Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Miami, Florida - Thompson Miami Beach Hotel




Salad by the pool
I just got back from a long weekend in Miami for the three day wedding extravaganza of my dear friend from London. People flew in from all corners of the world, and our combined jet lag notwithstanding, we all managed to party into the wee hours of the night as we celebrated this great couple over the course of 72 hours. Most of the wedding guests stayed at the Thompson Miami Beach Hotel, which served as our home base for the weekend.


The hotel is located right on the water, and gives you access to their private beach with lounge chairs reserved for hotel guests only. If you don't want to fry in the Florida sun, be warned that umbrellas cost $20 extra, even if you are staying at the hotel.

The Thompson is a block from the Soho Beach House and about two blocks from the famous Fontainebleau Hotel, so fairly high up from Ocean Drive and Lincoln Road, but certainly still close enough to get to all of the action.



My friend and I shared a deluxe double queen room with city view on the tenth floor, decorated by famous interior designer Martin Brudnizki. 


Breakfast in the morning was served al fresco on the terrace of the Seagrape Restaurant: 


We had cocktails one evening at the bar of the Seagrape as well, featured below:


It's certainly not a bad place to spend a weekend, especially when it is still freezing and grey in London and much of the States.

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Monday, January 26, 2015

London, England - Kurobuta Marble Arch





This weekend I revisited one of my favorites here in London: Kurobuta. The restaurant describes itself as a rock and roll 'izakaya' or traditional Japanese style pub, and was founded by Scott Hallsworth (the Aussie ex head chef of Nobu London). Every dish on the menu is outstanding and served tapas style, so they are meant to be shared. There is a killer cocktail menu to match. Delicious!

Sweet Potato and Soba-Ko Fries with Sauces
Yellowtail Sashimi with Kizami Wasabi Salsa and Yuzu-Soy
Beef Fillet Tataki with Onion Ponzu and Garlic Crisps

BBQ Pork Belly in Steamed Buns with Spicy Peanut Soy

Wagyu Beef Sliders; Steamed Bun, Crunchy Onions,
Pickled Cucumber and Umami Mayo


Free Range Chicken Kushi-Yaki with Japanese BBQ Sauce
In my eating frenzy I forgot to photograph a few dishes, but I got back on track come dessert time: a triumphant assembly of pistachio and almond cake on a bed of pistachio paste, with blackcurrant sorbet, candied hazelnuts and dollops of rich, dark chocolate mousse in between the cake layers:




There is also a Kings Road location in Chelsea. Reservations are essential.  Pin It

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Cheltenham, England - Ellenborough Park and Spa








I recently spent a restful long weekend in the Cotswolds at the Ellenborough Park Hotel and Spa in Cheltenham. Once you enter their gates onto what was formerly the Cheltenham Racecourse grounds (90 acres protected by the National Trust), you are met by the impressive facade of this magnificent English country estate.




The hotel encourages you to borrow a pair of boots from their boot room (Hunter wellies or Dubarry hiking boots, your choice!) and head on out to explore the countryside.







A look at the reception hall and surrounding rooms:






Guests can enjoy afternoon tea in the Great Hall, which is an impressive room with soaring ceilings, stone and wood work, stained glass windows, huge chandeliers and a roaring fireplace:












The spa on the property has seven treatment rooms (make sure to book in advance), a sauna, jacuzzi and a juice bar. I indulged in an absolutely wonderful hour-long deep tissue massage, after which point, I stayed in my bathrobe in their relaxation room, drinking cucumber water and reading magazines. It was an absolutely blissful way to spend an afternoon and I highly recommend taking advantage of the spa during your stay.

Entrance to the Spa
The sun came out for a brief minute and the colors of the grass and foliage were just stunning:



The hotel has 62 rooms, including four suites (named after famous racehorses), all done up by well known interior designer Nina Campbell. We stayed in one of their luxury rooms, located to the left of the main building, which was decorated in a traditional English style, complete with four-poster bed and a massive marble bathroom filled with Noble Isle bath products and fluffy white bathrobes. 




On Saturday night we dined in the hotel's Beaufort Dining Room (the fancier of the two restaurants at Ellenborough Park). The evening began by the fireplace in the Great Hall with its stained glass windows and wood paneled walls, where we had some pink prosecco and a few amuse bouche (their wine list is very impressive). The waiter took our dinner order while we enjoyed our aperitivo, after which point we were ushered into the main dining room.



The fine china was commissioned especially for the hotel and the pattern is meant to reflect the original features of the house:



Here's a look at what we ate:
Amuse bouche of artichoke mousse
Oak Smoked Breast of Grouse and Slow Roasted Leg with Crisp Chestnuts
and Pickled Winter Vegetables with Parsley Root Puree
One Hour - 62 Degree Cooked Spiced Fillet of Pork with Apple, Sage and Vegetable Fritter,
Crackling with a Sage and Onion Crumb, and Chive Potato Puree with Quince Jus

Ballontine of Partridge Breast with Slow Roasted Partridge Pie, Wild Mushrooms,
Glazed Parsnips and Artichokes with Roast Partridge Jus

Desserts followed:

Valrhona Biskelia Chocolate Delice, Pistachio Sponge,
Hazelnut Ice Cream and Winter Chocolate Leaves
Petit Fours
And for the piece de resistance: a spiced apple hazelnut and clotted cream baked Alaska with warm mandarine Napoleon brandy syrup flambeed for you right at your table.


While we thoroughly enjoyed the food and the service was very attentive, I should mention that the dining room was completely booked that evening, which resulted in a very long wait time for our main courses. I am assured that this does not usually happen, so I would highly recommend dining here if you are staying at the property, as the food is delicious.

Our long weekend at Ellenborough Park was just what we had hoped for: relaxing and indulgent. You can simply arrive and never leave the property, what with two restaurants, a bar, an afternoon tea room, the spa, pool, and beautiful grounds. You can also just as easily use it as a jumping off point to explore the nearby villages and quaint English pubs in the Cotswolds (here are two of my favorites).

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