Reviews, Uncategorized

Restaurant Review: Caractère, Notting Hill

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Caractere restaurant. Image courtesy of the internet, as are all of these photos. NHYM.

Caracatere

209 Westbourne Park Road W11 EA

Tel 0208181 3850

www.caractererestaurant.com

I must apologise, especially to those who have signed up to my blog within the past few months, because I have not had one minute to write. But I have a good excuse! We moved houses, and as they say, it was very stressful. Actually, it’s been a stressful YEAR. There were peaks of stress when ceilings came crashing down, flooding that made a waterfall out of my ceiling and break-ins that led me to police statements and detectives. This year was hijacked by my selling and moving houses, but it has been all worth it (and really I should write a blog all about house decorating because I have so much useless information that I will never use again after I finish decorating this house). The good news is that I love it. This is the house-I’m-going-to-live-in-for-the-rest-of-my-life- house. If it’s possible to fall in love with an inanimate object, this is it. Of course, that comes with problems, I am obsessing at night over which fabrics to use out of 22,000 I was shown and I actually never want to go ‘out’ of the house these days. So, it does take quite a lot to get me to walk out my door.

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Roasted scallops. NHYM 2018.

Luckily, I found this new restaurant which was definitely worth the walk to. Caractere is the baby of Emily Roux, daughter of Michel Roux Jr, of Le Gavroche fame, and Diego Ferrari, who was head chef there for three years. This place was destined to be a foodie-heaven baby. Caractere has taken over the Bumpkin space on Westbourne Park Road in Notting Hill, and has a contemporary art deco design which hits lots of trends – green and purple velvet chairs, sputnik orbit chandeliers, exposed brick, lots of gold and brass and marble table tops. And since I’ve been sucked in the depths of the interior design world lately, all I can do is covet the chairs and stare at what they’ve done and love it all.

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Amuses bouches NHYM 2018. 

But it’s the food that takes my breath away here. Everything I ordered was delicious. Perhaps it was a lucky pick in the menu of character traits of Delicate, Robust etc… but I don’t care. There were a few amuses bouches that started our tastebuds tingling, and then I ordered the artichoke starter. Let’s just put it this way, I’ve never tasted an indulgent artichoke before I came here. It was a starter to remember but my husband also found his roasted scallops equally as good. The cacio e pepe is supposedly their star starter so I will definitely need to come back to try it, given how much I already liked the artichoke.

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Then, the rack of lamb literally melted in my mouth. The quality of the meat was really stand-out-ish and even though the portions looked small, they were quite rich and consistent. The grande finale was the chocolate cake with pecan praline, salted caramel sauce, and mascarpone ice-cream. Absolutely divine: I felt like we went to chocolate-heaven. A few days later, I ran into the friends we had gone with, and he still kept raving about the chocolate cake, saying he would go back just for the chocolate cake. I would go back for all the above frankly, but I am secretly hoping it doesn’t become like the Ledbury where it can take months to get a reservation.

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The two lovebirds Roux and Ferrari have made a beautiful, young, contemporary baby out of Caractere, which may still be finding its feet (the service was hit-and-miss but friendly) but is likely to attract foodies and locals alike, all looking for a taste of foodie heaven. As for me, I will be hibernating in our house until that chocolate cake beckons me back, but I promise to write a little more, and come out of my love nest a little more.

xx

NYHM

http://www.nottinghillyummymummy.com

@NHyummymummy

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Reviews, Social Commentary

Soho House White City, London

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Soho House White City Pool. Courtesy of the internet. 2018. 

Firstly, let’s get this out of the way: do not, I repeat do NOT, under any circumstances drive to Soho House, White City. BIG MISTAKE. We made this mistake the first time I went with a friend and we were told that there was no parking and to go to Westfield’s car park. Disembarking in John Lewis and walking out of Westfield and across the road to the old BBC building which still looked bare and new at the time, never creates a good impression when going to the ‘hip, new’ west London hotspot.

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Outdoor space. NHYM 2018. 

