In which we present a regular round-up of news from the world of Grown-up Travel
London restaurant boom sparked by affordable menus
Zagat guide praises venues for fixed priced lunches in what it claims is most comprehensive survey yet.
Signs that the battered London restaurant sector is recovering from the recession are revealed by an influential new guide on Monday which reports “a dramatic rise” in openings in the capital over the past 12 months.
The findings are published in the 2013 London edition of Zagat, the “burgundy bible” and restaurant guide which claims to be most comprehensive survey yet.
It notes that after numerous closures forced by economic gloom, the revival has been sparked by a trend away from formal fine dining towards value-for-money eating out.
Popular but notoriously expensive restaurants such as Dinner by Heston Blumenthal and Gordon Ramsay at Claridge’s are rated highly for making their food affordable through fixed price lunches.
While The Wolseley has been voted the most popular in London, the Knightsbridge-based Dinner entered the top 10 most popular restaurants at number nine. A meal here featuring the chef’s trademark molecular gastronomy – including his legendary meat fruit – will give you little change out of £100. The guide admits: “The cost is substantial, but odd as it may be to say it’s good value considering you won’t get this experience anywhere else.” It hails the fixed price lunch as “a stunning bargain”.
Others in top ten include Hakkasan at number two, followed by stalwarts Le Gavroche, The Ivy, RiverCafe, Ledbury, Gordon Ramsay, J Sheekey and Gordon Ramsay at Claridge’s in tenth spot.
Bmibaby takes its final flight
Bmibaby has made its final flight after more than 10 years in operation.
The no-frills airline was established in March 2002, but IAG, the parent company of British Airways, chose to shut it down following its takeover of BMI in June.
The final service, flight WW5330 from Malaga to East Midlands airport, landed at 10.45pm last night, and was an apt finale – Bmibaby’s maiden flight was between the same places.
Around 450 staff will be made redundant, although Monarch is taking over a number of Bmibaby’s routes, and hopes to create 150 jobs. Other routes are being taken over by Jet2.com and Flybe.
Following its launch, the airline became Britain’s third-largest low-cost carrier. At its height, it served destinations such as Prague, Alicante, Rome, Barcelona and Amsterdam from its headquarters at East Midlands airport in Leicestershire.
Amsterdam’s historical Red Light District
My wife and I were in Amsterdam earlier this year, not longer after Ontario’s superior court ruled in favour of brothels. One afternoon an excellent city guide, Cecilia Theobaldi, took us through the world’s most noted prostitution area: Amsterdam’s Red Light District, so famous it’s part of tourism itineraries and marked on tourist maps. Skip it and you skip part of local history, prostitution being legal there from the early 1800s.
We walked streets lined by “The Windows” where women, some in their twenties, others middle-aged, were winking and beckoning men to drop in for pleasures usually costing, it’s said, around $60.
Barbara and I, aware of the Ontario court decision, felt a sense of irony. Why? Because an official study by Amsterdam city council, states much of the Red Light District is a problem the city should get rid of: “Behind the anything goes image,” the report states, “lurks a different reality consisting of sex trafficking, forced prostitution, and money laundering …” The city plans to “fight the criminal infrastructure of Amsterdam’s largest red-light district commonly known as The Wallen.” Theobaldi agrees with the council, but stressed the report is aimed only at part of the district, which is run by outsiders. The locally run area is law-abiding.
“The local women like their work,” Theobaldi said, “pay their taxes and are good citizens.”
So it goes. The sex industry seems unable to satisfy the participants and also public welfare, and the debate — here and there — is likely to continue.
Of course Amersterdam is ever beautiful, and here are some highlights of other must-see attractions:
Man tried to fly in India with monkey in pants
Customs authorities in India have arrested a man who was attempting to board a flight in New Delhi with an endangered monkey in his underwear.
The suspect from the United Arab Emirates, who was detained along with two other travellers, had arrived from the Thai capital Bangkok and was about to take a connecting flight to Dubai on Jet Airways.
“Security personnel found the monkey in his underwear while frisking the transit passengers,” a customs official said.
The 17-centimetre loris is a type of monkey native to India and southeast Asia, and is seen by some as possessing aphrodisiac qualities.
Petite and round-eyed with a white stripe down its face, “the monkey is an endangered species,” said the official.
Another was discovered in a dustbin at the Indira Gandhi International airport. It had been abandoned because the men could not carry him.
Both monkeys have been handed over to animal welfare organisation People for Animals headed by former environment minister Maneka Gandhi, the official said.