If you have a bit of a soft spot for the old classic, then Japan is an incredible country in which to indulge your interest. It’s rare to walk down the street without seeing someone donning a pair of Alice tights, or without a stopwatch shaped handbag. This theme has been continued in Tokyo’s upmarket Ginza, where you can dine at an Alice themed restaurant. The tables are shaped like the playing cards, the menu is a pop up apparition of the white rabbit, and the waitresses are all either playing Alice or the Mad Hatter. Even the food comes shaped to fit the decor, with caterpillar sushi rolls and Cheshire cats in the ice cream. It’s quite a small place so I’d definitely recommend booking before to ensure your trip down the rabbit tunnel, but even waiting is a pleasure, enshrouded as you are in floor to ceiling page extracts from the book.
Taiyo Building 5th floor, 8-8-5 Ginza Chuo Ku Tokyo T 104-0061
+81 (03) 3574 6980
* Hollie is our Been there local for Tokyo. You can check out her profile here: www.ivebeenthere.co.uk/articles/tokyo-local-hollie-mantle.jsp and follow her tips here: www.ivebeenthere.co.uk/travellers/HollieMantle
This restaurant was located several blocks back from the Rialto Bridge and enroute to the grocery store. I passed it several nights and then a young man who worked there assured me a gluten free and garlic free spaghetti. He said they had served gluten free before to people who were sensitive. I took a leap of trust and ordered. The spaghetti came loaded with tomato sauce and veggies, and was delicious. One of the best meals I had in the 10 days I was there and will certainly go back.
I enjoyed the decor and also had free wi fi while I dined with a glass of wine.
Bright and airy with a stripped-down interior that somehow still remains cosy, Mistral Café is a great choice if you want a restaurant which offers both international and Czech cuisine at prices that won’t break the bank in a super-convenient location: smack bang next to the only metro station in Prague’s Old Town (Staromeskska). There’s a great value daily lunch menu on the chalk board in Czech but all the staff speak English so get them to translate it if you want a palate-pleasing bargain. Somewhat unusually for the Czech dining scene, Mistral is child-friendly with a funky wendy house at the disposal of your little ones. This isn’t just a yummy mummy haunt though: the friendly service and laidback vibe make this place a hit with tourists and locals alike. There’s also a chance to experience some genuine Czech desserts – the trdelník you see offered on the Christmas markets sadly, like goulash, is a Hungarian interloper. Try bábovka – a marble sponge cake which every self-respecting local Grandma can whip up in a flash.
Mistral Café, Valentinska 11/56, 110 00 Prague 1
+420 222 317 737
Google map: bit.ly/11FPH43
* Lisette is our Been there local for Prague. You can read her profile here: www.ivebeenthere.co.uk/articles/prague-local-lisette.jsp and follow her tips here: www.ivebeenthere.co.uk/travellers/LisettePrague
The Jolly Cricketers set in the heart of Seer Green village in the Chilterns is constantly recommended by the locals (the fish and chips a particular favourite) and won a Bib Gourmand in the Michelin Guide 2012. The award (named after Bibendum the famous ‘Michelin Man’) singles this pub out as “an inspectors’ favourite, offering good food at moderate prices."
The classic American Bar at the centre of Chicago's "Viagra Triangle". Big windows so you can watch (in summer at least) the parade of expensive cars and expensive people, while the bar itself is a curving, dark mahogany glory. Always busy, often with live piano jazz, get that inner glow with the perfect martini, then tuck into the greatest steak on earth. Absolute heaven!
Los Diamantes is a tiny - blink and you'll miss it - local watering hole and tapas bar hidden on a bustling street full of touristy restaurants. The scrumptious smell of fried seafood, ubiquitous in Granada, is almost intoxicating on Calle Navas. If your attitude to good food is anything like mine, don't be surprised if it has a pavlovian effect on you. It certainly made me jiggle on the spot with anticipation and go "mmmm! mmmm!" This place was recommended by Lonely Planet as "reason enough to go to Granada" (I wholeheartedly agree, with the caveat that the Alhambra is, of course, the top reason to go to Granada, followed by a soak and massage in the excellent arab baths - Aljibe de San Miguel.)
The crowded, noisy, bar looked quite daunting at first but we boldly strode in, still clutching our Lonely Planet. We stood our ground and found a small space by the corner of the bar reasonably easily, considering the circumstances. Luckily we had brushed up on our Spanish food words and were ready to order such tasty tapas as "almejas" (clams), "gambas planchas" (grilled prawns) and "chipirones fritas" (deep fried baby cuttlefish). The lady standing beside me was much amused. She pointed at our Lonely Planet which we hastily stowed, "Is this place in the book?" I had no choice but to confirm this. "The food is very bad. I live in Granada and I never come here," she said with a mock frown. "Don't tell your friends about this place, ok?" said her gentleman friend. We laughed at the joke but I knew there was real worry under the smiles.
