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Posts tagged ‘restaurants’

Natale Italiano | Venice – Day 1: The Arrival

There is something unquestionably unique about arriving in Venice, the Floating City of Italy. The city’s swish mainland airport, surrounded by its main roads and cars, is the last reference to the real world you will have. Leaving the airport behind, and walking left along a progressively foggy winding road, you head towards a mode of transportation far more suited to transporting visitors to the City whose very foundations are forged in partnership with water: a boat. Taking the step from firm ground onto the bobbing wooden floor of a water bus, attempting to balance luggage with one hand, and steadying yourself with the other, suddenly the ordinary becomes a little more extraordinary, as the next stage of the journey to Venice makes its progress across water. And this is when it hits you – that Venice is indeed no ordinary place; cut off from reality not just because of the very unique look and feel to the city, but because stranded out in water, it is literally an island separated from the rest of the world. This sense of separation and mystery increases as the journey by boat steadily increases in length, as the boat heads further and further into the thick mists of the lagoon until suddenly, without so much as a warning, the elegant facades of palazzos, and the stripy gold-fringed finish of poles for tying boats begins.

A water bus into Venice

A water bus into Venice

This was how we arrived into Venice; our senses gradually reprogrammed so that by the time we arrived into the city, we knew that we were coming upon something special; a conclusion which cannot have been doubted when the boat took us into Venice’s heart via the Grand Canal, and before us the glittering lights of the bustling Rialto Bridge met our line of vision. Oh the beautiful Serenissima – Queen of the Adriatic. Is it any surprise that so many visitors have fallen under your spell, ensnared by your unquestionable beauty from palazzo to palazzo, bridge to bridge?

First views of Venice – the Rialto and the Grand Canal

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Stepping off the water bus just after the Rialto bridge, we could still feel the bobbing and rocking motion of the boat as we took our first steps on land, before gradually realising that we were on firm ground again, albeit ground with the most stunning views of the Grand Canal and of all the little shopping streets and side canals which run off it. Like being in a film, we wound our way through those small streets and across tiny bridges in search of our hotel, all the while pausing only to close our mouths which would otherwise hang open in astonishment. Was a city ever as beautiful as this?

Inside the Aqua Palace Hotel

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Upon arriving at our hotel, the splendid Aqua Palace Hotel, we were afforded yet further opportunity to gaze in wonder at this truly incredible city – being given, as we were, a superb room with not one, not two, but three windows looking directly onto the Guerra canal which surrounds the hotel. Barely able to comprehend the beauty of what lay beyond our windows, we managed to stagger away from those windows and out into the city, heading first and foremost to the place where any visit to Venice must begin – the Piazza San Marco. The proximity of our hotel meant that this joy was not long awaited, and within minutes, the staggering view of the onion shaped roofs of Saint Mark’s Basilica rose into sight, along with its campanile whose roof was already shrouded in the mysterious mist which had enveloped its way around the city.

The Piazza San Marco

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Where to next? Why the Caffe Florian of course which, having opened its doors in 1720, is a contender for being one of the world’s oldest cafes and which has continued to woo visitors and locals alike in all of the years which have since passed. With its elaborate gilded and frescoed interior, together with its cute little corner seats nestled next to the window with a colonnaded view over Saint Mark’s Square, Florian’s is truly the best place to begin a trip to Venice – something we clinked our glasses to there an then; a glass of prosecco on one side, and a glass of Venetian Valpolicella on the other.

Florian’s

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From there, time before dinner afforded us ample opportunity to stroll around and acquaint ourselves with the city. For me, this was a re-acquaintance, having very briefly studied art history here in 2001, and visited for a short weekend a few years thereafter. For Dominik: this was a first visit to Venice, and for him, all of the inevitable excitement at discovering this gem afresh was evident to be seen – a glistening to his eyes caused, if not by the beautiful Christmas lights lining the colonnades of St Mark’s and the plush shopping streets surrounding it, then by reason of the emotion which greets one when the sheer beauty of Venice is taken in for the first time. Past baroque churches and small piazzas, over bridge after bridge crossing quiet little canals, their greeny waters still like ice, and along finally to the Accademia Bridge, from which that famous view, stretching down the Grand Canal towards the Santa Maria della Salute, could be enjoyed in all its elegant majesty.

