In the heart of North Shields, down steeply from the town, is the Fish Quay. The number of boats is minuscule compared to its heyday, but the smell of fish and chips from the many outlets and the buzz from restaurants cannot disguise the working nature of this area still. This is further evident from a glance up the Tyne at the huge oil platform in the yard over the river. Stroll down towards the sadly no more Chain Locker pub to the ferry, nip across the water and head down to the beaches of South Shields or the gracefully curving pier, perhaps calling in at the Alum Rock for a pint of real ale or to the Custom House for some culture.
North Shields metro station and head downhill.
Google map: bit.ly/fxTX9U
One of my favourite restaurants in Venice, Antiche Carampane, is one of the city’s most authentic – as the sign says outside the restaurant, you’ll find "No pizza, no lasagne, no menù turistico” here. Instead, expect stunning Venetian cuisine based on the freshest of seasonal produce. Owner Francesco and his chefs Lele and Adriano, who have worked at the restaurant for 20 years and 15 years respectively, head to the Rialto’s pescheria (fish market) every morning to seek out the finest seafood that local fishmongers have bought from Tronchetto’s wholesale market earlier that morning. Secreted away down a difficult-to-find lane in the San Polo sestiere, Antiche Carampane’s location is such that there’s little chance of anyone accidentally stumbling upon it and yet tables inside the atmospheric restaurant and on the terrace outside are generally always taken. Phone ahead to make a reservation. Service is warm, relaxed, and informed – order whatever they suggest – and the food is simply fantastic. My favourite dish is the crunchy fritto misto or frittura mista (fried seafood), served in a brown paper cone to absorb the cooking oil - washed down with a wine from the Veneto of course!
In Venice, Countess Enrica Rocca, known as ‘the cooking countess', runs cooking courses unlike any others.
Enrica meets her students (five of us in total) at the Rialto Bridge and after quick introductions at a local café takes us to the nearby markets to teach us about the ingredients, where and how to buy them, and how to treat the produce. Next, in true Venetian style, we take our shopping bags full of fresh seafood to a local bacari (Venetian bar) for a post shopping spritz (Aperol, prosecco, orange slice) and a lesson in Veneto wine from Lorenzo of the wine shop MilleVini.
Spirits buoyed, we stroll to Enrica’s light-filled home in the Dorsoduro for a full day of cooking, eating, drinking, and conversation. It's casual and relaxed, like spending a day hanging out in the kitchen with friends, yet still we come away having learned a tremendous amount. Enrica thinks that most cooking courses are too serious and that they should be fun. They are and this was!
Enrica Rocca Cooking School
The Phoenix is a great pub for a quiet drink, a hangover breakfast at weekends or a full-blown meal. The pub is so named because it rose from the ashes of the fire which gutted Denmark Hill railway station. I particularly like the gigantic Potters & Sons clock which dangles from the high beamed ceiling and the chunky leather sofas you can sink into and snooze. The pub quiz on Tuesday evenings is a good laugh, even better if you win the pot.
The Cambria is one of the best pubs in south London. Located on a quiet back street, it would be easy to miss on a bus ride from Brixton to Camberwell, but it's well worth making a short detour for the fabulous food, live music and magnificent chandeliers.
40 Kemerton Road, Camberwell, London SE5 9AR
+44(0)207 737 3676
Google map: bit.ly/e4L1s8
Getting there: overground rail to Loughborough Junction or Denmark Hill, buses 35, 45, 345
Bar on the first floor of the Belle Vue with a great view from the terrace if you can get a table there and tapas served with drinks.
Le Bistrot a Vin
Simple, good Provencal food paired with fantastic wine selections at a very reasonable price.
La Côte de Boeuf
Steakhouse with an amazing wine cellar.
For the best bouillabaisse in Marseille head to
34 quai du Port 13002 Marseille
+33 4 91 90 36 64
Bistrot a Vin
7 Rue Sainte, 13001 Marseilles, France
+33(0)4 91 54 02 20
La Cote de Boeuf
35 Cours Honoré d'Estienne d'Orves
13001 Marseilles, France
+33(0)4 91 33 00 25
6 Rue Catalans
13007 Marseilles, France
+33(0)4 91 52 64 22
In my humble opinion, Franco Manca serves the best pizza in London. Situated in a modest venue, on two sides of a corridor through Brixton's covered market - and next to the fragrant fish stall - Franco's (as it used to be called when I first became a regular in the late 1980s) offers six pizzas, for extremely reasonable prices - even the most expensive costs less than £6. The newer name Franco's Missing, is a reference to the previous owner.
The sourdough base is prepared 20 hours ahead of baking and then fired in the 260°C oven for 40 seconds so everything is fresh, crisp and piping hot.
The only drawback is it's open when the market is, so not in the evening. A huge queue forms on Saturday lunchtime, snaking right out of the building and into the market, however the staff are pretty efficient so you shouldn't have to wait too long.
According to locals this is one of the best in the city. Fabulous satay dishes, gado gado and top it off with a coffee and what can only translate as 'streaky cake'. You'll need to reserve or else standing room only at the bar which simply means you'll get into conversation with other diners. A great evening will ensue...
Petitou is a little French cafe/bistro with a huge green terrace on Choumert Road.
Choumert Road seems almost totally French: at the corner with arty Bellenden Road there's a French bistro and towards Peckham's Rye Lane there's the great Montpelier pub, recently refurbished and serving scrumptious organic Sunday lunch roasts. Even the name suggests a Gallic cabbage, and the street market at the Peckham end is a good place to pick up fruit and veg. The menu at Petitou is wholesome: salads, quiches and fresh juices as well as cheesy Marmite crumpets. The terrace is shaded by trees and a lovely place to while away a morning. It's out of the way for public transport, but that's part of its charm.
