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A Charming Cotswolds Retreat: Royal Afternoon Tea at Ellenborough Park, Cheltenham Spa

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Image courtesy of www.ellenboroughpark.com

 

Last Monday I was invited to the beautiful Ellenborough Park, a five star Cotswold manor house hotel located on the outskirts of Cheltenham Spa, to review their Royal Afternoon Tea. The promotion is running until 30th June 2016 in honour of Queen Elizabeth’s 90th birthday celebrations and offers guests a fantastic dining experience amongst stunning settings on the original Cheltenham Racecourse estate. I attended with my sister, Hannah, who absolutely LOVES afternoon tea. I thought she would be the perfect plus one to help me with my review and, I was right, she definitely didn’t take much persuading! 😉 We had a fantastic afternoon in the most beautiful of surroundings and were suitably stuffed by the time we had finished! Here’s how we got on…

Upon arrival we were greeted by the lovely Jonathan, one of the waiters who looked after us for most of the day. We were shown to our table, or in this case, an exclusive lounge on the first floor of the dining room where we were made to feel like true VIP’s for the day. With quirky antique tables and chairs and large windows as well as a balcony overlooking the rest of the dining room, our executive lounge made the perfect place from which to enjoy our Royal Afternoon Tea.

 

Exclusive lounge for our #royalafternoontea @ellenboroughpk yesterday! 🍰☕️#Cotswolds #cheltenham #review #traveltuesday

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Shortly after we were seated, and had finished gazing in awe at our new surroundings, we were shown the menus by Jonathan and were able to select our teas. There was a wide range of teas from traditional English breakfast to raspberry, rooibos and even chocolate flavoured. We both chose the strawberry and mango infused tea which was brought to our table in a cute little teapot with cups and saucers. We then ordered the Royal Afternoon Tea for two which was brought to us promptly.

 

 

Hannah and I couldn’t believe our eyes when the afternoon tea arrived, there was literally SO. MUCH. FOOD! The menu, by executive head chef David Kelman, boasted three tiers of sumptuous goodies including sandwiches, scones, cakes and sweet treats. The bottom tier comprised of a range of sandwiches including honey roast ham with Tewkesbury mustard, smoked salmon, egg mayonnaise with cress and cucumber with tomato and spicy relish. We actually swapped the smoked salmon sandwiches for cheese and pickle ones as we aren’t huge fans of salmon but we both love our cheese! The sandwiches were perfectly cut, neatly filled and incredibly tasty.

 

The middle tier was home to freshly baked Ellenborough Park fruit scones with jam and clotted cream. The scones were fresh out the oven and were still warm so the jam and cream set on the top just nicely and were mouth-wateringly good! Finally, the top tier showcased some of the most fantastic dessert pieces I have ever seen. We were treated to meringue swans filled with fresh strawberries (they were GENIUS!) and Her Majesty’s  favourite chocolate cake with white chocolate flag which was truly scrumptious. There was also a salted caramel Tudor rose chocolate which was incredibly rich as well as Her Majesty’s passionfruit hat, a passionfruit mousse set on a biscuit base with passionfruit glaze and edible sugar flowers which was a delight!

 

Hannah and I devoured almost everything on each tier and were fit to burst by the time we had finished! We thoroughly enjoyed each and every aspect of the afternoon tea and there was no item on the menu which wasn’t expertly made or presented. The 5 star surroundings added to the luxurious atmosphere and it was certainly a dining experience to remember.

 

Can I eat all of these again please?! ☕️🍰 @ellenboroughpk #cotswolds #cheltenham #review #afternoontea

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Ellenborough Park’s Royal Afternoon Tea prides itself on reflecting “the Queen’s love of horses, decades of fashionable hats for royal engagements and guardianship of the nation’s swans.” Executive head chef David Kelman’s “celebratory afternoon tea adds a touch of regal splendour to this quintessentially British delight, served on china fit for a queen.”

