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Blog, UK - Outside London

The Pig in the Wall, Southampton

April 2, 2017
The Pig in the Wall, Southampton

Southampton is not the first place you’d think to go for an English weekend break.  And had the Pig in the Wall not been there, I would not have recommended it.  However, the Pig in the Wall is the perfect ‘gate way’ to the New Forest and so ideal for a Saturday night stay.   Apart from that, the Pig in the Wall is nestled in what remains of Southampton’s 12th century city walls, and so has a lot of charm in itself.

The Pig in the Wall, Southampton

Those of you who have not been to the Pig are in for a treat.  The original of the now five Pig hotels is the Pig at Brockenhurst, in the heart of the New Forest in Hampshire.  I stayed here for the weekend over three years ago, and absolutely loved it.  The problem is, everyone loves it and so it’s always fully booked.  Solution?  Book the Pig in the Wall (often with much better availability AND lower prices).

You’re only a 15 – 20 minute drive from the New Forest from here (having a car is ideal), so you can spend the whole of Saturday walking / biking in the New Forest (here are some ideas) and then you can head back to the Pig in the Wall in the afternoon to freshen up and enjoy their lovely rooms.  They also have a wonderful sitting room/cafe/lobby, where you can sit by the fire in the winter or on their terrace outside in the summer.   They serve delicious (and very strong) coffees / drinks / snacks all day long, and the best continental breakfasts in the morning.  I absolutely loved this room, it really feels like you’re a guest at someone’s (stunning) home.  The staff are beyond friendly.

The Pig in the Wall, SouthamptonThe pig in the wallThe Pig in the Wall, SouthamptonThe Pig in the Wall, Southampton

There are twelve bedrooms here, all individual.  We had the Snug room which was undeniably very snug (the Cosy room is a bit bigger, for £20 more).  But also with a lot of character, under the eaves.  Our room had the Pig’s signature very comfortable beds, and fantastic power shower.  They use space cleverly, so you really have everything you need.   And with prices starting from £120, it’s good value.

The Pig in the Wall, Southampton

One of the other perks of staying at the Pig in the Wall is the complimentary Land Rover ‘shuttle service’, where they will drive you to the Pig at Brockenhurst for dinner (book this far in advance!), and pick you up afterwards.  So you can enjoy a drink or two without worrying about how you’re going to get back.  And I highly recommend this.  The Pig at Brockenhurst was even lovelier than I remembered, with now an expanded organic vegetable garden and a phenomenal restaurant.  And after dinner we could even still enjoy a few night caps by the fire.

The Pig at Brockenhurst, new ForestThe Pig at Brockenhurst, new ForestThe Pig at Brockenhurst, new Forest

Bottom line: the Pig hotels remain some favourite British hotels.  And I’m keen to visit their newest two (the Pig on the Beach, and the Pig at Coombe) soon.

The Pig in the Wall

8 Western Esplanade

Southampton

Hampshire

Blog, Date Spot, Eat, London

Kiln, Soho

March 27, 2017
Kiln, Soho

If you haven’t been to Thai BBQ favourite the Smoking Goat, go now.  If you have, and loved it, then you’ll be pleased to read (though you probably already know) that they opened a sister property, called Kiln.  They have got quite a lot in common: they’re in Soho, serve Thai food (mostly with an emphasis on BBQ), are petite in size (though Kiln has got a more seating downstairs) and both offer brisk but friendly service.

Kiln, Soho

But the food is actually very different.  More so than I had expected.  Kiln serves off the beaten track ‘local’ Thai food.  Dishes from small, rural villages.  Even a curry from Myanmar, because not only do Thailand and Myanmar share a (substantial) border, but many Burmese live in Northern Thailand.  So the influence is heavy.  You won’t find a Pad Thai here.  There’s very little use of coconut.

