Head to Joe Allen’s, London, for gourmet burgers and chic cocktails

Joe Allen restaurant London

A New York-style brasserie, with a mighty-meaty American menu

Originally opened in the seventies, this theatre-loving, bustling haunt is where actors, producers, directors and West-End stars would habitually hang out supping on cocktails devouring the classic American fare. It still maintains that element of drama and sophistication, with crisp white linen table clothes, waiters clad in long, knee-length aprons with white shirts and black ties, a singing pianist, sultry, ambient lighting and walls adorned with theatre posters from old musicals and images of iconic American stars.

Joe Allen's restaurant - London restaurants - restaurant reviews - foodThe restaurant itself is has a New York/Parisian brasserie feel, with exposed brick walls and wooden floorboards. Very New York and very cool. Not surprising mind you, seeing as the restaurant itself is styled on its original New York venue, so there’s an aura of the Big Apple’s downtown-chic that emanates throughout. I envisage a swarm of Broadway stars herding into the restaurant to serenade the audience with classic show tunes accompanied by a debonair bow-tied gentleman tinkling on the piano.

We’re sat on a romantic table for two, subtly amused I sit opposite my lovely friend Di, and not on an intimate date with sexy man. To help whet our appetites we quite literally dive into a couple of tongue-tingling old fashioned tipples. I opt for the ‘Bitter Queen’, a combination of gin, Dubonnet, rose lemonade with a subtle hint of orange and aromatic bitters. As a Campari lover, this is just the cocktail for me, and of course helps whittle down our choices from the mouthwatering menu.

Joe Allen cocktail - London restaurant reviews - foodIf you’re feeling famished, Joe Allen’s collection of finger-licking American treats will absolutely hit the mark. We’re both ravenous, so if I’m honest, everything looks good, but catching my eye in particular is the creamy lobster macaroni. Who could resist? And then there’s the choice between succulent fillet steak, spiced baby back ribs or half a grilled chicken. What’s not on the menu we notice are the signature burgers, but we spot the waiters gliding through the restaurant gracefully carrying towering sliders filed with bacon, crisp salad, chunky pickles and bubbling cheese. We simply can’t miss out on sampling the restaurant’s definitive dish. We decide to share a steak and burger following our starters of lobster macaroni and crab salad.

Crab salad bloody tomao dressing - Joe Allen restaurant London - restaurant reviews - foodThe crab salad is divine. Delicate flakes of fresh crab with slices of avocado dressed in a tangy Bloody Mary tomato dressing. Refreshingly light and flavoursome, and the perfect entrée before tucking into a mammoth burger. The mac and cheese unfortunately did not quite live up to expectations. I was expecting a thick, cheesy sauce with chunks of exquisite lobster. Instead I bite into a mouthful of macaroni, that has a runny, milky consistency and I’m forced to play ‘hunt the lobster’. A few tiny chunks surface from the mounds of macaroni. It was ok, but certainly nothing nothing to rave about.

Macaroni and cheese - Joe Allen restaurant London - restaurant reviews - foodOur mains are swiftly presented to us in no time at all. I have a glistening fillet steak cooked in the restaurant’s signature steak sauce, accompanied by a delightful slightly spiced chipotle hollandaise sauce – an absolute taste sensation when smothered over my juicy steak.

Steak with hollandaise chipotle sauce - Joe Allen's restaurant London - restaurant reviews - food

Di is presented an impressive burger piled high with crisp salad, slathers of cheese, sizzling crispy bacon rashers and chunky pickles in a toasted brioche bun. Instantly I have food envy but lucky for me we decide to share! As a true burger buff I’m very particular about my sizzling sliders – but this one ticks every box.  The meat is perfectly pink and meltingly tender, the crispy bacon is covered in gooey cheese and the salad and pickles are crunchy and tasty as I bite into the sweet brioche bun. Heavenly. The chipotle hollandaise tastes great with the burger, alongside the spicy steak sauce, to add a cheeky little kick.

Joe Allen burger - London restaurants reviews - foodTo our surprise both plates are literally licked clean, without a leftover in sight. We have to roll ourselves out of the restaurant from a little over indulgence but overall Joe Allen’s gets a big thumbs up. Great burgers, quirky cocktails and a bustling atmosphere. Definitely worth a visit.

For more information on booking a table at Joe Allens, and to view a sample menu visit www.joeallen.co.uk

Scrumptious sauerkraut with smoked sausages and potatoes

Sauerkraut sausages potatoes recipe - food ideas - dinner recipesThis is without a doubt, one of my favourite food dishes of all time. It’s a flavourfest on a plate. Pickled cabbage piled high with chunky smoked sausages and soft, fluffy potatoes. Admittedly it’s a little of an acquired taste, but if you like strong bold flavours (like myself), then like you’ll love this hearty German dish.

Even as a child, I was always partial to some of the finer things in life, especially when it came to food. Rather than eating the traditional roast chicken and veg my mum had kindly prepared for me, I would insist on devouring a bowl of olives or infuriate her by tucking into some spicy salami. I’ve always loved experimenting with worldly foods. Bearing that in mind, at a very young age I developed a complete obsession with a tasty German dish, Sauerkraut. Anything pickled is a winner in my book, but add sausages to the pan and this is pretty much the icing on my savoury cake…

What you’ll need…
Selection of Polish and German smoked sausages such as kabanos, Bratwurst and frankfurters
4-5 White potatoes
2 cloves of garlic
Jar of Sauerkraut pickled cabbage
Two teaspoons pickled capers
Bay leaf (for potatoes)

How to cook…
1. Slice the sausages into sizeable chunks and fry them off in a large pan with a drizzle of olive oil and crushed garlic. You can keep the sausages whole if you prefer.

