Little did the gal think she would learn about real coffee here on Mauritius. At LUX* Belle Mare they have replaced the front desk, in what was the high, cathedral-ceiling main lobby, by a coffee corner.
The reception counter is now the coffee counter, complete with the Rolls Royce of coffee machines, a La Marzocco shiny steel beauty. Behind, the ceiling-high wall has a four-foot circular clock (exactly the right time) and shelves of coffee packs and turquoise cups. And what was the back office, behind (what was) front desk is now, lo and beyond, the coffee roasting room.
This has a big Giesen roasting machine, and containers of green beans. The LUX* blend, designed by the Cape Town boutique coffee company Deluxe Coffeeworks, is 45 percent each Brazilian and Guatemalan beans, plus ten percent Ethiopian. They start green and small, end up big and dark. They can be ground here too – a blackboard on one wall shows current orders, from several places around the beautiful island that is Mauritius.
And you might not expect to have an odd lesson in designer gin, here in the Indian ocean. LUX* Belle Mare GM Pascal Bertrand, long-time Ritz- Carlton and now truly embedded in Mauritius, introduced Hendrick’s Gin to the island, and we all sit round and admire, and taste.
This gin, brilliantly put together and marketed by William Grant & Sons, comes in an old-fashioned round brown apothecary bottle. Its label points out that this is for ‘odd’ drinkers, one in a thousand, those who like the Bulgarian rose water as well as juniper additive, and you should drink it with cucumber rather than lemon or lime. There would be, as I did not need pointing out, masses of memorable moments during a LUX* stay.
Until under a year ago this 174-room luxury resort had another name (Beau Rivage, if you must). It was part of the Naïade Resorts Ltd group. Then the owners, sugar cane giants Groupe Mon Loisirs and the French-Mauritian Lagesse family, realised that, having just invested in one of the world’s best, and most passionate, hotel marketing gurus, Julian Hagger, and then in one of the world’s best, and most passionate, operating hoteliers, Paul Jones, it was a little silly to persevere with a name that few could spell and not many more could pronounce.
So Paul Jones called on a good professional friend from former days at One&Only Resorts, branding genius Piers Schmidt, and hence LUX*. LUX* has tickling moments, things that you remember. All its resorts, for instance, have a call-home facility.
Thanks to VOIP, voice over internet protocol, there is an always-open phone, one per property, for any guest to telephone family and friends, anywhere, for free. Here at LUX* Belle Mare the phone is in a scarlet ‘British phone booth’, with a thatched topknot to give a bit of locale.
Tickling moments at luxury resorts, says Paul Jones, do not work if the basics are not right. The location is sensational. All the redone rooms have masses of electric sockets, the type that accept most plugs (except the Australian Y-type). Some rooms have seven sockets above-desk alone, with another pair each side of the bed.
Oh and by the way the LUX* bed is to die, or rather to sleep, for. It was designed and made in South Africa as two separate mattresses laid side by side, with a retaining wrap around. This way if Barack twitches in the night Michelle is undisturbed.
And there are fibre optic reading lights (and plenty of brand-new Taschen hard-cover books to choose from, including Penguins, by Frans Lanting and Edward Curtis’ Native Americans) and the light switches are easy-see, simple-flip, as are basin and bath and shower controls. Add to this the tickles, say a perfectly-aligned display of six black-banded panama hats on one bedroom wall, or four-inch wide black buttons on a taupe cushion.
Designer Kelly Hoppen, who was always a regular guest of this luxury hotel before it began its LUX* rethink, is slowly and brilliantly switching the interiors of this decade-old, on-the-beach hotel to look modern, crisp and wow. Gone are orange and dull yellow hues and lots of wood. In are white and bright, and masses of taupe.
All rooms also have copies of her latest book, Creating a Home for the way you Live, which has a foreword by a happy client, Victoria Beckham. Page 44 of the book includes: ‘Taupe is the most perfect neutral colour, it loves pure white, textural plaster, black-stained wood, glass, silver or nickel, stone. It hates buttery yellow, golden woods, tan leather, sandy-coloured stones or dark cream.
A dash of the perfect accent colour enlivens the whole’. This makes me think of another taupe-phile, Laura Scherz, who helps her husband Andrea Scherz run one of Europe’s iconic luxury resorts, Gstaad Palace (Andrea is a board member of Leading). Taupe, says Laura. Taupe, says Kelly – who in her own favourite suite here at LUX*, number 1014, has inserted a few bursts of lime green to highlight what is other taupe, and white, including an all-white, by-a-window bathroom with an oval freestanding bathtub, another hotel signature.
Make the most of your time here, gal. I have a silver and white mountain bike, exit the hotel and turn right, to go through Belle Mare town to a newish asphalt road the winds through endless expanses of sugar canes, the plants now at least seven feet high. There are chimneys of old factories in the distance.
Back home to 1212, La Mer Suite (colour highlight soft raspberry, welcome display including redcurrants and round-ball strawberries) I do a few aqua exercises in my eight-by-eight feet plunge pool, and am buggied down to dinner. I have read what is available, both in the full-colour, two-fold daily LUX* Belle Mare Today newspaper (read that first, before the satellited Financial Times) and also in the A4-sized full-colour magazine that incorporates guide to services and room service.
Dinner choices are The Kitchen buffet, Le Langoustier seafood or Indouchine Asian, where we have an Asian tapas set menu (a highlight is local foie gras in a truffle custard).
It is The Kitchen for breakfast, with an Honestly Healthycorner celebrating the edicts of organic chef Natasha Corrett, who happens to be Kelly Hoppen’s daughter (Robbie Williams is one of her foodie converts).
After that, it is time for another tickling moment, a fitness assessment with a Stephen Price disciple, Joelle, who takes me through a Functional Movement System, and then introduces me to LUX*Me, the spa that has a divine outdoor garden with near-secret sitting areas, plus a giant hot tub and sauna and steam, with Paul Mitchell on hand, so to speak, to do one’s hair afterwards. Oh gosh, no space to write about the many other tickling moments.