Luxury Travel and Lifestyle Blog

Unique Hotels: Hotel 10, Montreal

"Believe in something." - Dédé Fortin

Montreal; edgy, nonconformist, seductive and bohemian. A cultural chameleon with bundles of European charm, a vibrant arts scene, mouth-watering food and home to one of the most extraordinarily unique hotels that I've ever had the pleasure of visiting. 

On the corner of Sherbrooke Street West and St Lawrence Boulevard stands Hotel 10. From the outside, it looks like many other modern boutique hotels; a contemporary, grey, square structure with floor-to-ceiling glass windows lining half of its external perimeter. It's only when you venture inside that you realise Hotel 10 is in a class of its own. Behind the glass lies an ultra-modern reception area complete with stylish furnishings, offering guests a glimpse of what to expect from the rest of the hotel. Sophisticated, abstract and chic and with striking bursts of colour. 

But there's more to this than meets the eye.

Hotel 10 actually comprises of two contrasting buildings that live in harmony. It may not be obvious to the average passerby but the contemporary grey structure was built to complement its art nouveau neighbour; an original residential building built by Joseph Arthur Godin, which dates back to 1915. In bringing the old and the new together, Hotel 10 has created a space that remains true to its heritage but is bang on trend. And in return, the whole hotel has an incredible sense of character which mirrors Montreal's personality perfectly.

Whatever the occasion, Hotel 10 has a tastefully furnished room for all. Single rooms, double rooms, privilege and deluxe rooms as well as a glorious selection of luxury suites to make your stay even more comfortable. From deep-soak bath tubs and LCD TVs to large lounging areas and vintage sofas, each suite is so comfortable and unique that a regular room will no longer suffice. 

Of all the rooms at Hotel 10, there's one so special it will bring tears to your eyes: Suite 2116. Located in the original Godin building, Suite 2116 pays homage to Dédé Fortin, the lead singer of Les Colocs, who formerly resided in this exact room in the 1990s. Thanks to Dédé, Les Colocs had a huge impact on the Montreal music scene and were the inspiration to many musicians in the early 2000s. Sadly on 8th May 2000, Dédé took his own life but his legacy lives on through his music, his family and here at Hotel 10. Around Suite 2116, you will find hand-written notes from Dédé himself, stained glass windows and a mural dedicated to his life, enabling guests to share a moment with him and to fully immerse themselves in his art.

Along with its heart-achingly beautiful story, Suite 2116 is also full of life's little luxuries. Being the corner room, its large windows fill the space with light while a round vintage loveseat overlooks Downtown Montreal. In keeping with the hotel, the suite is furnished superbly with pops of blue and yellow. With a king-sized bed, an enormous mirrored bathroom and sleek sofas, guests can relax and unwind with Dédé in comfort. As Suite 2116 is so close to Hotel 10's heart, a 10% donation from each reservation is made to the Dédé Fortin Foundation, which is dedicated to the prevention of suicide and mental health disorders. 

For those looking for the ultimate luxury apartment within a hotel, the Penthouse is the perfect escape. A home from home. Spread over two floors with floor-to-ceiling wraparound windows overlooking Montreal, a 'floating' loft bedroom with a king-sized bed, a stunning bathroom complete with a deep bathtub and a walk-in shower, automatic window shades, a contemporary lounge area, a dining room and a fully furnished kitchen, this is a suite with pizzazz aplenty so why not push the boat out? 

There are so many great restaurants in Montreal but once settled in at Hotel 10, you don't really have to leave! A buffet style breakfast is served daily in Espace Godin - the beautiful space created to join the old building to the new - bringing guests the best of local and seasonal produce and offering an optimum start to the day. Adjacent to Espace Godin is Café Origine, which showcases some of the best baristas in Montreal. Here, you can drop in for an artisan coffee, a sweet treat or set up camp for the day with delicious coffee and snacks on tap. When hunger strikes again, head to Le Bar 20, which serves a simple yet scrumptious snack menu and is open until 11pm. They're also known for their fantastic wine and cocktail menu, making it a very convenient place to socialise then stumble up to your room after a drink (or twelve). 

