Artist Residence, Oxfordshire

Oxfordshire was seriously lacking in lovely boutique accommodation… until Artist Residence opened a branch of their cosy characterful hotels in the small village of South Leigh.

Artist Residence Oxford

This hotel is the newest in the Artist Residence family, with other branches in London, Brighton and Cornwall. Much like the other properties, the venue captures the essence of the surrounding area while also injecting the recognisable Artist Residence fun and quirky style into the rooms and common spaces.

Thanks to the building’s heritage as a traditional pub, the hotel still operates as a pub / dining room on the ground floor, and the food here is worth visiting for alone. Head Chef Leon Smith has worked in some top UK kitchens and his experience of flavour shines through on the dishes. Hearty plates of food showcase the finest British ingredients, whether its foraged herbs and wild mushrooms or dairy from the local producers.

Artist Residence OxfordArtist Residence Oxford

I was lucky to be one of the first to experience the brand new Barn. This grand suite is a recent addition to the hotel, housed within one of the outbuildings with a private terrace and in-room log burner. The spacious suite has a high ceiling and original wooden floorboards. Colourful details, such as Morris & Co fabrics and vibrant artwork, add flair and personality. One night was not enough to get to know every quirk in this spectacular bedroom.

The en-suite dark green tiled bathroom featured a big free-standing bathtub and rainfall shower, and a generous supply of Bramley organic toiletries was provided.

Artist Residence Oxford

And though the Barn is indulgently wonderful, you don’t need to stay in the biggest room to have an indulgent night here. Even the smallest ‘Rabbit Hole’ bedroom is comfortable and beautiful, decorated and designed in a chic farmhouse style.

I would recommend this charming hotel to anyone in need of a minibreak from London. Artist Residence Oxfordshire is affordable, eclectic and special… it is the perfect getaway.

More information and book a room at Artist Residence Oxfordshire here.

Things to do in Jersey

Just a half hour flight away from London, Jersey is a blissfully easy place to escape to when you need a break from relentless city life. Geographically, Jersey is closer to France, and though technically the island is not part of Great Britain it falls within the monarch of the UK’s power. English is the primary language spoken on the island, and the British pound is used as the currency, and yet a French influence is noticeable in other aspects of island life on Jersey. With both English and French heritage myself, I enjoyed exploring this unique place. The coastal views are particularly beautiful and for food lovers there is a thriving food and coffee scene to discover… don’t leave without tasting the famous Jersey Royal potatoes and the deliciously rich and creamy Jersey milk.

Jersey

To Stay

St Brelade’s Bay Hotel – This beachside property provides the perfect weekend accommodation. The hotel has 74 spacious and comfortable bedrooms, that overlook the Atlantic Ocean and hotel gardens. Chef Franz Hacker prepares hearty recipes inspired by local seafood.

Ormer

To Eat

Ormer – This stylish Michelin starred eatery is found in the centre of St Helier. Originally founded by chef Shaun Rankin, the kitchen is now in the safe hands of Head Chef Lee Smith. The dishes feature classic flavour combinations presented in a modern way. Visit at lunchtime when a reasonable £22 set menu is on offer.

El Tico Beach Cantina – After a long walk on St Ouen’s beach (an epic 5 mile stretch of sand) head to El Tico’s for a hearty weekend brunch or lunch. The comprehensive menu has a full range of cuisines, we opted for the classic fish and chips and a decadent warm chocolate brownie (with Jersey vanilla ice-cream) for dessert.

Bohemia Bar and Restaurant – Bohemia has long been thought of as the Island’s top restaurant. This fine dining establishment is the proud recipient of a Michelin star and 5 AA Rosettes. At lunchtime the restaurant is quiet but for a special occasion I recommend visiting for dinner and choosing a tasting menu which showcases the best Channel Island produce.

The Hungry Man – This little hut on the harbour edge in Rozel Bay is an institution and usually has a queue of hungry locals, waiting for their bacon sandwich. Visit the Hungry Man after a long coastal walk for the ultimate reward.

