Luxury Hotels

Peninsula’s luxury Tokyo hotel provides the ideal stop-over

The lobby is like a wrap-around sculpture

A one-night stopover in Tokyo requires the best. Coming into the sculpted lobby of the luxury Peninsula Tokyo hotel is like coming home: everyone seems to know the repeat guest, and goes out of their way to give a welcome that is truly personal (at breakfast in the lobby, which is the only breakfast venue, the gal is given a leather bound menu that has #marybreakfasts printed across the top). This place is full of surprises, but at the same time there are endless thoughtful dependables. In any one of the 314 bedrooms, digital signage is in your language, be it Arabic or Mandarin, or English. The leather-boxed office kit on top of the desk has everything – far too many kits omit just the item one needs – and the stapler is filled, and works. Suppliers also include a WiMAX 2+ portable WiFi, for taking around town.

GM Sonja Vodusek and a bellhop

The bellhops, who all seem to be young ladies, are in pristine outfits, and do not at all mind being photographed. The flowers are lovely. This time I ventured out of my gorgeous 20th floor suite – which offered a 270-degree view of the Imperial Palace – to go upstairs and down. Up in Peter restaurant, the entrance (see above) to the Yabu Pushelberg-designed catwalk of a restaurant is as fashionable as ever, and my dinner was the best yet. Unlike versions elsewhere around the world, here the tuna carpaccio with avocado is served as a slice of terrine, with sheets of seaweed for you to wrap each bite. Here, home made bread goes with oil, and also Bordier butter, with powdered seaweed for diners they know appreciate it. Here, the Kagawa A4 40-day olive-fed ribeye, available as 150g or 200g, is brought already sliced, so Laguiole knives are barely necessary. Of course we had a Peninsula wine with it, the company’s 2014 La Cruz Vineyard from Keller Estate in Petaluma CA.

A display of Japan’s own gin…

The hotel is also going into its own-label spirits, says imaginative GM Sona Vodusek. I was actually fascinated by a new Japanese gin I saw when venturing down 33 steps from the main lobby to the basement arcade – here I looked in through large picture windows to see the hotel’s bakers and chocolate makers at work; I discovered the deli, to eat in or take items to go, and the super flower shop, source of the lobby displays. There is also a vitrine showing the year-old Suntory Roku gin, which is flavoured with six botanicals including cherry blossom and green tea. It is displayed against a kimono-like background.

.. evokes thoughts of beautiful kimonos

Aha, having visited a laundry a few days ago at Raffles Dubai, would The Peninsula Tokyo let me see kimono care? I was given a tour of this luxury hotel’s inhouse laundry, for those impeccable bellhops’ outfits and all uniforms, plus guest items (sheets and so on are sent out). Luckily, they were servicing two exquisite kimonos, at $100 a time – they are carefully dry-cleaned, and then hung up for steam pressing – see a video below. So many experiences here, like once again having at breakfast the distinctive Ukkokay omelette that is really scrambled egg wrapped in an outer shell, and being offered not only today’s New York Times but also a copy of Monocle‘s excellent Forecast 2018. NOW SEE A VIDEO OF KIMONO CARE


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Luxury Hotels

A quick update on London’s luxury Langham hotel

GM flipping…

There were multiple reasons to pop quickly into one of London’s ‘relaxed luxury’ havens, The Langham hotel, five minutes’ walk north of Oxford Circus. For a start, MD Bob van den Oord – who still harbours a childhood ambition to be a mayor – was flipping pancakes to celebrate Shrove Tuesday. Both his Nutella pancake and the traditional sugar and lemon one produced by his Hotel Manager, Nicholas Davies, were deemed to be great successes, said the assembled spectators. The gal was there to see the hotel’s gorgeously tweaked lobby – see the video below. With flowers by The Langham’s own Argentinian florist, Adrian Ghione, who was originally hired as a housekeeping porter, and a soft ginger-flower perfume, and art and books, this lobby is now absolutely gorgeous.

Fabulous food

When I was last at the hotel the former bank on the corner of the hotel was spa reception. In August 2017 it metamorphosed into an English pub, The Wigmore. When Swedish designer Martin Brudnizki first saw the space apparently he said lovely, it will be entirely racing green, and that is what he has done, painted walls and ceiling in this rich hue. He deliberately left uneven patches on walls to suggest age. There is a prominent central bar (see above) and two adjacent snugs, both of which can be sectioned off for parties. Seating a total 150, The Wigmore has masses of regulars, local business people popping in for lunch, and after work, and hotel guests love it. Bob van den Oord says it really does sell hotel rooms, especially to Americans and Russians.

