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Italian Fare at Theo Randall at The Intercontinental, Park Lane

The Dynamic Duo have visited a lot of Italian restaurants lately, such as Padella Pasta and Fucina, but we were super excited to try out Theo Randall’s restaurant at The Intercontinental, having had a masterclass with the man himself as well as a brunch date earlier last year at his Theo’s Simply Italian.


To our delight, he came over to say hello, exclaiming “Binny! Aftab!” as he walked to our table, and posing for a photo too. Just a testament to what a lovely guy he is. So warm, friendly and welcoming.


The interiors were lovely, elegant and had a romantic air to the room. Theo talked us through the options on the menu leaving us wanting everything! However, we decided to be sensible and pick wisely.

To start off with, Theo sent some crunchy and crispy zucchini fries to the table for us to nibble on, which were so delicious. I had never tried zucchini fries before and loved them.

No Italian meal is complete without Bruschetta and Theo’s version was divine and exceeded expectations with the velvety slow roasted tomatoes, olive oil and infusion of garlic. Mamma mia!

The starters were pretty filling so we decided to be sensible and order light starters. I think Aftab and I have now realized our limit and capacity as we did have an incident last year where our eyes were bigger than our stomachs and we possibly ordered what felt like the whole menu!

The Insalata Mista, which was mixed Italian leaves with datterini tomatoes, cucumber, fresh basil and caprino fresco, was so lovely, fresh and refreshing.

The Mozzarella di Bufala, which was Buffalo mozzarella with grilled marinated red peppers, farinata, cicorino, swiss chard and Taggiasche olives, was really tasty too and my personal favourite from the two.

As we were feeling a little full already, we opted to have the Primi as our mains choices. Starting with the incredible  Pappardelle con cavolo nero, a must order! I have never had Papparedelle in this way and it was heavenly.


The Ravioli di zucca, which was Ravioli of roasted delica squash, ricotta and marjoram with butter and sage, was equally as delightful and basically we devoured it all.

For dessert, Theo had arranged for a selection for us to try which included Amalfi lemon tart, Soft chocolate cake with crema di mascarpone, Rhubarb Panna Cotta and almond cake. The lemon tart and chocolate cake were my favourites and the perfect sweet end to a fabulous meal.

Paired with our dessert, was a glass of Moscato. I love dessert wine and it was the perfect drink to compliment the variety of desserts we tried.

The meal was superb and the service was excellent. If you are looking for a fantastic Italian restaurant, with a lovely ambience, for a date night or special occasion, Theo Randall at the Intercontinental is perfect.

We also had pre-drinks at the bar which were served up theatrically, and so definitely worth checking out the bar too!

 

 

Our drinks and meal were complimentary but all views are my own.

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The Cheese and Wine Corner at The Montagu, Hyatt Regency London – The Churchill

Sweet dreams are made of cheese…Who am I to dis a Brie! It was said that Sir Winston Churchill, who the luxurious Hyatt Regency London – The Churchill is named after, was a massive cheese lover and would indulge in a cheese board every day, especially after a meal. I mean what could be more sublime than that?

Taking inspiration from him, we headed over to the Hyatt Regency London – The Churchill for the Cheese and Wine experience at The Montagu, the gorgeous restaurant housed inside the Hyatt, on a drizzly Sunday evening, and had an absolutely wonderful time. In fact we sat there for 2 hours, chatting whilst enjoying the cheese, wine and sherry and it was a splendid, and very charming way to spend our evening.

The ambience was amorous and relaxing, with a pianist playing classical and popular tunes in the background. She was really good and part of the reason why we found it so difficult to leave!

A good cheese board makes all the difference and the cheeses available are a selection of Alsop & Walkers finest cheeses. A lot of the cheeses are award winning cheeses and after you try them you can totally understand why! I truly appreciate the quality of cheese and will be on the hunt for Alsop & Walkers cheese after this.

We opted to sit on the high chairs at the counter and chat to Laszlo, who was explaining how the concept worked, and told us a little bit about each cheese, before artfully creating the ultimate cheese board for us to enjoy. You can choose to stand or return to your table if you are seated within the main restaurant too.

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At first, we were treated to a glass of Champagne, which was the perfect way to break the ice and relax, especially as the weather outside had been pretty horrific. Soon we were transported to cheese heaven!

The selection of Cheeses that we tried were a Sussex Truffle Brie, Lord London, Sussex Crumble, Sussex Farmhouse, Golden Cross Goats Cheese and a Sussex Blue.

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The best part of the experience (alongside eating the cheese), was how Laszlo talked us through each cheese, before slicing them like a pro! I certainly won’t be sharing pictures of my home made cheese boards after this!

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I learned so much about the cheese, and fun facts such as the Lord London, which is a semi soft bell shaped cheese,  was a bronze medal winner at the world cheese awards in 2010.

