We went to El Torero Loco for a quick after work drink - we ended up staying there all night! It really is a tapas place with a difference - stylish with a glamorous sofa area at the back. Great happy hour 5-7pm, with amazing cocktails. The tapas were divine - try the chorizo stew and gambas.
351 Fulham road, London (Chelsea)
Gloucester road or Fulham Broadway
Situated on the shoreline between the marina and the bay, Rìva really makes the most of its bayside location. There are views across the bay, the marina and the Melbourne skyline and the outside decks sare great. The menu and wine list are pretty good. Rìva was packed when we went and although it's a bit different, it's still a great place for a night out.
A nice beer cafe tucked under Rotterdam's famous 'cubewonings' (cubic houses). One of the best selections of beer in the city in a comfortable, friendly bar. Food is also available. Although I didn't eat here myself, they were serving plenty of it.
The only down-side is that it's too dimly lit if you like to read a book while quaffing the Netherlands' finest ales.
Blaak 4, Rotterdam, directly opposite Blaak railway and metro station.
Nice little pizzeria/ Italian restaurant in Val Claret. The food isn't anything out of this world but the staff are brilliant and it's good value for money. Really good atmosphere and I wouldn't hesitate recommending it.
Val Claret in the parade of shops next to Black Cat snowboarding
On Monday mornings there is a great flea market called Noordermarket which is fantastic for second hand retro clothing.
There is a general market on Saturdays on Lindengracht (parallel to Noordermarkt) selling everything from the mundane to the exotic and on Monday mornings the market specialises in cheap and cheerful materials.
Both are great places to mingle with the locals.
It's at the top end of Prinsengracht.
This is a truly new way to eat out, if you want to take a break from exploring the city. I stumbled upon this place while out and about in Soho with some friends. The food is Eastern-Asian and tastes fantastic, but instead of ordering all of your drinks and food from a waiter, you use Inamo’s special gizmo. It projects a virtual menu onto your table and by using your fingers you can navigate through the food and drinks and it will even show you a picture of what it is that you are eating!
You don’t need a waiter at all (but they are still around to help), you can take your time ordering and eating, and you can even play battleships and order a cab home. It’s something that I’ve not seen anywhere else before and definitely worth a look!
134-136 Wardour Street, Soho, London, W1F 8ZP
When I visited my cousin in Rio she took me to have seafood in Azul Marinho, Arpoador. The restaurant is simply the best. I had fish in rock salt which was delicious. The atmosphere was very nice and the view was wonderful.
A great place for some really tasty and interesting drinks in Manhattan is the Flatiron Lounge on 19th Street. It's a small, cozy, dimly lit, laid-back Art Deco lounge where you can get mixed drinks that you won't find anywhere else. Then for dinner, walk a few blocks over to Mesa Grill on Fifth Avenue for some terrific southwestern US cuisine and great desserts. But just make sure you call for a dinner reservation as far in advance as possible.
The best (and biggest!) Manhattans are at Quality Meats. It's a chic and buzzing basement hangout that is always packed. Glamorous clientele, classic decor; stay for dinner, which is also a great idea as the food is fantastic.
Quality Meats, 57 W. 58th Street just at the south end of Central Park
I'm a Brit living in NYC, and for cocktails I can highly recommend one of the secrets of New York that many native New Yorkers don't know about. I would try The Beacon. They have a special deal during their 'happy hour' that gets you two classic New York cocktails of your choice and an appetiser-style small pizza made by Waldy Maloof (one of the best chefs in NYC) for $20. Or you can skip the small pizza and dive straight in the cocktails.
This would only whet your appetite for one of my favourite restaurants in the city: Gramercy Tavern. It is still one of the highest rated restaurants in the city. Food, service and wine list, are all superb. You won't be disappointed.
The Beacon (25 West 56th Street between 6th and 5th Avenues)
Gramercy Tavern (2 East 20th Street, near Park Avenue South)
A great place for cocktails is Ava Lounge which overlooks Times Square. The drinks they make up are really good - true American cocktails, and the views can be amazing if it's a clear evening and you get a good sunset!
Also nearby for an interesting meal is the fun Benihana. Although if you are more interested in food rather than entertainment then The Red Cat in the heat of Chelsea is a great spot - very intimate but not too stuffy. The food is wonderful but affordable.
The Jazz Standard is an amazing night out with good cocktails and great jazz. If you book the early showing you can catch dinner upstairs too, which is yummy.
The River Cafe has great views of Manhattan being on the other side of Brooklyn bridge – again, they do good cocktails and good food. It is very pricey though so definitely one for a treat!
