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cheriecity

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?

Sponsored post 

Cafes, London

Valentine’s Day at Dominique Ansel Bakery

What better way to celebrate Valentine’s Day than tasting delicious pink pastries with your love?  Cake is certainly the key to my heart, so I was excited to see what Dominique Ansel Bakery had in store to mark its first Valentine’s Day in London.

Leading up to the day of romance, Dominique Ansel Bakery has turned the pastry counter pink, offering a Valentine’s spin on its signature cakes, along with a few new surprises.

We visited yesterday afternoon and tried a selection of the limited edition Dressed in Pink pastries, as well as some of the classics.

Fresh Strawberry and Lychee Pavlova was simple and whimsical with two crunchy pastel pink meringue shells sandwiched together with a cool, velvety ganache and finished with juicy sliced strawberries and a pink chocolate heart.  The lychee flavour in the ganache was very subtle and I think it could have been amped up a little, but overall it was a lovely dessert for those who like plenty of sweetness.

Hibiscus Gingerbread Pinecone was pure artistry at work with exquisite presentation and layers of complex flavours.  It really looked the part, with more than 70 hand-cut dark chocolate petals and pink chocolate hearts.  Inside was smooth ginger mousse, fragrant hibiscus gelée, spiced cake with an aromatic kick and crispy feuilletine.  It had a spicy, seasonal flavour, like a jammy lebkuchen, and was just perfect for the wintry weather.

We also had the chance to taste the famous DKA – ‘Dominique’s Kouign Amann’ – and I can see why it’s such a favourite.  This version of the typical Breton cake had a crusty, caramelised top and inside were delicate layers of croissant-like dough and light slithers of sugar syrup.  It’s a good choice if you want something sweet yet substantial for an afternoon treat.

Finally, we managed to find some room for some freshly-baked mini Madeleines, served warm right out of the oven.  They were just so springy and airy with a delightful vanilla flavour – definitely the best madeleines I’ve ever tasted.

By that point, we’d hit a real sugar high, but there are still 11 more pink pastries in the collection to try! Highlights include a Cupid Religieuse, Chili Chocolate Eclair, Raspberry Mini Me Cake, Paris Je T’Aime and the highly Instagrammable Pomme D’Amour.  Then there are the sweet gifts like Valentine’s meringues, hot chocolate bottles and popcorn, so you can really treat the love of your life.

The Dressed in Pink collection is available until 14th February at Dominique Ansel Bakery, Belgravia.  For more information, visit: www.dominiqueansellondon.com

Chérie City was a guest of Dominique Ansel Bakery

All photos by Chérie City

Shopping, Valentine's Day

Valentine’s Day Gift Guide

Valentine’s Day is almost here, so it’s time to find a fabulous gift for your special someone, whether it’s a seductive luxury fragrance, a chic bracelet or delicious chocolates that look almost too good to eat.

Here are a few ideas that are sure to impress…

Bella Freud Close To My Heart Eau de Parfum, £95, Liberty
Chloé Marin Bracelet, £250, Farfetch
Glowing Radiance Aroma Roller, £29, ila spa
Sao Paulo Travel Guide, £25, Louis Vuitton
La Maison du Chocolat 48-Piece Chocolate Truffle Selection, £28.50, Selfridges
Camera Bag, £159.02, Pop & Suki
Love Of My Life Letter Cards, £11.95, Liberty
Emma Low-Cut Pump, £250, Repetto
Bamford Essential Oil Collection, £80, Liberty

London, Restaurants

Dinner at Farmstand, Covent Garden

I’m always on the look out for healthy and tasty eateries in London and Farmstand in Covent Garden is now one to add to the list of favourites.

Devised by Milwaukee native Steven Novick, Farmstand takes inspiration from the fresh fruit and vegetable roadside stands that you can find in rural America.  Ingredients are ethically sourced from British farms and producers and dishes are made in house every day.

Farmstand has a relaxed, casual vibe and in the evening, it has lots of atmosphere with twinkling candles and a cool soundtrack.  Best of all, you can order at the counter and sit down to a beautifully-prepared organic meal instantly – healthy fast food in chic surroundings.

The concept is simple – build your own box or plate with a choice of one main and two sides, or simply three sides, for £7.50 (or £11.50 with a glass of wine or beer included).  There is a good selection of organic meat, fish or plant-based mains and sides include grains and vegetables with exciting flavours.  Also, everything is free from wheat, gluten, dairy and refined sugar, so it’s suitable for those with intolerances.

