Joia Restaurant, Paris

Hélène Darroze at the Connaught is one of my favourite restaurants in London so when I heard about her new casual bistro in Paris it was first on my list for my next visit to the French capital. Joia is found in the 2nd arrondissement on the left bank, nearby to other hotspots like the Hoxton Hotel and the popular Sezane fashion boutique.

Joia, ParisJoia, Paris

Inside, the restaurant has a plush feel with jewel coloured seating and grand bookcases. The menu focuses on southwestern-French comfort food, accented with some of the Darroze classics… I instantly spotted the renowned armagnac baba on the dessert section of the menu.

Joia, Paris

We started our meal at Joia with the irresistibly tasty fried chicken with a mousseline of cumin… I was also tempted by DIY guacamole which arrives with the ingredients and a pestle and mortar to mix yourself at the table.

Joia, Paris

For main course our waiter recommended the ‘poulet jaune’ from Landes… roast chicken with brioche and foie gras tucked under the skin. It glistened in its roasting dish, adorned with fragrant whole bulbs of garlic. I was in heaven… the soft white meat had more flavour and texture than any chicken you would be served in England, and the skin was crispy, crunchy and flavoured with the most delicious rich filling. There are plenty of sides to choose from, we opted for the carrots which were sweet, soft and perfectly caramelised.

Joia, ParisJoia, Paris

The kitchen couldn’t resist sending us an Armagnac Baba which I relished with fondness. But we couldn’t leave without trying the much lauded millefeuille of crepes with Matcha and yuzu cream. I am not usually a fan of matcha so was a little concerned about this dessert, but after seeing it all over social media felt the need to try it myself. But I needn’t have worried, the matcha is a bitter note in the background while the fluffy white whipped cream and the wonderfully tangy yuzu take centre stage.

After a two hour journey on the Eurostar, a meal at Joia was the best way to start our weekend away in Paris. Just like every other meal of Hélène Darroze’s I’ve tried, it was delicious and memorable, but perhaps a little more accessible than her fine dining establishments.

More information and book a table at Joia restaurant here.

The Best of Miami

Miami is best known for its sunny beaches and shiny, high-rise buildings. But, during a long weekend there, I got to discover a few less obvious neighbourhood gems, showing that Miami is a city that’s not just for sun-seekers and business conferences. Here’s my guide to seeing the city like a local…


To Stay

Soho Beach House – A charming art-deco building houses one of the most intimate and exclusive hotels on Miami Beach, Soho Beach House. There are 49 spacious bedrooms, each featuring vintage furniture and stylish details. Guests can also enjoy the club’s restaurant & bars, pool and Cowshed spa, as well as a library and a screening snug for evening films.

Loews Miami Beach – This grand oceanside hotel has recently undergone a $50m full renovation, making it the perfect time to stay here. The rooms have a fresh marine feel and the dramatic pool is ideal for sun-worshipping and relaxing.


To Eat

Zak the Baker – This popular Jewish bakery in the Wynwood area was founded by local baker Zak Stern. The expansive industrial space is always full of hungry visitors, who stop by for sweet babka and hearty sandwiches.

La Mar by Gastón Acurio – Peruvian Chef Gastón Acurio has won many awards for his vibrant restaurants all over the world. La Mar is found within the upmarket Mandarin Oriental Hotel in the Downtown district of Miami. The kitchen (headed up by Executive Chef Diego Oka) presents colourful and flavour-filled plates of food representing the authentic and diverse ingredients and recipes of Peru. Don’t miss the super fresh classic ceviche, moreish empanadas and high quality grilled meats.

Mandolin Aegean Bistro – Mandolin restaurant is instantly welcoming, a Greek institution where simplicity and authenticity reign. Greek-Turkish couple, Ahmet Erkaya and Anastasia Koutsioukis, opened the sunny bistro in 2009 and it has been a hit ever since. Stop by for healthy and delicious sharing plates, our favourites were the stuffed zucchini and the grilled sirloin kefte meatballs.

Mignonette – Housed in a former 1930s petrol station, Mignonette is a retro-inspired oyster bar and seafood focussed restaurant. Sit at the bar and taste a selection of the freshest oysters in town.

Katsuya South Beach – For a Japanese food fix Katsuya is a great place to satisfy all your cravings. Found in the SLS South Beach Hotel, in a Philippe Starck designed dining room, Chef Katsuya Uechi offers a contemporary take on Japanese specialities. We particularly loved the Wagyu gyoza, the vegetable tempura with yuzu kosho aioli, and the signature Fillet of Beef with foie gras and plum wine reduction. A meal at Katsuya is best paired with a sake from the restaurant’s extensive selection.

Diez y Seis – For the ultimate Mexican weekend brunch, head to the vibrant Diez y Seis restaurant inside the Shore Club South Beach hotel. Sit out on the breezy terrace and enjoy Cuban Tacos, Empanadas & Quesadillas and super indulgent Red Velvet Churros with Pecans and white chocolate for dessert.

