A sporting afternoon in Chicago

There are exceptions of course but, by and large, our Premiership players and sports stars tend to be pampered, overpaid and prone to brattish behaviour. Not so in Chicago where I am this week for IPW 2014 – the travel industry’s premier international market media place and the largest generator of travel to the US.

Chicagoans are fanatical about their sport – so much so that the question “who do you support?” has replaced “hello, how are you?” as the standard form of introduction in polite society. In Chicago there are only two teams that really matter – the Chicago Cubs (an unlucky but much loved baseball team) and the Chicago Bears – an NFL side.

Prior to arriving in town I didn’t know much about NFL – aka American football – other than that the season culminates in the Super Bowl (the most watched sporting spectacle in the world) where music maestro, Bruno Mars, brought the house down earlier this year with his spectacular half time show.

So I can be forgiven, on a recent bus journey, for not knowing that I was sitting across the aisle from one Robbie Gould – a placekicker for the Chicago Bears – right? Robbie is currently the third most accurate kicker in NFL history and recently signed a new four year deal with the Bears worth $US 15 million dollars. All of which means that Robbie is a pretty big deal here in Chicago.




But refreshingly his fame and success hasn’t inhibited Robbie’s ability to have a giggle and remain astonishly humble. I was struck by how anchored he actually is, as he showed a group of hacks around the hallowed turf that is Soldiers Field. The Bears ground, which was built in 1924, was named Soldiers Field in memory of those who had fought for the Alllies in World War One. As he showed us around Soldiers Field with a huge smile – despite it being a Sunday in off-season, when his wife and young son were miles away in Arizona – I asked the personable NFL player how he handled being ‘stop in the street’ famous in the States. “It’s part of the job,” he replied. “I’d much rather fans were friendly and stopped to say ‘hi’ than didn’t. Chicago has been my home for 1o years now and the city has been very good to me. I get that and will give back in any way I can.”

Wow I’m impressed – they’re not words you can imagine coming out of Wayne Rooney’s mouth, right?! But as great Gould is, Fergie Jenkins is in a class of his own.

The former Major League Baseball right handed pitcher was the first Canadian to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1991. His parents escaped the Southern United States to Ontario through the Underground Railroad and instilled in Fergie, a love of sports. Growing up Fergie excelled at hockey, basketball and baseball and could have played any of the aforementioned professionally, but chose baseball after being spotted by Tony Lucadello – a scout for the Philadelphia Phillies – who was quick to recognise Fergie’s raw talent.

But despite having spent several years scouting him, the Phillies traded Jenkins to the Cubs after a year. Fergie made his debut for the Cubs on 23 April 1966 and never looked back: he won at least 20 games in each of six consecutive seasons (1967–72) while playing for the Cubs.

From 1974 to 1981 Jenkins pitched for the Texas Rangers and the Boston Red Sox, compiling a record of 115 wins and 93 losses before returning to the Cubs in 1982, where he pitched for two more years before retiring. He finished his career with a record of 284 wins and 226 losses and with an ERA of 3.34 and his 3,192 strikeouts place him 10th among the all-time leaders.

Fergie is now ‘officially’ retired but even in retirement shows no sign of slowing down. He supports many charities, including cancer and diabetes having lost loved ones to these illnesses, and takes part in numerous charity events both in the US and his native Canada. In 2000 he registered his charity foundation, The Fergie Jenkins Foundation. Wait, there’s more: Fergie is also involved in the 100th anniversary celebrations of Wrigley Field – his old stomping ground with the Cubs.

Why is he so generous with his time? That’s easy, he told me while we watched the Cubs take on the Phillies at Wrigley Field last Sunday: “My Father always told me that you meet the same people on the way up in life, as you do on the way down. It’s hugely important to give back. We must all remember this.”

