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    Rooftop Terrace At Madison

    When the sun comes out, it merits a celebration! Most cities, especially London, don’t offer a lot of outside space so the secret is to head to the rooftops. We think we may have found a new favourite party place – Cheers, Madison!

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    Madison is a rooftop bar in the heart of the city of London, overlooking St Paul’s Cathedral. Because it’s open air you really feel connected to the city and there’s something decadent about lounging on a terrace with some refreshments while people are rushing about below you.

    The sofas and chairs are so comfortable it’s like being at a high end beach bar in Cannes or Ibiza, without the messy sand.

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    We were there for the launch of Moet and Chandon’s Ice Imperial, which is a demi sec style of Champagne, designed to be served over ice. (Check it out at Selfridges here). They call this drink a Piscine in France (a big goblet of Champagne and ice). Moet and Chandon has designed some pretty spectacular goblets for the occasion.

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    It’s not just the Live Like a VIP team that’s loving this drink and the al fresco surroundings. We saw Made in Chelsea’s Lucy Watson with her new boyfriend James Dunmore. Such a gorgeous couple!

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    Pixie Lott’s boyfriend Olivier Cheshire was there with friend as Pixie’s working hard. I hope Oliver got her a bottle for when she’s finished making her next album.

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    Madison has a restaurant inside and the food looks really tasty, trust me. Hopefully I’ll get to go back and taste it, but there’s no hope involved in the question of whether I’ll be back to Madison this summer. In the words of the Terminator – ‘I’ll be back!

    For more details about opening hours and bookings, visit the Madison website.

    by Joanna Griffin.

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    Polo Players Dinner At M

    I have heard a lot about M restaurant in the city – Tinie Tempah did an intimate gig there, footballers flock to its private room for it’s fussball table and secrecy, the toilets give the full Japanese service with the water jets and heat and then there’s the food…

    M is the official restaurant partner of Chestertons Polo in The Park, and when an invite arrived to visit the restauarant and dine with polo players I just couldn’t turn it down. Look at how beautiful the place is:

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    Downstairs, it’s divided into two parts. One half of the restaurant is a healthy raw food inspired eaterie with sashimi and healthy salads. The other is a grill with some of the best meat in London.

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    There is a special polo inspired menu to honour Polo in the Park created by head chef Jarad McCarroll (ex Chiltern Firehouse). It’s excellent value – two courses for £28 – and they guarantee it will all be served within 28 minutes. Ideal for busy people like me and my media friends.

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    Check out my starter, which looks like a ball and mallett on the grass! It’s burrata, a grissini and seaweed.

     

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    For mains, most of us went for steak but it was so divine we wolfed it down! The only way to see what it’s like is to visit yourself. You’ll see why I didn’t take any pics as you won’t be able to stop yourself devouring it. The chips are pretty darn good too.

    The polo players are just what you imagine from reading Jilly Cooper’s books. Dark, floppy hair, strong leg muscles and dazzling white smiles. They are also extremely polite and I saw them work the room, making hundreds of people fall in love with them at once. I cannot wait to see them again at Chestertons Polo in The Park!

    See more about M restaurant on their website.

    Get your tickets for Polo in the Park here

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    VIP Night Out: Le Peep Boutique

    Le Peep Boutique opened in October 2014 with a spectacular launch party attended by Suki Waterhouse, Camilla Rutherford and Mary Charteris. Before it was even opened, Harvey Weinstein threw a party for his wife’s fashion brand, attended by former Dr Who, Matt Smith and rock offspring model, Georgia May Jagger. There is no doubt Le Peep Boutique is a VIP celebrity hangout, so I was intrigued to try it to see what the magnet was for the celebs.

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    Until recently, the only way into this exclusive club was a membership card. This ensures the clientele is of a high calibre as you couldnt just walk in off the street. You had to know where you were going and you had to have made an effort. However, the good news is that the opening of a restaurant inside the club opens it up to us all. You can book a table for dinner and get to experience what the stars experience.

