Returning to The Alpina Gstaad

It was my second trip to the Alpina Gstaad, but the wow factor was certainly not diminished this time around. Perched among the snow-topped Swiss Alps, the setting is best admired from the Golden Pass train which travels up to Gstaad from Montreux station.

After an early morning flight from London, and several train rides, we were delighted to see the Alpina staff at the station ready to whisk us away in a shiny Tesla car.

Alpina Gstaad

Check-in was swift and within minutes I was sitting in my spacious but cosy suite sipping tea by the fire. My bedroom was on the fourth floor and from my balcony I had beautiful views across the mountains which at this time of year had a light dusting from the first snow of the season (Gstaad is best for skiing in February and March).

Alpina Gstaad

There are 56 rooms and suites in total at The Alpina Gstaad, ranging from Deluxe rooms to the amazing Chalet and Panorama Suites. Every room has a private terrace, perfect for al fresco breakfasts in summer and warming hot chocolate with a view in the winter months.

Alpina Gstaad

The decor is classic Alpine in style with details that represent the Saanenland artistic heritage. The woodwork has a warming effect and soft furnishings give the feel of luxury. The fireplaces are hand-built from local stone and there is traditional artwork on the walls, including charming paper-cutting art.

Alpina GstaadAlpina Gstaad

We had two blissful days at the Alpina, days were spent relaxing at the spa while evenings were a joyful chance to try the best food and drink the hotel has to offer. On our first night, after an immersive pasta class in the kitchen, we sat by the fire to enjoy a Alpina gin & tonic. The Alpina pride themselves on making as many of their own products as they can, which includes this herbaceous gin and a lovely Alpine honey (we can be sampled at breakfast).

The hotel is currently collaborating with English sparkling wine brand NYEtimber and you can try a variety of the bottles with the in-house sommelier, paired with complementing canapés from the kitchen.

Alpina Gstaad

There are two Michelin star eateries at the hotel, perhaps most exciting is Megu, a fine dining restaurant combining Japanese recipes with the best local ingredients. Head Chef Tetsujiro Ogata and Head Sushi Chef Tsutomu Kugota delight guests with wonderfully refining tasting menus and Japanese delicacies. Don’t miss the crispy asparagus lollipops!

Alpina Gstaad

At the spa we had time to use the state of the art facilities, from Himalayan salt room, sauna and cold plunge pool and of course the huge swimming pool. We were also treated to a rejuvenating massage, which sent me into a deep slumber! I woke up feeling completely refreshed, and was further soothed by ginger tea and dried fruit and nuts.

There are a variety of classes to get involved in at Alpina, I took part in a brilliantly taught Ying and Yang yoga class one morning, and also learnt to make face masks and intensely fragrant bath salts.

Alpina Gstaad

Breakfast was the feast for all the senses, either enjoyed in the room or at the Sommet dining room. I loved the freshly made juices, plump but light pancakes and delicious buttery pastries.

Alpina Gstaad

If you are feeling brave I recommend heading outdoors to the picturesque outdoor (heated) pool for a swim with the most magical surroundings. I also recommend saving some time to wander round the artwork at Alpina, there are many mesmerising pieces to see, exhibited throughout the building, including poignant photographs, striking paintings and a thoughtful installation with blind fish in the main lobby.

Alpina Gstaad

Our time at Alpina went by in a flash and before we knew it we were back on the retro emerald train heading back to reality and the chaos of city life. Whizzing past the epic Swiss countryside our time at Alpina Gstaad soon felt like a distant fairytale memory.

I can’t recommend this hotel enough, there is so much to entertain and excite inside even if you don’t intend going out of the slopes.

I was a guest of the Alpina Gstaad, more information and book a stay here.

Things to do in Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi is not a destination that has ever been top of my travel to do list, but I was more than happy to discover a little more about the capital city of the UAE, on a stopover between London and Seoul. Abu Dhabi is the largest of the seven Emirates that form the UAE, and has become known as a destination that champions its heritage and showcases culture. It is an accessible size, so in just 3 days we managed to eat our way round the city, soak up the sun on the beach and wander round some incredibly impressive museums and mosques.

