Dine out on some local knowledge: Travel experts reveal their restaurant recommendations
When it comes to eating out in Europe's capital cities you're often spoilt for choice. So where do the insiders go? Online travel experts at www.simonseeks.com reveal all...
Saturday 08 May 2010
Annie Bennett is a travel writer who specialises in Spain. She has lived in Madrid on and off for the last 25 years. She is the author of National Geographic Traveler Madrid and Blue Guide Madrid.
Breakfast Lolina Vintage Café
Feeling a bit foggy? Sink into a battered leather armchair in this groovy café and take things slowly. There's great coffee, juices and smoothies to perk you up and give you the mental clarity to decide whether you fancy a croissant, something tasty on toast, or a sandwich. The morcilla black pudding (pictured) and pumpkin jam panini packs quite a punch if you think you're up to it. With retro furniture, mellow music and an impossibly cool vibe, you may find you're still around when they start mixing the cocktails. Free Wi-Fi, too.
Lolina Vintage Café, Calle Espíritu Santo 9, Malasaña (00 34 667 201169; lolinacafe.com); around €5 for two
Lunch Estado Puro
Michelin-starred chef Paco Roncero is behind this gastro bar, set opposite the Prado museum. Sit at high stools inside, or grab a table on the terrace and prepare yourself for a few surprises. The tortilla comes in a glass, with caramelised onion at the bottom and whisked raw egg on top. It's delicious, honestly, but if it sounds a bit scary, have the patatas bravas (served spaced out on a slate), the asparagus in tempura or the exquisite mini-burgers.
Estado Puro, Plaza de Cánovas Castillo 4 (00 34 91 330 2400; tapasenestadopuro.com ); around €40 for two including wine.
Dinner El Ventorrillo
On a sultry summer night, there's always a light breeze to keep you cool on the terrace at El Ventorrillo. The panoramic view spans the rooftops of the old town, the Royal Palace and Almudena cathedral, with the Sierra de Guadarrama in the distance. One of the most romantic spots in the city, this is the perfect place to watch the sun go down while you indulge on the likes of chicken in a garlic sauce, octopus with paprika, gooey croquettes and salad. Everything is freshly made.
El Ventorrillo, Calle Bailén 14, Las Vistillas (00 34 91 3663578); around €50 for two with wine.
Alison Craig is a TV presenter, writer and columnist who has lived most of her adult life in the city. She is currently appearing as a judge in "Iron Chef" on Channel 4
Breakfast Urban Angel
Urban Angel serves seasonal, mainly organic, food in a stylish urban environment. Favourites include French toast with free-range bacon and maple syrup, home-made cakes, muffins and organic muesli, smoothies and coffee. A huge blackboard lists daily specials. This place is both child- and hangover-friendly, and the Bloody Marys on offer are the saviour of many a dehydrated local.
Urban Angel, 1 Forth Street (0131 556 6323; urban-angel.co.uk); around £10 for two. There is a second branch at 121 Hanover Street.
Lunch The Shore
Overlooking the capital's waterfront, this is an old watering hole that serves top-notch food. Whether taken in the bar or the elegant dining room, the robust comfort food here includes ham hock cakes with poached egg and hollandaise sauce, and steak and kidney pie. The wine list is excellent.
The Shore, 3 The Shore, Leith (0131 553 5080; theshore.biz ); around £26 for two including wine.
Proprietor and chef Roy Brett has made a real impact with this new addition to the Edinburgh dining scene. It offers up an impressive array of fresh Scottish seafood – the scallops are the size of golf balls – and carnivores are well looked after, too. With seafood at its best, Ondine is the perfect port of call for a memorable dinner in Scotland's capital.
Ondine, 2 George IV Bridge (0131 226 1888; ondinerestaurant.co.uk ); around £65 including wine.
Fred Mawer has been visiting Amsterdam regularly for many years, and has written numerous newspaper articles and contributed to guidebooks on the city.
