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fine dining

Blog, Date Spot, Drink, Eat, London, Stay

Henrietta Hotel, Covent Garden

June 20, 2017
The Henrietta, Covent Garden

I’ve been to the Henrietta Hotel twice in 24 hours.  In my defence, it’s a stone’s throw from my office, so easy to get excited about.  Yesterday for drinks, today for a nosey around the rooms.  Because yes, I am a hotel geek and I do like to do things like that on my lunch break.

Founded by the Experimental Group guys (think the Experimental Cocktail Chinatown, but they also own lots of hip venues in Paris, New York & Ibiza), the Henrietta is many things.  Firstly it is a small, luxury hotel, with 18 rather beautiful rooms.  With heavy Art Deco influences and pastel colours, each room is unique, from the pretty headboards to brass lamps and mirrors in all different shapes and sizes.   Many of the bathrooms have large baths and all have fluffy branded robes and towels.

The Henrietta, Covent GardenThe Henrietta, Covent Garden

The Henrietta has also got a great bar.  Last night, post excellent dinner at Frenchie (which I would recommend to all who would fork out a casual £38 on lamb), I dragged my friend there for cocktails.  We were there long enough for the bill to be fairly substantial (be warned).  The cocktail menu is a little unusual, as I suppose you would expect from these guys.  I wasn’t sure about my Palomar cocktail (tequila based but perhaps with a touch too much salt) but the vibe was good, and I love the design of the place.  There is also a mezzanine level with another bar and more tables.

The Henrietta, Covent GardenThe Henrietta, Covent Garden

Perhaps the most talked about aspect of the Henrietta is its restaurant, with the food being by the one & only Ollie Dabbous (of Dabbous fame).  I sent my colleague there for lunch yesterday (come to think of it I really have been giving this place a lot of love) and he said the food was excellent.

The Henrietta, Covent GardenThe Henrietta, Covent Garden

And so today, having not seen any of the rooms, I popped by and was shown around.  Sadly their two suites were booked, as I would have loved to have seen the views from their terrace.  But I saw two rooms: their smallest Covent Garden room (super cosy, under the eaves of the house, not for giants) and the Henrietta room (much more spacious, fabulous bed).

The Henrietta, Covent GardenThe Henrietta, Covent Garden

All in all it’s good to see Covent Garden has a new, hip hotel, and I’m sure I’ll be stopping by regularly for food and booze, and maybe even a snooze..!

The Henrietta

14-15 Henrietta St,

London WC2E 8QH

Andalucia, Blog, Bologna, Croatia, London, Mexico, Mexico City, Prague, Rome, Sicily, Spain, Tulum

BEST OF 2016: MY FAVOURITES

January 1, 2017
City Turtle 2016

2016 was another busy year of travel.  I enjoyed a record number of European city breaks (Rome, Prague, Bologna, Istanbul, Marbella, Paris, Amsterdam) and a few brilliant longer trips to Miami, New York, Hvar, Andalucia and Mexico.  Hopefully all my blogs have been useful for those travelling to these destinations.

Here are my favourites of 2016:

Most Spectacular Hotel: Hotel Esencia, Mexico

I promise I’ll stop banging on about this hotel, but this boutique design hotel stands out for me as one of the best places I have ever stayed.  Its stretch of beach is so peaceful, the sand so white and the sea gloriously turquoise. The rooms are white washed, minimalist and super comfortable.  Morning yoga is the best way to start the day there, followed by a delicious healthy breakfast.  It’s no wonder Conde Nast voted it as one of 2016’s best hotels.

Esencia, Mexico

Runner up: Finca Cortesin (and I shockingly still have not written a blog about this place).  Hands down one of Europe’s most beautiful properties, high in the hills 30 minutes from Marbella, with sea and mountain views.  The interiors are so elegant, the swimming pools vast and the spa to die for.

