Eating Our Way Through Prague

Prague is easily one of the prettiest cities in Europe – with its beautiful cobbled streets and fairytale-like gothic architecture. However, its quickly becoming one of the hippest food capitals in the continent. Many people know that Prague is already famous for its cheap beer, attracting many a stag or hen do. Czech cuisine is meat-based, and there were plenty of places offering ‘traditional’ dishes. However, don’t fret travelling vegetarians – there are a number of vegetarian and vegan restaurants, as well as a large number of Asian eateries. We found that many restaurants were promoting ‘raw food’ dishes on their menus too, to cater for all. I didn’t think we’d find somewhere to rival Budapest for its great restaurants at ridiculously cheap prices, but we were wrong!

Before visiting, I always do my research – especially as a fussy vegetarian. I want to know the best places to sample the local cuisine. Here we’re our favourite places to eat. Please comment with your thoughts and additions.

Cafe Louvre

Arguably, the best thing about Prague for me was that magical feeling of being transported back in time. You feel part of a forgotten era. Cafe Louvre was the perfect example of this. A Parisian style cafe and billiard hall, dating back to 1902, quintessentially epitomises Prague cafe culture. In its hay-day, it attracted visitors such as Franz Kafka and Albert Einstein. However in 1948, it was closed when the communists came to power and wasn’t fully revived until 1992.

Cafe Louvre is open daily, offering a wide variety of dishes and beverages. I had the decedent Cafe Louvre hot chocolate and delicious apple strudel, while my husband had the club sandwich and a latte. Both were amazing and I would have happily eaten it all over again. The bill came in at just under CZK300 (£10).


Cafe Louvre, Národní 22, Prague 1
Lokál

If you’re looking for good, cheap beer and exceptionally fresh Czech cuisine, look no further than Lokál. We visited the Dlouhááá branch several times during our stay, as it was literally metres from our air bnb appartment. Lokál opitomises old Czech culture from the 1960’s and 1970’s, with its simple interior. It’s extremely popular, and although extremely big, fills up fast. It’s also a great spot for people watching. Both the drinks and food menus are extensive – even offering a range of non-alcoholic ciders – and the service is excellent. A really cool spot in the centre of Prague’s old town.

We feasted on the highly recommend Lokál speciality of fried cheese, with homemade tarter sauce and the Goulash of beef cheeks, with bread dumplings. The latter I’m assured was incredible. All washed down with a large Pilsner Urquell and homemade lemon soda, came to just over CZK300 (£10). An unbelievable price for homemade top-notch Czech cuisine, sourced from local suppliers. A must.


Lokál, Dlouhá 33, Prague 1.
Sisters Bistro

Just under our apartment, was the incredible, yet tiny Sisters Bistro, founded by a famous Czech food journalist. We gourged on their amazing chlebíčky (open-sandwiches) daily, and were always convince to buy more than we had intended initially. The light, healthy sandwiches were in high-demand and just too pretty to pass. We enjoyed the vegetarian beetroot and goats cheese, as well as the egg and ham.

Sisters Bistro, Dlouhá 39, Prague 1
Naše Maso

Alongside Sisters Bistro, lies Naše Maso “Our meat”. Both are located in the new Gastro Pasáž, a hip mini-shopping complex for foodies. Currently, only a few units are occupied, but they’re extremely popular and trendy places to visit. Naše Maso is an exceptional butchers and fast food eaterie, that serves beer on tap. The takeout burgers, steaks and particularly the meat loaf is very popular, with queues forming outside the shop throughout the day. As a veggie, I can’t vouch for the food, but I did find myself fascinated by the art of the butchery on display throughout several of the units. Quite an odd observation from a vegetarian, but the window displays were unintentionally captivating works of art. My husband, on the other hand, dived straight into the meatloaf at the first opportunity. It’s basic simple food, taken to a different level, without the hefty price tag. His words, not mine. Would highly recommend a visit – if not for the food – for a glance through the windows.


Naše Maso, Dlouhá 39, 11000 Prague

Grand Cafe Orient

Housed in the beautiful homage to the cubist movement, The House of the Black Madonna, is another of Prague’s ‘step back in time’ masterpieces. The Grand Cafe Orient originally closed in the 1920’s when cubism fell out of fashion and was renovated in 2005, retaining its original brass lanterns and buffet-bar. A truly magical experience for anyone looking for a light-bite or coffee. We visited the Grand Cafe Orient twice as it was so close to where we were staying. If you can, try to grab a booth by the window, as it provides a great vantage point both inside and out, helping you to reflect on what life was really like in 1911. I ordered the cheese panini and lemonade, followed by another delicious apple strudel. One thing I felt let the cafe down was the sour faced waiters, who were probably the only ones we encountered during our stay.

