Things to do in Dubai

 

Dubai is an ultra luxurious holiday destination with its opulent hotels, fine dining restaurants and high end shopping, beaches, a marina, creek,as well as state of the art entertainment venues and daring skyscrapers. It is also home to the largest shopping mall in the world and the highest building in the world.

Perfect for a holiday either as a final destination or a stop over, Dubai also benefits from year round sunshine. It is extremely safe and you do have to respect the culture and dress appropriately.

I have been to Dubai a few times and so this post is a combination of suggestions from my visits, of my favourite things to do.

Dubai Marina

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You can take a 7km long walk alongside the Dubai marina which has a whole host of restaurants, entertainment complexes and views of the various skysrapers and hotels. You can also take a dhow ride.

We enjoyed a lovely meal at one of the eateries whilst people and yacht watching.

The Burj Khalifa

 

You can take an ultra fast elevator to see Dubai from the tallest building in the world. Perfect for day or evening, the views are incredible. It is advisable to book your tickets in advance though, as this is a very popular activity.

From the 124th floor you can get a 360 degree view of Dubai, which is just breathtaking.

The higher floors are also fabulous and you have photo opportunities available too. If you happen to be there around 6pm you can also watch the Dubai Fountain show from up above, or alternatively head down for 6pm.

Desert Safari

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Dune bashing in a landcruiser – perfect for adrenalin seekers, as a 4×4 car takes you on a rollercoaster journey through the desert sand dunes. It is a must do and the perfect adventure before a lovely dinner in a Bedouin style camp, where you can watch belly dancers whilst you dine.

There are various types of packages available and options of types of cars depending on your budget, so there is bound to be something that appeals to everyone.

You can even go for camel rides in the desert or jump around in the sand like I did. Trust me it was lots of fun!

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Dubai Mall

Go shopping in the world’s largest shopping mall which has some of the biggest luxury and designer brands all under one roof. It also houses an aquarium, ice rink amongst a host of fabulous restaurants and coffee shops. We enjoyed a lovely coffee and cake break at the Armani cafe, before going up the Burj Khalifa, whose entrance is from this mall.

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Gold Souk – Deira

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All that glitters is gold – quite literally! You can find so much in this souk (market) but make sure you negotiate the prices. The government keeps an eye on the quality of the goods so you are safe in the knowledge that it is genuine.

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Burj Al Arab

The mythical ‘seven star’ hotel is definitely one of the most opulent I have seen! To gain access inside the hotel you have to have a booking at one of the restaurants or bars. However, you can also marvel at the architecture from various vantage points.

Pictured below was the view from dinner at Jumeirah Beach Hotel, part of the same group of hotels. I love seeing it at night as it changes colour and occasionally has a brief animation show.

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The view below was from Madinat Jumeirah, where we enjoyed a lovely lunch.

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Other ideas:

  • If you have enough time, a day trip to Abu Dhabi, which is only a couple of hours drive, is a must to see Ferrari world, Yas Island and the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque.
  • A day spent at Atlantis at the Palm, which has a water park, swimming with dolphins experience, restaurants, bars and shops.
  • A helicopter ride over Dubai for an aerial view.
  • Skiing at Ski Dubai!Yes really
  • Fine dining at one of the many amazing restaurants in Dubai.

Have you been to Dubai? What was your highlight?

Vineet Bhatia London

For my birthday dinner this year, as a special treat, we visited Vineet Bhatia London, named after the owner, the well loved chef Vineet Bhatia. As soon as I had read it was opening and I had seen some sneak previews, I knew this was where I wanted to celebrate.

Located in Rasoi’s previous home, in a townhouse on Kings Road, Chelsea, you can enjoy a tasting menu comprising of modern Indian dishes. The menu has approximately 16 dishes, which are a mixture of amuse bouches, small and larger plates, and desserts. The food is low in carbs and chef Vineet’s aim is to provide a sensory experience through his different dishes, which he truly succeeded in doing.

As we arrived, we rang the doorbell, and we were welcomed as if we had arrived at someone’s house for a dinner party. It was so lovely.

Unfortunately on the evening that we dined, chef Vineet was travelling, but that didn’t stop him surprising us with some bubbles to start with, which was very happily received.

We both opted for the non-vegetarian tasting menus, and decided to stick to the champagne rather than going for the wine flight.

