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Luxury Week at The Royal Exchange

Alixe Lay

The Royal Exchange

The Royal Exchange is a luxury retail space located in the City of London, right outside of Bank station. As well as being aesthetically beautiful, the building is steeped in historical significance dating back to 1566. The building now houses a selection of carefully curated boutique shopping and dining options. As part of Luxury Week, I visited The Royal Exchange to check out what it has to offer.

The first thing that grabbed my attention was the architecture. This Grade-I listed building was strikingly grand, with intricate details on every corner. It's a pleasure to watch as the most beautiful light floods in through the transparent glass ceiling, shifting and changing throughout the day. You’re in for a treat if you end up here on a day with sparse and fast moving cloud, as it is particularly mesmerising.

The history of The Royal Exchange dates back to 1566, when it was built as the city's financial centre. Later in 1660, the founder of The Royal Exchange, Sir Thomas Gresham brought in the retail element, making this building the first shopping mall in Britain. After the original building had been destroyed by two separate occasions of fire, in 1844, Sir William won the competition to design the current building as we see it today. Since then, the building has been abandoned, and then repurposed into a theatre, financial centre and finally, back into a retail space. In the most recent effort to breathe new life into The Royal Exchange, a remodelling of the building took place in 2001, transforming it into a prime luxury and dining destination.

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Ceiling, The Royal Exchange
Window, The Royal Exchange
The Royal Exchange
Gate, The Royal Exchange
Roof, The Royal Exchange
Clock, The Royal Exchange

I started off my day with a coffee at The Royal Exchange Grind. With a strong presence of marble and concrete, juxtapositioned with golden details and a striking neon light sign, the contemporary style of its interior both contrasts and complements the old architecture of the building.

The Royal Exchange Grind
The Royal Exchange Grind
The Royal Exchange Grind, Coffee

After a quick wander around the building I went along to the Leica M experience workshop. Leica has a store here in The Royal Exchange, which is where the workshop took place. I was super excited to try out their iconic M series cameras and boy, they did not disappoint. Akademie Ambassador, Robin went through the history of Leica M cameras, taught us the basics of operating one and then we were off to experiment and shoot. It was such a great experience learning all about the M cameras. It gave me a taste of how it’s like to shoot with one, it almost felt like I was learning a completely different device for photography, akin to switching from a phone to a DSLR. And needless to say, the quality of the camera, the lens and the photos is absolutely amazing, exactly what you would expect from Leica.

Leica M cameras
Leica store, The Royal Exchange

Here are some shots that I took with the Leica M10, Summilux-M 35mm f1.4.

Taken with Leica M10
Stranger, The Royal Exchange
Taken with Leica M10

While here, I simply could not miss having lunch at the iconic Fortnum & Mason located in the centre of the courtyard. The quality of the food was excellent, and the dessert was particularly stunning. It was lovely to spend the afternoon here under the most beautiful natural light that floods in from the glass roof, surrounded by age-old architecture.

Fortnum & Mason, The Royal Exchange
Fortnum & Mason, The Royal Exchange
Fortnum & Mason, The Royal Exchange
Fortnum & Mason, The Royal Exchange
Fortnum & Mason, The Royal Exchange

I’ve also had a good snoop around the shops in The Royal Exchange. There is a real mix of established and contemporary brands. Here are some of my favourites.

Montblanc

Montblanc

Smythson

Smythson

Fortnum & Mason

Fortnum & Mason

Fortnum & Mason, The Royal Exchange
Penhaligon’s

Penhaligon’s

Bremont

Bremont

Cutter & Squidge, Jo Malone, Tom Davies, Crockett & Jones

Cutter & Squidge, Jo Malone, Tom Davies, Crockett & Jones

I hope you’ve enjoyed discovering The Royal Exchange with me. The dining and shopping options are excellent and to top it all off, you get to experience them in the most elegant and iconic buildings in London. Despite being so central in the City of London, The Royal Exchange often falls under most people’s radars - let’s change that. If you’re in London, you need to visit The Royal Exchange, the oldest and the most beautiful shopping mall in Britain.

Entrance, The Royal Exchange

This post is sponsored by The Royal Exchange.

Unless otherwise stated, all photos were shot on Leica SL, Vario-Elmarit-SL 24-90mm f2.8-4 ASPH.


The Royal Exchange

Royal Exchange,
London EC3V 3LR

Myanmar: Yangon with Belmond

Alixe Lay

I had the greatest pleasure of spending two days in Yangon with Belmond Governor’s Residence. Located in a quietly leafy residential area of Yangon’s traditional Embassy quarter, and within walking distance of the famous Shwedagon Pagoda, it’s the perfect base to explore the city.

