Tag Archives: entertainment

Made for action – Queenstown, NZ

Queenstown in New Zealand has long been rightly identified as the
adventure capital of the world as it is the birthplace of
thrill-seeking tourism, home to many adrenaline-laden world
firsts – welcome to the action-packed epicentre of the world

new z covers (8)New Zealand was the last mass region on the planet to be settled by humans. Being late to the inhabitation party, this has given the island country a distinct ecological advantage, as the two main landmasses and all the smaller islets within it now boast a vast biodiversity of life unlike any other in the world. This has also given rise to the adventurous outdoorsy national spirit that New Zealanders have long been known for, which naturally comes with the territory, and is not surprising for a populace living amidst some of the most dramatic topographies on the planet.

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Scraping the Sky – The Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong

Luxury gets taken to new heights at Ritz Carlton’s stupendous new Hong Kong property.

Ritz Carlton Hong KongUnless you’ve been reading censored news over the last year, you’ve probably heard about Ritz Carlton’s phenomenal return to Hong Kong, with their striking new property much more than adequately filling in what was approximately a three-year absence for the brand in the city. Having just passed its first anniversary things have only gotten better to the point of perfection, and over the last twelve months the sky-scraping hotel has come to be an iconic happening address, with luminaries, leading politicians and stars such as Lady Gaga having graced the towering heights of the property.

Continue reading Scraping the Sky – The Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong

Pretty Crabby – Fatty Crab

Having successfully gone from Malaysia to New York, the hot and slightly weirdly-named concept that is Fatty Crab has now arrived in Hong Kong with a bang.

Fatty Crab RestaurantA few years ago, when the concept of Fatty Crab was first opened by the expatriate Fatty Crew in New York City, the concept at first received a mixed reception amongst reviewers and diners alike. Having emulated and taken a name from a small no-frills hole in the wall in Malaysia, the group culturally tailored it slightly to the Big Apple market, with consistent elements such as the dingy interior and scrumptious large spicy crabs at the heart of the menu remaining. In time, the concept caught on and, like the accepting diverse foreign atmosphere that is NYC, the cultural import that was Fatty Crab grew to be an astounding hit. Now, the group has just brought the concept to Old Bailey Street in Hong Kong, home of the Hairy Crab. To make it work here, the group worked to customise the concept slightly more for the local market, with an upmarket and raw edgy styled interior making the restaurant perfect for the local Soho crowd.

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Blue Meat – Blue Butcher

Industrial chic merges with quirky rustic ornaments and a subtle speakeasy theme in this engagingly designed meat-focused Sheung Wan restaurant.

24 - CopySlipping comfortably onto the meat bandwagon that has been trending in the restaurant scene of late is Blue Butcher, an eye-catching new establishment from the people behind PLAY and the Mexican-themed Brickhouse. However, instead of just sitting on the bandwagon, the folks at Blue Butcher are shaking it around, with the restaurant touting itself a ‘meat specialist,’ rather than a steakhouse. This is not without good reason, as they are the only restaurant equipped with a walk-in pink salt dry aging room in Hong Kong. The practiced chefs prepare, bake, age, and hang everything in-house using age-old recipes and modern techniques. They also use the freshest produce and herbs from local organic farms, with a menu of unique and award-winning cocktails standing out as well. Continue reading Blue Meat – Blue Butcher

Steak Out – Carnevino

The talented people from Dining Concepts have done it again, with Carnevino being another successful partnership between the budding restaurant group and the New York-based chef Mario Balti.

