Whisk Around the World: November 2013

Julie Mautner - November 2013

The Balinese-style Great House on Necker Island, Sir Richard Branson’s private paradise in the British Virgin Islands, reopened in September after a two year rebuild following a devastating fire. The Great House is considered the heart of the private island resort. It has eight guest rooms, a 1,500-square-foot master suite, and a bunkroom that sleeps six. Communal areas include outdoor terraces with hammocks and sofas, a large dining table, a fully stocked bar, and a Jacuzzi. Necker also has six individual Bali houses dotted around the island. Nightly rental of the whole island (for up to 30 adults and six children) is GBP £39,400 ($60,000), and individual stays are offered during certain “Celebration Weeks.” Necker is part of the Virgin Limited Edition Collection, and Branson says, for him, it’s “the most beautiful place in the world.” The exec chef on Necker Island is Lee Cowie, who was hired late last year; the pastry chef is Heidi Benyair Stevens. The gms are Kenton and Leesa Jones, who’ve been on the island for roughly three years.

Chef Bobby Chinn will launch his first U.K. restaurant, The House of Ho, in London’s Soho this month. The 90 seater is at 55-59 Old Compton Street and will be “fun, informal, sexy, and moderately priced.” The food is “resolutely Vietnamese,” although menus will mix traditional with influences from Chinn’s global travels. Born in New Zealand to a Chinese father and Egyptian mother, Chinn was educated in England and lived for several years in the U.S., where he worked at Fleur de Lys and Coconut Grove in San Francisco. He’s been in Vietnam since 1996 and has two successful restaurants there, Restaurant Bobby Chinn (Hanoi) and Bobby Chinn Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City). Chinn has hosted Discovery TLC’s award-winning World Café series for six years and is currently filming episodes in Ireland, Mumbai, South Africa, and the southern U.S.

Russell Norman and Richard Beatty, the founders of Polpo, Spuntino, and Mishkin’s, will open Polpetto in the heart of Soho’s Berwick Street Market this month. The original Polpetto occupied the first floor of the French House Pub on Dean Street (Soho) for two years, during which it attracted a loyal following and great press. But the 23 seat venue proved too small, and the owners shuttered it in May 2012. After a year of looking, Norman and Beatty found this new site, and chef Florence Knight has returned to run the kitchen. (In the interim, she was working on various projects, including her cookbook, One: A Cook and her Cupboard, which was released earlier this year.) The new Polpetto seats 70 and features an aperitivo bar and an open kitchen. Berwick Street’s history as a food destination stretches back to the 19th century, thanks to its large outdoor fruit, vegetable, and flower market, one of the oldest in London. In 1880, tomatoes made their London debut here, and grapefruit followed in 1890.

The English lifestyle brand Laura Ashley opened its first hotel, marking 60 years of the company’s design heritage. Nestled in the beautiful Hertfordshire countryside and 11 miles from Central London, Laura Ashley The Manor Hotel, Elstree (previously the Edgwarebury Hotel), has 49 rooms, each individually designed using the current Laura Ashley Home fabric and decor collections. The restaurant, Cavendish, serves English and Malay dishes. The head chef is Gary Nock. The hotel f&b manager is Mohammed Rahman, and the hotel gm is James Mahaffey. Rooms start at £150 ($240).

In mid-August, Kempinski Hotels opened the 363 room Kempinski Hotel Taiyuan. It’s the company’s 19th hotel in mainland China and the first international five-star luxury property in Taiyuan, aka the Old Dragon City. The hotel has seven restaurants and bars, including Paulaner Bräuhaus, where beer is made using a special miniature brewing setup. The hotel exec chef is Gu Yuxiang, who worked at Park Hyatt Melbourne and Grand Hyatt Beijing before becoming exec chef of the Hilton Beijing Wangfujing. The exec assistant manager in charge of f&b is Johannes Mayr, who came over from Kempinski Hotel Beijing Lufthansa Center. The gm is Carsten Wiegandt, who joined Kempinski in 1996 and has held key positions in Germany and China, most recently at Kempinski Hotel Xi’an. The company’s next China opening will be in Beijing in 2014.

Ayana Resort and Spa hired veteran hotelier (and former gymnastics champion) Bernhard Butz as exec chef, strengthening its management team ahead of the September 2013 opening of Rimba Jimbaran Bali, a 297 room hotel located within Ayana’s 77 hectare (190 acre) property. Ayana’s 368 guest rooms comprise 78 private pool villas and a 290 room hotel. Butz oversees Ayana’s 13 restaurants and bars, room service, and banqueting. For the past five years, he’s been exec chef at Shangri La Hotel Group in China. Butz replaced Ayana’s previous exec chef, Giordano Faggioli, who moved to the pre-opening team at Rimba as director of f&b. Meanwhile, the head chef at Rimba is Singaporean chef Jusman So, who was promoted from chef de cuisine at Dava restaurant at Ayana. Both Ayana and Rimba are managed by the Atlanta-based Capella Hotel Group, founded in 2002 by hotelier Horst Schulze.

Send your international f&b news to WhiskNews@aol.com.