Luxury Family Holidays Handpicked for Parents

Food and Drink


Browns’ Hotel in Mayfair was, back in my Conde Nast days, a regular post-work pitstop for a cocktail and catch up with girlfriends after a day at work. On more than one occasion, that one cocktail turned into five (or seven!?) and a bleary cab ride home. So it was odd and delightful, all at once, to be checking in (sober) to that same West London beauty with my husband and two girls in tow last weekend.

Discreet but extremely luxurious, Brown’s Hotel has been a home-from-home for many a big name over the years. Rudyard Kipling wrote The Jungle Book while staying there (my daughter was particularly taken by that fact) while Winston Churchlll, so legend goes, once said: “I don’t stay at hotels. I stay at Brown’s.” Lola wasn’t quite so blown away by that historical reference.

Brown's Hotel exterior

And so it was on a dark and cold London day we arrived at the warmth and cosy elegance of Browns’ for a night. And I really can’t recommend it highly enough, especially if you’re hitting the capital with your kids. At check-in, our handsome and extremely eloquent concierge George greeted all of us, including the kids (something parents know doesn’t happen often). Lola was given her own Brown’s “passport” to document her stay and, upon arriving in our beautiful Dover Suite, cookies adorned with the girls names were ready and waiting, as was a teddy called Albie, story books and DVDs. Lola, particularly, was made to feel very welcome (as were we thanks to our spoiling confines and the lovely bottle of white waiting on ice, which was particularly appreciated after the traffic jam we endured en route through Knightsbridge). The hotel’s new Families R Forte programme aims to make young guests feel just as welcome as their parents, though I’ve always found the family-friendly offerings of this particular hotel to be of the highest standard. We are Londoners ourselves but the hotel offers a fantastic Kids’ City Guide which, were we new to the place, would have proven very useful. Lola received her own check-in card and comments card so felt very much a part of things.

Children at Brown's Hotel

The Dover suite (which we stayed in) is just one such room that offers huge space for the entire family but also has the option of interconnecting with a neighbouring room if you want even more. Though we were sitting in the midst of Mayfair I was particularly taken by the immense sense of calm and quiet that resulted, I assume, thanks to some seriously good double glazing. Despite being a few floors above Dover Street we could have been in the middle of nowhere. It was that quiet and, given that we had a four month old with us, it was one of the first things I noticed.

Brown's Dover Suite

The suite itself was divine. The attention to detail given to families was unrivalled. Firstly, we were met in the bathroom by a baby bath for Maya and a bevy of Child’s Farm and Burts Bee’s goodies for the girls. The hotel had gone as far as to source the right size of nappy for a baby of Maya’s age and, at the end of our bed, was a beautifully-made (all pink) cot for her to rest in; adjacent to that was a floor mat with toys perfect for her age. Lola had a fabulous bed of her own made up in our ridiculously large and very luxurious living room (complete with personalised television, sweeping writing desk and sofas more comfortable than those I enjoy in my own home). She had her own robe and slippers; Maya had her own hooded towelling poncho. Had we stayed for longer and required babysitting services that would have been no problem and, should you request one, the hotels provides a Kids In-Room Bar complete with healthy snacks and drinks.

Brown's Hotel Dover Suite bedroom

Hix Restaurant downstairs was our dining spot for the night and, as a big fan of Mark Hix, I was particularly excited about our reservation. Being a Saturday night I was well aware, even though we ate early, that we were surrounded by couples on dates. Maya slept the entire way through dinner and Lola was immaculately behaved but I could sense the presence of a buggy raised eyebrows as we walked in. The staff, however, were so welcoming. Lola got a children’s menu that was lengthier and offered up healthier offerings than many I’ve encountered for children. She dined on mini Mark Hix steak burgers, while we shared a Porterhouse steak and a beautiful bottle of Chablis.

And the trip couldn’t have ended on a higher note because Lola spent Sunday morning in the stunning Brown’s hotel spa. In the basement of the building, it is an inner sanctum of calm and tranquility. Again, peaceful and beautifully designed, one feels more zen for just for stepping out of the spa lift and it’s as lovely for children as it is their parents. Lola lay on a warmed treatment bed while the lovely Pru gave her a mini “twinkle toes” pedicure over milk and cookies. (Manicures, facials and massages are also available for children and, though I didn’t hit the spa myself, I’ll definitely be back).