The likes of Luis Suárez, Carlos Tevez and John Terry should take note. I’m not asking them to behave like the Dalai Lama but prominent sports stars are in the public eye and thus – whether they like it or not – role models. They have – as Robbie Gould and Fergie Jenkins are only too aware – a responsibility to conduct themselves in a socially acceptable manner.

London’s Caribbean connection

One day, the sun – given that British Summer Time ‘officially’ began two weeks ago, when the clocks went forward one hour – may remember what it’s paid to do and put in an appearance in the capital. Optimistic? Perhaps, but here at Haute Living we do like to look on the bright side.


However even if the weather isn’t keeping you warm right now, the food and drinks on offer at the latest sunny additions to London’s restaurant scene certainly will. Make no mistake: the capital’s food scene is heating up.


The last month alone has seen four new Caribbean restaurants open their doors. First up, Rum Kitchen – which opened to critical acclaim in All Saints Road at the start of 2013 – has opened a second branch in Soho’s Kingly Court. Translation? Londoners no longer need to “go west” for high-end West Indies fare such as Chicken with rice and peas, plus Rum Punch and creamy, coconut based cocktails. From Monday-Wednesday inclusive, Rum Kitchen’s new outpost is primarily a restaurant but, from Thursday onwards it’s all about making like Ri-Ri and body bopping until 12.30am.


Meanwhile over in Covent Garden, there are two Caribbean venues to choose from. Dub Jam has only been open four short weeks but already the restaurant’s Rum Punch has earned rave reviews. Alongside Rum Punch, expect to see Red Stripe (Jamaica’s favourite beer) and jerk skewers on the colourful menu. And on New Row, Jamaican chef Collin Brown’s plump golden patties are packing in the punters at Jamaica Patty . Early standouts include the Jerk chicken and Curried goat varieties but you’ll also find island staples such as saltfish, ackee and a wickedly indulgent Tortuga rum cake at this modern W2 take away and restaurant.



But W1 and W2 aren’t the only postcodes creating a Caribbean buzz: the Jamaican influenced Boom Burger is sure to warm any west Londoner’s heart. This Portobello Road spot specialises in plantain fries, fiery jerk chicken wings and juicy burgers served with Scotch bonnet mayo – Mmmm. Boom Burger’s decor elates too, lined as it is with reggae LPs and painted in the colours of the Caribbean.


Bottom line? Now that Londoners no longer need to wait for Notting Hill Carnival to roll around to enjoy a taste of the Caribbean, we reckon that – as reggae icon, Bob Marley, once famously sang – “every little thing is gonna be alright.”

Top 5 power breakfasts in London

Remember the saying “breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, dine like a pauper”? Yep, your Mum really was right: breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Eating a good breakfast will set you up for the day ahead and stop you caving in or collapsing during that crucial meeting. Haute Living lets you in on five places to enjoy a power breakfast in London town…


Located in old Covent Garden on what was the site of the former Theatre Museum, Keith McNally’s Balthazar has created quite a buzz since it opened last summer. If you don’t fancy battling for a dinner booking, go for the seriously good breakfast: expect scrambled eggs and Cornish crab, Sweetcorn fritters and – out favourite – hazelnut waffles. Keep your eyes open as Balthazar is celeb central – Brand Beckham and Boris Becker are just a few of the stars who have been spotted spilling out of Balthazar.

