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Highlights of 2016 for Binny’s Kitchen & Travel Diaries

2016 has been a whirlwind year where plenty of Mojitos were consumed, lots of new friendships were made, several destinations were visited, both in the UK and abroad, and lots of dining out occurred at various new and classic restaurants!

Best Mojito of 2016

First things first! My favourite Mojito was at the Langham hotel. Trust me I have had a lot of Mojitos in the name of research to come to this conclusion 😉

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Now we can carry on to the rest of the year. Here is my round up of my year with lots of photos.

January

The year started quietly as we had just returned from a trip back home in Kenya which had been pretty hectic with a wedding to attend and some family time split between Mombasa and Nairobi. The highlight of January however, was getting to meet Jason Atherton and getting a signed cook book. I somehow managed to win an Instagram competition on Jason’s feed and had won a meal for 2 at his restaurant Social Wine and Tapas, which was brilliant. I didn’t take my camera though and didn’t blog about it. A lesson I learned from and didn’t repeat for the rest of the year. That camera is permanently in my handbag!

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February

The shortest month of the year and we had our first staycation of the year in Nottingham. It was fun exploring the city and visiting the castle. The highlight of the staycation was visiting the Kitty Café because if you know me you know I am a super crazy cat lady!

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In London we also visited the Magic lantern festival and that was quite spectacular! I hope that there is something similar to see next year!

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March

March was the only month where I seem to have stayed in and cooked more than I went out for some bizarre reason. I did however go to Hoppers London for some Egg Hoppers, which has definitely been a very fabulous experience.

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I also had Bao, and fell in love with the Horlicks Bao. It is heavenly!

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April

April was a month of celebrations with my Blog having its first year anniversary as well as it being our sixth wedding anniversary! We celebrated both and went for meals to Bob Bob Ricard, famous for its “Press for Champagne” button/switch as well as one of my favourites, and evidently a favourite of Michel Roux Jr too, Michelin starred Gymkhana.

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With spring settling in we also visited the Cotswolds for a weekend trip and stayed at The Falcon, in the very cute and quaint town of Painswick.

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We also celebrated our anniversary with a long haul trip to Mauritius where we stayed at the St Regis, which was out of this world.

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May

May was the UK Blog Awards 2016 ceremony for which I was a finalist in both the Food & Drink and Travel categories. My work bff Anne came to stay the night with me to attend the ceremony, along with Mandy, and we went to the ceremony in a chauffeur driven BMW 7 series which had massage seats! Thank you to BMW for that little treat!

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The next day we went on a road trip to Liverpool, and Amit and I explored the city and had a memorable meal at Mowgli Street Food. If you go to Liverpool it is a must try!

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I went on my first ever press trip abroad too and to a destination I had visited when I was 15! It was to St. Malo in Brittany and it was such a lovely trip and I ate all the Salted Caramel I could, as well as some delicious pancakes. I got to go with my blogger friends Sandra, Omo and Eulanda and we had such a fabulous time.

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June

June was the start of good weather and I enjoyed the Taste of London festival, a food festival where you can try dishes from most of the restaurants in London.

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Got to catch up with one of my faves – Chef Vivek Singh too and got a copy of his book.

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I also got to meet one of my food heroes in June and had the opportunity to have a short interview with him – the legendary Antonio Carluccio. He is such a cutie! He did answer a very important question I had for him too. Click on the link on his name above to find out what!

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I also went for a fix of Asma Khan’s delicious food at Druid Street Market, where proceeds of her food went towards charity. Excited to have more of her amazing dishes in 2017.

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June was also the month I worked on my first big campaign with Nescafe! It was such fun to shoot and it is my favourite brand of coffee too so worked out perfectly.

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July

In July we made the most of the gorgeous weather and visited Rye, were we stayed at the marvellous Gallivant hotel. If you are thinking of visiting Rye, it is such a gorgeous hotel!

I also took a day out to volunteer at the charity I wholeheartedly support, the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. Amit and I make it a point to do this yearly. To find out how you too can help have a read about it here.

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I had my fix of summer ice cream in Suffolk too with a dose of some much needed beach time and some fantastic Indian food at Sea Spice restaurant in Aldeburgh.

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The highlight of the month, however, (and I probably am showing my craziness here), was meeting Grumpy Cat! I stood by myself in a queue for an hour and a half and no I am not ashamed to admit it lol.

