2 August 2016

Five places in five days

It's been a bit of a mad few days but I wouldn't change any of it for the world. P and I celebrated our six months anniversary (is that even allowed?!) on Friday and we spent the weekend in France meeting his family. Getting back to the daily grind this morning was a bit of a jolt to the system - especially when my heel snapped on my shoe at Clapham North station - so here's to a precis of the last five days in three different countries.

1 Client debauchery at Chiltern Firehouse. We took some clients out to the place to be seen on Thursday night. We kicked off with bottles of champagne in the bar where there's lots of plush fabrics, barmen in white jackets, flowing greenery and a well-groomed dog or two. Coupled with a celeb spot of Zoe Kravitz, Lisa Bonet, Jason Mamoa and Michael Fassbender, it was always going to be a good evening, right? We ate at the Kitchen Table - ordering round after round of seasonal martinis while devouring the bitesize crab donuts, carrot blunts, chicken wings and chunky tuna tartare. I had steak tartare for main and it was silky and smooth, with lashings of seasoning. No selfies but a quick sneak into the secret garden was worth the hype.

2 Anniversary eating at Bob Bob Ricard. Faced with mammoth hangovers, we contemplated cancelling our long-awaited table at London's finest English-Russian collaboration but after some stern words to ourselves and some bloody good Red Snappers at Mark's Bar, we made it. We made ourselves comfortable in the bluest of blue booths and naturally, pressed for champagne. Then we moved onto caviar and ice cold vodka, then indulged in the purest comfort food of lobster macaroni and cheese. An oozing, melting baked St Marcellin finished us off.

3 Wine tasting in Riquewihr. It was then up at a blisteringly early 3.30am to catch a flight to Basel to then drive to Strasbourg to meet the in-laws. But first, we stopped off at the beautiful village of Riquewihr, renowned for its cobbled streets and chocolate box buildings. And wine. The finest producers of Alsacien wine are based in Riquewihr with acres of vines circling the town. We headed to Hugel & Fils where Loic took us through their very best bottles. From Riesling to Muscat, Gewurtztraminer to Pinot Gris, I am now a total sweet(er) wine convert and I'll be eschewing the tired old Pinot Grigio for something a little different.

4 Tartes flambees and cheese on cheese and cheese.
Then came Strasbourg proper and more Aperol Spritzes than you could shake a stick at. One night, we headed for late night tartes flambees at Binchstub. An achingly hip hangout with industrial scaffolding seating and the most laissez-faire waiters you'll ever meet. For the uninitiated, tartes flambees are a regional speciality akin to white pizzas - crisp bases topped with cheese and a variety of toppings. We went for the comte, nuts and lardons; the munster (a very strong regional cheese just like Stinking Bishop), and the tommes aux vaches with nettles. So hot it'll burn the roof of your mouth but perfect when washed down with light, chilled Pinot Noir and a digestif of Ron Zapaca 23 before a slow wander through the tiny, stunning Strasbourg streets.

And of course, a weekend in France wouldn't be complete without the fullest cheeseboard you've ever seen.

5 Al fresco swimming at Resort Barriere, RibeauvilleWhat better way to end the weekend than two hours in an outdoor thermal spa looking over the Vosges mountains? Naturally heated to 34 degrees, the pools and jacuzzis washed away all our traffic-related angst and set us up for the inevitable easyJet delays and the torrential downpour that awaited us in London. It's open all year round and is set to be spectacular in winter when the mountains are capped with snow and the flakes settle around you in the darkness. Return flight, anyone?

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