The Hari Hotel and Il Pampero Restaurant, Belgravia

The Hari Hotel has arrived in Belgravia and it is wonderful. This stylish new accommodation option is the perfect place to rest your head after a long day of shopping on Sloane Avenue, or to pop into for aperitivo in the Italian eatery, Il Pampero.

The Hari Hotel

The hotel is found on the corner of Chesham Place, a short walk from Hyde Park Corner, Victoria and Sloane Square tube stations, but tucked away from the noise and tourism of these popular areas. It was previously the Thompson Hotel before a recent renovation transformed it into the sophisticated Hari Hotel, named after the owner’s father. Inside, the building has a welcoming warmth and lovely feeling of luxury, with lavish velvet sofas and plenty of intriguing artwork adorning the walls.

The Hari HotelThe Hari HotelThe Hari Hotel

I was very at home in the Studio Suite, a cosy but spacious room with enviable views over the townhouses of Belgravia. The decor is simple and chic with a hint of eccentricity… I loved creative touches like the animal-skin rug and the sheer curtains concealing extra sections of the room. The huge bed was blissfully comfortable, and the small writing desk was a pleasant place to work. Thoughtful amenities like a Nespresso machine and inspiring book collection give guests little reason to leave the room.

The Hari Hotel

Our bathroom had serious wow-factor, with floor to ceiling windows offering panoramic views of the streets below. The glamorous bathroom was clad in white marble with a powerful walk in shower and stocked with pear-scented toiletries from Noble Isle.

The Hari HotelThe Hari HotelThe Hari Hotel

The resident restaurant, Il Pampero, is definitely not an afterthought with a menu of classic Italian dishes and drinks. After a round of immaculately-made cocktails we picked a couple of the pasta recipes on offer (both recommended by the waiter). Pappardelle All’Astice was plated in a majestic style, wonderful homemade strands of pasta with chunks of soft and creamy native lobster and sweet cherry tomatoes. Priced at £32 a plate, it seemed a little on the expensive side even if the ingredients were luxurious. I tried the rather more simple, but utterly delicious, Tagliolini Cacio E Pepe, homemade tagliolini with creamy cream and black pepper, mixed in a pecorino wheel at the table.

There were plenty of other tempting choices on the menu, but thanks to the generous pasta portion sizes we were too full to eat anything else, aside from a dessert to share, of course! The Il Pampero Tiramisu promised to be special, and it was certainly a unique take on the famous pudding. Layers of thick cream and sponge were covered in strong espresso, an intense but tasty take on the classic tiramisu.

The Hari Hotel

The next morning, our breakfast was a delight, with an array of treats served in the room. Don’t miss the ‘Hari Specials’… dishes like Nutella stuffed french toast with caramelised banana will put a smile on your face and get you through the morning. I also loved the tropical fruit salad which looked pretty enough to be on a Michelin-starred menu.

The Hari Hotel is an asset to the area, offering stylish visitors a beautiful place to stay, with delicious food and faultless service.

More information and book a room at The Hari Hotel here.

Basel and the Fasnacht Carnival

Geographically Basel is an interesting little place. This stunning Swiss city is sandwiched in between the borders of France and Germany and yet has a strong sense of identity and pride for its traditions and culture.

I visited a few weeks ago to experience the Basel Fasnacht, Switzerland’s largest Carnival and one of the most significant Protestant carnivals in the world. The annual celebration goes back to the medieval tradition of fasting at Lent before Easter to mark Christ’s suffering. Old documents suggest that the Fasnacht dates back to 1376 when it was known as the ‘evil carnival’.

Fasnacht Carnival

The Basel Fasnact begins with the pre-dawn Morgenstreich at 4am on the Monday morning after Ash Wednesday. All the city centre lights are switched off and flash photography is prohibited as hundreds of masked drummers and piccolo players march the streets with painted lanterns to lead their way. It is a mesmerising spectacle that we were lucky to watch from a balcony. After the grand opening ceremony, onlookers visit local restaurants to enjoy the traditional flour soup (Mehlsuppe) and onion and cheese tarts (Waihe). Despite feeling exhausted from the early wake-up we all got into the spirit of things with this special feasting, the flour soup was meaty and comforting and the tart was like a luxuriously rich quiche.