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August

August started with a super fun tea-athon with Starwood hotels and I later returned to review my favourite afternoon tea venue at the Sheraton Grand London.

The launch party of the much anticipated Symmetry Breakfast cook book was also in August and could not be happier for Michael Zee. It was an extra special evening as Michael proposed to Mark in the book and at the launch party and a few tears of joy were shared.

Amit’s birthday is in August and this year I treated him to a 3 Michelin star meal at the Waterside inn. We loved our meal and even had the opportunity to meet Chef Alain Roux as well as get a sneak peek into the kitchen.

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September

September was a month of travel for me and we started off with a Mediterranean Cruise with P&O where we sailed to Cadiz, Barcelona, Monaco, Rome and Naples. I also got to meet the lovely Karen from Lavender and Lovage as well as Amanda from Glamourous Glutton on the trip and we all had such a fantastic time!

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As part of the cruise, we had a dinner date with THE James Martin and I am sure everyone is sick of me gushing about him now but I can’t help it. I love the man and especially love his monkey bread and snickers ice cream too.

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I bravely went to Mexico City by myself too to attend the Latin America 50 Best Restaurant awards and this was such a wonderful experience and such a superbly organized press trip. I got to experience the food, culture, arts and main sights in Mexico City.

October

I went to the glitzy Sheraton Grand London relaunch party with my blogger friends Em and Aftab and had a fun filled evening of champagne, good chat and fantastic food.

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I also went to a pasta making masterclass hosted by Theo Randall which was great fun. Most of the month was spent planning our upcoming trip to Dubai and India.

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November

November is always my favourite month as it is my Birthday month! This year I decided to have my birthday meals at Michelin starred Kai in Mayfair, a birthday brunch with my favourite bloggers Angie from Silverspoon London and Aftab from Fresh and Fearless in the Mirror room at Rosewood London and a very special meal with Amit at Vineet Bhatia London.

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We then flew to Dubai, where we stayed at the Sheraton Dubai Creek, and spent a few days on a family holiday.

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We then went onwards to India where we visited Bhuj and my husband’s ancestral home, followed by a luxurious break in Mumbai at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, which had been high on my list of hotels to visit.

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December

December kicked off with one of my favourite meals of the year at Jamavar. If you haven’t been yet it is a must! I have already been twice and already looking for excuses to go back. If anyone wants to go with me let me know!

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I was also lucky to meet another food hero, Eric Lanlard at his Patisserie ,Cake boy thanks to Meantime Brewing Company. To kick off the festive period we made some Mince Pies with a special ingredient – Cake Boy’s Hazelnut Ale. Utterly scrumptious!

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For the rest of the month I have spent some much needed time relaxing, catching up with family and friends and spending some time getting to know my brand new godson.

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2016 has been a wonderful year and I am so grateful for all the experiences I have been fortunate to have, especially in terms of travel, and for the fantastic friends I have made along the way. I am really looking forward to 2017, which is set to be a year of change for me in terms of career.

As for New Years Resolutions, I want to continually improve on my blog, spend some time improving my photography and getting to use my Canon 760D better and learn Spanish (Geri if you are reading this I am learning Spanish for my return to Mexico one day).

The travel priority is going home to Kenya as I didn’t manage to make it home this year. We have also booked a weekend in Paris so am looking forward to that too.

What have been the highlights of 2016 for you? I would love to know in the comments section below.

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A staycation in Nottingham

Sometimes it is nice to take a break and explore other parts of the UK as a staycation as every city is different.

Nottingham is a fun destination as there is so much to do! There are some lovely historical sites to visit, such as the Nottingham castle, and Sherwood Forest is close by, and there is a plethora of restaurants and bars to try out.

  If you are looking for a shopping weekend this is also the ideal location as it has fabulous shopping centres, such as the Intu centres, and lovely cobbled streets filled with wonderful shops and a wide array of choices.

It also makes a wonderful location for a hen do as Nottingham also has an amazing night scene with clubs, bars and lots happening all the time.

I went to Nottingham for a weekend break myself and stayed at the Park Plaza. This is a 4 star hotel but feels more like a 5 star. It has plush, modern and delightful interiors and lots of facilities such as meeting rooms, a fitness centre and an award winning restaurant and bar called Chino Latinos attached to it. There is also a 24 hour bar called the Light bar on site.