And the food is spicy.  Again, a lot more so than I had expected.  Being greedy I tend to put as much food in my mouth as possible, as quickly as possibly.  Before assessing that it might be hot (in both senses of the word).  So I did spend a lot of my evening downing water (and wine).  I really enjoyed the variation of the dishes, from the lamb & cumin skewer (order one each), to the wild ginger and short rib curry from Burma, to the clay pot baked glass noodles with crab meat.  I also liked the spiced sausage with turmeric, and the stir fried cornish greens and soy.

Kiln, SohoKiln, Soho

We ate downstairs, which I liked surprisingly.  It isn’t a soulless small room where the overflow is forced to sit.  It’s quite dark and fun and cosy.  If you’re a two though, I’d aim for the seats at the stainless steel kitchen bar (i.e the only seats possible upstairs), then you can watch the chefs work away at the open fires.

Kiln, Soho

The place is buzzing, incredibly popular despite it’s fairly recent opening.  Of course you can’t book.  But you can put your name and number down for a table.  And they do really try their best.  Just don’t rock up on a Friday night at 7 and expect to be seated within two hours.  It just won’t happen.

So which do I prefer?  Smoking Goat or Kiln?  It’s hard to say.  If you’re looking for something more adventurous, then Kiln may do it for you.  But I think all in all, Smoking Goat still wins for me.

Kiln

58 Brewer Street

Soho

Photo credit: Kiln

Blog, Date Spot, Drink, Eat, London

Lassco Bar & Dining, Maltby Street Market

March 27, 2017
Lassco Bar & Dining, Maltby Street

Maltby Street Market is one of my favourite places in London.  A bit of a walk through some very quiet and a little dodgy parts of London, but worth it in the end.  On the weekend it’s heaving, and not with tourists, which is always a pleasure.  Especially since Borough Market has become so unbearable.

40 Maltby Street is a wine bar I repeatedly return to, with good ambience, nice wines and lovely food.  It seems to be one of the few places open in the evenings on the weekdays.  But then I read great reviews from the Nudge and Hot Dinners about the newly opened Lassco Bar & Dining, just opposite 40 Maltby Street, with very reasonable prices (£25 for 2 courses / £30 for three) and in an eccentric, fun setting.

Lassco Bar & Dining, Maltby Street

So I went on Friday and dragged a friend along.  When I finally managed to locate it (Lassco is a big warehouse, with multiple entrances), I found it very empty, which unnerved me slightly.  But it is an undeniably wonderful setting, and one which is hard to describe.  Everything around you is for sale, from the antique furniture, art work, tiles and vintage lamps.  You’re surrounded by a mixture of everything, from different continents and decades.  And it just works.

Lassco Bar & Dining, Maltby Street

The bar is jolly, adorned with (old school) bunting, and a good but select wine list.  The cocktails are meant to be worth trying too, but we stuck to the red wine (my preference went to the wine from Le Marche, Italy).   We were then led to the ‘dining room’, with attractive light green walls and a selection of prints hanging on the walls.   The food was good, starting with fresh sourdough bread and smoked whiskey butter which was beyond moorish.  I chose the scallops to start (delicious), Ash the beetroot and Stilton (also good – though Stilton always tends to overpower).

Lassco Bar & Dining, Maltby Street

Lassco Bar & Dining, Maltby Street

The main courses were both excellent, I again opted for the lemon sole (though I had forgotten how bony this fish is), and Ash went for the wild boar.  To finish I couldn’t resist the flourless chocolate cake, which tasted as good as it sounds.

Lassco Bar & Dining, Maltby Street

Lassco Bar & Dining, Maltby Street

Lassco Bar & Dining has a definite charm to it, and I’d recommend it for a low-lit date or even a sophisticated but fun night with a group of friends (reservations shouldn’t be hard).  It just needs a lot more diners (or drinkers), because it lacked the buzz and atmosphere that goes hand in hand with people having a good time.  They are apparently moving to an even larger space across the road in June, and I wish them all the best, because this is a place which deserves to do well.

