Wine Discovery with The Wine List

The Wine List is a new subscription service which aims for their customers to “discover wine, and develop your skills at the same time”.

Each month subscribers receive a monthly wine course called ‘Wine Roots’ which contains some easy to follow lessons on grapes, regions and winemakers with a few core principles of winemaking.

They say the “best way to learn about wine is through discovery”. GT says the best way is “by drinking the wine” and The Wine List allows you to do both.

At £39 per month for two bottles of wine the real value is found in the discovery and learning aspect of the subscription, and for the home chefs amongst us the paired recipes which are included.

With the two wines we followed the pairings which were both unusual and made the duo more than the sum of their parts:

La Zerba Cantine Volpi 2018 ~ a delicate and sweet Salame Piemonte from Gastronomica
Petite Fugue Chateau le Payral 2017 ~ Baked Trout with Creme Fraîche & Walnut Sauce*

GT really enjoyed our wines which were also very interesting and something we may not have otherwise tried.

*Oven fry sliced potatoes in goose fat.
Slash fish skin, oil and season, stuff with thyme and loom, roast for 15 minutes.
Mix creme fraîche with crushed walnuts and horseradish to taste.

If you are looking for a way to discover wine from the comfort of home, especially given the current pandemic, then The Wine List is a great choice for you.

The Wine List Post Image

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GT Approved: ZeroWater

Do you ever feel like there is a nasty taste in tap water that you can’t quite pin down? Like chlorine or something else chemical based?

I do; and I have always been berated by friends for the harm that excessively drinking bottled water does to the environment. My favourite is Vichy Catalan which certainly racks up a few air miles!

The fact is I can taste something untoward in mineral water and I don’t like it. I don’t wish to go quite as far as the conspiracy theories surrounding tap water and fluoride but I have always thought surely there must be a more reassuring way to filter tap water. I have tried using a Brita filter but always revert back to mineral water.

I was not aware that there was a more advanced alternative to a Brita filter until I recently discovered ZeroWater. They are “on a mission to remove all impurities from UK tap water with the release of their ready-pour pitchers, providing the purest tasting drinking water on the market”.

ZeroWater states that this is achieved through the use of a 5-stage dual ion-exchange filtration system. The materials used in this system are certified to reduce lead, chromium and dissolved solids to provide a 99.6% purification rate, the equivalent of purified bottled water. Carbon reduction is said to remove the accustomed chlorine taste in its first stage, proceeding into the ion exchange stage, whereby it removes virtually all dissolved solids left from public water systems and piping. The three additional stages eliminate all leftover impurities. ZeroWater claim they are the only filter who currently offer the same approved level of purification as bottled water.

Having used ZeroWater for a few weeks now I am happy to recommend the product. The water tastes lighter and even most importantly it is actually cleaner. I tested the water from a tap which gave a reading of “282 PPM” (Parts Per Million) using a TDS (Total Dissolved Solids) water quality meter which is provided with the ZeroWater filter jug. I then tested water from my Brita filter which gave a reading of “213 PPM” compare to ZeroWater which gave a reading of “000 PPM”. These results are clearly impressive and asserts the companies claims.

I will caveat this recommendation by noting that completely removing dissolved solids is not necessarily a good thing, there are electrolytes and many other minerals which are beneficial to you. However when you are drinking London water which as the old saying goes “has been through somebody twice already” I will gladly accept that trade off for the extra filtration!

ZeroWater jugs are available online at ZeroWater from just £24.99.

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GT Approved: VARIDESK Pro Plus 36 Standing Desk

With the holidays behind us and a fresh new year now in full swing there is always a desire to compensate for over indulgence with a boost of health and fitness.

This year when considering ways to make lifestyle improvements I have been conscious of just how much more screen and desk time I needed in 2017 and that this should be an area I look at addressing before I step out into the freezing January air for another jog and lungful of exhaust fumes!

