Monday 29 March 2010

Anh-thu, Kurfurstenstr, Munich

An upmarket and stylish restaurant serving fine Vietnamese food, anh-thu buzzes with prosperous thirtysomething and fortysomething locals. The oriental decor is lavish - the burgundy walls are decorated with gold stencilled illustrations of trees, while serene gold statues stand to attention in small alcoves. Above you, there are large spherical balls of light enclosed in ornate black frames. The starters, such as fat spring rolls with prawns, chicken satay and spicy duck salad, are voluptuous and moreish. The main courses are also generous and delicious. The duck curry, for example, has almost a dozen slices of fatty and tasty meat sitting on a bed of nicely-cooked vegetables. But the boiled rice can be stodgy. The strong Saigon beer makes a refreshing accompaniment and is good value at around 3 euros for a 330ml bottle - perfect for taking the sting out of some of the spices. 8/10

Wednesday 24 March 2010

H'Otello, Hohenzollernstra├če, Munich

An inconspicuous, boutique hotel in a fashionable area of Munich, H'Otello is smart, cool and modern with quite large and quite quiet rooms. The minimalist decor is largely white, but flowers provide an odd splash of colour. At the front, the rooms have desks, beneath the good-sized windows, where you can plug your laptop into an Ethernet cable for Internet access, and gaze down on to the retail thoroughfare of Hohenzollernstra├če. The only flaw is the rather skimpy duvet and the odd-shaped pillows - one too large and fat, the other too small and skinny. During the week, you can get one of these rooms for a reasonable 114 euros a night.

That rate includes a buffet breakfast, served in the basement, featuring a selection of good quality speciality breads, cheeses, cold meats, fruit salads, muesli and other appetising morsels. There is also an array of hot food, such as scrambled eggs, fried eggs, boiled eggs, bacon and sausages. You can choose from half-a-dozen styles of coffee, such as latte macchiato and a cappuccino, and half-a-dozen teas, including peppermint and green tea. The tables are set with decent cutlery, napkins and crockery. All-in-all, H'Otello is a well-run establishment, with a good-eye-for-detail, in a nice neighbourhood. 7/10

Monday 22 March 2010

The George, High Street, Rye

An understated creamy white inn on Rye's historic high street, the George is a large and luxurious establishment dating from the early eighteenth century and boasts a fine in-house restaurant. In recent years, the many surviving period features have been given a facelift and adorned with tasteful fixtures and fittings. The dozen or so rooms, which ooze character, are split between standard doubles, deluxe doubles and junior suites. Room eight, one of the suites, is a bit special. It has a big bed, a comfy L-shaped sofa, a handsome old wardrobe, a large roll top bath (which can be hidden behind some curtains), a mini space age lamppost and a clutch of other quirky features, including an ancient suitcase, a vintage radio and traditional cast-iron radiators. Once you have seen enough of Rye, you can make yourself a cafetiere of premium filter coffee, watch a DVD from the George's aging video library and select some of the top-notch toiletries in the en-suite bathroom, while the impressive bath fills with piping hot water. Some guests complain that the rooms near the elegant period ballroom, which hosts functions, can be too noisy, but room eight, tucked away, is quiet. Note, if all the doubles are taken, you might be able to book a suite for the price of a deluxe double (£175 a night).

Thursday 11 March 2010

Rye, East Sussex

On the edge of the desolate Romney Marshes, the well-preserved medieval town of Rye has retreated inland over the centuries, undermining its historic status as one of the Cinque Ports. Built on a clump of high-ground and bordered by rivers on three sides, Rye still feels quite nautical - you can hear seagulls around the town and you can see the sea shimmering in the distance. At the heart of the town, is the substantial, but squat, Norman parish church of St. Mary's surrounded by its green graveyard and a large, peaceful cobbled square bordered by original timber-framed houses seemingly unchanged in hundreds of years. Cobbled streets, lined with period lampposts, lead down to Rye's main drag, which is home to an array of independent shops, tearooms, curry houses and pubs housed in a mismash of attractive buildings spanning several centuries. Rye's stationers, ironmongers and sweet shops feel like a throwback to the seventies, but they see plenty of trade on a February Saturday. You'll also stumble across medieval stone gatehouses, art galleries, white clapboard houses, small museums and an extraordinary record shop, awash with vinyl, housed in an ornate grammar school dating from the seventeenth century. Outside the medieval heart, both the archtiecture and atmosphere is much more mundane, but there is enough in Rye to easily sustain a weekend break. 8/10