There, now that I’ve gotten this out of the way, I can proceed to actually reviewing the place.  I’ve been to Soho House White City three times since its opening – now in Ubers –  once for breakfast, once for a couples dinner and once for a girls night out to try it out in all its variations. But my opinion hasn’t changed a whole lot since I first went there: I have mixed feelings about it. Perhaps, it’s because I conjured an image of the most amazing Soho House I had ever seen before I went, that it didn’t quite live up to my expectations. I have only myself to blame. A lot of other people really love it, so don’t take my word for it.

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Breakfast bowl. NHYM 2018. 

Don’t get me wrong, there are parts that I really like, particularly the rooftop pool and areas around it and the 9th floor terrace are my favourite: they make me feel like I could be anywhere, New York, Miami, Istanbul or even London. The only issue I had with it my first time, was that I was surrounded by young, male, white, hipsters and I am everything but that (We need a few Meghan sightings to rectify that), but actually it’s gotten better. For breakfast, I did like my breakfast bowl full of hipster-goodness of quinoa, roasted tomatoes and poached eggs.

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Outdoor terrace 9th floor. Courtesy of the internet. NHYM 2018. 

Now, the main 9th floor which has all the bars and the reservations-restaurant leave me, well, a bit unfazed. It was designed with the ‘BBC in the 60s’ in mind, but I wasn’t wowed by it, nor do I hate it. It’s fine at night, but the wood-panelled walls feel dark in the daytime and the restaurant design reminds me of an airport lounge in the 70s. Or what I would imagine an airport lounge in the 70s would look like. And the food at dinnertime is Soho House food, fine but never the main attraction. This Soho house feels a bit like one big corporation in some ways, with less creativity and intimacy, and more mainstream in mind. It has a feel of ‘we’ve seen all of this before’ to it.

The last time I went, for a girls dinner, I clearly didn’t get the memo. I arrived completely overdressed with my red, high heels and very short dress and stood in the elevator next to a family in trainers, jeans and sweatshirts. Yup, I was having my second Pretty Woman moment at Soho House, White City. It dawned on me that it wasn’t designed with people like me in mind, it turns out that I am way more Mayfair than Westfield, whether I like to admit it or not.

But for people who work around Soho House White City, what a great addition. And having said all of this, I still had a great time every single time I went.  So, if you do go, please form your own opinion. My male, white, hipster friend loves it, so if you fit that mould, you will likely love it too. It’s still a cool place and a lot closer than Shoreditch House, so I will happily go back any time, but it turns out I am not as hipster as I thought I was.

xx

NHYM

http://www.nottinghillyummymummy.com

 

 

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Reviews

Restaurant Review: Southam Street, Notting Hill

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Southam Street. All photos courtesy of NHYM apart from this one, courtesy of the internet. NHYM 2018. 

I am always excited to hear about new restaurant openings in Notting Hill, because one easily gets bored (yawn) and tired by the same old stalwarts (ie. ‘Shall we go to Osteria/The Oak/e&o?’ etc…) So when Southam Street invited me to write a review of their new restaurant, I was more than happy to oblige since I love Pan Asian food and I love Notting Hill. So last Thursday, I took some friends along to try it out.

Southam Street is a Robata and Raw restaurant set over two floors with a top floor Tequila bar. That night we were seated on the ground floor, which has a scandi feel to it: white-painted exposed bricks, Danish-style chairs and industrial pipes coming out of a very cool ceiling.

Golborne Road is having something of a renaissance and this restaurant is just one of its recent openings. 108 Garage established itself as ‘the one to watch’ when it opened in 2017 and received brilliant reviews, quickly finding a spot in Bloomberg’s Best 100 restaurants in the UK: So it is unsurprising that the duo behind 108 Garage opened a new resto down the street called Southam Street (and that duo is a story in itself with Luca the Italian banker and Chris the Gumtree Chef.)

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Double Salmon Roll. NHYM 2018. 

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Yellowtail Tartare. NYYM 2018

We started out our meal with some of the raw offerings: The Double Salmon Roll and the Yellowtail Tartare. The double salmon was fresh and succulent, just as any good sushi restaurant in Mayfair with triple the price. The yellowtail tartare was good, but perhaps less memorable.

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Bao Bun. NHYM 2018. 

But let’s cut right to the chase. The Korean fried chicken Bao Bun is really the piece de resistance in this restaurant and is – literally – everyone’s favourite. We all ordered one, but one of our friends liked it so much, he ordered two. Someone said they would come to Southam just for it and my husband still raves about it.

