The Top Ten Ways to Celebrate Afternoon Tea Week

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With Afternoon Tea Week in full swing, we hand-picked a variety of our clients that are offering their own take on this quintessential pastime:

G&V Royal Mile Hotel Edinburgh:

CapturePerfectly positioned at the corner of George IV Bridge and the Royal Mile, just steps from Edinburgh Castle, G&V Royal Mile Hotel Edinburgh is in the heart of Edinburgh. Afternoon Tea is served in the striking Cucina restaurant or on the outdoor terrace in fair weather. The Chef’s unique take on this British tradition includes cucumber gazpacho, chamomile tea sorbet, honeycomb truffle and Negroni jelly!

Traditional Afternoon Tea from £22.50 per person or with a choice of cocktail for £29.50. Visit https://www.quorvuscollection.com/en/gandv-hotel-edinburgh for further information and booking

La Suite West, Hyde Park:

1La Suite West is delighted to celebrate Afternoon Tea Week with a special collaboration with AfternoonTea.co.uk. La Suite West’s NEW Nosh Garden Kitchen is the perfect place to celebrate the annual Afternoon Tea Week with an indulgent but healthy Afternoon Tea in the hotel’s beautiful garden terrace.  For the duration of Afternoon Tea Week and for the whole of August, La Suite West will be offering 25% off their quintessentially contemporary vegan alternative to this Great British Tradition every day from 12pm. Featuring a fashionable and central venue near London’s Hyde Park, Portobello Road Market, Notting Hill and Kensington Palace Gardens, the newly launched Nosh Garden Kitchen features a selection of superfoods and products free from additives, eggs, dairy,  gluten and high in vitamin content. The vegan Afternoon Tea offers a selection of raw and plant based dining options, with a combination of designer finger sandwiches, crusty home-made scones served with light and creamy whipped coconut cream and fresh strawberries, to a selection of home-made pastries. This will of course be accompanied by a bubbling glass of non-alcoholic fizz and a selection of fine JING Teas.

Vegan Afternoon Tea from £21.75 per person. Visit afternoontea.co.uk for further information and booking

Offer subject to availability. Not to be used in conjunction with any other offer. Valid 1st – 31st August

 Hotel Gotham, Manchester:

2The stunning art deco façade of luxury 5-star boutique Hotel Gotham, situated at the centre of mid-town Manchester, is one of the city’s grandest buildings. A former bank premises dubbed the ‘King of King street’ due to its grandeur and castle-like design, guests are greeted by glamorous, Manhattan-inspired interiors, housing 60 luxurious rooms and suites. The hotel also boasts Club Brass, a private roof-top bar with panoramic views over the city, as well as Honey, the two AA rosette restaurant serving contemporary British cuisine. Those looking to indulge in signature Gotham style can book an afternoon tea at the hotel’s Honey restaurant for an exciting dining experience. Guests will be served a delicious selection of homemade cakes and sandwiches, handmade scones with local jams, as well as a selection of freshly brewed coffee or speciality teas.

Afternoon Tea from £25 per person. Visit www.hotelgotham.co.uk for further information and booking

Dorsett Shepherds Bush, London 

3Located in the heart of vibrant West London on Shepherds Bush Green, Dorsett Shepherds Bush is a Grade II listed building with 317 luxurious rooms, featuring Chinese-inspired interiors. There are plenty of fine dining options available, and one of the best ways to spend an afternoon at Dorsett Shepherds Bush is with the scrumptious Dorsett Classic Afternoon tea, available daily. Served under the striking golden atrium of Jin bar, Dorsett hosts an offering of superb appetising savoury and sweet delights and selection of leaf teas. The Sparkling Afternoon tea includes a delicious glass of Prosecco, and when celebrations are in order, the Celebration Afternoon Tea is the perfect choice, which includes a glass of Jacquart champagne and a special celebration cake delivered to the table, ideal for any occasion.

Dorsett Classic Afternoon tea £24 per person, Sparkling Afternoon Tea £30.50 per person and Celebration Afternoon Tea £40.50 per person. Visit www.dorsetthotel.com for further information and booking

The Chester Grosvenor, Cheshire

4Situated in Chester on one of Britain’s prettiest streets, The Chester Grosvenor is steeped in historical charm. A striking Grade II listed building with traditional black and white timbered exterior, there are 68 contemporary bedrooms and luxurious suites to choose from, alongside a wonderfully peaceful spa centre and the award-winning restaurants; the Michelin-starred ‘Simon Radley at The Chester Grosvenor’, the luxurious yet relaxed La Brasserie restaurant, and Arkle Bar and Lounge. For sophisticated Gentlemen, The Arkle Bar and Lounge hosts afternoon tea with a distinctive masculine slant, with hearty fare and strong tea replacing traditional delicate French pastries and tiny sandwiches, prepared by The Chester Grosvenor’s award-winning chefs.

