Announcing Belmond Andean Explorer
Unveil the exceptional world of Belmond with our online magazine. Read on for great ideas, features, tips and more…
Unveil the exceptional world of Belmond with our online magazine. Read on for great ideas, features, tips and more…Now
Announcing Belmond Andean Explorer
Food & Wine
Gourmet Italy and Mallorca
Mindful in Myanmar with Nadia Narain
Food & Wine
A Day at The Raymond Blanc Cookery School
All aboard for Ireland
The Sea Caves of Santa Barbara
Saving the Chesapeake Oyster
Launching in May 2017, Belmond Andean Explorer will be South America’s first luxury sleeper train. Anticipate one of the world’s highest railway adventures, surrounded by lavish interiors and savouring fine dining along the way.
One of the most indulgent ways to discover Italy and Mallorca is through their local produce and cuisine. We uncover these delicious Mediterranean destinations’ tastiest treats and most exciting food experiences.
Discover natural bounties
If there’s one thing you can be sure to spot in abundance on the Amalfi Coast, it’s lemons: casually dangling from trees on street corners; covering whole terraces on steep hillsides; or sitting enticingly on a stall. Yet these are no ordinary lemons. The Amalfi lemon—or Sfusato Amalfitano (sfusato refers to its elongated shape)—is sweeter, richer and more delicious than its smaller, sourer cousins and can be eaten raw or used in a variety of dishes and drinks.
The Amalfi lemon
Local farmer Salvatore Aceto offers two-hour tours of his lemon farm in the Valle dei Mulini to guests of Belmond Hotel Caruso from March to October. He collects you in his golf buggy from the Duomo in the centre of Amalfi and drives you through breathtaking scenery to his organic lemon grove, where his family have been cultivating the fruit since the early 1800s.
As you explore the fragrant farm, Salvatore, who is following in the footsteps of his father Luigi, divulges the ancient secrets and modern challenges behind successful cultivation. “Growing lemons on the Amalfi Coast is very hard because we cannot use machinery on this terrain—instead we use hands and shoulders,” he says. A stop on a terrace to enjoy the magnificent views and savour homemade limoncello and mouthwatering lemon cake is a must.
“The best part of our lemons is the peel, which is rich in essential oils,” says Salvatore. “We also prepare lemon tiramisu, pasta such as scialatielli with lemon, or ravioli filled with ricotta and lemon zest. And we use the leaves to wrap around mozzarella when we smoke it.”
Just as Amalfi is inextricably linked with lemons, the Sicilian town of Bronte, in Catania, is all about pistachios. A particularly delicious variety, Pistacia vera, grows here, made unique by the fertile volcanic soil of Mount Etna. Bright emerald green and with an intense scent, Bronte pistachios are often referred to as Sicily’s ‘green gold’ as they cost three times more than the regular variety. The trees are believed to have been planted here by Arab settlers (the Sicilian word for pistachio is fratuca, from the Arabic word fustuq). Today Bronte pistachios are essential to many indulgent Sicilian specialities, including cannoli, gelato, pesto and cured meats.
Guests of Belmond Grand Hotel Timeo and Belmond Villa Sant’Andrea can visit the farm of Antonio (Tony) Minissale to see pistachios being cultivated and, from late August to early September, harvested. Short and spindly, pistachio trees are only harvested every two years, with a ‘rest’ year in between for the tree to store energy. When the fruits are ripe enough to harvest, the hulls are a beautiful pink, making an astonishing sight in the orchard. All local hands (young and old) are required to handpick the fruit or lay canvas nets below the trees and shake the branches.
When it comes to tasting this delicacy, take a stroll through Bronte, where every café and pastry shop sells pistachio-based dolcetti. Make a beeline for Pasticceria Fratelli Gangi, which offers what many consider to be the best pistachio ice cream in Sicily, as well as rare pistachio arancini (stuffed rice balls). If you start to feel guilty (why would you?), remember that the delicious little nuts are chock-full of vitamins and minerals and are considered good for the heart.
Flor de Sal d'Es Trenc
Have sunglasses at the ready for a visit to Mallorca’s Flor de Sal d’Es Trenc. For even without the mounds of dazzling, hand-harvested salt drying in the Balearic sun, this is an area of whiteness—the pristine beach, the soft dunes, the whitewashed buildings—where even the surf seems to have a salty brightness to it. Producing one of the world’s purest sea salts, Es Trenc, on the southeast of the island, enjoys the optimum conditions (mineral-rich water, hours of sun, light breezes, low humidity) for producing Flor de Sal, an aromatic salt prized by chefs and gourmands the world over. Chef Guillermo of El Olivo Restaurant uses it, so guests of Belmond La Residencia may already have developed a taste for it. It’s usually harvested in July when, just before dusk, the small team meticulously scrapes up the fine layer of crystals from the surface of the pools.
After touring the salt pans you can try the range of Flor de Sal d’Es Trenc artisanal products developed by local Michelin-starred chef Marc Fosh. These range from natural—preferred by traditionalists—to black olive (blended with roasted Kalamata olives), Mediterranean (with herbs such as rosemary and oregano) and hibiscus (exotic flowers). Once you have one of the elegant little pots at home, a small, magnesium-rich pinch is enough to make any dish delicious.
Specialities in the making
For a genuine ‘kid in a candy store’ feeling, a visit to one of Italy’s finest confectioners, Pietro Romanengo Fu Stefano in Genoa, is a must.
Specialising in candied fruit, chocolates, dragées and flower syrups, the firm has been run by generations of the same family since 1780. It has enjoyed the patronage of many distinguished people, including composer Giuseppe Verdi, who in 1881 wrote a letter to a friend declaring that Romanengo could “exquisitely candy every sort of fruit”.
