Savvy Traveller has recruited culinary agents and foodies across the globe to report on exceptional, fun and out-of-the-way eateries and bars that appeal to the discerning traveller. Updated frequently, this list ranges from rustic trattorias in Sardigna and hard-to-find wine bars in New York City to the trendiest restaurants in Kuala Lumpur. All offer exceptional value, warm hospitality and sumptuous food and drink.
Spirithouse, Toronto - Spirits, East and Cocktails
by Sasha Exter of So Sasha
The first thing I thought of when walking through the doors of this establishment over the weekend was that it seemed like a trendier, luxe version of the neighborhood bar in the 80′s hit sitcom Cheers. Located in Toronto, on the Southwest corner of Adelaide and Portland, the newly opened spot exudes comfort with a homey, laid-back vibe… and I can see the King West condo dwellers and “suits” using this place as their after work hang out spot, similar to the Norm Peterson character on Cheers.
I almost missed this little treasure as it is located in an nondescript building just below ground level, but upon opening the large glass doors I was amazed to see what I would call a “ginormous” wrap around bar, which appeared to be sufficiently staffed with an adequate amount of bartenders and bar-backs. Meaning quite simply, patrons spent most of their time getting tipsy off the expertly made concoctions rather waiting for a life-time to place an order. With two lounge areas, which have a strong masculine feel, you will f ind; large, black, tufted leather couches and banquettes, worn in leather club chairs, reclaimed wood tables, vintage globes and sepia toned images of distilleries. Essentially a sophisticated “man-cave”, chic enough for us ladies.
Decor aside, it is the liquor menu that I should really be focusing on…they have a bottle collection of over 400 (one of the largest in the city) just to give you an idea of what they are working with! I was completely blown away by the vast variety of prepared drink options, which are conveniently segregated into six categories; House Cocktails, Vintage Cocktails, Modern Classics, Aficionados, Sparkling Cocktails and Mixed Drinks. Regular cocktail prices begin at $12 and can reach up to $48 for their barrel-aged cocktails, which are served in custom eight ounce bottles.
My 5 suggested picks…
- French 75 (Sparkling Cocktail) – gin, fresh pressed lemon, gomme syrup, and sparkling wine
- Gin Gin Mule (Mixed Drink) – gin, ginger beer, simple syrup, fresh pressed lime
- Caesar Sangrita (House Cocktail) – 100% agave mezcal, cracked salt & pepper, clamato, fresh pressed orange
- Sazerac (Vintage Classic) – rye whiskey, gomme syrup, peychand’s, & aromatic bitters and absinthe rinse
- The Boulevardier (Aficionados) – top shelf bourbon, aperitivo, Italian vermouth
487 Adelaide Street West (at Portland), Toronto
647 277 1187
Tuesday & Wednesday From 6pm-1am
Thursday & Friday from 6pm-2am
Saturday from 7pm-2am
Vin Room, Old Mission Cycle Building, 2310-4th St SW. Tel: 403.457.5522. I’ve been exploring restaurants throughout most of southwest Calgary for the past 2 months that I’ve lived here. In the very trendy area of Mission on 4th street – there’s a little Tapas place that came highly recommended called the Vin Room. Appropriately named, this restaurant offers up to 100 different selections of wine – including sparkling wine. The impressive wine list is only outdone by a beautifully arranged bar that boasts a back panel refrigeration system encased in glass with a handy spout for each of the wines currently being presented for the day To keep them “bright and fresh,” which the restaurant calls a high-tech Enomamatic system and what owner Phoebe Fung calls “the Ferrari of wine preservation systems”.
Vin Room has a wonderful ambiance provided by the dark walls and modern furniture ranging from lime green armchairs to soft brown leather couches arranged along the back wall. It has oblong oval tables situated near the bar and a touch of light emanating from a candle on each table. For those warm Calgary nights that bring the Chinook winds, it also offers a patio on the second floor.
The staff at the Vin Room are friendly, attentive and knowledgeable. Vin Room offers wine tastings (recommended 3 wines per person per meal) and helps the patron sift through the multitudes of selection wine by narrowing their choices down through preferences of taste; bold or mellow? Sweet or dry? Red, white or rose? Of region; Australian? Californian? South African? Italian? Or South American? For the more discerning wine connoisseur there is a members only club accessible online that tracks the wines you have already sampled, create a customized wine “wish list” and participate in a wine community where you can share your wine experiences.
Tapas has always been a favourite of mine. Small samplings of food originated in Spain that gives one enough of a portion to capture the essence of food yet provides enough leeway to sample several types of dishes at one sitting. Executive Chef Claire Cameron brings her skill and artistry to each dish which not only pleases the senses of taste, but also visually entices the mind. The seafood selections such as the Grilled Prawns served in a sake, ginger and Thai Basil sauce and the Grilled Calamari nestled in peas, bacon, mint and sweet potato were in one word – incredible. My favourite dish hands down on the menu was the Brome Lake Duck Breast – if you like duck – get ready to be impressed.
For the more daring sophisticated palettes I implore you to try the Stuffed Bone Marrow at $5 each; it is creamy, rich and absolutely tantalizing to the taste buds. The Pure Vida Beef Carpaccio with a Truffle Brassica mustard and garlic chips had an extra layer of sophistication with a kick. The Vin Room also offers an array of vegetarian dishes as well as some exotic meats - Elk, smoked Sturgeon and Duck Salami. Sunday, Monday: 1600-2200; Tue & Wed: 1130-2300; Thursday: 1130-0000; Fri & Sat: 1130-0100. firstname.lastname@example.org
Review by: Claire Korionoff
L'Express. 3927 St. Denis (just north of rue Roy). Tel: 514-845-5333. Great place to enjoy a lazy Sunday brunch. Bistro atmosphere that evokes eateries we've visited in Paris or Lyon. This is a noisy, often crowded place for comfort food that's moderately priced. A specialty is the bone marrow appetizer - roasted bone marrow served with sea salt! Highly-recommended: the steak frites. The long bar is a great perch if you are alone. Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 2 a.m. Saturday, 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. Sunday, 10 a.m. to 1 a.m. Popular among locals. Reservations recommended!
Obika. Inside Brookfield Place @ 181 Bay Street, 416-546-1062
It's hard to believe a restaurant concept can be built around one single type of cheese, Mozzarella, but that's exactly what the founders of Obika (Obika is Neapolitan for “ecco qua” or “here it is") have done in several major cities, including Toronto.
We had the chance to chat with Obika Canada chief, Lorenzo Sibio, and sample some of their recommended dishes and wines: we left satisfied and with smiles on our faces. On top of that, the visit was on the first full operating day of the restaurant, and all staff projected a friendly, casual and professional demeanour. Bravo!
Obika offers the real thing - Mozzarella di Bufala Campana DOP — a soft, sweet, snow white cheese made in the Campania region of Italy from buffalo milk. DOP is an abbreviation for “denomination of protected origin" - essentially a guarantee of authenticity. “The handmade kneading process differentiates our mozzarella,” says Sibio. It has a characteristic porcelain white shine, milky texture and distinctive taste.
The three types of mozzarella on offer here, sourced from select farms on the fertile plains of Campania, are flown in directly from Italy several times a week - a logistical feat in itself as freshness is crucial, says Sibio (as his wife typed away on a laptop in a backroom, surrounded by cases of wine!).
As cheese lovers but mozzarella novices, we found ourselves relying heavily on the explanations and recommendations of the staff - all of whom seemed to have sampled most of the dishes and wines. Aside from different varieties of mozzarella, Obika also offers other Italian specialties, as well as organic salads and pizzas.
We consumed with gusto the Trio di Rotoli ($24) - essentially an Italian take on sushi. Mozzarella di bufala slices are stuffed with smoked wild salmon and arugula; bresaola and arugula; and prosciutto and radicchio. Delightful! We also enjoyed a antipasti dish: the $10.50 chilled organic tomato soup with basil, burrata and crostini. The thin crust pizza is the only one available in the region made with special flours, naturally risen for 48 hours - and cooked on Refractory Stone. We loved our prosciutto pizza, especially the robustness of the fresh ingredients: Prosciutto Crudo di Parma DOP, Mozzarella di Bufala Campana DOP, organic tomatoes, and arugula (photo below).
Obika Toronto is located in the cavernous lobby of Brookfield Place, at Young and Front, in the city's financial district. This will be the 17th branch in the world, the fourth in North America and the first in Canada. Obika originated in Rome in 2004.
Obika springs into action weekdays at 7 a.m. as a café with pastries and desserts, followed by panini and piadina before the full menu takes over around 10:30 a.m. Sibio wisely is banking on morning and lunchtime traffic from office workers, promising rapid daytime service.
Even though the restaurant is mostly situated under the large office building atrium, Sibio and his team have done a splendid job in creating a warm, intimate atmosphere at night - with special lighting and a huge olive tree brought in from California!
