Browsing Tag

Boutique Hotel

Blog, UK - Outside London

The Pig in the Wall, Southampton

April 2, 2017
The Pig in the Wall, Southampton

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

The Pig in the Wall, Southampton

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

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

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

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

The Pig in the Wall, Southampton

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

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

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

The Pig in the Wall

8 Western Esplanade

Southampton

Hampshire

Blog, 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, Mexico, Tulum

Sanara, Tulum

December 31, 2016
Sanara, Tulum

Tulum is heaving with hotels of all kinds, mostly of the eco, rustic variety.  While we stayed at Nomade, the other place I would have loved to have stayed is Sanara.

Sanara is a very small (19 rooms), eco boutique hotel, which focuses on wellness.  I love it’s minimalist white rooms, which are spacious, steps from the beach and come with lovely roll top baths.   You can expect daily yoga and can enjoy their spa and wellness centre, with various packages of ‘personal healing journeys’.

Sanara Tulum (photo credit Sanara)

Sanara is not your most affordable option in Tulum, but it’s absolutely worth spending a little extra for such a beautiful and relaxing hotel.

Still, if you don’t stay here it’s absolutely worth stopping by for a sunset drink or for a delicious, healthy lunch or dinner at their top restaurant Coconut.   We came here to enjoy one of their wonderful cocktails, and it felt a lot calmer than the more buzzing Nomade.

Sanara, TulumSanara, TulumSanara, Tulum

If you’re looking for a party, Sanara is not for you.  But if you want to unwind and leave Tulum feeling more ‘zen’, healthy and rested, then you’ve come to the right place.

Sanara

Tulum

 

Blog, Mexico

Esencia, Riviera Maya

December 10, 2016
Esencia, Mexico

There are not many places like Esencia.  This 28 room boutique hotel is the ultimate beach paradise.  Located between Playa del Carmen and Tulum, on Xpu-ha beach (known by some as the finest beach of Riviera Maya), it’s one of those places where you arrive and straight away decide never to leave again.

Once the private home of an Italian Dutchess, it was bought by a charming American in 2014, who has turned it into a beauty of a design hotel.  Most of the jungle suites are hidden in the Yucatan jungle, though the best rooms are in the main house, with incredible views of the turquoise Caribbean sea.  The rooms are whiter than white (with a hint of Mondrian colour and design), super stylish and unbelievably comfortable.

Esencia, MexicoEsencia, Mexico

While it’s hard enough to tear yourself away from your private jungle plunge pool (which can be heated to essentially turn it into your bath), the place you’ll want to spend most of your time is either on the whiter than white sandy beach, or by one of the sleek swimming pools sipping frozen Esencia Margaritas.  Watch out though, we were so elated when we arrived that we promptly drank four Esencia Margaritas without realising they were $30 (plus tax) a pop!  While white seems to be their signature colour, I loved the bright yellow colour highlights in their furniture and towels.

Esencia, MexicoEsencia, MexicoEsencia, Mexico

Days start with a morning class of yoga, aided by the soothing sounds of the ocean, after which a hearty breakfast of eggs and avocados (of course) is enjoyed at the Pool Restaurant.

Esencia, MexicoEsencia, MexicoEsencia, Mexico

If you’re feeling active then paddle boarding and snorkelling are an option, or you can walk through a dilapidated neighbouring hotel to a private cenote, for a swim in clear fresh water.

Esencia, MexicoEsencia, MexicoEsencia, Mexico

The Beach Bar is a place to spend a large chunk of your afternoon and evening, watching the sunset with a cocktail in hand.  And on to dinner, another treat of tacos and guacamole, while listening to a local band playing Mexican tunes.

Esencia, MexicoEsencia, Mexico

Esencia is a rare, special place, and sadly no longer a secret.  Celebs and fashion bloggers are loving it (as Esencia’s Instagram page will show) and their NYE party is set to be the place to be on Riviera Maya.  But despite the buzz, this is ultimately a place to retreat to and completely relax, to enjoy the peace and quiet, and to spoil yourself rotten.  Good luck trying to leave!