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Thai Salad. NHYM 2018. 

I personally also love the Thai salad with mi-cuit salmon and salmon roe mixed with grapefruit, shallots, and lots of herbs – it is delicious and after the salad and the Bao Bun, I could have gone home happy.

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Iberico pork. NHYM 2018. 

But instead, we kept ordering, and had the wagyu beef sliders, which were very tasty, and the Iberico pork pluma – also very good. As sides, we had asparagus grilled on a Robata a la Nobu style, which I really liked, and broccoli in sesame sauce. All quite delicious.

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Rump Steak and Broccoli. NHYM 2018. 

The rump steak was a bit on the fatty side and could have used a bit more sauce/marinade, but by this time we were so full that we didn’t really care.

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Fondant. NHYM 2018. 

For dessert, the chocolate moelleux hit the spot, which rivals Nobu’s as well and the panna cotta, which wasn’t panna cotta, but a chawan mushi (Ok, the Japanese version of a panna cotta) was equally delicious.

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Strawberry Chawan Mushi. NHYM 2018. 

It was all very beautifully decorated with edible flowers and pretty colours. The only – little – downside to the whole experience was the service…which was slightly inexperienced. Cocktails came at staggered intervals, and questions about the food were met with head-caught-in-headlights stares: ‘How are the sliders? Uhm. I don’t know, I haven’t tried them. How is the Iberico pork cooked? Uhm, I don’t know, let me ask’ which happened a few times, but having said that, they were very friendly, mostly attentive, and did try.

Overall:

Southam Street is a great little addition to west London’s dining scene with some excellent dishes (crispy chicken Bao Bun and Salmon Roe Thai Salad) and some old Nobu-style favourites. The service could use some refining, but the food and the friendliness was enough of a distraction to keep us happy all night long.

Thank you Southam Street for a wonderful Thursday treat!

xx

NHYM

http://www.nottinghillyummymummy.com

@NHyummymummy

**Southam Street invited me and three friends but all views and opinions expressed are my own**

 

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Reviews, Travel

Review: Limewood & The Pig, Hampshire

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Limewood Hotel & Terrace. Photos Courtesy of NHYM 2018

We first heard about Limewood about 10 years ago after it first opened through a friend and colleague’s of my husband’s who raved about it and kept telling us that we should go, saying that it was her favourite country hotel. But then, something overwhelming happened: we had kids and you-know-how-it- is, only hotels with kids clubs came onto our radar and we said we would go when our children were older. Well, they are now – a little – older, and we finally made it to Limewood last weekend for the most glorious weekend in the history of UK bank holidays. We wanted to run to this friend to tell her how much we loved it, but sadly we couldn’t, because this friend succumbed to her fight against breast cancer a few years ago. So, it was with some sadness that we loved this place, a place that for us, will always be linked to her.

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Garden. Limewood. Courtesy of NHYM 2018. 

I tell my children to appreciate everything we have and not to take anything for granted, whether family, friends or our health – all of which I have lost at some point. When I feel myself getting angry and frustrated by little things, I try to tell myself not to ‘sweat the little things.’ And in some ways, the harder times I’ve experienced over the years have taught me about appreciating the happier times and how to be happier overall.

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Limewood Pathway. NHYM 2018. 

But enough philosophising, you’ve probably come for a hotel review, rather than a lecture on happiness! So, back to Limewood: so much of it is ab-fab. We had a wonderful ‘Pavilion’ which is comprised of two interconnecting rooms, one on the ground floor where the kids stayed and one on the first floor where we stayed. It felt like your own little house at the back of the hotel’s garden with plenty of space, charm and was very family friendly where we could open our door and let the kids run around wildly in the garden.

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Bathtub in bedroom. NHYM 2018. 

Our bedroom had a large four-poster bed and a bathtub literally amongst the trees. It felt as if you were in a treehouse somewhere far away. Limewood is in the middle of the New Forest (not in the outskirts like Chewton Glen) with wild ponies roaming around freely, which we saw when we went tandem bicycling.

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Limewood Bar. NHYM 2018.

