Traditional country hotel offering the best of Cumbrian Hospitality. Excellent breakfast, good beer, comfortable accommodation and luxurious toiletries. We were made extremely welcome and the food was perfect.
Many visitors will have visited the Lake District without ever passing through, or stopping in, the lovely Lyth Valley. They're missing out on a treat, especially in spring when the many damson trees are in blossom. It's close to Kendal and yet off the usual routes, but the quality of the food at the Punch Bowl at Crosthwaite is, on its own, reason enough to visit. A traditional Lakes building with stylish and welcoming interiors, and an interesting menu with excellent food, it's one of my favourite places to eat - and was as good as ever on my visit last week.
Most free houses have real ales, but this pub has its own on site brewery too (try the Tag Lag). It's seventh heaven for beer lovers. And foodies. The restaurant is stuffed with delicious locally sourced food (the game pie is to die for) and the wine list is big enough to suit all tastes and pockets. After all the fine dining and beery imbibing at lunchtime you won't want to move, so book a room and enjoy it all over again at dinnertime!
This friendly pub with its own brewery, a huge range of real ales, real pub games, newspapers and comfy chairs and newspapers prides itself on "food for drinkers" - all made to order on Fridays and weekends. After a hike up Black Combe, to contemplate the late Harry Griffin's favourite view, the pies, with a filling of your choice are well worth the half-hour wait as they cook. Opposite the railway station on the West Cumbrian line it's an old fashioned pub with a wonderful panorama of the Duddon estuary. Cumbria for those who know it and accessible to all.
Notwithstanding Mike Harding's quip about Barrow being 'a town at the end of a 32 mile cul-de-sac', south Lakes is an un-touristy (aka quiet) and stunning part of the Lake District. Great Urswick is a sleepy, pretty village, all whitewashed cottages and a tarn complete with ducks, and the pub is a cracker. Roaring fires, flagged floors and cosy snugs, well-kept beer and a menu that might surprise you. Chef/owner Craig Sherrington is doing clever things with local produce (expect sea bass, mackerel and rabbit) in an innovative but unpretentious way. Avoid the crowds in Ambleside and Windermere; this place is a treasure.
Tucked away in a grubby walk-up on Hollywood Road, you wouldn’t find TBLS unless you were looking for it. But this is a little gem of a restaurant that I definitely suggest you go looking for.
A private kitchen with well-deserved rave reviews and a two month waiting list, TBLS does comfort food with a gastro twist. The TBLS philosophy is simple enough, a seasonal, fixed six-course menu of trusty favourite dishes created using the best quality ingredients and a dash of haute cuisine magic. It’s HK$650 a head (just over £50) but when you factor in that you're guaranteed an evening of pure, unabashed indulgence, it’s actually great value. Plus you save on astronomical wine list pricing as it's BYO.
The restaurant itself is pretty basic - a cosy (read small) space with minimalist décor (read bare white walls and standard issue black tables and chairs) leading out to a large terrace perfect for a pre-dinner drink or alfresco eating during the cooler months of the year. The real thought and creativity has been invested in the food which is whipped up by Vietnamese-American chef, Que Vinh Dang and his team in the large stainless-steel open kitchen in the centre of the room.
When we finally managed to bag a table and were informed that the evening’s menu was themed ‘American Supermarket Foods’ I couldn’t help but feel that perhaps we’d been slightly shortchanged. A massive misconception.
Our six courses of decadent deliciousness kicked off with a soup and sandwich. But this wasn’t any old soup and sandwich, this was TBLS’ indulgent, gourmet soup and sandwich – a punchy, earthy mushroom soup with sautéed shitakes, roasted garlic and rosemary oil with a miniature sloppy Joe sandwich – all buttery brioche and juicy beef smothered in a tangy, spicy sauce. Next up mac and cheese, so good that one of our party ate it twice (feigning an allergy to one of the ingredients in another course to ensure a double serving). Following swiftly after, two further dishes of beautifully presented morsels of heaven on a plate, apparently inspired by a fish sticks TV dinner and tinned pork and beans.
And then it was time for dessert.
No matter how near to burstingly full you may feel, skipping dessert would be criminal. As we loosened our belts, out came ramekins of Banana Moon Pie - an ambrosial creation consisting of baked bananas, chocolately crumble, homemade vanilla bean ice-cream and a wicked little dash of bourbon. Spooning up the last of the boozy, sticky bananas and declaring ourselves completely defeated, yet another dessert, the pièce de résistance floated into sight – a macaroon sandwich. Two semicircles of the palest mint coloured macaroons, homemade and just the right mix of crisp and chewy, sandwiched together with a thick round of creamy mint choc-chip ice-cream and a layer of unctuous raspberry jam. We all suddenly seemed to find a second wind and gobbled up every last crumb with relish.
