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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:

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:, 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:

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:

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:

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:

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

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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:

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:

The Delaunay on Urbanspoon

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Hotels, Hotels - Luxury

London Syon Park Waldorf Astoria

The original Waldorf=Astoria New York brings up images of old world glamour and history, but the new London Syon Park Waldorf Astoria is a much slicker, quirky yet seductive affair.

The five star London Syon Park – a Waldorf Astoria hotel – is nestled among 200 acres of idyllic greenery in the Duke of Northumberland’s Syon House Estate, just a short distance from Richmond and Kew Gardens.

London Syon Park has dual appeal – a country bolthole for Londoners escaping the noise of the city and a more inspiring option to the ‘airport hotels’ for those passing through Heathrow.

The exterior of the hotel may not be quite as grand as you might expect, but step inside and you’re immediately transported to a whimsical wonderland of oversized velvet arm armchairs, a cloud-like origami sculpture and a glass butterfly house filled with the world’s most exotic butterflies, in the middle of the lobby.

This is inspired by the butterfly house that was once at Syon Park and the butterfly motif runs throughout the hotel, so look out for clues!  There is even an ice cream parlour, Brownies, to make the experience even more fantastical.

London Syon Park has 137 rooms on just two floors with some accessed through an enclosed outdoor walkway featuring twitterings of woodland animal and bird noises.

The bedrooms can only be described as ‘gothic luxe’ – elegant, dramatic monochrome with sumptuous textures.  The dark, mystical design of the bedrooms is a real contrast to the playful lightness of the hotel and its country surroundings.

Our Arboretum Room was spacious and featured a giant LCD HD TV, plenty wardrobe space, a work desk, seating area and glass bottles of complimentary mineral water.

The bed was exceptionally comfy and the sheet were silky-soft and light, so we had an excellent night’s sleep.  Sometimes hotels can over-do it with the padding and pillows, leading to much over-heating and an interrupted sleep, but here they have it just right.

Considering that the hotel is so close to Heathrow, with planes flying over at regular intervals, we never heard any air-traffic noise – a testament to the sound-proofed windows.

Most of the bedrooms have balconies, all with different views, and ours had a view over the leafy grounds and the Syon Arboretum. It was delightful to sit and enjoy the sun and views for a while before exploring the rest of the hotel.

The bathroom is petite but perfectly formed with a deep soak tub complete with TV, a powerful walk-in rain shower and the most plush bathroom products I’ve encountered at a hotel yet – Salvatore Ferragamo Tuscan Soul.

Kallima Spa, named after a rare butterfly, is the jewel of London Syon Park and it was hard for me to tear myself away.  The pool is a tranquil paradise with irridescent mini mosaics, water overflow and the perfect temperature.  We loved the jacuzzi and also tried out the ultra-hot Steam Room and Sauna, complete with TV!

It’s easy to spend a whole afternoon by the pool, sauntering from one well-being facility to the next and relaxing with a chilled glass of water on the pool loungers, before perhaps indulging in an Anne Sémonin spa treatment, which I did the next day.

If you’re a more outdoors type, you can take a long ramble through the acres of greenery that makes up Syon Park, take a bike ride along the Thames or investigate the ‘secret garden’, which can be unlocked with your room key.  Or, if you can’t quite leave the city behind, a shopping trip to Westfield at Shepherds Bush is just a short bus or cab ride away.

In the evening, we dined London Syon Park’s restaurant, The Capability, headed up by executive chef Lee Streeton, formerly of HIX and Browns hotel.  The Capability is named after Capability Brown, the prolific 18th century landscape architect, who designed the extensive grounds at Syon Park, and is affectionately known as ‘England’s greatest gardener’.

The evening finished with a decadent cocktail in a super-tall crystal glass at the stylish lounge-bar, Peacock Alley.

In the morning, we went down for breakfast at The Capability and ordered Eggs Benedict for the hot menu and had a few bits and pieces from the continental buffet.  Our waiter proceeded to tell us the history of Eggs Benedict and its connection to the original Waldorf=Astoria, then suggested we have the Eggs Royale instead!  It was friendly, but a bit too much for the morning, especially before I’d had my morning coffee.

The Eggs Benedict was excellent and I loved the choice of muffins and pastries in either full or mini size from the continental buffet.

London Syon Park is the perfect place for a relaxing retreat, although surprisingly there are so many things to see and do that you’ll be spoilt for choice.

My only gripe is the WIFI charges.  WIFI is free in communal areas, but to use it in your room costs £15 for 24 hours, which is a bit steep, as guests are only likely to use it for a fraction of this time.  Tea and coffee facilities in the room would be nice too.

Kallima Spa is an absolutely heavenly experience and dinner at The Capability is a must for foodies who delight in seasonal dishes made with the freshest ingredients from the hotel’s allotments and herb gardens.

For more info and booking, visit:

Chérie City was a guest of London Syon Park.

