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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, Date Spot, Eat, London

Boca di Lupo, Soho

November 8, 2016
Boca di Lupo, Soho

Considering that Italian food is my favourite cuisine and I spend most of my time eating in Soho, it’s a bit of a miracle that I had never been to Boca di Lupo until last week.

London has some wonderful Italian restaurants; from ‘swanky’ Zafferano, to South Ken favourite La Famiglia, to the more relaxed but no less excellent Trullo and Padella.  But Buco di Lupo is a name I hear regularly, constantly, and it’s always being praised.

Boca di Lupo, Soho

Book to sit at the kitchen bar, where all the action is.  The food is excellent.  Simple, no messing about, wonderful Italian food.  My favourite was the potato gnocchi with sausage.  While gnocchi is usually a stodgy, heavy dish, this was light, delicate and full of flavour. The pumpkin risotto was good too, but didn’t stand out as much for me.

Boca di Lupo, Soho

We ordered the Tagliata to share for the main course.  I’m glad we shared because it is truly massive (and beautifully cooked).  The rocket and parmesan are the perfect accompaniment, and we ordered a tomato salad which worked very well too.

We also enjoyed their wine.  Quite a lot of wine, as a matter of fact, from different regions in Italy (they have an excellent, if expensive, Italian wine list).  My favourite was the Barbera, but, at £17 per glass, it’s not automatically your go-to wine.  The Sangiovese was good too, and I can’t remember what else we drank because things got a bit blurry…

Boca di Lupo, Soho

In Soho, where you are spoilt for choice of restaurants, Buco di Lupo stands out.  The staff are friendly and knowledgeable, the food superb, the setting beautiful, warm and cosy.  Next time my father’s in town, I’m taking him there.  And that’s got to be a good sign.

Buco di Lupo

12 Archer St, Soho,

London W1D 7BB

 

Blog, UK - Outside London

Foxhill Manor, Cotswolds

September 19, 2016

There are beautiful countryside hotels, retreats, pubs with rooms. And then there is Foxhill Manor. It sets itself apart because it’s more like a home than anything else. In fact, the Manor can be rented out in its entirety, should you wish.  There is no reception desk.  There is no breakfast time. There seem to be very few ‘must dos’ at all.  Apart from perhaps helping yourself to as many glasses of champagne and warm scones as you want upon arrival.

Foxhill Manor, CotswoldsFoxhill Manor, Cotswolds

We arrived too early for check in, but instead went for a long walk in the beautiful Cotswold countryside, where we ended up in the very picturesque village of Broadway for a delicious pub lunch at the Swan.  Having walked back (50 mins) we were greeted by a very friendly member of staff, who showed us around.

Broadway, Cotswolds

There are a few fun things about Foxhill which again sets this place apart from the rest.  There’s the spirit selection in the warm and welcoming sitting room, where you can drink all day and all night, should you wish (free of charge).  There’s a wine cellar you can lose yourself in (now this is sadly not for free).  There’s a cinema with huge beanbags and an infinite number of DVDs (and fresh popcorn, of course).  And there’s the Pantry (possibly my favourite thing), where, should you be as greedy as me, you can help yourself to a never-ending selection of sweets and treats, juices and beers.

Foxhill Manor, Cotswolds

Then there are the rooms. Only eight in total, three of which suites. We were lucky enough to be upgraded the the Beech Suite, which was so ginormous we didn’t even use our sitting room.  We spent a great deal of time in the bathroom (always my favourite room), wallowing in their oversized roll top bath, admiring their mega power shower, giggling at the gnomes through the window.  The bed was difficult to get out of after an obligatory nap. And ideal to watch Sky TV from after we crawled up the stairs (via the Pantry), after our four course dinner.

Foxhill Manor, CotswoldsFoxhill Manor, Cotswolds

Dinner can be eaten wherever: on the beautiful terrace with stunning views of the valley, in your room or in their lovely dining room.  Another quirk: there is no menu. You meet the chef, discuss your likes and dislikes, he suggests a menu of the day. But you can have whatever you like really (to some extent).  And it was all rather delicious.

