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bar

Amsterdam, Blog, Drink, Eat, The Netherlands

Bar Botanique, Amsterdam East

April 29, 2017
Bar Botanique, Amsterdam East

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

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

Bar Botanique, Amsterdam EastBar Botanique, Amsterdam East

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

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

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

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

Bar Botanique

Eerste van Swindenstraat 581
Amsterdam, Netherlands 1093 LC

 

Blog, Date Spot, 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

Amsterdam, Blog, Drink, Eat, Stay, The Netherlands

The Pulitzer Hotel, Amsterdam

March 18, 2017
The Pulitzer, Amsterdam

Amsterdam has changed hugely in the past few years when it comes to hotels.  The iconic Amstel and De L’Europe have been pushed aside with the openings of new, better, glitzier or more contemporary hotels like the Waldorf Astoria (stunning all round), the W (I love the bar here) and the Hoxton (great for brunch).

The Pulitzer Amsterdam has been around for years, but shut for a massive refurbishment.  It re-opened in August 2016 and wow, it’s a stunner.  I’d never been to it before the renovation, so I don’t have much to compare it to.  But I was impressed not only with the look and feel of the place (a little Soho House-esque in terms of design and quirky touches) but also by how despite the hotel having 225 rooms, it still feels like a boutique hotel.

The Pulitzer, Amsterdam

It looks small(ish) from the outside too, but it’s actually 25 (!) canal houses put together, and connected by wonderful gardens and terraces, which will, I’m sure, be very popular in the summer.  The lobby stands out upon entering, with lots of colour and art.  And I love their cafe Pause, where we had tea and a delicious banana cake.

The Pulitzer, AmsterdamThe Pulitzer, AmsterdamThe Pulitzer, Amsterdam

While we only saw one room, I loved the look of it, under the beams, which is so quintessentially Dutch.  And it’s this mixture of classic Dutch design and a touch of the eclectic (and eccentric) which works so well here.   Some of the suites look amazing too.

The Pulitzer, AmsterdamThe Pulitzer, Amsterdam

My favourite part of the hotel was the Pulitzer Bar, so slick and beautiful and inviting and of course open to locals too.  I will be returning their for one of their signature cocktails.  Their restaurant Jansz also looks great, and can be accessed from the Reestraat (one of the nine ‘little streets’ / Negen Straatjes).

The Pulitzer, AmsterdamThe Pulitzer, Amsterdam

In short, all the Amsterdam old-timer hotels and even the new kids on the block need to watch out, as the Pulitzer provides a more affordable five star option, which will especially attract a younger, trendier crowd.

The Pulitzer

Prinsengracht 323,

1016 GZ Amsterdam

Rooms from EUR 275 a night

Photo credit: Pulitzer Hotel (apart from the photo of the bar)

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, Italy, Rome

Il Tiaso, Pigneto – DRINK

January 29, 2017
Il Tiaso, Rome

I’m a big fan of wine bars.  This might be because these days all I really tend to drink is red wine, but wine bars appeal for other reasons too.  In my mind it attracts a different kind of person than some swanky cocktail bar, and I’ve never met a wine bar owner I haven’t liked.

And this was very much the case of the super charming Andrea, the owner of Il Tiaso in the hip,  former working class district of Pigneto. We walked into this small but fantastic establishment at around 11pm, and it was, of course, completely full.  But rather than turning us away, Andrea made sure he got us a table.  We may have been a little squashed but we managed to get a perfect tiny table at the back, from which we could observe the rest of the bar perfectly.  We also discussed the area with him, and he shared his favourite restaurants with us (Mimi e Cocozza and Mister Manzo).

Il Tiaso, Rome

A large floor to ceiling wooden book case takes up the majority of the space, and I decided instantly I’d love to have a book case like that at home.  Filled with books and bottles of wine (mainly wine) it added a charm to the place, even the lamps were made out of old wine bottles.  The dim lighting helped create the atmosphere, as well as the fact it was packed with locals.  What was even better is that we weren’t made to feel like we were tourists, when it was fairly obvious we were.

Il Tiaso, Rome

We drank another bottle of Barbera here (as well as some prosecco), which my father when hearing it was only EUR 18, feared would be fairly rubbish.  Wrong.  The wine was very good, and we enjoyed a loud and cheerful evening here.  In the summer there’s a terrace, which I imagine fills up quickly too.

While Pigneto has plenty of bars and cafes to choose from, Il Tiaso won for me, and has become one of my favourite wine bars in Rome.

Il Tiaso 

Via Ascoli Piceno, 25

Pigneto

Rome

Blog, Mexico, Mexico City

Huset, Mexico City

December 31, 2016
Huset, Mexico City

Huset is one of Mexico City’s 2016 new openings, and has been exceptionally well received by locals and tourists a like.  In the very trendy district of Roma Norte (the place for bar hopping and cool restaurants), Huset has found the perfect home.

