The Slav Epic Exhibition, Municipal House (Obecní dům), Prague, Czech Republic


, , , , , , , , ,

The Slav Epic is a series of large paintings by artist Alfons Mucha. It’s quite different to his usual Art Nouveau work, which you’ll probably recognise below.

Obecní dům is a spectacular building and always worth a visit. The Mucha exhibition is in two large rooms on the third floor – there is an elevator although I think you need to ask to use it as nothing happened when we pressed the call button.

Mucha spent years (1910 and 1928) working on the Slav Epic and considered it his greatest work. A series of 20 canvases depict the mythology and history of Czechs and other Slavic peoples. 11 of the smaller(!) canvases are included in the exhibition.

The canvases are huge, I can only imagine what the larger (8.10 x 6.10 m) paintings look like.

There is some controversy surrounding the Slav Epic. Mucha donated all 20 paintings to the City of Prague on condition that the city build a special pavilion to display them. The Nazi and Soviet occupations meant that no such pavilion was built and for some time the canvases lay rolled up in the basement of a chateau in Moravský Krumlov.

Prague took ownership in 2010, upsetting the people of Moravský Krumlov plus some conservationists and art historians. The controversy increased when Prague decided to loan the paintings to be exhibited in Japan – they were rolled for transport.

It’s an interesting exhibition – tickets perhaps a little expensive, particularly as the paintings were donated. More pictures at the end of this article.

The Slav Epic
Obecní dům, a.s.
náměstí Republiky 1090/ 5
111 21, Praha 1 – Staré Město

+420 222 002 101

19/7/2018 to 13/1/2019 – open daily

Adult: 250 Kč
Child/Students/Seniors: 100 Kč
Family: 500 Kč

Patara Thai Restaurant, Wimbledon Village, England


, , , , ,

Patara have six London and five international restaurants – the first opened 25 years ago in London. We chose the recently-added Wimbledon Village location for my Mother’s 90th birthday celebration.

We booked a table in the attractive walled garden, but soon found it was too hot and also had some evil wasps flying around.

So we moved inside and were quite happy there.

Wheelchair access was a slight problem as the main entrance has steps – wheelchair users are asked to use the rear garden gate. Unfortunately, the gate was blocked by someone’s car, so two waiters kindly lifted the chair up the steps.

A bottle of Prosecco was £29.50. Pint of Singha beer £6. 250ml Glass of Merlot £8.40. My Mum’s favourite Malibu and Lemonade (well at 90 I guess there’s no shame in whatever you want to drink!) £6. Tap water was free.

To start I chose Chor Muang – Handcrafted lilac dumplings with caramelised chicken and peanut. Finished with coconut cream. £9.50. These were the closest thing to dim sum I could find on the menu.

They were unusual in appearance, but delicious. I won’t describe everyone’s choices as I only took pictures of my own!

For a main, I chose Lime & Chilli Sea Bass – Herb steamed sea bass in a light and piquant chilli-garlic sauce infused with fresh herbs. £18.80.

The fish was excellent – the chilli pretty spicy.

Pudding was home-made Thai mango cheese cake with Madagascan vanilla ice cream. £8.50.

I’m pretty sure I liked that, although I’d had quite a few drinks at that point.

All four of us enjoyed our time in Patara – the food, the ambience and the friendly Thai waiting staff all really good. Total bill was £228.67 including a 12.5% service charge that was automatically added – I was fine with that.

I’m still a fan of those little Thai bring-your-own-booze places that inhabit, what in the day is, a greasy spoon café – but if you feel like some upscale Thai dining then you’ll be fine at Patara.

Patara Thai Restaurant
t18 High Street
Wimbledon SW19 5DX

0203 931 6157

Opening Times:
Sunday – Wednesday: 12:00 – 22:30
Thursday – Saturday: 12:00 – 23:00

Maso je maso Steak & Burger Restaurant, Prague, Czech Republic


, , , , , ,

Maso je maso (meat is meat) occupies the space where the Summa cum Laude used to be.

The bar, open kitchen and bathrooms are the same but the restaurant interior has been re-decorated.

