Travel

nahm at COMO Metropolitan Bangkok

"I landed in 1980 in Bangkok, and I stopped to eat ten times between the airport and the hotel. It was all lemongrass and ginger and chilies." - Jean-Georges Vongerichten

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There is no better time to visit Bangkok than December and January. The sweltering heat found from March through to August is replaced with a more manageable and pleasant heat.

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If you’re in need of winter-sun and seek a city-break with world class food and accommodation, then I have just the place for you.

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One of Bangkok’s best hotels, the effortlessly stylish COMO Metropolitan Bangkok, is situated in the quieter Sathorn district of the city. 

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Located a stones throw away from the beautiful Lumpini Park, the 5 star resort is hidden away amongst skyscrapers and embassies and is found by travelling along a tree-lined path away from the busy roads.

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A sleek but understated contemporary style reception meets you. It 's clear that a lot of thought and effort has gone into the design of the hotel.

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The staff couldn’t be more pleasant and willing to assist. 

Super comfy and luxurious 500-thread-count Egyptian cotton linens adorn the super-king beds.

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The rooms are spacious and well-presented and contain some nice touches, such as Bose stereos and fresh orchid plants.

Our room, an Executive Suite, even had its own private meeting/dining room.

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Breakfast is served at Glow restaurant.

A big selling feature for the hotel is its huge outdoor swimming pool, the perfect place to escape the heat.

Attentive pool attendants keep a watchful eye to ensure you’re kept well-hydrated and even offer complimentary sunscreen lotion.

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We didn’t have time to use the spa facilities, but the 1-hour COMO Shambhala Massage is said to be highly recommended.

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The hotel has another ace up its sleeve: possibly the best Thai restaurant in the world.

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‘Kin Khao Reu Yang?’

This single sentence sums up the esteem with which food is held in Thai culture and society. In Thailand, when family or friends meet, rather than ask ‘how are you?’, they will often ask ‘Kin Khao Reu Yang?’. Translation: have you eaten (rice) yet?

If any of the party has yet to eat, sourcing a good meal becomes the immediate priority above all others.

Food in Thailand is a communal affair. Not only is it normal for the entire family to eat together, but they also often cook meals together and eat from the same shared dishes. It is how traditional methods of Thai cookery are inherited from generation to generation.

In our taxi on the way to the hotel the driver enquired if we were going to be eating at nahm. When we told him that we hoped to, but hadn't made a reservation he laughed and informed us that we had little chance - you have to book weeks and months in advance in order to secure a table.

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So it was almost with embarrassment that we asked the hotel reception if they could arrange a reservation for us that evening. And, to complicate matters further, we hoped to invite several family members to share the experience with us - a table for 6 would be required.

nahm at COMO Metropolitan Bangkok frequently features amongst lists of the top restaurants in Asia. Run by the Australian-born chef David Thompson, it was recently awarded a coveted Michelin star. One of the first restaurants in Thailand to receive the award.

Thompson and his team have gained worldwide notoriety for offering authentic Thai cuisine made using the highest quality ingredients, while earning a reputation for reviving once popular traditional Thai dishes.

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This was the highlight of the meal. Alike Fäviken's "i skalet ur elden", this signature dish was bursting with flavour and worth the trip alone.

Muslim curry of oxtail with fresh nutmeg, ginger and eggplants.

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Thai vegetable and fruit salad with tamarind, palm sugar and sesame dressing. Another stunning dish.

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Steamed coral trout with Bang Rak yellow beans and pickled garlic.

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Grilled galangal relish with pork and prawn stuffed bamboo and mustard greens.

One of our party commented: "I can pay this no higher compliment than to say this is exactly how my mum cooked this dish. Beautiful!"

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A delicious Lycheetini.

Kingfish salad with pomelo, lemongrass and lime.

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Preserved shrimp and crab simmered in coconut cream with deep-fried prawns and vegetables.

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Owing to our late reservation we didn't get to spend as much time at nahm as we would have liked, and as a result weren't able to sample even more dishes.