Dandy Coffee

To Drink

Dandy – Founded in 2013 as the first speciality coffee shop in Jersey, the Dandy team have just opened a second, larger branch also in St Helier. The cute cafes are beautifully designed and serve Allpress coffee. The cafes are open Monday – Friday, so make sure you get your fix during the week.

Shuga – Shuga arrived on the Jersey speciality coffee scene in January 2018, promising something new and exciting. The team of experienced baristas are meticulous about presenting you with a cup of perfectly-made coffee, using all the latest gadgets and methods to bring out the subtleties of flavour in the Origin Roastery beans. Coffee connoisseurs should make this their first stop on Jersey.

Locke’s Coffee Cart – Drew and Ella Locke travelled the world tasting coffee, before settling in Jersey with their coffee cart. They use beans from Extract Coffee Roasters in Bristols and Jersey milk from the independent dairy, Classic Herd. Watch this space as a permanent cafe (inspired by Australia’s coffee and brunch scene) is coming to the island in Spring 2018.

Bean around the World – Over the last 21 years, Bean around the World has become a cult favourite with locals. The cafe roast their own beans and offer a range of delectable baked goods (many of which are suitable for vegan and gluten intolerent customers). Though the interiors are now quite dated, the coffee has a delicious sweet and rich flavour.

Jersey

To See & Do

Grosnez Castle – This medieval castle ruin is found on the north-west tip of Jersey. The cliff edge location is spectacular, and on a clear day you can even see the other Channel Islands.

Greenhouse Spa & Fitness – If you’ve come to the island for a relaxing break you’ll enjoy the Greenhouse Spa. Set in the grounds of the impressive Chateau Vermont this indulgent sanctuary offers wonderful treatments with all-natural products made by Elemental Herbology. The centre also has a swimming pool and gym, and runs wellness workshops. If you can’t decide on just one treatment, pick a few from the ‘tapas menu’ of 30 minute sessions.

St Helier Central Market – Jersey’s central market has been supplying locals with a wide range of fresh produce for hundreds of years. The current Victorian Market hall has been open since 1882, go for a wander and spot some of the island’s most well-known ingredients.

La Corbière Lighthouse – La Corbière was the world’s first concrete lighthouse, built on the south-western tip in 1873. When the tide is low you can walk through the striking rock banks to see the historic landmark up close.

Mont Orgueil – Overlooking the picturesque Gorey Village, this 13th century castle is in remarkably good condition. Start your tour by watching the informative video before entering the castle walls and exploring this magical site.

Thoroughly Modern Milly was a guest of Visit Jersey.

More information on things to do on the island here.

Aladdin, Prince Edward Theatre

Aladdin the Musical is a kid’s show, with a fairytale storyline and larger than life characters. Despite this the London production of the musical keeps the adults in the audience entertained with up-to-date remarks and witty jokes.

The show is housed in the great Prince Edward Theatre, which has a dazzling art deco auditorium and seats well over 1500 people. The musical is based on the 1991 hit film with music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Howard Ashman, Tim Rice and Chad Beguelin. The storyline is basic, so instead we are left to marvel at the 350+ lavish costumes and energetic dance routines.

Aladdin

I went to see the show last week and was impressed by the sheer grandeur of the production. The musical starts slowly with the introduction of street urchins Aladdin and friends. They survive by stealing food from local street vendors and spend their life running from the police. Innocent-faced Matthew Croke makes a convincing lead role, deftly dancing about the stage and singing with likeable charm.

The show really comes to life when Trevor Dion Nicholas as the Genie comes on stage. Trevor previously performed in the Broadway production of Aladdin and has won numerous awards for his infectious and entertaining rendition of the Genie. He immediately commands your attention and I loved watching him perform. Jasmine was played by Jade Ewen, who although brilliant at acting and dancing, lacked in the vocal department.

The Aladdin orchestration is big and bold with a particularly strong brass section, which gives the music a real oomph and the constantly evolving set thrills throughout. Aladdin is a ‘show’ in every sense of the word, and if you visit the theatre for razzle dazzle, you’ll love this production.

More information and book tickets here. Aladdin is currently showing in London until 30th June 2018.