Friday, 29 May 2015

Cocktails at St James Bar, The Sofitel London St James

One of my favourite places in London to go for cocktails is the St James Bar at the Sofitel London St James. It always makes me feel as if I have gone somewhere extra special.

Modelled on Coco Chanel’s 1920s Paris apartment, modern prints slot in with French antique furniture to make it feel contemporary.  

The bar snacks are so moorish and the service is exceptional. Our waiter was extremely knowledgeable guiding my friend and I through the new spring and summer cocktail collection influenced by the life of the great lady herself.


When the creations were being concocted, the bar staff studied the films that they thought might have entertained her during her rise to fame.

Obviously, there was some poetic licence when they conjured up their drinks. The ones I tried were outstanding and paid homage to Mademoiselle Chanel ‘s impeccable taste.

Enticed with names such as Under Capricorn, taking its name from Alfred’s Hitchcock’s 1949 film and Piccadilly, a British silent drama, the menu spoils you for choice.

Spring in Rio

I plumped for L’Ossessione, which is named after the renowned 1943 movie directed by Luchino Visconti. This take on the Italian classic, the Bellini has a hint of black pepper which gives this rather sophisticated drink a kick. This went down a little bit too well so it was time to try another.

My friend went for Spring in Rio. Just the name transports you to a world of glamour and excitement. This cocktail with refreshing sweet and sour tangs has been given a touch of France by adding a Sauterne foam.

A Propos de Nice was the one that tempted me. It may have been inspired by a 1930s silent documentary film, but this gin-based cocktail with fresh flavours of raspberry syrup and lemon juice brought back memories of holidays there. 

A Propos de Nice

If you are a vodka fan be seduced by the Madame Butterfly, or if you like tequila then a Pueblo Legend named after the movie starring Mary Pickford might be more to your taste.  

This list is an interesting take on the usual cocktail list.  And you should have plenty of fun discovering it. Each one sparked an interesting topic of conversation.

If having  packed away more than the day’s recommended calorie count  while soaking up the atmosphere in this bar or you feel peckish and do not want anything too rich, go to the hotel’s buzzy restaurant, The Balcon  to try the De-Light menu. 

Designed with health and wellness in mind, you can have a three-course meal for around 500 calories. Who says you cannot have your cake and eat it?

By Daralyn Danns

For more information about the Sofitel visit

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

The essie Nail Bar at Urban Retreat, Harrods

Going away on holiday and forgot to get a nail appointment? Or do you have a last minute date and your nails look a mess? When you are looking to get a manicure done on the spur of the moment and you did not have time to book, then the Urban Retreat’s essie Nail Bar at Harrods is the place to go.

Whether you want to match a nail colour to your outfit, try a new trend or fancy having some nail art inspired by a favourite holiday destination (best to pre-book this) the essie nail technician will cater for your every whim.

With express services including a traditional manicure, quick touch-ups or manicure, essie’s signature gel manicure with exclusive keratin-care technology for long-lasting wear and colour, you will be spoilt for choice by its menu.

Although I was impressed with the beautiful artistically-designed nails that Alice Marchesi, my nail artist, as she likes to call herself,  had, I wanted to go for a nude shade as this not only suits me, but it is practical as it does not show the chips. 

She told me that in order to find the perfect nude for you, you need to know your skin tone. Neutrals are either rosy or belong to the beige family.

A quick trick is to look at the colour of the veins on the underside of your wrist. If they look green or yellow, you will be warm toned, Those with blue or purple veins are have a cool skin tone. Some, like me, don’t fall into either camp. We are more likely to be neutral and can wear whatever shade we please.

As I usually plump for mademoiselle, a pretty sheer white-tinged pink which gives the nails a clean look, we tried high maintenance which is also pink but has more colour to it.

I had a great manicure including a hand massage. My nails looked lovely and they kept for over a week.  Impressive!