Finca Cortesin, Spain

Favourite new discovery: South East Sicily

A week of exploring all the Baroque-rich towns and cities of South Eastern Sicily is such a treat.  Each of the towns, from Ragusa to Modica to Note are all so individual, with good restaurants, a few fun bars, and lots of pretty streets to explore.  Our seafood lunch at Taverna Cialoma in Marzamemi was one of the big highlights of our trip.  And we learnt that the very underestimated city Catania is also worth a stop.

Ragusa, Sicily

Favourite new London restaurant: Foley’s

With so many restaurant openings in London this year, it’s hard to pick a favourite.  But everything from the divine alfresco bar (with the best Espresso Martinis), to a menu where you literally want to eat every dish (and we did), to the friendly, helpful staff, meant that Foley’s wins the 2016 prize.  A place I know I’ll return to, again and again.

Foleys, FItzrovia

Runner up: The Ninth and Clipstone.  Both of these relatively new openings in London have a lot in common: excellent food, reasonable pricing and great atmosphere.  The Pain Perdu at the Ninth is the best pudding I’ve had this year.

The Ninth, Fitzrovia

Favourite Bar – International: The Living Room, at the Faena, Miami

Wow, the new(ish) Faena hotel in Miami is a true showstopper, rich in colour and gold and opulence.  And walking into its main bar, The Living Room, is like stepping into Gatsby’s 1920s.  I loved every moment of being in this crazy, vibrant, colourful place, where you don’t know where to look or which cocktail to pick from their indulgent menu.  The Faena’s restaurant Pao was also a highlight of my visit.

Photo credit: https://luxuriavacations.com/destinations/usa/faena-hotel-miami-beach

Runner up:  The Bar at the Baccarat Hotel, New York. This hotel is so fantastically blingy, as of course you’d expect considering the owners.  It’s a stunning hotel (the rooms are far more toned down than the public areas), but the bar really stood out.  It’s always packed with very glamorous people, the cocktails are fantastic and the interiors are fabulous.

Photo credit Baccarat Hotels

Favourite English Countryside retreat: Foxhill Manor, the Cotswolds

The Cotswolds is one of my favourite areas of England; the countryside is so breathtakingly beautiful here and the villages are all so picturesque, with so many pretty Cotswold stone cottages, lovely cafes and restaurants and fantastic country walks.  So staying at the exclusive five star Foxhill Manor (Dormy House’s sister property) was one of the highlights of 2016, the ultimate country house hotel.  The food was amazing here, our suite the size of my house in London, and the views of the Cotswolds out of this world.

Foxhill Manor, Cotswolds

Favourite Restaurant – International: Quintonil, Mexico City

Chosen not because it’s voted as the 12th best restaurant in the world, but purely because it was a magical experience, and I’ve never had Mexican food like it.  It’s incredible value for money, and the amuse bouches we had here were some of the best I’ve had.  That said, its Mexico City competitor Pujol deserves a mention too, also for its creative food and noteworthy tasting menu.

Quintonil, Mexico City

Runners up:  This is such a tough one, as I have eaten at some seriously wonderful restaurants this year.  Still, if I had to choose, I loved Marzapane in Rome because it is was so different, so modern and so un-Roman.  At the same time, Sansho’s tasting menu in Prague was exceptional, and fantastic value.  And last but not least, Dalmatino in Hvar, Croatia was unexpected and their squid ink truffle gnocchi mind-blowing.

Marzapane, Rome

Favourite beach: Tulum, Mexico

Who knew Mexico’s Riviera Maya had such incredible beaches?  The beach at Tulum is possibly the most perfect beach I’ve been on.  Lined with palm trees and eco hotels (no building is higher than the tallest palm tree), white powdery sand and warm welcoming turquoise waves, it really is a paradise beach.  Plus, it stretches on and on, and makes for the best walk at sunset, Margarita in hand.  Especially the beach at Nomade (photo below) was phenomenal.