The Accademia view and walking the streets of Venice

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With our eyes nearly popping, and our legs already exhausted from the continuous ascent and descent over bridge after bridge, it was time for a rest, and for a heart-warming culinary welcome to the city: dinner. Our gastronomic benvenuto was provided by the perfect little eatery: Alle Testiere (Calle del Mondo Novo). Able to give their full attention to the few little tables squeezed into the restaurant, the staff were wonderfully attentive, spoke perfect English, and made this culinary welcome a warm one. The wine – some more of that Venetian Valpolicella – was as sensationally smooth as was our gentle arrival onto the Grand Canal but hours earlier.

But the food was something beyond mere description – taste sensations which need to be sampled rather than photographed or described. But in an attempt to at least provide some insight into that perfect little meal, let me tell you that my pumpkin and shrimp ravioli with which I started (but alas did not photograph) was amongst one of the best dishes of food I ate in 2013 – perfectly cooked al dente pasta, with a fusion of sweet creamy pumpkin and delicate salty shrimp which had my palate dancing for joy. The creamy saffron gnocchi with fennel and prawns which I gorged upon afterwards did likewise. For Dominik meanwhile, the freshness of a squid salad presented all of the benefits of eating in a city surrounded by water, while his main of spaghetti vongole made us realise just how mediocre the same dish can be when eaten locally in London.

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Our evening was rounded off, as all evenings should be. by an equally sensational dessert of smooth ricotta cheesecake, a glass of dessert wine with cantuccini for dipping, and a further stroll around the tiniest of alleyways and grandest of Piazzas which the area of our hotel provided in their multitude. After only a few hours in Venice, we returned to our hotel well aware that in visiting the city, we were living out some kind of dream; a surreal experience like none other. Where there are no roads or cars to wake you, taxis and buses that move on water, and houses that plunge straight into water. And if we needed further clarification of the surreal character of this very unique city, a glance out of the window that night to see Santa, dressed in red, crossing a bridge a little further down the canal (no joke) was confirmation that there truly is no place quite like Venice.

Join me on The Daily Norm for a whole load more in homage to Venice and beyond – coming soon.

A Weekend in Kraków | The traditions and innovations of Kraków’s food

Poland isn’t exactly known as one of the centres of European gastronomy. For years, that crown, once worn so complacently by the French has been shared intermittently between the likes of Spain, Denmark and the UK. The only Polish food I had really tried before my departure was a packet of shrivelled up long smoked sausages from our local tesco’s (catering for the not insignificant Polish population living down the road in Balham). So I didn’t exactly have high expectations for what I was going to find food-wise when I went to Kraków for the weekend. In fact, I didn’t really have any expectations at all.

But, as with so much about my weekend in the stunning little city of Kraków, I was pleasantly surprised by the array of high quality food on offer. First off, there was the traditional fare –  I say that I went along to Poland without any expectations in respect of food, but that’s something of a lie. Because I was pretty determined to try at least a sausage in its native Polish environment, and of course it was only reasonable that such sausage (of which I found plenty in the bustling markets in and around the Rynek Główny) should be washed down with another export of the country – a glass of ice-cold Polish beer. Both objectives were achieved (the best sausages being the preserve of our hotel breakfast, while an ice cold beer proved to be the perfect accompaniment to watching the world go by in the Rynek Główny).