The Berkeley
This much loved local icon is the first word in luxury, the last and most of those in between. In-house guests have a hard time leaving their tasteful rooms, but the top notch dining options should ensure you don’t want to stray too far from the restaurants either. The Berkeley is most famous for its stylish Pret a Portea afternoon tea but the Kofffmann’s breakfast menu is pretty fabulous too. Standouts include the toasted bagel with Loch Fyne Scottish smoked salmon and English eggy bread with cinnamon and nutmeg. Every dish is a Berkeley tribute to the best way to start the day. So, tuck yourself behind a crossword and coffee and tuck in!
The Dorchester
‘The Dorch’ – as it is affectionately known – is the Grand old dame of London hotels whose high profile past guests include Marlene Dietrich, General Dwight Eisenhower and Tom Cruise. Even if you aren’t staying here, you can still visit The Promenade – the social hub of the hotel – where you can listen to a pianist play while enjoying a brilliant eggs benedict washed down with rivers of refreshing teas.
Duck and Waffle
Duck and Waffle has been making waves in London and rightly so. Situated at the summit of Heron Tower, this is the highest restaurant in the UK so, if you suffer from acrophobia, you may want to cross D&W off your bucket list.
 However those with a head for heights can enjoy unrivalled views of The Gherkin, River Thames and St Paul’s Cathedral – plus on-trend dishes like the ‘fat boy’ toasted pbj (brioche, banana, peanut butter, strawberry jam, fried duck egg and maple-glazed bacon). Further possibilities include the Full English, Belgian waffles (go for the Nutella and 
vanilla ice cream version) and Ox cheek benedict.
 You’ll leave with a lighter wallet but a lot happier than when you arrived.

A word of warning; if you’re thinking of visiting Villandry it’s a good idea to make a reservation in advance. On our last visit, the place was as busy as a bookie’s on Grand National Day. Once seated by the legions of staff (who will cluck and fuss over you) prepare to peruse the extensive breakfast menu which encompasses croissants, continental breakfast, brioche, biercher muesli and much more besides. In our humble opinion, this is arguably the best place for breakfast in town. For exceptional food in an elegant setting (we love the high level of natural light), head here.

The rise of Regent Street

The recent arrival of the likes of Karl Lagerfeld has helped transform Regent Street from drab to fab writes Kaye Holland


Talk about rapid change. Only a couple of years ago, the elegant curbed boulevard – the brainchild of British architect John Nash – that is Regent Street , was chock full of naff  souvenir stores. Fast forward to 2014 and Regent Street – with the help of the Regent Street Association - has happily returned to its high end roots.


Stores such as Past Times have erm, passed away, and been replaced with a few of Haute Living’s favourite luxe brands: take a bow Burberry (don’t miss the quirky trench coat museum on the upper floor of the British brand’s flagship store as well as the stunning Prorsum catwalk pieces) and Longchamp. Our favourite French bag brand has opened a spacious new store on Regent Street with a special area for its modernist ready to wear collection.


But the store we have worked ourselves up into a Labrador like lather over here at Haute Living, is the new Karl Lagerfeld emporium – the luxury French brand’s most technologically advanced shop to date. The 250-sqm flagship is the biggest Karl Lagerfeld store in Europe and features ready-to-wear collections and accessories, as well as limited edition souvenirs.

Alongside Chanel’s creative director, cult US store J.Crew - loved by Michelle Obama, no less - has set up shop on Regent Street, while stylish sporty types will want to make a beeline for the new flagship store from upmarket sports brand Orvis. And that’s not all! Watches of Switzerland is opening an enormous three floor flagship store in June, joining & Other Stories - H&M’s luxe label for ladies.


All told while Bond Street need not be quaking in its well heeled boots just yet, Regent Street is certainly shaping up to be one of the hottest shopping streets in the capital.  Should the shopping excitement prove too much, our advice is to make for the £500 million Cafe Royal - where Oscar Wilde, Virginia Woolf and George Bernard Shaw once hung out – for a fortifying cocktail or two. Happy shopping!

Restaurant review: The Sign Of The Don

Should Anne Hidalgo – Paris’s new mayor – be looking for somewhere to lunch in London, Haute Living has a suggestion. Step forward: The Sign Of The Don.


Located on the site of the original Sandeman Port and Sherry Cellar in the picturesque St Swithins Lane, The Sign Of The Don is the little sister of city restaurant veteran The Don.


But while its elder sibling focuses predominantly on formal French fare, The Sign Of The Don pays homage to Spain – which should suit Spanish-born socialist, Hidalgo, to a tee.

