Saturday 30 August 2014

Review: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Afternoon Tea at One Aldwych

Afternoon Tea Covent Garden

One Aldwych Hotel London

Afternoon Tea at One Aldwych:

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
I always love Afternoon Teas which are visually exciting and certainly this culinary delight at One Aldwych did not disappoint!

The timing was apt as we sat down to tea just as I had found out that I would soon be moving to the Maldives, so our spirits were high and we were in the mood to celebrate! The setting is modern and airy with some beautiful sculptures bringing life to the space which sits in a prime Central London location. Staff welcomed us eagerly and showed us to a comfortable sofa table before presenting us with menus and serving us a delicious 'Champagne Charlie' cocktail.

Everything about the experience was wonderful and theatrical - exactly how you would expect something named 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory' to be. The menu itself was beautiful with an illustration from the Roald Dhal story on the back, which you are able to take home with you. We dove straight in...

Sandwiches were delicious and unusual with the much welcomed addition of a savoury tart and a basket full of brioche. The tart was also served warm which was a great touch and best of all was that they actually refilled your sandwiches before you'd started on the pastries - perfect!

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Sandwiches and warm tarts

And then to the main event which has been sitting in front of us the entire time, teasing with the mysterious elements that await our taste buds. The candy-floss glistens, the golden egg excites and the milkshakes beckon with retro straws. Everything looks and smells divine and we soon found out the the taste was perfection too!

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Selection of pastries and yummy things...

This Afternoon Tea really is one that you have to see (and taste!) to believe. It is visually exciting and brings a burst of flavour to the room as well as to your palate. This is a tea to be excited by and proud of, which you can tell that the staff here also feel as they are as equally excited to serve it to you as you are to eat it!

All in all I was pleasantly surprised at just how good this Afternoon Tea was. Often these themed teas go too much for the gimmick and sacrifice the taste, but One Aldwych have really hit the nail on the head here, successfully combining an exciting concept with deliciously paired teas and cocktails, tying in perfectly too with the launch of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory the musical. A fabulous day out and I am only sorry that I'm now too far away to return! Thank you team One Aldwych!

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Afternoon Tea is served daily at One Aldwych and is priced at £34.50 per person
£45.00 per person including a glass of Lallier Champagne or a Cocktail Charlie

Friday 22 August 2014

REVIEW: Sense Spa at Rosewood London

The Sense Spa at Rosewood London

A little while ago I was privileged enough to be invited to test-drive the new Sense Spa at Rosewood London. Granted, my post about this is a little late, but I've been a little busy moving to a desert island so I'm only just getting the opportunity to give this post all the time that it deserves.

Sense Spa Reception

Needless to say, I was pretty excited at the prospect of experiencing the highly anticipated Rosewood London, which had newly opened when I went there in April. The Hotel's exterior is impressive and decadent and stepping through those large golden gates feels magical and special. The Hotel itself is positioned around a large inner courtyard which gives the place its special, intimate and often secret feel, so that when walking inside you feel like you've just stepped out of Holborn and into another secret world.

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Cute directions throughout Rosewood London
Finding the Sense Spa was actually a little challenging, but perhaps that was just me being overwhelmed by the beauty and intricacy of the building's twists and turns, forgetting to pay attention to where I was going. When I arrived to the Spa though I was pleasantly surprised and instantly felt calm as I entered the Sense Spa cocoon.

Sense Spa Reception
The design is sleek and contemporary yet traditional and welcoming, with sumptuous golds and wooden panels which curve intricately around themselves. After being welcomed by the receptionist, you are ushered through another secret-looking door and shown through the dark maze which weaves around a central relaxation area and diverts off into changing rooms and treatment rooms. The changing room is equally as delightful and has its own steam room and sauna as well as the usual bathrobes, slippers and amenities that you'd expect. That's actually one of my favourite parts of a Spa experience - getting changed and making use of those huge mirrors with all of the necessary hair products sat seductively in front of you!

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Ladies Changing Room
The relaxation area is a welcome retreat from the changing rooms and is located at the heart of the spa in a golden circular room. It's sweet that they reserve a bed for you with your name on it before collecting you for your treatment and you are able to make use of the complimentary tea, water and newspapers before and after your treatments.

