Tag Archives: restaurants

Secret Beach: Plage des Graniers

Today I discovered a secret beach! And thank goodness I did because Saint-Tropez gets unbearably hot and muggy by late morning. I was practically wilting in the heat, so we high-tailed it to the hills above town seeking the relief of a cool Mediterranean breeze.

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The summit above the port is crowned with the ruins of a magnificent 17th century citadel – and breathtaking views of the sea below. As lunchtime draws nigh, yachts are already starting to jostle for space to drop their anchors just outside of town.

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Beyond the ancient stone walls of the citadel, a dusty path winds down through the woods to a glimmering sandy cove. It’s the secluded location for a hip beachside restaurant frequented by locals and those lucky enough to hear of it by word-of-mouth. Surrounded by an overgrowth of bamboo, this free patch of beach is a discreet alternative to the ritzy beach clubs further down on Pampelonne.

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Seated beachside under white tasselled parasols with my toes in the sand, I followed recommendations to try the grilled fish. So glad I did! Lunch was fantastic – and the view was mesmerizing. Afterwards, I took a snooze on the warm beach and observed the 30-minute rule before a post-lunch dip in the crystal blue water.

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I've got sole but I'm not a soldier.

I got sole but I’m not a soldier.

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On the road back from Graniers beach, at the base of the citadel, sits the Saint-Tropez Marine Cemetery facing out onto the Mediterranean. It is the final resting place of many a brave seaman and a few notable Tropéziens. The beauty of this site stopped me in my tracks and, for a few moments, was a place for quietude and reflection. I’m not sure what happens after our lives on earth, but I couldn’t think of a more heavenly place for a soul to rest through eternity. I threw out a few silent prayers to catch on the wind, and continued on my traveler ways.

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One final look back at the striking blues of the sea and sky against the pure white of the sun-bleached crosses. I’m so glad I happened to discover this side of Saint-Tropez.

Weekend in Paris: Day 1

I’m not a Paris-y girl. I can admit Paris is beautiful, it’s clean, the French are actually so much more pleasant than they are depicted in cartoons. I can see why it is the most popular tourist destination in the world. Everyone loves Paris. I guess it’s that I never know what I’m looking for there – the food is superb, the shopping is world-class, the cityscape views are ridiculously romantic. It just seems almost too easy. There’s no need to explore off the grid, no reason to trek off the beaten path in search of some little-known hidden gem. It seems to me, the best of Paris has already been discovered.

Paris was the rendezvous point for me and my good friend – a journalist who’s been living in Cairo for several months; she was desperate for a European citybreak. I slinked onto the Eurostar with two changes of clothes in my weekend bag, and arrived two hours later at Gare du Nord.

Hôtel Caron de Beaumarchais is a gem, though anything but hidden. Fantastically located in the Marais district, it occupies the lovely little Rue Vielle du Temple just off Rue de Rivoli. As soon as you cross the threshold it’s like stepping back into Old World Paris. I love all the charming period details. And how quaint that the room key is actually a key (rather than a key card) which you leave and pick up from reception whenever you come and go!

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hotelliftCutest upholstered lift in Paris

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It was time for a girlie debrief and we both needed to wet our whistles with a little of the good stuff, so a table on the terrace of Tresor was a perfect nearby place to escape the light drizzle. A bottle of chardonnay and a plat du fromage was our first taste of Paris.

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The shopping in Paris is insane. It overwhelms me – in a magical way. For high-end Parisian design and tailoring (not to mention accessories) there is only one destination – L’Eclaireur. The vibe here is artsy, futuristic, conceptual – but the clothes are classic, structured, and strikingly feminine. What hangs on the rails here is transformative – these pieces will literally transform you.

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For shades, I recommend Marcel Bihan Opticien. They stock so many fun and funky brands, you’re sure to find a pair that will really stand out from the Sunglass Hut mediocrity. I was partial to these round beauts by Linda Farrow for The Row, and these oversized tortoiseshell cat-eye Karen Walkers.

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For high street fashion, check out the quirky Eleven Paris. Their tag line is “Life is a joke,” though their designs are anything but. I snagged this sleeveless graphic tee with floral cross for 39€.

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With our chip and pin cards all warmed up, we headed over to the glitzy Beaubourg district for dinner at Hôtel Costes. Sure, it’s sceney and the cocktails are over-priced and the food isn’t exactly haute cuisine – but it’s stylish and moody and, like all good things in Paris, it is tried-and-true.

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After our meal, we took one of Ladan’s friends up on an invite to the closing party of Pompon on Rue des Petites Écuries. It was bonkers. It seemed like everyone wanted to be there. Ian the bartender welcomed us with some fiery shots called Kalashnikovs.

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We lingered for a bit with some fellow DC ex-pats, then left to get some air and stopped by Le Baron for a cocktail. It wasn’t as crazy and raw as it was depicted in the opening scene of “Little White Lies”, but it was unarguably Parisian. Go here for the music, they know what sounds good. Great place to get silly and dance!