Lassco Bar & Dining

Ropewalk, 41 Maltby Street,

SE1 3PA

Photo credit: Lassco Bar & Dining

Amsterdam, Blog, Drink, Eat, Stay, The Netherlands

The Pulitzer Hotel, Amsterdam

March 18, 2017
The Pulitzer, Amsterdam

Amsterdam has changed hugely in the past few years when it comes to hotels.  The iconic Amstel and De L’Europe have been pushed aside with the openings of new, better, glitzier or more contemporary hotels like the Waldorf Astoria (stunning all round), the W (I love the bar here) and the Hoxton (great for brunch).

The Pulitzer Amsterdam has been around for years, but shut for a massive refurbishment.  It re-opened in August 2016 and wow, it’s a stunner.  I’d never been to it before the renovation, so I don’t have much to compare it to.  But I was impressed not only with the look and feel of the place (a little Soho House-esque in terms of design and quirky touches) but also by how despite the hotel having 225 rooms, it still feels like a boutique hotel.

The Pulitzer, Amsterdam

It looks small(ish) from the outside too, but it’s actually 25 (!) canal houses put together, and connected by wonderful gardens and terraces, which will, I’m sure, be very popular in the summer.  The lobby stands out upon entering, with lots of colour and art.  And I love their cafe Pause, where we had tea and a delicious banana cake.

The Pulitzer, AmsterdamThe Pulitzer, AmsterdamThe Pulitzer, Amsterdam

While we only saw one room, I loved the look of it, under the beams, which is so quintessentially Dutch.  And it’s this mixture of classic Dutch design and a touch of the eclectic (and eccentric) which works so well here.   Some of the suites look amazing too.

The Pulitzer, AmsterdamThe Pulitzer, Amsterdam

My favourite part of the hotel was the Pulitzer Bar, so slick and beautiful and inviting and of course open to locals too.  I will be returning their for one of their signature cocktails.  Their restaurant Jansz also looks great, and can be accessed from the Reestraat (one of the nine ‘little streets’ / Negen Straatjes).

The Pulitzer, AmsterdamThe Pulitzer, Amsterdam

In short, all the Amsterdam old-timer hotels and even the new kids on the block need to watch out, as the Pulitzer provides a more affordable five star option, which will especially attract a younger, trendier crowd.

The Pulitzer

Prinsengracht 323,

1016 GZ Amsterdam

Rooms from EUR 275 a night

Photo credit: Pulitzer Hotel (apart from the photo of the bar)

Blog, UK - Outside London

The Mash Inn, Buckinghamshire

March 12, 2017
The Mash Inn, Buckinghamshire

Everyone loves a quick escape from London, and the Mash Inn could not be a more perfect get away.  A 20 minute train journey from Marylebone station takes you to High Wycombe, and then it’s a 19 minute taxi drive to the tiny hamlet of Bennett End, where you’ll find the Mash Inn.

The Mash Inn is an 18th century inn (formerly known as the Three Horseshoes), which Nick Mash bought and fully renovated (hence the name).  The result is that the inn retains its cosy, simple and traditional feel, but with a fresh look and a stunning, Scandi-esque dining room overlooking the Chiltern Hills.

The Mash Inn, BuckinghamshireThe Mash Inn, Buckinghamshire

It is a restaurant with rooms (and the restaurant/kitchen is the pièce de la résistance here), but the rooms (5 in total) are very comfortable too.  We managed to get the last available room (with shower, sadly no bath) but at £100 a night it’s a bargain.  The rooms are small, but have everything you need.  Beds so comfortable that an afternoon nap is highly encouraged, a power shower with lovely bath products, a Robertson radio playing classical music as we walked in.  The view from our little window at sunset was rather beautiful too.

The Mash Inn, BuckinghamshireThe Mash Inn, BuckinghamshireThe Mash Inn, BuckinghamshireThe Mash Inn, Buckinghamshire

We were unlucky with the weather, but still went for a short walk in the area and visited the village church (which is charming).  The Chiltern Hills are beautiful and the walks here are excellent, which gives me another reason to come back.  Apart from walking, eating, drinking and sleeping, there isn’t much else to do here – but that was perfect for us.