The Wigmore’s Scotch eggs

Gorgeous Group helped with drinks, which include glass wines from £5.25 to £29, the latter for Amarone Monte del Fra Veneto. The daily-changing food menu often includes buttered crumpets with steamed cock crab, Cannon & Cannon cured meats, and masala-spiced scotch eggs, plus what I would call must-have thick fat chips dusted with Bloody Mary butter. Michel Roux Jr, who is consultant to the hotel, devises the menu here. I loved the way Scotch eggs, spiced with Masala, look like prickly sea urchins. An order of ‘XXL stovetop 3 cheese & mustard toastie’ came as a long baguette held under a lid specially made at Netherton Foundry near Ironbridge, Shropshire, where iron production in England started. Bringing the story-telling forward to today, the whole toastie presentation comes on a platter made in one of the establishments housing citizens detained ‘at Her Majesty’s pleasure’.

The Landau’s new counter

There are so many stories at this lovely luxury hotel. Artesian cocktail bar, named for the 360-foot well under the hotel, has a charismatic new Parisian mixologist, Remy Savage. The adjacent all-day Landau restaurant, designed, like Artesian, by David Collins Studio, re-opened February 14th, 2018, after a tweak that saw a couple of central tables replaced by a a central serving counter, a hollow oval. This allows a chef to stand inside the oval for live cooking, and guests can sit up at one of 18 counter chairs, an ideal service for those who like chatting to the chef and also for single diners whom, I sincerely believe, feel more at ease sitting ‘up’ as they can more easily ‘escape’ if they feel the need to get away from others. Anyway, all these experiences came rushing at me during a remarkably short visit to this luxury hotel that never seems to stand still. Goodness knows what Bob van den Oord, who actually is ‘mayor’ of the operation, would be up to were he running, say, Amsterdam. NOW SEE THE BEAUTIFUL LOBBY, BELOW

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Luxury Hotels

Luxury life, which includes looking great, at Raffles’ lovely Dubai hotel

A Sofitel rises nearby

The gal knows Raffles’ luxury hotel in Dubai so well it is almost like going home – see the welcome, above, and the smiles are so genuine. I immediately note how well turned out all the staff are – this is undoubtedly led by the hotel’s Lebanese GM, Ayman Gharib, and the property’s asset manager, Mr British Gent, also known at Peter French.  I went upstairs to my room and this visit the view out of end-suite 1030 is somewhat different as the forthcoming Sofitel construction soars higher and higher. Sofitel Dubai Wafi, which will eventually have 501 rooms and 97 residences in its 50 floors, is owned, like Raffles Dubai, by a fascinating Sheikh. He is an Egyptologist, hence the fact Raffles is shaped like a pyramid. He is a horse lover, and a passionate organic farmer.

Sunset from suite 1030

My time here had a specific purpose. Sheikhs are not the only men in the Middle East to wear the full-length white shirts that are variously called dish-dashes or thobes. Knowing that the more sartorially-minded change dish-dashes at least three times a day I wanted to see how a hotel laundry copes. Well, the 248-room Raffles Dubai, which has a separate seven-man laundry specifically for guest clothing – for which read at least 50 dish-dashes a day – takes this all very seriously. Men fly in and need a packed dish-dash pressed ‘immediately’ but in the main the business is full washing and pressing. First timers will sometimes give specific instructions, in Arabic, on the laundry list. How much starch? How should the minute pleats down the arms, and perhaps the front of the garment, lie (these details are later put into guest-preference records).

Ayman Gharib, right, in the laundry

A typical dish dash is washed for 40 minutes at 60 degrees C, and dried for 40 minutes. Then an Indian who spent a year learning how to iron dish-dashes takes over. Using a steam iron supported on an overhead rack, he does cuffs and sleeves first (about one in five garments needs a cuff or front button replaced, or sewn on more firmly). Sleeves done, it is shoulders and front opening, then main body. This takes at least 20 minutes, and then, to keep the garment clean, it is put in a freshly-ironed fabric cover and hung on a six-foot rack before being taken up to the appropriate bedroom (the cost for this service is $20 versus $14 for a Western shirt). I did ask if any male guests, or their lovely ladies, used the irons and boards in rooms but the Egyptian laundry manager merely laughed.

Ayman Gharib and Peter French

I also wanted to try the hotel’s very-friendly Italian restaurant, which replaced a steakhouse – since the original design had brick internal walls the transformation to trattoria was not that difficult. Hotel guests, it seems, are happy: the number of diners each evening has gone up from average 20 to average 50. I had caprese with Roma tomatoes and basil sorbet and then, what a joy, minute cutlets from six-month lambs from the Sheikh’s farm, and a glass of Santa Margherita Chianti Classico 2013. I did have time to pop into the tenth floor Club lounge, where the wines included a South African Nederburg Winemasters Shiraz 2014 and foods, enough for dinner, were sensibly strong on such local dishes as hummus, some beetroot flavoured. No wonder this hotel is so popular: its repeat factor is 38%, boosted by ‘real’ and organic foods, really lovely staff, and its proximity to the airport – a mere 15-minute drive is quite a bonus when you have a flight departing 0225. NOW SEE SUITE 1030 – AND ALSO WATCH A DISHDASH BEING IRONED


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