Category Archives: Hotels

Portugal Please: Coimbra

Capital of Portugal during the Middle Ages with a historic UNESCO World Heritage Site university established in 1290 (making it the fifth oldest in the world), Coimbra is a city steeped in age old tradition yet imbued with a youthful spirit. Continue reading

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Portugal Please: Charming and Cheeky Aveiro

Know as the “Venice of Portugal,” Aveiro is an attractive little coastal canal-crossed town in the Centro region of Portugal. I spent a couple of days in this part of the country, marvelling at how awesome the region was yet how largely undiscovered by tourists it seemed to be. Pretty, walkable and full of lovely shops, bars and restaurants, Aveiro was a particularly fine place for my introduction to the area. Continue reading

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Portugal Please: Morgadio da Calçada

Situated atop a plateau yielding (yet more) beautiful panoramic views of the Douro River and its undulant valley, the tiny ancient village of Provesende was my final stop in the area. Here I took a quick wander round the village and a proper snoop inside 17th century mansion (with contemporary accommodations) Morgadio da Calçada. Continue reading

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Portugal Please: Even More Douro Valley Quintas

No, I didn’t just lounge around at a couple of scenically situated hotels while in the Douro (although, that would be a terrifically recuperative way to spend one’s time). When I wasn’t enjoying my stay in the luxury laps of Quinta do Vallado and Quinta Nova, I was bopping all over the rest of the valley trying to visit as many different vineyards as possible – and loving every minute of it. Here are a few brief notes about the rest of the Douro Valley quintas I visited, including Quinta do Crasto, Quinta da Pacheca, Quinta do Panascal and Quinta do Seixo. Continue reading

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Portugal Please:  Quinta do Novo de Nossa Senhora do Carmo

A lovingly restored 18th century manor cum 21st century four star hotel and the centrepiece of a lofty patchwork of vineyards rolling down to the Douro River: Quinta do Novo de Nossa Senhora do Carmo was my home for a night. Leaving Vallado for a full-on day of winery visits around the Douro, my second evening in this idyllic valley wound down in equal parts elegance and comfort. Continue reading

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Portugal Please: Porto

My Portugal Please tour commenced in the compact and cosy city of Porto, which proved to be an excellent gateway to the Douro Valley and a fine place to visit in and of itself. If you’re looking for somewhere to visit for a city break, Porto is only a two hour flight away from London with plenty to see and do and eat and drink and browse and buy. Here are some highlight from my all too brief time there. Continue reading

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Good Stuff

Good Stuff and lots of it! Here’s the low down on some fine things to see, sip or savour – all of which I’ve recently come across and thought were worth sharing with you. Enjoy. Dodo Chilli Dipping Sauce I recently got … Continue reading

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Istanbul in an Instant

For my birthday, Kemey and I spent a long weekend in Istanbul. Yes indeed, ya gotta do the Blue Mosque/Hagia Sophia/Basilica Cistern/Topkapi Palace/Grand Bazaar shuffle when you’re there, but there’s so much more to see and do in this massive and dynamic city. Here are just a few of the “other” highlights from our trip. Continue reading

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New Regional Wine & Cheese Menu at Theo Randall at the Intercontinental

Allow me to commence this rave by saying that Theo Randall’s Head Sommelier, Yuri Gualeni, is a frickin’ genius and Chef Randall is a very wise man indeed to let Gualeni do his thing. Case in point: the young sommelier’s new wine and cheese pairing that’s been “designed to be a journey through Italy’s terroir and traditions.” I tried it last night and loved every moment. Priced from £24 per person – and tailored to guest preferences – the menu includes four Italian wines paired with four regional cheeses. Continue reading

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Dixie Detours: Laissez les Bon Temps Rouler!

Happy Mardi Gras! I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my Dixie Detours miniseries featuring the highlights from my recent trip to Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, Louisiana and Florida along with suggestions for planning your own sojourn to the Deep South. Continue reading

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Dixie Detours: Miami in a Minute

The final stop of our Dixie Detours visit to the US was Miami, where an overnight layover afforded Kemey and me the chance to check in on some friends who had recently moved there – big thanks to Tanya and Francesco for being such fantastic hosts and showing us around so much of your fine town – while soaking up some south Florida sunshine before heading back to Blighty. Continue reading

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Dixie Detours: Sweet Shoals Music

Before our visit to the Muscle Shoals area of Alabama, I never would have imagined the music of Aretha Franklin could resonate even more with me than it already did. Goosebumps on top of goosebumps – how’s that gonna happen? But there I was standing in Studio A of Fame Studios in humble little Florence, Alabama where the mighty diva recorded such classics as Do Right Woman, Do Right Man, and something clicked in a deep and soulful sort of way. In the few days since Kemey and I checked out the Shoals, listening to Aretha’s songs has been coupled with an even deeper and more satisfying feeling than before. Continue reading