2. Whilst the sausages are frying, pop the potatoes on to boil with a bay leaf and salt. You can either boil or mash the potatoes, depending on your personal preference. I usually boil then, in a separate pan fry them off in olive oil and garlic.

3. Once the sausages have browned slightly, add the Sauerkraut and fry off until slightly golden in colour. At this stage you can throw in the potatoes (if you choose) and the capers and mix together on a medium heat for about 10 minutes, this way you will infuse the smoky-pickled flavours. Alternatively you can mash the potato then pour the cabbage and sausage mix over the top. Season to taste and pile up those plates!

Relax at the Chewton Glen hotel spa: a luxurious, heavenly hideaway in the heart of the New Forest

Chewton Glen hotel spa - spa reviews - travels reviews - New ForestGrowing up in the New Forest I would expect the views of the countryside to become embedded in my memory, however it’s a pleasant surprise that each time I return, I am taken aback by the sheer beauty of this magical place. With vast stretches of untamed forest playing host to herds of wild horses, the New Forest truly is the perfect place to escape and unwind from the hustle of the city. Chewton Glen offers the charm of the New Forest, with that little bit of added luxury.

The hotel

Chewton Glen is a luxurious and quintessentially English country manor house, nestled in the forest. This magnificent building dates back to the 18th-century with much of the traditional, distinctive features remaining as part of the hotel’s design scheme. Think oversized, elegant white windows with cascading layers of rich, vibrant fabrics and pristine landscapes boasting beautiful flowers. There’s also a croquet lawn and a delightful stone terrace where you can look back and envisage a plethora of lords, ladies and other distinguished folk sharing a delightful afternoon tea.

ImageThe exterior is very much preserved in 18th century tradition, but inside has a surprisingly modern, and comforting feel. Still lavish in design, the décor is sultry, seductive and contemporary, combining old-school elegance with stylish modern furnishings. We relax in the lounge for an afternoon tipple and marvel at the grand wooden staircase, tall ceilings and open stone fireplaces, stylishly contrasted by bold striped sofas, mirrored wall features and sumptuous scarlet walls – always surrounded of course by those spectacular countryside views.

ImageThe rooms

Chewton Glen has a range of plush rooms and suites and an exclusive selection of romantic, secluded Treehouse retreats. Each room is laden with amenities – flatscreen TV, stereo, huge comfy beds, white fluffy dressing gowns and a generous collection of indulgent toiletries that are too tempting to leave untouched!

Chewton Glen suite - hotel spa reviews - New ForestOur suite is cosy, with a homely feel, and the décor is classic country with a modern twist. We also have a private terrace with breathtaking views of the hotel’s pristine lawns. A natural theme runs throughout, with a bold feature wall painted in a sumptuous deep mauve. Mirrors and artwork adorn the walls and upholstered armchairs are conveniently dotted around the room, ready to rest weary feet.

The bathroom is sleek and elegant with neutral mosaic tiles, a huge mirrored wall space and a separate oversized shower and deep bath to sink into after a hard day’s pampering at the spa.

Chewton Glen spa pool - hotel spa reviews - New Forest

The spa and treatments

With 10 treatment rooms, six hydrotherapy spa pools, an indoor and outdoor pool, among other pampering treats, it’s not hard to see why this award-winning winning spa is so popular.

To start, we sit and relax in the hydrotherapy pools for an hour. Each pool offers different treatments ranging from vibrant all-over body massages to localised pressure points of the body such as the neck or back, with deep, vigorous massage techniques that really loosen the muscles.  Afterwards, there’s just time to do a few lengths of the 17-metre indoor pool before lunch, in the spa.

It’s informal and buffet-style, with everyone tucking in in robes and slippers. Choose from a selection of sandwiches, paninis and salads from the à la carte menu or opt for the buffet selection which includes cooked meats and fish, quiches, jacket potatoes, fresh salads and tortilla wraps, as well as a couple of indulgent desserts. A buffet plate including dessert costs £20.

After lunch I have the signature Chewton Glen back, neck and shoulder massage. The therapist worked wonders by easing the tension in my upper back using vigorous pressure techniques. I felt pleasantly relaxed, even though the pressure was forceful, and felt the benefits almost immediately. My back was under much less strain and I found my flexibility had improved significantly. The nourishing essential oils left my back supple and my skin invigorated and beautifully soft. Visit www.chewtonglen.com/spa/spa-treatments for a full list of spa treatments.

How much does it cost?

Prices range from £295 for a standard room up to £1,580 for a top-end suite. For a full list of room prices visit www.chewtonglen.com/rooms. For a more secluded and nature-inspired stay, the elegant Treehouse suites start at £700, for a full list of options visit www.chewtonglen.com/tree-house-suites.

What else is there to do?

If you can drag yourself away from your robes and slippers, there’s a wealth of countryside pursuits to take advantage of, either organised by the hotel, or further afield. The hotel boasts tennis courts, a croquet lawn, a golf course and even clay pigeon shooting if that takes your fancy. Highcliffe-on-Sea is a beautiful, secluded beach just a short walk away from the grounds. Walking and mountain-biking trails within the New Forest are also a great way to explore the area, and directions are available from reception. See www.chewtonglen.com/hotel/activities for more information.

Getting there

Chewton Glen is located on the edge of the New Forest National Park and within easy reach of Christchurch, Bournemouth and Southampton. The hotel is about 90 miles from central London by car or 1 hour 30 minutes by train from London Waterloo. The closest train station is New Milton, which is just a five minute car journey to the hotel. Visit www.chewtonglen.com/hotel/hotel-directions where you can download driving directions to the hotel from London, Bristol, Bournemouth, Bath, Dover, Southampton and Portsmouth.