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Food, London, Restaurants

Le Pain Quotidien Goes Carbon Neutral

I don’t think I’m alone when I say that Le Pain Quotidien is one of the best all-day chain restaurants for a healthy lunch on the go.  There are no less than 30 across London and the latest opening is at Monument – an oasis of calm in the City with rustic interiors and the relaxing sounds of classical music.

It’s fair to say that the Belgian brand is pretty influential in how we enjoy casual dining – first there was the communal table with the generous pots of speculoos and chocolate spreads, then they embraced great home-style vegan cooking and now all of their UK outlets are carbon neutral.  Major high five on that eco initiative – hopefully more restaurants will follow!

Last week, I was invited to celebrate this great achievement with the movers and shakers of the brand over a relaxed vegan dinner at Le Pain Quotidien Monument.

But before I rave on about the yummy food, what exactly does being a carbon neutral restaurant mean?  For Le Pain Quotidien, it’s about calculating their carbon emissions and making them as low as possible.  This was started by using energy-efficient lighting, recycled wood for furnishings, compostable take-away packaging, managing food wastage and even arranging night deliveries from local suppliers to reduce transport miles and congestion.

Unavoidable emissions are then offset by investing in a carbon-reducing project in Uganda.  This sustainable practice has resulted in all of Le Pain Quotidien’s UK oulets being certified carbon neutral by the climate advisory organisation CO2logic and founder Alain Caumont’s next target is to implement this globally.

To start, we grazed on a Hummus Menage à Trois (try ordering that with a straight face) and it was absolutely divine.  The fresh and cooling hummus bowls were filled with sweet roasted carrot with a hint of cumin, earthy beetroot and garlicky chickpea, served with chunky crudités and LPQ’s signature freshly-baked bread.  I will definitely be ordering this for a light and healthy lunch in the summer – even better if you have someone to share it with.

We then followed with Chilli Sin Carne, which I’ve wanted to try for a while but couldn’t tear myself away from my regular LPQ avocado toast.  This hearty, slow-cooked dish had a lovely blend of spices but wasn’t too hot and the soya was nice and tender.  The accompaniments of fresh guacamole and soya sour cream gave it a touch of indulgence.

The next tasting dish was an Organic Vegan Pot au Feu – a quintessential French stew.  Without its usual beef, it resembled more of a rustic broth with chunky root vegetables, springy quinoa and piquant harissa on the side, but it was super-tasty and comforting.

A fresh and uplifting Organic Lentil and Avocado Salad was then served.  It’s a French tradition to have salad before dessert or cheese, but for me it’s a hard one to get onboard with and I was ready for my pud.  Not just one but two – a bit of a treat for those of us with a sweet tooth.

My big slice of Cocoa and Pear Cake was moreish and not overly sweet, while the Organic Chia Seed & Coconut Milk Pudding was cool and creamy with a hint of vanilla.  I first tried chia seed pudding at a baking masterclass at Le Pain Quotidien Bicester Village and have since started making it at home using their cook book recipe – it’s so delicious!

Le Pain Quotidien really impressed me with its vegan menu and I can’t wait to try more plant-based dishes on the menu.  All of the restaurants do actually serve meat and I personally enjoy the high quality smoked chicken and prosciutto, but it’s helpful that LPQ has a balanced menu with vegetarian and vegan dishes that are just as enjoyable and flavourful.

For more information and menus, visit: www.lepainquotidien.co.uk

Photos by Chérie City 

Hotels, Madrid

A Stay at Hospes Puerta de Alcalá Madrid

Not many hotels in Madrid can boast such wonderful views as Hospes Puerta de Alcalá.  This contemporary five star hotel is perched on an elegant curve on the Plaza de la Independencia overlooking the magnificent Puerta de Alcalá.  The monument is older than the Arc de Triomphe and the Brandenburg Gate and marks the entrance to Retiro Park.

I first discovered Hospes Hotels staying at the excellent Hospes Amerigo in Alicante years ago, so I was excited to see if the brand’s Madrid hotel would be just as impressive.

On arrival, we were warmly greeted by the super-friendly staff and were offered a much-needed welcome drink of Prosecco, juice or chilled mineral water.  The lobby had a bright and lofty feel and it led on to an atrium-style guest lounge – a quiet spot for relaxing.

Our Deluxe Alcalá Room had a modern, cosmopolitan feel and was very spacious and calm.  Best of all, it featured two flower-filled balconies with fabulous views of the Puerta de Alcalá.  We were also kindly welcomed with a beautiful fruit plate and two large bottles of water, which was a nice touch.

The style was a cool blend of minimalism with clean white walls and polished floors and touches of opulence with an attractive cornice ceiling, Louis XVI-style chair and an ornate silver-painted headboard. Interestingly, there was also an original black iron archway bridging the bedroom and the hallway – just one of the clues that the hotel was once a 19th century townhouse residence.

We loved the comfortable seating area with two plush corner sofas with a wall-mounted TV, fast free wifi and handy tea and coffee facilities.  The king-size bed was also dreamy with crisp Egyptian cotton bed linen and plenty of high quality pillows.

The impressive open-plan bathroom around the corner was on a raised level, which seems to be a Hospes Hotels signature design feature that also appeared at Hospes Amerigo.  There were two silver-painted double sinks opposite each other, a luxurious walk-in shower, fluffy towels, bathrobes and slippers and a full set of lovely herbal Olivia bathroom products created exclusively for Hospes Hotels.

