If Margot were a person, rather than a new Covent Garden restaurant, she’d be a handsome, twice-married Contessa, clad in fur (Fendi), cashmere (Loro Piano) and diamonds (courtesy of husbands, ex and current). With an accent as thick as warm honey, and a laugh like a Neapolitan drain.

Because this smart, slick Italian, from Paulo di Tarso and Nicholas Jaouen (two smart, slick, front-of-house masters) is scented with undeniably opulent allure.

The lighting is expensively discreet, the leather on the banquettes sybaritically soft, and linen tablecloths extravagantly thick.

Eating at Margot is like sitting in a Romantic reverie of great restaurants long past, an immaculately manicured two fingers up to bare tables, exposed bricks and naked ducts

Waiters wear black tie, salt and pepper grinders wear solid silver tops while grissini sit in bespoke holders, shaped like a dog’s head.

Hell, even the loos have their own bespoke cologne. It’s like sitting in a Romantic reverie of great restaurants long past, an immaculately manicured two fingers up to bare tables, exposed bricks and naked ducts.

Sure, some will moan that it’s excessive and old-fashioned. But it’s never ostentatious, in that slightly slutty Sexy Fish sort of way.

Rather, smooth and subdued. The sort of restaurant, to misquote Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, that ‘corners on rails’.

All this voluptuousness, this Lucullan lustre, comes at a price. Of course it does. Five quid Manchester curry house this ain’t. But the food, on the whole, is good, and often very good indeed.


Beef tartare £13.50

Crab salad £14

Roast monkfish £25

Burrata £14.50

Prawn carpaccio £15

A board of salumi may come in at £16, but it’s lavishly covered with silken aged Parma ham, sliced tissue-paper thin, with the sweetest, and most luscious of fats.

Plus boisterously piggy fennel-spiked salami, and splendid prosciutto made from Sicilian Black pigs.

Foccacia reminds me how good this lithe, spongy bread can be, especially when sprinkled wantonly with salt and olive oil. Burrata, too, is the real thing, oozing rich, lactic lasciviousness all over the plate. Obscenely good.

Crab salad is exemplary, with that true sweetness found only in beasts picked fresh that morning. Ingredients, ingredients, ingredients.

At these prices, you’d expect the best and you won’t be disappointed. An immaculately chopped beef tartare comes with scrambled egg and shavings of white truffle.

Sounds a little odd, but it’s wonderful; hot meets cold, the earthy mingling happily with a bold carnivorous grunt.

Only an over-generous hand with the salt stops it from becoming one of my dishes of the year. That over-enthusiasm with the sodium chloride also mars a red prawn carpaccio.

The crustaceans are flawlessly fresh, but their rich elegance is somewhat smothered in saline over-abundance.

No such worries with the gnocchi all’amatriciana, cumulus-light pasta, with lashings of properly punchy pecorino and shards of crisp pancetta (rather than the more traditional guanciale).

As bold and forthright as you’d find in Rome, each mouthful filled with macho, no-nonsense unrestrained delight. Monkfish is flawlessly cooked, wrapped in more pancetta and served with canellini beans and a touch of black truffle.

Every element comes seamlessly together. Posh Italian, perhaps, but pretty damned fine too.

Torpedino tomato and basil salad, on the other hand, is a crashing bore, the fruit bland, hard and charmless. Why bother to serve tomatoes in the depths of winter?

It’s a rare misstep from a kitchen headed up by the deeply talented Maurizio Morelli. So Margot is expensive.

But the service is excellent, the hubbub soporifically soothing and the cooking (tomato salad and occasional over-salting aside) mainly tip top.

If you’re after charm, quality and old-fashioned glamour, then this gran signora is one hell of a date.

Lunch for two: about £100

Eating at Margot is like sitting in a Romantic reverie of great restaurants long past, an immaculately manicured two fingers up to bare tables, exposed bricks and naked ducts

Burrata from Puglia

Roast suckling pork with prunes






Ananda in the Himalayas





November 28, 2016 Text by Aparrna GuptaIt’s time you tick this destination resort off your bucket list

At the outset, I must confess I am a wellness junkie. I religiously sip gallons of herbal decoctions, and abstain from coffee and milk tea. Short of applying snails’ mucus on my face, there’s little I haven’t done. Nothing can deter me from the path to inner and outer beauty. The opportunity to visit the much-awarded destination spa, Ananda in the Himalayas, located in the small hill town of Narendra Nagar in Uttarakhand, came my way while I was battling some minor health issues. I was ready to climb every mountain and follow every rainbow in search of the glow that eluded my complexion and to discard every excess pound off my waist.

Welcomed by friendly smiles, a rudraksha necklace and a spreadsheet listing the timings of my fitness, yoga, meditation and cleansing rituals for the coming week, I was bundled off to the spa. I was wary of the monkeys that are said to frequent the place, and fortunately I only sighted gorgeous peacocks during my stay. Shades of saffron and carved statues dominated the spa interiors and lent an immediate sense of tranquillity and optimism.

