Category Archives: Food

UK Travel | Lunch at Gee’s, Oxford

UK Travel | Lunch at Gee's Oxford

Last weekend, My Mum and I took a trip to Oxfordshire to visit an old friend. We planned to spend the afternoon in Oxford, then our friend would pick us up from the Botanic Garden and drive us back to her home near Wantage.

With a few hours to enjoy before we needed to be at the gardens, I had a lot of fun drawing up a small itinerary, starting with lunch. Our train from Marylebone had pulled into Oxford at midday, just as our stomachs felt the first pangs of hunger, and I suggested we hop in a taxi to Gee’s (pronounced like the ‘gee’ in ‘gee whiz’), a restaurant I’d been eager to try for ages.

UK Travel | Lunch at Gee's, Oxford

Situated a short walk from Oxford city centre on the Banbury Road, Gee’s serves a fusion of British / Mediterranean food in a tastefully renovated Victorian conservatory. The restaurant reminded me of Petersham Nurseries in London, with its abundance of potted plants and incredible natural light. It’s a truly gorgeous venue – just take a look….

UK Travel | Lunch at Gee's, Oxford UK Travel | Lunch at Gee's, Oxford UK Travel | Lunch at Gee's, Oxford UK Travel | Lunch at Gee's, Oxford UK Travel | Lunch at Gee's, Oxford

We arrived just before the crowds did, so I was able to whip around and snap a few photos before studying the menu. We ordered a carafe of rose to share, enjoying the sunshine streaming through the glasshouse and planning out the rest of our afternoon.

I realised we were only a 10 minute walk from Jericho, a popular suburb of Oxford known for its dynamic mix of independent shops, cafes and bars. I was keen to explore the area a little and to drop by Illyria, a pottery shop in Jericho that I’d discovered through instagram.

UK Travel | Lunch at Gee's, Oxford

Before pottery shopping, however, it was time to enjoy a good lunch! We went for the incredibly reasonable set menu (2 courses at £13.95 and 3 courses at £16.95), which is served Monday-Friday, 12pm-6pm.

To start, Mum and I chose a pea and mint soup, which was beautifully flavourful with just a hint of creaminess. Chunky slices of sourdough placed alongside our bowls were perfect for dipping.

UK Travel | Lunch at Gee's, Oxford

Compared to what you usually get in London for a fixed price menu, we were both astounded by the portion sizes, and we could only eat about half the soup to save room for our mains. We’d settled for wild mushroom tagliatelle for our second course, which was also delicious and extremely plentiful.

UK Travel | Lunch at Gee's, Oxford

Too stuffed to even contemplate dessert, we ordered a pot of tea (me) and coffee (Mum) to sip as we digested our a meal before setting off for Jericho.

~

I’ll be sharing further posts about my adventures in Oxford throughout the week, so do pop back soon for more!

UK Travel | High Tea at The Angel Hotel, Abergavenny

UK Travel | High Tea at The Angel Hotel, Abergavenny

Last Thursday, I travelled to The Angel Hotel in Abergavenny, Wales, to enjoy their fabulous High Tea menu in collaboration with The East India Company. Considering I have a podcast called Tea & Tattle, it’s unlikely that it would come as a shock that I adore a good Afternoon Tea, and High Tea is even better! But really, is there a nicer way to spend a warm summer afternoon than sitting on a shady roof terrace, sipping on various drinks (lemonade, cocktails, gallons of tea) and wondering which cake to try first from the piled-high plate in front of you? If so, I’ve yet to find it! For anyone who is confused, by the way, a High Tea is simply a more substantial form of Afternoon Tea and is served with a greater selection of savoury dishes.

I turned up at Paddington Station far too early, but I wanted to make sure I had plenty of time to collect my tickets, and as Great Western Railway had provided me with first class return tickets for the journey, I got to spend time in the first class lounge at the station. I’d done this once before, when GWR gave me tickets for my journey to Penzance last Spring, and it was just as fun the second time around! The first class lounge is filled with comfy seats, free WiFi, newspapers and complimentary refreshments. I helped myself to tea and a couple mini croissants and thought this is the way to travel!

In what felt like no time at all, the train platform was announced, and I made my way to my seat, feeling a little thrill of excitement as I stepped into a 1st Class carriage. I found a comfy seat, plugged my phone in to charge and pulled out the book I’d selected for the journey: The Private Patient by P.D. James. Mysteries are my favourite genre of books  to read when I’m travelling, and this detective story featuring the charming sleuth, Adam Dalgleish, was satisfactorily gripping.

Countryside flashed past the windows as the train sped further and further away from London, and, after one change at Newport, I arrived in Abergavenny at about 12.45. The Angel Hotel is a 15 minute walk from the station, so I made my way there, meeting another blogger on the way who had spied me coming out of the train, and thought it likely that, given my flowery dress and overnight bag, we were both there for the same reason!

UK Travel | High Tea at The Angel Hotel, Abergavenny

The Angel Hotel is in the centre of Abergavenny, a pretty little Welsh market town, just a few miles over the border from England. As I wheeled my baggage through the big entrance doors, we were greeted warmly by the hotel receptionist and shown up to the hotel’s large roof terrace, where our tea would be served. On entering the roof terrace, I was immediately handed a glass of freshly made, ice-cold lemonade: the perfect refreshment after my train journey and walk from the station!

The different teas we’d be trying were already laid out, as were some menus so we could anticipate our meal ahead. I was astonished by how lavish The Angel’s High Tea is, especially considering the extremely reasonable £30 price tag (I shuddered to think what a similar feast would cost in London!).

I was also very impressed that every course on the High Tea menu is paired with an East India Company tea. I do think it’s lovely to be able to try lots of different kinds of tea, and it was really interesting to see which teas had been selected as a good pairing choice for each course. The East India Company had invited their Tea Master to talk us through the teas offered, as well as to give a little history about the company and the tea trade, which was fascinating.

The East India Company specialise in gin as well as tea, so after we’d finished our lemonade, we were handed a ‘Welsh 75’ cocktail (a geographically appropriate twist on the classic French 75), which combined gin with bubbles, crème de cassis, lemon juice and sugar. Delicious!

By this point, our appetites were definitely whetted, so we were all excited when the first course on the High Tea Menu appeared. To start off, we enjoyed freshly cut sandwiches: poached and smoked salmon with lemon and dill; cream cheese and cucumber; ham and whole grain mustard and egg and cress, paired with Royal Flush tea from Sri Lanka.

