One of the most loved places for hippies, lefties, backpackers and young artists: the Forest Cafe, run by a DIY collective of artists, is the best place in Edinburgh to hang out in a non-capitalist fashion and meet like-minded people.
With free internet access, an art gallery, vegan and vegetarian food and stunning entertainment and events during and outside of the festival, this is the craziest place in town for dissidents and thinkers.
No matter if you want to watch films, read the latest protesting leaflets, or drop off your clothes and old books in the free shop, the Forest is the space for you. Just around from the university, it constantly changes.
It’s usually open from about 11am -11pm, licensed - sometimes with bring-your-own bottle - and during August it’s open till 3am. Also, it sells famous organic heather ale and seaweed beer.
3 Bristo Place, EH1 1EY;
tel: 0131 220 4538;
bus stop: 2, 42
Restaurant on top floor with fabulous views of the city. The food is good too, and the lunchtime prix fixe menu is value for money. This is the place to take someone you want to impress and still have a good meal. Service is also good, and not too intruding.
Harvey Nichols, 30-34 St. Andrew Sqaure, EH2 2AD;
tel: 0131 524 8350;
Fabulous seafood restaurant. Wide range of dishes although the fish soups are best value. They are supplied by their own mussel beds - everything is very fresh. Good range of real ales and specialist whisky. Tends to be crowded at lunchtime but well worth the queue.
61-65 Rose Street, EH2 2NH;
tel: 0131 225 5979
La Camargue is a French brasserie in Leith not too far from the Royal Yacht Britannia. A large lobster hangs over the door which does give you a clue that it is very much seafood orientated. What do you expect? Leith is a port after all! It does however cater for meat eaters as well, so fear not.
A two course of starter and main costs £16 and is good value. Starters include lobster soup, mussels, oysters and salmon. Mains range from fish such as Dover sole and halibut to meat such as venison and steak. Check out the website for the menu, but for £16 it allowed me to try things I have never tried before such as oysters. Staff are friendly and knowledgeable. The bar next door, Cameo bar, is worth a visit as well.
23 Commercial Street, Leith; tel: 0131 554 9999;
Transport: take the (very frequent) bus 22 from Princes street to get to Commercial Street;
Newly opened, already doing a roaring trade, and in a lively back street between Split Old Town and the ferry port, The Bistro Black Cat has something a bit different to offer. Sit on the shady terrace and enjoy a full English breakfast, filled croissants, enormous gourmet salads, tapas and a range of international cuisine at local prices. Or just drop by for a real cocktail with fresh ingredients during Happy Hour between 5 and 6pm.
You’ll find Bistro Black Cat, on the corner of Petrova and Šegvićeva, by walking east to the end of Split Riva, passing the market on your left, and then over the bridge over the railway lines on to Petrova. You’ll quickly come to Šegvićeva on your right and the welcoming sign of “Bistro Black Cat”. Or phone 021 490 284 for directions if you get lost! Open 8 am to 12 pm.
Down towards the Botanics and Stockbridge end of town, Circle is a welcome addition to Edinburgh's cafe scene. Located in a tall, cool, stone-walled, slate floored room, Circle offers great morning coffee and cakes, and good well-priced lunches - though be warned, it can be hard to get a table at lunchtime. Simple, well-cooked dishes at reasonable prices in great surroundings.
Circle, 1 Brandon Tce, Edinburgh
0131 624 4666
Fantasic pub by the river Thames. Great location/setting and excellent food and drink. Recently done up and plenty of outside tables, decks etc. Only drawback is the goose poo on some of the tables!
Queens Road, Thames Ditton - just outside Kingston.
Yank Sing is one of San Francisco's best Chinese dim sum restaurants. Makes the annual San Francisco Chronicle's Top 100 Bay Area Restaurants list.
Its Rincon Center atmosphere is more upmarket than Chinatown restaurants, since it appeals to nearby Financial District workers.
Before or after you eat, look at the murals of California history by Anton Refregier in the old Rincon Post Office Annex. A few of them don't whitewash the Golden State's turbulent labour and ethnic past.