First to arrive was Aloo Chat, presented in a spherical shape with a pipette filled with raita (yoghurt) attached to the hollowed out centre. A gentle squeeze of the pipette injected the Aloo Chat with the yoghurt mixture and we ate the whole thing in one go, appreciating the explosion of flavours in our mouths.

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Then arrived a gorgeous platter which had one of Amit’s favourite dishes, but in a modern twist, Pau Bhaji. In this instance, the masala was baked into the dough and served with bhaji butter on the side. This was just magical and so delicious. While I am typing this up I am craving it!

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Also on the platter was India’s beloved Khari biscuit topped with aubergine jaggery, called Khari biscuit Aubergine Kut.

Served in a metal plate and on a beautiful spoon was Idli Sambhar with crab chutney. This was so dreamy and left such lovely flavours on my palette.

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A theatrical Sago papad soon arrived with a smokey aura. Topped with delicious tuna tartare and a green apple salsa, this was sensational. This would have been what would have been normal papad in an Indian meal, and I loved this alternative as it was really light, tangy and perfect in terms of portion considering we were having so many dishes.

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In an extremely gorgeous dish,  arrived amazing Pan seared Ghee scallops with garlic, chilli, pearl cous cous and edamame. This was one of the highlights of the meal and totally divine.

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From the next section in the tasting menu we were served some Smoked Salmon with a dusting of pea powder and coriander ketchup. I had the smoked Paneer as I am not a Salmon fan, and it was just incredible. They were so flexible in terms of swapping dishes which was fantastic. The smoky aroma was intoxicating and invoked nostalgia of summer barbeques but with an upmarket twist.

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Now the Mushroom Momo with makhani tomato ice cream and garlic raita was just superb. The broken plate is my friend Maham’s work – isn’t it just stunning? The momo, which is like a dumpling, was gorgeous and the tomato ice cream was a revelation. Garlic raita was always going to be a winner for me as I am obsessed with garlic.

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Lobster is another weakness of mine and this Grilled lobster with gram flour cake (what we call Dhokla), squid ink foam and baby melons was heavenly.

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With two main dishes to go before dessert, we were surprisingly okay after all these dishes. In a normal Indian restaurant if we had eaten this much we would not be able to move! I love the balance of ingredients that Vineet has so skillfully chosen and used and this experience was already at this point top of my list for 2016!

We had Malai chicken which was served with braised spinach, sundried tomato powder on white makhni sauce.  Garnishing the plate was a Tomato crisp, Boraj leaf and black olives. This was really delightful.

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The final of the savoury dishes was the Kapi Lamb Chops served with ghatia. Kapi, which is coffee, is something I never imagined would go with lamb but boy did it go well! It was such a treat.

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We were by now very excited about dessert and to start with we had a bowl of Ras gulia called Coconut Calm, with coconut crisp, coconut jelly and coconut cream. It was a lovely light rendition of the dish and one you could eat tub fulls of while curled up on the couch with your favoutite TV show.

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The highlight for me, out of the desserts, in terms of taste and presentation, was the Chocmosa  which was served alongside pani puri filled with cheese which was sat on top of a shot glass filled with green pistachio milk. Mamma mia was this amazing!

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The Salted caramel kulfi topped with toasted quinoa served on a banana leaf and cooled on a himalayan salt block was just as fabulous!

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The dessert didn’t end here though. Next we had a selection of Petit fours which included Rose ginger jubjub, Chai Ganache (which was my favourite), Chocolate Fennel, Sesame crips, Chilli chocolate and Almond Tuille. We were well and truly spoilt with the assortment.

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The surprise didn’t end there though and out came a Birthday mocha mousse cake which was amazing. I truly felt like a princess having dined on a fantastic banquet in Vineet Bhatia London and I really did have the best meal I have had in a long time.

 

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As far as tasting menus go, I am not sure what could possibly top this! However, I was assured that the menu is going to change frequently which is a great excuse to go back! The vegetarian menu is just as incredible. I can totally see a Michelin star being awarded super soon.

If you have seen me you are probably wondering how I managed to eat so much. I can assure you it is so well though out that is is an enjoyable experience rather than one which leaves you passed out on the couch in a food coma.

The entire experience is just out of this world, from the venue, the service and the fantastic food. At £105 per person it is the type of meal you would choose for a special occasion and it is one I can’t recommend enough! If I had to rate it I would give it 11/10.

