Aman Spa at The Connaught

The Aman spas are found in some of the world’s most prestigious and beautiful hotels, so it didn’t surprise me when I discovered The Connaught was home to the UK’s flagship Aman spa. This hotel already has my heart, thanks to the exemplary restaurants, award-winning bar and second-to-none service, so I was delighted to be visiting this time in a wellness and relaxation capacity.

Aman spa

Despite being located in the very heart of Mayfair, the Aman spa feels completely removed from busy London life. It’s found on the lower ground floor, tucked away from the hotel hubbub, and every part is truly dedicated to total tranquility. Unlike some spas The Aman spa at The Connaught will not overload your senses, the music and scents are kept to a subtle minimum – which allowed me to switch off very quickly surrendering myself to the calming environment.

Aman spa

If you can arrive with plenty of time to unwind and use the stunning pool. After changing into an enveloping bathrobe I sat here for a little while sipping a nourishing ginger and honey tea and awaiting my therapist.

Aman spa

The treatments are split into three categories… Grounding, Purifying and Nourishing. There are four treatments available within each: Massage, Body Polish, Face Ritual and the Journey – which encompasses all three treatments. There are also specialist options for Pregnancy and Reiki – a gentle and specialist method of healing.

Aman spa

Each treatment begins with a foot ritual, a soothing soak and massage which gently begins your Aman experience. My treatment was nourishing and pampering – a revitalising back scrub exfoliated and refreshing my skin before a massage tailored to address my exact needs. I drifted in and out of sleep as the experienced therapist applied more pressure to the areas of tension, melting away my uncomfortable knots, combined with more gentle strokes to the less aggravated ligaments. The treatment finished with a short facial boost, smoothing the skin and adding essential moisture to my tired face! After 90 minutes in the treatment room I felt completely at ease. The final minutes were spent having the most blissful head massage. I didn’t want it to end…

Aman spa

The spa changing rooms are small but fully equipped with everything you need to get washed and ready for the rest of the day. I loved the fig & vanilla body wash and shampoo that left me feeling and smelling nice for my afternoon of meetings. Don’t forget to spritz some Aman purifying ocean mist on your face before leaving the comforting Aman cocoon!

Aman spa

The Aman Spa at The Connaught is the first Aman Spa to be built outside the renowned Aman resorts, a true one of a kind. Those looking for a short escape from the stresses of everyday London life will be so thankful to have discovered such a wonderful oasis, you will leave feeling transformed and truly relaxed.

I was a guest of the Aman Spa at The Connaught. More information and book a treatment here.

Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester

Alain Ducasse is a titan of the food world and his restaurants always provide unforgettable experiences. I can remember each and every time I have eaten his food, from a taste of superior hot chocolate at the Coal Drops Yard boutique to a memorable meal at Louis XV in Monaco for my first wedding anniversary.

When I heard that the three Michelin star restaurant at The Dorchester had undergone an extensive renovation I felt the need to check it out for myself.

Alain Ducasse

Firstly, I must mention the restaurant is currently only open for dinner, it is dark and atmospheric and consequently my shadowy photos do not do justice of the beautiful food I tasted.

“International design duo Jouin Manku originally designed the interiors for Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester in 2007; this year they have returned to update their vision for the restaurant.” The design is elegant, emphasising elements of nature and texture, without distracting the diners attention away from the food.

Alain Ducasse

Once we were seated and greeted (by several charming waiters), our tasting menu for the evening was decided, factoring in any dietary preferences. The new Head Sommelier Vincenzo Arnese popped over to say hello, an absolutely lovely man we came to know (and love) throughout our meal thanks to the regular wine pairings and interesting drink anecdotes.

Alain Ducasse

Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester offers a 7 course tasting menu (priced at £210 per person), this carefully curated menu offers a taste of Executive chef Jean-Philippe Blondet’s innovative dishes always incorporating seasonal produce.

Our meal started with several extra amuse bouche treats, fried ravioli bites and delectable adorned crackers, bread and butter. Everything was immaculately presented, and arranged at our table discreetly.

The menu for the evening featured a range of indulgent and luxurious ingredients – Lobster medallion, chicken quenelles, Périgord truffle and homemade semolina pasta was one of the most special dishes – buttery soft lobster paired with an assortment of complementing textures and tastes, adding flair and interest without detracting from the beautiful and subtle shellfish.

