Como Shambhala Urban Escape, Park Lane

Como spa

A few years ago I visited the Como Hotel in Bangkok, a serene oasis in the centre of the chaotic and hot city. The Metropolitan Como Hotel in London has a similar feel, laid back luxury with a hint of Asian influence. The spa is hidden on the second floor, a discreet but luxurious little retreat, far removed from the business focused Park Lane below.

I was greeted by several members of staff who showed me around the small spa. After a cup of zingy homemade ginger tea, I changed into a giant fluffy bathrobe and enjoyed a ten minute session in the steam room. Feeling cleansed and refreshed, I realised it was time for my treatment, the signature Como Shambhala massage with Yuki.

como calm

Tucked up and cosy in the massage bed, I felt relaxed for the first time in days and ready for the pampering session. This massage uses long hand strokes to give the body balance and harmony. I had a choice of aromatic oil scents and chose the Calm variety, a mix of lavender and geranium. Despite her shy demeanour, Yuki had great strength and undeniable ability. She seemed to instantly work out the maze of knots in my back and used miraculous movements to ease them away. Her expertise in Shiatsu massage showed in the immaculate finger pressure techniques that she used on my problematic areas. It was an hour of total heaven, I didn’t want to leave.

Revitalised and relaxed, I changed and ordered a delicious fresh juice, a tropical mix of mango, coconut water, papaya, orange and lime. A sweet and vibrant pick-me-up before returning to the mayhem of London.

como flowers

The Como Shambhala spa is a small venue offering treatments that make a big difference to how you feel. I cannot wait to return to try out one of the other innovative massages.

More information and book a treatment here.

Yauatcha City, Broadgate Circle

y1

Yauatcha Soho has become a dim sum destination. Just moments away from China Town it offers a high quality of Oriental food, dim sum and larger dishes. The colourful restaurant has been satisfying the Chinese cravings of Londoners for over 10 years, and proudly holds a Michelin star for its fine cuisine. I loved both the experience and the food at the original Yauatcha so was itching to try the second London branch when it opened last month.

Yauatcha City is found in the newly redeveloped Broadgate Circle complex. Nearby to Liverpool Street this area is a hub during the week for city workers and business meetings. Alongside Yauatcha, a host of popular eateries have set up shop including my favourites Jose Pizarro, Botanist and Franca Manca pizzeria. This new shiny branch of Yauatcha has many of the same design elements and characteristics of the flagship restaurant, with smart black furniture and stylish lighting.

y2y3y4y5y6

On a Saturday evening the restaurant was busy but calm, I imagine it is a different story mid-week. We settled into a lovely window table and excitedly looked through the menu of dim sum delights. The service here is slick and professional, and our waiter, James, was exemplary, friendly and personal, helping us choose all the best dishes. After a round of strong expertly mixed cocktails we were very excited to move onto a feast of Chinese treats. We picked a few dim sum recipes to start, continuing with crispy duck pancakes and a few main dishes. Wagyu Beef Puff arrived at our table first, delightful little mouthfuls of rich tasty meat encased in perfect pastry.

Amongst my favourites was the Char siu cheung fun (BBQ pork steamed rice noodle roll) the slimy glutenous recipe did not look very appetising, and yet it was utterly, addictively delicious. The meat inside had a salty crispy charm and the rolls were served in a pool of indulgent sauce, deepening the flavour further. I rarely get the chance to eat Crispy aromatic duck so I relished the opportunity to order it at Yauatcha City. Unsurprisingly this rendition of the classic Chinese DIY dish, was faultless. The finest duck with ample crisped skin, sweet and thick plum sauce and a side plate of cucumber and spring onion. I greedily grabbed the best pieces of meat for my rolls, which were absolutely divine… and I made a mental note to eat Crispy Duck more often.

y7y8

The main courses are ideal for a longer leisurely meal. Stir-fry rib eye beef in black bean sauce was a dish I remembered well from the Soho branch, I loved it so much that we had to have it again! It did not disappoint, chunks of grilled beef coated in a sticky aromatic sauce and mixed with still-crunchy onion and pepper. Every element was cooked perfectly to create a texturally exciting dish. Seafood fans should try the Fried chilli squid with oatmeal and curry leaf. The soft squid pieces are coated in a delectable light topping not dissimilar to cornflakes!

