Browsing Tag

authentic

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, 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

Blog, Croatia

Dalmatino, Hvar – EAT

July 18, 2016
Dalmatino, Hvar

I’m always sceptical when I’m recommended a restaurant which is number one on Tripadvisor.  Will it be excessively touristy?  Will it lack authenticity?  Are the reviews real?  Dalmatino is top of list on Tripadvisor for Hvar.  And, despite my hesitation, I did end up going because not only had my colleague loved it (and been twice in three days), but Rob managed to sneak there for lunch while I was doing bridesmaid duties, and he came back raving about it as well.

So then I had to go.  Nothing would stop me, not even when my friend who tried to make a reservation for us was told that it was fully booked all night.  I just called them and pleaded.  And begged.  And somehow that seemed to work, and the five of us got a table downstairs which was perfect.  I think it’s better to sit outside (as always tends to be the case in warm holiday destinations like Hvar), but beggars can’t be choosers.

First thing to mention is the service.   All the waiters there are extraordinarily friendly.  In a very genuine, unforced way.  They are clearly proud to work there (taking you through the menu with care and dedication), and happy to help you in any way possible.  Their aim is to make your evening enjoyable.  And they completely succeed here.

Dalmatino, Hvar

But you come here for the food.  And I didn’t really think Croatia did food like it (on the whole, I still think Croatian food is a poor version of Italian cuisine).  But Dalmatino blew us all away.  From the stunning, fresh tuna and avocado tartare, to the shrimp and orange tartar – the starters were healthy and delicious.

Dalmatino, HvarBut the dish which blew us all away was the black truffle and shrimp gnocchi – so rich, so creamy and so opulent (photo below does not do it justice).  The portion was massive but there’s no way you will leave a morsel.

Dalmatino, Hvar

The setting is simple, right by Hvar’s marina, down a little side street.  It looks unassuming, unflashy – in contrast to the superyachts moored around the corner.  But it will be full every lunch and night this summer, so if you’re in Hvar you must go, and make sure you book ahead.  Unless you’re not afraid to beg.

Dalmatino, Hvar

Dalmatino

Sveti Marak 1,

21450 Hvar

Photo credit: Dalmatino

Blog, Bologna, Italy

Drogheria della Rossa, Bologna – EAT

May 22, 2016
Drogheria della Rossa, Bologna

Only in Italy will you find a place like this. Dinner here is not like a normal dinner; it is a unique and memorable experience, for most people will be one of the many highlights of Bologna.

It’s probably fair to say this is not for everyone. If you like being in control of your evening, when and what you eat and if you prefer to be left alone to enjoy your dinner, then you may not like Drogheria della Rossa. Having said that, I’m a bit of a control freak, yet totally loved it.

Drogheria della Rossa, Bologna
The owner is very much present throughout the evening, getting steadily more merry as the evening proceeds.  You’re warmly welcomed and shown to your table, in a small, cosy, eccentric space, which used to be an old pharmacy.  There is bric a brac everywhere, and a rose on every table. You’re instantly served a glass of prosecco and swiftly afterwards your aperitivo arrives. After half an hour we still hadn’t seen a menu, despite asking for it.

Drogheria della Rossa, Bologna
Eventually the wine list arrived and we ordered a wonderful Barbera D’Asti, so smooth and easy to drink. Then the owner showed up and listed the pasta options.  Tortellini with courgette flowers, ravioli with aubergine filling, tagliatelle with the famous Ragu. We ordered all of them and were delighted – once it eventually arrived.  Instead of a ‘secondi platti’ we ordered dessert.  I had a typical cake from Bologna, with chocolate and nuts. Rob had an incredible chocolate flan.  Rob’s father had an orange semi Freddo and his mother strawberries in the most incredible cream.

Drogheria della Rossa, Bologna
At this point the owner was back and had grabbed a chair to chat with us. Noting our wine was finished he promptly ordered another bottle of Barbera – on the house.

Drogheria della Rossa, BolognaDrogheria della Rossa, BolognaDrogheria della Rossa, Bologna
It was a very merry evening, with fantastic food and a lovely atmosphere. The owner transforms the restaurant into one big dinner party, whereby the guests end up meeting and interacting with each other.

When we left we were presented with a rose each from the charming owner, something which is apparently quite common, yet he absolutely had the ability to make you feel very special as guests. An absolute must go.

Drogheria della Rossa

Via Cartoleria, 10, 40124 Bologna

 

Blog, Czech Republic, Prague

Sansho, Prague – EAT

February 28, 2016
Sansho, Prague

I wasn’t sure what to expect from the food scene in Prague. But then I came across the excellent Taste of Prague blog and felt a lot more confident.  One restaurant which was constantly mentioned (and praised) on a lot of Czech blogs was Sansho, a pan-Asian restaurant in the Jewish part of the Old Town.

So Saturday night we booked to go (pre-booking is recommended).  The interiors of the restaurant are simple and while its atmospheric, the focus is clearly on the food.  I totally get why people rave about this place. The food is out of this world.  Fresh, original, unpretentious.  For dinner they offer only the six course tasting menu.  Every course surprised us, and when we thought it couldn’t get any better, it did.

We had the salmon sashimi to start, which clearly they see as more of an amuse bouche.

