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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, 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, 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, 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, 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, Date Spot, Eat, London

Boca di Lupo, Soho

November 8, 2016
Boca di Lupo, Soho

Considering that Italian food is my favourite cuisine and I spend most of my time eating in Soho, it’s a bit of a miracle that I had never been to Boca di Lupo until last week.

London has some wonderful Italian restaurants; from ‘swanky’ Zafferano, to South Ken favourite La Famiglia, to the more relaxed but no less excellent Trullo and Padella.  But Buco di Lupo is a name I hear regularly, constantly, and it’s always being praised.

Boca di Lupo, Soho

Book to sit at the kitchen bar, where all the action is.  The food is excellent.  Simple, no messing about, wonderful Italian food.  My favourite was the potato gnocchi with sausage.  While gnocchi is usually a stodgy, heavy dish, this was light, delicate and full of flavour. The pumpkin risotto was good too, but didn’t stand out as much for me.

Boca di Lupo, Soho

We ordered the Tagliata to share for the main course.  I’m glad we shared because it is truly massive (and beautifully cooked).  The rocket and parmesan are the perfect accompaniment, and we ordered a tomato salad which worked very well too.

We also enjoyed their wine.  Quite a lot of wine, as a matter of fact, from different regions in Italy (they have an excellent, if expensive, Italian wine list).  My favourite was the Barbera, but, at £17 per glass, it’s not automatically your go-to wine.  The Sangiovese was good too, and I can’t remember what else we drank because things got a bit blurry…

Boca di Lupo, Soho

In Soho, where you are spoilt for choice of restaurants, Buco di Lupo stands out.  The staff are friendly and knowledgeable, the food superb, the setting beautiful, warm and cosy.  Next time my father’s in town, I’m taking him there.  And that’s got to be a good sign.

Buco di Lupo

12 Archer St, Soho,

London W1D 7BB

 

Blog, Drink, Eat, Healthy, London

Brompton Food Market, South Kensington

October 29, 2016
Brompton Food Market, South Kensington

I love it when you come across places which you never knew existed, but have walked past a million times.  South Ken is tricky for brunch.  It’s either super touristy (Muriel’s Kitchen) or a bit chainy (Comptoir Libanais, Aubaine, Pain Quotidien).   And then you get this cute, unassuming Deli/Cafe with a secret garden which is perfect for a summer lunch or an autumn brunch.   We were actually en route to Aubaine, but then passed the Brompton Food Market with it’s inviting ‘secret garden’ sign and thought we ought to have a look.  Let’s just say Aubaine never happened after that.

The Brompton Food Market is actually also a butcher, fishmonger and greengrocer as well.  I.e really the place do all your shopping.  And the experience is ten times nicer than shopping at Tesco’s, I can promise you that.  It’s a beautiful shop with excellent produce.  You could spend hours looking at all the different jams and oils and cheese.

Brompton Food Market, South Kensington

Shopping aside, they have a great selection of wonderful salads and juices for those healthy-inclined, or a mouthwatering brunch menu with dishes like American pancakes with berries, eggs whichever way you want, the list is endless.  My cappuccino was the size of my head.  We sat outside, kept warm with sheepskin rugs and overhead heaters.

Brompton Food Market, South KensingtonBrompton Food Market, South KensingtonBrompton Food Market, South Kensington

This is the perfect place for a cosy, laid back and affordable coffee or brunch, in the heart of touristy London.  It’s ideal if you’re looking for somewhere quiet and local, and away from the tourist hordes.

The Brompton Food Market

33 Thurloe Place

SW7 2HQ

Blog, Date Spot, Eat, London

Clipstone, Fitzrovia

October 29, 2016
Clipstone, Fitzrovia

Before going to restaurants I always love checking out the menu (mainly to prepare myself for the bill).  Clipstone’s menu reads like it was ‘written by Chaucer’, as my friend Harry so aptly put it.  We didn’t understand half of it.  What’s ‘ventricina’ and ‘hispi’ cabbage, why put ‘mallard’ instead of just plain ‘duck’ (apparently because mallard is a wild duck), what’s a ‘torched gurnard’ and a ‘Paris-Brest’?  I’m clearly not really ‘with it’ anymore.  But it didn’t put me off at all.  It actually made me more curious.

While it’s high on my list of go to places, I am yet to try the much-praised restaurant Portland which opened in January last year.  Then its sister restaurant Clipstone opened this summer and the reviews were as good, if not better.  And for some reason I was even more drawn to it than Portland.  So I went last night.  And it was excellent.

It started very well with their homemade warm sour dough bread.  Thick and soft and filling and just what you need when starving and downing your first cocktail of the weekend.  The Halloween appropriate pumpkin with apricot, crispy herbs and creme fraiche was incredible.  The hispi cabbage (a diamond shaped sweet cabbage, apparently) was perhaps one of my favourite dishes, as were the leaks with gibriche sauce (effectively leak tempura – so so good).  The ravioli of celeriac & ricotta was unbelievably moorish and I could easily have had another plate of it.  Our meat options, the pork with quince (the sweet quince made this dish) and the pheasant (beautifully cooked) were good too, but it’s the vegetable dishes that receive the standing ovation.  There’s a clear love here for fermenting, smoking and pickling food and it allows for the perfect autumnal dinner.  It’s very hard to fault this place.

Clipstone, FitzroviaClipstone, Fitzrovia

The service was excellent and friendly and they put up with us asking what every other word on the menu was.

Pudding was a hard choice between the Paris Brest and the Buttermilk pudding, mainly because I didn’t know what to expect from either.  But I’m so glad we went for the Paris-Brest (effectively a lot of cream and choux pastry).  It was to die for and apparently very much the pudding du jour in London at the moment.

Clipstone, Fitzrovia

But one word of warning.  If you want a post-dinner aperitif, don’t, whatever happens, order the pear liqueur.  If you opt for it you can expect poison in a glass and a consequential blurry evening.  But everything else on the menu: order, order, order away.  You won’t be disappointed.

Clipstone

5 Clipstone Street

Fitzrovia

 

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