Restaurant & Hotel Reviews

Restaurant & Hotel Reviews

Pret, London & Brighton

RestaurantsPosted by Dave Wise Mon, July 08, 2019 05:05PM
Pret is one of the largest chain eateries in the UK and they have over 450 outlets worldwide. They're deservedly popular and if we're looking for lunch but can't find a vegan restaurant that we like the look of, our choice is either Pret or the smaller chain of Leon's. There are several veggie choices at Pret including sandwiches, baked goods and salads and a great many healthy, organic, tasty drinks. Here's a look at what we ate in Brighton. The receipt is shown so you can have an idea of what's available, and the price.
Above you can see our dairy-free turmeric drink with a touch of warmth from ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg. They're made with rice-coconut milk alternative instead of milk.
There are lots of vegan eateries in Brighton but the problem is at the moment either they're out of the town centre, or they're fine dining (which we don't want at lunchtime), or that their seating is limited, and since we were had much to see and enjoy and time was limited we chose Pret because you can walk right in and take a seat (or get your food to go and sit in the park or on the beach if you prefer). Pret are a far easier, more convenient option and the food is fresh, well priced and tasty, too.

Note, if you're eating in the restaurant your food will cost you more than if you take away.

You can check the Pret menu, locations and their policies in sustainability and organic produce here - https://www.pret.co.uk/en-gb

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Leon's in London & Brighton

RestaurantsPosted by Dave Wise Mon, July 08, 2019 04:00PM

There are a great many locations of this popular chain restaurant. We ate at the one just outside Tate Modern in London first, it's so handy if you're visiting the art gallery. I like to spend a lot of time looking at the exhibitions - they had 2 on the day we visited that I wanted to see - but I can't do it in one viewing so it's essential I have a break between exhibitions. The food at the art gallery is quite pricey and of limited choice so the fact that there's a good value option right outside that gives me several veggie and vegan options was fantastic.

The second Leon's we ate at was in central Brighton. Just as good as the London branch, and with the same perks, such as, if you bring your own mug the coffee is cheaper, and on the day before the city marathon (in London as well as Brighton) they'll give our free rice boxes to runners. Basically all you have to do is turn up with your runner's bib number and they'll hand over a carb loading lunch. Very cool.
The food is great and fresh, the vibe is fun, check out the Leon's website to discover the menu and branch locations - https://leon.co/



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Travelodge Brighton Seafront

AccommodationPosted by Dave Wise Mon, July 08, 2019 03:50PM

Travelodge Brighton Seafront
West Street, Brighton,
East Sussex, BN1 2RE, United Kingdom
Sat nav postcode: BN1 2RE
Tel: 08719 846405

We've become accustomed to the veggie buffet breakfast's at Travelodge being excellent quality and value, and the one we enjoyed at this Brighton hotel did not disappoint!

There are also plenty of choices for meat eaters as well. The food was freshly cooked and always tasty. It's a great way to fill up at the start of the day on quality food and it's served up in a nice environment.
The hotel location is very good - just 3 minutes walk from the seafront promenade, 10 minutes to either the Pier, the Lanes or the town centre and a 20 minute walk to the central train station. We had a room on the 8th floor which was very quiet and with great views. There are few frills in the room but there is everything you might need, the bed was comfy and everything is clean.
The location is so useful, you don't have to worry about leaving for the day and taking everything with you. We popped out to the Pavilion, had lunch at Leon's, came back to pick up some snacks we'd left at the room, walked over to the beach, got a bottle of bubbly to enjoy whilst looking at the waves...
...then back to the room again to get changed before heading out to the Pier then dinner. A hotel location like this makes for a very relaxed stay.

For those looking for a functional room in a good location, Travelodge is always very hard to beat and Brighton Travelodge is no exception. Check their own websites out for the best rates. https://www.travelodge.co.uk/hotels/356/Brighton-Seafront-hotel

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Velonas Jungle Luxury Suites, Florence, Italy

AccommodationPosted by Dave Wise Sat, June 29, 2019 09:28PM

(For the full review and more photos, see the July 2019 issue of our magazine)

We stayed at Velona's Jungle for a week whilst attending the EcoTrail 80k and there are several very good reasons why we believe you should stay there too (even if you're not running!).

