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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

Honey & Co, Fitzrovia

September 26, 2016
Honey & Co, Fitzrovia

Word of advice.  When a restaurant says it’s fully booked when trying to book a table online, don’t let this put you off going.  I’ve been wanting to go to the much praised Fitzrovian restaurant Honey & Co for ages now, but every time I try and book, it says ‘nothing available’ or offers me the 9:30pm slot.  So last week, having read that they do allow some walk ins, I decided I was just going to risk it.

I arrived at 6:30pm and it was full.  This was to be expected, and I was not put off.  Things looked positive when I spoke to a very friendly waitress, who said she’d take my name and number, and call me when a table was available.  Seemed reasonable.  My friend Emily and I grabbed a glass of wine at the pub next door and eyed up Honey & Co’s small outside terrace.  It was a beautiful, warm September evening, but we could sense that people were leaning towards eating inside.  After about 30 minutes I got a call, ‘We’ve got a table free, but it’s outside I’m afraid.  When can you be here?’   Bingo.  We were there in seconds.

There is one disappointing thing to mention first, then we’ll focus on the positives.  Emily is a vegetarian and, despite the Middle East being so good at vegetarian food, she was disappointed to have only one choice of main course.  Which was, incidentally, a very delicious baked aubergine dish.  But still, I had five other options to choose from.  Funny also that all the starters were vegetarian.  It just doesn’t quite make sense.  Perhaps they should offer the starters also in larger portions as mains?

Honey & Co, Fitzrovia

However, moving on swiftly.  The starters were delicious – we shared a basket of fresh bread (how do they make pitta quite so good?) and a labaneh and a spicy pumpkin and pepper dish.  The ideal first course, filling but not overly so.  I could have licked the plate.  As Emily devoured her aubergine, I opted for the roasted lamb salad with plums, tarragon, greengages and fennel seeds as my main course.  While lamb is my big go to, the rest of the accompaniments were not very ‘me’ (I don’t really like fruit in my food, unless it’s pudding).  But the combination worked beautifully and it felt both healthy and delicious.

Honey & Co, Fitzrovia

The place has a very local, neighbourhood feel to it.  Everyone is friendly, the staff lovely, and there is a pleasant buzz about the place.  It’s one of those places which makes you want to return.  It’s as far from a chain restaurant as you can get.

Too full for pudding, I decided I would return here for brunch, as this seems to be most legendary here.  Since drinking wine at the pub at 11am at the pub next door may not be quite so appropriate, I might have to surrender and actually book that (well) in advance.

Honey & Co

25 Warren St

London W1T 5LZ

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

Restaurante Teresina, Bologna

July 10, 2016
Restaurante Teresina, Bologna

We came to Teresina on our last day in Bologna.  It had been raining all morning and we were departing that afternoon.  So I already had the slight ‘Sunday blues’ feeling.  But then we had lunch here, and the ‘Bolognese’ was so good, it instantly cheered me up!

In the summer, Teresina’s terrace must be a lovely place to enjoy a delicious lunch or dinner al fresco.  While the terrace doesn’t have any views as such, it is set back from the street, so it’s quiet.  Inside is also pleasant: simple like you’d expect from a local trattoria.  The staff are helpful and friendly, and the service quick and professional.

While Italians aren’t known for their bread, the bread here was excellent.  Warm and soft, I couldn’t resist a few slices to add to the carb fest that had been our weekend in this magical city.

Restaurante Teresina, Bologna

They have all the traditional, local dishes you’d expect in Bologna.  The tortellini broth, various fresh pastas, and a few meat and seafood dishes.  While no trattoria would ever serve what we know as ‘spaghetti Bolognese’, they do serve fresh tagliatelle with a Bolognese Ragu.  I’d highly recommend it.

Rob’s parents liked it so much they returned for dinner after Rob and I departed.

