What a difference having a food-loving Supreme Boss makes in luxury travel. Take Virgin and its various airlines – have you ever heard Richard Branson exclaim about a perfect peach (I am talking about a fruit)? Silversea boss Manfredi Lefevre loves his food, but then he is Italian. In the world of luxury hotels, Hilton’s properties in Asia Pacific have a big advantage in that Area President Martin Rinck is renowned not only as a foodie but a professional food man (he once ran all Mövenpick’s restaurants worldwide).The gal exclaimed about this simple salad, at the fabulous Prime restaurant on the third floor of the Millennium Hilton, Bangkok.
Look right out and down at the Chao Phraya River and its incessant criss-crossing of river craft miraculously missing the ‘trains’ of barges going up and down river, and savour frisée, arugula and vine tomatoes on top of grilled Tomino cheese. Enjoy the view, savour the taste, drink a toast to Mr Rinck. Interestingly, when you enter the hotel, by the way, you look up, not down: there is a sensational open atrium, with ten-floor (not ten-feet) high metallic sculptures. You feel as if you can almost see right up to the top of the 31-floor building, but certainly by the time of my floor (the 25th) the open atrium had been closed off. Right up at the rooftop is an outdoor bar, 360, great for evening views when the weather allows. The club lounge is up there too and of course, being Thailand, they do a very skilled job in decorating their lovely buffets with lots of orchids – really, THAIland should rename itself ORCHIDland. That would make a good national name and take it up the alphabet. When scrolling down, to give details about a forthcoming flight, I sometimes wish my nationality were Afghan or Albanian rather than UK, but Zambians and Zimbabweans have an even worse time… Back to Prime. Arrive and you find your name on a wood label standing on your reserved table. There are silver rings around the linen napkins, and servers, who all seem to be female (even the sommelier) and are, without exception, size-zero model-like with immaculate and genuine smiles, wear leather-look brewers’ aprons and white shirts.
Stylish. You go in past a bank of wood-fired ovens. Pizza, says I. No, says Marco Osterwalder, in charge of food here. They are for cooking steaks. You have a choice of Australian Wagyu, Tajima-branded, or USDA prime. Australia is nearer so, in the cause of farm-to-table, I go for the Wagyu, which is, well perfect, especially with bone marrow on the side. Best-seller for the Thais, apparently, is prime rib, served and carved from a shiny silver-topped trolley. Thais dine early.
I bet they do not breakfast as early as I had to, because of an early flight. I ordered a five o’clock continental, from room service. Get that right, and the impression of the entire dining experience boosts one’s appreciation of a hotel. Room service continental, here, comes with a wide choice of juices, all fresh, plus your choice of fruit and breads. Ergo, at 5 a.m. precisely a sweet-sounding female voice telephoned to say my breakfast was outside my door. A waiter brought in the table, which even had a toaster – and the ubiquitous orchid (at dinner last night the orchid was in a wide test-tube with a candle on top). The wholewheat croissant, still warm from the Swiss baker’s efforts, was so good I ate the whole thing, or rather all three of them. Yes, the gal does go mad from time to time.
So, you can eat in your room, 24/7 (they do breakfast any time, day or night), or up in the club lounge, if you are eligible, or outside at 360, if the weather allows, and in Prime, if it is dinner time. You can also, breakfast, lunch or dinner, eat in the amazingly extensive Flow buffet down on the main ground floor. Early evening I had watched Thais going around choosing noodles and the like, and enormous portions of shrimp and other seafood displayed on mountain-shapes of crushed ice (Thais love sushi).
In the morning, just as dawn broke and thoroughly satisfied with my own room service breakfast, I had a quick check of Flow’s breakfast. Within five minutes of opening, it not only had an entire Finnair crew there but literally dozens of Thais in their weekend uniform of big t-shirts and floppy shorts or trousers. Martin Rinck’s insistence on the importance of food shows through – will Hilton ever be thought of as food suppliers with luxury hotel rooms attached?