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Blog, Italy, Rome

Etabli, Rome – DRINK

February 14, 2016
Etabli, Rome

It’s unusual that I find a place I love while on a city break which I have not researched in advance. I’m not very good at being spontaneous, and am also quite bad at giving places I don’t know or have not heard of ‘a chance’.

But when we passed Etabli and I had a look inside, it looked so appealing, so welcoming with a fire place in the corner and a sitting room-esque vibe that we decided to try it for pre-dinner drinks. My sister Jo ended up loving it so much she wanted to return at every opportunity.

Etabli, Rome
This lovely place is perfect for afternoon drinks, or cocktails or even dinner. It’s quite a large open space, with distressed decor, and sofas and comfy armchairs in the corners.  The seats by the fireplace are unsurprisingly the most popular. The bar is spacious and the cocktail list diverse (the Espresso Martini was excellent).  During the day it’s very laid back, it’s ideal to come here after a day of sightseeing in the late afternoon to relax with a book and a cappuccino (or glass of wine).

Etabli, Rome
It definitely livens up in the evening. As we were leaving they were preparing all the tables for dinner. A DJ was also getting ready.  As we didn’t have dinner here, I’m not sure how good the food is.  We did order a platter of antipasti which we enjoyed: a bulgar wheat salad, bruschetta and cold meats.  They offer brunch on the weekends too.

What’s close? Bar del Fico and Cafe Della Pace are around the corner, as is Piazza Navona.  But if you want a place to sit and chat in relative peace and quiet, Etabli certainly gives you that option.

Etabli

Vicolo delle Vacche, 9/9A,

00186 Rome

Photo credit: Etabli

Argentina, Blog, Buenos Aires

Floreria Atlantico, Buenos Aires – DRINK

January 2, 2016

Before going to Argentina I asked a few friends who had spent a lot of time there for some tips.  I had a full schedule while in Buenos Aires (one highlight was definitely the Rojo Tango show at the fabulous Faena Hotel), but I knew I would have a few hours here and there to do some exploring.

I was sent a number of recommendations for BA, but one bar was recommended by all: Floreria Atlantico.  When I looked it up I saw it was voted 38th best bar in the world, and best bar in South America.  Curious, I went.  And loved it.

Floreria Atlantico, Buenos AiresFloreria Atlantico, BUenos Aires

If you didn’t know it was there, you’d walk straight past it.  The beauty is that it is hidden underneath a fully functioning flower shop (which is worth visiting too – absolutely stunning).  The bar contrasts hugely to the colourful shop above; its dimly lit, stark basement interiors give it an edge I love.  It is a narrow space, and the focal point is a long bar which runs the whole length of the bar, and where we grabbed two stools.  On the other side of the bar is an open kitchen, and we regretted not being able to stay for dinner, because for the food looked amazing.
Floreria Atlantico, Buenos Aires

I was pleased that despite my non-Latino friends recommending the bar (to be fair, they are not your standard ‘tourists’), the bar was mainly filled with locals.  I’d recommend going early (for Latino standards) because it’s a popular place and we were lucky to get a seat when we arrived at around 8ish.

Floreria Atlantico, Buenos AiresFloreria Atlantico, BUenos Aires

We enjoyed our glasses of house wine and wished we could have stayed for a cocktail, but there was more to discover of beautiful Buenos Aires…

Floreria Atlantico

Arroyo 872, Cdad.

Buenos Aires

Photo credit: Floreria Atlantico

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

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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

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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

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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

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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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Argentina, Blog, Buenos Aires

L’Orangerie, Buenos Aires – For the ultimate Sunday Brunch

December 27, 2015
L'Orangerie, Alvear Palace

You’re spoilt for choice when it comes to brunch in Buenos Aires. Palermo Soho and Hollywood are often seen as the trendiest areas to be for brunch, though Palermo Botanico has had a sudden surge in popularity (with places like Birkin heaving on the weekend).

If you’re in Recoleta however, there’s one place you must go for the brunch of all brunches.  L’Orangerie in the five star Alvear Palace (the ‘Grand Dame’ of Buenos Aires) offers both guests and non-guest the ultimate Sunday feast.  I’ve seen quite a few buffet breakfasts in my life, but none quite as opulent and mouthwatering as the one at L’Orangerie.

