The Merchants Tavern, Shoreditch, London
Eat at the bar, at the counter or in the restaurant and to be honest it doesn't matter as the food is exemplary in every way. Run by Angela Hartnett, this is as unstuffy as fine food gets, informal knowledgeable service and all with a smile and the kitchen is on show. No flies on this gaff at all, highly recommend.
Six Senses Laamu, Laamu Atoll, Maldives
Rates from (inc tax)£155.97
Like many high-end properties in The Maldives, Six Senses Laamu dominates its own island within an atoll. It takes an hour-long flight and speed-boat transfer south from the international airport to get there but the reward is vibrant coral reefs, schools of manta rays and profound darkness in the evenings.
It achieves a neat trick of seeming organic and sustainable while offering the utmost decadence. Woodwork features heavily, especially with the stilted ocean villas which stretch out from the island into the Indian Ocean. Guests are requested to stay barefoot the entire time they are in the resort - unless they're wearing flippers for snorkelling - and get around on personalised bikes which are provided to each villa. If you're the sort of person who believes that dinner can only be enjoyed when adhering to a strict dress code, this probably isn't the place for you.
The Battery, San Francisco
There is nowhere else quite like The Battery in San Francisco. Amira Hashish explores the city's slickest address... Where is it? On Battery Street in San Francisco's financial district. The area is away from the hustle and bustle but conveniently close to the city's main attractions, restaurants and shopping streets.
What's the story? First came the private members club, then the boutique hotel with 14 suites and a plush penthouse. The great news is the rooms are available for public booking with hotel guests considered resident members who have access to the club's facilities during their stay.
This super hip spot is the brainchild of British entrepreneur Michael Birch and his savvy American wife Xochi Birch. The pair founded social media platform Bebo but The Battery is all about hiding those handsets or tablets and soaking up the surroundings.
The Curtain, Shoreditch
A hotel, restaurant, live music venue and members club. The Curtain sits at the heart of Shoreditch, London's most creative district. Centred around 120 guest rooms, including six suites, there is a rooftop pool and lounge, 24-hour gym, treatment rooms, co-working space and 6,000 square feet of event space, with a ballroom, screening room and more. The Curtain is a new landmark in a district bursting with personality
Brawn Restaurant, Columbia Rd, Bethnal Green
When Brawn opened in 2010, it was the hippest joint in hipsterville, back in the days when "hipster" wasn't bandied about as a term of abuse. It started out as more of a wine bar, and is still bullishly devoted to natural and biodynamic wines, some of which, admittedly, make me desire a nice burgundy. But they're savvy enough to let you taste stuff before you commit to something that tastes like fizzy Ribena or Glaswegian snakebite: service is unremittingly warm, welcoming, wonderful. With Wilson fully in charge and in the kitchen, Brawn has grown up to be a fully-fledged restaurant: effortlessly cool and, yes, pretty much a classic.
Restaurant 64 degrees, Brighton
Tucked away in the Brighton Lanes, 64 Degrees is a small restaurant with an open kitchen by Great British Menu 2017 winner chef Michael Bremner where our passionate chefs concoct an evolving menu of tasty small plates using fresh, local produce. Every year since opening we were awarded a Bib Gourmand by Michelin and we won the Number one spot of the Brighton top 20 in 2016 & 2017. We were voted 30th in the National Restaurant top 100 list 2017.
Prati Palai, Lake Garda, Italy
An eight-room B&B can sound unassuming, but, perched in the tranquil olive groves above Lake Garda, Prati Palai is an understated chic farmhouse. Decked out with vast white beds, polished wooden floorboards and Pantone-hued tubs, this pared-down retreat opens to the glorious Veneto countryside. And what views....superb..
