Scene Cuisine: Mr. Chow, Riyadh

The impresario behind his namesake Mr. Chow restaurant opens his seventh location—his first in the Middle East—in the Saudi capital

By Horacio Silva 21/12/2023

Michael Chow is not one for false modesty. “Before me the only international restaurant was McDonald’s,” he says, with the assurance of someone who knows what he brings to the table and isn’t afraid to share it. “I started the concept of having a high-end restaurant in multiple locations around the world over 50 years ago. I was light years ahead of everybody.”

He may be blunt, but he is not wrong. Since opening the first Mr. Chow restaurant in London, in 1968, Chow has redefined the international fine-dining experience. In short order, the chic Knightsbridge eatery, known for its elevated Chinese food, spectacular service and super-charged prices, became the last word in scene cuisine: the Champagne-fuelled place for the bon ton to go for a wonton.

Michael Chow photographed in front of an Ed Ruscha ‘portrait’ of him, rendered in egg tempura and soya sauce, L.A. in 1974

Presciently anticipating the convergence of the culture and lifestyle industries, Chow hitched his wagon to the fashion and art worlds from the outset. (His first wife, Grace Coddington, a top model in the 1960s before becoming the longtime American Vogue Creative Director, probably made entrées into the fashion milieu a little easier.) A proto-meta-celebrity for the pre-internet age, Chow is famous for being famous among the famous.

“Portrait of Michael Chow” (1985) by his friend Jean-Michel Basquiat.

Now, after successfully opening various outposts in Los Angeles, New York, Miami and Las Vegas, the impish restaurateur has hung out the shingle in the Middle East, unveiling a Mr. Chow in Riyadh in October.

“All the big boys are there,” Chow told Robb Report ANZ of his decision to expand into the region. “So I figured it was time to make the move.”

Besides, he suggests, sitting in a corner of his sprawling Los Angeles studio, Dubai has become a veritable supermarket of options. “It’s like Mount Olympus,” Chow points out, “all the gods are there. Cipriani, Nobu, Zuma. And, unlike Vegas, every brand there is authentic and the standards are very high.”

In addition to wanting to avoid the crowded competition, Chow was also drawn to the relaxing of Saudi policy towards the West. “Before they’d say stay away, don’t come near us,” he says. “But the whole Middle East, particularly Saudi Arabia, has lightened up and is going through a major cultural change. They want to be part of the international conversation. The roads are still being paved, so to speak, but it’s a very exciting time.”

Despite the welcome arms, the new location comes with considerable concessions to local palates and customs. “For starters,” Chow explains, “there is no pork and no alcohol. That’s the biggest change. It’s not like Dubai where you can get alcohol in restaurants and hotels. They’re two different animals in that sense.”

Also absent in the Riyadh chapter is the art on the walls that is part of the DNA at Mr. Chow. “We have a couple of ceiling art projections, including one that resembles a flower opening up over the room,” he offers. “Eventually the plan is to introduce art on the walls, maybe by local artists, but I haven’t got around to it.”

In the tortuous decade prior to opening the London restaurant, Chow, who was born in Shanghai in 1939 and moved to London at 13 to attend boarding school, left architecture school to train as a painter. He wound up at the swinging Robert Fraser Gallery near Grosvenor Square, a beau-monde salon of sorts where the debonair blade, who by then was sporting shoulder-length hair and Yves Saint Laurent suits, met the leading artists of the day, like Peter Blake, Allen Jones, Jim Dine, Patrick Caulfield, Paul Huxley and Clive Barker—many of whom swapped art for a generous tab at Mr. Chow.

As a result, the paintings on the walls (and the artists who dined there) became as much of a draw as the restaurant’s storied Beijing duck. “The London restaurant is practically a Peter Blake museum,” he concedes. A soi-disant name-dropper, Chow is wont to remind people that every major artist has signed his guest book, which is also full of drawings by a slew of luminaries including Andy Warhol, Francesco Clemente, Francis Bacon, and Jasper Johns. “Everyone except Picasso,” he says. Without missing a beat, he adds, “But I had lunch with Van Gough. Just kidding.”