The Sheraton Mexico City Maria Isabel Hotel

The Sheraton Maria Isabel, also known as Sheraton Mexico City, is centrally located on Paseo de la Reforma, overlooking the famous Angel of Independence. The drive to the hotel was only 30 minutes from Mexico City International Airport. The hotel was originally built in 1962 by the Bolivian tycoon Antenor Patiño.

I was staying at the hotel as part of a press trip to attend the Latin America 50 Best Restaurant Awards, with a group of bloggers and journalists.

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The hotel has 755 rooms and suites, and is close to the Reforma 22 shopping mall, as well as Zona Rosa, where you can find many Mexican eateries and shops. It is such a convenient location and the subway station is really close by too. It is based in the financial district and close to major banks and offices.
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My room was on the SPG floor and was a club room. It had that wonderful Sheraton  Sweet Sleeper™ Bed, which is one of the cosiest beds I have ever slept in. What I love about staying at Sheraton hotels is that you get the same experience no matter where you are in the world so as soon as your head hits the pillow it feels like you are in the comfort of your own home.
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The room itself was large with a lovely desk, which I made my temporary office, as well as a nice spacious bathroom, with a lovely tub, which was very well used daily after long days of excursions. There was also a dressing table area, with excellent lighting, and a hairdryer, ironing board as well as massive cupboard space, in case you wanted to unpack your belongings.
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There were ample plugs dotted around the room, as well as a very handy full length mirror, which made getting ready that much more convenient.
The hotel had various restaurants and bars, including the Jorongo bar, where you could listen to live Mariachi music, an Italian restaurant called Restaurant Amici, a Japanese restaurant and a deli.

There is also a Sheraton Club Lounge for club level guests and SPG Platinum members where you can enjoy complimentary breakfast, afternoon hors d’oeuvres and a variety of beverage options all with a lovely view from the 18th floor.

As it is a business hotel, it has ample amenities for meetings and conferences. There were several conferences going on whilst we were staying there.

The hotel has a swimming pool and fitness amenities as well, in case you fancy keeping fit whilst staying in Mexico City.
The room service choices are excellent and I treated myself to pancakes one morning, with a nice steaming hot cup of coffee, and some freshly squeezed orange juice.
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On my last day I also ordered in Pizza, as I was working hard from my room, catching up on emails and blog posts and it was so delicious! Room service is available 24/7 and is really quick.
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Needless to say I couldn’t resist the comfort of the bed and ended up working from it eventually!
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If you are planning on  visiting Mexico City, this hotel is just perfect in terms of location, the rooms, amenities and service. It is also in a safe neighbourhood, and at no point did I feel concerned about my safety.
My room was complimentary as I was staying at the hotel as part of a press trip, however, rates start from USD 98 a night.
To read more about my time in Mexico City, click here.

Birthday breakfast and cocktails at Rosewood London

 

Birthdays are a fantastic excuse to indulge all day (as if I need any excuse)! I started my birthday with a delicious breakfast at Rosewood London, in their fabulous Mirror room, with some of my favourite bloggers, Aftab and Angie.

We sipped on some delicious coffees, whilst we peered through the menu, trying to decide what to have for breakfast. My coffee was delicious with beautiful coffee art. There had been a slight glitch to start with whereby mine and Aftab’s coffee’s had been mixed up, but that was swiftly sorted.

Now truffle is my weakness at the moment. I love it on pasta, chips, cheese on toast…you name it. When I saw that they had truffled baked eggs for breakfast as a choice, I was won over.

It was just perfect. The best baked eggs I have had. Served in an earthy pan and just oozing with deliciousness. I want to go back for this so if anyone wants to join me let me know!


Aftab opted for the Acai bowl, which is quite rare to find on breakfast menus, and he absolutely loved it. It was probably a wise start to the day as we were set for major indulging (cocktails) for the rest of the day! The Acai bowl had blueberries, bananas, strawberries, raspberries, granola, goji berries and bee pollen.


Angie chose classic porridge with fruits on the side. She too was off for lunch later that day and the weather was the perfect setting for a comforting bowl of porridge.


Over breakfast Angie told us all about her recent trip to Kenya and Zanzibar, a topic close to my heart since I was born and brought up in Kenya. She went on safari in both the Masai Mara and Samburu, as well as stayed at the iconic Giraffe Manor. You have to go read all about all her experiences on her blog, SilverSpoon London.

