Roseate House, London: a model small hotel

Truth be told, I don’t like surprises in my accommodation, much as surprises can be good as well as bad. In London I therefore head for the big chains where I know exactly what I’m going to get and it’s adequate. Heating’s going to work, the wifi will be okay, the beds are often excellent without having to spend a fortune. The rooms in the centre of town will be small but not unworkable.

But every now and then I decide to try out a small hotel and….it’s always been a mistake. Looming large in my memory is an establishment in Kensington with a circular hole in the window, some inches wide, and a room so small that had I been male I could have relieved myself without leaving the bed (assuming a good aim, that is). That after I’d paid for an upgrade to a larger room – I was assured I was in the right place upon asking. Breakfast best left undescribed.

Another time we tried the Montague near the British Museum. They don’t describe the size of their rooms on their site, which should have set alarm bells ringing. Their basic room is, I only discover now from looking at booking.com is 15sqm. We found in practice that if we used the desk where it was located, it was impossible to get out of the room and even upon moving it, this meant that the room could only be navigated by the other person by climbing over the bed. We were really disappointed by this. To be fair, upon writing to the management subsequent to our trip, we were offered a subsequent upgrade should we stay there again, but we didn’t take that up, knowing that we wouldn’t be able to afford to stay in a larger room without a free upgrade. It was never going to be a regular hotel for  us, in other words.

Back to Hilton, Holiday Inn, Pullman, Novotel for a while. We even tried an Ibis. But looking for somewhere close to Paddington Heathrow Express for a one night stay last week, I happened to notice Roseate House. It was time to try a small boutique hotel again. And, for the first time ever I can define the experience in two words ‘no regrets’.

I do have to say that we were upgraded from the basic room to the next size which gave us a couple of extra square metres, but the basic room is still 20sqm, according to their site, which is so much more generous than the Montague’s 15sqm.

When we fronted at reception, we’d been on the road for 36 hours, the long haul from Australia, carrying way too much luggage (five months away) and it was 9am. Would they take pity on us and let us check in early? Very early? Personally I think that if there’s a room available there is no reason for keeping a guest out, but there are hotels in London who expect you to pay extra – let’s avoid those places if we can.

So, here we were faced by smiling staff upgrading us and telling us about the biscuits which we’d find in our room – definitely worth a special mention, we discovered. Along with the ubiquitous Nespresso machine and – three cheers for this, a kettle too. In Europe hotels don’t understand that water has to be boiled properly for tea and that Nespresso machines are not adequate. Say what you like about Brexit, the English ARE different from Europe proper. Knowing how to do tea being top of my list.

Our room was on the lower floor – basement, I guess  you’d say – but it had a window with a lovely garden view and the wifi was good, so being low down was no punishment. Sitting in an armchair with a cup of tea in hand, looking out onto the garden, life was definitely looking up. Shower, clean clothes, and we were starting to feel human again.

To continue the comparison, the Montague’s stylish furnishings are rather flamboyant and lavish compared with Roseate House. Here we have a more true to English nature gentle quirky quaintness. We loved our room, professed by Manny to be the best we’ve stayed at in London. It felt like home. The quality of everything was excellent, the bed, furnishing generally, bathroom products, good shower (over bath, which we did not try). Towels were on a warmer rack. That made me so happy!

Next a visit to the small dining room and bar for a proper pot of tea. And indeed, it was impeccably served, excellent quality tea, pot and china all held up to my stringent conditions. After lunch and an afternoon out, we decided to try the hotel for dinner. There is an excellent cocktail menu. Manny couldn’t resist the idea of a blue cheese cocktail and S-L had to try Breakfast with Granny.

  • Breakfast with Granny £9.50
    Hayman’s Sloe Gin, Lime, Grapefruit, Vanilla, Blackcurrant
  • Say Cheese £12.75
    Blue Cheese, Hayman’s Gin, Parsley

The Hyde Bar is famous for its special whisky collection, to be sampled, perhaps, another day.

Special mention has to be made of the music. I wonder why it is that so many establishments, even if they are five star – or so posh that they are beyond stars – think it’s okay to put on random shuffled music at too loud a volume. The music here fitted the style of the bar and never interfered with conversation. That gives it a very big tick from me.

