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Blog, Bologna, Italy

Vineria Favalli, Bologna – DRINK

May 22, 2016
Vineria Favelli, Bologna

Wine bars are my favourite places to drink, and Italians get them so right.  As we wandered through the winding streets of Bologna we came across a charming looking wine bar, which seemed ideal for a pre-dinner drink.

We seemed to have picked the right place.  This is really a local hangout, right in the centre of town.  We got lucky upon arrival as a table just came available, but it’s tiny and you definitely want to sit in the front room (there are more tables at the back, but it’s a bit quiet and lacking of atmosphere).  A lot of people just stood by the bar sipping wine, and they could have done with another member of staff.

Vineria Favalli, Bologna

But the wines were excellent, and it had such a wonderful, upbeat, authentic Italian feel.  Further more, the setting was delightful, and you’re in the best location for dinner afterwards (Cesarina is 2 minutes walk, and Drogheria della Rossa probably about 5 minutes).

Definitely one of the best – and non-touristy – bars we came across.

Vineria Favalli

Via Santo Stefano, 5/A

Barcelona, Blog, Spain

La Vinya del Senyor – Barcelona’s best wine bar

October 31, 2015
La Vinya del Senyor, Barcelona

If you’re more of a wine than a cocktail person, La Vinya del Senyor is one wine bar you can’t miss.  Locally known as Barcelona’s best wine bar, I loved the vibe here.  Located right opposite El Born’s Santa Maria church, which may be my favourite church in Barcelona, this is the place to come and try a number of their excellent (and very well-priced) Riojas, while enjoying a beautiful view.  It’s a small, cosy bar, with only a few tables, where the staff are friendly and willing to share their fantastic knowledge on wine.   While they’re unsurprisingly strong on Spanish wine, they have wines from all over the world.

And they’re open until 1am, after which you can stumble on to one of the many bars that El Born has to offer.

La vinya del Senyor

Plaza Sta Maria, 5,

08003 Barcelona

Blog, Drink, Eat, London

Shot Espresso, Fulham Broadway

August 15, 2015
Shot Espresso, Fulham Broadway

When the very tiny Shot Espresso opened a few years ago, on the cobbled pedestrian and rather lovely Jerdan Place, I had a feeling it was going to do well.  It is the project of friends of, as they say, ‘Italian, Australian and English extraction’, with especially the Italian extraction being most pronounced in their venture.  It is effectively an Italian Deli, Cafe and Aperitif bar all rolled into one, with some Aussie touches.  Every morning I walked passed I could smell their freshly ground coffee, and see tempting heaps of buttery croissants through their large window.  Every evening when I walked home, they went from offering coffee to offering Aperol Spritzes.  Or wine.

Shot Espresso, FUlham Broadway

So, I tried both.  Their coffee really is good.  And their friendly service adds to Shot’s charm.  One evening I also tried their Aperol Spritz.  And a glass of wine. And perhaps a few more of them.  And loved this local and characterful place just off the very busy and characterless Fulham Broadway (having said that, if you want cocktails then 510 Below is brilliant too).

Shot Espresso, Fulham Broadway

Soon enough they cleverly put a few tables and chairs outside, and shortly the pavement was overflowing with post-work drinkers.  And best of all?  They offer Aperitivo.  Possibly the best deal ever.  If you pay an extra £3 for your first drink, you get to sample unlimited amounts of their homemade bites and selection of cheeses, hams and breads, plates of which are placed on the bar and which they keep topping up.  I don’t know anywhere in London where they are this generous.  No need for dinner, just come here for lots of drinks and delicious aperitivo and you’re sorted.

Shot Espresso, Fulham Broadway

Their well-deserved success meant that they procured another tiny joint, right opposite Shot – called Slice & Ice.  Offering, surprise surprise, homemade pizza (Roman-style) and ice cream.  Same sort of concept, same people, same overflowing pavement where on the busier Thursday and Friday nights the crowds from Shot and Ice & Slice simply merge together.

Ice & Slice, by Shot

Their newest venture is Bistro by Shot.  A larger, a little more formal cafe/bistro just off Parson’s Green.  I enjoyed my brunch here, but my preference will always be Shot Espresso.

Bistro by Shot, Parsons Green

For more Fulham ideas, check out Fulham Brunch places, St Clements and Hally’s & Little H.

Shot Espresso

11 Jerdan Pl

London SW6 1BE

Photos Shot Espresso’s own, or mine from Instagram.