I first noticed standing desks when visiting a friend at work, it struck me what a good idea these may be, if only they looked far less ugly! Recalling this I began to have a look at what was out there in the marketplace and the brand that stood out to me is Varidesk.

I particularly liked their Pro Plus 36 model in white as pictured above, this desk is a standalone unit which can be placed on a regular table to convert it into both a standing desk and seated desk. Looks wise the desk unit has nice minimalist curved lines and does not look out of place in my modern office.

Feature wise The Pro Plus 36 incorporates a two tiered design ideal which allows me to separate my laptop and monitor from keyboard and mouse. Adjusting between sitting and standing is achieved via a spring loaded boost with 11 different height settings where you can find the perfect level for your own height.

If you are reading this and thinking of buying one I must mention that you need a sturdy desk underneath as this is a solid piece of kit which weighs a fair bit and is certainly not portable over long distances which is a good thing as my new elevated desk feels very sturdy and any wobbles would most likely drive me mad after a while.

The million dollar questions is “is the change to standing desk worth recommending?” and I can honestly say it is. For the first few days of use my legs tired towards the end of the day and I sat down again toward the end of days 1 and 2, however I have not sat down at my desk now for 3 weeks and the most noticeable change is that my leg muscles have become significantly stronger since and I no longer get tired from standing all day.

The main advantage I really like is that after work it is now really nice to enjoy sitting down to watch TV or read, it no longer feels lazy to sit down again after a day of sitting in the office!

Critically standing has many health benefits that while not as noticeable as stronger legs make my decision to move to a standing desk seem long overdue:

  • 50 extra calories burned an hour
  • Reduced risk of cancer linked to a sedentary lifestyle
  • Reduction in back pain from better posture
  • Reduced risk of blood sugar spikes and diabetes

VARIDESK UK Website | VARIDESK Instagram
The VARIDESK Pro Plus 36 currently retails at £365

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GT Approved: SCRUBD Men’s Soap

A new product has forced it’s way into our washbags and it’s worthy of introduction for yours too.

It’s a soap and the new bar on the block is by a British company called SCRUBD.

I have dabbled with soap bars like Clinique in the past and while a good product they seem to feel a little feminine and never make it back onto my shopping list. The bar I have in my bag is anything but, scented with Oakmoss and Spearmint it has a distinctively masculine pre and post shave appeal.

The product was conceived by the company founder Mark Helvadjian who wanted to create an all-natural bar of soap made specifically for men – he suceeded.

If you like the sound of this the range below is available in harvey Nichols.

Full Range

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Casa Amate – Mayakoba, Mexico

I would like to share my experience of dinner in Casa Amate at Mayakoba. This was quite simply the best experience I had at the magical Mayakoba and follows on from my earlier post about the resort.

Casa Amate is the lead dining experience at Andaz Mayakoba offers excellent food and drink in a very impressive homely space with the best service I have experienced for a very long time.

When you are in the restaurant it is very easy to feel like you are in the home of a well-traveled friend, who has invited you over to choose from a very appealing menu of delicious Latin American specialties which borrow ideas from their travels around the globe.

My recommendation would be to pre-book the outdoor terrace which offers a beautiful setting at dusk and do take their drink recommendations particularly for the local Mexican wines and tequilas. The barman makes a mean cocktail too.

Casa Amate Salad DishCasa Amate Octopus Dish

The standout dish was their Octopus as pictured above which was simply outstanding and the best I have ever eaten, and believe me I have eaten a lot as ‘Pulpo’ is a favourite wherever I travel, to be honest I am mildly concerned about sprouting tentacles.

What capped off eating the best ‘Pulpo’ to date was the friendly staff who have real charm and were genuinely delighted with our praise and couldn’t have done more to make sure we chose well and enjoyed the experience.