Overall, we found the food and tea to be better than The Montague, which is not to damn it with faint praise. In fact we didn’t try breakfast at The M. but here we were offered full breakfast for two at the price of £25. The standard of both the buffet and the cooked to order dishes was excellent. We tried the full English and avocado with poached eggs delicately presented on crustless toast. The eggs stayed runny until they were dispensed with. I don’t know how typical that price is for the hotel, but take it if you can as I don’t think you can get a better value breakfast in London.

We’re thinking of London in July and I see these rates come up for three days in their most basic room:

  • Roseate House £600
  • The Montague on the Gardens £747

What are you getting for that? The Montague is fabulously situated for the tourist. You really do step out into the heartland of London sights. Maybe that makes up for the 5sqm you will be missing in your room. It’s also bigger and busier and some people want that.

Roseate House has larger rooms which are finely furbished, different character but at least on a par for quality. Both have excellent service, but simply because it’s smaller – about half the number of rooms – Roseate House is more personal. All the staff were wonderful.

And for us Roseate House is in a great location, uncrowded, untouristy. It’s a walk to Regent’s Park, Marylebone High St and the surrounding neighbourhood for food and Daunt’s Bookshop. The fabulous Satay House is nearby and Kendal St etc a bit further, followed by Hyde Park. London’s so teensy. But in any case, Paddington Underground is a few minutes’ walk away should you prefer. If you know London, I think you’d find Roseate House perfectly located.

In short, we highly recommend Roseate House as a place to stay in London and we are sure to be back.

 

 

 

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And the winner is….bircher muesli in Adelaide

On the hunt.

In the good old days, Jones the Grocer existed on King William Road – a site that’s been empty for a long time now. There, amongst much lovely food, they offered bircher done as you pleased. That is to say, you chose fresh fruit or stewed and, having narrowed it down to the latter, as I always did, you had then to decide which stewed fruit to take this time. The meal you ended up with was large, but in balance!

Chianti Classico Hutt St Adelaide
with quince & rhubarb, coconut yoghurt, orange syrup, toasted pistachios. 16.90
One does not necessarily need choice in bircher, but balance is not optional. Chianti has done various takes on this dish over the years and its new version is the best, an observation that other long standing customers there have also made. The serving size is right; consistency is lovely – not to heavy, not too runny; it is not too sweet; it has a nice proportion of additions to the oats component and it looks exquisite.

Sublime Cafe East Ave Clarence Park
blueberry compote, toasted coconut, chia & honey 14.9
Extremely thick and ultra sweet. Too much like dessert, not enough like breakfast. Not enough like bircher. My dining companion couldn’t finish it but took it home for her kids to eat after dinner.

Trouble and Strife Goodwood Road
Coconut Bircher, apricot, yogurt, nuts + blood orange syrup 14
Sorely lacked balance. A vast plate of oats with a very small pile of apricots to go with it. If it had half the oats, even if they hadn’t decreased the price, I’d be more likely to order it again.

Bricks and Stones Unley Road
Bircher Museli, natural yogurt, coconut, seasonal fruit & nuts 16
Much better balance than Trouble and Strife’s. When you eat bircher, it should be possible to eat fruit as well as oats in every mouthful. It isn’t as elegant as Chianti’s. If it were my local, I’d eat it regularly. But I’d always have Chianti’s at the back of my mind.

Rise and Grind (Adelaide) vs Bishopgate Kitchen (London)

On the weekend we went to breakfast at Bishopgate Kitchen (Spitalfields).  It’s part of a posh chain and I hope that we saw the worst of it. Mine was probably worst. I ordered poached eggs with smashed avocado, side serves of salmon and bacon and loose-leaf tea.

