Trattoria Alessi – Desenzano del Garda, Italy

We stayed in Desenzano, which is a colourful, seaside-like, small Italian lake town on Lake Garda, and on our first night we walked around the streets looking for somewhere that wouldn’t be touristy and unauthentic. We wondered through all the small, winding, colourful streets and stumbled upon Trattoria Alessi.

It was exactly what we were looking for! We very happily sat down outside in the colourful, little, wonky, side street.

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The colourful little street
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Sitting outside at the restaurant
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Dinner vibes

We were given the usual basket of bread and bread sticks. Now, I have a couple things to say about these baskets of bread. Firstly, they absolutely love their bread sticks before dinner. I don’t think we went anywhere in Lake Como or Lake Garda where these were not given to you. Secondly, they love to give you bread, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, but not any dish to put the oil and balsamic onto, so you will need to ask.

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The Lasagna

We ordered our favourite Italian dishes. Jack had the Lasagna and I had the Spaghetti Pescatore – both absolutely delicious – which we washed down with bottle of a simple Pinot Noir.

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The Spaghetti Pescatore

Once we had finished our meals we still had some wine to finish off but this area of the restaurant was closing up, so the waiter showed us into another area of the restaurant which lead into a (what we thought was a secret) garden area. It was a buzzing little atmosphere with everyone finishing off their last drinks from their dinners.

An absolutely hidden away gem – and so glad we stumbled across it!

 

http://hotelalessi.com/resort/trattoria-alessi/

https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Restaurant_Review-g194965-d1812674-Reviews-Trattoria_Pizzeria_Alessi-Desenzano_Del_Garda_Province_of_Brescia_Lombardy.html

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Travels to Lake Garda, Italy

We spent the Easter weekend exploring the Italian Lakes and chose to go to both Lake Garda and Lake Como. We landed in Milan Malpensa, picked up our rented our very Italian car (a tiny little Fiat 500) and made our way over to Desenzano, a little town on the south west shore of Lake Garda, where we had booked our hotel for two nights.

There were a lot of motorways and very un-scenic views involved in this almost 2 hour drive to Lake Garda, but when we finally saw the beautiful Lake glistening in the sunshine in front of us we were very excited to have arrived. We parked, checked in, changed into more appropriate clothes for the gloriously sunny, 24 degree Celsius day, and headed out to walk around to see what Desenzano had to offer.

We walked up to the lake and onto the pebbled beach and I was amazed to see how crystal clear the water was as the soft waves pushed it in and out. It felt very much like going to the seaside in the South of France. We sat on the pier with our legs dangling out over the water watching the swans and ducks go by and taking in the peacefulness of it all – before heading off to find a somewhere to eat lunch in the sunshine.

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Desenzano del Garda
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Desenzano del Garda in the sunshine

We wondered through the streets passing the colourful little buildings with their colourful shutters and on the windows until we found Bar Pizzeria Gelateria Cristallo facing the gorgeous Porto Vecchio and the Lake.

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Ponte Vecchio
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Bar Pizzeria Gelateria Cristallo

After a long lunch we set off to see the Castello di Desenzano. It sits grand amongst the colourful low rise buildings that surround it.

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Castello di Desenzano
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Castello di Desenzano
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The beautiful little streets of Desenzano
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Pre-dinner drinks at Piazza Cappelletti

Overall Desenzano is a peaceful, gorgeous and colourful little town. I would definitely recommend staying here if you go to Lake Garda.

The next morning after breakfast we set off to a Vineyard for a tour and some wine tasting (which will be blogged about soon) before spending the rest of the day in Sirmione. Sirmione is a little town with a lot of history. It is a thin, long road that goes into the Lake and at the end of this road, you walk across a moat, through a castle entrance to then enter the old Sirmione town.

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Castello Scaligero
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Sitting on a pier to take in the gorgeous views

The old town is buzzing and full of people, like ourselves, being tourists and exploring.

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The busy Sirmione Old Town
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Found a spot in the Square in the sunshine for some drinks and nibbles before exploring the castle

We ended up finding a suntrap in the Square by the Ferry Port where we decided to stop for a drink – but every time you order an alcoholic beverage somewhere in Lake Garda, you will get nibbles to go with them – usually some crisps and olives but if you go between 5pm and 7pm you will get bread, bread sticks (they LOVE a bread stick), cheese and ham. It was lovely just sitting in the sun and watching the world go by around us.

There were gelaterias on every corner, thermal baths and spas, colourful shops and restaurants everywhere you look and some ginormously large lemons – all the things that Sirmione is famous for.

Unfortunately we didn’t try any lemons and we didn’t have a chance to go into the thermal baths, but we did have a fabulous time walking around the old town and going into the castle to see all the views.

