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Club Gascon – A Classic French Restaurant in Clerkenwell

From the moment I entered Club Gascon, I was totally impressed by this generous dose of Frenchness in Clerkenwell, where they wear their patriotism and passion so proudly.

Club Gascon is a restaurant where detail and timing is key and, accordingly, the service, food, wines and atmosphere create a fantastic experience.

Club Gascon Restaurant exterior

There are a few things which you could pick fault with – I don’t love the layout of the narrow dining room, and on the evening we visited there was a very large group which dominated it; and as much as I am a Francophile there were moments when my GCSE French failed me and I couldn’t quite decipher the accents of the staff.

Club Gascon Restaurant interiors

But it didn’t really matter because anything they talked about, served us, and topped up at Club Gascon was pretty much perfect.

The Menu changes every 8-12 weeks and I’d always suggest you go for Le Marché which is a 6 course tasting menu drawing inspiration from the à la carte ‘topics’: Le Route du Sel; Le Potager; Le Canard; L’Oceane and Les Paturages.

The food at Club Gascon Restaurant

This is a snip at a two-course lunch option for £25, and £60 for the 6 course menu at dinner. A menu this confident, balanced and understated can only have come from a Chef with great skill and experience and having tasted it, I can confirm eating Pascal Aussignac’s food is a pleasure from start to finish.

Hailing from the South West of France, the produce that surrounded him in his early years is treated with great skill and care on the menu here and Fois Gras, Duck, and fine Charcuterie all get star treatment. To this day all the ingredients he cooks with are sourced from small artisan producers in the South West of France.

The food at Club Gascon Restaurant

There are some gutsy flavours on show here but my highlights demonstrated the lightest of touches including the lightest courgette flower I’ve ever tried and a pigeon dish that recalibrated my understanding of its delicate taste and texture.

The wine list generously draws from, no surprises, the South West, Languedoc, Roussillon and Bordeaux – absolutely no New World wine to be found here and it really works to have such a localised list which matches the terroirs of the menu.

It is worth noting too that the restaurant is part of a successful group of London restaurants, including Cigalon on Chancery Lane, all sharing a love of genuine and authentic French ingredients and styles.

We’re guilty of chasing the next new restaurant on London’s dining scene but Club Gascon is a classic, and one we need to treasure.

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San Domenico House Hotel – Flamboyant, family-owned hotel close to Chelsea hotspots

Owned by the Italian proprietors of Puglia spa hotel Masseria San Domenico, this sister hotel just a stroll away from Sloane Square boasts lashings of Latin deco drama.

San Domenico House, a boutique hotel in Chelsea

Housed in a couple of refurbished redbrick townhouses that were once home to the (rather less extravagant) Sloane hotel, a discreet Victorian exterior hides San Domenico House’s 15 rooms, including nine suites.

The canopied king-size four-poster beds, richly swagged windows, and antique fixtures-and-fittings (including vintage Louis Vuitton luggage and solemn, turn-of-the-last-century portraits) breathe a heady whiff of Borgia-style decadence.

San Domenico House, a boutique hotel in Chelsea

San Domenico House‘s high ceilings, panelled walls and a liberal use of velvet add to the general sense of voluptuousness, whilst spacious bathrooms stocked with Molton Brown toiletries, along with 24 hour room service and a well-equipped fitness room, ensure comfort is catered for too.

San Domenico House, a boutique hotel in Chelsea

Rooms have balconies or terraces with panoramic city views, whilst breakfast, taken in a delightful damask and silk-cluttered drawing room, includes a full English fry up.

A few minutes saunter from world-class museums, chic King’s Road boutiques and restaurants, including Tom Aiken’s Tom’s Kitchen, San Domenico House makes an ideal base for that indulgent city break in London.

Double rooms from £255 per room per night, including breakfast. For further inspiration for London hotels, read our guide to the city’s best boutique hotels.

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The Best Bars for a First Date in London

There are many decisions when it comes to a first date…what to wear, what to talk about, where to go? The pressure is on! Here is our pick of the best bars for a first date in London to take the stress out of the occasion, leaving you to concentrate on the conversation flow and securing date number two.