Elevated dining: the high- rise view at Mr. Chow Riyadh

The rest of the signature Mr. Chow experience, from the locked-eyes acknowledgement that greets all diners to the theatrical pyrotechnics of the twice-nightly noodle-making “performances”, remains on display in Riyadh.

“I’m a painter at heart but I also follow my father’s footsteps and he was the king of the theatre,” Chow explains. “Both mediums draw on deep suffering and can transcend the audience to a spiritual level. I turned the restaurant into theatre. Never bore the audience and reach for transcendence and a higher level of communication every night.”

Michael Chow painting in his studio in Los Angeles.

Those not familiar with the Tao According to Chow can now discover his Byzantine history in Aka Mr. Chow, a no-holds-barred HBO documentary (streaming on Binge in Australia) that sheds light, with sometimes brutal candour, on his longtime gambling addiction and his voracious appetite for collecting everything from prestige cars to door hinges, Lloyd Wright–designed houses to ice buckets. “What can I say? I take collecting very seriously, and I am very obsessive,” he offers flatly. “Doesn’t mean I’m a bad person.”

As the documentary illustrates, Chow has also been known to collect beautiful women and he is currently on his fourth wife, Vanessa Rano, with whom the 84-year-old has two young sons. (The rest of the Chow brood comprises China, 49, Maximillian, 46, and Asia, 29.) The film is particularly unsparing in its retelling of the doomed marriage between Michael and second wife, Tina Chow, mother of China and Maximillian, internationally renowned beauty, businesswoman, collector, jeweler, and member of the International Best-Dressed Hall of Fame. Michael and Tina were the Brangelina of their day, but the glamour couple divorced in 1989 and Tina died of AIDS three years later.

Equally uncompromising are the sections of the film that ruminate on Chow’s Chinese ancestry and the vicissitudes of fortune that resulted from being the son of arguably the most famous man in China at the time. Chow’s father, Zhou Xinfang, whom he credits with his creative drive, was a highborn Chinese national treasure and a famed star of Shanghai’s Peking Opera Theatre who went by the stage name Qilin Tong (Unicorn Boy). His mother, Lillian, was the daughter of a Scottish tea merchant who scandalised Chinese society when she ran off with the older, married performer. When government forces began to clamp down on Unicorn Boy’s increasingly nationalistic performances, Chow’s parents sent him off to England. He never saw his father again; his mother visited him once.

“I wish I could say I went kicking and screaming,” Chow says of being banished to Wenlock Edge, a school he has described as Harry Potter without the magic. “But I was too dumb to do that. Basically, my mother wanted me to get out of there, period.” (One of his sisters, Tsai Chin, a former Bond Girl who appears in You Only Live Twice, was also hurried off, to Europe.)

Of his parents, Chow says: “Terrible, terrible things happened to them. They were among the first to be purged in the Cultural Revolution, but I didn’t find out about their deaths till much later.” His life, as he recounts in the film, has been an attempt to reconcile his love for them and their fate with his extant love of China, which he visits occasionally. “It sounds corny, but everything I do is to make China great to the West. But, of course, I have mixed feelings about my homeland because there are some things I can never forget.”

Even in this fifth chapter of his life, as he refers to it, Chow appears as spry as ever. “I’m doing very well,” he says. “I’m getting on, but at the same time, I’m active and very ambitious on two fronts—on my painting and, you know, the rest of it.”

The documentary, which premiered at MoMA in New York (“The cathedral of art,” he gushes) has led to more interest in his painting and he has several works showing during Art Basel Miami Beach this month. There are also new restaurants on the horizon. Having resisted all entreaties to open shop in Dubai, he is finally doing so at the end of next year. And then there are famous people to watch and to namedrop. “Can you blame me?” he asks. “I’ve met everyone. Marlene Dietrich. Marx Brothers. Ginger Rogers. Drake.” As Chow himself says, surmising his future, “The best is yet to come.”

Scene Cuisine is a new column, showcasing the fashionable spots where the elite meet to eat. 

Mr. Chow

Bldg 2.09, Metro Blvd,

Riyadh, Al Aqiq 13519;

T: +966.9200.12658

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Escape from the Ordinary

Ponant, the luxury cruise line known for its meticulously planned itineraries and high-end service, ups the ante on their upcoming European Journeys that promise an unrivalled exploration of the Mediterranean.