The Giraffe Manor is one of the most unique hotels in the world, whereby you have endangered resident Giraffes wandering around, peeking their heads through the massie windows whilst you have breakfast, or wanting to be petted or kissed whilst you have afternoon tea. I had afternoon tea there last December, when I was last in Kenya and you can read about it here and you can read about Angie’s experience here.

When we finished breakfast, the heavens had opened and rather than braving the rain, Aftab and I took refuge in the gorgeous Scarfes bar.

I obviously had a Mojito, which was made extremely well. Aftab had wanted a pornstar martini, but they didn’t have them at this bar. Instead he went for one recommended by the bartender, who assured him it was just as nice as a pornstar martini, and it was!

It was the perfect way to start my birthday off and I am so grateful to have such lovely blogger friends to have spent it with.

Things that surprised me and which I loved about Mexico City – You have to #Liveittobelieveit

When I was invited on a Press trip to Mexico City I was intrigued and also very excited about what it would be like. I had visited Cancun and its beautiful beaches before, which was very different to the capital city.

Everyone I spoke to prior to leaving for the trip shared their concerns about safety, crime and corruption and warned me to reconsider or if I was still going ahead, to be careful not to be kidnapped or to not get myself embroiled in a drug case.

Therefore I wanted to share my personal experience of Mexico City with you in the hope that I can clear up any pre-conceptions of it that there may be.

I did travel to Mexico City by myself, which was a major thing for me, especially as my knowledge of Spanish extends to Hola and Gracias (thank you Geri for being the best translator) and given the chance, I would go back in a heartbeat. My opinion is that the media makes it seem worse than it actually is.

The Stereotype of Mexico City vs Reality

When I arrived in Mexico City, the first thing that struck me was how lovely the people were, how clean and modern the city was and how it was just like any other city in the world. It is massive and is the one of the biggest cities in the world as well as the biggest in Latin America.


Just like any other city, as long as you stay sensible and in the safe areas, and in groups, you will be absolutely fine. At no point during my stay did I feel scared or unsafe! In fact I wished I had more time to explore as it was such a massive city with so much to see and do.

A city made for Instagram

In Mexico, you are allowed to paint your house any colour you want so it was a very colourful and bright city! I loved how all the different neighbourhoods were just made for Instagram, and enjoyed the pop of colour and vibrancy everywhere.

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I certainly enjoyed snapping away and observing all the different house types in their different shades.

So much Culture

Mexico City has the most museums in the world with more being added. We visited the Tequila museum, as well as the Museo de Arte Popular, which was my favourite.

At the Tequila Museum, we had a tequila tasting, as well as learned all about the process to make Tequila, and the upcoming Mescal, as well as enjoyed a wonderful Mexican meal on our last evening. I have seen Tequila bottles with a worm inside, so imagine my shock at seeing a snake! Safe to say I was not brave enough to try this.

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At the Museo de Arte Popular, we looked at colourful artefacts, art, designs and it offered an alternative way of learning about Mexico during the different times.

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There are also art galleries, theatres and concert halls dotted across the city.

We watched a Folklore ballet show at Palacio de Bellas Artes (Bellas Artes Palace), which I highly recommend. We were captivated in the three hours of entertainment with all the different beautiful folk songs and dances, the colourful costumes and the mariachi music.

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Housed in the same building are many famous murals and paintings too, so a good place to visit for some culture and especially to see the art as it was just amazing.

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Ancient ruins – The Pyramids of the Sun and Moon

I love that there is so much history in Mexico, and last time I visited Cancun, I was fascinated by the Mayan ruins.

This time I was fortunate enough to visit the Pyramids of the Sun and Moon at the ancient pre-Columbian city of Teotihuacán, which was only an hour outside the city and well worth the visit.

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I mean, how incredible is it to say you have climbed the third biggest pyramid in the world!

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Even though climbing the pyramids highlighted how majorly unfit I was, when looking down from the taller of the two, having climbed 234 steps up the Pyramid of the Sun, all I can say was it was just epic. I did freak out when the guide said we still had to climb the Pyramid of the Moon but I was a happy trooper and tried my best!

It is so worth doing especially for the views as you get an amazing 360 degree view of the site and all the Mesoamerican pyramids. It is just breathtaking and it makes you ponder and marvel at the hindsight and intelligence of the early settlers in Mexico!

