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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Aviary – Finsbury Square, London

For my birthday (earlier this year), Jack took me to Aviary in Finsbury Square (right by Moorgate Station. I had never heard about it before and it was a surprise – so I was very intrigued.

My first thoughts were that it was a very lively roof top bar! The music was blaring, everyone had cocktails in hand and there was a massive roof top terrace that overlooked Finbury Square and you could see some of the City of London in the distance.

The hostess took our coats and took us to our table which was a little quieter and left us with the menus.

The waiter then came to take our order and once we had let him know what we were having to eat, he helped us to pick a wine to go with our dinner.

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Gorgeous Oysters – two of each kind

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We started with a platter of half a dozen oysters – which came as two from native, two rock and two prestige. The waiter explained them and pointed them out for us so we knew which ones were which.

They were fresh and sweet and absolutely gorgeous! I am a massive oyster fan and they were the perfect start to the meal.

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With help from the waiter, we had both chosen the Dairy Cow Sirloin on the Bone as our main courses with fries and a salad to share. The steak was nice and tender and had a smokey flavour to it. I was very impressed as I was not expecting it to taste as nice as it did.

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Coconut Panna Cotta with Passion Fruit, Mango and White Chocolate
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We ended the meal with a Coconut and Fruit Panna Cotta which was light and refreshing and the perfect end to the meal.

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Surprising excellent food, fabulous service. It is a little pricey but definitely worth it. I would recommend going out on the roof terrace for a drink before dinner – we didn’t get the chance to do this as we didn’t know that we would not be able to take our drinks outside by the time we had finished dinner.

 

http://www.aviarylondon.com/

La Llotja at El National – Barcelona, Spain

El National is a stunning restaurant with a gorgeous interior. They call themselves Barcelona’s Gastronomic Experience with four different culinary areas (a meat restaurant, a seafood restaurant, a tapas restaurant and a brasserie) and four different bars (specialising in beer, wine, cava and cocktails).

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On our recent girly weekend away, Renata and I went to El National and we chose La Llotja – the seafood restaurant.

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A large menu of all the different seafood dishes

There is an area of the restaurant that had all the fresh seafood on ice that you are able to pick and choose from. It is all fresh from the fisherman every morning and when it runs out it runs out so you need to get there at a decent hour to get the good stuff.

We learned this the hard way, as we tried to do dinner the Spanish way and ended up arriving at 10:30pm and eating at 11pm so a couple of the seafood bits that we did want to try had disappeared into other people’s bellies.

We ended up choosing the Pan Con Tomat, a dish with Mediterranean and Atlantic oysters, tuna tartare and scallop ceviche and some fresh prawns along with a gorgeously clean cut white wine to go with it all.

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The Mediterranean and Atlantic oysters, tuna tartare and scallop ceviche. Perfect for sharing!
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The tuna tartare (which I think was my favourite)
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The scallop ceviche.
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Baked fresh prawns with sea salt
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For dessert we had the creme caramel to share which was LARGE and we could not finish it. I think you could share this between 5 or 6 people.

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A gorgeous place, amazing service, up beat vibe and such good food. Must try even if you just come for a drink!

http://www.elnacionalbcn.com/en/

http://www.elnacionalbcn.com/en/restaurantes/la-llotja/

 

Vinitus – Barcelona, Spain

Renata and I went for a weekend in Barcelona and after a day of walking around shops and markets, our feet needed a bit of a rest of we went for a well priced and very very tasty tapas and wine stop.

I absolutely love tapas and this is a good place to get large variety of tapas choices (literally anything you could think of including fresh seafood!).

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We sat at the bar and in front of us was a gorgeous array of amazing dishes. We wanted them all!

bancone

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Jamon Iberico
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Padron Peppers
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Crab Stick Salad with Pan Con Tomat
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Burrata

Massive selection of great tapas, well priced and a very chilled atmosphere!

https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Restaurant_Review-g187497-d1228300-Reviews-Vinitus_Barcelona-Barcelona_Catalonia.html

Madison – St Paul’s, London, UK

Madison is an absolutely awesome roof top bar in the city that has the best view of St Paul’s Cathedral. It is perfect for a post work summer sunset drink outside.

We recently went for dinner there for Kuda’s birthday. It was my first time eating there and I was intrigued to find out what the food would be like.

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Burger and chips
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Lobster roll and chips

The bar is really nice but I think the set up of the restaurant is really oddly placed in the middle of the bar with people standing around waiting to order drinks or just standing and drinking around you. I feel like maybe it should be a little more secluded as a restaurant area.

