26 September 2012

Amex Gold 20k is back

Apologies all for the big gap between posts - very busy time at work!

Just thought it was worth mentioning that the Amex Gold signup bonus has gone back up to 20k for a non-referral, and 22k for a referral from a friend (they get 12k).


Recently Amex dropped this to 10k/12k for new customers (i.e. people who haven't had an Amex charge card in the last 6 months).

The Gold card is pretty good, gets you 2x membership rewards on travel / foreign spend etc (sometimes 3x as it does stack - i.e. if its a flight denoted in a foreign currency).

One key point to note however is that the minimum spend is £2k in 3 months (which might be a lot for some people - if you were on the minimum income of £20k, you'd be putting nearly 50% of your net salary through your Amex to meet the target!) so might be better waiting if you have a holiday to book or work expenses coming up.

2 September 2012

Park Plaza Vondelpark, Amsterdam Review

In August I had a 2 night weekend stay at the Park Plaza Vondelpark in Amsterdam. I had booked a Travelzoo rate for €89 per night including breakfast. I had also selected to e-standby upgrade this to a Whirlpool Suite for €25 per night as part of the booking process.

The hotel itself is in a very nice residential area on the outskirts of Amsterdam's centre. It is only a few minutes tram ride into the main area though, and the tram stop is only a very short walk away from the hotel. I found it all very quick and easy to get in using trams and really liked the quiet location to come back to at the end of the day.

Check-in was friendly and efficient and  I was pleased to be given the Whirlpool Suite that I had on standby. It was located in an annex building right alongside the main building and for European standards it was very large with a huge bathroom.

As you will see in the picture there was a lounging area at the back of the room, with a swivel TV in the middle. There was also a desk and a Nespresso coffee machine. It all felt very spacious and there was plenty of cupboard space as well, and the all important electronic safe.

The main feature of the bathroom was the large whirlpool bath. There were plenty of jets and so it made for quite an effective jacuzzi.

There were also 2 large sinks as well as the toilet and also a bidet.

The only downside for me was the shower being attached to the wall in the bath area as I always prefer a separate walk-in shower, and they certainly had the space in this bathroom to accommodate it.

The breakfast room was served on the lower floor of the main room and it was a buffet featuring plenty of continental choices, along with eggs, beans, mushrooms, sausages and mini pancakes. It was all replenished often and there were also juices and a coffee machine that you could help yourself to.

Overall, for the price I paid it was an absolute bargain. Even if you do not stay here, I would thoroughly recommend visiting Amsterdam as there is plenty to see and do. Do not forget to try out the famous Fries from Vleminckx Sausmeesters. Here's some I had topped with Mayo and Satay sauce:

17 August 2012

BA Sale - ends 25 September

British Airways is having a "Go After The Games" flight sale for bookings up to 25 September.

Flights booked in Euro Traveller, World Traveller and World Traveller Plus, Club World and First are available for selected outbound travel dates between 10 September 2012 and 12 July 2013.

The easiest way to locate cheap fares is to use the cheapest fare tool which can be found here.
Economy wise, nothing overly exicting. There is LA from just over £500 and Singapore at £699.

Premium economy is a bit better as the tickets can be upgraded using Avios to Club World (if there is award availability) and here we see Hong Kong from £995, Tokyo from £989 and the Caribbean from around £800.

In Business, the fares are not that well discounted so there are none worthy of a mention.

15 August 2012

Priority Club - 50% off (selected) HI redemptions - 24hrs only!

On August 16th, for 24hrs only, Priority Club are offering 50% off selected redemptions for various Holiday Properties. See full details here: http://www.priorityclub.com/hotels/us/en/global/offers/hiresorts_one_day_sale

There are some decent looking properties on the splash page (mainly in the US though) for 12.5k points per night. Given how easy it generally is to earn PC points (you can earn 12.5k in 1-2 nights sometimes with promos) that's a pretty good deal.

Definitely worth a look anyway!

6 August 2012

Tommi's Burger Joint, Marylebone - Review

Tommi's Burger Joint
So we hit the hotly anticipated Tommi's Burger Joint his evening (opening night) to see whether it would actually live up to the hype. It's on Marylebone Lane near Bond Street Station so a very central location if you're out doing some shopping in London.

