It's a sausage and mash restaurant, believe it or not, right in the heart of Oxford's Castle Quarter, and it's just 'right' - a celebration of all that's great about great British food. It's not a chain, but a single place, run by a single guy and his enthusiastic team. He's bound to be there, telling you which creation of sausages goes best with which creation of mash. Local beers, local staff and a good feel. Best place I can recommend
An erect willy is a part of the chef's special in Sighişoara's smartest dinery. Made from pork meatloaf, it salutes Vlad the Impaler, the Translyvanian hero whose birthplace is just around the corner. The town is the best preserved medieval citadel in Europe, old MittelEurope alive and well in Transylvania. The impressive Tolkienesque clock-tower houses a good museum. Climb to the top to gaze down on the pan-tiled roofs, cobbled streets and ancient covered walkways that link nine defensive guild towers. And the willy was delicious, thank you for asking.
The place to stay in Sighisoara is the Casa cu Cerb - the name translates as the Stag House and the hotel is easy to find: on the front of the building there's a painted rearing stag, complete with real antlers that project into the small main square.
A face behind reception may look familiar; this is where Princes Charles has stayed on trips to the area. HRH is apparently related to Vlad the Impaler but you wouldn't guess, a friendly autographed 'Charles' portrait welcomes you to Translyvania. Ask for a room overlooking the square: you can watch the Transylvanian world go by, see and hear the clock-tower, listen to the echoing chacks of jackdaws, and almost don't need to leave your room. The top floor rooms are the best value.
The hotel is not quite what it seems, dig a little deeper to discover that in 2001 it was restored to an extremely high standard (a traditional wooden staircase is particularly superb) by the Messerschmitt Foundation www.schloss-anras.com/messerschmitt_eng.html. Established by Willy Messerschmitt it is dedicated to preserving the best of German architecture. The link between Germany and Transylvania, if you're wondering, is that the region was formerly peopled by the Saxons, their churches and villages remain today. (You should also know for politeness at least, that until the first world war Translyvania was very much Hungarian and for many, still is.)
Two must-see-dos (as well as the pork willy) in Sighişoara are a) a walk up the covered walkway (protection against winter snow) to the defensive church and graveyard at the top of the hill. An old horse-drawn hearse parked round the back adds atmosphere, as if it were needed. Then b) is a little pizzaria, San Gennaro, near the main square. Baked in front of your eyes, the pizzas are thin and fresh and delicious and costed us two euros each. There's a garden at the back to enjoy them with a beer if the weather's good.
To aid in creating a sustainable new Translyvanian rural economy Prince Charles bought a couple of farmhouses and converted them into self-catering accommodation. These are managed for HRH by Count Kalnoky www.transylvaniancastle.com/kalnoky/kalnoky.htmlwho who also welcomes guests to his own estate in Miklósvár - a typically Translyvanian agrarian village. We stayed there in a 'gingerbread' cottage with maize cobs hanging under the eaves. Meals including breakfast are usually served al fresco under a wonderful grapevine-covered loggia, or in the evening in a very atmospheric ancient dining room (think dark night, Dracula, flickering candles, intriguing fellow guests, Dracula ...)
The last stronghold of the European Wolf is Translyvania; there are an estimated 3000 still roaming the forests, more than the rest of Europe combined. There are also brown bears and lynx. Count Kalnoky organises guided nature trips into the woods and forests. We first met sheep, with their shepherd, and our guide issued a sheepdog cautionary - speak softly and carry a big stick (you may look like a shepherd). The dogs are large and can need watching, their role is, after all, fighting wolves and bears.
We found ammonites in a forest stream, saw really beautiful insects, and picked and ate delicous wild raspberries with our picnic which included the ubiquitous strong plum spirit. This was enjoyed in a meadow alive with grasshoppers and birdsong. The raspberries you also see being sold at the roadside by gypsy women and girls along with baskets of some luminously yellow fungi. In the middle of nowhere on a wooded hill we came across an American archaelogy professor plus students excavating a Hunnish 4th century settlement. But the very best came last, as we crossed a stream on the way back, there glistening in the mud were the very recently formed spoor of a large brown bear.
Casa Cu Cerb
Str. Scolii, 1, Sighisoara, Mures, 545400
+40 265 774625
Google map: bit.ly/WOXqd8
The Hotel Sighisoara is a good hotel next to the square with a separate outdoor restaurant with good quality food where the aforementioned chef's special is good value, five or six meats served on large wooden board. A meal to remember. www.sighisoarahotels.ro/
Pizzeria San Gennaro - just opposite the Casa Cu Cerb. Baked to order delicious thin pizza, garden in the rear. Was 2 euro for an eat-in pizza.