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Views from the castle looking out to the Lake
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More lake views from the castle
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Views from the top of the castle looking down into the old town
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Views from the top of the castle looking out to the lake
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More lake views from the castle

If you do have the chance, definitely go for a day to explore this gorgeous area of Lake Garda.

Where to go? What to do?

  • Have a day to stroll around Desenzano town
  • Go to Castello di Desenzano
  • Find a vineyard to do a winery tour and wine tasting
  • Try some Lake Garda Lemons
  • Enter Castello Scaligero in Sirmione
  • Go to a thermal bath (historically used by the Romans here) in Sirmione
  • Take a boat ride around Sirmione
  • Have an Aperol Spritz (or other beverage) during aperitivo time
  • Go for a walk, run or bike ride along the Lake
  • Have lots of pasta
  • Relax

 

Where to stay?

We stayed in Hotel Bonotto in Desenzano which was perfect for what we needed it to be. It is a well-priced 3 star hotel with wifi, free parking, a safe in the room, breakfast included and it is a 2 minute walk from the lake. What more did we need?

The staff were great at helping us out to find our way around, giving us tips on where to go, and helping us out with what we needed for our stay.

Breakfast is served in the restaurant on the top floor which has floor to ceiling windows and a large terrace overlooking Lake Garda as well as the castle and rest of the town. Breakfast is continental with a choice of fruits, cereals, breads, cheeses, hams and boiled eggs as well as the teas, coffees and fruit juices. There was one morning when I was at breakfast and there was a bottle of prosecco as one of the drink options in the buffet, but it was a little too early for me, plus we were off to Onepio Vineyard afterwards.

Below are photos of our room and gorgeous views from the roof terrace at breakfast.

http://www.hotelbonottodesenzano.it/en/

https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Hotel_Review-g194965-d2090589-Reviews-Hotel_Bonotto-Desenzano_Del_Garda_Province_of_Brescia_Lombardy.html

 

The Stag – Hampstead, London

One sunny weekend recently we went for a walk, a very long walk, from Finsbury Park to the top of Hampstead Heath and down to Gospel Oak. Towards the end of our walk we ended up in a pub called The Stag for a late lunch/dinner.

As it was a sunny day – the large beer garden in the back was heaving with people and so we sat inside which was also buzzing with people at the bar coming in from the garden to order drinks etc. We chose a little booth and table (the only free space as it was rammed).

We shared the Scotch Egg, the Beef Carpaccio and the Beef Rib with Slaw.

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We weren’t really sure what to expect as none of us had eaten there before and we were pleasantly surprised. The food was all delicious and presented very well.

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Definitely recommend if you are in Hampstead Heath and looking for a place to eat in the area.

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http://www.thestagnw3.com/

Franco Manca – Broadgate Circle, Liverpool Street, London

I am back from Italy and all carb-ed out. I will be writing about my adventures and food finds for sure though – don’t you worry!

Another Italian restaurant post to stick to the current Italian theme – Franco Manco’s – one of my favourite pizza places in the world. Number one pizza I have had would have to be Gusta Pizza in Florence, Italy and Franco Manco rates second on my list.

They have six pizzas on their menu and they do them very very very well!!! I love a simple menu where everything on there is done perfectly!

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Their chewy sourdough bases are absolutely what makes this pizza a hit! I find the base of a pizza just as important as the fresh toppings that are added to it.

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They started off as a small little pizza bar in Brixton Market and now have a few spots around London. Definitely worth a try if you like a good pizza.

http://www.francomanca.co.uk/

Giuseppe’s Place – London Bridge, London

Today I am flying to Italy for a long weekend in the Italian Lakes – In fact I have probably just landed in Milan while this post is going live – so I thought it would be appropriate to post an Italian Restaurant that I have been to recently.

Established in 1990, Giuseppe’s Ristorante Italiano (as they like to call themselves) pride themselves in being London South Bank’s oldest family run Italian restaurant (as they state in their website). In an alley way in London Bridge, there is a door way with stairs leading down into a lively, little underground, very authentic Italian restaurant. With live music playing in a corner, the restaurant completely full, the very warm welcome from the Italian waiter – we immediately felt that we had found a gem, even before we had tried the food.

The restaurant was full but they kindly let us know that if we went to the pub next door and had a drink, they would come up and let us know once a table was ready for us. So we did just that and they came and got us in no time.

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The Bruschetta and Anitpasti Platter

We were sat in a booth in the cozy, little restaurant and were served straight away. Between the five of us (Jack, Frank, Sandra, Victoria and I) we decided to share 3 starters and then get a main each.

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The Calamari

For the starters we ordered the Bruschetta, a plate of antipasti and some calamari to share. It all came how I would imagine it to come if I were in a family run restaurant in Italy. Simple, tasty Italian food. No frills and nothing fancy.

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Spaghetti Pescatore

For my main I had the Spaghetti Pescatore, which is my absolute favourite pasta dish of all time – seafood with either with linguine or spaghetti. It was honestly cooked to perfection – with loads of seafood (clams, mussels, calamari, prawns and fish) and a gorgeous tomato based sauce that coated it all.

