Thursday, August 06, 2015

Storeys Bar - TVC Carpark

 I live in West London, so I’m always going to defend it, but if we’re being honest here, the best rooftops are either Central or way our East… until now! 

A media institution, Television Centre as you probably already know, is being converted into flats, work spaces and bars (there’s a new Soho House being designed as we speak), and lucky for us, the abandoned carpark next door, is now host for the Summer to an edgy urban rooftop terrace called Storeys, which just oozes cool. 

It probably wasn’t Banksy, but the graffiti-adorned walls give it that ‘not in West London feel’ straight away, while the array of diverse street food gives it some East-London-esque ‘flava’. Food vendors include Le Bun (French-American), Aji Ceviche (Peruvian), Randy’s Wing Bar and En Brochette to name but a few. 

There’s more than one bar dotted around so you’re not gonna be stuck up there, hot from the sun and dying for a cocktail, and you also get to choose your corner of cool. Will you go for the Ibiza style corner, the forward-thinking-sit-on-a-metal-barrel area, or will you just plonk yourself bang in the middle on a picnic table?! 

Storeys is open Friday night and all day Saturday and Sunday for brunch, lunch or whatever you fancy. Up the anti. Use the lift.


Friday, June 12, 2015

Crowne Plaza, Gerrards Cross

The new Crowne Plaza Gerrards Cross – just 17 minutes from Central London

The Bellhouse in Buckinghamshire is in the process of a Crowne Plaza takeover.  A £20 million takeover to be exact…  If you’re in London for business, but still really fancy getting out into the countryside, breathing in some fresh air and indulging in a three floor spa and fitness complex, then guess what?  This is the place for you.

There’s lots of refurbishment work currently taking place to the interior and exterior, but really, you hardly notice the quite well concealed disruption!  The new Crowne Plaza Gerrards Cross  is just 30 minutes away from Westfield at Shepherd’s Bush (I timed it and that was at 5pm – pretty good considering!)  It’s conveniently placed right by the M40 and the M25 and it really does have that ‘getting away from it all’ feel too.  Perfect if you’re prefer a rural retreat to the overcrowded central city buzz.

The car park is huge.  And free!  No fighting for tiny spaces!  And the building itself is huge, and also slightly reminded me of The White House – even though I’ve never been to Washington.   Three separate and efficient check in desks await in reception and the process is easy, no fuss.  You’re there only long enough to gaze around, take in the huge doors to the spa and wellness centre and notice that the place is pretty cool.  It’s a very modern design  - a little edgy even…  

The rooms are super contemporary and to me, have an uplifting feel to them.  Bright colours contrasted with calming hues of brown, beige and black… A luxury king size bed which takes up most of the cosy, yet ample sized room – those ones that if you’re short, you have to launch yourself at, in order to get on!  There’s a SMART TV in prime position in front of the bed and it’s a big flat screen, with freeview – perfect for watching TV in bed, while supping on a cold drink from their free minibar (soft drinks only, but still free).

Although I was impressed with the bathroom which has superb lighting for applying make-up (or of course shaving, if you’re a guy), I was a little disappointed to find my room had no bath, which I thought was standard for the ‘standard’ rooms.  Still, the massive rain shower sufficed and the complimentary bath products were very much appreciated.

Dinner when you’re on your own, can be a complex affair can’t it?  Some hotel restaurants really don’t cater to it and you’re sometimes left feeling a little awkward.  I’m happy to say this wasn’t true of the Crowe Plaza’s restaurant which felt relaxed and comfortable, ultra modern and beautifully light courtesy of the slanted glass paned roof.  There’s plenty of tables positioned perfectly for single dining and also placed so you’re not encroaching on anyone else’s eating space.  The wifi is good and again free, which meant I could happily type out this review, while glugging a good glass of their Montepulciano.  