Gentleman’s Afternoon Tea £32 per person, Gentleman’s Indulgent Afternoon tea £45 per person. Visit www.chestergrosvenor.com for further information and booking

The Gainsborough Bath Spa

5A quintessentially English, 99-room hotel set in the heart of Bath, The Gainsborough Bath Spa is the ideal spot to enjoy afternoon tea. Taking place in the elegantly styled Canvas Room, guests can unwind in sophisticated yet cosy surroundings and sample a traditional menu of scrumptious homemade sandwiches, freshly baked plain or raisin scones with a selection of tasty preserves and clotted cream and an assortment of delicious cakes and pastries. Guests can even celebrate the occasion with a choice of Champagnes, including the exclusive Sommelier selected Billecart-Salmon, which is guaranteed to add a sparkle to the afternoon.

Classic Afternoon Teas from £30 per person, Champagne Afternoon teas at £46 per person. Visit http://www.thegainsboroughbathspa.co.uk/ for further information and booking

Conrad Dublin, Ireland

CaptureThe team at Conrad Dublin are delighted to introduce their new Musically Inspired Afternoon Tea which will be hosted seven days a week within the contemporary surrounds of Lemuel’s Lounge. The Afternoon Tea includes a delicious array of freshly baked cakes, pastries and scones as well as gourmet sandwiches designed by new Pastry Chef Brizaida Hernandez, served with freshly brewed tea or coffee. This quintessential British pastime has been given a twist as the hotel pays homage to it neighbours, The National Concert Hall offering an experience to satisfy all tastes. The menu includes a new musically inspired selection of culinary delights including Burren smoked salmon, avocado purée, caper berry sandwiches on Guinness bread, exotic creamy coconut, lime and mango macaroons and a ‘Chocolate symphony’ ganache amongst many others.

Musically Inspired Afternoon Tea will run until the 30th September 2017 and costs €60 for two (approx. £55). Customers are invited to book their table before August 31st and quote #MUSIC.

Ballygally Castle, Northern Ireland

PEYE 260315KB2 0047With much of the filming of the Game of Thrones series taking place in Belfast and across various locations in Northern Ireland, their fabulous Ballygally Castle is ideally located to explore the Game of Thrones® filming locations and channel your favourite characters. In addition, Ballygally offers a very popular Game of Thrones inspired Afternoon Tea, sure to delight fans as well as those who love the indulgence of a delicious afternoon tea! The delectable treats, inspired by the fantasy lands of Winterfell, Iron Islands, Kings Landing or Stormlands, include Lannister egg Rolls, Baratheon Bread, Little Finger Chicken Caesar wraps, Jon Snow Cakes and Dothraki Trifle with mini Dragon’s eggs!

Game of Thrones Afternoon Tea from £22 per person. Visit http://www.hastingshotels.com/ballygally-castle/ for further information and booking

Dukes London

8DUKES LONDON’s recently opened Great British Restaurant, GBR, is the perfect place to celebrate Afternoon Tea Week. The quintessentially British hotel launched GBR in May, and offers guests the finest traditional and contemporary British dishes in a striking and vibrant space in the heart of Mayfair. Those celebrating Afternoon Tea Week can enjoy a delicious array of savoury sandwiches, from baked gammon and tomato chutney to traditional coronation chicken and cucumber with cream cheese. Savouries are followed by a selection of sweet treats and indulgent homemade traditional and golden sultana scones, all to be enjoyed with a variety of teas, from a classic Breakfast Blend to Jasmine Pearls or Nile Chamomile. Guests wishing to spoil themselves further can opt for the ‘GBR’ Afternoon Tea which comes with a glass of Perrier-Jouët Champagne.

‘Classic’ Afternoon Tea from £32.50 per person and the ‘GBR’ Afternoon Tea from £42.50 per person. Visit https://www.dukeshotel.com/ for further information and booking

Dukes Dubai, United Arab Emirates

9DUKES DUBAI offers guests the opportunity to treat themselves to a scrumptious high tea in the new hotel’s oh-so-British Tea Lounge on Dubai’s Palm Jumeriah. Guests can enjoy a heavenly selection of sandwiches accompanied by handmade pastries and scones with clotted cream and jam, as well as delicately flavoured tea, handpicked and blended from the choicest of tea estates from around the world. Enjoy your afternoon tea whilst overlooking the Arabian Gulf and relax in DUKES DUBAI’s stylish Tea Lounge, scented with fresh English roses for a home-from-home experience like no other!

