Wednesday, 24 May 2017

La Source at La Butte Aux Bois



As previously mentioned, the hotel I was staying at in Belgium; La Butte Aux Bois, has a 1 Michelin starred restaurant, La Source. I've been very fortunate that I've got to dine in a number of London Michelin starred ones, but I always get super excited about foreign restaurants. Especially in this case Belgium cuisine, as to be perfectly honest I had no idea what Belgium cuisine was actually like!




La Source is incredibly modern, almost on the point of simple, but everything has been chosen and placed for an exact reason and it the neutral pallet showcases the luxury touches off perfectly.



The restaurant describes itself as a gastronomical experience restaurant, which if London has taught me anything, it means there will be lots of creative displays and numerous suppress along the way.



With 8 courses, it was going to be a long night, so naturally I dove straight into the bread (9 courses if you ant to include that). The bread is actually really excellent here, with an almost nutty flavour. And well, who can resist warm baked bread and salted butter?



And of course, the first course was off to a creative start as predicted. The obvious ones were the tiny cuts of octopus on a spiced crisp, but did you spot the food from the pebbles? The more rounder ones were dough balls with spices and a cheese sauce in the middle.



Yes, those are indeed test tubes. Now I will be honest, I can't think for the life of me what was in them but it was some kind of citrus sauce with foam, and it was sure an experience trying to drink/ eat those.



The brioche buns with tuna though was delicious and moorish.



However it was the first starter that really got my tastebuds going. North sea crab with burrata and tomatoes. The delicate crab and the barrata complimented each other so well and was such a lovely subtle flavour.



Next was the turbot with caviar, lime fingers and chives.

It was quite a strange sensation actually as I swear I'd had caviar before, and yet I'd never experienced the bursting sensation like I did with this particular caviar. And I have to say, however controversial, I really liked it.



Finally the last savoury dish was lamb with pea shoots and asparagus purée. I adore lamb so my taste buds were pretty much rareing to go anyway, but I can happily confirm it was delightful. It cut smoothly through, no nasty grisly bits, and the flavours were rich. 

By this point I was flagging in terms of quantity as even though they were smaller dishes they weren't that small to be honest! However it really did feel like a dining experience coming here. The night is certainly not rushed, and the presentation is beautiful and elobrate.

A restaurant after my own heart. A Chocolate brownie in a Michelin starred place, oh I love it. Now I'm very strict about a brownie. It can not be basically a sponge, no it has to be gooey and fudgy and dense. Luckily they ticked all the boxes! 

But you know what? The award for the most surprising and rewarding dessert goes to this orb object. The menu didn't describe it well really and I didn't think it would be anything and yet the texture combination was incredible. Silky ice cream, hot fudge sauce, crisp peanut shell and a nutty granola in the middle. They hit the nail on the head with this one.


Finally 4 and a half hours later, dinner drew to a close with of course, Belgium Chocolate. Well you couldn't come to Belgium and. It have their world famous Chocolate?


La Source feels like such a treat and a pleasure to dine out at. The whole experience is theatrical but elegant, and the food is really exceptional and the flavours are spot on. It's the kind of place you can put your best dress on for and let yourself be taken care of. I wholeheartedly recommend going if you are in Belgium (and the country is that small you can travel to it from wherever you are staying at). 

So if I had no idea before what Belgium cuisine was like, I've certainly started on the best.


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Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Weekend Travel Series: La Butte Aux Bois



There is a couple of key lessons I have learnt over the last month- Don’t compare your situation to others, and always try and turn a misfortune into an opportunity.

I will freely admit it, I get awful envy. I can’t help it, it always strikes when you’ve just come out of a meeting which didn’t go well, and you quickly scan social media and see someone lounging on a beach, cocktail in hand (Yes, social media has a lot to answer for, but that’s an rabbit hole I’m not prepared to go down right now)

And that’s pretty much what happened to me a few weeks ago. Feeling sorry for myself at work, whilst my travel blogging friends were discussing the various trips they were going on. I think I moaned that work was ruing my love for travel, when it sort of hit me. I can still travel, I just have to be more adaptable. I might not be able to go on lots of long haul trips, but I could certainly do weekend travel.

Weekend travel is perfect for those of us who have regular 9-5 jobs and so I decided to start my weekend travel series aimed at the busy corporate worker who wants to getaway from the stresses of work and treat themselves.

So with the new series in mind, I decided what better way to kick things off than book a spa weekend away in the country… but not any old countryside down the end of the motorway. Nope, I flew to Belgium for some serious R&R.


Now as you saw above, two very distinct, but different style of buildings were what I arrived at. I’d decided to head to La Butte Aux Bois, a luxury hotel in the middle of the most incredible countryside of Lanaken. The original building dates back to 1824 and has been a hotel since the 70s, but the new ultra-modern building is actually officially only a couple of weeks old.

La Butte Aux Bois have created a separate spa retreat addition to their hotel; La Forêt, which not only has a luxurious spa, but also has 20 spa bedrooms which are for guests who are staying for a spa break.



Wandering inside, the interiors are modern, high end, but with a touch of quirk here and there. All the designers are local, although that means they can be from three different countries! In fact Germany is only 20 minutes away, and yet Brussels is 1.5 hours.



Eager to get to my room and unpack (I always fly in comfy but not the nicest clothes), I was welcomed really surprised. I think you'd call this eco chic. Wood paneling, minimalist design and with the bed in the middle of the room, or floating as it's called, gave it a very relaxed feel.