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Cost of a 3 course dinner and bottle of wine:
£85 per person

8 out of 10 – difficult to choose from a menu in which all dishes appealed

8 out of 10 – the restaurant wasn’t busy on our visit but when buzzing would be 10 out of 10

10 out of 10 – warm, genuine, attentive, perfect

9 out of 10 – a near perfect experience that will live long in the memory

Summary in seven:
The highlight of our Mayakoba resort experience

Carretera Federal Cancun-Playa Del Carmen Km. 298
Playa del Carmen-Solidaridad
Quintana Roo

Open every day 06:00 til 23:00

Website: Andaz Page for Restaurant
Phone: +52 984 1491234

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GT Approved: Hardy Amies

Spring is finally in the air this March and with the sun shining over London skies again it feels time to abandon darker tones and embrace colour

I received my first invite to dine outside this year, weather permitting, for a good friend’s engagement bash. Fingers crossed the weather holds and we are not rushed indoors.

So, what to wear. I decided a light suit worn without a tie in favour of matching white shirt and pocket silk would be the right choice for the occasion. This outfit finished with a pair of tan or sand loafers will make the ideal outfit to embrace the first alfresco dining opportunity of 2017.

I can think of nowhere better than the Hardy Amies store at number 8 Savile Row to find such a suit; their store offers an excellent selection of modern attire for both formal and casual suiting in a very welcoming and relaxing environment. Hardy Amies himself was a dressmaker and tailor to the royal family and has been on Savile Row since 1945. In 1961 Amies made a history hatrick with his catwalk show at The Savoy; not only was it the first time a men’s ready-to-wear collection was presented to an audience but the first time a catwalk show was accompanied by music and included the presence of a designer. 5 years later Amies designed clothing for the England football team, perhaps no coincidence, and adds another historic event we can nod towards Amies and be grateful for.

The 2017 Spring Summer collection offered some elegant blues, greys, whites and splashes of colour and bold check and I was really impressed with their current range of suits which are pictured below. My eyes were soon drawn to the perfect suit, a light blue ‘Heddon’ fit suit jacket (£295) and trousers (£145) which have a relaxed linen viscose mix. With careful and helpful assistance I matched the outfit with an ice-grey pocket silk (£35) and white ‘Brinsley’ fit shirt (£58).

Hardy Amies Suit

To complete the outfit I am adding a vintage dark blue leather plaited belt, Illesteva sunglasses and matching AĀRK watch from my wardrobe along with a pair of sand-coloured loafers as yet to be decided following an unsuccessful shopping spree. If only buying shoes in Kensington on a Saturday afternoon was as easy as choosing a suit at Hardy Amies in Savile Row.

Detailed Images of Hardy Amies Suit

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Hardy Amies Spring Collection Ideas

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Hardy Amies |
8 Savile Row

Instagram @hardyamiesldn
Tel: 020 3696 1408

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Mayakoba – Riviera Maya, Mexico

With direct flights from London and good weather awaiting you, Mexico and the Mayakoba resort are a wise choice if you are contemplating guaranteed sun, thanks to temperatures that rarely drop below the low twenties.

Getting to the Mayakoba from Cancun airport is easy and convenient with a short drive of less than an hour along a very straight road. It’s worth noting that I encountered minimal hassle at Cancun airport aside from a customs form you have to complete (and retain for the return). In fact I don’t think I have had an easier journey from plane to hotel.

Arriving in Mexico under the cover of darkness I felt the reassuring warmth in the air from a hot summers day. Sadly it was almost pitch black outside as our driver proudly told us about the 200 miles of Caribbean coastline we couldn’t see to our left as we travelled along Highway 307, a long straight coastal route to Playa Del Carmen, the coastal town on the Riviera Maya in which Mayakoba is located and my home for the next 10 days.

The Riviera Maya is a tourism resort district beside Highway 307 and part of a region called The Yucatán Peninsula which juts out of mainland Mexico like a thumb separating the Caribbean Sea from the Gulf of Mexico, therefore you can expect the same glorious Caribbean weather as I found in Grenada, with great beaches and the worlds second largest coral reef.

