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24 hours in Marseille

August 18, 2018
Marseille, Provence

Marseille has a reputation for being a little gritty, a little unsafe, a little unrefined, a little brutalist.  Not worth going to according to many, especially compared to some of the more attractive neighbouring cities and towns, like Aix en Provence, Montpelier and Nice.  And yet France’s second largest city has always intrigued me, perhaps since it came on my radar when it surprisingly became the European City of Culture in 2013.  Or perhaps even as early as 2012, when I read Mama Shelter had opened there.

So when an opportunity to arose to spend 24 hours here (it was actually a little less), I jumped at it.  And came away so grateful I did.  Marseille is without a doubt one of the coolest cities I’ve visited in a long time, with each of its districts so utterly contrasting you practically feel like you’re in a different city.  It has it all: art and culture (with contemporary art leading the way), a diverse mixture of architecture, a bustling, revived port, fabulous shopping and interesting restaurants.  It has heaps of atmosphere, life and soul.

MarseilleMarseille

Here are my top recommendations for a (very worthwhile) weekend in Marseille:

SLEEP

Mama Shelter

64 Rue de la Loubière, 13006 Marseille

Philip Starck designed, modern, quirky, fun.  At worst (and perhaps unfairly) it could be described as a five star hostel – not that there are any shared dorms or bathrooms – but more for the brilliant communal areas, designed for people to mix and meet and have fun.  The guests are impossibly trendy, young couples mostly.  On the weekend DJs play, there is great bar, a 4 metre long table football game, affordable drinks, an apparently incredible Sunday Brunch.  The staff are all smiles and so welcoming you start to question whether you’re in France.  The rooms vary in size (and price) but even our room (the Snug, the smallest) was immaculate, functional, comfortable but still felt like a treat.  Starck quirks like Sylvester and Batman masks hang from the wall; fun is encouraged at all times.  The price point feels impossibly low, I paid 80 euros for a night (without breakfast).  5/5

Mama Shelter, MarseilleMama Shelter, Marseille

Other recommended hotels (in order of cost) are Alex Hotel, C2 and the InterContinental (if you want something a little grander).

SEE

There is so much to see and do that we couldn’t fit it all in given the time we had. Must the must-dos are:

  • Mucem – the Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations. Extraordinary not just because of it’s incredible architecture – unusual, eye-catching, photogenic – but also because of the exhibitions it has (when we were there Ai Wei Wei was exhibiting).  But even if art isn’t your thing, make sure you walk through the museum and up to the top floor, from which you can access the fantastic roof terrace* (with brilliant views of the Cathedral and the port) and from there a metal bridge which links you directly with Le Fort Saint Jeanand the Old Port.

Mucem, Marseille

  • Marseille Cathedral – this beautiful Roman Catholic cathedral is a must visit, even if just from the outside.  Its black and white facade remind me a little of that of the cathedral in Orvieto, Italy, or even Siena.  It’s striking and stands out against the port, contrasting wonderfully with the Mucem in front of it.

Marseille Cathedral

  • The Old Port – Central to the city and completely restored in 2013, with the Notre Dame Cathedral overlooking high on a hill, this does truly feel like the heart of Marseille. From the fish market in the morning until the buskers in the evening, there is always something going on, always something to catch your eye, something to stir the imagination.

The Old Port, MarseilleThe Old Port, MarseilleThe Old Port, Marseille

  • Le Panier – Meaning ‘the basket’, this beautiful colourful ‘quarter’ is the oldest – and my favourite – part of Marseille.  It feels like you’re in a little village rather than a large city, with steep narrow twisting alleys, coloured shop fronts and sun drenched courtyards.  Yes, it’s a little touristy at parts, but that does not take away from the fact that it’s brilliant for shopping and small cafes, and for soaking up Marseille’s diverse cultural heritage.

Le Panier, MarseilleLe Panier, Marseille

  • Cours Julien and surroundings – If you stay at Mama Shelter, you’ll walk straight through the Cours Julien to the Old Port.  But even if you’re staying elsewhere, make sure you visit this bohemian quarter, teeming with life and dance and street art.  Known now as one of Marseille’s hippest areas with a mixture of designer boutiques, artist workshops and graffiti works of art, it’s brilliant fun to walk through and gives you a real taste of the city.

Cours Julien, Marseille

  • Le Fort Saint Jean – Best accessed as per the above. I loved the contrast of the old with the new of the Mucem right next door to Marseille’s fort, which was built in 1660 by Louis XIV.  The walk through the fort takes you through the history of Marseille (which is extensive) in a wonderful way.

EAT

Turns out the food in Marseille is rather good too.  While known for its traditional bouillabaise (which we never figured out how to pronounce), the food varies hugely depending on where you are in the city, with a good mix of French, North African and Sub-Saharan African food.  For brunch/lunch in and around the Old Port, either opt for Le Mole Cafe du Fort (more affordable) or Le Mole Passedat* (on the roof terrace of Mucem) run by famous French Michelin chef Gerard Passedat (see his restaurant options here).  For something more casual Victor Cafe and Le Petit Boucan are meant to be fun.  Close to Mama Shelter Coogee is meant to be great (especially for coffee) but it was shut for the summer when we were there, and  Le Fantastique looks wonderful too, with a lovely terrace.  If you’re looking for a coffee on the go, then grab one at Loustic.

For dinner you have tonnes of options, especially around the Port.  We had a romantic dinner at Cafe des Espices, slightly set back from the Port but on a fairy-light lit square surrounded by huge pots of olive trees.  The food and service were impeccable, and they served our favourite Chateau la Coste Rosé.  Other recommended restaurants in that area are Chez Fonfon (which specialises in bouillabaise), Chez Madie les Galinette.  A little further away but still on the sea front is Le Peron, which comes highly recommended.

Cafe des Espices, MarseilleLe Mole Passedat, Marseille

SHOP

I’m usually more of an online shopper than a window shopper – apart from the odd Zara/Mango splurge.  Marseille however, offers such fantastic shopping that even I couldn’t resist.  And I’m not just talking some of my favourite French brands like Maje, Sandro,  Claudie Pierot and Cottoniers des Comptoir, I highly recommend visiting the following concept/vintage/homeware/antique shops(and packing an extra suitcase):

  • Bazar du Panier – Who can resist a shopfront like this?  To be honest I loved all the little boutiques on the Rue du Panier, selling cotton dresses, tasseled pillows, straw bags and hats and colourful scarves.
  • Chez Lucas – Brilliant antique shop.  Was obsessed with a 1940s print of ‘Nationale Cigarette’ from the French Indochine days, but it was simply too huge to take with me.
  • Rita – A true concept store, with beautiful homeware, pretty clothes and a little coffee shop too.
  • La Maison Marseillaise – The ultimate homeware design boutique.
  • Bazardeluxe – Quite wanted to buy everything in this shop and ship it home with me.  I don’t recommend coming here at the start of your holiday with limited luggage space. I ended up buying six glasses (half price) for a bargain 16 euros, totally worth shlepping around the Provence for a week.
  • Allan Joseph – This shop was beautiful to walk through but equally painful when looking at the prices.  Stunning clothes, interiors and smell, but with the price point you’d expect from a shop selling Isabel Marant (i.e out of my budget).

