I spy with my little eye... the Banyan Tree escape.

Those following me on Instagram already know that I recently spent a long week-end at Banyan Tree Al Wadi in Ras El Khaima, a much needed staycation!

As much as I love Dubai, I was very happy to get some time off the city: when you keep waking up at 5am on a week-end, you know it's time to turn off your phone (and your brain). After 1h30 of driving, we safely arrived in an oasis of calm: Banyan Tree Al Wadi is pretty much in the middle of the desert so all you actually hear is the peaceful spa-ish music they play in the reception, nice change from Dubai's constant traffic and building humming. It instantly relaxed me. The villa wasn't ready since we arrived early but they speeded the process and by the time we finished lunch, we were able to get our key.

Our villa was lovely, lots of space, beautiful bathroom and pool. Just avoid the canon ball: the private pool is so close to the villa we flodded it... good times! I appreciated the shaded terrace, perfect for blogging and skyping with the family and we found ourselves very lucky to have quiet neighbours (the villas are very close to one another so noisy children in the neighbours pool could have easily killed the romance... Please note, I love children, but I love them better if they are well-behaved). I want to thank Banyan Tree for the free and really good wifi, that was a real treat!  The villa was so comfortable we actually didn't leave it during our stay, and waking up from a nap to find a desert gazelle watching us was definitively a highlight. 
I have to be honest here: the resort is aging and it feels like the villas could use a quick refurbishment: the cracked toilet seat definitively took me by surprise, so did the hanging plug in the bathroom and I wasn't expecting to have to have to call housekeeping because the toilet wouldn't flush anymore... These little details would need a little bit of work for sure but the service was so quick, efficient and smiley it's difficult to be harsh.

Now foodwise, I can't say that I was blown away. The resort offers 2 restaurants. I can't say anything about them since we didn't visit them and had all our meals at the villa but as much as I enjoyed the efficiency of the service, the cuisine was pretty random. The huge breakfast will definitively stay my favourite: we couldn't fit everything on the table!

All in all, if what you need is an escape from Dubai, then it is perfect. It is an oasis of calm and peace (well, if your neighbours are the quiet type), but if you are looking for a 5 stars hotel on top of it's game with an amazing gastronomy, you might want to rethink your choice (and get back to the basics: if you expect oysters in the desert, you might get disappointed, common sense).  Banyan Tree is a nice desert escape, nothing more, nothing less.

More information here.

I spy with my little eye... Time Out Style.

Guess who's in Time Out Style this month?
To read the interview, click here.

I spy with my little eye... Vintage in Dubai.

The day D. told me about that friend of hers who was organising a vintage sale in Dubai, I couldn't decide whether to get excited or be sceptical, I was pretty doubtful. I'm usually an optimistic person but in Dubai people use the term "vintage" for everything so I've learned my lesson. The poor R. who organised the event had a tough crowd to convince, and she did change my mind.

She bought a selection of pure vintage 1950-1980's in Paris from 3 different suppliers in Paris, one of them sourcing in Paris, the other one in London and the third one in the US so she was able to offer a wide selection of styles (this 80's sweater isn't for me but I like the style, very Baby in Dirty Dancing). 
I fell for the jacket below but it was too big for me. I love the silk print work, very elegant and androgynous, perfect with black pants, heels and red lipstick (obviously).

Last but not least, the prices were right, and for that, R. has all of my respect. It is rare (if not impossible) to find a proper and affordable vintage in the golden city so I am more than looking forward to her next "Vintage Market" and I will definitively keep you posted. For vintage lovers, R. is a little gem, just like Lynda Kirby and her personal vintage collection (remember this post?).

In vintage we trust.

I spy with my little eye... Glam it up!

HOB teamed up with Glambox to offer one of you a 6 months free subscription: the lastest cosmetics trends delivered right to your door! Skincare, haircare, make-up and fragrance, they cover it all, and I have to say I've had a lot of fun opening mine: it's Christmas every month! My favourite products from the April box were these two Caudalie samples. I sometimes miss French niche cosmetic brands so hands cream and day cream based on grape extracts: vine, organic, French and effective, what's not yo love? Thank you Glambox for bringing a little bot of France to my beauty routine!

To win a free 6 months Glambox subscription, leave your name and email address in the comments, whether on this post or on HOB Facebook page, an innocent hand will choose a winner on Wednesday 24th April. Good luck!

EDIT: Congratulations to  Zainub Naeem for winning!

I spy with my little eye... Toko.

Two weeks ago, the Gentleman and I decided to pick a new restaurant to try, and we went for Toko. It took a while to find it since we parked the car at Vida, as indicated on the website, crucial error since the restaurant is not part of the hotel, and it is actually located on Mohammed Bin Rashid boulevard, next to La Serre. After a little tour of Vida's corridors and stairs, we found Toko. The interior design is very simple and uncluttered, which I loved.

