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    • More +
      30.09.2008 19:26
      Very helpful



      An inoffensive bath of bubbles

      I suppose by the law of averages it was only a matter of time before I wrote a review about a Lush product! I've been using a couple of Lush products on a regular basis over the past two or three years but it's only recently that I decided to be a bit more adventurous and sample some more from their range. Now (unlike some people on Dooyoo!) I'm not attempting to try everything in the shop - my nose and bank balance probably wouldn't cope with that.

      What I'm trying to do is sample things from different parts of their range I haven't tried before, such as soap, shampoo, face masks as well as different "flavours" in the ranges I know I like - basically anything I like the idea and smell of! What I won't be doing is writing a review about everything - at the rate I post reviews, that would mean me being here until.....Cheetarah runs out of fingers and toes.......well, a very long time!

      Last week I popped into Lush to pick up a couple of new bath products to try - a ballistic and a bubble bar. Now, bubble bars are one of my favourite Lush products and I'd always stuck to the same two for a long time - Karma and Blue Skies & Fluffy White Clouds - but I'm now broadening my horizons and have tried The Comforter and Ma Bar. On my latest shopping trip I was looking for something else from the range to try. After sniffing a few of the bars (and they all smell good enough to try), I plumped for Hot Milk, attracted by its subtle coconut scent. At only £2.10 for 100g, its one of the smallest and cheapest bubble bars in the range.

      Lush describe this as "a Bubble Bar for just before bedtime, the bathing equivalent of warming up a mug of hot milk, wrapping yourself in a warm blanket and sitting by the fire as you slowly sip your sweet, soothing, sleep-inducing drink........Hot Milk is made with powdered coconut milk and soothing patchouli to wrap you in a blanket of bubbles when it`s cold outside."

      A couple of days ago, when going for a late-evening bath and pondering what to use (my normal method is sniffing what choice I have and going with the one that appeals most at that time), I decided to give Hot Milk a try - while its not really cold outside yet (this is just the North East of Scotland and not the Arctic Circle, after all), I thought the soothing, sleep-inducing qualities of this one meant it made sense to use before heading to bed.

      I always split my bubble bars between several baths - I find the larger ones can last for up to 5 baths, and the smaller ones up to 3, depending on how strong a scent I'm after at the time. With Hot Milk I felt that I could split it into 2 baths worth. So, having started my bath running, I crumbled half the bar under running water and swooshed around (or agitated, for the more technical among you!) the water for 30 seconds to help make things super-bubbly. As I wasn't immediately bowled over by any sort of scent, I threw caution to the wind and added the second half of the bar to the bath.

      The pale peachy coloured bar turned the water a slightly peach colour, but nothing as dramatic as some of the other bubble bars/ballistics. I suppose this was the sign of things to come...

      Stepping into the bath I was pleased by the lack of residue on the tub - some of the bubble bars make the bath very slippery and mean that getting in and out is more challenging than it should be. Settling down in the mounds of velvety bubbles, I waited for the scent to unfold. And waited. And waited.
      For me, there just really wasn't much there. I expected a soft coconut smell (based on my sniffing in the shop), with tones of orange and patchouli (based on the ingredients list). It was just all rather insipid. Now I know this is all probably to promote a relaxing air at bath time to send you off to sleep but the Waving Not Drowning ballistics prove that sleep-inducing doesn't have to mean barely-there scent. I spent my average length of time in the bath - the smell (or lack thereof) wasn't enough to make me want to get out of the bath, but it didn't really encourage me to linger or have a hot-water top-up. The water did feel deliciously silky - that'll be the coconut milk powder - but not oily, which was the best thing about this bar. On leaving the bath, my skin felt lovely and soft but not "coated" as can sometimes happen with very moisturising bath products. Unlike some of the other bubble bars, this one didn't leave any scent on my skin. This did mean that it wasn't competing with the scent of a body moisturiser though.

      As for the relaxing element, I didn't particularly feel that I got a better night sleep because of it - certainly not as relaxing and effective as the Waving Not Drowning ballistic.

      I'm giving it two stars rather than one mainly because of the moisturising qualities. The subtle properties will be loved by many people, but it's just not for me I'm afraid. I won't be buying this one again.