By Robb Report Team 19/02/2024

Not all cruises are created equally. Ponant, the luxury cruise line known for its meticulously planned itineraries and high-end service, ups the ante on their upcoming European Journeys that promise an unrivalled exploration of the Mediterranean. From the stunning Amalfi Coast to the pristine Greek Islands, the narrow Corinth Canal to the picturesque Dalmatian coast, historic Istanbul and beguiling Malaga, each destination is a unique adventure waiting to be unravelled. With Ponant, these aren’t just locations on a map; they’re experiences that come alive with the intimate knowledge and insight that their expert guides provide.

Ponant’s luxury cruises are renowned for their individuality, with no two journeys the same. This is not by chance. Itineraries are scrupulously designed to ensure that each passenger is left with a feeling of having embarked on a journey unlike any other.

Athens-Venise. Photograph by N.Matheus. ©PONANT

In 2025, their fleet will set sail for a combined 56 departures from March to October, exploring the dreamy locales of Greece and the Greek Islands, Malta, Italy (including Venice and Sicily), Croatia, France, Turkey, Spain and Portugal. These European Journeys offer an intimate encounter with the Mediterranean, its people and culture. As you cruise in luxury, you’ll dive deep into the heart of each destination, exploring historic sites, engaging with locals, sampling scrumptious cuisine and soaking in the vibrant atmospheres.

The company’s small, sustainable ships, which can accommodate from as few as 32 to 264 guests, have the exclusive ability to sail into ports inaccessible to larger cruise liners, affording privileged entry into some of the world’s most treasured alcoves. Picture sailing under London’s iconic Tower Bridge, crossing the Corinth Canal, or disembarking directly onto the sidewalk during ports of call in culturally rich cities like Lisbon, Barcelona, Nice and Venice, among others.

Photo by Tamar Sarkissian. ©PONANT

This singular closeness is further enriched by destination experts who unravel the tapestry of each locale’s history and traditions.

Onboard their luxurious ships, every guest is a VIP and treated to refined service and amenities akin to sailing on a private yacht. Whether at sea or ashore, their destination experts guarantee a fascinating experience, immersing you in the rich cultural and historical diversity of each region.

Indulge in the finest gastronomy at sea, inspired by none other than gastronomic virtuoso and Ponant partner, Alain Ducasse. Each voyage offers an expertly crafted dining experience, from a-la-carte meals with perfectly matched wines by the onboard Sommelier at dinner and lunch, to a French-inspired buffet breakfast, featuring all the favourite pastries, fresh bread and quality produce.

Chef Mickael Legrand. Photograph by NickRains. ©PONANT

For a more intimate discovery, consider Le Ponant, with its 16 high-class staterooms and suites—perfect for private charter—sailing eight exclusive routes between Greece and Croatia, offering guests unparalleled experiences both onboard and ashore. Ponant’s commitment to crafting unforgettable experiences extends beyond itineraries. Aboard their ships, the luxury is in every detail. Unwind in opulent cabins and suites, each offering private balconies and breathtaking views of the azure water and destinations beyond.

Ponant’s upcoming European Journeys are more than just cruises—they’re your passport to a world of cultural immersion, historical exploration, and unrivalled luxury. Don’t miss this opportunity to embark on the voyage of a lifetime: the Mediterranean is calling.

To book European 2025 sailings visit; call 1300 737 178 (AU) or 0800 767 018 (NZ) or contact your preferred travel agent.


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Saint Laurent Just Opened a New Bookstore in Paris. Here’s a Look Inside.

The chic new outpost is located on the city’s arty Left Bank.

By Rachel Cormack 14/02/2024

Saint Laurent is taking over even more of Paris.

The French fashion house, which only just opened an epic new flagship on Champs-Élysées, has launched a chic new bookstore on the Left Bank. Located in the 7th arrondissement, Saint Laurent Babylone is a mecca of art, music, literature, and, of course, fashion.