Alain Ducasse

The Farmhouse veal fillet, aubergine, oyster and buckwheat was one of my favourite courses. It is such a treat to have veal, as it’s still rarely on menus in England and is difficult to find in supermarkets. The pale pink meat was cooked to perfection, sitting alongside smokey aubergine and earthy buckwheat flavours, and finally topped with oyster and a wonderfully rich jus.

Amazingly, despite the French style of cooking, none of the food felt too heavy or rich, butter and cream is kept to a minimum, and lean cuts of meat are used. Vegetables are given a leading role and always stand out on the plate proudly rather than acting as a mere condiment or decoration.

Alain DucasseAlain Ducasse

We were lucky to try a few desserts between us, my Strawberries with Lemonade Sorbet and Olive Oil was a palate-cleansing delight with the freshest last season strawberries. In comparison my dad’s chocolate dessert felt more Autumnal, a surprisingly light mousse was accompanied by an intense chocolate water, an indication of Alain’s fascination and love of cocoa.

Alain Ducasse

Often I find tasting menus tiring and stressful (I can never resist the bread and then find myself struggling to the finish line)… but this experience at Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester was perfectly balanced, immaculately executed and wonderfully refined. From our first step inside to our parting petit fours, I couldn’t fault the team, and would highly recommend a meal here if you have something extra special to celebrate.

I was a guest of Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester. More information and book a table here.

Paco Tapas, Bristol

The Bristol food scene is moving fast with exciting new restaurants and bars opening every week. Paco Tapas is the younger sibling of acclaimed fine dining establishment Casamia (which sadly closed a little while ago)… and despite its relaxed atmosphere this convivial tapas eatery is one of only a few Michelin star recognised restaurants in Bristol.

Paco Tapas

The interiors at Paco Tapas are dark and moody with high tables with bar stools creating a laid back feel. We sat at one of the heated outdoor tables which offered a lovely view of the sunset over the water. A glass of fresh white Spanish wine and a smokey negroni piqued our appetite, ready for the feast ahead.

It is tricky to get the right amount of food when ordering from a tapas menu, but our informative and charming waiter helped us identify the key players from the menu, while ensuring our meal was nicely balanced. From the snack (Para Picar) section we picked the Tortilla Española, an iconic oozing egg dish at Paco Tapas and the pillowy Bread with Olive oil, perfect for mopping up the tortilla.

Paco Tapas

Each dish comes when it’s ready, ideal for gradual grazing. Don’t miss the Jamón Croquetas, indulgent golden nuggets filled with a meaty, cheesy bechamel sauce. Absolutely divine.

Paco Tapas

I could have ordered anything from the meat menu, but we took our waiter’s advice and opted for the Cornish shortrib and the Duroc Pork Ribs. The meat options regularly change dependant on what is available to the kitchen, with much of the meat coming from the brilliant Philip Warren Butchers in Cornwall. Pork Ribs were particularly tasty, falling away from the bone beautifully, and seasoned to perfection… I had to fight my toddler for the last bite.

Paco Tapas

Arguably my favourite dishes of the night were from the ‘vegetables’ section of the menu – I couldn’t resist the classic Patatas Bravas, but it was the Devilled Corn on the Cob and the Cauliflower & Manchego that blew me away. These dishes show that Paco Tapas is more than a classic tapas restaurant, offering inventive riffs on more obvious Spanish culinary ideas. The corn was coated in an addictive buttery spice mix and topped with salty cheese. The cauliflower was grilled and caramelised, sitting in a luxuriously smooth manchego cheese sauce. Rest assured vegetarians will not go hungry here.

Paco Tapas

Definitely leave room for dessert, Pedro Ximinez Flan is a must, the creamiest silky smooth set custard pudding, which we finished in less than a minute between us. The Chocolate mousse with toast and olive oil was also delicious, ideal for chocolate fans, but without too much richness (perfect at the end of a meal).

It’s easy to see why Paco Tapas is one of Bristol’s best loved restaurants. Vibrant Andalusian flavours paired with wonderful warm service, it’s impossible not to have a good time here.

More information and book a table at Paco Tapas here.

I was a guest of the restaurant.