George Restaurant. 111 Queen Street East (just east of Yonge Street). Tel: (416) 863-6006. This is fine dining and for special occasions - perhaps a first date. The restaurant is housed in a former 1850's chocolate factory and tables are sufficiently spaced for discreet conversations. Chef Lorenzo Loseto, with an emphasis on the freshest, local ingredients, presents an a la carte tasting menu consisting of 3 courses with a selection of cheese and desserts to follow. Or chefs specials, six and eight course tasting menus are also available. The kitchen makes everything from scratch including all breads and pastries. Breads include Canadian Red Fife wheat, a heritage variety once nearly extinct, the genetic parent to virtually all bread wheat grown in North America today. An excellent wine list - handpicked by restaurant managers and the waiters - is available and are sold either by the bottle, six or eight ounce glass. On warm summer evenings dine alfresco in what is described as the most romantic courtyard in Toronto. Patio special for lunch and dinner are offered at C$22 and C$75 respectively. Lunch: Monday - Friday: 12:00pm - 2:00pm. Dinner: Tuesday - Saturday: 5:30pm - 10:30pm.
The earth colours and hushed tones of George create a pleasant intimacy.
Ferro Bar & Cafe. 768 St. Claire Ave W. Ph 416 654-9119 Cozy, friendly neighbourhood hang-out with awesome wine list, appetizers and gourmet pizzas. Open until 2am Thursday through Sunday. Try magic mushroom appetizer. A bit noisy on Sundays. Reservations only for 8 or more.
Frank's Kitchen (Little Italy)- 588 College Street - 416-516-5861. Frank’s Kitchen is relatively new and is offering the most delightful cuisine for reasonable prices. Nestled in the heart of Little Italy, Frank’s Kitchen is a treasure trove of delightful Mediterrannean dishes and offer simple but personal touches such as refreshing cucumber infused water, linen toilettes in the washrooms and a bevy of free appetizers such as house made Charcuterie and Artisinal Bread baked daily, an Amuse Bouche, Intermezzo and home made Chocolate Truffles free with every dinner. Little Italy is renowned for its trendy, intimate European atmosphere. It is located on College Street from Euclid Avenue to Shaw Street but Franks stands out from the rest. One of our personal favourites is the Arugula Salad with Shaved Parmesan, Roasted Pear and Candied nuts in a Lemon Vinaigrette $8; a must try - Champagne Risotto with Peas, Asparagus, and Morel Mushrooms with Truffled Pecorino Cheese $17. The two most expensive dishes on the menu are well worth it: Milk Fed Ontario Lamb– Rack, Loin and Braised Shoulder in a Syrah Reduction with a Ratatouille and White Bean Puree $27 and the Grilled 12oz Striploin with Parmesan Frites and Glazed Carrots served with a Shallot Peppercorn sauce $30. The chef shops weekly at St. Jacobs Market in Cambridge, Ontario where he hand picks his fruits and vegetables. Reservations are a must on weekends. People watching on patio was great too, especially after 10 pm. Open Tuesday-Saturday 5:30PM to 10:30PM; Sundays 12:00PM to 3PM.
Frank's Kitchen, Toronto. Credit: Claire Korionoff, Savvy Traveller 2010
La Terrazza . 1088 Cambie St. Ph 604-899-4449. In fast-paced Vancouver other restaurants have come and gone but the luscious La Terazza has been impressing aficionados of Italian food since 1998. Nestled in trendy Yaletown it has one of the best wine lists in the city, earning Wine Spectator awards over four consecutive years. It even has an ample supply of the hard-to-find Savvy Traveller favourite - Burrowing Owl Cabernet Sauvignon 1998. Romantic, cozy and friendly staff. The food can best be described as simple but elegant. Awesome martinis in the lounge up front. Reservations highly recommended.
The Lift Bar-Grill View. 333 Menchions Mews (near the Westin Bayshore Hotel). Tel: 604-689-5438. The best feature of this bar and eatery is the spectacular view. Second is the stylish interior design, especially the sweeping bar. Third is the charming bar staff. With a group or date? Go for the upper outdoor patio, which feature a fireplace and heaters - not to mention spectacular views of Stanley Park. Food-wise the chefs focus and fresh and hearty dishes from the land and sea. Dishes we have tried and recommend are the Steamed Salt Spring Blue Mussels (with pancetta, leaks, thyme, merrudale cider and pomme frites), Korean chicken wings, calamari (served with tzatsiki and cocktail sauce) and the pomme frites. Excellent wine-by-the glass selections. Located on Coal Harbour next to the Westin Bayshore.
The Salt Tasting Room. 45 Blood Alley Square (in Gastown). Tel: (604) 633-1912. Though difficult to find in a back alley in the tourist district of Gastown, the search is worth the time. We rank this as one of Vancouver's best and most unique wine bars. Friendly and knowledgeable staff. An extensive wine list (many BC wines are featured) is supported by a constantly-changing menu of 10 small-batch cured meats (think wild boar chorizo!), 10 artisanal cheeses, and 10 condiments. There is no kitchen here and all menu items are posted on a huge blackboard at the back. On a recent thirsty evening, a solo visit with the C$15 tasting plate and three glasses of wine ran under C$50. Don't by shy to ask the staff for suggestions...it takes the hassle out of thinking here! Lunchtime at Salt features hearty soups, shaved fennel salad, and various grilled sandwiches. The 18-foot-long communal table is excellent for large groups. Ron Brill describes the Salt Tasting Room best: "It combines the best aspects of a charcuterie, wine bar, and chill spot into one enigmatic meeting space." Hours: 430PM-12AM (last call for food just before 11PM). Email: email@example.com
The main dining hall of Vancouver's Salt Tasting Room.
La Bodega. 1277 Howe Street. Tel: 604-684-8814. Savvy Traveller loves tapas and La Bodega is the first Spanish restaurant to be reviewed in the city of the 2010 Winter Olympics. Hearty tapas plates, warm hospitality and a comfortable - almost rustic - setting is to be found here. Not to mention reasonable prices. Most tapas plates clock in at under C$9. Recommended are: Pollo Frito, the Spanish meatballs, ceviche and Gmbas al Ajillo (prawns in sizzling garlic oil). La Bodega has been in operation since 1971 and has a loyal following.
LI QUN 11 Beixiangfeng, Shengyi Lu, Ne of Qianmen, Dong Cheng. Tel: 6705 5578. A Peking duck restaurant - regarded by Savvy Traveller to be the best in the Chinese capital. Stashed deep in an atmospheric hu tong (alley way), this small family –run duck diner is not so much adored for interior design or service - but the duck is excellent. The aroma of the slow roasted duck from the huge charcoal oven set at the front door is guaranteed to wet your appetite. The Chinese salad is worth noting. As for the wine menu, the standard Chinese Great Wall is available but Li Qun also has imported wine selections - including Australian shiraz. The washrooms are not recommended so watch your water intake. There are no washrooms nearby so you’ll have to take a taxi to Tiananmen Square, as long as it's before 10pm. Major credit cards are accepted. Another bonus is that waiters understand enough English to take orders. One final note: the potions of the dishes are small but the price is very reasonable.
Kolkovna. V Kolkovně 8, Prague 1, 110 00. Ph: +420 224 819 701. It's near the Old City in a former stamp printing works building from the 1920s. Traditional Czech food with a modern twist. Michelin rated. We recently spotted on the daily menu the traditional Potato gnocchi with mushroom cream sauce, and chicken leg a la duck with white and red cabbage, potato dumplings. Do try the very good Czech Pilsen Urquell beer! While in Prague try red cabbage dishes. Mon- Sun.:11:00 - 24:00. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Vin Baren. Dronningens Tvaergade 6. Tel: 3332 0982. Takes a bit of searching but not far from the landmark Admiral Hotel. Friendly service, warm atmosphere and good selection of wines. Opens at 6PM.
Askadinya. 11 Shimon Hazadik St. in Sheikh Jarrah (1 block east of Hwy. 1 or the "Green Line" and 4 long blocks north of the Jerusalem Hotel). 02/532-4590. Named after the Loquat tree in the middle of the garden, this popular restaurant is know for hospitable service, a warm ambiance, creative dishes and huge portions. One visit drew raves about the pomegranate marinated steak! The spiced pumpkin soup with shrimp is to die for. Fresh draft beer (try the local Palestinian beer - Taybeh) and decent wines are on offer. Don't be shy to bring your own wine. This eatery is a draw for the who's who in Palestinian society - no wonder it's been open for more than 10 years.
Borderline Bar. Just two or three doors up from Askadinya this is the perfect place for a night cap. Though don't expect to find an empty seat on busy Friday nights. In summer the outdoor patio offers discreet table for dining and drinking.
Sequoia. 3 Abu Feda Street, Zamalek. Tel: 010-0334466/2735-0014/ 737-0523.. On the shores of the Nile in central Cairo, just off the trendy area of Zamalek. Unabashedly so-hip-it-hurts, this is the place to see and be seen. Well-heeled Cairenes come here to wine and dine, and there are refreshingly few camera-totting tourists!. Order a series of mezza plates for a hearty meal. The local beer is cold and the Egyptian wines drinkable. Very good views of the river and all sofas and tables are al fresco. This is definitely the place to relax with a sheisha (try melon flavoured) in one hand and a drink in the other. Service is spotty - but on good nights professional and efficient, with a tad of snootiness. Part of the restaurant is tented and there's a large movie screen at the back. With the wooden floors, low tables and canopies, the venue takes on a club-like atmosphere. Summer nights are when this becomes one of Cairo's hotspots - and a good perch to watch Cairo's style cognoscenti parade by. Reservations are recommended but if you do not have one, walk in as if you own the place! To be avoided during Ramadan, when the place is reduced to a crowded iftar buffet (150EGP/person!) and ad market for multinational companies. Open daily 1pm to 2am.
