Behind me lie a series of wet footprints, softly set into crystalline grains of pure-white sand as toes find their way from the ocean to shore. The imprints last only a moment as the tide soon sweeps over them again, covering all evidence of being there in one long, extended breath of foam. Overhead a seagull crows, diving in and out of the surf, whilst a fishing boat motors past in the distance. A clear breeze flicks wisps of blonde hair in front of glistening eyes, no sooner brushed down with salty fingers against the shoulders of a faded denim summer dress, one that blends smoothly in with the colour of the water and the partially cloudy afternoon sky.
Even at point of entry into this outer throng of Her Majesty’s commonwealth, the implicit sense of relaxation to one’s general (e)state soon becomes apparent. It’s my first time to these islands, and this laid back vibe is coupled with a candid sense of ‘feeling right at home’, even when stuck in the closest thing to rush-hour traffic in pretty, colonial-styled downtown.
Minutes later I pass through the pearly white picket-gates of the Bahamas’ One and Only Ocean Club – purveyors of facilitating the Bahamian attitude on a worldwide, world-class basis. Here is a place where island setting aside, the word ‘haven’ is really no hyperbole. From white pillared doors of what imposes visually as a yesteryear mansion, two personal, young and enthusiastic butlers welcome me to my room – a well-bedecked one of a mere twenty-five that fan out in five blocks from the hotel’s main reception.
Through the building’s wonderfully modern-art encrusted skeleton, with eye-catching designs by local designer Jane Waterous, I am led towards my sleeping quarters. The bedrooms are immaculate – from the cute terrace to vast double bed I am shown the spotless bathroom, lined with Lady Primrose toiletries, powerful rainfall showers and a Japanese-functioning loo. No ask comes too great, no detail is too small; at 5pm everyday Champagne and chocolate dipped strawberries appear magically like clockwork.
Luxury here really does come as standard.
That evening I am invited to join a wine and cheese tasting, hosted in the hotel’s beautiful courtyard by British expat Will from Youngs Fine Wines – the fountain pool assimilates something out of Baz Lurhman’s Romeo and Juliet, such is the ambient floodlit colour and cross-shape of its design. In amongst the mélange of well-heeled locals and other hotel residents, I am placed next to Cora, a Spanish lady here “on a tourist visa, and then we’ll see” basis. Tonight’s theme is Tuscany. We discuss the wines in front of us, eliciting tales of Italy, the meals we’ve shared and the wines we’ve tried from there. ‘I remember the first time I tired a Brunello’ she quips, ‘ I was in New York where we live, waiting for my husband. So I ordered a glass. And then another. He was so late that by the time he got there we had quite a bill. It was like $20 a glass!’
Timely-guided through memories brought on through our libations, the next day I meet Ali Reynolds – a young, dynamic shaker of the spirits who hails originally from Nottingham, and who in his current residency at Hawskmoor Spitalfields has earned one of six titles of ‘Best bartender in the world’. Ali, one of the successful global cocktail makers made it all the way through spirit giant Diageo-sponsored competition rounds to create a ‘destination distilled’ cocktail – his prize: taking up temporary residency here in the Bahamas to create a signature new One&Only Ocean Club Resort drink.
I realize his competitive nature when I play him at chess later on in the drawing room. “You can’t create something without looking to your past” he says, citing the Royal Academy’s recent exhibition by Ai Weiwei as inspiration to his art. I ask him about his new signature serve: “There’s a story behind it.” He explains. “Hemingway.” He furthers the literary connotations of the Caribbean islands. James Bond, he says didn’t drink a martini at all. That first drink, “had to be a mojito. Without a doubt.” With further nods to alcoholic palliative heritage he mentions cocktails at the Ritz – a place that memorably stayed open during the war, serving its customers with armor and ammunition of a different type. When I ask him what makes the best drink he says “simplicity is key. Three ingredients maximum. Four or more and you lose focus of what you’re doing.”
Ali’s cocktail here comprises Ron Zacapa 23yr old aged rum, sugar syrup and campari, and although not a fan of garnishes, on this drink you’ll also find a feather – a homage to the writers who made these spirits famous. The Ron Zacapa is infused with mango and coconut, acknowledging locally grown fruit and those grown on the resort in particular, the sugar syrup perhaps tips its hat to the rum’s sugar cane, and the campari offers a little welcome bitterness to drinks here that are often more typically sweet.
As eyes spy Ali’s and other more American-drinks from behind designer-framed shade at the infinity pool, it comes as a pleasant surprise to me the following afternoon to note that rather than sandal-clad retirees, the One &Only Nassau Bahamas draws a savvy young professional crowd, mostly here on weekends away from the close-by USA. Alongside its spectacular beach setting (one that incredibly, offers wifi the whole way along it) it’s not hard to see why other guests flock here in their regular droves.
Not only does the hotel boast a Michelin star restaurant with local sea-fare delicacies such as grouper and delicious surf and turf, but it also still owns a 12 feet deep pool – one that indicates a certain standard of elegance, typified by stylish worlds of yesteryear. There are yoga lessons every morning by this pool, an excellent health spa, tennis courts offering ‘rent a pro’ afternoons, and kids activities that dazzle even the most creative of parents. Outside of the resort, those with a penchant for local fuel can head to John Wattling’s Rum distillery, not far from the hotel and a pleasant foray into the drinks business of the area, handily located next to the National Art Museum to make a day of it.
Resultant opinion presupposes the idea that certain personality infuses a destination. One that upon one’s return home you’ll want to re-live again and again. With the O&O cocktails you can experience a little bit of what premium Bahamia has to offer, and when you get back, you know where to find the mixologist to re-create your furthered memories. It’s a message in a highball.
One&Only Ocean Club offers Garden View accommodation from $735++ (Bahamian dollars) per night based on travel in 2016 (= approx £500 GBP). For more information visit www.oneandonlyresorts.com.
Elegant Resorts (01244 897515 / www.elegantresorts.co.uk) offers seven nights in a Garden View Room at One&Only Ocean Club from £2,435 per person, including flights, private transfers and UK lounge passes, based on travel in September 2016.