Hotels

International-and-London-Hotel-Restaurants

You may have seen my tweet about Bar Boulud’s cocktail, La Juliet, as I admired the rose petals in the ice. It was so good. It included imperial silver vodka, kwai lychee liqueur, lychee syrup, rose syrup and soda water. Divine.

Bar Boulud

Last week, I had popped in for a drink with the OH but as soon as we sat down we knew we had to order one of their burgers too. There were too many around to ignore.

I had the Yankee burger: beef patty, iceberg lettuce, tomato, pickle and sweet onion with a sesame bun … 

Bar Boulud

… whilst the OH had the Frenchie: beef patty, confit pork belly, rocket, dijon, tomato compote and morbier cheese with a peppered bun.

Bar Boulud

I’m not a burger connoisseur so I won’t wax lyrical about why Bar Boulud is considered one of the best places for a good burger. I just know between the juicy meat, light bun and flavoursome cheese, both the OH and I enjoyed our very late lunch or very early supper. We were there around 4.30pm on a Saturday afternoon and it was very easy to get a table as we arrived just before the evening rush.

The highlight of the afternoon however had to be the Koko Alfonso cocktail, which included koko kanu, mango puree, apricot liqueur and lime, which has a limited availability each day. And looking at how much preparation it must take to make one of these, it’s no wonder. Apparently, the prep includes a balloon and various stages of freezing. This cocktail was utterly divine. If you love mangoes you will love the richness of this experience. Just wonderful and so easy to sip.

Bar Boulud

Bar Boulud is a great place to pop into, be it for a drink or a delicious bite to eat. There was a first date at one table (pardon the eavesdropping), a mother and daughter spending quality time together and a woman grabbing a burger and sipping wine as she killed time before meeting up with a friend. It’s one of those laid back places where you can enjoy burgers and cocktails on another level. I loved it!

Bar Boulud, Mandarin Oriental, Hyde Park, 66 Knightsbridge, London SW1X 7LA.

Recently I popped into The Langham, London, hotel …

Artesian bar - Langham London

It wasn’t my first time and it wasn’t my first visit to their Artesian bar which officially holds the World’s Best Bar title. Here’s a short video which shows you why …

Artesian bar - Langham LondonBut it was my first encounter with their Artesian cocktail menu which I absolutely loved. Using a slider on the side of the metallic menu, you can spin a dial that takes you through the choices of cocktails on offer.

Artesian bar - Langham LondonIn the end, I chose the Reality Czech because I was tempted by the lychee and raspberry combination and because it was a warm afternoon.

Arriving in a chilled tankard and with a butterfly shaped ice cube inside, this cocktail was not only refreshing but it was packed with layers of flavour which really surprised me. I thought I had some idea of what to expect but every sip left my tastebuds tingling with curiosity: which flavours was I tasting with each sip?

Artesian bar - Langham LondonI hear on the grapevine that the Artesian bar are launching something exciting, sometime soon, and I for one can’t wait to return to try it!

You may remember my recent visit to No. 11 Cadogan Gardens hotel

Tartufo

And its very pretty dining room …

TartufoAs well as the wonderful private dining al fresco space.

TartufoWell last weekend I returned to the hotel but this time to visit its restaurant Tartufo, for some Sunday lunch.

Given how off the beaten track this restaurant is: not only is it not visible from the street as it sits cosily downstairs in the hotel, but the hotel itself is not on a main road. Yet, all the tables were taken on a bank holiday weekend when most locals are usually out of town. This was indeed a good sign before we had even sat down.

The Tartufo Sundays set menu: £45 for five courses and a constant flow of wine, offered an array of choices for all palates.

Tartufo

As we sipped our white wine and entertained baby boy in his high chair, I looked around to see who else was in the room: couples, another family and girlfriends catching up. This was certainly a mixed crowd and everyone looked very comfortable as they took their time with each of their courses. There was a very relaxed atmosphere. Perfect for a Sunday afternoon.