L'Orangerie, Alvear Palace

After a late Saturday night out in BA – which is usually unavoidable – the buffet is a table of your dreams.  It has everything and anything you may want.  All kinds of eggs, bacon, sausages, smoked salmon.  The cappuccino will help cure the worst of hangovers, as will the constant topping up of freshly squeezed orange juice.

L'Orangerie, Alvear Palace

I am a sucker for anything sweet, so the rows of cakes, trays of pastries and delicate puddings, meant that I found myself just staring at the vast array of choice for quite some time.  They were all so beautifully presented you didn’t want to touch a thing.  But I made sure I tried a selection, which certainly did not disappoint.

L'Orangerie, Alvear Palace

The Alvear Palace itself is somewhat of an institution in Buenos Aires.  It is the iconic five star hotel, one of the original five star hotels where all the royals,presidents and celebrities used to (and some still do) stay.  While newer, and more contemporary five star hotels are cropping up in the city (Park Hyatt, Four Seasons), and while the grand and traditional style may not be to everyone’s tastes (it can be seen as a bit stuffy), I would still highly recommend it for its Sunday Brunch or Afternoon Tea.

L'Orangerie, Alvear Palace Having said that the bed I slept in was one of the most comfortable I slept in during my travels in Argentina.  And the service was impeccable.  So, if you’ve got the budget – try staying here on the Saturday night, so you can enjoy a luxurious night here as well as an unforgettable brunch the next day.

L’Orangerie

Alvear Palace

Avenue Alvear 1891

Buenos Aires

Photo credit: Alvear Palace

Amsterdam, Blog, Drink, Eat, The Netherlands

Cafe Panache, Amsterdam

October 19, 2015
Cafe Panache, Amsterdam

I always thought the Dutch liked to have dinner early; that eating at 10 or 11pm like the Spanish was just not a done thing.  Until we arrived at – heaving – Cafe Panache, the new restaurant & bar in Amsterdam West that everyone seems to be talking about and loving.  We were late, having just been to the fantastic UNSEEN Photography Fair, but I thought that at 10pm we wouldn’t have a problem getting a table.  Wrong.  We were told to wait at the bar while we waited for a table to clear.  I was astounded.

Cafe Panache, Amsterdam

Cafe Panache has the feel of a buzzing warehouse restaurant in New York’s Meatpacking district.  The energy of the place, which was still in full flow when we left past midnight, is unlike any restaurant I’ve been to in Amsterdam.  This is where all the locals hang out – as the Dutch would say, it’s the new ‘hotspot’ in town.  And it’s a complete mix of people; hipster/posh/grungy/yummy mummy/student.  I loved it.

Cafe Panache, Amsterdam

Their menu tends to seem quite fish-heavy, but what I really recommend if you’re looking for value for money is their three course set menu.  For 30 Euros you get a starter (we had the gravlax), a main course (we had beef) and pudding (baked cheese cake).  The main course was the best of the lot, the beef cooked perfectly, with celeriac mash and chicory.  The gravlax was slightly on the dry side, and while the girls weren’t a massive fan of the cheesecake, I loved it.  We also ordered oysters on the side (3 euros a pop), as it seemed a shame not to try more of their seafood selection.

Cafe Panache, Amsterdam

If you don’t want a full on meal, then you can just enjoy the large bar area and order bar snacks (we saw some phenomenal sharing platters come by).  It seems a bit more casual there, and open until 1am.  While the location is a bit out of the way (in the less familiar part of the Ten Kate markt), you’re in the centre in less than 10 minutes (by bike) and there are a number of other pubs and bars you can head to in West if you prefer.

Really recommend it.