Rates from (inc tax)£176.89
The Lotus Houseboat - Kerala, India
Explore Northern Kerala's palm-fringed tropical backwaters in ultimate comfort onboard the spacious and elegant Lotus Houseboat: a symbol of purity and beauty
Watching the gentle rhythms of day to day rural life unfold, drifting along Northern Kerala's verdant backwaters from a comfy steamer chair on board the glorious sundeck of The Lotus Houseboat is utterly enchanting. The indoor living cum dining room has tactile teak floors adorned with hand woven durrie rugs, paintings depicting temple murals, squishy armchairs scattered with silk cushions and panoramic windows that open onto the cooling breeze and the fascinating ever changing 180-degree view. The two generous bedroom suites have everything needed for easy living and a sound night's sleep: sumptuous king sized beds, positively palatial bathrooms, super silent a/c and private verandahs for quiet moments and early morning tea.
In the cool of the evening the sun-deck transforms into the perfect location to sip an aperitif or dine under a star-filled sky.
Empire Retreat and Spa, Margaret River, Australia
Like all great empires, this one grew from solid foundations. The old stone and timber farmhouse at the heart of Empire Retreat and Spa, a boutique hideaway in Margaret River, was once the owner's family home. Today, the Empire has expanded to include a handful of modern-rustic rooms and a signature day spa. If you'd prefer wine to mud wraps, an onsite vineyard showcases the region's stars, chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon. We like these wines, a lot.
Masseria Fumarola Puglia, Italy
Masseria Fumarola puts you at the heart of rural Italian life: with an ancient oven and wrought-iron beds, and sleep where the farm's wine was once produced. The unique features of the Murgesque landscape combine with elegance in this 800th century farmhouse, located a few kilometers from Martina Franca, a baroque town in the heart of the Itria Valley. A Puglia gem, really is, right in our top 10 is this one
The Standard Hotel, Highline, NYC.
The Standard, High Line hotel is a glorious classy and glassy high-rise, with minimalist interiors, exhibitionist bathrooms and unbeatable views over the Hudson (especially at sunset). Towering on concrete stilts above The High Line, the hotel looks over the very 'now' the West Village.
Borgo della Marmotta , Umbria, Italia
This is the kind of hotel that you just don't find often, well it's a farm really: a 17th-century hamlet set amid 12,000 olive trees, with views of Spoleto Valley and deliciously romantic rooms.
Kaikoura Boutique Hotel
We came across this amazing place while sourcing a new dip-pot machine. Dining right on the Bosphorus, in the open, is an incredible experience, and everything about this place exudes quality.
Amangani, Jackson Hole, USA
Chef Rick Sordahl’s inventive American menu takes in Elk Sirloin Chilli and Bison Ribs, as well as Kobe Beef from Idaho and line-caught Yellowfin Tuna and it all comes in a glorious setting. Amangani’s high-ceilinged, redwood-walled restaurant encourages you to admire the local wildlife though floor-to-ceiling windows, at the same time as you eat it. This is seriously good food.
Castello di Vicarello, Tuscany
If I were dreaming of Tuscany, I would dream of this Castello. At first sight it exudes high prices and formal staff, yet it couldn’t be more down-to-earth: authentic home-cooked, Tuscan cuisine straight from a traditional farmhouse kitchen. With its working vineyard and olive grove, this is pure friendliness and informality. The owner-chef cooks up a daily-changing menu of authentic home-grown, home-made Tuscan food, served in a candlelit, flower-filled courtyard in summer and by the fireside in winter. For the romantics, a summer option is a secret spot in the gardens.
Gibbs Farm, Tanzania
Between Arusha and the Ngorongoro Crater, Gibbs Farm sits alone within one of the most beautiful vistas you could wish to see. Big African skies and lush green colours make this an unmissable stopover on the way to, and back from, the crater. The food is different – very. Antelope in various guises features heavily, along with many other exotic meats that you’ll never find ‘Out of Africa’. Everything is grown on the farm, apart from the meats which are bought from the nearby Maasai – stunning food in a stunning place.
Exemplary Moorish cuisine, originality, informality and great service in this seriously good restaurant. Moro is one of our all-time favourites and we use it often – very often – and never stop learning from the masters of their craft: the Sams Clarke. We love Exmouth Market, no pretentions here. Try the Café Kick opposite Moro for a work-out on the table footie as an evening finale – we do.
