The Star Hotel, Alfriston

I have been a fan of Olga Polizzi and hotels ever since visiting the elegant Tresanton hotel in Cornwall many years ago. Her whole family have massive influence in the hotel industry, her brother is Rocco Forte and her daughter Alex Polizzi presents the hugely popular programme, The Hotel Inspector.

Olga now has three hotels in her collection, Hotel Tresanton in Cornwall, Hotel Endsleigh in Devon and The Star in Alfriston. She is renowned for her sophisticated interior design which runs throughout the hotels.

The Star

The Star in Alfriston opened as a 30 bedroom hotel in summer 2021, taking over a fine historic building on Alfriston’s medieval main high street. ‘The Star was originally a religious hostel built in 1345, to accommodate monks and pilgrims en route from Battle Abbey to the shrine of St Richard, patron saint of Sussex, at Chichester Cathedral.’

The pictoresque exterior sets the scene for this charming boutique hotel. Inside it is a mix of ancient beamed inn rooms and more modern (but sensitively redesigned) spaces. On the ground floor there are various artistic details from local artists, most striking perhaps is the black and white stencilled Elizabethan design on the floor in the main restaurant. Be sure to also check out the library, much of which is curated by the lovely Alfriston bookshop, Much Ado Books.

The Star

There are bedrooms in the original building and some in the new block. Each of the 21 bedrooms and 9 suites have been individually designed by Olga Polizzi. A mix of old furniture and modern amenities ensures the rooms are very comfortable but also very characterful. I loved the display of local art, and particularly admired the Vanessa Bell paintings (more of which you can see at the nearby Charleston House).

We were extremely comfortable in one of the Junior suites in the old building… I’d recommend staying in this part of the hotel if availability allows. There was plenty of natural light, a huge indulgent bed and charming details throughout, including stacks of thoughtfully chosen books. The large bathroom featured a powerful shower, spacious bathtub, super soft towels and bathrobes and toiletries by 100% natural Bramley.

The StarThe Star

There are plenty of cosy common spaces to relax in The Star, but if you want to explore the local area there is lots to occupy your time. After exploring Alfriston, go for a walk on the spectacular Seven Sisters cliffs and head to Birling Gap beach, watch an opera at Glyndebourne, dine at the local pubs or visit one of the nearby award-winning Sussex vineyards.

The Star restaurant

The restaurant at The Star is located in the old inn and spills out to a pretty courtyard for warmer weather. The menu changes regularly dependant on local seasonal produce, with South Coast seafood and Sussex meats always featuring.

It’s a popular place to eat for those staying and visiting guests / locals. Though I thought the prices were quite high, the service was efficient and friendly and everything we tried was very tasty. Highlights included a Rigatoni pasta dish with English rose veal ragu and South Downs Lamb Leg with roasted violet aubergine & courgette, with wonderfully seasoned basil and black olive sauce. Despite it having a grown up feel, Wilf was kindly catered for, and he loved the food.

The Star

After a restful night’s sleep we were the first down to breakfast in the morning. A buffet of continental treats awaited us, jewel coloured freshly squeezed juices, abundant bowls of berries, freshly baked miniature pastries and delicious cereals and yoghurts. We feasted on the buffet and also tried one dish from the hot kitchen menu, which included tempting recipes like ‘Slow Cooked Tomatoes on grilled sourdough, Court Lodge Farm labneh & dried oregano’ and ‘Springs Smokery Salmon with local scrambled free range eggs’. I loved the ‘Sussex Gypsy Toast with whipped Northiam Diary cream & heather honey’, a rich french toast with thick cream and fragrant honey.

There is always something going on in Alfriston… from quaint antique and book shops to weekend car boot sales and dog competitions, it was a breath of fresh air to be in the charming East Sussex town for the August Bank Holiday, and The Star is a lovely luxurious place to call home.

I was a guest of The Star. More information and book a stay here.

Things to do in Belfast

I’ve had Belfast on my list ‘to visit’ for a while… it is one of my best friends beloved hometowns and I’d heard more than a few murmurings of the exciting emerging food scene there. Finally I visited in May, the weather was uncharacteristically sunny and we had several restaurant bookings to give our trip structure. Northern Ireland’s capital is very accessible by short flight from elsewhere in the UK and it’s cheap to get here.

