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Hola, Cancun!

 

MEXICO: February-March means it’s time to escape the British freeze and cast out for warm climes. But where in the world would blend white-beach luxury in blue-sea tropical surrounds and syncopate hard play with a soft chill? Cancun met our party-relaxation brief with ease. Sat Bal

 

The Brief

Week one of our geographic was to be filled with solar-powered parties in a playful but luxury setting. The Hard Rock Hotel in Riviera Maya answered the call like a natural, living up to its rock credentials.

Week two in Cancun required a change in tempo: privacy, peace and a reclaiming of the soul. Where better than the AAA Five Diamond awarded Secrets Maroma Beach in Riviera Cancun? A blissful recovery on a gold platter - around 45 minutes from the Hard Rock.

 

Hard Rock Hotel (HRH)

A 45-50 minute transfer from Cancun International airport, HRH played to our strengths with its ‘resort within a resort’ concept. The family-friendly Hacienda setting offered a hard-play edge of live music shows and beach frolics while the Heaven complex embraced a more refined adults-only isolation. Combined, the 1,264-room hotel feels vast as evidenced by the scurrying of transfer buggys across the lush palm-lined site.

Adult guests at either resort can wander across to use facilities at either Heaven or Hacienda. Stop press: HRH has announced that from the end of March 2018 Heaven will be managed as a family hotel so it’ll no longer be kids-free.

 

Themes

 

 

The HRH mantra is ‘undeniable excess at every turn’ and the pioneers of excess loom large here. Jimi Hendrix, Bowie, Prince and other legends added a supernatural tinge to the stay, looking down from huge monochrome portraits. Jim Morrison (above) held court in the Hacienda’s Sun Bar, his hair a montage of vinyl records. Elsewhere, Aerosmith’s drum kit and all manner of artist personal effects in display cabinets, persistent  reminders of why this place is called Hard Rock.

 

All-inclusive

It really is - even down to ordering room service. So enjoy the indulgence of ordering up tea and coffee first thing, despite having a perfectly good coffee machine in your suite. The array of restaurants form part of the package too. Neither will you need to pack your favourite duty-free tipple; all top shelf drinks are complimentary as is the mini bar. Where things do cost, such as spa treatments, your complimentary resort credits will offer discounts.

 

Rooms

 

The Bret Michael's Rock Star Suite

 

All rooms are well-appointed with hydro spa tubs, a private balcony/terrace with hammocks and complimentary wi-fi throughout. Views range from garden to the panorama of the Caribbean sea with first-quarter prices starting from circa $300 a night to $2,000 a night for the apex experience.

Upgrade to Rock Royalty status and the fun really starts with VIP pool area and your own personal assistant.

The two-bedroom Rock Star Suite (4991 sq ft) and the Rock Suite Platinum Rooftop Lounge (5,166 sq ft) raise the pinnacles of luxury to levels that bona fide A-listers would surely approve of.

Service is willing and warm, on a par with Asian service, across the board.

 

Beaches & Pools

HRH claims a private white sand beach and invites snorkel and kayak fans alike.

If the beach is your priority we’d suggest spending more time at Secrets Maroma Beach which was more expansive and less busy. At HRH we just missed the 'Spring Break' when hordes of N. Americans fly over to boost the fun.

For adults only, the Central Pool at Heaven is just the ticket for sun, lounge, or cool off with an abundance of cocktails. There’s also a semi Olympic pool, cross current rhythm pool - and, of course, the crystalline Caribbean!

  

Restaurants & Bars

 

 

Hacienda offers seven restaurants including à la carte Asian dishes at Zen, Brazil’s best at Ipanema and hot Mexican at Frida. Caffeto is great for an early pastry breakfast or a late baguette grab. Over at Heaven head to Toro for a rich steak, Le Petit Cochon for French à la carte and Ciao for Italian among the five dining areas.   

For drinks, settle down at Heaven’s Martini Bar or the Sun Bar at Hacienda while Float bar invites the pool. At nightclub Club Heaven, live DJs starts the party around 11pm and take it into the early hours.   

 

Rock Spa

 

 

HRH boasts the largest spa in the Caribbean with 75 treatment rooms. On offer is everything from steam rooms to hydrotherapy current pools. The surroundings are among the most lavish we’ve seen and the view from the pools is inspirational. There’s even a yoga temple!

 

Weather

What's to say? The odd peppering of rainfall in the early hours but every day blazing with sun and skirting 30 degrees. Autumn tends to see the rain.