Esencia

Carr. Cancun-Tulum Km. 265

Predio Rústico Xpu-Ha

Xpu-Ha, 77710

Playa del Carmen,

Riviera Maya,

Mexico

Photo credit: All mine (and more on my Instagram)

Blog, UK - Outside London

The Painswick Hotel, Cotswolds

November 16, 2016
The Painswick Hotel, the Cotswolds

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

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

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

The Painswick Hotel, the Cotswolds

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

The Painswick Hotel, the Cotswolds

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

The Painswick Hotel, the Cotswolds

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

The Painswick Hotel, the CotswoldsThe Painswick Hotel, the Cotswolds

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

The Painswick Hotel, the Cotswolds

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

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

The Painswick Hotel

Kemps Ln, Painswick

Stroud GL6 6YB

Photo credit: The Painswick Hotel

Blog, Italy, Rome

JK Place, Rome – STAY

February 8, 2016
JK Place Rome

I’ve stayed or at least seen a number of Rome’s best hotels.  From a room with a view (of the Colosseum) at the Palazzo Manfredi, to the fashionable and modern Portrait Suites, to the grand Hotel de Russie (with that incredible garden).  And then suddenly, JK Place Roma (which opened mid-2013) caught my eye, the third to join the JK properties (others being in Capri and Florence).  On Instagram and in travel magazines it looked bright and contemporary, and very chic.  And so during my recent visit to Rome, I checked it out.

JK Place Rome

JK Place is my kind of hotel.  Despite the large and beautiful building it’s in (an old university building), it’s small, with only 33 rooms.  It’s grand but homely.  I could easily curl up with a book in their divine cream coloured library.  Their ‘lobby’ is more like a seriously over-sized sitting room, with the light pouring in from above, and a mixture of greys and blacks and creams, contemporary furniture and quirky art.  It may not be to everyone’s tastes (my father didn’t like it), but I was very happy sitting there, sipping a delicious espresso.

JK Place RomeJK Place RomeJK Place Rome

The bedrooms vary in size, and if you want a fourposter bed (of course you do), go for the Superior rooms and up.  Their beds really are to die for, with engraved pillowcases and the crispest linen.  My favourite room was the Deluxe, spacious with wonderful green walls.  The bathrooms tend to be quite small and lack bathtubs, but you can expect a lot of beautiful Italian marble and mega power-showers, so there’s no room for complaint.

JK Place RomeJK Place RomeJK Place RomeJK Place Rome

Their New York style Bistro ‘JK Cafe’, is worth having lunch or dinner at.  I loved their use of rich colours and textures, lots of bold greens and yellows, combined with velvet and polished wood. They offer a weekend brunch to non-guests, and for EUR 50 per person you can eat as much as you want.  They also serve a laid back dinner, with burgers and such like.

JK Place RomeJK Place RomeJK Place Rome

The staff were utterly charming, and Marina doubles up as concierge and booked us Taverna Trilussa for dinner. An excellent recommendation (blog to follow soon).

In short, I highly recommend this beautiful hotel in the heart of Rome (literally around the corner from the Spanish Steps).

JK Place Roma

Via di Monte d’Oro, 30

Rome

Amsterdam, Argentina, Blog, Italy, Lisbon, London, Marrakech, Morocco, Portugal, Puglia, South Africa

Best of 2015: My favourites

December 29, 2015
city turtle

2015 has been a busy year in terms of travel, I’ve done numerous city weekend breaks in Europe (Amsterdam / Lisbon / Barcelona /Krakow), some relaxing, foodie holidays (Puglia / Bordeaux / Cyprus) and some serious ‘wow’ trips (Argentina / South Africa).

Here are my 2015 favourites: 

The Show Stopper: The Test Kitchen, Cape Town.

No wonder it’s been awarded South Africa’s number one restaurant for the 4th year in a row, as well as the best restaurant in Africa.  We were so lucky to have dinner here and try their incredible 10 course Tasting Menu.  We sat at the kitchen bar, which I highly recommend, as it is truly one of the best experiences watching these top chefs put together the most incredible food.

Runner up: La Colombe, the sophisticated and much-loved restaurant in Constantia, the exclusive suburb of Cape Town.  With beautiful views, delicate food and perfect service, I can completely understand why people rave about it (and why it was voted South Africa’s 2nd best restaurant).