The new outpost is a tribute to the connection that Yves Saint Laurent and partner Pierre Bergé had to the Rue Babylone, according to Women’s Wear Daily. (In 1970, the pair moved to a 6,500-square-foot duplex on the street.) It is also inspired by the house’s original ready-to-wear boutique, Saint Laurent Rive Guache, which opened in the 6th arrondissement in 1966.

The exposed concrete in contrasted by sleek marble accents. SAINT LAURENT

With a minimalist, art gallery-like aesthetic, the space is anchored by a hefty marble bench and large black shelves. The raw, textured concrete on the walls is juxtaposed by a soft blue and white rug, a wooden Pierre Jeanneret desk, and sleek Donald Judd stools.

The wares within Saint Laurent Babylone are the most important part, of course. Curated by Saint Laurent’s creative director Anthony Vaccarello, the collection includes everything from photos by British artist Rose Finn-Kelcey to books published by Saint Laurent itself. Some tomes on offer are so rare that white gloves are required for handling.

The store also offers an enviable selection of records that are no longer being pressed. Highlights include Sade’s Promise, Kate Bush’s Hounds of Love, and the debut studio album of electronic band Kraftwerk.

Other notable items on the shelves include Leica cameras, chocolates made in collaboration with pastry chef François Daubinet, prints by Juergen Teller, and brass skull sculptures. You’ll also find an assortment of YSL merch, including pens, lighters, and cups.

To top it off, Saint Laurent Babylone will double as an event space, hosting live music sessions, DJ sets, book readings, and author signings over the coming months.

Saint Laurent’s latest endeavor isn’t exactly surprising. With Vaccarello at the helm, the Kering-owned fashion house has entered new cultural realms. Only last year, the label established a film production company and debuted its first movie at Cannes.

The space is fitted with a Pierre Jeanneret desk and Donald Judd stools.

Perhaps Saint Laurent film reels and movie posters will soon be available at Babylone, too.

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The Best Watches at the Grammys, From Maluma’s Jacob & Co. to Jon Batiste’s Vacheron Constantin

Music’s biggest names sported some outstanding watches on Sunday evening.

By Rachel Mccormack 08/02/2024

Weird yet wonderful watches punctuated this year’s Grammys.

The woman of the moment, Taylor Swift, who made history by winning Album of the Year for an unprecedented fourth time, wore an unconventional Lorraine Schwartz choker watch to the annual awards ceremony on Sunday night. That was just the tip of the horological iceberg, though.

Colombian singer-songwriter Maluma elevated a classic Dolce & Gabbana suit with a dazzling Jacob & Co. Astronomia Tourbillon and a pair of custom, diamond-encrusted Bose earbuds, while American musician Jon Batiste topped off a stylish Versace ensemble with a sleek Vacheron Constantin Overseas Tourbillon. Not to be outdone, rapper Busta Rhymes busted out a rare Audemars Piguet Royal Oak for the occasion.

There was more understated wrist candy on display, too, such as Jack Antonoff’s Cartier Tank LC and Noah Kahan’s Panerai Luminor Quaranta BiTempo.

For the rest of the best watches we saw on the Grammys 2024 red carpet, read on.

Maluma: Jacob & Co. Astronomia Tourbillon

Maluma busted out some truly spectacular bling for this year’s Grammys. The Colombian singer-songwriter paired a classic Dolce & Gabbana suit with a dazzling Jacob & Co. Astronomia Tourbillon and a pair of custom, diamond-encrusted Bose earbuds. The sculptural wrist candy sees a four-arm movement floating in front of a breathtaking dial adorned with no less than 257 rubies. For added pizzaz, the lugs of the 18-karat rose-gold case are invisibly set with 80 baguette-cut white diamonds. Limited to just nine examples, the rarity is priced at $1.5 million.

Asake: Hublot Big Bang Essential Grey

Nigerian singer-songwriter Asake may not have won the Grammy for Best African Music Performance for “Amapiano,” but did wear a winning Hublot Big Bang at Sunday’s proceedings. Released in 2023, the Essential Grey model is made purely of titanium for a sleek, uniform feel. The 42 mm timepiece was limited to just 100 pieces and cost $37,000 a pop.

