Restaurant & Hotel Reviews

Restaurant & Hotel Reviews

The Leicester Arms Hotel, Penshurst, UK

AccommodationPosted by Dave Wise Sun, February 17, 2019 05:19PM

Located in the beautiful Kent village of Penshurst and opposite the stunning Penshurst Place, The Leicester Arms is an olde worlde hotel, restaurant and bar full of the sort of charm and gentle, hushed feeling you'd expect from a historic English pub.

They have 12 bedrooms, an airy restaurant serving modern British cuisine, a private dining room that seats 24 people around one table for special event/weddings, plenty of parking, a solid range of beers, wine and cider and a scenic beer garden.

We arrived early, just as the pub was opening, as we wanted to make the most of the day at Penshurst Place.

The staff were welcoming and leaving our bags at reception was no problem. Later, around 5pm, when we returned from a wonderful day out our bags were in our room, which was comfy, large and with a modern-Victorian look to it.

Breakfast was included and excellent; decent coffee and juice, avocado on toast and if you wanted them, poached eggs on top. There was also a meat option, and cereals.

The same quality was applied to the bar food, which we had in the evening. The grilled veg baguettes were warm and fresh, the fries chunky and the salad well dressed. Meaning it wasn't too dry, or oily, the avocado was perfectly ripe and every taste and texture worked together very nicely.
We enjoyed a couple of pints of Aspall's with it, you can't go wrong with that if you enjoy cider.

If you're strict vegan you could easily ask them to hold the cheese, the staff were friendly and nothing was a hassle. This was solid, simple eating, exactly what we wanted after a long day sightseeing and as a bonus we only had to haul ourselves upstairs afterwards to bed, rather than drive anywhere! Definitely plan on eating here if you're staying at the hotel, or if you're just visiting Penshurst Place consider the hotel for a light dinner before heading home.

This is a real local style hotel, friendly, unique, stylish and ready to give you a true garden of England experience.

The Leicester Arms Hotel

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Hunter 486 at The Arch, London

RestaurantsPosted by Dave Wise Sun, February 17, 2019 05:04PM

Hunter 486 Restaurant and Bar, named after the 1950s dialling code for Marylebone, offers a variety of menus, (12 in fact!) including a theatre menu, a kids menu, a halal menu, a royal afternoon tea menu, a dog friendly menu!! and what you'd call a regular menu, infused with a 'Best of British’ theme although we requested a purely vegetarian menu and that had more of an Italian feel, which was just fine with us.

Perhaps as important to mention as the food was the service; attentive, friendly, knowledgeable and artful, the last attribute fitting well with the décor and feel of the restaurant.

Scribbled odes to Champagne decorated the ceiling, original designer chairs by Tom Dixon featured in the bar area and glass chandeliers lit plush, deep set private booths and more open tables alike.

Our waiter offered us some recommendations which we took up and he, the barman and their team continued to work towards making our meal the memorable experience that it was. From fizzy to cocktails, then onto the beautifully plated, tasty dishes that arrived in good time yet without haste.

Hunter 486 offers fine dining and excellent service in an elegant yet relaxed atmosphere; perfect for a special occasion or treat, we highly recommend it!

Hunter 486 at The Arch

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28°-50° (Marylebone), London

RestaurantsPosted by Dave Wise Sun, February 17, 2019 04:44PM

Named after the latitudes within which most of the world’s vineyards are located, the 28°-50° Wine Workshop and Kitchen takes the traditional wine bar experience to a whole new level. Owned by Chef Patron Aggi Sverrisson of Michelin starred Texture, 28°-50° provides a relaxed and informal dining experience whilst serving up fresh, seasonally focused, modern-European cuisine.
28°-50° was a 15 minute walk from the Amba Hotel and a couple from Oxford St. The welcome was warm yet informal and, having asked our waiter to recommend wine pairings for us, we tucked into what would become one of the most elegant, comforting 3 course meals we were to enjoy in the capital.

Apparently the menu changes daily; we started with chilled tomato gazpacho and a Thai pomelo salad...

...then we both had the veggie lasagne as main...
...before diving into the Icelandic baked Ísey Skyr (ice cream, granola, strawberries & mint) and a chocolate desert (such a texture range!).

It was a joy, as was the wine. There were more than 30 wines available by the glass, carafe and bottle, a fine selection that the waiter explained artfully.
Give 28°-50° a try, you'll enjoy outstanding, well priced fare with options for veggie and omni alike, served by knowledgeable staff in a great location.

28°-50° (Marylebone)

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The Amba Hotel Marble Arch, London

AccommodationPosted by Dave Wise Sun, February 17, 2019 04:29PM

Just 5 minutes walk from Marble Arch Tube station and Hyde Park, sitting right on Oxford St and across the road from one of Primark's flagship stores, the location of this 4 star hotel is hard to beat.

