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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, 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)

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

Blog, UK - Outside London

The Pig in the Wall, Southampton

April 2, 2017
The Pig in the Wall, Southampton

Southampton is not the first place you’d think to go for an English weekend break.  And had the Pig in the Wall not been there, I would not have recommended it.  However, the Pig in the Wall is the perfect ‘gate way’ to the New Forest and so ideal for a Saturday night stay.   Apart from that, the Pig in the Wall is nestled in what remains of Southampton’s 12th century city walls, and so has a lot of charm in itself.

The Pig in the Wall, Southampton

Those of you who have not been to the Pig are in for a treat.  The original of the now five Pig hotels is the Pig at Brockenhurst, in the heart of the New Forest in Hampshire.  I stayed here for the weekend over three years ago, and absolutely loved it.  The problem is, everyone loves it and so it’s always fully booked.  Solution?  Book the Pig in the Wall (often with much better availability AND lower prices).

You’re only a 15 – 20 minute drive from the New Forest from here (having a car is ideal), so you can spend the whole of Saturday walking / biking in the New Forest (here are some ideas) and then you can head back to the Pig in the Wall in the afternoon to freshen up and enjoy their lovely rooms.  They also have a wonderful sitting room/cafe/lobby, where you can sit by the fire in the winter or on their terrace outside in the summer.   They serve delicious (and very strong) coffees / drinks / snacks all day long, and the best continental breakfasts in the morning.  I absolutely loved this room, it really feels like you’re a guest at someone’s (stunning) home.  The staff are beyond friendly.

The Pig in the Wall, SouthamptonThe pig in the wallThe Pig in the Wall, SouthamptonThe Pig in the Wall, Southampton

There are twelve bedrooms here, all individual.  We had the Snug room which was undeniably very snug (the Cosy room is a bit bigger, for £20 more).  But also with a lot of character, under the eaves.  Our room had the Pig’s signature very comfortable beds, and fantastic power shower.  They use space cleverly, so you really have everything you need.   And with prices starting from £120, it’s good value.

The Pig in the Wall, Southampton

One of the other perks of staying at the Pig in the Wall is the complimentary Land Rover ‘shuttle service’, where they will drive you to the Pig at Brockenhurst for dinner (book this far in advance!), and pick you up afterwards.  So you can enjoy a drink or two without worrying about how you’re going to get back.  And I highly recommend this.  The Pig at Brockenhurst was even lovelier than I remembered, with now an expanded organic vegetable garden and a phenomenal restaurant.  And after dinner we could even still enjoy a few night caps by the fire.

The Pig at Brockenhurst, new ForestThe Pig at Brockenhurst, new ForestThe Pig at Brockenhurst, new Forest

Bottom line: the Pig hotels remain some favourite British hotels.  And I’m keen to visit their newest two (the Pig on the Beach, and the Pig at Coombe) soon.

The Pig in the Wall

8 Western Esplanade

Southampton

Hampshire

Blog, Date Spot, Eat, London

Kiln, Soho

March 27, 2017
Kiln, Soho

If you haven’t been to Thai BBQ favourite the Smoking Goat, go now.  If you have, and loved it, then you’ll be pleased to read (though you probably already know) that they opened a sister property, called Kiln.  They have got quite a lot in common: they’re in Soho, serve Thai food (mostly with an emphasis on BBQ), are petite in size (though Kiln has got a more seating downstairs) and both offer brisk but friendly service.

Kiln, Soho

But the food is actually very different.  More so than I had expected.  Kiln serves off the beaten track ‘local’ Thai food.  Dishes from small, rural villages.  Even a curry from Myanmar, because not only do Thailand and Myanmar share a (substantial) border, but many Burmese live in Northern Thailand.  So the influence is heavy.  You won’t find a Pad Thai here.  There’s very little use of coconut.