I got a plate so challenged to fit what was on it that the bacon was chucked on top of the salmon. The avocado wasn’t smashed, it was pureed with a large quantity of vinegar, such as you would put on avocado to stop it discolouring if you made it about once a week. It was inedible. The bacon had been cooked much earlier than it was served and was only lukewarm as were the overcooked poached eggs. The ‘loose leaf tea’ was a teabag. When I asked the staff about that I was cheerfully told that yes, they should change that. Apparently they changed hands several months ago. Well, that would explain why they haven’t yet updated their description of the tea. Rome wasn’t built in three months. As it happened, later on in the day I had a cup of tea at the Maritime Museum’s cafe, also described as ‘loose leafed’ and also a teabag. Maybe real loose leaf tea doesn’t exist in London anymore. Maybe they don’t even know what it is. The ‘fresh’ orange juice was not made on the premises, upon further interrogation, which in my opinion means it isn’t fresh. I know Londoners beg to disagree on this.

Neither of my companions had better food, but they are born and bred in the UK, so they are used to being dished up stuff that wouldn’t let a cafe last a week in Australia. So they ate all theirs, blissfully indifferent to what they’d shovelled down.

Today we went to Rise and Grind, our closest cafe in Clarence Park (Adelaide). It was Carnavale on our last visit and the change is definitely for the better. The menu is a small but interesting selection, healthy options that sound enticing. We started out simple. I had poached eggs with a side serve of spinach, presented on turkish bread, toasted. Manny went for the smashed avo (with feta etc) and poached eggs on dark rye (maybe, I’ve guessed the bread). The avo was everything that the London version wasn’t. Vinegar? If it was an ingredient, we didn’t notice. It was excellent.

Coffee was high standard, tea was good – thought I balk at $6 for a pot, it seems a lot for a cafe. I took a mug for $3.70.

First impressions is that it is a cut above the standard of its predecessor and we are thrilled to have it at close quarters.

My only complaint is that Rise and Grind need better signage. It is mainly an ad for FACEBOOK, as it was for the predecessor too. Weird.

 

 

 

 

 

Chou and The Marcel: two new cafes in Geneva

Both these cafes are on rue des Eaux-Vives, but there the resemblance stops.

The Marcel is a French chain which opened up its (first) Geneva branch on Friday. As you can see from their menu, the prices in Geneva are more expensive. Not a lot more, but given Paris’s reputation for expensiveness, I’m curious to know if this was necessary.

The Marcel is dark and very noisy. Even though, along with everybody else there today we shouted, I could scarcely hear my companions. Chou is light and quiet.

The Marcel seems to be making an attempt at an Anglo-Saxon cafe, both in style and menu. For us this didn’t work. The coffee doesn’t stand up to the better places in Geneva and we found the food disappointing. One of us had The Full English Breakfast at 19CHF. It was crowded onto a plate too small for the food, but at the same time we could see it was substantially smaller than such a dish would have been in Australia. Notably it came without toast, though toast was listed as an ingredient. I might add that the cafe latte was approximately half a glass of coffee, with about an equal amount of froth.

The biggest disappointment was the cinnamon roll, which had almost no cinnamon taste and was heavy going. One of my companions who declined to taste it said it looked industrial which made me wonder what its pedigree was. Certainly at 7CHF, I would much rather have had two of Paradiso’s light cinnamon rolls. A bagel with cream cheese and avocado was okay, not special, but safe. I am undecided on whether a few pomegranate seeds scattered through worked.

No doubt The Marcel will cope with these comments. It was packed and presumably is going to thrive.

Chou has all the grace and delicacy that The Marcel lacks. Everything on its (small) food menu is refined in looks and taste. Coffee from a barista whose pedigree includes Paradiso and Boreal is at the best end for Geneva. Tea is good quality with a better range than in most cafes which focus on coffee – and therefore think that they don’t have to cater to tea drinkers – and your pot is refilled, for which I am most appreciative. The decor is light and for anybody looking for a lovely place to read a book whilst taking some refreshment, this is the place for you.

No doubt there is room for both these places. I hope I was never young enough to think that having to shout through a meal is acceptable, but maybe I’ve just got a bad memory. For me, it’s Chou every time….I leave you with their exquisite apricot and matcha tea sweet temptation:

Apricot matcha tea chou

Dining in Stockholm 2017

You may not be able to use cash in Stockholm any more (well, here and there still) but not much else has changed over the last three years. Cream and mayo, sweet and salty still prevail. I find that challenging. Easier to take is the price. It’s the usual story, you live in Geneva and everything else seems cheap and good….

