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“Grazing by Mark Greenaway” at the Waldorf Astoria, Edinburgh: modern fine dining – artistic, imaginative, casual and fun.

“The essence of Mark Greenaway’s genius in the kitchen is his seemingly endless inventiveness.”  Ian Rankin

It was the week of the Big Tease back in March before Chef Mark Greenaway revealed the secret location of his much anticipated new Restaurant.  There was a relish of rumours and soupcon of social media messages: 1st March: “Goodbye New Town .. hello ??,”  followed the next day by a video clip of someone walking along Princes Street with a view of the Castle and the tag line, “Where do you think the new Restaurant will be?”

The next big hint was the enigmatic line, “Fancy a meal in the  West End?” and then finally, a quirky aerial shot of the planet zooming in to the actual location.  And what a prestigious address it turned out to be!.

Mark Greenaway outside the Walforf Astoria

On 8th March, the news broke that the Chef was taking over the former Galvin Brasserie de Luxe at the Waldorf Astoria, The Caledonian, with an opening date in mid April.  Having known his ingenious style of cuisine for over ten years, Ken and I recently went along to visit “Grazing by Mark Greenaway” to experience this exciting new venture.

In order to appreciate the enormous significance of this exciting venture, it would be timely to have a brief look back at Mark’s culinary and creative journey over the past 25 years.  After school, he stared his first job in a hotel kitchen near Lanark, where he persevered as a KP until given the opportunity to train as a chef.  The seed was sewn and moving on to another hotel, he mastered the art of a pastry chef, winning an award for his elaborate “Milk chocolate mousse, raspberries in caramel with lattice tuile”.  This was the springboard for adventure down under, heading off to Sydney, for a steep learning curve under a tough task master – as he relates, “every plate had to reach absolute perfection 100% of the time.”

Back in Scotland, as Head Chef at Dryburgh Abbey Hotel, his imaginative dishes were rewarded with a Chef Médaille d’Or for Dinner Excellence (2009).   Soon time for change, launching his own eponymous restaurant on Picardy Place, Edinburgh, showcasing seriously inventive dishes. (Rising Star Chef of the Year, 2011).  Now as a renowned chef in Edinburgh, he was then selected, for two years. running to represent Scotland in “Great British Menu” on BBC 2.

The next bold step was the launch in 2013 of Restaurant Mark Greenaway with an intimate setting for his distinctive style of cuisine. With the honour of 3 AA rosettes, it was placed #13 in Square Meal’s list of the UK’s Top 100 Restaurants and named runner up as Best Restaurant in Observer Monthly (2013, 2015, 2016). An enticing review too in the Michelin Guide, 2016:  “The well-travelled chef employs interesting texture and flavour combinations. Dishes are modern, ambitious and attractively presented.”

Restaurant Mark Greenaway, North Castle Street, Edinburgh, 2013-2018

Branching out, with a new challenge, he also opened Bistro Moderne in Stockbridge. As I wrote in my review in January 2014:  ” .. a touch of Blumenthal in this scientifically-inspired, smoke-filled, deconstructed, unique cuisine.”

With his passion for local, seasonal produce on his menus, he decided to promote the best of Scottish food and compiled his beautifully designed cook book, “Perceptions: Recipes from Restaurant Mark Greenaway” (Relish Publications).  

With mouthwatering illustrations and step by step recipes, it’s aimed at the masterchef and keen amateur, with culinary tips and a list of his own suppliers so that you can create the quality of his fine dining food at home.  A few months later, much to Greenaway’s surprise, “Perceptions” was named the best cookbook in the world at the Gourmand Awards, 2017.

“Perceptions” – Best Cookbook in the World

The success of Restaurant Mark Greenaway and “Perceptions”  must have been an incredible boost to morale and further ambition.  It might be a short walk from Castle Street to Princes Street, but this is a truly impressive step up, opening his own Restaurant at the five star, Waldorf Astoria – The Caledonian.  Enter either through the Hotel lobby and Peacock Alley loung, or the main entrance around the corner on Rutland Street.

The green carpet for the launch of “Grazing by Mark Greenaway”

“Grazing by Mark Greenaway” is a classic Brasserie in design with comfortable, blue banquette seating and well spaced tables with smart crimson & blue plaid chairs. Appetising suggestions for food & drinks and sharing plates are listed on blackboards around the walls.

Diners can also sit on stools at a couple of high tables at the front, or the central island bar for a quick, casual meal.

Take a stool at the Island Bar

Guests are invited to “relax, unwind and graze.  You can share a starter, main or dessert, or indulge and have something all to yourself.”   This is a fresh new concept, showcasing a blend of traditional, modern and sharing plates based on seasonal Scottish ingredients.   “Fine dining” has been reinvented here to create a casual, leisurely ambience without linen tablecloths and uniformed waiters. The attractive, welcoming space accommodates 170 for lunch and dinner as well as private dining and a Chef’s table.

The Grazing menu is well laid out and so flexible to suit all tastes and appetites, divided into various sections: Snacks, Small and Big Plates, From the Grill, Grazing for Two.  The set price for each Plate is very reasonable. As dishes are designed for sharing as well as for one person, it is wise to ask your server to explain the sizes of different portions.

BBQ Shiitake Mushrooms with truffle on toast

Under Grazing for Two, all dishes are for sharing such as Barbecue truffled Shiitake mushrooms, a cured meat and choux pastry Picnic served in a basket, and Fish Pie.  From game and haggis to seafood and steak, this is modern Scottish cooking such as 11-hour Slow Roast Pork belly with apple and mash, and a rich dessert which has already become famous, Sticky Toffee Pudding Souffle.

Sticky Toffee Pudding Souffle

So where to start and what to choose.? Our charming waiter Gwen suggests that we share a few Snacks to enjoy with a Cocktail.  As a simple twist, sip a Scottish Martini and a Scottish Negroni, both served with a Scottish Gin. (Edinburgh, Daffy’s, Rock Rose, Hendricks et al).

Cool Cocktails with a Scottish twist

Perfectly shaken and ice cold, my Martini hits the spot and  Ken’s pink tipple, (gin, campari, red vermouth) was created for Count Negoni, exactly one hundred years ago. Cheers!

Superb, artistically crafted “Snacks”

With these we were presented with four gourmet canapes to share: Puffed cod skin, Potato chip with caviar, Carrot tartlet, and Smoked Salmon mousse (in an egg shell), a light as air fishy foam, which just melts in the mouth. Each of these snacks is elegantly exquisite.

Soft Shell Crab on white, shell shaped plate

For my starter, Tempura Soft Shell Crab has an amazing delicate crunchy texture  – a generous portion but Ken was happy to sample his share, while he quickly devoured a colourful salad of Mackerel with apple and beetroot, a fine balance of salty and sweet flavours.

Mackerel with apple and beetroot

Meanwhile we sipped a glass of one of the house red wines, Cuvee, Jean Paul Syrah & Grenache, France, South West (2017), a classic Rhone with notes of rich fruit and soft spice. I could not resist the Cod Cheeks, fat juicy goujons, lightly fried. Posh pub grub!

Fried Cod Cheeks, crispy kale, green salsa

Ken selected for his main course, Heritage Beetroot Wellington, wrapped in a thick pastry parcel. We shared a side of Kentucky Fried Cauliflower with garlic aioli, and Ugly Potatoes smothered in melted gruyere. These extras are delicious, inventive veggie dishes in themselves.

Kentucky Fried Cauliflower

After this feast, no space for dessert – a tempting choice for those with a sweet tooth, Frangipane Pear Tart, Ice-Cream, Chocolate Doughnuts, Sticky Toffee Pudding Souffle, as well as Farmhouse Cheese with oatcakes.

No wonder that within seven weeks of opening in April, “ Grazing by Mark Greenaway” was presented with the much deserved accolade of 2 AA rosettes. As he commented:  “This is a huge achievement for such a young restaurant ..  at the beginning of our Grazing journey … a great start as we make our make in the city.” 

