Traveldesk: Montreal city guide, new London restaurants, French wine fairs and cheaper hotel rooms

A round-up of great new deals and destinations


New London openings

London’s dining scene is welcoming a slew of new openings this winter. US TV chef Judy Joo opens her first European venture, Jinjuu (16 Kingly St, Soho), this month, serving the Korean cuisine that made her famous in New York.

The Ivy Market Grill (1a Henrietta Street; in Covent Garden is a sister restaurant to the famous Ivy and will serve informal British cuisine from December.

Meanwhile, Gordon Ramsay’s newest addition to the dining landscape Heddon Street Kitchen (7 Heddon St;, opened on November 8th in Mayfair and serves modern European cuisine by chef Maria Tampakis.

Also opening in Mayfair is StreetXO (15 Burlington Street), which will serve David Muñoz’ street food to a seated clientele. Muñoz also has a StreetXO in Madrid, along with three Michelin star DiverXO.

Top tips to nab the best online hotel deals

A new study has shown that clearing your computer’s browsing history can result in better deals.

Boston’s Northeastern University analysed online retailers including Hotels.comExpedia and Orbitz and found that customers were often steered to more expensive room rates and other parts of the website with pricier options based on their cookies (those tiny data packages that contain browsing history).

Clearing your computer’s search history will eliminate the websites’ ability to gauge your buying pattern.

The study also found that searching for hotels on your smartphone generally returned better rates than those conducted on a PC or tablet computer.


Party-free Thailand

The military government in Thailand has clamped down on beach parties in response to the murder of two British backpackers in September.

Beach gatherings throughout the province of Surat Thani – which includes the popular islands of Ko Samui and Ko Tao (where the murders took place) have been banned.

Oddly, the most infamous beach party of them all – the monthly Full Moon Party on the neighbouring island of Ko Phangnan – is to continue unaffected, perhaps a reflection of its enormous popularity, as it draws thousands of revelers every month.

Down in the air

Americans are the unhappiest airline passengers in the world, according to a new survey. A study by aviation IT specialist SITA has concluded that 28 per cent of Americans are dissatisfied with their air travel experience, compared to a global average of 22 per cent. The happiest passengers are in the Middle East, where only 16 per cent expressed dissatisfaction with their experience; Europeans were close behind with only 18 per cent expressing unhappiness. Air passengers’ biggest headache came courtesy of the baggage carousel, where 27 per cent wanted to see improvements in delivery time; next on the “must do better” list were security and border control procedures (25 per cent), flight connections (24 per cent) and check-in (23 per cent).

Get away at home

If you fancy ringing in the new year somewhere special, book now. The New Year package at Monart Destination Spa ( in Enniscorthy, Co Wexford costs €395 per person sharing and includes two nights’ accommodation, a gala dinner on December 31st and access to the thermal spa. You can celebrate the arrival of 2015 in the luxury surrounds of the Merrion Hotel ( in Dublin, where a two-night package costs €395 per person sharing and includes a New Year’s Eve jazz dinner for two and a celebratory bottle of Champagne.


Five French wine harvest celebrations

Thursday, November 20th – the third Thursday of the month – is Beaujolais Nouveau day, when the whole country gets to sample this season’s barely fermented red wine. It is France’s most famous wine harvest festival, but here are five others in 2015 worth keeping an eye (and a nose) out for.

Broaching of the Yellow Wine (February 1st-2nd, Jura). The Jura region is famous for its distinctive vin jaune, or yellow wine, which is made from the Savagnin grape and stored in barrels for six years. This annual celebration marks the broaching of the barrels and sees visitors and locals visiting barns and wine cellars to sample the wine before it is bottled. See

The Grand Cru Weekend (May 30th-31st, Bordeaux). This two-day festival is an opportunity to visit the vineyards of the members of the Union des Grand Crus (UGC), made up of some of the best and most well-known châteaux from the top appellations in Bordeaux. See

Vitiloire Festival (May 30th-31st, Tours). The last weekend in May sees more than 100 wine-growers from the Touraine converge on Tours, in the Loire, where they gather under the canopy of trees on boulevard Béranger and hold meetings, discussions, workshops and tastings. Some 79 different AOC labels are represented, while local chefs show up to provide solid sustenance for all that wine tasting. See

Eguisheim Wine-Growers’ Festival (August 29th-30th, Alsace). Alsace’s biggest wine festival brings together more than 15,000 wine lovers to taste examples of the region’s famous dry white wines and visit local cellars. Five orchestras entertain visitors throughout the village. See

Vendanges de Montmartre (October 9th-13th, Paris) The hill of Montmartre is home to a tiny vineyard that produces 1,500 bottles of Pinot Noir and Gamay. This festival, inaugurated in 1934, sees the neighbourhood come together to celebrate with classes, lectures and entertainment. The city’s wine and dining societies show up, as do artisans and producers from all over France, selling charcuterie, oysters, cheese and sausage. See


MICRO-GUIDE Montreal – your 60-second city guide

STAY Hôtel Nelligan (106 Rue St-Paul Ouest;; room from $180). Beautiful spot in two restored buildings. The Terrace Nelligan roof patio has views over the city. EAT Garde-Manger (409 Rue St-François-Xavier; mains from $25). Tiny and trendy, always packed with diners who come for haute-cuisine. DO Île Ste-Hélène. A British garrison, amusement park, and museum devoted to the environment are the highlights of a visit to this island.


€225: PRAGUE: Three nights in three-star St George hotel, with flights. Departs December 1st; see

€299: FRANKFURT: Five nights B&B in three-star Savoy hotel. Includes flights from Dublin; tour of Christmas market and rooftop of St Nicholas Church is extra. Departs December 9th; see Blackpool Travel (tel: 021-439 8742).

€749: TORONTO: Four nights in Strathcona Hotel. Includes flights from Dublin with Air Canada. Departs November 28th (other dates available); see