Five hotels with the now factor

Top secret

Since opening Soneva Fushi in Baa Atoll in 1995, Sonu Shivdasani has set the bar high for both fantastic indulgence and measurable sustainability in the Maldives. There’s not much shaded area in that particular Venn diagram, but Shivdasani has made it work in a micro-collection of sandy, open-air places, ‘no news, no shoes’. Soneva has long been a nearly carbon neutral company; it was the first in the hospitality industry to commission a Total Impact Assessment (in 2016), and one of the first in the world to impose an environmental surcharge on every stay in 2008, the proceeds of which can be sent as far abroad as possible . Mozambique (where the Soneva Foundation has engaged a reforestation NGO to plant 3.7 million native trees).

Soneva Secret is located in the Haa Dhaalu Atoll in the west of the Maldives
Soneva Secret is located in the Haa Dhaalu Atoll in the west of the Maldives

Soneva Secret, which opened in late March, is both a culmination and a distillation of the Soneva haute-castaway paradigm. The location, in the remote Haa Dhaalu Atoll – the westernmost point of the Maldives, accessible by a 75-minute flight from the capital Malé – is the first selling point. Soneva Secret is the only resort for tens of kilometers in all directions. “In almost four decades of traveling around the country, I have never encountered such a unique environment,” says Shivdasani. “It’s a place where you see the ‘big five’ of the sea everywhere” – whales, manta rays, turtles, dolphins and sharks.

The Overwater Hideaway at Soneva Secret
The Overwater Hideaway at Soneva Secret © Stevie Mann for Soneva
The living room of Soneva Secret
The living room of Soneva Secret © Stevie Mann for Soneva

The plan was to make it sparser and larger: there are only 14 beach and overwater villas, but they start at about 4,800 square meters (and go up to almost 12,500), including the villas in the atoll’s lagoon that are only accessible by boat (there is also the Maldives’ first floating villa). Expect the usual Soneva range of fantasy accoutrements: bedroom ceilings that pull back for stargazing, water slides, grey-washed wooden walls, open-air baths. Each property has three dedicated staff, including a private chef who prepares meals to order, at any time of the day, every day. You can reach the lagoon’s tower restaurant via a zipline or plan your sunset with a spot of snorkeling in search of dolphins; or get a lesson on coral restoration – another beneficiary of Soneva Foundation funds – from the local marine biologist. soneva.comfrom $3,200


Grand designs in London’s Paddington

The Grand Hotel Bellevue in Paddington, London
The Grand Hotel Bellevue in Paddington, London © Matthieu Salvaing

The small French hospitality collection Lignée Hotels recently brought its quintessential Gallic game to the heart of London. But the new Grand Hotel Bellevue is not, as you might expect from their hip French locations, in Marylebone or Westbourne Grove: it is on Norfolk Square, a block from Paddington Station, in the coeur de W2. However, it’s that slightly off-piste address that makes the exceptionally chic design accessible at exceptionally attractive prices.

The facade of the Grand Hotel Bellevue
The facade of the Grand Hotel Bellevue © Matthieu Salvaing
One of the bathrooms at Grand Hotel Bellevue
One of the bathrooms at Grand Hotel Bellevue © Matthieu Salvaing
A bedroom at the Grand Hotel Bellevue
A bedroom at the Grand Hotel Bellevue © Matthieu Salvaing

Fabrizio Casiraghi, a designer of the moment (he is currently working on the Four Seasons in Rome), has created interiors that bring out the sexy in sometimes quite cozy spaces: many of the top floor accommodations – aptly referred to as Cabin Rooms – think of the exceptionally tasteful shipmates’ quarters. Casiraghi left the bones of the monumental Victorian building alone, in layers of dark wood boiserie in a half-wall effect. There are his signature sofas with skirts, a palette of burnt orange and garnet and a soft wall-to-wall carpet underfoot. There’s no restaurant, but the Pondicherry bar is small and unapologetic in its cool, wrapped in tapestries designed by New York firm Bode and serving up coupes of whatever your favorite tipple is. grandhotelbellevuelondon.comfrom €200


A Bahamian Belle Reborn

A villa in Potlatch on Eleuthera
A villa in Potlatch on Eleuthera

In the late 1960s and 1970s, Eleuthera’s Potlatch Club was a magnet for eccentric New York socialites, European royals, Hollywood A-listers in the vein of Greta Garbo and the occasional rock star. Back to 2016: Jamaican-American Bruce Loshusan and Cuban-born Bahamian Hans Febles come across a series of dilapidated bungalows on a seven-mile stretch of pink sand beach and immediately fall in love with them – and their potential. After a seven-year restoration, the Potlatch Club is open again and bills itself as Eleuthera’s first true luxury boutique hotel.