My absolute favourite was the Sussex Truffle Brie – an absolutely genius cheese, especially if you are a truffle fan. It was soft cows milk cheese with a layer of truffles in the centre sandwiched between the cheese and the aroma was just dreamy!

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To accompany each cheese, we had a selection of grapes, Quince jelly, Pickled yellow beetroot, Celery, Pecan nuts, Pine nuts, Pumpkin seeds and homemade gooseberry compote.

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Freshly made potato and grilled breads were a welcome treat too as were a variety of crackers which included classic, wheat, dried fruit and charcoal flavours.

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The selection of sliced cured meats were delectable and we were spoilt with Parma Ham, Smoked Ham, Salami and Chorizo.

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Paired with the cheese, was a gorgeous red wine from South Africa, and Laszlo also suggested we tried the Sherry with the cheese.

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We were really well watered to say the least and thoroughly enjoyed trying the cheese with the various drinks!

The cheese board itself was literally the cheese board of dreams and this is how the final board looked.


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You can tell from the expression on my face that I was totally in my element and Amit already knew that we would be returning again for this experience!

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Literally the best cheese board I have ever enjoyed! The entire experience was delightful and it is a captivating and enchanting way to spend an evening. If you fancy a light supper but something different, this is absolutely perfect. Alternatively, you could take Winston Churchill’s habits and indulge after dinner!


There is nothing more romantic than sharing a cheese board and sipping on delicious wine while catching up and it is such a fabulous idea for a date night or even Valentine’s (hint hint). The concept works extremely well for a catch up with friends too or even a unique way to impress a business client.

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You can choose between two, four or six cheeses with the cured meats and a house red or white wine at varying prices. I can’t recommend this enough as an alternate to afternoon tea or just something different and indulgent, especially if you love cheese. It was splendid.

For more information about the Cheese and Wine corner click here.

I was a guest of the Hyatt Regency London – The Churchill but all views and photos are my own.

 

 

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Lunch at the Kitchen – Lux Le Morne

While we were staying in Mauritius, we took a stroll down the beach from our hotel, the St Regis, and came across the 5 star Lux Le Morne hotel, which also had a dramatic view of the majestic Le Morne.

Le Morne is an UNESCO World Heritage site and the location of the hotel is highly privileged as the beach surrounding it has white, powder soft sand and is spectacular.

We were feeling peckish so we wandered in and asked if we could have lunch there, as there was a beautiful decking area with a gorgeous view of Le Morne. The restaurant was called the Kitchen and is the hotel’s central restaurant.

While we decided what to eat, we nibbled on bread that arrived with a choice of dips.

For drinks I went for a Mojito and Amit tried the local beer, Blue Marlin. The Mojito was not the best I have had and was slightly on the strong bitter side. It was still refreshing on a hot day.

The heat was intense in Mauritius so we opted for lighter dishes for our lunch. The first one was a Papaya Salad and carrot, which was served inside a rice leaf pouch and drizzled with olive oil and with a pink peppercorn crunch. It was lovely and tangy.

Amit opted for a less lighter option and went for a club sandwich with a side of chips and coleslaw. He loved that everything tasted so fresh and the chips (I stole a few) were amazing.

The second of the lighter options was Vietnamese rice spring rolls, which were filled with vegetables and a light soya dressing. It was delish! It was massive too and surprisingly very filling.

The restaurant location was stunning and we found it to be a lovely relaxing spot to have lunch with the sea breeze and the beautiful view.

This was our palm fringed view of the sea on one side which was stunning. It is also a dolphin territory but unfortunately we didn’t spot any that day.

We really enjoyed our lunch and it was nice to try somewhere different so if you are staying around Le Morne during a trip to Mauritius, it is worth checking out the Kitchen at Lux Le Morne.

For more information on Lux Le Morne click here.

 

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5 things to do in a day in Monaco

Whenever I thought of Monaco I imagined it to be all glitz and glamour with high rollers, luxury cars and well dressed people decked out in designer apparel. James Bond came to mind as it was one of the locations for Goldeneye and Never Say Never Again, where the  Casino Monte Carlo was featured.

I visited Monaco and Monte Carlo as part of a day trip shore excursion whilst on my Mediterranean cruise with P&O Cruises, and we arrived via sea. You can, however, if you want a totally luxe experience, arrive in a private helicopter or alternatively for a more affordable option, take a bus from Nice, if you are vacationing there.

Monaco is such an ideal destination for a day trip if you want a taster of it, and here were our highlights. I would like to go back and experience it for a night or two though and check out the food scene and the night life.

