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Mostly Food & Travel Journal

Afternoon Tea at Savini at Criterion

ChariTable Bookings Signature Dish

Hawkers Bar and Brasserie – finer dining in Kingston

Drawings for Paintings: in the Age of Rembrandt

The Textile Museum – Tilburg, The Netherlands

DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel, London – Kingston Upon Thames

Best of England Vineyard Tours

Between Heaven and Earth – Atelier NL

Montcalm Hotel - Finsbury Square

Vietnam Eye – Contemporary Vietnamese Art

Penrhiw Hotel St Davids

Mark Hellyar at Chateau Civrac and Honest Grapes

Eneko at One Aldwych

The Garden House Restaurant, Beaverbrook

Trolley in the Lobby - Bar at One Aldwych

The Garden House – a stay with friends

Castle Hotel Windsor

Mainz – arrive by River

Risotto! Risotto! by Valentina Harris

Taruzake – cedar difference

Savini of Milan – at home in London

Marco Pierre White Steakhouse Bar and Grill, Windsor

Bali – more than a beach

Travels in Germany with MS Jane Austen

The Hague’s fashion souvenirs

Recipe: Banana Bread

Jamavar comes to Mayfair

Luton Hoo to Stay

Castle Hotel Windsor Afternoon Tea - Sofitel Sensory Storytelling

Givenchy and Hepburn at Gemeentemuseum, The Hague

The Homemade Curing Kits from Ross and Ross

Montigo in Batam Indonesia

The Montague Hotel – best après-skiing in London

Heidelberg - Elegant and Sweet

Champagne Taittinger at Luton Hoo

Parlay Ultra Black Rum

Castles and Clans with The Majestic Line

The Swan at the Globe

Hotel TerraVina Dining

Opium Cocktail and Dim Sum Parlour

Donna Margherita

The Talbot to Stay

Umami Kelp and Wasabi – an introduction

Balmer Lawn – New Forest Stay

The Talbot for fine dining

Balans Soho Society – Seven Dials

Anise Bar at Devonshire Square

Keats Brownie Recipe

Olive Tree - Southampton

Salsa Verde from Olive Tree Southampton

Patty and Bun – Old Compton Street

Rafute

Canela Café at Seven Dials

Beresford’s at Balmer Lawn for a touch of Thai

The Meat Co, Westfield, Shepherds Bush

Hotel TerraVina for Bed and Breakfast

CAU Kingston

Remelluri Organic Winery

Mele e Pere for Vermouth with a Master

Hanger SW6

Markopoulo recommendations

Mele e Pere – a steak in Soho

Brunch Counter – Vauxhall Arches

Romulo Café London

Stuzzico in London’s village

OXBO for Saturday Brunch

Forman’s Restaurant

Le Garrick – Steak with je ne sais quoi

Talli Joe

Domaine Papagiannakos Winery

Cream Tea Cruise from MBNA Thames Clippers

Gillray’s at County Hall

Maribor – wines, gastronomy, bikes and hikes

Benares for dinner

Sake Cups – or perhaps a glass

Kurobuta Marble Arch for Sunday Brunch

Forty Dean Street

The Mayfair Chippy

Bó Drake

The Balcon, London

Relais de Venise L’Entrecôte

Arabica Bar and Kitchen – Borough Market

Lotus – Charing Cross Road

Cinnamon Collection Masterclasses

Patara – Berners Street

Sindhu by Atul Kochhar

Langkawi – more than beaches

Reims - Tasteful Souvenirs

Rennes – living with history

Rennes

Bayeux – A stitch in time


 
 
 
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Pocket-Pro® – Not just for your Pocket

pocket pro For the first time in my life as a travel writer I was invited to review a toothbrush! Well, it’s true one has to brush teeth even when travelling, but I was rather intrigued! Was there going to be a trade-off between power and size? There was bound to be some kind of concession… wasn’t there?

Well, no. The Pocket-Pro® toothbrush by Colgate is indeed ideal for any traveller. Nothing worse than your battery-driven electric toothbrush turning itself into a manual toothbrush when you are miles from a new battery. This slim and sleek toothbrush can be charged via a USB connection so there will always be power available.

This toothbrush is first class and is now my at-home toothbrush rather being reserved just for trips. It is in fact superior to my regular toothbrush. It represented, on first use, the difference between roller-skates and a Harley Davidson. The oscillating heads vibrated at such a rate that I could almost imagine picking up short-wave radio via my fillings. Great and convincing power.

The Colgate® ProClinical® electric toothbrush uses, so the manual says, two distinct sonic cleaning motions – up-down and side-to-side. Its sonic vibrations clean more powerfully, it seems, to remove plaque and surface stains. I have no idea about the technology but the results speak for themselves!

Other nice touches are the timers: 2-Minute Timer designed to turn off when you reach the dentist-recommended 2 minute brushing time. 30-Second Pacer pauses every half-minute to indicate when the user should move to another quadrant in the mouth. The small, neat head reaches teeth that other toothbrushes might not.

Pocket-Pro® by Colgate is a gem. It’s practical, well-designed and great to use. Buy it to travel with, but keep it to live with.

Learn more here

food and travel reviews
 

Afternoon Tea at Savini at Criterion

savini criterion savoury Both afternoon tea and The Criterion are icons. The first is quintessentially British and the second a long-standing London destination for fine food, and one which has been frequented by the great and the good for around a century and a half.

Thomas Verity, a British architect, won a competition to build The Criterion; work began in the summer of 1871 and was completed in 1873. The Portuguese marble walls and gold mosaic ceiling along with sumptuous embellishments remain, to remind us of a time before plasterboard and plastic.

The last 150 years have seen many changes in London, this city having been through so much. Londoners endured the WWII Blitz when The Criterion was pulled into service, with its deep underground theatre being used as a secret safe-house for BBC radio. And keeping with the entertainment theme, recently the restaurant was used as the backdrop for the epic Hollywood production of “Batman - The Dark Knight”. Downton Abbey also visited, and I hear that many a diner asks to sit at Lady Edith’s table.