With a restaurant menu in the hotel room, I’d been eyeing up the Beef Bourguignon all day and so was ready to order almost as soon as I sat down.  In my eyes, the best bourguignon I’ve ever had is from a restaurant and champagne bar called Kettners in Soho.  I’m happy to report that the Crowne Plaza’s may have taken this crown!  A substantial plate ful of what can only be described as really rich, slow cooked beef in that unmistakable red wine sauce with onions.  Absolutely gorgeous.  Piped mash accompanied the beef along with beautifully sweet carrots.  Dessert was a rather good sized pot of apple and pear crumble with rhubarb on the side and a lump of lovely creamy ice cream in the centre.

When the restaurant and bar open properly, it’ll be known as the 1269, will have an in-house ageing room for meats and a charcoal josper grill.  The bar will feature a whisky vault and bourbon based drinks, making it a worthy competitor for any of London’s top bars. 

After a wonderful night’s sleep and no wakeup call, I found myself back down in the restaurant for breakfast which is served until 10am. Time to check out Waves Wellness Spa which I found to be incredibly spacious!  The reception area has a huge smoothie and health food bar with again, some great dishes on the menu.

Downstairs are the changing rooms, the spa, sauna, steam room and a very decent sized pool!  There’s nothing worse than arriving at a hotel pool which looks Olympic sized in the pictures, but is actually smaller than a Jacuzzi!  Now, while I was here, I thought it best (for the purpose of the review) to indulge in a massage.  The spa has a real abundance of treatments which all sound pretty amazing – but I decided just to go for a 30 minute back, neck and shoulder, which was simply divine.  The treatments and oils are all ESPA – who specialise in slow gentle movement while working in a bit of pressure to relieve, relax and rejuvenate.  My aromatherapy oil was a combination of sandalwood and rose, frankincense to unwind and myrhh to help the mind de-stress and re-balance, while the almond oil acted as a deep nourishing agent for the skin.  Half an hour was most definitely not enough – especially when the beds are heated and also move to sit you upright while the realization hits that indeed you have things to do that day and can’t stay in that aromatherapy bubble forever.  (Yes a real shame I know…)

With improvements being made over the next few months,  the new Crowne Plaza can only get better, while right now is a pretty amazing starting point!  Plus, the beef bourgignon alone is most definitely worth the drive.  I’d give this 4 star hotel, a 5 star rating.  Get booked up for the Autumn opening!


The Macallan Residence

The Macallan Estate in the Highlands covers 390 acres and border Scotland's salmon river, the river Spey.  It's here that all the magic happens - in the Spey's smallest spirit stills.  The unique size and shape of the stills means the spirit is exposed to copper, very closely and this provides the rich full-bodied flavours of this fabulous whisky.

Last week, the Macallan Residence flung open its doors to unlock the secrets behind the 1824 series.  The event was held at the stunning Two Temple Place - a stunning architectural gem, steeped in history and once the office of William Astor.  A very fitting location for our fabulous journey.

We began with a Gold Rush cocktail made with Macallan Gold, Galliano and ginger beer, then moved on to the Macallan Rare crafted from hand selected Spanish sherry oak casks.  As we sipped, we were treated to a fabulous demonstration of how to make a new twist on the Old Fashioned called the Old Gold, with mixologists Wayne Collins and David Miller.  For this they used Macallan Gold - a gorgeous golden coloured whisky with lemon, orange and vanilla notes.

Our journey continued upstairs, where we sampled more amazing cocktails, while browsing the carefully selected exhibitors stands which included fantastic fine tailored suits from Timothy Everest and some beautiful products from the famous Detroit brand Shinola You could even get a stunning leather bound journal engraved with your initials while you waited!

My favourite part of the night was the whisky and chocolate pairings (typical girl!).  Here, we got to sample some absolutely amazing luxury chocolates from Artisan Du Chocolat.  We tried the Macallan Gold with a rich basil and lime dark chocolate, Macallan Amber, with the best ever chocolate sea-salted caramel and the Macallan Ruby with a tobacco infused dark chocolate.  Absolutely sublime...

