The end of any cruise is an occasion of mixed emotions. One minute you and all your new companions, to whom you have become very close over the last few days, are still a gang together onboard. There the gal was, breakfasting as usual on the outside fifth deck of Silver Discoverer. The ship had already docked, quay side next to big containers in Keelung, Taiwan. Then an announcement was made that it had been cleared and thank you for sailing with Silversea. You came on board, became our friends, and we hope to see you all again soon. Lots of kisses, lots of hugs, where are you going now? The gal and her Porsche Rimowa wheelie – yes, for two weeks, that was all – went down the gangway and there was the keen driver from Mandarin Oriental Taipei. It was into the Mercedes-Benz (WiFi enabled, as you expect from a top luxury hotel) and an hour later, arrival, with all emails dealt with.
Oh what a joy to be back in a hotel that truly understands how to make someone feel very special for just a few hours (I was flying on to Hong Kong in the afternoon). An early lunch illustrated how MOments, to use the hotel’s catch-word, can be caught, forever. The 303-room hotel has several restaurants, all designed by Tony Chi, and I particularly love the Italian, Bencotto, where the chef is the Ferrari-loving Mario Cittadini, whom I first met at The Regent Beijing. Here one of the specialties is Trecci campana di bufala, which is a football-sized hand-made buffalo mozzarella from Naples. It is presented on a big tray and carved table-side. Slices, set on a sharing plate, are salted, peppered, oiled and liberally dotted with fresh and sun-dried tomatoes and parsley, and with anchovies, which go extraordinarily well with the mozzarella.
Next came another sharing plate, Otoro tuna loin alla pizzaiola, which turned out to be thinnest swirls of tuna carpaccio, with juice of fresh tomatoes, and hints of tomato jus, chilli, and barely even a hint of stracciatella (cheese flakes from Apulia), plus black olives and oregano. It was frustrating not have at least a glass of the Ruinart that is almost in this stylish hotel’s DNA, together with the acres of marble and the dozens of enormous Lasvit chandeliers overhead.. This place has so much style. On arrival I had been taken to my room, for instance, by the most elegant next-generation hotelier I have met in a long while, Stephanie Chao, who was wearing a black and white Masaru Mineo outfit that makes everything in the current haute couture shows look like Walmart.
Another sign of elegance here is the sixth floor club lounge. You enter to a desk with lots of fresh flowers on it: behind is a wall that is prettily patterned. Breakfast is totally exquisite, with food displayed artistically, but artisanally at the same time, say one type of muffins in a hand-hewn wood bowl next to a standing beeswax, just two elements on a 12-ft long hand-made wood table. Nearby is the open kitchen where two chefs prepare any hot items that you cannot see in well-labelled copper pots on a long induction surface, which also has a whole gammon. All the while, chic young personnel discreetly wander around offering a glass, or another, of Ruinart, serving it by the punt.
There is a velvet pillow with a selection of eyeglasses, the strengths marked in gold embroidery. Come in, ladies and gentlemen, with a Hermès Birkin or a small laptop-holding Tumi and a low-sided wicker basket is brought, put on the floor and your bag put into it. There are so many touches in this luxury hotel, and even in a few hours I was reminded what can make one property stand out as special.