Art Afternoon Tea, Mirror Room at The Rosewood London

Rosewood London hotel has just launched a new art-inspired afternoon tea, which could just be the most beautiful tea in London yet. The ‘Art Afternoon Tea’ is served in the decadent ‘Mirror Room’ restaurant, with each cake immediately recognisable as being influenced by London’s most prestigious artists.

Rosewood London

The pretty patisserie have been created by the Mirror Room’s creative Head Pastry Chef, Mark Perkins, who has a keen interest in art. The afternoon tea represents London’s vibrant and unique art scene, celebrating the five iconic artists; Yayoi Kusama, Alexander Calder, Mark Rothko, Damien Hirst and Banksy.

After a glass of bubbly, a pot of subtle white tea and a plate of delicious, delicate finger sandwiches, the cakes arrived. The mini masterpieces looked almost too immaculate to eat. Mark Perkins has used traditional techniques to create replicas of the contemporary artworks, each wildly creative in taste and texture.

Rosewood London

The Yayoi Kusama pumpkin inspired cake was my favourite… a wonderfully light milk chocolate mousse, passion fruit crémeux and chocolate feuillantine, set on a chocolate sable biscuit and encased with a vibrant yellow glaze. The perfectly executed Alexander Calder sculptural cake is glazed with red chocolate, reminiscent of Calder’s famed mobiles. British-born Banksy’s iconic ‘Girl With a Balloon’  is a wondrous white chocolate cube filled with a light vanilla cream choux, cherry jelly, hazelnut caramel and chocolate crémeux, garnished with an intricate and tiny replica of the enigmatic artwork itself. The Damien Hirst cake mimics the famous spot paintings with a white chocolate tart flavoured with cassis jelly and yuzu curd, and finished with Hirst-style regimented and decorative pop-art coloured spots of gel. My least favourite was the Mark Rothko cake… a layered coconut and raspberry sponge, filled with coconut mousse, fresh raspberries and adorned with bright pink raspberry chocolate.

Rosewood London has long established itself as a leading exhibitor of an exceptional array of contemporary artists. From witty illustrations that document the rich political and social culture of the 18th Century, to quirky pieces that reflect the style of the Pop Art movement of the mid 1950s, the walls of Rosewood London are a tribute to art through the ages. Rosewood London is also the hotel partner of Frieze London, the world’s leading contemporary art fair and one of the few fairs to focus only on contemporary art and living artists.

Pop in to the Mirror Room anytime between 4.00-7.00pm for a glass of Champagne and one of their beautiful artist-inspired cakes or bring a guest to enjoy the full tea experience.

The art-inspired afternoon tea is priced at £50 per person or £65 per person with a glass of “R” de Ruinart Champagne. More information and book here.

Things to do in Toronto

I wasn’t sure what to expect from Toronto, other than very cold weather. Since visiting Vancouver a few years ago, I feel a fondness for the Canadian way of life… outdoorsy and healthy with cool, eclectic cities. Toronto is less of a ‘pretty’ city than I expected, with a sleek business district and a downtown hipster neighbourhood which reminded me of Brooklyn. The casual food scene is thriving, with every cuisine readily available and offered to a high standard. Creativity doesn’t stop at food as there are also plenty of local designers, artists and musicians to inspire you while you explore this city. Here’s my favourite things to do, see and eat from the four days I spent in Toronto.

TorontoToronto

To stay

Fairmont Royal York – For convenience and location you can’t beat this hotel. Dating back to 1929 with over 1000 bedrooms, this luxury hotel is a popular choice for business travellers, though it also satisfies those travelling for leisure with plentiful spa and dining options.

TorontoToronto

To eat

Buca – There are several branches of this upmarket Italian eatery, most say the Yorkville restaurant has the best food. The house-made salumi di mare is very popular, though I preferred the comforting homemade pastas and can particularly recommend the Bigoli duck egg pasta with duck offal ragu, venetian spices, mascarpone and basil.

Alo – For me Alo was without a doubt the most special eating experience in Toronto. Chef Patrick Kriss presents immaculate tasting menus of modern French food with a twist. The service is professional and friendly… and I loved the option of white or navy napkin at the start of the meal. If the full experience is too pricey, head to the bar for equally delicious, more casual dishes.