Tulum, Mexico

Runners up: Dubovica Beach on Hvar, Croatia and South Beach, Miami.  These two beaches couldn’t be more different, but each has it’s own bit of wow.  Dubovica beach is small, pebbled and one of the prettiest European beaches I’ve seen.  It has a lovely beach bar too and it’s generally not too full of tourists.  South Beach Miami is of course heaving with people, but that doesn’t stop it from being ‘wow’ in its own way.  It’s one of the most fun beaches I’ve been to, great for people watching, with so much going on.

Dubovica Beach, HvarMiami Beach

Favourite Afternoon tea: Petersham Nurseries

I don’t know how I only managed to visit this heavenly place until so recently, but I fell head over heals for Petersham Nurseries.  Even on a cold (but beautiful) winter afternoon the Cafe was so warm and cosy, the cakes so delicious and the selection of teas ideal.  I can’t wait to return in the spring and the summer.

Photo Credit: http://friendlynettle.com/day-petersham-nurseries-%E2%99%A5/

Favourite city break: Prague

People warned me that yes, the city is beautiful, but it’s touristy and the food isn’t good.  Well, yes, I’d agree that’s it’s busy, but it’s hard to avoid tourists these days.  And, after all, I’m one too.  But I’d disagree that you can’t eat well.  One of my favourite restaurants of the year, Sansho, was here.  Plus Field was excellent too, as was CottoCrudo at the Four Seasons.  There’s lots to do and see, and it’s incredibly affordable too.  Win win.

a-prague-top-ten-sights

Runner up was Bologna, with so much charm and beauty, and excellent Italian food and wine.  Our experience at Drogheria della Rosa was absolutely one of the most memorable of 2016.

Drogheria della Rossa, Bologna

And what has 2017 got in store for me?  Definitely more European city breaks, with Rome and Stockholm already booked, a trip back to Andalucia and Italy this summer for sure, and Mallorca in September.  I’d also really like to return to Vienna, explore Porto and maybe go to some of the Greek islands…  Let’s see where 2017 takes me!

Blog, Mexico, Mexico City

Quintonil, Mexico City

December 31, 2016
Quintonil, Mexico City

You’d never know a restaurant of Quintonil’s standard would be hiding behind a plain wooden door in the upmarket neighbourhood of Polanco.  Located on a quiet, leafy street, you’d walk straight past it if you weren’t ‘in the know’.  But they don’t really need any ‘walk ins’; Quintonil is one of Mexico City’s most well-regarded restaurants (voted 12th best restaurant in the world), booked up weeks in advance, and, though we were the first guests to arrive for lunch, it filled up completely.

The restaurant itself seems more Nordic than Mexican in style; all pale woods and minimalist design.  The coolest, most bustling part is closer to the kitchen at the back, which is a more open space with green leafy walls.

The waiters were all lovely, though (and we thought this was somewhat recurring throughout our trip) there were quite a few members of ‘senior’ staff who just hung around, and once in a while politely asked us if we were enjoying ourselves.  And then went and stood against a wall again and waited a bit to ask the next table the same thing.

Quintonil, Mexico City

But wow, the food. Rob and I are both fans of Mexican cuisine, but we’d never had food like this.  Beautifully presented, wonderful flavours, bright (but natural) colours – it truly was a feast to behold.  They have an a la carte menu, so you don’t have to sit through 10 courses if you don’t want to.  They do serve the most stunning amuse bouche of various ‘mole’ (sauces). We tried to opt for more unusual dishes, like cactus ceviche with an accompanying beetroot juice.  I loved the Mexican white wine which accompanied our lunch.

Quintonil, Mexico CityQuintonil, Mexico CityQuintonil, Mexico CityQuintonil, Mexico CityQuintonil, Mexico City

Prices are more than reasonable considering the quality.  And we welcomed the ensuing food coma.  After lunch we were more than happy to roll into an Uber (so brilliant in Mexico City) and into our bed at the St Regis for an afternoon snooze.  As we’d been up and exploring the city since 5:30am (thank you, jet lag), we didn’t feel guilty at all.

