This is the guy who runs a resort on an island that a Russian lady fell in love with. OK, says the gal, let us give up on the rhythmic lyric and return to basic facts. Anshuman Narayan, a Calcutta boy who was trained, like so many ambitious kids of Indian diplomats and military greats, by Oberoi, has found himself Estate Manager, for which read GM, of the somewhat unique Sanchaya on Bintan Island, 55 minutes by ferry from Singapore. This luxury hotel came about because the beautiful, but somewhat elusive, Natalya Pavchinskaya, who lives partly in her native Russia and partly in Singapore, apparently loved Bintan so much that she must have sunk well over $100 million of her husband’s money into what has turned out to be a mere 30-room hotel (actually nine in-hotel suites and 21 detached villas).
The Great House, conceived with the help of designers P49, looks as if it is a plantation house that has been there for ever. An approach archway is an outline white sculpture. From this, look through immaculate formal gardens with a fountain surrounded by concentric bands, alternating grass and stone. A hundred yards away, there is the two-floor house, all white apart from its dull-wood (six-layer) roof tiles, and, when they are down, black and white upper-terrace blinds – as you can seen from Anshuman Narayan’s gear, these are Sanchaya colours. Go through the Great House reception area and out back, to the inner part of a C-shape formed by wings – dining room, and bar-lounge – and you look across decorative water.
Go up 23 wood steps to the upper level. Suite three is at one wing end, above the dining room. I see touches of the project manager and Anshuman Narayan’s predecessor, Murli Rao, everywhere – the hotel’s logo, three tiny flowers, oh-so-discreetly on the black wood cover of the tissue box. My suite has grey walls outlined in white, and wood floors with seagrass central mats. If the Bang & Olufsens were even two inches bigger they would be obscene. All glasses, even night-time tumblers, are Riedel. Linens, discreetly embroidered with that logo, and cuddly robes are Ploh. I have a maxibar, namely a normal minibar and a wine cooler, and the claw-footed tub sits on bespoke grey and white tiles. I look out, from my big terrace, ahead to the main pool, or sideways to the garden.
The furniture everywhere, in bedrooms and public areas, is specially designed, and hand-crafted. Sanchaya’s freestanding villas, by the way, look vaguely Thai outside but, inside, each is unique, themed for a south-east Asia nation – Banyen stands for Thailand, and it has a black basin and surround – three villas can be sold as-one, and share a private pool. The owner’s villa also has a pool. Yes, everything is the best. The Great House‘s bar-lounge has casks of maturing port and sherry, and one of the best gin collections imaginable (and displays of miniature binoculars on the walls). An adjacent glass-walled wine cellar, with dining for eight, stores Pétrus, and French cheese. I gravitate to a book on the world of coffee: there is a drip-coffee setup specially for making coffee ice-cubes for iced coffee.
This is an ideal buy-out venue, for weddings or small meetings – your writing items are stored, at your place, in a wood box enamelled with a sepia photo of the Great House. Average stay is two nights, enough time for one Thai dinner, outside, evening only, and one in the main all-day Dining Room. Main meals, wherever, are preceded by shotglasses of juice, and an itsy, highly-laborious amuse in a big white Bernardaud-style (Luzerne) bowl. A new Italian chef, Giacomo Turzo, has arrived with magnificent Abruzzo tomatoes, from his home town. At breakfast, after working out in the 24/7 Precor gym, I carve really healthy wholewheat bread, eat home-made unsweet yoghurt from small glass pots, china-stoppered like bottles for the water produced onsite. A server offers a choice of local medicinal drinks (I go for one to soothe the throat).
Some then head for Gary Player, or at least his 27 holes a mere ten minutes from this luxury hotel. I take 18 wood stepping stones over the grass to the spa, for a sacral chakra massage, with orange, neroli and sandalwood oil, to help creativity, desire, potency and vitality – good thing I am not then slated to try the archery. We are driven 15 minutes back to the ferry terminal, where Sanchaya has its own luxury arrivals-departures lounge, decorated as the Great House. My last memory? The sunset from my terrace.