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MY GUIDE TO EXTRAVAGANT EATING IN VENICE

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MY EXTRAVAGANT GUIDE TO EATING IN VENICE
THIS LIST WON’T OFFER ANY BARGAIN OPTIONS FOR EATING OUT. IN FACT THE EXACT OPPOSITE, THINK SUPER PRICEY INCREDIBLE FOOD. THIS LIST IS FOR WHEN YOU DESERVE A TREAT & YOU’VE GOT CASH TO SPLASH.

ORO
THE BELMOND HOTEL CIPRIANI HAS SEVERAL SPOTS TO FEAST IN. OUR FAVOURITE (& MOST EXTRAVAGANT) WAS ORO. THE MICHELIN STARRED RESTAURANT SERVING THE MOST AMAZING A LA CARTE AND TASTING  MENU WITH INCREDIBLE WINE TO BOOT IS CERTAINLY A PLACE TO CELEBRATE IN. THIS IS AN ABSOLUTE MUST TRY IF YOU’RE GOING ALL OUT. TAKE THEIR 24HRS SHUTTLE BOAT FROM ST MARKS SQUARE OVER TO GIUDECCA WHERE THE HOTEL IS SITUATED. ENJOY WATCHING THE SUNSET OVER THE WATER WHILE EATING POSSIBLY THE MOST CRAZY DELICIOUS FOOD GOING IN VENICE.

BELMOND HOTEL CIPRIANI - PORTICCIOLO POOL RESTAURANT
THIS LUNCH SPOT SERVES UP HOMEMADE INCREDIBLE PIZZAS, FRESH FISH PLATTERS AND OF COURSE PASTA. WHEN RESERVING YOUR TABLE BE SURE TO REQUEST ONE OF THE TABLES RIGHT ON THE WATER TO MAKE THE MOST OUT OF THIS DINING EXPERIENCE.

BELMOND HOTEL CIPRIANI – CIPS RESTAURANT
YOU MAY NEED A LITTLE HELP FINDING THIS ONE, DESPITE STAYING IN THE HOTEL WE STILL MANAGED TO GET LOST WHILE HUNTING IT DOWN! THIS IS A LOVELY LUNCH OR DINNER SPOT AND ITS A FLOATING RESTAURANT FACING OUT TOWARDS ST MARKS SQUARE. YOU COULD SPEND HOURS HERE JUST WATCHING THE WORLD (AND BOATS) GO BY. PASTA & SEAFOOD IS THE ONLY WAY TO GO HERE. COMPLETELY DELICIOUS

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ACQUA PAZZA
IF YOU SHOULD FIND YOURSELF IN NEED OF PIZZA THEN HEAD HERE. THE OWNER BRINGS THE FLAVOURS OF AMALFI TO VENICE. PIZZAS ARE PRETTY GREAT HERE, HOWEVER PASTA (THERE’S A GENEROUS SELECTION OF VEGETARIAN PASTAS ON OFFER) IS WELL WORTH A TRY TOO. WE WATCHED AS ANOTHER TABLE WERE SHOWN A LARGE SEABASS PRIOR TO IT BEING COOKED SO FISH IS PROBABLY A GOER HERE TOO… A SENSE OF FORMALITY AND OCCASION MAKES FOR A FUN PLACE TO HEAD TO. THE PIAZZA WHERE IT’S POSITIONED IS BEAUTIFUL. EXPECT SLIGHTLY MARDY SERVICE, WHICH IS MADE TOTALLY WORTH EXPERIENCING FOR THE FOOD YOU’LL EAT.

THE AMAN VENICE
IF I HAD A CHOICE I WOULD HAVE NEVER LEFT THIS PLACE. THE AMAN IS AN EXCEPTIONAL HOTEL. FROM THE BUILDING ITSELF DOWN TO THE STAFF, SERVICE AND RESTAURANT. YOU JUST CAN’T FAULT IT. IF THERE’S ONE PLACE TO STOP OFF AND DUCK OUT OF THE CHAOS THEN THIS IS IT. THIS DELICATELY RESTORED 16TH CENTURY PALACE OFFERS LUNCH, AFTERNOON TEA AND DINNER. I WOULD RECOMMEND BOOKING FOR ANY OF THOSE OPTIONS, WHENEVER THEY HAVE AVAILABILITY. YOU’LL DINE IN MUSEUM LIKE SURROUNDINGS. FOOD AND SERVICE IS IMPECCABLE BUT WITH A RELAXED EDGE TO IT. FOOD HITS THE SPOT ACROSS THE BOARD. BE SURE YOU TRY THEIR SAFFRON RISOTTO AND WHITE TIRAMISU.

DA FIORE (SAN POLO)
THIS WAS THE FIRST PLACE WE WERE RECOMMENDED TO TRY IN THE SAN PAOLO DISTRICT AND WITH IT’S MICHELIN STAR IT’S NOT TO BE MISSED. IT’S NOT CRAZY FANCY BUT SHIRTS AND TROUSERS ARE REQUIRED. THERE’S ONE AMAZING SPOT IN THIS OLD VENETIAN TAVERN WHICH OFFERS THE OPPORTUNITY TO BE SAT OVERLOOKING THE WATER. IT’S ALMOST A PRIVATE DINING EXPERIENCE WITH ALL THE OTHER TABLES INSIDE. THE VEGETARIAN WAS WELL CATERED FOR TRYING AN INCREDIBLE CHILLED SPAGHETTI WITH SMOKED AUBERGINE AND TOMATOES. FOOD IS RICH AND COMPLETELY DELICIOUS, ENJOY EVERY BITE.

