Browsing Tag

eggs benedict

London, Restaurants

Weekend Brunch at Bellanger, Islington

Going out for brunch is my weapon for combating weekend laziness and with the shock of the Brexit referendum result, it would’ve been quite easy to sit at home sulking/panicking/swearing *delete as appropriate*.  Instead, we sought solace at Bellanger, knowing the soothing powers of an elegant European grand cafe and feeling well looked after.

Bellanger Islington

The latest all-day French brasserie by Corbin & King (the dynamic duo behind The Wolseley, The Delaunay, Colbert, Brasserie Zédel and more) occupies a prime spot on Islington Green and its menu is a harmonious mix of typical dishes from Alsace and Mitteleuropa, plus brunch classics.  It’s full of old world charm and feels civilised without being too starry or stuffy – in fact, it’s a bit cooler than I’d expected.

Bellanger restaurant Islington

We booked a table just a few days before and were shown to a lovely corner table at the front of the restaurant where the windows opened to the Continental-style terrace.  The atmosphere was relaxed, with the faint hum of French chanson in the background, and the service was at an appropriate pace for a chilled-out Saturday midday.

Bellanger London

I’m usually in the mood for sweet things at brunch, so I went for Waffles with caramelised banana, chocolate and crème fraîche (£6.50).  When they arrived at the table, my eyes lit up and I couldn’t help feeling like a kid again.  The waffles were freshly-made with a crispy edge and fluffy centre with properly caramelised, soft banana, a sticky and rich chocolate sauce and a drizzle of smooth crème fraîche.

Given the very reasonable price, I’d imagined the waffles to be much smaller and more like a snack, but they were quite an event – just heavenly!

Bellanger waffles with caramelised bananas

Steven went for the large Eggs Benedict (£13), as we saw them coming out of the kitchen looking very tempting.  They were definitely some of the best Eggs Benedict I’ve tasted in London.  The eggs were poached to perfection with a slight tang of vinegar and covered with flavoursome Hollandaise, fresh chives and a tiny dusting of mild curry powder.  The ham was very subtle and the toasted English muffin was springy and fresh – overall a very satisfying brunch dish.

We washed them down with some lovely full-bodied English breakfast tea served in a large pot with refined monogrammed china.

Bellanger Eggs Benedict

Bellanger is a great spot for brunch in Islington, whether you’re up for a hearty cream, cheese and meat extravaganza à la Alsace or something a bit lighter.  I now can’t wait to go back and indulge in a Croque Madame, Schnitzel, Tarte flambée or maybe a comforting pot of Coq au Riesling or Carbonade. See you there!

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

Food images by Chérie City and interiors by Nick Ingram and David Loftus for Bellanger

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

York

A Weekend in York

This month, I had the pleasure of visiting the historic city of York to attend the York Literature Festival and spend some time exploring.  I’ve been there many times for day trips, usually driving down from Newcastle, but this was the first time I’d stayed in York and could really find my way around town.

York

York Minster

I hopped on a Virgin East Coast train from London Kings Cross and arrived comfortably in the very centre of York less than two hours later.  The great thing about York is that it can be easily accessed from the north or south, making it an ideal destination for a weekend getaway.

Virgin East Coast Trains

My mum and I stayed at Hotel du Vin York on Blossom Road, just a short walk away from the city’s main sights.  Hotel du Vin properties are always in locations of character and this grade II listed building, dating back to the 19th century, was once a private home and an orphanage.  Today, it’s a cosy 44-room hotel with an elegant outdoor terrace, open top courtyard and even a cute coffee and Champagne van and cigar shack outside.

Hotel du Vin York

Hotel du Vin York

Our Gaudium room (all rooms are named after wine regions rather than numbered) was atmospheric and homely with luxurious sleigh beds, a large LCD TV, Nespresso machine and a good-sized bathroom with a deep-soaking tub and bespoke Terre du Vin bathroom products by Miller Harris.

On the first evening, we enjoyed a sumptuous French dinner of Frisé salad with poached egg and lardons, Onglet steak frites and Apple tarte tatin in the hotel’s stylish Brasserie du Vin.  I always feel well-fed and nourished when staying at a Hotel du Vin – the food is top notch with a focus on provenance and authenticity.

Onglet Steak Frites Hotel du Vin York

Breakfast each day was also excellent – we indulged in delightful Eggs Benedict, French toast with bacon and maple syrup, Crêpes with Nutella and Omelette with fine herbs, as well as fresh juices, French set yoghurts, flaky pastries and a selection of juices from the country table.

Eggs Benedict Hotel du Vin York

Our first stop for the York Literature Festival was an evening talk with Michael Portillo at the spectacular National Railway Museum.  The author and former MP regaled us with tales from parliament and anecdotes from filming his popular Great Railway Journeys series, even ending by comparing politics’ Iron Lady to a dominant meerkat.  I’m also pretty sure his outfit for the evening was inspired by his earlier Virgin Trains journey – maybe we were even on the same train.

Michael Portillo York Literature Festival

The next evening’s audience with ‘wit, raconteur, playwright, grumpy old man and Leonard Cohen fan’ Arthur Smith at York Grand Opera House was just as entertaining but worlds apart from Portillo.

After a curious performance from support act Mike Barfield, also known as ‘Mr Paper’ (very apt for the Literature Festival), Arthur Smith took us through his biggest pet peeves, pranking Blur’s Damon Albarn and what to say if you even get arrested, as well as a rather convincing performance of a Leonard Cohen song.  He was so engaging and a real character, with so many stories to tell, many of which can be found in his memoir, which I’m now dying to read.

Arthur Smith at York Literature Festival

In between the York Literature Festival talks, we had time to go exploring, with the help of the fantastic York Pass.  This card gets you free entry to over 30 top attractions in York and the surrounding area.

A highlight was taking a closer look inside beautiful York Minster, the largest gothic cathedral in northern Europe.  Walking through the spectacular, decorated nave and examining the medieval stained glass is quite a mesmerising experience.  Look out for the celebrated Rose Window, featuring red Lancastrian roses alternating with red and white Tudor roses, symbolising the union of Lancaster and York through the marriage of Henry VII to Elizabeth of York.

York Minster

A real gem in York is Bar Convent, England’s oldest living convent located on Blossom Street (just a short walk from Hotel du Vin York).  It was established as a Catholic girls school in 1686 but due to religious persecution at this time, it existed in absolute secrecy.

The 18th century Grade I building now houses an interactive exhibition dedicated to the story of Bar Convent, however the most intriguing feature is the ornate hidden chapel.  Building this exquisite chapel without rousing the suspicion of neighbours and the authorities was quite a triumph.

Bar Convent York

Bar Convent is still active today and the sisters run guest accommodation, a cafe and a peaceful, beautifully-maintained garden.  It’s such a tranquil spot and is sure to be even more attractive in the warmer months.

Bar Convent York

To see York’s Georgian splendor, pay a visit to Fairfax House.  This elegant 18th century townhouse was the winter home of Viscount Fairfax and his daughter Anne.  Many of the well-restored rooms display exquisite stucco work and a rare collection of original furniture and antiques.  You can see the dining room set up for a banquet, the preparations for the family’s voracious appetite in the kitchen and also Anne’s stunning bedroom and their red-hued sitting room where they would play music and cards.

Fairfax House York

A stroll down the Shambles and its surrounding cobbled streets is a must, with its independent designer boutiques, gourmet food and sweet shops, tea rooms and restaurants.  It’s one of York’s oldest streets, dating back to the 14th century, and most of the timber-framed buildings were originally butcher shops.