Those who read my review of Summa cum Laude will remember that I found the menu confused, like a mash up of several restaurant menus. Well Maso je maso is definitely not confused – this place is all about meat!

The reason for our visit was two-fold; try a new place and also escape from the heatwave that had caused Prague temperatures to rise to 35 degrees – I was pleased to find that the excellent air con from the previous restaurant was still in operation.

The new Chef-Patron visited our table and welcomed us to the restaurant and recommended the various steaks. The steaks sounded good, but with such hot weather outside we’d already decided on burgers.

A large glass of wine was 80 Kč. Tap water free. A tasty amuse-bouche (chorizo bruschetta) arrived.

The Italian Burger was good value at 215 Kč (170 gr. homemade ground beef, home made pesto, rucola salad, mozzarella, sun dried tomatoes, parmesan, balsamic, basil). Homemade fries were not such good value (55 Kč).

The burger was really delicious and beats my previous favourite burger from nearby Putica – sadly my last visit to Putica was a disappointment and their burgers are not as good as they were. My only criticism was that is was served on a small board and I would have preferred a plate.

We shared a nice-enough panna cotta (95Kč) – slightly surprised to find this on a dish as that makes the ‘wobble test’ difficult.

Our second visit was just for the Italian burger – this time we asked the burgers to be served on plates and they were happy to do that. Oddly no amuse-bouche, so not sure how that works.

I certainly recommend a visit and when the weather cools down, I’ll try a steak and let you know.

Maso je maso
Belgicka 335/26
Prague 12000
Czech Republic

Opening hours
Monday 11:00 AM – 11:00 PM
Tuesday 11:00 AM – 11:00 PM
Wednesday 11:00 AM – 11:00 PM
Thursday 11:00 AM – 11:00 PM
Friday 11:00 AM – 11:00 PM
Saturday 11:00 AM – 11:00 PM
Sunday Closed

Gallery of Steel Figures, Prague, Czech Republic


, , , , ,

The Gallery of Steel Figures has only been open a few weeks. The site was formally a wax museum. I never bothered to visit the wax museum, but was excited to see something new and unusual rise from the melted wax.

We visited Sunday the 5th August late afternoon and were really impressed. Everything is made by welding bits of steel together – each piece a work of art taking hundreds of hours to complete.

There are two floors, the ground floor containing both figures and cars – the cars weigh over 1200kg and so would most likely fall through the floor if they could somehow be lifted upstairs.

Almost the first figure past the entrance, a Jaffa warrior from the Stargate Movie and TV Series.

The cars are impressive and everyone is allowed to climb inside.

The cars are mostly replicas of standard models. I would have liked to see more movie car replicas, particularly the Back to the Future DeLorean, the Knight Rider TransAm and the Ghostbuster ambulance – with maybe a Batmobile thrown in for good measure.

There is a Game of Thrones seat – more comfortable than described in the book.

Upstairs (there is a large modern elevator) was probably my favourite – well everyone loves Minions and it was also nice to seem some painted sculptures after so much grey metal.

Here is the view to the ground floor.

Fans of Star Wars (I’m not) had plenty to see.

I think the Hulk was probably the best sculpture.

There were toilet facilities on the ground floor. The whole place was air conditioned. The place wasn’t busy and I was able to take plenty of pictures without people photo-bombing them (I’ve added more pictures at the end of this article).

We spent over an hour in the gallery – I think the ticket price is about right considering the amount of work that has gone in to the figures and the large central space in Prague. I’d recommend a visit.

Gallery of Steel Figures
28. Rijna 377/13
Prague 110 00
Czech Republic

+420 727 850 257

Open 10.00 – 22.00 (Friday and Saturday until 23.00)

Standard ticket 299 Kč (senior, student and family tickets available)

The Blueprint Cafe, Shad Thames, London, England


, , , , , ,

Shad Thames is a great riverside path, lined with restaurants and great views of Tower Bridge. Most of the restaurants have tables at street level. The blueprint café is at least one floor above.

I’m not sure who owns the street area in front of the slatted metal plates, but there aren’t any tables there.

The entrance is modest and the stairs that lead up the café are more like an office or hospital building.