Afternoon Tea from  170 AED/  £35 per person and with a glass of Tattinger Champagne from 320 AED/ (approx. £67). Visit https://www.dukesdubai.com/ for further information and booking

An Autumn Escape at Waldorf Astoria Amsterdam

Waldorf Astoria is a hotel group whose name is synonymous with absolute luxury and elegance. One of its most recent additions, the Waldorf Astoria Amsterdam is the epitome of both of these as it sits so prettily on Herengracht, a long linear road that lies next to the canal.

Given the option of room check-in, the Fragrance Master knocks on the door and offers you the choice of what you would like your room to smell like for turn down service…..a simple, unforgettable gesture that makes you feel incredibly special.

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The beautiful Fragrance Master

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Which fragrance would you like…..perhaps the rum and cigar inspired Ernesto or the light and summery Dada?

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A delightful tray of macaroons welcomes you under a silver cloche alongside an intriguing chocolate key which unlocks the bar…..

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The hotel itself is an historical masterpiece, as it is constructed from six 17th century townhouses, each inhabited by some of the city’s most colourful characters over the years. The Vault Bar coined its name from the fact that it sits in the basement where the old bank vault used to be……with a set of original lockers still in place (whether there was is still any treasure to be found is undisclosed!).

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The cocktail menu at the Vault Bar comes in the form of a wallet. Each note inside denotes a different country and therefore recipe inspiration for a extraordinary concoction.

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Vices and Vault – the Bar, ladies and gentlemen

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One half of the masterminds behind the bar concept. Thiago (pictured) and his brother, Wilson, have developed the bar experience at Waldorf Astoria Amsterdam to be truly unforgettable. Here he is holding the Indian inspired cocktail, that sits under an enormous brass pineapple. The presentation is immaculate.

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Even the bar snacks come under lock and key!

The bar snacks are delicious and if you fancy something more substantial, the hotel also has the Goldfinch Brasserie and the two-Michelin starred Librije’s Zusje Amsterdam.

Your hotel room will either overlook the peaceful canal or beautiful garden – one of the very biggest in Amsterdam. Tough choice to pick which you would prefer!

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Complete with beehives perching on a roof top…..

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….and outbuildings. A perfect spot for a wedding or romantic rendezvous.

The historical aspects of the hotel are fascinating….

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This grand staircase was built by the architect of Louis XIV, Daniel Marot. If feels quite glorious walking up and down it!

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Private dining doesn’t get more spectacular this. In the Maurer room hangs impressive pieces of 18th century work, painted by the man himself.

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The Goldfinch Brasserie that overlooks the garden. Upstairs is Peacock Alley, which is a wonderful spot to take afternoon tea.

The rooms and suites are the height of sophistication, each holding their own charm and personality. Here are two of the most impressive suites – the Van Loon and Bretano.

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The bedroom of the Van Loon Suite

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The sitting room of the Van Loon Suite

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The exquisite sitting room of the Brentano Suite…..

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….and its bedroom.

The hotel is also one of the few hotels to have a Guerlain Spa….its blissful pool looking out to the garden.

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And if you can really truly bear to leave the idyllic settings of Waldorf Astoria Amsterdam, the heart of the city is on your doorstep to explore. A fabulous location that will ensure you to have an unforgettable experience.

Hidden Cornwall: A Weekend with Natural Retreats, Trewhiddle

When you live in a city as chaotic as London, there comes a point when you start to yearn for the smell of crisp, fresh air and the sound of nothing but the birds chirping in the trees above. Enter Natural Retreats, Trewhiddle.

Located just a little over a mile from St, Austell train station in South Cornwall sits a divine property in a peaceful valley that comprises of luxury 2, 3, and 4 bedroom self catered villas. We arrived at our destination safe, sound and happy to be in a comfortable environment after our train journey. One of the first things that got my attention as soon as we arrived at the property was how unbelievably quiet it was. I stepped out onto the wooden balcony of my private villa and closed my eyes. It took a whole thirty seconds until I heard the soft sounds of rustling trees in the distance – talk about solitude!

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Our first port of call was some authentic Cornish tapas; carefully put together by Angels in the Kitchen Kristen and Sarah. Angels in the Kitchen is a local in-house catering service, offering local produce cooked in the privacy of your own home.

