Nasi Lemak

Street Food, Temples and Pasar Malams in Kuala Lumpur

If you’re into food – particularly Chinese, Indian or Malay – a trip to Malaysia’s capital is an absolute must! I stayed for three nights and in that time managed to get a real flavour of Kuala Lumpur’s culinary melting pot.

I was lucky enough to be staying with a local host, so I got loads of good insight regarding the best places to go and stuff my face. Kuala Lumpur is also remarkably cheap (if you eat local) – so there’s no excuse not to try everything you can get your greedy paws on.

Food Tour Malaysia

I arrived in KL at around 5pm and fortunately had arranged to spend my first night on one of Food Tour Malaysia‘s highly-acclaimed tours. Our guide Charles was so passionate about the food of KL and he took us to areas I never would’ve heard about, yet alone navigated my way to, for some proper local grub.

Our first stop was a semi-covered market with lots of small stalls – each selling a particular food they specialised in. Charles told us the idea was to have a walk around and then sit down and have whatever you liked the look of from the various stalls. We firstly tried the traditional Malay breakfast dish, Nasi Lemak, consisting of rice, spices and a boiled egg served wrapped in a banana leaf. We also had a little bowl of crispy bits to sprinkle over it which was anchovies and cashews I think. Alongside this we had some satay chicken skewers, beef skewers, Otak Otak (literally translates to ‘Brains Brains’ – a mackerel paste wrapped in a banana leaf and barbecued) and burnt tofu – which I can only really describe as a sweet, treacly wad of delicious-ness.

Next we headed to Bansar for some authentic South Indian cuisine. Charles took us to a large restaurant called Devi’s Corner, which is apparently open all night, and we tucked into a variety of Indian delicacies – all served on a banana leaf. Perfect for sharing (if you feel like it). To be honest, I’ve actually forgotten what everything is technically called but there was a lovely fish curry sauce that had a slightly sour-hot note, a chicken curry sauce, some spicy chicken which literally blew my brains out but was very tasty and a variety of lovely puris.

Next Charles took us to a Pasar Malam (night market) in a local neighbourhood. This was really busy and there was not one tourist in sight, so I was sure we were onto a winner. Here we got to try the legendary durian fruit – which I had heard a lot about. As expected, it absolutely stank but actually tasted quite nice – despite repeating on me all evening. We also had these delicious wraps made fresh on one of the stalls filled with mince, onions and some other bits plus some amazing crispy waffle-pancakes filled with sweetcorn.

After a walk around Brickfields (Little India), our final stop was an unassuming Chinese cafe – Khong Lock Yuen. The three main nationalities in Kuala Lumpur are Chinese, South Indian and Malay so it was fitting to cover all three in our tour. Here we enjoyed a lovely broth of pork belly, served with chilli, garlic and rice. The combination of all four elements was delicious and the pork belly was extremely moist and tender.

This is the best thing I did during my time in Kuala Lumpur – it made for a fantastic introduction to the city’s food scene and also really helped me get my bearings regarding different popular areas for eating out. Charles was a great guide too and very informative when it came to the history of Kuala Lumpur and it’s food.

Vegetarian Buffet at dharma realm guan yin sagely monastery

After a wander around KL on the second day of my trip, I decided to visit a Chinese Buddhist temple recommended to me by my host – which is just a stone’s throw away from KLCC and the Petronas Towers. She said that, as well as being a beautiful and serene place to spend some time, there was an amazing canteen tucked away just behind it. The buffet is fully vegetarian and is extremely good value for money (my plate plus a lemongrass iced tea was 9 RM i.e. £1.60).

The quality of the food was absolutely amazing and the selection was massive. I can’t actually begin to go through what I ate as I sampled so many things, as you can see from the photo above. So you’ll just have to go to Kuala Lumpur and eat it yourself. Sorry (not sorry).

Pasar Malam, Little India

After my brief experience of a Pasar Malam with Food Tour Malaysia I knew I had to find another one if I could! Fortunately, on my last night, I went back to Brickfields and spotted one tucked away on my drive there. This one seemed to be less food-orientated and was frequented mostly by locals, in fact I don’t think I saw one tourist there (hipster traveller level = 1000). Eventually I did come to a small selection of food stalls. One was selling small Indian snacks and a very nice lady kindly explained to me what they were (I was obviously looking a bit lost). These small doughnuts were in fact savoury and came served with a spicy peanut sauce. They were delicious! I also got to try another pancake, this time a soft, fluffy version filled with sugar and corn.

