Jun 14

Shangri-La, Abu Dhabi


Shangri-la is a fictitious place synonymous with an earthly paradise, which was described in the 1933 novel Lost Horizon, written by James Hamilton.

The Shangri-la hotel in Abu Dhabi is one of the most popular places to stay in the city and is part of the small, eponymously named hotel chain, so, with high expectations, I was very much looking forward to seeing what it was like for myself. As you might expect, the hotel is in a great location facing out onto the water, with plenty of outside seating and an infinity pool carefully positioned to make the most of its views of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque.

The hotel is also interconnected to a modern souk by its own waterways. The hotel offers a free abra service around the site, which stops at the souk and will come and collect you when you have finished shopping, which is a very nice touch.

The entrance to the hotel is as grand as you would expect for a hotel in this area, and has plenty of very pleasant areas to sit and enjoy a drink, both inside and out near to the lobby. Rooms are very large and well-equipped with everything you need, and the staff really went out of their way to check we had everything we needed during our stay. Plenty of mineral water is provided free of charge to keep you hydrated in the intense heat in this part of the world during the summer months, and bathrooms are well-stocked with Bulgari and L’Occitane toiletries.

For travellers wanting a bit more luxury and service, an upgrade to the Horizon Club is an option. Selected food and drinks are offered throughout the day, and breakfast is also served in the club offering a good selection of food in a more private environment.

Breakfast can be taken in the main Sofra restaurant, with plenty of outside heating if you fancy some warmth. The choice of foods on offer is huge, and includes omelettes, fresh fruit, bread and pastries and many other types of international cuisine. Food allergies are catered for with notice, and if you’re taking breakfast at the Horizon club, you’d be advised to let them know in good time, so that they have everything you need.

Food lovers really should try the hotel’s French fine dining restaurant, Bord Eau, which has won many awards including Restaurant Chef of the Year 2013 and Restaurant of the Year in the BBC Good Food Awards, also in 2013. The tasting menus are highly recommended, as you get a real flavour for the Bord Eau signature dishes. The food is very good, the selection of wines is interesting and the restaurant itself is extremely elegant with lovely views over the canal for guests to enjoy. The quality of the cooking is excellent, and the slow-braised veal cheek is an excellent example of this, with its meltingly tender meat, served with a delicious infused jus, which is carefully made in an exacting three-day process. Allergies are catered for very well, and if you can, do try the truffled brie, which is home-made, by slicing brie in half and filling with a homemade truffle paste and is absolutely exquisite.

A stay at the Shangri-La hotel is a lovely experience, where you will be well-looked after in gorgeous, relaxed surroundings.

May 14

Shoryu, Kingly Court, London


Shoryu Ramen has very recently opened on Kingly Court, just off bustling Carnaby Street in London. Not long ago, we popped along to try it for ourselves.

The restaurant features an open ramen kitchen where diners can watch the chefs at work. Owned by the Japan Centre chain, Shoryu is a sleek, modern and stylish restaurant, brining a real flavour of Japan to London.

Shoryu prides itself in offering in the most authentic tasting Hakata tonkotsu recipe outside Japan, with many delicious varieties of the dish on the menu including yuzu, piri piri and their signature Shoryu version. I went for the Dracula (pictured) for an intense garlic hit, and I’m very glad I did. You can see how nicely the food is presented from the picture. The menu also includes a range of delicious side dishes such as hirata buns and amazingly delicious gyoza, alongside a selection of exclusive dishes that change on a regular basis.

Shoryu also offer a really interesting selection of gluten free dishes, which includes the most delicious gluten free buns we’ve ever tasted. Staff are clued up on what diners with allergies can and can’t have, and are really helpful when it comes to checking ingredients with the chefs, so you do feel in safe hands dining here.

The bar offers a huge range of sake such as royal warrant Gekkeikan Nouvelle from Kyoto, awarded the monde selection gold medal for 4 consecutive years 2008-2011 and Gekkeikan Gold containing flecks of beautiful 24 carat gold leaf. A selection of sake cocktails are also available, which are most interesting. The Umeshu royal and Negroni San cocktails are also a must.

