Nestling on a golden-sand crescent bay in the far north of Mauritius, LUX* Grand Gaube is a luxury boutique resort with sole access to two of the island’s best beaches. From the moment you drive through the artisan wrought-ironwork gates on to the 25-acre site, past gleaming buildings and verdant landscaped gardens, you can sense you’re in for an exciting experience with some drama. And with the smiling reception greeting you at the zen-modern reception area, where cool breezes waft you to take a view of the Indian ocean, you appreciate the place is all about guest comfort.
As part of the LUX* Resorts and Hotels group – which has five-star resorts in the Indian Ocean, Asia Pacific, Middle East, and Europe – LUX* Grand Gaube repeats the firm’s mantra and ‘stages exceptional experiences’ in different locations. It was refurbished in recent years, and architect Jean-Francois Adam created higher ceilings and a wider aspect, adding glass everywhere to ‘improve the chi flow’.
Kelly Hoppen worked her deco alchemy creating ‘eclectic retro-chic’ interiors, inspired by her South African roots and travels in Capri and Antiqua; her signature glam taupes and silvers are sprinkled like fairy dust through the resort’s ocean-facing frontage, with its infinity pools and main dining area. Local artisan-made wicker chairs and baskets work alongside bespoke furniture by Italian company Gervasoni. It’s barefoot luxury with Studio 54-style gloss.
In such a big area on a tropical resort, the landscaping is critical, and Chelsea-gold winning designer Stephen Woodhams has done a beautiful job of working rambling exotic plants with the palm and banyan trees, some of which are ancient. The private sun decks and serene secret gardens are enhanced by his horticultural craft, with orange and pink bougainvillaea, silver-grey ferns and pretty blue plumbago.
There are three main pools, one adults-only on the tip of the peninsula, and jumping out as you wander around, are the artwork murals by French street artist Jace, whose Gouzou character is reminiscent of Keith Haring; and bright beachside scenes by Camille Walala.
Spa & Wellness:
With more than one hectare dedicated to the spa and wellness area, there’s plenty to keep spa bunnies happy. The LUX* ME spa has 11 treatment rooms and three pools with cold, ambient and heated bathing, a steam room, and sauna. There’s also a Murdock Victorian-style barbershop, salon and nail station. The spa is suitably zen and tranquillity-inducing, lambently soothing and suffused with gentle herbal aromas. I tried the Carita Les Grands Soins signature treatment featuring 14 distinct applications of gorgeous smelling products. The spa also stocks Essie and Shirley Page treatments and holds mindfulness, yoga and tai chi sessions in its secluded garden.
Around the site:
A stretch Mini Cooper has been converted into a quirky ice-cream parlour, serving the best Italian ice cream I’ve tasted this side of Florence (where gelato was created). The cream used in it is flown in from Italy, explains ice-cream chef Roshni. There are retro red phone boxes where you can call home, for free and the LUX* coffee bar has a connoisseur’s menu, including ‘nitro cold brew’ presided over by skilled baristas. There’s also a plush cinema for evenings or to while away a rainy spell.
LUX* Grand Gaube has 186 sea-facing rooms and suites, most with wide balconies. There are three open-plan villas with plunge pools and dedicated service. The vintage rattan colonial-style continues in the bedrooms, where you’ll find supremely comfy beds and homely touches such as artisan jewellery bowls, snack trays and a tray of ingredients for mixing rum cocktails with instructions on how to do it. Silky soft robes and slippers are available, and the bathrooms are gold and honey-hued marble. Romantic junior suites have outdoor vintage bathtubs with a sea view.
In a self-contained resort, this had to be good – and in fact, it’s excellent. There are six restaurants and seven bars offering a paradise for food lovers, reflecting the local fare, which is an intoxicating mix of French, African, Indian and Chinese – as well as every international cuisine under the sun.
Inti (meaning God of the Sun), is the island’s first Latin American restaurant; serving Peruvian delicacies such as salmon ceviche, raw fish marinated in citrus, and Lubina Chilean hoba-leaf-wrapped chunky sea bass that wizard-chef Luciano Augustin Carabini has flown in from Chile. I tried a dessert called Sight of the Woman From Lima; she must be dynamite, judging by its heady combo of cinnamon, almond and passion fruit.