With a strong connection to local history and art, Hotel 10 has decided to tell its story through its walls. Throughout Espace Godin, you will find old black and white photographs of Montreal juxtaposed against contemporary drawings and seductive colours. This unique style of decor is one of the hotel's focal points (as well as their fabulous toilets but I'll let you discover those for yourself). It makes each visit personal, allowing people from all walks of life to get to know the real Montreal and see it in all its glory. 

Another art form favoured by Hotel 10 is perception art. Located on several floors, you will find drawings that will only become apparent when standing at a particular spot. A stiletto, a saxophone player and a guitar are some of the images you will see. Not only does this offer guests something fun to do but it shows that the people behind the hotel are also creatively-driven. By no means is this another corporate hotel; it's bold, it's unique and it's full of life. 

So if you ever find yourself in Montreal, Hotel 10 will make you feel right at home. Not only will you find a gorgeous room to call your own for the night and incredible staff to tend to your every beck and call, it will draw on your creative spirit; you'll learn something new about this wonderful city and you'll find another version of yourself within its history and its art that will ensure a little bit of Montreal is always with you.

Have you ever been to Montreal?

5 Reasons Why Everyone Should Visit Holmes Mill, Lancashire

“Never expect owt for nowt.” 
― Sylvia Lovat Corbridge

One of the things that makes Britain so great is our wonderful heritage. Be it positive or negative, we like to remember exactly where we've come from and use this knowledge to honour our ancestors in the best way possible. Wherever we can, we like to preserve things - and turning derelict spaces into cool lifestyle destinations seems to be right on-trend at the moment. So on our recent trip to Clitheroe in Lancashire, it felt only natural that Tom and I spend a day exploring Holmes Mill, a former 19th Century textiles mill, and connect with Lancashire on a more emotional level.

For over 40 years, Holmes Mill had been left abandoned due to the decline in the industry in the North West; until recently, in 2015, when the site was acquired by the James' Places Group. With a strong creative vision and a burning desire to bring the building back to life, the James' Places Group have been working hard to create a modern-day destination that can be celebrated by the people of Lancashire and beyond. A haven, if you will, to showcase the best of Lancashire's food, drink and entertainment. 

So, without further ado, here are 5 reasons why you should grab your favourites and venture up North for a bimble around this unique historical site. 

1. It's got its own hotel.

Located in what used to be a Victorian weaving shed, The Spinning Block Hotel is a brand new addition to the Holmes Mill empire. With only 16 rooms currently fully furnished, the hotel will remain under construction from Mondays to Wednesdays until all of its 38 rooms have been individually designed and decorated. From Thursdays to Saturdays, the hotel is open for business and guests can enjoy a comfortable stay (without any disturbance from building work) at the newly reinvented modern mill.

Each double room boasts a slick and stylish design; a muted, clean-cut colour scheme complete with upscale chrome and glass furnishings. With an ensuite bathroom, spacious double bed, walk-in shower, widescreen TV, writing desk, storage space and tea-making facilities (life without a cuppa is no life at all), it's apparent that the rooms have been designed for ultimate comfort but still remain true to their 19th Century roots. Although The Spinning Block Hotel has been remodelled as a contemporary boutique hotel, where possible, sections of the original stonework have been restored and left exposed while some fabrics have also been preserved in order to honour Lancashire's - and Holmes Mill's -  industrial heritage.

2. It has a beautiful bistro. 

Inside The Spinning Block Hotel, you'll find the most fabulous, Art Deco-inspired restaurant; Bistro 1823. At first, you'll be drawn to the charming flamingo wallpaper, beckoning you to pull up a pew in the cosy bar area and join the party. Then you'll spot the magnificent black grand piano, which separates the bar from the main dining area, and beautiful sounds of jazz will begin to bubble in your soul. You'll try and peak a look through the stained glass windows and will soon realise that the world looks a lot prettier in technicolour. Finally, you'll cast your eyes to the heavens, spotting the decadent glass chandeliers and gold-plated ceiling, and realise this is exactly where foodie dreams are made.

Whether you fancy a cocktail or a full-on 3-course meal, Bistro 1823 has got you covered. With low, lounging sofas and easy arm chairs in the bar area, I recommend you take your time working through the extensive bar menu before heading to the restaurant. All the best wines by the glass, a hand-picked selection of spirits, local beers on tap, and too many delicious cocktails to choose from, this bar was designed to make its guests feel as glamorous as its surroundings.

