Move over, Mayfair

In the shadow of Buckingham Palace, The Peninsula hotel occupies arguably the greatest position in London. And that’s just the beginning.

By Nick Ryan 18/03/2024

The first embrace arriving guests receive comes wrapped in gleaming green metal—just as it has at the legendary Hong Kong mothership since 1970. There, the chauffeur cars are exclusively Rolls-Royces, but The Peninsula London has added Bentleys and BMWs to the fleet. Either way, welcome to the British capital. It’s very nice to be here.

That the hotel’s owners, Hongkong & Shanghai Hotels, would one day add a London property to an international portfolio that lists New York, Paris, Istanbul, Bangkok, Tokyo, Beijing, Chicago, Beverly Hills and Manila alongside the titular two cities, should never have been in doubt… even if sometimes it must have seemed so. The company took 30 years to settle on the hotel’s location, and it’s well known they rejected several sites that went on to be developed to great acclaim by others.

But as you come around Hyde Park Corner from Piccadilly, the Royal Parks stretching out on one side, the grandeur of Wellington Arch on the other, you understand that holding out for the perfect location was the right thing to do.

The letterhead says “1 Grosvenor Place, London, SW1X” but it really should just read “The very heart of Landmark London”. If this was a marker on the Monopoly board, it would out-rank even Mayfair and Park Lane. And everyone knows that’s where you want to put your hotels.

Most of the key cultural and commercial attractions of London are either an easy stroll or within the roughly 2 km radius covered by the hotel’s on-call car service. You could spend a week here, experiencing the best London has to offer, without ever once making the Orphean descent to the Tube.

There’s an obvious architectural challenge presented by building something new surrounded by some of the most recognisable historical buildings in the world. A misstep would immediately mark the newcomer as an interloper. But as you approach the hotel, it seems as if it’s always been there. There’s an assured, refined calm to the edifice. No faux-heritage flourishes here, just a timeless quality that speaks to a willingness to being part of this prized precinct for a long time to come.

That sense of calm is extended as your chariot pulls in off the street and enters an enclosed courtyard, washed in gentle light and draping greenery. A team of long-coated doormen provide a warm welcome—a deft quip about how, after the influx of BAFTA award winners for a ceremony the previous day, the real celebrities are now here, manages to brush the journalistic ego despite its outrageously obvious inaccuracy.

A hotel’s lobby is its first impression, and The Peninsula London makes a good one; towering columns and striking Murano chandeliers, hand-drawn de Gournay murals and soothing palms. Floor-to-ceiling windows and the deliberate decision to slightly elevate the entrance facing out to Hyde Park Corner, give the strong sense that this is a space to watch and be watched. After all, what else are great hotel lobbies for?

Check-in is seamless and unfussed, as it should be when it operates on a completely flexible check-in, check-out system called Peninsula Time, which is tailored to individual needs. Before you know it, you’re in a hotel room you may never want to leave. The Peninsula London’s 190 rooms consist of 131 guest rooms and 59 suites designed by architect Peter Marino to reflect the distinctive grandeur of Belgravia. Rooms range in size from 51–59 m² and all feature mahogany-lined dressing rooms, enormous bathrooms of a honeyed onyx that give the sensation of bathing in a crème brûleé, and enormous beds acting as portals to the kind of sleep only the truly virtuous could otherwise know.

Ultimate stay options include four lavish signature suites: the Palace Suite and the Grand Terrace Suite, both with large outdoor terraces facing Buckingham Palace and Hyde Park, and the Arch Suite, so close to the grand monument you almost feel you could reach out and brush away the pigeons.

The Peninsula Suite, the hotel’s most palatial, includes a private screening room and fitness centre, as well as access to an exclusive VIP drop-off/pick-up service in the underground car park for optimal privacy and security. The Peninsula Suite can also be interconnected with as many as seven other rooms and suites on the floor to create a sumptuous private apartment-like environment totalling nearly 1,300 m², the largest in London. The work of more than 40 artists from the Royal Drawing School has been commissioned to decorate the room with British landscapes in a diverse range of styles.

But the man who spends all his time in a hotel room is either far too in love with his own company, or in witness protection. The real test of a great hotel is the spaces in which you share it with others. Here The Peninsula offers a lot of impressive options.

The hotel’s Far-Eastern heritage is reflected and reimagined in the Cantonese fine diner, Canton Blue, and its adjoining cocktail bar, Little Blue. In the bar, Eastern flavours meet classic Western mixology techniques in perfectly pitched drinks that twist classic cocktails through the use of fine teas and tinctures made from vibrant spices.