    If you’re anything like me and appreciate the finer things in life (and if you don’t why are you reading this blog) then you’ll be impressed the moment you walk in the door at the Marble Arch end of Park Lane. My date and I went for a drink first in London’s Cumberland hotel – an open spaced, cavernous bar in which is impossible to feel cosy or due to the size of the place. In Le Peep Boutique’s opening hall, your eyes are overwhelmed by an array of gold, feathers, cages and fashionable and pretty things. The theme of Le Peep is Paris in La Belle Époque and it certainly felt more lavish to the slightly stiff reception when you walk through other clubs.

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    Other things that set – in a good way – are:


    (1) The tables / booths

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    These are not only ideally spaces out – so you can see people watch but without feeling you’re so on top of people they can hear your conversation – but they’re designed for hedonism. The sofas are upholstered so that you can dance on them in stilletos, our waitress explained to us. Behind our table there was a cage, which we were actively encouraged to dance in whenever we wanted. Of course, I couldn’t let that go to waste!

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    (2) The waitresses uniforms

    Every detail of Le Peep makes you feel like you are in a monument to pleasure and decadence. This even includes the uniform the waitresses wear as when everything else in the club is spectacular, there’s no way the staff could wear boring black. Instead. they wear beautiful corsets – a pretty incredible staff uniform!

    (3) The set menu.

    I often feel like I make the wrong choices when I eat out as I’m so busy chatting to my friends, the waiter has to keep coming back to ask if I’m ready to order. I never am so I inevitably panic into a food choice and I always regret it when seeing what everyone else has.

    Le peep offers a set menu so the food magically comes out of the kitchen. And there’s nothing on the menu that I didn’t enjoy. Again, it fits it with the whole luxury / decadence vibe of the club as it’s a five course tasting menu. You feel like you’re at a banquet as more and more dishes appear at the table. Cheers to that!

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    When I saw the length of the menu, I was worried I would feel full but it’s all very healthy and light. It’s been designed by leading nutritionist Christian Coates so it’s blanced, organic and locally source. It’s a gastronomic adventure, but healthy at the same time.

    I could talk about it all day, but the photos would show off how good it all was.

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    Beef tartare with a runny quails egg

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    Yellowtail sashimi and  salmon ceviche

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    Japanese style fish appetisers.  On the left is a topping of fiery wasabi)

     

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    Black cod in miso sauce. (Just as good as Nobu)

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    Succulent lamb chops with wasabi mash

    We also had a divine truffle risotto. And there was a trio of desserts (including yuzu mousse, a white chocolate mochi and a chocolate and wasabi bite) that disappeared so quickly I forget to take a photo.

    These cocktails were our second dessert:

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    Mine was the chocolate milk creation on the right and my date had the fresh (and healthy tasting) green concoction on the left.

    The cocktail menu here is truly unique and adventurous. If variety is the spice of life, Le Peep is Spicy with a capital S.

    As we ate and pleasured our senses of sight and taste, there was a live band to treat our ears.

    Please call on +44 (0)7973 263135

    On a Thursday night, the club was delightfully busy. The crowd was fun and good looking but also happy and positive. In the bathrooms, someone apologised to me when she thought she was in my way for the mirror. I’m not sure if that’s ever happened in a ladies loos before. The toilets are also on the large side. I despise clubs that only have two or three toilets and then a member of staff staring at you and handing you a cloth to dry your hands. These loos were vast, with plenty of cubicles, space and mirrors.

    And what was most interesting is that I bumped into three separate people, who I had no idea were at the club that night. A woman from my gym was in with a group of her friends. A PR who I often work with was doing business. And there was a London nightlife entrepreneur checking out the club vibes. London nightclubs can often feel anonymous, with tables of people from out of town jetting in for a monthly blowout and then returning to their boring life to save up for the next blowout.

    Once you’ve tried Le Peep, it can’t be a monthly (or less) occurrence. It has to be a way of life. Why can’t you have decadence every week of your life in a place where you know people and you are actively encouraged to dance on the tables? Why should you have to choose what to eat when something healthy and tasty can be brought to you? If you’ve worked all week, you deserve to live like a VIP in a place where you’re guaranteed no nasty surprises. But shhhhh, don’t tell everyone about Le Peep Boutique!

    (For tables call 020 7629 8666). The five course set menu is £55 / head)

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    VIP Eats: Tanya’s Raw Food

    When it comes to food, I always have good intentions…until I see a burger on the menu.