With its stunning buildings and sprawling grounds, Ellenborough Park prides itself on “providing guests with the finest hotel accommodation and service in the Cotswolds.” You’ll find 60 large bedrooms and suites as well as two on-site restaurants lead by award winning executive head chef David Kelman. Facilities include an impressive Indian-themed spa and a 15m heated outdoor swimming pool  whilst other leisure activities within the hotel grounds can also be arranged.

 

Beautiful day, beautiful hotel! Thanks so much for having me @ellenboroughpk ☀️🏨 #Cotswolds #visitgreatbritain #cheltenham

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To celebrate all things British and enjoy a quintessentially English dining experience book your table at Ellenborough Park today! Royal Afternoon Tea is priced at £22pp Monday – Thursday or £25pp Friday-Sunday. An optional glass of Champagne Billecart-Salmon can be added for an extra £12pp. To book, please call the hotel directly on 01242 545454 or email info@ellenboroughpark.com. Thank you to all at Ellenborough Park for looking after us and for giving us such a wonderful afternoon – I cannot recommend the hotel highly enough and I will certainly be back!

Love Jess x

NB. I dined with Ellenborough Park as a guest for the purpose of this review but all views are my own.

 

 

Canary Wharf: Best Restaurants

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Image courtesy of Google Images

 

I usually write these London restaurant guides for The Culture Trip but I’ve decided to publish this one on my own as I’m currently undertaking a different style of project for the site. Here’s my take on the best restaurants in the lively Canary Wharf..

Located in one of the most exclusive areas in London, Canary Wharf is a modern, cutting edge business district surrounded by skyscraper hotels, boutique shops, restaurants and, of course, the waterside Docklands. This handy guide rounds up the top restaurants in the area and caters for every palette with a range of international cuisine from Japanese sushi to Mexican burritos… Bon Appetite!

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Image courtesy of Wahaca.com

 

Wahaca’s Mexican Street Kitchen

For a little bit of Mexico in the heart of London head to the fantastic Wahaca Restaurant in Canada Square. Boasting over 20 chains across the UK, Wahaca is popular with guests from all corners of the globe and their eclectic menu serves dishes to suit every palette. Diners can choose from traditional Mexican dishes including tacos, burritos and taquitos as well as picking from a range of sumptuous sides such as sweet potato fries and spicy ‘slaw from the extensive menus. The interior décor is vibrant and colourful with a brilliant roof top terrace bar serving classic cocktails whilst offering stunning views across the city. Wahaca’s also offers a speedy takeaway service for those looking for a quick and convenient lunch or evening meal. Wahaca’s is open daily from 11.45am-11pm Mon-Fri, 12noon – 11pm on Saturdays and 12noon – 10.30pm on Sundays.

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Image courtesy of Google Images

 

Amerigo Vespucci

Located on the corner of Cabot Square, with stunning views across to the Docks and surrounding Canary Wharf area, Amerigo Vespucci is a traditional Italian restaurant offering a selection of dishes from four corners of Italy. The superb a la carte menu boasts daily specials including handmade pasta, fillet steaks, veal medallions, fresh fish and king prawns. The extensive wine list serves a range of different tipples from all regions of France and Italy as well as boasting classic cocktails, Champagne and Prosecco. Dinner and drinks can be served Alfresco for a unique dining experience in one of London’s most sophisticated and glamorous settings.

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Image courtesy of Wagamama.com

 

Wagamama

Perfectly positioned on a mezzanine level of Jubilee Place, standing next to the iconic Canary Wharf tower, this branch of the popular high street chain stands in the vibrant, bustling area of London’s Docklands. Bringing traditional Japanese cuisine to the heart of the city’s financial district, Wagamama offers fast, fresh food at an affordable price and is perfect for business people looking for a speedy lunchtime treat! Boasting an extensive menu serving everything from snacks and sides to lunch and evening dinner, specialities include wok fried noodles, steamed rice, a range of curries and fresh salads. Open daily from 11am-10pm, and from 11.30 – 9pm on Sundays, Wagamama also runs a take-out service so you can enjoy excellent Japanese cuisine from the comfort of your own home.

