17 April 2015

Hotel Americano, New York City


A couple of weeks ago my boss flew me over to New York City for two days for an important client meeting. A whistle-stop visit, I left London on late Wednesday afternoon after a couple of hours delay and arrived late evening New York time. After a hop, skip and a jump through immigration and a torturous wait in the taxi queue, I was soon in a yellow cab flying through tunnels into Manhattan. That first close up of the skyline just before we took the Lincoln Tunnel gave me butterflies - my last trip to the city was a whole eight years ago with three schoolfriends on a travel bursary.

My boss stays at Hotel Americano so we booked me in there too. A Design Hotel in the heart of Chelsea, it's a seriously sexy looking place to stay. Arriving at midnight with an early alarm already set, it was like a dream come true to be greeted with this room. Low lighting welcomed me in along with the in-room iPad softly playing Classical music (I later discovered they had some pretty good playlists for party preparations) and that bed? It was deliciously comfy and the perfect way to end the day after a quick shower with everything Aesop.


The meetings went well so we celebrated in style, starting at the rooftop bar which turns into a pool during the summer. We raised a few martinis to the Manhattan skyline before heading off for some very luxurious cocktails at Baccarat, a hotel that's just seen a cool $60 million refurb, and gives drinkers $10,000 thrones made from coyote fur to lounge around on. Truly decadent.

The rest of the trip involved walking crosstown from 20th to 51st and back, some much deserved wine, guacamole and chips in the downstairs bar and some more wine before I left for the airport for another delayed flight home. A short but very sweet stay in one of New York's most stylish hotels. I'm just trying to persuade my boss to take me back!

14 April 2015

Rex & Mariano

I think I've found a new favourite. It's instantly rocketed to the top of my list along with Duck & Waffle, 8 Hoxton Square and Pollen Street Social and I'm already thinking of excuses to go back. Hidden between two of the main streets of Soho, Rex & Mariano is the Goodmans' latest fishy opening and it's definitely a good'un.

Previously an unremarkable Vodka Revolution, Rex & Mariano has transformed into a light and airy space with two open kitchens and a bar along one side and a combination of high and low tables on the other. Friendly staff greeted us at the door, showed us to a high table by the window, explained the ordering system (iPads) and left us to pore over the menu.

We were celebrating so I gravitated to a glass of prosecco each, naturally. Simple to order, they appeared pretty sharpish and were crisp, fruity and light and a perfect accompaniment to our starter of burrata. The combination of creamy cheese with simultaneously sweet and smokey tomatoes on a bed of focaccia rendered us temporarily speechless and transported straight into summer.

Choosing mains was hard but we eventually settled on the tuna tartare for me and the Sicilian large stripe prawns for S, along with courgette fries and aioli. My tartare was divine - cubes of fresh fish on a bed of avocado puree, topped with colourful red chilli for a bit of bite and the lightest touch of sesame. Definitely guilt free, I added a bit of S's roasted lemon and Tabasco from the table to bring the flavours to life.

S's dish stole the show, though, and reminded me of the brilliant meal I had for my birthday in Savelletri's Osteria del Porto last year - enormous prawns in a lemon, garlic and parsley oil. Deliciously sweet and meaty, these guys were so moreish I could have eaten them all day. We mopped the oil up with the courgette fries - a generous portion that were brilliantly cooked (no soggy sticks here) - and had to stop ourselves from ordering more.

The guys at Rex & Mariano (so named for Rex Goldsmith, The Chelsea Fishmongerer and Mariano di Vigni) have got this restaurant spot on. Affordable, accessible fresh fish that you don't have to travel miles for, I've already planned another trip. Five out of five for sure.

12 April 2015

Bleecker Street Burger

There's nothing better than a pop-up that becomes permanent. From MeatLiquor to Senor Ceviche, when an idea gains momentum, good press and the all-important backing to set up shop and open bricks and mortar, you know you're onto a good thing.

Last year was unequivocally the year of the burger. Everywhere you looked, toasted brioche and pulled pork were making an appearance and things were getting a little stale but there was always one name that shone through the crowd. So much so that I can't believe it's taken me until now to finally check out Bleecker Street Burger. Starting life in a van, then at Street Feast and Hawker House, and now in its own small but perfectly formed stall in Spitalfields Market, Bleecker Street brings New York style patties to London's streets.

