Hotel Review: Tatler Checks Into… Cempedak Island
March 14, 2017 | BY Kissa Castañeda
In this exclusive story, we explore the soon-to-open private island just minutes away from Singapore.
Even though Bali and Phuket are only a two-hour flight away, sometimes you yearn for an escape that skips the flying part altogether. That’s precisely one of the many reasons why Nikoi Island—a white sand private island just off Bintan, Indonesia—is so appealing if you’re based in Singapore.
The family-friendly retreat is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year and its popularity hasn’t waned over the decade. “We’ve operated at 90 per cent occupancy since 2009,” says founder Andrew Dixon, which proves that there’s sufficient demand for another conveniently located beach getaway.
This time round, the former banker and his partners have another surprise in store—Cempedak Island. Just a 25-minute boat ride from Bintan, Cempedak (pronounced “Chempedak”, and named after the fruit similar to jackfruit) shares a few characteristics with its sister property, Nikoi, especially when it comes to its focus on sustainability.
There is, however, a significant difference when it comes to the architecture and ambiance. “We wanted to replicate it without duplicating it,” says Dixon. While Nikoi was crafted mainly out of driftwood and designed to accommodate families, Cempedak is an ode to bamboo and meant for adult travellers only.
Set to open mid-March, Singapore Tatler gets a sneak peek at this new private island.
As you approach Cempedak, you’re greeted by sculptural rocks and the crescent-shaped alang alang roofs of the villas that dot the island. Disembark from the jetty, ascend the stone staircase and you’ll face a fork in the road—left leads to the main restaurant, laid out with plenty of alcoves and overwater private tables, while the straight or right route brings you to the villas.
A sharp right turn leads you to Dodo Bar, which boasts a cool communal table and an amazing vantage point to take in the azure vista. It’s clear that bamboo is the star here, and those attuned to Balinese architecture will notice how elements of it have been incorporated into the design. The creative use of natural materials such as lava stone (sculpted into waves that add texture to the walls), as well as copper and bronze (as table bases, plant pots and patina-laden backsplashes) lend the stylish new resort a warm, welcoming feel.
Do Not Disturb
Like Nikoi, Cempedak does away with the formality of room keys, which immediately makes you feel more at home in this bamboo haven. Principles of tropical architecture such as maximising natural ventilation and light are employed in the villas; you won’t even notice that there’s no air-conditioning (a move that cements their commitment to the environment).
The bamboo door swings open to unveil a triple-height, open-air living room that faces a plunge pool and the glistening sea. Each of the 20 villas feature vaulted ceilings that bring in the sea breeze and showcase ingenious use of bamboo. The piece de resistance is the sculptural spiral staircase that highlights the beauty and flexibility of this hardy plant.
The resort’s green ethos is evident in the way the design and layout has been approached. Apart from foregoing air-conditioning, the rooms have neither a television nor refrigerator (though you can keep your drinks cold in the built-in ice bucket in your minibar). These decisions conserve energy but also encourage one to make the most of the surroundings.
Want to kayak, rock climb or book an in-room spa treatment? A dedicated host (they're also known as butlers) will be happy to make the arrangements for you.
Food & Drink
The food served here follows a similar experience at Nikoi—a set menu will be shown to you the meal before, but requests are always welcome. For example, should you prefer seafood over grilled tenderloin for dinner, tell them at lunch and the kitchen team will whip up something different just for you.
The wonderful mix of local and Western dishes is the brainchild of chef consultant Penny Williams, the executive chef and director of well-loved Bali Asli, just north-east of Bali. As an adults-only resort, they’re definitely generous when it comes to the drinks menu. Dixon has built an impressive wine cellar (the only air-conditioned room on the entire island) and offers a decent selection of spirits including niche gins and even Bentianna, a whisky-based drink from Slovenia.
If a room with a view is a must-have for you, choose one of the Seaview villas. With beachfront access and extra privacy, Villa 5 is our top pick.
Nature enthusiasts should also keep their eyes peeled when on the beach—we were lucky enough to spot a group of sea otters just as the sun was setting during our stay.
For more information and reservations (available from 17 March), visit cempedak.com
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