Author Archives: gindasimpson

Crescent Hotel – the glow of welcome

2018c Crescent HotelCrescent Hotel
49-50 Cartwright Gardens
Bloomsbury London WC1H9EL
+44(0)20 7387 1515
http://www.crescenthoteloflondon.com
General.enquiries@crescenthoteloflondon.com

It is always with pleasure that I walk the final stretch of my return to the crescent-shaped Cartwright Gardens in the West End of London. Located in Bloomsbury, a very fashionable neighborhood, the Crescent Hotel is my temporary home while a guest in this vibrant city. The energy of the city and what it has to offer make me appreciate even more my approach to this quiet leafy park and the welcomed comfort of this family-run inn. The Crescent Hotel occupies a classic Georgian house overlooking the garden with its mature trees and tennis courts. It serves as an oasis in the midst of colorful shops, ethnic restaurants, and traditional pubs.

Cartwright Gardens is one of several parks in Bloomsbury, an affluent residential district designed and built up by the famed developer James Burton in the early 1800s. An intellectual and literary center in London, Bloomsbury is home to the British Museum, the largest in the United Kingdom, as well as numerous educational and publishing institutions – all within easy walking distance, as are many of the sights to be enjoyed on a first visit or a return visit.

Return visits to the Crescent Hotel are not unusual. This lovely inn has been owned and lovingly operated by the same family for three generations, now managed by the grand-daughter. The family has welcomed back more than one generation of the same family to Crescent Hotel. The 27 rooms, each uniquely decorated, are small and cozy and feel very much like home. The furnishings throughout the living area of the house reflect the tastes of the period, but with everything in place for one’s comfort by today’s standards. A generous English breakfast prepared to order is a great send-off for a day of adventure, but what I like best is coming “home” at the end of the day.

copyright Ginda Simpson   –   http://www.rooms-withaview.com   –   http://www.gindasimpson.com

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The Grand Central Hotel – in the footsteps of the famous

2018c Grand Central Hotel

original watercolor by ginda simpson

Grand Central Hotel
99 Gordon Street
Glasgow GI 3SE
Scotland
+44(0)141 240 3705
http://www.grandcentralhotel.co.uk

Constructed in the age of the steam train, the Grand Central Hotel is both grand and central. Built by the Caledonian Railway Company, it officially opened on June 27, 1883, sharing a rich history with the newly established railways that were vitally necessary to both trade and a growing passion for leisure travel among the Victorians. Inspired by their 1849 Buchanan Street Station, the first in Glasgow, and envious of the St Enoch Station built by the G & SW Railway in 1876, the Caledonian Railway Company pushed for and was finally granted permission in 1879 to build a four-track bridge across the Clyde that would bring travelers and trade goods to central Glasgow. Recognizing the success of the St Enoch Hotel built over that station entrance, The Caledonian Company spared no time or expense in creating a hotel that was as grand as possible with 390 bedrooms, 13 public rooms including billiard and smoke rooms, 40 lavatories and 34 bathrooms. Designed by Sir Robert R. Anderson, one of Scotland’s leading architects, the Central Hotel, as it was named, was to become and remains to this day one of the city’s most prestigious buildings.

central station

With the growth of the city and the increasing passenger travel through the station, the building was enlarged and added to over the decades. The “modern” amenities and its location on the corner of Hope Street and Gordon Street, two of Glasgow’s main thoroughfares, were all that was needed for it to succeed. It welcomed prominent guests and witnessed over a century’s worth of history. Eventually, however, it fell into decline. But the Grand Dame of Glasgow was not to be neglected for long. Purchased by Principal Hayley Hotels, it underwent a £250k refurbishment and re-opened in 2011 to much acclaim as the newly named Grand Central Hotel.

chandelier

If I have any regrets, it is that we did not travel to Glasgow by train. It would have been an adventure to pull into the station and walk directly to the doors of the hotel, much as the Victorian ladies would have done. To my immense satisfaction, much of the architectural features and period décor remain, including the grand circular staircase with its stunning chandelier that drops from five stories above. I love the vintage feel of the public spaces and the 21st century creature comforts. It is a pleasure and a privilege to be a guest at this iconic Glasgow hotel, following in the footsteps of the famous…

copyright ginda simpson   http://www.rooms-withaview.com   http://www.gindasimpson.com

Trattoria La Palazzina – a proud heritage

Trattoria La Palazzina smTrattoria La Palazzina
Via Angelo Maria Ricci, 107
02
100 Rieti
0746-271-111
http://www.lapalazzina.it
info@lapalazzina.it
trattoriapalazzina1910@gmail.com

The Amici family have been in the business of offering refreshment to weary travelers since 1880, and so we have chosen well to stop here for lunch in the town of Rieti in the Lazio region of Italy. The trattoria’s long history began with the current owner’s great, great grandparents, the first of several generations who inherited both their energy and their vision, establishing more than one restaurant and hotel in the area. In 1880, Emilia Ricci in Amici managed this small trattoria which, at the time, was positioned close to the public baths. Her hand-written recipe book is on display today in the main dining room, along with many framed photographs that capture the long history of the family and its association with the world of home-cooked food and hospitality.

