A Stay at St Pancras Renaissance Hotel

The iconic St Pancras Renaissance Hotel could not be any more ideal for a pre-Eurostar trip. With its comfortable rooms, great food, and side entrance within St Pancras International station, it takes all the stress and effort out of the night before or after a European train trip.

Renaissance St Pancras

This January, ahead an early-morning trip to Ghent in Belgium, I spent an evening enjoying cocktails and food in the Booking Office, before spending the night in a cosy room on the 7th floor of the hotel.

Booking Office

To kick-off our stay, we enjoyed inventive twists on classic cocktails with two of the Booking Office’s signatures; a balanced, sweet and smooth Beekeeper (featuring Glenmorangie whisky, almond & rose honey, and apricot liqueur), and an Ol’ Signalman (a nutty take on an Old Fashioned, made with pecan nut infused bourbon).

Renaissance St Pancras

We followed this with a fight-worthy sharing portion of fried chicken, the Booking Office burger and a portion of Rum & Raisin profiteroles. Whether you are staying at the hotel or not this centrally located eatery is brilliant for a drink or meal. The atmosphere is buzzy and the dining room itself is very impressive, thanks to the redesign by Parisian architect and designer Hugo Toro.

Renaissance St Pancras

Our room, 717, was perfectly pleasant but not as luxurious as the room I stayed in last time I visited. With no view of the kissing statue on the Eurostar platform, and a smaller bedroom space, it was still a nice place to spend the night (and had enough room for a camp bed on the floor for my eldest son), but lacked the excitement and indulgence of other 5* rooms. The bathroom was petite but well appointed with a bath-shower and plenty of soft towels. We slept well and woke up feeling refreshed and ready for adventure!

Renaissance St Pancras

Bright and early, we popped down for breakfast ahead of a relaxed 2-minute stroll (out of the side entrance) to the Eurostar terminal. A great start to our trip to Belgium, I’d recommend a stay here ahead of any early Eurostar journey!

More information and book a stay here.

I was a guest of the hotel.

Paco Tapas, Bristol

The Bristol food scene is moving fast with exciting new restaurants and bars opening every week. Paco Tapas is the younger sibling of acclaimed fine dining establishment Casamia (which sadly closed a little while ago)… and despite its relaxed atmosphere this convivial tapas eatery is one of only a few Michelin star recognised restaurants in Bristol.

Paco Tapas

The interiors at Paco Tapas are dark and moody with high tables with bar stools creating a laid back feel. We sat at one of the heated outdoor tables which offered a lovely view of the sunset over the water. A glass of fresh white Spanish wine and a smokey negroni piqued our appetite, ready for the feast ahead.

It is tricky to get the right amount of food when ordering from a tapas menu, but our informative and charming waiter helped us identify the key players from the menu, while ensuring our meal was nicely balanced. From the snack (Para Picar) section we picked the Tortilla Española, an iconic oozing egg dish at Paco Tapas and the pillowy Bread with Olive oil, perfect for mopping up the tortilla.

Paco Tapas

Each dish comes when it’s ready, ideal for gradual grazing. Don’t miss the Jamón Croquetas, indulgent golden nuggets filled with a meaty, cheesy bechamel sauce. Absolutely divine.

Paco Tapas

I could have ordered anything from the meat menu, but we took our waiter’s advice and opted for the Cornish shortrib and the Duroc Pork Ribs. The meat options regularly change dependant on what is available to the kitchen, with much of the meat coming from the brilliant Philip Warren Butchers in Cornwall. Pork Ribs were particularly tasty, falling away from the bone beautifully, and seasoned to perfection… I had to fight my toddler for the last bite.

Paco Tapas

Arguably my favourite dishes of the night were from the ‘vegetables’ section of the menu – I couldn’t resist the classic Patatas Bravas, but it was the Devilled Corn on the Cob and the Cauliflower & Manchego that blew me away. These dishes show that Paco Tapas is more than a classic tapas restaurant, offering inventive riffs on more obvious Spanish culinary ideas. The corn was coated in an addictive buttery spice mix and topped with salty cheese. The cauliflower was grilled and caramelised, sitting in a luxuriously smooth manchego cheese sauce. Rest assured vegetarians will not go hungry here.

Paco Tapas

Definitely leave room for dessert, Pedro Ximinez Flan is a must, the creamiest silky smooth set custard pudding, which we finished in less than a minute between us. The Chocolate mousse with toast and olive oil was also delicious, ideal for chocolate fans, but without too much richness (perfect at the end of a meal).

It’s easy to see why Paco Tapas is one of Bristol’s best loved restaurants. Vibrant Andalusian flavours paired with wonderful warm service, it’s impossible not to have a good time here.

More information and book a table at Paco Tapas here.

I was a guest of the restaurant.

Things to do in Berlin 2022

This was my third trip to Berlin, after a couple of visits almost a decade ago. The city, though still edgy and quirky feels more comprehensive now, especially when it comes to eating and drinking out. We stayed centrally and found ourselves walking almost everywhere, stopping off for delicious speciality coffee en route to our next restaurant, shop or gallery. This round-up is by no means inclusive of all Berlin’s best places, but it will point you in the right direction for some of the current hotspots, unmissable pastries and cocktails and a few other venues to keep you entertained for a few days in this fun city.

Soho House Berlin

To Stay

Soho House Berlin – Located in a Grade II listed building in the convenient Mitte neighbourhood of Berlin, this Soho House branch is more spacious than any other I’ve visited before. Rooms start from 195 euros a night and you will also have access to the rooftop pool, gym, and all the food outlets. I also recommend stopping by ‘The Store x Berlin’ boutique inside the hotel for a brilliant curation of designer clothes, perfumes, jewellery and books.

