There are three, three-star restaurants all within easy reach of Barcelona - El Raco de Can Fabes in Sant Celoni, Sant Pau in San Pol de Mar and El Bulli near Roses. Your chances of getting into El Bulli are slim, but the other two offer some of the best food in Europe.
If your budget can't stretch to three-stars, but you're after some inventive, exciting food, then try the evening menu at OT in Gracia. The eight course tasting menu should only cost you 45 euros and the staff and restaurant itself are charming.
This is a restaurant on the ground floor of a modest hotel. The line forms outside the closed doors and entry begins at 8pm. Shortly after, the place is filled, bustling with animated conversation and reasonably priced gourmet food.
Bannys Oriental Hotel, Argenteria 37; tel: 93 310 5094
Nightlife/entertainment.Don't miss the extraordinary spectacle of Plaza Garibaldi, where there can often be upwards of fifty Mariachi bands touting for business at any one time. The atmosphere is friendly, safe and more than a little mad. You can listen in the open air, or take a table in one of the salones, of which Tenampa is amongst the best. Bands comprising a dozen or more musicians move between diners and drinkers, offering songs for a few pounds each. There's an irony-free cigarette girl, and even a man with an electric-shock machine to test your machismo.
PastaSentalen. A cheap (by Norwegian standards) Italian resturaunt. Lots of pasta and pizza at reasonable prices.
Across the road from the bus station, you will need to through a underpass. It is near the council building, which is very big and has a digital clock on its top
Escape the hordes who are walking mugging targets on Las Ramblas, by making base camp in the hills of the city.
La Zona Alta refers to an entire neighbourhood in the north of the city and it encompasses the familiar sights (Parc Guell) and new experiences (Calle Verde).
Rub shoulders with students, dissidents and street performers who are as committed to drinking as they are to people watching.
Make Calle Verde your home and venture down the hill to have a drink in Placa de la Vireina - a beautiful and buzzing square perfect for pulling up a chair and admiring the street life
Get away from the morose little groups of Stag Weekenders trudging, heartily sick of the sight of one other, up and down the seedy Ramblas and head for the Gracia district. Although swallowed up by Barcelona’s nineteenth century expansion – the Eixample – Gracia maintains a certain ‘village’ feel. In London terms think, perhaps, Islington or Hoxton, but without the advertising ‘creatives’ with irritatingly trendy facial hair, obviously. And, with its woody interior and gingham tablecloths, the taverna El Glop embodies this air of semi-rusticity.
The name of the restaurant itself – meaning ‘The Gulp’, ‘The Glug’ or ‘The Guzzle’ – says ‘earthiness’ and this is reflected in the hearty, traditional Catalan fare on offer. A whopping great menu includes plump meaty sausages and lavish mixed grills featuring veal and lamb or duck and quail (or ‘lawyer’ as Dick Cheney might call it). Pisc-o-philes are sumptuously catered for too. Try hake (merluza) – a fish whose existence is barely acknowledged in the UK – and you’ll find that it is the cod’s more talented (and more tasty) younger brother.
Add on plenty of glasses of light and spicy Catalan red - poured into carafes directly from casks in the restaurant and you still won’t be paying more than 20-odd euros a head.
Oh, and when I was last there everyone got a parting gift encapsulating the homely, bucolic nature of the experience: an El Glop, er, mouse-mat.
Sant Lluis 24 (corner of Sant Lluis and Montmany), 08012 Barcelona;
nearest Metro: Passeig de Gracia; www.tavernaelglop.com
It’s a cafe/bistro best brunch in Montreal, right in the heart of the Plateau, the most atmospheric area in Montreal on the St-Denis. The hollandaise actually tastes like it’s homemade. Nice outdoor terrace in summer, very cosy in the winter. Almost Parisian.
3635 rue St-Denis; tel: (514) 843 4908; nearest metro: Sherbrook
A French restaurant with a casual atmosphere and friendly staff, the food was really good. Eight courses including wine comes to about £30-50 per person, very good value.
975 Ploenchit Road in the building between
the InterContinental and the Holiday Inn;
BTS Chidlom, exit 7;
tel: 02 656 15312
Open daily 11:30-14:30, 18:00-24:00
In a town full of tempting zakaroplasteia (sweet shops), Nentim is perhaps the most famous, offering as it does an amazing range of authentic Turkish sweets, ranging from several kinds of baklava and wrapped pastries to cream-laden taouk giouksou and ekmek kantaïfi, as well as the famous dondurma- a whipped sort of Turkish ice cream made of sheep’s milk.
But the offering that will really send you to the dentist is the unique local favourite: the soutzouk loukoum, a block of loukoumi dusted over with confectioner’s sugar, all laid out in a curling sausage shape.
Vasileus Konstantinou 35, Xanthi
Spectacular Thai-fusion restaurant in Williamsburg. A key destination in the hipster enclave of Brooklyn (think Shoreditch, but less twattish). When you enter the restaurant and are greeted with mirror balls, transparent chairs hanging from the ceiling and leather bean bags to one side and pod-like toilet cubicles shrouded in the centre of the bar area to the other side, you could be forgiven for thinking that you're in the chill out room of an uber-cool techno club. Oh no. Order yourself a fierce mojito or one of their speciality martinis (lychee was particularly tasty, I recall) relax and wait to be seated.
