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A couple of weeks back I decided it was time for a little r&r, and headed down to Oxfordshire. It’s a trip we’ve started to do annually, usually in the autumn, where we throw a couple of bags into the back of the car, book into a couple of gorgeous hotels, and just relax in the countryside for a bit.

This year was no different, and we were lucky enough to catch the whole of the countryside in the most vivid throes of autumn. As well as getting to enjoy copious amounts of countryside, a visit to the Cotswolds also means I get to stop off at possibly England’s finest farm shop – Daylesford.

Nestled in the hamlet of Kingham, Daylesford is everything you could wish for from a countryside retreat, and a whole lot more. With cottages to stay in on-site, a spa stocked with the finest Bamford products, and the best homeware, fashion and food, I always find myself spending afternoons pottering around, treating myself to a few little luxuries.

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There are also a couple of restaurants on-site. Like the rest of Daylesford, the products are organic, locally grown, and the dishes change seasonally. We snuck in on a Friday afternoon for lunch, and it was an absolute delight.

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We couldn’t resist the sound of Roast Baby Beets, Beetroot cured salmon, honey & wholegrain mustard (£9). A dainty, beautiful coloured plate of tender, flavourful salmon and sweet vegetables. The honey and wholegrain mustard mayonnaise gave a little heat, and is a combo I’ve already tried to replicate at home!

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I ordered the hand-sliced Venison Tataki, white radish and ginger – the butcher had the most incredible looking haunches of venison in the store, so I couldn’t resist! The Tataki was incredible delicately flavoured, and just melted in the mouth. Paired with the accompanying soy and cabbage and ginger salad, it was incredibly moreish.

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In something of a blogger-review fail, we both ordered the special – and honestly, who could resist? A homemade fish pie with seasonal greens (£16) was exactly what was needed to feast on, and it was absolute perfection.

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Huge hunks of salmon and egg were encased in a silky sauce, and topped with the creamiest mashed potatoes you can imagine. After a morning spent outside, exploring Oxfordshire, this was exactly what we were after!

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We also had to try the Triple Macaroni and Cheese (£4.50). All creamy, cheesy goodness, with an added hit of truffle and wholegrain mustard, this was a deliciously grownup take on my go-to comfort food. I loved the gratin topping, and the mix of three cheeses was absolutely divine!

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Filled up with the best of Gloucestershire produce, we ended the meal with a cappuccino (£3.50) and a Cinnamon Latte (£4). When I say I’m obsessed with the coffees from Daylesford – I don’t think you quite understand how good they are! Piping hot, and just a hint of cinnamon, I started every morning off with one when we were down, and I may have finished every evening with a hot chocolate from the to-go counter!

Thank you so much to Daylesford for our lunch – you can find the menu here.

 

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It’s hard to believe it’s been five years since the Waldorf Astoria group took over Edinburgh’s Caledonian Hotel, transforming it into one of the city’s most luxurious spots – so last week I popped through to join in with their celebrations.

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The Waldorf’s afternoon tea, served in the elegant Peacock Alley is something of a city institution. The hotel itself was formerly a train station, and Peacock Alley was the concourse! It’s a stunning space – all high ceilings and rust-coloured brickwork, and it provides the perfect setting for an indulgent afternoon.

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The name for the room comes from the hotel’s history – Edinburgh’s finest would visit the hotel, and would walk up and down the restaurant to show off their most fashionable outfits – their ‘peacocking’ became renowned, and the name stuck!

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As part of the hotel’s birthday celebrations, there was a special take on their famous afternoon tea. Partnering with Edinburgh tailor Walker Slater, we were treated to fashion show between courses of afternoon tea, whilst Edinburgh Gin provided a twist to tea – with a special cocktail and gin-inspired treats.

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Presented by Dougie Vipond, the afternoon was one to remember! The fashion show was presented in two parts and I think it put everyone in the mood for autumn. Sumptuous velvets were paired with smart tweeds, and it was such a lovely introduction to such a fabulous Edinburgh brand, which I (mistakenly) thought mostly catered to gents.

The models sported suitably ‘Edinburgh’ windblown hair, and the outfits have already sent me scurrying around my cupboards, pulling out my tweed blazers with abandon!

It was such a lovely way to spend an afternoon! I haven’t had afternoon tea for eons, so this grown-up version was exactly what I needed to kick-start the weekend! We started with a citrus-y gin cocktail courtesy of Edinburgh Gin. Notes of orange and grapefruit worked together to make it supremely drinkable!

