A Reaching for the Gothic
So it’s Royal Circle seats at the Glyndebourne performance of Jules Massenet’s Cendrillon (Cinderella). The French composer’s comic opera celebrating the power of fantasy is a blend of colourful characters, generous melodies and sumptuous orchestral textures in bewitchingly heady arrangements. Director Fiona Shaw adds contemporary twists – and laughs. Poor Cinderella really is in for a rocky ride with her selfie loving halfsisters, bottom enhanced stepmother and gender fluid prince! It’s kooky, frothy, rococo and full of familial folly all at once. And a lot more entertaining than the Kardashians. Who said the countryside is boring? Next stop The Summer House. Sometimes one season is better than Four Seasons.
“There are two types of folly. One… is spread through the world by the cruel furies who sow serpents in the hearts of men. But there is another type, very different from the first, which brings delight. It is a certain fond delusion that takes over the soul, makes it forget all the troubles, all the worries, all the disappointments of life and plunges it into a torrent of pleasure.” Desiderius Erasmus, Praise of Folly, 1509
“England – southern England, probably the sleekest landscape in the world.” George Orwell, Homage to Catalonia, 1938
“The folly, particularly in Britain, is an attitude, a statement, a style, a fashion, a passion, a different world.” Gwyn Headley + Wim Meulenkamp, Follies, Grottoes + Garden Buildings, 1999
We’re Going to Have a Ball
It comes as no surprise that women in property and construction only make up 12 percent of the workforce. Men make up 12 percent of Chicks with Bricks: inverse proportionality. “It’s diverse, interesting, very proactive, a chance to meet and mingle with a mixture of people,” is how Holly Porter describes the organisation she set up.
Prestigious networking promoting female talent in other words. All in a good cause: this evening is a fundraiser in support of The Prince’s Trust (Women in the Built Environment). Supporters include leading recruitment company KDH Associates founded by Kirsty Hall.
First there was NoMad Manhattan; then came The Ned City of London. Soho House on steroids. Ned after Sir Edwin Lutyens the architect of the former Midland Bank, now the City’s most happening place for sophisticates to be until 11.30pm 12.30am 1.30am 2.30am carriages. The ground floor is quite simply London’s poshest food court – eight superb restaurants and a bar or two encircle a bandstand. The Chicks with Bricks champers reception is in the top floor Drawing Room followed by the gala dinner in the Tapestry Room next door.
Ah, the Tapestry Room. Soft light from crystal chandeliers flickers across the walnut panelling of the lower walls, subtly illuminating the tapestry above. Majestic. Dinner is served. Wine: Gavi di Gavi La Meirana, Piemonte, Italy + Pinot Noir, Cycle Gladiator, California | Starter: beetroot tartare, caper, golden beetroot, avocado and secret farm leaves | Main: tarte tatin of butternut squash, Brussel tops, trompettes, crisp sage butter served with Lyonnaise potatoes | Pudding: seasonal fruit crumble, Jersey cream.
Blessing Danha, Manager at KPMG, is one of several high profile after dinner speakers. She talks inspirationally about coping with her husband’s death just three months after their marriage. Somehow she had to progress a demanding career while suffering such bereavement. “I felt the kindness of strangers. I learnt the world can be really really lovely. I’ve learned the small pleasures of investing in people. Everyone has a story. Own your own voice. Own it. Define it. Life really is beautiful. If you can, give back.” Blessing has become an authentic female role model in a male dominated industry.
Towards the end, or at least the official end (see the moveable feast of carriages above), of the evening, Charlie Hanson of the eponymous auctioneers whips the room into a frenzy. Auction fever takes over. Lunch with Sir Ben Ainslie? Going… Seven night safari in Zimbabwe? Going… Tracey Emin sketch? Gone!
