If you're looking for a true Dutch feeling, Amsterdam can be tough - it does the bikes and canals to perfection, of course, but beyond that the tourist masses and the sheer mix of people from around the world (177 nationalities call Amsterdam home) can leave you wondering what being in real Holland actually feels like.
I would suggest hopping on a bike for a day trip (or even half a day - the pull of the evening's charms in Amsterdam may prove too strong) and heading down the Amstel river. Within minutes of leaving the center, along the road and cycling pathway known as the Amsteldijk, you'll suddenly yourself cycling along the high grasses and postcard-perfect banks of the Amstel. Halfway to the city of Oude Kerk, a very nice place in its own right, you will pass a huge windmill house, then a sculpture of Rembrandt, and then suddenly at the Kleine Kalfje (little calf.)
This very Dutch spot is only 20-30 minutes by bike from Amsterdam's Centraal Station and offers a feeling of really being in Holland. The restaurant itself is cozy and inviting, but the terrace that sits right on the water is the real gem. Boats slip past just meters away, and the glass surrounding this extended patio keeps you sheltered from the country's windy ways. Cyclists and joggers zip past on the other side, and it doesn't take more than a few sips of cappuccino, wine, or beer to imagine yourself moving here.
Amsteldijk-Noord 355, 1083 AB Amsterdam
+31(0)20 644 53 38
Google map: bit.ly/TCVWjl
* Jeff is our Been there local for Amsterdam. You can read his profile here: www.ivebeenthere.co.uk/articles/amsterdam-local-jeff-funnekotter.jsp and follow his tips here: www.ivebeenthere.co.uk/travellers/jefffunnekotter
The Black Bull Inn is located in the heart of Conniston. While this does mean it is on the main junction in the village (but what does 'busy' in the Lake District really mean?), you can happily watch the world, and their dog, go by in the sun-trap beer garden, get a bit more cosy in one of the many rooms inside, or grab a seat at the bar.
The Black Bull does good grub, but the reason you should stop off here is for the beers - as the Conniston Brewing Company brews next door (spy their hydrometers and tanks from the car park if you are a real real ale fan) and so they serve lots of their beers on tap or by the bottle.
We were luckily enough to stop for a pint the day after their Barley Wine had been crowned Champion Beer at the GBBF.
Lovely tranquil setting with an idyllic garden facing the mountain of Melbreak. Off the main tourist track but still very busy in the early evening, although you can get away from the hustle and bustle in the cosy dining room. The food is freshly cooked mainly from local ingredients, from steak and ale pie (small portions available) to pork tenderloin and fillet steak. The pub has its own brewery, now based in Hawkshead, producing a range of very drinkable ales, including the long-established Melbreak Bitter, Langdale and Esthwaite Bitters and the award-winning Loweswater Gold. There are many walks surrounding the Buttermere Valley and the Honister Rambler bus service is very useful if you only want to walk in one direction. Less-crowded walks are possible in the Loweswater Fells and on Melbreak and the smaller Hen Comb, or even just along the shores of Loweswater or Crummock Water. Comfortable rooms each with their own individual characteristics and good views.
Cockermouth, Loweswater, Cumbria CA13 0RU
On a recent visit to Keswick, I discovered a delicious solution to the often difficult problem of dining out while traveling with children. I found a courtyard tucked behind a pub (Kings Arms), a sports bar (Casa's Bar) and a pizzeria (LB's Pizza House) that was perfect for family dining. With the courtyard setting, we could dine outdoors, catch a favorite sport on TV, and enjoy a mix of food and beverage from any or all of these three establishments. Our goal that evening was to watch the gold medal Women's football match of the summer Olympics, and the bar tender from Casa's accommodated us by finding the game on the television set near our table. Along with pints of ale and cider carried out from the bar for refreshment, we ate some of the best pizza I've ever had, a thin and crispy, spicy hot Diavolo that had been stonebaked in a wood fired oven (with margherita pizza for the kids, of course.) The meal was so delicious we ordered another pizza and had a second round of drinks to take us through the second half of the football match. My only regret at the end of the evening was that we were far too full to finish the feast with a sticky toffee pudding.
