Encyclopedia Gastronomica: Where to eat around the world
St. Julian’s, Malta – Profumo di
Words don’t often escape me, but there is something in the air in Malta that I have never been able to adequately verbalise. Just being there is as though you are being held in the most comforting, reassuring and loving embrace – it’s a place that I instantly fell madly in love with and somewhere I am itching to return.
Profumo di is set in the picture-perfect cobbled streets of St. Julian’s, serving up the best Genoese cuisine outside Genoa itself! Pesto originally comes from Genoa, and I highly recommend treating yourself to an appetiser of pesto ravioli before getting down to the serious business of choosing a main course. Read more on TripAdvisor here.
Playa Barceloneta, Barcelona – CDLC Carpe Diem Lounge Club
For the food, the drinks, the shisha and the romance of the opulent Arabian beds. An expensive night that was more than worth every penny - we still talk about it as probably the best dining experience of our lives so far! See their website for more details.
Toronto, Canada – 360 Restaurant at the CN Tower
Leave your vertigo at home and allow yourself to bask in the ultimate dinner with a view – award winning cuisine, 351 metres above the ground in a gently revolving pod! My only regret is that I was 12 years old when I was lucky enough to eat at the 360, and my overarching memory of the experience was demanding my dad take a photo of me with the 10 foot stuffed polar bear in the lobby downstairs. Grand. Go try it for yourself to let me vicariously enjoy your dinner.
Jewish Quarter, Budapest – Soul Food
Soul Food was recommended to me by a friend who I met at Grandio hostel in Budapest (on a side note, if a stay at Grandio is not on your bucket list, IT SHOULD BE. We stayed for a week, and suffice to say that during that time, the party never stopped, not for a minute, and we met such beautiful, genuine people there that my faith in humanity was bolstered for a long time afterwards). This quirky little eatery is stupidly good value, and the food is as delicious as the staff are welcoming. For a ridiculously reasonable taste experience and the friendliest servers in Hungary, click here.
Lugano, Switzerland - La Cucina di Alice
Drink in the picture perfect surroundings at a table outside La Cucina di Alice overlooking the tranquil sapphire water of Lake Lugano on a late summers evening with a large glass of vino in hand and tell me you’re not in paradise. Arguably some of the best pasta dishes north of the nearby Italian border, book here in advance to avoid disappointment (especially on weekends).
Koh Phangan, Surat Thani, Thailand – Win Win Hot Pan BBQ
Perhaps not for the faint-hearted or the picky eaters, this traditional DIY Thai BBQ on the party island of Koh Phangan is a true off the beaten track hidden gem (we were actually lost and ravenously hungry when we sped past the restaurant on our moped). All you can eat for the equivalent of about €8 per person, don’t be put off by the rough and ready al fresco style of the eatery – James and I agreed it was the best meal we had in our entire trip across Thailand! A real giveaway that authentic cuisine is on offer in a restaurant is when it’s full of locals themselves; we were the only two Western diners and the only two speaking English inside the full house! Reviewed here on TripAdvisor, although this most certainly does not do it justice. Take a ride around Koh Phangan and cook your own dinner for an experience you'll never forget!
Strasbourg, France – Hotel les Haras
Head to the ultra-chic restaurant inside the courtyard of the hotel grounds for cocktails and a whiskey you won’t forget. I'll say no more. French chic at its finest.
Antrim, Northern Ireland - Red Door Tearooms
On a staycation to County Donegal, we took a roadtrip across to Antrim to see the Giant's Causeway - in our rush to see the world, it's sometimes easy to forget the breathtaking scenery we have here in Ireland practically on our doorstep! We stopped for lunch in a little village beside the Causeway called Ballintoy at a café straight off the front of a postcard. Hidden just off the main road as you drive towards the Carrick-a-rede rope bridge (not to be missed), the tearoom is nestled in a traditional thatched cottage, the scent of freshly baked bread and sponge cakes lacing the air as you enter. The hearty Irish stew comes highly recommended (by James), and after a day of walking in the fresh Northern Irish countryside a bowl of homemade soup is a winner too. The cakes are ridiculously delicious - we had the banoffee and wished we could take some back home with us. Just a few minutes down the road you can also visit the Dark Hedges where Game of Thrones is filmed, so there really is an abundance of things to do in the area - a perfect excuse for a trip to the Red Door!