The sandwiches were very traditional and were extremely tasty. I also appreciated the occasional unexpected twist: the cucumbers used were pickled, and I  enjoyed the combination of both poached and smoked salmon. Royal Flush was a richly flavourful black tea, perfectly served with a splash of milk. It would be just the kind of tea I’d choose for my first cup of the day.

Next were more savoury treats: spinach and ricotta parcels; coronation chicken tarts; sausage rolls; bacon, onion and cheese quiche and finally feta, sundried-tomato and pesto parmieres. The tea served alongside was Da Hong Pao Oolong from China, a beautifully amber coloured tea that had a delicious mellow taste.

UK Travel | High Tea at The Angel Hotel, Abergavenny

I enjoyed all of the savoury course: the sausage roll and quiche were particular favourites of mine. The pastry of the sausage roll was perfectly crisp and flaky, and it was satisfyingly meaty on the inside – yum!

In between the savoury and sweet courses, we were given a palate cleanser: ice tea made with Dragon Well Lung tea from China. It was delicious! I’m not always a fan of ice tea, but this drink was heavenly! Green tea works very well iced, and some mint leaves were stirred in as well, which made the drink even more refreshing.

After finishing our iced teas, the sweets came round: raspberry cheesecake served on its own little dish, then plates filled with bakewell tarts; chocolate and nut baskets; custard slices; profiteroles; lemon and poppy seed fairy cakes; coffee and walnut cakes and lemon and raspberry tarts. The tea served alongside was Darjeeling First Flush 2018 from India.

UK Travel | High Tea at The Angel Hotel, Abergavenny

I was too full to sample everything, but I tried the fairy cake, bakewell tart and raspberry cheesecake. They were delicious, particularly the raspberry cheesecake, which was smooth, creamy and fabulously decadent.

The Darjeeling First Flush was a highlight too. It’s an expensive tea due to its rarity and was beautifully light, with fruity and floral notes – a perfect match for our cakes.

There was more sweetness to come! Individual pots of Eton Mess arrived, paired with Black Vanilla tea from Sri Lanka. Oh my, this tea was incredible! I’m usually not a huge fan of vanilla tea, but this one has converted me. I want to go to the East India Company shop in London just so I can buy some to have at home! The tea had the most wonderful aroma, and it was surprisingly sweet too, although I was assured there was no added sugar. I think this vanilla tea will be my new favourite evening drink!

Have you been thinking, but what about the scones? Never fear! They arrived, rather untraditionally served last, but definitely providing a wonderful finale to the meal (although I could only manage half of one by this stage!).

These were some of the best scones I’ve tasted, and everyone around the table exclaimed over them. Still warm from the oven, they were well risen and light, the perfect vehicle for the lashings of jam and clotted cream provided alongside.

Our tea pairing for this final course came in the form of a ‘Gin and Tea’ cocktail. We were treated to a little gin tasting and lesson as another member of the East India Company team whipped up the cocktail in front of us. I thought it was charming to serve it in a teacup, poured from a pot!

The drink was made with gin, Earl Grey tea and ginger syrup- an unusual, but to my mind successful, combination and a wonderful end to a truly dazzling spread!

After the High Tea (which had lasted the whole afternoon and lingered into early evening!), I checked into my room at the hotel. I was immediately enraptured by the blissful air-conditioning. The current heat wave in the UK means I’ve been sleeping badly for weeks on end, as my bedroom gets very stuffy, so I was extremely happy at the thought of a good night’s sleep before me!

My room was huge, with a large double bed, desk, two-seater sofa and a good sized bathroom with a walk-in shower as well as bath. The hotel had also kindly provided me with a thoughtful welcome card, a bottle of sparkling Daylesford Apple Juice and dishes of olives and almonds.

I hung up my dress for the next day in the wardrobe, applied some fresh lipstick, then went out to explore a little of Abergavenny. As it was already well into the evening, none of the shops were still open, but I made my way along to the ruined castle (just making it in before the gates were locked) and then had a wander in the gardens, admiring a beautiful display of hydrangeas in full bloom.

After my stroll, I returned for a glass of rose in the Hotel’s courtyard and a long, relaxing soak in the bath before sinking into bed for a solid 8 hour sleep. I awoke the next morning feeling thoroughly refreshed and made my way down for a breakfast of croissants with jam and butter, followed by scrambled eggs and a sausage, all washed down with orange juice and tea. The whole breakfast was very tasty, but I particularly admired the croissants, which were fresh, perfectly flaky on the outside and soft and buttery within.

I was told that the hotel runs a bakery next door, where baked goods, including croissants, are sold daily and also made for the hotel’s guests. I just had time to pop by the bakery before I had to catch my train, and was lucky enough to be shown into the kitchens to see some croissants being handmade for a second batch that day!

I was tempted to buy another croissant for my train journey, but they were sold out already. I’ll just have to go back to enjoy croissants and High Tea all over again someday!

~

The Angel Hotel, Abergavenny: angelabergavenny.com

The Angel Afternoon Tea is served:

Monday – Friday; Afternoon Tea and High Tea are served in the Wedgewood room from 2.00pm – 4.00pm.
Saturday & Sunday; High Tea only (£30.00 per person); served in the Wedgewood room from 1.00pm – 5.00pm.

You can book online or call 01873 857121.

~

Specially paired Teas and London Dry Gin used in the Angel High Tea are by The East India Company.

Trains to Abergavenny run from London Paddington and may be booked through the Great Western Railway.

Best Sunday Roasts in London | The Hero of Maida

Best Sunday Roasts in London | The Hero of MaidaSunday Roast at The Hero of Maida

Two questions I get asked with increasing regularity are: ‘where should I go for Afternoon Tea in London?’ and ‘which is your favourite place for a Sunday roast dinner?’

Afternoon Tea and a proper English Sunday roast are two quintessentially British meals that are delicious, steeped in tradition and certainly shouldn’t be missed by anyone visiting the UK. To my mind, a highlight of the weekend is always a roast dinner, but I’ve mainly lived in apartments with tiny kitchens, so it’s not a meal I often cook myself. Over the years, then, I’ve enjoyed tracking down some of the very best Sunday roasts in London. Many of my favourite pubs in Hampstead do an excellent roast, but a few weeks ago, when my Dad was visiting, we went to a pub in Maida Vale that soared straight to the top of my list.

The Hero of Maida is a beautifully restored Victorian pub that opened earlier in the spring, and its menu is overseen by the chef Henry Harris (formerly of Racine). The pub is a short walk from Warwick Avenue tube station, located on a quiet street in the heart of Little Venice. A walk along the canal would be a great way to work off those Yorkshire puddings after your meal!

