How fresh is fresh? As fresh as the newly harvested shellfish served up by the Demoiselles de Dupuy restaurant which is hidden away in the little Languedoc village of Bouzigues. With your feet lapped by the saltwaters of the enormous lagoon which is the Etang de Thau, marvel as it yields up the platters put before you.
The handsome young patron is also a 'producteur' , a farmer of the fresh shellfish which are some of the most delicious in France. So as you sit at one of the little tables in the tiny courtyard, or under the shady sail canopy, the oysters and mussels are being brought ashore before your eyes.
The menu here is short - platters of shellfish to start, the catch of the day grilled on a wood fire, and a choice of two or three deserts. The value is amazing, the local wines are superb, and if you choose the right day, Monsieur may be cooking a brasucade - a sort of clam bake but with mussels cooked on the beach, flavoured with fennel.
The village of Bouzigues is itself a feast for the eyes, full of shellfish restaurants of all quality, but 'Demoiselles' is tucked away at the western end, away from the village. But you will always need to book, as the locals know it and love it. Sublime.
+33(0)4 67 74 03 46
Slope side hole in the wall snack bar with prices to reflect. BUT has fantastic spicy home made soups. "La patronne" travels to India a lot and brings home stocks of exotic spices. The soups are a welcome break from the usual resort offerings of saucisson and fromage and really hit the spot at lunch. Great for a quick aperitif too. Try Peche mignon (like a kir but with peach liqueur)
Place du Tour, Le Tour, near Chamonix
Google map: bit.ly/10ks8zM
Bistro in Paris 15 - open all day until around 11pm. Very varied menu with some interesting and unusual daily choices. Large terrace. Friendly service. Nearest metros Charles Michels and Boucicaut. Has a very good, reasonably priced, wine list. Lots of people and a really good atmosphere
167 Rue Saint-Charles, 75015 Paris, France
+33 1 45 58 31 63
Google map: bit.ly/X0asSV
Kerala is renowned for its food, and Fort Cochin is home to some smart and some simple places for its famous fish curry and other local specialities. Looking like the worst kind of tourist trap, the Hotel Cochin Fort (“Hotel” in this context meaning “restaurant”, as so often is the case in India) stands on a corner opposite posh Brunton Boatyard hotel. We had dropped in a few times for cups of tea and cold beers in the past and were always given fast and helpful service, so we took a chance and booked a table outside for new year's eve. We didn't expect much, just somewhere to stay up late with a few drinks and a place where our friends visiting us from the UK would be able to smoke. But it was so much better than that. The restaurant had quite a few foreign tourists, and I was interested to see some domestic tourists and even some Keralan families there too. Although Cochin Fort offers Italian and continental dishes, we played it safe with the local cuisine. Tiger prawns, seerfish (local name for Spanish Mackerel or Kingfish), chicken and vegetable dishes filled the table and were light, fresh and spicy. My Chemmeen Mango Curry (made with green mangoes) was scrumptious. The wine wasn't bad (Banyan Tree), the beer was cold and the seven of us chatted to the watchful waiters as the clock ticked towards 2013.
Then it all went a bit bonkers: one of the waiters had brought some tunes which he added to an mp3 player belonging to one of the guests and an instant party was born. The doors were barred and we had a lock-in until 2.30am. An impromptu Gangnam Style dancefest to a sound system was so distorted we each danced in the rain to our own rhythm (oh yes, it rained like the monsoon and we all thanked our own gods for bringing some sorely needed water to Kerala). The chef danced on the tables, the waiters and owner's family danced in the rain, my friends danced in the fountain and I danced with a chair on my head.
The next day we passed the guys and had a big hug. It seems that after seven years of being open they had never had a party before this new year's eve. Good times, and hopefully the first of many more.
Bellar Road, Fort Kochi, Cochin 682 001
Fantastic local basic restaurant set in a fabulous, characterful, surreal square. Typical local food with lots of veg (which is typical - this region is great for vegetarians, one of the very few in Europe). Best of it is the old dad of the two young owners. He makes the wine and the liqueurs (including prickly pear and wild fennel), sings songs and flirts like mad with the girls - of all ages. He is 75 or so so watch it - he has a lot of experience. Set in the main piazza. Closed on a Monday. The horse stew is great.
16 P. Vittoria, Spongano, Le 73038, 73020, Italy
+39 0836 945730
Google map: bit.ly/NBXeHY
Gran Caffe Tito Schipa - a cross between a gelataria, cafe and traditional Puglian family home of sisters Rosa and Annamaria.
We stopped by on recommendation from the owner of our palazzo, and were instantly treated to homemade orichiette on the terrace, deadly-strength G&Ts and straw-coloured homemade wine.
Rosa drove us out to see the Puglian coast and Alberobello and invited us to eat with her Italian family and friends repeatedly. First-class truly Italian experience, warm, hospitable and stunning food.
