Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Franco Manca, Chiswick

Great pizza comes at a price and you’ll be shocked it’s under £7!

Walking down the Chiswick High Road on a sunny summers’ evening, I couldn’t work out why there was a huge queue of people down the street.  Either the Chiswick residents had just discovered the coffee shop that Brooklyn Beckham’s meant to working in, or something pretty special was going on.  For a start, Chiswick peeps don’t queue full stop.  (Unless there’s a champagne sale at M&S Foods…)

Turns out sour dough food chain Franco Manca has just opened!  And possibly everyone was  in shock that you can get a pizza in West London for under a tenner! 

Eager to find out what all the fuss was about, I joined the queue too (mildly excited at the thought that maybe Brooklyn was working here and maybe David would be milling around.)  I can confirm I was in for more of a thrill than any meeting with Becks would provide in the form of a pretty amazing pizza cooked in a very very very hot oven.

 After a very short wait, my friend and I found ourselves with a lovely outdoor table (luck of the draw I guess) and while I was slightly disappointed to be drinking my Sauvignon out of one of those weird glass tumblers as opposed to a normal wine glass,) I was also very much looking forward to the prospect of a tomato, cured organic chorizo and mozzarella baked at 500 degrees Celsius.

Apparently we have Greek settlers back in the 5thCentury BC to thank for this delicious pitta like sour dough base.  The high heat of the wood burning ‘tuff’ brick oven, seals in the moisture and locks in the flours’ natural aroma.  Sounds good doesn’t it?

I’m not gonna lie, it’s a pretty basic menu (6 pizzas in total), but you can add anything you like to them to satisfy your pizza fetishes, and they do a pretty mean burrata starter too.

Check out the menu at

Franco Manca


144 Chiswick High Road


W4 1PU.


Champneys Health Spa, Tring

And relax… Champneys  - the true leaders of luxury

I’m a Champneys fanatic and my bathroom cabinets are jam packed full of every product from their body oils to bath salts, yet I’d never been to a Champneys spa.  Having just returned from a sailing holiday around Croatia, I wouldn’t say I was exactly stressed, but having become accustomed to the relaxed pace of life, I was super excited at the invitation which landed in my inbox on my return.  Would I be so kind as to attend lunch, sup champers, indulge in a massage or two and celebrate the installation of a beautiful new garden room from Crown Pavilions?!  Ermmm yes.  I would!

There’s are 8 day spas across the UK and just 4 luxury retreats – the nearest to me being Tring, just a short train journey from London.  Champneys Tring is an absolutely stunning stately home surrounded by 170 acres of land which was once owned by the Rothschild family.  While the original house still stands, the resort has grown considerably, and now boasts 65 treatment rooms, 2 tennis courts, a 25 metre indoor pool, a gym and medical centre as well as hundreds of rooms for longer stays which range from standard to deluxe suites.

Champneys itself was opened as the very first UK health farm by naturopath Stanley Lieff, and it will celebrate it’s 90thbirthday next September – what a party that will be!

With a winding driveway and stunning entrance area, Champneys is a luxurious experience from the moment you arrive.  Whisked through an efficient checking in process, we were sized up for gowns and slippers before heading out to the garden for coffee and a chance to soak up the sun.  Having picked one of the hottest days of the year to visit, the loungers were out and it was something of a rarity to see so many people in bikinis and shorts and know that we were still in the UK!

After choosing our afternoon treatments, we were shown to the stunning garden room which we’d be occupying for lunch.  Set in the gardens and surrounded by flowers and greenery, the Hampton Pavilion is unlike any outdoor installation I’ve seen before.  Too luxurious to just be called a gazebo, (and definitely not a conservatory as it stands alone), Crown Pavilions seems to have spotted a gap in the market and have created a fabulous range of garden rooms and summer houses which are hand crafted  and made to order in Oxford, using redwood and cedar.  This particular design, the Hampton, comes with an eating and dining area, fridge, air con and lighting – absolutely perfect for entertaining guests.  Champneys guests now of course have the added bonus of being able to request this area for a private lunch or dinner with waiter service.  And even as summer comes to an end, pull down the acrylic blind panels and turn up the heat and you can still enjoy the benefits of eating al fresco all year round.

In such sumptuous surroundings, it was only fair that we had a fitting menu to match – the freshest of strawberries, champagne and canapies, were followed by seared scallops on chorizo with garden pea puree, cress salad and balsamic reduction; grilled fillet of beef which melted in the mouth, accompanied by mini fondant potato, curly kale and Madeira ju.  A really exquisite dinner made with the freshest of ingredients and presented beautifully.  After eating so much delicious food, we were all more than ready for a session in the thalassotherapy pool. 

Thalassotherapy is a form of hydrotherapy I’ve never tried before.  It’s basically a warm, mineral rich pool filled with powerful jets which ease and soothe tired joints, blast cellulite and tones muscles.  Almost like a work out without actually having to do anything – my kind of workout!

We followed this up with a relaxing back massage each… mine was absolutely amazing (from what I remember), I only got to enjoy about 10 minutes off it before drifting off into a deep relaxing sleep which is unheard of for me!  Had we not booked our train tickets back to London, I’m pretty sure I would have had to indulge in another.

With amazing special offers on long stays at Champneys, I can imagine heading out to Tring for a few days would be a truly relaxing rejuvenating experience – check out their website for details.  And while you might be at the spa to unwind, it might just be worth donning your best lycra and paying a visit to the gym, as we’ve heard on the grapevine that Daniel Craig and Peter Andre are both fans… Nice!