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The next morning we awoke to birdsong, ready for a day out exploring what the Southern region of Cornwall had to offer. After a morning of archery on-site at the Natural Retreats Trewhiddle property, we made our way down to the harbour and enjoyed some of the freshest seafood that I had ever tasted. It was almost as if the fish and mussels had been plucked from the ocean just minutes before we had arrived.

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Then it was on to our highly anticipated kayaking adventure along the River Fowey. We had a wonderful tour guide named Ken, who had a wealth of knowledge about the local area, which made our journey so enjoyable and added that little something extra to our afternoon activity.The scenery along the River Fowey is positively breathtaking, offering the type of picturesque setting that make you want to take out your smartphone and snap a picture whilst almost capsizing your beloved kayak in the process

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We arrived back on dry land, with slightly tender upper arms but ready to get back on the road and indulge in a second serving of Cornwall’s fine culinary offerings. We dined at Wreckers in Charlestown Harbour that evening, and besides from offering delicious meals at reasonable prices, we also learnt the true meaning of Cornish hospitality when the waiters offered to drive us the two miles back to Trewhiddle due to a lack of taxi service in the area that evening.

Natural Retreats also offers a gorgeous Handpicked portfolio, including a collection of characterful and intricate homes for rent, each a little different to the last

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Balcony view

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What a lovely introduction to what this quirky town has to offer! Sadly my stay in Trewhiddle only lasted one weekend, but I will most definitely be back to visit the friendly team at Natural Retreats soon to make some more unforgettable memories. Until next time…

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36 hours in Chengdu

I was lucky enough to visit Chengdu this autumn with Dorsett Hotels & Resorts. Set on the western edge of the Sichuan basin, China’s forth city is not only thriving with cultural history and world-class cuisine, it is also the gateway to the country’s most magnificent natural wonders, not least, 80% of the world’s panda population. Unlike its bigger sister cities such as Beijing, Chengdu boasts a far more jovial rhythm, a captivating local culture and a plethora of tourist attractions.

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Giant Pandas playing in the early morning sunshine

Vibe

Despite being home to more than 14 million people, Chengdu is notably laidback. Whittle away the afternoon in one of the many traditional teahouses (do as the locals do, and try your hand at a game of mah-jong) or take a wander down Wide & Narrow Alleys, stopping to try local delicacies such as Dragon’s beard candy (a delicious Chinese sweet similar to spun sugar) as I did.

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Street food and culinary delights at Wide & Narrow Alley

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Wander

….down Jinli, an ever-popular and vibrant street, Jinli’s history can be traced back to the Qin Dynasty of 221BC. Soak up the atmosphere, inhale the spicy and irresistible aromas wafting up from tea stalls, and take your pick from one of the many Sichuan snacks, or xiaochi. Everything is rustled up on the spot and this place is the only street in town that you’ll get anywhere close to trying Chengdu’s 5,000-plus specialities, from rice glueballs to wontons and boiled dumplings.

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Beautiful tree decorations on Jinli Street

Ignite the taste buds

…with a Chengdu hotpot. The capital of the Sichuan Province, Chengdu has the highest density of restaurants and teahouses of any city in the world – some 42,000 at the latest estimate. Food crazes blaze across the gourmet scene like prairie fires, but the hotpot has been a longstanding Sichuan delicacy and is here to stay. With good reason, Unesco designated Chengdu the first City of Gastronomy in Asia, ahead of Singapore, Tokyo and Singapore in 2010.

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Sizzling Sichuan hotpot

Dine like a king

…at Yu’s Kitchen. This magical restaurant is by reservation only. Referred to by Fuchsia Dunlop as China’s answer to El Bulli, manage to secure one of the six tables as we did and you won’t be disappointed as chef Yu Bo delights the senses with an idiosyncratic display of gourmet Chinese dishes. Marvel at the beautifully-presented plates on the 32-course tasting menu, from alligator to truffle to edible ‘calligraphy brushes’ with sweet tomato dipping ‘ink’, all washed down with spherified jasmin tea.

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Just one of the dishes on the 32-course tasting menu at Yu’s Kitchen

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Our table at Yu’s Kitchen

Drink

…Tea. Natural wonders and food aside, it’s not just tea aficionados that should experience one of Chengdu’s greatest traditions – the teahouse. Traditionally synonymous with cards and mah-jong, discover these inviting houses nestled among the quieter corners of the city, perfect for a chrysanthemum or flowering osmanthus tea – a show in itself!