Despite being so central, Belmond Governor’s Residence felt secluded and private. There is a calmness that relaxes you and helps you truly switch off. Apart from the beautiful swimming pool, my favourite part about this place is having to walk through lush greenery to get from one part of the property to another, as it allows me the opportunity to reconnect with nature. Even the sound of Belmond Governor’s Residence is magical: lively birds chirping away, rustling leaves, and the soothing running water in ponds scattered all around the property. There is no where better to call home in Yangon than Belmond Governor’s Residence.

The clue to the history of Belmond Governor’s Residence lies in its name. This is where the governor of Kaya State used to live. The mansion was built in the 1920s with teak, a popular type of wood in Myanmar which is highly durable.

At Belmond, you can expect uniformly excellent service. The staff are so friendly and attentive, and the food is simply amazing. I especially enjoyed the traditional Burmese breakfast and the fresh tropical fruit selection. To add to the Burmese experience, I also dined to live "saung" (Burmese traditional harp) music each morning. 

When in Yangon, you simply cannot miss the legendary Shwedagon Pagoda. While we were there, the stupa was being renovated, but we could faintly see the real gold plates that covers the stupa. We visited during sunset, and the golden light makes the place shine even more brightly. When the night falls, the candles were lit and it was magical.

We also took the local circular train to the central train station, just to catch a glimpse of real life in Yangon. Although a ride on the full route is possible, we only took a few stops, as the train moves extremely slowly - the full route would have taken us 3 hours. Here we found vendors walking from cabin to cabin selling things like food, vegetables, seasonal fruit and cigarettes.

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On the second day, we took a private tour to Bago, a neighbouring city an hour drive away from Yangon. We saw the Kanbawzathadi Palace, a ornate golden palace, reconstructed to the original built in the 16th century. Its details are so intricate and reminiscent of the prosperous times during the rule of King Bayinnaung.

In Myanmar, there are more than 500,000 permanent monks today. It’s a Buddhist-majority country, so almsgiving is a very common practice. To participate in or witness this ceremony which takes place daily, you can just visit a monastery. We did just that and watched the monks have their final meal of the day at 10.30am in their communal dining hall.

Along the roads of Bago we spotted lots of fruit stalls. We stopped by one of them and had a taste of some of the melons. They were in season and absolutely delicious.

Just before we headed back to Yangon, we popped into one of the pottery workshops in Bago to learn about how they make clay pots from river mud. It was very interesting to watch, as the process is very labour intensive.

Thank you to Belmond Governor’s Residence for having us. We were kindly gifted accommodation, food and the tour during our time in Yangon and Bago. All words, images and opinions are my own.


Belmond Governor’s Residence

5 Taw Win Rd
Yangon, Myanmar

A Weekend Away from London

Alixe Lay

As much as I love living in London, I really enjoy taking a breather from the city life and get away during the weekends. This time Marlene and I took a road trip to visit Windsor, Eton and the Cotswolds, with MGallery by Sofitel and BMW Mini.

First stop Windsor, the scene of this summer's royal wedding. I'm just so in awe with the grandeur and history of Windsor Castle. In a close by side street on the East side of Castle you can also find the insta-famous Crooked House of Windsor. 

Changing of the guards, Windsor Castle
Crooked House of Windsor

Just across the river from Windsor sits the quaint English village of Eton. It is home to Eton College where Prince William and Prince Harry took their schooling. It is quiet and calm, in stark contrast to the overwhelming number of tourists in Windsor. There's one street through the centre of Eton, with lots of antique shops and traditional stores specialising in making Eton College uniforms. This place is so full of character and picturesque, which is why Eton is my clear favourite of the two. 

Eton
Antique shops, Eton
Frenchies, Eton
Eton
Eton College
Eton College

Castle Hotel MGallery by Sofitel was our home for the night. Situated in the heart of Windsor directly opposite of Windsor Castle, Castle Hotel is a great base for exploring the town. The hotel has a colour palette inspired by its heritage of being in service since the 15th century and receiving eight Royal Warrants awards along the way. The neutral shades and the chalky textures of the walls give a sense of nostalgia. The colours of French grey and mushroom dominates the interior, with a pop of acid yellow shades every now and again. 

Castle Hotel MGallery Sofitel
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Castle Hotel MGallery Sofitel Imperial Suite
Castle Hotel MGallery Sofitel John Chater Suite
Castle Hotel MGallery Sofitel Imperial Suite
Castle Hotel MGallery Sofitel John Chater Suite
Castle Hotel MGallery Sofitel Windsor
Changing of the guards, Castle Hotel MGallery Sofitel

There is a Marco Pierre White Steakhouse Bar & Grill within the hotel itself as well, providing both great dining experience and convenience. We had a taste of the afternoon tea here at Castle Hotel, perfect for refreshing after a day out in the town of Windsor.

