May travel news
Edible art in Hong Kong, Australia’s most remarkable new lodging, and the latest travel news from around the world.
Consider this: a dessert fashioned in the image of artist Damien Hirst’s For the Love of God skull sculpture. Instead of being cast in platinum and studded with diamonds, the edible version guests order at the Mandarin Grill + Bar is carved from ice-cream and set with hundreds and thousands. Andy Warhol’s pop art gets the same treatment from the restaurant’s Michelin-starred chef Uwe Opocensky, who recreates the artist’s portrait of Marilyn Monroe. His homage to Van Gogh, meanwhile, combines real sunflowers and an “ear” made of foie gras.
It’s all in the name of art, of course. This month marks the début of Art Basel in Asia. The esteemed contemporary art fair, held annually in Basel, Switzerland, and Miami Beach, Florida, runs from 23-26 May in Hong Kong, and the Mandarin Oriental (also celebrating its 50th birthday) is the event’s official hotel partner.
The contemporary art scene in Hong Kong has gained serious traction in recent years. International heavy-hitters such as Gagosian and White Cube have set up shop here, joining the likes of homegrown 10 Chancery Lane and newcomer 2P.
Chef Opocensky says keeping it slightly irreverent was his intention for the Art Basel-inspired dishes. “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having a little fun with art.” Quite. Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong Art Basel packages start at $670 per night.
Not all hotel quiet spaces are created equal. We make mention of the delightful trend towards hotel libraries in our Hot 100, but one of the newest examples is also one of the most beautiful. The Map Room at Claridge’s hotel in London is a business centre with a twist, fusing the art deco style for which the Mayfair landmark is loved with more practical concerns. British design house Linley, responsible for many of the suites in the hotel, oversaw its aesthetic, which is dominated by a large world map on a feature wall. Publishing house Assouline, meanwhile, curated the contents of the library, which focuses on art, lifestyle and fashion.
Gallic glamour without the lengthy flight is yours via Estée Lauder’s new French Nudes Collection of nail polish ($38 each) – subtle hues that call to mind the seemingly effortless elegance of Parisiennes.
IN IT TO WIN
There’s just enough time to choose your favourites in our 2013 Travel Awards. Vote now for the chance to win a trip to Singapore thanks to Mr & Mrs Smith and British Airways or one of two Nespresso Lattissima+ machines. The competition closes on 3 May – get cracking.
HEIGHT OF LUXURY
Australia’s most remarkable new lodging is a modular, modernist eyrie set atop the seventh floor of a CBD office tower in Hobart (check out how they were constructed here). Conceived by pioneering property developer Brett Torossi (Avalon Coastal Retreat, Rocky Hills Retreat) and designed by architect Craig Rosevear (Moorilla winery), the radical sky-suite débuted at the end of March and raised the bar for accommodation in the Tasmanian capital. The 17-square-metre space features two identical bedrooms flanking a sleek living space and kitchen with Tassie oak flooring.
A north-facing deck is furnished with a Huon pine tub for starlit bathing, a moulded Spanish “moon” chair (it glows in the dark), a barbecue and views across city rooftops to Mount Wellington.
On first impression “the omnipod” seems spare, even austere, so that the eyes are drawn immediately to walls of glass framing Hobart in an aerial panorama, from the spire of the Davey Street Congregational Church to the wharves and warehouses of Salamanca and beyond to the deepwater blues of the Derwent River. But everything guests need for a decadent stay is contained inside the clever carpentry: a library, board games, art supplies and iPod dock for entertainment; fine Tasmanian wines, a Nespresso coffee machine and food supplies from Hobart’s Wursthaus gourmet deli; even silver-plate spoons and Alessi ice-cream bowls to go with tubs of Maggie Beer’s finest.
Standout features include the 3.3-metre bespoke dining table in Huon pine, custom-made king beds dressed in Jersey-knit linen and pure cashmere blankets, and Italian art pieces including a 15th-century monastery door from Perugia. Hobart just got a whole lot hotter.
