Gran Melia Palacio De Los Duques, Madrid, Spain

An unusual blog here for us here as Mrs Amberpark has been off on her own wee adventure!

My three girlfriends and I normally enjoy spa weekends in the UK on special occasions. This trip to Madrid was arranged to celebrate two ‘memorable’ birthdays. However, being our first overseas trip together it would set the tone as to whether we would revert to spa weekends or make this adventure the new ‘norm’.

No pressure then Gran Palacio de los Duques – here come the girls!

We arrived in two separate parties around midday. Red level check in was in a separate area from main reception desk. The process was seamless with champagne being a very welcomed addition.

The initial ‘feel’ on entering the hotel was one of opulence and relaxation and these factors combined to make us feel part of something rather special.

The hotel is stunning both artistically and structurally. The reproduction Velazquez artworks, the strikingly beautiful individual pieces of furniture and the careful restoration of facets of the original building were all breath taking.

As a party of four females, after a glass or two of champagne, we all aspired to be the princess in Velazquez’s Las Meninas but clearly there is only one princess. There is also of course, a nun, a jester, a dwarf, two ladies in waiting and the famous man himself. Suffice to say we didn’t allocate roles! Four princesses continued their trip.

The hotel is extremely central. Very well located for some major tourist sights including: Teatro Real, Palacio Real, Plaza Mayor and numerous shops, bars and restaurants. The Parque del Retiro is about a 30-minute stroll away or a couple of stops on the underground and also worth a visit. Lots to see and do.

The street the hotel was located on was rather ordinary and it is easy to miss the hotel entrance  so its worth noting this in advance to aid any journey back especially after sampling the ‘comida y bebidas’ in the close by Mercado de San Miguel.

We occupied two red level junior suites for three nights.  At 45 square metres the suite was compact, but this is not unusual for a city centre hotel.

The bathrooms had a waterfall shower and freestanding baths , clarins toiletries and hair straighteners. There was a choice of pillows and water was replenished each day.  During our stay we obtained a kettle, additional tea, extra towels etc promptly and efficiently.

We didn’t manage to visit the Thai wellness centre however we did use the rooftop pool area several times. No problem obtaining four sunbeds despite it being the weekend. Service was efficient with water and towels on tap. The 360-degree rooftop view was simply stunning, punctuated only by us averting our gaze to reach for midday refreshments!

We would like to thank Lydia Sanchez who afforded us an upgrade to junior suites and arranged for small birthday cakes in each room. Reception staff were very helpful while being inconspicuous – not an easy combination to master and waiting staff were generally good, the only exception being when we ate at Monmatre restaurant on our last night.  There, we felt our initial waiter rushed us to order even after we advised him that we wanted a little more time. This slightly tainted the experience of indulging in such a varied and delightful menu.

Overall staff were very pleasant and clearly trained in a corporate ‘melia’ standard approach. They were also patient and friendly even when one of our party practiced speaking Spanish with them.

Our red level privileges allowed us to indulge in complementary cooked breakfast, varied buffet items, hot and cold snacks and all alcoholic drinks during both day and evening as part of our stay. The benefit of this cannot be understated.

It afforded us the ability to mix our experience perfectly. Booking restaurants in the evening and availing ourselves of the hotel facilities during the day. Importantly, while this facility was prepaid it still felt like a privilege and brought us back to the hotel.  This is a clever marketing strategy and it results in a guest / hotel win win situation.

As a group of four professional women our conclusion is interesting and completely reflective of our hotel experience first and Madrid second. This surprised us. Not only have we decided to do something similar again, we have agreed to choose the hotel first and the location second.

This is solely down to our experience at Gran Palacio de los Duques in Madrid and we hope that Melia group will remember us on future trips as we will remember our first trip abroad as a group to a Melia hotel.

Muchas gracias y esperamos verlos a todos pronto.

A big thank you to a special friend for the help with the write up on this one.

Seabourn Encore, Ultra Luxury at Sea, Our First Ever Cruise

Not only were we celebrating a special occasion, our first cruise had to be extra special, so we chose one of the top ultra-luxury cruise lines in the world, Seabourn.

Aboard their brand new ship Encore we set set sail from Barcelona on what was billed as the Romance of the Rivieras, visiting Mahon, Marseille, St Tropez, Ajaccio, Monte Carlo, Portovenere and Rome.

