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Du-Try: Burger & Lobster Dubai

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I always do three obligatory things (incidentally, all food-based) within the first 24 hours of me being back in London. The first is have an enormous cuppa in my mum’s kitchen, where the tea is and always will be the best on earth. The second is sit in the window of Pret on Conduit Street (glamour) and eat the lunch I had every day for about three years – the Chef’s Special chicken salad. I’d like to say it’s some kind of transcendental mindfulness technique to remind me how far I’ve come/ to always sit and reflect, but it isn’t. It’s just cos it’s a really good salad. Ask me about it. I will talk to you about the lack of pistachios in all other salads.

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Anyway, the third mandatory back-in-town manoeuvre is making a beeline for the foodie hotspot where dreams are made, Burger & Lobster. Their lobster rolls are like a hug; one of the most satisfying things to eat in the capital, and that includes a salt beef and mustard bagel at 3am from Beigel Bake. So when they announced that it was opening out here in the dustbowl, I was more than a little excited, even if it did mean I’d have to leave a gaping hole in my London repertoire.

The worry was, would it be as good as the original? The buttery brioche loaf, incredible mayo-covered Atlantic lobster filling and salad dressing of legend? Them’s big shoes to fill.

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In a nutshell, whoever is in charge of copycatting the menu has done a damn fine job – if I took a bite and closed my eyes it was like I was back on Dean Street. A teleportation device, right there in DIFC. Good work, guys.

Cornwall: New Favourite Getaway – The Scarlet

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It’s officially the most ‘meh’ time of year (technical term), which means a good ol’ fashioned country mini-break is a pretty judicious move. Getting out of London is also quite welcome from time to time, and you can’t get more opposite to the big smoke than Cornwall and its raw, unspoilt hills and beaches. So armed with The Boy, far too much luggage for two nights and six cans of Marks and Spencer gin and tonic (classy), I boarded a First Great Western from London to Bodmin Parkway.

We were headed to The Scarlet, a five star eco-hotel perched on a clifftop overlooking the breathtaking cove of Mawgan Porth. It’s the kind of location you forget even exists in England, especially when the northern line feels like the centre of the known universe. It’s also the kind of location that makes you hum Land of Hope and Glory, eat a massive pie and think that hiking anywhere, for any length of time (however short), is a fabulous idea. Such is the power of giddying fresh air and a pretty view.

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Still, sometimes it’s exactly what the doctor ordered – and The Scarlet, adults-only, dreamily-decorated and completely peaceful, ticked all the boxes. Waking up on Saturday morning and opening the curtains to reveal the beach below was joy enough; breakfast in bed an added bonus. Part of The Scarlet’s eco-friendly philosophy, all the food is locally sourced, meaning a constantly-refreshed menu of regional produce. Breakfast, therefore, was made up of poached apples, homemade bread and jams, thick pancakes with chopped apple and yoghurt, smoked salmon and scrambled eggs and fresh apple juice, all sourced and made either in-house or very nearby. We ate every last bite of what was basically a meal for four, reading the weekend papers and pinching ourselves about the perfect view.

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It was a struggle but we eventually got up, pulled on our wellies and headed down the coastal path towards the huge sandy beach below. A mini-break is nothing without a country walk (the hotel even offers its hound Jasper as a companion for your little jaunt) so off we pottered, up the hill towards a tiny farm shop, pretty much abandoned and ostensibly run by chickens.

I’d heard wonderful things about the ayurvedic spa and there was just enough time to do a few laps of the graphic indoor pool and have a quick steam before my appointment. Meanwhile, The Boy decided to take advantage of (read: dive bomb into) the natural rock pool outside. In February. In England. Incredulous, I headed to my full body massage where my lovely therapist asked me about my lifestyle before deciding which type of massage I needed. 60 pretty blissful minutes followed before she took me into the deep relaxation room (pitch black bar a few twinkling lights, full of six cushion-filled pods suspended from the ceiling), wrapped me in a fluffy robe, tucked me into a pod with a blanket and handed me some wireless headphones and a cup of ginger tea. I quite literally have never been happier.

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Speaking of happy, The Boy had recovered from his pool-plunging insanity and was soaking in our huge tub watching the rugby and drinking beer by the time I got back to the room. We got dressed for dinner – freshly-caught scallops, perfectly pink lamb and lemon tart and every bit as good as breakfast.