Name card placed on my own relaxation bed
I was to have a Swedish Massage, which suited me down to a tee. The Sense Spa has a beautiful range of Aromatherapy Oils which are tailored to suit your individual needs and preferences, but they also offer a range of Sodashi facials which is a brand that I adore. My Swedish massage though was carried out to perfection, with my therapist being finely tuned to my body's needs and offering the perfect levels of pressure and relaxation. She was hugely helpful afterwards too and suggested ways in which I could reduce my muscle tension in everyday life, even recommending some therapies that would benefit me on a regular basis.
After the treatment I returned to the relaxation room and fully enjoyed just sitting, drinking tea and reading a magazine. Inside this golden circle you feel as though you've stumbled upon a rare corner of London where time has stood still and where you can finally switch off your phone and escape from the world for an hour or so. Bliss!

Relaxation Room
My time at Rosewood London eventually had to come to an end and I was sorry that I wasn't able to spend more time there. Had I not just moved half way across the world I would definitely have come back to experience more of the Hotel, with the restaurant and bar looking particularly inviting. Thank you once again, Sense Spa, for providing me with a little slice of heaven in my everyday rush around the capital!

The Rosewood London opened its doors in Spring 2014, with the Sense Spa opening fully in April 2014. The Swedish Massage I had was priced at £100 for 60 minutes.

Sunday 23 March 2014

Review: Chocoholic's Afternoon Tea at Flemings, Mayfair

This was an Afternoon Tea experience that I was particularly looking forward to as not only am I a self-confessed Chocoholic, but the photos and menu looked utterly delicious.

After a nightmarish train journey we arrived an hour later than scheduled, but the staff were highly accommodating and agreed to push back our reservation. I admit I was quite surprised that they were able to do so on a Sunday, which is usually a prime day for Afternoon Tea reservations, but as soon as I arrived I saw why this wasn't a problem as, to put it politely, they were not short on table space.

I'm going to try and be as positive as I can about this Afternoon Tea experience and not let it be affected by the initial Hotel impression, which was tainted by the fact that the receptionist didn't acknowledge me when I walked in or that I had to basically beg someone to show me down to the basement. 

Given that there was also a freak heat-wave (ok, ray of sunshine) on the Sunday that I visited, I definitely did not appreciate the waiter's first remark of 'isn't it a beautiful day outside' when he sat us at our table in the basement room. Again though, I'll try and put these annoyances to one side for the purposes of impartiality!

So to the tea itself... 

The menu we were given was actually completely different to the one that we were expecting from the website and I was particularly disappointed to miss out on the chocolate churros listed online. After choosing our teas and being served a glass of champagne we soon resumed conversation and forgot all about the churros as we struggled to decide whether to drink the tea or champagne first. Unfortunately for us though, it seemed that the staff had also forgotten about our churros and indeed the rest of the service as after 40 minutes we realised that no tea stand had yet materialised.

Chocolate chip scones with jam, cream and lemon curd - delicious!

Eventually the three tiered stand arrived, bringing with it some dry sandwiches with uninspiring fillings such as ham, cucumber and smoked salmon. Luckily it also brought some chocolate scones which were delicious, but unfortunately they didn't come with enough jam or cream and since no one came to check on how we were doing, we couldn't ask for any more.

On the top layer of the stand were the 'chocoholic' treats. I love chocolate in all its forms and I'm fully aware of how many forms there are because I've eaten most of them, which is unfortunate for my waistline! The selection that was presented to me though was fairly uninspiring and included a mini chocolate cupcake, some kind of chocolate thing with a raspberry in it, a rosewater macaroon and a chocolate brownie. The brownie was truly scrumptious, but you can't really get a brownie that wrong, can you?

So I'm sorry that this write up isn't the best ever, but I really was disappointed with my experience and that's probably because my expectations were so high. I will give them credit for the scones because they were delicious and although our waiters were somewhat neglectful they were friendly and full of smiles, which does go a long way. At the end of it all though I don't think I'd give this Afternoon Tea more than a 2.5 out of 5 because of the overall poor service, the lack of originality and the setting of the room itself. Sorry Flemings - I wanted you to be the best!