We were not disappointing and are now part of the ‘cruiserati’ world!

Full blog to follow, but pics tell a thousand words.   A few courtesy of our friends at Seabourn!

 

The Magic of the ‘Opera’, Moments Restaurant, Mandarin Oriental, Barcelona

With two Michelin stars, the Mandarin Oriental’s Moments restaurant continues to win awards and devotees thanks to its creative, fresh and healthy cuisine inspired by Catalan culinary culture.

Where better to celebrate Linda’s special birthday than here!

Managed by chef Carme Ruscalleda and her son Raül Balam, Moments offers one of the finest gastronomic experiences in Barcelona.

We were lucky to be able to try a new menu featuring twelve dishes inspired by the magic of the Opera. This unique dining experience was something special and transported us to another stage……

Full blog to follow soon……pics too good not to share now though!

The Bahía Del Duque, Costa Adeje, Tenerife – Luxury Guaranteed

Bahía del Duque is a Leading Hotel of the World (LHW) and it easily lives up to that status.

It is situated in the most exclusive end of Costa Adeje and is a laid out as a mock 19th century Spanish / Canarian village with direct access onto Playa Del Duque. The ‘village’ has five pools, streets, squares, church towers and stunning architecture filled with a mix of palms, dragon trees, flame trees, jacarandas, fruit trees and cactus.

Bahía del Duque is located on a large estate of approximately 100,000sqm. This project by renowned architect Andrés Piñeiro, recreates a Villa, with nineteen low-rise independent houses.

What makes Bahía del Duque stand out is that it really doesn’t feel like a large hotel, but more of a homely Spanish village all on its own and in some areas, has scenes straight out of a fairy tale.

Our check in was seamless, a little automated to be honest, but efficient and speedy – it did what it said on the tin as they say! The staff, in their traditional dress, were excellent throughout the hotel and across all departments – nothing was ever a problem and they put you at ease from the moment you arrived.

One of the very few criticisms we did have of the hotel was the reception area which was very hot; it would have been nice to have an air-conditioned area for guests to relax and ‘chill’. Perhaps something to think of in the future, especially for guests waiting to be picked up for their journey home.

We were in a Deluxe Seaview room, on a half board basis, and we managed to land one with a sun terrace and decent views of the sea through the ‘village’ rooftops.

Since our last stay in 2012 the rooms have undergone refurbishment and they have more of a modern feel about them than before.

A nice touch was the bottle of fizz chilling for our arrival – needless to say it disappeared very quickly along with the chocolate dipped strawberries.

Having the sun on our terrace from mid-afternoon meant we could retire to our room, enjoy a bite to eat from the room service menu and then relax with a large gin on the incredibly comfortable sun loungers.

Bahia del Duque stood out for us during our last trip for its gastronomic dining experience and this is what we came back for.  This is where Las Aguas stepped up to the plate – pun intended! Worth noting that across all restaurants (except Sensu Kazan) guests on half board could choose ‘inclusive’ dishes, but for some dishes there were supplements to pay.

Las Aguas is the flagship restaurant of Bahía del Duque. Located within the area of Las Villas, in a unique and exclusive setting, it was created by the interior designer Pascua Ortega. Las Aguas serves traditional Canarian cuisine using the most avant-garde techniques developed by its chef Braulio Simancas.

Fresh fish, local meats, market produce and the chef’s own market garden provided a menu full of flavours and textures. Las Aguas is one of our favourites restaurants, so on our first night we chose the 13-course tasting menu.

Celebrating traditional, Canarian tradition and culture it was simply outstanding. From start to finish the dishes were fresh, intense and exciting and the experience was very well priced. The entire evening felt special and exclusive with the most attentive staff we have had for a long time.  Overall Las Aguas provided a first class start to our stay and set the bar for others restaurants to follow.

A special mention for the dessert of white chocolate soup, passion fruit, mint and cardamom – this dessert is delicious and remains one of our firm favourites; highly recommended and worth visiting Lad Aguas for that alone!