We headed down for a post-work bite in the week, overjoyed that we could comfortably sit on the benches outside without feeling like we were in the Arctic, and ready for some serious meat. It was too tempting to order the same thing but in the quest for best burgers, we had to sample more of the menu so I chose the Blue Burger which turned out to be a beautiful combination. A gloriously rare patty topped with melted blue cheese and lettuce all sandwiched in a non-brioche bun - the rich flavours of the protein melted in unison and the bun managed to resist a breakdown and hold itself together right til the very end. Bonus points to Bleecker.

But what really stole the show was the Bleecker Black. Two signature patties with cheese and the ultimate black pudding - a monumental achievement in burger brilliance that we quickly declared to be one of the best things we've ever put in our mouths. Coupled with the angry fries (crispy fries liberally doused with hot sauce) and a couple of cans of Brooklyn, we are now completely hooked.

I had high expectations following the hype but to have them surpassed is a really nice surprise. A definitive five out of five and many definite return visits on the cards.

9 April 2015

Bourne & Hollingsworth Bar

Hidden in plain sight on a corner, down some nondescript wrought iron stairs, lies Bourne & Hollingsworth. From the same family as the Rev JW Simpson, and big sister to the newly opened B&H Buildings in Clerkenwell, Bourne & Hollingsworth is petal prohibition. A small square of a room with distressed furniture around the edges and a Victorian fireplace along one of the very floral walls, you'd be forgiven for thinking you'd stumbled into your great grandmother's living room. At first glance, it might feel a little odd but a couple of strong cocktails later, you'll find yourself in full swing.

Cocktails here aren't for the faint-hearted, the flavours and measures here are bold. We headed down on Monday night last week to check out the new Spring menu - strangely, the new ones I'd heard about were nowhere to be seen so we got stuck in with some of the classics on the menu. Quite a few are served in china teacups - I'm a little over this twee detail but I suspect B&H were 'doing it before it became a thing' elsewhere - or jamjars. Our favourites were 'Hoof' (in aforementioned teacup) which combined Irn Bru reduction with vodka into a guiltily bright orange concoction and another whose name escapes me that mixed white port with grape juice, vodka and soda and came in the ubiquitous jar.

This place pulls in the crowds at the weekend and finding a seat or a table can be tricky. It's a good little pitstop on your night out but it might not be your final destination.

(Photo via)

7 April 2015

Smack Deli

I've said it before and I'll say it again, I'm a lobster lover. Burger & Lobster is one of my go-to restaurants and recommendations with every single person I've taken signing up as a crustacean convert once the giant silver tray has been cleared away. The Goodman brothers have done good.

Building their empire hasn't been difficult: their steak restaurants are renowned, B&L is now Stateside and Beast, which serves king crab and steak, isn't exactly doing badly either. So what comes next? A 'fast food' deli eatery serving up moreish lobster rolls at £9 a pop, of course.

After a couple of cocktails at Bourne & Hollingsworth, I was inexplicably craving lobster and nothing else would do. I pulled S in the direction of Oxford Street, promising him a good time, and headed straight for Smack Deli, a stone's throw away from Bond Street station. 

The format here is straightforward - choose from one of the four lobster rolls on offer, order at the counter, pay and receive your buzzer. When your lobster goodness is ready, collect it and dig in. Easy.

We started with the Mexican (smoked chipotle mayo, peppers, corn, jalapeno and white cabbage) and the Seven Samurai (Japanese mayo, Japanese cabbage, cucumber, pickled ginger and spring onions). Toasted brioche stuffed to the brim with the fillings, these are serious sandwich contenders. Perhaps a little bit light on the actual depth of flavours but it was definitely love at first bite.

Still hungry, we shared the California (lettuce, cucumber, tomato, avocado mayo with lime) which they kindly split for us. Perhaps the freshest in terms of flavour, this one was my favourite but I think next time I might add a splash of tabasco.

We ordered wine and moreish courgette fries on the side and polished everything off pretty sharpish. As a younger sister, I think Smack Deli is making some real headway in keeping up with the rest of the family. A small way to go yet but I will definitely be back. Four out of five.

(Top photo via)
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