Ok, so a trattoria just off the Florence-Siena motorway may not sound like the most picturesque spot for lunch, but don't be deterred. Bar dell'Orso offers up a classic take on the best of Sienese cooking. Take a seat on the terrace with a view of the perfectly preserved medieval walls of Monteriggioni, and feast on an antipasti plate of cured Tuscan hams, followed by homemade pici - a long, square-edged, thick pasta - covered in a tomato and garlic or pecorino and black pepper sauce. Walk off lunch by taking a long leisurely stroll to the nearby Romanesque church of Abbadia a Isola (for directions have a copy of James Lasdun's excellent 'Walking and Eating in Tuscany and Umbria' to hand).
Take a day trip to Montalcino, a medieval walled town set high on a hill. Spend the morning wandering around its narrow streets and squares before going to sample the world famous Brunello wine. The most atmospheric place to do this is in the Enoteca La Fortezza, situated inside the 14th century fortress that dominates the skyline. The stone vaults are filled with excellent wines and you can also buy local prosciutto, salami and pecorino cheese. Glasses of Brunello start at about €4 and the friendly staff are happy to help if you need some advice on which wine to choose.
Boreas could be considered a “gastro” tapas restaurant, serving traditional tapas with quality ingredients and a modern, international twist. It has a relaxed atmosphere, and a specials board that changes regularly, with plenty of choice for vegetarians and pescatarians. Tapas are a little pricier than your bog-standard bar but the quality is definitely there.
Make a table reservation to avoid disappointment
Alameda de Hercules, 61, Sevilla, 41002
+34 954 916334
La Alameda is considered the more indie part of the city, where many bars and restaurants have sprouted after a recent renovation. It is a short stroll away from the city centre, but is a hive for food and entertainment.
Google map: bit.ly/mm1TIV
Sure, you get the awful designer copies and culture shock when you first enter the souks but it's full of the most delicate, pretty and (very) cheap products you could possibly want. For those looking for a slightly more colourful or cultured home, I highly recommend this part of the world - but I'd only go for a day or so. It can get overwhelming, but so long as you know what you're doing, you'll be fine. I plan on heading back within the next couple of years so I can properly kit out my home.
Central Marrakech - Morocco
Google map: bit.ly/mbyDKc
This amazing sculpture garden in a wonderful Tuscan landscape has such a range of sculptures, some are funny, some are deeply moving, and all are interesting. There is also an interesting small restaurant, with really nice food including a set menu of the day. They loan out big white umbrellas on rainy days, which added to the enjoyment. Oh and there are domestic pigs by the car park which we also enjoyed ...
It's a pop-up Bombay beach bar located right in front of the Hayward Gallery - and the huge cuddly toy fox! - so if you are emotionally exhausted after Tracey Emin's exhibition, you can gather your strength with an exotic cocktail, some naan bread rolls stuffed with tasty things, and a loud blast of Bollywood and Bangra tunes, all right by the Thames. A fun venue.
Dishoom Chowpatty Beach Bar
Pops up from 13 May to 4 October
Queen Elizabeth Hall Terrace
Belvedere Road, London Se1
Nearest tube: Waterloo or Embankment
Open Mon-Fri noon until late, Sat-Sun 10am until late
Google map: bit.ly/kyKaPS
I couldn't work out why this bar, pizzeria and cafe in Streatham would call itself 'The Waterfront' when, apart from the unseasonal June showers, there were no other drops of water in sight. The friendly lady behind the bar explained that a tavern had stood on this site for centuries and it was the last stop before the sea, on the old road to Brighton.
Horses were tethered and watered on Streatham Common, just across the road, and coaches pulled up to allow thirsty drivers and coachmen to wet their whistles before the drive to the coast.
Nowadays, The Waterfront is a large, cavernous, yet friendly bar space and they serve excellent Italian inspired dishes: bruschetta, great pizzas and classy salads. There's a good choice of beers, plus icy cider; something almost like a slushy, but with bite. Organic ice cream and home-made desserts can be enjoyed in the garden, on the decking.
This cosy restaurant with a clear and varied menu serves up delicious Tibetan and Chinese food.
I went for the Thenthuk veg soup with flat noodles for 65 Rs (95p) and fried vegetable momos (Chinese dumplings), which were the nicest I'd had anywhere. The soup was warming and extremely satisfying - ideal if you're finding Darjeeling a little chilly.
Other options are Bhagthuk soup, which as far as I can tell is the same as Thenthuk but with round noodles, spring rolls, plus lots of other noodle dishes like chop suey and chow mein.
The fresh mango juice I had was mouth-wateringly tasty.
Kunga also does breakfasts, including Tibetan bread for 60 Rs (90p) which is made with eggs and fried, resulting in a texture a bit like doughnuts but less sweet.
One curious item on the menu was 'Tibetan tea (salt and butter)' - but since I didn't order it you'll have to discover it for yourselves!
51 Gandhi Road, Darjeeling
This Parisian-style creperie offers the best crepes I’ve tasted outside of Paris. The smells of espresso and crepes fill the air and you can watch them being prepared right before your eyes. My favourites: the Julia, with chocolate spread and raspberry jam, and the Cote d’Azur, with goat cheese, tomato, basil and olive oil. And unlike most of the cafes in Yorkville, this cafe won’t put a dent in your pocketbook: a crepe and espresso will cost you just over $10.