The retreat sleeps four and can be rented for $880 a night (includes breakfast and parking spot). Avalon City Retreat, 152 Macquarie St, Hobart, Tas, 1300 361 136. KENDALL HILL
Could an Australian innovation, designed initially as disaster-relief housing but making waves as a showcase of our can-do attitude, be popping up in the US summer playground of the Hamptons?
So enthusiastic was the response to the début of House of Card at the recent SXSW music, film and interactive festival in hipsterish Austin, Texas, that founder Georgia Hopkins said the houses now have a date with fashionable New Yorkers on holidays. Plans are also afoot for a House of Card Hotel.
The sustainable “houses”, designed by Peter Ryan of Melbourne’s Per Architects, are portable temporary buildings made of recyclable cardboard, plywood and shipping pallets. They were initially developed to provide housing following events such as the Haiti earthquake, but House of Card is now using them to spread the word on all things Australian. Hopkins says partnerships such as the Popup Downunder Coffee, the SXSW collaboration with Sounds Australia and LA-based Australian coffee roaster Longshot was the perfect way to get Australian innovation of all flavours on people’s radars.
Frequent flyers will relish the anti-ageing punch provided by La Prairie’s new Cellular Power Serum, $565 for 50ml, perfect for those whose faces, as well as bodies, really feel the effects of a long flight.
It’s a canny move by Sydney pub veterans Fraser Short and the Laundy family. Snap up a much-loved but neglected hotel and give it a sharp makeover to match its blue-chip harbourfront location. The 18-month transformation is still a work in progress, but the 127-year-old Watsons Bay Boutique Hotel hasn’t looked this good in ages. The sun-drenched beer garden becomes the Beach Club, a sea of striped umbrellas and retro-styling that takes its cues from mid-century Miami (we’re loving the coffee and ice-cream cart). The fish-and-chip kiosk, which dishes up 2000 meals a day at weekends, becomes a bar, and the kitchen moves indoors with chef Eric Jansson (formerly of Icebergs) at the helm. Renovation of the hotel’s 32 oversized rooms is still a year away but they’re holding up well after a spruce last decade – especially those with sightlines down the barrel of Port Jackson to the steel arch of the bridge. Rooms $180-$545. 1 Military Rd, Watsons Bay, NSW, (02) 9337 5444. KENDALL HILL
England’s Globe-Trotter may be famous for its hard cases but its forays into leathergoods never fail to impress. Case in point? The new Propellor collection, including the Limonta weekender, $1825.
NEWS IN BRIEF
KIDS' CLUB PER ECCELENZA
What happens when your children’s first taste of a kids’ club involves making pizza, learning Italian and treasure hunts in some of the world’s most famous museums? Villa San Michele, which calls a Michelangelo-designed former monastery in the Florentine hills home, this month launches its new children’s facilities. Pack the kids off to the restored chapel in the villa’s extensive grounds for the likes of biscuit baking and lessons in the art of Florentine crafts.
A Rosetta-inspired menu by Neil Perry, a tasting of rare Wolf Blass wines, and a couple of days in one of Australia’s most beautiful places – Lizard Island’s food and wine weekend is an autumn escape plan with legs. The weekend, 24-26 May, is a collaboration with Qantas’s EpiQure food and wine program for frequent flyers, and includes wine masterclasses, a six-course dinner from chef Perry, and Q&A sessions with him and Wolfgang Blass.
ACROSS THE TASMAN
New Zealand’s esteemed Huka Lodge is also using the triple threat of food, wine and a special setting to lure Australian guests during the colder months. Sydney chef Brent Savage (Monopole, The Bentley) headlines 15 June’s Big Red Dinner, which this year takes on a Spanish theme. For those whose tastes run to the tropical, TV chef Pete Evans will cook for you and seven of your closest friends at the Huka Retreat’s exclusive-use Dolphin Island in Fiji on 23-27 June.
