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Special Report

culinary talent and making partnerships with people such as Angel Leon, an incredible Spanish chef who we convinced to come and create BistrEau at Mandarin Oriental Barcelona last November.” Leon has often been called the “chef of the

sea” because of his passion and knowledge of seafood, from fish to shellfish, seaweed to algae – even salt. Likely to appear on his menu are such dishes as rice with plankton, cold cuts of Iberian fish, marine cheeses and scallops bourguignonne, as well as sharing dishes such as octopus pancetta, or patatas bravas with langoustines and kimichi. “We’re pushing the envelope quite a bit I think

for a group of our size; we care what people want from their hotel and in their restaurants,” Mares says. As well as the fanfare of the openings in

Milan and Marrakech this year, Mares has been spearheading updates at the Munich and Prague hotels, including preparing for the exciting arrival of Nobu at the former later this year. “Germans don’t really ‘do’ hotel restaurants,

so it’s not something you see much of there; this will be a big move as it’s one of the first branded restaurants in the country,” Mares says, as he also extols the virtues of the city: “great music scene, best funded opera house in the country, food capital”. When Matsuhisa Munich arrives, it will be the

first restaurant for chef Nobu Matsuhisa in Germany and comes alongside a complete transformation of the hotel’s public areas including the lobby, lobby lounge, bar, restaurant and banqueting rooms. Matsuhisa Munich will follow the concept of the legendary Matsuhisa Beverly Hills, featuring Nobu’s “new style Japanese cuisine”, with design at the hands of Amsterdam-based FG Stijl. Meanwhile in Prague, Spices Restaurant and

Bar has arrived, following the recent redesign of that hotel’s public spaces by British design studio, Black Sheep; Asian specialties with a modern twist are now on the menu at Spices thanks to Czech chef Jiri Stift. But where does Mares like to eat himself? “That’s a difficult one, as I am constantly dining

around the world and am impressed by so many chefs and concepts. But I would have to say my favourite Mandarin Oriental restaurant is Dinner by Heston and other than that, outside of our hotels, at the moment, I love Kurobuta by Scott Hallsworth on Kings Road in London,” he says. Kurobuta is “a rock and roll izakaya”, of which

there are now two in London, seemingly riding the current wave of interest in Japanese dining experiences and styles. The group enticed the Aussie chef – who has a Nobu-pedigree – to open a pop-up restaurant at the Mandarin Oriental Bodrum during its opening summer. “Scott really is unique and it was a great success,” says Mares. “So much so, we are now working on a permanent Kurobuta restaurant at the resort.” Also new for the second summer of the

resort in Bodrum – now served by British Airways flights from Gatwick – are new transfer experiences such as seaplane or helicopter to ease the pain of a three-hour road transfer. Of course, guests could always choose to arrive by yacht to this seaside resort, as there is a marine concierge. “Things went really well in the first year at the

resort, with the UK a strong market for us there. Now we have to make the whole experience as luxurious and stress-free as possible,” Mares says.

Stuff of legend Standing out among the plethora of luxury hotels in Marrakech will be his next challenge, with the Mandarin’s 63-key hotel – including seven suites with rooftop pools – opening in the Palmeraie area in a few months’ time. And of course, a top chef – Meryem Cherkaoui – will be in place. From Rabat, she mixes her heritage with a range of experience gained from restaurants in legendary French hotels such as The Majestic in Cannes and the Hotel de Crillon in Paris. “We’re delighted with her – she’s a real local legend,” says Mares. The group now operates, or has under

development, 43 hotels representing almost 11,000 rooms in 24 countries, with 20 hotels in Asia, 9 in The Americas and 14 in Europe, Middle East and North Africa. Abu Dhabi, Istanbul, Marbella, Costa Rica, Grand Cayman, Bali, Beijing, Chengdu, Chongqing, Maldives, Manila and Shenzhen are all future destinations on the drawing board. So what of Mares’ other patch – the Middle

Pictured 1. Spices at Mandarin Oriental, Prague 2. Christoph Mares 3. Arrival deck at Mandarin Oriental, Bodrum 4. Mandarin pool villa in Marrakech 5. The new Mandarin Oriental, Milan

East? No let-up there, with a hotel planned for Doha in summer 2016, a 160-room hotel that has been on the cards since 2010. Meanwhile, the group is one of the last luxury giants to arrive in Dubai – at least it will be in time for Expo 2020; this year’s Expo is pretty monumental but like all it does, Dubai’s will no doubt be bigger and bolder. It will be interesting to see how the sleek sophistication of Mandarin slips into the emirate; with 188 rooms and suites, 12 over-water pool villas, 9 bars and restaurants, a pier, 12-room spa and a location on Jumeirah beach, that’s how.


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