Sadly the hotel hosting us had had a fire, so we shacked up in a lovely airbnb, the ideal base for a few days exploring. We ventured to most of our stops on foot, breaking up the food venues with gardens and parks, museums and sightseeing.

To Eat

Ox Belfast – Off the beaten track on Oxford Street, Ox is a laidback Michelin-starred restaurant, with 40 seats and minimalist interiors. Head Chef Stephen Toman leads the open kitchen which presents very pretty, refined and seasonal dishes. The lunch menu is incredibly reasonable and the delicate food won’t leave you feeling too full.

The Muddler’s Club – The Muddlers Club is named after the secret society that met there over 200 years ago, a trendy and relaxed fine dining restaurant which serves an innovative set tasting menu. Also Michelin star awarded, Muddler’s Club is known for its punchy flavours and striking plates of food. We loved our lunch here which was relaxed and delicious in equal measure.

Neighbourhood Cafe – THE place for brunch in Belfast, Neighbourhood Cafe ticked every box. A chic, informal space with brilliant coffee (they were brewing Calendar Coffee from Galway when we visited) and a menu of tasty all-day dishes – French Toast and the Breakfast Bap were our favourites.

Cú – Lisburn Road has a host of inspiring eateries for dining out, which was convenient as we were staying nearby. Cú serves up irresistible Mexican food with big flavours and strong tequila cocktails. Opt for a selection of the tacos and the moreish, chunky guacamole.

Orto Pizza – When we visited a few months ago Orto was the newish pizza joint to open in Belfast, and was already receiving rave reviews. We headed here for our final meal in town, the expansive restaurant is clean and stylish, ideal for groups or families. Their is a range of pizzas and filled focaccias to choose from at lunchtime, all generously topped with tasty seasonal ingredients.

Oh Donuts! – I had no idea about the popular donut scene in Belfast before visiting. Guilt Trip, Black Box and Taboo were all mentioned to me, but no cafe was recommended more than Oh Donuts!, a brightly coloured cafe for good coffee and great donuts. When we arrived at 11am they were almost sold out, but we managed to nab one of their iconic ‘Boston Creme’ flavours, a super fresh, very well filled creamy donut. Their vegan menu is also very well regarded!

Al Gelato – Delicious homemade gelato based in, and made in Belfast. Find them on Ormeau Road, Lisburn Road and Ballyhackamore.

To Drink

Established Coffee – This great speciality coffee spot is found in Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter, a spacious place to sit and work or enjoy brunch with friends. They roast a big range of beans from a range of countries and can advise you on a roast to suit your tastes. Both the caffeinated and decaf coffee from Established were delicious, and I wish I had brought some beans home with me!

Output Espresso – A hip spot on Lisburn Road, Output is the ideal cafe for a hearty weekend brunch or takeaway coffee. I can recommend the Chicken Waffles or Pig Pancakes paired with a perfectly poured flat white.

Napoleon Coffee – Napoleon is an independent speciality coffee shop in Ormeau Baths that opened in August 2020, in the middle of the pandemic. Founded by barista Rachel Snowdon and scientist Matthew Mcauley, it is the realisation of a long time coffee dream for them. They serve a variety of beans, including Lucid Coffee Roasters (perfect for milk based coffees) and Parisian brand Kawa Coffee.

To Do

Glass Dome Victoria Square – Rising high above the city’s skyline, the Dome at Victoria Square boasts 360 degree views across Belfast. Free to visit and worth seeing to see the city from above.

The MAC Belfast – The Metropolitan Arts Centre in Belfast has recently been renovated, a stunning building in the heart of the Cathedral Quarter. The gallery hosts international art exhibitions, live theatre, top shows and events, and educational programmes. I was particularly impressed with the facilities for kids.

Belfast Botanical Gardens – The Botanic Gardens is a free, public garden in Belfast. Occupying 28 acres of south Belfast, the gardens are popular with locals and tourists, a calm and lovely place to wander and admire the plants.

Belfast Black Taxi Tours – I highly recommend doing a Black Taxi Tour to understand the background and stories of Belfast’s troubled past. I found it fascinating to drive round with someone who experienced the history first hand, learning about the political points of the city that are still so poignant today. The black cab tours also visit the world famous murals around the city of Belfast.

Holywood – Hop on a train (just 10 minutes) to this charming nearby seaside town. Visit Lynchpin for coffee and brunch and wander down to the sea.