The hotel’s central location was perfect for an afternoon of exploring and we just loved this chic, boho part of town.  The renowned art institutions on the Paseo del Prado are within walking distance and there are so many boutiques, bars and artisan bakeries in nearby Recoletos and Chueca.  Be sure to visit the San Anton Food Market and bijou pasteleria La Duquesita.

At the end of a busy day sight-seeing, guests can unwind in the Bodyna Spa, complete with jacuzzi pool, chill-out patio and treatment rooms for facials and massages using Cinq Mondes products.  It’s a great spa, but the changing rooms are tiny, so you might want to change in your room and shuffle down in your bathrobe and slippers (that seemed perfectly acceptable during our stay).

That evening, we headed out for dinner at Bar Tomate, a hip urban-rustic Italian spot by Grupo Tragaluz. The food was great (particularly the wood-fired pizza), but the service was remarkably hurried and it was uncomfortably hot inside so it didn’t quite hit the mark.

The dining scene on the doorstep, however, is pretty lively with the hotel’s Independencia restaurant and terrace by chef Alex García, as well as the fashionable Philippe Starck-designed Ramses Life – a three-floor conceptual restaurant/club/bar bar – just next door.  It can get a little noisy on the weekend if you’re in a front-facing balcony room, but it was just a low hum of music and not too bothersome.

In the morning, we enjoyed a buffet breakfast of fresh bread, pastries, cakes, cured meats, cheeses, yoghurt and cereal.  There was a generous selection, however things really got exciting with the menu of chef’s dishes that were included with the breakfast.  I was delighted to start the day with pancakes drizzled in chocolate sauce with a cast iron pot of proper tea – the egg dishes looked rather tempting too.

Hospes Puerta de Alcalá is a stunning hotel in a picturesque and happening location.  The staff went above and beyond to ensure our stay was comfortable and it really did feel like a relaxing retreat in the middle of the city.  For style-conscious travellers, it’s the ideal five star hotel for a memorable city break in Madrid.

For more information and booking, visit: www.hospes.com

Chérie City was a guest of Hospes Puerta de Alcalá

Photos by Chérie City and Hospes Puerta de Alcalá

London, Restaurants

Pan-Asian Dinner at Chi Kitchen, London

Chi Kitchen, the contemporary Pan-Asian restaurant by MasterChef winner Ping Coombes has been on my ‘must try’ list for a while.  Described as a ‘journey through South East Asia, I was pretty excited to try a diverse selection of cuisines all in one meal – what could be better than that!

The restaurant was created specially for Debenhams Oxford Street, however Chi Kitchen has its own street entrance and feels slightly removed from the ebb and flow of the busy department store.  It’s a slick affair with calming interiors inspired by the five elements, complete with cosy leather booths, an open sushi kitchen and a champagne bar.

The menu features signature dishes that are the size of main courses, however to try more dishes you can graze on smaller bites such as sushi, dim sum and robata barbecued meat and grilled fish.  Dishes tend to arrive as they are cooked and the friendly staff are on hand for you to order more as you go – it’s a casual affair.

We started with the most wonderful Spider soft-shell crab maki roll.  It was a harmonious mix of crunchy tempura soft-shell crab and tender asparagus, rolled in vibrant wasabi tobiko and finished with creamy Japanese mayo, pickled ginger and punchy wasabi.  The maki rolls were so moreish and fresh with really high quality ingredients.

Chicken Yakitori was a real treat with three perfectly grilled skewers of chicken thigh in a deliciously sticky and rich marinade.  Once again, I could happily indulge in plate after plate of them.

Wagyu beef siu mai were tasty but the marbled fat in this expensive speciality meat made the dumplings a little too oily.  I think this excess juiciness also affected the presentation of the dish, so perhaps a more lean type of beef might work better.

I couldn’t resist ordering Aromatic crispy duck pancakes, as they are a childhood favourite that always feel so decadent.  These ones were exemplary with a generous amount of succulent and well-seasoned shredded crispy duck, plenty of thin steamed pancakes and garnishes of julienne cucumber and spring onion. What really gave them that luxury edge, though, was the tangy hoi sin and the mouthwatering garlic truffle sauce – a winning combination.

With a little bit of room left, we tried Prawn Cha Keow Teow – tiger prawns stir-fried with asparagus, spring onion, topped with deep fried shallots.  This noodle dish was hearty and surprisingly piquant with pillowy rice noodles, but I couldn’t help finding it a little too oily and one-note.

It’s worth saving some room for dessert, as they are seriously tempting.  The Baked green tea Alaska was magnificent with creamy, aromatic matcha ice cream on a delicate joconde sponge and encased in airy, meticulously-scorched meringue.  I can definitely see myself popping by for a quick matcha fix with a pot of jasmine tea to escape the chaos of Oxford Street.

Mango Crème Brûlée with mango ice cream was luscious, fruity and intense – a perfectly refreshing dessert for the warmer months.

Chi Kitchen is a great spot for some Pan-Asian bites in a stylish setting and it’s certainly authentic with some solid cooking.  Some of the dishes are priced quite highly, particularly for the style of restaurant, but you can avoid that by ordering wisely.  I will definitely give it another try for a quick refuel when I’m out shopping in central London to try more of Ping Coombes’ dishes.

