Thursday 29 September 2011

The 10 Cases, Covent Garden - London Restaurants

The 10 Cases is a little, friendly breath of fresh air in Covent Garden.  There's a daily changing 3 starters, 3 mains and 3 desserts scribbled on the blackboard, with 1 or 2 signature dishes that are stayers. Mains come with your choice of side dish, included in the reasonable prices.

It has a wine bar feel - except that the tables are mostly reserved for diners, and the bar alone the refuge for the boozers. There will be 10 whites and 10 reds on the menu - they stock 10 cases of each wine, and when anything runs out, they'll swap it for 10 cases of something else. Simples. And they're very friendly about giving you tastes - bonus. Drink by the glass, carafe or bottle of a well chosen wine list with prices ranging generally from about £4-£10 per glass.

Wine list and free pea shoot nibbly

The fare itself is fairly basic, bistro stuff - all very fresh, if not earth shattering enough to distract from the lovely wines, which are probably the real reason you're there.

Lovely house salad with runny poached egg and mushrooms

The rolled lamb shoulder was just ok, and while the whole, grilled Dover sole with caper berries was fresh and hearty, it was probably a tad overcooked.

Rolled shoulder of lamb

Grilled sole

There's no service charge, only a small mark up on wines but there's a £1.50 cover charge for freshly baked, warm bread, water etc. Budget on spending about £6 per starter, £16 per main and £5 per dessert.

The things that would get me back to The 10 Cases are the fabulously, refreshingly simple concept, the stellar service - so keen, so interested, so helpful (there are 2 guys behind the operation, and you get the sense they're keenly involved) - the lovely wines and the easy peasy, relaxed atmosphere. The food was a nice accompaniment but not a draw card in its own right, at least at these early stages.

The 10 Cases, 16 Endell Street, Covent Garden, London WC2H 9BD (Tel: 020 7836 6801)

PS. Apparently there's also a private dining room downstairs.

The 10 Cases on Urbanspoon

Thursday 15 September 2011

Paris - Where to eat on Sundays and Mondays in Paris

It doesn't come much better than spending a long weekend scooting around the streets of Paris on a velib, knowing there's a big, glorious plate of steak frites waiting for you at the end of it. The only problem is that all those restaurants you've been adding to your "must eat at" list are closed because it's a Sunday or a Monday, or because it's August. So here's a list of good places we went this recent long weekend, all (except one) of which are open while the rest of the Paris restaurant scene has its feet up.

If you only have time to read about one of these, skip right on down to Au Passage.

Saturday lunch: Drouant

Pluma de pata negra and pork belly

I have to congratulate TPG for this one, which turns out to be the find of all finds. AND it's open every day - this would be the perfect Sunday lunch in Paris.

The restaurant is in a beautiful, oh so Parisian building with huge, sunlight catching windows looking out through the greenery onto a stone statue and a quiet culdersac near the Opera.

While the mains may be priced for kings (at €30 each generally), they are exquisite, of the "I will never forget you my dear pork belly and will talk about you for years to come" variety. Generous pieces of rich, grilled and juicy pluma de pata negra are only topped by the towering, crispy chunk of pork belly wobbling beside them. This plate is full fat and then some, and so decadently divine you will savour every mouthful. Roast guinea fowl is equally heavenly, bursting with flavour and soaking up the perfect savoury gravy.

Mains come with colourful pots of vegetables - scrumptious, sweet and vinaigry tomato salad, al dente provencal vegetables and potato salad. They're replenished if you Hoover them all up.

Sublime strawberry, pistachio and custard tart

So maxed out were we, that we decided to share the dessert of red berries with vanilla ice cream - until we saw them cut up the strawberry, pistachio and custard tart and decided we had to have some of that too. We ended up with a huge piece which we devoured to the last crumb - head in the clouds good.

If only fine dining restaurants in London could price their wines as well - €7 for each glass of the most luscious whites and reds from Burgundy, Bordeaux and beyond. Service was excellent.

There are no tourists, and the room was only sparsely frequented (so lacking a boisterous atmosphere) at lunch, although apparently booked out for dinner. The room looks quite formal - white table cloths, well spaced tables etc - but the service is friendly and smiley, you feel instantly at ease and able to enjoy the wonderful food with the full merriment and gusto it deserves.