Blog, Date Spot, Eat, London

Megan’s by the Green, Fulham

July 18, 2018
Megan's by the Green

I’ve always loved the Megan’s on the Kings Road, the ideal place for brunch (read more about it here) or a relaxed dinner.  So when Megan’s by the Green opened last year I was delighted, as it was even closer to home.

Megan’s by the Green is in the perfect location, right by the Green, opposite the Tube station.  It’s very welcoming and I often see passers by looking in through the huge open windows.  Their ceiling covered in roses also makes it very eye catching. Especially now in this incredible sunny weather, there’s no better place to come for brunch/lunch or dinner, though in the winter it has a very cosy, intimate feel to it.

Megan's by the Green, FulhamMegans by the Green, Fulham

Last weekend I came here for dinner and sat by the huge open windows in the breeze, enjoying a bottle of their lovely pale rosé (£30 a bottle).  I couldn’t think of a better way to spend my Saturday evening.

Megans by the Green, Fulham

I have to say I love their menu, with so many healthy but filling options.  They have an all day brunch menu which is fantastic (their shakshouka eggs are my favourite) and for their evening menu they offer a range of sharing boards and starters, as well as healthy ‘bowls’, grills and pizzas.

To start with we shared the ‘gambas pil pil‘, which came sizzling in a pan cooked in chilli and garlic and served with fresh bread.  Delicious.   For mains I had the ‘posh lamb doner‘ (one of their ‘open kebabs’).  I’m a sucker for lamb and it was a real treat, especially because I don’t eat meat that much during the week anymore.  I had some grilled cauliflower to go with it.  The photo below does not do it any justice, it was incredible.

Megans by the Green, Fulham

Rob had one of the ‘deconstructed pan kebabs‘, the chilli chicken one with extra halloumi on top.  He also loved it., especially because the tomato sauce adds such a nice freshness to it.

Megans by the Green, Fulham

Pudding cannot be skipped (though having said that, last weekend we did as we were so full).  But their half baked cookie is one of the best puddings I’ve eaten.

I think the beauty of Megan’s is the variation of the food they offer, and the price point.  Depending on how much you feel like drinking, food wise one of their kebabs costs on average about £12, which is a total bargain, especially for Parson’s Green.  This coupled with the relaxed but upbeat vibe of the place makes it the perfect place to come with friends or on a date.

It’s easy to see why it’s always full, so I would recommend booking ahead.  And good news is that they have now just opened their third restaurant, this one is in Balham.  I can’t wait to visit it next.

Megan’s on the Green

UNIT B 69, 57 Parsons Green Ln,

Fulham,

London SW6 4JA

Amsterdam, Blog, France, Italy, London, Marrakech, Paris, UK - Outside London

My favourite restaurants of 2017

December 29, 2017
Le Dali, Le Meurice, Paris

This year blogging has taken a bit of a backseat as I’ve had to prioritise other things.  But below is a summary of all the restaurants I loved this year, from London to Stockholm to Marrakech:

LONDON

Neo Bistro ££

One of my top 2017 favourites is this slightly under the radar bistro, set up by the ex-Harwood Arms chef and the owner of Anglo. Ignore its slightly dodgy location right by Oxford Street as this cosy restaurant offers a fantastic tasting menu at great value: six courses for £45.

Neo Bistro, London

Serge et le Phoque, The Mandrake Hotel ££

Well this certainly was a bit of a showstopper.  Not just the restaurant, but the Mandrake Hotel itself.  It’s certainly ‘out there’ in terms of decor and design; fun, over the top and daring.  The restaurant is more toned down, with a real focus on the food.  Which is very good.  Also, the bathrooms are very cool.

Serge et le Phoque, Mandrake Hotel, London

Magpie £

Magpie is the new restaurant by the guys who opened the very popular (Michelin star) Pidgin in Hackney.  Its very central location on Heddon Street means no excuses not to go, and 100% worth it.  Fun vibes, with trolleys of small plates zipping by, ensuring you can try the full range of their delicious dishes.   The tartare in particular was excellent.

Magpie, London

CUT at 45 Park Lane £££

An oldie but a goodie.  You can’t go wrong with a Wolfgang Puck restaurant, but it’s been an age since I’ve had meat as good as it was here.  The perfect place for a spoiling dinner.

Wishlist: Southam Street, Clove Club, Lyle’s (yes, I know I’ve very behind)

 

UK COUNTRYSIDE

The Mash Inn, Buckinghamshire 

It’s only been open for a year or so but it’s gone from strength to strength.  This pub with rooms, less than a 30 minute train ride from Marylebone, is ideal for a quick London getaway.  Especially for foodies, their 9 course tasting menu (£65) is phenomenal.  And the homemade breakfast in bed is the best wake up ever.

The Mash Inn

The Bull Inn, Cotswolds

One of my favourite countryside getaways this year was at the adorable and beyond cosy Bull Inn, a beautiful pub with rooms in the charming village of Charlbury.  Every room is carefully designed with a lovely use of colour and different wallpaper, and it was close to impossible leaving their cosy fireplace.  Their restaurant offers well priced, hearty British dishes and the staff are wonderful.

The Bull Inn, Charlbury

 

ITALY

Piano Strada, Rome

A new favourite in a city which keeps on giving.  This restaurant, run by four blondes, ticks all the boxes. Great location, cool interiors, excellent food.  We’ve booked to return in January.

Piana Strade, Rome

Apollinare, Spoleto 

Should you find yourself in this quiet but very pretty Umbrian town, make sure you have lunch at this brilliant restaurant.  It was the first lunch we had of our holiday, but safe to say also the best.  Book a table on their terrace and eat pasta to your hearts content.

Apollinare, Spoleto

 

STOCKHOLM

Oaxen Slip

Our favourite restaurant in the city with a lot of good restaurants.  Charming service, lovely setting, and excellent food. Obviously go for the fish dishes, you are in Sweden after all.

Oaxen Slip, Stockholm

Rosendals Tradgard

The only place for a picnic lunch in Stockholm’s summer months.  No prettier place to be than in Rosendal Park, eating the cafe’s delicious sandwiches and cafes. Affordable too (for Stockholm).

Rosendals Tradgard, Stockholm

More recommendations for Stockholm can be found here.