Beauty Favourites for Spring

At this time of year with the weather changing everyday, my skin starts craving a change in skincare routine. With this in mind I’ve been testing a range of lovely products to bring you a curated selection of Springtime favourites that will leave your skin glowing and feeling great.

Beauty

Plenaire – I’ve loved discovering the Plenaire range. The polka dot packaging will look super chic on your bathroom shelf, and the products will ensure your skin feels fresh all day. I struggle to find nice make-up removers but the Rose Jelly from Plenaire is gentle and conditioning, it soothes and cools the skin. I also found the Violet Paste blemish solution worked wonders for me, the solution is inspired by a 70 year-old French recipe and draws out excess oil overnight calming redness and inflammation.

Beauty

Ultra Violette – The most stylish sun protection around. It’s taken a while but finally there is a facial SPF on the market which actually feels nice to wear! Ultra Violette is an Australian brand founded by SPF experts Ava Matthews and Bec Jefferd. I love the Clean Screen SPF30 for everyday wear, while the Queen Screen SPF50+ is super lightweight, protects our skin, all while adding a dewy glow to your complexion.

Beauty

Drunk Elephant – I adore the Drunk Elephant skincare. Easy to incorporate into a daily routine, the range is great for all skin types. The B-Hydra Intensive Hydration Serum is a lovely gentle product to use first thing in the morning to prep your skin for the day ahead. I also find the C-Tango Multi-Vitamin eye cream is great at this time of year to add a little sparkle to your eyes.

Beauty

ilapothecary – I can’t fault the products from this powerful natural brand. The new Warming anti-breakout face mask is a treat for trans-seasonal skin, a black mud mask which is full of minerals and natural extracts to reduce spots and add nourishment. Pair this with the remedial Fresh Faced mud cleanser which will rejuvenate your face thanks to the vitamin-rich formula.

Beauty

r.e.m. beauty – This was my first experience of this beauty brand which offers skincare and makeup. In warmer Spring days the Mist Thing is lovely, a refreshing spray which calms the face thanks to the soothing lavender in the ingredients. I loved using it after a sweaty tube journey. I can also recommend the Full Night’s Sleep, an undereye balm that blurs imperfections and soothes tired skin.

Beauty

Diptyque – I love the Diptyque scented candles so was delighted to try one of their scents. Do Son eau de toilette has top notes of Tuberose, orange blossom, jasmine, amber wood, a sensual but delicate perfume that suits the season of Spring. I found that this perfume despite being light stayed on the skin for most of the day.

Beauty

Codex Beauty Labs – “Codex Beauty Labs is a bioscience beauty company that is setting a new standard in seriously sustainable, clinically proven, vegan skincare.” I really enjoyed the results of the whole range but particularly recommend the Exfoliating Wash and Facial Oil. These two work well together to refresh the skin without stripping away any moisture. The facial oil can be used daily to boost hydration, it has a lovely silky texture and made my face beam.

Beauty

QMS Medicosmetics – This results driven brand has been developed by medical and beauty experts. The products feel luxurious and healthy for the skin. The range works wonders together but just one QMS product will revolutionise your skincare routine. I found the 3-step collagen system routine set a bit of a revelation… combining exfoliation and advanced collagen serums to dramatically improve the overall appearance of skin, helping with dehydration, wrinkles and redness. Pair with the Deep Gentle Cleanser and Day and Night Cream for the ultimate skincare treat.

Beauty

Biotherm – Biotherm is a French skincare brand which originated from mineral water, it is gentle and kind on the skin. The Live Plankton Elixir is a 100% natural-origin probiotic fraction boosted by a unique blue biotech process, at its highest concentration for faster repair and stronger skin barrier. Each day I used it I found my skin looking stronger. The Cera Repair Barrier Cream is a great Spring option as it protects all skin types whilst acting as a barrier to protect against signs of aging.

Beauty

Argentum – The packaging of the Argentum products is enough to make you want to invest in this indulgent line of skincare. The Balancing Silver Clay Mask is the ultimate Sunday night skin treat, it enhances your skin’s natural beauty while helping to balance the skin’s microbiome and moderate sebum production. My skin felt purified and pampered for days after using it. Follow the mask with Hydrating Restorative Day & Night Cream, ideal for all skin types with powerful ingredients to protect and nourish your face and neck.