Pietro Romanengo Fu Stefano
Romanengo’s jewel-like pastries are served to guests of Belmond Hotel Splendido and if these have whetted your appetite for more, the concierge will be delighted to arrange a behind-the-scenes tour at the firm’s factory, about 40 minutes’ drive from the hotel. Here, within the white-tiled walls, sweets are still made by hand to traditional methods: you might see employees steeping oranges and strawberries in vats of sugar syrup, wrapping candied chestnuts (marrons glacés) in tulle or sugaring real violet petals.
After the factory tour, you will visit the beautiful old Romanengo store on Via Roma in central Genoa and sample some of its gems. The sweets are presented in distinctive blue packaging bearing the company’s 19th-century logo of a dove and an olive branch, a symbol of peace developed in the wake of the Napoleonic wars.
Another family enterprise, but an altogether different taste sensation, can be found at La Luna, the oldest sobrasada (cured sausage) factory in Mallorca. Situated in the picturesque valley of Sóller, close to Belmond La Residencia, La Luna has been producing artisan goods to age-old recipes since 1900.
This traditional red Balearic sausage must be made from porc negre, the local black pig, a relative of the Spanish mainland’s Iberian pig. Added to the minced pork are seasoning and paprika. The string-tied sausages are then cured in a drying room for several weeks. Sobrasada is more pâté-like than most cured meats, a result of the island’s humidity, and is usually spread on toast or cocas, the local flatbreads, or used to flavour dishes such as risottos or stews.
Visitors to the factory can observe the sobrasada-making process and admire some of the firm’s original, beautifully preserved machinery, as well as boxes that were used at the end of the last century to send vacuum-sealed sausage to the United States, where many Mallorcans were migrating.
To take your sobrasada experience a stage further, visit the village of Consell, where an unexpected world of specialist knives will be revealed. A hardware shop on the high street conceals the small workshop of Joan Campins, a fourth generation trinxeter, or knife maker, who fashions traditional knives to suit all manner of occupations: fishing, grape harvesting, agricultural tasks, even cutting sobrasada.
To meet Joan and watch him in action as he heats, hammers and shapes the blades over the furnace, ask the concierge at Belmond La Residencia to arrange a private visit. Joan, who invented the sobrasada knife, can create a personalised version especially for you. Each is beautifully finished with a hand-carved wooden handle and leather cover.
Smell, taste and shop
Browsing epicurean stores is for many an unashamed pleasure. One place that is sure to satisfy your deli desires is Pegna, a historic food store only a few steps from the Duomo in Florence.
Set in an impressive 15th-century vaulted building, it has been welcoming connoisseurs through its doors since 1860. Fill your basket with top-quality prosciutto, cheeses, olives, chocolates and fine wines from the well-stocked shelves and chilled counters or let the concierge at Belmond Villa San Michele arrange a personal shopping trip with an expert, who will help you pick out top Tuscan delicacies or select tasty ingredients for a picnic by the Arno.
Caffeine lovers, prepare to go “aah” as you enter Caffè Girani, a Venetian coffee company near St Mark’s Square that has been honing its roasting skills since 1928. A key trading port on the Spice Road, Venice was one of the first places in Europe to introduce and roast coffee beans in the 1600s. Locals and visitors alike come here to buy the smooth, aromatic blends crafted from arabica and robusta beans by mother-and-daughter team Gigliola and Roberta, the latest Girani family members to manage the business.
Roberta was originally going to be an architect, but changed tack and returned to the family business. “I felt the need to protect it, as it represents an important part of the city’s history,” she says. “The soul of this place has always been my mum. She has dedicated her life to it. When I was a child, we lived on the first floor of a building and on the ground floor was the roasting laboratory. You could smell the coffee all over the house. Each new coffee that came in was tested in the kitchen. Everybody—our housekeeper, friends passing by—was asked to be part of the process and give their opinions. That way, the best blend could be created.”
Guests of Belmond Hotel Cipriani can visit this coffee haven and learn all about the traditional roasting techniques still used by the company before choosing their preferred cup—perhaps Number One, a full-bodied morning coffee with a chocolatey aftertaste, or Fassina, a delicate, mellow blend for connoisseurs.
Ask a local “Who offers the best pastries on the Amalfi Coast?” and the answer will invariably be Andrea Pansa. A 15-minute car ride from Belmond Hotel Caruso, in Amalfi ’s enchanting little square, Andrea Pansa has been run by a dynasty of pastry chefs since 1830. Its irresistible treats and beautiful setting have seduced visitors through the decades—poet Henry Longfellow, playwright Henrik Ibsen and composer Richard Wagner were all regulars.
Inside the elegant, antique-mirrored interior you will discover mouthwatering treats such as Sfogliatella Santa Rosa, a clam-shaped pastry filled with cream and cherries and a story connected to the local nuns, or Lemon Delight, a delicate cake filled with citrus cream made with fruit from the family’s own grove. In the kitchen, no less than nine pastry chefs work their magic under the supervision of convivial owner Nicola Pansa.
Take a seat outside at one of the linen-draped tables and indulge.
Botswana is in full bloom from July to November. Plains are lush with vegetation, lakes and rivers are still swollen, and skies are clear and bright—ideal for viewing game of all variety. With so much to see, now is the best time to go on safari. Plan your next adventure today to one of our three luxury lodges with our exclusive Safari Season package.