 

MARRAKECH

La Famille

Like stepping into an oasis of calm and green, in the middle of Marrakech’s hectic medina.  If you need a break from tagines then La Famille is the answer, offering incredible salads and pastas and cakes in a beautiful, bohemian setting.

Le Famille, Marrakech

Wishlist: La Table du Marche

More tips for Morocco can be found here.

 

PARIS

Alain Ducasse at Plaza Athenee

The most sparkly, beautiful breakfast imaginable.  I can only imagine what dinner is like here.

Alain Ducasse at Plaza Athenee

Le Dali at Le Meurice

There are few more eye catching restaurants than Le Dali, in one of the most iconic hotels in Paris.  And *those* deserts! Not to be missed.

Le Dali, Le Meurice

Wishlist: Carbon, Balagan

 

AMSTERDAM

Entrepot

Located in up and coming East Amsterdam in the iconic Entrepot dock, this brand new restaurant is not only beautiful to look at, but the food is good too.  And not your standard fare either, often seasonal products are used, mostly cooked on an open fire.  I love the service here, who greet you with a handshake and were exceptionally friendly and helpful all evening.

Entrepot, Amsterdam

Bureau

Despite its odd location, just outside the city along a motorway, Restaurant Bureau is a unique restaurant with an incredible rooftop terrace and a well priced menu.  It’s not the place for first time Amsterdam visitors, but if you know the city well, this is the ideal place to try something different.

Bureau, Amsterdam

For more Amsterdam tips, click here.

Wishlist: Choux, Marius, Vinkeles (at the Dylan)

 

OMAN

The Japanese Restaurant, the Chedi

The most romantic setting for dinner, sitting at the candlelit Long Pool of this beautiful Muscat hotel.  Phenomenal Japanese food.  More tips on Oman can be found here.

The Chedi, Muscat

 

VIENNA

The Palmenhaus

The Palmenhaus has been around for years, and I still remembered it from my time of living in Vienna almost 20 years ago.  It’s a beautiful, airy, old tropical house, perfect for a coffee and an excellent cake, or for lunch or dinner, overlooking the Burggarten.  A special place.

Palmenhaus, Vienna

More recommendations for Vienna can be found here.

Blog, Oman

Oman: tips for the perfect holiday

December 24, 2017
Oman

In the past few years Oman has placed itself firmly on the tourist map, and yet I think it’s only recently that it’s seen a real surge in popularity, especially amongst the younger generation.  It has transformed itself from an easy winter sun beach destination (Muscat’s Chedi and Shangri La have been open for over 10 years) to one excellent for hiking, culture and desert experiences.   One of the many reasons I liked Oman is because it is so varied and therefore offers a completely different landscape (and experience) often only a few hours drive apart.  You can so easily travel from beach to rugged mountains to undulating sand dunes to wadi oasis.  It means you can have several holidays all in one, without getting on multiple flights.  And it’s only a 7 hour flight from London.

Here’s my advice on where to go:

The Jabal Akhdar Mountains: for hiking and scenery

Only a 2.5 hour drive from Muscat, and yet a world apart.  I would recommend make Jabal Akhdar your first stop.  If you’ve never been to the Middle East before, or are unfamiliar with the desert, then you will find the landscape en route to Jabal Akhdar very unusual.  We were there in November (after a long dry summer), so it was very bare and the mountains lacking much greenery.  Which is ironic because Jabal Akhdar actually means Green Mountain.  We were told that in December/January/February, when it can rain in the evening, the mountains will be much greener.  I can’t quite imagine that.

Jabal Akhdar OManJabal Akhdar, Oman

Stay at Alila Jabal Akhdar, the first luxury property in the Jabal Akhdar mountains, and most probably not the last.  Located right on the cliff edge, this is one of the most special hotels I’ve stayed.  With its showstopper infinity pool, simple but beautifully designed spacious suites and wonderful service, you can’t go wrong here.  Go for various mountain hikes (ranging from 1 – 7 hours), enjoy yoga with a view, relax in the heated outdoor infinity pool or jacuzzi, pamper yourself in their spa or just simply sit on your terrace and enjoy the view.   Dinner is included and the food is excellent.  Alcohol is expensive, but that’s the case throughout Oman.

Alila Jabal Akhdar, OmanAlila Jabal Akhdar, OmanAlila Jabal Akhdar, OmanAlila Jabal Akhdar, Oman

Alternatively, if the Alila is full, the Anantara is an option too, though it’s larger and less charming.  It is a bit more affordable though, and the location and views are exceptional.

Anantara Jabal Akhdar, OmanAnantara Jabal Akhdar, Oman

 

Wahiba Sands: for your desert experience

Who knew that camels could be quite so entertaining?  Wahiba Sands is a 3 hour drive from the Jabal Akhdar mountains as well as Muscat and absolutely worth spending a night when in Oman.  The sand dunes are breathtaking, especially at sunrise or sunset.  A camel ride is of course a must do; ultimately the most authentic way of travelling through the desert.  Depending on where you stay there are plenty of other activities you can do, like sand ‘boarding’, dune bashing in 4x4s, sunrise walks and star gazing.  The stars really are incredible here.

Wahiba Sands, Oman

In terms of where you stay, the most exclusive options are private camping.  Canvas Club and Magic Camp offer beautiful private tented experiences, with proper showers (though the heat can’t be guaranteed!) and the most comfortable beds.  We stayed at Canvas Club and it was the best sleep I had.  The experience here is second to none; arriving at the camp on camel back, enjoying the sunset with a mint tea, and dining under the stars by the fire.  If you don’t want to go all out cost wise, then Desert Nights Camp is a popular option too, with 26 Bedouin-style tents and all the luxuries of a five star hotel in the desert.

Canvas Club, Wahiba SandsCanvas Club, Wahiba SandsCanvas Club, Wahiba SandsCanvas Club, Wahiba Sands

 

Muscat: for beach relaxation, dolphins and a city tour

Muscat is the capital of Oman, but feels small, modest and low-rise (buildings cannot be higher than 14 stories) compared to other Middle Eastern capitals.  Positioned right on the Gulf of Oman coast, Muscat boasts a stunning mosque, a lively but fairly underwhelming souk, the Royal Palace (of the much-loved Sultan) and a number of excellent beach hotels.  Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque is the absolute highlight, built in 2001 and no penny was spared to ensure it is the shining gem of Oman (and apparently cost a casual $150m to build).  The marble comes from Italy, the rugs from Iran, the chandeliers from Austria. They have a new Islamic Centre there now too, which is worth visiting as the people who work there speak excellent English and welcome any questions you might have about the mosque or Islam itself.  A city tour of Muscat can be done in half a day, and is worth tearing yourself away from the beach for.  We also did a dolphin watching boat tour which we loved.