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A taste of the Lake District

This year was all about exploring our own country, as well as our adventures abroad. Luckily, we have had several weddings in opposite ends of the country, which has inspired us to make little mini-getaways. This time, after a lovely wedding in Newcastle, we hired a car from the airport and drove 90 minutes across the country to the stunning little village of Crosby Ravensworth, which is in the heart of the Eden Valley and approximately 4 miles from the M6. We booked ‘One Chapel Terrace‘ on Airbnb, which sleeps six for a minimum of two nights. It was a beautiful little cottage, with a hot tub, perfect for soaking aching muscles after a long ramble uphill. 


We ate at The Butchers Arms, a community owned pub in Crosby Ravensworth, and the only place to eat within 11km. It was a stones throw from the cottage and has just been taken over by new owners. The menu was small, but catered for all, with daily specials on the board. The fish and chips were one of the best I’ve ever had from a pub/restaurant. 

The next morning, we drove 26 miles to Aira Force and Ullswater in the Lake District. As soon as you catch a glimpse of  the lake driving through Pooley Bridge, you realise why people rave about the scenary and the tranquility of the region. I am a sucker for bodies of water with breathtakingly beautiful mountainous backdrops, so this ticked all he boxes. We were also blessed with glorious sunshine, although this resulted in half-term holiday makers flocking to the numerous National Trust carparks like the world was going to end. It didn’t help that the sunshine had not been forecast, so everyone was desperate to soak up every ounce of golden ray on offer. 

Aira Force is a 65ft waterfall, accessed by a fairly leisurely stroll through glades and woodland. We continued the walk up, following the stream. Being half-term, many families littered its banks, enjoying the sun. 


Ullswater lake itself, offers an array of different watersports and tiny secluded bays and beaches, to enjoy a paddle or a snooze. We (obviously) went for the latter, after scoffing a huge slice of cake from the National Trust tea room.


Albeit a tiny taste of what the Lakes have to offer, I can definitely see why so many people describe it as the most picturesque region in the UK. I was slightly concerned that I would be left disappointed after our trip to Snowdonia – however this boasted a different kind of WOW factor to that of North Wales. Ullswater was buzzing. Whether it was the half-term or general touristy feel, you felt it embraced the crowds and encouraged them to flock, enjoy and experience the scenary that we are so lucky to have in England. It is celebrated. 

A weekend in The Cotswolds

When you live and work in London (and have done your whole life), it’s important to plan an escape now and again. Where better, than The Cotswolds? This rural area covers six counties, notably Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire, and is an absolute beauty of an escape from the city.

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Two of the best hotels: 

Barnsley House, Barnsely

Do you want the ultimate fairy-tale experience: four-poster beds, roll-top baths, secret gardens and delicious culinary treats, fit for royalty? Then look no further than Barnsley House. A ridiculously stylish grade II listed manor-house, within 11 acres of grounds, which were designed by critically acclaimed gardener Rosemary Verey. After losing yourself in the magnificent gardens, reward yourself with a treatment at the hotel’s gorgeous spa or a meal at The Potager restaurant, which serves fresh and seasonal produce from the hotel’s kitchen garden. The hotel operates a no-young-children policy during breakfast and dinner, but The Village Pub (situated opposite the hotel and part of the Barnsley House family) does welcome children of all ages.

The Making of a Garden

Barnsley House truly is the perfect hideaway – with magnificent, modern rooms, boasting outrageous luxury and comfort. I’m not ashamed to say that took a photo of the pillow labels and bought some when I got home. Judging by the company’s website – I’m not the only one. Now, given the high level of luxury, rooms do not come cheap – starting at £200. If you can afford it, The Rosemary Verey suite is pure heaven and the bed is like something from a Disney film.

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Breakfast is included and can be ordered to your room at no extra charge – something which we took full advantage of. We made the most of our eggs florentine in the beautiful conservatory of the Rosemary Verey suite, in our dressing gowns.