Once inside, the place is modern, but cosy, with great views to the river – well except on our visit the view was obscured by a yacht belonging to billionaire Joe Lewis, owner of Tottenham Hotspur football club.

There was a special two-course menu for £15.95 – we went for the Angus Burger with sticky brisket and Treacle Tart. Sadly chips were extra at a hefty £4.50 – I guess there’s always a catch to these deals.

A bottle of Chardonnay ‘The Listening Station’ was £26 (shop price £6.89 – so a little overpriced). A jug of tap water was free. The wine was placed away from the table. I always wonder why restaurants take on the extra responsibility of having to watch diner’s glasses and top up – they almost never get it right and this was no exception as I got tired of waiting, got up and poured myself a glass.

The burger looked more like a slider when it arrived, despite the small plate.

However, what it lacked in girth it made up for in height, so was actually quite filling. It was a good burger and the brisket combination is quite a nice idea.

The treacle tart was nice, but nothing amazing.

The restaurant filled up around 8.30ish (we’d arrived at 7) but there were still seats available on that Friday evening. I think the café suffers from not having street-level tables, but that also means it has that feel of a place for those ‘in-the-know’.

A service charge of 12.5% was added to our bill and I was fine with that.

I’m not sure why the place is called ‘The Blueprint Café’, there doesn’t seem to be any theme to support the name.

I would probably go back again, although with so many places to choose from along Shad Thames, I think the Blueprint Café needs to do a little more to be the obvious first choice.

BluePrint Café
28 Shad Thames
London SE1 2YD 020 7378 7031

Monday (closed)

Tuesday – Friday: 12pm – 2.45pm
Saturday: 11am – 2.45pm
Sunday: 12pm – 3.45pm
Tuesday – Saturday: 5.30pm – 10pm

Inveraray Castle, Argyll, Scotland


, , , ,

Inveraray Castle is on the shore of Loch Fyne, Scotland’s longest sea loch. It has been the seat of the Dukes of Argyll, chiefs of Clan Campbell, since the 18th century. I believe the family still occupy the upper floor of the castle.

We were staying at the nearby Loch Fyne Hotel and so a visit to the castle was an obvious choice.

The ticket booth is at the entrance to a car park. There were several cars waiting to purchase tickets, but priority was given to those on foot, which included me and a coachload of Chinese tourists. The ticketing was odd in that people were offered; free entry (visit the tea room only), gardens or castle. This led to further delays while the drivers fumed at being ignored.

As we were on foot, we’d already discovered the gardens without requiring a ticket – there was nobody monitoring the garden entrance. The castle admission was £10 – quite a high price really.

All the garden paths are covered in large-stone gravel. This makes them uncomfortable and noisy to walk on. There are ‘keep off the grass’ signs.

The weather had been hot for several days and so there weren’t any midges around to bother us.

The castle is impressive, but not amazing.

Inside the place is a tribute to everything Scots and Scottish History. It’s interesting but likely more so for Scots than for someone originally from the South of England.

The extended grounds were the most picturesque.

The tea room was quite nice and there was enough food to have a light lunch there – they also had beer and wine.

I wouldn’t make a special trip, but if you are passing then it’s worth a visit to at least the grounds.

Inveraray Castle
Inveraray PA32 8XE

+44(0)1499 302203

Loch Fyne Hotel and Spa, Inveraray, Argyll, Scotland


, , , , ,

We booked a standard room for two nights at the Loch Fyne Hotel (Monday 2nd and Tuesday 3rd July). Once past Glasgow, the road becomes a winding scenic single carriageway – so plan extra time for the slower roads and inevitable stops for photographs.

Inveraray is a small picturesque town ruined by a gaudy fairground attraction sitting on the green by the Loch. The hotel is just a few minutes drive away – far enough that the fairground isn’t visible.

The entrance hall had a classic Scottish manor house feel.

We checked in and climbed the stairs to our room.

We were delighted to find that we’d been upgraded to the Lagavulin Suite – all the suites are named after famous whiskies. Strangely, the receptionist hadn’t mentioned our upgrade, but we soon realised that we had probably the best room in the hotel.

The bed was a good size. Behind the bed were some steps up to small seat where you could sit and look out upon the Loch.

