May 15, 2015
The American Bar and the Beaufort Bar at the Savoy have some serious cocktail history. We finally visited.
The Silver Bullet
50 ml Sipsmith gin
25 ml lemon juice
25 ml Kummel
Stir. Serve up.
Oh, and the plumbing in the gents at the Savoy is a complete UK riot.
Then there was The Bar at the Dorchester where we had Harry’s cocktail. Simply fantastic.
Dinner across the hall at the grill was not good at all. Skip it.
We ended with the Liberal.
Anyway much fun. Rolling blackouts. The usual. Hard to get up to catch the plane home.
Yes, I know. Tradition and all that. Oakley Court will very likely turn out to be a great place to run a meeting (it was OK), but boy is it old school.
For example, there is a library, and an observatory, and a boat on the Thames. But the price of admission is a plastic shower and you know how we feel about those around here.
Room 206 is apparently quite the special room, but perhaps not outside the UK. Lets compare to the previous conference location, shall we? Heck, does hotel management even know that we caused this to happen?
Hmm. No note, no ultra special room, no craft cocktails, no fireside chat setup, and no creativity to make any of it happen. Just sayin’.
So junior suite 206 looks like this.
And the downfall.
And there are some things we just don’t understand, like this mysterious device.
But there is the Thames, and there are lots of good people here to hang out with.
Four slightly mildewed showerheads for Oakley Court. Yes, we are spoiled. Jennifer, where are you when we need you??
On the restaurant front, this area near Windsor is astoundingly good. Dinner at the three star Waterside Inn was the best complete dining experience we have ever had. Fantastic. Attention to detail and superior service without even one iota of pretension.
Also good was the local pub the Hinds Head, which doubles as a michelin star restaurant. Pea soup with mint is not much like mushy peas.
Mixology-wise, your best bet is to train in to London on the fast train. No interesting cocktails to be had within miles.
May 12, 2015
Beauty is only skin deep, and sometimes it is even less deep than that. Deceptively pretty and wired looking from afar, the Made in Louise hotel has aspirations beyond its class. The setting is quaint and pretty, and the gardens have lots of birds and trees, but ultimately too many corners have been cut in the Ikea-inspired design for this hotel to reach boutique class.
It seems to be designed for pensioners on vacation who would like to stay in “one of those hip new places” but who are not really sure what that means. The construction of room 31 provides a good example. The style is not bad, but its implementation is cheap. And in some cases the facade gives way entirely and the Ptompkin reality settles in.
Of course we’re looking into the shower situation every time we try a new property.
The main problem with the cheap construction is the noise in the morning when the building wakes up. You can hear every shower’s water hit the floor and each toilet flush. And those great birds from the afternoon become a serious nuisance around 5:30am. Also the window shades may look cool, but they fail to block the light. Sleep? Who needs it?!
Breakfast? Forgettable. Utterly. We can’t even remember what we had and our plate is still sitting beside us.
So all told, three very low showerheads for this place. It’s not bad, but it is really no better than a Marriott in many ways.
We will not be back.
In town for an event, we were pleased to visit Madou’s Provence whose food continues to live up to its reputation. Here is a little gem that punches way above its weight class.
Sadly the only craft cocktail bar in town (Hortense) is closed Monday through Wednesday. So we slummed it at Floris bar which has an insane collection of absinthe (hundreds of bottles) but is also a super seedy dive often hit with a wash of humanity seeking beer and thumping music. Our server Alice was great, but no.
Anyway, there is better to be discovered in Brussels, and we definitely need to visit again.
May 11, 2015
It’s sunny this Sunday in London. We’re sure that is an anomaly.
Refreshed from a morning visit to the Zetter, we settled into room 11 at the Zetter Townhouse across the square after a light lunch.
Just like across the street, it is great to be recognized when you walk in!
There is a glass shower.
Then it was off to the British Museum for a few hours. First time visit even though I have lost count of how many I have been to London. Here are some impressions.
An early and truly fantastic dinner was had at the Chiltern Firehouse. Truly exceptional flavors. Followed by too many Liberals and too much ping pong at the Zetter Townhouse living room. Marco served us well.
NPS is briefly in London again, staying at the Zetter Townhouse. As it always goes on international travel days from the States, we showed up way early for check in. Way way early.
Never fear! Though the Zetter Townhouse was filled to the gills, the kind general manager Fabian Sanchis at the Zetter found us a room to crash in. So incredibly cool. Thanks Fabian.
It really is nice to be recognized when you arrive at a hotel.