It’s the ideal way to prepare for the experience awaiting in Canton Blue. A classic Cantonese restaurant is a feature of every Peninsula hotel around the world, and Canton Blue extends that tradition in a multi-zoned, multi-faceted space taking design cues from the Keying junks that once forged a trade route between China and Britain. Chef Dicky To, most recently at The Peninsula Paris, produces one of the finest Peking ducks on the planet. You should probably expect that at a place like this.

What you might not expect, and what is a real indication of the higher level at which things operate here, is the skilled sommelier who comes to the table with a magnum of Amontillado sherry to go with it. No predictable pinot noir here.

While this part of the hotel is informed by its origins, the Brooklands restaurant and bar are an emphatic statement of Britishness—specifically, a celebration of great British design in the pursuit of elegant speed—requiring you to enter through a dedicated lobby decorated with the nose cone from Concorde, and ascend in a lift designed, both visually and aurally, to give the impression of rising by hot air balloon.

The bar is destined to become one of great hotel bars of the world, with its unique view of the London skyline and décor nodding to the finest British automotive coachwork. The restaurant, helmed by legendary Claude Bosi and featuring the finest British produce from Devon snails to Exmoor caviar, feels as if you’re dining in a Concorde converted into a flying dining room, right down to a scale model of the aircraft forming the ceiling above you.

In a city hardly lacking for options, and where the competition have literally become bywords for luxurious accommodation, The Peninsula still manages to raise the bar. This is a hotel that will redefine London, for both traveller and resident alike.

The Peninsula London

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The Boldest, Most Exciting New Timepieces From Watches & Wonders 2024

Here are the highlights from the world’s biggest watch releases of the year.

By Allen Farmelo, Carol Besler, Paige Reddinger, Oren Hartov, Victoria Gomelsky, Cait Bazemore, Nick Scott, Justin Fenner 10/04/2024

Watches & Wonders, the world’s largest watch show, is in full swing in Geneva. The highly anticipated cascade of new releases is marked by confident individual brand identities — perhaps a sign that watchmakers are done scrambling through the violent collision of restricted supply and soaring demand for high end watches. All seem to be back on solid footing.

Steady confidence is a good thing. Consider Jaeger-LeCoultre offering up traditionally styled grand complications or Vacheron Constantin revamping the classic Patrimony with smaller cases and vintage-inspired radially brushed dials. Consider TAG Heuer celebrating the 55th anniversary of the square Monaco with a skeletonized flyback confidently priced at US$183,000, or Moser similarly showing off a fascinating skeletonized tourbillon in its distinctive 40 mm Streamliner at US$86,900. IWC has leaned hard into their traditionally styled Portugieser line, including an astounding Eternal Calendar complication. We find the storied French houses of Cartier, Chanel and Hermes blurring the lines between jewelry and watchmaking with the technical prowess and artistic whimsy that originally earned these brands their exalted place in the hearts and minds of sophisticated aesthetes. Confidence abounds in 2024.

We could go on and on with examples, but the watches below will demonstrate that for 2024 the big watch brands dared to be themselves, which appears to have given them the confidence to take some seriously compelling horological risks. We have separate coverage of off-show releases and, of course, Patek and Rolex, so keep and eye out for those.

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A Gucci Garden Blooms in Sydney

On a rainy Sydney night, the drinks talent from Maybe Sammy mixed with guest bartenders from Giardino 25 in Florence, for a night of liquid magic.

By Belinda Aucott-christie 13/04/2024

Since hanging out its shingle in 2022, Giardino 25, the all-day café and bar located in Gucci’s palatial, multidisciplinary space in Florence, has been a boon to stylish tipplers. Taking inspiration from one of its previous tenants (a longstanding florist), the garden-themed joint (Giardino is the Italian word for garden) serves delicious aperitivi and dangerously addictive cocktails.

 

Umbrian native Martina Bonci is in hair-to-brogue Gucci for her artful bartending session at El Primo Sanchez. 
Aurora cocktai at Giardino 25, Florence.

Giardino 25 took bloom this past Tuesday at a pop-up at El Primo Sanchez in Paddington. The Maybe Cocktail Festival in Sydney is a series of 20 events scattered throughout the city curated by the award-winning Sammy’s Cocktails team. The festival aims to spur knowledge-sharing and foster excellence in Australia’s drinks scene.

“Last year we held 16 events and they were all packed,” says Stefano Catino, director of hospitality at Public, the management company behind Maybe Sammy venues and bottled drinks, “so this year we’ve curated extra events and flown out even more international bars and bartenders.”

