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My favourite restaurants of 2017

December 29, 2017
Le Dali, Le Meurice, Paris

This year blogging has taken a bit of a backseat as I’ve had to prioritise other things.  But below is a summary of all the restaurants I loved this year, from London to Stockholm to Marrakech:

LONDON

Neo Bistro ££

One of my top 2017 favourites is this slightly under the radar bistro, set up by the ex-Harwood Arms chef and the owner of Anglo. Ignore its slightly dodgy location right by Oxford Street as this cosy restaurant offers a fantastic tasting menu at great value: six courses for £45.

Neo Bistro, London

Serge et le Phoque, The Mandrake Hotel ££

Well this certainly was a bit of a showstopper.  Not just the restaurant, but the Mandrake Hotel itself.  It’s certainly ‘out there’ in terms of decor and design; fun, over the top and daring.  The restaurant is more toned down, with a real focus on the food.  Which is very good.  Also, the bathrooms are very cool.

Serge et le Phoque, Mandrake Hotel, London

Magpie £

Magpie is the new restaurant by the guys who opened the very popular (Michelin star) Pidgin in Hackney.  Its very central location on Heddon Street means no excuses not to go, and 100% worth it.  Fun vibes, with trolleys of small plates zipping by, ensuring you can try the full range of their delicious dishes.   The tartare in particular was excellent.

Magpie, London

CUT at 45 Park Lane £££

An oldie but a goodie.  You can’t go wrong with a Wolfgang Puck restaurant, but it’s been an age since I’ve had meat as good as it was here.  The perfect place for a spoiling dinner.

Wishlist: Southam Street, Clove Club, Lyle’s (yes, I know I’ve very behind)

 

UK COUNTRYSIDE

The Mash Inn, Buckinghamshire 

It’s only been open for a year or so but it’s gone from strength to strength.  This pub with rooms, less than a 30 minute train ride from Marylebone, is ideal for a quick London getaway.  Especially for foodies, their 9 course tasting menu (£65) is phenomenal.  And the homemade breakfast in bed is the best wake up ever.

The Mash Inn

The Bull Inn, Cotswolds

One of my favourite countryside getaways this year was at the adorable and beyond cosy Bull Inn, a beautiful pub with rooms in the charming village of Charlbury.  Every room is carefully designed with a lovely use of colour and different wallpaper, and it was close to impossible leaving their cosy fireplace.  Their restaurant offers well priced, hearty British dishes and the staff are wonderful.

The Bull Inn, Charlbury

 

ITALY

Piano Strada, Rome

A new favourite in a city which keeps on giving.  This restaurant, run by four blondes, ticks all the boxes. Great location, cool interiors, excellent food.  We’ve booked to return in January.

Piana Strade, Rome

Apollinare, Spoleto 

Should you find yourself in this quiet but very pretty Umbrian town, make sure you have lunch at this brilliant restaurant.  It was the first lunch we had of our holiday, but safe to say also the best.  Book a table on their terrace and eat pasta to your hearts content.

Apollinare, Spoleto

 

STOCKHOLM

Oaxen Slip

Our favourite restaurant in the city with a lot of good restaurants.  Charming service, lovely setting, and excellent food. Obviously go for the fish dishes, you are in Sweden after all.

Oaxen Slip, Stockholm

Rosendals Tradgard

The only place for a picnic lunch in Stockholm’s summer months.  No prettier place to be than in Rosendal Park, eating the cafe’s delicious sandwiches and cafes. Affordable too (for Stockholm).

Rosendals Tradgard, Stockholm

More recommendations for Stockholm can be found here.

 

MARRAKECH

La Famille

Like stepping into an oasis of calm and green, in the middle of Marrakech’s hectic medina.  If you need a break from tagines then La Famille is the answer, offering incredible salads and pastas and cakes in a beautiful, bohemian setting.

Le Famille, Marrakech

Wishlist: La Table du Marche

More tips for Morocco can be found here.

 

PARIS

Alain Ducasse at Plaza Athenee

The most sparkly, beautiful breakfast imaginable.  I can only imagine what dinner is like here.

Alain Ducasse at Plaza Athenee

Le Dali at Le Meurice

There are few more eye catching restaurants than Le Dali, in one of the most iconic hotels in Paris.  And *those* deserts! Not to be missed.

Le Dali, Le Meurice

Wishlist: Carbon, Balagan

 

AMSTERDAM

Entrepot

Located in up and coming East Amsterdam in the iconic Entrepot dock, this brand new restaurant is not only beautiful to look at, but the food is good too.  And not your standard fare either, often seasonal products are used, mostly cooked on an open fire.  I love the service here, who greet you with a handshake and were exceptionally friendly and helpful all evening.