Its stand out feature is of course its beautiful green terrace/courtyard, which is wonderful for brunch/lunch, or for dinner. With countless lamp bulbs strung overhead, almost like a ceiling of lights, it looks stunning lit up at night.  Naturally it’s most popular to sit here, and very lively, so book ahead if you specifically want to sit here.

Huset, Mexico City

We did not book ahead on a Saturday night, so sat inside.  The bar inside is charming too, less atmospheric perhaps, but with exceptionally nice staff (their English isn’t great, but who cares), who are talented cocktail shakers.  Our Espresso Martinis were excellent and helped fight off our jet lag.  But Huset is mainly a place to come for lunch or dinner, and as we had booked Pujol for dinner we didn’t dine here, which I quite regretted having looked at the menu.  I have since also read excellent reviews of the food.

Huset, Mexico City

Huset

Colima 256, Cuauhtemoc,

Roma Nte.

Mexico City

 

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, Drink, Eat, London

Samarkand, Fitzrovia

August 31, 2016
Samarkand, Fitzrovia

An Uzbek restaurant might not be your first choice on Charlotte Street, where you have a vast array of excellent international – and British – restaurants to choose from.  But I was curious, no less because of the promise of craft vodka and a dish called Jizbiz (I know…).

I rarely write bad reviews, mainly because I don’t want to waste my time writing about places I would simply not recommend.  The only negative one I wrote was about Restaurant Ours, because there was a hype for no reason, the prices were inflated and the service was appalling.  The problem with Samarkand is that I genuinely quite liked the restaurant (and bar), I thought the interiors were appealing and – most importantly – the service was really good.  So I feel for them a little, writing this review.

Samarkand, Fitzrovia

But there is one big problem with Samarkand, and that is, very unfortunately, the food.  Arguably we enjoyed the 50% soft launch offer, which made for a very affordable and fun dinner.  However, the prices of the food cannot be justified without it.

To start with we ordered the beef and lamb ‘Manti’, Uzbek dumplings.  I’m always a bit of a fan of dumplings, but not of these.  Soggy, falling apart and bland, even the sauce which accompanied it resembled a Dolmio tomato sauce.  Maybe that’s the Uzbek way, but if it is, I wouldn’t put it on the menu.

Samarkand, Fitzrovia

Next came the Shashlik (grilled skewered meat).  We ordered the Wagyu Beef with Truffle and a Buttermilk Lamb one.  Bearing in mind that the beef shashlik (one skewer – albeit 100g) costs £24, you’d expect some seriously good meat.  But it just didn’t do it for us (though the lamb was better than the beef).  The biggest mystery of all was the truffle clearly resembled truffle shavings but tasted of, well, nothing.  Nor did it smell of truffle.  It just looked like it.  When questioned if it was perhaps Uzbek truffle (if that exists) our very charming waiter said he’d check with the kitchen, and returned adamant it was Tuscan.

For the main course we decided to order the JizBiz, since a dish with a name like that surely can’t be ignored.  This was a rack of lamb with a potato cake.  It was fine, but not more than this – and just could have been so much better if they had properly grilled the lamb so the fat was crispy rather than soft.

Samarkand, Fitzrovia

We moved to the bar area (which I really liked) after dinner to try some of their vodka.  They recommended two kinds: a sugar beet and a malt vodka – both completely new to us.  We couldn’t dine at an Uzbek restaurant and not have a vodka.  But then to our complete surprise we were served British vodka, two types of craft vodka made in London in fact.  I just couldn’t understand why a restaurant from an area famed for its vodka would serve British vodka.  Totally bizarre (I did like the Uzbek tea cups the vodka was served in).

Samarkand, Fitzrovia

Samarkand’s not all bad, as I said above.  I really liked the staff, who were attentive, enthusiastic and clearly proud to be working at there.  The head barman could talk for hours about the vodka we were drinking.  Some of the cocktails we had afterwards were good too (though the Whisky Sour could do with more whiskey).

This is not a place for a summer’s day (it’s underground), and should be better in the winter, where the British vodka can warm you, though the truffle with still mystify.  So in conclusion, I’d grab a pre or post-dinner cocktail here, but choose one of the plethora of other excellent restaurants on Charlotte Street (Roka, the Ninth, Barn Yard) or Bao around the corner for actual dinner.  If Uzbek cuisine wants to make its mark in London, it’s going to have to improve dramatically at Samarkand.

Samarkand

33 Charlotte St,

London W1T 1RR

Photo credit: Samarkand

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, Croatia

Laganini Lounge Bar & Fish House, Palmizana Hvar

July 20, 2016
Laganini, Hvar

If you’re spending a couple of days in Hvar it’s highly recommended to hire a boat for the day.  No need for a super yacht – even a little speed boat (doesn’t cost much) will do, and it means you can sail around the islands surrounding Hvar (mainly the Pakleni islands).  Palmizana is one of them – the perfect place for lunch at Bacchus and then a relaxing afternoon at Laganini beach club.

