Design-led Food & Travel
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Category — Restaurants

Grace Mykonos – Mykonos, Greece

Sister hotel to the renowned Grace Santorini, the Grace Mykonos is a white-hot boutique hotel sitting above Agios Stefanos’ sandy beach and its glittering emerald and turquoise sea, less than 10-minutes north of Mykonos Town.

  • On arrival at the bijoux white oasis, guests are greeted by an eager-to-please group of staff, including the Deputy Manager (who appears to never sleep!) and offered a glass of champagne while check-in is completed before setting off on a brief tour of this perfectly formed bolt-hole.
  • The reception area has guest laptops, a print and DVD library, small art gallery and tiny shop.  Three floors up (lift available) is the restaurant and pool which has what must be the best views across the bay, over to Mykonos Town and beyond to Delos island.
  • There’s no getting away from it, the bedrooms are compact to say the least but with the glorious weather time is mostly spent outside and there’s enough space for a small desk, large wardrobe, plus the queen size beds are very comfortable.
  • All windows and doors have shutters for extra privacy and a solid night’s sleep, plus there is air-conditioning in case the infamous Cyclades Islands’ breeze blows in the wrong direction.
  • Check-in 2pm / check-out 12noon.

SCENE:

  • A surprising number of American and Australian holidaymakers, along with a smattering of British, French, Italian and Spanish.

FUEL:

  • Breakfast – The best meal of the day is available from 8-11am on the roof terrace by the pool or in-room for an extra 5€ tray service.  Menus change daily and printed versions are left in bedrooms the night before – expect creamy fresh Greek yoghurt with blueberries, honey and walnuts, fruit salad, homemade chocolate and nut cereal bars, pastries and bread, and two ‘main’ dishes: usually a savoury one such as scrambled eggs with local ham and halloumi, along with a sweet option such as fluffy pancakes with white chocolate and bananas.
  • Lunch & Dinner – A varied Mediterranean-influenced menu showcasing local ingredients is available all day long, ranging from good to outstanding, and if there’s nothing that takes your fancy, the excellent chef will also be happy to make something special.

PLAY:

  • Swimming pool – The stunning turquoise-green square pool has been brilliantly designed with a shallow side which is great for sipping cocktails and paddling in, while the soft gravel stone floor slopes gently into a deeper section ideal for more serious swimming and diving.  Sunbeds around the pool look out to sea and are like gold dust, particularly at the weekend.
  • Gym – Small yet well equipped.  You can also ask for gym essentials to be available in your bedroom.
  • Shop – Highly edited collection of locally-made jewellery, Greek leather sandals and clothing.
  • Art gallery – Cool, original olive tree sculptures, paintings, wooden Greek clogs and other contemporary items.
  • Spa Hidden away behind the reception, the spa is very quiet, calm and relaxing with a good range of massage and other beauty treatments, plus there’s a gorgeous grey marble hamman and sauna.

CONTACT DETAILS:

VISIT DATE:

  • 30 June – 5 July 2013

WEATHER:

  • Not a cloud in the sky yet a welcome breeze; highs of 28C degrees with balmy evenings dipping to around 23C.

ACCESS:

  • Mykonos airport is a 10-minute drive away and the hotel can arrange transfers (shared: 15€ per room one way; private: 30€ per room one way).

TOP TIPS:

  • Pop your name down for a lift into town one evening via the hotel’s convenient and free shuttle bus, wander the pretty small streets, buy some Greek leather sandals at Liontis (Matoyiavvi 55 / +30 22890 23482 / www.liontis-sandals.gr) and have dinner at stylish Interni which has a stunning garden and serves the fantastic Bloody Mary cocktails (Matoyiannia, Mykonos / t: +30 22890 26333 / info@interni-restaurant.gr/ www.interni-restaurant.gr)
  • Don’t expect the sea to be warm, even at the beginning of July!
  • Splurge on a Junior suite to secure a plunge pool, terrace and double-sunbed.

THE FAT MOUSE VERDICT:

  • The Good – The staff are genuinely lovely and friendly – especially Dmitry, gorgeous Christina, Angelo and Katerina in the restaurant, plus Iliana in reservations/reception – and there’s a sense that anything is possible and certainly nothing is too much trouble; the minimalist, unfussy, clean and calming décor; the brilliant breakfasts.
  • The Bad – The wi-fi was very disappointing and a toenail clipping was found in the plunge pool.

MACARON RATING:

  • 0 0 0 0 ¾ 

July 21, 2013   No Comments

The London West Hollywood – Los Angeles, USA

The London is the epitome of grown up elegance.  The art deco’s all black and white with shimmering chrome, gold, mirrors, white marble and mosaic tiles yet it doesn’t take itself too seriously.  There is a definite relaxed vibe – coffee mugs replace teacups and saucers at breakfast, British Bulldog statues pepper the communal areas and the laid back atmosphere is evident from the restaurant up to the rooftop pool.

