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Bars, Hotels, London

Blooming Brilliance at The Rib Room, London

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chérie City was a guest of The Rib Room

All photos by The Rib Room

Bars, Hotels, Hotels - Luxury, London, Restaurants

Dinner & Champagne at Bistro 51, St. James’ Court, A Taj Hotel

St. James’ is a part of historic London that feels so elegant, refined and quintessentially English.  With the city developing so rapidly, a stroll through this neighbourhood reminds me of London’s dapper, old world charm.

Nestled on Buckingham Gate is the luxurious St. James’ Court, A Taj Hotel.  Its exquisite Victorian architecture makes it one of London’s most attractive hotels and the lobby is just as welcoming with marble floors, warm wood panelling and plush seating.

We visited last week for dinner, courtesy of the lovely folk at Zomato, and on arrival we headed to The Hamptons Bar at the back of the lobby for a decadent Laurent-Perrier Champagne Flight with specially-paired canapés.  We had a cosy table overlooking the splendid courtyard and a live pianist provided a soothing soundtrack.

The Laurent-Perrier Champagne Flight certainly looked the part with three mini Champagne flutes ready to be filled on a special presentation tray.  The first fizz we tried was Laurent-Perrier Brut served with scallop and avocado tartare with lemon oil.  This light, easy to drink Champagne has prominent citrus notes and it went perfectly with the fresh scallop, creamy avocado and meyer lemon.

We then moved on to the Laurent-Perrier Cuvée Rosé, paired with smoked salmon and prawn marie rose rolls.  Not only did they match in colour, but the sweet, tangy prawns and intense smoked salmon complemented the Champagne’s red and black fruit notes.  This Champagne’s attractive pink colour is achieved by using the saignée method of leaving the red grape skins on the wine for up to three days.

Our third tasting was Laurent-Perrier Vintage 2004, served with asparagus ratatouille crostini.  This was our favourite of the three, as it is was the most rounded with biscuity, vanilla notes.  The Chardonny 50% and Pinot Noir 50% Champagne went perfectly with the vegetable crostini, which was nicely marinated and drizzled with olive oil and balsamic glaze.

The Laurent-Perrier Champagne Flight is fantastic value at just £20 per person and feels like more of a ceremony than simply ordering a glass of Champagne.  It also makes a perfect after-work treat when you’re ready to be perked up with a few bites and bubbles.

Before getting too tipsy, we moved across the lobby to Bistro 51, the hotel’s modern European and Pan Asian restaurant.  The bright, contemporary restaurant has a calm atmosphere and there are a few different seating sections so it feels private and intimate.

We chose from the Chef’s Menu, which offers four options for each course.  After ordering, we were brought a selection of freshly-baked pumpkin seed rolls and carrot bread, accompanied by the most delicious creamy mushroom dip.  We tried not to overdo it with the bread, but it was just so tasty and moreish.

To start, I ordered Pan seared scallops, cauliflower puree and pancetta.  The dish looked appealing and was beautifully-presented.  The scallops were ever so fresh and lightly browned, though unfortunately too salty, as though they’d been seasoned twice.  They went well with the velvety smooth and subtle cauliflower puree and the flavoursome pancetta cooked two ways in a paper-thin strip and crunchy pieces.

I also liked the Brussels sprouts leaves, black olive crumble and dashes of olive oil that punctuated the dish.

Steven tried the Salmon and cucumber tartar with yuzu dressing.  The chunky, fresh salmon was marinated with strong flavours of cucumber, onion and dill, drizzled in a creamy, citrusy yuzu dressing and topped with high quality caviar.  The portion size was substantial and it was a light and enjoyable start to the meal.

I followed with the Cajun spiced chicken breast, new potatoes tossed with spinach, however as I wasn’t really in the mood for heat, I requested it without the Cajun spice (the friendly staff were happy to oblige).  The succulent, juicy chicken breast certainly didn’t miss the spice, as it was infused with the aromas of fresh thyme and herbs and had a light, golden skin.