Best Sunday Roasts in London | The Hero of Maida

Downstairs is the bustling bar – a stylish space with exposed brick accents, wooden floors and a gallery wall. We arrived on a hot day, so the large doors were thrown open to let in a refreshing breeze. As I’d booked a table in advance, we were seated in the dining room upstairs, which was quieter and air conditioned (much appreciated, as it was one of the warmest days of the year!).

We quenched our thirst with glasses of Pimms (Mum and me) and a beer (Dad) as we looked at the menu.

My Dad (who’s Canadian) makes a point of enjoying English sausages and beer whenever he’s in the UK, as he says they’re the very best! A Sunday roast is generally on his list too, so it was no surprise that all three of us ordered the Roast Beef.

Best Sunday Roasts in London | The Hero of Maida

Oh my! Aside from my Mum’s cooking, this was definitely the best roast dinner I’ve ever had! Our beef was beautifully pink and succulent, and I loved that the sides arrived served in sharing platters, so we could all help ourselves, which made it feel more like a family meal at home. The gravy and horseradish sauce provisions were extremely plentiful, with extra jugs of gravy provided, and we all got a second serving of Yorkshire puddings (beautifully light, not in the least dry). We all enjoyed the selection of sides, which were very traditional: roast potatoes, cauliflower and broccoli cheese, cabbage and roasted root vegetables.

My Dad ordered a spectacular red wine, which paired perfectly with the meal, it’s full-bodied smoothness standing up robustly to the richness of our beef.  We raised a glass to our lovely long weekend together and my Mum’s return to good health.

Best Sunday Roasts in London | The Hero of Maida

Despite feeling rather on the stuffed side, none of us could resist a glance at the dessert menu. I gave way to temptation when ‘lemon posset and blueberry trifle’ caught my eye, Mum plumped for an Eton Mess (it’s hard to resist English strawberries this time of year!), and Dad chose two cheeses as a savoury end to his meal. Dessert was just as delectable as our mains, and we lingered over our plates as we finished the last of our wine and chatted.

Honestly, that’s a Sunday roast that’ll be hard to beat!

Tea & Tattle Podcast: Skye McAlpine Discusses ‘A Table in Venice’

Listen to the latest Tea & Tattle Episode here or on iTunes.

Today on Tea & Tattle, I’m in conversation with the food writer Skye McAlpine, who recently published her first cookbook, A Table in Venice. Although originally from Britain, Skye’s parents moved to Venice when she was a young girl, and she now splits her time between London and Venice.

For years, Skye wrote about her love for Venetian home cooking and simple, fresh ingredients on her blog and instagram account, building a large audience of  followers who appreciate her delicious recipes and exquisite photography. 

‘A Table in Venice’ by Skye McAlpine

I’ve been a fan of Skye’s blog for many years, and I was so excited to get my copy of her cookbook. It doesn’t disappoint! A Table in Venice is a thing of beauty, with marbled end papers, pale pink pages and full-page photographs featuring the very best food and scenery Venice has to offer.

Skye McAlpine

In our chat together, Skye tells me why she thinks Venetian cuisine is Italy’s best kept secret, how to avoid the common tourist traps of Venice, her favourite morning ritual and so much more.

This is the perfect episode to get you in the mood for long summer evenings spent lingering over dinner tables in the garden, and it’ll definitely make you want to hop on a plane to sample some of those special brioche buns yourself!

Listen to learn more about Skye’s cookbook, A Table in Venice.

Book Talk | Laura Shapiro Discusses ‘What She Ate’

Book Talk | Laura Shapiro Discusses 'What She Ate'

One of the non-fiction books I’ve most enjoyed lately is What She Ate by Laura Shapiro. As a journalist and culinary historian, Shapiro has long been fascinated by what a person’s appetite says about who they are.

What She Ate explores the food stories of six very different women: Dorothy Wordsworth, devoted sister to her famous brother, William; Rosa Lewis, who cooked for the most distinguished of Edwardian society; First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt; Hitler’s consort, Eva Braun; the British author Barbara Pym and Cosmopolitan editor (and chronic dieter) Helen Gurley Brown. These women were important influencers within the realms of literature, society or politics, but little else connects them, apart from a shared seat at a table. What She Ate highlights the complex relationship women have long held towards their meals, and shows that a person’s food story is rarely straightforward.

As someone with an eager interest in the domestic minutiae of people’s lives, I found What She Ate a compelling read and was delighted when Laura Shapiro agreed to answer some questions about her book.

Book Talk | Laura Shapiro Discusses What She AteLaura Shapiro, photographed by Ellen Warner

MN: Would you tell me a little about yourself and your own food story?

LS: My mother was a wonderful cook — she taught herself to cook after she got married, and became so good at it that eventually she started catering. My own cooking is much more haphazard, but what I did inherit was a fascination with food in all forms and at all times.

My favorite food memory from childhood is waking up early, the morning after my mother had catered a party, and going downstairs to find the refrigerator full of leftovers. She loved making hors d’oeuvres, so there were always lots of those packed up and put away — “party rye” with onion, mayonnaise and parmesan, little cream puffs filled with crabmeat, sauteed mushrooms on squares of toast — all cold, of course, and all so delicious. That is still my idea of a perfect breakfast, ideally eaten standing at the open door of the refrigerator in pajamas, picking out just what I wanted from each tidy package.

MN: In your book, you say ‘food talks’ and what a person does or doesn’t eat can say so much about them. In general, though, a person’s culinary history is largely ignored by biographers, even though all other aspects of famous people’s lives are examined under a microscope. Why do you think what people are cooking and eating so often gets left out of their personal histories?

LS: Traditionally, of course, food would not have been considered a dignified subject to include in the biography of a great man — and great men were the ones people wrote biographies about. Food had to do with the body, it came from women’s world or the world of servants, and it couldn’t possibly have any significance beyond nourishment.

And the second reason, which today would now be the first reason, is that there’s so little information out there. Until Instagram and food blogs came along, most people writing about their lives — writing diaries, letters and memoirs, that is — rarely mentioned what they were eating. So even if a historian or biographer is dying to know what someone ate, it’s going to be very hard to find out.

MN: It was reading about Dorothy Wordsworth eating black pudding that first sparked your idea for ‘What She Ate.’ Would you explain why that particular meal interested you so much, and how you came to write your book?

