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The Best of 2015


T+L rounds up the coolest new openings in Bali, Rangoon, Hong Kong, Singapore and Sydney, plus a few highlights from the rest of the region. From boutique hotels, to homegrown fashion, to batter-fried chicken, each destination has some thing special to celebrate this year.

Published on Dec 9, 2015


BALI RESORTS
NEW VILLAS REFLECT LOCAL CULTURE ON INDONESIA'S ISLAND IDYLL. BY DAVID NGO

THE LEAF JIMBARAN
Balance and well-being just come with the territory at this luxury villa retreat in Jimbaran Bay, a beautiful stretch of coast known for its quiet beaches and fresh seafood. The sprawling The Leaf Jimbaran retreat opened in October 2015, with 40 private pool villas and 10 Leaf suites all designed to showcase the beauty of the outdoors. There is an onsite organic garden and glass walls facing lush private verandas to promote relaxation and harmony with nature. It is easy to unwind with a team of butlers, chefs, babysitters and personal trainers on call to take care of your every need, so you can focus on your every want.

The Leaf Jimbaran
An elegantly decorated lobby of The Leaf Jimbaran. Courtesy of The Leaf Jimbaran.

INAYA PUTRI BALI
The design of this garden estate, with 460 rooms spread across 9.1 hectares, is inspired by a traditional Balinese rice-barn or jineng. The revamped Indonesian architecture is set against a backdrop of tropical splendor, all white-sand beaches and swaying palm trees.

KATAMAMA
The group behind the famous Potato Head Beach Club opened this 58-room boutique hotel in sea-front Seminyak in December 2015. It is the group's first foray into hospitality, and they are going big, offering some of the largest living spaces of any hotel on the island. The 268-square meter one-bedroom penthouse has a spa bath, dining and lounge areas and its own bar spread across two stories of luxury living. Design and décor are the handiwork of local craftsmen, including tiles from Java and terrazzo made on site.

Katamama
Lounge or swim laps at Katamama, Potato Head Beach Club's new resort. Courtesy of Katamama.

PADMA UBUD
There's no such thing as a mediocre view at this river-valley oasis in Ubud, Bali's cultural heart; every single room offers a stunning vista, be it overlooking the 89-meter infinity swimming pool or staring out across the leafy expanse of the surrounding bamboo forest. All the little details are on-point reflections of Ubud's artistic community, from handcrafted lamps to carved wooden tables inlaid with opalescent shells.

 

RANGOON VIA CANCÚN
BURMA'S BIGGEST CITY IS DRUMMING UP LATINAMERICAN FLAVOR. BY MERRITT GURLEY

FAHRENHEIT
Follow the shine of marquee lights to this festive Mexican fusion restaurant. "We wanted to offer a relaxed atmosphere that was welcoming and affordable," says cofounder Jeewee van Rooij, "where people can drink and dance." On weekends the place is packed to the gills with friends spilling out into the street-side seating, clamoring for the dangerous Beerita (a Corona served upside-down in a pitcher of margaritas) and the savory Myanmar empanadas. + NIGHT SHELTER The team behind Fahrenheit also launched the city's first monthly club night in July 2015. The party will rotate venues, but regardless of the location, the crowd can always count on a hot DJ and great beats. Check facebook.com/EventsYG for upcoming dates.

Fahrenheit
Marquee lights, Mexican fusion and margaritas at Fahrenheit. Courtesy of Fahrenheit.

HUMMINGBIRD
This three-story dining concept set in heritage buildings has style points to spare. The first floor is a Latin American restaurant, the second level is a retro speak-easy, and the third floor is a fairy light strewn outdoor rooftop terrace. The menu is a modern take on Latin-American dining—try the rum-and-tequila-flamed prawns served with grilled watermelon, for example.

TIN TIN
A Mexican street-food-style restaurant and tequila bar, by 57below, the group that brought you Union Bar and Grill, Gekko and Parami Pizza, has set up shop on Bogalazay Street. The tacos, burritos and quesadillas are served up hot on industrialstyle copper, tin and timber tables. The menu was put together by Mexican chef Jorge Bernal, formerly the chef at Loco Mexican in KL, so expect hand-rolled tortillas and margaritas that pack a punch.