Fasnacht CarnivalFasnacht CarnivalFasnacht Carnival

The next day (after a few hours’ power nap!) we took to Basel’s streets again to immerse ourselves in the daytime festivities. Fasnacht lasts three days, with each day dedicated to different groups of people. Those involved are split into cliques, bands of people all following a particular theme. The themes each year are dependent on the topic. For 2017 the subject was ‘Mer sprange dr Raame’ (think outside the frame), and this was interpreted in a variety of ways with themes from Trump to Brexit, bumblebees to clowns.

The carnival is wonderful but relentless, the marching and playing continues throughout the night so don’t expect to get much sleep! We noticed a plethora of traditions whilst wandering around town… one of the most hilarious / irritating was the throwing of coloured confetti… you never quite know when a costumed child is going to shower you, and weeks later I’m still finding the remnants in my shoes and handbag!

Swissotel BaselSwissotel Basel

When we weren’t out dancing with the carnival-goers we were based at the smart Swissotel Le Plaza. This hotel has a business feel, with functional but pleasant bedrooms and facilities for all work needs. I was impressed with the large bedrooms, indulgent pillow menus and the delicious array of breakfast treats.

The hotel restaurant Grill 25 was a helpful addition when we couldn’t find dinner in the crowded town. The menu has a range of class dishes from burgers to pasta, an extensive wine list and very attentive service.

Basel food and drinkBasel foodBasel food

During the carnival many of the restaurants and cafes are shut, but I wasn’t going to let that stop me finding some speciality coffee shops and traditional Swiss pastries! We enjoyed simple but tasty meals at Les Garecons (inside the amazing train station) and 1777, an eatery inspired by the Viennese cafe culture.

All the coffee connoisseurs I asked pointed me in the direction of Café Frühling, a beautifully designed venue with great coffee. Located on the outskirts of town, it was the perfect place to sit quietly with a hot drink and escape the carnival chaos for a little while!

While in Basel you must sample the famous Schoggiweggli (a chocolate chip brioche bun) which is sold everywhere. We found a particularly delicious variety at Confiserie Bachmann.

BaselBasel

Basel is a beautiful city that I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know. The old town, with cobbled streets and traditional houses is heaven for keen photographers and I spotted lots of little shops and eateries I’d love to return to. For food lovers the fine dining scene is renowned and there are over 40 museums to enjoy if you fancy something artistic or cultural.

Thoroughly Modern Milly was a guest of Visit Basel, more information on the city here.

Bon Vivant, Bloomsbury

When the sun shines in Bloomsbury it is a glorious area of London to wander round, popping into boutiques like The School of Life and having coffee at the hip cafe, Store Street Espresso. Bon Vivant, a renamed and reimagined restaurant in Bloomsbury is likely to be a popular spot for lunch as the weather gets warmer.

Bon Vivant

This French bistro is relaxed and informal, especially at lunchtime when I visited. Velvet chairs and black marble tables give the restaurant a stylish look. The menu consists of French classic dishes like steak frites and moules a la creme. For a lighter lunch guests can choose to have daily changing tartines or quiche.

Bon VivantBon Vivant

A pleasant outside terrace area evokes a feeling of Parisian al fresco dining. Escalope de Poulet was a comforting dish, tender chicken breast in a crispy breaded coating served with wild mushrooms and a white wine sauce. Simple but tasty cooking. The Bavette steak was surprisingly chewy, even for this cut of meat, sitting on a bed of rich truffle creamed spinach and topped with delicious confit garlic shallots.

The sides were plentiful, wonderfully buttery and fresh green beans and addictive skinny fries were better than the rather bland ratatouille.

Bon VivantBon Vivant

The desserts were more creative that I expected. Deconstructed “Snickers” Cheese Cake had some nice components: I loved the caramel ice-cream with candied peanuts, but found the peanut butter cheese cake too rich and cloying with the rest of the dessert. Fondant au chocolat was cooked to the perfect consistency, with a satisfyingly gooey centre, served with a toffee sauce and hazelnut ice-cream. I was pleased to find this pudding wasn’t too sweet, and the chocolate balanced nicely with the nutty ice-cream.

Bon Vivant is a lovely restaurant with an accessible menu and a lovely terrace. If you find yourself in Bloomsbury it makes a nice lunch destination.

More information and book a table at Bon Vivant here.