As 2019 is the centenary of Hilton Hotels, plenty to celebrate at the Waldorf Astoria.

Plan your visit soon for a light lunch, (Grazing Plates, £9 each. 2 Plates + 1 side, £20), a “Grazing for Two” romantic dinner,  Cool Cocktails and canapes at the Bar, or a Sunday Roast with family and friends.

As always, Mark Greenaway is a culinary genius due to his signature slant – a touch of molecular magic in the kitchen, artistic vision on the plate with a sense of theatricality for a truly exceptional, exciting and unique dining experience.

“Grazing at Mark Greenaway”

Waldorf Astoria, Edinburgh – The Caledonian,

Rutland Street, Edinburgh EH1 2AB

Lunch: 12 noon to 2pm.  Dinner, 6pm – 10pm.

Email: grazing.reservations@waldorfastoria.com

Tel. 0131 222 8857

Postscript: There has been a flurry of 5 star reviews from happy diners:

Great concept, lovely design and warm, professional, friendly service.

Enjoyed it so much. A lot to choose from and all made with love.  Desserts were outstanding,

Soft shell tempura crab,  divine, and the icing on the cake, Sticky toffee pudding soufflé. 

Sunday lunch: Roast beef platter to share ..the tastiest, juiciest roast beef, perfect roasties, big fluffy Yorkshire and vegetables. Amazing value at £28 for two for such quality.

Mark Greenaway outside his new Brasserie “Grazing” at the Waldorf Astoria, Edinburgh – The Caledonian.

 

 

 

 

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Experience a taste of modern French cuisine – with a refined Edinburgh accent – @Brasserie Prince

Simple, heritage French cooking at Brasserie Prince

The Balmoral, Edinburgh, a Rocco Forte hotel, has long been a destination to stay, eat and drink with superb hospitality at its Number One Restaurant, Palm Court and Scotch bar. If you’ve not visited for a while, the former Hadrian’s Bistro has been completely transformed into a distinctively creative dining experience.   As part of the influential Roux dynasty of chefs and restaurateurs, Alain Roux and his father Michel Roux, O.B.E. have collaborated in the launch of “Brasserie Prince by Alain Roux.”

Chefs Michel & Alain Roux

To appreciate the importance of this significant partnership, it was in 1967 when Michel Roux and his brother Albert, co-founded Le Gavroche in Mayfair, London, which today remains a legendary institution with his son Michel Roux Jn. in charge.  Michel’s Waterside Inn has held three Michelin stars for longer than any restaurant in the world outside France. After training as a Master Pâtissier in France, Alain joined his father at the Waterside, taking on the role as Chef Patron.

For the past decade, Scotland has long benefitted from the family’s culinary expertise, with Albert Roux overseeing “Chez Roux” at four hotels, Greywalls, Cromlix, Rocpool and Inver Lodge.  The team of father, son and granddaughter,  Albert & Michel Roux Jn. joined by his daughter Emily Roux, also opened two fine dining Restaurants at Inverlochy Castle and Crossbasket Castle.

The Roux Scholarship, founded in 1984 by Albert and Michel, continues to be an important culinary competition encouraging young chefs to aspire and achieve excellence.  Their astute recognition of talent began with the first recipient, Andrew Fairlie who soon became a renowned chef, running his eponymous 2 Michelin star restaurant at Gleneagles from 2001 until his early death this year.

Brasserie Prince menus

Bringing his own distinctive flavour to Edinburgh, Alain Roux has the position of Signature Chef at Brasserie Prince located in a prime corner site on the ground floor of The Balmoral.  This inspirational Forte-Roux alliance showcases authentic French cooking, inspired by seasonal Scottish produce:

“This exciting brasserie will be defined by irresistibly simple, delicious food led by fantastic Scottish ingredients. I want to serve the dishes that I love to cook myself at home and seek out with family and friends when we go out to eat.  A menu informed by my French heritage but totally inspired by Scotland.’

Alain Roux, Signature Chef at Brasserie Prince

Happy Birthday Brasserie Prince

Tuesday 11 June 2019 celebrated the first birthday of this charming Brasserie and clubby Bar Prince, so time for Ken and I to check out the new summer menu.   Arrive either through the ornate Hotel lobby or the direct entrance up a few steps from the street.  With a fresh, colourful design, the first impression is of an open plan, free-flowing Restaurant and Bar.

Modern-classic interior design at the Brasserie Prince and adjoining Bar Prince

The L shaped layout neatly divides the two casual and comfortable drinking & dining venues. The interior design was a partnership between Martin Brudnizki Design Studio and Olga Polizzi, Rocco Forte Hotels’ Director of Building & Design, and who is Sir Rocco’s sister.

On arrival at 12.15pm, we start with a leisurely cocktail before lunch in Bar Prince; (I agree with the late restaurant critic Michael Winner, who insisted that an aperitif  is essential to the dining experience!).

Bar Prince – a relaxing lounging ambience

The furnishings are akin to a traditional Lounge, with fireplace, bookshelves (with Roux cook books of course), vintage-style lamps, a sleek art deco chandelier, floral wallpaper from House of Hackney in a painterly pattern of verdant palm leaves, spacious booths and peacock- blue leather armchairs with marble-top tables.

Morning Glory

The Bar drinks menu has a wide selection of gin, whisky, wines & Signature Cocktails such as Prince Royale (Mulberry Slow (sic)  – this should be Sloe – Gin, Campari, cherry Marnier and champagne)

Classic Cocktails offer a Mary Pickford, (Bacardi, pineapple juice, maraschino liqueur), Lemon Drop (Vodka with Cointreau and lemon juice),  and a Penicillin, (Lagavulin, ginger liqueur, honey water, lemon juice).  Surprisingly, with a clientele of American and European guests, there is no mention of all our timeless favourites : Martini, Manhattan, Old Fashioned, Negroni, Margarita.

From this so-called choice of Classics, Ken selects a Morning Glory (Dewars, 12 year old, lemon juice, absinthe, soda water), which is light and refreshing. Going off piste, I order a spicy Bloody Mary, perfect for midday as a tasty appetiser before lunch.

This is served in a copper tankard, with a stick of celery, olives, sun dried tomatoes and there is certainly a dash or three of Tabasco to hit the spot.

The attractive Bar sweeps round the corner with a row of high-backed tan coloured stools; large communal dining tables in the centre are ideal for a quick office lunch or casual bar supper with friends.

It’s 1pm and time for lunch.  The Brasserie itself is a long, slender, elegant dining room with banquette seating all the way around, with light flooding in from the extensive windows facing North Bridge and Arthur’s Seat beyond. The extensive use of mirrors around the walls reflect the light even more and add to the sense of space.

Smart casual is the ethos of design and dress code.

Contrasting the wood panelling, the soft colour palette is a crafted balance of blue, green and pink. Art deco lighting, natural timber, soft leather and mohair wool are inspired by Scotland’s heritage and the Edwardian architecture of this grand 1902 hotel.

 A collection of artwork includes a classic travel poster, ‘North British Station Hotel Edinburgh’  depicting the former N.B. Hotel, before its re-launch in 1991 as The Balmoral.  Also watercolours of the Highlands and Islands, from Duart Castle to Loch Fyne.

Vintage poster of The North British Station hotel, now The Balmoral

Seated at a Banquette table, we are given the set price Express Menu, 2 or 3 courses (£19.50/£25), with a choice of three dishes per course. First of all, a basket of freshly baked bread with slices of soft baguette and sunflower/ poppy/ caraway multi seed,  served with a olive tapenade, as well as butter and Epoch organic olive oil.  The soft cotton Brasserie Prince napkins are like small tea towels – an innovative idea.