Other parts of the hotel I really liked were the bar, the huge spa and pool, and the breakfast room called the scullery. What differentiates Limewood from many of the other grand old hotels is that it is a boutique hotel but with 5 star amenities and it is equally as luxurious as any 5 star. It is just the right size and is beautifully designed, from the rooms to the breakfast room, whereas some of the larger hotels can become impersonal like the Grove or the Four Seasons.

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The Pig. NHYM 2018. 

On Saturday, we went to the Pig, which is the sister hotel of Limewood. It is basically its younger, hip sister, equally beautiful, but more rustic-chic than grownup Limewood, in a drinks-in-a-jam-jar kind of way.

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The Pig Conservatory. NHYM 2018. 

The restaurant is in a very cool conservatory with food that is all locally sourced. Like I said, hipsterville. We ate outside on the terrace because it was so beautiful out, but would love to go back at night one day as it is apparently quite stunning as well for dinner. The Tomahawk pork is its claim-to-fame, so be sure to order that if you go.

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Limewood Grounds. NHYM 2018. 

Back at Limewood, the children spent hours on the swings, but we also went bike-riding, swimming in the pool and to a cute little farm Longwood, when we decided that Paultons and Peppa Pig World didn’t quite flow with our weekend plans ;). There were plenty of children because it was a bank holiday weekend, so if you’re looking to go for a romantic weekend as a couple, don’t go on a BH weekend!

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Back Garden Limewood. NHYM 2018. 

Everything about the weekend was stunning: the weather, the hotel, the food, and the room, although I couldn’t have called it a relaxing weekend: there were moments when I longed for a kids club, but nonetheless it was absolutely lovely and we will certainly be back. Everyone I speak to loves it there and I can understand why. Our friend would have loved to hear that we finally made it there ten years later and loved it too.

xx

NHYM

http://www.nottinghillyummymummy

@NHyummymummy

**In memory of my husband’s Limewood-loving friend who fought so bravely and strongly against breast cancer**

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Reviews, Uncategorized

Review: Annabel’s, Mayfair

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Annabel’s Mayfair. Photo courtesy of NHYM 2018.

A few weeks ago, a new giant opened in town: the newly renovated Annabel’s on Berkeley Square, inhabiting 26,000 square feet in the middle of Mayfair, with a £60 million renovation price tag on it. Of course when the opportunity came up to go, I said ‘yes’ faster than a Londoner says yes to sunshine. And it is spectacular, in so many ways. There are not a lot of places that could pull off a pale pink staircase with a hot air balloon suspending a white unicorn in the air. But Annabel’s manages to pull it off.

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Annabel’s Staircase hot air balloon. NHYM 2018. 

Richard Caring who re-opened this club seems to have one thing in mind: to blow out any of the competition out of the water. What I mean by that, is that he clearly hopes Annabel’s takes over as London’s newest, brashest, boldest and beautiful private member’s club, luring members away from the Arts Club and 5Hertford Street. And so far, it looks like he is doing a good job.

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We ate on the ground floor in their piece de resistance outdoor garden which has a retractable roof and it was a beautiful, balmy evening that you could be anywhere, in Miami, or the South of France or Italy, or right here in London. It is a mix of Richard Caring’s Ivy Chelsea garden with plants, flowers, trees, flora and fauna but with the Arts Club’s polished elegance. The food? Well, the food was secondary, I only had eyes for that garden, but it was still good in an Ivy-kind of way.

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Upstairs bar courtesy of the internet/Sunday Times. NHYM 2018. 

Upstairs, there is a lush, colonial opulence in the Elephant Bar, with images of elephants everywhere and a colourfully painted jungle wallpaper. Next to it is a private dining room with what looks like a giant Italian murano chandelier hanging from a ceiling full of carefully carved cornices and there is another private dining room which looks like a white wedding venue.

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Women’s bathroom Annabel’s NHYM 2018.

Oh and the women’s bathroom on the 1st floor is just the most Instagrammable bathroom I have ever seen: the ceiling is made of thousands of roses, the swan taps trickle with water into pink sinks and the lighted mirrors make you feel just like a star. You could just bring the party in there and spend the whole night here.

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Ceiling of roses Annabel’s NHYM 2018. 