It was a great atmosphere, great service, great food and overall a great little find!

 

http://www.giuseppesplace.com/

The Pig and Butcher – Islington

The first time I ever went to The Pig and Butcher was actually 2 years ago. Jack took me 3 birthdays ago and I loved it. It is good quality, well flavoured, seasonal British food. So, when Anusha was visiting London, I brought her here so she could have a taste of what good British food is.

The menu at The Pig and Butcher changes on a daily basis depending on what is fresh in, which I absolutely love about it.

We walked into the cosy, homely restaurant and were sat at our table. Our server knew the menu very well and was good at giving us advice about the dishes.  She also sounded very passionate about the food, which I love.

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We ordered some homemade sourdough bread with beef dripping and jersey butter.

It absolutely made sense that the beef dripping was literally just beef fat in oil form (why would it not be?) – but we were expecting something with a little more flavour. I think we were expecting something with a little oomph to it – Maybe resembling something a little more like a gravy (like I have tried somewhere else before).

The bread was gorgeous though, as was the butter, and with (a lot of) salt the beef dripping came alive a little more.

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Anusha with our sourdough and wine
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Pan Fried Cod Fillet
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Lamb

We shared two mains because we actually wanted to try everything on the menu but couldn’t physically eat it all! So, we had to settle with two dishes (sigh). We chose the Pan Fried Cornish Cod with Courgette, Watermelon and Watercress and the Lamb on a Bed of Mashed Potatoes and Roasted Garlic.

Luckily I ate it the right way around (which wasn’t even planned) and had the fish first which was incredibly refreshing and worked really well with the young watermelon. I thought it would be a normal, ripe watermelon when I saw it on the menu, but it was young, hard, thinly sliced watermelon, which was similar in texture and taste to a daikon (large white radish) and it added another level to the dish with the fresh crunchiness. The fish fell apart and melted on my tongue and it all married perfectly together.

I had the lamb second which naturally had a stronger flavour. The garlic, which we initially thought was an artichoke, was surprisingly delicious. It gave a smokey flavour to the dish when spread onto the lamb and mashed potato. It was a gorgeous combination.

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Dessert was so hard to choose – we wanted something to share and again we wanted most things on the menu. We ended up choosing a cheese board as we still had some wine left and this would go perfectly to end the meal.

It ended up coming with two chocolate, twisted, biscuit-type pastries so we ended up getting something sweet as well after all. The cheeses were all lovely and we managed to polish it all off.

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http://thepigandbutcher.co.uk/

 

Sen Nin – Upper Street, Islington, London

We decided to treat ourselves to a teppanyaki dinner, which neither of us had tried properly before. Sen Nin were doing a weekday special feast menu which consisted of 4 courses for £30 per person. There was a Miso or Tom Yum soup to start, Japanese tapas next, then the Teppanyaki course and a finished off with a dessert.

We weren’t really sure what to expect – all I knew is that we booked the chef’s table so that we could watch him to the cooking in front of us.

It was a quiet Wednesday evening in the restaurant, which I guess was why they had a deal on during the week. There were a few tables of people in the restaurant, but we had the chef’s table to ourselves.

I ordered the Tom Yum soup and Jack ordered the Miso soup. They were served in little Japanese soup bowls and were nice but nothing to shout about.

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For our Japanese tapas dishes we chose the seafood option. There was a seabass ceviche, a tuna tartare and calamari. These were presented gorgeously on a long dish so I was very impressed when it came out. Taste-wise, again, they were all nice enough. The tuna was a little stringy and didn’t really melt in my mouth the way I thought it should, the ceviche and calamari were nice though.

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Next was the Teppanyaki and out came our Chef who explained it all to us! We had ordered the scallops and the fillet steak to share with some rice and vegetables.

He was great! This is what we had been waiting for! He chatted and joked with us the whole time that he was cooking. And he wasn’t JUST cooking, he was doing tricks with all the food! At one point he let Jack get up and try out a trick as well.

It was great entertainment for the evening. He didn’t go wild and make a massive flame on the stove but he was fun nevertheless.

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The scallops and steak with the fried rice and the vegetable stir fry on the side were the best part of the meal by far. Nice flavours but I think the entertainment of it being cooked in front of us definitely made us enjoy it more.

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For dessert we got a mixture of 3 mini dessert pots and a duo of red bean and matcha ice cream and shared them all. I love matcha ice cream so that was the best bit for me (matcha is a glorious time always!) – the rest was okay but I don’t think I would have missed out if I didn’t have them.

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I wouldn’t necessarily be running back for a weekday set menu – but perhaps would come again to see what the weekend is like for the chef’s table teppanyaki as that was definitely good fun.

 

http://www.sen-nin.com/