Bistro Interior

The Sign Of The Don is the latest venture from Robyn and Robert Wilson – the husband and wife team who in addition to their St Swithins Lane eateries are behind the beloved Bleeding Heartrestaurant off Hatton Gardens, and also own Trinity Hill Wines in New Zealand. As such I arrived at The Sign Of The Don with great expectations…


First impressions were good: the gigantic subterranean basement bar/bistro certainly looks the part with its barrel stave interiors, port heritage cellars, banquettes crafted from casks and eye-catching sculptures of iron hoops made from ancient barrels.


The atmospheric interior positively prickled with an air of excitement as the attentive staff showed us to our table. The linen was crisp, the sparkling water ice cold and the cavernous restaurant smelt divine. As we sat down to be welcomed with a glass of champagne by Bence – The Sign Of The Don’s superb sommelier – we couldn’t help but feel a tad spoilt.


Once seated and sipping our champers, we browsed The Sign Of The Don’s small but perfectly formed a la carte menu. I opted to start with the Smoked beetroot, pickled shallots and goats curd salad while my dining companion kicked off our feast – and it was a feast – with a green pea soup. Both dishes elated being delicate, refined and uncluttered.

Bistro Interior 2

Would our mains be able to live up to the high standard that our starters had set? Happily the answer was yes. The Grilled breast of chicken with Lemon, thyme and garlic olive oil mash was satisfyingly filling and a carnivore’s delight, while my Asparagus and pecorino ravioli with Datterini tomatoes and rocket came with a bold whack of flavour. And desserts were similarly note perfect.


The home made Raspberry sundae had my partner purring with pleasure and I had no complaints about the Crème Catalan which provided a fitting finale and showcased what The Sign Of The Don’s kitchen can do.


Another special feature is the wine list – there’s plenty (given The Sign Of The Don’s Trinity Hill connection) to lure in the oenophiles. But if you’re not a wine connoisseur, worry not: the charming sommelier, Bence, is usually on tap to help you navigate the list and match a wine to each and every course of your meal.


And patrons who prefer beer, spirits or cocktails (the fun sounding The Don’s Martini caught our eye) won’t be disappointed either.


Service, under the guidance of manager Eric, was seamless and charming and prices – given that St Swithins Lane, within stumbling distance of Bank station, is a destination of choice for bankers – pleasingly below the stratosphere.



All told The Sign Of The Don is too good to leave to the suits. If Bojo needs somewhere to take his Paris counterpart in the coming months, he should head here. As an atmospheric alternative to the Square Mile’s stuffy restaurants, The Sign Of The Don is a star.


The Sign Of The Don is located at The Courtyard, 21 St Swithins Lane, City of London, EC4. To make a booking click here

Shop talk: leading British milliner, Rosie Olivia


Milliner, Rosie Olivia, is turning heads in the capital and can count Pippa Middleton, the Made in Chelsea cast and members of the Royal family as fans. Haute Living caught up with Rosie who – despite her rocketing profile and A list fans  - has refused to let fame and success go to her head  

Rosie Olivia Millinery a picture of Rosie_0

Tell us a little bit about Rosie Olivia Millinery…
My journey as a milliner began four years ago. I completed my Decorative Arts Degree at Nottingham Trent University and threw my self straight in to the deep end working at Philip Treacy, Stephen Jones and Victoria Grant. I learnt the millinery works throughout my time working for other creatives and saw how millinery companies are run. I have always loved hats, intrigued as to how simply a hat can change a whole outfit. It’s a great accessory and when one is put on your head it just give you confidence and makes you feel great, so after this experience I decided to set up my own brand Rosie Olivia Millinery.


Oslo 1
The Oslo

I produce two seasons a year: spring-summer and autumn-winter. Fenwicks of Bond Street have been stocking the hats for four seasons running now and hopefully this will continue and eventually I will gain more stockist’s to add to my other five.