For more information and booking, visit: www.chikitchen.co.uk

Chérie City was a guest of Chi Kitchen

Photos by Chérie City and Chi Kitchen

Hotels, Madrid

Only YOU Hotel Atocha Madrid

Only YOU Hotel Atocha is one of Madrid’s coolest new hotel openings and I was thrilled to stay there on my first trip to the city last month.  Following the boutique hospitality group’s first opening in Chueca, this hotel is conveniently located near Atocha Station and is within walking distance of Retiro Park, Paseo del Prado and the Reina Sofia Museum.

Designed by Catalan designer Lázaro Rosa Violan, Only YOU Hotel Atocha has a hip sports club theme with boxing and athletics-inspired posters, locker room-style furnishings, red striped walls and appropriately a 24-hour gym.  It also takes inspiration from New York and has already hosted residencies from Manhattan’s Dead Rabbit, Betony and Blue Note since its launch in December.

The hotel really feels like an urban resort with everything you need for a great stay right there.  The open-plan lobby, with its circular bookshelves and luxurious leather banquettes, was buzzing yet chilled throughout our stay and attracted a fun crowd of both hotel guests and locals.

The hotel’s stylish Trotamundos restaurant serves inventive dishes inspired by Latin America, Asia and Spain, created by Chef Javi Mora in collaboration with the team behind Spoonik in Barcelona.  Also in the lobby is a barber shop modelled on Frank’s Chop Shop on Lower East Side Manhattan, a bright yellow NYC taxi cab and jars of childhood sweets like red & blacks, marshmallows and red liquorice laces that you can graze on.

As if that wasn’t enough for those of us with a sweet, there’s also an outlet of the chic Madrid bakery Mama Frambroise, offering exquisite cakes, pastries and much-needed caffeine all day.  We made sure we were back at the hotel for an afternoon treat of the most heavenly Chocolate raspberry tart and Carrot cake with pots of tea.  A hotel with its own bakery is definitely the key to my heart!

Our loft-style Deluxe Room was an absolute dream with exposed brick walls, polished wood floors and a number of quirky design features to discover.  It featured a stylish designer chair, writing desk, large fitted wardrobes, an illuminated dressing room vanity mirror, large wall-mounted smart TV, free wifi, minibar with healthy snacks and juices, plus tea and coffee facilities with very Instagrammable stainless steel mugs.

The king-size bed was extremely comfortable and was covered in high quality linen and a statement tartan wool blanket.  In fact, if you don’t want to leave your fabulous bed, you can order room service from Trotamundos restaurant or indulge in a movie night package with posh nachos, chocolate and ice cream.

The white and black tiled bathroom was spacious and pristine with a powerful walk-in rainfall shower, fluffy towels, cosy bathrobes (one in a funky zebra print pattern) and slippers, a proper hair dryer and even hair straighteners!  I was also impressed with the full set of bathroom products by Calming Park, a gorgeous music and fragrance brand with organic scented candles made in Grasse.

We were really excited for breakfast in the morning and it didn’t disappoint.  The enormous dining room on the seventh floor was flooded with sunlight and served up great views over the city with breakfast.

There was a good selection of hot dishes and a live cooking station where you could order freshly-made egg dishes and even steamed gyoza.  We also enjoyed freshly-baked pastries, cakes, doughnuts and smoothies but best of all was the copious stack of delicious Jamon Iberico, which I couldn’t resist.

Only YOU Hotel Atocha is a fabulous design hotel and everything has been well-considered, from the eye-catching design to the great amenities and perfect branding.  There were a few guest procedures that could have been slicker, but the hotel is still in its launch period and the staff were all courteous and welcoming.

I booked for the first time with Preferred Hotels (and used the $100 voucher that I won in their #PreferredChat Twitter chat a few months ago towards the room rate) and was pleased with the overall experience and perks such as a room upgrade and late check-out that come with the free membership.

All photos by Chérie City

Beauty, Events

How to Get a Healthy Alkaline Lifestyle

This week, I headed over to The Dentist Gallery in Victoria to hear all about the health benefits of an alkaline diet with experts from the Joshi Clinic and Arm & Hammer.  Since my Berlin trip a few days before was packed full of indulgences like steak, strudel and cinnamon buns, it was a welcome reminder of how to get back on track.

We started the evening nourishing our bodies with some delicious organic veggie bowls, chocolate peanut energy balls and surprisingly delicious alkaline green shots (to balance out the cheeky Prosecco) before the series of talks began.

There was also the chance to take a look around this very cool private dental surgery, which combines modern art, music and dentistry.  As you can see, it’s really not your typical cold, sterile and sometimes fear-inducing dentist surgery.

Dr Jerome Sebah, co-founder of The Dentist Gallery, explained why Arm & Hammer is such an effective toothpaste for oral health.  Its unique bicarbonate of soda formula works under the gums to remove plaque and it also contains minerals that help create a more alkaline environment in the mouth.  Since acidity allows bacteria to grow and multiply, we should all aim to balance our pH levels to avoid tooth decay and gum disease.

Next up was Tomaz Mueller of the Joshi Clinic in Marylebone, whose founder Dr Nish Joshi established the alkaline diet.  Dr Joshi’s holistic, Ayurvedic approach to wellness has been widely acclaimed and celebrity fans have included Gwyneth Paltrow, Cate Blanchett, Ralph Fiennes and his close friend Diana, Princess of Wales.

Tomaz began by telling us that as busy city-dwellers, we are “on a 24/7 toxic drip”.  Stress, pollution and poor diet can lead to too much acidity in the body and this can put particular strain on our kidneys. However there is hope, if we make conscious changes to follow an alkaline lifestyle – not just for the body but also the mind.

