EXCLUSIVE: Recipes from London’s Chiltern Firehouse Cookbook

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When Andre Balazs debuted Chiltern Firehouse in London’s Marylebone in 2014, it was with a particularly titillating mix of secrecy and fanfare. And quite unlike his Standard brand, the focus seemed to be much more on the restaurant than the hotel – te latter of which had something of the “bolthole” about it.

In the ensuing three years, the restaurant has drawn such a steady parade of actors, models, rock stars royalty and footballers (the Beckhams, the Gallaghers, Orlando Bloom, Emily Blunt, Cara Delevigne, Rita Ora, LiLo, Kate Moss) that it’s practically a zeitgeist of its own. It also turned its sleepy but sophisticated neighborhood into a bit of thing. But in fact, what is on the plate has been just a exciting as what’s on the gossip pages. Indeed, under Michelin-starred Portuguese chef Nuno Mendes, CF has won over food geeks and critics alike.

So, no surprise, Penguin has just released the significantly buzzed about  Chiltern Firehouse: The Cookbook. It’s all here, from the crab doughnuts to the wood-grilled Iberico pork to the lobster XO noodles.

We asked Mendes to pick a couple of favorites to prepare at home. For full Chiltern Firehouse effect, invite a couple of your favorite celebs over to share.



I have had many granitas in my life but the one that thrilled me and made me want to make them myself was at Noma in Copenhagen, in 2008. It was served with sweet prawns, dill, and cream. It inspired me to try to capture the essence of amazing fruits and vegetables, such as the orange and fennel in this dish, in cold and crunchy textures.
Blood orange has a short season, so we try to use it as much as we can while it’s around. A granita is my favorite way to serve it at the Firehouse.
for the blood orange granita:
5 tablespoons/70 ml Campari
2½ cups/600 ml freshly squeezed blood orange juice
5 tablespoons/60 g superfine sugar
¼ cup/60 ml water
for the confit fennel:
1 fennel bulb
¼ cup/50 g superfine sugar
Juice of 1 lemon
2⁄3 cup/100 g crème fraîche
2 blood oranges, peeled and segmented
Pour the Campari and blood orange juice into a large container suitable for freezing.
Gently heat the sugar and water in a small saucepan until the sugar has dissolved, then add it to the orange juice and Campari. Place in the freezer and allow to freeze hard (this will take about 3 hours). Once the mixture has been in the freezer for 2 to 4 hours, remove it every 25 minutes, scraping the mixture with a fork to break up the ice crystals, until it is fully frozen and flaky (scraping the mixture about 3 times should be sufficient). Keep in the freezer until needed.
Discard the outer layer of the fennel and remove the base of the bulb. Slice the bulb into thin slivers using a mandolin or sharp knife, retaining the fronds for garnish.
Mix the fennel slivers with the superfine sugar in a mixing bowl until the fennel juice starts to come out. Add the lemon juice, cover, and chill until ready to serve. You can make it up to 1 day in advance.
Freeze 4 serving bowls ahead of time. Place a dollop of crème fraîche in the bottom of each bowl and top with the sweet fennel and segments of blood orange. Top with the granita and a few fennel fronds.