There was a sofa and table with complimentary fruit and water. I think a nice touch, especially for those who actually booked a suite, would be to leave a small Lagavulin, or whatever whisky the room was named after.

The bathroom was nicely appointed (separate bath and shower), although there were minimal toiletries and no box of tissues. I also found that the cold tap produced hot water until it was run for several minutes – pipes too close together. This also meant the shower was scolding hot unless the cold tap had been left to run cold.

There was a safe in the room, sadly too small for a laptop. The set up method was more complicated than the usual ‘reset, enter new code, lock’ and meant that I accidentally locked the safe without a code set – the receptionist came and unlocked the safe with a key.

There was a trouser press in the room. I’d love to meet the salesman from Corby who managed to convince so many hotels to purchase such a useless item.

We were on a bed and breakfast rate and had made dinner reservations on check in.

The restaurant was quite spacious. The taster menu was included and had most of the food we would have chosen anyway – well except scallops for which we paid £5 per person extra.

We chose a bottle of 2015 ‘Killerman’s Run’ Australian Shiraz for £43 (shop price £17). I must admit to not paying attention when a bottle of South African Meerlust Rubicon 2014 arrived – it was a lovely wine and it was only when I came to write this review that I discovered that it was one above our choice on the wine list and was listed at £75 a bottle (shop price £27 so quite a hefty mark-up). We were only charged £43 and so it looks like the staff, who apart from the maître d’ were all pretty amateur, had mistakenly upgraded us.

Dishes were presented without any announcement – they were just plonked in front of us by one of the waiting staff, who immediately walked away. This wouldn’t have been such an issue, except that our bread and butter pudding was delivered as the second course, just after the scallops. We had to wave someone down and the pudding disappeared back to the kitchen. It looked good and was when we finally got another chance to eat it later that evening.

I don’t seem to have any pictures of the other courses, but everything was delicious. They obviously have a good chef, just need to work on their waiting staff.

Breakfast was excellent; cold pastries, meats and fruits and cooked to order breakfast. I chose my favourite – Eggs Royale with a side of black pudding. It looked so good that I cut into it before remembering to take a picture.

Dinner the following evening was slightly less impressive. We’d eaten our amuse-bouche and starter before the wine arrived – correct bottle this time. The food was still good, although our crème brûlée wasn’t set and the top hadn’t been caramelised. The waitress did offer to replace it, but we were tired, full and didn’t bother.

We discovered that check out was 11am. I really don’t approve of hotels setting a check out time earlier than noon. As it was we were granted a ‘late’ check out and left at noon.

We enjoyed our stay and I’d certainly recommend this hotel despite the few shortcomings that they need to work on; bathroom amenities, cold water plumbing, restaurant staff training, noon checkout as standard.

I’ve posted pictures of the surrounding area at the end of this review.

Loch Fyne Hotel & Spa
PA32 8XT

01499 302980




Rapps Café, Saltburn-by-the-Sea, England


, , , ,

Rapps Café is next door to the Kings Grill and both places seem to have the same owners – I’m not sure if they share a kitchen. Both a just a few minutes walk from the sea front.

We visited Rapps for lunch and it was pretty good. They ask that you place your order and pay in advance at the counter which makes tipping at the end difficult – not sure if the same applies in the evenings.

The interior is more restaurant than café.

The Grilled sea bass fillet £11.95 served with a warm potato, chorizo and olive salad, rocket and balsamic was good, although there probably too many olives. I’m still not completely convinced about chorizo and fish, even though it is a popular combination these days.

Tap water was free. Wine by the glass not expensive.

Rapps is certainly a nice place to visit if you find yourself in Saltburn-by-the-Sea.

