The Flask is a pub in Hampstead which was built in 1874 on the site of the Thatched House, which used to bottle spring water and sell it to taverns and coffee shops in London.
A beautiful Victorian gem, after you've had a blustery weekend walk from Highgate over Hampstead Heath, this is definitely the place you want to go to. The food is top notch, you can get a venison burger there if you so wish, and with a range of ales on tap and a warm dark wood interior that has plenty of little corners in to sit this is the place to go to warm up and relax.
So you've walked (or stumbled) along the oh-so-touristy Leidseplein and its collection of pubs, clubs and cafes, all about as subtle as a pie in the face. Or maybe you're a return visitor to Amsterdam and you've grown a little wiser. Either way, you are looking for something better, cooler, and devoid of Eurotrash. I'd suggest you turn the corner and head to Bo Cinq.
A bar/lounge/restaurant on Prinsengracht, one of the main canals that make up the city center, Bo Cinq (I have no idea what that means - will have to check with them on my next visit) is a great spot for a drink or a bite to eat. Lined with red bricks on both sides of the long, low-ceilinged interior, this place just makes you 50% cooler and relaxed as soon as you walk in the door. The low-slung couches and chairs invite you to lean in or get close to people. If that's not your thing, the other room has a long bar made for standing and mingling.
The ambiance is great - toeing the line but staying well on the good side of pretentiousness, with good tunes and good-looking people hovering near the 30-year-old mark. The vibe is good for groups and singles, though you won't feel like you're in a meat market. Subtlety is the key to the place, in the food and the mood. Later in the evening, it fills up and the energy follows suit.
They have other things going on each week, including a canal boat tour that leaves from just outside its doors - check out the website: bo5.nl/index.php
It's not cheap, mind you, with pricey cocktails appetizers that are a little too precious for my taste - they quality is great, but one might prefer some heartier fare when having a few drinks. But overall it's well worth a visit.
(Tip: if you want to use your phone here or you're waiting for an SMS that hasn't come, head outside for a moment. Inside, you're surrounded by too much brick and only the heartiest of mobiles will have a signal).
Prinsengracht 494, 1017 KH Amsterdam
+31 20 622 0682
* 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
Google map: bit.ly/pO3GJS
Literally meaning vegetable garden in Spanish, La Huerta, offers just that. Lots of veggie tapas - you can even find croquetas (croquettes) free of ham (choice of cauliflower or pesto). Tapas prices ranging between €2-3. Three tapas and 4 drinks (2 people) was about €20. Great summertime dining as plenty of outdoor seating and near other tapas bars (including the infamous Rinconcillo) if you wished to make a little tour of it.
Plaza Terceros 9, Seville, Spain
+34 655 270 079
Google map: bit.ly/ovIJK5
* BecomingSevillana is our Been there local for Seville. You can read her profile here: www.ivebeenthere.co.uk/articles/seville-local-kim.jsp and follow her tips here: www.ivebeenthere.co.uk/travellers/BecomingSevillana.jsp
She also has her own blog: becomingsevillana.blogspot.com/
Barrio: La Encarnación
This Japanese noodle bar is a real find. It's not in the uber-cool Brixton Village so you stand a better chance of getting a table!
Delicious spring rolls, sushi, sashimi, bento boxes, big bowls of ramen, pan-fried noodles and rice dishes all under one small, modest roof, tucked away in a back street off Railton Road. Charming service and a good wine list. Highly recommended.
Les Gens que J’aime is a short walk away from the Grand Place and an ideal place to pause sightseeing for refreshment. It used to be another naff chocolate shop, but luckily the owners are faithful to their 60s retro theme: believe me, you don’t hear The Doors too often in Brussels! I liked going upstairs to the low-ceilinged gallery, where I ate lasagne off a psychedelic circle tablecloth and drank ginger tea from a dribbling teapot. The food is reasonably priced and includes bagels, meatloaf and waffles, which should keep you going at least until evening.