Portions here are large, but the ice cream, if you can manage it, is a must. Choose between matcha and black sesame flavours to finish off your meal, or, as I did, try a scoop of each and see which one is your favourite.

For more information, please see Shoryu’s website.

May 14

Wine and cheese pairing at Theo Randall, InterContinental Hotel


Theo Randall is one of the country’s top chefs, with his award-winning restaurant at the InterContinental Hotel on London’s Park Lane being one of the best restaurants in town.

It was with much excitement that I recently headed over to try the new wine and cheese pairing experience, designed to be a journey through Italy’s terroir and traditions. Priced from £24 per person, the tasting is tailored to guest preferences and includes four carefully selected Italian wines with four regional cheeses.

The suggested selection starts off with the pairing of two adjacent regions in Piemonte, north-west of Italy; the Roero Arneis and the Robiola delle Langhe. The first is a wine made from the Arneis grape that blends together with the Robiola, a mixed cow, goat and ewe’s milk cheese, to create a honey-like texture.

Moving from the mildest to the strongest flavours, the second cheese is a Pecorino Ubriaco di Pienza, a sheep’s milk cheese made in a small town southern part of Toscana, near Montepulciano and the Maremma. Maremma is also home to the Principi Corsini Bonacossi Birillo, a blend of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon that works beautifully with the Pecorino’s fruity, rich and floral aroma.

Next on the plate will be the Taleggio di Valsassina from around the hills of Bergamo in the Lombardia region, which is matched with Ronchedone from Cá dei Frati, made south of Lake Garda. The creamy, mature and salty cow’s milk cheese marries fantastically with the juicy strawberries, cherries, vanilla and soft tannins of the Sangiovese, Marzemino and Cabernet Sauvignon blend.

Last, but not least, is the matching of a Gorgonzola and a sweet Moscato Passito di Strevi from Marenco. The dried fruit and sweetness of the Moscato contrasts perfectly with the spicy, strong flavours of the Gorgonzola. The whole plate is accompanied by a “sweet-and-hot” Mostarda di pere and homemade crackers, and gluten free options available for those who need it.

Theo says, ‘The restaurant is designed to be accommodating and flexible so we encourage guests to join us at the bar for wine and cheese, cocktails and antipasti, a glass of wine and bowl of pasta, or to enjoy a full dinner.’ The new menu joins the recently launched selection of aperitivi, Italian cocktails and Theresianer beers. For more information visit theorandall.com.

May 14

The Merrion, Dublin


There is only one place in Dublin where celebrities and politicians alike stay in Dublin, and that’s the Merrion Hotel. Despite its prime location in the city centre: smack bang opposite Leinster house, Ireland’s main government building, and around the corner from St.Stephen’s Green, one of the loveliest parts of the Irish Capital, the Merrion is possibly one of the most discreet 5 star hotels you could find. No grand entrances, flags or car parks outside, but as soon as you enter; you are immediately transported in to the luxurious surroundings of a world-class hotel.

The welcome is warm in this elegantly decorated city-centre hotel, so popular it has been extended from the original Georgian building, with the new wing accessible through a glass walkway running through the hotel’s gardens. The original building is formed from a number of joined townhouses, and signs are placed throughout the building so you know which part you are in. Indeed, this is a building steeped in history, particularly Irish political history, right up to the present day, and evidence of this decorates the walls, including a signed Good Friday Agreement by the lift. It is also home to one of the most important art collections in the country, mainly including 19th and 20th Century pieces which adorn the hotel walls.

The bedrooms are really large and incredibly elegantly decorated. The marble bathrooms are decadent and luxurious. Fresh flowers make a wonderful touch, too.

The Merrion’s lounges are stylish, yet comfortable and are both a perfect spot to relax by the fire in the winter, or admire the gardens in the summer.

Dining at the Merrion is absolutely essential. Executive chef Ed Cooney is a member of EuroToques and is absolutely committed to bringing the best of Ireland’s produce to the menu, which features Irish fish, meat, Toonsbridge mozzarella, Glenilen yoghurt and more. The evening menu is varied, interesting and importantly absolutely delicious. Highlights included the black sole with beurre noisette and Szechuan spiced duck, both served with carefully matched wines.  A real effort is made to look after guests with food allergies

Breakfast too is an absolute must. The coffee is excellent, juices delicious and the fresh fruit is not only flavourful, but perfectly ripe. There is so much to choose from (although a slightly reduced menu is served in Sundays) and is one of the best hotel breakfasts we’ve had in a long time.