      Extra info:
      Like many Lush products, Hot Milk contains essential oils and absolutes - in this case Orange and Patchouli - it is recommended that anyone with medical problems and allergies should consult the list of ingredients to ensure it is suitable for use.

      For a list of ingredients, visit the Lush website:
      The Lush website contains more information about the company and its products, a store listing and the facility to shop online:


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      • Hotel Chocolat / Supermarket / 46 Readings / 45 Ratings
        More +
        27.09.2008 20:06
        Very helpful



        Fantastic chocolates for yourself or as gifts.

        My name is Cheetarah and I'm not a chocoholic.

        This was the rather startling revelation I made last year when I gave up chocolate for a month (yes, I am that mad). I felt I was just eating too much of the stuff and needed to overhaul my diet a bit.

        So, what's a non-chocoholic doing writing a review about a chocolate shop then? Well, a shopping trip to Hotel Chocolat was my reward at the end of that month. And boy was it worth it. In fact, it was so good, I'm doing something similar again this year!

        The story starts a few years ago when Mr Cheetarah and I were given a gift of a Tasting Box from Hotel Chocolat. We enjoyed this so much that we decided to keep up the subscription ourselves and now receive a delicious boxes of chocolates every six months.

        You can purchase most of Hotel Chocolat's goodies through their mail order catalogue or online - for which you will incur postage charges of £3.95 for one item, or £4.95 for two or more items. Alternatively you could visit one of their shops where you will see the full range of products. They are slowly opening more stores in various locations across the country. Although when I say country, I mean England. They haven't ventured north of the border up here to Scotland, or west to Wales. Therein lies a bit of a problem - its 250 miles to my nearest store, so visits to my parents will often include a trip to stock up with a few supplies! And this was to be my treat after a month of chocolate abstinence.

        I have been into two stores: Metro Centre Gateshead and Kensington High Street (which has a café). As the most frequently visited store, I will use the Metro Centre one as the basis of my review.

        The shops, like the packaging of the products, are sleek and sophisticated but unpretentious. Friendly staff make you feel welcome as you are left to wander round the calm and cool store (don't want those chocolates melting!) wondering just how much you can justify buying. I have found the staff to be knowledgeable about the product range, and more than happy to help. Sometimes, if you're lucky, a staff member will have a selection tray for you to sample one of their chocolates from. I've had to take other people's word on this though as it hasn't happened to me............yet! As an added bonus, Tasting Club members (and their families) get 5% off all purchases simply by presenting their membership card at the till.

        Within the store, the range is handily grouped together in broad sections - Purist, Cuisine, Slabs, Selection boxes, Gifts, and Seasonal. For me, one of the advantages of the shops over the online/mail order stores is the wide range of small packets of chocolates on sale. Here, grouped under white, milk, and dark, you will find mini slabs and packets of 6 chocolates - these are priced at £2.75 each or £2.25 for 3 or more. It's a great way to sample different truffles and new recipes, or pick up a packet of a specific chocolate you've particularly enjoyed before. These are a nice size for stocking fillers or as a treat for yourself.

        For anyone who has already enjoyed Hotel Chocolat's wares, I'm probably preaching to the converted, but for the rest of you, let me tempt you further with a taste of the goodies you can buy.

        The Hotel Chocolat range spans the small packets mentioned above to the wonderfully named "Chocolatier's Table" selection box containing 125 chocolates and weighing in at a whopping 1.4kg (£75). In between are all manner of sizes and combinations of products with the standard selection box of 30 chocolates costing £18. A range of gift boxes and hampers are also available with prices from £15 to £200. The signature half kilo Chocolate Slabs (£12) are truly awesome bars of chocolate around the size of an A4 pad of paper.

        The "Cocoa Cuisine" section houses items such as Cocoa Nib Balsamic Vinegar, Cocoa Bean & Chilli Olive Oil, Cocoa Pasta, Spiced Savoury Chocolate Sauce, and 100% Cocoa Sticks. I have to admit to not being brave enough to try any of these but I have to assume they are popular as the range is expanding.

        For those looking for the ultimate chocolate hit, try The Purist range of solid bars including 100% Cocoa Organic Dark, 72% Cocoa Organic Dark with Chilli & Pink Peppercorns, 62% Cocoa Milk, 52% Cocoa Milk with Himalayan Salt & Caramel.

        Now, a few of my personal favourites......