Quintonil

Newton No. 55,

Miguel Hidalgo, Polanco

Mexico City

Mexico

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, 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, Croatia

DiVino, Hvar – EAT

August 13, 2016
Divino, Hvar

Croatia is not known for it’s food, but Hvar is spoilt for choice.  While Dalmatino seems to be everyone’s favourite, DiVino gave it a run for its money.  For one, DiVino’s location, setting and view is much better than Dalmatino.  Here you can really enjoy the sunset, with breathtaking views of the Pakleni Islands and the sea.  Their terrace is large and comfortable but inside is nice too if it gets a little chilly.

Divino, Hvar

This really is the place to have sea food.  While some say the food is a bit pricey here, I was not disappointed with the excellent (and massive) tuna steak I had.  It was perfectly cooked, still quite raw in the middle and unbelievably fresh.   They served it with humus and swiss chard, so it was light but still filling.   The prawn risotto was also delicious, and beautifully presented (like all the food I saw come past).

Divino, HvarDivino, Hvar

This is a very romantic spot, and a great date place.  While it’s very close to Carpe Diem Lounge Bar, it’s a far cry from the noisier and more touristy dinner spots along the marina.   Their wine list was also excellent.  Annoyingly I can’t remember what the red wine was we drank here and enjoyed so much (and then asked for at every other restaurant we ate), but it was a local Croatian wine (which are surprisingly good).

If you’re looking for a break from partying at Hula Hula and Carpe Diem, then DiVino is the place to come to for a more sophisticated, refined evening.

Divino

Put križa 1, 21450,

Hvar

Blog, Date Spot, Eat, London

Spring, London

July 20, 2016
Spring, London

Spring is the prettiest restaurant I have been to in London.  Full stop.  The name seems apt – the interiors are inviting, light, enticing; a little like the season.  Feminine but not girlie.  You arrive with high expectations, and these rise the minute you walk in.  You can’t have bad food in a restaurant like this.

Arriving with any expectation at all is always dangerous, but I’d read so much about Australian born chef Skye Gyngell – from her success at Petersham Nurseries (Richmond) to rave reviews of her new venture, that I was curious and a little excited.

Spring, London

Her success with Spring is understandable.  It’s not just the beautiful dining room which makes the experience here so elegant and luxurious.  The staff are charming, knowledgeable and professional.  From the sommelier to the waitress to the front of house staff; we were looked after beautifully.

And then the food.  This is not your usual ‘let’s grab a casual bite to eat’ restaurant.  This is for special occasions, unless you’re smart and go for the lunch or pre-theatre set menu (two courses £27.50, three courses £31.50).  We did this, and it’s completely worth it.  The food is refined, light (barring the heavenly bread which does make a regular appearance) and skilfully cooked.  It’s not overcomplicated: good produce, cooked very well.  From the goats curd (almost whipped, it was so light and moorish) and sourdough bread to start, to the bavette steak with hollandaise sauce with deep fried courgette (again, the batter was light and crispy, not stodgy and soggy) – stunning.

Spring, London

Spring, London

To finish we had macchiatos as had a flight to catch to Rome, as couldn’t handle the journey in a complete food coma.  Spring really is a delightful restaurant, the perfect lunch or dinner date place.   Or should you be near the Strand, or visiting the Courtauld Gallery, then you can even just pop in for a coffee or drink at their leafy, more laid back, but equally pretty Salon (open 12pm – 11pm daily, Saturday until 5pm).  Highly recommended.

Spring, London

Spring, London

Spring

Somerset House New Wing,

Lancaster Pl,

London WC2R 1LA

Blog, Bologna, Italy

Ristorante Cesarina, Bologna – EAT

May 22, 2016
Cesarina, Bologna

Bologna is full of beautiful squares and countless stunning churches, but the one square that stands out is the Piazza Santa Stefano, famous for having seven churches.  At night it’s incredibly atmospheric, and so there are few places like Cesarina in Bologna: where you can eat delicious food and (weather permitting) sit outside and enjoy the view of the square.