Editor’s Viewpoint: The Northern Ireland Woman Chosen to Model a Dress Made in Honour of Cecil the Lion
“Activists should be proud of this tribute to Cecil the lion. The killing of Cecil the lion by an American trophy hunter in Zimbabwe led to an outcry from conservationists and new laws in the US making it harder for its citizens to commit such acts in future. But an animal rights activist from Northern Ireland and a London fashion designer teamed up to pay their own special tribute to Cecil. Mary Martin created a dress with a distinctive collar mimicking a lion’s mane, and Janice Porter, who runs an animal sanctuary near Omagh, was chosen to model it for a charity event in Northern Ireland. It was a unique way to remember a king of beasts while raising much needed funds for animal welfare.” Belfast Telegraph
Estate of the Arts
New York couple Akiva and Tamar Madmoni Reich recently graced Nobu Hotel London with their glamorous presence. They’re no strangers to gorgeous hospitality. It’s two years since they opened their own upscale hotel in Hudson Valley, upstate New York. When Akiva first viewed the colonial mansion, he envisaged it becoming a serene sanctuary less than two hours away from the city. His business partner Eitan Baron fully agreed. That vision is now reality.
“With a property like Hasbrouck House which was built in 1757,” explains Akiva, “the two important components were to pay homage to the history of the buildings and simultaneously being aware we’re living in a time when people admire the past while needing modern living.” His own property development company, Akiva Reich + Co, was responsible for the sensitive restoration. He is also the powerhouse behind Gowanus Hospitality Group which covers stylish venues and prestigious event planning. The hotel has 20 individually designed bedrooms and suites across four buildings plus a “farm to table” restaurant called Butterfield, all surrounded by 50 acres of parkland.
“From a design perspective,” Akiva continues, “the idea was to have a lot of classic elements but also bring in contemporary additions. The rooms, from the furniture to the colours, are very subtle and light and when you’re in them you feel a sense of tranquillity.” Tamar adds, “Hasbrouck House has a chilled laidback vibe. We liked the Shoreditch hipster feel to Nobu Hotel.”
“I am actually currently developing my own music, writing and composing songs,” says Tamar. Mind and soul are clearly important to her. And body too: “The arts are in my blood.” A certified holistic health coach and wellness advocate, she has started hosting exclusive and intimate plant based workshops to encourage more organic conscious eating habits as well as holistic living and healing. Other wellness services at Hasbrouck House include private yoga and Swedish massages. Both husband and wife are committed philanthropists.
Tamar grew up in Israel. She served as a Krav Maga instructor in the Israeli army. “As a dancer,” she explains, “I was already trained to pay attention to my body and react instinctively. I would train male soldiers in Krav Maga as well as at risk youths, because my body was already primed for that kind of mind-body discipline.” Tamar recommends visiting, other than Tel Aviv and Jerusalem of course, the Golan Heights and Makhtesh Ramon in the desert. “You want to go to Masada, catch the sunrise. It’s an ancient fortress overlooking the Dead Sea.” But first, there’s a vegan lunch in New York to be had.
- Tamar’s Instagram: nutmilksinlalaland
A Pale Reflection | Purple Reign | Lavender is Blue
The First Resort | Going Places
With Platinum Sponsors as prestigious and diverse as Blacklane (chauffeurs to take you places) via Visoanska (beauty products to get you looking hot) to My Private Villas (destinations of desire) it’s sure to be a grand affair. Partners range from the highest level comms CNN and Milbanke Media to consumables like Doisy + Dam chocolates and Boursot French wine to cruises from Hapag Lloyd. Beach bod readiness is possible thanks to Tidal and Sand Dollar swimwear not forgetting Gassan diamonds. Baobab Collection (luxury homeware) and The Thinking Traveller (more desirable villas) illuminate the exquisite elixir of culture. Longings and belongings. To quote the composer Sir John Tavener, “See everything with the eye of the heart.”
The Boutique Hotel Awards wear their art on their sleeve: the best of the best internationally. There’s the stampede of fashionable feet as 250 leading luxury boutique hotel professionals and influencers from 112 countries around the globe take their seats. The setting: the glorious Merchant Taylors’ Hall in the City of London has been around since 1347 although the bones of the current building date from just after the Great Fire of 1666. It’s a fabulous Tudory Elizabethanist Medievalish fanfare shifting between major and minor modes, to paraphrase the composer Samuel Barber.
