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Review: 58 Tour Eiffel, Paris
Tourist fare or tour de force? Tiana Templeman takes a chance on a dining experience at the iconic Eiffel Tower.   It is hard not to feel just a little bit smug as we stroll past the enormous lift queues and join the small line for those dining at 58 Tour Eiffel restaurant. My husband and I are heading to the first floor of the Eiffel Tower for an evening of French wine, fine cuisine and romance. Or, at least that’s what we hope. We could also be heading for two hours of dining hell with bad function food, cheap vino and every tour group in Paris. With the iconic wrought iron structure towering above us, it’s impossible not to get caught up in the excitement as everyone in the restaurant’s exclusive lift jostles for position, eager to catch a glimpse of Paris and tonight’s dining venue. Our sense of expectation (and impatience) builds as we mill around the grand double doors that open with a flourish at precisely 6.30pm; everyone is seated across the restaurant’s two levels in minutes, with tour groups allocated a separate area, away from the intimate tables for two and four. 58 Tour Eiffel offers three pre-booked options for dinner, priced from $118 to $165, depending on the table location and whether wine is included. It’s our lucky night because our mid-priced ‘privileged seating in the main room’ booking ends up having the same Trocadéro view as the most expensive tables, albeit one row back from the window. With two two-hour seatings per night, 58 Tour Eiffel runs with military precision, although our friendly waiter manages to give the illusion that his guests have all the time in the world. We have just finished our welcome glass of Champagne when the entrée of spiced king prawns arrives, served atop a colourful scattering of avocado, grapefruit and sweet edible blooms. The dish is far better than we expected from what is essentially a tourist restaurant. The roast herbed guinea fowl breast that follows, with mashed potato, green asparagus and mushroom cream is quintessentially French and equally impressive, as is my husband’s choice of grilled lamb. Fortunately, there is a break before the rich chocolate marquise for dessert, which leaves us time to enjoy the view and another glass of wine before we end our evening with a trip to the top of the Eiffel Tower, bien sûr.   Details 58 Tour Eiffel, Eiffel Tower, Champ de Mars, Paris, France.   The IT Verdict With food and service that exceeds expectations, this iconic dining experience delivers. Location: 10 / 10 Dining atop the Eiffel Tower is hard to top. Style / character: 6 / 10 The food and the view beat the bland, beige décor. Service: 8 / 10 Friendly and professional. Atmosphere: 8 / 10 Bustling and lively with a touch of romance. Value for money: 8 / 10 Better than expected given the exchange rate. Notes: You can also visit for a picnic-style lunch without a reservation.   All IT reviews are conducted anonymously and our writers pay their own way – so we experience exactly what you would.  
Russia stays hotel CBD
Review: Hotel National Moscow
During a harsh Russian winter, Amy McPherson checks in to one of Moscow’s most historic hotels to find warmth in old-fashioned glamour and borscht.   This year marks the centenary of the Russian Revolution, and for more than 100 years Hotel National Moscow has witnessed the country’s political transformation, from imperial reign through to communist rule and the fall of the Soviet Union. Arriving in Moscow, it seems only fitting to stay in a hotel that can match the city’s fascinating history. The doorman, dressed in a long trench coat and polished leather shoes tips his top hat as I approach. “Welcome ma’am,” he says holding the door open with a gloved hand. In the reception, chandeliers hang from high ceilings; large picture windows that look out towards Red Square are framed with thick, luxurious red curtains trimmed with gold tassels; and on the opposite wall a heavily decorated mirror complements the Art Nouveau furnishings. My Junior Suite is spacious and has the same regal ambience as the reception. Everything about the room is impressive, except for the view: opening the windows I’m greeted by the sight of the roof of the bar below. Never mind; I set out to explore the hotel. I descend via the grand staircase and follow its intricate railings, stained glass windows and royal red carpet to the second floor in search of room 107, where a plaque informs me that Lenin lived and worked here in March 1918. Intrigued, I continue further down the corridor to find a gallery of all the guests of political and social importance who have stayed here. I am surprised to find a picture of a pre-presidential Barack Obama hung not far from the portrait of Stalin. How times have changed! Hungry but not yet brave enough to take on Russia’s savage winter, I dine at the bar I can see from my window, Bar Alexandrovsky. At 6pm it is already busy with guests enjoying pre-dinner drinks – perhaps why the service is inconsistent. It takes a while for me to get someone’s attention long enough to ask for a menu, and another while to flag down a waiter to place my order. I order a beer (the Siberian beer is excellent), borscht (beetroot soup) and the ‘House Special’ beef stroganoff. As I wait, a woman, dressed to the nines, conspicuously loiters around the bar. Ten minutes later, a lone man approaches, pays for her drink, before the two leave together. I suspect that the hotel, as one of the oldest in Moscow, must have some tolerance for the world’s oldest profession. My food arrives and the borscht instantly warms me inside and out, while the beef stroganoff is the best I’ve had by far. The following morning there’s an excellent choice on offer at the buffet breakfast, and the dining room on the first floor has big windows with a perfect view of Red Square and the Kremlin. There is no better way to wake up to Moscow, and I dine on blinis with fresh fruit thinking of the ghosts of revolutions past.   Details Hotel National Moscow; 15/1 Mokhovaya Str. Bld. 1, Moscow, Russia.   The IT Verdict This historic hotel has the feel of an imperial estate. Perfect for those interested in Russian history. Location: 10 / 10 Situated just across from the Kremlin and Red Square, and a block from the Bolshoi Theatre. Style / character: 8 / 10 The hotel wears its history on its sleeve and has a romantic, old-school glamour. Service: 7 / 10 Staff have varying degrees of experience and are mostly friendly. Rooms: 8 / 10 The Junior Suite is impressive but could do with a better view. Food and drink: 9 / 10 The menu has something for every taste and the bar is well stocked. Value for money: 9 / 10 I paid $517 per night; great value for a 5-star hotel of such standing.   All IT reviews are conducted anonymously and our writers pay their own way – so we experience exactly what you would. 
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