Archive for January, 2014

Where to Eat In Paris: L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon Etoile

L’Atelier is all about the  open kitchen and bar seating

Joël Robuchon is the most Michelin-starred chef in history. And while he’s technically retired, his L’Atelier restaurant empire is going strong. On my trip to Paris earlier this month, I checked out the L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon Etoile location.

The signature glossy red and black interiors at L’Atelier are glamorous without being overly fussy

My visit to Paris overlapped with a bank holiday and many restaurants were closed. The concierge at the Saint James Paris hooked me up with reservation at the L’Atelier’s Etoile location, right on the Champs-Elysees just around the corner from the Arc de Triomphe, and open for business as usual and helmed by executive chefs David Alves and Filippos Chronopoulos.

Wine with dinner at L’Atelier

The Etoile location is located on the lower level of the hipster shopping emporium Publicis Drugstore, and features the small signature read and black color palette and open kitchen with bar seating around it. I’m a big fan of eating at the bar in general, and the friendly staff makes the fine dining experience fun and more relaxed. The layout of the Etoile location is a bit tricky– I think the L’Atelier on the Left Bank has better sight lines.

Lobster skewers to share

Left: flavorful winter vegtables Right: the Iberian ham is not to be missed

Steak au poivre is spot on

Left:Black cod with yuzu in a velvet daikon puree Right: Rich and creamy mashed potatoes

You can go for the tasting menu at L’Atelier, or make your own by combining from the selections of small plates, starts and mains. It makes for a fun and interactive dinner. Because of the bar-centric layout, I think L’Atelier is a better option for couples or single diners than large groups. There were a few larger tables for groups, but not sitting at the bar kind of misses the point.

The chocolate cage dome  is a whimsical dessert with fantastic presentation.

133 Champs-Élysées,
75008 Paris, France
Phone:+33 1 47 23 75 75
Opening hours:
Lunch : 11:30 am – 3:30 pm
Dinner : 6:30 pm – 00:00 pm

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Luxury and Whimsy Meet at the Saint James Paris

The Saint James is the only hotel in Paris with official Chateau status

What could make a trip to Paris more magical? Staying at the Saint James, the only hotel in Paris that has official “chateau” status. Located in the upscale 16th arrondissement, the Saint James is unlike any place else I’ve stayed in Paris… and I really, really liked it.

Visually stunning staircase at the Saint James Paris

With bold yet whimsical interiors by Bambi Sloan, the Saint James is a stunner, but not at all stuffy. There is a hot air balloon motif through the property that pays homage to days when the grounds were used as an air field.

Left: Hot air Balloon Lamps Right: Zebra taxidermy is so Paris

The rooms and suites are very large by Parisian (or any major European city standards) which more than makes up for the property’s location in the upscale residential 16th  (it’s a 10 minute taxi ride to L’Arc de Triomphe and right near the the Porte Dauphine metro stop).

The timeless dining room at the Saint James

The location wasn’t an issue for me, because my stay was over a bank holiday in January and the property was so fabulous, my husband and I did not want to leave. With a restaurant and bar on the property, there wasn’t a need to when the weather got nasty.

Classically elegant details at the Saint James: a chandelier and an antique clock

The Saint James is part private club, part hotel, which gives the place a nice, understated buzz in the communal areas like the dining room and the bar.

The bedroom of suite 311 at the Saint James was carpeted with a hardwood design

The Saint James is a great choice for a sophisticated romantic getaway, or for those who love luxury and value for money (the basic rooms here are half the price as some of Paris’ most famous hotels).

Left: Nespresso Still Life Right: Fabulous bathroom with great tile & tub

While the Saint James is visually stunning, it’s also functional and comfortable and has a great staff. They are helpful and not overly formal. The concierge helped with dinner reservations and arranging transportation. Wifi is free and works throughout the property.

I loved this particularly bold room inspired by the Last King of Scotland

With only 48 rooms (20 of them suites), the Saint James makes you want to return to have a different experience in another room. So it’s not much of a shocker that the fashion crowd loves this boutique hotel property.

