This is a great winter walk with some good food at either end and a bit of optional shopping in the middle. If you start at The Plough on Northfields Avenue they serve a really great cup of coffee. Since a much needed refurbishment a few years ago they have evolved into a warm and welcoming gastro pub with an extensive menu from naughty nibbles to fab desserts. Head down Northfield Avenue where you will find some smaller boutique shops perfect for Christmas gifts and stocking fillers. Turn through Lammas Park and enjoy a little open space, perfect for a frosty day in Autumn or Winter. At this point you can turn off at Beaconsfield Road and then turn right at St Mary's Road for the Red Lion pub. If you want a longer walk then continue through Walpole Park with its beautiful trees and flowers. You may be lucky enough to see a flock of lovebirds that occasionally brighten up the suburban sky, since someone released a pet bird or two many years ago. You can exit the park on St Marys Road, next to Ealing Studios. The Red Lion was very popular in the Fifties and Sixties with Britain's top comedy actors popping in for a pint between 'takes'. It now serves a splendid Sunday roast (pricey but worth it) and a vast array of home cooked British food, fish and chips, pie and mash etc. It also boasts a good range of ales and an enclosed garden.
The Plough: 297 Northfields Avenue Ealing London W5 4XB
+44(0)20 8567 1416
Google map: bit.ly/dS3yhr
The Red Lion: 13 St. Mary's Road, Ealing, London
+44(0)20 8567 2541
The Kirkstile Inn, Loweswater, is tucked away in the West Cumbrian fells and sandwiched between two lakes, which means when it comes to pre- or post-pub lunch walks there are endless choices.
The wellie brigade (young and old) have lots of lakeside rambles to choose from. Loweswater has a lovely old wood on its shore. Awash with bluebells in May, at other times you can potter along the paths looking out for deer and red squirrels and hunting for the hidden waterfall.
Crummock Water is also surrounded by a great mix of old trees and has countless paths to explore. There are becks to guddle in, caves to jump out of, footbridges to run across, a stone boathouse to picnic beside and lots of shingly beaches to swim from.
For the walking-boot band there are fells all around. One of my favourites is Melbreak (1,670ft, grid reference NY 14306 19471), bang in front of The Kirkstile’s beer garden, it challenges you to give it a go as you tuck into your slow-cooked Lakeland lamb. A short, sharp, and in parts slightly scrambly, ascent up the front takes you to the summit from where you can check out the rest of the Lake District before heading down a more gentle path off the side and along a track which delivers you back to the pub. Done and dusted within an hour, a friend and I once did this between our main course and pudding at the pub.
But it’s not all location, location, location when it comes to The Kirkstile: it has its own brewery (check out The Kirkstile Gold) and the food’s fantastic.
It's only a tiny place near the Thistle Barbican among a row of small shops.
Me and a few friends used to come here on a Friday night after a few of pints in the white lion round the corner.
The staff don't know too much English but it's a pleasure watching them cooking the food on the gas rings in the back.
The food is always good with a wide selection.
For a takeaway its one of the best.
105-107 Lever St, City of London, EC1V 3RQ
+44(0)20 7490 8225
Google map: bit.ly/dKNhE8
This 'gastronomic space' is in fact on the tiny side - only 12 people can squeezed in to sit on high chairs round the narrow and high table. The sense of exclusivity is quickly confirmed when food and wine arrives. The tasting menu has so many small courses that I lost count, the wines are from small producers and excellent matches for the food. Courses are 'announced' on the discreet flat screens at either end of the table. The price is around €40 per person all included, which must count as one of the great bargains in this city.
It is tucked behind the main market of the old city on a back street. The market itself is closed at night.
Mercado de Santiago de Compostela
Rua de Ameas
+33 981 576 145
Google map: bit.ly/bOOjp8
I was in Edinburgh for the festival, and oh boy was this place full of fun and all free. I stayed for two weeks and almost every night would end up there. They have live music and very delicious food ... but I think what made this place shine for me was the friendly staff. It is an Irish bar and you sense that throughout - be it the traditional design of the place, or Irish bar staff, or the fresh soda bread that you can have for lunch.
Cafe Jospehine is a very restful bar-cum-restaurant next to the water and only 15 mins by metro from the city centre. It is full of books and has one room that is decked out like a library. Very ornate and luxurious, yet less expensive than most bars in the city centre, good bar staff who serve coffee the traditional Dutch way with a glass of water with ice and a shot of rum with cream. My local in Rotterdam and former favourite student haunt
Oostplein, metro Oostplein.
Google map: bit.ly/aNGSCl
A friendly restaurant and bar, Moby's overlooks Ganges Harbour and serves fresh seafood, and other delights, entertainment most nights and a great place to try BC's best Ceasar (the cocktail) or the salad, I will always remember the view and a plate of steamed mussels.
Take the TGV from Paris (or hop on less green but slightly quicker flight from Gatwick) to the capital of Languedoc-Roussillon - a city where eating well, drinking local wine and relaxing seem to take priority.
You'll want a good day or two to explore the dizzying warren of medieval streets, mostly car-free, in the miraculously preserved old town (known as 'l'Ecusson').
I lost count of the hidden squares complete with fountains, cafés, quirky boutiques and restaurants; you could spend hours just watching the world go by - or a small fortune on chic Christmas presents.
If you're after culture, there are plenty of churches to discover and the impressive and recently renovated Musée Fabre, as well as regular festivals (and Christmas market) in the nearby Place de la Comédie, the heart of the city that constantly teems with life.
For tea, the prettiest spots are around the Eglise Saint-Roch (pronounced "Saaa-Rock"), or the Place de La Canourgue, where a café/restaurant called Le Comptoir de l'Arc was peopled by the fashionable but (relatively) unpretentious.