The place isn't very big - enough seating for 16-18 people, but has a nice laid back atmosphere. As we visited on opening night, all food had 50% off and 'Tommi's Cocktail Sauce' was free and unlimited (normally 50p). One big down side though was that they weren't doing any shakes - the previews suggested that in Iceland, the shakes are one of the highlights. However, free coffee was available and that's an ongoing offer.

Anyway, on to the burger. I ordered the steak burger, which is usually £7.95 ($12). It was good, but not great and looked like a tad underwhelming when it was brought over. I ordered it medium rare and while it was pink in the centre, the patty was fairly standard in all honestly. Was decent enough fare, but you expect more for £8, especially as it's order at the counter rather than table service. It did come with ketchup, mustard, mayo and salad as standard so there a good combination of tastes in terms of the sauces. You don't have to have all these sauces if you don't want - you just need to make it clear when you order.

The menu
As for the fries, these were very standard - could easily have been from McDonalds. They are an extra £2.90 for a moderate portion.

All in all was a nice enough meal which I was happy with it at half price. If I'd paid £11 for it, I probably would have been a bit disappointed, particularly when MeatLiquor is nearby and offers superior burgers for equal(ly high) prices. However, it does get packed at times.

The standard burger is however only £5 and I didn't try it, so I might give Tommi's another whirl at some point - and get a shake!

We've also got some pictures of the steak burger with cheese & bearnaise, so check these out at the bottom of the post.

If you're in central London and fancy a quick burger (but not McDs / BK !) you could do worse than Tommi's. But, you could also do better. You can find Tommi's Burger joint at 58 Marylebone Lane, W1.

Steak burger with cheese & bernaise
View from above
View from the side

4 August 2012

Dach & Sons Hampstead - Burger Review

Hampstead is nice. It's near to where I live, has a nice village feel to it, there are lots of nice gastropubs, a fantastic crêpe stand and it's within easy reach of central London. Now it also has a few restaurants - mostly chains but a few independents as well.

What it was missing was a laid back bar with decent food. That's now been sorted with the arrival of Dach & Sons which is right by the tube station in a great location.

I went with a friend for an lunch on a Saturday only a couple of weeks after opening. As I went early it was easy to get a table, but I can hear it can be more difficult in the evenings as it is quite popular. They do not take reservations. The interior is good, a new New York vibe with a bar serving beers that are different to the norm - we're talking American craft beers of different strengths and tastes. A decent match to the food that is offered.

Salt beef chilli
We both went for the cheeseburger. As you can see from the picture, it is exactly the colour you want it to be - pink throughout. It's a decent size and the bun is soft and holds it all together fine. While not the best burger I've ever had, it was solid and they're not all about the burgers - they have a variety of hot dogs as well, which looked great. They are the main focus, rather than the burger. I think everything is made on site, so it's all fresh and certainly tasted that way.

Now, look at the chilli. This was fantastic. I think it was made from salt beef which gave it a slightly different flavour to regular chilli, but in a good way!
It was eating it on its own and also putting some on the burger as well, as I couldn't get enough of it.

I hope that in the future they do a chilli burger as I think it would work really well.

The fries equalled the high standard set by the chilli. They are triple cooked using beef dripping which gives them tremendous flavour and a crunchy outside.

Mains costs £8 each and sides are about £4, so not cheap, but certainly fair and good value for Hampstead!

There is also an upstairs Purl bar run separately that serves high end cocktails. But what really impressed me was the outside terrace, which will be a great place to have a drink on a nice day. I think you'll be able to take food from the main dining area out there as well.

Outdoor terrace
Space is limited out on the terrace, but you don't have to go all the way up there to see if there is space. If you have a look at the picture at the start of the post you will see a 'lucky' light. If it just says lucky, you're fine and there is space out on the terrace. However, if the red "un" is also lit, well you can work out what this means.

Dach & Sons is certainly worth a visit, especially if you have each access to the Northern line and are a fan of hot dogs and American craft beers. They are at 68 Heath Street, Hampstead NW3.