I've said it before and I'll say it again. I love Stella magazine, which comes every Sunday with the Sunday Telegraph. It bats slightly above my economic bracket, but I read everything in it anyway; dreaming of one day owning a beautiful scarf from page 7; one day enjoying the facial featured on page 12; one day having my own house and decorating using fabulous ideas on show on page 53. It will happen. And the rest of the features are just brilliant.
So, I'm stealing one of their regular slots again. Last year I wrote my own Soul Food column and today I share with you my Little Black Book. In Stella this means "secret addresses from stylish people". Just a disclaimer before you read on: the word stylish would not feature in the first 1000 words to describe me and I doubt very much that any of my friends or family would ever use that word and my name in the same sentence. You have been warned.
The idea is to share haunts: restaurants, cafes, hotels, parks, shops, galleries, museums. You know, the ones the rest of the world don't know about already. You should be thinking by now you will not get any incredible clothes shops in my collection. Last warning. Here we go.
|Cocktails on the terrace
Hotel Endorfina Kiyikoy, Turkey
Friendly Mehmet owns and runs this perfectly located hotel in this tiny fishing village on the Black Sea. Perched on top of the hill overlooking the beach, rivers and back across green hills where the sun sets, he'll share stories and gin and tonics with you while his chef cooks up wonderful fish and salads. Heaven.
Yin Yang Pie Arenales 2819, Buenos Aires
The best massage in Argentina. Their hot stone massage will make you forget the hustle and bustle of city life and delight body and mind, as well as a wallet used to UK prices. But even better is the feeling afterwards and the sleep that night. You'll book again next time in town.
|Mango juice all the way for me
Confeitaria Marias e Maria Avenida Brasil 1285, Foz do Iguazu, Brazil
When I lived and worked in Foz do Iguazu I went here nearly every day for lunch. Juices full of fruit and nothing else; big, fresh sandwiches; coffees and teas galore (which doesn't always happen in South America) A lunch time chill-out delight.
Zeera Ealing, London
Zeera is a gem of a local restaurant and worth a tube ride (it's right by north Ealing station). At Zeera you get simple and comfortable decor, friendly and personable service and wonderful Bangladesh and Indian cooking. Have the Goan lamb shank, the achari chicken or nilgiri dish. Tasty, honest and very well-priced.
|El Cerro de Siete Colores
This cute village plays host to one of Argentina's most beautiful natural wonders, The Hill of Seven Colours. Waking up in this neo-colonial style hotel is a joy; it has light and airy rooms with amazingly comfortable beds. Its lounges are decorated with objects from historical local families and the view of the colourful mountain as you take your shower/breakfast/afternoon tea is spectacular.
Njaya Lodge Nkhata Bay, Lake Malawi
Perched on the edge of the tranquil Lake Malawi, this place dishes up great food, great service and great times. I celebrated my 21st birthday there in the middle of a diving course and I'll never forget it: the wonderful people and the effort they made with my birthday cake, their fabulous food, beautiful views; never wanting to leave and always wanting to go back. One day...
|No menus, just blackboards
You never know what you're going to get here as chef Rodrigo goes out, sees what he can buy at the market and writes the day's specials on blackboards (pizarras) for you to choose. When you're sick of asado in Argentina, go here for a twist. Excellent food and atmosphere, you'll make friends with the waiter, chef and the next table. Be prepared to stay for more wine.
|Groove the night away in Amsterdam
This little jazz, soul, rock and blues bar probably has a bigger spot in Amsterdam guides these days, but it's well worth checking out for quality live music, no-nonsense service and drinking into the early hours. It's the type of bar where anything is possible; a guaranteed memorable night out.