Sunday, January 26, 2014

French Tuesdays



French Tuesdays.. Joie De Vivre for the sophisticated professional in the heart of the Capital…



It was Friday, but we were off to ‘French Tuesdays’.  The dress code on the invitation was ‘glamourous/best attire’, but after a packed tube journey and a walk from the station to Centre Point in the pouring rain, we were feeling anything but!  Still, surely a glass of Tattinger would make us feel better?





After a strict ID check and confirmation that our names were most definitely on the list, (if you’re not down, you really aren’t getting in…), we were whisked up to Zinc member’s lounge (The club on the floor about the Paramount restaurant) in a lift which had no buttons!  It knew exactly where we were headed – maybe we didn’t look so bad after all!



We offloaded bags in the cloakroom, swapped flats for sky high heels and made our way in to what promised to be ‘an exclusive networking event for like-minded people, seeking a sophisticated alternative to what London usually offers…’ along with champagne, canapés and live music.



We were introduced to the gorgeous Alla - events organiser and hostess for the evening, who told us about the history of ‘French Tuesdays’ and explained that the now global membership service was born in New York 10 years ago and started out as a very small soiree amongst French business professionals.  Now the service boasts a presence worldwide, with one off special evenings being organised across the globe from Madrid to Mexico City and everywhere in between.



With stunning views across London, and some stunning people lining the bar, we drank Tattinger and nibbled on canapes while magician Ashley Turner mesmerised us with his absolutely brilliant tricks (this guy is totally amazing if you’re throwing a party: www.thetrixta.com).



We were concerned that there didn’t seem to be too much networking going on, but after three glasses of champagne, we felt brave enough to take on the masses and got talking to some interesting groups of people – regulars who go to the events every time they’re on; some who were there for the first time like us; bankers; events organisers; consultants… A truly sophisticated and international crowd including French, Spanish and Italian professionals all residing in London.



Zinc itself is a members lounge and a beautiful bar/club area for an event like this, or for dancing afterwards, as the party really got started around 9:30pm.  The 10ft Tom Dixon designed bar is actually made of Zinc and it’s a really amazing main feature and a great stylish venue in which to take in the views of the Capital.



Unfortunately with work commitments the next day, we left before the end and so missed out on the raffle  in which there was a dining experience from Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester up for grabs, but we have it on good authority that the partying continued long after we left with music from DJ Douglas Poppelman and some live performances too.



To enquire about ‘French Tuesdays’ membership, go to: www.frenchtuesdays.com


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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Blue Marlin UAE

Blue Marlin Ibiza now in U.A.E - t he perfect weekend beach club hideaway for the partying jetset clientele.. 

Visiting luxurious Dubai isn’t just about going out and eating in the finest restaurants, drinking in the finest bars and dancing in the finest clubs… It’s also about soaking up the sun and it just so happens, that we found a place that combines all the above! Plus you can do it all in your bikini! 



Blue Marlin U.A.E is now open at the Golden Tulip Hotel in Ghantoot en route to Abu Dhabi, but if you’re staying in Dubai and making the 40 minute journey over, let me tell you, it’s definitely worth your while. It’s definitely the beautiful people that frequent this fine and glamourous Ibiza export, so if you’re going anytime soon, you’ll be thankful for a few sessions down the gym before you go. It’s the kinda place you can dress up, or down, but bikini’s with heels (and a perfect pert bottom), did seem to be the main dress code! 

It was already an absolutely scorching day when we arrived at 1pm, (call in advance and Blue Marlin will come and pick you up if you’re a member) and as we made our way through the hotel and down the steps to our secluded, hidden beach club, we were a little unsure what to expect. We shouldn’t have worried. Paradise awaited… Stylish… contemporary… white… Lots of white, everywhere – tables, chairs, loungers, canopies… A VIP area, a terrace upstairs, a fabulous open DJ booth on the decking, a huge long white bar stocking every spirit you can think of, and beyond all of that, the beach and a gorgeous bay to swim in. 

