At The Londoner Macao, pan-India star Pooja Hegde dives head-first into authentic British experiences like hopping on a double-decker bus, getting a selfie with Big Ben, and watching the Palace of Westminster bedecked in enchanting hues.
Produced by Aindrila Mitra
Co-produced by Chirag Mohanty Samal
Photographed by Tarun Khiwal
Assisted by Abhishek Verma and Ratandeep Singh
Make-up by Kajol Mullani
Hair by Suhaas Shinde
Styled by Who Wore What When
Assisted by Shubham Jawanjal and Chaitanya Balvant
Location: The Londoner Macao
“Navy blue looks good on him,” says Sandra West, David Beckham’s mom in his docu series on Netflix. And this accounts for the colour palette in the David Beckham suite at The Londoner Macao, the location for our cover shoot with pan-India actor Pooja Hegde. The clean, clutter-free, and elegant interiors remind one of Beckham rattling on in his documentary about how he likes to clean his space right after a party when everyone’s in bed as he likes to wake up in a home that’s in perfect order.
As the crew prepared for the first shot, our cover star Hegde, a popular name in both Bollywood and the southern film industry wandered off to explore the space that has “all the home comforts he (Beckham) enjoys when travelling.” There are family portraits of the Beckhams—a photo of Victoria behind the camera shot by the couple’s son Brooklyn finds pride of place in the living area and a black-and-white photo of young Beckham is mounted on the wall of the private bar. To me, it felt like the family home of the Beckhams and could almost imagine David popping out of the bar and offering a drink.
The gold detailing on the walls, the DB monogrammed cushions, pillows, and bathrobes, and the number 8 pattern seared on iron fixtures on the sliding doors opening to the ensuite bathroom have been designed by London’s David Collins Studio with suggestions from Beckham. This suite is a part of the 14 Beckham suites that occupy the top two floors of The Londoner Hotel. These suites, however, are available only by invitation and not everyone can sign up to stay here.
A Piece of London in Macao with Pooja Hegde
Macau, the Las ‘Vegas of Asia’, has a UK-themed integrated resort called The Londoner Macao at Sands Resorts Macao of which Beckham is the global brand ambassador. The facade guests see on arrival at The Londoner Macao is a realistic interpretation of the Palace of Westminster, also known as Houses of Parliament. Famous London landmarks have been reproduced with great attention to detail, like the life-size replica of Big Ben that chime on the hour and a glass-canopied porte cochere modelled after the one at London’s Victoria Station. Right in the middle of the Crystal Palace atrium is a full-scale Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain with Anteros, the Greek god of selfless love, perched on top and statues of Henry VIII and Elizabeth strategically placed at different corners.
For our next shot, we chose Elizabeth Tower, popularly known as Big Ben, as the backdrop. Hegde fondly recounted moments from her recent family holiday in London, where she had to jostle for space to take a photo with her parents in front of Big Ben. “Here you can get a nice picture (of Big Ben) without the crowd,” she added with a smile.
A few minutes away from the clock tower, we found the iconic red double-decker bus. The original 1966 London bus has a small driver’s compartment and an open platform at the back, which particularly caught the fancy of Hegde. She joyously stepped on and off the platform as we got yet another perfect shot.
The Londoner Macao that opened gates in 2021 but officially launched in May this year, completes the Europe-themed triptych by Sands Resorts Macao, following The Venetian Macao’s 2007 debut and The Parisian Macao’s unveiling in 2016. Situated at the heart of the Cotai Strip, The Londoner Macao initially began as the Sands Cotai Central in April 2012. Later, Las Vegas Sands decided to spruce up the property with a London theme. The revamping started in 2019, and the property reopened to the public in 2021.
Today, there are five global hotel brands in The Londoner Macao— The Londoner Hotel, an all-suite luxury hotel with approximately 600 suites; Londoner Court with 368 super-premium multi-bay suites from one to four bedrooms; the 659-room Conrad Macao; the 400-room The St. Regis Macao; and Sheraton Grand Macao, which, at 4,001 rooms, is the largest Sheraton in the world.
The best part about being at The Londoner Macao is that it’s a self-encompassing retreat with plenty of diversions to keep the entire family occupied.
As our cover star took a break in between shots, I used the time to take a ride on the Black Cab Escape—an adventure inside an iconic London taxi with Beckham’s hologram for company. At the beginning of the trip, Beckham turns back and says ‘Ni Hao’, the Mandarin for “hi there” and this is followed by the Spice Girl’s famous Wannabe number as the driver navigates through brightly lit London streets.