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Each of the dishes we did sample were extremely well-balanced. It's apparent that the chefs have a clear understanding of the four fundamental taste areas; sweet, spicy, salty and sour.

We left extremely full, but with food this good you always want more!

COMO Metropolitan Bangkok

 

Photography by mahon.photo

Shangri-La Hotel, Bangkok

“Bangkok, though, is a rejuvenating tonic; the people seem to have found the magic elixir. Life, a visitor feels, has not been wasted on the Thais.” - Bernard Kalb

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Like New York, London, Tokyo and Hong Kong, Bangkok is one of the worlds great cities. It is a city which bustles with energy around the clock.

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To the uninitiated it offers an assault to the senses; a culture shock that few other cities can match.

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The wall of heat and humidity when you first leave the airport is unforgettable, so too the unrelenting thrum of tuk tuks and the ever-present smell of incense and Thai street food.

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It’s difficult to fully describe, but to get a sense of what it’s like, grab a bowl of your favourite Thai curry, light the joss-sticks and, while fully clothed, stand in your shower with the heat turned to the max with a friend or relative hammering pots and pans while shouting “TUK TUK!?” down your lughole every 20 seconds or so.

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For many years, despite being a ‘city person’, I found the experience to be just too much.

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I’d escape as soon as possible by grabbing a connecting flight to the greener, more mountainous, area of Chiang Mai, or the drier climates of the beaches in Ao Nang in the south.

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Until, on one trip, I had no choice but to stop in Bangkok. Heavily jet-lagged, a friend and I took a walk around Bangkok’s streets at 5am in the morning. 

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We found ourselves at the aromatic Pak Khlong Thalat flower market. Thailand’s largest wholesale flower market is open 24 hours a day 7 days a week, but is at its most frenetic from 3am to 5am. If you're a flower lover it's a must see.

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Having grabbed a tuk tuk, and with sun beginning to rise, we walked around the area surrounding the Grand Palace, Wat Phra Kaew and the beautiful Wat Pho. 

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Hawkers were replaced by barefoot Buddhist monks in saffron robes on their morning alms round, a cool breeze present instead of searing heat.

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“When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” - Saint Ambrose

And it was during this trip that I learnt to do as the locals do. Don’t pound the streets. Walk slowly. Take your time; if you’re late or behind schedule, ‘mai pen rai’ (it doesn’t matter).

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You’re in foodie-heaven, eat deliciously cheap street food rather than western food at chains. Grab the skytrain rather than a taxi. Even more preferable, a boat along the Chao Phraya River.

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"It was perfectly true, he just rather liked being at Shangri-La. Its atmosphere soothed while its mystery stimulated, and the total sensation was agreeable." - James Hilton, Lost Horizon

From the Chao Phraya the Shangri-La Hotel stands regally. Unlike the strikingly modern skyscrapers it neighbours, the 5 star luxury hotel offers an elegance of design associated with a quickly vanishing era.

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It has the exotic majesty I associate with travel of the early jet setters; the type of place you would not be surprised to find Roger Moore’s James Bond milling about, cocktail in one hand, pretty woman in the other (thankfully there was no sign of Nick Nack, Scaramanga's dwarf manservant, during our visit.) 

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The rooms, while relatively compact, are beautiful. Thai silk walk coverings and curtains and golden chandeliers offer a hint of ostentation not present in more modern hotels.

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The hotel has two wings; the larger and slightly less expensive Shangri-La wing, and the Krungthep wing. The latter is my preference and recommendation. 

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Guests of the Krungthep wing have access to both swimming pools, and the breakfast buffet is a noticeably more relaxed affair.

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The rooms have private balconies with views of the Chao Phraya.

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The hotel neighbours the lively Bangrak Bazaar.

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Bangkok is home to nearly 10 million people. Watching the plethora of Bangkokians going about their daily business in the city can be endlessly fascinating.

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Street food sellers pushing their carts down busy roads, oblivious to the fast approaching road traffic careering around them.

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Tuk tuk drivers taking a nap at a busy intersection. The maze of electricity cables which overhang every street. 