The Punch Room, London Edition, Fitzrovia

The understated glamour of The Punch Room, hidden at the back of the London Edition, makes for an intimate and cosy first date.

The Punch Room

Impress your date with your insider knowledge when it comes to this discreet, oak panelled room and its punch menu, but be sure to book in advance.

The Coburg Bar, The Connaught, Mayfair

If you are looking to impress your date, look no further than The Coburg Bar in one of London’s hotel greats.

The Coburg Bar at The Connaught Hotel in Mayfair

The warm and homely atmosphere will do wonders for settling first date nerves and if you need a little more to relax, the cocktail menu is impressive, showcasing the finest drinks throughout history.

Aqua Shard, London Bridge

Pull out all the stops and take your date up to the glamorous atrium bar at Aqua Shard.

Aqua Shard Bar

This enchanting bar makes for a romantic setting, especially at night, when you and your date can admire London’s landmark monuments glinting below with a glass of Champagne in hand.

The Gilbert Scott, Kings Cross

Impress your date at the elegant Gilbert Scott, one of the best cocktail bars in London. This grand bar has a magnificent bell chandelier and ornate décor and there is an excellent cocktail menu to match.

The Gilbert Scott Bar

Make your way through the innovative concoctions and see where the evening takes you, Paris is but a train ride away…

Dukes Bar, Dukes Hotel, St James’s

The legendary Dukes Bar lends itself very well to a first date; timeless and intimate, this place is traditional and arguably serves the world’s best Martini.

You will feel as though you have entered the world of James Bond and rightly so, Ian Fleming used to frequent Dukes Bar and apparently this is where James Bond’s Vesper Martini originated.

Artesian, The Langham

Artesian is a sleek and sexy bar that will add a little West End glamour to your date with its luxurious interiors and renowned cocktails.

Artesian Bar at The Langham

Recently voted the world’s best bar, Artesian boasts 50 types of run and experimental cocktails that can only be found here.

The Luggage Room, Mayfair

The Luggage Room is a discreet speakeasy in Mayfair; the modern stylish décor, great cocktails and warm and intimate ambiance will really impress that first date.

The Luggage Room Bar

Expect soft leather, dark woods and impeccable service that is both friendly and laidback and will put you at ease so you can make the best first impression.

Kettner’s Champagne Bar, Soho

The Champagne Bar at Kettner’s boasts over 100 varieties of Champagne, one of the most extensive Champagne menus in London.

The best champagne bars in London

The relaxed glamour of the bar with its lavish décor and plush seating will be sure to win over any first date.

Oskar’s Bar, Dabbous, Fitzrovia

Oskar’s Bar in the basement of Dabbous, Ollie Dabbous’s successful first restaurant venture, exudes a cool and stylish vibe.

Oskar's Bar at Dabbous

Treat your date to some of the best cocktails made from foraged herbs and flowers and some exquisite canapés in this relaxed yet smart setting.

Scarfes Bar, Rosewood London, High Holborn

Scarfes Bar at the Rosewood London, which opened in October last year, is a snug and cosy choice for a first date.

Rosewood London cocktail bar

Grab a comfortable wing-back by the roaring fire and make your way through the great cocktail list in this stylish and homely bar. The daily live music makes Scarfes Bar one of the best bars for a first date in London.

Vinoteca – Soho, Marylebone, Farringdon, Chiswick

Take your date to one of the four buzzy Vinoteca wine bars if you want to show off your inner oenologist. With a choice of nearly 285 wines this is the place to sample new and unique flavours and if your date finds one they love, why not treat them to a bottle to take home from the wine shop?

Note: Nobody has paid to be featured or offered anything free to be included. These are our own thoughts on the best venues for first dates in London. Click here to view our editorial policy.

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Blanchette Soho: Restaurant Review

Blanchette has an understated entrance on D’Arblay Street in Soho. Owned by French brothers Yannis and Maxim Alary and supported by the Salt Yard Group, Blanchette has a similar feel to some of their restaurants; humble sharing food in a rustic setting.