As is the practice in Granada, we got a complimentary plate of tapas with our cervezas to start. It was a generous portion of pulpo (octopus) which my boyfriend, who does not like octopus, wolfed down faster than you could say "I thought you didn't like octopus". The food did not disappoint. The clams were small and sweet (the way they should be), the prawns fresh and garlicky, the cuttlefish juicy, their tentacles crunchy. We resolved to go there again the next night. The entire meal, with three beers and bread, came up to slightly over 30 euros.
I left wishing I could bring all my friends to Los Diamantes, partly for selfish reasons - so that we would be able to order a greater variety of tapas to try as two dinners at this excellent tapas bar really wasn't enough.
A fantastic pub in Goathland, North Yorkshire Moors.
The tiny one room pub has a large fire, seats and a hole in the wall where you are served by the owner - who runs the post office/sweet shop on the other side of the hole.
Always a fantastic selection of beers and a wide variety of food available, as long as you want pork pie and pickle! It is a lovely place in the middle of some beautiful countryside, friendly, full of character and a great place to visit. Quite unique.
Hong Kong’s newest, gastro-opening, Wild Grass, brings simple, nose-to-tail, home-cooking to our bustling metropolis. If you’ve had your fill of dim sum and Peking duck, this is the perfect spot for a great big plate of hearty, comforting sustenance.
Head up the brightly tiled staircase and make yourself at home around one of Wild Grass’ big communal dining tables. The light, airy, whitewashed dining space is given an air of French farmhouse, eco-chic with plenty of warm wood and reclaimed, recycled rattan furniture dotted between recipe book stacked shelves and copper pot filled dressers.
Serving up simple but flawlessly executed dishes, Wild Grass sources the best organic ingredients for its hearty, seasonal menu. Head chef, Jean-Paul Gauci focuses on traditional recipes (many passed down from his grandmother) - roasts, stews and nursery food favourites with a little sprinkle of French je ne sai quois. The restaurant’s specialty is beef of the wild, grass-fed variety – think cattle who’ve spent their days romping across the Australian outback. We guarantee that you can taste the difference. Not a meat lover? Wild Grass has Pescatorians covered with sustainable fish options and vegetarians catered for with inventive, farm-fresh vegetable dishes.
A word of warning - ensure that you leave space for dessert. Crème brulee served custard tart style in a crumbly pastry case is devilishly delicious and simple delights like apple turnover with whipped cream and rhubarb oatmeal crumble with dairy frozen cream will have you licking the plate clean.
The bill? Surprisingly very reasonable, with the set three-course lunch menu priced at just HK$220 and the three-course dinner menu coming in at a very wallet friendly HK$390.
1/F, 4-8 Arbuthnot Road, Central,
+852 2810 1189
Google map: bit.ly/UpjnR1
* Natalie is our local for Hong Kong. You can read all about her here: www.ivebeenthere.co.uk/articles/hong-kong-local-natalie-robinson.jsp and follow her tips here: www.ivebeenthere.co.uk/travellers/natalierobinson
She also has her own blog at: www.3badmice.com/
Built in the 14th century, the 67m high, nine storey Galata Tower dominates the Istanbul skyline and has recently been completely refurbished to include a bar/restaurant and viewing balcony on its top storey. It was the tallest structure in Istanbul at the time, and now you can see the city that straddles two continents in a 360-degree panorama from the Blue Mosque and Topkapi Palace to the Bosphorus and Sea of Marmara. Enjoy a cappuccino and quick snack throughout the day, or book a table for a lively evening of fine international cuisine, great beers and wines and exotic but tasteful belly-dancing.
There are few things better than filling up your belly with amazing fresh seafood and then meandering along the waterfront at dusk. This part of Edinburgh has so much history as a once busy port. Now it is home to several amazing (some even Michelin starred) restaurants, and tastefully renovated waterfront areas. Take a seat and watch the big ships roll past.
16 or 22 bus from Prince's st in direction of Ocean Terminal
Google map: bit.ly/Yh7Juj
M. Herve Bource, the House Manager, offers a welcome which is both charming and knowledgeable with regard to the food and wine served at 22 Mill Street, the excellent restaurant in (where else?), Mill Street, Chagford. On our first visit to this restaurant, some weeks earlier, we had had the taster menu and the presentation and quality of the food were without exception first rate. By the time of our second visit a new chef had been appointed but any uncertainty we may have had over quality was dispelled by the distinction and value of the lunch we were offered.
I chose pigeon breast with black pudding as a starter and my partner had haddock, cooked in brown butter with a butter and milk sauce. Beautifully made bread and two 'amuse bouche’ were served beforehand. We both had very tender venison to follow: one slight criticism - some of the sinew had not been completely trimmed away from the meat – but otherwise perfect. I had chocolate with yoghurt ice cream for desert, with shards of beautifully light meringue. My partner chose from the generous and varied cheese board.