Taquiza – Taquiza is taco heaven… found on Collins Avenue in South Beach. The fun venue serves up $3-5 tacos, flavoursome sides and strong cocktails. Our favourites were the Asada taco (grilled hanger steak) and the rich and spicy Barbecoa (braised beef brisket, cumin and chillies). Don’t miss the best side dish, Elote (grilled corn-on-the-cob with coriander, jalapeño and cotija cheese). Visit during happy hour for $5 cocktails.

KYU – While in the bohemian district of Wynwood, Kyu is the place to eat. This modern bistro serves up modern Asian cuisine with a twist. Chef Michael Lewis has created a menu of addictively good recipes, the most memorable plates I tried were: Roasted cauliflower, Pork Belly Buns, Korean Fried Chicken, Baby Back Ribs and Coconut Cake for pudding.


To Drink

Panther Coffee – Panther is Miami’s best known speciality coffee company, transforming the coffee scene in Miami when it first opened in 2010. There are five venues across the city, but the original Wynwood branch is perhaps the best. Pick up an indulgent pastry (supplied by True Loaf Bakery) to enjoy with your velvety smooth coffee.

Sweet Liberty – Sweet Liberty has a well deserved place on the World’s 50 Best Bars list. The bar’s late founder John Lermayer was the leader and initiator of the specialist cocktail movement in Miami and at this fun cocktail bar you can see why. Try the delicious Pina Colada (which has a hint of coffee) or go for the Old-Fashioned of the day ($8 during happy hour, 4-7pm every day).

Café Galleria – One of the newest coffee spots to open, Café Galleria is a tiny cafe and retail space in Downtown Miami. Owner Jeremy Sapienza serves Stumptown coffee and a selection of gourmet vegan pastries by local company Bloodless Vegan.

Broken Shaker – This quirky, tiki-style cocktail bar is found at the Freehand Hotel on Miami Beach. Let the experienced barmen guide you through the menu, we tried the seasonal Cranberry Old Fashioned paired with the black bean and queso empanadas.

All Day – Named Miami’s best coffee shop, All Day is a great place to linger over coffee and breakfast. The Scandinavian inspired interiors match the no-fuss neon menu, so customers can order their coffee exactly as they like it.


To Shop

The Webster – Located in the heart of South Beach Miami, this multi-brand boutique is spread over three floors of the historic Henry Hohauser designed art deco venue. Each floor is carefully curated showcasing the finest pieces from a selection of designer brands, including Chanel, Gucci and other iconic names.

Miami Design District – After a great deal of investment at the start of the century, Miami Design District is now home to over 130 art galleries, shops, cafes, restaurants & bars. In the last 10 years, since Louboutin opened the first luxury retail space, the area has flourished and now includes brands like Fendi, Aesop, Rag & Bone and Hermes.

Faena Bazaar – This multi-storey shopping destination is part of the ever-expanding Faena district in central Miami Beach. Each floor is themed, and you can find unique luxury items, clothing, jewellery and more. This beautiful building is ever-evolving, a wonderful place to wander and explore.


To See & Do

Vizcaya Museum – Vizcaya was built in a leafy corner of Miami in 1916 as a businessman’s holiday home.  The grand building was intended to look like a centuries-old European villa, and inside the rooms are suitably ornate and decorative. Vizcaya has been sensitively restored, and guests can wander inside and also admire the surrounding gardens.

Miami Culinary Tour of Little Havana – Miami Culinary Tours organise comprehensive tours of all the major foodie areas of Miami. We booked onto the ‘Little Havana’ tour, with the brilliant guide, Robyn, who was incredibly friendly and knowledgeable. After learning about the history of Little Havana we visited a number of stops for speciality Cuban cuisine – particularly memorable were the Cuban sandwich (pork, ham, mustard, Swiss cheese, pickles, potato sticks, Cuban bread), a look around the local cigar factory, and a perfectly mixed mojito at iconic bar Ball & Chain. 

South Beach Art Deco District – The Art Deco neighbourhood in South Beach is known for its concentration of over 800 Art Deco buildings all within one square mile. It’s a great place to wander and dream of the bygone glamorous era.

The Bass Museum – Founded in 1964 this historic art deco space features a diverse range of art & objects, along with a sculpture garden. This small contemporary gallery houses engaging small temporary exhibitions that are always worth a look.

Wynwood Walls – A unique district of Miami which celebrates street art. The colourful area features eye-catching murals and graffiti by artists from around the globe.

Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM) – Found in downtown Miami, the Pérez Art Museum exhibits contemporary international art from the 20th and 21st centuries. The building is just as impressive as the interesting exhibitions it showcases inside.

Miami Watersports Paradise – In a city where the sea is so much part of the culture, it seems fitting to see the city from the water. We enjoyed a 1-hour private boat ride round the city with Miami Watersports Paradise, a relaxing way to admire the celebrity villas on Star Island. The company also offer a variety of watersports including tubing, jet ski, flyboard, water ski and more.


Many thanks to the Miami tourist board for their help with this trip, find more information here.

Things to do in Charleston

This trip to Charleston was my first experience of America’s Southern States… despite only being a 90 minute flight from New York (making it the perfect weekend getaway), Charleston feels completely different, a relaxed and friendly city with an important history, beautiful buildings and celebrated food scene. Of course it was the latter that I spent most of my three days in Charleston exploring, but I also had time to dip into the cultural scene, taste some locally distilled bourbon and stay in a couple of the cities best-loved hotels.