Reykjavik, Iceland – Resto
Treat yourself to a romantic gastronomic slice of heaven just off the main street of Reykjavik. We went for dishes that wouldn't usually be our first choice, rack of lamb and fillet of cod with chorizo - perfection doesn't even cover it! Rated #2 place to eat in the capital, we booked ahead and were glad we did as there were a number of people without reservations turned away during our meal. You can do the same here.
Tortona, Milano – God Save the Food
Organic juices, Asian street food, on point cocktails, lively atmosphere and sublimely minimal décor set in the beating heart of Milan, just a few minutes’ walk from the Duomo and the Golden Quadrangle. If you’re on the hunt for somewhere to rest your feet after a hectic morning of sight-seeing (and shopping, it is Milan after all), look no further than God Save the Food, recommended here for brunch).
Hivernage, Marrakech – Le Comptoir Darna
Allow yourself to be overcome by the hypnotic power of the tantalisingly voluptuous belly dancers as you enjoy a sumptuous menu of fusion food (followed by a dance of your own and the best Mojitos in town upstairs). Book in advance and delve into the quasi-erotic world of the Comptoir here, where the European billionaire boys club of Marrakech come out to play after dark.
New York City, USA – Ellen’s Stardust Diner
The (hopefully) interim home of aspiring Broadway stars, prepare to be razzle dazzled by non-stop singing, dancing and all thing theatrical while you eat at this musical American diner! Think Eddie Rockets style fare as opposed to Michelin star fine dining, but a trip to Ellen’s is much less about the food than it is about the electric performance experience.
Rembrandtplein, Amsterdam – St. James’ Gate
If you’re in the mood for pub grub and people watching, Irish pub James’ Gate on the famous Rembrandtplein is a great shout for excellent steak and chips (and, according to James, a fairly decent Guinness, too).
Old Town, Chicago, USA – Orsos
Okay, so I might be SLIGHTLY biased on this one considering that I spent one very happy summer working here, but I think the bottomless mimosas and Nutella French toast on the Sunday brunch menu speak for themselves. Try my personal favourite, a customised Caesar salad with calamari – bellissima! Head to Orsos on a Saturday for live piano music.
I choose my friends based on their choice in food. Four of them have been good enough to add their far reaching food knowledge to this list from their temporary homes in Sydney, Australia and Chicago, Illinois. Have a read to see where the locals go in both of these incredible cities.
Darling Harbour, Sydney, Australia – Blackbird Café
One of my oldest and dearest friends Sinéad spent the best year of her life so far on a study year at UTS, Sydney. One of her favourite finds during that time was Blackbird Café, where she tried kangaroo and crocodile (boss bitch). Sinéad recommends heading to Blackbird before the regular fireworks display over the harbour; you’ll be able to enjoy the show from the comfort of your seat! Back home in Dubin, Sinéad is now a seriously talented baker herself - follow her on Instagram @bergsbakes for her mouthwatering, colourful creations. (Sorry in advance for ruining your diet.)
Chicago, Illinois - Lula Café
My college best friend and my right arm left Dublin earlier this year for the bright lights of Chicago. I wasn’t sure which I was more heartbroken about, the prospect of missing her to death or the fact that she would get to sample the infinite plethora of Chitown’s drool-inducing eateries without me. Widely renowned as one of the best brunch spots in the Windy City, Aoife personally recommends Lula's coffee, pecan and caramel French toast (accompanied by a mandatory mimosa. Obviously.)
Boston, Massachusetts - The Friendly Toast
If you ever find yourself in Boston around midday, treat yourself to a spot of brunch at The Friendly Toast, a favourite of my girls Laura and Kelly (who have recently spent so much time in the States that they're practically more Yankee than Irish now). The cocktail menu is overflowing with delectable drinks wittily named Drake's biggest hits!
Raleigh, North Carolina - Relish
For an authentic deep south dining experience, head to Relish and eat like the locals of Raleigh do - order a plate of chicken and waffles and allow the food coma to rock you gently to sleep. Kelly has family in N.C., so you can be sure that this is not your average tourist trap. They also provide some top notch gluten free options and excellent Moscow Mules that won't break the bank or the holiday budget.