Interview with Una Barac in Sleeper Magazine Issue 77

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Una Barac describes her fantasy hotel in Norway in Sleeper Magazine Issue 77

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Where Are you?

The Lofoten Islands, off the northwest coast of Norway. It’s late September and we’re there to enjoy the breathtaking scenery by day and Northern Lights by night… weather permitting.

How did you get there?

We sailed into port in a J/112E – the latest E-series sport cruising yacht from J/Boats.

Who is there to greet you on arrival?

Ian Schrager. He’s there to host a dinner party that we will attend later that evening.

And who’s at the concierge desk?

The concierge from Rosewood Beijing. I’m usually an independent traveller and don’t rely hugely on concierge, but in Beijing, I struggled with the language barrier and they were wonderfully helpful.

Who are you sharing your room with?

My partner; he is my best travel companion.

Is there anything you would like waiting for you in your room?

Upon arrival, we are refreshed with chilled bottles of still glacier water, bottled locally at its source. I love water and drink three litres every day.

Describe the hotel, your room and the view...

It is a boutique hotel with just 25 guestrooms, their curvilinear, asymmetric concrete forms are clad in timber and hide amongst the towering pine trees. The property is nestled in the landscape, perfectly at one with its surroundings. We breathe in the calming scent of pine needles. A gravelled path meanders to the entrance, and as we reach the portecochère, friendly staff in colourful Scandinavian jumpers greet us with a smile. The small reception pod is carved from local Lovgavlen marble, and we are checked-in on an iPad by the open fire. Furniture is a mix of Norwegian contemporary design and Danish classics, all upholstered with locally sourced pure lamb’s wool fabrics. Lighting is an eclectic mix of iconic pieces by Poul Henningsen and Louis Poulsen, complemented by new additions from Frandsen, while walls are adorned with contemporary works by Norwegian artist Bjarne Melgaard and photography by Torbjorn Rodland.

Who designed it?

Zaha Hadid was the architect and the interiors are the work of Joseph Dirand. Hadid was an inspiration throughout my architectural studies, while Dirand’s work is timeless and so respectful of the local context; I imagine he would bring warmth and elegance in a pared-back Scandinavian manner.

What’s the restaurant and bar like?

Concrete walls and stripped-down timber floors draw inspiration from the Scandinavian aesthetic. Dirand’s choice of furniture and lighting bring oodles of style and comfort. The space he has created is classic, yet modern; glamorous, yet understated. The sound of the ice inside cocktail shakers is heard over the soft sounds of Sigur Rós – my favourite Icelandic band.

Who are you dining with this evening?

My partner, who makes us all laugh with his dry Yorkshire wit; Ian Schrager, hosting the event and sharing his thoughts on the hospitality industry; Robbie Bargh of Gorgeous Group, spreading wisdom on F&B; Mies van der Rohe, teaching us how to create iconic spaces; and Karl Lagerfeld, to give us a few style tips.

Who’s manning the stoves?

Tom Sellers, who recently won a Michelin star for Restaurant Story in Southwark. His cooking is a work of art.

And what’s on the menu?

We’ll start with series of amuse-bouche; they are amazing delights based on unassuming traditional home recipes such as bread and dripping. He presents this in the style of a beef-fat candle, with freshly baked warm bread. His courses of sea and land continue with crispy cod skin, scallops with tomato raisins and caviar, finished with a venison quartet. I’m not a fan of desert so we opt for a cheese board, while petit fours are replaced with Japanese mochi rice balls.

Would you like something to drink with that?

Perfectly chilled Gavi di Gavi, specially selected by the Balls Brothers’ sommelier.

What’s in the mini-bar for a nightcap?

Hendrick’s Gin with Fever-Tree tonic, lashings of cucumber and a twist of coarsely ground black pepper.