 

 

SINGAPORE TO BANGKOK

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The Eastern Oriental Express –

This elegant mode of transport lives up to the majesty and tradition of times gone by in the most regal of fashions.

Bound in mahogany and brass with white linens and heavy upholsteries dominating the soft furnishings, this aesthetic sets the tone for the grandeur of what’s to come. We’re entirely seduced by every element of what we experience. With a childlike excitement, we embark the train eager to get this ‘once in a lifetime experience’ started. There is a palpable sense of adventure amongst all the guests. The level of indulgence and decadence that comes with this trip is fit for royalty, and anyone with an expanding waist band!

Our cabin is compact and has various wood inspired veneers adorning the walls. The Eastern Oriental Express motif makes a claim on everything from our slippers and dressing-gowns, right through to our leather luggage tags and bottles of water; proudly championing everything it represents. The historic landscape of the train dates back over a century. In some aspects much remains the same, and its this sense of heritage that really is at the heart of the Eastern Oriental Express. Staff members are proud to work aboard this world renowned service and couldn’t be more accommodating or sweet in nature. Our cabin is at the very end of the train, which means we’re next to the observation deck (and lounge), completely ideal. One morning we sneak out at 06:15 on the dot to watch the sun rise, wrapped in our dressing gowns and slippers. Days pass us by as we watch the landscapes change; deep, thick tropical forests, small towns, rivers, rice fields and finally city. All exotic and unfamiliar to the eye.

We dine as the sun begins to soften and lower in the sky: another four courses. There will be no point where you experience any pang of hunger as a four course lunch is followed by afternoon tea, and finally another four courses for dinner. Guests are encouraged to dress for the evening meals, and it’s absolutely the place to do it. There’s a real sense of occasion, pride and romance aboard. As we get to know the fellow guests we learn that most are here to celebrate an occasion, whether it’s an anniversary, birthday or like us, their honeymoon. This is no everyday experience. What we also come to realise is that there’s time to sit back, watch the world go by and detach from reality. This is a peaceful haven, where people pensively sip at cocktails, with a book in hand. It hadn’t occurred to me that this had become a rarity for me until now.

Our first excursion means we spend one morning roaming the most beautiful of mosques, see the oldest rubber tree grown, view a traditional Malay house plus visit the last reigning Kings memorial museum. The highlight had to be the lunch provided; traditional spring rolls, pancakes and curry sauce (which I even had a go at making resulting in a fifth meal added to the day!).

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Were it possible to indulge in one of The Belmonds’ train journeys often, I wouldFrom the dining ritual, the schedule (which includes several excursions) to the experience of a much more compact way of life, it’s a welcome change and one that we eagerly acclimatised to.

This slower pace of life, gifting a renewed appreciation of the surrounding environment, is partly what makes these journeys so special. The level of service and decadent dining is what you’d expect – absolutely – but, even still, they seem to exceed themselves. I’ll be gushing about this journey for a long time yet.


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stockholm & sörmland

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Anna Barnett falls under Sweden’s spell as she visits self-sufficient farms and takes cookery classes with its top chefs.

Recently I took a short hour and a half flight to Sweden and was quickly left wondering why I hadn’t done it sooner. Trips to France, Spain and Italy had always felt more of a natural destination to sample good food, wine and culture. How wrong I was.

Upon arriving, we were immediately taught the concept of ‘Lagom’ – the Swedish way of living through ‘moderation, just enough and nothing to excess’ – by our host. So natural for the Swedes, but perhaps trickier for us Brits. I love that this idea extends across every aspect of life – everything is modest, pared-back and simplistic with a focus on quality over quantity.

In Stockholm and its neighbouring landscape – the lush, green landscape of Sörmland, you can sample ‘New Nordic Cuisine’ as well as the more traditional, local ones Sweden is famed for. Here are some of the most interesting spots I discovered during my Swedish foodie adventure – from both, equally enticing ends of the spectrum.

Äleby
During our time in Sörmland, we visited families that live entirely off the land around them and have made a business of doing so; living simplistic but rich lives. We started at Äleby Gård; a beautiful game reserve that has been passed down through the generations. The ethos there is all about moderation, sustainability, biodiversity and caring for the land responsibly. Hunting isn’t done excessively – instead, the family hunt for what they need and use up every part of the animal in respect for the life they’ve taken. They run cookery classes, offer a sense of community and grow many of the vegetables and herbs they use. They also offer the unique experience of  ‘Nose to Tail dining’, where guests, hunt, butcher and prepare the game. This is then turned into a nine course dinner by chef and restaurateur, Daniel Crespi and Mikael Einarsson, author of Hedonisten, the most incredible book championing nose to tail dining. aleby.com

Högtorp Gård
This farm encapsulates every idyll you can imagine about living off the fat of the land. The husband and wife behind it spend much of their time foraging and teaching others to do so. They teach sustainability, respecting the land and preserving it for the generations to come;  think endless pickling, fermenting and experimenting with edible flowers, buds, saps and berries. Even more excitingly, they often pair up with chefs to teach, share and develop new flavours from the land. Here the aim is to create small specialist batches that are to be cherished and enjoyed. hogtorp.se