LS: When I stumbled across the mention of black pudding in a biography of Dorothy Wordsworth, I couldn’t believe my eyes. I knew a little about her, and nothing in that picture even hinted that she would eat such a thing. Her social class, her own cooking as she described it in the Grasmere Journal, her history of colitis — black pudding for dinner would have been an affront to all of that. It was basically a sausage of blood and oatmeal, and although it had a longtime place on upper class breakfast tables, even that was starting to fade by the time this mention came along.

So I started to wonder, and I realized that if I could get a grip on this mystery, maybe I would learn something about Dorothy Wordsworth that I hadn’t known before. Maybe food would give me access to someone’s life in a new way.

MN: I loved a passage in your book when you wrote ‘our food stories…go straight to what’s neediest.’ You chose to examine women who in general had a complicated, and in some cases very insecure, relationship with food. How did you settle on which women to write about? Were you especially drawn towards food stories about women who saw food as troubling, more than delicious?

LS: So much of the food writing that’s appeared in the last ten or twenty years — popular writing, I mean, as opposed to scholarly — is about the same thing: Food is love. Food is emotional support. Food brings us together. Of course all those things are true — I’ve written them myself, many times — but I really wanted to get to something else in this book. I think all kinds of things happen at the dinner table, and plenty of them are not about food-brings-us-together. So I chose women with complicated, hard-to-decode relationships with food, women whose food stories lurked below the surface.

MN: Do you think men and women eat in a very different way? Would men’s food stories be largely different from women’s?

LS: I’m absolutely positive men’s stories would be different — but I have no evidence for it at all. I do think women have an immediate and instinctive relationship with food that comes from a billion years of physical nurturing of babies, so that’s one big difference between women and men, but I would never give myself the imaginative freedom to explore men’s food lives the way I’ve always explored women’s. For me, it would be like writing in a foreign language. There certainly are writers who can imagine other sexes — in fiction and in non-fiction — but for me it’s difficult.

MN: During the majority of the history you wrote about in ‘What She Ate’, a woman’s place was very much considered to be within the domestic sphere, and yet many of the women you wrote about wielded food as a weapon to gain power in worlds beyond their kitchen. I thought it was especially fascinating to read about Rosa Lewis’s incredible career. Would you tell me a little more about how food completely changed her life?

LS: Rosa Lewis was an amazing example of a woman who made food her career for a very specific reason that I don’t think had anything to do with food. She wanted to climb from working class to upper class, and she could see that in Victorian/Edwardian London, cooking would help her up the ladder.

What complicates the picture is that she didn’t really want to change who she was. What she wanted was to be accepted at the top of the ladder as exactly who she was — a former scullery maid named Rosa Lewis who could cook as well as Escoffier. And she succeeded, but only as long as she kept cooking. When she hung up her apron, after World War I, she lost her place on the ladder.

MN: Your book shows that there is a great deal of emotion – both positive and negative – attached to food, and yet Eleanor Roosevelt seemed most comfortable with food during her time at the White House when she could strip meal time from any emotive resonance and think of food as simply fuel for living. Why did she serve such dreadful food at the White House, and why did she seem to enjoy eating so much more later in life?

LS: Eleanor’s story is very much about her marriage to FDR. After his affair with Lucy Mercer, she was devastated, and from then on their marriage was basically a political partnership. She shared his ideals, but what she couldn’t bear was his luxury-loving side, the cocktails and fine meals and enjoyment of life that he had known while growing up and still relished when the workday was over. That was the side of FDR that gave rise to his flirtatious attentions to other women and of course the affair with Lucy Mercer. She didn’t want to feed that side of him — literally, I believe. So she made no effort to change the terrible food served by the mean-spirited housekeeper she had hired. But when she was out of the White House — travelling, or with her own friends, or pursuing her second career after FDR’s death — she was free to eat with pleasure.

MN: Two women in your book seemed to derive the most pleasure from food by simply not eating it at all. Would you tell me more about how a lack of food shaped the stories of Eva Braun and Helen Gurley Brown?

LS: These were, of course, the two dieters in the book. I hasten to add that they had nothing else in common, but they did share a fixation on staying slim. They felt very competitive with other women, and they desperately wanted to appeal to what neither of them knew yet to call the male gaze.

Helen Gurley Brown’s single-minded focus on eating as little as possible throughout life did quite a bit of damage to her readers, since she was promoting an ideal of the female body that was unnatural and essentially unattainable. Eva Braun’s effect on her moment in history was subtler but more terrible. Sitting at the table with Hitler and his entourage, she was so sweetly and stereotypically feminine that her presence created, in effect, a guilt-free zone for Hitler and his entourage.

MN: In terms of my own attitude towards food, I most identified with Barbara Pym. I liked the unpretentious, but still appreciative, approach she took towards food, both in her books and in real life. Would you tell me more about how the food she wrote about reflected the world around her?

LS: Barbara Pym had a wonderfully healthy relationship with food — she just loved it, and it caused her no problems whatever as far as I can see. When it was delicious, she enjoyed eating it, and when it was awful, she enjoyed thinking about it. When she started on her life as a novelist after World War II, a whole spectrum of food was spread out in front of her — tinned soups and flabby blancmange, and perfectly roasted duck with peas from the garden.

All of it went into the books, which is why it’s possible to read her novels as a revisionist history of British cooking after the war. Pym was no fantasy-writer: her novels emerged from the world around her, and if she saw plenty of good food along with the stereotypically awful food of that time, I think we can believe her.

MN: Finally, Laura, what’s next for you? Are there any upcoming projects you’re working on that you’re able to share at the moment?

LS: I wish I knew! I’m in that nerve-wracking state of testing new ideas, discarding and revising and fiddling and re-discarding and re-revising.

MN: If people would like to keep up with your news, where can they find you online?

LS: My website is laurashapirowriter.com.

~

What She Ate by Laura Shapiro is available on Amazon and all good booksellers.

Find me on instagram: @mirandasnotebook and @mirandasbookcase

P.S. You may also be interested in my interview with Annie Gray on Queen Victoria’s life in food on Tea & Tattle Podcast. 

The Best of London Set Menus | Sardine, Hoxton

Sardine Hoxton | London RestaurantsPart of a series in which I bring you the best set menus on offer in London.

Last night, I had the pleasure of attending an event at Daunt Books, with Signe Johansen in conversation with Diana Henry about the latter’s just-released cookbook, How to Eat a Peach. Diana’s new book is based on her love for menus; not fancy, slaving for hours in the kitchen affairs, but simple dishes thoughtfully put together to create unforgettable gatherings around a table. It’s just the sort of cookbook I most enjoy: chatty, imbued with a strong love for culture, travel and literature (all of which influence Diana’s menus), and with recipes that inspire, rather than intimidate.