    I want to look better in my clothes, I want to be fitter and not fatter and I want to fuel my body for my demanding lifestyle but I can’t help salivating over pasta and steaks in a way that chicken salad just doesn’t cut it.
    When I heard about Tanya’s cafe, a raw food cafe in Chelsea, I wanted to try it because I genuinely want to like healthy food. I figured that when a restaurant specialises in good, clean dishes there must be one (or more) items on the menu that appeals. It’s different to going to a pub or restaurant that has one or two healthy options and praying the saintly dishes are as appetising as the sinly ones. But I was also prepared to leave feeling hungry as I wasn’t entirely convinced raw food could be that filling.
    How wrong was I? Check out these tacos. They’re soft shell tacos,  that have been pressed rather than cooked with walnut mushroom meat, guacamole, salsa and soured cream.
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    I prefer these to traditional tacos as you don’t feel guilty as you’re eating them. Nor do you feel stuffed and lethargic afterwards. Sat in the gloriously light dining room of the MyHotel conservatory in Chelsea, where Tanya’s is located, I felt like it was summer even though it was early February.  Everything felt so fresh and light, which was a shock to the senses as my lunches at the start of the year normally involve soup or miso soup.
     The friend I took to lunch has previously spent a month in LA, where he lived off raw food. He’s a hard man to impress, but even he couldn’t fail to admire the presentation of this Pad Thai. This is shredded vegentables in young coconut, almond butter and chilli sauce.
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    My heart stopped as I watched him take the first bite. I wanted him to love it as much as I did so that we could go back. Luckily, I wasn’t disappointed and nor was he. But honestly, I don’t think there’s much luck in it. The vegetables are off the best quality – crunchy and colourful. The sauce had an ideal blend of nuts and spices making every bite an unexpected treat for the mouth. How could anyone dine on the nearby Kings Road in Chelsea now, when this is round the corner?
    And it doesn’t stop there as we haven’t even reached the refreshments yet. Normally, when you go to lunch you might be tempted by a wine list. However, I think this could be because most restaurants focus on wine and offer a token apple and orange juice. Tanya’s focuses on healthy, fresh juices and offers organic wine as an additional option. So why would you want to go for wine when you could have something as tasty as this:
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    It’s a My Doctor juice, which is beetroot, carrot, celery, lemon, apple and ginger. As I sipped it, I felt revived. I knew it was good for me because of the ingredients but if you handed it to me without the menu, I know I still would have guessed it was full of vitamins. In fact, I may even have had one of those moments where you sip a drink and let out a refreshing ‘Aaaaah.’
    There are hot coffees on the menu (but they’re healthier than normal as made with a choice of milks). The hot chocolate was absolutely divine, consisting of cacao, date paste, almond butter, cinnamon and vanilla…and a smiley face.
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    There were some tasty cakes, puddings and raw chocolates in a cabinet, which looked divine but we’d ran out of time by that point. I will be going back to sample one on my next visit, I can tell you that now.
    I’m also planning to visit after 4pm next time as that’s when they start serving a range of alcoholic superfood cocktails. The thinking is the antioxidants in the juices counteract the toxins from the alcohol!
    Tanya’s has really changed the way I think about healthy eating. Eating healthy doesn’t have to require going hungry. Healthy food can be more delicious than burgers.

     

    CONTACT: Tanya’s Cafe, 35 Ixworth Place, London SW3 3QX. 020 7225 7238. Visit the Tanya’s Cafe website for more information and booking details.
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    Drink Like a VIP: Purl

    One of the best things about London is there are so many hidden gems. Purl, although it’s just metres away from the celebrities’ favourite Chiltern Firehouse in Marylebone is hidden down a flight of stairs and the outside is completely black. They do this on purpose as you can’t just walk in off the streets – you need to have a booking to drink at Purl.

    One of the advantages of this is that you’ll never have to queue at the bar for a drink (and who likes queuing?) Another bonus is that it means the bar has numbers of how many drinkers will be inside so it can make sure it has some special ingredients. There are things on their cocktail menu that you won’t find at any other bar in London and the way the drinks are served is pretty special. It was the first time I’d ever drunk out of an empty suntan lotion container.

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    Here’s the drink – a pimped up version of a Pina Colada – in all its glory.