I couldn’t resist treating myself to a navy leather saddle bag from the Zatchels factory shop on the Shambles that offers big discounts of around 50% off – there’s also a Mulberry factory shop nearby where you can score a serious bargain.

The Shambles York

York market

Of course, a visit to York wouldn’t be complete without dining at the famous Betty’s Cafe and Tea Rooms. This historic mini empire across Yorkshire was founded by Swiss baker Frederick Belmont in 1919 and it’s still family-owned today.

Betty's Cafe Tea Room York

There are six Cafe Tea Rooms, but my favourite is Bettys York with its stunning Art Deco interiors, which Frederick Belmont commissioned in the style of luxury liner the Queen Mary, after he travelled on the ship’s maiden voyage.

Betty's Cafe Tea Room York

It’s one of the few places to enjoy insanely decadent Swiss specialities such as alpine macaroni, rosti and gratin laden with cream, raclette and bacon (a healthy appetite and a brisk walk needed), but most popular, particularly on the weekend, is its afternoon tea.

For lunch we ordered my favourite Betty’s Caesar salad and Chicken schnitzel and were tempted by the heavenly Rhubarb frangipane tart and Raspberry macaron.  It’s almost impossible to leave without picking up some treat for the counter – Betty’s Fat Rascals (enormous fruit scones with a naughty glacé cherry and almond face) are the stuff of legends and utterly moreish.

Betty's York Caesar Salad

Betty's York Chicken Schnitzl

Rhubarb Cake Betty's York

I had the most fantastic time in York and have plenty of places still on my list to visit next time, like Castle Howard, York Art Gallery and a closer look at the National Railway Museum.

Have you been to York before?  Where are your favourites spots to see/eat/shop in York?

For more information and destination inspiration, go to: www.yorkliteraturefestival.co.uk and www.visityork.org.

“Virgin Trains East Coast operates 72 weekday services between London King’s Cross and York, including a non-stop service each hour through the day, taking as little as 1 hour 49 minutes to complete the journey. Virgin Trains East Coast also has direct trains to York from Scotland, North East England and the East Midlands.

I travelled from London to York by rail with Virgin Trains East Coast: book via www.virgintrainseastcoast.com, call 08457 225225 or visit any staffed station. 

Thanks to York Literature Festival, Visit York, Hotel du Vin York and Virgin Trains East Coast for making this trip possible. 

Photos by Chérie City (room and bistro photos by Hotel du Vin York)

Hotels

Revisited: The Gallivant Hotel, Camber

When I fist visited The Gallivant back in 2013, I was amazed to find such a dreamy beach destination just over an hour’s train ride from London.

My first stay was with a lovely press group for the Rye Scallop Festival and I was delighted to head back there for a more romantic getaway and check out the hotel’s brand new look.

Nestled in the seaside village of Camber, The Gallivant is inspired by the coastal motels you might find in California, but with a very British feel.  This tranquil 20-room retreat has become a popular bolthole for weekending Londoners and with Camber Sands on the doorstep, there are plenty of pooches in residence.

We arrived on a cold and wet Saturday (not like the photos above suggest) after exploring the nearby town of Rye and were shown to our gorgeous Garden Room.  These newly-renovated rooms outside of the main building are super-deluxe with design features that you might not expect in a beach hotel.

Our spacious wood-panelled room was designed in Maine-style colours with accents of teal, soft grey, marble and gold.  It felt so homely with travel-inspired ornaments and interesting books adorning the shelves, free streaming wifi, a Nespresso machine and a kettle with a selection of Luponde teas and fresh milk.

I remembered from my first stay at The Gallivant how heavenly the bed was and this Hypnos king-size bed covered in 300-count linen sheets didn’t disappoint.

One of the best thing about the Garden Rooms are the open-plan bathroom with a fabulous roll-top bath, marble sink, walk-in rainfall shower, luxurious towels, bathrobes and a set of full-size Noble Isle bathroom products to use during your stay.  It was a treat to watch TV and listen to music on the blue-tooth speaker from the comfort of an enormous bathtub.

In the evening we dined in The Restaurant – a stylish dining room with a Scandinavian/New England feel, overseen by Oliver Joyce and Kevin Bennett (previously at Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester, Chapter One and Buckingham Palace).  The tempting menu features ingredients locally sourced within 10 miles of the hotel, so it’s the perfect place to enjoy fresh seafood and Romney Marsh lamb.

I started with Scallops, cauliflower purée & beignets, cumin and coriander, which were perfectly cooked with complementary flavours.  Steven tried Confit chicken terrine with pickled mushrooms, a satisfying dish with rich notes of prunes.

I followed with Venison loin, glazed chestnuts, brussels sprouts and quince purée.  The medium-cooked venison was tender and juicy with a meaty jus and I loved the wintry accompaniments of sweet chestnuts, colourful sprout petals and crispy silvers of parsnip.

Steven also enjoyed his Braised Romney Marsh lamb rump and braised shoulder, rarebit, cauliflower cheese and beets.  The succulent local lamb was served in a creative way with many different textures at play – the crispy croquettes were particularly tasty.

Both dishes were very accomplished and a joy to eat, but with petite portion sizes, you’ll want to add a side dish or two.  We shared a side of yummy Butternut squash and sage mash and it went very well with both dishes.

Because the starter and main courses were quite light, I had some room left to indulge in the Dark chocolate fondant, honeycomb and malt ice cream.  The fondant arrived freshly from the oven and it was simply divine – warm cake on the outside with a molten, oozing centre.  I loved the velvety malt ice cream and the honeycomb and chocolate pebbles added a delicious flourish.

Steven finished with the Banana and caramel parfait, lime curd, coconut cream and rum jelly.  It was a lovely, exotic dessert that  added a bit of sunshine to a rainy evening.  We accompanied our desserts with a glass of sticky, honeyed Moscato d’Ochoa (Spain) and had the luxury of rolling back to our room.

Breakfast at The Gallivant is a leisurely affair, so leave plenty of time to graze on all of the morning delights. The high quality breakfast buffet is full of sweet bites including home-made granola bars, natural yoghurt with fruit compote, sticky cinnamon buns, home-baked madeleines and even blueberry panna cotta.

If you’re in the mood for something heart before a day at the beach, there is a good selection of cooked dishes such as Eggs Benedict, The Full Gallivant and waffles.

A trip to The Gallivant wouldn’t be complete without a wander around the nearby historic town of Rye.  Stroll around its cobbled streets, shop for unique pieces at its independent boutiques or refuel over lunch at The George or a gourmet hot chocolate at Knoops.

I’d been raving to Steven about the beautiful Camber Sands beach, but unfortunately the continually wet weather kept us away from the dunes.  However, that cloud has a silver lining, as it means another excuse to revisit The Gallivant on a guaranteed warm day in the summer!

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

Chérie City was a guest of The Gallivant

Photos by Chérie City and The Gallivant

Hotels, Newcastle

A Luxury Stay at Jesmond Dene House, Newcastle

Growing up in Newcastle, one of my favourite places to get out in the fresh air was leafy, wild Jesmond Dene.  It’s an incredibly beautiful wooded valley where you can walk alongside the river Ouseburn with stunning waterfalls and spot exotic trees and wildlife including red squirrels and kingfishers.

I have happy memories of going to see the peacocks and goats at Pets Corner and rollerblading down the bank to the local artist market on the bridge every Sunday.  So you can imagine how excited I was to visit Jesmond Dene House for a rare luxury staycation in my home city.