And the food is spicy.  Again, a lot more so than I had expected.  Being greedy I tend to put as much food in my mouth as possible, as quickly as possibly.  Before assessing that it might be hot (in both senses of the word).  So I did spend a lot of my evening downing water (and wine).  I really enjoyed the variation of the dishes, from the lamb & cumin skewer (order one each), to the wild ginger and short rib curry from Burma, to the clay pot baked glass noodles with crab meat.  I also liked the spiced sausage with turmeric, and the stir fried cornish greens and soy.

Kiln, SohoKiln, Soho

We ate downstairs, which I liked surprisingly.  It isn’t a soulless small room where the overflow is forced to sit.  It’s quite dark and fun and cosy.  If you’re a two though, I’d aim for the seats at the stainless steel kitchen bar (i.e the only seats possible upstairs), then you can watch the chefs work away at the open fires.

Kiln, Soho

The place is buzzing, incredibly popular despite it’s fairly recent opening.  Of course you can’t book.  But you can put your name and number down for a table.  And they do really try their best.  Just don’t rock up on a Friday night at 7 and expect to be seated within two hours.  It just won’t happen.

So which do I prefer?  Smoking Goat or Kiln?  It’s hard to say.  If you’re looking for something more adventurous, then Kiln may do it for you.  But I think all in all, Smoking Goat still wins for me.

Kiln

58 Brewer Street

Soho

Photo credit: Kiln

Blog, Date Spot, Drink, Eat, London

Lassco Bar & Dining, Maltby Street Market

March 27, 2017
Lassco Bar & Dining, Maltby Street

Maltby Street Market is one of my favourite places in London.  A bit of a walk through some very quiet and a little dodgy parts of London, but worth it in the end.  On the weekend it’s heaving, and not with tourists, which is always a pleasure.  Especially since Borough Market has become so unbearable.

40 Maltby Street is a wine bar I repeatedly return to, with good ambience, nice wines and lovely food.  It seems to be one of the few places open in the evenings on the weekdays.  But then I read great reviews from the Nudge and Hot Dinners about the newly opened Lassco Bar & Dining, just opposite 40 Maltby Street, with very reasonable prices (£25 for 2 courses / £30 for three) and in an eccentric, fun setting.

Lassco Bar & Dining, Maltby Street

So I went on Friday and dragged a friend along.  When I finally managed to locate it (Lassco is a big warehouse, with multiple entrances), I found it very empty, which unnerved me slightly.  But it is an undeniably wonderful setting, and one which is hard to describe.  Everything around you is for sale, from the antique furniture, art work, tiles and vintage lamps.  You’re surrounded by a mixture of everything, from different continents and decades.  And it just works.

Lassco Bar & Dining, Maltby Street

The bar is jolly, adorned with (old school) bunting, and a good but select wine list.  The cocktails are meant to be worth trying too, but we stuck to the red wine (my preference went to the wine from Le Marche, Italy).   We were then led to the ‘dining room’, with attractive light green walls and a selection of prints hanging on the walls.   The food was good, starting with fresh sourdough bread and smoked whiskey butter which was beyond moorish.  I chose the scallops to start (delicious), Ash the beetroot and Stilton (also good – though Stilton always tends to overpower).

Lassco Bar & Dining, Maltby Street

Lassco Bar & Dining, Maltby Street

The main courses were both excellent, I again opted for the lemon sole (though I had forgotten how bony this fish is), and Ash went for the wild boar.  To finish I couldn’t resist the flourless chocolate cake, which tasted as good as it sounds.

Lassco Bar & Dining, Maltby Street

Lassco Bar & Dining, Maltby Street

Lassco Bar & Dining has a definite charm to it, and I’d recommend it for a low-lit date or even a sophisticated but fun night with a group of friends (reservations shouldn’t be hard).  It just needs a lot more diners (or drinkers), because it lacked the buzz and atmosphere that goes hand in hand with people having a good time.  They are apparently moving to an even larger space across the road in June, and I wish them all the best, because this is a place which deserves to do well.

