La Bauhinia, Shangri-La Paris

Shangri-La is a charismatic hotel brand. Since the Shard acquired the new London branch, many more Brits have become aware of this company’s power and esteem. During my last trip to Paris I was priviledged to visit Shangri-La Paris to dine at the Asian style restaurant in the hotel, La Bauhinia.

Wandering through this opulent palace, my feet squeaking on the polished floor, I felt relieved that at least I had my little Chanel bag on my shoulder, my most luxurious possession that increases my suitability for an establishment like this. La Bauhinia is one of three restaurants at the hotel, the other two are both Michelin-awarded offering Chinese and French cuisine. Located in the heart of the building, its name is inspired by the bauhinia flower and is a reminder of the hotel’s Asian heritage. A luxurious glass ‘cupola’ structure designed by renowned architect Maurice Gras dazzles at night with a grand chandelier illuminating the space.

Both French and Asian dishes are given equal importance on the menu, though I felt more swayed by the Thai dishes. First though, top notch pink champagne and crostini whet our appetites prior to the main meal. To start we shared a delectable plate of Mangalica ham with minced pear and spiced pear chutney. The salty but delicate meat contrasted with the aromatic sweet fruit. It was polished off in minutes.

For main course we decided to sample two classic Thai dishes: Shrimp Pad Thai and Lamb Green Curry. The Pad Thai consisted of sautéed rice noodles, shrimp, egg, bean sprouts, tamarind juice, daikon radish, white cabbage, peanuts, garlic and lime. Everything was perfectly cooked though I found it a little too sweet. Lamb shoulder stewed in a Thai green curry and coconut basmati rice was amazingly spicy and creamy, with tender chunks of meat and the lovely addition of fresh peas and cherry tomatoes that added pleasantly to the look and taste. The knowledgeable waiter brought complementing glasses of wine, we particularly enjoyed the French white Meursault Les Criots.

For dessert we shared the Orange in Many Ways, it was absolutely sensational, too pretty to eat. Orange segments, orange mousse, orange crumble, Grand Marnier ice cream made for a tangy and fruity sundae of deliciousness. It was the ideal palate cleansing sweet treat.

If you can’t afford a night’s stay in the stunning Shangri-La, a special meal at La Bauhinia is a great alternative: delicious food and wonderful surroundings in the heart of Paris.

More information about La Bauhinia here.

Thanks to the Paris Tourist Board, more information here.

Shrimpy’s, King’s Cross

Soon we are to say so long to Shrimpy’s, the pop-up diner in King’s Cross which has occupied the filling station for the last 18 months. When the site is redeveloped later this year, the dinky diner will shut up shop which is a shame considering the delectable design and cheerful food.

For the first 6 months of its existence, Londoners went crazy for crab burgers at Shrimpy’s and the queues were unbearable and reservations impossible. A year on and the place is far from full, a much quieter and calmer venue for weekend brunch. The food, some say, is not as good, but I enjoyed my meal here, a stylish mix of Californian and Mexican dishes.

The soft shell crab burger was famous instantly, it even had its own twitter following, but with rumours that it had dropped in quality I decided to sample some of the other dishes available. From the brunch menu, I can recommend the Chilaquiles with chorizo. Although this was presented messily, a pile on a plate, it really was tasty, a spicier and more sophisticated version of nachos. The cheeseburger in a bonnet was good too, quite petite in size but perfectly cooked with a very soft sweet freshly baked brioche bun and a layering of delicious components on the flavoursome beef patty. We couldn’t resist something sweet to share, Ricotta hot cakes with pecan crunch butter seemed like the obvious choice. Perhaps the star of the meal, the pancakes were thick and airy dusted in icing powder with a dollop of caramelised nutty butter melting temptingly on top.

It was the design and décor of Shrimpy’s that I fell in love with. The exterior has a modern silver sharpness, but with a retro charm that is irresistible to passers-by. It is a mysterious and magical old garage that seems deserted from the street, but explore a little and you find a little entrance. Inside the walls have whimsical coloured illustrations by Donald Urquhart and Jonathan Trayte.