Here are five top tips on how to follow an alkaline lifestyle:

1. Drink hot water

We’ve all heard about the benefits of starting the day with hot water and lemon, and even though citrus fruits are acidic, the lemon has an alkalising effect on the body and helps boost the metabolism. However, Tomaz goes one step further and recommends using hot water as medicine.  Simply sip on plain, boiling hot water throughout the day at 15-minute intervals to keep the body alkaline.

2. Manage stress

Alkalising the mind means addressing and limiting stress and anxiety.  Stress can make the body more acidic and disrupt your routine, so it’s equally important to manage for wellbeing.

3. Breathe properly

This is something we should have aced by now, but many of us are not breathing correctly to give our bodies optimal nourishment.  Tomaz recommends a 4-2-6 formula for breathing, which focuses on filling our lungs with oxygen, holding for a short moment and deeply exhaling to fully excrete carbon dioxide from our bodies.  It also helps calm the body and mind, especially during periods of irritability, and can help reduce stress.

4. Control your diet 

Social media is a constant tempter when it comes to food, however an alkaline diet requires conscious decisions, forward-planning and a touch of restraint.  Sweets, refined sugar and processed food all produce cravings and even when eating them, it can be hard to feel satiated, so try to avoid or at least reduce them.  Tomaz explained that he follows a regime of eating healthily for five days followed by one ‘treat day’ and then a day of fasting before starting again the next week.

Joshi’s Alkaline Diet is a comprehensive guide to eating for health and I’ve just started reading it, so more on that later.

5. Fast regularly

Finally, the most challenging approach is fasting regularly.  Sonia Wisinger of The Joshi Clinic recommends a liquid fast twice a year as well as mini cleanses to give the body a rest and a chance to reset.  My only experience of fasting was on an arduous but rewarding two-day juice cleanse, and it seems rather daunting, but we’ll see…

Do you use baking soda toothpaste as part of your oral hygiene routine?  Have you ever tried an alkaline diet?

Sponsored post 

Madrid, Restaurants

Dinner at Hermosos y Malditos Madrid

Our first visit to Madrid started on a high with a Saturday night out at Hermosos y Malditos, one of the city’s most stylish restaurants at design hotel TÓTEM Madrid.

Located in well-heeled Salamanca, with Manolo Blahnik and Stella McCartney among its neighbours, Hermosos y Malditos attracts a cool crowd of locals and hotel guests and the vibe is buzzing yet relaxed, making it perfect for date night or catching up with friends.

Named after F.Scott Fitzgerald’s iconic novel The Beautiful and the Damned, the concept is clear.  Feast on heavenly Mediterranean dishes in the restaurant and end the night decadently over potent drinks in the sultry cocktail bar.

The bright and airy restaurant is a real treat for interiors fans (thanks to Spanish design firm Better) with modern-retro wood tables, leafy plants and touches of pastels.  We arrived when the restaurant opened at 8.30pm and had some time to get settled and peruse the menu, however if you want to live like a true Madrileño, head there after 9pm when it starts to get lively.

After ordering, we were presented with a basket of rustic freshly-baked bread accompanied by a punchy tomato, garlic and chilli butter and marinated olives.  It was so tempting to enjoy slice after slice, but a little restraint was necessary when we saw the portion sizes of dishes coming out the kitchen.

We ordered shareable dishes and first up was a typical Spanish delicacy of Acorn-fed Iberico Ham Arturo Sanchez with toasts.  The artisanal sliced cured ham had a deep, nutty and mature flavour and a silky texture with a good amount of marbling.  It was a superior grade of Iberico ham and went perfectly with the crispy golden toasts and crushed fresh tomato.

A Big Burrata with sundried tomatoes was a lovely, fresh dish and it certainly was on the large side.  The cool, creamy burrata had a soft, oozing centre and was accompanied by an uplifting sundried tomato and olive oil caponata – simple perfection.

I was in the mood for seafood, so for my main course I tried the Scallops and vegetable wok.  This delicious Asian-style dish was healthy yet moreish and I was treated to no less than six scallops!  I’ve eaten my fair share of scallop dishes around the world, but this dish definitely beat a record.  They were really good too – plump and succulent, served with tasty stir-fried vegetable with a sweet sesame-soy sauce.

Steven’s Roast beef with mashed potatoes and spinach salad was another hit.  This dish had a comforting home-cooked taste, like the kind you’d expect a Spanish grandmother to make.  The paper-thin slices of rare roast beef were tender and doused in a tangy, meaty jus, while the mashed potato was velvety smooth, almost like a purée, and the lightly-dressed spinach salad added a touch of freshness.

By this point, we were feeling very full and in an uncharacteristic move, we actually SHARED a dessert! However, we made it a decadent one – Chocolate with white chocolate.  The silky milk chocolate ganache topped with coarse sea salt was surrounded by cookie crumble and served with a jug of creamy white chocolate sauce.  It really was an ideal end to a glorious meal.

We then headed through to the fabulous cocktail bar to finish the night with a creative drink.  We both tried the most amazing Spiced Whisky Sour and chilled out to a cool soundtrack of remixes by DJ Joao Ribeiro.

The cocktail bar is also a great spot for light bar bites, tapas and sandwiches – quite a few hotel guests ate there throughout the evening.

Hermosos y Malditos is a fun and sophisticated place to spend a night out in Madrid.  The food is magnificent, the staff are delightful and everything from the statement tableware to the music has been thoughtfully considered.  It’s also open for breakfast, lunch and brunch on Sundays, so you can make it part of a Salamanca shopping trip or an elegant start to the day.