Muscat Mosque, OmanMuscat Mosque, Oman

The two best places to stay in Muscat are:

  • The Chedi.  Loved by all, with many guests returning yearly, and I can completely understand why.  This monochrome beauty will tick all the boxes for design (and instagram) lovers.  The rooms are all mahogany and minimalist, with the hotel’s Asian heritage playing a leading role.  Its iconic long pool (ostensibly the longest in the Middle East) is indeed quite something, whether it be sunrise or sunset, or at night when you can dine by it and enjoy a sublime candlelit Japanese Middle Eastern dinner (some of the best food we had on our trip).  The dining, the pools and the spa are the big highlights here, and it is the perfect place to unwind and recharge your batteries.

The Chedi, MuscatThe Chedi, MuscatThe Chedi, MuscatChedi, Muscat

  • Shangri La Al Husn.  There are three Shangri La hotels about 30 minutes north of Muscat.  Al Husn has recently separated from Al Bandar, and it is most definitely a step up.  The main perks of staying here is the beach is far superior to the Chedi, and you can snorkel right off the beach, which is wonderful.  All rooms have outside space, which is lovely, and we really enjoyed the complimentary ‘add ons’ like the afternoon tea, the daily cocktail hour and the complimentary minibar. It is a much larger hotel to the Chedi and most definitely less stylish, but the service was outstanding.

Shangri La Al Husn, OmanShangri La Al Husn, Oman

 

Also don’t miss:

Nizwa.  Reached either as a day trip from the mountains, or en route from the mountains to Wahiba Sands, this is absolutely worth doing.  Try and go on a Friday so you can witness the famous camel and goat market.  Nizwa Fort has been carefully restored and is interesting to walk around, and you can pick up a few bargains in the souqs too (though don’t expect anything like the souqs of Marrakech/Istanbul).

Nizwa Fort, OmanNizwa Fort, Oman

The Wadis.  As close to an ‘oasis’ as I’ve ever been, these watering holes in the middle of arid, rocky land are incredible.  Some are more touristy and ‘built up’ than others; the touristy ones tend to be the ones easily accessible (like Wadi Bani Khalid).  Try going early in the morning and you should avoid the crowds.  The wadis worth visiting are the previously mentioned Wadi Bani Khalid (stunning but has become very touristy), Wadi Shab (you’ll need to hike a bit to get there, but it’s less busy) and Wadi Dumm.  En route to Muscat from the south you’ll also pass the Bimmah Sinkhole, which isn’t spectacular (unless someone dares to jump in – a 22m fall) but it’s right next to the road so easily added.

Wadi bani Khalid, OmanBimmah Sinkhole, Oman

 

Other tips:

  • Plaza Premium Lounge, Muscat Airport.  You will need (depending on what nationality you are – check www.visacentral.co.uk to be sure) to get a visa on arrival in Oman.  Standing in long immigration queues is never anyone’s preferred choice after a long flight with little sleep.  I therefore highly recommend getting the Fast Track Meet & Greet service at the Plaza Premium Lounge at Muscat Airport.  As we walked into the terminal before immigration, we were met and whisked to the lounge.  Here we gave our passports, paid for the visas and then sat down to enjoy a cup of coffee, while our visas were arranged.  This took all of 5 minutes.  Then we passed all the queues, collected our bags, and were out of the terminal within 15 minutes of landing.
  • Buy alcohol at the airport before flying.  Alcohol is expensive in Oman, and in some places they don’t serve it at all (like in the desert where they often don’t have a licence to sell it).  We found a few of the hotels also offered a free (non-alcoholic) mini bar, so having a bottle of vodka with us meant we could just mix our own drinks in our room.  Wine is even more expensive than spirits (and generally pretty bad too), and I really regretted not bringing a few bottles of my own.
  • Pack warm clothes for the mountains.  The Jabal Akhdar mountains have much cooler weather than Muscat, despite only being 2.5 hours drive away.  Especially if you’re there in the winter (October – March), it can get very cold at the night and in the early hours in the mountains.  Bring layers!
  • Cover up.  Make sure you bring loose-fitting trousers, and plenty of kaftans/shirts for during the day.  While staying on the beach you can wear what you want, if you want to go sightseeing it’s best if you cover up.  The mosque in Muscat will not allow you to enter as a woman without a scarf covering your hair and the rest of you fully covered!  I found thin linen shirts and kaftans generally really useful, also for in the desert.
  • Car rental is very expensive.  If you want to do the ‘Oman circuit’, you’ll need a car.  While petrol is cheap in Oman, car rental is absolutely not, especially as you’ll need a good 4×4 to deal with all the varied terrain.  Friends of ours spent £600 on a 9 day car rental. It’s worth looking into a local operator who can provide a driver/guide as they are generally really affordable.  Booking through a travel company like Abercrombie & Kent will mean that they can organise all the logistics for you, source the best guide, and make your trip even more enjoyable, while still providing value.

Alila Jabal Akhdar

Austria, Blog, Vienna

Vienna: My Overview

September 4, 2017
Vienna

A city of sophistication, beauty and elegance, Vienna should to be top of everyone’s city break lists.  Yet it isn’t.  And suddenly it has surged in popularity, with so many friends wanting to go and asking for tips.  I cannot recommend it enough.

Having lived there for three years from 1998, and returning many years later, the city has changed immeasurably.  Thankfully it has retained its pristine grandeur and cultural draw, but it has modernised in terms of its cosmopolitan offering.  It now also appeals more to a younger crowd; less pompous, more accessible.  Now you can find countless cool coffee shops, stylish restaurants, rooftop bars and edgy night clubs – a side I rarely saw when I lived there years ago.  And while I found Vienna remarkably peaceful (which may also have to do with it being August, and holiday season), I was constantly surprised to find restaurants buzzing on a Sunday night, and the club in the Volksgarten full and pumping until the early hours on Saturday.  It therefore makes for a very relaxing, easy going weekend break, but with the opportunity to party if you want.  The ideal mix.

Vienna

HOW TO GET AROUND

Getting from the airport to the city is as easy as it gets.  Grab the City Airport Train (CAT) which goes every 30 minutes, and you’re in the centre in 16 minutes (12 Euros for a single ticket).  The station is a lovely 154 minute stroll through the park to the famous Ring Strasse (the Ring street which circles the inner city).

Getting around Vienna is also easy.  I’d walk the majority of it as I still thinks it’s the best way of discovering a city.  And Vienna’s wide boulevards are rarely heaving (apart from some of the narrower inner city cobbled streets which do get a bit congested with tourists).  Citybike Wien (like Boris bikes, you’ll find them throughout the city, super cheap) are also recommended, and make the short distances from highlight to highlight even quicker but also mean you can explore areas further afield, like cycling along the Danube and wine tasting in Viennese vineyards (yes, they exist).