Abu Dhabi

To Stay

Rosewood Abu Dhabi – The Rosewood in Abu Dhabi is one of three hotels this luxury group has in the Middle East. In a destination where five-star hotels are plentiful and lavish it is hard to stand out, but the Rosewood does so effortlessly with understated and sophisticated style. The hotel is found on Al Maryah Island and is the proud home to several brilliant restaurants, including Cantonese, Lebanese and International eateries. There is also the beautifully serene Sense Spa and tropical outdoor pool area. Our suite for the night was a heavenly oasis of comfort, with every amenity and more. The bathroom was a real highlight with a huge tub overlooking the city.

Abu Dhabi

To Eat

Tashas – This brunch spot is a hit with the locals, and provided a nice break from eating in hotel restaurants. The cafe is an export from South Africa and offers fresh juices, coffee and generous brunch dishes. I loved my spicy scrambled eggs with avocado and toast.

Sambusek – Head to the Rosewood’s Lebanese restaurant Sambusak to sample the best meze in town. A vibrant menu captures the essence of Lebanon’s cuisine with the freshest seafood, marinated grilled meats and authentic salads and baked treats. We particularly loved the cheesy fatayer and flavoursome kibbeh, made with lamb.

Namak by Kunal Kapur – Located within the Dusit Thani Hotel this is the flagship Abu Dhabi restaurant for Indian master chef and tv personality Kunal Kapur. Despite the slightly tired interiors the food is exciting and imaginative. The lamb chops and chicken tikka tacos were both winning dishes, and I found the paneer butter masala curry addictively tasty.

Mirzam – Originating from Dubai, Mirzam is a boutique company producing high quality chocolate using single origin cocoa beans chosen for their unique flavour and quality. This shop recently opened at the historical site of Qasr Al Hosn and the shop is a lovely place to sit overlooking the city with a cup of flavoured hot (or cold) chocolate. I loved the chocolate and fell instantly in love with the colourful decorative packaging.

Abu Dhabi

To Drink

Hidden Bar – Gin enthusiasts should head straight to the Hidden Bar inside the Rosewood Hotel. This atmospheric bar serve their own flavoured gin infusions with tonic or you can choose to taste one of the 150 brands behind the bar.

Arabica % – When I visited the original Arabica % coffee shop in Kyoto I never imagined the company would grow so fast, and now they have 54 stores internationally. With shops on the Corniche and at Al Bateen the Emiratis seem to be loving the Arabica blends, with both venues seeming very busy. I visited every morning for my daily caffeine kick, and was very grateful to have somewhere to get such high quality coffee in Abu Dhabi.

The Espresso Lab –  This speciality coffee lab and roastery at Qasr Al Hosn takes coffee very seriously. Choose from filter coffee or espresso-based drinks, which use local beans rather than importing from around the world.

Abu Dhabi

To Do

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque – I was in complete awe of Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. This stunning mosque is the third largest in the world, and can accommodate up to 41,000 worshippers. The mosque holds the world’s largest hand-woven carpet and the main crystal chandelier weighs 12 tons! It is free to visit, but I recommend booking in advance and taking the opportunity to do a guided tour which takes you to areas you wouldn’t otherwise get to see.

Qasr Al Watan – This incredible palace only opened in 2019, opened by  Sheikhs Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan (Ruler of Abu Dhabi and President of the United Arab Emirates) and Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan to celebrate the heritage of the country.

The Louvre – A  sibling to the famous Parisian museum, the Louvre Abu Dhabi exhibits exciting contemporary shows alongside an impressive permanent collection which includes work by Degas, Magritte and Manet. The building itself is also visually impressive, a structure inspired by the cupola (a distinctive feature in Arabic architecture), designed by architect Jean Nouvel.

Qasr al Hosn – This is the oldest stone building in Abu Dhabi and should be the first stop on any itinerary to get a basic understanding of UAE history. The city was built around this fort, and to me it felt like the centre of the city.