        Mini Slabs are the much smaller cousins of the Chocolate Slabs include plain chocolate varieties such as White, 40% Cocoa, 50% Cocoa Milk, St Lucia Single Estate 42% Cocoa, Non-bitter 85% Cocoa, as well as flavoured bars such as Honey Milk Chocolate, Chilli & Orange Dark Chocolate, and slabs such as Strawberry & White Chocolate, Dark & Almond, Rocky Road which have fruit, nuts, or cookies in them.

        Tasting Batons are solid bars about 6x1x1cm which are available in a variety of different percentage cocoa levels and sourced from different estates, with my absolute favourite being the 50% Cocoa baton.

        Liquid Chocolate is Hotel Chocolat's hot drinking chocolate and comes in the form of a jar of chocolate flakes - which may be milk, dark, or flavoured. The flakes are melted gently in a pan of simmering milk, to produce a wonderfully rich drink. I have found (after extensive experimentation!) that using less milk to make the portions cup-sized rather than mug-sized results in a thicker, more satisfying drink.

        As a huge fan of praline, I of course had to try Smudge - Hotel Chocolat's Nutella. When I say Nutella, I mean a chocolate hazelnut spread, as that's where the similarities end. This is heaven in rich, unctuous, smooth and spreadable form! (Also available in chunky variety for those who like their nuts a little bigger!)

        I'm realising that I could go on for a while more, but all those rumbling stomachs are making me feel guilty for talking about chocolates for this long, so I'll wrap it up now.

        There's no denying that these chocolates aren't cheap, but this for me is another case of quality v quantity. I often find that just one chocolate is enough to satisfy my craving - I put this down to the quality, intensity and depth of flavour of both the chocolate and the filling.

        I would encourage anyone who likes chocolate to venture into a store and pick themselves up a treat. And they do make great gifts as well, you know!

        Right, I'm away for a quick raid of our latest Tasting Selection....

        Extra info:
        At the time of writing store locations are:
        Bluewater, Kent
        Brighton (coming soon)
        Heathrow Terminal 5
        Kensington, London
        Kings Road, London (coming soon)
        Knightsbridge, London
        Lakeside, West Thurrock
        Leeds (opening October)
        Metro Centre, Gateshead
        Milton Keynes
        Moorgate, London
        St Albans

        Web: http://www.hotelchocolat.co.uk/
        http://www.chocs.co.uk/ (Tasting Club)


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        • More +
          21.09.2008 13:17
          Very helpful



          A wonderful dining experience

          Perhaps I shouldn't be starting the review by saying that this isn't actually the restaurant I'd wanted to visit.... With a special occasion to celebrate and a night in London to find dinner for, Mr Cheetarah and I needed no more of an excuse to find a great restaurant in which to treat ourselves. Confession time I suppose: I'd had my heart set on going to Petrus only to discover that they weren't open on Sundays. So, plan B then: Boxwood Café.

          Me being me (i.e. very organised) these decisions were being made two months in advance of our trip. As soon as we'd settled on the restaurant, I sent them an email enquiring about availability for the required date. I received a reply within 24 hours giving me several choices of dining times between 6pm and 9pm. As we were due for an early start on the Monday morning we selected the 6.30 reservation. Our contact telephone number was taken in order that the reservation could be confirmed the day before.

          Boxwood Café is part of the Gordon Ramsay Holdings group of restaurants. It is located within The Berkeley Hotel in Knightsbridge and since its opening in 2003, Stuart Gillies has been the head chef.

          The website describes it as "an oasis to unwind from the action of Knightsbridge" - very apt as it's ideally located for after a shopping spree. The official address is Wilton Place, which is actually slightly confusing - the main entrance to The Berkeley Hotel is on Wilton Place, and after a few minutes of wandering around without spotting Boxwood Café we had to ask the doorman for directions. It turned out that the restaurant entrance is actually on Knightsbridge Green - if you are coming to the restaurant from Mayfair then you would pass the entrance, but because we had come from the Knightsbridge end (and that aforementioned shopping action!) we didn't pass the entrance and turned into Wilton Place.

          So after two months (and many perusals of the online menu), and that slight detour, we finally found ourselves outside Boxwood Café, expectant and hungry!

