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London, Restaurants, Reviews, UK

AFTERNOON TEA ON THE THAMES: OXO TOWER, LONDON

October 1, 2016

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After a morning of meetings and an endless amount of walking an afternoon of relaxation (and over eating) at OXO Tower Restaurant to experience their Afternoon Tea was just what I needed. Me and my friend arrived around 15 minutes before we were due to be seated and whilst we waited we were invited onto the terrace to enjoy the views of the city from over the River Thames.

The restaurant itself features floor to ceiling windows that flood in natural light from their stunning terrace area. If it wasn’t raining on the day I came for my visit I would have definitely sat outside so I could admire the city skyline. However, the indoor area was just as lovely! The decor is modern and minimal with a white and royal blue colour scheme.

There is an array of specialty teas to choose from, all of which are refillable and you can try as many as you like throughout your afternoon – this applies also to the food that is served. Once we decided on drinks the waiter brought over the first round of indulgent treats. The first level consisted of finger sandwiches filled with carefully selected ingredients. The second level presented a selection of “bites” such as mini Yorkshire puddings and OXO Tower’s scotch eggs with an interesting twist. The waiter on hand described each individual sandwich and snack in great detail, highlighting the different flavours and elements.

The next serving stand offered the traditional scones with clotted cream and jams, as well as a selection of rich desserts and cakes. The scones which were dusted in caster sugar were warm when served – a small detail I think really makes an Afternoon Tea all the more satisfying.

Overall, I really enjoyed my afternoon at OXO Tower. The service was smooth and faultless, the food was incredible and the venue is simply beautiful. The attention to detail with regard to how the food is prepared, put together and presented is extremely impressive. Every single ingredient that they use in the sandwiches, condiments and desserts is well thought out by the chefs making this Afternoon Tea stand out from the crowd.

So if you are looking for an experience that offers impeccable quality food as well as an awe-inspiring venue to enjoy it all at then I recommend booking in at OXO Tower Restaurant. For more information or reservations please head to their website below:

www.harveynichols.com/restaurant/the-oxo-tower

Bali, Indonesia, Travel

BALI: MY TOP 5 THINGS TO DO

September 9, 2016

If you’re planning a trip to the “Island of The Gods” here are my top 5 things to do whilst you are there. With so much to do in this beautiful, tropical destination it’s hard to know what’s worth doing and what isn’t – especially if you are only here for a limited amount of time. So after spending 6 months of the year here, allow me to make things easier for you with my suggestions…

1. Number one on my list is a fairly obvious choice and rather commercial, but I’ve been here twice and would definitely recommend you head over here for the day to Potato Head Beach Club. It’s 500,000 IDR for a bed with a maximum of 4 persons and you get to redeem that amount against food and drink, so you don’t really lose out. It’s always full of people just wanting to enjoy the sun, watch the waves from the infinity pool and just unwind completely for the day.20151115_140041 _1

2. Next on my list is slightly on the expensive side, but if you’re in Bali for a special occasion and want to do something really luxurious I would 100% recommend going to the Soleil Sunday Brunch at The Mulia Resort in Nusa Dua. Make a reservation in advance and drink as much sparkling wine, beer, cocktails and eat as much as you like for a whole 4 hours! The food is incredible and the drink selection isn’t restricted at all. You will get the best of everything here and you can literally ask for anything you want. The restaurant overlooks the hotel’s stunning pool and beach, and the interior of the restaurant is beautiful. Once brunch is over head outside with your last drink of the day and enjoy the resort’s surroundings.DSC_1103_1

3. Up next is a day trip all the way to Tenenungan Waterfall. My advice here is do not trust the Google Map location like me and my boyfriend did if you are planning on biking it there by yourself, if anything I would suggest hiring a driver or taxi driver to take you here and back because the drive is long and the traffic is pretty overwhelming but once you get there it is well worth it. The water fall is amazing and there isn’t as many steps down to it as I was expecting which is a bonus when you are making your way back up. We arrived at about mid-day and it was pretty busy so if you can get there early morning I can imagine it is really special.DSC_1221_1