Virå Bruk
This is another game reserve offering simplistic, deserted accommodation on the water where groups often come to hunt, fish and be at one with nature. Thankfully for me, we skipped the hunting and spent the evening with the head chef  who leads our cookery class with such spirit and enthusiasm that we would have happily returned every night for a week. We cooked up a four-course organic feast with ingredients farmed no further than a mile away. ‘Slow food’ through and through! Beautiful foraged mushrooms make their way into almost every course and rightly so. We smoke, char and fry an assortment of game and vegetables, crafting a restaurant worthy feast. This alone is worth the trek into the dark depths of forest. virabruk.se

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After indulging in the vast and lush Spruce-heavy landscape of Sörmland we headed into Stockholm to explore the New Nordic cuisine and those making their mark within the city’s restaurant scene. Indoor food markets and modern fusion foods are dominating its food scene right now. Here are my highlights: 

Tak
Tak opened a mere six months ago and celebrates traditional Nordic produce but with a heavy Japanese influence. Head chef Frida Ronge combines her knowledge of Japanese cuisine with her Nordic heritage and successfully so. Tak serves more than two hundred and fifty covers daily and offers 360 degree views of the city. It is one of the four restaurants that Ronge is currently heading up and certainly feels like the place to be or to be seen in right now in Stockholm. tak.se/en

Rutabaga
Chef Mathias Dahlgren recently set aside his two Michelin stars to dedicate his restaurant to a completely vegetarian menu that is both inventive and exciting. Asian influences once again make their way into the menu as well as home-churned butters, freshly baked breads, smoked nuts and truffles. This modern approach and socially aware stance gives the sense that not only is Sweden’s food scene connected and respectful to its environment, but equally it’s modernising and evolving with it…just enough. mdghs.se/en/rutabaga

Restaurangakademin
In amongst the dining out we make time to sample another cookery class at Stockholm’s restaurant academy; Restaurangakademin. This is a haven for anyone wanting to train within the restaurant sector with everything from culinary courses for budding chefs, sommelier training for wine enthusiasts as well as classes in hospitality and management. There’s something for everyone and those that simply want to improve their kitchen skills are more than welcome also. Our classes is taken by incredible chef Magnus Albrektsson where we learn restaurant-style food. His techniques, tips and passion have us all chomping at the bit for more as well as learning valuable skills. restaurangakademien.sealbrektssongastronomic.se

END THE TRAVEL TOUR


 

72 HOURS IN AMSTERDAM

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72 HOURS IN AMSTERDAM… Whenever I travel somewhere new (or somewhere I haven’t visited since my late teens) my first port of call  is always to ask everyone I know and on social media where’s best to head to. CN Traveller will of course provide a great starting point but there’s nothing quite as current as friends or acquaintances that have just got back from there themselves. So here’s my 72 hour edit of fab places to feast, wander and rest your head. 

AMSTERDAM CANALS… provide much of the sightseeing in Amsterdam, in fact you can’t wander the streets without incidentally wandering along or over the endless canal network that divides the city. The first thing to note is that you can pretty much walk everywhere, so comfortable shoes are a must.

WHERE TO HEAD…

COFFEE – Our first coffee stop was at SCREAMING BEANS – This place gets pretty busy so be prepared to wait or sip your coffee on the move or while loitering outside.

STAY… We stayed at THE HOXTON  which location wise is pretty much bang in the centre of it all. My biggest tip is plan well in advance, everywhere gets booked up so get your reservation made ASAP. Rooms are tastefully decked out and the hotel itself consists of open brick work, glossy white tiles and a bit of sixties vibe.

LUNCH….or dinner at BREDA, we actually stumbled upon this restaurant with it’s decor luring us in to take a closer look. It’s safe to say that this might have in fact been our favourite spot. From the decor, almost Parisian in feel, lime-wash walls, green velvet banquette and clusters of soft ball lighting to the friendly staff that were more than accommodating (I had The Vegetarian in tow) and delicious wine list. This is somewhere worth returning to especially if you’re as indecisive as I am when it comes to making menu choices! There’s a set menu which you don’t get to see, you just decide on the number of courses.
We started with an amuse bouche of tom kakai inspired carrot soup, a platter of pickled carrots, hangop and nasturtium plus those delicate carrot crisps with carrot hummus and cumin. Next, herring both raw and pickled with smoked sour cream, herring roe and raspberry marinated beetroot. The main combined both rump steak and rib of lamb with beurre noisette and fermented garlic purée. A cheese platter of Comté, Stilton and Limburger followed by a dessert of miso, caramel, Granny Smith compot, buckwheat crumble and beurre noisette ice cream. Four hours of solid walking and a couple of refreshment stops later and we’ve just about managed to walk it off! Just how Sundays should be spent.