Metion naturo path Stanley lieff and 90 years next sept (since 1925)


Boma Green, Parsons Green

Boma Green (Forget the White Horse, Boma’s the bar to be seen in…)

I was on a sailing holiday in Croatia a few weeks ago and part of the trip involved some all night partying in Hvar at a club called Pink Champagne.  I got chatting to some guys who happened to also live in London, where it turns out they run both Boma Bar & Restaurant on Wandsworth Bridge Road and Boma Green at Parsons Green.  Seeing as I’m a reviewer and they were all pretty handsome, it made perfect sense to check out the place on my return.

With no dinner plans for Saturday night and seeing as my friend Sylwi has just moved to Parsons Green, it seemed like a great idea to try Boma Green and see what all the fuss was about.

With the White Horse, the Duke on the Green and Aragon House making up the Parsons ‘triangle’, we decided almost immediately that Boma should be the 4th pillar!  With an intimate bar area at the front and a stylish, contemporary designed restaurant out back, this quirky, cosy, eaterie was quickly becoming a new favourite. 

A nice selection of wines (French, Spanish, Italian, Argentinian to name but a few), along with a good choice of champagne made the choice an easy one.  We went for the New Zealand ,Clarence River Sauvignon Blanc which at £28 was a decent bottle.

The menu offers ‘fresh, locally sourced’ food and is designed with  a ‘something for everyone’ concept in mind.  Starters include goats cheese filo parcel with crushed walnuts, tomato and chilli jam (£7), steamed prawn dumplings (£6.50) and szechaun prawn dumplings with water chestnuts and sweet soy (£6.50).  Unfortunately, I made a bad choice with the soft shell crab with polenta crust, lime rice, fenugreek and coconut, because although the ric e was deliciously light and fragrant, and the presentation of the dish was stunning; there was very little crab meat.

However, our mains most certainly did not disappoint.  I opted for the Boma Burger (having heard previously that this was a great one to go for).  A towering burger, balancing just-melted-enough cheesy cheddar, perfectly cooked crispy bacon, smothered in sweet red onion relish and topped with lettuce and bun, the Boma is also served with triple cooked chips which were an absolute winner!  (I think the crunch when I bit into them might’ve been heard in the Sloaney!)  I also ordered a side of zucchini fritte which were fried in light batter and totally delicious.

Sylwi wanted something spicy and decided to go for the Chicken Thai Green Curry with red chilli, bamboo shoots and basmati rice.  An absolutely exquisite dish.  Creamy but not too thick a sauce, a nice kick of chilli which cut through the coconut and again, really nice rice.

With lots of lovely natural light coming in from the glass panels above the restaurant, we thought other lovely touches included the paintings on the walls which are up for sale and a really cool guitar (which we think is used by one of the manager for live music nights) really added to the ambience of the place.  A really lovely lively atmosphere, great staff and good quality food make Boma on the Green a new favourite.  Next stop, Boma, Wandsworth Road!

Boma Green

271 New King’s Road




Aqua Kyoto 'Experience' Menu

What an ‘experience’ at Aqua Kyoto, Argyll Street

The ‘Experience’ menu at Aqua has just launched and I was one of the lucky few invited down to celebrate the delights of this truly magnificent 5 course feast with a huge Kaiseki banquet.

As if that wasn’t good enough, we were also told that Aqua’s Executive Chef from Hong Kong would be flying in to prepare the dishes for us with head chef Paul Greening!  Now it’s not every day I get an invitation like that and it was one I most definitely could not pass up!

And so, I found myself along with a small group of about 10 of us, enjoying a glass of Veuve on the Aqua roof terrace, before making our way into the private glass dining room, which is a really special and intimate area overlooking the open sushi kitchen.  (Great for private dining events and parties…)

We were introduced to the Executive Chef Iwahahsi-San who has cooked at some of the best hotels including the Sheraton and the Shangri-la, and then to Paul Greening who is Aqua Kyoto’s head chef.  He developed the ‘experience’ menu using seasonal foods, traditional recipes and exploratory scientific methods to create a truly stunning collection of beautiful and delicious dishes that encompass all that’s fantastic about contemporary Japenese cuisine.

This menu we sampled, was actually around 12 courses – I didn’t think it was actually possible to eat that much food!  It’s known as a kaiseki or banquet menu which is renowned for being meticulously prepared and aesthetically stunning – each dish is basically an art form which has been carefully crafted and stylised while also balancing taste, texture, colour and appearance.

From the sashimi platter, to the amazing wagyu beef, and the green tea soba noodles with Japanese mushrooms, the ‘experience’ menu takes you on a journey that appeals to all your senses and ticks every box as you head towards desert.  The ‘piece de resistance’ came in the form of the exclusive fuji apple with crème fraiche ice cream – a delightful work of art which looked too good to be eaten.  After taking lots of photos of it, we eventually gave in and cracked the hard toffee apple like shell which gave way to the most delightful apple desert I’ve ever had the pleasure to taste.

Lose yourself in the moody, atmospheric ambience of Aqua with the 5 course ‘Experience’ menu with Kyoto ume-shu cocktail, available now for £45 per person.  Amazing value.

Aqua Kyoto

Fifth Floor

240 Regent Street

(Entrance 30 Argyll Street)


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