 

Out and about

Popular excursions range from the Mayan history site of Chichén Itzá to water park fun at Xcaret. Nightclubbers, make  your way to Coco Bongo though the in-house club at Heaven got full and fun too.  Amstar is the local excursion agency of choice but bookings can also be made via the hotel concierge. 

Flying out

UK operators British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and Thomas Cook will get you out there in around 11 hours non-stop.

 

To follow: Secrets Maroma Beach reviewed…

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Lincoln In the Bardo - Man Booker Prize 2017

George Saunders is a confirmed maestro of the American short story. In Lincoln in the Bardo, his debut novel, he invites us into a book that conflates a (sort of) ghost story with Buddhist leanings in the historical setting of the American Civil War. By Sat Bal

The novel concerns the death of Abraham Lincoln's 11-year-old son Willie and the interplay between human and spiritual grieving. Saunders’ talent lies in building these disparate worlds such that we suspend belief and buy into his fiction. Thus we begin to accept the motivations of the spirits of Roger Bevins, Hans Vollman and the Reverend Everly Thomas, the principal narrators, whose observations take shape when young Willie dies and is interred in a crypt in their cemetery.

Buddhists see the ‘bardo’ as a spiritual holding point for human demise from which the onward fate of the spirit will be determined. Shades of Dante’s purgatory persist and, while the doom of the spirits feels laden, a hope surrounds the fate of Willie Lincoln. Partly this is because children are not meant to linger by their bodies in the cemetery and Bevins, Vollman and the Rev wish to speed Willie’s spirit on to a more promising destination. Indeed, the story unfurls over one single night.

Their own impedance to the afterlife sees them cast as grotesque mutations with Bevins’ body bearing multiple eyes and severed hands following his suicide. Yet these graphic deformities are attenuated by a narrative that tiptoes around death via euphemisms. A new vocabulary rises up here with a coffins labelled a “sick box” and “matterlightblooming" the flash that signals the next exit while the cemetery is a “hospital yard.”

The author cleverly uses the device of polyphony to introduce the many neighbours of this yard, their names signing off their comments. Sometimes one-liners, sometimes paragraphs, the comments vacillate from statement to conversation with the dialogue occasionally interrupted by a new spirit speaker - or several.

Although there’s an air of detachment with humans unable to see the spirits and the sense that the spirits talk only among themselves, cutting off the reader, the story isn’t without emotional tugs. This is best portrayed when Abraham Lincoln comes to grieve over his son’s body. Wille’s spirit is delighted to see his father arrive at his crypt yet mortally frustrated that his father is unaware of his presence:

Bursting out of the doorway, the lad took off running toward the man, look of joy on his face.

roger bevins iii

Which turned to consternation when the man failed to sweep him up in his arms as…must have been their custom.

the reverend everly thomas

The imagination and compassion that weave this novel together suggest that George Saunders should stick with the novel format and take a break from the short story.

 

Lincoln in the Bardo is published by Bloomsbury Hardback £18.99

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MTV EMA Review

LONDON: An odd MTV EMA this weekend, not least because we didn’t have to board a flight to get there.  Sat Bal stays in London - only the second time in the show’s history that it has been staged here. (13 Nov’ 2017)

 

But first things, first. On Saturday night MTV transport whisked us through traffic-heavy streets to Trafalgar Square to see U2 perform. In the night chill, The National Gallery gleamed behind us while Trafalgar Square glowed ahead as we stationed ourselves on the outdoor media viewing platform, opposite the slick-looking stage.

 

Eminem with Best Hip Hop award

 

Bono soon arrived on stage, an Irish flag draped around his neck, opening with “Sunday Bloody Sunday.” A good start for the crowd of 7,000, winners of MTV’s ticket ballot to be here. The band played its way through anthems “Pride”, Beautiful Day”, “Elevation” and “Vertigo” before performing "One" and "Get Out Of Your Own Way."

"This song is like a protest song against yourself…some of the biggest obstacles we encounter on the way to a better world is often ourselves," explained the singer.

 

Shawn Mendes

 

Next, DJ David Guetta protested about the challenges of performing after U2, yet managed to get the crowd whooping to a set featuring spectacular pyros and lasers bringing the show to an end.

The following day the EMA stage was set at The SSE Arena, Wembley. Sunday night opened with Best Hip Hop winner Eminem performing a lavish orchestra-backed performance with guest artist Skylar Grey, of “Walk on Water.” He joined us after taking the mic in a London pub.