We made our way over to the restaurant area for a long lazy lunch, welcomed by some gorgeous super friendly staff who sat us down and gave us water without asking, and a jug of Sangria – perfect. This is unlimited if you’re taking advantage of their brunch experience which includes all the food you can eat from the bbq and chef’s selection. The service throughout lunch was impeccable. Service generally is great in Dubai, but this was exceptional – super attentive staff, amazing presentation of each dish and you never sat with a dirty plate, or most importantly, an empty drink, ever! 

Starters included a really rich tapenade with big hunks of fresh bread, green salad with mango, and a sharp but deliciously tangy tomato gazpacho. There were also delicious Thai meatballs with peanut sauce to tuck into, tuna carpaccio, and brie with fig pasties… A generous portion of California rolls with cream cheese, crab, avocado and asparagus (which definitely hit the spot), while the chicken and cream sauce pasties with mango and pepper salsa were incredibly more-ish. We decided our favourites were definitely the Thai meatballs and the California rolls. 

From the barbecue, we sampled the super meaty steak with barbecue sauce and the pepper, zucchini and mushroom skewers which were fresh and crisp and obviously a great choice for vegetarians. Big fluffy potato wedges provided a great side, while even the sweetcorn tasted that little bit better than usual, which we were later told was down to the ‘milk infusion!’ The saffron rice was also that little bit special – golden, fluffy and incredibly more-ish. 

Time for a break between courses and a few more cocktails… In addition to the unlimited sangria, there’s a whole range of amazing cocktails to choose from, which aren’t in with the price, but are absolutely amazing. 

With the cuisine adopting a modern Mediterranean taste mixed with a hint of Japanese / Asian fusion, we were especially looking forward to the mains, which didn’t disappoint. Huge dishes, including 24 hour slow braised beef – perfect in colour and texture and taste, was my favourite main course, although we also sampled black rice with squid and the stir fried vegetables with tofu – a very varied menu and every dish as pleasing to the palate as the last. 

An extremely unique desert followed, something I’ve never tasted before, but it really wowed the tastebuds! A combination of vanilla, banana, mango, pear and apple peppered with jelly gelatine balls which popped on the tongue like caviar. It’s the kind of thing you’d expect to eat in Dans Le Noir which is a restaurant which operates totally in the dark, so you can fully appreciate and experience the tastes and textures. 

Ironic really then, that this huge, extravagant lunch which includes so many amazing dishes that you just want to keep eating, also requires you to wear a bikini! We realised the error of our ways as the sun set and the music started. How could we possibly dance after eating so much food?! We managed. Probably down to the fact that Blue Marlin is renowned for its’ superb dj sets…well it is an internationally award winning beach club after all. 

And after dancing the night away to some awesome beats along with a classy crowd of cool revellers, we hopped back in a cab for the journey back to Dubai, happy, content, and even ever so slightly hungry again…. 

http://www.bluemarlinibiza-uae.com/
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The Act at The Shangri-La Dubai

An awesome experience -‘The Act’ at the Shangri-la Dubai…definitely thinking outside ‘The Box’ 

Proving Dubai is thinking outside ‘The Box’ when it comes to entertainment, comes The Act – the highest theatre experience in the world. 




The risqué cabaret show and Peruvian food experience, is courtesy of nightclub lothario Simon Hammerstein who owns the explicit ‘Box Soho’ and ‘Box New York’ establishments, and having experienced London’s version first hand, I knew we were in for a good night! 


The Act is a welcome antidote to Dubai’s sometimes sterile entertainment and nightclub environments (which are pretty much all located in skyscraper hotels) and this one is accessed via an unassuming black door on the 42nd and 43rd floor of the Shangri-la Hotel.

Once that door opens, you’re guaranteed to be blown away when you’re transported back to a forgotten era of vintage, lavish and decadent décor. Huge chandeliers; waiters and waitresses dressed as if they’ve just stepped straight out of the original Moulin Rouge in the 1800’s; huge sweeping curtains and Victorian style furniture, all adorning the stunning theatre space, which comprises a dance floor (with tables which are cleared away later) and alcove booths on the side platform areas. 