I also share a passion for a truly great menu, and not only for those served by the home cook, but also when dining out. I mean in particular the set menu. Set menus have so often enabled me to try the very best of local cuisine when traveling, and – always friendly to a limited budget – have been my ticket into many of London’s pricier foodie destinations. I love the element of surprise in a set menu, which are changed daily in the best places. The lack of a great deal of choice never bothers me: I like the fact that a limited range generally pushes me to try something new.

Before attending the How to Eat a Peach Event, I’d enjoyed just such a brilliant set menu at Sardine in Hoxton (there was a wonderful moment of serendipity during Diana’s talk when she mentioned Sardine as one of her favourite restaurants in London!). It was a particularly wet day, and, as the strong gusts of wind tried to tug the umbrella from my hand while I walked the 15 minute stretch from Old Street Underground Station, the thought of Sardine’s southern French dishes spurred me to hurry even more.

Sardine didn’t appear particularly prepossessing from the outside. Ironically, it looks directly onto a large McDonald’s, and road works have currently dug up the street in front of the restaurant, so it’s caged in by cones and trucks. As I neared the door, though, a delicious smell filled the sidewalk, which promised plenty of gastronomical delights in store. I met my friend, and we walked in and were shown to our table. 

Sardine Hoxton | London Restaurants

Being in a celebratory mood, we ordered two Lillet Spritzers and chinked our glasses, before turning our attention to the menu. Sardine’s set menu is available Monday-Friday 12-3pm and 6pm-7pm. It’s terrific value with two courses £16 and three £20, and I was told by the attentive waitress that they update it regularly, depending on the season and what looks particularly good in the markets. The food is unpretentious, relying on the best quality ingredients to make each dish shine, and is inspired by the South of France.

Our starters arrived quickly: radicchio, radishes, creme fraiche and herbs for me, and purple sprouting broccoli with anchoïade (a classic Provençal dip, made with anchovies, good olive oil, white wine vinegar and garlic) for my friend.

Sardine Hoxton | London Restaurants Sardine Hoxton | London Restaurants

Every bite of my dish was a tribute to the fresh vitality of spring. The bitterness of the radicchio balanced well against the peppery sweetness of the raw radishes, and the perfectly seasoned creme fraiche provided just the right touch of richness. I didn’t taste the broccoli, but was assured it was exceptionally tasty.

Uncharacteristically, I’d gone for the vegetarian option when choosing my main course: artichoke, spinach, white beans and aioli. It wasn’t a choice I regretted, though! I was amazed by the robustness of flavour from such a simple dish, and it was a real treat to have artichoke. I had a nibble of my friend’s choice too – simply described as ‘braised lamb and lentils’ on the menu, but we both agreed it was one of the tastiest lamb dishes we’ve ever been served.

Sardine Hoxton | London Restaurants

Although the dessert choice for the set menu was tempting (poached pears and nougat parfait), I couldn’t resist suggesting we go off piste when I saw tarte tatin on the à la carte. I always find tarte tatin is a good test of a restaurant, and to my mind it’s one of those desserts that’s classic for a reason: when done well, it’s perfection.

I took advantage of the fifteen minute wait to prepare our tarte to observe my surroundings a little more closely. I liked Sardine’s communal, comfortable feel, with its open plan kitchen, showing off stacks of glazed clay bowls and gleaming pots and pans. There’s a long communal table that stretches the length of the dining area, with other tables clustered around the walls. The sandy tones of the decor, offset by grey and mixed with pops of orange and blue and darker browns, reminded me of the café au lait coloured buildings and brightly painted shutters that I’d seen in the towns I’d explored on my last visit to Provence.

Sardine Hoxton | London Restaurants

Our tarte tatin arrived on the table, ice-cream and caramel oozing into the cracks of the pastry and pooling on to the plate as we cut into it, slicing it up and helping ourselves to quarters. Is there anything that beats an exceptional tarte tatin shared with a friend on a cold, wet day? To my mind, it’s hard to better the combination of caramelised apple, hot pastry and vanilla ice-cream.

Sardine Hoxton | London Restaurants

Finishing our meal with chamomile tea and coffee, we chatted into the late afternoon, and then made our way back to the tube, where even severe delays on the Metropolitan line couldn’t upset my contented spirit.

Wellbeing | The Seven Wonders of Olive Oil

the seven wonders of olive oil

Rather than embarking on the typical ‘new year, new me’ routine of crash-dieting, I’m more interested in how small changes to daily habits can improve overall wellbeing. One of my health related ambitions is to consume more healthy fats, so I was intrigued when olive oil specialists, Alice Alech and Cécile le Galliard, sent me their book, The Seven Wonders of Olive Oil.

I’ve always loved olive oil – fresh bread and a little bowl of olive oil is surely one of life’s true pleasures, and one of my favourite ways to serve vegetables is roasted with olive oil and a sprinkling of salt and pepper. In recent years, though, my favourite oil has been getting some rather bad press, and different oils, such as coconut, are often put forward as being the healthier option.

In their book, Alice and Cécile break down the research to showcase the oil’s numerous beneficial qualities, from reducing the risk of life-threatening illnesses to being an excellent make-up remover,  and many more surprising facts. I asked both authors to answer a few questions about their favourite subject, for anyone else who’s keen to incorporate more healthy fats in their diet and use more olive oil.

***

MN: To start off, would you tell me how you both became friends and decided to write The 7 Wonders of Olive Oil together?

Alice: We were ‘internet colleagues’ for a long time before we finally met. Cécile is a qualified olive oil expert and so is very knowledgeable on the practical aspects of olive oil. I often turned to her for additional information when I wrote for the American Review Olive Oil Times. When I suggested that we write a book, Cécile did not hesitate: her enthusiasm was instantaneous, so we proceeded. What’s great about working with Cécile is her energy and passion- we work and collaborate well. Her French/ Spanish background and my English/ French one were very useful for our research.

MN: How did your passion for olive oil begin, and what made you want to study the health benefits of the oil more deeply?

Alice: My interest started when I interviewed olive oil enthusiasts my for Olive Oil Stories; here were producers, growers, men and women who were passionate about their work and what they produced. I knew very little about this precious oil but soon became intrigued. As a health care worker (I am a radiographer specializing in breast work) it seemed important to go further. Interviewing the different specialists for this book was an amazing experience.