Drouant 16-18, place Gaillon. F-75002 Paris (2nd arrondissement) Tél : +33 1 42 65 15 16,

Saturday dinner: Neva

Poached egg in fried potato

Neva is the new kid on the Parisian restaurant block (and the only restaurant is this post which is not open on Sundays or Mondays). The vibe is modern, relaxed and fun, the crowd is mostly stylish 30 somethings and the food is beautifully presented, a surprise often hidden in one of the many layers of flavour.

My plump little ravioli containing bundles of shrimp were nestled in a gorgeous summery sauce of beetroot and ginger.  A gooey poached egg was shrouded in a finely shredded web of delicate fried potato, which looked like the pastry on a greek dessert ("kataifi"). It spilled onto a creamy potato base. Excellent mains of entrecote with bone marrow and potato rosti, and fleshy fish (I've forgotten which type) with butter beans, diced tomato and chorizo in a sweet, creamy sauce were rich and filling. The fanciful desserts are amazing. Don't miss the melting chocolate sphere surprise (we did - they had sold the last one, but we watched it dissolve at the table next door). There's also a fun strawberry fairy floss and gold leaf number, and a mango, coconut cream, meringue and banana dessert with just the right amount of popping candy to bring a smile to the inside of your mouth.

Ravioli with shrimp, beetroot and ginger

Prices are reasonable too - €36 for the 3 course dinner menu (choose anything from the a la carte list). And the wines by the glass, as is fairly standard for Paris, are well priced (around €7 per glass) and good quality. Service is busy but unfussy and friendly. We had a couple of small errors eg. the wrong wine was served - a dessert wine rather than the Bordeaux to accompany the steak - compounding my gripe that they don't pour it at the table and show you the bottle. But it was quickly replaced and there were no major dramas apart from the lovely ones on the plate.

Neva, 2 rue de Berne (corner of rue de Saint Petersbourg), 8th, Tel. 01-45-22-18-91. Metro: Europe or Liège. Open Monday-Friday for lunch and dinner. Saturday dinner only. Closed Sunday, but open Monday. Closed from August 6-August 22. Prix-fixe lunch menu 29 €, three-course menu 36 €, a la carte approx €50 per head.

Sunday lunch - Boucherie Rouliere

This is a fabulous, old school little bistro with black and white chequered floors and family portraits on the walls - and right in the middle of the trendy cafes and boutiques of St Germaine. It has the history of 5 generations of Rouliere family butchers who know what they're doing when it comes to their steak frites and bone marrow. I had the tender, juicy fillet which was as good as anything I've had at London's posh steak joints at €24, with a decent portion of hot, crispy, thick perfecto chips. TPG's lamb roti with mushrooms was also superb (€18.50). A new favourite place.

We were the only tourists in a place where the regulars are greeted with kisses. Next time I'm trying the ravioli with truffles as well. Thanks to ex-Parisian Londoner, @hamishjcameron (go on, give him a follow), for the tip.

Boucherie Rouliére, 24 rue des Canettes, 6th arrondisement (+33 1 43 26 25 70) Métro Mabillon. Meal for two with wine and service: around €30 per head.

Sunday dinner: Paris Hanoi

The enticing smell of Vietnamese grilled chicken and beef pho wafting down our street had our heads turning to see the long queues forming outside Paris Hanoi each night. After a couple of days of pigging out on rich French fare, some fresh and zingy Vietnamese is just the thing to cut through it and revive the arteries in preparation for the next day of getting back on the horse. And there's a reason they queue outside Paris Hanoi - big, colourful bowls of lovely, fresh chicken salad with coriander and mint at €9 each are devoured by the throngs in a small, dark and funky setting. Sauteed prawns and vegetables are good too, and the crisp spring rolls come with a heaped platter of salad. Don't go out of your way for it, but a really good option if you're reasonably local. (Unfortunately, they don't do banh mi).

Paris Hanoi, 74, rue de Charonne, 75011, Paris (11th arrondissement), open every day 12-2.30pm and 7-10.30pm. Tel: 01 47 00 47 59.