 

Camila Cabello charming the crowd

 

Our EMA hostess Rita Ora starred in a video skit of herself running through London’s streets- in a dressing gown- to get to the show in time. The video got audience laughs particularly when our mayor appeared, sat at a tube station reading a paper with Ora on the cover, as she ran past him.

U2’s “Get Out Of Your Own Way” appeared on  a video cut of last night’s show in Trafalgar Square and the band picked up the night’s prestigious milestone award, Global Icon. It must have crossed a few minds that much of this audience wasn't even around during U2's rise. Nonetheless, they all arose to their feet  at award presenter Jared Leto's bidding, to honour the band. 

Collecting the global icon award, U2 guitarist The Edge joked, "People always ask: How have you kept your band together? It's four incredibly strong individuals [all with] strong wills. But there has to be a boss. There has to be one leader. One guy who calls the shots. Does the heavy lifting and comes up with all the ideas." He then delivered the punch line: "But I could not have done it without these guys' support. Truly, they are the wind beneath my wings." 

 

U2 and Jared Leto below stage

 

One of the illuminating things about coming to the EMAs is to witness the show’s uplifting production. That production was literally uplifting at Wembley thanks to the 20 hydraulic lifts it took to make the whole stage work. The hydraulic raised props and performers to as high as eight metres.

Julio Himede reprised his role as EMA set designer with the stage concept “Olympic field of play” featuring the biggest EMA stage ever built at 60 metres long x 28 metres wide with a programmable LED floor for different LED installations throughout the show. Julio also designed the staging at Saturday night’s MTV Presents Trafalgar Square show with obelisk-inspired structures in the space.

His energies were rewarded by Best Pop winner Camila Cabello whose elaborate musical production featured a hugely choreographed routine that moved through three scenes and incorporated soaring overhead shots, ending in a Havana-style swimming pool. 

 

 

Liam Payne (above) got steamy with “Strip That Down” featuring dancers in streetwear moving across an LED disco floor, while perched on hydraulics set to a spectacular LED light show.

The theme got more spectacular with Travis Scott flying in on the back of an animatronic bird over the audience for his performance of “Butterfly Effect,” while Stormzy arrived in a police car that was driven onto the stage for his smash grime track “Big For Your Boots.”

 

The Killers performed a classic rock performance of “The Man”

 

Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello drew huge applause but it was Mendes who was crowned Best Artist and rocked his Best Song-winning track “There’s Nothing Holding Me Back” in a constantly evolving light box. Collecting his prize Mendes paid homage to fellow nominees including Ed Sheeran and Taylor Swift. "They're people I've looked up to my entire life," he said, visibly shaken.

The newly neutered ‘Best Artist’ title signalled that his and hers awards are out this year in the gender-neutral prizes which take their cue from MTV’s VMAs. Alas, the highly nominated Taylor Swift won no awards this year; his, hers or otherwise.

Host Rita Ora (below) brought in more than 50 dancers in an over-the-top medley of songs from her new album, “Your Song” and “Anywhere.”

 

 

Other artists delivering a mix of fan favorite tracks included Demi Lovato with her performance of “Sorry Not Sorry” and “Tell Me You Love Me,” and Kesha’s rendition of “Learn to Let Go.” 

 

Travis Scott flies above the crowd

 

David Guetta closed the show with an electrifying performance of his new single “Dirty, Sexy, Money” with guests French Montana, and Charli XCX

 

Stormzy's arresting entrance on stage

 

Later, Rita Ora was presented with the first-ever “MTV EMA Power of Music Award” to honour the charitable energies of all the artists who responded to the Grenfell disaster.

Oh – before you leave, next year’s MTV EMAs are to be hosted by Bilbao, Spain.

 

FULL LIST OF 2017 MTV EMA WINNERS

BEST SONG

Shawn Mendes - There’s Nothing Holdin’ Me Back

 

BEST ARTIST

Shawn Mendes

 

BEST LOOK

ZAYN

 

BEST NEW

Dua Lipa

 

BEST POP

Camila Cabello

 

BEST VIDEO

Kendrick Lamar - HUMBLE.