Beauty

Vichy – You should wear SPF all year round, but especially now the sun is (occasionally) coming out. The Eau de Protection Solaire SPF 30 will protect your skin from sun damage while also adding a natural glow. It is very easy to apply too. I am also a fan of the Vichy Lift activ B3 Serum which will even out skin tone and correct dark spots.

Beauty

Aman – I love the Aman spas so it was bliss to bring a little bit of that experience into my home. The Amethyst scrub and soak can be massaged onto damp skin before you soak in a bath. It will relieve tension and ease fatigue… which I always need!

Beauty

Jones Road – Jones Road was founded by iconic makeup artist Bobbi Brown and has grown quickly with a cult following. Lots of friends have recommended the products so I was delighted to finally try a few key pieces in the range. I really like the no fuss packaging and easy to use, clean products. The Miracle Balm in Bronze offers a natural all over glow to help ease your skin into the warmer seasons. The Shimmer Face Oils are lovely for day and night wear, available in a range of colours they are versatile and nourishing while offering a lovely radiance.

Beauty

Jurlique – Jurlique has been a leader in the natural skincare world since 1985, an Australian brand that uses a range of botanicals in their products. I have found every product I’ve used from the range makes me feel as good as my skin looks. The Rosewater Balancing Mist is perhaps my favourite – a bestseller for good reason, it hydrates and refreshes the skin, restoring radiance on the go while offering the most perfect floral scent. After using the mist follow with Signature Eye Cream and for Summer months the lighter Balancing Day Care Cream, made with antioxidant rich oils and botanical extracts.

Beauty

Jo Loves – The Jo Loves fragrance paintbrushes are a cult product… the ideal compact size to tuck in your handbag and brush on your wrist at any time of day, anywhere. This herby citrus scent is a lovely Springtime perfume, fresh but warming.

Beauty

Elemental Herbology – At this time of year the skin on my arms and knees gets suddenly dry and this Elemental Herbology body cream is the perfect solution. The light moisturiser is silky smooth on the skin with a lovely scent of revitalising lemongrass and nutmeg. I’ve also found the Vital Eyes product from this brand great, an easy-to-use roll on eye serum that I can keep on my bedside table to de-puff and hydrate the delicate skin around my eyes.

Beauty

R+Co – It has been so much fun discovering the R + Co haircare brand. Their products are formulated without parabens, sulfates (SLS or SLES), mineral oil and petrolatum. They are all vegetarian, cruelty-free, gluten-free, and are colour-safe. I’m still making my way through the range of styling products, but as an introduction to the brand recommend trying the Dallas Biotin Thickening shampoo and conditioner – ideal for adding bounce and shine to fine hair. For beachy Spring hair give the Zig Zag Root Teasing + Texture Spray a try – adding texture and volume to fine, lifeless tresses while smelling delicious (the brand’s signature ‘Stars Align’ fragrance – a blend of White Cedar, smoky Tobacco Leaf and fresh Pine).

Beauty

Acqua di Parma – Nothing says sunny weekend away like the scents from the Italian coastlines. I am loving these 75ml bottles of Acqua di Parma perfumes, the perfect size for packing in your hand luggage for a mini-break with evocative scents that will get you in the mood for a holiday. Fico di Amalfi has notes of lemon, bergamot and grapefruit while the Mandorlo di Sicilia has hints of orange, star anise and green almonds – flavours that remind me of this special Italian island.

Beauty

Typology – I’ve told so many friends about Typology, an affordable brand which has a wide range of products to suit every skin need. Recently I’ve been trying the Brightening Face Scrub with rosehip oil, which is a great, easy product to use in the shower a few times a week to add radiance without agitating sensitive skin. I’ve been intrigued to try some of the Typology make-up products, and enjoyed trying out the lip oils – tinted oils which add colour and shine to lips without unwanted stickiness – I particularly loved the Coral orange with a bare face of make-up for a carefree Spring look.

Beauty

La Roche-Posay – This French brand is reliable and effective… which is exactly what you want when it comes to protecting your skin from the sun. Try the Pure Vitamin C10 Serum and 50+ Invisable fluid to prep and prepare your skin for sun exposure. The serum can be used day and night to add radiance and improve skin texture while this innovative invisible sun cream will provide the ultimate protection, while being extra water and sweat resistant… so you can enjoy the rays without having to worry about your skin.