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San Miguel de Allende

San Miguel de Allende

By on Oct 20, 2014 in Adventure, Drink, Food, Hotels, Luxury, Mexican, Mexico, Mezcal, Reviews, Travel | 1 comment

Food wise, Mexico has an incredible amount of variety to offer the gourmet traveller, and whilst Oaxaca is known as the culinary capital of Mexico, there are a number of distinct regions with their own unique dishes, celebrating native produce, forming a base of traditional Mexican recipes that have been handed down over generations. Whilst there are understandably some influences from America, notably in cuisines in the North of the country, as well as significant influences from the Spanish who of course infiltrated Mexico, bringing animal husbandry and butchery with them, in fact the majority of Mexican cuisine is just that: Mexican. Provenance of some of the more notorious dishes such as the burrito can be ambiguous and most Mexicans will tell you the burrito is an American invention, whereas the taco (perhaps surprisingly), is an entirely Mexican staple. Signature ingredients include chilli (of course), achiote, lime, coriander, rice, eggs, avocado, corn flour, maize flour, beef, pork and chicken. However, as I discovered on a recent trip to San Miguel De Allende via Mexico City, there are many more styles of preparation and ingredients to explore, ranging from the exotic to the frankly bizarre. Preparation of Mexican meals can often be a painstakingly slow labour of love, resulting in a table that groans under the weight of food, at which the entire family will sit to dine. I will never forget the first meal I saw taking place in Mexico, in a big old rustic diner in the Yucatan with a high vaulted ceiling, timber beams and wagon wheels bolted to its stone walls. I had just arrived in Mexico for the first time, with a couple of London lads and a Swedish girl. We were agog at the vast frozen Margaritas that were brought to our table, in glasses the size of hollowed out footballs and swimming with premium gold tequila. Although we were four young and excitable travellers, freshly arrived in this magical land of mountains and deserts, soft sand beaches and palm trees, Mariachi bands and Mezcal, it was in fact the table of twenty or so Mexicans opposite us who commanded the most attention. This was an entire family, out to dine and mingle on Saturday night,...

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A merry maritime in Greenwich

A merry maritime in Greenwich

By on Jul 1, 2014 in Commentary, Drink, English, Food, London, Real ale, Restaurants, Reviews, Travel | 0 comments

Oh England. England, England, England, with your soggy summers and bitterly disappointing football scores, we do still love you. And what better way to remind ourselves of just how much we love you than to pay a visit to a royal borough to experience your heritage and parks in all their rich green lush splendidness, to seek out some hidden gem of gastronomic delight in a tavern where we might replenish our spirits by feasting on seasonal fare, slaking our thirsts with an extensive wine list and chugging down a selection of hand-pumped ales? No better way. For some inspiration on visiting Greenwich for a day out, one might consider taking the ferry boat from Westminster pier so as to soak in the sights along the way. It’s a great way to see parts of London you might not usually get to witness, and there is also a guide on board to talk you through some of the history and points of interest. Once at the historic naval heart of Britain that is Greenwich, there is a raft of things to see and do. You can visit the National Maritime museum and learn about England’s rich maritime past, or the Royal Observatory and planetarium to learn about star charting, and pop off on a voyage through the universe. I’m rather intrigued by the show “Back to the moon for good” which chronicles the efforts of teams to win the Google Lunar XPRIZE, for which they must land a robotic spacecraft on the Moon, navigate 500 meters over the lunar surface, and send video, images and data back to Earth. “This global competition is designed to spark imagination and inspire a renewed commitment to space exploration, not by governments or countries – but by the citizens of the world.” Of course there is the legendary Cutty Sark, a Grade 1 listed dry docked clipper vessel with a fascinating history. As wikipedia tells us: “Willis considered that the bow shape of Tweed was responsible for its notable performance, and this form seems to have been adopted for Cutty Sark. Linton, however, felt that the stern was too barrel-shaped and so gave Cutty Sark a squarer stern with less tumblehome. The broader stern increased the buoyancy of the rear of the ship, making it...