Monday morning coffee and croissant:

Coffee at Pause

Try the gorgeous Maison Karrenbauer and Chez Paul next door. Totally cute. Just up the road, also on Rue du Charonne, Pause is a funky cafe with lots of tables on the pavement for people watching.

Maison Karrenbauer and Chez Paul, 13 rue de Charonne, (11th arrondissement)

Monday lunch: Au Passage

Calamari marinated in citrus and ginger - to die for

Au Passage opened only 2 months ago, with Aussie chef James Henry (formerly of Cumulus Inc in Melbourne and Spring in Paris) at the helm. Just go. Awesome, awesome, awesome.


Beef tartare

It's super casual and easy going, with an eclectic, vintagey, wine bar feel and the lunch time menu is short but wonderful. Select from 1 course for €9.50, 2 courses €13/ €16.50 or 3 for €19.00. On the first mouthful, you know this is bargain of the century - in our case, upon first bite of the luscious soft and creamy calamari marinated in a zingy citrus and ginger dressing. Next up, the best beef tartare I've had, the silky chunks of beef seasoned and garnished with chopped cornichons, radish, salt, onion and lambs lettuce. My lightly seared tuna is equally lush, accompanied by a gorgeous, sweet piperade with just the right hit of chorizo cooked through it to add depth and ensure addiction.

Tuna with piperade

If we were not already James Henry disciples by now, all it would have taken is the roast peach with creme cru a la vanille and slithers of almond to sign us up. The amazing, rare little peaches tasted like the finest pure apricots, and the chef enthusiastically ran downstairs to grab us a fresh one each to taste.

Apricotty tasting peaches with creme cru a la vanille

James Henry is not only an extraordinary, "hot shot" young chef, but it turns out he's also an absolutely lovely, unassuming guy - his first day off since the restaurant opened and he was sitting next to us testing everything the kitchen was up to, and making sure things were fine tuned, in between pouring through recipe books. This guy is totally passionate and does very good things with food.

At night Au Passage gets even more creative with an extensive menu of bargainous small plates to choose from. Wines are biodynamic and about €4 per glass. Bonus. Did I mention you should go?

Au Passage, 22 Cour des Petites Ecouries, 75010, Paris (10th arrondissement), Tel: 014 40 22 07 97, Metro: Chateau D'eau/Bonne Nouvelle. Yes, it's open on Sundays and Mondays.

Others places you could go on Sundays or Mondays in August: Chez Janou (open Mondays, but closed Sundays), the new bar at Frenchies (open Mondays, but close Sundays), Breizh for crepes (open Sundays, closed Mondays), Brasserie Lipp (open on both Sundays and Mondays).

Where to stay:
We stayed at Hi Matic, a reasonably priced, funky, "design" hotel which opened in April 2011 in the 11th arrondissement, right across the road from the restaurant Septime (with some desperation, we could see Septime from our bedroom window, but it was booked out during our stay - it looks super fun).

The hotel has an urban, contempory style following an ecological philosophy and was designed by Matali Crasset, who created the Le Nouvel Odeon cinema in Paris. It won't be for everyone, but it's something a bit creative and different for the cost conscious traveller who doesn't need a concierge but wants to stay in a great area.

Rooms are small but the storage and design are clever [Update: we stayed again in Ocotber 2011 in a different room which was so poky and dark it was frustrating and we decided we couldn't do it again - it's one for budget short stays when you need somewhere to sleep only]. The futon mattress fold ups into wooden structures, there's a well placed desk for your laptop, a flat screen TV, iPod doc, free WiFi and some kind of screen thingie to communicate with other rooms if you want to. The bathroom and shower (complete with REN bath products) do not leave much to your partner's imagination - they're right there in your face - and despite the funky, colourful trappings, there remains something of a hostel-like feel to the place. Perhaps that's the point - there's also self check in and vending machines with extra soaps, maps and travel guides.

Hi Matic is in a really fun neighborhood - on the tres cute Rue de Charonne with lots of nice cafes, restaurants and clothes boutiques. It's a short velib ride to the Marais. An organic breakfast included, from €110 per night.

 Hi Matic hotel, 71 rue de Charonne, 75011, Paris (11th arrondissement), Tel: 01 43 67 56 56.

