Laith Al-Kaisy

This image shows the Shangri-La Suite

Shangri-La at the Shard 

The first Shangri-La I stayed at was in China, where the hotel looms on the upper floors of Beijing’s World Trade Centre complex. Not exactly subtle. The one in Paris – my favourite – is set in a Napoleonic family mansion, where you can wake up to an eyeful of the Eiffel.

The Palace Neighbour

Many property developers pride themselves on providing only the absolute superlative of services to their clientele. Imagine then, hearing a CEO nonchalantly mention that they actively try not to interact too much with their clients. Bemusing, right? However, take a step back to think why this may be the case and you’ll catch a glimpse of realisation as to why Northacre are the formidable powerhouse of the London property scene.

Big Trouble In Little China

As we coast through a jigsaw of traffic, my guide points out the sights. “On the left, there’s a new office building. On the right, there’s a government office building. Up ahead, that’s one of the city’s first five-star hotels”. For a country so staunchly proud of its politics, China is overtly obsessed with the superficialities of capitalism. Only here could a bland office block be of any interest, yet there is something forgivably earnest about it. I ask the driver to put some music on, and in the spirit of no-nonsense socialism, he produces a CD simply called ‘Disco’. Welcome to China, where irony just shrivels up and dies….

The Globe & Rainbow, TN17

Goudhurst. I couldn’t even pronounce it properly, let alone find it on the map. But this is where Gemma, the other half, decided to bring us for my birthday. We’ve been scouting villages around London, making a shortlist of places that are charming enough to call home—you know, buy a house, get nestled, and eventually fire out some little ones. So this was as much a reconnaissance as a celebration. One of the great, incontrovertible truths about England is that, deep down, we’d all rather be in the countryside. If you don’t feel it now, you will. The English weren’t built for the city and its Faustian promises. We’re too…

Fiji

Bula. A word said so many times that it would lose all meaning by the end of the trip. You see, in Fiji, it’s more than just a word. It’s a sound, an exchange, a feeling that embodies positivity and means almost everything: hello, welcome, ‘sup, health, happiness, love, life, existence, sex, yes, thank you, and pretty much everything in between. Fijians like to philosophise about the subtle abstraction of the word, but there’s nothing subtle or abstract about Fiji or its people. They’re best amongst us: the pure of heart, the good Samaritans, the hopeless inertia of honesty and hard work, the transnational smile, the lazy breeze that cools…

Likuliku Lagoon Resort, Fiji

The sound of choral singing skips like sunlight across the sea as we approach Likuliku. The staff are out to greet us, stood on the edge of the long wooden pier, dressed in traditional garb of sulus and bark-made warrior skirts, with guitars strumming to the echo of the ocean. I can taste the water spraying in my face as our boat speeds toward the resort. As their carol gets louder, the joy is palpable; a welcome as warm as the climate. We didn’t know it yet, but this type of reception is typical in Fiji: serenaded on arrival, gifted with a traditional seashell garland, and showered with cocktails. Typical,…

Taveuni Palms, Fiji

It’s raining. What’s Plan B, Barry? “There is no Plan B.” Other than ‘the bride’s done a runner’, these are the last words you want to hear on your wedding day. But here we are: Taveuni Palms, north east Fiji, hoary clouds sagging low in the sky, and a tangible unease as we quaff champagne and smoke cigarettes, praying for the sound of patter to dissipate. We’d arrived the day before, landing at Matei Airport, which more closely resembles a wooden shack, where one man sits, glances at your passport and waves you through with a resounding ‘bula’. Colleen, one half of the husband-and-wife team who manage Taveuni Palms, is…