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Well, Paris, it isn’t love – and it surely won’t last – but if I’ve learned one thing from you, it’s that a time-tested classic never goes out of style.

Barcelona: Day 2

I woke up giddy on my next day in Barcelona. Stretched out in the immaculate ivory bedding I savored the sound of cups tinkling on the cafe tables below the open balcony, and the azure skies peeking though the sheer curtains. The city was calling me to come play!

The Barri Gòtic district is Barcelona’s historic center, its’ medieval streets brimming with artisanal shops and the occasional Roman ruins.

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Milk is tucked away on tiny Carrer d’En Gignàs but you might recognize it by the queue outside; their Recovery Brunch is notorious among locals and fashionable travel guides.

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B1MilkBMThe Bloody Marys are topped with Estrella, the local beer.

B1MilkSalmSalmon benedict on chapatas

Milk is just a short stroll away through the Barceloneta district to the marina and beaches.

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B1EspadrillesCheck out these adorable espadrilles found in the marina market

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Pez Vela is relaxed-chic and perfect for a beachside tapas lunch. Situated under the giant sail-shaped W Hotel on Platja de Sant Sebastià, a terrace table on the weekend is out of the question without a reservation. The servers wear bright, sturdy aprons repurposed from old sails. A cold glass of Albarino in hand, the people-watching here is epic.

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B1PVSaladHamTomato bread | Acorn-fed Iberico ham | Tomato, celery, artichokes & mahón cheese

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It’s easy to while away an entire afternoon here, but I had an exciting occasion planned for the evening – an event that has alluded me the whole time I’ve been living in Europe. I was ready for some futbol! And where better to experience professional soccer at its zenith than at Camp Nou stadium, home of FC Barcelona?

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B1Messi2And scores!

The stadium went mental!

When it gets late and about that time to get your cheeky drink on, shimmy down to Betty Ford’s for a cocktail. It’s on an edgy stretch of the artsy Carrer de Joaquín Costa. You might not recognize the Spanish television personalities and fashionistas who frequent here, but you will enjoy the playful decor and maybe even meet a new pal since everyone seems super-approachable and friendly.

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B2BFcheekBeware – the cocktails are ridiculously strong!

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The walk home – lots of love from Barcelona!

Barcelona: Day 1

England is my little lily pad, from where I can hop off to so many amazing destinations. This weekend I pounced on Barcelona for a bit of city sun, legendary architecture, and of course heaps and heaps of tapas.

Hotel 1898 is located on the vibrant “Las Ramblas” street which divides the boutiquey Raval district from the Barri Gòtic medieval heart of the city. With their nautical design theme, the accommodations feel like balcony staterooms with high ceilings, framed marine charts, and gleaming teak floors reminiscent of a ship’s hull.

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The best part of the hotel is La Isabella Terrace and rooftop pool. What beats having breakfast while lounging on cushy striped deck furniture, enjoying the breeze under the shade of a canvas umbrella surrounded by panoramic rooftop views of the city?

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The H1898 signature breakfast includes fresh slices of Iberico ham, Norwegian smoked salmon, tomato bread, a heaping platter of fresh fruit and a glass of rose cava. No breakfast is complete without a steaming cup of cafe negro to start the day.

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After using my bird’s-eye view of cathedral spires and landmarks to get my bearings, I set out on a walking architour of the city’s most celebrated buildings. First stop was Gaudi’s Casa Batlló on the Passeig de Gràcia.

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This 5-story Art Nouveau townhouse has nary a straight line in it. It twists and swoops and even seems to bubble and blister in places. I loved the tiles in the light well and on the undulating dragon-spine roofline. It is a bit of a tourist trap – the queue for 20€ tickets was a rather bothersome ordeal but I couldn’t miss the chance to see a page from my old architecture textbooks come to life.

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Tapas are the world’s best food when you’re like me and prefer to try lots of little bites of different flavors rather than one big dish. They’re also great when you’re after some simple light fare, which I was following my tour of Casa Batlló. Just around the corner on Carrer de València is Cornelia & Co, the “daily picnic store.” The Barcelona equivalent of Dean & Deluca, it’s perfect for grab-and-go gourmet food and wine, where in spring a picnic is always a tempting lunchtime option. I had time to spare so decided to enjoy the service at one of the outside bistro tables.

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Don’t be intimidated by the Barcelona Metro. It is clean, well-lit, and easy to navigate. If you’re travelling with a friend, I recommend is the T-10 card, which is a ticket loaded with 10 journeys to share – for just 9.80€. I wish other cities (hello, London!) would catch onto this.