          We were greeted by the friendly receptionist who took our coats, and then led to our table by the Maitre d' and introduced to our waiter for the evening, Steffen. Our aperitif order was taken so we had refreshment while contemplating the menus. Steffen explained we could choose either the six course Taste of Boxwood menu or make our own selection from the a la carte menu. Initially our plan was to go for the tasting menu, but when Steffen described the day's specials, we opted for a la carte instead.

          After our order had been taken, Steffen returned with a bread basket and a jug of iced water (neither Mr Cheetarah or myself were going to be drinking wine). The bread basket was the sign of great things to come with a selection of ciabatta and granary rolls, accompanied by butter and taramosalata.

          We took this break in proceedings to examine our surroundings a bit more. The restaurant is essentially in the basement of the hotel, so from the reception you go down a few steps to the first level of the restaurant, a few more take you into the lounge bar area, and a few more take you into the main restaurant area, and it was towards the back of this that we were seated. The well-spaced tables provided a variety of seating arrangements to accommodate from 2 up to 10 people. Some of the tables near the walls had sofa style seats (nice for more intimate dining), while the remaining tables had comfortable looking traditional dining chairs. Boxwood Café also has two private dining rooms - the smaller one (seating 5) is located off the reception, and the larger (seating 16) off the main restaurant area.
          Clever use of discreet lighting means the fact that there are so few windows isn't a problem. You are able to see your food (always important!) but don't feel you're being bathed in glaring artificial light. The restaurant has gone for a fairly natural palette for its décor: dark wood, neutral walls, eau de nil accents, unobtrusive art. It makes for a calm and serene environment enhancing the overall dining experience.

          Finally, the main event: the food.

          For our starters we had ceviche of organic salmon and crab with chilli, lime, coriander and grapefruit (Mr Cheetarah) and foie gras parfait with smoked duck and tea jelly and toasted brioche (me).
          The ceviche was unusual in that it was marinated in grapefruit rather than the more traditional lemon or lime. The quality of the salmon shone through here, being melt-in-the mouth, and was complemented beautifully by the slight sweetness of the crab and freshness of the citrus (of course I had to taste this for research purposes!).
          The parfait was presented in an oval ramekin, covered by a layer of tea jelly which was studded with small flakes of smoked duck, served with half a small brioche which had been griddled. The proportions here were perfect with just enough brioche for the parfait. The fragrant jelly was a revelation and was a perfect foil for the richness of the parfait.

          For our main course we both opted for one of the day's specials: roast fillet of sea bass with clams, mussels, leeks and chorizo. This was served with a small bowl of roasted new potatoes. The sea bass was perfectly cooked and was served on a bed of finely shredded leek which had been sautéed with small cubes of chorizo, chopped clams, and mussels, and surrounded by an intense seafood sauce. I was pleasantly surprised by the size of the main course; I know there is sometimes the thought that in some restaurants a higher price equates to less food on the plate. While I am a firm believer in quality over quantity, we found that the portions at Boxwood were of a generous enough size to give a nicely balanced three course meal.

          Desserts were warm heritage apple caramel tart with vanilla ice cream (Mr Cheetarah) and marinated pineapple and passion fruit with a mango and Campari sorbet (me).
          The tart was similar to a tart tatin, which at approximately 5" in diameter proved just a little too big for him to finish. Again I snuck a taste of this and the gorgeously smooth home-made vanilla ice cream, rich caramel sauce and juicy apples were a match made in heaven.
          My dessert was the perfect refreshing finish after the richness of the previous two courses - very thinly sliced pineapple marinated in passion fruit and vanilla sugar syrup, served with a scoop of intensely flavoured sorbet (they didn't skimp on the Campari!).

          A wonderful touch to the dessert plates was the "Happy Anniversary" piped around the edge in dark chocolate. I had mentioned in a throwaway comment when booking that this was part of our anniversary celebration - obviously Boxwood Café prides itself on this sort of detail and it was a nice surprise when our waiter arrived with the decorated plates, accompanied by the Maitre d' to pass on congratulations on behalf of the restaurant.

          Following dessert, we relaxed with coffee (Mr Cheetarah), sherry (me) and petit fours. We were aware that there was to be a later sitting in the restaurant, but at no point did we feel rushed through our meal, or when lingering afterwards. Throughout the course of the evening, Steffen proved to be an attentive yet unobtrusive waiter, with good knowledge of the restaurant menu.