Pizza East, Shoreditch
Shoreditch is fast becoming the new Soho – and better, we think. Despite the exacting name, there’s a lot more than pizza on the menu here. There’s a real Italian-American slant to many of the dishes and quite a few of the staff (charming, well trained, and very likeable) are American. Clam pizza is a speciality of New England, but here it’s not smeared in tomato sauce. They serve it white, garnished with cherry tomatoes, garlic and pecorino. The base is thin, puffed up around the edges from the heat of a proper pizza oven. Another New York influence is the range of small eats, which in New York are called cicchetti after the Venetian term for them. Here, they’re simply called antipasti, although they are pretty large. Soft polenta topped with spiced and deep-fried chicken livers (yes, really) is a suitably impressive dish, while chunks of fried calamari with a caper aioli is also substantial and comforting. Pizza East is big and noisy but the food’s very good and the welcome is great.
Six Senses, Yao Noi, Thailand
What a dining room this is: split-level, surrounded by natural vegetation, with a waterfall splashing through its centre and with a stream running beneath its glass floor. Romantic and sophisticated, Six Senses has an open kitchen where chef Anthony Reynolds and his team cook superb modern Thai food using seasonal ingredients, including salads and vegetables picked from the nearby garden. Adjacent private dining pavilions nestled in mangroves and palms are the perfect place to get away from other guests. Whoever said living in the jungle had to be primitive? Relaxed and rustic, the chic, sleek and on-the-beach Terrace restaurant whips up global cuisine by day and classic Thai food at night. Here, the views of an island-peppered, clear turquoise sea are among the best in the world.
St Clements, St Leonards-on-Sea
The chef, Nick Hales, is ex-Caprice and The Ivy. He knows how to play with his pans and regularly wins Michelin Bib Gourmands. Everything is fresh and in the peak of condition and to a standard that has never been seen before in St Leonards. St Clements would be totally at home in London, such is the standard. We visit often and it never fails to impress.
The Boatshed, Auckland
The Boatshed does a business breakfast till after noon: fresh Waiheke roasted coffee for the perfect long black or latte and a beautiful selection of fresh fruits, juices, compotes, yogurts and baked breads. There’s a fresh fruit and vegetable juice bar for morning revivers and smoothies plus the sweet and savoury breakfast-of-the-day changes by the day. It could be smoked fish cakes with poached eggs and mustard hollandaise, ricotta hotcakes with maple-poached figs, or a Spanish chorizo and Manchego omelette – whatever the day brings. Sit in the morning sun…gaze out across the ocean… enjoy! And for the evening: a private barbecue of ocean red snap and ‘the trims’. Wow and golly.
The Zetter, Clerkenwell
The listed exterior of the old football pools company remains, but the interior has been ripped out and renewed to give a quirky boutique-type hotel that does everything it says on the tin. The rooftop suites, with decks overlooking St Paul's, are almost above any prose we can write as they are truly stunning. Zetter room service is unique. Try the following on your private deck with friends as a snackette before hitting the town: Salmon Tartare, Radish, Pickled Ginger and Uzu; Asparagus, Runny Duck Eggs, Green Salsa, Rock Salt; Duck Pastrami, Coleslaw Dip, Piccalilli. Look out for a proper cheese on toast when you get back late – just too tempting to ignore.
Verana, Jalisco, Pacifica Mexico
The daily changing cuisine is authentic Mexican, and very varied. I was never quite sure what meat I was eating…goat… chicken…who knows?...because there is no menu. The waiter explains. The freshest salsas and fish, combined with the hottest of Habaneros or smooth jalapeños…every dish has real taste. The tequila just keeps on coming, unless you request the chilli-infused margaritas that don’t hit until you’re on your way back to your hut. Laid back: flips, shorts and SDs (for the girls), Ray Bans a must (for the chaps) as the views are stunning.