Here are my previous blog posts about places to eat and things I love to do in Paris: here (Passage 53), here (Le Chateaubriand)here (general) and here (2009 highlights).

Here's some links to some other tips for Sundays and Mondays in Paris:
Sunday and Monday closures:
What to do on Sundays:

Paris by Mouth and David Lebowitz's blog are also excellent resources for all things Paris.

Tuesday 13 September 2011

Medlar, Chelsea - London restaurants

Chilled broad bean and pea soup with goat's cheese & oodles of truffles

Medlar aims to be a "neighbourhood restaurant" and by the look of the full tables last weekend, it seems the Chelsea locals are happy to make Medlar a place where everybody knows your name.

Medlar opened in 2011, and is the baby of chef Joe Mercer Nairne (formerly of The Savoy Grill and Chez Bruce in London and Rockpool in Sydney) and David O'Connor (former front of house manager of Chez Bruce, The Square and, GD favourite, The Ledbury). These are serious credentials.

The decor is more refined and the atmosphere more formal than your standard neighbourhood joint, so don't go for cosiness. But what the ambience might lack at times, is made up for on the plate. Seasonal ingredients of British leanings are cooked simply and presented prettily, with an easy going French flair.
Chilled broad bean and pea soup is is certainly more summery than the conditions outside, and given some lovely depth by fresh goat's cheese and generous shavings of truffle. It looks gorgeous too.

Crab raviolo with samphire

A large, plump crab raviolo is served with samphire, brown shrimp, a fondue of leeks and a sumptuous shellfish bisque sauce. Yes, it is as good as it sounds.

Middle white pork chop and cheek comes with celeriac puree, black cabbage, crackling and marjoram. It's straightforward and tender - cooked well but not something you'd be bursting to go back for. The steak on the other hand is nothing short of sublime - an almost gamey tasting under blade fillet with juicy persillade snails, salad, superb, crispy triple cooked chips (oomph big time) and a perfect bearnaise. Award winning.

Le steak

It's hard to pick a favourite dessert - we tried a large macaroon with divine English raspberries and lemon curd, a vanilla custard pot with blackcurrent compote and langue de chat (TPG mostly hogged this so it was hard to get a look in), a terrific, chocolately torte with almonds, topped in crunchy honeycomb chunks, honeycomb ice cream and a rich, velvety caramel sauce, and (finally) the tart Victoria plum ice cream with delicate brandy snaps and shreds of sweet stem ginger.

Service is pleasant and prices are very reasonable - £39.50 for 3 courses. Lunch is a steal at £25 for 3 courses, or £30 at weekends. Enjoy!

Medlar, 438 Kings Road, Chelsea, SW10 0LJ (Tel: 020 7349 1900)

Medlar on Urbanspoon

Saturday 10 September 2011

Nopi for brunch

Black rice, coconut milk, banana and mango

I love a good brunch. Nopi is probably better known for its small plates of colourful vegetables, burratas and other Middle Eastern and Meditterranean fare served at lunch and dinner (here's my earlier review). However, it's a lively place for a gorgeous brunch too (it's just not strong on the coffee - we went home for a plunger after - and I reckon £2.50 should buy you a whole pot of English tea rather than a mug). These gripes aside, some good looking food with exotic flavours is a pearler of a way to kick start the weekend.

 Here are some pics of our brunch at Nopi this morning. The pastries and the fruit salad with yoghurt and granola looked great, and how good do the the doughnuts with orange yoghurt and blackcurrent compote sound? (I'll be sure to report back.) And it's easy to get a table.

Shakshuka - North African dish of braised eggs with pepper and tomato

Safer to stick to the tea than the coffee here

Nopi, 21-22 Warwick Street, London, W1B 5NE (About £25 for 2 for brunch)

NOPI on Urbanspoon

Wednesday 7 September 2011

Santorini, Greece - Greedy Diva's Gluttonous Travels

It's one thing to be constantly engaged in far flung travels to escape the British winter, but when you find yourself escaping the British summer in pursuit of clearer skies, you can't take any chances - there must be guaranteed, beaming sunshine.

Hellllooo Santorini.