          At last the time had come to settle the bill - the two meals, plus coffee, sherry, a kir royale, and two glasses of lemonade came to £122 (inclusive of 12.5% service charge). Considering the quality of the food, the level of service, and the occasion, we were more than satisfied with the bill.

          I would wholeheartedly recommend a visit to Boxwood Café if you're looking for somewhere special that serves wonderful food, without being too formal. We're already planning to go for lunch when we're back in London next year.

          Extra info:

          Address : Boxwood Café, The Berkeley, Wilton Place, Knightsbridge, London, SW1X 7RL
          Telephone: 020 7235 1010
          Fax: 020 7235 1011
          Web: http://www.gordonramsay.com/boxwoodcafe/


          A la carte dinner menu:
          Starters £8.50 - £16.00
          Mains £16.00 - £31.00
          Vegetarian options £6.50 - £16.00
          Desserts £7.00 - £10.00

          The six-course tasting menu is priced at £55.00 per person
          A three-course set lunch menu is also available for £28.00

          We visited in May 2008.
          Up-to-date sample menus are available on the website, together with booking information and current opening hours

          Petrus as it was in May 2008 (with Marcus Wareing as head chef) no longer exists: Gordon Ramsay's website states that "Petrus will be relocating to a new location in the early part of 2009".
          Marcus Wareing at The Berkeley has now opened in its place.


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          • More +
            02.09.2008 19:01
            Very helpful



            A no-frills budget London hotel in a fantastic location

            In May, Mr Cheetarah and myself needed a hotel for a night in London as a stopover between flying into Heathrow and getting the Eurostar from St Pancras International. After extensive research (am I odd that I enjoy the planning stage of a holiday?) I picked the King's Cross St Pancras Premier Travel Inn for our 1 night stay.

            Everything was booked online 2 months in advance, with a confirmation email promptly received and the promise of a text reminder of our booking as well. On a room-only basis, our Sunday night stay cost £90 for a double. We elected to skip the breakfast at the hotel (a £7.50 pp all-you-can-eat buffet) in favour of one of the cafes in St Pancras International.

            We had been advised that our room would be available from 2pm which we thought would be perfect timing for our arrival before we were to head back out for the rest of the day. As we maybe should expect though, it didn't quite work to plan.... We actually got through Heathrow Terminal 5 and onto the tube much quicker than anticipated and so arrived King's Cross just after 12 noon. As you come out of King's Cross onto Euston Road, you turn left and walk 150m to York Way. Turning left here, the hotel is 150m on your right. Even with suitcases and pedestrian crossings, this can easily be done in 5 minutes, meaning we arrived earlier than expected. The polite receptionist advised us that unfortunately we were still a little too early to check in, however they would ensure a room was available for us within half an hour. We headed into the adjoining Costa café for a much-needed cold drink (it would later turn out that we were in London on the hottest day of the year so far!) before a smooth check-in procedure enable us to go to our room.

            The hotel is set out around a central atrium area (which encloses the reception and lifts to all floors) with rooms either looking out onto the atrium or the surrounding streets. We were allocated an atrium (or "courtyard" as the hotel calls them) room on the 2nd floor. These rooms do not have opening windows and so you are entirely reliant on the air conditioning. This was switched on for our arrival - we were thankful for the lovely cool room - and it remained on for the duration of our stay (the lowest level was quiet enough for sleeping through). The advantage of these rooms is that there is no risk of potential street noise (even on a Sunday afternoon/evening the area was fairly busy with cars, buses and taxis).

            The room itself was clean and bright, furnished with accents of the Premier Travel Inn colours of purple and gold. Our double room had a king-size bed with 2 pillows (2 extra in the wardrobe, and more can be provided on request); bedside units; a desk/dressing table with chair; open wardrobe with hanging rail, hangers and shelves; flat-screen tv; telephone; hairdryer; trouser press. Tea and coffee making facilities were provided and extra tea and coffee arrived fairly promptly after being requested via room service.
            The en-suite bathroom had a (reasonably powerful fixed-head) shower over the bath, and combination shampoo/shower-gel was provided together with liquid handwash, 2 hand towels, 2 bath towels, and a bath mat. There wasn't much room in the bathroom for storage of toiletries. Additional toiletries in travel-sized packs were available for a small charge. As we only stayed for one night, I can't comment on the housekeeping service.