Teenagers are no less loved and, if you’re staying with children aged 13-16, they can enjoy everything from cocktail-making courses to their own specially designed spa treatments (and, yes, there are games consoles for the bedrooms, too). The concierge will also design itineraries across the city should you need them.

Brown's Hotel spa

Lola floated back up to our suite, her sparkling purple toe nails out for all to see, and we had a fabulous breakfast in our room before (very reluctantly) checking out. What makes Brown’s such a fantastic choice for families is how easy they make everything. Lola was considered every single step of the way, as was her baby sister. I needed her nightdress thrown in a dryer at one point – that wasn’t a problem at all. Warm milk was brought to our room before she went to sleep and our car was taken by the valet on arrival so all we had to do was grab our bags and head inside. Because they provide so much for the children, we could pack light and, had I needed bottle warmers or sterilisers, they would have provided those, too. Discreet as Brown’s is, the levels of luxury, thought and service really are second to none. It’s long been a favourite of mine in London and, while that was once thanks to my love of the Donovan Bar, it’s now the experience I’ve had there as a parent.

With Families R Forte, children are divided into age groups. ‘RBabies’ is designed for children from newborn to three-years old, ‘RKids’ is designed for children aged four to 12 and ‘RTeens’ for teenagers aged 13 to 16, with entertainment and gifts throughout their stay. For more information click here.

 


Jasmine and Melissa Hemsley

Our favourite “Goddesses of Good Eating”, Hemsley and Hemsley, are back. Their new book Good + Simple was recently released and it’s flying off bookshelves. Last Monday saw the first episode of their new show, Eating Well with Hemsley + Hemsley air on Channel 4 to great applause and they recently opened the gorgeous space that is the Hemsley Cafe on the new floor of Selfridges London. Being delightful as Jasmine and Melissa are, they’ve taken some time out of their furious schedule to share a few of their favourite recipes from the new book. As ever, they are healthy but bursting with flavour and they will work wonders with children for days in the garden this summer or further afield on holiday. And if you see only one episode of their television show, make it that which airs on May 30th as it’s the family special. Meanwhile, from the girls….

COURGETTE AND CANNELLINI BEAN LASAGNE

SERVES 4

Courgette and Cannellini Bean Lasagne

3 large courgettes

FOR THE ‘BÉCHAMEL’ SAUCE

250g ricotta

80g Parmesan or Pecorino, finely grated, plus extra for sprinkling

1 egg

FOR THE TOMATO SAUCE

1 x 400g tin of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

2 garlic cloves

120g sundried tomatoes (about 20 pieces) in oil, drained

3 tablespoons tomato purée

A pinch of sea salt

¼ teaspoon black pepper

1 Add the ingredients for the ‘béchamel’ sauce to a food processor and blend until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

2 Add the ingredients for the tomato sauce to the food processor (no need to clean out the bowl) and blend until smooth.

3 Using a mandolin or very sharp knife, finely slice the courgettes lengthways into 3mm-thick pieces.

4 Preheat the oven to fan 180°C/Gasmark 6. Spread about half the tomato sauce over the bottom of a 16cmx 22cm ovenproof dish which is at least 8cm deep, as a thin layer. Top with about a third of the courgette slices in an even layer. Cover the courgettes with about half the ‘béchamel’ sauce, then top with half the remaining courgettes in an even layer.

5 Repeat the layering with the remaining tomato sauce, courgettes and ‘béchamel’, then sprinkle over a final layer of Parmesan to finish.

6 Bake for 45 minutes until golden brown on top. Remove from the oven and leave to stand for 5–10 minutes before serving.

HUEVOS RANCHEROS WITH GUACAMOLE

SERVES 2

Hemsley and Hemsley Huevos Rancheros

4 large handfuls of spinach, roughly chopped

4 eggs

1 large handful of fresh coriander, leaves and stalks roughly chopped

1 small handful of grated mature Cheddar

FOR THE TOMATO SAUCE

1 large onion, diced

1 tablespoon ghee or coconut oil

2 garlic cloves, diced

2 red peppers, halved lengthways, deseeded and sliced into strips

2 bay leaves

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

A pinch of cayenne pepper or finely diced fresh red chilli, to taste

2 x 400g tins of tomatoes or 800g fresh tomatoes

200ml water (100ml if using fresh tomatoes)

Sea salt and black pepper

FOR THE GUACAMOLE

1 large ripe avocado

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Juice of ½–1 lime

2 spring onions or 1 small handful of fresh chives, chopped

1 handful of fresh coriander leaves, chopped

1 First make the tomato sauce. Fry the onion in the ghee or coconut oil over a medium heat for about 8minutes, stirring occasionally, until softened.

