Anonymous review of The Modern Honolulu
Sue Gough Henly
For years, Mr Smith and I have avoided Waikiki for fear it would be littered with tourists in bad Hawaiian shirts and wilted purple leis. That, and the trend of area hotels resembling something between a shopping mall and Disney's Adventureland: in other words, the exact opposite of a tropical escape on one of the world’s most remote islands.
Then, we heard whispers of a hotel that was sexy and sophisticated, a minimalist haven with a beach-pad vibe. What sealed the deal was the fact that we could fly Hawaiian Airlines from Sydney to New York via Honolulu to enjoy a languorous few days lounging in laid-back luxury at The Modern Honolulu, a sleek high-rise hotel.
We swoosh up to the entrance in our dinky rental car and a friendly crew welcomes us. Check-in is a breeze, although Mr Smith can’t take his eyes off the collage of broken surfboards behind the pale oak reception desk ("Are the waves really that monstrous?" he whispers desperately). The boards, it turns out, were broken in competitions on Oahu’s North Shore by the champion likes of Kelly Slater and Andy Irons. Phew.
Our airy Ocean View room is awash with white linens and beige furnishings…a grey throw rug lies across the king bed, brown teak shutters partially screen the scalloped deck. Ian Schrager had a role in the hotel design and went for a look that was cool and cream, just like his house in the Hamptons (or so we hear); regardless, he certainly knows how to do casual beach-chic.
Within moments we are lounging on comfy chairs on our private deck, gazing out across the yacht-dotted Ala Wai harbour to the blue Pacific. Mr Smith strums a tune on the room’s yellow ukulele; I have donned one of the three, bright Hawaiian-print pareos thoughtfully left for our use. For those of you who don’t have access to the Hawaiian language translation app handily loaded onto our loaner iPad (also queued up with Hawaiian tunes), a pareo is a sarong.
We head to the Sunrise Pool (one of two pools – the other one, is the adults-only Sunset Pool), swooning on a couple of the wooden deck’s sunloungers and ordering two Frozen Coconut Mojitos from one of the super-cool staff. I spy on our fellow guests from behind my dark sunglasses: a couple is on a day bed with a bottle of Veuve Cliquot, 20-somethings in string bikinis are talking on their iPhones, a toned surfer strolls in with his surfboard. French, English, Australian and New Zealand accents are sprinkled among the Americans. We stay long enough to enjoy some live acoustic music, and, as the bougainvillea-framed pool bar gets livelier, fairy lights in recycled wine bottles light up the trees.
We could’ve been easily convinced to partake in another potent round, but we have a dinner date to keep at in-house restaurant Morimoto, of Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto fame, whose other top-notch spots can be found in Philadelphia, New York and Napa. The last rays of pink streak across the sky as we settle in on the deck and enjoy Morimoto’s original interpretation of poke, Hawaii’s raw-fish dish. This one is served with bocconcini, avocado wasabi sorbet and dashi foam. Then we indulge in a fishing fleet of sushi and a delectable dish of yellowtail, cooked tableside in a hot stone bowl with vegetables and rice.
Back in the room, Mr Smith wants a nightcap, but, upon opening the minibar, we discover only a note saying that we can order funky cocktail combos from room service. One that catches his eye is the Pleasure Package. All I can say is that the whipped cream is not for cocoa.
The next morning, we feast on macadamia waffles with caramelised bananas on a terrace behind the pool, its back wall decoratively decked out with hanging ferns. Perusing the hotel shop nearby, we are tempted by groovy swimwear, sunglasses and surfboard cheese boards – not to mention the bright blue piggy banks by LA artist Steve Allen. “They keep running out the door,” says the shop assistant, who Mr Smith notes is as sexy as all the other staff, and possibly even sexier than the clientele (present company excluded, of course).
Today we base ourselves at the round, cobalt-blue-tiled Sunset Pool, which has been enterprisingly landscaped with palm trees and fine white sand – a welcome addition since the Modern is not right on Waikiki Beach. It is, however, only a short and picturesque lagoon-side stroll away.
As dusk falls, we repair to the Study, a speakeasy-like bar off the lobby that appears after 6pm when the bookshelves are turned ajar. Sinking into leather chairs in a cosy nook surrounded by billowing cream curtains, we get literary, Hawaiian style. Mr Smith orders War and Peace, a Jack Daniels Tennessee sour mash, bruised to perfection with lemon, fresh mint, and Peychaud’s bitters. I choose The Scarlet Letter: Stolichnaya vodka, flash infused with fresh pineapple and orange, bound in cranberry and served over seltzer.
Clinking glasses and toasting okole maluna to another day in paradise, we settle in for the bookish night ahead.