Gran Caffè Tito Schipa Caffè
Corso Vittorio Emanuele, 19-21 72017 Ostuni +393283250470
Google map: bit.ly/OmzZaG
Mljet is an island off the Dubrovnik coast. Stay in Sobra, the village that tourists normally sail past. You'll have a private 'beach' and Nikola runs a first class bar/ restaurant serving Croatian food and Italian pizzas. From Sobra catch a ferry or hire a Dalmation styled Fiat 500 (seriously) and head to the National Park on the other side of Mljet. Once there rent bicycles and explore the beautiful, wild and lush forest. The highlight being the large salt water lake which cocoons a Benedictine Monastery. You can take the hourly boat over to it or swim across yourself.
Sobra 2, Babino Polje
(+385-20) 74 52 22
++385 (0)20 745-222
A pretty town, set against a stunning mountain backdrop, it’s easy to fall in love with Split on arrival. The centre is built around the striking remains of the Diocletian’s Palace and contains a warren of stone paved streets filled with interesting shops. Visitors can take a walk round the coast to the beach or join the evening promenade down the palm lined harbour, for a great meal try the local’s favourite, Sperun.
Sperun 3, Split, Croatia
+(385) 21 346 999
Google map: bit.ly/Ng2Bwu
A slightly leftfield but still on topic choice would be any of Bristol’s lush Thali Cafes. The British Raj style-decor conjures up nostalgia for the last days of British Empire with a menu to match. Do check out the website to get some kind of flavour. Tea wise, one would only go there to drink Masala Chai – a drink owing its existence purely to the British East India Company – which is essentially cooked spiced tea. There is a host of savoury snacks and a limited selection of desserts to choose from, the best being Kulfi ice cream.
From 6pm the ambience changes and it takes on its award-winning restaurant persona.
Tigre is a small, quirky classic Spanish bar. We love it. They serve some of the most fabulous tapas you'll ever taste. The owner, Antonio, is a flamboyant showman who takes enormous pride in everything he serves. Try the berenjena (thinly sliced deep fried aubergine) - amazing. Antonio also serves a mean tostada: marmalade with soft white cheese or ham with blue cheese crumbled on - wash it down with fresh squeezed orange juice and a prefect strong coffee. If you're feeling adventurous (and hungry) ask Antonio to simply keep the food coming, it will be a culinary experience, you will not leave hungry and it won't cost a fortune. In the summer evenings the bar takes over the top part of the square, service can slow down outside sometimes in the warmer weather, but hey whats's the rush? You're sitting in a lovely traditional Andalucian square under the stars sipping your drink.
Pl. Constitución, 1
18120 , ALHAMA DE GRANADA , GRANADA
Google map: bit.ly/sypico
In my neighbourhood there is a bistro sheltering in a former umbrella shop: it’s called Le Neptune. Each week there is a five course set menu listed on a blackboard, which I ate accompanied by a bottle of Bourgogne picked, after some deliberation, from two lengthy chalked lists for the serious-sounding connoisseur. The combination of choice and no choice was intriguing. I waited. It became clear that for the diners in this 25 cover restaurant, this was to be an experience to last the whole evening. As each course arrived, it was described to us at table by one of the young staff. We listened intently, and then dutifully savoured every mouthful, identifying the flavours of all the ingredients we had been instructed were present. And it was only a few mouthfuls before our well-presented, delicate dishes were dispatched! But then we had only to wait again, nibbling on delicious bread, wondering what would come next. If we were curious, we could walk through the kitchen and see for ourselves.
When I return a few days later, chef Nicolas is in the process of gutting a tuna. He’s forgotten our appointment, so I ask my questions while he prepares his fish: this way I’m learning by watching and listening. I discover that there is no English translation for the Lake Geneva fish I ate on my visit; that Nicolas’ favourite ingredients are seasonal vegetables; we debate the colours (and English translations) of yellow courgette, marrow, pumpkin and squash; and I try to persuade him of the merits of swede. He looks at me quizzically. Even if he doesn’t know my favourite vegetable I cannot accuse him of being boring. After all I enjoyed his mystery Geneva fish (Féra) with sage, melon and dill; followed by ray poached in bergamot broth; beef cheek with root vegetables; a quince compote and a chocolate mousse. “Why five little plates?” I ask, “Surely that’s more work?” “No, it’s more fun”, he says. “And this isn’t work!”
Nicolas’ weekly changing menu is all about delicate flavours: nothing dominates. It’s about tempting your tastebuds rather than overpowering them: “I like to take my customers on a journey through several dishes”, he says. This means no butter, no cream, locally produced food and organic wines – “fins et légers”, to match his cooking. This former wine bar owner is inspired by childhood memories, markets and eating round his grandparents’ table in the Haute-Savoie. And he dislikes too much formality: customers see him at work, sneak a glance in his fridge and wander through his kitchen.
The five course tasting menu costs 39 euros a head, not including wine. A three course lunch menu costs 25 euros Book at least a week in advance.
Rue Lesbroussart 48
+32 489 303 350
Google map: bit.ly/otdZWl
* 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
There are loads of all you can eat meat restaurants in Brazil and we tried three while I was there for a two month stay working my way through Brazil. This place was the best. For meat eaters it was heavenly. Best tip, don't bother having lunch and stroll up about 7pm. You'll feast. If you take a trip to Brazil now it will be coming into their spring - it'll be hot but a great time to visit.
Av Atlantica 290B, Rio de Janeiro, State of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
+ 55 21 2104 9000
Google map: bit.ly/pcXxut
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