 

BEST LIVE

Ed Sheeran

 

BEST ELECTRONIC

David Guetta

 

BEST ROCK

Coldplay

 

BEST HIP HOP

Eminem

 

BEST ALTERNATIVE

Thirty Seconds To Mars

 

BIGGEST FANS

Shawn Mendes

 

BEST PUSH

Hailee Steinfeld

 

BEST WORLD STAGE

The Chainsmokers – Live from Isle of MTV Malta 2017

WORLDWIDE ACT WINNERS

Lil’ Kleine - The Netherlands

  1. Tangana – Spain

BABYMETAL – Japan

ALMA – Finland

DaVido – Nigeria

Stormzy - UK & Ireland

Lali - Argentina

 

BEST LOCAL ACT

*REFERENCE “2017 BEST LOCAL ACT AND WORLDWIDE ACT WINNERS” DOCUMENT

 

 

FULL PERFORMANCE LIST

Rita Ora – “Your Song,” “Anywhere”

Demi Lovato – “Sorry Not Sorry,” “Tell Me You Love Me”

Kesha – “Learn to Let Go”

Shawn Mendes – “There's Nothing Holdin’ Me Back”

The Killers – “The Man”

Clean Bandit – “Miss You” ft. Julia Michaels, “Symphony” ft. Zara Larsson, “Rockabye” ft. Anne-Marie

Stormzy – “Big For Your Boots”

Camila Cabello - “Havana”

U2 – “Get Out of Your Own Way,” remote from Trafalgar Square

Eminem – “Walk on Water” ft. Skylar Grey

French Montana – “Unforgettable” ft. Swae Lee

Travis Scott – “Butterfly Effect”

David Guetta ft. Charli XCX, French Montana –“Dirty Sexy Money”           

Liam Payne – “Strip That Down”

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Isle of MTV Malta 2017 - Review

Red Carpet is back from a scorching Malta where we watched the 11th Isle of MTV music party led by artists Raye, Jonas Blue, DNCE and the Chainsmokers. Sat Bal  

We weren’t the only ones feeling the sun; DJ Jonas Blue also cited the sweltering heat when quizzed about his first impression of Malta at the pre-show press call, earlier that afternoon. Later at the show the UK DJ’s set threw out a rendition of By Your Side and then stepped things up by inviting British breakthrough artist Raye onto the stage to perform a duet.

 

The limo bus complete with bartenders whisks us to the venue for the show. Cheers MTV!

Raye had made her debut earlier and unwittingly became a showstopper when a technical hitch imposed a short tea break on her set. We just scuttled off to get more drinks from the VIP bar, Raye resumed the music soon enough and the 50,000 or so music fans were unperturbed, so who cares? What’s more this office denies rumours that the hitch was built-in by MTV just so that Raye could have a longer set.

 

Raye makes her IOM debut

 

Her show rolled on with the single Shhh, followed by a rousing cover of Gotta Get Through This and her current single The Line. The tempo changed by the time Raye staged up with Jonas Blue who was then joined by Liza Owen for singalong reworkings of Back In The Day and Fast Car. Jonas Blue’s set culminated with current single Mama, accompanied by Aaron before launching crowd-pleaser Perfect Strangers, aided by fellow Brit, JP Cooper.

 

DNCE axe attack

Bright sun gave way to brighter neon as dusk fell over the Il-Fosos Square venue. Hostess Becca Dudley bounded on to present multi-platinum selling band DNCE. Led by Joe Jonas DNCE took it all filmic with a dramatic Star Wars intro fronted by stormtroopers. DNCE covered tributes to David Bowie including Let’s Dance  and George Michael’s classic Freedom, before performing their much-loved single Kissing Strangers. Huge DNCE-branded inflatables, confetti launches and Co2 jets pleased the ever-dancing crowd. These were tempered by on-screen warnings not to be alarmed at imminent booming sounds, in a nod to the real-world situation. Security had also been beefed up around the site keeping the fun safe.

 

No intro needed to our headliners

The visuals were amped up by headliners the Chainsmokers whose electro buzzed the crowd amid  flame machines and confetti streamers. They opened with huge hit Break Up Every Night making way for  bangers Roses and Young. The circa six-hour night of music was finally brought to a close with their single Closer.

 

 

And with the final reverberations of music hailing the balmy air it was off to the afterparty at the al fresco surrounds of UNO Village until sunrise.

