Posts tagged “expensive

Dusit Thani Cairo – easy access to the airport.

Review:

I’m not sure what it says about a hotel that has now had a soft opening that has lasted for over a year, but it’s certainly a good excuse for not providing 5 Star service at a 5 Star hotel.

However, the Dusit Thani Lake View in Cairo is certainly well on the way to getting things right.  During my stay there, my only criticisms would be that their service was a little slow, and that their showers are impossible to turn to the right temperature. As I had a bath which was functioning correctly, I wasn’t overly fussed –  I think because I wasn’t expecting a first-world experience in a developing city.

Rooms: You could be anywhere in the world when you step into the Dusit Thani’s rooms, they are utterly generic.  No traces of either Egyptian or Thai styling, which was a bit of a shame. Frequent business travel can be a monotonous schlep, and finding yourself in basically the same hotel room in yet another city, is actually rather soul-destroying. But it’s new, it’s inoffensive.

Rooms are large, beds too soft for my poor old bones, utilities functional, and it’s nice to have a balcony or terrace in each one.

Bathrooms: Far too dim to apply make-up successfully. As previously noted, the showers are almost impossible to get to the right temperature.

Public Areas: Good pool and a nice hot tub.  Huge lobby that is A/C’d to sub-zero temperatures, and there is the rather odd detail of putting the open bar in the lobby, which means that there are small gaggles of people standing aimlessly, cluttering up the thoroughfares hanging onto their glasses.

Food: The buffet breakfast was 5* standard and the food I had during my stay was all more than acceptable (the fresh Egyptian yoghurt was delish).

Service: There is a mix of European top management, Egyptian middle management, Thai/Egyptian operations/reception staff. Maybe it’s because I’m so used to Thai hospitality, but they were hands down more customer service focussed than the locals.

Location: The Dusit Thani is in the middle of what is called New Cairo – a half built mega-town of new huge single residences and the odd office tower, about 45mins away from Cairo proper. It is a building site and a cultural wasteland, so if you are not planning on going into Old Cairo much and just want to hang at a hotel, then the DT is a good option.

It’s also an easy ride into the airport – going both ways we got there within 30mins, which in Cairo is a massive blessing.  Taxi drivers don’t really know the hotel though, so it is worth ordering a hotel pick-up from the airport to cut down on any hassles.

To give some context – it takes a good 45mins-1hour to get to Al Khalili Bazaar from the hotel.

Price: At the moment as it’s still soft opening the prices are under US$200, but that was the best price we could muster from a travel agent – going to the hotel direct was more expensive.

A word of warning – if you are going at the weekend, then make sure to check whether there is a wedding booked during your stay.  The hotel holds them in the central courtyard overlooked by half the rooms – Egyptian weddings are awesome – like MTV awards ceremonies, but that means pyrotechnics, techno DJs and huge sound systems, and parties that carry on until at least 3am at top decibel.  Not a relaxing way to spend a night if you are just looking for a good kip.

*one extra note is that the Spa isn’t opening until 2010.

So would I go again?  If I was just passing through Cairo on the way to somewhere else I would definitely stay at the DT again, but if I wanted to spend a couple of days in the city then I’d look for somewhere closer to the action.

Address: Dusit Thani LakeView Cairo, The LakeView, El-Tesseen Street, City Centre,Fifth Settlement, 11835 New Cairo. Tel +20 2 2614 0000

Il Desco, Verona – Michelin guide has this 2* venue all wrong

Review:

Il Desco is meant to be one of the best places to eat in the whole of Italy. I have to disagree 100% with that analysis. It has had 2 Michelin stars since 1997 and I just can’t see why.

Food:  Different menus of either traditional or creative Veronese, specialising in tripe.

Now, I’ve always been a bit wary of tripe – kidneys can so often taste of pee, and I used to hate finding tubes in liver as a child. Couple that with the bubbling cauldrons of the stuff that you see dotted around Asia in food markets, and you do have to be in a brave mood to try it.

I am aware though that many people think it is a great delicacy, so I thought the best place to give it a go would be a 2* Michelin restaurant in Verona.

And it was very tasty. I had sauteed calf’s brain, bull’s testicle soup, tripe sauces and goose liver on my 6 course Tradtional Veneto tasting menu.

The problem was that the portion sizes were enormous. I was presented with about 1/2 pound of brain, and over 1/2 pint of soup and I can tell you that whilst tripe is tasty, it is sooo rich that by the time I was half way through those two dishes I was feeling pretty nauseous. The testicle soup especially was a struggle because it had the texture of rhubarb compote – slightly glutenous and fibrous, and facing a huge bowlful of it was tough.