Marco Pierre White Restaurant in Castle Hotel MGallery Sofitel Windsor
Afternoon tea at Castle Hotel MGallery Sofitel Windsor

Day two, it's time for us to go to the Cotswolds and experience some serenity in the countryside. We based ourselves in the town of Cheltenham, in Queens Hotel MGallery by Sofitel as it's strategically located near some of the beautiful Cotswolds villages. This hotel has a completely different vibe to Castle Hotel, offering a majestic setting with its decor and architecture encapsulating all the elegance, heritage and grandeur of the neo-classical era. Housed in a Grade II listed Georgian building, the hotel is rich in history as it has been open since 1838. The most notable feature of the hotel is the original wallpaper by Augustus Pugin, pioneer of the Gothic revival style. The staircase which leads to the hotel rooms also provides a unique focal point. 

Cheltenham
Queens Hotel MGallery Sofitel Cheltenham
Queens Hotel MGallery Sofitel Cheltenham
Queens Hotel MGallery Sofitel Cheltenham Imperial Suite
Queens Hotel MGallery Sofitel Cheltenham Imperial Suite
Queens Hotel MGallery Sofitel Cheltenham Imperial Suite
Queens Hotel MGallery Sofitel Cheltenham
Queens Hotel MGallery Sofitel Cheltenham

After bidding goodbye to Queens Hotel on our last day, we headed to the rainy Cotswolds in the comfort of our Mini Cooper. We really enjoyed driving the Mini Cooper for the weekend, as it's such a powerful vehicle despite being so small. The GPS system was also a breeze to use, helping us get to our destinations smoothly.

Raindrops
Mini Cooper on the road
Mini Cooper on the road
Mini Cooper

On the top of our list of Cotswolds villages to visit is Bibury in Gloucestershire. Of course I had to return to my favourite villages in the area - it would be silly of me not to. Arlington Row, famous for being in the British passport is as beautiful as when I visited last summer.. I might sound like a lunatic but I actually love photographing places in the rain, I think places just look ten times more atmospheric when the weather is moody and wet.

Arlington Row, Bibury, Gloucestershire
Arlington Row, Bibury, Gloucestershire

Bourton-on-the-Water was our next stop, again, one of my absolute favourite places in the Cotswolds. I've visited Bourton-on-the-Water every summer and this house never disappoints. When it's in full bloom it really is the most magical cottage ever. That being said, our Mini Cooper looked right at home in front of it.

Mini Cooper at Bourton-on-the-Water
Bourton-on-the-Water
Mini Cooper at Bourton-on-the-Water

Burford was conveniently on our route back to London, so we made a quick stop for some photo ops. On both sides of the road are some honey-coloured cottages with the most cosy-looking interiors. How I wish I could live in one of them when I get old...

Mini Cooper at Burford
Burford
Mini Cooper at Burford

How I love rainy days. We watched the fog roll into the hills of the Cotswolds as we headed towards M40 back to London. Just like that, our weekend has come to an end.

Inside a Mini Cooper, Foggy hills in the Cotswolds
Foggy hills in the Cotswolds

This post is sponsored by MGallery by Sofitel and BMW Mini.

Mei Ume: The Tastes of China and Japan

Alixe Lay

One of the things I love about London is the food, and particularly the variety of International fare you can find in this city. Whatever cuisine you're after, London probably has it. 

Since moving to the big smoke I find myself frequenting Oriental Asian restaurants during the weekend. This time we visited Mei Ume in the Four Seasons Hotel London, who specialise in Chinese and Japanese cuisine. 

Mei Ume, Four Seasons
Four Seasons Hotel, Ten Trinity Square

Residing within a Grade-II listed heritage building, formerly the office for Port of London Authority, the interiors of Mei Ume were inspired by both the east and the west. Upon arrival, I was immediately greeted by the plum blossom glass panel. This is representative of the restaurant's name, which combines the Japanese and Chinese language words for plum blossom. The bar was decorated with lamps in the style of lanterns, wooden and marble tabletops, as well as leather bar stools. In the larger dining room, the unique three-layer gilded triptych on both ends of the room tell the story of a Chinese garden banquet.

Mei Ume
Mei Ume

As it was our first time at Mei Ume, we decided to go with the Signature Tasting Menu which comes with 10 dishes, paired with 3 different wines. 

Amongst the starter dishes, my favourite was the Yellowtail carpaccio with truffle ponzu dressing. The smell of the truffle was very noticeable when the dish was first served, and the taste was very well balanced with subtle hints of spicy, sour and sweet. Within the selection of sashimi and nigiri, my favourite was the mackerel nigiri, so perfectly smoked and it really complements the freshness of the sashimi. What a perfect way to be introduced to what Mei Ume has to offer.