Firstly, it’s owned and run by a charming Florentine family who offer warm hospitality within an elegant, relaxed setting. Staying here will give you the authentic local experience that you're probably looking for if you opt for a guesthouse/B&B rather than a large, impersonal chain hotel. They're also very happy to help book you online tickets for the more popular art galleries, which is great since the online portals aren't that clear but you'll need those tickets if you want to avoid the long queues.

Secondly, the bedrooms and public areas are designed beautifully using the owner’s antiques and also their love of nature (17th century Chinese paintings hang alongside modern paintings of animals which are the work of a member of the family). The rooms are all well appointed, quiet and comfortable, and each is themed after a famous naturalist or writer such as Darwin, Fossey or Durrell.

Thirdly, the breakfast is magnificent and served by genuinely friendly, calm staff. All dishes are vegetarian and there are plenty of vegan options such as Tuscan Beans, lentils, fruit salad, chocolate torte and croissants. The pastries and cakes are made locally and everything is served on a 17th century French table. It’s no exaggeration to say that breakfast at Velona’s Jungle was one of the highlights of our stay in Florence.

Fourth, it's pet friendly! Regardless of breed or size, the owners will provide a bed and food and water dishes for you upon arrival, and can arrange grooming, walking, and dogsitting services.

Fifth, Velona’s is very near to transport links. The main train station, where either the train or bus from Pisa airport drops you, is a 15 minute walk away, or a 5 minute tram ride. And just across the road is another smaller train station from where you leave for the Good Tastes of Tuscany cookery class, which I recommend.

It’s also an easy walk to all the major sites of central Florence. A 20 minute walk along the Arno river will leave you at Ponte Vecchio, the Uffizi Gallery and the Duomo. Piazza Michelangleo and the Accademia are 10 minutes more.

I thought it worth reprinting the following description, given me by the owners, as it shows the high level of thought that's gone onto the property and their aims.

"Velona's Jungle is a chic yet welcoming boutique hotel in the center of Florence, where guests can savor a unique style of luxury paired with a true passion for hospitality and the environment. Our suites are perfect for curious travelers who love discovering unusual and unforgettable accommodations, meeting warm local hosts, and experiencing the authentic side of Florence's history, culture, and cuisine.

Velona’s Jungle is a designer oasis where many of the elegant objets d'art and furnishings date from the mid century, when the family's patriarch Pasquale Velona - a respected Florentine art dealer - began collecting pieces during his travels in Italy and abroad. His fabulous finds from trips through Florence, Rome, Naples, London, Paris, and Vienna in the 1950's were paired exquisitely with the prestigious antique and period furnishings from his gallery, creating a one-of-a-kind home.

Veronica and her mother Serena added to the original collection, carefully selecting works by contemporary artists, fabrics and decorative accents by favorite designers, and choice books and sculpture...each chosen with the same care and passion as the grandfather and together creating the eclectic whole that is now Velona's Jungle.

True luxury travel is that which sustains local cultures and is based on an ethical and responsible style which guarantees that future generations of travelers will be able to enjoy the same beautiful land and cityscapes. At Velona's Jungle Luxury Suites, we are passionate about sustainable travel which leaves the smallest possible impact on the environment, highlights authentic local experiences, and supports traditional cuisine.

We feature locally-sourced, organic 100% vegetarian products, recycle, encourage our guests to discover Florence by foot or bike and the surrounding region of Tuscany by train, and recommend shops, markets, and boutiques which carry local gourmet and artisan products and vintage treasures.

Each morning we serve a healthy and balanced breakfast with freshly-made vegan sweet and savory pastries and croissants so you'll be ready to set off and explore Florence.

Our breakfast menu includes a number of delicious homemade selections, including freshly-mixed muesli, fruit juices and smoothies, organic jams, tarts and cakes, cookies, and traditional Tuscan breakfast dishes with a modern, healthy twist.

Want to take it easy in the morning? No problem, we serve breakfast until noon!

Your beloved pet is welcome in the suites at Velona's Jungle Luxury Suites, regardless of breed or size. We provide a bed and food and water dishes just the right size for them upon arrival, and can arrange grooming, walking, and dogsitting services.

We can also recommend the best walks to take with your furry friend during your stay in Florence and pet-friendly restaurants and sights in the city center.