TBLS really is something a little bit special; an insider's secret not to be missed. My advice? Spend the day of your booking working up a proper appetite - say, hiking up perilously steep hills or shopping like your life depends on it. Better yet, engage in full on starvation. This is a feast and a half which warrants a monumental appetite.
TBLS, 7th Floor, 31 Hollywood Road, Central,
Hong Kong Island
+(852) 2544 3433
Google map: bit.ly/NQJijN
* 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/
Modern pub attached to the Hawkshead Brewery (which moved to Staveley from Hawkshead some years ago), backing on to the River Kent. Excellent cask and bottled beer to drink there or take away. Pub grub with a regional twist. Informative brewery tours Weds, Fri, Sat (book in advance) or groups by arrangement.
Pub with good pub grub.
Warm atmosphere, reassuringly old fashioned decor and has its own football team.
Menu is home cooked and has some hearty favourites.
Angry Alys restaurant and wine bar. A small establishment selling freshly cooked food and reasonably priced drinks. It is tucked away in a small row of shops in Southsea. Always busy with locals and tourists. Friendly atmosphere.
69 Castle Road, Southsea, Hants, PO5 3AY
+44(0)23 92 816825
Google map: bit.ly/TDLTwc
Join Verona's workers for lunch in San Matteo Church. Tucked away off a side street, this self service restaurant serves a good range of salads, pasta and pizza. You can eat very well for under 10 euro with drinks and it's air conditioned too.
The Dolphin House Brazzerie is a lovely little stylish restaurant just around the corner from the main Barbican, overlooking Sutton Harbour.
Wonderful food and excellent service. Good selection of vegetarian dishes and they said they can cater for gluten-free diets.
Well worth a visit.
This is a small seafood restaurant on the western side of Helsinki. It has plenty of seafaring memorabilia on the walls.
Head along Bulevarden and at the end of the road it is to the right facing the water.
The pricing was decent and the food was delicious.
A viking-themed restaurant tucked away in a small shopping corridor opposite Stockmann, Harald is a bit pricey but worth the money. (Most restaurants in Helsinki tend to be a bit more expensive.)
The staff were nice and the atmosphere combined with the lovely food (I had bear) made a great evening.
Citykäytävä 2. krs, Aleksanterinkatu 21, 00100 Helsinki
No need to walk far from the Sablon square to find an inexpensive place to eat: for a start there’s the Parrot just off the square – ideal for lunch or as a prelude to a night out. Here the speciality is pitta, 72 different types of pitta on my last count. These come in baskets cradled in the nook of the server’s arm, and are deceptively filling – if you disagree you can just order another. There’s scope to have vegetarian, salads and pittas with dried fruit and nuts - all proving that pittas don’t have to be unhealthy or predictable. You get four different sauces to dribble on your pitta, and insufficient
napkins, but never mind. Some of the contents are liable to escape, scattering themselves
mischievously, making mess! Enjoy in a graceful bar of art nouveau swirls, turquoisey walls and
unpolished marble table tops. For 10 euro for a pitta and freshly squeezed juice you can’t really go wrong. Well-known but still a nice mix of exchange students, local couples and groups. Everyone gets a lollipop with the bill: we wouldn’t want to disturb this genteel Sablon neighbourhood afterwards, would we? And just a short hop from the rum bar I mentioned earlier.
31, rue Watteau, 1000 Brussels, Belgium
+32(0)2 512 99 22
Google map: bit.ly/NkyhTF
* Bec is our Been there local for Brussels. You can view her profile here: www.ivebeenthere.co.uk/articles/brussels-local-rebecca.jsp and follow her tips here: www.ivebeenthere.co.uk/travellers/Becinbrussels
How about this for a perfect day out with three children: we rented Assunta Maria, accommodation with a delightful mix of old meets new, with a very modern lamia and traditionally restored Trulli - which keeps cool in the sun so it is brilliant for when the children need shade from the pool.
Head early to ZooSafari in Fasano and make sure your first stop is the Monkey Train. You sit in cages(!) as passengers on a train and you head into the monkey reserve. The monkey's then crawl all over the cages, right above your head and squawk at you until you feed them monkey nuts! The kids are either roaring with laughter or stunned into silence with fear.
Chill out in the afternoon by joining the old men in Ceglie Messapica town square, walking up and down, repeatedly, until those stomach's start rumbling and Aldo's Pizza is just round the corner - the best Pizza in Italy (says my 5 year old nephew Huey - and he is always right!)
