La Tagliata, Liverpool Street

The best Italian restaurants are often the simplest – little, unpretentious eateries that only offer a few specialities and service with a smile. This is exactly what you will find at La Tagliata, a new Italian establishment near Liverpool Street.

The restaurant is named after the main dish served here… La Tagliata is a traditional Italian steak dish – sliced meat with potatoes, rocket and tomatoes, rustic but delicious when done well. The team here is passionate about offering high quality Italian food without the endless menu options and complications. Manager Carlo Palumbo brings his much-loved family recipes to the table, while executive chef Antonio Tonelli brings the experience and techniques he has learned from working in southern Italian kitchens since the age of 13.

Choose between just a main course for £19, a starter and main for £24 or three courses for £29. For first course there is a choice of four seasonal sauces with daily homemade tagliatelle. The sauce options when we visited were: pomodoro, limone, ragu and pesto and the special for the week, white truffle. Unable to decide on just two the lovely Carlo let us taste three, omitting the basic tomato pomodoro and ragu. Pesto is classic and flavoursome, truffle felt indulgent and special, but the limone was our favourite, a light and creamy sauce, originally from Capri, made with egg yolk, lemon and parmesan.

For vegetarians there is a Scamorza cheese and porcini mushroom option to replace the Tagliata. Though I would urge everyone to try the delicious steak: thinly sliced meat with a wonderfully seasoned chargrilled edge, topped with fresh peppery rocket, the sweetest cherry tomatoes, a drizzle of balsamic vinegar and thick shavings of parmesan. We tasted both the herby roasted potatoes and the lesser known shepherd’s potato (crushed and seasoned). If I had to recommend one I’d say go for the roasted as the taste and texture is so appealing.

For dessert there are a few classic Italian dishes: cheese, pannacotta or tiramisu. If you are a fan of coffee and cream I urge you to order tiramisu, a glass of pillowy sweet cream and sponge.

La Tagliata represents the best things about Italian culture; passion, pasta and parmesan. There’s not much that can go wrong with these ingredients, and this little start-up manages to exceed expectations bringing some humble authenticity to an overcrowded chain restaurant ridden area of London.

More information here: www.la-tagliata.com

Hot on the Highstreet Week 235

I was surprised and thrilled by the shopping scene in Munich. Hidden in huddles on small side streets, the shops here are unique and characterful. Design is big on the agenda and I was pleased to discover unique concept stores, jewellery studios, stationery shops and best of all local designers. Here are my top five shops from the Munich highstreets.

Falkenberg: I want my home to look like this shop. Falkenberg owner Sabine presents a carefully curated collection of beautiful and intriguing things including fine furniture, books, clothes, stationery, candles and jewellery from designers across Europe. The best concept store in town.

A Kind of Guise: A Kind Of Guise was born from the idea of creating products which are equally well designed and of high quality in terms of both production and the materials used. All the garments are made locally in Germany, and are immaculately tailored. I loved the thick winter shift dresses and lovely shirts.

Saskia Diez: A renowned jewellery brand in Munich, the work of Saskia Diez is delicate and thoughtful. I particularly liked the ultra thin rose gold rings, and the special fragrances, Silver and Gold that she recently created.

Papierladen: It is no secret that I am a total stationery addict and this is where I got my Munich fix. An array of stylishly arranged books, pencils, paperclips and other writing paraphernalia. It is known to locals as “the one with the beautiful papers”… I couldn’t agree more.

Cheers from Downtown: Another Munich born brand who recently opened up shop to offer local designers work to the public. The team are friendly and enthusiastic and the clothes are cool and inspiring. A great place to buy a stylish German souvenir.

Hard Day’s Night Hotel, Liverpool

Almost everybody will associate Liverpool with the Beatles, indeed many tourists visit solely for this reason. There is no escaping that Liverpool is the Fab Four’s hometown and from where they gained worldwide fame; relics fill the city inspiring fond memories of the musicians’ time here. Hard Day’s Night Hotel embraces this theme and is a tribute to the band, an establishment entirely dedicated to their music, their successes and the band members themselves.

HDN Hotel is centrally located and therefore very convenient for those spending time in the city for business or pleasure. This four star hotel has a corporate feel in the rooms and the public spaces with a muted colour scheme and simple furnishings. Some of the décor feels dated but the Beatles quotes and photos add colour and spirit. It is very comfortable catering for guests young and old, with a range of room options.

We were in a cosy double room with all the essentials needed for a weekend break – a smart writing desk and flatscreen TV, and a small bathroom with a particularly powerful shower. Above the sumptuous bed hung a psychedelic picture of John Lennon, looking down on us with an authoritive but friendly expression. After an evening trying the top cocktail bars in Liverpool, we slept very well in our Beatles inspired room.