First of all, drinks. Scottish Speyside mineral water is the house brand and we select Spanish dry white wine, a Sauvignon/Verdejo (2017), from the Castilla Y Leon region, Vina Garedo, with the fresh, citrusy taste of summer.  The wine list offers six white and red wines by the glass, and by the bottle, the list is divided by country, from a most reasonable £ 22 – £24.  Or why not kick off your meal with a flute of Champagne Michel Roux.?

I start with a generous portion of Smoked salmon, served simply with capers, onion lemon and rye bread,  was of the utmost quality, thickly sliced and oozing subtle saltiness.

Smoked Salmon with capers and rye bread

Meanwhile Ken had chosen Parisian Gnocchi, equally large for a starter, made from Pâte a choux gougères (cheese doughballs), and covered with rocket and slices of grilled red pepper.

Parisian Gnocchi

I then sampled about half of a green mountain of Pearl Barley Risotto with edamame beans, grilled courgette and sauce vierge.  Unfortunately, despite all the ingredients, no distinctive flavours shine through in this rather bland and gloopy dish lacking texture – rather heavy and hearty at lunchtime.

Pearl Barley Risotto with edamame beans, & courgettes

Across the table, Ken was tasting a white as snow fillet of Monkfish à L’Armoricaine, served with Camargue wild rice and broccoli, a fish stew from Brittany cooked in wine and tomatoes, traditionally flambéed in cognac.

Monkfish Armoricaine with Camargue wild rice

A choice of three, overly sweet desserts, (Ice cream, Raspberry soufflé, Crème Caramel) so we finished with an Double Espresso instead – perhaps a selection of Fromage could perhaps be offered for those without a sweet tooth.

The Express menu is served Monday to Friday, 12 noon to 2.30pm, & 5.30pm-6.30pm. Recent selections have included Shetland Mussels, Beef Bourguignon, Lyonnaise Salad with poached egg and asparagus, Roast chicken & potato grenailles.

The extensive A la Carte menu for lunch and dinner is divided into bites, sharing platters, soups, salads and a feast of classic French dishes: Frogs’ legs, Lobster thermidor,  Steak Tartare. Each day a selected Grand-mere Special – Coq au vin, Cassoulet de canard, Brandade de moru gratinee – recipes from the family’s country recipes.

 The only quibble on this occasion, was the variable standard of service from a team of young staff with a few inexperienced waiters, (“Who’s having the salmon?), who lacked the personal, professional attention to detail.

Ken and I certainly enjoyed our initial taste of such authentic French cuisine created with passion by Michel and Alain Roux.  Another appetising aspect of the Brasserie is the Raw Bar, where diners can sit on a stool at this theatre kitchen to sample the freshest Fruits de Mer – a platter of oysters from Gigha or langoustines from the Isle of Skye.  Perfect with a chilled glass of fizz.

The Raw Bar – the place to share a dozen oysters and champagne

In case you are thinking, surprisingly the culinary French word “Roux” was not actually coined by the Roux chefs.  The definition orginates from around 1805. Roux refers to the red brown beurre (butter) created when mixed with flour to thicken a sauce.

“And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.” ― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Borrowing its name from this classic French story, ‘Le Petit Prince’ menu welcomes children to this family friendly Brasserie, where younger diners are catered for and seen not heard with colouring books and crayons.  The Balmoral has won an award for its Families R Forte facilities – kids’ passports, mini bathrobes, games and teddy turndown.

To celebrate the first birthday of Brasserie Prince there is a special Seafood Menu available for lunch and dinner from 28th June until 9th August., 2019.  Bar Prince is a classic, classy joint and if you call in on Wednesday and Thursday evening, relax with a drink with live piano music served on the side.

So this summer why not plan visit for a taste of modern French cuisine, champagne and cocktails and feel as if you have jetted off to Paris or Nice.!

Brasserie Prince by Alain Roux

The Balmoral Hotel

1 Princes Street, Edinburgh EH2 2EQ

https://www.roccofortehotels.com/hotels-and-resorts/the-balmoral-hotel/restaurants-and-bars/

E. brasserieprince@roccofortehotels.com   Tel. 0131 557 5000

Art Deco meets contemporary design at Brasserie Prince

Experience a classy G&T, cool cocktails and classic wining & dining at the Printing Press Bar & Kitchen, Edinburgh

 

The Principal, George Street

The George Hotel opened to its first guests in 1881 within five Georgian townhouses. After a major refurbishment a couple of years ago, it was rebranded as the Principal Edinburgh with classy, classic-contemporary style.  Accommodation, lobby lounge, Cocktail bar,  Brasserie and buzzing Coffee shop create the ambience of a quintessential American City hotel.  In 2017, it was named the Scottish Hotel of the Year.

Printing Press Bar with Editor’s Cocktail Bar upstairs

The design theme reflects the literary heritage of this former home of novelist, Susan Ferrier and Oliphant publishers. Hence the name of The Printing Press Bar, Editor’s Cocktail Bar and Kitchen for drinks, cocktails, wining and dining day and night.  Before going through for dinner, my partner Ken and I very much enjoyed a leisurely Gin Master Class with Chris Smart, the Bar Supervisor who certainly understands the brands, botanicals and garnishes for the perfect Serve.

Gin Master Class is ready – with tumblers, ice, tonic, garnishes and lots of Gin

The table is set around a comfortable booth with a selection of distinctive styles of Gin: Botanist which is dry and peppery, Bloom, sweet and floral, Martin Miller’s with spicy notes, and the signature No. 25 created specifically for the Principal Hotel.

Chris Smart, Bar Supervisor and Gin Connoisseur

Botanist is made at the Bruichladdich Distillery on the Hebridean island of Islay, world famous for its smoky whiskies with the flavour of peat and the sea. The Gin is hand crafted with 22 hand picked local botanicals – berries, herbs, seeds, bark and peel such as mint, sage, juniper, thistle, cinnamon, heather and lemon balm.  This is served with Fever Tree Tonic and a slice of grapefruit and a sprig of rosemary to draw out the herbal and citrus flavours.  An alternative is to try Botanist with ginger ale for a refreshing kick.  The subtlety of the flowers, general smoothness and balance is excellent.

Twenty odd years ago, when ordering a G&T at your pub, (before cocktail bars led the way), there would probably be just be one Tonic available, (advertised as Schhh – you know who).

Founded in 2005, Fever Tree is a major global brand which has embraced the Gin and Cocktail revolution, concocting quality Tonics with a range of flavours – Indian, Refreshingly Light, Mediterranean, Elderflower, Aromatic (pink in colour and aniseed in taste) Lemon and Cucumber.  Throughout the fascinating lesson, we each sample different ones to see how the humble G&T is enhanced with a well selected Mixer.

Fever Tree Tonics

Bloom is a London Dry Gin created at the G&J distillery founded in 1761. As the name suggests, the spirit is inspired from nature and the three main botanicals are chamomile, honeysuckle and pomelo to create a refreshing, garden-scented spirit.  The perfect serve is with quartered strawberries and a few rose petals.  It could be served with Elderflower or Lemon tonic or classic Tonic to let the fruity garnish sing.  This is indeed Summer in a Glass.

It is said that Martin Miller kicked off the whole gin renaissance in 1999 with the launch of his own eponymous brand, an idea sparked by his love of romance and adventure.  The secret is a blend of Tuscan juniper, angelica, coriander, Seville citrus peel, nutmeg, cinnamon, liquorice root and Icelandic spring water. Serve with strawberries sprinkled with black pepper and Elderflower Tonic adds a little more sweetness.

Finally we move on to No. 25, the House Gin is crafted in collaboration with Ray Clynick of OroGin in Dalton, Dumfries and Galloway. Like a traditional London dry, it is delicately scented with juniper, citrus, lavender and violets, with a velvety smooth finish, best served with a slice of orange and lavender.

