España in Springtime: Indulging the Art, Food + Flamenco of Madrid

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A massive sign high up 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, whose citizens have actually held protests urging the government to accept even more immigrants. It was particularly poignant, as our time there coincided with the re-escalation back home of Donald Trump’s spiteful (nay, ridiculous) plan to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico.

All socio-political machinations aside, we were actually in the Spanish capital to check out the exceedingly cool new Only You Atocha 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, an aristocratic 19th mansion 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 denizens 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, a dizzyingly dramatic atrium, where nouveau jazz happenings regularly bring in the city’s modern day hepcats.



But probably our favorite part of every day was shuffling off the hangovers while lingering over a lazy breakfast against spectacular views at the 7th floor Séptima – where in the evenings DJs soundtrack the Panoramic Drinks Sessions…thus perpetuating the hangover cycle.

Upstairs the rooms were a great deal more plush and stylish than those in typical hipsterrific hotels, with smartly patterned bedspreads, exposed brick walls and white tiled bathrooms. For a particular splurge, we can’t stress enough the fantabulousness of the sprawling Terrace Suite – whose outdoor space could easily accommodate 10-12 enthusiastically gyrating party people.

Madrid itself – sometimes mistakenly passed over for the more archly hip Barcelona – comes especially to life as winter passes into spring, with its scores of pavement cafes, its teeming plazas for sexy-people watching and its streets that buzz late into the night (really, more like 6am). The food is transcendent, the nightlife is some of the best on the Continent, and its grand boulevards / grandiloquent baroque architectural icons make it a city that gleams in the April-May sunshine.

Here’s what we did.


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 indeed 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 jaw-dropping collection also boasts Rubens, Titian and Hieronymous Bosch’s proto-surrealist masterpiece The Garden of Earthly Delights. Don’t kill too much time on the stiff royal portraits.
The Reina Sofia, just a short stroll from the hotel, is Spain’s most important museum of 20th Century art, with treasures by Miró, Juan Gris, Pablo Serrano, and, of course, Picasso – whose influence can be appreciated in the current exhibition Telefónica Collection: Cubism(s) and Experiences of Modernity. The museum also holds more contemporary works by the likes of Damien Hirst, Cindy Sherman, Man Ray, Julian Schnabel and Richard Serra.


Prado Museum 2017

El Prado


Art Gallery Tour

It’s not Berlin, surely – but 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. The Art Gallery Tour people are your best bet for getting an insider’s view, 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 Ribera Del Duero.

Barrio de Las Letras

Also a short stroll from the hotel, Las Letras is just that sort of neighborhood that defines Madrid, with atmospheric streets 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 (okay, there’s really no other kind in Madrid), with Valencian paella, oxtail cannelloni, and skipjack carpaccio all beautifully presented. Ask for a table in the verdant, art-adorned garden. Come back in the evening, as the YOUnique Lounge is a stunningly designed setting for fancy cocktails – and the surrounding neighborhood jumps at night.




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 awful 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

Eight Brilliant Reasons to be in New Zealand This Spring (Actually, Autumn)

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A whirlwind of a trip to New Zealand last fall (their spring) left us so enamored of The Land of the Long White Cloud that we were inspired to head back this spring (their fall).

In anticipation, here are some final memories of our previous N-Zed sojourn – which can start you on your way to a perfect spring (fall) or fall (spring) excursion as well.

Got that?


Giapo Ice Cream

All the fresh fish and farm to table veggies were amazing, but we’ll never forget the over the top ice cream creations at Auckland’s Giapo; yes that’s a chocolate covered giant squid.



Marine Life Voyeurism

Our trip was very much urban focused, but there are also lots of great outdoorsy activities in NZ. And our fascinating exploration of nature included taking to the water in a see-through kayak, to discover Goat Island’s undersea marine reserve – and we didn’t even get wet.



Dining and Bedding Down at the Boatshed

Few hotels have left us more enchanted than Waiheke Island’s magnificent Boatshed, where our sublime three-course dinner was served in the communal living room – and our bedroom looked out over Waiheke’s ethereal, expansive Oneroa Bay.