The Merrion is an absolutely wonderful place to stay in Dublin, where luxury meets discretion. You also really get a sense of place staying here, both with the food and surroundings – you are most definitely in Dublin – not just any luxury hotel in the world. And you never know who you might see, whilst you’re there.

May 14

Cauliflower pizza with roasted tomato sauce


I’ve seen a lot of talk about cauliflower pizzas for some time now. As I cook a lot of gluten free food at home, I thought it would be a great thing to try. I had a brief glance at a couple of recipes online, and decided to make my own version.

Since my first attempt, I’ve made this a couple of times, refining the recipe each time. I have made the base using hand grated cauliflower, which works well, but the process is vastly sped up by using a food processor.  In fact, making the pizza base this way is much quicker than making a flour-based pizza base, be it gluten free or with wheat flour.

The resulting base mixture is soft and has to be shaped by hand into a pizza-like disc. Once baked, it’s crispy around the edges, and although it doesn’t look and taste quite like pizza as you know it, the flavour is actually delicious and flavour-wise blends well with the flavours you’re most likely to use to top a pizza.

I highly recommend making the roasted tomato sauce to top your base, too. It is very simple and quick to make and adds a wonderful depth of flavour to the pizza.


Makes two large pizzas

For the base:

400g cauliflower, grated or blitzed in the food processor to fine chunks

75g parmesan cheese, grated

2 large eggs

Sea salt and pepper

For the sauce:

400g cherry tomatoes

3 cloves garlic, skin on

Olive oil

Sea salt and pepper

For the topping:

1 large ball good quality fresh mozzarella cheese, torn

2 large flat mushrooms

2 thick slices prosciutto


To make the base, preheat the oven to 220C Fan. Cover two large baking trays with baking parchment and set aside.

Grate the cauliflower or blitz in the food processor. You want it to be in small slithers or chunks. Place the cauliflower into a heat-proof bowl and cook in the microwave on full-power for 6 minutes. This will tenderize the cauliflower. Once the cauliflower has been briefly cooked, place it into a colander and press down to remove any excess water.

Mix the parmesan and egg together in a large bowl and add the slightly cooled cauliflower. Stir until well combined. Divide the mixture between the two trays and shape into a pizza base shape by hand. Watch it is not too thick, particularly in the middle.

Bake the base on its own for 10 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 200C and bake for a further 10 minutes. Remove from the oven.

Top with sauce and your toppings and bake for a further 10-12 minutes until the toppings are melted and bubbling. Serve immediately

To make the tomato sauce, place the tomatoes and garlic cloves, skin on, onto a baking tray. Drizzle with olive oil, season and bake at 200C for around 20 minutes until the tomatoes are tender. Remove from the oven. Squeeze the garlic out from the skins. Blitz the tomato and garlic together in a food processor or blender until smooth. Use to top a pizza base immediately. It also freezes well

I topped this pizza with mushrooms, prosciutto and mozzarella. I find that placing raw sliced mushrooms onto a pizza base can make it soggy, so I always cook them first. Simply slice the mushroom and cook in a little olive oil over a high heat for around 10 minutes. Then use to top the pizza.

Apr 14

Fota Island, Ireland


Fota Island Resort must be one of the most unique hotels in Ireland. It’s sat on its own island in Cork Harbour, which is home to its own Wildlife Park.

The Fota Island hotel is modern in design and newly built. The rooms and suites are large, comfortable, private and spacious. They are comfortably decorated with huge balconies and lovely views across the island. It’s blissfully quiet and peaceful providing a perfect secluded retreat in which to relax and get away from it all. Fota Island Resort is an extremely popular destination for both foodies and sport fans as the food and facilities are both excellent. The resort has its own golf course and academy that enjoys a superb reputation, being a popular destination I with both celebrity and sporting guests. Fota Island Hotel is also very well located to explore the local area which is beautiful all year-round and particularly popular with visitors in the summer.