Moving on to the restaurant, you'll find a menu that packs sophisticated punches. Hearty steaks and seasonal seafood feature heavily but there's an refined elegance to each dish's execution. From lobster tortellini and 20oz steaks to market fish and artisan cheeses, your tastebuds will be in for a right Northern treat. With a simple philosophy focusing on sourcing the finest ingredients, Bistro 1823 knows exactly how to take flavour to the next level - and it's all on home ground.

3. It has a gourmet food hall. 

It seems you can fit quite a lot inside an old weaving shed these days, like an entire gourmet food hall. Named after the Forest of Bowland, an area of outstanding natural beauty near Clitheroe, The Bowland Food Hall is just as pretty as its namesake. With a shabby chic interior comprising of metal shelving units, shipping containers, exposed lighting and a truck filled with crates of fruit, it's so cool that it wouldn't feel out of place in East London.

Offering a unique platform for local independent retailers to sell their artisan wares, The Bowland Food Hall prides itself on knowing exactly where its produce comes from and bringing the finest fare to your plate. You won't find just any old food here; The Bowland Food Hall stocks only the best produce from the region (with a hand-picked selection of goods coming from further afield). It's a place where foodies alike can gather and salivate over the best ingredients, where people who wouldn't consider themselves foodies can be inspired by something other than what they find in their local Sainsbury's. Life's too short to eat boring food - and The Bowland Food Hall will never let you go hungry.

4. It has a cute café.

It's a well-known fact that coffee and cake make the world go round, and Holmes Mill's freshly baked offerings from the Food Hall Café will make your day just that little bit sweeter. Located in the old weaving shed inside the Bowland Food Hall, the Café is a vibrant, homely space that serves up a lovely selection of local delicacies, sandwiches and light lunches. So whether yours is a flying visit to the Café or you plan on spending all day here watching the world go by, you can enjoy the best of Lancashire and beyond, bite by bite.

5. It has its own brewery. 

In what used to be the boiler house, The Bowland Beer Hall has made its home. Serving a minimum of 24 cask ales at any one time as well as an expertly curated selection of bespoke keg beers, lagers, bottled beers, ciders and cans, this beer hall is far from your average beer hall; it's a beer utopia. What's more, it's home to the award-winning Bowland Brewery, whose nature-inspired cask ales are brewed right beneath the chimney at Holmes Mill. Having placed themselves firmly on the beer map, The Bowland Beer Hall is a great place to socialise and sample the ever-changing selection of beers. Home to one of the longest bars in Britain, there's enough room for everyone so get cosy in the Chimney Room or take refuge in the Engine Room, where you'll find Elizabeth, the hall's resident 108 year old cross-compound horizontal engine.

Although beer is predominantly what draws people to The Bowland Beer Hall, it's far from a one-hit wonder. It also serves a great selection of wines and spirits, as well as some hearty gastro-pub inspired grub. And to ensure a lively ambience, the beer hall regularly hosts live music sessions and comedy clubs so if you fancy visiting a charming space filled with good beer, good food and good laughs, The Bowland Beer Hall is the place for you. Ale you need is love.

What's your favourite converted building?

Sleeping With The Royals: Boringdon Hall Hotel

"The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams." 
Eleanor Roosevelt

When Tom told me he'd planned a lovely little getaway to Plymouth staying at the Boringdon Hall Hotel, I wasn't as impressed as you might think. Boringdon Hall? Rolling the name around in my head was doing everything but conjuring up connotations of idyllic hotel rooms, glorious spa retreats and 5* luxury (I am a hotel snob, after all). But as any grateful girlfriend would do, hiding my disappointment, I offered my thanks, gushing with all the pleasantries possible - and jumped straight on Google when he was out of reach to find out where the hell he was taking me. The second the web page loaded, I was speechless and my heart did all kinds of happy, excited flips. It seemed that Boringdon Hall wasn't going to be as boring as I'd first thought and my man had undoubtedly done good. This time, at least.