Shown to our table near the front of the stage (I’d definitely recommend booking something on the main floor if you can), our charismatic waitress was like the assistant out of a magic show! It just turned out that she also knew her stuff when it came to Peruvian cocktails. Many of the traditional cocktails are made with Pisco – a traditional spirit made from distilled Peruvian grapes and having never tried this before, I opted for a ‘Pisco Sours’, while my friend went for the ‘Poison Aimee’ – a potent mix of Bacardi oakheart, mango puree and mint leaves. 


Peruvian cuisine is rising fast in terms of culinary trends with a number of restaurants having sprung up in London including Coya, Ceviche and Lima over recent years and it seems the trend is catching on worldwide… In sharp contrast to the décor and atmosphere of the venue, all the dishes on the menu were innovative and stylish with lots of new and interesting influences. Every single dish we tried was absolutely bursting with zest and flavour and presented beautifully.


We had an unbelievable feast, (so it’s impossible to list everything we ate!) but I’d definitely recommend any of the seafood ceviches, cooked with citrus acid (normally lime), which effectively cooks the fish and also creates the most zingy, delicious flavours. The salmon with coconut, mango and leche de tigre (tiger milk) was especially tasty. Huge chunks of beef served on skewers were another of our favourite tapas style starters, while the eggplant carpaccio with a thai inspired sauce also delicious. 


Almost blown away by the innovative creations we were eating, we almost forgot about the entertainment aspect of the experience (a whole host of international acts grace the stage with a range of outrageous performances every half hour.) Across the course of the evening, we were treated to an ariel hoop display; an amazing ‘geek’ , eating cornflakes who became a super cool break dancer after drinking tequila; and our favourite - a stunning performer with an amazing voice singing ‘Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This).. A snake draped around her neck while a load of attractive girls had a huge pillow fight on stage. 

Main courses arrived soon after (but not before we had our photo taken with a giant sized white rabbit who happened to be roaming the restaurant!) One of the specialities and also most definitely the ‘piece de resistance’ for us, was the 24 hour slowed cooked beef… You know that melt in the mouth, succulent, juicy, fall apart, cooked to perfection meat?! It’s amazing that food that delicious can have you creating space when you know you were full beyond bursting about 20 minutes ago! The potatoes were also especially tasty cooked with 16 different herbs… And another favourite was the Gamberoni with quinoa, passion fruit and guacamole, which came with a sweet maracuya sauce made with passion fruit, lime, garlic, onion and butter and coriander. 

What I really enjoyed about ‘The Act’ is that you never feel rushed to finish dinner and vacate your table for the next booking… You can leisurely spend an entire night sat in one place (although it doesn’t open until 9pm), taking in the entertainment, chat with friends and order plate after plate of delicious Peruvian delicacies… 

And after the food had digested along with a few glasses of excellent Argentinian Viognier, the place really began filling up! After midnight, the big spenders began arriving; their tables filled with bottles of spirits and occupied by gorgeous girls in their Herve and Chanel. I was definitely glad we’d dressed up… The music was also really good – I’ve never Shazamed so many songs in the space of 2 hours in any club! 

My friend described The Act as ‘Alice in Wonderland… but with tequila.’ An accurate description for a fun filled night out which comes with some very ‘entertaining’ entertainment and superb Peruvian cuisine. 

http://theactdubai.com/
https://www.facebook.com/TheActDubai
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Paul A. Young – creating the finest of chocolates in Central London

As if perfectly packed chocolates flavoured with pumpkin would ever work? Or marmite for that matter?! I’ve just eaten my words quite literally as these quirky creations from artisan chocolatier Paul A. Young are pretty much the most delightful thing I’ve ever tasted! 




Lucky for us, Paul has just opened his fourth chocolaterie in London which will be located at Heal’s flagship store on Tottenham Court Road. 


His chocolate has been winning awards for years – even Nigella is a fan, declaring his sea salted chocolate as an ‘inspiration!’ 


Although Paul already has 3 chocolate shops, this is the first time you can drop by and sit down to enjoy the delights that you’ve just purchased… What could be better than a steaming mug of the richest hot chocolate you’ve ever tasted, accompanied by a delicious cocoa nib drenched cookie or a slice of rich ganache-covered chocolate cake? 