A good tart is a treat that is really hard to beat. We developed this tart with the goal of merging the spiced pumpkin flavor with the texture of a perfectly soft custard tart. It took a while to get there, but I think we nailed it. This pumpkin and brown butter pie always makes its way into the Firehouse menu on Thanksgiving Day. The pie filling is best made a day in advance, to allow the mixture to settle and any air bubbles to disappear.
This dish is also amazing served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, raisins that have been steeped in bourbon and then cooked with brown butter, and finished with a sprinkle of piecrust crumbs.
INGREDIENTS – Serves 8 to 12
for the pumpkin pie filling:
½ small pumpkin (about 1 pound/500 g)
3½ tablespoons unsalted butter, diced
2 cups/500 ml heavy cream
4 large free-range egg yolks
1 large free-range egg
3 tablespoons packed soft dark brown sugar
1½ tablespoons maple syrup
Pinch Maldon sea salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
for the sweet shortcrust pastry:
3½ cups/500 g all-purpose flour, plus extra to dust
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon/250 g cold unsalted butter, diced
2 tablespoons superfine sugar
Pinch Maldon sea salt
2 large free-range egg yolks
1⁄3 cup/80 ml ice-cold water
for the bourbon cream:
1 cup/250 ml heavy cream
1 tablespoon confectioner’s sugar, plus extra to dust
3½ tablespoons bourbon
Preheat the oven to 325°F/160°C.
Wrap the pumpkin in foil and bake it for 1 hour, then remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
Warm a saucepan over medium heat and drop in the diced butter. Once it melts and begins to foam, whisk it continuously for about 2 minutes, keeping the heat constant, until it becomes nutty and fragrant. The foam will die down a bit, then you will see the color change and the butter solids turn a toasted brown color. Remove from the heat and transfer to a metal jug (it will be very hot) and keep stirring for a further minute to prevent the butter burning (it will keep cooking off the stove).
Peel the baked pumpkin and discard the seeds, then combine 9 ounces/250 g of the flesh in a bowl with the remaining ingredients (including the brown butter). Transfer to a blender and blend until smooth, pass through a fine-mesh sieve into a clean bowl, and skim off any froth on the top. Cover with plastic wrap and transfer to the fridge until you’re ready to bake the pie.
Place the flour, butter, sugar, and salt in a bowl and mix together, either in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, in a food processor, or by hand, until the mixture resembles bread crumbs. Add the egg yolks and water and mix until it comes together to form a dough. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill for 1 hour. Preheat the oven to 350°F/170°C.
Roll out the chilled pastry on a lightly floured surface to 1⁄8 inch/2.5 mm thickness, and use it to line a 12-inch/30-cm tart or flan pan. Put the lined pan back in the fridge to chill for 30 minutes to an hour, then prick the surface of the pastry with a fork a few times, line the pastry shell with parchment paper and pie weights and bake for 25 minutes. Remove the tart shell from the oven, remove the parchment and weights, and leave to cool. Reduce the oven temperature to 225°F/110°C.
Whisk the cream and confectioner’s sugar together in a bowl until the mixture forms soft peaks, then fold in the bourbon. Chill until ready to serve.
Pour the chilled filling into the baked tart shell and bake for 1 hour, or until the filling is just set, with a slight wobble. Remove from the oven and let it cool completely before serving with bourbon cream and dusting with confectioner’s sugar.



Reprinted with permission from Chiltern Firehouse by Nuno Mendes and André Balazs, copyright 2017 by Chiltern Street Hotel Ltd. Published in the United States by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.

Photographs copyright 2016 by Peden + Munk


The Lion Chef John DeLucie on Reopening NYC’s Legendary Empire Diner

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This week, the Empire Diner reopened under the direction of Chef/Proprietor John DeLucie and the Cafeteria Group. The freestanding building in West Chelsea, with its iconic silver, Art Deco façade, has remained a New York staple since first opening in 1976. The establishment in its original state closed in 2010 before going through various new owners and rebirths, and most recently remaining vacant since 2015.

“Partnering with John for this project was a natural fit – with his expertise in classic, elevated comfort food and eye for perfection,” says Stacy Pisone, partner in the Cafeteria Group. “We’ve been an integral part of Chelsea for two decades since the opening of Cafeteria in 1998, and could not be more excited to expand our portfolio in this dynamic neighborhood.”

DeLucie himself has a storied New York culinary history. As Chef/Partner (along with the likes of Graydon Carter, Sean MacPherson and Emil Varda) in such high-profile restaurants as The Waverly Inn, The Lion, Crown, Bill’s Food & Drink and Bedford & Co, he has played host to the city’s top power players and such a-list celebrities as Beyonce, Sarah Jessica Parker, Taylor Swift and Cameron Diaz.

On his decision to take on the Empire, he elaborates, “I’ve known Stacy for years, she called me and told me she had secured the lease on the property and asked me if I’d want to do it with her. I didn’t hesitate because I knew she would be great to partner with, and that I would absolutely want to work on this project. I had actually been there over the years when I was a younger.”

The updated design of the space maintains the traditional New York décor with a slightly more contemporary touch. Working with interior design and architecture firm Nemaworkshop, they managed to restore and accentuate the authentic stainless steel panels. They’ve also included wood paneling in the ceiling to contribute to a more refined appeal while complementing the unique structure.

