Tuesday, December 23, 2014

48 Hours at the Aria Hotel Prague

Our party was divided into two groups. One stayed at the new and ultra chic Emblem Hotel, while we decided to stay at the more casual and more luxurious Aria Hotel. Never did we regret this simply amazing choice. Upon arrival we were greeted with a smile and a welcoming "Welcome to the Aria Prague!". I wouldn't say that probably this is the most personal front desk staff if I hadn't stayed at so many luxury hotels. Honestly this is the secret formula for a successful hotel - a place where also I will return many times. 

Our rooms were situated on the fourth floor meaning that our rooms are designed in the Classical colour scheme - well, the rooms are not as chic as at the Emblem, but they definitely are twice as comfortable and welcoming with lots of warm colours. The bathroom was large and the tub was huge as well. I also loved the huge shower head - honestly it reminded me of The Savoy in London, probably because the toiletries are from London, by Molton Brown!

The Apple TV is really really cool and we could even connect our iPads to the TV and could hear our Music through the excellent loundspeakers! There is also a turn-down service with chocolate, which was done normally between 4 and 5 pm - guess it could be a bit too early for some people! In contrary to the Emblem, the do not have boxspring beds, but therefore enormous King beds with a size of approximately 2m x 2 m. A very nice gesture when we arrived: a bottle of red wine and a fruit plate!

One of the nicest touches at this musical themed hotel is the afternoon tea, held daily between 4 and 5pm - fully complimentary for hotel guests. With sweets, finger food, hot tea and wine (during christmas time), we were completely in the mood for the christmas markets at the Prague castle, Venceslas Square and Old Town Square - the most wonderful I have seen in Prague!

After all these excellent reviews on Tripadvsior (and of course because we were extremely tired of our 5 hours drive ;-) ) we decided to eat at the Coda Restaurant. Again, an excellent choice! Our menu consisted of three courses and an accompanying house wine, which was incredible! Beginning this excellent evening with an Amuse Bouche, a slice of tuna, followed by Foie Gras - it was truly magificent. I was quite insecure if it is a good idea to take the "Papardelle with Truffle" in December. As you might guess, all my believes were incorrect! These papardelle were simply extraordinary - never had such excellent truffle dish outside the Piedmont or Italy before! For dessert we had the famous Valhrona chocolate cake, another fabulous choice! Honestly all our expectations were exceeded on all ways! Congratulations to the chef David!

Of course we discovered some of Pragues best cocktail bars before we headed back to our worldclass accomodation. At breakfast we were greeted with a smile once again and started the day with some scrambled eggs and omlettes, together with a real Capuccino!

Finally I can just assure that you won't regret to forget the Four Seasons or Mandarin Oriental and head therefore to this picturesque Boutique Hotel in the real heart of one of our Top favourite cities in the world. If you are looking for something really special, then book one of the few Suites overlooking the Vrtbovska Garden - one of the most wonderful baroque gardens in the world, accessible free of charge from the hotel. 

A special thanks to the team of the Aria for being so welcoming and kind!

Our stay at the Aria Hotel Prague was sponsored by Mr. Vostiar and we were guests of the hotel throughout the weekend. Our above written review is our personal opinion and hasn't been influenced.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

24 Hours at the Aqua Dome

You might know it from my first posts here on this Blog, that I was very unsatisfied with the services at this Austrian Spa Resort. Well, yes I was one of the many many users on TripAdvisor - also because this Blog wasn't as successful as it is now - and of course I wrote  a very extensive and very bad review on the profile of the Aqua Dome. One day later I received a message from the GM who asked me to get in touch with her personally. Glad that someone was interested in my opinion, I contacted her and she invited me to another stay.

So it was time to get into the car and go to the Ötztal valley - the longest valley in Tirol, but definitely not the most wonderful. Upon arrival I experienced a warm welcome with a christmas tea and cookies. When we arrived around 11 am the room was not ready which is quite usual, being the hotel fully occupied over the weekend. In general it is always impressive for me, that these Spa Resorts are nearly always fully booked - at these high prices, charging 350 euros for one night and room! Of course the half board is included but when you imagine that you get the best Kitzbühel Five-Star Hotels for around 200 euros per room and night including an extensive breakfast, then you should think of the vast Spa/Sauna and Thermal area at the Aqua Dome. 