Flemings Mayfair Chocoholics Afternoon Tea is priced at £39.00 per person and includes a glass of champagne

Thursday 13 March 2014

Review: A Spa Day at Limewood Hotel...

Hampshire Luxury Hotels

Relaxing in the New Forest...

I was one lucky lady last month, when my loving Mother agreed to whisk me off to Limewood for a Spa Day in honour of me turning the grand old age of 23.

I've wanted to visit the infamous Limewood for some time now, having heard rave reviews about its food offerings as well as its spa, Herb House. It certainly did not disappoint! From the moment we drove up the sweeping drive and entered the tardis that is the Herb House I felt instantly relaxed and as though I'd stepped into luxury.

We'd booked a Spa Day that included a one hour Bamford Rose Relaxing Upper Body and Facial Massage as well as lunch in Raw and Cured and full use of the spa facilities. Our treatment was at 1pm so we arrived around 11.30 so that we could have a quick go in the gym and check out the pool before being thoroughly pampered.

The gym itself is very well equipped and inspires a full on workout with the marvelous views provided by full length windows and the high, beamed ceiling. Cold towels and bottles of water are also kept in the fridge which is a completely genius idea and much needed after even the shortest of workouts!

Needless to say, our 'workout' was short and sweet as we couldn't wait to get into the pool and sauna! We donned our extremely comfortable robes and flip flops, provided in each locker, and headed off for some hydrotherapy! 

The hydrotherapy pool looks out over dense woodland and the fact that it was raining outside made the experience extra special. The pool has several massage jets including some underwater seating and all over body massagers. We could have stayed in there all day had we not been drawn to the huge woodland sauna just next door. This was perfectly hot and again blessed with that full length window that made you feel like you were sweating it out in a beautiful, rainy forest!

Our treatment was similarly sublime. I was whisked away into a cosy treatment room complete with a heated bed and incredibly soft towels. My back was scrubbed with Bamford products which smelled amazing and my arms and face were massaged into oblivion. I barely woke up once the treatment had finished, but once I'd remembered that the next stop was Raw and Cured I soon leapt up!

Raw and Cured is a delicious concept. The Spa's restaurant come cafe looks out over the garden and on the other side the swimming pool and provides a perfectly relaxing and authentic dining experience. The friendly staff are on hand to put together some delicious, natural treats and serve up a smoothie or two upon request. Our package included two of the 'mini' options or one, larger board. I opted for a delicious board of breads, cured meats and cheeses whilst my Mum went for a bright, flavourful Mexican salad and a mini ploughman's. We of course shared and dipped into each other's lunches so we got to try a couple of dishes, but I could have gladly tried every single one, much like our next door diners did!!

After satisfying our cravings we headed back for some more hydro action. We relaxed all day long whilst it poured down with rain outside. Whilst this made the experience even more magical, it did have a slight downside in that the outdoor heated pool was temporarily closed until the rain subsided. This also unfortunately happened to clash with the short period of time in which children are allowed in the pool so we didn't spend too long in there!

Once we had been thoroughly spoilt and pampered we headed off, but only after we were treated to a final farewell gift of a couple of Bamford products which was a nice touch!Hopefully one day I'll get to return and try out another of their tempting treatments, but even without trying everything I'd still thoroughly recommend this spa - it does exactly what it says on the tin, only much much better!

Monday 10 March 2014

Review: The Chuan Spa, London

It's all been getting rather stressful lately, what with arranging dates for Afternoon Teas and travelling to Prague and Paris. It was high time I had a chance to relax and unwind and I was definitely in need of a Spa day!

Where better then, than Europe's first Chuan Spa, nestled at the heart of London in The Langham Hotel? After some careful research, this place came out on top as the treatment that we wanted was within our budget and the facilities were open to us for a nice amount of time. This sounds like a silly reason, given that we were going for a spa day and not just a treatment, but many of the other places I looked at only gave access to the facilities for a couple of hours. In my mind that definitely doesn't constitute a day!

Entrance and relaxation area

So after we'd stuffed ourselves suitably silly with Afternoon Tea, we headed over to Oxford Street and found the sanctuary of the Chuan Spa. Set across three levels, the spa was quiet, serene and everything you'd expect it to be. The Chinese decor was subtle and contemporary and really complimented the more modern glass staircase and contrasting, traditional high ceilings. 