Velona’s Jungle has four suites, each one created with a unique style:

Livingstone Suite
This deluxe suite soothes with a palette of warm earth tones and soft shades of green, echoing the colors of a lush virgin forest. Measuring 28 square meters, the Livingstone Suite features a sumptuous canopy bed, an elegant living area, and an ensuite bathroom with a rainshower and chromotherapy lights.

Amenities
Minibar with complimentary beverages and snacks - Electric kettle for hot drinks - Flat screen tv - Luxury bath products - King size bed - Foam mattress topper - Luxury bed linens - Double pillows - Laptop safe - Free wifi - Air conditioning

Darwin Suite
Sophisticated luxury paired with animal magnetism make this eclectic room one of the most unique in all of Florence. Black lacquered furnishings and African-inspired prints and decor are offset by glowing golden walls and warm parquet floors. The 25 square meter Darwin Suite has a reading corner and an ensuite bathroom with a rainshower.

Amenities
Minibar with complimentary beverages and snacks - Electric kettle for hot drinks - Flat screen tv - Luxury bath products - King size bed - Foam mattress topper - Luxury bed linens - Double pillows - Laptop safe - Free wifi - Air conditioning

Fossey Suite
Settle in and relax, but don't be fooled by the refined neutral tones and tranquil peace in this 30 square meter deluxe suite. There's a touch of jungle fever in the turquoise accents, feathered table lamps, and playful animal prints and textiles. The Fossey Suite has a walk-in closet, two armchairs, desk, and ensuite bathroom with a rainshower.

Amenities
Minibar with complimentary beverages and snacks - Electric kettle for hot drinks - Flat screen tv - Luxury bath products - King size bed or two single beds - Foam mattress topper - Luxury bed linens - Double pillows - Laptop safe - Free wifi - Air conditioning

Durrell Suite
You'll be charmed by this whimsical yet stylish tropical oasis, and with the chic palm tree wall decor, playful fern bathroom ceiling, and lighthearted "feathered friend" keeping you company, you'll never want to leave this 28 square meters of paradise. The Durrell Suite has a balcony, two armchairs, desk, and ensuite bathroom with a rainshower.

Amenities
Minibar with complimentary beverages and snacks - Electric kettle for hot drinks - Flat screen tv - Luxury bath products - Queen size bed - Foam mattress topper - Luxury bed linens - Double pillows - Laptop safe - Free wifi - Air conditioning

Velona's Jungle is exquisitely Florentine yet a home from home and staying there is a unique experience. Check their website out for the best prices.

http://www.velonasjungle.com/en/



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La Pepiniere, Florence

RestaurantsPosted by Dave Wise Mon, June 03, 2019 11:13PM
La Pepiniere - Borgo S. Frediano, 169-red, 50124 Firenze FI, Italy

https://www.facebook.com/ristorantebiologico/

La Pepiniere is a 14 minute walk from our recommended B&B in Florence, Velonas Jungle.

La Pepiniere is known for it’s vegan pizza but it could also be known for it’s fine dining style and contemporary feel, in our opinion. Clean walls and a wooden counter greet you as you arrive, there are plant pots suspended overhead in metal frames and fresh pizza being made behind the counter.

The menu has organic, vegan and gluten free choices; I started with the 3 taste platter. There was a mushroom tartare with a corn waffle, it was a loose tartare, falling apart easily, with a fresh, subtle taste. Not your usual mushroom flavour, much more of a spring feel to it, which was appropriate given it was April.

Also on the plate was a nettle Gnocchi with fava beans and a celeriac sauce. Magnificient.

Finally there was a vegan mozarella breaded nibble, deep fried yucca, purple sweet potato fries and onion rings with chimichurri sauce. There was an interesting range of texture through all of this.

Next up was my vegan pizza. I chose the Barchetta Bianca. The crust was stuffed with vegan ricotta and topped with vegan mozarella, sauteed chicory, capers, chili pepper and black olives. I loved it.

The wine list is extensive - all selections are organic - and there are also organic beers from San Gimignano.

I loved my meal here, great service, lovely food, good value and the smell of pizza cooking inhabits the place making it a very welcoming, lip smacking place to be.

If you're in the mood for great vegan pizza, or some some tasty, fine, vegan food, we recommend La Pepiniere. Contact them via their Facebook if you wish to make a reservation.