All in all the welcome was warm wand we were given a bag for the thermal spa. When we arrived at the hotel's "Spa 3000" we feel that it was not too crowded and more lounge beds have been installed - well done! Everything was quite nice and new - the Spa is huge and there are lots of different saunas, steam baths as well as one inside jacuzzi on the first floor and four outdoor jacuzzis on the second floor overlooking the town. My favourite place was the Panorma Sauna with glass window and panoramic views of the valley and the glacier.

When we came back to the front desk, our room was ready and we were hungry enough for dinner. Our room was situated in the older part of the hotel, which has been refurbished as well! Generously, the Aqua Dome invited us for the half board, which means that the dinner is included. On this day, a lazy Monday and bank holiday in Austria, they supposed to have a buffet but due to the fact it was a bank holiday we were lucky and were served nearly all courses. The whole dishes were on the small side, but nicely decorated and with a good taste. Well, the dishes are not super-chic dishes, but they fit perfectly into the hotel and the location, being it one of the most original valleys in the world (Their language/slang made it into the Unesco!).

The beds still had those nervy blankets on it, but after removing them, they were quite alright. Breakfast is build in form of a buffet and was quite huge for 4-star standards. I did not allow myself to order scrambled eggs, to avoid any discussion with a cook (like I had at my previous stay! I would like to point out the personal and kind staff, who always managed to bring everything we wanted!

Finally I can say, the Aqua Dome is worth its 4-Star Superior rating. However when I plan to do a wellness trip, it might be a trip to Eastern Tyrol (Kitzbühel area), just because it's a bit more intimate! 

A very special thanks to the Management of the Aqua Dome for inviting us for a one-night stay to have a different point of view! Our above written review is our personal opinion and hasn't been influenced.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Restaurant-Check - Innsbruck - Lucy Wang

Yesterday, we have been to Innsbruck's latest Restaurant addition - Lucy Wang - a completely new concept and extremely cool design in the capital of the Tyrolean Alps. Recently, many new restaurants opened in Innsbruck during this season (Ludwig's Burger, L'Osteria, Ebi's, just to mention the best ones), but after our experience at this extraordinary place, we are sure that this is by far the best place to be and to-be-seen in Tyrol. 

Upon entering the glamorous restaurant you are welcomed by an elegant smell - reminding us of a luxe London Restaurant in Knightsbridge - and a kind staff member who takes care of your jackets and accompany you to the main restaurant. We decided to take two non-alcoholic cocktails. One was a Mango Colada - excellently tasty with a taste of coconut - and the other was called Lipp Gloss, very refreshing with ginger and berries. 

As starter we had excellent Sushi with salmon on top, lobster, spinach, avocado and wasabi in the inside. It might not sound tasty at first but it was gorgeous! Simply the best sushi I have tasted outside Japan. It was also very fresh, not like we were used to at Sushi Shop in France, where we had good Sushi, too. 

Our next course was probably one of the most expensive dishes in Innsbruck at this time: US Rib Eye with mashed potatoes, vegetables and a excellent red butter jus. The presentation of the dish was completely different from how we imagined, but therefore the taste exceeded by far our expectations - we were impressed! On the other side, I would say it was exactly what should be expected for 28 Euros per dish.

One of our favorite things at this marvelous place is of course the design, the color scheme as well as the atmosphere and the smell. All guests of this restaurant made the impression to be really wealthy and belong to the upperclass of Innsbruck. The whole restaurant goes a heartwarming feeling and you think like dining in a In-Restaurant in Central London or New York City. We believe that this restaurant fits perfectly into the Alpine landscape of Tyrol and we are sure that this place can make it to the Top place of the Best restaurants in Innsbruck.

All in all, 90 euros for two courses with water and cocktails is a lot of money. If you take a bottle of wine and a dessert you will be spending 150 euros for the two of you! Well, not something for the everyday life, but really a place to be when you are seeking for something sophisticated and very elegant in Innsbruck.

Our test dinner at Lucy Wang was not sponsored by anyone. We paid for the food and beverages by ourselfs. Our above written review is our personal opinion and hasn't been influenced.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Relais&Chateaux Castel Fragsburg *

Im Rahmen des weltbekannten „Merano Wine Festival“ wurden mein Kollege Daniel Egger von Travelexecutive und ich in das kleinste Luxushotel der Alpen eingeladen. Es war keine gewöhnliche Einladung, sondern eine, von der jeder Blogger der Welt nur träumen kann:

5 Gänge Degustationsmenü aus der Sterneküche gekocht von Luis Haller

Das Fragsburger Frühstück Deluxe,welches in 5 Gängen am Tisch serviert wurde. Dieses hat bislang alles übertroffen, was ich Frühstück genannt habe.