Cruise along the serene Ayeyarwady River this August. Travelling past golden pagodas and rarely seen villages, you’ll find true inner balance with daily yoga and meditation sessions led by expert Nadia Narain. Classes will be suitable for all levels, creating a unique luxury yoga retreat aboard the Belmond Road to Mandalay river cruiser. “Being in nature, working with the calm flow of the river to slow everything down…” Nadia enthuses, “It will be wonderful.”
In 1929 the French glass artist René Lalique was at the height of his powers, creating masterpieces that still dazzle today. His lustrous panels of dancing maidens continue to delight guests at the champagne bar aboard the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express and his dramatic Languedoc vase (centre) remains in production. This exquisite piece was recently re-issued in vibrant green crystal. It displays finely-engraved cactus leaves in accentuated relief and is also available in a golden bronze.
Rio has undergone a dramatic evolution with creative and gourmet venues flourishing in pocket neighbourhoods off the well-trodden trail. From buzzy restaurants to the new Museum of Tomorrow, we reveal what’s happening beyond the Olympic scene.
A Saturday afternoon in Rio de Janeiro, and in the leafy neighbourhood of Jardim Botânico, fashion designer Isabela Capeto has just sat down to lunch with friends on the breezy terrace of her favourite local spot, Borogodó. An ochre-yellow colonial mansion overlooking the Botanical Gardens and enveloped in the emerald green of the Mata-Atlântica rainforest that frames the hills behind, it’s frequented by some of Brazil’s famous artists and musicians.
Children make chalk drawings on the pavement while across the street, locals strolling in the late-afternoon sun stop for oysters at alfresco tables outside the Jojö Café Bistro as tiny monkeys skate along telephone wires overhead. A block away at Bar do Horto, a guitar starts to strum a Tom Jobim riff, while on the roof-terrace bar of Bar Sobe, a DJ spins a sunset session of soul-infused samba to a hip crowd.
Welcome to Horto, a pocket neighbourhood of Rio’s Jardim Botânico that has quietly evolved into an intimate haven for the city’s creatives. Dotted down leafy cul-de-sacs, artists such as Adriana Varejão and Beatriz Milhazes have ateliers, while in converted, light-filled townhouses, designers such as Fernando Jaeger, Isabela Capeto and emerging multi-brand store OS/ON work from ateliers-cum-showrooms. Something of a local secret, it’s a world away from Rio’s bustling beachfront neighbourhoods. “I feel like I am in a small village surrounded by nature, when in fact we are in the midst of a large city,” explains Capeto.
Such is the strength of Rio’s global image, first-time visitors often race to tick off major sights and miss tapping into the city the locals know. In response to hosting two of the world’s biggest sporting events—the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics—Rio has undergone a dramatic evolution. New transport links, including a metro system, high-speed bus service and cycle lanes, have opened up the city like never before.
As part of the city’s Olympic renovation, the government has invested 8 billion reais in the Porto Maravilha project. The complete overhaul of Rio’s downtown dock area is driven by the conversion of the former highway into a bucolic, pedestrianised zone, featuring new office and residential developments and the recently inaugurated central square of Praça Mauá. This is home to two new state-of-the-art museums, the MAR (the Rio Art Museum) and the Museum of Tomorrow, a sustainability museum designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava that juts out over Guanabara Bay.
One of the most dramatic transformations has come about as a result of the pacification of part of the city’s favelas, opening up what were previously no-go neighbourhoods. With its steep hills, glittering ocean views and cheaper rents, Vidigal—the favela perched over Leblon beach—has evolved into a Brazilian Montmartre, attracting a wave of European bohèmes to launch new cultural projects, bars and restaurants in partnership with community residents. It’s here that cultural icon and contemporary artist Vik Muniz set up a technology school in partnership with MIT; David Beckham has bought a house; while the sunrise hike through the jungle trail at the top of Vidigal, to watch dawn break over the city from the top of the iconic Dois Irmãos mountains, has turned into a customary pilgrimage for visitors seeking the most spectacular of views.
At the other end of the beach, luxury rental agency Oasis Collections has opened the city’s first private members’ club on the cobbled street leading up to Copacabana’s Cantagalo favela. With film director Candé Salles in charge of a cultural programme featuring jam sessions, art exhibitions and raucous parties around its swimming pool and split-level deck, it provides visitors with a new portal into the previously hard-to-access world of Rio high society.
Due to open in November is serial entrepreneur Cello Camolese’s Casa Camolese, a Soho House-esque multi-level hospitality space, combining a restaurant, deli, cocktail bar, artisanal brewery and underground jazz club, overlooking the horseracing track in the heart of Jardim Botânico. Flanked by two new contemporary art galleries, Fortes Vilaça and Laura Marsiaj, and with Vik Muniz as his business partner, it’s already tipped to be the hottest spot in town.
Casa Camolese is indicative of Jardim Botânico evolving into a gourmet, as well as creative, hub. Last year, chef Pedro Siquiera opened Puro, a Brazilian bistro specialising in delectable cuts of meat, such as matambre served with caramelised pumpkin, and such interesting starters as palm-heart ravioli. Siquiera, who trained under Alex Atala, is part of a growing movement of Brazilian chefs seeking to define a new gourmet language and genre for their country’s cuisine. While Brazilian cuisine may have traditionally been defined by classic regional dishes, such as feijoada and moqueca, Rio is witnessing a new wave of chefs adopting cutting-edge techniques picked up abroad to revisit retro recipes and native exotic ingredients.
Leading the evolution is Rafa Costa e Silva, the former head chef of Michelin-starred Mugaritz. He returned to his native Rio, after years studying in the world’s best kitchens, to open Lasai in neighbouring Botafogo, which was voted this year’s highest new entry in the San Pellegrino 50 Best Restaurants awards.