Cafe Panache

Ten Katestraat 117,

1053 CC Amsterdam

Amsterdam, Blog, Drink, The Netherlands

Hiding in Plain Sight, Amsterdam

October 18, 2015
Hiding in Plain Sight, Amsterdam
I was always of the impression that Amsterdam lacked cocktail bars.  With three English girls over for the weekend, I wanted to start the night with a quiet cocktail, before heading to the more obvious bars (Cafe Cox, Weber Lux) where I always seem to end up when out late in Amsterdam.
Having been to Door 74 (a New York style speakeasy) I was in search of something similar.  A friend recommended the secret speakeasy at the Butcher, but it proved so difficult to get a ‘password’ and I didn’t want to risk not getting in, that I had two other options in mind: Hiding in Plain Sight (HPS) or Tales and Spirits.  In the end we opted for HPS, mainly because I liked the name so much.
Hiding in plain sight, Amsterdam
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It’s a bit of a bike ride if you’re staying in West, but if you’re close to the station (or staying on the grand canals) it’s very easy to get to.  It is not perhaps in the most bustling of areas, but it is very local. And local is good in a city which does get a bad rep for its touristy areas.  We arrived around midnight and the bar, which looks very unassuming from the outside, was close to empty.  I think it’s busier early in the evening, if you’re looking for more of a buzz, but it was perfect for us as we could chat and enjoy the (truly excellent) cocktails in peace.  It’s also open until 3am on the weekends, so ideal if you don’t feel like clubbing but want to stay out drinking.
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Hiding in plain sight, Amsterdam
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The bar is dark and ambient, with a small upstairs area with more seating (big sunken sofas, Chesterfield armchairs).  The bar men are skilled and concoct fabulous drinks.  We asked for ours to be fresh rather than sweet, and a bit spicy – and were then served a range of unique and original drinks.
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Hiding in Plain Sight, Amsterdam
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One word of warning, they are expensive (15 euros a cocktail); this is not your typical Dutch bar where you pay 3 euros for a beer.  That aside, this is a sophisticated, intimate place, where a pre or post dinner drink will go down very well.
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They also offer brunch.
Hiding in Plain Sight
Rapenburg 18,
1011 TX Amsterdam
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Photo credit: Hiding in Plain Sight, Instagram shot mine.
Barcelona, Blog, Spain

Llamber, Barcelona – EAT

September 6, 2015
Llamber, Barcelona

It’s not hard to find good tapas restaurants in Barcelona.  But it is hard to find one like Llamber.  In the popular district of El Born and around the corner from Passeig del Born, I was expecting it to be fairly touristy.  But it felt as local as it could be.  That, coupled with very stylish interiors, exposed brickwork and up-cycled wooden tables, made it the perfect venue for a Friday dinner.  During the day you can enjoy lunch on their terrace too.

Llamber, Barcelona

We sat at a high table, ideal to observe the restaurant from, and waited with anticipation for every tapas plate to arrive.  This is not your standard tapas.  Every dish was beautifully, and creatively presented.  Their cod croquettes were light and fluffy, and were served in the cutest dish.  Their tuna sashimi was so fresh it melted in your mouth.  I loved their sardine meatloaf, which was something I would never normally have ordered.  Lastly, the thinly sliced beef was served in the most original way, with ‘edible coals’ (we saw it served at a neighbouring table and promptly ordered it), but we found the beef not as tender as it could have been.

Llamber, BarcelonaLlamber, Barcelona

If you want to try the local cheeses, order one of their cheese boards.  They line up the cheeses (goats on one side, dairy on the other) in order of strength.  The strong ones were unbelievably overpowering (to the point of drying out your mouth), but it was fun to try them all.

Llamber, Barcelona

The service here was also surprising.  I can’t say I have found the Catalans to be the friendliest, yet here the staff were wonderful. They were warm and helpful – letting us try different wines to see which we preferred, advising us on which tapas dishes were best and generally really adding to our evening.

Llamber, Barcelona

We stumbled out of the restaurant past 1 in the morning, a food coma not adequate to describe how we felt. Luckily for us there were a whole host of bars still open on Passeig del Born a few minutes’ walk from the restaurant, so we ended up drinking vodka, soda and lime for a few more hours at the originally named bar El Born.

Book ahead and don’t miss this place.

Llamber

Carrer de la Fusina, 5

+34 933 19 62 50

Photos a mixture of Llamber’s own and mine from Instagram.

 

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

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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