Restaurant Chevalet has the most idyllic location on the shores of Lake Siutghiol. Light streams in through the French doors, or in warmer weather, you can eat on the terrace. Prices are incredibly low and the cooking is almost a floor show in itself-the cheery chef prepares food at the table, most of which comprise freshly-caught fish (including enormous prawns who clearly considered themselves to be part-lobster) and flamboyantly concocting indulgent desserts made from local berries or crepes with wild almonds, honey and buttery caramel. When the sun sets, the lake sparkles...as did my husband's eyes when the bill came! Very reasonable, washed down with a dark, spicy local wine and finished with sweet, strong coffee. Perfect.
A rare nod to Romania's literary heratage that it seems shy to acknowledge, this restaurant is woefully under-used, and the owners struggle to market it. Spooky inside and out, with themed, good quality and inexpensive meals, along with friendly staff, Dracula restaurant is well worth a visit during any stay in Bucharest.
Splaiul Independenței, București, Romania
+40 21 312 1353
Google map: bit.ly/112Hs5D
This is a true gem of heritage and culture amid the splendour of the Carpathian mountains.
Rustic dishes prepared to traditional recipes by the Family who own and operate Cabana Postavarul.
You don't need a Royal Compass, like Prince Charles who owns property in the region, to find it and you will always remember it's beauty and integrity.
If you do need a Royal Compass then you will find the best Ski and board instruction money can buy with Silviu and Alex and their team.
Our legs ached and our heads were full of the fascinating sights and sounds of Poznan. We had seen the mechanical goats fighting with their horns in the old square and had visited the Museum of Music and had marvelled at one of Chopin's pianos but now we needed food and our eyes were drawn to the name of one of Poznan's most entertaining restaurants - 'The Dark Restaurant!'
We were led in complete darkness to our table not knowing what would be put in front of us. The tingle of anticipation remained with us as the eery outlines of the waitresses appeared and disappeared into the shadows. The fun of finding the food on our plates and then trying to guess what each of us was eating produced an evening of great mirth and hilarity. We tried to exchange drinks and sample one another's food but this proved challenging in total darkness.This was an unforgettable evening and a once in a life-time experience!
Bottom of the Ettelsberg gondola, bright, modern, fast service great basic fayre for families. Italian/German dishes that hungry children won't pull faces at. Very, very reasonable prices and open at 8.30am for early skiers and during the three nights they have floodlit skiing.
Poland’s Hel Peninsula was once mistaken for the Caribbean in my holiday photos – and you can send postcards saying you’re on holiday in Hel – but it gets very crowded in high season, so the Pomeranian/Kashubian coast to the west offers a quieter alternative with the same fantastic beaches. Łeba is a highlight; you can hire bikes cheaply for a forest ride through the Słowiński National Park to an amazing moving sand dune. Ustka is a lively seaside town with a particularly good bakery (Piekarnia-Ciastkarnia Eugeniusz Brzóska, ul. Marynarki Polskiej 40, 76-270 Ustka) and an excellent café specialising in stuffed dumplings which never taste quite as good outside Poland (Stara Pierogarnia, ul. Darłowska 10A, 76-270 Ustka. Tel: 00 48 59 307 03 03 Email: email@example.com). We went there three days in a row. The skansen (open air museum) of Kashubian culture at Wdzydze Kiszewskie is also well worth a day trip (www.muzeum-wdzydze.gda.pl), as is the more famous one at Szymbark, which boasts the world’s longest table and a house which has been built upside down, as well as a range of traditional food options and its own brewery. (www.na-kaszuby.pl/Ciekawe_miejsca/Szymbark.html).
Piekarnia-Ciastkarnia Eugeniusz Brzóska, ul. Marynarki Polskiej 40, 76-270 Ustka
Stara Pierogarnia, ul. Darłowska 10A, 76-270 Ustka. Tel: 00 48 59 307 03 03 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
With aching shins and numb toes we zigzagged down from the summit at Haut Fleury with hope in our hearts; hope that Jean de la Pipe would be open for late lunch, and that it would live up to the images of warmth and restdom that the locals had so vividly conjured up the night before! What a relief therefore when our skis kindly deposited us outside the front door! We decided to bystep the happy vinchaud drinkers on the sun-filled terrace and snuggle up by the ginormous wood-burning fire that dominates the cosy interior. We feasted on beautiful copious slabs of cote de boeuf cooked over the fire that crackled away next to our table, and moved our heads in sync as huge platters of local Savoie meats were delivered to neighbouring diners! Needless to say that two hours later, the next port of call was a hot bath in the chalet rather than another ascent to the icy summit!