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"But here, at Shangri-La, all was in deep calm." - James Hilton, Lost Horizon

The hotel and its gardens on the bank of the river offer an oasis of calm from the frenetic goings on around it.

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CHI, The Spa at Shangri-La, offers further levels of serenity and relaxation.

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Making prime use of its location, the hotel offers an international buffet and great views by night aboard the Horizon Cruise ship.

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And a complimentary river shuttle service is offered to the nearby open-air mall, Asiatique The Riverfront; a great place to grab a bite-to-eat and to spend a couple of hours.

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Other dining choices at the hotel include a Chocolate Boutique(!), and the excellent Shang Palace for authentic Cantonese cuisine.

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For Thai fare there is Salathip Restaurant where Thai classical dance is performed each night.

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"He liked the serene world that Shangri-La offered him..." - James Hilton, Lost Horizon

Bangkok is a labyrinth of ever-increasing madness, but having a place like the Shangri-La to retreat to makes it a beautiful and enjoyable madness.

3 to 5 days spent in the city are often the highlight of trips to Thailand.

 

Rates start at GBP £147 per night. Click here to check availability.

 

Cocktail Saturdays' things to see and do during a 3 day visit:

Day 1: Visit Wat Arun at sunrise. Hop over on a short boat ride to the Grand Palace and have a massage at the wonderful Wat Pho. If you prefer an even more luxurious treatment, spend the afternoon at CHI Spa at The Shangri-La. Then watch the sun go down over a cocktail at Sky Bar rooftop at Lebua State Tower.

Day 2: Visit Pak Khlong Thalat early in the morning, then visit The Jim Thompson House. Spend the afternoon milling around Siam Paragon Mall and Gaysorn Mall. Take a dinner cruise on the Chao Phraya river.

Day 3: Join the locals for early morning yoga in the beautiful Lumpini Park. Take a boat trip along the Chao Phraya and Bangkok's numerous khlongs. Climb Wat Saket (Golden Mountain Temple), and reward yourself with dinner at Raan Jay Fai (327 Maha Chai Road) - Bangkok's most expensive, and Michelin Star winning, street food - try khai jeaw poo (crab omelet.)

 

Photos contained in this review are shot with the excellent Fujifilm X-T2. I have recently been testing various Fujifilm cameras; many thanks to Fujifilm UK for providing me with equipment to review.

 

Photography by mahon.photo

Falcon Forest Glamping, North Yorkshire

“There is no Wi-fi in the forest, but I promise you will find a better connection.” - unknown

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Getting outdoors, away from technology and back to nature, is good for the soul. But if camping isn’t your idea of relaxation, allow me to introduce you to Falcon Forest Glamping.

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Falcon Forest is an impressive development of 11 glamping pods located on the edge of the North York Moors National Park. Overlooking stunning woodland, it has beautiful scenery and is the perfect getaway for glamping enthusiasts.

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Glamping is essentially glamorous camping. The wooden pods are exceptionally cosy and fitted with sheep wool insulation to keep you nice and toasty, even in the chillier months.

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Each pod has its own supply of electricity, heating and lighting. So if, like me, you struggle without a hairdryer and phone charger, you’re safe here!

Safety, in fact, is integral at Falcon Forest. All the pods are lockable by key and secure parking is close-by. There are private shower units and loos just a hop, skip and a jump away in the main building. 

Each pod has a decking area outside with a picnic bench, the perfect place to sit for breakfast watching the sun rise. 

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My friend and I chose to stay in a pod with a bed with its own fresh cotton sheets and towels. A lady needs a little luxury when staying in a forest.

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We arrived one Friday afternoon and immediately popped open a bottle of bubbles before setting about making our evening meal. We lit our bbq and sheltered it from the wind at the side of the pod. Perfectly positioned to cook some veggie sausages to go with our pre-cooked baked potatoes. There’s nothing better than eating a meal in the fresh air, even if you do have to wrap yourself up in a blanket while you eat it. 

Dessert consisted of toasted marshmallows (vegetarian of course, courtesy of Anandas - www.anandafoods.co.uk) wedged between two chocolatey malted milk cow biscuits. Incredibly gooey and udderly delicious! 

