Quinta Real Hotel, Oaxaca

Oaxaca is such a special part of Mexico, steeped in history and tradition. Quinta Real Hotel is found in the centre of the Unesco World Heritage historic town. The atmospheric building has a long and intriguing history, built in 1576 as the Convent of Santa Catalina de Siena, the building was also once a jail before being transformed into a luxury hotel.

OaxacaOaxaca

It is the building and the grounds that make this hotel worth visiting. The stunning site has kept many of the original features and frescoes, and old tile floors have been carefully restored. The lush green gardens are landscaped with terraces, picturesque fountains, and dramatic arches… needless to say it is a popular venue for weddings and events.

Oaxaca

The bedrooms are a little bland in comparison to the common areas. The rooms are spacious but dark, with little natural light. Our windows looked out to the charming streets of Oaxaca town. A grand (and very comfortable) bed takes centre stage, and other facilities such as a writing desk and wardrobe are there should you need them. The rooms were blissfully cool (this part of Mexico can get very hot!) with a modern and quiet air conditioning unit.

Despite the generous size of the bedroom, the bathroom was tiny, with a shower, toilet and sink squeezed in. Everything was in good working order, with toiletries provided by Salvatore Ferragamo from Italy.

OaxacaOaxaca

When the sun is shining the Quinta Real pool is a glorious place to spend time. After a hot morning of sightseeing we escaped the busy town and took some time to relax by the pool with a book. There are plenty of sun-loungers for those needing a little Vitamin-D top-up, or shaded tables for a snack and drink near the bar.

OaxacaOaxaca

Quinta Real is a convenient and comfortable hotel to have as your home during a stay in Oaxaca. The historic building is enchanting, and if the bedrooms were updated it would be, without a double, the most special place to stay in town.

Quinta Real Oaxaca is a member of Preferred Hotels & Resorts LVX Collection. Rates start from £111 ($149) per room per night. For further information or to book please visit www.preferredhotels.com

Pied a Terre, Charlotte Street

I envy the people who live and work near Charlotte Street, the atmosphere in this area is always jovial and the restaurant choices are endless. Pied a Terre is one of London’s longest standing Michelin star eateries, and is conveniently located halfway down Charlotte Street.

Pied a TerrePied a Terre

Unlike many of London’s foodie venues, Pied a Terre is not a passing food trend but rather an institution that has evolved gradually to offer refined French food in a sophisticated contemporary dining room. The restaurant is discreet and smart, a private place to enjoy delicious food and catch up with friends or hold business lunches.

The decor at Pied a Terre is smart and grown up with a splash of creativity. The space is small so there is not much for them to work with but it is a pleasant and comfortable place to sit and feast. When we visited on a weekday lunchtime the room was quiet, and it seemed a shame that it was so empty, but perhaps it comes to life in the evening…

Pied a Terre opened in 1991 under the guidance of David Moore, in the last 27 a host of chefs have led the kitchen team, and last September Asimakis Chaniotis took over from Andy McFadden, who had been head chef for 10 years.

Pied a TerrePied a Terre

There is an impressive a la carte menu on offer every mealtime, but at lunchtime diners can also enjoy a reasonably priced lunch menu (£29.50 for two courses or £37.50 for three). Unlike many fine dining restaurants, Pierre a Terre also prides itself on offering elaborate and special dishes for vegetarians and vegan diners.

After a glass of wonderful champagne and moreish bread we moved onto our first course. Chicken wing cannelloni with Piquillo Peppers was a light summery starter. Perfectly cooked poultry with a spicy warmth from the peppers, and served with crunchy green beans and fresh salad. My starter was beautiful, Quail with yuzu, presented smoking on a bed of pine needles. It was a large portion of crispy skinned meat with a creamy risotto, a lovely combination, but more of a main course in my opinion.

