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Behind the Design: LUX Grand Gaube Resort, Mauritius

LUX Grand Gaube Mauritius

The new LUX Grand Gaube in Mauritius fuses colonial charm with contemporary design to create an incredible island retreat

It’s the middle of the day and we’re sitting in the shade on plump cushions, feasting on succulent lobster rolls and sipping dry white wine, the slender glassware cooling our hands. Work feels a million miles away, just the way we like it.

We’re in Mauritius at the new LUX Grand Gaube resort – but with design like this, you’d hardly think of it as a resort at all. It’s highly sophisticated interior design meets the tropics – no clichés, no shortcuts.

That’s because LUX enlisted celebrated interior designer Kelly Hoppen to work with local architect Jean-Francois Adam, and to stamp her unique aesthetic on all 186 guest rooms and suites, as well as the hotel’s many restaurants, cafés and bars. It’s LUX’s third hotel on the island, and   the most beautiful to date.

A South African native, Hoppen felt an immediate affinity with the surrounding landscape. “When I first went to see the land, it reminded me of places from my childhood,” she says. “My initial feeling of the place was its scent and its light.”

It’s certainly a spectacular location. Tucked away on a northerly peninsula, the resort curls around hills and beaches making the most of its direct waterfront position.

Set on the cusp of a rocky shore, Turkish restaurant Bodrum Blue is encircled by the lapping waves of the Indian Ocean.

The restaurant is decked with low-hanging woven lampshades of various shapes and sizes, reminiscent of jellyfish floating about. It’s all white and stripy, with touches of timber and deep-blue glassware, and the menu features dishes such as whole sea bass cooked in a wood-fire oven.

Hoppen’s distinctive style is apparent throughout the resort, notably in guest room ensuites where colourful, geometric wall tiles are a chic departure from the usual cookie-cutter resort style of creamy-toned stone.

“I wanted to do something different from the standard limestone that everyone uses in hotels and resorts in Mauritius,” she says. “I wanted to bring in splashes of colour because guests are in the heat and sunlight.”

At Peruvian restaurant INTI, ornate floor tiles are offset by vibrant red and pale-teal seating and grey banquettes. Chandeliers hang from a timber ceiling, while an intimate cocktail bar next door pumps out pisco sours framed by dramatic sea views. Even the salt bowls – handcrafted from olive wood with delicate brass detailing – confirm you’re in a cleverly designed space, somewhere that has been thought through rather than thrown together.

The food, too, reflects this attention to detail. Every day we dine on ocean-fresh seafood – sweet lobster tails; chilled ceviche; succulent tuna steaks grilled with fragrant curry leaves and lemongrass – and the sort of bread and pastries only former French colonies seem to get right: crisp, soft, chewy.

The grand entrance is perhaps the hotel’s most striking feature, delivering tantalising glimpses of the Indian Ocean through a giant archway.

Soaring, all-white wooden beams and Emmanuelle chairs are a nod to the island’s colonial past – “I didn’t want the ubiquitous honey-coloured wood that’s so typical of Mauritius,” says Hoppen – while the staff wear crisp white uniforms to complement the stripped-back scene.

Low-hanging pendant lights plunge into view, and right up front is a series of huge, bulbous, white wooden pendant lamps. “I wanted oversized, big pieces,” says Hoppen. “It’s kind of colonial, but I think Mauritius is a bit like that with its architecture.”

Championing Mauritian craftsmanship was also a priority. “We worked with a wonderful local artisan on the linen, bedding and towels, as well as the cushions, outdoor furniture and lighting,” she says. “We tried to use as much Mauritian labour as we could.”

 

The roofs of the hotel’s spa treatment huts also use traditional thatch techniques. It’s here you can spend leisurely days in the hot, tepid and freezing-cold pools, sauna and steam room or being pampered with facials and body treatments by the wonderful in-house masseuses.

Removing yourself from the resort can feel challenging, but it’s worth taking a day trip to Port Louis, the island’s lively capital. Our driver, Poojan Roberto Persand, offers to give us a tour of some local sights and eateries.

The Central Market is a bustling, souk-like maze, built in the 1830s and packed with trading stalls piled high with farm-fresh vegetables, exotic fruits, regional arts and crafts, and colourful scented spices.

We follow Persand’s lead to a tiny stall called Chez Bayo, although he tells us the locals know it simply by the owner’s name, ‘Mr Maraz’. “It’s the best dholl puri in town,” he says.

This classic Mauritian dish features soft, flaky flatbreads made from wheat and lentils rolled up around butterbean dahl and a generous dollop of sharp chilli sauce. We follow it with bajia – small crisp, savoury doughnuts – and fried slices of melt-in-the-mouth eggplant.

We head over to Alouda Pillay to sample the popular sugary alouda – a traditional drink made from sweetened milk and soft, nubbly drops of agar agar; think of it as the Mauritian equivalent of bubble tea.

L’Aventure du Sucre is a fascinating museum dedicated to sugarcane – the backbone of the island’s early wealth – while the Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam Botanic Garden in nearby Pamplemousses is another must-see.

There is much to be said, however, for returning to the sanctuary of your hotel, particularly when it’s the LUX Grand Gaube. Thoughtful touches – such as the adults-only pool (replete with cocktail bar, thank you very much) and the staff who offer to clean your sunglasses while you laze on the beach – make you feel so looked after.

Sometimes a sundowner by the sea, not to mention a few choice cushions, can do wonders for the soul.

 

The Details

Air Mauritius operates direct flights from Perth to Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport, the major air gateway to Mauritius. For bookings, visit airmauritius.com. LUX Grand Gaube is the newest of three sister resorts on Mauritius – including LUX Le Morne and LUX Belle Mare – and is located on the island’s northern coastline, a 50-minute drive from the airport. Room rates start from US$352 (about A$466) per night. For more information and bookings, visit luxresorts.com.

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