4. Next on my list is a secret beach called, Green Bowl Beach. Located to the south of the island near to Uluwatu you will discover this gorgeous hidden beach surrounded by cliff sides and has the most golden sand you’ll ever see. Again, it is one where you should arrive as early as possible as it can get a little crowded a mid-day, but still there is enough room to spend a whole day here and enjoy this little beach. However, there are over 300 steep steps to get down to this beach and walking back up is not for the faint hearted!DSC_0885

5. Last, but not least whilst you are in Bali make use of where you are and your proximity to the most amazing islands in the world – The Gili Islands. I did a full blog about my visit last year which you can read here. Every time some asks me “What was the highlight of spending your time in Bali?”, I always say “The Gili Islands”. There are three islands to choose from and you can spend your time on all three very easily as there are taxi boats that run every day regularly to them. But honestly, these islands are a must see and such an unforgettable experience!IMG-20151006-WA0000_1

If you have any other suggestion on what to do in Bali please comment below and share your thoughts! You can also see “My Top 5 Things To Do in Koh Samui, Thailand” here.

Bars, London, Reviews, UK

AN EVENING OF MAGIC: ARTESIAN, LONDON

September 6, 2016

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If you’re looking for an unforgettable evening of pure indulgence where you can enjoy the finest cocktails in the world (literally), then Artesian is the place come to. Located within The Langham off of Regent Street, Artesian is a cocktail bar that oozes class and sophistication attracting a casual, yet up-market crowd that enjoy the exclusivity that it offers. Winner of “The World’s Best Bar” for four years running it didn’t take long for me to realise why this particular bar, out of all of the bars in the world, really was “the best.”

Me and guest ordered a cocktail each upon arrival – our choices guided by the head barman who also bought us over two lovely little samples of their “You’re So Gangsta” cocktails for us to try. Whilst we waited for our drinks to be expertly created the waiter bought over bar snacks for us to enjoy – one pot of cashew nuts and another pot of lightly salted potato chips.

We were more than impressed with our first drinks! I had a gin based cocktail called “Chameleon Crystals” and my guest ordered a classic Espresso Martini. My cocktail was served in a wooden box, I was told to make a wish and then the wonderful barman opened up the box to reveal my drink. Thick white smoke came billowing out and it smelt amazing. Highly recommend you try this one!

Next up we ordered the “Anti-Hero” and “Suspended In Time”. One came served in a giant lego elephant (yes, I know how that may sound), and the other came served with an eye-catching blue ring attached to a white net which wrapped itself around the rounded glass. Placing on the ring on my guest’s finger the glass was dropped and the whole idea behind the name of the cocktail became clear!

The creativity of the cocktails at Artesian are simply genius – its like a magic trick every time they bring your cocktails over. The bar’s cocktail list and concept changes every so often to offer it’s guests new and even more exciting drinks – they already have a fantastic collection of cocktails, so I’m sure the bar men have their hands (and minds) full trying to come up with new ideas.

Overall, despite the bar’s impressive awards and prestigious location Artesian is actually a very fun and relaxed place to drink. The bar men are extremely humorous and the waiters & waitresses make you feel more than welcome – offering their recommendations with precise knowledge and politeness. If you want to impress someone or have an evening filled with surprises Artesian wins hands down. I will come here every time I am in London now just to see what’s new!

For more information or for reservations please visit their website below.

www.Artesian-Bar.co.uk

London, Restaurants, Reviews, UK

DINING IN STYLE: THE IVY MARKET GRILL, LONDON

August 2, 2016

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The Ivy Market Grill is located right in the center of the bustling area of Covent Garden. The Ivy collection restaurants are renowned all over London and at select places across the UK for their impeccable service and their quintessential British cuisine. I was invited to their all-day dining restaurant for dinner and I was more than impressed with The Ivy hospitality.

The interior of the restaurant is warm and welcoming. It’s decor is made up of dark wooden furnishings, brass fixtures and an impressive bar that takes center stage within the restaurant where you can watch the barmen whip-up some of The Ivy’s superb cocktails. At first it reminded me of an Irish pub, but as I was led to my table and took in my surroundings the elegance of the venue was apparent.