Abu Dhabi

Escape

Saadiyat Beach Club – Found on Abu Dhabi’s iconic Saadiyat island this luxury beach club is the perfect city escape for the day. Sit on the white sand beach or by the pool, or use the gym & spa facilities inside. The club serves a casual food and drinks menu to satisfy all your cravings. It was total bliss to spend a day chilling out in the sun here.

10 New London restaurants to try this season

After a summer hiatus the London restaurant scene is back up and running, and there seems to be a new opening almost every day to try. It is exciting to see a range of different cuisines, vegetarian gems, speciality seafood eateries and new fine dining venues. Here’s my top restaurants to try across the capital this season.

Bubala

Bubala – Following a series of successful supperclubs Bubala opened up its first permanent site in Spitalfields this year. The all-vegetarian Middle Eastern restaurant is wow-ing crowds with the addictively good plates and welcoming service. Don’t miss the the Laffa flatbread and the luxurious halloumi with black seed honey.

Vardo

Vardo – A new concept from the Caravan team, Vardo is an all day dining venue on the King’s Road. The futuristic space immediately catches your attention, and continues to thrill with a diverse menu of internationally inspired dishes. I recommend visiting for breakfast when you can also try their great coffee and baked treats.

Legare – Tucked away in Tower Bridge, Legare is another pasta bolthole, ideal for warming you bones and filling your stomach in the freezing winter weather. The chef Matt Beardmore, worked at pasta mecca, Trullo is Islington, and brings this experience to the short menu at Legare. I was particularly fond of the Orecchiette with fennel sausage & cavolo nero ragu.

Norma

Norma – Charlotte Street is awash with great restaurants, and now Norma has joined the family. This cosy and sophisticated eatery comes from chef Ben Tish, and is an ode to the food of Sicily. The comforting menu showcases the best of the region from traditional pasta recipes to exceptional raw seafood, seasonal antipasti and cannoli for dessert, of course!

seabird

Seabird – I love the Hoxton Hotels and was overjoyed when the first South London branch opened earlier this year. The huge site has beautiful common areas, a new co-working space (coming soon), and wonderful restaurants. Seabird was created in partnership with Premiere Enterprises (from New York’s Maison Premiere), and is the found on the 14th floor, boasting epic skyline views of the city. The seafood inspired menu has a range of appetising dishes and is the proud home of London’s longest oyster list.

officina 00

Officina 00 – Just when I thought there were enough great homemade pasta places on the London restaurant food scene another opens and steals my heart. Officina 00 is thriving in Old Street, kneading and shaping all the pasta in full view of the diners, it is an atmospheric experience. The rich and flavoursome pasta dishes cost between £8-12 and showcase the chef’s wide pasta repertoire. I enjoyed Pumpkin gnocchi with smoked ricotta and Occhi filled with braised pork Genovese.

Folie – A newbie to Soho, this stylish restaurant promises a taste of the Riviera. I was happy to see Provence staples like panisse (essentially chickpea chips) on the menu, and remember the desserts being brilliantly moreish and refined. The perfect place for a glamorous weekday lunch in central London.

Forza Wine

Forza Wine – The long-awaited Forza Wine finally opened this Autumn, perched on top of the newly transformed Bussey Building in Peckham. It is the sibling to the wonderful pasta haven Forza Win round the corner, but this venue very much has it’s own personality and menu. The concise menu changes regularly, with bold punchy ingredients taking centre stage. As the name suggests, wine is a major part of the offering here, and the drinks list is both interesting and reasonable.

Robuchon

Comptoir de Robuchon – Joel Robuchon’s death last year was one of the food world’s greatest losses… his restaurants (in London and further afield) have always delighted me, and I couldn’t be happier that a new Robuchon has opened in town. The grand but relaxed eatery is found in Green Park / Mayfair with a delectable deli by the same brand next door. The menu is long and everything is delicious and inventive while still staying true to the great chef’s classic dishes. Don’t miss the legendary mashed potato and the lamb chops.

Paradise, Soho

Paradise – A new Sri Lankan restaurant has taken over the former-Spuntino site, bringing vibrant flavours and plenty of spice to Soho. The small plates menu is split into sections, I recommend trying one or two from each, I particularly loved the Mutton Shoulder Rolls and the homemade soft drinks.