Cesarina, Bologna

We were not so lucky with the weather, so sat inside – a lovely and refined dining room, very Italian, simple but elegant.  I would always encourage you to book, and if possible to book a table outside, under the charming portico which Bologna is so famous for.

It was here that we enjoyed a dish we had long been waiting to try, Bologna’s signature dish: the tortellini in ‘brodo’ (chicken broth).  We all had this as a starter and it was well worth the wait.  I then continued carb loading and had a wonderful asparagus risotto, which the Italians do so well.  The rest of the party had a mixture of beef and other pasta dishes.  The food was really good, the prices fair and the service excellent.

Cesarina, Bologna

To finish with, while some of us had sambuccas, I was very tempted by the pistachio semi freddo, which I called the leaning tower of Bologna.  A little like panna cotta, but not quite as soft, it was exquisite, and a wonderful end to the dinner.  Rob and I then headed into the more student part of town for a drink at Le Stanze (a bar in a church, worth it for a drink).

Cesarina, Bologna

Cesarina

Via Santo Stefano, 19/B,

40125 Bologna

Blog, Czech Republic, Prague

Field, Prague – EAT

March 14, 2016

Sunday lunch at Field is a ridiculous treat.  Only in Prague, where the prices are still relatively low (despite tourism continuing to grow here), can you have a ‘casual’ lunch at a restaurant which in London would be saved for a very special occasion.

Field, PragueField, Prague

Field is a relative newcomer, and so far has been well received by most.  There are some who have criticised it though.  Not for the standard of the food, or the decor, or the service.  But for ‘mimicking’ other fine dining restaurants and top chefs, like Heston Blumenthal.  They have been branded, to some extent, as copycats.  But to be honest, if you serve food as good as they do, I don’t care if there are similarities to fine dining establishments where they charge £50 for a spoonful of seaweed foam. Or a bowl of snail porridge.

Field, Prague

The food here is exquisite, both in taste and presentation.  And it’s also the first (and, shamefully, only) Czech food we had.  Czech food with a twist.  The design of the restaurant is minimalist and veering towards my very favourite Scandi interiors, a mixture of simple furniture, light woods and big airy windows.  But there are touches which remind you why the restaurant is called Field: a hark, a spade, other farming appliances are carefully positioned throughout the restaurant.  Not gimmicky, just present enough for you to notice them.  The ceilings are quite extraordinary too, and I’m not quite sure what I thought of the light installation.  But it was certainly interesting.

Field, PragueField, Prague

So, you can either be stuck up and try and interpret Field as being unoriginal because they (sometimes) serve food with hints of recognisable dishes and techniques, or you can just appreciate it for what it is: a beautiful restaurant, with wonderful food and very fair pricing.  I chose the latter, and left very content.

Oh, and did I mention it was Michelin star?  I only just realised that myself…

Field

U Milosrdných 12,

110 00 Praha 1-Staré M?sto

Blog, Czech Republic, Prague

Sansho, Prague – EAT

February 28, 2016
Sansho, Prague

I wasn’t sure what to expect from the food scene in Prague. But then I came across the excellent Taste of Prague blog and felt a lot more confident.  One restaurant which was constantly mentioned (and praised) on a lot of Czech blogs was Sansho, a pan-Asian restaurant in the Jewish part of the Old Town.

So Saturday night we booked to go (pre-booking is recommended).  The interiors of the restaurant are simple and while its atmospheric, the focus is clearly on the food.  I totally get why people rave about this place. The food is out of this world.  Fresh, original, unpretentious.  For dinner they offer only the six course tasting menu.  Every course surprised us, and when we thought it couldn’t get any better, it did.

We had the salmon sashimi to start, which clearly they see as more of an amuse bouche.

Sansho, Prague

Followed by the clams for me, and the steak tartar for Hen as she didn’t like clams. Hen’s portion was as big as a main course.

Sansho, PragueSansho, Prague

Then came some pork dumplings.  I practically licked the plate.

Sansho, Prague

Followed by the most incredible slow cooked pork belly. Pork is big in the Czech Republic, but this was pork with a difference: Asian flavours, a pepper sauce and spicy broccoli. Even the fat was melt in your mouth good.