We sat in the lounge, just because it was a weekday and we wanted to keep it simple. When I asked for a very dry wine, the sommelier had a look at the drinks menu and decided to offer us a wine that wasn't available by the glass. I really appreciated the gesture and the effort. They definitively went that extra mile that makes the difference. And by the way, the wine was fantastic, just what I wanted.
Now foodwise, the cheerful Serge suggested a few specialities of the house. I loved the fact that he had tried them and could properly talk about them, that makes a big difference in terms of advice. Toko is mainly japanese fusion cuisine so I was looking forward to trying something new and boy I wasn't disappointed!

The king fish carpaccio was a gustative explosion, so fresh! The crispy rice tuna tartare and truffle was very powerful, I loved it. And the best surprise was the braised waguy short rib that was so soft you can actually eat it without cutlery. Amazing cuisine.

My only disappointments were the miso, too cooked for me, I didn't see the point, and, unfortunately, the cocktails: neither the martini, old fashioned or bloody mary were memorable. That being said, we went back twice within 2 weeks and the service was equally good each time. I would definitively recommend it, just stick to the wine list. I loved the music selection and the fact that you can actually hear each other whether sitting in the lounge, the restaurant or the garden. If you ever go, ask for Serge, he is full of good advice when it comes to ordering and is a ray of sunshine!

For more information, click here.

I spy with my little eye... Fashion Backwards.

I'm always happy to support quality Couture, especially in the Middle East. I've worked with seamstresses in Paris and I have a special affection for them and the work they do, therefore I've always been interested and happy to spread the word about Fashion Forward. But this season, I have a few things that I want to put forward. As much as I like Couture, I will be boycotting the event this year and here is why:

1- The online registration process is made so complicated it puts you off. As much as I understand that they want the exposure, what's the point of asking media "what kind of coverage are you planning?' and "when will you publish it?". I've been to a few fashion weeks and I doubt that in the hectic ambiance they have time to read the answers and decide whether or not to send you invites depending on the coverage you are offering, so what's the point except making it difficult for you? I would also like to remind them that 3 seasons does not make them important on the international scene and that they still need people to show up, hence putting them off: not a good idea. The whole process gave me the impression they were getting cocky and a little bit ahead of themselves, but this is just my personal opinion.
2- Now let's talk about these invites that never really arrive to your door and that you have to collect at the entrance. I have absolutely no problem collecting my press pass at the entrance but then why tell me it will be delivered?
3- I cannot see any of these sandwiches anymore. I know fashion people  feed on beauty, but I am French, Parisian, and I demand a proper snack (please note I am not even asking for a meal) with my glass of red wine!
There I said it, bon voyage Fashion Forward, you won't see my red lips this season!

I spy with my little eye... Vintage in Qatar.

Remember my trip to Doha in January? Well between two restaurants to try, I met with the magazine Glam Qatar for a quick interview. They got the eras wrong since I consider myself more of a 40-50's gal' than a 60-70's hippie but the rest is very accurate and I can definitively recognise myself on the picture, which is always comforting!
To read the full interview, click here!

I spy with my little eye... the slippery Ivy.

A few weeks ago I decided to invite M. and G. out. Since we had a few things to celebrate, and I hadn't been to the Ivy in ages, it was quite an obvious choice. It was a Sunday, so the ambiance was pretty calm, as refined as usual... which explains my surprise when my (well deserved) vodka martini took a solid half an hour to land on our table. I welcomed it with a smile, but also informed the very attentive waiter who had already asked twice if we were ready to order I would need as much time as it took them to mix that cocktail, to make up my mind. In other words: merci for the attention but the restaurant isn't packed so chill. As much as I appreciate attentive service, there is a fine line between being professional and harassing, and that evening, they were on the edge of the latter.

Now let's get to the food. Since we went around St Patricks, we decided to go for the special Irish menu. I started with oysters with challots and vinegar, my favourite combo. Obviously you can't go wrong with oysters and they were very tasty so nothing to say here. 

Then I decided to try the Irish stew: on St Patricks, might as well go as Irish as possible! The stew was simple; a bit blend, but very traditional. Nothing exciting, nothing wtong, just a regular stew. Now I should have remembered stew meat was not my favourite but that's on me (I have this tendency of forgetting things I don't like or make me sick... quite a good trick until you're stuck on a boat being seasick for two days...). 

Finally, my favourite part of the dinner: desert! I ordered an Irish coffee cake that looked more like a mille-feuille and didn't taste like an Irish coffee. Too much cream for me and too blend. But again, this is just my taste.  To conclude, I will say that the food was proper Irish/Englsih homy and comfort food, nothing less, nothing more. The service was too eager, which would have made sense if the place was crowded and they were keeping track of the tables turnover, but it wasn't the case so unless I missed something, they played this one wrong on that special evening. I used to love the Ivy, but I was a bit disappointed, not quite sure what to think of the slippery Ivy now.
More information about the Ivy here.

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