2 Add the garlic, peppers, bay leaves and spices to the pan and cook for another 2minutes.

3 Add the tomatoes and water, season generously with salt and pepper, then stir everything together and leave to simmer for 10 minutes until reduced to a thick, rich sauce.

4 Meanwhile, make the guacamole. Halve and stone the avocado, then scoop out the flesh and roughly chop. Place in a bowl and stir in all the remaining ingredients and some seasoning. Set aside.

5 Check the seasoning of the tomato sauce, adding extra salt, pepper and cayenne/chilli as needed, then stir through the spinach and cook for a few minutes until just wilted.

6 Use a spatula or spoon to make four wells in the tomato sauce mixture and crack an egg into each. The eggs will poach in the sauce and cook in about 4 minutes (lid on) for set whites and runny yolks.

7 Scatter over the coriander and cheese. Serve immediately (as the eggs will keep cooking) with big heaped spoonfuls of guacamole on top.

Cannellini Vanilla Sponge Cake with Chocolate Avo Frosting

Serves 25–30

Hemsley and Hemsley Cannellini Vanilla Sponge Cake with Chocolate Avo Frosting

For the cake

125g butter or coconut oil, melted, plus extra for greasing

3 x 400g tins of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

9 medium eggs

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

220ml maple syrup

5 teaspoons apple cider vinegar or lemon juice

90g coconut flour

2½ teaspoons bicarbonate of soda

¼ teaspoon sea salt

150g punnet of fresh raspberries, to decorate

For the chocolate avo frosting

4 medium ripe avocados

5 tablespoons (about 75g) coconut oil, melted

8 tablespoons raw honey (to taste)

10 tablespoons cocoa powder

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

2 tablespoons lemon juice

½ teaspoon orange extract (not essence)

A pinch of sea salt

1 Preheat the oven to fan 180°C/gasmark 6, then line the bases of two 25cm-diameter cake tins with baking parchment and grease the sides with butter or coconut oil.

2 Blend all the ingredients for the frosting together in a food processor until smooth, adding a dash of cold water if needed. taste, adjusting the flavourings to taste, then transfer to a bowl and set aside in the fridge.

3 For the cake, add the cannellini beans to the cleaned food processor bowl with the eggs, vanilla extract and maple syrup and blend until smooth. Add the remaining cake ingredients, except the raspberries, and blend to combine.

4 Divide the cake batter between the prepared cake tins, spreading out evenly and smoothing the surface. Bake in the oven for 35 minutes until well risen and lightly golden on top. (Check the cakes after 25 minutes and swap the tins between shelves, if necessary, as they will cook at different rates.)

5 Remove from the oven, transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool completely in the tins before turning out.

6 While the cakes are cooling, gently wash the raspberries and dry them carefully using kitchen paper or leave to air dry; (they must be thoroughly dry before adding to the cake.)

7. Spread half the frosting on one of the cooled sponges, top with the other sponge and spread over the rest of the frosting. Store in the fridge and bring to room temperature to serve. decorate with the fresh raspberries just before serving.

Extracted from Good + Simple by Jasmine and Melissa Hemsley (Ebury Press, £25)

Photography by Nick Hopper


Most Londoners have experienced the joy of stumbling across Leon. Offering fast food that is also good food, their delicious offerings hit every note without leaving you sluggish and heavy afterwards. And they’ve brought out a series of books called the Little Leon series. They are pocket-sized collections (with adorable designs) that offer up all the humour, character and flair associated with Leon cookbooks, but in a handy size ideal for taking on your travels. With their exciting variety of recipes, these books make it easier than ever to feed the ones you love fabulous food that will do them good. 

Little Leon: Lunchbox guarantees healthy happy tummies and offers up nutritious but delicious food ideas that your children will love, either in school lunch boxes or when travelling. And Little Leon: Sweet Treats proves that you can have your cake and eat it. The delicious selection of puddings, pies and cakes are all made from natural ingredients. With recipes designed for people trying to cut out sugar, wheat or dairy, and simply those who want to make their pleasures a bit less sinful, these treats are guilt-free and wonderful to make with your children either at home or on holiday. We are thrilled to have three recipes for you here from the new books, chosen specially with kids in mind.

