Bar Botanique was another drinks/brunch/lunch place on my list, which I had been wanting to visit for a while. Again, unsurprisingly, it was a little out of the way from where I was staying (West). But ‘long’ distances in Amsterdam are all relative, and we happily cycled the 20 minutes to this tropical cafe in the East of Amsterdam (just past the Artis Zoo).
We got lucky because as we arrived the sun came out, and so we were first to grab a table on their spacious terrace (they have two). But inside is also most definitely worth a look, and as its name reflects, it certainly is a bit like an oasis in the city. I love the vibe here, laid back, buzzing and, of course, very green. The huge windows let in all the light, so sitting inside is as nice as outside.
We were starving and craving some good Dutch carbs, so we went for two massive Croque Madames (with a fried egg on top, as you do), and Mol went for scrambled eggs with truffle and a side of trusty avocado. Since it was Easter and we were in a good mood, we ordered a bottle of bubbles to accompany lunch, and enjoyed a few glasses in the sun. The staff were super friendly and helpful too, which really added to our experience.
In short, Bar Botanique is not only a place to head to for a drink, but also for a long lazy lunch. As the weather gets better I know the terrace will be the place to be in East.
If you’re in the area, it’s also worth visiting de Plantage, for beer lovers the Brouwerij t’Ij in an old windmill, and for another pretty cafe check out de Tropen Grand Cafe (part of the Tropen museum).
Eerste van Swindenstraat 581
Amsterdam, Netherlands 1093 LC
When in Rome I am forever trying to find new bars, preferably with good views. The terrace at Hotel Raphael goes to the top of my recommendations. Even though it was January and fairly chilly, it was so special having this terrace completely to ourselves. And with it the most stunning 360 degree view of Rome.
The hotel itself is Relais & Chateaux, and has a wonderful location right behind Piazza Navonna. I’m not quite sure if I would recommend staying there though – the interiors were modern and I felt lacked taste. Even the (vegetarian) restaurant on the top floor lacked character or atmosphere, though it has great views. But the multi-level terrace is something else. I can imagine it being wonderful in the summer, where you can enjoy a warm summer evening with a cold glass of prosecco or even have dinner outside (the terrace is part of the restaurant).
A drink with a view like this comes with a premium. This is not the place for a cheap drink. A bottle of prosecco will set you back about 36EUR. But it’s worth it as the staff are wonderful, friendly and warm, and they also brought out some aperitivo.
We had a very special time here, and spent a number of hours drinking and enjoying the view. And watching the sun set over the eternal visit. I would highly recommend a pre-dinner drink here.
Largo Febo, 2
I love it when you come across places which you never knew existed, but have walked past a million times. South Ken is tricky for brunch. It’s either super touristy (Muriel’s Kitchen) or a bit chainy (Comptoir Libanais, Aubaine, Pain Quotidien). And then you get this cute, unassuming Deli/Cafe with a secret garden which is perfect for a summer lunch or an autumn brunch. We were actually en route to Aubaine, but then passed the Brompton Food Market with it’s inviting ‘secret garden’ sign and thought we ought to have a look. Let’s just say Aubaine never happened after that.
The Brompton Food Market is actually also a butcher, fishmonger and greengrocer as well. I.e really the place do all your shopping. And the experience is ten times nicer than shopping at Tesco’s, I can promise you that. It’s a beautiful shop with excellent produce. You could spend hours looking at all the different jams and oils and cheese.
Shopping aside, they have a great selection of wonderful salads and juices for those healthy-inclined, or a mouthwatering brunch menu with dishes like American pancakes with berries, eggs whichever way you want, the list is endless. My cappuccino was the size of my head. We sat outside, kept warm with sheepskin rugs and overhead heaters.
This is the perfect place for a cosy, laid back and affordable coffee or brunch, in the heart of touristy London. It’s ideal if you’re looking for somewhere quiet and local, and away from the tourist hordes.
The Brompton Food Market
33 Thurloe Place
A fairly sweltering September means that my hunt for the best alfresco bars (or bars with decent terraces) for post work drinks has continued. Bronte (my regular), is a big favourite of mine in Central London. It has a large terrace, a decent bar menu and there’s always a table free. But apart from that it’s always quite tricky to find a relaxed terrace in Covent Garden or Soho. Further North I have more luck; in Fitzrovia Foley’s has a cool alfresco bar (but with very limited seats), Percy & Founders has a large outside seating area, and Charlotte street offers many restaurants with small terraces ideal for drinks in the sun (the big favourite being the Charlotte Street hotel). So when Grace Dent wrote a rave review about J Sheekey launching their new Atlantic Bar & Terrace (a revamp from their old Oyster Bar), located in the West End, I thought I’d check it out.
London’s West End is known to be very busy and very touristy, and the immediate area around Leicester Square is not necessarily a place I spend much time. J Sheekey is right in the thick of theatre-land, tucked away down a little alley way. It looks pretty old school. I mean, J Sheeky has been around for decades. But you can tell that it’s terrace has had a bit of make over; with bright colours and comfy red chairs it looks fresh and welcoming. And it’s prime people watching territory too (not long after we spotted Ian McKellan smoking a cigarette around the corner). I also loved its new menu with artwork by my favourite Quentin Blake.
You can’t just drink here, you need to order some food. But with a mouth-watering fish-heavy menu, that’s not exactly a problem. We ordered the sea bass ceviche and the tuna and avocado tartare, both excellent. The wine list is decent, though it’s easy to leave here with a fairly large bill (a glass of wine and one dish each set us back close to £25 each).
In short, if you’re looking for a pre-theatre or cinema place for an alfresco drink and a quick bite, this is the place for you. Alternatively, you can of course just stay here for a proper fishy dinner – there’s a reason why this place has been around for so long, the food is great and the service is too.