The bar area at Blanchette is surrounded by a wall and window of bar stools, and the décor is, much like the food, classic French Bistro with the occasional modern twist: exposed bricks and mismatched furniture, complemented by warm, low lighting.

Blanchette Restaurant in Soho

The menu is broken up into Snacks, Charcuterie, Cheese and a selection of small ‘tapas’ plates under the headings of Meat, Fish and Vegetable.

We started with a Charcuterie board consisting of Jambon Sec de Montagne (£4.00) and Noix D’épaule (£4.00) with freshly baked bread. Both meats were delicious and arrived as a generous serving enough for 2-3 people.

The Charcuterie Board at Blanchette Soho

For mains we opted for a combination of Fish, Meat and Vegetable (waiting staff advise 2-3 plates per person for the table). Warm Confit of Salmon with Duck, Puy lentils and Herbs (£6.75) was a delicately flavoured and wholesome dish.

Ox Cheeks Bourguignon with Ventreche (£8.00) is served in an individual casserole dish and was the highlight of our dinner.

Three extremely tender pieces of meat sat in a dark, rich sauce; a classic French dish done very well, accompanied perfectly by Cote du Rhone Domaine la Mirandol (£20.00 for a Carafe).

Black Pudding, Char-grilled Pork Belly with spiced Quince and Parsnip purée (£6.75) isn’t as rich as it sounds – the dish was pleasantly balanced thanks to the sweetness of the purée.

Blanchette Soho

Blanchette Soho serves comforting, good quality food but the service still needs some work. While they were very friendly, service was a little disorganised, with some timing issues.

Do note that space is short, and the dishes arrive staggered, so eat each plate as it arrives to avoid over-crowding on the table. A private dining room is also available seating 14 to 16 guests.

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Disclaimer: We were invited to review Blanchette but our thoughts will always be our own and our reviews are our genuine impression of the restaurant. Click here to view our editorial policy.

The Month Ahead – April’s New Openings and Events

Here we look ahead to the new openings and events to keep on your radar for April 2014. From The Hemingway Bar at The Ritz Paris popping-up at The Connaught to a few new openings in Clerkwenwell and a Krug Champagne event with London’s Philharmonia Orchestra.

Bonnie Gull Seafood Cafe, Exmouth Market

Take a step back to a 1960s British seaside scene with a visit to Bonnie Gull Seafood Cafe. Concentrating on sustainable British seafood, the café will offer a selection of shells, rolls, starters and mains.

Think oysters, cockles, lobster, crab, mussels; sure to be popular with seafood lovers, it will be open 7 days a week for lunch and dinner.

Hemingway Bar at The Connaught, Mayfair

The celebrated Hemingway Bar from The Ritz Paris will be taking up residency in The Connaught Bar in Mayfair for one week only.

Hemingway Bar at The Connaught

From 7 to 13 April, two of the leading figures from the international cocktail scene combine to create a special menu, reflecting their respective styles: Colin Field of the Ritz, Paris and Agostino Perrone of The Connaught, London.

Iberica Farringdon, Clerkenwell

Ibérica Farringdon will open in Clerkenwell on 28th April 2014, serving Churros and hot chocolate from the deli, in addition to the a la carte Spanish menu.

Peg and Patriot, Bethnal Green

Peg and Patriot will open its doors this month in The Town Hall Hotel in Bethnal Green serving innovative cocktails created with house spirits produced on-site. Their creations are certainly for the adventurous; try unique concoctions such as the Marmite vodka martini.

Henri Matisse: The Cut Outs at Tate Modern

From 17th April until 7th September The Tate Modern will play host to the most comprehensive exhibition to date of the paper cut outs from one of the pioneering figures of modern art, Henri Matisse. The paper cut outs, dating between 1943 and 1954, mark the final chapter in his long and remarkable artistic career.

Curated by Nicholas Cullinan of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and Nicholas Serota of The Tate, this is a major exhibition not to be missed.