The undeniable highlight here though is the food.  The restaurant leads to an open kitchen, where you meet the friendly and upbeat chef Jon.  All food is cooked on an open wood fire and means that the Mash Inn always has this wonderful smell of burning wood.

The Mash Inn, BuckinghamshireThe Mash Inn, Buckinghamshire

We opted for their 9 course tasting menu (£55 per person), which was one plate after the other of deliciousness.  Jon often serves the food himself and gives a little story around it, like the relatively simple but pretty looking salad he put in front of us, which he had foraged while out for a walk.  It was incredible!  There is a decent wine list with red starting at a very reasonable £21 a bottle (Sicilian Nero D’Avola).

The Mash Inn, BuckinghamshireThe Mash Inn, BuckinghamshireThe Mash Inn, BuckinghamshireThe Mash Inn, Buckinghamshire

We then crawled into bed, until we were awoken by the next meal: breakfast in bed.  Porridge, turmeric & ginger juice, freshly made croissants the size of my head, coffee.  Such a treat.

The Mash Inn, Buckinghamshire

If you’re looking for a relaxing, peaceful weekend away from London with very good food, then I would highly recommend the Mash Inn.  I shall definitely be returning.

The Mash Inn

Horseshoe Road,

Bennett End,

Radnage,

Buckinghamshire HP14 4EB

 

Blog, Mexico, Tulum

Nomade, Tulum – STAY / EAT / DRINK

February 19, 2017
Nomade, Tulum

Nomade is one of Tulum’s newest arrivals, and there was a bit of buzz about it when it first opened; the little sister to the popular Be Tulum (next door).  There are so many places to stay in Tulum that when planning my holiday I found it hard to choose, but had read rave reviews in Conde Nast Traveller and heard from others who’d stayed there that Nomade was definitely worth while.  It also seemed to offer better value than some other places.

Admittedly when we arrived (having just left the paradise that is Esencia), it took a bit of re-adjusting.  This North-African inspired eco-resort is undeniably hip and bohemian, with a young crowd and Indi beats playing on the beach throughout the day.  It’s so different to anywhere I’ve stayed before, but after 24 hours here I had completely relaxed into the hippy, laid back vibe of the place and absolutely loved it.

It’s on the southern side of Tulum’s beach, and so is much less hectic than some of the resorts further north.  The quarter mile private beach is possibly also the best in Tulum, far more expansive than those of many other resorts.  Often for the first few hours of the day we would find ourselves practically all alone on the beach (thank you jet lag), and had the pick of whichever incredible ‘day bed’ we wanted.

Nomade, Tulum, Mexico

Nomade life is extremely chilled out, starting with a healthy set breakfast which I missed enormously upon leaving.  I loved the shot of warm water with lemon which accompanied the breakfast (fruit, yoghurt, eggs, and very fresh pastries).

Nomade, Tulum

It’s hard to describe quite how beautiful the beach and the sea is here.  So breathtaking, and the sea so warm that even we (and we are really not water lovers) swam regularly and often for long stretches, playing in the waves.

Tulum, MexicoNomade, Tulum

The rooms are basic and very rustic, especially if you’re used to minimalist or more polished interiors.  We had one of their Jungle Suites with a sea view, which was comfortable enough but to be honest I would highly recommend going for a Sea View or Ocean Front Cabana – these rooms are much much better as you’re right on the beach.  I rather disliked the mud brown splashed walls which I know fits in with their eco sentiments, but which didn’t really do it for me.  But that’s probably the only real criticism I had of this place, and I just know that if I return, I should pay extra to stay in one of the cabanas.

Nomade, Tulum

Activity wise there is complimentary yoga on the beach every morning, there are bikes to borrow and water sports to explore.  But you’d be surprised how quickly it is to slip into a routine of doing nothing but soaking up the sun, swimming, sleeping, eating and drinking.