With innovative, inspirational and fascinating chocolate and truffle combinations to try, you might be there some time. These are my recommendations: 


Banoffie Pie – A salted banana caramelia layered with double cream, white Grenache and coated in crunch (66% Ecuadorian chocolate) 


Peanut Butter and Raspberry Jelly – Whole nut peanut butter ganache with a vibrant raspberry reduction layer, coated in 40% milk chocolate 


Marmite Truffle – Marmite blended with 64% Madagascan dark chocolate 


Sea Salted Caramel – Multi award winning world famous caramel. Smooth and safe with a tang of Maldon sea salt in a 64% Madagascan dark chocolate shell 


Before you ask, yes I did try them all! Don’t judge us until you’ve tried them!

Paul A. Young’s Fine Chocolates at Heals 

196 Tottenham Court Road
London
W1T 7LQ 

www.paulayoung.co.uk
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Pulling power – the Pullman Hotel comes to London



There are few opening night’s which have impressed on the scale that the Pullman London did, as it threw open it’s contemporary glass doors last week to showcase a truly magnificent space. 




Pullman is the upscale international hotel brand of Accor – the world’s leading hotel operator, with 3500 hotels in 92 countries; however St Pancras is Pullman’s first UK location. Just a stone’s throw from St Pancras and King’s Cross stations, the site of the hotel started life as a Camden Council Building, housing the purpose-built Shaw theatre - named after Bernard Shaw. And staying true to its theatrical roots, the Pullman really is an exquisite work of art. The lobby is a vast space, with reception desks to the left and a comfortable lounge and connectivity work space to the left. 


The ground floor is also home to the stunning Golden Arrow restaurant (named after the famous first class Pullman train service) and boasts a modern European menu, a wine library and the most beautiful dandelion style light fittings we’ve ever seen! There’s also an open kitchen including the unique Josper grill hybrid oven – famed for being the hottest in door burning grill available. There’s also a beautiful bar area where you can sit at the high stools and admire the 200 strong whisky collection, while cocktails include timeless classics and the more avant-garde Pullman collection. 


On the night we visited, the Nobel Suite on the lower floor had been transformed into a unique and stylish wonderland in which to sup champers and sample the finest of shell fish, sea food and sumptuous deserts; while dancing along to a brilliant set from Groove Armada’s Tom Findlay. On any other day, this vibrant and flexible 350sqm space is perfect for meetings, events and exhibitions, whist the Shaw Theatre also still remains, with seating for 446 (which all come with a writing tablet) along with private entrance and foyer. 


In addition, the Pullman is home to the business playground - an interior boardroom brimming with bespoke designs and ideas. The conference table can be transformed into a poker table, while the private discussions area is furnished as a bubble-like expanse. 


With creativity at the forefront of this contemporary state of the art hotel, the Pullman Artnight opening showcased 2 very special rooms which have been transformed into ‘art rooms’ by French photographer Carole Bellaiche and are now available for overnight stays. A stunning collection of intimate portraits adorn the walls, showing lovers on the brink of intimacy and adding a captivating quality to what would otherwise be another bedroom in a hotel… In total, there are actually 312 hotel rooms ranging from superior to deluxe – all fantastically modern in design, complete with tranquil rain shower, free high speed wifi and plush Pullman beds. The central glass lift up to the higher floors is also equally impressive, giving beautiful views of the Capital. 


With an artistic edge, a cosmopolitan vibe and facilities which would impressively accommodate those travelling for business or pleasure, the ‘art-centric’ Pullman London has high designs which live up to expectation on every level, providing some real competition on the London hotel scene. 

http://www.pullmanhotels.com/gb/hotel-5309-pullman-london-st-pancras/index.shtml
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Sake in style at Dubai’s hottest new Japanese restaurant

If you’ve ever visited Hakkasan in London, you’ll know why we were super excited to visit Sake No Hana Dubai… The restaurant is located Downtown in Dubai within Souk Al Bahar – something of a novelty for a Londoner as there are few really good restaurants in malls or shopping centres back home. This also means it’s wise to grab a cab half an hour earlier than your reservation as it’s pretty hard for me or my friend to walk past a shop without taking a look! 




