Best bars in London: as picked by Soho bar star Brenhan Magee

In this season of good cheer and high spirits, we thought you might need a little festive drinking inspiration, so we put our heads The Club Bar & Dining Londontogether, sank a few martinis, lost track of what we were doing somewhat and then decided to get someone else to do it for us. So we quizzed Soho bar supremo Brenhan Magee of the Bohemia Group for the insider lowdown on the London drinking scene. His qualifications? He’s behind The Club Bar & Dining (pictured right) – a hip Mayfair hangout on Warwick Street – as well as having had a hand in the Breakfast Group’s eat-and-drinkeries Jerusalem and Salvador and Amanda. So, bottoms up – here’s to the new drinking year!

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Brenhan, what do you reckon are the top three places in London to get a great cocktail – somewhere where the mixologists actually know their stuff? Somewhere you don’t have to explain to the barman how to mix a martini (as happened to me recently – but that’s another story)?

Cocktails at Shochu Lounge bar, LondonNumber 1: Shochu Lounge under Roka, on Charlotte Street: Tony Conigliaro is one of London’s finest and most creative cocktail gurus, and he’s created a fab menu of Japanese-influenced drinks.

Number 2: Green & Red on Bethnal Green Road (020 7749 9670) – another of the tricks up Hawksmoor head honcho Will Beckett‘s sleeve). Mixologist Dre Masso is revered by the cocktail world and for good reason – he is the best person I have ever had the pleasure to work with in terms of cocktails – he’s not just a bartender, he is a chef.

Smith reviews: magnificent Mayfair base Brown’s Hotel in London

Yes, that’s right – it’s new-review time again! Every time we publish an anonymously conducted hotel review by Mr & Mrs Smith, we’ll let you know here on the Smith Travel Blog, so you can keep pace with our global wanderings. We visit every property in our hand-picked hotel collection in person, just to check they’re still delivering on their promises and keeping us hungry for more.

The Smiths aren’t always gallivanting round the globe though, and are often to be found closer to home – sometimes even virtually next-door in London: wherever they lay their heads (as Paul Young might have sung), that’s their home…

Browns Hotel in London, UK

Here’s a snippet from the latest Mr & Mrs Smith stay at Brown’s Hotel, an elegant in-town escape in London:

Smith reviews: fashionista hangout, the Chedi Milan. It’s in Milan, obviously

The Chedi Milan, lounge viewAnd another review (they’re coming thick and fast at the moment): this time, our Smith spies have been in La Bella Italia, in that most stylish of fashion capitals, Milan. They took refuge in the spankingly chic new urban resort in the up-and-coming Boviso district known as The Chedi Milan, and here’s a little excerpt from their report:

I have no idea why the Campari family have kept the ingredients secret for 150 years. Health & Safety should ensure that the ingredients to make it are published everywhere, else innocent people with a few random herbs in their larder and some cough syrup might make some Campari by accident. Is it really worth the risk?

Merry Smithmas

Just a quick post to wish you all a very Happy Christmas from everyone at Team Smith (well, all those of us who haven’t bunked off early for the holidays, anyway). May your stockings be fillered, your sprouts tasty, and your brandy flammable.

Also, a wee festive plug. If, like me, you’ve entirely failed to make good on last year’s promise that, this time, you’d do all your Christmas shopping well in advance, missed our gift-guide extravaganza, and still have a special someone to buy something special for, then we may have just the solution…

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How to… make your own flavoured vodka

The newest recruit to our blogging crew, Jim, is a mine of totally useless amazing facts and tidbits. I was immediately drawn to the mention on his blography of willow-flavoured vodka and, after a fruitless Google search, I asked him where this delicious-sounding nectar came from. As usual (and you’ll soon come to understand why we call him Jimopedia here at Mr & Mrs Smith), the answer was both revealing and informative. So for those of you who were also wondering whence willow vodka hails, or fancy making your own, here are the details, straight from the horse’s mouth:

Postcard from Ibiza: Christmas island…

Music-loving travel blogger and Ibiza insider Cila Warncke delivers Christmassy, yuletide greetings to all you Mr & Mrs Smiths from the balmy Balearic Island she calls home…

Holiday in Ibiza, Plaza del Parque

December in IbizaChristmas is a very special time in Ibiza. Local municipalities have gotten splendidly into the spirit, decking the main streets and town squares with fairy lights and fir trees. The annual Christmas Fair is in full swing on Vara de Rey, in Ibiza Town, with handcrafts, gifts, sweets and mini-fairground rides for the kids. And the famous hippie market at Las Dahlias, in San Carlos just around the corner from Can Curreu restaurant, has gone all Christmassy, too, and is a perfect place to find unique gifts like handmade jewellery and leather goods.

Smith reviews: Sicilian farmhouse stay Azienda Agricola Mandranova

While it’s a bit miserable and dark (well, it’s winter, innit), we thought we’d brighten your day with tales from a sunnier isle – Sicily.

Mandranova farmhouse in Sicily - holidays in ItalyAs you know, every time we publish a new hotel write-up from one of our panel of independent reviewers at Mr & Mrs Smith, we’ll let you know, so you can keep pace with our team of travel spies and style insiders on their global roams. Every property in our hand-picked hotel collection is reviewed by a real-life couple, so we can make sure every bed is beautiful, every breakfast delectable, and every night romantic (as well as super-stylish).

Anyhoo: here’s some feedback from our anonymous Mr & Mrs Smiths after their recent visit to gorgeous coastal countryside farmhouse Azienda Agricola Mandranova in Sicily

Yoga, chocolate and Caribbean bliss

Mmm, a yoga holiday in Grenada. And loads of chocolate. No, I’ve not eaten one too many liqueur chocolates, I’m at Laluna.

It’s all very well treating ourselves to a few days in a stylish boutique hotel in the Caribbean that’ll have us looking and feeling our best. But how many holidays also do good for the local community? The ‘Eco Chic Yoga Retreats’ taking place at Grenada’s most special boutique hotel Laluna not only promise a stylish escape but give guests the chance to help a local charity that works to improve the lives of local children – all while you lie back and say ‘Om’. I’ve been lucky enough to spend a few days here as the guest of the very delightful Wendy and Bernardo Bertucci and meet the founders of these extra-special charity trips, yoga guru, Neo Moreton and Dr Karen Lawson.

Launching… The Australia Collection

In a move that looks a lot like it was cleverly timed to coincide with the release of Baz Luhrmann’s colossal geopic Australia, but was really just blind luck with bells on, we’re please to announce the addition of a host of Aussie hotels to Mr & Mrs Smith’s collection.

Queensland, Australia

Until last week, we had just one hotel down under – the grand and glam Tower Lodge in the Hunter Valley – but now we’ve spread our net across the continent from the culinary capital Melbourne and the New World winelands beyond Sydney to the iconic Red Centre, tropical Top End, the Kimberley, Queensland and the Great Barrier Reef.

The Ultimate Christmas Gift Guide: Part 2

Christmas in New YorkIn Part 1 of our Ultimate Christmas Gift Guide, we brought you perfect xmas present tips from Mr & Mrs Smith’s favourite lovely people at all-natural beauty company Jo Wood Organics, holiday and beachwear purveyors Heidi Klein, luxury lingerie and gift company Coco Ribbon and haute jewellers Astley Clarke.

Today, we’re sprinkling around another handful of snowy, sparkling good cheer and mulled wine glowiness, while carolling loudly about figgy pudding and the like, with our second sackful of Christmas gift ideas

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