Oddseoul – Ossington Avenue has plenty of great casual eateries to choose from. We loved the flavoursome Korean small plates at Oddseoul. Highlights included the O.S wings and the moreish Squash Poutine.

Saving Grace – Expect to queue for this lovely neighbourhood brunch spot. We arrived early to secure a table at the tiny eatery that serves tasty sweet and savoury brunch dishes. Our most memorable dish was the tiramisu waffles.

The Drake Hotel – Ask anyone where the coolest place to stay is in Toronto and they will most likely say The Drake. This hipster hang out also boasts a brilliant restaurant which is particularly good for weekend brunch. We feasted on delightful dishes like Shakshuka, Eggplant sandwich, and the most addictive pecorino and truffle fries I’ve ever had.

Dandylion – If I lived in Toronto this is the restaurant I would want to return to time and time again with friends. The minimalist dining room is modern and stylish and the short menu offers simple but delicious recipes highlighting the best seasonal ingredients.

Chabrol – A quaint and cosy restaurant in the Yorkville district serving comforting French cuisine. Try the warming Ttoro fish stew and the irresistably good Apple tart with Calvados Sabayon.

Grand Electric – This shabby chic taco hang-out is always filled with hungry locals. The whole Mexican menu is delicious but I particularly loved the super cheesy Quesadillas.

Nugateau – Nugateau is Toronto’s first eclair shop, offering a range of beautiful pastries in an array of creative flavours. Located on Queen Street West, the patisserie is perfectly located for a mid-afternoon shopping break.

Rosen’s Cinnamon Buns – This bright bakery is on a mission to perfect the humble cinnamon bun. The cafe has no seating but drop in for a soft and delicious takeaway bun whilst in the neighbourhood, you won’t regret it.

Toronto

To drink

Sam James – Without a doubt my favourite coffee in Toronto, the Sam James brand serves deliciously smooth and creamy coffee from their pared back and hip cafes.

Bar Ravel – This Gaudi inspired bar is worth visiting just to admire the amazing design and decor. The kitchen serves a short menu of delicious Spanish tapas whilst the experienced barmen can help you choose a refined cocktail to suit your palate. Sister establishment Bar Isabel should also be on your to do list.

Early Bird Espresso – The ideal Sunday brunch spot, Early Bird Espresso is found on Queen Street West and serves simple, classic breakfast dishes like avocado on toast, accompanied by their delicious strong coffee.

Sorry Coffee – This cute, marble clad coffee shop is found in the Kit & Ace store in Yorkville, and is a great place to stop for coffee and cake after shopping in the area.

Toronto

To do 

Distillery Quarter – Located east of downtown Toronto, the Distillery Quarter contains numerous cafés, restaurants, and shops housed within heritage buildings of the former Gooderham and Worts Distillery. It is a lovely part of town to spend a morning wandering round.

Royal Ontario Museum – This striking museum has got something to entertain and interest everyone with a diverse art, world culture and natural history collection. Wildlife Photographer of the Year is currently on show at the museum.

Toronto Bicycle Tours – I usually shy away from active experiences when travelling, but discovering a new city by bike is a wonderful way of learning about your surroundings. Toronto Bicycle Tours is a dynamic company which offers brilliant tours of Toronto. We had a three hour ride in the downtown district, stopping off at notable buildings and parks, while company owner Terrence enlightened us with interesting facts and stories.

Art Gallery of Ontario – This art museum has an impressive collection including more than 80,000 works spanning the first century to the present day. I loved looking round the permanent collection, whilst also admiring the amazing architecture of the museum building… look out for the wooden spiral staircase.

Toronto

To Shop

Mjolk – It is worth venturing out to the Junction neighbourhood to visit this design haven. Mjolk was started in 2009 by husband-and-wife team John and Juli Baker as a lifestyle shop and gallery, representing work with an emphasis on functionality and craftsmanship. The shop stocks beautiful items for everyday life from Scandinavia and Japan. I left with serious pangs of home envy.

Drake General Store – Just across the road from the effortlessly cool Drake Hotel, this shop stocks great products from homeware to jewellery and foodie luxuries. Pick up a Toronto souvenir to take home.