23 Main Street Keswick, Cumbria CA12 5BL
+44(0)800 840 1241
Google map: bit.ly/OIytx8
This stylish and ambient looking bar and bistro has a 'happy two hours' each evening from 5-7pm. As Keswick is heaving at this time booking a night in advance is recommended. The decor is tasteful, modern, spacious and the food arrives freshly cooked carried by staff that look as though coming to work is a pleasure. My starter was a large plate of garlic mushrooms swimming in their own creamy sauce accompanied by freshly made bread and butter. At only £3 it brought a large smile to my face. There was a reasonable selection of main courses so my husband enjoyed the fish and chips (a mere £6) and I enthusiastically consumed the vegetable risotto with accompanying salad. The carefully selected vegetables were roasted to perfection and tasted divine(again only £6) There was a varied selection of beers and wines- including the locally produced 'Cockerhoop'- you will be if you eat here!
25 Station Street, Keswick
Google map: bit.ly/Nw9lwG
The Masons Arms is a what people hope for in a Lake District inn, it’s a quaint old building full of character with dining available in lots of nooks and crannies. They sell an excellent range of beers and offer a full menu with lots of traditional favourites alongside some more unusual options such as ale and cheddar rarebit. In good weather the great range of light bites make it the ideal place to stop for lunch; sit outside on the terrace with the birds singing and take in the fantastic views over the valley.
The Brown Horse is situated in the heart of the Lake District, but slightly off the beaten track in an unspoilt area with great views over rolling fields. The inn has a welcoming rustic atmosphere with wooden beams, a flagged floor and a real open fire. Much of the delicious food is grown onsite or sourced locally, with regional specialties such as Cumberland sausage and Lakeland lamb on the menu. Wash your meal down with a pint of real ale; the pub brews its own and has a great selection on tap.
Guardian-reading canines (news-hounds?) should trot down to the Dog and Gun in Keswick. This old-fashioned and busy pub has an in-house menu for dogs which includes a mouth-watering range of treats and chews at reasonable prices (biscuits 5p) plus FREE DRINKS(non-alcoholic). Tell your human to try the real ales and the delicious homemade goulash. The portions are so large that dogs will get lots of tasty-bites. Slide your spare change into the cracks in the walls to support mountain rescue. A perfect ending to a day on the Fells.
2 Lake Road, Keswick, CA12 5BT
Google map: bit.ly/MXyLBL
The Sawrey Hotel on the road between Hawkshead and the car ferry across Windermere re-emerged from a makeover recently as the Cuckoo Brow Inn. Food is served every day from noon until 9pm and is excellent. They pride themselves on sourcing as much as possible from within a 20 mile radius - and with good local beers to boot. They genuinely welcome walkers, cyclists, wet dogs and noisy children - we often eat there with our muddy Springer after walks across the local fells without feeling like social lepers. In our view, best enjoyed when it's cold outside with a roaring fire blazing in the hearth in the centre of the bar - so July or August then.
This is a truly welcoming pub – we’ve visited in autumn when the open fires provided much needed warmth after a day on the fells. Our last visit was earlier this summer, when the splendid garden proved a sun trap (yes we were there on one of the few days the sun shone this summer.) The bar area is made up of three small, cosy rooms and there is a good choice of refreshment – in both food and drink.
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.
It seems as if there’s a pizzeria on almost every street corner in Prague, so it can be hard to know which are are the best. I’ve found Pizza Coloseum (their spelling) one of the most reliable. The selection of pizzas and pasta dishes is quite extensive, and although I’ve seen prices rise quite a lot in recent years, the restaurants are still very reasonable, and main course prices average around CZK 150-200.
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
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