Jesmond Dene House opened as Newcastle’s first independently owned boutique hotel in 2005 and the building itself has quite a history.  The original Georgian house was bought in 1871 by Captain Andrew Noble (business partner of Lord Armstrong), who moved in high society and hosted luminaries such as Rudyard Kipling, Arthur Conan Doyle and royalty from the Far East.

Today, Jesmond Dene House enhances its historic features with contemporary design and a striking art collection.  I adored the charming little dogs made from twisted wire dotted around the hallway and sitting next to the fire in the lounge.  It’s also a real foodie destination with many locals visiting the restaurant for its popular afternoon, Sunday roast and innovative tasting menus at dinner.

We received a warm welcome at check-in and were shown to our Deluxe Room on the second floor.  It was lovely and cosy with high ceilings and a partial view of Jesmond Dene.  The room was designed in a classic-contemporary style and soft neutral shades and featured a comfy seating area, writing desk, flat-screen HD TV, an iPod docking radio and free wifi.

The hotel knows how much Northerners need a good cuppa and they’ve really put some thought into the tea and coffee making facilities.  I was impressed with the plentiful selection of JING teas, freshly-ground coffee produced by Ringtons for Jesmond Dene House, mini bottle of fresh milk and ginger cookies.  A china tea pot and cafetiere completed the very civilised tea experience and we were also provided complimentary bottles of mineral water and fresh fruit.

The bed was very comfortable with high quality linen and the room was so quiet that we had an excellent night’s sleep.

The bright, modern tiled bathroom was pristine and featured a wide soaking tub, high quality towels and face cloths, plush bathrobe and slippers and a full set of uplifting Arran Aromatics bathroom products.

That evening, my mum and I dined at The Restaurant with a modern British menu by Head Chef Michael Penaluna.  The restaurant is stylish and colourful with intriguing artwork and pleasantly dimmed lighting and a relaxed, friendly atmosphere.  However, fine dining touches are in place, as we were offered a selection of freshly-baked breads with a choice or salted, unsalted or seaweed butter and presented a yummy amuse-bouche before our starters and desserts.

My mum and I both started with Celeriac soup with roasted chestnuts, apple and Stilton tortellini.  The velvety, creamy soup was simply lovely and the single tortellini filled with potent Stilton packed a real punch – only one piece was required to make an impact.

I followed with Roast chicken with fondant potato, wild leeks and baby carrots.  The chicken breast was succulent and juicy with a well-seasoned crispy skin and the delicate roasted vegetables and rich, meaty jus were the perfect accompaniment.

My mum also enjoyed her Flat iron steak with fat cut chips, watercress and Bearnaise sauce.  The lean, tender steak had a deep, mature flavour, the chips were crisp and moreish and the Bearnaise was silky and tangy with plenty of fresh tarragon.

Since my mum is a rhubarb fan, it was only right that she should order the Vanilla and rhubarb gateaux with rhubarb sorbet.  Not only did it look ever so pretty, but it was delicious with a thick layer of rhubarb jelly, springy golden sponge and vanilla cream that was light as air.

My Chocolate and salted caramel tart with vanilla ice cream didn’t disappoint either.  The dark chocolate ganache was full of deep flavours and went perfectly with the indulgent, sticky salted caramel, light and buttery pastry and home-made ice cream.

The staff were so welcoming and friendly and we liked that seasonal ingredients are locally sourced from Northumberland and the North Sea coast.  If you fancy a nightcap, there’s a relaxing wood-panelled bar next door or a cosy place next to the open fire in the lounge.

Breakfast in the Garden Room is quite an event at Jesmond Dene House, with everything you could possibly want to start the day.  We enjoyed the Continental Breakfast spread, which included Neil Robson’s smoked salmon, home-cured gravlax, cured meats, Continental cheeses, delicious pastries, banana bread, French set yoghurts, Bircher muesli, cereals, fruit compote and poached pears.

You can also order hot dishes such as Haggis and duck egg with salsa verde, Grilled Craster kipper, Eggs Benedict or French toast with the Continental breakfast included in the price.  Be sure to leave plenty of time for a long, leisurely breakfast – it’s worth it!

Jesmond Dene House feels like a secret hideaway retreat surrounded by lush greenery, but it’s also close to Jesmond’s lively Osborne Road and Newcastle city centre for shopping and dining.  We loved our relaxing staycation and will no doubt be back at Jesmond Dene House soon – a decadent afternoon tea on the terrace among the palm trees is high on my ‘to do list’.

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

Chérie City was a guest of Jesmond Dene House

Photos by Chérie City and Jesmond Dene House

Jesmond Dene House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Hotels, Hotels - Luxury, London, Photography, Restaurants

Photography Tour at Ten Manchester Street Hotel, London

Ten Manchester Street Hotel is a luxurious urban bolthole in chic Marylebone, just moments away from the hustle and bustle of central London.

The Edwardian boutique hotel feels cosy and refined with 44 guest rooms and a small but welcoming lobby with dramatic red velvet armchairs by Christopher Guy.

I visited Ten Manchester Street for a special preview of the hotel’s latest offering – a photography tour of the local area with professional photographer Ben Fisher.

The photography tour is suitable for guests with a basic working knowledge of a DSLR camera, including aperture and shutter speeds, however Ben can tailor tuition for beginners or more advanced photographers.

We kicked off our afternoon of photography in the all-weather cigar terrace over Champagne, tea and home-made biscuits.  Ben began the masterclass by showing a selection of his photographs from around the world on a TV screen and explained the composition and methods behind the shots.

He gauged our group’s level of photography skills and took us through the basics of how a DSLR camera works.  We then headed out into Marylebone to take some shots and practice changing the aperture, shutter speed and ISO to capture the best images.

Our first stop was stylish Chiltern Street where we were encouraged to examine the details of the buildings, where the light was shining and the lines of the terraced buildings.  There were plenty of interesting shop fronts to snap, plus a lovely florist that became paparazzi central for a short while!

We then moved on to Manchester Square, where we tried out our new skills on the pretty gardens, trees, flowers and quintessentially English architecture.  We took some time to experiment with photographing street signs to see how the camera angle and exposure can affect the text.

Our final stop was Marble Arch to shoot the bronze statue of George IV, water fountains and the beginning of the sunset.  We used tripods to capture the movement of the water and extended the shutter speed to achieve a different look.

After a fun and educational afternoon out in Marylebone, it was back to the hotel for a delicious three-course dinner in Dieci, the hotel’s intimate Italian restaurant.

While replaying what we’d learned in the photography tour, we enjoyed some aperitifs – mine was an enormous Negroni – and grazed on some tasty foccacia served with high quality olive oil and sweet balsamic vinegar.

I started with the most fantastic Pumpkin Ravioli with black Umbrian truffle.  The perfectly al dente ravioli was packed full of rich pumpkin with a hint of amaretti and smothered in the most heavenly, flavoursome black truffle and olive oil sauce.

I followed with a light and tasty Grilled Chicken Paillard with Grumolo salad and Italian cherry tomatoes.  The large escalope of chicken was succulent and had a smoky taste from the charcoal grill.  Hungry from the photography tour, I couldn’t resist ordering a side of well-season fries served in a copper pan with little pots of ketchup and mayonnaise.

For dessert, I went for the light and refreshing Reciotto della Valpolicella wine marinated strawberries with Amalfi lemon sorbet.  The strawberries were so juicy and soaked in dessert wine, plus the Amalfi lemon sorbet added some sweet zestiness.  We rounded off the meal with pots of tea and some very indulgent chocolate truffles.