For more information and booking, visit: www.hermososymalditosmadrid.com

Chérie City was a guest of Hermosos y Malditos

Photos by Chérie City and Hermosos y Malditos

Copenhagen, Restaurants

Eating Around Copenhagen

Copenhagen has a thrilling food scene, whether it’s innovative Michelin star Nordic cuisine, tempting street food or classic Danish bites.  In fact, there are so many destination restaurants, new openings and cool brunch spots that you might find it hard to tick them all off your wish list.

Here are a few foodie gems that we discovered during our recent first trip to Copenhagen…

Höst 

One of the highlights of our trip was a fabulous dinner at the beautiful and atmospheric Höst.  This casual fine Nordic dining restaurant offers a three or five course set menu with a number of inventive dishes in-between courses.

On this food journey, we feasted on delicacies from the Danish land and sea, experiencing a diverse range of flavours with a few ‘wow’ moments along the way.

The experience was flawless and struck the right balance between relaxed and ceremonious.  Starting from around £40 for a three-course menu, it’s also great value and more accessible than some of Copenhagen’s high end restaurants.

To read the full review, click here.

Mother

Mother, in the hip Kødbyen (Meatpacking district), is a casual, buzzing Italian restaurant that serves up authentic Neapolitan pizzas from a wood-fire oven.  This regenerated warehouse complex is filled with cool restaurants and bars such as Fiskebar, Gorilla, Paté Paté and Warpigs, and is the place to be for a weekend night out.

Mother has a casual, lively atmosphere and is a top pick if you’re in the mood for something hearty and rustic at a decent price.

While inspiration comes from Italy, Mother has a bit of Danish flair.  Not only are the pizza toppings organic and mostly produced in Copenhagen, but the signature sourdough base is made from natural yeasts and purified seawater to make it easier on the stomach.

In the name of research, we tried two contrasting pizzas – a classic Margherita with plenty of creamy mozzarella, simple crushed tomatoes and a chewy, fluffy and nicely blistered dough, and the more adventurous Burning Love.  This inventive pizza bianca, topped with mozzarella, potatoes, fried onions and røget spæk (a bit like lardo) was super-rich, like an Alpine tartiflette crossed with a pizza.  I highly recommend sharing a few slices of each, as both are delightful and not to be missed.

Cocks & Cows

The burgers at boutique chain Cocks & Cows are often declared the best in the city and it’s easy to see why. We dined at Cocks & Cows inside the stylish SP34 Hotel on our first night there and wolfed down a Cheese ‘n’ Smoke burger and The New Yorker, accompanied by Salt and vinegar fries.

The medium-cooked, flame-grilled burgers were fantastic and generously-sized and we liked the cosy clubhouse feel of the restaurant.  It’s definitely the place to satisfy a serious meat craving or attempt The Governator – a burger packed with double everything!

Torvehallerne 

One of my favourite spots in Copenhagen was Torvehallerne, a dazzling food hall in the central Nørreport area.  It has everything you could hope to find – gourmet Danish smørrebrød at Hallernes, Asian street food by LêLê Street Kitchen, Grød posh porridge, craft beers at Mikkeller & Friends Bottle shop and Summerbird Chocolate.

On one particularly chilly lunchtime, we warmed up over a bowl of delicious home-made soup at Unplugged Juice and couldn’t resist a Cinnamon and chocolate snegl from the magnificent Laura’s Bakery.

There are so many tempting foodie bites to try at Torvehallerne that you might want to bring a big bag and stock up for later.

Copenhagen Street Food

Like most major cities, street food is big news and it’s done particularly well at the purpose-built Copenhagen Street Food.  Conveniently located on Paper Island next to Freetown Christiania, this indoor food market is packed full of small trucks and kiosks offering gourmet bites from around the world.

You can find typical Danish hot dogs at Pølse Kompagniet, Belgian stews and duck-fat fries at Copper and Wheat, Brazilian grilled meat at Brasa and Korean Bulgogi at Bulko.  What’s not to love?

Lagkagehuset & Holm

Of course, a trip to Copenhagen wouldn’t be complete without copious amounts of Danish pastries.  Lagkagehuset (or Ole & Steen as it’s known in the UK) has a number of stylish bakeries across Copenhagen and is a good option for an affordable bite at any time of the day.  We found the pizza slices a hearty and surprisingly indulgent choice for lunch and they should definitely be followed with something sweet like a delicious cinnamon social, chocolate rumball or a double chocolate chip muffin.

Holm Bager, next to the sleek Illum department store, has a very similar offering and does a great carrot and walnut milk bun and a giant cinnamon swirl smothered in vanilla frosting.

Other temples of pastry in Copenhagen include Meyers Bageri, Sankt Peders Bageri and Andersen Bakery – try and sample them all, if you can handle it.

Are you tempted by the Copenhagen food scene?  Where are your favourite spots for eating out in Copenhagen?

Photos by Chérie City (interiors by Höst and Mother)

Copenhagen, Restaurants

Dinner at Höst Copenhagen

A big highlight of our trip to Copenhagen was dinner at the stylish and atmospheric Höst.  While Copenhagen boasts a number of high end Michelin starred restaurants and radical neo-bistros, Höst offers affordable fine Nordic dining in a casual yet inspiring setting.

A part of the Cofoco restaurant group, which also includes Väkst at Hotel SP34 where we enjoyed breakfast, Höst is located in the hip Nansengade quarter and it had a buzzing neighbourhood vibe when we visited on a snowy Monday evening.