An NZ History Lesson

New Zealand’s modern history is amazingly less than 400 years old, so pretty much all of it fits in Wellington’s fascinating Te Papa Tongarewa museum. Our guided tour included an up close look at an amazing exhibit on the WW1 Gallipoli campaign, which featured enormous, haunting human sculptures.

The Birds

When you learn that there are no snakes in NZ, you’ll truly appreciate their strict/draconian customs requirements. That leaves plenty of room for the close to 200 species of birds, most of which can be found at the very cool Zealandia bird sanctuary.


Image by Brendon Doran


The Birds on Safari

If you prefer taking in your bird species one at a time, we found our afternoon coastal safari to Hawkes Bay’s Gannet colony to be utterly breathtaking. After a 45-minute drive through majestic canyons, you emerge on top of a mountain to a swarm (Gaggle? Flock?) of gannets at your feet. Stupendous!

Charming Napier

Discover the utterly charming Hawkes Bay town of Napier, either on bike, or vintage car, depending on your energy level – including Takaro Trails and Napier’s Art Deco Trust. Insider tip; it’s way easier not spilling a cocktail in the back of a 1930’s Packard than on a bicycle.



New Zealand Wine, You Must

We must make a last mention of our favorite wine excursion, Man O’ War Vineyards on Waiheke Island. It was only reached by seaplane, and where our 10am visit included sampling their unforgettable Estate Cabernet Franc, Pinot Gris and Tulia Blanc de Blanc.


BlackBook Rooms With a View: Hilton Toronto Signature Suites

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The Kensington Suite


Views of the 6ix (Toronto, if you weren’t plugged into that particular sobriquet) are grand enough that in films it actually passes for NYC. So the chance to take it all in from the dizzy heights of the Hilton Toronto was not insignificant.

We actually managed to get the scoop on the hotel’s spectacular new project, their unambiguously named Signature Suites, which sprawls across the entire 32nd floor. Beginning in April 2018, guests can book these newly minted suites, of which there are seven; they are undoubtedly the new show ponies of the property. And from the urban oasis locale (a stone throw’s away from Toronto City Hall, Toronto Harbourfront & Lake Ontario, The Canadian Opera Company and The CN Tower), the rooms, perched on the top floor, offer picture-perfect panoramic views of the city.


The Rosedale Suite


Envisioned by Canadian designer Sarah Richardson, the luxe rooms are meant to exude a homey, residential sentiment, and are vivid with a painter’s palette of blue hues, whose spectrum of shades is found in each room – it’s a kind of unifying thread that weaves its way through all the spaces. Moreover, each suite is named after a neighborhood of Toronto, from the fancy and affluent goings on of Forest Hill to the Mother Nature pleasures of High Park.

Furnishings echo elements from each of these nooks, and the comfort level is amplified with flair-filled contemporary pieces that play with texture and prints (tartan bedroom benches and zebra curtains, for instance). The fun continues with dramatic pendant lighting, maple wood cabinetry, and marble flooring, all of which have been custom-crafted and sourced locally to showcase Torontonian talents. We love how each element is striking on its own; and yet in the same light, can coalesce with its surroundings to support the overall eclectic vision. The diverse nature of the design mirrors that of Toronto’s fabled multiculturalism.


The Summerhill Suite 


The only “wild child” is the Summerhill Suite: whose floral and citrine touches throughout are set against a dynamic, CN Tower backdrop. For Richardson, it was an opportunity to spread (a bit more of) her creative wings.

Should you be able to tear yourself away from your suite, downstairs is Tundra, the hotel’s award-winning restaurant. Executive Chef Kevin Prendergast and Executive Sous Chef Aaron Chen offer Canadiana on a plate: feature favorites include the Alberta bison burger with onion marmalade, double smoked bacon with Prince Edward Island aged cheddar, and tundra spiced aioli; Miso and Cola Braised Beef Short Ribs with Asian slaw and Ontario sour cherries; and, naturally, Tundra Poutine with sweet potato fries, pan gravy, braised beef, and Quebec cheese curds.



