Orée Boulangerie, Fulham

There are plenty of bakeries in London claiming to offer authentic Parisian patisseries, fluffy baguettes and flaky croissants, but few deliver. The new Orée Boulangerie in Fulham, however, exceeds all expectations. Last week I joined a group of fellow foodies for a morning of sampling. Pitching to a table of unforgiving French bloggers was not an easy task, but our expressions softened as the buttery soft pastries were delivered to the table each, smelling more delicious than the last.

The Orée bakery and café stands out immediately, a creamy shade of baby blue with golden cursive writing. Inside, the décor is just as delectable with white marble surfaces, sophisticated furniture and lots of natural light. There is plenty of space for guests to sit and relax with their breakfast. Founder Laurent d’Orey brought the concept to England, after setting up bakeries elsewhere in Europe, and hoped to win over Londoners with his irresistible French pastries – he is definitely succeeding.

The boulangerie prides itself on offering a huge range of gluten-free treats in addition to the standard baked items. Highlights from our breakfast included the ‘escargot’ – a swirled pastry filled with pistachio and white chocolate – and the beautiful egg breakfast dishes, which are accompanied with the bakery’s organic sourdough bread. Those brunch-addicts hoping for something more substantial will enjoy the ‘tartines’, essentially an open sandwich topped with delicious ingredients such as avocado, smoked salmon or ratatouille.

A week later and I’m still relishing my bag of Orée almond financiers, each bite is a reminder of the beautiful baked treats at this wonderful new breakfast hang out.

More information about Orée Boulangerie here.

Hotel Sofitel Legend Metropole, Hanoi

The Sofitel Metropole Legend plays a special role in Vietnam’s capital city. It has long been considered as the top accommodation in Hanoi, with celebrities, diplomats and royalty all staying in the luxurious rooms. Built in 1901 by two French investors, this magnificent colonial building has lived through over one hundred years of tumultuous Vietnamese history. During the two wars Metropole Legend played a vital role, and in just 2011 a remarkable bomb shelter was discovered in the grounds. Now designated a UNESCO site it is an insight into the country’s past, and the hotel offers informative tours of this underground bunker.

The historic hotel was restored and refreshed in 1992 and in 1994 work commenced on the opulent 135-room Opera Wing, a modern extension. The grand Metropole building commands attention from the street and inside it is equally impressive. Wherever possible original features have been kept beautifully in tact including the wooden flooring and antique furniture. The new wing is quite different, a slick addition for guests who prefer a more up-to-date style of accommodation.

I was staying in the charming Metropole wing that has 106 rooms including 3 legendary suites (named after three renowned guests, including Charlie Chaplin who came to stay for his honeymoon). Room 128 was a perfect example of old-fashioned luxury, with Sofitel modern touches. After months spent touring contemporary hotels this bedroom was a welcome dose of character. Particularly memorable details in the room included the luxurious Vietnamese silk, ceramic lamps and rice-paper wall lanterns, all adding a touch of exotic orientalism. Modern touches ensure guests are extremely comfortable, a soft indulgent bed, flatscreen tv and air conditioning. The bathroom was equally grand, with separate shower and bath, framed vintage mirrors and Hermes toiletries from Paris, another reminder of the Metropole’s French heritage.

There are several dining outlets to choose from, including upmarket Vietnamese cuisine at Spices Garden and fine French food at Le Beaulieu. For an afternoon treat head to Le Club Bar for the famous chocolate buffet, all made in-house. The Bamboo bar, a recent addition in the central garden, is a calm outdoor option overlooking the pool, or alternatively the Terrace is popular with locals for coffees and snacks.

Breakfast is served in both restaurants, a feast of continental and traditional Asian dishes are available at the buffet or made to order. Enjoy the tasty homemade pastries or ask the chef to whip you up some French toast or omelette.

While staying at the Metropole make sure you join a daily Path of History tour to learn about the preserved bomb shelter in the hotel grounds. The hotel’s knowledgeable historian will educate you with fascinating facts and personal stories about the American war.

