Where to stay in Malton, Yorkshire: The Talbot Hotel

Continuing my series on Where to Stay on your travels, today we’re taking a mini break, heading north from London to Malton, Yorkshire.

The Talbot Hotel was originally built in the early 17th century as a hunting lodge and has traded as an inn since 1740. It was completely restored in 2011. Here’s why you should stay there.

The location

Set in the heart of the historic market town of Malton with its myriad shops and great food, it’s also only 10 miles from the North York Moors and 18 miles from the city of York. I love that you get the mix of country living – fresh air, peace and open spaces – as well as a bustling little town with great food shopping and a cookery school. Read more about what I saw in Malton here.

The views

Quintessentially English with green, rolling countryside as far as the eye can see. The hotel is set on a hill so you get a wonderful perspective on your surroundings and the rural world around you.

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Yes, it really was this green, the English countryside at its best

The rooms

The beautifully decorated rooms are generous in size with a large, extremely comfortable bed, desk, separate seating area and lovely ensuite. I particularly loved the huge shower and its striking black and white tiles.

There’s a kettle and a range of coffee and tea including a lot of herbal brews – a refreshing cup of tea in the comfort of your room is always welcome.

Oh and the wi-fi’s really good – fast and reliable.

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The breakfast

One of the absolute best things about staying in a hotel has to be breakfast time. I’m not usually much of a breakfast eater. I know, it’s the most important meal of the day, I just can’t manage it – unless I’m in a hotel, that is, and options are literally presented to me on a plate.

There’s a buffet offering of fruit, cereal and pastries and a menu of delights, too. The first morning I tucked into poached eggs and avocado on toast – heavenly.

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I love the combo of avocado and egg

On morning two I wrestled with my choices, ultimately abandoning one of my favourite breakfast treats – eggs benedict – for the delights of a full English. Thought I’d better sample the local bacon, sausage and black pudding and I wasn’t disappointed. I liked the fact that it wasn’t stupidly huge like they sometimes are and I managed to polish off the whole plate.

Okay, I admit it, I must be a breakfast eater, just not if I’m making it myself.

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The full English Talbot-style

The Cookery School

Not only can you shop for and eat amazing food in Malton, you can learn how to cook it too. The Malton Cookery School is allied to the hotel and is just down the road. We did a Yorkshire lamb workshop, which you can read about here. There’s a wide range of courses all held in a kitchen with fantastic facilities and knowledgeable, professional teachers. A really fun and educational way to spend a morning and you’ll come away inspired with new ideas to try at home. I promise.

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The spacious kitchen is a pleasure to work in

The Wentworth Restaurant

We had a delightful dinner in the hotel’s Wentworth restaurant (there’s also the more informal Malton Brasserie which I didn’t have the chance to try out). The menu showcases local products and offered some intriguing choices.

Like this cheese and pickle starter. Smoked Ribblesdale mousse was served with pickled golden vegetables and mustard granola. One of the prettiest starters in a long time and great in flavour, too, with its soft cheesiness, crispy veg and crunchy granola.

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A different take on a classic English combo

I opted for some local scallops which were served with pork belly, black pudding, carrot and blood orange. I’ve experienced the scallop/black pudding thing before and it’s quite amazingly good. The small slivers of pork belly were tender and flavoursome and the carrot puree sweet and delicious.

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Scallop heaven partnered with black pudding

The fish main course option was roast North Sea halibut which was served with mussels, braised fennel, Jeera (cumin) sauce and coconut. The sweetest of fish with an elegant and subtle cumin-flavoured coconut sauce.

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Fish with a touch of the Asian flavours

As we’d spent the morning cooking and eating lamb I had a rare desire for a vegetarian dinner. Lucky for me there was the perfect dish on the menu. The fried potato gnocchi came with woodland mushrooms, peas and broad beans and a silken truffle cream sauce. The little towers of gnocchi were beautifully browned and slightly crispy – just the way I like them, and the pea, bean and pea shoot added greenness and sweetness. The perfect dinner dish after a meat-filled day.

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A delightful plate of indulgent gnocchi

Tonight we were going big – so dessert was on the cards. The options were too good to resist. The Valrhona Manjari chocolate marquise came with cherries in kirsch, cherry sorbet and pistachios. The perfect pudding in shades of purple.

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Who could resist this chocolate/cherry combination

Being not much of a dessert person I took on the responsibility of trying the local cheeses with this substantial artisan selection served with yummy sloe berry chutney, poached grapes and biscuits. All good stuff – and as for the poached grapes.

