Recommended: Malmaison London

Going to London for me is often about trying out new places but with a hectic schedule of sightseeing or friends to catch up with what I actually crave is familiar luxury and a warm welcome. Luckily, you can get seductive style and comfort in London at a reasonable price in a great location, with the London Malmaison.

Last year during the London Dream Find Do workshop, Michelle and I were guests of the London Mal. Tucked away in historic Charterhouse square you immediately feel cosseted by the sumptuous decor. We arrived late and headed straight down the the Brasserie where we were immediately soothed and revitalised by modern tuna cerviche and perfectly cooked lamb followed by chocolate fondant with salted caramel ice cream and an impressive cocktail list. Afterwards, the room was exactly what the doctor ordered. Super soft beds, heavy weight linens, power showers and relaxing toiletries; that luxury feeling that comes as standard at The Mal.

After a rested night we opted for breakfast in the room and were wowed by the breakfast basket tray that was delivered with more breakfast on it than even this hungry girl could eat. The croissants? Heaven.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I love Malmaison hotels. For me they are reliably good with a bit of cheeky naughtiness, always stylish and often unexpected buildings, with great breakfasts and locations. What’s even better is the range of offers that extend to London too, with the same Sunday Stopovers, Sunday Brunch and bargain room offers as the rest of the country with only a small mark up considering it is London. In a city that can sometimes be confusing when it comes to hotels, this one gets my seal of approval for a romantic weekend or a girls’ getaway.

Have you stayed at The Malmaison London?


PS! If you’re interested in the next Dream Find Do workshops keep your eyes peeled for an announcement of more dates coming soon!

Disclaimer: Rebecca stayed for one night as a guest of The Malmaison London, but if she wouldn’t recommend it to a friend, you wouldn’t be hearing about it here.

Recommended: Aviator hotel, Hampshire

Last week, Pete and I had a week off work and as we already have a holiday planned in October, decided to stay in the UK. We also had a wedding on both Saturdays flanking the ear-marked week of rest, the latter in Surrey which gave us an excuse to try a hotel I have been curious about for some time – The Aviator in Farnborough, Hampshire.

I’ve spotted it several times on Mr and Mrs Smith, where there are often fantastic deals to be had on the already well priced rooms. Situated near lots of big businesses it receives a lot of corporate visitors during the week, hence the knock down weekend rates.

We arrived on Friday afternoon after a 5 hour drive from Cornwall, hot and bothered and desperate to enjoy the glorious sunshine. We were greeted at the door and taken to the first floor reception where we were offered a welcome cocktail and efficiently checked in before being personally taken to and shown around our room. The hotel takes it’s theming from the airfield it overlooks – all based around a luxurious era of vintage travel with polished woods, leather and chrome. The interior is incredible, all built around a central circular atrium and exuding luxurious style.

After checking out our room, with it’s clever touches like a built in sofa alongside the desk/dressing table and sleek shower room, we headed directly to the terrace and proceeded to sink several cocktails whilst watching the planes arrive in as the sun set.

There was a great range of dining options, with a deli open in the day time that we didn’t experience, a bar and terrace bistro menu, a la carte and a tasting menu for special occasions if you’re pushing the boat out at £95 per person. Although the deal we got on the rooms was cheap, the drinks and food are not – a burger was £14, cocktails around £10 and the lamb main I ordered later that evening was £26, but the quality was fantastic and I cannot express how good the service was, efficient, pleasant and never intrusive yet with your every need pre-empted – far superior to that of your usual ‘business hotel’.

After a restful night we filled up on the cooked breakfast, after sampling nearly every part of the extensive continental spread with everything from meats and cheeses to homemade bircher muesli and pastries or fruit.

The atmosphere was so good that I couldn’t wait to share it here, I wish we had an excuse to go back and if you’re in need of the kind of weekend that involves a lot of doing nothing, good food, lovely drinks and a hefty dose of stylish luxury, I’d highly recommend it. I had previously been put off but the lack of anything to do in the area but having been, its the perfect place to do nothing. (Do drop a note in the comments box if you have any suggestions for local activities!) We actually visited Stonehenge on route to the hotel to break up our journey – one hour to the west, if you fancy that sort of thing.)

We booked through Mr and Mrs Smith and got 2 nights for the price of one, with breakfast included, for £120. (you can stay there a week on Friday for 2 nights B&B for £137.50) An absolute steal.


Viva las Vegas: The Wynn and Encore hotel

After my recent trip around California ending in Las Vegas, I have literally so much to share with you, but thought I’d start at the end, with a review of the hotel we stayed in. It was really between Encore and one of the CityCenter complex hotels, which I think I would try next time, so I’ll be interested to hear if you can compare them.

