Mandarin Oriental Marrakech

I have visited Marrakech a few times, but in the five years since my last trip, the transformation has been more significant than I could have imagined. New hotels are popping up every month and the design scene is thriving. The alluring character of this city is still very much there but it feels somehow more accessible as a traveller.

MO Marrakech

The Mandarin Oriental Marrakech opened a few months ago, it is slightly removed from the main medina in the centre of town – a more relaxed and remote location, which creates an instant sense of calm. With the Atlas mountains in the background, this luxurious hotel is set amongst 20 hectares of fragrant, landscaped gardens.

Like many of the group’s properties, MO Marrakech is monochrome in design, with a straight-forward elegant style. We were greeted on arrival with sparkling rose drinks and warm smiles from all the staff.

MO Marrakech

The hotel boasts private villas and spectacular suites, each with unparalleled facilities. It is difficult to pull yourself away, but when you do decide to explore the city your butler will arrange everything via a handy whatsapp service. This speedy system also ensures you have all the information you need at your fingertips – restaurant menus, spa availability etc.

MO Marrakech

After a short ride through the gardens (incredible that anything grows considering the sweltering summer heat) we were introduced to our heavenly villa. The Mandarin Pool Villas are a contemporary take on the traditional Moroccan riads. You enter through a walled courtyard, complete with your own pool, lounge area and outdoor kitchen.

MO MarrakechMO Marrakech

The indoor rooms are instantly calming (and cooling – thanks to superior air conditioning). Fresh fruits adorn the living room table and a giant TV provides entertainment, should you need it. Coffee and tea facilities and a minibar is all here for your needs.

The bedroom is simple and chic with a sumptuous giant bed and various buttons to control the high-tech blind and curtain functions. I was grateful for the room remaining dark even when the sun came up early outside!

MO Marrakech

The bathroom was a sight to behold, a giant circular bath, spacious double sinks and a shower that doubles up as a steam room. The amenities are by French perfumer Diptyque, one of my favourite brands.

MO Marrakech

When it was time to (begrudgingly) leave the villa, lazy mornings were spent overlooking the expansive tropical gardens and pools. Breakfast is chosen from a lengthy a la carte menu and an overflowing buffet of sweet treats. I particularly loved the morning entertainment, a musician played a charming traditional instrument as we sipped our coffee.

MO MarrakechMO Marrakech

The hotel has two main restaurants (both only open for dinner), Ling Ling by the Hakkasan group serves modern Cantonese food and Shirvan, by Michelin-starred Chef Akrame Benallal, for delicately spiced sharing plates. During the day guests can opt for an al fresco lunch in the pool garden or in villa dining.

We enjoyed local wine and flavoursome grilled meats at Shirvan on our final evening at the hotel. The staff were so attentive and ensured we had absolutely everything we needed.

MO Marrakech

The spa at MO Marrakech is already garnering quite the reputation due to its impressive size and variety of spa treatments. I visited for a restorative facial using the brand Biologique recherche. After a thorough cleanse and extractions my skin was pampered with the nourishing products and I left feeling incredibly relaxed.

Despite being a hotel primarily for adults, little guests are very much celebrated at the hotel and the staff genuinely seemed to adore my two little boys. The kids club and farm occupied and thrilled the boys and at meal times the kitchen made special dishes to satisfy their appetites.

Just three hours from London by plane, Marrakech really is a very appealing destination for sunshine and culture. With hotels like MO Marrakech making visitors feel so at home, I can see why people would return again and again to this city.

I was a guest of Mandarin Oriental Marrakech. More information and to book a stay here.

Art After Dark, 29/30th June 2023

Gallery-going is usually a pastime reserved for those who have the time midweek to enjoy carefree cultural activities. But Art After Dark gives you a special opportunity to visit some of central London’s best loved art institutions and independent galleries for two nights of late night free visual viewing.

Following the success of the inaugural event in March Art of London have arranged a summer edition of their wonderful Art After Dark event, taking place on the 29th and 30th June (until 9pm). Visitors will have evening access to the area’s art exhibits, many of which are offering great perks. Those passing through Piccadilly Circus will be treated to a picturesque night garden to celebrate return of Art After Dark.

