• What to eat

    It's the chocaholics best weekend of the year.  But for those who are sniffy about their cacao, it's about visiting new Soho chocolate shop SAID. 

    This 91 year old family-owned company has its mothership store in Rome but has recently opened their first space in London town. For hot chocolate lovers, this is it.  Choose milk, dark or hazelnut from the bubbling, churning vats behind the counter which is then delivered in an espresso cup. It's so thick your spoon can almost stand upright in it.  

    Alongside the hot choccie, there are jars filled with truffles, old-school milk bottles brimming with chocolate pearls and why not go all-out with a chocolate pizza, munched at the café tables beneath a wall plastered with metal chocolate moulds.  In this instance it's true… Italians do it better.

    SAID, 41 Broadwick Street, London W1F 9QL

  • What to drink

    While The Ritz in Paris is closed (the mooted date for re-opening is currently early 2015 - fingers crossed), Bar Hemingway's maestro barman Colin Field can't let his wrists get rusty…  

    So this week he's shaking at The Connaught bar alongside resident mixologist Agostino Perrone.  The duo are 'jamming' together, creating a special menu that blends their styles and most famous drinks; Ritz 75 and Serendipity (my favourite) by Field alongside Fleurissimo by Perrone.  

    Look out too for Yellow Submarine (see left) and The Pink Poire, both brand new cocktails devised by this dangerous twosome.  And who knows, maybe the gig will throw up some late night mixing duels or shakers at dawn as the pair attempt to out-mix each other. 

    The Ritz Paris's Bar Hemingway takes up residency at The Connaught until 13th April 2014. The special cocktail menu is available until 20th April 2014.


  • Where to go

    A spring weekend in Venice and the place to stay is The Gritti Palace. 

    Speed from the airport by water taxi and spy The Gritti, sitting magnificently just a whisper beyond the mouth of the Grand Canal, the sunny terrace waiting with open arms and a glass of prosecco.

    The hotel, which in 1525 was Andrea Gritti -  the Doge of Venice's 'little palace I like to call home' - re-opened last year having undergone a whopping restoration effort.  So what's new? The rooms are fewer but bigger (82 down from 100), clad in archive brocades by Rubelli, a ginormous terrace with spectacular views over the city has been created on the roof as part of the Redentore suite and a spanking new Acqua di Parma spa on the ground floor. But Gritti habitués were of prime consideration during the delicate 15-month operation; the exact positions of furniture, lighting and paintings were meticulously charted, pieces photographed before being sent away for TLC and as many as possible returned to their very own spot.   So for old-timers the overall effect is sort of the same, but different.  And so immaculate is the revamp that Venice's other - possibly laurel-resting - grand hotels now need to give their socks a jolly good yank.

    However, the biggest difference to the Gritti is utterly invisible.  Because the very thing that draws us to Venice was also it's drawback.  Water. Previously, the palazzo wasn't waterproof, so high tide or floods and 'oh mio dio', the canal's murky water would seep through the floor.  But now that the building is tanked and sealed with whizzy hydraulics in place to batten the hatches, you can twirl your lemon linguine and cicchetti on the terrace while staring at the splendor of Santa Maria della Salute or considering a trip across the canal to Peggy Guggenheim's modern-art jammed former-home, knowing that your Charlotte Olympia kitty flats can pad about safe and dry. 

    If you're at the pretty Gritti this spring, then life is beautiful.