Next up on my list was the It’s Tea Time installation that features giant tea cups adorned with typical British symbols like crown jewels, famous landmarks, and Shakespeare. It was an Alice in Wonderland moment. Ladies dressed in tea party clothes with flowing hats and gowns hover around the installation posing for pictures with eager guests.
If you are travelling with kids, the Magical Alley at The Londoner Macao is a fantastical place with a Harry Potter vibe. The curiosity shop, for instance, has an intriguing mix of antiquities, oddities, paintings, and photographs that come alive. But it was the Gallery window with its classic portraits that completely took me by surprise. As I was looking at the still-life portrait, suddenly the lady in it moved and glanced at the gentlemen in the nearby painting and clapped. Baffled, I looked around to see all the paintings interacting with each other.
Nostalgic explorers and active shoppers both have a reason to visit The Shoppes at Londoner. With over 150 stores, the shopping mall inspired from London’s Oxford Street, offers a mix of chic boutiques you would find at Bond Street, Mayfair or Savile Row, and quaint stores nestled in the bylanes of Soho and Covent Garden. Distinctive details like a Victorian-era elevator and replicas of the Greater London Blue plaques with names of famous people in British history alongside urban stores justifiably capture the essence of London—a complex knot of old and new.
Few resorts have such a concentration of dining options—grand restaurants with big reputations and extravagant food—as The Londoner Macao. Dining here is an adventure. The place offers an eclectic range of British, Asian, and international dining, from British-inspired restaurants to celebrity chef dining outlets, you will find it all.
We took a lunch break along with Hegde at North Palace, a restaurant offering traditional Shandong, Beijing, and Inner Mongolia cuisine from northern China, prepared by chefs from that region. Inspired by classic Chinese mansions, the decor had traditional Chinese art and patterns. The chef served a wide array of delicious dishes for the crew. These dishes were as much a treat for the eyes as they were for rumbling tummies. Our cover star ardently clicked photos of the dishes for the ‘gram.
Post lunch, the crew moved to The Huaiyang Garden for the next shot. The food at the restaurant is curated by Master Chef Zhou Xiaoyan, renowned as ‘The Godfather of Huaiyang Cuisine’. The pretty interiors are modelled after ancient Chinese gardens, the walls are spattered with beautiful nature paintings and the muted lighting immediately puts you at ease and lets you savour authentic Huaiyang delicacies. Hegde looked like a piece of art as she got clicked with the wall of the restaurant as a backdrop.
Some of the other notable restaurants at The Londoner Macao are The Churchill’s Table, a British-themed eatery designed like classic Victorian food halls; The Mews, a Thai restaurant with a ‘secret’ door leading to the dining area; and Gordon Ramsay Pub & Grill, the celebrity British chef’s gastropub that serves an array of draught beers, cocktails, and classic British cuisine. In addition to the signature restaurants, The Londoner Macao offers other renowned restaurants like Chiado and The Conservatory.
For the final shot of the day, we moved to The Bar at The Residence, a British-style exclusive club for The Londoner Hotel guests. The Residence offers guests a peek into the sophisticated and luxurious London lifestyle. The Bar, which includes a billiard room, balcony, and outdoor terrace is inspired by the famous British wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill. A column, near the door leading to the balcony is festooned with Churchill’s quotes and it made me stop as I caught the reading on the wall (literally), ““out of intense complexities, intense simplicities emerge.”
By the time we wrapped up the shoot, it was almost time for the Londoner Light and Sound Spectacular—a grand spectacle in which The Londoner Macao’s 16,000-square-metre (400-metre-long and 40-metrehigh) facade is lit up in entrancing hues, accompanied by some of the most recognisable British-themed music. The Londoner Macao succeeds in creating a distinctive British experience and as Pooja Hegde sums it up, “It (The Londoner Macao) is all in one; if you want to just relax and see London in its glory without having too many tourists around, this is the right place.”
Frequently Asked Questions
— What’s the best way to reach Macau from India?
Cathay Pacific (cathaypacific.com) has daily flights from Delhi and Mumbai to Hong Kong. Macau is an hour’s drive from Hong Kong.
— Which is the best stay option in Macau?
There are five global hotels in The Londoner Macao, the ideal stay option while visiting the region. The Londoner Hotel, an all-suite luxury hotel (doubles from INR 99,004); Londoner Court, with super-premium multibay suites (doubles from INR 1,42,823); Conrad Macao (doubles from INR 14,092); The St. Regis Macao (doubles from INR 23,707); and Sheraton Grand Macao (doubles from INR 22,433).