Their sea grill restaurant La Popular is outstanding.  We had some of the best food in Tulum here, their tuna tartare with passion fruit was one of my favourites.  Service is a little rusty, and the (mostly French) staff can be quite gruff and impatient, but we’ll forgive them.  The bartenders were all delightful and could rustle up fantastic Margaritas.  The highlight of these dozy days was ordering two large Margaritas in plastic cups, and walking all the way up the beach (between 30 minutes to an hour) at sun set, until we got to our dinner destination.  So magical.

Nomade, TulumNomade, TulumNomade, Tulum

Every evening when returning from dinner we would be welcomed back at Nomade with hundreds of candles lining the pathways.  Truly a wonderful experience, and I would recommend it to those looking for a relaxed, simple but beautiful beach holiday.

 Nomade

KM 10, Carr. Cancún – Tulum

Mexico

Blog, Mexico, Tulum

Mur Mur, Tulum – EAT

February 19, 2017
Mur Mur, Tulum

Mur Mur wins my award for most Instagrammable place of Tulum.  We passed it a number of times as it’s in a great location near big hits like Harwood and Arca.  While it’s set back from the ‘main strip’, it’s very eye catching (and there are some pretty – though extortionate – boutiques surrounding it).

Mur Mur, Tulum

So one day we tore ourselves away from the beach and cycled to Mur Mur for lunch.

Perhaps it’s the combination of their palm tree printed arm chairs, moss green sofas and distressed wooden furniture that give Mur Mur the ultimate laid back but stylish vibe.   The sofas are so comfortable that getting up is the last thing you want to do, so inevitably you end up spending hours here, sipping a cold beer or glass of white wine and savouring the peace and quiet.

Mur Mur, TulumMur Mur, Tulum

This is the perfect place for breakfast or lunch, more cafe than restaurant – though they do have a cool cocktail bar (of course), which is also open in the evening.  Fancying a change from the Mexico cuisine overload, we opted for their sour dough sandwiches with side salads.  I went for the grilled vegetables and Rob for the chicken.  Expecting something far less refined, I was very impressed by the standard of the food.  It’s all locally sourced and you can tell how fresh the produce is.

Mur Mur, Tulum

The service here was slow, and they took their time with our order, but sometimes you need to remind yourself that you’re in Tulum not London and relax.  Having said that, our waiter was excellent, friendly, and knew his stuff – recommending beers and wine to us.

In short, while Tulum is not short on excellent restaurants, Mur Mur is a great day hang out.  Even if you’re not hungry, grab a beer and enjoy some time out of the sun in this delightful little establishment.

Mur Mur

Quintana Roo 15,

Tulum

Mexico

Blog, Date Spot, Eat, London

Salut, Islington

February 19, 2017
Salut!, Islington

I spent quite some time narrowing down the options of which restaurant to go to for my 30th birthday dinner, with my twin sister Jo and my father.  Finally I made a list of three restaurants I wanted to try: Lyle’s, Medlar and Salut! (with exclamation mark).  The choice was for my father, since it was his treat.  He chose Salut!.

Salut! isn’t on everyone’s radar, and I hadn’t even heard of it until recently, when I came across it on Time Out’s top London restaurant recommendations.  I liked the sound of it, a small neighbourhood bistro, with excellent food and moderate pricing. Plus I love Islington and would move there in a heartbeat if I wasn’t so happy in Fulham.

Salut! is tiny, so I can understand why it books up so early.  It’s very bustling and lively, with an open kitchen – so if you’re looking for something quiet and peaceful, then Salut! is not for you.  It’s the perfect place for a celebration dinner, or a dinner with friends.  A great place to start the weekend.

I arrived with a stinking cold and wishing I was in bed.  But some rich glasses of red Primitivo wine sorted me out nicely.  And then the food came and it cured me for a few hours.  For starters I really enjoyed a truffle cauliflower veloute, which was warming and delicious.  I loved the ‘Preparations of beetroot’ dish too.