Art After Dark

Last week I had a preview of this month’s Art After Dark offering. Here are some highlights I recommend checking out later this month –

Art After Dark

Head to the iconic National Gallery to see the first major UK exhibition exploring the life and legacy of Saint Francis of Assisi, one of history’s most revered figures. The new exhibition includes over 40 works of art from public and private collections from across the world. You can elevate your experience by reserving a table at the gallery’s landmark restaurant Ochre for dinner with a complimentary glass of champagne (by quoting ‘Art After Dark’.).

Following a three-year closure the National Portrait Gallery is finally open again. Photography enthusiasts will enjoy the latest exhibition, Yevonde: Life and Colour, and guest DJ Lady Kamikaze will be spinning vintage tracks from the 1930s – 1970s. The National Portrait Gallery is also hosting an in-conversation with the award-winning musician, Paul McCartney – live streamed from the Gallery – to discuss his major new exhibition, Paul McCartney Photographs 1963–64: Eyes of the Storm on the Thursday.

Summer Exhibition

As always the Royal Academy of Arts features some thought-provoking free displays, as well as the popular annual Summer Exhibition. Each year a different Royal Academician puts together the summer show (in recent years Yinka Shonibare RA and Grayson Perry RA have coordinated) and this year the show has been overseen by the British painter David Remfry RA. The exhibition showcases every art medium – from prints, paintings, film and photography to sculpture, architectural works and more – by a mix of leading artists and emerging talent. During Art After Dark The Royal Academy will be serving complimentary pintxos with every drink purchased at the Poster Bar and the newly installed Portico Terrace as well as delicious seasonal food and drinks at The Shenkman Bar, making it the ideal post-exhibition venue for refreshments. If you fancy something more substantial head to Spanish chef José Pizarro’s resident restaurant.

The exciting arts programme will also feature some of London’s most acclaimed independent galleries. I recommend popping into –

Art After Dark

Skarstedt Gallery for their striking Beyond Abstraction exhibition. Highlights include Steven Parrino’s startling red ‘Bent Painting’ Richard Prince’s witty ‘What’s His Face’ and Marco Pariani’s ‘Landscaper’s Birthday’ which was created just this year.

Art After Dark

Art gallery 3812 specialises in contemporary Chinese art and is always a calming space to spend time in. I loved their current exhibition ‘Blue and Black’ the first solo exhibition in London for Qian Wu. Wu studied painting in America, but is firmly grounded in the traditional Chinese brush painting, his works are a sensitive mix of the two cultural artistic styles.

Art After Dark

Stern Pissarro is a welcoming gallery which is perfect for those with all levels of art knowledge. It is the ideal venue for visitors wanting an overview introduction to the important Impressionist painter Camille Pisarro while also exhibiting engaging seasonal shows. They are currently showing ‘Art on Paper 1920-2020’.

Art After Dark

Whether you are after a pre-show tipple or an after-exhibition feast, the West End has a host of tasty options to satisfy your appetite. I checked out Leicester Square Kitchen, which is very centrally located (in the heart of Leicester Square) and serves vibrant Mexican sharing plates. We opted for ice-cold beer and sour grapefruit Paloma cocktails before a table full of delicious food. Highlights included the Wagyu beef sliders, spicy guacamole and charred sweetcorn. It was the perfect al fresco meal for a summer’s evening.

With the days at their longest and the sun finally out in London’s West End, there has never been a better time to spend an evening strolling round the capital’s finest galleries and enjoying food and drinks at the neighbouring restaurants.

