Sur La Mer – the best hotel in Goa, India

In the run up to Christmas it’s nice to dream of sunshine, beaches and cocktails so here is my contribution to your next holiday choice… During my recent two-week break in Goa I discovered a truly magical place, my memories of which will never be forgotten. If you are lucky enough to find yourself on the coast in north Goa, you absolutely must check into Sur La Mer, a boutique Goan country house hotel, rated the top hotel in the area on the trusted Trip Advisor, a rating recognised by many guests.

Sur La Mer Goa hotel

This hotel likes a classy party!

 Sur La Mer is a stones-throw from Ashvem Beach, which is home to the best beachfront and sublime restaurants in India. I would class the hotel as shabby chic although using the word shabby seems unjust. Stepping into the hotel is like entering an enclosed pardise, thoughtfully put together by an extremely tasteful, well travelled Goan man. The hotel grounds and its rooms are littered with beautiful and comforting antiques each telling thousands of year’s worth of stories. Rajoo the proprietor is a great presence in the hotel, and by staying at the hotel you are very much welcomed as a guest into his world. Guests of Ser La Mer are in good company; Mick Jagger, Liz Hurley and nameless actors and even the lady Maggie May (from her namesake song) frequent the hotel.

Sur La Mer hotel goa review blog India

The antique swing outside room 110

Sur La Mer hotel goa review blog India

Waitress at the ready! Myself in Rajoo’s office.

On our first night we had the pleasure of being invited to attend an Indian pre-wedding dinner as Rajoo’s guests. The extravagant pool side affair was quite a party and a chance for us to taste dozens of the hotels fine Indian dishes expertly prepared by Rajoo’s wife who it has been said cooks up some of the finest food in India. That was the view of a well-heeled Indian family.

Sur La Mer hotel goa review blog India

The glamorous wedding dinner set up

Sur La Mer hotel goa review blog India

The stunning view of the party from the Penthouse.

On our next two nights we had the pleasure of staying in the Penthouse suite, which spans the entire top floor of the main house. The vast suite includes and antique four-poster bed, several indoor and outdoor bathrooms and rain showers, a private sauna and a massage tower – the highest point in the area overlooking the beach. The suite had a wrap around veranda – ideal for tanning areas you wouldn’t otherwise expose in India!

Sur La Mer hotel goa review blog India

The Penthouse suite.

Sur La Mer hotel goa review blog India

Sur La Mer hotel goa review blog India

Our sunbathing deck.

Sur La Mer hotel goa review blog India

The Penthouse suite – luxurious.. 

Sur La Mer hotel goa review blog India

The massage tower offering the finest view to the sea that the hotel has to offer.

In the corner of the garden is an antique horse shoe bar which Rajoo calls his office. Whilst you can order any drink under the Indian sun, Rajoo will join you in drinking an aged rum and soda and tell stories of his decades in the business world in New York, his 13 years since in which he has built this paradise and enviably travelled most of the world. Relaxing by the pool you will be serenaded by Rajoo’s ipod containing over 50,000 songs from the 60s, 70s, & 80s. Think Beetles, Pink Floyd and the Rolling Stones. Any requests instantly blasted out of the speakers!

Sur La Mer hotel goa review blog India

Raju’s favourite sign, sat next to his office (the bar).

I applaud anyone who is able to visit Sur La Mere just the once. Whilst writing this watching the sunset over the palm trees I haven’t yet left, but I know I will return.If you do decide to eat anywhere other than the hotel, the top pick is restaurant La Plage – a two-minute walk from the hotel grounds on Ashwem Beach.

Sur La Mer hotel goa review blog India

I couldn’t forget about my beloved London whilst I was away with my Whistle & Bango postcode bangles.

Thank you again to the Sur La Mer family for an unforgettable stay, I hope I am lucky enough to be welcomed into your home once again in the not so distant future. x The London Whistler x Direct flights to Goa start from £447 with http://www.monarch.co.uk. Rooms at Sur La Mer start from £110 per night. Book direct at http://www.surlamergoa.com

Pleasure or Pain? Christmas Events in London

Christmas being the most joyous time of the year results in London putting on fantastic entertainment for us to celebrate. Some events are genuinely wonderful, but equal amounts are abysmally bad. Predicting which pile these events will fall into is not as easy as it seems.

Below, I have taken three famously festive day trips in London and given you four of my recommended movements at each one. I have also given you the estimated cost. I hope this will allow you to make better excursion decisions this December and choose the event that sounds right for you.

1. Winter Wonderland. Open 21st Nov – 4th Jan 10am – 10pm daily, free admission

Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland is the homing beacon of Christmas in London. It is an eruption of flashing lights, giant pretzels, bobble hats and wellies and you will either adore it or loathe it but you’ll never know until you try it. Here’s what I’d do to entertain myself…

winter wonderland borough market somerset house

  1. Find any form of bar and double-park yourself with large helpings of mulled wine. If you’ve planned ahead you’ll have a hip flask filled with something to warm you up a little more.
  2. Search high and low until you find the singing reindeer. He is unlike anything you will have seen before. His wisdom and his dulcet tones whilst singing jingle bells will warm your cockles. Watch him for 15 minutes or so and feel your mood change.
  3. This is one of the most important steps: consume all or parts of three pretzels: start with a poppy seed pretzel, move onto a crispy cheddar cheese pretzel and finish with a cinnamon & raisin pretzel. Pretzels are amazing and should be celebrated in their own right.
  4. Now it’s Fairground ride power hour time: starting with the Winter Wonderland Express, Coaster Crazy, the Power Tower, the Star Flyer and finally wind down on the calming carousel.

Top tip: do not go anywhere even remotely close to ‘Santa Land’. It is swarming with screaming children high on candy canes and it will destroy your glowing festive ora.  