Assunta Maria is just outside of Ceglie Messapica:
+44 (0)1386 710630
ZooSafari is in Fasano:
Via dello Zoosafari, 72015 Fasano Brindisi, Italy
Google map: bit.ly/RGxaAu
Aldo's Pizza is just outside Ceglie Messapica's town square
An amazing little family run restaurant below ground off one of the main routes to the piazza. We found this looking for a late lunch, were warmly welcomed by the two brothers for whom English was as much of a challenge as Italian was/is to us. We were offered hot or cold lunch and opted for hot. We were treated to course after course of anti pasti including sea food, olives, breads, sausage etc. mid way through this we decided there would be no 'primi piatti" only to be surprised by a steaming bowl of simple but beautiful orecchiette. Lovely wine, and friendly patrons all keen to help out in their pidgin English. A wonderful happy accident finding this place, and two years later we still laugh thinking about it all. Should have been called "Serendipity"!
Vico VI Orto Nannavecchia
Trulli are typical of the region, circular limestone buildings with a conical roof, each slightly different, kind of resembling a Moor's turban from an Aladdin film. They are dotted around the area, and come in different levels from basic to luxury. Rent one near Ostuni (The White City), only about 10km from the crystal Adriatic, visit different villages for dinner every night from Locorotondo (great outdoor club called Mavu) to a meat feast at Ceglie Messapica, or passegiata at Martina Franca. But maybe best of all is to go to the market in the morning to buy fresh Buratta, Altamura bread, Primitivo wine and orechiette. I'm dreaming again ...
Most people barely give Bari a backwards glance as they disembark from the boat in the main port and head to more aesthetically pleasing places such as Lecce, Polignano or Otranto. I think this is rather unfair; it may not be big on monuments, art and beautiful buildings like Florence or Rome, but there are few tourists, so you can shop, eat and drink among the local 'Baresi', and get a feel of the real 'Italy'.
Go to 'Da Donato' pizzeria on via Lattanzio. This is a family-run place and very popular - it gets so busy on a weekend night, you either have to go 'early', ie around 8pm, or book a table. The service is friendly, relaxed and professional, and as far as I can remember there is no English menu, so bring your phrase book! As you'll see from the pictures on the walls, it's popular with footballers from the local club, but prices don't reflect that - three to nine euros for a pizza (go for buffalo mozzarella and courgette flowers when in season). However, you may not have room for one after their legendary antipasti! (Tip: order one antipasti per couple - it's big!) Free sweets and a local speciality of sugared 'taralli' will then be passed around in giant bowls. Round it off with an espresso or amaro.
There are so many beautiful places in Puglia, and definitely visit these, but give Bari at least a day of your trip. With true Baresi food there shouldn't be a 'spaghetti carbonara' or 'hawaian pizza' in sight!
Otranto is an ancient port on Puglia's Adriatic coastline and the perfect seaside getaway. We booked into the family run Bellavista hotel on the seafront and were given an 'Otranto card' which entitled us to use the city's bikes free of charge. Cycling down to Porto Badisco, a rocky, lagoon like swimming cove, nine kms down the coast, proved a real treat. However there is heaps to enjoy in Otranto itself. The Romanesque cathedral in the old city is full of ghoulish surprises. A medieval monk called Pantaleone clearly had a lot of fun designing the cathedral's mosaic floor which contains a plethora of weird and wonderful pictures from Noah's Ark and Alexander the Great to King Arthur. And after roaming about, exploring Otranto's delightful nooks and crannies (or sitting under the trees on the seafront with a coffee or ice cream) where better to finish off the day than dining on gargantuan portions of pizza and seafood at La Bella Idrussa, which must surely rank as one of the best value restaurants in Puglia. Get there early if you don't want to queue.
Via Vittorio Emanuele, 18 73028 Otranto
Google map: bit.ly/QtYLRx
La Bella Idrusa
Via Lungomare Degli Eroi 73028 Otranto Province of Lecce, Italy
Google map: bit.ly/MSzW6S
This fantastic restaurant was recommended by an Italian friend from Lecce and it is wonderful. The outdoor terraces overlooking the Ionian Sea have a relaxed atmosphere and are busy with local and holidaying Italians. There is no written menu, with the dishes comprising what is available daily - an array of delicious Italian anti-pasti served tapas style, followed by a sea food pasta course, and if you have room, a fish course too. Be warned, the amount of food is huge, and too tasty so avoid over-eating!
Via del Mare, 2, Torre San Gregorio - 73053
Google map: bit.ly/QflZdU
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