Cécile: I lived in Madrid, Spain for over six years and I fell in love with Spanish gastronomy and of course extra virgin olive oil. I’m from Brittany in France, where butter is predominately used for cooking, so it was a new experience for me to cook with olive oil. I was surprised at how tasty the dishes cooked with EVOO were. When I realized that it was also incredibly good for our health, I wanted to study these benefits more and more and to promote olive oil consumption.

MN: For those who haven’t read the book, would you summarise what the ‘7 wonders’ are?

Alice: Our research and writing covered the following benefits of extra virgin olive oil:
1. Slows Alzheimer’s disease
2. Reduces the Risk of Strokes and Heart Attacks
3. Strengthens Bones
4. Works as an Anti-Inflammatory
5. Reduces the Risk of Diabetes
6. Kills Cancer Cells
7. Protects, Rejuvenates, and Beautifies Your Skin

MN: Your book is meticulously researched! What was one of the most surprising discoveries you made about olive oil whilst researching and writing the book?

Alice: That’s a difficult question because I learnt so much from the different researchers and from everyone I interviewed. There was an awful lot to understand and to take in. Also, I was surprised at the enthusiasm and how willing the contributors were to share their knowledge. On the research side, I had no idea oleocanthal was such a powerful polyphenol, we could have written so much more on this natural component contained in extra virgin.

Cécile: Yes, Alice is right. It’s very difficult to choose one wonder among the seven we have listed! For my research on “Understanding fats” I worked with a nutritionist who is also a pharmaceutical technician. It was very interesting to understand the function of Fats and how important it is to select the best quality for your body.

MN: I know you always recommend buying extra virgin olive oil. Would you share some more tips on how to shop wisely and buy the best oil?

Cécile: You should always buy extra virgin olive oil or virgin olive oil and not another name or category because these two are genuine olive juice.

the seven wonders of olive oil

MN: I especially appreciated your chapter about olive oil being a wonderful product for skincare, and I now like to remove my mascara using it (it’s so gentle!). Do you have a favourite beauty ritual that involves olive oil?

Cécile: For my baby, I used a mix of olive oil and lime water every day to protect and nourish her skin especially for diaper rash. You can buy this in pharmacies, but it’s so much more convenient to make it at home.

Alice: I used to suffer terribly from brittle nails. Ever since I started rubbing my nails with olive oil, they have improved wonderfully.

MN: I love cooking with olive oil, as well as drizzling it over salads. I was relieved to learn in your book that it’s healthy to use it for frying, as I know there’s been a trend lately for swapping to coconut oil instead. Do you have a favourite dish that involves olive oil as a star ingredient?

Cécile: I love EVOO at breakfast, something I got from living in Spain. Olive Oil with bread and honey is delicious, and with it, you have all the energy you need to begin your day.

MN: You share so much valuable information in the book, but if people could only take away one factor lesson from the book, what would you want it to be and why?

Cécile: Extra virgin are the two most important words! Ignore other labels for olive oil; they are not as tasty and as healthy as the pure unadulterated juice of the olives.

Alice: So many people think that you cannot cook with olive oil. That is, of course, a myth. Part 3 of 7 Wonders — Olive Oil in the Kitchen explains smoke point of cooking oils and the latest research on cooking with Olive Oil.

***

Thanks so much to Alice and Cécile for their informative responses to my questions. If you’d like to learn more about them and their research, do check out their website, where there are also some signed copies of The Seven Wonders of Olive Oil available.

If you’re trying to make any positive health changes this year, good for you and good luck!

London Stories | A Trip to Godiva, Covent Garden

London Stories | A Trip to Godiva Covent Garden

Godiva has always been one of my special treats. One of my favourite things to do (a habit started as a teenager!) is to choose just two of their truffles, have them tied up in a little bag, and then enjoy each small bite whilst reading a magazine and a cup of tea. I was certainly delighted, then, to be offered a Godiva gift voucher in exchange for a blog post about my shopping spoils at the Godiva Covent Garden branch.

London Stories | A Trip to Godiva, Covent Garden

My voucher was certainly enough to get me far more than two truffles, and a lot of the joy in my expedition was in deciding what treats to get for friends and family. Of course, I wanted to get a big box of chocolates for my Mum, but I also had a friend’s birthday in mind, as well as stocking up on some useful hostess gifts.

London Stories | A Trip to Godiva, Covent Garden

There was so much to tempt, I spent a lot of time dithering! In the end though, I settled for the Chocolate Truffle Delight Gift Box for my friend’s birthday, three boxes of milk chocolate biscuits for hostess gifts, or be stashed away for when friends pop by for tea, and a gold box of hand-selected truffles for my Mum. I couldn’t resist a cone of chocolate-dipped strawberries, which are only available in the shops, for myself! The strawberries have tiny, Hercule Poirot-like chocolate moustaches, in a nod to Godiva’s Belgian roots. Isn’t that adorable?! I think the Great Detective would have approved – he had a sweet tooth after all!

London Stories | A Trip to Godiva, Covent Garden

After my shopping, I decided to have a wander around more of Covent Garden, which was still dressed up in all its Christmas glory (is it Scrooge-like of me to feel Christmas decorations look rather tired after the 6th?!).  I stopped by Aesop to pick up a new cleanser, and then headed to Petersham Nurseries for a cup of tea and to admire their flowers.

When I got home, I unpacked all my purchases, stopping to take a few photos, of course!

I hope my friend will like her chocolate box – isn’t the blue and pink pretty? And here’s a shot of some of the truffles I chose for my Mum (who’s being very generous with sharing them! ).

I like the chocolates with little bows on especially – they’re so pretty, as well as being delicious! If you’re a fan of coconut, I particularly recommend the yellow ones….

Thanks very much to Godiva for the fun afternoon out!

Find Godiva on Instagram at:
@govidauk #alwaysgodiva #godivauk

UK Travel | Bedruthan Hotel and Spa at Mawgan Porth, Newquay

UK Travel | Bedruthan Hotel and Spa at Mawgan Porth, Newquay

Child-Friendly Seaside Luxury

After our night at the Scarlet Hotel, Mum and I made the very short journey a little further along the coast to the Scarlet’s sister hotel, the Bedruthan Hotel and Spa. Our bags had already been transported for us and were waiting in our hotel room, which I thought was a very nice touch, and I was relieved not to carry them myself, especially considering the number of books I’d purchased in Penzance!

