Being a tourist in my own city is something that I really love to do. The chance to stay out late exploring it, without worrying about the Tube or how to get home is very nice. Nobody really drives in Central London and people from abroad often don’t get how it is even possible to go on a night out, without using a car. :)
A few weeks ago I was so lucky to be given exactly that sort of experience, when I was invited to spend a night at Amba Hotels’ Charing Cross branch.
We arrived at Amba Hotel before 7pm and we were welcomed by a friendly team and 2 glasses of Prosecco, such a great start of the weekend isn’t it?!
The hotel is housed in a beautiful, grade II-listed building, but despite the historical setting, it offers modern services and rooms.
After the check-in I spent an hour in the Junior suite which has an amazing view on the Charing Cross neighbourhood, taking photos of and enjoying some more Prosecco, courtesy of the amazing Amba team. Can you spot, in the opening photo, St. Martin-in-the-Fields and the National Gallery?
We then went for dinner at The Terrace, the in-house dining venue with a spectacular view of the Strand below, where we tried a typical English meal: I went for a pan-fried sea bass and lemon meringue tart, whereas Giuliano chose a buccleuch sirloin steak followed by a warm chocolate fondant.
The next morning I spent about an hour in the Hotel gym, just to feel less guilty about the gigantic breakfast I had, which was one of my favourite parts of this brief “staycation”. Let me tell you more about it!
It’s served at The Terrace and to be honest I couldn’t find anything that I was craving for and wasn’t available: fresh fruits, lots of cereals, sausages, soy milk, veggies and a great selection of pastries…
Address: The Strand, London WC2N 5HX
Top treat: the staff, very friendly and helpful (both with us and the tourists) and the breakfast, highly recommended!
Cost: Room – Studio suite with breakfast from £372. Dinner based on our choices around £60 for 2 people.
The wow factor: The location! The hotel has an incredibly central position, right above the Tube and the Train Station, which is incredible considering how quiet the rom was.
WiFi: WiFi is complimentary and apparently the hotel has the fastest WiFi in the world.
Amenities in the room: Smart TVs, USB sockets by the bed, magazines, Nespresso coffee machine, free of charge minibar and iPad in each room. You don’t get all of that very often…
I would definitely recommend the Hotel for both its central location and the services. Let me know your thoughts if you happen to visit it!
Disclaimer: we were guests of Amba Hotels, but hopefully you’ll trust this post is about my honest opinion. For more information about the hotel visit the official website.
English Version only
Last weekend we visited Gigi’s, a new Mayfair restaurant, for a late lunch.
The restaurant is tucked away in a quiet corner just off Bond Street station, it serves Italian food with a modern twist under the direction of Head Chef Ivan Simeoli. Ivan is a world class Chef that worked with some of the best like Massimo Bottura at the Osteria Francescana in Modena, just to name one. Since last December you can enjoy Ivan’s cooking at Gigi’s.
We were welcomed at our table with a bread basket, salt baked root vegetables and 2 glasses of Pinot Gris, then we went straight for the à la carte winter menu. This is what we had:
- 62 degree egg with girolles, green tomatoes and crispy Parma ham
- Roasted octopus with borlotti beans and flamed onion broth
The first dish is a clever tribute to the traditional English breakfast. The egg, cooked at 62 degrees for an hour, remains soft and melts on the girolles, its delicate flavour joined pleasantly by the salty sweetness of the Parma ham.
The octopus is stunning, butter tender, it conveys the broth and the beans. You are reminded of an earthy meal cooked on an open fire, the flavours are bold without being heavy. We were expecting something not too far from the classic Italian octopus recipes, and were surprised.
- Ravioli with Amalfi lemon and buffalo ricotta
- Flamed leeks tortelli with vegetable charcoal – from the vegetarian menu
The Ravioli is one of Ivan’s signature dishes. It may sound like a cliché, but the delicate lemon flavour gave me an instant flashback of a Vespa ride I had years ago, while on holiday near Sorrento. If Ivan wanted us to experience some sensory memories of his childhood, he definitely succeeded.