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Tea and spice markets

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Too many tea infusions to choose from

Cuddle

…A panda! These cute furry friends are the city’s main attraction, and the Giant Panda Research Base is an easy taxi journey (6 miles) from downtown Chengdu. Encompassing a vast 600 acres, this panda mecca is home to Giant Pandas and Red Pandas. The latter, smaller in size and rather endearing to watch as they happily played among the grass at breakfast time. Go at dawn when the pandas are most active, rolling around and climbing trees. For a hefty fee (circa £95) you can even cuddle one!

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Young Red Panda cub

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Just chillin’

& if you’re lucky

…catch a glimpse of the utterly adorable baby panda cubs, like we did!

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Little baby pandas, born just one week prior to our visit

Sleep

…In the comfiest beds in town. The beautiful Dorsett Grand Chengdu is perfect for those keen to explore both the city and surrounding areas. Fresh off the plane, the large bathtub and array of delicious lotions and potions made for a welcome night’s sleep as I dove face-first into this cloud of a bed on the 39th floor. With the curtains drawn, the room is enveloped in complete darkness guaranteeing even the most troubled sleeper an uninterrupted night’s sleep.

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Spacious, airy bedrooms and irresistibly comfortable beds at Dorsett Grand Chengdu

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Beautiful interior design in the lobby at Dorsett Grand Chengdu

Location is also hard to beat when it comes to Dorsett Grand Chengdu. Ideally situated in the lively Luoma Market area of the city, the hotel is just moments from the bustling Chunxi Road and renowned Chengdu sports centre. Metro stations just across the road render exploring the city cost-effective an hassle-free.

www.dorsetthotels.com/chengdu

Getting There

Many airlines fly from London to Chengdu, and BA launched a direct flight route from London Heathrow just earlier this year. Flight time: under 11 hours.

 

The Most Delicious Place In The Maldives

When I told a travel editor I was going to visit the Maldives for four days and that the resort I was staying at had 12 – yes 12 – restaurants and bars, she wondered if I could visit them all. The challenge was set. Could I visit all of the eateries at Conrad Maldives Rangali Island, the resort with the most bars and restaurants in the Maldives, in four days?

I arrived at Malé airport tired and hungry, keen to get to my final destination to begin my challenge. The Conrad team there appeared like a mirage – I was whisked up to their private lounge to wait for my seaplane transfer, and a masseuse offered me a soothing back, shoulder, neck and head massage to counter the long flight. There was breakfast and wifi too. Happy days!  photo 1

It wasn’t long before I was transported from one cocoon to another, with a short seaplane hop. As we approached the resort we could see the two islands and the long bridge that connects them, stretching across the most perfect calm blue waters I have ever seen.

Cold towels and a chilled drink await as you step off the plane and onto the resort’s welcome pontoon. From there I was whisked to my room, a beach villa with tropical outdoor bathroom – including a giant rain shower and a square bathtub beneath a canopy surrounded by candles and leafy foliage.  There are a number of different rooms at the resort, including the iconic villas on stilts above the water, but I loved being right on the beach and having a little sandy pathway from my  door to my sun lounger by the sea.

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I had three mornings so plenty of time to try breakfast at both Atoll Market, the buffet style restaurant, and Vilu, located across the bridge with really amazing views out over the beach and sea. Atoll had a fantastical, mind boggling choice of dishes and a troop of chefs on hand to make any breakfast dream come true including a green juice bar and plump dim sum. Vilu was my favourite though – it was more boutique in feel with a small buffet and a la carte menu. They made a great Maldivian reef fish omelette with chilli and herbs,  delicious with fresh watermelon juice.

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The Rangali Bar on the beach was a lovely spot for lunch as well as refreshing cocktails before dinner – the menu there was classic dishes and deli dining, lots of great wraps and salads. I loved Mandhoo Restaurant, opposite the spa. It follows the spa’s five elements philosophy, and you choose depending on the elements you feel inspired by. Or just what sounds good on the menu! Really great fresh seafood and fish that practically jumps off the plate – in an amazing setting. If you are lucky you can spot manta rays swimming past you.

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Dinner was where choices started to get really difficult! So many places to choose and so little time. A highlight for me was an amazing Japanese tasting menu at Koko, an intimate little restaurant that sits a very small group, sunken into the sand. The Maldivian chef whipped up melt in the mouth sashimi and perfectly cooked Kobe beef right before our eyes and spoke perfect Japanese to one of our fellow diners.

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I also made it to Sunset Bar and Grill to tuck into local lobster and wine from Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt’s French estate, Miraval – a beautiful rosé that the Sommelier managed to lay his hands on because he worked there previously.

