Classic British chic meets Italian taste at this Mayfair hotel bar..
Corfu’s charming Old Town offers a very European feel…
When on Corfu it is worth taking time away from the beach and the imperial blue sea to head to the Old Town and enjoy some Greek cuisine. The town square has an elegant vaulted arcade with wonderful cafes and the historical center is filled with delightful places to eat and drink.
Cafe Bristol – Stylishly cool this small but hip locale in the centre of Old Town has a great DJ and flowing cocktails. Evgeniou Voulgareos 49, Kerkira 491 00, Greece
Azur – Right on the water, and just a short walk from the town square, Azur is a trendy outdoor lounge bar with a terrace, great atmosphere and sea breezes. Leof. Dimokratias 1, Kerkira 49100, Greece
Rex – Popular lively and centrally located just behind the main square, this typical taverna serves all the favourite Greek dishes. Corfu 491 00, Greece
Marina’s Taverna – On a discrete side street in Corfu Old Town on the way to the Fortress is this picturesque traditional taverna serving simple but absolutely delicious Greek fare. The baked aubergines with tomatoes and feta was outstanding! Vellisariou 35, 49100
Its always a daunting task to get tipping spot on, but here are my rules of thumb I tend to use when travelling…
Restaurants: This is probably the hardest as it differs from country to country that I have come to terms with the fact I will probably always get it a little bit wrong. I tend to aim for 15% in most places. This is usually more than enough and very well appreciated in every country except the United States where they near bully you into handing over 18% minimum, 20% ‘standard’ on almost all bills. On all bills I take into account items such as for example a more expensive bottle of wine. This ups the total yet it costs the same amount to open a cheap bottle of wine as a more expensive bottle so… many times I deduct a little on the overall percentage of the tip to account for that. The exception here is if the sommelier helps you pick out the wine, and in this case tip on the complete total.
Bars: Again depends where you are as in the United States bartenders too like their waitstaff counterparts are expecting 18% minimum. It doesn’t matter whether they just uncap the bottle of beer or shake a cocktail. And if you expect them to comeback when you want another drink, or pay attention to you again on a night with a full bar, they will be wanting 20% from the first drink in order to make you worth their effort to get back to you for your second. Anywhere else in the Western world, 10% seems just fine. I tend to give more like 12-15% if it involves shaken cocktails, or say a repeat visit where the bartender remembers my favourite tipple. In all circumstances where the bartender buys a round or gives you something fun to try, give a little more then the original tip amount as a thank you.
Taxis: 10-12% on the total in Europe. Round up the amount for a Black Cab in London, so if the fare is 7.50, rounding up and giving 8 pounds is common. Here I give a little more as I think the Black Cabs are the best in the world, so I will be a bit more generous as they get you to your destination safely, quickly, and in many instances wait until you have entered the premises of your destination to assure you arrived safely.
Hotel Doorman: Around 5 Euro/dollars for taxi to room greet and luggage transfer for one bag. Obviously more generous if the bag is heavy and huge or there are multiple bags. I also tip 1 Euro/dollar for hailing me a taxi, or opening the door for the taxi outside the hotel and telling the driver my destination.
Housekeeping: Its easy to forget housekeeping as you rush out the door to check out but if anyone really deserves a tip at your hotel, especial a luxury hotel, it is housekeeping. In top hotels they keep your room fresh, fluff the pillows to perfection, bring in fresh towels, do turndown service with a chocolate on the pillow… They even might deal with seeing your wet washed knickers hanging up to dry over the shower. In European luxury hotels the amount I tend to give around 2 Euro a day minimum. I also leave something for the evening service as well as they tend to tidy up after the pre dinner shower besides turning down the bed. So in other words 2 sets of tips, around 2 Euro a day for the morning staff, and then again 1-2 Euro a day for the night staff and leave it separately, one for the day service right before departure and for the evening service the night before. If there are extras such as wine left in the room (which they will have to set up) or extra soaps given, things like that I am happy to throw in more. At chain hotels, I will leave around 1 Euro a day, or a couple of Euros if I have spent just one night. In the States I leave around $1-2 a day in upper market hotels, and a flat $2 for a 1-3 day stay in a large, chain type hotel. If you are staying at a resort with swimming pools and seaside, do tip a bit more if there has been excessive usage of towels, lots of need for room tidying up due to constant in and out to change, shower, etc.
Concierge: I really value the concierge and his/her knowledge. In a luxury hotel I will tip generously to a concierge who has essentially set up most things during my stay (car, restaurants, tickets, local information). Typically at a luxury hotel for 3 nights, if all that was done was a couple of restaurant reservations maybe I’ll leave 10- 20 Euro/dollars. The difference between 10 and 20 Euro are points such as did they recommend the restaurants and did you like them? Then tip maybe more on the 20 Euro side. Or if I knew the restaurant I wanted and just asked them to book for me, then perhaps closer to 10 Euro. If they have gotten me into an impossible to get table, and done more like arrange transport, well that will all go up to 30-40 Euro/dollars. If they have gotten me the impossible table, booked tickets, reserved not just a car and driver, but a driver who really knows the city to take me around during my stay… 50 Euro/dollars to the concierge for setting all that up to make my stay special. At the end if the day it comes down to the relationship you have with the concierge and how much you use them so really as much or as little as that might represent. Also take into account if the concierge helped you prior to your arrival and set up services and reservations for your stay that should be included. For me the Concierge is the heart and soul of a good hotel. They should know everything about the local hotspots and be excited to share it with you. And if they have made your stay an experience and not just routine, you definitely should thank them.