HDN Hotel has plenty of choice for those seeking a bite to eat or an evening cocktail. The Live Lounge is a casual bar area in which to meet friends whereas Blakes restaurant (named after Peter Blake designer of Beatles album cover) offers a pleasant setting for a romantic meal. Alternatively you can exclusively hire the John Lennon or Paul McCartney suite for a special event.

Breakfast is served downstairs, a simple offering of cereals, toast or a full English for those in need of a hearty meal. I gulped down some orange juice and toast before dashing off to explore the rest of the city.

More information and book a night at HDN Hotel here.

Many thanks to the Liverpool Tourist Board for their help with this trip.

Hope Street Hotel, Liverpool

I didn’t expect to find a sleek, chic design hotel in Liverpool… Hope Street Hotel is a great surprise. This beautifully conceived boutique establishment has been fashioned from The London Carriage Works building which was built in the 1860s in the style of a Venetian Palazzo. The building is full of character and charm, which naturally makes you wonder about its history; the hotel feels totally genuine with a very welcoming atmosphere. It is centrally located, a short taxi ride from the main train station and close to the city’s main attractions.

The design and décor at Hope Street is sophisticated, making use of the original features wherever possible. There are 89 rooms in total - our room, the glorious no. 406, is split over two floors with majestic pine beams and natural materials used throughout. It is a warming wooden retreat with a skylight window shedding light over the giant bouncy bed. Beneath the beams, a generous desk and small toilet room is found. Upstairs on the mezzanine level the grand and spacious bathroom will wow every guest with its long walk in shower and wooden bath tub. REN toiletries are an additional delight in the bathroom.

There were a few technical glitches in our room; the phone system was faulty and the water spluttered tiresomely as I tried to run a bath. Though neither problem could alter my happy mood, as I skipped around the suite admiring every design feature. For a relaxing evening in, the huge flat screen TV will definitely be appreciated, complete with its extensive film library.

If you can’t be bothered to venture out into town, Hope Street Hotel has a fine restaurant onsite, offering British comfort food classics with a twist. We enjoyed a feast here on the Friday evening when the restaurant was busy and buzzing. The Prix Fixe menu is particularly reasonable: two courses for £17.50 or three for £22.50. There is a focus on seasonal and local produce and the menu changes regularly to reflect this. I particularly loved the homemade Celeriac soup – creamy and rich and luxuriously decadent. In fact everything we tried was rich and portions are generous, so arrive with an empty stomach! For main course, the Roasted Wirral pork loin with locally smoked pancetta and creamed Savoy cabbage was a treat, the meat could have been cooked for slightly less time, but the accompanying greens gave enough flavour and moisture to compensate.

Breakfast is also served in the restaurant, with buffet or a la carte options. We indulged with a warming bowl of porridge and Organic granola with natural yoghurt and blueberries, it felt healthy and satisfying. Hope Street is a unique hotel in Liverpool. Those who love to be surrounded by beautiful design will find a happy home away from home here.

More information and book a room at Hope Street Hotel here.

Many thanks to the Liverpool Tourist Board for their help with this trip.

Alimentum, Cambridge

Cambridge is one of the most civilised and lovely places to visit in the UK and yet there are only two Michelin star restaurants to satisfy refined tastebuds. Alimentum is one of the two – a small, discreet restaurant located on a quiet street near the main train station. With a sophisticated, oriental-feeling, black and red interior, this eatery suits both business meals and leisurely treats. Headed up by chef Mark Poynton, the kitchen presents food that is highly creative but miraculously reasonably priced (the affordable fixed price menu starts at £18.50 for 2 courses), making this wonderful dining experience accessible to all.

We were seated at the best table overlooking the kitchen, so throughout the meal we could spy on the chefs preparing the immaculate plates. It was great fun to see the foodie performance before the carefully constructed dishes were delivered to us. Prior to our chosen a la carte courses we were offered fluffy warm freshly baked bread, and mouthfuls of crispy pastry with pea shoots, feta and lemon. Then came the tiny tasters of butternut squash veloute with pickled mushrooms and pumpkin seeds, a silky comforting soup and a taste of the culinary delights to come. The sommelier kindly selected suitable white and red wines to go with our food choices.

The a la carte is well balanced with creations to suit every palate. To start we chose to feast on Quail Breast and legs, with broccoli, lime and peanut and Duck Foie gras mousse, passion fruit, walnut and spring onion. Both dishes had a hint of the orient whilst using seasonal British ingredients. Presented in a glass bowl the foie gras was incredibly rich topped with an assortment of textural garnishes ensuring every mouthful was different. The delicately cooked quail was irresistible – subtly flavoured meat with broccoli and peanuts, it reminded me of the flavours I tried in Thailand.