Why do you think that Londoners love Rosie Olivia Millinery?
I have clients who really love the fact that my hats are hand made in London and  the UK from start to finish. They and I think its important to have a home grown brand.

Can you tell when a hat is going to sell well?
Before beginning the design of each new collection, I take the bi-annual creative task on with a strong head and I admits it’s slightly daunting. I always feel like the task ahead is scary; that I have to make the collection better than the previous one!  But variety is the spice of life. I’ll start sketches and sampling, be fun and creative and then somehow it begins to fall in to place and then something new is born – like my SS14 collection!

Speaking of which, what do you love most from your Spring-Summer 2014 collection?
My favourite hat from SS14 has to be the Alpha. It’s colourful, fun and eccentric.

The Alpha

What do you like about Londoners’ style?
I love that in London anything goes. You don’t have to be going to the races or to a wedding, to wear a hat. I wear a different hat every day. I want to see millinery and peoples approach to millinery change. I want to see people wearing more hats casually. I feel that a lot of people will only wear a hat to a special occasion but actually it is just an accessory which can be used throughout the year.

Were you always so sure about your sense of style? I think so. My signature style is a joyful aesthetic in the form of delicate trimmings and unusual fabrics while still remaining fashion relevant by adjusting the designs to the colours of the season.

Rosie Olivia Millinery has some famous fans…
Yes. Princess Beatrice and  Pippa Middleton are two of my most well known clients. I am still waiting for Kate Middleton to make that order!

Royal attends Christmas Day church service
Princess Beatrice is a big fan of Rosie’s creations

What’s next for Rosie Olivia Millinery?
The next step for the Rosie Olivia Brand is to open a new showroom in London for buyers, press and private clients, bringing together Rosie Olivia in one new space. (Fingers crossed it will be open May 2014 just in time for the racing and wedding season).

Lastly when you’re not busy with Rosie Olivia Millinery, how do you like to relax?
I am always on the go. Rosie Olivia is a one man band so it’s always manic: there are always hats to make, appointments to schedule and events to attend. I have to be out of the studio and have a glass of vino in one had to switch off!

Delta 1
The Delta

Thanks Rosie! To view and purchase Rosie’s hats please visit www.rosieolivia.com

Why WOULDN’T you want to live in London?

Londoners think it would be better to grow up outside the capital. Not so, says Kaye Holland


Word has reached me that more than half of Londoners think it would be better to grow up outside the capital.


Yes you read right: 52 percent of those surveyed by YouGov last month said they would choose to spend their childhood years elsewhere in the UK. Meanwhile 43 per cent of people polled, revealed they believe London to be a bad place to bring up children.


Words fail me. Well not quite but seriously: as someone who grew up in suburbia and spent every single waking minute of my childhood and teenage years wishing I lived in lively London rather than the boring ‘burbs, I’m at a total loss when it comes to understanding these ‘findings’.


I’m not only astounded – why wouldn’t you want to grow up in London with its bright lights, black cabs, brilliant (family friendly) restaurants, parks, carnivals, museums, theatres and art galleries – I’m mad. If you don’t want to live in London, then shoo! Skedaddle. S*d off. London – owing to its housing crisis – doesn’t need you, so get out of here!


I’m sorry if I sound harsh but, for me, the moans about how it would be better to bring up kids in say Leeds or Liverpool are hard to accept, because most Londoners are perfectly free to relocate if they really, really want to. And there are plenty of immigrants who would kill to take their place and put down roots in the capital.


The YouGov poll seems to suggest that slagging the city has become an acceptable blood sport. Yet why is it so fashionable to slight growing up in the capital but blindly champion childhood in every other city?


And it’s not even accurate! Is it really better for kids to grow up in a large house with a garage and garden which you own, rather than rent a postage sized apartment in London? The answer – it’s not a trick question – is no. Out in the sticks you need a big house because there’s not a lot going on to keep the kids entertained and amused. Whereas in London, your ankle biters have everything they could possibly want in terms of activity and accessibility so why – when you’re out and about living life – would you want anything other than a modest, manageable property?


