As founders and owners of Banyan Tree Holdings, Ho Kwon Ping and Claire Chiang put a premium on creating quality staff.
A classic example of this is Magda Vlassi, a friendly waitress at their luxury Angsana Resort and Spa on the Greek island of Corfu, the first European property in the Banyan portfolio.
Within hours of arriving at this luxury property facing the Ionian Sea, Magda learned about my companion’s love of kumquats, the delicious fruit that grows abundantly on the island, and promptly offered to pay a visit to her uncle’s orchard, fill a bag and deliver it on her day off.
Such a selfless gesture beyond the call of duty reflects the exceptional importance the hard-working Asian couple place upon staff training at their many hotels and spas in Asia, America, Africa and the Middle East including Thailand, China, Mexico, Malaysia and the Maldives.
At Angsana, their philosophy seems to be working, friendly, efficient service being one of the highlights of our three-night stay there.
The resort offers 159 rooms and suites plus 37 private pool villas. Our accommodation was in one of the latter, a spacious, two-floor villa facing the Ionian Sea. It featured an outdoor plunge pool and sun-beds, a ground-floor living room with armchairs, sofa, a large table and a big-screen TV, plus a bedroom and bathroom. Upstairs was the same, with a large balcony with soft armchairs. The overall decor was modern with exotic elements such as vases, ceramic plates and other artisan decorations.
Occupying a large stretch of land on the shoulder of a hill overlooking the sea on the east side of the island, the resort’s main building is stylish, with pale stone and dark wood, and original art, sculpture and rugs.
There’s certainly no shortage of relaxation options at the resort, including a private beach; a tranquil infinity pool with clear views along the rugged coastline and comfy cushioned lounge chairs; a 25-meter interior pool; and small private walk-in pools fronting the resort’s villas.
Beside the interior pool, separate facilities for men and women feature saunas, jacuzzis and steam-rooms. An extensive gym contains a variety of equipment.
I also took full advantage of the resort’s spa where I enjoyed a full body massage provided by skilled therapist Konstantina using oils of basil, lemon and ylang ylang. This award-winning spa offers panoramic views overlooking the indented coastline both from the treatment rooms and the post-treatment relaxation room, with manager, Litsa, providing me with flavourful tea with honey.
Dining at Angsana is also a delight, with several restaurants to choose from. The resort can also organise private waterfront dining under the stars
Traditional Corfiot dishes are served at Sofrito with a menu ranging from local seafood such as bream, octopus and squid to meat specialties including the iconic moussaka. We dined here on our first of three evenings and enjoyed a surprise bonus, live accompaniment by two musicians playing Greek folk melodies on bouzouki and guitar.
For something entirely different, and a nod to the Asian origins of Banyan Tree Holdings, is Koh restaurant, which serves a mix of modern Japanese fusion cuisine with sushi and other Far Eastern dishes.
Our experience at Botrini’s fine-dining restaurant, named after Michelin-starred chef Ettore Botrini, was a memorable one, featuring appetisers of duck and truffle pappardelle and mains comprising succulent milk beef cheek and fried croaker fish.
Aside from the food, a hallmark of Botrini’s is its well-stocked cellar. I counted 22 pages of wines, both Greek and many other countries including Hungary, France and Italy, as well as a variety of champagnes.
To top off an evening, enjoy a cocktail at Vertigo, the hotel’s roof-top bar.
Convenience is also a key element for choosing Angsana as a destination. It is only seven miles from the airport and nine from Corfu town.