WHERE TO STAY

We stayed at the new-ish Grand Ferdinand, a hotel which embodies ‘contemporary’ Vienna.  With the perfect location, right on the Ring and minutes’ walk from most sights, it’s a modern hotel with classical touches.  The bedrooms have dark blue/grey walls and white, minimalist furniture, power showers and all the mod cons.  The rooftop terrace with pool is it’s USP, very few Viennese hotels have outdoor space, let alone a swimming pool with views over the city.  It’s worth booking the hotel just for this, as while the pool is small, the terrace is relaxing and the views sublime.  The restaurant/bar up here (guest only) is also lovely, the flourless chocolate cake we had here was amazing.  Their standard rooms are also remarkably affordable, from just £150 per night.  They value for money here is incredible.  The big downside I’d say was the service: slow, unresponsive and absolutely living up to the Austrian grumpy stereotype (dare I say it).  But I’ll get over that.

Grand Ferdinand, ViennaGrand Ferdinand, Vienna

If you want to splash out there is no other place to stay than Hotel Sacher, the iconic hotel of Vienna.  Having had a big refurb, all the bedrooms are now lighter and with a more contemporary feel, but still embody that classical Viennese style.  And if you can’t afford it (rooms from £400 a night) then it’s still worth grabbing a Melange coffee and their world famous Sacher Torte in their Café.

Hotel Sacher, ViennaHotel Sacher, Vienna

WHAT TO DO

Walk, walk, walk.  Everywhere.  The city really is picture perfect, everywhere you look.  The inner city is heavenly to amble through, every building tells its own story, and end up at the iconic Stephansdom with its mosaic roof (if you have the energy, climb the 500+ steps to the top for a great view of the city).  My highlight will always be the Belvedere Palace and its beautiful gardens.  The museum houses one of the best Austrian art collections, with the famous ‘Kiss’ painting by Klimt, but also beautiful works of art of other Austrian painters, and a lovely Impressionist collection on the 2nd floor.  My absolute favourite though are Messerschmidt’s ‘character heads’.  The Kunsthistorisch Museum can also not be missed.  The Hofburg is a must visit to explore Vienna’s imperial history and learn about the Hapsburg Empire.  If you have time I highly recommend see the Lipizzaner horses perform, and booking an opera at the wonderful Opera house (Staatsoper).  Also consider the (newer) Museum Quartier for mainly modern/contemporary art and a fun, younger vibe.  The list is endless, you can easily fill three full days and still have so much more to do and see.

Belvedere, ViennaBelvedere, Vienna

WHERE TO EAT

Austria – and Vienna – is not known for its food.  Personally I am not a fan of schnitzels and strudels, but if you are then you’re in luck as they are top of their game here.  Breakfast is recommended at one of the famous cafes (more on those later), Café Central is probably one of the most well known (Trotsky and Freud came here back in the day) and the setting very special (though inevitably quite touristy).  The breakfast (below) which we had was actually remarkably good value and the bread incredibly fresh.

Cafe Central, Vienna

Brunch was also surprisingly good, we loved Ulrich (very popular amongst locals) or Erich – sister restaurants both in the same area and with a great menu and range (from juices to pancakes to vegan delights).  Expect a small queue, but it is worth waiting.  Ulrich is also recommended for dinner.

Ulrich, ViennaUlrich, Vienna

The Bakery (at Hotel Daniel) and the Brasserie & Bakery (at the Guesthouse Vienna) were also recommended for good brunches.  For a peaceful terrace lunch in the park enjoy lunch at the Meierei im Stadtpark (they serve a good schnitzel and steak tartare here), or go to the very special Palmenhaus for a salad or a sandwich and enjoy the greenery and the Burggarten (park).

Meierei im StadtparkPalmenhaus, Vienna

Dinner we went to O’Boufes, the sister restaurant to neighbouring Michelin star restaurant Konstantin Filippou.  The menu was limited, a mixture of Greek/Viennese, a little hit and miss.  The service was good but the restaurant didn’t rank top for us.  More fun and upbeat, and more laid back was Heuer (the Tagliatta and Burrata are both excellent here).  The photo below does not do it justice, they also have a huge terrace outside.  If you want a chilled out burger (and gin), then head to said the butcher to the cow.  And for a classic, sophisticated dinner try the Rote Bar at Hotel Sacher (ideal for a pre-Opera dinner as it’s just across from it).  Just remember that Vienna is expensive and food not great value for money, and we preferred the brunches/lunches/cakes to our dinners here.

Heuer, Vienna

FOR COFFEE (AND CAKE)

Speaking of cake, one thing I do adore in Vienna are the torte (cakes), and here you are spoilt for choice.  Apart from Café Central, other excellent cafes are Cafe Imperial, Sacher (of course), Demel and Landtmann. Coffee is not cheap here either but I guess you’re paying for the setting.  I was recommended Das Kleines Cafe by many locals and it is very cute and worth visiting.  Service horrendous though.

Das Kleines Cafe, Vienna

WHERE TO DRINK

The best rooftops bars are at the Grand Ferdinand (but sadly guests only, though I reckon this might change), the Ritz Carlton’s Atmosphere (gulp at the price, but that’s what you get at a five star hotel and the views are worth it) and Bloom Bar at the Lamee Hotel.  Other bars with views worth going to are Onyx, which was one of my favourites.  It has fantastic views of Stephansdom (photo below) and charming service (i.e the waiter looked like Leo Dicaprio).  The Sofitel’s Das Loft bar (it’s on the Danube) and Dachboden Hotel 25 (edgier) were also both recommended.  For summer days and nights the ‘beach’ bars along the Danube river are fun and full of locals enjoying the sun and a swim (in places) – like Hermann Strand bar and Tel Aviv Beach.  And for nightclubs go to the Volksgarten for various clubs and outdoor music, or Prater Sauna for more heavy, gritty party vibes (and an outdoor pool).

Onyx, Vienna

Further, more detailed blog posts about Vienna will follow – watch this space.

Thank you Luise van Holk, Victoria van Tets and others for your tips.

Some of the included photos are by Rikki Salmond. 

Blog, Date Spot, Drink, Eat, London, Stay

Henrietta Hotel, Covent Garden

June 20, 2017
The Henrietta, Covent Garden

I’ve been to the Henrietta Hotel twice in 24 hours.  In my defence, it’s a stone’s throw from my office, so easy to get excited about.  Yesterday for drinks, today for a nosey around the rooms.  Because yes, I am a hotel geek and I do like to do things like that on my lunch break.

Founded by the Experimental Group guys (think the Experimental Cocktail Chinatown, but they also own lots of hip venues in Paris, New York & Ibiza), the Henrietta is many things.  Firstly it is a small, luxury hotel, with 18 rather beautiful rooms.  With heavy Art Deco influences and pastel colours, each room is unique, from the pretty headboards to brass lamps and mirrors in all different shapes and sizes.   Many of the bathrooms have large baths and all have fluffy branded robes and towels.