We dined again here on our final evening and chose the traditional a la carte menu as the tasting menu on offer was the same as our earlier visit.  Although, another enjoyable evening, it didn’t quite live up to our first night and it would have been nice to have an alternative tasting menu or wider selection of a la carte dishes for guests visiting the restaurant more than once during their stay. That said, the larger portion of white chocolate soup went down a treat.

With a beautiful view over the Hotel’s swimming pool and central plaza La Brasserie offered us a refined menu by prestigious Belgian chef Pierre Résimont. Developed further by chef Yoseba Llarena local and seasonal products made up an impressive menu of Gallic cuisine. We kept it simple and started with a Beef carpaccio cooked at low temperature, with tuna froth and then shared a lovely and simple Chateaubriand with Béarnaise sauce on the side. Sometimes simplicity and quality food is all you need for a special evening.

We were excited by the new offering since our last visit. Sensu Kazan, a partner restaurant for Bahia Del Duque, offered a menu of Japanese haute cuisine dishes, a Sushi Bar and a Robatayaki Grill.

We visited on our third night and although the food was excellent, fresh and authentic, we would have to say they really missed a trick in creating an atmosphere, capturing our senses and making it a memorable evening. Other than Sushi Bars, we haven’t eaten in many Japanese restaurants and it would have been nice to have been guided through what seemed to be an impressive menu.  Thankfully, the trusty Iphone was on hand to offer suitable translations. If they can get the customer engagement / experience right and to the same standards as the main hotel Sensu Kazan will become a worthy addition to the gourmet offering at the hotel. Not being part of the half board basis, they could perhaps consider the price point, as being very similar to Las Aguas, it certainly didn’t offer the same value for money.

Another new restaurant since our last visit, Sea, which means fire in Euskera (the Basque language), offered another gastronomic experience.

With expert chefs hard at work in an open kitchen they worked their magic with smoky aromas helping us on a journey into Basque cuisine.

We also dined in La Trattoria, which serves Italian cuisine, La Hacienda a mexican and Alisios Market Food.  All of them provided different atmospheres and options depending on your preferences each evening and importantly impressive menus and choices.

A buffet breakfast is served in El Bernegal restaurant with an excellent selection of cold, hot dishes and Nespresso coffee. When we chose to eat in the morning, led to a very different experience with the ‘family’ side of the resort clearing showing through during busier peak times. We ate here every morning just after 10am and it was very nice, but we did miss having the option of the more relaxing a la carte breakfast experience we have enjoyed at other hotels recently. A la carte breakfasts were available for guests staying in Casas Ducales and Las Villas accommodation, but that’s another level of luxury, sadly out of our price range!

El Bernegal offers themed buffets and show cooking in the evening where you could taste the best international cuisine.  We tried here one evening as we were dining early and were pleasantly surprised with the quality and presentation of dishes. Buffets tends to be more functional than a real dining experience and are not our preferred option however El Bernegal certainly provided a quality option for those guests with young children, or those perhaps looking for a less formal experience.

The Thalassotherapy circuit / spa is well worth a visit where a two-metre waterfall invites to enjoy hydromassage jets, bubble beds and the therapeutic benefits of sea water which is apparently taken directly from the Atlantic Ocean. We spent an entire day here during our second week and had one of our most relaxing experiences for a long time. This area is complemented by a hammam, saunas, a cold water pool and an outdoor solarium with shaded relaxation areas. The cold water pool certainly isn’t for the faint hearted!

This was our third time at Bahia Del Duque and our first since venturing into the food and travel world. This resort covers all the bases in terms of what we look for in a break, relaxation, luxury and a gourmet / gastronomic experience up there with the best!

The Bahia Del Duque, at this time of year anyway (August), didn’t give us the full couple’s experience we’ve enjoyed in the past, but it will also be a special place for us as it was probably the hotel that got us hooked on luxury and gourmet travel. No doubt we will be back in the future!

Greywalls Hotel & Chez Roux Restaurant, East Lothian

Greywalls Hotel is located on the edge of Muirfield championship golf course with views over East Lothian and the Firth of Forth in Scotland.

Overlooking the famous greens of the 9th & 18th holes, Greywalls has a reputation of being ‘a golfers paradise’. We weren’t there to enjoy the golf and the weather certainly wasn’t going to allow us to do that; instead we were there to sample the famous Chez Roux dining experience and enjoy the surroundings of this Scottish Edwardian Country House.