Blog, Bordeaux, France

Saint-Emilion, Bordeaux

August 15, 2015

Saint-Emilion sits proudly on a hill, surrounded by never-ending vineyards and chateaux.  This blonde stoned beauty is possibly Bordeaux’s most famous town, and we found while the surrounding countryside was largely devoid of people and cars, it seemed Saint-Emilion was where everyone was concentrated.  Yes, it is touristy, full, noisy – but perhaps only really in and around the main square. And the car parks. If you wander off down a cobbled side street, or climb some stairs up the hill suddenly you find yourself alone.  And you can observe this beautiful town in peace and quiet.


Saint-Emilion is prime wine country, so you can expect a huge amount of wine shops. On every street, round every turn, there will be a wine shop. Or somewhere to do wine tasting.  So that’s definitely something you should do. Whether you are buying or drinking, there is a huge amount of choice – from the Grand Crus to the Grand Cru Classé.  Other than that wander up to the watch tower for sublime views of the town and its surroundings. Or take a look at some of its simple but charming churches.



Hostellerie de la Plaisance is Saint-Emilion’s Relais & Chateaux hotel. The place to stay (rooms from about £300) but it also hides the most stunning terrace with heavenly views.  While very centrally located, just above the main square next to the church, it feels worlds apart from the heaving square below. If you can afford it, have lunch here. If not, have a ‘café au lait’ (or a glass of wine) and enjoy the views in relative peace. The service, coffee and complimentary chocolate biscuits are phenomenal.

Hostellerie de la Plaisance, St EmilionHostellerie de la Plaisance, St Emilion

As the town is so touristy, avoid most of the restaurants close to the square. Prices are high and the food tends to be OK (this is France after all), but you can certainly do better.  Instead, wander a little further to Les Delices de Roy. It’s quieter here and the food (and prices) is good.  But if you really want a bargain, and something a little more authentic, drive 9 minutes down the road to the river side town of Branne. While the town itself is nothing special, Cafe de Cuisine is worth the journey. You’re not really here for the setting – views from its shaded terrace are of a metal bridge over the Dordogne river and a road – but the food is simple and delicious.  Classic French food, and 17 Euros for a three course menu scrawled on a blackboard. The service is brisk but friendly and we noticed lots of French here too.  We had a chicken pate to start, followed by a light and zesty cod and cold cauliflower salad. The puddings may have been the best of all – my chocolate gateaux was everything you’d expect from a French pudding, and Rob’s lime panacotta with red fruit couli was delicious.  Add a glass of Saint-Emilion Grand Cru for 5 Euros and you’re sorted.

Cafe Cuisine, BranneCafe Cuisine, BranneCafe Cuisine, Branne

Otherwise L’Atelier de Candale at Chateau de Candale (2km from Saint-Emilion) is also meant to be delicious, and very peaceful.  They have a lunch menu for €15.

For more tips of the Bordeaux region, check out A weekend in the Medoc.

All photos mine, mostly from my Instagram.

Blog, Bordeaux, France

A weekend in the Medoc, Bordeaux

August 14, 2015

Known to produce some of the finest wines in the world, the wine region of the Medoc in Bordeaux is one top vineyard and stately chateau after another.  It is here where you’ll find some of the world’s most prestiges wine villages, such as Pauillac, Margaux and Saint-Julien.  The chateaux we past – such as Chateau Lafitte and Latour – produce some of the most expensive wines in the world.

This is the perfect place for a wine-filled weekend break.  Combine a day of sightseeing in the city of Bordeaux (blog to follow soon), with a couple of days in the peaceful green Medoc countryside.  Less than an hour north from Bordeaux airport, I was taken aback by how many beautiful chateaux and vineyard we drove past.  Flights to Bordeaux are affordable if booked in advance (our BA flights booked in February were £100) and there are numerous chateaux you can stay at, as well as plenty of fantastic restaurants to try.   A wine and foodie heaven.


CHATEAU ORMES DE PEZ, in the hamlet of Pez, is a complete delight.   It is a little quiet haven; grand and beautiful while homely and warm at the same time. Owned by the Cazes family, who also own the Relais & Chateaux Cordeillan Bages and one of Bordeaux’s top vineyards Lynch Bages, this idyllic five bedroom chateau truly represents what the French do so well.

Ormes de Pez, BordeauxOrmes de Pez, BordeauxBeautiful, intricate wall paper cover the well-sized bedrooms, the beds – all white crisp sheets and marshmallow duvets – ensure you have the best sleep, large French windows let in plenty of light and allow views of the local vineyard and the garden. Charming Gilles – the concierge/chef/general manager all in one, is welcoming and helpful – recommending where to eat in the area and booking wine tasting for us. During the afternoon he conjures up amazing cakes in the kitchen, smells of which waft through the chateau.