Our main courses were very decadent; Lobster, Duck breast, gizzard, carrot, anise and white port for my guest and Venison, Sweet potato, lentils, king oyster mushroom with pink peppercorn sauce for me. The venison was perfectly cooked and glistened with a coating of rich sauce; it was balanced with greenery and had a lovely range of textures. The lobster and duck was a feast for the senses, and an especially good choice for those greedy diners that can’t decide between seafood and meat. Both were cooked immaculately and dressed with a layer of thin carrots and garnished with a sprinkling of herbs.

After a surprise course of superior cheeses, we chose desserts. After watching the pastry chef decorate plates in the kitchen, I was extremely excited to taste the whimsical creations. We obviously picked the chocolate option, Fondant with raspberry and caramel (an absolute must) and for the second pudding went out on a whim with BBQ Orange Parfait, mojito and liquorice. They both looked beautiful, precariously poised on their platters. I was taken aback by the BBQ orange, sharp and a little bitter, the contrasting components are definitely unexpected, but after getting used to the unique palette of the dish I began to like the refreshing flavours. Chocolate fondant was delicious with a vibrant ruby red raspberry coulis.

As if a visit to Cambridge isn’t blissful enough, a meal at Alimentum will complete a day away in this beautiful historic city.

More information and book a table here.

PREVIEW: An Afternoon with Derek Paravicini and Friends

The Amber Trust is a charity that provides access to music for blind and partially sighted children. On Sunday 23rd November at The Theatre Royal Haymarket at 3.30 pm, the charity will be presenting An Afternoon with Derek Paravicini and Friends to help raise funds and awareness for the charity. The afternoon will be hosted by Sean Rafferty, arts broadcaster and presenter of BBC Radio 3′s In Tune and will include a special performance by Rhydian and the internationally renowned savant pianist Derek Paravicini, The Derek Paravicini Quartet and other guests. The Amber Trust creates a lifeline in the form of music for the many blind and partially sighted children they support. Music gives them great joy and confidence, as well as the courage to reach out to the world and make friends for the first time. All proceeds from the concert go directly to The Amber Trust and towards giving blind and partially sighted children access to music. Tickets range from £10.00 to £55.00 and can be purchased online from www.trh.co.uk or by calling The Theatre Royal’s box office on 0207 930 8800. This will be a wonderful opportunity to see The Amber Trust in action and the concert promises to be an excellent event. Take friends and family along to the iconic Theatre Royal Haymarket for an afternoon of beautiful music performed by superb musicians.

More information here.

Hot on the Highstreet Week 234

No matter how many colourful, slogan, patterned t-shirts you own it is always the plain timeless tees that get the most wear. You can never have too many classic white, black and grey tops, they work equally well with scruffy jeans or a smart pencil skirt. A comforting garment that will never let you down.

Maison Labiche is a combined effort from two Parisian friends, one being a stylist (Maison) and one being a designer (Labiche). Their aim is to breathe new life into basics without resorting to in-your-face graphics and loud prints. The duo’s shared love of timeless style has resulted in them name-checking past and present famous places, songs and people on their garments.

The brand’s signature cotton t-shirts feature heart embroidered detailing and come finished with a pre-rolled sleeve. Those looking for more warmth or a casual weekend throw-on-and-go piece can opt for an equally timeless grey, burgundy or navy sweater.

I’ve always loved the traditional French handwriting font, it has a pretty innocence about it as well as looking retro inspired. These t-shirts are unisex and will be hand-embroidered with your word or words of choice (up to 15 characters) in a variety of cotton thread colours.

The idea behind these personalised tees is to wear something simple that you love, close by to your heart. My ‘modern milly’ tee is on its way to me, order your very own here or visit an Urban Outfitters store, prices from £50. Humble but effortlessly stylish Maison Labiche let you put your stamp on your favourite fashion staples.

More information on Maison Labiche here.

Beauty Bazaar, Liverpool

In my opinion, Liverpool is the perfect city for a girl’s weekend away. There are plenty of cute cocktail bars, vintage boutiques, afternoon tea cafes and art galleries. Though the one thing the female species really enjoy indulging in is some beauty therapy and relaxing spa treatments. Luckily, Liverpool is home to the Harvey Nichols Beauty Bazaar, a luxury hall of the top beauty brands, everything to preen and nourish your hair, skin, face and nails.

The Beauty Bazaar is centrally located in town and open 7 days a week to look after all your last minute beauty needs. After a long night’s sleep we arrived at 10am ready to be pampered from head to toes. The team had created a little programme for both of us to concentrate on our needs and desires. I started at Nails Inc where the lovely Greta filed and prepped my fingers and toes and coated them in a creamy toffee shade called Basil Street. For men the nails brand offer full pedicures to tidy up and shape the nails and soften the skin.

On the top floor more intensive treatments take place, I experienced a facial and bikini wax here though you can also have therapeutic full body massages if you are in need of total relaxation. The therapists are thorough and thoughtful ensuring you are very comfortable with the temperature and lighting in the room before proceeding. I particularly enjoyed the facial which deeply cleansed and soothed my worn winter skin, and then moisturised with rich lotion so my skin looked plump and glowing when I left.