As soon as we stepped foot in the hotel you felt very much at ‘home’.

The surroundings were cozy and warm, staff were very friendly and helpful and nothing was too much bother.

Greywalls was built in 1901 and retains all the character from these times. There were several drawing rooms to allow a catch up, glass of prosecco (or two) and game of cards before getting ready for dinner. A few guests were taking advantage of afternoon tea, which was very tempting, but we had dinner to look forward to later.

Our rooms were nice and cosy and perfect for our overnight stay with all the amenities you would expect.

Before dinner we enjoyed canapes and drinks in one of the large wood panelled drawing rooms, which was a very nice and relaxing way to start the evening.

One of our parents is coeliac and Greywalls had absolutely no problem in adapting the dishes to ensure we all enjoyed the experience. A nice touch indeed.

Dinner was served in the original dining room seating up to 20 and sharing the same views as the main dining room overlooking the 10th tee at Muirfield championship golf course.  Albert Roux himself says Chez Roux offers “french classical cuisine with a flair and lightness, using local products as much as possible.”

The menu at Greywalls offers this in abundance with Orkney scallops, Alladale Estate deer, the more local North Berwick crab and guinea fowl from East Lothian to name but a few. It is certainly nice to see produce from all over Scotland being served in such a high quality restaurant.

We must say that the ‘Roasted Orkney Scallops’ and ‘Duck Liver Ballantine’ starters were first class and the ‘Poached Lemon Sole’ and ‘Perthshire Squab Pigeon’ mains outstanding.  Our images may not do them justice, but trust us the dishe tasted amazing!

Breakfast was also a very relaxing and pleasant experience with the usual choices you would expect from a five star Scottish Hotel.

We had plans to explore the walled gardens more, but sadly the weather didn’t allow it – maybe next time!

All in all, if you’re looking for an elegant, tranquil and peaceful fine dining experience Greywalls certainly offers this for you.  We absolutely loved our stay as did our parents who have been raving about it ever since!

(Some pics courtesy of Greywalls / ICMI Collection)

Seven ‘Secrets’ – Secrets Capri, Mayan Riviera, Mexico

Our last trip to Mexico was back in 2007 and a lot has changed since then including what we look for and enjoy on our trips.

In recent years, most of our trips to the Caribbean have been to Sandals Resorts in the early part of the year. Trying a new resort group, in November also, made us a little apprehensive.

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We needn’t have worried. Secrets Capri in the Mayan Riviera was outstanding and is currently sitting high up on our most relaxing and enjoyable trips ever. Without taking anything away from Sandals Group, who have and will continue to give us some amazing trips, Secrets Capri certainly matches them for standards and quality.

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We stayed in a Preferred Club Deluxe Ocean View room (on the northern / eastern side of the resort). The room was very spacious and exactly what you would expect from a five-star resort of this type. The in room ‘edible delights’ waiting for you when you returned at the end of the evening were a pleasant surprise and highly recommended.

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Here are our seven ‘secrets’ to look out for.

#1, The overriding plus point from this resort is that their employees are outstanding. They are very attentive, friendly and nothing is ever a problem. Service is so good we genuinely had to tip one of them to stop bringing us cocktails and champagne one day!

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#2, The Cactus Club, which overlooks the Caribbean, has it all – it is great for breakfast, lunches and a romantic drink at end of the evening. We would recommend trying for a table adjacent to the beach and you will have one of the most relaxing breakfasts you will ever have had. 2016-11-16-10-01-20

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For lunch we would highly recommend the vast ceviche selection and the ‘fish fingers’ aka golden battered grouper fish.  Simply amazing, ditch the fries, and ask for two portions of fish fingers!

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#3, The restaurants on offer are genuinely good and two restaurants are venturing on fine dining. Portofino is first class and we had a few great evenings here, including our final night, where we had a special dining experience in our own private wine cellar.
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The oriental restaurant, Himitsu, was also great with excellent sushi on offer. The range and high quality of food from what you would expect at the usual beachfront place at Cactus Club, all the way up to their fine dining Italian restaurant Portofino is what all resorts should aspire to. Being able to choose from a variety of á la carte restaurants, a buffet and a café is great, but never having to worry about reservations was the real plus point. Perhaps worth saying that in our 10 nights dining (between 7pm and 8pm) we only ever had to wait on a table once and this was only for 10 minutes.