To Stay

The Dewberry – This modern hotel is a popular choice with stylish travellers. Situated in the downtown district of town, the hotel has 155 luxurious bedrooms, a wonderful restaurant and great bar.

Belmond Charleston Place – Belmond Charleston Place is an easy, relaxing and indulgent place to stay in the centre of the city. The renowned hotel has restaurants, shops and a glorious spa on site for guests to enjoy. The bedrooms are very spacious and the attentive service ensures you’ll have a memorable stay.


 To Eat

Leon’s – Housed in a converted auto body shop this celebrated eatery is the place to go for irresistible classic fried chicken, hush puppies and oysters.

Little Jack’s Tavern – Little Jack’s is a little laid-back tavern on King Street. The restaurant is known for its burger which is often voted one of the best in the US. Paired with herb fries it makes for a typically American, yummy meal.

Xiao Bao Biscuit – XBB was opened in 2012 by Josh Walker, Duolan Walker-Li, and Joey Ryan and is housed in a former gas station. The menu is inspired by their travels through Asia with dishes showing influences of China, Vietnam, Thailand, Korea, Japan and Taiwan. Both the lunch and dinner menus change almost daily, but are always reasonably priced and addictively tasty.

Sugar Bakeshop – This quaint, tiny bakery is constantly full of admiring customers. The shop smells divine and you’ll always be greeted with a smile from the enthusiastic staff. Choose from the many delectable treats… we enjoyed the light and fluffy cupcakes and rich comforting chocolate cookies.

Lewis Barbecue – Whilst you are in Charleston you must try BBQ’ed food… everyone recommended Lewis or Rodney Scott’s to us. We opted for Lewis, a huge restaurant on the outskirts of town specialising in Beef Brisket and Hot Guts Sausage (it’s better than it sounds). Owner John Lewis opened the joint in June 2016 and he uses massive custom-made smokers to ensure the meat is unctuous and flavourful.

Chez Nous – Tucked away on Payne Court, Chez Nous is a charming and unpretentious restaurant serving refined but wholesome French and Southern Mediterranean cuisine. The menu changes daily and there is an impressive wine list to accompany your meal.

The Ordinary – For the best fried oysters in town head to the iconic restaurant The Ordinary. This expansive building was a bank in the 1920s and the original high ceiling and large windows give the dining room a dramatic feel. Seafood fans should also check out 167 Raw, which always receives rave reviews.


 To Drink

Second State Coffee – We visited Second State Coffee every morning for our daily caffeine kick. This speciality coffee shop roasts their own beans and serves the smoothest cappuccino in town. The chic cafe is popular with creative freelancers throughout the day, and visitors feast on buttery pastries… we loved the Banana & Nutella Turnover.

The Daily – This hip neighbourhood cafe has a range of delicious snacks and drinks to satisfy every appetite. Head to The Daily for Stumptown coffee, hearty sandwiches and cold-pressed juices.

The Belmont – Black and white films are projected on the back wall while guests enjoy refined classic cocktails at The Belmont. The lounge was set up in 2010 by owner Mickey Moran and continues to grow in popularity thanks to the skilled bartenders and relaxed vibe. We relished every sip of our strong bourbon cocktails.


 To Shop

Indigo & Cotton – Indigo & Cotton was launched by Brett Carron in 2011, as a place to showcase a carefully curated collection of independent all-American brands, such as Raleigh Denim and Wildsam guidebooks.

J. Stark – This Charleston based brand create beautiful hand-crafted, artisan bags of all shapes and sizes. Their products are timeless and made to last. I particularly loved the simple but stylish tote bags.

Worthwhile – Situated in the 19th century McIntosh Seed House on King Street, Worthwhile is an eclectic shop of inspiring designers from all over the world. Pick up a croissant lamp by Japanese brand Pampshade or socks from Hansel From Basel.

Hampden Clothing – Hampden is known as the South’s chicest designer clothing store. The boutique in Charleston has a desirable range of clothes and accessories from American designers and further afield.


To Do

Aiken-Rhett House – The Aiken-Rhett House was built in 1820 as a private home at 48 Elizabeth Street in Charleston. It is the best preserved early nineteenth century townhouse in the city and is open for self-guided tours. I loved seeing this magical house and getting an insight into the history of Charleston.

High Wire Distillery Co. – Located in the heart of historic downtown Charleston, High Wire was the first distillery to open in Charleston since the prohibition. The company are dedicated to making premium, small batch spirits and is open all week for tours and tastings. If your luggage allows, buy a bottle of their bourbon to take home.

Rainbow Row – Rainbow Row is the name for the street of thirteen colourful historic houses in Charleston. It is the longest cluster of Georgian row houses in the United States and is a lovely photogenic area to wander round.

Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art – This non-profit contemporary art institute is free to enter and always hosts interesting exhibitions. We really enjoyed ‘Southbound’ – a collection of photographs depicting the history of the South and how it has changed so dramatically over the last century.