Sunday, 4 June 2017

A vegetarian dinner with a view at OXO Tower Restaurant

Oh, London. You beautiful, exciting, welcoming, fearless, fun, brilliant, nutty and wonderful city.

I have loved London ever since I first visited as a young girl, and I am so proud to call the capital my home. The longer I live here, the more I love it.

And I recently had one of those evenings where the sheer beauty of the city blew me away once more.
If you look closely at the above photo, you'll see where I was fortunate enough to spend an evening: the OXO Tower Restaurant on the South Bank.
See it?

Up on the eighth floor you'll find the restaurant, and if it's a warm enough evening, you should sit outside and admire the insanely beautiful view.
Meet my date for the night, the lovely Ciara.

It was a balmy early summer's evening and the setting couldn't have been more perfect. Being Friday night, it was definitely time for cocktails (lol as if I need the excuse of Friday).
Don't they look pretty!? Mine was the Due South - vodka, elderflower liqueur with lemon, raspberry ripple and champagne. Divine.
I know it's very remiss of me but I'm afraid I can't remember the name of Ciara's cocktail. I can remember, however, that it was super delicious. We both enjoyed each other's drinks as much as our own that we had to have the other one later on.

The reason I was there was to sample the restaurant's new vegetarian menu. Whilst not strictly veggie, I do eat vegetarian about 80% of the time. I'm not actively trying to, I'm just not that fussed about meat. I love veggie food! So I was excited.

After a spot of bread each - oh my days, the rosemary potato bread was BEYOND - we tucked into our starters.
I went for the smoked burrata with grilled apricots and fresh almonds. Sweet Lord, it was tasty. The burrata was smokey and creamy and the apricots were perfectly grilled. It was a delicious summery plate.
Ciara had the sweet potato pancake with Cornish Brie, courgette flower and kumquat marmalade. To be honest it wasn't really a pancake but rather a disc of sweet potato, but to quote Ciara, it was: "So delicious I forgot what the ingredients were. A plate of deliciousness."

So there you have it.
With a glass of light white wine and the view to admire, it was heaven.

For my main, I chose the cheese crumble.
According to the menu, it was: "Walnut, tofu and Spenwood cheese crumble, pickled red cabbage, radish and spring onion salad." Now those are all foods I like.

Most peculiarly, however, the crumble turned out to be seemingly 80% mushroom. And I don't like mushrooms. Why did they not mention mushroom on the menu? I don't know. It was disappointing.

Speaking of mushrooms, Ciara went for the mushroom lasagne.
It was a huge portion, and even as a big meat-eater, Ciara loved it. It wasn't too saucy and the mushrooms were nicely sautéed.

Fortunately for me, we'd ordered a couple of sides.
Tenderstem broccoli with flaked almonds and delicious skin-on chips. Perfection.

As we ate, the sun starting making its way to bed and the view just kept getting better and better.
And the staff came round with blankets too to save us from getting chilly. Top-notch service.

Even though we were quite full, both Ciara and I definitely wanted pudding.
Behold, the OXO chocolate plate. It was pretty dreamy: a milk chocolate tart, white chocolate semifreddo, orange chocolate mousse and sour cherry chocolate fondant. It was, quite simply, excellent.

I would know because even though it was meant to be Ciara's pudding I definitely ate at least half.

I also ate my own pudding:
Rhubarb, custard and gin sorbet. It wasn't quite what I was expecting - the custard element was like a panna cotta in texture - but sweet baby Jesus it was heavenly. The slightly sharp rhubarb with the sweet vanilla custard was perfection.

We watched London light up and sat talking till late.
It had been one of the best dining experiences I'd had in a while, despite mushroom-gate.

Ciara and I were guests at the OXO Tower Restaurant but all opinions are our own.

Sunday, 28 May 2017

Living like Beyoncé at Hotel Cala di Volpe, Sardinia

I know. I KNOW! I've kept you hanging from the cryptic cliffhanger at the end of my last post. It must have been an unbearable week for you. And for that, I apologise.

BUT. Today is the day I shall put you out of your misery.

I thought I couldn't love the Costa Smeralda any more after my stay in Porto Cervo. Then I went to Cala di Volpe.

Guys, this hotel is legendary. Like, genuinely iconic. Beyoncé and Jay Z have stayed there, Grace Kelly and Princess Di used to stay there back in the day, and it was where The Spy Who Loved Me was filmed (with Roger Moore as James Bond, RIP).

