world according to sam

Don't go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first. Mark Twain

Category: TRAVEL

Qbic Hotel … Whitechapel … Form an orderly Q

  

I don’t know what it is about these new boutique essentials hotel chains malingering around the nether regions of the alphabet … First Z and now Q(bic) but whatever the reasoning behind the names, the end results are impressive.

Dutch owned, the quirkily decorated rooms offer a budget stay on the cool East side of London.  Rooms are offered on three price/size bands. We opted for the cheapest … After all this was a stop off for a late night out in London followed by a hearty brunch at Dirty Burger/Chicken Shop. All we required was cleanliness, a comfortable bed and a decent shower.  Qbic delivers on all three … The buxom Mrs Mop presiding over our bed in the form of a large graphic is less daunting after a few cocktails and is an amusing welcome to the room on check-in. 
  
    
For an inexpensive overnight stay with a little more soul and tongue-in-cheek humour than your average Premier Inn, Qbic is a great find!

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Z Shoreditch

  
Expensive train fares mean that when we plan to be in London at the weekends we occasionally treat ourselves to a hotel (return train fares for two are about £90 including tube) so we drive up, park somewhere hopefully for free (generally after 1.30 in the City) and spend a couple of days enjoying the delights London has to offer without the worry of having to catch the last train home that is invariably full of half sloshed callow youths who think it’s terribly funny to engage with the ‘old folks’ … 

So a hunt on Trivago to check out what’s available at what price will throw up grisly b&b’s as far out as Wembley but if you are fairly clued in on the geography of London you can on occasion pick up a bargain   Pre-Christmas we stayed at Z Shoreditch, a designer conversion of a former office building, with 111 bedrooms arranged over lower ground, ground and three upper floors.

Staying in Shoreditch, where space is at a premium this hotel concept is to provide maximum comfort in a compact space. But fear not, these are not anything like those Japanese sleep pods that remind me of a morgue! 

As they say on their website “You’re not intending to hold conferences in your room or throw parties, either.”

If  you are wanting to stay a couple of nights in central London, sleep in a really comfortable bed and wake in designer surroundings Z is a great choice. Rooms start at £59 ( we paid rather more but still great value for central London)

This is the description from their website and it’s all true! “Your  Z room will be carefully considered. With en suite wet room, crisp bed linen, 48” TV with a full selection of Sky channels, and of course, complimentary Wi-Fi.”
We had a basement room that had a small window panel to the side of the bed but as we rolled in at 1am, outside was still awash with late night revellers, window or not the room was perfect for our needs – sleep! A bedside control panel for lights and a/c mean even in the dead of night it’s easy to cool things down or illuminate a path to the loo! 

Breakfast is not included in their basic room rate but can be taken in the cafe next to reception. 

Soon to come … A review of Qbic Hotel 

Cocktail Masterclass Harvey Nichols 5th Floor


So my #FortyTen celebrations entered their fifth month (spoilt, moi?)  and what with holidays etc this celebration had been scheduled as a post-holiday-blues-pick-me-up.

When I was 18, my first legal drink was a sweet, creamy Pina Colada at Peppermint Park in Covent Garden. I feverishly knocked back the delicious and intoxicating nectar without one care for sophistication nor that this had cost someone other than me a small fortune …. And so began a love of cocktails. There is something decadent about cocktails, studying the menu, choosing which creation it will be, watching the artful performance of the mixologist as they add the spirits and mixers, with the brave twirling bottles and slamming them back onto neatly lined shelves. The rattle of ice cubes as your barman flamboyantly shakes the cobbler* (not a tawdry euphemism – but the professional name for a shaker) and the final flourish as your concoction is poured into the appropriate glass, whether the retro styling of a martini glass, a tall hi-ball or a champagne flute …
Cocktails fell out of fashion for a while, seeing a brief resurgence when Carrie Bradshaw and the SATC girls drank Cosmopolitans at the Carlyle in NY but now they are back, with not only the traditional but new flavours and infusions. Mixology has become an art form and to learn about it is fascinating.  We are not talking the syrupy happy hour version of cocktails here. This is an altogether more refined drinking practice.

The choice of victual you drink from is almost as important as what goes into the mix. Teapots, teacups, copper beaker, crystal stubby, jam jars, schooners. The Harvey Nichols Cocktail Masterclass is the perfect girls day out, though boys will love it too (as did Mr H and his brother) and would be a great Hen celebration for those looking for something entertaining, educating and a little intoxicating. Be warned, I think phallic deely-boppers would not be welcomed at the über cool and sophisticated 5th Floor champagne bar at HN.