Krug Champagne and London’s Philharmonia Orchestra, 7th-11th April

For one week only, join the prestigious Champagne house and London’s Philharmonia Orchestra in their celebration of the annual recreation of Krug Grande Cuvée.

Krug Grand Cuvee with London Philharmonia Orchestra

The pop-up exhibition in Shoreditch will see the Philharmonia Orchestra performing Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring – guests will receive 2 glasses of the recreated Krug Grande Cuvée and the full musical experience.

The Future of Meat at Hawksmoor Guildhall, 5th April

Head over to Hawksmoor Guildhall on Saturday 5th April to learn about our consumer habits when it comes to meat, sustainability and what we’ll be eating in 100 years’ time.

The talk will feature Richard Turner of Hawksmoor, Tim Wilson of The Ginger Pig and Philip Lymberry, author of Farmageddon; tickets cost £40 and include brunch and a Bloody Mary. Click here to buy tickets.

Enoteca Super Tuscan, Spitalfields, 28th April-2nd May

Don’t miss Super Tuscan Wine Week at Enoteca wine bar this spring where founder Nick Grossi will be showcasing several super Tuscans.

The wines in question have been created by innovative vintners and will be paired with Tuscan delights such as fresh tagliatelle, kid goat ragu, duck ragu and Tuscan fennel seed sausages and lentils.

EASTER OFFER: Great Northern Hotel, Kings Cross

Enjoy a city break this Easter with a stay at the Great Northern Hotel for just £199 (add £45 for your partner).

Great Northern Hotel

From Good Friday until Easter Monday guests are invited to savour the simple classics served at the Plum + Spilt Milk thanks to breakfast and dinner restaurant credits included in the offer, washed down with a chocolate martini at the GNH Bar.


One Kensington, Kensington

In an impressive Grade II listed Victorian building on Kensington High Street, One Kensington has just opened its doors with head chef Massimiliano Blasone at the helm serving international cuisine and light dishes.

One Kensington Restaurant

The space is elegant with modern glass chandeliers and sleek crescent leather booths creating a convivial atmosphere. Our highlight was the Tagliolini with pesto, almonds, crab and tarragon.

Barnyard, Fitzrovia

In the wake of the resounding success of Dabbous, you will be pleased to know that Ollie Dabbous and Oskar Kinberg launched Barnyard last month, a rustic walk-in only restaurant.

With a focus on wholesome and reasonably priced fare, you can expect sausage rolls with piccalilli, roast beef on toast with horseradish buttermilk and drinks such as the Hedgerow shandy, a sloe gin, cider, pink grapefruit and tonic concoction.

Bibendum, Chelsea

Pay a visit to Bibendum after April 15 to celebrate its menu relaunch in honour of head chef Matthew Harris’s 20th year at the helm.

Bibendum Restaurant in Chelsea

The new menu and daily changing prix fixe will showcase his classic French cooking, robust and unfussy, made from the finest seasonal British produce.

Big Easy Bar.B.Q. & Crabshack, Covent Garden

The Chelsea institution Big Easy recently opened its doors on Maiden Lane introducing the much-loved ‘crabshack’ to the West End.

Expect American fresh-smoked BBQ food, including pork and beef cuts and fresh lobsters sourced from Nova Scotia on display in an impressive fish tank that houses 2,000 of the tasty crustaceans.

Note: This post is meant to be informative and not a review of the featured items. Nobody has paid to be featured – we have included a selection of new openings and events that we believe our readers would like to hear about.

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The Baur au Lac Hotel – Zurich’s Modern Grande Dame

A grande dame in every respect, the Baur au Lac has been welcoming famous composers, artists, heads of state and royalty for over 170 years.

Set in its own park overlooking a beautiful lake, the Baur au Lac’s ceremonious entrance is also only a few minutes’ walk from Zurich’s main financial and shopping districts.

Baur au Lac Hotel

Having aged gracefully thanks to a $50m touch-up in 2009, the hotel is a pleasing mix of old and new – a grand entrance, imposing staircases and stained glass windows firmly retain the hotel’s heritage, while the 120 bedrooms (including 27 junior suites and 18 suites) have been updated to give a fresh, modern take on the traditional, elegant design.