The history surrounding Boringdon Hall is unlike any other hotel I've ever visited. Dating as far back as 959 AD, Boringdon Hall has had a truly Royal existence, with King Henry VIII eventually claiming it as Crown Property in 1539. Even its name isn't what it first appears (unlike my initial thoughts): 'Boringdon' has no etymological links to 'boring' and actually derives from the Saxon word 'Burth-Y-Don', meaning 'enchanted place on the hill'. And I can tell you that the Saxons hit the nail right on the head. As we approached the hotel's magnificent meandering driveway, I immediately understood what all the fuss was about and why this hotel had commanded Royal attention.

Set amongst stunning, manicured grounds, a beautifully restored Grade 1 listed Tudor manor house stood proudly before me and waiting patiently at the entrance for our arrival was the Boringdon Concierge. After checking in, we were shown to our room (our bags kindly carried by the Concierge) and left to enjoy the hotel and its amenities. Downstairs you'll find the reception area, the Great Hall, the Mayflower Brasserie, event spaces, a corridor leading to the altra-modern Gaia Spa and a secret speakeasy bar. On the gallery overlooking the Great Hall, you'll find the Gallery Restaurant, the hotel's award-winning 3 AA rosette fine dining restaurant headed by Chef Scott Paton.  

First impressions registered and Boringdon Hall had stole my heart. Each room has been designed with opulence, heritage and comfort in mind (although there's no lift to the second floor for those less able to use the staircase). In the Grand Hall, lavish Tudor-esque chandeliers hang above a variety of Chesterfield sofas, while light is cast upon the rooms through enormous windows. Elsewhere, bookcases and historical paintings line the walls, while log fires crackle pleasantly throughout the building. Velvet, oak, leather and marble feature in almost every room and feelings of luxury, comfort and familiarity make it easy to switch off from the rest of the world. And with a total of 40 rooms and suites, you really can leave the rest of the world behind and enjoy a intimate, romantic getaway.

If you're feeling really romantic, a room like ours complete with a four-poster bed and a freestanding bathtub (big enough for two, I might add) should make for a night to remember. Located upstairs overlooking the Gaia Spa, our room contained all of the modern amenities required in today's world, while bringing its own unique character to the party. The antique wooden furniture, the remnants of an old fireplace and the huge, ornate double bed remain true to Boringdon's original Tudor style and sit well in the large open space, while the freestanding bathtub creates a welcome, contemporary juxtaposition atop a marble floor. In addition to having the bathtub in the bedroom, our room also housed a fully tiled, modern en-suite bathroom with a glass, walk-in shower, two fluffy robes, a hairdryer and lots of lovely ESPA toiletries.  

Of course, a romantic getaway isn't complete without a visit to a spa and the Gaia Spa at Boringdon Hall doesn't fall short. In fact, it's up there with the UK's best and most luxurious spas that I've had the pleasure to relax in. Inspired by Mother Nature, the spa's interior and exterior are made from natural materials including wood, stone and glass to help bring the outside in.

The main spa area boasts a heated indoor swimming pool, hot stone beds, loungers, a hydrotherapy pool with an outdoor swim-through, experience showers, a traditional steam room, a Finnish sauna, a crystal salt steam room and a Laconium herbal sauna and during the warmer months, guests can enjoy the outdoor relaxation areas and hot tubs. Without a doubt, I could happily spend the rest of my life in the Gaia Spa as each area is expertly designed with comfort and wellness at the forefront of its intention.

For those looking for a more active spa experience, the Gaia Spa is also home to a state-of-the-art gym featuring the latest cardiovascular and resistance equipment, free weights and separate changing areas. And for those looking for a more personalised wellness experience, the Gaia Spa offers treatments and therapies, including massages, facials and beauty treatments, to nourish the mind, body and soul. Exclusive to those having treatments, the deep relaxation room overlooking the wild flower meadow offers an inner sanctum of peace and serenity for the ultimate spa experience.

After a glorious afternoon of relaxation in the Gaia Spa, we headed to the Gallery Restaurant to sample their a la carte menu. The restaurant itself is intimate and charming, with immaculately pressed white table cloths lining each table and a cosy, romantic ambience. Once seated and after being plied with alcohol (a glass of Sancerre for a me and Malbec for Tom), we were treated to a complimentary selection of the Head Chef's amuse bouches, whose unique flavours and adorable presentation set the bar high for the evening.