In December 2015 the Gatto family, owner of the famous and historic Savini Restaurant in Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan, dating back to 1867, reopened the London restaurant with the name of Savini at Criterion. The a la carte menu is distinctly Italian, as one would hope and expect, but the restaurant also presents afternoons filled with more-British fare. Afternoon Tea in various forms …but with Italian flair.

savini criterion sweet Teatime is an event and one which can be tailored to the appetite of the tea sipper. Cream Tea is perhaps the simplest but it’s traditional and popular not only here but in Devon and Cornwall, home of the celebrated clotted cream, the essential accompaniment. Cream tea at Savini is generous with 3 scones (it’s often only 2 elsewhere), jams, clotted cream and the restaurant’s celebrated biscuits. It’s very competitively priced and a great opportunity to enjoy Savini in casual mode.

Afternoon Tea is the classic version with the 3-tier stand laden with both sweet and savoury treats. There are the previously-mentioned scones with their sweet garnishes, along with savoury offerings, and that’s where the first of the Italian influences comes into play. There are finger sandwiches but one might find bruschetta, panino al latte with burrata cheese, and vegetarian caponata.

But the guest’s gaze will likely have fixed on the top plate – an assortment of homemade mini cakes. There is more Italian good taste here and it wasn’t wasted on this visitor. Those miniature delights included marvellously crafted tiramisu which is a signature dessert here, but the most memorable cake for me was the rum baba. Save space for this one. Great patisserie at Savini.

It’s unlikely that anyone other than an in-training rugby player could eat every scrap of this teatime spread but if they are still peckish by the end then staff will be happy to provide more. I am sure that is a rare request! It must be part of that so-renowned Italian hospitality!

SAVINI plate Going out for afternoon tea is often a celebratory event. Many a birthday or anniversary has been enjoyed around the tea table, but what a great graduation event this would be. Afternoon tea is trending! Savini At Criterion offers Champagne or Martini Afternoon Tea for those who want to make the occasion even more special. Nothing speaks ‘congratulations’ louder than the pop of a cork heralding the arrival of a chilled glass of fizz. Or come here for a little pampering with no excuse at all.

But teatime is always enjoyed with a nice cup of tea, although I note that coffee can be had here too! The tea menu is creditable, with both green and black teas.

savini criterion dessert Savini At Criterion has a central location, making this an ideal venue for both tourist and local alike. They offer outstanding Italian food but they have also embraced British culinary institutions, and those teatime offerings are at a reasonable price. Success is assured with this afternoon delight.

Opening hours:
Savini At Criterion is open every day from 8am to midnight

Savini At Criterion
224 Piccadilly
London
W1J 9HP
UK

Phone: +44 (0) 20 7930 1459
Phone: +44 (0) 7493 248819

Email: reservation@saviniatcriterion.co.uk

Visit Savini At Criterion here

food and travel reviews

ChariTable Bookings Signature Dish

chariTableThis is a book the size of several bricks. That’s not surprising as it introduces 365 leading British chefs’ main course recipes. Each recipe is presented with beautiful pictures on quality paper, and this considerable tome is encased in a gift sleeve.

The ChariTable Bookings Signature Dish is a recipe book with 365 dishes – one for each day of the year – from chefs who are familiar and respected. They are lending their support to a group that raises money for charity in unique and delicious fashion. One supports these charities simply by booking dinner at a reputable restaurant of your choice through their site. Yes, it’s that easy.

ChariTable Bookings’ free philanthropic restaurant-booking platform sells the ChariTable Bookings Signature Dish recipe book, which is a fundraiser to support thousands of UK registered charities, from local projects to worldwide endeavours. For every book purchased, ChariTable Bookings will make a donation of £5 to the charity you choose from a list of 7,655 amazing causes.

At £40.00, the ChariTable Bookings Signature Dish recipe book is a 754-page, 3.6kg hardback book, so it’s substantial. Yes, it’s huge but it will likely spend more time in the kitchen than on the coffee table. There are delightful recipes here that will entice the practised home cook and encourage the novice. There is something for every skill level and for every taste. There are European classics along with Asian spice, and all are accessible and delicious.

Do I have some favourite recipes here? Well, in fact, lots. I love Indian food so Lamb Shank by talented chef Alfred Prasad is at the top of my list. For classic European I love this recipe for Lemon and Herb Spaghetti by Pip McCormack. Jeremy Pang’s Steamed Wontons offer a taste of China in your own home. My pick of the book is Richard Corrigan’s Royal Fish Pie.

ChariTable Bookings Signature Dish is a cookbook over which to drool, but it’s mostly one to tempt the reader into the kitchen, and then to be so inspired that they will want to book a table at some of the fine restaurants represented.

ChariTable Bookings Signature Dish is the perfect gift for all lovers of good food, chefs and their restaurants, but also for those who want to make a difference in people’s lives.

https://charitablebookings.org/signature-dish/about

Charitable Bookings Signature Dish
Authors: 365 Chefs
Publisher: FH Global llp
Price: £40
ISBN-10: 0995711607
ISBN-13: 978-0995711600

food and travel reviews

Hawkers Bar and Brasserie – finer dining in Kingston

hawkers kofta I live only a short bus ride, or an even shorter train ride, from Kingston. I am there very often for retail therapy at the Bentalls Centre. I am a frequent visitor to the large Chinese, Japanese and Korean supermarket. I enjoy the historic daily fruit and vegetable market. I have, however, never thought of Kingston as a dinner destination.

There is a new restaurant in a new hotel in Kingston. The hotel is a conveniently situated Doubletree by Hilton and the restaurant is called Hawkers Bar and Brasserie. One might speculate on the origins of the name ‘Hawkers’ – perhaps an indication that hunting birds might be on the menu? The Hawker in question does actually have something to do with flight. It’s the Australian aviation pioneer Harry Hawker who was the chief test pilot for Sopwith and was also involved in the design of many of their aircraft. After World War One he co-founded Hawker Aircraft in Kingston, the firm that would later manufacture the successful Hurricane fighter plane. The hotel foyer offers mementoes of the company and its aircraft.

hawkers bloody mary The Brasserie and Bar have a contemporary urban design with exposed copper pipes and industrial fixtures. The restaurant area is large but thoughtfully divided to provide a degree of more-separated conviviality. Soft furnishings add texture and comfort to what would have been a rather masculine space. There are nods to the 1920s with lights and high ceilings.

