What could be better on a fine Summer’s Day than exploring a new country, discovering a cool restaurant or indulging in some much needed retail therapy? So sit back with a glass of something cold and enjoy our pick of the July dining, style trends and travel picks…
In London, the V&A Exhibition Road Quarter has just opened, with a magnificent colonnade entrance, the Sainsbury Gallery exhibition space and the Sackler Courtyard, the world’s first porcelain public courtyard, with 11,000 handmade tiles. REVEAL is a free public festival being held until 7 July to celebrate the opening of the new quarter designed by Amanda Levete Architects.
The Exhibition Road Quarter at the V&A Museum has just opened and it’s an impressive place, with the Sackler Courtyard, the world’s first all-porcelain courtyard, and the new Aston Webb Screen created with 19th century remnants to form a stunning arched entrance @vamuseum – have you ever visited the V&A?
Tate Britain will be celebrating Summer with a whole host of free outdoor activities for adults and children. There’ll be art easels, space hoppers, artist-designed deckchairs and an outdoor bar with a vintage ice cream cart on the terrace lawn as well as Saturday jazz brunches. Finally, Hampton Court Flower Show is on from 4-9 July and if last year’s event is anything to go by, visitors are in for a treat! The world’s largest flower show has a huge selection of show gardens and exhibits to browse.
If you’re a fan of coffee then you’ll be delighted to hear about the brilliant new Wacaco Mini Espresso Maker. Now there’s no need to ever go without your favourite pick-me-up as this handy device will brew up a superb coffee in a few minutes. Being the world’s most compact espresso maker that weighs only 350g, you can easily slip it into your bag to enjoy anywhere. For a holiday home where you’re short on space, on your morning commute or whilst glamping, it opens up a whole realm of possibilities. All you need is boiling water and Nespresso capsules thanks to the pump which does away with the need for batteries or electricity. A semi-automatic piston injectswater into the coffee adapter, ensuring optimal extraction pressure and a smooth, flavourful espresso. Paul is a serial coffee drinker and it has his full seal of approval ;-). It’s available from Steamer Trading Cookshop, which has a fantastic selection of gifts and useful homeware products. Retailing for £49.95, this little beauty is worth every penny.
We recently attended the Jaeger-LeCoultre Gold Cup at Cowdray, Sussex which runs until 23 July and is a great day out for all the family. Henley Royal Regatta is another unmissable fixture on the UK social and sporting scene and the Chinawhite VIP enclosure was the place to see and be seen this year with afternoon tea by Cutter and Squidge and a DJ set by Pete Tong.
Back in London, The Westbury Mayfair has recently become a Luxury Collection Hotel and to celebrate the launch, they held a champagne reception and fashion show featuring Amanda Wakeley and Velsvoir. Guests enjoyed canapés created by Michelin starred Alyn Williams in the hotels’ penthouse suite and admired this gorgeous floral dress.
Have you ever dreamt of creating your own perfume? Thanks to Experimental Perfume Club that’s now possible with London’s first open-access perfume laboratory. At her micro-perfumery in London Fields, founder Emmanuelle Moeglin, a professionally trained fragrance specialist, guides you through a series of olfactory challenges in order to find the perfect blend for you.
Having learnt how to describe perfume ingredients, I was let loose on a selection of 25 raw materials. My preferred notes were floral, fruity and green with a base of musc. Emmanuelle helped me to get the proportions right in order to create a subtle yet distinctive fragrance that is totally unique. I left with my own bottle of bespoke fragrance which I’ll be able to reorder as Experimental Perfume Club keeps your formula. As Emmanuelle says, scent is a story with a beginning that must draw you in with impact, a middle that must have imagination and emotion and an end that must stay with you long after you’ve walked away. This workshop will help you tell your own tale, and would make a great gift to yourself or a loved one.
Talking of perfume, Lalique is such an iconic brand, known for its distinctive Art Deco style. They have launched a range of 3 women’s perfumes, Mon Premier Cristal, created by three women perfumers. We were fortunate to attend the launch of the collection at the French Ambassador’s Residence in Kensington. Sensuel is a tender woody oriental, created by Karine Dubreuil-Sereni, whilst Lumière is a floral chypre designed by Alexandra Monet and Tendre is a delicate floral oriental by Sidonie Lancesseur.
And if you’re a fan of make-up and skincare then you’ll love the new Oud Milano store on Oxford Street. A one-stop shop for all your beauty needs, this innovative Italian brand features calligraphy-inspired Japanese make-up brushes, fragrances from Arabian oils and skin healing elixirs from the Levant. They’ll help you create a personalized make-up look that suits your skin colouring and personality – loved what they suggested for me!
The New Forest in Dorset is beautiful at this time of year and if you’re lucky you will encounter wild ponies in the most unexpected of places…This lakeside pub in the village of Rockford Green being one of them!
If you’re heading on vacation soon then you might find our tips on how to prepare for your Summer holiday helpful. Spain is one of the most popular countries to visit right now, thanks to its stunning scenery, great food and reputation for safety. One part of Spain that’s not short on charm is Rioja, with a fascinating wine museum and annual Battle of the Wine. Another country that’s famous for its scenery is Scotland. Take a drive from Edinburgh past the iconic Forth Bridge to the university town of St Andrews, famous for its golf and seafood. Edinburgh itself has its fair share of culinary delights so get in quickly and enjoy a weekend in Scotland’s capital before or during the famous Festival Fringe in August. Finally, if you’re in Milan for business or pleasure, make sure to check out our guide to the best rooftop bars and outdoor dining in Milan.