For the ultimate brow grooming head to Blink where the girls thread immaculately to give defined eyebrows. I warn you it can be painful, especially if you have sensitive skin, but the results are so much better than waxing. Blink also offer head and neck massages which will completely relax and de-stress you. We completed our morning with tea and champagne at the WOW bar where guests can also devour an afternoon tea should you feel peckish after your treatment.

An essential item on any girly itinerary for Liverpool and with the festive season coming up there has never been a better time to visit the Beauty Bazaar for a bit of beauty extravagance.

More information and book a day of indulgence here.

Dandelyan Bar, Mondrian Hotel

Some of London’s most highly regarded cocktail bars are found in the city’s luxury hotels, so I should not be surprised to hear that creative mixologist mastermind, Ryan Chetiyawardana (known as Mr Lyan) would be opening his second bar within a hotel. Known for pushing the boundaries of bartending, Ryan has previously worked behind the counter of some of the most pioneering cocktail joints; he opened his first bar (White Lyan) in Hoxton earlier this year, creating concoctions using no ice or fresh ingredients.

Dandelyan, set in the lavish new Mondrian Hotel on the river has smart hotel staff serving and pouring and sophisticated guests sitting on the luxury bar stools – the atmosphere is completely the opposite of the East London laid-back vibe I experienced in Hoxton. Eager to try Mr Lyan’s newest venture, a group of us swished in on a Monday evening ready to sample a selection of the top drinks, needless to say we had high expectations.

Here, ice and citrus essentials are allowed, but Mr Lyan still ensures the concept and recipes are adventurous and original. The beautifully designed floral cocktail menu splits the drinks into flavour groups: cereal, vegetal, mineral and floral. On the back page a diagram illustrates the main tastes of each drink and whether it is more suitable for daytime or nighttime drinking. We chose six to sip and share, along with a range of tasty bar snacks.

My favourites included the ‘Puffed Grains & Chocolate’ a long Scotch-based drink with a nutty sweet taste and the signature ‘Dandelyan Sour’ which is very easy to drink served in a pretty coupette glass: a botanical taste with a mix of gin, citrus flavours and aromatic garden bitters. For something very light and refreshing the popular ‘Southbank’ is a good bet, an elegant rum-based drink with a nice balance of grapefruit and honey. I also loved the ‘Monroe’, a strong vodka cocktail with lemon, wheat and passionfruit.

Despite the complex and intricate design of these cocktails, there is a drink to suit everyone, whether you are a cocktail fan or not. Mr Lyan is a mixologist magician and this new bar is sure to make Mondrian Hotel a drinking destination.

More information on Dandelyan Bar here.

Kex Hostel, Reykjavik

Iceland is an expensive place to visit; a hostel can be a great way to save on the cost of accommodation. Kex, however, is so much more than a hostel.

Housed in a former biscuit factory (Kex translates to biscuit), this industrial building has been revolutionised by co-owner and designer Halfdán Pedersen. Opened in 2011 in downtown Reykjavik, Kex is now a destination for hip, thrifty travellers and a hangout for local creatives.

There is a choice of 43 rooms, from private doubles to large dorms. Many offer views of Faxaflói Bay and Mount Esja. Each room is individually decorated with quirky vintage furniture and stocked with informative second-hand books. We stayed in a guesthouse-style double room with a view of the ocean. The room was simply equipped with locker storage and a desk and lamp. Despite the large window I found the room a little dark, which was particularly noticeable in the evenings. Wifi is free and fast throughout the hostel which is a massive help to tourists needing information or email services. Shared toilets and shower facilities are located near to the bedrooms on each floor and we found these to be clean and efficient, with hot powerful showers.

The communal areas are very sociable and the big retro sofas encourage guests to use these spaces. Salvaged materials and found objects adorn the main reception area, lounge and dining area, giving Kex an eclectic but contemporary character. The design is beautifully arranged with thought and care; I could have spent hours examining every detail.  Men in need of a quick trim will be grateful for the tiny barbershop, which is found on the main floor of Kex. Open every Thursday, it costs about 4000 ISK (£20 approx.) for haircut and shave.

In the mornings guests can enjoy a simple Icelandic style breakfast in the main dining room. Hot coffee, freshly made bread and juices and jams are a welcome wake-up meal. Youngsters cram the wholesome food in, vital sustenance before exploring the cold landscape outside.

The fashionable hostel trend is growing at alarming speed and Kex Hostel is a prime example. The unique venue has become a destination for tourists and locals to sleep, eat and drink. A brilliant base camp for all your Icelandic adventures.

Book a stay at Kex Hostel here.

Many thanks to the Reykjavik Tourist Board for their help with this trip.