Entrepot, Amsterdam

Bureau

Despite its odd location, just outside the city along a motorway, Restaurant Bureau is a unique restaurant with an incredible rooftop terrace and a well priced menu.  It’s not the place for first time Amsterdam visitors, but if you know the city well, this is the ideal place to try something different.

Bureau, Amsterdam

For more Amsterdam tips, click here.

Wishlist: Choux, Marius, Vinkeles (at the Dylan)

 

OMAN

The Japanese Restaurant, the Chedi

The most romantic setting for dinner, sitting at the candlelit Long Pool of this beautiful Muscat hotel.  Phenomenal Japanese food.  More tips on Oman can be found here.

The Chedi, Muscat

 

VIENNA

The Palmenhaus

The Palmenhaus has been around for years, and I still remembered it from my time of living in Vienna almost 20 years ago.  It’s a beautiful, airy, old tropical house, perfect for a coffee and an excellent cake, or for lunch or dinner, overlooking the Burggarten.  A special place.

Palmenhaus, Vienna

More recommendations for Vienna can be found here.

Austria, Blog, Vienna

Vienna: My Overview

September 4, 2017
Vienna

A city of sophistication, beauty and elegance, Vienna should to be top of everyone’s city break lists.  Yet it isn’t.  And suddenly it has surged in popularity, with so many friends wanting to go and asking for tips.  I cannot recommend it enough.

Having lived there for three years from 1998, and returning many years later, the city has changed immeasurably.  Thankfully it has retained its pristine grandeur and cultural draw, but it has modernised in terms of its cosmopolitan offering.  It now also appeals more to a younger crowd; less pompous, more accessible.  Now you can find countless cool coffee shops, stylish restaurants, rooftop bars and edgy night clubs – a side I rarely saw when I lived there years ago.  And while I found Vienna remarkably peaceful (which may also have to do with it being August, and holiday season), I was constantly surprised to find restaurants buzzing on a Sunday night, and the club in the Volksgarten full and pumping until the early hours on Saturday.  It therefore makes for a very relaxing, easy going weekend break, but with the opportunity to party if you want.  The ideal mix.

Vienna

HOW TO GET AROUND

Getting from the airport to the city is as easy as it gets.  Grab the City Airport Train (CAT) which goes every 30 minutes, and you’re in the centre in 16 minutes (12 Euros for a single ticket).  The station is a lovely 154 minute stroll through the park to the famous Ring Strasse (the Ring street which circles the inner city).

Getting around Vienna is also easy.  I’d walk the majority of it as I still thinks it’s the best way of discovering a city.  And Vienna’s wide boulevards are rarely heaving (apart from some of the narrower inner city cobbled streets which do get a bit congested with tourists).  Citybike Wien (like Boris bikes, you’ll find them throughout the city, super cheap) are also recommended, and make the short distances from highlight to highlight even quicker but also mean you can explore areas further afield, like cycling along the Danube and wine tasting in Viennese vineyards (yes, they exist).

WHERE TO STAY

We stayed at the new-ish Grand Ferdinand, a hotel which embodies ‘contemporary’ Vienna.  With the perfect location, right on the Ring and minutes’ walk from most sights, it’s a modern hotel with classical touches.  The bedrooms have dark blue/grey walls and white, minimalist furniture, power showers and all the mod cons.  The rooftop terrace with pool is it’s USP, very few Viennese hotels have outdoor space, let alone a swimming pool with views over the city.  It’s worth booking the hotel just for this, as while the pool is small, the terrace is relaxing and the views sublime.  The restaurant/bar up here (guest only) is also lovely, the flourless chocolate cake we had here was amazing.  Their standard rooms are also remarkably affordable, from just £150 per night.  They value for money here is incredible.  The big downside I’d say was the service: slow, unresponsive and absolutely living up to the Austrian grumpy stereotype (dare I say it).  But I’ll get over that.

Grand Ferdinand, ViennaGrand Ferdinand, Vienna

If you want to splash out there is no other place to stay than Hotel Sacher, the iconic hotel of Vienna.  Having had a big refurb, all the bedrooms are now lighter and with a more contemporary feel, but still embody that classical Viennese style.  And if you can’t afford it (rooms from £400 a night) then it’s still worth grabbing a Melange coffee and their world famous Sacher Torte in their Café.