I loved the slightly sweet new potatoes muddled with a light Parmesan cream sauce and wilted spinach and the most perfect long-stem asparagus.  The dish was finished with a rich, meaty jus and more of that yummy black olive crumble.

Steven tried the Masala fried fish, aloo and chickpea chaat.  The flaky, tender fish was lightly fried with an aromatic, crisp coating and was accompanied by piquant spiced potatoes, tasty spiced chickpeas and julienne vegetables.  It was a punchy dish with real depth of flavour and a combination of invigorating spices.

I finished with the Tonka bean crème brûlée with hazelnut biscotti.  The cool, creamy crème brûlée had just a hint of fragrant tonka bean and the caramelised crust was good but could’ve done with a little more time under the blowtorch to make it crunchier.

I loved the authentic, crunchy hazelnut biscotti and the unexpected joy of proper rum and raisin ice cream, finished with freeze-dried raspberry pieces.

Steven’s Sticky toffee pudding with vanilla ice cream was a British classic at its very best.  The moist and airy sponge was sweetened with chopped dates and was drenched in a very indulgent, thick toffee sauce.  It was finished with a scoop of luxurious vanilla ice cream, biscuit crumble and a sugar spear.

We finished the meal with pots of Earl Grey tea and went back to the lobby to enjoy the piano music before leaving.

The warm atmosphere and kind hospitality at St. James’s Court really made our evening and our dining experience in the Hamptons Bar and Bistro 51 was very memorable.  The Laurent-Perrier Champagne Flight added that extra touch of decadence and I can’t recommend it enough.

For more information and booking, visit:  See the menu on Zomato.

Chérie City was invited by Zomato and St. James’ Court, A Taj Hotel

Photos by Chérie City and St. James’ Court, A Taj Hotel

Bars, Hotels, Hotels - Luxury, London

The Luggage Room – Mayfair, London

Mayfair’s Grosvenor Square returns to the elegance of the Roaring Twenties with the arrival of The Luggage Room.  On the corner of the square and part of 5 star hotel London Marriott Grosvenor Square, the luxurious speakeasy bar is perfect for a cosy, expertly-mixed cocktail.

As the name suggests, The Luggage Room was once the storage room for the guests in the hotel above.  Designed in Art Deco style, the bar features sumptuous leather seating in chocolate and cream and the walls reflect the exquisite trunks of years gone by with metal studs and checkered patterns.  Vuitton and Goyard trunk enthusiasts will approve!  The initials on the tables also reference the dapper ‘Bentley Boys’, who made a name for themselves zooming around 1920s Mayfair in their Bentley sports cars.

Bar Manager Abdulai Kpekawa, formerly of Roux at The Pembury, has created a well-edited collection of heritage cocktails, including cobblers, cups, martinis and punches.  We were seated in an intimate nook and immediately brought a delicious welcome drink of sweet and fruity Fish House Punch, placed on chic black and gold monogrammed napkins.

We munched on addictive root vegetable crisps and gourmet mixed nuts while perusing the menu.  The cocktails are thoughtfully categorised and while it can be difficult to choose between the tempting concoctions, the list was not overly exhaustive.

I started with the interestingly named Penicillin – Johnnie Walker, lemon juice, honey syrup, ginger and Talisker (£13.50).  I asked Abdulai what made the cocktail have a curious medicinal taste and it is down to the Talisker – a peaty single malt Scotch Whisky from the Isle of Skye.  Steven went for a classic sweet Manhattan – Rye Whiskey, sweet Vermouth and Agnostura Bitters (£12.50).

I was then tempted by the Boston Cobbler – Port, Calvados, lemon, orange and pineapple juice (£13.50).  Cobblers date back to around 1830, however these cocktails, made of a base spirit, sugar and fresh fruit, seem to be having ‘a moment’ in London right now.  The Boston Cobbler was freshing, juicy and potent, served over finely crushed ice in a chilled silver cup with a metal straw.