J Sheekey Atlantic Bar & Terrace
33-35 St Martin’s Court,
London WC2N 4AL
I’ve found my new favourite post-work drink place. And it’s not just because it’s about 2 minutes’ walk from my office.
Bronte opened a few weeks ago, right by Trafalgar Square. An odd location, you might think. A place which will probably attract a lot of tourists, was my first thought. But actually, no. Either tourists haven’t clocked on yet that there is this rather glamorous (yet still very welcoming) bar and restaurant a moment’s walk from London’s highlights. Or perhaps they just prefer Pizza Hut and Garfunkels (fine by me). Because Bronte seems to be full with mostly locals and people like me, who head here for a welcome glass of wine after a long day’s work.
Tom Dixon – famous for doing the interiors of the wonderful Sea Containers – has also done the design here. His style is recognisable: bright colours in the form of a stand out pink granite bar (love it), and green banquettes. Quirky but attractive lamps hang from the ceiling and large pot plants add a slightly exotic feel to the place. My favourite though, is to sit on their spacious colonnaded terrace – which feels remarkably calm, despite the busy Strand happening all around you.
But this is not just a bar. The food is good too. Admittedly I’ve only tried their snack menu (their crab summer rolls are very good), but if it’s anything to go by, the rest of their menu should be delicious. And pricing is reasonable too.
Some praise must also go to their staff. Every time I’ve been there the waiters have all been exceptionally friendly and helpful, mostly Italian and very upbeat gentlemen.
I’m not one to keep returning to places, especially in a city like London, where new places open every day and I get serious FOMO if I don’t jump on a soft launch or new opening. However, I might make the exception for Bronte, which, with its good looks, convenient location and (usually) free tables, is the perfect place for a mid-week drink and a bite.
London WC2N 5EJ
Photo credit: Bronte
We came to Teresina on our last day in Bologna. It had been raining all morning and we were departing that afternoon. So I already had the slight ‘Sunday blues’ feeling. But then we had lunch here, and the ‘Bolognese’ was so good, it instantly cheered me up!
In the summer, Teresina’s terrace must be a lovely place to enjoy a delicious lunch or dinner al fresco. While the terrace doesn’t have any views as such, it is set back from the street, so it’s quiet. Inside is also pleasant: simple like you’d expect from a local trattoria. The staff are helpful and friendly, and the service quick and professional.
While Italians aren’t known for their bread, the bread here was excellent. Warm and soft, I couldn’t resist a few slices to add to the carb fest that had been our weekend in this magical city.
They have all the traditional, local dishes you’d expect in Bologna. The tortellini broth, various fresh pastas, and a few meat and seafood dishes. While no trattoria would ever serve what we know as ‘spaghetti Bolognese’, they do serve fresh tagliatelle with a Bolognese Ragu. I’d highly recommend it.
Rob’s parents liked it so much they returned for dinner after Rob and I departed.
via Oberdan 4, 40126
I’m not really a W Hotel girl. Yes, they are luxurious and super comfortable hotels. But usually they are a bit flash, a bit loud and a bit ‘trendy’ for me. But then I went up to the W Lounge (6th floor) for the new-ish W Hotel in Amsterdam and, while the interiors aren’t really my style, I could quite happily admit that this was a very cool place to come for a drink.
Firstly, the views. They are quite ridiculous, especially in a city which doesn’t have much of a cityscape. With the W Hotel’s enviable location right in the centre of town, the views are directly of the Dam Palace and Amsterdam’s beautiful centre.
Secondly, the terrace. Yes, it’s small and I can imagine it overflowing with people in the summer months. We came on a sunny day in December and we had the whole place to ourselves. There is a long pool, which you can swim in (guests only) and while it’s clearly not for children’s recreational use, I can’t think of a better wake up than a few laps in the pool with the view of the palace.
And lastly, the vibe. While I mentioned above that I find the W Hotels a bit too loud, that doesn’t mean that they’re not fun. And the W Lounge is certainly a lively place to be in the late afternoon and evening. Even if you’re not outside the huge windows mean you can still enjoy the views of the city, while fireplaces and comfy sofas mean it’s a great place to visit all year round. The ideal place for a pre-dinner cocktail.
W Hotel Amsterdam
Spuistraat 175, 1012 VN
Photo credit: W Hotel
Doodle Bar is one of those places that unless you live south of the river in places like Battersea, you’ve probably never heard of it. I first went a year or so ago, mainly because of its proximity to Rob’s house (and around the corner from Bunga Bunga). I returned on Friday evening, as an alternative option to the Westbridge pub, which was heaving. Doodle Bar is in an old warehouse and hence has a huge amount of space. Two large walls are blackboards – free for all to doodle on. Hence the name.
But a new addition since I was last here is the massive outside terrace they have commandeered. Apart from certain beer/pub gardens you don’t often get such a vast space outside in London, with plenty of tables and benches and colourful walls and plants. They’ve really made an effort to make it look like a bright and cosy garden terrace. And they also offer home made pizzas for lunch. They call it the ‘Doodle Beach’, probably because it’s right next to the water (which is filthy and muddy and best not to highlight).
The outside bar is made of crates filled with plants and flowers. Glasses of wine are £4.50, beers are £4 – £4.50. From Monday to Thursday they have 2 for 1 cocktails from 5pm – 7pm.
They also have a number of street food vendors from Friday to Sunday on the Doodle Beach.
It’s a lively place and the perfect spot for some sunny bank holiday drinks (when the sun decided to make an appearance). If you feel energetic you can play table tennis too. And if you get peckish you can always grab one of the Street Kitchen burgers (which smelled amazing) on your way out. Or a pizza at Bunga Bunga of course.
33 Parkgate Road
London SW11 4NP