At the launch last winter it was described thus: “Principal Gin is a perfect blend of both style and taste, inspired by the timeless elegance and luxurious ambiance of the hotel. The handpicked botanicals offer a real sense of exotic and Mediterranean blend that fuse beautifully together.”

The Printing Press Bars offers a selection of Principal No. 25 Gin Cocktails, including a very fashionable The Devil Wears Principal, (with cranberry, mint and soda).  As an aperitif we sampled the classic 75 (with Taittinger, lemon, lavender) and a deliciously sharp Martini straight up with a twist.  If you like Principal Gin, bottles are available to buy here at £39 to take home and enjoy a tipple at your leisure.

After this hugely enjoyable. educational – and rather tipsy – guide to tasting and serving gins by Chris Smart, we made our way to the Printing Press restaurant next door.  The smart design is like a Parisian Brasserie, all dark brown leather banquettes, wood panelling and chequered floor.   The menu embraces traditional British cuisine, deconstructed and redesigned in a modern manner.  For instance a tasty starter of Smoked haggis, pureed neeps and crispy potato, Chicken Terrine with prunes,  Blue Cheese and poached pear salad.

Having sampled the gin in a glass, I selected the No 25 Gin-cured Trout which was colourfully presented with a few pickled mussels, avocado and beetroot puree topped with a large spoonful of caviar for a gourmet taste of the sea.

No 25 Gin-cured Trout wiht avocado & caviar

Across the table, Ken quickly finished of his plate of tender, succulent hand-dived Scallops, carrot remoulade, all drizzled with basil and lemon butter.

Fat and juicy hand-dived Scallops

The Wine List is extremely well selected with around 10 white and red House wines served by the glass (175/ 250ml) and bottle, ranging from an Australian Pinot Grigio to a Chilean Carmenere, as well as a fine range of quality French and New World wines.  We were recommended a bottle of Journey’s End, a rich Cabernet Sauvignon from South Africa. The experts describe this as a blend of  rich blackcurrants, black plums, white pepper, mixed spice with a velvety texture.  Exactly so.

Now time for our main course.  Again the menu offers classic favourites such as Lamb Rump, Pork Belly and Ale Battered Fish and Chips as well as Sirloin, Ribeye and Flat iron Steak from the Josper Grill cooked to your liking with choice of sauces.

Stone Bass with peas and baby gem

I selected Stone Bass, served with peas and charred baby gem, and aded a side of Chips to share with Ken, who had ordered one of the three Vegetarian dishes, Charred Cauliflower.  While M&S recently launched and then removed their rather expensive Cauliflower Steaks,  this humble vegetable is extremely versatile,  not just smothered in cheese sauce.  Here it was deliciously spiced up with curry oil like a reinvented Indian  dish, Aloo Gobi.

Charred Cauliflower, Indian style

While we did not finish with Dessert, the selection of puddings include Pineapple Upside- down cake with coconut ice cream for a tropical treat,  Dark Chocolate Parfait,  as well as a platter of Cheese and oatcakes.

Experience fine hospitality, quality drinks and cuisine at the Printing Press Bar & Kitchen – the buzzing heart and hub of this world-class Hotel.  Gin and Cocktail Master Classes are a new venture and highly recommended for a most informative but entertaining tasting session.

Visit The Principal George Street for a relaxing, luxury city break or for cocktails, a perfectly poured G&T, glass of wine, lunch or dinner soon.   This literary heritage hotel is certainly worth writing home about.  On a postcard please!

Hotel, Restaurant and Bar Facts:

The Printing Press Bar and Kitchen @ The Principal Hotel,

21-25 George Street, Edinburgh EH2 2BP

Tel. 0131 240 7177   www.printingpressedinburgh.co.uk

Gin & Cocktail Master Classes – email: events@printingpressedinburgh.co.uk

The Principal Hotel, George Street.

https://www.phcompany.com/principal/edinburgh-george-street/

Printing Press Kitchen – French style Brasserie serving modern Scottish classics

 

 

Escape the city life for rejuvenating, relaxing Me Time at the Spa – Principal Hotel, Charlotte Square

The Principal, Charlotte Square

The Principal Edinburgh, Charlotte Square – formerly the Roxburghe Hotel and first opened in 1848 –  has had a multi-million-pound refurbishment, now transformed into a smart contemporary Boutique hotel within its seven grand townhouses, overlooking Charlotte Square Garden.  With vintage travel ephemera and quirky, colourful design across bedrooms, bars, bistros and lounges, it was named the Edinburgh Style Hotel of the Year 2018.

Junior Suite, Principal Hotel, Charlotte Square

The Spa has also had a makeover to create a relaxing retreat in the centre of the city for pampering treatments and leisure time around the pool, sauna and steam room. Located on the lower ground floor, the cool, quiet, interior space has a calming ambience which envelops you from the moment you arrive at the Spa Reception.

The Apothocary themed Spa

The thematic decor is all about reflecting the fragrant scent and traditional medicinal properties of herbs, plants and dried flowers which fill the large vintage bottles to represent a 19th century Apothocary.

Herbal Art display at the Spa

This follows through into the ingredients of the Signature Spa products – OSKIA is a specialist skin care formula created for luxury facial treatments to enhance a healthy complexion.

Oskia, multi award winning beauty products

The other skincare range is ishga, developed from natural, organic seaweed on the Isle of Lewis. In order to experience both of these Spa products, I selected the OSKIA Glow Facial while my partner Ken would be trying the ishga Face and Body Sensation.

We were shown to the Locker Rooms downstairs– very spacious and well laid out, where we changed into towelling bathrobes and slippers. From here, there is a direct access to  the swimming pool and thermal suite.  We then sat for a few minutes in the Relaxation room until our Therapists came to collect us for our respective beautifying treatments.

Tranquil Treatment Rooms

The rooms are small but decorated with soft, subtle shades of cappucino and taupe to enhance the sense of calm. Sitting on a hard wooden stool (?!), I was asked to select my preferred scented oil for either energy or relaxation. Lying on the massage bed, I was wrapped up under a duvet and towels, while a CD of Mood music provided a soothing soundtrack.

The OSKIA facial was extremely comprehensive covering the face, neck and décolletage with a flowing series of various creams and a mask to exfoliate, cleanse, tone and moisturise.  I always love the contrasting sensation of cold lotions followed by a hot towel to refresh and open the pores.  The application of a warm oil, drizzled over my face, was like basting a chicken – but I was not going to be roasted!  A gentle massage in circular movements works to penetrate and plump up the layers of skin.

Georgie Cleeve

OSKIA was created in 2009 by Georgie Cleeve after she damaged her knee in a skiing accident.  Understanding that race horses are given BSM, a natural sulphur supplement, she used this on her knee which helped to repair the tissue and cartilage joint. This was the springboard to create a therapeutic skincare range – the name is derived from ancient Greek meaning beauty and nutrition – which promotes collagen production and has anti-inflammatory elements for a brighter, younger-looking complexion.

Meanwhile Ken was next door for a Back, Neck and Shoulder Massage with ishga seaweed body oils to nourish the skin, pummelling the muscles to release knots and alleviate tension.  Other ingredients in the products include lavender, lemongrass and juniper which sound like the botanicals in a perfectly curated Gin!  This was followed by a rejuvenating Facial which showed amazing results.

Hebridean Island seaweed

Ishga marine skincare – named after the Gaelic for water – was founded by Malcolm, a Scientist, Joanna his wife, a beauty therapist, and Martin a seaweed expert.   Based in Lewis, the Outer Hebrides,  they source seaweed harvested from the sandy beaches combined with local salt water, the purest in the world as is the fresh water taken from mountain springs.

Ishga skincare – inspired by the seashore on the Isle of Lewis,

Seaweed has been used for centuries for its healing properties, and its vitamins, minerals and amino acid are ideal for people who suffer from acne or dry and itchy skin conditions.   Cucumber extract, Macadamia, Jojoba Oil, Thistle Oil, Hebridean Sea Salt and Aloe Vera are other natural ingredients as well as anti-oxidants to maintain a healthy and youthful skin.  As Ken noticed afterwards, his face was moisturised, toned and tightened for a brighter, smoother appearance of the skin.

