"There's no room for bland mediocrity."
It’s 11am in South Kensington at Aubaine on Brompton Road. Anthony is uncharacteristically late and apologises profusely as he rushes inside to order me an espresso. Wearing a navy wool blazer from Richard James, underneath which I get a glimpse of a gold Cartier Tank Américaine, his off-duty look is every bit as refined as some of the bespoke luxury experiences he curates for his clients. Later in the evening, he’s catching a flight to Cambodia, where he is staying at the Shinta Mani Wild − a luxury tented camp deep in the jungle. After Cambodia he’s off to Laos; before our coffee, he was in Puglia.
The jet-setting lifestyle is partly work, partly play, though after conversing for more than two hours, his depth of knowledge on what’s worth doing and seeing suggests to me that his wanderlust is chronic. Anthony Lassman is the co-founder of Nota Bene Global, an ultra-exclusive and elite lifestyle service. Founded in 2005 and drawing from a background in prime residential real-estate and fine travel publishing, his extensive experience in the market has led to a global network of illustrious and successful individuals from around the globe. Working alongside his glamorous wife and business partner, Elaine, he has built up an exclusive lifestyle club for the well-heeled and well versed.
This comes at a price, of course. You don’t just call up Nota Bene Global and ask them to book your holiday – you have to get on their list of annual subscribers, whose lifestyles are all intuitively assessed by a team of in-house experts. From there you’ll be assigned a personal travel assistant; there are six in his employment and they’re all well-travelled, like their boss. His daughter, Marisa, heads up the Africa region of the service (through her business Another Africa) and has developed such strong ties with the continent that most of her year is spent in the Samburu region in Kenya, all while raising grants that sponsor female children through secondary education – the curation of authentic experiences clearly runs in the family blood.
Ryokan Zaborin, Hokkaido, Japan
The Aman, Venice, Italy
Hotel B, Lima, Peru
What sets Nota Bene Global apart from the countless other lifestyle and travel services available to the wealthy, all of whom claim to deliver clichéd 'once-in-a-lifetime' experiences? "We arranged on behalf of a client a meeting with the Pope." Apparently, the client in question (all I could get from Anthony was that he was American-Italian) had very devout Roman Catholic parents and believed a meeting with the Pope was the ultimate thank-you gift. A client in Canada once called late at night to say that he was "getting too cold" and that he simply had to escape. He was chartered a private jet to the Bahamas that very night – to a private resort, naturally.
Interestingly, he says that the super-rich are more willing to take risks during their time off. Perhaps because they are asset rich but time poor, they go to Nota Bene Global in confidence that everything arranged for them will be exceptional. "You're looking for individuality and authenticity. Brand loyalty has declined. Our clients are turning away from 'sanitised luxury', where you're getting essentially the same experience, but in a different location. There's no room for bland mediocrity." What really distinguishes them from other luxury lifestyle services becomes evident the more I speak with Anthony. Delectable tips, secret hideaways, anecdotes and checklists infuse our conversation. "We only recommend experiences we have discerned ourselves. Nota Bene's clients want something different and we have to be ahead of the game." It's no surprise that they count millionaires and billionaires amongst their members.
Anthony explains that for a certain demographic amongst the wealthy, it's the era of "post-status", where less is more; the antithesis of "vulgar luxury." It doesn't mean Nota Bene Global can't do bling à la Floyd Mayweather, but Lassman assures me that simplicity counts; the most powerful people in the room are usually the quietest.
And his biggest bugbear? Being greeted at a hotel by overly-attentive, scripted staff. "Welcome drinks and towels, followed by a guided tour of the hotel are just so naff. No, I don't want to go on a guided tour after a nine-hour flight!"
Passport photos beckon and it's off to Snappy Snaps in South Kensington; even the most well-heeled, luxury travellers get the same mugshot.
For membership enquiries: notabeneglobal.com