A consultation with the Ayurvedic doctor determines the terms of one’s treatment and stay, including the food you get to eat at the restaurant. Though I was insistent on glow-inducing pampering facials, he added medicated enema and nasal cleansing to my sheet. Politely but firmly, he warned me not to look for superficial results but to go for internal detoxification. “After a week, your body will feel new, and everything that you desire will follow,” said Dr Naresh Perumbuduri.

So for a week I was to stay away from aerated drinks, alcohol, refined flours and fried foods. With the bait of a slimmer, radiant and re-energised version of myself, I was game for it all. My road to rejuvenation began with a sea salt scrub, which not only prepares the body for other treatments but also eliminates negative energies.

The next morning, a walk in the misty green hills detached me from the humdrum of my daily stress. I didn’t let my spirits get down as I turned a blind eye to the delicious breakfast options and ordered from the wellness menu. To cheat or not to cheat was my moral dilemma during most meal times, but the gentle persuasion by the servers and active involvement of executive chef Sandeep Biswas ensured that I remained loyal to the detox diet. Soon I started relishing the nourishing recipes that prevented the feeling of fullness after meals.

Day two started on a relaxing note with a detoxifying aromatherapy massage and hydrotheraphy, both designed to activate the lymphatic system. I was advised to up my consumption of water to aid the removal of toxins. Next morning, abhyanga, a synchronised full body massage, timed perfectly after a rigorous workout, provided instant relief to my sore muscles. Later in the evening I was scheduled to try out a colon-cleansing ritual known as Sneha Vasti. Nothing in the world could have persuaded me to have medicated oils placed in my rear except for the promise of a slimmer body and glowing complexion!

Day four reinforced my belief in the phrase ‘No gain without pain’. The Stimulating Shower Blitz turned out to be, literally, a fat-fighting treatment. The thought that these forceful streams of water were working towards melting the cellulite made it bearable. And true to its claim, just after two sessions, my skin was smoother and stretch marks were visibly reduced. To reduce muscle stiffness and heal injuries, a bundle massage or Choorna Swedana was slotted. Later, my concerns of asthma and migraines were addressed through Nasyam, where medicated oil is filled into the nostrils and later expelled through inhalation of spiced fumes. The continuous massaging of the nose, neck and shoulders veers you away from any sign of distress. The day ended on a comforting note with the Earth Stone massage, which uses a combination of hot and cold basalt to strengthen the mind-body connections. For the first time in many months, I slept peacefully without a single sneeze or a niggling ache.

The next day, Mukhlepa, an Ayurvedic clean-up, left me so utterly relaxed that I forgot to even check how radiant it left my complexion. During the Aroma Cocoon, smeared with oils and wrapped up in a warm blanket, I felt as if enveloped in the comfort of a mother’s womb. One of the many firsts for me, I fell asleep as soon as my head touched the pillow.

The next two days were sprinkled with intensive rounds of Ayurvedic massages and meditation sessions. I was taught how to perform the yogic technique of Jal Neti and pranayama. Despite a lurking suspicion that the water might find its way to the ears and eyes, I surrendered myself to this practice. But my fears were put to rest and I did manage to pour the lukewarm water into one nostril and bring it out through the other one.

As I left for the airport with a promise to return, I felt divinely satiated, deeply rejuvenated and lighter both bodily and spiritually. If only all roads to well-being were as blissful this one.


By Hilary Armstrong  Margot restaurant Credit: Simon John Owen

Margot restaurant

London duo Paulo de Tarso and Nicolas Jaouën revive the golden age of service at their debut restaurant

What’s new?  Margot  a glamorous new Italian in Covent Garden that gives service the starring role.

gives service the starring role.

Behind the scenes: As debonair a pair as you’ll find in former Bar Boulud maître d’ Paulo de Tarso and La Petite Maison and Balthazar general manager Nicolas Jaouën, two leading lights in the London front-of-house revival who first worked together at Scott’s in Mayfair.

The handsomely turned out duo – think resting matinee idols, all dishy looks and handmade suits – have cast a young team of waiters in their own image, movie set-ready in DJs and dickie bows.

In the kitchen, making a welcome return to the spotlight, is Lazio-born chef Maurizio Morelli, 13 years after opening Latium in Fitzrovia.

The concept: De Tarso and Jaouën are already talking about the possibilities for Margot – another in London, then New York, Los Angeles, Singapore maybe – and why not? Old school Italian hospitality travels well and the Margot motif – a sweet little dachshund that puts in an appearance everywhere from the awnings to cloakroom tags and silver grissini holder – suggests a luxury brand in the making.

Fabled Studio (Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, Restaurant Gordon Ramsay) is responsible for the dining room interior and its contemporary spherical glass chandeliers, glossy ceramic walls and sweeping leather banquettes. If there’s a dud table in the house, De Tarso and Jaouën won’t let you know about it.