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RESTAURANT DE KAS…This beautiful restaurant is (if you are walking) a good forty five minutes from central Amsterdam. Perched in amongst the rich greenery of the surrounding park is @restaurantdekas – it’s more immediate circumference consists of meticulously kept gardens and the nurseries it draws much of its produce from. This vast space is as impressive as its menu. The lunch service consists of a set menu of either three or four courses of which small amuse bouche are added. A tapioca and mustard seed cracker arrives first, accompanied by a celery dip (completely delicious) freshly baked bread along with garden radish, piccalilli and poppy seed crumble whets our appetite. Our first course is butterhead lettuce, sprat vichyssoise and lovage potato crumble. Green gazpacho of spinach, celery and cucumber with goats cheese mousse, chard and puffed bulgar follows. Catch of the day arrives baked in basil leaves on brick pastry with ratatouille and fresh sweet cherry tomatoes. Dessert comprised of marinated cherries, almond creme, puff pastry and verbena yogurt ice cream. Wine pairings available but my main advice would be to turn up hungry!

The hugest seafood platter at  STORK  for dinner, oysters, razor clams, mussels, clams and prawns. A short (& free) ferry ride took us off the mainland (central station) to the north banks of the river IJ where we sat for hours, watching the sun finally set late into the evening. The endless stream of boats pass us by as I attempt to get through this enormous platter. This is a great place for big groups,, the gargantuan restaurant is the old Stork factory so there’s a short walk through an industrial park to get you to the banks of the river. Be warned it’s all about the seafood, enormous vats of mussels to share arrive on the table next to us, whole fish and platters of oysters fill the tables. The Vegetarian (husband) really had to take one for the team here..the chips are pretty good though!

It’s an all avocado menu at THE AVOCADO SHOW in the De Pijp area of Amsterdam. Guaranteed to make you wait, this moderately sized restaurant just off the main drag has a constant queue. Catering for vegans, vegetarians, pescatarians and everyone else that has a passion for avocado! Popular dishes include the instagram famous avocado on toast and the avocado burger ‘Bun Burger’. I however opt for the Poké bowl, a Hawaiian style raw salmon, wake seaweed salad, fish caviar, sushi rice and avocado rose bowl. There’s also dessert which includes a handcrafted avocado sorbet, The Blind Date, their signature dessert with dates, avocado citrus and anise seeds and The Next Level Mousse, layered dark chocolate, banana and avocado mousse. It’s pink velvet seating and plenty of botanical touches make for the perfect breakfast or brunch spot.

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BAKERS & ROASTERS

Also in the Pijp district which definitely has a Brooklyn/ NY feel to it is this sweet breakfast or brunch spot. This too is somewhere worth turning up to early. They’ll take your number and text when your table is ready. Serving an assortment of brunch favourites and great coffee, it’s worth waiting for.

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a very rural trip to france

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FRANCE
We head to just outside of Bergerac, south-west France. Our residence for the week is a stunning old converted mill. The bedroom window opens out over the running water that passes through the still working mill beneath the house. We drive through endless sunflower fields as we draw closer to our destination. The old mill sits by itself within the wheat fields that surround it: picturesque and modest at a first glance. On our first night we head out laden with an assortment of French goodies as the sun begins to lower in the sky. Cheese, bread, wine and charcuterie with plenty of cornichons weigh down our baskets. We pitch up just beyond the stream with children and dog in tow. The complete calm and serenity of this area lets nature take centre stage. The constant hum of crickets, local birds and dark starry nights are a welcome addition and a far cry from our hectic London lives.

EAT OUT…
We venture to a nearby restaurant, just outside Puy L’Eveque. A fifteen-minute drive amongst endless rows of vineyards. Golden hour is upon us and we’re in awe of this incredible spot. Part of the main courtyard consists of an open barn style structure, which is where we dine, others sit beneath the enormous willow tree that dominates the other side of the courtyard. Food has a European focus and is made up from as much local produce as possible. Wine is of the same ethos. The key is to go local with whatever you can. It’s all completely delicious and the staff will happily guide you through the wine list.
The local market in Montcuq offers an incredible bounty of freshly grown produce. An abundance of cheese, pastries, breads and specialist charcuterie make us keen to plot out our meals for the week ahead at the mill.

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This is a region of France where wine, cheese and charcuterie are to be appreciated. It’s no wonder that the French are proud of what their country produces, I could easily live off this wealth of produce and quality produce at that. The endless small towns we wander through, old cafes, brocantes and restaurants all with endless charm and steeped in history. This is a part of the world where you can’t help but be seduced by.

Le Mariottat in Agen, a nineteenth century mansion serving a Michelin starred seasonal French menu. Offering both a tasting menu and menu de marché. The freshly baked, warm Madeleine’s and petit fours are worth the visit alone.

TRAVEL recommendations

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MY FIRST CELEBRITY CRUISE

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We board Celebrity Cruise ship ‘Reflection’ after a short transfer from Rome; setting sail into the thick balmy afternoon air. Our direction takes us out along the jagged Mediterranean coastline then out to a vast expanse of ocean. This is our first ever cruise. We’re unsure what to expect…an enormous floating hotel with anything and everything you can think of in one sprawling space that, incidentally, gets you from one brilliant and totally stunning location to the next…in a nutshell that’s what it is it but it’s this and so much more.