Souvenir – I returned to this shop twice during my short time in Toronto. The beautiful boutique is home to design products from emerging artists, all hand-picked by owner Danielle Suppa. I loved the soy scented candles by Brennen Michael and unisex fragrances from Libertine.

Brandon Olsen Chocolates – This immaculate shop is more like a museum, displaying and selling the most beautiful chocolates. Owned and operated by chef and chocolatier Brandon Olsen and artist Sarah Keenlyside, this confectionery company is an expression of their shared love of food and art. The splattered chocolate designs reminded me of Jackson Pollock paintings and are available in intriguing but tasty flavours like orange blossom and honey, or cinnamon and brown butter.

Outclass – a stylish Toronto menswear company on College Street, dedicated to made in Canada products.

Toronto

To Escape

Niagara Parks – I had always heard fellow travellers comment that if you are going to see Niagara Falls it is more spectacular from the Canadian side. This great waterfall runs between America and Canada, with views from either country. Just a 90 minute drive from Toronto, this day trip is a must and a lovely escape from the city. At the parks there are plenty of activities to keep families or solo travellers entertained for the entire day: wander round the beautiful Butterfly Conservatory or take a tour of the historic McFarland House. The waterfall is best experienced with the ‘Journey Behind the Falls‘ which gives you a spectacular insight into this magical world wonder.

Many thanks to Tourism Toronto for assisting with this trip.

Things to do in Kyoto

A visit to Japan would not be complete without a trip to Kyoto, the country’s cultural capital. From Tokyo you can hop onto the high-speed train and reach Kyoto within 3 hours, and it is so worth it even if just for a couple of days. The air feels cleaner, the streets are calmer and the Japanese traditions are much more present in even the smallest details. It is real Japan without the hype and chaos.

Kyoto

To Stay

The Suiran – The recently opened Suiran hotel is on the outskirts of town surrounded by significant temples and gardens. Located in the beautiful Arashiyama area, the district was once the destination for the emperor’s summer holidays. This boutique hotel is traditional but luxurious with open-air baths, an authentic tearoom and a Kaiseki (multi-course menu) restaurant. Be sure to leave time to visit nearby attractions like the Monkey Park, Tenryu-ji temple and the magical Sagano Bamboo Forest.

Hotel Anteroom – The accommodation options in the historic city of Kyoto vary from exclusive traditional ryokans to cheap, trendy hostels. Hotel Anteroom is a brilliant option for those desiring the privacy and comfort of a hotel at low cost. Design conscious bedrooms, stylish common spaces and an art gallery on site, it is a great base for chic travellers who want to explore the city.

Kyoto

To Eat

Yamamoto Menzo(u) – A favourite with tourists and locals for unbeatable traditional udon. After waiting in line patiently you will be pleased to get inside to feast on the flavoursome noodles and burdock or chicken tempura. The daily-made noodles have an amazingly light and bouncy texture and the broth has the perfect balance of umami.

Kappa Sakamoto – I can highly recommend this tiny, family run restaurant as a great place to try the traditional Kaiseki style of dining. Sakamoto was founded in 1977 by Keisuke Sakamoto and his son Ryuta is now the chef. In 2010 the restaurant was awarded a Michelin-star. Sit at the counter and let the chef treat you to a meal of his finest seasonal dishes.

Ten-yu – This famous tempura restaurant only has ten seats at the counter. We ordered the simple lunch menu, Tempura with rice donburi. The tempura was light and delicious, especially tasty when dipped in the sauce and daikon. The restaurant is minimalist and stylish, needless to say, we were the only tourists in a room of locals.

Kyoto

To Drink

Tsubomi – This quiet, unsuspecting, little shop and cafe is the perfect place to stop for afternoon tea and cake after a long day of sightseeing.

Arabica% – A trendy speciality coffee shop in the Arashiyama area. This small contemporary cafe serves amazing coffee to go that will warm you up as you wander through this enchanting part of Kyoto.

Gion Niti – A hidden bar in the Gion district ideal for a nightcap or light dinner. We enjoyed the strong Charlie Chaplin cocktail and Italian food snacks like martinated eggplant and Jamon Iberico pizza.