Ging es  dann hinter die Kulissen zum Kochkurs mit Luis Haller.

Wartete der Tanzboden am Open Day mit Soft Jazz und fantastischen Highlights

Nach dem Besuch der Weinmesse (hoher Eintrittspreis, aber sehr informativ) im Zentrum Merans wurden wir wieder in unser Hotel, das hoch oben am Berg liegt, gebracht. Dann genossen wir den kleinen, aber feinen gut besuchten SPA Bereich.

Das Dinner im Castel Fragsburg *

Gut erholt betraten wir das ausgebuchte Restaurant. Das Ambiente des verhältnismäßigen großen Speiseraum traf genau unseren Geschmack. Um es mit den Worten von Travelexecutive zu sagen: „Trotz der Größe des Raumes fühlt man sich als wäre man alleine in einer privaten Sterneküche“.

Wir waren Samstag Mittag schon überrascht von der atemberaubendem Aussicht - aber unser Tisch abends in der ersten Reihe direkt am Fenster übertraf wieder mal unsere Erwartungen! Die Meraner Skyline lag uns zu Füßen. Nach der persönlichen Begrüßung von PR Manager Thomas Steiner wurde uns der Aperitif serviert.

Der Vorteil wenn man in solch einem Hotel wohnen darf ist, dass man das Auto nicht mehr bewegen muss. Das heißt man darf gut und gerne einen Cocktail als Einstand in ein Abendessen bestellen ;).

Das Menü begann mit einigen Amuse Bouches: fünf Stück an der Zahl, eine britannische Felsenauster, ein Toast mit rohem Thunfisch und Gurkenbrunoise, einem Kartoffelespuma mit Jakobsmuschel und Trüffelpulver, eine Consommé, die mit einem Bierschaum vollendet wurde. Das letzte der fünf Komponenten war eine frittierte Teigtasche mit einer Füllung aus einer sehr gut abgeschmeckten Fischfarce. 

Als Vorspeise wählten wir eine Variation mit Büffelmozarella, Kalbstatar im Schüttelteig und Wintertrüffel. Die Anrichteweise genau wie der Geschmack brachte mich ins Schwärmen und machte Lust auf mehr.

Bei dem Zwischengang aus Kürbis, Risotto, Burrata und geriebenen Trüffel wurden unsere Geschmacksnerven zum wiederholten  Male komplett stimuliert. Das Risotto hätte meines Erachtens vielleicht eine Minute länger im Topf verweilen können. Dies ist jedoch kein Kritikpunkt sondern Geschmackssache.  Aber alles in einem ein sehr gut gelungenes Gericht.

Ehrlich gesagt bin ich froh, dass ich kein Vegetarier bin, sonst wäre mir das PERFEKT gegarte Rinderfilet entgangen.
Lobenswert war auch, dass der Wunsch meines Kollegen, der das Rinderfilet Medium-Welldone bestellt hat, ohne Probleme in Erfüllung ging. Serviert wurde das Weiderind mit Minimais und Kastanienpüree. Verfeinert wurde es mit einigen gut sautierten Steinpilzen.

Den Übergang zum Dessert formte ein Sorbet aus Trauben verfeinert mit einem Olivenpulver.

Nach einer kurzen Wartepause  wurde das Dessert serviert. Eine sehr mutige Kombination aus Dill und Weißer Schokolade. Hört sich im ersten Moment sehr speziell an, jedoch wenn man in den Genuss dieser Süßspeise kommt, will man nicht mehr aufhören zu essen.

Durch den gesamten Abend begleiteten uns sehr gut geschulte Servicemitarbeiter.

Als Abschluss von einem nahezu Perfekten Abendessen gab es noch einige Petit Fours.

Vielen Dank an das Hotel Castel Frageburg für die Einladung. 
Alle veröffentlichte Berichte repräsentieren ausschließlich unsere eigene Meinung.

Thank you very much to the Hotel Castel Fragsburg for the generous invitation. All above written is our personal opinion without any influences.

written by:

Felix Bantel - Food Executive

Monday, November 10, 2014

48 Hours at Castel Fragsburg

"High above the wonderful thermal town Merano, there is a dazzling star...", this would be the perfect way of how to begin this South Tyrolean fairytale. Before we headed to Merano Wine Festival we checked-in at the world class Castel Fragsburg, a place which is only known to real insider of South Tyrol or hotel connoisseurs. Recently awarded with the fifth star, this is now one of only a handful five star hotels in the most wonderful region of Central Europe (well, not THE most wonderful but it definitely made it under the TOP5 ;-) ).  