If you ever get the chance to attend a Macallan event, then you must!  In the meantime, check out their website for some Father's Day gift inspiration!  There's a special Macallan Gold Luggage Tag pack is available now, and includes a luxury luggage tag to accompany the first expression in the 1824 series priced at £38.95 from most supermarkets.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Elephant Haven Charity Auction

Last night was one of those nights where a load of events were all happening on the same night!  I passed up on the opportunity to sample one bars new cocktail list (although of course I'll be back another night...), in favour of a really worthwhile cause and a cause particularly close to one of my friends.  And so Hannah, (my good friend from The Luxury Channel http://theluxurychannel.comand I, made a hasty stop at Ciroc's new London Riviera pop up for a cheeky drink by Tower Bridge, before heading off in support of our good friend Lara who'd arranged a pretty swanky do along with The Communication Group and Roseberry's - all in aid of elephants.

Dave White's 'Baby Elephant'

Elephant Haven have a mission to set up Europe's very first elephant sanctuary for the resocialization and rehabilitation of elephants...  It will be based in France, in a peaceful location, using over 60 acres with room for more growth in the future.  Here, the elephants will be safe, cared for and comfortable in heated living quarters with interior stables and outdoor paddocks, but in order to do this, of course, they need money...

Kate Garner's 'Kate Moss'

The event last night, was held at the stunning private members club, The Library in Covent Garden and aimed to raise these desperately needed funds with a charity auction.  This included some amazing photographic prints of Kate Moss and David Bowie, iconic fashion pieces from Dame Vivienne Westwood and Dinny Hall and silkscreens of baby elephants (aww).

Hannah, Lara and I showing our support!

There was also some fantastic performers on to liven up the night and as the (particularly potent) margheritas flowed, there were some very generous bids made.  In total, the night raised over £27,000.

You can do your bit right here if like us, you have a little affinity for those gorgeous big creatures:


Monday, June 01, 2015

London's Best Bar Terraces

It’s getting hot in here – Central London’s top terraces
We spend half our lives indoors, in front of the fire, drinking red wine (ooh don’t we all love a red when it’s cold?!), while rubbing our hands together and thinking that’s really gonna make us warmer… So with the hint of summer in the air (well there’s definitely pollen anyway, I can feel it), it’s time to hit London’s top terraces.

Much nicer to sit out in the open air with a good view of London and remind yourself why you live in this big, crazy, expensive city!

Marios Schwab designer terrace at Aqua Kyoto
Okay, it doesn’t have the best views over London, but with a terrace this stylish, you don’t need to be looking beyond the designer prints of the sofas and chairs anyway!  Multi-award winning Schwab has taken his 2015 S/S collection to inspire the area, lighting and furnishings which includes a stunning infinity mirror behind the bar.  And to compliment such a cool outdoor space, there’s designer drinks to match courtesy of Aqua London’s bar manager Luca Missaglia who has created some amazing Ciroc based cocktails.  Try the Charcoal Fizz, the Mercury Drop with coconut and elderflower, or the Smoky Fig blended with Ciroc, Crème de fig and smoky Mezcal.

Moet Ice Imperial Pop-up at Madison Rooftop
The dj’s spinning his tunes outside, the Moet Ice Imperial is flowing and there are more white sofas than you’d find at Ocean Club in Marbella.  Oh, and did I mention the outstanding views of St. Pauls Cathedral?!  Yeh that should do it.  Moet have moved in to Madison for summer with this gorgeous pop-up which will take you right back to Ibiza.  Meanwhile Moet’s new drink is also definitely worth a try – it’s the first demi-sec champagne created especially to be served with ice, while the mango and guava make this 12% non-vintage champers the perfect sweet summer drink.

Ciroc at London Riviera
Think Miami, think Cuba, think Southbank!  A 5 month pop-up has just landed smack bang on the South Bank at Riviera and it’s guaranteed to transport you to a tropical paradise.  It might not strictly be a ‘terrace’, but you’ve still got a pretty fine view of the Thames from this new chilled hang out.  Food, Ciroc based cocktails, live entertainment, and even Mixology masterclasses every Wednesday.  We’re in!