Bar Central is Hungarian without creamed spinach. The ultimate statement about how impossible it is, still, to get green vegetables in Stockholm. As long as you can cope with that, I recommend it. Menu ranges from trad Schnitzel to interesting risotto. I didn’t really notice how salty it was at the time, but came home to find myself drinking water, which is a rare thing for me. SALTY! I gather there are a few Hungarian cafes around town, I may search for one which does spinach.

Aubergine does a mixture of local, Italian and French cuisine. I found the tomato base of the fish soup coarse. Fish needs something more subtle. Like so many restaurants in Stockholm it provides an excellent value lunch, when I went back I tried an acceptable lasagne – on the side was a mysterious salty cream thickness, no idea what it was, didn’t like it, left it alone. It was better than I expected when it turned up decorated with small tomato halves.

Speceriet is the neighbouring cheap and casual sibling of Gastrologik. It’s a good ad for the latter. Based on my experience today I’d be willing to trust them to serve me up great fare for the not-cheap experience. And maybe you get to sit at tables with chairs. Speceriet is high chair territory and that’s usually enough to put me off. But I had an idea that I would find a lighter touch than I’d so far been eating and my stomach really need that. So, I balanced on a chair at a high table and looked at their lunch menu for this week:

THE PACKAGE

Choose one of the lunch dishes, something sweet and coffee 195

VEGETARIAN

Carrots, honey, egg and kale 135 (take out 105)

“ALMOST VEGETARIAN”

Cabbage, celeriac, parsley and smoked pork 135 (take out 105)

FISH

Rose fish, tomato, fennel and potatoe 135 (take out 105)

DESSERT

Berries, cream cheese and short bread 65

I had the fish. ‘We don’t have any rose left, so it is another white fish’. I conveyed my indifference. I don’t know one fish from another. Suffice to say it was flakey, soft, really very nice. The tomato was a concentration, but refined, more as I had wanted in my fish soup at Aubergine. The fennel was delicate. The bread at meals in Stockholm is always good quality, but I’d say this was best, ditto for the accompanying butter.

We went back for dinner, small dishes meant to be shared. It was a good deal more expensive than lunch and I found it hard to come away with a definitive opinion as to whether it had all worked. I need to give it another chance, which will be on another trip.

Bobonne is an excellent restaurant which had me thinking, as usual, that by getting out of French areas, one can find acceptable French fare. The usual fabulous lunchtime value. Dinner time is more expensive, a small menu strongly oriented to meat and seafood. Unlike Speceriet, which has the sort of music people willing to sit on highchairs might take to, Bobonne is low key and as the place fills, the music is not turned up, so the endless cycle one suffers in Australia of music louder, people louder, doesn’t happen. Why do Australian restaurants find that hard? Friendly expert service – the second time I went there I was immediately given the table we asked to be moved to on our first visit. How nice to feel like a regular instantly! And the staff had that feeling that they were a big family, the open kitchen was a pleasure to view, unlike most which are loud, tense and frenetic.

Ciao Ciao Grande is a pasta/pizza establishment rumoured to be the place favoured by the Royals when they fancy a ham and pineapple. The service was impersonal and atmosphere, much as it is described as candle lit at night, was totally lacking, not least because food delivery people were rushing in and out. I read of an Adelaide restaurant recently pointedly stating that it did not consider it was appropriate to subject its eating guests to this and I’m going to start a list! If I go out for a meal, I don’t expect it to feel like I’m in the middle of a takeaway. Having said that, we both thought our pasta dishes were better than we expected, but I’m not sure if that’s because we were feeling like we’d made a terrible mistake as we were waiting for them.

We went to NK and I somehow expected the lovely places to eat that one finds in London at places like Harrods and F&M. But instead all the settings were cafeterias, lining up to buy prepared food which was not even an attractive price. I was surprised.

Saluhall is in a temporary structure at the moment whilst the historic building is being renovated. I suspect it’s a fair bit smaller, but has ample of everything to please the diner in or taker out as I discovered once or twice, though nothing stands out as deserving special mention.