Sansho, Prague

Followed by the clams for me, and the steak tartar for Hen as she didn’t like clams. Hen’s portion was as big as a main course.

Sansho, PragueSansho, Prague

Then came some pork dumplings.  I practically licked the plate.

Sansho, Prague

Followed by the most incredible slow cooked pork belly. Pork is big in the Czech Republic, but this was pork with a difference: Asian flavours, a pepper sauce and spicy broccoli. Even the fat was melt in your mouth good.

Sansho, Prague

By this point we were feeling pretty full, but one of their signature dishes was about to be served: soft shell crab sliders with wasabi mayonnaise.  Beautifully cooked and if you like Bao, you’ll love this.

As we had counted five courses we were now expecting desert. Except then the main course arrived.  A huge Malaysian curry selection, with a stunning jasmine tea infused trout Asian salad, lamb rendang, coconut roti, 24 hour slow cooked beef and pak choi. Incredible.  Despite bursting at the seam we still finished it all.

Sansho, Prague

Desert, we were told, were three mini portions.  Not so mini. There was a cheese cake, a chocolate biscuit with macha ice cream and a sticky toffee pudding. The sticky toffee pudding was hands down the best I have ever had. I later read that it is one of their most praised dishes.
Sansho, Prague

The whole meal came to £50 each, with a bottle of wine and coffees. Such a highlight to our weekend, the friendliest service and food that will make you want to go back the next day.

If you’re looking for a good cocktail bar for pre or post dinner, try L’Fleur, Cash Only, Hemingway or Black Angel, all about a 10 – 15 minute walk away.

Sansho

Petrská 1170/25,

110 00 Praha 1-Nové Mesto

 

Blog, Italy, Rome

Taverna Trilussa, Rome – EAT

February 28, 2016
Taverna Trilussa, Rome

I’m never sure about taking restaurant recommendations from five star hotels, as find they often recommend expensive, pretentious restaurants which never go down well with me. But when JK Place recommended Taverna Trilussa in Trastevere (just across the bridge from Piazza Farnese), I was confident we were going to enjoy it.

If you’re looking for an upmarket local taverna, with excellent food and jolly, professional service, Trilussa is your place. Their signature is serving their (large array of) pasta dishes in a pan. The portion are ridiculously huge.  My pan of moorish gnocchi was so large that by the time I’d got half way I was so full even the thought of panna cotta was off putting (obviously after a short rest, we ordered multiple panna cottas).  

If you order just the ‘primi’ dishes (effectively the carb options – pasta, risotto and gnocchi), the prices are surprisingly low for such a well-known establishment.  Their wines too, are reasonable, even some of their Piedmonte wines.  They have a huge terrace which is covered and heated in the winter, and they’ll give you rugs to keep you warm. The guests are mostly Italians and some tourists; a nice mixture.

And when dinner is over you can grab a cocktail at the very trendy and completely different Coffee Pot (bizarrely serving tacos, sushi and mezcal – sounds terrible, is great).  Or head back across the bridge to the Camponeschi on Piazza Farnese for a cocktail or glass of wine.

Taverna Trilussa

Via del Politeama, 23 – 25

Blog, South Africa

Mariana’s, Stanford – An authentic lunch on the Garden Route

December 27, 2015
Mariana's, Stanford

If it wasn’t for Jo, a South African friend of ours, we would never have found – or heard of – this place.  This is not a place splashed all over Conde Nast Traveller or on Instagram, like the South African big hitters The Test Kitchen or La Colombe.  In fairness it’s not comparable to those restaurants, and nor does it want to be.

It’s a bit of a secret, and while I’d like to keep it that way, this place deserves sharing.  Not that it really needs any promotion, it’s always fully booked and has a definite loyal local following.  It’s location on the Garden Route, in the sleepy ‘town’ of Stanford, means that it works brilliantly as a stopover for lunch if you’re driving to Hermanus (15 minutes) or even Cape Town (1.5 hours).

Mariana's, Stanford
In a country which has become famous for its food, Mariana’s more than holds its own.  It was our most authentic, most ‘local’ experience.  Nothing fancy, nothing flashy.  It’s like eating at someone’s house, and in fact that is exactly what it is.  Mariana and husband Peter run – and own – the show. Mariana is a well known chef in her own right, and you’ll find her permanently in the kitchen, while the charming Peter plays the host – he waiters and explains the menu with great care and joy.

Mariana's, Stanford

The best tables are outside on the shaded terrace, with views of the organic garden and the luscious green countryside and surrounding mountains.  The menu is all organic and locally sourced product, all straight from their garden.   We loved the duck with lentils, the salads and the creme brûlée to finish.

Marianas, Garden RouteMariana's, Stanford

When the bill came we simply couldn’t believe it.  One of the best lunches we had, two courses each, with a carafe of wine – and it came to less than £15.

Highly recommend it to anyone driving the stunning Garden Route, and also to those staying in Hermanus (where, apart from The Marine and Birkenhead House, the standard of restaurants is far lower – and more touristy, than the rest of the Garden Route).

Mariana’s (The Owl’s Barn)

11 Du Toit Street

Stanford

Open for lunch Thursday – Sunday

Pre-booking necessary: 028341027

Photo credit: Mariana’s and some are my own

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