Today a Labor Day call from my best friend in New York reminded me that August 2023 is well & truly over.
August 2023 started in Miami and Mandarin Oriental, Miami could not have made the end of my Houston - Nashville - Memphis - Miami trip any more special. Hope the photos below evidence that.
I flew back to London in British Airways First Class on an A380 (the double decker plane). At Miami International Airport I could use the American Airlines Flagship First Dining again. The irony that flying First Class with United & American Airlines, domestically, on the same trip I was refused access to their lounges and now someone was melting the garlic butter on my steak with a blow torch, was not lost on me.
Back at my Barbican place I opened gifts & cards from Four Seasons, Nashville, The Guest House at Gracelands, The Peabody Hotel, Memphis & the Mandarin Oriental, Miami. I felt like crying again, such thoughtful & special mementos.
Despite very bad jet lag, I then hosted my niece from Moscow to the Pret a Portea (fashion) afternoon tea at The Berkeley & dinner at The Wolseley. Four Seasons at Park Lane also created a special mocktail for her. She is such a chatty and cheerful young lady and a joy to spend time with. I am just sorry her UK grandmother could not see her on this trip.
The rest of the month was taken up with two weeks in Shrewsbury, doing my best to raise mum's spirits, with meals out and taking her to St Chad's church.
There were also some sensational breakfasts. The chunks of fresh ginger on my chicken congee at the Mandarin Oriental, Hyde Park; the insanely good bacon & Bloody Marys at Michel Roux Jr's The Wigmore at The Langham Hotel and the mouthwatering pastries at The Grill by Tom Booton at The Dorchester deserve special mentions.
Meeting my niece Maria from Russia again, after so long, would make it a '7 teddies' (🐻🐻🐻🐻🐻🐻🐻) month on its own but the fact mum loves the watch I found for; the Issy card from my godson Miles and finding my postcards India in the 1980s and the one I wrote in Russia when Andropov was their President, have blown my mind. Enjoy the photos below.
What a birthday! Meeting Chef Wolfgang Puck again & him introducing me to his son; meeting my neighbour from Tucker's Town, Bermuda; balloons & champagne at Mandarin Oriental, Hyde Park; having Claridge's 'new' pool to myself; and a welcome at Four Seasons at Park Lane like no other.
I was given too many fantastic one-off gifts. A Mandarin Oriental leather notebook with my initials embossed on it; a Four Seasons at Park Lane leather wash bag; a cocktail shaker engraved with 45 Park Lane; and a teddy bear chocolate birthday cake & flowers from Four Seasons at Park Lane.
It was kind of 45 Park Lane to cover my Spago, Beverly Hills dinner bill & love the Gym Face products that were a gift from Claridge's.
Thanks to everyone who made my birthday so special (eg the magnum of Veuve Clicquot champagne) and hope you enjoy the photos below.
My big trip to Panama, Bogota & New York started at Mandarin Oriental, Hyde Park, drinking champagne from The Aubrey, London at breakfast. However, the taxi ride after, learning the driver had worked at The Bank of England in the 1990s, when I was also working there, made my day.
At Heathrow British Airways Club Class meant I breezed through with no problems.
Miss physical newspapers & magazines in the Galleries Club Lounges; the chairs & sofas in the lounges are starting to look a bit tired; and there should be charging points in all areas but it was fine. In fact the cold tuna pasta was excellent.
On the Boeing 777 the new Club Class suites look stylish and every detail has been improved (eg large better The White Company pillows) but I missed warm towels & at times the bulky new suites felt a little claustrophobic. However, with exceptional entertainment, and mouthwatering food, Club Class has returned to being a '6 teddies' (🐻🐻🐻🐻🐻🐻) product.
I am writing this post from my room at the Hilton New York JFK Airport, after a nightmare at JFK Terminal 4 this morning that meant I could not fly to Panama today. I want to thank Shanna here who could tell I had had too stressful a morning and gave me my room straight away. Cannot thank her enough. Now feel ready to meet my friends in Panama City tomorrow.
Our First Christmas Without Dad at Home - November & December 2021 and January 2022 - Shrewsbury & London
November & December 2021 were a whirlwind. The fact I signed the contract for my new banking job at The Rosewood Hotel, London, and started my new role in Canary Wharf in December, means 2022 should start well for me.