There is an open kitchen here with the head chef Darren Edwards very much to the fore. The menu is well-crafted with classic British Brasserie fare, and the bar menu is also creditable. Crispy whitebait is outstanding and the portions of this and the other menu items are generous. The Artisanal Bread Platter with hummus, chutney, and balsamic olive oil dip is de rigueur with drinks, and the Mini Lamb Koftas with home-made mint raita make a marvellous nibble to go with one of the excellent cocktails here.

The Aviator is made with Kingston’s own Beckett’s gin (the only gin in the world distilled with British juniper and mint - I must book a visit to the distillery), fresh lemon, Crème de Violette, Maraschino liqueur and sugar. This is a perfect pre-dinner cocktail for anyone looking for a sweet start to the evening. But then there is the memorable Bloody Good Mary. That really is the name of this potent and spicy version of a classic cocktail. Russian Standard Vodka, fresh lemon, horseradish, Worcestershire sauce, tomato juice and a dash of a secret sauce combine to present the sipper with a delicious explosion which was very much to my taste. This must be a signature cocktail here.

hawkers sea bass I chose Hawkers Puff Pie for my dinner. It’s made with the meat from an 18-hour slow roasted lamb shoulder, wrapped in puff pastry and served with a smoked bacon and cabbage parcel, with a rosemary gravy. I have never tasted lamb with quite so much flavour. I would be a believer if I had been told that the meat was mutton, which has a much richer taste than most lamb. This is unmissable. The meat was tender and aromatic. The pastry surrounding was flaky and cooked to perfection. The cabbage parcel was more of a partner than a side dish.

My guest enjoyed the Sustainable Blackened Sea Bass with smoked fennel, mussels, kale and Noilly Pratt sauce. That fennel was quite an innovation. The smoking removed so much of the metallic aftertaste which I dislike. The dish was delicious, beautifully presented and one for which to return.

Rhubarb and Champagne Trifle with white chocolate sauce was my guest’s dessert. This writer was far too full to even contemplate a pud. I confess I had a delightful spoonful which I shall call research. This was sweet, tart, refreshing and rich, and served in a cone of a glass displaying the traditional layers of a classic trifle.

hawkers dessert Hawkers Bar and Brasserie has only been open a short time but it is already the restaurant of choice for many locals as well as for the hotel guests. Its ambiance is accessible and friendly with a menu which displays flair and regard for British produce.


Opening Hours
Monday – Friday: 06:30 – 22:00
Saturday – Sunday: 07:00 – 22:00


Hawkers Bar and Brasserie
1 Skerne Road
Kingston upon Thames
KT2 5FJ

Phone: 020 3146 4144

Email: enquiries@hawkerskingston.com

Visit Hawker’s here



food and travel reviews

Drawings for Paintings: in the Age of Rembrandt

Drawings Dutch artists have, for centuries, been admired for the realistic quality of their work. Seventeenth-century landscapes and scenes of ordinary life are all here and one might suppose that the paintings were done directly from life; but it seems that most of them were produced with the aid of previously-executed sketches.

Drawings for Paintings: in the Age of Rembrandt by Ger Luijten and Peter Schatborn is a unique insight into the process of construction of these life-like paintings. These drawings were not rough cartoons but masterpieces in their own right. They were made and compiled into sketchbooks which could be referred to later when an appropriate project was commissioned. It appears that the ordinary townsfolk who acted as models could be transformed into saints or nobility.

Using modern infrared reflectography we can now see the underdrawings, which might more closely resemble the work found in the artist’s sketchbook than it does the finished oil painting. Artists included in this sumptuous and fascinating book are Hendrick Avercamp, Gerrit Berckheyde, Aelbert Cuyp, Jan van Goyen, Adriaen van Ostade, Jacob van Ruisdael, Pieter Saenredam, and Rembrandt van Rijn, among others. Each painter has his own fully illustrated chapter giving plenty of information on both sketches and final paintings. To use a culinary analogy – it’s very much like reading a recipe and then seeing the resulting dish with all its associated colour and texture.

Drawings for Paintings: in the Age of Rembrandt unveils the process of creating a realistic painting, whether still-life, landscape or portrait. It will be a book sought after by contemporary artists as well as those who have already fallen in love with this romantic age of fashion, power and beauty. This is gift quality and most impressive.

Drawings for Paintings: in the Age of Rembrandt
Written by: Ger Luijten, Peter Schatborn
Published by: Skira Editore
Language: English
ISBN-10: 8857231526
ISBN-13: 978-8857231525


food and travel reviews

The Textile Museum – Tilburg, The Netherlands

‘No, Mum, not a museum!’ Yes, many of us have heard that sad and somewhat panic-stricken refrain from youngsters who are dreading the prospect of another 3-hour amble around galleries hung with dark oil paintings or museums stuffed full of glass cases displaying old clothes. What the juvenile members of the group are expressing is the sense that these emporiums of education for the high-minded are not relevant …and are not fun! (Well, not for a few years, anyway.) They want to see moving parts and lots of colour.

textile blue But there is a museum that will enthral and excite everyone. It’s TextielMuseum - The Textile Museum in Tilburg, The Netherlands. It’s far from a conventional museum of lots of dust and not enough action. This is a beautiful former textile factory which tells the story of cloth and weaving in a fashion which will be appealing to every visitor, whatever their age.

The Textile Museum in Tilburg is one of the few Dutch working museums. The renovation of the historic textile factory that houses the museum has created a space which retains so much of its original industrial charm but it also displays modern fabric-making techniques, groundbreaking technology and the essential café and shop; and all in this former damask-weaving mill.

textile hanging Textile has played an important part in the history of Tilburg, and you can learn all about it at the museum. The industrialization of the Netherlands greatly affected the world of textile production here, which developed from just a small cottage industry with hand-weaving looms. This industry evolved to those large factories with hundreds of steam-driven machines able to do the work of many home-workers in a fraction of the time and with more predictable quality.

