Chef Riccardo Zanni has been here for six months, and his ambitious and delicious menu is a cause for celebration.
We arrived with no reservation, were warmly welcomed, and the service was the best I can remember in a long time. Over a glass of prosecco we considered the menu (just one dish was not available and we were informed right away). Though artichokes were only listed as a side vegetable, I am fond of them and the chef said they had just come out of the oven and would be great as a starter (and we were only charged the side veg price!). A tiny chef's salad arrived as a bonne bouche and meanwhile we had to choose wine: we enquired about something red, less usual, perhaps a less known region or grape variety. Six(!) bottles were brought to our table for a delightful discussion about the relative merits - and we were told right from the start that none of the bottles cost more than €25. We chose a Lacrima di Morro d'Alba which was terrific.
All courses served were excellent - the amount of tuna served sashimi style was so generous it was hard to finish. So there was no room for dessert, but the chef insisted on presenting his newest creation, an ice-cream of parmigiano cheese and kumquat marmelade, which was extraordinarily delicious. We declined further wine, but were nonetheless served a perfect vino generoso (sticky and dark, served chilled).
None of the extras appeared on the bill, a very reasonable €80 for two. We left a big tip and still felt we had enjoyed a bargain.
Recommended without reservation.
Another post here describes why visiting the Pantanal wetlands is so special. At Barra Mansa that experience is pretty much guaranteed. Sitting right by the Rio Negro, you get to explore with guides by foot, boat, canoe and on horseback. The accommodation is of a good standard, but not so luxurious that it feels inappropriate in a landscape where nature is always dominant. The daily charge for room, full board and guided activities is affordable, but getting there is expensive or at least time-consuming (something like £1400 by private plane from Campo Grande, for up to for people; £400 for the five-hour journey each way in a 4x4). But the sense of travelling to the middle of nowhere even adds to the sense of glorious isolation - and the privilege to immerse oneself in one of the world's greatest wildlife zones.
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
Independent four-star hotel about 10 minutes walk to the north of the city centre. It is part of a renovated former military hospital, but you would never realise that from the place today. Our room looked out over water. The decoration was contemporary Finnish, the rooms are spacious and the whole place had a vigorously healthy feel about it. Excellent buffet breakfast.
Kasarmintie 13, PO Box 404, 90101 Oulu
tel: +358 (0)20 757 4700
Google map: tinyurl.com/32gpkos
Modern, well lit restaurant in the Old City, close to the more tourist-orientated joints but mercifully free of kitsch.
A seasonal menu offered mainly Latvian-influenced food, but it was presented in a contemporary fashion and with first rate service. The wine list was impressively varied, with some bottles from 10 Lats.
You might stop in Rakvere on the way between Tallinn and Narva or between Lahemaa national park and Lake Peipsi and Tartu. If so, the first impression is that, apart from the sophistication of the Aqva spa hotel, you would be hard pushed to find a decent meal. Turuplatz - on the square of the same name - confounds that expectation. The only downside is quite loud background music which reflects its daytime and late-night bar duties. But the menu is wide and appealing and the cooking is first rate.
Superb cooking and excellent service mark this Old Town restaurant that avoids all the clichés of the nearby tourist traps. Its past as a mainly vegetarian restaurant means the choices tend to be more varied and - to some extent - more healthy.
Consistently imaginative menus and a sure hand in the kitchen are coupled with a well chosen wine list (many available by the glass) and understated decor. The bizarre twist is the presence of flat screens that show a variety of famous old masters.
10123 Tallinn, Estonia
t: 626 9088
Google map: tinyurl.com/35atfxo
Widely available from tourist offices in Tartu and the region in a number of languages including English, the 2.5 hour self-guided walking tour takes in all the main sites with just the right amount of information about each stop.
Free leaflet from Tourist Information in Tartu and elsewhere in Estonia.
Away from the more obviously tourist restaurants in and around the main square, Eduard Vilde is named after the famous Estonian writer and serves a varied menu throughout the day, with a large terrace at the rear if the weather is warm.
The food is imaginative and mainly local, with attentive service. Prices are good for the quality and it seems to be popular with Tartu's large academic population.
The building is situated between the town hall square and Vanemuisa Theatre and has a sculpture of a (fictitious) meeting between Vilde and Oscar Wilde outside.
Wine buffs with a penchant for South Africa will need little introduction to Saxenberg, and this highly rated vineyard offers tastings and slightly reduced prices on its excellent wines. But the main reason for visiting is its excellent restaurant, the Guinea Fowl. Seriously impressive cooking is coupled with not-too-formal service. Three of us had 'the works' for a birthday lunch and somehow the bill came to less than 1,000 rand. In the summer it is hard to beat lunch on the terrace, with hazy views of the back of Table Mountain. It's also one of the closest vineyards to Cape Town and only 15 minutes by car to the main airport.