The doorway to Sake No Hana Dubai reminded us of a Pandora’s box – dark and unassuming with a gorgeous hostess waiting to greet us. As we made our way inside, we were astounded by the sheer size of the place in contrast to the tiny doorway! The venue itself is split into two halves… A stunning lounge with long bar and comfortable seating areas along with stools and tables and the restaurant located down the stairs and to the back with a cigar lounge separating the two. 


We were immediately taken aback by the amazing interior design of this fabulous high end establishment – created by Tokyo based designers AGE. Rich woods and high sheens, beautiful surfaces and clean lines; yet the modern and opulent aesthetics didn’t detract from a very stylish, cool and classy atmosphere. 


We had an excellent table facing the open kitchen and sushi bar, which was great for watching the chefs at work, while we deliberated over which wine we should choose. The list is especially selected for the Hakkasan group and there really was a fantastic selection… So extensive that we couldn’t really choose! The manager suggested we might like to ask the sommelier who recommended the Hermit Crab –an Australian Viognier, which at 350aed was a reasonably priced and easy drinking accompaniment to the range of dishes which were to follow. 


We began with some steamed and salted edamame and a delicious crispy soft cell crab salad with pomelo and pomegranate. As one of Sake’s signature dishes, the crab was absolutely delicious and the salad was perfectly flavoured with the dressing. This was accompanied by the scallop carpaccio, which came presented beautifully on a bed of cucumber slices, with lemon to taste. Each scallop was bursting with flavour and topped with something different – our favourites were the green fish eggs with a hint of wasabi which were fantastic as were the scallops finished with golden Japanese citrus fruits. After chatting with the chef, who was extremely passionate about his creations, we also learned that the scallops were a newly launched addition to the menu so we’d highly recommend trying these… 


The seafood mix tempura followed – with a combination of prawns, scallops and Japanese white fish which tasted a little like octopus. This was no average tempura! The batter was so light and crispy that it melted in the mouth while the grated radish, green tea powder, tempura sauce and wasabi cream provided the most exquisite taste. I decided this was definitely my favourite Japanese dish…. Well until the teriyaki salmon arrived that is… Huge chunks of boneless salmon, perfectly cooked with a beautifully sweet sauce. We decided that this dish was definitely a little bit special. 


We also tried one of the iron pots which was a traditional Japanese dish; risotto like in consistency, with tender corn fed chicken and truffle mushrooms. This wasn’t to my friend’s taste, but I absolutely loved it and although I couldn’t eat another single thing by this point, I found myself re-filling my plate several times! 


After a break and a bit of a chill out, we decided to try out the sushi and sashimi – which of course would have to be accompanied by some sake. Having never tried sake before, I was amazed at how good it tasted and how well it brought out the flavours in our gorgeous spider maki rolls (the snow crab was just to die for). The staff are extremely knowledgeable on their list of sake, so if you’ve never tried it before, just ask and they’ll be happy to take you through the list and explain the basic sakes and brewing methods. We tried the Honjozo which is a fragrant variety with a very small amount of ethyl alcohol added at the final stage of fermentation. I’ve got to say, I am now a true sake convert….


As we discussed how amazing and truly authentic our dinner had been in terms of Japanese cuisine, we noticed the dj had taken to his stand in the lounge and that the bar area was beginning to fill up. What was really nice, was that although the music was loud-ish, we could still chat without having to shout and with some great tunes being played, we decided we’d make our way through to the lounge to soak up some of eclectic atmosphere along with a cocktail or two. 


The cocktail list is as exhaustive as the wine list – an endless choice of perfectly executed concoctions. All of the bar staff are trained mixologists and they’ll be delighted to make something up to your exact specifications – that’s if you can’t find anything to tempt your taste buds which I’d say would be impossible! We settled on a delicious, smooth and full of flavour strawberry margherita and a fabulous accompaniment to the most stunning desert I think I’ve ever seen, or tasted – the Raspberry Rose which is brownie based and made with manjari mousse and a raspberry compote chocolate velve, not forgetting the lychee ripple ice cream (It’s even better than it sounds if that’s possible….) 


After 10, the lounge started to fill up, a superb mix of the Dubai elite – good looking, well groomed groups and couples. The music – a mix of upbeat, commercial house and some great versions of old classic 80’s tunes, make this lounge stand out against the hundreds of others in Dubai. There’s also a separate lounge food menu should you require it! Is there any box this restaurant doesn’t tick?! Well the answer would have to be a resounding No.