Salut!, IslingtonSalut!, Islington

The main courses were all excellent.  I never go for pork but wanted to try something new, so went for the pork belly which was incredible.  I especially liked the romesco, crushed cassava & braised hispi (I have a serious adoration of hispi cabbage) which accompanied the pork.  Jo had the mallard which was cooked to perfection, with parsley root and confit swede which again was really good.  My father had the red deer with smoked celeriac.   The food is beautifully presented and I think we all especially loved their vegetables, purées, and sauces.

Salut!, IslingtonSalut!, IslingtonSalut!, Islington

To finish we enjoyed a beautiful (and delicious) espresso.

Salut!, Islington

By the end of dinner I felt a lot better.  While Salut! is a little out of the way, if you’re looking for sophisticated food in a laid back, unpretentious and cosy environment, then you’ll love it.

Salut!

412 Essex Rd

London N1 3PJ

Blog, Italy, Rome

Atelier Canova Tadolini, Rome – EAT

February 18, 2017
Museo Canova Tadolini, Rome

While I always try my hardest to be as ‘un-touristy’ as possible, especially when in Rome, where I like to consider myself almost a local (shame I don’t speak the language!), sometimes it’s quite fun to do something a little touristy and a little naff.

Having lunch at Atelier Canova Tadolini is one of these things worth doing.   We had a hilarious time, eating between the various classical busts and statues.  It was surprisingly quiet when we had lunch there, and made it almost feel like we had a private dining experience, were it for a charming French family who sat next to us.

Atelier Canova Tadolini, RomeAtelier Canova Tadolini, Rome

The staff were lovely, smiling at us as we took the mandatory photos of us having lunch.

And the food was surprisingly good.  I would stick to the ‘primi’ dishes – the pasta and risotto options – which were very rich but delicious.  I opted for the zucchini flower risotto which was a real hit, and my other favourite was the pecorino and black pepper home made pasta in the parmesan basket which is very typical of Rome.  The prices are also very reasonable.

Atelier Canova Tadolini, RomeAtelier Canova Tadolini, Rome

We left after a strong espresso to give us more energy to continue exploring the city.  While this isn’t on my top places to eat in Rome, I would recommend it, even if you just stop by for a coffee, because ultimately it is a fun and different experience.

Oh, and book ahead.

Ristorante Atelier Canova Tadolini

Via del Babuino 150/A

0039 632110702

Blog, Italy, Rome

The Terrace at Hotel Raphael, Rome – DRINK

February 18, 2017
Hotel Raphael, Rome

When in Rome I am forever trying to find new bars, preferably with good views.  The terrace at Hotel Raphael goes to the top of my recommendations.  Even though it was January and fairly chilly, it was so special having this terrace completely to ourselves.  And with it the most stunning 360 degree view of Rome.

Hotel Raphael, Rome

The hotel itself is Relais & Chateaux, and has a wonderful location right behind Piazza Navonna.  I’m not quite sure if I would recommend staying there though – the interiors were modern and I felt lacked taste.  Even the (vegetarian) restaurant on the top floor lacked character or atmosphere, though it has great views.   But the multi-level terrace is something else.  I can imagine it being wonderful in the summer, where you can enjoy a warm summer evening with a cold glass of prosecco or even have dinner outside (the terrace is part of the restaurant).

Hotel Raphael, Rome

A drink with a view like this comes with a premium.  This is not the place for a cheap drink.  A bottle of prosecco will set you back about 36EUR.  But it’s worth it as the staff are wonderful, friendly and warm, and they also brought out some aperitivo.

Hotel Raphael, Rome

Hotel Raphael, Rome

We had a very special time here, and spent a number of hours drinking and enjoying the view. And watching the sun set over the eternal visit.  I would highly recommend a pre-dinner drink here.

The Terrace

Hotel Raphael

Largo Febo, 2

Rome

Blog, Italy, Rome

Il Tiaso, Pigneto – DRINK

January 29, 2017
Il Tiaso, Rome

I’m a big fan of wine bars.  This might be because these days all I really tend to drink is red wine, but wine bars appeal for other reasons too.  In my mind it attracts a different kind of person than some swanky cocktail bar, and I’ve never met a wine bar owner I haven’t liked.

And this was very much the case of the super charming Andrea, the owner of Il Tiaso in the hip,  former working class district of Pigneto. We walked into this small but fantastic establishment at around 11pm, and it was, of course, completely full.  But rather than turning us away, Andrea made sure he got us a table.  We may have been a little squashed but we managed to get a perfect tiny table at the back, from which we could observe the rest of the bar perfectly.  We also discussed the area with him, and he shared his favourite restaurants with us (Mimi e Cocozza and Mister Manzo).

Il Tiaso, Rome

A large floor to ceiling wooden book case takes up the majority of the space, and I decided instantly I’d love to have a book case like that at home.  Filled with books and bottles of wine (mainly wine) it added a charm to the place, even the lamps were made out of old wine bottles.  The dim lighting helped create the atmosphere, as well as the fact it was packed with locals.  What was even better is that we weren’t made to feel like we were tourists, when it was fairly obvious we were.

Il Tiaso, Rome

We drank another bottle of Barbera here (as well as some prosecco), which my father when hearing it was only EUR 18, feared would be fairly rubbish.  Wrong.  The wine was very good, and we enjoyed a loud and cheerful evening here.  In the summer there’s a terrace, which I imagine fills up quickly too.

While Pigneto has plenty of bars and cafes to choose from, Il Tiaso won for me, and has become one of my favourite wine bars in Rome.

Il Tiaso 

Via Ascoli Piceno, 25

Pigneto

Rome

Blog, Italy, Rome

Primo al Pigneto, Rome – EAT

January 29, 2017
Primo Pigneto, Rome

On my latest visit to Rome we decided to be more adventurous and explore areas outside the Centro Storico (the historical centre).  Last time we had ‘braved it’ for the first time, and taken a taxi to Marzapane, about a 10 – 15 minute taxi ride away from Piazza Navona.  It had been such a success that it gave us confidence to continue exploring Rome’s less central areas.

This time, we started with Pigneto.

Pigneto is an eastern ‘suburb’, though it’s only a 15 minute taxi ride away (or Metro journey) and you could probably compare it to Dalston / Peckham / Hackney in look and feel.  It’s up and coming but technically already ‘up’, all the (hip) restaurants and bars were certainly heaving on the Friday night and while this isn’t really an area you’d come to for sightseeing, if you’re looking for good (and super affordable) food and drinks, then you’ll love it.

The main focus of the area is around the aptly named via del Pigneto, a pedestrianised street lined with vibrant restaurants and bars.  I could easily have stopped to eat at a number of places, but we kept walking until we got to Primo.  While we were pretty much the first people there (at 20:15), it didn’t matter at all. The staff are so charming and welcoming, that you immediately feel at home here.  The interiors are laid back industrial, but with a warmth you tend not to get at places like this.

Primo Pigneto, Rome

We all fell in love with our waiter Leroy (yes, that really was his name), who was beyond helpful and put up with our ridiculous conversations.  And we enjoyed all our food, the highlights being the grilled octopus with horseradish cream to start, and the lemon curd for pudding.  The only dish which was disappointing was the veal sweetbreads with truffle, which were chewy and any taste of truffle was strangely absent.  But the pasta dishes were all excellent, and I liked their original way of doing tiramisu with ice cream.

Primo Pigneto, RomePrimo Pigneto, RomePrimo Pigneto, Rome

The wine menu is wonderfully affordable (we drank an excellent Barbera D’Asti for EUR26 a bottle), and they also have organic wines if that’s your thing (it’s not ours).

And afterwards you can stumble across the street to the wonderful Il Tiaso winebar (or Spirito andCo.So if you want cocktails), and continue to indulge in fantastic Italian wine.

Originally when we got out of the taxi in Pigneto my father asked me why on earth I’d taken him there.  That night he understood why.  And if my Dad can think areas that Pigneto are ‘really cool’, then it’s most definitely a winner.

Primo

Via del Pigneto, 46

Rome

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