We loved our stay here whilst seeing the sights (Buckingham Palace is a half hour walk away, as is Trafalgar Square, and Hyde Park is great for pre-tourism running), the room was quiet, the service excellent, as was the food, and the plate of deserts and the handwritten welcome card left in our room on our first evening was a lovely touch.

The suite was huge, the bed very comfortable...

...and we had access to the executive lounge, which we'd recommend you take advantage of. It's where we relaxed after our days out and where we ate breakfast (buffet style with a mix of traditional English and Continental alongside felafel, humus and fresh salad if you'd rather more of a Middle Eastern start to the day). Snacks were available all day, with scones and jam among the offerings from lunch until about 5, then canapes from then until 7, and all the while the soft drinks, hot drinks, wine and beer were all complimentary.

We'd stay again in a heartbeat and we recommend you do to. Check out the website for the best deals.

The Amba Hotel Marble Arch

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Sophie Sucree, Montreal

RestaurantsPosted by Dave Wise Sun, February 17, 2019 04:10PM

From their website - "Sophie Sucrée makes classic desserts and pastries, entirely vegan. Sophie Sucrée creates memorable treats fresh daily with unwavering commitment to whole, often organic, 100% plant-based ingredients. Serving mindfully made baked goods, Sophie Sucrée aims to allow one and all to indulge in responsible decadence."
Sophie Sucree was the first all vegan bakery in Montreal, and the experience shows in their cakes, which are absolutely first class. Some vegan bakeries struggle with the admittedly difficult job of replacing dairy in items such as croissant, and in retaining the individual textures and flavours of varying cakes. Sophie Sucree has clearly studied the very nature of each item - what it is that makes it a success - and reproduced it wonderfully to create cakes with all of the tastes you're used to, minus the needless cruelty that accompanies regular deserts.

My favourites were the feta and spinach pockets (the vegan feta is made in house)…
...the brownie (heavy in flavour and texture)…
...and the cherry cheesecake (the thickest, creamiest non-cream I've ever tasted).
Then there are the cupcakes, all 6 were of a light sponge with a flavourful, lush cream.

So many items to choose from yet so little time, for us at least. Perhaps we need to move to Montreal just to eat here. Not a bad idea, actually! And it only a 15 minute walk from the Uni Accommodation, too.

Sophie Sucree -

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Copper Branch, Montreal

RestaurantsPosted by Dave Wise Sun, February 17, 2019 04:02PM

From their website - "It’s time we serve our community powerful and responsible foods. Enjoy our 100% Plant-Based – Power Food menu at a Copper Branch near you. Feel great about the food you eat. Our mission is simple: serve our community quality, whole foods and offer the world real food as fast-food for a change. We’re getting back to basics; serving healthy and wholesome foods and offering real food energy with the focus of promoting health and vitality, great taste, convenience, and responsibility.

These are power food meals you can trust and feel great about eating. Working his entire life in the fast-food industry and suffering with years of gaining weight and health problems, our founder was fed up with serving foods that have no nutritional value. He wanted to create a menu that stood for quality and health. A menu made of ingredients that he would want to eat and share with his family. And from there, Copper Branch grew."
Our experience of Copper Branch is that it offers tasty, fairly priced health/comfort food in light, spacious locations around Montreal (and spreading now to the rest of Canada, thankfully).

Ours was a really pleasant eating experience, exactly what we wanted from our first night in a new city. The location was easy to find and near our accommodation, it was open late-ish considering it also serves breakfast through lunch, ordering was quick and as I said, the food was well priced (see the receipt for details) and satisfying.

Copper Branch do healthy fast food and they do it well, we 100% recommend.

Copper Branch -

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Sushi Momo, Montreal

RestaurantsPosted by Dave Wise Sun, February 17, 2019 03:54PM

No glowing review of Sushi Momo (and the internet is overflowing with them) could have prepared us for how sublime an experience eating at this restaurant really is. The vibe is friendly, relaxed and refined and the choice of sushi unusual and extensive (not just your usual avocado rolls!) and the presentation beautiful.
The restaurant originally served both fish and veggie options but, the waiter told us, the veggie dishes far outsold the fish so several years ago they decided to go vegan. We are glad. You can taste, see and feel that the chef has experience of many types of cuisine, and there's an inventiveness at work here that too many vegan chefs seem to consider unimportant but which we love, especially within the context of Japanese culture, and all the precision and homage to beauty that the art and history of the country conjours up.