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    My date had a drink that was equally memorable. I did take a photo of the drinks menu but I lost it somewhere along the night. Instead I woke up with other photos that I don’t remember taking, but that’s another story…

    Anyway, below is a whisky based drink, made creamy with egg whites. The balloon is needed as its smothered in a Chambord liqueur. When the balloon is burst, making a loud noise and drawing attention to you, the liqueur will drift down onto the cocktail, making it delicately sweet. Every mouthful is a joy.

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    So we had another one…

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    It’s not a long menu, but there’s something for whisky drinkers, gin lovers and vodka fans. Go with a group of 8 for a party and you could probably have one of each of the creations on the menu and swap. The bar has plenty of nooks and crannies, creating space for groups as well as couples.

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    It’s dark and feels like you’re in a downtown New York speakeasy stylebar that Big would have taken Carrie to. At the weekends there’s jazz, if the place wasn’t cool enough already.

    There’s no smoking inside of course, but there is plenty of dry ice to create the same kind of effect. The barmen go the extra mile with these drinks.

     

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    Going to Purl is like going to the theatre, except you can drink the show afterwards. The cocktails are talking points so it’s great if you’re out with people that you don’t have much in common with.

    Take mates, take a date but above all else take a sense of adventure and you’ll end up having a brilliant night, just like I did. The celebrities queuing into the Chiltern Firehouse are missing out – they’d probably have just as much fun at Purl, if not more!

    Purl is located at 50 Blandford Street, Marylebone, 020 7935 0835. Visit the Purl website to reserve an area.

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  • VIP Night Out: Trader Vic’s Park Lane

    I love London, but sometimes I just wish I could take a break from the miserable weather and stressed out commuters. Wouldn’t it be amazing if there was a place where the drinks were strong and fruity, the food was spicy, people were full of laughter, excitement and optimism and maybe there was a bit of live music or a DJ? Welcome to the world of Trader Vic’s, which feels like it’s in a different world even though it’s situated in the middle of Mayfair inside the Hilton on Park Lane.

    My sister and I hadn’t had the best of days when we descended the wooden staircase down into what can only be described as ‘Polynesian Paradise.’ It was cold and wet outside and one of those days where every single mode of transport is against you – tube delays, road accidents affecting buses and people with umbrellas knocking you out as you try to walk down the sodden streets. But as we walked down those stairs, we couldn’t fail to be wowed as we were confronted by a world of dark wooden tables, bamboo, sea-inspired ornaments decorating the ceilings and the walls and people sat at the bar who had giant cocktails in front of them, most of them garnished with a cocktail cherry or pineapple or both.

    Trader Vic’s has been in London, and more importantly been a popular party destination, for more than 50 years and when I first tasted one of the drinks I could see why it’s loyal customers kept returning and new ones start to get addicted. My sister and I didn’t need to talk to each other about the hardships of the day, we didn’t need to fake a smile. I personally felt the stresses of the day disappear with each sip.

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    The couple who took this photo were on their way out of the restaurant and as the lady left, she said: ‘Enjoy your night, girls. I’ve been coming here for 40 years and I still love it. I was a vintage playboy bunny and the things we got up to…’ Well, she didn’t get to tell me what she did as her partner dragged her away but I could imagine fun times fuelled by these cocktails. They’re devilishly more-ish so my sister and I decided we should try a few more and see if we could find out what king of ‘things’ she was talking about. Journalistic research and all that…

    Trader Vic’s is currently celebrating 50 years of their world famous Mai Tai cocktail  – a strong concoction of rum, curaçao liqueur and lime juice – so obviously I had to try that. However, there are 11 different variations of the Mai Tai on the cocktail menu so I started with one mixed with Guava juice because I can’t remember the last time I’d had a guava cocktail. My sister had the giant sized Raffles bar gin sling, which she’d had in the Trader Vic’s in Bahrain (there are 17 Trader Vic’s around the world). Both reminded us of something you’d get served on a beach somewhere tropical. They were both too easy to drink so we had another while we looked at the bar snacks menu.