I was tempted by the Slow-cooked beef brisket with mushrooms and tamari, accompanied by Roasted sweet potatoes with ginger and coconut yoghurt and Broccoli with tahini and sesame seeds.

The enormous portion of brisket was so tender and flaky with a rich and pleasantly salty flavour from the tamari.  The sweet potatoes were soft and juicy and topped with an amazingly creamy coconut yoghurt, while the broccoli was perfectly blanched with a slight crunch and a nutty flavour from the tahini.

Steven went for the Lamb meatballs with smoked paprika and tomatoes with Split fava beans, roasted peppers and pumpkin and Brown rice pasta with artichokes, mushrooms and marjoram.

The meatballs were plump and lean with an aromatic Middle Eastern flavour and a tangy tomato sauce.  Fava beans with sweet pumpkin were slightly spiced with cumin and the brown rice pasta was well-cooked with a velvety cream sauce.

For dessert, we couldn’t resist trying a Rose and pistachio cake from west London gluten-free Pearl & Groove.  It was a lovely, springy loaf cake with a subtly fragrant flavour.  We also loved the decadent Double chocolate brownie.  It may look petite, but it was actually quite substantial with a silky texture and flaky top.

Of course, cake requires tea and the Earl Grey by Postcard Teas was excellent – full-bodied and delicate.

Farmstand is the perfect spot for a quick and nutritious lunch or a fun dinner with friends over a glass of wine.  The food quality and level of cooking are fantastic, especially for the price, and you’re sure to leave feeling well-fed and satisfied.

Chérie City was a guest of Farmstand

Photos by Chérie City and Farmstand

Hotels, London

Studio Life at Leman Locke Hotel, London

London is quickly becoming the city for ‘next generation’ hotels and the newly-opened Leman Locke is really leading the way.

This forward-thinking hotel – the debut from new brand Locke Hotels – combines the luxury of a hotel with cool apartment living for creatively-minded folk who want a home away from home.  Its minimal, urban look may also be familiar – it was designed by Grzywinski + Pons, the New York design company behind gems such as The Nolitan Hotel, Boro Hotel and west London’s Urban Villa.

Located in buzzing east London, Leman Locke is set across a modern tower in rapidly evolving Aldgate. The area may be slick and modern, but it’s just moments way from London’s historic Brick Lane and Spitalfields, as well as being next to Aldgate East tube for quick access to the heart of the city.

Entering the hotel, your first encounter is with the cheery baristas at the hotel’s casual cafe Hyde, who give you a friendly hello every time you return.  This bright and sunny cafe keeps guests fuelled all day with pastries and paleo granola for breakfast, hand-crafted sandwiches and salads at lunch, afternoon cake with Chash teas and Volcano coffee and evening cocktails and craft beers.  It also attracts locals, particularly for Sunday brunch, so it has a good neighborhood vibe.

Hyde leads on to the cosy hotel lobby with a comfy seating area, copies of i-D magazine and plenty of quirky artefacts (I can’t help thinking it has a bit of a Wes Anderson feel).  We had a swift and efficient check in and scaled up to the 16th floor in the lift.

Our Studio was an absolute dream with the most gorgeous, highly Instagrammable interiors and impressive floor-to-ceiling views over the city, including The Shard.  The open-plan studio is designed in a soft palette of pastel pink, blue and white with geometric patterns, tactile wool and felt textures and touches of exposed concrete.

The cosy living area features a large LCD Smart TV, full-length mirror and a coffee table with art books, however the star of the show is the powder pink L-shaped sofa.  Seriously, it’s the most brilliant piece of furniture, as feels plush however you sit on it.  Why don’t I have one of these in my own home?

While the apartment overall is very spacious, the bedroom is quite petite, however the concrete partition cleverly gives it the combination of intimacy yet openness.  The bespoke Locke Dream bed was pretty comfortable with good pillows and a stunning wool throw, but I found the linen a little too crisp and rigid.

We were really impressed with the sleek, high tech kitchen complete with a top notch oven, fridge, dish washer, washing machine, digital kettle and toaster.  It also has a big selection of pristine utencils and cookware, a full set of china and handily, the Hemsley + Hemsley cook book for those creative moments in the kitchen.