Restaurante Teresina 

via Oberdan 4, 40126

Bologna

 

Blog, Bologna, Italy

Caffe Terzi, Bologna – DRINK

July 10, 2016
Caffe Terzi, Bologna

I love scouting out the best places for coffee.  In Italy it’s not hard to find a good coffee.  But Caffe Terzi offers a very cute venue as well as excellent, beautifully presented coffee (or tea, if you prefer).   And you know you’re in the right place when all the locals are lined up at the bar sipping Espressos.

Caffe Terzi, Bologna

But Caffe Terzi isn’t just a place to shot an Espresso and go.  Its colourful red and yellow striped wall paper and small but cosy sitting area makes it a pretty place to stop and rest your weary feet after a morning of sightseeing.  Even the biscuits you are served with your coffee are phenomenal. Terzi reminded me a bit of a cross between a Viennese Cafe and an Italian one.  The staff are all exceptionally friendly and helpful, and I’d happily have stayed here all morning sampling their various coffees and teas.

Caffe Terzi, BolognaCaffe Terzi, Bologna

It’s tiny, so blink and you might miss it.  But make sure you make the effort to come here for at least one coffee, because it truly is the best coffee in town.

Caffe Terzi

Via Guglielmo Oberdan, 10/d

 

Blog, Bologna, Italy

Vineria Favalli, Bologna – DRINK

May 22, 2016
Vineria Favelli, Bologna

Wine bars are my favourite places to drink, and Italians get them so right.  As we wandered through the winding streets of Bologna we came across a charming looking wine bar, which seemed ideal for a pre-dinner drink.

We seemed to have picked the right place.  This is really a local hangout, right in the centre of town.  We got lucky upon arrival as a table just came available, but it’s tiny and you definitely want to sit in the front room (there are more tables at the back, but it’s a bit quiet and lacking of atmosphere).  A lot of people just stood by the bar sipping wine, and they could have done with another member of staff.

Vineria Favalli, Bologna

But the wines were excellent, and it had such a wonderful, upbeat, authentic Italian feel.  Further more, the setting was delightful, and you’re in the best location for dinner afterwards (Cesarina is 2 minutes walk, and Drogheria della Rossa probably about 5 minutes).

Definitely one of the best – and non-touristy – bars we came across.

Vineria Favalli

Via Santo Stefano, 5/A

Blog, Bologna, Italy

Ristorante Cesarina, Bologna – EAT

May 22, 2016
Cesarina, Bologna

Bologna is full of beautiful squares and countless stunning churches, but the one square that stands out is the Piazza Santa Stefano, famous for having seven churches.  At night it’s incredibly atmospheric, and so there are few places like Cesarina in Bologna: where you can eat delicious food and (weather permitting) sit outside and enjoy the view of the square.

Cesarina, Bologna

We were not so lucky with the weather, so sat inside – a lovely and refined dining room, very Italian, simple but elegant.  I would always encourage you to book, and if possible to book a table outside, under the charming portico which Bologna is so famous for.

It was here that we enjoyed a dish we had long been waiting to try, Bologna’s signature dish: the tortellini in ‘brodo’ (chicken broth).  We all had this as a starter and it was well worth the wait.  I then continued carb loading and had a wonderful asparagus risotto, which the Italians do so well.  The rest of the party had a mixture of beef and other pasta dishes.  The food was really good, the prices fair and the service excellent.

Cesarina, Bologna

To finish with, while some of us had sambuccas, I was very tempted by the pistachio semi freddo, which I called the leaning tower of Bologna.  A little like panna cotta, but not quite as soft, it was exquisite, and a wonderful end to the dinner.  Rob and I then headed into the more student part of town for a drink at Le Stanze (a bar in a church, worth it for a drink).