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Calm within the Chaos at Xochimilco

Mexico City, with its hustle and bustle is a pretty chaotic city. It was so surreal to find an oasis of calm at the ‘Venice of Mexico City’, known as Xochimilco.

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You can hire a Trajinera and go along the canals, whilst eating delicious food, and taking in the beautiful surroundings.

I have dedicated a full blog post to Xochimilco, which you can read here.

The Food Scene

The food scene in Mexico is so special that UNESCO even recognized this in 2010 and named Mexican Cuisine a “World Heritage.” I feel so fortunate to have tried Mexican Cuisine during my press trip to Mexico City and it opened up my eyes about how different it was to the stereotypical Tex Mex vision of it.

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The food was always beautifully presented, cooked with the freshest of ingredients and I definitely fell in love with it.

We were lucky to try several restaurants which are featured on the Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants list, which you can read about here.

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I was also happy to have had a go at learning how to make Tamales myself at Casa Jacaranda, after a wonderful food tour at a local market – an experience I highly recommend and you can read about here.

Edible Insects

Yes. A subtitle I never imagined I would have in a blog post but hey! Life is short and you got to try everything once. Thanks to Geri, I was brave enough to try two types of insects at two restaurants on the Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants list. I know insects are probably not a priority ingredient when flicking through a restaurant menu, but in pre-Hispanic times, they were considered a valuable source of protein and still feature highly on many menus today.

Grasshoppers – Chapulines

At Azul Historico, Chef Ricardo Muñoz Zurita’s (who is considered as one of the pioneers of Mexican cuisine) third restaurant and one of the first high end restaurants that opened at the Centro Historico district, we tried Guacamole topped with Chapulines.

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If no one pointed out that they were Grasshoppers I wouldn’t have even known as they added a nice umami flavour to the dish. They tasted perfectly edible and I would eat this again!

Ant Larvae – Escamoles

At Quintonil, which was my absolute favourite of all the restaurants we dined at in Mexico City, I tried Ant Larvae, known as Escamoles. The restaurant itself is a must visit and the chef, Jorge Vallejo and his wife Alejandra Flores, source lots of the ingredients from their garden.

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Chef Vallejo cooks the Escamoles in garlic and butter, and serves it alongside charred, whipped avocad0. This is one of the restaurant’s most popular dishes and after plucking the courage to try it, I can say it was delicious and not slimy, creepy or weird at all! The larvae is so small and not easily identifiable in the dish which is a really good thing!

I really hope that more people visit Mexico City, as it is a truly incredible city and you have to #Liveittobelieveit

My trip to Mexico City was complimentary but all views and photos are my own.

 

The Club Damascus Sandwich at Langham Hotel #CookForSyria 

Throughout November, there is a great fundraising initiative called #CookForSyria,  curated by Instagram sensation Clerkenwell Boy and SUITCASE Magazine to raise money to aid the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Syria. Several chefs and restaurants are contributing by adding Syrian inspired dishes to their menus and donating money from each dish sold to this great cause.

The Langham hotel is taking part in this initiative and has added a ‘Club Damascus’ sandwich to their menu, available at the Palm Court for lunch or dinner, throughout November. £2 from each sandwich will be donated towards UNICEF’s Syria’s Relief Fund.

The Dynamic Duo, that is Aftab from Fresh and Fearless and myself, tried the Club Damascus Sandwich, whilst catching up.

The sandwich is inspired by popular cooking ingredients in Syria and is a delicious combination of melt in your mouth lamb, onions, garlic yoghurt dressing and slaw, filled between two lovely, soft and warm pitta breads and wrapped in a paper. I loved the presentation and I have to say, I am so glad we didn’t go for starters as it was so filling and dreamy.

You can order the Club Damascus Sandwich as part of your lunch or dinner, and enjoy it in the Palm Court. It is a fabulous restaurant with a relaxing yet classic vibe.

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We thoroughly enjoyed the Club Damascus Sandwich and it is really tasty. We decided to order our favourite dessert at the Palm Court to end our meal with a sweet note. The Creme Brulee of course!

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Such a heavenly and gorgeous dessert and the Palm Court does a particularly good version!

If you want to contribute to the #CookForSyria initiative and love food, this is a great way to do something good whilst enjoying Syrian inspired food. In addition, other ways to participate are to host a supperclub, attend an event, or donate directly.

For more information on the Langham Hotel go here.

To learn more about the #CookForSyria campaign go here.