The Textile Museum uses every medium to transport the visitor back to the Dutch textile industry from around 1860 and then on to modern times. There are beautiful lengths of cloth, works of fabric art and associated objects from the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries. One can see the punched card 'software' and looms that used this first ‘computerised’ system, working in the same way as Victorian Pianola pianos which could play by themselves!

In the TextielLab, visitors can enjoy the unique experience of watching designers, artists and architects at work. They will likely be using the modern machines in the factory to create art as well as clothes, and all with texture, colour and imagination. One might find some textiles with Marilyn Monroe laser-cut to create a fabric portrait. Sewing machines produce intricate designs which might later be seen on the streets around The Netherlands, decorating flags, caps and bandannas.

There are free daily mini-tours to enhance the museum experience. Guides will take you for a journey through the most important aspects of the TextielMuseum and TextielLab and will pass on their own expertise. In groups of a maximum of 15 people there will be plenty of chance to ask questions. The shop will be the final stop and that’s where one can find some gorgeous mementoes of an outstanding museum.

Daily (Tuesday till Sunday); duration of the tour: 30 minutes, starting at 13:00/14:00/15:00 - registration at the entrance desk.

Address
TextielMuseum
Goirkestraat 96
5046 GN Tilburg
The Netherlands

Telephone: +31 (0)13 536 74 75 (Tuesday to Friday from 10.00 to 17.00)
E-mail: info@textielmuseum.nl

Visit TextielMuseum here


food and travel reviews

DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel, London – Kingston Upon Thames

Hilton Kingston There is a new stylish hotel in Kingston and it’s a Hilton. But why Kingston Upon Thames? Well, it’s a good location for a decent hotel for business or pleasure, in an area which seems to have something of a lack of such accommodation.

But why would you want to go to Kingston, anyway? Kingston is an ancient town and still has lots of well-preserved and beautiful buildings. It’s on the banks of the River Thames with a slew of riverside pubs and restaurants which are popular for lunch and dinner on sunny days. Its railway station offers a 28-minute direct train to London Waterloo, with its Underground connections. And this is an ideal business hotel – either hold meetings here or use this Hilton as a base from which to travel into the city.

Kingston isn’t named by accident. It’s an historic town where Saxon kings were crowned. The traditional open market is still held daily in the Market Place and that is a square worth visiting, with its noteworthy building façades. It’s a town oft mentioned in literature, film and television: Victorian humorous novel Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome begins here. It’s mentioned in H. G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds. More interestingly for some, the guitarist and singer-songwriter Eric Clapton spent time busking in Kingston.

Hilton Kingston Kingston is a fun and interesting day-trip destination in its own right, but it also makes a great holiday hub. It’s a convenient location from which to enjoy some of England’s most iconic sites, and you won’t need a hire car. Richmond is just a short bus ride away, or take a river boat. It’s a charming Thames-side town, with the green open space of Richmond Park just a short walk away. Twickenham is nearby and that will be a draw for anyone who might be interested in rugby. Kew Gardens are worth a visit and they are within walking distance of Richmond (or a 5 minute bus ride). Hampton Court Palace was built in the reign of Henry VIII and can be reached by a riverboat from Kingston.

DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel London Kingston Upon Thames offers a comfortable home-from-home from which to enjoy the area. The hotel is easy to reach from Kingston bus stops outside the celebrated Bentalls Shopping Centre, and also from the train station – no need for a taxi. These transport facilities truly are just yards from the hotel, and not a luggage-hauling 20-minute walk; the hotel is just around the corner.

The hotel foyer offers an insight into another part of Kingston’s history. This town was the location for three of the wartime factories making parts for the Hawker Hurricane fighter aircraft. There are mementos of that association around the hotel entrance. The welcome will be warm, with cookies which are equally warm – a nice convivial touch. Plenty of casual seating for drinks from the bar or meetings over tea or coffee.

Hilton Kingston Decor is muted and sophisticated. Rooms are well-appointed with Smart TV, complimentary WiFi as one would expect, and air conditioning as one would hope. A king-sized bed with crisp linen will assure a good night’s sleep and the luxurious walk-in shower will offer a reviving start to the day. Upgrade to a Hilton Honors suite and have more space, a private balcony and an espresso coffee machine. There is a 24-hour fitness centre to burn off a few calories and Hawkers Bar and Brasserie to put them all back!

DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel London Kingston Upon Thames is welcomed by locals who have already discovered Hawkers Bar and Brasserie, with its urban industrial design and its thoughtful menu taking advantage of local and seasonal produce. Breakfast is also served here, and is as comprehensive as any good hotel would offer. There’s all the items to compile a very full English breakfast, but also a choice of breads, pastries, fruits and juices for those looking for something a little lighter. It also stands to become the hotel of choice for those who need to work. It’s an accessible half-hour directly to or from central London, and a short hop to Heathrow, so its conference space will be appreciated by UK and overseas businesses and their delegates.

DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel London Kingston Upon Thames
1 Skerne Road
Kingston upon Thames
KT2 5FJ

Phone: +44 (0)20 3096 0099

Fax: +44 (0)20 3146 4130

Visit DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel London Kingston Upon Thames here.

food and travel reviews

Best of England Vineyard Tours

Best of England Many of us have become interested in wine. Yes, drinking it and pairing it. Remember the days when we in the UK drank just a few different wines? It wasn’t that they were so good that they became popular; truth to tell, it was all we had. Red or white from ‘various countries’. They were not different bottles from various countries but often bottles made with a blend of grapes from various countries. Rosé came in the guise of Mateus Rosé in its distinctive flat bottle. OK, I admit it, I still have a taste for that retro classic; I guess it’s familiarity.

Things have changed. We are more discerning and we are interested in not only what’s in the glass but where it came from. If it’s delicious then we want to learn more, and one might discover that the crisp sparkling white in our glass actually comes from England! It’s documented that Christopher Merret used the addition of sugar to a finished wine to create a second fermentation, 40 years before it was claimed that Benedictine monk Dom Pérignon had invented the process which came to be called the Champagne method.