Not only is the weather great here but the region also contains the unique feature of well over a thousand sinkholes, known as ‘Cenotes’, which in some cases have been turned into swimming parks such as the popular Xcaret, one of many in the area. Apparently these drains were carved out of limestone over centuries through the erosion caused by the natural water drainage running out to sea. More are being discovered regularly which leads me to imagine the ground beneath your feet being quite possibly like swiss cheese in substance.

The other big attractions to this coastline area and worth a trip are Tulum beachside resort area, the ancient Mayan city ruins of Tulum and the Mayan pyramids of Coba.

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None of this however is quite as remarkable as the resort of Mayakoba; an eco-friendly, both architecturally and naturally beautiful resort created as a passion project by a Spanish construction company in a swamp.

Now, leave your initial thoughts for a moment, because this is no ordinary swamp. I am aware the word conjures up all manner of negative thoughts from muddy and smelly waterways to alligator death-traps. The reality of the swamp here is rather different to any preconceived notions.

The water is mostly gin clear and often a brilliant turquoise blue. That in itself sounds ideal but what makes Mayakoba really special is that you are literally surrounded by nature and the lagoons and trees are simply alive with indigenous flora and fauna. The design is so carefully thought out that when in your villa the resort feels empty despite occupancy fluctuating between 60-90% during my visit. Exactly what you would wish for on a holiday.

Mayakoba has it’s own beach and almost all accommodation is facing the water whether it is a lagoon or the sea, mine was facing the lagoon and I really enjoyed early mornings in the garden with a spiced Mexican coffee while I watched a variety of wildlife swim past me in the swamp, including whole families of turtle, tilapia fish and all manner of song birds through to herons and ducks. One of the most fascinating things I saw was a skinny looking version of perhaps my least favourite bird of all, the cormorant, in this environment the bird was extremely graceful to watch as it hunted it’s prey down under the clear water.

Opportunities to spot wildlife are abundant here and during my visit I saw several Iguana’s a Spider Monkey, A Coati (type of Mexican racoon) and a small Crocodile. I was reassured to know the the crocodiles are kept under observation and removed before they start to see you as on the menu!

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Mayakoba is a luxury resort with a first class level of service throughout however what makes Mayakoba more special than resorts of this type I have visited is because within it’s boundaries it offers accommodation with four recognised hoteliers; Banyan Tree, Rosewood, Andaz and Fairmont.

Each hotel has the ability to cross-payment so the whole resort is open for exploration wherever you stay. Now rather than be limited to four or five dining options and just one spa you have a multitude of dining options and four spas so there really is zero excuse to struggle for options during even the longest of holidays. Some lucky residents have seized this opportunity for a lifelong holiday purchasing homes within the resort.

Map Of Mayakoba

Most importantly Mayakoba offers fishing excursions and hosts two outstanding golf courses: El Camaleón an 18-hole golf course designed by PGA legend Greg Norman and The OHL Classic at Mayakoba, the latter of which made golfing history in 2007 when it became the first PGA TOUR event ever contested outside of the US and Canada. This is a truly stunning location for golfing, where else in the world can you play golf amongst beautiful turquoise blue lagoons? The stunning contrast between golfing greens and bright blue waters I have captured below in this picture but only the natural eye can really do them justice.

The golf course has an excellent restaurant called Koba with a large full fronted outdoor terrace looking out over the course, there truly has been no better way to relax after a game of golf than with one of their margaritas and outstanding octopus panucho dishes.

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Within Mayakoba there is also the opportunity to visit their very own sinkhole Cenote Burrodromo and ‘El Pueblito’ a rather tastefully newly-built version of a classic Mexican village square complete with a marketplace which hosts a farmers market on Sundays, a cafe, boutiques and an art gallery, most impressive was a beautifully decorated Catholic chapel as pictured below.

I stayed in Banyan Tree and Rosewood but had my favourite meal in Casa Amate at Andaz, a review of all these to follow soon.