With exposed brick walls and reclaimed wooden tables, the laid-back design belies the quality of the cooking, offered as a seven- or 15-course tasting menu that changes daily, based on the seasonal produce available from Rafa’s network of organic local producers.
MEE at Belmond Copacabana Palace
For fine dining, innovation comes courtesy of Belmond Copacabana Palace’s Hotel Cipriani Restaurant that recently launched an exceptional six-course tasting menu, which the restaurant’s head chef, Luca Orini, has designed in collaboration with French champagne house Maison Dom Pérignon. Guests take their seats at the Chef’s Table, where elegant Italian dishes are paired with rare Dom Pérignon vintages served throughout the feast.
Hot on the heels of Rio’s gourmet evolution is the cocktail scene: Rio’s long-standing tradition of drinking ice-cold choppes (draught beers) and caipirinhas cocktails at street bars is finally evolving, as master Argentine mixologist Tato Giovannoni opens the city’s first gourmet beach kiosk, with signature cocktails and the freshest of seafood served overlooking the kite-surfer’s hang-out of Barra beach. At Belmond Copacabana Palace’s sophisticated Asian-fusion restaurant MEE, sake aficionados can savour a new sake menu, featuring selected limited-edition bottles, perfect for sipping at the sultry, crimson cocktail bar or accompanying the quail egg sushi with truffle at what is one of Rio’s first restaurants to be awarded a Michelin star.
Wherever you turn in Rio, it is this creative scene that continues to drive the city forward and craft the Carioca identity, innovating with new openings that celebrate Rio’s bohemian spirit, while providing spaces where travellers can tap into the local scene and connect with the people who are leading the charge.
Discover aspects of the Marvellous City that other visitors miss with our Private Rio Tour. Choose exactly where you would like to go—or let our guide suggest special hidden treasures—as our expert driver weaves through fascinating parts of town.
by Lauren Holmes
Aficionados of fine cuisine from across the world journey to The Raymond Blanc Cookery School to expand their culinary repertoires. We head to Oxfordshire to experience a course for ourselves, and to provide you with a small taste of what awaits within.
It’s a clear and crisp start as I depart from London’s Marylebone station, a welcome respite from the city’s recent spate of uncharacteristic summer storms. As the train journeys towards Oxfordshire, the views quickly change from red-brick streets and glass-fronted high rises to silver lakes and patchwork fields, hemmed by dense woodland. Horse and sheep graze lazily on the greenery as we trundle past. I frequently travel outside of the capital, but I never cease to be amazed by the untamed and pastoral beauty that exists just heartbeats away from what is affectionately known as the ‘Old Smoke’.
Despite the postcard-perfect scene, I can’t help but feel a slight sense of trepidation. I am en-route to The Raymond Blanc Cookery School, one of the country’s most acclaimed kitchens. People from across the globe flock to learn the tips, tricks and industry secrets of Raymond Blanc’s restaurant, which earned two Michelin stars upon opening and has held on to them for 32 consecutive years. I’m a thorough greenhorn in the kitchen, with a technique that can be best described as ‘enthusiastic but naïve’. More Jackson Pollock than Pablo Picasso, it’s a style born from consuming countless cookery shows but having little time to put theory into practice. I’m not sure I’ll have the finesse to measure up against my fellow cooks.
The weather is still glorious as I am welcomed into Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, Raymond Blanc’s visionary hotel that houses both the restaurant and cookery school. My proclivity for punctuality means I am very early, probably unfashionably so, but that’s not an issue for the warm and welcoming staff. I am shown to the lounge, an elegant yet effortlessly comfortable space, and given a perfectly brewed coffee and a trio of tempting homemade biscuits. It would take an iron will to resist, whereas my resolve is paper thin: I sample all three. Every member of staff greets me with a warm, genuine smile and my nerves are already dissipating. For all the accolades and prestige, arriving at the hotel feels like a welcome home.
After a spell I get to meet my kitchen comrades and Becca, who will be leading our course today. We each introduce ourselves, and Becca tells us a little bit about her culinary past. While studying in New Hampshire, she fell in love with the clear and distinct seasons and the effect they had on the local cuisine. As her career progressed, Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons’ dedication to seasonality seemed like an ideal fit. The Raymond Blanc Cookery School offers more than 40 types of courses throughout the year, covering topics from bread and patisserie to summer barbecues and winter dinner parties. Today’s course is titled ‘From my Garden to your Plate’, where we’ll be scouring the hotel’s extensive gardens for the freshest produce and then working it into stunning seasonal, nutritional dishes. Becca gives us a tantalising rundown of the dishes we can expect as we each don our chef’s whites, proudly emblazoned with the cookery school’s logo.
Looking and, increasingly, feeling the part, we are led through the restaurant’s kitchens into our base for the day. The space feels surprisingly homely, in contrast to the professional kitchens just outside the door, with comfortable leather chairs, sleek black tabletops and bright wooden fittings. Almost immediately we set to work on our first dish; working in reverse menu order, we begin by preparing the mix for our carrot cake. Our carefully grated carrots are mixed with soft dark brown sugar, eggs, walnuts and sultanas. Becca hands out the kitchen’s blend of mixed spice to add—the smell alone is exquisite.
Cakes happily baking away, the lessons continue as we prepare Raymond Blanc’s signature tomato essence, are shown the best way to cook a globe artichoke and how to cut and confit our own artichoke hearts. A brief pause is taken as a dapper sommelier arrives to talk us through the wine that will accompany our lunch. Even in this short time together it feels like our group has bonded. We pitch in to help each other out, and sparks of conversation erupt between questions and comments on the recipe. Friends and family, personal home cooking tips, the rise in food allergies, the problems with over-processed food, and the role of the microwave oven are all candidly discussed, sharing laughs and jokes. Gabby and Michael, assisting Becca in her leadership, also become part of our impromptu friendship group.
