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Casual

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, Eat, Healthy, London

Casita Andina, Soho

August 9, 2016
Casita Andina, Soho

Clever clever Martin Morales.  Introducing affordable (and delicious) Peruvian food to London (Ceviche)?  Check.  Expanding into Shoreditch with a focus on the Peruvian Andres (Andina)?  Check.  And now, the last master stroke: opening a completely gluten free, super healthy (but still Peruvian) new restaurant in Soho.   Enter Casita Andina.  Andina’s little sister restaurant but with an increased focus on health, without of course sacrificing on taste.

I went for the soft launch last week, at lunch time.  The staff were clearly still a little confused with what was going on.  One lovely girl didn’t really understand the menu, as hard as she tried.  I got a call from the reservations team twice after I had left, asking me if I was still coming for lunch.  But this is all completely forgiven because a) it’s a soft opening, so these problems are inevitable, b) the food makes up for it all.

Casita Andina, Soho

They offer a great lunch time deal: two plates for £10.  I suggest if you’re dining with someone (which I hope you are), that you choose four different dishes between you.  One of the ceviche dishes (I’d go with the classic) is an obvious must.  Super delicious.  We also had the croquettas with a twist (pork and liver, with chilli jam) – unusual and surprisingly moorish.  From the hot plates we chose the Salmon Scabeche (perfect, and I love the sweet potato with it) and the Aji de Gallini (chicken with botija olive and a quails egg).  I’d never had chicken quite like it, it looked almost like scrambled eggs (without wanting to put you off) but was delicious, if not for everyone.

Casita Andina, Soho

The place itself is super cute, great location, small but with so much charm.  The Peruvian theme is of course very apparent, like at Andina, but without it being too naff.

The perfect lunch place, if not light dinner option.  I shall return.

Casita Andina

31 Great Windmill St,

London W1D 7LP

Photo credit: Casita Andina

Argentina, Blog

Negro. Cueva de Cafe, Buenos Aires – DRINK

November 11, 2015
Negro, Buenos Aires

Argentina is not known for its coffee, and during my trip through the country I did observe that the coffee was not quite up to the European standard. But Buenos Aires is different.  Apparently especially in the past few years the cafe scene has changed quite substantially, with lots of independent, quirky cafes cropping up which – most importantly – serve good coffee.

Negro, Buenos Aires
Negro is one of them, a caffeine triumph.  Located in central Buenos Aires, close to the famous Obelisk on Plaza de la República and the charming Plaza San Martin, this is slightly away from the touristy areas and as local as it gets. The interiors are all exposed brickwork, a bustling bar, and industrial-style lighting.  Locals come in to grab a take away coffee, others come in for their lunch break or even for a business meeting, and many just have a quick espresso and a croissant and then depart.  The coffee is excellent – and their coffee machine was branded Aurelia – so I liked it instantly. It’s a place you could easily expect in Soho (London).

Negro, Buenos AiresNegro, Buenos Aires
But almost the best thing were the people. Having stopped by quite a few cafes, I had found some staff to be quite unfriendly, or indifferent. Here it was the contrary, the staff were wonderful.  Helpful, curious, patient. As a solo blogger-tourist, I felt completely at ease here.

Negro, Buenos AiresNegro, Buenos Aires

Apart from a strong shot of espresso, I opted for their ginger lemonade and it was delicious. Refreshing and not too sweet – just what I needed after a morning of walking through the streets of Buenos Aires in the sun.

If you’re hungry then try 180 Burger Bar down the road, meant to be pretty good too.

Negro

Suipacha 637

Buenos Aires

Photo Credit: Negro

Barcelona, Blog, Spain

Federal Cafe, Barcelona – EAT

September 28, 2015
Federal Cafe, Barcelona

Some may say it’s a sin to go to an Australian cafe when you’re in Barcelona.  But Federal Cafe is an exception.  It’s a place which does brunch so well it can’t be missed, even if you’re in a city which offers some of the country’s best tapas and local cuisine.

So there are in fact two Federal Cafes in Barcelona, which I didn’t realise at first.  I went to the original, in the cosy neighbourhood of San Antoni, which is very popular with locals (so I didn’t feel too bad about abandoning tapas for brunch), but it also has a sister cafe in Gothic, which may be a little more central for some.

Federal Cafe, Barcelona

When I got the tour of Hotel Brummell (a stunning boutique hotel in Poble Sec, Barcelona), I fell in love with the interior design of the place.  I was told that the Australian duo who were responsible for the design, Blankslate, also had a brunch place:  Federal Cafe.  Funnily enough it was already on my hit list, and I could see some clear similarities in the design.  It has that slight Scandi feel (even though the place was inspired by the Aussie town Federal, near Byron Bay), with lots of wood and huge amounts of light and block colouring (I love their use of dark grey and bright yellow).  Their roof terrace was fully booked, so we sat inside on the first floor, by the wide open windows.   Downstairs there is one huge window which is completely open, and feels like you’re sitting outside.  I love it.

Federal Cafe, Barcelona

The menu offers exactly what I love for brunch.  It has the avocado/sourdough bread/poached egg combo which never goes amiss (but admittedly is not hugely original).  And then the epic french toast with poached pears and creme fraiche option.  Or a smoked salmon omelette.  And finally some seriously delicious Turkish eggs (and the presentation really wins here).

Federal Cafe, BarcelonaFederal Cafe, BarcelonaFederal Cafe, Barcelona

We found the service hit and miss, but the coffee so good it made up for it.

In short, it’s a keeper, whether it’s Spanish or not.   Should you find yourself in Spain and feel the need for a good Aussie brunch, then not only are there two Federal Cafes in Barcelona, but there’s also one in Madrid, and one opening soon in Valencia.

Federal Cafe, Barcelona

Federal Cafe

Carrer Parlament 39, Barcelona

Photos are my own

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