Having had such a wonderful experience at the Scarlet, our standards were high for Bedruthan, and I was eager to compare the two hotels. The main difference is that Bedruthan is the ideal choice for a family holiday. Whereas the Scarlet is more suitable for adults only, the Bedruthan hotel is exceedingly child-friendly, with day-care options available for when parents are having spa treatments, fun play areas and suggested activities for families to enjoy both within the hotel and in the surrounding area.

Comfortable Spaces

UK Travel | Bedruthan Hotel and Spa at Mawgan Porth, Newquay

Even if you don’t have any children with you, however, Bedruthan is a glorious place to relax and unwind, and there is an adult-only bar, as well as restaurant, which are excellent options for guests without young families.

Bedruthan hotel is extremely spacious, and there are many different lounges where you can sit and chat over a drink, or simply admire the view. Like the Scarlet, there’s also a strong emphasis on art and design, with a gallery of paintings to see downstairs, and a nice gift shop filled with an extremely tempting display of Orla Kiely products, as well as lots of other beautiful things!

I liked the Scandinavian inspired decor, which matched the seaside setting so well. Children would love the many outdoor decks and play areas too, and there are lots of fun, creative projects to try out, like a taster session at the Bedruthan pottery studio, or booking a craft workshop. The huge spa and indoor and outdoor pools are also extremely impressive.

Spectacular Scenery

Like its sister hotel, Bedruthan offers breath-taking views of the spectacular Mawgan Porth, and there are wonderful coastal walks to take, as well as plenty of outdoor spaces from which to sit and take in the scenery.

UK Travel | Bedruthan Hotel and Spa at Mawgan Porth, NewquayI was rather impressed by the idea of reserving one of the seated campfire areas, where guests can stay warm by an outdoor fire and watch the sun set over the water.

Sea View Double Room

It was marvellous to pull back the curtains in the morning and look out at the sunrise over the cliffs and sea. We were given a spacious double room with a seaside view, and I liked the bright, cheerful colours (very Marimekko, I thought!). Our bathroom was small, but still had a bath as well as a shower, and as I made use of the hotel’s incredible spa facilities, I didn’t miss having a big bathroom.

UK Travel | Bedruthan Hotel and Spa at Mawgan Porth, Newquay UK Travel | Bedruthan Hotel and Spa at Mawgan Porth, Newquay

We ordered a yummy breakfast in bed (yoghurt, juice, croissants, fruit salad and tea), and it was wonderful to eat a leisurely meal whilst looking out to sea.

Sensory Spa Garden

UK Travel | Bedruthan Hotel and Spa at Mawgan Porth, Newquay

One of the many delights of the Bedruthan is their sensory spa garden, and I was very excited to get to try it out. The sensory garden is meant to trigger all your senses and is inspired by fire, earth, water, air and space.

A theme running through the hotel is playfulness, and this is reflected in the colourful decor, wide-range of activities and spa treatments. The sensory spa garden is a place where you can reclaim a childlike sense of excitement and discovery in nature. Laid out in a secluded garden sheltered from the wind, guests are invited to work their way around the garden, experiencing the benefits in going from hot to cold to back again.

UK Travel | Bedruthan Hotel and Spa at Mawgan Porth, Newquay UK Travel | Bedruthan Hotel and Spa at Mawgan Porth, Newquay

I started off with a rejuvenating oatmeal scrub and shower, before stepping into the sauna to sweat it out for 10 minutes and breathe in the wood-scented air. Next, I had to nerve myself to tackle the ice-water bucket ‘shower,’ which was very cold! Happily, after that, I got to enjoy a long session in the hot tub, which felt amazing. Finally, after one last shower and seaweed and salt scrub, I was given a delicious mug of ginger and lemon tea and a warm blanket and sat by the smouldering open fire, my feet in a warm water bath, feeling wonderfully refreshed and glowing. I hadn’t had so much fun in ages!

Herring Restaurant

UK Travel | Bedruthan Hotel and Spa at Mawgan Porth, Newquay

We had supper booked at the hotel, which I felt very much ready for after my sensory garden experience. The Herring is the main restaurant at Bedruthan, and has floor to ceiling windows showcasing the panoramic views of the ocean.

In the evening, candles flickered on the tables, encircling us in a warm, cosy glow of light.

The Herring offers a daily changing, seasonal 3 course menu for £37.50. We started off ordering a bottle of house white wine, which arrived with some crusty brown bread and Cornish butter.

For my first course, I ordered cured sea trout with yuzu and mirin, mooli, pickled cucumber and salmon eggs. Mum chose pan fried scallops with Moroccan couscous, tea soaked raisins and preserved lemon puree.

Both dishes were fantastic. Trout is always a favourite of mine, and this dish was beautifully light, and yet packed with flavour.

We each settled on Cornish lamb rump for our main, which was tender and delicious, and served with celeriac fondant and puree, sprouting broccoli and rosemary jus.

For dessert, I had gingerbread panna cotta with spiced orange, sorbet and white wine poached pear. It was a brilliant combination of flavour and one of my favourite desserts from the trip. Mum polished off baked yoghurt with apple jelly, poached apple and blackberry sorbet.

We both agreed the food was spectacular and a real highlight of our stay at Bedruthan. I was so impressed by both the Scarlet and Bedruthan hotels on this trip. I can’t think of a nicer way to spend a family holiday than a stay at the Bedruthan, but it’s also a great option for a luxurious, child-free holiday too.

For more information, check out the Bedruthan Hotel & Spa website.
Room rates at Bedruthan Hotel & Spa are from £156 per night. This is based on double occupancy and includes breakfast, taxes and fees. To book, please visit www.bedruthan.com/stay/rooms, email stay@bedruthan.com, or call 01637 861 200.

Note: our stay at Bedruthan Hotel and Spa was complimentary for the purpose of review. All opinions expressed are my own.

P.S. You may also wish to read my review of the Scarlet Hotel, only a few minutes away from Bedruthan.

UK Travel | The Scarlet Hotel at Mawgan Porth, Newquay

UK Travel | The Scarlet Hotel at Mawgan Porth, Newquay

After our sojourn in Penzance, we made our way to The Scarlet Hotel at Mawgan Porth, very near Newquay airport. I think this has to be the most beautiful, tranquil hotel I’ve ever been lucky enough to stay in.

The Scarlet is built right on the cliffs, and the gorgeous architecture means there’s as little division between sea and building as possible. The floor-to-ceiling windows offer a constant reminder of the stunning cove just outside, and there are numerous balconies from which to admire the view.

