No 197 Chiswick Fire Station, Restaurant and Bar

Chiswick is awash with chains and cafes that provide little inspiration when it comes to delicious food and stylish surroundings. I love La Trompette for smarter occasions and Chief for coffee and breakfast, but there was definitely a distinct lack of reliable bistros and bars until No 197 Chiswick Fire Station came along.

No 197 Chiswick Fire Station

I first noticed this new opening  on Instagram, where my feed was filled with pictures of the most beautiful looking restaurant, complete with pale pink sofas and giant cacti. I instantly wanted to visit.

No 197 Chiswick Fire Station

I visited for lunch on a radiantly sunny day, which made this establishment look even prettier, casting atmospheric shadows across the white-washed walls. My sister and I decided to make the most of the weather and sit outside in the lovely back terrace.

No 197 Chiswick Fire Station

No 197 are currently offering a Peroni Spritz cocktail, a special collaboration with the beer brand. The vibrant orange drink was refreshing with a touch of alluring bitterness, perfect in the heat. My little sister opted for the more child-friendly housemade elderflower and cucumber lemonade.

No 197 Chiswick Fire Station

The menu is long, a little too long perhaps, filled with British delights and a few international inspired dishes. After spotting the rotisserie chicken whirling round in the oven, I couldn’t wait to try it for lunch, along with truffle macaroni cheese, garlic french beans and housemade fries. We definitely weren’t planning on fitting into bikinis any time soon! The chicken was tender with a caramelised skin, macaroni cheese was as decadent as it should be with just a subtle hint of truffle, and the green beans were buttery and garlicky, though in my opinion a little undercooked.

No 197 Chiswick Fire Station

After the rich main courses I needed a light dessert, and Roast Pineapple ticked every box. Served with agave syrup and passionfruit sorbet, it is suitable for anyone with any food allergy, and the taste didn’t suffer for it. An extra sweet but tangy pudding with the tart, exotic accompanying sorbet. We also sampled the Maple Banana Toffee Crumble, a take on Banoffee Pie which exceeded expectations. Soft and gooey with a crunchy topping and served with banana ice cream, it was finished off in minutes.

No 197 Chiswick Fire Station is a great place to eat, drink and hang out. The space is extremely pleasant to spend time in and the staff will ensure you have everything you need.

Book a table at No 197 Chiswick Fire Station here.

Shepherd House, Faversham

I had never considered visiting Faversham, that is until I discovered Shepherd House. Clare Weston and her husband Simon have recently bought this beautiful Georgian property and have decorated the period house into what is now Kent’s most stylish b&b.

The boutique accommodation is minutes away from Faversham station, where a fast train takes just 1 hour to get to London King’s Cross, making it the perfect weekend escape. We arrived on a sunny Wednesday afternoon, greeted by the lovely smiley Clare. I fell instantly in love with the house and felt like Clare was an old friend welcoming us into her home. Downstairs, we admired the vibrant green and yellow living room, which embraces the Georgian features while adding a contemporary personality and sense of fun with modern artwork, fresh flowers and patterned rugs. Vintage jazz music was playing and a small spirit collection is left out for guests who wish to relax with an evening aperitif.

Currently there are three bedrooms of varying sizes, though work is underway to open a few more soon. We quickly settled into the ‘Very, very large double’ bedroom, our home for the night. Clare has a real talent for interiors – each of the rooms has a subtle colour theme with vintage and modern touches that are carefully balanced to create a sophisticated but relaxing environment to spend time in. All of the bedrooms feature indulgent bathtubs, ours was a freestanding masterpiece from Albion Bath Co. The room was decorated in a palate of pinks and greys with the original floorboards, fireplaces and grand windows still intact. Appealing coffee table books and seasonal flowers adorned every surface and the king size bed was topped with a soft duvet and cushions.

The bathroom was my favourite part, with luxurious his-and/hers rain showers, expensive Kiehl’s toiletries and views overlooking the town. Shiny grey and black tiles contrast with the dusty pink paint and give a glamorous retro feel.