Little Branch in the Village is great for drinks – it's much like visiting a speakeasy with classic and innovative cocktails in a strangely enticing basement space.
For dinner: You can’t go wrong with 11 Madison. It’s a wonderful, adult place to eat which exemplifies a certain sort of American and New York high cuisine. It’s an utter pleasure.
Little Branch: corner of St. Luke’s and 7th Avenue
Kick off with cocktails in the bar at the Rainbow Grill for a heart-stopping view of the Empire State and downtown skyscrapers. I’ve been living here for over a year and this place still gives me that ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ feeling when I walk in. Another good option would be the bar at the top of the Mandarin Oriental on 59th Street, Columbus Circle. If you go at sunset, you get the most wonderful view of the southern end of Central Park. Dinner – well, yes it’s hokey, but for an authentic New York experience, try Smith & Wollensky – the cathedral of steak (and pretty wonderful seafood too). You’ll feel your arteries furring up, but it’s a blissful way to go.
I love NYC, and always head to this great Italian I found on Upper East Side. It's called Baraonda and is on 2nd Avenue and the corner of 75th. The best night to go is on a Sunday by midnight when everyone is dancing on the tables or even on the bar! The food is delicious and great value. Book ahead.
I’m British through and through but nothing says Christmas more passionately than Brugge does each December. The Belgians of course have two celebrations with the Feast of Sint Niklaas coming early in the month!
The city streets are beautifully decked out with twinkling lights and window displays and the main and smaller squares like Market Square and Simon Stevinplein have their stalls selling all kinds of gift, food and drink specialties. It’s a picture book / chocolate box place that you may wander and wonder around in the warmth of their hospitality and friendliness - and in safety.
My ideal 24 hours? I set off on a Friday afternoon straight down the M20 from London and directly into the Eurotunnel terminal from the motorway. Go to the toilet, buy a drink, drive onto the train – 25 minutes of rest – drive off the train, to the end of the tunnel road, turn right and just keep on straight for 55 minutes and there is the Bruges turn-off – 10 minutes later I am parked in the centre. Nothing could be easier and hardly needs a map or GPS!
If I just kept walking around the main central triangle of the city it would only take me some 15 minutes to do so – but there is so much to see that is worthwhile. Ice Skating in Markt, climb the Belfry, eat Flemish beer stew and photograph the canals and picturesque buildings as the sun sets and the sky glows. You are never far away from where your hotel is and it is so easy to take a small break to recuperate and re-energise!
Saturday is market day at Tzand (square next to bus station) – buy wonderful cheeses to take home; visit The Church of our Lady to see the Michelangelo Madonna with Child statue and take a canal boat trip, a museum visit or a romantic Horse and Carriage ride around the cobbled streets. Too much to do – so little time!
Now don’t forget those chocolates, those fresh cream pralines. Much much cheaper than the UK and guaranteed to produce sounds of delight (and quiet munching noises). I also buy ginger bread, chocolate figures and honey waffle biscuits.
Driving home; quickly visit a supermarket in Belgium for very good beer at low prices. Try a jar of Advocaat as this goes great on ice cream or Christmas pudding! Wine is also reasonable in price here.
… and it’s back to Coquilles to catch the train back home. Mission accomplished… Tired and very Happy!
Here’s a link to learn more oldchocolatehouse.com/links.html
This is a fantastic hotel and bistro in Cambridge city centre. Literally jaw-dropping rooms with roll top baths, plasma TV and gorgeous smellies. If you cannot get romantic here, then frankly give it up.
The restaurant has a great menu and the food manages to be both unfussy and adventurous. On the first night we were too late to get a table as it was so popular but thirty minutes later they rang to say someone had cancelled which is just brilliant attention to detail. The guy who took us through the 24 cheeses on the cheeseboard was brilliant, the sommelier was excellent and the cosy bar downstairs was the perfect lazy place to go after dinner.
Cambridge itself is quaint, gorgeous, and a delight to walk around, particularly in view of all the colleges, history, parks, river and the shops! The best bit is it was only 50 minutes on a fast train from Kings Cross making it a perfect weekend destination.
It is rare to find a hotel that gets so much right, but this one really does.
A break from the standard Tapas - we'd eaten our fill of cheese and pig by this stage of the holiday. Lots of the dishes on offer were Asian inspired and we really enjoyed eating here. It was packed, even in the middle of November, when most other restaurants were deserted.
Sant Joan 8 (La Lonja)
T: 971 717524
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