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    The 1944 Mai Tai is the original classic Mai Tai and as I have never had a Mai Tai before I thought I should have one to put the guava one into context. As you can see from the photo above, it looks quite retro with the pineapple and glace cherry. However, do not underestimate it – this is one strong drink! The name Mai Tai came from Victor Bergeron (the Vic in Trader Vic’s) who made the drink for his friends from Tahiti. One took a sip and declared ‘Mai Tai – Roe Ae’ which means ‘Out of the World – The Best’. The name stuck and I think it’s perfect. The cocktail was indeed Out Of This World, although I do think I preferred the guava one, below…

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    My sister’s favourite cocktail was the Trader Vic’s sling, below, (Cherry Heering, Gin, Lime), which was served in a huge glass. At £9.50 it was pretty good value for money for it’s taste and size, given that in The Dorchester next door you’re looking at £16 per cocktail minimum and The Dorchester is a lot less fun.

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    By 8pm the venue was starting to get busy and we couldn’t help notice how diverse the clientele was. Next to us was a couple quite obviously on a date (he was more into her than she was on him) and it got me thinking that it’s an ideal date venue as even the most awkward of conversations could become bearable after a few of these cocktails. There were a couple of work groups on their Christmas parties and there was an older couple with what we thought were their grown up children. There aren’t that many places in London that span the generations – if your parents like a place then you probably won’t and vice versa – but the Tiki theme clearly has a universal appeal. The live band starts at 930 with the DJs getting in at 11 and there’s a late license til 3am. If your parents are still out that late, we salute them!

    After two pretty strong cocktails the room was starting to spin like I was at sea so I jumped on the food as soon it came out. The spring rolls had a delicately puffy casing packed with vegetables but the piece de resistance was the tamarind sauce. Delicious!

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    I highly recommend the tidbits platter which contained a mix of crab Rangoon, BBQ spare ribs, char siu pork,  and crispy prawns. However, it did make me wish I ordered more of the ribs, which week covered in an addictive sticky glaze and flaked perfectly off the bone.

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    Wok fried beef tenderloin was served with shrimp and black pepper and steamed rice, which is a great option if you’re want to enjoy what you’re eating without any guilt. My sister ordered this and ended up stabbing me in anger as I kept nicking too many beef pieces – it was so tender!

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    In fairness I did offer her some of my burger, which came our beautifully presented on a chopping board. I could tell the chef was experienced at making these as it was my idea of medium – not red and not burned – with a brioche bum lightly brushed with mayo. It’s the small details like the brioche that take a burger from perfectly acceptable to pretty damn amazing.

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    There was time for one last cocktail before getting our coats and braving the journey home so we ended in style. My sister’s was the Zombie (light and dark rums, grenadine, curaco) whereas mine on the right was a White Cloud (coconut and creme de cacao laced with vodka). It tasted like a liquid version of a Raffaello truffle. Heaven!

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    At least we did plan to end it there…but it never happened. When the waitress asked us if we enjoyed our drinks and we enthusiastically told her we did, she pointed out we were yet to try her favourite cocktail. That was a MokuNami (island rums and tropical juices with a hint of passion). Won over, we decided to have our final ‘for the road’ and it ended up being a great decision. Less aggressive than some of the other cocktails on the palate, it was refreshing with a slight kick of rum. I really loved the barrels it was served in too as they kept the drink cold without making your hands freezing.

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    Did we get up to ‘things’? like the vintage playboy bunny did? If you listened to us at the table as we were eating and drinking you might have imagined so as there were sounds of delight and joy coming from our lips. Think Mmmmmms and oooohs and aaaaaaahs :) Perhaps we’ll just have to go back for more of the rum laced delights and see if more ‘things’ happen, which we are perfectly happy to do.

    See you there?

    Essential Info
    Trader Vic’s is located inside the Hilton Park Lane, 22 Park Lane, London
    020 7493 8000
    Visit the Trader Vic’s website

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    VIP Night Out: Salmontini

    When was the last time you walked into a restaurant in London and got greeted with a smile? I’m not talking a fake smile and I’m not talking a smug smile that you get from some of the ‘see and be seen’ venues where the door girls are supermodels and smile in smugness (or relief) that they’re better looking than you. That’s not to say the staff are unattractive – far from it – but it seems their main concern is making you feel good. 

    From the moment I walked into Salmontini and handed in my coat and scarf, to the moment of ordering food and drinks and then ordering more (those cocktails are irresistible), I  felt welcomed and looked after. And it wasn’t just me. As I sat in the middle of the restaurant I could see people walking in from the cold Winter streets and visibly warming up and relaxing the moment they were through the doors.

