After the scarlet telephone boxes, here is more red at the LUX* Belle Mare luxury resort in Mauritius. I had not come across Martone city bikes before. For serious cyclists they are probably a little laughable but as city bikes in hotels with flat land around, they are perfect, easily seen by motorists, and their tyres seem indestructible. I also like the big bakers-boy ‘basket’ on front. My bike had my initials on it front and back and since 1212, Villa La Mer, is right down on the beach, it is also furthest from general action so I used the bike a lot.
The extensive 2014 renovation of the hotel was done by the brilliant Kelly Hoppen, and in her honour the main bar, a palapas thatched affair with open sides, is now called K Bar. As well as a big sit-up counter there are lots of low tables and bright pink and orange chairs. Nearby, also next to the main pool, is an old-look rum shack, Mari Kontan, with 112 rums, all from the Indian Ocean. OK, want to eat? Vineet Bhatia‘s Indian-with-a-twist is Amari by Vineet, dinner only. There is Chinese at Duck Laundry, which has a glass-sided kitchen. I absolutely loved Beach Rouge, which switches from lunchtime turquoise (uniform tunics, table settings, lighting) to dinner scarlet, including scarlet Guy Degrenne china.
And there is the breakfast, lunch and dinner MIXE, with at least seven buffet stations, if not more. For lunch, alternatively, try this food truck. Yes, it is a real 1933 Rolls Royce, but not exactly going anywhere, though it looks as if it is ‘pulling’ a truck named El Jefe, after the food truck in Jon Favreau’s 2014 movie Chef, starring Robert Downey Jr, Dustin Hoffman and Scarlett Johansson. I am sure I have forgotten some other eating venues – yes, what about the Tea House? This is an exquisite emporium, with tastings, from delicate glass pots, of teas from 44 countries.
Tea House is right next to the spa, which makes it a popular post-treatment venue. LUX* ME, the 12-room spa, is all taupes and real greenery. Whereas far too many hotel spas’ jacuzzis and saunas are tucked away, here the big water and steam facility is a really convivial outdoor venue. I had a brilliant session with therapist Sabrina, felt a million dollars afterwards, so much so that instead of a cup of tea I actually felt more like a glass of Popcap, the hotel’s bespoke South African sparkling, by Steenberg (all 13 of LUX* special wines are overseen by Kent Sheermeyer, who is based in South Africa).
You see, it really is difficult to do justice to this fun luxury hotel. I have not even mentioned villa 1212. It has a heated plunge pool. The window by the desk looks right out at sand and, 20 yards away, the ocean. I have Taschen books galore, and a pantry, and Kelly Hoppen has stuck six white hats on one wall. What more can I say?
Some luxury hotels are so much fun, with so much going on, that the gal finds it difficult to know where to start. LUX* Belle Mare, Mauritius, is one such property, a venerable old lady who underwent a five-month botox in 2014. There was so much upheaval that some creative genius made a plausible baobab tree out of the debris. Hang a paper wish on it and you stand a chance of winning a free stay: at the wishing well next to it, throw coins down and you know you will be helping a charity. Around you as you stand there are masses of herbs, all carefully labelled.
Ashish Modak, who runs the hotel, showed me round. I loved the wedding store. They started out by having dozens of small-size white dresses, and complete white gear for guys, for Asian couples to be photographed at the resort, pre- or post- the actual wedding, wherever that was. But they have found that Europeans also want to be dressed up, for the same reason (yes, you have guessed it, they have had to buy in some literally enormous dresses to accommodate some outrageous girths). We continued on our way, walking to use, rather than save, calories. They have, by the way doubled the size of the gym, and it is outstanding, with latest Technogym Artis equipment and plenty of it.
When Paul Jones, the genius behind LUX* – OK, he will say he brought in branding specialist Piers Schmidt but it is he, Paul Jones, who has led the whole thing – came onboard, given the task of revitalising a really tired Beau-Rivage hotel, he quickly got rid of front desk-reception. What to do with the desk? Simple, if you are Paul Jones. Turn it into a coffee corner, and the room behind, known in the hotel trade as ‘back office’, is where they actually, really, roast all the coffee for the resort. But guess what is new, now?
At the coffee corner they have added both a tea service, and a coffee press, and NITRO coffee. Hey, what is that? Well, apparently there are only eight such facilities anywhere. Nitro coffee is cold, pressed coffee passed through nitrogen and carbon dioxide. It is pulled, like a draught beer, and comes out with a pale brown foam on top, and it is absolutely delicious. I had a sip straightaway but then I had a whole glass at breakfast. Everyone around me looked in wonder, what was that extraordinary woman drinking?
A few years ago, this was the only luxury hotel that I know that had a red London telephone box that worked – and it was such a success that now it has a twin. Why are they both so successful? Well, they have old-fashioned circle-dial telephones that, thanks to VOIP, allow any guests at this 174-room resort to call home, or call anywhere in the world, for FREE! How do you stop them mis-using it, I asked Ashish Modak? Well, he said, there is generally a line waiting outside (I took this photo about 6.45 a.m. while everyone else was still asleep) and, who cares if they do talk too long? It is amazing publicity.
When it comes to retail, all relevant Americans have a Nordstrom customer service story to relate. In hotels, for some it is Oberoi. The gal remembers when, getting off M/S Zara on The Nile, to visit another temple or tomb, a waiter noticed she had a little cut on her leg, ran after her with a bandaid and, back in the cabin, she found a new stock of plasters. Right, switch to Oberoi’s luxury hotel on Mauritius. Could laundry come back by six, please? It will be back by four, with a smile.
At four exactly, all items were pristine, hanging from hangers, apart from a pair of barely-there running socks, which had a paper wrapper, the whole in a freshly ironed patterned linen wrap, and all this in a basket with a little ‘with compliments’ card on top. It is almost as though the sculptures in the gardens of the luxury Oberoi Mauritius hotel are smiling. I have mentioned how the main pool becomes a gathering place for some, during the day. Lunch is served at On The Rocks, a lovely grill bistro by the pool.
Memo to self, do not choose grilled catch of the day if rain is on the forecast as apparently approaching clouds cause flies to appear from nowhere and buzz around anything fishy. I hope everyone else in the restaurant realised that I was keeping all the flies of Mauritius close to me, and thus away from them. Villa 205, with its indoor salon as well as an outdoor sala, had its own L-shaped pool, its longest length a sizeable 25 feet so I could do lots of laps, pretty quickly. I swam so much I thought I might turn into a mermaid…
I could even sit on one of my loungers and get perfect connectivity, which is extremely rare on this island. So there I sat, creating away while waiting for my early supper, caprese and a caesar both, which would arrive at exactly the requested hour, on the dot. When the bell rang I padded across the ten, yard-wide basalt circular stepping stones set in my grass, to open the double outer gate. Being Oberoi the waiter had made sure the bread rolls were really hot, and the olive oil came with a gold spoon. The golden sun had already set. This was to be my last daylight view from this luxury resort, for this visit at least.