Our therapists were lovely, but unfortunately I can't remember their names. They were professional, friendly and completely put me at ease right from the word go. We had a double treatment room as we'd booked the Chuan Body Detox for two, which was still a really nice touch. Even though in the same room, our therapists concentrated on us as individuals and really made sure that they connected with us personally, rather than as a pair.

First of all we were asked to choose whether we wanted a relaxing or rejuvenating massage. I instantly said relaxing whilst my friend chose rejuvenating. The therapist then brought over two pots of oil for me to smell and told me to choose which one I preferred. Again, the choice was instant and choosing the 'Earth' element meant that I was apparently a very busy person who was prone to worry and overthinking. Probably spot on to be honest!

I instantly liked that my treatment was personalised and felt somewhat prescriptive. Everyone likes to feel like an individual and as though they have a very special type of complaint that needs personally addressing. This doesn't change when you visit a spa!

Tea service for after your treatment

The hour and a half massage was heavenly, although the back, neck and shoulder part was sore in parts as the therapist skilfully worked out lots of knots and tension. Afterwards she explained what she had done and how I could avoid getting so tense in the future, which was another brilliant touch.

Once the treatment was over we were ushered into the relaxation area where a bespoke tea was waiting for each of us that complimented our treatments and was based on which element we'd originally chosen. There was also a card explaining the method behind the madness as well as a selection of fruit, but the best bit was that our therapists were also waiting to give us a little 'debrief', recommending products and techniques that were best for our skin types. 

We didn't manage to have a swim in the pool unfortunately as there were too many children in there for our liking, but we enjoyed the vitality pool and sauna no end.

Vitality Pool


The changing room facilities were also good, with proper hairdryers and nice showers so that we could get ready to go out that evening!


I'd definitely return to this little corner of heaven. As soon as you walk in off of the busy street you instantly feel calm, which is what you need after any day in London. Overall, highly recommended and I'd love to return to try some of the more Chinese style treatments, although next time with a stay at The Langham too!

My friend and I enjoyed the Chuan Body Detox package which was £220 per couple and included a 1hr30min treatment as well as full use of the spa facilities.

Sunday 9 March 2014

Review: Science Afternoon Tea at The Ampersand Hotel, London

Last week I was lucky enough to experience a very special Afternoon Tea at The Ampersand Hotel. Their Science Afternoon Tea is running for a short period of time, but the Hotel offers a delightful selection of fresh cakes and a superb traditional afternoon tea all year round.

Upon entering The Ampersand I was immediately struck by the contemporary, boutique interiors and the warm welcome offered by the staff. Sat at a nice table by the window I was able to appreciate fully the delightful concoctions and visual effects of the Science afternoon tea as it oozed with dry ice and stood out vividly with its array of shapes and colours.

Starting at the bottom, we enjoyed sandwiches made in savoury choux pastry buns, filled with a selection of delicious delights. Smoked salmon, coronation chicken and cheese and chutney were among my favourite fillings, but to be honest none of them were particularly disappointing and all were finished before moving up to the next level on the tea stand.

The scones were equally delicious and consisted of one plain and one white chocolate scone each, served with clotted cream and jam. There could have been a little more jam to accompany these and although no one offered us any more, this did actually save us from finishing off both of the scones which left room for the top level of tasty treats!

And so to the pièce de résistance...

The 'science' layer that stood proudly at the top of the tea stand was a visual delight and was equally pleasing to the tastebuds. I particularly enjoyed the little 'planets' which were surprisingly delicious. The macaroons were also rather tasty, and the raspberry coulis found in the pipettes really complimented the whole thing. I'm not sure exactly what the little drink inside the test tube was, but it was far too sweet for my liking. I loved the glass containers that it came in and it certainly added to the visual aspect of the tea, but it perhaps could have done with being a little less sugary!

You can see that this Afternoon Tea looks fun, interesting and that it ticks all the boxes for a tasty afternoon treat. Although I usually hate to see pre-made items (such as the chocolate dinosaurs), they actually didn't do too badly in this combination as they were a nice, lighter option to round off the selection. I was so completely full by the end of the tea that I couldn't actually finish it, but that was definitely not a reflection on the taste as it was all rather lovely.