We couldn’t resist the Seasonal Tasting and National Ballet of Canada menus (the former is not advertised anywhere and executed by request only). The plating of the former ventures into the avant-garde, but is really more of an outlet for the chef to “play” with his food – with us being their happy and willing guinea-pig participants. The last hallmarks of winter fare includes succulent seared-scallops with braised mussels and lemongrass sauce; and black cod with squash quenelle, miso, black garlic, and hen of the woods mushrooms.

The latter menu is inspired by whatever current ballet performance is showing in the adjacent Four Seasons Centre for Performing Arts. Thus, the Sleeping Beauty menu features a delectable coq au vin, as well as roasted squash risotto with spiced almonds. And thankfully – since we’re not the ones doing grand jetes and pirouettes, we happily indulged in the tundra tiramisu verrine and bourbon panna cotta for dessert.

And then fell into slumber with the city lights twinkling below…


The Foresthill Suite 


From Malta to Lithuania: Three Inimitably Stylish New European Hotels

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Cugó Gran Macina Grand Harbour


If we could, we’d be in Europa every month – though we’d grudgingly admit that March in the Baltics might not be everyone’s idea of happiness. Yet springtime will be here in the blink of an eye – and what better time to start planning a more eastward push towards the expansion of your Euro horizons?

We’re thinking Helsinki and Vilnius, specifically – and each has a stylish new hotel to lure you into their web of intrigues. If you’re nevertheless inclined towards Mediterranean climes, another will be opening in the Maltese fortress city of Senglea.

Each also happens to be a member of Design Hotels, so expect a set of aesthetic values to lord over each.


Hotel St George, Helsinki

If you’re a design junkie, you’ve probably hit up Scandinavia’s most high-profile capitals, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Oslo. But Finnish design has perhaps the most distinctive signature – and Helsinki (part of the Cities of Design Network) is where it blends so seamlessly with the city’s more historic character. The new Hotel St George – sister to the legendary Hotel Kämp – opens here in March, and will decisively rise to meet the aesthetic splendor of its locale. In the former Finnish Literary Society building, it features a stunning winter garden, and an art collection that includes a large-scale dragon sculpture by Ai Weiwei (a reference to Saint George, of course). There’s also a holistic spa, and a restaurant, Andrea, overseen by Finnish-Turkish chef duo Antto Melasniemi and Mehmet Gürs. While visiting, make sure to pop in to the Design Museum, nearby on Korkeavuorenkatu.


Hotel Pacai, Vilnius

Every few years since the fall of the Soviet Union, some or other Eastern European city becomes a next “must” destination. But beautiful Vilnius doesn’t need a zeitgeist to bolster its appeal. Lithuania’s capital has majestic baroque architecture (its Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site), extraordinary cultural offerings, and a distinctly bohemian spirit. The plush new Hotel Pacai will open this spring, in the former palace of the same name, dating to 1677. Stylish rooms feature 17th Century frescoes, and public spaces rich in original historic details include two restaurants and a luxury spa. Plan to hit the Vilnius Contemporary Art Centre, which boasts a cinema and sculpture garden.



Cugó Gran Macina Grand Harbour, Senglea

For something a bit more temperate, consider Malta, whose capital Valletta will serve as one of the two European Capitals of Culture in 2018 (the other is Leeuwarden, Netherlands). Just south of the capital, the dramatically monikered Cugó Gran Macina Grand Harbour hotel will open in the fortified city of Senglea this spring. The landmarked 16th Century structure that houses it gives it a sort of “fortress-chic” vibe – think vaulted ceilings, slate stone and spectacular harbor views, for which the elegant, muted color schemes are perfectly suited. Local culinary god Chris Hammett will lord over the in-house Maltese restaurant, and there’s a rooftop pool that is beyond breathtaking in its vistas.





