Halfway through our trip round the lower Cilento region, two hours south of Naples, we were invited to lunch at the Nido della Luna guesthouse and working farm, home of farmer Rafaello, at the foot of towering, rugged Mount Bulgheria and over-looked by the ghostly medieval hill village of San Severino.
We pulled up in the driveway of a large farmhouse complete with vegetable patch, stables, and billy goats bleating in a field. In the open porch under a brilliant sun, a smiling old lady in apron and slippers stood, in front of an open brassier with a cooking pot hanging over a roaring wood fire. This was Rafaello's mother, and as a means of sharing some traditional recipes of the region with us she'd lit the fire in the outdoor kitchen and laid a large oak table with traditional cooking utensils for us to play with. This is how I'd really like to cook everyday!
On a large wooden platter were heaps of sliced local aubergines and a pot filled with stuffing mix. We were to make Melanzane M'buttanate, a simple peasant dish packed with the rich flavours of creamy home made ricotta cheese, fresh eggs and fresh parsley.
She guided us through the cooking process, all the while bringing bits and bobs to the table for us to sample as we fried the aubergines: local bitter strawberries jam, honey from their backyard, still warm mozzarellas from the neighbour and a basket of mushrooms and wild greens picked in the surrounding hills with which to make a soup.
We ate with the family, two silent, but softly smiling old goat farmer in flat caps and checked shirts - Grandpa and Great Uncle, Rafaello and his wife, and the parents, who refilled my wine glass with their own-grown thick, nectary red so often I barely remember arriving at pudding! Had we stayed longer, we would have been taught to make ricotta, helped with fruit picking and no doubt cooked up some more delicious Cilento peasant dishes.
In payment for this feast, we were asked only to recommend their beautiful farmhouse b&b to others, so here's the mention. I can't recommend their hospitality and the delightful setting in Italy's most prized secret region enough!
Il Nido della Luna
Via Stazione, 24
Cilento - Salerno (CA)
Tel: (+ 39) 0974/934093-(+39) 347/6540872
You can get a train to Centola from Salerno, or Naples. Driving, take the A3 motorway Salerno - Reggio Calabria, taking the Battipaglia exit, SS. 18 in the direction "Costiera CIlentana".
THe nearest beach is the exquisite Palinuro.
A beautiful place to stay about 20 minutes away from Florence. The rooms are brightly coloured grungy chic, and the views over Tuscan countryside are truly lovely.
The owners were unobtrusively helpful, and laid on scrumptious breakfasts. Full board was beyond our budget, but on the couple of nights we had dinner there it was stunning - and veggie-friendly. We went away laden with soap made locally from produce grown in the gardens, and a decent bottle of the house wine.
Tucked into a secluded corner of beautiful Parasporos beach, is a rare treat. A restaurant serving top quality international and Greek dishes sourced entirely from local produce. The menu changes seemingly daily, (at least it did every time we visited), so there is always something for even the most jaded of palates, and with the wide selection of beers and wines it's easy to spend the whole afternoon eating, whilst drinking in the view of the sea as it laps at the edge of the beach, mere feet away.
Shirley Valentine would love it!
To the side of the big beach bar at the northern end of Parasporos Beach approx 2km from Parikia.
Either go by foot along the road to the airport and take the turning for Delphini beach, and keep going alomg the track for another 500m or so, or take a cab (about 5 euro from Parikia)
An Italian restaurant hidden away in Surry Hills. Not easy to find - which makes it even more rewarding - but very busy when we were there. Fantastic, fresh, al dente Italian cooking accompanied by the mother of all wine lists. Try the crab if it's on.
My few days in La Rioja, one of the richest gastronomic regions of Spain, was a feast of the senses and has deepened my love of all things Spanish. We didn't expect the concierge of a five-star hotel to recommend an eatery situated in a petrol station – “There are bright green neon signs outside and it looks a bit like a brothel, but don’t worry,” she said, quite seriously.