I am now very much looking forward to what they think of next as the expectations are rather high from this quirky, boutique Hotel!

The Ampersand Hotel serves Afternoon Tea every day from 2.30pm until 5.20pm. The Science Afternoon Tea is available until 21st March and is priced at £32.50 per person or £44.50 per person with a glass of Champagne

Monday 24 February 2014

Destination: A weekend in Paris

Ooh La La, Paris!

Valentine's weekend 2014 was not spent moping around with a box of kleenex and a rom com, but with a trip to gay old Paris instead! And no, before you ask, it was not with a strapping young gentleman who had whisked me off for a romantic weekend - it was with my old chum, 'Polls'!

We headed over to St Pancras station on Sunday 16th February for the 10.25am train to Paris and slept almost the whole journey there - after the obligatory morning coffee and pain au chocolate of course! Upon arrival in Paris we swiftly got into a taxi and embarked upon the short drive to our Hotel, Four Seasons Hotel George V, Paris.

Yes, you read correctly. I was lucky enough to spend the night at this breathtaking Hotel, located smack bang in the centre of Paris, right in between the Eiffel Tower and the Arc De Driomphe. We were two very lucky girls.

So we pulled up in the taxi and were greeted by a very lovely doorman who whisked away our bags and ushered us inside. Our room wasn't quite ready yet, but that wasn't a problem as we wanted to get straight out and make the most of our whistlestop trip!

Turning right out of the Hotel, we walked towards the Eiffel Tower and stopped for lunch. Given that the main objectives of this short trip were to see the Eiffel Tower, eat a macaroon, drink red wine and gorge on French food, we were pretty successful right from the get go. We stopped in a little bistro and had a glass of red wine, shared some French onion soup and a croque monsieur before tucking into a delicious platter of bread and cheese. Perfect.

Feeling very full we waddled over to the Eiffel Tower and admired it from various angles before heading back to the luxurious, welcoming arms of the George V. Our room was breathtaking and as it was only a 'standard' room we couldn't help but to wonder what on earth the other categories looked like! 

Draped in creams and golds, the room was big, bright and everything that you could expect of a Parisian 5* Hotel. I was particularly impressed with the rather snazzy looking TV remotes and of course by the fact that there was a Nespresso machine with complimentary coffee capsules! Heaven!

After we'd appreciated our surroundings, we headed over to explore The Spa. This was also, as you can imagine, a highly luxurious and utterly relaxing experience! A lovely lady gave us a quick tour of the Spa and its facilities before we robed up and headed straight for the pool, where we stayed for at least an hour making full use of the Jacuzzi and reveling in our own joy.

The sauna and steam rooms are equally fantastic, especially as they are located in the changing rooms so that you avoid that awkward moment when you enter to find a hairy man and then can't leave because it looks rude. There was none of that! The steam room was simply divine and we left with our pores glowing as much as our insides!

Needless to say, we didn't return from the Spa for quite some time, so we actually didn't make it out for dinner by the time we'd got dressed and enjoyed the most delicious cocktail in the Hotel bar! Not that that was any kind of a problem as we were more than happy to stay where we were and enjoy the relaxed yet sophisticated atmosphere of the bar area.

The following day we headed straight out to find a croissant before continuing to explore the city. As we had such a short amount of time we decided to just walk around and see what we found. We'd also made a reservation for Afternoon Tea at the Hotel so we only had a few hours to explore.

I managed to tick off another important goal from my list as I found a rather lovely chocolate shop selling the most exquisite macaroons. Delicious!

We walked up and down the Champs Élysées admiring the views and popping in and out of shops before heading back to the comfort of the Four Seasons. Even though we'd already checked out, our bags had been taken care of and our table was ready for us at 3pm on the dot.

I do love Afternoon Tea and think that it is the perfect way to experience a Hotel without splashing out on the cost of the room, so I could not pass up the opportunity to have a taste of the George V in this way as I could definitely not afford to splash out in their Michelin star restaurant!

After we were more full that we'd ever been before in our lives, we got back into a taxi and headed back for England. Even though this trip was one of the shortest I've ever been on, it was definitely one of the most relaxing. I left Paris with a warm glow and with the feeling that I'd just experienced something truly special. Hopefully I'll be able to return soon!