Quattro Passi

I remember watching the restaurant scene in the opening of American Psycho in my late teens thinking, ‘I wonder if the Upper East Side is actually like that?’ ‘Are the plates really the size of a platter?’ ‘Is the food symmetrical?’ ‘Do the waiters still serve the dishes with silver service perfection and in unison, like well-rehearsed Russian synchronised swimmers?’ When I perused the menu for Quattro Passi, I decided that it would play host to 2015’s fabled editorial meeting between myself and The Review’s Editor-in-Chief. One useless piece of information: rarely do you meet an individual with such a diehard appreciation of only one cinematic genre (horror). Laith Al-Kaisy…

Oblix

There’s an equal measure of pros and cons to not living in London. For instance, I’m always last to know about a new launch in the city: con. I can travel at leisure through Bristol without having to delouse: pro. What it does mean, though, is that our London-based editorial team get the pick of the litter when it comes to new London eateries. Before I could even pick up the phone, our voracious editor and his digital girlfriend had already explored and reviewed every restaurant that The Shard has crammed into its lofty 72 floors. Arguably, this doesn’t happen often. There are indeed enough comestibles in London for us…

Top Dishes of the Year

I’ve never given anything ten out of ten. Not food, not sex, not a book, not a film, not an album, and certainly not a restaurant. Imagine the existential impasse, the cultural cul-de-sac of grading things immaculately.  What would be left, except to die the perfect death? To me, nine out of ten is the highest possible accolade. If you get a nine, that’s an idiot’s ten. But don’t be fooled – it’s still not perfect. Perfection can only be judged once you’ve tried everything else. When I’m on my deathbed, only then will I go back and revise all the eights and nines, because only then will I have…

Palm, SW1

I was looking forward to Palm, mainly because of its ethnicity: an American steakhouse in London. Steak is properly Yankee. Where the French do poncey fillet mignon, America serves cuts of beef that are bigger than a trucker’s steering wheel. I’d recently been eating pokey bits of meat with dribbles of sauce, so was ready to tuck a table cloth into my shirt collar and tackle an animal in gravy; something I’d have to dislocate my jaw to eat. The menu is definitely, definitively American. Everything is bigger and better, like Toys ‘R’ Us on a plate. To start, we shared jumbo shrimp and calamari fritti. The portions were perfect….

Apsleys, SW1

There’s a certain pretension that comes with food critique. When starting out, it’s a marvel. I appreciated every opportunity to travel, eat and write. I was putting odder things in my mouth than most Dutch prostitutes — although sea cucumber (a giant slug, not a fruit) could be mistaken for a flaccid businessman. But that’s the deal: digest food, regurgitate words, by any means necessary.  It doesn’t last. Soon enough you find yourself skipping dinner with friends because the restaurant doesn’t bake its own bread or clean its vegetables in holy water. Critics get snobbish and bloated with expectation, like foodie traffic wardens, ready to slap tickets on the slightest gastronomic…

Decadence in Dubrovnik

Croatia’s fairytale city, Dubrovnik is every bit as enchanting as Paris or Venice. Indeed, the city has slowly become a go-to destination for the au courant, as well as the rich and famous.  Our editor, Laith Al-Kaisy, took a seven-day tour of the city to see how the post-war mindset and investment has helped cultivate some of the most indulgent experiences in Europe Dubrovnik Palace Straight ahead, beyond the French doors and over the balcony, the edge of Dubrovnik gently falls into the Adriatic Ocean. It’s too dark to actually see, but it’s there. You can hear the water playfully slap the brusque, arid rocks that peg the land’s end….

Cinnamon Kitchen, EC2

We got escorted off the premises of Cinnamon Kitchen the other day. The lady and I were frogmarched to the roadside by the scruffs of our necks and admonished for doing the unimaginable, the abominable, the detestable: smoking. It was like being back at school. There we were, two grown adults, merrily imbibing the night, suddenly cut down by these health fascists. I understand not smoking next to the front door, but in an empty seating area? C’mon, guys, don’t cack on free choice. Other restaurants would be thankful to have a drippingly cool couple who think they’re Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall smoking outside. This is Shoreditch, after all….