The Room
When we were browsing hotels for our Vegas trip, there seemed to be 2 options; classic Vegas-style themed hotels that make up The Strip and much of Vegas’ characteristic attractions, or the new breed of uber luxury. Given that we wanted to treat ourselves and prices are relatively cheap considering the standard of hotels, we opted for the latter and chose Encore, the all-suite sister hotel of the Wynn. Built in 2005 the rooms looked stunning and the vibe seemed very young, cool and geared towards eating and drinking, plus essential poolside people watching.

Impressive is not the word for this hotel. On first arriving I was really over-awed. I’ve stayed in similar hotels before (Dubai seems the best comparison for opulence and sheer excess,) but having come from the solitude and isolation of Death Valley and other National parks before that, it was overwhelming in its contrasts.

Our room was incredible, with a wide hallway, wardrobe and large marble bathroom off that and then the bedroom followed by a separated lounge area with desk and floor to ceiling mountain views. (Strip views would have been amazing but were significantly more expensive and we were later told they could be noisy with traffic and party noise filtering up.) We also upgraded for about £40 to the top 10 floors and actually ended up on the 62nd, just under the top floor.

What I hadn’t anticipated was the all pervasive gaming and casino atmosphere. That might have seemed a little naive but we watched the hotel video and it was made such little note of. I expected the newer hotels to be a little less casino orientated and how wrong I was. Although much of it was close to windows and therefore different to some of the basement holes that passed for casinos in other hotels, of course, the whole hotel revolved around gaming. Bars have gaming screens built into the bar top, and many of the restaurants overlook the casino. There was even poolside gaming!

Most annoying for me was the smoke. Smoking is allowed in the casinos in Las Vegas and as a result basically filters throughout the whole hotel. We came face to face with cigars in the lifts, hotel corridors, cigarettes by the pool, in fact everywhere except the restaurants. It was a major turn off to Vegas for me, particularly when a short walk to your room or restaurant could leave you smelling of cigarettes like a blast from 2006 in the UK.

The Restaurants
We ate in the hotel restaurants each evening, first at Mizumi, a Japanese fine dining experience for our anniversary, the second at Society Cafe, (the fanciest cafe I’ve ever sat in that’s for sure,) and on the final night in Stratta after an epic walk down the strip. Although obviously expensive, the food was great in all of them, stunning in Mizumi and the decor in each was out of this world.

On our last day we also visited the brunch buffet which was incredible, although I was beyond disappointed that there were no breakfast items amongst the sushi, grill, barbecue, italian, seafood, asian and dessert offerings. I do like my pancakes!

The Pool
One of my favourite things about Encore was the pool scene. There are 5 pools at the Wynn – both Wynn and Encore have 2, a ‘resort’ pool and a ‘European’ pool, which was described as a place ‘you can go topless if you want to‘. We were a little bemused by that and I can only imagine they were trying to covey an atmosphere of beautiful people and decadence. In reality the guests weren’t topless (all but!) but there was brilliant music (on loud) and a great atmosphere, with people basically there to see and be seen.

I loved it and we spent a couple of hours each day at the Encore European pool. The fifth pool I mentioned above is the Encore Beach club – a pool party with DJ’s like Tiesto and Deadmau5. We thought about checking it out but it turned out tickets were $150, perhaps worth paying if you’re a fan of the DJ or club scene, but as we basically wanted to be a bit nosey, we opted out!

What I loved:

  • The range and quality of restaurants
  • The luxe rooms
  • The pool scene
  • Being able expected to dress up for everything from going to pool to dinner.
  • The incredible decor – not my personal taste but incredible all the same with amazing attention to detail and luxurious touches everywhere, from the curtain trims to table tops inlaid with mother of pearl.

What I hated:

  • The smoke
  • The cool kids (and not-so-youthful people flashing the cash)
  • The service, or lack of.
  • Did I mention the smoke?

To just qualify my statements about the service and the people, it really felt like the hotel was a conveyor belt designed to take our money. I’m not foolish enough to think that any hotel this size or in Vegas might be different, but from the lack of a bell boy, to the exclusive attitude of club managers (the lines were patrolled for pretty girls who were then ushered in for free, while men paid in excess of $100,) and the jaded looks of the casino staff, it really wasn’t for me. I like my luxury understated. We queued for check in like at the supermarket and it was a very faceless, impersonal experience. Little things like complimentary wifi, actually weren’t complimentary when we arrived. It was implied that as a hotel guest, you would get preferential access to things like the clubs but in reality it was very much about the way you looked and the image they were trying to create.

My conclusion, Vegas is like Marmite. You either love it or you hate it and I swung between the two throughout our stay. In the past, I thought it would be a great place to go back to in winter for guaranteed sun and some adult fun, but now, I think I’d choose another location. That said, I am glad we went. It’s not somewhere I see there being a lot of things you can do with kids (although we did see them at the pool with families,) but it’s certainly somewhere you have to see once. 😉

I’d love to hear if you have a hotel recommendation or any thoughts on Vegas hotels. I’m going to do a post on things to do another time, so save those suggestions for me!


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