I think this is where I found Il Desco disappointing. Certain elements of the dishes were very tasty and beautifully cooked, but to me it was unbalanced and inconsistent. There wasn’t enough palette cleansing, balancing elements to all this super rich tripe, and the portions were just overwhelming. By the time I got to the meat course I was stuffed.

Wine list: Good, but very expensive wine list.

Ambience:  It’s an odd place.

You walk in the front door into a large ante-room which seems just to be a storeroom, and is dominated by a staircase going down to the cellar which is just a gaping black void.

You are ushered off to a room on the left which is the dining room, and it’s almost smaller than the lobby/storeroom you have just been in.

The dining room is sweet enough, lovely old oak ceiling and yellow ochre coloured walls, but then the rest of fixtures and fittings give the whole place a bit of a harlequin feel – too many patterns and too many colours.

Service: We had a bit of funny service experience. The waiters were fair enough, but the sommelier was a bit pushy.

Price:  The tasting menu I had was €95 and the tasting menu my other half had was €130, so couple that with wine, water, service and tip, and it was a pretty punchy bill at the end of the evening.

Location: Via Dietro San Sebastiano 7, Verona, Italy. Tel: +39 045 595 358.

All in all, I was pleased that I’d had the opportunity to try some really good tripe but didn’t think it was worth the price. I was left feeling a bit perturbed and completely bloated by the experience and wouldn’t go back.

The other night that we spent around Verona we ate at our hotel  - Villa Amista – and had the most exquisite meal. Left Il Desco in the dust on all fronts, and inexplicably doesn’t have even one Michelin star.

Curry Buffet Lunch – Conrad takes top marks for food.

Review:

There are many options for curry buffet lunch on Hong Kong Island, I must have tried at least 10, but there are old favourites that I go back to time and again.

After a truly good meal yesterday at the Conrad my trusty companion, and long-time Indian restaurant guide (originally from Bangalore), and I have decided that it’s hands down the best for food.

conrad lobby hk

Phot from the Conrad's website (at night...)

Food: Winning factor numero un, is that they have a dosa chef at the head of the buffet constantly primed to take your order.

Winning factor numero deux, is that the head chef at the moment is from Kerala, so the food has a definite southern India bent, but this also means that the dishes are generally lighter in texture than those made by North Indian chefs, so you feel more than able to continue your work day afterwards.

It’s easy to go veggie or carnivorous, there are lots of salads and fresh made pickles and chutneys and you get the added bonus of the Conrad’s pastry chefs whipping up dessert.

Yesterday, amongst other things including 2 dosa, I had the most mouth-watering lemon pilau rice flavoured with kaffir lime leaves, and a beautiful dhal, which on the face of it you would think is easy to master, but the flavours and textures were perfect. It’s not often that simple dishes of rice and lentils make you actually stop eating and discuss the food.

Drinks: What you’d predict at a 5* hotel, plus they do really good chai.

Service:  5* Conrad, so exactly what you’d expect from such an establishment.

Ambience: The buffet takes place in the Lobby Lounge which is a very pleasant, light-filled environment. Mind-bogglingly, the buffet is rarely very busy, so it’s a very good place to go for business lunch, especially as the tables are wide apart.

Only marginal inconvenience for me is eating from coffee table height. Not being able to get your legs under the table makes for slightly uncomfortable dining for girls as you can’t really sit there legs akimbo, so you are always twisting slightly to eat.

Price: $250 +10% service.  Now, this is a good deal more expensive than a lot of the other curry lunches in town, but it is well worth treating yourself once in a while.

Location: Pacific Place, 88 Queensway, Admiralty, Hong Kong. Tel: 852-2521-3838

Yun Fu, Wyndham St – Hypothermic and Disappointed of Hong Kong

Review:

I have been to Yun Fu twice now, once as a couple, and more recently as a table of eight.

Both times I have been disappointed with the overall experience, and have now lost interest in going back, which is a shame.

Food: Northern and Western Chinese food (read that as more Sichuan/Yunnan than Xinjiang).  The menu sounds amazing, and there are many dishes you want to try. The food just doesn’t quite hit the mark though for me, which is really annoying. The menu promises so much, but the food doesn’t manage to deliver on that potential.

Drinks: Long, expensive drinks/cocktails/wine list.