Oscypek cheese

Oscypek cheese

Pierogi dumplings

Pierogi dumplings

However, my explorations of Polish traditional cuisine went further. Only minutes into the trip, and I was already sampling another of the local specialities (spurred on by my Polish partner I should add). The first was oscypek, a super-salty waxy cheese from the nearby Tatra mountains – it reminded me of greek halloumi, albeit much smokier in flavour; the very taste of the flames licking the sides of the cheese dominating. The second – pierogi – are a kind of traditional dumpling. Rather like ravioli in appearance, they taste more doughy in flavour, and every bit as juicy and flavoursome as a dumpling should be. I’m not sure you’d necessary sample them looking quite so trendy as these all over Poland, but sitting by the side of the Rynek Główny in the café “Vintage”, we were served only food which was consistently well presented and full of flavour – a real surprise for a restaurant located so close to the tourist heart of the town.

But for all its traditions, Kraków is a city which remains young at heart (its large student population keeps it so); a city embracing innovation and cultural dynamism, and so it is perhaps unsurprising that Kraków’s food offerings are both extensive as they are varied, with numerous restaurants presenting food which is both modern in flavour and in presentation. Pretty much all of the food we had was of a consistently high standard (although a rather demented looking piano player supplying diners with “mood-music” somewhat put us off our food experience on the first night). But of all the places we visited, two really stood out.

Studio Qulinarne

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The first of the two is Studio Qulinarne, located in a rather grotty backstreet of the Kazimierz (Jewish district) (I assumed my Partner had got us lost) but which, inside, is the height of sophistication, draped in flowing white sheets, complete with loaded bookshelves and a grand piano (happily being played by a less-demented looking pianist on this occasion). Being that the day was fine when we visited for lunch, we opted to sit outside on their back patio, which reflected the industrial mood of the area, but was made chic and cosy through low sofa seating and an abundance of plants.

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The real star of the show at Studio Qulinarne however was the food. Dominik opted for a crayfish consommé which was as delicious as it was presentationally excellent. I had fettuccine ribbons with chanterelle mushrooms which were very much in season at that time (and consequently featuring on the specials menu of many a Krakóvian eatery). The pasta was perfectly cooked, the mushrooms earthy and salty, and that edible flower added just the class of touch that makes me swoon over my food. As for dessert, well we had a bit of a quandary there – unable to choose between a white chocolate semi-freddo, a lavender crème brûlée and an earl grey and mint panna cotta, we felt compelled to try them all (when I say “try” I naturally mean wolf down unapologetically…oh well).

Wentzl Restauracja

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Second of our restaurant favourites has to be Magda Gessler’s impressively quirky Wentzl restaurant; an elegant high-end affair situated directly above the Rynek Główny (and happily for us, also in our hotel). I have already raved about the richly embroidered, elegantly presented versaille-come-hunting-lodge look of this wonderfully lavish restaurant, since our hotel rather graciously serves its breakfast in the same place. But when I saw those brilliantly eccentric pheasant chandeliers and the completely over the top silk curtains, I just knew that we had to try this place by night. If breakfast had wowed, then dinner was like a firework display of superlatives. Perfect service and our already extolled elegant surroundings accompanied what was a night of consistently delicious food. It was my turn to opt for crayfish this time, which I did by way of a creamy Masurian crayfish stew with cognac, while Dominik opted for his favourite of fish: herring done two ways.

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For mains, I had a smoked duck breast salad with raspberries and orange – the duck was cooked to perfection, and happily the orange based accompaniment in no way resembled the duck a l’orange disaster which was so popularly served up at dinner tables in the 70s and beyond (I know this from the beyond – I wasn’t around in the 70s myself). Dominik in the meantime went for a very Christmasy goose leg with cranberry “bow” – well, we may as well start getting into the spirit of things.  Finally, for dessert I enjoyed a Delicacy of white chocolate with pear mousse favoured with rose – the white chocolate taste was altogether a little too delicate for me, but it was certainly a fragrant and pleasing end to the night which, for Dominik, concluded in a fruit of the forest jelly.