Laganini, Hvar

If you like Hula Hula Beach Bar but you’re looking for something a little quieter and more relaxed, Laganini is perfect.  You don’t pay the prices of Bonj les Bains, but you still get a very comfortable place to spend the day.  They also serve serving platters if you feel like a snack, and drinks too of course.  In the summer months it does get busier, but the vibe remains more laid back than in Hvar itself.

Langanini HvarLaganini, Hvar

The restaurant – which is more formal – serves excellent, refined food (and lots of fresh fish). Guaranteed a fun day (or night) out.

FYI you can also get a shared water taxi there from Hvar harbour. 

Laganini Lounge Bar & Fish House

Palmižana 33, 21450, Hvar, Croatia

Photo credit: Laganini

Blog, Date Spot, Drink, Eat, London

Restaurant Ours, South Kensington

July 10, 2016
Restaurant Ours, South Kensington

There are certain restaurants which live up to the hype, and some which don’t.  To be fair, Restaurant Ours hasn’t had much time to get hyped up (it’s fairly new) – but with a celebrity launch party and being the sister restaurant to Michelin star (and very much liked) Restaurant Story, let’s just say I had high expectations for Tom Sellers’ new venture.

It started well.  I tried booking a table for a Friday night on a Wednesday, was promptly told they were full (fair enough) and was told I would be put on a waiting list.  Then Friday came and Brexit happened (that’s not the good part) and I thought I’d call again to see if there had been any cancellations.  And luck had it, there had been a cancellation, and the table was mine at 7:30pm.

I thought I’d take my Dad to treat him.  But then walked in and realised pretty quickly this was not really his ‘scene’.  There’s no denying the place looks good – it’s taken over the impressive space which used to be the Pan-Asian restaurant Collection – and so everything, from the Japanese style walk way to the olive trees mid-restaurant, to the rest of the décor, is rather beautiful.  But then you get the super loud music, which makes it feel like you’re in some sort of ‘lounge bar’ (to be fair, there is a cocktail area upstairs to which the music is more suited), rather than an exclusive restaurant.  I didn’t have the guts to ask them to turn it down, I knew what the response would be.

Restaurant Ours, South KensingtonRestaurant Ours, South Kensington

Don’t get me wrong, I think this would be the ideal place for a weekend cocktail.  It’s fun and it’s great for people watching.  David Schwimmer came and sat next to us (I clarify: not with us), and it seems to be popular with girls who don’t really feel like wearing any clothes at all (much to my father’s amazement).  The clientele are a complete mixture of local rahs, Euro trash, semi celebs and high end escort girls.  Entertaining, there’s no denying that.

I also couldn’t really fault the food.  It was good, but not outstanding.  The (purple) vichy carrots were the only real let down.  The scallop (£12) and tuna for starters were delicious, but the portions so minute it was gone in seconds.  I think they had literally put one scallop on my plate and sliced it as thinly as possible to make it look like an actual portion.  My salmon for mains was good, as was my father’s lamb.  I was most excited about ‘Our’ chips, with pecorino and fois gras.  They were most definitely edible, but, like the rest of the menu, not memorable.

Restaurant Ours, South KensingtonRestaurant Ours, South KensingtonRestaurant Ours, South KensingtonRestaurant Ours, South Kensington

So now you’re probably wondering what’s so wrong with this place?  Sadly, the most important thing about a restaurant: the service.  I noticed the minute we arrived how many staff they had, and at first I was impressed.  Then I quickly noticed how inefficient and incompetent the staff actually were (and their uniforms are exceptionally bad too). When you’re at a good restaurant you usually have one or two people serving your table.  Here we had – no joke, I counted – 8 people.  They were all perfectly sweet and well-meaning but were also pretty useless.  One couldn’t open a bottle of wine, so my father did it.  The other didn’t know what a ‘carpaccio’ was.  Another didn’t speak any English at all really.  There was no communication or coordination between the staff.  It was a big mess.

Such a shame.  Perhaps if they sorted this the place would be worth the (extremely expensive) bill.  But, apart from perhaps a fun cocktail on a Friday night, I won’t be running back here any time soon.

Restaurant Ours

264 Brompton Road

Amsterdam, Blog, Drink, The Netherlands

Tales & Spirits, Amsterdam

April 11, 2016
Tales & Spirits, Amsterdam

It’s no surprise this place is always busy.  We were nearly turned away on a Tuesday evening as they don’t allow people to stand, you must have a table.   So while the bar will be full, it will never be heaving, or too noisy.  It is the ultimate date place.  Dim lights, an excellent, inventive cocktail menu and a romantic ambience.

Tales & Spirits, Amsterdam

Upstairs they have a restaurant too, which I’ve heard good things about.

This is one of my favourite bars in Amsterdam, along with Hiding in Plain Sight (but Tales & Sprits has a better location).

Tales & Sprits

Lijnbaanssteeg 5-7
1012 TE Amsterdam

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