“I think the spirit of the place is very much still alive,” says DeLucie, “There is a lot of glass and stainless steel with an art moderne exterior. There is also a clock in the main room that’s been there since the 40s. But what is different is the infrastructure such as the lighting, air conditioning and lots of stuff you wouldn’t notice.”

Chef de Cuisine Justin Neubeck brings his passion for quality seasonal ingredients and his classically refined influences to the table (pun intended). The menu features “Small Plates” as an upscale take on traditional diner favorites. Entrees like the Braised Beef Short Rib with horseradish gremolata and the Sourdough Pretzel Fried Chicken with chili mustard sauce give it an irresistibly hearty appeal. Happily, though, the Empire Double Patty Burger with American cheese served with herbed french fries has made a return.

And for dessert? Pastry Chef George McKirdy puts his personal touch on American diner favorites, with a three-layer coconut cake with butter cream and pineapple ribbons and the strawberry chiffon cake served with vanilla cream strawberry compote and a toasted almond crumb. Sure to inspire a sweet tooth is the Empire S’mores Torte, with toasted marshmallow, semi-sweet chocolate mousse, house made graham crackers, and vanilla ice cream.

The Empire is also sure to become a favorite nightlife destination for a low-key cocktail. Cafeteria Group’s Head Mixologist Jenny Castillo uses clean and simple ingredients to put a current twist on classic drinks. One tasty libation is the Salty Dog, made with pressed fennel and grape juice.

Although only time will tell, it seems to fit the particular niche for Chelsea locals who fear change. And with the leadership of a Chelsea favorite of two decades in the Cafeteria Group, the iconic establishment seems to be in trusted hands for a proper revival.

“A big challenge,” DeLucie admits, “is that everyone has his or her memory of Empire because it’s been such an iconic space in NYC for so long. It means something very different to every person, so it’s difficult to manage everyone’s expectations as far as the food and experience goes.”

And a favorite story from the old Empire? “One evening that stands out was when I was at the diner with David Johansen of the New York Dolls. He was dining at one of the tables, acting wild and eating a hamburger.”

Hopefully he’ll be back.

Empire Diner is now open at 210 10th Avenue in New York City. For reservations or more information, visit the website or call (212) 335-2277.

Mary Lambert on Her New EP + Her Fave Hangouts in Seattle

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Mary Lambert shot to fame in 2013 as the featured vocalist on Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ “Same Love,” which became something of an anthem for same-sex marriage. It scored her a Grammy nomination, and she even performed the song live with Madonna at the awards.

She’s since been compared to everyone from Adele to James Blake – and has been a tireless voice for LGBT rights. Her new EP, fittingly titled Bold, will be out May 5 – and is a new paradigm of her visceral, alluring and remarkably infections pop sensibility. For instance, first single “Hang Out With You” (co-written with Michelle Chamuel) is an exuberant, charmingly obsessive paean to falling head over heels. “I don’t want to fix my hair / I don’t want to write a song / I just want to hang out with you” she enthusiastically confesses to her new love, an elated feeling we’ve certainly all experienced.

“The EP is proclamation of fearlessness,” she says. “This is a collection of queer pop songs about having lots of feelings, and what it’s like to live in that dynamic range. The impetus for creating and releasing Bold really came from being told that I couldn’t do it. That an artist, specifically a fat, gay, female artist in the pop sphere choosing to be independent wouldn’t be taken seriously. So I guess this is the part where I yell ‘watch me!’ in a bright colored crop top on a mountain of glitter.”

It’s also a family affair – her mom is actually her latest special guest collaborator.

“She let me talk her into using a song she wrote called, ‘Love is Love,’ and the process of producing my mom’s vocals and arranging her song was very moving and emotional for us both.”

She’s also a Seattle girl, so in true BlackBook fashion, we asked her what her city (and state) means to her, and what are her fave places to hang out when she’s home.