 

HONG KONG HOTELS
THESE DESIGN-LED BOUTIQUE STAYS ARE ALL ABOUT THAT HOMEY FEELING. BY HELEN DALLEY

TRIBUTE
This hip select-service lifestyle boutique hotel in Yau Ma Tei has collaborated with local entrepreneurs, artists and designers—including installation artist Trevor Yeung and eco-friendly toiletries brand So… Soap!— to provide a homegrown edge in each of its 24 rooms, which come in two sizes: small or large. Breakfast is served on dim sum carts stocked with nibbles from the best local cafés, and guests can wind down in the evening with seasonal beers from the city's Young Master Ales in the lobby. Every month, the hotel selects a Hong Kong tastemaker to share his or her favorite places in the city on its website and also equips guests with a smartphone packed with apps to make the most of the local surrounds.

Tribute
Lobby of Tribute. Courtesy of Tribute.

TUVE
Taking a stripped-down approach to design with its concrete walls and flooring is Tuve, a 66-room city bolthole in Tin Hau, a neighborhood filled with cupcake shops and cafés on the fringes of shopping hub Causeway Bay. The on-site restaurant, Silver Room serves European classics like tagliolini with fresh summer truffle.

HOTEL PRAVO
Steps away from Tsim Sha Tsui, MTR station, this apart-hotel from Ascott features 92 rooms and suites with five décor themes including mysterious purple and rock 'n' roll black. Splash out on a luxury suite, which comes with its own Jacuzzi, though even standard rooms feature a separate living area and cute touches such as decorated mirrors.

HOTEL POPWAY
The fabulous views over Tsim Sha Tsui from the Sky Deck, a rooftop terrace with a bar area and clusters of comfy sofas, is the undoubted highlight at the 63-room Hotel Popway. Set up by local entrepreneur David Lau, this hotel brand features balcony rooms where you can take in the glow of the skyline. Popcorn is a signature nibble of the hotel, and is incorporated into some of the dishes at the hotel's Uptop Bistro & Bar; try the pan-seared tiger prawns dipped in garlic salad dressing and coated with ground popcorn and parsley. If you're really hungry, bypass the popcorn and go straight for the Uptop Burger, a thick Wagyu beef patty with kimchi, applewood-smoked bacon and Monterey Jack cheese. popway.com.hk

 

SINGAPORE FASHION
STYLISH NEW STORES AND DESIGN LABELS ARE GIVING SHOPPERS GOOD REASON TO REVAMP THEIR WARDROBES. BY MELANIE LEE

W.E.+
What started as a series of pop-up installations featuring local fashion brands has now become a permanent row of shop-in-shop boutiques with a fusion lifestyle café to boot. W.E.+ houses local labels such as Atelier LLYR (shoes for men), Revolte (edgy women's wear with an in-store Style Bar offering fashion advice) and BSYM (by W.E.+'s founder Alfie Leong). 02-433 Suntec City Tower 5.

W.E.+
W.E.+ store is a curated collection of up-and-coming local fashion brands. Darren Soh.

COLLATE THE LABEL
Set up by Instagram fashion personality Velda Tan, who has 130,000 followers, Collate the Label debuted at 2015 Singapore Fashion Week with much fanfare for its versatility and clean, sophisticated lines. Following the mantra that less is more, pieces from its first collection such as its classic wide-legged crepe pants and the structured double peplum knit dress have been spotted on many a local celebrity. This up-and-coming label recently went to New York to participate in Coterie, a global fashion trade show, with sights on the international market.

FACULTY
While award-winning designer Larry Peh is better known for his graphic design and branding work, this hasn't stopped him from collaborating with Lenz Fan and Lyn She on a collection of menswear that straddles work and play attire. Their functional pieces have been cut to fit smaller Asian figures, and its star piece is a pair of Denim 15 Damaged jeans, made from selvedged denim from the Kuroki Mill in Japan with a deliberate worn-in look. Faculty is sold online (faculty.com.sg) and stocked at K+ at Scotts Square (03-14/15, 6 Scotts Rd.).


SYDNEY'S SNACKS
FOUR NEW RESTAURANTS WHERE ONE KEY INGREDIENT SHINES. BY IAN LLOYD NEUBAUER

THE CHICKEN INSTITUTE
Think of this small whitewashed Korean joint as Sydney's gourmet KFC: little steel pails piled high with batter-fried chicken thighs, crunchy and rich with flavor. There are four options, all tellingly prefixed with the words "damn good" and infused with chef Heaven Kim's Tex-Mex-inspired spices. The best seller is No. 4: damn good peanut butter chicken, prepared with coconut and jalapenos.