Breakfast De Bakkerswinkel
This bakery-cum-café strikes a discordant note of salubriousness on a somewhat seedy street just off the red-light district. Past the mouth-watering displays of breads and cakes at the entrance lies the laid-back café, where you can opt to sit in Dutch fashion at a communal table, or at your own table. Breakfasts (served until noon) include home-made jams, breads and croissants, great coffee, fruit shakes, and organic eggs and bacon.
De Bakkerswinkel, Warmoesstraat 69 (00 31 20 489 8000; debakkerswinkel.nl ); around €12 for two.
Getting to this waterfront café/restaurant is a little adventure in itself. From the dock behind Centraal Station, take a free five-minute ride on a ferry across the IJ waterway (board at the pier marked "IJplein"). On the other side, head right for 300 yards till you reach a dinky orange building. Inside, it's all cosy, rustic chic, while outside is a big terrace where you can watch barges and trawlers pass close by. Lunch options include substantial sandwiches, soup, bowls of pasta, plus generous slices of apple pie.
Wilhelmina-Dok, Noordwal 1 (00 31 20 632 3701; wilhelmina-dok.nl ); around €40 for two including wine.
Dinner Café Loetje
The short menu posted up on blackboards of this pubby restaurant is in Dutch only. But don't worry: everyone comes to the Loetje for its affordable, thick and juicy steaks. Order just that, plus chips and a salad, and you should end up contented. It's a 10-minute walk from the big museums on Museumplein, but Loetje is very much a locals' haunt. The place is usually packed, and there are no reservations. Closed Sunday.
Café Loetje, Johannes Vermeerstraat 52 (00 31 20 662 8173; cafeloetje.nl); around €60 for two including wine.
Paul Sullivan is the author of the Hedonist's Guide To Berlin and has written about the city for numerous publications. He lives in Prenzlauer Berg, in the east of the city.
American dancer-turned-baker Cynthia Barcomi is a legend in Berlin. Her plan to offer US-style home-baked treats and coffee has led to a mini-empire that spans cookbooks, TV shows and two excellent cafés. Tucked away in an ivy-covered courtyard, this outlet is popular with Mitte trendies. Breakfast options include hand-made NY bagels and Mediterranean and Franco-Italian plates that brim with delicious cheeses, salami, olives and sun-dried tomatoes.
Barcomis, Sophientrasse 21, Mitte (00 49 30 2859 8363, barcomis.de ); around €25 for breakfast for two.
Lunch Pappa e Ciccia
This smart Italian restaurant/deli in Prenzlauer Berg makes a fantastic lunchtime option. The menu changes constantly but usually includes excellent fresh pasta and salad dishes, best enjoyed with an Italian wine. Sundays are the best day to come here though, for one of the best buffet brunches in Berlin: eggs to order, grilled artichoke salads, freshly grilled salmon, lasagne and amazing freshly baked breads.
Pappa e Ciccia, Schwedter Strasse 18 (00 49 30 616 2 0801; pappaeciccia.de ); around €35 for two including wine.
Located on Gendarmenmarkt, Borchardt is a Berlin classic. Its elegant interior – tall ceilings, art-nouveau mosaics and marble columns – hosts an upmarket crowd of politicians, celebrities and curious tourists. The menu is a mix of French and German and features distinguished fish, veal and beef dishes, though most regulars plump for the house speciality: a Frisbee-shaped schnitzel that spills over the plate. The spacious garden patio is the perfect place to enjoy a glass of chilled riesling.
Borchardt Restaurant, Franzoesische Strasse 47 (00 49 30 818 8 6262); around €60 for two including wine.
Natasha Edwards has lived in Paris for over 15 years, exploring its restaurants, galleries and undiscovered corners. She has written numerous travel guidebooks as well as articles on art, food, design, travel and French culture in general.
