5 Minutes With… Brendan Corcoran, GM Of The Westin Maldives Miriandhoo Resort
It was not hard to guess how meticulous Brendan Corcoran is. The general manager of The Westin Maldives Miriandhoo Resort, who has been in the hospitality business for the past two decades, ordered Malaysian char kway teow for us both during lunch at Hawker, the resort's Asian street food casual restaurant.
"The taste is good, and the flavours are right," he said candidly as he expertly used the chopsticks to pick some flat noodles drenched in sweet soya sauce up, popping them into his mouth. "It's great that the kitchen is using Chinese sausages for this; it really enhances the taste. But the noodles are wrong; it has to be kway teow." The lack of available ingredients in Maldives has led the kitchen to innovate and use dried rice noodles more commonly used in pad thai instead of the freshly made flat rice noodles in char kway teow. Corcoran signalled for the chef over and urged him to work with the team to source for kway teow in order to make the dish "more authentic".
The type of noodles used in a dish at the restaurant is probably one of the items with the least priority on the resort's general manager's daily to-do list. But Corcoran clearly pays attention to details—no matter how small it is—and it is such dedication to craft an authentic and real experience at The Westin that makes the stay a cut above, which is a real achievement in the Maldives given that the resorts in the country run the entire gamut from entry-level to ultra-luxe.
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For instance, The Westin, which boasts 70 overwater and island villas, prides itself as being a sustainable resort, one that minimises its impact on the planet. My stay there affirms that it is not just empty talk or a marketing spiel by the hospitality giant. There are no single-use straws or drinking water in plastic bottles. Instead, drinks are served with bamboo paper straws and potable and drinking water are produced in-house and comes in swing-top glass bottles. Not every facility is fitted with air-conditioning too, using clever design and architecture to keep temperatures low and reduce the need to keep the AC on at 18 deg constantly. The ingredients used in all three restaurants—Island Kitchen, The Pearl and Hawker—as well as the Sunset Bar are sustainably sourced as much as possible too. Shipping containers used to bring building materials in for construction have been upcycled and refurbished into the offices for the resort's Dive Centre too.
These days, with people well-travelled and well-heeled, an authentic experience can be a deal-breaker in choosing the right accommodation that speaks to and appeals to them. The Westin Maldives Miriandhoo Resort with its commitment to sustainability and the brand's focus on wellness do lend it an edge over its competitors. Couple that with Corcoran and his team's fastidious attention to details and desire to create authentic experiences, the resort looks set to attracting travellers, who want a little more than a shelter over their heads.
Corcoran sits down with me and chats more about the resort, not before ordering two glasses of Coco Cumber, a cucumber and coconut water concoction with hints of mint leaf, honey and lime for us—perfect for the searing Maldivian heat.
Why has Westin decided to open a resort in the Maldives, a country where the competition among resorts is rife?
Brendan Corcoran (BC) As a premium luxury brand with a strong wellness pillar, it makes perfect sense for us to open in the Baa Atoll of the Maldives, which is the only Unesco Biosphere Reserve in the country. Our brand speaks to guests who are keen on well-being and travelling well, hence, we offer an immersive playground where; by day, fitness, wellness and culinary experiences rejuvenate and by night, a deep heavenly sleep beckons.
Tell us some of the unique things about the resort.
BC The resort’s location in the Maldives is the only Unesco Biosphere Reserve, Baa Atoll. Guests are in close proximity to landmarks such as Hanifaru Bay, which is known for the largest gathering of manta rays globally, and across, Sister Island, where hawksbill turtles hatch in season. Dolphin sightings have also occasionally been spotted from the overwater villas. Also, at almost 200 square metres each, the resort's overwater suites are among the largest a resort has to offer in the Baa Atoll region.
What about the overall design of the resort?
BC A distinctive marine life-inspired architecture and eco-friendly design concept by award-winning Italian architecture firm Peia Associati. All elements of the resort’s design have the environment in mind such as the use of natural materials. The entire island looks like the outline of a fish; the arrival jetty resembles clamshells, the overwater villas have curved roofing that resemble ocean waves; the Kids’ Club structure looks like the back of a whale shark; the curved staircase at Island Kitchen leading to the library and Sunset Bar resembles a seashell.
(Related: Maldives Set To Open World's First Underwater Hotel Residence)
We see that the resort is very focused on environmental sustainability. How do you go about working towards that?
BC The Westin Maldives Miriandhoo Resort is committed to the environment and as part of the greater Marriott family of hotel brands, the resort is working towards reducing environmental footprint and mitigating climate-related risk. The environment is reflected in the resort design, in its “plastic-free” policy throughout the island, including producing and refilling potable water in glass bottles, using paper straws in drinks, offering line-caught fish and sustainable seafood, recyclable packaging in amenities, upcycled transportation containers for the Dive Centre, reusing materials for structure and fencing, solar panels and double roofing to minimise electrical consumption.
Speaking about food, can you recommend us some dishes from each of the three restaurants here at the Westin?
BC For Island Kitchen, our all-day dining restaurant, try the curry dishes, Maldivian boashi flower salad, or Maldivian fish stew using line-caught local tuna. As for our Japanese fine-dining restaurant The Pearl, go for the grilled scallop and wagyu or pair the sushi set with sake—wonderful combination. At Hawker, our Asian food street-inspired casual diner, I'd order the shrimp pad thai or Malaysian char kway teow with the ondeh-ondeh pancakes or Thai mango crepe.