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Bailiffscourt Hotel & Spa, West Sussex

Have you ever wanted to live like a Medieval princess, looking out over your manor from the comfort of an opulent four poster bed?

Bailiffscourt Hotel & Spa in West Sussex is the place to step back in time and immerse yourself in ye olde England.

Part of Historic Sussex Hotels, Bailiffscourt Hotel & Spa in fact dates back to 1927, rather than the Middle Ages.  Lord and Lady Moyne commissioned antiquarian and architect Amyas Phillips to model the house on a Medieval country residence, indulging Lady Moyne’s love of this age.  There is of course a true relic of the Medieval era to be found at Bailiffscourt in the form of a 13th century chapel in the grounds.

I visited with my Mum for an overnight stay the night before our two-night sailing onboard the Celebrity Eclipse in nearby Southampton.  It only seemed right to break up our train journey and discover beautiful West Sussex for the first time.  We arrived at Littlehampton Station from London Victoria and the hotel was just a short 10-minute taxi ride away.

Bailiffscourt Hotel & Spa is surrounded by 30 acres of land with luscious green fields, wildlife such as roaming peacocks and nearby pebbly Climping Beach.  Sadly the weather was not on our side and we were battling powerful gales that prevented us from exploring the hotel’s picturesque surroundings (we did have a stunning view from our window, though).

The hotel features 39 charming rooms and suites located in the Medieval House and a series of smaller building, some of which can be accessed through an underground tunnel.  We checked in and were taken through the maze of lounges with open fireplaces to our signature Junior Suite in the Medieval House.

The large, period-style room was certainly impressive, designed in warm ochre with bright floral and dark wood highlights.  Its interiors felt very authentic with a grand four poster bed, stone walls, mullioned windows, oil paintings and tapestries.

Other room features include a separate comfy seating area, large flat-screen satellite TV and posh tea and coffee facilities with a beautiful Polish pottery tea set and cafetiere.  We were delighted with the selection of proper ground coffee and a selection of black and herbal teas, as well as a glass pot containing delicious home-baked biscuits.

We were also kindly welcomed with a bottle of Champagne on ice and a hand-written note, as well as bottled mineral water.  There were even some board games provided, in case we felt like a rare digital detox (the hotel offers free wifi, but the signal is rather weak).

Happily, the large bathroom wasn’t in the slightest bit Medieval, in fact, it appeared to be very new.  It features a fabulous walk-in shower, roll-top bath, extra-wide towels, plush bathrobes and slippers, colourful Pip Studio accessories and two full sets of Temple Spa bathroom products.

The gem of Bailiffscourt Court is the amazing spa, where you can easily spend hours unwinding.  The spa is a real contrast to the historic interiors of the hotel, housed in a contemporary barn with high ceilings.

We loved the 12-metre indoor pool that was just the right temperature (I often find hotel pools too cold) and spent a long time in the hot, bubbling jacuzzi.  There’s also a fabulous sauna and steam room, plenty of pool loungers and a relaxation room with refreshments.

I enjoyed the most heavenly Drift Away Massage (55 mins) using lovely Temple Spa products.  It really was one of the most effective, enjoyable massages I’ve ever had and I was so deeply relaxed that I almost did drift away.  My friendly, intuitive therapist Laura worked on my back, legs and with medium pressure and then finished with a dreamy shoulders, scalp and face massage.

In the evening, we dined at the hotel’s Tapestry Restaurant, which serves a modern British menu by head chef Russell Williams.  I would’ve liked the restaurant to have the boisterous atmosphere of a Medieval banquet hall, but perhaps as hotel guests, we were all just too polite and chilled out from the spa!

I started with the Grilled scallops with cauliflower soup, baby spinach and Parmesan crisp.  The scallops were well-cooked but the cauliflower soup lacked seasoning and the dish needed another flavour such as chorizo or pancetta to add some saltiness.

The tastier choice was my mum’s Poached duck egg with artichoke puree, chargrilled ciabatta, baby spinach and wild mushrooms, which was rich and well-balanced.

We both really enjoyed our main courses – they were indulgent, colourful, well-presented and had plenty of flavour.  I loved my perfectly medium Honey glazed duck breast with braised chicory, confit duck leg and prune faggot, potato puree, spiced plum sauce and parsnip crisp.

My mum went for a lighter but equally yummy Beetroot and ricotta ravioli with barbecued winter squash and red onion, toasted pinenuts, sage and squash puree.

My dessert of Hot chocolate souffle, white chocolate cream and Bellini sauce was pleasant but much too big for one person.  However, my mum’s Glazed lemon tart with gin and tonic sorbet was zesty, fresh and just the right size.

After a glorious night’s sleep in our four-poster bed, we enjoyed a tasty breakfast in the Tapestry Restaurant.  The breakfast selection was very good with hot dishes, glazed carvery ham, cheeses, pastries, mini muffins, granola, porridge, Greek yoghurt with fruit compote and seeds and fresh juices.  In the warmer months, guests can take all meals in the pretty courtyard filled with roses.

Bailiffscourt Hotel & Spa is an idyllic retreat in beautiful surroundings and the highlight of our stay was the outstanding spa.  For a weekend of pampering and fresh sea air just a short train ride away from London, Bailiffscourt offers the perfect escape.

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

Chérie City was invited by Bailiffscourt Hotel

Photos by Chérie City and Bailiffscourt Hotel

Hotels, London, Restaurants

Dinner at Min Jiang, London

Min Jiang has been on my foodie wish list for a while, so I was delighted to visit with a small group of food and lifestyle bloggers for a photography masterclass and dinner.

This fine dining Chinese restaurant on the tenth floor of the Royal Garden Hotel Kensington opened in 2008 to rave reviews, particularly about its wood-fired Beijing duck.

Really good Chinese food is one of my favourite indulgences, so I was looking forward to sampling some of Min Jiang’s signature dishes while marveling at the panoramic views over Kensington Gardens.

But before we could pick up our chopsticks, we had some snapping to do with professional photographers Rafe Abrook and Oli Sander.

We took over Min Jiang’s gorgeous deep red private dining room to talk all things photography.  We took away plenty of expert tips for improving our food photography and had some time to practice shooting Min Jiang dishes with guidance from the pros.

Rafe and Oli recommended investing in a portable camera light to combat the yellow glare of the tungsten lighting usually found in restaurants.  The super cool light sabre may be a bit intense for the dinner table, but the smaller box size can fit in your handbag for a quick lighting fix on the go.

We then moved into the main dining room for a cosy dinner – cameras still out, of course!  First up was the Steamed Dim Sum Platter in four different flavours.  The delicate parcels were cooked perfectly and generously filled – my favourite was the prawn Har Gau.

Bi Feng Tang Soft Shell Crab with Garlic and Chili was crunchy and flavoursome with crispy fried onions and large pieces of red chili.  I’d expected it to be a fiery dish, but it was actually quite subtle and utterly moreish.

