Experience island sophistication like no other at LVMH’s Cheval Blanc Randheli Maison in the Maldives
Luxury goods conglomerate, LVMH, is the quintessence of French art de vivre. Housing 75 of the most recognisable brand names within the realms of high fashion, cosmetics, fine jewellery, wine and champagnes under its umbrella, every name within its portfolio – Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior, Guerlain, Dom Pérignon, to name a few – is the epitome of excellence within its genre… if only it designed hotels. Well, it just so happens that it does.
The Cheval Blanc roster of properties are the LVMH group’s luxury portfolio come to life. First inaugurated in 2006 with the launch of the Cheval Blanc ski Maison in Courcheval, the line-up now includes St-Tropez, Saint-Barthélemy, the Maldives and Paris. At the heart of these unique properties are four founding values: craftsmanship, exclusive privacy, creativity and Art de Recevoir – the art of hospitality.
Not for just anyone, created with LVMH’s luxury consumer in mind, Cheval Blanc Maisons are exclusive, reassuringly expensive with a very limited number of rooms available, and situated in carefully selected destinations that ensure they are accessible to only a lucky few. Enlisting superstars in the worlds of art, design and gastronomy – more often than not French in nationality, naturellement – to fine-tune every last detail, the properties strive to be the very best of the best.
Only a short four-hour flight from the UAE, the Maison in the Maldives, Cheval Blanc Randheli, is within closest reach of the Middle East. Hop on a plane or private jet and, before the second movie ends, touch down in Velana airport in Malé. Greeted at Arrivals and whizzed by chauffeur-driven car to domestic departures, should there be any waiting time before the 45-minute seaplane transfer to Noonu Atoll, where the Maison calls home, the Guerlain-scented private airport lounge offers a relaxing space in which to put your feet up and refresh in the interim – they will even check you in while you wait.
To ensure journeys to the island are as quick and direct as possible, the Maison is the proud owner of a private seaplane, so guests needn’t take the national airline with the rest of the hoi polloi. Easily spotted among the red Maldivian Air fleet, the Maison’s private jet is smartly emblazoned in its signature palette of Dior grey and sunshine yellow, with the recognisable Cheval Blanc emblem of a rearing white stallion stamped on the side.
Gliding down into the turquoise waters of the Noonu Atoll, Randheli’s Ambassadeurs, as the staff are affectionately known, line the pontoon waving an enthusiastic welcome. Introducing themselves one-by-one, as guests disembark each is paired with a Majordome – a private butler – who is charged with the management of the schedule, unpacking and overall happiness of their guests during their stay, and is available on speed-dial 24/7.
Jumping on the back of a golf buggy, within moments via palm tree-lined sandy paths, we arrive at our one-bedroom water villa – its white wooden fencing creating a dazzling contrast against the electric blue sea, punctuated by the bright yellow of an oversized ceramic pot in the corner of the terrace. This colour palette is at the core of Randheli, popping up on toiletries, artworks and upholstery, even the resort beach bags are in keeping with the Maison’s branding. So far, so LVMH.
Dramatic, heavy wooden doors mark the entrance to the villas, and inside we are greeted with modern interiors, quite unlike any others in the Maldives. Envisioned by French-Belgian architect Jean-Michel Gathy, also responsible for the design of such super-luxury hotel heavyweights as Aman, Banyan Tree, Mandarin Oriental and One & Only, the space is light and airy, with dramatic architectural high ceilings and floor-to- ceiling sliding glass doors that frame the spectacular views across the water like a vast panoramic painting.
Welcoming, but undeniably chic, the interiors are akin to those found in Parisian design hotels. Elegant wooden furniture contrasts with cream upholstery, offering a contemporary appeal, and pops of Randheli yellow are introduced courtesy of scattered cushions. Carefully curated ornaments and design books pepper the surfaces, reminding us of LVMH’s fashion heritage.
It might be an island destination, but the accommodation offers state- of-the-art mod-cons from the city, including iPad remote controller to operate the TV, sound system, blinds, and to set the room temperature just as you like it. This is island living at its most sophisticated.
While our Majordome, Alau, unpacks into the walk-in wardrobe, the private infinity pool on the terrace beckons. With the help of a giant floating beanbag and uninterrupted views over the lagoon, daily stress instantly melts away under the hot Maldivian sunshine, and we come to understand firsthand the “exclusive privacy” that Cheval Blanc is all about.
The villas are cleverly positioned at an angle that means not one overlooks another, so complete privacy can be enjoyed when relaxing in the infinity pool, or dining on the terrace, no doubt why most guests, according to our Majordome, choose to spend the majority of their time ordering from the exceptional in-room dining to remain relaxing in their rooms.
Should you wish to venture out, the “culinary art” of the five restaurants and bars is absolutely worth the risk of bumping into another guest. The food is of the very highest standard in all venues, and there is enough on offer that gastronomic boredom should never set in.
Sunset is best enjoyed at the aesthetically-pleasing White Bar Beach Club surrounding the main swimming pool. Settle into a daybed with a drink in hand, expertly shaken by the mixologist, and listen to tailor-made tunes spun by the in-house DJ, while enjoying handcrafted canapés as the sky turns from orange-to-pink-to-black. Sundowners could be followed by a casual dinner at The White restaurant, which offers a relaxed atmosphere and extensive menu that caters to any culinary whim.
Should you fancy some excellent Mediterranean cuisine, venture to Deelani headed up by chef Andrea, who brings authentic Italian dishes to this remote corner of the Maldives.It might seem strange to eat fresh pasta in the middle of the Indian Ocean, but the Cacio e Pepe and lobster linguine is sure to seduce.
For something extra special, however, the 14-course degustation menu at Le 1947, the French fine dining restaurant, is a culinary experience you will talk about for years to come. Le 1947 offers an elegant atmosphere in which to indulge in world-class cuisine, usually reserved for capital cities, not remote islands.
Beautifully presented dishes, such as Foie Gras terrine, scallop carpaccio and seaweed tartare are served in sculptural Isabelle Poupinel ceramic dishes under crystal chandeliers, to be eaten with Cristofle silver cutlery. Should the air conditioning give you goosebumps, a pashmina spritzed with Guerlain Exclusive Collection perfume will be wrapped around your shoulders, such is the Ambassadeurs’ attention to Cheval Blanc’s “art of hospitality” mantra.
While this may all sound very grown up, don’t be mistaken that the Maison is solely for adults. Randheli is very child-friendly. Families are welcomed with open arms, and a long list of activities, and a dedicated kids club, Le Carrousel, is in place to keep them entertained while parents unwind. Watersports, dolphin cruises and cooking classes can be arranged, or they can entertain themselves in Le Paddock, the well-equipped games room.
For the adults, nothing beats a spa day to aid rejuvenation. Hop on a dhoni to the Spa Island where a heavenly treatment list awaits, courtesy of Guerlain, and leave your relaxation in the capable hands of the spa Ambassadeurs. Massages, facials, even a Hammam, are performed in villas overlooking the ocean. Let the lapping waves lull you into a higher state of conciousness, and forget about life as you know it.
It only takes a long weekend to reap the benefits that Cheval Blanc Randheli bestows, but a week would be a dream. For those who have the means, this is a remote getaway that feels like a home-from-home, devoid of pretension – despite its LVMH label – that will remain in your memory, and call you back time and time again.
LVMH’s Cheval Blanc Randheli Maison in the Maldives is reopening on August 15; Chevalblanc.com
Read Next: A Luxury Emerald Isle Adventure
- Words by Natascha Hawke