  • All rooms are suites in terms of size, with comfy beds, duvets, soft pillows, high thread count cotton sheets, corner sofas and large desks.  Even the cheapest rooms have balconies and enormous bathrooms with double walk-in showers and giant bathtubs.
  • Kirk at Concierge is knowledgeable (he keeps a stash of adaptors and blackberry chargers available for forgetful guests) and all the staff is very helpful and polite.
  • I rarely return to the same hotel, always keen to seek out something better, but I think it’s safe to say that I’d happily return again and again.
  • Check-in 2pm / check-out 12noon.

SCENE:

  • Largely American and British 30, 40 and 50-somethings, on holiday or travelling for work – The London has an enviable knack of blending business and pleasure.

FUEL:

  • Boxwood Cafe – Continental breakfast is served every morning from 6-10:30am (from 7-11am at weekends) and is included in the room rate.  Everything is delicious and the a la carte menu offers cooked dishes such as Eggs Benedict, Full English Breakfast and Hueves Rancheros.
  • Gordon Ramsey at The London – A very British menu with local influences, the dishes are expertly executed and the 3-course set menu is a bargain at $45. 
  • Rooftop By Gordon Ramsey – A neat menu of Mexican and Asian influenced dishes including ice-cream and cocktails from the on-site bar.

PLAY:

  • Rooftop Pool – The swimming pool offers far-reaching views across Los Angeles (smog permitting!) from the 10th floor.    Busy at weekends: don’t expect a sunbed after11am.  Open from XX – XX daily.
  • The London Bar – A dark, sexy bar serving good bar meals (fish & chips) and bar snacks (grilled bread and fresh tapenade).
  • Fitness Centre – A decent gym with unparalleled views offering early morning yoga classes at the weekends and personal fitness trainers.
  • Shop – Cool and eclectic, it also sells items such as suntan lotion and magazines.
  • Beauty Hairdresser and basic beautician (no waxing).

CONTACT DETAILS:

  • The London West Hollywood – 1020, North San Vicente Boulevard, West Hollywood, Los Angeles, 90069, California, USA (t: +1 866 282 4560 / www.thelondonwesthollywood.com).

VISIT DATE:

  • 20 – 26 March 2013

WEATHER:

  • Highs of 24C degrees with chilly evenings dipping to around 12C.

ACCESS:

  • LAX international airport is a 40-minute drive away.

TOP TIPS:

  • Make the most of the hotel’s free calls to London.

THE FAT MOUSE VERDICT:

  • The Good – Free calls to London; spacious suites and bathrooms are as big as any London flat with walk-in showers and separate baths; decent business centre; Gordon Ramsey at the kitchen’s helm isn’t just great marketing – for a foodie visiting the US, it’s unlikely that you’ll find a better bet.
  • The Bad – Being asked ‘how are you today ma’am?” every five minutes can start to grate…

MACARON RATING:

  • 0 0 0 0 ¼      

April 5, 2013   No Comments

Viajante – London (Bethnal Green), UK

  • Chef, Nuno Mendes, runs his stunning new restaurant like a finely tuned culinary theatrical performance, drawing on his famous schooling at El Buli and delivering a visual and taste experience that sits somewhere between Japan, Iberia and Stockholm.
  • Having tried to nab a table for dinner throughout December without luck, Sunday lunch in February seemed the next best thing.  And my goodness was it worth the wait.
  • The welcome is warm, with genuinely friendly and passionate waiters, yet the setting is ice-cool, with contemporary ‘50s Scandi style furniture housed within a grand old Edwardian building that was once Bethnal Green’s Town Hall.
  • The kitchen is neat and open, and a front seat is effectively the chef’s table, affording direct insight into every creation being meticulously, precisely and patiently crafted.
  • The real surprise was that not only was Mendes on site, but he was pulling dishes together, wordlessly coaxing his tweezer-wielding expert team along and happily giving explanations to his diners as he served them.
  • It’s a set menu and the only choice that needs to be made – apart from the wine – is whether to pick three or six courses, after which, it’s a question of sitting back as the curtain lifts and enjoying the dazzling performance.
  • An amuse bouche which Mendes rightly calls a ‘thai explosion’ and potato bread with brown butter kicked off proceedings.  Stand out dishes include an inventive creation of charred leaks, hazelnuts and milk skin (not as bizarre as it sounds), and seabass toast, garlic and Sao Jorge cheese.  Before a delicious desert of burnt meringue and yoghurt sorbet, we were invited to cleanse our palettes with an explosion of frozen maple pannacotta and shiso granita with green apple.  With coffee came a knock-out mandarin marshmallow, Clementine cream and something that sounds just plain weird but was incredibly clever and wonderfully memorable: a mushroom-flavoured bitter chocolate truffle topped with one, perfectly positioned, flake of sea salt.

