Hello from Alexandria…
As I write, I’m looking out over Alexandria’s famed corniche watching the sun set over the Mediterranean.
It’s a very relaxing scene and I can certainly understand why Alexandria’s beaches have so long been favoured by Egyptians. Since the end of Eid, the days here have become more frenzied as we focus on the opening. In the past month we have seen a steady stream of interviewees coming into our pre-opening offices – which we’re proud to say have been properly signposted, thanks to our human resources director Rafaat Abu El Magd. It was a good move… now everyone has a real sense of ‘belonging’ and visitors can actually find their way through the construction site!
When I do my regular tours of the hotel now, and see the sparks fly from welding tools or watch plastered surfaces being painstakingly smoothed down, I can ‘see’ the finished product. It’s happening… it’s coming together, brick by brick. Will I miss these days, when we are again swamped with day-to-day routines and operational challenges? I guess it’s the cycle of life… the life of a hotel… breathing, beat by beat…
The hub of a hotel is its kitchens and we’ve been ordering equipment with guidance from Four Seasons home office and assistance from the chefs at our sister property, Four Seasons Hotel at Nile Plaza. Frank Heinen, our director of procurement, Egypt at Nile Plaza, was a pre-opening team member for other Four Seasons properties and has a list of the things ‘not to do’ when ordering equipment and utensils. Yet, I know when our executive chef comes on board shortly, he will make changes in his kitchens anyway… that’s the prerogative of an executive chef (having been a chef myself)!
We’re also now finalising the theming of our F&B outlets which brings a new set of exciting challenges. The logos for each outlet have been agreed and our agency is working on menu designs now. It’s important to ensure there is a thematic design flow between logos, menus, linen, staff uniforms, the china and silverware and so on, for each of our 10 dining options within the hotel. We can’t just look at each outlet individually; they’ve all got to ‘marry’ with each other to ensure continuity.
Our outlets will be quite unique for Alexandria. We’ve adopted an Italian theme for our street café, Fresca, which overlooks the corniche. Fresca means ‘fresh’ in Italian and in Alexandria, it’s the name of a nutty snack which vendors sell on the beaches, so the name always gets a big smile from Alexandrians, who remember the ‘Fresca Man’ with his little carry-on vitrine, calling out ‘Fresca, Fresca’. Of course, the plan is to have our own Fresca, Four Seasons style, along with hand-made pastas and wood-fired pizzas, a gelateria and cake shop.
Keeping to the Italian theme, Stefano’s will be a fine dining restaurant with specialities from southern Italy, while Byblos – named after the famous temple in Byblos – will offer specialities from the Levant. Our Mediterranean restaurant Kala will reflect Alexandria’s long and wonderful Greek culture, will feature a variety of Mediterranean dishes and North African cuisine. Le Bar speaks for itself – and here, within a rich, library style décor with its own fireplace, we’ll offer a wide range of beverages in heavy cut crystal glasses.
The Lobby Lounge will be the place, I’m sure, for people to meet and ‘be seen’: there will be a fireplace with a roaring log fire in the cooler months and Moroccan teas will be served from a samovar. Finally, within the spa complex – which has been extended and re-designed to become a two storey facility covering an astonishing 2,500 sqm area – we’ll have the Spa Café serving, for the first time in Alexandria, a menu of healthy and organic items.
Creating a larger spa area has not been without its inherent problems. The construction plans had to be redrawn which involved lots of consultation meetings with contractors and designers. The decision to create a larger facility was taken when we realised that with the construction of 900 high-end luxury apartments within the adjacent San Stefano residential and commercial complex, we would have a wider audience to cater for. The spa will feature 14 treatment rooms.
Sometimes, at the end of a busy day, I wish that the spa was already operational – I could do with an invigorating workout to clear the mind, ready for the next challenges!
…from Stephan in San Stefano
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