Ormes de Pez, BordeauxOrmes de Pez, BordeauxThe hotel’s black and white bushy tailed cat is constantly doing the rounds – enjoying human contact enough to follow us around, even joining us for breakfast, but making it quite clear he is not there to be cuddled or picked up.  The garden is huge, with pear trees and romantic benches scattered around. The pool is tucked away in a sunny corner behind a hedge, where we relax in the sun and read our books.  Breakfast is served until 11, with fresh breads and croissants, Giles’ cakes and buttery scrambled eggs.  Grab a table outside on the terrace and have the most languid breakfast in the cool morning sun.  This is a place to forget your busy life and just enjoy the best of France.  Rooms from £90 per night.

Ormes de Pez, Bordeaux

Ormes de Pez, BordeauxOrmes de Pez, Bordeaux


Grab one of the bikes at Ormes de Pez and cycle from vineyard to vineyard (the countryside is relatively flat), admiring the 17th and 18th Century chateaux as you wiz by.  A stay at either Ormes de Pez or Cordeillan Bages allows you a complimentary visit to the Lynch Bages vineyard, with wine tasting of course. Definitely take them up on that offer, our guide was theatrical and extremely knowledgeable and tasting the Lynch Bages wine (the 2007 in our case) is not something quickly forgotten.  The village of Bages is also very picturesque.  Or for those super fit and active, there is the Medoc Marathon through the vineyards – a stunning region to run those 26.5 miles!

Lynch Bages



Ormes de Pez is just a B&B so venture out to the riverside town of Pauillac for lunch or dinner.  If you want something super close, the Chateau Pomys offers dinner on their terrace. The food is very French, the portions large and opt for their three course menu for 30 Euros. The food is far from Michelin starred but their chocolate gateaux was absolutely delicious.  Or, for better food, drive a little further to the village of St Julien, for simple but excellent home cooking at Chez Meme.

Chateau Pomys, Bordeaux


Chez Meme, St Julien


For a real blow out meal, the two Michelin star Cordeillan Bages is where you have to be.  Possibly the most refined and wonderful lunch I have ever had.  A blog about this hotel & restaurant will follow.

Chateau Bordeillan-Bages, Bordeaux

Cordeillan-Bages, Bordeaux

Blog, Drink, London

Vagabond Wines, Charlotte Street

May 12, 2014
Vagabond Wines

When searching for a good central bar, my friend Emily suggested Vagabond Wines on Charlotte Street.  I’ve always liked Charlotte Street, for its location (conveniently located between Tottenham Court Road and Goodge Street) and for its lively vibe (the street is jam packed full of cool bars and tempting restaurants).

Vagabond Wines stands out with its huge open window; the table by the window inside practically spilling out.  Having got there at 8:30 on a Friday it was busy.  But luckily I had booked us a table.  Yes – hooray – you can book tables here, unlike so many other (Northern) Soho bars.

Vagabond Wines


Vagabond Wines


Our table was in the downstairs area, which is a bit quieter.  You’re surrounded by wine cases and boxes.  It’s messy and smells a bit musty, in a nice not a grimy way.  But upstairs is where you really want to be.

Vagabond Wines


Vagabond Wines


Vagabond Wines


Vagabond Wines


Vagabond Wines is first and foremost a wine shop or ‘enoteca’.  The unique twist here is that they have 100 bottles lined up which you can taste.  It’s very straight forward: you get a Vagabond card which you top up at the bar.  You slot this card into one of the wine ‘fridges’/’machines’ (hard to name) and this allows you to press a bottom above whichever wine you fancy and you’ll be poured a taster.

Vagabond Wines


It will say how much the bottle costs and how much the taster is (the more expensive the wine, the more expensive the taster).  Tasters can range from 65p to £3.50.  Bottles from £6.95 to a hell of a lot more.  It’s great fun.  Especially for amateurs like me, who loves wine but could probably do with some more lessons on how to tell a Cabernet Sauvignon apart from a Chardonnay.  This is a good place to start learning.  And it’s interactive too.

Vagabond Wines


Vagabond Wines


Vagabond Wines


Apart from being a shop, you can also drink the wine here.  For a £10 corkage fee per bottle, you can buy the bottles at retail prices and drink in the shop.  So that’s what we did.  The Rose was especially nice, and not expensive at £6.95 a bottle (plus the corkage).

Vagabond Wines


For those hungry after a long week they also serve sharing platters of charcuterie and cheeses.   But it is primarily all about the vino.

The staff are friendly and helpful.  The atmosphere is really good.  And their flagship shop is in fact in Fulham (Vanston Place), around the corner from where I live.  What more can you want?

Vagabond Wine

25 Charlotte Street



020 3302 4044

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