November 2021 included a meeting at The Guildhall to represent Barbican residents; a visit to The English National Opera to see HMS Pinafore; a Chinese breakfast at Four Seasons Hotel Ten Trinity Square before The Lord Mayor's Show etc
December included seeing The Dior Christmas Tree at Claridge's; being given the 2021 Harrods Christmas teddy bear by the Mandarin Oriental, Hyde Park; trying the new scones at Four Seasons on Park Lane before their public launch; Christmas shopping for Maria at Hamleys etc
Christmas itself was our first without dad at home. However, mum & I were able to visit him on Christmas Eve & again before I returned to work in London. His granddaughter Maria flew in from Moscow again and we had a very special family Christmas with her.
Hope the photos below convince you it has been a '7 teddy' few months, despite COVID-19. I am double vaccinated and have had my booster shot & flu jab.
Happy New Year to all the readers of this blog. I really value all your support.
The Mandarin Oriental Ritz in Madrid. Luxury & Opulence on Another Level - Madrid, Spain - October 2021
My stay at the Mandarin Oriental Ritz, Madrid was overshadowed by receiving the news that we had lost Bermuda legend, & close friend, Marcia Woolridge-Allwood. However, think Marcia would have loved to see the photos below and hear about my breathtaking suite with Veuve Clicquot on ice; my Dom Perignon experience with General Manager superstar Greg; a rose head bath prepared by Head Butler Claudia & her consummate professional butler team; Eugenie at the white marble & chanderliered pool; so many varieties of water, after my 'Perrier complaint' at the Mandarin Oriental in Hong Kong; my photo on the water bottles; the bar staff who knew me from Mandarin Oriental, Hyde Park; the butler team's help with my packing of fragile items from Four Seasons, Madrid etc
Last week I was honoured to be invited to a key Mandarin Oriental party in London. At that we talked about the issues over merging the iconic Ritz, Madrid with Mandarin Oriental. My stay illustrated this is still a work in progress but will be worth it. Hope the photos below evidence all that has already been achieved.
April 2021 was the month when England began opening up again. I was on the roof of The Dorchester to mark the first day in real style.
After being shown the pink marble bath that was specially installed for Elizabeth Taylor in their Harlequin Roof Suite, John (GM of 45 Park Lane) kept me company, Tom Booton's food was sublime & we were even offered hot water bottles, with knitted covers, on that cold evening.
My next outing was 45 Park Lane for a mouthwateringly fresh Wolfgang Puck lunch on their beautiful outside terrace. The welcome back from the staff almost made me emotional & I even got to meet chef Jamie Shears.
I managed to squeeze a week in Shrewsbury in before I rejoined the Bank of England in their International Banking area. During that week I had a drink in The Admiral Benbow pub with mum & celebrated my older brother's birthday.
Back in London I ate oysters & drank champagne in The Savoy's pop-up Solas, where cars usually drop off guests. It has been transformed into a breathtaking fantasy and, as with all the hotels I visited, service was impeccable.
The month ended with a visit to Mandarin Oriental, Hyde Park for a Saturday lunch. GM Amanda came in on her day off to welcome me & lunch could not have been better. Heston Blumenthal's poor/ gimmicky Waitrose & Partners food is a millions miles from the delicacies that were served by Dinner by Heston on that terrace overlooking Hyde Park.
Hope the photos below do some justice to the monumental efforts all these iconic hotels went to to make me feel very special. From The Dorchester sending me home with Christian Lacroix Greta with a new headdress & Philip Hammond's exquisite flowers; to champagne from Amanda at the Mandarin Oriental & their Heston Blumenthal liquid nitrogen ice cream trolley, it was another month I will never forget.
Despite London moving to Tier 4, we managed to have another very special family Shropshire Christmas.
With fine wines chosen by dad; mum's legendary cooking and my niece there, it could not have gone any better.
I gave a Chanel gift to mum; Tanners Wines & Fortnums gifts to my brother & father; a Steiff gift to my charming niece and my godson loves his Swiss Army Knife, with his name engraved on the blade. I gave some of my best gifts this year.
I received Veuve Clicquot champagne; The Glenlivet whisky; Silent Pool gin; Paul Smith socks; The White Company sleep products; Elton John's new book; a personalised mug from a friend in Qatar that I treasure; an umbrella that is a piece of art from Mandarin Oriental, Hyde Park etc. So happy with all my beautiful/ thoughtful gifts too.