By midday the wonderful weather is still holding out, so we tie up our aprons and head out into the hotel’s expansive organic kitchen gardens. We meet Gardener John Driscoll as he leads us through the vegetable garden, which produces more than 90 varieties of salad and vegetable, and the remarkable herb garden which grows botanical treasures from across the globe. The sheer scale and diversity is mind-boggling, as is John’s expert knowledge. He fields questions from our group with true passion and understanding. Snipping off small leaves and edible flowers, he passes them round for our group to touch, taste and smell.
Again I feel astounded at the flavours we are presented with; things I had never expected to taste from flowers. Sea kale flowers provide a punch of moreish allium flavour, similar to mild sweet garlic. Leaves from the oyster plant, much to the amazement of all assembled, actually taste like oysters—mildly briny and with a hint of the ocean. John makes it clear that ‘garnish’ is a word best avoided amongst the entire team—there is no need for pointless green flourishes. Every leaf, herb and flower in the courses prepared must and do add something substantial to the dish, if they are not themselves the star attraction.
What I find particularly endearing is the rapport between John and Becca as they lead us around. Becca confesses to me that the herb and vegetable gardens are an absolute priceless asset to the kitchen teams, with many things sometimes being grown to order. Moreover John’s passion for his garden extends into the cuisine which represents the final destination for each of his blooms. Once again I’m struck with the sense of family; it’s clear that the reliance, respect and camaraderie shared amongst the team is the oil that keeps this amazing machine running at such a stellar level.
Well stocked with pallets of freshly cut herbs, vegetables and salad items we return to the kitchen to resume the practical aspects of our day. Becca sets us to work on ‘Assiette de Crudités Maman Blanc’, a selection of salads. Like many of M. Blanc’s recipes, this is inspired by his mother. In the notes that accompany our recipe, Raymond Blanc explains: “My father would grow these vegetables and my mother would place them on the table on Sunday—the simplest, purest transition from earth to the table.” We work together to create a compendium of dishes with beetroot, tomatoes, pink fir potatoes and celeriac, married perfectly with simple vinaigrettes and a divine home-made mayonnaise—all of which we are, of course, shown how to make in minutes. The whole time I cannot help but picture my next picnic, eager to show off these easily applicable skills to friends and family.
The dishes are then served as the first course to our informal lunch, accompanied by freshly baked bread. We are shown the secrets to impressive plating, using the gathered microherbs along with colourful beetroot carpaccio in shades of purple, pink and white. This becomes the stage for a fillet of Shetland salmon, pan fried to perfection, which in turn is the main course of lunch. I tuck into my creation, beaming with pride, thrilled that it tastes every bit as good as it looks. After lunch we resume our tour of the decorative gardens—including the water gardens and the evocative Japanese tea house. Ever temperamental, the British weather begins to falter into a light drizzle, so our tour continues inside with some of the hotel’s stunning, individually-themed suites.
Back in the kitchen, we ice our carrot cakes with a cream cheese frosting; a perfect tangy accompaniment to the rich, sweet and spicy cake. We box these up to take home, and one is saved for us to sample later. The tomato essence, rich and golden, is also ready to use. We sample it in its pure state before Becca whips it into the hotel’s signature pristine-white but intensely flavoursome tomato risotto. Each given a small bowl to enjoy, I am incredibly aware of how full I am, but the dish is too delicious to pass up.
Throughout the day Becca gives us top tips on how to make the most of every ingredient. The leftover tomatoes from the essence can be given a second press which results in an entirely different flavour profile. It’s not ideal for the hotel’s white risotto; “However, you can add a splash of vodka” Becca grins, “and you’ve got a wicked Bloody Mary.” Later on we prepare a very quick and simple strawberry crumble, streamlined by pre-baking the topping separately, which can be stored and used on yoghurt and sundaes. There is a lot to admire in its simplicity and versatility.
All too soon, the day has come to a close. It’s a strange feeling; it has gone so quickly, yet I also am brimming with knowledge. We are each presented with a framed certificate, and our chefs jackets are ours to keep. We depart through the kitchens as a final tour, which are so large they feel almost labyrinthine. We greet the numerous chefs at work, sending them our compliments.
Bidding a fond farewell to fellow guests and tutors, it’s time to depart from this culinary paradise. It feels like a shame to leave it all behind, but thanks to Becca and her team, I am confidently equipped and excited to recreate it at home. The only question is who will be lucky enough for an invitation?
by Daniel Hayden
Lavish decoration is back at the forefront of fashion, as couture creations dazzle with intricate embroidery.
As fashion houses from New York to Paris unveiled their recent designs, Instagram was set aglow with colourful embroidery and detailed patterning. It’s a trend that continues to gather momentum, as leading brands with skilled ateliers—or simply a yen for intricate, elevating ornaments—are placing handicraft at the heart of their aesthetic.
In Paris, Sarah Burton, creative director at Alexander McQueen, covered her high-collared jackets in buttery soft, nude leather, with delicate sprigs of embroidered flowers. She sprinkled the palest pink silk dresses with colourful stitched posies and transformed basic blue denim into couture by covering tail-coats and tops with dense beading and threadwork that had the rich colour of an ancient tapestry. Even clogs on the models’ feet were decorated with sweet, romantic embroideries. Inspired by the Huguenots—the silk weavers who fled from France in the 17th century—Burton brought a centuries-old decoration style firmly into the 21st century.
Alexander McQueen S/S 2016
At Valentino, an African theme stretched the house’s couture atelier to its limits: monastic column dresses were ornate with tiny beaded Masai-inspired patterns and bold peacock feather trims, while the cuff s, lapels and edges of a black cashmere coat were finished with intricate geometric designs. The lightest tulle and lace gown was topped with exquisitely coloured beaded birds topped with fragments of silk and fluttering feathers. Accessories were layered with African beading and mask embellishments.
Dries Van Noten—another designer for whom rich ornamentation is an enduring hallmark—topped his already opulent brocade jackets or printed shirts with sinuous fans of tiny sequins in scarlet or deep purple and finished plain bustiers or full silk skirts with whirls of kingfisher blue, turquoise or magenta. Over at Gucci, Alessandro Michele is slowly reimagining the Italian mega-brand with a sweet and romantic aesthetic, rich with handicraft. Here, scarlet midi-skirts in duchesse satin were covered with cream embroidered flowers with a deep border of geometric patterns. Snakes slithered up the back of tulle and sequined bodices and geeky, retro jackets were overstitched with passementerie around the lapels and blousy embroidered roses.
The high end of fashion has always revelled in skilful embellishment, yet the current craft renaissance is putting these time-honoured techniques centre-stage. Intricate, time-consuming and hand produced, it can elevate ready-to-wear to couture levels, while highlighting a deep-felt need for something personal and unique; for cloth that has been lovingly decorated by the human hand, by artisans who have inherited ancient skills and passed them on to new generations.
Shortly after the spring/summer shows closed, the great sewing skills of one haute couture house were previewed at Mademoiselle Privé, Chanel’s immersive exhibition in London’s Saatchi Gallery. Alongside couture gowns, there were workshops to demystify the astounding skill of the petites-mains from ateliers such as Lemarie and Lesage, in Paris, where ornate feathers and flowers and intricate complex embroideries are produced for fashion houses and private clients.
Lesage opened in 1924 when Albert and Marie-Louise Lesage acquired the Michonet workshop, which was founded in 1858. Since then, the house of Lesage has been renowned for its incredible embroidery art. But while the name is known to many fashion fans (the house has worked with most of the great names, from Balmain and Balenciaga to Christian Dior and Yves Saint Laurent), it was its acquisition by Chanel in 2002 that put Lesage—and its school, L’Ecole Lesage—on to the global stage. And it’s where students, and anyone fascinated by the incredible skills of the atelier, can also come to study.
Echoing the burgeoning popularity of needlecraft, Valentino has recently hinted that it will open a school in Rome, taking on a small number of students each year to continue the incredible skills for which the couture house is already world renowned. Although the house is yet to confirm when the school will open its doors, designer Maria Grazia Chiuri is adamant that it is part of the role of fashion houses to nurture skills for a new generation: “We think it’s important to share this Italian culture and Italian heritage,” Chiuri said, as she announced the news.
Contemporary brands are also focusing on traditional embroideries. Stylist and editor Kim Hersov founded her resortwear label Talitha along with business partner Shon Randhawa, whose atelier in New Delhi is responsible for many of Talitha’s beautifully embroidered wool capes, cashmere ponchos and silk kaftans. “That artisanal aspect is in the DNA of our brand,” says Hersov. “To know that you can get this beautiful hand-loomed fabric from some central region in India, which is embroidered by these incredibly skilled people—it feels very authentic.”
That same feeling of authenticity lies behind New York-based Coral & Tusk, which takes naïve drawings and transforms them into accessories and homewares with hand-stitched embroideries. They are based on founder Stephanie Housley’s designs, but sewn in factories in India.
Needlepoint and embroidered cushions are making a comeback too. The Paris-based firm Lindell & Co creates thoroughly modern embroidered cushions in workshops in Nepal or India using bold graphic geometric prints and rich colours. Each one uses an ancient chain stitch technique and each cushion is constructed from hand dyed New Zealand wool, Indian silk or wool and camel hair from Kazakhstan.
The Rug Company, meanwhile, produces hand-woven wool tapestry cushions based on designs from fashion luminaries such as Paul Smith, Alexander McQueen and Vivienne Westwood. The trend towards these hand-crafted applications is perhaps most evident at London’s Mayfair emporium for craft makers, The New Craftsmen, which opened in 2012 as a showcase for contemporary artisans. The store is offering bespoke embroideries on items such as knitted toys and cashmere throws, alongside the beautifully embellished cushions made by mixed media embroidery designer Aimee Betts.
And it’s not all about shopping. The recent surge of interest in hand-stitched clothes and accessories has seen a similar rise in demand for needlework classes. British company Hand & Lock can trace its origins back to 1767 and describes itself as “a living antique, but moving with the times”. Embroiderers to royal households, the military, the church and fashion houses from Louis Vuitton to Chanel, it is currently running master-classes in New York to teach its signature rich goldwork and haute couture techniques, as well as beading and monogramming courses, for students in London and in Williamsburg, Virginia. Which is proof, if any be needed, that you don’t have to invest in a couture wardrobe to wear your very own piece of haute craft—you can make it yourself.
by Caire Coulson
Ireland’s first luxury touring train launches this August. Discover why Belmond Grand Hibernian is set to add a new dimension to the Emerald Isle.
Spotting herds of wild ponies as you glide through rugged countryside in Connemara National Park, sipping a smooth Irish whiskey in your plush carriage while soaking up the breathtaking scenery of Ireland’s countryside, or joining the folk of Galway with a Guinness in a buzzing Latin Quarter pub…. from August 2016, these are some of the experiences that guests on board Belmond Grand Hibernian, Ireland’s first ever luxury touring train, will enjoy. Departing from Dublin, the new train will carry 40 guests to famous attractions as well as off-the-beaten-track locations in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, along the way encountering vibrant personalities and making memories to cherish.
The inspiration for the train was sparked by an old railway map that Gary Franklin, Managing Director of Belmond Trains & Cruises, happened to find. He realised there was a network of track through beautiful countryside, linking many of the country’s top destinations and making it a great place for a new luxury train. Having toured Ireland several years back he had fond memories of his travels. “I found the people so welcoming. You walk into any pub and there’s music being played, stories being told, simple, hearty fare such as mussels and soda bread being served. Together with the stunning scenery, these are the sorts of rich, authentic experiences we like to offer our guests.”
Belmond Grand Hibernian will naturally offer the exceptional onboard experience and exciting excursions guests have come to expect from Belmond, but the look and feel is distinctively its own. As the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express is all about the art deco era and Belmond Royal Scotsman has the feel of a Scottish country house, so Belmond Grand Hibernian also has a sense of place. The designers, James Park Associates, have cleverly drawn on Georgian architecture—which is predominant in Dublin—to influence the interiors and then given them a light, contemporary twist. Each carriage is named after a different county in Ireland and decorated in distinct colour schemes. So Kerry is in soothing shades of purple and blue, Leitrim has accents of red, Waterford is in green hues. The lavish, relaxing cabins, each with a private en-suite, offer details such as tartan cushions and generous wardrobes.
In the two onboard restaurants—elegant, fine dining Sligo and light-filled Wexford, both featuring Irish touches such as Waterford crystal and Celtic motifs—guests will be treated to exquisite cuisine crafted from local specialities including artisan cheeses, smoked fish and Irish whiskies. In the Observation Lounge the convivial atmosphere of a traditional Irish pub is evoked with rich woods, antique mirrors and cut glass.
All of which provides a sumptuous moving base for exploring the Emerald Isle. Guests can choose from a variety of journeys. The four-night “Legends and Loughs” covers highlights of the Republic of Ireland, including a private tasting at the Jameson Whiskey Academy near Cork, a visit to medieval Blarney Castle with its famous Stone, a boat trip on Lough Leane in the magical Lakes of Killarney and an exhilarating sheepdog display in Connemara National Park. For golf lovers, tailor-made extensions to try out Ireland’s world-famous courses can be added. Stays in Dublin, to explore the vibrant city, can also be arranged before or after your journey.
On all journeys guests are able to enjoy experiences that would otherwise be inaccessible. For example, many people are familiar with Blarney Castle, but guests of Belmond Grand Hibernian can exclusively visit magnificent Blarney House, ancient seat of the MacCarthys of Muskerry, and be shown round by the owner. Then there are the unexpected surprises Belmond likes to offer—drinking champagne on the shore of a lough or listening to toe-tapping music in a pub.
The new train is clearly hotly anticipated. Clients on existing trains often ask: where next? Where can we come with you in the future? So for lovers of luxury rail travel this is a momentous development—and indeed a number of journeys are already sold out.
The observation Car on Belmond Grand Hibernian
“For me,” says Gary Franklin, “one of the main joys is the sense of relaxation you get from travelling on a train. You have time to read, absorb the changing views through the window, chat to fellow guests in the Observation Car. Meeting people from all over the world is a major part of what we offer. On a recent Belmond Royal Scotsman journey, for instance, out of 36 passengers we had 21 different nationalities!” Belmond Grand Hibernian is set up to accommodate groups and families in interconnecting cabins, so all ages can enjoy the experience together.
As the countdown to the new train’s arrival begins, start dreaming of extraordinary journeys into the heart of Ireland.
© Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society
August sees the arrival of the joyous Edinburgh Festival Fringe, bringing new life to the historic caramel-coloured streets. The world’s largest arts festival, The Fringe sees venues across the city play host to up-and-coming talent from the fields of comedy, theatre, dance, opera and more. Arrive in style with a luxurious day trip aboard the Belmond Northern Belle train, departing from Chester, Liverpool and Preston on 13 August.
An untamed world of aquatic adventure awaits, just a short cruise away from the coast of one of California’s most vibrant and cultural cities. Late summer provides the ideal conditions to explore the sea caves of the Channel Islands.
Bright skies and a cool breeze set the early morning scene as you are driven along the scenic coastal road towards Ventura Harbour. Rugged clay-coloured mountains rise to the left, made cinematic by the peppering of lush foliage and the dramatic pre-noon shadows. A seemingly endless horizon stretches out to your right, turquoise waves dancing and sparkling in the sun. You travel on between these two worlds, the spirit of adventure palpable.
Sea cave kayaking
Your ferry meets you at the harbour, and for the first time today you take to the waves, heading across the gulf towards Santa Cruz Island. With its towering coastal cliffs, the largest of California’s eight Channel Islands makes an awe-inspiring first impression. An expansive national park, the island offers a chimerical range of geology and ecology, from the vast mountain ranges and valleys to the verdant marshlands and golden sandy coasts. These eclectic ecosystems are home to a staggeringly diverse array of flora and fauna. Some, including the striking sapphire-plumed island scrub jay and the endangered slate-grey and tan Santa Cruz island fox, cannot be found anywhere else in the world.
Moreover, the island has a rich cultural history, beginning over 10,000 years ago with the Native American settlements and leading through a pastoral period of ranching in the mid 19th-century. Today the entire expanse is uninhabited. As you disembark at Scorpion Ranch, it’s easy to feel like a pioneer, once again stepping out to explore a land barely touched by time. However today’s expedition promises an even greater sense of adventure, as you prepare to check out some of the island’s many sea caves.