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So the restaurants were ticked, some fine wine drunk (though warning for all visitors: wine is not cheap in Kraków – expect to pay at least £40 for a bottle), traditional fare sampled, and both a polish beer and vodka polished off. There was only one thing still to do in this hip arty town: why, head down into one of the dank little cellars for a live jazz show of course. We headed to the U Muniaka jazz club which was small, atmospheric and everything a jazz club should be, and there sat mesmerised by the inherent skill of those jazz musicians long into the night. Kraków, I love you.

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Mallorca (Part VI) – Food Focus 2: Simply Fosh

Ranked a cool number 4 of Palma’s best restaurants on TripAdvisor, as rated by the discerning food-loving public themselves (Forn de Sant Joan, I should have said the other day, is number 5, and deservingly so), Simply Fosh is the eponymous creation of chef, Marc Fosh. Housed in the cool, minimalist surroundings of the chic Hotel and converted 17th century Convent de la Missio, and bedecked with moody artwork showing close ups of Mallorcan salt on stark black backgrounds, as well as a cascading wall of water and, at least in the summer, an open-air courtyard, Simply Fosh is a restaurant which sets out to impress.

Whether or not the restaurant name is meant to imply that the restaurant emulates the heart of its chef, pure and simple (it’s one of a chain of 4 restaurants, the remainder of which are perhaps less “Foshy”) or whether its objective is pure simplicity is unclear, but one thing is certain: asides from the minimalist surroundings of the restaurant, the food, impressive in complex flavours and a finely finessed presentation, is far from simple.

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We were delighted with this meal which, from beginning to end was accompanied by smooth, efficient service, and which provided a selection of stimulating dishes which, while not always scintillatingly innovative in flavour excitement, certainly pleased with a consistently high standard of ingredients and an excellent presentation.

Once settled with a bottle of ice-cold Albariño which the attentive waitress helped us choose, patiently giving us a number of choices to try (I wish I had made a note of the wine – it had an exquisite bouquet) we were first tantilised by an amuse bouche of celery soup, served with a taster of cod with and small cube of lime and vodka jelly and some almond dust for texture. The dust worked like a typical Spanish “picada” to granulate this otherwise velvety soup and work against the cool lime zing. I wasn’t getting the vodka flavour though which, to be fair, was probably a good thing.

Celery soup amuse bouche

Celery soup amuse bouche

Next up we opted for two chilled soups. My partner had the special of the day, which was an exciting yellow gazpacho, served with what appeared to be a dam of super-fresh, almost undercooked langostines, a bank of fluffy cous-cous, and a sweet thai and mango salad. The gazpacho was amazing – my partner even controversially declared it to be better than the authentic gazpacho we had devoured so enthusiastically in Cordoba in 2010, and henceforth declared to be the best in all of Spain. While the yellow gazpacho has now presented itself a keen contender for that crown, I was less impressed with the white version, a chilled Ajo Blanco with Soller prawn & aubergine ravioli and marinated pears. The flavours of the cold garlic weren’t shining through as they should (perhaps catering for the lesser garlic-tolerance of Mallorca’s predominantly English/German clientele?) and the presentation, while initially pretty, became something of a drowned unsightly swamp when the soup was poured over the ravioli, which promptly fell apart and descended into a mush. Still, the flavours weren’t bad, and I completed the dish with moderate relish.

Yellow gazpacho

Yellow gazpacho

Up next were the mains. My partner struck gold again with wild sea bream with parsley, licorice and parmentier of anchovies – the flavours were beautiful balanced, and the various complex sauces jovially presented in an almost polka-dot formation. My choice, a corn-fed chicken breast with celariac, chestnuts and cranberries, was very well cooked and also beautifully presented, but I think, on reflection, I made a bad choice, because the mixture of chestnuts and cranberries was just too christmassy to be fully enjoyable on what I was at least pretending was a warm summer’s evening, while in the meantime, I found the celeriac sauce a little too cloying.