On Being Inspired by Seattle/Washington

“There isn’t another place like Seattle.” she insists. “There’s just not. There is nothing quite like the gift that the PNW brings to someone who is willing to smile through eight months of cloud cover in order to witness a well-deserved sunlight parade in July. I recorded half of the EP here in Sequim, Washington (one ferry trip and three hours of driving away from Seattle) and I am planning on making the next record there as well. I made my very first recordings six years ago in this stellar studio owned and operated by Jeremy Cays on the peninsula of Washington state, and have always wanted to return and make more music there. I’m so glad I did, because the songs came out fantastic, and I feel like I’ve grown as a producer and artist in the process. “
“My best friend, Tim Mendonsa, who plays guitar and bass on the track “Do Anything,” drove down with me from Sequim to Portland for a radio gig, and I don’t know how to adequately articulate how surreal and beautiful the drive is from the Washington peninsula to Portland on the scenic 101. But if you can imagine being in one of those quintessential car commercials, and then superimpose your best friend in the passenger’s seat and then add a Death Cab for Cutie soundtrack underneath deep laughter and great talks – that’s basically where I was at when I was forming Bold. No labels, no managers, no A&R, no producers, just totally, completely free.”

Her Favorite Hangouts in Seattle/Washington

Sunny Farms (Lunch)

Sunny Farms is located in Sequim, about three hours Northwest of Seattle. I had to include it on my list, not only because it’s two minutes from the studio, and I’ve spent so much time there, but it’s so good! They have a little deli in the back, amazing produce in the front, and if you’re into alternative remedies, their health/wellness section is off the hook. If you’re ever in the peninsula of Washington State, you gotta go to Sunny Farms.

Tilth (Brunch)

I can never get enough of Tilth. It’s located in Wallingford, which is a neat neighborhood to walk around in, not to mention the restaurant itself is a converted house. Maybe that’s why it feels so cozy! Chef Maria Hines is in a league of her own, and has really cultivated something special. All ingredients are either certified organic or wild, and you can taste that in the nourishing quality of the food. Go for brunch, take a walk around the lake, then come back for dinner.


Two Big Blondes (Shop)

If you are a plus size babe like me, you know how discouraging it is to go shopping. It’s not just that stores might have run out of my size, it’s that they refuse to even carry my size. If I walk by a store, I must begin by dissecting the store name: if there are any hidden implications of “we MAY have your size here!” But Two Big Blondes is a plus babe’s paradise and I am grateful they exist.

Lola (Dinner)

I fell in love with Lola, this Greek inspired restaurant from Tom Douglas, when I was bartending and living in Belltown. I’ve never had a bad dining experience here –  and I feel like that is actually really a difficult thing to achieve in the restaurant industry: consistency. This food is comforting and delicious and fun, and I love that it’s open for all meals. Like, if you’ve got plans in two hours, just hop over to Lola and grab a kebab. Now you’ve got a place to sit. And a kebab.

The Upstairs (Drinks)

The Upstairs is one classy hell of a joint. If I hadn’t been drunk yelling John Denver at the top of my lungs when I lived around town, I would have said that this place was a little serious. But I know better now – it’s all shenanigans! I may be a cocktail snob, but I also like it when a drink is called “The Dirty Shirley”. What? A shirley temple with vodka? I’ll take ten.

Bathtub Gin & Co (After Drinks, Drinks)

If you’ve ended your night at Bathtub Gin, you did Seattle right, in my book. Good luck finding the door, though, as the entrance is in an alley and tricky to locate if you have never been. I would liken the decor and vibe to an unpretentious speakeasy, and the bartenders are ridiculously skilled, without being pretentious. I actually filmed part of the “She Keeps Me Warm” music video at Bathtub Gin; the owners Jessica and Marcus are incredibly kind, creative, and super hard-working. Love this place.

10 Brilliant Reasons to Get to Moogfest 2017

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There is certainly no shortage of buzzworthy American music festivals. But Moogfest, which debuted in New York in 2004, is genuinely set apart from the others, launched as it was to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the greatest synthesizer company ever – Moog, of course – giving it something of an aesthetic and ideological mission. To that end, it has also acted as a lab for the cultivation of new ideas, from the cultural to the social to the political.

The festival (May 18-21) is now entering its second year in its new home of Durham, North Carolina. And it comes at a historic time – as the state’s divisive “bathroom bill,” designed to ignorantly discriminate against transgender people, was just overturned on March 30. It was a “hallelujah moment” for civil rights.

This year’s program is among its best, and most diverse ever. Here are just ten of the reasons you need to be there.