63 Choumert Road,London SE15 4AR
+44(0)20 7639 2613
Google map: bit.ly/geAZA7
Open: Mon-Sat 9am-5.30pm, Sun 10am-5.30pm
Getting there: overground train to Peckham Rye
No.67 is a really great cafe, serving snacks, full meals, home made cakes, fresh lemonade, unusual beers, wines, you name it, in an arty setting. It's very, very hip but also very relaxed and friendly (these two are not exclusive, I suppose!) and a great place to chill out on the Peckham Road. The cafe takes up most of the ground floor of the uber cool South London Gallery and in warmer months, the terrace is a great place to sit and soak up the sun under the ancient 'tree of heaven'.
The lunch menu changes daily - today's offers included venison bresaola with rocket and parmesan, fish stew, celeriac soup or fennel marinated pork chop. I had a home made apple crumble tart (£3.75) - yum. The Spanglish breakfasts are legendary, but get there early at weekends as it's very popular.
South London Gallery, 67 Peckham Road
London SE5 8UH
+44(0)20 7252 7649
Google map: bit.ly/gC2LxH
Open Tue 10am-6.30pm, Wed 10am-9pm, Thurs-Sun 10am-6.30pm, closed on Mondays
Buses: 12, 36, 436, 345, 171 to Southampton Way
For me, this is the best place to eat and drink in the tourist centre of Prague. It has the complete menu, everything from traditional Czech (eg: goulash) to Tex-Mex to a Full English breakfast. Plus vegetarian. Plus a no-smoking area. Plus a 'secret', hidden garden out back.
It has Happy Hours, 4-6pm, where the already cheap Czech beer costs only 25 Crowns(80p).
V jámě 1671/7, PRAHA 1 Prague-Nové Město, Czech Republic
+420 224 222 383
Google map: bit.ly/ezHVyg
Bock Bistro is a great restaurant serving traditional Hungarian cuisine with the perfect local fine wine to accompany the food. József Bock, one of the founders, is a legendary wine maker so you can be sure of the quality of the reds on offer here.
Csalogány 26 is an upscale restaurant named after its address, but also csalogány means 'nightingale'. Delicious meals prepared in a kitchen with a video link to the front of house so diners can check on the preparation. A bit gimmicky but fun. Upscale dining in a classy setting.
Balettcipő means 'ballet shoe' and this place will set your toes a-tingling. Enjoy great salads and cakes on a sunny terrace on the recently pedestrianised part of Hajós utca.
Hajós utca 14, 1065 Budapest
+36(0)6 1 2693114
M1 Little (yellow) underground - Kisfoldalatti to Opera
A buzzing Italian restaurant (especially at lunchtime when it's crammed to the gills with office workers and bankers from the local area). Fresh seafood, open grill, home made pasta and oven baked pizza all created with Italian ingredients (not always guaranteed in this city). Great wine cellar. A fun venue for a meal - a deux, with colleagues, friends or family.
An old style Hungarian restaurant located at the start of Raday utca, a semi-pedestrian street in Pest, crammed wall to wall with restaurants.
Named after Gyula Krúdy's book The Red Post Coach the whole restaurant oozes the turn-of-the-twentieth century atmosphere of the book.
The eclectic building was built in 1876 and housed a coffee house at one time. Since 1970 it has housed the Vörös Postakocsi where a mixture of authentic and modern Hungarian cuisine is served.
Traditionally heavy dishes are rendered light, courtesy of organic meat, dairy products and vegetables.
The menu offers several game and vegetarian options. The restaurant's wide selection of modern Hungarian wines is a treat for all. There is also an extensive range of pálinka.
Avoid the queues - and get treated like a diplomat all for the price of breakfast. Book online at the restaurant Dachgarten.
Go straight to the front of any queue to get into the Reichstag and tell them you have booked breakfast (or I guess dinner), get your name checked off the list by the guards (this is not something you can do on the spur of the moment and that makes the anticipation all the more exciting) and get escorted through security by your personal escort to the lift that carries you to the restaurant at the foot of the Richard Rogers glass dome. Terrific breakfast (and we are vegetarian) and then have the run of the dome and fabulous views over most of Berlin. Awesome. When we went about a month ago the Dome was closed in about three different languages unless like us you were eating in the restaurant!
If you are disappointed by this experience you have no soul!
Only one hour south of Munich by car or train, nestled on the banks of the river Isar, 'Cafe Solo' is in the heart of Bad Tolz, Bavaria. This friendly English speaking bar and restaurant serves fresh dishes from around the world, I can recommend the enchiladas which are fabulous as is the 'steak vital' - succulent pork loins served with rice.
Alternatively just sit back and relax on the covered heated terrace overlooking the bridge and the quaint old town of Bad Tolz, sipping down an ice cold weisse beer.
Bad Tolz a spa town which dates back to the 12th century, is famous for it's beautifully painted murals that bedeck the shops and hotels on either side of the 'car free' main street. It is only a 10 minute drive to the ski slopes of Lenggries and views of the alps can be seen from several vantage points in the town.
There is plenty of choice when it comes to accommodation with fine hotels, guest houses and lots of self catering (ferienwohnung) accommodation.
Villa Spicy is located few steps from the Champs Elysees. We stopped there after a long afternoon walk on the Champs Elysees and it looked nice.
We really enjoyed the atmosphere and our meal. Very fresh food with good seasonings.
I've had a lot of meals in Paris, some good and some mediocre, and this place was one of my best in Paris.
They show a great attachment to quality, and was a good value for around 50 euros.
An absolute gem of a restaurant. Mekk stands for 'moodne eesti koogikunst' which means 'modern Estonian cooking art'.
Modern Estonian cuisine in the restaurant of the Savoy Boutique hotel.
Very friendly service with wonderful food. Desserts were superb.
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