Located on Ward’s Island, the Rectory is a two-story, stucco residence built in 1948 and originally housed the priest in charge of the nearby island church, St. Andrew-by-the-lake. It has been a restaurant since 2003, offering a gorgeous outdoor patio, among a lovely garden. This is a great place for brunch.
SOMA is one of my favourite chocolate shops in the city. The products are hand-crafted on site, and the small cafe has a large glass wall that allows you to watch as professional chocolate makers produce heavenly creations: bars, truffles, cookies, biscotti, and shortbread.
Try one of my favourites: the Mayan hot chocolate, which is so thick, you can eat it with a spoon; I love the blend of rich, dark chocolate with just the right amount of spiciness. The stilton walnut gelato is also excellent, as well as the Australian ginger covered in dark chocolate. Oh, and the “affogato”, a lovely shot of espresso poured over one scoop of Madagascar vanilla gelato, heavenly. A word of warning, though: set yourself a budget before you walk through the door.
People pass through Malaga, but do they know that it has two fabulous museums, an impressive cathedral, an Arab fortress and palace as good as any outside Granada, clear blue seas and miles of sandy beaches lined with chiringuitos serving fresh sardines. And in this top spot the top street is Calle Granada, running crookedly from the Plaza del Independencia to the Plaza de la Merced. It is where the Malaguenos go, especially at night, to visit their favourite tapas bars. There are many, but chief among them are La Campana - tiny, crowded and noisy - which serves superb fresh fish at knock-down prices; Piyayo, across the road, more up-market with seats outside; and the renowned El Pimpi, a vast rambling place full of different sized rooms, full of Spanish character and Spanish people. Try them all.
Calle Granada nº35, 29015 Malaga, Spain
+34 952 219 202
Google map: bit.ly/l47dDm
Calle Granada 36, Malaga, Spain
+34 952 220 096
Google map: bit.ly/kz1yug
Calle Granada, 62, 29015 Malaga, Spain
+34 952 228 990
Google map: bit.ly/lMOrco
It's a lovely bar/cafe where they make you feel welcome the minute you walk in. The food is a mixture of Spanish, Middle Eastern and other international varieties. The tapas are free and abundant, as long as you order the lovely beers. We had generous portions of meatballs with ours. Very tasty. What struck me about this place is that it's a great place for vegetarians. I'm not a veggie but I ate vegetarian food there, which is tricky to find at the best of times in Spain. The falafel wraps were delicious and you could really taste the flavours in the food. Absolutely lovely! The waiting staff were really welcoming and we ate there three times during a week-long stay in Granada.
This cheerful eatery in the heart of Kolkata serves delicious dosas and other South Indian specialities for extremely good prices. I knew it was going to be good because it passed the two recommended tests of a) being busy and b) attracting lots of families. I was so impressed that I ended up going almost every day during my week-long stay in Kolkata.
The dosa is a kind of pancake made of fermented rice, stuffed with a spicy potato filling and served with coconut chutney and sambar, a tasty vegetable sauce. At Sarang, the dosa list takes up half the menu, and each costs 30-50 rupees (about 50-70p – normal for India). The price depends on which filling you choose. I particularly liked the ones with green peppers (capsicum) and onion.
Sarang’s chana bhatura (chickpeas served with Indian breads) is also particularly good and the puffed breads they serve with it are very fresh. I’d also recommend their lassis (the Sarang version is flavoured with rose water) and freshly squeezed juices. Lip-smacking stuff!
15/A Jl Nehru Road, Kolkata, West Bengal, India
(opposite KFC and Domino's Pizza)
+91 98 31 936175
Google map: bit.ly/mMrsX1
Happy Pride Month! The Big Gay Ice Cream Truck, often parked around Union Square, serves sweet concoctions with names like the Bea Arthur and The Salty Pimp. This month the founders will open a brick-and-mortar store on East 7th Street between 1st Avenue and Avenue A. They'll also serve brownies and non-ice cream treats from other local vendors. Until the store opens, you can get your scoop on at the Big Gay Ice Cream Truck.
If you fancy a break from Austrian cuisine, or even if you don't, go here - it's fantastic. There's a huge enclosed garden which is lovely and shady on a sunny day. There's Austrian and Turkish beer. And there's a huge menu with a staggering range of Turkish food. As an added bonus (well, I thought so) all the dishes which are usually made with lamb - koftes, shish kebabs etc - were veal-based instead. The prices are excellent too. And everything comes with mountains of bread.
A traditional Viennese cafe on the Ring, with cake, main meals, wine and beer - but also live piano music for most of the day. The portions are generous and the food is excellent. They also do great breakfasts.
We stumbled into this bar/restaurant on the Schwarzenbergplatz completely by accident - it was the first place we'd seen and we were starving - but we felt that we'd got very lucky! The traditional Austrian food (schnitzel, goulash, lots of different sausages) is very tasty and reasonably priced, and the beer is truly excellent. Plus the staff were friendly and remembered our orders when we came back. Which we did several times in our short visit to Vienna.
Schwarzenbergplatz 3, 1010 Vienna, Austria
Google map: bit.ly/k7JndA
Still the best coffee in town. OK so all the cool kids say "it's not as good as it was" - and it was great when it was in the old fire station garage - but that doesn't take anything away from the fact that they still do the best coffee in QT. Breakfasts are pretty good too.
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