The food was really nice and it was well priced – it was nothing mind blowing – but still really nice and I could not fault any of it. I think that maybe because it was all served on individual heavy wooden chopping board it gave a bit of a posh pub grub feel to it.

Most of our group ordered the burgers which were all cooked perfectly and the patty big enough for the brioche bun so it looked great too (my pet peeve if a restaurant serves you a shrived up, dried up meat patty hidden somewhere in the massive bread bun). I ordered the lobster roll and the lobster was cooked and sauced wonderfully and then placed in a brioche roll. Their chips are perfectly cooked but I think the obvious highlight of the side dishes was the mac and cheese. It was maybe my highlight of my meal. It was intensely cheesy with a crunchy top from being baked.

Unfortunately the service was pretty awful from seating us to serving us to billing us which was surprising as the restaurant wasn’t full.

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The cutest mayonnaise jar ever.
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Lamb wrap and chips
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The stunning view. This was a Friday night on a sunny day so it was incredibly busy and there was a DJ playing music out on the roof.

The views are so stunning and I think they definitely make up for the over-priced drinks. 100% worth a visit on a sunny day!

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Still a gorgeous view as we were leaving in the lift.

http://www.madisonlondon.net/menus/

Osteria All’Antico Vinaio – Florence, Italy

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On our first night in Florence, when we were there in April this year, we wondered the streets looking for All’Antico Vinaio (a hole in the wall wine and sandwich bar) on Via De Neri when we stumbled across their sit in restaurant across the street. We walked into the busy, lively restaurant and were seated shortly after we stood at the bar and ordered a bottle of wine.

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The menu was in Italian and they didn’t have an English menu – so when the waiter brought a very large basket of freshly baked bread, we asked him what he would recommend. He pointed at the charcuterie boards on all the tables around us (literally everyone had one) so we gave him a nod and a thumbs up.

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The board was covered in all sorts – two different cheeses, artichokes, sun dried tomatoes, roast pork, all sorts of hams and salamis, and some jam to go with it all. One of the cheeses was a hard, strong flavoured, manchego-type cheese and the other had a lot less flavour and tasted more like a young cow’s milk cheese (basically tasted like milk). All the meats were scrumptious and we ate pretty much everything on the board.

He also brought us a couple of spreads on toasted bread – one was a thin layer of fat (which we actually didn’t eat as it just isn’t to our taste) and the other was a thick layer of home made pate which was lovely and earthy.
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For our main we asked the waiter about a (very) large steak that a man on the table was eating on the table beside us and whether we could get one for 500g – He laughed and said the smallest steak is 1kg. We decided that – even though the man beside us could tackle this large piece of meat on his own – this was one for us to share.

It came out sizzling on a platter. It was thick but very tender and it had a smokey flavour from being on the grill.

Cost about 30 Euros in total for the bill. A great meal and authentic local atmosphere. Definitely recommend for some wine, a charcuterie board and a steak!

http://www.allanticovinaio.com/en/home-osteria-eng/

Gusta Pizza – Florence, Italy

The weather was glorious in Florence when Jack and I went in April this year (but I guess I have London to compare it to, so pretty much anywhere else has great weather). It is such a beautiful city – even more so when showing itself off in the sunshine and cool, springtime breeze – and it offers such delicious foods made so simply with the freshest ingredients.

We read on Trip Advisor about a Pizza place that we had to try, so we got in a cab and as soon as we mentioned Gusta Pizza, the driver told us how famous it is and how good the pizzas are – so we knew we had made the right choice!

Gusta-Pizza-Menu

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As soon as you walk in it feels so lively and such a friendly atmosphere with the staff and chefs laughing and joking with everyone and making you feel so welcome when you enter. It is a small place with just a few large barrels with glass tops to use at tables and stools to sit on. You get in and you order at the till. Then they give you a number and you wait for it to be called then you go up and collect your pizzas.

I ordered a Napoli 6 Euros and Jack had a Calabrese 7 Euros. If felt like no time before they were out the wood-fired stone oven and onto the table. They made mine into a heart shape (CUTE!). The pizzas tasted so good. Everything from the prefect chewiness of the dough to the freshness of the sauce and the mozzarella – it was 100% the best pizza I have ever tried.

They had their own wine which we ordered as well and was absolutely gorgeous. I definitely recommend to try it – Plus it was only 10 Euros for a whole bottle!

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A Florentine institution! No pizza will ever be the same now.

Also read:

http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Restaurant_Review-g187895-d1155597-Reviews-Gusta_Pizza-Florence_Tuscany.html

Gusta Pizza