It really is difficult to pick a favourite dish - we ate a great deal here and it was all superb - but I'll highlight the 4 Mushroom tartare (shimeji, enoki, pleurote and portobello with green onion, avocado, fukujin zuke, bubu arare, taro chips and a truffle-miso emulsion)…

...the GYU Fried Tempura (I've never had a fried sushi roll before and this was quite magnificent with it's extra layer of crispy texture, which I loved)…
...La vie en rose (beetroot, avocado, tempura flakes, takana, green onion and sweet and yuzu infused soya sauces)…
...and the Oma (a fried avocado maki presented in a goblet, topped with a sweet tofu tartare, cucumber, mango, avocado, fried leek and shredded sweet chili.

For desert we had a chocolate raspberry cake and a matcha cake with a drizzle of maple syrup. Amazing. And for the quality you're getting, the prices are very reasonable.

This is not just a restaurant for vegans, any lover of sushi/excellent food is going to have a wonderfully memorable visit. Try to make a reservation, it's often booked out.

Sushi Momo -

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Mama Toucan's, Dominical, Costa Rica

RestaurantsPosted by Dave Wise Tue, January 29, 2019 09:16PM
Mama Toucan's is a fresh produce market, grocery and deli all in one space, just off the main north-south highway in the small Costa Rican Pacific Coast town of Dominical. It's unusual to find a store of this high quality and usefulness anyplace, anywhere in the world, in my experience, so we were completely surprised to come across it in a sleepy town of less than 400 people that only got it's main street paved late in 2018!
As well as selling organic fruit and veg the shop also carries vegan staples (nutritional yeast, Braggs ACV and aminos, TVP, etc.) for self catering at your hostel or apartment, a great many locally produced items such as kombucha, wine and cheese, and also a deli serving well priced snacks that we took for a picnic on the nearby beach. And on top of that, they also make their own vegan ice cream.

To give you a fuller idea of what's waiting for you at Mama Toucan's, here's a couple of videos we shot there. The first gives you a look at the shop and deli...
...and the second video was shot as we sampled some of the food from the deli.
We've heard it said by those living in the Costa Rican capital, San Jose, that they want a Mama Toucan's there too as they've currently nothing like it (and neither does any other Costa Rican town we've visited). We echo their sentiments, as we haven't got anything like it in Toronto, either!

First up in the list of reasons why we think it's great; the service is excellent. It's as if the owner, Christopher, looked at what the service industry in North America is supposed to be like (and very rarely is, in my experience), and decided to live up to the ideal. The staff are confident, knowledgeable and skilled, much as they are at the café next door and restaurant over the road (Mono Congo and Phat Noodle, more about these 2 gems in later blog posts), they had all the answers and were a joy to deal with.

Second, the grocery is intelligently stocked with product from over 450 suppliers, there's every basic that a health food chef, vegan or conscientious shopper could want. Much of the fresh produce is organic, and when it isn't it's sourced from farms producing to organic standards, all of it free of 'artificial flavors, colours, preservatives, chemicals and bad vibes.'
Christopher talks good sense about the need for eating organic food in Costa Rica. The country has an international reputation of being something of a natural paradise so most tourists automatically think this means the locally grown fruit and veg are going to be of a high standard, and as good for your body as seeing a beautiful animal in the wild is for the soul. From our previous trips we'd discovered that this is far from the truth, though, and in fact Costa Rica is the number 1 user of pesticides in the world which means the fruit and veg you buy locally may taste better than the versions of it you have at home (because it's not traveling so far it doesn't have to be picked weeks before it's ripe, hence the enhanced taste) but it's certainly no less soaked in chemicals.

"Add to this the fact that much of the fresh produce people buy here comes from roadside stalls that take the brunt of traffic pollution, and it makes sense to eat organic," said Christopher. "There are some farmers, of course, who can't afford to get the organic certification. That's ok, as long as their fields are a certain distance from neighboring farms that use pesticides, and from the pollution that hangs around the roadside areas, then we'll consider selling what they grow."

I really appreciated hearing somebody talking the truth about this matter, for once. In my experience, vegan and health business owners are obsessed with being overly reasonable about just about any other businesses in their realm, regardless of how much damage that business is doing. Which is lovely for their own karma, but what about customers who are looking to them for advice and direction?!

Of course, I'm sad for those who are involved in the pesticide riddled, big-fruit trade, but unless we start an honest conversation about what it really costs to farm in huge plantations as companies like Del Monte and Dole do (poisoned workers, destroyed landscapes and much more) then I don't think we're going to make things any better. So to hear Christopher say what we already knew, that even in Costa Rica you need to eat organic, made me happy. Here's a young person operating an admirable business, and not forgetting to tell the truth along the way. Inspiring.