“Nineteen of the 21 events are free to attend, which is very important to us,” he continues. “The cost of living is high, and it’s very expensive for Australians to travel overseas, so this festival allows people to drink cocktails from an amazing bar in Rome or try a Tommy’s Margarita from the gentleman who created it without the cost of a plane ticket.”

Dressed head to toe in Gucci,  and using the bar as her personal catwalk, Giardino 25’s special guest, Martina Bonci, looked every bit the star behind the bar. “We have brought our mix of classic Italian influences and innovation,” she told Robb Report, “so guests in Australia get a little slice of what we do in Florence.”

Among her tantalising pours were powerful dirty martinis decorated with shimmering gold leaf and Aurora, a transparent twist on the Negroni.

Reflecting on her whirlwind trip down under, Bonci said their visit to Bondi Beach and the cocktails at Maybe Sammy were the highlights.

“The bartenders at Maybe Sammy are world-class,” she explained. “There is a good reason they win awards and have a respected reputation overseas. And El Primo Sanchez has such a fun atmosphere—we had a great night.”

Martina Bonci, Bar Manager at Gucci Giardino 25, has been honored twice as ‘Best Bartender in Italy’ by both the Bargiornale and Blue Blazer Awards. 

Bonci, who came to prominence in a long string at Milanese hipster joint Gesto and is known for her use of agave, favors drinks dripping with seasonal fruits and citrus flavors. Having tried her creations, we do, too.

She made a serious impression on Sydneysiders, who would do well to make a pilgrimage to see her in action on home turf. As if any of us need another reason to visit Italy.

The Maybe Cocktail Festival, continues this weekend in Sydney, with the public welcome to attend a Bartenders Brunch at Sydney’s Alpha on Sunday from 11.00 am – 3.00 pm, hosted by George Calombaris. 

View the program: Maybe Cocktail Festival @maybe_cocktail_fetsival

All images courtesy of Gucci.

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Patek Philippe Brings Back Collector Favourites at Watches & Wonders 2024

Both the Nautilus Chronograph and Aquanaut Travel Time receive a welcome return.

By Josh Bozin 10/04/2024

If you’re a watch fan, there’s every reason to believe that a Patek Philippe Nautilus, Patek Philippe Aquanaut—or both—would be high on your wish list. Both collections are of historical significance, helping pave the way for the influence of the steel sports watch category—and subsequent chokehold on the market today.

So, when Patek Philippe unveiled its newest releases at Watches & Wonders in Geneva, it was a pleasant surprise to see the return of two of the best past iterations of the Nautilus and Aquanaut collections.

Patek Philippe
Patek Philippe Nautilus Chronograph

First, we get a new Nautilus Chronograph, with the return of the revered 5980, now replete with a new case in white gold and a denim-like strap (a contentious issue among watch pundits). Discontinuing all Nautilus 5980 models earlier this year, including the collector-favourite 5980/1AR in Rose Gold, left a sombre feeling among Nautilus fanatics. These celebrated chronographs, renowned for their distinctive porthole-inspired design and air of sporty elegance, are some of the most sought-after watches in the Patek Philippe catalogue. Thus, the revival of the 5980, now in white gold, is a cause for collectors’ celebration.

The new offering retains its chronograph function with mono-counter tracking 60-minute and 12-hour counter at 6 o’clock on the dial, but now comes on a new denim-inspired, hand-stitched fabric strap with a Nautilus fold-over clasp in white gold—some will love it, some won’t.

Patek Philippe
Patek Philippe

The Calibre CH 28‑520 C/522 powers this new Nautilus with its flyback chronograph, all of which is visible through the transparent sapphire crystal caseback. The dial is also incredibly eye-catching, with a beautiful opaline blue-gray hue accentuated by white gold-applied hour markers with a white luminescent coating. It is priced at approximately $112,000.

Also returning to the fold is the Patek Philippe Aquanaut Travel Time, now with its own bluish hue dial—similar to its Nautilus counterpart. After discontinuing the Aquanaut Travel Time 5164A this year, as well—a watch often regarded as the greatest Aquanaut to date—Patek Philippe surprised all with the new 5164G in white gold. Its greatest attribution is the clever Travel Time GMT function, which clearly rivals the Rolex GMT-Master II as perhaps the travel-friendly watch of choice (if acquiring one was that simple, of course).

