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Archive for March, 2011

Bleu de Chanel

Luxury is synonymous with Bordeaux, reinforced by the well-known presence of luxury conglomerates LVMH and Pinault owning leading estates, Yquem and Cheval Blanc and Latour respectively. Less well know is that couture and perfume house Chanel owns two leading Bordeaux properties, neatly balanced between left and right bank : Château Rauzan Ségla, deuxième grand cru classé of Margaux and Château Canon, première grand cru classé of Saint Emilion. At first their seems little synergy, unless of course you take into account the commitment to quality which can clearly be seen in the rigorous renovation that has taken place in these properties.
Chanel purchased Château Canon from the Fournier family in 1996 and they have invested a serious budget in renovation, starting with the vineyards (that needed a dramatic replanting programme), the cellars but also the amazing underground quarries on which the château is perched. This has all come beautifully together with the recently completed cellars. If you look closely here is where you can see a Chanel signature – – the decoration of the cellars echos the recently launched aftershave Bleu de Chanel.

It is apparently the colour used for the family’s racehorses – an elegant touch of luxury indeed.

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A sparkling 50th

In 1961 when it opened its doors the Carlton Tower Hotel was a very innovative addition to Knightsbridge as the tallest hotel in London. Now part of the Jumeirah group they are celebrating their 50th birthday in due style with the creation of The ‘1961’ exclusive cocktail served in Gilt, Chinoiserie and The Rib Bar only throughout 2011. It has been created by the bar team using 1961 Armagnac, bitters, orange bitters, orange Curacao and topped up with Pommery Champagne. If you prefer your champagne straight you can celebrate in the Gilt bar with the special birthday offer of Pommery at the round number of £50 a bottle. Book an event with them before the end of April and a celebratory glass is on the house.

Happy Birthday Carlton!

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Last week Bordeaux Blonde tested the new direct flight from Dijon to Bordeaux on her way back from Burgundy. This weekend the same route but for different wines. The wines of the Jura are only an jours’ drive away Dijon. One flight 3 wine regions – brilliant! You could do worse than to Start your discovery of the Jura at the Chateau de Germigney in Port-Lesney on the banks of the Loue. The old ‘Relais de Chasse’ has a spectacular bar in the old cellars and a great regional wine selection offered by the glass by the 2 young sommeliers to accompany the tasting menus. The food is excellent, the chef brilliantly show cases seasonal and regional produce. If you fancy something more low key their Bistro in the village, offers a more relaxed fare – but book, especially et the weekend they have gained a reputation with both locals and the Swiss from across the border.

The Cellar Bar at Château de Germigney

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A Royal Visit

The Queen visited the newly renovated Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford upon Avon today. As usual Bordeaux Blonde is one step ahead and had lunch at the Rooftop Restaurant there earlier this week. Reopened since November last year, the 112 million renovation, hasn’t added much charm to the architecture of the theatre, locally known as the ‘jam factory’. It is one of those buildings that is nicer from the inside out. The view from the 3rd floor riverside restaurant is wonderful, you can choose a table overlooking the town centre or the Avon river, where you can watch the dog walkers trying to stop their pets chasing the swans and huge geese.

The wine list is excellent, not surprising as it was designed by BBR, and an oenomatic allows an interesting small prestige selection by the glass. The food is proper food, mainly locally sourced with my second favourite Stilton, Colston Bassett featuring in a couple of recipes, as well as a light lunch option served all afternoon.
An eclectic mix of tourists, arty types and pensioners can choose between the restaurant and the riverside cafe and you can’t help wondering if some of the delightful wait staff are
are budding Shakespearian actors and actresses.

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Back to freezing cold blighty was a bit of a shock to the system so what was called for was some warming pub grub. So off to the Rose and Crown in Warwick. Tucked in behind the market square, a stone’s throw from the castle, the Rose and Crown is probably a gastro pub but without any of the horrors this name sometimes implies. Run by real people, serving real food with friendly staff and friendly customers too.
A slow cooked, locally produced, beautifully prepared and presented traditional lunch made me remember how great the seasons are after all. A short but sweet wine list with a few good ideas by the glass finished off the job.

You can see that they take local sourcing very seriously by the upcoming Pork to Fork event on 26th March (see details on their web site http://www.roseandcrownwarwick.co.uk) where you will not just meet the producer but get up front and personal with the product – not for the faint hearted!

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Part Two

Next stop Shanti Mauritius, up until recently known as The Shanti Ananda with a sister property in the Indian Himalayas, the Shanti was originally designed as a lifestyle resort with the sole aim of restoring health and happiness. When I first looked at this destination I really was full of good intentions; here was a real, full-on Ayurvedic resort, all chanting and tofu! However it was not to be: by the time I booked the resort it had changed its tack a little. It is now a wonderful international resort and the minds and bodies of those seeking enlightenment can also enjoy all the classic offerings of a luxury resort including two top class restaurants, bars that offer a lot more than carrot juice and a fish and rum shack where local sega dancers perform to the sounds of waves crashing on the nearby reef.

The spa however still steals the show, even if it is no longer the unique selling point, according to the management, it is probably the best spa on the island (I haven’t tried them all yet but it’s a thought).

