Monday, 28 September 2015

London: Hotel Review - Novotel London Heathrow

Flying from London Heathrow airport to exciting destinations or coming in from afar and want a hotel with easy access to West London? There are a number of the big name hotels within a 5 minute drive of Terminals 1, 2 &3., I recently stayed at the Novotel London Heathrow because I had a food blogger conference to attend in Chiswick, West London.

The foyer of the hotel is large and airy with lots of light magnifying its large entrance.  We were greeted by very friendly reception staff. As I booked in I was advised that breakfast was not included in my room rate and did I want to add this.  I pointed out that it was included and they quickly amended their records.
The room was a family room with a huge double bed all to myself! The bed was incredibly comfortable, I did wake up somewhere in the middle far away from where I started!!
There was an interconnecting door to the room next door if you had a larger party and wanted easy access.  It was quite safe, you couldn’t open the doors unless both rooms wanted to.

I had the usual mini fridge in the room stocked with mineral water and a coffee-tea station.
There was a lovely fruit bowl in my room with mini cakes which I gratefully devoured with my coffee before bed!
I didn’t like the toilet being separate from the main bathroom though but that’s just me being fussy.  The shower was an absolute treat. One of those rain forest effects pouring straight down on your head and the water was a lovely temperature.  I did my usual, lather rinse, think about getting out then lather and rinse again just to enjoy more of the lovely rain forest effect!

The breakfast (which would normally cost £16.95) was a very good representation of the usual Full English Breakfast with lots of added extras.  I do enjoy cutting my own slice of bread from a fresh artisan loaf and popping it into one of the continuous toasters.
There was a great selection of cereals with optional toppings, cold meats and cheese and yoghurt and fresh fruit ready prepared. 
I did like the fruit in the metal stands that looked like the fruit pieces were on a special escalator!
Small children will be kept occupied in the well equipped space whilst mum and dad can have a drink.
The bar was large and open with a huge flat screen TV to watch the rugby or in my case the qualifying for the F1!
I would be happy to stay here again in November when I fly from Heathrow airport to the States for Thanksgiving.

I was a guest of Novotel and was not required to write a positive review.  All opinions and photos are my own.

Monday, 21 September 2015

London: A Tourist In My Own City

Mr R and I had a day off together recently. Sometimes you are so busy running around your own city you forget to take the time to be a tourist.  We took some time today to have a trip into Central London. The weather was not the best, that annoying slight rain kept up all day but never dampened our spirits.
Check out the smile, you can see he doesn't get out much!!
We were invited to meet a journalist that I got to know on my recent press trip to Mexico City for a private tour of the Palace of Westminster.  The Palace of Westminster is better known as the home of the Parliament of the United Kingdom for the last 500 years.

We took photos in the two areas we were allowed but sadly we couldn't photo all the House of Lords and House of Commons, the Queen's throne and other well known images we are familiar with from watching the news and Prime Minister's Question Time.

The Queen's seat in the House of Lords shone so brightly as it has recently been renovated and covered in real gold.  The actual rooms in both houses seem so much smaller than when you see them through the eyes of the television cameras.

We entered through Westminster Hall, completed in 1099 and has hosted state occasions and feasts over the years.  It is customary for monarchs to line in state here after their deaths and occasionally Prime Ministers, for example Winston Churchill.
St Stephen's Hall connects Westminster Hall and the Central Lobby.  
There are some very fine statues including one that caught my eye (my Twitter name is @Walpolegirl and the town of Walpole NH is named after this gentleman's family.
The Central Lobby is in the middle of the corridors to the House of Lords and the House of Commons and is somewhere you could arrange to see your MP when the House of Commons is sitting. Unfortunately, as I have already said, we could not take photos in the Central Lobby or beyond.

It was such a privilege to be shown around by my journalist friend who has worked there since the early 1970s and whose passion is so refreshing allowing us to learn so much and have a really great experience.

A few photos follow outside the Palace:
We had half of a plan to take a trip on the London Eye if the weather would behave but unfortunately it didn't.  We will put it off now until the grandchildren are in London with us and we can all have a go.
We wanted to go to the Maille mustard shop in Piccadilly and despite the weather we walked.  We saw the two giant pointing fingers on the traffic island at Trafalgar Square by Mexican sculptor Rivelino which will be available to see until 31 December 2015 to commemorate the Dual Year of the UK and Mexico.
We treated ourselves to some seasonal Black Truffle and Chablis mustard - I am not really a mustard person but I really love this one with the presence but not overpowering black truffle.
A quick beer then a late lunch in our favourite Chinese restaurant in China Town before we braved the rain again.

Before we knew it it was time to head back to St Pancras station, have a sit down and a cup of coffee and wait for our train home.  My feet hurt and I was tired but really enjoyed being a tourist for the day in London!
I want to thank my friend Jerry for his tour of the Palace of Westminster and all his knowledge that came with it.