Wining and Dining
Dukes Hotel is one of our favourite places to stay in London and with the opening of GBR it’s now a great place to dine too. Equally popular with guests and non-residents, GBR specialize in all-day dining and simple classics, created by talented Executive Chef Nigel Mendham. The atmosphere is informal with friendly and super-efficient service, and the walls are adorned with photos of famous people who have frequented Dukes over the years. We particularly enjoyed the Isle of Gigha halibut with clam chowder and foraged sea herbs as well as the Sunday roast with Yorkshire pudding, horseradish cream and roasted beets. The dark chocolate mousse with hazelnut and bitter chocolate crumble is a real treat too.
In the St James Quarter, Nordic restaurant Aquavit has a new Summer terrace that’s a great sun spot. Meanwhile, in the new Nova building in Victoria, Aster have launched a series of fundraising dinners for Hospitality Action. Iconic chefs will be in conversation with Richard Vines, chief food critic at Bloomberg. At the dinner that I attended, renowned chef Pierre Koffmann created a special menu with Aster’s Helena Puolakka and the result was very tasty indeed!
Bottomless and brunch – two words that always fill us with pleasure ;-). We’ve long been fans of Mac & Wild Fitzrovia’s authentic Scottish cuisine and at their city outpost in Devonshire Square, you can enjoy bottomless brunch with a twist. Tuck into smoked salmon and scrambled eggs, or a Scottish breakfast of homecured bacon, homemade tattie scone, white pudding, mushroom, black pudding and Lorne sausage with scrambled eggs. Bottomless cocktails are a very reasonable £18 or if you’re feeling healthy you might prefer a green juice. Finish your meal with a superb broke millionaire’s shortbread with dark chocolate parfait, homemade shortbread, caramel mousse and cocoa soil.
Bar Boulud is a great place for casual dining in Knightsbridge and their Summer Provencal menu brings a taste of the Mediterranean to London. Located within the luxurious Mandarin Oriental hotel, it has recently been renovated and is looking very glam. I was lucky to meet Daniel Boulud himself at a lunch on the chef’s table with matched wines.
Theo Randall at the Intercontinental is without a doubt one of London’s best Italian restaurants and their new La Dolce Vita weekend brunch is not to be missed. Your brunch will kick off with a chilled glass of Prosecco, which the charming waiting staff will keep constantly topped up. The array of Italian antipasti dishes on offer is the best that we have come across. There’s also a tempting selection of Italian meats, breads and cheeses. After this, you’ll be served a tasty pasta dish, followed by a choice of main courses including roasted sea bream or pancetta with porcini mushrooms and parmesan. Save room for a sharing dessert platter which includes lemon tart, panna cotta and more. If you have eyes bigger than your stomach (Paul, I’m looking at you) then you might even be able to fit in a crepe prepared in front of you.
Blanchette East is one of those neighbourhood eateries that you’ll want to return to time and time again. A sister restaurant to the original Soho hotspot, it’s located on bustling Brick Lane. Combine a visit here with a walk around nearby Spitalfields or Columbia Road Flower Market. Brothers Maxime, Malik and Yannis Alary have named the restaurant after their mother and the decor takes inspiration from the Parisian Belle Epoque. The menu of modern French and North African sharing plates includes such delights as duck rillettes, baked Moroccan eggs with peppers and flat bread, perfectly cooked frites and a chocolate ganache with vanilla ice cream. The wine list features French, Spanish and Italian wines and they also rustle up fantastic cocktails. The set lunch menu is a bargainous £15 for 2 courses or £19.50 for 3 courses.
It’s great to see independent restaurants with young chefs thriving. At Jar Kitchen, a casual restaurant on Drury Lane in Covent Garden, the focus is on seasonal and sustainable cooking. Head Chef Paula Borreguero, formerly of 10 Greek Street, serves Modern British food with European influences. The farm-to-fork ethos ensures that ingredients are sourced as locally as possible and bread, yoghurt and pasta is made from scratch each morning. It’s particularly good fun on Saturdays when they offer bottomless brunch from 10 am, with unlimited Mimosas, Prosecco or Bloody Marys to accompany dishes such as kedgeree with quail’s egg and wild mushrooms with rocket, walnuts and flat bread. We were pleased to find Eteaket teas on the menu, having met this Scottish tea producer on our recent trip to Edinburgh. Owners Lucy Brown and Jenny Quintero have created a welcoming atmosphere paired with delicious food that will make you want to return time and time again.
Chocolate is one of our guilty pleasures – well, Paul is half Swiss after all, though I’m not sure what my excuse is! So we were delighted to try out the new LAND Chocolate collection from Phil Landers. Having learnt his trade with master chocolatiers Paul A. Young and Mast Brothers, Phil has branched out on his own, creating delectable single origin and single bean bars. The chocolate beans come from Honduras, Nicaragua and Venezuela, each with their own unique taste. Our favourite is the Honduras Dark bar but the Chuno Milk also had a rare complexity that we appreciated.
Finally, the Jamaican Garden Terrace at Boisdale Canary Wharf is a real haven in this bustling area. Sponsored by the Jamaica Tourist Board and Grace Foods, it was recently launched by His Excellency Seth George Ramocan, Jamaican High Commissioner to the United Kingdom. Surrounded by tropical palm trees, sipping on a rum punch and tucking into jerk chicken, you could almost believe you were in Jamaica! It’s open until end of August so definitely check it out if you’re in the area.
Which of these July dining, events and destinations would you most like to experience? Do you have any tips for hot new places that we should check out?