Next Cool Neighborhood: Fort Point is Boston’s New Waterfront Creative Hub…Still

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Let’s face it, NYC’s hunger for novelty and change often doesn’t produce the most worthy results (see: health-conscious cocktails). So little wonder about our esteem for cities like Philadelphia and Boston, where such change occurs at a more, let’s say, considered pace.

The latter’s Fort Point neighborhood is a case in, well, point. Long a harborside area known for its…parking lots, it nevertheless actively cultivated and supported the local artistic community. But we know the formula by now: developers discover it, and up go the skyward condo buildings and the prices. Yet Boston is a very different place from New York, and even amidst the gleaming new high rises, an artistic soul is yet tended to here.


Envoy Hotel lobby


To wit, on our recent stay at the stunningly designed Envoy Hotel, located right along the waterfront, we discovered that a space within the hotel was given to the Fort Point Arts Community, to stage exhibitions by its member artists. FPAC is non-profit founded back in 1980 – and it sees to the needs of the more than 300 artists who still live in the district (visit their site for gallery listings). And it fits quite nicely with creative mission of the hotel, if we do say.

The area, now rife with tech company offices (even Amazon is here), is noticeably changing. Just up the road, Harpoon was the city’s first microbrewery (dating to 1986), and is still producing its excellent Winter Warmer and Dark Beer / Stout, amongst others. But just around the corner from the Envoy, Scorpion Bar does velvet-roped, signature margarita fueled evenings in extravagantly decked out, nightclubby surrounds.

Here’s what we discovered.


The Institute of Contemporary Art

It arrived before the recent rush, opening in a spectacular new waterfront location in December 2006. But the ICA itself actually dates to 1936, and is regarded as one of the most important American contemporary art institutions. Its thought-provoking shows will make you smarter (the current Art in the Age of the Internet, 1989 to Today) and also more engaged with the socio-political zeitgeist (We Wanted a Revolution, Black Radical Women 1965-1985, opening June 27 – and spot on for the current prevailing mood). The Diller Scofidio + Renfro building is a breathtaking example of the firm’s architecture-as-art ethos.



The Cafes

Where creative sorts are massing, there must be coffee to brood over. And the Fort Point outpost of Caffe Nero (a Brit import) is an aesthetically charming mix of industrial chic and Euro bric a brac, with excellent cortados and breakfast pots. Nearby Barrington Coffee caters to the cool kids, with artful interiors and uncommon brews from Guatemala and Nicaragua. Flour Bakery does salads, grain bowls, brioche au chocolat and vegan cakes, with a spacious terrace on comely Farnsworth Street.


Barrington Coffee


The Restaurants

And then came the trendy restaurants. Barbara Lynch’s Menton is the area’s culinary showpiece, a very French, Relais & Chateaux dining experience – with an 8-course tasting menu, and a classy bar serving Euro-centric cocktails like the Cassis Spritz and Florence Sour. Anchoring the Congress Street “scene,” Pastoral is a rustic-chic, artisan pizza kitchen, with creative antipasti (octopus panzanella, escarle caesa) and fourteen craft beers on draught. Sportello does interesting pastas – braised rabbit strozzapreti, cavatelli cavolfiore – in “mod diner” digs. And perpetually packed Smoke Shop BBQ offers up award winning plates of its namesake meats, as well as local whiskey flights, in a buzzy atmosphere.




The Nightlife

Exalted chef Barbara Lynch’s low-lit, connoisseur’s cocktail spot Drink has no actual drinks menu – they’re all done to order (you know, like…bespoke), paired with excellent mushroom crostini and steak tartare. Dark woods, parquet floors and artful chandeliers set the tone in the lounge area of Bastille Kitchen – toast to the French Revolution on a smart leather coach with a bourbon-and-fig Marquis or a Parisian Mule. Lucky’s Lounge is the area’s longtime fixture, a gritty, retro rocker bar that serves a stiff drink, pulled pork sliders, a Sinatra brunch and rousing live music.