Brasserie Georges. 30 cours Verdun, Perrache. 04-72-56-54-54. Oozing with history come here for the famous cabbage dish, choucroute. Lyonnaise selections abound. Try the saucisson brioché (sausage in brioche stuffed with truffled foie gras). Reasonable prices. It's the oldest in Lyon (founded in 1836), and probably the largest in France (with 450 seats). Jean-Paul Satre dined here - as did Ernest Hemingway and femmes de lettres Colette. Many have their names immortalized on plates affixed on the booths. The mature staff serve dishes with a warm efficiency. Open weekdays 11:30am-11:15pm and weekends 11:30am to 00:15am Closed May1.
Osteria Italiana. Schellingstraße 62. Tel: 087-2720-717. Savvy Traveller has been known to bolt from Munich Airport during brief transit stops, just to enjoy a lazy lunch at this cozy, intimate Italian eatery. Known as Hitler's favourite Italian restaurant (its history goes back to 1890 and Lenin and King Umberto of Italy reportedly dined here), Osteria Italiana is now popular with couples - young and old - local residents and the occasional tourist who's been brought here by locals. During warm weather try to grab a table on the outdoor patio, which requires skillful navigation through the kitchen. Homemade pastas are wonderful here - and look for white asparagus dishes when in season. The tuna carpaccio appetizer is to die for! The wine flows easily here thanks to the affable, helpful waiters. For dinner, reservations are recommended 2-3 days in advance - sometimes more. Tuesday-Saturday: Noon-230pm; 630pm-1am
Osteria Italiana in Munich: main dining room
Holbein's. Holbeinstrasse 1. Tel: (069) 660566-66. Where else can you enjoy great food, awesome wines, and friendly service in the magnificient setting of a museum? Enter Holbein's. This lovely dining option is located in the courtyard of the Städel-Museum. With its soaring glass walls and stylish décor, it is a contemporary jewel box amid the old-master paintings. Try the Argentine filet mignon and grilled Canadian lobster in vanilla foam. Portions are fortifying. Main courses 22€-29.50€ ($29.70-$39.80). There's a good wine selection and live jazz music most nights. Head for the outdoor terrace on warm evenings. Open 10am to midnight. Reservations highly recommended. Email: email@example.com
Live jazz at Holbein's in Frankfurt
Hong Kong (HKG)
Grassini. Grand Hyatt Hong Kong, 1 Harbour Rd.; 8520-2588-1234. Named after the bread sticks that appear on the tables, this swank restaurant-with-a-view features carefully prepared Milanese dishes (porcini mushroom and pumpkin risotto, braised duck with aged balsamic reduction) paired with wines from its 1,000-bottle cellar. Prices that easily cause sticker-shock to any corporate accountant! Reservations highly recommended.
Luk Yu Teahouse. 24-26 Stanley St., Central. 852-2523-5463. Famous for its noodles, dim sum and gruff waiters. A tourist attraction in its own right (first opened in 1933), this multiple story, Cantonese eatery deserves a visit even during short transit stops in Hong Kong. Locals often receive preferential treatment and the best seats in the house but be patient. While waiting enjoy its ceiling fans, spittoons, individual wooden booths for couples, marble tabletops, wood paneling, and stained-glass windows. Dim sum is served from 7am to 5:30pm, but best to enjoy before 10am while the Cantonese waitresses make the rounds with trays of dumplings.
If you could transport the quintessential Parisian bistro to Budapest, with Hungarian, not French food and wine, it would be the Bock Bisztró. Vintner József Bock, whose Villány winery makes excellent reds, showcases Hungarian labels in this wine restaurant. Located in the Corinthia Grand Hotel Royal, it is the perfect place for a meal for any occasion. Why not try it before a concert at the Music Academy or a play at the Madách Theater? For a sample of traditional Hungarian fare, try the cold plate with homemade sausages, salami, ham, and hot peppers served with mangalica pork fat. The gorgeous goose liver is vacuum cooked at a low temperature and then quickly grilled, served with caramelized fruits and a ginger parfait with rucola chips, this is an inspired creation! Desserts are worth saving room for. €€€
Bock Bisztró, Budapest
'One of Budapest’s most exceptional restaurants, offering a unique experience coupled with an extraordinary interior design. Tradition-based gourmet cuisine is prepared from the best, selected fresh ingredients. It is for those gourmands who not only enjoy distinctive food, but who seek time-honored flavors as well...' Onyx's stated mission, to modernise Hungarian cuisine, is most evident in their 'Hungarian Evolution' tasting menu:
-Goose liver in two courses: Goose liver cake layered with green walnut and apple served with furmint jelly and salty walnut praline & Warm goose liver cream with grape jus
-Lamb soup with loin, tongue bean puree and tarragon foam
-Beef selection: Cheek of beef braised in red wine with crispy potato & Tenderloin steak with sweet potato puree & Ox-tail layered with smoked potato foam
-Somló sponge cake of the 21st century
Housed in a gothic building in the Castle District, Alabárdos exudes the gracious style of a bygone era. The main dining room is festooned with images of heraldry, along with gleaming cutlery and Herend porcelain set on beautifully dressed tables. The sense of refinement is underscored by the first-rate service, and most importantly, the fine food and drink. Start with the delicious goat cheese from Csongrád with beetroot baked in salt and green salad sprinkled with vanilla and walnut oil. I recommend the veal tenderloin with egg letcho en croute with French green beans and paprika sauce. Desserts are made daily for your enjoyment. €€€€
Located in the City Park, near Heroes’ Square, the venerable Gundel Restaurant is proud to provide guests with the finest in food and services. Budapest’s fanciest and most famous restaurant was reopened in 1992 under the auspices of the well-known restaurateur George Lang, owner of New York’s Café des Artistes. Pâtés of foie gras seasoned with Tokaji Aszú, prepared with Hungarian truffles; and a slice of cold, smoked goose liver; Chef’s three soup sampler; pan-roasted filet of Balaton fogas Gundel style served on leaf spinach with Egri Chardonnay sauce… just a few examples of the unparalleled Gundel classics. Make sure to check out the weekly changing lunch menus at reasonable prices. The restaurant is also famous for its excellent Sunday Brunches, many associated with holidays.You may even take home a remembrance of Gundel from its wines, fruit essences, goose liver, paprika, cookbooks, or souvenirs, all available at the Gundel Boutique. There are few restaurants or experiences I have ever more heartfelty recommended than the Gundel in Budapest. €€€€
The dark, modern interior of Bábel is impressive: warm ambient lighting fills the black lacquered space while spot lighting highlights the food on your plate. But this place is about more than just tricks with light.. The words 'divine', 'delectable', 'delirious' don't even begin to describe the delicious experience of dining at the Bábel. The sweet potato cream soup with chanterelle is worth every sinful, cream-filled, rich sip. Though the green pea stew with meatloaf was perfectly fine, it was the plum crumble with kardamom espuma that sent me through the roof.. €€€
Náncsi néni www.nancsineni.hu
This place has been around since 1980, and many locals still talk about it as if it was their own special restaurant. Perhaps that’s because of the homey ambience of ‘Náncsi néni’, which is named after the founder’s grandmother and still run by his family. Getting to the location on the north-west edge of Buda can be like taking a trip out of town, but once you arrive, the friendly staff does try to make you feel the trek was worth it. The garden, with 250 seats, has twice the capacity of the interior, and it’s serenely stunning. The sun filtered through the leaves of the tall, century old oak and chestnut trees provides a subdued green lighting, and the city seems miles away. The food is great: skilled preparations of Hungarian dishes, jazzed up with some clever touches. The ‘Hortobágyi palacsinta’ starter, a pancake stuffed with chicken in creamy paprika sauce, is done straight up Hungarian-style. But cooking the ‘fogas’, a pikeperch native to Lake Balaton, in rosemary is a good preparation that you don’t see enough of in this country. €€
Attila Gere, whose winery in Villány is one of the favorites in Hungary, recently opened a classy-looking wine restaurant in downtown Budapest, with oak furnishings, Zsolnay tableware and fancy prices. The subtly flavourful dishes put a modern twist on tradition, like the decadent goose liver créme brulée starter. Throughout your meal, a sommelier will help you choose just the right vintages. They mostly stock Gere, but other good Hungarian wines are available. €€€
Csalogány 26. www.csalogany26.hu
This casual and cosy restaurant has a 'blink-and-you'll-miss-it' facade. As such, it has a strong local clientele who have located the restaurant through word-of-mouth, but even if you're not a city dweller, the restaurant owners named the establishment after its address as a clue to its location. This is light, contemporary Hungarian and continental cuisine at something very close to its best – you can see your meal being prepared on the TV screen. On offer is high quality food (lunches at bargain rates!) and great service, but try not to decide upon a favorite dish too quickly; the menu changes regularly in accordance with the food that's in season. It's a popular place, so reservations are highly recommended. €€€
Café Kör www.cafekor.com
The wrought-iron tables, vaulted ceilings, and crisp white tablecloths give this chic bistro a decidedly downtown feel. In the heart of the busy Fifth District, Café Kör is ideal for lunch or dinner when touring nearby St. Stephen's Basilica, although it's best to go early, since the place enjoys a loyal local following. True to bistro aspirations, the daily specials are scribbled on the wall, in both Hungarian and English. Let the friendly waitstaff guide you—even if steamed leg of veal sounds a bit less than tempting, it's heavenly. Grilled ewe-cheese salad is a favorite with regulars. €€
Hidden on a back street near the Keleti train station, the family-run two generation restaurant Rosenstein is worth the unlikely detour, with its sophisticated yet casual atmosphere that embraces you in its warmth. Owner and internationally renowned Chef Tibor Rosenstein, winner of the 2007 Hungarian Restaurateur of the Year Award, and his son, focus on good, authentic food and friendliness. The consommé with goose liver or the Hungarian fish soup are highly recommended. For a main course, try the fresh Vas-style catfish fillet with baby shrimp and home-made wide noodles. The fish is marinated in garlic milk to ensure its tenderness, then coated in herbs and paprika, and finished to a light crispness. Have a glass of aged plum pálinka or some good wine to complement your meal. €€€
Bagolyvár is a budget alternative to Gundel as it has the same owners, but the prices are much more reasonable. Housed in a lovely Transylvanian manor house, the idea, as sexist as it may be is that you are dining in your mother or grandmother's place; therefore, you are served only by women who care for your needs. A restaurant unique in Hungary, where only women plan, market, cook and serve the food. Bagolyvár offers old world charm and family values for the modern age. Guests are pampered with the tastes of home cooking. The menu changes daily, just like in a real home. €€
MÁK Bisztró www.makbistro.hu
Chef Krisztián Huszár, with Michelin-star experience, uses the latest kitchen technology while fusing Hungarian, French, Basque and Catalan cuisines. He creates small helpings of orgasmic flavours by mixing ordinary and extraordinary ingredients -duck's tongue, hare, pig's hooves- and cooking them to peak of flavour. These are often served up in tiny portions as 'pinxtos', the Basque version of tapas, though the courses labelled mains are not much bigger: if you're hungry, order several. It's proffered by a friendly and intelligent stuff, who can guide you through the impressive selection of local and domestic wines.