The restaurant, which means ‘harvest’ in Danish, offers a seasonal set menu of either three or five course, however, this undersells the experience somewhat as it there are many treats in between the courses that make for quite a substantial meal.

We went for the three course dinner menu and were swiftly presented a magnificent appetiser of Juniper-smoked scallop with walnut, sheep’s milk yoghurt, apples and coriander.  Our waitress set alight some of the surrounding ferns inside a sea shell to evoke scents of the wilderness.  The dish tasted just as beautiful as it looked.  The cured scallop was tender and tangy, and was complemented by a fresh, velvety apple emulsion and a mild, snow-like texture from the yoghurt.

Next up was our starter – Baked cod with Jerusalem artichoke, lumpfish roe and fish fumée, which was ladled over the fish at the table.  The baked cod was warm and succulent, lightly dusted in hay ash and topped with a generous amount of lumpfish roe (a mildly-flavoured caviar).  The fish fumée finished it off nicely with a smoky flavour and pieces of soft artichoke.

A rustic boule of freshly-baked sourdough was served on a bed of dried grains and was paired with a gloriously light and whipped salted Danish butter.  I tried not to disrupt the rhythm of the courses too much by filling up on bread, but Steven got stuck in, as it was just so tasty.

Before moving on to the land, we had one last taste of the sea with Poached octopus with ink and blue mussel soup with pickled pear, dill and cress.  This dish, with delicate octopus ribbons, was packed full of sweet and sour flavours and the very creamy soup was plesantly cut through with tart little cubes of pear and plenty of grassy fresh green herbs.  It was intriguing and characterful and just the right size to not overwhelm.

For our main course, we were treated to Beef sirloin from Grambogaard with beetroot, onions, cep mushrooms and tarragon.  The medium-cooked fillet of beef was surprisingly large and ever so tender, topped with a slow-cooked cep mushroom and onion sauce, a nest of fresh beetroot ribbons and finished with a rich, meaty jus.  I loved how the beetroot elevated it from a typically indulgent beef dish to something more vibrant and visually-pleasing.

We were offered a short break before dessert to really savour the experience and then it was on to a very special palate cleanser of Pear sorbet with lemon verbena, salted Skyr yoghurt and sugar beet syrup.  Our tastebuds had been lulled into contentment with the main course and this pre-dessert jolted them back into action so abruptly that we both almost jumped out of our seats (in a good way).

The first flavour to hit was the salty, whipped yoghurt, which was swiftly countered with the sticky, sweet beet syrup at the bottom.  The pear sorbet was juicy and mellow and the powdered lemon verbena added a fragrant taste.

Our final flourish was a dessert of Birch bark ice cream with herbal chocolate, pear and caramel.  It may look a little ‘out there’ but it was very moreish – the ice cream had an earthy flavour and the white chocolate crumble was subtle with just a slight hint of caramel and pear cider purée.

Our meal at Höst was so memorable and impressive and while there are still so many Copenhagen restaurants on my list, I’m tempted to return and see what’s on the menu.  It doesn’t require noma or Geranium levels of advance booking, but tables can get snapped up quickly – you don’t want to miss this one!

For more information and booking, visit: www.hostvakst.dk

Photos by Chérie City and Höst

Copenhagen, Hotels

A Stylish Stay at Hotel SP34, Copenhagen

Copenhagen is famed for laid-back style paired with cosiness and this was exactly what I wanted to experience on our first trip to the capital of Denmark.  Hotel SP34 does Danish living really, really well with a forward-thinking approach to hospitality, as well as a few nods to convivial traditions.

Part of the design-led Brøchner Hotels, the four-star+ Hotel SP34 comprises three renovated townhouses on Sankt Peder Stræde in the charming Latin Quarter.  It’s well-located for exploring Copenhagen and is within walking distance of the Tivoli Gardens, The National Museum of Denmark, shopping in the pedestrianised Strøget street and the leafy Ørstedsparken.

Conveniently, we arrived at Hotel SP34 in time for the daily Wine Hour and as you can imagine, the open-plan hotel lobby was buzzing with couples and friends sipping happily in front of the open fireplace – the epitome of hygge!  The SP34 tends to attract an international, creative crowd and its hip lobby scene is a key part of its charm.

Check-in was quick and friendly and I couldn’t help admiring the staff’s stunning uniforms designed by cool Danish designer Stine Goya.  After joining in the merriment with a warming glass of Port wine, we headed up to our Superior Double Room on the third floor.

The room was designed in a luxury bohemian style with furniture custom-made by Scandinavian designers.  There were tones of wood and tan leather, moody grey walls, a jewel-like vintage pendant lamp (made specially for the hotel in Sweden) and a statement headboard with fun mini leather cushions.  We also loved the typical Latin Quarter bay windows that offered a floor-to-ceiling view of the street below and added a touch of romance to the room.

The two twin beds were seriously comfy, with high quality white linen and proper pillows, as well as a large wall-mounted LCTV.  It’s also worth noting that like all of the rooms, we had tea and coffee facilities with a selection of Pukka teas and there was also free high-speed wifi.  The room didn’t have a refrigerator for drinks, however guests who book a suite can also enjoy an all-inclusive minibar concept in both the room and the lobby bar.

The bathroom had an urban monochrome feel with sleek white tiles, a powerful walk-in shower, concrete and metal units, fluffy towels and REN bathroom products (no conditioner though, so bring your own).