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Mayakoba Residences
Tel. +(52) 984 8734920

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The Signature Collection at Celtic Manor, Wales

Celtic Manor is an interesting part of Welsh history going back to at least 1634 when it was recorded as the the residence of the High Sheriff of Monmouthshire, Lewis Van. Following this The Manor House itself was built over two hundred years later in 1860 by Thomas Powell then the world’s most prominent exporter of the black gold Wales is famous for, coal, he was also the first coal millionaire.

The current owner Sir Terry Matthews was actually born here as it had changed use to become the Lydia Beynon Maternity Hospital in 1940, he then purchased the Manor house in 1980 spending over 100 million converting the residence to accomodate 17 bedrooms.

Celtic Manor today boasts some 70 rooms, a spa, several restaurants and 10 lodges. However most notably the resort is now a world-class destination for golf, with three championship courses, The Twenty Ten course built to stage The 2010 Ryder Cup, Roman Road and The Montgomerie as well as a Golf Academy and two clubhouses.

I was invited by my guests to experience the very latest chapter in their history; The Signature Collection, and I was eager to see what Wales has to offer Golfers having enjoyed a recent trip to Gleneagles.

First impressions are quite breathtaking as the hotel gradually appears on the horizon then in no time at all looms above you as you approach from the M4 motorway down below appearing like a colossal man made mountain, albeit one with red awnings. Once inside the building the lobby you are presented by an impressive light open glass lobby space which is somewhat undone by two of the only odd things I didn’t enjoy during my stay; plastic flowers and dated looking wooden dragon sculptures.

The Signature Collection of rooms can be found at the top of the hotel up on the sixth floor along with the hotel’s best views but what sets these rooms apart from the rest of the resort is that extra slice of luxury we found, each room was designed for adults only and finished to an impressively high standard with a relaxed modern ambience. All rooms have a 6ft king-size double bed, sitting area, a really nice marble bathroom with a large vanity unit, bath and separate shower.

All guests here have access to the Signature Lounge a stylish bar which made a great location for our first Gin & Tonic courtesy of the stunning views from the balcony and Breakfast is served on the same floor so any early morning stress can be avoided.

Signature Collection

Most importantly there are many great dining options at Celtic Manor:

Steak on Six – a steak restaurant and part of The Signature Collection described as “showcasing signature steaks from around the British Isles, Steak on Six offers contemporary dining with a relaxed, rustic flavour“. We ate a fabulous t-bone steak here which was cooked perfectly medium rare and the restaurant had a great wine menu to choose from.

Epicure by Richard Davies – a modern European dining option also part of The Signature Collection described as an “exquisite modern dining experience is sure to impress with its intricate menus and fresh, intense flavours“. We did not eat here but shall do if I return.

Cen at Celtic Manor – Asian fusion cuisine by Larkin Cen a 2013 finalist of BBC’s MasterChef UK described as “from delicious fluffy steamed bao buns to slow cooked oriental pork belly and succulent sharing platters of Cantonese duck, savour this sociable dining experience bursting with authentic pan-Asian flavours“. This was perhaps the highlight of our stay, we all thoroughly enjoyed the Asian dishes, excellent cocktails and relaxed restaurant ambience.

Rafters – a restaurant set within the prestigious Twenty Ten Clubhouse, the cuisine here is described as simple and elegant “from the finest locally reared beef to fresh fish and seafood, Rafters’ talented chefs use some of the best ingredients Wales has to offer to create succulent steaks and grills with a uniquely Welsh flavour”.

The Grill – another clubhouse restaurant offering relaxed informal dining of honest and simple food described as a “tempting menu of wholesome ingredients mixes distinctive flavours and textures offering a mouthwatering selection of comforting favourites including succulent steaks, pasta, fresh fish, salads and burgers”.

Olive Tree & Garden Room – the resorts family friendly dining option.

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Something very rare happened at Celtic Manor which surprised me: We didn’t eat a bad dish during our stay! I can therefore say on behalf of a group of four quite demanding customers that I can recommend visiting the resort purely for dinner.

There is plenty to do besides golf, too many activities to mention in one post, particularly if you have kids.