COUTURE MEETS CULTURE
Hot on the heels of the second phase of Chanel’s hugely successful book and exhibition The Little Black Jacket: Chanel’s Classic Revisited by Karl Lagerfeld and Carine Roitfeld comes the famed French house’s No.5 Culture Chanel show. The new exhibit, at Paris’s Palais de Tokyo from 5 May to 5 June, celebrates the place of Chanel’s landmark No.5 fragrance in the avant-garde early 20th century. It explores not only Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel’s relationship with the creative types of her day, including Jean Cocteau, Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dalí and Igor Stravinsky, but also the links between Chanel No.5 and other artistic endeavours of the time.
Closer to home and also worth a browse is a new exhibition marking the 100th birthday of the Tour de France. The display, featuring more than 60 historic images, opens at Sofitel Sydney Wentworth on 1 May before moving to the Sofitel Melbourne on Collins on 18 July. Australia is the only country outside France to stage the exhibition. Entry is free. No.5 Culture Chanel, Palais de Tokyo, 13 avenue du Président Wilson, 16th arrondissement, Paris; Celebrate 100 years of the Tour de France: Frame by Frame, Sofitel Sydney Wentworth, 61 Phillip St, Sydney.
HIDEAWAY TO THE STARS
Santa Barbara, on California’s central coast, is often dubbed the American Riviera for its balmy weather and burnished beauty. Now’s there even more reason to visit. El Encanto, one of the destination’s most storied hideaways, has reopened after a seven-year, multimillion-dollar facelift. Built in 1918, and bought in 2004 by Orient-Express, the hotel offers panoramas of the sparkling city and the Pacific Ocean from its hilltop vantage point.
Just 90 minutes’ drive from Los Angeles, the resort was an escape for luminaries such as Clark Gable and Carole Lombard, and retains an aura of exclusivity and serenity. El Encanto means “the charm” and, when it comes to service, it certainly delivers on that promise. Expect a gaggle of smiling valets to race over to assist you on arrival. Spotting a cleaner assiduously dusting the doorknob at your meticulously designed California-style bungalow is not out of the question either.
For his part, chef Patrice Martineau is determined to make the hotel an epicurean sanctuary. Lunch, taken on the sun-dappled deck, consists of salmon confit with a yuzu chilli paste, mango nougat for dessert, and some of the property’s own coffee. The resort also has its own wine, unpasteurised beer, and a Holstein cow named Ellie, whose milk is used to make a house cheese.
Santa Barbara’s diversions are many, including stellar wineries, ample shopping and Spanish colonial architecture – but no one would be the least bit surprised if you chose to never leave the cosy environs of El Encanto. Telescopes are dotted around the property should you wish to check out the downtown scene. Superior bungalow rooms from $505. GEORGE EPAMINONDAS
BRIT DEFENCE TACTICS
British Airways has come out swinging in the wake of Qantas’s partnership with Emirates. BA now flies its new Boeing 777-300ERs – featuring improved premium economy and economy cabins and next-gen first-class sleeper pods – into Australia. It has also shifted its Sydney flights to Heathrow’s fancy Terminal 5, streamlining European connections and capitalising on the terminal’s excellent guest lounges and impressive retail.
LATAM PICKS PARTNER
The freshly minted partnership between Chile’s LAN Airlines, a member of Oneworld, and Brazil’s TAM Airlines – allied to Star Alliance – prompted a tough call on frequent flyer allegiances. But the new LATAM has made its choice, opting to join the Oneworld group, which includes Qantas (with whom LAN codeshares to Santiago), Cathay Pacific, BA and Malaysia Airlines. Tam’s transition to Oneworld will be complete by early 2014.
Qantas no longer flies its A380s to Europe via Asia but better arrival times and new airport lounges might help soften the blow. The airline has just opened its new first- and business-class lounges in Singapore’s Changi, and opens a First Lounge in Hong Kong in September. Total cost of the overhauls is $9 million. Most Qantas services into Asia have also been brought forward by up to three hours to work with onward connections.