Lassco Bar & Dining

Ropewalk, 41 Maltby Street,

SE1 3PA

Photo credit: Lassco Bar & Dining

Blog, UK - Outside London

The Mash Inn, Buckinghamshire

March 12, 2017
The Mash Inn, Buckinghamshire

Everyone loves a quick escape from London, and the Mash Inn could not be a more perfect get away.  A 20 minute train journey from Marylebone station takes you to High Wycombe, and then it’s a 19 minute taxi drive to the tiny hamlet of Bennett End, where you’ll find the Mash Inn.

The Mash Inn is an 18th century inn (formerly known as the Three Horseshoes), which Nick Mash bought and fully renovated (hence the name).  The result is that the inn retains its cosy, simple and traditional feel, but with a fresh look and a stunning, Scandi-esque dining room overlooking the Chiltern Hills.

The Mash Inn, BuckinghamshireThe Mash Inn, Buckinghamshire

It is a restaurant with rooms (and the restaurant/kitchen is the pièce de la résistance here), but the rooms (5 in total) are very comfortable too.  We managed to get the last available room (with shower, sadly no bath) but at £100 a night it’s a bargain.  The rooms are small, but have everything you need.  Beds so comfortable that an afternoon nap is highly encouraged, a power shower with lovely bath products, a Robertson radio playing classical music as we walked in.  The view from our little window at sunset was rather beautiful too.

The Mash Inn, BuckinghamshireThe Mash Inn, BuckinghamshireThe Mash Inn, BuckinghamshireThe Mash Inn, Buckinghamshire

We were unlucky with the weather, but still went for a short walk in the area and visited the village church (which is charming).  The Chiltern Hills are beautiful and the walks here are excellent, which gives me another reason to come back.  Apart from walking, eating, drinking and sleeping, there isn’t much else to do here – but that was perfect for us.

The undeniable highlight here though is the food.  The restaurant leads to an open kitchen, where you meet the friendly and upbeat chef Jon.  All food is cooked on an open wood fire and means that the Mash Inn always has this wonderful smell of burning wood.

The Mash Inn, BuckinghamshireThe Mash Inn, Buckinghamshire

We opted for their 9 course tasting menu (£55 per person), which was one plate after the other of deliciousness.  Jon often serves the food himself and gives a little story around it, like the relatively simple but pretty looking salad he put in front of us, which he had foraged while out for a walk.  It was incredible!  There is a decent wine list with red starting at a very reasonable £21 a bottle (Sicilian Nero D’Avola).

The Mash Inn, BuckinghamshireThe Mash Inn, BuckinghamshireThe Mash Inn, BuckinghamshireThe Mash Inn, Buckinghamshire

We then crawled into bed, until we were awoken by the next meal: breakfast in bed.  Porridge, turmeric & ginger juice, freshly made croissants the size of my head, coffee.  Such a treat.

The Mash Inn, Buckinghamshire

If you’re looking for a relaxing, peaceful weekend away from London with very good food, then I would highly recommend the Mash Inn.  I shall definitely be returning.

The Mash Inn

Horseshoe Road,

Bennett End,

Radnage,

Buckinghamshire HP14 4EB

 

Blog, Date Spot, Eat, London

Salut, Islington

February 19, 2017
Salut!, Islington

I spent quite some time narrowing down the options of which restaurant to go to for my 30th birthday dinner, with my twin sister Jo and my father.  Finally I made a list of three restaurants I wanted to try: Lyle’s, Medlar and Salut! (with exclamation mark).  The choice was for my father, since it was his treat.  He chose Salut!.

Salut! isn’t on everyone’s radar, and I hadn’t even heard of it until recently, when I came across it on Time Out’s top London restaurant recommendations.  I liked the sound of it, a small neighbourhood bistro, with excellent food and moderate pricing. Plus I love Islington and would move there in a heartbeat if I wasn’t so happy in Fulham.

Salut! is tiny, so I can understand why it books up so early.  It’s very bustling and lively, with an open kitchen – so if you’re looking for something quiet and peaceful, then Salut! is not for you.  It’s the perfect place for a celebration dinner, or a dinner with friends.  A great place to start the weekend.