It’s a real treat having great restaurants in your hotel, especially after a day of travelling, and Hotel SP34 boasts three!  Since we were having breakfast in Väkst in the morning, we went for gourmet burgers at the casual Cocks and Cows that has a few other locations in Copenhagen.

Its burgers are often named the best in the city and it’s easy to see why.  My Cheese ‘n’ Smoke burger with bacon and Cheddar was so delicious with medium-cooked, flame-grilled beef, high quality toppings and tasty sauces.  Steven went for the The New Yorker – flavourful and lean sliced chilli-garlic marinated steak inside a bun with aromatic tarragon mayo and creamy basil pesto.  We shared a side of Salt & Vinegar Fries, which were golden and hand-chipped with the skin on, and more than enough for two.

Reeservations are essential, especially on a busy Saturday night, and once you’re in the service is super quick and friendly.

In the morning, we were excited to have breakfast in Väkst, the beautifully-designed and highly-Instagrammable restaurant run by Copenhagen’s esteemed Cofoco restaurant group.  It’s set across two floors with an indoor greenhouse and a staircase laden with plants – like a secret garden.

The organic breakfast was nicely put together by chefs in the open kitchen and while it was mostly Continental, there was the option to add hot items as extras.  We feasted on freshly-baked croissants, apple and cinnamon cake, traditional rye bread with Danish salted butter, cold meats and Skyr Icelandic yoghurt with fresh blueberries served in little glass ramekins.  It was a lovely way to start the day and we liked that over 90% of the items were organic and sourced locally.

Upon check-out we had the chance to see the lobby in the daylight and spotted some nice touches such as complimentary tea and coffee to take-out and a cabinet where you can buy high-end products and souvenirs.

Other interesting hotel features include an intimate 24-seater screening room with movie nights each evening as well as a seasonal rooftop terrace, the Din Nye Ven (Danish for Your New Friend) cafe-bar and a fitness room.

Hotel SP34 is an urban lifestyle resort with everything you need on your doorstep and is sure to appeal to design-conscious travellers that appreciate thoughtful touches and plenty of hygge.  However, your head may also be turned by Brøchner Hotels’ latest property, the highly-anticipated Hotel Danmark that’s set to open in April.  The hotels are less than ten minutes apart, so if you’re a curious hotel lover, why not try both?  I know I will take any excuse to return to wonderful Copenhagen!

For more information and booking, visit: www.brochner-hotels.com

Chérie City received a press rate for a one-night stay at Hotel SP34

All photos by Chérie City

Beauty, London

Skin Laundry Facial at Liberty London

Laser and Light express facials are a hot new trend in skincare maintenance and leading the way is Skin Laundry, a new arrival in London from the US.

With salons already in California, New York, Arizona and Hong Kong, Skin Laundry caused quite a buzz when it debuted at Liberty in London last September.

Founded by Yen Reis, this innovative skincare company offers a 15-minute, results-driven facial that doesn’t require any downtime and can slot in to your lunch break.  It also has a range of skincare products, so you can make the brand part of your skincare routine at home.

As the name suggests, Skin Laundry is all about using technology to deep cleanse and detoxify the skin.  It also helps boost collagen production, reduce the appearance of acne, fade sunspots and help diminish pigmentation and melasma.

As my main skin concern is tackling blemishes and congested pores, I was instantly sold on the idea of clean skin from within.  Ready and poised to book online, I was pretty jazzed to find out that the first facial is offered for free!  Skin Laundry is confident that you’ll be wowed enough by the results to become a regular and since lasers can sounds a little daunting, it’s a great way to get curious yet apprehensive clients through the door – marketing genius!

I checked in via an iPad at the Skin Laundry counter in the ground floor Liberty Beauty Hall and was taken upstairs to the treatment room a few minutes before my appointment.  The assistant told me what to expect from the treatment and I could tell she was good at calming any nerves from Skin Laundry newbies.

My treatment was conducted by a properly trained medical therapist, who led me through the treatment in a friendly and professional manner.  She explained that the laser works at the dermis, 2.5mm below the skin’s surface, and reassured me that any burning aroma is a normal part of the treatment and is simply dirt, dead skin cells and excess oil being vapourised.

She placed protective goggles over my eyes and wiped off any traces of make-up with a face wipe (unlike other facials a full cleanse wasn’t required).  She counted down from three and began work with the YAG laser, gliding it evenly above and across my entire face.  It started with the forehead and felt like tiny pinpricks – not painful but tingly and sometimes ticklish.  Other areas like the cheekbones and around my mouth were more sensitive and the hotness and burning smell became more noticeable.

The only pain I felt was when the laser moved over the side of my nose where I’d had a nose piercing for a few months while at uni over ten years ago.  At the beginning, my therapist asked if I had any piercings, to which I replied ‘no’, but it’s worth mentioning even if it was a long time ago.  After the light throbbing stopped, we had a laugh about it and she went in for round two, avoiding this area.

Before the second phase, she applied a thick, cool gel to soothe my skin and prepare it for the IPL (Intense Pulsed Light) therapy.  A burst of light was emitted a number of times across the surface of my skin, in order to destroy bacteria, reduce acne scars and brighten the skin.  This part was much more pleasant, the only thing you’ll experience is warmth and a quick red flash, even when your eyes are closed.

Afterwards, my skin looked fresh and there was no puffiness or redness – I was good to go.  About an hour later, my face was feeling slightly more taught than usual and in need of some moisture, so I drank more water and used the recommended hydrating sheet mask (£10).  Over the next few days, my skin definitely felt cleaner, more even and a lot less stressed and spotty.  The fresh air and pure water during my trip to Copenhagen definitely helped too!