In Santorini, you never need to check the forecast or pack too much more than a sarong. Although a bit of grip on the shoes to tackle the slippery stoned streets wouldn't go astray. The salt water has medicinal qualities after a long rainy spell at home, and it doesn't hurt that you're never too far from a crispy batch of fried calamari either.

Vegetables at Sunset Tavern, Amoudi

The island is dramatically spectacular - high black cliffs overlooking the remains of a vast volcano contrast with the deep blue sea, turquoise shores and endless blue skies. They're dotted with glistening white villages and domed rooftops. On the other side are black and red beaches where you can party hard in beach bars (like Chili) or escape the droves. Most of Santorini is super touristy, and after one glimpse of some of the world's best sunsets, it's easy to see why it's a major honeymoon destination.

The sunset view from the spa at Perivolas

Where to eat:

Green salad at the Sunset Tavern, Amoudi

The food scene is hit and miss, at least in the tourist hubs of Oia and Fira. Local treats include fava beans, delicious white eggplant and Santorini cherry tomatoes, although we found the latter to be lacking in their famed sweetness and to be quite minerally and lacking in flavour.

The views from Thalami taverna

The fresh fish is divine, although things like calamari, mussels and shrimp are flown in from the North and generally frozen since the waters are too deep for a local source. Most days you'll find it hard to spend much more than €30 for a feast for 2 at a taverna with million dollar views. This price will include an obligatory (in my book) bottle of ouzo (nothing goes better with a plate of dolmades - my favourites are from Mytilini, but there are local ouzos too) with a bucket of ice or a glass of surprisingly excellent local white wine - our favourite was Assyrtiko, a great value, crisp but juicy white from grapes grown in the local volcanic soils. Of course, the fresh fruit is fabulous too - load up with peaches and watermelons of the gods.

Divine local peaches, cut up for pool side

Most days we settled straight from the pool in to a taverna with some variation of a piece of grilled fresh fish, a Greek salad, horta (steamed spinach like greens with olive oil), thick, creamy tsatski, meatballs, cheesy moussaka and fresh dolmades. Try Skala or Thalami in Oia, which have fabulous ocean views from the top of the cliff. You could also book into Castro to get the famous sunset view at around 8pm (although I didn't try it).


Ouzerie in the centre of Fira was also fun, and is somewhere the locals go (although it's also teeming with tourists like everywhere else).

Greek salad with a view

The best place we tried for fresh fish was Sunset Tavern, located right next to the water at Amoudi which is a tiny fishing port at the bottom of the cliffs from Oia. We loved it at lunch, but this is another place with sunset views. There are about 4 or 5 other tavernas in the same location. Just watch out for donkeys on your way back up.

Cheese and spinach pies - part of the delicious breakfast at Perivolas

The best meal of the lot was at Ambrosia in Oia, where you can experience modern, Greek fine dining on a candlelit balcony overlooking the ocean. We paid around €140 for 2 including wine and service (which was about 3 times more than our average meal, but it was worth it). The food was generally superb - try mille feuille of white Santorini aubergine with fresh tomato, mastelo cheese and smoked metsovono cheese sauce, or tender beef fillet with Vansanto wine sauce, fresh truffles, mushroom trifolate risotto and caramelized grapes. The desserts are wonderful (I had the Moroccan sweet tower of Greek honey flakes, nuts, yoghurt mousse with dates and apricot, and with mastic icecream and rose preserves). The wine list will add to your costs as it's lacking in half bottles or wines by the glass, but don't be afraid of the house wine by the glass here - both the red and white are terrific. We also tried the more casual sister cafe, Nectar & Ambrosia, but it was more patchy and lacked the views/atmosphere.

1800 in Oia (which looked great) and Vaniglia in Firostefani were also recommended to us, but we didn't make it. You'll find out why I found it so hard to tear myself from the pool in a moment....

Where to stay:

I was invited to sample a few places in Santorini and you'll note there's a heavy leaning towards the luxury blow out variety - anything with a view in Santorini will cost you, but that's partly why you're there. And Santorini is a place for indulgence - people come here for splurges, honeymoons, romance, some of the world's best sunsets, and for the general having of breath taken away.