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If I had to name my architectural mecca, it would hands down be Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s “Barcelona Pavilion.” Designed for the 1929 International Exposition, this minimalist masterpiece inspired the iconic Barcelona chair – and also a certain NYU undergraduate studying architecture back in the day. It has all the tranquility of a temple; one of  the most serene moments of my visit was watching the red drapes flutter softly in the balmy breeze wafting through the open space.

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Had a charming wander through the leafy Pablo Sec neighborhood on the way back to the hotel.

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To experience the luxurious side of the Catalan gastronomy scene, I tip my hat to Michelin-starred Cinc Sentits in the Eixample district. A truly intimate atmosphere – there are only ten tables in the earthy, wood panelled dining room.

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cinq4Tapas

house-marinated gordal olive with orange peel

house version of the traditional pan con tomate

bacalao crisp with fresh mató cheese, parsley, and lemon

house-made cracker with romesco sauce

cinq5Oyster with seawater “air” and lemon

cinq6Caramelized foie gras “coca”

pastry crust | chive arrop | leeks

cinq7Razor clam

green bean | mini potato | traditional pil pil sauce

cinq8Wild Mediterranean skate

spring peas from Llavaneras | escabetx | chive flowers

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croqueta | red wine poached pear | forest fruits

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eggplant | basil | wild mushrooms

cinq92Strawberries from the Maresme

blackberry cream | yogurt powder | celery ice

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warm salted caramel | black beer ice cream | hazelnut crunch

cinq94“Tentacions”

orange-chocolate crisp with flors del remei liqueur | forest fruit mini muffin | mint-dark chocolate truffle | bunyol del cuaresma

A rarefied and truly authentic Catalonian experience!

And there we have it – how to fall in love with Barcelona in just one day.

Top of the Pop-ups

In this here-today-gone-tomorrow world, pop-up restaurants have never been more relevant. The supper club scene has been emerging in American cities for a while now, but pop-ups are an original British invention. Those clever Brits…

In London, pop-ups can be achingly cool, spontaneous spots that have that irresistible allure of their limited availability. Simon Rogan’s Roganic closes this June after a two year residency on Blandford Street in Marylebone.

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The design is sparse and the space is compact. There is no à la carte. Dinner is a set 10 courses – or vegetarian, if so inclined. The wine list – mostly sourced from Roberson’s – was so suburb I can’t not mention it.

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Langoustine on crispy rye with langoustine ash | Smoked quail croquants on a bed of singed hay

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Creamed butter served on a stone | Selection of bread rolls

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Garden peas, shaved beef tongue, mint and sugar snaps

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Purple-sprouting broccoli, buttermilk, toasted barley and fennel crest

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Salsify, fermented apple foam and sunflower seeds

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Raw mackerel in coal-infused oil, rye crisps, yogurt, radish and ox-eye daisy

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Sharpes express potatoes, onion ash and lovage

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Scallop with its coral, carrot chips, carrot puree and sea campion

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Bacon and bread crusted monkfish tail, mussels and broad beans

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Sweet cheese, packed pear, pine and malt

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Carrot cake with carrot sauce and honey jelly

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Seriously in love with this Oregon pinot!

The service was that particular type of perfection that balances total knowledge with an informal approach. Like you’re not going to be intimidated by a seasoned wine expert who is wearing coral-coloured trousers with no belt – but the guy knew his stuff! You could ask anything about the ingredients or the preparation, and you received an answer delivered with complete confidence – never once did a server leave me waiting “one moment, while I check with the kitchen.”

For a pop-up, most impressed.

Bo London

Today I met a fellow ex-pat (and chronically late) friend for lunch at Bo London. It sits just opposite Maddox club on Mill Street in Mayfair. Unfortunately, as I was being seated at our suede banquette table, her cabbie was dropping her off at another Mill Street near Tower Bridge! Nothing I could do but swill my glass of grüner veltliner while I waited.

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Having gained notoriety for their infamous “sex on the beach” dish that looks like a used condom tossed into the sand, I thought I’d try a few of the more appetizing options from the lunch menu. I had plenty of time to ponder my choices while the other half of my party re-routed her journey, so by the time she breezed in I had already memorized my order.

The wild mushroom dumplings and the chilli crab fun gor were luscious little parcels of savoriness, but the “X-treme Chinese” we came for were the classic xiao long bao served with a lemongrass vinegar dipping sauce. Careful not to squeeze them too tightly with your chopsticks or risk bursting the soft pouch and loosing all the creamy pork soup inside!

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Cod with saffron miso and braised fennell

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My gal pal wasted no time tucking into her plate of scallops with crispy woba and sugar snap pea foam.

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Coconut creme brûlée with pineapple chilli sorbet

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I had to hurriedly scoot back to work, but a hearty golf clap to the staff who were easily able to accomodate our restricted and somewhat hectic timetable. The set lunch menu gets you 3 dim sum, 1 main and 1 dessert for the thrifty pricetag of £27. Get yourself to Bo London!