Please note: These amounts are just guidelines I use for myself, they are not the ‘standard’ or the ‘norm.’ I am also very happy to be more generous and give more than listed above in exceptional circumstances and have tipped less when service was not given. Also there are differences when staying in luxury hotels and top restaurants where more personalised attention is given, and less than listed above for standard service is absolutely fine as well. So bare all that in mind. At the end of the day the most important point is that you leave something to reward good service and how much you enjoyed it.
Cocktail hour couldn’t be more chic than at these top London establishments.
The Connaught Bar – This opulent lounge is the ideal stage for a fashionable cocktail. The best Martini in London is shaken or stirred to your taste right in front of you. Choose from 7 made in house bitters on their famed Martini trolley and watch the ceremony of the making of a bespoke martini. If you fancy something a bit more diverse check out the extensive drink menu that includes modern fusion versions of classic cocktails, choice champagnes, or try their Whiskey and Chocolate tastings.
Classic Martini at the Connaught Bar
Artesian – Voted the World’s Best Bar it is easy to see why. This upscale bar offers a cutting edge cocktail menu presented on a colourful dial where one can choose a drink based on mood as much as flavour. Presentation is part of the excitement with ice shaped like butterflies and one cocktail even comes with incense smoke.
Whimsical details at Artesian
Donovan Bar – A sophisticated take on established English style both in design and drinks, the Donovan Bar at Browns Hotel in Mayfair is both intimate and hip. Cozy low lit relaxed modern lounge with a classic dark wood bar back lit by a stained glass window of St. George. The cocktail menu features a fresh interpretation of classic cocktails, and the garnishes such as dried fig, sprigs of lavender and mint add that special touch.
Elegant garnishes at the Donovan Bar
The Blue Bar – Ultra fashionable and tres chic, The Berkeley’s pale blue bar in Knightsbridge is like walking into a jewel box. That in itself makes the Blue Bar a treat, but the mixologists behind the bar make some of the tastiest cocktails in the city. An exciting and very tasty bar menu with extraordinary concoctions, and garnished so prettily with orchids or feathered lemon peel make for cocktails a la mode.
Cocktail chic at Blue Bar
Cool chic design oozes from this boutique hotel on the Left Bank in the heart of Saint Germain. French style for sure but maybe seasoned with a bit of South Beach brightness and bold colour to really up the hip factor. Ooh la la! This is not your parent’s stuffy hotel, but then, who would want to stay there when there is the Hotel Bel Ami. With retro, space age pod chairs to swing in, a mint green colour palette running through the decor, and continual sensual scent being spritzed in the lounge like lobby this is a fashionable place.
If you love the Left Bank of Paris like I do, then the location of the Bel Ami could not be better. Around the corner from the church of St. Germain de Pres, a stone’s throw from Cafe Flore, and right in the middle of wonderful shopping you need not walk far to get what you want. The staff are welcoming and affable and even with the ultra stylish decor the establishment feels quite cozy.
Rooms are small in general but feel roomy thanks to the comfortable minimal design with wood, whites, and limited flashes of colour to help give the feel of spaciousness to the rooms. Bathrooms are also quite small but have modern clean design, and I did like the way the bath products in bright coloured bottles added a bit of design conscious flair in a deliberate way to the functionality of the space. The bed was comfortable even though I did find the mattress a bit firm, that is just personal taste, but the pillows were heavenly to sleep on, and I slept well.
The bar downstairs, again, small but uber stylish, is quite the place for events it seems and here there was a bit of a problem (sorry mon amis!). In the evenings, around aperitivo hour this oasis in the middle of St. Germain literally turned into the happening gathering area of the Left Bank. This proved problematic when I wanted to have a cocktail before heading out for dinner one night and there was no room to get to the bar. Instead of giving guests priority, the concierge politely asked me to sit in the lobby space while he fetched the bartender to take my drink order. While this was clearly trying to be accommodating, the problem was that with event spilling out into the open planned space of bar and lobby I felt sort of like I was sitting alone at a party on the corner sofa instead if sitting at the bar relaxing and enjoying the atmosphere. The rest of the time the bar is a tranquil place to be, just not in the early evenings.
I really enjoyed my stay at the Bel Ami and am definitely planning on going back. I felt tres chic just by staying there and I am still dreaming of their perfumed lobby fragrance -I should have bought the candle! This is a hotel that prides itself on its design concept and I loved the style. That said, all types of travellers were guests in the hotel: from the fashionable to the tourist in jeans, from young trendsetters to conservative types. It is not so on trend that it is off putting, it is actually quite relaxed, and accessible. So I guess what I am saying here, is try it. you will like it.
Check-In: Easy, quick and effortless. My room was ready, though it should be noted I arrived just shy of their 3pm Check-In time so that would be expected. Bags were delivered promptly and I was settled in no time.
Staff: Ready to help, just ask.
Housekeeping: Could be better, truth be told. I came back to the room one mid afternoon and my room still hadn’t been made up which I think is unacceptable in a high end hotel. Also turn down service could have had better timing as they repeatedly showed up as I was getting ready to go out for the evening.
Rooms: Decor was modern and stylish but sounds and noises could be heard from rooms next door. Minibar was a bit sparse. Yet for a boutique hotel the room size, though not large, was airy and open.
Bed: While not a sink-in and float mattress, I was still comfortable. And the pillows were divine!
Pros: This is the kind of design hotel that is featured in many books and magazines so part of you will always be chic because you stayed here. And again location plays a big part and this hotel has a great one.
Cons: The fact that it is so trendy makes it an ideal draw for events that take over the public areas.
Extras: Returning guests get a welcome back cocktail on the house.