Lebua Bangkok: An Angel in My Soup

timthumb.jpgWide stairs, which seem wider because there are no walls to bind them, begin from the sky and descend seemingly into the Bangkok skyline. Two steps down, you stop giddily – the panorama of the city vying for your attention, the breeze rummaging through your hair and sounds of a live band floating six hundred feet above the ground into nothing. Gathering your wits, you descend lower and find yourself welcomed into Sirocco, the highest al fresco restaurant in the world, one of the gems on offer at the Dome, Lebua Hotels & Resorts, and one of the most sought-after dining destinations in the Thailand capital.

As dusk turns into a twinkling night, the lights of Krung Thep, also called the ‘city of angels’, shine above the darkening Chao Phraya River. Your five-course Mediterranean meal turns up one delight after another, and you linger over the absolutely perfect hand-rolled potato gnocchi served with roasted butternut squash and king oyster mushrooms. The Whispering Angel rose wine only adds fuel to the enchantment of sitting in the open air, 64 floors above a breathtaking urbanscape, with elegant jazz for company. It’s like dining with the stars, not just under them.

It was this very charm of Sirocco that compelled Legendary Pictures to shoot scenes from the film Hangover 2 here. According to Deepak Ohri, CEO at Lebua, the five-day visit by the Hollywood team of over 400 movie professionals was perfectly choreographed down to the last detail. “They would vacate our restaurants at sharp 5 p.m.,” he marvels, “no matter how much equipment was strewn about just five minutes prior.”

To pay tribute, the hotel now offers a Hangovertini, created by Alex Holzer, mixologist at The Dome, using the formula, “vitamins + minerals + antioxidants + bit of alcohol”. Not only is this drink one of the hotel’s bestsellers, so is the Hangover Suite located at the Tower Club, a three-bedroom sprawling 266-square metres space with four separate balconies to savour the Bangkok skyline from different angles and a whole host of complimentary luxury services. But fear not if you can’t get a booking – the hotel still has 357 other suites to offer, and a staff of over 700 from 18 countries at your disposal, including in-suite masseurs who bring soothing spa music along with their sweet-smelling oils.

Located in the heart of Bangkok at the corner of Charoen Krung and Silom roads, and just a few minutes away from the city’s most popular attractions and markets, the Lebua is a member of Preferred Hotels & Resorts, a luxury collection in which member hotels must embrace an extensive 1,600 item annual quality assurance programme. The luxurious rooms here offer breathtaking vistas of the Chao Phraya River and come with kitchenettes, home entertainment centres and Bulgari amenities in all bathrooms. The high-end suites in Tower Club also offer complimentary mini-bars, broadband and video-on-demand, along with access to the super-elegant Tower Club Lounge, where you can sip coffee from gilded cups as you view the city around you from an opulent vantage point.

Fine dining is, in fact, refined to an art at the Dome – a collection of super exclusive fine-dining experiences including Sirocco, where per head costs start from THB 4,300 excluding taxes for a tasting menu. The Dome is also home to the startlingly innovative Mezzaluna, a ‘modern European’ restaurant headed by celebrity twin chefs Thomas and Mathias Suhring. With a formidable background in haute cuisine, the German duo create a new menu every evening using the latest in culinary technology and the finest seasonal ingredients from around the world. Mezzaluna entrenched itself firmly on the global epicurean landscape when it held a ‘million-baht dinner’ in 2007, a gourmet extravaganza that was ‘invitation by request’ only for a few of the world’s who’s who and lauded as the world’s most expensive dinner. The event was the grand finale of the Epicurean Masters of the World Part II, a one-of-its-kind gourmet festival that saw several Michelin Star-awarded chefs congregate under one roof. The six-course tasting menu at the Mezzaluna includes unexpected ingredients such as ‘forgotten vegetables’ from around the world topped with freshly grated winter truffles from Europe, and kumamoto oyster served with cauliflower, sea lettuce, turmeric and dashi. With wine pairing, the price for one person’s meal starts from THB 6,900, excluding taxes.

For those in a mood for more Asian fare – after all, you are in the strategic fifteenth-century capital of the historic Siam – head to Breeze on the fifty-second floor of the Tower Club. Dig into Chinese savouries created by executive chef James Ho and his team, against the backdrop of a 25-metre high neon-lit sky-bridge. Else, you could always have a drink at Distil or the Sky Bar, such as the 62 Gun Salute – a peg of which could set you back INR 35,000 ­– or wines that go up to THB 2 million per bottle. “A Russian billionaire flew in for one evening recently and ran up a bill for USD 100,000 – that’s been the most anyone has ever consumed in one meal,” recalls Ohri, who was the hotel’s first employee and has been here since.

Despite their rather exclusive clientele, Ohri insists the rules at the Dome apply to everyone, no matter who they are or what they are willing to pay. “Sirocco has twice refused entry to the prime minister of Thailand because they wanted table for 16 to 18 persons, and we don’t do large gatherings,” he says. “Another wealthy client once offered a million dollars to hire one of our restaurants for an evening – and that was just the cost of the food – but we said no.” Later in the evening, we observe a couple being turned away from Mezzaluna because they are in shorts and T-shirts. “The dress code at the Dome is very strict,” informs Kanokrat Kirkland, the amiable director of public relations.

Internationally acclaimed for its innovative business strategies and use of cutting-edge technology, the Lebua Hotels & Resorts chain – with properties in Bangkok, New Zealand and New Delhi – has been rated within the top 1 per cent of companies in the world in terms of customer satisfaction by TNS research. Interestingly, it started only as the Dome group of restaurants, and then developed a hotel at the same location when clients demanded a place to stay. Now, having redefined the landscape of luxury hospitality in Thailand, it has gone on to win several awards and its business strategies have become the active point of discussion in several top business schools around the world.

But business is the furthest from your mind as you take your morning coffee out to the spacious balcony in your suite, and gaze out at the vista below. The sun is just starting to come up but the city has never completely gone to sleep. The highways buzz with traffic 60 floors below you, vendors have begun their business of the day, and the river is abuzz with cargo boats. A gentle breeze picks up, bringing with it sounds of a multi-cultural city with a plethora of languages. The day ahead stretches out replete with luxurious delights. Who would ever want to say goodbye?

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