   

  

  

 

  It is the perfect hotel for either a business trip or a leisure trip. It is located in the heart of the city and in such a convenient spot. It has on site parking and free wifi (which is so important!) The location is the best and really recommend it if you are looking to book a stay in Nottingham.

  
We stayed on a bed and breakfast basis and so once we arrived in Nottingham, we parked, checked in and found a lovely gesture in our room from the hotel manager. The room itself was spacious, clean, fresh and very modern. The bathroom had a lovely tub and was bigger than I expected.

Once we had freshened up, we headed out to explore Nottingham.  Now I am a massive cat lover (crazy cat lady) and so I had been recommended the Kitty Cafe on Twitter so had booked an hour’s slot for us to eat there in the afternoon. This was literally a 3 minute walk from the hotel.

  
You can read about my experience at the Kitty Cafe here:https://binnyskitchen.com/2016/03/12/purrfect-time-at-the-kitty-cafe-nottingham/

After the Kitty Cafe, we walked around the shopping district and checked out the bars in the vicinity. It was getting darker so we thought we would have a cocktail or two at Chino Latinos, before heading out for dinner. As part of our stay we were given a complimentary cocktail of our choice.

I went for a classic Mojito (of course) and Amit went for a Mushi a gari which was Beefeater gin, red chilles, fresh mango and apple juice. Both were delicious.

   

  
 The bar was fun, had a nice ambience and wasn’t too busy. It wasn’t too loud either so we could have a lovely conversation.

Once we finished our drinks, we went for dinner to Memsaab, which is an award winning Indian fine dining restaurant. It has two AA Rosettes for culinary excellence. The restaurant is massive and the service was very good. The waiters were very attentive, quick to take our order and explained the menu really well.

We went for reshmi kebabs, Lamb chops and poppadums to start with. For mains we had chicken tikka masala with naan breads. The food was delicious and I really recommend it for a good Indian meal.

   

  

  

 The next day we woke up early for the breakfast buffet because hotel breakfasts are the best. This was an incredible spread of fresh juices, fresh fruits, cereals, breads and pastries, a selection of cheese, cold meats, sausages, bacon, hash browns. eggs, beans and so much more.

   

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

 I really enjoyed the food and there was so much to choose from which was brilliant.

Once we finished, we headed to Nottingham Castle for some sightseeing. This is a Medieval castle, and the grounds are beautiful and the views are lovely. There is a museum within the grounds which is fascinating and we spent a couple of hours exploring.

   

 After that, we headed to Thaikhun, a Thai restaurant located in the Intu shopping centre for lunch. This was an excellent meal and you can read about it here:https://binnyskitchen.com/2016/03/09/thaikhun-in-nottingham-review/

   

 After lunch, we browsed around the shopping centre and then headed back towards the hotel to check out. The Park Plaza kindly extended our check out time. The staff at the hotel always had a smile on their faces and were so warm and approachable and incredibly helpful.

It is also perfect for family breaks!

Little VIPs

At Park Plaza Nottingham, children are treated like VIPs. Children aged 12 and under eat breakfast for free and stay for free when sharing the parents’ room, with large guest rooms designed with families in mind. Many of the hotels have pull-out beds in the living area, a kitchenette, a separate TV in the living area and of course a TV in the parents’ bedroom.

 

Park Plaza’s Family Fun in the City package includes:

  • Accommodation for up to two adults and two children in a spacious Executive Room, Studio Room, Junior Suite, Family Room or connected Superior Room
  • Children share parents’ room with under twelves staying free of charge, unless two rooms are booked
  • Parents’ breakfast is included and children eat breakfast for free
  • A complimentary children’s gift bag – example of gift bag: wristband with hotel telephone number in case child gets lost, Park Plaza passport, wooden yo-yo, six-pack of pencils, activity book, Sudoku book and origami animal
  • Three Park Plaza children’s vouchers per gift bag, which can be redeemed against selected food and drink items in the hotel
  • Children’s menus available to purchase in hotel restaurant
  • Complimentary children’s in-room movies (available in the UK and The Netherlands)
  • Parents pay on check-out for easy finance management

Accommodation for up to two adults and two children at this centrally-located hotel costs from £142.50 per night for the whole family. To book, please visit http://www.parkplaza.com/family-holidays 

I can’t recommend the Park Plaza enough as it is a superb hotel, the location is just amazing and it feels like a 5 star hotel even though it is a 4 star.