Rocking Chair – Recognised as one of the best cocktail bars in town, this stylish establishment is frequented by discerning drinkers. Let the experienced mixologists make you their own creation, I opted for a Japanese Hibiki whiskey based drink.

Ogawa Coffee – A modern coffee house in Kyoto station serving some excellent coffee. Go for their house blend which is smooth and flavoursome.

Kyoto

To See & Do

Shoren-in Garden – A buddhist temple built in the late 13th century, it is a quiet and intimate building to wander round and is surrounded by colourful tranquil gardens.

Geishas in Gion – It is amazing to see a Geisha shuffling through the Gion district of Kyoto, but sightings are rarer and rarer as they try to avoid the tourists by using quiet backstreets to move about town. If you buy a place at a prestigious tea ceremony with a Geisha it will cost you over £100! Instead head to Gion Corner where you can buy a ticket to a cultural show to learn about tea ceremonies, traditional flower arranging and the Geisha customs.

Fushimi Inari Shrine – This is the head shrine of Inari, located in Fushimi-ku, in Kyoto. It has become one of the most recognisable images from Japan. The shrine sits at the base of the Inari mountain and includes trails and paths through the hundreds of wondrous red gates.

Funaoka Onsen – This is one of the oldest and most authentic bathhouses still in operation in Kyoto. Since 1923 locals and travelers have been coming here to soak their bodies in the waters and relax in this retreat. The baths are separated by gender and you are expected to go into the waters completely naked!

Kyoto

To Shop

Ichizawa Shinzaburo – This family-run canvas bag company has been in business for over 100 years producing aesthetic, simple and functional products. The bags are handmade from the finest strong canvas in a variety of colours and styles.

Morikage Shirt Shop – I fell in love with the unique and stylish shirts in this small boutique. The shop opened in 1993 as a made-to-order, customised shirt company. Now you can also buy them off the rack in a variety of materials and designs. I bought a green shirt with ruffles that is now a treasured part of my wardrobe.

Kyoto Design House – An emporium in the centre of town filled with hand-crafted products from designers across Kyoto and Japan. Pick up an inspiring gift for friends like the little boxes of traditional sweets.

Pass the Baton – Found in a redesigned traditional wooden townhouse, this diverse concept store stocks fun vintage accessories and modern homeware. There is also a tea and sake room on the premises.

Aritsuga Knives – Japan is known for the quality of its knives, and Aritsugu, a knife specialist in Nishiki Market, makes some of the best in the country. When you visit, the staff will examine your hands to ensure you pick the perfect knife for you. 

Nishiki Market – This bustling marketplace in downtown Kyoto sells every food product you could ever imagine. Wander through trying delicacies as you go, soaking up the atmoshere.

Kira Karacho – This sophisticated stationery brand is headed up by a husband and wife team. The intricate patterns made from woodblock printing and beautiful papers will captivate you. 

Kyoto

To Escape

Osaka – Osaka is the second largest city in Japan, after Tokyo, and to me it felt like the Japanese equivalent to Manchester or Liverpool, with lots of young people and a cool vibe. The food scene is thriving and we ate extremely well in our few days here. Try buckwheat soba noodles at Ayamedo, sweets from the Japanese confectioner Mochisho Shizuku, Kansai-style tempura at the 2-Michelin starred Yotaro Honten, and coffee at Moto Coffee. The Horie neighbourhood & Orange Street are lovely to wander around and explore, especially during the week when everyone is at work. I loved the variety of beautifully designed shops: Evam Eva for tailored clothing, Yumiko Iihoshi for stylish porcelain Ajikitcho, and Winged Wheel for appealing paper and envelopes of every colour. Hostel 64 is a reasonably priced, super hip hostel.

Hiroshima – This chilling city has a tumultous and heart-breaking history. While in town there are lots of war memorials to visit including the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, the Children’s Peace Monument and Aioi Bridge. When it comes to meal times it is essential to try the famous Okonomiyaki dish at Mitchan Sohonten, and for a superior cup of coffee visit Obscura Coffee Roasters. If you have time take a day trip to the ethereal Miyajima Island to see the Itsukushima Shrine & O-torii gate.