Plus when this is the view you get when you wake up in the morning, it really does feel like you are waking up, almost in the forest itself.



Now what appealed to me about La Butte Aux Bois is that it's a serious gastronomic place, and well, you know me, I love my food!

The hotel actually has a Michelin Star restaurant; La Source, so don't worry guys, that post is yet to come. But in the mean time, I decided to head out into the sun for some lunch.



Once again, the ingredients are sourced locally, as take inspiration from Belgium, German and Dutch cuisine. Never having been a huge fan of German food, and not knowing much about the other two, I wasn't too sure what to expect to be honest.

However I can honestly say it was delicious! The starter didn't look much, but boy was it tasty. A mixture of ham, eggs, cream and pickles. Yes it sounds hella weird but trust me, I lapped every drop up a d wanted more.


I had the main if seafood salad, as Belgium is such a seafood eating country as it's in abundance here.


And how about that for lunch time views? Wow.



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After lunch it was time to explore the grounds. As well as the spa, the hotel is geared up to outdoor activities and nature. They do horse riding, biking, cords country running and you can even bring your dog.


Every which way was beautiful. I must have taken a 1000 photographs as they've clearly put alot of thought into the landscape.


It sort of reminds me of an enchanted forest out of a sorry book. Those deep lush greens, perfect blue skies and the cute but grand house standing proud.


After wandering around for hours, and stopping to enjoy a coffee and chocolate on the grass, it was soon time for dinner. Oh yes, I told you Last Butte Aux Bois is a very foodie kind of hotel. Tonight I was dining in their Le Bistro restaurant.


Now if anyone knows me, you'll know I love steak tartare. The softness of the meat paired with the richness fatiness is just heavenly, and this particular dish was no exception.


Next was another ham and egg dish.  Over the course if the weekend I ate so many eggs and usually they might be a once a week occurance for me. This time they were paired with asparagus and chives which are closely grown and in season in Belgium right now. As much as eating eggs and ham twice in once day might not be my usual choice, in fact it was really good, and I can't knock them for that.


The final savoury dish was Guinea fowl with morel sauce. Now whilst I did like the flavours, I found the guinea fowl to be a little dry. However I actually don't think I've ever ate Guinea fowl before so potentially this is what it's supposed to be like? 


Finally I had a (sort of) light dessert of white chocolate ice and strawberry sorbet which was lovely and refreshing and creamy. 

Rolling myself to bed, I remember it was a floating with those huge widow's and I fell asleep looking forward to waking up "in the forest". 
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Monday, 15 May 2017

Judge and Jury at Courthouse Shoredtich


I recently started a new job over by Liverpool Street Station- well Spitalfeilds to be precise. For the first time I’m edging into becoming an East London girl. The East isn’t typically my style, with my usual style opting for more heels and a quiet bar to sit and sip cocktails. However with my new found home, it was time I discovered more of the area, and what better way than with one of my favourite things- food.

Courthouse Hotel in Shoreditch has had a refurbishment- £40million to be precise. I’d actually never heard of it, but apparently it’s well known in the area. Funnily enough when I turned up I knew exactly where it was, as the few times I do go to Shoreditch, I always catch the bus that stops right outside. 


As the name would suggest, Courthouse Hotel Shoreditch is an old courthouse, but it’s one with some rather infamous clientele. The Kray brothers were shacked up here and actually you can go see (and sit in) the very cells they were locked up in.

The bar is a really nice area, filled with plush interiors and furnishings. For those of you who love a clean white Instagram, here is your new spot. Whilst it’s got a touch of luxe, it’s cheeky and fun too and plays up to its jail heritage with tongue firmly in cheek. The cocktails include the ball and chain which is what I went for. 


The cocktails were pretty decent and reasonable priced for the area actually. 

After a couple of drinks to start off the evening, we headed into the dinning room; Judge and Jury.


Judge and Jury is in one of the old circular chambers which is a nice unique touch. Having never been to court- touch wood- it was quite fascinating.


The menu is quite varied and doesn't stick to one particular cuisine as such, although they do have a good few vegetarian options which Helen by dinning partner was pleased about (There was an incident where when she first went vegetarian and I forgot, booked a French restaurant and there was zero vegetarian mains. Bad friend)


For starters Helen had celery and cauliflower hummus and pita bread. It's not the most photogenic dish in the world but Helen gave her thumbs up for it. I tried a little bit and I have to admit it wasn't quite to my taste. Celery and Cauliflower are both quite...bland flavours so I would have liked a bit more depth to it personally. 


However I had pork belly and spiced squash which was lovely. The creaminess of the squash worked lovely with the fattiness and char of the pork. 


Helen's vegetarian main was butternut squash with cheddar and basil. I didn't try any, but Helen once again said she liked it..


I had the pan fried duck breast with blue cheese and walnut crumb. I did love the walnut and cheese combo with it, which I thought was unusual to have with duck.


Finally we both had the chocolate marquise as I just love the stuff and this didn't let me down.


Now I don't know if it was because we went only a few days after re-opening, but I did find the atmosphere slightly lacking, so I do really hope that will have picked up in the few weeks since I went as it would be a shame otherwise. 

However grab your group of girlfriends as it would make such a fun night sitting in Ronnie Krays cell drinking cocktails. Hopefully the only time you'll be in jail!

335-337 Old Street
Shoreditch
London
EC1V 9LL
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