This particular Celebrity Cruise ship spans 15 decks (there’s no deck 13, which took a while to register!) Each floor surrounds the central atrium where glass fronted lifts spend their days carting people between levels. This is also the spot which really makes you contemplate the sheer vastness of the ship; from the ground floor right up to the top deck where you can view its journey. We board and spend the first two hours exploring each floor, restaurant, and bar. We locate the gym (where we proudly start each day,) the sauna is impressively glass fronted and ocean facing and the basketball court (although this goes unused it’s good to know it’s there!!). There are two swimming pools; one inside and one out. Additionally, there is an enormous theatre space, retail shops, outdoor cinema and a top deck devoted to sunning yourself. There’s also a library, a games hall and if there’s anything I’ve missed it’s guaranteed they have that too!

Our room is moderately sized, bright and functional. We excitedly embrace the private balcony where sun loungers and a breakfast table make our little abode for the next few days that bit more exciting.

Day one is all about settling in, finding our bearings and getting stuck into the onboard cuisine. We first sample the highly recommended Sushi on Five (floor five) restaurant. The vegetarian (Husband) is more than catered for (they even have his dietary requirements noted) and offer up some alternative options before he gets a chance to request them! The food here is great: it’s fresh vibrant produce that’s been whipped up while we wait. The wine list is pretty great here too!!

Day two brings with it an early morning wake up in Cinque Terre. As the sun rises so do I, just in time to watch the Italian scenery draw in closer ahead of our arrival. We have an entire day to spend exploring this infamous stretch of coastline. We’re excited! We stay committed to our morning routine, with the husband heading straight out to the gym and me pitching up with my yoga mat out on a deserted front deck. Al fresco yoga, sauna and fruit smoothies for breakfast allow for (and counteract) the indulgence that’s to come. Once we disembark mid-morning, we jump on the local train and hop between ports, stopping at one,Monterosso for the most incredible swim in crystal clear water (this is a must) followed by a glass (or two) of local prosecco up in the old castle. The view here is incredible with ocean views not to be missed! We then hop back on the train for our lunch reservation in Riomaggiore at Gamblero Rosso; incredible local and freshly caught seafood. I have anchovies cooked four ways ahead of a classic vongole while the husband goes for a local sweet walnut ravioli.
We exhaust ourselves in amongst the rich green ancient coastline that connects these small ports before heading back to the ship where dinner comes rounds all too quickly. We sip yet more prosecco (making the most of our holidays) as we leave the coastline behind us and once again head out for an evening at sea with the boat sailing towards our next destination.

While I wait for the husband to get ready ahead of dinner (it’s usually this way round!!) I make the most of our balcony and, to my utter surprise, spot dolphins swimming alongside the ship. I inevitably squeal more than loud enough for the Husband to hear and come racing out and see them too. Quite a spectacle and so exciting to see! Inevitably we then proceed to spend our entire meal trying to spot more and discussing our sighting!

We dine at Murano, the French style restaurant that without doubt is our favourite. They pull out all the stops (not just for us but for all the diners). Flambé lobster is a speciality that perhaps only the Husband (vegetarian) leaves without trying . The dishes are French classics with added wow factor, beautifully cooked and artfully presented. This is refined cuisine, a carefully curated menu that really does go the extra mile. We opt for the wine pairing menu and happily let the sommelier woo us. We later even view the impressive wine cellar that boasts an endless collection (over 1600 bottles) of premium and vintage wines. At this stage we’re now both excited to be onboard and exhausted from everything we’ve managed to pack in.

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The next day we once again rise just early enough to see the ship approach the harbour of Ville Franche. We continue with the early morning routine we’ve committed to and feel good for it!

Our third day consists of a kitchen tour. We meet the head chef that leads an incredible team of 275 chefs. We are given a tour of the 16 kitchens which span several decks and attemptto comprehend an almost incomprehensible operation that the chefs relentlessly work to, day in, day out. Feeding 1600 guests over an hour then doing the same just an hour later, day after day, plus catering for all the speciality restaurants completely blew our minds! The immaculate kitchens that are run with a military organisation like which you’ve never witnessed. This gargantuan undertaking of feeding all aboard and to such a high standard is truly awe inspiring. It’s mad in fact!!! So impressive!! We’re borderline speechless!

While on board we also sample Ocean View Café where food is served buffet style through the day. We even pass by the silent disco which is always brilliant to watch. And naturally we try out their Tuscan restaurant. My love for Italian food is huge! Portions are generous, fresh and tick all the boxes. With every meal we’re surprised by how intimate each restaurant feels, (other than the super sleek white wash two floor main dining room) the restaurant seats around 200 people but manages to feel even more intimate and that absolutely appealed to us.

Our final destination is Barcelona. We’re eager to disembark to meet friends for a late lunch in one of our favourite cities. We can’t wait to sit by the beach and eat endless freshly made paella. Ahead of our lunch we head out on the Chef’s market Discovery,  the head chef accompanies us to the local and largest food market in Barcelona. Situated just off Las Ramblas the chefs take us round their preferred stalls, talks produce, quality and what to pick up where. Food is bought and will be prepared for a bespoke dinner for guests that evening. For any foodie who is experiencing Barcelona for the first time it’s worth signing up for.

Throughout our entire stay (we did half of the Mediterranean cruise offered) we found ourselves becoming more and more fond of this incredible way of holidaying. It’s so rare that you can get around to as many different countries, experience such varied cultures, landscapes and cuisines so easily. You can absolutely see why people holiday this way, time and time again. My excitement for the forthcoming launch of Celebrity ‘Edge’, the brand new and very design led ship which is launching this December has definitely been compounded by this trip….stay tuned!!!