Finally, we went to The Grand, which is the only posh hotel in Stockholm. The Verandah Restaurant fills up quite early with people doing the buffet dinner. I talked Manny into going really early so we could be out by the time that was happening. We got window seats with the iconic water views while we ate:

Grilled fillet of char with deep-fried scallop, broccoli purée, Lavaret roe, edamame beans, green peas, white wine sauce and green asparagus SEK 305

Salt cured salmon with dill-creamed potatoes SEK 230

Manny tried this for dessert: Chocolate cake with whisky purée, milk chocolate cream and cherry sorbet SEK 120, passing up on a concoction that included pickled cucumber:

Yoghurt variation with dill and white chocolate crème and pickled cucumber  SEK 110

If you want to stuff your face on a good quality buffet in nice surrounds, this is definitely the place to be. But I’m glad we went for something more refined than that. Fish with green vegetables done posh was a welcome treat for me after a week of meat and cream.

Conclusion: I don’t really understand the Swedish fixation with sweet, fatty/creamy and salty. Maybe it’s historic from when it was the only way to stay warm, but in modern days of overheated indoors, it seems odd to me. I also don’t understand why good quality greens are so rare. Is it lack of demand?

 

Adelaide: food out

EATING OUT

Chianti Classico  is still my favourite breakfast place in Adelaide. Sophisticated menu, impeccable service. However, there are many great sounding places that we didn’t get to this time. Unlike other trips we stayed in our own place and sitting in one’s backyard eating breakfast under the shade of a vine has its attractions.

Ichitaro is is a world-class Japanese restaurant on King William St Hyde Park. Its lunch menu on Fridays and Saturdays is plain unbelievable value and its evening offerings are masterly in taste and presentation, whilst remaining excellent value too. Whereas we will be able to go to London for good breakfasts when we are back in Geneva, nothing will replace Ichitaro.

Mrs Q Gouger St. Good Asian fusion, nice surrounds, overly attentive waiters ( large place, we were early), generous serves, will be back.

Vietnamese Laundry We dropped in for a quick lunch the other day, tried the salads, a really nice heat to them, excellent value at $12 or so per serve.

Lucky Lupitas  We almost didn’t get here, it’s up towards the North end of O’Connell’s St and we had to walk past the enticing smells from a Greek restaurant to get there. We managed, but only just. Just a quick meal, but it was darn good – Manny said it would hold its own in California which prides itself on its Mexican. I can only compare it with the dire Mexican interpretation that New Mexico inflicts upon unsuspecting tourists. No wonder the Mexicans want to build a wall.

Katsumoto is a simple cafe in Gays Arcade, it does cheap unpretentious lunches. We can’t go past the eel and the eggplant to date.

Larry and Ladd There will be a moment in your life when you need a toasted cheese sandwich that very moment and I can only wish, even upon my enemies, that they find Larry and Ladd close to hand. Their plain toasted sandwich is practically life-saving.

Naturally we tried out some of the places close to us. In no particular order:

Sublime East Ave. Everybody should live on a short street with a cafe at the end of it!

Carnevale East Ave. Even closer than Sublime. You can get freshly ground coffee/beans to take home, as well as all the usual things onsite.

The Middle Store Winston Ave. Sort of Lebanesey, nice!

Dear Daisy  Leah Street. Cute, and like the others named above, all nice places to hang out.

Bar Fifty 8 Brand new, a couple of us grabbed coffee there on our way back from lunch at the Rice Bar and it was declared excellent. It has a good look about it and we look forward to lunch there some time.

Pickle in the Middle I just love this breakfast dish and haven’t yet managed to get past it: Breakfast greens 16 Poached egg, shredded kale, Asian greens, snow peas, whole oat kernels and lentil sprouts, toasted seeds, watermelon radish, orange. If you ask me it sounds weird at best, but honestly? It’s fantastic!!

By Blackbird Still haven’t been here – it has a dark look from the street which somehow puts me off – but a friend brought their cakes around recently and they are stunning. In the posh cake French style Manny thought they were at least as good as anything he’s had in Geneva. We are going to have to bite the bullet and go there one day.

A small intro to the next two. One of the things that makes Adelaide special is non-licensed cafes that open at night, generally specialising in dessert. The atmosphere is totally different from places that serve grog. Long may they thrive!