Foxhill Manor, CotswoldsFoxhill Manor, Cotswolds

Breakfast we enjoyed outside on the terrace, reading the papers (there is a huge selection), and slowly working our way through bread, pastries, eggs and smoked salmon.

Foxhill Manor, Cotswolds

If eating isn’t all you want to spend your time doing (a mystery to me), then there is plenty else to do.  Foxhill is part of the Farncombe Estate, and the better known Dormy House is its sister hotel, a walk (or short drive) away. Here you can use its extensive spa facilities or dine at one of its restaurants. Apart from that you can go riding, walking, clay pigeon shooting…the list is endless.

Staying at Foxhill Manor is the best way to totally relax after a hectic working week. To spoil yourself. And to put on half a stone.  I can’t think of a better way to do that.

Foxhill Manor

Farncombe Estate

Broadway WR12 7LJ

Blog, South Africa

Babylonstoren, Franschoek – STAY

December 14, 2015
Babylonstoren, Franschoek

Franschoek is a very pretty Cape Dutch Town, all white washed cottages, a lovely 19th Century church and plenty of cafes and restaurants populating the high street. But it is beyond the town where Franschoek’s beauty truly lies. In the towering mountains, the roads winding through vineyard after vineyard, the picturesque Cape Dutch farm houses surrounded by beautiful gardens.

Babylonstoren, Franschoek

Babylonstoren is one of the oldest Cape Dutch farm in the area (it’s in between Franschoek and Paarl), and it is out of this world stunning.  It not only boasts a vineyard, but it is an actual (200 hectare) working farm, with the most lovely gardens.   And with the mountains in the backdrop it is breathtaking.

Babylonstoren, FranschoekBabylonstoren, Franschoek

Anyone can come and visit Babylonstoren, for a 10 rand (£0.50) fee at the entrance. I can see the appeal, especially for families. There are donkeys, chickens, a wonderful Glasshouse for a casual picnic style lunch (we had the freshest smoked trout on sourdough), and of course, the gardens to walk through.

Babylonstoren, FranschoekBabylonstoren, FranschoekBabylonstoren, Franschoek

You can also stay on the property, which I highly recommend.  At the moment it offers 21 suites and cottages (some of them with multiple bedrooms), but they are adding a few more.   While from the outside these suites and cottages look like simple white washed farm houses, from the inside they are a sight to behold. It’s like walking into a Scandinavian suite; large open plan bedrooms with four poster beds, large windows, wooden floors, fireplaces, high ceilings and a huge white bathroom (the baths are heavenly). The family units also offer a fully functioning kitchen, ideal for those with younger kids or if you want to be more self-sufficient.

Babylonstoren, FranschoekBabylonstoren, Franschoek

Their fine dining restaurant, Babel, was under construction when I went, but is usually booked months in advance. You can expect plenty of fresh, home grown produce and a seriously high standard of food.

Their pool was one of my favourite parts, in an old water reservoir, with lovely views of the surroundings.  They’ve now also built a ‘beach’, where you can have massages, and they have quite an extensive ‘Garden spa’, as well as a very modern gym.   And for the shopaholics, they have one of the best ‘hotel’ boutiques I’ve come across, with fantastic scented candles, wines, biltong and other souvenirs.  It goes without saying that they also offer daily wine tasting sessions, and are nearly finished with a new space for the wine tastings (it looks stunning).

Babylonstoren, FranschoekBabylonstoren, Franschoek

In short, Babylonstoren is a dream come true for couples or families – an authentic, warm experience, with the more delightful staff, in the most beautiful setting.

Rates from £220 per room in low season.

Other recommended places to stay in the Franschoek area:

*La Residence (if you want to splash out)

*Mont Rochelle (If you’re a fan of the Virgin Limited properties – who isn’t?) – also good to swing by for a picnic lunch

*Or this charming Airbnb property (if you’re on a budget).

Photo credit: Babylonstoren, and some my own.

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