A couple of years ago, Costes brought chef Miguel Rocha Vieira to Budapest and set their sights on a Michelin star. Early this year they succeeded, and since then the restaurant is acting like one that wants to stay on top. If you can afford it, Costes will provide perhaps the best meal in Budapest. Rocha Vieira's creations are brilliant: the goose liver terrine with verbena-infused peach consommé jelly is one excellent example. Ft4200 as an appetiser, it also comes with one of the tasting menus, and is remarkably unique and delicious. Pretty much everything you get here will provide small bites of fantastic flavour. You can wash it down with the best wines, which the sommelier will guide you through without pressure - and with an understanding of smaller pocketbooks. In general, all the service stuff, who were poised and correct when this place first opened, have also grown more relaxed, making the atmosphere more festive. Truly an award-winning restaurant, Costes does seem to keep on getting better.
- Hungary recommendations by Livia Helena Deme
The Living Room. Tel: 962 6 4655998. Jabal Amman area, off 3rd Circle. Across the street from the Amman Intercontinental Hotel, this has long-since been a favourite all night hang-out for expats and well-heeled Jordanians. Some of the best sushi in town. A small sushi bar near the front serves up the fresh stuff but diners throughout the restaurant can order off its menu. Friendly service. One of the few places that serves alcohol during Ramadan. If you are after a table or couch it is advisable to book ahead of time. The central bar is a good perch to people watch. Good music that doesn't drown out conversation. Kitchen hours 12pm-midnight.
Romero Restaurant. Tel: +962 (06) 4644-227. Perhaps the best Italian food in Amman, downstairs from The Living Room (same owners - see above). Opened in 1979 as a family-owned restaurant and then transferring to local ownership in 1988, this is a formal dining venue, with friendly and prompt service and decent wine list. One Savvy Traveller who visited in March 2012 reported back with very positive comments about the food quality and prices. She recommended: Crema di Broccoli soup (5JD), Canelonni al Formaggio (5.5JD), and Tiramisu (3JD). Dinner for two was 30JD (without wine, including taxes and tip). Valet parking available. Kitchen open 1-3pm; 7:30-11:30pm.
Tel Aviv (TLV)
Manta Ray. Alma Beach, Jaffa. Tel. 03 517 4774 Located on a quiet beach between Jaffa and Tel Aviv, specializes in seafood and tasty breakfasts. The awesome mezza plate - with such selections as ceviche, marinated beets, goat cheese and spinach/shrimp salad - is a must! A great wine list - try the Spanish Tempranillo and inhale its sensuous aromas. Ask for a table on the outer, covered patio to watch the sunset. The staff here are very friendly, efficient and helpful with recommendations. A Savvy Traveller favourite is the seafood pot - almost overflowing with shrimps, crab and other local and imported treats from the sea. A recent dinner for two - with six mezze selections, two mains and wine by the glass - clocked in at about 85 Euros.
Nanuchka. 28 Lilenblum St. Tel: 0576605111 x220. A Savvy Traveller favourite - this trendy Georgian restaurant and bar famed for its dumplings and friendly service. Great bar scene at night that sees this quaint establishment filled to the gills with a DJ playing excellent music from the 70s and 80s. You can place you trust entirely in the hands of the amiable bar staff, especially when it comes to wine recommendations.
Rahmo. 25 Yoel Moshe Solomon Street. Tel: 02-624-0468.Pop in here after you've finished buying great Israeli and other wines at the Avi Ben wine shop just a few doors down on Rivlin Street. This is the closest you'll come to home-cooked Kosher food. There are just a few selections each day and you'll find it difficult to choose from all the soups and stews boiling away in the huge pots! Rahmo has one of the best hummus in town, and other recommended servings are the “kube” soup – a soup with dough wrapped meat-balls, “Majadra” – a side order of rice with lentils. A two-course lunch with locally-bottled water ran just a few dollars - one of the best deals in Jerusalem! No reservations required; sit inside or outside on the pedestrian mall. No table service; cash only. A second location is at 5 Eshcol Street.
Adom. 31 Jaffa Street, Finegold Yard. Tel: 02-624-6242. Hidden away in the Feingold Courtyard, Adom is an oasis of peace and quiet in the middle of urban downtown Jerusalem, popular with expatriates and locals alike. A three-in-one restaurant featuring different menus for lunch, dinner and late-night snacks. The lunch menu includes a wide variety of meats, fish and seafood and is known for its French-Belgian cuisine with a touch of Israeli style. Dinner choices include liver pate in a cherry tomato jelly sauce (to die for!), shrimp, cheese platters, chicken wings in a spicy sauce and more. The restaurant also has a wine cellar containing 160 different wines, and at night Adom becomes an exclusive bar with more than 150 types of alcoholic drinks. Friendly, efficient service. Reservations highly recommended! Sun–Thur: 12:30pm-2:00am; Sat: 1:00pm-2:00am.
Sakura. 31 Jaffa St., Feingold Courtyard. Tel: 02 - 623 54 64. Believed by many to be the best Japanese restaurant between the Dead Sea and the Mediterranean! Very popular with the expat crowd. sushi fish, which is flown in almost daily from New Zealand, the Pacific Northwest, and the North Atlantic. The best appetizers are sakura ebi, miso salad and fish carpaccio;and the best main courses are mixed gioza, sushi sashimi special and special maki.Main courses range from $13 to $20. Open everyday 18.30-23.30h and lunch from 12.00 till 17.00h, Open Fridays only in the evening.
Sakura is said to be the best Japanese restaurant in Israel
Trattoria Da Pino Di Ferri Marco & C. S.A.S. Via Cerva, 14. Ph: 02 76021911 Fabulous authentic and unpretentious trattoria. Home cooked and delicious food, not expensive, right on the edge of the main Duomo shopping district.
Il Coriandolo. Via Dell'Orso #1. Ph +39 22 869 3273, For dinner, in Brera neighborhood, near the Gucci and Prada-type shops. Famous for Milanese risotto. Average cost Euro40.
Armani/Nobu. Armani World, Via Manzoni 31 (restaurant entrance at Via Pisoni 1). Tel: 02 6231 2645. Models and fashionistas concerned with their waistlines can enjoy the stylish softly lit design, whilst nibbling famous dishes like black cod in miso sauce and sushi.
Trattoria da Serafino. Via Lepanto 6 (steps from the Palazzo della Regione). Ph: 070/651795. Inexpensive, good food in a trattoria setting. Regional fish and meat dishes figure prominently on the menu. Try any of the dishes with clams (vongole) - a particular specialty in Cagliari Closed Thursdays. No credit cards.
Torre Grande (Oristano)
Il Pescatore. Via Mille Lire, Marina di Torre Grande. Tel: 0783/22152 or 0783/22090. On the beach near the ruins of Tharros. Spend an entire afternoon here, sampling sumptuous and generous seafood dishes served by friendly staff. Overlooking the sea this is a wonderful, rustic eatery for gathering with friends. Wine is inexpensive and free-flowing.
Enoteca Cul de Sac. Piazza Pasquino, 73 Ph 06.68.60.10.94 A charming, rustic trattoria-type restaurant housed in a wine bar, just off Piazza Navona. Friendly service, great food, reasonable prices.