2016-11-19-10-26-02 2016-11-19-10-39-242016-11-19-10-39-00#4, It’s refreshing to visit a resort where there are more sunbeds than guests and there was absolutely no issue with finding one (even with a parasol) at any time of the day. The pool area is split into two with more ‘active’ guests at the southern / western side and the more relaxed / chilled out guests at the northern / eastern side.

2016-11-19-12-39-55Needless to say we spent a lot of time at the southern / eastern side.? It is worth pointing out that on some nights they set up for the night time entertainment late afternoon on this side and you are asked politely to move to another sunbed for the remainder of the afternoon.? Not a problem, if you know about it, so keep an eye on the evening entertainment plans and ask one of the team what’s happening as the shows are pretty good.

#5, We like to keep active, at least for some parts of the day, and managed to explore the grounds of the resort on most days. This included a walk out towards the main gate and spa complex. We would suggest doing it either early morning or late afternoon when the sun is low and you can benefit from a little shade from the trees that line the route. As you can see below we were lucky and managed to observe some of the locals going about their daily business.

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In the morning, before breakfast, we hit the gym and took part in cross fit sessions with Daniel the resorts personal trainer. We also managed to fit in daily walks along Mayakoba Beach towards Playa Del Carmen around 1 ½ hr round trip.

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All very worthwhile activities to help us work off those extra calories from the amazing food and drink on offer.

#6, For bloggers and twitter addicts like us an effective internet connection is essential and we would have to say the internet was pretty good – just be ready and prepared to switch to different routers depending on time of day and where you are in resort.

#7, Coco Café, is a real find, and asset for this resort. This place is open 24 hrs and offers coffee, pastries and snacks. Just what you need first thing in the morning, late at night or if you fancy a sneaky bite away from your other half!

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Finally, a big thank you to Monica Sierra who is doing a fantastic job as E-concierge and Social Media Co-ordinator and Javier Suarez, Division Manager who made our stay all the more special. Grissell, the poolside waitress, was also the most bubbly and engaging waitress we have ever been fortunate to have – top member of the team.

Overall, we had a fantastic luxurious time time at Secrets Capri and it will certainly be a place we will be visiting again soon.? We might try out a few of the other Secrets Resorts before then though so look out for our next blog.

Ballathie House Hotel, Fine Dining in the Heart of Scotland

A long landscaped tree lined avenue meets you on arrival at Ballathie House Hotel with a stunning turreted 19th century house appearing through the trees at the end. Before we even entered the hotel we understood why it was named Country Sporting Hotel of the Year earlier this year. The setting on the banks of the River Tay is truly amazing and it immediately gives you a sense of tranquillity and relaxation.

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Ballathie is a luxury country house hotel in Perthshire with a 2 AA red rosette restaurant.  Its setting in a quiet secluded area on the banks of the River Tay offers a really high standard of hotel accommodation in Scotland.

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Located just over 1 hours drive from both Edinburgh and Glasgow, Aberdeen, and Inverness Ballathie House Hotel is easily one of the finest 4 Star hotels in Scotland. Our trip up from Lanarkshire was pretty good with an unusually warm, sunny, but windy day, to enjoy.

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As we were only staying for an overnight we arrived early so we could enjoy what Ballathie had to offer. We never had enough time to enjoy everything, but the fishing beats on the River Tay are highly regarded amongst anglers, and, in addition to fishing, the Estate also offers a variety of outdoor sports and activities including walking, cycling, clay pigeon shooting, all just a short stroll from the hotel.

Our check in was great and the welcome was one of the best we have had at any Scottish country house.  We were given a short tour of the ground floor so we could get our bearings. What stood out within the first few minutes of our arrival was the friendliness and helpfulness of the staff – nothing staged, just very natural and friendly.

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Room 10, Inverness, was impressive indeed with lots of period features and a large dark oak four poster dominating the traditionally Scottish country house room when we entered.

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A traditional, and good sized bathroom was off to our left and whole room immediately gave us a feel good factor.

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We already had our eyes on the two easy chairs overlooking the river Tay to relax in after we had explored the area and had a soak in the super-size, incredibly fast filling bath tub!