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Image courtesy of Gaucho.com

 

Gaucho

For a taste of luxury in the midst of Canary Wharf’s formal business district, Gaucho brings a touch of Argentina to savvy central London. In a fantastic location, with stunning views of the River Thames, Gaucho welcomes diners from all across the world for every imaginable occasion from stylish business lunches to intimate dinner parties. Boasting an extensive menu with the freshest ingredients cooked from the open kitchen, Gaucho’s authentic Argentine dishes include sea bream tiraditos, acorn fed Iberico pork and tenderised fillet steak. An eclectic range of brunch, Sunday dinner, sharing platter and canape menus are also available for the discerning diner. For the ultimate glamorous ambience, Gaucho even offers sommelier service, a PA reward scheme, alfresco dining for up to 190 guests on the fantastic outdoor terrace, and an exclusive lounge bar serving expertly crafted cocktails and fine wines. Gaucho is open every day from 12noon until 11pm.

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Image courtesy of Google Images

 

Browns Brasserie & Bar

Built in the 19th century by Napoleonic prisoners of war, and once used as an old sugar warehouse, this historic building is now part of the popular Browns chain and offers a relaxed atmosphere in the heart of London’s Docklands. Browns boasts a number of fantastic menus with popular offers including 2 courses for £11.95 Mon-Fri, afternoon tea, Sunday roast dinners and even luxury Lobster nights every Thursday. Browns is well known for its signature dishes, most notably their hand pressed British beef burgers and classic expertly mixed cocktails. Browns is also famous for the elegant sound of its onsite piano- a live pianist plays every Sunday from 1pm-5pm- the perfect accompaniment for dinner and drinks in the most relaxed of atmospheres. Browns is open daily from 8.30-11pm Mon to Thurs, 8.30-midnight Fri-Sat and from 9am-10.30pm on Sundays.

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Image courtesy of Google Images

Westminster Review: Top Bars and Restaurants

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Hi everyone,

So I recently had the pleasure of spending the day in London reviewing bars and restaurants for a neighbourhood project that I’m currently working on for The Culture Trip. I’ve never done anything like this before, most of my write ups have been based on internet research rather than personal experience as I can’t put too much first person writing into my Culture Trip articles! As you can imagine, I jumped at the chance to review some of the trendiest bars and restaurants in one of the best parts of London, the beautiful borough of Westminster. It’s no secret that I’ve always loved London and I have a particular soft spot for Westminster so was delighted to be able to take on this area for one of my neighbourhood projects.

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I didn’t have long in the capital and knew I had to plan my day as best as I could so I emailed a few of my chosen establishments in advance to set up some meetings. To my delight, managers from my top 2 bars and restaurants replied and I set up meetings with them both; Didier Agueh (Executive Host & Artistic Director) and Gregory (Restaurant Manager) of Primo Bar, Park Plaza Hotel and Sergio of The Zander Bar, part of Bank Westminster. Both interviews went brilliantly and I was able to learn a lot about the establishments as well as get an understanding of the menus and the types of customers that pass through the doors. My friend and I were even treated to some lovely complimentary drinks- thanks guys! So without further ado, here are the big interviews …

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Primo Bar, Park Plaza Westminster Hotel

When did you first open? March 2010

Most popular time of day? After work for business people, or after 9pm on events nights. Primo Bar is proud to host a number of events and music nights throughout the year, including  shows from top tribute acts and jazz and soul artists.

Who are your target audience? We attract guests of all ages, but our main target audience are adults over the age of 25. Most are of course hotel guests but we do get large numbers of locals and tourists looking for a luxurious place to relax and unwind after a hard day at work, or to enjoy their Saturday night out.

Signature drink? We run a Cocktail of the Month promotion, and October’s special is a fantastic Spiced Rum Sour for £12.95. Alternatively we run a 2-4-1 cocktail deal every weekday from 5-8pm only.

Any famous celebrity spots? Bruno Mars, Nicole Scherzinger, the cast of Fast & Furious 7 and our very own Prime Minister David Cameron!