Enoteca Il Piccolo.Via del Governo Vecchio 74-75. Tel: 06-68801746. Also off Piazza Navona, this small, trendy and cozy wine bar is a favourite of up and coming locals. More for drinking and cheese sampling, light snacks and lunch items fill the menu. (Some savvy travellers to Rome claim the best food is to be found in enotecas - or wine bars). Il Piccolo serves a refreshing wild berry wine - complete with a long spoon to scoop out the wine-soaked fruit. It's in a giant bowl at the bar. Friendly staff who are knowledgeable about wines. One of the few places outside Tuscany to find a moderately-priced Brunello di Montalcino.
Jazzy Brick. House No. 038, Setthathirat. Ph: (021) 771-1138. Almost opposite the noisy Kop Chai Deu bar and restaurant and one of the coolest places in this relatively sleepy capital. Friendly, efficient service. Great martinis and cold beer. Bar appetizers include Lao sausage - try it! Savvy Traveller hasn't yet reviewed the adjoining restaurant (closed Sundays) but the manager (who is Lao but raised in Australia) insists it is worth a try. In all there are more than 150 cocktails on the menu! High-back wicker chairs at the bar lend a Southeast Asia touch to this place. Nice hideaways corners upstairs if you desire more privacy. Open daily from 6pm, with last call usually around 11pm.
White. Al-Nahar Building. This trendy establishment views with Sky Bar to be THE place to be seen in Beirut. Located on the top of the Pierre al-Khoury-designed building in the center of downtown, you get a beautiful view of the city at night and the nearby sea. Reservations for the ringside tables and central couches are highly recommended, otherwise cozy up to the bar for a stool. Wine by the glass here is very good and the recorded jazz music will appeal to those in their 30s and 40s.The staff are friendly and helpful.
Kuala Lumpur (KUL)
Frangipani. 25 Cangkat Bukit Binatang. Ph: (603) - 2144 3001. Fusion, design and innovation come together for a wonderful dining experience. On weekends the upstairs bar heaves with the in-crowd. In the restaurant, try baby octopus starter and tea-smoked salmon as main.
Pacifica Bar & Grill. Mandarin Oriental Hotel, KLCC. 02-2380-8888. Our favourite place to drop by for drinks and appetizers before heading out for dinner. Belly up to the bar and enjoy the friendly service. If you get lazy the adjoining restaurant with show kitchen always has sumptuous dishes - highlighting "contemporary European cuisine with distinctive Asian influences."
SeaHouse Boduthakurufaanu Magu, 2nd Floor Hulhumale Male' Ferry Terminal, Male. Tel: +9603332957. The island capital of the Maldives, one would think, should be a treasure trove of wonderful dining venues. This is not the case. Thankfully there is the Seahouse, conveniently located above the ferry terminal linking Male with the island airport. Great views, good service (when the manager is around), free Wifi (when it's working) and tasty and reasonably prices Asian dishes. We recommend the Thai curries and noodles. Sundays feature a brunch buffet offering Maldivian and the usual Western dishes. Like all places in Male no alcohol is served here.
Thai beef peanut curry - a signature dish at Sea House in Male
Monsoon Restaurant and Bar- Yangon, Myanmar (formerly known as Burma). 85-87 Thinbyu Road, Botataung. (near the Strand Hotel). Tel: 95-1-295-224; (95-9) 501-5653. A charming colonial style house is where chefs prepare some of the best Indochinese dishes, including Thai, Lao, Vietnamese, Burmese and Cambodian. Friendly and efficient service. This is a rare find in the Burmese capital that is popular with the expatriate crowd. The emphasis is on healthy dishes, thus no MSG is used. Among our favourites are: stir-fried beef with bamboo shoots, spicy green papaya salad Lao style, braised fresh water prawns in palm sugar, Vietnamese chicken wings in a caramel sauce and braised catfish with eggplant. Decent beer and wine selection. Be sure to visit the upstairs gift shop for high-end cookware/glassware, household items and womens accessories. This is a Savvy Traveller must-stop destination! Monsoon's chef is one of only two women registered with the Myanmar Chef Association. Hours: Daily, 10am to 11PM. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Monsoon Restaurant in Yangon (formerly Rangoon) is in a class of its own
Wakkis. Plot 171, Aminu Kanu Crescent, Wuse 2. Tel: (09) 780-2929. This Indian restaurant is a popular hangout for diplomats and expatriates in the restaurant-starved capital city of Nigeria, Wakkis stands out as a down-to-earth, friendly eatery with reasonable prices and hearty portions. Perfect for large crowds and casual dining. The King Prawns are a must and do not disappoint. If you are seated on the Ground Floor, you can watch the Tandoor - the traditional clay over - in action. Note that credit cards are not accepted. Email: email@example.com
Khaas Gallery Cafe House 1, Street 2, F-6/3, Off Margalla Road. Tel: (051) 282-4391. Easily, one of our favourite places in Pakistan! Frequented by upscale locals, diplomats and seasoned expats, this cafe attached to an art gallery has some of the most innovative and flavourful foods in the capital - including many South East Asia dishes such as Laksa ($9; Euro7.20). Best Nicoise Salad around ($6.80; Euro5.50). Excellent brewed coffee and fresh juices. Mostly a lunch place but bookable for private events. Cash only. Mon-Sat: Noon to 6pm.
The Lime Tree at Kuch Khaas. House 1, Street 1, F-6/3 (on Margalla Road). (03) 230-7629. A sister eatery to Khaas, this is a favourite gathering spot on weekends for Islamabad's well-heeled and expat crowd. Painfully slow service most of the time but reasonably tasty dishes and we adore the casual, outdoor seating. Great for people watching. Much more of a family place compared to Khaas.
Luna Caprese. F-6, across from Supermarket and near Kohsar Market. One of two Italian restaurants in the Pakistani capital, Savvy Travellers come here more for the availability of cold (local) beer and imported wine than the Italian dishes. However the thin-crust pizzas are delicious and the steaks are among the best in Islamabad - we recommend the pepper steak. If you can bear the heat and occasional calls-to-prayer from nearby mosques, cop a spot on the outdoor patio at the back. Free wifi.
Okra. 12-C, 1- Zamzama Commercial Lane. 021-583-1350/586-6616. One of the hippest eateries in town, located in the hip area of Zamzama. Even 6 years after our first visit in 2006, Okra continues to amaze our palates! One of the few places where you can bring your own wine (no alcohol served here). Serving French and other European dishes, this restaurant has a warm, if somewhat cramped feeling. The prawns are exceptional, and the paella is worth a try. Friendly service. Reserve well in advance! If booking a group, ask for an upstairs table.
Sakura. Pearl Continental Hotel, Club Road. Tel: (21) 3568-5021. We agree with local foodies that Sakura serves the best Japanese cuisine in Pakistan, often using fresh, local ingredients. Come here not only for the food, but for a eye-popping and panoramic view of this port city. Open daily for lunch and dinner,but best for power lunches.It features an open kitchen serving fresh sushi and sashimi, noodles and rice dishes. Specialties include: Spicy Tuna Tartare, Japanese Green Tea Noodles with Shrimp Tempura and Teriyaki. Lunch noon-1500; Dinner 1900 until late.
Sala Bistro. Makati Ave., Greenbelt 4. Tel: 729-4888. Part of the restaurant empire of Scottish restauranteer Colin Mackay, Sala Bistro is located in a quiet corner of the Greenbelt shopping and dining complex in Makati. Sumptuous food, great service, reasonable prices and a calm atmosphere make this a decent spot for a romantic dinner. It emphasizes great-tasting, European dishes. We took a liking to the heart and lively tomato soup and the braised lamb shank with green beans and parmesan mash ($22). A handful of tables are located outside which make it great for people-watching. The wine list is extensive, well balanced and reasonably priced, with a wide selection of red and whites by the glass. A recommended, bold red is the South African Mooiplaas Rosalind 2006 blend of Cab, Merlot and Cab Franc ($74). Weekend brunch - two courses at $16 and with bottomless Aussie bubbly at $30) 11am-2pm; Open daily until 11pm. Email: Info@SalaBistro.com
Al Liwan Restaurant. Sharq Village and Spa (Operated by Ritz-Carlton). This all-day dining restaurant, located in the heart of the sprawling Sharq Village and in an authentic Arabian atmosphere, won over our palate and heart before we even made it to the generous buffet. A refreshing lime and mint cocktail awoke our senses and had the impact of a re-boot after a long morning flight. We normally do not recommend hotel buffets, but this one is an exception - in fact it is one of the best we have sampled anywhere in the world! Plenty of seafood from local and international waters, expertly-made sushi, fresh humous and other Middle Eastern favourites are topped off by a meat and seafood grill station (manned by a Syrian chef, ask for the yogurt-marinated chicken skewers) and a chocolate corner. One is simply spoiled for choice here: roasted lamb ouzzi, mashawi mushakala; samak harra; samak chermoula and a display of fresh seafood such as seabass; red snapper; lobster; tiger prawns; hammour and salmon. At the grill station don't miss the beef sirloin; shish taouk; lamb kofta and marinated lamb cutlets. There is even a decadent pasta station! Hours: Sunday to Thursday - Breakfast: 6:30 a.m. - 10:30 a.m.; Lunch: 12:00 p.m. - 3:30 p.m.; Dinner: 6:30 p.m. – 11 p.m. Friday & Saturday. Brunch 12:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.