The restaurant was quiet that evening with a relaxed atmosphere and I liked it that all of the seats were plush and comfy – many of them even had sofas on one side.

A popular pre or post-dinner spot is the hotel’s unique cigar shop and tasting room, where guests can enjoy fine Cuban cigars.  It’s an interesting feature that sets the hotel apart from others, but I would personally prefer the cigar smoking to be confined to the tasting room, as the smoke can easily overwhelm the covered terrace if guests smoke there.

Following a fun day of exploring Marylebone through a lense and dining in Dieci, I was ready to kick back with a film in my delightful Deluxe Room (the same room category featured in the photography tour package) that had been turned down with complimentary mineral water and cotton mats by the bed.

My medium-sized room was designed in light gold, turquoise and dark red shades and had an attractive feature wall and comfy seating area.  Room features included a 32″ flatscreen TV, DVD player, mini bar, free wifi and tea and coffee facilities with lovely individually boxed teas by English Tea Shop.

The queen-size bed was extremely comfortable and covered in sumptuous, high thread count linen.  The entire hotel was peaceful and happily my room was very quiet too, leading to a good night’s sleep.

The bathroom was small and simple but perfectly adequate with a petite sink, rainfall shower, plenty of fluffy towels, seriously plush gold embroidered bathrobe and slippers and a full set of Rituals bathroom products.

After a night of blissful, uninterrupted sleep, we met for a leisurely breakfast in Dieci.  The breakfast menu at Ten Manchester Street is full of tempting morning dishes and is reasonably priced for a hotel breakfast.

My Eggs Benedict were so decadent and tasty, made with Italian eggs (the chef swears by them and they are indeed delicious), thick grilled ham, giant English muffins and a buttery, colourful Hollandaise sauce.

To round off our weekend staycation, we took a stroll around Marylebone Farmers Market, marveling at the colourful produce and artisan food on the stalls.  A trip to Marylebone wasn’t complete without perusing the wares at The Conran Store, The Designer’s Guild, La Fromagerie, Rococo Chocolates and Daunt Books.  I also couldn’t resist picking up some giant Madeleines from La Pâtisserie des Rêves.

Ten Manchester Street is a great place to stay for a more intimate, tranquil London hotel experience and a Photography Tour with Ben Fisher is an ideal way to explore Marylebone and see a new side of the city.

No. Ten Manchester Street’s photography tours with Ben Fisher start from £228 per person based on two sharing.  The offer also includes a three-course lunch in Dieci restaurant and an overnight stay in a deluxe room including breakfast.  

The next photography tour dates are Saturday 31st May and Saturday 2nd August.  For more information and booking, visit: www.tenmanchesterstreethotel.co.uk, 0207 3175 900.

Chérie City was a guest of Ten Manchester Street Hotel

Photos by Chérie City and Ten Manchester Street Hotel

Hotels, Hotels - Luxury, London, Restaurants

Four Seasons London At Canary Wharf

Four Seasons London at Canary Wharf is a luxury, five star hotel that boasts impressive view of the River Thames.

While riverside central London hotels feature panoramas of well-known city landmarks such as Big Ben, Houses of Parliament and the London Eye, Four Seasons London at Canary Wharf offers a different perspective.

Located in the city’s corporate, financial hub, the hotel is a favourite among the business crowd, however its stylish design and easy links to central and fashionable east London make it perfect for a weekend getaway.  Canary Wharf is even getting more exciting as a destination with designer stores moving in and buzzing new restaurants such as Tom’s Kitchen, The Pearson Room and Camino.

Already an east London resident, I visited Four Seasons London at Canary Wharf for a relaxing overnight staycation and got to know Canary Wharf a little better.  We were checked-in swiftly by the friendly, professional staff and were offered a refreshing glass of Prosecco, orange juice or mineral water as a welcome drink.

The 142 guest rooms are set across floors two to eight and all feature either enhanced city or river views.  Our Premier River View Room was generously-sized and designed in a neutral colour palette of white and grey with American black-walnut furnishings.

Room features include a large LCD TV with in-room movies, DVD player, iPod docking station, executive writing desk, minibar, iron and ironing board and tea and coffee making facilities (on request).  There are also complimentary facilities such as free wifi, complimentary overnight shoe shine and use of a laptop and PlayStation on request.  A Nespresso machine is available for a fee, however, guests are welcome to use the Nespresso machine in the Lobby for free.

The sophisticated, unfussy design of the room lends well to framing the stunning views of the River Thames.  It’s fun and calming to spend a while perched on the window seat, watching the movements of the water and the boats go by.  The view is even better at night, as the lights from the surrounding buildings give it a warm glow.

The king-size bed is extremely comfortable and covered in plush embroidered linen, encouraging a great night’s sleep.

I was really impressed with the creative and thoughtful welcome amenity created by the Pastry Chef – a fabulous clear sugar plaque printed with my blog logo and surrounded by delicious hand-made chocolates and sugar crystals.  We were also brought a large bottle of Four Seasons branded mineral water and a plate of fresh fruits and the water was replenised at turndown.

The spacious, neutrally-toned limestone bathroom features a separate bathtub and powerful rainfall shower, terrycloth bathrobes, magnifying mirror, bathroom essentials such as cotton wool and a full set of L’Occitane bathroom amenities.

A perk of staying at Four Seasons Canary Wharf is complimentary access to the luxurious Virgin Active Health Club within the complex.  The stunning infinity pool stretches out towards the river, while the lower level hydro spa features three pools with different jet massage experiences.  There is also a high-tech gym and v-cycle studio for a more invigorating work-out.

It would be easy to spend hours enjoying the facilities at this particularly high end, design-led Virgin Active Health Club, however as it is shared by members it can get busy during peak times.

After an invigorating swim, we dressed and headed down for dinner to the hotel’s stylish Quadrato Restaurant to try its rustic Northern Italy delights.  The restaurant was peaceful and relaxed when we arrived and as the evening went on, it was buzzing with a warm, convivial atmosphere.

We started with some expertly mixed cocktails – a delicious Whiskey Sour and a suitably Italian Negroni.  While scanning the menu, we were brought a duo of focaccia – garlic and herb and pomodoro, served with high quality olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

I always try to pace myself with pre-dinner bread, particularly when ordering pasta, however this focaccia was too exquisite to resist.  The light bread was moist, springy and not at all oily, topped with the most heavenly roasted tomato sauce.  When we were kindly offered another plate to graze on, it was impossible to refuse.

To go with our cocktails, we ordered Sicilian Arancini with Spicy Tomato Sauce from the Italian-style tapas menu.  The golden crispy balls were filled with hot, gooey rice and cheese and they worked perfectly with the rich tomato sauce that had a strong chili kick.

I started with the Scallops Wrapped in Pancetta – with Crushed Cauliflower and Muscovado Reduction.  The scallops were plump, succulent and nicely browned on the outside.  They went well with the creamy cauliflower and the muscovado reduction added a touch of syrupy sweetness.

Steven ordered the Tomato and Mozzarella with a Balsamic Reduction, which came served on toasted sourdough and with a mixed leaf salad.  The tomatoes were juicy and sweet while the mozzarella was cool and fresh – the balsamic vinegar completed the typically Italian dish.