Baur au Lac Hotel

Arriving late at night without time to enjoy dinner, the sight of a cake stand in my room with nine mini desserts was a delight, highlighting the hotel’s attention to detail and service levels.

Our junior suite was the perfect sized room – large, comfortable beds (fit for 3, as someone pointed out from my Instagram photo below!), a generous sitting area with room to entertain, a walk in wardrobe and luggage storage area that could be closed off and a spacious double bathroom.

Baur au Lac Hotel's Bedroom

I’m more inclined to have breakfast in the room, but breakfast is also served in the Michelin-starred Pavillon restaurant, beautifully designed in conservatory style by Pierre-Yves Rochon with calming views of the river that flows past.

Baur au Lac Lake in Zurich

We visited Baur au Lac on the way for a weekend of skiing, but visit in the summer to experience The Rive Gauche Terrasse, an exclusive alfresco restaurant and bar that makes full use of the beautiful grounds of the hotel.

The restaurant at the Baur au Lac

The Baur au Lac feels grand and old-worldly without being stuffy or dated (apart form, perhaps Le Hall where afternoon tea is served, but this will soon receive a spruce-up as well).

In an industry often focused on the new and shiny, I love how the Baur au Lac remains a family-owned hotel after almost two centuries and it demonstrates that combining history and tradition with current, up to date design can be a big success.

Take advantage of Bon Vivant’s affiliation with Elite Travel International – a Virtuoso Member – to book your next trip to Zurich with access to preferred rates, complimentary upgrades, free breakfast, $100 hotel credit, VIP welcome amenity and early check in / late check-out, please contact our travel specialists.

Le Pont de la Tour Restaurant Review

If you’re looking to impress an out-of-towner then Le Pont de la Tour on Butler’s Wharf is the way to do it. An evening booking is a must as the view from the window is the iconic Tower Bridge, lit up in all its glory.

Le Pont de la Tour Restaurant

If not already sold on the view then the bar, where a Grand Piano plays classic jazz songs, may help. The bar area is roomy and staff are in abundance, and never without a warm smile.

Then onto the restaurant; a long cruise liner shaped room is large and yet still warm and inviting. Large circular tables run down the centre of the restaurant, banquette seating runs down the back wall and warmly lit tables for 2 sit by the window.

The a la carte menu offers a strong selection of seafood, including a Plateau de Fruits de Mer available with or without lobster. The new Tasting Menu, a creation of Head Chef Tom Cook is definitely worth a try, priced at £50 per person or £85 with paired wine.

With his impressive CV including stints working alongside Gary Rhodes, Michel Roux Jr and later landing the role of Head Chef at Restaurant Tom Aikens, I had anticipated something rather special.

The menu at Le Pont de la Tour, I’m told, is inspired by a book written 20 years ago detailing the vision for the restaurant by original founder Sir Terrace Conran.

While the menu inherits some classic French ingredients and ideas, Cook has quite successfully created a contemporary and exciting collection of dishes.

Le Pont de la Tour terrace

An amuse bouche of White bean velouté with black pudding was rich and creamy and a satisfying start to the meal. Next came Salad of Dorset Crab with Saffron Panna Cotta, Avocado and Melba Toast. We were instructed by the waiter to eat the 3 items separately, starting with the crab and working our way along.

This is a light dish that was slightly lost after such a flavoursome predecessor. Its accompanying wine, however – Chablis Jean Defaix – is a delicious, crisp white that paired well with the crab.

Pan-fried Foie Gras was served with braised chicory and a sweet and sharp red wine sauce that cut though the creamy texture.

Loin of Yorkshire venison, braised salsify and beetroot, sautéed Brussel sprouts, cocoa & game jus was an absolute delight – the venison was served incredibly moist and pink.

An accompanying Côtes de Bordeaux could have been made especially for the dish; a deep and oaky wine that demanded meat such as venison to reach its full potential.

And finally dessert: Valrhona milk chocolate mousse with dark chocolate crumble and salted caramel ice cream isn’t as rich as it sounds and is best enjoyed when combining all 3 components at once, or better still washed down with a glass of Graham’s ‘Six Grapes’ Port.