John Legend: Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Selfwinding

Multihyphenate John Legend wore a legendary Audemars Piguet with silky Saint Laurent on Sunday evening. The self-winding Royal Oak in question features a 34 mm black ceramic case, a black grande tapisserie dial, and striking pink gold accents. The watchmaker’s signature is also displayed in gold under the sapphire crystal. The piece will set you back $81,000.

Jon Batiste: Vacheron Constantin Overseas Tourbillon

American musician Jon Batiste received four nominations but no wins at this year’s Grammys. The “Butterfly” singer can take solace in the fact that he looked ultra-sharp in Versace and Vacheron Constantin. A tribute to the spirit of travel, the Overseas Tourbillon features a 42.5 mm white-gold case, a bezel set with 60 baguette-cut diamonds, and a blue dial featuring a dazzling tourbillon cage inspired by the Maltese cross. Price upon request, naturally.

Fireboy DML: Cartier Santos

Fireboy DML’s outfit was straight fire on Sunday night. The Nigerian singer paired an MCM wool jacket with a Van Cleef & Arpels bracelet, several iced-out rings, and a sleek Cartier Santos. The timepiece features a steel case, a graduated blue dial with steel sword-shaped hands, and a seven-sided crown with synthetic faceted blue spinel.

Noah Kahan: Panerai Luminor Quaranta BiTempo

Best New Artist nominee Noah Kahan wore one of Panerai’s best new watches to Sunday’s festivities. The Luminor Quaranta BiTempo features a 40 mm polished steel case and a black dial with luminous numerals and hour markers, a date display at 3 o’clock, and a small seconds subdial at 9 o’clock. The timepiece can be yours for $14,000.

Busta Rhymes: Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore

Legendary rapper Busta Rhymes busted out a chic Audemars Piguet for this year’s Grammys. The Royal Oak Offshore Chronograph in question is distinguished by a 42 mm rose-gold case and a matching pink méga tapisserie dial with an outer flange for the tachymeter scale. The face is fitted with three black subdials, large black numerals, and a black date display at 3 o’clock. You can expect to pay around $61,200 for the chronograph on the secondary market.

Jack Antonoff: Cartier Tank Louis Cartier

Producer of the year Jack Antonoff took to the red carpet with a stylish Cartier on his wrist. The Tank Louis Cartier in question appears to be a large 33.7 mm example that features an 18-carat rose-gold case, a silvered dial with black Roman numerals and blued steel hands, a beaded crown set with a sapphire cabochon, and a brown alligator strap. It’ll set you back $19,900.

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This 44-Foot Carbon-Fiber Speedboat Can Rocket to 177 KMPH

The new Mayla GT is available with a range of different powertrains, too.

By Rachel Cormack 03/02/2024

We knew the Mayla GT would be one of the most exciting boats at Boot Düsseldorf, but a deep dive into the specs shows it could be downright revolutionary.

The brainchild of German start-up Mayla, the 44-footer brings you the blistering performance of a speedboat and the luxe amenities of a motor yacht in one neat carbon-fiber package.

Inspired by the go-fast boats of the 1970s and ‘80s, the GT sports an angular, retro-futuristic body and the sleek lines of a rocket ship. Tipping the scales at just 4500 kilograms, the lightweight design features a deep-V hull with twin transversal steps and patented Petestep deflectors that help it slice through the waves with ease. In fact, Mayla says the deflectors decrease energy usage by up to 35 percent while ensuring a more efficient planing.

The range-topping GT can reach 185 kph. MAYLA

The GT is also capable of soaring at breakneck speeds, with the option of a gas, diesel, electric, or hybrid powertrain. The range-topping GTR-R model packs dual gas-powered engines that can churn out 3,100 hp for a top speed of more than 100 knots (185 kph). At the other, more sustainable end of the spectrum, the E-GT is fitted with an electric powertrain that can produce 2,200 horses for a max speed of 50 knots. The hybrid E-GTR pairs that same electric powertrain with a 294 kilowatt diesel engine for a top speed of 60 knots (111 km/h/69 mph). (The GT in the water at Boot sported two entry-level V8s good for 650 hp and a top speed of over 70 knots.)