To get you started is a nice little care package featuring a selection of lovely T2 Teas, ground coffee pods and a healthy treat – an indulgent bar of vegan maca, vanilla and cacao nib chocolate by Doisy & Dam.  There is also still mineral water and a mini bottle of milk in the fridge – a thoughtful touch.

The bathroom is also really spacious and well-appointed with a bath tub and top-of-the-range shower, heated towel rail, thick and fluffy towels, wide mirror and a very generous amount of storage space.

I was excited to find a full set of Kinsey Apothecary bathroom products in delicious scents such as Salted Caramel Vanilla and Himalayan Hibiscus.  This London-based body care company was a new discovery and it fits in well with Leman Locke’s approach to wellbeing and locally-sourced products.

It was hard to tear ourselves away from our new pad, but it’s definitely worth venturing out to try some of east London’s many exciting restaurants.  We had the most amazing dinner at lively and hip Smokestak in Shoreditch (a short 15-minute walk away) and highly recommend booking a table there if you like barbecued meats with a London twist.

Also worth checking out in the nearby area are Gunpowder, HotBox London, Canto Corvino, Blixen and London institution Duck & Waffle.

There is also plenty going on at Leman Locke with in-room spa treatments by Viva Therapies, a cultural programme including yoga, meditation and cooking, as well as Locke Coves that can be booked complimentary for quiet time through a House Host.

Leman Locke is a real game changer for London and its beautifully-designed studios are so inspiring that you might find yourself trying to recreate the look at home.  Whether it’s a staycation or an extended visit, make Leman Locke your stylish base and get to know a different side of London.

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

Chérie City was a guest of Leman Locke 

All photos by Chérie City

Hotels, Milan

Hotel Principe di Savoia, Milan

Milan is known as Italy’s city of style and there’s plenty of it to be found at the five star Hotel Principe di Savoia, part of the prestigious Dorchester Collection.

Opened in 1927, the historic hotel has a sense of grandeur, overlooking the open and leafy Piazza della Repubblica.  It’s also just a short walk from the artistic Brera quarter, designer shopping at 10 Corso Como in Porta Nuova and Central Station for convenient travel links.

Not only is the hotel a favourite among well-heeled Milanese and the international crowd during Milan Fashion Week, but it has hosted royalty and stars in its impressive Presidential Suite that boasts its own swimming pool.

Arriving at the hotel’s marble entrance, it instantly feels opulent and inviting, with beautiful flower arrangements and theatrical draped curtains.  This leads on to the lobby, where the open-plan lounge Il Salotto has a warm glow and is a delightful place to relax over a coffee or a club sandwich at any time of the day.

Keep meandering through the lobby and you’ll find the famous Principe Bar, a real hotspot for Milan Fashion Week parties, as well as its expertly-mixed cocktails and typically Milanese aperitivo bar bites.

Our check-in was friendly and welcoming and we were kindly shown to our Ambassador Junior Suite on a high floor.  It was simply breathtaking, designed in a characterful Art Deco style with dark wood panelling and a rich colour palette of regal purple, soft gold and cream.  The decorative wood furniture, silk-covered walls and luxurious carpet bearing the Dorchester Collection signature pattern added to the drama of the suite.

Ambassador Junior Suite features include a separate bedroom and sitting room with sliding door, reception area with spacious fitted wardrobes, two large LCD TVs, executive writing desk, minibar and complimentary wifi.

The queen-size bed was an absolute delight, covered in the most exquisite linen, and we found it ever so comfortable.  It’s also very quiet and peaceful around the hotel grounds, so you’re guaranteed a good night’s sleep.

The bedroom leads on to the bathroom of dreams!  The enormous white marble and mirror mosaic bathroom features a deep-soaking tub, a fabulous walk-in shower with strong water pressure, bidet, vanity-style sink, luxurious towels, plush bathrobes and slippers and a full set of Acqua di Parma amenities.  The underfloor heating and hot towel rail also make it feel cosy and inviting, like a boudoir that you might not want to leave.

A real perk of being a guest at Hotel Principe di Savoia is having access to the penthouse Club 10 Spa and Fitness Centre.  After an afternoon of culture at Fondazione Prada and a cheeky gelato from nearby Biancolatte to sustain us, we were ready for some spa relaxation.