We needed to quench a big thirst (we'd just been for a 3-hour rainforest hike at the nearby Hacienda Baru and it was a clear, hot day) so started with a cold apple juice...
...and then grabbed a pizza, some spring rolls and a salad for our lunch, all vegan, well presented and tasty with a decent range of textures and flavours.

Meals from the deli goods are well priced, about the same as the regular mid range restaurants on the Costa Rican coast but of a higher quality in my opinion. This is probably partly due to the varying influences that Christopher and his mentors were exposed to whilst working at top-end restaurants and hotels around the world. I often find this, the best restaurants I've been too are rarely the most expensive, instead it's the places where the managers and chefs have world experience that stand out.

An added bonus of deli food is that you can eat it wherever you want. We snacked straight away outside the shop...

...and then finished it off on the beach, 10 minutes walk away. It's worth showing you a couple of photos of the route to the beach, and the beach itself, as it'll give you a bigger idea of just what an amazing experience it is to eat such high quality food in one of the best beach locations, anywhere.

Some guide books say Dominical is a chilled surfer hangout by day but a dangerous, druggy sort of place by night. We stayed in the area for 8 days recently and would say that whilst that may have been true years ago, it's certainly not now. The surfers are still there but it's always chilled, always calm and friendly, and the beach is every bit as unspoilt and peaceful as my photos make it look.
As of January 2019, Mama Toucan's have started serving vegan desserts as well as ice cream, another tasty reason to pay them a visit!
Please consider checking Mama Toucan's out if you're in the Dominical area. I want you to have a great trip in this most beautiful of areas, and getting your picnics or self catering supplies here will go some way to making that happen!

Check out Mama Toucans on Facebook!

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Travelodge Abingdon Road, Oxford, UK

AccommodationPosted by Dave Wise Thu, January 17, 2019 01:06PM

The Travelodge on Abingdon Road is about 2 miles out of the city centre and easily reached by car or bus.
First of all, we must say that the vegan breakfast we had at this Travelodge was the best ever! I'm English, have had a full English all over my fair homeland and nothing touches this one. You can also eat vegetarian/omnivore here, too.
Every component was just right, from the non greasy Linda McCartney vegan sausages, tomatoes and mushrooms to the perfectly seasoned baked beans. Add to the fact that it's buffet style and that there are plenty of side choices (cereals, pastries, fruits) and you have a real feast that'll set you up for a day of sightseeing. You have to pay a little extra for it on top of the room rate but believe me, it's worth every penny, and it's served in a pleasant, airy downstairs area that we really enjoyed starting our day in.

The hotel itself is about 2 miles out of the city centre and easily reached by bus. We got off the airport bus in the centre of Oxford, then bought a bus ticket on a local bus that allowed us unlimited 24 hour travel on Oxford public transport (you buy these tickets on any bus) so this meant our journey from town to hotel cost around GBP1 each way. The bus dropped us at the park and ride, a 3 minute walk up the road from the hotel.

Our room was comfy, clean, modern and although it looked out on a main road it wasn't noisy at all, the window insulation was excellent.

Early check in/late check out is offered for a small extra fee, there is strong wifi and there are cheaper deals to be had if you book well in advance.

And if you enjoy running, there's a path leading all the way into Oxford; jogging around Christchurch College in the early morning when there were few people around was one of the highlights of my trip.

It's also a convenient location for visiting the outstanding Blenheim Palace, which can be easily reached using a bus from the city centre.

Travelodge Abingdon Road

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Manna, London, UK

RestaurantsPosted by Dave Wise Thu, January 17, 2019 12:59PM

Manna restaurant, one of Europe’s finest and oldest gourmet vegetarian establishments, in Primrose Hill (just north of Camden) celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2018.
It's been fully vegan for over 10 years and be you vegetarian, vegan or omnivore you're going to be impressed by the quality and inventive nature of the food on offer, the service, atmosphere and the fair prices.

We visited for lunch and had the maki (made using quinoa instead of rice)… almond and leak tart with a polenta base to share...
...a beetroot and black bean burger...
...and to finish a sticky toffee pudding and a orange chocolate mousse with 'vice' cream. With 2 drinks that all came to under GBP50, not bad at all.

A prime motive for the owners has always been to provide fine dining in the international tradition but with meatless recipes and vegan alternatives rarely available in restaurants, anywhere.

They travel the world compiling recipes and use only the highest quality, ecologically and socially responsible ingredients — fair trade products when available and organic and local products whenever fresh and viable – and they say that to the best of their awareness all their food is GM free.

The food is superb and it's fair to call it fine dining, served in an informal setting. The chairs aren't the sort you relax into, it's a functional space with competent staff serving excellent meals. We've visited on this occasion for lunch but we've also been for dinner and loved it.

We advise you reserve a table, Manna is invariably busy!


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