Some flamboyant touches at the Saint James

The bathrooms are definite stand outs both for design and practicality. Suite 311 had a claw foot tub that filled quickly and a separate shower with excellent water pressure that didn’t soak the entire bathroom. The amenities were Lanvin (so not mad at that)!

crazy good bathtub

Room rates include an impressive breakfast spread complete with Mariage Freres tea (my personal favorite).

The beds are comfortable at the Saint James

There is an outdoor garden with a terrace bar shaped like a hot air balloon that I’d like to visit again when the weather is pleasant.

A comfortable seating area in a suite at the Saint James

My stay at the Saint James Paris was a top notch boutique hotel experience.

Left: Hot air balloon wallpaper Right: a lighting fixture shaped like a hot air balloon

There is a fitness room and spa on the property, as well as loaner bikes if you’d like to explore Paris on two wheels.

The Spa Pavilion

The Saint James is a member of Relais & Chateaux.

Left: Love these striped pillows

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Leopard carpet makes the classic dining room feel modern

The breakfast bread basket at the Saint James

The impressive breakfast spread

The Library Bar had a Hogwarts like charm

Room rates at the Saint James start at about $400 USD.

Saint James Paris

Address: 43 Avenue Bugeaud, 75116 Paris, France
Phone:+33 1 44 05 81 81
Email: contact@saint-james-paris.com

Much thanks to Jon Makmaltchi of  JMak Hospitality, Nicolas Egloff and the staff at the Saint James for arranging my stay and hosting me at the Saint James. Without them this post would not be possible.

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Regional Culinary Experiences and an Organic Garden at the Amanbagh

Chef B.G. showed me some of the fresh produce grown in the Amanbagh’s

The culinary travel trend remains strong and the Amanbagh  is ready to give foodie-centric guests a satisfying experience. During my visit to Rajasthan last month, Amanbagh chef B.G. took me on tour of the property’s on site organic garden and then-still-under-construction outdoor kitchen which will be used for classes and cooking workshops.

Misty morning in the Amanbagh’s organic garden

The Amanbagh serves amazing food but they know that their guests want to have a regional culinary experience. The new outdoor cooking hut will be a great place where they can host cooking workshops for guests who want to return from Rajasthan with a recipe or two from the area, showcasing the local flavors.

Iceberg lettuce looks so much more appealing in the Amanbagh’s garden

Fortunately the Amanbagh is located in a valley with rich soil, so much of their produce can be grown on the property including mangoes, lemons and gooseberries. They even can make a natural insect repellent using their own locally grown neem, basil, and lemongrass. In December’s cool weather, there was no need for insect repellent.

Left: multicolored lettuces Right: green peas

Beautiful head of lettuce

While I’m not much of a cook, I would the Amanbagh’s recipe for masala chai– I got a bit addicted to it during my stay at the Amanbagh. Chef B.G. told me it’s made from ginger and cardamom. Yum!

The outdoor cooking hut 10 days before completion

If you’re interested in visiting the Amanbagh but want to make it a quick trip, the property has a helipad so guests can just fly in from Delhi for the day.

Chef B.G. showed me around the Amanbagh’s garden

Marigolds in the garden at the Amanbagh

Room rates at the Amanbagh start at $800 USD

Amanbagh

Ajabgarh, Rajasthan
India
tel (91) 1465 223 333 /(91) 9828 166 737
email amanbagh@amanresorts.com


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Hotel Review: A Stay at the Amanbagh Rajasthan, India

Marigold-filled fountains in the Lobby at the Amanbagh

After spending three days at the Aman-I-Khas, the staff arranged a transfer by car to the Amanbagh, which was about a 3 hour drive by car. The drive was pleasant and on new roads and was a nice way to see rural Rajasthan. The Amanbagh was the third and final stop on my Aman India Journey.

For fans of the Aman brand, the Amanbagh is the most classically Aman of the properties I stayed at in India, complete with zen and opulent buildings by renown architect Ed Tuttle,  surrounding a glistening pool and and large spa (neither of which I used).

Exterior of one of the pool pavilions

The guest rooms and pavilions are heavy on the marble with posh bathrooms and have spacious dressing and living areas, as well as patios and terraces and in some cases, pools.