Ambience: OK, this is what tips this restaurant into my caustic category:

If you dine in the main restaurant you first of all pass through this long and mysterious tunnel past lots of small private rooms, which frankly look cramped, but I’m sure are better than sitting in the restaurant.  You then emerge into what can only be described as a large, dingy, cold, dungeon.

They keep the lighting so far down and the air-con so nipple-freezing cold that you cannot actually see or concentrate on your food. However, if you get the wrong seat you will have to endure one of their laser focused light bulbs grinding into your retinas like a gestapo interrogation lamp.

The stone slab flooring and the right angle wooden chairs with no padding, means you end up with dining noise being reverberated around the whole place, each scraping chair leg sending a nails-on-blackboard shiver through your skull and aching sitting-bones after just 20 mins (It looks great in the website, but that’s not what it’s like in real life).

All in all it really is like being in a medieval jail.

Service: I haven’t really noticed the service, which must mean it is fine, although I do remember being brought a warm Tsingtao on my first visit which is a big black mark in my book.

Price: Frankly it’s expensive for an experience that leaves you hypothermic and bruised. Expect to spend around $1000 for two people.

Location: Basement, 43-45 Wyndham Street, Central, Hong Kong. +852 2116 8855. Just about next door to the LKF Hotel, opp bars like Privé and Wagyu.

If the ambience was different, I might have a different opinion about the food, and maybe if you have one of the private rooms it’s better, but as it is, when you are having to eat just to keep yourself from slipping into a hypothermic coma, there isn’t a lot of functioning brain left to enjoy the meal.

Cococabana Review – Caustic or Candy?

Review:

Cococabana is a tough one.  It’s in a fantastic location in Deep Water Bay on Hong Kong’s South Side, and you can’t help but feel relaxed when you arrive.

However, the success of the dishes can be erratic, the service usually haphazard, and the price is fairly steep. But, if you hit the right dishes, and make sure you deal with the manager or the head waiter or JP himself then you can look forward to some of the best times you have had in a restaurant in Hong Kong.

cococabana

Phot from Coco's website

It is super chilled. My favourite time to come is during the week at lunch time (especially if skiving off work, or taking clients new to HK, it always bowls them over).  There are usually a couple of regulars, it’s great to get stuck into the wine and feel like a naughty child, and to sit on the comfy cushions in the shade looking over Deep Water Bay is truly satisfying, and can only induce a feeling of being at peace with the world.

Food: French Mediterranean.  JP has Corsican blood in there somewhere, not just French! For me, his Nicoise salad and Bouillabaisse in particular are outstanding, and I very much enjoy the bacon wrapped goat’s cheese with honey dressing, as well as the John Dory. I tend to stick to his seafood dishes and have more luck there than the meat.

Drinks:  He has an eclectic wine list, that veers to the expensive, but if you do know a bit about wine (as fortunately my partner does), then you can pick something good at the lower end and if JP is around then he is happy to guide.  I also really enjoy the homemade lemonade.

Ambience: On top of the public changing rooms at Deep Water Bay, doesn’t sound very sophisticated, but it’s all white table cloths, big banquettes and huge cushions.  It can get very hot and sunny during the day, so always ask for somewhere in the shade if that’s your need.  The view over the beach and Deep Water Bay make it quite an idyllic spot for Hong Kong island, and you quickly start to ignore the traffic noise and tune into the French muzak. A lot of French people eat here which adds to the Med vibe, and it’s always got a holiday atmosphere because you are on the beach.

Service:  The service here can be staggeringly bad. Disorganised and careless are words that spring to mind.  However, it can also be efficient, and it’s always friendly, with apologies and make-ups quickly forthcoming if you tell management your frustrations. They certainly know they aren’t faultless.

Price: Set-lunch $298 per head, set dinner $398.  If you want more than one course then I would suggest going for the sets as they are much better value.  A la carte can see main courses up to $298 a pop. A bottle of wine is going to be at the very least $300.  For two people I usually spend a minimum of $1000 for supper including drinks, and usually that at lunch because I get carried away on the vino.

This may surprise many of you, given my usual rants on bad service especially, but overall, I do really like Cococabana, despite it’s obvious faults. I think as I’ve been a Southsider before and been here at many different times of week and day I’ve seen it at its best and worst, and have come to enjoy it immensely.

Some people hate it, some people love it and I can understand both points of view.

If you stick to seafood, kick back and know to keep on top of your waiters then you will have a great time and will end up returning and falling into the latter category.