Sushi table at al-Liwan
Graze. 4 Rochester Park (off Buona Vista Road). Tel. 6775-9000. In the new restaurant and bar area of Rochester Park, a leafy residential neighborhood with colonial-style homes (once residences of the military brass) converted into bars and restaurants. The area is so new that most taxi drivers don't even know it yet. Graze has indoor and outdoor eating and drinking areas. Australian chef Matthew Ladorn crates lovely Asian fusion dishes and earthly barbecues. A superb menu features marvelous seafood, pasta and meats. Awesome appetizers are the oysters, king prawns three ways and scallops. Try the roasted barramundi with pumpkin and goat cheese ravioli, or signature dishes - hand-rolled pork hock and braised soyed lacquered wagyu ox cheek! Of the menu, think jazzed-up home-style cooking, emphasizing fresh, modern and stylish elements. Opened recently by the owners of Hong Kong's Philippe Starck-designed Jia Hotel, Opia Restaurant. There's a lounge pit where silent black and white movies play all night, but watch for the hungry mosquitoes! Try the nearby One Rochester Road for a pleasant al fresco night cap! Breakfast: Sundays 9am-3pm; Lunch Sat 12noon-3pm; Dinner Tues-Sun 6:30pm-midnight. Bar open 630pm to 1am.
Wild Rocket. 10A Upper Wilkie Road, Mount Emily Park. Tel. 6339 9448. A swank restaurant in a backpacker hotel (the Hangout Hotel)? It doesn't make sense to us but this new designer eatery is worth a go. Lawyer-turned-cook Willin Low, 35, presides over the kitchen and creates such dishes as Ginseng Chicken Soup (S$9), Black Pepper Soft Shell Crab (S$12.50) and Grilled Tofu Baby Spinach ($9). Unfortunately the owners, perhaps striving for a minimalist look, paid little attention to design elements. Service is a bit spotty as well. We suggest a dinner visit (breakfast is buffet style and open to hotel guests). With only 40 seats, reservations are strongly recommended.
For a pleasant pre-dinner cocktail or night cap, walk a few meters up the hill to the Wild Oats Bar. Housed in a colonial mansion, guests can enjoy drinks al fresco in nostalgic rattan chairs. There's a modest finger food menu.
See our special World Cup section at: http://www.mysavvytraveller.com/15.html
Bar Pinotxo. Mercat de la Boqueria, Parades 66-67, La Rambla 91. Tel: 347-1731. This is Savvy Traveller's hands-down favourite for great food served in an informal setting. In fact be prepared to eat your food at the counter bar stools, standing up or on one of the nearby tables. In any case be prepared for waits of up to 45-minutes for a seat. But the wait is worth it! Bar Pinoxto is the favourite breakfast spot for Barcelona-native, model Alex Al-Bader. During a recent visit, Savvy Traveller enjoyed a dish of chicken and chick peas. Juanito - the star of Bar Pinoxto - puts a wine bottle in front of you - pour as you wish and a unique honour system takes care of the rest! The house wine during a recent visit was Luis Canas Crianza 2003 Rioja. It is located at the entrance to the venerable La Boqueria market off La Rambla. Open Mon-Sat 6am to 7pm.
Restaurante Venta Manchega, No 58 Carrere de Guiter. Stop here on a sunny day, perhaps while cycling along Barcelona's famed beachfront. You'll need some tenacity to catch the attention of the waiters, who dash back and forth between the small kitchen (located on the ground floor of an apartment block) and the tables assembled across the street. Savvy Traveller enjoyed a lovely dish of potatoes and mussels, washed down by two glasses of Rioja - all for Euros 18.50.
4 Gats. (aka els Quatre Gats) Bis Montsio Street, 3. Tel: +34 93 302 4140. (GPS coordinates: 41° 23′ 8″ N, 2° 10′ 24″ E). A mix of romantic ambiance, history and music. 4 Gats first opened in 1897 and describes itself as "emblematic of Catalan modernism." In different parts of its life it existed as a hostel, cabaret, pub and restaurant. Vetted by our agent in Barcelona, the restaurant is situated on the ground floor of a building designed by the modernist architect, Joseph Puig i Cadafalch. Pablo Picasso and Woody Allen have dined here. Allen liked it so much that he selected it as a location for the film, Vicky Cristina Barcelona. Ramon Cass used the cafeteria (4 Gats has a ground floor cafeteria and upstairs restaurant area) as the setting for his movie, The Tandem. As for cuisine - this is a must stop for traditional Catalan cuisine. But given all the publicity, expect a fair share of tourists. Many diners complain about the brusque, indifferent service - but look like a serious diner and you will receive commensurate service! Mon-Sun: 1pm to 1am. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Cerveceria Catalana. Near Placa de Catalunya on C/ Mallorca, 236 (Tel.93 216 03 68). Very best example of the vast array of tapas Barcelona has to offer. Enjoy the sounds, smells and tastes of authentic Catalonia. Great for breakfast too! Walking distance from the Hotel Balmes (see Savvy Sleeping section).
Bar Tomas. Major de Sarria, 49. Tel: 932-031-077In Sarria. Cheap and cheerful. The best patatas bravas in Barcelona! Rated by travellers and locals alike as a wonderful place for a quick beer and tapas.
Bar Tomas in Barcelona: said to have best patatas bravas
The Deck @ Arun Residence. 36-38 Soi Pratoo Nok Yoong, Maharat Road, Rattanakosin. Phone:+66 2 221 9158. When we were first taken to Arun by a long-time Bangkok expat we could hardly believe our luck! A secluded boutique hotel with several floors overlooking the Chao Praya River and in walking distance to Wat Prak Kaew and the Grand Palace. Situated in a quiet neighborhood of 19th century shophouses the venue does not yet seem discovered by tourists. The Deck Restaurant is a great place for a romantic dinner or quiet drink, with a good selection of Thai and western dishes.Not overly expensive either! We found the staff very friendly and professional. Free wifi available. And if you really fall in love with this place book one of the six reasonably priced and adorable rooms in the adjoining boutique hotel. Hours: Mon-Thurs: 8am-10pm; Fri, Sat: 8am-11pm.
The Deck at Arun Residence, Bangkok.
Lan Na Thai. 29 Sukhumvit Rd, Soi 38 Prakanong Klongtoey. Part of an international chain of restaurants in Jakarta and China, Lan Na Thai is arguably one of the best Thai restaurants in Bangkok in terms of food, ambiance and service. Step into the complex of wooden houses and ponds and you enter an incredibly tranquil environment. A superb wine list compliments the menu of traditional Thai dishes. Our savvy favourites are the pandan chicken, prawn soup and duck curry. Aside from the superb food, the design of Nan Na Thai is what caught our interest: its a mix of Indian, Chinese and Indo Chinese artifacts with the site layout and architecture. The traditional Thai buildings are made with over 99 large ancient columns, interspersed with pools and gardens. There is a traditional Thai spa on site, so Savvy Traveller recommends an afternoon spa session, followed by pre-dinner drinks in the bar and then dinner Lan Na Thai is past of Face Bangkok, where you can enjoy Thai, Indian and Japanese cuisine in one of the three restaurants, or just relax in it's stunning bar or spa. The complex is brilliantly designed after the classical Thai extended family house.
Lan Na Thai, Bangkok
Cafe du Soleil. Place du Petit-Saconnex, 22 733 34 17. This ancient, two-storey roadhouse claims to be the oldest restaurant in Geneva and serves the best fondue in Switzerland. Lovely outdoor patio that fills up quickly with after work crowds. Reservations required!
Le Calamar. 92 Blvd Carl Vogt, Plainpalais. 022-3216277. Very hip, almost NY-type atmosphere. The clientele changes through the evening - students, businesspeople, local residents. Old movies on a large screen. Great wines, tapas and burgers (CHF14). Friendly staff.
Café des Negociants. 29 Rue de la Filature, Carouge. Tel: 022/3003105. Cozy, romantic, friendly service and hearty dishes. A bistro suitable for dinner with mother or girlfriend. Dishes with fresh ingredients and traditional French/Med ingredients. Great wine cellar!
Karaf. Uğur Mumcu cad. No. 96/A, (312) 436 31 01. Great seafood, a relaxed atmosphere and reasonable prices combine to make this a must-visit eatery for locals and travellers alike. Ask the chef for a private cooking lesson.
Frontline Restaurant. 13 Norfolk Place.Ph +44(0)20 7479 8950. Excellent, fresh ingredients from the Frontline's own farm are used to create superb dishes such as orange and spinach salad; Say the owners: "Nowhere else within 100 miles sources raw materials from its own farm, offers wines at not much above retail prices, and has a chef who puts his heart into every dish." The fish and steak are to die for, as is the chocolate pudding with black pepper ice cream! The restaurant is located below the venerable Frontline Club - a members only venue for journalists and writers. Great wine list, friendly service and reasonable prices. The Frontline Restaurant is open Monday to Friday for lunch from 12 - 3pm and dinner from 6pm - 11pm. Saturday dinner from 6pm - 11pm and Sunday lunch from 12 - 4pm. On Sundays come for the excellent roast pork: slow-roasted over night while it coats in sumptuous pan drippings!
