Category Archives: Food & Drink

Tylney Hall: great building but not a great stay

I’ve been fortunate enough to stay in some lovely country house hotels recently – sadly, Tylney Hall was not one of them.

To clarify: as a building, the house is really impressive, a massive 300-year old pile in 66-acres of Hampshire countryside. The ceilings are high, the rooms are oak-panelled and hung with portraits, and as a structure goes, it is everything you could ask for if you want to stay somewhere that really looked the epitome of a country estate.

tylney hall hotel review
It looks really impressive from far away…

Unfortunately, the experience of staying in Tylney Hall was somewhat different. Its website claims, rather ungrammatically, that: ‘Hampshire hotels simply don’t come any grander or offer such heights of luxury anywhere in the UK.’

This doesn’t actually make much sense, which is fitting as a lot about Tylney Hall didn’t make much sense. I had arrived really looking forward to a lovely overnight stay with my mother and left feeling as if Fawlty Towers was alive and well and had just relocated 200 miles east. Continue reading Tylney Hall: great building but not a great stay

Review: Apero – below the street but still a cut above

It is always a good sign of a hotel restaurant if you could imagine going back there without being an overnight guest and Apero definitely fits that description.

Tucked beneath the Ampersand hotel and the South Kensington pavement – though designed in such as way that natural light still streams into the restaurant, Apero looks at first glance rather basic and simple, but offers a menu which is anything but.

apero restaurant south kensington review
It looks plain and simple, but the food at Apero is thankfully neither

The decor might be unfussy, with white tiles and exposed brick walls in what is basically a Victorian cellar, but the food is quirky and fun and made for a memorable evening.

I and my friend Lisa went for the £30-a-head sharing menu, a selection of dishes selected by the chef, and kicked proceedings off with a pair of Aperol spritz cocktails, which seemed appropriate.

Aperol , the Italian aperitif which is essentially Campari-lite, has been the ‘new big thing’ in cocktails for about a year now – a lifetime in cocktail terms – and so it seemed time for me to try one before the fad ran its course. Our Aperol spritzes (spritzi?) with Aperol, prosecco, soda water and a slice of orange were very refreshing and were indeed reminiscent of Campari but with a sweeter taste. Continue reading Review: Apero – below the street but still a cut above

Review: Fischers Fritz at the Regent Hotel, Berlin. One martini trolley and two Michelin stars

It was halfway through dinner at my first two-Michelin-starred restaurant experience at the Fischers Fritz in Berlin when I realised I was far more a ‘drinkie’ than a ‘foodie’ (assuming ‘drinkie is even a word.)

I was dining at the Fischers Fritz restaurant in the Regent Berlin, and had already been thoroughly over-excited at the arrival of my pre-dinner drink in the hotel bar. This was a Prince of Wales cocktail, a €23 Champagne cocktail which contained liberal servings of cognac and  Grand Marnier, topped off with Angostura bitters and brown sugar and served rather incongruously in a silver goblet which grew almost freezing to the touch as the ice inside melted.

My Prince of Wales cocktail, served in a silver goblet which grew steadily colder

I was happily piling into that when I was invited into the dining room with the most wonderful phrase in the English language: ‘And you must really try our martini trolley.’

A martini trolley! This sounded like a great deal of fun and so it proved. The menu for the martinis alone was a fascinating read, full of information about the origin of various drinks and a whole dictionary-worth of delightfully esoteric ingredients. I could happily have spent the entire evening working my way through the cocktail list and forgetting food altogether, aside from whatever olive or pickled onion garnish came my way. Continue reading Review: Fischers Fritz at the Regent Hotel, Berlin. One martini trolley and two Michelin stars

Holborn Dining Room review: adds class to commuterville

The traffic-and-commuter-saturated High Holborn usually has little to recommend it, being full of gridlocked buses and office workers doing the twice-daily rat run to and from the tube.

But an grand oasis of opulent charm and fine dining has just arrived and is well worth putting off the journey home for.

Holborn Dining Room, which opened just a few weeks ago, is located the old Pearl Assurance building, so it has all the high-ceiling’d formal grandeur of a former financial institution complete with marbled pillars.

Holborn Dining Room
An improvement on an insurer’s offices, the building on High Holborn is 100 years old this year

In the far corner is the Holborn Delicatessen, open during the day for coffee, pastries and high-end deliciousnesses, while in the restaurant itself is a deli-style counter complete with hanging salamis and people busily slicing away at hunks of cured meat. Continue reading Holborn Dining Room review: adds class to commuterville

Cannizaro House Wimbledon: a country retreat in the city

Cannizaro House Wimbledon
Cannizaro House in Wimbledon. Sadly that isn’t my car.

There is something rather delightful about packing to spend the weekend in a hotel just four miles from your home.

It yields all the excitement and anticipation of a trip away without any of the angst and despair caused by realising you have to drive across London in the rush hour and then get snarled up on the Hammersmith flyover.

And the journey home! Many a relaxing weekend away has been ruined by roadworks on the M1, a lane closure on the A3, the sheer awfulness of driving through Wandsworth on a Sunday evening.

So to do away with all that unnecessary travelling seems to me to be utterly sensible.

Some would not agree. I recently had lunch with a tour operator who maintained that half the fun of a holiday is the fact you have to travel to get there, thus giving you a sense of achievement and new territories gained when you arrived at your destination.

To which I merely said ‘the journey home’ and ‘the South Circular’ and he paled and said I might have a point. Continue reading Cannizaro House Wimbledon: a country retreat in the city