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!



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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 http://timothyeverest.co.uk and some beautiful products from the famous Detroit brand Shinola www.shinola.co.uk 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.

www.macallan.co.uk
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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:

http://www.elephanthaven.com/en/

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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.

http://aquakyoto.co.uk





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.

http://www.madisonlondon.net




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!

http://www.thelondonriviera.com



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.

http://www.thetrafalgar.com/vista-homepage/



Roofnic
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.

http://www.roofnic.com



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.

http://www.radioatmelondon.com/about-us/



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