After the amuse bouches came the homemade bread and salted butter. Baked in-house daily, we chose from a selection of traditional and flavoured breads while we perused the menu. Whether ordering a la carte or from the 5-course tasting menu, the Gallery Restaurant menus change seasonally to showcase the finest of locally sourced ingredients and to create an unforgettable dining experience.

For starters, I decided to go traditional and chose a beetroot and goat's cheese salad but this dish was unlike any other beetroot and goat's cheese dish I've ever been served. The presentation was absolutely stunning and the flavours were vibrant and clean, blending well together with each bite. Who knew beetroot could be so beautiful? For my main course, I opted for the fish of the day with sides of green beans and dauphinoise potatoes. Simple but delicious, I couldn't wait to try more of Chef Scott's creations.

My final course of the evening was a deconstructed passionfruit cheesecake and it was so pretty, I didn't want to eat it. As a cheesecake connoisseur, I was slightly concerned that, although it looked beautiful, this contemporary construction wasn't going to live up to its more traditional sister's flavourings. But I had no need to be concerned; it blew my mind and we headed back to our four-poster bed feeling extremely satisfied. 

After a blissful night's sleep, we had enough time for a breakfast feast in the Gallery Restaurant before we needed to head back to London. Although it was a flying visit, there's no doubt in my mind that our stay at Boringdon Hall was one of the most memorable, romantic evenings I've had. Every element - from the welcome, the history, the decor, the four-poster room, the staff, the spa, the ambience, the food, the wine - was faultless and I would relive every moment again in a heartbeat. In typical British style, the only element against us was the weather; it rained so hard while we were in Plymouth yet the wetness only added to Boringdon's beauty. The house beamed, the gardens glistened and the history lived on. We said goodbye once but I'm sure we'll be seeing you again soon, Boringdon Hall. 

Stay boring beautiful. 

Have you ever been to Plymouth?

From London To Lancashire: Mitton Hall Hotel

"The country habit has me by the heart" 
- Vita Sackville West

I can honestly say that Clitheroe has never been a place on my travel bucket list and until last week, I was blissfully unaware of its existence. But after stumbling across images of a stunning 15th Century country house hotel set in the heart of a tiny parish called Little Mitton, we decided to travel up North to find out more about this grade II listed building and the elusive Clitheroe. Forever seeking a new adventure, we said goodbye to London and embarked on a 4-hour drive to Lancashire, where Mitton Hall was to become our home for a night.

The quaint Northern village of Clitheroe, home to approximately 16,000 inhabitants, is a hikers’ haven; nestled deep in the Ribble Valley surrounded by miles of rolling hills, it’s an idyllic escape for every man and his dog (figuratively and literally speaking); a place where nature cleanses the soul and troubles are left on the motorway. You’ll find sheep grazing peacefully in the fields. You’ll find the River Ribble meandering majestically through hills. You’ll find the ruins of churches and castles and best of all, you’ll find some lovely country pubs. Amid this rural oasis, Mitton Hall provides a sumptuous 20-acre sanctuary from where Lancashire can be effusively appreciated.

Doused in a rich history, Mitton Hall is every bit as grand as you’d expect of a formally private Medieval residence. Beyond its cream, unimposing exterior lies a labyrinth of personality. The Great Hall is the first room behind Mitton Hall’s doors, dressed to impress with high beamed ceilings, original stained-glass windows, a statement silver rhino wall mount and a spectacular crystal chandelier, all overlooked by the gallery. Large, inviting leather sofas bask in front of a cavernous open fire, while the tartan colour scheme pays homage to its country heritage.

With 18 rooms and suites, Mitton Hall is a boutique residence and all bedrooms are located on the first floor. After being handed the key to the Queen Suite, we climbed the stairs to the gallery which led us to the heavy, oak door behind which lay the Queen Suite. As the name would suggest, the room is spacious and fit for royalty; large windows and high ceilings instantly fill the room with light, creating a tranquil and relaxing environment. The interior - ornate, without being imposing and modern, without being informal – makes for a comfortable yet luxurious stay. The king-sized bed is immaculately made with crisp, white linen and plush, purple pillows, which complement the lilac floral feature wall. Meanwhile, the bathroom comes complete with a roll top bath tub big enough for two, an open walk-in shower and luxury L’Occitane toiletries. It’s almost too lovely to leave – until hunger strikes.