For dinner, a great little Japanese restaurant called Mayumi Izakaya is tricky to find, but well worth it for simple, fresh sushi.
Best of all is the twice-weekly organic market (Marhcé des Arceaux), where the finest breads, cheeses, honey and other local produce made me wish for a portable fridge and a larger luggage allowance.
Few small cities have perfected the art of living quite like Montpellier: the inhabitants seem to know instinctively what's worth hanging on to, and yet nothing's preserved in aspic. An ancient town full of young, open-minded people, new shops, fast trams and that indefinable French knack of making everything look effortless.
Accommodation: Hôtel Le Guilhem
18 Rue Jean Jacques Rousseau
34000 Montpellier, France
+33(0)4 67 52 90 90
Google map: bit.ly/b3WOl4
Dinner: Mayumi Izakaya, 26 Rue Terral
+33(0)4 67 63 12 25
Google map: bit.ly/cdGZbY
Bar: Le Comptoir de l'Arc, 2 Rue Hôtel de Ville
Market: Tues & Sat 7am - 1pm, Place des Arceaux
In the heart of the trendy neighbourhood of El Born just minutes away from the chaos of Las Ramblas you will find this gem of a pizzeria run by a group of young friendly Argentinians.
The offering consists of a wide variety of delicious crusty deep base pizza by the slice made with quality ingredients. I recommend the pineapple and bacon and anchovy and tomato. They also have savoury tarts and empanadas. Each item costs a very reasonable €1.80.
If you feel like something sweet they have a range of typical Argentinian desserts that are worth a try.
The place is quite small, catering mainly to the locals and is usually always packed- a good thing since pizza is always fresh.
If the weather is obliging you can get take away and have it on one of stone benches outside.
We walked pass the Moon one night and were lured by the Vietnamese deco and antique look of the restaurant. We were then welcomed by friendly staff who kindly went through the menu. We decided to go for the set menu one.
The food is brilliant and served in reasonable portion. We thoroughly enjoyed the spring roll and tuna coated in tamarind sauce. All for $7.5 per person! For drink we went for tropical storm and i must say it's amazing.
This restaurant offered a great value set 2 course lunch for EUR15: we had salmon mousse followed by rabbit and spaghetti, with local beer from the Half Moon brewery. Very friendly and good service.
This was a great family run atmospheric restaurant deliberately sited off the main square on Goezeputstraat. We had a delicious cote de boeuf together with starters, wine and port for EUR95, and the best frites of whole holiday. This was a genuine place where the owner served you, took his time and treated you like real people, not tourists on a conveyor belt. Highly recommended
A secluded tranquil haven - almost taking a step back in time, except that the food and furnishings are modern and stylish. The hospitality directly from the owners is awesome, and the wine cellar is fantastic - a walk-in refridgerated room! Eat from the set menu every night and you will not see the same food twice and you will not leave an empty plate. Yum!
Great restaurant serving Indian and Singaporean fusion cuisine.
The portion sizes are absolutely huge.
We had two starters and two mains one night and could not finish half the food. We should have watched the locals as they shared starters and mains.
Excellent value and excellent food.
There are two Mirchi restaurants in Berlin. Additionally the sister restaurant Amirt serving Indian food is also one we'd recommend.
Oranienstraße 204, 10999 Berlin, Deutschland
Nearest metro - Oranienburger Tor
Google map: bit.ly/cmYzlo
Oranienburger Straße 45
10117 Berlin, Deutschland
Google map: bit.ly/a7XiGA
Nearest metro - Oranienburger Tor
Good solid pizzeria in Berlin. Very good value in nice surroundings.
Cost us €20 for a large margharita (that we customised with our shared starter) as well as drinks.
By the looks of it a very popular place.
Kastanienallee 28, 10435 Berlin.
Google map: bit.ly/9ePB7P
Uncle Ho's is a small Vietnamese restaurant tucked away on a quiet street off the busy square in the middle of the tourist district of Quito.
Locals call it home and for good reason. You won't find better food such as Pho and traditional Vietnamese dishes anywhere else in South America.
The Irish expat owner makes sure that no one leaves without having some fun and keeps his regulars happy with music, movie, and sports nights complete with drink specials nightly. If you're travelling in Ecuador make sure you visit Uncle Ho's before heading out to the Galapagos or jungle.
166-E(-29 Jose Calama and Diego de Almagro La Mariscal, Quito, Ecuador
Google map: bit.ly/cVw00M
It's a restaurant on the mountain above Alcossebre. You pass it on the way up to the white Ermita Santa Lucia chapel that can be seen at the top from the town below. Very good food and the staff also speak good English for those whose Spanish isn't so good. Nice layout and a fabulous view of Alcossebre and Las Fuentes below.
Pinar, parc.12 (Alcocéber / Alcossebre)
Alcalà de Xivert, Castellón 12579
Google map: bit.ly/9EShnZ
One of the hippest, not to mention most stylish places in the center of the city is all about jazz! Open all day for coffee, drinks or food, hosts live jazz music every night. Delicious Mediterranean cuisine by chef Kostas Stavrou, cool art exhibitions, excellent decor, and a line-up of top-notch local and international jazz bands, show off modern Athens at its best.
We went skiing in New Zealand when we were visting family and they took us to Queenstown. After a hard day on the slopes, the kids wanted a burger so we reluctantly agreed and ended up having the best burgers of our lives! They have a huge selection of gourmet burgers which come with HUGE portions of chips. There is something for everyone and it is really high quality, made while you wait with friendly chatty staff (even though they are really busy!)
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