Beach Rouge is candlelit at night, a chilled spot with mixologists and a DJ, wood-fired pizza by the beach and seafood. I tried a dish of calamari flavoured with gremolata, cooked on a jasper grill to give it a smoky flavour and lightly charred texture. This is the party zone, and a DJ was playing tracks straight from Hoxton’s beats scene.
Bodrum Blue, on a tranquil terrace facing seawards, has a shisha corner and sizzling shish kebabs among other Turkish-inspired dishes. Under the Banyan is an adult-only area with casual dining, birdsong, sea breezes and wraparound nature. There’s West Indian food at Creole Smoke House nestled under an ancient sprawling banyan tree. Palm Court, the main dining area, has live cooking stations serving dishes from the Med, Asia, Japan, you name it. Griddled prawns and vitelotte, dark, nutty-flavoured potatoes. live cooking stations, world cuisine, live music nightly.
Breakfasts include healthy bircher muesli and kombucha cocktails. I talked to executive chef Dominik Ambros, who’s previously worked at Mamounia in Marrakech and other Michelin-starred establishments. My picky dietary requirements were met superbly: Chef Ramen, in charge of the Palm Court restaurant, even went shopping to buy me goat’s yoghurt for my breakfast.
Bars include Rum Treehouse, built inside a tree, with 88 different rums, and G&T 100 Club. At other bars you’ll find French Kiss cocktails, a Pisco and Ceviche bar. Tastevin offers 300 vintage wines, selected by head sommelier Rebecca Kanyangarara.
Who goes there?
A fair share of celebs, including Bollywood stars Disha Patani and Aditya Roy, and across the LUX* group, Alesha Dixon and Amanda Holden. Those who love self-contained luxury beach resorts, where everything is provided on-site, adore it. Couples, sports lovers, and families (up to two kids stay for free) there’s a kids play club with trips to the aquarium and junk-art workshops.
Studio 17 teens’ club offers bike and boat outings, paddle tennis and DJing skills. Out and about guests have free access to waterskiing, paddleboarding, a tennis academy and gym, and LA style paddle tennis. There’s also kite and windsurfing, a golf driving range, and the nearby Mont Choisy golf course, which the resort has an arrangement with.
Should you be determined to ‘escape’, the closest town is Grand Baie, a 10-minute drive. Really worth seeing is the Seven Coloured Earth at Chamarel west of the island; or wild Le Morne, with its slave-trading history (last year was the 50th year of Mauritian independence). Rum tasting at nearby 19th-century Château Labourdonnais, or the bustling market at Goodlands. Go up in the resort’s own seaplane across the north coast where you may see turtles swimming over the coral. Or take a private island hopping trip in a traditional wooden pirogue fishing boat to Ile aux Benitiers. You can also visit Black River Gorges National Park for dramatic forest scenery. The island is magical for walkers with every chance of stumbling upon an unspoiled crystal blue lagoon or palm-fringed secret cove.
The best thing:
The staff: wonderfully friendly and bending-over-backwards accommodating. From the welcome at reception, where eager-beaver staff jostle to help, to the great chefs, they’ve created a true family feeling. If it was staged, I was fooled. As I waved goodbye to people who had looked after me so well, I had one regret: that I had to leave. Then I noticed a label tied to my case. It read: ‘You can go but be back soon’. Now there’s an excellent idea.
The worst thing:
Realising some of the potted plants and even the small trees I’d been admiring in the lounges and receptions were in fact plastic. Why? When we’re in a verdant paradise? Mind you, I was fooled, as was a tiny bird – it was a native Mascarene flycatcher, I believe – that built its nest amid the plastic foliage of a small tree. Isn’t nature marvellous?
Lux* Grand Gaube Mauritius, +230 204 9191, firstname.lastname@example.org
Flights to Mauritius fly into the main international Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International airport in the island’s southeast. For those with deep pockets, a helipad at LUX* Grand Gaube can cut down on the 70-minute road transfer from the airport.