Late last year, we dispatched our antipodean hotel expert, Sam, on a mission to uncover the best boutique hotels in Australia. She not only uncovered some of the most mind-blowingly stylish stays south of the equator, she also proved to be pretty handy with a camera.
Back at Smith HQ, we were braced for politely nodding our way through yet another round of holiday snaps, but Sam pulled some startling National Geographic-worthy images out of the bag. There were far too many to post here, but here’s a selection from her adventures in the Red Centre, the Kimberly, and the Top End…
The Cockburn Range – El Questro Homestead
Sunrise over Bamurru Plains
As promised in the last post on our trip to The Crown Inn in Amersham, the Smith Travel Blog is quivering with lip-licking delight to bring you Rosie Sykes’s exquisite duck recipe, exclusively from her manifesto for The Kitchen Revolution. We tried it over the weekend, and, though it didn’t quite produce the gustatory fireworks it did on Rosie’s watch, it still earned this Mr Smith a chapter in the good books on Valentine’s Day…
Roast duck, Seville oranges, celeriac mash
It’s worth pricking the skin of a duck prior to cooking to extract excess fat, thereby encouraging a crisp skin. For a 1.75kg bird the total cooking time, including 20 minutes at 220ºC/425ºF/gas mark 7, will be one hour and 10 minutes. for different sized birds, cook for 45 minutes a kilo.
Roast duck with Seville oranges
1 medium–large duck, approx 1.75kg
3 medium onions, approx 660g
6 Seville oranges or other small juicy oranges
2 sprigs fresh sage
2 sprigs fresh thyme
Salt and pepper
Last week, Mr & Mrs Smith’s production queen Jasmine (who sorts out the printing of our books and all the lovely pictures on our site and arranges hotel reviews and, ooh, about six million other things) and I headed into the darkest depths of the Metropolitan line to Amersham, Buckinghamshire. It’s a sleepy satellite market town on the fringes of the Chilterns; one of those places that you half-recognise at every turn because of the fact that it’s routinely called in to play the role of ‘sleepy satellite market town’ in film. A role, I should add, that it performs with aplomb.
I’ll confess now that mooching around the Home Counties commuter belt is not my preferred means of disporting myself on a Thursday night, but when there’s an Ilse Crawford-designed boutique hotel to check out and the promise of a roast duck dinner, I’d happily fly Ryanair to Tasmania.
At a loose end tonight? Not so unlucky then, despite the date. If you’re staying in London but pining for an African adventure (or a slice of idiosyncratic fun before Valentine’s Day), a Victorian warehouse in Islington might just be the answer. Just remember to dress up.
Say what? Officially, The Double Club is a ‘pop-up art installation that combines Congolese and Western culture for fun-loving London party people’. Unofficially, this temporary restaurant/bar/disco cum art project by Carsten Höller has become the place to be seen by London’s fashion crowd (I spotted designer Giles Deacon and his crew there on Friday dancing underneath the club’s neon palm trees).