Tag Archives: cocktails

Fleurie, Charlottesville

Spending one night in Charlottesville, Virginia didn’t leave us much time to explore – so we headed straight downtown to check out the bustling pedestrian mall and see the sights before dinner.

Charlottesville downtown pedestrian mall

Charlottesville downtown founding fathers

Charlottesville chalk

Charlottesville City Hall had installed a huge chalk wall for the public to celebrate the First Amendment of the US Constitution. We took a moment to exercise our freedom of speech – or freedom to doodle!

Charlottesville chalk writing

Then we hit the shops! I was so happy to come across Caspari’s American outpost (the other is in Paris). I used to shop their products at Partridge’s in London – and this was my first visit to their bricks and mortar store.

Where interior design inspiration abounds!

Charlottesville Caspari store

Charlottesville Caspari dining

Charlottesville Caspari showroom

My little head was on a swivel – so many ways to beautify a home!

Charlottesville Caspari dining table setting

Charlottesville Caspari shelving

I had to stop and coo over these preppy dog accessories – and ponder the question ,“Exactly when will we ever get a puppy?”

Charlottesville Caspari dog accessories collars

As the shops shuttered up for the evening, we traipsed down to dinner at a little French bistro called Fleurie.

Charlottesville Fleurie entrance

Fleurie Charlottesville patio terrace outdoor al fresco dining

The perfect quiet little spot to dine al fresco in downtown Charlottesville!

Charlottesville Fleurie cheers drinks

Fleurie Sip Drink Cocktail Final

Chilled Tomato Soup with salmon rillette

Chilled Tomato Soup with salmon rillette

Lobster Bisque with tarragon

Lobster Bisque with tarragon

Gnocchi, Bleu d'Auvergne Fondue, sweet pecans, cherry tomatoes

Gnocchi, Bleu d’Auvergne Fondue, sweet pecans, cherry tomatoes

Herb Crusted Halibut, summer squashes, white wine sauce

Herb Crusted Halibut, summer squashes, white wine sauce

Wolf Creek Grass-fed Beef Sirloin, Gnocchi Parisienne, Leeks, Bordelaise

Wolf Creek Grass-fed Beef Sirloin, Gnocchi Parisienne, leeks, Bordelaise

I’ve been mostly steering clear of sugar and gluten this summer, but when I’m out at a nice restaurant all rules fly out the window.

Not one to be put off by an imminent sugar crash, it was time for dessert…

Vanilla Bean Créme Brulée

Vanilla Bean Créme Brulée

Peach Pithier, Raspherries, Vanilla Ice Cream

Peach Pithier, raspberries, vanilla ice cream

Petit Fours: Chocolate hazelnut truffles, Lemon meringue tarts, Cherry financiers

Petit Fours: Chocolate hazelnut truffles, Lemon meringue tarts, Cherry financiers

lemon_tart

Summer nights like these are the sweetest!

Babington House

Babington House Drive

Miles from London, in a faraway land called Somerset, there’s a long tree-lined lane. It leads to a pocket-sized chapel, St Margarets, and just beyond it, the dour Georgian manor that is Babington House.

Part of the Soho House portfolio, I was expecting a snazzy English countryclub scene, but the other guests were mainly just local mums bringing the kids swimming, and a few other couples in for the weekend from London. But mostly, we had the place to ourselves.

Babington House St Margarets Sign

Babington House Lawn

Babington House Lawn Chapel

Babington House Cobblestone Path

We stayed in the Coach House, in a delightful room over two stories. Sweet touches were everywhere you looked – fresh flowers, vintage books with winsome titles, a silver tin of freshly-baked chocolate chip cookies.

Babington House Coach House

Babington House Do Not Disturb Door Soho House

Babington House Coach House Room Velvet Sofa

Babington House Room Coach House Dressing Table

Babington House Room Coach house Spiral Staircase

Babington House Room Coach House Loft Bed

Babington House Room Coach House Bed

Babington House Room Coach House Loft view

Babington House Room Cabbages and Roses Blue Velvet Dress Knit Bobble Hat

Babington House Room Bathroom Tub White Tile

Babington House Room Bathroom Clawfoot Tub

Babington House Room Robes Big Feet Little Feet

Babington House Room Coach House

Babington House Coach house room Flowers

Babington House Room Fresh Flowers

Babington House Eat Sleep Nap

Babington House Room Tea

Babington House Room Tea Treats

We couldn’t resist a spot of tea before heading outside for an afternoon of countryside pursuits – strolling the sprawling grounds, going for a bike ride, and then a swim.

Babington House Wellies

Babington House Walled Garden Green Grass

Babington House Walled Garden Cabbages and Roses Velvet Dress

Babington House Walled Garden Spa Cabbages and Roses Blue Velvet Dress

Babington House Pond Rear

Babington House Backyard Tree Pond

Babington House Bicycle Cabbages and Roses Velvet Dress

Babington House Bicycle Path

Babington House Bicycle Cabbages and Roses Blue Dress

Babington House

Babington House Chapel

Babington House Chapel View

The outdoor heated pool is a perfect warm-up for these chilly February days.

We raced to see which one of us could shimmy back into their hooded robe the fastest, thick clouds of vapor wafting off our poached bodies like a pair of Chinese steamed buns!