SCENE:

  • Foodies of all ages: some who may well have ventured over to Bethnal Green for the first time ever, others who probably lived around the corner, couples, friends, daughters treating their elderly but curious and excitable mothers.

TOP TIPS:

  • Lunch is so much easier to book than dinner (cheaper too!) and don’t be afraid to ask for a prime front-row position in the main dining room so you can watch the action.

 

CONTACT DETAILS:

  • Viajante – Patriot Square (entrance on Cambridge Heath Road), Bethnal Green, London E2 9NF (t: +44 (0)207 871 0461 / www.viajante.co.uk).

 

THE FAT MOUSE VERDICT:

  • The Good – What’s not to love?  The vegetarian menu and the fact that all dietary requirements are catered for; strong wine list with some unusual offerings. 
  • The Bad – Can’t think of a single thing!

 

MACARON RATING:
0 0 0 0 0

February 7, 2011   No Comments

Brawn – London (Hoxton), UK

  • Sibling restaurant of Covent Garden’s hugely successful French resto, Terroirs, this little bistro follows in its footsteps as a homage to simple, seasonal, British and French peasant and homely food.
  • Starters and nibbles include saucisson, chunks of aged parmesan and anchovy cream.  Main dishes such as pan-fried wild mushrooms on chunky toast with poached duck egg yolk, and prawns with lime and chilli are sublime, and sit beside accomplished steak tartare and roasted chicken.  Classic chocolate mousse or salted caramel crêpe polish it all of very nicely.
  • There’s something of a school canteen feel about the interior and by day, the ex-warehouse lends itself well to a light, bright and airy atmosphere.  Contemporary, locally-created art adorns the white walls while the dark wood and marble bar is well manned and a nice spot to wait for a table.
  • The staff is mainly French and they really seem to know their wine list, happy to recommend a delicious pairing.

SCENE:

  • Students, trendy twenty & thirty somethings, local creatives.

TOP TIPS:

  • Booking lunch mid-week is so much easier than the evening but better still, try lunch – booked a week in advance, bien sûr – on a Sunday after a mooch through Columbia Road Flower Market.

CONTACT DETAILS:

  • Brawn – 49 Columbia Road, London E2 7RG (t: +44 (0)207 729 5692 / www.brawn.co).

THE FAT MOUSE VERDICT:

  • The Good – Top quality ingredients, inventive menu and good value.
  • The Bad – It’s so popular that evening reservations are hard to come by with spontaneous bookings impossible; servings are small; quite chilly.

MACARON RATING:
0 0 0 0 ¼

January 7, 2011   No Comments

Cox Cookies & Cake – London (Soho), UK

  • Wickedly titillating brand new cake shop slap bang in the middle of Soho, nestled between a gay bar and a massage parlour.
  • Yet it’s most definitely not seedy – metres of luxuriously sparkly black granite and neon lights set the scene for some of the most decadent, beautifully decorated and fun fairy cakes you’ll ever see.
  • Brainchild of world-renowned British shoe designer, Patrick Cox, the shop is a world away from London’s typical twee cupcake bakery.
  • As well as everyday flavours such as lemon, carrot and triple Valrhona, plus Christmas-themed cakes, in a nod to the surrounding area, decorations include a naked chocolate male torso (Angel Cake), red lips (Kiss Cake), Marilyn Monroe (Pop Cake), a `naughty tit-shaped cake’ and Elton John-style glitter glasses.
  • The cookies are big, and the tarts and mince pies look good.

SCENE:

  • Colourful locals, London’s creative tribe and tourists.

TOP TIPS:

  • Buy the Elton John glitter glasses fairy cake and a donation of £1.50 will go directly to the Elton John AIDS Foundation.

CONTACT DETAILS:

THE FAT MOUSE VERDICT:

  • The Good – The shop is gorgeous and the cake designs will make you smile; while the fairy cakes are gimmicky, top marks go to the soft, light sponge and tasty, divine butter icing; open ‘til late.
  • The Bad – The top tier fairy cakes are pricey at £4 a throw.

MACARON RATING:
0 0 0 0 ½

December 10, 2010   2 Comments

The Modern Pantry – EC1, London

Clerkenwell’s creatives can’t believe their luck.  Not only has Anna Hansen (The Sugar Club; Providores) chosen their favourite square to unleash her eclectic, innovative cooking, but they get to pick from three distinct spaces in which to enjoy it: a white and antique grey painted open-kitchen style brasserie, plus deli on the ground floor, and the more opulent, grown-up dining rooms upstairs, set to open later this month. [Read more →]

May 27, 2009   No Comments