I followed the scallops with  Cavatelli with Devon Crab – flavoured with Lemon Zest, available in both starter and main course size.  Of course I went for the main course portion and it was like a bottom-less bowl of pasta – absolutely enormous.  The thick al dente pasta was smothered in a rich, creamy sauce with a hint of tomato, lots of tender, flaky crab meat, fresh herbs and shaved Parmesan.

It was Italian comfort food at its very best and every mouthful was a delight (even if I should have opted for the starter size).

Steven’s Traditional Lasagne – with Parmesan Fondue was another hearty Italian delight.  The two slices of slow-cooked, rustic Lasagne were exceptionally tasty and the Parmesan Fondue was more like a smooth bechamel than oozing melted cheese, as initially expected.  The dish was finished with a Parmesan Crisp, roasted cherry tomato and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.

My Banana and White Chocolate Mousse with Cocoa Nib and Almond Streusel and Passionfruit Sorbet was a delightful end to the meal.  Served in a martini glass, the banana and chocolate mousse was deliciously silky and the streusel was a crunchy, oaty contrast.  I also liked the addition of luscious passionfruit sorbet to lighten the sweet flavours with some bold fruitiness.

Steven’s Tiramisu with Coffee Crumble and Amaretto Gelée not only looked fantastic but was just as the classic dessert should be (with a strong dose of espresso).  The curled chocolate tuile on top and the subtle, glossy Amaretto gelée gave it a high end touch.

We finished with a pot of fresh mint tea and retired to our room to enjoy the evening view of the river, ending with watching Amelie from the DVD Library with hot chocolate.

After a long, peaceful night’s sleep  it was back down to Quadrato Restaurant for breakfast.  The excellent buffet offers a selection of hot dishes, mini pastries, cereal, yoghurt and fruits.  My Eggs Benedict were exemplary, with fluffy toasted English muffins, griddled ham, perfect poached eggs and a generous drizzle of hollandaise sauce.  They were washed down with a pot of English breakfast tea and excellent freshly-squeezed orange juice.  We were even offered a magazine or newspaper to read as we walked in – Quadrato really knows how to do breakfast.

Four Seasons London at Canary Wharf is a fantastic place to stay if you a comfortable, tranquil hotel with Four Seasons’ signature service and high standards.  The food at Quadrato Restaurant is a real highlight and easy links to east and central London make Four Seasons London at Canary Wharf a tempting choice for a weekend in London.

Rates start from £315 per room per night on a B&B basis.  For more information and booking, visit: www.fourseasons.com/canarywharf/

Chérie City was a guest of Four Seasons London at Canary Wharf

Photos by Chérie City and Four Seasons London at Canary Wharf

London, Restaurants

Supper at Bouchon Fourchette – Hackney, London

Bouchon Fourchette is a delightful Hackney restaurant that brings traditional French food to Mare Street.

There are plenty of restaurants and street food stalls in the area that have French influences, but Bouchon Fourchette is one of the only places to come for classic French comfort dishes such as raclette, hachis Parmentier, Croque Madame, Coq au Vin and chocolat liégeois.

Bouchon Fourchette is owned by Nantes-born Hackney local Dorothee Gaschignard, whose experience in the hospitality industry includes managerial positions at Côte Restaurants and Gaucho Grill.  Presiding over the stove is Chef Jeremy Huguet who trained and worked in the kitchens of Alain Ducasse and Pierre Gagnaire restaurants, including Spoon in St Tropez and Les Airelles in Courchevel.

Bouchon Fourchette really stands out on this stretch of Mare Street with its black and orange exterior and scattering of terrace tables.  Inside, the restaurant has a cavernous feel with concrete floor and exposed brick walls, furnished simply with retro wood and metal chairs and tables and a the daily specials written on chalk boards.

The friendly, mostly French staff all greeted us as we arrived (sans reservations) and seated us at a nice table across from the semi-open kitchen.  As we were visiting for a light evening bite, we skipped starters and desserts and went for just a main dish.

Steven and I both couldn’t resist the Duck confit with puy lentils (£11).  The plump leg of duck was exceptionally tasty, with tender, flaky meat infused with the flavours of fresh thyme and perfectly crispy skin.

The lentils were rather under-seasoned, even with thinly sliced lardons, but the bold richness of the duck balanced the dish and prevented it from becoming too salty.  It was a deliciously hearty, comforting and generously sized dish that I would definitely order again.

My mum went for the Potato and Gruyère omelette (£8) with a side of frites (£3) served in a brown paper bag.  The large omelette was rich, buttery and filled with halved new potatoes and oozing Gruyère, garnished with fresh herbs.

The omelette was well-seasoned and full of flavour, while the side salad was drizzled with a tangy, peppery French dressing.  The frites were a little bland, so next time we would try a side of potato purée instead.

We didn’t stay for dessert on this occasion, as a tray of my mum’s home-baked chocolate brownies with cherries and hazelnuts awaited.  However, the poached pear in red wine, crème caramel and chocolat liégeois décadence to share sounded tempting.

Bouchon Fourchette is a charming, relaxed neighbourhood restaurant that is a little corner of Lyon in Hackney.  Prices are very reasonable and it has a lovely, unpretentious atmosphere.  We will definitely return soon to try a Croque Madame, an evening charcuterie board or the Eggs Benedict at brunch.

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

Bouchon Fourchette on Urbanspoon

Bars, Hotels, London, Restaurants

The Cavendish Hotel – Jermyn Street, London

The Cavendish boasts one of the most interesting locations in London, on historic Jermyn Street, between Piccadilly and Mayfair.  The hotel is tucked neatly behind Fortnum & Mason and is within walking distance of the Royal Academy and heritage shopping destinations such as Floris, Paxton & Whitfield and my favourite Hatchard’s Bookshop.

The contemporary four star hotel is surprisingly large with 230 guest rooms over a number of floors.  The reception is stylish and spacious, with high ceilings and plenty of staff on hand to help you with your bags and check-in.  Our first impression was that service is polite and subtle – you can arrive and get your bearings without being pounced on.

Our Superior room on a high floor was bright and just the right size with a good view over the city.  It was designed in a colour palette of espresso, chartreuse and white and included a comfortable seating area and a large desk for working.

The room featured a Samsung LCD flat screen TV with movies on demand, a Bose iPod-iPhone docking station, wifi (for a fee), powerful air-conditioning, a handy iron and ironing board, mini bar with premium goodies, a large complimentary bottle of mineral water and tea and coffee making facilities.  I was particularly impressed to see a large teapot, which hotels rarely offer,  a selection of high quality teas and Walkers shortbread cookies.

The heavenly queen-size bed was covered in crisp white linen and lots of plump cushions and the quietness of the room make for an excellent night’s sleep.  The room would work well for guests visiting London for a number of days, as it was functional, well-designed and very comfortable.

The bathroom was petite and designed in soft, neutral tones, featuring a bath and power shower, Prija bathroom products and large towels and face cloths.

Before dinner, we went down to the Lobby Bar for a cocktail and ordered a Jack Daniels-based Lynchburg Lemonade – Jack Daniels, Cointreau, lemon juice, Agnostura Bitters, sugar syrup, soda water –  and a fruity Strawbacello – strawberries, Bacardi Oakheart, Limoncello, Frangelico, Butterscotch schnapps, lime juice.  The cocktails were expertly mixed and the bar had a calm, relaxed atmosphere – perfect after a long day of exploring the city or business meetings.  I tried not to devour too many wasabi pea snacks before dinner.