Test Kitchen, Cape Town

Most spectacular Hotel: Eolo, Argentina.

I was completely blown away by this fantastic Relais & Chateaux, nestled in the Patagonian hills.  This is a simple, elegant and intimate boutique hotel – which is all about the views, the fantastic service, the beautiful Argentine design and the excellent food.  By far the best place I stayed in Argentina.

Runner up was Rattrays, Mala Mala in Sabi Sands.  The most beautiful colonial lodge, and the best base for wildlife viewing in South Africa. Runner up 2: Babylonstoren, South Africa, the most wonderful Cape Dutch farm and hotel in between Franschoek and Paarl.  I could not fault the design.

Eolo, Argentina

Favourite new discovery: Puglia, Italy.

Italy is, and will always be, my favourite country.  And I know it quite well.  But 2015 was the first time I traveled to ‘the heel’ of Italy, to Puglia, and I was taken aback by how much I adored it.  So different to the rest of the country, I loved its dark red earth, the hundred year old olive groves, turquoise seas, the white-washed hill top towns, the brilliant food and wine, and the incredible value for money.  Read all about my favourite places in Puglia here.

Runner up: Krakow, Poland.  Who knew Poland was quite so beautiful?  I absolutely loved this pretty and well-preserved Medieval city.  Wonderful architecture, great dining options, and super affordable.

Controcorrente, Ostuni

 i

Favourite new London restaurant: Shackfuyu, Soho.

Fans of the Bone Daddies restaurant group will not have missed their Soho pop up, which received such high acclaim (especially its Kinako french toast with green tea soft serve ice cream) that it has now thankfully become a permanent fixture.  My favourite dish was the aubergine with babu aruru, that alone is a reason to return.

Runner up: Taberna do Mercado.  While Nuno Mendes’ new Spittalfields restaurant has divided opinion, I loved this cosy, down to earth Portuguese restaurant, with hearty ‘grandma-style’ dishes.

Bone Daddies Shackfuyu, Soho

Favourite new London bar: The Gin Parlour at Mr Fogg’s Tavern, Soho.

I was already a fan of Mr Fogg’s Residence in Mayfair, and so was delighted when Mr Fogg’s Tavern opened at the end of the year.  While the Tavern itself is often heaving, upstairs you’ll find a much quieter and more sophisticated Victorian Gin Parlour, with delicious (albeit expensive) cocktails.

Runner upCahoots . While it’s a nightmare to get a booking, I thought the interiors and the Underground theme was incredible (and the cocktail prices reasonable).

Mr Fogg's Tavern, Soho

Best value hotel: The Capaldi, Marrakech.

If you’re looking for a sunny but short break away from London, then Marrakech is the perfect option.  Just a 3 hour flight, but where the weather is infinitely better and where there is an astonishing array of five star hotels.  While the likes of the Amanjena, the new Mandarin Oriental and Kasbah Tamadot are luxurious but very expensive options, the Capaldi offers the best of both worlds.  It’s a beautiful hotel, set in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains, half an hour drive from Marrakech’s medina, and a complete paradise.  Best of all is that rooms are from £100 per night, so totally affordable.  I loved it.

Runner up: Hotel Ormes de Pez, in the Medoc area of Bordeaux. With only a few rooms, I loved staying at this very comfortable, traditional French Chateau boutique hotel, where you are beautifully looked after by Gilles.

Capaldi, Marrakech

 i

Favourite new London hotel: The Zetter Townhouse, Marylebone.

The Zetter Townhouse in Clerkenwell is a London favourite, but the new Townhouse in West London is giving it a good run for its money.  With quirky interiors, a very cosy sitting room/bar/lounge and rooms with the comfiest looking beds I’ve seen – this is British design at its best.

Runner up: the very modern Mondrian Hotel at the Sea Containers on the South Bank, where I especially loved the views and the cocktail bar.

Zetter Townhouse, Marylebone

Favourite Amsterdam new-comer: Cafe Panache, Amsterdam.

This laid-back, stylish cafe-restaurant had such a fantastic vibe, I thought I was in New York.  The food is good, but the main reason to come is for the atmosphere, and the bar filled with locals, which stays open until late.