Bastille Kitchen 


The Envoy Hotel

Frankly, one of our favorite sleeps…period. The Envoy Hotel‘s glass and steel construction allowed for stylish, loft-like rooms with floor-to-ceilings windows framing honestly jaw-dropping waterfront views (the bathrooms also come with impossibly chic bathrobes.) The snazzy lobby area – complete with electronic billiards table – spills into the Outlook Kitchen & Bar, a sleek, all-day dining affair (the duck confit toast at brunch is ridiculously delicious) serving cognac mac & cheese, pear & pistachio salad and spicy tuna poke, all under the direction of charismatic Cuban chef Tatiana Pairot Rosana. But the real bragging rights come by way of the Lookout Rooftop & Bar, which does top notch cocktails against the glittering backdrop of all those spectacular downtown high-rises.




‘Balenciaga, Master of Couture’ to Open This June at Montreal’s McCord Museum

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Photo: Cecil Beaton Studio Archive at Sotheby’s


We generally don’t need additional reasons to plan a long weekend in Montreal. But our calendars are definitively marked for June 15, when the McCord Museum will open what could very well be the pinnacle of high-fashion exhibitions: Balenciaga, Master of Couture.

The show will follow on from Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion, which closed this month at London’s Victoria & Albert Museum. The McCord has drawn more than 100 garments, hats and photographs from the V&A’s extensive collection – and will present them in an almost forensic manner, attempting to slip behind the mystery of the designer’s unparalleled mastery of fabric and cut.

Cristóbal Balenciaga Eizaguirre, of course, was the Spanish born trailblazer of contemporary couture, whom Dior would exalt as “the master of us all.” He dressed the post-war elite, from movie stars to royalty, in his storied Paris atelier, until his death in 1972, aged 77; his influence carried on in the work of Ungaro, Givenchy and Oscar de la Renta.

On the day of his passing, Women’s Wear Daily solemnly proclaimed, “The king is dead.”



“We are thrilled to present, for the first time in North America, this unique exhibition highlighting the artistry of one of the world’s greatest fashion designers,” says Suzanne Sauvage, President and Chief Executive Officer of the McCord Museum. “This exhibition enables the museum to utilize its conservation and costume mounting expertise, in addition to offering insight into Cristóbal Balenciaga’s lasting impact on generations of designers and the history and evolution of haute couture.”

Montreal was already responsible for the landmark exhibition The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk, which opened at the MMFA in 2011 before touring the world. And in February of 2019, Thierry Mugler: Creatures of Haute Couture will debut at that same museum. We’re sensing a pattern here.



BlackBook Exclusive: Aussie Indie Poppers Sheppard Share Their Fave Spots in Brisbane

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You may not yet have heard of Sheppard. But the Aussie sextet’s 2014 debut album Bombs Away, shot them straight to serious stardom Down Under, with a battery of awards and a 5x platinum single, “Geronimo,” which was also a hit in the US. (They actually appeared on Ellen and LIVE with Kelly here, and toured with Meghan Trainor.)

This spring will finally see the release of the follow up, the intriguingly titled Watching the Sky. The first single “Coming Home” is an exuberant, anthemic-pop instant-classic, with its rousing chorus of, “I’m coming home tonight / Meet me in the valley / Where the kids collide into the morning.” It most definitely has us excited for the album.

While we wait for them to return to the States, we caught up for a chat with them and asked them to turn us onto the places they can be found clocking time when they’re back in their hometown of Brisbane. A modern city, which at its coldest (July) averages 70 degrees Farenheit – meaning, you literally don’t need to own a sweater or scarf – Brisbane is known for its world class cultural venues, it’s nearby surfing options and, of course, its music scene. It’s also just an hour-and-a-half flight from Sydney.

Sheppard will be doing a few live dates in Australia during March and April – but they promise to be returning to the States before long.


The new single “Coming Home” just went platinum in Australia. You guys have a pretty big following at home?

Yes we do, we’ve been around in Australia for a few years and we have some pretty loyal fans.

The lyrics seem to be about returning from a long time on the road?