Beirut, Hotels, Hotels - Luxury

A Blogger In Beirut: Day Two

The second day of our Beirut adventure was our first full day and our itinerary lay somewhere between a few planned sights and roaming around the city, taking in the culture and atmosphere.

We started the day with a hearty breakfast in The Grill Room at Four Seasons Beirut.  I had my usual Eggs Benedict and Steven tried the Buttermilk Pancakes with maple syrup.  We were also served a traditional Lebanese breakfast of flatbread and cheeses.

Our morning was spent by the rooftop pool, planning our route for the day and relaxing in the pool and jacuzzi.  We asked the Concierge for advice before we left and he marked all of our planned spots on the map.

Our first stop was the Beirut Souks, just 5 minutes walk from Four Seasons Beirut.  A million miles away from a bartering market place, the Beirut Souks is a luxury shopping mall with every designer and high street brand you could ever want.  The Fakhry Bey and Allenby areas of the souks are particularly flash with resident stores including Balenciaga, Yves Saint Laurent, Louis Vuitton, Bottega Veneta, Chloe and Stella McCartney.  I was particularly excited to see the See by Chloe store, which I hadn’t even seen in Europe yet.

There are lots of dining options at Beirut Souks, including a new outpost of Momo, just opened in the jewellery souks.  We had lunch on the terrace at The Met – a design-led informal restaurant with an international menu.

We ordered four plates of small bites to share, which came with various dipping sauces and satay.  The food was excellent and portion sizes were generous, so if you get hungry in the souk, The Met is a good, affordable choice.

Beirut’s downtown shopping area, also known as Solidere, is mostly pedestrianised and it has a cosmopolitan, Mediterranean atmosphere with chic terrace cafes and street art, including this silver shark sculpture outside Cartier.

The architecture reminded me of Marseilles – a mixture of French, Moorish and Middle Eastern influences.

The military check-points were confusing at first, as we assumed they were protecting the mosque or blocking certain paths.  After exploring more of the city, we discovered that the soldiers are there mostly for security and they politely allow you’re allowed to walk freely without any questioning.

The tree-lined Rue Monot, in eastern side of the city centre,  is the place to come with friends and catch up over tea and shisha or a long lunch.  It’s a mix of Lebanese and French brasseries and western restaurant, including an outlet of Le Relais de Venise l’Entrecote.

This street leads up to the Place de l’Etoile, also known as Nejmeh Square, a quiet pedestrianised square in the renovated historical district of Beirut.

Just off the Place de l’Etoile, down a side street, we found extraordinary views of the Mohammad Al-Amin mosque, St Georges Maronite and some Roman ruins (the Roman Baths are nearby).

Designed by architect Azmi Fakhuri, the Sunni Mohammad Al-Amin mosque was built between 2002 and 2007 and was commissioned by the former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.  Assassinated in 2005, Hariri was buried next to the mosque, which was inaugurated by his son three years later.

The stunning blue dome bears Ottoman influences and is said to be inspired by Istanbul’s ‘Blue Mosque’.

We walked around the outside of the mosque, taking in the intricate tiles, inscriptions and impressive towers as we went.  This led us to the Place des Martyrs, a poignant statue commemorating the memory of Lebanese nationalists who were hanged by the Ottomans in World War I.

Ridden with bullet holes, the Place des Martyrs was the central location of anti-Syrian protest during the 2005 Cedar Revolution and is still a meeting place for political demonstrations.

On the other side of the Places des Martyrs is Gemmayze, Beirut’s own version of Shoreditch or east London.  With narrow streets full of international restaurants, cafes and bars, Gemmayze comes alive at night and is the place to come for all-night partying.

It feels like the kind of place where you never know what you might find.  We stumbled across an arts festival at the foot of the Escales Saint Nicolas, where local artists showcased their works to the music of a live band.  Having learned by experiences that good things are usually to be found at the top of punishingly steep stairs and hills (Marseille’s Cour Julien boho hilltop neighbourhood, for example), we made the climb in the baking heat.

Almost passing out at the top, we discovered it was a residential area with one cafe and no gilded utopian village as hope for.  However, it was worth our while to saunter back down, taking in the artwork and crafts on the way.

Tired and worn out, we treated ourselves to gelato at Chocolat Milano, a quirky, modern ice cream parlour in Beirut Central District.  Then it was back to the hotel for a rest and to start blogging about our adventures.

That evening, we’d planned to have dinner at Leila, a much-loved traditional Lebanese restaurant.  While out in Gemmayze, we saw a desolate building with Leila’s pretty, nostalgic design plastered all over and mistook a new opening for being closed to renovation.  In fact, there are two other Leila outposts in the upmarket ABC shopping centres nearby, so if you manage to eat at Leila, please report back!

A happy accident however, as we went up to the Four Seasons rooftop bar and ordered their signature Rose Mojitos.