Runner up: The W Hotel, Amsterdam.  While I’m not a massive fan of the W group, I must say I completely adored the new W’s ‘Lounge’ bar on the top floor, where the views of the Dam Palace are out of this world, and where I’d pay good money to have a swim in their pool with a view.

Cafe Panache, Amsterdam

Most original bar: Floreria Atlantico, Buenos Aires.

It doesn’t get more original than when the entrance to a bar is a fully functioning flower shop.  This bar has been repeatedly voted one of the world’s best bars, and I can totally see why.

Floreria Atlantico, Buenos Aires

 i

Favourite healthy option: Pluk, Amsterdam.

Too pretty for words, this newcomer to Amsterdam’s beloved Negen Straatjes (Nine Little Streets) is the perfect girlie health haven.  Pick a juice, a salad and a detox shot and you’re good to go.  I love their Instagram feed too.  If you’re looking for something more substantial for brunch, then their sister property Ree 7 (on the same street), is also worth checking out.

Runner up: Flax & Kale, Barcelona. I was really wowed by this healthy ‘flexitarian’ restaurant, which combined stunning interiors with a delicious, unique menu.

Pluk, Amsterdam

 i

Best bottomless brunch: Bourne & Hollingsworth Buildings, Clerkenwell.

2015 was the year I fell in love with Exmouth Market, a new part of London I had shockingly never been to before.  B&H Buildings is around the corner, and it’s colonial, bright interiors makes it the ideal place for brunch (try and get a table in their green house).  Best of all is that they offer bottomless Bellinis (£16) or Bloody Mary’s (£15) for weekend brunch.

Bourne and Hollingsworth Buildings, Clerkenwell

Favourite local: Hally’s and Little H, Parsons Green.

Fulham gets criticised for being slightly on the dull side when it comes to restaurants and bars, but one thing it can get right is brunch.  Hally’s remains one of my favourite Fulham locals, and with the arrival of its smaller and healthier sister property Little H (with a Cali twist), I couldn’t be happier.

Runner up: St Clements, toward Eelbrook Common, is also a great option if Hally’s is fully booked.  Manuka Kitchen also remains a firm favourite.

Hally's Parsons Green

Favourite City Break: Lisbon, Portugal.

It was my second time visiting the Portuguese capital this year, and I liked it even more than the first time I went.  Lisbon combines excellent weather with beautiful architecture, an innovative foodie scene and incredible value for money.   Take an extra day off work and give yourself a day on the beach to add some proper R&R to this city break, and you’ll feel like you’ve been on a proper holiday.  Read all about my Lisbon highlights here.

Runner up: Barcelona.  This Spanish city never fails to disappoint. With wonderful tapas bars, fantastic rooftop bars and the beach (with its brilliant beach bars), I could return again and again.

Lisbon

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Blog, Drink, Eat, London, Stay

Mondrian Hotel, South Bank

December 25, 2015
Mondrian Hotel, South Bank

London has had quite a few show-stopping hotel openings in 2015, but the Mondrian Hotel may be the most prominent one of all.  And for good reason – this modern beauty, with prime location in the Sea Containers building on the South Bank is worth a visit.  Whether it be for breakfast, dinner, cocktails or an overnight stay, the Mondrian will delight.

I went for dinner and cocktails about a month ago. Even your arrival is memorable – the copper, sea inspired ‘wave’ is perhaps more unique than it is beautiful, but I loved it.  The whole design of the place is to echo a 1920s cruise ship.  In my mind that description sounds like it should look hideous, but it’s far from it.

Mondrian Hotel, South BankMondrian Hotel, South Bank

The restaurant – colourful and shiny – was busy in a pleasant way; the design sleek with a flashy bar in the centre of the room.  But your eyes are instantly drawn to the views.  You’re right on the river Thames and you’ve got Blackfriars Bridge and the City on your right (the Tate Modern is an 8 minute walk), and Westminster and all its glories to your left.  The food was delicious and light, presented with care.  Perhaps I chose healthy options, but I left feeling satisfied without overly full (which is sadly usually the case when you’re as greedy as I am).