The place is huge – upstairs is the Mexican, which has a cosy, but completely different feel to the rest of the club, and downstairs is the nightclub, which has a small dance floor and lots of place to have dinner. Right now, there is plenty of buzz around Annabel’s that I’ve already been twice in one week, but I wonder how it will stay full once the buzz has died down. We managed to dance to some oldies-but-goodies, from ‘Bamboleo!’ to ‘It’s Your Birthday,’ which brought me back to 2003. I hear that they are trying to lure a younger crowd, but so far, I haven’t seen it happen and feel comfortably not-too-old there. It is still very much an ‘older-crowd’ territory.

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Wallpaper in the nightclub courtesy of the internet. NHYM 2018.

Annabel’s is a design feat. The mixtures of colours, themes, art and decoration manages to come together and make something spectacular, but at times overwhelming. It is the opposite of minimalist: Everything here is maximalist, from the loos to the walls.  Everywhere you turn, there are intricate details and designs that have been carefully thought out and the place could be considered completely garish, but somehow these over-the-top themes, colours and details work together. So for a fun night out in a group, Annabel’s is great. Just don’t expect monochromes and geometry here, it’s all about letting your imagination run wild.

xx

NHYM

http://www.nottinghillyummymummy.com

@NHyummymummy

 

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Reviews, Travel

Review: Four Seasons Kuda Huraa & Four Seasons Explorer, Maldives

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Four Seasons Kuda Huraa Pool Maldives. All photos NHYM 2018. 

Welcome Back! And hope everyone has had a wonderful and relaxing Easter break! We have just returned from one fab trip to the Maldives. Again. I know, it’s really not original, but it’s the one place I go where I don’t have FOMO. People are always telling me, ‘Oh, go there [fill in the blank], it’s just like the Maldives,’ but then I go and I say ‘It’s not the Maldives.’ Yes these are very first world/1%er/I-can’t-believe-I’m-writing-this-there’s-a-war-in-Syria musings, but the Maldives are truly my HappyPlace. So here I am writing about it – mostly in denial of our f*up world – but also because I am hoping to live off my ‘Maldives High’ for a few more days…

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We decided to go to the Four Seasons Kuda Huraa not because it is the best/most beautiful/most unique island, but because it is so nice & easy. Some people have told us the Four Seasons Landaa is nicer and bigger, but it requires waiting for a seaplane after a 14 hour flight+layover vs. a 20 minute boat ride which starts your holiday. Having gone on a seaplane last time and knowing about our flight’s layover, I just wanted to get to the resort ASAP. It is still beautiful and with small children, Kuda Huraa just ticks tons of boxes and you can rarely go wrong with the Four Seasons, because it is reliable, has great service and great food.

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What makes it so great, and the Maldives in general, is that I can spend one week barefoot and my children have complete freedom on the island. It is quite a small island which makes it really easy for the kids to go to the kids club, the pool and our Bungalow all by themselves. And traveling with my almost 70-year old mum, she was quite happy not to do too much walking. And my kids LOVE the kids club there. To the point where at 8:45am they went to the kids club and were told to come back in 15 mins when it opened at 9am. (One small caveat – the kids club is great for young children, but for older children there are bigger islands with more catered towards older kids).

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The bungalows all have traditional, thatched roofs which I really like since I am not really into ultra-modern design hotels – I am more Robinson Crusoe than Ian Schrager –  and all have private pools. The only slight downside is that the bungalows are all a bit close to each other. But my daughters loved that: one afternoon I was closing up our room and couldn’t find one of them. She had wandered over into our neighbour’s pool for a pool party with one of her new friends.

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The inside is spacious and immaculate with wood features and of course the typical outdoor shower that the kids loved.

MaldivesBeachNHYMThe beaches are beautiful but what makes the Maldives so unique is the sea-life and the lagoons. If you’re not into snorkelling and diving, this may not be the right place for you, but as a lover-of-oceans, this is truly my paradise. On our trip, despite coral bleaching, Tsunamis and general coral degeneration, we saw hundreds of spinner dolphins, a pilot whale, turtles, stingrays, hundreds of fish and lots of black tip and white tip reef sharks. The underwater life is what really brings me back here every time and is so unique to the Maldives.