Marigolds in the lobby of the Amanbagh

Arriving at the Amanbagh is unforgettable, as the saffron-clad staff greeted us with song.

Despite the fabulousness of the property and the facilities, this was the hotel I spent the least amount of time in during my trip to Rajasthan, mostly because the surrounding area was so interesting and the Amanbagh staff had put together an excellent itinerary so that I could explore it to the fullest.

The seating area in one of the Amanbagh’s Pool Pavilions

After arriving  having a great lunch on the terrace and resting for a bit, we headed to nearby Barakhambi Temple after sunset (you can read my post about that experience here). I was fairly exhausted by the time we returned and just grabbed a light dinner in the hotel’s beautiful bar and listened to the live musicians performing in front of the pool before I realized I could barely keep my eyes open. I quickly fell asleep in the comfortable king-size bed.

Bedroom of a pool pavilion

Located in Ajabgarh, near Near Ajabgarh Fort, the sleeky luxurious Amanbagh is quite a contrast to the part of rural Rajasthan where the property is located. But the local villagers are welcoming and that’s part of what makes a stay here so special– this is real Rajasthan. It’s far enough off the beaten tourist track that the locals are honored you’re visiting. The nearby villages might be poor, but the people are proud and no one shook me down for baksheesh.

Marble bathtub in a pool pavilion

The next day, I took a tour of nearby Ajabgarh Fort with a jeep and driver from the Amanbagh. It reminded me a bit of Angkor Wat, with monkeys climbing over the stone walls of the temple.

Visiting Ajabgarh Fort was a highlight of my stay

Rural Rajasthan is a very special place

The gorgeous courtyard pool at the Amanbagh

The Amanbagh also has a lovely gift shop with a fabulous jewelry edit from The Gem Palace in Jaipur and beautiful home decor items.

Lounge chairs in a pool pavilion

After another delicious lunch at the hotel’s indoor/outdoor restaurant, I took a nap before going on the Cow Dust Tour (you can read my post about the Cow Dust Tour here).

Friendly locals I met during the Cow Dust tour at the Amanbagh

Women I met in a nearby village during my Cow Dust Tour

Left: Misty morning at outdoor dining Right: a shady spot for lunch

Lamb burger for lunch at the Amanbagh

Food and beverage were top notch, with a wide variety of dishes.  Room service was also quite prompt.

Left: Delicious French Toast Right: Lassi and beet juice for breakfast

The Amanbagh has a large organic garden and outdoor kitchen that was under construction but should now be finished so that they can offer Indian cooking classes for guests and tour groups.

A light and refreshing bean salad for dinner in the Amanbagh’s bar

While there were other guests at the property during my stay, the whole place still felt private, which was nice.

Musicians performing at night at the Amanbagh

The gorgeous Ed Tuttle architecture of the Amanbagh

To be able to sleep in such splendid surroundings and still be so off the usual Jaipur tourist circuit is a luxury that is pure Aman.

Cream and unrefined sugar are part of the departing ceremony at the Amanbagh

The departing ceremony was just one of the unforgettable moments at the Amanbagh

The service at the Amanbagh was so good I trusted them to make arrangements for a driver to take me to Agra to see the Taj Mahal after leaving.

Amanbagh Resort

Ajabgarh, Rajasthan
India
tel    (91) 1465 223 333 / (91) 9828 166 737
fax    (91) 1465 223 335
email amanbagh@amanresorts.com

 

Much thanks to Harish Nair, the General Manager at the Amanbagh and his incredible staff, who hosted me for a night at the Amanbagh. Without them this post would not be possible.


 

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Hotel Review: A Stay at the Aman-I-Khas Rajasthan, India

The tents are palatial at Aman-I-Khas

Last month I got a chance to visit Aman-I-Khas is Rajasthan, India on assignment for Glamping.com. It was an incredibly property and by far the poshest glamping experience I’ve had to date. Perhaps the most notable thing about the Aman-I-Khas experience is that it begins prior to arrival. Guests are assigned a batman (that’s a butler) prior to arrival to help with all travel logistics.

