We stumbled on this new Jason Atherton venue on our way to Selfridges.
We were offered a table or seats at the bar and opted for the latter. It's always good to watch the chefs preparing the dishes. We only visited for a glass of wine on a hot summer afternoon and so just ordered a meat selection to share from the tapas menu.
Our waiter Peter was hysterical . A huge personality. He joked with us and was very funny, highly amusing.
There is a small tapas menu - suitable for a small afternoon snack with a glass of wine, and a more substantial tapas menu for more serious dining. Social Wine and Tapas looks quite small from the street but there is a bigger space downstairs.
It's in the perfect location to enjoy a glass of wine if you are exploring Oxford street, but also its tucked a little out of the way so it's not overrun by tourists. I can see this becoming a regular spot for lunch.
Social Wine and Tapas 39 James Street, London W1U 1DL
With an amazing outside terrace and views across London this is a fabulous place to come and spend a few hours, taking photos and having lunch or in the evening a glass of wine.
The Sky Garden is 'pubilc space' so admission is free, but you must book in advance as they have a limited number of time slots. Also these time slots go QUICKLY so as soon as you can I would suggest getting online. You can of course always book a table for lunch or dinner at the restaurant via the same website.
The outdoor terrace is where I took the shots below of the River Thames and Tower Bridge. The indoor shots show the plants being misted and the coffee bar / wine bar area.
The Sky Garden 20 Fenchurch Street London EC3M 3BY
Dining alone needn't be miserable.... Elliots made me feel perfectly comfortable as a lone diner. I was offered a good table but opted for a seat at the bar. It's better to people watch as its close to the window.
Although I have been several times the maitre d was keen to explain how the menu works and that it changes daily.
All the produce is sourced locally and there is even a cool video on their website.
The bread basket is amazing, it's hard not to overindulge here, but as I had ordered some scrummy food I held back.
I had 4 oysters to start followed by their special cheese puffs. The cheese puffs were amazing. They were cheese in breadcrumbs and fried, but they were tasty and surprisingly light.
My final dish was wild sea trout. It was on a bed of artichoke, beetroot and aioli.
It was cooked perfectly, which is difficult with fish, but this was amazing.
I declined dessert, in fact I didn’t even look at the menu because I knew I would be tempted...but I did return for lunch 3 days later.. I did however, return 3 days later for lunch with a friend...
Elliots 12 Stoney Street, Borough Market, London SE1 9AD 0207 403 7436
One of London’s hidden gems….you certainly don’t stumble across this place, unless you live on the street, but 40 Maltby Street is at the end of Maltby Street market which is becoming more and more popular, and in my opinion is much better than the tourist flooded Borough Market.
Its TINY. I’m guessing they can accommodate 20 people and then they are full, but since they have a menu of small plates, many people either meet here or come for a quick drink at the start of their evening and then go on…. which is exactly what we did. We had 4 small plates and shared them with a glass of wine before we went off for dinner.
The menu changes daily as they source the ingredients locally and of course seasonally, so whilst I have taken a photo, its really just to give and idea of the prices and of course their culinary creativeness….. which is excellent. The flavours and the presentation were excellent. You can even see into the kitchen to see the chefs at work in their tiny space.
They don't take reservations, so its best to get here early.
40 Maltby Street London SE1 3PA 020 7237 9247
Cuba has always been on our travel list, but when we were living in Asia it was always such a long way to travel. Also as we had so much exploring to do in Asia it was never a high priority.
Now we are back in Europe and with direct flights from Zurich it had moved up that list and in January went straight to the top when talks between the US and Cuba indicated that Americans would soon be allowed to travel to Cuba for leisure.
I wanted to see how Cuba is without Starbucks and McDonald's and their processed offerings taking over the cities as they have started to do in other countries we have visited especially in Myanmar.
We checked our diaries and booked up flights with Edelweiss Air for a trip in May to coincide with our wedding anniversary.
Although we travel a lot, most of our trips are really my husband's business trips that I just tag along on. We rarely travel on the same flight and never in the same section, so this was going to be a proper holiday and limited internet meant my husband couldn't spend too long reading emails.
We stayed for 5 nights in Havana. I think 4 nights would of been plenty however, as there really isn't too much to see. The city is crumbling, literally.
The architecture that was once beautiful is is a sad state of repair... as too are the beautiful vintage cars being used as taxis. Most of them only look like they are one pot hole away from falling apart.
The people are lovely, cheery and friendly. Although Cuba is very poor we never felt threatened or in danger, as we did in some of the South American cities.
There is a new uprising of Paladars. These are private restaurants, that have only recently been allowed to open. We visited two and were served amazing food, far better than I expected as we had heard some quite negative things about the food. We ate at Dona Eutimia and Paladar Los Mercaderes. I've used their trip advisor links here because neither restaurant have their own website. There are lots more around with waiters standing in the streets waving menus to tempt people in.
Sightseeing in Havana is mostly about the architecture, which is still beautiful, despite the crumbling, and of course the rum and cigars.
We stayed in the Melia Cohiba in Havana, which was a bit of a mistake... not enough research and relying on a friends advice because his wife is Cuban... I won't be doing that again. So my lesson to myself is always ask why someone recommends a hotel/restaurant. Your riorities may not be the same !
The hotel was nice enough but it was not in the centre of town... which is great if you want a pool based rest, but not if you want to explore the city. Getting a taxi in and out for lunch and dinner was not ideal. If we go back I think the Iberostar in the centre of Havana would be my preferred option.
In Varadero we stayed at the Royalton Hicascos. We chose this because it got good Trip Advisor reviews and because it is adults only. It was on a very nice stretch of beach, but the resort itself was quiet tired looking and a bit run down. As with most of the resorts it was all inclusive. This isn't normally something I would choose to do as I like to find small local places to eat out, but in Varadero, this wasn't really an option. The food was good and of course unlimited. Lots of nice salads and fruit were available and lots of BBQ meat and fish, lots of choice for everyone.
For us the resort choice was perfect, we spent the rest of the trip reading books (thank you whoever invented the kindle) and relaxing.
A perfect combination of city and beach for a fortnight of R&R.
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