This Is Not A Swansong: Former Handbooker Emily Heads Into The Sunset

By a woman smiling holding a drink in black and white Emily Gray |
21st May 2019

‘But at the laste, as every thing hath ende, She took hir leve’: Geoffrey Chaucer

Fact fans, it’s Chaucer who’s thought to have been the source of  the phrase ‘all good things must come to an end’ in his epic poem of Troilus and Criseyde. Just as the poem tells the story of lovers (albeit tragic, ill-fated lovers), I have been writing my own love story over the past six and a bit years. It’s a tale of food, hotels, restaurants and the best capital city in the world, London.

And like any classic love affair, before the happy-ever-after, there comes the (supposedly) inevitable seven-year itch, when all good things must come to an end. Which is why, as you read this, I will be somewhere above the Atlantic Ocean, several G&Ts down, fleeing both The Handbook and London. Just as you reminisce over exes (especially when several G&Ts down) here is my final trip down memory lane, looking back at the best places I was lucky enough to visit during my half dozen years at The Handbook…

Tea In The Sky

Tea In The Sky

I’m going out on a limb here and moving away from the obvious Millennial answer of brunch being my favourite meal and saying that mine, actually, is afternoon tea. And luckily London has a multitude of afternoon teas; another week another afternoon tea seems to be the trend. One of my all-time-faves, though, has to be the Shangri-La Hotel, at The Shard, London’s Royal High Tea (high, geddit?), is a celebration of the new royal baby and motherhood in general. For starters there are the unrivalled views, London a toy town sprawls beneath you, then you have the service which was second to none, and finally there’s the tea itself. Fluffy scones piled high with cream and jam, endless rounds of sandwiches and cakes inspired by the women who have moulded the chefs’ love of food.

Website: Read All About It Here

Attempting to Ski in Megeve

Attempting to Ski in Megeve

There seem to be two types of people, those who ski and those who don’t, and with our family holidays always spent in Cornwall I was definitely in the latter camp. That was until I was invited to the chocolate box village of Megeve, an hour from Geneva. A private instructor was there ready to have me flying down the slopes in no time. Or at least that was the plan. Can I ski now? Well, no not really although I have mastered the snow plough and I didn’t end up in a pile, legs akimbo amidst a group of snowboarders, which was a genuine concern. When I wasn’t trying to prevent myself from breaking bones, we were out-and-about exploring everything Megeve had to offer.

I boarded a propeller plane and rattled around the tops of the mountain, ate my weight in fondue and at a spa I didn’t try and fight the current as you’re suppose to in the pool (it makes you fitter) but lazily let it whirl me around, much more fun. Am I in the skiers camp? No. Am I in the camp of those who would return to Megeve instantly, yes! I just need to get my salopettes.

Website: Read All About It Here

Releasing My Inner Glutton at The Ned

Releasing My Inner Glutton at The Ned

I’ve spent many an enjoyable evening at The Ned, I’ve been on dates there, I’ve hosted meetings, been taken for breakfast, sung carols with Gareth Malone, had cocktails on the roof, I’ve received the happiest of news there and also some of the saddest. One of my favourite times though must have been the launch of Kaia’s unlimited sushi brunch. A chance to show off my eating skills, something I am both proud of and disgusted by.

This really is the brunch for gluttons, get your fix of sushi, tempura corn, noodles, rice, pork belly, bao buns, poké and then… the puddings. Oh it was heavenly, I often think about that brunch and when I return from my travels, I’ll take on the Ned’s Sunday feast first.

Website: Read All About It Here

Joining The Cotswold Set at The Lygon Arms

Joining The Cotswold Set at The Lygon Arms

While the sitcom, This Country, might be a more accurate depiction of what it is like to grow up in the Cotswolds, there really are some places that do match up to the picture postcard villages expectation, what with the winding lanes and sand-coloured stone, and one of those places is Broadway, home to The Lygon Arms. Escaping London for a bit (we were on a break!), I headed to the historic, cosy hotel for a quintessential English autumnal weekend revolving around plenty of fresh air, lying in the hot tub until I resembled a prune and joining the fashionable Cotswolds set for a veritable feast in their restaurant. I did not show up in that car, by the way.

