PR manager at CLARIDGE’S HOTEL in Mayfair, ORLA HICKEY loves dining in this TRANQUIL FISHING VILLAGE …
Claridge’s always has a wonderful buzz about it and is such a great place to people watch. I joined eight years ago in August 2009, straight from Shannon College of Hotel Management, where I studied for four years. I feel very lucky to have had a 360 experience within the hotel, having started on the reception desk. I particularly love the lobby with its iconic chequered black and white floor, and the floral displays from our in house florist, McQueen’s.
The 2012 London Olympics was probably one of the most memorable moments at the hotel; we had so many guests from so many difference countries – athletes, presidents, royalty – it was wonderful. During that time we also staged “A Taste of Noma at Claridge’s”, a ten-day pop-up in the ballroom from René Redzepi’s two Michelin-starred Noma in Copenhagen, Denmark, four-time recipient of “World’s Best Restaurant” award. The filming of Inside Claridge’s, the three-part BBC series was also an amazing experience and I still feel a huge sense of pride whenever I watch it. As for guests, we had the Sex & the City girls stay for the British première of the first movie. The girls, red carpet-ready in the most beautiful gowns, descended the main staircase together and all the guests in the foyer cheered. It was a very special moment.
When I’m off work I try to get home every two or three months; I’m from a small village in north Cork called Ballyhooly. My family also visits me quite often here in London. I enjoy having friends over for dinner, as I always have a new recipe I want to test.
Visiting Borough Market with friends is another favourite pastime. It’s busy there on a Saturday, but worth braving the crowds. You can walk around from stall to stall and try all sorts of food. I always have stir-fried scallops at Shell-Seekers, washed down with a glass of white at Borough Wines. I also recommend an excellent Italian there, called Padella. The menu changes daily and you cannot book so there is a certain thrill to getting there before 5pm on a Friday to beat the queues.
However, my favourite place is in Alvor, a small fishing village in the Algarve. I have been visiting since I was a child with my family, and it’s where I met my husband, Jon, twelve years ago. We had our wedding in the local Church of the Divino in August, followed by a reception at Quinta dos Vales vineyard. Our favourite haunt is O Arco da Velha, where you can get the freshest fish cooked so simply. Bolan Bar is a chilled-out reggae bar, a shrine to Bob Marley, which serves the best caipirinhas in town. GastroBar 13 is also great late in the evening; it’s off the beaten track and has a beautiful hidden garden. It’s frequented by locals and there’s usually Portuguese music in the garden. That first glass of white port and tonic overlooking the bay relaxes me almost immediately.
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