Nottingham is a wonderful city to go to for the weekend for a staycation as it is under 3 hours by car from London and there is just so much to see and do. I would definitely go back to try out some other restaurants.

For more information about the Park Plaza in Nottingham, go to: http://www.parkplaza.co.uk/nottingham-hotel-gb-ng1-6gd/gbnottin

 

 

 

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Purrfect time at the Kitty Cafe – Nottingham

Attention this post is only for cat lovers so if you don’t like cats please do not leave any cat hating comments 🙂

   

  

 A few weeks ago I visited the amazing Kitty Cafe in Nottingham, which is a cat rescue centre and a cat cafe, where you can have some drinks and food as well as play with the resident rescue cats. I am a self confessed crazy cat lady so this was totally the highlight of the trip for me.

  There are strict rules in place so that the cats don’t feel stressed out. It is also a great way to get to know the cats if you are thinking of adopting a rescue cat.

The menu for food is really good and we had a pizza and a panini. We were so distracted by the cats that we forgot to get any photos of the food but it was so delicious that even Popcorn wanted some. Naughty cat!

  My favourite was Heathcliffe – how gorgeous is he?

   

 If you are a cat lover in Nottingham or planning to visit Nottingham, this is a must visit but you have to book at least 7 days in advance as it is very popular.

You get one hour in the Kitty Cafe and it is a wonderful experience.

   

  

  

  
 For more information go to: http://kittycafe.co.uk

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Thaikhun in Nottingham – review

The decor in a restaurant always leaves a lasting impression with me and when I walked into the Thaikhun in Nottingham, it was stunning. I felt like we had been transported to Thailand and it was such a special find and a gem located in the Intu shopping centre.

   

  

  

 

The restaurant is very spacious and every corner is decorated differently and it is so interesting. I love the attention to detail and the staff are very friendly, knowledgable and attentive.

Once we sat down we went through the drinks menu and started off with cocktails. I went for the Gin Cooler and Amit went for the Thaikhun. His was full of authentic Thai flavours such as ginger, lemongrass, chilli and mint shaken with Chivas Regal, velvet falernum and apple juice.

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The cocktails were delicious and presented really nicely too. At no point did we feel rushed or pushed to order our food and I felt like it was a nice relaxed restaurant.

It was a slightly chilly day and I had soup on the mind so I chose the Tom Yum Gai. The portion was massive, and much more generous than other restaurants and it was delicious. The flavours were just right and I could have carried on indulging in this soup as it was so good but we had to of course try the rest of the food!

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Everything sounded superb and we couldn’t decide so we went for the Bangkok street platter so we could try a little bit of everything. In this platter you get grilled chicken satay, Thai prawn toast, Esarn sausage and red curried corn cakes. The highlight for me was the Thai prawn toast,which was moreish.

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We also opted for the Laab Moo, which was spicy minced pork hot and sour salad with hand chopped pork collar cooked with lemon roasted rice, shallots, kafir lime leaf, spring onion, ground chilli & mint. This had a kick to it and  a gorgeous flavour.

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For mains (even though we were pretty much stuffed at this point) we went for the Massaman Gai chicken curry, which is often ranked the no.1 Thai curry! A curry flavoured with cinnamon and star anise, cooked with chicken, potatoes, onion and cashew nuts. This was SO good and we had it with rice. This was so flavoursome and really recommend it.

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Everyone has a secret space in their stomach for dessert and I utilised mine and went for the crunchy banana fritters and vanilla pod ice cream. OMG this was so worth it so you have to order it if you visit Thaikhun.

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The whole dining experience was wonderful. The food was delicious, the service was fabulous, the ambience was top notch and the location was convenient too. Perfect spot for lunch in the midst of a day of shopping or even just as a lovely venue as it is also surprisingly peaceful and relaxing in the restaurant.

There are Thaikhuns in other cities too such as Cambridge and Manchester, so do check it out. If you are based in Nottingham, and haven’t been yet do give it a try!

For more information go to: http://www.thaikhun.co.uk