An amazing view from the Rock

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With a view of the Mediterranean sea and the port, the Rock is a fantastic vantage point for photo opportunities as well as marvel at the various yachts lined up below at the port. It has a breathtaking view and is worth a visit. It is located in Monaco-Ville, which is also where the Old town is. Close to the Prince’s palace and you can wait here while you wait for the time slot for the changing of the guards at the palace.

The Place du Casino

All things luxurious at the Place du Casino, the epicentre of all things haute in Monte Carlo.

 

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It is also home to the Casino Monte Carlo, which opens its doors to the public at 2pm and it is worth going inside to have a look. There is no dress code and if you are feeling lucky you can try your hand at roulette.

For an extra glamourous stay, there is also the Hotel De Paris 😉

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The Café de Paris Monte-Carlo

This totally instagrammable  Café de Paris Monte-Carlo, also on the Place du Casino, has been legendary since 1868 and is a fabulous spot for people watching, lunch, dessert or mojitos 😉

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The Cathedral

Located in the old town of Monaco, the Neoclassical Cathedral, where the much-loved Princess Grace of Monaco lies at rest, is one not to miss. This 19th century cathedral is gorgeous both on the outside and in and is made from white La Turbie stone. It is really lovely to see inside.

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Changing of the guard

It is so worth watching the changing of the guard ceremony at the Prince’s Palace, where the royal family still resides today.

It happens daily at 11:55 a.m. and is really fun to see. As it is located near the rock, the old town, and other sites, it is worth spending time in the area.

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Have you been to Monaco? What were your highlights? Would love to know in the comments below.

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Two Michelin Star dining at Spondi in Athens

On a recent trip to Athens, Greece, we chose to dine at the Relais & Châteaux restaurant Spondi, which has two michelin stars and serves French haute cuisine with a modern Greek cultural style. It was recommended to me by my friend Bibi, and it turned out to be a truly incredible meal.

Spondi is housed over three floors and the restaurant has a magical and romantic setting, as well as very classy interiors with its dark leather seating and fine linen table cloths. There is also a lovely garden terrace dining area outside which is lit with romantic lights which is open during the summer.

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As we were visiting during the winter months, we dined inside in the cosy brick walled restaurant.

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There were pretty chandeliers and other lights lining the ceiling and soft piano music played through the speakers, making it really special. On our table was a beautiful gold plate, which was taken away once our first dish arrived, but the mystery of the plate is revealed later on in this blog post.

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Spondi was opened by Apostolos Trastelis in 1996. The menu is seasonal and dependent on what produce is popular, and it won its first Michelin star in 2002 and the second in 2008.

There is an a la carte menu and 2 tasting menus – the 4 course “Initiation”menu, which costs €73 per person and the “Discovery” menu, which has 7 courses and is priced at €136 per person.

We opted for the Initiation menu as we had eaten lunch fairly late that day as it was our first day in Athens. The service was slick and as Amit had chosen a beer for his drink, the wine sommelier turned all his attention to me and chose a fabulous Greek wine for me to try.

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Even though our menu was only 4 courses, we were given so many additional courses to indulge in, all a complete delight to the senses.

First to arrive was a Beetroot gnocchi with a horseradish sauce which was lovely and light, yes refreshing with tangy elements due to the horseradish. It really cleaned our taste palettes ready for the rest of the meal, and was presented really prettily.

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Now something disastrous happened to me while at Spondi – my camera battery died and I could have cried as my iPhone camera quality, especially in a low light situation, is terrible. Luckily Amit had his Samsung phone so I had to resort to taking some photos with that!

What I loved was the way the waiter explained every dish patiently whilst I scribbled down notes and asked him to spell certain ingredients. It also became apparent that the restaurant prided itself on using local Greek produce as much as possible and the waiter would tell us where certain items originated from, such as the extra virgin olive oil from Crete.

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The bread basket that accompanied the olive oil, had a generous helping and was a variety of classic plain bread, Parmesan and bacon breadsticks and crispy focaccia seasoned with aromatic oregano.

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Then what looked like a pot arrived, with two spheres, which the waiter explained were like croquettes, made from smoked milk. They were delicious and we hadn’t even started on any of the actual menu items yet!

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The first item of our actual menu was Crab parcels filled with turnip leaf, acacia honey, tarragon and mango puree and were so lovely and light. I loved the soft textures inside the parcels and the way the various flavour elements complemented each other.

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Now I am not a massive fish fan so was unsure if I was going to like the second course. However I was proven wrong and it turned out to be my favourite dish from the menu! It was a Mousse of Grouper served in an onion and wild herb broth. The grouper had a lovely crips crust made from bread, and was garnished with black and white meringue balls. The sauce it was served in was simply dreamy! It was a medley of spinach, tarragon, spring onions and oxalis leaf, which gave it a slight acidic flavour.The grouper didn’t at all taste fishy which is what I was very pleased about. The sauce was a play on the Greek spinach pie and totally worth it.

