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Amsterdam, Blog, Drink, Eat, The Netherlands

Bar Botanique, Amsterdam East

April 29, 2017
Bar Botanique, Amsterdam East

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

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

Bar Botanique, Amsterdam EastBar Botanique, Amsterdam East

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

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

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

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

Bar Botanique

Eerste van Swindenstraat 581
Amsterdam, Netherlands 1093 LC

 

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, Mexico, Tulum

Mur Mur, Tulum – EAT

February 19, 2017
Mur Mur, Tulum

Mur Mur wins my award for most Instagrammable place of Tulum.  We passed it a number of times as it’s in a great location near big hits like Harwood and Arca.  While it’s set back from the ‘main strip’, it’s very eye catching (and there are some pretty – though extortionate – boutiques surrounding it).

Mur Mur, Tulum

So one day we tore ourselves away from the beach and cycled to Mur Mur for lunch.

Perhaps it’s the combination of their palm tree printed arm chairs, moss green sofas and distressed wooden furniture that give Mur Mur the ultimate laid back but stylish vibe.   The sofas are so comfortable that getting up is the last thing you want to do, so inevitably you end up spending hours here, sipping a cold beer or glass of white wine and savouring the peace and quiet.

Mur Mur, TulumMur Mur, Tulum

This is the perfect place for breakfast or lunch, more cafe than restaurant – though they do have a cool cocktail bar (of course), which is also open in the evening.  Fancying a change from the Mexico cuisine overload, we opted for their sour dough sandwiches with side salads.  I went for the grilled vegetables and Rob for the chicken.  Expecting something far less refined, I was very impressed by the standard of the food.  It’s all locally sourced and you can tell how fresh the produce is.

Mur Mur, Tulum

The service here was slow, and they took their time with our order, but sometimes you need to remind yourself that you’re in Tulum not London and relax.  Having said that, our waiter was excellent, friendly, and knew his stuff – recommending beers and wine to us.

In short, while Tulum is not short on excellent restaurants, Mur Mur is a great day hang out.  Even if you’re not hungry, grab a beer and enjoy some time out of the sun in this delightful little establishment.

Mur Mur

Quintana Roo 15,

Tulum

Mexico

Blog, Italy, Rome

The Terrace at Hotel Raphael, Rome – DRINK

February 18, 2017
Hotel Raphael, Rome

When in Rome I am forever trying to find new bars, preferably with good views.  The terrace at Hotel Raphael goes to the top of my recommendations.  Even though it was January and fairly chilly, it was so special having this terrace completely to ourselves.  And with it the most stunning 360 degree view of Rome.

Hotel Raphael, Rome

The hotel itself is Relais & Chateaux, and has a wonderful location right behind Piazza Navonna.  I’m not quite sure if I would recommend staying there though – the interiors were modern and I felt lacked taste.  Even the (vegetarian) restaurant on the top floor lacked character or atmosphere, though it has great views.   But the multi-level terrace is something else.  I can imagine it being wonderful in the summer, where you can enjoy a warm summer evening with a cold glass of prosecco or even have dinner outside (the terrace is part of the restaurant).

Hotel Raphael, Rome

A drink with a view like this comes with a premium.  This is not the place for a cheap drink.  A bottle of prosecco will set you back about 36EUR.  But it’s worth it as the staff are wonderful, friendly and warm, and they also brought out some aperitivo.

Hotel Raphael, Rome

Hotel Raphael, Rome

We had a very special time here, and spent a number of hours drinking and enjoying the view. And watching the sun set over the eternal visit.  I would highly recommend a pre-dinner drink here.

The Terrace

Hotel Raphael

Largo Febo, 2

Rome

Blog, Mexico, Tulum

Hartwood, Tulum

December 10, 2016
Hartwood, Tulum

People rave about Hartwood.  If you type ‘restaurant Tulum’ into Google, Hartwood will take over the search results.   Set up by the American Eric Werner, the New York chef came to Tulum on holiday in 2009 and never left.  He brought with him his wood-fire cooking techniques, and Hartwood quickly became the place to dine in Tulum.

Open only for dinner, the menu is very fish and meat heavy, all cooked on an open fire of course.  Good news is you can actually book ahead now (just send them an email), which we did, and smugly skipped all the queues (there are always queues).   We ate here on our final night and were not disappointed.

The restaurant itself is busy and atmospheric, lit mostly by countless candles.  It’s loud in a way that you can still enjoy conversation, and the buzz is such that it encourages you to buy that extra bottle of wine, or a (delicious) Mezcal-coffee shot instead of pudding.  It’s probably the most upbeat place in Tulum.

Hartwood, Tulum

The menu changes daily.  We shared gambas to start, which were huge and beyond juicy, and gone in seconds.  As a main Rob went for the octopus, and I went for their beef, beautifully pink on the inside, and smoky and crispy on the outside.  To finish I had my Mexcal shot (!) and Rob the sweetcorn ice cream.  I was pretty skeptical about it, until I tried it.  And then proceeded to pretty much finish the whole thing.

Hartwood, TulumHartwood, Tulum

Conclusion: yes, Hartwood is good.  And it should absolutely be on your Tulum bucket list.  But don’t forget about places like Arca (right next door) and El Tabano, which might not have the same press, but definitely deserve it.

Hartwood

Carretera Tulum Boca Paila 7.6Km

77780 Tulum

Photo credit: All mine, difficult to take decent photos with no light!