I arrived with a stinking cold and wishing I was in bed.  But some rich glasses of red Primitivo wine sorted me out nicely.  And then the food came and it cured me for a few hours.  For starters I really enjoyed a truffle cauliflower veloute, which was warming and delicious.  I loved the ‘Preparations of beetroot’ dish too.

Salut!, IslingtonSalut!, Islington

The main courses were all excellent.  I never go for pork but wanted to try something new, so went for the pork belly which was incredible.  I especially liked the romesco, crushed cassava & braised hispi (I have a serious adoration of hispi cabbage) which accompanied the pork.  Jo had the mallard which was cooked to perfection, with parsley root and confit swede which again was really good.  My father had the red deer with smoked celeriac.   The food is beautifully presented and I think we all especially loved their vegetables, purées, and sauces.

Salut!, IslingtonSalut!, IslingtonSalut!, Islington

To finish we enjoyed a beautiful (and delicious) espresso.

Salut!, Islington

By the end of dinner I felt a lot better.  While Salut! is a little out of the way, if you’re looking for sophisticated food in a laid back, unpretentious and cosy environment, then you’ll love it.

Salut!

412 Essex Rd

London N1 3PJ

Blog, Date Spot, Do, Drink, Eat, London

Petersham Nurseries, Richmond Park

January 3, 2017
Petersham Nurseries, Richmond

Going for a walk in Richmond Park is something I don’t do enough.  And every time I go I remind myself how beautiful it is, how tame the deer are and how it actually feels like you’re in the countryside [for a little while].  And now I have another excuse to keep returning: Petersham Nurseries.

Richmond ParkRichmond Park

It’s one of those places where I wondered why on earth I hadn’t come sooner.  First and foremost it’s a garden centre, which doesn’t sound hugely appealing in itself.  But then you get there and you understand what all the fuss is about.  Even in early November, when it gets dark early and Richmond Park is soggy and your hands are freezing, Petersham Nurseries is like a flowery fairytale.  Everything is ridiculously pretty, without being kitsch.

Petersham Nurseries, Richmond park

But flowers aside, there’s a lot more to Petersham Nurseries.  Namely the restaurant and cafe, both in glasshouses.  In fact, it reminds me a little of a British version of South Africa’s Babylonstoren.  Arguably without the sun, the winelands, and the Cape Dutch architecture, but Babylonstoren does also have a cafe and an excellent restaurant (Babel) in glasshouses.  There’s something about eating in a glasshouse that clearly appeals, I for one love it.

Petersham Nurseries, Richmond park

We came here for tea, having walked our on-loan dog Amiga through an autumnal Richmond Park.  Dogs are allowed too (in the cafe).  Even in the winter this place gets busy, and the restaurant is always fully booked (so book ahead).   The cafe is teaming with life; from dogs barking, children laughing and friends gossiping.  The cakes are so good you could sit here for hours and work your way through the (considerable) selection.  They – of course – also have a large range of teas, from mint to English Breakfast, and also serve more casual, hearty lunch options like quiches and roasts.   It’s cosy and warm and the best place to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Petersham Nurseries, Richmond

Petersham Nurseries’ more formal restaurant made a name for itself when chef Skye Gyngell (who since left to set up Spring) became Head Chef, and it was awarded a Michelin star.   I’m yet to eat here, but I’ve only heard good things.

But quite honestly, Petersham Nurseries was one of my 2016 highlights.  And I look forward to returning many more times in 2017.

Petersham Nurseries

Church Lane, Petersham Road,

Richmond TW10 7AB

Photo credit: my own and Stephanie Wolff’s photos

Andalucia, Blog, Bologna, Croatia, London, Mexico, Mexico City, Prague, Rome, Sicily, Spain, Tulum

BEST OF 2016: MY FAVOURITES

January 1, 2017
City Turtle 2016

2016 was another busy year of travel.  I enjoyed a record number of European city breaks (Rome, Prague, Bologna, Istanbul, Marbella, Paris, Amsterdam) and a few brilliant longer trips to Miami, New York, Hvar, Andalucia and Mexico.  Hopefully all my blogs have been useful for those travelling to these destinations.