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Borgo Firenze, Florence

RestaurantsPosted by Dave Wise Mon, June 03, 2019 10:20PM
Borgo Firenze - Borgo S. Frediano, 145r, 50124 Firenze FI, Italy

https://www.borgofirenze.com/

Borgo Firenze is a 13 minute walk from our recommended B&B in Florence, Velonas Jungle.

Gabriele greeted me at the door of Borgo and set the friendly tone for the evening. He’s easy going, fun, charming, jokes a lot and speaks perfect English.

“All diets and allergies are catered for here,” he explained. “If anybody has special requests, they can just email or call before they arrive to let us know and we’ll arrange something for them. The menu changes every 3 months, with the season, and since I live in the country I buy the day’s ingredients fresh on the way into work each day.”

Before my food arrived, there was a lovely amuse bouche of beet mousse with fresh bread.

I started with the falafel and, since it was white inside and lightly spiced, assumed it was chickpea based and made in the Syrian style. Gabriele corrected me.

“It’s fava beans, so you might say it’s a very Italian dish as we grow them here and have done for centuries! You’re doing the right thing there, eating them with a decent wine from the area. The dish isn’t acidic at all so it’s lovely with a red.”

I’d never thought about pairing falafel with Chianti but when he pointed it out it made perfect sense!

My second course was flan made of beetroot, avocado, potato and carrot. It was extremely light and the creaminess of the avocado gelled with the earthy depth of the beets beautifully.

“What are the 5 dots around the flan for?” I asked. “Do they symbolize the Medici?”

“No,” Gabriele laughed. “Nothing that deep, it’s just decoration!”

I moved onto a risotto made with Aquavello rice (which is the only white rice with the same nutritional value as brown. It’s aged for up to 7 years), pumpkin, portobello mushroom and pumpkin seeds. The mushrooms ruled this dish, each bite was a dance of textures, the deep bite of the rice and seeds, the softness of the pumpkin, in between it all was the mushroom, amazing. Topping it all were beet sprouts, offering yet another, slightly bitter, aspect to a rich, expansive dish.

Dessert was a baked pear in wine sauce, topped with sugar and cinnamon. It looked like a Flemish still life and it was a delicious, light end to a magnificent meal.

Borgo offers exceptional service delivered with humour and an authentic friendliness, and food that pushed all my buttons. Tasty, well presented, you might almost call it fine dining with a touch of rustic mixed with bohemian art cafe.

Check out their Facebook and their Instagram and please be sure to pay them a visit if you're in the city!



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Floret, Florence

RestaurantsPosted by Dave Wise Mon, June 03, 2019 08:54PM

Floret
- Artisan Kitchen & Bar, Luisa Via Roma Store, Terrace (first floor), Via Roma 19/21r 50123

https://www.floret-bar.com/

Floret is a 20 minute walk from our recommended B&B in Florence, Velonas Jungle.

Tamara and Maurizio opened Floret in 2017. They’d been living in Germany for a while where they had careers in marketing, fashion and hospitality, and wanted to bring more of an international way of eating to central Florence.

“We’re the pioneers of health food in Florence,” Maurizio told me when I visited for dinner. “You struggled to find cold press juices in Florence before we opened and as for opening times, well, Florentines are used to eating at set times of the day, but here we have made a point of staying open all through the day, so our guests can eat whenever suits them.”

Considering their previous careers it’s perhaps no surprise that Floret is situated on a terrace within a high fashion department store which stocks the latest lines from the top brands. It’s just 100 metres from the central square, bordered by the cathedral, and there are no signs from the street that tell you that Floret is to be found inside the ‘Luisa Via Roma store. Instead you just go into the store and follow the signs that say ‘Terrace and Bar’ up the stairs into the chic, relaxed area that has hints of the tropics - palms bristle between than life cranes/flamingos, wicker baskets and low slung cane furniture.

“We also operate a pop up restaurant at Berlin Fashion Week,” said Maurizio. “The usual fare there is burgers, hot dogs, that sort of thing, not what you want if you’re in fashion and want to keep your figure! So we do well there, and soon we aim to open another branch of Floret here in Florence, in an artistic collaboration with a boutique hotel and private members club.”