Min Jiang’s Legendary wood-fired Beijing Duck is indeed worthy of high praise.  The meat was tender and juicy with a good amount of fat and crispy, lacquered skin.  It was served with light and airy pancakes, a mouth-watering hoisin sauce, extra pieces of scorched skin and all of the usual trimmings.

Thankfully a second plate was brought out, so we could continue rolling these exquisite pancakes.  It’s certainly hard to exercise restraint and any kind of etiquette when sharing such a special, luxurious dish with hungry foodies, but I think we’re all still on speaking terms.

For the main course, we shared a few signature dishes.  Sauteed Gong Bao Tiger Prawns were covered in a deliciously sticky ginger glaze and punctuated with roasted cashews and chili.

Diced Rib Eye of Beef with Black Pepper Sauce had a smoky, chargrilled taste and was ever so tender, doused in a rich, mellow sauce.  It went perfectly with the steamed, wilted Pak Choi with Garlic.

Our individual bowls of Fried Noodles were super tasty, but the portion size was a bit small and I found only a sliver of the second serving of roast duck.  It was a taster dinner though, so the typical set menu noodle servings may be more substantial.

The Seasonal Fruit Platter was beautifully presented and refreshing but not the most exciting dessert to end the meal.  Min Jiang does actually have a rather tempting dessert menu, so you can look forward to trying treats such as Poached Black Sesame Dumpling, Mango Cream with Sago Pearls and Pomelo or the Chilled Orange and Ginger Soup.

Min Jiang is a great destination restaurant for a celebration with exceptional food that matches the impressive views.  It has a grown-up, contemporary-classic feel and is likely to become a London institution for top notch Chinese fine dining.

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

Chérie City was a guest of Min Jiang

Photos by Chérie City (interiors by Min Jiang)

Click to add a blog post for Min Jiang - Royal Garden Hotel on Zomato

Bars, Hotels, London

Cocktails at GONG, Shangri-La Hotel, at The Shard, London

On one of the hottest days of the year last week, I escaped the intense heat high above the city in the stylish surroundings of GONG at Shangri-La Hotel, at The Shard, London.

The impressive five star hotel – set across the 34th to the 52nd floors of Renzo Piano’s iconic building – opened last year and is already famed for its incredible views.

I’ve had the pleasure of staying in Shangri-La hotels in Asia and Europe, so on arrival at the London hotel, the speedy elevator ride and signature spiced tea scent felt familiar and took me back to my travels in China.

I arrived at GONG, Western Europe’s highest bar, on the 52nd floor of the hotel just in time for cocktail hour and perched on a comfy seat at the bar.

The contemporary Asian interiors are ever so sleek, with plenty of grey marble and dark magenta highlights framing the spectacular 360 degree views of the city.  I’m not sure if it was the relief of the glorious air-conditioning or the altitude, but I could definitely feel that we were at a high level.

Our host for the next few hours was Head Mixologist Christian Maspes (formerly of the American Bar at The Savoy), who took us on a tasting journey of GONG’s signature cocktails.  He was named the winner of last year’s Shangri-La Bartender of the Year and constantly experiments with premium Asian and British spirits to create innovative new drinks.

Christian began by telling us that the GONG cocktail menu is divided into four categories to represent the essence of Shangri-La, its home in vibrant London, unique sensory experiences and a celebration of rare spirits.

To start, we visited the mythical land of Shangri-La with Mantras – Haig Club scotch whisky, coconut cream, cardamon, turmeric, limoncello and home-made saffron syrup.  This was one of my favourite cocktails, particularly for this hot day, as it was so smooth, refreshing and subtly aromatic (almost like an Indian lassi drink).

To accompany our drinks, we were treated to a delicious taster plate of the new bar food menu, including Iberico ham with tomato chutney, Wasabi and ginger cured salmon with yuzu cream on toast, Rosemary foccaccia with roasted vegetables and Chicken breast with mango and avocado on sourdough.

From the Nest of London section, we tried a rather regal Elizabeth’s Diadem – Jensen’s Bermondsey Dry gin, carrot juice, rosemary and Olorosso sherry.  This was a zingy, fragrant cocktail that was a bit like a healthy cold-pressed juice but with the welcome addition of gin and sherry – a great combination in my opinion.

Jensen’s Bermondsey Dry gin is made just 10 minutes walk away from the hotel at Bermondsey Distillery, created by Christian Jensen in order to bring back the neighbourhood’s golden age of gin-making.

From the Awaken Your Senses section, we tried the Turkish Chinata – Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva, Mozart chocolate, Barolo Chinato, salt, berry fondue.  This was a curious sensory experience as the sweet, characterful cocktail, served in a Turkish coffee pot, was garnished with both chocolate shards and pungent truffle oil.

Christian explained that the truffle oil usually divides guests and I found that it confused my palate a little, as my palate didn’t know whether to expect a sweet or savoury flavour.  It may not be to everyone’s taste, but it’s certainly an interesting option to try if you like to give your taste-buds a challenge.

We finished with two cocktails from the Forgotten Elixirs section – the first was the El Jimador – Mezcal, kaffir lime leaves infused in maraschino, lime and Chartreuse Verte.  The blend of Mezcal and Chartreuse Verte made it lethally strong, but it was easy to drink and had a citrus tang from the lime.

Our final cocktail was an Anaesthetic Crusta – Remy Martin VSOP, Mandarine Napoleon, home-made orange cordial, lemon and maraschino.  It had a delicious sherbet orange flavour and was very mellow with a bit of crunch from the poppy seeds – it would be one of my top choices to order again.

GONG is much more than a luxury viewpoint near the top of The Shard, it’s a real destination bar with imaginative, expertly-crafted cocktails and a relaxed atmosphere.  I can’t wait to go back for a chic cocktail by the infinity Skypool adjoining the bar and imagine I’m on a summer staycation.

For more information and booking, visit: www.gong-shangri-la.com

Chérie City was invited by Shangri-La Hotel, at The Shard, London

Photos by Chérie City (interiors by Shangri-La Hotel, at The Shard, London)

 

Bars, Hotels, London

Blooming Brilliance at The Rib Room, London

The Rib Room Bar & Restaurant at Jumeirah Carlton Tower brings a floral touch to Knightbridge with its Blooming Brilliance summer pop-up bar.

A central London institution, The Rib Room is luxurious yet homely – it’s the kind of place that you could easily become a regular.

I discovered the bar at The Rib Room last year and loved its elegant, clubby atmosphere, exquisite cocktails and delicious bar plates – the famed crab and lobster burger with thermidor sauce is seriously indulgent.

To celebrate the arrival of summer, one of the cosy private rooms has been transformed into an exotic floral retreat with a statement wall bursting with botanical herbs, vibrant flowers and citrus shrubs.  The floral theme continues on the fabulous outdoor terrace where you can enjoy al fresco drinks and a spot of people-watching.