The Lineup

In addition to electronic icons like 808 State and Simian Mobile Disco, the Moogfest stages this year will hold art rockers Animal Collective, nu-goth goddess Zola Jesus, superstar DJ Derrick May, Syrian singer Omar Souleyman and rapper Mykki Blanco.

The Protest Stage

Certainly a response to the tense political and social climate under the Trump Administration, Moogfest 2017 will feature a dedicated Protest Stage – with, amongst others, a performance by hip-hop provocateur Talib Kweli.

Michael Stipe

The former R.E.M. frontman, who has been noticeably quiet since the band’s 2014 breakup, will premiere a new multi-media installation, soundtracked by his first ever solo composition.

Stranger Things

SURVIVE members Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein will perform a live version of their score for the hit Netflix series Stranger Things – surely the most talked about new show of the last year.

Nick Zinner

The Yeah Yeah Yeahs guitarist will join Haxan Cloak for what is being intriguingly described as a “durational” performance. It’s worth going just to see what they actually mean by that.

Nona Hendryx

As vital a creative force as ever, the Labelle / Talking Heads legend will perform, and also conduct a discussion on her futuristic wearable tech instruments.

Peanut Butter Wolf

Will do an exclusive DJ set mixing the songs of recently deceased music legends, from Bowie and Prince, to Sharon Jones, George Michael and George Martin.

The Keynote

By Kate Shaw of CERN in Geneva, discussing the Large Hadron Collider – the world’s most powerful particle accelerator. Food for deep thought.

Thought-Provoking Themes

Will include discussions on such heady topics as Hacking Systems, Black Quantum Futurism, and Transhumanism.

The Future of Creativity 

Always the most urgent, exigent topic for the worldwide creative community, it will be addressed by some of its greatest minds.


Dominique Ansel on What Could be His Next Cronut®

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Photo by Vincent Ma

At the by now legendary Dominique Ansel Bakery in Soho the madeleines, mini shell-shaped cakes, aren’t baked until they’re ordered, he explains, “so you can enjoy them just out of the oven.” Which pretty much sums up his obsession with providing the best pastries in the city.

Hard to believe it’s been four years but in the new celebrity pastry chef’s words, “when we first launched the Cronut®, it was just another new item. Our very first flavor was Rose Vanilla, and I decided from then on, we’d develop one flavor each month. For us, it’s not about cutting and pasting, but really pushing to develop something new.”

After launching “almost 80 different flavors since the start, never repeating,” you would think it would have been enough. Yet not only does the menu change every 6-8 weeks, but with a seemingly never-ending supply of glorious flavor creations – like peppermint cherry and this month’s blood orange almond – the still adored Cronut® is apparently never going away (It’s now available in Tokyo, London and soon to be Los Angeles.)

But what we really wanted to know from Ansel was…what will be his next Cronut®?

Photo by Thomas Schauer

I  DKA or Dominique’s Kouign Amman, which he describes as “almost like a caramelized croissant, with tender and flaky layers on the inside and a crunchy caramelized crust on the outside. I have one every morning for breakfast.”


II  This summer get ready for a seasonal soft serve window, with flavors like burrata and balsamic caramel, micro basil and confit strawberries.


III  DKA Ice cream sandwich takes that caramelized croissant, slices it in half and adds a perfect scoop of salted caramel, chocolate or vanilla ice cream. Other flavors available.


IV  The Matcha Latte with a sakura marshmallow (cherry blossom) that flowers in the hot beverage. Available all year long.


V  Frozen S’mores are the camping treat you can eat all year long. A cube of vanilla ice cream wrapped in a chocolate cookie, covered in marshmallow and bruleed to order. Served skewered on an applewood smoked willow branch, you won’t miss the great outdoors one bit.


VI  The Chocolate Chip Cookie Shot, already almost as well known as his most famous creation, is a chocolate chip cookie filled with cold milk – amazing! But plan your trip – these comforting treats are only served after 3 PM.


Photo by Thomas Schauer

Five Reasons the Pinknic Festival Will be a Summer ’17 Foodie ‘Must’

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When Chris Santos isn’t judging the Food Network’s Chopped, or jetting off to Las Vegas and LA to check on new outposts of Beauty & Essex, he keeps close to his favorite place, Manhattan – where he lords over one of its most high-profile food events. Indeed, in his second year of creating menus for Pinknic, the all-day Governor’s Island rosé and music extravaganza, the “rock star” chef is changing the way people think about festival eats.