I started with a fresh, cold pressed, raw, organic juice. It’s made daily in house and I took the apple, lemon and ginger flavour.
Fresh bread and the most excellent olive oil was served before my food. This is not something we generally do in the UK or Canada, maybe because our olive oil is not of a very high standard at most restaurants! But here the quality is so good that the moment you dip the bread in it you understand why it's served this way. When the ingredients are this good, bread and oil are a satisfying appetizer on their own.
As an appetizer I had the guacamole and for main the chickpea curry with Colombian coconut rice, fresh baby leaf lettuce and toasted coconut flakes. All were very well put together; tastes were suitably subtle, textures were intelligently thought out and portion size was satisfactory.

There wasn’t a vegan desert on offer so I took the vegetarian option and had the Greek Yoghurt Cheesecake. It had a raw nut and date base but the ‘cheese’ was rather soft. It’s what you often get with yoghurt based cheesecakes and not a problem if you’re not a fan of the New York style. But I’ve got used to vegan cheesecakes made with nuts and sadly for other cheesecakes - and luckily for vegans - there’s not a cheesecake can touch it for dense texture.

All things considered, the meal was great refuel food, easy on the stomach, tasty and wholesome. Exactly what I needed after an 80km race to help rebuild a very beaten up body.

There was an extensive range of teas and cocktails, but I celebrated my run with a Noam 5.2% pilsner. This isn’t a hipster beer, falling over itself to appear hoppy, thankfully. Quite the contrary; it’s a classic unpasteurized pilsner, light amber in colour and with a clean taste.

Floret is our #1 place in central Florence; if you're sightseeing around the cathedral and fancy lunch, we recommend you pop in. No reservations needed! They have an active Facebook and Instagram, it's well worth following them.



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Il Vegano, Florence

RestaurantsPosted by Dave Wise Tue, May 28, 2019 11:04AM

Il Vegano - Via S. Gallo, 75R, 50129 Firenze FI, Italy

Il Vegano on Facebook

Il Vegano is a half hour walk from our recommended B&B in Florence, Velonas Jungle.
I ate at Il Vegano the night before my EcoTrail Florence 80km mountain race. I knew I'd need to fuel well for the event, and this restaurant seemed like a good choice. I'd planned to stay on the salad and perhaps a little pasta. Like most of my best plans, however, it came undone when I looked at the menu and chose the risotto over the salad, and then had double dessert. It all just sounded so good, I lost my mind. Still, no harm done, I finished the race well and enjoyed the day thoroughly so the fueling strategy didn't go entirely wrong!

Il Vegano was started in 2014 by longtime vegan friends Stefano - who used to work in the music business - and Erico, a fashion designer.
Stefano and Erico make their own ingredients such as tofu, seitan and pasta, and everything else they use is bought from an organic farm just outside Florence. The menu is great value, is written in English and changes according to what’s in season and can be bought from the farm truck.
Books with a vegan or activism theme are launched monthly here.

‘The aim here is to serve great food, also to show meat eaters how great vegan food can be, and to educate on animal rights issues,’ said Stefano, who speaks great English (a great help for those who don't speak Italian and want to learn more about the food and what goes on here!).

It was the first all vegan restaurant in Florence and Stefano described what they serve as ‘home-food’ style. It’s comforting, it’s filling and it’s made with great care and compassion. It’s also, as you can see from the photos of the menu, very good value. E6 for a homemade burder and fries, and not much more for some classic Italian pasta dishes.

All portions shown in my photos are half portions. I was racing the next day and was trying to keep my weight down, which is difficult when there is so much good food around and you want to try it all!

My first dish was the Strozzapreti pasta. I really enjoyed the firmness of the pasta, it was the best I’ve ever had. There is real texture there, and I don't mean it was just cooked al dente. This handmade pasta has depth, real substance, it was a new food experience for me. The ragu tomato sauce that tops it is enjoyable but it’s definitely the second component of the dish, rather than the first as is usual with the normal pasta meals we get in the UK or North America.
My second dish was the mushroom risotto. It had a subtle range of texture, the mushrooms were there, but not overpowering. Perfect.

The dessert was a dual plate with a dark chocolate and pear torte with agave sweetener, and an apple, orange marmalade, cinnamon and ginger cake...wow. There were 4 layers on the torte, each of a contrasting texture, incredible.

Check Il Vegano out if you're in Florence. You can also follow them on Facebook to enjoy their day to day events and mouth watering food photos.



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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
https://www.theleicesterarmshotel.com/



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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
https://www.thearchlondon.com/wine-dine/hunter-486/

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