To start, me and my guest had a cocktail each followed by our starters of mozarella with asparagus and seared scallops. The cuisine on offer here is mostly classic British dishes such as Sheperd’s pie and fish & chips, but the menu does span over to some European dishes such as chicken Milanese. There is also a huge range of high quality seafood options which were highlighted by our waiter. However, the grill section of the menu is what really caught my attention – after all it is named the “Market Grill”.

For the mains we ordered fillet steak and salmon fish cake both with side portions of their amazing truffle chips – which we quickly realised we didn’t need after a few bites as we both got extremely full. We only really needed one portion of the chips, if that! The dishes were served to perfection and looked great – totally “Instagramable” so don’t dig in straightaway.

Then finally to finish, I had the Strawberry shortcake sundae and my friend had the classic chocolate dome – you know the one every restaurant has where they pour over the hot sauce… I’d highly recommend the strawberry sundae and my only regret is that I didn’t leave enough room to finish off this dessert, it tasted so good!

Overall, The Ivy Market Grill was a fantastic place to come for an indulgent three-course meal. The seductive interior, impeccable staff and wide-ranging menu are all worthy of the iconic Ivy name. I would most definitely be dining here again if I were in the area.

For more information or for reservations please head to their website below:

www.theivymarketgrill.com

London, Restaurants, Reviews, UK

A QUIRKY AFTERNOON TEA: sketch, LONDON

August 1, 2016

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On the second day of my London trip I headed over to the elite area of Mayfair where I was invited to experience one of the best Afternoon Tea’s in the city and in one of the most interesting venues I have ever seen.

sketch is located at 9 Conduit Street and the building has a long history associated with architecture, design and art. It was formerly the Royal Institute of British Architects and then later became the London Atelier of Christian Dior. There are a number of different rooms within sketch consisting of the Lecture Room & Library, the Parlour, the Glade, the East Bar, and the Gallery.

The very fashionably dressed staff seated me and my guest in the Gallery for our afternoon tea. The Gallery is a dimly lit, but playfully decorated room that looks almost like an up-market American diner. The walls are lined with interesting art work by David Shirgley (239 pieces to be exact) and everything around you is pink and velvet! At the top of the room there is a bar and the tables are presented beautifully. The tableware such as the tea cups, plates, sugar bowl and tea pot are all designed by the artist David Shirgley which all bare interesting little words – completely Instagrammable by the way!

A selection of finger sandwiches, scones with clotted cream and jams were included in the afternoon tea which are all refillable. Then finally after all of this you have the little pastries which look far too good to eat. A wide choice of teas are also offered which again, you can have as much as you want. By the end of the afternoon me and my guest were extremely full. We couldn’t say anything bad about the service or the quality of the food – it was amazing! Even the toilets are amazing! You just simply have to go.

For more information or reservations please see sketch’s website below.

www.sketch.london

Hotels, London, Reviews, Travel, UK

AN URBAN ESCAPE: K WEST HOTEL & SPA, LONDON

July 31, 2016

Although I have lived in the UK all of my life I had never ever been to London – except on school trips when I was a child. So I was so excited to head down and see what all the fuss was about. I was invited to stay at K West Hotel & Spa for one night and this urban style hotel with an array of celebrity guests to its name was the perfect way to begin my three day trip.

The Hotel Concept

K West Hotel & Spa in 2014 was completely redesigned internally to reflect its musical ties with many rock ‘n’ roll superstars of the past such as David Bowie, The Kinks and also Bob Marley & the Wailers. Due to its proximity to music venues such as O2 Shepherds Bush Empire and the Apollo it continues to attract its celebrity guests – so make sure you keep your eye out when you stay here as you never know who you could bump into in the lobby or the lifts!

Also it is well worth mentioning that the hotel has an award winning spa located inside – it was awarded ‘Best Spa in London’ at the Good Spa Guide Awards 2015 and winner of a World Luxury Spa Award. There is a wide range of treatments available and the facilities include a hydrotherapy pool, sanarium, sauna, dry flotation tank, aromatic herbal steam room to name only a few!

