A balmy Friday evening in Bangkok was the debut setting for a new bespoke event concept. Invited guests were asked to convene at an appointed time at the bar of the Maduzi Hotel – and await further instructions for a “Secret Dinner”.
Secret Dinners is an offshoot of Secret Retreats, an affiliation of 37 independent boutique residences, hotels and charter boats located across Asia. The group works in association with Lotus Arts de Vivre – which specialises in handcrafted jewellery, accessories and home decorations, and Italian fine wines, including representing nine Italian wine brands in Asia – to bring guests the very finest travel experiences imaginable.
The concept for Secret Dinners is based on the notion that discerning event guests desire an experience that engages them with the spirit of a destination, through a combination of cuisine, culture and heritage. The central idea is that client anticipation is heightened by the fact that they do not know their ultimate destination.
A heady combination of exquisite dining and fine wines can be expected and each Secret Dinner takes place at a coveted cultural or historical location in Asia. Designed for around 20 guests, the element of surprise is integral to the event. The details are only revealed gradually as clients journey toward their mysterious final destination.
At the launch event, whilst guests chatted at the hotel bar, a police entourage arrived in order escort the group through Bangkok’s busy Friday-night traffic. The destination – a pier on the Chao Phraya River – saw the group ushered onto a chartered boat. Onboard the one-hour sunset cruise, guests sipped chilled champagne whilst coasting past riverside temples before arriving at Chakrabongse Villas.
Built in 1908, this private homestead overlooking Bangkok’s famous river has been converted into a boutique resort by its owner, Narisa Chakrabongse, a descendent of the Thai Royal Family and daughter of the late Prince Chula Chakrabongse.
A pre-dinner private guided tour of this magnificent home was like a journey back in time. Walls are adorned with black and white portraits of members of the Thai Royal Family, while antique art pieces and statues rest on highly valuable teak tables. A large cabinet contains photographs and silver trophies won immediately before, and just after, World War II by Prince Bira of Siam. The late prince remains the only Thai to compete in the glamorous world of Formula One motor racing.
Dinner was served on the expansive riverside terrace with views of the golden Wat Arun. Acclaimed French chef Jeremy Biasiol, from the Mirror restaurant in Hong Kong, was flown in especially for the event. He worked together with a local chef to create a six-course menu combining modern French and traditional Thai cuisines. To round out the evening, drinks were served on the lawns in front of the grand old villa, with music and dancing amid numerous giant sculptures.
Stéphane Junca, co-founder and managing director of Secret Retreats, says: “Secret Dinners will be a series of quarterly events for private clients that are based around gastronomy, but are not just about the chef. Instead, the events are created around the setting of an original and unique venue.
“Our first event was held at a historic private villa in Bangkok, but we can also create a memorable Secret Dinner, for example, at a temple in Angkor, a museum in Jakarta, or in the middle of a desert. We can also fly clients from Kuala Lumpur by private plane into the middle of the Malaysian rainforest, then take a four-wheel-drive trip to a specially set up tent and kitchen for a private lunch in the jungle.”
The broad geographical spread of Secret Retreats’ hotel members means that Secret Dinner clients can choose from an intriguing range of destinations in 12 countries across Asia. Junca says: “Each of our 37 hotel properties has very good knowledge about their local area and its unique attractions. They also have their own network, and understand what is possible for creating a whole itinerary to get to the venue, and then create a diner event that guests will always remember.”
Secret Dinners has a full operations team and a good network of chefs in Europe and Asia, meaning the only limit is imagination. Junca says: “Our next event is likely to be with a private client company from Singapore. In addition, someone in the United States has even approached us to create a Secret Wedding, which will be a great challenge.”
The theme and execution of each Secret Dinner event will vary according to the location, but Junca says one element must always be consistent: “It is very important that guests must have no idea where they are going – except probably the bride for the wedding.”
Organiser Secret Dinner
PRICE Every experience is unique, however, the Chakrabongse Villas event cost approximately US$500 per person, excluding transfers to Bangkok
Contact Sophie Couturier
Tel+60 0 3 2163 039