With the dust has barely settled on the opening of Mario Batali’s Lupa in LHT Tower on Queen’s Road Central, the busy chef-lebrity has just opened his second restaurant in Hong Kong, Carnevino, in the same building one floor above. Although both restaurants are targeted at a similar set of clients, Carnevino is slightly more upscale and formal than Lupa, with the new restaurant actually being part of an award-winning chain from Las Vegas. Continue reading Steak Out – Carnevino

Ritz-Carlton Shanghai, Pudong hotel

Shanghai ifc, 8 Century Avenue, Lujiazui, Pudong 200120 China   

Although the impressively groundbreaking Ritz Carlton Hong Kong just opened barely a few months ago another equally impressive milestone from the group has been making a steady stream of waves over in Shanghai city for the past few months as well. Officially opened back at the end of last year, the Ritz Carlton Pudong is a marvel to behold and, like the Ritz Carlton Hong Kong, the fresh new Shanghai property also boasts a large number of breathtaking feats, including Shanghai’s highest al fresco dining and wining venue, awe-inspiring design traces, plus unrivalled hotel-wide views over Shanghai. Developed by Hong Kong locals, Sun Hung Kai Properties, the hotel is a real stunner and it is unmistakably evident that no expenses were spared in the creation of this masterpiece. Set amidst the upper floors of the Cesar Pelli-designed Shanghai ifc, the hotel reaches for design and architectural heights, which it achieves with class. The cloud-touching property is an integral feature of Shanghai ifc and it enters in as the second Ritz Carlton in the city, and seventh in China. The interiors are just as perfect as the exterior, with designs from Singapore-based Richard Farnell and restaurants by Japan’s legendary Super Potato.

The 285 modern Art Deco rooms feature a lush array of textures, materials, furnishings and technology, with Blu-ray players appearing alongside coffee pod machines, beautifully-designed free-standing bathtubs, and more marble than you can shake a stick at. Richard Farnell’s touches also prettify the property throughout, with patches of real Stingray skin decorating some of the public areas, and meeting rooms which feature an Alice-in-Wonderland chic. For business and conferences one could not get much better, with the hotel’s 1,135 metre square ballroom supposedly being the second largest hotel ballroom in Shanghai. There is also over 2,250sqm of conference and meeting space, with plenty of natural light and outdoor spaces as well. The climax of the hotel is the 58th floor lounge and restaurant called Flair, which has a split-level outdoor terrace with views directly across to the big ball of the Pearl Tower – quite possibly the best rooftop bar in the world.

Originally published in South China Morning Post, July 2011 

 

 

 

Luxury on High – St. Regis Shenzhen

Experience a new level of hospitality at The St. Regis Shenzhen.

Continuing their foray into China and expanding their palatial presence further in Asia Pacific, the newest St. Regis property in Shenzhen is the latest and greatest from the luxury-centric group and it is a milestone in every sense. The resplendent hotel is housed in the upper fractions of the city’s highest building, the 441.8 meter-tall Kingkey 100 building, which also happens to be the ninth tallest building in the world and the tallest building ever designed by a British architect, who in this case was the highly-acclaimed Sir Terry Farrell. Continue reading Luxury on High – St. Regis Shenzhen

Thailand’s Grape Adventure – The Thais That Vined

Situated a leisurely drive away from Bangkok are a handful of unique home-grown Thai wineries which have slowly been gaining praise with wine-drinkers around the globe and, despite the government’s strict stance on alcohol, things are looking better than ever for the budding local wine scene. 

It’s a late Sunday afternoon and a gingery orange hue slowly turns to a bloody red in the sky above miles of lush budding grape fields. Below, some fortunate individuals sit around a table covered in wine bottles, contentedly sampling a batch of matured grapes fresh from the latest harvest. If trite clichés had their way, this romantic scene would most likely be set in Bordeaux or Tuscany, but this is far from the case, as just beyond the table of wine-drinkers a full-grown elephant assisting with the grape-picking breaks the stereotype – and further on just over a hundred kilometers away from the wine fields is Bangkok, where the rush hour traffic scarcely percolates through busy streets whilst the wine bars and lounges begin to fill up as twilight sets in.

Wines are fairly new to the Bangkok drinking scene, but local taste buds have been maturing more rapidly in recent years as the city, and the country, quickly develops. Wine drinking is now de rigeur in Thai society and, in line with Asia’s burgeoning levels of wine consumption, just about every bar and hotel worth visiting in Bangkok now boasts an erudite selection of wine. This is the same story in other popular spots around the country as well. Official figures indicate current Thai wine consumption to be at 12-14 million liters per annum, and it has been growing at a steady rate of about 6.5% per year since the millennium.