The hotel’s expansive yet cosy restaurant Petrichor serves a seasonal modern British menu by head chef Nitin Padwal.  Located on the first floor, the restaurant overlooks the boutiques of Jermyn Street, directly opposite Fortnum & Mason – great for a bit of people spotting.  Designed in shades of red and gold, Petrichor has soft, dimmed lighting, making it feel romantic and intimate.  It also offers free wifi, should you need to stay connected.

We were seated close to the window by the friendly, welcoming staff and were brought a bottle of still Blenheim Palace water and four freshly-baked breads – sundried tomato, black olive, Parmesan and onion – served with butter.  Such attention to detail at the beginning of the meal was impressive.

I started with the Irish Salted Beef – slow cooked feather blade, wholegrain mustard dressing, black truffle bread (£8).  I didn’t expect the salt been to be served mixed up in wholegrain mustard and mayonnaise, however it was tasty and the portion size was large.  The mixture was very rich and sticky and could have covered the beef more lightly, but it went exceptionally well with the scrumptious slices of crispbread with truffle tapenade.

Steven ordered the South Coast Mackerel – honey glazed mackerel fillet, smoked baby beetroot, poached Granny Smith apple and sorrel salad (£8.50).  The sweetness of the mackerel went well with the tart apples and the beetroots added subtle smokiness.

I adored my main course of Devon Rose Veal Fillet – slow-cooked veal fillet, Pink Fir potatoes, braised with onions and bacon in a red wine sauce (£18.50).  The meat was cooked slightly pink inside and was tender, juicy and plentiful.  The crispy pink fir potatoes were wrapped in bacon and served on a bed of sweet roasted onions with spinach, lardons and the most delicious red wine sauce.  It was a perfectly autumnal dish that I would happily order again.

Steven went for the English Suckling Pig – roasted rack and slow cooked belly, roasted potatoes, Chantanay carrots and apple sauce (£16.50).  The suckling pig was deliciously succulent and slow-roasted.  It went well with the apple sauce and carrots, however the roasted potatoes were a little dry.

For dessert, I was tempted by the Praline Profiteroles – profiteroles stuffed with hazelnut cream, chocolate sauce, toasted hazelnuts and cocoa nibs (£7.50).  The profiteroles were small and delicate with a cool, creamy praline chocolate filling and choux pastry that wasn’t too soft or too dry.  They are perfect if you want a light and refined end to your meal.

Steven went for the impressive Coffee Baked Alaska – layered vanilla sponge and coffee ice cream, Kahlua jelly and meringue peaks (£7).  The Baked Alaska included a deliciously burnt top layer of light meringue and was imaginatively served in a teacup with mini biscotti on the side.  Those with a sweet tooth will find this dessert particularly satisfying.

After our dinner, we were advised to avoid peak times for breakfast, as the hotel was running at very high occupancy.  In the morning, many of the guest seemed to be late risers like us and the breakfast room was already full with guests waiting to be seated.  This is the first time I’ve queued to get in for breakfast, but the staff expertly controlled the flow of guests and it took less than ten minutes to be seated.

Petrichor offers an excellent self-service buffet (£22.50) with lots of choice, whether you want a healthy low-calorie breakfast, a few quick pastries or an indulgent Full English breakfast.  We enjoyed the high quality selection of bacon, sausages and buttery scrambled eggs, however guests can also order cooked dishes such as Eggs Benedict, Kippers or Scottish Smoked Salmon with Scrambled Eggs at no extra charge.

The mini pastries were flaky and  delicious and we loved the home-baked strawberry muffins.

The Cavendish is a comfortable, reliable hotel in an ideal location with friendly, caring staff.  To reflect the room prices and calibre of the hotel, I feel that The Cavendish should offer complimentary wifi and turndown should be as standard rather than available on request, especially as we weren’t asked at check-in if we would like this service.

Petrichor offers interesting, well-executed food and the breakfast is top notch.  To experience London’s charming, historic side just a few steps away, there can be no better choice than The Cavendish.

For more information and booking, visit: www.thecavendish-london.co.uk

Chérie City was a guest of The Cavendish

Photos by Chérie City and The Cavendish

Petrichor Restaurant at the Cavendish on Urbanspoon

Bars, Breakfast, Hotels, Hotels - Design, Hotels - Luxury, London, Music, Restaurants, Spa

Staycation at Sanderson Hotel, London

Staycations are my one of my favourite indulgences and Sanderson is such a fabulous destination hotel that it’s easy to forget all about London and the outside world.

Sanderson is a dreamy, surreal urban resort where innovative design is matched with a cool ambiance and friendly, attentive service.  Part of the petite and perfectly hip Morgans Hotel Group, Sanderson is designed by Philippe Starck and there are a number of his witty touches to discover around the hotel.

The hotel is perfectly located in the heart of London’s shopping district, just a few steps from Tottenham Court Road, however my staycation was all about pure relaxation.

I started my visit in a blissful state with the hotel’s signature Milk and Honey treatment at Agua Spa.   This heavenly 55 minute full body treatment consisted of a dry brush exfoliation, followed by hot honey lightly massaged into my skin and rinsed away with warm milk and flannels.  My therapist then slathered on fragrant rose oil to soften my skin, followed by a light head massage.  I usually go for facials or massages when visiting a spa, so it was a welcome change to try a body treatment solely to condition and moisturise my skin.

Agua Spa has a very unique design – there are no walls dividing the 14 all-white treatment rooms, only billowing white drapes.  I found the quiet hum of the therapists quite relaxing, but there are iPods available to block out any sound.  The changing rooms and elegant relaxation lounge are ever so luxurious but best of all are the private meditation pods where you can unwind and watch TV behind your own curtain.

After my spa treatment, the indulgence continued with Sanderson’s famous Madhatter’s Tea in the tranquil Courtyard Garden.  Included in the afternoon tea is a glass of Laurent-Perrier Brut NV Champagne or one of three different cocktails.  I chose the refreshing Lucid Spark – Camomile infused Cariel vanilla vodka shaken with fresh apple juice and elderflower cordial – and ordered a pot of Earl Grey tea.

We were served a plate of dainty rainbow coloured finger sandwiches, followed by a pretty stand filled with layers of traditional scones served with Alain Milliat strawberry preserve and clotted cream and scrumptious cakes.  Sometimes afternoon teas can be too heavy on the sweets, however Sanderson offers a modest yet generously sized trio – The Queen of Hearts Strawberry and Cream Mousse, Chocolate Opera Rabbit’s Clock and a three layer ‘Drink Me’ bottle.

The afternoon tea finishes on a fun note with a Blueberry Lollipop that turns your mouth from hot to cold and a Hazelnut Praline Ice-Cream Lollipop coated in popping candy.  The friendly staff asked on arrival if we had any food allergies and I was impressed that the pastry chef made an entirely new Chocolate Opera Cake avoiding coffee, just for me.

Before dinner, we had some time to get settled in to our rooms and chill out.  My Superior King Room on the fourth floor was a serene sanctuary designed entirely in white, with just a few colour highlights.  At the centre of the room is the magnificent king-size sleigh bed with adjoining work desk, on a large grey rug inspired by Voltaire’s handwriting.  I meant to study the rug to see if I recognised which Voltaire novel the excerpt was taken from, but I was distracted by the bed, which was covered in the most exquisite Egyptian cotton linen and was exceptionally comfortable and inviting.

The bedroom also features a large flat screen HDTV on a sliding stand, iPod docking station, powerful air-conditioning, a full-length mirror, a well-stocked minibar, two bottles of complimentary mineral water and some cool Philippe Starck hand weights for an in-room workout (I couldn’t resist trying out the weights after dinner).

