Grande-dame hotel and a new townhouse in London
London’s grande-dame hotels have to constantly evolve to stay relevant; few have done so more deftly lately than The Berkeley (the-berkeley.co.uk; from £299) in Knightsbridge, which has in recent years enlisted the likes of Richard Rogers and Carole Bamford (whose brand flies its flag over the spa) to help. Now it’s the turn of Hong Kong-based architect André Fu – who authored The Opus penthouse here – to unveil two new light-filled suites, each with its own glass leisure pavilion and sweeping terrace overlooking the capital’s leafy squares.
If smaller, less minimal is more your speed – but centre-of-the-action still appeals – consider Kettner’s Townhouse (kettnerstownhouse.com; from £225), newly renovated under the aegis of the Soho House group, some of whose rooms feature William Morris wallpaper, ornate taps and other maximalist charms.
New resorts in Malaysia and Laos with wow factor galore
From spectacular overwater spa pods at The Ritz-Carlton in Langkawi to 100sq m tents with wraparound terraces at Rosewood in Luang Prabang
There are some big guns making inroads in the jungles of southeast Asia. The timing’s especially good on Langkawi, where the peerless Datai (thedatai.com), under total renovation, is shuttered until July. Following the opening of a slick St Regis, in late 2016, comes The Ritz-Carlton (ritzcarlton.com; from about £440), whose suites and villas, which hew to the tastefully conventional, play off nicely against alfresco restaurants, bars, pools and overwater spa pods with no small measure of wow factor, thanks to adventurous suspension engineering. To the northeast in Luang Prabang, Bill Bensley, Bangkok-based architect and all-around master of fantasy fulfilment, has put the finishing touches to a “luxury encampment” for Rosewood (rosewoodhotels.com; from $700). Choose from 17 villas and five 100sq m tents, complete with wraparound terraces and open-air dining rooms.
Italian escapes for true cognoscenti
Italy is always going to offer up a richer experience when someone who truly affords access is helping with the planning. Among the cognoscenti, that someone is Emily FitzRoy, founder and managing director of Bellini Travel, to whom even old Italy hands turn when the impossible-to-get is the order of the day.
Well in time for glorious late spring, FitzRoy has launched her own extremely exclusive selection of Bellini Villas (bellinitravel.com; from €2,000 per night) across the peninsula. From a contemporary glass box in the truffle-hunting paradise of Piedmont to a full-service hillside estate in Portofino with a lift right down to the village, she has the keys, along with the best insider intel to be had.
A sublime and secluded new island resort in the Maldives
It’s unlikely anyone would call the Maldives short on private islands, but then again, if the ever-surging numbers of inbound bliss-seekers are an indication, maybe you can’t have too many. Enter Kudadoo (kudadoo.com; from £1,400), from the team behind Hurawalhi – a sizeable adults-only resort just a five-minute speedboat ride away from Kudadoo’s considerably smaller, more intimate and more exclusive charms. With just 15 massive overwater villas boasting a boldly unadorned interpretation of the requisite bells and whistles (huge infinity pools and many square metres of outdoor living space), it lies at the uppermost edge of the less-frequented Lhaviyani Atoll – a situation that lends Kudadoo another very in-demand USP: privacy.
Los Cabos, the new Mexican dining hotspot
Had I visited Los Cabos, on the southern tip of Baja California Sur, 30 years ago, I am not entirely sure where I would have eaten. The party town of Cabo San Lucas was still a glint in a developer’s eye, while San José del Cabo, 20 miles along the coast, hadn’t seen much action since the Spanish battled the indigenous Pericú in the 18th century. I would probably have had to persuade a fisherman to sell me a chunk of marlin.
These days, more or less the whole strip between the two towns has been developed, and travelling gourmets could spend months here without dining in the same place twice. They might well start at Manta, Enrique Olvera’s stunning, laidback, hugely atmospheric restaurant at The Cape Hotel, a few miles east of Cabo San Lucas.
Olvera’s inspired reinvention of Mexican cuisine at Pujol, in Mexico City, and Cosme, in New York, has won him many plaudits: and, should you fly to Mexico City on Aeromexico, as I did, you will also find his menus in the business-class cabins of its new Boeing 787s. At Manta, with the surf dancing just outside the plate-glass windows, the accent is on local seafood: raw, chopped chocolate clams, for instance, served in their brown shells (hence the name), their sweet flesh bathed in tart, spicy aguachile, fragrant with black garlic. Supremely fresh red tuna is sliced and served with silky, savoury, piquant guacamole; skewered octopus tentacles, caramelised on the grill, are paired with chipotle mayonnaise; and a whole cabrilla (a kind of bass) is beautifully cooked: firm and flaky, lacquered to a golden brown.
There is meat too: sublime beef yakitori, perfectly marinated and flash-grilled, served with spicy ponzu. And tacos made with corn tortillas, rosy slices of beef fillet and shishito peppers (like pimentos de Padrón), with fresh lime and more blobs of guacamole adding savour. Manta is the kind of restaurant I would happily eat in every night.
But “no place twice” was the rule, so I headed to San José del Cabo in search of more sustenance. In the bustling little courtyard at La Lupita, tacos rule the roost, especially tacos al pastor: spiced cuts of pork pressed together on a giant spit, slices of which are wrapped in corn tortillas. Or, for the fearless trencherman, bundled into costra de queso, a crusty disc of toasted cheese. I defy anyone to eat more than two, but they are fabulous. Wash them down with excellent mezcal.
The cheery, down-home Los Claros, meanwhile, does a roaring trade in seafood tacos, as well as quesadillas, burros (burrito means “little donkey”: these are their heftier brethren) and tostadas. There is great ceviche, too, and a fine array of help-yourself salads and salsas. I was finally defeated by a huge taco filled with battered green pepper, stringy cheese and slivers of splendid smoked marlin, but at least I didn’t have to haggle with a fisherman to get it.
Palatial Urso hotel
In Madrid, Obrador’s interiors combine marble and honey-toned wood floors and panelling with elegant rugs, weighty textiles and patrician-style antiques to create a feeling of old‑world money shot through with light.