While I’m used to having a regular facial once a month at the very most, Skin Laundry recommends a weekly laser and light facial to get the best results.  It’s marketed in the US as part of your weekly blow-dry and manicure routine, and perhaps I’m wrong, but I’m not sure if beauty is quite so high-maintenance in the UK.  There were quite a few American regular clients at the counter and the back-to-back appointment slots tend to book up weeks ahead, so perhaps it will catch on over here.  Even if it’s not weekly, I think I could get hooked!

Skin Laundry facials at Liberty are priced at £60 (the first is for free) and can be booked individually or in bundles of 3 to 10 for a discounted rate.  For more information and booking, visit: www.skinlaundry.com

Photos by Chérie City and Skin Laundry 

Beauty, Shopping

Estée Lauder Travel Retail Exclusives

To me, World Duty-Free is the reward for arriving at the airport on time and getting through all of those pre-travel stresses.  It means that the trip has begun and it’s time to relax before boarding that flight.

Last week, I headed over to the super-stylish penthouse at the Estée Lauder headquarters in Fitzrovia for a look at what’s on offer at the duty-free, both in the UK and internationally.  I tend to pick up the same beauty essentials while travelling, but it was a great chance to discover some travel retail exclusives that can only be found at the airport.

There were two main things that I learned from speaking to the brand experts at the Travel Beautifully event that are definitely worth sharing.  Firstly, the beauty and skincare counters are about more than just speed-scanning products for frazzled travellers cramming in last-minute purchases before their flight.

Whether you have five minutes to spare, or have the luxury of leisurely browsing, you can enjoy a complimentary pampering treatment.  This can be an indulgent hand and arm massage at Jo Malone, a professional cleanse at La Mer, a touch of Moisture Surge hydration at Clinique or a make-up lesson at Bobbi Brown.

At the event, I learned how to create the perfect lip with a Bobbi Brown make-up artist and there are many more bite-size tutorials that you can take advantage of for free at the counter.

Another helpful thing to know is just how great the travel retail exclusive sets are, in terms of the product and value for money.  Clinique Moisture Surge is my regular travel purchase, but I was also impressed with the make-up offering at Smashbox and MAC.  Here are a few products worth checking out at the duty-free…

Clinique Deep Comfort Exclusive Set features a velvety, cooling body lotion and an intensely nourishing hand and cuticle cream.  Both are free from fragrance and colour and suitable for sensitive skin, as well as being within the travel liquid allowance.  They’re particularly useful for staying hydrated on a long-haul flight, where you can really get cosy and turn your seat area into a spa zone.

MAC Look In A Box is a genius product, especially if you want to treat yourself to a whole new holiday look.  The Be A Little Naughty Box (one of four looks available) is filled with a softly-shimmering cream colour base, a duo of warm and natural nude shades for coverage and definition, a classic black kohl eyeliner and MAC’s Haute & Naughty Lash black mascara with the coolest disco-esque packaging.

Also included is a flattering beige-pink powder blush and MAC’s best-selling Ruby Woo retro matte lipstick. The box is ideal for going from day to night with an extra slick of eye liner and striking red lips.

Finally is the Bobbi Brown Crazy For Color Lip Palette, for when you can’t decide which lipsticks to pack. This gorgeous palette has everything you need, from a peachy nude to a deep red and hot pink.  I was told that the ‘Bobbi way’ to get the perfect lip is to blend some of the colours together to get the exact shade that you want, so don’t be afraid to get creative.

Next time you’re travelling, be sure to leave a little more time to get the most out of the duty-free shopping experience.  With massages and mini facials on offer, I know I will!

All photos by Cherie City

counter massages.

Interiors

Interior Design Trends To Try At Home

Ever come back from a holiday and wish you could recreate the hotel look at home?  I’m always seeking design inspiration on my travels, whether it’s five star luxury in Hong Kong, an indie Montauk beach motel or a romantic urban bolthole in Paris.

One of the easiest ways to transform your living space is to keep the foundations simple and add bold accessories such as designer furniture, a statement roman blind from Blinds UK, beautiful artwork or even small trinkets.  I recently broke the uniformity of my modern, white living room with a colour-popping armchair that lifts my spirits every time I look at it – a great investment, for sure!

Here are a few interior trends for the home that never go out of style…

Modern Marie-Antoinette

I’ve always had fantasies of a boudoir inspired by Marie-Antoinette, but back in the real world, this level of decadence requires a contemporary approach.  Toile de Jouy brings an elegant French touch and it can be complemented by plush, light furniture or even a flash of neon to punk it up.

Get the modern Toile de Jouy look…

Beach Chic

One of my favourite UK seaside hotels, The Gallivant in Camber Sands, is a treasure trove of boho, beachy inspiration.  Whether it’s nautical stripes, driftwood furniture or azure-hued textiles, coastal style always feels fresh and makes you dream of sunnier climes and salty air.

Here are a few more ways to get that sea breeze style…

Painterly Florals

Take inspiration from fashion designers like Erdem and Mary Katrantzou with vivid, painterly florals.  The bolder the better and if you need a reference point, have a spin around one of the chic Firmdale Hotels, the Designers Guild store or one of Soho’s many luxury fabric stores.

Get inspired by a palette of painterly florals…

Would you try any of these interior design trends at home?  Which look is your favourite?

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