Friday, January 07, 2011

Rating Hotel Stanhope*****, Brussels

When visiting Brussels in December 2010, I stayed at Hotel Stanhope, described as a boutique hotel decorated in English Country style. It certainly deserved all its five star rating, and it was the best hotel I stayed in in 2010.

Total score: BBBBB (4,82 points)
  • Location: BBBB+
  • Service: BBBBB
  • Room: BBBBB
  • Breakfast: BBBBB-
  • Facilities: BBBBB-
  • Price: BBBBB
Hotel Stanhope is located in a quiet side street in the European quarter. The nearest subway station Troon, is just a few minutes away.  A classic Brussels 19th century building has been transformed into a beautiful secluded haven in a British country style.

The service in the reception, the bar, breakfast room is exquisite. Helpful, elegantly dressed staff takes excellent care of you. They blend into the elegant surroundings and you feel like a guest in a manor house, slightly out of place, but that is your and not the staff's choice.

I was located in a room with a brass sign showing that this was the "Willoughby". Entering you suddenly fell being in a luxurious classic manor house just picked out of Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility.

The room was by far larger than many of the other rooms I have lived in, in Brussels. The sense of space was further strengthen by the the fact that it was from 12-15 feet up to the white ornate ceiling.

You moved up 4-5 stairs and you came into a narrow corridor and you had to ascend another 4-5 steps to find closets and a small exquisitely marbled bathroom with a large sink and a bath tub!!   

The centerpiece of the room was an enormous bed with a large canopy holding classic fabric in silver and burgundy, with matching pillows and clean white sheets. The room was held in a classic coffee colour. 

Very rarely you experience such a skill in creating a classic interior. Period, mahogany furniture, old paintings and etchings, beautiful fabrics.  A large beautiful chandelier shared a magic light over the room. A beautiful blue Delft inspired vase was placed in the window overlooking a quiet back yard.

The only thing I saw that reminded that you were safely in the 20th century was the presence of electricity, a large flat screen TV and a phone.

There was a modest amount dust found on top of picture frames or other hidden surfaces, and all was immaculately maintained.

Breakfast was not included in the price, but we decided to pay for breakfast as it was offered at a 30 % discount on weekends. It was served in the very tasteful breakfast room, and you could indulge in a large  breakfast buffet with a wide selection of cold cuts, sliced and smoked salmon, cheese, as well as healthy options as fruits, cereals and yogurts.

I prefer eggs and bacon as Sunday breakfast. I found the scrambled eggs disappointing. Strange rubbery texture and with absolutely no taste. The bacon was steamed rather than crispy and delicious. We were, as a result of this, not entirely satisfied with the breakfast. Sad really as the rest was delicious.

The Stanhope Hotel has:
  • Inhouse restaurant & bar. The library bar is a great place to end a busy day in a classic interior. The service from the staff was excellent
  • Fitness studio and sauna, and you may book you own personal masseur.
  • Free WIFI all over the hotel and free PC in lobby. Air conditioning throughout the premises. Many spots where you could rest in the hotel. 
  • Immaculately maintained and clean. 
I paid 168 Euros for two nights, an unbeatable price considering the standard offered. 

Stanhope Hotel is absolutely one of the best hotels I have stayed in for a long time, and by far the best during my years in Brussels. Be aware that my price is a special offer, and you may end paying 4-5 times as much  during weekdays. I will however look for another bargain when I visit Brussels in 2011, and I hope I get one.

Stanhope Hotel
Rue du Commerce 9
B-1000 Brussels
Tel: +32 2 506 91 11
Fax: +32 2 512 1708

    Thursday, January 06, 2011

    To Moscow with Scandinavian Airlines...

    Photo: The Kremlin by Surendil 
    March 27th means more competition for travelers from Oslo to Moscow, Russia, as Scandinavian Airlines opens direct flights to the Russian capital.

    Russian Aeroflot has daily flights to the Sheremetyevo airport. Scandinavian Airlines will have four weekly flights on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. Moscow is an important destinations for Norwegian business, but the air carrier hopes that the Russian capital, being an only two hours flight away,  will emerge as an attractive destinations for leisure travelers from Norway.