Cesarina, Bologna

Cesarina

Via Santo Stefano, 19/B,

40125 Bologna

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

The Farm Letna, Prague – EAT

March 26, 2016
The Farm Letna, Prague

Prague’s historical centre is very beautiful, there’s no denying that.  If you venture slightly out of the main hub you will also be ale to avoid the rubbish tourist traps, and find plenty of fantastic restaurants, like Sansho and Field, and great bars like Hemingway and L’Fleur.

But there are new up-and-coming areas of Prague which you should keep an eye out for.  Areas like Holešovice, across the river and North of the castle.  Letna is another area which is getting more and more air time.  It’s known for its park – the largest park in the city, high on a hill and overlooking Prague.  Perhaps not the most beautiful park perhaps, but there’s a great beer garden and it has brilliant views.  Walk a little further and you’ll find the Farm – it will seem like you’re in the middle of no where but then suddenly you’ll understand where everyone is: having brunch here.  I love it.

The Farm Letna, Prague

Be warned: during the weekend this place is heaving.  The staff look slightly harassed but remain friendly.  So it can take time to get served but they do their best.  They offer juices based on the vegetables and fruit they have in stock, mine was with carrot, ginger and celery.  Delicious.  Their waffles are meant to be incredible too.

The Farm Letna, Prague

Other foodie places worth visiting in Letna apparently are Bistro 8 and Bitcoin Coffee.

If you want to add something cultural to you visit, then you must include a visit to the National Museum (about 10 minutes walk from The Farm).  Here you’ll find some of the most unique paintings I’ve ever seen by Alphonse Mucha, a series of 20 canvases portraying the history of the slav people: the ‘Slav Epic’.  They are huge (the largest is 6 by 8 metres) and quite unforgettable.

Mucha Slav Epic

The Farm Letna

Korunova?ní 17, 170 00 Prague

Blog, Italy, Rome

Roscioli, Rome – EAT

March 25, 2016

When I lived in Rome, six years ago now, we used to walk past Roscioli all the time.  And sometimes pop in and buy something delicious from the Deli.  But we never ate here.

When I returned in January, the delightful Bellini Travel recommended I try it for lunch.  And wow, what a lunch we had.  A table overflowing with delectable antipasto.

The stuffed oxtail stew courgette flowers deserve a paragraph of their own.  I’ve eaten a lot of courgette flowers in my time.  I love battered courgette flowers, stuffed with mozzarella and anchovy (they do these brilliantly at La Quercia).  But this was in a league of its own.

Roscioli, Rome

The service is hit and miss here, perhaps a little typically Roman.  Their pastas looked amazing, but we stuck to fat balls of creamy burrata with baby dry tomatoes, large plates of cured meats (their prosciutto is insane) and a wintery salad of artichokes, carrots and rocket, washed down with a crisp dry white wine.

Photo by pbgastronomica.com

This was our first meal in Rome of the weekend, and what a perfect introduction to our favourite city.  After lunch here make sure you visit Piazza Mattei and see the Fontana della Tartarughe (turtle fountain), and afterwards wander around the Jewish Ghetto, check out the colossal French Embassy (also known as Piazza Farnese) on Piazza Farnese and walk down Via Guilia.  It’s a wonderful part of the city.

Roscioli

Via dei Giubbonari, 21/22

Photo credit: my own and pbgastronomica.com

Blog, Italy, Rome

The best Brunch places in Rome

March 25, 2016
Coromandel, Rome

Romans don’t really do brunch.  An espresso for €1, standing at the bar perhaps, or a quick pastry on the go.  Brunch is not really a ‘thing’ in Rome, nothing like the craze in London.  But in the past years the city has started adapting to tourists needs and wants, and brunch is right up there.  Still, manage your own expectations as the standard is not near what you’d expect in New York or London.

