A Trip to Dubrovnik with Adriatic Luxury Hotels

Most people will recognise Dubrovnik from dramatic tv series and film scenes. This beautiful and well-preserved UNESCO World Heritage old town provides an atmospheric backdrop for hit dramas such as Game of Thrones and Robin Hood.

I had never visited this magical part of Croatia before so jumped at the opportunity when Adriatic Luxury Hotels invited me out for a few days with a group of press. We arrived off the first flight of the day, just in time for lunch. It is only a short drive from Dubrovnik airport to Hotel Excelsior, our home for the next three nights.

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Hotel Excelsior has recently undergone a grand transformation and every part of the hotel feels sparkly and new. I was staying in one of the bedrooms in the old part of the hotel, not that you’d know from the inside, the suite was contemporary and luxurious, stylish with a pretty grey and pale pink colour theme. I instantly loved the room and excitedly looked around, taking photos of every corner while I tried out every chair and sofa for comfort.

In the bedroom a giant bed was topped with a pink blanket and heavy curtains hung by the windows. I particularly loved the vintage light fittings that added a touch of retro glamour to the rooms. The en-suite bathroom was indulgent and spacious with a bathtub, power shower and Provencal L’Occitane toiletries.

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Once I’d investigated the suite I allowed myself to step out onto my mini balcony… the view of the rippling Adriatic sea was stunning. Down below guests were soaking up the sun and dozing under umbrellas, with the expansive sea edge as their natural swimming pool. I had heard that Hotel Excelsior had the best hotel views in Dubrovnik, but nothing could prepare me for this beautiful landscape.

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The next few days passed in a flash of elegant meals, salty sea swims and interesting cultural excursions. In just a few days you can truly immerse yourself in the heritage and foodie traditions of this part of the world. Highlights for me included a trip to the small town of Ston where we enjoyed oyster tasting (fresh from the sea) and local wine tasting.

On our final day we headed out to explore the Elafiti islands on a private Dubrovnik Boats yacht tour. We cruised around the archipelago of thirteen islands on the crystal clear waters, it was heaven. When it was time for lunch we stopped at Bowa, a restaurant on the island of Šipan. Bowa has a cluster of bohemian beach huts, each set up for a group lunch… we feasted on fresh fish and simple salads before sunbathing on the edge of the sea shore.

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Though small, the old town of Dubrovnik has plenty to explore and discover. I recommend walking the ancient city walls, it takes around 1 hour to do the full circuit and costs approximately £20. The panoramic views of the terracotta red rooftops is a truly wonderful sight. Back on street level there are plenty of charming buildings and monuments to see too, each offering an insight into the rich and long history of Dubrovnik.

In the short time I had here I managed to hunt down a few of the town’s best foodie spots… head to Cogito for speciality coffee, Proto for a delicious dinner, and Buza Bar for atmospheric evening drinks (and to watch the locals jump off the rocks into the sea!)

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Each afternoon I looked forward to returning to Hotel Excelsior to relax and use the great facilities. The spa is the perfect place to unwind after a day of sightseeing, and I was lucky enough to receive a signature massage treatment here. The two restaurants, Prora and Sensus, are popular with hotel guests and also those not staying at Excelsior. On the first evening of our trip we had a particularly memorable meal at Sensus… the chef made us a few delicious signature dishes paired with Croatian wines. When you stay at any Adriatic Luxury Hotel property you are also welcomed to the restaurants at the other hotels, we visited the magnificent Villa Sheherezade for breakfast and Maslina Tavern at Dubrovnik Palace for dinner.

After three days at Hotel Excelsior I felt refreshed and revitalised. There is something so special about Dubrovnik and this coastal corner of the world, and I feel very lucky to have experienced it with such a welcoming and luxurious hotel group.

I stayed as a guest at Hotel Excelsior. Double rooms at Hotel Excelsior start from 365 EUR (approx. £321) per night. Book www.adriaticluxuryhotels.com/en  or call +385 20 353 000 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.