Category Archives: New launch

Rooftop cocktails and a spa make Montcalm Royal London House a top to toe destination

There is something rather special about a rooftop bar in London. The views might not be spectacular – we’re not taking Rio or Hong Kong harbour here – but to rise above the traffic and gaze down at the crowds from on high feels incredibly luxurious. Good rooftop bars in the capital are few and far between, so the arrival of a new one is cause for celebration. Enter the Aviary, the rooftop bar and restaurant on top of Montcalm luxury hotels group’s sixth and newest hotel, Montcalm Royal London House.

Montcalm Royal London House
The roof terrace at the Montcalm Royal London House in Finsbury Square is one of the biggest in London (and would look even better on a sunny day)

I visited on a cold winter’s evening, so my friend and I had the pick of dozens of comfy sofas and retro chairs on the deserted terrace, while more sensible patrons enjoyed their cocktails in the warmth of the restaurant inside. However there were heaters and thick blankets so we were able to enjoy the delights of the Aviary’s eclectic cocktail list al fresco – a sour cherry bomb with Sipsmith vodka and rhubarb bitters was especially tasty.

montcalm royal london house
The terrace is on top of the Montcalm Royal London House and adjacent to the glass-walled Aviary restaurant

Continue reading Rooftop cocktails and a spa make Montcalm Royal London House a top to toe destination

Cosy Cotswolds charm at The Painswick, Sunday Times Hotel of the Year

Being named The Sunday Times’ Hotel of the Year, which The Painswick was just a few weeks ago,  can be a double-edged sword. On the upside, the phone hasn’t stopped ringing since the news came out, bookings are through the roof and for a seven-month-old hotel, it is an incredible achievement.

painswick hotel
The Painswick was built in the 18th century and was once a vicarage

The downside to that, is that some guests expect the hotel, tucked into a corner of the charming Cotswolds village of Painswick, to be well, rather grander. The Painswick doesn’t have a multi-million pound spa, acres of  stunning gardens or a Michelin-starred restaurant, a private cinema (unlike its sister hotel and near neighbour Barnsley House) or an outdoor swimming pool (like its other Cotswolds relative, Calcot Manor.)

painswick hotel
Built on the side of a hill in Painswick village, the original building has been extended over the years and now includes a garden wing and terrace for weddings

People in search of the ultimate bells-and-whistles hotel experience – dress code for dinner, a turn-down service – might want to search elsewhere. But for those looking for a friendly, cosy break where you feel instantly at home, where staff will offer to pick you up from the local pubs after a country walk  and where you can fall asleep on the lounge sofa in front of the fire, The Painswick is perfect. Continue reading Cosy Cotswolds charm at The Painswick, Sunday Times Hotel of the Year

Balans – it’s smarter, sexier and has its very own tree

Returning to Balans on Kensington High Street was like visiting an old friend who had had a complete image change in the intervening years. My colleagues and I used to come here for a post-work glass of wine of two, sitting squashed into the tall velvet banquettes which lined one wall and made the narrow restaurant look even narrower. Now it’s called Balans Soho Society, the banquettes are gone, a skylight has been opened up in the roof making the space a lot lighter and airier, and oh yes, there’s a tree growing out of one of the tables.

balans soho society kensington
The new-look Balans Soho Society on Kensington High Street. And there’s the tree – look closer and you’ll see it’s hung with little keys, the symbol of its members’ club

Having been a Kensington fixture for 15 years, which must be something of a record, Balans has rebranded, refurbed and is keen to attract the new generation of local drinkers.  The cocktail list has been totally revamped, so as well as high-end classics such as Death in the Afternoon (Hemingway’s favourite – absinthe and champagne) and the Porn Star martini, there is also a whole range of sours, plus home creations with names such as Slap on the Rum and The Society Teddy Bear (served in a honey bear bottle). Continue reading Balans – it’s smarter, sexier and has its very own tree

Sexy Fish: Mayfair’s slice of loud, brash, bling and fun

Sexy Fish, the newly-opened £15 million restaurant from  Richard Caring (The Ivy, Le Caprice, J Sheekey) doesn’t actually look very sexy from the outside. It’s rather plain and square and dull and looks not dissimilar from the NatWest bank it used to be, plonked on the bottom corner of Berkeley Square. If it weren’t for the fact that SEXY FISH is in massive letters on the front then I would probably have walked right past it. ‘Somebody spent £15 million on this?’ I thought – and then I walked in.

sexy fish
Not very sexy from the outside…

What a contrast. Being inside Sexy Fish is like no other restaurant I’ve been in for some time, if not ever.

It is not subtle.

It is like being inside a jewellery box, a Las Vegas casino and an Arabian palace all in one (it has been memorably described as ‘like being punched in the face by Abu Dhabi’).

There’s a waterfall running the entire length of the wall behind the bar to give that all-important indoor monsoon effect. There are 20 luminous floating Frank Gehry fish flying around at one end of the room and a 13ft crocodile, also by Gehry, climbing the wall at the other end. Continue reading Sexy Fish: Mayfair’s slice of loud, brash, bling and fun

One Sixty City Smokehouse and Bar: hearty, meaty, boozy

Just as you think that you have pretty much tried all the cocktails there are at One Sixty City and you’re just going to stick to an old favourite from now on, along comes a new one which makes you vow to never think such a ridiculous thing in future.

one sixty city
My One Sixty Beer cocktail is on the right, while David’s Southern Tipsy Tea is on the left

The one which caused me to think this was the One Sixty Beer cocktail, made up of Sailor Jerry rum, Cointreau, lime and pimento and topped off with Chimay Gold Belgian beer.

It sounded pretty awful, to be honest, but I was in a new restaurant – One Sixty Smokehouse and Bar, which is between the Gherkin and Liverpool Street station – and so I felt it would be a waste not to try the signature cocktail. Needless to say, I was very glad I did as it was utterly delicious and completely worked in spite of the odd combination of ingredients.

I was having lunch with owner David Moore, who also runs Michelin-starred Pied a Terre as well as L’Autre Pied and various other foodie ventures. One Sixty City – 160 degrees is the temperature at which the meat is cooked at and means the meat fibres break down to become smooth and flavourful – is the second in the One Sixty series (the first opened in West Hampstead last year) and focuses on ‘hearty American classics with a distinctive English flair.’ Continue reading One Sixty City Smokehouse and Bar: hearty, meaty, boozy