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Before we explored the estate we nipped down to the cosy Restaurant Bar for a light ‘soup and sandwich’ lunch. The malt whiskies were very tempting, but it was only early afternoon – plenty of time for that later!  The Restaurant Bar and rest of the house is adorned by hunting and sporting memorabilia throughout and you could easily have spent the entire afternoon exploring the displays.

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Armed with a map and advice from reception we ventured down to the edge of the River Tay and, although a little muddy, followed the river bank for a good 45mins or so, explored a few salmon fishing jetties before returning on a circular path via a wooded path. All in all, a very enjoyable walk with some amazing scenery, just what we needed to start our mini-break off. Back to the room for coffee, and some relaxing time in those easy chairs before our evening dinner.

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We headed down for pre-dinner drinks and were spoiled for choice from an extensive and exciting menu. There was also a good wine selection, reasonably priced, to choose from.

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The dining room is plush and opulent with floor to ceiling windows looking out over the front lawn which slopes down to the River Tay. The food is what we came for and although we hadn’t heard of Head Chef Scott Scorer – a sneaky peak at his menu over pre-dinner drinks gave us a sense of excitement.

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There’s no point in trying to describe in fanciful words the food we were served as our pictures tell a thousand words.

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The smoked salmon parfait amuse-bouches were an instant hit, although they disappeared in the blink of an eye – oh well they are meant to be bite sized after all!

Our starters of Salad Gourmand consisting of smoked salmon, cured beef, marinated venison, quail egg, asparagus and truffle dressing and a Confit Duck Terrine with ginger crumb, golden raisins and truffled brioche set the standard for precision and detail very high for the rest of the evening.

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A real hearty and flavoursome cream of mushroom soup, served with freshly baked breads, followed our starter before we both enjoyed a succulent Roast Loin of Sutherland Venison main accompanied by sweet potato dauphinoise, homemade sausage and a red wine jus.

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Our dining experience was topped off with an amazing sweet of Dark Chocolate waffle with caramelized bananas, peanut butter cremeux and fudge ice cream.

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Needless to say the food was excellent and Chef Scott Scorer’s precision and attention to detail is simply outstanding.

The menu brings together the finest produce from around Perthshire and Scotland and I have to say Ballathie certainly offers a real special dining experience. Service was top notch and again very attentive and friendly.

After our dinner we moved through to the drawing room and finished off our night with freshly brewed coffee and petit fours. We retired to our room around 10pm, crashing out on the four poster bed – all that walking and eating had obviously been too much for us and we needed a good night’s sleep as we knew we had breakfast to finish off in a few hours.

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As a past winner of Rural Restaurant of the Year, Ballathie is known for its food, but they openly state they don’t like to make too much of a meal of it, but why not!

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They should be shouting it from the rooftops and should be really proud of consistently achieving their 2 AA rosettes.

Ballathie is certainly on our ‘visit again’ list, hopefully next time for a little longer.

Other Information:

This was a sponsored visit, however, the review / article is an independent, honest and true reflection of our experience.

La Cocina de Colacho, Playa Blanca – A Jewel of a find

We’ve been visiting Playa Blanca in Lanzarote for many years and what a mistake we’ve been making!

We simply can’t believe how many times we’ve driven past La Cocina de Colacho on our travels.  Wow, what an amazing find. So much so on our last visit we ate there three times – quite simply the best three meals of our trip.rest07

From the moment you enter this place you immediately feel part of it, in some respect, even the family.  Anabel greets you with a genuine, warm and welcoming smile that you rarely get in restaurants these days.  Even better is when she pours you a gin and tonic from the bottle at your table……what a measure.

Behind her, through a large glass window, ‘Colacho’, her husband is busy preparing what can only be said are Michelin star quality dishes.  Anabel’s husband Nicholas Machin, is known to everyone as Colacho, and we were fortunate to be eating in his kitchen or ‘Cocina’.  Lucky us! la-cocina-de-colacho

With its amazing modern design, geometric shapes, and glass everywhere the restaurant catches your attention instantly.  There is seating for around 60 covers split into several distinct and intimate eating areas. Anabel promised us a fantastic table and she didn’t disappoint.
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Anabel was front of house along with their charming son, making it a real family experience. Anabel is also a very talented artist and her work adorns the walls in the basement area when you venture downstairs; even the bathroom trip is part of the experience.