Mondrian Hotel, South BankMondrian Hotel, South Bank

The bar at the Mondrian is perhaps even more of a highlight than the restaurant – the decor (modern, of course) again stands out. While bright pink leather sofas may not necessarily be my cup of tea, here they fit perfectly with the emerald green walls. At night the bar is so dimly lit you don’t even necessarily notice the colours.  Again, the view drew my attention more than anything. London looks so magical at night, and from the bar (make sure you sit close to the window) the views are uninterrupted.  The cocktails too deserve a mention, the menu beautifully designed and the drinks were well crafted.

Mondrian Hotel, South Bank

The Mondrian hotel may not be for everyone – it’s daring and loud, the design is ridiculously slick and it perhaps lacks a degree coziness.  But its style is fun and original, the views phenomenal, the location ideal to see London and the pricing fair (this is all relative of course).  While I didn’t see the rooms I know some say they do feel slightly more business-like than the hotel’s communal areas, but still very comfortable with all the mod-cons you could wish for.

Mondrian Hotel, South BankMondrian Hotel, South Bank

But I suppose what I liked so much about the place was that the restaurant and bar did not feel like they were part of a hotel at all.  So regardless of whether you’re a hotel guest or not, you still very much feel like a special guest in your own right.

The Mondrian Hotel

Sea Containers

20 Upper Ground,

London SE1 9PD

Argentina, Blog

Hub Porteno, Buenos Aires – STAY

November 10, 2015
Hub Porteno, Buenos Aires

The Recoleta district in Buenos Aires is where you’ll find the majority of the city’s top hotels.  One of the wealthiest areas of Buenes Aires and a big tourist hub (mainly because of the famous Recoleta Cemetry), it’s where you’ll see many ‘chateaux’ built in the late 19th Century, imitating the French palaces.  Many of these palaces have been turned into five star hotels like the Park Hyatt (Palacio Duhau) and the Four Seasons.  But amongst the five star chains, you’ll also find the smaller, more characterful boutique hotels, like Hub Porteno.

Located round the corner from the Park Hyatt, and walking distance to Recoleta cemetery, you’ll find the 10-room Hub Porteno.

All the rooms are remarkably spacious – the Queen Twin room we had was massive, and the two ‘twin’ beds were actually like small doubles.  The complimentary amenities are worth mentioning: Nespresso machines in the room, snacks, lovely bath products and afternoon tea served at 4pm with apple cake.   What really stood out for me was the bathrooms – practically the size of the bedrooms, you can expect a lot of glass, marble and metal.  I had the best power shower ever there.

Hub Porteno, Buenos AiresHub Porteno, Buenos AiresHub Porteno, Buenos AiresHub Porteno, Buenos Aires

I found the ‘living room’ (which also doubles up as a library) a little bland, it’s strange since while the interiors are all creams and whites, it felt quite dark dark due to a lack of natural light.  Still, all is forgiven when you reach their 4th floor roof terrace; an expansive green space, with comfortable seating and it does feel, as they say, like an oasis in the middle of the city.

Hub Porteno, Buenos AiresHub Porteno, Buenos Aires

For those looking for a bit more action, then their small gym is actually perfect for a quick work out, and they also have a spa and sauna if you want some pampering.

I didn’t get to try their restaurant, but I did have a (rushed – sadly) breakfast there, and it was truly superb.  The coffee was the best I had in Argentina, and their china so beautiful.  The croissants were freshly made, and I managed to enjoy some eggs and bacon too (if you put your mind to it it’s amazing what you can eat in 10 minutes!).

Hub Porteno, Buenos AiresHub Porteno, Buenos Aires

And finally, the service was wonderful – so helpful, so personal and very warm and welcoming.  It definitely made my experience in Buenos Aires.

Hub Porteno

Rodríguez Peña 1967,

Buenos Aires

Photo credit: Hub Porteno

Instagram shot: mine

Blog, Drink, London, Stay

Zetter Townhouse, Marylebone

October 8, 2015
Zetter Townhouse, Marylebone

The first time I went to the new Zetter Townhouse in Marylebone, I walked straight passed it.  I knew that the Zetter group was no normal hotel group, but the townhouse was so unassuming, and so ‘un-hotel like’, I questioned google maps a few times before I found it.  And what a beautiful house it is; an elegant, warm red brick Georgian building with windows inviting you to have a peek in (though clearly I was too fixed on google maps to do so).

