Cheval Blanc Rhandeli serves up glam island life
If style is what you’re after, Cheval Blanc Rhandeli has it in profusion. And not gaudy opulence, but a contemporary aesthetic so pleasing to the eye, taking in your surroundings is a joy. The luxury hospitality brand developed by the LVMH Group means that every last detail, from the Christian Dior amenities to the gift shop touting an exclusive Hublot watch crafted especially for the resort, and uniforms that wouldn’t look out of place in fashion glossies, is decided by an in-house team with an eye for elegance.
Set in Noonu Atoll, a 40-minute seaplane ride from Malé, lies the 45-villa ‘Maison’ so striking that even from the air, it becomes obvious that looks come first, with manicured palms framing the shoreline and the Arch sculpture by Vincent Beaurin greeting guests as they arrive at the marina. Objet d’art and collectors’ items adorn the lobby, petrified wood pieces scattered around the island and Balinese ceramics bringing colour to the dining area.
This provides just a taste of what is to come with the mind- boggling villas, among the most beautiful I have set foot in. Our Garden Water Villa features elegant high-ceiling Balinese thatched roofs, an infinity pool made with Indian Ynan Black Honed stone and a very sexy bathroom, complete with double wardrobes – the perfect union of nature and impeccable design. It’s the stuff of architectural dreams and I’m tempted not to leave for the next four days.
With so much to do, it’s only a fleeting thought. A morning snorkelling excursion led by the vivacious elena was a brilliant way start to the day, watching angel fish glide effortlessly through blobby coral, distracted only by the rainbow created by a school of parrotfish.
Taking a sunset cruise for hand line fishing allows you to savour your catch back at the hotel, should you be so lucky. There were plenty of bites and those who caught emperor fish were in for a treat. The team on-board was extremely patient, helping rookies replace bait which was inevitably snatched away countless times.
Unfortunately we didn’t experience the same success on the dolphin cruise due to choppy waters, but it was still lovely to be out at sea and feel the warmth of the sun and breeze on the skin, mesmerised by the aquamarine water. Coincidentally we spotted a lone dolphin swimming near our villa while on a buggy traversing one of the bridges, which more than made up for their absence at sea. And almost anyone can feel like a seasoned photographer with such idyllic views.
On dry land, the resort hums with activity. There are fantastic private classes, including bootcamp and tennis (with courts built to Australian Open standards) which take place on their own dedicated island. On the main island of Rhandeli, the gym is home to HIIT (high-intensity interval training) classes, circuit training and core conditioning. We opted for boxing and learnt how to jab, hook and uppercut with combinations that put memory, coordination, strength and endurance to the test.
Lure of the Tropics
Some form of daily exercise should be a requirement, as the food is superb at Cheval Blanc Rhandeli. Some stays in picturesque settings leave you blissed out enough to overlook cuisine that may not be completely authentic, but that was certainly not the case here.
The White Bar takes all-day dining up a notch. No hectic breakfast buffets, only a refined à la carte selection with each dish executed to perfection. Favourites included Indian dosas, buttery pain perdu and exquisite eggs benedict. A small array of pastries, cereals and yoghurts are housed in an elegant glass-walled room. Their bircher muesli was the most delicious I have ever tasted, rivalled by sinful almond croissants, glazed doughnuts and coconut cake. If you have room for lunch, the sweet potato crab cakes and lobster avocado salad are also divine.
For a change of scene, The Deelani is set over water, a great spot for watching seaplanes take off and land as you savour a leisurely lunch. The open-air eatery serves Mediterranean fare, such as antipasti like aubergine and ham rolls, arancini, cold cuts and burrata, as well as pastas and crisp pizzas. In the evening, the langoustine prosecco risotto and strozzapretti with osso bucco ragout are highly recommended.
Our favourite dinner was at The Diptyque, where you can sit tableside and watch the chef work his magic on the grill, or sit al fresco and listen to the waves lap. each dish was more delicious than the next, and as good as any high-end Japanese restaurant in even the most cutting-edge gourmand city. The chicken gyoza, foie gras nigiri and rock shrimp tempura were the ultimate prelude to miso cod and wagyu skewers with moreish garlic fried rice. Mango sticky rice and whiskey chocolate fondant ended the feast, washed down with light, crisp sake.
The Finer Things
Another memorable experience was sailing over to the dedicated spa island in a traditional Maldivian dhoni. Relaxed to begin with, but something about the peace and rugged beauty of this very exclusive retreat made it ‘next level’. There was no need for words as we eased into our ridiculously comfortable seats at the Spa Bar, sampling from the healthy raw menu. The Vietnamese rice paper rolls, crab entrée, raspberry smoothie and homemade mocha were refreshing, and ensured we were not bursting at the seams prior to the massage.
As expected, the treatment rooms and changing area (complete with a full range of Guerlain cosmetics in every shade imaginable, a beauty junkie’s dream come true) oozes style, along with plush massage tables that coax you into slumber. After my excellent therapist discusses preferences as she gives me a foot scrub, it’s 90 minutes of heaven as every last knot is released to boost circulation and impart a sense of serenity. The island’s vivid flora and fauna offset by the tempestuous cobalt water are a visual treat, and even if you don’t indulge in a treatment, it’s a tranquil place to gather your thoughts and watch the sunset.
Once the sun goes down, there are plenty of ways to experience paradise by nightfall. One of the most memorable was Maldivian Night at The White Bar, listening to singers with the smoothest, velvety voices, interspersed by local dancing and drumming. We dined on traditional favourites like kulhi boakiba fish cakes, pumpkin mashuni mixed with coconut and tuna, and Maldivan seafood curry with our toes buried in the sand.
For something a little more romantic, Cinema Under the Stars is like a scene out of a movie with a table for two perched on the water’s edge of a secluded islet, with your film projected onto a screen set against a sky full of stars. Who needs popcorn when your own private chef whips up a decadent spread of lobster and steak? You’ll feel like the only two people on the island. As with every polished affair here, the senses are utterly seduced.