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We sat together watching the sun set, our bellies full of delicious food and feeling the most relaxed we’d both felt in a long time. The beauty of holidaying in the UK is you don’t have the stress of airports, catching flights, arranging transfers. We just packed up our cars with all our essentials (Prosecco, hair straighteners, etc) and set off on our way. Just a few hours later we were feeling completely zen and ready for bed.

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After a fantastic nights sleep from all the fresh air (and Prosecco) we woke up and our thoughts soon turned to breakfast. Since it was pouring with rain outside, I appointed myself to tea maker, while my friend was put in charge of the camping stove. 

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Poor Joey battled the elements for some time to make us a delicious feast of scrambled eggs, beans and sausages, all overlooked by me from the warmth of the pod. It smelt terrific!

I had one simple task: plate it up. Instead, I accidentally flung it across the floor.

Thankfully Joey has the patience of a saint and she set about making a second batch. 

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Sipping our mugs of tea we were able to take in our beautiful surroundings while enjoying our breakfast, feeling at one with nature. 

After an hour or so of listening to the rain hammer down on the pod roof, we decided to not let it dampen our spirits any longer, we donned our wellies and wrapped ourselves up against the elements before setting off on an adventure.

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What was supposed to be “a nice little walk in the countryside” became a five mile hike across the North York Moors, one of Britain’s best loved walking spots. Our faces stung as huge drops of rain pelted us. We kept getting lost and the cows and lambs weren't much help with directions. In our eagerness to leave we’d made up a nice flask of tea, stuffed our pockets full with Percy Pigs to keep us revived on the journey…. but had completely forgotten to consult a map. Amateurs!

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Several hours later our weary legs carried us back to base camp. Thankfully Falcon Forest is adjacent to the Falcon Inn, a snug old pub with a roaring fire and hearty food. The landlady took pity on us when she saw us walk in looking like drowned rats and served us a warm meal and a nice bottle of wine. We made ourselves comfy by the fire and promised each other that we would make glamping trips a regular thing. Despite a couple of mishaps along the way, we hadn’t laughed so much in a long time. 

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The sun rose on our third and final day, we packed up our cars and set off to nearby Scarborough to meet up with friends. It was the first UK seaside resort to be developed and is still one of the most popular tourist attractions in the UK, offering a wide range of activities.

We took our friend's children to the beach where they enjoyed a donkey ride or two and had a lovely leisurely lunch before going our separate ways.

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I can’t tell you how much we loved our trip. It was the perfect escape and we’ll be booking another glamping weekend soon. I heartily recommend you do the same.

Falcon Forest Glamping

Nikki Beach, Mallorca

“Summer should get a speeding ticket”

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Summer is all but over. But, there’s still time for one final trip… to Nikki Beach Mallorca. 

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In 1998, entrepreneur Jack Penrod introduced the world to Nikki Beach, a luxury beach club that combines live music, dining and fashion into one. 

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Today, the Nikki Beach concept has grown into a global brand in Miami, Florida, Saint Tropez, Saint Barth, Marbella, Marrakech, Koh Samui, Ibiza, Monte Carlo, Dubai, Versilia… 

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Nikki Beach Mallorca opened in 2012. It includes a pool with views across the sea, indoor and outdoor dining and a private beach area. Located on one of Mallorca’s beautiful white beaches it is only a 20 minute drive from central Palma. 

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It oozes luxury and has become a playground for the rich and famous, where Mallorca's ‘in-crowd’ can be found. Beautiful people bronze themselves on oversized sunbeds, sipping expensive Champagne poolside or dancing along to Nikki Beach's world-class DJs.

It is universally considered one of the best party venues in the world and has been called ‘the sexiest place on Earth.’ 

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International DJs come from all over to play and there are regular themed parties and events like Ladies Tuesdays, Fiesta Fridays and Champagne Sundays (great name!)

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When the brand opened the venue in Mallorca, it raised more than a few eyebrows since it is so close to Magaluf, but any doubts were quickly dispelled and it’s proven to be a huge success. 