Vista Trafalfar
It’s an oldie but a goodie, and it’s perfect if you find yourself in the middle of London surrounded by tourists on a hot summers night.  Escape!  They don’t know it’s here…  Into the Trafalgar and up up up in the lift for panoramic views of the city.  This summer, it’s inspired by beautiful English gardens to enhance the Bloom Gin cocktail experience – a floral gin with honeysuckle, pomelo and chamomile botanicals.

It’s brand spanking new and you’ll find it on the roof of the Marriot Hotel on Park Lane.  Kick back on the astro-turf, admire the pot plants and trees and take in the rural vibe of being four storeys above Oxford Street.  Like Wimbledon, there’s also a weatherproof marquee for any rain (In London?! As if…)  As well as serving drinks, there’s a great menu including salad boxes, beef rending sliders (yum) and giant sized ‘man-wiches’.  We’ll have two.

Radio Rooftop at ME Hotel

Still my favourite.  Stylish, modern, contemporary, expensive.  Outstanding views, glass floor to ceiling windows, an amazing terrace, cool furnishings… Oh and of course there’s an absolutely huge bar in the middle, serving drinks.  As you’d expect.  Always worth the bill for those two glasses of wine.  With surcharge.  Not all the best views come free, but they might come with a little bowl of nuts.  Or olives.


Saturday, May 30, 2015

Pizza at Rocket, Holborn

Out of this world pizza at Rocket, Holborn

Downstairs restaurants, hidden beneath the packed out streets of London.  You never really know what you’re going to get, unless of course we tell you what’s in store and then there’s no nasty surprises!  At Rocket in Holborn, you’re in for a pretty special evening once you descend those stairs.  They’re famous for their pizzas, but that’s really just the start!

Pulled Pork Pizza

Décor is smart, creative and imaginative.  There’s lots of greenery –which gives a nice outdoor, light and airy feel to a very indoor space!  Blocks of bright pink and orange punctuate the dark wood, while birdcage style lighting illuminates the tables and makes those cocktails look all the more inviting!

Speaking of cocktails, a new menu has literally just launched, so be sure to give them a whirl.  We went for the Rattlesnake – literally liquid sunshine in a glass!  Beautifully sweet, courtesy of the Cazcabel honey liquer and then a hit of juicy fruit provided by the kiwi, lemon, apple and vanilla.  My friend Sandy had the Au Pear with Zubrowka, pear cognac, passion fruit and lemon, topped with champagne for a fizzy hit.  This drink had a tangy taste, refreshing on the palate and the perfect wake up after a hard day at work.

Fresh pesto and garlic pizza bread

We perused the extensive pizza menu while nibbling on gorgeous warm baked pizza breads with pesto and garlic.  The menu really is fantastic.  Think innovative, bold, fresh pizzas, Californian salads bursting with flavour and big juicy steaks.

Halloumi and Chorizo Skewers

Our waiter Daniel was brilliant and believe me, we put him to the test when it came to the wine list – well they really shouldn’t have so many!  He recommended a perfectly balanced Italian Verdicchio to go with our food choices which really was delicious.  For starters, I went for the halloumi and chorizo kebab and Sandy chose the crab cakes.  My kebabs were amazing and I really loved the textures of the slightly plastic-y halloumi with the really chewy full on taste of the chorizo.  The strong flavours worked brilliantly with the green mango and cucumber spaghetti.