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Location & Getting About 

The hotel is located in the west of London in a busy area called, Shepards Bush. It is within walking distance to notably popular areas such as Notting Hill, Portobello Road and Kensington. It is also right next to Westfield – one of Europe’s biggest shopping centres with over 240 shops! I arrived from St. Pancreas international train station and found it quite simple to jump straight on the tube from there all the way over to Shepards Bush. You will find the underground station which is closest to the hotel is via the Central line and from there it is a 3 minute walk to the hotel, which is so convenient when you have a heavy suitcase with you or if you want to go exploring the city.

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First Impressions

Upon arrival the door was opened for me and I was lead over to the check-in desk. The lobby area is a sleek white area that is connected to the bar which was full of hotel guests and business people holding meetings. There was definitely a vibrant atmosphere within the hotel and it seemed like there was so much going on. I was quickly checked-in and given a brief run through about the hotel’s facilities, asked if I needed help with my luggage and pointed in the direction of the lifts. The staff on reception were extremely helpful – I was expecting a delivery that afternoon and I also needed to change the time of my dinner reservation in which both tasks that were dealt with efficiently so I didn’t have to worry at all!

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The Executive Room

The room I was booked into was extremely spacious with a lounge area, work desk, huge king sized bed, coffee and tea making section and a small bathroom. The decor was a mixture of dark blues, purples and greys creating a modern, luxurious feel. I felt like I had my own office with the desk area which came complete with a hotel tablet that you could use to order room service, read about the facilities and various other helpful things.

In the lounge area there was artwork of the late David Bowie and a selection of magazines. I was also greeted by a bottle of ice cold champagne which was amazing! The room was well lit with natural light streaming in from the huge windows that spanned the length of the room and the bed was enormous. The bathroom was simple and clean, and the hotel also offers its guests “The White Company” toiletries that smell gorgeous. You don’t have to worry about calling reception for things such as hairdryers and ironing boards as the room comes fully equipped.

In the morning I was delivered my breakfast of scrambled eggs with salmon, a bowl of cereal and literally no end of pastries! Also included was a pot of tea, bottle of fruit juice and condiments. There was so much to eat! You could definitely feed two people with this breakfast – unless of course neither of you like pastries.

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The Restaurant 

As part of my stay I was invited to dine at the hotel’s restaurant – Studio Kitchen. The menu is inspired by New York style food such as burgers, mac’ n’ cheese but also available are European style dishes. The venue is ultra sleek – keeping up with the standards of the rest of the hotel decor, but  at the same time it is very casual. The restaurant is a place to come and relax if you’re on a business trip or have had a long day exploring the bustling city. Across the back of the restaurant is a long, wavy cushioned seating area with floating style lighting hanging from the ceiling creating a very artistic feel to the restaurant. Me and my guest enjoyed a wonderful three course meal with a bottle of red wine. I opted for the pork belly and my friend tried out the steak, and both were fantastic! I’d highly recommend the squid and bread board to start alongside a glass of wine.

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Final Thoughts

Overall, my stay at K West Hotel & Spa was an effortless retreat where I didn’t have to worry about anything at all. I had everything that I needed provided by the room and I felt like I was really looked after by the staff on hand. The modern, rock ‘n’ roll theme was refreshing and staying here makes you feel like you aren’t missing out on anything as there is such a “buzz” all around the hotel. It’s great for both business and leisure, and if it’s good enough for all the musicians it’s good enough for me. For more information or to make a reservation please head to their website.

www.k-west.co.uk

Manchester, Restaurants, Reviews

A TASTE OF THE PACIFIC: AUSTRALASIA, MANCHESTER

July 22, 2016

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Manchester has always been one of my favorite cities to visit. During the summer when I was visiting the area I never wanted to leave and especially whilst working as an air hostess getting rostered in for a Manchester flight was exciting for me – everyone else wanted to swap it for somewhere more exotic. But I loved jumping on the train into this vibrant city with the crew and trying out all the little cocktail bars and endless restaurants that fill its streets. Australasia is regarded as one of the best restaurants in this city and has prime place within the area of Spinningfields – “the place to be” in Manchester, or so I’ve been told.

The restaurant is located just off Deansgate and identifiable by its stylish glass entrance. Once inside you will see light brick walls with matching trees that sit between the tables along with lots of hanging lights and lanterns. It’s definitely a romantic hot spot given all of the other young couples that were dining there whilst I was, and note that it got really busy around 7pm and this was mid-week!

