April 04, 2011
By Jordan Kisner | Dining, Travel, Hotel, Southern California


While Southern California's year-round beach weather has always made us jealous, it didn't have much of to speak of when it came to fine dining. That's now changed with Addison—the only five-star and five-diamond restaurant in the region—led by Relais & Châteaux grand chef William Bradley. From the grounds of the luxury resort The Grand Del Mar, in San Diego, Bradley meticulously prepares local, seasonal ingredients in a contemporary French style. The four-course tasting menu ($98 per person, offerings change with the season; 5300 Grand Del Mar Court, San Diego; 858-314-1900; offers selections like licorice-glazed squab with candied red cabbage and plums, fois gras pot de crème and delicious handmade sweet pea agnolotti with ham hock. For dessert, the coconut custard with pistachio brittle is a must. The wine list, created by Jesse Rodriguez (formerly the head sommelier of Napa's French Laundry), is an oenophile's dream, with an innovative mix of high-end vintages from Europe, new wines from South America and New Zealand as well as California cult favorites. You can also make it a full day by starting at The Grand Del Mar's spa: Begin with the Spring Refresher facial ($180, lunch and day access to all spa amenities included;  858-314-2020;, continue with a yoga or Pilates class and a plunge in the pool, then take a sunset walk through the property until you arrive, finally, at Addison, refreshed and ready for a dinner to remember.


March 23, 2011
By Dispatch Departures | Travel, Hotel, London


For proof that the British are big on preserving their history, one needn't look further than the new St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel, now in its soft opening in London's Kings Cross neighborhood. The Victorian Gothic building, first opened in 1873, served as both a railway station and the Midland Hotel for decades and was saved from demolition thanks to a campaign led by poet laureate Sir John Betjeman in the 1960s. Its glory faded when it became an office space, but over the past ten years, the red-brick structure has undergone a staggering $200 million renovation and reopened—with a blessing from the Queen, no less—as a new Eurostar terminal and a 245-room hotel that bridges the gap between present-day luxury and historical authenticity. Thirty-eight of the rooms are in the heritage part of the building, and another 207 are located in a new addition called the Barlow House, as the addition is called. The hotel's public spaces seem from another era, with grand staircases, 50-foot windows, gold-leaf vaulted ceilings, mural-covered walls and the Ladies Smoking Room, the first space in Europe where it was acceptable for women to smoke. The original Booking Room has been converted into a bar and restaurant, while the spirit of other olden-day institutions, namely the barbershop and members-only club, has been preserved. The official opening date will be May 5, exactly 138 years to the day the hotel first debuted. Rooms start at $485; Euston Road; 44-207/841-3540;

Photo Courtesy St. Pancras Renaissance London Hotel

March 21, 2011
By Amanda Friedman | Travel, Hotel, Whims, Spa, New York


This may be the first week of spring, but with a chilly mix of snow and rain enveloping the streets of Manhattan, it’s apparent that winter isn’t ready to go away just yet. This final cold stretch can feel like the longest of all, which is why there’s never been a better time for a nice, relaxing day at the spa. One of our favorite city options is the Spa-cation at The Peninsula New York, which, for $250, is also one of the best deals in town. In addition to a 60-minute treatment of choice—holistic massage, intensive facial or organic sunless tanning—guests have all-day access to the fitness center and classes, as well as use of the indoor pool, with panoramic views of Fifth Avenue from its perch on the 22nd floor. There’s also a delicious bento-box lunch, with choices like grilled beef sirloin with bok choy and poached salmon with roasted red pepper and Thai spices. We recommend getting there early to take advantage of the daily fitness classes—yoga, pilates, cardioblast—then following that with a relaxing treatment and finishing off with a poolside lunch. Who cares about the cold when you can have so much fun indoors?  At 700 Fifth Ave.; 212-956-2888;

February 23, 2011
By Dispatch Departures | Travel, Hotel


© Courtesy Mondrian SoHo

Last week, the fall 2011 ready-to-wear collections were unveiled at New York's Lincoln Center, but this week features a different type of NYC debut: the long-awaited opening of Mondrian SoHo. Like its sister properties in Los Angeles and South Beach, Florida, the 270-room hotel, which opened Tuesday, is the quintessence of sophisticated cool, with some modern-day fairy tale touches. Interior designer Benjamin Noriega-Ortiz, whose résumé includes the aforementioned Mondrian Los Angeles and the homes of Sean “Diddy” Combs and photographer Mark Seliger, drew inspiration from Jean Cocteau's 1946 fantasy film La Belle et la Bête, choosing a bright white and powdery French blue color palette as a backdrop for custom chrome desks, mirrored nightstands and marble foyers. The building is the tallest in the neighborhood, so rooms on or above the 17th floor offer stunning views of the midtown Manhattan skyline, as do each of the four suites and, of course, the 1,170-square foot, 25th-floor penthouse, which has not one but two terraces. A favorite of the Fashion Week beau monde, the hotel's bar, Mister H, evokes the feel of 1930s Shanghai with its red leather banquettes and damask walls. Yet to be unveiled is chef Sam Talbot's seafood restaurant, Imperial No. 9, due to open March 1. Special introductory rates start at $240. At 9 Crosby St.; 212-389-1000;

Photo Courtesy Mondrian SoHo