You’ll be greeted by your friendly Channel Islands Outfitters’ guide, who will provide a brief of the day’s schedule and also kit you out with all the needed equipment, including wetsuit, helmet and lifejacket. Now fully prepared, you’ll take your kayak to the beach and follow your guide atop the waves. The geological makeup of the island, combined with its coastal location, have resulted in the tides creating many fascinating pockets just waiting to be discovered. Within moments of setting off from Scorpion Anchorage you’ll be needling through the subterranean wonderland.
The tour will vary depending on the conditions of the day, as cave height and accessibility can vary greatly depending on the tides and weather. Your guide is a local expert with an in-depth knowledge of the systems, who will make the judgement calls to ensure your day is truly unforgettable. Anticipate unique locations with evocative names such as Elephants Belly, Cavern Point and Scorpion Rock. Your guide is a trained naturalist, who will impart their knowledge of the cave’s fascinating geology, wildlife, cultural and natural history, plus the intricate ecology of the island’s kelp forest.
Sea cave kayaking
“I began my work at the Channel Islands National Park in 2002.” explains Garrett Kababik, CEO and Co-Founder of Channel Islands Outfitters. “Coming from a background in river guiding, I found the sea caves offer a unique sense of adventure and adrenaline. With modern cameras the scenery of these sea caves has been captured pretty well, but the sense you cannot capture is the pressure that occurs when the caves fill with seawater and then empty. The caves essentially breathe, just like we do, with air moving from high to low pressure. This, combined with the briny ionized air, makes visiting the caves in person a real requirement.”
The myriad of natural beauty and the thrill of exploration is always a hit with visitors, who often describe the experience as being more akin to a great theme park visit than your typical national park tour. Garrett enthuses, “Interacting with the ocean and its inhabitants each day is what keeps work interesting. Watching how people are affected by these interactions is what makes the work worthwhile.”
Back on dry land, lunch is served in the picturesque picnic area. Echoing the green commitments of the park, the menu today is all organic and lovingly prepared with locally-sourced ingredients. Then the late afternoon activity is up to you—Channel Island Outfitters can gear you up to snorkel through the kelp forests of the Marine Reserve, home to seals, bat rays and octopus. Alternatively, you can keep to dry land with a scenic hike along the island. Most recommended is the route to Cavern Point, an ascended bluff which affords truly stunning views of the island and the Channel beyond.
While this sounds like an action-packed and demanding day, Garrett explains that it’s actually an experience suitable for all ages and all levels of ability. “All of our adventures are ‘Challenge by Choice’, meaning we have something for everyone. Sea caves are optional, and we always have an alternative to entering them. If cave entry sounds scary, just paddling alongside the volcanic cliffs and enjoying the atmosphere of the island is worth it.”
Channel Island Outfitters can arrange a number of tours around the Channel Islands National Park, either privately or with a small group.
A Place to Unwind
Belmond El Encanto
After an eventful day on the island, an indulgent and rejuvenating stay awaits at Belmond El Encanto. A landmark hotel from the 1920s, the hotel is perfectly positioned in the hills above the city, with sweeping views down to Santa Barbara and the coast beyond. Not only will you have your own bungalow or suite to sink into, but our expert concierge will be more than happy to arrange your excursion with Channel Islands Outfitters and provide all transport to and from Ventura Harbour.
by Daniel Hayden
Waterside communities in Maryland have come together to save the precious oysters crucial to the eco-system of the Chesapeake Bay.
The glistening waters of the Chesapeake Bay, dotted with white-sailed yachts, are one of the America’s most magical seascapes. But beneath their serene surface is a struggle for survival. Their famous oysters, once described as “Chesapeake white gold”, have plummeted in numbers over recent years.
A combination of over-fishing and pollution has seen oyster reef acreage drop from 200,000 in the 1960s to around 36,000 today. Numbers of watermen setting out in their majestic skipjack oyster boats have dwindled from some 700 a century ago to fewer than ten now operating commercially.
Step forward the Marylanders Grow Oysters (MGO) program, one of several initiatives seeking to revive the population of the creatures that act as barometers of the bay’s health. An impressive 1,500 waterfront properties, including the Inn at Perry Cabin by Belmond, have banded together to reverse the oysters’ decline. The hotel’s Robert Richcreek explains: “Oysters filter the water as they feed—playing a vital role in the eco-system. One adult filters up to 50 gallons of water per day—amazing considering their size.”
Since 2013, visitors to the resort have been able to stroll through its gardens to the private dock, where a cage of spats (baby oysters) bobs in the water. Once fully grown, the molluscs are removed and taken to a special sanctuary on the bay. As Richcreek notes: “A huge effort is underway to ensure that they survive and prosper.”
The resort’s Stars restaurant subsequently signed up as the area’s first culinary venue to recycle oyster shells. These are taken to a hatchery to be cleaned, inoculated with larvae and reared to become spats. Over the past year the inn’s efforts alone have seen the reintroduction of at least 120,000 new oysters into the bay.
There are now around 225 restaurants, caterers and other businesses actively participating in the shell recycling programme—but visitors to Maryland can also lend a hand. A great way to support both the oysters and the skipjack owners who harvest them is to take a waterside table and order a plate of this regional delicacy, beloved of seafood connoisseurs for centuries. It’s difficult to imagine an easier—or more delicious—way to help the bay.
Discover more about oysters on a cruise across the Chesapeake Bay aboard the historic HM Krentz skipjack dredging boat.