The Henrietta, Covent GardenThe Henrietta, Covent Garden

The Henrietta has also got a great bar.  Last night, post excellent dinner at Frenchie (which I would recommend to all who would fork out a casual £38 on lamb), I dragged my friend there for cocktails.  We were there long enough for the bill to be fairly substantial (be warned).  The cocktail menu is a little unusual, as I suppose you would expect from these guys.  I wasn’t sure about my Palomar cocktail (tequila based but perhaps with a touch too much salt) but the vibe was good, and I love the design of the place.  There is also a mezzanine level with another bar and more tables.

The Henrietta, Covent GardenThe Henrietta, Covent Garden

Perhaps the most talked about aspect of the Henrietta is its restaurant, with the food being by the one & only Ollie Dabbous (of Dabbous fame).  I sent my colleague there for lunch yesterday (come to think of it I really have been giving this place a lot of love) and he said the food was excellent.

The Henrietta, Covent GardenThe Henrietta, Covent Garden

And so today, having not seen any of the rooms, I popped by and was shown around.  Sadly their two suites were booked, as I would have loved to have seen the views from their terrace.  But I saw two rooms: their smallest Covent Garden room (super cosy, under the eaves of the house, not for giants) and the Henrietta room (much more spacious, fabulous bed).

The Henrietta, Covent GardenThe Henrietta, Covent Garden

All in all it’s good to see Covent Garden has a new, hip hotel, and I’m sure I’ll be stopping by regularly for food and booze, and maybe even a snooze..!

The Henrietta

14-15 Henrietta St,

London WC2E 8QH

Blog, Stockholm, Sweden

Stockholm: My top tips

June 12, 2017
Stockholm

Stockholm, a city I’ve rarely heard a bad word about.  I mean, clearly do not go during the winter months, unless you are looking for perpetual darkness.  And a head freeze.  But from May – September (if not a little later) Stockholm is a must visit destination.  I did think while there that it was rare for me to choose a destination which was not only colder, but also more expensive than the UK.  But Stockholm is an exception.

Stockholm

 Effortlessly sophisticated, peaceful and easy going, it is the ultimate weekend break destination.  The locals, apart from being startling good looking and (mainly) blonde, are also exceptionally friendly and upbeat. You’re greeted by an enthusiastic ‘hi hi’ wherever you go, the sing-songy language is wonderful to listen to and, should Swedish not be your first language, English is widely spoken. 

Stockholm

 I’m not sure quite where my fascination of Scandinavia and their language comes from. Perhaps from getting along with my Scandi school mates. But maybe more so from my obsession with Scandi Noir (the Bridge – set in Malmo and Copenhagen – is still one of the best TV series I’ve watched). And apart from that, there is the Scandi infiltration into multiple aspects of London life; in the form of food, design and even the ‘hygge’ lifestyle influence (though I must point out, hygge is Danish, not Swedish). 

Stockholm

 So here are my tips of what do to if you have a weekend in Stockholm, and hopefully you’ll enjoy it as much as I did:

WHERE TO STAY

 Through my work we were lucky to stay at the brand new Hotel At Six, the sister property of the much-loved hotel Thief in Oslo. At Six is not for everyone, it’s huge (300 rooms), modern and quite dark (the corridors felt a little industrial). My father – my date for the weekend – wasn’t a huge fan, but I was, and therein lies the explanation: this is a property better for the young. I liked the style.  The beds were like sleeping in cotton wool (my father will concur), impossible to get out of.  Bathrooms were slick and power showers excellent. The breakfast buffet was expansive and varied, and I loved it all from the chipolatas to the pastries and homemade jams to the chia and coconut pudding.   Location wise it’s hard to beat, with walking distance to the Old Town, Sodermalm and Ostermalm, and you’re right next to new hotspot Tak (more on that later).  One thing I would say is that unless you book a room on a high floor the views are poor (a building site) and the direct area it’s in (the ‘city’) is not the most beautiful.  But what must be emphasised is that the cost of the hotel is also very reasonable (especially for Stockholm), with rooms starting at around £180 a night.

Hotel at Six, StockholmHotel at Six, StockholmHotel at Six, Stockholm

Other good options is the Lydmar (right on the water in Ostermalm, next to the iconic but quite stuffy Grand Hotel), Hotel Story and Miss Clara for trendy, boutique options and Ett Hem for your most exclusive Relais & Chateaux option with a very personal, homely feel.

WHERE TO EAT

 Food in Stockholm is excellent and there are countless good restaurants in the city.  I gorged myself on whipped butter, rye bread and cinnamon buns, and had as much fish as possible.  You can’t go wrong with having fish here, it’s all so fresh.  Our favourite restaurant was Oaxen Slip, the more laid back sister restaurant to two Michelin star Oaxen Krug on the island of Djurgarden.  Located on the water, the food is full of flavour and unpretentious, the staff beyond charming.

Oaxen Slip, StockholmOaxen Slip, Stockholm

On our second night we ate at Portal, in the upmarket residential area of Vasastan (the Notting Hill of Stockholm).  This had a completely different feel, very light and open, typically Scandi in style, a little stiffer.  The food was beautifully presented and the scallops were some of the best I’ve had.

Portal, StockholmPortal, Stockholm

Other dinner places I was recommended are Woodstockholm, Café Nizza and Albin & Adam.  Nytorget 6 is a very popular lunch place in Sodermalm, known for their tacos which were delicious and I really liked the vibe here.  Cafe Pascal is a local favourite in the Vasastan area, and I also really wanted to go to Snickarbacken 7 Cafe but didn’t make it.   Plenty of excuses to return.

Nytorget 6, Stockholm

WHERE TO DRINK

 Stockholm does not really do roof terraces.  Probably because most of the year the weather does not really allow for much outside drinking.  However, the arrival of Tak changes this.  This uber cool roof top terrace bar, with great views of the city and an upbeat vibe, offers drinks alfresco to thirsty locals.  There will be queues to get up here on the weekends and the drinks are not cheap – naturally – but it’s great fun.

Tak, StockholmTak, Stockholm

Other fun bars are the courtyard bar at Hotel Story, the bar at Riche (known for its attractive divorcees!) and Penny and Bill.  Wine bars are also becoming more popular, and we much enjoyed the newly opened Tyge & Sessil

Tyge & Sessil, Stockholm

COFFEE

 The Swedes are seemingly also good at coffee.  Their coffee is definitely on the strong side, and give you a good pick me up for sightseeing and/or more eating and drinking.  We loved our coffee at the Urban Deli Nytorget (this is a chain, but it’s like a luxury version of Whole Foods, well worth going to), and coffee at Coffice, Drop and Johan and Nystrom come highly recommended.  In fact Arlanda Airport has a Johan and Nystrom café, where I spent quite some time waiting for my father’s flight to arrive, and both the coffee as well as the hot chocolate were delicious.