I loved our stay at Barnsley House and I’ve been back several times, just to walk through the grounds and have a drink. It is Cotswold luxury at its best and in and in a perfect location, close to Cirencester and beautiful Bibury.

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The Wheatsheaf Inn, Northleach

Now the Wheatsheaf is the epitome of Cotswold cool. Without a doubt, ‘Room 1’ boasts the best bath tub that I have ever had the luxury to soak in. We honestly could have spent the whole weekend just in the room, wrapped in a dressing gown, sinking into the ridiculous comfort of the bed!

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The restaurant uses seasonal and local produce, cooking rustic food and presenting it beautifully. The menu changes daily throughout the week and the restaurant also offers private dining. It is well-worth booking, even if you are a guest at the hotel – something which is recommended when booking.

The hotel has 14 rooms, which have either a power shower or bath – some have both. Every booking includes a complimentary continental breakfast, however a cooked breakfast comes at an additional cost. This is something that, for the amount charged per night, should be included. Saying that, the staff are extremely accommodating, and as there are no such facilities in your room, will happily bring tea and coffee to you as requested.

Even when we haven’t stayed at The Wheatsheaf, we will always make sure we pop in for a drink, as it is one of the coziest drinking spots in the Cotswolds. During the summer months, the beautiful garden has a buzzing atmosphere. The reviews don’t lie – with accolades from Mr & Mrs Smith, Tatler and Open Table to name a few -alongside a glowing review from Jay Rayner in the Observer, you must book a stay ASAP and experience the delight that is, “Doing Britain Proud.” Rooms from £100+

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We have spent plenty of weekends in The Cotswolds and it’s a special place for us. Although we have been lucky to stay in some remarkable hotels, we have also spent many-a-night at the Travelodge in Burford. It’s literally 2 hours door-to-door and we can always get a good deal. The location is excellent, it’s opposite The Cotswold Gateway (lovely food and friendly bar) and in walking distance of beautiful Burford, which is littered with shops, restaurants and village pubs. It is also a ten minute drive from Cirencester and half-way between Cheltenham and Oxford. Worth a look if you’re looking for a base to explore the area without breaking the bank.

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Photos by @foreacharoad

The Rough Guide to the Cotswolds: Includes Oxford and Stratford-upon-Avon

Eating our way through Budapest

 

When sat at home on cold, winter weekends, I take to pinterest like a madwoman and start researching our next trip. For some reason, when it came to Budapest, I was rather taken by the photos and reviews of food and restaurants. Usually, we’re the ‘grab-a-slice-of-pizza-on-the-go’ type people, but something about the eclectic and highly-regarded food on offer, caught my eye. Being an extremely fussy pescatarian (which is just a fancy word for a vegetarian that eats fish), this was a big deal. So, as well as all the amazing things that this incredible city has to offer, here’s what and where we ate…

Day one:

