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Blog, France, Paris

Alcazar, Paris – EAT

October 10, 2016

Saint Germain de pres is one of my favourite areas in Paris.  Ever since my grandmother first took me to Paris, and we stayed there in a beautiful pied a terre, I’ve been enchanted by the area.

And so it only seemed natural to return, this time for lunch.  I’d heard via via about the Alcazar, had seen on Instagram quite how pretty it looked, and heard about its ‘epic’ brunches.  We were not going for brunch, but Saturday lunch, and we arrived having walked through the city for a solid 3 hours that morning.

Alcazar, Paris

Arriving at a beautiful restaurant, with a mouth-watering menu, and being hungry, is one of my favourite things.  The minute a basket of ridiculously good bread was placed on the table I nearly inhaled the lot.  Which was a mistake as I still had lunch to eat.  They do a great lunch deal: two courses for EUR28, which is perfect.

Alcazar, Paris

To start Gene opted for the terrine and fois gras which was heavy (as predicted) but melt in the mouth.  I had wanted to go for the burrata, but it was finished, so I tried the ceviche.  It wasn’t particularly French, I know, but it was very well done.  For mains Gene tried the duckling, with butternut squash puree and baked figs.  The duck came a little too pink, but they whisked it away without a problem and returned it perfectly cooked.  I went for salmon tataki (again, not very French!) which was the perfect light main course (though a huge portion).

Alcazar, ParisAlcazar, Paris

Apart from the food itself, the restaurant’s interiors need a little praise.  Visually it is stunning; it may be one of the most instagrammable restaurants in Paris  I love being surrounded by plants, and here it feels almost like you’re eating in a greenhouse.  But with elegant marble tables, and an extraordinary light installation.  It has two levels, the ‘balcon’ has a very cool bar and you get great views of the restaurant below.  Plus the staff are very friendly and helpful, which I still find a bit of a rarity in Paris.

Alcazar, ParisAlcazar, ParisAlcazar, ParisAlcazar, Paris

We were too full to even consider pudding, and decided to walk to the newly renovated Les Halles for a coffee at the very cool Champeaux instead.  But seriously, if you’re in Paris, make sure you reserve time (and appetite) for St Germain, you won’t regret it.

NB If you come here for dinner and looking for a place for post dinner cocktails, head to the nearby Prescription Cocktail Club.

Alcazar

62 Rue Mazarine,

75006 Paris

 

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

Blog, Italy, Rome

Marzapane, Rome – EAT

February 9, 2016
Marzapane, Rome

Rome has some fantastic restaurants.  My favourite for a long time was Casa Coppelle, and it is still one of the loveliest restaurants for a date in Rome.  I’m also a fan of some of the more traditional, proper ‘local’ places, like La Quercia, Maccheroni and Taverna Trilussa.  However, I recently read about Marzapane, a restaurant not in the ‘centro storico’ like the rest, but in the more residential Rome.  Having lived in Rome for a year, I’d never actually been here and so I persuaded the family to bundle into a cab and take the short 15 minute ride across town.

The initial hesitation of leaving the beloved historical centre was abandoned upon walking into this wonderful place.  It is very different to most Roman restaurants.  The interiors are bordering on Scandi, but without being too minimalist.  There is plenty of light wood and the design is simple, but it’s cosy and welcoming and yes, stylish.  Small touches like little wooden chairs for your bag (or your dog, I was thinking) are welcome.  Wine bottles stacked in the wall add more warmth.

Marzapane, Rome

And then comes the food. If you’re hungry, go for the tasting menu at EUR39 for five courses.  It’s a steal.  We decided to just choose a starter, main and pudding.  Choosing was the tough part.  The carpaccio with an Asian twist was a hit with my father who normally doesn’t even really like Asian, the prawn tartare with burrata was fresh and unique (and I loved the pistachio biscuit). The vegetable starter was also a surprising hit (they’re really into the word Crucifer in Rome), we’re not sure how they got the cauliflower cream like they did.

Marzapane, RomeMarzapane, RomeMarzapane, Rome

And the main courses were equally delightful.  The carbonara was more delicious and heavier than any we have tasted before.  The lamb with a Mexican hit (chilli), was so tender and delicious, even the fat was a joy to eat. The roe egg linguini was another treat.