- South coast turbot with savoy cabbage, charcoal oil and sorrel
- Salt marsh lamb with heritage carrots, sheep’s milk and crunchy shallots
Salt marsh lambs graze on pastures that are regularly covered by the sea, eating grasses that confer a light saline flavour to the meat. The dish itself is delicious, without that sometimes overpowering character of lamb. Gigi’s source their lambs locally, which is always commendable.
- Gigi’s signature tiramisu
- Chocolate Mondrian, a tribute to the Dutch painter
I believe the photos speak for themselves.
In addition to the great food, Gigi’s has a large selection of wines and cocktails and there’s a live DJ at night, from Thursday to Saturday.
Having lunch at Gigi’s has been a great experience for us. We were surprised multiple times and had fun trying to trace our Italian culinary roots very well disguised in a world class and modern menu. It’s also worth mentioning that none of the dishes felt pretentious or overdone. Chef Ivan experience and technique is apparent, but always put to the service of his cooking.
Top treat: for Sonia was the ravioli, for Giuliano the octopus.
Address: 22 Woodstock St, London W1C 2AR www.gigismayfair.com
Cost: based on our choices above around £60 per person
The wow factor: the central location, the dessert presentation and the design books available around the restaurant.
Disclaimer: we were guests of Gigi’s, but hopefully you’ll trust this post is about an honestly enjoyable afternoon.
English Post only.
London looks beautiful any day of the year, but during Christmas I am obsessed about taking pictures of her (because London is a cool girl, right?! :)). It’s hard not to be.
Here are some photos I’ve recently taken that I wanted to share with you. The magic atmosphere of Christmas, I hope you can feel it!
English Version only.
A few weeks ago I’ve been invited to try an Italian restaurant in Fulham. Usually I tend to avoid Italian restaurants because… well, because I am Italian and quite fussy about Italian food.
The restaurant has a nice outside dehors and a cosy bar where you can order a cocktail with some “stuzzichini”, small dishes which, back home, are usually served with drinks.
We ordered a Locale Bellini, made with Prosecco and strawberry liqueur, think of a meeting between the classic Bellini and a Kir Royal.
We than had a selection of starters: fried calamari served with homemade tartar sauce, some veggie bruschettas, deep fried soft shell crab cakes with saffron and dill mayo and pan fried scallops with mashed peas, rocket and crispy pancetta.
Almost full already, we went on to the mains: Giuliano had seafood linguine with clams, mussels, calamari and octopus sautéed with garlic, chilli and parsley. I chose casarecce with tiger prawns. Both were served with a glass of Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico Superiore from Cantina Colognola.
After making sure that they’re “homemade just like in Italy”, we had to try desserts. We chose pannacotta and tiramisu, the latter being the best choice, it indeed is amazing. A glass of brandy on the side, provided a classy way to end a lovely meal.
Personal favourite: the tiramisu! Trust me, I have tried many tiramisu, and this is the only one that I am sure my uncle Roberto (the King of Tiramisu) would be proud of.
Only slightly negative point is the location, to reach Locale you have to walk for about 15 minutes from the nearest tube station. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. After a meal like that, a nice walk was just what we needed.
Address: 222 Munster Road, London, SW6 6AY
English Version only
A few weeks ago I have been invited to try the Christmas menu of Tentazioni.
The restaurant is located in 2 Mill Street, on the south bank of the Thames, 10 minutes walk from Bermondsey tube station, in a very nice road that is reminiscent of the times when this part of London was used as the docks.
In a very cosy room at the first floor of the restaurant, where we were welcomed with a glass of Prosecco, we tried some of the dishes from the set menu.
My favourite, actually everyone’s favourite, was the roasted pumpkin ravioli served with butter and sage, a fantastic example of Italian stuffed pasta that reminds me of my childhood, where I spent every Sunday in the kitchen with my grandmother, watching her rolling the dough onto a floured surface and then prepare hundreds of ravioli for the Sunday lunch.
I have asked Tentazioni’s Chef Alberto Modena if he can share his recipe with the blog, let’s see if I can have an early Christmas present.
2014 CHRISTMAS SET MENU (to see the complete menu, click here)
Two Courses £25.00
Three Courses £32.00
Address: 2 Mill St, London SE1 2BD
Phone:020 7237 1100