The number of washrooms in luxury hotels that get the gal excited can be counted on one hand. There are ‘the facilities’ atop The Peninsula Hong Kong, at Felix – the fun restaurant named for legendary Felix Bieger, he who always remembers not only birthdays but anniversaries of those he particularly loves. There is the bright mirror space at Jade, on top of Shangri-La Pudong, East Shanghai. And now there is another one on the list, in the basement of Sofitel Auckland Viaduct Harbour, one of New Zealand’s two best city hotels. The washrooms, designed by Martin Hughes, are tiger wood and mirror.
I had gone for lunch at the hotel’s Lava restaurant, said by Vanessa Green, Editor of New Zealand: Best Dining Guide 2013, to be one of the city’s best. Scott Brown is known for his seared ostrich carpaccio but today I was immediately attracted to the De-Light by Sofitel menu, with dishes chosen from Thalasso Sea & Spa. This menu was introduced mid-2013 and apparently about 20 percent of diners, the majority girls, choose it, at lunch and dinner. Look at my exquisite starter, an asparagus custard with artichoke, hazeluts and shiitake, a total of 180 calories. It looked divine and it tasted, well, euphoric…
There are two choices at each level. For my main I had a bowl of crumbled feta on top of spring onion, roast broccoli, black rice and a lightly-poached egg. Where WAS the egg? Right in the middle of the mound. Puncture it and the egg oozed out. This dish clocked up the grand sum of 230 calories. Whichever three courses you choose, I am told, you cannot go over 800 calories, as long as you pass on the bread, which is a real shame as being a French brand the hotel’s baguette is pretty irresistible, or at least my man says so (he was waiting for his bento-type three course meal that came all at once, in tune with my main course).
As you know the gal does not usually do desserts but I needed to see what was on offer here. I chose the 160- calorie special, pinkie-finger cubes of fresh pineapple with stem ginger shavings, and a scoop of lime-flavoured frozen yoghurt. Like its predecessors, this dish was perfection. I cannot remember when I last enjoyed such a healthy gourmet meal, and yes it was gourmet, perhaps not suitable for Michelin consideration but I bear in mind yet again that today’s travellers are becoming fed up with non-stop multi-course creations by celebrity chefs.
This is the kind of food I imagine Angelina Jolie, currently Down Under somewhere shooting her new movie Unbroken, would choose. Would she also go for a beer? If so, this Steinlager Premium Light, from New Zealand Breweries in Auckland, might appeal – it is Green Bullet hops, and Crystal and Munich malts and somehow comes up with only 2.5 percent alcohol. Of course being New Zealand there is a magnificent wine list, including Cloudy Bay Te Koko Sauvignon Blanc 2010, a reminder of my visit to that vineyard a couple of days ago.
Why, you may ask, is Lava so called? Its restaurant has two glass walls that open direct to the Viaduct Harbour boardwalk, and you can sit looking at the new national head offices around (names of the calibre of Microsoft, Vodafone and the like). The restaurant, designed by Tom Skyring, has stunning interior walls of butterflied multi-colour marble from South America. It reminds me a bit of another luxury hotel, Trump Hotel Toronto, with butterflied marble walls for its swimming pool – here, the pattern really adds to the look of the restaurant, and its bar.