Urban Deli Nytorget, Stockholm

WHAT TO DO

 Stockholm is one of those cities where there is no need to have an itinerary as such.  You can walk from place to place, and follow the water through Ostermalm.

Stockholm

Take the lift up to the viewing platform at Gondolen (which is a slightly odd 70ies construction) for the best views of the city, from there you’re practically in the fun area of Sodermalm.  One of the highlights was visiting the world-famous Fotografiska (photographer museum), where we enjoyed a number of their exhibitions (in particularly Cooper & Gorfer’s ‘I know not these my hands’).  There’s also a great restaurant here with lovely views of the water.  A walk through Gamla Stan (the Old Town) is recommended, though I found it overly touristic and better to avoid the main ‘high street’ which has lost its authentic feel.

Gamla Stan, StockholmGamla Stan, Stockholm

Another must is spending the morning in the beautiful Rosendal park on Djurgarden, which is wonderful.  The café at Rosendals Tradgard is charming, a little like London’s Petersham Nurseries in feel, but perhaps with even better cakes.  You can have lunch here on a bench in the apple orchard or in one of the gardens, ideal for a summer’s day.

Rosendal, StockholmRosendal Tradgard, StockholmRosendal Tradgard, Stockholm

But perhaps one of our favourite bits was just wandering through the hipster area of Sodermalm, sitting in one of the green squares and people-watching, pottering around one of the many vintage shops, and stopping for a coffee at one of the many cafes.

Sodermalm, StockholmSodermalm, Stockholm

If you have time grab one of the ferries to one of the 30,000 (!) islands of Stockholm’s stunning archipelago.  I will definitely be returning to do this.

With much gratitude to Hedda & Umberto for all your wonderful tips. Tack! 

Amsterdam, Blog, Drink, Eat, The Netherlands

Bar Botanique, Amsterdam East

April 29, 2017
Bar Botanique, Amsterdam East

Bar Botanique was another drinks/brunch/lunch place on my list, which I had been wanting to visit for a while.  Again, unsurprisingly, it was a little out of the way from where I was staying (West).  But ‘long’ distances in Amsterdam are all relative, and we happily cycled the 20 minutes to this tropical cafe in the East of Amsterdam (just past the Artis Zoo).

We got lucky because as we arrived the sun came out, and so we were first to grab a table on their spacious terrace (they have two).  But inside is also most definitely worth a look, and as its name reflects, it certainly is a bit like an oasis in the city.  I love the vibe here, laid back, buzzing and, of course, very green.  The huge windows let in all the light, so sitting inside is as nice as outside.

Bar Botanique, Amsterdam EastBar Botanique, Amsterdam East

We were starving and craving some good Dutch carbs, so we went for two massive Croque Madames (with a fried egg on top, as you do), and Mol went for scrambled eggs with truffle and a side of trusty avocado.  Since it was Easter and we were in a good mood, we ordered a bottle of bubbles to accompany lunch, and enjoyed a few glasses in the sun.  The staff were super friendly and helpful too, which really added to our experience.

Bar Botanique, Amsterdam EastBar Botanique, Amsterdam EastBar Botanique, Amsterdam East

In short, Bar Botanique is not only a place to head to for a drink, but also for a long lazy lunch.  As the weather gets better I know the terrace will be the place to be in East.

If you’re in the area, it’s also worth visiting de Plantage, for beer lovers the Brouwerij t’Ij in an old windmill, and for another pretty cafe check out de Tropen Grand Cafe (part of the Tropen museum).

Bar Botanique

Eerste van Swindenstraat 581
Amsterdam, Netherlands 1093 LC

 

Blog, Date Spot, Eat, London

Bala Baya, Southwark

April 28, 2017
Bala Baya, Southwark

Well, Israeli food is having a bit of a moment in London.  Ottolenghi probably put it on the food map in London, but restaurants like Palomar, the Barbary and Honey & Co have also really helped, and are some of my favourite restaurants in the city.

And now Bala Baya opens it doors (OK, well three months ago), under the arches in Southwark.  It’s main focus is food from Tel Aviv, so traditional Israeli food but with a modern twist.  I took Rob there for his birthday in March, and then returned for a press night of the Israeli Tourist Board last week.  Both times the food blew me away.   From more traditional dishes like the home made, just baked pitta bread and amazing roasted cauliflower with yoghurt to the fish tartar with sumac, it was all completely delicious.  Apparently the aubergine with milk is well worth trying too, so don’t be put off by the name.

Bala Baya, Southwark

On the press night our favourite dish was the salmon with peppers, as were their seared tuna bites.  But their puddings were incredible too: they served a cheesecake and a panna cotta-esque pudding with Malibu.  Perhaps because Tel Aviv is on the coast they serve more fish here than they might at a more mainstream Israeli restaurant.

Bala Baya, Southwark

Ask for a table upstairs, unless you want to sit by the bar downstairs (which is perhaps a bit more upbeat).  The setting itself is very cool, reminding me a little of Bethnal Green’s Mission E2.  A mixture of its exposed red brick arch, with modern furniture and greenery, means it’s en trend.

Bala Baya, SouthwarkBala Baya, Southwark

And while it’s location is a little off the beaten path, the Old Union Yard Arches are cool, with wine bar and Italian restaurant Macellaio next door worth a visit too.  Or, if you fancy something different, Polish/Russian/Hungarian restaurant and bar Baltic is around the corner, with stunning minimalist interiors and good food & drinks.

Bala Baya

Arch 25, Old Union Yard Arches

220 Union Street

SE1 0LR

Photo credit: Bala Baya (apart from the salmon, which is one of my instagram photos)

Amsterdam, Blog, Eat, Healthy, The Netherlands

Benji’s, Amsterdam East

April 17, 2017
Benji's, Amsterdam

Instagram has its uses, one of which is spotting good brunch places.  I’ve seen photos of the very pretty Benji’s come past quite a few times, so I decided to grab my chance and go and check it out myself.

Benji’s is in East Amsterdam on the Wibautstraat, very close to one of my favourite Amsterdam hotels the Volkshotel (it’s worth also having a drink on their roof terrace).  It’s not the most central of places (i.e you will need a bike to get here) but it’s worth the ride.  There have been quite a few cool openings on this street, like the Breakfast Club and roof terrace NEST, but Benji’s is the place that was top of my list.

Benji’s is very aesthetically pleasing, with huge ceiling to floor windows, and countless plants hanging from the ceiling and plant pots in every corner.  It feels a little like you’ve walked into a trendy greenhouse.