So upon driving a windy mountain road for nearly 10 minutes, we finally arrived at the gate to luxury: the entrance to the Castel Fragsburg - our autumn getaway and base for the most amazing weekend of the year! After entering the rustic door and the charming lobby we were greeted by Philip, the front desk attendant, who accompanied us to the restaurant. We were immediately offered a welcome drink, which we decided to take on the breath-taking terrace. Our server Karol was arriving with some fine finger food, a Venetiano and an excellent Rosé Sparkling wine from South Tyrol. What an excellent  start in this weekend full of Italian Wine! Beside a picture perfect view, probably the best weather of the month and excellent service, there was just one thing missing: Mr. Beverage Executive, who is normally in charge of taking the best pictures of the best drinks! So I tried myself and am not sure if it was successful or not.

When we returned to the front desk, we were greeted by the PR Manager of the Fragsburg and afterwards Philip showed us to the room, or more correct, our Suite. With 90° panoramic views, this Suite is overlooking Merano, the valley, the Fragsburg plateau and the mountain range of the hotel on the back. Upon entering we immediately fell the smell of fresh alpine air and wood. It seems that they use a very special wood throughout the property, which gives a heartwarming and traditional smell. Even more important in our today's society: we felt like we are in South Tyrol, nowhere else! This is something I hate about big chains such as Ritz Carlton, Four Seasons or Sheraton: they rarely present the local tradition inside the hotel.

Our suite had a large entree, a living room with two comfortable lounge chairs, a big balcony with two chairs next to the living room, a separated toilet with bidet, a huge marble bathroom with double basins, bath tub and a spacious walk-in shower. The wardrobe is situated in the bedroom, which boasts an amazing panorama window with sweeping views over the valley. Beside the sofa, the television, which comes out of the commode upon clicking the remote control, there is another small balcony with seating arrangements. 

The bathroom products were - unfortunately - Relais&Chateaux branded (they used to have Etro toiletries on the pictures on their homepage and I think since they have five-stars it's another reason to keep this standard). When I took a bath, I had to experience that it was the perfect size of bath tub and therefore very relaxing - a perfect option for everyone seeking for a kind of pool. The comfort of the suite was amazing. The beds are extremely heavenly, the living room is simply a place to dream and hide away, while the bath couldn't got larger to feel like at home!

Breakfast is served daily until 10.30 but when guests seat longer they keep the buffet until 10.45, which is kind of flexible as the service team has to prepare for lunch. On our first morning we got the upscale "Fragsburger Deluxe Breakfast", which is served in 5 or 6 courses and includes champagne and oysters - yes, it has its price at a surcharge of 18.00 euros per person in addition to the normal breakfast, which is normally included in the price. I would say that's the perfect start of a day when you celebrate something, because you don't have to leave the table - very relaxing. The products at breakfast were extremely good and they offer a wide range of their extensive breakfast and their breakfast menu. 

I ordered myself the scrambled eggs with mushrooms and herbs from the hotel garden -  a special creation by michelin chef Alois Haller: It was simply perfect! After experiencing the most extensive a la carte breakfast I have ever had on the first day, we had to be satisfied with just half the selection on the departure day (because we had to leave the Fragsburg at 8.00 am due to the tourism fair in Salzburg, Austria). The kind service attendant offered us an extensive selection at 7.30 am, but as you might guess, we were not in the mood for such a breakfast - not just because the great Open Day Party the night before (a review is coming soon for this amazing event) - it was simply too early for us.

Finally we had to say goodbye and Philip checked us out in a warm welcoming way, so that we are already planning for a glamorous return one day - maybe next year for the Merano Wine Festival 2015, but then with Mr. Beverage Executive!

It was the best weekend of 2014 so far and the funniest work experience for us, as Travel Bloggers, since it was the most welcoming hotel we have ever stayed at!

We would like to thank the Management of the Castel Fragsburg for the generous invitation to stay here for two nights during the Merano Wine Festival 2014. Furthermore we have to thank the whole team of specialists, which made us feel like staying at Northern Italy's Best Hotel! Congratulations!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Greetings from Merano

I am just sitting in the living room of our sumptuous Suite overlooking the serene thermal town Merano in wonderful South Tyrol - my favorite destination for a short weekend getaway. This time I am on the way with Mr. Food Executive and we have been generously invited by the Relais&Chateaux Hotel Castel Fragsburg. This is the latest addition to the few South Tyrolean 5-star hotels and also the smallest luxury establishment of the Alps, with only 20-rooms. 