The hotel is large in size, but the welcome on the front desk is warm from the delightful managers and concierge who are extremely friendly. Adjacent to the reception area, guests can enjoy expertly made cocktails in the bar – they’ll even surprise you with a custom made cocktail especially for you if you ask.

Rooms are a good size and comfortably decorated with the highlight being the bathrooms featuring their own TVs and sound systems.

The main restaurant is open every night. The menu offers a good range of dishes, and makes a concerted effort to source their meat and selected other ingredients depending on the season locally. The beef on the menu is particularly good, and guests with food allergies are looked after. Breakfast is also taken in the restaurant, offering a large buffet of hot and cold foods.

Fota Island is particularly recommended as a great destination for anyone wanting peace, quiet and fantastic scenery to enjoy, just a short distance from Cork city centre.

Mar 14

Tabbouleh Salad


Tabbouleh Salad

Serves 2


25g bulgur wheat
2 large, ripe vine tomatoes

4 tbsp flat leaf parsley, chopped

4 tbsp fresh mint leaves, chopped

1 small red onion, finely chopped
2-3 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
2-3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Sea salt

Black olives, chopped tomatoes and Cos lettuce leaves to serve


1)   Place the bulgar wheat into a small bowl and cover with 50ml of boiling water. Stir, then set aside for 20 minutes, or until the bulgar wheat has absorbed all of the water.

2)   Peel and dice the tomatoes

3)   Add the parsley, mint and onion to the tomatoes and mix well until combined.

4)   When the bulgar wheat has absorbed all of the water, fluff it using a fork until the grains are separated. Add the bulgar wheat to the tomato mixture.

5)   Drizzle over the lemon juice and olive oil and season, to taste, with salt. Mix well to coat the ingredients in the liquid.

6)   To serve, place the tabbouleh onto a nice large plate and garnish with olives, tomatoes and lettuce leaves

Mar 14

Sheen Falls Lodge, Ireland


County Kerry is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Ireland, for good reason. Its wild and rugged coastline is exquisitely beautiful, with jagged, rocky outcrops and stunning blue seas. The drive around the Ring of Kerry is one of the highlights of the area – a three hour drive around the most beautiful parts of the county is a must for all visitors.

Sheen Falls Lodge Relais & Chateaux is a delightful hotel to visit in the popular town of Kenmare, which is perfectly placed for visitors wishing to navigate the Ring of Kerry, or indeed around the adjacent Beara Peninsula.

Kenmare itself is a charming town – busy and bustling in summer months with visitors keen to see the local attractions for themselves. Sheen Falls Lodge Relais & Châteaux is situated just a few minutes outside the town of Kenmare and is surrounded by purple heather covered mountains and cascading waterfalls.  The hotel is actually situated on the falls, which offer the most dramatic views from guest bedrooms and the dining room, which is appropriately named Le Cascade.

Sheen Falls Lodge is a large, traditional hotel, which offers a wide range of facilities for guests. There is a delightful spa, which uses Voya Organic Irish products, and a large pool and spa area.

Rooms are spacious and many offer fantastic views over the falls. Some rooms have been very tastefully refurbished in a very sophisticated modern style, with large, comfortable beds, huge bathrooms and every comfort you need.

Dinner at La Cascade is a must. Start with a delicious cocktail in the bar first, and make your way into the dining room, where you can enjoy the best views from the property. The food is great and allergies are catered for well.  Sheen Falls also has one of the most significant wine lists in the country, and so guests are able to tour the cellars with Quentin, the sommelier, before dinner, which is a real highlight.

Staff at Sheen Falls are especially helpful and friendly, going way above and beyond the call of duty to make your stay special. We found that they were able to suggest some really memorable trips and excursions to enjoy.

A visit to Sheen Falls is very highly recommended indeed for a most relaxing and enjoyable break and also to enjoy this most beautiful part of Ireland.


For reservations call contact Relais & Châteaux: www.relaischateaux.com

Rooms are priced from £185-375 and suites are priced from £200-625 on a per room per night basis; breakfast is €24 per person.  Prices include taxes.