Surely it speaks volumes when the North’s most famous sons and daughters choose to get the hell out of their childhood homes the minute they a) reach adulthood and have a say in such situations or b) hit the big time. Liverpool’s Cilla Black lives in Belgravia while the Gallagher’s are in Primrose Hill and Cheryl Cole swapped her native Newcastle for London at the first opportunity.


Besides the Metro Centre, a desperate retail wasteland complete with a 19 screen multiplex, what else is there to do with the kids during the Easter hols in Newcastle? Manchester – the official suicide capital of Great Britain– might have Selfridges, but shops alone (of which London has a bigger, better selection including the wonderful Hamleys toy store) a won’t put a smile on children’s faces during the long summer holidays.


Then there are those who lament London’s lack of green space but people, please! Open your eyes! Over 30 per cent of the capital is given over to green space meaning regardless of whether you live in Shebu or Shoreditch, a park or garden is within easy reach.
It’s easy to gripe (and most of us, myself included, have at some time or other) about living in London, because it’s the lazy option. But as with so many situations, the solution is simple. Either accept that the negatives (i.e. expense) is is a small price to pay for the opportunity to raise a family in this magical, multi cultural melting pot or leave: trains and planes depart from the capital every few minutes. But do stop moaning…

Blonde ambition

Blonde is best but finding a flattering hue can be a bit of a struggle. Kaye Holland heads to ColourNation to achieve this season’s hottest shade

I’ve been a blonde ever since my mother frog-marched me to the nearest hairdresser nearly 15 years ago, after a teenaged disaster with Sun-In – the spray hair lightener that turned my hair a spectacularly unflattering shade of orangey-yellow (not quite the sun kissed tresses I had been hoping for).

The hairdresser in my home town succeeded where Sun-In failed: transforming me from a mousey brown into a blonde (albeit a heavily assisted one) bombshell. It wasn’t a pain free process (in those days, highlights were administered via an agonising cap), but the results – a head of shiny, golden locks – were worth every minute in bleach.

I was hooked and subsequently I’ve been schlepping to a salon every six weeks for a peroxide fix, with almost religious devotion.

And then a year ago, my hairdresser – how inconsiderate! – emigrated to Australia leaving me bereft (I’d had a longer relationship with my former hairdresser than I have with any house or man and totally trusted her to alter my physical appearance).

I’ve spent the past year trying out new hairdressers from Shoreditch to Shebu, with disastrous consequences. Not only did I feel – as illogical as this sounds – as though I was cheating on my old hairdresser, but my exhaustive search has seen my locks alternatate between being too brassy, too white and too yellow. Little wonder then that, 12 months down the line, my tresses had acquired texture of straw.

I hadn’t, of course, deliberately set out to get this hair but finding a fabulous hairdresser – the kind you can confide in and who will achieve the right shade of blonde – in the capital isn’t easy, as any woman will tell you.

A quick survey of Topshop’s mega Oxford Circus flagship store one recent Saturday morning revealed I am not the only blonde who had hit a highlights wall. I saw many varieties of blondes: the hard blonde (think jet black eyebrows and jet black roots),  a group of 50 year olds who resembled the Duchess of Cornwall with a solid wall of  corn yellow colour, wannabe models with their arctic blonde hair and a gaggle of teenage girls with their identikit three shades of highlights but not one of looked like they had been a natural blonde – the ideal that every artificial blonde save Hugh Hefner’s playboy bunnies is striving for – since kindergarten.

In despair, it dawned on me that maybe I should ditch the blonde and cross to the dark side. And then – praise be – the hairdressing deities intervened! Upon leaving Topshop I happened across ColourNation – a stylish salon on Winsley Street (just a stone’s throw from Toppers) that, as its name suggests, specialises in hair colour.