Yesterday we have been at the world famous Merano Wine Festival 2014 and of course we had lots of excellent Italian wine. The good thing about this event is, that only the best wineries can exhibit in the Art Deco Kurhaus, the main venue of the Festival. The bad thing is, that the entry fee is 90.00 Euros per person excluding the fee for a glass which is another 10 euros. Well, after spending 100 euros you are allowed to drink as much wine as you can and of course you can eat as much as you can in the Gourmet Arena - for that offer it's more likely to be a fair price. 

So how did we start? First we tried Champagne (Laurent Perrier and G.H. Mumm were some of our first wines we had), followed by several Rose sparkling and Ca'del Bosco's best Franciacorta wines (the Italian synonyme for Champagne - forget Prosecco). Of course we went to our top favorite wineries only, otherwise you end up drunk before even tested the white, red and sweet wines, nor Grappa or limoncello. 

So we went further and visited Irene from Felsina, our friends from Capannelle (who might invite us at their luxury B&B in Gaiole soon :-) ), the Baracchi stand with its excellent wines, our Instagram colleagues of Il Borro (a Relais&Chateaux property owned by Mr. Ferragamo - the Designer), as well as the stand of Castello Banfi - a world class 5-star property near Montalcino. Of course we tried some Ornellaia, excellent Argentinian and Georgian wines, as well as the best of every region in Italy. 

At around 4.30 we left the Kurhaus to get back to the our heavenly base - the Castel Fragsburg. Before we dressed up for dinner, we went to the Spa to have an hour of relaxation. They have a very nice wellness area with two saunas, steam bath and a relaxation room overlooking the valley and Merano. 

Friday, October 31, 2014

48 Hours at the Hyatt Regency Palais Mediterranee

First of all I would like to apologize for writing a review of this hotel so late! The truth is that I wanted to wait for the really cold times, like we have it actually in Austria, and to motivate you to immediately look for your next summer getaway!

So, why should you stay in Nice during your holidays on the Côte d'Azur? This question came up to my mind when planning my summer trip for 2014. I mean it is the fifth biggest city in France, and by far the most enchanting big city I have ever been (AND even lived at - after Prague of course ;) - even though it was for 2 weeks only). After I returned from my two-week language trip, I had one week holidays at home before I started my summer journey. That's why I promised myself that when I return, I want to return in style.

So did I and checked in at the Hyatt Regency Palais Mediterranee, formerly a Concorde Property, now a Hyatt managed hotel. The arrival went smooth and we found the hotel immediately as one of the most prestigious buildings on the whole coastal part of Nice. Upon check-in I was greeted so friendly by the Marketing/PR Manager - Floriane. She organized an impressive, bright and large room (situated in the highest floors) overlooking the whole town of Nice. The design of the hotel did not meet my personal likes but was perfect in combination with the facade and the overall interiors. 

At the room, I recognized that the room also offers a huge terrace and lots of space for my luggage - a BIG PLUS! Also the bathroom was very generous with separate shower and tub, while the toilet was situated in a separated as well. They changed their bathroom amenities from Annick Goutal to the typical Hyatt Regency Portico amenities. I was kind of disappointed when I had to register this change, but Floriane left no stone unturned and looked for the last Annick Goutal products in the whole hotel. AND upon returning from my day trip to Saint-Paul-de-Vence, plenty of Shampoo, Conditioner and Shower Gel was put in the bathroom. Isn't that perfect service? For me this is what makes a luxury hotel.

The beds were extremely comfortable and also the pool area is quite cool, although I felt a bit disturbed by an ongoing party on the restaurant terrace, which is also the huge atrium where the outdoor pool and the bar is situated. No problem at all for me: I just used the indoor area of the pool and could relax after such a stressful day. The Hyatt Regency Nice has also a collaboration with the beach club in front of the hotel and I guess the rates vary around 20 euros per day/lounge chair, which is quite alright for the French Riviera. 

Unfortunately I did not have breakfast included, so I went to various cafés in the pedestrian area around the hotel. There is a very nice Illy Bar and an excellent Italian Restaurant in the pedestrian area next to the Le Meridien Hotel.

All in all I enjoyed my stay at this luxurious Hyatt Regency property and can warmly recommend this hotel to every traveler who plans to stay in Nice during a round trip on the Côte d'Azur. 

Thank you very much to the Hyatt Regency Palais Mediterranee Nice for providing a special price and for the upgrade. Our above written review is our personal opinion and hasn't been influenced.