CLICK HERE TO ADVENTURE TO THE TRAVEL PAGE


THE BEST PLACES TO EAT IN SKÅNE, SWEDEN

  Hotel DuxianA

Hotel DuxianA

  Malmö Saluhall

Malmö Saluhall

Food lovers rejoice! Skåne; Sweden’s most southern peninsular is a food lovers haven and a destination that offers a full sensory overload.

For many the dining experience isn’t solely about the food on your plate, it’s about the full experience and Skane offers first class dining in hugely varied but always beautiful settings.

From the stunning Vollmers, the two Michelin star restaurant in Malmö, to wild weekend camping and outdoor cooking at Nyrups Naturhotel, there is something for everyone.

There’s intimate dining at the incredible coastal Köksbordet and a restful and rejuvenating stints available at the Ängavallen Farm & Hotel. The charm, hospitality, innovation, passion and respect for everything consumed is consistent and evident throughout the region’s best foodie destinations.

Just a short flight to Copenhagen and an even shorter train journey will have you at the heart of Malmö in time for lunch: A perfect place to start your discovery of all things Skåne.

Below are the best places to eat in Skåne.

Hotel DuxianA
A short walk from Malmö train station, Hotel Duxiana offers a very laid back experience to all who stay. Proud producers of extremely comfortable beds, it goes without saying it’s one of the best places to rest your head in the city. Rooms are pared back, tasteful and without chintz or fuss. Think Scandinavian design but with extra cushions! Being situated moments from the centre of Malmö means it couldn’t be more conveniently positioned. Gorgeous coffee shops and restaurants are a mere stones throw away.

Malmö SaluhalL
For those that like plenty of options or to graze while they wander, the newly refurbished goods warehouse; Saluhall is home to a very select group of retailers. From incredible butchers and fishmongers to a pizzeria (Hedvigsdal pizzas are a must try), ice cream, cheeses, burgers, bakers… you name it, they’ve got it. Very much Swedish in its beautiful design and sympathetic to the buildings origins, this is a place you could lose hours in. There’s plenty of seating areas and more formal restaurants within the space.  Whether doing the weekly shop or popping in for a lunch or dinner, Saluhall has it all tastefully covered.

Vollmers
Having been awarded two Michelin stars, this restaurant is a must when visiting Malmö. Serving staff, chefs and sommelier make this an exceptional experience that you won’t want to end. It’s intimate, original, passionate and innovative approach to the cuisine it serves is exciting, every course is intriguing and completely delicious. Service is of course formal and on point but friendly and relaxed in the same breath. We’re taken through course after course with incredible wine pairings that rouses a similar intrigue to the food. It’s absolutely apparent you’re dining somewhere special here.

Köksbordet/Hörte Brygga
With a vision for zero food waste and a passion for locally grown produce Hörte Brygga is not your traditional restaurant. Its setting is moments from the coast and come the summer months they serve over four hundred customers a day. By winter when the temperature drops they offer a much more intimate and refined approach to dining. Seasonal tasting menus which change daily and cater for up to twelve guests an evening mean that you can really experience something totally unique and entirely special. Run by a husband and wife team this restaurant absolutely needs to be on your list whichever time of year you visit.

  Köksbordet/Hörte Brygga

Köksbordet/Hörte Brygga

  Ängavallen Farm & Hotel

Ängavallen Farm & Hotel

  Erikstorps Kungsgård

Erikstorps Kungsgård

Ängavallen Farm & Hotel
An inspiring place where ecology and gastronomy go hand in hand. This family run guesthouse and farm not only offer a retreat from city life, but offer an insight into farming, animal welfare and living off the land. The restaurant here is exceptional with most of the produce grown or reared on the surrounding land. A passion for and agricultural responsibility is at the forefront of this working farm.

Erikstorps Kungsgård
With a obsession for traditional Skanian cuisine, this restaurant manages to create a menu that stays true to the region’s most loved dishes whilst also focuses on sustainable produce. Warm and informal, this restaurant also serves up packed lunches using its leftovers for those on a tighter budget. Sunday brunching is a big thing here and the DIY buffet really pulls in the crowds.

Nyrups Naturhotell
For those wanting to really connect with the outdoors and get hands on with local produce; this is the place to do it. Navigate your way into the woods, where if like us, you’ll eventually find your camp for the weekend. Dinner is cooked on open fires and we’re taught how to make fire pits to wrap, bury and bake fish. You’ll be completely seduced by Sweden’s answer to glamping.

Hällåkra Vingård
Here, a husband and wife team open their home and vineyards for enthusiasts to visit. Being the most northerly positioned vineyards in the world makes for an interesting story and unique tasting wine. The family estate, owned for five generations relies on the microclimate provided by the proximity to the Baltic sea. This too is a beautiful spot to visit, set in gentle, rolling hills where you can sample both the wine and local cuisine.

  Nyrups Naturhotell

Nyrups Naturhotell

  Hällåkra Vingård

Hällåkra Vingård


MARRAKECH

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Marrakech top picks-
Marrakech is just a mere three and a half hours from London and for the most part it boasts a much more reliable forecast than the UK can offer (although not during the occasion we visited)! It is a city where the Atlas mountains provide the backdrop to most views and where accommodation covers both boutique, refurbished raid city escapes as well as decadent, vast, sprawling luxury hotels dotted in the surrounding areas. Here I share some of my favourite hotels set both inside the historic medina and out. I’d recommend mixing it up and combining the two for the ultimate Moroccan holiday experience.