Luxury boutique hotel in the Heritage Square part of the city centre, convenient for Cape Quarter, shopping, the bus to the Table Mountain cable car and only 15 minutes walk to the Robben Island ferry. The rooms are all different, some with very original touches. The staff are, in a word, amazing. No request seems to exceed their knowledge and skills, but they are never patronising. Moreover, the hotel has led the regeneration of Heritage Square, transforming a site designated for demolition into a block of gentrification. It's not a cheap option in Cape Town, but I cannot imagine you regretting the cost. Spoil yourself!
Many guides rave about the 164 boutique guest house and it's easy to see why: For 700/1100 Rand per night (single/double) you get huge, stylish rooms with en-suite facilities and cable TV. Breakfast is freshly cooked on demand - impeccable scrambled eggs, for example - and the service manages to be both personable and discreet. There is a small bar for residents and a selection of OK restaurants in walking distance.
Accommodation in St Lucia is either depressingly dull or very much at the bottom of the backpacker category. The exception is the lovingly run Lidiko Lodge, on a quiet section of the main street but with all its 16 stylish chalet-style rooms at the rear so you should get a quiet night's sleep. The owners downsized from legal careers in Pretoria and preside over an excellent staff who look after everything. Accommodation is in large comfortable en-suite double rooms. There is private car parking at the rear. Excellent breakfast is served on the front terrace, accompanied by the St Lucia clan of vervet monkeys. There is even a small range of local crafts on sale. Unbeatable.
t: +27 35 590 1581
To reach Ibo independently you will have to get a chapa ride from Pemba (or even more demandingly by changing rides on the rough road from Macomia), from where you will reach Quissanga. From there it is a short ride down to the ocean at Tandanhangue. Usually the chapa runs to meet the high tide and an unforgettable dhow ride to Ibo Island. Be aware that other islands are served from the same departure point. If you do get stuck - perhaps at the low spring tides - there is a shelter to sleep overnight, or perhaps you will find a bed in the village itself.
Any trip on a dhow is rewarding, but approaching the dilapidated fortifications of Ibo is especially memorable. The price locals pay for the one-way trip is NMT 40.
The area of bars and dives around the evangelical church opposite the main Post Office is undistinguished except for this surprisingly civilised restaurant. It serves Portuguese and Mozambican meals in a large open area. Excellent cooking and range of beers and wines.
Rua 25 de Setembro - Parque do Desportivo
tel: +258 272 20415
This small shop in a dead-end street just off Haile Selassie in Msasani sells all sorts of produce that will warm the hearts of caricature Guardian readers: organic nuts, seeds and other foods including excellent jams; hand woven textiles; products made of recycled materials. Excellent service and fair prices attract a wide clientele, but obviously mainly catering to the large local expat community.
All the possible processes in fish trading can be seen in one place. The catch is landed from boats onto the shore, from where it goes straight to the auction section to be sold to wholesalers. From there it is a quick trip across the road, past the stalls selling shells and other fishy artefacts and to the retail section.
At the back the fish is fried in a haze of fire and smoke and ready for selling to the public.
On the shore and at the end of Ocean Drive where it turns into Kivukoni Front
This is a hotel and restaurant on one of the main streets in Ibo town, not as exclusive (nor, indeed, pricey) as Ibo Island Lodge but with many charms. Accommodation is in rooms leading off from the central courtyard, which also has a small swimming pool facing the ocean. The cooking is recommended, but - as is the case with almost anywhere on Ibo - you need to book in advance to guarantee that they will feed you.
If you are looking at visiting Kilwa, you will already know that these two islands nearby are home to a series of interesting historic sites. It is worth noting that both of the islands can be visited on a single day without undue pressure of time. If you charter a dhow and hire a guide, take a picnic lunch to enjoy on the trip between the two islands. If you are lucky it will be in a dhow under sail and lunches don't get much better scenery than this.
Ask your hotel/resort in Kilwa Masoko to make arrangements
Just outside the 'centre' of Kilwa Masoko (ie. a 10-15 minute walk), this collection of ensuite chalets sits in grounds on a headland with amazing views over the sandy bay of Kilwa Masoko and towards Kilwa Kisiwani island.
The resort is very professionally managed and keen to make visitors welcome. Activities organised by the resort - tours, diving, etc - seem very well organised and reasonably priced. There is a special path from the resort down to the beach. The restaurant is recommended, too.
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