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So, is it really worth it to spend the night in London on the way back from Malta? Why yes. Yes it is. If you stay at the Zetter.

We tried out room 505 this visit, which was a new one for NPS. The porch is fantastic (though London weather remains dreary).

The bathroom is slightly bigger than 503 but we still have to ignore the shower curtain.

Have some Ramen at the incredibly authentic Monohon Ramen.

And cap off the night with a cocktail at the Zetter Townhouse (where they brought me a Liberal 3 minutes after I arrived, unasked. Thanks Guy!).

Quick overnight visit two thumbs up and five showerheads to the Zetter.

The group we host on an annual basis is getting big (well over 200 now) and that means finding an appropriate venue is getting harder. Fortunately the Omni Montelucia was a great choice for this year’s conference. Gorgeous setting. Updated property. Top notch food and drinks. Well trained and attentive staff. Awesome!

About the only wrinkle with the Omni Montelucia is getting there from the east coast. Flying to/from Pheonix is not the best or the most efficient, but that can be a plus too if you want to get a bunch of very busy people “off the grid” for a couple of days of concentrated work. (BTW, American Air just sucks. My favorite thing was a twitter suggestion from American customer service to remove stuff from the seat ahead for more room. Fuck right on off!)

The conference organizers lined up suite 129 for NPS. It was “pretty not bad” as our friend Sammy says. In fact, it was just as nice as any suite we’ve ever had.

Suite 129

Greeted with a cocktail and a personal note. Very nice. Thanks! (Oh and sparkly water too.)

The bathroom was spectacular with a NPS approved glass shower also incorporating stone and multiple showerheads.

Wait for it

This shower is perfect

Are we spoiled? Should we not be spoiled?

All showers like this always come with an unused side of bathtub

But by far the best part of 129 was the large porch. Each night we entertained on the porch with candles and Liberals (Amer Picon brought from home).

129 porch

View of the porch

View from the porch

View from the porch

One minor quibble about the porch. The weather was so perfect that NPS wanted to keep the huge sliding glass triple door open all night. Sadly the resort musak also played all night in the courtyard of the restaurant. So the doors had to close at 3am.

The bar was also prepped by advance troops (in the form of Noelie) who informed them that they would need more absinthe STAT for CR#2s. That was a very good call. The barkeeps were all greatly accommodating and eager to learn.

And the resort food for 200? Very very well done. Could not really ask for improvement there.

After the conference, we left in an afternoon for play. A hike in the desert. A dip in the pool. And one of the best meals of my life at Sel in Scottsdale.

Camelback Mountain

Five showerheads and nothing to add. Heck six showerheads for the Omni Monelucia. Wishing for a quick return on any other airline than American.

It may be a gray day in London, but it’s blue in room 503 at the Zetter hotel.

And that’s a good thing, because blue is the new red. Loyal readers may recall room 503 used to be red. A complete makeover has occurred making the room cozier and even more modern seeming.

But what’s best is that room 503 was waiting for us when we arrived at 10:15 in the morning after a flight across the pond (about more which see this Delta Does Business posting). So nice to be recognized and taken care of properly. Wonder why the Zetter is better? Well, that’s one reason. Thanks Fabian.

Blue 503 skylight highlight

The Zetter room 503 comfy bed

Zetter sitting now featuring carpet and a modern bar

About the only thing that has not changed is the bathroom which remains nice but small and does feature a tub/shower combo thingy. Tell no one.

The shower is nothing to write home (or blog) about, but it sure feels good after a long flight

The best feature of room 503 is the bank of windows overlooking London. You can see both the gerkin and the shard from bed.

Looking out

Looking in

503 features a fantastic balcony

So all is well at the Zetter. Now we must now manage to stay up all day somehow. Sleep is for the weak.

Stay awake by walking around London in a daze

Lunch at St John is an excellent option.

Real bread at St John

The Tate

As always the Tate is a great place to while away some time. This trip, NPS discovered an entirely new wing?!

Tate Modern

First Iris in London

A sushi dinner at Sosharu was passable. Sosharu is trying to make sushi appealing too close to a train station. Skip it.

Fortunately, a cocktail or two at the Zetter Townhouse was in order. Funny how every time NPS shows up here we have to teach them to make a Liberal all over again. At least they still have the Amer Picon on hand. Back bar fernet with Guy was something that happened.

