Wednesday, February 27, 2013

London, England - Coya

It seems everything Arjun Waney (also famous for Zuma, La Petite Maison and The Arts Club) touches these days turns to gold. His new Peruvian venture, Coya, is no exception. Already packed and impossible to get a reservation, Coya consists of a members only club and lounge as well as a basement restaurant and Pisco Bar that is open to the public. 

Food is prepared in one of three open kitchens: the Ceviche Bar, the Open Charcoal Grill and the Central Kitchen, and dishes are meant to be shared tapas style. I had dinner there last Friday night with my Dad and am headed back for cocktails at the bar this evening.

Here's a look at what we tried: 

Salmon, quinoa, onion escabeche, aji mirasol
Atun Chifa
Yellowfin tuna, soy, sesame seeds, shrimp cracker

Beef, aji rocoto, coriander
Patatas Bravas a la Peruana
Crisp potatoes, spicy tomatoes, huancaína sauce

Chicken, aji amarillo, garlic

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Monday, February 25, 2013

London, England - Afternoon Tea at The Dorchester

Yesterday I spent the early evening over a two hour tea service in the Promenade at The Dorchester on Park Lane in Mayfair. Winner of the Tea Guild 2012 Award of Excellence, you can enjoy pastries, scones, clotted cream, strawberry jam, sandwiches and a variety of teas to the tune of a live pianist. 

And anything you can't finish is wrapped in a very chic Dorchester 'handbag' to enjoy later:

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Friday, February 22, 2013

Marrakech, Morocco - La Grande Table Marocaine at Royal Mansour

When Royal Mansour informed me that Yannick Alleno was flying in from Paris just in time to cook dinner that evening in the kitchen of their Moroccan restaurant, La Grande Table Marocaine, giddiness ensued. For those of you who are not familiar with Yannick, he is a three Michelin star French chef, most famous for running Le Meurice in Paris. I could not believe my luck.

Fast forward to that evening and as the waiter began to take our order for dinner, Yannick appeared at our table (I jumped on him and made him pose for a photo!) and he asked if we wouldn't mind him cooking dinner for us off menu instead. Um, let me think, a six course meal cooked by one of the world's most elite chefs? YES! 

And then the gastronomic extravaganza commenced and didn't stop for three and a half hours ... 


We began with a smattering of Moroccan salad delights:

 Imlil watercress green broth perfumed with kdied
Meslala olives
Gnocchi with Ourika saffron
And onto dessert:

 Dates, mint and cinnamon

Our meal at La Grande Table Marocaine at Royal Mansour was truly a once in a lifetime culinary experience. Even when Yannick is not in-house, this restaurant has exquisite white-gloved service and is a magical experience both for the setting and the Moroccan specialities for which the kitchen is so famous.
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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Marrakech, Morocco - Royal Mansour

Ok I'll admit it: I'm pretty darn spoiled when it comes to having stayed in some of the most renown luxury hotels around the world. And sadly, after awhile, once you become conditioned to a certain level of service and decor, its hard to be truly wowed by a property.

And then I stayed at the Royal Mansour in Marrakech and just about flipped out. 

The hotel is truly a work of design magnificence. It took 1,000 local Moroccan artisans (and the collaboration of two interior design companies - one French and one American) a total of five years to complete this visual masterpiece. 

The bar
Close up of the ceiling in the bar - I die!!!

The level of detail, the colors, the patterns, the craftsmanship, the fabrics, the custom made furniture, the marble, the lighting, the embroideries, the traditional cedar wood, sculptured plaster work, the carved ceilings, the quiet alcoves, the murmur of the fountains ... I'm going into overload just recalling my indelible memories of the Royal Mansour. 

I could have stayed for a month and still not have absorbed all there is to take in here. I simply stopped knowing where to look anymore.

The sumptuous curtain fabric, the tiled floors, the marble, the mother of pearl inlay
on the tasseled tie-backs ... this was just one tiny corner of the hotel!!!

I'm usually a pretty decent writer, but I'm seriously struggling with how to put this all into words. How can I describe the spa? Laser cut white wrought iron lattice work soars up into the sky and allows the sun to stream through the central pergola. Bathed in warm golden rays and surrounded by a serene and immaculate white space, I am 99% sure this is what it must look like when you reach the gates of heaven. 

The pool inside the spa
Royal Mansour have created their own medina inside the property, complete with courtyards, gardens, centuries-old olive groves and palm trees, and sinuous alleys. A five meter high wall lies back to back with the old city walls that surround the area. Your own private riad is found in this medina. 

There are no rooms at Royal Mansour, only 53 private riads (residences). Built around a central atrium, each three-storey riad boasts a living room, bar and lobby on the ground floor, a bedroom, dressing room and bathroom on the second floor, and on the top floor there is a private roof terrace with plunge pool, fireplace, lounge chairs and a view over the medina.

We arrived to a roaring fire and some freshly pressed apple juice in our riad:

One of the most remarkable aspects of the property is that there is an underground tunnel system for staff so that they remain invisible during your stay. You never lay eyes on anyone in the medina! Each riad has its own private back entrance that staff can enter and exit unnoticed from this underground city. 

When we were shown to our riad, a woman magically appeared from a private entrance, introduced herself to us as our governess, and asked if she could start unpacking our luggage. Truly unparalleled service ...

In case your own private plunge pool is not enough, there is a relaxing outdoor pool as well:

Royal Mansour is a true haven of serenity, privacy and seclusion. I never saw another guest or a member of staff, except in the restaurants, during my entire stay. If you are the kind of traveler who likes a bit of activity in the lobby and enjoy going into the hotel bar to socialize and chat up other guests, this is not the place for you. 

However, if you are looking to get away from everything and everyone for a true escape into luxury, peacefulness and six star service, then Royal Mansour is your place.

Royal Mansour provide private transfers to and from the airport. Trust me, you will feel like a celebrity! You are literally ushered from the plane into a VIP lounge, passport control come to you, your luggage is collected by an ambassador of the hotel and you are chauffeur driven in a black Range Rover to the private avenue where the Royal Mansour resides. The same happens on your return. We weren't even allowed to wait in line to collect boarding passes or check luggage. Everything is done for you. 

I have over 300 photographs from my stay and have just merely given you a glimpse here. On Friday I will write about my three Michelin star dinner in the Moroccan restaurant at Royal Mansour, hosted by famous chef Yannick Alleno.

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