Can food make a difference to luxury hotels? Let us ask another question – does any traveller choose a hotel for its food? The answers, the gal says, are yes and yes. Think of buffet breakfasts that more-than-satisfy the busy travel tycoon staying at Hotel Adlon Kempinski, Berlin, during the annual ITB in March, and the copious spread that top vacationers love in their favourite resorts in the Maldives. Sometimes one feature stands out. At Lebua in Bangkok, your breakfast toast, be it spinach or tomato flavoured, or whole grain with nuts or whatever, is made in the pizza oven.
This is one hotel, dear reader, where food has intentionally been used to reposition the product. Take a 66-floor building that would be unmemorable if it were not topped by the gilded dome which not surprisingly gives the building its name – The Dome. Floors up to 51 are offices and whatever. On floors 51 to 59 there are 198 hotel ‘rooms’, a slight understatement in that the smallest unit is a whopping 670 sq ft, and if you are lucky enough you might even have not only plenty of space to swing a proverbial cat but also to do your laundry, a real boon if you are on a multi-night trip in this heat.
Yes, room 5815 has a washing machine, with detergent and softener, and clear instructions, provided. It also has a drier. Add to this a massage room and a really comfortable – for which read FIRM – bed and you see why it is actually so agreeable. Lots of Germans love this hotel, and as football fans realised yet again last Sunday, Germans do their research and plan their tactics. There are tremendous views from the room’s small semi-circular balconies, which are unlocked once you have signed an indemnity.
Cognoscenti appreciate the style that is evident. Orchids? Even a no-star has them, here in the land of flowers. Alligator-skin covers for the room directory and notepad? Yes, they are here. The chef, Glenn Eastman, has thoughtfully put out a welcome tasting of English cheeses, namely Mature Wookey Hole Cave-Aged Farmhouse Cheddar from Somerset, Kirkham’s Lancashire white farmhouse, Colston Bassett Stilton, Black Sticks Blue (‘created’ in 2003) and Spakenhoe Farm’s Red Leicester, all with choice of Dow’s Late Bottled Vinha Nacional 2005 port or Ch Lagrange 1996 Pomerol, with decanter. Stylish.
In 2006, Deepak Ohri, who knows more than a thing or two about wine, was given the challenge to make this hotel work. The company before was lowest-star; he had to take it, as Lebua, to top star. Food is the answer. Up on the 65th floor, Mezzaluna is finest dining, run by culinary twins Mathias and Thomas Sühring. On the 63rd floor, Sirocco is Mediterranean. Inside and outside, reached by a day-glo fashion catwalk, is Breeze Asian seafood (two floors, reached via the 52nd floor). Like the others, it is packed nightly, with outside diners as well as hotel guests. Try, say, the best-selling jasmine tea-smoked wagyu beef ribs tossed with homemade sugarcane jus, and go on to a clay pot holding morsels of pandan leaf-flavoured grilled chicken.
See what I mean? This is food that really appeals. Interestingly, the 52nd floor Breeze welcome bar turns, at dawn, into a unique nightclub-breakfast, including a full bar, though not working at this hour. Which other luxury hotel features breakfast hostesses in floor-length evening coats? Those down at the pool-side all-day dining breakfast, in Café Mozu wear the same. One last point about the food, and drink, that ‘lead’ Lebua: room service’s wine list includes no fewer than seven good-label Champagnes, right up to Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill Pol Roger Brut 2003. Yes, food (and drink) make a difference.