Amer Picon in the Zetter Townhouse

Also of note during our Zetter time in London:

Dinner at Texture (not as impressive as it should have been).

Brunch at Chiltern Firehouse

A fire at the Chiltern Firehouse in May

A visit to the Artesian bar at the Langham (after tea was ditched in favor of cocktails).

Artesian

Cocktail whose name escapes us

The British Museum

Cocktails at the Aemrican Bar in the Savoy.

The American Bar (wingspan)

A Spinning Jenny is presented on its own little pedestal. Spinning Jenny
45 ml bombay sapphire
15 ml cocchi americano
10 ml pear eau de vie (williams)
15 ml Yerba Mate
15 ml grenadine
soda
Stir. Fizz. Collins rocks. Pedestal.

A new blue five showerheads for the Zetter.

Lafayette, CA is tucked away in the hills behind Berkeley, CA, through the tunnel and into an HO Railroad time warp. This cute little town is a classic Bay area amalgam of chic and blue collar in only the way that California can be. Lafayette Park fancies itself an upscale destination resort designed like a French Châteaux. In reality it is more like a local wedding location just off the highway next to a row of car detailing places.

All decked out for Santa

All decked out for Santa

Lafayette Park is part of the family-owned Woodside hotel group that includes the Plaza Hotel in Monterey. Frankly, the Plaza Hotel is a notch or three farther up the food chain (and we’re not just saying this because we were in the Presidential Suite last time we were there). That said, Lafayette has a few things going for it and a few things to fix.

For example, the food is remarkably good for hotel food. But the meeting rooms are dated and stuffy. The staff is gracious and well trained. But the same staff has a hard time going off script (as an example, try having the front desk deal with your car valet because the valet line is four deep and there is no time. No really, I am going to want you to do that.) The common rooms have interesting design. But the bathrooms (even in the superior class rooms) need serious redesign.

So it’s hit and miss.

NPS was assigned 354 (not the Presidential Suite sadly). The room has a fantastic ceiling and a real wood burning fireplace (sans wood of course since this is California but rather stocked with a walmart grade fire log?!). But (there it is again that proverbial “but”) who decided to keep the circa 1974 mirrored closet. At least the hangers are real hangers (but you can see on the pole back to the time when they were not).

Excellent ceiling

Excellent ceiling

Dated, but at the same time classic design in 354

Dated, but at the same time classic design in 354

A solid wooden writing table

A solid wooden writing table

But really, WTF?!

But really, WTF?!

The real drawback as far as this blog and its particular hangups goes is the bathroom design. Just start over.

Nope

Nope

So much tile ruined by obesity bar

So much tile ruined by obesity bar

Why all hotel bathrooms in properties grasping to be upscale still have shower curtains over bathtubs is beyond us here at NPS. We travel for glass showers.

Apparently somebody got some kind of memo WRT NPS arrival, because there was fruit and san pellegrino. Whoever brought this stuff up forgot to remove the default “upsell water” (an NPS pet peeve) and management seems to have overlooked the idea of writing a note. Oh well. So close and so “but.”

Fruit and sparkling water, a nice touch

Fruit and sparkling water, a nice touch

no

no

One last quibble or two and we’ll shut up. Outlets by the bed. Get some. Delete the clock radio from a previous decade. And conjur up some espresso to avoid the 5am walk to Starbucks just down the street (past all those car detailing places and Ace hardware).

All in all Lafayette Park earns four showerheads and best wishes for “but”-eradication. I guess we get surly when we travel during no fly noël. Can’t be helped.

Dressed up for Christmas at Lafayette Park

Dressed up for Christmas at Lafayette Park

The cocktail scene in Lafayette was surprisingly decent. After dinner at Postino one evening, we went around the corner to The Cooperage for a cocktail or two.

We were ably served by Ryan Wehrenberg who played along nicely with our gin range shenanigans.

Ryan also happens to be a local distillery rep for Bay Area Distilling company.

He mixed us up a cocktail called the chimneysweep which was interesting but not quite ready for prime time.

1.5 oz vodka
.5 oz orgeat
.5 oz lo-fi gentian amer
.5 oz fernet
.5 oz lemon juice
2 dashes bitter girl orange bitters
dash activated charcoal
shake. double strain into glass atomized with laphroig

The drink looked better than it tasted.