            There is no in-room safe, however the reception does offer a valuable-storage facility, as well as a luggage facility on the day of your departure should you wish to continue exploring without your suitcases before travelling later in the day.

            The hotel requests that room keys (swipe-entry cards) are left at reception when you go out of the hotel and the reception is staffed throughout the night. We found the reception staff to be pleasant and friendly at all times.

            A comfortable night's sleep was followed by a quick check-out and we took advantage of one of the main benefits of this hotel. Retracing your steps to King's Cross, you are then a maximum of 5 minutes walk from St Pancras International. For those who haven't quite kept up with the maths (!) this means the hotel is within an easy 10 minute walk from the Eurostar station.

            The location of this hotel has to be its biggest selling point. Even if you aren't going on the Eurostar and just staying within London, the proximity to the King's Cross St Pancras tube station (with at least half a dozen lines) means travel within the city is incredibly easy.

            We weren't looking for anything beyond a clean and comfortable bed for the night, and this hotel certainly delivered. In fact it exceeded my expectations and I wouldn't hesitate to stay here again when visiting London.

            Extra info
            As at summer 2008, current internet rates for a double room are £110 per room per night Mon-Thu, £90 per room per night Fri-Sun. These are on a room-only basis, with a buffet breakfast available at £7.50 per person per day.
            Car parking is available in the nearby NCP car park (£22 for 24hrs) - the hotel is not in the congestion zone.
            Internet access is available.
            Check-in: 2pm
            Check-out: 12 noon

            Address: 26-30 York Way, King's Cross, London, N1 9AA
            Telephone: 0870 990 6414
            Fax: 0870 990 6415
            Web: http://www.premierinn.com/pti/home.do


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            • More +
              31.08.2008 12:08
              Very helpful



              A 3-star Parisien hotel 5 minutes from Ile de la Cite

              For our recent holiday in Paris we were looking for a centrally-located hotel with a mid-range level of facilities. My searching narrowed the selection down to two, from which we picked this hotel, and a fantastic choice it proved to be. The lovely Jardin de Cluny hotel is on Rue du Sommerard in the 5th arrondissement of Paris - the area known as the Latin Quarter. It provided us with an ideal base for exploring the immediate area, including Ile de la Cite and Ile Saint-Louis, as well as having excellent public transport links.

              Our arrival into Paris was via Eurostar to Gare du Nord. We elected to take a 10 minute taxi ride to the hotel at a cost of Euro14 (the return taxi journey cost Euro17 in much heavier traffic). The hotel is located in a one-way system in a residential area just off Boulevard Saint-Germain (the main street running through the Latin and St Germain quarters), and has the benefit of very little traffic noise.

              Upon arrival we were greeted by the first of the courteous and helpful reception staff that we would encounter over the duration of our stay. The reception area of the hotel is modern and light, with a comfortable seating area and complimentary newspapers (French, British, and American). Check-in was a quick confirmation of the details provided in the online booking, and an explanation of the breakfast options, mini-bar facility, and security policy, before we were shown to our room.

              We had selected a deluxe quality room at a rate of Euro169 per night (based on the exchange rate at the time of purchase, this equated to £133 per night). Based on the reviews I had read prior to booking, the deluxe rooms were slightly bigger and had been recently upgraded (the hotel is slowly undergoing a complete refurbishment). They are also located at the rear of the hotel which backs onto a very quiet street. All rooms are accessible by stairs and a lift. We did find it amusing that the lift can apparently take 3 adults - it was cosy enough with 2 average-size people in it!

              Our room was light, airy, and clean, with contemporary décor. Furnishings comprised a (very comfortable) queen sized bed with 2 pillows (2 extra in the wardrobe, along with a blanket); bedside units; a desk with 2 drawers and 2 comfortable chairs; a wardrobe with full-length hanging space with hangers, shelves and a drawer, and the in-room safe; cupboard containing mini-bar (plenty of room to store your own food & drink in the fridge as well) and shelf; flat-screen tv; collapsible suitcase stand; hairdryer; telephone.
              The en-suite bathroom had an adjustable shower over the bath and combination shampoo/shower-gel was provided together with liquid handwash, 2 washcloths, 2 hand towels, 2 bath towels, a bath mat, tissues, and 2 pairs of slippers. A fairly small handbasin was housed in a very large vanity unit providing ample storage space for toiletries, with an additional shelf underneath as well. The toilet was in a separate en-suite on the other side of the room.