Marzapane, RomeMarzapane, Rome

Pudding maintained the high standard, as did the petite fours which came with the coffee in a remarkable dish.  By which point none of us could fit anything more in our mouthes (meanwhile I’m writing this hungry and wishing we’d eaten them all).

Marzapane, RomeMarzapane, RomeMarzapane, Rome

And the wines we had were all different, all wonderful (and Italian of course – mostly either Sicilian or form Piedmonte), and all very reasonably priced.  My Dad did see a Gaja on the menu but the EUR200 price tag kept that one at bay.  Next time.

So, bottom line.  It is worth parting form the historical centre, and taking a 15 minute (10 euro) taxi across town.  It is also worth booking ahead, as this is apparently one of the most popular restaurants in town (it was completely full when we dined).  For me, it was fine dining without the ridiculous price tag, and I’d recommend it to all.

Marzapane

Via Velletri 39

Rome

Phone: +39 06 6478 1692

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, Eat, Healthy

Pluk, Amsterdam – for the perfect healthy brunch

September 26, 2015
Pluk, Amsterdam

Pluk is one of those places which draws you in off the street.  A place so photogenic it will send the most expert of Instagrammers into a tizzy.  It looks good from every angle, with huge windows allowing lots of light in, bright white walls, vases spilling with beautiful flowers, and huge crates and baskets laden with fruit and vegetables.  It’s feminine and pretty, and makes you want to recreate the whole place at home.  It is exactly my kind of place, and possibly – dare I say it – one of my favourite cafes in Amsterdam.

Pluk, Amsterdam

So what is it?  It’s the place to come for a healthy brunch, but it’s also ideal for a take away sandwich, salad, coffee or juice (they have so many options).  Having been going through a health craze for close to two years, I’ve visited as many healthy cafes and restaurants in London as possible, and have always thought Amsterdam was fairly disappointing on that front.  But slowly but surely the health craze has reached Amsterdam, which is now reflected in the cafes, juice bars and restaurants which have opened in the past few year or two.  I love places like Lavinia’s, Dr Blend, Vinnie’s Deli and now Pluk.

Pluk, AmsterdamPluk, Amsterdam

Pluk seems to have really nailed it though.  With seating upstairs on the mezzanine level overlooking the cafe, you can easily spend your whole morning here, watching people come in and out.  Have an energy booster shot to start, and work your way though salmon salads, cold-pressed juices and delicious coffees.

Pluk, AmsterdamPluk, Amsterdam

It also sells pottery and trinkets, reminding me a little of Anthropologie.  And apart from that, it is in the heart of the ‘Nine Streets’, Amsterdam’s cutest little streets crossing the main ‘royal’ canals in the centre of town.  These streets are perfect for a weekend stroll, with so many great shops and other cafes and bars.  Pluk’s sister property Ree7, is a few doors down and looks just as inviting, with perhaps a slightly trendier, more masculine feel to it.  It’s another one of Amsterdam’s most popular brunch hangouts though, and is most definitely next on my list.

Pluk, Amsterdam

Pluk Amsterdam

Reestraat 19

1016 DM Amsterdam

Amsterdam, Blog, Eat, The Netherlands

Staring at Jacob, Amsterdam

October 27, 2013
Staring at Jacob, Amsterdam

After an active morning in the stunning Rijksmuseum we treated ourselves to a delicious brunch at Staring at Jacob, a new(ish) brunch place which has opened in Oud West.  Highly recommend it.  It  has a New York Meat Packing District feel to it.

Staring at Jacob

Staring at Jacob

The mute colours, big blackboards with a small but excellent menu, a combination of small and large wooden tables.  A chill out corner with stacks of magazines and mis-matching furniture.

The Menu

The Menu

A Mimosa and Bellini cheers

A Mimosa and Bellini cheers

The service was good, the food better.  I went for the aptly called Tree Hugger – an original choice for me since it was the veggie and healthy option.  I loved the tofu, quinoa and kale combination.

Tree Hugger

Tree Hugger

And the yoghurt and granola was delicious.  Mol went for the All Around which I was a little jealous of – the pancakes bacon and maple syrup were seriously good.

All Around

All Around

Jo’s Eggs Benedict (the ‘Benny Hill’) were yummy too.

The Benny Hill

The Benny Hill

To finish off the brunch we had the chocolate tart, which I passed upon entering and could not resist.  It was worth it!

The Chocolate Tart

The Chocolate Tart

Staring at Jacob

Jacob van Lennepkade 215,

1054 Amsterdam

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