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Brasserie Joel, Park Plaza Westminster Hotel

When did you first open? March 2010

Most popular time of day? Evening meal times between Thursdays and Saturdays.

Who are your target audience? Mainly hotel residents, it’s about a 75% to 25% split between residents and members of the public.

Signature dish? Chef Walter Ishizuka is known for his excellent Tournedos Rossini, a fillet of beef served in a truffle sauce.

Any famous celebrity spots? Jessica Wright (of hit TV show The Only Way is Essex) dined here last week actually!

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The Zander Bar, Bank Restaurant

When did you first open? 2007

Most popular time of day? Straight after work for locals, and on into the early part of the evening. We run a Happy Hour promotion between 5pm and 9pm Tuesdays-Fridays.

Who are your target audience? Business people

Signature drink? Our cocktails and our selection of Martini’s

Any famous celebrity spots? Because of our close proximity to The Houses of Parliament we often attract many politicians, one of the most well known being Nick Clegg.

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Bank Restaurant

When did you first open? 2007.

Most popular time of day? Early evening for after work locals and business people, where corporate events and meetings are often held in our private dining rooms.

Who are your target audience? Business people during the week, but we also attract tourists and locals during weekend leisure.

Signature dish? We serve a range of meats and steaks in our fantastic tandoori clay oven- they are always popular with our customers!

Any famous celebrity spots? As above, many politicians visit due to our brilliant Westminster location.

My published articles for Best Bars and Best Restaurants have just gone live, and I wrote a post on Top Things to See and Do in Westminster a while back. I’d just like to say a big THANK YOU again to Didier, Gregory and Sergio for having me- I’ll certainly be back! My next neighbourhood projects are Covent Garden and Canary Wharf so I’ll be heading back down to the capital for some more research soon and will be posting my reviews and interviews afterwards. I’m thoroughly enjoying my latest projects and cannot wait to share more of my handy tips with you and all of The Culture Trip readers.

Speak soon!

Love Jess x

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Rooftop bar review: The Varsity Club Oxford

Hey everyone,

So I’ve recently been to a super cool rooftop bar in the centre of Oxford which offers incredible views across the city. I went with my sister and two of our friends for cocktails and a nice chilled evening. We usually hit the clubs on a Saturday night but The Varsity offered an alternative evening out in a much more relaxed environment.

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Laid out over four floors, the venue is split into a lounge bar, dance floor, private members area and the famous rooftop bar. Serving bar snacks, sharing boards, a variety of drinks and even afternoon tea, and with various deals running throughout the week, there’s something available for everyone at Varsity.

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The rooftop does tend to get very busy so I’d advise booking up if you want to secure a table, but the four of us turned up at around 8.30 on a sunny Saturday evening and we managed to find a good spot so I guess it depends on timings etc. We watched the sun go down and enjoyed the last of the warm weather before leaving shortly before dark at around 10pm. This gave us the best of both worlds as we enjoyed views of the city both in the sunshine and also lit up after dark.

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There’s a professional photographer on site to take those all important photos against the gorgeous Oxford background, and they are uploaded to their website and social media pages a few days later so you can tag yourselves on Facebook!

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Drinks are a little on the pricey side, but I always believe that you get what you pay for in life and you pay a little for the experience of enjoying the rooftop bar. Cocktails are around £8 each but they are beautiful, a particular favourite of mine is La Vie en Rose which is a mixture of pear and apple liqueur & juice served with crushed ice, edible sugary sprinkles and real rose petals.

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I’d highly recommend visiting Varsity with friends, partners or family for a classy night out in a brilliant venue set against a beautiful city backdrop. I will most definitely be returning next time I’m in Oxford!

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This week has been extremely busy for me; I’ve been to Royal Ascot for a day at the races, the theatre for a Michael McIntyre show and tomorrow I’m off to Hyde Park in London for the British Summertime Festival. With loads to blog about I’ll be posting updates for you as soon as I can! I hope you all enjoy the rest of your weekend 🙂

Love Jess x