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Dixie Detours: Chattanooga, Choo Choo City

Chattanooga is my old teenage stomping ground. Since I’ve moved away, every year or two when I’ve managed to make it back for a visit (usually around Christmastime), the area always seemed to have gotten better than I remembered it being. Same holds true this time round. Continue reading

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Dixie Detours: Tabasco Tourism on Avery Island

Louisiana’s most iconic brand, McIlhenny Company’s Tabasco brand Original Red Sauce packs a wallop of distinctively spicy flavour. For all its flavoursome punch, it’s comprised of only three natural ingredients: aged red peppers, vinegar and salt from Avery Island, which is also the home of all Tabasco production. In addition to the pepper sauce factory, the island (roughly two hours from New Orleans and 40 minutes from Lafayette) is also a botanical garden, bird sanctuary and wildlife refuge. Our last day in Louisiana, Kemey and I spent a fantastic morning on Avery Island before carrying on with our Dixie Detours road trip. Here are some highlights from the fun time we had there. Continue reading

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Dixie Detours: A Cajun Good Time in Lafayette

It’s a down home kind of place, Lafayette, where a koozie for your cold one is handy asset indeed. Continue reading

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Dixie Detours: NOLA!

New Orleans is a sultry dream. I can’t imagine anywhere else in America that’s even half as beguiling or idiosyncratic. Probably the most dynamic city in the US, it is without doubt the most spontaneous and freewheeling. When I think about other destinations across the planet that offer experiences comparable to what I’ve happened upon in NOLA, I find myself coming up with a list of my absolute favourites places. Put simply, NOLA rocks (it shucks, jives, slides, saunters, shimmies and rolls too). Continue reading

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Dixie Detours: Overnight Luxury in Mobile, Alabama

The rather underrated and often overlooked Gulf Coast town of Mobile proved to be an excellent choice and our time there an all too short and actually quite luxurious stay. Continue reading

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Dixie Detours: When in Rome … Georgia

The wedding of my old friend Jack and his lovely fiancée Beth was the main reason prompting my and Kemey’s visit back home and a big factor behind the design of our Dixie Detours itinerary. The wedding was held in Rome, Georgia where Jack had attended university. Yes, that’s right. I went to Athens one day and Rome the next – all without leaving the great state of Georgia! Continue reading

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Super Yacht Me

So, I left my one bedroom flat in East London (Zone 2) early on a ho-hum Tuesday morning to hop the bus en route to the exclusive five star May Fair Hotel just off the Piccadilly to attend Superyachts.com’s Top 100, an event for mega yacht execs and brand reps to rub elbows and gab about the future of their industry. Featuring a full day of press workshops with “the visionary builders and designers behind the largest super yachts in the world”, Top 100 had been set up for journos to crash “intimate sessions with the heads of the super yacht industry, gain an in-depth insight into the largest luxury yachts set to launch in 2014 and discuss the most vital topics surrounding the world’s most incredible yachts”. Continue reading

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Daawat Indian Restaurant at the Strand Palace Hotel

Presenting tried and true South Asian comfort food on the Strand and just down the street from Covent Garden, Daawat Indian restaurant at the four star (and recently renovated) Strand Palace Hotel is a smart choice when you’re on the go and seeking a satisfying meal. Continue reading

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Good Stuff

Good Stuff and lots of it! Here’s the low down on some fine things to see, sip or take a bite out of – all of which I’ve recently come across and thought were worth sharing with you. Enjoy. Delfina Foundation … Continue reading

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New Year’s Eve Dinner at Nobu London

What a way to end (and start) a year! The seven course New Year’s Eve 2013 dinner and wine menu at Nobu London at the Metropolitan Hotel ended the year on a delectable note and set high the bar for restaurant experiences for the months to come. Check it out … Continue reading

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Best Restaurants (Everywhere Else) – 2013

To say I ate and drank well this year does not begin to describe how delectable 2013 was for me. Both in London and beyond, I had the pleasure of experiencing some of the best meals outside the home I’ve … Continue reading

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Best London Restaurants – 2013

To say I ate and drank well this year does not begin to describe how delectable 2013 was for me. Both in London and beyond, I had the pleasure of experiencing some of the best meals outside the home I’ve ever eaten. Here’s a list of the ten London restaurants I enjoyed visiting the most over the past 12 months along with a few extra honourable mentions. Keep an eye out for more posts over the coming days listings my favourite London cheap eats and pizza places, as well as the ten best restaurants I visited outside of London this year. Continue reading

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Tasty Tales from the Italian Ham Highway: Bounteous Bologna

That I’ve been to Bologna four times (twice just this year) should speak volumes about how much I love this city. It and the region of Emilia-Romagna have as prominent a cuisine and as celebrated a food culture as anywhere in the world. Even among Italians from other parts of the country, the gastronomic sensibilities of the Bolognese are held in the highest esteem. Continue reading