Saverio Vicari, Head Mixologist at The Rib Room, has created 17 botanical-inspired cocktails and seasonal light cuisine specially for Blooming Brilliance.  The tempting cocktail menu features English classics with a floral twist, made using summery, refreshing spirits such as Bombay Sapphire Gin and Grey Goose Vodka.

I visited with a small group of writers and we tasted a variety of excellent cocktails from the menu such as the Jack and Shrub made with Gentleman Jack Bourbon, Amaro Lucano and strawberry shrub served in a copper mug and the zingy Tea Break with Bombay dry gin, green Chartreuse, green tea syrup and cucumber shrub.

Undoubtedly the all-round favourite of our group was the Basil Sour – Beluga vodka, lemon juice, ginger syrup and a teaspoon of basil olive oil.  It was aromatic and invigorating with a typical agrodolce flavour.

We chatted away late into the evening and enjoyed the sultry sounds of the live jazz band while grazing on moreish canapes including sticky sesame chicken, lobster tartlets, asparagus and prosciutto in breadcrumbs and tempura tiger prawns.  Weekday nights in the Royal Borough don’t come much better than this!

Blooming Brilliance will host a series of showcase evenings including Cocktail Creations on the 25thJune, and a summer botanical food demonstration on the 2nd July for £30.00 per person.  Open every day from 4pm, now until 2nd August.

Chérie City was a guest of The Rib Room

All photos by The Rib Room

Hotels, London

A Stay at The Nadler Kensington

Nadler Hotels is one of the most guest-friendly boutique hotel groups, offering a real home away from home experience.

I really enjoyed my stay at The Nadler Soho last year, so I was keen to check out The Nadler Kensington, its sister hotel on the other side of town.

The Nadler Kensington is located in an elegant converted townhouse in a well-heeled, leafy neighbourhood just a short stroll away from Earl’s Court Road.

It’s the ideal base for a weekend in London, with museums and sights such as V&A, Natural History Museum, Royal Albert Hall and Kensington Palace & Gardens on the doorstep.  Designer and vintage shopping, cool bars and great restaurants can also be found in nearby Notting Hill and Portobello Road.

I stayed at The Nadler Kensington the night before travelling on a morning coach from Victoria (just four stops away on the tube) and it’s also conveniently placed for both Gatwick and Heathrow airports, taking extra time off your journey in and out of London.

Nadler Hotels are all about affordable luxury, providing everything you need in your room for a comfortable, low-key stay with none of the additional hotel facilities that can push up the price (which you might not even use).  There is no fitness centre, spa, hotel restaurant, bar or breakfast room, however the hotel is pleased to arrange in-room dining from good local restaurants or a continental breakfast to order.

On arrival, we were warmly greeted by the team of Local Ambassadors who checked us in and offered a map and information about London, should we wish to go exploring.  The Lobby has the feel of an elegant Kensington home with comfy sofas, bookshelves and bay windows with floor-to-ceiling views over Courtfield Gardens.

The hotel has 65 rooms ranging from a Standard Single Room to the spacious Deluxe Room that accommodates up to four people and is ideal for families.

Our King Double Room on the first floor is accessible via grand staircase or by lift and overlooks quiet, cobbled Morton Mews at the back of the hotel.

We found the room petite and cosy with plenty of natural light.  The design is contemporary yet homely with a warm, neutral palette and light wood highlights.

The king-size bed was very comfortable with crisp white sheets, plush cushions and the same tactile faux fur throw as seen at The Nadler Soho.  The 26-inch HDTV at the foot of the bed is suitably high-tech with free internet, web radio and music library with over 6000 tracks.

The highlight of the room is the mini-kitchen, neatly hidden behind a sliding door with sensitive lights that switch on when you approach.  The kitchen includes a microwave, mini fridge, sink with a Britta tap for filtered drinking water, kettle, Nespresso machine with plenty of capsules and a selection of teas.  Also provided is a draw full of cooking utensils, a full set of luxury china and glassware and handy trays.

I was particularly pleased with the large teapot, so we could enjoy a proper cup of tea (just pick up some fresh milk from M&S at Earl’s Court on your way).

The room also features an ample-sized wardrobe, working desk, an iron and ironing board under the bed, air-conditioning and free unlimited wifi.

The bright and airy beige-tiled bathroom has a bath and shower with powerful water pressure, extra-large towels, bathrobes and slippers, heated towel rail and a full set of Gilchrist & Soames bathroom products.

That evening, we enjoyed a relaxing pampering session in our bathrobes with a hamper of products kindly provided by the hotel – who even needs a spa?  We sipped on chilled Bellinis while wearing gel eye masks and making good use of the Gilchrist & Soames products (the delicious home-made biscuits were swiftly devoured earlier with a pot of Earl Grey).

We ate locally on Earl’s Court Road, picked up some snacks for the room and really made the most of our London staycation and the peace and quiet that we can’t usually find at home – it truly was blissful.

The Nadler Kensington is a great place to stay if you enjoy exploring and going out in London, but with essential home comforts back in your room.  While The Nadler Soho is a slick and tech-focused hotel in a vibrant part of town, The Nadler Kensington is sophisticated and discreet with an enviable SW5 address.

This autumn, Nadler Hotels expands further with its fourth hotel, The Nadler Victoria, located next to Buckingham Palace.  With Victoria becoming an increasingly interesting and buzzing area (Jason Atherton and Bone Daddies will soon move in), I’m looking forward to seeing what Nadler Hotels has planned for its 73-room hotel.

Rooms at The Nadler Kensington start from £138 per night for a Standard Single and a King Double Room is priced from £194 per night.  For more information, visit: www.thenadler.com/kensington

Chérie City was a guest of The Nadler Kensington

Photos by Chérie City and The Nadler Kensington

Events, Hotels, London, Restaurants

Mark Hix Carving Master Class at Brown’s Hotel, London

One of my all-time favourite meals is a good roast, so I was thrilled to be invited to an exclusive Carving Master Class with Mark Hix at Brown’s Hotel in Mayfair.

HIX restaurants are known for their top notch British meat and seafood, so where better to learn how to wield a carving knife than at HIX Mayfair?

The master class was hosted in the elegant Clarendon Room with wall murals painted with verses from Rudyard Kipling’s The Way Through the Woods and views over Dover Street.

I’d imagined the event would simply be a demonstration and Q&A but it was in fact a private dinner for a small group hosted entirely by Mark Hix for over two hours.  It was a rare treat to spend an evening with a renowned chef in this intimate setting and be able to chat freely.

We started the evening with a welcome drink before sitting down to get carving.  Mark spoke about the quintessentially British art of carving and introduced the cuts of meat that we’d be sampling during the dinner.

He then invited us to each come up and try carving a whole fillet of smoked salmon into thin slices for our sharing starters.  It made for a good ice-breaker and luckily there wasn’t too much pressure to be an instant carving pro.

The Albemarle smoked salmon ‘Hix cure’ was a million miles away from your regular supermarket smoked salmon with deep, oaky flavours and a melt-in-the-mouth texture –  I couldn’t get enough of it.