Here are some of my favourite brunch hangouts in Rome:

LA. VI. LATTERIA & VINERIA for the buffet

Via Tomacelli, 23

Arguably more a lunch than a brunch place, but brilliant for its €20 per person all you can eat brunch.  Ideal if you’re not quite sure what you feel like, as they have everything from pasta to incredible salads, meats and vegetables.  Definitely leave space for pudding, as they have stacks of pancakes, incredible tiramisu and cheesecake.  They have a huge terrace/balcony which is clearly the place to sit when the weather is good (January was a little too cold).  Inside the interiors are attractive, with high ceilings and quirky touches.  Apparently also quite fun for cocktails in the evening.

La. Vi. RomeLa. Vi. Rome

 

COROMANDEL – for your traditional brunch

Via di Monte Giordano, 60

This is probably you’re best bet if you’re looking for a traditional brunch.  They offer everything from pastries, to pancakes to eggs in all kinds and forms.  However, before you get all excited to see Eggs Benedict on the menu, I’d strongly avoid this option.  They just can’t get it right, trust me.  What they do do very well are juices, coffee and pastries.  The pain au chocolat was fresh and still warm.  The pancakes with berry coulis were simple, but good too (and huge portion). The place itself is very centrally located and cute, a cosy place to start the day.

Coromandel, RomeCoromandel, Rome

 

ACTIVE NATURAL EATING – for the healthy brunch

Piazza di Pietra, 62

Rome is all about pasta and pizza, and bottles of excellent red wine.  Healthy juices aren’t first on your agenda.  But should you want a health boost, head here.  Here you can enjoy a huge range of juices and smoothies, as well as salads and soups, bowls of fruit and healthy snacks.  It’s well done and a nice place to sit and relax, or grab something for on the go.

Active Natural Eating, Rome

 

PLATZ GRAND BISTROT – for brunch on a piazza

Piazza Sant’ Eustacio, 54

We came across this place during our wanderings through ‘centro storico’ and I liked the large terrace of the quiet Piazza Sant’ Eustacio.  We had excellent cappuccinos, juices and croissants and enjoyed watching Rome go by.  The interiors are contemporary, and it’s a good place to sit to read the newspapers they offer.  The service is slow, but it was a busy Sunday morning.  I’m not sure about the rest of the food, but if you’re looking for a simple breakfast then it’s perfect.

Platz Grand Bistrot, Rome

 

Blog, Czech Republic, Prague

Field, Prague – EAT

March 14, 2016

Sunday lunch at Field is a ridiculous treat.  Only in Prague, where the prices are still relatively low (despite tourism continuing to grow here), can you have a ‘casual’ lunch at a restaurant which in London would be saved for a very special occasion.

Field, PragueField, Prague

Field is a relative newcomer, and so far has been well received by most.  There are some who have criticised it though.  Not for the standard of the food, or the decor, or the service.  But for ‘mimicking’ other fine dining restaurants and top chefs, like Heston Blumenthal.  They have been branded, to some extent, as copycats.  But to be honest, if you serve food as good as they do, I don’t care if there are similarities to fine dining establishments where they charge £50 for a spoonful of seaweed foam. Or a bowl of snail porridge.

Field, Prague

The food here is exquisite, both in taste and presentation.  And it’s also the first (and, shamefully, only) Czech food we had.  Czech food with a twist.  The design of the restaurant is minimalist and veering towards my very favourite Scandi interiors, a mixture of simple furniture, light woods and big airy windows.  But there are touches which remind you why the restaurant is called Field: a hark, a spade, other farming appliances are carefully positioned throughout the restaurant.  Not gimmicky, just present enough for you to notice them.  The ceilings are quite extraordinary too, and I’m not quite sure what I thought of the light installation.  But it was certainly interesting.

Field, PragueField, Prague

So, you can either be stuck up and try and interpret Field as being unoriginal because they (sometimes) serve food with hints of recognisable dishes and techniques, or you can just appreciate it for what it is: a beautiful restaurant, with wonderful food and very fair pricing.  I chose the latter, and left very content.

Oh, and did I mention it was Michelin star?  I only just realised that myself…

Field

U Milosrdných 12,

110 00 Praha 1-Staré M?sto

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