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, 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, Date Spot, Drink, Eat, London

J Sheekey Atlantic Bar and Terrace, Covent Garden

September 25, 2016

A fairly sweltering September means that my hunt for the best alfresco bars (or bars with decent terraces) for post work drinks has continued.  Bronte (my regular), is a big favourite of mine in Central London.  It has a large terrace, a decent bar menu and there’s always a table free.  But apart from that it’s always quite tricky to find a relaxed terrace in Covent Garden or Soho. Further North I have more luck; in Fitzrovia Foley’s has a cool alfresco bar (but with very limited seats), Percy & Founders has a large outside seating area, and Charlotte street offers many restaurants with small terraces ideal for drinks in the sun (the big favourite being the Charlotte Street hotel).  So when Grace Dent wrote a rave review about J Sheekey launching their new Atlantic Bar & Terrace (a revamp from their old Oyster Bar), located in the West End, I thought I’d check it out.

J Sheekey Atlantic Bar & Terrace, West End

London’s West End is known to be very busy and very touristy, and the immediate area around Leicester Square is not necessarily a place I spend much time.  J Sheekey is right in the thick of theatre-land, tucked away down a little alley way.  It looks pretty old school.  I mean, J Sheeky has been around for decades.  But you can tell that it’s terrace has had a bit of make over; with bright colours and comfy red chairs it looks fresh and welcoming.  And it’s prime people watching territory too (not long after we spotted Ian McKellan smoking a cigarette around the corner).  I also loved its new menu with artwork by my favourite Quentin Blake.

Quentin Blake

You can’t just drink here, you need to order some food.  But with a mouth-watering fish-heavy menu, that’s not exactly a problem.  We ordered the sea bass ceviche and the tuna and avocado tartare, both excellent.  The wine list is decent, though it’s easy to leave here with a fairly large bill (a glass of wine and one dish each set us back close to £25 each).

J Sheekey Atlantic Bar & Terrace, West End

In short, if you’re looking for a pre-theatre or cinema place for an alfresco drink and a quick bite, this is the place for you.  Alternatively, you can of course just stay here for a proper fishy dinner – there’s a reason why this place has been around for so long, the food is great and the service is too.

J Sheekey Atlantic Bar & Terrace

33-35 St Martin’s Court,

London WC2N 4AL

Blog, Date Spot, Drink, Eat, London

Bronte, The Strand

August 19, 2016
Bronte, the Strand

I’ve found my new favourite post-work drink place.  And it’s not just because it’s about 2 minutes’ walk from my office.

Bronte opened a few weeks ago, right by Trafalgar Square.  An odd location, you might think. A place which will probably attract a lot of tourists, was my first thought. But actually, no.  Either tourists haven’t clocked on yet that there is this rather glamorous (yet still very welcoming) bar and restaurant a moment’s walk from London’s highlights. Or perhaps they just prefer Pizza Hut and Garfunkels (fine by me). Because Bronte seems to be full with mostly locals and people like me, who head here for a welcome glass of wine after a long day’s work.
Bronte, the StrandBronte, the Strand
Tom Dixon – famous for doing the interiors of the wonderful Sea Containers – has also done the design here.  His style is recognisable: bright colours in the form of a stand out pink granite bar (love it), and green banquettes.  Quirky but attractive lamps hang from the ceiling and large pot plants add a slightly exotic feel to the place.  My favourite though, is to sit on their spacious colonnaded terrace – which feels remarkably calm, despite the busy Strand happening all around you.

Bronte, the StrandBronte, the Strand
But this is not just a bar. The food is good too. Admittedly I’ve only tried their snack menu (their crab summer rolls are very good), but if it’s anything to go by, the rest of their menu should be delicious.  And pricing is reasonable too.

Some praise must also go to their staff. Every time I’ve been there the waiters have all been exceptionally friendly and helpful, mostly Italian and very upbeat gentlemen.

Bronte, the Strand
I’m not one to keep returning to places, especially in a city like London, where new places open every day and I get serious FOMO if I don’t jump on a soft launch or new opening. However, I might make the exception for Bronte, which, with its good looks, convenient location and (usually) free tables, is the perfect place for a mid-week drink and a bite.

Bronte

Grand Buildings,

1-3 Strand,

London WC2N 5EJ

Photo credit: Bronte

Blog, Date Spot, Eat, London

Oldroyd, Islington

August 13, 2016
Oldroyd, Islington

I used to really like Polpo.  Until it became a chain restaurant.  Dinner there, while the food was still good, became a less special occasion (the one in Notting Hill gate is large and impersonal, contrasting massively to the tiny original in Soho).  So it’s perhaps no wonder that then chef-director of the Polpo group Tom Oldroyd packed his bags last year and opened his own restaurant on Upper Street.

Oldroyd, IslingtonOldroyd, Islington

Oldroyd has buckets of what the new Polpos now sadly lack: charm.  It’s much ‘cuter’ than Polpo (I promise the comparisons stop now), and its bright and airy disposition lends well to a long and boozy Saturday lunch.  Which is what we did, after accompanying my sister to try on some wedding dresses down the road.  Summer dinners could work too, as they have a few tables outside on the street, so you can enjoy lively Angel vibes while having dinner.

Oldroyd, Islington

Tom Oldroyd clearly knows what he’s doing.  The food is excellent.  Small sharing plates, seasonal fresh ingredients, interesting flavours.  We had huge fresh prawns, crisp light salads and phenomenal ‘vegetarian’ meatballs.  Pudding wasn’t quite so light, with warm rhubarb almond tart and tiramisu, where plates were licked unabashedly.

Oldroyd, Islington

While the place is tiny, this is no bad thing (if you book well in advance).  I love small restaurants.  They offer something more intimate, and also give you a sense of smugness for having managed to get a table.

So full marks for Tom, who’s given me yet another reason to return to Angel.

Oldroyd

344 Upper St,

London N1 0PD

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