Next to the Great Hall is the restaurant, which serves breakfast, afternoon tea and dinner daily. Spacious and well-lit with a sprinkling of statement furnishings, the restaurant is in keeping with Mitton Hall’s comfortable yet eclectic style, making it the perfect place to sit and sample the cocktail menu before digging into some Great British grub. Although, the food menu is not wholly what you’d expect of a quintessentially British manor house, with the kitchen cooking up a fusion of modern British and European cuisine. 

We sampled gnocchi and scallops for starters and steak and monkfish for mains and while each dish was presented perfectly, we felt that the flavour combinations were slightly out of sync for the environment and perhaps a little overcomplicated. The melting chocolate pudding, however, was very pleasing to the palette and we left the restaurant feeling relatively satisfied. 

After a wonderful night’s sleep in the Queen Suite, we were fully relaxed and ready for a day of exploring – but not before breakfast. Breakfast at Mitton Hall is as traditional as they come, where you can help yourself to a small selection of continental offerings as well as a full menu of classic hot breakfasts to set you up for the day. A Full English and smoked salmon with scrambled eggs were our breakfasts of choice, which both went down a treat.

Overall, our stay at Mitton Hall was definitely a memorable one. The hotel is truly beautiful and every element is put in place for your comfort, right down to the luxurious toiletries, the spare heater and complimentary biscuits. So if you’re looking for a Great British getaway with gorgeous countryside at your disposal, you should definitely add Lancashire to your list. And you never know, your visit might be the start of something great. It is, after all, the birthplace of the jelly baby, white road markings and the Lancashire hot pot.

Where's your favourite country getaway?

Eating Out In St Albans: The Great Northern Restaurant & Pub

“There is no love sincerer than the love of food.” 

― George Bernard Shaw

Living so close to London, I often forget there's a food scene happening outside of the capital. Yes, I can't deny that London has a very appetising culinary culture and - rightly so - it's easy to be seduced by the exotic menus, the fusion of cuisines, the unusual ingredients and of course, the enviable Instagrammable interiors that she has to offer but there really is life beyond zone 2.

When it comes to seeking out good food, there is no road too long for me to travel (unless I'm hangry). My boyfriend and I spend much of our free time together embarking on food pilgrimages, travelling as far and wide as humanly possible in search of new and exciting culinary experiences. So when we were offered the opportunity to dine at The Great Northern Restaurant & Pub in St Albans, we jumped straight on the train out of St Pancras and prepared ourselves for a feast of Great British fare with a twist.

Just 20 minutes later, we arrived at The Great Northern Restaurant and were immediately welcomed into the intimate yet lively space. At the bar, we were handed the drinks menu and after a quick glance, we realised that this is not your average working man's 'pub'. The Great Northern serves a vast selection of pale ales, lagers, ciders, spirits and whiskies but has an even greater selection of wines, dessert wines and champagne, offering tipples for the most sophisticated of drunks.

To officially start the evening, we cheers-ed with a glass of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and a San Miguel and were shown to our table in 'the snug'. The Great Northern has three definitive areas for dining: the snug, which seats approximately 20 covers, the bar area for those wanting a more relaxed service and in warmer weather, the spacious garden. Our table was located at the back of the snug, offering us a panoramic view of the dining room and optimum viewing for people-watching (my favourite).

After settling into our home for the next few hours, we began to prepare ourselves for making the most important decision of the day: what are we going to eat? The Great Northern's food menu is small but perfectly formed, priding itself on serving a locally-sourced, seasonal Modern British cuisine. One thing to note is that the kitchen is keen to cater for those with special dietary requirements, making it a great dining choice if your loved ones struggle to find places who cater for a more precise palate.

For starters, I ordered poached trout with soy and chilli while Tom chose the braised brisket with pearl barley and beef consommé. In my wealth of dining experience, the starters usually set the bar for the rest of the meal and both were plated up beautifully on big, circular, Scandinavian-inspired crockery. The trout was delicate and flaky fused with fresh flavours from the tomatoes and a perfect amount of chilli, while Tom practically inhaled his brisket (I take that as a sign that it was as delicious as mine).