So we arrived: petrol station, inside a room full of men and the room went silent. We shared a salad of pigs’ trotters stuffed with foie gras (yes, it really was a petrol station). The waitress seemed fascinated by the fact that we were there and was delighted to recommend her favourites on the menu and described passionately how we must eat each dish: with the lamb we were to “take a mouthful of the lettuce with every bite”.
It was fabulous. My roast leg of lamb was perfection. And bless them: rather than the delicious looking chips all the other diners (a lone woman arrived just after us) were eating, they served our main courses with ‘proper’ potatoes and vegetables. But much more importantly, my lamb came with a wonderful crisp green salad.
The simplicity of this showed an element of sophistication I’ve learnt not to expect from some of the best restaurants, let alone a roadside petrol station. The other main course of Magret of Duck was equally sensational: simply seared and perfectly pink, it was served with chestnuts, warm ‘marmalade’ and a cranberry sauce.
To finish we shared a cheese flan and feeling very full we were careful not to say we were sharing in case, as she had with the starter, brought not one to share, but one each. But to no avail: sure enough, she came proudly out of the kitchen carrying two full-size portions. And, I’m ashamed to say, we both polished off the lot – it was just, just wonderful.
Av de San Raimundo,
outside of Baristeri,
A relatively little-known wine region around four hours' drive south of Perth in the south-westernmost corner of Australia. Both the climate and the grape blends are reminiscent of Bordeaux, although the wineries have a strong Aussie accent: friendly, fun and also offering great food. My favourite is Wise Winery on Eagle Bay, which offers sweeping vistas of Geographe Bay from a panoramic dining terrace - the perfect setting for a delicious lunch, accompanied by a glass of 'Half Wit' Chardonnay or their 'Coat Door' Shiraz / Cabernet blend. The sheltered crescent of Meelup Beach is just down the road.
Semillon Sauvignon heaven, with a simple roast tomato soup, sitting on a simple bench overlooking the vines, a golden light like chardonnay filtering through the leaves. Bliss.
Tucked away in Kensington Gardens in the North Laines, The Gardens cafe is quint-essential Brighton. With its quirky artwork throughout, a lovely upstairs balcony looking down on the lanes, and a menu that takes up two whole walls, it is definitely a place you would come back to for its good vibes and comfortable feel.
The food at this place isn't the finest cuisine, but it's location makes up for this. The balcony is a prime people watching spot. You can see right the way along Kensington Gardens which is particularly good on a busy weekend.
1 Kensington Gardens, Brighton BN14AL
I ordered the regular cheeseburger steak with fries and salad. Generous portions, loved it! One of the best meals I've had in Rio, particularly the grilled delicacies. Do recommend it. The place attracts the trendy hipsters that cruise around Ipanema, so be ready to see and be seen. Beware of the chimichurri sauce! Not chimichurri!
Av. Garcia de Ávila, 125 - Rio de Janeiro - RJ, 22421-010, Brazil - (0xx)21 2512-8100
When in Bocas del Toro you've got to stop by Toro Loco bar and restaurant. It's an American-owned bar that offers free Wifi, darts, delicious bar food including burgers, quesadillas, chicken fingers and wings and chili - all $6 and under. They also have five televisions around the bar that carry sports all day long! Free popcorn for everyone and happy hour is everyday from 3-6pm. A great place in town to have a cold beer and catch up with old friends or make new ones.
Located on Central Avenue, just behind the park in the middle of town.
Great food at a great price. No main was more than €10! Wine was about €8-€9 a bottle.
We don't normally go to the same restaurant twice when we are on holiday, but we came here three times when we were here in Madrid in summer 08.
There were queues into the place on some evenings.
Plaza El Ángel 12
28012 Madrid, Spain
+34 913 691 059
Great restaurant in Prenzlauer Berg area of Berlin.
Seemingly this was visited by Schroder, Clinton & Albright during a visit to the area in 2000.
German / French /Swiss dishes on menu.
(€7 - €17)
Nearest metro Eberswalder Str.
A small bookshop and cafe with wonderful coffee, biscuits and cake, a clean loo and friendly staff. You can sit undisturbed and gaze out of the open door or sit outside if fine. Located on a very attractive street close to the main centre.