Best of England is a young and vibrant company which publishes English county guides, and now they have tours to offer visitors from the UK and across the globe. The company has quality at the heart of both books and tours. They research so you don’t have to, and they offer well-tailored trips to delight the novice wine buff as well as those with a more professional wine interest.

An English vineyard tour with Best of England is a tasting delight. One can opt for a short tour with afternoon tea, which might sound like something of an oxymoron but what better backdrop for a classic afternoon tea could there be than a lush vineyard …and a glass or two of something chilled, sparkling and reviving!

For those who are looking for an intense 3-vineyard experience then Best of England has a tour to satisfy that want. One will see how these wines are made, from growing vines to corking and labelling the final product. Visitors will meet the winemakers and hear their individual stories, and there will be an opportunity (of course) to sample the wines.

Included:

Best of England Bolney have been making wine since 1972. Their wines are well-regarded and can be enjoyed in this family-run winery. The estate is 39 acres and has a café offering gourmet lunches, as well as tastings.

Ridgeview is another family-run vineyard, outside the picturesque village of Ditchling. It has outstanding views over the dramatic South Downs Ridge. They produce award-winning sparkling wines using traditional methods.

Rathfinny Wine Estate is found in the Cuckmere Valley and three miles from the sea. The vineyard is 600 acres and over the past three years they have planted 72 hectares of vines; by 2020, they will be one of England’s largest vineyards. All the buildings here have been constructed with locally sourced materials, using sustainable technologies such as photovoltaic cells and wastewater recycling. Rathfinny Estate have worked with the National Trust and the South Downs National Park Authority to open the ‘Rathfinny Trail’ so that visitors can arrive by foot or by bike.

All of these established and thriving wineries show different philosophies of production and growing, giving an impression of the progress made in English viticulture over the past decade.

Best of England make wine education fun and accessible, whether you are novice or professional. They arrange everything for a stress-free day of tasting in the most delicious fashion. Just turn up at the railway station and leave the arrangements to this imaginative company.

Learn more about Best of England here.

food and travel reviews

Between Heaven and Earth – Atelier NL

Eindhoven pottery windowIt seemed unlikely. A pottery in a church in Eindhoven. But here it was and it is indeed a divine space in which to sympathetically develop well-designed products from natural clay. But not just any clay – this is Dutch clay.

Nadine Sterk and Lonny van Ryswyck studied at Eindhoven’s Design Academy, working on projects together and travelling lots. After graduating in 2006 Nadine and Lonny founded Atelier NL. Atelier is French for workshop, and the partnership designs and produces pottery but they also offer masterclasses to educate, inspire and excite visitors. Their work combines geology, chemistry and artistry.

Nadine and Lonny are the potters who have turned a dream into a reality, and in a building that had more to do with heaven than earth. This is a perfectly proportioned space, with the original church’s stained windows giving a nod to its former incarnation. There is a mezzanine floor with steep and precarious stairs, but the visitor will be more interested in the impressive tile-wall.

eindhoven clay tiles The wall of tiles doesn’t, however, look like a corner of a contemporary bathroom showroom. These small tablets of clay are made from Dutch soil, they are in natural earth tones, and it looks like there are thousands of them. They are all stamped and hanging on nails to give an indication of the diversity of the soil here in the Netherlands.

The tile-wall is a collection of clay samples from each farm in the Noordoostpolder region. Nadine and Lonny worked with these farmers for many months in order to make these tiles, with each one representing a particular field and carrying its unique plot number.

These women don’t go out and buy commercial potter’s clay for their tableware, etc – they make it themselves. They have sifted Dutch soil into a fine powder free from impurities. All these powders have different colours, as displayed in all those aforementioned tiles. The powder is mixed with water and kneaded to become clay which can be worked and pressed into moulds. Their pieces are functional, tactile and natural. Yes, they might be described as rustic but that rusticity has its own elegance.

Think for a moment about still-life oil paintings. Their subject matter was so often a display of vegetables on dishes that had just the same qualities as those made here at Atelier NL. They had earth hues and were beautiful in their simplicity. These modern dishes are not for a showcase but for the table – they should be used! One could imagine that chicory served on these dishes might have actually grown in the ground from which the plate was made.

eindhoven potter And talking of Dutch Masters, Atelier NL has created a palette of almost 300 colours from earth found around the town of Neunen, where Van Gogh lived and worked. The Atelier offers a workshop where one can learn how to make paints directly from soil, using traditional methods which would have been familiar to Van Gogh, his contemporaries and to artists for centuries before.

Atelier NL also produces glassware, but with that same ethos of base ingredients from the land. Their ‘ZandGlas’ line features designer glass tumblers and decanters which are made from fused sand from the coast of Southern Netherlands. Zandmotor, or ‘Sand Engine’, is an artificial peninsula created in 2011 to reinforce that part of the Dutch coastline. It was designed to use sea currents and winds to spread sand along a length of coastline which was fast eroding. This project will also create wider beaches, which will be an asset to the local community and wider tourism.

ZandGlas (or sand-glass) has a pale sea-green hue, unfussy lines and good balance. The tumblers have perfect weight and hand-feel, making this a collection that would grace a formal dinner table but would equally work as vessels at a casual lunch. Once again Atelier NL tells a story.


eindhoven pottery glass Atelier NL
Bergmannstraat 76
5615 KG Eindhoven
The Netherlands
Email: info@ateliernl.com
Phone: 040 - 787 63 91

Visit Atelier NL here

Learn more about Eindhoven here

Learn more about visiting the Netherlands here.


food and travel reviews

Montcalm Hotel - Finsbury Square

MontcalmLondon attracts tourists and it has done for generations. The city is still an international financial hub, and London has a vibrant creative arts scene and an energetic restaurant industry. But where can one stay to be within easy reach of both work and play in this cosmopolitan and magnetic corner of Europe?