    Salmontini is located in the heart of Belgravia, one of the smartest neighbourhoods in London, but while the restaurant is stylish and decorated luxuriously, it’s been designed with comfort in mind. The tables are perfect for groups to hang out and relax with super soft sofas and plush armchairs to lounge on. The bathrooms are beautiful – with lots of mirrors and hand lotion and soft hand towels, a place where you could happily longer to gossip with the girls. Food is designed to be shared and the cocktails too because no matter what you order, you’ll get envy for your friend’s one – trust me!

    If you don’t want to take my word for it look at the photos:

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    From left to right, that is a Cu Cu, a.Belgravia Garden and an Aladdin’s Wish. The Belgravia Garden with Champagne, Hendricks Gin, Cucumber and Elderflower was my absolute favourite as it was light and refreshing, evoking some memories of summer and taking my mind off how cold it was outside. However, the Aladdin’s Wish was also divine with a strong essence of Chambord and a twist of elderflower, it felt delicate and so so moreish!

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    This is  a Magic Monkey, which I would say is an ideal after dinner drink. With a base of run, it’s both warming and full of flavour and one to savour while you relax on the sofas and gossip into the evening.

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    Alternatiely, if you feel like you’re in the mood for Christmas, this was one of their yuletide specials – Santa’s Spicy Secret – made with rum, chilli sugar syrup and some other special (and secret ingredients). This is like theatre in a glass as the barman lights the orange zest at the table.

    As for the food, it looks amazing and it tastes even better. It’s light and healthy so it won’t make you feel uncomfortably full for your night out and there’s joy in each mouthful.  just like the cocktails. That’s not to say it’s overwhelming, as the emphasis is on quality ingredients with a couple of complementary flavours rather than too much for the brain to take in. For example, the sashimi was delightfully fresh and tender so it came as it was – tuna, salmon and crab. The maki rolls had soft tender fish and rice that dissolved in your mouth, served at an ideal temperature. I can’t stand dry rice so I was pleased about that and I happily noticed there wasn’t too much mayo, which less luxury sushi restaurants use to disguise the quality of their fish. Instead, the ingredients complemented each other to the point I started to question what would happen if I took another portion before my friends realised I’d had more of my share.

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    The sashimi above almost looked too beautiful to eat but I think it tasted even better than it looked so I was glad I made the decision to try some, Below you can see the Volcano maki rolls with apple, mango, spicy mixed fish and wasabiko and tobiko. I’ve never tried anything like that before but I can tell you I would order it again for sure.

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    I was also very intrigued to try black cod as I’ve been in love with the way it’s served at Nobu since I first visited Nobu Park Lane in 2005. Since then it may have been a bit of an addiction and whenever I see it on a menu I have to sample it. Normally it never measures up to the original as it’s either too dry or there’s not enough sauce or the sauce is too sweet but this one flaked apart at the touch and the sauce had just the right amount of miso. OMG!

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    And check out the nigri – rich tuna, succulent salmon, crispy prawn and my absolute favourite –  eel. The sauce on the eel was to die for!

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    We also tried some spicy crispy salmon salad with Japanese tartare, which came brilliantly presented in lettuce leaves. It’s a bit like a healthy taco with the lettuce instead of the tortilla chip and salmon instead of questionable meat. It’s healthy and yet it tastes amazing – if more places had something like this on the menu it could solve the nation’s obesity problems…as long as they can do it as well as the chef at Salmontini.

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    For me – a massive chocoholic – the proof is always in the pudding and Salmontini’s dome gets a perfect 10 out of 10.

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    It arrived at the table as a sphere of chocolate and then a warm jug of hot chocolate sauce was poured over it and so the dome melted to reveal ice cream and a chocolate mousse cake. By this time, I didn’t care about sharing with my friends. I helped myself to as much of it as I could but I think they had the same idea as we finished the dish within seconds. Ooops!

    The quality of the food led me to research who the chef was. It’s Spanish born, Esteve Prats Grau, who was previously at Tom’s Kitchen in Chelsea, a restaurant that I’ve visited a lot. The bartenders are equally well qualified. As one of them explained the Santa’s spicy secret cocktail to us he revealed he was in Bulgaria’s prestigious Cocktail-makers Guild. When he explained how he makes his own syrups combining water, sugar and chilli and bringing it to the boil we could see just how much he cared.