We sat by the pool, which was now bearing fire, and took in the spectacular views from the 26th floor.  The rooftop bar scene is huge in Beirut and Four Season Beirut’s Club 26 boasts the highest bar in the city.

The rooftop pool serves a selection of Asian tapas, but we were tempted by the room service menu.  We ordered on Shish Tavouk with Steamed Rice and one Spaghetti Bolognese and shared both.  They came on a large, fully-set table with enough flat bread and rolls for a whole dinner party!

The food was excellent once again and we felt that we hadn’t cheated by ordering a Lebanese dish.  We heard a few bangs and looked outside to see the most magnificent firework display over the harbour.  We quickly moved our dinner onto the table on the balcony and finished while watching the sky.  It was an unforgettable moment, just magical!

On the first night at Whisky Mist and then from the balcony at Four Seasons Beirut, there were fireworks to end our evening.  What an incredible city!

Chérie City was a guest of bmi British Midland International and Four Seasons Beirut.

All photos by Chérie City.

Hotels, London

A Gourmet Stay At London Marriott Grosvenor Square

Last weekend, I was invited to stay at London Marriott Grosvenor Square and sample the delights of Gordon Ramsay’s Maze and Maze Grill.

London Marriott Grosvenor Square is just a few steps from Selfridges and the Bond Street boutiques, so it’s an ideal base for a shopping weekend.  This is one of Marriott’s most contemporary hotels and from the moment I stepped inside it felt buzzing and sociable yet relaxing.

My Deluxe King Room looked on to leafy Grosvenor Square and I could spot the different international embassies from my window.  Grosvenor Square is one of my favourite London parks, as it’s just a few steps from the shops, is just the right size and is perfect for watching the world and posh little dogs go by.

My spacious room was decorated in monochrome and mink shades with tactile furnishings and featured a contemporary four-poster bed.  The bed was like floating on a cloud and I was told that this is Marriott’s signature bed, which now features throughout the group’s properties.  It had the most gorgeous soft linen and was covered with plump cushions – I slept on no less than six pillows!

There was plenty of desk space to work, a large flatscreen TV in front of the bed and a triple fitted wardrobe with an iron and ironing board, to avoid unnecessary laundry charges.  I felt instantly at home with tea and coffee making facilities, a bathrobe and slippers and a stack of magazines to work through.

When I arrived, I was greeted with a colourful bowl of fresh fruit, bottled mineral water, a box of Marriott handmade chocolates and a personal note welcoming me to the hotel.

Later in the evening, I was brought more mineral water and an adorable London Marriott Grosvenor Square teddy bear – a nice touch.

The bathroom was classic marble and had a bath with a shower over and even a pair of scales (if you dare look after a visit to Maze)!

The bathroom products were from Marriott’s own aromatherapy range and had a citrusy gin and tonic scent.  Perhaps some Miller Harris or Molton Brown products would be more inspiring and be better suited to the luxurious design of the rooms.

The Club Lounge was an excellent feature and it felt like having a luxury airport lounge constantly at my convenience.  It provided somewhere other than the my room to relax and refuel with complimentary teas and fresh coffee, bottled soft drinks, continental breakfast and a selection of scones, cakes, snacks and canapés until midnight.

The Club Lounge is free to use for guests staying in a suite or a Club room and there is an honesty bar for if you feel like having a cold beer or spirit.  It has complimentary WIFI throughout, so you can work, catch up on the news on the large TV screens, or relax after a meeting or using the fitness room.

After settling in, we met Darin, the lovely Director of Sales & Marketing and had a tour of the hotel, followed by some exotic-looking cocktails in Maze Bar.

We saw the suites and balcony rooms and the impressive blue and yellow ballroom, which was set up for an Indian wedding that evening.  We then had some free time to relax or enjoy the sun before dinner.  The Concierge had thoughtfully created a walking itinerary for us, taking in the sights of St James’ Park, and we were also given a Selfridges VIP Card, if we felt like a spot of shopping.

That evening, we regrouped for a cocktail masterclass and a dinner at the Chef’s Table at Maze, but more about those foodie adventures later…

After a really good sleep, I had my wake-up call from reception and was soon brought my breakfast by the wonderful Audrey.  She was so cheerful and motherly, I wish I could wake up in this way every day!

I had the most delicious, creamy Eggs Benedict, a selection of pastries, a large pot of fresh coffee with hot milk and a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice.

I spent the morning working in my room and then it was down to Maze Grill for a steak masterclass followed by lunch at the Chef’s Table.

London Marriott Grosvenor Square is a real destination hotel and there are options for fine dining at Maze or a more informal experience at Maze Grill.  Or you can even stay holed up in your room with Gordon Ramsay room service, although the best shopping and a delightful park on your doorstep might coax you out!

Photos by Chérie City.

Chérie City was a guest of London Marriott Grosvenor Square.