Surf n Turf Californian salad
I was totally in the mood for pizza and because I’d been told many a time that Rocket’s fresh Italian base pizzas are definitely the highlight, I couldn’t resist.  But it did take a while to choose, because the toppings are all so unique!  Great combinations like smoked chicken and caramelised onion; pastrami and pepperoni;  smoked black pudding, butterfly king prawns and pancetta… I was tempted by that last one, but decided to go with the barbecued pulled pork shoulder which came with tonnes of melt in the mouth meat, rainbow slaw and chipotle spiced tomato sauce.  You might think with toppings this big, they’d forget about the mozzarella.  Nope, there was a tonne of this with cheddar cheese thrown in for good measure.  A taste sensation.  And one of those situations where you really want to burst but cannot stop yourself from going in for another slice.  Sandy made a fantastic choice with the Californian style surf and turf salad.  Giant tiger prawns, baby squid, and perfectly cooked beef – all 3.5 ounces of it!  It’s the biggest salad I think I’ve ever seen and according to Sandy, also the tastiest!

At this point, I was ready to be rolled home, but then out came the dessert menu which is in a word, irresistible.  At bursting point, we decided to battle on!  Cheesecakes and sticky toffee puddings arrived and still we ate!  

3 hours later, we looked at our watches and couldn’t stop laughing.  Where had the time gone?!  When was the last time we had eaten so much food?!  We couldn’t answer either question.

As if you need any more persuasion for a visit to Rocket, they’re a chain and have a restaurant pretty much close to wherever you are!  They also have a terrace, conference rooms, an exclusive glass partition room in the restaurant for bigger groups or private events, and you can even book in at Rocket for private cocktail masterclasses.

Do us a favour and check out those huge portion sizes.  You will not be disappointed…


Maggie's 5th Birthday Party

80's fever right in the middle of Chelsea!  If you've never checked out Maggie's Club, then quite frankly, you've never lived!

5 whole years of partying in what looks like a giant rubik's cube to the likes of Billy Ocean's 'Caribbean Queen' and 'Maniac' from Flashdance.  Visors, leg warmers, Michael Jackson face masks.. It's all absolutely fine in this 80's den.

The girlies! Stacey, Sylwi, Lynda and I
 Thursday saw the 5th birthday celebrations of this institution as we helped Inception Group really 'Get into the Groove' along with the gorgeous girlies from KK Comms.

The Girls from KK Comms

The (Mr T lookalike who looks more like Mr T than Mr T), was on hand for some pretty funky dance moves (when he wasn't getting papped from every angle...) and as we sank more and more Sex on the beaches, the band fired up and played some absolute belters including Queen and Madonna. (Lucky too that Madonna was there to partake in the antics.

My name is Madonna.

Inception Group's fabulous Robin Kay. (I love him)

Mario and Luigi served margherita pizzas and then at midnight, the rubiks cube cake came out.  Cake and cocktails.  Yes at the same time.  Living the dream...


Bistro by Shot

Brunch, coffee, cake, dinner…Bistro by Shot has it all

Having always lived in West London since I moved here, I’m a huge fan of Parsons Green.  All those epic pubs placed neatly around the green – the Sloaney, the Duke, Aragon House, Boma on the Green…  And now the cutest little coffee house come cool evening restaurant ever – Bistro by Shot.

By day, there’s as many macs on the tables as cappuccinos and tiramisius…  At lunch, friends meet up for a gossip and the odd lucky-enough-to-work-close-enough office worker enjoy eggs every way, butternut squash and pumpkin salads or fresh tagliatelle, salmon and parmesan.

There’s the most scrumptious cakes sitting invitingly on the counter so that you know you absolutely have to indulge as soon as you’ve put your knife and fork down, but there’s also the option of a beautifully rich, baked fondant, oozing warm melted chocolate – just ask them nicely and one will magically appear!

At night, the lights go down, the candles come out and voila, a wonderfully romantic bistro emerges.  There’s pork belly, confit of duck, beef fillet with sides of purple broccoli and duck fat chips washed down with a selection of carefully chosen wines.

Quaint, simple, understated… Bistro by Shot is your new go to any time of the day or night.


Thursday, May 28, 2015

Manhattan Bar, Singapore

The view of the bar at the fabulously grand Manhattan within the Regent Hotel, Singapore, was so impressive that I actually used it as my very first Instagram photo!  There’s a decadence and opulence present in this bar which is hard to rival, which is why I’d recommend you visit if you’re spending any time in Singapore this coming year, as the city celebrates its 50th Anniversary of Independence.