Sea bream

Sea bream

The Chicken

The Chicken

But with dessert, an uninterrupted sugar binge of dynamically indulgent proportions was to follow, with my chocolate “cremoso”, a rich chocolate mousse perfectly balanced alongside marinated pears, a moorish walnut ice cream and light yoghurt mousse, while a coriander reduction made for a very innovative twist. Meanwhile my Partner had equal success with a dessert of almond cream on a sandy bed of spiced hazelnut, littered with a pieces of orange and caramel which resembled seaweed and coral washed upon the hazelnut beach by a current of bergamot flavourings.

Chocolate "cremoso"

Chocolate “cremoso”

Almond cream

Almond cream

And with that gastronomic manifestation of the mediterranean coast, full of its Moorish flavours and citrus undertones, we left the restaurant with a satisfying flavour of Spain lingering on our tongues, and the pleasant intoxication of that chilled Albariño embracing our souls and tugging our eye-lids towards sleep. Another day, another amazing Mallorcan meal, and still two more days to go. La Dolce Vita.

Simply Fosh is on the Carrer de la Missio, in central Palma, close to the Plaça de España. You can call 971720113 or reserve online.

Bologna: La Grassa – Phenomenal food without a Spaghetti Bolognese in sight

I’m going to pardon myself inadvance of a post which will be an unapologetic engorgement upon food glorious food. Bologna is after all the city that brought us Spaghetti Bolognese, tagliatelle, tortellini and mortadella among other Italian favourites. In fact, without Bologna, half of your standard Italian restaurant menu would disappear. And true to form, the city whose third and perhaps most appropriate epithet is La Grassa – the fat – delivered, delivered and delivered again. We made no plans, instead opting to wander into restaurants randomly as they took our fancy. And yet on every occasion we were surprised, enthralled and deeply satisfied by one consistently high quality meal after another. No wonder then that Mr Artusi, great master of culinary arts once wrote, “When you hear about Bologna’s cuisine, make a bow, for it deserves it”. I could eat in Bologna for ever – it may make me grassa, but hell, it’s worth it.

So where to begin. Well, breakfast I guess, a multi-coloured kaleidoscope of colour, as fresh ingredients collided into a cocktail of fruits and meats, soft greasy breads and sweet spongey cakes, all succulently fresh, strawberries as red as La Rossa herself, and mortadella, straight from the manufacturers, limply reclining across our plate. And we didn’t have to go far either. Breakfast was served upon our little terrace at the faultlessly stylish, centrally located  Art Hotel Novecento, a perfect start to each of our four days in Bologna.

Next, lunch. We stumbled upon this place, Banca del Vino (Via Mantana), on the outskirts of the rough and tumble of Bologna’s ghetto. Here the pizza was amongst the best I have had in Italy. So fresh, so thin and crispy, with a plate of soft silky parma ham served on the side, so that it could be added to the richly endorsed buffalo mozzarella pizza at will. In the meantime, my partner sampled the delights of an equally fresh, thickly cut home-smoked salmon, with a palate-pleasing glass of local white wine on the side. This was rounded off with a rich chocolate parfait with accompanying white chocolate chunks.

Our first dinner was at the stylish Trattoria Battibecco (Via Battibecco, 4), found down a tiny side street, just off the Piazza Galileo. The food was highly stylised and delicately balanced. I started with the Sformatino di ricotta con cuore di bacon e zucchine su crema di nocciole, a kind of ricotta-enrichend risotto cake, with courgette, bacon and the cream of nuts. Gamberoni rossi in padella leggermente piccanti con cous cous all’ananas was to follow for mains – lightly cooked prawns with pineapple couscous and a chilli hot sauce to balance, while for dessert, a semifreddo with cherry chocolate and a strawberry on the side foretold of the spectacular dinners which were to come.