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Yorkshire is definitely for cheese lovers

The service 

From the warm and efficient welcome at reception to the friendly greetings and smiles from staff, great dinner service and the chatty barman in the cosy bar, everyone is clearly doing their best to make sure you’re happy. And they seem to be enjoying it too.

I felt at home at The Talbot from the moment I walked through the door. It has a warmth and comfort about it and is the perfect base for exploring this beautiful and delicious part of Yorkshire.

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Looking up towards the lovely hotel

Where to stay in Tuscany: Borgo Santo Pietro

Continuing my series on beautiful hotels I recommend, we’re visiting Tuscany.

Situated about two hours’ drive from Pisa near the hillside town of Chuisdino, Borgo Santo Pietro is the stuff that dreams are made of. Overlooking the stunning Valle Serena, the five-star boutique hotel is set in huge grounds, creating the ultimate escape. And the food, service, extra activities and amazing attention to detail make for a holiday idyll where you can totally immerse yourself in Tuscan life and the ultimate in luxury.

Here’s what’s I loved about it.

The setting

From the moment the majestic gates open and you drive down the cypress-lined avenue, you’ll be enraptured by this magical place. With the 13th-century villa at its heart, Borgo radiates out into the most beautiful of grounds to stroll around and lose yourself in.

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Welcome to Borgo…you’re not going to want to ever leave

The stylish manor house is the heart of Borgo

The stylish manor house is the heart of Borgo

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The view out over the Valle Serena

The accommodation

Talk about wow factor! Spacious, stylish and stunning, the ultimate in hotel luxury. Twinkling chandeliers, enormously plush beds and large bathrooms with huge walk-in showers and deep  bathtubs. And beautiful outdoor space to chill out among vines and orange trees while inhaling the purity of that Tuscan air.

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The view of the bed from the lounge area. Sparkling chandeliers abound here…

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Luxury bathrooms for your indulgence, time to soak in the tub

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The most idyllic of terraces in the Tuscan sun

The restaurants and the food

The main restaurant, Valle Serena (named after the valley it overlooks) is overseen by Executive Chef Francesco Gasbarro. It’s hard to imagine a more perfect dinner setting and as Borgo Santo Pietro grows its own vegetables and herbs, you’re guaranteed the freshest and tastiest of ingredients. Wonderfully mouth-watering and creatively constructed dishes to enjoy – more to come in a later post (watch this space) – I have plenty to say about the wonderful dishes I sampled.

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How’s this for a charmingly romantic restaurant?

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My beautifully tender and flavoursome pork main course

The other restaurant, The Treehouse, is open for lunch and dinner. And on Mondays it hosts a farmers market, displaying a wealth of Tuscan delights to select from. Again, more on this later.

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There’s plenty to tempt you at the Treehouse buffet

The breakfasts, served in the Manor House kitchen, were fabulous, too…and I’m still dreaming of those cappuccinos.

The attention to detail

The extra touches constantly amazed me. Seriously, they’ve thought of everything. Like supplying books and magazines (in several languages) at the pool – just in case you left yours behind, I guess.

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Reading matter awaits beside the pool and its early morning mist

Some other amazing examples…There’s a mobile phone in your room which you’re encouraged to carry with you around the grounds, so wherever you are you can call up and order a drink or some food. Heaven forbid that you’d have to go and fetch it yourself.

If you take advantage of the hotel’s transfer from the airport, or wherever you are, there’s wifi in the car for you to log on to.

If you sign up for the truffle hunt (and I can’t recommend it enough), you’ll be lead to a walk-in cupboard to select hiking boots supplied by the hotel in your size. No chance of being unprepared for your trek through the forest.

There are fireplaces everywhere…who doesn’t love a fireplace. Even in your room, just call reception to get it lit.

The grounds and spaces

The beautiful gardens are scattered with seating areas. Whether you want to lounge by the pool, meditate on life by the lake or have a cappuccino in a tiny corner away from everything…

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Find your own favourite spot…and enjoy

And then there’s what was probably my favourite spot…The Treehouse. It’s not up a tree but at the base and this beautifully welcoming room is the perfect place for a drink any time, or just for a proper get-away-from-it-all chillout.

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Leather sofas, a real fire and more chandeliers…aaaah

The activities

Once you’ve switched into Tuscan time and shed all your cares, there’s all the lovely activities to contemplate. Try a wine tasting with Simona, the charming sommelier; take painting with the artist-in-residence or flower arranging lessons; enjoy yoga classes or a treatment at the spa. Or as we did, go truffle hunting for those oh-so-precious truffles with local truffle hunters and their dogs. A wonderful experience that you can read more about on another post (you can see, there’s still plenty of Tuscan magic to come). And don’t forget, there’s masses of beautiful countryside and amazing villages to explore: by foot, Vespa or even horseback. Make sure to order a picnic to take with you.