+33(0)4 50 34 22 08
Bottom of Les Molliettes ski lift
It's not cheap but then Vail isn't really and we had the attitude of we'd saved for 18 months so let's enjoy ourselves. Game Creek is accessed by snowcat from the top of the Eagle Bahn gondola in winter which is pretty awesome to start with. It sits on the mountainside in the Eagle Creek bowl so you get a great view. Food is modern American/ European - nothing amazingly creative but it's really tasty and well worth the trek. Only open for dinner though so you can't just ski off the slope to your table. But then it's kind of nice to be eating in that kind of environment without all your ski gear on anyway.
There are a bunch of places to choose from to eat at Plaine Dranse near Morzine in the Portes du Soleil but none of them are in the same league as Chez Babethe. The interior is packed with fairy lights, ornaments, fur drapes and people turning it into something of a magical alcove. Babette ushers you to your seat - and she seems to know everyone - and you sink into cushions and fur while you wait for an aperatif. It's not cheap - starters are about 16 euros - and you won't be back on the slopes any time soon. But if you're looking for a slopesie restaurant that you'll remember for years to come then Chez Babethe is it. And the thing is - she'll remember you too, which is a nice touch.
Not the greatest views in the Alps but the warmest atmosphere and the most delicious food. Startgels is in a league of its own in the Weisse ski area of Eastern Switzerland. Watch the owner Ueli Grand (known to us as the 'bearded man') grill your lunch over a roaring open fire. A wonderful haven for that final hot chocolate and cake on the last run home, but our friends also enjoy walking there from the top of the Foppa chairlift. Never been in summer but it would be equally lovely.
Postfach 79, CH-7017 Flims-Dorf
+41 81 911 58 48
The Startgels restaurant is open when the Weisse Arena ski lifts and cable cars are in operation.
Rustic slope side restaurant for fondue and house specialty "croutes aux fromages". Run by the Ravanels for generations. The fondue is the best you will get and the service is super friendly. A genuine hang out for the locals. Great value (12 euros for a fondue made with beaufort cheese, wine by the "pichet" from four euros) and quality all round.
Slopeside in that it's right at the bottom of the home run in Les Houches so you can literally ski onto the top terrace. Funky, kitsch, big and a large inside area for apres ski make it a great stop. They do lunch specials and though evening meals maybe push towards being a bit pricey its all wholesome English/French fusion cuisine so there's a lot more choice than just tartiflette and variations there of.
Live bands play regularly and if you're down in family-friendly Les Houches as opposed to knees-up Chamonix, you'll be thankful for the Kitsch Inn offering a bit of liveliness!
This is the alpine restaurant you secretly dream of owning. With the most wonderful views of the Alps all around you, it beckons you in from the (blue) slopes. Choose whether to curl up in front of the log fire, or sit outdoors in the sunshine ordering from a huge range of home-cooked food, watching in disbelief as expert off-pisters descend vertically in the distance. The food is delicious, the service relaxed, the bill very reasonable and the experience will stay with you for a long long time.
Opposite the St Esprit chair lift about 2km below Arcs 1950.
+33 4 79 07 44 18
Small restaurant with a menu that changes weekly - rare for Honfleur - friendly service and very good food at reasonable prices - 24 euros fixed price three course menu - à la carte around 35 euros. Is also a wine bar and so has some really good wines to choose from.
58 rue Haute
Google mp: bit.ly/13ybrRp
This stylish restaurant in Tokyo’s Daikanyama is decked out in dark wood, lending to the feeling of sitting out on the veranda of a holiday home. The restaurant is mid range with a modern European style menu. Think salads, fish plates, cheeses, pizzas and pasta. The portion sizes aren’t big, so in usual Japanese style I recommend ordering a few plates to share between two. With a great wine list and friendly, approachable staff this place makes for a great date spot or a posh lunch with friends.
16-15 Sarugakucho, Shibuya, Tokyo, Japan
+81 3 6415 3232
Google map: bit.ly/VQXPe8
* 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
I had my wedding here this Christmas and it was the best experience I could have wished for. They made the day run so smoothly and were so helpful and friendly. Robyn helped us plan our wedding and made it seem so easy and stress free. it was a dream! It is a quirky venue and does the ceremony as well as the reception which we thought was perfect. A real find! (It is also attached to a hotel so we did a wedding package with them which made everything sooo much simpler not having to think about travelling constantly on the day!)
p.s. the food and cocktails were gorgeous!
Send your feedback or queries to email@example.com