More information here:

THOROUGHLY MODERN MAN: Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Savoy Theatre

Robert Lindsay’s performance at the Savoy Theatre had me googling him on my phone during the interval to check out his age. What I discovered made me even more impressed by his consummate performance as lovable trickster Lawrence Jameson in David Yazbek’s adaptation of the famous 1988 film, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. Lindsay is both funny and suave opposite Rufus Hound’s more histrionic portrayal of rival conman Freddy Benson – the pair are in competition duping glamorous tourists on the French Riviera out of their spare cash. Katharine Kingsley as their principal prey charismatically sings and dances circles around the duo.

This stage show is infinitely more sophisticated and satisfying than the very dated film. The songs are catchy enough to be memorable although I’d never heard any of them before. The dance routines are sassy and dizzily complex. The dialogue and libretto are very witty and 21st century. The set design does wonders with the limited space and is very much in tune with the Savoy’s wonderful deco interior.

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is a proper musical, combining traditional razzamatazz with a contemporary sensibility and makes for a very entertaining night out.

Continues until 29 November 2014, buy tickets here.

Written by a Thoroughly Modern Man, Chris Kenny.

Martin Creed, ‘What’s the point of it?’, Hayward Gallery

Martin Creed is a British artist and musician. In 2001 he won the Turner Prize for the seemingly simplistic Work No. 227: The lights going on and off, an empty room in which the lights did indeed go on and off, at five second intervals. This eccentric artist lives and works in London and continues to push boundaries in his work.

Playful and peculiar, this first major survey of Creed’s work is currently on show at the Hayward Gallery and aims to encourage thought and discussion, exemplified by the title of exhibition, ‘What’s the Point of it?’ It is a random sequence of pieces, often art is disguised in a strange object, disturbing video or abstract action. There is a range of works and installations that will titillate and alarm all of your senses.

When you enter the gallery an impressive spinning neon banner reads ‘MOTHERS’, meanwhile metronomes tick constantly around the room. This neon sign seemed particularly appropriate when I visited (the day before Mothering Sunday), it is inspiring and yet intrusive. A man sits at a piano descending and then ascending playing each semi-tone, each note is given an equal amount of time. It is odd and leaves the visitor wondering ‘why?’

I have seen Creed’s revolting vomit video before, and this time round found it just as unsettling, in fact I couldn’t watch for more than a few seconds. Is this what the artist intends? Again we are left questioning, almost frustrated by the lack of understanding or explanation. Upstairs the pieces have a more pleasing aesthetic quality. Colour and shape is more evident and there are several entertaining pieces which are enjoyable to ponder and watch. Visitors are encouraged to enter a room full of white balloons, squeeze in amongst them and feel the static energy.

Despite an obvious lack of traditional artistic craft, this exhibition offers wit and wisdom and could not bore even the most complacent visitor. It is a colourful and varied display from one of London’s most thrilling artists.

Martin Creed continues until 5 May at the Hayward Gallery, more information and buy tickets here.

Hot on the Highstreet 203

My dad is incredibly precious and protective over his granola recipe. Once a batch is made he will eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner, proclaiming it as the best cereal in the world. I’ve recently realised that cereal fanatics are quite a common species, and everyone has their own specific brand, type and favourite recipes to brag about.

Last week I met with Spoon Cereals who are sharing their passion for cereals with the world offering creative products online and on the streets, feeding hungry Londoners on their morning commute.

Their mission is… “to give you a more adventurous bowl of cereal just the way you like it. So whether it’s loaded with fruit and nuts, with a sprinkling of seeds or with a healthy dollop of compote, we want to give everyone the chance to build their very own bowl in three quick and easy steps:

Pick your base – we like to keep our handmade recipes simple and tasty with high quality ingredients.

Bulk it up – Jazz up your bowl with our dried fruit, seed or nut mixes however you like

Top it off – complete your bowl with our fresh and exciting toppings to go with your milk or yoghurt”

I have been lucky enough to try this special cereal. Nutty, fruity, sweet and crunchy the Spoon Cereals are very flavoursome whilst remaining healthy and nutritious. I tried the comforting seasonal recipe with Jumbo oats, Coconut flakes, Peanuts, Dried apple pieces, Apple juice (from concentrate), Maple syrup, Rapeseed oil, Salt, Cinnamon. It was lovely with a splash of cold milk in the morning, but also provided the perfect snack eaten dry, mid afternoon at my desk. Costing just £5 for a big bag – it is a reasonable deal.