              A tea & coffee tray can be requested from reception and is replenished daily.

              The air conditioning was on when we arrived - we found it to be very effective even on the lowest of the 3 settings. It was also quiet enough to use during the night, if necessary.

              Of course we were in Paris to see Paris, but at the end of the day we wanted somewhere we were happy to come back to for some well-earned rest. The housekeeping service was excellent and discreet, the reception staff were always welcoming, and it was a pleasure to return to the hotel after a day of sightseeing. You are required to leave your room key at reception when you are out of the hotel, but the reception is manned 24 hours a day.

              There is a breakfast room in the hotel, which provides a buffet-style breakfast for Euro14 per person per day, however we didn't use this.

              Our check out was fairly quick - we hadn't incurred any extra charges, and we didn't have any complaints so it was all a formality of checking the bill. The hotel will store your luggage on your day of departure if you aren't travelling until later in the day. We had a train to catch though, and the hotel arranged a taxi for us while we waited.

              For those of you who haven't worked it out yet (!) my title is location, location, location. For us, this was one of the biggest advantages of the hotel.
              A couple of minutes walk brings you to the triangular intersection of Place Maubert and Boulevard St Germain, where you can find an excellent boulangerie and fromagerie, together with several other small shops, cafes, and bars. These give you plenty of options for having breakfast in a café (Café du Metro is perfectly situated for people watching) or picking up something to eat on the banks of the Seine or one of the islands. The market is held here every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday and has a variety of stalls selling food (very popular with the locals) and clothing/jewellery/souvenirs. On the corner here is also the nearest Metro - Maubert Mutualite (line 10); Cluny la Sorbonne and St Michel Notre-Dame stations are also within very easy walking distance.
              A couple of minutes further on from Place Maubert, down some lovely streets filled with restaurants and little shops, you arrive at Quai de Montebello - the south bank of the Seine - with Notre Dame in front of you. It makes a pretty good view for when you have breakfast! Also located here is the Notre Dame stop for the Batobus river-boat shuttle service.

              Writing this review has brought back lots of wonderful memories - I can't wait to return to Paris, and when I do, this hotel will be at the top of my list for where I want to stay. This 3-star hotel gets a full 5 stars from me!

              P.S. I hope someone corrects me if my title isn't quite right!

              Extra info
              As at summer 2008, current internet rates range from Euro129 per night for a single room to Euro359 per night for a 2-bed junior suite. These are on a room-only basis, with a buffet breakfast available for Euro14 per person per day.
              All rooms are non-smoking.
              Iron & ironing board can be provided on request.
              Non-feather pillows and bedcover can be provided on request.
              Check-in: 12 noon
              Check-out: 12 noon
              No pets allowed
              Wireless internet access available

              Address: 9 Rue Du Sommerard, Paris, FR-75005, France
              Telephone: 33 1 43542266
              Fax: 33 1 40510336
              Web: http://book.bestwestern.com/bestwestern/advSearch.do


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              • More +
                22.05.2008 11:48
                Very helpful



                An indulgent savoury snack

                I have to say that I wasn't planning on my second DooYoo review being about muffins. Nevertheless, food is a mini passion of mine, so it was inevitable that a food review would creep in sooner rather than later.

                Sainsbury's Taste the difference Cheese & black pepper muffins were a last-minute addition to our shopping basket this afternoon for Mr Cheetarah's late lunch. Why then, might you ask, am I reviewing them as they weren't for my consumption?

                First, a bit of background: I love cheese, but am *very* wary of anything cheese flavoured after too many disappointments with various products. Also, I'd already had my lunch, so wasn't planning on trying these. In our house, organic wholemeal muffins are the favoured variety, split and toasted and topped with sliced tomatoes, plenty of black pepper, ham and/or cheese. Mr Cheetarah duly started preparing his lunch - opting for just a sliced tomato topping on the grilled muffins (the cheese and black pepper being already provided for him in the muffin!) - and the smell of the toasting muffins was enough to lure me into the kitchen asking if there happened to be one spare. The muffins come in packs of 4, so there was more than enough to go round.