You get the picture by the Indian pyjamas supplied in each room and you can tell the serious spa addicts at breakfast as the wander along the beach wearing their pyjamas straight from the morning yoga class.

Hoping to be counted amongst them I changed straight into said pyjamas and off for a medical assessment by the Ayurvedic Doctor. Aside from the usual health enquires the objective of this is to determine your Dosha (Pitta-Vatta for me if you’re interested). He then designs a programme of menus, treatments and exercise just for you. I’d signed up for the Ayuervedic package so it was yoga at dawn, wonderful ‘wellness’ menus, Ayuervedic massages always performed by 2 therapists (after having chanted a prayer for me) and afternoon breathing and meditation classes.
The therapists are extraordinary; from Kervala in India, the origin of Ayurvedic medicine, they are mostly trained Ayuervedic nurses from the hospital there. They are passionate about their work and happy to explain the details of each treatment. This may sound a little daunting but there is nothing cold and clinical about this spa, it’s all beautiful fish pools, running water, and exotic plants around the tea pavilions.

The yoga teachers not only teach daily dawn (well 8am feels like dawn when you’re on holiday right?) Hatha yoga classes, but will coach you privately on everything from yoga, breathing, meditation and much more.

It is a much a spiritual as a physical experience in an exceptional place with the usual wonderful Mauritian hospitality. So how did I fare? Well the days started well, yoga, the wellness breakfast but as the evening draws in it became increasingly difficult to keep to the programme. The pool side bar just begs out for a house cocktail (cocktail classes using the local rum don’t help the resistance levels) and when they bring your wellness menu (which was delicious, dosha specific and changed everyday) it’s so hard not to ask for a quick look at the other menus as you peer at the dishes of the less well intentioned that waft past. No coercion here to stick to the programme it’s up to you, you are a the guest after-all, not a patient. I will not even mention nipping down to the party at the Fish and Rum shack on the beach! So I didn’t perhaps benefit as much as I should or could have but I learnt many new skills and the best recommendation is probably that I’m already looking at returning when the Wine tours come to an end this year so I can try harder next time.

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Does yoga enlightenment have to pass by hair shirt and sandals? In a quest to recuperate (my waistline as well as my liver) after another year of touring and tasting my way through the French vineyards I experimented with several different approaches to Indian philosophy, health and food in the Indian Ocean.

Seduced by India last year during a teaching road-show there last year, I sadly didn’t have time to experience more than a quick yoga class and one Ayurvedic massage but the seeds were sown. However visas to India are a pain and the Indian experience can sometimes be just a little too authentic for those with only 10 days or so in which to approach an enlightened state. Or for those of us not just too soft around the middle but altogether too soft! So, thought I, Mauritius with it’s palm tree lined white beaches and a distinct Hindi accent could be the best of both worlds. 

This jewel of the Indian ocean has been Dutch, French and English before it’s current status as an independent republic. The Indian influence exists since the 1800s when under British rule they were ‘invited over’ from the subcontinent to work in agriculture, essentially on the sugar cane plantations. The population is mainly Hindi and Tamil, as seen in the beautiful temples throughout the island. On feast days such as Cavadee in January the Tamils dress in beautiful bright pink and in February the Hindi population collect in their thousands around the statue of Shiva at the holy site of Grand Bassin to celebrate Maha Shivaratee.

The people are welcoming, gentle and slow, so leave your urban impatience at the plane door as it will do you no good here. Our driver explained that the French said drive on right, the English on the left so now he drives in the middle and he’s not the only one! Locals will stop in the middle of the road with little or no warning just to chat, drop someone off or nip out to buy some fruit and veg from a roadside stall. So for those of us coming seeking nirvana start by seeking out a driver!

Having experienced the wonderful welcome and service in Oberoi hotels in India we were neither surprised nor disappointed by the wonderful welcome at the Mauritius Oberoi, despite unseasonal pouring rain on our arrival. Situated in the north West of the Island not far from Grand Bay which has some of the best shopping on the Island (not that that was part of our quest of course – but more on that to follow) the Oberoi is a haven of peace with luxurious tropical gardens leading down to the ocean front. As the house cocktail (alcohol free honest) was presented to us in the Pavillon overlooking the carp pool, out came the sun and all was well with the world.
All the staff salute you with Namaste when you are making your way through the gardens to spa, pool or restaurant which along with the peacefully beautiful location and a pool from which children are forbidden made us feel the possibility of our quest reaching fulfilment.
The daily Yoga and Thai chi classes and the wonderful spa with Indonesian trained therapists helped combat the effects of the tempting local Cuisine as did the sympathetic and happily, non judgmental trainer at the fitness centre! The cuisine was international with the Italian chef, Igor Bocchia at the helm, but influenced by the Indian and Creole tradition and the local exotic produce. In an attempt to reinforce future healthy eating habits one of the local Mauritian chefs, took us into the busy kitchen for an initiation into the local Creole cuisine. And we proudly lunched on our very own prepared Rougaille.

In conclusion we could have been healthy and the spa staff did their best but fine dining got the better of us. Mind you it all looks a little better tanned – and the beach and pools where world class so that solved that one.

However if we really wanted to pursue our goal of getting healthy we would have to try harder – to be continued!

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