That’s exactly right, the song tries to capture the excitement we feel when we get to come home and see our loved ones again.

There seems to be a hint of U2 in the guitars / mood of the song. What were you listening to / inspired by when recording the new album?

I think we are always inspired by our favorite band Coldplay, and the catchy guitar parts and solos in their songs.

What can we expect from Watching the Sky, musically and lyrically?

We have thought about this album from the ground up with the live touring aspect in mind. When listening, we want our audience to feel as though they are with us in a stadium.

Will Sheppard be coming back to tour in the US to coincide with the release of the album?

Yes, you can definitely expect us back in the US in the near future.


Sheppard’s Favorite Spots in Brisbane

James Street

James Street is located just off of Ann Street in Fortitude Valley, and is the place to go if you need to find a great shop or two. Our favorites include Gail Sorronda, AJE and Sass & Bide. If you don’t like shopping, you can sit down at a cafe and enjoy the Brisbane sunshine or catch a movie at the Palace Cinemas.



White Label Noba

One of our favorite local designers White Label Noba have a shop located in Hawthorne. If you are into colorful, sparkly outfits, this is definitely worth the drive.


Mrs Brown’s

Mrs Browns bar and restaurant is our new top local spot. Such a fun vibe and great food to top it off. Our favorites on the menu are the prawns rolls, KFC Cauliflower and the dumplings. If you are looking for a spot to hang and catch up with your friends, this is definitely the place.




Nodo is a cafe that serves all day breakfast and gluten free donuts…they are healthy, right? This is another great place to have a meeting or work out of home or catch up over a coffee.



Long Time

Hands down one of the best restaurants in Brisbane. They are widely known for their incredible Asian inspired dishes (whole candied chili bay prawn, Panang curry of honey glazed duck legs) matched with amazing cocktails. It’s also a great date night spot.



Spaghetti House Trattoria

If you’re looking for an Italian, home style cooked meal, Spaghetti House has your back. The staff really know how to look after you and they make the best lobster gnocchi.




This is our favorite spot to take guests or tourists in Brisbane. It’s a bar located on the river at Eagle Street Pier and has a great atmosphere and view. Have drinks overlooking the Story Bridge.


The Triffid

The Triffid is a newish music spot in located in Newstead. It’s a very intimate space, which is a really nice way to catch your favorite act. They have a wicked beer garden as well, great for Sunday sessions.





BlackBook Urbanologie: Three Posh New London Hotel Restaurants

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Brown’s Hotel


Much as we’re happy any time for a casual, epicurean whirl through Brixton Market, we also love the occasional splash out in London – perhaps in the hopes that dinner comes with a Royals spotting, or even a serendipitous dining proximity to Posh and Becks or, say, Dame Judy Dench.

Two of our faves, Mayfair’s Brown’s Hotel (a Rocco Forte property), and the Corinthia Hotel in Westminster have both brought in notable chefs (Heinz Beck and Tom Kerridge, respectively) to revamp existing eateries. And The Baptist, opening at the shamelessly opulent new L’Oscar hotel in Holborn, is one of spring’s most anticipated new eateries.

We consulted our editorial partners over at Urbanologie in London for the inside track.


The Restaurant at Brown’s Hotel by Heinz Beck

Following the “Italian takeover,” a six-week residency by Beck at Brown’s to create Ora, a pop-up restaurant within the hotel last year, rumors have started circulating that the celebrated chef was to oversee the recently refurbished dining room at the hotel. Accordingly, Heinz Beck’s protégée and number two at three Michelin starred La Pergola in Rome, Heros De Agostinis, recently stepped in as Executive Chef.
De Agostinis has worked for some of the world’s most impressive chefs, including three Michelin starred Heinz Winkler and Marc Veyrat. In addition, he ran the kitchens at Hotel Zirmerhorf in Rifiano, Italy, and the Hotel Kempinski properties in both Indonesia and Slovenia, serving as Executive Chef. He was also the Executive Chef at Apsleys, a Heinz Beck Restaurant at The Lanesborough hotel in London.
Expect his dishes to incorporate flavors and techniques garnered on his travels to bring a unique twist to traditional Mediterranean fare. Think: octopus salad with potato, green celery and tomato confit; duck tortellini with pine needles infusion and Porcini mushroom dust; grilled king prawns with potatoes and Piennolo tomatoes; and veal fillet with Treviso chicory and crispy pancetta.
Beck is expected to be planning to continue spending much of his time in London, overseeing the kitchens and working closely with De Agostinis.