Rue du Midi 15, 1000 Brussels
Google map: bit.ly/qGWyXm
In a city as well-trodden as New York, it's always fun to do something off the beaten path. Hudson Clearwater is a hidden gem of a restaurant at 447 Hudson Street on the corner of Morton Street in the West Village. On the outside, it appears to be an insurance/tax office. But open the unmarked green door and walk straight ahead. You'll know you're in the right place if you find yourself in a garden greeted by attractive waitstaff. And if you don't find that, exit and look for another green door. I hear the traditional fare's so good, that it's worth the hunt.
447 Hudson Street, NYC, 10014
Google map: bit.ly/nrrWBV
* Amanda is our Been there local for New York. You can check out her page here: www.ivebeenthere.co.uk/articles/new-york-local-amanda-green.jsp and her own NYC blog here: www.noisiestpassenger.com/
Gourmet sausages and other 'fast food staples' including vegetarian in a part of Downtown LA that has been taken over by artists using old industrial spaces. An excellent choice of beers and long, long tables mean that the atmosphere is not only great but you will actually find conversation with the locals is the norm.
For Bohemian flair, it's not quite Silverlake or Echo Park but it makes for a great night out.
Stockholm has lots of veggie restaurants but this is the best. Great location on the river, loads of seats, huge buffet with lots of choice and which changes so if you visit more than once you'll get different dishes. Great for sitting over a huge plate of plate of food looking at the views of the city - really chilled.
Imagine what you think it will be like and multiply by ten. The Rockies are awesome. Banff is a great place to stay. We stayed at Fox suites on the Avenue. Free transit bus to town - five minutes. Eat at Nourish or the Elk and Oarsman.
Do not expect speed at Nourish but the vegetarian food is nothing short of amazing. Fruit shepherds pie, you must eat it to believe it.
Trips: Drive highway 1A to Lake Louise for bears and wild elk and stunning scenery. Walk up to Lake Agnes and go to the tea shop. Visit Morraine Lake.
Walk up to Stewart canyon at Lake Miniwanka - it is amazing.
Do the Banff gondola, The Whyte museum and visit Bow falls. What a great place to stay.
Fox Hotel and Suites:
461 Banff Avenue, Banff, Banff National Park, Alberta T1L 1H8
+1 403 760 8500
Google map: bit.ly/q4nF87
215 Banff Avenue
+1403 760 3933
Google map: bit.ly/oE8YQL
Elk and Oarsman:
119 Banff Avenue AB T1L 1B6
+1403 762 4616
Google map: bit.ly/qKmbHq
The Whyte Museum:
111 Bear St, Banff, AB, T1L 1A3
+1 403 762 2291
Google map: bit.ly/rpZW0q
Uclulet is a very small town on the west coast. It was everything I hoped the Pacific coast would be. Stunning, quiet, rain forested, long beaches and amazing views and trails.
All the trails between Ucluelet and Torfino are worth exploring for sheer diversity. Must do Wickaninish beach, Schooner cove and the wild Pacific rim.
The Cabins at Terrace Beach are amazing, eat at Ukee Dogs or the Driftwood Patio.
Trips at Jamie's Whaling station are awesome. Get on a Zodiac with Narla. Her enthusiastic commentary is wonderful as we tracked a humpback whale and her calves. What a great place!
168 Fraser Lane, Ucluelet, B.C.
+1 877 726 7444
Google map: bit.ly/rsh8by
1090 Peninsula Road, Ucluelet, BC V0R 3A0
Google map: bit.ly/p9TpKm
1576 Imperial Lane, Ucluelet, BC, Canada
Google map: bit.ly/nVtQnN
1672 Cedar Ave, Ucluelet, B.C, V0R 3A0
Google map: bit.ly/nRwhjI
+1 (250) 726-2739
A lovely bar/restaurant nestled in the Triana barrio. It offers a wide selection of international-influenced tapas, and a well-balanced variety of meat/fish/vegetable dishes. Friendly and attentive waiter service. Fancy food but relaxed atmosphere - a little pricey, but good quality (3 tapas and 2 drinks €28). Try the star dish "Arroz meloso con magret" - Risotto-style rice with duck.
Numancia, 5, Triana 41010
Pasha claims to be London's only Kazakhstan/Kyrgyzstan restaurant, hiding at the back of an exterior that seems straight out of a scene from Borat.