Eggless Cafe Famous doesn’t begin to describe this place. We had to go three times before we joined a queue small enough that we could actually get in when it opened! The first time I swear it was about minus 2 degrees, strong wind, rain, we got there a few minutes after opening time and yet the best we could do is put our name on the waiting list and try coming back in 45 minutes. Which we did not do. Instead we went to….

Spats Cafe  A blast to the past if ever there was one. Seventies written all over it. We love it and to have both this and Eggless Cafe (which is so very different from Spats) within a short walk of each other is very lucky for us. Spats isn’t quite as crowded as Eggless, but it’s close. You can book.

I can see there are many eating out experiences we’ll be leaving for our next visit, this one coming to a close soon. I pray that Adelaide doesn’t end up like Melbourne with too many cafes and not enough anything elses. For now, it has a great balance and more on that next post.

Food notes: Berlin 2016

Melbourne Canteen is closed. What a shame!

The Silo: is still excellent for Australian food and coffee.

The Pantry: I was disappointed. I understand that the chef of this Asiany sort of place was trained in Melbourne but I’m a little surprised at the consequences. To me the food lacked balance. Too much sweetness, not enough of the sour, hot and salt that create the completeness of flavour. Everything tasted a bit like Rosella tomato sauce. The famous ribs were rather bland, I thought.

La Banca: Is the bistro of the Hotel di Rome. It does a fabulous lunch menu: 3 courses plus tea/coffee and bottled water 26Eu. The food was impeccable, service good, music was not intrusive, though not always to our taste. It was a nice place to take one’s time, it serves all day and therefore there is no rush to get you out the door. My only gripe after several meals here was that they had something called ‘lasagne’ on the dinner menu which was awful. It had one sheet of pasta at the bottom of the plate, and on top a horribly sweet lumpy meat sauce which they misguidedly called ‘bolognaise’. Nothing like any bol sauce I’ve ever eaten.

Tea was excellent, good quality pots, extra water when asked (not having to ask would be better) and nice china.

The Lobby at The Regent: The menu here is more substantial than one would guess from looking at their site. It includes schnitzel, for example, which was simply served with fried potatoes and a sweet sauce, perhaps cranberry, served on the side.

Its tea was same standard as La Banca’s, served similarly. Again, one had to ask for extra hot water, but it came in a pot as requested. The music is classical. At 12 Eu/pot I would expect no less. Fabulous iced chocolates, by the way.

Aigner: We only ate here once, we had fish soup, which was good, but not great. It was a special and maybe expecting better than good in an Austrian restaurant was unreasonable.

Monsieur Vuong: Very trendy, theoretically Vietnamese, though traditionalists will roll their eyes at that. I had Pho which was very short on herbs and the beef was too posh for the purpose. Don’t get me wrong, I wolfed it down. We were all very happy. The place is a licence to print money, it was large and packed at 6.30pm in a country where people seem to eat fairly late. If you are in the area, it’s fun and worth a visit.

No Fire No Glory: one of the best regarded coffee places in Berlin. Okay also for simple breakfasts like granola, but it isn’t like Silo, caffeine is what it’s all about. Good atmosphere, Australian at the counter.

Cafe Moma: Manny (my coffee tester) pronounced this the best of the three he’d had that morning, which must make it outstanding, since there must have been some sort of diminishing returns thing going on there. Australian behind the counter. Must go back for food.

Cafe Stockholm: has a great feel to it, love to have the time to have a leisurely cafe meal here on another visit. Cinnamon bun nice, but I think I made a mistake having it heated. Micro-waving things like that never works. Coffee was okay, but behind Moma and No Fire. All are within a few minutes’ walk from each other.

Microsoft Eatery: The drinks are great: excellent tea, good coffee, juices squeezed to order. The lunch food we ordered was terrible. Breakfast was better, but the bircher muesli was so thick one could hardly get a spoon into it. Fortunately we’d ordered a serve of yoghurt and fruit too and mixing them together worked. Stick to drinks is my advice!

Cadadia: does a nice blueberry scone of that Germanic type: huge, heavy, dense. Other things will have to wait for another time.