There is a silent revolution taking place in the small but cozy local wine production scene as well, with many of the existing Thai wineries having garnered the respect of the international wine scene by securing numerous esteemed awards. Just back in June three Thai wine professionals passed the internationally-recognized Court of Master Sommeliers Certified Exam, and one of the local star wineries, GranMonte, was also recently awarded with 12 medals at prestigious competitions in France and the UK. However, wine-producing is probably the last thing one would associate Thailand with and, as the sommelier Siwat Thitipornwatthanakul from the Four Seasons Bangkok points out, “Thailand only has limited areas where grapes can be grown for wine making, and it also has geographical limitations.” Nevertheless, these geographical limitations do not run throughout the country and Thitipornwatthanakul adds, “I am confident that Thailand is the most successful wine-producing region within South East Asia.” This confidence is shared by many and some have even said Thai wineries are the best in Asia – although China is of course a close competitor. As Joe Sriwarin, the editor of Wine Today magazine (and one of the three who passed the Court of Master Sommeliers Certified Exam), explains, “In Thailand, the producers are all millionaires who are passionate about wine, and when money is no objection there is no stopping them – no other wine-producing country in Asia is as unique as Thailand.”

This uniqueness is, in part, due to the geography of the country which causes the few select wineries that operate to run in the mountains around Thailand and the valleys in the northern part of the country where the weather is cooler. Although Thailand is a tropical country, these higher altitude areas provide a predominantly subtropical climate which is almost ideal for winemaking. Prayut Piangbunta, the director and chief winemaker from Khao Yai Winery – another of the leading Thai wineries – knows this more than any and he explains that, “Thailand is the only country in the Northern Hemisphere which has the same harvesting period as the South, and this creates a perfect environment for grapes to grow, with dry cool nights and warm sunny days.” Being close to the equator, Thailand’s latitudes fall between 10 and 20 degrees (in contrast to the typical old-world wine-making standard of 30 to 50) and, as one would imagine, this is not your average wine-producing environment – this is the world of ‘New Latitude Wine.’ Contrary to viticulturalist beliefs, Thailand wineries are perfectly capable of growing many types of grapes, though the subtropical climates are more suitable for grapes with high acidity. As Jirachai Sethisakko – the Group Wine Guru for Anantara – highlights, “The quality of Thai wines is comparable to mid-range Chilean wine and an entry-level Australian Shiraz.

In the industry everyone knows that Thailand has some of the most distinctive wineries in the industry, and the ideal grape-growing conditions even allow some wineries to produce two harvests a year. In this world of ‘New Latitude Wine’ the wine production season runs from November to March and harvesting takes place from January to late March. Labor is cheap and grape-picking often takes place at night to avoid the heat of the day. However, the exceptionality of the ‘New Latitude Wine’ world is not just limited to technical details. This is also a world where there are floating vineyards that workers must harvest by boat, and a world where elephants aid the grape-pickers – this is wine-making with a difference.

These differently-made wines are produced mainly southwest of Bangkok in the Chao Phraya Delta and the Hua Hin Hills, and in the north and northeastern parts of the country near Chailang Rai and the Khao Yai region, about 130-kilometers from Bangkok. The central wine hotspot is the area around Khao Yai National Park, where a cluster of the leading local wineries operate, and where almost 50% of local Thai wines are produced. Operating within close proximity of one another, many of these wineries also offer tours, lodging, restaurants, and other activities. Up in the northeast, for example, Village Farm Winery boasts a spa and a cliff-hanging swimming pool, whilst the PB Valley Khao Yai Winery vineyard offers resort-style accommodation and Siam Winery boasts a large Thai-inspired wooden pavilion designed by a former Norman Foster architect. For this reason the area has been loosely compared to Napa Valley in California and the enthusiastic atmosphere at local wineries could be compared to other wine scenes that were also once not so developed. As Nikki Visootha Lohitnavy – the Winemaker at the GranMonte winery – states, “It is kind of comparable to the 70’s when Napa was booming. Back then Napa wines competed with the French wines and won at the judgment of Paris. Now we are more or less winning the same all around the world.” However, the Thai wine scene is not quite yet ‘winning’ at a Charlie Sheen level yet and, as Siwat Thitipornwatthanakul from the Four Seasons Bangkok clarifies, “There are definitely opportunities for Thailand’s wine industry to grow. We still need more education in wine-making. Chile is a good example for us to look at, since it is a wine region with similarities to Thailand.”