Cucina casareccia, authentic home-cooking, is what continues to draw hungry travelers and locals who appreciate the freshness and full-flavor of the cuisine. The menu offers a generous array of selections. Following an antipasto of traditional cured meats, we sample mezze maniche alla gricia. Everyone is familiar with the classic dish, spaghetti all’amatriciana, but way before tomatoes were introduced to Europe, the local shepherds prepared this dish without a tomato sauce. Using what they carried with them while they were pasturing their sheep – pasta, aged pecorino cheese, and guanciale – they made this simple dish to sustain themselves. The bacon is chunky and fried to a crisp and the resulting dish is both simple and divine.

Trattoria La Palazzina - Giuseppe Ricci sm

Giuseppe Amici – owner

The surrounding countryside inspires visions of these shepherds gathered together to enjoy una grigliata, a mixed grill of lamb, pork and poultry, accompanied by grilled garden vegetables. Again, simple fare in the hands of the right cook, who knows how to use the local herbs and spices, is elevated into an abundant feast. And feast it is. No room for dessert, but sweet memories of a sun-filled day and a visit with proud owner Giuseppe Amici at his restaurant.

copyright Ginda Simpson

http://www.rooms-withaview.com   –   http://www.menus-and-memories.com

Simplify, slow down, savor… Lunch at Ristorante Nicolao

Park Hotel Ai Cappuccini - GubbioRistorante Nicolao
Park Hotel ai Cappuccini
Via Tifernate
06024 Gubbio (PG)
39-075-9234
http://www.parkhotelaicappuccini.it
info@parkhotelaicappuccini.it

Our inner wisdom (and life coaches too) remind us of our need to simplify, slow down, savor… Sunday is the perfect day to put this into practice and lunch at Ristorante Nicolao in Gubbio offers the perfect venue for doing just that. The interior of this restaurant belonging to Park Hotel ai Cappuccini is simple in its décor, nothing to distract from the experience of dining. We allow our waiter to suggest our luncheon menu, never a regrettable decision when in Italy. We linger after our antipasto of scrambled eggs with summer truffles. We are in no hurry as we await our first course. Freshly made lasagne and a plate of handmade tagliatelle al ragù arrive filling the air with the scents of an Italian kitchen, a bouquet of tomatoes, basil, garlic and aged pecorino. Simple ingredients transformed into something sacred…

 

My granddaughter and I slow down even more and spend our time in quiet conversation. Our waiter brings us the main course which he has chosen for us – tagliata of beef, rosemary-infused medium rare slices fan out on our plate, paired with perfectly grilled zucchini and potato slices. The restaurant has filled up with couples and families savoring moments together as well as the flavorful offerings of an extensive menu.

 

It is time to choose a sweet ending from a very tempting dessert menu and our waiter leaves the difficult decision to us. A sour cherry topped cheese cake for my granddaughter and a trio of made-to-order fresh fruit sorbets for me. We have chosen wisely by having lunch here, we have slowed down and savored the chef’s cuisine. Thank you, Ristorante Nicolao, for providing all the ingredients for a perfect Sunday afternoon.

copyright Ginda Simpson – http://www.rooms-withaview.comhttp://www.menus-and-memories.com

Park Hotel ai Cappuccini – immersed in tranquility

2018c Park Hotel ai CappucciniPark Hotel ai Cappuccini
Via Tifernate
06024 Gubbio (PG)
39-075-9234
http://www.parkhotelaicappuccini.it
info@parkhotelaicappuccini.it

Perched on the side of Mount Foce in a wooded park-like setting, the building of this monastery was begun in 1631 to accommodate the Capuchin monks who had settled in this region for its splendid views and the isolation it provided for a contemplative life. It remained an active monastery until 1866, was then secularized and eventually left to deteriorate. A century later it was converted into a hotel and in 1990 was meticulously restored to become the Park Hotel ai Cappuccini. Great care was taken to preserve its original architecture and its frescoes.

First and foremost, what remain are the splendid views, the tranquility of its setting, and a chance to retreat into a world of quiet contemplation. What enhances the experience is the addition of every modern amenity, an indoor pool that opens to a sun-drenched terrace, a spa, a fitness center, an award-winning restaurant, and a caring, attentive staff. The rooms are quiet and comfortable, the furnishings throughout the hotel are sophisticated and outstanding artwork is present everywhere. The public spaces offer an eclectic mix of ancient paintings, religious art, traditional pottery and contemporary ceramics and sculptures, representing the best of the region’s artistic achievements, both past and present. If a guest were to never leave the grounds, a stay here satisfies in every way.