Hotel Sacher, ViennaHotel Sacher, Vienna

WHAT TO DO

Walk, walk, walk.  Everywhere.  The city really is picture perfect, everywhere you look.  The inner city is heavenly to amble through, every building tells its own story, and end up at the iconic Stephansdom with its mosaic roof (if you have the energy, climb the 500+ steps to the top for a great view of the city).  My highlight will always be the Belvedere Palace and its beautiful gardens.  The museum houses one of the best Austrian art collections, with the famous ‘Kiss’ painting by Klimt, but also beautiful works of art of other Austrian painters, and a lovely Impressionist collection on the 2nd floor.  My absolute favourite though are Messerschmidt’s ‘character heads’.  The Kunsthistorisch Museum can also not be missed.  The Hofburg is a must visit to explore Vienna’s imperial history and learn about the Hapsburg Empire.  If you have time I highly recommend see the Lipizzaner horses perform, and booking an opera at the wonderful Opera house (Staatsoper).  Also consider the (newer) Museum Quartier for mainly modern/contemporary art and a fun, younger vibe.  The list is endless, you can easily fill three full days and still have so much more to do and see.

Belvedere, ViennaBelvedere, Vienna

WHERE TO EAT

Austria – and Vienna – is not known for its food.  Personally I am not a fan of schnitzels and strudels, but if you are then you’re in luck as they are top of their game here.  Breakfast is recommended at one of the famous cafes (more on those later), Café Central is probably one of the most well known (Trotsky and Freud came here back in the day) and the setting very special (though inevitably quite touristy).  The breakfast (below) which we had was actually remarkably good value and the bread incredibly fresh.

Cafe Central, Vienna

Brunch was also surprisingly good, we loved Ulrich (very popular amongst locals) or Erich – sister restaurants both in the same area and with a great menu and range (from juices to pancakes to vegan delights).  Expect a small queue, but it is worth waiting.  Ulrich is also recommended for dinner.

Ulrich, ViennaUlrich, Vienna

The Bakery (at Hotel Daniel) and the Brasserie & Bakery (at the Guesthouse Vienna) were also recommended for good brunches.  For a peaceful terrace lunch in the park enjoy lunch at the Meierei im Stadtpark (they serve a good schnitzel and steak tartare here), or go to the very special Palmenhaus for a salad or a sandwich and enjoy the greenery and the Burggarten (park).

Meierei im StadtparkPalmenhaus, Vienna

Dinner we went to O’Boufes, the sister restaurant to neighbouring Michelin star restaurant Konstantin Filippou.  The menu was limited, a mixture of Greek/Viennese, a little hit and miss.  The service was good but the restaurant didn’t rank top for us.  More fun and upbeat, and more laid back was Heuer (the Tagliatta and Burrata are both excellent here).  The photo below does not do it justice, they also have a huge terrace outside.  If you want a chilled out burger (and gin), then head to said the butcher to the cow.  And for a classic, sophisticated dinner try the Rote Bar at Hotel Sacher (ideal for a pre-Opera dinner as it’s just across from it).  Just remember that Vienna is expensive and food not great value for money, and we preferred the brunches/lunches/cakes to our dinners here.

Heuer, Vienna

FOR COFFEE (AND CAKE)

Speaking of cake, one thing I do adore in Vienna are the torte (cakes), and here you are spoilt for choice.  Apart from Café Central, other excellent cafes are Cafe Imperial, Sacher (of course), Demel and Landtmann. Coffee is not cheap here either but I guess you’re paying for the setting.  I was recommended Das Kleines Cafe by many locals and it is very cute and worth visiting.  Service horrendous though.

Das Kleines Cafe, Vienna

WHERE TO DRINK

The best rooftops bars are at the Grand Ferdinand (but sadly guests only, though I reckon this might change), the Ritz Carlton’s Atmosphere (gulp at the price, but that’s what you get at a five star hotel and the views are worth it) and Bloom Bar at the Lamee Hotel.  Other bars with views worth going to are Onyx, which was one of my favourites.  It has fantastic views of Stephansdom (photo below) and charming service (i.e the waiter looked like Leo Dicaprio).  The Sofitel’s Das Loft bar (it’s on the Danube) and Dachboden Hotel 25 (edgier) were also both recommended.  For summer days and nights the ‘beach’ bars along the Danube river are fun and full of locals enjoying the sun and a swim (in places) – like Hermann Strand bar and Tel Aviv Beach.  And for nightclubs go to the Volksgarten for various clubs and outdoor music, or Prater Sauna for more heavy, gritty party vibes (and an outdoor pool).

Onyx, Vienna

Further, more detailed blog posts about Vienna will follow – watch this space.

Thank you Luise van Holk, Victoria van Tets and others for your tips.

Some of the included photos are by Rikki Salmond. 

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