Benji's, AmsterdamBenji's, AmsterdamBenji's, Amsterdam

The guests here are as cool as the place itself, with bloggers typing away on their MacBooks and groups of gossiping friends sipping flat whites.  The staff are exceptionally friendly and helpful. All day breakfast/brunch/lunch is their thing, and their food has a definite health focus.  They are known for their yoghurt ‘bowls’ like the ‘Love Bowl’ I had (soy yoghurt, chia, berries and coconut) but they also offer incredible salads (Mol had the burrata salad) and great toasties.

Benji's, AmsterdamBenji's, AmsterdamBenji's, Amsterdam

The vibe is super laid back here, and very easy going, which makes it the perfect place to wake up.  I loved the coffee here too, which gives you that extra kick ready for a day of exploring Amsterdam.

Benji's, Amsterdam

Benji’s

Wibautstraat 196

1091 Amsterdam

Amsterdam, Blog, Drink, Eat, The Netherlands

Restaurant Bureau, Slotervaart

April 17, 2017
Restaurant Bureau, Amsterdam

I’m not sure how when picking a restaurant I always pick them in the most obscure of places.  Restaurant Bureau is the perfect example.  Amsterdam has a host of restaurants on my list – most of which are central – but I chose Bureau.  Which meant an Uber rather than a bike ride, and even a stretch of motorway.  And then we arrived and it felt like we had been dumped in an industrial terrain, as far from the picturesque canals as you can get.  But that’s where the negatives stop.

The restaurant is the 5th (top floor) of a fairly unattractive building (used to be the old IBM head office) called B. Amsterdam, which is an office space, co-working space and event space, focused on startups.  I think the official term is ‘an incubator’.  Anyway, it’s as trendy as these sorts of places tend to be, complete with gym (of course) and cinema.   But the real show stopper is when the lift doors open to the restaurant, a large, high-ceilinged space, divided in two by a very cool bar.  One half of it is the restaurant  and the other a lounge type space, with sofas and comfy chairs, and also some private dining rooms set slightly back.

Restaurant Bureau, AmsterdamRestaurant Bureau, AmsterdamRestaurant Bureau, Amsterdam

Before I talk about the food I should probably mention their pièce de la résistance: their roof terrace.  It’s so big they in fact call it a ‘roof park’, and rightly so, it being the largest roof terrace in Amsterdam.  Two companies, GrownDownTown and DakDokters have turned this space into a green oasis, not only pretty to walk through and enjoy, but also useful and ‘fruitful’.  Think a vegetable garden, fruit trees, chicken pens, the whole shebang.  This beautiful park is not just for those enjoying the restaurant – it is mainly for those working in the building to come and relax, meet and discuss ideas.  In the summer this will be the ultimate chill out place (there are even some hammocks), the perfect roof terrace to enjoy some drinks and some sunshine.  FYI my Instagram photos below do not do it justice, so I borrowed a photo from GrownDownTown to show how pretty it actually is.

Restaurant Bureau, AmsterdamRestaurant Bureau, AmsterdamRestaurant Bureau, Amsterdam

Back to inside, and the food.  Firstly, the staff are super friendly.  We were late but were still received with a warm handshake and welcome and were led to our table.  Our waitress was bubbly and enthusiastic.  We opted for their 3 course menu (a bargain at EUR31).  The chef used to cook at Choux, which is one of Amsterdam’s top restaurants, but also known for its more complicated food.  Here there’s none of that.  The food is excellent, beautifully presented and affordable.  My bavette steak was perfect. They have a good range of fish on the menu which I enjoyed (oysters, cod, perch), but also good options for vegetarians.

Restaurant Bureau, AmsterdamRestaurant Bureau, Amsterdam

Maybe steer clear of their organic prosecco unless you want to drink what effectively tastes like cider.  Their house red wine (EUR 21 per bottle) was very drinkable.  The coffees to finish were too.

Restaurant Bureau, Amsterdam

All in all, I left feeling somewhat elated.  Restaurant Bureau is an amazing, unique find, and for those who know Amsterdam well and want to try something different a place I highly recommend.   While yes, it’s unusual to get a taxi anywhere in Amsterdam, it’s only a 20 minute drive from the centre of the city (and you can also cycle here of course).  As the Netherlands is known for its start up culture I also think it’s worthwhile visiting B Amsterdam as a bonus.

Restaurant Bureau

B. Amsterdam – 5e etage
Johan Huizingalaan 763a (navigatie 761)
1066 VH Amsterdam

Note: They are usually only open on weekdays, but from 20 May they will also be open for dinner on Saturdays. 

Blog, UK - Outside London

No 38 the Park, Cheltenham

April 2, 2017
No. 38 The Park, Cheltenham

I find myself in Cheltenham a number of times a year but usually for work, and so never really tend to see this pretty Cotswold town as a weekend break destination.  But it really is, ideal for accessing the rolling Cotswolds hills or for those (locals or tourists) looking for a weekend break in an elegant Regency spa town.

Last week I was in Cheltenham again for work, and this time we had a full day meeting at No 38 the Park, a boutique hotel close to the centre of town.  I absolutely loved it.  The sure way to winning my affection is by having a dog greet you upon arrival.  She was the best host possible, and even wanted to come into the meeting with me.

No 38 the Park, Cheltenham

No. 38 the Park is one of the Lucky Onion’s Cotswold ventures (who are known for the equally wonderful Wheatsheaf and No 131).  While No 38 is in a stunning Regency Townhouse, it feels more like a home than a hotel (you can in fact take over the whole place privately).  There is no reception desk, or staff wandering around constantly.  It’s peaceful and homely and very stylish, with a unique art collection.

No. 38 The Park, Cheltenham

They don’t have a restaurant as such, but they do have a beautiful ‘dining room’ where you can have a lazy breakfast or a relaxed pre-ordered lunch (the sandwiches were incredible).  They also have a wonderful courtyard terrace which will be great in the summer.  If you’re thirsty they have a huge honestly bar, where you can help yourself to a selection of their local beers, or make a Fever Tree G&T.

No. 38 The Park, Cheltenham

They have 13 bedrooms, all very individual, in different sizes.  But all stunning.  I loved the different wall papers, and the use of colour.  Even the smaller bedrooms have their own charm, often with incredible roll top baths.  Each bedroom comes with a Nespresso machine, 100 Acres bath products and HD TV with Sky.  Their honeymoon suite is a real show stopped, with the most incredible ‘his ‘n her’ showers.

No. 38 The Park, CheltenhamNo. 38 The Park, CheltenhamNo. 38 The Park, Cheltenham

If you’re looking for a romantic bolthole with affordable prices, No. 38 is ideal.  Next time I come here I just hope to stay the night and sample those very comfortable looking beds.

No. 38 the Park

38 Evesham Road,

Cheltenham

The Cotswolds

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