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Another evening we paired fine wines with tapas and delectable cheeses at the Cheese & Wine Bar – an amazing room underground where guests can enjoy a menu of 101 of the world’s best cheeses and wines to match. The floor in this hidden away room is silky, cool sand that you can dip your toes into.

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I failed my challenge though – I needed a few more days and a few more dinners. Ufaa, a brand new gourmet Chinese restaurant – was soon to open (it is now), and I had a look around Ithaa, the amazing famous underwater restaurant but will save dinner there for another trip.

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The wine cellar was somewhere all the guests were talking about – I popped down to check it out and it’s quite a sight – thousands of bottles of the best wine kept at perfect temperature and displayed beautifully underground. Guests are given fluffy slippers and blankets to keep cosy while they enjoy a personalised wine tasting experience with the Sommelier, paired with a delicious degustation dinner.Conrad Maldives_The Wine Cellar (7)

I also found time amidst the wining and dining to try outdoor yoga, snorkelling around the house reef, and a visit to the fantastic Spa to visit Christelle, the resort Naturopath for energy-boosting ear acupuncture and reiki. I actually didn’t feel jet lagged at all, during or after my stay and I’m sure the treatments helped. I did however feel rather full – I’ll be working this trip off for a while!

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www.conradhotels.com/maldives

 

 

Waldorf Astoria Amsterdam – First Look

Last week we were treated to a sneak peek of the much anticipated Waldorf Astoria Amsterdam ahead of its opening next month. Having visited many months ago when the project was a building site I was excited to see the transformation within. And what a transformation it has been – the six canal-side town houses Waldorf Astoria have taken over have been impressively and sensitively morphed into a gorgeous boutique hotel. Aside from furniture encased in protective plastic covers much of the hotel looks ready for business. Already the staff welcoming us for our preview had things running like clockwork.

Waldorf Astoria have come up trumps with their choice of property – alongside Herengracht, one of the prettiest canals in town, the former town houses are steeped in history and offer gorgeous views from the huge windows – giving you the feeling that you really are in the heart of the city.

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Think beautiful stuccoed ceilings, light filled rooms, and lots of original details that have been uncovered in the renovation process.

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One of the Suites, the Backer Suite, has a stunning painted ceiling, evocative of Rembrandt and dating back to the seventeenth century. We saw the final stages of its painstaking restoration – it’s going to be a very special ceiling to sleep under.

There’s a tranquil garden behind the hotel, onto which the private club-like restaurant looks.

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A surprise is the sleek, modern spa, found in the depths of the hotel. With sauna, steam, sensory showers and a beautiful pool, it’s going to be an impressive cutting edge oasis amidst the historical property.

Large and light filled guest rooms are each individual due to the shape and characteristics of the buildings – even the entry level rooms are extremely spacious and super elegant.

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Love this suite which feels like your own private apartment on the canal.

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Waldorf Astoria Amsterdam opens in May 2014, joining Waldorf Astoria’s prestigious collection of hotels around the world.

We can’t wait to stay the night next time!

Visit www.waldorfastoria.com for more information.

Emirati Safari

Who would think of setting out to the Emirates for a Middle Eastern road trip? You might not have until now but with the fantastic option of luxury hotels opening in a number of the lesser known Emirates, I was very excited to set off on a Middle Eastern adventure visiting new properties in the ever growing exciting metropolis, Dubai, and its grown up sophisticated sister, Abu Dhabi.

Anantara Dubai is one of the newest and exciting luxury openings on the exclusive Palm Jumeirah. The over water villas are the first of their kind in the UAE and the lagoon access rooms are a perfect option for those who prefer a pool dip rather than plunging in the ocean, accessible right from your room!

The view from one of Over Water Villas

The view from one of Over Water Villas

Everyone is always struck by the friendliness and attentiveness of the staff who make you feel like a veritable Sheik during your stay!

Anantara’s unique culinary and gourmet experiences are a must try for foodie guests and those looking for a bit of an adventure at Anantara Dubai The Palm. T

Dining by Design is a very special dining experience….expect lanterns on the beach and endless courses of exquisite food. We had the Arabian experience so were lavished with delicious mezze!

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Fans adorn the ceiling of the private dining room at Mekong

The Spice Spoons Culinary Journey was led by the charming Chef Piroon Pumicome, who guides you through a three course Thai feast that you enjoy for lunch. We made a deliciously fresh green papaya salad (make sure you go easy on the chili…I was far too ambitious), green curry made with a fresh curry paste (the store bought version will never be the same!) and mango rice pudding. If you weren’t proud enough of the fruits of your labours you are also awarded a certificate and given a bag of treats to go home with!