Finsbury Square is in central London. It is a grassy open area which was originally developed in 1777 on the site of a previous green spot near Moorfields. It’s conveniently close to the transport links of Moorgate station, Liverpool Street station and Old Street station. Lots of bus routes connect the Square with other parts of London. A 76 bus can be found just around the corner, which will take a visitor past St Pauls Cathedral, down Fleet Street, past the historic Law Courts (often seen on BBC broadcasts) and across Waterloo Bridge to the eponymous train station via the South Bank with its numerous festivals.

Anyone keeping an eye on trending eateries and bars in London will have discovered Shoreditch. It seems like every new restaurant or drinking establishment is opening its doors to this buzzing neighbourhood, and it’s not far away to the north.

Montcalm Hotel - Finsbury SquareThe new Montcalm is close to the financial district, offering quick and easy access for those unfortunate souls who are here to work. Go to the 10th floor Aviary bar and restaurant and stand out on the open-air terrace to see how close those iconic city buildings might be. That’s a glorious place to be on a sunny day. Breakfast is served here, and a very fine one it is, too. They offer all the usual suspects – everything from a Full English to fruit and yoghurt – but don’t miss the breakfast bars of considerable dimensions, which are packed with grains and cereals and dried fruit.

This hotel exudes sophisticated chic. There is a spa, a gym (likely appreciated by those chained to the office), two restaurants, meeting rooms – everything a discerning business guest might expect from this standard of accommodation. But it’s the wall treatments and use of leather and unique light fixtures that impress. It’s rather masculine but in no way tacky or testosterone-driven. It’s a hotel that will likely have near-universal appeal.

Montcalm Hotel - Finsbury Square The relaxing neutral shades punctuated by dashes of bold colour and the twinkle of contemporary chandeliers speak of accessible luxury. The rooms are well-proportioned, and appointed with state-of-the-art technology and fixtures to inspire anyone considering a home-remodelling. Bathrooms are spacious with shower cubicles in which to roam in rain. The technology extends to wall-pad controls for lighting and air conditioning. All very sleek and marvellously understated.

Montcalm Royal London House is very much to my taste. In the end a reviewer can only express that, and its outstanding location speaks for itself. It’s perfect for those needing access to the city but it’s also ideal for the family which might be travelling with them. There is plenty to see and do just a short distance from the hotel, and the transport links will allow the visitor to enjoy much of iconic London from the top of a red bus.
I am happy to recommend Montcalm Royal London House for its attractive and polished presentation and individual charm.

Montcalm Royal London House City of London
22-25, Finsbury Square
London, EC2A 1DX

Tel: +44 (0) 20 3873 4000
Fax: +44 (0) 20 3873 4249

Email: info@montcalmroyallondoncity.co.uk

Visit Montcalm Royal London House here.


food and travel reviews

Vietnam Eye – Contemporary Vietnamese Art

This is the most comprehensive tome on contemporary art in Vietnam today. It is a page-turner for any art lover but it also appeals to the traveller.

Vietnam eye Vietnam has developed in every way over the past decade. The world has access to its culture, food and landscape, along with its traditional art. But Vietnam also has an evident and thriving contemporary art community and much of the work of those artists is showcased in this superb book, Vietnam Eye – Contemporary Vietnamese Art. There have been more than half a dozen other volumes in the “Eye” series, covering Malaysia, Hong Kong, Korea, Indonesia, Singapore and Thailand, and this one is dedicated to dozens of emerging Vietnamese artists.

The book is edited by Serenella Ciclitira and published by SKIRA. Alongside detailed information on each artist is an in-depth look at Vietnam’s burgeoning and popular art scene. This is an essential book on the fresh art of Vietnam. It will appeal to artists of every genre but also to those who have visited this remarkable country.

There is so much between these pages that is both beautiful and thought-provoking. I love the sensitivity of the realist art of Tran Van Thuc. These life-like models of old women speak volumes on the passage of time and the aging human condition. Le Thuy presents silk painting of outstanding quality: the ‘Order’ series is subtle and beautiful. Le Vu offers humour in the guise of instant noodles posing as a bed – a full-size bed!

Vietnam Eye – Contemporary Vietnamese Art is a joy. It’s sumptuous and disturbing in equal measure. It presents stories on bright canvases. It looks at Vietnam through the eyes of the Vietnamese. It begs the viewer to ask questions. It touches on tradition and innovation – and displays local materials and techniques along with those from the west.

Editor Serenella Ciclitira has an honours degree in art history from Trinity College, Dublin and has worked extensively with artists and galleries throughout the world.

Vietnam Eye – Contemporary Vietnamese Art
Paperback: 280 pages
Publisher: Skira Editore
Price: £38.00
ISBN-10: 885723360X
ISBN-13: 978-8857233604

food and travel reviews

Penrhiw Hotel St Davids

penrhiw St Davids will tick so many boxes for those looking for a quiet retreat for a few days. A corner of the UK with natural charm, history, fresh air, good food and quiet – at least outside peak summer popularity.

St Davids has its beautiful Cathedral, making this small town technically a city and the smallest city in the UK. It’s perhaps at its most beautiful in the spring with a backdrop of blue sky and the yellow sheen of daffs all around. And autumn brings its own tapestry of rust hues. The coast isn’t far away, with its magnificent beaches and walks.

But where to stay? Penrhiw Hotel St Davids is just a few minutes’ walk from the cathedral door. That isn’t estate agent speak for a brisk canter of a brace of miles. This former vicarage truly is conveniently placed for both town and cathedral, but with the tranquillity of nature as far as the eye can see.

Penrhiw was acquired by the Griffiths Roch Foundation in 2009 and reopened as a luxury eight-bedroom hotel in 2012. It’s a hotel but with the persona of a home. Granted, that home is grander and better situated than the abodes of many of its visitors, me included, but it has that air, nevertheless. It was built in the 19th century amid acres of private gardens, with mature trees, woodland paths, a river, and views over the surrounding countryside.