Stella the truffle dog sniffs out the truffles, then waits patiently

Stella the truffle dog sniffs out the truffles, then waits patiently

Any time spent at Borgo Santo Pietro is extraordinarily special. This is a unique experience (which obviously comes at a price) but you’ll be constantly amazed in this little piece of paradise. Start saving now for the experience of a lifetime.

Find out more at www.borgonsantopietro.com

Where to Stay: Hotel Can Alomar in Palma, Majorca

Welcome to the start of a new series on eatingcoventgarden.com. On my travels, if I stay somewhere exceptional that I feel made my visit even better, I’m going to tell you about it. First up, the Hotel Can Alomar which I recently stayed in on a trip to Majorca’s capital, Palma. This boutique hotel (which was formerly a palace) had reopened on May 1 2014 (shortly before our visit) after extensive refurbishment, so was shiny and new. It’s beautifully decorated throughout. Here’s what else is good about it.

The position Situated just off Borne, one of the main streets in Palma, you really couldn’t stay in a better spot. You’re minutes from the beautiful cathedral and the lanes winding around it and surrounded by shops. You can see Louis Vuitton from the terrace (always a good thing, I reckon) and the hotel entrance is flanked by two grand Massimo Dutti stores. Two huge Zaras (for men and women) are  just down the road and there’s a wide range of clothes, food and souvenir shops spread in the area less than 10 minutes in any direction. And if you want to go out for a drink or a bite to eat, turn any way out of the hotel, walk a couple of minutes and you’ll be spoilt for choice. Oh and of course the sea is also only a short walk away.

Fachada hotel The rooms They’re spacious (quite unusually so), light-filled, modern and smartly furnished with substantial, comfy beds, free wifi, a safe and a fridge (all vitals for me). The luxury bathrooms (huge bath and huge shower) are wonderful and have the softest of large towels and robes. Wonderful.

The lovely, spacious room we stayed in

The lovely, spacious room we stayed in

 The breakfast Buffet breakfasts can be something of a lottery, you never know quite what you’re going to get. At the Can Alomar it’s a real winner. From the freshly squeezed orange juice presented in beautiful little jugs, to the fruit, yogurt, a lovely range of hams, salamis and cheeses, fresh bread (that’s still warm to the touch), the traditional Spanish tomato mix to add to your toast, it’s all yum. Plus there’s a menu of hot dishes to choose from, I tucked into delicious fried eggs with my jamon one morning and the tortilla (Spanish omelette) is particularly delicious. Oh and the coffee’s really good, too.

Love the attention to detail with these beautiful baby jugs

Love the attention to detail with these beautiful baby jugs

The terraces The hotel has two terraces at the front. The one on the left is the perfect place for a drink after a long day’s exploration. The one on the right belongs to the restaurant where you have breakfast and becomes De Tokio a Lima Restaurant afterwards (more of which later). There’s also a lovely roof terrace with a plunge pool and sunbeds if you feel the need for a bit of sun worshipping. I love eating alfresco, and even in early May it was lovely at both breakfast and dinner times.

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One of the lovely terraces where you can eat

A great Spanish breakfast option: Tasty tortilla straight out of the pan

Tasty tortilla straight out of the pan

The restaurant Spain is known for having some of the best food of the world. There are so many great restaurants in mainland Spain that you’d really have to go out of your way to have a bad meal. So it wasn’t a surprise to me to learn that Majorca is also right up there when it comes to cuisine. And for something completely different the hotel offers a fusion of Japanese and Peruvian cuisine at De Tokio A Lima Restaurant. A menu that does offer Spanish classics with a twist, like Gazpacho soup with Soller orange pearls or Russian salad with tuna fish belly. We tucked into a couple of the ceviches (an island has to be the place to eat fish, right), which were wonderfully  light and fresh. Try some Majorcan wine while you’re at it, it’s really good. Oh and the dessert, a Soller lemon crispy cake, was spectacular. Best lemon dessert ever?

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This is the traditional fish ceviche with tiger milk

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A beautiful plate of the freshest of fresh fish

The staff   Friendly and helpful, yet unobtrusive, everyone certainly makes you feel very much at home.

The Hotel Can Alomar is fairly small, with a welcoming, intimate feel. And as a base in Palma it gave us everything we needed and more.

Have you stayed anywhere particularly memorable that you’d like to tell me about? What made it special? I’d love to hear from you.

For more information visit http://www.boutiquehotelcanalomar.com/en/