One of Eleuthera's many beaches
One of Eleuthera’s many beaches
One of the Potlatch Club villas
One of the Potlatch Club villas

The original clubhouse – dating from the 1920s and updated in the 1960s by Ray James Holman Nathaniels, the Sri Lankan-born architect who brought modernism to this part of the Caribbean – has been expanded to include one-bedroom cottages and two more modern villas. for a total of 11 accommodations. The design is unadulterated Caribbean-colonial, with pastel-colored block prints, coral stone floors and lots of wicker and rattan. There’s a restaurant and bar, a spa and a gym – and more than 100 beaches on the island just waiting to be spent. One to bookmark for a buyout the next time a milestone occurs. thepotlatchclub.comfrom $475


A haute auberge for Château La Coste

The Auberge La Coste with 76 rooms in Provence
The Auberge La Coste with 76 rooms in Provence © Richard Haughton

Some people make the pilgrimage to Château La Coste in Provence for art installations by the likes of Tracey Emin, Andy Goldsworthy and Damien Hirst. Others come for the architecture: Tadao Ando, ​​Frank Gehry, Oscar Niemeyer and Per Kirkeby have all contributed to the built environment. Still others just want to take a stroll through the vineyards, have a glass of the estate’s fine rosé and have a bite to eat in one of the six restaurants whose kitchens are overseen by the likes of Francis Mallmann. Villa La Coste, an ultra-exclusive hotel with 28 suites, has been located here since 2017.

Drop, 2009, by Tom Shannon on the grounds of Château La Coste
Drop, 2009, by Tom Shannon on the grounds of Château La Coste © Richard Haughton. Larry Neufeld/© Château La Coste and Tom Shannon

Last month, a second building with a more subdued atmosphere was opened on the estate. Where the Villa expresses its minimalism in glass and steel, the 76-room Auberge La Coste is constructed entirely of blush local stone, wrought iron lamps, cobbled streets and whitewashed furniture on unfinished wooden floors. Some are connected, making them perfect for families; for longer stays, there are a handful of studios with compact kitchenettes. The gastronomy is equally simple: there is one restaurant, La Rôtisserie, that more or less does what it says on the tin; and a ground floor bar that is all polished wood, red leather banquettes and a mirrored and backlit bar. chateau-la-coste.comfrom €265


Casablanca, fit for a king

The lobby of the Royal Mansour Casablanca
The lobby of the Royal Mansour Casablanca © Royal Mansour Casablanca

Fourteen years ago, the Royal Mansour opened in Marrakech under the auspices of Mohammed VI, the King of Morocco and the hotel’s owner. It was planned down to the last detail from the start out of class – above and beyond any conventional five-star rating system – and a showplace for the finest Moroccan decorative arts and crafts. It is a special place: the accommodations are all riads, the spa a heavenly white-on-white retreat, the restaurant led by Hélène Darroze. Last month it was joined by a sister company in Morocco’s largest city. The Royal Mansour Casablanca is a very different story: an eponymous story, for starters, covering the original 23-storey building that housed El Mansour, the city’s first five-star hotel opened in 1953 and where the King’s group his name.

Restaurant La Grande Table Marocaine at the Royal Mansour Casablanca
Restaurant La Grande Table Marocaine at the Royal Mansour Casablanca © Royal Mansour Casablanca
A room at the Royal Mansour Casablanca
A room at the Royal Mansour Casablanca © Royal Mansour Casablanca

The redux is every bit a metropolitan proposition, from the marble fields and state-of-the-art technology in the 149 rooms, suites and apartments to the 2,510 m² two-storey spa. La Grande Table Marocaine restaurant is located on the 23rd floor and there are two more dining options: Éric Fréchon is head chef at La Brasserie, while Keiji Matoba, from Matoi in Ginza, has signed on at the Sushi Bar, where the sous chefs work. a quadrangular open kitchen surrounded by a worktop and leather bar stools. It’s all very sleek and urban: the city’s old medina, across the avenue and stretching to the Atlantic Ocean, provides contrast. royalmansour.comfrom £436

@mariashollenbarger

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