    To go full circle, the caring thing is what sets Salmontini apart from the crowd. That’s why it feels so cosy and welcoming from the moment you walk in. The waiters care about your comfort, the chef cares about the food and the bar staff care about the drinks. The Salmontini brand was founded by the Basilli family and it does feel like you’re being welcomed into someone’s home, a home that you wish you lived in yourself! If you like the best in life – and us VIPs deserve the best – then check out Salmontini. Let us know what you think on Twitter or Instagram – @livelikeavip

    Visit the Salmontini website to book or call 020 7118 1999.

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    Late Night London Xmas Cocktails

    What gets you in the mood for Christmas? Is it the mince pies and satsumas? Is it listening to Christmas songs? Or is it decorating your house and tree with as much tinsel and fairy lights as you can find? For me it’s all of the above plus having a few tipples. I think all my readers know how much I love Champagne, but Christmas is a time when I try cocktails with festive flavours like cinnamon, gingerbread and butterscotch. Cheers!

    Thanks to Late Night London, it seems that wherever you are in the city (Central, West or City-based) you will be near one of their bars that is serving a fabulous Christmassy creation.Bars include Grace near Piccdilly, Bar Soho, Strawberry Moons, Piccadilly Institute,  Foundation Bar, The Warwick, The Gable, The Sterling and Abbey. Look at what you could be drinking:

    Merry  Monkey

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    With an impressive mix of Monkey Shoulder, Black Cherry and Vanilla Jam, Butterscotch schnapps and a serious squeeze of lemon juice this is a taste sensation like nothing you have experienced before. Foundation Bar, Covent Garden – £9.50

    Rockin’ Robin
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    For the more health conscious the Rockin’ Robin offers all the superfood and antioxidant ingredients needed for a fun and healthy night out. You’ll have a Berry Christmas with this gorge blend of Absolut Berri Acai, redcurrant jam syrup, crème de mure, cranberry juice and lime juice. Available across London at only £7.

    Espresso Gingerbread Martini

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    This warming little beauty contains all the Christmassy goodness you have been looking for, and by that we mean a shot of expresso, gingerbread syrup, a splash of Kahlua and a much needed kick of vodka. Available at Bar Soho, Piccadilly Institute and Strawberry Moons for £7.50

    Snowflake

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    Bringing you the ultimate in ‘nut’ experiences the Snowflake combines Malibu, pistachio syrup and Coco Lopez with milk to give you the perfect White Christmas in a glass. This comforting and yet dangerously delicious mix can be enjoyed for a mere £7.50 across the city at Grace, The Warwick, The Last, The Gable, The Gallery, The Sterling and Abbey.

    Bottoms up! Christmas is the time to eat, drink and be merry after all :)

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    VIP Night Out: Notes Champagne Tasting

    I love Champagne. I love the sound of a cork being popped. I love watching it being poured into a glass as the bubbles in the liquid appear to make it sparkle with life. I love the sensation of feeling bubbles tickle the tongue like little stars exploding on the tastebuds.

    I also love experimenting with different brands and different vintages of Champagne, which I don’t get to do nearly enough of. My experiences normally include picking the house Champagne or a Taittinger (my favourite brand so far), sticking to the same bottle and then forgetting if I liked that one more or less than ones I’ve previously drunk. I always tell myself I need to keep a list in the Notes section of my phone but it never happens. However, after attending a Devaux Champagne tasting evening at Notes Coffee and Wine Bar in Covent Garden, I feel I know a bit more about Champagne in general to be able to make a more educated decision when choosing what to drink.

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    The evening which consisted of learninhg about four of Devaux’s Champagnes was completely free to the public and the final of four Champagne tasting events run at Notes’ venues in Moorgate, Trafalgar Square and Covent Garden. I highly advise liking the Notes facebook page to find out about these free events as it’s not often you can live like a VIP for free, is it?

    I mean, just look at the smile on my face with a rose Champagne in my hand…

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    So what did I learn?