Penrhiw Hotel is a lovely example of Victorian architecture in a style which has been described as Tudorbethan, although the house dates back to an era before that phrase became popular at the turn of the 20th century. There are also two beautiful fireplaces with decorative tiles by William De Morgan, the celebrated Arts and Crafts ceramics maker. Its interior has been splendidly restored, retaining features of its semi-ecclesiastic past. There are niches, gothic doors, woodwork aplenty and neutral colours.

penrhiw The public rooms are cosy and all rooms are well-proportioned. The walls are hung with contemporary art canvases and all mod cons are here, as one would expect from 5-star accommodation. There is an honour bar in the dining room, and a tea and coffee station. There isn’t a restaurant, although a cooked breakfast is served here. Don’t miss the Welsh speciality of laverbread. There are complimentary transfers available to the AA-2-Rosette Blas Restaurant at Twr y Felin for dinner; it’s also part of this group of notable hotels. Luggage transfers are available for guests staying at either of the sister hotels, the abovementioned former windmill Twr y Felin, or 12th century Roch Castle. (See my reviews here.)

penrhiw The staircase is carpeted with leather and there are rugs of the same material in some of the bedrooms. The owners have made all three of their hotels comfortable for those with allergies. There are six rooms in the main house. Our room sported a large and comfortable four-poster but a modern take on that bed. The bathroom was as big as many a lesser hotel bedroom, with a shower cubicle of considerable size. Penrhiw Hotel, St Davids, was awarded AA Five-star Gold guest accommodation in 2016 and it’s easy to see why.

Penrhiw Hotel is an ideal bolt-hole for a quiet weekend away but one can also hire the whole place for a family reunion, a wedding or celebration of anything for the discerning. It offers privacy with amenity and seclusion, with all the trappings of a city, albeit the smallest in the UK, just 10 minutes’ walk away. We will return.

Penrhiw Hotel
St Davids
Pembrokeshire
SA62 6PG
Wales

Phone: +44 (0)1437 725 588

Email: stay@penrhiwhotel.com

Visit Penrhiw Hotel here

food and travel reviews

Mark Hellyar at Chateau Civrac and Honest Grapes

civracWhat a kind invitation! A food and wine pairing evening at impressive Lutyens, off Fleet Street… and Cornish wine! Well, no, not really – the wine is French and very good too. The maker is Cornish and that, strangely, might give him some advantages: he has an appreciation of the British wine palate.

Cornishman Mark Hellyar changed careers a few years ago to start producing wine in Bordeaux. He is from Padstow where his family have farmed for a couple of hundred years, so he does indeed have a connection with land and cultivation. Cornishmen have long had a reputation for being independent and rebellious, and with that genetic sense of adventure Mark sold the software company he was running in order to start a new phase of his life. Now the resulting wines are found at celebrated Michelin-starred restaurants and in the cellars of the discerning.

Mark Hellyar of Chateau Civrac is a Cornishman in Bordeaux. The wines are contemporary and made with the British consumer in mind. Mark’s wines are hand-made in small quantities thus giving the opportunity to tailor wines for individual and complex character and ever-changing nuances. There is nothing dull or banal from Chateau Civrac. Mark wanted to make wines that were different from classic Bordeaux and his wines have a New World quality about them, with more subtle tannins, and which perhaps have more in common with those he discovered while working in California and South Africa.

civrac Chateau Civrac has developed a noteworthy Sauvignon Blanc called Wild White which isn’t a hippy-inspired vintage as the name might suggest. The ‘wild’ element comes from the French Sauvage and Blanc for white – a little linguistic toying. We tried this and several other outstanding wines at the Honest Grape food and wine tasting, and everybody was impressed by Mark’s offerings.

But what are Honest Grapes? It’s actually more of a bunch of who’s rather than what’s. They are a group of wine enthusiasts, wine professionals, and friends who have created something of a one-stop wine site which offers suggestions and invitations to events. They hold regular pairing dinners and single-variety tastings which will excite anyone who enjoys good wine, and anyone wanting to learn more.

Honest Grapes supports independent growers, small producers and importers, allowing their guests to taste wines that they won’t be able to find easily elsewhere. There are wines for quaffing with Sunday lunch and others suitable for celebrations and impressing the in-laws; there might even be a cheeky bottle or two appropriate for an evening in front of the television enjoying ‘The French Connection’ or ‘Julie & Julia’. This is a marketplace for interesting bottles, well-chosen vintages – and delicious diversion.

civrac I am no wine expert and I am not a chef but I really enjoyed this pairing evening. Honest Grapes presents events that will appeal to food lovers who will appreciate learning more about how wines not only accompany dishes but actually enhance them. But any dinner party is just as much about those folks sitting around the table as what’s on it. These evenings are convivial. One might not know the others but everyone has something in common – love of great food and excellent wine, as furnished by Lutyens and, in this case, the charming Mark Hellyar (whom I hope to interview in the near future).


Learn more about Honest Grapes here

Learm more about Mark Hellyar and his wines here

food and travel reviews

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Gillray’s at County Hall

Gillrays
Restaurant review: As with any building, and as any estate agent worth his clip-board will tell you, it’s all about location. Gillray’s must have one of the best, and it’s also housed in an iconic London landmark... Read More

Maribor – wines, gastronomy, bikes and hikes

Maribor Slovenia travel review: Slovenia is a small country in Central Europe. Small it might be but it has natural beauty, with mountains (Slovenia's highest mountain, the three-peaked Triglav, is depicted on the national flag), vine-strewn hills, thick forests, historic cities and a 46 km long coast on the Adriatic. It is, in some regards, Europe in microcosm... Read More

Benares for dinner

Benares for dinner Restaurant review: Situated in the heart of Mayfair, Benares serves Michelin-starred modern Indian cuisine and is famed for doing that. This is fine dining and gives other such restaurants a run for their culinary money, and that’s restaurants of any gastronomic persuasion... Read More

Sake Cups – or perhaps a glass

sake cups Japanese culture review: For those of us who love the delicious complexity of sake, the vessel from which we drink is often something of an afterthought. But it shouldn’t be... Read More

Sunday Brunch - Kurobuta Marble Arch

Kurobuta
Restaurant review: I confess, I had no idea what to expect. Yes, it was going to be Japanese. But a Sunday Brunch Buffet? In my admittedly somewhat limited experience, Japanese food comes in two varieties: first – casual noodles; second – etiquette-riddled kaiseki cuisine... Read More