Being pescatarian, I often order fish followed by more fish if I'm not immediately struck by the veggie alternatives, so for my main dish I ordered the lemon sole (on the bone) cooked in a lemon butter sauce and served with seaweed, baby leeks and artichoke crisps. Tom, being a man of his meat, ordered the seared duck breast with Jerusalem artichoke and boy choy. As The Great Northern has such a tempting wine list, to accompany our main courses, we made our way through a bottle each of the Semillon, Mon Vieux 'Aquifer' 2015 Swartland and the Bordeaux, Chateau Montlandrie Cotes de Castillon 2012, France. If I'd have not known that I was sat in a restaurant in St Albans, I could've closed my eyes and easily been in a vineyard in the South of France but I digress...

Like the starters, the presentation was faultless and I have no problems with my fish being served on the bone. This may sound slightly odd but to me, there's something rather satisfying about sliding the fish delicately off the bone before you taste its wonderful flavour. And the lemon sole was as delicious as it looks in the picture: simple, locally-sourced ingredients created a main course that was balanced, wholesome and full of the subtle flavours that you want from a fish dish. However, the crunchy artichoke crisps are not something you typically see at your local pub restaurant but they added a touch of elegance to the dish and the texture worked perfectly with the flaky fish.

Last but not least, dessert. I can never resist a chocolate brownie after a good meal and The Great Northern's take on my old favourite was a smooth chocolate ganache-style brownie topped with cashew nuts. It was my idea of heaven: decadent, chocolatey and nutty. My only qualm has to be that it wasn't quite big enough (but I'm greedy and there can never be too much of a good thing when it comes to chocolate brownie).

Not wanting the feast to end, we ordered glasses of the Moscato d'Asti DOCG dessert wine and reflected on our first impressions of dining in St Albans. It seems that great food and even better wine can be found outside of London and the passion shown by The Great Northern for good, quality, well-priced food is unmistakable. They truly take pride in their food, serving a familiar Modern British menu with a sprinkling of creativity. We loved every element of our visit: the homely setting, the welcoming staff and each delicious forkful of food that passed our lips. So much so, we missed our train back to Essex.

How far would you travel for some Great British grub?

Belgian Bistros: A Guide To Eating Out In Bruges

“After a full belly all is poetry.” 
― Frank McCourt

For me, one of the most exciting things about travelling is living like a local - and that means eating like a local too. I love food at the best of times but when I'm somewhere new and exciting, my taste buds go into overdrive! Whether I'm tucking into a culinary masterpiece created by top Michelin star chef or some local street food from a roadside truck, it all adds to the flavour of the experience. 

And my time in Bruges recently was no different. So without further ado, here's a little list of the places that you should stop by, if you're ever in Bruges, to taste what Belgian really has to offer. 

Fred's Belgian Waffles

Located just off the Markt, Fred's Belgian Waffles is the perfect place for you to get your Belgian waffle fix on the go. With over 27 years in the waffle industry, Fred knows exactly how waffles should be done - the Belgian way. Whether you're craving plain waffles, caramel waffles, waffles with cream, waffles with ice cream, filled waffles or the full works, there's a waffle waiting just for you. And you won't be sorry.

Depla Chocolatier

Nothing will ever prepare you for the amount of chocolate shops you will encounter during a visit to Bruges. And I mean nothing. As you walk the quaint, cobbled streets, your senses will literally have a meltdown as every other shop beckons you to see, smell and taste their chocolatey delights. A few of the shops, including Depla Chocolatier, The Chocolate Line and Sukerbuyc, make their chocolates on site and offer a sneak peak into the heavenly world of chocolate-making. From hot chocolates and truffles to personalised chocolates and giant boxes of goodies, there's something to satisfy every chocolate-related desire. So, whether you're a chocolate fiend or a chocolate foe, a real life Belgian chocolate shop is definitely worth your time. 

Bistro Den Huzaar

If you're looking to dine at a traditional Belgian restaurant, look no further than Bistro Den Huzaar. Tucked away from the main Markt Square, it's easily accessible without crawling with tourists. On arrival, you will be greeted with the warmest of welcomes and invited to take a seat in the large, open restaurant. 