 

See more at www.isleofmtv.com

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Mooring in Mauritius - Review

 

When a country runs at a winter temperature of 24°C you know that its hospitality is also going to be warm. In Mauritius, the hospitality fair sizzles whatever the season, as Sat Bal discovered.  Read more

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48 hours in…Sardinia

 

When Delphina Hotels & Resorts challenged us with its motto “5 stelle in libertà” (5-star in total freedom) it was time to pack the Birkenstocks and put Sardinian luxury to the test. From the glamour of Costa Smeralda to the history of Isola Rossa and Badesi, only a two-hour flight lay between London and “libertà” in the crystal waters and white beaches of northern Sardinia. Sat Bal  Read more

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Aston Martin – Run of the ‘Mill’

“Okay, now take your hands off the wheel and hold them in the air,” urges Joe calmly. I glance at the digital speedo : 120mph. Is this man insane? Sort of. He’s an ultra-confident Aston Martin driving specialist. Sat Bal is driven to distraction.  Read more

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Engineering An Airline

25 BEA Hangers (900 x 404)

The history of British Airways from the perspective of its engineering division is chronicled in a new book Engineering an Airline published by Amberley Books and available now.  Abigail Parkin

Your BA flight lands, the baggage is reclaimed and off you head, homeward, thinking nothing of the thousands of miles you’ve safely spent mid-air. Such insouciance is thanks to the behind-the-scenes teams whose challenge lies in maintaining that very safety. Paul Jarvis’s book brings their engineering prowess forth with intriguing photos, many never seen before, from British Airways’ 90-year past. It’s a testament to the evolution of the engineering role from before its Imperial Airways days to British Airways today.

It’s not a book that blinds the reader with science despite the title. Instead Paul Jarvis takes us on a jaunty read beginning with his own start at the airline as a technical clerk in the engineering department in 1966 when the planes were in BOAC livery.  

Here we take a visual tour of its engineering strides through the ages…

 

BA Statocruisers at engineering LHR (700 x 529)

 

The Boeing Stratocruiser was introduced in 1949

 

britishairways VC-10 Dusk

VC10, the first commercial 'clean wing' aircraft, here at its BOAC hangar

 Paul Jarvis, now curator of British Airways’ Heritage Centre, said: “Aircraft have long held a fascination for many people and our highly trained engineers are the unsung heroes of the airline. “This is the first book to look at the history of British Airways through its engineers and tell the story of those who can offer a unique insight into the complexities of running a fleet of highly sophisticated flying machines.”

 

BA 136 B Call DC 10 Major (600 x 344)

The Douglas DC10 entered the BA fleet around 1988

This is Paul Jarvis’s fourth book and draws on a wealth of fascinating and unique material from the British Airways archive and uses 200 full colour images to show the development of the airline’s engineering division.

 

BA Concorde in hangar (700 x 519)

 

High-maintenance Concorde in hangar

 

BA Planes on Stand (800 x 474)

Sibling jets parked on stand

 

BA Eng (800 x 600)

BA engineers at work

 

BA Cockpit

Engineered to perfection - the array of flight deck systems

 

‘Engineering An Airline’ is priced at £18.99 and is available at all good book shops and via Kindle, Kobo and iBook formats.                                          

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Tom's Kitchen Birmingham

 

 

Tom’s Kitchen has paused from its rapid colonisation of London to make its debut in Birmingham. Sat Bal dropped into the new location at The Mailbox.

 

The Layout

Glass lift doors open to reveal an airy reception space with the restaurant edging out into The Mailbox as if to remind itself that it’s part of the complex. First impressions are that the design appears relatively spartan amid the high-gloss glam of its Mailbox neighbour Harvey Nichols, although both venues can safely lay claim to the ‘reassuringly expensive’ tag.

 

This conflation of traditional and contemporary is something of a hallmark at Tom’s Kitchen where familiar British food favourites are treated with Tom’s twist. Settling into our places, the quality of the venue’s fit-out is obvious, even if the close spacing of neighbouring tables threatens diner privacy. Like its sibling restaurants Tom’s Kitchen Birmingham is unashamedly meat-driven as depicted by olde butcher’s shop wall tiling and an earthy colour palette of brass pendant lighting, oaken tables and caramel Chesterfields.  

On this Wednesday night business looks reasonable with alternate tables across the restaurant populated by predominantly middle-aged diners with, predominantly, Wolverhampton twangs. Elsewhere, corporate types drop in for some after work tie-loosening at the cosy bar which serves craft beers, classic cocktails, champagne and alongside fine wines from around the world.