Spoon cereals are now available to buy online here, or follow the team on Twitter here to find out which highstreets they will be popping up at next.

The Glasshouse, Kew

The Glasshouse is part of a family of restaurants that includes my beloved Chez Bruce and La Trompette, two eateries that are firmly on my ‘favourites list’ and that I recommend to enquirers every day. Keen to know the third in the gastronomic trio, I went along to try the award-winning food at The Glasshouse last month to celebrate a special occasion. Just a few steps from Kew Bridge overground and underground station this local restaurant is relaxed and has a lovely neighbourhood feel. Like its sister establishments, The Glasshouse thrives outside the centre of town, managing to keep prices slightly lower and the atmosphere calmer due to the less business prone clientele.

Head chef Berwyn harks from north Wales. He joined The Glasshouse team in 2012 as sous-chef, having previously cooked at some excellent restaurants including La Trompette. He took over as head chef in summer 2013; his extensive travelling and culinary experiences in India, the far east, New York and Australia all inspire his constantly changing menu. With a background in British and French cooking, he continues in the genre of cuisine which was already established at The Glasshouse, his innovative curiosity and flawless technique lead him to create classic but creative recipes.

If you can escape work for a lazy lunch it is the ideal time to visit The Glasshouse to make use of their very reasonable £27.50 menu for three courses from Monday to Saturday or £32.50 on Sundays. Dinner is priced at £42.50 for three courses every evening.

We were seated at a quiet table, where we were able to survey the entire restaurant surrounding us. The next table was engaging in a particularly interesting conversation reciting their favourite fine dining venues in London to each other and offering feedback… it was very valuable information for my future restaurant escapades. They seemed impressed with The Glasshouse food which boded well for our meal I thought… in due course menus, water and aromatic olive bread was delivered to our table as we pondered what to choose.

We both spotted the same highlights on the menu, I traded a main for my starter of choice, avoiding unnecessary duplication! The Hare tagliatelle with prosciutto, Portobello mushrooms and grilled spring onions sounds like a heavy dish but it was lovely and light. Homemade pasta cooked perfectly with a creamy sauce flavoured with woody ingredients and a meatiness from dainty pieces of hare. Bresse pigeon with spiced leg pastille, hazelnuts, foie gras and glazed figs showed an obvious Moroccan influence, a sweet dish with unusual flavour combinations.

All the main courses sounded appealing, we opted for the lamb and beef dishes. Slices of lamb arrived with a miniature pie, lyonnaise onions, salsify purée , buttered carrots and rosemary jus, an assortment of delicious components though it was served slightly tepid in temperature. Rump of beef was hearty and comforting, a divine cut of tender meat drizzled in an accomplished red wine sauce. Hand cut chips were so precisely rectangular they looked like building blocks. I found them a little dry, and though it would have been very inappropriate, I considered asking for some mayonnaise for them.

Burnt vanilla cream with poached rhubarb, champagne foam and pistachio biscotti was a refreshing and summery dessert. In complete contrast Valrhona chocolate mousse with milk ice cream, honey tuile and iced coffee was richer and a strange combination of strong flavours.

Luckily we didn’t have far to go for the ride home. The Glasshouse is the highlight of Kew’s restaurant scene and offers food that is sophisticated but unpretentious, fine dining for everyone to enjoy.

More information and book here:

Koya, Soho

I didn’t even see the restaurant sign, the queue alone told me I was in the right place. Koya is another of Soho’s uber-popular foodie destinations. The little eatery lives on Frith Street, opposite Ceviche (Peruvian delights), and a few metres from Barrafina (tapas heaven). So if you can’t be bothered with the queue there are other options nearby, though the likelihood is… they’ll be just as busy. When a friend and I turned up on a Wednesday night, the waiting didn’t take too long, and luckily we had some soap opera style entertainment from the couple behind us in the queue.