TBA at the Corinthia Hotel

Tom Kerridge is the chef-patron at the extraordinary two Michelin starred The Hand & Flowers pub in Marlow, author of numerous (and best-selling) cookbooks and makes regular TV appearances. He was set to take over the Rib Room at the five star Jumeirah Carlton Tower – but then it emerged that the famous Knightsbridge restaurant actually re-opened without his hand at the pass and with no apparent explanation. He will instead be taking over the Massimo Restaurant at the glamorous Corinthia Hotel in Westminster.
Art Deco in style, Massimo Restaurant & Oyster Bar is a visually striking space (designed by David Collins) lined with majestic Corinthian columns, beautifully lit by hovering globe light fittings and decorated with sleek mahogany and glossy marble. The dining room was opened in 2011 by eponymous chef Massimo Riccoli (owner of Rome’s La Rosetta), dishing up a Mediterranean menu specializing in seafood. Riccoli and Massimo parted ways just a year later.
The new restaurant is set to be a relaxed, British brasserie-style dining room (being updated by David Collins Studio), bringing an all-day, buzzy new addition to the area. Expect a modern update on traditional Brit fare, with rotisserie specials served alongside lovely real ales, and local breads and cheeses.



The Baptist Grill at L’Oscar

A former Grade II listed Baptist church in Holborn is being transformed into L’Oscar, London’s most decadent and ornate new boutique hotel and restaurant for a spring 2018 opening. Interiors will be by Jacques Garcia, the French designer behind Hôtel Costes in Paris (an outpost of which is opening in London in 2019), as well as La Mamounia in Marrakech, NYC’s NoMad Hotel and Hotel Vagabond in Singapore. Expect his signature extravagant, theatrical decor to steal most of the conversation.
The octagonal former chapel will be a restaurant and bar called The Baptist Grill, where chef Tony Fleming – who earned a Michelin star for The Angler in Moorgate’s South Place Hotel – will dish up a menu which focuses on using seasonal British ingredients. More information to come.



Urbanologie has been described as “the must have VIP lifestyle app,” designed to keep members in the know with up-to-the-minute insider news and exclusive content on the most anticipated restaurant, bar, club and hotel openings.


First Images: New Mama Shelter Hotel Belgrade

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As the line of “next destinations” in Europa pushes ever eastward, the further exploration of The Balkans seems only natural. And the Serbian city of Belgrade is very much that city just waiting for those Westerners who have long since done Prague, Budapest and Tallinn.

Of course, a cool new hotel is always a really good reason to drop your bags in a new place. And French hipster brand Mama Shelter – with Philippe Starck as aesthetic overlord – will soon be setting up shop in the capital, along the bustling Ulica Kneza Mihaila.

It’s the seventh outpost of the affordable chic hotel group (following Paris, Marseille, Lyon, Bordeaux, Los Angeles, and Rio), and Jalil Amor’s design hews very much to the familiar stylistic philosophy. So, lots of uncluttered but slightly kitschy boho chic, with well chosen animal prints and charming bric-a-brac – but paying specific homage to the city’s Ottoman history.

There will be 125 guest rooms. But for playtime, there’s a 5000 square foot foosball-and-table-tennis-equipped terrace, employing zeitgeisty DJs and live music, to go along with the trend-aware cocktails and, of course, spectacular views.

The hotel officially opens March 8 – so the Belgrade Dance Festival, March 15 – April 4, is the perfect excuse for a springtime jaunt.