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No trip to Dubai is complete with a trip to the souks where you can feast your eyes on piles of spice and gold…..

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The Beach House is a relaxed dining option by the beach. Check out the Octopus Carpaccio – one of their signature dishes!

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Next stop was the fabulous Desert Palm Dubai, nestled out of town and in its own haven of stables, polo fields and beautiful scenery.

Desert Palm is one of the world’s leading polo venues. In fact from the 18th – 22nd February, they are hosting the Cartier Cup, when the hotel  will be overtaken by a gorgeous and glamorous crowd.

Make sure to take in one of Desert Palm’s famous afternoon teas over a game of polo. Gosh, how civilised!!

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Taking in a chukka

 

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Where do I start?!

Abu Dhabi was the second stop on the Emirati Safari. Eastern Mangroves Hotel & Spa by Anantara provides the Abu Dhabi traveller with a very interesting option. Set upon an enormous mangrove marsh, guests can ride across its waters with Ali who tells tales of UAE history or try kayaking at Abu Dhabi’s only kayaking venue.

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I was most impressed by its Anantara Spa which houses Abu Dhabi’s largest hammam. Try out the hammam experience for total relaxation after a long journey or day at work. Have a drink at the rooftop bar that looks over the mangroves for a perfect end to the day.

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A short flight away from the city of Abu Dhabi is the small private Sir Bani Yas Island, that was set up as a Wildlife Reserve by Sheikh Zahed in the 1970’s. Anantara are the only hotel group to have properties on the island making it feel exclusive from the moment you step off the tiny plane.

Desert Islands Resort & Spa by Anantara was the first property on the island, a 64 room hotel perfect for families with numerous activities on offer and a superb spa.

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Anantara’s Al Sahel Villa Resort is Anantara’s newest opening on the island – a South African savannah right in the heart of Sir Bani Yas Island. 30 villas look out on to the Arabian Wildlife Park so prepare to open your curtains in the morning to an inquisitive gazelle or beautiful peacock. The Savannah Grill & Savannah Bar serve up the finest steaks and catch of the day.

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Over the mountain range is the Anantara’s Al Yamm Villa Resort, 30 villas tucked away along the Arabian Gulf coastline (Al Yamm means by the sea). 10 of the villas are set in front of a mangrove marsh and the rest open their doors straight on to white sands and crystal blue waters.

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Al Yamm villas are so tranquil and it is such a romantic spot for escapist couples wanting to feel like the only people on the island. The hotel’s Olio restaurant serves up gourmet Italian cuisine. I went for the Al Yamm Seafood special – a plate piled high of fresh lobster, king prawns, sea bass and juicy mussels.

And of course there is the unforgettable safari, an unmissable activity on the island where some of the world’s most beautiful creatures are almost at arm’s length.

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The Palm Jumeirah from the sky. See you next time, Dubai and Abu Dhabi!

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Ras Al Khaimah: Desert Meets Development

A mere 45 minute drive, or dock to dock sea plane, from Dubai you’ll find Ras Al Khaimah, until now a lesser known Emirate making big leaps in the luxury hospitality world. The palatial new Waldorf Astoria Ras Al Khaimah is one of the latest properties to open its doors to a burgeoning 5 star crowd here. We checked it out and found it a great accompaniment to Dubai with its proximity to endless sand dunes, stellar service and acres of luxuriant space.

A few of our favourite things:

Beach and pool chilling: The Waldorf Astoria is set on a wide strip of private sandy beach, equipped with super comfy sun beds looking out to sea. By the main pool, they bring round complimentary mango ice lollies and iced water regularly – ideal for us sun-worshippers! The sleek infinity edged lap pool on the other side of the grounds is great for those wanting to get some “proper” swimming done if pool side posing is not your thing.

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Mint tea in Peacock Alley: Peacock Alley is a Waldorf Astoria hallmark – the original being the area at Waldorf Astoria New York where ladies used to strut like peacocks in their evening finery on their way to dinner in the early 1900s. The Ras Al Khaimah modern-day version is a glamorous Arabian take on the space – sweeping staircases, a beautiful fountain and high ceilings. It’s a great spot to people watch whilst enjoying a refreshing mint tea, served on a silver platter in a fabulous tea pot, natch!

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Meze: So fresh and delicious, the meze at Waldorf Astoria Ras Al Khaimah is addictive. The food at the hotel and all its restaurants is amazing without exception, but simple meze enjoyed by the pool was my favourite. Yum.