Babington House Pool

Babington House Pool Steam Sun

Babington House Pool Swim Bun

Back in the room, we opened a bottle of champers, but before you could say “Pop, fizz, clink!” I was already in a clawfoot tub full of bubbles, where I had a good long soak before dinner.

The bathroom was stocked with shelves of Cowshed products, so no shortage of goops and creams to daub on.

Babington House Bathtub Clawfoot White Tiles

Babington House Bathtub Bubbles

Dinner was A-OK. Candlelight, dainty flowers on the table, the universal Soho House playlist audible above the din of the orangery. It felt a bit like going out to dinner on Valentine’s Day, surrounded by other couples.  But we are far too diffident to canoodle publicly at the dining table. (As my husband likes to chide, “We’re English, not savages, Sarah!”)

Instead, we sipped our Babington martinis (amazing, with Noilly Prat, Tokaji and grapefruit oils, by the way) and nearly choked with laughter piling up a tower of mussel shells, a perilous house of cards of molluscs, which eventually gave way and sent a few shells toppling to the floor!

Most-meal pastimes, such as pool, were on hand, but we found we were happiest in the Study sipping Moscow Mules by the fire.

Babington House Lobby Mirror Flowers

Babington House Games Room

Babington House Study Fireplace Light

Babington House Study Fireplace Drinks

Yes, it’s a chain and not really a country club in the true sense, but Babington House is a great choice for a relaxing and romantic weekend.

I can say I was actually sad to leave. But London missed me, I had to get back! Lots more city adventures coming soon…

East London Silliness

My gal pal was in town and invited me out to East London for a party. I was keen to go, but not in one straight shot. I have to ease my way east – so I suggested we meet for a cocktail on the fringe of civilization – King’s Cross. Drink, Shop & Do is the perfect place for people with short attention spans, like me. Started by two hip London girls, this place combines a number of my favorite things – cocktails, shopping, and having a laugh with friends. They also host crafty activity events, where you can get creative making flower headbands, or vintage style corsages, or origami bouquets. The perfect atmosphere to get silly!

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It’s an eclectic little place – and they make an extra-frothy espresso martini!6 7 8

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12You can even shop here – candy, housewares, letterpress stationery… I couldn’t resist this witty little souvenir on the way out. 14

And the girls couldn’t resist this hunky tomcat…

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We jumped in a cab and headed further east. I’m always a little skeptical of anything happening so close to the financial district at nighttime, but sometimes you gotta take a gamble. I’m glad I did, because our next stop was a pleasant surprise.

Life on Old Street is a Japanese restaurant with an afterhours bar downstairs. It’s got that minimalist East Asian vibe, a pair of DJs, and a disco ball – which automatically upped its cool factor. Plus, the bar serves sake – so it didn’t take long for us to start having fun!

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There’s always someplace new to discover in London – and this applies to anywhere in the world. You just need to get out there and take the gamble. Because, sometimes, it definitely pays off.

Dinner & Dancing to a London Beat

“What have I missed?” is my first thought whenever I return to London. I immediately want to make up for lost time. So I didn’t miss a beat hitting the town on Saturday night.

First item on the docket: some honest British nosh. And for that, it doesn’t get more genuine than English celebrity chef, Heston Blumenthal.

Dinner by Heston Blumenthal is inside the Mandarin Oriental hotel in Knightsbridge. The concept here is to redefine the identity of British gastronomy, reinventing historic dishes with Heston’s molecular tweaks. Ensconced in the ruby-red decadence of the private dining room, we got stuck in with some classics.

tab table table7

Two signature plates are the Meat Fruit and the Tipsy Cake. The Meat Fruit is an iconic dish that dates back to Tudor times. Blumenthal’s interpretation of it translates to the richest, silkiest paté – disguised as a tangerine in a dimpled orange gelatin complete with a stem and leaf.

Meat Fruit (c. 1500)

Meat Fruit (c. 1500)

Mandarin, chicken liver & foie gras parfait, grilled bread

Mandarin, chicken liver & foie gras parfait, grilled bread

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Spicy Pigeon (c. 1780) | Ale & artichokes

Spicy Pigeon (c. 1780) | Ale & artichokes

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The Tipsy Cake is a cushy brioche bun soaked in alcohol and served with spit-roasted pineapple. It is probably one of the best desserts I’ve ever tasted.

Tipsy Cake (c.1810) | Spit roast pineapple

Tipsy Cake (c.1810) | Spit roast pineapple

After a scrumptious dinner, we all spilled into a pair of black cabs and rumbled down the street to Ruski’s Caviar and Vodka Tavern. Like a plethora of London’s themed nightclubs, it’s contrived. Blatantly so. It’s a pastiche of a Soviet Russia theme. Supposedly, there’s a thoughtful Art Deco-ish design in there somewhere, but you’d never find it through all the fog machine haze hanging in the air. The place is absolutely steaming – from the unventilated smoke of sparkler fountains, from the dank basement humidity, from uncorked teen spirit.

But the music is great – and it’s thumping through the whole place, and everyone is energetic, so you get swept up in all the furor.

And you drink a few potent shots delivered in a Russian space helmet.

And you dance!

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It was an excellent evening partying with my comrades.

London, it’s good to back.