We had found this place online before we left Scotland as we were looking for something a little different from the usual Playa Blanca cuisine, which although normally very good, if you eat in the correct places, rarely offers the type of gourmet dining we like.  La Cocina de Colacho offers this though in abundance.

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There is a pretty varied a la carte menu to choose from and there are at least three daily specials on offer.  In Anabel’s words, and we would now have to agree, they are all ‘fantastico’!

We’ll leave you to experience the dishes when you visit, as our descriptions here, wouldn’t do them justice.  Here are some shots? of our dishes though – the warm chocolate pudding was to die for and well worth the wait.
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Finally, we’ve taken a quote from the restaurant’s website:

“Colacho has now realized the dream of his life, to have his own restaurant, a place where he can create and work freely”.

We’re just delighted we have now found this dream of a restaurant? and it’s definitely a must visit when we next return to Playa Blanca.

Thank you Anabel and Colacho

 

Princesa Yaiza, Playa Blanca, Lanzarote – Much more than chocolate crepes

After arriving at Princesa Yaiza, you immediately experience a feeling of luxury and calmness you might not usually expect from a Lanzarote resort.  It was late evening and we were greeted by a member of the management team with refreshing glasses of ‘Champagne’ or should we say a nice Spanish sparkling wine! Nonetheless it did the trick and immediately put us into vacation / holiday territory. Our 4hr flight from Scotland with Jet2 holidays had been great, but for breaks like this it’s not till you arrive does your holiday begin.

images (2)Check-in was seamless and pleasant, although some air conditioning in the main reception area would have been nice; something we became quite aware of throughout our stay.  Maybe one for the hotel to look into – although we do appreciate the environmental argument.

Our email to guest relations prior to arrival also seemed to have been on their radar and we were assured we would be pleased with our room. We are not keen on rooms on the ground floor and much prefer sun in the afternoon and evening. We also like to be in a quiet area of any resort – so only three challenges for the reservations team to deal with. A nice touch was when the receptionist was able to show us a view from our room on their booking system; we’d never seen this before, but a great idea.

We’re always a little apprehensive when we first try a resort; room location can really make or break a trip. We walked through a tropical paradise of palm trees and running streams and then along an open, airy walkway to our room on the second floor. Our Double Superior room with Sea View was large and spacious with a large sitting area and to be honest was what we had expected, the dressing room though was a pleasant bonus. It was to a high standard, with rustic wooden furniture and ‘interesting’ wall art. The bathroom had everything you needed and a quick check on the shower pressure assured us that all was in order and that we could make full use of the excellent range of toiletries provided.

The balcony was much larger though and had two wicker sun chairs, but the question of whether it received the sun in the afternoon was still unanswered.  A quick check on an iPhone app gave us some confidence things should be ok, but we weren’t sure – all would be revealed in the morning! The night time balcony view was special with large palm trees and the pool lit up pretty spectacularly. A saxophonist was also playing nearby; mmmm, what was that they said about a quiet area of the resort!

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A quick unpack meant we were able to venture out to our favourite cocktail bar Vino Blanco at the Rubicon Marina a 12 minute walk from the hotel. Nothing had really changed since our last visit, except a new addition to the menu.  Restaurants that display pictures of the food on their menu board is a ‘no no’ for us and unfortunately these had arrived at Vino Blanco. Pleased to say though that the cocktails, atmosphere and views of the marina were great and we would certainly recommend a visit or two if you can. We did find out later though that the food in the pictures was still actually rather good, but please Vino Blanco ditch those pictures as they don’t do your food or establishment any justice.

We headed back to our room around 11pm; a late one for us, and finally managed to get to sleep with an air of anticipation over what the morning would bring. Pleased to say that the saxophonist had also gone to bed and he and his entertainment colleagues did so each night around 10pm for the remainder of our stay. The choc on the bed and the vanilla aromatherapy meant we were sleeping in minutes.  The following night after a review of the ‘pillow menu’ was even better.