Rapps Cafe
11-13 Milton Street
Cleveland, TS12 1DH

Tel: 01287 625354

Opening times
Mon: 09:00 – 15:00
Tue: 09:00 – 23:00
Wed: 09:00 – 23:00
Thur: 09:00 – 23:00
Fri: 09:00 – 23:00
Sat: 09:00 – 23:00
Sun: 09:00 – 15:00

Closed Christmas day and Boxing Day

Food serving times
Mon: 09:00 – 15:00
Tue: 09:00 – 14:30 / 17:30 – 21:00
Wed: 09:00 – 14:30 / 17:30 – 21:00
Thur: 09:00 – 14:30 / 17:30 – 21:00
Fri: 09:00 – 14:30 / 17:30 – 21:00
Sat: 09:00 – 14:30 / 17:30 – 21:00
Sun: 09:00 – 15:00

Jadoo Indian Restaurant, Saltburn-by-the-Sea, North Yorkshire, England


, , , , , ,

I heard that Jadoo had been taken over by the same family that run the nearby Spices Indian Restaurant (that I like but haven’t reviewed). The previous owners weren’t very good at running the restaurant.

Jadoo has an elegant look and feel. The waiter was friendly and we asked for papadoms and dips – as I imagine does every person who visits an Indian restaurant in the UK.

A large Cobra beer was £4.50.

We ordered some classic Indian dishes:
Chicken Korma £9.40
Lamb Rogan £10.40
Chicken Tikka Masala £10.90

The sides were quite expensive for the area:
Keema Rice £3.95
Pilau Rice £3.30
Keema Naan £3.65

We were planning to share the dishes and expected the curries to be in the centre of the table and we each have a plate. As it was, each dish was plated and given to the person who chose it and that made sharing difficult. The curries were also oddly-presented, with large pieces of meat in the centre of sauce.

Lamb Rogan

Chicken Korma

Chicken Tikka Masala

The food wasn’t bad, but we would have preferred classic curries, served the traditional way. This particularly true for the lamb, which benefits from being marinated and cooked in the sauce to tenderise it.

We asked for the bill and although it seemed a bit high, paid without paying much attention. I asked to keep the receipt (only to help me with this review) and the waiter advised that he’d need to print a copy as that receipt was for their records. A receipt never arrived and so on leaving I requested one – there’s something suspicious about a restaurant that doesn’t want to provide a receipt.

Looking at the receipt later, I may have discovered one reason why the restaurant didn’t want me to keep it. We were charged £3.40 for four papadoms and £3.40 for the dips! That’s outrageously expensive and is obviously a disguised cover charge. I wish I hadn’t left a tip now.

I won’t be returning to Jadoo, over-modernised food I could live with but the rip off papadoms/dips finished the place for me. I’m also going to check the nearby Spices restaurant to see if they operate the same scam.

Jadoo Indian Restaurant
9 Milton Street
Saltburn-by-the-Sea TS12 1DH

+44 1287 626262

Website currently isn’t working

Hampton by Hilton Hotel, Gatwick Airport North Terminal, England


, , , , , ,

We stayed here in June to catch an early morning flight departing from the North Terminal. This was our first stay as we’ve previously stayed at the Hilton South Terminal. The Hampton North beats Hilton South hands down!

The Hampton entrance is directly from the North Terminal and you’re at the reception desk and room in minutes. Contrast this with the Hilton South, a long walk from the terminal and another long walk from reception to your room.

Check in was friendly and they were also able to print a document we emailed them without any issues nor cost. As Hilton Diamond, we were upgraded and also offered a choice of snacks from the snack bar.

The room was clean and functional and had a king-size bed.

The bathroom had a walk in shower.

The view from the room was interesting.

There isn’t an executive lounge, but the Hilton South lounge isn’t much to write home about.

My partner left early for her flight – the EasyJet check in is steps from the hotel entrance.

I had the decent buffet breakfast, which I think is free for all guests – I wasn’t asked for my room number. I wouldn’t be surprised if a few people waiting for their flight in the North Terminal sneaked in for a free breakfast! The Hilton South charges for breakfast unless you book a breakfast included rate or have Hilton Gold or Diamond status.

I’d booked a taxi to collect me from the hotel. There’s a short corridor that leads to the hotel car park and taxis can pick up there – 15 minutes free parking.

I’d definitely recommend this hotel if you are flying in/out of Gatwick North. In fact, I’d almost be tempted to choose it if I was flying in/out of Gatwick South as the walking distance is about the same.

Hampton by Hilton
Longbridge House North Terminal,
Horley, RH6 0PJ, United Kingdom

TEL: +44-1293-579999