The Bar at the Manhattan

The bar area itself is theatrical-like, dark, moody and dramatic, with the bar as the stage, the neatly lined bottles acting as a backdrop and the stunning staff, it’s starry actors and actresses.

It’s a bar worth dressing up for, because the indulgence and sophistication of Manhattan will you have stepping back into an age of days gone by... into the 19th Century Golden Age of fine whiskies and experimental cocktails.

Manhattan Bites & Cocktails!

With a luxurious and contemporary feel, you’ll be sinking back into the finest of upholstered leather seats and sipping on a beautifully made tipple before you’ve even noticed the jetlag.

American head bartender Ricky Paiva has pulled out all the stops to ensure you receive the best drinks you’ve probably ever tasted.  No expense is spared during the cocktail making process and this even involves using a premium ice programme.  The ice is actually made from the highest quality water with an array of high-purity, high-density hand cut bespoke cubes and shapes, which enhance the tasting experience.  Likewise, nothing but the finest customary cocktail glasses are also used – handcrafted at one of the world’s oldest glass factories! 

Manhattan houses the first in-hotel Rickhouse too, which features over 100 American oak barrels from Minnesota and is used to finish sprits, bitters and cocktails and whiskies, while the Ingredients Room  houses the most unusual of ingredients from around the globe to help shape Paiva’s creations.

Shaken or stirred, there’s something on the menu to please the most discerning of palettes from the Rainbow Room Cosmopolitan with Death’s Door Vodka, Ferrand Dry Curacao, fresh lemon and hibiscus syrup, to the Papaya King mixed with Plantation Dark Rum, All-Spice Dram, bitters, banana cordial and fresh juices.

And to compliment these truly divine concoctions, come the finest of food.  Michigan born chef Nicholas Trosien who’s worked previously as Sous Chef at the four Season Hotel Palm Beach has put his stamp on Manhattan’s nibbles which could really be described as fine-dining bar bites.  They might be ‘bite size’, but they’re big on flavour and quality.  Try the Rebellion Burgers with Angus beef, tomato onion jam, Nicasio cheese and butter lettuce packed neatly into a paprika bun.  The Maine Lobster Roll is a taste sensation with beautifully soft crab meat, avocado and remoulade sauce, while the bourbon infused doughnuts will leave you wanting more....and more... and more...

There’s also 3 private rooms with Manhattan if you wish to get away from it all – the Rockefeller Room hidden behind a secret door and reminiscent in style of a private 1920’s New York Club; the comfortable Private Salon decked out in tan leather and plum velvets; and The Library – sophisticated, elegant and of course, quiet.

If you're in the area, this is a 'must-visit'.  Check out the website here:

Thursday, May 14, 2015

East Village, dinner with Ravinder Bhogal

East Village – serving up an irresistible offering
Stratford evokes nothing but good memories for me – the camaraderie, warmth and friendliness that came with the 2012 Olympics…  The brilliant performance put on by Justin Timberlake at Wireless…  Yet it’s never quite been a neighbourhood.  Until now.

With Westfield Stratford already cemented firmly in place and the Olympic stadium as a backdrop, the landscape is slowly changing as the area develops and East Village comes to life.  East Village (if you weren’t aware), is the apartments that the thousands of athletes participating in the Olympic Games actually stayed in while they were here in UK.  Now, those apartments have been converted into light, airy, attractive living spaces – from one beds, to four bed townhouses.

Having heard so much already about these gorgeous apartments with their spectacular views, Luxuria Lifestyle jumped at the chance to attend an intimate dinner at one of the properties, to sample food from renowned Indian chef Ravinder Bhogal, whilst enjoying wines from the quirky and cool Bottle Apostle.

