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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, 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

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, 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, Mexico, Tulum

Nomade, Tulum – STAY / EAT / DRINK

February 19, 2017
Nomade, Tulum

Nomade is one of Tulum’s newest arrivals, and there was a bit of buzz about it when it first opened; the little sister to the popular Be Tulum (next door).  There are so many places to stay in Tulum that when planning my holiday I found it hard to choose, but had read rave reviews in Conde Nast Traveller and heard from others who’d stayed there that Nomade was definitely worth while.  It also seemed to offer better value than some other places.

Admittedly when we arrived (having just left the paradise that is Esencia), it took a bit of re-adjusting.  This North-African inspired eco-resort is undeniably hip and bohemian, with a young crowd and Indi beats playing on the beach throughout the day.  It’s so different to anywhere I’ve stayed before, but after 24 hours here I had completely relaxed into the hippy, laid back vibe of the place and absolutely loved it.

It’s on the southern side of Tulum’s beach, and so is much less hectic than some of the resorts further north.  The quarter mile private beach is possibly also the best in Tulum, far more expansive than those of many other resorts.  Often for the first few hours of the day we would find ourselves practically all alone on the beach (thank you jet lag), and had the pick of whichever incredible ‘day bed’ we wanted.

Nomade, Tulum, Mexico

Nomade life is extremely chilled out, starting with a healthy set breakfast which I missed enormously upon leaving.  I loved the shot of warm water with lemon which accompanied the breakfast (fruit, yoghurt, eggs, and very fresh pastries).

Nomade, Tulum

It’s hard to describe quite how beautiful the beach and the sea is here.  So breathtaking, and the sea so warm that even we (and we are really not water lovers) swam regularly and often for long stretches, playing in the waves.

Tulum, MexicoNomade, Tulum

The rooms are basic and very rustic, especially if you’re used to minimalist or more polished interiors.  We had one of their Jungle Suites with a sea view, which was comfortable enough but to be honest I would highly recommend going for a Sea View or Ocean Front Cabana – these rooms are much much better as you’re right on the beach.  I rather disliked the mud brown splashed walls which I know fits in with their eco sentiments, but which didn’t really do it for me.  But that’s probably the only real criticism I had of this place, and I just know that if I return, I should pay extra to stay in one of the cabanas.

Nomade, Tulum

Activity wise there is complimentary yoga on the beach every morning, there are bikes to borrow and water sports to explore.  But you’d be surprised how quickly it is to slip into a routine of doing nothing but soaking up the sun, swimming, sleeping, eating and drinking.

Their sea grill restaurant La Popular is outstanding.  We had some of the best food in Tulum here, their tuna tartare with passion fruit was one of my favourites.  Service is a little rusty, and the (mostly French) staff can be quite gruff and impatient, but we’ll forgive them.  The bartenders were all delightful and could rustle up fantastic Margaritas.  The highlight of these dozy days was ordering two large Margaritas in plastic cups, and walking all the way up the beach (between 30 minutes to an hour) at sun set, until we got to our dinner destination.  So magical.

Nomade, TulumNomade, TulumNomade, Tulum

Every evening when returning from dinner we would be welcomed back at Nomade with hundreds of candles lining the pathways.  Truly a wonderful experience, and I would recommend it to those looking for a relaxed, simple but beautiful beach holiday.

 Nomade

KM 10, Carr. Cancún – Tulum

Mexico

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, 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

 

Blog, Eat, Healthy, London

Honey & Co, Fitzrovia

September 26, 2016
Honey & Co, Fitzrovia

Word of advice.  When a restaurant says it’s fully booked when trying to book a table online, don’t let this put you off going.  I’ve been wanting to go to the much praised Fitzrovian restaurant Honey & Co for ages now, but every time I try and book, it says ‘nothing available’ or offers me the 9:30pm slot.  So last week, having read that they do allow some walk ins, I decided I was just going to risk it.

I arrived at 6:30pm and it was full.  This was to be expected, and I was not put off.  Things looked positive when I spoke to a very friendly waitress, who said she’d take my name and number, and call me when a table was available.  Seemed reasonable.  My friend Emily and I grabbed a glass of wine at the pub next door and eyed up Honey & Co’s small outside terrace.  It was a beautiful, warm September evening, but we could sense that people were leaning towards eating inside.  After about 30 minutes I got a call, ‘We’ve got a table free, but it’s outside I’m afraid.  When can you be here?’   Bingo.  We were there in seconds.

There is one disappointing thing to mention first, then we’ll focus on the positives.  Emily is a vegetarian and, despite the Middle East being so good at vegetarian food, she was disappointed to have only one choice of main course.  Which was, incidentally, a very delicious baked aubergine dish.  But still, I had five other options to choose from.  Funny also that all the starters were vegetarian.  It just doesn’t quite make sense.  Perhaps they should offer the starters also in larger portions as mains?

