Colombe d’Or, Saint-Paul de Vence

The Colombe d’Or is a legendary hotel nestled in the fortified hill town of Saint-Paul de Vence. In the cobbled streets surrounding the house dawdling tourists examine the quaint alleys and admire the magnificent views. Behind the old walls of the Colombe d’Or however the atmosphere is exclusive and elegant.

Always family run the Colombe d’Or first opened as a café in 1920 and added rooms soon after. Run by the artistic Roux family for nearly 100 years now, there is a very personal and friendly feel to the place, whether you are a regular guest or a visiting diner. Famous for its exquisite private collection of art works the indoor dining room is an impressive museum of masters, including works by Picasso, Cezanne, Matisse, Miro and Chagall.

In the balmy summer months only visitors with connections get a table for lunch here. The menu is typically Provencal, simple classic dishes made with the freshest seasonal ingredients. The timings are leisurely as the staff stroll around the terrace topping up glasses of local rose while guests chat about their summer holidays.

We enjoyed an al fresco lunch at the Colombe d’Or in early September, when the Riviera coast begins to calm down as tourists return home. Service was slow but it seemed to suit the environment, and encourages guests to sit back and relax in the romantic setting. The ornate menu features a range of dishes, it looks like it hasn’t changed much in decades. We feasted on a huge array of French delicacies for the Les Hors d’Oeuvre Colombe d’Or including thick cut pepper salami, roasted vegetables and crusty bread. For main course we each ate a whole roast poussin with sausages and creamy potato dauphinoise. It was rich and too heavy for me to finish, but the baby chicken (which had been carved at the table) was tender and had a wonderfully subtle flavour. For dessert we sampled the traditional Tarte de la Mere Roux, a soft and sweet apple tart, which had been cooked to perfection… though I felt it needed a dollop of cream to cut through the fruity acidity.

After our lunch we spent some time admiring the picturesque house and magnificent art collection. Despite its reputation and prestige the Colombe d’Or remains a quiet and intimate place to spend time whether you are staying in one of the rooms or just visiting for lunch.

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Whaam Banh Mi, Soho

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When Brits return home from Asia, they rave about the street food they tried on their travels… so it seems logical that London’s restaurant scene is working hard to recreate some of the favourite fast food enjoyed so much abroad.

As the name suggests, Whaam Bahn Mi celebrates the Vietnamese sandwiches (‘banh mi’) enjoyed on the streets of Ho Chi Minh. Tucked away behind Piccadilly Circus, this cheerful takeaway café provides the workers of Soho with an exotic lunch offering.

Operating only as a takeaway, this characterful little venue only has a few menu choices. There are five banh mi on offer which can be accompanied by the side salads or fresh summer spring rolls. Founder Tom Barlow spent time in Vietnam researching and trying the authentic banh mi snacks so he could offer the real deal in London.

The fluffy baguettes are filled with the slow-cooked filling of your choice and loaded with pate, pickled shredded carrot and mooli radish, cucumber, coriander, crispy shallots and red chilli. It is a wonderful assortment of flavours and textures. We chose to try the Luc Lac beef brisket and the BBQ shredded pork, though chicken, fishcakes and tofu are also available. Both meats were delicious – tender and rich in flavour thanks to the slow cooking technique. The extras were tasty too, though I found the chicken liver pate a little overpowering. These sandwiches need to be eaten quick – we found after five minutes that the bread became sloppy and was increasingly difficult to eat.

Whaam Banh Mi offers a friendly service and a lovely cultural lunch option for the arty Soho crowd. I’m visiting Vietnam later this year and can’t wait to try a banh mi in its original context.

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Yearlstone Vineyard, Devon

I am used to wandering round glorious sun-drenched vineyards in France but I didn’t know what to expect when I was told we were visiting a vineyard in Devon. We turned off the main road onto a steep lane and reached a cabin-like building surrounded by lush greenery, blissfully isolated and tranquil.

Yearlstone Vineyard was started in 1976 by pioneering English viticulturist Gillian Pearkes. Gillian planted a variety of vines, collected on her worldwide travels and experimented with vine growing techniques for the English climate. In 1993, Roger and Juliet White bought the vineyard and began building on the site. Using traditional materials they built a house, a shop and office, the equipment and indoor space to make the wine completely onsite and most recently a café and outdoor terrace.

Sitting on the shaded terrace overlooking the endless vines, I couldn’t imagine a more idyllic setting in the British countryside. I felt ignorant for assuming UK’s vineyards were inferior to those in France and elsewhere. As it turns out: “Yearlstone vineyard is located on a steep southerly slope on a hillside above the river Exe at the picturesque village of Bickleigh… 200 feet above sea level and has natural protection from the west, north and east. The soil is a silty clay loam over fragmented Devon red sandstone with excellent drainage and is perfect for vines – red soils are the most sought after for vineyards all around the world. In all, Yearlstone’s position is perfect for growing vines and ripening grapes.”

The Deli Shack cafe at Yearlstone offers wholesome and delicious sharing platters and meals, perfect for enjoying alongside a glass of their wine; we tasted a variety: a soft and floral dry white, a light fruity red and a delicate dry rose which we opted for. To eat, we shared a huge platter of artisan meat and cheese, olives, pickled onions and crusty bread. For main course we tried most of the menu: salad with goat’s cheese, creamy smoked salmon linguine, Spanish style chicken with tomato, peppers and beans, and Taleggio and asparagus tart. The dishes were simple and healthy with a focus on fresh seasonal ingredients.

As well as the vineyard, there is a mature orchard at Yearlstone with many apple trees, from which cider is made. If you are visiting Devon, Yearlstone Vineyard definitely deserves a place on your itinerary. Sitting amongst the beautiful vineyards sipping Yearlstone’s wonderful wine made me feel proud to be British.

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Thoroughly Modern Milly travelled with First Great Western trains.

Advance single fares from London Paddington to Tiverton Parkway are available from £12.50 each way. For the best value tickets and fares buy before you board at or 08457 000125.