DSCF5941DSCF5956Not wanting to miss out on the opportunity for more food, we had breakfast in the beach-facing restaurant the next morning before our hot tub appointment. Heated to 42 degrees, the rustic-looking wooden tubs on the clifftop were an incredible experience. Six degrees outside, it was a hilarious dance to get out of my robe and actually into the water but totally worth the two and a half seconds of being freezing in a bikini on a cliff. It was 10am (basically champagne o’clock, right?) so we made the most of it and ordered two glasses. I wish we could’ve stayed in there all day but we had a reservation for Sunday lunch at Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen, a twenty minute drive down the coast to Watergate Bay. Something of a gastronomic hub, Rick Stein’s acclaimed seafood restaurant is also round the corner.

I’m always a bit dubious about celebrity chef restaurants but Fifteen blew me away. The best bloody mary I’ve ever had, plus incredible bread to start (I have a theory that you can tell how good the main event will be by the bread and butter) and amazing squid ink pasta.

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What I loved about The Scarlet is how it manages to be luxe and homely at the same time. It’s also great to see that eco-consciousness can actually translate into real luxury. The best bit, though? (Other than drinking at 10 in the morning without judgement). That I felt like I’d really had a rest. It’s almost enough to put me off London for good. Granted, me in the country will always be a bit Paris and Nicole do The Simple Life, but on the up side, I do know how to rock a Barbour jacket and a pair of Hunter wellies. Even if they are the ones they did with Jimmy Choo.

The Scarlet, Tredragon Road, Mawgan Porth, Cornwall, TR8 4DQ. (01637 861 800). Double room including breakfast from £175/night.

Cambridge: New Favourite Hotel – Hotel du Vin

I strongly believe one of life’s greatest pleasures is a mini-break in the Great British Countryside. So when the lovely folk from Hotel du Vin offered up an extremely generous trip to their outpost in Cambridge, I had one foot on the train before they’d even hung up. My haste was pretty judicious – what followed was a weekend of being thoroughly spoiled…
The cosy lounge – the perfect place to curl up with the paper. They did afternoon teas in here, too.
All the snugs (of which there are many to get lost in) are named after different colleges in Cambridge. The hotel itself actually used to belong to the University – it’s 5 Georgian townhouses knocked through to create one big, warren-like property.
I loved the wine glass chandelier!
Oysters down the road for lunch…
I’m a sucker for the small touches – I loved that our bedroom had a selection of new magazines in it, as well as Egyptian cotton sheets, a roll-top bath and a Nespresso machine which I proceeded to systematically drain of all pods.
Dinner caught me by surprise. I thought it would be nice but I wasn’t prepared for genuinely one of the most fabulous meals I’ve ever had, hands down. The Boy started with smoked eel, truffle potato salad and quails egg – paired with a 2009 Chablis Domaine Bernard Defaix.
I went for seared scallops, black pudding and cauliflower puree, washed down with a 2007 Chateau Bela. Given that we’d already had a cocktail at the bar beforehand, yes, I was already drunk. I like to think this only helped me enjoy the experience even more.
This mouthwatering image was The Boy’s roast partridge, bread sauce and game chips. He had not one but TWO glasses of wine with this (which makes any subsequent in-focus photographs he took all the more impressive) – a 2008 Chateau Bauduc ‘Clos des Quinzes’ and a 2007 Chateauneuf-du-Pape ‘Signature’ Domaine Barroche. I feel at this point like I should credit our amazing, incredibly knowledgable sommelier, who was also a lovely guy to boot!
I had wild duck with berry compote and the most delicious rosti potato ever. And honey-roast veg which, happily, tasted more like they’d been drenched in maple syrup. I drank an accompanying 2008 Pinot Noir Mt Beautiful.
The alcohol continued with a champagne sorbet cocktail, courtesy of the chef…
*falls off chair*
Dessert was Vanilla Panacotta with roasted figs and honey. Shared. Please, we’re not animals. Let’s just say by this time it was a very good thing indeed that we were eating in the same place we were sleeping. The drinks continued to flow… a 2005 Tokaiji Aszu 5 Puttonyos Chateau Deresla and a 2005 Vin de Constance Klein Constantia.
Then came the cheese….
I then had to be air-lifted to my room.
But don’t worry, it was soon breakfast time!
Croissants, kippers and the Sunday papers. Perfection.
If, like me, you fancy empirically testing how much food/alcohol your stomach can physically stretch to, and also would like a night in a fancy room afterwards, you can book at www.hotelduvin.com/hotels/cambridge
Thankyou to all the wonderful staff for making us feel like royalty! We’ll be back.