Pied a TerrePied a Terre

Main courses were rich and wonderful… exactly what you would expect in a French Michelin star restaurant. The Oxford Black and Sandy Pork with Datterini tomatoes, fermented garlic polenta and black curry was the star of the show. The cubes of pork were served with irresistibly crunchy pork fat and the vibrant tomatoes contributed some much needed tanginess. The polenta was slightly stodgy in texture with the rich pork, but flavoured immaculately with fermented garlic. Fish lovers will enjoy the Scorched Cod with capers, crushed potatoes and Pak Choi. This pretty plate of food champions the fish, cooked in a lemon beurre noisette emulsion and sprinkled with edible flowers.

The service throughout our meal at Pierre a Terre was brilliant and truly memorable. The sommelier took my comments on board and offered me a wine which suited my meal and my tastebuds. I loved my glass of Chenin Blanc from Chateau de la Roulerie so much I’m considering buying some to have at home. The wine was creamy and dry with a soft but fresh finish.

Pied a TerrePied a Terre

Desserts were the highlight of the meal, simpler in style but perfect in taste. The Green Apple mille-feuille was constructed with expertly light pastry, subtly flavoured cream and a palate cleansing sorbet. The seasonal take on Strawberries and Cream was also a success with us. It was deconstructed on the plate with Gariguettes Strawberries, crème Diplomate, flavours of olive oil and mint espuma. It was a lovely plate combining sweet and sour ingredients with soft and crunchy elements.

Though Pierre a Terre is a little dated in style, their offering would appeal to any food lover. I was delighted to discover that both the full a la carte and lunch menu are given equal importance, so you will receive an exceptional meal, no matter what your budget is.

More information and book a table at Pied a Terre here.

Celebrate World Gin Day with Gordon Castle Scotland

Scotland is known best for its whisky, but recently I have had the pleasure of discovering a few of the country’s best gins…

Gordon Castle Estate, Walled Garden and the Gordon Castle Scotland brand are the results of eight years’ hard work by Angus and Zara Gordon Lennox since they took over the running of Gordon Castle Estate, Fochabers in 2008. Completed as one of Scotland’s largest houses in the 1770s by the Duke of Gordon, Gordon Castle is the spiritual home of the House of Gordon, one of Scotland’s oldest families.

Gordon Castle Gin

The estate is found in the Spey valley, in the heart of whisky country, with a stretch of the Spey River running through the estate, which boasts some of the best salmon fishing in the world. The Walled Garden at Gordon Castle has a long history, with evidence it existing in a guise since the 17th century. At over eight acres, The Walled Garden at Gordon Castle is one of the largest in the country and, once restored, will be the largest fully productive walled garden in Scotland. This historical place acts as the inspiration behind the luxury brand and since its launch in June 2014 now produces over 200 lifestyle products, luxury beauty products and premium gin, all inspired by the fruits, herbs and plants grown in the garden.

Gordon Castle Gin

Gordon Castle Gin is an award-winning premium gin handcrafted using botanicals grown in its very own Scottish Walled Garden, bringing you an air of history and provenance in every sip. Gordon Castle Gin is a crisp, elegant and refreshing gin with a lovely clean palate. Subtle notes of lavender linger in the back of the nose and within the mouth. The garden flavours give the spirit a clean and refreshing character.

Gordon Castle Gin

The thing I look forward to most about Fridays is getting home to a cold gin and tonic. This weekend, to celebrate World Gin Day (9th June), I will be raising a toast to this wonderful spirit with Gordon Castle botanical gin. The cocktail recipes with this unique spirit are endless, but this gin is particularly well paired with mint, lemon, lime and plenty ice. The two main tasting notes you may notice in the gin are lavender and garden mint, so if you have easy access to a lavender bush you can use this summery scent as a garnish if you wish.

You can taste this delicious gin for yourself at Gordon Castle Gin bar at the Taste of London Festival in Regent’s Park from the 13th-17th June.

This is a sponsored post in collaboration with Gordon Castle Scotland. Find out more information and buy a bottle of gin (£34.25 for 70cl) here.