Walking into the ‘lobby’ is also not like walking into a hotel.  Instead, it feels like you’re walking into someone’s (grand) home.  It’s more a cosy living room than anything else, with dark red walls covered in art, big comfy sofas, quirky antiques, old framed photographs and an elegant grand father clock.  It was apparently modelled on John Soane’s house, and there is a clear resemblance. ‘Uncle Seymour’ hangs proudly above the fireplace – and it is this fictional character which the hotel is based on.  Marylebone’s new Zetter Townhouse is effectively ‘borrowed’ from Uncle Seymour while he’s on his travels.  We are his guests, lest we forget it.

Zetter Townhouse, Marylebone

The place is proudly British, with eccentric touches.  I loved all the small details, the beautifully hand painted lift doors (the peacock lift is my favourite), the rugs on the bed which once kept the royal horses warm and delicious REN bath products.

There are only 22 rooms (starting at around £250 per night), and each room is very different.  Some have huge stately four poster beds, others have gramophones, and the Edward Lear suite has an outdoor tub (to be honest, all the rooms have very impressive baths).

Zetter Townhouse, MaryleboneZetter Townhouse, MaryleboneZetter Townhouse, Marylebone

Seymour’s Parlour cocktail lounge (i.e the red room I described initially) is open for breakfast (popular with non-residing guests too) until late.  And the cocktails are as punchy as they are at the Zetter in Clerkenwell (I highly recommend the Valais Fizz, with Arquebuse Vodka, Lime, Fir Essence & soda).  You can also grab a bite to eat here, with small sharing plates and ‘Seymour’s famous potted pleasures’ like the potted shrimp.

I loved the feel of the place, and can imagine that those people who dislike the larger, less personal chain hotels which London has so many of, would absolutely love this quirky but loveable Zetter Townhouse.  And while it may lack the facilities (no gym/spa/proper restaurant as such), it massively makes up for it in style and character.

And if you need somewhere to go post cocktails here, you’re round the corner from my favourite Seymour Place, with the new Lurra restaurant with Basque grilled tapas, or the Southern American Lockhart with the new Showdown cocktail bar below, or even the new Italian Bernardi’s on the corner.

The Zetter Townhouse Marylebone has also just been crowned ‘City Hotel of the year’ by the Sunday Times, which they can certainly be proud of.  Most definitely worth a visit!

Zetter Townhouse, Marylebone

28-30 Seymour Street,

London W1H 7JB

Amsterdam, Blog, Stay, The Netherlands

Hotel Not Hotel, Amsterdam

September 22, 2015
Hotel Not Hotel, Amsterdam

If you’re going to stay in a quirky, creative, unusual hotel, it might as well be in Amsterdam.  For those of you looking for affordable and fun accommodation then Hotel Not Hotel is the place for you.  As we were in Amsterdam to see the fantastic contemporary photographic fair and festival UNSEEN, it seemed an apt place for us to stay.

Hotel Not Hotel, Amsterdam

There’s a strong hint in the name in terms of what you may, or may not, expect from Hotel Not Hotel.  This is a hotel, but it’s also a series of individual pieces of ‘art’ (in a loose sense of the word); where each room is different, no room is just a ‘room’.  It also has a few hostel-esque features, namely the shared bathrooms (which are very clean and modern) for some of the cheaper rooms, and a relaxed, laid back vibe.  But it’s far from a hostel.  The interiors are in fact, rather beautifully done.  I love the book cases doubling for doors to hidden rooms.  And the Mr and Mrs front doors leading to two rooms (one of which was ours for the night).  The crows nest and the tram cart are two other unique rooms.  It’s all well thought through and, even though it may not be for everyone, it is at least a very original idea.

Hotel Not Hotel, AmsterdamHotel Not Hotel, AmsterdamHotel Not Hotel, AmsterdamHotel Not Hotel, Amsterdam

They have a bar called Kevin Bacon.  While I’m not a massive fan of the actor, I thought the bar itself was rather beautiful.  It also has a small roadside terrace from which you can enjoy a morning coffee, or an early evening cocktail.

