I CAN’T claim to have ever been a Bros-ette – the Grolsch bottle tops and ripped jeans completely passed me by – but standing at the window in the penthouse suite at the Cosmopolitan Las Vegas, as Matt Goss fixes me with his piercing-blue eyes, lightly touches me on the arm and earnestly questions me about music, I find myself wondering why on earth I hadn't been.
We're here tonight to celebrate Las Vegas Tourism's glittering launch of 'Dinner-tainment' – exclusive travel packages featuring the very finest cuisine and culture that Vegas has to offer.
Matt has re-invented himself as a Vegas big-hitter over the last few years, capitalising on the American's love of all things British. In his own private theatre, The Goss Rooms he gives the crowd what they want- jazz-crooner standards in the slinky half-light. A rakish fedora, an artfully-raised eyebrow and armfuls of scantily-clad dancing girls.
Excess and indulgence are almost unavoidable in Vegas – even a simple lunchtime salad at Holstein's is served by purring, pneumatic waitresses in tight red cocktail dresses, somehow managing to make the phrase “would you like egg and onions with that” sound like the most appealing and enticing of invitations. Their seemingly innocent breakfast milkshakes laced with alcoholic shots.
They don't call it Sin City for nothing
Lunch at Mandalay Bay's Fleur, and there’s a grand medieval theme. 100 foot high chain-mail curtains and burnished beaten-copper walls. Go large as they say, with a £500 8oz Kobi burger. Team it with the £5000 bottle of Chateau Petrus and you’ll get a certificate to prove that you’ve enjoyed the world’s most expensive burger/drink combo.
Whatever you can conceive in your wildest fantasy, someone, somewhere in Vegas is making it happen. Try 'Underwater Yoga with Dolphins' at the Mirage or ‘Fit to Flex’ at the Aria Hotel – a lycra-clad tour of their multi-million pound art collection. After some warm-up lunges, the group assembles in front of the seminal pieces. There's on-the-spot running in front of Renoirs, press-ups before the Picassos.
Vegas has never been shy of its mobster past and 'gangster-cuisine' is big at the moment. Try an authentic Italian-American lunch at Triple George. The focus is 1950s style, booth-dining with home-cooked, healthy food. Clam chowder, chicken-pot pie, cheesecake and 'kwoff-ee'. Their speciality steak-seasoning is ground to a pepper porcini mushrooms with sugar, sea-salt, peppercorns and 'Mama's secret ingredient'.
After lunch, leap into the getaway car and screech over to the recently completed Mob Museum. Not one for the faint-hearted, the museum tells the story of how Vegas rose from the desert and the wise-guys and broads that raised it higher.
The exhibits range from the symbolic; Al Capone's trilby – to the macabre; a mob informer's smart woollen overcoat coat, riddled with bullet holes and blood stains. It's an unnerving and sinister reminder of the darker side of this city of lights...
Those iconic bright lights are celebrated, just a short distance away at the Neon Boneyard- a working museum and restoration project, which aims to protect and preserve this most unique of art forms. There's the distinctive sunrise-yellow font of the Golden Nugget Resort, the Acropolis-inspired lettering of the original Caesar's Palace. You'll be surprised how many of them you recognise...
The party never stops in Vegas and many of the hotels offer a 'signature drink experience', the creators themselves often on hand to talk customers through their perfect concoction.
Tequila consultant' Mariena presides over the glittering Chandelier bar at the Cosmopolitan Hotel. A trained chemist , her particular alchemy is a 'Palma Rosa'. It is champagne with pomegranate liquor and peach snaps, served with a dramatic plume of liquid nitrogen and a Szechuan buzz-berry, a naturally occurring pod that has a curiously stimulating, yet simultaneously mouth-numbing property. It's a sensation you won't forget in a hurry.
Wolfgang Puck's Spago (like many of the big names) has its flagship restaurant here – making the most of the constant stream of high-rollers with gourmet tastes and deep pockets. The Chef de Jour will join your table, discuss your preferences and design the menu to suit you. It's the very finest ingredients, in the hands of an expert. The fresh strawberries arrive on their own plane from Santa Monica.....
Vegas is super-sized and fast-paced, but recently there has been a move towards the 'slow-food' philosophy and a radical diminishing of scale....
Elaborate tea-parties are becoming popular. The afternoon ceremony at the Mandarin Oriental tea-parlour is a particularly intricate and elaborate affair. Enjoy the daintiest of cucumber sandwiches, exquisitely-crafted miniature pastries and delicate petits-fours. The tea-list is extensive as the wine-list. Try their exclusively-harvested Assam and orange-blossom blend.
Yearning for yet more tranquillity? Take a short drive over to the Las Vegas village centre It's a new development, focusing on gentle, boutique-browsing. The central feature is a children's play area filled with giggling toddlers and snoozing babies. It's low-key and under-stated – the perfect antidote.
Here you'll find Double Helix, which claims to be the only wine and whiskey lounge in the US. There are hundreds of whiskies available, including the rare Johnnie Walker 80 years’ oaked – one of only three bottles in the State and available at £600 a shot.
If you're missing the tastes of home, snuggle down in the Public House at The Venetian. It's a CAMRA-recognised, real-ale English pub with 25 beers on draught and a moustachioed, tweed-jacketed landlord. It's a cosy little corner of reality amid the craziness of Las Vegas. The only things missing are an English sheepdog in the corner and the sound of those thunderous rainstorms outside....
sMatt Goss Showroom at Caesar's Palace www.caesars.com
Holsteins Burger Bar www.holsteinslv.com
Fleur Restaurant by Hubert Keller www.HubertKeller.com
Triple George Grill www.triplegeorgegrill.com
The Mob Museum www.themobmuseum.org
Neon Boneyard www.neonmuseum.org
The Cosmopolitan Hotel www.cosmopolitanlasvegas.com
Wolgang Puck's Spago Restaurant www.wolfgangpuck.com
Mandarin Oriental www.mandarinoriental.com
Double Helix Wine and Whiskey Bar www.doublehelixwine.com
The Public House www.publichouselv.com
Regular flights from Manchester to Las Vegas www.virgin-atlantic.com
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