The Awards are now in their eighth year and are the only organisation in hospitality where every hotel and villa is actually visited by an experienced hotel judge and specialist in a particular category. The winners are selected from over 300 nominees. Guest experience is examined from six angles: Dining + Entertainment | Design | Facilities | Location | Staff Service | Overall Emotional Impact.
“The Boutique Hotel Awards 2018 Ceremony is an exciting and invigorating night,” enthuses Bianca Revens, Managing Director. “I am so proud to be a part of an organisation that recognises the passion and hard work of our winners and nominees, creating outstanding, unique luxury hotels and villas. Congratulations to everyone involved!” Keynote speaker Robin Sheppard, Cofounder and Chairman of Bespoke Hotels, calls the Awards “star studded” and “an essential date in the world’s perpetual calendar”. He adds, “We see the attention to detail in every stitch of fabric and every morsel of food.” Awarta Nusa Dua Resort + Villas in Bali, Indonesia, achieves a double whammy: top overall prize and World’s Best Culinary Experience. The other international winners are:
- World’s Best Beach or Coastal Hotel: Reethi Faru Resort, Filaidhoo, Maldives
- World’s Best Classic Elegance Hotel: Relais + Chateaux Hotel Heritage, Bruges, Belgium
- World’s Most Inspired Design Hotel: Hotel TwentySeven, Amsterdam, Netherlands
- World’s Best Honeymoon Hideaway: Drake Bay Getaway Resort, Drake Bay, Costa Rica
- World’s Best New Hotel: Hotel Grand Windsor, Auckland, New Zealand
- World’s Best Relaxation Retreat: Carpe Diem Exclusive Boutique Resort, Santorini, Greece
- World’s Most Romantic Retreat: Akademie Street, Franschhoek, South Africa
- World’s Most Sustainable Hotel: Clayoquot Wilderness Resort, Tofino, Canada
- World’s Best Wellness Spa: Green SPA Resort Stanglwirt, Going am Wilden Kaiser, Austria
- World’s Best Private Villa: The Resort Villa, Rayong, Thailand
- World’s Most Stunning Views: Hanging Gardens of Bali, Bali, Thailand
- World’s Best Family Hotel: Blue River Resort + Hot Springs, Dos Rios, Costa Rica
A jazzy string trio strikes up in the conservatory. The party has begun. A celebration of pure wanderlust joy is underway. “It’s a wonderful job being a hotelier!” exclaims Heidi Belnap who with her brother Aaron Hunsaker and his wife opened The Harkness in Idaho. “There are only about 850 people in our town. But we’re on the freeway to Yellowstone National Park and just two hours away from Salt Lake City. We restored a 1906 building that was close to being condemned. People are just falling in love with the hotel. It’s just different for that part of the world. It’s very boutique.” Michael S Howard extols the virtues of Thailand. He should know. Michael is Managing Director of Rasa Hospitality, a Bangkok based ground that manages top end resorts and hotels in Thailand. “Our conversation is the highlight of the evening.”
Dinner is served. Starter: salad of Devonshire white crabmeat, lemon and ginger cured Scottish salmon with asparagus and crème fraîche. Main: baked aubergine parmigiana with rainbow chard, toasted almond and French bean salad. Pudding: poached fig in port sauce with mango brûlée and blackcurrant délice. Demitasse and truffles. There’s simply no better way to celebrate the halfway point between the Autumn Equinox and the Winter Solstice. Sandwiched by a Richard Dhondt Champagne reception and carriage wine from D Vine, to alter the context of a quote from the composer Sir Hamilton Harty, The Boutique Hotel Awards are “better by two bars*”.
“Without the connection you have nothing. It’s the people that really make the experience.” The impossibly beautiful Elisabeth Visoanska.
Quite Simply The Universe’s Most Glamorous Hospitality Awards Gala Dinner
How the great poses? “We do it all the time!”