Get Living London’s private rentals are being snapped up as soon as they become available and it’s easy to see why.  Hassle-free benefits include no fees, long-term stability and flexibility, free broadband and full furnishings.  Floors are heated, appliances are high quality and the rent is very reasonable starting at just £395 per week for a one bedroom apartment.  The surrounding community feel is being built up by retail units lining the walkways – gastro pubs, bicycle shops, hairdressers... and the award winning and artisan wine merchant Bottle Apostle, who were happy to provide us with some truly lovely wines to accompany dinner.

Whilst having a good look around, we quaffed a delicious Portugese Vadio Brut along with a mouth-wateringly more-ish salmon kibbeh nayeh, made with bulghur wheat and spices.  We then sat down at our fabulously intimate dining table (there was just 12 of us), to enjoy smoked aubergine with saffron yoghurt, pistachios and pine nuts, which went beautifully with a 2013 Saint Peray.  The citrus and herb notes of the wine worked wonderfully with the nuttiness of the oily seeds used in the dish.

Influenced by her Persian and Indian heritage, Ravinder’s main dish was a honey spiced quail with rice and crispy onion.  Perfect for a special occasion, the quail was cooked in lashings of honey butter and aromatic spices including cinnamon, ginger and saffron, along with lemon and garlic.  The wine choice for this course was a 2013 Original Spaniard Blank Bottle – velvety, smooth and very drinkable!

While we probably could’ve carried on with a few more courses, (the food was just soooo good!), we ended on a high with a rose scented pannacotta topped with stewed rhubarb and a pistachio and coconut meringue on the side.  The delicate flavour of the dessert was complimented perfectly by the wine choice – a Spatlese Cuvee which wasn’t over sweet, but just sweet enough!

Yes, we’d all been won over, sitting in that beautiful apartment, sipping on wine, eating the most delicious of Indian food, chatting with friends and all against a view over one of London’s most prestigious landmarks.  Where do we sign up?!

Rental prices:
1 bed: £395 per week
2 bed: £420 per week
3 bed: £515 per week

4 bed: £725 per week


Thursday, February 26, 2015

Soma Bay, Egypt... A luxurious peninsula, full of surprises...

I’m sitting at work wearing a hat and a big scarf in front of my computer in London... Hard to believe that just a few days earlier, I’d spent the weekend snorkelling and sunning myself, just a 5 hour flight away...

Kempinski - Soma Bay

Where I hear you asking?!  Well, lucky for you that I don’t mind sharing with you the secret of Soma Bay – a gorgeous and exclusive Egyptian resort, just a 40 minute drive from Hurghada airport.  And so do-able for a weekend.  Board the early Friday morning flight from London Gatwick and be there in your luxurious hotel just in time for dinner.  3 fabulous days of sunbathing, spa, kite surfing, snorkelling, diving or golfing and you can make it back on the Monday evening flight, relaxed and invigorated for the week ahead.
So here’s your handy guide to a resort which pretty much has it all (and that’s before the planned expansion!)

Where to stay: The Kempinski
We stayed at the luxurious 5 star Kempinski Hotel in Soma Bay.  Staff are unbelievably pleasant, while the hotel itself is like a modern fortress, still however, managing to retain some Egyptian glamour and character.  

