No point in leaving town without its signature taste, be in a burger in Brooklyn, fish and chips in Falmouth or salad Niçoise in you-know-where. In Muscat, Girlahead’s last supper was an Omani seafood platter, above, at THE CHEDI’S beach restaurant. It was a magical evening, a tall open-sided space, ten metres from crashing waves, firepits dancing in the wind. Black napkins are a full metre down each side. Luxury. A server poured a tasting of an American merlot, Barefoot, into a tall Schott glass. The meal began, zaatar-topped breads with three dipping sauces, a chicken canapé, bites of tuna tartare with avocado wasabi, and a calamansi sorbet. Overtures over, time for the real stuff (see above): local lobster, scallop, kingfish and tiger prawns, with a bowl of mixed greens. The whole effect was magical.
Coincidentally, two days later a friend in another part of the world said ‘oh, you have been to The Chedi’, isn’t it magical. It is, but not necessarily for the usual reasons. There’s a feeling of mid-century Grand Tours as you relax, teatime or cocktail hour, outside in one of the many courtyards formed by Jean-Michel Gathy’s all-white, flat-roof buildings (some of Jaya Ibrahim’s interiors, by contrast, are quite dark). Shades of Old Cairo, or THE IMPERIAL DELHI, or AMANSARA, King Sihanouk’s New Khmer guesthouse in Siem Reap. Some of the guests at such hotels dress for the occasion. Flowing separates that simply speak expensive taste, just as I saw here at The Chedi.
Style is everywhere. Arrive flanked by waving green grassland, so natural. Head through the building to extensive gardens and walks and pools, and the beach. To the left, a two-floor building, white of course, runs immediately parallel to the main 103-metre pool, the beach at the far end. The building houses the spa downstairs, and up is the most semi-private fitness imagine. Sheltered by black cut out screens, choose a Technogym Citterio here, a bike there, a Pilates rack there.
It’s all so private you think the 158-room Leading hotel is empty, but of course it’s not. Many villa visitors stay put (one suspects those in rooms in the two three-floor blocks are more likely to move in public, though facilities that now include not only a Spin-designed main restaurant with Japanese but also a Cigar Lounge, with Puro, and Valrhona. Now, with new GM Karim Bizid about to wave his reputed wand, expect even more to happen here.
The time came. It was five. A.M. Breakfast arrived on the Big Ben dot, a discreet knock, no eye contact. Everything as ordered, plus today’s paper in a linen bag. By the front door four, or was it three, alert team members waited, and the car slowly left, all part of The Chedi magic.
Let’s listen to this week’s main MARY GOSTELOW GIRLAHEAD PODCAST, consumer champion Wendy Perrin: