Want to know whether a bar, restaurant or club is suitable for that girly chat or romantic meal, check our reviews below. Each review has a talk or a dance rating rating out of 5. 


Lille - Maison du Champlain, 13 Rue Nicolas Leblanc, 59000 Lille, France

I have been rather quiet on this blog, because of having too much other stuff to do. So I am going to write a whole list of reviews that will be short but sweet.

I love Lille because it is so small and easy to get around, but has lovely shops, lots of museums and culture and of course great food.  However like any city it is easy to end up getting average touristy food. Last time I went we discovered L’Atelier de Gourmond, which we booked again, I won’t do a full review as it is already listed unfortunately it didn’t reach the heights of last time but was still very solid cooking.

On the Friday we tried a new restaurant which on the whole had some very good reviews and has a bib gourmand in the Michelin guide it is called Maison du Champlain and is attached to a boutique hotel of the same name. It is a tiny restaurant 12-14 covers, painted white and some might say atmosphere less, but think that depends who is there.  They do not allow children in the restaurant, I guess, because it is size and one crying baby really would affect everyone.Lobster wontons and lobster bisque

There is a set menu that also includes wine, at 33 euro’s for 3 courses and a quarter bottle of wine, it was a very good price.  After a substantial amuse bouche and starter (delicious but hard to describe consisted of a cakey bread tasted much better than it sounds), we had opted for an additional course of lobster wontons with lobster bisque. This was the stand out dish by some way; I would have happily eaten this as a main course. The flavour of the lobster bisque was amazing with a silky smooth texture. The main course was a bit more out there; haddock with a beer ice cream, this for us was the least successful dish. Cold icecream with hot fish did not work, and the fish needed a lighter sauce.  For dessert we had a poached pear with ice cream, well executed with a soft pear. Then finally with our coffee and very large digestive’s we had some petit fours, tasty but a little much after all the food we had consumed.

Haddock with beer ice cream

The menu changes weekly and I love being surprised, however this would not be the place for any fussy eaters. The quiet, calm atomosphere and husband and wife team were perfect for our girls night out. If you are looking for buzzy this is not your place, would definitely return.


Merchants Tavern 36 Charlotte Road, London, EC2A 3PG (Soft Launch)

I went during their soft launch, which can make a review slightly redundant as you never know how things might change due to feedback.  However this may give a good indication of what they are trying to achieve.


They are housed in the heart of Spitalfields just a stone’s throw from the Rivington grill and Tramshed. The building is vast with 2 areas a large horse shoe bar area and then further back is the restaurant and open kitchen at the back.  The restaurant layout is reminiscent of Hawksmoor Air Street, albeit a smaller version. They have similar oyster shaped booths around the room.  We however were seated between the open kitchen and the waiters station which was not the most comfortable. It was that little bit tight and as every waiter came to the station regularly you felt quite harried, I wouldn’t want to sit here at a full service (it was only a third full for this soft launch). This may well be something they are testing to see whether or not it works.

Onto the food, due to a kitchen glitch we got 5 starters, so between us got a good selection of starters. I chose grilled quail with fois gras, it was hugely flavoursome which is not hard to do with fois gras but the combination of the quail and endive really set it off. All the starters but one were well received, the exclusion were the figs and prosciutto, this dish relies on its ingredients and although by no means bad they did not have the depth of flavour needed for a such a simple dish.  I think this may partly be due to it the ham being too cold, it had little perfume.

For mains the boys had decided to share a pork loin with Girolle Persillade, this was a dish for 2, but there was some disappointment when it arrived with 1 chunky slice of pork each. For growing lads, this looked quite meagre, however the flavour and tenderness were there – no stringy tough pork.  I had the roast Brill with coco beans and anchovy bread sauce, the description sounds more exotic then it was, but that is not to say it was not delicious. The fish was of a decent size but I really could have done with more beans to bulk it out.

Then to the desserts, we ordered 5 so that we could taste the full range of the dishes. All were competent but none really stood out for me.  Finally we had 2 plates of cheese to share. All the cheeses were delicious but why do restaurants give you 3 biscuits which will never be enough for the amount of cheese. There was some discussion about the amount of cheese versus the 10 pound pricetag, it did did look like a small portion but were more than adequate taking into account what we had already eaten.

The service was great throughout, our waiter obviously very experienced but they were also training some novice waiters hopefully they’ll have picked everything up before opening. I would not want to sit bwhere did again especially when the restaurant is full, it was just too distracting having service staff right next to our table. We did question the portion size to ask whether it was because of the 50% off, apparently not this was a deliberate move. I think they’ll have to rethink this for the main courses as for £20 I don’t think you should need to order 2/3 sides to make it up.  However on reflection accomplished cooking in sophisticated surroundings.

Talk Rating: 4/5

Square Meal


Hutong, The Shard Level 33 31 St. Thomas Street London SE1 9RY 

Having been to their sister restaurant in Hong Kong I have been really keen to eat here. They both share spectacular views and the signature dishes as you would expect are similar.  We arrived early (6.15pm) to a near empty bar and took a window seat to see the view over the river; it was slightly unnerving seeing the trains leaving London bridge, but definitely worthwhile. If you get there later you will struggle to see much at all as the bar was packed on leaving.  I opted for champagne which was reasonably priced and my husband went for a cocktail known for its digestive aiding qualities.


We were called into the dining room promptly at 7pm and were seated pretty far from the window, not surprisingly everyone had wanted a window table and being there at 7 meant the first tranche of people had bagsied those spots. My advice to get these coveted spots is to go very early or second sitting at 8.30- 9.00pm or maybe begging will do the trick. The view is spectacular when you get a good sunset, however you do have to contend with all the other diners coming up and taking pictures near you.

On to the food, we went for a couple of starters; the mixed dim sum platter and also the cuttlefish dish. The fish was treated with real care and addition in both starters and the addition of chilli dipping sauce and the ginger and garlic dressing on the cuttlefish was sublime.

For mains we went for the same dishes we had in Hong Kong as we have talked about them for years after. They were the deboned lamb ribs and the red lantern soft shell crab. Both portions were very large and it would have been great to have shared these and had a few more additions if we had a bigger group. They were both exquisitely presented and tasted amazing, however together they are quite filling and fatty.  Ideally we would have ordered more contrasting dishes to clean the palate. Afterwards we opted for a cocktail, which were great, expensive but very well made.


The service throughout was impeccable, my only slight criticism was that the whole meal took only an hour, it would have been nice to have elongated it a bit. We therefore had a cocktail at the end and didn’t take the offer to have it in the bar which was packed.  A must do trip are the toilets which are pretty surreal see the pictures.  


Hutong at the Shard on Urbanspoon

Square Meal



Villa Crespi - Via Fava, 18 28016 Orta San Giulio Novara, Italy

There were too many photos to put this in my orginal post and so I have done a dedicated post. There were so many highlights that it is hard to know where to start. The amuse bouche were so extensive I have 5 photos, but have not listed them all here. The savoury macaroons were unbelievable as were the breads that accompanied them. The oyster was fresh and delicious, however the fish that stood out was the red mullet, it was melt in the mouth. The tuna was divine, I usually avoid it as it is close to being endangered and also has a high mercury content, but this was a exception and was worth it. I loved the raviloi pasta with beef tartar but the bottega pasta was slightly grainy, it was the only dish that I wouldn't order again. By the time the meat came around, although of no lesser quality, I could not enjoy it as much due to the sheer volume of food we had already eaten.  However the petits fours need a mention; plentiful, delicate and scrumptious. However should have probably done what our neighbours did and taken them away to enjoy when we were less full.

Villa Crespi

Service was imaculate throughout, but also not too formal. We enjoyed conversations with the maitre'd as well as our neighbours from Basel. The tables were private and looked on to a beautiful garden, it would have been great to sit outside but I understand to maintain service and food standards that may have been difficult.











Amuse Bouche

Tuna Oyster with beetrootRed mulletPrawn tartare











Pasta with bottegaRavioli with tartare











Seafood medleyKid












Strawberries with Cream inside the golden ballPetits fours












Pastries Cake with anniversary message


Lake Orta, Italy - photo montage

Pictures and a few details of Lake Orta restaurants and in the surrounding area.



On the way to Lake orta from Malpensa, we found a very cheap meal (10€) 3 course set menu including wine and water. Very good simple food. Nice outside space to eat, peaceful even though it is very close to the road.

Berimbao, Via Francisca 12, 28028 Pettenasco, Italy

A family restaurant with Crabbia just down the road from our accommodation at L’Antica Colonia. Very reasonable prices for Pizza with a wide choice. Seafood was varying, was not that keen on the mussels.


Taverna Antico Agnello in Villa Nigra Via Solaroli 5 - 28010 Miasino

We went here twice, they have a great set menu in the week or you can  opt for the a la carte menu. Beautiful peaceful surrondings with excellant service.


Osteria San Martino, Vicolo Chiuso, 8 | fraz. Crabbia, Pettenasco, Italy

In the small area of Crabbia. An upmarket small, but very popular restaurant.  Good service with complimentary prosecco.  Interesting dishes, mountain food quite heavy but very tasty.

Ristorante Giardinetto, via provinciale, 1, 28028 Pettenasco, Italy, Part of a small hotel chain, met our landlady and most of the other chefs  in the area seemed to be there also.  Mixed results; appetizers great pastas were the worst of the holiday. Possibly we should have gone for the set menu which those in the know were devouring.

Monte Rosso, Località Cima Monterosso  28921 Verbania Pallanza VB, Italy
If you are willing to make the trip up to the top you will be rewarded with the most amazing views and hearty country cooking. The road is scary though 180 degree hairpin bends for 30 minutes.

Villa Crespi, Via Fava, 18  28016 Orta San Giulio Novara, Italy

5 star hotel with 2 star Michelin food, amazing food with prices to match. The photos do more justice than my writing. However a few notes quite surprised no charge for the prosecco to start the meal or the extra coffees we ordered, admittedly we did order the 150€ menu each delicious but far too filling for us both. See separate post for all images.

 Agriturismo Il Cucchiaio di Legno, Via Prisciola 10 Località Legro, Italy
A great agriturismo very close to Pettenascu train station. A 25€ set menu with a changing weekly menu, only open Thursday and Friday evening and Saturday and Sunday lunchtimes.  You get a  number of antipasti dishes, 2 pastas and 2 mains and then a choice of desserts. Rustic but with real charm.