What’s cooking? A chef of Maurizio Morelli’s calibre isn’t about to let some plate-carrying peacocks steal the show, not a bit of it. His extensive menu (matched by a wine list of equal ambition) puts him through his paces with all primi and insalate available in two sizes – the customer comes first here, let’s not forget – plus crudi, salumi, antipasti and the rest.

Our highlights: a genteel portion of glorious ossobuco and saffron risotto; a new way with steak tartare involving ever so gently scrambled eggs and heady black truffle “which never hurts”, and intoxicatingly boozy rum baba. ‘Flattened’ Sicilian cannolo (why not roll the cannolo?) and monkfish and white beans with pointless poached quails’ eggs and more black truffle pale in comparison.

Signature dishes: At Latium, the 1980s ‘nouvelle’ styling and vivid colours of Morelli’s signature ravioli di pesce – one black, one green, one yellow, one red, presented as if on an artist’s palette – always struck me as delicious but démodé.

Contextualised anew at the more soigné Margot, I love the dish’s abstract aspect and relish the absorbing progression of flavours from monkfish and squid ink to tuna and red pepper via brill and spinach, salmon and saffron.

Best for: The Royal Opera House. Your opera-goer gladrags won’t look out of place here.

Margot, 45 Great Queen Street, Covent Garden, London, WC2B 5AA
020 3409 4777


‘Flattened’ Sicilian cannolo and monkfish, white beans with poached quails’ eggs and black truffle 



Honeymoons that start you off on the right track

In the current issue of New Orleans Bride Magazine, contributing travel editor Becca Hensley gifts readers with the perfect honeymoon spots for couples to recharge and reconnect. “Couples bring a lot of baggage to a marriage (and we aren’t talking about luggage),” explains Hensley. “Consider beginning your new life together the way you want to live it — full of vim and vigor.” So Hensley offers couples honeymoon options from around the world to ensure your marriage begins in perfect wedded bliss. First on her list is “Say Namaste.”

-Kelly Massicot

Ananda in the Himalayas, India

Set amid the region said to be the birthplace of yoga, Ananda occupies the mountainous grounds of a Maharaja’s glimmering palace. Legendarily infused with cosmic energy, the locale has flower-edged pathways, wandering peacocks, mischievous monkeys, lavish rooms, a swimming pool and a 24,000-square-foot spa, which offers 80 diverse body and beauty treatments. Here, under the tutelage of Ayurvedic doctors and yoga masters, you’ll practice sunrise yoga, meditate and indulge in spa treatments designed for your Ayurvedic dosha — or body type.
Room A Deux: Garden Suite with plunge pool and valley view
Prescription: The three- or five-night Couples Connect Package comes with a candle-lit dinner and spa treatments in the Couple’s Spa Suite.





Looking for the best beauty and anti-ageing spa to rewind the clock? Book a treatment at

Baccarat Hotel New York where guests can receive diamond powder exfoliation from luxurious beauty brand La Mer.

In search of a meditative retreat to calm the mind and ease your anxieties? The best wellness centre for that is the Ananda in the Himalayas, in India.

That’s according to the results of the 2016 Wellness Travel Awards which named the top spa and wellness destinations across 41 countries and 20 categories in London recently.

For the awards, an international panel of 39 travel and wellness experts whittled down a long list of 388 destinations. A second round of voting saw more than 130,000 consumers cast their votes to determine the winners.

Awards were handed out in categories like best continental spas, regional and country spas.

Another breakdown pronounced the best properties in categories such as best for couples, families, weight loss, fitness, beauty and anti-aging, girlfriend getaways, outdoor adventure and solo travel.

Editors named 10 winners in each category.

At the glittering Baccarat Hotel New York opened by French crystal maker Baccarat, guests of the hotel spa receive La Mer treatments — one of the most luxurious and expensive skin care brands on the market. It’s the first location to feature a dedicated spa with La Mer products.

In addition to diamond powder exfoliation and polishing for both face and body, treatments include deep tissue, Swedish and hot stone massages.

Visitors to Ananda in the Himalayas in the foothills of Northern India meanwhile can choose from packages including everything from yoga and stress management to detox and renew programs led by Ayurvedic doctors, therapists, nutritionists and yogis.

Here are some of the major winners

Best in Europe: SHA Wellness Clinic, Spain

Best in North America: Rancho La Puerta, Mexico

Best in Asia: Kamalaya Wellness Sanctuary & Holistic Spa, Thailand

Best in Africa: Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve & Wellness Retreat, South Africa

Best in South and Central America: Lapinha SPA, Brazil

Best in Australia, New Zealand and Oceania: Gwinganna Lifestyle Retreat, Australia

Best in the United States: Canyon Ranch in Tucson, Arizona

Best in Canada: Mountain Trek Fitness Retreat & Health Spa, British Columbia

Best in France: Spa The Peninsula, Paris

For the full list click here. — AFP-Relaxnews

Baccarat Hotel New York. — AFP pic

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