It can’t go without saying that the service at Le Pont de la Tour is at worst overly attentive; you really do receive excellent service.

For the warmer months Le Pont de la Tour has an extensive alfresco dining area along the waterfront that looks ever so inviting.

If you like your restaurants with a view, read our guide to sky high dining with a view. If you enjoyed this review of Le Pont de la Tour, sign up to our blog below:

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Disclaimer: we were invited to review the restaurant – our editorial policy can be viewed here.

The Connaught Hotel, Mayfair – A Love Affair

I absolutely adore The Connaught – it’s one of my favourite places in London and I visit as often as I can, which is a true sign of an exceptional hotel.

Its main purpose is to attract tourists and business travellers, but if you can make locals return time and time again, you know you’re doing something right.

The Exterior of The Connaught Hotel in Mayfair

I’ve talked about The Connaught many times on this blog – I’m a huge fan of both hotel bars, The Coburg and The Connaught Bar – but despite numerous visits over the last few years, I had only ever experienced it from a food and beverage perspective, and mostly after dark.

Until a few weeks ago that is, when I was invited to spend the night.

Arriving on a Saturday afternoon in bright daylight reveals a different side to The Connaught – while the dark wood staircase still feels dramatic and imposing, the lobby is filled with light from the conservatory-style Espelette restaurant.

On check-in, I heard some of my favourite words: “we have a lovely suite for you, Mr Thomas”. And, well, what a suite!

The master bedroom of The Connaught Hotel in Mayfair

The ceremonious hand-carved double doors of The (penthouse) Apartment open on to a huge foyer that leads to the bedroom, beautifully designed in cream and lavender with a four-poster bed, fainting couch and a serene sense of space.

From your bedroom, follow the corridor to your dressing room, walk-in wardrobe and bathroom, or go for a wander in the other direction where walkways filled with objets d’arts and paintings guide you to a truly stunning sitting area, designed in blues and purples with a marble fire place.

The Apartment at The Connaught Hotel in Mayfair

Measuring over 3,000 square feet with two terraces overlooking Mayfair, The Apartment is surely one of the most desired hotel suites in London.

What I love most about The Apartment is that it’s not only somewhere to spend a night or a weekend, but somewhere you would want to call home. You would need a pretty hefty budget to do so, but it genuinely feels like home away from home. A gorgeous, stylish, utterly fabulous home, that is.

One of The Connaught’s biggest strengths is that it manages to blend tradition with modern touches so well – it can be formal yet cool; grand yet homely.

Helene Darroze at The Connaught, which holds two Michelin stars for its French haute cuisine and is one of my favourite Michelin starred restaurants in London, has recently launched a new menu concept.

With a philosophy that the ingredient is the star of any dish, Helene has created a menu highlighting her favourite ingredients and producers. Select 5, 7 or 9 items from the menu (Pumpkin, Lamb, Black Truffle, for example) and you will receive your own menu with one course created around each selected ingredient.

A recent lunch to showcase the new approach highlighted the chef’s focus on and trust in her suppliers, resulting in an experience that feels both luxurious and comforting.

The Aman Spa at The Connaught Hotel in Mayfair

The Connaught’s Aman Spa is the first of its kind outside of an Aman Hotel, and it brings an Asian aesthetic and style to the hotel. While smaller than many London hotel spas, its strength lies in its intimacy and serenity – I only saw one other guest while relaxing next to the gorgeous pool.

 The Coburg Bar at The Connaught Hotel in Mayfair

My love of the warmth of the Coburg Bar (above) and the glamour of The Connaught bar have been well documented, but delve further into the hotel and you may stumble upon the intimate Champagne Room. Not strictly a full bar, but a secret spot for a clandestine meeting with some seriously good Champagne.

The Connaught combines elegance, glamour, subtlety and a unique sense of cool to create a timeless masterpiece of a hotel.

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Disclaimer – I have paid my own bill on numerous occasions but my overnight stay was covered by the hotel – our editorial policy can be viewed here.