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King of King’s (Road) and Cadogan.

King of King’s (Road) and Cadogan.

By on May 29, 2014 in Cocktails, Drink, Food, Interior design, London, Real ale, Restaurants | 0 comments

In which Philip King, 1st King of Streatham is reunited with an old Earl. Many many moons ago, far far back in the distant past in the year of our Lord 1992, I ventured up to The King’s Road, Chelsea, with a crumpled tenner in my student duffle jacket pocket and high hopes of achieving a pleasant level of inebriation, perchance to impress one of the many damsels I had spotted earlier in the day as they shopped for designer threads amongst the many boutiques in this highly fashionable district. My partner in crime was a dashing fellow inebriate, and together we headed straight for a tavern by the name of The Cadogan Arms, as it had a right regal ring to it, what with having been a tavern since 1869 and named after the first Earl of Cadogan. Faded, jaded décor featured crimson flock wallpaper, wonky wall mounted lampshades with velveteen trim and plump little tassles, scrappy printed portraits of huntsmen and women on horseback gallivanting over hills and dales. It was very much of its time, in that the renaissance of pubs bars and restaurants had yet to take hold of London. To experience walking to the bar was akin to experiencing being a fly glued to fly paper as one’s feet stuck to the floor; meanwhile everything had a habit of creaking as though on the film set of a Hammer horror movie, but we didn’t care because the booze was cheap and the bands and the beat-up juke box made a vaguely pleasing racket as I recall.  Suffice it to say, this has all changed dramatically now, since the site was taken over and renovated some time ago by the same brains behind The Jugged Hare, a praiseworthy establishment over Barbican way. Whopping windows now provide a vista onto the ever busy King’s Road. Inside, the scheme evokes a sort of highland refectory, with woodiness abounding, a curious assortment of huntsman’s spoils adorning the walls and overall there is a feeling of everything being pared back. It’s unfussy, yet with enough touches to make it quaint and quirky. I took a pint of Jugged Hare IPA, brewed especially for the group by some indie craft...

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Dan the apples n pears

Dan the apples n pears

By on May 1, 2014 in Drink, Food, Italian, Restaurants, Reviews, Vermouth | 0 comments

You would be forgiven for walking straight past mele e pere whilst out and about in Soho scouting for a top notch watering hole and eaterie. Rest assured you’d be missing out, as beneath the elegantly simplistic upstairs bar facing onto Brewer Street, extends a spacious and welcoming basement, where the serious business of rustic Italian trattoria dining at its finest takes place. We sat upstairs in the goldfish bowl bar before dinner, sipping gin Martinis, absorbing the laid back vibe. Staff genially busied about the floor, a couple next to us shortly taking delivery of a profiterole dessert I was so impressed by that I rudely asked its recipient diners if I could snap the beast. They kindly obliged and in fact joined in the fun. Take a look at the beauteous objects and you’ll perhaps understand how such temptation took hold.  Mele e pere means apples and pears in Italian, or stairs in cockney rhyming slang, which is cute, as their extensive collection of blown glass apples and pears comprises the entire wall beside stairs you descend to get in amongst it in the basement, featuring a stunning copper topped bar stocking an assortment of vermouths blended by their team and bottled in beautifully ornate glassware. If you are so inclined you can join in the vermouth revival movement by attending monthly masterclasses hosted by head sommelier Ed Scothern, where you will learn how to blend different vermouths, and naturally, to drink them too. This is great value at only £15.00 which includes cicchetti (light bites such as olives, ham and squid). The meal was a culinary delight from start to finish. Rather than choosing mains, we selected a number of starting plates to share, so as to graze gently and savour the experience. Seirass ricotta, fresh peas, purple sprouting broccoli and smoked bacon proved an excellent medley of flavours and textures, creamy mild Piedmonte ricotta blending beautifully with tangy, salty bacon, freshened with lightly blanched greens. Salad of grilled octopus and calamari was cooked to tender perfection, fruity olive oil providing a gorgeous warmth to softened potato, dressed with fresh wild garlic leaves, the aroma and flavours of which had me reminiscing of walks in Devon where the good stuff...

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Mexico City Day 3

Mexico City Day 3

By on Mar 27, 2014 in Adventure, Drink, Hotels, Mexico, Mexico City, Mezcal, Travel | 0 comments

From the hangar we headed to Plaza San Jacinto, to browse the plethora of stalls selling handicrafts made by the Nahua peoples indigenous to this region. Silver and leather jewellery abounds, and there are some beautiful designs, often based on classic Aztec patterns. There are also numerous delightful cafes and restaurants such as the one pictured above. Sadly we didn’t get time to eat here, but we did sample some of the fantastic mezcal. It’s a similar drink to tequila but with a smokier flavour, and has a delightfully mellowing effect. I also had a seriously rich and robust double espresso to boost energy and search out some of the earthy Latina flavours I’d been craving. Although there is no mescaline in mezcal, the combination of flavours and effects had me grinning like a Cheshire cat. This is an experience I would highly recommend. The atmosphere inside this colonnaded square with the sun blazing down was hypnotic, and to a soundtrack of violins playing Mexican ditties and a visual feast of intense colours of fruits and flowers bathed in glorious sunlight, I sipped the last of the espresso to my complete satisfaction. Enraptured, steadfast, for the first time settled in this vast city, it struck me that even the world’s most densely populated zones have their zen spots. Outside our next port of call, a delightful little family run restaurant by the name of Las Lupitas in the Coyoacan district which has some beautiful homes and architecture, we met this chap who was sat patiently waiting for his owner. Las Lupitas has been a restaurant for many many years, and it would seem the same personnel run it now that opened it back in the day. Service was extremely relaxed and very friendly. The food wasn’t bad but wasn’t anything to write about. However the atmosphere was pleasant and it really is a beautiful spot to lunch in. At times it’s the little things you notice that remind you more than anything of where you are. A city’s inhabitants have their own unique foibles and quirks, and it is these as much as the historical and civic structures that evoke a sense of place.  That and the mezcal… ….and...

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In the lapland of luxury

In the lapland of luxury

By on Feb 11, 2014 in Adventure, Drink, Food, Hotels, Lapland, Luxury, Real ale, Reviews, Travel | 0 comments

“There’s no such thing as a free lunch” or so they say. “They” however weren’t bloggers. I jest of course. Writers, journos, bloggers, or anybody with the ability to generate publicity are often schmoozed in exchange for exposure (steady on) and there is nothing so criminal about that in itself. However it can prove tricky when you’re asked to experience and review something that falls well below what you might consider a reasonable standard. For my part I tend to pick a destination or press trip very carefully, vetting it for quality before attending, and quite simply if I don’t enjoy the experience I will tell my host and give them the opportunity to correct it or avoid publication. Harsh, but fair. However, occasionally you do strike gold, and end up having a fantastic experience, such as was the case in the run up to Christmas last year, when I headed along to the Ice Bar in London for a bash dedicated to all that is Northern Sweden’s Lapland, a destination I have long yearned to visit since reading AA Gill’s descriptions of riding across a starlit snowy tundra, downwind from a nitrate rich fug of husky guff, sleeping on blocks of ice wearing nothing but a reindeer pelt. Or was it a wolf skin? Lapland is a wild and expansive destination in the far North of Sweden, known for a range of profoundly unique points of attraction, both natural and man made. Aside from the fact there is obvious beauty in the sub-zero crystallisation of swathes of wide open countryside, draped in a thick blanket of snow, there is also the breathtaking spectacle of the Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights; a natural phenomenon that occurs when magnetism created by solar flares, bounces off the earth’s outer atmosphere resulting in a celestial light show of swathes of luminescent refraction. Some clever people decided this would be an ideal spot to install a winter break destination so they built the Ice Hotel and yes, it is a hotel made entirely of ice. I’ve never been there, but a trip to The Ice Bar in London was the next best thing. First off we were taught how to sculpt ice, which was...

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