Those that follow on Instagram (if you don’t, please do) will have seen my gushing review of Zona, a ‘contemporary cuisine inspired by travels’, which is featured in the Budapest wallpaper guide. We were not disappointed. We arrived around 6pm and although pretty much every table had a ‘reserved’ sign on it, we were the only people in the restaurant for the duration of our stay. We went straight to mains, however the food was so amazingly inviting, we tucked in straight away without photographing. I had the gnocchi, while A devoured the rack of lamb – claiming that it was ‘one of the best meals he had ever had’. Not sure whether I should have taken offence to that? We followed main courses with (the most incredible) sticky toffee puddings. Washed down with two glasses of wine each, we were left with change from £50 and me desperately looking in an online thesaurus for more
synonyms for ‘amazing’.
Day two:
We began the day with a flat white and a banana bread to go from the very cool Espresso Embassy before heading off to Parliament. A lovely, relaxed and authentic cafe, where the owners are quite clearly passionate about good coffee.
For lunch, we went to Jack’s Burger – somewhere with great tripadvisor reviews and a Pinterest fav. Smashing, authentic American burgers, served in a cute little paper tray with proper American fries. Bloody loved it. I (of course) went for the fried cheese ‘vega burger’, which was pretty damn amazing – almost halloumi like, with an incredibly little sauce and fried onions. I was in one of those food induced weird states of mind, where every mouthful is greeted with an intense nod of the head and an ‘mmmmmmm’ sound, as if it’s completely different from the last. A had the cheese burger and responded to my nods, as appropriate. As well as burgers, Jack’s sells pizza by the slice and fried chicken and fish. Nice.
We followed Jack’s with a trip to Gelarto Rosa because it was pretty much next door, and I’d been dreaming of this moment since we first booked our flights. Gelarto Rosa, is a beautifully quaint and…unique little ice cream parlour, that sells ice creams (as well as waffles etc) in the shape of roses. There isn’t a huge selection of flavours on offer, but that doesn’t matter, as you can choose up to four different flavours to make your flower. We had chocolate, mango and Oreo, although in hindsight, I should have gone for salted camamel instead of the mango. For three flavours, we paid just under £2. I love this country.
Due to the horrendous weather, we decided to continue our tour of ‘Foodapest’ and visit the renowned New York Cafe – which proclaims to be ‘the most beautiful cafe in the world’. Now, we only called in for a drink – I had a hot chocolate, A had a mint tea…and don’t get me wrong, it is a beautiful setting. Stunning building and decor, with a resident pianist tinkling away, but we have enjoyed coffee in nicer settings. This makes me sound like a right snob, but when you have taken afternoon tea at The Ritz or The Dorchester, it is hard to find anything else that compares. It is definitely a tourist hot spot and one for a good Instagram photo, but I would argue that it is over priced and not as life changing as it makes out.
Now, moving on to something that WAS life changing. The outstanding Comme Chez Soi. After reading the gushing tripadvisor reviews, I wondered if this little gem was too good to be true. How wrong was I? This restaurant is an absolute must for anyone visiting Budapest, but I must reiterate what so many reviewers had emphasised – you must book. This beautiful Italian restaurant has only eight tables and the waitors must have turned away at least thirty people while we were there. Some had walked miles to get there and were quite rightly gutted. Now the best thing about this restaurant – the service. We were treated like kings. So many complimentary dishes and drinks between courses, each explained in depth. Even when A had to go to the cash point, a waitress accompanied him to make sure he didn’t get lost, and I was given a magazine to read while I waited.
Each course was delicious and full of Italian spirit. We had bruchetta and rocket salad to start, lasagne and salmon taglietelle for mains and shared a chocolate cake for dessert. With two glasses of wine each, we paid approximately £43. An absolute steal. We were even given a box of chocolates to take home.
Day three:
Day three was dry, so was all about the 9-mile trek from sight to sight. Therefore, I survived on a cheese scone, a peach ice tea and a snickers until 5pm. This is when I finally got to enjoy ‘Hot Dog Cold Beer’. I say enjoy, more like experience. No veggie hot-dog. Now, I know even the thought that I should expect a vegetarian option at a hot-dog restaurant will anger many, but this is the 21st century we are living in. Anyway, A enjoyed a ‘New York’ dog, while I went for the chips on stick. Literally, a whole potato, spiraled into crisp thin slices, skewered and fried. Actually, not too bad. Unfortunately though, the draft beer wasn’t on, so we had to go for a fairly warm tin of Heineken instead. It was cool to stand outside however, and enjoy our hot-dog (crisps on stick) and warm beer, while watching the sky darken over the Basilica.
Dinner at Padthai Wokbar was really cool. Leading away from the Basilica are some really lovely little restaurants and this really took our fancy. You choose your noodles, up to four toppings and a sauce and your food is ready in around 5/10 minutes. It’s all cooked fresh, and the place had a real cool buzz. Lots of people, lots of locals and a really good vibe. The Padthai was delicious too, washed down with a chang beer, and lots of reminiscing about eating street food in Bangkok.
A cheeky little return to Gelarto Rosa, to make amends for the mango slip up. This time: salted caramel panacotta, chocolate and Oreo. Winner.
Finally, a well-deserved glass of wine from DiVino Borbar, a contemporary little wine bar that houses a huge collection of wine. We tasted the wine before we chose, and reading reviews online, the bartenders will happily let you try as many as you want before you find the one for you. It was busy and lively inside, so we opted to enjoy ours outside, with the beautiful backdrop of the Basilica. We did discuss how sitting on high bar stools, on the edge of a platform could prove costly for those that choose to indulge in several glasses.
Day four:
After checking out, we headed to the quaint ‘A la Maison Breakfast and Brunch’, a family run restaurant, with an extensive breakfast menu. Quite frankly, there was almost too much on their cute looking menus, which were not organised particularly well. I thought I had decided, to turn the page and find another list of mouth-watering dishes. After much deliberation, I decided on the eggs Florentine, with a twist. It was served with a Camembert sauce and cashew nuts – an interesting combination. A nice little restaurant, didn’t blow me away and wasn’t particularly cheap in relation to general food costs in Budapest, but it hit the spot.
Budapest really is an incredible city and the food (as I am sure you can tell) was a highlight. I would love to know whether you have eaten at any of these places and what your views are? What did I miss?