Rincon Center, 101 Spear St. (at Mission St), Embarcadero/South of Market;
tel: (415) 957-9300; open: only for dim sum/lunch;
Best weekend brunch place in the city. This very cool Mission eatery is where the club kids go to come down and where the bedheads go to get some coffee. The eggs benedict is a must.
3296 22nd St, San Francisco 94110 CA (nearest cross st is Valencia);
tel: (415) 824-4088
In the same vein as the Mad Dog in the Fog (owned by the same guy), this is the city's premier sports bar.
And by sports, I mean sports. The Kezar is located across the street from Kezar Stadium, the former home of the city's five-time Super Bowl champion 49ers, now converted to a trim 10,000 seat athletics, football and soccer stadium. The atmosphere follows the same vein as the decor: distinctly 49ers-related, and NFL and college action packs the place to watch every game on its 24 TV screens. Similar crowds watch baseball, especially the Boston Red Sox, or ice hockey (an unusual interest of the owner - read more). March madness may bring the biggest crowds of all. If you want your American sport, the Kezar's the place to go.
But it's more than that.
The Kezar abuts the epicentre of the city's legendary Irish community (a community third only to New York and Boston) and there is a distinctly Irish undertone to the place, from the logo exhibiting Kezar Stadium's famous arch with a shamrock placed in it to the Irish bar staff and owner. Gaelic sports are in abundance here, and the bar is equally full for the Six Nations or Republic of Ireland internationals.
But while it's an Irish bar in America, it's not an “Irish” bar. Rather, it's a mishmash of European and American sensibilities. The Premiership and Champions League football attract huge crowds, mixing tourists, American fans, and expatriates. New Zealanders and Australians pack the pub for Tri-Nations rugby (shown live in the wee hours) and even Indians come for cricket. The World Cup saw the start of Kezar's newest demographic - Ukranian soccer fans.
Oh, the food's also top notch for a sports bar. You'll find your fish and chips, meat pies and your Irish fare, including shepherd's pie and the legendary Irish breakfasts munched on by hungry rugby and football fans, as well as American hamburgers and buffalo wings. But the owner's wife - a chef - adds some subtle touches in the form of salmon, penne pasta and excellent salads.
Beer flows freely here, with several varieties of American beers, English ales, and God's own Guinness.
770 Stanyan St, at the edge of the Haight-Ashbury district. Reachable by several bus lines, including the 71 Haight-Noriega, the 43 Masonic and the 6 Haight;
tel: (415) 386 9292
Very nice restaurant staffed by recovering alcoholics, ex-drug addicts etc, etc.
As a recovering alcoholic I lived in San Fran for 2 years during the dotcom boom and bust.
I lived just down the road from Delancy Street and spent many happy evenings there.
I loved it!
San Fran is cool too - but expensive...
600 Embarcadero Street
Recife's main city centre is a baffling and confusing place but I grew to love it there; it's not a conventional place to hang around but since when did travel always have to be about things that are beautiful in an obvious sense? Olinda and Porto de Galinhas are mainly idyllic, beautiful locations, of which Pernambuco state has no shortage, but Recife's main central islands have a strange charm.
At night, you need to be a bit streetwise, but there are the clubs and bars in the Recife Antigo area and the Patio de Sao Pedro and it's a great night out, but in the daytime, Recife city centre's more mundane sights are something that for some reason captivate me. It's not one thing in particular - it's the whole place. At certain times of the day, you get old men selling decrepit vinyl albums lined on the walls of the square to the side of Avenida Dantas Barreto. Near Igreja do Carmo, you'll find men singing Embolada, a mesmeric poetic duel that'll make you wonder how the hell they can summon the power to make you lose sense of where you are using just their voices and a pair of tambourines. You'll find people barbecuing meats and cheeses in unlikely corners and men fishing for crab off the bridges.
The oldest law faculty in the Americas is here, cheek by jowl with some of the best and cheapest lunch restaurants you may ever find; there are some faded Deco-style buildings and plenty of Portuguese colonial-style architecture too, with wrought iron British-designed bridges connecting the three islands, as well as a former prison that doubles up as a craft centre.