This was a marvellous escape for the afternoon at the Principal Spa – around an hour and a half of recuperative, calming, Chill Out – Me Time followed by a rest in the Relaxation room.  The Leisure club is a myriad of corridors, rooms and staircases – the changing room (with the loos) are a bit of a trek and directions are needed to find your way back here.

Afterwards we went upstairs to The Garden – the indoor Greenhouse Conservatory Bar and Café –  for a refreshing Cocktail, a Rhubarb and Ginger Sling for him and an Elderflower Collins for me, all very fruity and healthy.

Cool Cocktails in the Garden

With sunlight streaming in from the glass roof and surrounded by flowers, it was like sitting outside – perfect for  ‘al fresco’ coffee,  tea, snacks, bar drinks, lunch or supper, whatever the weather.

The Garden – for all day drinks and good food.

The Spa offers a diverse menu of massages, facials, manicures and beauty treatments.  For a special treat, book an indulgent Spa Day such as Champagne, Deluxe and Signature Lunch or Twilight Tea packages.

While you may visit the Spa as a non-resident as we did,  why not plan to stay here for a mini city break.  Hotel guests in a Standard bedroom can enjoy the leisure facilities free of charge from 7-9am and again from 6-9pm. Those staying in all other Superior rooms are free to go at any time.  As well as the Pool, keep fit in the gym with Intenza Fitness cardio machines and equipment for stretching and strength training.  Studio classes offer yoga, zumba, spinning and bootcamp sessions.

Spa Facts:

Opening hours, Monday to Friday, 6.30am – 10pm, Saturday and Sunday, 7am – 8pm

Address: The Principal Charlotte Square, 38 Charlotte Square, Edinburgh, EH2 4HQ.

Website: http://www.theprincipalhotel.com/edinburgh-cs

Telephone +44 (0)131 240 5500

Email:. leisure@theprincipalhotel.com

A Hamper ..and a Haven  ..of health and beauty at the Principal Spa

Stay at Thatched Cottage for a relaxing break, outdoor adventures and cultural heritage around the New Forest

Brockenhurst, Hampshire has been officially declared ‘Britain’s Most Beautiful Place to Live’ by Leaders Estate Agent due to its “bundles of charm and history.”

Brockenhurst village

This is the largest village in the New Forest, an historic National Park for outdoor sports, natural heritage, wildlife,  woodland and waterways,  as well as churches, castles and miles of coastline to explore. The name Brockenhurst is perhaps derived from the local habitat of badgers, or brocks,  while an alternative source is the Pre-Norman Brocenhyrst, meaning  a ‘broken wooded hill’ – a hill criss-crossed by streams.

If you are planning on hiking and biking your way around the New Forest, the best way to travel here is by train with regular services from London Waterloo, Southampton and Bournemouth. The first impression on arrival is like stepping into the film set of an Agatha Christie period drama,  as you wander through this quaint English village.

A recommended place to stay is “Thatched Cottage” – just a five minute stroll from the station.

Thatched Cottage

As you can imagine, the 400 year old, Grade 2 Listed, “Thatched Cottage” oozes tradition and character with its low ceilings, timber beams and quirky décor and design. There are fourteen bedrooms – beautifully furnished Historic rooms within the Cottage and modern Chalet-style Garden rooms.

Pouchkin – Historic double

I was allocated Pouchkin, an Historic double on the ground floor which is simply delightful, with pretty chintz curtains, flower paintings, a white wrought iron double bed, soft pillows /duvet, and a collection of antiques and curios, such as a vintage stone hot water bottle.

The en suite shower room is compact in size but offers all necessary facilities such as quality towels and toiletries.   Tradition is the theme but expect modern comforts – Tea/ coffee tray with home baked Burley Rails shortbread and bottled water, free WiFi and a Television. On this winter time visit, it was most welcoming to find the radiator was switched on to provide a cosy room, day and night.  It’s all very homely.

An Historic Superior Room, Darjeeling, on the ground floor is more spacious, with dressing table, sofa and a bathtub, for a little extra luxury.

Darjeeling – Superior Historic double room

Garden rooms have the advantage of a communal kitchen to make drinks and snacks. The two bedroom Suite is extremely good value for a family or friends with lounge and dining areas and kitchenette.

Garden room

“Thatched Cottage” is a B&B, Tea Room and Gin Bar. Guests and non-residents can indulge in a traditional Afternoon Tea – a feast of sandwiches, scones and cakes after an energetic day out in the New Forest. This can be an alcoholic version with a cheeky G&T on the side!.

Tea and Breakfast room

Gin Bar

The cute little Gin Bar (doubling as Reception desk) offers almost 80 distinctively different gins from across the globe –  Caithness to Cornwall, Isle of Wight to New Zealand,  from fruity and floral to spicy and Navy Strength.  Try a Gin flight tasting session of three gins such as local craft gins to unusual creations , flavoured with Seaweed or Black Tomato.  Every gin is served with the perfectly matched tonic, ice and garnish – lime, orange, cucumber, basil and rosemary.  A few Cocktails too  – such as Gin Martini –  as well as wine and beer, so relax over an aperitif or two before going out for dinner.

Gin flights to sample a few

While there is no in-house restaurant this is no inconvenience whatsoever as you’ll find a varied choice of  pubs (Foresters Arms, literally next door), bistros and brasseries (Italian, Indian, Thai) nearby.

Hearty breakfasts

After a peaceful and most comfortable sleep,  experience a hearty Breakfast each morning.  The rather small buffet selection comprises cereals, sliced melon (complete with the rind), yogurt and chocolate chip pastries. Perhaps a little more choice – juices, bananas, citrus fruits, prunes, apricots and croissants?

Tea is served in your own individual pot, while Coffee is only per cup but my server kindly invented a Cafetiere in a tea pot with a jug of hot milk. Sorted!

The selection of hot dishes is excellent – Full English (eggs, bacon, sausage, hash browns, beans) with a Vegetarian option.  The menu offers a choice of Eggs Benedict every which way with meat, fish or spinach.  The Eggs Royale was perfectly cooked to order in the theatre kitchen with two soft poached eggs and succulent smoked salmon on a toasted muffin. A perfect start to the day touring out and about.

What to see and do?

Cyclexperience located ideally at Brockenhurst station will set you going on two wheels and suggest a variety of routes. The Cycling in the New Forest App is free to download to your phone or check out the routes online, such as Balmer Lawn, Ornamental Woods, Beaulieu and a Seaside Ride to Lymington on the Solent.

New Forest Activities offer outdoor adventures for families, couples and groups of all ages and abilities: wildlife watching – red deer, ponies, birds – canoeing on the Beaulieu River nature reserve, sea kayaking,  archery and horse-riding to keep the kids healthy and active.

The National Motor Museum at Beaulieu is a must for all petrol heads, Top Gear fans and it’s truly fascinating for anyone with an interest in design and heritage.

Colourful vintage vehicles

It is the most representative collection of over 250 vehicles, artefacts and vintage travel posters, relating the history of motoring through every era, with examples of legendary, luxury marques, racing cars and original vehicles from the movies such as Harry Potter’s Ford Anglia which magically flew over the Glenfinnan Viaduct.

The era of stylishly designed cars

The Palace House at Beaulieu, home to the Montagu family since 1538,  is a grand Mansion where you can tour the magnificent drawing and dining rooms furnished with antiques and paintings, Victorian Kitchen and gardens.

Family treasures at Beaulieu

The owners of Thatched Cottage also run Escape Yachting with exhilerating sailing opportunities on the Solent including Champagne lunch & dinner day trips.