Here are my favourites of 2016:

Most Spectacular Hotel: Hotel Esencia, Mexico

I promise I’ll stop banging on about this hotel, but this boutique design hotel stands out for me as one of the best places I have ever stayed.  Its stretch of beach is so peaceful, the sand so white and the sea gloriously turquoise. The rooms are white washed, minimalist and super comfortable.  Morning yoga is the best way to start the day there, followed by a delicious healthy breakfast.  It’s no wonder Conde Nast voted it as one of 2016’s best hotels.

Esencia, Mexico

Runner up: Finca Cortesin (and I shockingly still have not written a blog about this place).  Hands down one of Europe’s most beautiful properties, high in the hills 30 minutes from Marbella, with sea and mountain views.  The interiors are so elegant, the swimming pools vast and the spa to die for.

Finca Cortesin, Spain

Favourite new discovery: South East Sicily

A week of exploring all the Baroque-rich towns and cities of South Eastern Sicily is such a treat.  Each of the towns, from Ragusa to Modica to Note are all so individual, with good restaurants, a few fun bars, and lots of pretty streets to explore.  Our seafood lunch at Taverna Cialoma in Marzamemi was one of the big highlights of our trip.  And we learnt that the very underestimated city Catania is also worth a stop.

Ragusa, Sicily

Favourite new London restaurant: Foley’s

With so many restaurant openings in London this year, it’s hard to pick a favourite.  But everything from the divine alfresco bar (with the best Espresso Martinis), to a menu where you literally want to eat every dish (and we did), to the friendly, helpful staff, meant that Foley’s wins the 2016 prize.  A place I know I’ll return to, again and again.

Foleys, FItzrovia

Runner up: The Ninth and Clipstone.  Both of these relatively new openings in London have a lot in common: excellent food, reasonable pricing and great atmosphere.  The Pain Perdu at the Ninth is the best pudding I’ve had this year.

The Ninth, Fitzrovia

Favourite Bar – International: The Living Room, at the Faena, Miami

Wow, the new(ish) Faena hotel in Miami is a true showstopper, rich in colour and gold and opulence.  And walking into its main bar, The Living Room, is like stepping into Gatsby’s 1920s.  I loved every moment of being in this crazy, vibrant, colourful place, where you don’t know where to look or which cocktail to pick from their indulgent menu.  The Faena’s restaurant Pao was also a highlight of my visit.

Photo credit: https://luxuriavacations.com/destinations/usa/faena-hotel-miami-beach

Runner up:  The Bar at the Baccarat Hotel, New York. This hotel is so fantastically blingy, as of course you’d expect considering the owners.  It’s a stunning hotel (the rooms are far more toned down than the public areas), but the bar really stood out.  It’s always packed with very glamorous people, the cocktails are fantastic and the interiors are fabulous.

Photo credit Baccarat Hotels

Favourite English Countryside retreat: Foxhill Manor, the Cotswolds

The Cotswolds is one of my favourite areas of England; the countryside is so breathtakingly beautiful here and the villages are all so picturesque, with so many pretty Cotswold stone cottages, lovely cafes and restaurants and fantastic country walks.  So staying at the exclusive five star Foxhill Manor (Dormy House’s sister property) was one of the highlights of 2016, the ultimate country house hotel.  The food was amazing here, our suite the size of my house in London, and the views of the Cotswolds out of this world.

Foxhill Manor, Cotswolds

Favourite Restaurant – International: Quintonil, Mexico City

Chosen not because it’s voted as the 12th best restaurant in the world, but purely because it was a magical experience, and I’ve never had Mexican food like it.  It’s incredible value for money, and the amuse bouches we had here were some of the best I’ve had.  That said, its Mexico City competitor Pujol deserves a mention too, also for its creative food and noteworthy tasting menu.