    • The difference between Champagne and Prosecco is that Champagne ferments in the glass and Prosecco ferments in a big steel vat. 
    • Champagne ferments in a bottle with the addition of sugar and yeast. The bottles then go through the process of riddling, where the bottles are periodically turned until the yeast traps in the bottle neck. Then disgorgement, where the necks of the bottles are frozen so the yeast will stick to the cap and then the cap’s popped off.
    • The longer the Champagne rests on the dead yeast (before riddling) the more flavoursome it becomes. It’s meant to rest for a minimum of 13 months and Veuve Cliquot and Moet do the minimum 13 months. Better quality champagnes 
    • A vintage is when there’s a specific year marked on the bottle, which was a good year for the grape harvest. If it’s made from high quality grape ingredients then it’s going to be a good wine. FYI 2005 was a good year.
    • Go for dry champagne if you want fine, elegant bubbles. More sugar = bigger bubbles. Drier champagnes will generally have a finer mousse. Also, Champagnes that have been aged have less bubbles as some of the Co2 has escaped through the cork over the years.  Be careful about the glass you drink from as traditional Champagne flutes allow C02 to gather at the top of the glass, making the first few sips super fizzy, On the other hand a Champagne coupe makes the Champagne flatter faster.

     

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    We tried (from left to right):

    (1) Devaux Grand Reserve NV – aged in the bottle for 36 months, it has a complex flavour. With 69% Pinot Noir, it has a rich taste with essence of apples and vanilla.

    (2) Devaux ‘D De Devaux’ Le Rose NV – also aged in the bottle for 36 months but fresher and lighter with 47% Chardonnay. A  gorgeous shade of light pink

    (3) Devaux ‘D De Devaux’ La Cuvee NV – this wine is higher quality than the other as 34% of the mixture comes reserve wines of the best recent vintages.It’s also been aged in the bottle for 60 months! You could tell the bubbles were smaller in this than in (1) and it reminded me of toast with butter.

    (4)  Devaux ‘ D De Devaux’ Vintage 2005 – 50% Pinot Noir and 50% Chardonnay makes it fruity with peach and citrus notes. This was slowly aged over seven to eight years, giving it greater potential for complex flavours. Even in a blind taste test, I would have said this was better than the rest.

    If you like the idea of this, you’ll be glad to know that Devaux is very reasonably priced and is available at Notes from £28 – £80.

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    Cheers! Don’t forget to check the Facebook page.

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  • VIP Street Food: Seitan’s Kitchen

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    Street food has changed so much in the past few years. Once regarded as ‘a better alternative to a Mcdonalds or a Pret’ to fuel a day of shopping, now it’s destination dining in its own right. One of the new hotspots on the landscape is Seitan’s Kitchen in Brick Lane, which is causing queues half-way down the market as locals and foodies gather to try a foodstuff called seitan. The current menu is spicy seitan burger, seitan and salad pitta, warming seitan stew, mock duck pancakes, sweet potato chips, and homemade bread.

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    Until recently, I had no idea that seitan existed. Thankfully there’s a description on the market stall to explain it.

    Sei-tan is:

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    How can something so healthy taste so good? That was my first thought as I bit into the hearty mock duck wrap, packed to bursting point with seitan, hoi-sin sauce and cucumber. My second and third thoughts were what am I doing next weekend and can I fit another visit to Brick Lane into my schedule?

    As I looked around at the people in front of me in the crowd who were hovering at the side of their stall, munching on their food with satisfied grins on their faces, I could see I wasn’t the only one to think like this. I have to say the burgers also looked super tasty.

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    In London, you’re never that far away from a good burger now that  Byron, GBK, Burger and Lobster are in every borough. This makes finding something like seitan a real treat as it’s just as tasty as the best burger you’ve ever had, just without the cholesterol. In fact, it was so tasty I didn’t even mind that I had to eat standing up, which is a big deal for a diva like me. (In hindsight, I could have taken it to a bench or a wall at the side of the market but I wasn’t thinking rationally).

    Conscious that this blog post has hyped up seitan enough, I’ll stop. I’m pretty sure you’ll only believe me if you get down there and try it yourself. 

    Seitan’s Kitchen is located in The Boilerhouse on Brick Lane and open 10am-6pm Saturdays and Sundays.

    Please tweet @livelikeavip and let us know how you get on! You can also tweet @seitanskitchen or find their Facebook page for more info.

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