It was accompanied by some very moreish Whipped broad beans with Herefordshire goat’s curd and grilled flatbreads and a fresh, tangy Isle of Wight tomato and lovage salad with Sarson’s malt vinegar.

Our first main course meat was Roast Swainson House Farm barn-reared Indian Rock chicken served with Charlotte potato and green onion salad.

This is the signature Hix chicken – full of theatre and spectacle impaled on a spike with outstretched claws.  It is of course more natural than the usual trussed up chickens, but I can’t help thinking it has a rather comical Tim Burton-esque appearance.

I was the first in our group to carve the bird and I hesitantly got hold of the claw and sliced downwards to remove the leg, revealing the breast meat.  Once it was carved down to the bones, we all chose our cuts and helped ourselves to the side dishes served family-style.

This was one delicious chicken with flavoursome meat, golden, crispy skin and a tasty stuffing made with fresh sage, fried onions and chicken livers.  The potato salad was a nice summer alternative to the usual trimmings, but we still kept with tradition and enjoyed it with gravy.

I asked Mark the best way to make gravy and he told us that it’s difficult to get really good gravy if you prepare it at the same time as the meat from the roasting juices.  He advised simmering chicken wings and necks with some roasted vegetables in a pressure cooker and making large quantities in advance, storing in the freezer until the next roast.

The meat was paired with Mark Hix’s own wine (in collaboration with fellow restaurateur Mitch Tonks) - 2013 Tonnix White, Quinta de la Rosa, Douro Portugal.  Being part of the YBA scene, he asked his mate Tracey Emin to etch a drawing for the label – it’s definitely the coolest bottle of wine I’ve ever seen.

I could have easily wolfed down more of the chicken, but it’s worth pacing yourself as there are still two other meats to indulge is and the portion sizes just seem to increase.

Next up was the Herb-baked leg of Launceston lamb with Minted cucumber, samphire and shallot salad.  The magnificent joint of lamb was cooked in hay to lock in moisture and keep the meat soft.  The lamb was incredibly succulent and juicy with a layer of browned, melted fat.  I’m not a fan of cucumber, but the salad looked colourful and fresh.

To round off the meat feast, we enjoyed Roast Boccadon Farm rib of veal with Broad bean and Wye Valley asparagus salad.  This was my favourite, as the veal was so lean and tender with a very clean taste.  By this point I think we let Chef handle the carving and were treated to chunky, substantial halved ribs each.

The veal was paired with another excellent HIX wine – 2013 Tonnix Red, Quinta de la Rosa, Douro Portugal (there’s also a rosé wine in the collection).

Of course there’s always room for dessert and this one was a very boozy Oakchurch Farm strawberry and Tonnix white port trifle.  It was light and fruity with vanilla-scented cream, velvety custard, sponge soaked in copious amounts of white port and jelly studded with fresh strawberries.

Usually a big roast might end with an afternoon snooze, of which lucky Brown’s Hotel guests will have the privilege, but we finished with a round of espresso (Jasmine tea for me) and exquisite Cider brandy truffles.

Before leaving, we had the chance to select a Mark Hix cookbook, which he kindly signed and personalised.  I chose the HIX Oyster and Chop House book and look forward to trying some of the recipes.

As if that wasn’t enough, we were kindly given a goody bag packed with Cornish sea salt, hillfarm rapeseed oil, some insanely decadent Hix Fix morello cherries in Somerset cider brandy, a copy of the first HIX Magazine and a Brown’s Hotel apron.

The Mark Hix Carving Master Class was such a fun, friendly private dining experience and I highly recommend it for carnivorous foodies looking for something a bit special.

Two-hours classes are hosted by Mark Hix every month (priced at £185 per person) and include a feast of sharing starters, all of the featured cuts of meats with wines to match, dessert and a goody bag including a signed cookbook and Brown’s apron.

Forthcoming dates: Wednesday 24th June, 29th July, 30th September, 28th October & 18th November 2015.  For more information and booking, visit: www.roccofortehotels.com

Chérie City was a guest of Browns Hotel

Photos by Chérie City and Browns Hotel

 

Hotels, Paris

A Left Bank Stay at Hotel Saint-Dominique, Paris

It’s been a few years since I stayed on Paris’ Left Bank, so what better way to rediscover the area with a stay at the stylish Hotel Saint-Dominique?

I always keep a close eye on the Paris hotel scene, but it was a pleasant surprise to stumble across this beautiful gem on rue Saint-Dominique in the seventh arrondissement.

Hotel Saint-Dominique is a four star independent boutique hotel with a focus on contemporary design.  It’s a small, cosy hotel with friendly staff and a number of thoughtful features to really make you feel at home.

As the name may suggest, Hotel Saint-Dominique is housed in a former 17th century convent built during the same period as Les Invalides for a religious order.  It also boasts a picturesque view of the Eiffel Tower from the street and is just a short walk away from the Champs de Mars, Les Invalides and Pont Alexandre III.

Our Junior Suite on the top floor overlooking rue Saint-Dominique was enormous and I loved the minimalist interiors with quirky design touches.

The super-comfy king-size bed with reading lamps is covered with high quality linen and a grey felt throw and cushions with a purple trim.

Other features include a long corner sofa, executive writing desk, air-conditioning, free wifi, loan of a mini iPad, Nespresso machine with plenty of espresso capsules and a separate kettle for making tea.  A highlight is the complimentary minibar stocked with Evian and Badoit, Granini orange juice and a can of Coke Zero.

I couldn’t help thinking that a room this size should have a slightly larger wardrobe than the multi-functional mirror one, but it did the trick for a short stay.

The suite is sophisticated and furnished to a high standard, but it also has a playful side with colourful bedside tables, cool rope-mounted photos of the Sacré-Coeur and a plush carpet trimmed with yellow crosses (or ‘bisous’, if you’re a romantic).

We were kindly welcomed with some delicious macarons and a delightful book – The Best Places to Kiss in Paris.  It was a lovely touch and totally in tune with our rose-tinted view of Paris – even after countless trips it still feels like the most magical city for us.

The white tiled bathroom has a cool urban feel and is an adequate size with a powerful walk-in shower, rectangular marble sink, fluffy towels, bathrobes and a full set of Azzaro bathroom products.

We weren’t so lucky with the weather during our trip, but happily the hotel has plenty of posh umbrellas, which kept us a bit drier on the walk over to the Jeanne Lanvin exhibition at the Palais Galliera.

On the way back to the hotel, we warmed up with a delicious bowl of soupe à l’oignon gratinée at neighbouring Bar du Central – a casual, stylish bistro just a few steps away.

That evening, we enjoyed a fabulous dinner at L’Oiseau Blanc at The Peninsula Paris. Hotel Saint-Dominique doesn’t have a restaurant, however it has a reasonably-priced, tempting room service menu if you fancy a cosy night in.

