Monday, 12 January 2009

View Through a Glass Bathroom

Look closely at the image above. Yes, its a hotel bedroom. The Continental Forum Hotel in Sibiu, a beautiful medieval city in Transylvania, where we stayed for two nights in September 2008 as part of our Tour of Romania. 

See that glass apparition  on the right? That is the glass bathroom.   Can you see the lavatory on the left? Sort of hanging with no visible means of support.

This was our third hotel as we travelled through Romania, Transylvania and Moldavia. The previous hotels had been Stalinist Soviet Cement Blocks, Romantic Castles once belonging to Aristocratic Romanian Gentry and a converted post office in Bucharest. Quite a variety, all charming and comfortable, but we were looking forward to a couple of nights in a prestigious modern hotel for the contrast. 

First impressions as we entered our room were great. The room was large, clean and very comfortable looking with good lighting and mirrors everywhere - and then we saw the bathroom. The bathroom was made of glass. Some of the glass walls were slightly frosted, but not all of them. What were the architects thinking of?

We were a group of sixteen. When we met the others in the hotel lobby bar before dinner the main topic of chat was The Glass Bathroom. The two elderly gays who'd been a couple since the 1960s were distressed at the lack of privacy. Two blokey mates said they thought they knew everything about each other until then. The couple who'd been married for forty years didn't like the concept even after all thsoe years of sharing.

One man travelling on his own had his glass bathroom situated in the centre of his single room and because of all the walled mirrors  could see himself from all angles as he sat there and was grateful for travelling alone.

Modesty and Morty aren't usually words used in the same sentence but that night after dinner as he ventured into the Glass Lavvy even he said 'Don't look!'

I tried not to look but wherever I settled my eyes there were mirror images all reflecting images of personal ablutions. I hated it. I imagined this being our first travelling experience together; charged with the secrecy and excitement of getting to know each other intimately. No chance of that in a Glass Bathroom. There were no secrets.

Friday, 9 January 2009

Nothing To Do With George

I'll drink cheap wine all the time. Although I would prefer to drink expensive wine all the time. But I won't drink cheap coffee. Maybe because after the first couple of glasses of cheap wine I don't notice the taste? But cheap coffee tastes nasty down to the last drop doesn't it?

I have a graveyard of coffee machines and coffee makers. Even the stainless steel cafetiere let me down. Took ages to push the plunger down and more than once hot coffee shot out and burnt my hand. My Bialletti Stove Top Espresso was great to start but eventually made coffee that tasted like mud. Plus it wouldn't unscrew for pouring without a struggle and I've burnt worktops with the scalding base -perhaps after drinking cheap wine.

Filter coffee makers are full of promise but who wants stewed coffee kept warm on a hotplate? Percolated coffee is grim. And all of them leave me with used ground coffee to get rid of. I don't have a compost heap so they had to go down the kitchen sink. Not keen on all that.

We were waiting for  our car to be serviced at a main dealer and had a complimentary coffee from their self service coffee machine. I expected it to be ghastly. They usually are from machines. It was wonderful. It was a Nespresso. I watched one of the staff open the top of the machine and fill it with what I thought were individual milk capsules. No, they were Nespresso coffee pods. Just like George advertises. So we bought a Nespresso and the coffee is divine.

As well as the neat and funky coffee maker, included in the price was a Nespresso Aeroccino, a stainless steel cordless jug for heating and frothing milk for Latte and Cappuccino. 

I won't go into detail about how it works but for 25p a coffee pod I can now have the perfect cup of coffee at home. There's no mess. The coffee is as good as any I've paid three pounds for in Speciality High Street Coffee Houses. 
The coffee pods are only available at the moment from the Nespresso website  

I ordered fifty pods and they arrived two days later. There's a fine variety of coffees to choose from. If we are supposed to be staying At Home during The Recession then cheap wine and good coffee makes it a lot more inviting.

But that's daft. We're both old enough to have lived through Recessions in the 70s, 80s, 90s and done our share of staying in and economising. In the 1970s I even stopped ladders in my tights with clear nail polish so I look presentable for work. I've cooked enough Scrag End of Lamb Stews. Made a chicken last a whole week. Roasted- cold cuts-a pie-then boiled the carcass and made soup. Stripped the bones for a chicken curry. Saved sixpences in a Dimple Whiskey Bottle until there was enough in it for a night out. Worn cardigans and thick socks to bed to keep warm and save on heating bills. Survived power cuts, three day weeks, 19% interest, soaring inflation, raging Bank Managers without pausing for breath. 

So no saving money here. What for? We must spend it and support local high street shops, buy tickets for local entertainment venues. Do Pub Quizzes and buy a few pints and drink expensive (cheap wine) wine that costs as much for a glass as a Supermarket bottle. Shop online for Nespresso Coffee Pods. 

Here's to cheap wine, excellent coffee and no Scrag End of Lamb.


Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Jamie's Italian

The streets of Bath were deserted on Sunday evening. We strolled from our hotel in Queen Street, the beautiful Haringtons Hotel, into Milsom Place for a meal at Jamie's Italian.

And we hit a queue! We joined it. This queue was for a table at Jamie's Italian on a freezing cold night. Jamie's Italian can seat over two hundred people - and there was a queue. Could the hype be true?

In seconds a staff member came outside and took names, number of expectant diners and told us it would be ten minutes before there would be a table free in the bar and a further forty minutes before we could expect to be shown to a table. Normally we'd walk away from a situation like this. There are hundreds of restaurants in Bath. But we stayed.

Within ten minutes we were sitting in the bar area with drinks. I was in awe of the place. The decor, ambience and buzz were overwhelming. I felt as if we'd walked off the street onto another planet. One sip of our drinks and on the move again to our table passing cooking areas, hanging hams, cheeses and what seemed to be hundreds of chefs, waiting staff and other diners. Electrifying.

Menus were instant (have a look and be impressed) So were the carafes of wine. The menu was laid out in such a way it was very easy to order. So we started with bread, olives and salted roasted almonds while we chose our main courses, bypassing the Antipasta courses.
Above is my main course of lamb with mint pesto. It was the most delicious lamb I have ever eaten in my whole life. The first picture is of crispy polento chips. Historic. In the picture are chick peas.
Above are just some of the in-house breads.

There are the olives on ice cubes with music bread - more like matzas - and the almonds. Tap water on the table without having to ask. Every mouthful was memorable. The prices are Cheap. Service is Perfect. The decor and lighting is like something from a film set.

Go. Go to Bath. Stay at Haringtons. Walk round the corner to Jamie's and wish you had one in your town. I wish restuaraters in my town paid a visit to Jamie's to see how it can be done and came back to give us the benefit of their experience. It's all so simple really.

And it isn't a hype - it's all true.