Pasha also hosts a hotel and a sauna and hammam (Turkish steam bath) on the premises. Quite an unusual venue and a great, if somewhat wacky, night out.
A delightful mixture of a Spanish tapas bar and a Mexican cantina. Great tapas, using organic and free-range produce. Guests can enjoy divine Iberico hams washed down with fine Spanish wines. There's even a hotel on the premises, if you become 'tired and emotional' ...
Johanssons looks like a tiny deli and sandwich bar from the front but behind it stretches out into a Tardis of wonderfulness. There is a small bistro behind with a lovely garden where you can enjoy a quality bottle of plonk and some olives. The Mediterranean/Swedish menu has sea bass, wild boar, home-cured salmon and scrummy pork belly plus there are plenty of veggie options.
2 Grove Lane, Camberwell, SE5 8SY
+44 207 701 4944
Buses 12, 36, 171, 436 to Camberwell Green
Google map: bit.ly/p0Vmh0
Located five minute's walk away from the main square (Praça da Liberdade)is this Porto institution (which is due to celebrate its 50th anniversary this November).
The speciality of the house is BBQ food – meat, fish and the star of the show as the name of the restaurant insinuates is the chicken (frango being the Portuguese for chicken). The food is delicious, the standard portions are really meant for two, but many a hearty diner seemed to be giving it a go. For the not so hungry, there are half portions.
It’s a pretty simple place full of locals (which is always a good sign). Downstairs you will find a bar filled mostly with local gentlemen at the counter socializing while having their meal and upstairs a simply decorated dining room filled mainly with families and couples.
The service from the waiters is professional, efficient and friendly.
Also worth a mention is the local beer, the refreshingly crisp and fizzy Super bock.
Upon leaving, the smile on your face will not only be from the delicious meal you just ate, but also from the reasonable price you just paid.
Rua Bonjardim 223, Porto 4000-124, Portugal
+351 222 008 522
Google map: bit.ly/qslqxR
Recently stayed at the Royal with my wife for our wedding anniversary. The room was very well appointed and spacious, but the main draw for us was the outstanding food! We ate in every night!
A restaurant in Friedrichshain, a very short walk from Samariter Strasse (U5) station.
We arrived and it was busy with only one waiter. We had to wait quite a while but the ambience was lovely. Drinks were delivered quickly and we ambled over them waiting for our food.
The mains were very filling - a seafood risotto and a gnocchi with red cabbage. They were both flavoursome and tasty. We had a shared starter and a dessert and it cost 28 euros. We felt this was a bargain.
Worth the effort to get there
A family-run chiringuito (beach-side bar). It is so hidden away it’s even pretty unknown to the locals too. From the slope on the way down, you wouldn’t imagine that it is an eating establishment: there’s nothing to indicate its restaurant status, no bells or whistles, like signs. It doesn't even have electricity, running on a generator. It simply is what it is, but it serves the freshest fish you can imagine and has a never-ending view of blue skies and sea. They do offer a menu with the dishes that are always served, for example, tomates aliñados (tomatoes with garlic, drenched in vinegar and olive oil), chips, fried eggs and green peppers. However, it’s always best to ask the owners what is available on the day, since it depends what the fisherman, father of the family, managed to bag in his net and bring back that morning. Be sure to try the choco (cuttlefish) – I can guarantee that it will be the biggest that you have ever set your eyes on. The coquinas (small clams) are yum too. And don't forget sardinas when they are in season (any month without "r" in Spanish).
It's a little tricky to get to. Either park up near the Playa Rocío campsite and trek down the sandy slope, or walk approx 2 km along the beach from Matalascañas. Open from April through summer.
Google map: bit.ly/ql4E39
Restaurant Porto Romano is a small restaurant that serves Portugese and Belgian cuisine. It's honest, simple and delicious food.
The grilled fish is a must as is the apple pie. Very nice Portugese wine at good prices (compared to prices in Bruges.)
Sint Jacobsstraat 50, 8000 Bruges, Belgium
Google map: bit.ly/17gRuxh
When I'm feeling flush, I like to treat myself to a dinner on the eighth floor of the OXO Tower and marvel at the views of the city from the huge summer terrace - summer weather permitting!
The British-Asian fusion cuisine is pretty tasty too.
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