Back at the Lafayette Park hotel bar, we proceeded to get into the William Larue Weller (2016 edition)

The next evening we shlepped into San Fran for a business meeting at Forgery. They still have the bottle of Amer Picon that NPS dropped there before opening night.

We were served by a delightful server who dutifully made us a Liberal and then moved on to this “so darn close” cocktail Experiment Fifty-seven

.75 oz tio pepe palomino fino sherry
.5 oz amer picon
.25 oz agave syrup
1 oz partida añejo
.5 oz lemon juice
2 dashes bitter truth grapefruit
shake. serve up with lemon peel.

The concensus at our table was that the grapefruit bitters were overkill. Anyway, we’ll play with that one back at Coal Stove Sink Bar.

And guess who showed up? Our great friend Jacques Bezuidenhout himself. What a delight. And CONGRATULATIONS!

Not only is the Hotel Marlowe (in Cambridge, MA really) a beautiful property, it is a well-oiled hospitality machine. GM Joe Capalbo always treats NPS as a friend and colleague. One of the highlights of any Boston visit is catching up with Joe.

Hotel Marlowe

Hotel Marlowe

NPS visits do seem to coincide with visits by the owners of the hotel. That keeps Joe pretty busy. It also tends to occupy the presidential suite, but that’s OK because room 621 is fantastic all on its own.

621 Executive Suite

621 Executive Suite

621 Natural Light

621 Natural Light

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Outstanding

Outstanding

Check out this cool decanter.

Barrel aged Boulevardier

Barrel aged Boulevardier

The only minor detail left out was still water versus sparkling. But you know, all those blue bottles look the same! The oversight was easily remedied.

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621 has a fine bathroom situation. Glass showers!

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Dinner at Sportello was very nice. It’s always great to catch up with old friends. Afterwards, our plan was to sneak down to drink by the back stairs. Our plan failed when we were told we would have to stand around for 20 minutes before getting a seat. Things used to be much smoother between drink and sportello three years ago! Ezra was in London anyway.

Fortunately the manager at sportello detected our disappointment and ushered us right next door to Menton’s Gold Bar.

Cap’n Cook
.75 oz chamomile syrup (2:1)
.25 oz luxardo lemoncello
.5 oz salers
1.5 oz grappa
1 dash Dr. Adam Elmegirab’s spanish bitters
1 gram olive oil powder
Stir down. Serve over large cube. Spoon powder on cube.

Spectre
1 oz grappa
.25 ransom old tom gin
1.5 oz barolo chinato

The barrel aged Boulevardier that Patrick made was so good that we had to go down to Bambara and get another!

Dinner at Craigie on Main was spectacular as always. Whole roasted chicken, great wine, and superior cocktails makes Craigie a top destination.

A final nightcap or two at Journeyman backbar included house made milk punch and a Liberal made with real Amer Picon. Somebody has been to France!

All told this was a five showerhead visit to Boston hands down. Lets do it again!

#LondonCulling

April 16, 2016

Well it seemed like a good idea at the time.

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How many fabulous cocktails bars can you visit in 12 or so hours (without rushing)? Who will be left standing (or wobbling) at the end of the day? And most importantly, who will be culled?

We began at the Hutong restaurant at the Shard. The view was fantastic, the food was good, and the company was superb, but the most ridiculous part was the urinals (with a view over the city).

Our supposedly quick tube ride over to the Savoy was thwarted by British public transportation ridiculousness. Tried to buy three day cards on the underground. One was printed, my card was charged for three and a cryptic error message that was entirely unhelpful was displayed. After 15 minutes trying to solve the problem and get a supervisor to give us a refund, we decided the process was not worth completing. So you owe me 24 pounds London underground!

The best part? We used the tickets once.

We started at the American Bar in the Savoy which has a fancy new menu as of January. As always, the drinks were as pretty as they were delicious.
savoy american

The best drink we had was no longer on the menu—the wingspan. A recipe can be found in this NPS entry.

Wingspan: American Bar: Savoy: London

Wingspan: American Bar: Savoy: London

We had attempted to head down to the Beaufort bar around 4:15 until we discovered that it was not open until 5. That left us time for a wingspan. Then we had our bill transferred down.

The beaufort has an entirely different jibe.

