Luxury Hotels


Two nights ago company COO Peter Borer hosted dinner at THE PENINSULA LONDON, proudly showing off a perfectly-working hotel that is not yet a month old. The venue was Canton Blue, a kaleidoscopic interior space with walls hung with rich fabrics, above, and some glass doors decorated with rows of hundreds of blue and white handless teacups.

The host knew he had to please top media, including a Bavarian and The Financial Times’ most-feared Valkyrie, who was charmed throughout. How could she not be? It was thoughtfully planned. Just the optimum length of pre-meal cocktails, in the form of The Peninsula’s own-label Champagne, by Deutz. Ushered in to the dining salon, four nine-seat circular tables had lazy-susan rotating centres. As all luxury events should do, place cards were named both sides. Delicate stemware had patterns engraved around the rim. Silver holders for black chopsticks were shaped like miniature Chinese junks. Sensibly, the seated were quickly offered Domaine Billaud-Simon Chablis 2021 and Château de Fonbel St-Emilion Grand Cru 2018.

Before food arrived, there were short videos on THE PENINSULA ISTANBUL and The Peninsula London, both explained, on tape, by the relevant MDs (stylish). Both then said a few words. There was an explanation of The Peninsula’s new marketing push, The Peninsula Perspectives, a more indepth spend than the black and white photos a few years ago that featured Hong Kong culinary maestro Florian Trento with miniature chefs in toques, his own and other team members’ kids (now, a high cost colour video features a Hong Kong limo chaufeurette, on and off duty).  Peter Borer sat motionless, beaming. Behind him stood, as if security, a couple of beard-heavy gentlemen who were later to oversee presentation of dishes.

Then it was the host’s turn. Peter Borer rose. A good hotel can only be successful if it is embraced by locals, he said, going on to appeal to the world to support Hong Kong, his home for so many decades.

Next came food, served as perfectly timed as if a critically-acclaimed corps de Bolshoi. First came individual presentations, three dishes each, of steamed dumplings, scallops and veggies, pancake-wrapped slivers of Silver Hill Pekin duck. Next, one china plate each and portioned table-side by the ‘security’ senios, steamed seabass with lotus leaf and Chinese black mushrooms. At this point Girlahead’s thought process wandered momentarily to the fact that Chinese food does require a jolly lot of china and subsequent dishwashing.

Digression over, fresh flat dishes, heated, and served table-side, stir-fried wagyu tenderloin, black truffle tofu, crispy lotus root with broccolini and shaved garlic. Next on the succession list were already-filled bowls, with Yeung Chow fried rice, shrimp and barbequed pork. The finale was already-plated dessert, elegant mouthful-portions of Almon milk jelly, lychee sorbet, and a modicum of ginger syrup.

The moral of this story is that a dinner can be perfect, even in a hotel that is precisely 29 days. The same praise can go to a 5.30 a.m. breakfast. On the dot door knock. What many would scrunch on a tray (coffee, yoghurt, omelette) was immaculately set – with flowers, two bottles of water, and copies of the Valkyrie’s rag and The New York Times – on a full table. A white-jacketted waiter, perhaps on loan from the Hong Kong hotel, arranged seating, poured coffee. What more could he do?  Girlahead had, unrequested, both brown and white toast triangles, in a silver rack. Two communion-look silver dishes on legs held about a dozen assorted additives, and own-label jams. It was superlative. It’s luxury lifestyle, in the centre of London.

Peter Borer and his colleagues went to bed knowing they had a repeat eat-marathon the following night, entertaining top travel advisors. As was the Borer wont, he was, however, up and monitoring emails by 6.15 a.m.      At 6.29, GM of The Peninsula London Sonja Vodusek, who had at least changed from last night’s black frock to a dark tweed jacket and black trousers, was waiting in the lobby to bid goodbye to Girlahead, off to emulate Emily In Paris for a couple of days…..