Tartufo

After the bread arrived …

Tartufo

We were brought a selection of antipasto misto, which included cuts of cured meats …

Tartufo

… arancini with parmesan …

Tartufo

… and crostini with aubergine & thyme, Taggiasche olives, rosemary and cheese pan fritto.

Tartufo

For our primi, the OH chose the risotto di Primavera, which included asparagus, broad beans and peas risotto with parmesan crisp and veal jus …

Tartufo

… whilst I had the Raviolo ‘Pancetta & Uovo’, which was ‘bacon & eggs’ ravioli with fresh ricotta, egg yolk, pancetta and brown butter and sage. Both were very tasty and I really enjoyed trying the OH’s dish.

Tartufo

For Secondi, the OH had the Agnello Arrosto ‘del Tartufo: herb roasted leg of lam with lamb jus …

Tartufo

… whilst I had a whole roasted sea bream with garlic fresh herbs and blood orange. This fish was exceptional and cooked to perfection. I could have it again right now, even though it is eight o’clock on a Sunday morning. The memory of eating this dish is a very pleasant one.

Tartufo

Our mains arrived with a selection of colourful vegetables, which made me feel like I was being very healthy indeed. I’ve heard that the more colour there is on your plate, the better. So this vibrant palette of a dish really hit the mark and balanced out the delicious indulgence that was yet to come. Tartufo

By now, baby boy was getting quite restless. He wanted to go exploring and so we asked if we could have the cheese with our desserts. The cheese board included a selection of soft and hard Italian cheeses, garnishes and artisan toast.

Tartufo

For dessert, the OH ordered the Butterscotch Budino, which was sea salt, caramel sauce and whipped cream which he thoroughly enjoyed.

Tartufo

And I had the Bombolini Leggeri with berry marmellata and lemon curd, which I absolutely loved. And yes, after sharing a couple of pieces, I finished the rest off, no problemo.

TartufoThroughout our meal, the very friendly and polite staff continued to fill our glasses with wine. And whilst I’m not sure which red wine we were served, all I can say it was amazing. I love a good wine that you want to take your time sipping. It’s not about volume but about the depth flavour.

But our overall experience at Tartuffo wasn’t quality over quantity. With five courses, you enjoy both: a hearty Italian meal that surprisingly felt light throughout. It was a great delight.

Disclosure: We were guests of the restaurant but this hasn’t skewed my favourable opinion of the food and service. You only have to go to Tartufo’s website to see all the other praise this hidden gem has received: www.tartufolondon.co.uk.

It has been several years since I last stayed in London for Christmas. Either I’ve been in the countryside with the OH’s family or in the Philippines with mine. But with so much having happened this year, from my father’s death to the birth of my baby boy – and everything else in between – I decided that I wanted to stay locally and keep it low key. The OH and I also wanted to focus on being together with our baby boy for his first Christmas, which we were so excited about.

An opportunity came up through work which meant that we could stay at The Kensington Hotel from Christmas Eve until Boxing Day and which also meant I could introduce the OH to a few local traditions …

The Kensington Hotel - Christmas… such as Christmas Carols at the Brompton Oratory where baby boy was christened.

Kensington - Brompton OratoryChristmas in Kensington and Chelsea is always a treat. I guess because it is so quiet. It’s great to be able to walk around the area, feeling like you have the whole place to yourself.

Christmas in South KensingtonThe highlights of our Christmas stay were easily the food and drink at the hotel. It’s been a while since I’ve ordered from The Kensington Hotel’s cocktail menu and on Christmas Eve I came across a true gem, which you will love if you’re as much of a fan of the Dirty Martini as I am.

This cocktail is called the Smoky-Tini and includes Bombay Sapphire gin, Martini Extra Dry, Lapsang Souchong tea leaves with smoked salmon. I love savoury cocktails and this was divine.