Leon Chocolate Mousse

Serves 4. Prep time: 25 minutes. Cooking time: None.

100g dark chocolate (70 cocoa solids)

30g unsalted butter

2 free-range egg yolks

1 shot of dark espresso

A drop of orange oil or very finely grated zest of half an orange (optional)

3 free-range egg whites

15g fructose (If you don’t have fructose you can use 20g of caster sugar instead).

  • Melt the chocolate and butter until smooth in a large, heat-proof bowl in the microwave, or over a pan of simmering water, making sure the water does not touch the surface of the bowl.
  • Separately whisk the egg yolks until nearly white and thick in consistency. Gently stir the whisked yolks into the butter and chocolate, and then stir in the coffee and the orangey bit, if you are adding it.
  • Use an electric hand whisk to whip the egg whites to soft peaks, then add the fructose and whisk for another minute just to get that shine.
  • Beat a third of the egg white into the chocolate mixture until smooth, then add the third more gently, and the last with the strokes of an angel.
  • Neither over-mix nor leave white streaks, then divide the mousse into pretty things and leave in the fridge for an hour.

Leon Chocolate Mousse

Salvatore’s Panzanella

Serves 4-6. Prep time: 15 minutes. Cooking time: None

Panzanella is traditionally a Tuscan summer salad; however, this version comes from Salvatore, a Sicilian chef cooking in Umbria. The ‘King of Pork (and cork)’, as he was known to his customers, Salvatore still has a vegetable garden where he grows a huge array of some 54 types of tomato in one year. The bread used in the original version of his Panzanella was a very dry barley roll, but a dense wholemeal or sourdough loaf makes a good substitute. Panzanella can also be made with capers and roasted peppers. And while some of the ingredients may not smack of favourite foods for little ones, they will love making it with you.

250 g stale sourdough or wholemeal bread, ripped into 2-3 cm pieces.

60ml good red wine vinegar

60ml olive oil

1 clove of garlic, crushed

500g cherry or good quality ripe tomatoes

Salt and freshly ground pepper

A bunch of fresh basil

1 celery heart, thinly sliced

1 small red onion, thinly sliced

50g stoned olives

A pinch of dried oregano

Lots of good olive oil

  • Put the bread into a wide, shallow serving dish. Put the vinegar, oil and garlic into a bowl and mix together, then drizzle over the bread, mixing it in well with your hands.
  • Halve the tomatoes, sprinkle with salt and add to the bread.
  • Set aside a few leaves of basil for the garnish and scatter the rest over the bread, along with the celery, onion and olives. Sprinkle with a little pepper and oregano and drizzle with lots of good olive oil.
  • Cover the dish and set to one side in a cool place until ready to eat.

Salvatore's Panzanella

Asparagus and Wild Garlic Frittata

Serves 4. Prep time: 10 minutes. Cooking time: 10 minutes.

350 – 400g asparagus

6 free range eggs

1 tablespoon white wine

2 tablespoons grated vegetarian pecorino or parmesan-style cheese

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 clove of garlic, crushed

A small bunch of fresh wild garlic leave, washed and shredded. (If these aren’t in season then fresh mint of basil can be used instead).

  • To prepare the asparagus, first snap off and discard the woody ends. Cut the asparagus into 2-3 cm lengths. Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil, add the asparagus, blanch for two minutes and drain.
  • Put the eggs into a bowl with the white wine and 1 tablespoon of grated pecorino and whisk together. Season well.
  • Heat the grill. Heat the olive oil in a 22-24cm non-stick frying pan. Add the asparagus, garlic and wild garlic leaves and sauté over a medium heat for 2 minutes, then lower the heat.
  • Pour in the egg mixture and draw in from the sides with a wooden spoon to allow the uncooked egg to run underneath.
  • Cook gently for 5 minutes. Sprinkle with the rest of the cheese and flash under the hot grill to finish cooking the top.
  • Slide from the pan on to a large plate and cut into wedges.

Asparagus frittata

For more information on Leon, click here.

To purchase any of the Little Leon books, click here.


The River Cottage in Devon is a hub of glorious food, family and this August, it’s home to the fabulous River Cottage Summer Fair. The lovely team at The River Cottage host twice-yearly celebrations of the season and the upcoming Summer Fair, for those in and around the Axminster area on the Dorset and Devon border, will make a fabulous family treat. (If you don’t live in the West Country, we highly recommend you make a weekend of it).