Among the narrow streets, men use makeshift sound systems to promote the clothes or radios or cutlery their shop is trying to sell you. This sort of thing would be considered noise pollution in most developed countries, but it makes for a strange sort of music in Recife; "Clothes shop MC on the M-I-C", said my friend.
Recife, Pernambuco, Brazil.
If any dish can be said to be typical of Provence, it has to be Bouillabaisse - and especially so of Marseilles. No two people will agree on what makes good Bouillabaisse, as fish vary so much along the coast. Ideally it is based on the bony rock fish, rascasse, along with whatever else is available.
Everything is cooked whole and simmered in a gigantic pot with potatoes until tender. The liquor is strained and served as a first course and the remaining chunks of fish and vegetables served as a stew. Now while our refined tastes might balk at eating heads, entrails, skin etc, be assured this is one of the top ten dishes in the world for taste.
One of the best views in San Francisco is to be found in the financial district, at the top of the Bank of America building (of Towering Inferno fame). Its bar/restaurant (Carnelian Room) is open to the public after three in the afternoon and has some breathtaking views of the bay.
Bank of America Building
555 California St. (Kearny St.)
San Francisco, CA 94104
The area around the Rialto is the best place to eat in, away from the menu turistico of the restaurants in the central areas. The most tempting food shops and bars are here. Cantina Do Mori is a city legend, dark and secret. It serves the best cichetti, a bit like Spanish Tapas, and cheap wine that is drunk by the market traders. Eat in this area and it’s unlikely that you will go hungry or be disappointed.
Food of course is the highlight of each day, and one of the best ways to enjoy it is to take an apartment and shop in the market. If eating out, it can be expensive as can everything in Venice. Remember if you want to sit outside to see and be seen, it may cost you twice as much as sitting inside. Order a panini or tramezzini at the bar and either stand while you eat or take it out to eat at the edge of a little canal or on the steps of a bridge, even cheaper still.
This far north, pasta tends to give way to risotto and with so much seafood from the lagoon, the choice is large. Most menus have a zuppa di pesce, or fish soup, again with an infinity of ingredients. Specifically Venetian is carpaccio, thin slices of beef served in mayonnaise, or bigoli in salsa, noodles in an anchovy or sardine sauce.
Cantina Do Mori: San Polo 429, with entrances on Calle Galiazza and Calle Do Mori, In San Polo;
tel: 041 522 5401
Directions: Go to the San Polo side of the Rialto Bridge, walk to the end of the market stalls, turn left, then immediately right, and look for small wooden cantina sign on left.
Probably the best pizzeria in Asia, and almost the world! I don't just say this because I was starved in Tibet and would have eaten anything. Instead, I lived in Kathmandu for 3 years and Fire and Ice never once failed me. We (and most other expats including Italians) used to go at least 3 times a week. Not only are the pizzas out of this world, but the atmosphere is great and the service is brisk and friendly. The place is always full of diplomats, NGO workers, Nepali and Indian families, Tibetan monks, mountaineers on their way to or back from the mountain, anthropologists etc. Run by an Italian lady, who has the Parmesan made in Lhasa. Unforgettable!
Sanchaya Kosh Bldg. 219, Tridevi Marg, Kathmandu (just at the entrance to Thamel, behind the carpark. Everyone knows it); tel: 01/250210
This is a great little cafe right at the top of North Laine. It's got classic tunes on the stereo - motown, soul and rock and roll - and the cash till was in Quadrophenia. In keeping with the retro theme everything is served on vintage crockery, think 50s Pyrex plates and coffee cups. They have a good range of sandwiches and cake as well as coffee and a lovely coke float. In the summer you can sit outside on the street, or on a patio at the back. It makes the walk up the hill totally worth it, and it's the perfect way to round off a shopping trip.
37 Sydney St, Brighton, BN1 4EP;
For a special and fun Danish experience head off to Ida Davidsen. The founder invented the now traditional and loved smorrebrod. It can have as many toppings as you can think of. Be warned that tables are hard to come by unless you've made a reservation.
Your meal should be accompanied by the traditional Aquavit or schnapps, which is certainly not recommended for lightweights!
Store Kongensg, 70, Copenhagen;
tel: 33 91 3655;
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