I followed my hairdressing heart and pushed through the doors to be greeted by ColourNation’s charming manager Andrew and senior stylist Andrzej Gruszeczka. And after a colour consultation with the fabulously friendly Andrzej, I knew that he was my mane (pardon the pun) man. Watching Andrzej assess my hair, I felt that I could rely on his personality judgments – he was quick to realise what was ‘me’.

And so I settled into a swivel chair at ColourNation’s enviably central salon, armed with a magazine and cup of coffee and let Andrzej work his magic. In order to achieve the perfect shade of age appropriate blonde (a softer shade that’s more flattering to the skin tone of a woman out of her twenties), Andrzej suggested that while foil would be fine for the front half of my head, we should ‘balayage’ the back.


Come again? Balayage, Andrzej explained, is a French colouring technique that involves painting the hair by hand rather than traditional foiling to create “a creamy, sun kissed effect” as opposed to a stripey one. It is, if you like, a customisable dose of colour.

Balayage – from the French word ‘to sweep’ – has been around since the 70s but it’s all the rage right now thanks to the A-list likes Kate Moss, Sienna Miller, Rosie H-W, the Duchess of Cambridge and Adele. Well if it’s good enough for K-Middy and co…

colour nation

After Andrzej had corrected my colour, he turned his attention to my cut. He advised me to grow the back, where the layers are ridiculously short, so as to give the cut more shape and style, before taking the front section shorter, evening out the sides and giving me a soft, side swept fringe – a la actress Michelle Williams – as opposed to the blunt cut bangs I have always sported. (“You’re too hidden behind your hair!” Andrzej exclaimed more than once during our session.)

Three hours later I looked up, into the mirror and broke into a big smile. Andrzej had achieved what I had begin to fear was impossible: a glossy Grace Kelly shade of blonde and a modern yet classic hair cut.

Kaye’s new hair

I had barely left the salon before I was stopped and asked where I’d had my hair done confirming that I stood out from the crowd for all the right reasons. And later that night, out for a friend’s birthday, another couple of truths were confirmed: true blondes definitely have more fun and gentlemen prefer them.

Sure being blonde is a big commitment. Make no mistake -  it can be both time consuming and costly. But, despite the maintenance and money involved, I’ll be back in the salon chair at ColourNation next month for as L’Oreal would say: “You’re worth it.”

To book an appointment with Andrzej at ColourNation, click here


The ace hotel

East or West? Here at Haute Living we fall firmly in the latter category having always preferred Shepherds Bush to Shoreditch. Sure east London is edgy and trendy but often – in our humble opinion – painfully so.

But there is at least one E1 venue that’s worth crossing town for. Enter Ace – one of the hottest hotel launches that London has seen of late.

It was in Palm Springs that I first became acquainted with the Ace brand and quickly fell in love with the boutique chain’s understated glamour. Hanging out by the cool pool (a hot spot for celebrities to party, post Coachella) drinking margaritas from glasses the size of goldfish bowls against a backdrop of the stunning San Jacinto and Santa Rosa mountains, was a real ‘pinch me’ moment for a girl from Watford.

Ace has properties all across America (Palm Springs, Portland, Seattle, New York and Ore) plus one in Panama but  Ace Shoreditch is the brand’s first foray this side of the Atlantic.

Ace Hotel London - Lobby Bar (1)

If you’re already a fan of Ace, chances are you’ll love the new London outpost which, like its siblings, is sensitive to its location. Thus in Shoreditch – an area famed for street artists such as Banksy, Eine, Kid Acne and Conor Harrington – you’ll find a a black and white photo booth, bicycles and lithe, lean twenty- somethings in skinny jeans tapping away in their MacBooks in the low lit lobby.

The 258 rooms too are fashionable yet friendly: expect Brockway carpets, Ally Capellino leather change trays and reva turntables that are a world away from the rooms at the Crowne Plaza (Ace’s fusty predecessor). It would easy to be spend all of your time holed up here admiring the little details (think LPs and sketch pads in case you feel the need to get creative), that the late Alex Calderwood – Ace’s founder who tragically was found dead in one of the rooms, last November – clearly enjoyed curating. But don’t.