Steven tried an Aviation – Tanqueray, Maraschino Luxardo, lemon juice and violette (£12.50).  This was another smooth, perfectly blended classic with a fragrant taste from the violette and a boozy cherry at the bottom of the glass.

The bar plates are also suitably traditional, comforting and well-presented.  We loved the Potted ‘Two Hoots’ Barkham Blue Cheese, Spiced Cider Pear Chutney, Sour Dough Chards (£12).  The generous pot of cheese was silky smooth, flavoursome and perfect for dipping. The Crisp Basil Bread (£7) was a tasty, light snack served with an addictive sweet tomato chutney.

Scratchings, Sweet Apple Sauce (£6) came in their own mini frying basket and were well-cooked but quite a challenge on the teeth.  Knawing furiously on a thick piece of crackling is somewhat at odds with the refinement of the bar and a bit of a conversation-stopper.  Other hearty snacks include Melton Mowbray Pork Pies, Salmon Scotch Eggs with Caviar Sour Cream and Marinated Anchovies.

The Luggage Room is a great addition to the Mayfair bar scene, with grown-up cocktails, an intimate setting and charming staff.  Just a short stroll from Selfridges and the Bond Street stores, I can see The Luggage Room being a haunt for post-shopping cocktails.

For more information, visit: www.luggageroom.co.uk

Chérie City was a guest of The Luggage Room

Photos by Chérie City and The Luggage Room

Art, Bars, Hotels, Hotels - Design, London

Natasha Law Shot Glasses For Wyld At W London

Wyld bar at W London is the slickest new addition to the London bar scene, bringing a touch of New York cool to Leicester Square.

This summer, Wyld have collaborated with the wonderful illustrator Natasha Law on ‘The Wyld Couple’ – a set of limited edition male and female shot glasses.

Natasha took inspiration from the glamorous, rock ‘n’ roll party scenes at Wyld.

Just order a shot at the bar and staff will turn a blind eye if you want to slip one into your purse!

The female shot glass is available first and then you’ll have to come back at Wyld to pick up her man and reunite the couple.

Shots might not have previously been on your bar radar, but Wyld’s selection of premium, rare and vintage tequilas could be too hard to resist. Try Wyld’s signature shot – premium tequila, kaffir lime sugar syrup, lemon and fresh watermelon.

If you’re not into shots, try one of Wyld’s premium tequila-based cocktails, such as a Mexican Sunset or a Sunburnt Senorita.  For the ultimate indulgence, order the Bonkers Ball – a mix of premium rum punch topped off with either Dom Perignon or Cristal, served in a giant disco ball and complete with dry ice for a bit of drama.  If you ask nicely, the bar staff might give you a Natasha Law shot glass to take home!

Wyld operates an invitation only door policy.  For more info, visit: www.wlondon.co.uk/wyld

Bars, Hotels, Hotels - Design, London

Vista At The Trafalgar Hotel

London is quickly catching up to Europes sunnier capitals with its rooftop bars and the hottest new addition to the top floor bar scene is Vista at The Trafalgar Hotel.

Vista boasts possibly the best views over London and its location, overlooking Trafalgar Square can’t be beaten.  During the day, Vista is an oasis of calm in the city, tucked away among exotic plants and some inventive topiary.  I loved the pink, white and black geometric print cushions, bowls of pretty roses and design-led furniture.

I attended the launch party for Vista and it was a really fabulous event.  The Pommery Champagne and Fig and Black Truffle Vodka cocktails were flowing and we munched on oysters, parma ham with mozzarella and roast red peppers, butternut squash salad, summer berries with mascarpone and honey and  chocolate truffle lollipops and mini ice cream tubs.

There was a charity auction in aid of Cancer Research and then the wonderful Beverley Knight performed soul classics and songs from her new album.  I’d love to know Beverley’s beauty secret – she always looks so radiant!

It’s difficult to determine the clientele from a launch, but I suspect it will attract a well-heeled, in-the-know crowd and of course London’s media gang, desperate to get out of their stuffy offices.