The day starts at 9.30 with a breakfast buffet of pastries, yoghurt and granola and fresh fruit with plenty of tea or coffee. 9.30 on a Saturday or Sunday morning seems an ungodly hour to even think about  imbibing alcohol but it doesn’t take long to  get into the swing of things.
There are several choices of class themes, Italy, Cuba, US, French and British each with three cocktails to be instructed on.

The class opens with a run through of all the equipment required to create the perfect cocktail. A muddler, strainer, cobbler, jigger … Each element has a crucial part to play in the making of your cocktail.
First spirits are added into the shaker (never ice first for fear of diluting your precious alcohol too soon, nevertheless essential to ‘soften’ the alcohol) and finally your mixers, bitters or essences. An elaborate shake, with the length of time and ferocity dictated by the type of cocktail and your own personal choice in ostentation, you can keep it ‘tight’ and snake hipped or go all out Carmen Miranda. For example a Martini Espresso requires a LOT of quite enthusiastic shaking to also emulsify the ingredients and create a slight froth at the top – pour into a glass shaker to check all is well and the correct texture has been achieved before pouring into a chilled Martini glass and finishing with a couple of coffee beans.
We chose the Italian influence for our masterclass so not only were we tutored in making the delicious Espresso Martini we learned to make a Breakfast Negroni; ( a traditional Negroni with a HN twist of the addition of a little marmalade to add texture and bitter-sweet finish to this Florentine classic and La Dolce Vita; an Aperol and Tequila cocktail again served in a chilled Martini glass.
Following the instruction and tastings from our Italian selection we were given the opportunity to make our own cocktail from a list of favourites … Mr H made a delicious Mojito with lashings of fresh mint, his brother made a Ginny Hendricks – gin based deliciousness, the lovely Sue made a Cosmopolitan and I made a Sky Cruiser known in less salubrious surroundings as a Pornstar Martini … Vanilla Vodka, passion fruit and champagne – heavenly!

Two and a half hours after starting the masterclass you are taken back to the restaurant with the effects of your imbibery making the path perhaps not quite as straight as your entrance,  to enjoy a two-course lunch served with red or white wine.
The masterclasses run on Saturday and Sunday throughout the year and can be booked here.

Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones

Long haul flights when travelling cattle class are tiring and anything that makes the travel experience more tolerable has to be good….. (#firstworldproblems I know and I am not complaining, I had a wonderful time and was very lucky to have gone! I am absolutely not seeking sympathy here!)

Having bought Mr H various Bose items over the years as gifts I thought we were all Bose’d up, with my final purchase 18 months ago of Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones for his business trips. Last years 14+ hour flight had challenged me when seated at the back of the plane with regulation supply BA headphones I had observed Mr H languishing in his seat chuckling away or gripped in the action of his movie while I struggled the entire journey home, barely able to hear any dialogue on the in-flight entertainment – it is a very long way to have to lip read five or six blockbusters.
I am not a slave to technology … When out walking I like to be at one with nature, I don’t need the intrusion of piped music into my brain or on those rare occasions that I venture into the gym I am happy to listen to my decidedly uncool but uplifting  Now That’s What I call Running album on repeat at a low hum, but it’s no biggie if I forget my phone. Besides my auditory orifices are spatially challenged …. Earbuds/earphones of any shape or design simply will not stay in my ears, those peculiar Star Trek style earphones that slot over the ears present such difficulties to me putting them on I become like the child trying to force the square peg into the round hole, tense, frustrated and almost tearful. If I am ever lucky enough to get something to sit in my ear, within thirty minutes my ears are aflame and I want to rip the brain melting contraptions from my head.
So, though I had resisted Mr H’s offer of a Christmas gift to match his headphones, His n Hers Bose ‘phones and the promise of looking slightly ridiculous and a throwback to the 70’s … I politely declined, a new handbag or shoes seemed so MUCH more appealing

But then, knowing we had this epic journey ahead of us, Mr H plunged right in and gifted me with the new headphones for my birthday this year. Boy was I glad he did. These are a GAME CHANGER for long haul travel. No more struggling to hear the dialogue on the film listings, no more constant hum of the engines, not a peep from the unruly child three rows in front … Just super comfy headphones that make you feel as if you have gaffer taped a giant marshmallow to each side of your head.

When you need to remove them for a quick loo trip you realise just how obtrusive engine noise is on such a long trip, that sore inside your head feeling that is a result of constant noise – GONE!  The only downside I can think of is that if you don’t keep one eye on the aisle it’s all too easy to miss that all important question …. “Drink madam?”

(So keep these in mind as a very special gift for that very special someone, they neatly fold into a bag of their own with an adaptor for plane use. )

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