Not when there’s wall art to be admired all round the hotel and Hoi Polloi to head to when hunger pangs kick in. Run by Pablo Flack and David Waddington, Hoi Polloi is the hotel’s all day brasserie and bar. Slide into a well upholstered booth and prepare to peruse the newsprint style menu which, as well as food, also focuses on the characters, happenings and threads of cultural conversation in the neighbourhood.

Ace Hotel London - Lobby Bar

For post dinner drinks, look to the lobby bar. Here you can sip on striking cocktails (Haute Living loves the Bijou Basket – Sipsmith sloe, ginger wide, rhubarb bitters, £9 – and the Meshignener Palone – Absolut, almond & vanilla jam, pomegranate, also £9 – ) while watching guest DJs spin cool beats.

A juice bar, Square Mile Coffee Roasters and, our favourite, a florist shop – operated by local florist, Hattie Fox – complete the Ace London line up and help create the effect of a property that positively pulsates with life.

All told there’s a strong sense of character at Ace London and, while it won’t be to all tastes, Haute Living loves it – despite its east London locale.

The other side of Cancun

Kaye Holland discovers that there’s more to Cancun – the Mother of all Mexican resorts – than first meets the eye

It’s hard to believe that just four decades ago,  Cancun - on the thinly populated south east coast of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula – was little more than a sand barrier and jungle.











Fast forward 40 years and Cancun – much like Las Vegas and Dubai – has risen out of the sands to become a mega resort whose white sands, high rise hotels, salubrious shopping malls and super clubs attracts more than four million visitors a year.


The Four Tops might have sung about going loco down in Acapulco back in 1988 but today it’s Cancun where the party people come in their droves to drink and dance Ibiza style at clubs like the legendary Coco Bongos.


Culture snobs may sniff but Coco Bongos (which can accommodate 1800 revellers) is a fun-fest alright – expect DJ booths, a glitter balled dance floor, hormones and hedonism.


But contrary to public perception, Cancun isn’t all about party nights and sleeping late. If, like me, you’re after a tamer time you could head out to Isla Mujeres  or to Ciudad Cancun aka Downtown.


The downtown area (which is on the mainland whereas the Hotel Zone is on a sandy spit of an island) couldn’t be more different from the Zona Hotelera if it tried.


It’s not particularly pretty (you won’t find too many tourist brochures urging you to head here) but what downtown does have is lots of local character making it great for those tired of tourists, tourist menus and inevitable tourist price hikes.


Travelling here (you’ll need an afternoon to get there and do it justice) from the Hotel Zone by bus feels like a bit of an adventure – albeit a vanilla one. To get the inside story on Downtown Cancun, check out Avenida Tulum – the main (and most interesting) road. It’s short on standalone attractions but high on atmosphere.



A couple of places worth knowing about… Mercado 23 is a good place to pick up authentic souvenirs (happily you won’t find any corny T-shirts proclaiming ‘I heart Cancun’ here) as well as inexpensive clothes (a girl can never have too many bikinis) and food items. Next throw yourself into a feast of local cuisine at the all-night food market – home to some of best taquerias (taco stalls) in town. But if you’re the type who needs a table cloth and cutlery with your evening meal, Perico’s is the place for you. In fact every diary should have a window for dinner at this long running restaurant where family recipes are served with a show consisting of comedy skits, live marimba and, on my visit at least, a lively conga line. Before leaving downtown (although there are some charming small hotels such as Hotel El Rey del Caribe should you decide to stay), enjoy a drink at one of the (very local) bars that dot the periphery of Plaza de Toris.


Essentially Ciudad Cancun is no landmark holiday destination but if you need a break from the jet skis, sunburned crowds, banana boats and babble of the Hotel Zone, Downtown delivers.



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