Escape Yachting on the Solent

If you want to sail in a sunnier climate, they also organise yachting holidays in Croatia and the Caribbean.

For a great escape, plan a trip to the New Forest to enjoy outdoor adventures, natural scenic beauty and, yes, “bundles of charm and history.”

Thatched Cottage has been the best we stayed in – this is our fourth year visiting the New Forest and will return again. We highly recommend this place”.   All the rooms are packed with character and well equipped. The hotel’s unique feature is its gin bar.  Nothing was too much trouble for the very attentive and friendly staff. Breakfast was a highlight.”   (Guest comments)

Thatched Cottage, 16 Brookley Road, Brockenhurst, Hampshire, SO42 7RR

Tel. 01590 622005

www.thatchedcottage.co.uk   reservations@escapeyachting.com

Go New Forest – visitor information:  http://www.gonewforest.com

New Forest – wonderful wildlife

The Waldorf Astoria, Edinburgh and Laings “Diamonds & Pearls Afternoon Tea”: a truly sparkling, romantic, luxury experience

The original Caledonian hotel 1903

The magnificent, pink Permian sandstone Caledonian Hotel, Edinburgh opened in December 1903, to offer a taste of opulence from décor to hospitality. The Telegraphic address was simply “Luxury Edinburgh”.  After a lavish re-design, the hotel was launched anew as the world class, 5 star Waldorf Astoria in 2012  reflecting the glamorous art deco ambience of the original Railway Hotel. The old station clock hangs in the magnificent, glass-roofed  Atrium, Peacock Alley,  the place to see and be seen for morning coffee, a light lunch, champagne, cocktails and traditional Afternoon Tea.

Peacock Alley

Diamonds and Pearls, cakes and candies

A dazzling Diamond and Pearl themed Teatime has been created to celebrate Valentine’s Day.  To add authentic sparkle, Laings, the famous jewellery company has been the inspiration for this event as well as VIP diamond-themed weekends with champagne and special gifts.

The partnership between the Waldorf Astoria and Laings is the perfect match, both sharing a sense of traditional heritage oozing the epitome of luxury. Established in 1840 by two brothers James and William, Laings is Scotland’s oldest family jeweller, with a collection of boutiques for memorable birthday and wedding gifts as well as bespoke diamond Engagement rings –  a girl’s best friend!

And so with a Springtime mood of Love in the air, on a cool February day, my partner Ken and I arrived at the Peacock Alley to experience this sparkling Afternoon Tea.  Sitting in huge comfortable armchairs, the ambience is elegantly casual with soft music on the soundtrack.  The table is set with white crockery, silverware and crisp white linen napkins, wrapped in a Laings blue silk ribbon.

Perrier Jouet Champagne flute

We are presented with menus packed with information on the wide choice of teas, finger sandwiches, pastries and cakes.   Our waiter than offers a glass of Perrier Jouet Champagne, served from a neatly designed drinks trolley. The unique PJ Champagne  bottles and the pretty flutes are both hand painted with pink and white flowers, which are simply fabulous.

I select the fragrantly smoky Lapsang Souchong tea while Ken is keen to try the Peacock Alley, Waldorf Astoria’s own blend, a secret combination of teas, fruit, spices and herbs.  Both are most refreshing and full of flavour.  Then a tall sandwich and cake stand arrives featuring a wonderful array of sweet and savoury treats –  Goat’s cheese mousse & red pepper cannoli, Smoked salmon and avocado,  Asparagus and green pea torilla, Smoked chicken and mushroom on rye toast – all deliciously light canapes for a contemporary-styled Afternoon Tea.

Tradition is preserved with Scones, (rather too large!) with thick clotted cream and strawberry jam.  Another cup of tea is poured as we slowly move on to the colourful cakes. First a tiny white frosted Red Velvet Cupcake:  the Waldorf Astoria, New York City claims it is the birthplace of the iconic Red Velvet cake, a popular menu item from the 1950s, (although research reveals the original flavour was invented in the 1920s by the Adams company).

Waldorf Red Velvet cupcake

Chocoholics will be in heaven when sampling the selection of artistically decorated pastries, from white chocolate cheesecake to a triple chocolate dome.   The Oreo Chocolate Truffle is wrapped in a sugar-coated, (edible), red Ruby ring to reflect Laings gorgeous gems and jewels.

Oreo Chocolate Truffle with Ruby ring

As part of the “Diamonds & Pearls” event, all guests are given a voucher for an exclusive diamond cleaning session at one of the Laings stores.  While there, you can view the range of jewellery and watches covering the most famous, fashionable global brand names from Rolex and TAGheuer to Cartier and Chanel.

Laings fashionable jewellery and time pieces, 1840 – 2018

Over three hours, we nibble little egg sandwiches and taste rose petal macaroons, sipping delicious tea, and an indulgent flute of ice-cold Perrier Jouet champagne.  Gracefully served, Afternoon Tea at the Peacock Alley is the perfect opportunity to meet family and friends (or of course your loved one) for a leisurely and relaxing sociable experience.

Laings bridal jewellery

This joint venture to celebrate Valentine’s Month is an imaginative concept.  The ethos of Laings is based on the fact that everything they do is for a memorable occasion.

Likewise at the Waldorf Astoria, where the fine hospitality revolves around exemplary wining and dining from the cocktail bars and Galvin Brasserie de Luxe to the Pompadour Restaurant. Following the romantic connection, Weddings are also a key speciality!.

“Laings share our passion for creating truly unforgettable moments for our guests” Dale MacPhee, General Manager, Waldorf Astoria

Diamonds and Pearls Afternoon Tea:  9th – 28th February 2018.   12 noon – 5pm.  £45 per person.

(A new Spring menu for Afternoon tea will thereafter be served at the Peacock Alley)

AfternoonTea.Reservations@waldorfastoria.com

A luxury, romantic weekend break – caledonian.reservations@waldorfastoria.com.

For information on accommodation, bars and restaurants, private events: http://www.waldorfastoriaedinburgh.com/

Laings – www.laingsuk.com

72 George Street, Edinburgh EH2 3BX – tel: 0131 225 4513

(also in Glasgow, Southampton and Cardiff).

Laings,  72 George Street, Edinburgh

Waldorf Astoria & Walker Slater Fashion Show: Autumn/Winter 2017/2018 Collection

‘The passion of creating clothing comes from the idea that if they are stylish, yet practical and robust, they allow you to be carelessly elegant and have confidence to look good.’  Paul Walker

Walker Slater, the Scottish tweed tailoring company, was founded in 1989 in Laggan before opening on Victoria Street, Edinburgh, followed by stores in Glasgow and London.

Walker Slater, Victoria Street, Grassmarket, Edinburgh

Specialists of fine casual and formal clothing for ladies and gentlemen, it was named Retailer of the Year 2015 at the Scottish Fashion Awards.

From traditional tailoring to contemporary style, Walker Slater is renowned for tweed jackets, trousers, waistcoats, three piece suits, overcoats and knitwear in quality wool and tweed produced in the Borders, Shetland and Harris.  What could be more classic than a beautifully designed, made-to-measure three piece suit for a special occasion.

Autumn Winter collection, 2016 – Walker Slater, always in style.

The Caledonian Hotel, Princes Street, Edinburgh is celebrating its fifth birthday in September as a Waldorf Astoria. With the grand art deco hotel as a backdrop,  Walker Slater will stage a fabulous fashion show –  a sneak preview of the Autumn/Winter 2017/18 collection.

This style event will take place in the hotel’s glamorously elegant Peacock Alley on the afternoon of Friday 15th September, hosted by Scottish broadcaster and Deacon Blue drummer, Dougie Vipond.

Peacock Alley, Waldorf Astoria, Edinburgh

During the catwalk show, guests will experience a luxury Afternoon Tea inspired by the botanicals of Edinburgh Gin. Enjoy a seasonal selection of sweet and savoury treats, complemented  by a crafted gin cocktail, delicately flavoured with orange, lemon, heather, coriander, juniper, and pine.