Berlin food

To Eat Out

Annelies – This neighbourhood café located in the heart of Berlin Kreuzberg and serves a creative all-day breakfast & lunch menu. There is usually a queue at the weekend for good reason, the plates of food are irresistibly tasty and the coffee and fresh juice are great accompaniments. If you only order one thing make it the stack of Buttermilk Pancakes served with granola, maple-berry syrup and cultured cream.

Father Carpenter – This hip brunch spot has tables inside but also offers lovely sheltered courtyard tables in warmer weather. They serve Fjord Coffee and a concise menu of all-day classics like French Toast and the particularly delicious Pulled Pork Benedict.

Kin Dee Berlin – A cosy but minimalist eatery serving inventive Thai food. Chef Dalad Kambhu presents a menu of wonderfully subtle and fragrant dishes, served ‘family style’. Expect unusual curries, vibrant noodle dishes and other lovely modern Thai snacks. “Kin Dee” translates to “Eat Well” and that is definitely something you will do here.

Julius – Julius is the little brother restaurant of renowned fine dining restaurant Ernst (just opposite). The venue is beautifully designed and the service is charming. In the evening a tasting menu is served, immaculate plates of seasonal ingredients. During the day coffee, wine and pastries are on offer for walk-ins.

Restaurant Remi – Run by by Dutch chefs Lode van Zuylen and Stijn Remi, this relaxed venue is the second restaurant from the pair (the first being Lode & Stijn which opened its doors in 2016). The menu is constantly evolving and the dishes are unpretentious and full of flavour.

Nobelhart & Schmutzig – A wild and wacky fine dining restaurant, recognised by both Michelin and the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list. They have described themselves as ‘vocally local’ and ‘Germany’s most political restaurant’. The restaurant is only open for dinner and photos are completely disallowed inside. You will be completed immersed in the experience thanks to the open kitchen and seating arrangement. A set tasting menu is served and N&S promise to surprise and excite you palate with every plate. I loved my meal here.

Jones Ice-cream Berlin

To Snack

Jones Ice Cream – If the weather is warm (or even if it’s not!) Jones Ice-Cream is unmissable for a chilly sweet treat. This trendy ice-cream emporium sells wonderfully unusual flavours of gelato and handmade cones, all made from scratch in small batches. They also make great cookies,  which sell out fast.

La Maison – A wonderful weekend spot serving high-quality French baked goods and speciality coffee along the peaceful canal of the the Paul-Lincke-Ufe.

Sofi – Located in a restored 19th-century brick factory building, Sofi is hidden away in Berlin’s Mitte district. Sofi Bakery sets out to recover the true flavours of ancient grains through its commitment to low-intervention craft baking. You can see the talented bakers working hard on site and buy a selection of bread varieties, cookies and pastries. It’s the perfect place to start a day in Berlin.

Berlin coffee

To Drink

The Barn – After trying the Barn coffee beans in several of my favourite cafes in the UK I was so excited to try the coffee at their home in Berlin. The Barn was opened in 2010 with the hopes of reestablishing a serious coffee culture in Berlin, and they are still leading the movement. They roast some amazing single origin beans and pour them in wonderfully silky smooth coffees. The industrial style cafe is a lovely airy space to work in and the coffee didn’t disappoint. I’m particularly a fan of their low-caff beans, which I haven’t seen any other roaster do.

Bonanza Coffee – Found in the popular Prenzlauer Berg district, Bonanza should be one of the first places coffee aficionados visit in Berlin. The expansive roastery and cafe is the proud owner of a rare roasting machine and the space smells delicious. Sit outside with a perfect flat white and buy a bag of beans to take the Bonanza experience home with you.

Populus – A family-owned, independent specialty coffee company in a retro cafe in the Neukölln area of Berlin. The owners, Sari and Henrik, come from Finland and care passionately about the supply chain of their beans. The coffee is lovely and it is a quiet place to sit and enjoy a drink.

Buck & Breck – This tiny prohibition style bar is hidden behind a secret door between a police station and Doris Bistro in the rooms of a former shop on Brunnenstrasse. The bar is by Gonçalo de Sousa Monteiro and Holger Groll and is featured on the World’s Bar Bars list. The bar only seats 14 round the bar, it is a cosy set-up which encourages guests to chat to eachother and to the bartenders. The small menu consists of historically inspired cocktails.

RSVP shop berlin

To Do

Holocaust Memorial – The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, also known as the Holocaust Memorial, is a memorial in Berlin to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust, designed by architect Peter Eisenman and Buro Happold. It’s a stark arrangement of two thousand, seven hundred and eleven grey concrete slabs, which opened in 2005, a sombre but calm place to wander round.

Berlinische Galerie – The Berlinische Galerie is a museum of modern art, photography and architecture in Kreuzberg, Berlin. It exhibits the story of modern art from 1840 onwards and puts an emphasis on temporary exhibitions by ‘Berlin’s fiendishly productive artists’.

Berlin Wall – There are various places to see some of the remains of the 155 km Berlin Wall. The most famous of Berlin Wall sites, The East Side Gallery is the best-preserved and longest part of the Wall at over 1 km long. It is adorned with colourful murals painted by international artists, which have been there since 1990 – a year after East and West’s borders started to open.

RSVP Berlin – R.S.V.P. supplies fine paper and writing materials from all over the world. Along with a range of notebooks, this beautiful stationery shop has a unique range of pens and pencils, wrapping papers and other desk essentials.