Odins. 27 Devonshire St., Marylebone, London. Ph +44 (0)20 7935 7296. Great food, awesome service. An eclectic but warm interior. Anglo/French menu. Romantic. Most fans of Odins recommend a booking well in advance but last minute urges to come here, especially on a week night, might be accommodated. Savvy Traveller recommends pre-dinner drinks at the martini bar of Claridge's - just a short taxi ride away.
Beach Blanket Babylon, 45 Ledbury Road. Tel: +44 (0) 7229-2907. Also known as "BBB" this popular Notting Hill hangout in a Georgian house has an over-the-top design and furnishings. But friendly staff, great people-watching and a good wine selection have been drawing a savvy set for the past 17 years. We say this is a good first or second date venue; try to secure one of the secluded tables. Outdoor seating in summer. Serving cuisine best described as modern and European, starters include “Seared Scallops with Black Pudding and Cauliflower Puree” and “Pan Fried Quail Breast with Caramelized Commis Pear & Foie Gras." Mains include: “Roasted Pork Belly Marinated with Fennel Seeds, Sautéed Spring Greens, Creamy Mash, Buttered Apples & Cider Jus."
Cafe Laville. 453 Edgware Road. Tel: +44 20 7706-2620. If you can grab a small table along the adjacent canal, this is a nice place to spend Sunday brunch on a sunny day. Perched directly over the Little Venice canal, one can enjoy lovely views of this unique waterway. Unfortunately the service doesnt live up to the location: slow and haughty. Specials such as pumpkin soup and goulash populate the menu.
Special at Cafe Lavalille on a recent Sunday
Mandarin Oriental Hotel Bar. 66 Knightsbridge. Tel: +44 (0) 7201 3724. Pricey but still a Savvy Traveller favourite. What strikes us is that visit after visit the staff come across as friendly and accommodating. The bar scene is hard to beat. An extensive list of martinis, cocktails and scotch. Snacks from the adjoining Asian restaurant can be ordered: crispy Peking duck spring rolls with hoi sin sauce, dim sun, and wok fried chili salt squid with line, coriander and sweet chili sauce. Monday to Saturday 11am to 2am; Sunday 11:30am to 12am (GBP 5 late license charge applies after 10:30pm for "non-residents").
The Fifth Floor Restaurant & Bar. Harvey Nichols, Knightsbridge. Tel: 022-72357856. Ok we admit the bar can be a bit of a pick-up place or haven for posers but the after-work crowd brings energy and style to this hideaway on the top floor of the venerable Harvey Nichs. Recently renovated this is a decent place to escape the tourist masses outside and grab a glass of champagne or well-made vodka-cocktail. Great people-watching perch after 5pm! The bar is open for lunch every day, with a late licence until 1am Wednesday to Saturday. Reportedly a DJ shows up on Wednesday nights. The adjoing restaurant is fine for a light lunch or a sumptuous dinner. Executive Chef Jonas Karlsson's menus are inspired by seasonality, and his daily changing 'Market Menu' comprise of fresh ingredients selected from the adjoining Harvey Nichols Foodmarket. An wine list offers more than 300 wines from all over the globe, many by the glass.
Le Cosmopolite. Vladimyrskaya 47, tel. (044) 228-7278. If you can overlook the slow service this Belgian brasserie is quite strongly recommended. Good meats, a decent wine list, excellent draft Belgian beer - even great borscht and pelmeni for Slavic appetites. Reservations recommended. There is a proper non-smoking section and a live jazz soloist on many evenings. Conveniently located across from the Golden Gate Metro Station.
Vernisage Cafe. Andriyivskiy uzviz 30. (044) 425-2403. This cozy restaurant has arguably the best service in Kyiv. Great steaks, pasta, lovely coffee and deserts. Good selection of wines by the glass and bottle. This is a relatively small space, so wise to book a table.
Vesuvio Pizza. Vul Reytarska 25 (near Canadian Embassy). Tel: 234-5268. There is a second location at Shevchenko Blvd. 25. Large, tasty pizzas with crispy crusts. Vesuvio was the first chain in Ukraine to offer home and office delivery. The Reytarska location has a pleasant outdoor patio in summer. Named "Best Pizza" five years in a row by the Kyiv Post.
Kupol. vul Chakovskoho 37. (032) 261-4454; 261-4482. Housed in a charming old mansion on a hill, this is a lovely venue for a leisurely lunch or romantic dinner. We loved the antique tables, crockery and photos of 19th century nobility. Savvy Traveller was very happy with the borscht and cabbage rolls, served in almost designer fashion! A banquet room for up to 20 people is available for booking. Hours: 11am to 11pm.
Kavarnya. Ploscha Rynok 29. (032) 235-4544. Lviv is famous for its Vienna-style coffee houses or kavarnyas. This is aA friendly, cozy hideaway that is conveniently located off the main square. Excellent coffee and delicious snacks.
Kryyivka. Ploscha Rynok. (032) 254-6119. You have to look carefully to find this incredibly alternative eatery and drinking hole. You will also have to utter the password "Slava Ukraini" to get past the armed, uniformed door man. (A proper reply is often rewarded with a shot of strong honey-flavoured vodka!). Come here for a boiisterous atmosphere, friendly service, a great hearty food - including varennyky, borscht and an excellent kapusniak - or cabbage soup. The upstairs room is for quieter dining or drinks, while the two rooms downstairs - behind a secret door - are for noisier dining, solo or in groups. Posters and photos from Ukrainian Partisan Army - which also influenced the menu - stare down at diners. Larger groups should consider the half-meter garlic sausage offering. Service is spotty, sometimes indifferent!
Cafe Veronika. Shevchenka Propekt 21. Tel: (032) 297-8128. The best cakes and sweets in a Vienese-style decor in Lviv. Friendly, efficient service. For hardy meals head downstairs.Some say the best breakfast in the city.
Klarabara (aka Klapabapa). Gorodskoi Sad. Tel: (0482) 375-108; 741-3331. Ove the course of a recent visit to the seaside city of Odesa, Savvy Traveller visited Klarabara no less than four times - to sample the succulent ribs (95UAH), catfish flillet roasted with mushrooms in foil (86UAH), fish soup and mouthwatering meat and seafood shashlyk. The salads are to die for - try the hot mushroom salad with sunflower seeds (45UAH). Sundays are special here with an all-you-can-eat-and-drink buffet from 1-4PM (150 UAH). We love the friendly service (though you do have to be patient at times), artistic decor and - most of all - the awesome outdoor terrace facing the city park and fountain. Klarabara is situated in an old mansion house near the city centre. So far our favourite place to wine and dine in Odesa!
United States of America
Chef Luna serving up his "uninspired cuisine" to Joy DiBenedetto of
HUMNEWS and Michael Bociurkiw of Savvy Traveller
Lunacy Black Market. 231 Mitchell St. SW., Atlanta. Ph 404-736-6164.
We discovered the refreshing, nurturing, casual Lunacy Black Market during a recent swing through Atlanta. The eatery - lovingly composed by co-owners, the eccentric chef Paul Luna and certified foodie Cynthia Thomet - is conveniently located between the relatively staid central business district - almost in the shadow of CNN HQ - and funky Castleberry Hill in the heart of the old downtown `Hotel Row’. This is truly an inspired place - in the sense that menus and dishes get created based on the "uninspired cuisine" that day by Paul and Cynthia – what’s fresh, what’s at the market is what’s being served. "We call it a neighborhood wine house...a place for people in the neighborhood to come back to," Thomet told Savvy Traveller recently, adding that she also wants it to be welcoming to expatriates and travellers alike (ATL Airport is just a 15 minute drive or MARTA ride away). "We serve good, simple food that's uncomplicated, at a good price point, where people can just relax and be themselves." Menus and drink lists are hand-written or printed on cardboard, allowing for on-the-fly changes.
We tried sumptuous mushroom soup, delectable shrimps in garlic, marinated mushrooms, and one of the best pastas savoured in a long time. All washed down by a crisp, sparkling rose. Don't be deterred by horror stories of parking tickets...even if you get one, it's worth the food, hospitality and warmth of this place. Good, carefully selected wine list. However feel free to bring your own as corkage fees are only $15! The "Black Market" part of the name comes from what Luna has described as black market prices. Indeed he is right: a main course of a whole fish was recently listed at $9! Hardwood floors, high ceilings and comfortable sofas in a 105 year old building space - peppered by unique art finds from around the world (many for sale) – make Lunacy Black Market a special find - now a Savvy Traveller favourite!
Wed-Sat 6-10pm; Sundays 2-9pm. Pasta and Risott Sundays 2-9pm. www.lunacyblackmarket.com
4th and Swift, 621 North Avenue, N.E. Phone: 678-904-0160
After going to 4th and Swift I went to bed and dreamt of delightful food, much like kids dream of Santa on Christmas Eve. Now I’m in need of a 12 step food addiction program because my withdrawal symptoms are really bad! This Midtown foodie retreat gets the full “Five Fork” Savvy Traveller Restaurant Award. The restaurant has great modern décor and ambiance, attentive wait staff, and creatively crafted cuisine.
Monday was a slow day so there was plenty of time for me to check out the interior. The low lighting, open ceiling and cream colored brick walls make for a modern and cozy décor. Side note: They have a really cool “4” logo outside the door of the restaurant, that they implement on the menus and the website.
Reservations highly recommended
Two Urban Licks. 820 Ralph McGill Blvd. Ph 404-522-4622. Head here as soon as you land for awesome appetizers, great wine, friendly service. Hip, popular and cavernous. The wine wall houses 42 barrels of wine produced exclusively for the eatery. American/Southwest cuisine.
