ginger is the strands atop the whole creation. Looking around, the 116 local ladies were all enjoying desserts, obviously de rigueur if you choose this luxury hotel for your lunchtime get-together. At about 1.55 p.m, by the way, they emptied the room, and pretty quickly. At two o’clock, on the dot, a server started clearing what was left of the buffet, and by five past that hour there was, Cinderella-like, no sign it had ever existed.


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