    See more diedt flights from Oslo on this map

    View NEW: All non-stop flights from Oslo Airport - December 2010 in a larger map

    More stories on Russia travels here on Enjoy Food & Travel  

    Wednesday, January 05, 2011

    A New Year's Day brunch

    I invited friends for the annual New Year's Day brunch. I prepare traditional open sandwiches with a twist on this occasion. This year I developed some brand new varieties. Here are what I served for my guests.

    Liverpaté, crispy bacon, Italian porcini and truffle aspic on Danish rye bread

    This sandwich is based on the classic Danish open sandwich where bacon, pickled cucumber, bacon and aspic are basic ingredients.
    Instead of button mushrooms, I have upgraded  the open sandwiches to hold fried porcinis and truffle oil is added to the aspic for that extra special aroma.

    5 slices of dark Danish rye bread
    15 slices of Danish liverpaté
    5 slices of crispy fried bacon
    Handful of Italian porcini, soaked and fried in butter
    5 slices of Truffle aspic
    Pickled cucumber

    Fry the bacon in the oven until golden and crisp. Dry on kitchen paper to remove excess fat.

    Prepare aspic by dissolving 1/2 packet of aspic powder in hot water adding truffle oil. Cool down in refrigerator until set.

    Place three slices of paté on each slice of rye bread. Place 1/2 slice of crispy bacon on each side of the middle piece of paté. Fill fried porcini mushroom between the bacon and truffle aspic and pickled cucumber on each of the other pieces of paté.

    Nut ham from the Ardenne region on Dijon mayonnaise, egg terrine, and spanish pepperson Danish rye bread

    This open sandwich is based on the smoked and cured ham and scrambles eggs variety often served in Norway. The Dijon mayonnaise is a delicious contrast to the neutral but rich egg terrine.

    Egg terrine (eggestand)

    8 eggs
    5 cl water
    50 grams grated cheese
    4 Spanish pimientos, thinly sliced
    Salt and pepper

    5 slices Danish rye bread
    15 slices nut ham from the Ardenne or another high quality smoked ham
    10 slices of egg terrine
    Dijon mayonnaise made from 2 tbsp Dijon mustard and 2 tbsp Hellmann's mayonnaise

    Spread mustard mayonnaise on the rye bread. Fold the ham twice until their form small rolls. Place ham and egg terrine on bread. Garnish with red peppers.

    Norwegian prawns in thai chili aioli with roe and trout eggs on French toast

    The Danes make their Skagenrøre mixing mayonnaise, raw onions and fish roe with freshly peeled prawns. The garlic and thai chili sauce adds even more contrasts to the salad, but be aware that too much of these ingredients may overwhelm the fresh taste of the delicious fresh prawns.

    Mix the thai chili aioli from the following ingredients:

    3 tbsp Hellmann's mayonnaise
    3 tbsp sour cream
    3 cloves garlic, finely minced
    2 teaspoons sweet Thai chili sauce
    1 small glass of fish roe (optional)

    Allow mayonnaise to set in refrigerator overnight. Do not add fish roe before assembling the sandwiches.

    Toast 5 slices fine French loaf.

    Mix 300 grams peeled prawns with the mayonnaise, then add fish roe. Place on bread 10-15 minutes before serving in order for the bread not to turn soggy.

    Aquavit marinated salmon and whipped salmon mousse on French toast

    In Norway open salmon sandwiches are served on scrambled eggs. I am inspired by the Jewish  bagels with cream cheese and lox served in many delis in the US. Why not add salmon to cheese as well as the topping for double delicacy.

    Make whipped salmon mousse from:

    1 box Philadelphia Cream cheese
    2 tbsp sour cream
    2-3 slices smoked salmon
    1-2 tbsp tomato ketchup

    Mix cream cheese and sour cream well. Place in a blender, and add smoked salmon and blend it all into a fine cream. Check in order to add more salt, then add tomato ketchup for colour and sweetness.

    Toast 5 slices fine French loaf. Place salmon mousse on bread 10-15 minutes before serving in order for the bread not to turn soggy. Cover cream and bread completely with smoked salmon. Pour 1 cl akvavit over each slice of bread.