The swimming pool was so heavenly and tranquil, with a fabulous adjoining hydro-massage tub for a real treat.  There is also a perfectly-maintained sauna and a powerful steam room with eucalyptus aromas.  For that bit of extra indulgence, the spa offers face and body treatments by [comfort zone] and Sensai.  In the warmer months, the outdoor terrace, with views over Porta Nuova, is an ideal spot to relax with healthy drinks and snacks.

In the morning, we had a lovely table at Acanto restaurant for a typical Italian breakfast.  This spacious and smart restaurant, overseen by Executive Chef Alessandro Buffolini, boasts elegant Murano glass chandeliers and a veranda overlooking the hotel’s beautiful Italian garden.

Breakfast is a stylish affair with a copious buffet offering classic hot dishes from the live chef station, Italian meats and cheeses, smoked salmon, luxury yoghurts, pastries, at least three different cakes and a selection of home-baked bread rolls.

There is also an a la carte menu for more elaborate breakfast dishes and if you visit on a weekend, a decadent Sunday Brunch is served just after noon, with a sumptuous buffet, live jazz and Champagne.

The Dorchester Collection hotels always have some extra treats in-store for guests and what could be better than your own private car to do a spot of shopping on the Via Montenapoleone or arriving in style for an evening at Teatro della Scala?  Every day, from morning to early evening, a complimentary limousine service to the city centre is offered to all hotel guests.  That’s not to say that the hotel is far away – it’s just a pleasant 20-minute walk through the chic Quadrilatero Della Moda neighbourhood to the heart of Milan – but why not indulge.

Hotel Principe di Savoia is a stunning hotel with so much charm, sophistication and fabulous facilities. Compared to the city’s ultra-luxe (and eye-wateringly expensive) designer brand hotels, rooms at the Principe start at a surprisingly modest rate, making it the perfect choice for a luxurious weekend in Milan.

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

Chérie City was a guest of Hotel Principe di Savoia

Photos by Chérie City and Hotel Principe di Savoia

London, Restaurants

Dinner at Smokestak, London

Saturday night barbecue in Shoreditch is my kinda night out, and where better than the newly-opened Smokestak?

It’s heartwarming to see stars of the street food scene thrive and launch a restaurant of their own.  While Smokestak’s branding has always been on point, the food market set-up has its limits, so it was exciting to see what founder David Carter had in mind when given free reign with the menu, design and location.

Smokestak opened to rave reviews and I’m pleased to report that it’s just as thrilling and brilliant as expected. The first thing you’ll notice when approaching the restaurant is the intoxicating aroma of smoked meats and secondly, the cool and unique exterior that takes urban-industrial design to another level.

Inside, it’s buzzing and loud – a slick operation and clearly the place to be on a Saturday night in Shoreditch. As if you aren’t already drooling by this point, the open kitchen offers a glimpse of what’s to come out of that wood-burning smoker and there is table and counter seating at either side, as well as a more zen basement bar for cosy cocktails and bar bites.

The moody interiors are inspired by the inside of a smoker with black carbon-stained concrete walls, steel surfaces, solid wood seating, leather banquettes and even black metal cutlery.  It’s like a gloriously charred, steampunk workshop and I can’t think of any London restaurants with this kind of dark and sexy look.

At first, I wasn’t thrilled at being seated at the end of the counter, next to a narrow pathway to the less glam side of the kitchen.  My coat was on the floor, my bag kept falling off the hook, the staff were zooming past us constantly and I must have flashed half the restaurant each time I clambered up on my very high stool.  I don’t really mind counter seating, when I’m not knee-deep in a pile of coats and scarves, but this felt a bit chaotic.

Luckily, service is speedy and super-charming and I was quickly dazzled and distracted by the arrival of some real eye candy food.  The concept is all about sharing, so we ordered two different meats and two sides, which was more than enough for a good feed.

The Beef brisket with barbecue (£9.50) was magnificently tender with a rich flavour and a small layer of melt-in-the-mouth fat.  The home-made barbecue sauce had a mellow, spiced taste and the pickled red chillies added a tangy punch.  It can also be served packed inside a brioche bun, but for the first visit, I preferred to get the full flavour of the meat on its own.