The infinity pool overlooking the caldera

The massive Perivolas Suite at Perivolas has to be the ultimate in luxury accommodation. Its airy domed ceilings, private outdoor pool and indoor spa, steam room, 2 bathrooms and views of Oia perched on the cliff over the deep blue Aegean sea don't come cheap (at around €1500 per night in high season), but just walking in for 5 minutes has the peaceful effect of a week in your own private spa retreat. It's the most amazing place to stay I've ever seen.

Our gorgeous junior suite at Perivolas

Our junior suite was a mini taste of all this extravagance, and equally tranquil - high vaulted cave like ceilings with the clean lines of smooth, rounded white cave walls, wooden furnishings built by local craftsman using local materials and the odd splash of fuschia or lilac remiscent of the local flowers - often handwoven by the owner's wife into giant cushions or rugs.

I also took a peek at the smallest studios on offer and they're gorgeous -  they still feel stylish, calm and spacious.

View from the spa at sunset

Whilst never going even close to tacky or twee, Perivolas has a style which is uniquely Santorini. Sit back by the infinity pool or the outdoor hot tub, and drink you sweet Vinsanto (provided on arrival) as the sun sets in a bright pink sky over the blue domed church of Oia. You don't see the sun hit the water from the hotel, but this sunset view is just beautiful. There's also a "wellness studio" with a sauna and steam room, as well as an outdoor jacuzzi with sunset views - where I could generally be found if otherwise missing in action. TPG also loved the gym with ocean views.

Perivolas is a 10 minute walk into the heart of Oia - but there isn't much motivation to leave too often. You can even have a romantic candlit dinner by the pool (which is probably better than much of what you'll find in town).

The crowd is mainly honeymooners, couples and the occassional flush lone traveller. Perivolas has consistently been featured in the Conde Nast Traveller Top 100 Hotels list, and won the Best Small Hotel in Europe in 2010.

There's nothing not to love about this place. There's wifi, but no TV or DVD - just lay back, unwind, order another frappe and and feel the weight of London life slip effortlessly off your shoulders. Utter bliss.

Perivolas, Oia, Santorini, Tel: +30 22860 71308,
Budget: Extreme splurge. Rates vary for rooms and seasons (from approx €500 upwards in high season). If I had the budget to stay here for night's on end, this would be my pick for ultimate luxury.

Breakfast with quite the view
(beat's my usual Vegemite on toast looking down Sex Alley in Soho)

The view from our balcony at Andronis Suites is a little slice of heaven on earth. 

Hard times at the Andronis Suites

 The view from the pool's not bad either.

The spacious cave like rooms have, again, the tranquility of a spa. There's a huge bed, big, comfy rocking chairs, a massive wide couch and flat screen tv - but that's only relevant if you can take your eyes off the views. Soak them in from the private balcony where your fabulous silver service breakfast is served (fruits, pastries, cakes and your choice of Greek or American cooked breakies are among your many options), or even from the spa tub in your room. We had 2 balconies.

Night time in the cave

The bathrooms are a cave like oasis with soothing, dark tiled and a huge rainfall shower head. Oh, and there's a view of the caldera from the shower. Of course.

And I still haven't mentioned the infinity pool overlooking the caldera, with sun lounges and hammocks. Enjoy a sundowner as the sky slowly fades to pink, and I can vouch for the awesome frappes.

Dinner anyone?

Service is 5 star - lovely staff take care of your every whim with a smile - right down to the bright pink wedges of refreshing watermelon served poolside mid morning. Call to have a DVD or book brought from the library, or - get this - a laptop with wireless connection brought to your room or sunbed. There is WiFi in the rooms, although we found our connection cut out a lot. Flourishes include champagne on arrival as well as a welcome bottle of deliciously crisp Santorini white wine and a taster plate - fava bean puree with capers and onion, and strawberry poached in cognac with yoghurt.

We didn't join the diners perched on the cliff edge for a romantic private dinner, but this taste of Andronis was gorgeous. There's an all day menu, and they also arrange wine tastings and on site spa treatments.

A tip for new arrivals - make sure you close the blinds over the spa at night while you're still in a state to wade in to do so - otherwise you'll be woken by the light sooner after sunrise than you might wish.

Hotel Andronis Luxury Suites, Oia Santorini, Greece, (Tel: +30 22860 72041), 
Budget: Extreme splurge, as for Perivolas. Rates vary for rooms and seasons (from approx €500 upwards in high season).