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At Kuda Huraa there is a whole Marine Saver Centre with Marine Biologists who look after injured and sick turtles. My daughter spent a day with them, which is just so cool, feeding them and giving them medicine, as well as trying to help regenerate the corals, which are sadly all dead. And while she was helping to save the oceans, I was happily diving and surfing.

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Yep, that’s me on my surfboard, chilling out, waiting to catch a wave… The Maldives are really the ideal place to learn to surf, first with a lagoon lesson and then out on the waves. Amazing! The combination of surf & diving is just unbeaten. My kind of heaven.

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Adults only pool and in the distance is the Four Seasons Explorer. 

While we were there, we were lucky enough to go on the Four Seasons Explorer for a visit. For those who don’t know about the Four Seasons Explorer, it is a live-aboard boat that travels around the Maldives, taking you to unspoilt and undiscovered places to dive/surf/swim. What a way to get to know the Maldives. (I loved hearing about a 16 year old who threw her 16th birthday party on the Explorer. That’s one sweet 16th.)

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All Aboard! Back deck of the Four Seasons Explorer.

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The rooms looked very comfortable and cozy.

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Main restaurant on the Explorer.

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Sunset Bar. 

Every night at sunset we had our routine of the shark feeding and the crab race that the whole family loved. We were happy, our children were happy, what else can you ask for? As we said when we got back to London: The Maldives (and the Four Seasons) didn’t disappoint. That’s the thing with the Maldives, you know you will always have a magical time, and it is really a place where worries don’t exist – except whether to go swimming or to go to the kids club for the kids and diving or surfing for the adults – and for a few days, you can convince yourself again that the world truly still is an awe-inspiring and peaceful place.

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Until next time Kuda Huraa…

xx

NHYM

http://www.nottinghillyummymummy.com

@NHyummymummy

 

 

 

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Reviews

A DAY OF BARRE & DISHOOM

The other day, a friend invited me to a Barre class at Equinox High Street Ken. As most of you know, I am not exactly what you would call a ‘gym bunny’, let alone a ‘ballet swan’ and I’d always imagined a Barre class as full of jetes, pas de deux, arabesques and demi pointes: full of complicated and difficult ballet moves. But when the class started, I realised that this was actually more Pilates than Royal Opera House. Phew. And here I thought I was going to be the ugly duckling stuck in the middle of a Swan Lake production. Barre is more about strengthening your core while using a barre, which I can just about handle.

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It was a great class, working on everything from your gluteals (bum), triceps (bat wings) and abs (muffin top), so really all I need to go from an ugly duckling to Gisele (the ballet and the supermodel versions). Well not quite, but that’s what I kept telling myself when I reached 45 minutes into the class and all I wanted to do was lie down in Child’s pose for a little nap. But hey, I made it! I survived 1h05 of the barre class, which was actually really quite enjoyable and even though I can barely walk now, I have happily checked off my once-a-month-workout.

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After the class, three of us headed across the street for breakfast at Dishoom, which just opened in High Street Ken. I never thought about Indian food for breakfast, but our barre teacher swore by it and we were convinced. This is Dishoom’s sixth outpost, which are restaurants based on Irani cafes in Bombay that opened their doors to everyone: from businessmen and families, to taxi drivers and writers. This one has an art deco, opulent feel to it, but with cafe tables and chairs, so a mix of elegance and casualness.

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We had chai lattes to start with: I mean the real kind, not the Starbucks kind which is all- milk-and-a-little-bit-of-spice. This was rich black tea, milk, massala, cinnamon, cardamon and other spices, which the waitress kept pouring into our glasses. She also suggested the naan and eggs which combines an English breakfast and naan with a sweet Indian sauce. It was delicious… We sat for a few hours chatting and discussing everything from spies, country weekends, and competitive sports. For a while we forgot that we had children in school and went back to the idleness of lazy, all-day-long-brunches pre-kids. We all had things to do, but for once, decided to forget about our kilometre-long to-do lists. A few hours later and it was pick-up time. Time to get back to reality, to coughing children, to post-school activities, and planning Easter egg bonnets. But just for a while, I remembered what it was like to have time for myself, right in the middle of London.

xx

NHYM

http://www.nottinghillyummymummy.com

@NHyummymummy

http://www.dishoom.com/kensington/http://www.dishoom.com/kensington/

https://www.barrecore.co.uk

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