Honey & Co, Fitzrovia

However, moving on swiftly.  The starters were delicious – we shared a basket of fresh bread (how do they make pitta quite so good?) and a labaneh and a spicy pumpkin and pepper dish.  The ideal first course, filling but not overly so.  I could have licked the plate.  As Emily devoured her aubergine, I opted for the roasted lamb salad with plums, tarragon, greengages and fennel seeds as my main course.  While lamb is my big go to, the rest of the accompaniments were not very ‘me’ (I don’t really like fruit in my food, unless it’s pudding).  But the combination worked beautifully and it felt both healthy and delicious.

Honey & Co, Fitzrovia

The place has a very local, neighbourhood feel to it.  Everyone is friendly, the staff lovely, and there is a pleasant buzz about the place.  It’s one of those places which makes you want to return.  It’s as far from a chain restaurant as you can get.

Too full for pudding, I decided I would return here for brunch, as this seems to be most legendary here.  Since drinking wine at the pub at 11am at the pub next door may not be quite so appropriate, I might have to surrender and actually book that (well) in advance.

Honey & Co

25 Warren St

London W1T 5LZ

Blog, Eat, London

Flat Iron, Covent Garden & Soho

September 25, 2016
Flat Iron, Covent Garden

Flat Iron is not exactly new to the London dining scene, and its original Beak Street restaurant is a bit of a Soho institution. Known for excellent steak and excellent value, Flat Iron has been popular from the outset.  I had heard about the long queues of patient fans, who, because of the typical Soho no-booking policy, were more than happy to wait in line for a juicy steak for a tenner.

I don’t have the patience for long queues, and so, when the newest (and by far the largest) Flat Iron opened on Henrietta Street (December 2015), around the corner from where I work, my interest was renewed.  Taking colleagues out to lunch posed as the perfect opportunity to try this place, and we were all very impressed.

The menu is short & simple, and their signature Flat Iron steak for £10 is what you should order.  Yes, they had specials (a burger in our case), but I’d seen the beautifully pink sliced steaks come by and knew what I wanted.  It comes with a side salad, though you can of course order triple cooked chips, or other vegetables with it.  They also offer sauces (£1) – from an excellent Bearnaise to the creamy horseradish I went for.  The steaks came quickly, were perfectly cooked, and tasted divine.  Lunch was all over in under 45 minutes.

To top it off they offer a complimentary salted caramel ice cream upon departure.  The ice cream was almost (almost) better than the steak.

With friendly staff, attractive interiors and incredible value, I can completely understand the appeal.  The bonus of the Henrietta Street restaurant is that it is large enough to head there for lunch without queues.  I shall definitely be returning for dinner…

Flat Iron

17/18 Henrietta Street

Covent Garden

With other restaurants in Soho on 17 Beak Street and 9 Denmark Street

Blog, Italy, Rome

Relais Rione Ponte, Rome – STAY

August 22, 2016
Relais Rione Ponte, Rome

Rome isn’t known for it’s hotels.  It doesn’t have a George V equivalent.  There are no Mandarin Orientals or Amans  But what Rome is good at, is its boutique hotels.   I love JK Place, Palazzo Manfredi and the newest (and most modern) G Rough.  Relais Rione Ponte is one I came across most recently, and had the absolute pleasure at staying at.

It’s not really a hotel, it’s a guest house.  It doesn’t boast many facilities or a restaurant, but Relais Rione Ponte is perfect as a base to explore Rome.  So here is what it does have:

Location

Couldn’t be better, a stone’s throw from Piazza Navona and all the other historical centre sights.  We in fact woke up at 6am and walked through Rome as it was waking up, a magical experience and highly recommended.  While Relais Rione Ponte is so central, it was very quiet in the rooms and we were not disturbed by late party animals.

Piazza NavonaRome

Stylish Rooms

As there isn’t much of a ‘central’ area it’s important that the rooms are good, and spacious.  Which they really are.  The beds are super comfortable and massive, the sheets crisp and we had a very good sleep here.  The attention to detail was fantastic: the art on the walls, the Bose sound system, a Nespresso machine in the public area, very good wifi.  The bathroom was beautifully designed, with a huge walk in shower and lovely Nuxe bath products.

Relais Rione Ponte, RomeRelais Rione Ponte, Rome

Service

Our initial experience was not great.  We arrived very late so understandably the host had gone home, and the man on night duty for the whole building was a little odd to say the least.  However, once we got to our room we were greeted by a bottle of bubbles which was more than welcome.  The lady at reception the following morning was nothing but friendly, as was the lady who served us breakfast.  We had a nice but not spectacular breakfast (but excellent coffee, of course) but you could tell that they really cared about their guests, and have city maps at the ready should you want some tips on what to do and see in Rome.

Relais Rione Ponte, Rome

Value for money

Rome is no Venice, but it’s not cheap either.  Finding accommodation this central, where the standard is this high, is difficult.  With small touches like a complimentary glass of prosecco every evening, Nespresso when you want it, good wifi and excellent bath products, it’s really good value for money.

Double rooms from £120 per night

Relais Rione Ponte

Via Giuseppe Zanardelli, 20,

00186 Roma

Photo Credit: Relais Rione Ponte

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