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The third dish on the menu, was a  Partridge dish served with foie gras, black trumpet mushroom and a potato souffle. This was both of our least favourite dish as it tasted a little meaty and the partridge was tough.

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With the savoury dishes done, we were served a pre-dessert to cleanse our palette. In a wide bowl arrived a green apple sorbet garnished with a pecan nut meringue and sat on a bed of basil and mint puree. It was so refreshing and just what we needed!

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Dessert is always my favourite part of a meal, and the dessert at Spondi was really special. It was a fine crust pastry flavoured with soft caramel and fleur de sel and served with a Bourbon vanilla ice cream and on that gold plate! Mystery solved. Utter heaven and just magical!

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If that wasn’t enough more treats arrived in the form of coconut, lime and caramel petit fours!

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We loved our meal at Spondi and highly recommend it if you are visiting Athens and want a fabulous gastronomical experience. It is pricey but worth it, and we felt that the Initiation menu was actually enough for us as we were really full after it. Even though the menu only has 4 courses, you get served way more than that!

The venue is special and gorgeous and the service is excellent. I loved the ambience and the dishes, and felt it was definitely worth every penny. It had a really romantic vibe and proved to be a memorable meal, even though my camera let me down so please do excuse the picture quality in this post!

For more information on Spondi click here.

 

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Michelin Star dining at Benares

I get asked a lot for recommendations on restaurants with great vegetarian choices. For my cousin’s birthday, we settled on Benares from our slimmed down list, as I had been before and knew they had a separate vegetarian a la carte menu.

Benares has been in Mayfair, in the heart of Berkeley Squarem for almost 13 years and had their Michelin star for 11 years, which is really impressive.

The cuisine is what is best described as a modern take on Indian food. Alongside their a la carte menus, they also offer a street food menu, and there is so much choice to cater for even the fussiest of eaters. The cocktail menu particularly impressed me.

The layout of the restaurant is slick – when you enter you arrive at a reception lobby, where you have your coats taken away and then you go up stairs to the main restaurant.

We had a lovely corner table, and the restaurant was already busy, testament to its popularity.

I decided to have a Pineapple and Ginger Mojito, which was absolutely divine. I am one to normally stick to a classic Mojito as sometimes flavoured ones render the drink too sweet, but this blend was just amazing.  

For the amouse bouch, we had an onion bhaji, which was crispy, crunchy and delicious.


We nibbled on mini Papad served with a choice of pineapple, tomato and gooseberry chutneys, which was unusual flavours but they really worked well. I particularly enjoyed the gooseberry chutney. What was lovely was that as we got through our generous portions, they brought some more out without us even asking which was fantastic service.

For this entire meal we ordered vegetarian choices. Starting with Chana Pakodi Chaat, which is black fried chickpea dumplings, this was scrumptious and my favourite from our starter choices.

We also had trays of Aloo Mutter Samosas (Potato and Pea) and Paneer Samosas (Cottage cheese and corn). I personally preferred the Paneer samosas.

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Amit had really wanted to try the Haveli Kofta, which is a seasonal vegetable and green vhilli kofta served with sautéed spinach and a peanut and sesame Sauce. All the flavours worked perfectly together and it was a must order dish from my perspective.

For mains we chose a Paneer Rogan Josh, which is classic and contemporary cottage cheese, Rogan Jusa and served with a whole wheat parantha. It was good, but there was another paneer dish on our table, with a creamy sauce (possibly Makhani), which was even yummier!

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We also ordered a Dal Makhni, which was really lovely and tasty. You could tell it had been cooked the traditional way for hours.

To accompany our mains, we had Pulao mixed vegetable rice and a variety of breads.

For a full vegetarian meal, we were really impressed with the food and the choices available. It was really enjoyable.

The desserts though, stole the limelight. On the table we ordered the Peanut Butter Parfait wit Almond Cake and Cumin Marshmallow, and served with Jaggery Ice Cream as one choice. The men actually chose this dessert and they were all blown away by it. It was served beautifully and the flavours were all genius and a marriage made in heaven.

The ladies went for the Raspberry Bhapa Doi, with Pistachio Burfi and Cardamom Shortbread. This was a lovely light, fluffy dessert and I loved the contrasting textures of the burfi and shortbread. It was really refreshing and enough to keep your sweet tooth satisfied but didn’t leave you in a food coma.

All in all we were pleasantly impressed with both the service and the food and I can see why Atul Kochhar has successfully retained the Michelin star for over a decade.

Next time we go I will try the non-vegetarian dishes, but if you are a vegetarian and looking for a special place to dine, Benares has a fantastic choice.

Benares can be found at http://www.benaresrestaurant.com