Quintonil, Mexico City

Runners up:  This is such a tough one, as I have eaten at some seriously wonderful restaurants this year.  Still, if I had to choose, I loved Marzapane in Rome because it is was so different, so modern and so un-Roman.  At the same time, Sansho’s tasting menu in Prague was exceptional, and fantastic value.  And last but not least, Dalmatino in Hvar, Croatia was unexpected and their squid ink truffle gnocchi mind-blowing.

Marzapane, Rome

Favourite beach: Tulum, Mexico

Who knew Mexico’s Riviera Maya had such incredible beaches?  The beach at Tulum is possibly the most perfect beach I’ve been on.  Lined with palm trees and eco hotels (no building is higher than the tallest palm tree), white powdery sand and warm welcoming turquoise waves, it really is a paradise beach.  Plus, it stretches on and on, and makes for the best walk at sunset, Margarita in hand.  Especially the beach at Nomade (photo below) was phenomenal.

Tulum, Mexico

Runners up: Dubovica Beach on Hvar, Croatia and South Beach, Miami.  These two beaches couldn’t be more different, but each has it’s own bit of wow.  Dubovica beach is small, pebbled and one of the prettiest European beaches I’ve seen.  It has a lovely beach bar too and it’s generally not too full of tourists.  South Beach Miami is of course heaving with people, but that doesn’t stop it from being ‘wow’ in its own way.  It’s one of the most fun beaches I’ve been to, great for people watching, with so much going on.

Dubovica Beach, HvarMiami Beach

Favourite Afternoon tea: Petersham Nurseries

I don’t know how I only managed to visit this heavenly place until so recently, but I fell head over heals for Petersham Nurseries.  Even on a cold (but beautiful) winter afternoon the Cafe was so warm and cosy, the cakes so delicious and the selection of teas ideal.  I can’t wait to return in the spring and the summer.

Photo Credit: http://friendlynettle.com/day-petersham-nurseries-%E2%99%A5/

Favourite city break: Prague

People warned me that yes, the city is beautiful, but it’s touristy and the food isn’t good.  Well, yes, I’d agree that’s it’s busy, but it’s hard to avoid tourists these days.  And, after all, I’m one too.  But I’d disagree that you can’t eat well.  One of my favourite restaurants of the year, Sansho, was here.  Plus Field was excellent too, as was CottoCrudo at the Four Seasons.  There’s lots to do and see, and it’s incredibly affordable too.  Win win.

a-prague-top-ten-sights

Runner up was Bologna, with so much charm and beauty, and excellent Italian food and wine.  Our experience at Drogheria della Rosa was absolutely one of the most memorable of 2016.

Drogheria della Rossa, Bologna

And what has 2017 got in store for me?  Definitely more European city breaks, with Rome and Stockholm already booked, a trip back to Andalucia and Italy this summer for sure, and Mallorca in September.  I’d also really like to return to Vienna, explore Porto and maybe go to some of the Greek islands…  Let’s see where 2017 takes me!

Blog, Date Spot, Drink, London

Thomas’ Cafe at Burberry, Mayfair

December 31, 2016
Thomas' Burberry Cafe, Mayfair

When fashion designers try and do restaurants or bars or hotels they can get it wrong (par example the Versace Hotel in Miami), but trust Burberry to get it so right with their first Café opening: ‘Thomas’’ (names after the founder, Thomas Burberry).

It is beautiful, undeniably so.  With dark walls, dim lighting and a welcoming fireplace, it feels like you’ve walked into someone’s very sophisticated but cosy country home.  And while it’s clear that the interiors are well thought through and stylish, it’s done in an understated, unpretentious way.  Nothing flashy, or too polished.  A bit like the brand itself.

Thomas' Burberry Cafe, Mayfair

Finding somewhere to go for coffee is difficult around Regent Street, unless you’re happy to settle with Pret or Café Nero and a bunch of tourists.  So Thomas’s is welcome for more than one reason.  Also, you can book, which means no unnecessary and tedious queuing for brunch.  And lastly, while you’d think it would have the same eye-watering prices as Burberry itself, you’re wrong.  It’s not cheap, of course.  But it’s reasonable.  And everything, from the beautiful presentation of the eggs with soldiers, to the tea with its own hour glass timer which tells you when the tea leaves have brewed to their optimum, is delightful.