With the best of Vandal, Beauty & Essex and Stanton Social` filling gourmet picnic baskets, he seems thrilled to be challenging foodie perceptions: “It seemed like a very unique event, like they were on to something new and cool.” The rub? Pink- and white-clad attendees can choose from three fully stocked baskets, or opt for a la carte choices in the Food Court.

Here are our top five reasons Pinknic will be an early summer “can’t miss.”



Pink macarons…

…with raspberry and rose ganache. A nod to Chef Santos’ pastry “Big Sexy,” it’s the perfect way to kick off a day of rosé sipping. Available at the Pinknic Food Court.

Each basket…

…comes with a reusable “Rosé All Day” tote bag to commemorate the occasion, as well as a variety of sparkling waters and thirst quenchers in flavors like watermelon lime and strawberry lemon.

Nothing pairs better with rosé,,,

…than a full stomach – so each basket contains a full three-course meal for two people. With a vegetarian option featuring charred miso asparagus and nori wasabi-dusted soba noodles, even the carnivores might be tempted to cross over. However, meat-eater options include shaved sirloin sandwiches on pretzel rolls or pork belly BLTs with lobster aioli.

Can’t decide…

…between the shrimp roll with old Bay dusted potato chips or the sushi grade tuna tataki with lo-mein noodles and sesame? Grab them both and share.


…How do you make rosé better? Blend with ice and serve chilled. Grab one and head to the Ferris Wheel for stunning views of the city. Magic!

Pinknic returns to Governors Island this June 24th and 25th


Spring Getaway: Art, Food + Flamenco in Madrid

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A massive sign on Madrid’s City Hall read “Refugees Welcome.” A cynic could take it as being a bit glib; but in truth, the statement was genuinely characteristic of Spain. It was particularly poignant, as our time there coincided with the onset of Trump’s divisive attempts at instituting a travel ban.

We were actually there to check out the impossibly cool new Only You Atocha hotel. And the visit just happened to be timed with their pop-up promotion with NYC’s Katz’s Delicatessen – incidentally, a proud, 128-year-old symbol of 19th Century Jewish immigration to New York’s Lower East Side. This sort of internationalism was very much a part of the allure of the hotel.

The brand itself had launched in 2013 with a very different sort of property – the Only You Boutique hotel in the trendy Chueca district. There, an aristocratic 19th mansion was converted by star designer Lázaro Rosa-Violán into a surreal but drop-dead stunning maze of differently themed public areas and plush guest rooms. He was enlisted again for the Atocha, this time giving a distinctly Spanish context to the lobby-as-hip-playground concept familiar to guests of hotels like The Ace.

And indeed, everywhere you might turn, there was something to grab your attention. To the right of the entrance, The Bakery by Mama Framboise, which serves decadent Tartaletas MF, a dozen flavors of macarons (goat-cheese-figs-pralines!), and Iberian ham toast all day. To the left was the Latin-Asian Trotamundos restaurant, with its buzzy corner cocktail bar. And just beyond is a dramatic atrium where nouveau jazz concerts take place regularly.



But probably our favorite part of the day was lingering over a lazy breakfast and the spectacular views at the 7th floor YOUniverse – where in the evenings DJs soundtrack the Panoramic Drinks Sessions.

In those rare moments when we actually did not have something to do, upstairs the rooms packed a great deal of charm and style considering the very approachable rates: smartly patterned bedspreads, exposed brick walls, white tiled bathrooms. For a special splurge, consider booking  the magnificent Terrace Suite.

Madrid itself comes especially to life as winter passes into spring, with its scores of pavement cafes, its teeming plazas for people watching and its streets that buzz late into the night. The food is divine, the nightlife is some of the best on The Continent, and it grand boulevards and its grandiloquent baroque architectural icons make it a city that glitters in the springtime sunshine.