Our second dinner was at the Ristorante Ciacco (Via San Simone), another off-street secret which we stumbled upon having escaped the more tourist-focused affairs of the central Piazzas and cheaper offerings of the university quarter. Here we were treated to an innovation of ice cream, as almost every dish was served with some form of welcomingly-cool ice cream accompaniment. With my warm foie gras, an ice cream flavoured with orange and thyme provided both a sweet and sharp contrast to the rich meaty flavour of the foie, while my partner’s starter (a prawn and scallop club sandwich) was similarly accompanied with an ice cream of wholegrain mustard. For main course, I was treated to a dish of monkfish with liquorice flavoured ice cream – while the monkfish was, inevitably, a little lacking in flavour, the liquorice gave a punch to the dish, helped out in this objective by a light salad of finely sliced fennel. Unsurprisingly, there were innovative ice creams aplenty on the dessert menu, but we instead opted for a white chocolate parfait, accompanied by a vivid green fresh-mint coulis.

Our third dinner was at the super cute Ristorante Teresina di Fuggetta Sebastiano (Via Oberdan, 4), not so much on a side street as much as in a side alleyway – the tables were artfully squeezed in between one leaning old palazzo and another, and the affect was truly cosy and unique, and the later addition of a harp player added a further garnish of romance to the air. Sadly I neglected to take any photos capable of public consumption – the wine caused significant blurring on the old camera – damn that tempting Sangiovese! However the food was super-tempting too. We started with a pea and mint garnished prawn dish, followed by a succulent steak tagliata accompanied by rosemary potatoes. Dessert was a creme caramel of sorts, which my partner declared, with some audacity (clearly bolstered by the Sangiovese) to be better than mine! He was clearly drunk.

Our final instalment of Bolognese dining (as if there was any space left in our significantly lined stomachs by now) was the Ristorante Cesarina (Via Santa Stefano), a more traditional affair, set in the heart of one of Bologna’s most beautiful squares. What this place lacked in innovation, it excelled in traditional cuisine cooked with excellence. We’re talking stuffed Zucchini flowers, faultlessly grilled seafood and all washed down with a mega-strong bottle of Sangiovese. But never mind all of that. The starter I had was simply mind-blowing. I mean, we’re talking a world-stopped-turning moment of culinary ephiphany. And we’re only talking ravioli – and a pumpkin ravioli at that (and from the photo, it doesn’t look all that much either). But OMG, I can’t even begin to explain how good that pasta was – perfectly al dente, giving way to a salty-sweet pumpkin centre topped with a buttery sauce and – the crowning glory – a kind of marzipan/ caramalised/ honeycomb crumb which just set my mouth alight. If I could get the recipe for that dish and bring it back to the UK I could retire early.

It tasted so much better than it looks.

So there you go, a food explosion well worthy of all the fuss. There is no doubt in my mind that Bologna lives up to its reputation of food capital of Italy. And it’s not just the restaurants either. A short walk off the Piazza Maggiore, and you find yourself on the quaint Via Pescherie Vecchie, where a bustling food market continues to thrive and tempt passers by with the fragrant scent of ripe fruits, sea-fresh fish and sweet juicy cold meats. Meanwhile, head to any half-descent cafe, and we’re talking an affogato worth writing home about.

All this talk of food has made me hungry. I’m off to raid my nearest Italian deli. Hey, it’s not Bologna, but I will leave that crowning glory firmly where it belongs, carefully rested upon Bologna’s culinary pinnacle, amongst the perfect colonnades, the cinema under the stars and the perfectly leaning red-bricked towers. Bologna La Grassa, La Dotta, La Rossa: Te adoro.

All photos are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2012 and The Daily Norm. All rights are reserved.