Carette, in the 16th arrondissement, is a great find: very Parisian, just a tad snooty and with a wonderful pavement terrace with views of the Palais de Chaillot and the Eiffel Tower. Inside, the stripy marble, gilt mouldings and chrome date from the year it opened: 1927. A portrait of the formidable-looking Madame Carette hangs over the till. The venue offers amazing cakes and is celebrated as a tea spot, but elegant locals favour it for breakfast: good coffee, fresh orange juice and brioches are served from 7am (7.30am weekends); from 8am you can indulge in scrambled eggs with smoked salmon.
Carette (00 33 1 47 27 98 85; carette-paris.com ), 4 place du Trocadéro; from around €18 for two.
Laurent is perfect for a special summer treat, when it moves out of its 1840s pavilion and into fabulous gardens on the Champs-Elysées. The well-spaced tables are carefully screened by hedges from the throngs beyond. Although it's a haunt of political powerbrokers, the atmosphere is relaxed. Chef Alain Pégouret is from Cannes and he modernises classic cuisine with a light, Mediterranean touch; try the lobster salad, braised pigeon, a multi-coloured tomato tart or strawberry and elderberry charlotte.
Laurent (00 33 1 42 25 00 39; le-laurent.com ), 41 avenue Gabriel; around €200 for two including wine.
Dinner BistroY Les Papilles
The four-course dinner at this convivial place in the fifth arrondissement changes daily and is centred around a satisfying, long-simmered casserole, which you serve yourself at the table. Les Papilles doubles as a deli and wine shop; you choose your wine off the shelves for a small corkage fee. It also stands out for the warm welcome offered by owner Bertrand Bluy, and the agreeably eclectic mix of Latin Quarter academics, rugby fans (Bluy is from Toulouse) and cosmopolitan foodies.
BistroY Les Papilles (00 33 1 43 25 20 79; lespapillesparis.fr ), 30 rue Gay-Lussac; around €90 for two including wine.
Lee Marshall has lived in the Eternal City since 1984. He also writes about Italy for Condé Nast Traveller, Time Out and other travel publications.
Breakfast Gran Caffè Esperia
Frequented by lawyers, bankers and ladies of leisure, this elegant art deco café on the Lungotevere (Rome's Tiber-side road) was restored and re-opened in 2004 by the Antonini family – purveyors of mini-cakes and tartine (savoury canapés) to the bourgeoisie of the well-heeled Prati district. Outside tables catch the morning sun, and although you can't see the river, at least the busy road is no distraction (it dips into an underpass at this point). Breakfast here is decidedly continental, consisting of cornetti (sweet croissants) baked on the premises and good Italian coffee.
Gran Caffè Esperia, Lungotevere dei Mellini 1 (00 39 06 320 3971); around €14 for two.
Lunch Enoteca Corsi
This old-school wine shop doubles as a lunchtime pit-stop for a faithful crowd of local residents, office-workers, slumming aristos and Rome correspondents. Tables are packed in between bottle-lined shelves, and service is rushed but friendly. The menu is delicious downhome Roman: pasta e fagioli, gnocchi, carbonara, tripe, oxtail broth, and the tiramisù to end all tiramisù debates.
Enoteca Corsi, Via del Gesù 87-88 (00 39 06 6790821, enotecacorsi.com ); around €44 for two including wine.
Dinner Tutti Frutti
Behind its anonymous frontage, this trattoria in the buzzy Testaccio district (with resonances of London's Clerkenwell) nails that winning combination of feel-good vibe and great value for money. The owner, Michele, is a personable host, and will talk you through the monthly changing bill of fare in various languages (habitués from the UN's nearby FAO agency keep him on his toes). The menu mixes Roman staples with Neapolitan-tinged creations such as pasta with swordfish, capers, olives and pachino tomatoes.
Tutti Frutti, Via Luca della Robbia 3a (00 39 06 575 7902); around €52 for two with wine.
Simonseeks is a website where a community of travellers, journalists and celebrities share their advice and their enthusiasms – and get paid for it. See www.simonseeks.com
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