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We were then presented with a tea menu to choose from – the Waldorf Astoria have over 40 teas and herbal infusions to choose from, so it took a while to decide! I opted for the Formosa Oolong Finest hailing from Taiwan. Light and refreshing, it was the perfect accompaniment to the goodies on offer!

We  were presented with the first layers of goodies – sandwiches, rolls, and the most perfect little quiches you can imagine! There was something for everyone – egg mayonnaise was served in buttery brioche rolls, whilst a rich cheddar was served as an open sandwich on rye bread.

 

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There were chicken wraps as well as ham and tomato on soft white bread, and perhaps my favourite was the smoked salmon mouse served on granary bread.

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We enjoyed prosecco with the sandwiches, and after the fashion show we moved onto the sweeter options. This is where the pairing with Edinburgh Gin really got to shine!

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Gin soaked cupcakes, and gin infused strawberry tarted were favourites of the table, but the fresh scones with jam and clotted cream were also devoured. It was the perfect way to begin a weekend, and even though the fashion show was a one-off event, you can still book in to enjoy an Edinburgh Gin afternoon tea (and really, you should!).

Afternoon Tea at Edinburgh’s Waldorf Astoria is priced from £35pp

 

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When I read up about the Principal Manchester, one of the (many) things which stood out about the hotel was the restaurant, Refuge by Volta. A huge space serving food all day, it’s one of those places you can pop in if you fancy a bite, or head to when you’re in the mood for something a little more special.

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The concept of the restaurant is an interesting one – globally influenced, you can pick from tapas-style dishes which range from salads to steak and everything in between.

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Since the menu has so much to offer, we opted to enjoy some olives (£4) and Dad’s Persian Lime Sodas (£2) as we perused the menu. The joy of these small dishes is that you can order a real mixture of flavours, and they’re brought out as and when they’re ready, rather than in the more traditional courses.

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The first dish to arrive was the Crispy Duck, Watermelon and Pomegranate Molasses (£8.50). Absolutely delicious – the mix of juicy watermelon, crisp duck and peppery rocket was a perfect way to start the meal.

Then came some of the biggest, juiciest tiger prawns imaginable served with chilli, and lime butter (£9.50).

To mop up some of the chilli’s heat, we opted for the cooling Mutabal (£4) a middle eastern style dip with beans and aubergine, as well as Bread for the table (£4.50). The mix of breads was delightful – the flatbread felt perfectly paired for the dip, whilst slices of soft herby bread dipped into the olive oil was delightful. My favourite though, was the slice of coal black charcoal bread. It had a soft, almost cakey texture and subtle charred taste, it was like nothing I’ve ever had before.

We couldn’t resist 6oz Flat Iron Steak (£11) with a portion of hot and crispy Fries (£4). The steak was perfect – nicely pink in the middle with a flavourful char on the outside. Served with a hollandaise sauce, it was the perfect duo.

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We had the best of intentions when it came to dessert, but then the waiter left us with the  pudding menus, and honestly we couldn’t resist. The promise of Cardamom Creme Brûlée (£6.50) just sounded too delicious to miss. When it arrived we were far from disappointed. The burnt sugar top smashed delightfully revealing the creamiest of custard, delicately scented with cardamom.

The Ice Cream Sandwich (£6.50) also sounded too good to miss. Two of the biggest chocolate cookies held three scoops of ice-cream (vanilla, chocolate and strawberry), it’s no wonder the waiter told us this was his favourite dish on the menu!

Thank you so much to Refuge by Volta for having us – we will be back soon!

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This summer has been a busy one, between work and a hundred other things, I’ve never had a minute to look at trips abroad, let alone book one. So, in an effort to feel like I’d had some sort of vacation, I headed down to Manchester to spend a night in what is possibly the city’s newest, and most fabulous hotel – The Principal.

Located in the heart of the city – The Principal Manchester is a stunning red brick Victorian delight. There are a tonne of parking options nearby, which meant it was super easy to stash the car for the night. Walking up to the hotel was an absolute joy. At the rather formidable gates you’re met by the friendliest of doormen, who whisk your bags off you, allowing you to fully explore the Manchester Florist who has set up shop in the entryway.