Room 102 is a tiny little high style room with two important features: a bed and a shower. After a long, fitful pod ride on Virgin Atlantic, the bed was most welcome. Yes, a nap was had. We must be getting old.
So how does Virgin Atlantic Upper Class stack up against United BusinessFirst? Though it pains us to say this, things are pretty much about the same with an edge to United. Food? Airplane bad. Typical blitzkrieged steak. Well, maybe it started as steak?! Cheese? Good (the same). Wine? Decent (the same). Pod? Nowhere near as comfortable on Virgin Atlantic. The pod design does make for a flatter bed that is a bit flatter and more padded though not as wide, but in order to transform to bed mode, you have to get out of the seat and recombobulate everything. And seat mode lacks a left armrest, has an uncomfortable tilt mode, and is pretty cramped. In the age of sophisticated transformer toy design, there is really no reason for that.
Breakfast is better on Virgin Atlantic for sure, and the crew is much friendlier and seems more professional. So all in all it’s a surprise major toss up between United and Virgin Atlantic.
International travel beats domestic hands down for sure, but rumors that the Virgin Atlantic experience is something astounding turn out to have been greatly exaggerated. Mostly that’s because the United international experience in business class is actually (still) very reasonable.
Pile on the fact that Virgin Atlantic and Virgin America don’t really have a seamlessly integrated frequent flyer system, and you have a problem if you travel internationally very often. That is, you can’t use your status or points on Virgin America to upgrade on Virgin Atlantic (though you can book an award trip in Upper Class). That sucks.
Live and learn.
Anyhoo, back to room 102 and awesomeness at the Zetter.
So now we’re rested, showered, and up, and the sun is temporarily out, and life seems almost close to normal. Just in time for a (admittedly very early) business dinner at the Chiltern Firehouse.
Five showerheads and a big thank you to the Zetter and to Fabian.
April 30, 2015
The Drake Hotel is in the up and coming part of Toronto that keeps surprising people by being so cool. It’s slightly ahead of its time, but its time is coming on fast. If you like quirky artist type stuff, the Drake is for you.
We were assigned room 205, which has a style all its own, featuring ridiculous furniture, interesting colors, and, well, a really big train luggage rack?!
Apparently there are no plastic showers at the Drake. For obvious reasons, No Plastic Showers affirms this with a stamp of approval.
Rumor has it among the cocktail people of the planet that the bar here is very good indeed. We will have to find out later. We do appreciate the prefab cocktail capability found in the room. Ha.
Checkin involved a friendly aussie. The net is fast and free. The sun is out on the patio in the cafe. Just nailing it today.
Oh and there was a pre-computed fill-in-the-blank note and a caramel popcorn amenity. That’s nice, though we are SO VERY SPOILED by the Kimpton people that we forget there is not a handwritten note, a gorgeous snack plate, a craft cocktail, and sparkling water in every hotel room. Alas.
Five shower heads and a wink and a nod to the Drake hotel. Fun.
Too bad about the corporate dinner at the steakhouse thing (Hy’s). Would rather eat here.
Actually Hy’s turned out to have incredibly great service and a perfect atmosphere for our event.
The bar at the Drake was a raucous and fun place for a late night drink or two. Excellent bourbon selection and very nicely crafted cocktails made by Gordon Hannah. Gordon was kind enough to provide cocktail recipes for two drinks, but morning came so early that they were somehow left behind at airport security or the global entry kiosk or something. Alas.
But there is hope. Savannah Morin, who mans the front desk email pile at the Drake, very kindly contacted Gordon and got the recipes. Here they are:
Rust and bone
1.5 oz cedar infused bourbon (apparently needs friends to be good)
.5 oz benedictine
.5 oz amaro nonino
stir, strain over a big cube, luxardo
1oz cedar infused bourbon
1 oz calvados
.5 oz fernet branca
.5 oz maple syrup
stir, serve over ice in a collins, apple slice garnish
World class mixology at the Drake peppered by disinterested beer drinkers and 20 somethings. Nice scene.
Oh, and never make promises after 4 cocktails at the Drake! Defaced books on their way.
April 29, 2015
The Moscow Mule is very easy to make. About the only difficult bit is finding some copper Moscow Mule cups. That’s where Cardinal Spirits comes in. They provided me with some first run Vodka and some Moscow Mule cups last trip out to Bloomington.
So Moscow Mules it is!
1.5 oz Cardinal Vodka
1 wedge of lime
real ginger beer (barritts or home made)
pour the vodka over the ice, squeeze in the lime, add ginger beer. if you’re feeling adventurous, stir!