Thomas' Burberry Cafe, MayfairThomas' Burberry Cafe, Mayfair

I could happily sit there for hours, sipping my cappuccino, watching people come and go, until it’s cocktail hour and then gently move on to one of their G&Ts.  There is no rush to leave your table (or if there was, we never felt it).

You are so well looked after here, by young, good looking, could-be Burberry models. Who are exceptionally polite and accommodating. But my favourite thing about the place is the soundtrack, which I recognised from their impossibly glamorous Christmas advert casually starring Siena Miller and Lily James (and which I still wish was a trailer to a 2 hour long movie).

Thomas' Burberry Cafe, Mayfair

And so, with January around the corner, this is a place that will make you embrace winter.  And be the perfect refuge for your post sale shop.

Thomas’ Cafe

Burberry

5 Vigo Street / 121 Regent Street

 

Blog, UK - Outside London

The Painswick Hotel, Cotswolds

November 16, 2016
The Painswick Hotel, the Cotswolds

It’s no secret that I’m obsessed with the Cotswolds.  I go at least twice a year, to escape London and to enjoy the fresh air and long country walks.  I often stay with my friend Hen’s parents, in the Slad Valley, one of the most beautiful parts of the Cotswolds.

A few months ago I read an article in Conde Nast Traveller raving about the newish Painswick Hotel (part of the famous Calcot Collection) which had opened in the beautiful village of Painswick.  As it was only a 15 minute drive from where I was staying one weekend, we decided to visit the Painswick Hotel for afternoon tea.

Located in an 18th century Cotswold stone mansion, it’s a grand and beautiful building.  But despite this the Painswick Hotel feels very homely and cosy.  The entrance is slightly underwhelming – I’m not sure about the neon sign reading ‘the Painswick’ upon entering, this felt a little too Shoreditch and didn’t really fit in with the rest of the place.  The rest of the design however, by Nicky Farquar, is beautiful.  It is a mixture of quirky, more contemporary furniture and lamps and beautiful, OKA-esque interiors.  Nicky strikes the balance just right.

The Painswick Hotel, the Cotswolds

We had afternoon tea in one of their large(r) but warm sitting rooms, with an old fireplace which now is replaced by a cosy wood burning fire.  The afternoon tea is very reasonably priced if you opt for a pot of tea and a scone – probably about £8 per person (and they were amazing!).  The macaroon is tiny (but also apparently delicious) so don’t expect something the size of a scone.  The banana cake/bread might have actually been my favourite.

The Painswick Hotel, the Cotswolds

The bar in the next door room is rather lovely, and stands out with its special ceiling and coloured bottles.

The Painswick Hotel, the Cotswolds

We had a little walk around and admired the outside terrace with beautiful views of the Cotswold hills.  In the summer this must be a dreamy place.  And being located right in Painswick itself is a massive treat, with plenty of other charming pubs and little shops to explore.  The Painswick also has an (apparently) excellent restaurant, and while we didn’t eat here, we certainly loved the interiors here too.  Especially the lunch menu looked quite affordable which is rare in this neck of the woods.

The Painswick Hotel, the CotswoldsThe Painswick Hotel, the Cotswolds

The hotel was fully booked, so we didn’t get to see any rooms, but at around £140+ a night they are quite reasonable compared to the other Calcot hotels (like Barnsley House and Calcot Manor).

The Painswick Hotel, the Cotswolds

I’ll have to come back and test the beds and the bathrooms, but overall I liked the place and would recommend it to those looking to escape London for a night or two (or to the Cotswold locals for afternoon tea, lunch or dinner).

For other Cotswold tips, you may find this blog post useful.

The Painswick Hotel

Kemps Ln, Painswick

Stroud GL6 6YB

Photo credit: The Painswick Hotel

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