It’s composed of three buildings – one a very grand former insurance building, and The Principal have really made the most of it. From the warm welcome outside, you’re led into the most incredible lobby. A former turning circle for horse and carriages, the stunning glass dome ceiling was salvaged from a Scottish train station, whilst the huge statue of a horse harks back to it’s original use.

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After oohing and aahhing over the decor we were led upstairs – our room, on the second floor overlooking the side of the hotel. The rooms at The Principal Manchester have to be the most stylish in the city.

All muted grey tones and soaring ceilings, it was the most glorious base for a night in the city.

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With a bed as perfect looking as this one, it was all we could do not to jump in it right away, but we had dinner plans at the on-site restaurant Refuge at Volta.

So instead, we lounged around for a bit. The hotel had very kindly left all the necessary bits a pieces for a Manchester-distilled G&T. Since we had a little time to kill, we got to enjoy our drinks on the comfy tweed sofa.

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We headed downstairs to enjoy a fabulous meal at Refuge by Volta (review to come tomorrow), and we couldn’t resist heading back upstairs to enjoy a comfy night in.

I made good use of the ensuite – enjoying a bubble bath and a book.

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Much to my surprise, the hotel toiletries come care of Azzi Glasser. I actually got the chance to meet Azzie (you can read about it here) so getting to enjoy goodies in her fabulous Mr Vetivert scent was an absolute dream!

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Getting to lounge around in the kingsized bed was beyond perfect. I don’t know what Principal Hotels do to their beds, but they are just perfection. A puffy duvet and tonnes of pillows meant I got the perfect night’s sleep – exactly what I needed to prepare for a busy day in Manchester.

After enjoying a leisurely morning, we sauntered down to enjoy breakfast. Served in the Refuge by Volta, it was lovely and buzzy with families and couples all enjoying everything on offer. The meal is a hearty affair at the Manchester Principal – we feasted on sausages and bacon, although the baked goods looked incredibly tasty!

Between the stunning hotel rooms and the incredible friendly and helpful staff, I’m already planning a return trip!

Thank you so much to the Principal Hotel Manchester for having us! A 1 night stay with breakfast starts at £120 and is available here

 

 

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The last time I was in York, I was twelve years old and was on a school trip. We spent four nights in the city; our days spent trailing around various attractions and our nights squeezed four to a room in bunkbeds. It was as far from luxurious as you can imagine. So, when I had the chance to revisit the city, this time staying at the brand new Principal York, I absolutely jumped at the chance!

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Situated right by York Railway Station, the Principal occupies one of the city’s most beautiful buildings. A golden-brick Victorian hotel, it’s a pretty breathtaking building to drive up to, and the neatly manicured gardens to the front of the hotel add to the sense of old-school luxury.

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We had driven down from Edinburgh (and had managed to detour quite heavily through the Yorkshire Dales) so by the time we reached the hotel, we were ready to kick back and enjoy a little r&r. Our room, a Superior Double, was wonderfully spacious. With views out to the front gardens, it was the perfect spot to unwind from the rather long car journey.

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As in all Principal hotel rooms, there was a generous tuck box of goodies for us to nibble at, as well as the cutest little York-themed picnic basket! With chocolates, relish, wine and even a tea towel covered in Yorkshire sayings!

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The room was an absolute dream, with a huge puffy bed and separate little desk and seating area where I could set up my laptop and get a little work done. We had planned to head downstairs and grab dinner in the stunning Refectory, but since the room was so glorious, we opted to go for the naughtier option and order room service.

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We both went for the Principal Burger (£16.95) which was insanely good. It was exactly what we were after – it was the perfect comfort food supper.

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After dinner, there was only one thing I was ready for – a bubble bath in the room’s claw footed tub. With Elemis toiletries, it was absolutely heavenly to kick back in a bubble bath and enjoy a good book.

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The bathroom itself was absolute perfection. All marble tiles and grey panelling – I’m fully intending to copy it in my own house!

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After such a heavenly bath, there was no chance of us going out to explore. Instead, we made good use of the cosy room. We spent the evening in bed, reading and watching movies.

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The room was so comfy we managed to sleep through breakfast (but Principal breakfasts are among my absolute favourites, so you really should go). But the morning meant we got to give this shower a go. With the best water pressure you can imagine, it was the perfect way to prepare for a day of sightseeing!

Thank you so much to the Principal York for having us! Rooms start from £150 per night.

 

 

 

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