But within a short distance, there is much to enjoy in Gubbio, a medieval town with roots that stretch back to ancient Rome and beyond. Begin your visit with a stroll around the ancient Roman Theater, take a cable car to the Church of Sant’Ubaldo, sample the local flat bread called crescia with a wedge of pecorino, admire artisan wares in the many shops, then return home to your hotel and enjoy a fabulous meal at Ristorante Nicolao.

copyright ginda simpson – http://www.rooms-withaview.comhttp://www.gindasimpson.com


Osteria dei Re – Farm to Table dining in Gubbio

Osteria dei Re - signOsteria dei Re
Via Cavour, 15/B
06024 Gubbio (PG)
39-075-922-2504
http://www.osteriadeire.com
info@osteriadeire.com
Owner: Moreno Brunelli

Osteria dei Re is on the only true osteria in Gubbio, so it is important to owner Moreno Brunelli, that it maintain its authenticity. What is an osteria? In the past, it was a simple tavern where the townsfolk would come mostly to drink wine together, enjoying whatever simple fare was offered on the side. It was never a restaurant, and therefore, the offerings were few – simple, local, and freshly prepared. Moreno adheres to this, offering a limited menu that celebrates a tradition his grandmother enjoyed in this very same osteria nearly eighty years ago.  It is like a step back in time to be having lunch in this rustic tavern.  There is also outdoor dining in the piazza.

This is truly a farm to table experience, with ALL the products carefully selected from local farmers who do not engage in raising factory-fed animals, but rather on a small scale, practice sustainable, organic farming. From the olive oil to the wine, from the pork to the poultry, Moreno personally knows the source or he would not be serving it. He even barters wine and bread with a local peasant who brings him fresh rosemary, sage, and other herbs from the mountainside. No elaborate recipes are needed to show off this cuisine.

Osteria dei Re - Piattone del Re

So what better way to experience what this osteria has perfected than to indulge in the Piattone del Re – otherwise known as the King’s Platter? Serving two persons, but enough for four, the platter is about 18 inches in diameter and is a feast of flavors. Starting with the warm crescia, the traditional flat bread of Gubbio, we first sample the two small bowls of cottiche e fagioli, an immensely flavorful bowl of borlotti beans in a tomato sauce with pork rind. Going clockwise around the platter, there is bruschetta with crispy thin slices of quanciale, polenta with lard, puréed zucchini, roasted potatoes, fried sage, prosciutto and caciotta cheese with truffles. How we had room to share a decadent chocolate dessert is a mystery.

Osteria dei Re - birthday board

The Osteria dei Re recently celebrated 18 years in business. Moreno does it right and his grandmother would be proud!  Congratulations!

copyright Ginda Simpson – http://www.rooms-withaview.comhttp://www.menus-and-memories.com

5eCinque – To our health!

5eCinque5eCinque
Pza.della Passera, 1
50125 Firenze
39-055-248-0582
http://www.5ecinque.it
info@5ecinque.it
Owners: Silvio Varando & Mariolina Garau

We set out in the neighborhood of Oltrarno,  on the “other side” of the river, our favorite part of Florence. We are in search of something different for today’s lunch, something light and healthy and we find it at 5eCinque, a small family-owned vegetarian restaurant, where we are smart to arrive early as it fills up rapidly. With our early arrival we have the pleasure of meeting the owner, Silvio, who shares some time with us explaining their unique cuisine. Mariolina, his wife and chef, is Sardinian, and Silvio is Ligurian and together they have created a unique vegetarian cuisine that celebrates both regions of Italy.

Silvio loves people and makes us and every other diner feel welcome at 5eCinque, but I get to hear the story of how the restaurant got its name. As a child, Silvio would often go to market and order a five lire wheat bun in which was sandwiched a five lire farinata, a typical Ligurian flatbread made with chickpea flour. The fondness with which he holds this memory inspired his restaurant’s name.

5eCinque - Silvio Varando

It is a treat to explore and sample Ligurian and Sardinian-inspired vegetarian cooking. The flaky foccaccia topped with Ligurian cheese looks almost too good to eat. And of course, an introduction to Liguria would have been lacking without a taste of the famed farinata. Our main dish is Polpettone di fagiolini, a “cake” of chickpeas, potatoes and blended green beans, made savory with a perfect mix of fresh herbs. Because the cuisine is light, we manage to leave room for dessert, an almond milk flan with sweet toppings, one of chocolate and the other a sweet sauce made with peaches.

The tables are few here, so we do not linger. A small group waits outside its door. Not at all surprising.

copyright Ginda Simpson   http://www.rooms-withaview.com   http://www.munus-and-memories.com