Forty Dean Street

Forty Dean Street
Restaurant review: Soho, in general, has been famed for Chinese food, but there are great numbers of decent restaurants of other culinary persuasions these days. Forty Dean Street is the eponymous restaurant and it is Italian. I mean the sort of Italian that I remember from my childhood... Read More

The Mayfair Chippy

The Mayfair Chippy Restaurant review: Nothing better than traditional fish and chips. It’s nostalgic comfort food, at least if you are British. We all have memories of queueing up in a white-tiled shop with steamy windows, a high counter with glass jars of pickled gherkins and eggs, bottles of brown vinegar and salt shakers. For those who hail from beyond these shores that emporium of fried delights was called ‘the chippy’... Read More

Bó Drake – Greek Street

Bo Drake - Greek Street
Restaurant review: Bó Drake has an urban vibe with high stools at the bar, exposed brickwork and metal conduit. And it’s an impressive bar of around 10 metres with an iroko (African teak) wood counter. The shelves behind the bar give a hint to the cuisine (as if the restaurant name had not already)... Read More

The Balcon, London – classic perfection

Balcon Restaurant review: This truly memorable restaurant is set on Waterloo Place on the corner with Pall Mall. This wide thoroughfare is in fact an extension of Regent Street with all its smart shops. It’s a small area with a host of statues and monuments that honour heroes and statesmen of the British Empire and various wars... Read More

Relais de Venise L’Entrecôte

Relais de Venise L'Entrecote
Restaurant review: Ask many a dedicated food lover which dishes they crave, what their elected last meal might be, and they will almost universally state that it has to be unfussy and comforting, something like, say, steak and chips. Relais de Venise L’Entrecôte is... Read More

Arabica Bar and Kitchen – Borough Market

Arabica Restaurant review: Borough has been known for its food markets since as far back as the 11th century. First the stallholders were trading on old London Bridge, but then in the 13th century they were moved to what became Borough High Street. A market has been here ever since... Read More

Lotus – Fine Indian Dining

Lotus Restaurant review: The Charing Cross Road near Leicester Square Underground Station has not been famed for quality Indian restaurants. I confess I had never heard of Lotus but I arrived with high expectations as I had done my homework... Read More

Cinnamon Collection Masterclasses

cinnamon collection masterclass Restaurant Masterclass review: It seems a bit early for pondering Christmas presents but, trust me, it’s not. If you have a passionate food lover in your near vicinity you might want to ditch the summer holiday brochures for half an hour and consider a masterclass... Read More

Patara – Berners Street

Patara Berners Street
Restaurant review: Oxford Street is one of London’s retail arteries. It’s a ribbon of fashion outlets from the celebrated and well-established Selfridges to a flourishing number of stalls selling trashy T-shirts and even more dubious souvenirs. The world of both good and bad taste can be your oyster... Read More

Sindhu by Atul Kochhar, with Head Chef Gopal Krishnan

Sindhu by Atul Kochhar
Restaurant review: I first met Chef Gopalakrishnan when he was working at a Michelin-starred restaurant in London; a smart and charismatic young man who is known by his friends simply as Gopal. He was born in a small village called Sholingur in Tamil Nadu... Read More

Langkawi – more than beaches

Langkawi - more than beaches
Malaysia travel review: This tropical gem has a deserved reputation for iconic, palm-fringed beaches, dazzling white sand and sea warm enough to call a bath. Langkawi is an island that charms and intrigues, and its story can be discovered not far from your sun-lounger... Read More

Reims - Tasteful Souvenirs

Reims - Tasteful Souvenirs
French travel review: Reims is a beautiful and historic city in the Champagne-Ardenne region of France. It is only 130 km from Paris with easy access by train. Excursions to nearby Chalons are a must and there will be not only the delightfully ubiquitous champagne to taste but also... Read More

Rijsttafel in The Hague

Rijsttafel in The Hague
Indonesian Food review: I love The Netherlands and am an unashamed supporter. It’s an oft-disregarded tourist destination even though it’s easy to get to from London. Short breaks are more usually taken in Paris or Berlin. That’s a shame as Dutch cities offer history, architectural charm and delicious food... Read More

Rennes – living with history

Rennes history
French travel review: History is everywhere in Rennes but it’s actually considered by thoroughly modern folks to be one of the most liveable cities in France... Read More

Rennes – second capital of food (or is it third?)

Rennes food
French travel review: Rennes Market is considered to be the second- or third-largest in France, depending on whom you are speaking to... Read More

Gymkhana London

Gymkhana
Restaurant review: Gymkhana is an Indian word which originally referred to a meeting place. These days it tends to be an equestrian day event put on by posh pony clubs; but not in this case. Gymkhana in London does fit into the ‘meeting place’ category... Read More

Bayeux – A stitch in time

Bayeux
French travel review: It’s inevitable that the first thing people think of when you mention Bayeux is the tapestry. Though it’s not actually a tapestry but a very fine embroidery. The Bayeux Tapestry is now on permanent display in a bespoke museum in the city of Bayeux in Normandy, France... Read More

Fontenay Abbey

Fontenay Abbey
French travel review: That’s the beauty of barge travel - it relaxes the mind and makes space for civilized exercises such as the pursuit of good food and wine and culture. The Abbey at Fontenay was just a little way away from the canal run and the excursion... Read More

Bound by history, carved in stone - Normandy and England

Caen
French travel review: We share so much. Those Norsemen who pillaged the coast of Britain and settled inland also did the same in France, and indeed in such numbers that a region took their name – Normandy... Read More

La Belle Epoque – 5-star floating through Burgundy

La belle Epoque
French travel review: A barge, even a big one, presents the very real prospect of tight accommodations, iffy facilities... Read More


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Capital Spice - chefs, restaurants and recipes
By Chrissie Walker, foreword by Sanjeev Kapoor.
21 great London Indian chefs, over 100
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Available from bookshops and Amazon.
ISBN: 9781906650728

 
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