Of course, the 7th arrondissement is filled with foodie delights that you won’t want to miss out on.  For a memorable dinner on the doorstep, visit Brasserie Thoumieux by Jean François Piège just a few doors down, or Stephane Jego’s much loved L’Ami Jean, known for its outrageously decadent salted caramel rice pudding.

If you’re in the mood for something sweet, rue Saint-Dominique has a number of excellent Parisian boulangeries and patisseries, including one of my favourites, Aux Merveilleux.

After a lovely, peaceful night’s sleep, we went down to the breakfast room for a leisurely Parisian breakfast.  I loved this bright, Scandi-style breakfast room with comfy seats and flowers on the tables.

The buffet was filled with a generous morning offering of fresh baguette, mini pastries, crepes, pancakes, granola, cured meats, cheeses and yoghurts.

Hot items are also included and are made to order.  I was in the mood for croissants and jam but the friendly French-speaking lady who was looking after us for breakfast cooked up a fresh plate of scrambled eggs and smoked salmon for Steven.

Everything was nicely done and in the warmer months, it would be a delight to have breakfast in the pretty Parisian courtyard.

Hotel Saint-Dominique is the perfect base for a stylish city break with great design, an inspiring location and affordable rates.  It feels like a secret address in Paris where you can live like a Parisian on the elegant Rive Gauche.

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

Chérie City was a guest of Hotel Saint-Dominique

Photos by Chérie City and Hotel Saint-Dominique

Brunch, Hotels, London, Restaurants

Le Brunch at The Balcon, Sofitel London St James

Weekends don’t get much better than when brunch is involved.  Especially when it’s a lazy, late and luxurious brunch, so you can catch a few extra hours of beauty sleep (or recover from the excesses of Saturday night).

If you like your Sunday brunch with an air of sophistication, The Balcon at Sofitel London St. James has just launched its fabulous new Le Brunch menu.  Classic French dishes are given a creative twist and feature alongside brunch favourites, American-inspired dishes and lighter, healthy options.

We visited the elegant Russell Sage-designed restaurant for a long, mid-afternoon brunch and were seated at a lovely corner booth with views over elegant Waterloo Place.  We were warmly greeted by the delightful staff, who explained the menu and chatted to us about our weekend.

The special brunch drinks are just as exciting as the food, including a Kir selection from the Champagne Bar, potent coffee and rum-based cocktails, alcoholic milkshakes and frappé coffees.

I chose a Kir with Pear Liqueur and Bulgare tea (£10), which was sweet, fragrant and refreshing, served chilled in a large wine glass with fresh raspberries.  I really enjoyed the white wine in the Kir, but you could ask for a Kir Royale if you prefer to start the brunch with Champagne.

Steven tried the Black Russian milkshake (£8) made with dark rum, Mozart chocolate liqueur, chocolate ice cream and milk.  It was decadent yet light and milky and just boozy enough.

To start, we were brought two slices of savoury cake – a bold Mediterranean-style black olive tapenade flavour and a richer, more French ham and cheese.  We were fans of both and thought they were an interesting alternative to the usual bread basket, however a mountain of freshly-baked bread rolls with French butter soon followed too!

While we were waiting for our first dishes, we had a long chat with our lovely waitress Neslihan about her native Turkey and she recommended a contemporary Persian singer that she had recently seen live at Barbican.  She kept us entertained until our food arrived and it was so nice to build a rapport with the staff – everyone in the restaurant was treated like regulars.

I couldn’t resist trying the Duck Eggs Benedict with Bayonne ham and green asparagus.  This was one of the best Eggs Benedict I’ve ever had.  The duck eggs were poached to perfection with runny, vibrant orange yolks and were perched atop fluffy toasted English muffins, steamed chunky asparagus spears and a generous amount of flavoursome, freshly-carved Bayonne ham.

Steven went for the more indulgent Grilled jerk marinated steak and fried egg with cornmeal waffle and home-made barbecue sauce (£4 supplement).  The juicy, succulent medium-cooked steak was well-seasoned and had a delicious flame-grilled taste.  It went well with the crispy, grainy and slightly sweet cornmeal waffles and the fried egg and tangy, smoky barbecue sauce finished it nicely.

To follow, I ordered a quintessentially British dessert with a French flourish – Raspberry macaron Eton Mess.  It was a heavenly, whimsical dessert with lightly whipped, vanilla-scented Chantilly cream, fresh raspberries and soft, chewy raspberry-flavoured macaron pieces.  I couldn’t help thinking of Marie-Antoinette with each mouthful – she certainly would’ve approved of this dessert.

Warm chocolate and ginger tart with milk ice cream was another high point of the meal.  The luxurious chocolate fondant had a soft cake texture and oozed molten dark chocolate infused with aromatic ginger.  As it that wasn’t mind-blowing enough, it was set on a fine, buttery pastry base and topped with cool, light milk ice cream.

We finished our brunch with pots of Earl Grey and Jasmine Pearl tea, which were served in my favourite Sofitel Asian-style cast iron teapots (one day I will have one of my own, as well as a Sofitel SoBed).

Le Brunch at The Balcon is a fabulous way to make the most of your weekend.  The menu is full of tempting dishes and the top notch food leaves you feeling full and satisfied without being too much.  With such chic surroundings, notable service and a relaxed atmosphere, it’s the perfect choice for a memorable brunch.

Le Brunch at The Balcon is priced at £20 per person for two courses and is available from 12pm to 4pm every Sunday.  For more information and booking, visit: www.thebalconlondon.com

Chérie City was invited by The Balcon

Photos by Chérie City (interiors by The Balcon)

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Hotels, Paris, Restaurants

Dinner at L’Oiseau Blanc, The Peninsula Paris

When the much-anticipated luxury hotel The Peninsula Paris opened last summer, I couldn’t wait to get back to Paris to take a peek inside.

On my recent trip to Paris, I happily had the chance to visit the five star hotel for dinner at its stunning rooftop restaurant, L’Oiseau Blanc.

This first Peninsula Hotel in Europe is housed in a grand 19th century Haussmannian former palace (also once the Hotel Majestic) on the prestigious Avenue Kléber, close to the Champs-Élysées and Arc de Triomphe.

The historic building has been beautifully-restored and is perfectly complemented by contemporary luxury interiors and Far Eastern design details referencing the origins of the exclusive hotel group (its iconic flagship hotel is The Peninsula Hong Kong).

On arrival, we were greeted by two stone lions guarding the entrance to the hotel, which leads on to the opulent white and gold Lobby.

Inside The Peninsula Paris is truly breathtaking with an elegant white marble promenade, sweeping black and gold-trimmed staircase and exquisite artworks.  At the heart of the hotel is the Lobby’s ethereal Dancing Leaves installation, made with over 800 hand-blown glass leaves by Lasvit.

The Peninsula Paris is a delight for foodies with authentic Chinese fine dining at LiLi, the gilded Lobby serving The Peninsula’s famed afternoon tea and The Kléber Terrace offering international dishes including the all-important Club Sandwich and typical Parisian steak.