Chile is the perfect yard post to measure the Thai wine scene against, since it is a young wine country with a similar climate that produces similar wines, and that also once lacked the education to create good wine and was plagued by tax problems. However, though Chilean alcohol taxes were dropped (and the wine Chilean industry subsequently saved) in the 1980s, excessively high taxes and a strict governmental stance on alcohol are hindering the growth of the local Thai wine scene. “The Thai government is very strict with alcohol advertising. Thailand wine deserves better and more publicity from local press but they cannot publish pictures of bottles or write about wine except for education,” says Joe Sriwarin, the editor of Wine Today magazine. In spite of everything though, the local Thai wines are doing extremely well outside of Thailand and, with Thai wines being undoubtedly some of the best to come out of Asia, the future nevertheless looks bright for this new world of newer New World wines.

Originally published in Turbojet Horizon Magazine, August 2011

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Coqoon Spa, Indigo Pearl, Phuket

With intentionally oxidised furnishings and features running throughout, this Bill Bensley-landscaped resort is guided by design and it would only make sense that their spa would follow suit. While there were already a whole bunch of quality treatments on offer, the design stakes of the spa increased two-fold this year, with the opening of the stunning Nest treatment suites which are, in essence, oversized Avatar-like nests suspended midair accessible only by a bridge. Branded as the Coqoon Spa, it is now one of the most distinctive spas in Thailand and the spa suites further secure this standing.

The surroundings for the treatments on offer include eight double rooms, six immaculately presented deluxe treatment rooms, plus a luxurious spa suite (complete with a private swimming pool, steam showers, a sauna, a Jacuzzi and a waterproof shower treatment table). There is also a beauty salon on hand for the more vainly inclined.

Drawing on timeless Asian herbal remedies, Coqoon Spa uses a perfect blend of specially selected ingredients and essential oils. Using Anne Sémonin branded products, the treatments and ingredients encourage harmony for all kinds of skin types.

Originally published in Kiosk Magazine, January 2012

Wonderfully Unconventional – W Retreat Koh Samui

The overuse of words beginning with the letter ‘W’ employed at W Hotels around the world gets kind of galling after a while, but this is one annoyance we are willing to forgo at the W Retreat Koh Samui, which really is, by definition and design, whimsical and wonderful (*shudder*). At the entrance one is greeted by interactive digital floor projections and a large architectural recreation of a lily pond complete with glowing psychedelic floating globules and sunken seats that look like over-sized lotus flowers. From here on in a whole world of chicness awaits where quirky design features abound and create a serious sense of place. In the 75 colourful glass-walled pool villas red marshmallow-resembling light fixtures, modish asymmetrical ceiling fans and other playful eye candy combine to make an impact on the senses, whilst around the resort a number of alluring food and beverage outlets beckon and entice. These include the open kitchens, dramatic glass ceilings and vivid bright blue tones of The Kitchen Table; the raw wood, concrete, and glass elements of the beach-side Sip Bar and Namu Japanese restaurant; plus a healthful juice bar connected to the Away Spa (which boasts Asia’s first Thai/Mexican steam treatment facility). Being a W property, the exceptional design is matched by an exceptional location, which features two separate beaches that converge at a sandy tip. While villas scatter a hillside on one side off from the beachfront, there is a flat plain that stretches out on the other side, overlooked by the various levels of public areas that impressively cascade down the hillside. It is all just a day’s work for this hotel group of cool unconventionality.

Originally published in Today’s Living magazine, May 2010