Website: Read All About It Here

Sunday Lunch at Kettner's Townhouse

Sunday Lunch at Kettner's Townhouse

Soho House makes a second appearance in this guide, this time in the form of Kettner’s Townhouse. After remaining open for 149 years, the restaurant closed back in 2016, reopening last year I was there ready and waiting. As soon as we walked in, we were wrapped up in a chintzy, charming embrace of Champagne, style and English eccentricity. On a cold late Winter day we hunkered down for a boozy Sunday lunch, I found something to rival Adam Handling’s cheese doughnuts – Gruyere gougeres and had a salmon en croute, so good that I would happily forgo any future Sunday roast if I could eat it again.

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Visiting Bath's Best Hotel

Visiting Bath's Best Hotel

Staying at The Royal Crescent Hotel & Spa in Bath was on both mine and my colleague’s bucket list. Guess who has now crossed it off their bucket list? That would be me [breaking whatever the magazine version of a 4th wall is, note that your colleague is editing this piece, Emily. Enviously]. Swapping the Georgian buildings of Regent Street for the Georgian city of Bath, I headed straight for an iconic spot, the impressive Royal Crescent and to the city’s most spectacular hotel. My home for the weekend was The Duke of York suite, a huge, grand room with ornate details marrying regency grandeur with modern touches like underfloor heating and Nespresso machines. Beds were so big that I couldn’t reach from side to side lying down and waking up to views of the city below couldn’t be beaten. Of course, I played this all down when I went back to the office… hardly, I gloated with pure delight to my colleague [ahem, still here].

Website: Read All About It Here

The Hotel That Inspired Agatha Christie

The Hotel That Inspired Agatha Christie

As an Agatha Christie aficionado, Flemings Mayfair would, of course, have to appear in this list, the hotel is  said to have inspired the fictional Betram’s Hotel, the setting for one of Christie’s novels. Despite the bed not being that comfortable, something you would have thought would have been essential for a good review, the style, service and dinner at Shaun Rankin’s Ormer more than made up for this. We also had a night cap at the sumptuous Manetta’s bar and a tot of whisky will always help you sleep that little bit more easily.

Website: Read All About It Here

I Take On Florida's Paradise Beaches

I Take On Florida's Paradise Beaches

At the start of this year I took it upon myself to take on the arduous task of travelling to Fort Myers and Sanibel in Florida (aka a little slice of American paradise) for some January sun. Unfortunately all the alligators seemed to be on their own holiday when I pitched up and I didn’t see a single scale, but I did see pelicans by the bucket load, manatees, a bald eagle and dolphins, so I can’t complain. Fort Myers and Sanibel proves there is much more to Florida than theme parks, with huge areas dedicated to preserving nature and its beautiful mangrove trees. We ate our fair share of unhealthy food, kayaked at sunset and rolled out of beds each morning onto gloriously white sandy beaches.

Website: Read All About It Here

Fred From First Dates

Fred From First Dates

The Queen might never be going to Galvin at Windows (apparently she won’t ever enter London Hilton on Park Lane) but I certainly will be. The Michelin-starred restaurant perched at the top of the London skyscraper not only serves up glorious views of Hyde Park, Green Park and Knightsbridge, but it also now serves brunch and it’s excellent. We arrived and were treated to super-slick service, met the general manager who happens to be Fred Sirieix, the maître d’ of First Dates, and wrote our postcards home. Quite literally, you’ll be given a postcard and the team will post it anywhere in the world for free. And let’s not forget the food, from the first plump Spanish olive with a chilled glass of Champagne to the last mouth of the decadent chocolate fondant, the brunch was spot on.

Website: Read All About It Here

Proving The Naysayers Wrong in Mauritius

Proving The Naysayers Wrong in Mauritius

Proving to the doubters that you needn’t be one half of a smug loved up couple to visit the paradise that is Mauritius, I headed for the island earlier this year. What I found wasn’t an island where I couldn’t find space to sit my single self down in amongst all the canoodling but, instead, a melting pot of different cultures living harmoniously together on a volcanic island where lush, green tea plantations are flanked by white, sandy beaches and curries are consumed with copious of amounts of vanilla tea. Luxury, stunning scenery and locals who are both hospitable and natural comedians make up this wonderful, warm, friendly island.

Website: Read All About It Here

The last six and a bit years have been a whirlwind, quite how I have it to here all in one piece, without doubling my body weight is beyond me and whilst I may be on a new adventure now, don’t be surprised if I pop up again from time to time to let you know where you should be eating stateside.

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