L’Oiseau Blanc restaurant, bar and terrace on the sixth floor is the jewel in the hotel’s crown with spectacular 360 degree views over the city.

The restaurant has an aviation theme and even boasts a custom-made biplane hovering above the courtyard as though en route towards the Eiffel Tower.  It is in fact a replica of the ill-fated biplane flown by flying aces Charles Nungesser and Francois Coli who attempted to cross the Atlantic in 1927 from Le Bourget.

Peninsula Hotels are known for their love of motor vehicles, such as the fleet of Rolls Royces at The Peninsula Hong Kong, and L’Oiseau Blanc extends its tribute to aviation with flying objects and artefacts in glass cases and biplane motifs on the menu and tableware.

At the helm of L’Oiseau Blanc is acclaimed Alsatian Chef Sidney Redel, who previously worked for Pierre Gagnaire in Paris and Courchevel.

He brings Paris’ hip ‘bistronomy’ concept to L’Oiseau Blanc, celebrating France’s finest produce and seasonal ingredients with a daily-changing set menu.  This offering is a refreshing change from Michelin-style fine dining that you might expect from a restaurant in a five star luxury hotel.

The chic restaurant feels spacious yet intimate with leather banquettes, crisp white table cloths and red roses adorning the tables.  It also has a retractable roof, so you can enjoy dinner in the open air during the warmer months.

We started with a glass of crisp, refreshing Peninsula Paris Champagne and were swiftly treated to the dazzling light show from the Eiffel Tower.  It was a very memorable moment – what could be more romantic than sipping Champagne against the backdrop of one of the world’s most iconic monuments twinkling away?

We ordered from the three-course Sierra Menu (€99 per person), which offers two choices for each course, however the chefs are happy to present other options if there’s something else that takes your fancy.

To start, I ordered Carabineros – tandoori, bitter citrus marmalade.  This was a very satisfying Asian-inspired starter with complex, malty flavours from the mellow tandoori spices and intense citrus bitterness cut through with a flash of freshness from the cucumber.

Carabineros prawns are known for their bright red colour and robust flavours and these ones were tender, plump and utterly moreish.

Steven went for the Duck foie gras – terrine, smoked breast, beetroots and raspberries.  The high quality foie gras had a smooth texture and its rich flavour was lightened with the acidity and sweetness of the raspberries.  It was an interesting, modern way to serve a classic French dish.

I followed this with a typically French Matured beef chuck from Limousin, bone marrow, anchovies and spring onions.  The flavoursome beef was cooked medium as requested with a tender pink centre and was nicely browned on the outside.

It was served atop a smooth potato purée with paper-thin golden potato crisps, small pieces of soft bonemarrow, a wilted whole spring onion and a rich, meaty jus.  I didn’t actually detect the anchovies, but perhaps they were subtly blended with the potato.

Steven tried the John Dory seasoned with Iberian chorizo, carrots and turnips with curcuma.  The succulent, substantial fillet of John Dory had a clean, fresh taste and was complemented by the bold, slightly spicy chorizo.  The beautifully-presented vegetables added some colour and tasted lovely and market fresh.

Desserts at The Peninsula Paris are by Executive Pastry Chef Julien Alvarez – winner of the Coupe du Monde de la Patisserie in 2011 – and we were excited to see what he had designed for that evening.

Since we were so close to the Charle de Gaulle Étoile and gazing at the little stars adorning the Eiffel Tower, it seemed only right to try the Chocolate star, crunchy praline, macae ice cream.

This gorgeous dessert was everything that I’d hoped for.  The glossy dark chocolate dome was filled with a velvety chocolate mousse and ganache with a crunchy praline biscuit base.  The delicious macae ice cream was served atop a chocolate cookie and the delicate gold-painted star biscuit made it even more special.

Fruity freshness, almond biscuit, mango yuzu cream, strawberry sorbet was bursting with juiciness and exotic fruit flavours.  The soft almond sponge and fine biscuit was topped with fragrant, smooth mango and yuzu cream and fresh raspberries with flecks of gold leaf.

The strawberry sorbet was a real highlight and the mango and lime compote finished the dessert perfectly.

To round off our meal, we were served pots of Earl Grey tea and some decadent white chocolate nut clusters with a slightly iridescent sheen.  The rain started beating against the glass, but it did nothing to dampen our spirits as we couldn’t be more content sipping tea in front of the Eiffel Tower.

L’Oiseau Blanc at The Peninsula Paris is the perfect place to experience the magic of Paris from above with stylish surroundings, exceptional service and a creative yet unpretentious menu.  I’d love to visit again in the summer to make the most of the city views over a cocktail, however dinner in the evening with the Eiffel Tower light show is unmissable.

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

Chérie City was a guest of The Peninsula Paris

Photos by The Peninsula Paris and Chérie City

Hotels, Paris

A Stay at Hôtel Bourg Tibourg, Paris

Hôtel Bourg Tibourg is a real hidden gem in the heart of the Marais with the feel of an exquisite private residence.

Nestled on the chic rue Bourg-Tibourg, just a few steps away from high end tea emporium Mariage Frères, the hotel is so discreet that it may only be recognised by its signature clover motif.  I’ve strolled up and down this street countless times and this was the first time I’ve ever been able to locate the hotel.

Hôtel Bourg Tibourg is an independent Marais boutique hotel with a serious style pedigree, designed by the renowned Jacques Garcia in 2001.

The hotel has just 30 rooms and is small but perfectly formed, with exquisite interiors and a cool, sophisticated ambiance.  The style is neo-gothic with opulent Byzantine and Oriental touches.

Entering the hotel, it felt like we had arrived at a bijou Parisian townhouse with lots of character and a touch of mystery.  We were warmly welcomed by the staff dressed stylishly in black and were offered a drink in the lounge while our room was checked over.

It’s a delightfully homely space with comfy sofas, a vintage record player, coffee table books, a Costes brown candle burning an intoxicating wood and bitter orange scent and the sultry sounds of Hôtel Bourg Tibourg’s exclusive vinyl album, ‘Nice Girls Don’t Stay For Breakfast’, playing in the background.

Next door is a library and honesty bar with a plush chaise-longue, inviting armchairs and bowls of fresh red apples.  The double doors lead out on to the atmospheric, red-hued inner courtyard with a statement water fountain, creeping ivy and heady jasmine flowers blending with the aromas of burning candles.

After relaxing in the lounge momentarily, we were swiftly shown to our Double Deluxe Room via the super-tiny lift that can only really fit two people sans luggage.  The smart, royal blue corridors led on to our room, which we accessed with an ornate blue and gold tassle key.

We were pleasantly surprised with the size of our room, proving Jacques Garcia’s design philosophy that ‘small can become grand’.  It must be one of the sexiest bedrooms in Paris, designed with a mix of stripes and filigree in a palette of rich vermillion, ochre and navy blue.

There are some stunning design touches such as Jacques Garcia’s signature silk tassel lamps, side tables with studded legs and a luxurious striped carpet.