The GT is suitable for more than just high-speed jaunts, of course. The multipurpose cockpit, which can accommodate up to eight passengers, features a sundeck with sliding loungers, a wet bar and BBQ, and a foldaway dining table for alfresco entertaining. Further toward the stern, a beach club sits atop a garage with an electric transom door.

The garage has an electric transom door. MAYLA

The GT is even fit for overnight stays. Below deck lies a cabin with a double bed, sofa, wardrobe, vanity, and en suite. You can also expect a high-tech entertainment system with TVs and premium audio.

As for price, the GT with the entry-level powertrain will cost between $2.7 million and $2.9, depending on the final configuration. (You can fine-tune the layout, hull color, and interiors, naturally.) Interested buyers can set up a sea trial with Mayla, with test-drives set to begin this spring in Europe.

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Red Centre

First Nations artist Shaun Daniel Allen joins forces with Chopard to create a timepiece inspired by the Australian landscape.

By Horacio Silva 29/01/2024

Shaun Daniel Allen does not look like your typical collaborator on a prestige watch. For one, Shal, as he prefers to be known (“There are many Shauns but only one Shal,” he explains), is more heavily tattooed than your average roadie. His youthful appearance, bad-boy ink and all, belies his 38 years and leads to a disconnect. 

He recounts being recognised on the street recently by a journalist, who, unable to remember his name, shouted out, “Chopard!” “I was with a friend,” Shal says, holding court in his apartment in Sydney’s inner city, “and he’s, like, ‘What the hell? Does that happen to you often?’”

Perhaps because of his body art, he reasons, “People don’t put me and Chopard together.” It’s not hard to understand the confusion, Shal adds; even he was taken aback when Chopard reached out to him about a potential collaboration a little more than a year ago. “When I first went in to see them, I was, like, I don’t know if I’m your guy. I’m not used to being in those rooms and having those conversations.”

He’ll have to adapt quickly to his new reality. Last month Chopard released Shal’s interpretation of the Swiss brand’s storied Alpine Eagle model, which in itself was a redo of the St. Moritz, the first watch creation by Karl-Friedrich Scheufele (now Co-President of Chopard) in the late 1970s. 

Previewed at Sydney’s About Time watch fair in September, to not insignificant interest, and officially known as the Alpine Eagle Sunburnt, the exclusive timepiece—issued in a limited edition of 20—arrives as a stainless steel 41 mm with a 60-hour power reserve and a burnt red dial that brings to mind the searing Outback sun. Its see-through caseback features one of Shal’s artworks painted on sapphire glass.

When the reputable Swiss luxury brand approached Shal, they already had the red dial—a nod to the rich ochre hues of the Australian soil at different times of the day and gradated so that the shades become darker around the edges—locked in as a lure for Australian customers.

Shal was charged with designing an artful caseback and collectible hand-painted sustainable wooden case. After presenting a handful of paintings, each with his signature abstract motifs that pertain to indigenous emblems, tattoos and music, both parties landed on a serpentine image that evoked the coursing of rivers. “I have been painting a lot of water in this last body of work and the image we chose refers to the rivers at home,” he says, alluding to formative years spent at his grandfather’s, just outside of Casino.

It says a lot about Chopard, Shal points out, that they wanted to donate to a charity of his choosing. “Like everything else on this project,” he explains, “they were open to listening and taking new ideas on board and it actually felt like a collaboration, like they weren’t steering me into any corner.”

In another nice touch, a portion of the proceeds from sales of the watch will go to funding programs of the Ngunya Jarjum Aboriginal Corporation—an organisation, established in 1995 by Bundjalung elders, whose work Shal saw firsthand after the 2022 eastern Australia flood disasters ravaged their area. “Seeing Ngunya Jarjum suffer from the floods,” he says, “and knowing how much they do for the community on Bundjalung Country was heartbreaking. I want to see Bundjalung families thriving and supported.”

So what’s it been like for this booster of Australian waterways to be swimming in the luxury end of the pool? “I’ve done a few things with brands,” he offers, referring to the Louis Vuitton project earlier this year at an art gallery in Brisbane, “but nothing on this scale. It’s definitely fancier than I’m used to but I’m not complaining.” Neither are watch aficionados.

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