I thought the brisket couldn’t be matched, but the Thick-cut pork ribs were also divine and made for a nice contrast.  The lean meat had a very pure taste and was enveloped in silky fat with charred edges enhanced by a bold, full-bodied dry rub.  The portion size of the ribs was particularly generous and they were just so satisfying.

Sides aren’t merely an after-thought either, in fact, the Jacket potato with smoked rarebit (£5) was quite an event in itself.  The crispy smoked potato skins were filled with a lovely mix of scorched, gooey cheese with mild rarebit seasoning and soft, slightly sweet potato.  I think we scored an extra portion, shhh…

Another gem was the Roasted carrots and parsnips with thyme and honey (£4.50).  The aromatic, sticky glaze really enhanced the flavours and I could detect some additional herbs and zesty orange.

We were feeling pretty full by that point (I blame the boulder-esque jacket potato) but found room to share a light dessert.  Salted caramel ice cream with hazelnut praline (£4.50) was ultra-smooth with an intense flavour (you could actually taste the salt in the salted caramel) and punctuated with a layer of golden crunchy nuttiness.  It was the perfect end to a fabulous meal, but if you have an appetite for further indulgence, try the Sticky toffee pudding or Plum crumble with malt ice cream.

Smokestak not only does the most mouth-watering barbecued meat, but it’s a fun destination restaurant with tons of atmosphere, modest prices and really dedicated staff.  I know I’ll be back pretty soon to indulge my barbecue cravings on these cold winter nights.

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

Photos by Chérie City

Smokestak Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Hotels, New York

A Stay at Holiday Inn Brooklyn Downtown

Think you know everything about the dependable, mid-market Holiday Inn brand?  What if I told you the next generation Holiday Inn is a super-stylish, millennial-friendly haven over in downtown Brooklyn?

Holiday Inn Brooklyn Downtown was a fantastic base for our first proper night in New York last year.  Since our priority that day was securing our marriage licence at the Office of the City Clerk in Downtown Manhattan, we chose a hotel with quick access to make things nice and easy – it’s just three subway stops away.  Also, I was lured in by the newness of the just-opened hotel and its cool design by Andres Escobar.

The hotel is in an ideal position on Schermerhorn Street in Brooklyn’s buzzing Boerum Hill neighbourhood.  Not only is it within walking distance of the Barclay’s Center, but there are some great shopping and dining spots nearby, like Bklyn Larder, Flatbush Farm, Cafe Luluc and Doughnut Plant (order the Carrot Cake doughnut).

On arrival, the hotel lobby feels so calm with a living wall, a spectacular light-reflecting crystal prism-shaped chandelier and an Instagrammable quartz mosaic floor.  The lobby leads on to a spacious atrium guest lounge with a relaxing waterfall feature, communal work areas and intimate booths complete with their own TVs – it’s quite a social hub.

Also on the ground floor is Brasserie Séoul, a cool (and very Brooklyn) industrial-chic restaurant offering dishes inspired by modern French and traditional Korean cuisine.  It’s also the place for a hearty breakfast of Eggs Benedict, Mini Malted Waffles or a Sunrise Sandwich.

Our check-in was friendly and dedicated and we were able to have early access our King Room on a high floor.  The room was very spacious, bright and pristine, designed in a natural palette of walnut, mink and white with chrome highlights.

As expected for a brand new hotel, everything is well-designed with plenty of electrical sockets, a large LCD TV with premium channels, reading lights, full-length mirror, coffee maker and a mini fridge.  Our king-size bed was also extremely comfortable and plush, plus it was so quiet that we had a great night’s sleep.

We found the bathroom pretty luxurious and just the right size with a high-pressure walk-in shower, large fluffy towels, proper hairdryer and a full set of Bath & Body Works bathroom products.

Another perk of staying at the Holiday Inn Brooklyn Downtown is the impressive Health Club.  The hotel was still so new when we visited that this facility wasn’t open yet, but now all guests can unwind in the sleek indoor spa pool, hot tub, sauna, steam room, cold shower and gym.  What could be better after a long day exploring the city?

Holiday Inn Brooklyn Downtown really wowed and I can’t recommend it enough.  Not only is it thoughtfully-designed, affordable and in a handy location, but it has a relaxed neighbourhood vibe that you might not expect from such a big brand.  I’m definitely considering it again for my next New York trip, as I just have to try that amazing pool.

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

Photos by Chérie City and Holiday Inn Brooklyn Downtown