To Stay -
Riad Tarabel:
This might just be one of the most idyllic places we’ve stayed in a long while. Just beyond the walls of the historic Medina and tucked away behind several dark twists and turns lies the kind of tranquil oasis we all dream of retreating to. It offers a respite to the hustle and bustle of the Medina through peach walled, colonial inspired open courtyards laced with orange trees, punctuated by blue shutters that lead you off into the private suites; all which have roll top baths. This is the sort of haven you’ll struggle to leave. Breakfast is served (should it not rain as it did for us) on the rooftop which is as pretty and pleasing as the rest of the adjoining Riads. Food must be pre-ordered if you’re dining in for lunch or dinner but it is absolutely worth doing so. Informal, charming lounge areas are dotted in amongst the buildings many sun drenched floors where meals can be served. Food is considered with a focus on quality fresh produce. Design and understated elegance is at the forefront of this hotel and we’d book it again in a heartbeat.

L’Hotel Marrakech -
The latest design project from Jasper Conran means you can expect his signature on point yet understated design with flashes of colour. With a mere five suites on offer, this place understandably gets snapped up quickly. The 19th century Riad subtly resides beyond a maze of pinkwash pathways in the heart of the ‘red city’s’ Medina. Each suite is nestled around a vast open courtyard with statement greenery and is luxuriously large, coming with a draped four poster bed and bringing together both modern design and traditional Moroccan antiques. The restaurant and food offering (which is open for non-guests to book too) is an experience worth treating yourself also. Both our vegetarian and fish tagines were amongst our favourites we tried. Homemade rose harissa and green harissa served as an accompaniment to the grapefruit puy lentil herb infused salad, which made for a welcome change to predominantly meat heavy menus we’d experienced elsewhere. With all ingredients being sourced locally and largely focussing on vegetarian cuisine, this was an especially exciting visit for The Vegetarian Husband. If the weather does fail you, book the spot by the fireplace. This place is heaven!

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El Fenn - https://el-fenn.com
It’s hard to not fall in love with El Fenn. It’s charming in every sense and it would probably be fair to say they know it! Awash with Moroccan tiles, tadelakt walls and vibrant upholstery, even the corridors will have you cooing. The palatial rooms are individually designed and predominantly colour coded, so expect a brave wash of all pink, soft peach or dark navy. Design is bold and daring but in the most enticing and successful way possible. Behind the curated 28 rooms is both Vanessa Branson and Howell James who began restoration back in 2002. The roof terrace is the place to watch the sun disappear beyond the busy horizon and throughout the next few months they’ll also being playing host to resident chefs, mixing up the menu and offering some much appreciated variations on the traditional tagine. They’ll also be bringing with them an assortment of exciting cocktails, DJ’s and talks from inspiring designers, artisans and entrepreneurs.

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La Sultana - http://www.lasultanahotels.com/eng/marrakech
La Sultana is situated in Kasbah just a ten minute walk to the main square and UNESCO World Heritage site; Jemaa El Fna. The square is an experience in itself and not one for the faint hearted. At the foot of the square there is still evidence of morally questionable snake charming and monkeys performing for tourists entertainment but this can largely be avoided. The rest of the site really i an experience to behold with a abundant food market offering the chance to eat good honest local food whilst listening to raucous live music.  From the sprawling rooftop at La Sultana you can indulge in panoramic views of the city, where you’ll hear no more than the call to prayer. The hotel which consists of five Riads in total; all very unique in design, makes for quite the place to explore. Decadent and ostentatious in parts, this is a feast for the eyes. Indoor garden courtyards, a swimming pool and spa will all keep you well occupied. Rooms are large but I’d recommend requesting one on a top floor for optimum privacy and maximum daylight. Cookery classes are also a must here.

Dar Zitouna – Private villa http://www.marrakechholidayvillas.com
For those with a family or those wanting a more private and peaceful time then one of the serviced villas on the private eight villa estate of Bab Adrar ticks the box. Remotely situated a thirty-minute drive from the country’s capital and with all vistas directed towards the horizon of the Atlas mountains; this luxury villa has five double bedrooms and several terraces all laced with olive trees. There’s an enormous spread of grounds to play host as well as private pool and numerous outdoor seating and dining spots. It’s luxuriously decorated with tasteful nods to both Moroccan and French design with many interesting artworks on show. Staff are on hand to cook, clean and assist with any requests which makes for the most relaxing of experiences.

Beldi Country Club-http://beldicountryclub.com/en/
A short drive from the bustling centre of Marrakech is the Beldi Country Club. On arrival you’re greeted by an entire field of roses in every which colour. The sprawling landscaped grounds play host to 38 suites which are pared back, Moroccan in style with a French influence. Olive trees and cacti guide you around the 14 hectares that host numerous restaurants, pools and the most incredible Riad and large Ksar; a greenhouse like structure drenched with plants. It’s perfect for large events or dinners. The onsite souk shares a very curated offering of Berber wares; textiles, wicker, glass wear (all blown onsite), rugs, pottery and clothing and although not as cheap as you’d expect it is hard to resist!