Amsterdam Part IV: The Hotel and the Restaurants

Fresh flowers and chandeliers in the Hotel Estheréa

I’m back from Amsterdam and pretty fed up about it. I find myself crossing the road looking out obsessively for cyclists and finding none. Here, the now familiar bong of the tram bell has been replaced by sirens, and these light filled transport carriages are superseded by the claustrophobic moving coffins of the London Underground. I look at buildings, thinking that something is wrong – then I realise that beneath them there is no reflection. But it’s always been my firm belief that part of the success of a holiday is how well you remember it. Consequently I have set about looking through and editing my prodigious collection of photographs, sorting through the postcards I buy obsessively whenever I go on holiday (with no intention to ever write, or send any) and recollecting the food experiences which filled by Amsterdamian days. With this in mind, I write today in an attempt to share my experience of the restaurants, and more importantly my accommodation while in Amsterdam.  As I’ve said before, in this time of the vindictive TripAdvisor professional complainant, where countless businesses in the hospitality industry are closing down because of picky, negative reviews posted online like school yard insults, I think it is only appropriate that a good experience is also applauded online, and shared so that fellow jetsetters can head off to a recommended restaurant or hotel, emboldened by some honest advice to temper their expectations.

Exterior of the Hotel Estheréa

The hotel – Hotel Estheréa **** – Singel 303-9, Amsterdam

I could use almost every superlative in the thesaurus to describe the Hotel Estheréa and still not do it justice. This hotel, a child of the boutqiue revolution, but also the mother of all opulent sophistication, was a faultessly exquisite base for our Amsterdam stay. The reason, ultimately, for the success of this hotel is attention to detail. In the bedroom, two bottles of water would be provided free to guests everyday – a small thing, but often something which you really feel the need of at the end of a heavy evening and have to revert to what ever dodgyness flows from the tap. In the foyer, tea and coffee is provided all day, a huge range of teas being on offer, and complimentary cakes, biscuits, sweets and multivarious nibbles in retro glass jars. In the various reception rooms, the interior design is stunningly executed with an emphaisis on rejuvinated Victorian elegance – richly patterened wallpapers, huge low hanging chandeliers, various species of taxdermy under closhes and in frames, large damask covered arm chairs, a book-lined library and an array of fresh flowers embuing the air with their fragrance, single stems in collected ecclectic vases and huge bouquets greeting guests in the reception.

Our bedroom at the Hotel Estheréa

Head for the gold and glass lift to the rooms upstairs and you will find a range of bedrooms decorated in an impressive range of different schemes. Ours was a luxuriously drapped room in the roof – spacious, lined with a lavish chinese themed wallpaper of blues and gold, a sinfully comfortable bed loaded with embroidered cushions and a throw shot with blue and gold silk, and a stunning view looking over the Singel canal – one of the principal canals lined with the grand townhouses of former traders and merchants. Admittedly not all rooms benefit from a canal view, and you do have to pay more for the privilege. But I think it’s well worth it – and the premium is not much for the pleasure it provides. Finally the breakfast, while not cheap (18 euros per person) is the perfect set-me-up for the day, including champagne, cooked and continental selections and, best of all, various little pastries and cakes which look like they walked straight out of a Parisian patisserie. Finally I should mention location – it’s perfect, pretty much equidistant from all the main points of interest, so that Anne Frank’s house, the central station, the rosy red lights and the museum district are all within walking distance (though you need stamina – but there’s always that complimentary hotel tea to sustain you when the walking gets to much).

Main foyer in the Hotel Estheréa

Breakfast at the Hotel Estheréa

Lavish design at the Hotel Estheréa

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Paris Part V: Restaurant Review

In my final instalment of The Daily Norm’s homage to Paris (I should add, this will probably be only the first Paris season of many… owing that I am unrepentantly obsessed with the place), I wanted to share my experience of three great restaurants encountered during my time in Paris. In this time of the vindictive TripAdvisor professional complainant, where countless businesses in the hospitality industry are closing down because of picky, negative reviews posted online like school yard insults, without a thought given to the livelihoods of the business men and women they effect, I think it is only appropriate that a good experience is also applauded online, and shared so that fellow Francophiles can also enjoy a great culinary experience to top off a day of Parisian indulgence in the City of Light.

Norms at the Café de Paris (2011, pen on paper) © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown

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