The competitive luxury travel scene is all about making powerful impressions – not just once but at every turn. Fortunately, like the luxury goods that make up much of its portfolio, this is something the new LVMH group hideaway Cheval Blanc Randheli in the Maldives has been designed to do from the ground up.
Text by Nick Walton
First impressions begin at Male’s bustling airport where we’re met by greeters dressed in the resort’s signature earthy grey and cream uniforms, are checked in for the 45-minute seaplane trip out to the Noonu Atoll, and escorted to Cheval Blanc’s own lounge, a cool, serene space of vaulted ceilings, chic furniture and diligent staff.
Cheval Blanc has taken this seaplane experience – a usually stiflingly-hot and cramped necessity to reach the remote atolls – to the next level with its own luxury, Italian calf leather-clad Twin Otter de Havilland, which caters to just nine guests instead of the usual 17. Staff dish out bottles of chilled water (“cooling kits” and wireless headsets are still to come), and the result is more akin to a private jet journey rather than a noisy, sweat-inducing hardship.
At the resort my wife and I are met at the marina by Hanna, our Moroccan ‘experience alchemist’, who, with our majordome, a rather serious young Maldivian named Nasheed, is tasked with organizing the many elements of our stay, from excursions to spa treatments, to candle lit dinners.
With the affluent traveller in mind, Cheval Blanc Randheli’s 45 villas are far more than just rooms in which to lay your head; they are decadent, sumptuous intelligently-designed spaces that have a distinct residential feel to them, as if you’ve entered the private beachfront home of a world-class fashion designer. The brainchild of celebrated architect Jean-Michel Gathy, each villa seamlessly marries contemporary interiors with its glorious surrounds.
Our beachfront villa is cathedral-like, with soaring ceilings accentuated by thick rattan rafters and towering slatted doors that create three unique spaces – a spacious living room, a master bedroom, and a decadent bathroom that opens onto an outdoor shower the size of a squash court. At the rear of the property is a covered dining table, ideal for in-villa barbeques. Facing the beach is an extensive private swimming pool and a shaded terrace, while to one side is another twin share guest room complete with a spacious bathroom and plenty of luxurious touches, from leather-topped writing desks and intimate lighting to lavish linens and signature bathroom amenities. Villas are well separated and set far from the main path through the resort ensuring absolute privacy; its takes us three days until we see another guest on ‘our’ stretch of beach.Click to view slideshow.
If you can drag yourself from you villa – and many guests can’t resist the temptation to hibernate in these decadent surrounds – then the resort continues to surprise. You don’t typically go to remote places for world-class cuisine – you’re there to escape and sometimes seclusion comes at a culinary cost – but the LVMH resort has turned that concept on its head with a handful of truly world class restaurants hidden away down painted corridors behind towering coconut groves.
Breakfast, lunch and some dinners are served at White, an elegant space that blurs the lines between inside and out with plenty of glassed-off rooms, big French doors and sea views. Breakfasts here are a symphony of elegance and flavour, while the weekly al fresco barbeques are not to be missed. Beyond White is another decidedly urban space, complete with fluro-pink zebra prints, chic white furniture and fantastic martinis served by some of the best bar staff in the Maldives.
Then there are the eateries that work on a roster; Deelani, an intimate open space located at the marina, serves up authentic Maldivian dishes, grilled fish and meat and innovative pizzas and is our favourite for lunch. Diptyque – a translation of split personality – is a fun show kitchen, serving a Spanish degustation menu on one half and a Japanese tasting menu on the other. Diners peer through the kitchen at each other as the sommelier laces the encounter with chilled verdejos and warm sakes.
The piece de la resistance has to be Le 1947, a world-class fine dining restaurant, that not only boasts a cigar divan and an enviable wine cellar manned by sommelier Julien Laugier, but also has a private dining experience called La Table de Partage with bespoke menus for groups travelling together. Named for Château Cheval Blanc’s most sought after grand cru, 1947 serves up modern French cuisine using timeless techniques.
When you’re not tantalising your taste buds or hiding from the world in your sprawling villa, the Cheval Blanc Spa, located on its own island, features just six spa villas, where luxurious treatments by Guerlain are conducted by a dedicated team of therapists. There is also an comprehensive fitness centre with regular yoga sessions, entertaining spaces for both teens and tots, an addictive golf simulator, and a modern dive centre that offers everything from introduction courses through to multi-dive day excursions to local dive sites.
Singapore Airlines and Malaysian Airlines have regular flights between Bali and the Maldives.
Cheval Blanc Randheli is part of the LVMH Hotel Management.