Koya opened in 2010, offering a casual and hip Japanese eating experience to Londoners. Noodles are homemade, kneaded by foot in the traditional Japanese fashion and served up hot or cold in an array of broths with a selection of toppings. The menu is pretty easy to grasp though we still struggled to choose. Udon noodles are served three ways: Atsu-Atsu (hot udon in hot broth), Hiya-Atsu (cold udon with hot broth) or Hiya-Hiya (cold noodles with cold dipping sauce).

We were both won over by the Kamo duck Atsu-Atsu, which arrived steaming minutes later… service here is speedy and efficient. The big hot bowls of goodness can be tricky to eat, splashing about as you slurp the noodles, but there is no doubt about it, this food makes for a very hearty and satisfying meal. The aromatic soup is soothing and delicious, thickened with chunky udon noodles, thin spring onions and meat – I loved the bite sized meatballs but found the slices of duck breast slightly too fatty. Looking back at the menu now I’m spotting lots of other tempting treats, Vegetable tempura and Donburi rice with beef and miso sounds wonderful too. To drink choose from traditional sake, shochu, Japanese beer or opt for a reasonably priced carafe of white wine, like we did.

Koya’s popularity shows no sign of slowing down, these simple authentic Japanese dishes continue to delight the hungry souls of Soho. I left feeling well fed, healthy but satisfied… all that for just £20.

More information here:

Le Citizen, Paris

Gone are the days when Paris was all about romance. Minimalist design is sweeping through the city fast and hotels are following suit. Paris now has many stylish and efficient options to cater for the cool couture kids who prefer less fuss more functionality.

I first visited the up-and-coming area of Canal Saint Martin a few years ago to gorge on grub at the popular pizza joint, Pink Flamingo, but I have never been fortunate enough to stay in this part of town before. The nonchalant and carefree 10th arrondissement now boasts many characterful independent coffee shops, juice bars, boutiques and restaurants – a great place to explore if you are bored of the familiarity of the famous sites. It is an area often seen in Parisian arthouse films, the charm is waiting to be discovered rather than being shoved in your face with a red rose in its mouth. To me it felt like real Paris.

The discreet Le Citizen Hotel is disguised among the many doors along the canal, only a small sign indicates its presence. We arrived late in the evening and were greeted and directed up to our room, number 1 on the first floor. It was a tiny room, dominated by the big double bed, with  intriguing little nooks and crannies to explore; there was a small wardrobe space for storing clothes, a little selection of snacks for midnight feasting and a kettle for hot drink emergencies!

The room was clean and slick, and felt basic yet deluxe simultaneously, the materials were comforting and aesthetically pleasing but with no space wasted on unnecessary features. Round the corner we discovered our blue tiled mini bathroom, which felt a little like a aeroplane toilet, albeit one that has been beautifully designed with lovely Omnisens toiletries. For fresh air and daylight the windows opened out to views of the neighbourhood, the canal and people on the street.

There are fun features too, an ipad loaned to each occupied room filled with trendy suggestions for the surrounding area and offering wifi for internet browsing. In our room we soon found a little hidden den, concealed by a curtain… lined in soft cushions, the perfect place to sit and read the copy of ‘Paris my Sweet’ provided for one’s enjoyment.

Downstairs there is a communal area for hanging out, reading, chatting and eating. It is all very zen with structural arrangements holding a small library of art and culture books. We relished a basic but tasty breakfast here, just-squeezed orange juice and bouncy fresh croissants. Those wishing to go out and find their own morning meal might enjoy these recommendations: Ten Belles for coffee, Holy Belly for brunch and Tholoniat Patissier for the best pain au chocolat you will ever eat.

Le Citizen is reasonably priced, brilliantly located and creatively designed. I felt a little cramped in room number 1 but loved the concept and character of the place, and the free-spirited neighbourhood totally won me over.

More information and book here:

Thanks to the Paris Tourist Board, more information here.

The Old Manor, Bradford-upon-Avon

I am always on the lookout for idyllic weekend break destinations in the UK. A few weeks ago I found The Old Manor Hotel, a charming and characterful establishment just fifteen minutes by train from central Bath. It is a historic building in Bradford-upon-Avon restored to its former glory by new owners, Tudor and Lucy Hopkins (and Camber the dog) who previously part-owned the Gallivant Hotel. They purchased this property in July 2013 hoping to have a hotel that they could completely call their own.