Lying by the pool the next day, we reflected on our Sake No Hana Dubai experience. 

Beautifully created drinks, stunningly presented food which tasted as good as it looked. An electric atmosphere, opulent décor and a crowd to match. It doesn’t get much better than that for a night out. The collaboration between the Hakkasan Group and the Crystal Group (with Patrice Gouty of London’s Chinawhite and Raffles at the helm,) proves that in a city which boasts some of the world’s highest restaurants and panoramic views, that the perfect formula can actually be found hidden inside a Pandora’s box.

http://sakenohana.ae/
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Ash on the Ale Trail discovering a brave new world. Of Beer...

I’ve always viewed my friends who drink beer with mild disdain. After all, how are you meant to get chatting to the hottest guy in the bar wearing your prada pencil skirt, McQueen heels and swinging your Herme’s whilst drinking a pint of Newcastle Brown Ale?! Surely that’s never happened…?! 




I thought beer was the drink of choice at the end of a long hard day ‘grafting’. I thought those who drank it generally had big beer bellies to match their massive pint glasses; the kinds that shout at the tele when there’s a footie match on; play darts, drive vans… They don’t even sell beer in some of the clubs I go to. I’ve never seen SJP put a pint to her lips in all 6 series of Sex and the City and with many of my nights out spent flitting around cocktail lounges and 5 star hotel bars, I’d even begun to forget beer existed… 

Then I had a night out with my friend Kris that changed everything, forever. Sorry to be dramatic but it feels appropriate here.


‘What did you do this week?’ She asked. 


‘Checked out the new Pullman London hotel, went to sample some chocolate from Paul A.Young’s new chocolatiers, met a couple of friends in the Groucho Club… The usual. You?’


‘Ahh well I went to that beer festival I was telling you about. Nicholson’s are showcasing all their ales at the moment…’


‘YOU DID WHAAAAAT?!!!’


I didn’t say that out loud to her. Actually, yes I did. Seriously, one of my friends likes to drink cask ale out of a pint glass?! And she’s young and cool?! And my mate?! When did this happen?! 


Turns out ale is having somewhat of a revival. And even more surprisingly, amongst women. According to an article at www.craftbrewingbusiness.com, the figures for male beer drinkers is down every so slightly, while 26% of women in the survey named it as their favourite alcoholic beverage – now surely these people have never tried an espresso martini?! Well apparently they have, and they’re increasingly making ale their beverage of choice due to ‘finding new brands and discovering new flavours’. 


Even female brewers are getting in on the making of the beer action! I wouldn’t have thought it would be as glamorous as wine making (that’s frolicking around in the sunshine bare foot in a field squashing grapes with your feet – right?!), but nevertheless, The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) has added 20,000 female members (or ‘brewsters’ as they’re known) in the last decade. That’s just staggering… 


It was all the persuasion I needed to go and try out some of these cask ales for myself. If I can down copious amounts of rank tasting tequila on drunken nights out, then surely I could spend a civilised afternoon in a Nicholson’s pub appreciating the taste of malt and hops…

Now Nicholson’s pubs I am familiar with. There’s one called the Clarence – right next door to Mahiki. I do like a Nicholson’s. There’s always a good crowd in there, always great staff, and it has the air of being a real pub pub, but for the 21st century. Ahhhh but as I was about to learn, Nicholson’s is much more than any pub. Who knew they’d been around for 140 years?! They work directly with the breweries creating new flavours and producing exclusive seasonal ales. Their cask conditioned ales are all looked after by fully trained Cask Masters and there’s one in every bar!! 


So on a cold rainy Friday afternoon, Kris and I headed down to the Bear and Staff pub (part of the Nicholson’s chain) for a lesson in beer tasting with Ben the beer brand ambassador… Boy did he know his stuff! 


With 6 beers lined up on the bar, Ben explained about each individual ale, the fermentation process, and what I should be l looking to taste in each one. I began to realise beer tasting was a little like wine tasting. Just minus the pretty glass. ‘This one has citrussy and grapefruit notes’ Ben told me about the Castle Rock, Harvest Pale. Hmm… ok…. Actually much better tasting than I had expected, but not quite for me I decided. The next was Nicholson’s best selling pale ale. Slightly smoother and a sessional beer apparently. Rich and golden in colour - aesthetically I was sold, and very pleasant tasting it was too, but still not my favourite. 


Unbelievably, as we reached the darker, stronger, ales, I started to really enjoy the flavours. The best by far (for me), was an ale called Bragging Rights created by a woman in the Brains brewery in Cardiff. Wow. She has great taste… honeyed, spicy, smooth. I was sold. Who’d’ve thought it?! I also discovered that I was quite partial to the Nicholson’s Porter with strong, dark, rich velvety flavours. Slowly it occurred to me that I was having a lot of fun! I’d even picked up a few admiring glances from men in the bar who were obviously just super impressed that I could down 6 pints one after the other. Ok, that’s a lie. I only had a sip of each, but I’m in training… 

According to the Cask Report www.caskreport.co.uk, the demographic of the average beer drinker nowadays is affluent and educated with plenty of disposable income. Out of the 7-8 million cask ale drinkers in the UK, 20% are under 35 – that’s a really interesting figure don’t you think?! Popularity is booming amongst women, and amongst young male drinkers too. 


So, this is where young male professionals hang out. In pubs like Nicholsons and not in cocktail bars. It’s very possible I might be making my next one a blonde. Beer. Not guy.


www.nicholsonspubs.co.uk
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A beautiful collaboration between Bill Amberg and Yamazaki Whisky



For Whisky lovers everywhere, comes an exquisite collection from designer Bill Amberg and the pioneering Japanese Whisky Yamazaki. 


Luxuria Lifestyle were invited along to preview the stunning unveiling of two unique pieces at Bill Amberg’s North West London studio – the 18 year old and 25 year old Suntory Yamazaki single malt whiskies, which were both fabulously presented and beautifully packaged. 


Bill’s passion for Yamazaki (Japan’s first and oldest distillery), coupled with Suntory’s appreciation of the designer’s craftsmanship, have resulted in a collaboration which oozes sophistication and style. The designs perfectly compliment the unique blend and unrivalled taste of a single malt which is now highly regarded around the world. 


Inspiration for the 18 year old Whisky’s presentation pack, came first hand from Amberg’s experiences at the Yamazaki distillery in Osaka. The cask interiors of the barrels are charred to create varying degrees of taste, and it is this effect on the oak which provides the basis for the design of the bag – made of calfskin. 


The design for the 25 year old limited edition Whisky was a far more complex procedure, ensuring that the case was a perfect mix and balance of materials, to reflect its stunning flavour. A year in the making, this presentation box has been fine tuned over and over and the end product is evidence of the sheer complexity of the process to produce this creation. 


The 18 year old Yamazaki priced at £225, is coppery bronze in colour with a mature autumn fruit taste; raisin, apricot and chocolate on the nose; with fudge, dark chocolate and strawberry jam on the palate and a long profound finish. 


The 25 year old Yamazaki priced at £1400, is deep and complex; almost sherry like in taste; with raisin, raspberry and jam on the nose; cocoa and almond strong on the palate and a long dried fruit finish. 


Both presentation packages would make excellent gifts for your loved ones, but be quick, there’s only a limited number available from Harrods and The Whisky Shop.


In addition, there is a further limited edition ‘Cask Collection’ now available from Suntory who this year have been named ‘Distiller of the Year’ for the third year in a row. This new collection showcases a multi-layered array of signature flavours with four single malts: Bourbon Barrel, Puncheon, Sherry Cask and Mizunara. 


Below is a brief description of each...

Bourbon Barrel: (£100)
Aged in 180 litre white oak casks which evoke rich, sweet vanilla flavours
Full aromas and a smooth, long finish


Puncheon: (£100)
Selected malts are aged exclusively and gently in puncheon casks crafted from North American white oak
Sheer golden appearance, sublime, wood aroma and sweet vanilla notes


Sherry Cask: (£100)
Historic cask used to house the first distillate from Japanese stills
Filled with Olorose sherry and left to rest for three years before being used to age the whisky
Releases more tannin to produce a very rich whisky taste with intense red colour
Wonderful balance of acidity and fruity structure


Mizunara (£250)
A rare opus of oriental aromas, Gold Medal at the ISC in 2013
Crafted from a precise selection of malt whiskies
Mizunara oak casks produce whiskies with oriental notes, along with sandalwood and agarwood


The Cask Collection is available to purchase at The Whisky Shop, The Whisky Exchange and Royal Mile Whisky.