 

The Menu

 

Toms-Kitchen-April-2014_David-Griffen-Photography-402

 

The meat dishes feature an array of steaks, burgers and lamb variants. Fish options include poached monkfish and traditional fish and chips. We decide on a starter of seasonal parsnip and honey soup which nicely whets the appetite for the meaty prospects ahead.

When we do get to the main course, a disappointment awaits. There’s no Daylesford seven-hour confit of lamb! We wonder whether this is a mid-week omission.

This epic dish which, by definition, takes most of the day to cook had wowed us at the opening of Tom’s Kitchen, Somerset House many moons ago. Back then, the seven-hour lamb was the star of the media launch party. Even Michelin-starred Tom was present to explain his concept but tonight, in the absence of Tom Aikens or his confit, we opt for the lamb cutlets. We soon get past our bias with the help of a bottle or so of cabernet franc.

The real food success story of the night was the steak. The steak fans in our party positively cooed over the chunky cooked-to-order Cumbrian rib eye with peppercorn sauce.

Dessert raised more cooing. Dark treacle sponge arrived with ice cream was kindly presented with requested off-menu custard. The chocolate and peanut butter fondant all but silenced the table.  New dishes have been added to the Birmingham menus include spiced pumpkin with burrata, savoury granola and hazelnut dressing.

For less indulgent, healthier fare the restaurant serves weekend brunch, with dishes such as superfood granola served with honey and Greek yoghurt and Bircher muesli.

The bill weighed in at around £60 per head including drinks.

 

The Facilities

 

8

 

The restaurant features two private dining rooms, one accommodating 12 guests and the other, 16. There’s also the Veranda, a semi-exclusive area that has capacity for 36-40 people and is useful for networking events. Then there’s the deli area in the Urban room that’s available for a networking event of 50-200 guests.

Diners might be surprised that the restaurant features only one unisex toilet but there is a more adequate set a few steps away from the restaurant.

 

Stop press…

Atul Kochhar, the two-Michelin-starred chef and TV personality is also about to open a new restaurant at The Mailbox.  

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March 9, 2017 Posted by admin in Reviews

Sexy Fish Revisited

 

Sexy Fish was launched with a celebrity fanfare that instantly assured its status as London’s glitterati hotspot. Sat Bal took his, um, plaice at this £20ish million, 200ish-cover restaurant to see why.

Richard Caring’s Caprice Holdings, owner of Sexy Fish, didn’t hold back on the launch razzmatazz back then. In came Rita Ora to sing the numbers while Kate Moss, Immy Waterhouse and the modelling elite supplied mermaid appeal. The launch message happily pushed an ethos of exclusivity and wealth attraction or, as the PR communiqué put it, “mid-century glamour and opulence.” And the message has stuck.

High-octane launches do their thing before the restless media eye roves elsewhere to scan other horizons and that’s when the work really starts in the restaurant world’s competitive ‘here today, gone tomorrow’ culture.

Of course, it helps to have Caprice Holdings’ lineage and Sexy Fish is thriving today, tomorrow and, quite likely, the day after too. Just witness the Vulcanic live-long-and-prosper spirit of its thoroughbred stablemates which include The Ivy, Annabel’s and Le Caprice. The Ivy makes this point with its 100th birthday, a birthday so big that it’ll be marked by celebrations throughout this year.

 

Sexy fish 2

Hirst's mermaid with water wall

Back at Sexy Fish it has to be said that its barn-like, diner-style exterior isn’t all that sexy – but its locale is. Well, this is Berkeley Square, a quarter of Mayfair that might as well be dubbed Caprice Corner; Annabel’s is opposite Sexy Fish with Mark’s Club and Harry’s Bar a stone’s throw.

The taxi deposits our threesome on a bleak, puddly London pavement that’s incongruent with the exotic glow that resides inside the restaurant. The entrance deserves something more dramatic, less pedestrian. You know, something like the Skyfall scene of Mr Bond gliding by water taxi into the high-def colour of the Floating Casino. Because inside Sexy Fish the tone is more filmic Macau than winter London, thanks to the design vision of Martin Brudnizki Design Studio.

