Taking a break from designing new hotels for Mandarin Oriental and Equinox, Joyce Wang heads to North America for a fantasy stay deep in canyonlands.
Where are you?
The exact meeting point of the four corner states of New Mexico, Utah, Arizona and Colorado.
How did you get there?
A rickshaw, a donkey and a large cane are rotated between my husband, two children and myself; we look like a scene out of Exodus. I like the idea of roughing it prior to a luxurious holiday, and at the same time teaching our children the value of hard work and the concept of carbon footprint.
Who is there to greet you on arrival?
Claude, a Japanese butler from Yakumo Saryo in Tokyo. He appears out of nowhere to greet us, offers us cold towels, aloe vera and leis of the desert flower, then mysteriously disappears.
And who’s at the concierge desk?
Xavier, a Frenchman and concierge at Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, London. He gives us an overview of the merchants who trade rare antiques and objets in the canyon, and sets up a few meetings for during our stay.
Who are you sharing your room with?
My husband Stefan and our toddler children, Wolf and Wren.
Is there anything you would like waiting for you in your room?
Water in glass vats (lots of it), a collection of well-designed wooden toys to keep the kids busy and a raw silk rug to frolic on.
Describe the hotel, your room and the view…
The hotel is nestled in the deepest part of the canyon. It takes cues from Tom Ford’s Texan ranch and has hints of Kubrick’s Space Odyssey. Like David Chipperfield’s Neues Museum in Berlin, it’s difficult to distinguish new from old, authentic from invented, raw from refined. The aesthetic is at once Jurassic and futuristic, the hospitality is understated yet en pointe and will require several stays to truly appreciate. Lighting is dramatic, filtering through the undulating canyon, expressing itself as beams of intense sunlight at midday. The changing weather is our view. Through our porthole windows, we witness flash floods of biblical proportions every few hours, with driftwood and rocks washed through from upstream. The kids have a workshop making dream-catchers from the remnants, whilst Stefan and I have a signature hot stone massage followed by much needed podiatry treatments.
Who designed it?
Architect Carlo Scarpa, film director Stanley Kubrick, composer Philip Glass and visual artist Tatiana Trouvé; they went on holiday together and designed the hotel like it was their first album.
What’s the restaurant and bar like?
A rope bridge takes us from the hotel to the vertical face of the canyon, where private dining balconies are dug into the rock face at varying elevations. From afar, it’s a public spectacle like in Roman times; yet in the privacy of our own balcony, we’re free to indulge. Our kids can rip into food like cavemen without a second glance from other guests.
Who are you dining with this evening?
My husband; comedian Ali Wong; Stephen Tennant – a good ol’ fashioned party animal; filmmaker David Lynch; and fashion designer Michèle Lamy.
Who’s manning the stoves?
Peruvian chef and restaurateur Virgilio Martínez Véliz. He forages ingredients from every altitude and introduces flavour combinations that are unexpected yet delicious.
And what’s on the menu?
Virgilio prepares a bacchanal style of amuse-bouche featuring seasonal ingredients from the land – a visual and gastronomic delight to tease the senses. The best tomato soup I have ever had is from Sorrel River Ranch a couple miles away, so that is sent over for sampling. The main dish is Tex-Mex inspired to fully benefit from the location – a grilled smoky protein with an accompaniment made from corn, topped with generous helpings of queso.
Would you like something to drink with that?
My choice of drink is water; I can tell a Badoit from an Evian. Here, we’re served chilled spring water that has been filtered through carbonous rocks.
What’s in the mini-bar for a night cap?
Milk and cookies.
What’s on your nightstand at bedtime?
An auto-bedtime reader that miraculously puts the kids to sleep.
This article originally ran in Sleeper 79 (July/August 2018)