Kensington - Smoky-Tini CocktailThe Christmas lunch also felt like a real treat. For starter I had the langoustine cocktail, which was not only tasty but was also satisfying in bite and texture.

The Kensington Hotel - Langoustine CocktailFor main, it felt great to not have to have turkey. I know it’s tradition but I’m really not a fan of this bird. So instead, I opted for the beef fillet with foie gras and an extra side of veggies which really hit the spot. Accompanied by a bottle of Malbec, this was exactly the Christmas lunch I wanted.

The Kensington Hotel - Christmas lunchAnd for dessert, I opted for the chocolate tart with clementines in Madeira. The flavour of the alcohol tasted subtle and complimented the citrus fruit perfectly. It was a fantastic end to a great meal.

The Kensington HotelThe best thing about doing a staycation is waking up on the morning of checking out …

The Kensington Hotel… and not having to go far to be back home. In fact, we didn’t even jump into a taxi. We took a stroll through the streets of Kensington and Chelsea and before we knew it, we were through our front door. I would definitely do a staycation again.

Disclaimer: The Kensington Hotel is a business client and our room was complimentary. But we did pay for the food and drinks – the Christmas lunch at a discounted price – and this did not affect any of my opinions. 

I’ll get straight to the point. Imagine a low-calorie four course menu created by a Michelin Star chef. Too good to be true? Well, imagine that the number of calories for the four courses totals no more than 800 (not including wine). Seriously.

Well that’s what I experienced last week at Hotel Xenia where I tasted Alberto Rossetti’s Cucina Evolution menu.

Mina ZaherIn case you haven’t heard about Cucina Evolution, its theories are based on a healthy eating concept whereby the menu is guaranteed to be calculated under 800 calories. This may seem a little extreme but when you think about how sedentary our lives have become compared to when it was decided that women needed 2,000 calories per day and men, 2,500 it completely makes sense.

So what was on this menu? Don’t think lettuce. In fact, there wasn’t any salad on the menu which not only surprised my tastebuds but introduced a combination of ingredients which I had never considered before – as you will see.

For starter, we had a mix of calamari spiked with mint, Maldon salted pistachios and edible flowers – all of which swam in a pea and cream soup. The calorie intake was equivalent to 40 grams of rice. But most importantly, the starter was delicious. I particularly enjoyed the blend of the pistachio and pea flavours.

Cucina EvolutionThe next course involved roasted prawns, sweet potatoes, pistachios and three sauces. This course was introduced as a healthy version of the prawn cocktail and its number of calories equated to two pots of yogurt.

Cucina EvolutionOur main course involved tagliolini with porcini mushrooms, icing salt cod and saffron – the equivalent of 130 grammes of mozerella.

Cucina EvolutionAnd for dessert we had a cream parfait with honey, peanuts, raspberries, parma violets flowers and pollen. There were also a couple of slices of parma ham added to this dish, which worked perfectly. I particularly enjoyed the saltiness of the ham alongside the creamy texture of the parfait. And this dessert was the equivalent of two apples. Can you believe it?

Cucina EvolutionEach of the dishes were matched with a selection of wine chosen by Luca Dusi from Passione Vino and each glass of wine worked wonderfully with each course …

Cucina Evolution… especially the sparkling dessert wine for the final dish.

Cucina EvolutionDuring the evening Alberto Rossetti provided a cooking demonstration with the founder of Cucina Evolution providing a running commentary, which I found fascinating. You can find out more about Hotel Xenia’s Cucina Evolution menu here.

Experiencing such a tasty menu for so little calories does make you realise that eating out doesn’t have to mean piling on the pounds. But given that Hotel Xenia’s restaurant is currently the only venue that serves the Cucina Evolution menu in the UK (there are many more in Italy), it’s obvious where one needs to go if you want to experience a tasty nutritional menu.

Disclaimer: I was a guest at Hotel Xenia’s event but as usual, my opinions are unbiased. 

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