 

Sexy Fish FG crocodile by James McDonald for MBDS LR - Copy

Frank Gehry's crocodile runs loose

They appear to have taken an abstract expressionist approach to restaurant décor: throw enough bling at it and watch the glam pattern emerge. Skyfall had the man-eating komodo dragons but we get a 13-ft twinkling black silicone mosaic wall-mounted crocodile, courtesy of Frank Gehry. Damien Hirst is also in the house with his blue-bronze sheened mermaids on sea patrol, with the mise-en-scène of a cascading water wall providing a natural habitat. The bar shines in crackled, glazed cherry-red Pyrolave lava stone while the dappled Esmerelda onyx flooring opulently welcomes the trotting of the well-heeled. Suddenly, you start to see how that multi-million design bill was racked up.

All of this is still exciting two winters after opening, say my habitué hosts, as we settle down to an effusively warm welcome from senior maître d' Giorgio Lucarelli. Giorgio manages to convey the air of a man with all the time in the world, despite tonight’s very full house. Our chit-chat makes inevitable comparisons with Nobu and the Chiltern Firehouse which is positively spartan compared to this place - and to think how we enjoyed the wood-brick chef’s tables by the Firehouse kitchen, championed by the likes of U2’s Bono. Different themes and moods, of course, as exemplified by the Sexy Fish menu which invokes the seas of Asia and the taste of Japan: sashimi, tiradito, tempura and robata.

Crisp Duck & Watermelon, Pomegranate, Cashews & Sakura Herbs at Sexy Fish by John Carey (3)

 

The nature of the food encourages sharing and our chopsticks lie ready on a shiny pebble. The Sexy Fish sushi roll of salmon and sashimi yellowtail arrives in a tasty blitz of colour, a cut above Nobu’s equivalent wonderful offering. Prawn tempura was a substantial must-choose and the miso glazed sea bass rose up to render its Nobu master something of a pastiche. Prices are as expected and food alone is easily £100 per head. The excellent wagyu beef fillet is just shy of £100 but then the Beluga caviar comes in at £300 for 50g. Aside from the freshness and taste of the beautifully cooked food, there’s the service which operates on a swishly telepathic level whereby staff simply appear when required.

Only the design of the place can momentarily shift attention from our chopsticks. We take a wide-angled gaze at Damien Hirst’s 15ft bronze relief panel. A mermaid flirts with a shark. Perhaps a metaphor for the smattering of suspect ‘uncles and nieces’ in here. Still, heedless anthropological analysis is part and parcel of fine restaurant dining. Who among us doesn’t concoct imaginary worlds around the status of fellow diners? Like the young mavericks over at the bar enjoying a magnum shower of Dom Pérignon under Gehry’s shimmering Fish Lamps. Probably FTSE futurists who have figured out how to make algorithms work on their behalf but we Sexify them as Butch Cassidy flash crash traders who got rich off the automatic trades that ravaged securities and commodities prices last year. A large Suntory with that, gentlemen?

 

Bootsy Collins at Sexy Fish. Probably.

Then there’s the grande dame sat stoically in the lower level private Coral Reef Room where two huge fish tanks display a magical seascape of live coral and tropical fish. She has the patina of someone who owns reassuringly large swathes of Herefordshire but could equally be facing an Imelda Marcos-type last supper, before imminent sentencing at the Old Bailey. We optimistically hope that her Sexy dish of Tataki yellowfin tuna with pickled cucumber and shallot dressing would provide at least some form of commuted relief.  

But no, this isn’t our better selves speaking; it’s probably the Mizuwari whisky talking from its chilled crystal rock glass, one of a range of 242 bottles of Japanese whisky on offer. This reportedly makes Sexy Fish’s whisky stash the largest in Europe, second largest in the world.

 

Sashimi platter by (849 x 566)

Sashimi platter

Two talking points break down the boundaries between strangers here: the outlandish opulence – and the dark. Mutual merriment erupts when the two charming ladies adjacent to us strain to see the menus under their phone lights. But even under this dim light it’s obvious that they possess their own natural faces, dispelling any nasty notions that this is a ‘work done’ crowd. It’s actually a Friday Sexy crowd tonight. The lighting isn’t functional but it is atmospheric and maintains the restaurant’s otherworldliness. You almost expect to see Pharrell Williams and Bootsy Collins duetting to Happy and dancing atop the raspberry leather banquettes and chairs.

‘Happy’ is elevated while poring over the dessert menu of soy and caramel ice cream and smoked passion fruit mousse as more Rice Rice Baby cocktails and Macallan whisky shots arrive to break the spell of the magic Mizuwari. Then, reminding ourselves that reality exists beyond these heady confines, our Fish-whipped trio heads to Soho House - for a dose of normality.

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