Steeped in history, this hotel truly deserves its legendary status. Whether you stay in one of the enchanting rooms or not, be sure to include a visit to this significant building in your Hanoi itinerary.

More information and book a stay at Metropole Legend here.

Caprice, Four Seasons, Hong Kong

The best restaurants in Hong Kong are located inside luxury hotels and the Four Seasons has two of the finest in town. I was lucky to eat at both during my trip; truly different but equally memorable dining experiences.

Caprice was opened by a team from the prestigious Le Cinq in Paris and quickly received two stars from the Michelin guide. The outstanding service and immaculate French cooking soon earnt head chef Vincent Thierry a third star – the ultimate accolade. When current chef Fabrice Vulin took over in 2013 the restaurant went down to two once again, but remains known as one of Hong Kong’s most celebrated eateries, and for good reason.

The grand dining room features opulent chandeliers and beautifully crisp white dressed tables. The open plan kitchen adds some drama to the room; I was particularly impressed to see all the chefs wearing tall white hats as they worked. We sat at a lovely table overlooking the harbour, and with floor to ceiling windows the room was wonderfully light even on a cloudy winter’s day.

Champagne was the perfect start to our French feast. We were served a variety that had more of a savoury taste as to complement our opening dishes best. Jerusalem artichoke veloute with beef tongue mille-feuille was a mouthful of heaven – creamy and subtle soup with a hint of meat, just to add a little salty seasoning.

Lunch guests can opt for the reasonable ‘set menu’ that offers two courses for £40 or three for £45. Despite the low price point there is still plenty of choice and variety, but to try the showstopper dishes it is best to pick from the à la carte. Everything sounded divine, with a noticeable inclusion of seasonal delicacies, such as Périgord black truffles.

Potato Gnocchi with beef and truffle consommé and colonnata pork toast was my ideal starter, light yet rich in flavour. The crystal clear consommé was poured over the delectable soft gnocchi and topped with shaved truffle. Poached duck foie gras was a great choice in the unusually chilling weather; a comforting and luxurious piece of velvety foie gras with Japanese inspired Daikon radish, black truffle and duck consommé.

For main course I ordered the Caprice signature dish, Caramelised Pigeon Breast with Moroccan spices and couscous style vegetables. It was the tenderest pigeon I have ever tasted, with a thin crisp skin, and seasoned beautifully with an array of fragrant spices. Often I find pigeon chewy but this meat melted in the mouth. Vegetables were served on the side, a pretty little accompaniment, dressed in an aromatic herbaceous jus. For seafood lovers the Royale Langoustine à la Plancha was a regal dish. Plump peach-coloured langoustine pieces sat amongst a pool of vibrant green watercress coulis and are sprinkled with Kristal caviar… it was almost too handsome to eat.

Struggling to pick just two desserts from the list of tempting recipes the waiter surprised us with a third. An exciting prospect, but my stomach groaned in protest at even more food. Each was as flawless as the next, but we both favoured the Passion Fruit and Victoria Pineapple soufflé with exotic sorbet, a tropical warm pudding with a light springy texture. Crispy Feuillantine with creamy Macae chocolate, Tanariva and Guanaja Chantilly was the showstopper in terms of presentation. Wonderfully assembled, hovering above the plate on thin chocolate rings and decorated with frozen drips of chocolate; it was a true work of art. A little less classic was the Grand Cru Chocolate Sphere with Agen’s dried plum marmalade and black truffle. This innovative dessert was too decadent for me, but brilliant nonetheless. A dense mousse with a strong truffle perfume, encased in a shiny chocolate layer and covered with gold leaf and truffle ornaments.

After travelling for four months and adapting to local food and specialties, I relished the French flavours and expertise at Caprice. This remarkable restaurant was a highlight of my time in Hong Kong and the best example of French cooking I have tasted outside of the country itself.

More information and book a table at Caprice here.