The view from our balcony in the morning was excellent, looking over greenery and a stunning salt water pool. We were in block C and almost everyone in block A opposite was basking in the morning sun, having coffee on their balconies. Not us though, we were already looking to forward to the afternoon and early evening sun with a few glasses of sparkling wine in hand. Although not top floor, we weren’t ground either; the reservations team had done a pretty good job for us this time round, so top marks for them.

download (1)imagesOur first breakfast at the Yaiza was what you would expect from a 5* star hotel buffet restaurant with the usual dishes on offer for you to browse, walk a few miles before choosing a little of every dish you fancied followed up with several visits to fill up on juice in the tiny glasses. Seriously though, the surroundings were great and service excellent and was a more than acceptable place to start the day.

We do like something different though, something more relaxing and less strenuous!? More importantly we like to spend time with each other at breakfast as opposed to passing each other with a plateful of chocolate crepes and donuts.

So the next day and for the rest of our stay, we decided to ‘dine’ at breakfast in the gourmet Isle de Lobos restaurant. The restaurant terrace is elevated and nestled in lush greenery with stunning views of Fuerteventura and Playa Dorada beach. The food is to die for, with rich Lavazza coffee on tap and for the more adventurous some Spanish ‘cava’ champagne. Lounge room music plays gently in the background whisking you away to another place. The menu is vast and rich, and to help you decide what you would like they bring you a platter of fresh bakery to give you energy during your decision making thought process. Importantly though in all of this you can still try the chocolate crepes at the end of your morning; just with a little more style and elegance.

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The gourmet Isle de Lobos restaurant is what holidays are all about and although you pay a little more for this breakfast experience it really is worthwhile and makes your trip much more special and romantic.  We also ate in the Isle de Lobos restaurant once in the evening and again would recommend it to anyone; it certainly deserves its gourmet accolade.

We enjoyed our balcony so much we continued with the sparkling wine theme (with some gin for extra measure) and had 3 nights on it ordering in room service, listening to the live singer and saxophonist in the hotels courtyard. Very romantic and relaxing; just what we both needed.

For the remaining nights stay we ventured out to nearby restaurants. All were great with the usual type of food on offer. However, one restaurant in particular was simple outstanding – La Cocina de Colacho.

So much so, we’ll be doing a separate blog / review on this in the coming days.

Have to say that Princesa Yaiza also featured other stunning restaurants and menus to choose from and these will be on our radar next time. The gourmet Isla de Lobos is joined by the Japanese Kampai and the Italian Don Giovanni. There is also the more down to earth El Chiringuito restaurant and snack bar and the Bodega Tapas. The only reason we didn’t try these was that we needed a bit of a walk to work of those Crepes; why oh why do they put scales in your hotel room?

Our holidays at this time of year are pretty relaxing and with the exception of a few mid afternoon walks for lunch into the Rubicon Marina we spent most of our day time lying by the pool or on our balcony in the afternoon. We also spent time in the Thalasso Spa on a few occasions, enjoying the hydrotherapy jets, tea room, sauna and Turkish baths. A truly relaxing and calming experience and worth a try.

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It wasn’t all relaxation, we did have one energetic excursion over two days exploring the area on mountain bikes – well we had to do something to work off those chocolate crepes.  Hotel reception was able to organize the bikes for us very quickly and a company brought them at a specified time. The trip was definitely worth it as we caught sunrise at Papagayo Beach; just the two of us. Wow.

We really couldn’t complain about anything at the resort although there was the usual issue with European hotels with some sunbeds being ‘reserved’ early on. Not a major problem getting one as there are plenty however the hotel should try and space them out a little as it did get cramped on occasion in some areas.

Interesting part of our stay was seeing the filming of the promotional hotel movie and images. It was great to see and fun to watch the ‘beautiful’ people having a normal family holiday. Although the drone flying overhead on our second day gave us all a little fright given what’s happening across the world these days, but we soon got over it. All in all though we’re sure the video will give a pretty good account of what to experience at Princesa Yaiza and we’ll post a link to it when it’s ready. (NB: We’re the pale looking couple in the bottom right of the shot; hadn’t managed to catch any real sun by that time!)

The Princesa Yaiza is fantastic and our kind of place; it’s now definitely on our radar for further visits and is more than likely our accommodation of choice when we visit this area again; we can highly recommend a stay here.

That’s our first travel blog completed. Hope you enjoyed it and we promise it will get better!

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