WATERMAN'S LOBSTER CO.
Rock lobsters from Queensland didn't cut it for the owners of this fresh and funky new seafood shack in an alleyway behind red-light district Kings Cross. Instead, they import north-Atlantic lobsters from Nova Scotia, where the high saline level and cold sea temperatures create the sweetest, spiciest meat on Earth. The lobster in Waterman's signature Connecticut-style roll is flash-fried in melted butter and crammed into a soft toasted hotdog bun—then crammed into your face.

Waterman's Lobster Co.
Chunks of Atlantic lobster grace a buttery bun at Waterman's Lobster Co. Courtesy of Waterman's Lobster Co.

SAKE
In the new InterContinental in ritzy Double Bay, this voluminous Japanese restaurant overflowing with marble comes alive with DJs and sugar daddies on weekends. But the real attraction lies behind the bar, where sake sommeliers serve varietals they characterize by alcohol content, sake meter value (higher is drying, lower is sweeter) and a percentage sign to indicate the amount of rice polishing. With hints of cinnamon, white flowers and banana, the Amabuki Chokarakuchi at 60 percent works incredibly well with a bowl of popcorn shrimp.

PORK'D
"We like to fatten you up," says the waitress at Pork'd, a low-key high-calorie diner in a refurbished Victorian terrace in swinging Surry Hills. From the Pigsy Plate—a Game of Thrones worthy platter of chili bacon, pulled pork, cider pork belly, smoked porter ham hock and kransky sausage—to the banh mi, a Vietnamese roll with masterstock belly, homemade pickles, chili and coriander, the menu is singlemindedly obsessed with helping patrons make pigs of themselves.

Pork'd
A low-key high-calorie diner in a refurbished Victorian terrace. Courtesy of Pork'd.

 

BEST OF THE REST

ACROSS ASIA: TOUR
AMAN PRIVATE JET EXPEDITIONS
What's the best way to get from astonishingly ancient point A to bucket-list beautiful point B? Gold star if you said Aman, who married their understated luxury with over-the-top adventure, in an epic, exclusive, private-plane trip that flew a few couples among their resorts in China, Bhutan, India and Sri Lanka. On the ground, each pair had a private car and guide so they could climb to Tiger's Nest monastery and scout Bengal tigers at their own pace. The next three journeys, in March and April 2016, will span China; traipse across Asia, from Amanpulo's Philippine island to the new Aman Tokyo; and tour Indonesia including sailings on Aman's own phinisis. The inaugural trip sold out in weeks, so we suggest you book now… then prime your passport for all the action.

SAIGON: HOTEL
THE REVERIE
Crystal walls and chandeliers, violet ostrich-leather furniture, a 19th-century grand piano refinished in malachite and bronze, glittering mosaic bathroom floors—this is the Cirque du Soleil of hotels, with its kaleidoscopic colors, aerial views, and rotating acts (of top-flight Italian designers) that take center stage depending on what room you're in. We're in love with the duplex Saigon suite by Visionnaire, full of baby-soft leather, but it doesn't have to cost US$12,500 a night to bask in their impeccable service, from the liveried doormen who tote your parcels to your room chatting away in stellar English to the restaurant managers who intuit your need for honey-ginger tea. At The Reverie, the six-star dream is very much alive.

The Reverie
The Italian-designed pool deck at The Reverie hotel, in Saigon. Courtesy of The Reverie Saigon.

BANGKOK: BRUNCH
KNOCK
You don't need to be a sneakerhead to be obsessed with kitchen-andkicks spot Knock's all-you-can-eat a la carte Sunday fun day full of American comfort food remixed: think wee buttermilk cupcakes with perfectly seasoned fried chicken bites. They've cut a giant hole in the bright green back wall and fully sawn off the ceiling, replacing it with a retractable roof, so you can sit inside and still have a sun-kissed Sunday brunch. Which—after the free flow Chandon and Bloody Marys swilled to the DJ's crowdpleasing tunes—will inevitably turn into a Sunday dance party. Forgot your dancing shoes? The sneaks are on sale upstairs.

 

 

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Booze, shoes, brunch: you name it, Knock's got you covered. Courtesy of Knock.
  • The pool cafe & bar of Padma Ubud. Courtesy of Padma Resorts.
  • Marquee lights, Mexican fusion and margaritas at Fahrenheit. Courtesy of Fahrenheit.
  • A big room's bunk bed of Tribute. Courtesy of Tribute.
  • A Comfort room offer a queen-size bed and floor-to-ceiling natural wood wall. Courtesy of TUVE.
  • The Katamama suite's terrace.  Courtesy of Katamama.
  • The Chicken Institute, Sydney. Courtesy of The Chicken Institute.
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