The only thing missing from the beautiful room is free wifi, which you might expect as standard from a such a youthful, design-led lifestyle brand.

Behind the sheer white curtain is a large open-plan bathroom and dressing area with plenty wardrobe and storage space.  Instead of a bath tub, there is a slick walk-in shower, a full set of bathroom products by Malin + Goetz and bathrobes and slippers.

Later that evening, we returned to Suka for supper and Sanderson Sessions, featuring Swedish/Australian duo Saint Lou Lou.  Twins Miranda and Elektra Kilbey performed their stunning debut single ‘Maybe You’ and a few as yet unreleased songs to a full crowd.

Saint Lou Lou’s sound is a mix of dreamy, panoramic synth pop and sultry, wistful vocals, but there’s a real power and intensity to their performance and they have lots of stage presence.  It was exciting to see such a new band play outside of the typical gig environment and their first album, which they are currently recording in London, is sure to be on everyone’s radar soon.

At night, the courtyard garden at Suka twinkles with tiny tea lights and there is something romantic and fun about dining outside (under the heated lamps, of course).  With the delicious Malaysian street food menu, it felt like we were transported from central London to a cool rooftop restaurant in the Far East, reminding me of my trip to Singapore earlier this year.

The menu at Suka is so appealing that it may be hard to choose, but the best way to experience the food is by ordering 2-3 dishes plus a sayuran (side dish) per person and then sharing.  We started with a glass of Champagne and then tucked into authentic Chicken Satay, Crispy Squid, Beef Rendang, Wok-fried Noodles with Lobster, Spring Rolls and many other dishes.  For dessert, I finished with the Berries with White Chocolate Sauce, which was a light and reasonably healthy way to end the meal.

For a great cocktail to match the fragrant, aromatic dishes, I highly recommend the excellent Lychee Martini – fresh lychees shaken with Bulldog Gin, sweetened with gomme syrup.  The Long Bar gets lively and busy into the late evening, but for somewhere more intimate, try a bespoke cocktail at the residents only Purple Bar or play a game of pool in the Billiards Room.

After an excellent sleep in the divine bed, we regrouped for breakfast at Suka.  I ordered  Eggs Benedict and enjoyed a few freshly-baked mini pastries from the buffet, served with English Breakfast tea and fresh apple juice.  The breakfast menu offers everything you could possibly want to start the day, whether it’s a full cooked breakfast, an indulgent Champagne breakfast or a healthy option.

Before leaving, we visited the Lobby Shop curated by Luna & Curious, offering unique prints,  designer jewellery, homeware and quirky souvenirs – it’s easily one of the coolest hotel gift shops in the world.

Sanderson is the perfect base for style-conscious travellers who appreciate exceptional hotel facilities as well as a great city to explore.  For Londoners, the Madhatter’s Tea or an evening of Malaysian street food and cocktails at Sanderson Sessions are absolute musts.

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

Chérie City was a guest of Sanderson

Photos by Chérie City and Sanderson

Cafes, London, Restaurants

Ozone Coffee Roasters, Shoreditch

Ozone Coffee Roasters is an exciting new addition to the London Antipodean coffee scene.  Ozone has been roasting coffee in New Zealand since 1998 and now brings its years of expertise to east London.  The expansive two-floor dining room and cafe with in-house roastery opened in March this year in a converted industrial building, tucked away on Shoreditch’s Leonard Street.

There are plenty of petite artisan coffee joints in East London, but Ozone is a much slicker affair, with an open kitchen serving proper restaurant dishes, intimate leather booths and table service.

The front of Ozone is a casual sit-in cafe with a take-away counter and boutique selling Ozone coffee, gourmet hot chocolate mixes and coffee brewing homeware.

We visited for lunch and had a booth to ourselves where we could peer across to the kitchen and watch our food being prepared.  There is a good selection of wines and beers available, but the soft drinks are just as interesting with Chegworth juices and Fentiman’s Rose Lemonade.

Ozone serves eggs throughout the day, so I was tempted by the Benedict-style poached eggs with bubble and squeak cakes with bearnaise and bacon (also available with smoked ham, cured salmon or portobello mushroom and spinach).

They were quite possibly the best Eggs Benedict I’ve ever had!  The eggs were perfectly poached and cloud-like and smothered in a buttery bearnaise.  The smoked bacon was thick-cut and full of flavour, but best of all were the chunky bubble and squeak cakes.  They were coated in crispy, fine breadcrumbs and were filled with a mix of mashed potato, swede, carrot and peas.  The bubble and squeak cakes were an interesting change from English muffins made the dish even more satisfying for lunchtime.

Steven ordered the Beef steak sandwich with beetroot, aged Cheddar, rocket and aioli served with hand cut chips.  The medium-well done steak was thin and tender and was packed between two slices of sourdough.  The skin-on chips were thick and crispy and served in their own terracotta pot with a delicious aioli dipping sauce.

The desserts at Ozone are out of this world – certainly a cut above the usual offering of muffins and pastries.  I tried the most heavenly Lemon Curd Slice, served with vanilla cream.  The sticky cake was infused with a kind of dense lemon curd custard and set on a shortbread biscuit base.  It was incredibly decadent, rich and sweet – quite unlike any cake I’ve tasted.

Steven’s New York Cheesecake was fresh, cool, creamy, thick and also super sweet.  The desserts at Ozone are ideal for those with a sweet tooth, however, for something lighter, try some gelato, granita or a gelato milkshake by Soho’s Gelupo.  In return, Ozone coffee is used at Gelupo and Bocca di Lupo – a perfect foodie marriage!

Of course, tasting the in-house roasted coffee was a must, so Steven tried a Cappuccino and I was interested to see how good their Chai Latte was.  The cappuccino was creamy, rich roasted and potent but without any bitterness.  Chai Lattes can be hit or miss in London, either being too sweet or just bland.  However, Ozone’s Chai Latte was creamy, with a hint of white chocolate, just sweet enough and packed with punchy spices.  Ozone blend their own Chai Latte powder mix using fresh spices, which can also be bought at the store.

We wanted to see the mechanics behind the exceptionally good coffee, so one of the baristas took us downstairs for a tour of the coffee roaster.  Ozone roasts raw coffee beans 2-3 times per day on a classic 1975 PROBAT roaster, using beans from all over the world – notably Brazil and Costa Rica.  The beans darken and expand in size and the unwanted bean debris is separated, leaving just the finest coffee ready for grinding.

The beans are then bagged up in air-tight pouches and sent off to cafe and restaurant stockists across the country.

To get the best coffee, the roasting time is tested and fine tuned by changing the pressure in the roaster.  The quality of the coffee is tested by ‘cupping’ and the whole team at Ozone are involved in this process to make sure they are always serving the very best.

Ozone Coffee Roasters is a great find in London, with exceptional food and coffee in a cool, unpretentious place.  Sometimes indie coffee shops can be claustrophobic with snail-paced service and an aloof attitude.  Ozone, however, ticks like clockwork and is run by a team who are passionate about what they do, but still have time for a chat – it doesn’t get much better than that!

All photos by Chérie City

Chérie City was a guest of Ozone Coffee Roasters

Ozone Coffee Roasters on Urbanspoon

Square Meal

Doha, Hotels, Hotels - Design, Hotels - Luxury

Renaissance Doha City Center Hotel – Qatar

A fabulous poolside party marked the debut of Renaissance Doha City Center Hotel, the hotly anticipated new arrival to Doha’s cosmopolitan West Bay area.