Wakame tofu miso soup

Wakame tofu miso soup

Edamame with salt flakes

Edamame with salt flakes

Yellowtail carpaccio with truffle ponzu dressing

Yellowtail carpaccio with truffle ponzu dressing

Selection of sashimi and nigiri

Selection of sashimi and nigiri

For main course, we were served dishes with both Chinese and Japanese influence. All the mains were brilliant and they remind me very much of the tastes I grew up with. I was particularly impressed with the Wok fried Hereford beef fillet in spicy black pepper sauce; the beef was so tender and every bit of the dish was coated with the well-balanced black pepper sauce.

Stir fried Chinese seasonal vegetable with ginger

Stir fried Chinese seasonal vegetable with ginger

Crispy duck roll

Crispy duck roll

Wok fried Hereford beef fillet in spicy black pepper sauce

Wok fried Hereford beef fillet in spicy black pepper sauce

Wasabi king prawns with orange tobiko

Wasabi king prawns with orange tobiko

Salt and pepper tempura vegetables

Salt and pepper tempura vegetables

Pan fried fillet of Norwegian salmon in yuzu teriyaki sauce

Pan fried fillet of Norwegian salmon in yuzu teriyaki sauce

Finally, the dessert. We've ordered both options on the tasting menu to try them out. The Chocolate moelleux with matcha ice cream was lovely, and I couldn't fault it at all. However as someone who always leans towards the more refreshing and fruity dessert options, I preferred the Mango pudding, coconut crumble, pistachio sponge and kalamansi sorbet. The texture was perfect, and every single element of the dish had a reason to be included. It's probably up there in my top 3 best dessert ever tasted.

Chocolate moelleux with matcha ice cream

Chocolate moelleux with matcha ice cream

Mango pudding, coconut crumble, pistachio sponge and kalamansi sorbet

Mango pudding, coconut crumble, pistachio sponge and kalamansi sorbet

Japanese matcha

Japanese matcha

Mei Ume was a culinary experience like nothing I've ever had before. The service was impeccable, the food was absolutely amazing and I'm truly grateful to have discovered it. If you'd like to have a look at Mei Ume's menu and their story, visit their website here

Mei Ume

Thank you to Mei Ume for the food. All words, images and opinions are my own.


Mei Ume

10 Trinity Square
London EC3N 4AJ

Kettner's Townhouse: A Lunch Rendez-Vous

Alixe Lay

Last week I had the pleasure to visit Kettner's Townhouse in Soho for lunch with my pal, Hal

A part of Soho House, Kettner's Townhouse is hosted in a Grade II listed Georgian building with many of the original designs still intact. The decor in the restaurant features old-styled lamps, marble tables, sofas in classic patterns, velvet armchairs, with soft curtains letting in the most gorgeous light.

Kettner's Townhouse Starters
Kettner's Townhouse Restaurant
Baked Scallop Meuniere
Baked Scallop Meuniere
Wye Valley Asparagus

Knowing that the restaurant specialises in traditional French food, I was very excited to try out the dishes as French is my favourite kind of cuisine. We decided to start with the Baked scallop meuniere, Langoustines, and Wye Valley Asparagus with egg. For main, we picked Truffle roast Banham chicken, and Lake District farmers fillet of beef. To end it on a high, we finished with Strawberry Soufflé, and Crème Brûlée.

I absolutely adored the Baked Scallop; fresh with a little acidity from the lemon, there simply was no better way to start the meal. The langoustines were equally as fresh, though it was a little dull in flavour in comparison to the scallops. My Banham chicken was cooked just right, with the truffle tasting prominent throughout. For my dessert, the custard of the Crème Brûlée was soft, the sweetness and texture were perfect, however the caramelised sugar on top was a little too thick for my liking.

Overall I really enjoyed the meal, it was a very lovely introduction to what Kettner's Townhouse has to offer. The staff were extremely helpful and approachable, making the experience even more pleasurable.

Hal at Kettner's Townhouse
Truffle roast Banham chicken, Lake District farmers fillet of beef
Strawberry souffle, creme brulee
Kettner's Townhouse Restaurant
Aftermath at Kettner's Townhouse

Before we left, we had a quick look into the Champagne Bar, which had a 1920's vibe to it. I particularly loved the colour palette of the room, the scallop shaped leather bar stools against the walnut bar with a marble top. The mosaic tiled floor adds an interesting touch to the place. It was certainly too early for drinks when we visited, but I would love to come back in the future for some cocktails in this cosy bar.

Kettner's Townhouse Champagne Bar
Kettner's Townhouse Champagne Bar
Kettner's Townhouse Champagne Bar
Kettner's Townhouse Champagne Bar

Thank you to Kettner's Townhouse for the food. All words, images and opinions are my own.


Kettner's Townhouse

29 Romilly St, London, W1D 5HP