Friday, 18 September 2015

Black Diamond Knife Block, Knife Collection and a Giveaway

 A good knife is a very personal decision and I think most people have their favourites however there is nothing wrong in pointing out a good knife or set of knives, giving the other person a chance to try it.

I was sent Edge of Belgravia's new Black Diamond Knife Block along with their Precision Knife Collection for review.

The knife block is an avant-guard design which will look sensational on any kitchen work surface unlike the traditional knife blocks this one will elicit comments from anyone visiting your kitchen.

Their Precision Knife Collection consists of four knives, all with soft handles which are really comfortable to use with a nice weight in the handles.  They are non-stick which makes cleaning easy however, like any other good knife, are not dishwasherable.  They only need a wipe with a soft, wet cloth and left on the side to dry.

The four knives in the Precision Knife Collection are:- Bread Knife, Chef's Knife, Deba and Paring Knife.
The knives fit effortlessly into the knife block which will hold up to another seven knives.

Edge of Belgravia are giving one lucky reader the chance to win the Black Diamond Knife Block along with their Precision Knife Collection. To be in with a chance to win follow the Rafflecopter instructions below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Terms and conditions:
Only open to entrants from UK and USA, over the age of 18.
There is one prize of a Black Diamond knife block and Precision knife collection RRP £169.00 in total. There’s no cash alternative and the prize is not transferable. No part or parts of the prize may be substituted for other benefits, items or additions.

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Great British Spiced Chocolate Challenge 2015

I attended the launch of The Great British Spiced Chocolate Challenge earlier this year when the gauntlet went down inviting participants to create a chocolate using over 300 spices supplied by the artisan spice company 'Seasoned Pioneers' and a fantastic prize offered by sponsors British Airways and Pure Grenada.

On 03 September 2015 the judges met for the preliminary of The Great British Spiced Chocolate challenge at Poggenpohl Waterloo at their luxury kitchen and bathroom showrooms.

The judges were split into four main groups each tasting a different selection trying to find the one or two chocolates that stood out above the rest on their tables.

There were ummmm's and aaahhh's and a few noooo's but mostly there were smiles and happy sounds emanating from the tables.
A group of judges looking so serious, all chocolate lovers!
Taste was a big part of the criteria but being innovative and different and looking original and good also played a part.
Each entry was only known by a number with a description of what the flavour aim was.
So much tasting and scoring to be done.
The list of entries never seemed to end!
So many entries to try, so little time .......!!
Happy face of judge Hazel Lee who is obviously trying a really nice specimen.
Andrew Mellon, the organiser called everyone together to let a judge from each group talk us through their choice(s) of the entry that stood out for them.
Each Head Judge came onto the stage and explained and justified their top entries.
Then with the serious work of the evening over it was time for cheese and wine!! We enjoyed an informed tutorial of cheese and wine matching of some really great specimens of both!
The Cheese and Wine Tasting was in the Poggenphol 4th Wall Kitchen behind the showroom.  We were treated to the most amazing collection of cheeses from The Fine Cheese Company of Bath, England and wines to match perfectly from OW Loeb & Co Ltd, shippers of fine wines since 1874.
Utensils for the perfect cutting and serving of the cheeses.
I think this was my favourite cheese of the evening, a British 'Camambert' like cheese that was so creamy and had a full taste.  We drank a Mercurey rouge 2010 from Domaine Dureuil-Janthial, France
A 'forest' of creamy blue cheese pieces for the tasting, Fourme D'Ambert Affineur Xavier Morin.
The suggested wine a smooth Riversaltes Tuile rouge 2006 from Domaine de Chenes, cotes de Roussillon Villages (old vine Grenache noir).
Another strong and mature cheese, Affineur Walo Starnachas which went so well with this rose wine, Rivesaltes Ambre 2005 from Domaine de Chenes, Cotes de Roussilon Villages.
I found this Spanish Manchego truly exquisite.  The taste was perfectly smooth but not overwhelming and the suggested wine was thick and sweet, a Cuva Vella Raim Moscatel 1980 from Valencia.
All in all it was a really fun evening with guests declaring their preferences for the chocolates as well as the cheese and wine. 

The chocolates picked on the evening will then be judged again and the winner will have his/her chocolate fast-tracked into a top London food hall in time or Christmas.  The winner will also receive a prize from event sponsors British Airways and Pure Grenada of a 7-day trip to the island of Grenada for the 2016 Grendada Chocolate Festival.

Well renowned chocolatier Paul A Young has created an official GBSCC 'sugar & spice' bar of chocolate with a donation of £2 from the sale of each bar will go directly to The Trussell Trust, the charity of the challenge and the supporters and operators of the largest network of food banks in the UK.  The bar of chocolate will retail at £4.50.

Keep an eye out on this blog for details of the winning chocolate coming soon.

I was a guest of The Great British Spiced Chocolate Challenge.  All photos and opinions are my own.