Competition! Win Your Own Designed Bottle of Champagne

Do you like Champagne? Silly question! Then you’ll probably want to enter this competition to win your own designed bottle of Champagne.

We’ve teamed up with Champagne By You – a new bespoke service from Champagne Warehouse – to offer the chance to design your own unique bottle of Champagne.

Champagne For You - Design Your Own Champagne Bottle

If you’re selected as the winner, you’ll pick your preferred type of Champagne from a set of online tasting notes and then work with Champagne By You’s in-house design team to create your own label for the bottle.

From a favourite photograph to a unique design, the bottle can be personalised for you or as a gift for a friend. That’s the beauty of Champagne By You: the choice can be entirely yours.

To enter the competition please click here. For more chances of winning click to tweet this link!

For more information on the service visit and follow them on twitter @ChampagneByYou

Terms and conditions: All entrants must be over 18. Delivery address must be UK mainland. No cash alternative. The winner will receive their finished bottle a minimum of fifteen working days after their artwork has been approved.

By entering this competition, you agree to receive newsletters and future competition details from Bon Vivant and Champagne by You. We won’t bombard you and your details will never be passed on to a third party. Good luck!

Chiltern Firehouse – The Hottest Restaurant of The Year

Too hot to handle! On Fire! Smoking hot! I’m going to get them all out of the way upfront, but suffice to say that at the Chiltern Firehouse it’s getting hot in here.

One of the most anticipated restaurant openings of the year, the Chiltern Firehouse is a new hotel and restaurant on Chiltern Street in Marylebone from famed hotelier André Balazs.

Chiltern Firehouse - new hotel and restaurant in Marylebone

This is his first European venture, adding to an enviable collection of properties that includes Chateau Marmont in LA, The Mercer in New York and The Standard Hotels in Miami, Los Angeles and New York.

On display in the open kitchen is a brigade of chefs under the direction of Nuno Mendes, formerly of Michelin-starred Viajante in East London, where the menu also takes inspiration from his time cooking with the greats of America – Wolfgang Puck and Jean-Georges Vongerichten.

You can choose to sit on the counter in front of the kitchen, in the main dining room that is divided into little sections, or you may wish to sit on the corner table and straddle the fireman’s pole.

We start with a martini at the bar, and pick from a menu of bar snacks that includes delightful crab stuffed doughnuts – small brioche buns filled with crab.

Starters, designed for sharing, hint at the chef’s Southern American influences with sea trout crudo with yellow mole and coriander, and bream crudo accompanied by a delicately spiced green olive sauce.

My favourite starter was the Firehouse Caesar, an interesting take on the classic dish with lettuce, crispy chicken skin and parmesan.

From the mains, Chargrilled Iberico pork is served deliciously rare with roasted garlic and lemon, but the highlight for me was the monkfish cooked over pine with its wonderfully smoky smell and taste, served simply with some fennel and barley.

We swooned over side dishes that included sautéed monk’s beard, maple-bourbon sweet potatoes, and the most excellent fries. On hearing my appreciation of the fries, the charming maître d’ sent over another portion, which we quickly extinguished.

I love how Chiltern Firehouse feels exclusive and inclusive at the same time. It’s difficult to get a reservation and the entrance feels like a fortress, but once inside, you’re in for a warm welcome from friendly, attentive staff who make you feel at home.

An American style weekend brunch menu is served on Saturdays and Sundays and the gorgeous courtyard terrace will be a must-visit in the warmer months. Make sure you visit the bathrooms as well to locate a hidden second terrace.

The food is great, the dining room is cool and stylish and the service is slick, but more importantly, dinner here is excellent fun and you will want to linger long into the night, and there’s no better compliment than that.

Chiltern Firehouse, 1 Chiltern Street, London, W1U 7PA

For reservations, try 020 7073 7676 or contact your concierge at Bon Vivant. Try some of our other restaurant reviews including Notting Hill Kitchen and Cigalon.

Disclaimer – I paid for my own dinner at Chiltern Firehouse but our editorial policy can be viewed here.