The PradoThe Reina Sofia

The thing about classical art in Spain…it’s just different. It’s a country that still has a king, after all. And so a great deal of la historia de España is still told in a place like The Prado. It’s a very Spanish museum, and even if you’re a contemporary art geek, you’ll find yourself drawn in to the narrative as told through the dramatic works of Velazquez, Goya and El Greco. The astonishing collection also includes Rubens, Titian and Hieronymous Bosch’s proto-surrealist masterpiece The Garden of Earthly Delights.
The Reina Sofia, just a short stroll from the hotel, is Spain’s most important museum of 20th Century art, with works by Miró, Juan Gris, Pablo Serrano, and, of course, Picasso. The latter’s war horror masterpiece Guernica is here – and an exhibition (Pity and Terror) dedicated to it, runs through September 4. The museum also holds works by Damien Hirst, Cindy Sherman, Man Ray, Julian Schnabel and Richard Serra.


Prado Museum 2017


Art Gallery Tour

Madrid’s contemporary art scene has genuinely started to garner international attention, with its annual ARCO fair having become one of Europe’s most important. This is your best bet for getting to know the inside story, with tours of specific districts like the hip Letras and posh Salamanca. They will also curate private tours to suit your taste. You can add a wine drinking element, should you wish to pontificate on what you’ve seen over a glass or two of Rioja.

Barrio de Las Letras

Also a short stroll from the hotel, Las Letras is just that sort of neighborhood that defines Madrid: an atmospheric place where charming little bars and cool indie boutiques reign, and there’s not a chain outlet in sight. The outdoor cafes on Plaza de Santa Ana and the narrow streets around it are great for lingering and people watching.




Palacio de Cibeles Restaurant Terrace

Atop the spectacular municipal building on the Plaza de Cibeles is a hidden away 6th floor restaurant and terrace. There’s a full gourmand’s menu – but come for cocktails, views and to soak up the vivid afternoon Madrid sunshine.

YOUnique Restaurant at Only You Boutique Hotel

Just being in this gorgeous hotel is an indescribable aesthetic pleasure. Its signature restaurant is a particular delight for a long, lazy lunch (Is there any other kind in Madrid?), with octopus salad, jamon coquetas, and lamb terrine with couscous all beautifully presented. Ask for a table in the verdant, art-adorned garden. The YOUnique Lounge is a stunning setting for evening cocktails.




1862 Dry Bar

Spain’s is a wine-beer-sherry drinking culture. The cocktail thing, mercifully, did not sweep into its major cities and strap all of its bartenders into old-timey suspenders. 1862, for instance, is distinctly Spanish bar, not some Brooklyn imitation. A crowd of urbane Madrilenos come to sip updated takes on the classics (Gimlet, Sazerac, Manhattan) by drinks wizard Alberto Martinez. Spread over two floors, it’s one of the city’s buzziest scenes.

Corral de la Morería

Flamenco is way hotter than you might actually think – and five decades after opening, Corral de la Moreria is still one of the hottest tickets in Madrid. In a classical but sensual setting, with Arabic touches, watch some of Spain’s top names in the genre heat up the stage (and the audience) with their visceral, passionate performances. It’s actually quite an intense, even somewhat aphrodisiac experience.


Flamenco Madrid

Why You Need to See the Art at NYC’s New Street Taco Restaurant

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Far too many hotels and restaurants are, these days, slapping up a bunch of art on the walls, with no particular reason or aesthetic ideology behind it. But Gramercy’s punky new Street Taco had a plan – to make the art an essential part of the experience. And so artists Simon Robin and Nicole Salgar, as well as tattoo virtuoso Mike Rubendall, were engaged for the task – resulting in a holistic melding of food, drink and space.

Of course, this is a place where even the taco menu plays it a bit rebellious. Some of our faves? Blackened portobello, lamb barbacoa, ceviche…and lengua, which actually means “beef tongue.” But they also make a wicked guacamole and a killer margarita. It’s a genuinely iconoclastic update of the classic taqueria.

In between bites and sips, we chatted with the artists themselves about how they came to create the works that now grace Street Taco’s strikingly original walls.