A three-course lunch at 22 Mill Street, Chagford, will cost £21. We were recommended a very good and not expensive wine by M. Bource, whose attention throughout was both warm and discreet. The restaurant itself is attractively decorated with light wood tables and blinds on the street side windows, which contrasts well with the natural stone and wooden beams of this restaurant. It offers an intimate atmosphere but with plenty of space between tables, as well as an anteroom with sofas at the start and finish of one’s visit. Highly recommended.
Chagford is an attractive town, with an inexpensive central car park. Chagford has an extraordinary number of pubs and inns for such a small place!
The Belvedere in Stonehaven offers shelter and a hot meal on a dark winter’s afternoon: a most welcome sight after our nippy adventure along the coast. We celebrated our third wedding anniversary by clambering around the algae-covered Dunnottar Castle, which stands on a craggy rock that juts out into the ocean. We discovered dripping caves and gazed over the misty North Sea, then booked in to a cosy, well-heated room. Large windows, with a view onto the garden, filled the room with fading orange sunlight. In this serene setting, with our tea and biscuits, we felt no need to turn on the flat-screen TV or use the wifi.
A really friendly, laid back restaurant/sports bar. On a recent trip to Bristol, my husband wanted to watch the rugby. We heard this place was good so we booked a table for lunch and hoped we could watch. There were loads of screens and we ended up staying all afternoon!
We both had a steakwich - apparently it's a firm favourite for the sports events - it was really good!
Staff were really friendly and made us feel so at home. We can't wait to go back there on our next Bristol trip.
I had not heard an awful lot about this restaurant but I did note that it had been awarded an AA Rosette so, on a recent trip to Bristol, we decided to try it out. (It's also in the same building as The Rodney Hotel.)
I have to say we were pleasantly surprised at how lovely the food was! All three courses were delicious and presented really nicely on the plate. The decor was nice and our waitress was friendly. It was a little on the quiet side in there but then again it's nice to keep it that way! We had a fantastic evening there and thoroughly recommend it!
A recently rescued old boozer in a spectacularly remote Yorkshire dale, the Queens Arms is the kind of village pub you dream about. Great local beer and the kind of fabulous food which if it came out of a suburban kitchen would require much deeper pockets. Upstairs, four cosy, immaculate bedrooms with beams and crisp white cotton linen and outside any number of stunning walks from the door.
For a truly memorable pub/hotel to visit in Norfolk, one cannot do better than the Royal Hotel, Mundersley. When I visited, the bar offered six real ales and the restaurant served excellent food; being on the coast the seafood was particularly good.
The rooms are furnished with antique furniture and the whole place has a great atmosphere. Room 222 has a huge four poster bed and was stayed in by Admiral Lord Nelson when he was a boy.
The Miller's Arms in Canterbury is a weather boarded pub occupying a rounded corner position overlooking the remains of a water mill complete with mill race. The rooms are not numbered but each is named after a Canterbury Tale, thus we had The Pardoner’s Tale. The bar, open all day, serves real ale in a selection of eclectically-rooms. The smoking area is so pretty and candle lit that it almost makes you wish you were a smoker. Comfortable rooms, all with WiFi, an outstanding breakfast menu, friendly staff and Canterbury Cathedral ten minutes' walk away, all combine to make this an ideal base.
2 Mill Lane, Canterbury, Kent CT1 2AW
+44(0)1227 456 057
Google map: bit.ly/TnU41K
With the Red Lion at Stiffkey, North Norfolk, you get the best of both worlds. Newly built, eco-friendly modern accommodation with power showers, warm heating and comfortable beds and a pub, dating back to the 1600s whose character is allowed to speak for itself with flag-stoned floors, ancient beams and log fires. Mussels are a speciality here, not just the classic white wine and garlic, but more adventurous choices such as mussels with curried potato and spinach. There’s nothing better than a wind-swept walk along the sea-marsh, accessible straight from the pub and coming back to a plate of mussels in front of a roaring log fire, washed down with a pint of Norfolk Wherry, knowing a comfy bed awaits. Dogs allowed.
It's a pub with rooms in a pretty honey-stone village just outside Yeovil, and a walk from NT property Montacute; the perfect stop-off if you're doing the trek to the far West Country from London and don't want to do it all in one go. The Mason's Arms is a friendly, proper pub rather than a gastropub with designer pretensions, with hearty food and its own microbrewery (the beer was delicious, but the quantities the landlord makes are so small, you'll rarely find it anywhere else). The rooms have some luxury extras that you don't usually find in a pub stay (robes, decent toiletries), especially considering the price - £85 for a double, which included a great breakfast.
Not far from the beaches and birdwatching of the Norfolk coast, few drinkers in the bar or diners in the busy restaurant at the Gin Trap realise that there are three traditional bedrooms with luxury en suite bathrooms available at this friendly country pub. In winter we've stayed there and returned from walks along the beach at Hunstanton to a roaring fire, and in summer we've sat in the sunny garden over a drink before an excellent meal with local specialities like samphire (and advice on how to eat it). I like the proper vegetarian items at breakfast - pancakes with blueberries or French toast with fresh fruit - alongside the more traditional menu.
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