For those who prefer the Aquanaut’s sportiness and easy-wearing rubber strap, this newest iteration, with its Opaline Blue-gray dial and matching rubber strap with a deployant clasp, is undoubtedly an icon in the making. The new 5164G has a 40mm case and features the Calibre 26‑330 S C FUS movement, which can also be viewed via the transparent sapphire crystal caseback.

Expect to pick up the new Aquanaut Travel Time for around $95,250.  

Patek Philippe
Patek Philippe Aquanaut Travel Time

 

Follow @robbreportau for all your Watches & Wonders coverage, and more!

 

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Rolex Kicks Off Watches & Wonders 2024 with a New GMT-Master II

The new stainless steel GMT-Master II has already been dubbed the “Bruce Wayne”.

By Josh Bozin 09/04/2024

It may not be the GMT that watch pundits were speculating on—or that collectors were hoping for—but the new Rolex GMT-Master II with a new grey and black ceramic bezel adds dazzle to the revered Rolex collection, which this year celebrates its 70th anniversary.

The idea of a new Rolex GMT launching at the world’s biggest watch fair is cause for a little madness. While the watch community eagerly awaited what was thought to be the discontinuation of the highly sought-after GMT “Pepsi” and the return of the GMT “Coke,” the luxury Swiss watchmaker had other plans.

Instead, we’re presented with a piece that, on paper, hasn’t changed much from previous GMT releases. That’s not to say that this isn’t an impressive release that will speak to consumers—the new GMT-Master II ref.126710GRNR, dubbed the “Bruce Wayne,” is definitely a sight for sore eyes.

Rolex
Rolex

This new GMT retains the same dimensions and movement as the other watches in the GMT collection, along with its 40mm size case and the option to fit either an Oyster or Jubilee bracelet. The obvious changes, albeit subtle, come in the way of its mostly monochrome return; a fact that will appease traditionalists. If you’re opposed to the attention-drawing “Pepsi”, “Sprite”, or “Batman” iterations, this model is a stealthier pick—much like pseudonymous Bruce Wayne.

The other noticeable change is the “GMT-Master II” now applied in green text and a 24-hour hand in green; perhaps a nod to the 2007 Basel World GMT release.

Like many Rolex timepieces, this will generate great hype and attention, so don’t expect allocations to come easily.

Rolex
Rolex

Model: GMT-Master II
Reference Number: 126710GRNR

Diameter: 40mm
Case Material: Stainless steel
Dial Colour: Black
Lume: Chromalight on hands and hour markers
Water Resistance: 100m
Bracelet: Oyster or Jubilee

Movement: Caliber 3285
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, date, GMT
Power Reserve: 70 hours
Winding: Automatic

Price: $17,150 (Oyster); $17,500 (Jubilee)
Availability: Now. Non-limited edition

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Moments in Time

Silversea’s Kimberley adventures transport passengers into a different dimension.

By Vince Jackson 09/04/2024

Whoever refuted the theory of time-travel has clearly never set foot in the Kimberley, a geological relic where craggy landscapes forged hundreds of millions of years ago remain untouched, and dinosaur footprints are still etched into the ochre terrain. And while traversing one of the planet’s last great wildernesses in a 4X4 holds rugged appeal, a more refined way to explore the Western Australian outback is by cruise liner. 

Enter the Silver Cloud, one of Silversea’s most luxurious vessels, available for 10- or 17-day expeditions. Upon arrival via private executive transfer, expect a level of intimacy that’s often conspicuous on other cruise experiences. With a maximum of just 200 guests, attended to by 212 staff, the Silver Cloud can lay claim to the greatest passenger-to-crew ratios operating in the Kimberley. Twenty-four-hour butler service is standard for every suite, along with ocean views—no matter if you plump for a modest 22 m² Vista Suite or supersize to a 217 m² Grand Suite.

Yet bigger is not necessarily better on water; the ship itself is compact enough to manoeuvre into isolated coves and waterways that larger vessels—or, indeed, four-wheel-drive Land Cruisers—are unable access. Each sunrise brings the promise of an unforgettable adventure, whether hopping on a Zodiac at Koolama Bay to witness the cascading thunder of the 80-m-high, twin King George Falls, or embarking at Swift Bay to scramble over rocky standstone and view the disparate rock-art forms on display at the sacred Wandjina art galleries—some reckoned to be up to 12,000 years old.

Another example of the Kimberley’s ability to propel you back through time.

Prices from $15,500 pp (10 days) and $23,900 pp (17 days); June 9-19, and August 8-25 or August 25- September 11 respectively; silversea.com

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