Vista is the perfect place to soak up the summer sun with a Mediterranean sharing platter and juices or for sundowner cocktails, perhaps leading to a late-night party.  Let’s just hope that the rain stays away, so that Vista’s first summer is a memorable one!

For more info, visit: www.thetrafalgar.com

All photos: www.jamesbedford.com

Hotels, Hotels - Luxury, London, Restaurants

Amaranto at Four Seasons London Park Lane

Park Lane hotels are invariably plush with an international crowd, but the newly-reopened Four Seasons London at Park Lane occupies another realm of hushed luxury and good taste.

The Four Seasons has been closed for renovation ever since I moved to London three years ago and without ever having stepped foot inside a Four Seaons hotel, the group holds a kind of hotel godlike status for me!

I was invited to lunch at Amaranto, Four Seasons London’s stunning Italian restaurant overlooking Park Lane.  Four Seasons guest rooms are contemporary-classic in muted natural shades, but Amaranto is a somewhat more seductive affair.

Designed in sumptuous deep reds with black lacquer, marble and Chinoiserie, Amaranto is as far from a Mediterranean ristorante as can be.  However, the conservatory dining area is flooded with natural light and the outdoor terrace will be the place to be this summer.

My high expectations of Four Seasons London were confirmed as the charming and ever dashing perfumer Roja Dove was sitting at a nearby table.  I later found out that guests staying at Four Seasons London are treated to bespoke Roja Dove bath products in their bathrooms – it doesn’t get much more luxurious than that!

Seated at a comfortable corner table, nestled in among plump cushions, we were immediately brought a basket of the most beautiful artisan breads and ice cold still water.

The super attentive waiters took our order and followed swiftly with an amuse-bouche of anchovies, capers and herbs on bruschetta – strong, salty and delicious with a hint of garlic olive oil.

The wine list featured a nice selection of Italian wines, but as my knowledge of Italian wines in pretty limited, the very knowledgeable Sommelier suggested the Franz Haus Pinot Nero 2008.

I started with Parma Ham with Buffalo Mozzarella and a Mixed Green Salad, which came layered in a neat dome shape.  The green salad was a mere garnish, as there was an extraordinary amount of mature parma ham and creamy, pleasantly tart mozzarella.  In fact, the antipasti was so bountiful that I struggle to finish the dish.

It was an ideal starter for the glorious Spring day outside and momentarily transported me to Italy.

My lovely dining partner Sarah ordered the Beef Carpaccio, which was equally abundant and fresh.

All of the pasta dishes were tempting, but I was swayed by the Crab Taglialini with Artichoke and Lemon.

The well-seasoned, al dente pasta was ever so slightly creamy with a zesty lemon flavour and meaty chunks of crab.  The artichoke sat atop the mound of pasta in paper-thin discs.

Sarah ordered the Tomato and Basil Spaghetti that looked simple, slow-cooked and divine.

Amaranto’s Six Little Sins dessert has become something of a legend already among London foodies on twitter, so I fought to find a bit of room to try it out.  If I were to fall asleep in the afternoon, so be it!

Six Little Sins comes as a platter of chocolate delights – a chocolate fondant, white chocolate ice cream on a bed of crunchy biscuit pebbles and a big smudge of chocolate sauce.

The pièce de résistance is the huge chocolate ball on which the waiter poured a thick, hot Valrhona chocolate sauce.  The ball melts instantly to reveal delicious berries on top of a splodge of white chocolate cream – very impressive!

The Six Little Sins dessert is extremely indulgent, rich and every bit worth the high praise.  I’ve decided not to add a picture of Six Little Sins, as it will spoil the surprise!

Amaranto is one of the more highly-priced hotel restaurants in central London, but the quality and skill is visible.  Portion sizes are generous (particularly the starters) and the location is such a visual feast that it’s worth splashing out.

Chérie City was a guest of Amaranto at Four Seasons London.

Amaranto on Urbanspoon