Sansho, Prague

By this point we were feeling pretty full, but one of their signature dishes was about to be served: soft shell crab sliders with wasabi mayonnaise.  Beautifully cooked and if you like Bao, you’ll love this.

As we had counted five courses we were now expecting desert. Except then the main course arrived.  A huge Malaysian curry selection, with a stunning jasmine tea infused trout Asian salad, lamb rendang, coconut roti, 24 hour slow cooked beef and pak choi. Incredible.  Despite bursting at the seam we still finished it all.

Sansho, Prague

Desert, we were told, were three mini portions.  Not so mini. There was a cheese cake, a chocolate biscuit with macha ice cream and a sticky toffee pudding. The sticky toffee pudding was hands down the best I have ever had. I later read that it is one of their most praised dishes.
Sansho, Prague

The whole meal came to £50 each, with a bottle of wine and coffees. Such a highlight to our weekend, the friendliest service and food that will make you want to go back the next day.

If you’re looking for a good cocktail bar for pre or post dinner, try L’Fleur, Cash Only, Hemingway or Black Angel, all about a 10 – 15 minute walk away.

Sansho

Petrská 1170/25,

110 00 Praha 1-Nové Mesto

 

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, Cape Town, South Africa

La Colombe, Cape Town – EAT

January 20, 2016
La Colombe, Cape Town

La Colombe.  It just has that wonderful ring to it.  It sounds French.  It sounds like fine dining.  It sounds like you can’t miss this restaurant when you’re in Cape Town.  Which you most definitely can’t.  

La Colombe and the Test Kitchen have been constantly battling for the number one restaurant in South Africa.  So far (according to the critics/awards), the Test Kitchen is winning.  But I was curious to see which one would win for me.  We went to the Test Kitchen for dinner on the Saturday, and then La Colombe for lunch on the Sunday.  Talk about how to stuff as many good restaurants into 72 hours in Cape Town.

La Colombe, Cape Town

I wish we’d had more time at La Colombe, so we could have properly taken advantage of the Lunch Tasting Menu, which not only looks phenomenal, but is also very nicely priced (9 courses for £36).  Sadly we had to return our rental car, and so had a time limit.  Which meant a starter and a main, and all the little tasters in between.  It was so worth it, despite the rush.

Location wise it’s quite special.  It moved to Silvermist fairly recently, and now it is truly a restaurant with a view.  Located quite high up, you have views of the valley and the vineyards.  It’s not a completely open view, but it’s beautiful.  While initially I was disappointed not to be sitting outside (it can get quite windy, they warned), if you sit right by the large windows, you can still enjoy the views no matter what.

La Colombe, Cape Town

It is a wonderful, airy and light restaurant, with a much more ‘fine dining’ feel than the Test Kitchen, but without being stuffy or stiff.  The service was very professional but incredibly friendly; they were clearly proud of where they worked.

And the food?  Out of this world.  From the beautifully presented tuna with mirin in a can (see the photo below before you turn your nose up), to the stunning lamb (which we both had as a main course) – I was blown away.

La Colombe, Cape Town

For starters Rob had the scallops with the pork belly and I had the beef.  They were exquisitely cooked, every mouthful a different flavour.  So much care and expertise was clearly put into every dish.

La Colombe, Cape TownLa Colombe, Cape Town

Verdict?  You can’t really compare La Colombe and the Test Kitchen.  They are both unique, and both a must do when in Cape Town (though getting a booking is easier at La Colombe).  But perhaps La Colombe is best for lunch, so you can enjoy the beautiful views.  And the restaurant seems at its best with the sun pouring in.  This is a restaurant I will return to  – given the chance – time after time (and yes, that means I am 100% returning to Cape Town).

La Colombe

Silvermist Wine Estate,

Constantia Main Rd,

Constantia, Cape Town, 7848

Booking essential

Photo credit: La Colombe & City Turtle

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