Tuesday 9 March 2010

Walk from Rye to Camber Sands, Sussex

This five-mile round trip is ultra-flat and not particularly scenic, but it does get you from the time warp medieval town of Rye to the enticing sand dunes and the wide, wide beach of Camber. You head east out of Rye on the A259, cross the bridge and then turn off the road onto the cycle route pointing towards Camber Sands. Judging on the faeces all over the grass either side of the track, this is where the good people of Rye come to walk their dogs. Unfortunately, the ultra-straight route takes you away from the small winding river before reaching the edge of a modest lake and then running alongside a fairly-busy minor road. To the east, about twenty or so huge white wind turbines tower in the distance. Eventually, you reach some surburban houses, one with a large beaten-up boat in its front drive. From here, you can cross a small field, doubling as a car park, and climb up the big bank of sand dunes, which offer a fine view of this vast bay. The expansive beach is ideal for a bracing seaside walk and you can stop for a coffee in the scruffy Kit Kat cafe, but it can be poor and pricey. You walk back the way you came, but at least you get a fine view of Rye's solid parish church rising above the surrounding flatlands. 6/10

The Mariners, High Street, Rye

One of the more unassuming tearooms in Rye, the Mariners is part-business, part-charity. Most of the waiting staff have learning disabilities, so the service can be erratic, but also charming. The decor is a tad old-fashioned and tired, but on a Saturday afternoon, the tables tend to be full and there is a lively atmosphere. The cheese and bacon panini (about £4), served with a very modest salad, might be lukewarm, but it still tastes pretty good. Alternatively, the ham ploughman’s, which comes with two large bread rolls, loads of decent meat and heaps of salad, is very generous for a fiver. 7/10

Wednesday 3 March 2010

The restaurant at The George in Rye, East Sussex.

An tasteful mixture of old and new, the George's restaurant has wooden beams, paintings in ornate frames, rows of serrated, conical lampshades and stylish stencil designs on a sleek glass partition. On a Friday or Saturday night, you will probably need to book one of the closely-packed tables, which are mostly occupied by young couples. If possible, try and get one next to the comfortable, leather-clad benches running along opposite walls of the dining room. As you read the menu, which is billed as featuring lots of local produce cooked with a Mediterranean influence, you are offered a thick wedge of brown bread served with salty olive oil. If you are undecided, ask one of the polite, helpful and tall waitresses, dressed all in black, for advice about the food.

Fat, juicy scallops
Among the starters (£5 to £8), the butter bean, chorizo and parsley soup is thick, rich and creamy, but lacks flavour when you don't have one of the handful of cubes of meat on your spoon. The parsley can be hard to detect. The main courses (around £15) can include an impressive venison wellington with caramelised vegetables and some succulent and meaty guinea fowl wrapped in salty prosciutto served on a bed of spinach and mushroom risotto - a delicious and very filling dish. The fat, juicy scallops served with a crispy slab of belly of pork topped with a scintillating, small Asian salad, is also a treat for the taste buds, but lacks carbohydrate and calories. Of the deserts (about £5), a good choice is a small slice of chocolate and apricot tart, served with a champagne glass of rich, thick, creamy chocolate mousse. There is a long wine list with bottles starting at £15, but if you want to keep a clear head, the selection of 250 ml carafes include a smooth, velvety claret for £6.50 and an innocuous, refreshing white for £5.50. Housed in a sixteenth-century coaching inn, the George's restaurant is a classy, polished establishment serving generally fine food. 8/10