ST House Margarita


Mike Rubendall, Tattoo Artist, Kings Avenue Tattoo

I was motivated to work with the Street Taco team because I had a clear understanding of the direction they were heading in – which gave me the right inspiration to transform their vision into a work of art. The have creative sensibilities that separate them from the rest, and they aren’t afraid to think outside the box, take risks and push boundaries in order to create a new and exciting dining experience.
With that in mind, I was able to lay a strong foundation against my design and feel that my final creation embodied these traits and fit the nontraditional, edgy theme of the restaurant. I mixed together a few different styles and cultures and created a one-of-a-kind design that I feel really enhanced the space. I topped off the piece with an Aztec inspired border to coincide with the overall theme of Street Taco.
As a tattoo artist, this project gave me the opportunity to highlight how prevalent tattooing is in street culture, while showcasing how it can be considered a form of art. Having my creation be a focal point behind the bar is very exciting to me, and I’ll be encouraging my friends (and clients) to visit the space for years to come.




Nicole Salgar, Artist/Muralist

Xochiquetzal is the name of the piece I created for Street Taco and I’m obsessed with her location within the space. When you’re inside, you kind of have to seek her out; but from the street, she’s one of the first things you see, drawing people in to see what the place is all about.
I chose to paint this particular goddess because she is, by connotation, representative of human desire, pleasure and excess. Street Taco has a philosophy of indulgence and acceptance/freedom in the atmosphere of the restaurant and it just felt like an appropriate fit. Although there is a darker theme to the decor of the space, it is all done in a pleasure-seeking spirit.
With that being said, Xochiquetzal was also heavily associated with the concept of female sexual power. This is a subject which is more relevant now than ever, and her spirit belongs in the space, and in the city for all to acknowledge.


Nicole Salgar 2


Simon Robinson, Artist

This was an incredibly exciting project for me. Street Taco is authentic – it’s not pretentious or trying to be something that it’s not. When thinking about what I could bring to the overall taqueria experience, and best compliment true Mexican street food, I decided to create several meaningful and distinct pieces showcasing my interpretation of ‘street art.’
The first, and possibly my favorite, piece is a full, floor-to-ceiling representation of a #BadHombre. He’s edgy and cool, and his tattoos and rings show that he’s spent some actual time on the ‘streets’. He’s positioned across from the restroom entrances, giving guests a moment of pause and reflection before heading back to their tacos and margs.
One of my favorite seats in the house – a comfy corner booth near the entrance of the taqueria – showcases a girl with a beautiful skull face, gripping roses and seemingly lusting after something out of sight. It has a very ‘Day of the Dead’ vibe, felt by the elusiveness of the beautiful lover passing into the after love.
There’s also a very symbolic skull showcasing the relationship between love (symbolized by the rose) and the sinister /forbidden (represented by the skull itself).



FIRST IMAGES: London’s Hottest New Hotel ‘The Curtain’

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When the first Soho House opened in London in 1995, no one really imagined that it would launch an entire new generation of private clubs, which would stretch to NYC, LA and beyond. It cooled off for awhile – but now one of the most high-profile hotel openings of 2017 will also have an equally high profile members club as a key component.

Indeed, The Curtain will debut next month in ever trendy Shoreditch courtesy of Michael Achenbaum, co-founder of the Gansevoort Hotel Group. The $100 million undertaking will feature 120 guest rooms and suites, done up in a kind of rustic-industrial aesthetic.

Says Achenbaum, “It’s in our DNA to create hotels in neighborhoods that are not only ahead of the curve but also areas that are growing. The Curtain is that vision come to life.”

But the real marquee news is the first London restaurant from celeb chef Marcus Samuelsson, an outpost of his exalted Harem hotspot Red Rooster – with the same Aunt Maybel’s Dumplings, Sammy’s Chicken N Waffles and the now hallowed Sunday Gospel Brunch. It will also launch the Rooster Taqueria concept.

But playing to the East London location, The Curtain will be an exceedingly nocturnal hang with a rock & roll soul. Red Rooster’s live music program will showcase young London buzz bands; the hotel will display original artwork by legendary rock photographer Mick Rock; Billy’s Bar will host ongoing late-night programming; while a live performance space, LP, is inspired by CBGB – and will feature a regular series of members-only events.

Expect quite a scene to coalesce around the hotel’s rooftop brasserie and Moroccan-style pool this spring and summer. But also expect a guest list for the Curtain’s private members’ club to swell with the ranks of the upper echelons of the mediarati. Indeed, one imagines that it won’t so much lure members away from nearby Shoreditch House – as much as give them a dazzling new place to stay, play and schmooze.