                I opted to have the plain toasted muffin with a little bit of butter melting in to it - deeeeelicious! It was so light and fluffy (more so than any other muffin I've tasted before) and the balance of the cheese and black pepper was perfect. I could have quite easily gone back for the "spare" one, but restrained myself. I was assured that they were equally delicious with the tomato topping (I'll maybe address the fact that I wasn't offered a taster at a later time....).

                While I think our normal muffin purchase will be continue to be the wholemeal type, these will now definitely feature when we want some variety.

                The pack of 4 muffins is priced at £1.25, which is definitely worth it for an occasional treat.
                They are described on the packet as "Soft and buttery muffins enriched with mature farmhouse Cheddar and butter. Seasoned with black pepper for a lovely savoury flavour." Mmmmm, did I mention they were good?
                The pictured serving suggestion on the packet is for poached egg, hollandaise, and crispy bacon. In addition there is the suggestion to try "making the ultimate soldiers. Slice the muffin so that it splits into two. Toast until golden before cutting into strips. Boil an egg so that it's still runny in the middle for easy dipping".
                The ingredients list is pleasingly short - wheat flour, water, mature Cheddar cheese (15%), butter (5%), yeast, wheat gluten, durum wheat semolina, salt, sugar, vinegar, black pepper.
                Each muffin contains 213 calories, 7.4g of fat (of which 4.1g is saturates), and 0.7g of salt.
                The allergy advice is that the product contains milk and wheat gluten.
                The muffins are freezable.
                The product is vegetarian.

                And after all that, I still haven't managed to come up with a cheesey comment!


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                  05.05.2008 19:59
                  Very helpful



                  Docrafts Creativity! magazine is a gem of an idea, at an unbelievable price.

                  ... not in this case. Docrafts Creativity! magazine is a gem of an idea, at an unbelievable price.

                  I'm sure, like many others starting in the hobby of cardmaking, I'd looked at the range of magazines available in my local newsagent but been put off purchasing one. For me, it came down to one thing - the price. This was compounded by the fact that the magazines tended to be sealed (to keep the free goodies intact), so I couldn't even get an idea of what my £3.50+ (up to £7 something in some cases) was going to buy me.

                  Then a friend mentioned the Docrafts Creativity! magazine she'd spotted in her local stockist - only £1 she said, would I like one? I jumped at the chance, even before she'd had the chance to tell me that it also came with a sample-sized sheet of stickers.

                  I now have 5 of these magazines (starting with Issue 4), and I'm confident that I'll keep getting them for the foreseeable future, as I find them a great source of inspiration. The freebie - a sample-sized sheet (maybe 2/3rds the size of a regular sheet, which normally retails for around 99p) of either stickers or peel-offs continues to be an added bonus. In my view, the magazine in its own right is worth £1.

                  As a bi-monthly publication, Docrafts Creativity! always seems fresh and easily incorporates seasonal occasions and trends. The first 3 issues I bought were mainly devoted to Christmas (I've discovered that you can never start your Christmas cards too early!). The first edition of 2008 was all things spring-like, including Easter, Valentines Day, and Mothers Day. The latest issue primarily focuses on Weddings/romance, with a fair amount of birthday coverage as well.

                  To get an idea of what's covered in the magazine (which, so far, has consistently been 66 pages per issue), I've looked at Issues 4 and 8. Around half is dedicated to card making ideas, with 12 pages for scrapbooking, and a couple of pages on jewellery making. Another dozen pages or so cover reader's letters and stories, competitions, giveaways, contents, and editorials. Anyone keeping up with the maths will have worked out that we're left with just a handful of pages dedicated to advertising, which makes a refreshing change for a glossy magazine such as this.

                  While there is an abundance of cardmaking ideas, with step-by-step instructions, some of the designs direct you to the website - www.docrafts.co.uk - for further details. This is definitely worth looking at, as the website is excellent in its own right, with further competitions and giveaways.

                  Well, its all been positive so far - what's the catch? For me, that has to be the range of stockists. Up here in the North-East of Scotland - my nearest stockist is over 30 miles away. Despite this, I'm still awarding it 5 stars - its so good, I'm prepared to wait to get my hands on a copy!


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