Hope the photos below illustrate how lucky I feel to have such outstanding friends & a one-off family.
September 2020 was a monumental month in my life with my new Banking Consultancy company 'Si Frew Consultancy Services Limited' being incorporated & the Lebanese banking case I have been working on reported in the Financial Times.
At the same time it has been a whirlwind on the travel blog side, with more iconic London hotels reopening, while the Mayfair hotels continue to surprise & impress me.
Four Seasons at Park Lane allowed me to try vodka infused with caviar, not yet on their menu; Michael (Managing Director of Rosewood, London) sent us champagne to celebrate the reopening of his elegant hotel; had a drink with Robert (General Manager of The Dorchester) to honour the busy reopening of his historic hotel; I discovered Porsche must be the 'official' car of my Barbican building; I savoured another sensational Tom Booton Sunday lunch at The Grill at The Dorchester; and also got to enjoy a drink with Mandarin Oriental, Hyde Park's fabled General Manager Amanda, in their reopened Mandarin Bar.
It was also a month where I had the best dover sole of my life at Parsons in Seven Dials; had a memorable Wolfgang Puck brunch at 45 Park Lane, having the pleasure to be joined by their General Manager John & viewed 'FAME at 45 Park Lane' with photos of Coco Chanel, Brigitte Bardot, Faye Dunaway etc I will never forget; 45 Park Lane staff sent me more of their Noble Isle shower products that I adore; & I continued to be impressed by breakfast & service at Millie's Lounge at The Ned. I also visited the enchanting garden at The Goring for martinis with a friend from my Prestfelde prep school days. There I met their charming new General Manager Michael and had forgotten how beautiful their new bar is. I was also blown away by the steaks at Hawksmoor, Seven Dials in September.
I ended the month eating Eggs Escoffier (with lobster meat, caviar & gold) & drinking champagne at breakfast at Gordon Ramsay's reopened Savoy Grill at The Savoy, London and being entranced by the 'full French' breakfast & staff at Anthony Demetre's Wild Honey at Sofitel London St James. On top of all this, I managed more trips to Shropshire to support my indomitable parents.
In September my personal training also moved to Energie Fitness, so I can remain with legendary Bart but I still try to swim at Virgin Active each day too. I must also mention my new The White Company electric diffuser I was thoughtfully given by one of my best friends that is now an important part of my night time ritual, along with my Frette sheets, Dorchester hotel bed & Aromatherapy Associates shower oils.
Finally I should mention that an incident that I experienced at one of my favourite Mayfair hotels last month, & some that have happened to my caring mother (even at church), have me thinking about Four Seasons' Mr Sharp's mission statement based on The Golden Rule "To treat others as we'd wish to be treated ourselves." again. I fully appreciate that issues related to COVID-19 have left us all very frazzled but I think it is even more important to take the time to talk to people and be compassionate, understanding & flexible.
Hope the photos below help to make people feel better at what continues to be such a difficult time for so many people.
Light at the End of the Tunnel or Another Train Coming? - COVID-19 (Coronavirus) - Shropshire & London, UK - July 2020
July 2020 was the month I restarted swimming, buying new Cayman Islands style Vilebrequin swim shorts to celebrate, and exercising with personal trainer Bart again. We did this outside with breathtaking views of Tower Bridge. I was even part of a photo shoot at Virgin Active in Mayfair, as I will feature on the new Virgin Active website.
It was also the month where I was part of the reopening of 45 Park Lane & Mandarin Oriental, Hyde Park; obtained my Turnbull & Asser face mask, with VIROFORMULA virus killing filters; had my first pint for 121 days with dad in The Admiral Benbow in Shrewsbury, the landlady Claire there was ahead of London with her anti-COVID-19 bar screen; drank Shrewsbury wine with mum & dad at Hencote in Shropshire; had a haircut at Truefitt & Hill, following in the footsteps of Charles Dickens, Winston Churchill & Frank Sinatra; Philip Hammond at The Dorchester created a spectacular new headdress for my Christian Lacroix wearing teddy bear from Bangkok; I attended a sublime lunch at Scott's in Mayfair with my Qatar friends; & ate caviar and drank gin from Kyoto, Japan, for breakfast, outside at 45 Jermyn Street, behind Fortnum & Mason. The Head of UK Retail at Fortnum & Mason now wants to meet www.sifrew.com.
It has been another unbelievable month in my life & I just hope the move to the 'new normal' in the UK continues. Feel free to ask me about the photos below, when we next meet.