Relais & Châteaux is an association of 515 of the world’s finest hotels and restaurants, in 60 countries.  Established in France in 1954, the Association’s mission is to spread its ‘art de vivre’ across the globe by selecting outstanding character properties.  Each member has its own distinctive personality, but Relais & Chateaux hoteliers and chefs are united in their passion for hospitality, commitment to quality and an aspiration to deliver an ever-higher level of service.

Mar 14

Ballymaloe Biscuits

Ballymaloe Biscuits

Ballymaloe Biscuits

These biscuits have been inspired by a trip to Ballymaloe country house hotel in Ireland. They are made using Macroom oatmeal, which is produced in the town of Macroom in County Cork in Southern Ireland. They are simple, crunchy biscuits but are delicious with a cup of tea or coffee. Sometimes, it’s the simple things that are best. These biscuits adapt well to food intolerances, too.

Ballymaloe Biscuits

Makes 48


300g Macroom oatmeal, or gluten free oats, blitzed in a food processor

300g plain white flour, or 250g gluten free plain flour

350g butter cut into small pieces, or dairy free-spread

150g caster sugar for sweet biscuits, or omit entirely for savoury biscuits


Pre-heat the oven to 180C. Set aside three or four non-stick baking trays.

Mix together the oatmeal and flour, rub in the butter to a breadcrumb-like consistency and add the sugar if you’re using it.

Knead the mixture to a pliable dough (it will be a lit softer if you’re using spread) and roll out to about 3mm on a lightly floured table.

Stamp out discs and place on a non-stick baking sheet, or on baking parchment. You can re-roll the trimmings to get more biscuits.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, remove from the oven. Allow to cool on the tray for around 15 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight tin.

Mar 14

Cliff House Hotel, Ireland

Cliff House Hotel

Cliff House Hotel

Cliff House Hotel part of the Relais & Châteaux group, is perched high on the cliff top overlooking Ardmore Bay, and offers one of the most spectacular views in Ireland. What is more, its main restaurant, where chef Martijn Kajuiter works his culinary magic, is one of only a handful to boast a Michelin star in the country.

The Cliff House Hotel in Ardmore is regularly voted one of the best hotels in Ireland. The hotel sits in an ultra modern building, quite literally built into and onto the cliffs in Ardmore, a small town in County Waterford, just a 5 minute drive from the N25 – the main road running from Rosslare to Cork.

The hotel is, in fact split onto seven levels so that practically every room can enjoy the spectacular views from the hotel. The décor is a wonderful blend of seriously cool and ultra chic, and manages all this whilst offering absolute comfort to guests. Gorgeous seaweed artwork is displayed on the walls, and plenty of armchairs are thoughtfully positioned for you to relax and take in the surroundings. Some suites are split-level, with views over the sea from the beds and very private glass-fronted bathrooms, again, allowing you to enjoy the scenery from the bath or shower.

Despite its membership to Relais & Chateaux, the Cliff House Hotel has a very special boutique hotel feel. Staff are super helpful and charming and people drive from all over the country to come and stay here – in fact, the hotel gets booked up very quickly and far in advance.

Martijn Kajuiter’s restaurant enjoys a fabulous reputation and uses Irish produce to create an exciting fine dining experience for guests who visit from far and wide. Breakfast is also taken in the dining room looking out over the sea.  There is a great spread on offer to guests, which includes homemade scones, local yoghurt and of course, a delicious Full Irish. Food allergies are very thoughtfully catered for here.

The service is every bit as special as you might expect – genuinely friendly, helpful and charming which completes the experience at Cliff House. A visit is highly recommended for a special occasion, or just because.

For reservations call contact Relais & Châteaux: www.relaischateaux.com

Relais & Châteaux is an association of 515 of the world’s finest hotels and restaurants, in 60 countries.  Established in France in 1954, the Association’s mission is to spread its ‘art de vivre’ across the globe by selecting outstanding character properties.  Each member has its own distinctive personality, but Relais & Chateaux hoteliers and chefs are united in their passion for hospitality, commitment to quality and an aspiration to deliver an ever-higher level of service.  




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