The open reception and lounge area with its high ceilings and impressive chandeliers  is a really comfortable place to chill out while you’re waiting for friends, or for the free bus which transports you around the bay; but the real highlight awaits at the back of the hotel.  
Moats and a lazy river intertwine with pathways and bridges, pools and sunbathing areas, all the way down to the private sandy beaches of the Red Sea coast.  Breakfast is particularly enjoyable, with this stunning view, while the choice is plentiful and of a very high standard.  Indulge in pancakes, omelettes, full cooked breakfasts and more fresh bread, fruit and pastries than you could ever manage to digest!  There’s also a fantastic range of fruit juices and even bottles of bubbles for those who want to start their holiday celebrations early in the day!
The rooms are spacious with contemporary decor and bedding that envelopes you and probably keeps you there longer than you should stay (given that the sun is shining every single day!)  Our room had a gorgeous balcony overlooking the bridges and waterways, with the same view from the super huge bath.
Extras include fluffy gowns, slippers, designer bathroom products and a real highlight was the nightly treats left in the room.  These varied from sumptuous desserts to gold macaroons and bowls overflowing with fresh fruit.
There are five outlets for food, so that you’ll definitely never go hungry including The View for breakfast and buffet style dinner, Al Mar located by the pool and fantastic for a relaxed lunch (the desserts are exquisite), but by far, my favourite had to be the Asian fusion Bamboo Shoot restaurant serving up a truly exceptional array of fantastic dishes with Japanese, Chinese, Malaysian, Thai and Vietnamese influences.  I would whole-heartedly recommend the sushi starter selection with tuna, salmon and sea bass which melts in the mouth; the Murgh Makhani – chicken in a cashew nut and butter gravy and the hoisin sauce sliced beef which had that absolutely irresistible hoisin flavour that makes you keep going back for more, even though you were full 5 plates earlier!  Make sure you also leave room for the deep fried ice cream – it’s worth every mouthful.

At the foot of the Breakers Hotel (popular with surfers, snorkelers and kite surfers), is a 420 metre long jetty stretching far out into the stunning Red Sea.  The scene above the water is breathtaking in itself, but exploring underwater will leave you breathless!  Corals gardens heavily populated with all manner of beautiful sea life, walls, wrecks and reefs...  A beautifully blue lagoon is the perfect place for snorkelling, while there’s a number of exciting diving spots at Tubya Arbaa and Shaab Saiman to name but a few.  Here you might just be lucky enough to see crocodile fish, barracudas and even sharks!  The Orca Dive Center is well equipped to handle any level of diver or snorkeller, so there truly is something for everyone.

One of the coolest water sports of them all, who wouldn’t want to learn to kite-surf at a state-of-the-art centre equipped with all the best kiting kit and instructors?!  The shallow waters of Soma Bay (one of the three best shallow water spots worldwide) and the near on perfect wind conditions (300 days per year) mean it’s the ideal place for attracting the world’s best, while the bay also regularly plays host to the Red Sea Kite Surf World Cup. 

With no experience whatsoever, we took part in an introductory course with some of the Kite House’s brilliant instructors and were all absolutely addicted within an hour or two!  With a limited amount of time, we were only able to master the basics, getting our kites in the air and mastering the control technique, but in just four days, it’s possible to learn the full course with diploma and licence for just 560 euros.  Well worth every penny!

If you’re not feeling active, then the Kite House is still the place to hang out amongst the tanned, toned  and talented adrenalin junkies.  There’s a bar and restaurant, sunbeds and terrace and massage treatments with a gorgeous view of the beach.  There’s also wake boarding, paddle boarding and even fun rides if you fancy trying something different.  By far, the best thing about the Kite House has to be its staff.  Knowledgable pros with tonnes of experience and a down to earth manner which will never make you feel like a novice.  This will be my very first port of call on my next trip to Soma Bay!

...And relax...
If all the talk of activities is making you feel slightly tired, then Soma Bay has just the place.  The Cascades Spa and Thalasso Soma Bay is a treat for tired bodies and tired minds alike.  With 65 treatment rooms, the Cascades Spa is one of the biggest in the world and boasts experienced masseurs from Thailand, India and Bali to name but a few.  Every masseur is fully trained in their discipline and will be able to tell you all of the benefits of each individual treatment.  We tried out the giant 750 metres squared Thalasso tonic hydrotherapy pool which is a one hour treatment, if you move correctly around all of the jets and pools divided into separate zones.  It’s a fantastic massage and relaxation practice designed to rejuvenate the body from head to toe.  After the body has started to wind down, Cascades recommends a hot sauna or steam followed by one of the many treatments on offer.

So there you have it, Soma Bay really does have it all.  A complete treat for mind, body and soul.  And just 5 hours away from London.  When does the next flight leave?!

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