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Nothing less than ‘Magnifico’ at the Misa Braseria, Palma

When you’re on holiday, 3 course dinner at lunch time is perfectly acceptable don’t you think?! All you have to do is lie on a lounger afterwards with a pina colada… 


Luckily that’s all we had to do after lunch at Marc Fosh’s delightful establishment – Misa Braseria, which is tucked down a tiny alley off the Carrer de la Missio right in the centre of the city of Palma. (don’t you just love the sound of foreign streets?!) 




If you’re unfamiliar with super-chef Marc Fosh, now’s a good time to give you the lowdown… He’s from Kent originally, and after a career which comprised of heading up the kitchens in London’s Greenhouse Restaurant and the Chelsea Room at the Carlton Tower Hotel, he spent some time in France before crossing the border to Spain. That was over 20 years ago and he has never left! In 2002, Marc became the first British chef in Spain in 2002 to be awarded a coveted Michelin star....I knew we’d be in good hands.

The Misa Braseria is a pretty cool place. Full of rustic charm and character, but quite informal and yet still contemporary. There’s a gorgeous courtyard to the side too, which would’ve been fabulous to sit in - had it not been way too hot in the midday sun!

We decided to go for a cheap bottle of wine - something easy to drink at lunchtime. The Torre La Moreira seemed like a good choice, selected from a pretty reasonably priced list – most bottles were between 17 and 27 euros. A basket of bread arrived along with our bottle, brown and white, with a gorgeous orange and herb butter. 


For my starter, I decided to be really adventurous! The last time I tried octopus was in Barcelona in 2001 when I’d mistaken the ‘pulpito de salsa’ for ‘something that sounded nice and tomatoey’. When the bowl arrived, it must’ve been filled with 500 baby octopus with 5000 legs (that’s possibly not an accurate leg count but you get the picture) However, I decided my palate may have just grown up 12 years on and I very bravely ordered the octopus starter. I needn’t have worried. Had I known that it could taste this good, I could’ve saved myself thousands of calories whilst eating out over the years! Crispy on the outside and melt in the mouth on the inside, I’m not gonna lie, I wanted more! Don’t just take my word for it though, luckily my guest, was a somewhat more seasoned octopus eater than me and also agreed it was the best he’d ever tasted! A mouth-wateringly amazing start to our huge lunch then! 


The main I hadn’t been sure about when I ordered. I wanted to go for something else, but was talked into going for the organic roast chicken by both my guest and the waiter! Apparently it’s something of a speciality for the Misa Braseria. And in hindsight, I’d agree, it was pretty special! Yes it’s just a roast chicken, but wow the flavours are just something else! The chicken is actually cooked for 6 hours at just 60 degrees, in a bag, with pistachio’s, Moroccan infusions and lemon. Succulent, juicy, tender and bursting with the most amazing taste! Accompanying our flavour filled chicken was a pot of gravy – again just delicious; along with big fat golden chip wedges which came dusted with paprika; carrots in cumin butter and green beans with sesame seed and onion. If you are visiting this eaterie, then you must eat this!!! 


Having devoured so much of my main, there was no way I was going to be able to eat desert. ‘Oh go on then’ I heard myself saying (there’s going to be some diet when I get home…) I’m pleased to report the crème brulee that I’d chosen didn’t disappoint… My favourite sound is that glug that comes with the first pour of a bottle of wine and my second favourite sound has got to be that crack as your spoon hits the top of a crème brulee. A perfect consistency, perfectly sweet, I managed to eat the whole lot. 


So a fantastic lunchtime experience, a delicious meal and great atmosphere. Misa Braseria has it all. Except a sun lounger and a pina colada in very close proximity! Time to digest… 

www.missabraseria.com/en/
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