Room features include a super-comfy double bed covered in fine, crisp linen, a B&O flat screen TV, CD and DVD player, wardrobe with shelves and hanging space, minibar, free wifi and a cute upholstered table with little red velvet stools.

If you feel like having a cosy night in or escaping bad weather, you can watch a DVD from the extensive library with room service and borrow an iPad.

Waiting for us in the room was the most perfect plate of fresh strawberries and raspberries, a set of beautifully-shot postcards (the beautifully-shot images can be admired on the hotel website), an English edition of Palace Costes magazine and a hand-written welcome note.

We grazed on the delicious berries while exploring the room and they were made even sweeter when enjoyed on the romantic balcony, where we could people-watch from high above the Marais.

Behind the double wood doors carved with the hotel’s clover motif was the spacious, wood-panelled bathroom.  It includes a large sink, deep-soaking bathtub and mosaic-tiled shower with good water pressure and plenty of fluffy towels.

Best of all is the full set of Costes red line bathroom products with a spicy floral aroma of juniper berries, coriander seeds, rosewood, incense, musk, laurel, white pepper and lavender.  As a discerning hotel bathroom product lover, I was thrilled to try out these exclusive products during our stay and the intense scents filled our room with a seductive aroma.

That afternoon, Steven headed over to the Palais de Tokyo while I caught up with my Parisian friend Coralie for some shopping and afternoon tea in the Marais.  With so many French designer stores, cute independent boutiques and pavement cafes and boulangeries on the doorstep, the hotel’s prime location really is unbeatable.

After a glorious night’s sleep in that heavenly bed, we headed down to the basement breakfast room for a morning feast.  We had the cavernous, arched room all to ourselves and loved its atmospheric mix of Medieval-style tapestries, ornate chandeliers, cheetah print chairs and tassels aplenty.

We were served pots of Mariage Frères Earl Grey tea and large glasses of freshly-squeezed orange juice, along with another beautifully-manicured fruit plate and fat-free yoghurts.

Breakfast also includes two organic eggs with the option of adding bacon or smoked salmon, but we simply enjoyed the exquisite pastries and ficelle baguette accompanied by jams and French butter.  I highly recommend taking a leisurely breakfast at Hôtel Bourg Tibourg, as it really enhances the hotel experience and is a luxurious start to the day.

Hôtel Bourg Tibourg is a stylish bolthole that will set your heart aflutter with its sumptuous design, cool ambiance and attention to detail.  It’s an irresistible hotel for couples spending a romantic break in the Marais and is sure to make for a memorable stay.

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

Chérie City was a guest of Hôtel Bourg Tibourg Paris

All photos by Chérie City

Hotels, Paris, Restaurants

STAY Paris Le Faubourg by Yannick Alléno

On my recent trip to Paris, I had the pleasure of enjoying dinner at STAY Paris Le Faubourg, the new restaurant by three Michelin star chef Yannick Alléno at Sofitel Paris Le Faubourg.

The renowned French chef brings his exciting Simple Table Yannick Alléno concept directly from Asia, where he has already opened STAY restaurants in Dubai, Taipei and Beijing.

In Paris, STAY sits comfortably between Yannick Alléno’s two casual Terroir Parisien restaurants and the ultra-exclusive Alléno Paris at Pavillon Ledoyen.  The menu is inspired by his worldwide travel, offering dishes with Southeast Asian and Japanese influences, as well as exploring French gastronomy.

When I stayed at Sofitel Paris Le Faubourg last year with my mum, we enjoyed breakfast each morning in the bright, airy and ever so chic restaurant that was previously named Les Collections.

The breezy character of the restaurant remains with just a few design tweaks and a new highlight colour of zesty yellow.  There’s also a private dining Communal Table for six to eight people and a chic courtyard terrace where you can dine among the fragrant flowers, palms and fountains.

At the helm of STAY Paris Le Faubourg is Executive Chef William Girard, who started working for Yannick Alléno at Hotel Scribe in Paris and has since overseen top restaurants across Asia, including STAY and Sweet Tea in Taipei.  Not only is he passionate about introducing Paris to the STAY concept, but he’s also a colourful character with a playful sense of humour.

We began our evening in style with a glass of Laurent-Perrier Champagne while navigating the menu.  To start, I ordered the Dublin Bay Prawns à la Polonaise (€32), as I’ve always had good langoustines in Paris.  This dish was an absolute delight with incredibly tender, plump chilled langoustines in a typical Polonaise style with a twist.

They sat atop a tangy, lightly creamy sauce and were topped with separated, finely-shaved egg whites and yolks, tiny breadcrumbs, burst-in-the-mouth vinaigrette pearls and fresh chives.  It’s a deliciously light and flavoursome starter that really invigorates the tastebuds.

Steven went for the beautifully-presented Tuna Tartare with Niçoise-style salad (€22).  The lean, ultra-fresh tuna had a clean and natural taste and was perfectly complemented by blanched asparagus spears, halved quail eggs, red peppers, thinly-sliced radishes and a light herb sauce.

It’s hard to resist a proper Parisian steak and it’s even more tempting when you know that Yannick Alléno sources his meat from one of the best butchers in Paris.

I tried the Beef Fillet ‘fleur de sel’ (€48), which came with a choice of sauces and one side dish.  My steak was ever so lean and succulent, cooked perfectly medium à la plancha with nicely browned edges and a coating of fleur de sel.

The succulent meat just melted in the mouth and was served simply with a baby gem lettuce leaf brushed with the meat juices.  The smooth Béarnaise sauce came in a petite jug on the side and was punctuated with tiny pieces of shallot and torn fresh tarragon.

My side dish of Gratin Dauphinoise Louis Grondard (€10) was just heavenly and so indulgent.  Slow-cooked in its own crock pot, the exemplary gratin was creamy with slightly sweet potatoes, plenty of garlic, butter and herbs and topped with bubbling, golden rustic cheese – French comfort food at its very best.

But where does Louis Grondard come in with this divine potato dish?  The celebrated Michelin star chef was Yannick Alleno’s mentor at Paris institution Drouant and his secret recipe is certainly worthy of this thoughtful tribute.

Steven tried the classic Beef Tenderloin Cafe Faubourg with fine French Fries (€48).  The steak was very tender and full of flavour, served with a creamy, meaty sauce studded with aromatic Asian peppercorns.  The French Fries were just as they should be – crispy, golden and hand-made with high quality potatoes.  This is undoubtedly one of the finest steak frites in Paris and believe me, I’ve tasted many.

A real highlight of dining at STAY is the magnificent Pastry Library, which guests are invited to visit to choose their dessert.  This is a chance to have a dessert ‘consultation’ and a bit of banter with the chefs, who present the desserts while plying you with hand-made chocolates, marshmallows lollipops, nougat, caramels and hazelnut brittle.