Ul. Kanonicka, Krakow. Opposite Mary Magdalene Square.
The hosts were lovely and so welcoming that they came to pick us up from the station and served us tea and homemade cookies upon arrival. In fact they made everything homemade, from the breakfast granola to the yummy bread, which made the house smell amazing. It's a wonderful place to unwind and have a peaceful break in the country. Nothing to do but walk, eat and sleep. Which is a good thing sometimes.
Lynn Pocket (Owner)
Througham Fields Cottage
La Pulguilla is a tapas bar/restaurant - you get a tapas with every drink in the bar at the front. There is also a very good restaurant in the back and an open terrace in the summer. You can enter from the carpark in los Huertos at the rear. Very friendly staff, service and prices.
Calle Cristo,(Calle Almirante Ferrandez)
La Mariposa is a bodegas and tapas bar serveing very good wines, beers and soft drinks at very very good prices. You are also given a tapas with every drink ordered. It is run by a young friendly couple from Cadiz and the food they serve is from that area of Spain. It gets very busy as it is used by the local population, so there is aways a very friendly family atmosphere.
Calle Almirante Ferrandiz (Cristo),124
29780 Nerja, Malaga.
Tel,:627 504 840
647 982 916
Holiday Farm and B&B
Because it gives you a glimpse at the perfect life!
Paolo and Paola are the best hosts, the olive trees are magnificent and the wine from the vineyard is superb. We went for the Easter weekend and were astonished by the hospitality; we had the most amazing Easter breakfast and traditional Pranzo meal before we left. I went to visit an olive tree that had been adopted for me and arrived to find a bottle of the farm's wine waiting for us to enjoy at the base of it's trunk - by far the best setting to enjoy a bottle!
This tiny island in the middle of the Mediterranean has commanded the attention of invaders for centuries. Romans, Turks, Knights and even the British have all had a foothold on Malta’s shores at one time or another.
Now invaders of a different kind flock to Malta - tourists!
Drawn by the year round warm weather, the fact that most of the islanders speak English and drive on the left (after a fashion), Malta is a haven for the British sun worshipper.
But, there is so much more to do here. Despite the arrival of the 5 star luxury resorts, it remains a living slice of history. Famous for its two sieges, the first in 1565 when Soleyman the Magnificent was resoundingly beaten by The Hospitallers (or Knights of St. John).
The second came during World War II when again, the Maltese and their Allies drove off the German attempt to capture the island. History faces you on every corner, making the capital city Valletta a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Maltese are a friendly enough people, if a little gruff. They do seem to welcome the British more readily than any of the other visitors that descend on their shores annually. The attractions are obvious and the new resorts on the island are springing up continually.
Five star recommendations include,The Portomaso Hilton, Dragonara Palace and The Corinthian. There are plenty more, however, including some wonderful boutique hotels.
Gozo, Malta’s smaller sister island is an altogether quieter neighbour. The hotels here are smaller and more Spa orientated. Well worth a visit.
If you have the time, why not take a day trip to Sicily? There is a catamaran that visits daily or why not travel in style and use the helicopter service?
Maltese restaurants are doing their best in a world where fine dining is king. While they still have a lot to learn, fish is where they excel. Also, local specialties are worth trying. Hobz biz-zejt with fresh Maltese bread, tomatoes, olive oil and (depending on the maker) capers, olives, tuna and salt and pepper. The cheesecakes (savoury rather than sweet) stuffed with ricotta cheese are delicious whilst the cannolli from the Busy Bee bakery are stunning. The bread too is a wonderful treat.
Being the jewel of the Mediterranean, don’t forget the beaches. The only sandy ones are in the north of the island. The rest of Malta is rocky outcrops straight into deep water. No children here!
Snorkelling along these shores is a must as is a visit to the Blue Grotto. So called because of the turquoise blue of its waters and because it’s a erm...Grotto. Other attractions include Malta Glass, a visit to Comino and the capital Valletta. Malta has survived the centuries relatively unscathed by foreign invaders though all have left their mark. After visiting Malta yourself will it have left its mark on you?
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