Aria Suites:

The beach home away from home...

For more action, and no shortage of jewellers and souvenir shops, head to Fira. At Aria Suites you can have a mini apartment bigger than my flat right on the fringe of the main drag, but somehow in a little pocket of peace and quiet.

Walls and linens are crisp and white, with heavenly goose feather pillows, chic beach house style furnishings, gorgeous Korres bath products, small flat screen tv, wifi and with pool and ocean views.

Our bright pink bathroom had a jacuzzi and our balcony with caldera views was perfect for watching the ships sail by over a champagne breakfast, or for staring down that sunset, which was even brighter thank those we caught at Oia, even if our photos were obscured by the local telephone wires.

Without all the honeymooners, this is the hotel that we would feel least out of place in as a lone traveller or travelling with children.

Sunset view from our balcony - we also had a huge breakfast delivered there in the morning

A chaser to our eggs and bacon

Again, friendly faultless service (Dimitra on the front desk is a champion) and lots of nice touches like a welcome bowl of fruit and a bottle of Sigalas wine on arrival and free transfers. The pool area has a bar and loads of lounge chairs, although the pool is not infinity style - but you won't be complaining.

A great choice for that glamorous home away from home feel, within a hop from the action of Fira but a world away from the hustle and bustle.

Aria Suites, Fira, Santorini, Tel: +30 22860 28650,
Budget: Medium - from €180 - €480 per night depending on the room and season.

Esperas Traditional Houses:

View from inside the caves over the pool at Esperas

Still with the breathtaking luxuriousness, but a price bracket down, Esperas Traditional Suites is terrific value.

Open the shutters to amazing ocean views

Each cave like suite is built into the cliff facing the sunset with a private balcony overlooking the ocean - each room has it's own character but individual quirks and shapes. This is one of the rare hotels in Oia where you get that famous sunset view from your own balcony. Just sit back with a bottle of Santorini white, a platter of dips and olives, and watch the crowds crawl in from Fira to rabble for the same view from the castle above.

One of the few hotels in Oia with a sunset view from your own balcony

The crowds jostle for the same view from the castle, while you sip your ouzo in style...

Our standard suite was less ostentatious than at other hotels, but still gorgeous, and with more distinct local character - charming and more lovable in some ways. Traditional furnishings (like painted plates), blue shutters and lots of sunshine create a happy haven. The beds are THE most comfortable that I have EVER slept on - and being built into a romantic alcove, you can lie back and feel like you're nestled into a cloud above the sea. Open your windows in the morning to some amazing views.

The bed sent down from HEAVEN

The blue tiled bathrooms are flush with light and also have the to die for views.

Service here is again fabulous. Lie back by the infinity pool next to miniature olive trees overlooking the ocean and the ships sailing past the island, swim into the tranquil caves over the pool, and forget there are any worries in the world.

We took breakfast by the pool - with a full range of delights like cheese or spinach pies, sausage omlettes, santorini cherry tomatoes with olives and cucumber, fruit salad, creamy, thick Greek yoghurt with local honey, cereals, toast etc.

The friendly staff will recommend places to eat, and make your reservations for you. DVDs and CDs are supplied and there's a small TV in the room (quite hard to see from the bed - if you want to).

This place is chilled back and gorgeous. It feels like a quiet village a million miles away from the throng. It's directly above Amoudi where you can have lunch or dinner on the waterfront at the bottom of the cliffs.

Esperas Traditional Houses, Oia, Santorini, Tel: +30 22860 71088,
Budget: More affordable luxury from 200-800 per night depending on the room and the season. This is my pick of the places to stay for more affordable luxury.

Other things to do:

- Hire quads and scoot around the island to the iconic red and black beaches of Santorini.
- For about 50 euros per head you can hire a boat and be sailed around the island for half a day of beach hopping and meals - the late afternoon shift includes dinner and sunset.
- Island hop on ferries to Mykonos or to Naxos for some great beaches.
- Reeelaaax

How to get there:
We took a charter flight with Thomas Cook directly from Gatwick Airport to Thira (Santorini) for approx £226 in peak season.

Greedy Diva was a guest of the 4 hotels mentioned above.

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