We arrived just as a rather dramatic storm had blown up, with the sea thundering against the rocks, but happily the next day dawned crisp and golden so I was able to enjoy some invigorating walks along the beach. But let’s start at the beginning, with a tour of the hotel:

Reception and Lounge Areas

UK Travel | The Scarlet Hotel at Mawgan Porth, Newquay

The Scarlet is quite unlike any other hotel I’ve stayed in, and it sets the tone of indulgence and effortless comfort from the moment you step into its elegant interior. Rather than hauling your bags to a Reception desk (I failed completely, by the way, to pack with my usual lightness for this trip, and in a fit of madness seemed to bring my entire autumn wardrobe with me), you’re invited to take a seat in the spacious entrance way (pictured above). We barely had a chance to catch our breath over the remarkable view, when one of the hotel managers appeared as if by magic, whisked our bags away to our room and took us on a tour.

I was impressed by the spaciousness of the hotel, with its many lounge areas for guests to sit and relax, the large spa and swimming pool, coastal gardens and decks. Every inch is truly lovely, with carefully chosen art and sculpture decorating each space in a tasteful homage to Cornwall’s artistic heritage.

Our ‘Just Right’ Double Room

After our tour, we were shown to our room, which had a lovely view of the sea and had a minimalist, muted decor. I appreciated the generous size of the room, with plenty of space for chairs, a desk and large bed. The bathroom was also large, and we were both very pleased with the walk-in shower and separate bath tub. I noted a dish of bath salts, which I thought was a nice touch – too often I find hotels with lovely baths, but nothing to put in them (hence why I’ve taken to traveling with my own bath oil!).

This was the view that greeted me when I rose the next morning and stepped out onto the balcony:

The rising sun cast a rich pink glow in the sky, and the blue of the sea faded to a pretty shade of lavender on the horizon. Oh to have a view like that every morning!

Breakfast in bed was provided at no extra charge, and I went for a cheese and mustard toastie with a fried egg, a side of fruit and yoghurt, a berry smoothie, orange juice and tea. Mum ordered the Full English. Both breakfasts were absolutely scrumptious, and it felt so decadent to eat my first meal of the day in bed with a magazine.

Coastal Garden, Spa and Seaside Walks

I couldn’t wait to take advantage of the sunshine to get out and explore the hotel’s pretty coastal gardens, accessed through their gorgeous spa, as well as the beach itself. Although I didn’t take a dip in the heated pool during our say, I did have a session in one of the cliffside hot tubs (mine was the middle hot tub in the above picture).

Unfortunately, my session was scheduled for our first day, when it was pouring rain, so I couldn’t get any decent photos, but the view from the hot tub was incredible, and I don’t think I’ll ever forget the experience of sitting in a hot tub, feeling perfectly snug, but with the rain lashing down and the waves roaring and frothing against the cliffs immediately before me.

When the sun shone, I scrambled down the cliff path to the beach. Mum had joined me for a wander around the gardens, but she decided to sit on one of the covered benches on the cliffs and admire the view whilst I went down to dip my toes in the sea.

There were only a few people walking their dogs on the shore. I can imagine that this coast must be packed with tourists in the summer, but travelling in the off season meant that I got to experience the luxury of hardly anyone else being on the beach. I always feel at peace when I’m by the sea, perhaps because my Mum’s family came from Dorset, so I have sea in my veins, so to speak.

Bar and Restaurant

Another huge perk of staying at The Scarlet is the fantastic food and wine list. All the sea air definitely made Mum and me rather peckish by supper time, so we were definitely looking forward to our evening meal.

The restaurant is a lovely room, with large windows looking out to sea, and there is a stylish bar that juts out just above it. We were shown to a table next to the window and brought menus and some delicious crusty sourdough bread to nibble as we made our choices.

We had the three course menu with accompanying wine flight. The wine flight changes daily, allowing guests to discover new and delicious European wines, hand-picked by the sommelier, each evening.

To start, I went for the roast pigeon breast with black pudding, roast figs and beetroot, and Mum chose Cornish fish and shellfish stew with saffron potatoes, spinach, rye crostini and rouille.

My dish was paired with an exceedingly smooth Tempranillo, and Mum very much enjoyed her Burgundy white. The sommelier brought round each bottle to pour for every course, explaining more about the wines and why they were selected for each dish as she did so.

The food was just as palatable as the wine. I loved the autumnal flavours of my dish and thoroughly approved the combination of pigeon breast and roast fig. Mum always enjoys a good fish stew and pronounced hers excellent.

For our mains, I went for the pan fried trout with shellfish risotto, parmesan, chives, cucumber, mustard and dill and Mum ordered slow cooked lamb rump with broccoli puree, crispy belly, mint dauphines, ricotta and braised fennel. My fish paired excellently with a crisp Rioja, and Mum’s Bordeaux stood up very well against the richness of her lamb.

I adore trout, and generally always order it if I have the chance, so this dish was a great treat for me. It was a really excellent piece of fish, beautifully cooked, and I loved the creamy risotto and slightly mustardy sauce. My mouth is watering just thinking of it again! My Mum enjoyed her lamb as well, which was beautifully tender.

For dessert, I – predictably! – went for chocolate: a dark chocolate cremeux with blackberries, lemon curd and blackberry sorbet, to be exact. Mum chose coffee panna cotta with vanilla sponge, coffee granita and candied walnuts.

I know it isn’t very fashionable to say so, but I adore sweet wine, so this was the part of the wine flight I was anticipating most eagerly! I’d never tried a red sweet wine before, but it was a brilliant choice to accompany chocolate. My mum’s more traditional sweet wine brought out the sweetness in her coffee panna cotta superbly. A fabulous end to a memorable meal!

Our stay at The Scarlet was a wonderful taste of luxury and felt so rejuvenating. I would highly recommend booking a stay for a special occasion, a romantic getaway (I think spending your honeymoon here would be idyllic), or simply if you’re in need of a thorough rest, with good food, great wine and gorgeous seaside amply provided. A friend messaged me whilst I was staying at The Scarlet, saying she and her husband plan a holiday there every winter, and I can see why! It’s the perfect retreat from the world for a few days, whatever the weather.

For more information, check out the Scarlet Hotel website. Room rates are from £240 per night. This is based on double occupancy and includes breakfast, taxes and fees. To book, please visit www.scarlethotel.co.uk/stay/rooms, email stay@scarlethotel.co.uk, or call 01637 861 800.

Note: our stay at the Scarlet Hotel was complimentary for the purpose of review. All opinions expressed are my own.