a culinary journey @ st. james court, a taj hotel with zomato

29 June 2015

If you've been reading for a while, you'll know that I'm a big fan of the team over at Zomato - their site, app, and the brilliant events they put on for the community. I attended my first Zomato gathering almost a whole year ago, and it's amazing to see how much they've grown in such a short amount of time! 

For this most recent dinner, it was a stunning day - the perfect weather to sit outdoors for a while to enjoy the aperitifs and canapés. We were spoilt with the luxurious setting of the Courtyard at St. James Court, A Taj Hotel. After a horrendous tube journey, having to hop on an Uber and being half an hour late (and I hate being late more than most people), it was the best thing in the world to be able to sit down in this beautiful place and chat with familiar and new faces. 

Oh, and you know, be given a Laurent-Perrier champagne flight. No big deal.

Three different types of champagnes, each paired with a canapé - salmon and caviar, avocado and ceviche, and a perfect mouthful of ratatouille.

So the idea of this evening was to experience a culinary journey, stopping by a few of the different restaurants at this iconic hotel. In other words, this was just the beginning.

While it was still light outside, we were lead in to the Bistro for round two. There, we were presented with beautifully cooked sesame crusted tuna, which is just my kind of thing. Fresh, light, flavourful, and accompanied by a crisp white wine. The restaurant boasts a contemporary European menu that is likely to please most people's tastes, and the service was lovely, too.

But we weren't there for too long, as we headed for the next stop on the map...

Which was the highlight for most of us, because Quilon has a long-standing Michelin star with good reason.

We had a long, stunning room all to ourselves, and had wonderful dishes to match. On our plate, we had "Fisherman's Catch" (pepper shrimp, crab cake, lentil fish and grilled scallop), "Quilon Fish Curry" (cubes of halibut simmered in coconut, chilli, and raw mango sauce), and "Malabar Paratha" (soft refined flour dough beaten to thin sheet and folded to form layered bread, cooked on a skillet with pure ghee).

The chef came out to explain the menu to us, chatting to us about the benefits of the coastal cuisine of South West India, which is centred around seafood and a lack of animal or saturated fats. I absolutely loved everything we tried here, and would happily go back for a full meal there. One day soon, I hope!

We were all feeling our appetites waning by this point, but being a bunch of enthusiastic foodies, we could definitely manage just one more place...

Kona was our last stop, and it did not disappoint. We were treated to a dish of Norfolk "roam free" chicken, which was perfectly tender and delicious, along with a beautiful strip of vegetables that were light but full of flavour. It was the ideal dish to end with, as it wasn't too rich but still managed to hold its own, even after the Indian feast. 

Of course, we couldn't leave without ending on a sweet note - which was a gorgeous chocolate dessert that I wish I could eloquently describe to you, but I'll let the photos do the talking.

After balancing out the generous glasses of wine with some detoxing green tea, the evening reluctantly came to a close (I always have so much fun chatting at these things!) and I left with a very full and happy. Although the St. James Court is right by Buckingham Palace, it feels like a quiet refuge from the hustle and bustle and it's a romantic little spot, too. Even just to go for a drink in that beautiful courtyard is worth the trip. 

Thank you again to Zomato, and to St James Court, A Taj Hotel for a wonderful dinner (or dinners?). You can find my profile here - join the club! 

aix-en-provence :: the things i love

23 June 2015

E's hometown of Aix-en-Provence is one I never tire of visiting, and is somewhere I feel strangely at home, after a good few trips there. I also have such special memories from the place, walking around town with some of my closest friends leading up to our wedding, and spending holidays in both summer and winter in that provençal sunshine.

For those who might be thinking of going there (I would definitely recommend it), or if you're curious to know a few of the things I especially love to do when I'm there...

1 :: Strolling down the Cours Mirabeau, enjoying the stalls and people watching. 
The Cours Mirabeau is said to be the Champs-Elysées of the South, and it is beautiful. Lined with cafés and restaurants, shops and stalls, it's the heart of the town and where you can find the best gelato around...

2 :: Giovanni Gelateria
A must in the warmer months (and in the cold, too... although you might prefer a Nutella crêpe, or a hot cone of churros) - my favourite flavour there is the salted caramel, no question.

3 :: Getting lost in the narrow streets and enjoying the fountains.
Aix is sometimes referred to as the City of a Thousand Fountains, and they are dotted all around in different shapes and sizes. I just think that they add something so special and unique to Aix, and I love to see little kids dipping their hands into the water on a hot day, and couples resting on the edge whilst enjoying their ice cream.

4:: Les Deux Garçons, the most renowned brasserie in Aix.
Sat right on the Cours Mirabeau, this is the most legendary café in the city, seeped in history and frequented by the likes of Cézanne and Hemingway. The inside is beautiful and glamorous, but I prefer to sit outside and sip on a glass of Pastis (an truly Provençal anise flavoured aperitif). I always feel like I'm in a movie, surrounded by flying French words and listening to the locals chat away. Of course, there are plenty of tourists too, but I never feel like Aix is too flooded with them.

5 :: Perusing the market, sniffing the lavender and buying fresh bread from the boulangerie.
This is probably horribly cliché, but I can't help it! There is such joy in looking around the market with their chalkboard signs and colourful produce, and of course I can't resist the smell that emanates from every bakery around the corner. 

I realise that this is not exactly a tour guide (in that it is entirely unhelpful for those who actually want to visit Aix properly), but I've never seen it as a travel destination - it's a home-in-law for me, and it's the little things that make me happiest when I'm there. 

Did you know that the Eurostar now goes direct to Marseilles and Avignon? Meaning that visiting Aix has got even easier (although it was already pretty straight forward via Paris), and you should put it on your wanderlust list, right now.