Hotel Not Hotel, AmsterdamHotel Not Hotel, Amsterdam

Bicycles are for rent, for €12 a day (and they’ll reserve them for you in advance).  We depended on this mode of transport throughout the weekend, and if you want to act like a local, then it’s key that you rent one too.  Then the hotel’s location – slightly out of the city centre, in bustling Amsterdam West – is not a problem either.  It takes 10 minutes max (depending on the calibre of the bikers you’re with) to cycle into the centre, or Amsterdam West has so many cosy neighbourhood cafes and bars (like Ted’s), as well as the brand new Cafe Panache, which seems to be the place to be for dinner on the weekend (blogs to follow on these).

Hotel Not Hotel, Amsterdam

Stay here for the experience, for a laugh.  It’s full of surprises.  Don’t take it too seriously, just enjoy it for what it is.  Then like us you’ll giggle when you wake up in a room which is not much bigger than a cupboard, looks like a chapel and is labeled ‘Crisis Free Zone’.  100% worth considering for a weekend away with friends.

Hotel Not Hotel, AmsterdamHotel Not Hotel, Amsterdam

For other Amsterdam accommodation ideas, consider the Volkshotel.  Plus sides is that it’s even more affordable than Hotel Not Hotel, has hot tubs on the roof, and a really fun bar.  Negatives are that it’s even further out of town.

Hotel Not Hotel

Piri Reisplein 34
1057 KH Amsterdam

Photos belong to Hotel Not Hotel

Blog, Spain

Hotel Brummell, Barcelona – STAY

August 24, 2015

I love Airbnb, I really do.  But when you get the grand tour of a hotel like Hotel Brummell, you sneakily wish you were staying here instead (especially when you find out that they also offer three bedroom apartments).

This brand new boutique design hotel is everything you need for a weekend break in Barcelona.  In the up and coming, quiet area of Poble Sec, you’re less than half an hour walk from the beach (I walked it) and from areas like El Born and Gothic.   Or you can take the super easy Metro.  It’s more local than touristy, and I really enjoyed strolling through its quiet, residential streets.

Hotel Brummell, Barcelona

With 20 rooms (and two 3-bedroom apartments) and the Brummell Classic rooms starting from €100, it’s a complete bargain as well.   They say they’re a three star, but I find rating boutique hotels like this pretty impossible.  I’d stay here as willingly as I would at any five star.

The charming Alma – enthusiastic and spilling with love for the place – showed me around.  From the cool and shaded courtyard terrace, Box Social (their restaurant/cafe) to the welcoming and chilled ‘lobby’.

Hotel Brummell, BarcelonaHotel Brummell, Barcelona

She also showed me a number of their rooms. Their ‘penthouse’ rooms (two) were my favourite: small but with large terraces (and city views) and outside baths.  Heaven.   All the rooms have large rain showers and lovely Malin + Goetz products.  While space is not a luxury Brummell has, they use the limited space very cleverly.

Hotel Brummell, BarcelonaHotel Brummell, BarcelonaHotel Brummell, BarcelonaHotel Brummell, Barcelona

I adore their use of grey, white and cream shades, and the contrast of the bright yellow umbrellas by the pool.   The pool is another little highlight.  It’s not huge, but it’s perfect, with a terrace and sun loungers for sunbathing.  There is another larger outside terrace, ideal for lounging in the shade, as well as their own organic vegetable ‘patch’.

Hotel Brummell, Barcelona Hotel Brummell, Barcelona Hotel Brummell, Barcelona

They have just started working with the next door yoga and pilates studio called ‘the Garage’, owned by former model Veronica Blume.  She was lovely when I met her and she told me about how they do special work shops and yoga classes for all abilities. A great way to start a healthy weekend: a yoga class with Veronica in the spacious and airy ‘Garage’ and then off to Flax & Kale for brunch, followed by the beach.

Hotel Brummell, Barcelona

Take me back (book very early to avoid disappointment).

Other affordable places to stay are any of the Praktik chain (Praktik Bakery sounds best), or the Cotton House Hotel if you want a step up in terms of standard (and price).

Hotel Brummell

Hotel Brummell
Nou de la Rambla, 174
08004 Barcelona

+34 931 258 622
hola@hotelbrummell.com

 Photos a mixture of mine and Hotel Brummell’s

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