Total cost: £35pp

2. Borough Market – Open Weds – Sat, free admission.

Bare in mind these four steps will take you approximately 5-6 hours due to chronic overcrowding, but are they worth it? (I think so….)

winter wonderland somerset house monmouth coffee borough

  1. Go directly to an English wine bar called Wine Pantry’ and drink one bottle of Nyetimber English Sparkling Wine – it is absolutely delicious, miles better than high street Champagnes. Don’t sit down, drink up and move on – there is a lot of ground to cover at this market.
  2. Go to Jill’s Natural Preserves and buy as many chutneys, jellies and jams as your cupboard.. (pantry?) can hold. They are absolutely divine, everybody adores them, even when on small stale pieces of dried sampling bread. Go Jill!
  3. Wonder through the market and pay particular attention (I’d like you to mourn if you can spare a minute) to the turkeys, rabbits and pheasants strung up by their little necks – isn’t that festive? (not my thing). What is far more enjoyable is the BAKERY SECTION! Get stuck in.
  4. Nip to (aka queue for 45 minutes) Monmouth Coffee and buy one of the silkiest, most sublime flat whites to have ever met your lips and calmly walk away from Borough Market before any uncontrollable people traffic rage kicks in.

Top tip: Wear steel cap boots in preparation for the toe tredders.

Total cost: £45pp

3. Ice Skating at Somerset House – 11th Nov 2014 – 11th Jan 2015, apx £15pp

Many people wouldn’t let Christmas pass without donning some skates.  This is what I’d do…

somerset house ice skating christmas events

  1. Shuffle into the beauty that is Somerset House’s courtyard, put your skates on, hobble onto the ice, sliiiiiiiiiiiiide across to the opposite side of the rink, and GET OFF the ice. Honestly, it is not an enjoyable activity. Just me? Surely not.
  2. Go to Tom’s Kitchen (within Somerset House) for a thoroughly British Daylesford 7 hour Confit Lamb with Balsamic Onions followed by a scrumptious cheeseboard with Quince Paste and Biscuits.
  3. Saunter out of Somerset House past the dedicated skaters who in trying to have fake fun ended up battering their coccyx and kneecaps to mush.
  4. Jump in a taxi and head to Soho’s wooden-clad Nordic Bar for Scandinavian ‘Snow Cone’ and ‘Ski Breeze’ cocktails.

Top Tip: The two cocktails and home rule. December is a true test of drinking stamina so don’t go OTT in one night. You will lose.

Total cost: £75pp

The top choice for me has to be WINTER WONDERLAND. It ticks all the festive fun boxes and no matter how drunk, childish or boring you are you will always be welcome and it’ll drag a few smiles out of you at the very least.

x The London Whistler x

A Sensory Overload on Columbia Road Flower Market

Columbia Road flower market on a sunny Sunday is one of East London’s great pleasures, and my favourite market of all. Last Sunday it was as delightful as ever. Feast your eyes on these…

Columbia Road open market weekend

Columbia Road open market weekend

Columbia Road open market weekend

 

Columbia Road open market weekend

There’s plenty more to see than ‘just’ flowers…

IMG_4517 21.45.18

A little history:

Columbia Road open market weekend

The gold medal goes to…

Columbia Road open market weekend

Back to flowers…

Columbia Road open market weekend

Columbia Road open market weekend

How intriguing..

Columbia Road open market weekend

A final feeling…

Columbia Road open market weekend

Columbia Rd, London E2 7RG. Open Sundays from 8am ’til 3’ish.

x The London Whistler x 

La Brasserie, a quintessential French dinner

I absolutely adore anything remotely French or to do with wine. So when I was surprised with a dinner at La Brasserie after two hours of wine tasting at nearby ‘The Sampler’ (a highly recommended way to ease into an evening), I was extremely pleased!

La Brasserie like many offers a traditional French menu which will be familiar to most especially older generations and as per any well executed classic French menu, it was hard to find a fault.

My evening in images…

French restaurant Kensington brasserie lunch dinner

To start……

French restaurant Kensington brasserie lunch dinner

French restaurant Kensington brasserie lunch dinner

For main…

French restaurant Kensington brasserie lunch dinner

Just an observation….

French restaurant Kensington brasserie lunch dinner

French restaurant Kensington brasserie lunch dinner

The verdict…

French restaurant Kensington brasserie lunch dinner

 And one for your Dad…

French restaurant Kensington brasserie lunch dinner

Thank you La Brasserie for a delightful evening. I’ll be back when my mother is next in town.

x The London Whistler x

La Brasserie on Urbanspoon

Dim Sum Dinner at Ping Pong, Waterloo.

Ping Pong is a lively group of restaurants serving fresh Dim Sum, cocktails and elegant Chinese teas. They’ve got nine locations in London and last week we a group of 10 went for drinks at their Southbank restaurant, with 5 of us staying for dinner. We were celebrating the return of Hattie – our super yacht extraordinaire who’d been living on a boat in Croatia for two years cooking for wealthy Russians. Here’s what we made of Ping Pong…

ping pong Chinese waterloo south bank menu ping pong Chinese waterloo south bank menu ping pong Chinese waterloo south bank menu ping pong Chinese waterloo south bank menu ping pong Chinese waterloo south bank menu ping pong Chinese waterloo south bank menu ping pong Chinese waterloo south bank menu ping pong Chinese waterloo south bank menu ping pong Chinese waterloo south bank menu ping pong Chinese waterloo south bank menu ping pong Chinese waterloo south bank menu ping pong Chinese waterloo south bank menu ping pong Chinese waterloo south bank menu   x The London Whistler x Ping Pong on Urbanspoon