Monday, 24 March 2014

Raft Hotel on the River Kwai

I've found it. I've found heaven on earth. And it's tucked away in a gentle meander of the River Kwai in Thailand. Even the busiest of bees will forget his troubles. Don't try and fight it workaholics, it just won't work.

After landing in Bangkok we met our driver who took us to the pier so we could catch our long tail boat to the hotel or should I say "Floatel". Our boutique floating raft hotel.

We rode 15 minutes on the long tail boat, with every passing minute, the quieter it became, the deeper we were in the wilderness, throwing our worries and stress over board as we approached our next stop.

You can see it in the distance!

It is so peaceful and silent here. The silence is only interrupted by the sounds of boats passing by and crickets singing at 6pm sharp every evening.

There are only 24 of these beautiful rooms in total and I managed to score one of them. At only 50 GBP per night  I was afraid we would be stuck in a smelly, cheaply built room but I couldn't be more wrong. The rooms were breathtaking with high ceilings, wooden and bamboo beams and nautical ropes running across the room. The fan made of wood and rattan completed the look. I did not see concrete in these 3 days.  The beds and pillows were ultra soft too. It really is like a mini Four Seasons in the middle of the wilderness.

I've found my favourite spot

Day bed in our room

Our day was simple. We wake up to the waves of the passing boats rocking our room as they whizz pass. I would stumble outside with sandy eyes and sit on our porch and watch the water glisten in the morning sun. It doesn't feel like real life. This peaceful feeling doesn't come regularly.  This must be what meditation feels like. I sit there longer to enjoy the moment before reaching for my iPad and start reading the news. Not long after Saad also stumbles out and does the same thing.

Morning sun glistering

 Our stomach started to rumble so we made our way to breakfast.

 After breakfast we visited a cave that was a short walk away just up in the hills behind our Floatel. The cave was sooo hot and humid. By the time we were out we were sweating like there was no tomorrow.

After lunch, we canoed up and down the river and went exploring.

At 6pm the crickets started to sing and we knew it was time for a sunset drink. We sat down again at the same table we had breakfast and lunch and got ourselves a  cold refreshing drink. I looked around and noticed that other guests also took the same table they had at breakfast. I wondered if we all would keep like this for the rest of our stay. We did.

Nobody talks 

After our drink we booked two lovely ladies to come and give us a couples massage in the room. Saad fell asleep as they were leaving and I let him rest a little longer before waking him up to go for dinner. I can hear soft music playing in the background as we sit down to our claimed table. After dinner we went back to our little gem of a room and fell asleep to the rocking of the waves cradling our rafts. I can't wait to feel this happy again when I wake up tomorrow.

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Thursday, 20 March 2014

Spring at The Shiori

Once in a blue moon I would scroll through Twitter (still don't really understand how to use it) and this time I came across a Tweet that Nigella Lawson wrote saying that she believes The Shiori is the best restaurant in London. Now that is not a statement I take lightly. So I Googled the name to find out that it is in fact a Kaiseki restaurant.  Jackpot. I've been waiting and waiting for London to open one of these.

Spring Menu

For those who are not familiar, Kaiseki is a multi-course, very traditional Old World Japanese cuisine. Originating from Kyoto, modern day Kaiseki has taken over Japan and the art of creating these dishes takes the best chefs years to master. Each dish is an art form that combines and balances taste, texture, colour and presentation to the upmost perfection. Think haute cuisine. The colour, taste and presentation of each dish would change as the seasons change. Leaves turn red in Autumn, and so would the colours on your dish. These are small details that make up the art of Kaiseki. Dishes are usually garnished with edible leaves and flowers which would be in bloom that season. Needless to say you will not find a non Japanese chef in this kitchen.

Plum Wine Aperitif

Small and intimate dining room

Unlike the Japanese food you might know like Sushi, Katsudon, katsu curry or ramen etc; this tastes nothing like that. Kaiseki is all about simplicity and subtle in taste. Simple, subtle, delicate by taste but is in fact backed up by many hours of innovation and preparation. It's hard making something taste that subtle and perfect! Hardly (if at all) any use of salt or pepper, nothing over powers each other but you know it is a royal ballroom dance in your mouth. You would need to know your palate really well to appreciate it completely.

Yam and quail egg

Clear soup has never tasted so good
Green white and pink to represent the colours of cherry blossom in Japan

Run by a husband and wife team they opened up The Shiori after having had a successful sushi restaurant in Euston. Chef Takashi Takagi was originally trained as a Kaiseki chef in Kyoto and finally felt that he had enough of making sushis and wanted to go back to his true love, so he shut down the successful sushi restaurant and opened The Shiori. I for one think that he made the right decision.

The edible yellow flower is used to clean your palate after each fish

So if this is something that you feel you would appreciate then you should hurry and make that reservation. I called two weeks in advanced and only got a table on a Wednesday. If you are trying for a weekend you may have to wait awhile. There are only 5 tables in the whole restaurant, and every diner looks at each other in agreement on how lucky they are to be here.

Sakura (cherry blossom) Sorbet

An 8 course dinner will set you back 70 GBP and a 10 course dinner is 90GBP. Looking back at the photos I can clearly see now that I have just eaten Spring. Go back in May and the menu will change again. Oh and did I mention it has one of the best Sake selection I've seen, personally selected individually by the chef and his wife. Thank you Ms. Lawson.

I know Spring is here because I no longer have to wear my big heavy coat :)

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