Anchor Bar. 1047 Main St. (716) 883-1134. Since 1964, claims to be "home of the original buffalo chicken wing." Long line-ups on weekends attest to the popularity of this greasy spoon. Wings are exceptional and jazz on weekends! More than 1000lbs of wings served daily.
Los Angeles (LAX)
AGO Restaurant. 8478 Melrose Avenue, West Hollywood. Tel: 323 655 6333. Calling itself a "New Yorkish" style Italian restaurant, this eatery specializes in the culinary treats of Tuscany. Included among its owner-investors are: Robert De Niro, actor Christopher Walken, Miramax's executive producers Harvey & Bob Weinstein ("Scream," "The English Patient," and "Pulp Fiction"), and director Ridley Scott. An incredible wine cellar. Try the sea bass carpaccio and seafood risotto. Reservations are a must though walk-ins are catered to. Agostino Sciandi is the chief chef and the name of the restaurant is derived from his first name. Also talked about is his tuna carpaccio, bisteca alla Fiorentina, polenta, striped sea bass, veal chop and the grilled ribeye from Ago's wood-burning oven. Sciandri hails from the Tuscan village of Aulla, and studied at Italy's School of Hotel and Catering. This is a busy place with somewhat gregarious waiters. Our wish would be for some fine Italian music to accompany the food and wine.
Sardinia. 1801 Purdy Avenue. Tel: 305-531-2228. Difficult to find but well worth the effort for this popular eatery hidden away in a residential district in the Northwest corner of South Beach. Service is very friendly and many locals frequent. Chef Pietro Vardeu left New York to come here to create a lively setting that has the 90-seat plus restaurant buzzing seven days a week! One food critic described Sardinia's food as "terrific, honest, traditional and reasonably priced." Try the Smerelda salad: fresh seafood salad with borlotti beans. In true Sardegna fashion, wild boar pops up in the menu in the form of Orecchiette pasta ($15). Even the trademark Mirto liquor finds its way into the dish of roasted baby suckling pig ($26). Octopus is served with fregola - the toasted Sardegna version of cous cous. A wood-burning oven churns out wonderfully-roasted vegetables. Order a plate of crackly rosemary carasatu bread, Reservations only for six or more, so if you must wait for a table saddle up to the bar and watch the aromatic dishes float by! A very impressive list of Sardegna red and white wines, as well as labels from other regions of Italy. By the glass at least 10 different wines available in red and white so go ahead an experiment.
New York (JFK/LGA/EWR)
Mercato. 352 West 39th Street. We have been lucky to become increasingly familiar with Mercato, ever since the bitter cold, winter afternoon we strolled in here in early 2010. What we found was a warm ambiance, friendly, unobtrusive and efficient service - and excellent comfort food. Portions tend to be large, hearty. We have taken a liking to sitting at the bar, talking about food, wine and Italian politics with the bartenders, and the occasional chat with one of the owners - who always seem to be present. Wines by the glass are available, along with an extensive bottle selection. In winter head for the more protected back section, near the kitchen and wine cellar. Here we had some of the best meatballs ever, and for a hearty choice try the lasagna or rabbit rague. The pasta specials are made daily. Reasonable prices. Ph: 212 643 2000
Les Enfants Terribles. 37 Canal Street (at Ludlow), New York. Tel: 212-777-7518. This Lower East Side gem is best visited Sunday to Monday evenings when the "bridge and tunnel" crowd is not crowding out locals. Sumptuous French food with a touch of West Africa and Brazil, friendly staff, great wines by the glass and bottle, a cozy atmosphere and great music! Our hands-down favourite dish is the Roasted Sea Scallops with Mashed Sweet Potatoes, mussels, and for a lighter snack the French fries (ask for a side of mayonnaise and "moutard"). Reservations are strongly recommended for Fridays and Saturdays; dining at the bar is also an option - and lots of fun. DJs play tunes nightly. Note that this eatery only accepts Visa, Mastercard and cash. An ATM is stationed outside. Check out the French-owned watering hole next door! - Bar Clandestino (if Les Enfants is too crowded you can take away and bring it here!) Lunch served weekdays 10am to 4:30pm; Brunch weekends and holidays 10am to 5pm and dinner daily 5pm to midnight.
Lavagna. 545 E 5th St. (between Avenue A & Avenue B). Tel: (212) 979-1005. Simple, unpretentious, friendly service and awesome Northern Italian cuisine. The white tablecloth service and eloquent dishes sets this apart from the other Bohemian trattorias in the neighbourhood. Guests rave about the pizzas, the Whole Wood Over Roasted Fish for Two (a red snapper with sauteed spinach and grape tomato relish (delightful!) and the rigatoni with fennel, sausage, peas and cream ($15). Although a good date venue, tables are closely packed but the open kitchen and friendly staff make up for it. A very good wine list (it's been awarded with the Wine Spectator award of excellence) with unpretentious prices. Great, cozy place for a snowy night in NYC. Dining or drinking solo? Grab a stool at the tiny bar and socialize with guests and allow the owners to pour you their favourite wines! Every Sunday between 5-7PM and prixe fixe menu is offered at $29. Hours: Mon-Thurs 6-11PM; Fri 6-midnight; Sat & Sun 12-Midnight.
Lavagna in New York's East Village - a small wine bar is situated near the front.
Xai-Xai. 369 West 51 Street (Hells Kitchen). Ph: 305-878-7508. An "African bush inspired" South African wine bar with a vibrant atmosphere, captivating interior, friendly service and, as one might expect, an awesome wine list. This IS a popular place, even on weeknights so come early to get one of the 50 seats (including 12 at the bar). The owners deserve credit for transforming this once laundromat into an immensely-popular, mid-town wine bar. South African pinotage leads a parade of reds that include Merlot, Cabernet, Shiraz, Pinot Noir and blends. Small plates such as venison carpaccio, ostrich tartar and a cape Malay coconut chicken curry keep the tummy happy.
If you like Xai Xai you will probably take a liking to its downtown sister - ARIA - which features all female-owned wineries and sumptuous, hearty tapas dishes (try the meatballs, potatoes and lamb shank). 117 Perry St. (between Hudson and Greenwich). Opens at 5pm.
If you have a healthier appetitte and still love South African wines, then head down the block to the sister establishment, Braai Restaurant at 321 W51st Street. Tel: 212-315-3315. The owners of Xai-Xai opened Braai when they realized there was a demand in the City for South African cuisine. Intimate decore best described as "bush chic", friendly service, hearty South African food (try the succulent ostrich) and an awesome winelist that includes our favourite - Diemersfontein Pinotage. Of course, "braai" means 'barbeque' in Afrikans so expect to find many meat dishes, including mutton and venison. There are some Cape Malay dishes as well as incredible Oxtail Stew. A $14.95 prix fixe lunch includes an appetizer, glass of house wine, main course and the malva pudding desert. Tues-Thurs: 11am-12am; Fri-Sat: 11am-2am; Sun: 11am-12am.
Braai in Hells Kitchen - Manhattan's only South African restaurant
Chez Shea. 94 Pike St. Tel: 206-467-9990. There’s a little known French restaurant at Pike’s Place Market – which is overrun by French restaurants – where ambiance, food and great, friendly service conspire to wipe away the frustrations of a busy day. Gorgeous arched windows that overlook the famous market make the perfect backdrop. More often than not, it’s the only place in town to get seared foie gras. So, order it twice. It’s that good. Classic French fare, creative cocktails and a great wine list. How can you go wrong? Recently voted the best bar in which to have an affair, it’s nothing if not discreet. You know, when you walk in, that you are in Seattle’s best kept secret. Shhh…don’t tell anyone!
Washington DC Region (IAD/BMI/DCA)
Cafe Deluxe. 1800 International Dr., McLean, VA (adjacent to the Crate and Barrel at Tysons Corner). Tel: (703) 761-0600. With its leather booths, mahogany bar and over-sized mirrors, Cafe Deluxe combines the charm of a neighborhood tavern with the sparkle and energy of a bustling European bistro. Fun, reasonably priced and just plain old good food - with a great wine list to boot! We suggest seats at the bar for the most fun and great interaction with the sociable waiters. The menu is a rich mixture of traditional comfort foods, such as Grilled Meatloaf with Creole Sauce and Chicken Pot Pie, and more innovative dishes, such as Pan Roasted Halibut with Corn and Asparagus Saute, Penne Pasta with Chicken and Asparagus, and a Grilled Salmon Nicoise Salad. The steak frites are highly recommended. Lunch reservations are strongly recommended. Free parking. MON. - THUR. 11:00 am - 10:30 pm; FRI.- SAT 11:00 am - 11:00 pm; SUN. 10:30 am - 10:00 pm
Penang Malaysian Restaurant. 4933 Bethesda Ave., Bethesda, MD. Tel: (301) 657-2878. As good as it gets outside a Malaysian home. Part of an East Coast chain, they specialize in Nonya cuisine. Try the marinated chicken or beef, grilled on skewers served with peanut sauce. And highly recommended the seafood laksa! Not great decor or privacy but what do you expect for a traditional Malaysian eatery where some of the best dishes are found at outdoor food stalls! Open daily 10am to 1130pm.