Autumn Winter 2017 Tweed clothing collection for men and women

The new curated WS clothing range is sure to keep you warm during the Autumn and Winter months. Ladies may relish beautiful Scottish cashmere, everyday clothes from city street to country walks, and day to evening wear.

Smart, casual Winter wear

The preview will also launch ‘Messrs,’ a youthful collection with a contemporary look, fit and colour palette, from Harris Tweed suits to leather jackets.

Smart, contemporary tweed suits

“As an old Victorian railway station, The Caledonian has over 110 years of rich heritage in Edinburgh, of which we are very proud.  Walker Slater also has a strong Scottish heritage and worldwide reputation for style, offering the perfect synergy with Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh.” Dale MacPhee, General Manager, Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh, The Caledonian.

The much beloved “Caley” hotel today as part of the Waldorf Astoria portfolio, represents the epitome of international luxury travel, and this classic Scottish fashion brand, creates the ideal partnership.

Walker Slater boutiques also presents a range of fabulous, must-have accessories for women and men including bags, gloves, scarves, shoes, tweed-wrapped hip flasks and gifts, perfect for the winter season and Christmas.

Tweed bag – from city to country sports

“They have an attention to detail befitting a Parisian couturier and the flair of a Tokyo street-wear brand.” 

 Tickets for the Waldorf Astoria & Walker Slater fashion show with Afternoon Tea, are priced at £45 per person.

Be the first to join the A –List FROW *  by reserving your place soon!  (* Front Row @ fashion show)

Book tickets at Eventbrite at: http://bit.ly/2g4WiqA

Throughout the month of September, an inspiring diary of events will celebrate the 5th birthday of The Caledonian as a Waldorf Astoria. Highlights include a luxurious stay in the Caley Suite, an Oyster & Champagne Masterclass at Galvin Brasserie de Luxe and classic Cocktails in the Caley Bar.

For more information:

www.waldorfastoriaedinburgh.com

http://www.walkerslater.com

Oysters and champagne at Galvin Brasserie de Luxe

 

 

 

Celebrate “National Afternoon Tea Week” at Cucina, G&V Hotel, Edinburgh

It’s the time for cucumber sandwiches and chocolate tarts galore between 14 to 20 August, National Afternoon Tea Week, so time to celebrate and indulge in this traditional social ritual.

The British custom of Afternoon Tea was invented by Anna, the seventh Duchess of Bedford around the 1840s.  With a long wait until dinner, every day around 4pm,  she felt ” that sinking feeling” and requested a pot a tea and light snack during the afternoon. She then began inviting a few friends to join her sociable soiree. This innovative idea soon spread, with ladies hosting afternoon tea parties where guests enjoyed a perfectly poured cup of tea, slices of cake and lively gossip and conversation.

As popular today as ever, traditional Afternoon Tea continues at many luxury hotels around the UK: In Edinburgh, it is served in elegant style at The Sheraton, The Balmoral and in the Peacock Alley @ Waldorf Astoria, Edinburgh.

Warmly recommended is the colourfully-designed Cucina at the G&V Hotel, George IV Bridge,  to sample a mini feast of tiny savoury sandwiches, scones, clotted cream & jam and patisserie, served with speciality leaf teas. And do indulge yourself with an ice-chilled, beautifully crafted Cocktail or a delicious sparkling Prosecco.

What a delightful, leisurely way to spend the afternoon, far from the madding crowd and cultural buzz of the Festivals this August.  On sunny days, there’s an outdoor terrace outside Cucina, for a special summertime treat.

And, of course, you can always book a table here anytime .. . not just through this National Afternoon Tea Week!

Cucina @ G&V Hotel, 1 George IV Bridge, Edinburgh EH1 1AD

T: +44 (0)131 240 1666
E: cucina@gandvhotel.com

https://www.quorvuscollection.com/en/gandv-hotel-edinburgh

 

“Venice: The Diary of an Awestruck Traveller” by Gillian Angrave – your perfect, personal companion in your pocket.

A recurring travel bug has certainly afflicted Gillian Angrave.  Her globetrotting career began in 1967 as Assistant Purser with P & O cruise line  followed by working for the Foreign & Commonwealth Office.   Now enjoying a very active retirement, she continues to explore the world often returning to her favourite city, Venice.

“How could anyone not fall in love with Venice? 

She is flamboyant, magical and unique, like nowhere else on earth.”

“Venice – The Diary of an Awestruck Traveller,” volume 1, From Swamp to La Serenissima, begins in March 2015 when Gillian arrives for her first visit, describing her initial impressions and experiences. This is different from the typical guide book for tourists, full of historical facts and figures, a long directory on hotels and lists of key sites.  Instead, this personal travelogue is for the independently-minded visitor, in  search of art, culture, heritage and off the beaten track adventures.

To start, her advice if flying here, is to ensure you arrive into Venice by water, either by the efficient Alilaguna Ferry from Marco Polo airport or water taxi. “Nothing quite prepares you for your first sight of the Canal Grande ..it really is awesome.”

Grand Canal from Rialto Bridge

There’s a brief history of Venice from 421 AD, when it had developed from the flooded River Po delta to a living “patchwork quilt” of 116 island communities around the Lagoon. Then follow in Gillian’s footsteps as she eagerly sets off around this flamboyant “water city,” in the Venetian manner of  “andare per le fodere,”  back-tracking the maze of narrow alleyways and a myrad of bridges to get from A to B.

Map of Venice

Getting lost is part of the fun and it’s easy to find your bearings with signs for Rialto and San Marco to keep you on the right track.  Soon this “virgin Venetian” is jumping on Vaporetti (water buses) here, there and everywhere  – “Hop on and off with a three day pass” she recommends.

Where to eat is always a difficult decision, but Gillian very soon finds Le Café, Campo Santo Stefano, to relish the perfect Spaghetti Bolognaise – a friendly, family run Ristorante which she returns to again and again.

Le Cafe, Campo, Santo Stefano

A walking tour takes her to La Merceria district, “a shopper’s paradise” followed by an excellent lunch at Café Saraceno. She zigzags her way along and around Il Canalazzo (Grand Canal), with its four famous bridges and iconic architecture,  taking a stroll one day along the waterfront promenade, Zattere Ponte Lungo, lined with bars and pizzerias, overlooking the island of Guidecca.  She also illustrates how the historic vision of the city has been preserved: the view of the Entrance to the Arsenale as painted in 1773  by Canaletto is virtually unchanged today.

Entrance to the Arsenale, by Canaletto

Day by day,  we tour Venice with Gillian as our personal guide. An early morning visit to see the Campanile, the 328 foot high Bell Tower in St. Mark’s Square, relating how the original tower collapsed on 14 July, 1902, but was rebuilt in just nine years. Further restoration in 1962 included the installation of a much appreciated lift.!

Gillian first in line to visit La Campanille

And of course, there are stunning Churches galore, such as Santa Maria della Salute, in such a perfect location near the mouth of the sweeping S shaped Canalazzo.  “ I do like La Salute with its octaganol cupola,  six chapels, Titian’s great works and organ recitals are held regularly. …”

The cupola inside Santa Maria della Salute

Burano, Harlequin Island

For an exhilarating day trip by Motonavo, (a large Vaporetto),  three charming islands out in the Laguna are Murano, famous for glassware and Burano with its row of former fishermen’s pretty coloured houses, giving its name Harlequin Island.

Torcello is renowned for its beautiful cathedral and where gourmands flock to eat at the legendary Locanda Cipriani restaurant.  Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip once visited for lunch, when the menu included ravioli, fried fish, pasta, beans and risotto!