Egg fried rice is an essential side dish, and there are a range of vegetable recipes to choose from. We tried the Spicy aubergine with sato bean, okra and French bean with peanut. The aubergine was soft and sweet though I found the sato bean bitter and overpowering. Perhaps these unusual vegetables are an acquired taste.

y9y10

Yauatcha City has its own on-site patisserie, with a cabinet of jewel coloured macaroons tempting you as you walk in the door. I umm-ed and ahh-ed over which flavours to choose, classic or curious. The violet and rose varieties were lovely, though it is the Pandan Leaf (known as the vanilla of the East) that I would recommend. Despite its bright green colour the macaroon had a subtle and unique taste, a pleasant final flavour for the palate.

For something decadent opt for the Chocolate Pebble. This cake is a work of art and I noticed the surrounding guests shuffle in their seats to get a glimpse as the beautiful plate was placed down onto our table. The chocolate brownie is wrapped in a dark chocolate coat and topped with an artistic and complex chocolate ornament. I found it too rich after the indulgent meal but my guest loved every second he spent demolishing it. It illustrates the skill and precision that is exercised in the Yauatcha kitchen.

Yauatcha City builds on the success of the original restaurant, and serves a feast of the finest Chinese delicacies in the most stylish of settings.

More information on Yauatcha City, see the menu and book a table here.

Bloom cocktails at One Aldwych

In the last week I have been invited to three gin events. The most memorable drinks were at One Aldwych Hotel where the nifty bartenders are creating deliciously summery Bloom cocktails. There is a select list of four special cocktails to try, each with a range of elaborate ingredients, but each using the Bloom Gin as a base.

Bloom Gin describe themselves as “a light, delicate and floral gin with a totally unique and slightly sweet taste created by a bespoke blend of 3 botanicals: honeysuckle, chamomile and pomelo.” The sweet notes of the spirit lends it well to cocktail concoctions, mixing beautifully with fruity flavours.

I’ve always loved the One Aldwych bar… it’s got a vibrant buzz about it, the environment is relaxed but fun, and the complimentary nuts they serve are among the best I’ve tasted. A warm breezy Friday evening was the perfect excuse to sample the four new Bloom cocktails:

The Lavender Cloud – Bloom Gin, rhubarb, black raspberry liqueur, honey infused with lavender and fresh lime juice. Topped with bergamot foam.

Blooming Tea – Bloom Gin, apricot brandy, ginger & lemongrass cordial, Kamm & Sons, camomile tea and fresh lemon juice.

Smoked Flower – Bloom Gin, Mezcal, grapefruit liqueur, elderflower cordial, agave nectar and fresh lemon juice.

Almond Bouquet – Bloom Gin, Amaretto liqueur, fresh pineapple juice, syrup, fresh rocket and fresh lemon juice.

I was surprised to find I really enjoyed all four drinks. Each recipe has it’s own character. The Lavender Cloud, served with a sprig of lavender, was almost perfumed in taste with a natural sweetness from the honey and a touch of exoticism from the bergamot. The Blooming Tea was perhaps my favourite, served in a impressively decorated glass and topped with pretty edible flowers. The ingredients are very well matched to create a grown up, but addictively tasty cocktail.

Smoked Flower was my least favourite, in comparison to the other drinks this cocktail is less girly with a strong smokiness to it and a touch of bitterness from the grapefruit. I also really loved the Almond Bouquet which reminded my of my Amaretto and coke teenage years. This cocktail is very sweet, but the nutty flavour softens the sugary taste and the citrus lemon cuts through as well. It is a lovely balanced drink.

The One Aldwych Bloom drinks are immaculately presented seasonal cocktails that I would be delighted to drink all year round.

The Bloom cocktails are priced at £13.50 each and are available in the Lobby Bar until 14th July. More information here.