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The décor is beautiful. Laid back yet elegant. There are 50 sunbeds, 36 double beds and 10 opium beds. All have stunning sea views. 

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Guests can enjoy bedside beauty treatments. For those lucky enough to arrive by Yacht, there is even a complimentary yacht pick-up service.

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The beds are super comfortable and perfect to sink into until sunset. Service is fantastic so you’re never without a drink in your hand.

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Poolside staff ensure that you don’t have to move much from your bed… unless the live entertainment gets you in the mood. On the day we visited there was a live saxophonist who got us all up dancing. 

“You were my cup of tea. But I drink Champagne now”

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The most surprising thing for me (aside from the cost of the drinks… €24,500 bottle of Cristal Roederer Vintage Champagne, I’m looking at you!) was how delicious the food was.

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Even if you’re not in the mood to sunbathe or party, the restaurant is still well worth a visit. 

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The menu is Asian/fusion and you can either eat at your bed or in the restaurant area.

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We opted for lunch at our bed and dinner in the restaurant while watching sunset. The sushi was the best I’ve ever tasted and I’ve been craving it since we visited.

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Definitely a place to return to!

www.nikkibeach.com

The Wolseley, London

“How do you like your eggs in the morning?”… I like mine at The Wolseley. 

A self-proclaimed ‘café-restaurant in the grand European tradition,’ The Wolseley is located next to the Ritz in a Grade II listed building. Constructed in 1921 it was originally designed as a prestigious car showroom for Wolseley Motors.

However, the cars didn’t sell well and by 1926 the company was bankrupt.

Barclays Bank acquired the building and a banking counter was installed, as well as a post box and stamp machine, which are still on display today.

Decades later Chris Corbin and Jeremy King, the original restaurateurs behind the Ivy and J Sheekey, took ownership and set about a major renovation project.

Black and cream geometric marble floors and baroque ironwork were introduced to take the building back to it’s 1920s authenticity. Inspiration was taken from the grand cafes of Vienna, Milan and Paris. The interior is beautiful, with soaring columns and arched windows under a 30ft-high ceiling.

The Wolseley opened its doors in 2003 and has since experienced great success, gaining iconic status and achieving the highest grossing turnover of any individual restaurant in the UK. It has rumoured sales of over £10 million a year. 

It has also become a favourite with London's celebrity set due to it oozing glamour but being equally discrete. Kate Moss is a regular while Madonna, Sienna Miller and Jake Gyllenhaal have all dined there in recent years. Lucian Freud loved the place so much he ate at the same table every single night.

Keen to see what all the fuss was about, I visited for breakfast with a friend one Sunday morning. Having previously reviewed sister restaurant, The Colbert in Chelsea, we knew roughy what to expect.

Great service, simple but delicious food and well-heeled people reading a variety of international Sunday papers.

We began with a pot of tea each and a glass of freshly squeezed vitamin c. I ordered my usual eggs florentine and my friend had an omelette.

We couldn’t resist ordering a buttery pain au chocolat each, having fallen in love with the pastries at The Colbert.

The food was delicious, exactly what we needed after one too many cocktails the night before. Comfort food at its best. 

Unlike The Colbert, The Wolseley was a hive of activity with a noise level to match. Smartly dressed waiters dashed around the place tending to everyones needs. The restaurant runs like a well-oiled machine, akin to the luxury cars that were sold in the same building nearly a century ago. 

There was a whole variety of people dining, the famous sitting alongside tourists, children eat with their parents, all different nationalities. The Wolseley suits everyone and every occasion. With a varied menu serving breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner, the restaurant transforms itself from cafe to tea-room to late night dining every day.

The Wolseley is definitely worth a visit, particularly for breakfast, which it does so well. So much so writer A.A. Gill dedicated a book to ‘Breakfast at The Wolseley.’

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They say you should “eat breakfast like a King.” It appears this might mean Jeremy King. Having enjoyed The Wolseley as much as I enjoyed The Colbert, I’m certainly going to visit some of King and Corbin’s other ventures in the city.

The duo have landed upon a winning formula. 

www.thewolseley.com