We spent as much time as possible in our bedroom, flicking through the books, listening to music from the retro Roberts radio and making good use of the coffee facilities… the Tanzanian Garage Coffee was the best I’ve ever tasted in a hotel room. I slept for much longer than I normally would, my body relishing the opportunity to truly unwind. In the morning the large windows let in bursts of sunlight, it was bliss.

Guests are encouraged to enjoy the whole property and the spacious garden at the back is particularly lovely on sunnier days. Breakfast in the morning is served in the living room and Clare cooked up a feast for us to devour, it was as delicious as it looks. Fresh juice and coffee, fruit salad, yoghurt and pastries arrived first. We picked at things while catching up on emails and reading the days’ news. Then came the main event, hot dishes from the lavish brunch menu. The full breakfast and French toast with blueberries and bacon were both delicious, so good in fact that I wondered if Clare had thought of opening up as a brunch parlour for outside guests too.

Nearby, guests may choose to visit picturesque Whitstable for fresh oysters or hip Margate where the new Dreamland and Turner Contemporary gallery are boosting tourism. Foodies will delight at the opportunity to visit Britain’s no.1 gastropub, The Sportsman in Seasalter. Needless to say there is more than enough to keep you busy for a weekend minibreak, though I wouldn’t blame you if you barely ventured out, Shepherd House is pretty difficult to say goodbye to.

More information and book a room at Shepherd House here.

Upper House, Hong Kong

Upper House

Upper House is the number one hotel in Hong Kong on TripAdvisor, though I doubt the guests at this hotel found out about this design haven on the online reviewing site. Slick, chic and casually understated, this hotel is a favourite with stylish and creative travellers who want more than just luxury when they stay away from home. The façade is a miraculous creation of Thomas Heatherwick and the interiors are designed by Andre Fu. Hidden within a skyscraper tower block, the beautiful rooms and pristine public areas are adorned with mesmerising modern artwork and beautiful sculptural pieces.

I visited Café Gray Deluxe, the hotels rooftop restaurant, for a lavish lunch with panoramic views of the city. Our meal was prepared by the highly accomplished Finnish sous chef, Eric Räty. The dishes are a fusion of international and Chinese flavours and ingredients.

Foie Gras Torchon with Williams pear, grapefruit jelly, cumberland sauce and crushed pink peppercorn looked and tasted delicious. The tart and sweet fruit components cut through the rich foie gras to create a balanced mouthful of flavours. Served with toasted brioche it was a decadent and moreish first course. For main course we tried two contrasting dishes: Steamed Garoupa with ginger-water cress bouillon with baby pak choi, coriander and scallions; and Marsala glazed veal cheek with saffron risotto, shaved parmesan, sage and parma ham. The delicately steamed garoupa was a fresh and healthy dish served with vibrant Chinese herbs and vegetables and was subtly seasoned. The veal and risotto was bold and rich, the most wonderfully creamy risotto was a welcome break from Asian flavours and the veal was cooked to perfection, full of intensity and glory.

For dessert two of my favourite ingredients were combined for a tropical and refreshing dish. Rum marinated pineapple with mascarpone and coconut macaroons was a triumph of exotic flavours. The soft pineapple slices infused with a spicy hint of rum paired with the textured sweet coconut macaroons.

After lunch we walked around the hotel to admire the architecture and artistic details, silently hoping that next time I visit Hong Kong I could afford to stay here. Before leaving I couldn’t resist trying the exclusive Louboutin manicure, offered in the Suites at Upper House. It has proved to be a very popular collaboration between the hotel, designer and hip local beauty venue, The Nail Library. It was an hour of total bliss, and the iconic red Louboutin shade stayed intact on my nails for weeks after the treatment.

In such a manic city, the Upper House offers a calm and cool environment to sleep, eat and relax.

More information and book a stay at Upper House here.