Sorry for my silence but I have been very busy with Banking Consultant related issues.
I have constructive feedback for Virgin Atlantic Upper Class re: the large inflexible dining table that is part of their new A350 configuration and the surrender of Four Seasons control to Wolfgang Puck over the CUT bar at Four Seasons Hotel New York Downtown.
At the same time I must highlight the Grant Achatz truffle cocktail sent to my Central Park view 49th floor suite at Mandarin Oriental New York; the truffle cheeses, with grated fresh black & white truffles and Bresaola air-dried, salted beef from Uruguay to welcome me at my Hudson suite at Four Seasons Hotel New York Downtown Town and chilled bottles of Veuve Clicquot champagne at both hotels.
Also need to thank Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park for the roast duck congee breakfast, being added to their menu the following week, to celebrate Chinese New Year in London.
Will upload photos re: all this when I have more time but feel free to ask me about all this, when you see me.
I have settled back into my London life. Personal training with Bart at Virgin Active, Barbican and enjoying my swims there.
I am living in my redecorated Barbican place again, with its Dorchester Hotel bed, personalised Frette sheets from Harrods, new Ligne Roset table from Heal's etc. Just the 'Four Seasons at Park Lane' window boxes to recreate again.
Since I moved back to London Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park has officially reopened. I visited on the day this occurred. On that, notable, occasion I met Rodolphe & Marco in the Mandarin Bar and was served a divine truffle gin martini that was not yet on the menu. Legendary GM Amanda also came for an inspiring chat.
On my second visit I brought one of my unbelievable friends from Shropshire and got to try more cocktails and snacks being developed for the menu and was presented with a Mandarin Oriental teddy bear, MO tie pin and MO key ring, to add to my MO clufflinks from Mandarin Oriental Kuala Lumpur.
On my latest visit I decided to try their Hyde Park breakfast with Moet champagne, a choice of truffles or caviar and a spectacular view of Hyde Park. Breakfast ended up being better than I could possibly have imagined. Even the bellhops on the lobby stairs greeted me by name, the gorgeous dining room is so bright and impressive, the other guests as refined as I found before the deeply unfortunate fire and Amanda and her staff (eg Silvia the House Manager) seem reinvigorated/improved, what a contrast with when The Savoy in London reopened.
Hope the photos below help you to understand why it was such a special day.
A '7 teddies' (🐻🐻🐻🐻🐻🐻🐻) hotel, with '7 teddy' staff and a '7 teddy' champagne/truffle breakfast.
Flying American Airlines First Class, & staying at The Dorchester, meant I had to return from Cayman Islands to find a Rolls-Royce.
The Dorchester helped me celebrate by giving me one of their gorgeous Dorchester suites again, hotel legend Amanda Hyndman met with me, I (finally) met Four Seasons' Lynn Brutman, Dorchester butlers repacked my luggage beautifully and some of my best friends from my 10 years in Qatar joined me for drinks.
🐻🐻🐻🐻🐻🐻🐻(7 out of 5 ‘teddies’) - no return to the UK could have been better. I must thank Robert, Janice & Emily at The Dorchester, John at 45 Park Lane, Lynn & Irene at Four Seasons at Park Lane & Amanda Hyndman at Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park for all they did to make my welcome back to the UK so special.
This 'Celebrity Fan' stayed at Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, London before its recent refurbishment and was eager to see what the over GBP85MN spent had achieved.
Marie (the hotel's PR Director) and Ines were kind enough to give me a tour and even arranged a complimentary lunch in Bar Boulud. I have eaten there before & also in Daniel Boulud's New York places.
The refurbishment is stunning, with all the attention to detail and additional light but it was my fellow dinners in Bar Boulud that evidenced the class/caliber of this London institution of a 5 star hotel. The 'great & the good' of Bermuda always stayed there during the 6 years when I lived, and worked, in Bermuda.
Si Frew has lived in the UK, Bermuda, Qatar, Cyprus & the Cayman Islands. During this time he met Whoopi Goldberg (in Claridge's), Mike Tyson (in the Concorde Lounge at JFK) , Gordon Ramsay (in the Doha Four Seasons), Chris Eubanks (in The Dorchester), Cherie Blair (in Bermuda & again in the Doha Four Seasons) etc. There are funny stories attached to all these interactions, feel free to ask Si about them when you meet him.