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Tasty Tales from the Italian Ham Highway: Modena: Fast Cars and Slow Food

For a town with a population of fewer than 200,000 people, the list of icons associated with Modena is impressive. Pavarotti, Ferrari, Maserati, Balsamico, tortellini … whatever floats your proverbial boat, odds are you’ve been inspired by someone or something Modenese at some point in your life. Continue reading

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Tasty Tales from the Italian Ham Highway: Antica Corte Pallavicina

Just outside the blink-and-miss-it village of Polesine Parmense, Antica Corte Pallavicina is a gorgeously restored 14th century castle situated on the banks of the Po that’s been transformed into a six room boutique hotel with Michelin starred restaurant. As refined as it is rustic, the venue is the result nearly two decades of dedication by local chef Massimo Spigaroli (whose other Michelin starred restaurant, Al Cavallino Bianco is located in the same village). Dining at Pallavicina was a sumptuous affair, yielding one of the loveliest meals I’ve had this year. Knowing that practically everything I put in my mouth came from here and was made onsite made all the more tasty. Continue reading

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Twelve Days of Christmas Afternoon Tea at the InterContinental London Park Lane

It’s no secret. I’m a big fan of the fine foodie offerings InterContinental London Park Lane. With Executive Chef Paul Bates calling the palate pleasing shots (not to mention chef Theo Randall doing his own tasty thing with onsite upscale Italian restaurant), I’ve never never even come close to having a less than ideal dining experience here. So an invitation to try the hotel’s limited edition Christmas afternoon tea was one I greedily accepting. This was my second time to enjoy an afternoon tea at the InterContinental and it did not disappoint. If anything, my expectations for a high level of quality and service were exceeded. Continue reading

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Tasty Tales from the Italian Ham Highway: Udine

Udine is the hub and historical capital of the small Friuli Veneza Giulia province of the same name. With a sizeable university, it’s a lively setting with an interesting mix of people and pretty decent nightlife. If you’ve been to your share of checklist-y must-see Italian destinations (such as … oh let’s say … Florence) or you simply get a kick out off veering off the beaten path in an attempt to see what real life in a foreign country is like then Udine is a brilliant town to keep in mind. Continue reading

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Tasty Tales from the Italian Ham Highway: Speck-tacular Views and Smoky Brews in Sauris

Day two of my foodie odyssey had me saying goodbye to the Dolomite gateway town of Forni di Sopra and heading even higher (and deeper) into the Alps to the tiny Germanic enclave of Sauris for a taste of the local delicacies and to take in the sweeping views – all of which elicited some form of audible and involuntary whoa or wow from an overwhelmed me. Continue reading

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Tasty Tales from the Italian Ham Highway: Forni di Sopra and the Dolomite Loop

Situated within the Parco Naturale delle Dolomiti Friulane, Forni serves as excellent base for outdoor adventure with plenty of nearby (and even in-town) opportunities for skiing, climbing and hiking. And as I discovered, It’s a fantastic place to have a drink as well. Here, the stereotypical Italian bella figura yields to a rugged and independent spirit. In Forni, I came across men with beards of mythic proportions and drank some of the finest craft beers I’d ever tasted. Aside from the snowy Alpine surroundings and the absolute quietude of the night, the scene was enough to have me wonder if I was back home in Hackney. Had I stumbled upon a secret hipster heaven? Continue reading

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Tasty Tales from the Italian Ham Highway: Ciao and Grazie!

Over the next several days I will share highlights from my adventure in a Tasty Tales from the Italian Ham Highway miniseries of posts featuring entries about the following phenomenal destinations – Forni di Sopra, Sauris, San Daniele, Udine, Collio, Trento, Torino, Parma, Modena, and Bologna – all with tips and suggestions to help you plan your own delectable itinerary. Continue reading

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Would You Eat a Goanut?

I went on a lark to check out a gimmick and got hooked on an excellent seasonal menu at what might be London’s most underrated restaurant. What’s a goanut you ask? It’s a gourmand gateway to a fine foodie feast. Try it at the Brasserie at the Tower Hotel. Continue reading

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Excellent Steaks and More at Gillray’s Steakhouse & Bar, County Hall

A recent visit to Gillray’s Steakhouse & Bar at The London Marriott Hotel had me enjoying finely crafted cocktails and tucking into an amazingly satisfying mega-steak dinner. Here’s a quick report on what made my meal so special along with details on how you can dine with a discount if you tell ‘em tikichris sent you. Continue reading

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Four Reasons to Stay in Soho When You Visit London

You know me – I love London. The thing about living here for over ten years though is that I experience the city like a local not as a visitor. Despite often viewing the city through a rather rose-tinted lens, … Continue reading

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