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OUR ITALIAN PASTA EATING ROAD TRIP

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Our Italian Pasta Eating Road Trip

For as many years as I can remember now I’ve gone on and on about wanting to drive down (eat my way down) through Italy. I’ve avidly followed Jamie, The Two Greedy Italians, Rick Stein and Keith Floyd on their culinary Italian adventures whilst even watching Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon bickering in and out of Italian restaurants left me feeling jealous…

So, having finally quit my job, leaving the world of fashion behind me I’m now fully embracing all things food. The book is finally out there and on the shelves to buy (Eat the Week, you’ve probably seen me mention it once or twice) and I’ve been busy catering private press dinners dedicating all my time to cooking.

In bigger news I’ve turned 30 which I managed to see in through a string of long lunches, dinners and heavy boozing that spanned across two weeks and included a celebration in both NY and several in London. However … There’s one last lunch that consists of a 9 course tasting menu from the current second best restaurant in the world, Osteria Francescana in Modena. If like me you’re completely obsessed with the Netflix series; Chef’s Table then you’d be as excited as I am about this final celebration into my 30’s. What’s even more exciting is that Massimo Bottura, Author of ‘Never Trust a Skinny Italian Chef’ (it’s all making so much sense why he’s such a hero) will also be serving up a full vegetarian tasting menu too (for the boyfriend) so I’ll technically be tasting over 18 dishes and finally getting to dine out and really enjoy a meal with him. Naturally it then made sense to finally plan our Italian road trip around a long (and probably the best) lunch out.

Restaurant Osteria Francescana- http://www.osteriafrancescana.it/index.php

http://www.pratipalai.it/en/
We’ll be starting by flying into Verona and staying near Lake Garda for 2 nights in the Bardolino region. In need of some rest and recuperation, we’ve opted for an old rural farmhouse with views of Lake Garda and in walking distance to the lake. We were pretty late in booking somewhere and there’s seems to be some sort on conference or something taking place that weekend so we’re not as close to the lake (i.e right on it) as we wanted to be. That said this place looks perfectly low key, rural and super nicely decked out, perfect for our first stop off. More details to come….

Hotel Belmond Portofino – http://www.belmond.com/hotel-splendido-portofino/
Next up we’re heading over to Portofino for two nights of living the dream at the Belmond’s seaside retreat. My plan is to swim in the infinity pool overlooking the port both mornings, specifically making room for more pasta and red wine. There’s also a little private beach only accessible by boat which has a couple of restaurants to eat at. This is definitely on our to do list. The main formal dining room looks so beautifully traditional and luxurious, specialising in local dishes and traditional Italian cuisine. It also has the most incredible views of the harbour as it’s set up in the hills of Portofino.

Hotel J K Place –http://www.jkplace.com
From here we’re driving directly to Modena to eat at Osteria Francescana (for the meal of our lives!!) before going onto Florence for just the one night (we couldn’t skip Florence as the boyfriend has never been and I’ve only ever done a flying visit). We’ll be staying pretty central, it made sense to being as we’re there so briefly…J. K Place Firenze is modern and luxuriously decked out and positioned in the heart of it all, just a few minutes walk from Santa Maria Novella Basilica. We’ll also be trying out their Tuscan inspired menu, on the terrace overlooking the piazza.

Hotel Casa Angelina –http://www.casangelina.com
From Florence we’re then taking our longest journey yet and driving 6 hours down to the Amalfi coast, stopping for one night in Praiano at super modern white washed hotel Casa Angelina. Just 10 minutes from Positano and 20 minutes from Amalfi. Have to say we’re super excited about this part of the trip, I’m going to get seriously stuck into the seafood as we couldn’t be closer to the sea. There’s also plenty of quieter beach havens that you again can only reach by boat so we’ll definitely be out and exploring, taking long lunches and big dinners. After just the one night in Praiano we’ll be heading to Amalfi where we’ll stay for 3 nights. We found a place with a pool (although not sure that’s necessary given how gorgeous and clear the sea is down that way)

Hotel Mariana Riviera – http://www.marinariviera.it
Situated again right on the coast a little further south from Positano this is where we’re setting down for 3 nights with the aim to explore Positano, Praiano, Ravello and Amalfi. We have an afternoon planned in Ravello at The Belmond, they have the craziest infinity pool and outdoor lunch area so we’ll be sunning and feeding our faces there one afternoon.

Hotel Belmond Ravello / Restaurant – http://www.belmond.com/hotel-caruso-amalfi-coast/restaurants_and_bars_caruso

Rossellinis -Palazzo Avino – http://www.palazzoavino.com/en/Dining/Rossellinis
We’ll be eating in the gorgeous Rossellinis in Ravello, trying out there Michelin starred a-la-carte menu along with wine pairing. While looking down onto the Amalfi cost. The views from the restaurants terrace are supposed to be incredible. Palazzo Avino is a 5 star hotel set in a 12th century villa perched on the cliffs of the Medieval town of Ravello.

Don Ferrante Hotel –http://www.donferrante.it
Our final stop is 2 nights in Monopoli, in the southern region of Puglia. We’ve previously taken a day trip to Monopoli and fell in love with it. Set within the walls of a old fortress this small town is packed full of history, it’s also set within a stretch of the Adriatic coast which has some of the most amazing white sand beaches.