Discover Art of London’s seasonal art and culture programme, Art After Dark, via

Offers available during Art After Dark

  • Aquavit London – Enjoy a free glass of fizz when you book dinner on 29th or 30th June between 5pm and 9pm
  • Franco’s – Receive a complimentary glass of champagne when you book dinner, quoting ‘Art After Dark’
  • EllaMia London – Tuck into a focaccia sandwich with an alcoholic beverage (excl. bottles and champagne) or soft drink for only £15, available to anyone attending Art After Dark
  • Leicester Square Kitchen – 25% off beverages for groups of 10 or more. Available on the restaurant’s A La Carte menu only
  • Ochre Restaurant (The National Gallery) – Receive a complimentary glass of champagne by quoting ‘Art After Dark’ when booking dinner
  • Poster Bar (Royal Academy of Arts) – Serving complimentary pintxos with every drink purchased at the Poster Bar
  • Whitcomb’s at the Londoner – 20% off food for groups, available for 4-8 guests when dining from the À La Carte menu

The Idle Rocks, St Mawes

I’ve been aware of The Idle Rocks hotel for a while, a luxurious 18-bedroom hotel on the water’s edge in St. Mawes, but haven’t previously had the opportunity to stay at this much-loved property. The chic, nautical accommodation is busy year-round, but winter is a quieter, calmer time to visit, which we enjoyed, especially with two young kids.

St. Mawes is a small fishing village found at the end of the Roseland peninsula, and is the home to a few lovely hotels, including The Idle Rocks and its sister hotel St. Mawes Hotel. We were lucky to experience both of these hotels during our stay.

St. Mawes Hotel is just a few minutes walk from The Idle Rocks and is a great place to visit with kids. We had a casual, but tasty, meal here one evening before a viewing at their boutique ‘Hidden Cinema’. The cinema has regular showings and we were lucky to catch Moana, perfect for all four of us! The deluxe reclining seats and freshly made popcorn made the whole experience really special.

At The Idle Rocks, the 18 bedrooms are all unique in decor and style, crisp whites are combined with accents of colour and joyful patterns. The staff were very kind to give us two adjacent rooms to help remedy the effects of two sleep-stealing children! Both rooms had very comfortable Hypnos beds, feather duvets and plenty of plump pillows.

The bathrooms are stocked with complimentary Aromatherapy Associates bath and body products, and particularly fluffy towels and robes.

The living areas in the rooms were designed to encourage relaxation, and we loved sitting with a cup of tea and watching the rowing boats go by on the water outside. We also really enjoyed the bottle of sparkling Knightor wine, made from the vineyards above the shores of St Austell Bay on the south coast of Cornwall.

The ground floor of the hotel has expansive views of the water, various dining areas offer guests options for breakfast, dinner and relaxing with refreshments throughout the day. I loved the more eclectic style of this area, with quirky colourful artwork and bold bright fabrics.

We enjoyed breakfast in the dining room each morning, an appetising spread of continental treats and a menu of indulgent hot dishes. The Eggs Benedict was cooked to perfection and I loved the Potato Rosti with Spicy Beans.

On the final night, we headed downstairs for drinks and dinner in the celebrated Idle Rocks restaurant. Cocktails are superior at The Idle Rocks; opt for a signature serve or ask the experienced bar team for your favourite tipple… we loved the negroni made with Falmouth Loveday gin.

Chef Dorian Janmaat excels in the kitchen, presenting guests with a 7-course tasting menu or an appealing a la carte menu. This talented young chef previously worked at Le Manoir and it’s easy to see the influence of French cooking in his dishes with exemplary sauces and perfect meat and fish cookery. The menus showcase Cornwall’s local seafood and produce – we absolutely loved the Monkfish with hen of the woods, rainbow chard and black garlic ketchup, and my Pork Tenderloin with winter vegetable ragout was the ideal fine dining comfort food on a cold winter’s evening.

We noticed lots of couples relishing the chance for a little January getaway at The Idle Rocks, but it is also a great place to bring the whole family. My older son adored the Kids Room, which is kitted out with all  kinds of toys, dressing up outfits and a chalk board for drawing.

The Idle Rocks (and it’s surrounding area) is a wonderful place to spend time but if you fancy a day trip, I can highly recommend the ferry from St. Mawes to Falmouth. It takes just 15 minutes and you may even spot dolphins on route (we were lucky to see them on both journeys).

More information and book a stay at The Idle Rocks here.

I was a guest of The Idle Rocks Hotel.