An international design-led lifestyle brand by Marriott, Renaissance’s philosophy is to offer guests a sensory experience with individual touches that make all the difference.  Renaissance Doha City Center is part of the Marriott Doha complex, also comprising Courtyard by Marriott and Marriott Executive Apartments, within two 48-storey towers connected to the Doha City Center Mall.

During my visit to Doha, I stayed at Renaissance Doha City Center for two nights in a deluxe room with spectacular floor to ceiling views over the Doha skyline and the Arabian (Persian) Gulf.

My room was exceptionally spacious, elegant and contemporary, designed in a colour palette of royal blue, pale yellow, black and matte silver.  Doha’s local culture and heritage is referenced with black and white photographs depicting the beautiful Middle Eastern architecture, giving the room an extra bit of character.

My room was equipped with enough facilities for both business and leisure stays.  It featured a large desk with an ergonomic chair and international plug sockets, a 32 inch LCD TV with cable satellite, Bose iPod dock, comfy seating areas and an iron with ironing board (a hotel room essential, in my book).

One of my favourite amenities was the tea and coffee-making set with three cute crushed ceramic coffee cups on a long oval saucer.

Like all Marriott hotels, the bed was exceptionally comfortable, with crisp linen, six pillows and plump cushions to prop you up when relaxing.  This is something that I really love about the Marriott group, as there is nothing more pleasing than a luxurious hotel bed and knowing that a good night’s sleep is guaranteed.

The marble bathroom was spectacular and ornate, with gilt mirrors and pale gold patterned wallpaper.  It featured a separate bathtub and shower, bidet, bathroom amenities by Brighton-based fragrance house Pecksniff’s and lots of fluffy towels.  The navy embroidered bathrobe and slippers offered an extra luxurious touch.

On arrival, I was welcomed with a box of baklava in a traditional decorative box and bottles of complimentary mineral water.  After a long but very comfortable flight with Qatar Airways, I was ready to recline on the chaise-longue and refuel with more than a few pieces of delicious baklava before heading down to meet the group of international journalists over dinner at New York Steakhouse, one of the hotel’s fine dining restaurants.

The next day, it was an early start to go on a desert safari, just 30 minutes outside of Doha, so I ordered Eggs Benedict from the in-room menu.  My breakfast was served perfectly on time and came beautifully presented, kept hot under a silver dome.  As previously experienced in Beirut earlier in the year, Eggs Benedict in the Middle East are made slightly different to the UK, as ham is made from either chicken or beef and hollandaise sauce has a sharper, tangy taste.

The following morning, I went down for breakfast at Crossroads Kitchen at enjoyed a hearty breakfast of poached eggs on toast, mini pastries and made-to-order French Toast with red berry compote.  It really was breakfast heaven and offered everything you could possibly want to start the day.

One of the best things about staying at Renaissance Doha City Center Hotel is the number of leisure facilities in the West End part of the complex, available to all guests.  Amenities include a heated outdoor pool and Aqua Lounge, children’s pool, whirlpool, sauna and vitality zone gym.  Also worth a visit is the luxurious Saray Spa, where I enjoyed a relaxing facial, complete with its own sauna, steam room and hammam.

There is an impressive selection of international restaurants and bars in the complex, including rustic Italian restaurant Cucina, New York Steakhouse, Ipanema Brazilian Churrascaria, Brasserie Centre-Ville, Glo Cocktail Bar.  Alternatively, if you just want to crash out for the evening, order from the 24-hour in-room dining menu.

In place of a traditional Concierge is Navigator, a signature Renaissance service that connects guests with the coolest places and hidden gems in the city.

Club Level rooms offer access to the Club Lounge, where you can enjoy complimentary food, drinks and cocktails, business services and free WiFi.  Having experienced the Club Lounge at London Marriott Grosvenor Square, if you have the option, it is certainly worth it!  Another special feature is the rooftop helipad with an exclusive helipad lounge and bar, which makes for a glamorous or discreet arrival.

Renaissance Doha City Center Hotel excels with its fine attention to detail and exceptionally welcoming and efficient staff.  The contemporary luxury surroundings are complimented by a warm, friendly atmosphere.  It’s an ideal base for exploring the cultural delights of Doha while recharging in ultimate comfort.

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

Cherie City was a guest of Renaissance Doha City Center Hotel.

Breakfast, London, Restaurants

Breakfast At The Delaunay

I’ve been waiting for months for the arrival of The Delaunay on Aldwych, just south of Covent Garden, so I treated myself to an indulgent breakfast before saying goodbye to London for 2011.

The Delaunay is the new all-day brasserie from The Wolsely owners Chris Corbin and Jeremy King, located on the site of the former Bank restaurant (no…I don’t remember it either).

It’s the second contributor to a kind of foodie renaissance, the first being Russell Norman’s Jewish deli/cocktail bar Mishkin’s and the next is the upcoming arrival of Balthazar.  This regeneration could see Covent Garden take over Soho and Mayfair as the city’s most exciting food destination.

Despite living in London for almost four years, I haven’t yet made it to The Wolseley, so I’m experiencing The Delaunay with fresh eyes and no reference point to the iconic grandeur of The Wolseley.

The Delaunay has the atmosphere of a grand European cafe with a mittel-European menu of comforting classics.

Arriving at The Delaunay was like stepping into another era of elegance, ceremony and restrained luxury.  I left my coat in the traditional cloakroom and was escorted through the slightly more informal front room, past the tempting vienoisserie table through to a cosy corner table with a green leather banquette built into dark wood panelling.

On the bottom of the menu, The Delaunay dogmatically lists its ‘dos and don’ts’, which huffed me a bit, and one rule was ‘no photography’.  Even though the dining room was less than half full and there appeared to be no political figures playing hookie, I didn’t want to risk being audibly scolded for bringing out my Canon DSLR, but managed to take some sneaky camera phone pics.

I was greeted immediately by a polite, attentive waiter and ordered a pot of Delaunay Blend tea (£3.90).  Like The Wolseley, The Delaunay has an indulgent selection of flavoured coffees and gourmet hot chocolates, which would be perfect for escaping the chill on a winter afternoon, but for breakfast only tea would do.

The tea came served in a large silver tea pot with a ceremonial strainer, ready to be poured into the classic monogrammed china cup and saucer.  The Delaunay Blend had a malted, fragrant taste, with a hint of bergamot.

The test of a great breakfast destination is how it makes Eggs Benedict (£7/£13.50) so The Delaunay was duly subjected to my usual breakfast assessment.  The toasted muffins were thick, springy and slightly sweet, the poached eggs were exemplary, the ham was high quality and full of flavour and the hollandaise had a creamy texture with a pleasing vinegar sharpness.

My granary toast was slightly burnt – hardly a big deal, but not expected from the new restaurant with its breakfast immortalised in Breakfast at the Wolseley by A.A Gill and a less than half full dining room.

Breakfast was leisurely and unhurried, however all of my requests were met quickly by the charming, capable staff.

The bill came to £19.58 and pleasingly, the £2 cover charge wasn’t enforced (perhaps this is only at dinner).  The Eggs Benedict are quite highly priced, especially compared to the rest of the breakfast menu, but they are exceptionally good and filling.

The Delaunay is an impressive, elegant destination for breakfast and luckily it hasn’t been completely colonised by businessmen and the fashion set as yet, although its proximity to Somerset House means it’s likely to be a beacon for all the action next season.

For more info and reservations, visit: www.thedelaunay.com

The Delaunay on Urbanspoon

Square Meal