A Festive Adventure in Reykjavik – Part One

Iceland, and all it has to offer, features on many a bucket list. We decided that it was about time to cross it off of ours! With its cinematic landscapes and natural wonders aplenty, planning our trip was not a challenge.

Day one:

On arrival at Keflavik International, we jumped on a transfer to Reykjavic with Reykjavik Excursions. Super easy and free wifi.

Once we’d check in at our apartments, snow boots and thermals on, we were off. Sadly our northern lights trip was cancelled, due to cloud, but we were able to book onto tomorrow night’s trip – free of charge.

Now, I’m a sucker for Christmas lights, so Reykjavik in all it’s magical Scandinavian beauty, did not disappoint! I will be searching for the stars in every window for the next three days.
We stayed at the Rey apartments, in the heart of Reykjavik’s main shopping and eating district. Most of the streets are either pedestrianised, or traffic is slowed to an almost walking pace. As daylight in December is limited, we arrived around 4.00pm in darkness, so we scrapped some of our afternoon plans, in place of my favourite city break pass times – wandering around in any old direction.

Since a tiny age, for some unknown reason, I have been obsessed with puffins. Therefore, I was in heaven, this truly is puffin land. I have never felt the need to purchase a carved, wooden backscratcher – however one with a puffin on the end? Just what I’ve always wanted.

We ate at Sólon Bistro, where a burger and chips will set you back about £11 – fairly reasonable. Luckily, we caught the end of happy hour, so the beer wasn’t too bad either.

Day two:

Today was all about experiencing the blue lagoon. Now a lot has been said about how ‘commercialised’ and busy the blue lagoon is, but it’s one of those places that you need to make your own mind up about.

We wandered to the very cool Reykjavik Roasters to grab a quick bite and flat white, before heading to  the iconic Hallgrimskirkja – The white concrete church, named after the poet Reverent Hallgrimur Pétursson. As sun rise was not until 11.21am, we took the lift to the tower (1600ikr) and looked out over the beautiful lights of the city.

We booked our transport to the Blue Lagoon through Reykjavik Excursions and were at our  in an hour. It was, as expected, extremely busy and the changing rooms were full. I had read about an expectation of ‘showering in your birthday suit’, and I’ve got to say, it kept me awake slightly during the night. Luckily though, there were cubicles with doors, and no scary scandernavian woman watching over you with a cane (as several tripadvisor reviews made out). I did however struggle with the lockers, which locked when you pressed your wristband over a sensor. I managed to pick a locker that didn’t shut properly and had to ask a poor old lady to hold the door shut while I reached over to the sensor.

Once through the shower section, we decided to hang our robes and towels outside. This was a stupid decision. It was snowing. There are a number of hooks inside, where your robe and towel will stay nice and warm – although don’t automatically expect to take the exact same towel when you get out – there seemed to be a slight pass the towel around situation going on.

With the package we bought, we were entitled to a free drink from the lagoon bar, which is redeemable with your electronic wrist band. I’ve got to say, I loved it! I had read scathing reviews of the whole experienced ruined by factories in the background and huge crowds. The website was very honest about the building work taking place, but even that did not spoil it for us. The steam, teamed with the blizzard we found ourself in, meant it was hard to see three metres in front of our faces. Selfie-stick-dicks were few and far between, and the novelty of sipping an ice cold beer, in a hot lagoon, in the middle of a snow storm did not wear off.

The only downside? The changing rooms stressed me out, but that’s more of a weird me thing. They were very clean, spacious and stocked with cotton pads and buds, hair dryers and every other ammenity you could need in that situation. Also, shock horror, the price of the food (gasp). We were pretty starving after a couple of hours bobbing with a beer, but a sandwich each, packet of crisps and drinks for £25? Come on.

Northern lights tour and Golden Circle to follow…

Return flights from London Gatwick on (the very impressive) WOW Air were £170pp.
3 nights stay at Rey Apartments, Reykavik – £298