By Daralyn Danns

essie manicures at  The essie Nail Bar at Urban Retreat, Harrods, £40
For more information visit

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Wines evocative of Umbria

Sipping a delicious red the other night from Umbria, in central Italy, brought back memories of a most enjoyable trip to Italy’s “green heart”. Discovering pretty hilltop towns steeped in history such as Assisi and Narni was an enriching experience. 

When you think of wines from this area, the name that automatically springs to mind is Orvieto, a town renowned for its white wines. However, Umbria is now claiming its position on the map for its reds.  

If you are the type that likes their wines robust and complex seek out ones made from the sagrantino grape found around Montefalco. Facing extinction in the 1960s, thanks to investment, this grape which is naturally loaded with tannins has had something of a renaissance. More winemakers are springing up since the area was awarded DOCG status (the highest classification for Italian wines in 1992), 

Discovering pretty hilltop towns steeped in history

I went for a tasting at Cantina Goretti – this family-owned winery is a must if you are near Perguia. Although there was a mix of whites and reds to tempt the palate, the star of the show had to be the Sagrantino di Montefalco DOCG. Made from only sagrantino grapes, it explodes with flavours of blackberries, plums and raspberries. This should please even those with incredibly sophisticated palettes.

The other grape that has sparked interest in recent years is sangiovese. Once associated with cheap Italian reds, this main grape of central Italian reds produces wines that go down a treat. It is quite a difficult grape to get right. Often it is blended with cabernet sauvignon which gives the wine a certain richness. Sometimes merlot is added to the mix to take  the edge of the acidity.

At the Valle di Assisi, a delightful hotel just outside Assisi, I savoured Recanto  Merlot-Cabernet Sauvignon, 2009, Vendemmia which came from its own vineyard. 

If you are not off to Umbria soon, you can sample its wines in the UK. Here are a couple which I can recommend.

Sagrantino di Montefalco, 2010, Milziade Antano, Umbria, Berry Bros. & Rudd, (,) £35
This superb wine packs a powerful punch yet it is silky smooth on the palette. Described by Berry Bros. Italian wine expert, David Berry Green, as the essence of Umbrian sagrantino,  this  spicy number unravels lip-smacking plummy tangs. With one sip you will appreciate the calibre.

Montefalco Rosso, 2010, Fattoria di Antano, Umbria, Berry Bros. & Rudd, (,) £19.95
Laced with raspberries, this is a zingy wine with hardly any noticeable tannins. This impressive creation that is redolent of Umbria will seduce you from the first taste.

By Daralyn Danns

For further information about tours and tastings in Umbria visit
For further information about Valle di Assisi, visit

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Mac Wash & Dry High-light Powder in Freshen Up, £25.50


Another great product from MAC. This semi-opaque highlighter is a graduation of three shades of fine highly-pigmented powder ranging from a pale iridescent gold to a pretty coral. I used the brighter shades as a blusher. It has a lovely, subtle shimmer which looks lovely with a tan (out of a bottle, of course).  The lighter shade when applied under my brow bones really enhanced my eyes. Ideal for holidays.

By Daralyn Danns

Friday, 15 May 2015

Spotlight on Clarins Radiance-Plus Golden Glow Booster for Body, £26

When it comes to self-tanning products Clarins produce some of the best on the market.

I rarely used them but last year when I was particularly pale I decided to give the new Clarins Radiance-Plus Golden Glow Booster for Face a whirl. I was hooked. A tiny drop mixed into my night cream transformed me from looking deathly pale to somebody who looked like they had spent the weekend in Tuscany.

So when I heard that Clarins had come up with a one for the body, I had to try it. Just a few drops of the Radiance-Plus Golden Glow Booster for Body (£26) added to your regular body lotion reacts with your skin to give you a realistic glow within hours.  (Don’t forget to exfoliate beforehand.) And the best thing is that you don’t get those unsightly patches that can so often happen with regular self-tans. And, it is odourless. This will solve the problem of not wearing tights in summer.

By Daralyn Danns