River Cottage Summer Fair banner

 

On Saturday 15th August and Sunday August 16th, The River Cottage will be awash with activities and entertainment for the kids that include falconry, pig-racing and welly-wangling. There will be live music by night, cookery demonstrations in the cookery theatre, talks and tours, local food and craft market stalls, gardening tips and hands-on masterclasses by day. Aside from the obvious culinary highlights, children will adore the bouncy castle, puppet shows and garden games, as well as seeing the four-legged visitors that will be there from the charmingly named Munchkins Miniature Shetland Rescue Centre. And adults won’t miss out on the extra-curricular fun either: there will be blacksmithing, weaving, gardening lessons, farm tours and, our personal favourite: the Heron Valley cocktail yurt.

If you’re a fan of Hugh’s culinary prowess, or simply love the idyllic setting of his show, the Summer Fair will allow you a sneak-peek behind the scenes at River Cottage HQ where you’ll be able to meet the team, see the animals and the gardens (always popular with little ones) and enjoy the very best of what’s in season from the River Cottage food tent. Food and drink will be available all day and evening and the licensed bar will be serving local ciders, beers, wines and bubbles. If you aren’t there with really little children it’s well worth staying on into the evening when live music will play till late. “Joey the Lips” will kick start the weekend’s shenanigans on Friday August 14th, serving up some eclectic funk, soul, blues and disco. Saturday night will be overseen by “Tankus the Henge,” a foot-stomping six piece powerhouse of a band. Yes, please!

Rover cottage summer fair farmer

There is a full programme of events that stretch from mid-morning coffee and cakes whilst taking in the beautiful surrounding scenery through to dancing away to live music at the gig nights way beyond sunset. And if you’re not really local to the River Cottage, we suggest you head to Devon anyway; it is a stunning place to enjoy a family break this summer. From the boundless beaches and cobbled village lanes, the incredible local food (the southwest is considered by many to be England’s larder) and the array of family activities, the River Cottage Summer Fair can be enjoyed either side of long, lazy walks and gorgeous family-friendly accommodation.

River Cottage summer fair couple

The River Cottage Summer Fair will take place both days from 10am-4pm and costs £12.50 per adult. Children under 12 years go free.

The Gig Nights are from 6pm-10.30pm and cost £15 per adult.

For more information and for bookings visit www.rivercottage.net/summerfair, 01297 630 300 or email rcevents@rivercottage.net

Phone (01297 630 300) or email rcevents@rivercottage.net


Hemsley and Hemsley are our favourite goddesses of good eating. Also known as Melissa and Jasmine, they are heading to the Southwest of England next week to spend a day at The River Cottage so if you’re anywhere near Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s neck of the woods (or you’re not) we highly recommend getting hold of a ticket and going, too. Tickets to both events are available now but selling fast.

Jamie and Melissa Hemsley

The girls are heading out of London to spend July 15th at his River Cottage headquarters on the Dorset and Devon borders where they will be spending the day teaching course guests how to create some of their favourite dishes from their international bestselling cookbook The Art of Eating Well. They will also be sharing a holistic understanding of their philosophy from nutritional benefits to the importance of provenance, making the River Cottage setting so perfect. All will be delicious, nutritious and ideal for the entire family. There are two events to sign up for – the one-off cookery course to take part in by day and then an intimate dinner with a menu created by them specially for the occasion. Jasmine and Melissa have curated the menu with involvement from the River Cottage Head Chef Gelf Alderson and will be there to welcome guests as they arrive, introduce the evening and take part in a Q&A before handing over to Gelf and his team. You can take part in either session but, if you can spend the time there, we highly recommend doing both.

Duck Tamarind Lettuce wraps

Duck Tamarind Lettuce Wraps.

As Melissa told us, “Jasmine and I are thrilled to be taking over Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage for a day and evening of fun and food this summer. With the chance to teach, cook and talk, we’re hoping guests at both the cookery course and dinner leave feeling inspired, energised and enthused about eating well to feel well. We love sharing our top tips and seeing people’s faces light up when they’ve mastered a knock-out cauliflower rice! River Cottage’s ethos is in line with ours, taking great care to source the best possible produce and while championing sustainably farmed meat and fish.” Amen.

Pep up tea

Pep Up Tea.

To buy tickets for this fabulous event click here.

For more information on Jasmine and Melissa Hemsley click here.

To read the wonderful recipes the girls shared with kodomo.com recently click here.

Rover cottage farmer Rover Cottage cookery school