You can then watch them assembling your dessert and customising it to your preferences.  It’s a leisurely, unhurried experience that makes you feel just like a kid in a sweet shop (albeit with the city’s best chefs at the counter).  Seeing the desserts through the glass window and the fun inside the restaurant was too much for non-dining guests – they couldn’t stop themselves from popping in to ask for a lollipop or two.

For dessert, I went for Gavottes with hazelnut ice cream garnished with smooth caramel, candied hazelnuts and flecks of gold leaf.  Gavottes are traditional French crispy lace crepes and STAY’s hand-made versions were lovely and crunchy and went nicely with the velvety hazelnut ice cream.

Steven tried a Chocolate Cone filled with a lightly whipped milk chocolate cream.  We loved the artistic presentation with a chocolate disc spiked through with a chocolate stick, finished with gold leaf and tiny chocolate cookies.

As if dessert wasn’t enough, our sugar high reached its climax with a selection of petit fours to accompany our Earl Grey tea, served in a signature Sofitel Asian-style cast iron teapot.  We grazed on bite-size chocolate éclairs topped with a glossy ganache and gold leaf, mini pistachio macarons and some inventive lemon meringue tarts.

STAY Paris Le Faubourg is the perfect spot for a relaxing meal in stylish surroundings, whether you’re in the mood to go all-out French or enjoy an international dish.  Sofitel Paris Le Faubourg is one of my favourite central Paris hotels and I’m always wowed by Yannick Alléno’s cooking, so for me, it’s a match made in foodie heaven.

Chérie City was a guest of YUZU Yannick Alléno

Photos by Chérie City and STAY Paris Le Faubourg

Hotels, Hotels - Luxury, London, Restaurants

Pret a Diner: The Bohemians

Ultra-cool, nomadic collective Pret a Diner has returned to London, bringing a touch of decadence and culture to the city’s dining scene.

Pret a Diner: The Bohemians, from Royals to Rogues, revives the spirit of artistic London and Cafe Royal Hotel is the perfect location, steeped in its own rebellious history.  Creative greats such as Oscar Wilde, Mark Twain, Virginia Woolf, Andy Warhol, The Beatles and Madonna have all graced the glamorous Regent Street hotel.

Last week, we visited for KP Kofler’s unique dining experience that has brought two Michelin starred New York-based chefs to the UK.  Chef Patti Jackson’s Delaware and Hudson is one of Williamsburg’s hottest prix-fixe restaurants while Ryan Tate has received acclaim as head chef of farm to table restaurant Blenheim in the West Village.

They’ve join Andrew Turner, Executive Chef at Cafe Royal Hotel, to create a special four-course set dinner with dishes cooked by each chef.  The menu is modern American with Dutchy Pennsylvanian influence and offers a rare taste of the three restaurants.

Exquisite restaurant The Domino has been transformed into a bohemian den of iniquity with dramatic flowers, crystal-encrusted animal skulls and objets d’art at play with the room’s gilded opulence.  We were seated at a table for two and the cool, unpretentious staff took us on a culinary journey, explaining each dish thoroughly.

On arrival, we were presented a delightfully fragrant Bohemian Punch, made with gin and jasmine tea punch.  Served in a vintage-style cut glass coupe with a sprig of jasmine clipped to the side, the cocktail was refreshing, elegant and lightly perfumed – my ideal kind of drink.

The drinks menu has been devised by Cafe Royal Bars Manager Tiziano Tasso and Dominic Jacobs of The Running Horse Mayfair and The Whip.  DJs Maxology provide a hip soundtrack alongside guest DJs and The Unit London has curated the intriguing artwork.

We started with a sharing plate of snacks with bites from all of the chefs.  Pea and Sorrel by Ryan Tate was a delicate orb filled with a lovely chilled pea soup.  It melts quickly, so should be scooped up with a spoon and devoured instantly.  Baltimore Crab with Pickled Ramps by Patti Jackson was a nice blend of sweet and tart.

My favourite snack was Andrew Turner’s Cheese and Truffle – velvety, cool, truffle-infused cheese packed inside a miniature plant pot, topped with enoki mushrooms, black sesame crumbs and a pesto crisp bread.  The snacks were accompanied by some rather lovely molecular olives that burst in the mouth, crispy cheese straws for dipping and Patti Jackson’s tasty Dutchy Pretzels with Cafe Royal butter.

We started with a beautifully-presented Tuna Carpaccio with Gentleman’s Relish by Andrew Turner.  The chilled, silky tuna carpaccio was  dotted with soy and ginger sauce and complemented by a quail’s egg with caviar, thin slices of mooli, radishes, chunky cucumber and burnt-edge shallots wrapped around smooth gentleman’s relish (sorry to ruin the mystery but it’s a kind of anchovy paste).

I’m not a fan of cucumber, so some parts of this starter weren’t so well suited to my palate, but it’s certainly a fresh and interesting dish.

The main courses however were right up my street and happily there was a choice of two so we could have a taste of both.  I went for Patti Jackson’s indulgent Duck with Celery Pecan Gratin and Rhubarb.  This was high end American comfort food at its very best and an absolute joy to eat.

The tender, juicy duck was cooked perfectly medium and was elevated by duck confit coated in golden breadcrumbs with strong meat and herb flavours.  The celery pecan gratin was lightly creamy with a mature cheese flavour and the roasted rhubarb added a welcome touch of sharpness.  It was served with simple whole asparagus and finished with a rich duck jus.

Steven went for the lighter Seabass with Piquillo Pepper, Fennel and Dill by Andrew Turner.  The beautifully cooked fish was succulent and flaky with a lovely crispy skin.  It went very well with the dill-infused piquillo pepper puree and was punctuated with black olive crumble and olive pearls.

For dessert, we both enjoyed Ryan Tate’s Strawberries, Maple Vacherin and Buttermilk. It was a pleasure to crack open the delicious maple-infused meringue to reveal the fresh sliced strawberries, airy vanilla cream and the slightly tart buttermilk sorbet.  I can’t think of a more satisfying, sweet and refreshing dessert to finish the meal with – it was simply divine.

As if that sugar high wasn’t enough, we were treated to a pot of fresh mint tea served with petit fours.  We grazed on a box full of bubblegum white chocolate truffles, cola pâtes de fruit, dark chocolate orange sticks and salted caramel popcorn in a miniature plant pot.

To walk off the splendid dinner, we took a stroll around to view the carefully-chosen artworks by Jake Wood-Evans and Ryan Hewett.  Look out for the striking John Lennon piece in the bar.

Not only is Pret a Diner a memorable sensory dining experience in a beautiful location, but it offers the chance to try signature dishes straight out of New York.  I recommend dining a little later than usual when the atmosphere becomes more lively and taking your time to really take in the experience.

Pret a Diner: The Bohemians runs until 23rd May at The Club at Cafe Royal Hotel. Priced at £75 per person, including a four-course menu, snack sharing plate from three different chefs, petit fours and coffee.  For more information, visit: www.pretadiner.com

Chérie City was a guest of Pret a Diner

Photos by Pret a Diner