Locanda Cipriani, Torcello

Although Gillian doesn’t cover this, here’s a little more of its fascinating story. Its founder, Giuseppe Cipriani was a hospitality entrepreneur,  first inventing Harry’s Bar in 1931, (near Piazza San Marco), which was like a private club for Hollywood stars, who sipped the house cocktail, Bellini and dined on Beef Carpaccio. A typical lunch here for Orson Welles was shrimp sandwiches, washed down with two bottles of Dom Perignon. Following the Bar’s celebrity success, in 1935 he founded the Ristorante on Torcello, ( beloved by Ernest Hemingway and other Harry’s Bar clientelle). Then in 1953, he planned his grand Hotel Cipriani on Giudecca, today the luxury, hideaway Belmond Cipriani Resort (a favourite of George Clooney).

At the end of  Chapter 1, Gillian writes, “ My love affair with Venice had now begun – I knew I would be back”.   Chapter 2 begins on 28 September, 2015, the diary of her second visit, where she stays at Hotel Flora, “ a 17th century palazzo tucked down a little alley off the Calle Larga XX11 Marzo” and she was soon back at her favourite Le Café for dinner.

Courtyard at Hotel Flora, Calle Larga XX II Marzo

And so her exploration continues, this time on a literary-inspired journey, visiting the former homes of Marco Polo, the intrepid traveller to the far East, and also of Robert Browning whose former address is now a museum. As the poet wrote, “Open my heart and you will see, graved inside of it, Italy.”   Gillian enjoys “sauntering .. soaking up the atmosphere” and is an expert at finding hidden gems such as a music museum of vintage instruments, and the statue, Il Gobbo de Rialto, a character in Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice. ”  The Venice Biennale Festival of Modern Art since 1895,  proves an enlightening experience as she tours around the galleries.

It is also interesting to read about the Venice in Peril Fund, an appeal first launched by UNESCO in 1966 following the devastating flood to protect the city from further disaster. Residents say that “Venice is not sinking, the water is rising”.  The fasinating chapter, Watercraft of Venice tells the colourful history of the various boats, barges, ornately painted gondolas and the traditional role of the gondolier.

Gillian ends the book, with a fond farewell, “my love of Venice will grow ever stronger with the years to come. Ciao Venezia, e grazie mille”.

“Venice” by Jan Morris, (first published 1960) is now a modern classic and described as one of the best travel books about Venetian life and character, its waterways, architecture, bridges, tourists, curiosities, brought vividly to life.

In similar vein, Gillian Angrave shares her love affair with Venice, capturing its timeless, dreamlike sense of place. In his “Guide to Alexandria”, E. M. Foster advises the best way to look at the city is to “wander aimlessly about”.  That is exactly what Gillian accomplishes on her own wandering, meandering and sauntering around La Serenissima.

Her observations are not intended to be a comprehensive city guide covering the usual list of where to stay, eat, drink and what to see.   Instead, her humour, enthusiasm, knowledge, passion and quirky anecdotes offer a most enlightening narrative. Pack a copy of this slim, well illustrated book as your perfect travel companion in your pocket for your next trip to Venice.

Venice: The Diary of an Awestruck Traveller –  Volume 1, From Swamp to La Serenissima  

by Gillian Angrave

Angrave Publishing

(available on Amazon  – https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/0995573948

P.S.  See also Venice: The Diary of an Awestruck Traveller, Volume 2.  (review to follow soon).

 

 

Experience the Oyster Happy Hour for a sophisticated taste of summer at the Galvin Brasserie de Luxe, Edinburgh

Kick off the Summer and Festival season in Edinburgh with a sparkling celebration of Oysters and Fizz evenings at the Galvin Brasserie de Luxe.

Chris and Jeff Galvin outside their Brasserie de Luxe

It is nearly five years since the much beloved Caledonian Hotel was imaginatively restored after a glamorous, art deco design facelift to be reborn as the luxury Waldorf Astoria and join the elite collection of elegant hotels around the world from New York to Paris.   As part of the new look, Michelin-starred chefs, Chris and Jeff Galvin took over the fine-dining Pompadour Restaurant and also created the classic French Brasserie de Luxe offering authentic Parisian cuisine, style, service and atmosphere – recently named the Best Informal Restaurant (Edinburgh) for the third time at the Scottish Hotel Awards.

An innovative idea, just launched for summer in the city, is an indulgently, romantic Oyster Happy Hour.

During the week, Monday to Friday, from 6pm and 7pm, it’s now Champagne O’Clock combined with Lindisfarne Oysters, (at the value price of just £1 a shuck).  Pop in with a few colleagues after work or meet family and friends for an appetising pre-dinner aperitif and shellfish “canapés” to celebrate the long, light evenings.

Island bar at Galvin Brasserie de luxe

Take a stool at the Island Bar in the Brasserie and share a platter of the freshest oysters, served on ice with traditional accompaniments – Mignonette  (shallot vinegar), spicy Tabasco and a squeeze of tangy lemon. And on the side, what could be better than a flute of chilled Galvin Champagne,  a glass of wine (choice of house wines on tap), or your favourite cocktail.  A dry Gin Martini might hit the spot!

Lindisfarne Oysters, a family business in Northumberland, produce these Pacific oysters (Crassostrea Gigas) grown along the seashore within the Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve.  Starting off in a hatchery,  they are later placed in mesh bags on oyster beds, and then can take up to four years to mature.

Lindisfarne Oysters

Historical records show that these oyster beds were established by the Monks of Lindisfarne Priory in 1381, after they bought an oyster boat for 100 shillings.

Having sampled a few of these silky soft  little molluscs, the oysters are expertly “chucked” so that no utensil is required to extract the oysters – just add your preferred garnish and they slide out of the craggy shell, then swallow in one mouthful to relish that salty-sweet flavour.  Simply delicious.

“Oysters: small and rich, looking like little ears enfolded in shells, and melting between the palate and the tongue like salted sweets.”

Guy de Maupassant

There’s a casually relaxed mood in the Brasserie, with cool, jazzy -blues on the soundtrack, blending with the buzzing chatter of diners.

Galvin’s house champagne – the perfect serve with oysters

Of course, after sampling a few oysters and a couple of drinks, this will be the ideal Appetiser and you may well be tempted to stay on for dinner in the Brasserie .. if there’s a table available!  (Reservations highly recommended).

Oysters were first introduced in Britain during the Roman times – shells have been found at many archaeological sites from the Roman Fort in Richborough to Hadrian’s Wall.  After this period,  it would take centuries for the oyster to become popular again. By the end of the 18th century, they were the typical food served  in Public Houses, washed down with a pint of strong Stout, as cheap, readily available shellfish was part of the staple diet of the working class.

“The poorer a place is, the greater call there seems for oysters …when a man’s very poor, he rushes out of his lodgings and eats oysters in regular desperation.”  Charles Dickens, ‘The Pickwick Papers’ (1836)

How social class, food and diets have changed since then!.  Today prime shellfish, lobsters, scallops and oysters are synonymous with a luxury lifestyle and gourmet cuisine.

A showcase of Crustacea at the Galvin Brasserie

Casanova, who allegedly seduced over 100 women, used to breakfast on 50 oysters,  due to their aphrodisiac qualities to improve his virility and performance. Recent scientific research has proved they are rich in rare amino acids which increase levels of sex hormones and stimulate libido.

So if you are planning a special date  or romantic night out with your partner,  this Happy Hour with Oysters and Champagne is sure to be the perfect start to your evening with a stylish sense of Joie de Vivre.

As I ate the oysters with their strong taste of the sea and succulent texture, drank their cold liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of wine, I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy! ”   Ernest Hemingway

I think Hemingway would approve of Oyster Happy Hour at the Waldorf Astoria.!

Oyster Happy Hour,  Monday-Friday,  6-7pm

Galvin Brasserie de Luxe, Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh – The Caledonian

Princes Street, Edinburgh EH1 2AB

tel. 0131 222 8988   www.galvinbrasseriedeluxe.com