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There are worse views, considerably so, than the one I woke up to at The Moodie Report Interim Bureau in Nassau, the Bahamas this morning.
I’m staying at The Cove Atlantis and while it’s a pretty modest 22 degrees here today, that’s a whole lot warmer than the bitter 3 degrees I left behind in London.
I’m here to deliver a keynote address at US airport restaurateur and retailer OTG’s annual business partners meeting, which kicks off tomorrow morning, culminating in a gala event on Thursday night.
I flew in via Miami International Airport and thanks to a delayed onwards flight to Nassau had the chance to view some of the food & beverage offer at the Florida gateway. As always with US airports, there’s a lot of it (in outlet as well as portion terms) but the quality fluctuates wildly.
Wanting to stay reasonably close to my gate I opted for the pretty basic Islander Bar & Grill, where the food was fresh, fulsome and fair value. I chose a bowl of Bahamian Conch Fritters washed down with a nice chilled Kalik Gold beer from the Bahamas to get my taste buds prepared for the treats that await over the next few days. Even a starter size of fritters was way bigger than I had expected but who’s complaining? Anyway, I didn’t want to be a Conchientious objector.
I’ll tell you more about my Bahamian rhapsody in a future Blog because this one I want to dedicate to another airport, Mumbai Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport’s new Terminal 2 (pictured below).
Take a bow airport operator GVK. Take a bow Performa (Gate Gourmet) and Travel Food Services, who together run a brilliant common-use passenger lounge (more of that in a moment) on behalf of GVK and take a bow DFS and Flemingo for a duty free and general retail offer of a quality that you couldn’t possibly have dreamed of even five years ago in Mumbai.
As mentioned in an earlier Blog, I was in Mumbai to attend the wedding of Travel Food Services Chairman Sunil Kapur’s younger son Karan. Flying out in the wee small hours of the morning, I left myself plenty of time to experience the much-acclaimed T2, a facility I had last seen during its advanced building stages when I moderated the pre-tender concessionaires’ meeting a couple of years back.
[“Look up. A thousand white peacocks are in the sky” – the stunning ‘artitechtural’ magnificence of the new terminal’s ceiling]
[A lovely panoramic view of the splendid DFS/Flemingo duty free offer]
Alas I didn’t get much of a chance to see the retail or (public) food & beverage offer as I spent so much time enjoying the world’s first luxury common-passenger lounge, which opened in November.
It really is impressive (look out for a feature in coming weeks). The 30,000sq ft
lounge is spread across two levels and can hold up to 440 guests at a time. Its
features include concierge services, a smoking zone, extensive (and excellent) food & beverage of course, a bar, a luxury spa, shower and relaxation areas, a library and a business centre.
Fashion designer Sandeep Khosla and architect Alfaz Miller designed the
space based on a concept by Softroom Architects, with gold and silver themes
complemented by Jali screens, chandeliers and a glass peacock installation.
The business model is very interesting indeed and is being closely monitored by companies developing terminals elsewhere (and by airlines). Essentially the common usage concept means that airlines can offer a luxurious lounge experience to their premium passengers on a ‘pay per use’ concept, meaning no upfront investments and lower operating costs for airlines.
At the time of the opening, GVK Founder, Chairman and Managing Director Dr. GVK Reddy said: “The lounge reflects a kaleidoscopic vision of the dreams of India and the pulse of Mumbai, and is themed to give the travellers a blend of world-class local ambiences at the airport.”
Accompanied by Sunil Kapur (who with trademark generosity of spirit came to the airport to meet me after midnight just a day after what was must have been a truly exhausting ‘big fat Indian wedding’) and Performa Managing Director Beat Ehlers, I toured the three sections of the lounge.
The first-class section sits on the second level and provides à la carte dining, individual spa treatments and multi-lingual service staff. In premium class travellers have access to an exclusive lounge environment and 170 seats, as well as a buffet area equipped with a juice bar and whisky lounge. The business-class section seats 270 and has access to a variety of international dishes in the buffet area.
I can testify to the quality of the food and wine offer. Over a chilled flute of Veuve Clicquot and a couple of exquisite light bites delivered to us personally by the Chef, I perused the menus and discussed the concept with Sunil and Beat. The First Class wine list was… well, first class, ranging from Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc (one of six top whites) to the outstanding Marchesi Antinori Chianta Classico Riserva.
Then there’s the cuisine: a classic Khandvi platter with more twists than Elvis Presley in his prime; pan fried Kerala Queen scallops (pictured above); I can still taste the subtle spice of the coconut, tomato and coriander flavours); Lamb Purdah Biryani and much, much more. It’s the only airport lounge in the world with a Tandoori oven and it’s got much more to offer besides.
“It’s been a challenge to get everything right but it is good – now we want to be great,” Sunil told me. “We want to be known as one of the great airport lounges. From ambience to design, from service to food to hygiene… we’ve changed the rules of the [airport lounge] game.”
They certainly have. Look out for my feature, coming soon, where I’ll explore this fascinating concept further – and also take a look at T2’s astonishing, magnificent (I promise you the superlatives are justified) Art Wall programme (below), which is displayed on an 18 meter high wall that runs through the terminal for three kilometres.
At the time the programme was unveiled, curator curator Rajeev Sethi told The Wall Street Journal India, “Art must be brought into the public domain. The airport will receive far more visitors in one year than all the galleries and museums across India combined receive in even five years.”
Now isn’t that some vision? I can’t wait to explore the subject matter further (I am interviewing Karthi Gajendran, President Projects, who played a key role in conceptualising and executing the Art Wall program).
It’s stunning. A giant masterpiece. My only regret was that my experience of it was so cursory. But then how can you resist the GVK Lounge’s pan-fried Kerala scallops and an ice-cold glass of Veuve Clicquot? Only my own Bahamian Rhapsody could have drawn me away.
[Bahamian Lobster & Crab Cakes (left) with Arawak Conch Fritters on the balcony of The Moodie Report Interim Bureau at The Cove Atlantis…]
[… oops, almost forgot the main ingredient. All washed down with a cool Kalik Gold beer from the Bahamas, of course]
Love the article on Mumbai and totally agree it is an all-round tremendous offering in a spectacular new airport, but only the Duty Free shops are operated by DFS/Flemingo partnership. The Fashion and specialty shops as you exit Duty Free (that you kindly show in one of your photos) are operated by the Dufry/Nuance team in India, so maybe a little credit for them as well 😉
DCOO Dufry Middle East & India