A few weeks ago, my fiancé (Freddie) and I celebrated ten years with each other. Next year, after no less than three date changes, we will finally be married. Our ten-year anniversary coincidentally fell on our original wedding date and, given that it had been a decade, we decided to make a long weekend of it, spending a few glorious days in Somerset. One evening over a particularly wonderful supper, we discussed some of the best meals we’d enjoyed together. The conversation weaved onto our favourite walks, holidays and hotels. By the time we reached coffee and financiers, we had carved out our own road map of all the places we’d visited that we loved and remembered most. Ten places to celebrate ten years: Ten Places I Love to Be with You.
Unquestionably my favourite restaurant in London, The River Café has been serving classic Italian food made with only the finest produce since 1987. It has a unique charm that seems to marry the art of simplicity and sophistication perfectly. This is some of the best Italian food you will eat outside of Italy (some would argue it is even better). We make a date to eat here at least once a year. The menu works closely with the seasons and is always spectacular but my favourite time to eat here is during the summer when you can sit outside on the riverside terrace and enjoy plates such as langoustines with parsley and garlic, fiori di zucchini e salvia fritti (fried courgette and sage leaves), the best spaghetti vongole and almond mirabelle tart. I can never resist a scoop of their pistachio gelato too.
Paris was one of the first places we visited as a couple. We stayed near the Musée d’Orsay and travelled everywhere on foot, soaking up every inch of Parisian charm. All of the museums in Paris are superb but the one we return to every time we visit is the Musée National d’Art Moderne at The Pompidou Centre. The building has a strikingly bold design with its structural system exposed on the exterior in an ‘inside-out’ fashion. It is, coincidentally, designed by the same architect who designed my favourite restaurant in London, The River Café, Richard Rogers. A sleek, tube-like escalator takes you from the ground floor up to a rooftop restaurant, Brasserie Georges. Naturally, the food is delicious but the panoramic view over Paris is spectacular, particularly at night when the city glows by streetlamp and the Eiffel Tower shimmers.
The Connaught Bar
If you are partial to a martini as both Freddie and I are, The Connaught Bar is an absolute must visit. The perfect place for a pre-dinner aperitivo or post-theatre nightcap, it exudes elegance with 1920’s decor, mirrored walls and that wonderful low lighting that makes everyone look infinitely more glamourous. A martini here is no ordinary experience. With the best vodkas and gins to choose from and essences designed by expert master mixologist, Ago Perone, your martini is personalised exactly to your liking. Watching your drink come to life from the famous martini trolley is like watching a ballet unfold. Spirits glide into glasses whilst your mixologist moves with the utmost grace to create the perfect drink. There is something ceremonial about it, so much so that I can never go too long without enjoying one.
Understated yet effortlessly chic, Septime is situated in the 11th arrondissement in Paris, on Rue de Charonne. Highly acclaimed, its contemporary tasting menu has been awarded a Michelin star. Notoriously tricky to book, tables are snapped up almost immediately after they are released. We ate here by pure stroke of luck. I had wanted to go for months and insisted that we walk past for a glimpse. Miraculously, they managed to find us two seats at the end of the bar. Each course that arrived was more delicious than the last, with every plate paired perfectly with a different wine. The whole experience was stunning and the sommelier was particularly charming, happily discussing the origin of each wine with us at great length. It is one of those meals I shall never forget. Take note to mark a reminder in your calendar to book ahead of time to avoid disappointment. Tables go live three weeks before.
Gatto Volpa Piazetta, Porto Rafael Sardinia
It has been ten years since I visited Gatto Volpa Piazetta, Porto Rafael in Sardinia. I was on holiday with friends, staying in a wonderful house in Porto Rafael. Every evening we would walk down the steep road to this charming cocktail bar, set right on the bay. It is particularly lovely during aperitivo hour, when the sun starts to dip and the aroma of the surrounding bougainvillea fills the courtyard. The drinks are strong here, and somewhere between the Campari spritzes and crostini, a glimmer of romance between Freddie and I began to spark. It was on this holiday that we first kissed, and ten years on we plan to return, this time on our honeymoon.
A vast expanse of ancient woodland and grassy meadows, it is easy to forget that you are in London when on the Heath. We have been walking here for years. During Autumn, when the Heath is at its most beautiful, in my opinion, we will try and go every weekend. There is a sweet café set within Kenwood House where we often stop for a cappuccino. For lunch I recommend The Bull & Last, just opposite the Heath on Highgate Road, where they serve excellent food and have a superb list of wines and ales. Recently, they’ve opened rooms too, allowing guests to make the most of the early misty mornings and the option of a swim in the Hampstead ponds before heading back for breakfast. There is a magic to the Heath that always makes one feel renewed. It is the park that inspired C.S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia, and the place where Constable painted during his final years.
Website: www.hampsteadheath.net/, Rooms from £165 per night https://thebullandlast.co.uk/
Hotel Torre di Bellosguardo, Florence
We stayed here for a glorious week during late summer. It is a perfect time to visit Florence as the weather is still warm and there are not too many crowds. Hotel Torre di Bellosguardo is an ancient historical villa dating back to the 1200s, and was once owned by the poet Guido Cavalcanti, friend of Dante! Steeped in history, each of the elegant 16 bedrooms are decorated in traditional Florentine style, with stunning original frescoes and heritage antique furniture. A generous breakfast of fresh juice, local fruits, breads and pastry is enjoyed on the veranda, offering one of the most beautiful views over Florence. We spent our days exploring the centre of Florence (a short walk from the hotel) and enjoyed late afternoons relaxing by the pool.
Website: www.torrebellosguardo.com/en Rooms from £280 per night
The ultimate countryside escape, Babington House is a Grade II-listed Georgian manor house set within 18 acres of Somerset countryside. With 32 unique bedrooms as well as a lakeside cabin, luxurious spa, indoor and outdoor pools, gym, tennis court, cricket pitch and screening room, it really does have everything you need. It has become a bit of a haven for Freddie and me. We try to book a stay every year and look forward to it immensely. For our ten-year anniversary, we stayed in a stunning room in the main house, complete with roll-top bath and four-poster bed. It is well worth booking a post-pool day treatment during your stay too, as their Cowshed Spa is fabulous. Be sure to take a walk around their walled kitchen garden where you’ll find home-grown tomatoes, blackberries and raspberries.
Website: www.sohohouse.com Rooms from £280 per night
Lux Le Morne, Mauritius
Freddie proposed in Mauritius whilst we were staying at Lux Le Morne, so it will always have a tender spot in my heart. The hotel sits upon a stretch of white sandy beach with the majestic Le Morne mountain behind. We took a guided hike up the mountain the day after getting engaged. It was one of the most exhilarating things I have ever done, with panoramic views of the island and the hotel’s fantastic breakfast welcoming us upon descent. The hotel is stunning, with bedrooms overlooking the sun-dappled gardens, and beach-front suites featuring private whirlpools, his and hers sinks and outdoor showers carved from natural rock.
Website: www.luxresorts.com/en/mauritius/hotel/luxlemorne Rooms from £270 per night.
Our kitchen table at home
The kitchen table is the first real thing Freddie and I purchased together. We designed it with a local craftsman who built it using reclaimed scaffolding. Over the past 18 months it became a bit of a sanctuary for us. Both of us were working from home, and although it was often a little cramped (Freddie on one end having a zoom call, me on the other shooting a tiramisu), we laughed a lot. We made sure to remove all work come evening and would turn our attention to cocktails and supper. Both of our mixology and cookery skills have subsequently dramatically improved. We make excellent fresh pasta and fritto misto and even better martinis.
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