The most charming thing about Bistro Den Huzaar is that it feels like home; or rather, your Grandma's home. Cream and white vintage furnishings create a cosy ambience, while soft 60s music filters in from the stereo ("These Boots Are Made For Walking" being amongst the favourites). Freshly pressed table cloths sit joyfully atop each table and offer a home to adorable checked napkins, while a candle stands elegantly as the centre piece. It's granny chic at its best - without being pretentious. 

With a restaurant that boasts so much charm and heritage, it seems only natural that Bistro Den Huzaar serves up a menu filled with Belgian classics. Mushrooms on toast, shrimp croquettes, cheese croquettes, pork cheek casserole, Flemish stew, steak and mussels are a handful of the dishes on offer, and showcases a seasoned insight into Bistro Den Huzaar's best bits. Although much of the food is presented very simply, the portion sizes are more than sufficient while the flavours remain true to their origins. You'll undeniably feel like you've stepped back in time - but all for good reason. 


Located in the heart of Bruges' Simon Stevinplein, you will find Aquarel; a fashionably rustic restaurant serving up a savoury storm of contemporary European cuisine. In the summer months, you can choose to dine al fresco on the patio on the square but as coldness takes over, the restaurant remains as the heart and soul of the dining experience.

Unlike many of the restaurants in Bruges which are steeped in tradition and heritage, Aquarel welcomes its guests into an intimate, modern area of calmness and serenity. Grey, muted tones and wooden furnishings create a wholesome environment for dining, while soft melodic tunes add to the idyllic ambience.

And Aquarel's menu is just as stylish its surroundings. As well as serving traditional Belgian dishes, including Flemish stew and several flavours of croquettes, Aquarel also offers a hearty helping of Italian-inspired pastas. After gorging on a decadent goat's cheese croquette with a generous side salad, the shrimp tagliatelle with pesto and lasagne bolognese boldly made their way to our table. While it's true that the presentation of the food is rather simple, it's the undeniable freshness and honest flavour combinations that truly make the dishes delightful. The perfect restaurant choice for a dignified lunch.

Bistro Brugis

From the outside, Bistro Brugis may look like a traditional Belgian restaurant but its influences are unlike any other in Bruges. With a legacy that traces all the way to Nepal, Bistro Brugis incorporates traditional Nepalese spices into classic Belgian-French dishes to create a unique fusion of flavours. French onion soup, cheese croquettes, Flemish stew and traditional mussel flavours are served side by side with chicken momos, chicken lumpias, Himalayan scampi, king crab and Himalayan mussels, offering the locals a special South Asian twist on their all-too-familair cuisine. 

Located just off the beaten track, the restaurant offers a cosy escape for diners. The deep red curtains open to reveal a simple yet sophisticated setting; the large open fireplace is warm and comforting, bringing the dark wooden tables and leather-backed chairs to life. The rest of the furnishings are similarly uncluttered and fuss-free, other than the swanky chandeliers that hang gracefully from the ceiling. 

But what's hard not to notice is the gloriously triumphant bar. Stocked with a variety of local Belgian beers, including Leffe, La Chouffe, Brugse Zot and Liefman's cherry beer, as well as an impressive selection of gin, it appears that a good beverage is as important to Bistro Brugis as their food. And there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. An evening filled with too much beer, gin and deliciously hearty Nepalese-inspired Belgian cuisine sounds marvellous to us.


Whatever your poison - be it beer, wine or spirits - Bar'N is the perfect place for a tipple. With fur throws scattered across high leather sofas and an enormous bison head overlooking all shenanigans, this cosy, cattle-inspired bar oozes cool and is best known for its distinctive selection of cocktails and gins. Other than a few nuts and nibbles, you won't find any food here (just pure unadulterated booze) and with only a handful of tables, avoid peak times if you want get comfortable. Tucked just out of sight of the main Markt square, it's excellently positioned for you to stop by before or after your evening dinner reservations. 

Groot Vlaenderen

If lavish, low-lit, sophisticated cocktail bars are your calling in life, Groot Vlaenderen will feel just like home. Step through the perfectly symmetrical doorway and enter a bar that overflows with style, opulence and mystery. Lose yourself in a glass of champagne or a deliciously divine cocktail - or both - and make it a night to remember. With a drinks menu full of familiar favourites and new obsessions, you won't ever want to leave. 

Where's your favourite place to eat or drink in Bruges?

© Rosie Romance

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