To begin the meal, myself and my boyfriend had a cocktail each and browsed through the menu. The menu at Australasia is Australian cuisine fused with Asian. There are tapas style dishes, Sushi and also main courses. We opted to have a tapas style experience and ordered six plates which all looked divine when they arrived at our table. For the Sushi they even grind out the Wasabi fresh from the stem which is really interesting to watch. Overall, I enjoyed the food and felt full after about the fourth dish, but I would highly recommend the BBQ Lamb Chops!

For dessert, I opted for the chocolate dome and Chris ordered the chocolate and raspberry souffle. The chocolate dome included the usual spectacle of the pouring of the hot sauce over the dome that reveals the tasty inside – a little trick that never ever gets old and of course, makes the perfect SnapChat video.

I’d definitely return to this ultra-stylish venue for both drinks and food. It’s extremely versatile, being suitable for both lunch and dinner.  Have a catch up with friends or have your date night here – it’s a win-win for everyone and for any occasion.

For more information or reservations please head over their website.

www.Australasia.uk.com

Dubai, Hotels, Reviews, UAE

A POLYNESIAN STAYCATION: SOFITEL THE PALM, DUBAI

July 6, 2016

After spending nearly two weeks back in what feels like my second home in Dubai I was so excited to be spending my last two days with Sofitel Luxury Hotels. After exploring the glittering city, shopping constantly and eating out at some of the most amazing restaurants in the world Sofitel’s incredible resort located on The Palm Jumeirah was the perfect way to end my trip. Here is my review of the hotel:

Location & Getting About

Located on the eastern crescent of The Palm Jumeirah Island it is around a 40 minute drive from the airport, 20 minutes drive from the Dubai Marina and 30 minute drive from Downtown Dubai. Upon check-in we were given a timetable of the hotel shuttle bus that operates to these areas and also to the main malls in the city. This service is great if you want to get out and about without the cost of taxis. However if you prefer to make your own way around the city at the front of the hotel you will find friendly hotel staff who are always on hand to wave over a taxi for you and get you on your way.

First Impressions

As soon as me and my guest stepped out of the taxi we were greeted with a very happy, “Bonjour!” from the staff who made sure our car door was opened and our luggage taken inside. The reception area was impressive with its marble flooring and high ceilings. Overall, the check-in process was smooth and hassle free – we arrived slightly earlier than expected and had a little wait for the room, but we were happy to be pointed to the restaurant by the pool for a quiet coffee whilst we waited.

The Room

I was booked into a Junior Suite at the resort and once I stepped inside it felt like I was inside an apartment. The entrance was mirrored and led straight into a lounge room complete with a working area, sofa and flat screen television. In here I also found a selection of fruit and a gift box of lovely decorated dates laid out on the table which I thought was extremely thoughtful of the hotel.

Through some sliding doors came the bedroom featuring a king-sized bed and another television. Both the bedroom and the lounge room had access via French doors to the huge balcony that overlooked the Arabian Gulf with seating areas where you could watch the sunset after a long day. However, what caught my eye the most was the gorgeous bath tub situated beside the bedroom!

The bathroom was extremely spacious and complimentary Elemis toiletries were provided which created that extra added touch of luxury to the suite. Other amenities included in the room was a wardrobe area, iron and ironing board, hairdryer and a coffee/tea making area.DSC_2675_1

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The Pool & Beach

After breakfast you could head down to either the main pool area or the Sofitel’s private beach. The beach area is a long stretch of white sand with hundreds of chairs lining the shore. The beach has amazing views of the Dubai Marina skyscrapers – a backdrop which you’ll want to photograph over and over again! The main pool area has a variety of seating options from right beside the pool in your own little exotic hut, to beds within the lush greenery or simply along the poolside. The pool is temperature controlled which is perfect for the intensely hot summer days and there is also a Jacuzzi area.