The Pan American Highway
20 ml bacardi 8
15 ml zacapa 23
15 ml diplomatico
10 ml amer picon
2.5 ml fernet branca menta
10 ml roasted coffee maple syrup
3 dashes chocolate bitters
Stir down. Strain. Serve in coupe with an interesting piece of ice.

A few light snacks of gruyere and foie gras were not quite satisfying us at this point. So it was off to find some light dinner.

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We ended up at Blind as a Pig where our very cute waitress was happy to play along with our silly shenanigans. Emergency clothes pins were distributed.

Our emergency clothes pin supplier was remiss to be photographed

Our emergency clothes pin supplier was remiss to be photographed

We did some napkin art as follows, which seemed entirely clever at the time.

Sated with mac and cheese, fish and chips, and other finger food, and protected by our large supply of emergency clothes pins, we were off.

Next up was the posh Connaught Bar. Connaught is run by Sardinians, who would dearly like to have some fun but who are not really sure whether they are allowed to.

We introduced the Connaught to the Liberal.

Then it was midnight and time for the great cull. What happened? Everybody dropped out but NPS! Lol. I believe it might have been wiser to stop myself.

In memorium of those who left us during the great cull #londonculling

In memorium of those who left us during the great cull #londonculling

Instead, it was off to visit the Dandelyon Bar at the Mondrian again. By now it seems that we know everybody, but it was a special treat when Iain Griffiths was in the house. Iain helps Mr Lyan create new properties. The planet is small.

Could this really be a good idea?

Could this really be a good idea?

Finally, all energy was gone and it was up the lift to crash. Candles on the porch were a special touch.

The Hotel Fabian has a computer now and they know I have been here before! Yay. On this nth visit I was upgraded to a very sweet suite 412. Thanks Fabian!

Room 412 has a table

Room 412 has a table

And a living area

And a living area

And a big old bed

And a big old bed

The best part of room 412 and Hotel Fabian is the incredibly great shower. I mean great. Best shower in Europe great.

412 bathroom

412 bathroom

This shower is just so good

This shower is just so good

I guess hot showers may just feel better when it is -2C outside in the morning.

The lobby downstairs is an excellent place for a glass of wine after travel (or a long day of BSIMM interviews).

The high art lobby at Hotel Fabian

The high art lobby at Hotel Fabian

Five plus showerheads for the Hotel Fabian.

A fancy pants dinner at Spis was very interesting, but more interesting than good. Subdued flavors that clim to be Nordic. Some surprising combinations. Ultimately I think the are just trying too hard. The dessert stuff was best constructed and world class.

Then it was off to Liberty or Death, a fantastic cocktail bar. (Someone needs to get them the memo that the Partrick Henry quote their name is from was hijacked by the right wing Tea Party morons in the United States…because these people are clearly liberal as all get out.) We were served by two “cocktail bastards” Andreas Cederström and Jaakko Väyrynen. Jaakko was super and in edition to making us a liberal (with red vermouth that was way too good), we tried some house made drinks.

The Red Shoe
40 ml monkey 47 gin (german)
30 ml creme de framboise
2 dashes Peychauds bitters
5 ml Raspberry red wine vinegar (house made)
1 t or less simple syrup
Mix together and then carbonate! quite a gorgeous concoction indeed. looks like we will be adding carbonation capability to the bar.

La Mancha Negra
25 ml Poli Morbida (grappa moscato)
10 ml cynar
10 ml aperol
5 ml Francaise guy (absynthe)
1 t simple syrup
3 dashes The Bitter Truth Jerry Thomas bitters (a fruity thing)
shake. strain in to cocktail glass. this one is missing something in the middle but a fine start. the grappa is too think. I think working it with a harsher grappa might help. And a deeper bitters.

We had an absolute blast at Liberty or Death which is by far the best bar in Helsinki. The people at Son of a Punch do great work. They are distilling spirits (tried the gin which is very very aromatic), importing great stuff, and staffing excellent bars. Note that we did attain a new target speakeasy not yet marked or marketed (Katariinankatu).

Final thought of the night: “A tattoo without equity is madness.

Then it will drag tomorrow on my 8.5 hour United airlines international flight with no upgrade. United just sucks.

How to charge your phone (kludge) at F-Secure

How to charge your phone (kludge) at F-Secure