You walk in, and it just feels magical. The style is completely unique - the hotel was designed to look like an ancient fishing village which makes you think it's a lot older than it is. Cala di Volpe was in fact built in 1962.

The walls are painted ombré shades of pale terracotta, pink and yellow, the hotel looks out on to the sea in a huge bay and there's even a little bridge over the water.
You feel like you're in another world, completely separate from everyone and everything outside your charming, luxury bubble.
Although the hotel is undoubtedly luxurious - Acqua di Parma toiletries, fluffy robes, Lindt chocolates at bed turndown - it's understatedly so and certainly isn't flashy.
It's safe to say the view from my balcony was nothing short of breathtaking.
As the swallows darted around, the work I had to do took ten times as long as it should have done because I couldn't take my eyes off the view. A spot of prosecco didn't hurt either.
We spent our time at Cala di Volpe swimming in the saltwater pool, lounging by the water and - thanks to the private shuttle boat - chilling out on the private beach round the corner.
Obviously I went in because, well, how could you not?

"You're so brave!" my friends said. I'm not brave. Even if it was cold. I just love the sea (and yes, may be slightly nuts).

A post shared by Rachel Hosie (@rachel_hosie) on
It was dreamy.

We also ate - and drank - incredibly well, making sure to sample all the local specialities.
Wasn't a bad breakfast setting.
I never learnt not to pig out on nibbles before what was always a huge dinner. Oh, and the bellinis at Cala di Volpe may just be the best in the world - they're made with fresh white-flesh peaches and are this beautiful sunset pink shade.
I ate burrata at breakfast, lunch and dinner one day and have no regrets.
Truffle risotto is life.

With possibly more waiters than there were guests in the restaurant, we were treated like royalty. Well, if it's good enough for Bey..!

You may not be surprised to learn that I was fortunate enough to be a guest at Cala di Volpe and yes I do indeed feel incredibly lucky.

Monday, 22 May 2017

The bluest of seas in Porto Cervo, Costa Smeralda, Sardinia

A couple of weeks ago, I didn't know much about Sardinia at all. I knew it was an Italian island but that was about it.

If you find yourself in a similar situation then I am here to tell you that YOU MUST GO THERE! GO THERE NOW! OR AT LEAST BOOK FLIGHTS NOW! Well, after you finish this post, preferably.

I recently had the pleasure of spending a few days on the Costa Smeralda, which - my Italian friend informs me - is basically the fanciest part of the island.

So yes, my opinion of Sardinia may be slightly skewed, but I want to show you how pretty it was anyway.

Guys, Olbia airport is literally a two hour flight from London and then Porto Cervo - the first of two destinations on my trip - is just a half hour's drive. Pretty dreamy.

I want to mainly let the photos do the talking because a) it was all so beautiful that words do not do justice, and b) I'm hungry and want to go eat curry.  I know you understand.

Chums, I'm going to start by just showing you how mind-blowingly beautiful the sea is. 
 I mean.
 I just can't even.
 It's so incredibly bright but also super clear.

'Twas a wee bit windy though.
We were staying at Hotel Cervo, which is without a doubt in the best location: it's simultaneously the heart of the town and on the coast.

This was the huge bed in my room.
 Here you have the ginormous pool (not heated but I obvs went for it anyway).
 This was the incredible sunset we watched whilst sipping bellinis and spritzes at the terrace bar.
 And this is the view from breakfast.
Yup, really.

The town itself isn't huge but is absolutely beautiful - it looks really old, even though it isn't. Some sneaky design work, here in Porto Cervo.
Pretty much all the shops are designer, from which you can probably guess what Porto Cervo's regular visitors are like.
The main reason I was actually there was for the annual Food and Wine Festival, which brought together producers, industry experts and foodies from across Italy and the world.
It was fab! I ate some of the best burrata I have literally ever had in my life and we just walked round trying different wines - I kid you not, were this in the UK, it would without a doubt have turned into a rowdy piss-up. Bit classier than we Brits, are the Italians.

And we sure ate and drank plenty of other delicious things in Porto Cervo.
Whilst the above may not look super appetising, it was probably the tastiest thing I ate on the whole trip: chjusoni. It's a local speciality, is sort of like gnocchi, and was insanely delicious. 10/10 would eat again.
And this is another local delicacy: seada al miele. It was like a melty cheese encased in pastry and doused in honey. Sounds weird, was good.

After my stay in Porto Cervo, I didn't think the trip could get any better. But guys, it did. CLIFFHANGER: all will be revealed in the next post.
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