This place is big, mega-busy, but worth waiting for. As you're led through into the restaurant itself, you're met with the centre-piece of the room; a reflective pool of water with a Buddha statue presiding over it. The cosy tables alongside the water feature are quite romantic, while the cool design of the space and the various nooks and crannies also allow for bench style tables that can accommodate large groups of friends.
The place is always buzzing and the food is first rate and reasonably priced. More of a south-east Asian fusion than strictly Thai (hence the SEA name) the usual red/green curries and pad thai noodle dishes are all sublime while the fresh fish and sea-food specialities are awesome too. A very cool restaurant in one of the more interesting neighbourhoods of New York.
114 N 6th St (between Berry and Whythe St), Brooklyn, NY
Take the L train to Bedford Ave station (the first stop in Brooklyn when leaving Manhattan); tel: 718 384 8850
Many Czech dishes leave you counting how many years you can lop off your life expectancy, and fried cheese is no exception. Basically a Czech version of eidam, fried in breadcrumbs, it's politically incorrect but just the job on a cold winter's day. And to complete the slow motion suicide it's usual to order it with chips and tartar sauce. Smažák, as it's known colloquially, is best when it's just been served and the cheese oozes out. Delicious. You won't find this delicacy in Prague's more snooty eateries but it's a staple of the city's more humble restaurants and pubs. The ubiquitous street kiosks sell it too, with ketchup or tartar sauce as an accompaniment.
I was charged in a certain Budapest cafe for 'cigi' (cigarette - though I didn't buy any) and 'semmi' (nothing!), both of which were listed on my receipt. What chuckles followed me out of the cafe! The advice, then, I guess, is not to speak loud English, and to throw in some Magyar words, with feigned authority.
Go there for the vast array of tasty Belgian and German beers at low cost. You will inevitably get hungry and descend into the 'Jungle' restaurant in the cellar where a plethora of paper mache zoo animals peer at you as you tuck into giant portions of steak and veg type fare with names like 'cry of the rhino'. Great value with roars and squawks to keep you amused throughout the meal.
VI. Jókai u. 30
Tucked away on a quiet street in Fitzrovia, this trendy five-star hotel is home to an intimate basement cinema. The Sunday night film club costs about £35 and includes a three-course meal at Oscar, the hotel's restaurant, and entrance to a film screening.
It's an affordable way to wine, dine and flop in front of a celluloid classic. The bright orange leather seats are pretty stylish and roomy enough to snuggle up in the back row-would really impress on a first date.
15-17 Charlotte Street, London W1T 1RJ; 020 7806 2000;
Goodge Street station is the nearest underground;
A lovely low-lit restaurant just off Charlotte Street, serving top-end Chinese/Thai/Vietnamese food in a French colonial-style townhouse.
Not the cheapest but perfect date or anniversary territory.
1 Percy Street, London W1T 1DB
Worth buying if you plan to use only public transport to get around, intend to visit several museums/sites a day and eat at tourist restaurants.
On the downside, quite a few of the museums are free to enter anyway; lots of the sites we had planned to visit were closed over the winter even though they were still listed in the Budapest Guide brochure as being open; none of the restaurants we fancied were part of the Budapest Card scheme and those listed generally weren't for us.
On our five-day break in January we found that we just about broke even on the cost of purchasing the card. The main benefit we found was the convenience of hopping on and off buses, trams and trains without having to get our tickets punched each time.
Having the card also encouraged us to travel further afield and do more things (to get our money's worth) than we might have done otherwise. For those who like more freedom to choose where they go and what they visit it could be worth exploring the ordinary travel cards as an alternative.
Can be purchased from Tourist Information outlets and most hotels. You can buy it at a discount in advance on the internet and have it delivered to your hotel. www.budapestinfo.hu/en/budapest_card
For regular travel cards: www.bkv.hu/angol/jegyek/index.html
Hungarians have their main meal of the day at lunch. Most restaurants provide a three course lunch menu for a fixed price, around 1000-1500 forints (4-5 pounds), substantially lower that the price of individual items. Look for ‘nap menu’ on the boards. Good places for this include Menza on List Ferenc ter, and Dupla on Kertész utca also close to List Ferenc ter.
It may be the ugliest building in Budapest but the views across the River and the all day pudding buffet, with excellent service, made it a superb location for a three day stay.
Also try the Pierrot Cafe in old Buda for lunch. Relaxed pavement dining with lovely food.
Then the Statue Park, six miles out of town, is fascinating.
Apaczai Csere Janos Ut 4; tel: 1 266 7000; marriott.com/property/propertypage/BUDHU
New Argentine steak house in Pest, good size portions and excellent table service. The fillet is great and in the spirit of the Falklands War you can even buy British, (although not on the same plate). Good selection of Hungarian wine too.
District 5, Vámház körút 6; tel: 1 411 1750; www.steak.hu
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