The grounds at Aman-I-Khas

Bijay, my butler, met me and my husband at The Lodhi (our hotel in New Delhi) to accompany us to on our journey by car and train to Aman-I-Khas. Having such personal service prior to arrival made the trip hassle free. Bijay took care of all the baggage logistics and even tipped the porters. He also came prepared with a lovely seat cover for the train, and picnic style snacks and tea. It was so thoughtful and let us enjoy the scenery on the less than 3 hour train ride.

Left: the father/son gardeners   Right: I loved the bright saris worn by this woman who swept the grounds

Rural India is entirely different from New Delhi, and it was fun seeing the landscape change outside the window.

The glamorous and chic tent interiors

Some people are nervous about sleeping under canvas. While I am not one of those people, I can say without question that the tented suites at Aman-I-Khas are the most impressive I’ve ever seen. They are huge pavilions with real divisions of space between bedroom, closet, bathrooms and reading area. They have heated floors and impressive water pressure, and side by side sinks. There is even a deep bathtub where Bijay thoughtfully drew a bath waiting for us when we returned from our daytime activities. Even honeymooners would feel comfortable with the level of privacy.

Al fresco dining at Aman-I-Khas

Food is top notch. You can dine in the restaurant tent, or al fresco when the weather allows. The menu features produce grown in the garden on the property and has Indian and non-Indian selections changing daily. I usually chose the Indian, and found the curry to be satisfying and not too spicy.

Left: Lamb curry Right: farm-to-tent leafy green salad

You can spend your days at Aman-I-Khas relaxing in the beautiful surroundings and start with a morning yoga session. I choose to go on game drives in nearby Ranthambore National Park,  which is famous for it’s population of tigers. December is not the month with the greatest track record for tiger spotting but I saw plenty of other wildlife, from deer to egrets. If seeing a tiger is your priority, I’d suggest visiting in the hot spring months, when tigers are frequently spotted at the park’s watering holes and committing to two game drives daily until you spot one. Bobby, my safari guide, spoke great English and knew his animals and birds.

Fancy dress camel at Aman-I-Khas

You can also take a sunset camel ride departing right from the property. Even the camels are up to Aman’s high standards, well dressed, clean, and polite. We took the camel ride the day we arrived and ended the day with a sundowner overlooking the nearby valley. It was spectacular.

Bird at sunrise at Surwal Lake

When I asked the staff to arrange for me to see the sunrise someplace pretty, boy did they deliver. Bobby, my guide, drove us to nearby Surwal Lake to watch the morning come alive. We met some friendly local children and Bijay surprised us by turning up with a picnic breakfast. If this is the Aman way, I’m totally smitten.

One of the deer spotted during a game drive in Ranthambore National Park

Aman service is second to none. It’s personalized, thoughtful, and wonderfully non-intrusive. The resort’s General Manager, Dumi Sakuinje, knows how it’s done. He is from Zimbabwe and previously worked with top safari company And Beyond before coming to Rajasthan.

An egret in Ramthambore

There is a library tent on the property which also has essentials like scarves and buntings for cool morning game drives (at reasonable prices. My bunting jacket cost $10). Those looking for an African safari experience should be aware that Ranthambore is a National Park, not a game reserve. That means vehicles need to stay on the roads to view the wildlife. Still, there is plenty to see.

The library tent at Aman-I-Khas

Any dust I picked up during the game drives was cleaned up in the tent’s impressive bathroom complete with separate shower, bath, and toilet.

Left: Our tent after turndown service Right: The firepit at Aman-I-Khas

Wifi was strong throughout the property and also worked near the communal fire pit, which was another nice spot for a cocktail. Local musicians perform nightly, and their music is rather enchanting and atmospheric. They even performed for us poolside when we had dinner near the pool one evening.

Local musicians perform nightly at Aman-I-Khas

You can read more about my stay and my day-by- day trip reports about Aman-I-Khas on the Glamping.com blog here.

My stay at Aman-I-Khas was part of the Aman India Journey, which combines stays at the Lodhi New Delhi, and the Aman-I-Khas and Amanbagh in Rajasthan.

Disclosure: This post wouldn’t be possible without Glamping.com and the incredible staff at my stay at Aman-I-Khas who sponsored my stay.

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