Known to be part of the Abbess of Glastonbury’s estate, the present Manor House was originally built in classic Queen Anne style before being upgraded in the 17th century. The quirks and detailing give the building particular appeal. With 21 bedrooms of varying sizes and décor, there are standard, superior, deluxe and family rooms to choose from. We were in a lovely spacious deluxe room (which felt more like a suite) in the main Manor house. Ultra clean and fresh with white walls, dainty artwork and endearing vintage furniture, it was a pleasure to spend the night here. Accentuating the remaining old features of the building there were hints of exposed beams and brickwork adding a touch of farmhouse chic. Through the prettily adorned dressing room was the bathroom, with a big bath and shower and Neal’s Yard toiletries.

The couple recently recruited Head Chef, Matthew Briddon of River Café and Paul Heathcotes – he is in charge of the kitchens and has big plans to make this hotel a foodie destination, with an extended restaurant and cookery school in the future. Speaking to Matthew, I found his vision and ambition inspiring, hearing about the plans for a snail farm, their own livestock, fruit orchards and herb gardens… a true farm to fork experience. So far they are making good use of the assets on site, a few beehives for floral honey and a small cold smokery for flavouring fish and other ingredients. We enjoyed a feast in the humble but lovely dining room on Friday night. Sitting by the roaring fire, sipping local ale and enjoying wholesome thoughtfully prepared food, I couldn’t think of anywhere else I would rather be. There were so many food highlights, I remember the innovative Smoked ham hock with ploughman’s garnish: a reinvention of the classic British sandwich, it had a great mix of textures with tangy sauce and irresistible crispy cheese bites. The main course Confit belly pork, pig’s cheek ragu and wilted greens had a sensational flavour and aroma though it was incredibly rich and I was sad not to be able to finish it. A simple homemade Bakewell Tart with clotted cream was served for dessert with soothing fresh mint tea.

Next morning we were awake bright and early with the chirping birds, early enough to see the huge orange sun rise through the trees, setting the sky alight. After a quick refreshing shower, we went down for a cup of coffee and breakfast in the Milking Parlour. Rustic chunky bread rolls stuffed with grilled bacon and ground pepper, orange juice and fresh milky coffee.

Visiting and experiencing the Old Manor Hotel was truly memorable for me; as we walked away though the sunny countryside I thought about how much I would love to have my own little hotel to love and nurture. We can expect great things from this motivated and creative team in the future, I cannot wait to hear about their progress.

More information on The Old Manor and book here:

Thoroughly Modern Milly travelled first class with First Great Western train from London Paddington to Bath Spa, book here.

Many thanks to the Bath Tourist board for their help with this trip, more information here.

Hot on the Highstreet Week 202

When the highstreet does not succeed we must turn to the ever-growing worldwide web, where the online highstreet offers everything you could possibly ever need, want or desire.

The days of printed photographs seem long gone, snap happy iphone users create an idyllic images to share amongst their friends and family through messages and social media platforms. Everything is digital. It seems sad flicking through the dusty albums of childhood photos and holiday memories, now we create phone folders of image files rather than bound books of printed photographs.

Square Snaps offers an option for the digital age where Instagram junkies can make their photos into glossy high quality prints to enjoy. Upload directly from Instagram or your desktop and have the prints delivered to your door. No need to take to the streets, your fantastical photos will be with you after just a few clicks.

It is rare to find such an innovative company in the UK, most Instagram printing services of this kind are based in America, cost a fortune to send and take an age to arrive. These pretty products are made from hard-wearing but high quality materials and are reasonably priced (24 standard snaps will cost you £9.84). The prints are designed with Instagram in mind – all arrive in the recognisable square format and are available in varying sizes and styles.

Here’s what the Square Snaps team have to say:

“We are a little company based in London with some pretty serious printing resources. We’re super keen lovers of art, photography and design. We started SQUARE SNAPS because we wanted to help reclaim a little of the physical from the digital. SO, don’t just store your pictures away on your computer or on Instagram, they should be held in your hands, pinned up on your walls, given to friends and celebrated in all their glory!”

Seems like a pretty good idea to me… now I just have to select a shortlist from my 4,495 photos on my Instagram account!

Order your Square Snap photos here: