Browsing Category

Portugal

Amsterdam, Argentina, Blog, Italy, Lisbon, London, Marrakech, Morocco, Portugal, Puglia, South Africa

Best of 2015: My favourites

December 29, 2015
city turtle

2015 has been a busy year in terms of travel, I’ve done numerous city weekend breaks in Europe (Amsterdam / Lisbon / Barcelona /Krakow), some relaxing, foodie holidays (Puglia / Bordeaux / Cyprus) and some serious ‘wow’ trips (Argentina / South Africa).

Here are my 2015 favourites: 

The Show Stopper: The Test Kitchen, Cape Town.

No wonder it’s been awarded South Africa’s number one restaurant for the 4th year in a row, as well as the best restaurant in Africa.  We were so lucky to have dinner here and try their incredible 10 course Tasting Menu.  We sat at the kitchen bar, which I highly recommend, as it is truly one of the best experiences watching these top chefs put together the most incredible food.

Runner up: La Colombe, the sophisticated and much-loved restaurant in Constantia, the exclusive suburb of Cape Town.  With beautiful views, delicate food and perfect service, I can completely understand why people rave about it (and why it was voted South Africa’s 2nd best restaurant).

Test Kitchen, Cape Town

Most spectacular Hotel: Eolo, Argentina.

I was completely blown away by this fantastic Relais & Chateaux, nestled in the Patagonian hills.  This is a simple, elegant and intimate boutique hotel – which is all about the views, the fantastic service, the beautiful Argentine design and the excellent food.  By far the best place I stayed in Argentina.

Runner up was Rattrays, Mala Mala in Sabi Sands.  The most beautiful colonial lodge, and the best base for wildlife viewing in South Africa. Runner up 2: Babylonstoren, South Africa, the most wonderful Cape Dutch farm and hotel in between Franschoek and Paarl.  I could not fault the design.

Eolo, Argentina

Favourite new discovery: Puglia, Italy.

Italy is, and will always be, my favourite country.  And I know it quite well.  But 2015 was the first time I traveled to ‘the heel’ of Italy, to Puglia, and I was taken aback by how much I adored it.  So different to the rest of the country, I loved its dark red earth, the hundred year old olive groves, turquoise seas, the white-washed hill top towns, the brilliant food and wine, and the incredible value for money.  Read all about my favourite places in Puglia here.

Runner up: Krakow, Poland.  Who knew Poland was quite so beautiful?  I absolutely loved this pretty and well-preserved Medieval city.  Wonderful architecture, great dining options, and super affordable.

Controcorrente, Ostuni

 i

Favourite new London restaurant: Shackfuyu, Soho.

Fans of the Bone Daddies restaurant group will not have missed their Soho pop up, which received such high acclaim (especially its Kinako french toast with green tea soft serve ice cream) that it has now thankfully become a permanent fixture.  My favourite dish was the aubergine with babu aruru, that alone is a reason to return.

Runner up: Taberna do Mercado.  While Nuno Mendes’ new Spittalfields restaurant has divided opinion, I loved this cosy, down to earth Portuguese restaurant, with hearty ‘grandma-style’ dishes.

Bone Daddies Shackfuyu, Soho

Favourite new London bar: The Gin Parlour at Mr Fogg’s Tavern, Soho.

I was already a fan of Mr Fogg’s Residence in Mayfair, and so was delighted when Mr Fogg’s Tavern opened at the end of the year.  While the Tavern itself is often heaving, upstairs you’ll find a much quieter and more sophisticated Victorian Gin Parlour, with delicious (albeit expensive) cocktails.

Runner upCahoots . While it’s a nightmare to get a booking, I thought the interiors and the Underground theme was incredible (and the cocktail prices reasonable).

Mr Fogg's Tavern, Soho

Best value hotel: The Capaldi, Marrakech.

If you’re looking for a sunny but short break away from London, then Marrakech is the perfect option.  Just a 3 hour flight, but where the weather is infinitely better and where there is an astonishing array of five star hotels.  While the likes of the Amanjena, the new Mandarin Oriental and Kasbah Tamadot are luxurious but very expensive options, the Capaldi offers the best of both worlds.  It’s a beautiful hotel, set in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains, half an hour drive from Marrakech’s medina, and a complete paradise.  Best of all is that rooms are from £100 per night, so totally affordable.  I loved it.

Runner up: Hotel Ormes de Pez, in the Medoc area of Bordeaux. With only a few rooms, I loved staying at this very comfortable, traditional French Chateau boutique hotel, where you are beautifully looked after by Gilles.

Capaldi, Marrakech

 i

Favourite new London hotel: The Zetter Townhouse, Marylebone.

The Zetter Townhouse in Clerkenwell is a London favourite, but the new Townhouse in West London is giving it a good run for its money.  With quirky interiors, a very cosy sitting room/bar/lounge and rooms with the comfiest looking beds I’ve seen – this is British design at its best.

Runner up: the very modern Mondrian Hotel at the Sea Containers on the South Bank, where I especially loved the views and the cocktail bar.

Zetter Townhouse, Marylebone

Favourite Amsterdam new-comer: Cafe Panache, Amsterdam.

This laid-back, stylish cafe-restaurant had such a fantastic vibe, I thought I was in New York.  The food is good, but the main reason to come is for the atmosphere, and the bar filled with locals, which stays open until late.

Runner up: The W Hotel, Amsterdam.  While I’m not a massive fan of the W group, I must say I completely adored the new W’s ‘Lounge’ bar on the top floor, where the views of the Dam Palace are out of this world, and where I’d pay good money to have a swim in their pool with a view.

Cafe Panache, Amsterdam

Most original bar: Floreria Atlantico, Buenos Aires.

It doesn’t get more original than when the entrance to a bar is a fully functioning flower shop.  This bar has been repeatedly voted one of the world’s best bars, and I can totally see why.

Floreria Atlantico, Buenos Aires

 i

Favourite healthy option: Pluk, Amsterdam.

Too pretty for words, this newcomer to Amsterdam’s beloved Negen Straatjes (Nine Little Streets) is the perfect girlie health haven.  Pick a juice, a salad and a detox shot and you’re good to go.  I love their Instagram feed too.  If you’re looking for something more substantial for brunch, then their sister property Ree 7 (on the same street), is also worth checking out.

Runner up: Flax & Kale, Barcelona. I was really wowed by this healthy ‘flexitarian’ restaurant, which combined stunning interiors with a delicious, unique menu.

Pluk, Amsterdam

 i

Best bottomless brunch: Bourne & Hollingsworth Buildings, Clerkenwell.

2015 was the year I fell in love with Exmouth Market, a new part of London I had shockingly never been to before.  B&H Buildings is around the corner, and it’s colonial, bright interiors makes it the ideal place for brunch (try and get a table in their green house).  Best of all is that they offer bottomless Bellinis (£16) or Bloody Mary’s (£15) for weekend brunch.

Bourne and Hollingsworth Buildings, Clerkenwell

Favourite local: Hally’s and Little H, Parsons Green.

Fulham gets criticised for being slightly on the dull side when it comes to restaurants and bars, but one thing it can get right is brunch.  Hally’s remains one of my favourite Fulham locals, and with the arrival of its smaller and healthier sister property Little H (with a Cali twist), I couldn’t be happier.

Runner up: St Clements, toward Eelbrook Common, is also a great option if Hally’s is fully booked.  Manuka Kitchen also remains a firm favourite.

Hally's Parsons Green

Favourite City Break: Lisbon, Portugal.

It was my second time visiting the Portuguese capital this year, and I liked it even more than the first time I went.  Lisbon combines excellent weather with beautiful architecture, an innovative foodie scene and incredible value for money.   Take an extra day off work and give yourself a day on the beach to add some proper R&R to this city break, and you’ll feel like you’ve been on a proper holiday.  Read all about my Lisbon highlights here.

Runner up: Barcelona.  This Spanish city never fails to disappoint. With wonderful tapas bars, fantastic rooftop bars and the beach (with its brilliant beach bars), I could return again and again.

Lisbon

Follow

Blog, Lisbon, Portugal

Lisbon: My Highlights

June 28, 2015

It’s quite a bold statement saying that Lisbon is one of my favourite city break destinations.  But it really is.  This city has everything: great weather, beautiful architecture, a fantastic – and growing – foodie scene, a vibrant nightlife and beaches half an hour away.  And it is SO AFFORDABLE.  Staggeringly so.

Lisbon

Lisbon

Here are my foodie highlights from my visit last month:

TO EAT

Mini Bar Teatro

Famous Portuguese chef Jose Avillez is loved in Lisbon with two Michelin stars and a big name in the city for experimental cooking. Mini bar is his more affordable restaurant – located in an old 19th century theatre on one of Bairro Alto’s side streets. Expect ‘mini’ plates and inventive dishes. As our waiter said ‘nothing is how it seems’. While it’s quite dark inside, the stylish decor is very sixties and there’s a very good vibe.  My favourite dish was the prawn ceviche on a wedge of lime and the tuna roll.  Worth booking as even on a Sunday night it was nearly completely fully booked. Sublime, and certainly an experience to remember.

Mini Bar

Tabik

Tabik is new on the Lisbon scene, and the young chef Manuel Lino, much admired. Located on the Avenue das Libertadas, you wouldn’t expect to find a restaurant like this here. The interiors have distinct touches of Scandinavia – lots of pale wood and a minimalist feel, but the faux tiled floors remind you you’re in Portugal. Large doors open the restaurant and bar completely up to the street which is lovely.  The food is delicate, delicious and beautifully presented. You get the whole gourmet experience – from warm bread and butter to a pretty amuse bouche. If you just opt for a main course and a (obligatory) pudding, then it’s not too expensive. Highly recommend the Portuguese version of a rosemary creme brûlée. Delicious.

Tabik, Lisbon

Royale Cafe

Tucked away on a quiet, pretty square in the charming Bairro Alto you’ll find this Scandi-influenced restaurant.   Royale Cafe is the ideal place to stop at mid-sightseeing for a a bite to eat on their shady green terrace.  Albeit it small, it’s still nice to have your lunch outside in the Bairro Alto without it being a big, noisy tourist trap.  For those wanting to avoid the outdoor heat, then their quirky, warm interiors will make you feel right at home.  They do excellent brunches on a Sunday, or for those you love Middle Eastern food, their mezze plates (hummus, tzatziki, baba ganoush) are delicious. All wonderfully affordable too.

Royale Cafe, Lisbon

Bastardo

This place really surprised me (in the right way), hidden inside the Internacional Design Hotel, right in the centre of Baixa. Initially I was unsure as I climbed the stairs, but as soon as you enter this exceptionally bright space, with a fun, mis-matched interior, you know you’ve made the right choice. We came here for tea (ice cream and cake) – which was yummy – but lunch and dinner (with a playful Portugese menu) is meant to be really good too. I love their huge windows which open up to lovely views of Dom Pedro IV square. They offer healthy juices here too and it’s a great place to come rest your weary feet for an hour or two.

bastardo

TO DRINK

By the Wine

Absolutely adored this original wine bar, owned by Jose Maria de Fonseca (who seems to be a big deal in the wine world). With a beautiful arched ceiling covered in (3,627) green wine bottles, this place certainly stands out from all other wine bars in Lisbon (e.g Grapes and Bites). The wine list is substantial and (mostly) Portuguese. The waiters/sommeliers certainly know their stuff and will recommend the types of wines you like. The charcuterie board with an array of cheeses and cold meats was huge and well worth it if you’re going to stay here for a while.  Prices very reasonable, with glasses of wine starting at around 2.50 EUR.  Only in Lisbon!

By the wine, Lisbon

Portas do Sol

With the most ideal location for those who have just explored the Alfama and the very impressive Castelo de Sao Jorge, Portas do Sol is unsurprisingly a very popular lunch spot. With an expansive terrace with views to die for of the city and the Tagus river, this place is worth a rest inbetween hectic sightseeing. The food is OK – I would recommend the smoked salmon focaccia – but it’s better to just come for a beer or a glass of wine, while you drink in those views.

Portas do Sol, Lisbon

Bairro Alto Hotel Roof Top Bar

With an ideal location right in the centre of the Bairro Alto, this cute little roof top bar is definitely worth a visit.  Be it for a refreshing homemade coconut lemonade (be warned, they are quite sweet) or for a cocktail.  The views of the city and the river are stunning, and you feel worlds away from the Bairro Alto’s hustle and bustle.  The hotel itself is also a great place to stay.  Part of the Leading Hotels of the World brand, this is one of the top five star hotels in the city, with plenty of character, and a lot of the rooms have fabulous views.

Bairro Alto Hotel Bar

Detox Lounge by Liquid [HEALTHY/NON ALC]

Healthy food and juice bar Liquid, has four bars in Lisbon.  We stumbled across Liquid’s ‘Detox Lounge’ as we were walking through the Chiado area after lunch at Royale Cafe.  The reason it caught my attention was because of the big sign saying BLOG above the door.  So naturally curiosity took over and we walked in.  Down a narrow corridor you’ll find the Detox Lounge, with crates of fruit and veg piled on top of each other by the bar.  Come here mid-Lisbon wanderings and buy a juice for on the go.  Or grab a table by their large open windows, with views of the stunning square Largo do Carmo.

Liquid, Lisbon

Other recommended rooftop bars are Park and Insolito (part of the Independente Suites & Terrace).

Check out City Turtle’s Portugal Destination page for more tips or where to eat, drink and stay.

Portugal

Santini, Cascais – EAT

June 13, 2015
Santini, Cascais

Spending the day in Cascais is a must if you’re in Lisbon for a long weekend (it’s only a 40 minute train ride away).  Not only are the beaches stunning, but the sea is crystal clear and the town itself is so pretty (I love all the tiled houses).  But there is another reason to head here: for Santini, the best ice cream in Portugal.  The family who own this has been supplying their ice cream to generations of the Royal family (since 1949).  So if it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for me.  I love their bright red and white striped interiors, and their friendly staff.  And seriously, the ice cream is phenomenal.

They have a shop in Lisbon now (in Chiado), but the queues here are immense, so I’d stick to the one in Cascais.  Then you can have ice cream on the beach.

Cascais

Santini

Av. Valbom 28F, 2750-508 Cascais

 

Lisbon, Portugal

Restaurante Cabacas, Lisbon – EAT

June 13, 2015

Carnivores on a budget need to bee-line it to this tiny restaurant in the heart of the Bairro Alto.  Come here for the incredible raw steaks which they serve on a sizzling hot stone, accompanied by sauces and chips. And all for €8.  And a litre of wine for €3.95.  It is better than a bargain.  You cook the steak yourself, so you can have it as raw or as well cooked as you wish.  OK, the interiors are not great – very simple and they could have done something about the lighting (strobe lighting doesn’t add much to the atmosphere).  But to be honest, that barely matters once your steak arrives.

They accept cash only and you can’t book, so I’d recommend going early-ish.

Restaurante Cabacas

Rua das Gaveas 8-10

Lisbon, Portugal

Sky Bar, Lisbon – DRINK

June 13, 2015
Wow. Everything about this bar, from the design to the cocktails, is modern and beautiful.  The name says it all; come here to enjoy a relaxing atmosphere and a splendid view of the city. It’s hip from the early evening till late at night, with djs and live bands on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
Only open during the summer months, so make sure you don’t miss it.  It’s on the same street as Tabik (albeit it a bit of a walk North), so good to combine the two.
Brunch on a Sunday is pretty good too.
Sky Bar
Tivoli Hotel
Avenida Da Liberdade, 185
Lisbon, Portugal

Cinco Lounge, Lisbon – DRINK

June 13, 2015

This is a slick and popular cocktail bar, a step up from drinking caipirinhas form plastic cups on the cobbled streets of the Bairro Alto (which, don’t get me wrong, I love).  Cocktails are not more than EUR8 and they are the best cocktails in town (‘Green Destiny’ is amazing).  The barmen are experienced cocktail makers, so watch and learn.  A sophisticated place to enjoy Lisbon’s buzzing nightlife.

Cinco Lounge

17-A rua Ruben A. Leitao

 

Lisbon, Portugal

Pharmacia, Lisbon – DRINK

June 13, 2015
I came here four years ago, and little has changed.  Which is a good thing, because I loved it then, and loved it now.  This is a fantastic spot for an outside drink or for an excellent Portuguese dinner at their restaurant (I’d go with their tasting menu).  This bar/restaurant used to be an old Pharmacy Museum (hence the name and the décor) and before that a (beautiful) palace. Cocktails have appropriate names like ‘Paracetamol’ and ‘Morphine’ and you can sit outside on their front lawn in quirky but comfortable chairs and enjoy a warm Lisboan evening.   It’s right by Miradour (view-point) Santa Catarina, which is beautiful.
 i
Pharmacia
R. Mal. Saldanha 1
Lisbon, Portugal

Park Rooftop Bar, Lisbon – DRINK

June 13, 2015

The night we tried to go (Sunday – take note) it was unfortunately closed – which was even more infuriating because it took us so long to find it (it’s on top of a car park and very well hidden).  But I had to add it to City Turtle because many people have recommended it as being one of the best bars to go to in Lisbon. This is Lisbon’s answer to Frank’s Cafe in Peckham, but with lots of greenery (and except it’s thankfully not in Lisbon’s version of Peckham – it’s super central).  It’s meant to have cool views of the city and a vibrant atmosphere.  Apaprently they really ramp the music up after midnight.  I’d recommend it for a few cocktails before hitting the more locals bars of the Bairro Alto (a must).

Park Rooftop Bar

Calçada do Combro 60

Lisbon, Portugal

Bairro Alto Hotel, Roof Top Bar – DRINK & STAY

June 13, 2015
Bairro Alto Hotel Bar

With an ideal location right in the centre of the Bairro Alto, this cute little roof top bar is definitely worth a visit.  Be it for a refreshing homemade coconut lemonade (be warned, they are quite sweet) or for a cocktail.  The views of the city and the river are stunning, and you feel worlds away from the Bairro Alto’s hustle and bustle.

Bairro Alto Hotel Bar

The hotel itself is also a great place to stay.  Part of the Leading Hotels of the World brand, this is one of the top five star hotels in the city, with plenty of character, and a lot of the rooms have fabulous views.
Service we felt was a little disappointing.
Bairro Alto Hotel
Praça Luís de Camões 2
Lisbon, Portugal

Detox Lounge by Liquid, Lisbon – HEALTHY

June 13, 2015

Healthy food and juice bar Liquid, has four bars in Lisbon.  We stumbled across Liquid’s ‘Detox Lounge’ as we were walking through the Chiado area after lunch at Royale Cafe.  The reason it caught my attention was because of the big sign saying BLOG above the door.  So naturally curiosity took over and we walked in.  Down a narrow corridor you’ll find the Detox Lounge, with crates of fruit and veg piled on top of each other by the bar.  A welcome sight.  Come here mid-Lisbon wanderings and buy a juice for on the go.  Or grab a table by their large open windows, with views of the stunning square Largo do Carmo.

Largo do Carmo

Detox Lounge by Liquid

Rua Nova do Almada, 45A

 

 

 

Lisbon, Portugal

A Margem, Lisbon – DRINK

June 12, 2015
A Margem, LisbonA Margem, Lisbon

We stumbled across this very well located bar/cafe as we walked from the Statue to the Discoveries to the Tower of Belem. Right on the river, and thus with phenomenal views of sailers and active Portuguese on their morning run/bike ride, this white ‘box’ of a cafe is perfect for breather between Belem’s sights, while enjoying a (really good) cappuccino and a Pasteis de Nata.   Could be good for a light lunch too.  38 degrees 41 next door is part of Hotel Altis Belem, and is also meant to be nice, with similar views and a good terrace. But there were renovations going on there, so we skipped that.

A Margem, Lisbon

A Margem

Doca do Bom Sucesso

Belem, Lisbon

Lisbon, Portugal

Portas do Sol, Lisbon – EAT & DRINK

June 12, 2015
Portas do Sol, Lisbon

With the most ideal location for those who have just explored the Alfama and the very impressive Castelo de Sao Jorge, Portas do Sol is unsurprisingly a very popular lunch spot. With an expansive terrace with views to die for of the city and the Tagus river, this place is worth a rest inbetween hectic sightseeing. The food is OK – I would recommend the smoked salmon focaccia – but it’s better to just come for a beer or a glass of wine, while you drink in those views.

Portas do Sol, LisbonPortas do Sol, Lisbon

Portas do Sol, LisbonPortas do Sol

Largo das Portas do Sol,
Beco de Santa Helena

Looking for the latest London tips and travel suggestions?

Stay in the loop and sign-up for City Turtle's monthly newsletter.