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Having a personal concierge: Every guest at Waldorf Astoria Ras Al Khaimah has their own expert personal concierge who is on hand to make sure your stay is seamless. These ladies and gentlemen greet you as soon as you arrive, show you around your (humongous) room, and then act as your first point of call for any request, so it’s super personalised service for every guest.

Sailing: If the heat gets too much, take to the water! A catamaran trip and a dip in the warm Arabian Sea is a fun way to spend the afternoon – you can catch a beauty of a sunset too.

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The Desert: It’s on your doorstep, literally, so it’s a real must to experience. Just a short drive away are dramatic sand dunes – the proximity to space and quietness is surprising especially after a few days in Dubai. Waldorf Astoria can arrange an unforgettable picnic with a difference out on the dunes – a really spectacular experience, complete with Persian rugs, a chef and tea and macaroons on the sand.

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Check out www.waldorfastoria.com for more information.

Conrad Tokyo – With Yosuke Suga

Conrad Hotels & Resorts has recently launched an exciting social media campaign with Conrad Connections, a digital documentary series in which globally renowned cultural curators and opinion leaders discuss what they find inspirational about their home cities.

These insightful vignettes, which you can view at www.facebook.com/ConradHotels, feature industry pioneers and taste-makers the hotels have connected with, in destinations from Tokyo to Miami.

Here Conrad Hotels go behind the scenes with renowned French cuisine chef, Yosuke Suga, as he lets us into his secret Tokyo and takes us on a journey through Tokyo’s vibrant sushi culture.

Watch as he explores the ancient practices and navigates his way around the famed Tsukiji Market, conveniently located right next door to Conrad Tokyo…. Before visiting the modern sushi master, Sukiyabashi Jiro, or ‘Jiro’, as he is known by many. You might recognise him from the cult film “Jiro Dreams of Sushi” – have you seen it?

We find out where Suga gets his inspiration as he films with Jiro, who began making sushi aged 12, and continues to do so in the heart of Tokyo, now aged 88. As Suga highlights, when Jiro makes sushi, ‘it becomes beautiful’…

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Check it out here: Conrad Tokyo – With Yosuke Suga

To find out more visit www.conradhotels.com

Crillon Le Brave, C’est Chic

Driving up towards Crillon Le Brave, after we passed endless unfenced vineyards, their plump sun soaked fruit looking ready to spill over into the road, we felt we had stumbled upon something like the Cotswolds of Provence. A charming collection of shuttered honey coloured buildings make up the intimate and historic Provencal retreat that is Crillon Le Brave, and I couldn’t wait to explore what lay within the beautiful exterior.

Glimpse the amazing view through the front door…

An enticing entrance...

An enticing entrance…

On arrival, the welcoming reception team usher you in through the doors, and your car is parked and luggage swept to your room in the blink of an eye.

And what a room! We stayed in number 33, a split level Suite with gorgeous living area strewn with comfy chairs and sofas, and twin roll top baths overlooking the Provencal countryside and sun terrace, packed with plenty of dreamy L’Occitane products (made locally).  The bedroom sits on the level above, the huge bed facing a triple paned window overlooking the view beyond – you feel like King of the castle when you wake up here! Fresh figs and chilled local rosé were waiting for us on our arrival and the beautiful private terrace was the perfect place to enjoy them.

Our pretty terrace, looking out to the pool and the sun-drenched countryside of Provence

Our pretty terrace, looking out to the pool and the sun-drenched countryside of Provence

There’s even space for Champagne or a cold bottle of rosé between these twin tubs - heaven

There’s even space for Champagne or a cold bottle of rosé between these twin tubs – heaven

Tearing ourselves away from our sanctuary, (it was difficult) we enjoyed a pre-dinner drink on the terrace – accessed by a private staircase from our Suite – before a four course dinner at the hotel’s lovely restaurant. I forgot about the bikini I was wearing by the pool the next day and tucked in to naughty delights including perfectly cooked steak and an a-mazing cheeseboard, with some incredible local cheeses to choose from.

Fresh herbs in the garden are used by the chef

Fresh herbs in the garden are used by the chef

The next day we had to leave all too quickly, but not before enjoying a lazy morning by the pool, soaking up the sun and that view.

Time for a dip

Time for a dip

If I could I would have loved to hop on one of the bicycles available to guests, and take up the challenge of scaling nearby Mont Ventoux by bike. It takes about 3-4 hours usually, although I heard that someone had made it in an hour and a half. As memories of the dinner the night before came back to me, I vowed – next time! And there has to be a next time – one night just wasn’t long enough. There’s a gorgeous boutique spa for post cycling pampering and seemingly endless French countryside to be explored here.  À bientôt!

www.crillonlebrave.com