The activities I spotted and took part in include:

  • Forest Jump – I tried my hand at this treetop assault course and sadly have to admit I was truly terrified! The logo is deceptive rather than being an activity for kids it really puts your bravery to the test. There is a lower version for kids also.
  • Laser Clays – Having done quite a bit of clay shooting recently with the outstanding Phillip Thorrold Shooting Academy I enjoyed having a go at this activity which I found surprisingly realistic and much less noisy!
  • Fishing Excursions – Sadly I didn’t have the time but the river Usk is definitely worth a trip as is Wales for fly fishing in general.
  • Shopping – a couple of clothing boutiques and gift shop with a nice selection of designer labels.
  • The Forum Spa – the staff here were truly great and I would definitely visit again for another massage which really helped ease my aches and pains from the assault course.
  • Above all what impressed me the most during my stay was the relaxed atmosphere and warm welcome from all of the staff which made me feel very much at home in Wales. I will definitely be returning here for dinner again soon on the way back from one of my fishing trips to the River Usk.

    The Celtic Manor resort
    Coldra Woods
    The Usk Valley
    South Wales
    NP18 1H2

    Tel: +44 (0) 1633 413 000
    Travel Info: Driving M4 (J24) Trains from Newport Rail Station or 90 minutes from London Heathrow and 45 minutes from Cardiff and Bristol Airports.

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    GT Approved: Yaxell Knives

    I have recently been introduced to Yaxell, a Japanese brand who make high quality kitchen knives favoured worldwide by many top professional chefs, and an amateur like myself.

    I’m sure you will agree from the image above that their ‘Ran 25.5cm Chef’s Knife’ really looks the part for a very affordable RRP of £129.95. This, along with their other blades, are produced in Seki Japan formerly the traditional home for the manufacture of Katana swords for over 780 years.

    Quite sensibly a law was passed in 1876 prohibiting public sword-wielding and this forced skilled tradesmen to find a new outlet producing fine domestic knives, a tradition which has carried on to this day, with Seki remaining at the forefront of worldwide knife manufacture.

    Established in 1932 Yaxell combine their knowledge and expertise with cutting edge technology to produce several knife ranges; Gou, Super Gou, Ran and Tsuchimon. On all Yaxell knives the tang is forged from an 18/10 stainless ingot which is then seamlessly welded onto the blade and is as strong as the blade itself and this construction itself is unique to their knives.

    Yaxell Knives are only available from a company called Steamer Trading, a family owned cookshop from Alfriston East Sussex since 1985.

    Their website is definitely worth a look and they also have stores throughout the UK. You can browse their Yaxell Knives here but they also offer a great range of other knives and cookware; a useful gifting source for gadget-lovers.

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    I have often chuckled to myself watching grown adults whizz around Chelsea on scooters. The scooters may well belong to their children and save precious time but nothing can detract from the fact that an adult on a scooter looks like an overgrown child.

    I know parenthood tends can take your eye off the ball with regards to personal style, understandably, but adults riding a scooter in my opinion is a no-no.

    That is… unless it is a SCROOSER.

    The SCROOSER is a new trend of adult-friendly scooter I have been alerted to from Germany and you can tell straight away by looking at it that it is no child’s toy.

    The exterior is really appealing with wide tyres and a curved frame that offers a very unique style. The interior features an electric motor which lasts for around 34 miles on a 4 hour charge with a legal road speed. All the rider has to do to get going is simply push off against the ground with your foot to activate the drive and the integrated electric motor will then augment the force of the push and accelerate to up to around 15mph.

    According to the manufacturer “the SCROOSER detects how hard the rider pushes and scales the motor power accordingly.
    Guaranteed to get you from A to B in style – and back again. Absolutely no stress – and absolutely loads of fun.”

    Series production of the SCROOSER has just begun meaning it’s available to order now. I truly hope to see more of these on the streets soon. Anything but adults on child’s scooters!

    Take a look here:

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