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Porterhouse Restaurant

During my short stay I was invited to dine at Porterhouse, the hotel’s steak house restaurant. The staff were extremely efficient and accommodating, and more so, the food was exceptional. Myself and my guest tried the Waygu rib-eye steak with several extras to compliment it and we were both very impressed. The manager even brought out special steak knives for us to eat our steaks with! The atmosphere is relaxed and the dim lighting makes it ideal for a couple’s romantic dinner.

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Final Thoughts

The Sofitel The Palm was a mini getaway that did not let me down. It is in every aspect a fantastic luxury resort that offers some of the best service in the city – all the way from the meet and greet staff, to the waiters/waitresses in the restaurants. The plush green surroundings make it seem like you are on a tropical island and the location is amazing for seeing Dubai from a different perspective which is away from the hustle and bustle, but still offers that “wow” factor that you come to this city for.

Sofitel delivered beyond my expectations and I would definitely stay here if I was to return to Dubai for a holiday. For more information and reservations please head to their website.

Dubai, Restaurants, Reviews

THE MOST ROMANTIC DINNER SPOT: ARMANI/AMAL, DUBAI

June 23, 2016

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Here at the Armani Hotel in Downtown Dubai is yet another must visit restaurant called, Amal which serves Indian cuisine. I visited for dinner and as soon as I walked through the lobby of the hotel I knew this was going to be a world-class dining experience. As you enter from the lift you walk into a lobby area with a stunning Indian-inspired backdrop and centre piece, our welcome drinks were enjoyed in the bar area and me and my guest were seated for dinner very shortly after.

The ambience of the restaurant is very mellow and sophisticated, I’d definitely recommend dressing up for this venue as it is just beautiful and you will want to take no end of pictures. To start we enjoyed a cocktail whilst we looked over the rather extensive menu – there are a number of set menus to consider, however we went for simply choosing our own dishes from the main menu. After choosing we were served with the traditional popadoms and sauces, and we also had a very small pre-starter dish delivered to us.

For the started I chose the spicy shrimps and my guest ordered a vegetarian option – both were incredibly well-flavoured and the waiter was very aware of the ingredients when describing the dishes to us before we ate which of course, is always impressive. For the main courses we both chose a traditional curry dish each served with rice and naan bread, the waiter is always on hand to serve out your food for you – I don’t think I lifted a finger once to plate up more food! The service here is just amazing.

Finally for the desserts the Head Chef presented to us Amal’s most traditional Indian desserts for us to try – I really loved this as I had never tried any Indian desserts before and I am all about new experiences! The Head Chef also presented us with their chocolate dessert made from the best chocolate in the world, I believe he said, from Vienna. This was delicious and by this point it was time to enjoy the fountains out on the terrace.

Here at Amal they have front row seats to the famous Dubai Fountains and the restaurant sits within the world’s tallest building, right at the foot of it. Taking in the views and the sheer size of the Burj Khalifa was, again, such an amazing experience and so romantic – after seeing this restaurant you will want to bring all of your friends, family and loved one here next time you are in Dubai. I can imagine it would also make the perfect setting for a proposal or a very special occasion which you want to remember forever.

Highly recommended.

For reservations or more information please visit their website here.

Dubai, Restaurants, Reviews

QD’S DUBAI: RAMADAN TENT

June 14, 2016

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QD’s Dubai is set overlooking the stunning views of the Dubai skyline from over the water at Dubai Creek Golf & Yatch Club. During the holy month of Ramadan – a month where Muslims do not eat or drink between sunrise and sunset – QD’s transforms into a Ramadan tent where a full buffet is set out just before sunset for those wanting to break the fast in style. It is also such a unique dining experience for those who are not Muslim and I’d highly recommend that if you are in Dubai during this time of the year that you try out a buffet, such as QD’s for Iftar.

The food presented consisted of traditional Arabic and Middle Eastern dishes and desserts – all presented beautifully. There are plenty of staff on hand to assist you if you are unsure about a dish and are more than happy to explain – this allowed me to feel that bit more comfortable as I’m not too familiar with the cuisine. The atmosphere was relaxed and from our table we watched the sunset and the Dubai skyline light up as night fell which was really amazing.

Overall the restaurant ticked all the boxes and more – it offered great traditional food, lively atmosphere and of course, that picture perfect photo opportunity! What more could you want?