Things to do in KL

Canopy Walk at KL Forest Eco Park

One of the oldest permanent forest reserves in Malaysia sits right at the heart of KL, near KL Tower and just a short walk from where I was staying. The 200m canopy walk is well worth doing and there’s lots of information available about the reserve and it’s wildlife. It’s also a great place to escape the hustle and bustle for an hour. And it’s free!

Go KL Free Bus

If you’re on a budget this is a great way to see the city and get your bearings when you arrive. In fact, I ended up using this more than I used the LTR. They’re pretty regular, just be prepared for a bit of a squeeze during busy hours!

KL Bird Park

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I love wildlife so a visit to the world’s largest free-flight walk-in aviary was a must for me. KL Bird Park is a nice way to spend a couple of hours (or even an afternoon if you go and check out the bird show). Loads of interesting species that I had never seen before and, in general, the birds seemed well-adjusted and happy. Entry is 69 RM for adults and 55 RM for children (up to 12 years old).

Dark Cave (Batu Caves)

To be honest, I had quite mixed feelings about my visit to the famous Batu Caves. It was sad to see the amount of pollution at this majestic landmark and I really disliked people teasing the monkeys, giving them plastic bags, junk food etc. However, about halfway up the steps to the shrines you can pay just 35 RM for an educational 40 minute tour of the Dark Cave – which is a conservation site. The guides are clued-up and passionate about the cave’s wildlife and geology – you’ll hear bats (and see lots of their droppings), see different types of rock formations and spot some creepy crawlies! Towards the end of our tour I spotted a long-legged millipede in a crevice (picture from Flickr above, ick!) – the cave is also home to the extremely rare trapdoor spider. All the profit from tours goes back into the conservation of the cave and it’s inhabitants. Please give it a visit!

Kuala Lumpur

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The Greedy Spanish Adventure: Seville

What could be better to an insatiable food lover than a 10 day tour across the beautiful Spanish region of Andalusia? My adventure starts in it’s traditional but bustling capital city, Seville – the birthplace of tapas!

Choosing to visit Seville at the very end of August not only resulted in us being mocked by actual Spaniards back in the UK, but also meant the city was a little quieter than usual – as all the (sensible) locals head north during the summer months to escape the stifling heat. At the height of the day, temperatures can reach well over 40 degrees. However, I didn’t let that stop me from getting as my chops around as many culinary delights as humanely possible.

 

Bodega Siglo XVIII, Triana

Our hotel was located in the lively neighborhood of Triana, just across the bridge from all the main attractions the city has to offer. One reason for choosing this quite residential area as our base was it’s reputation for high-quality tapas bars frequented by Sevillians themselves. On our first night we took a stroll along the Canal de Alfonso XIII  and then headed further into Triana for some food.

You’ll find Bodega Siglo XVIII on Calle Pelay Correa – unlike many of the tapas bars we explored later, this place is large in size and pretty unmissable. The interior is decorated very traditionally and it’s a pleasure to soak up the historical ambiance whilst you enjoy their simple but outstandingly tasty food.

tapas

We ordered smoked anchovies with sweet roasted red pepper, goat cheese and honey and the ambiguously-titled Andalusian lamb. All three dishes arrived quickly and were presented thoughtfully, along with some bread. The anchovies and red pepper were a match made in heaven and combined worked very well with each others’ contrasting flavours. The Andalusian lamb was not what I expected, as it seemed to be a round of minced lamb with a sort of skin around the outside. It was extremely flavoursome and it’s always refreshing to try something new! My weakness for goat cheese has been well documented, especially in sweet concoctions, so the cheese and honey combo was right up my street. The mini-toasts it came with were extremely crispy and delicate.

This lovely Bodega was a fantastic first taste of Seville, and got me really excited for what else we’d get to try over the coming days.

 

Mercado lonja de barranco

Located just across the bridge from the more rustic Triana Mercado, this is a relatively new development that for a long time was a derelict building before being sympathetically restored to it’s former glory. This is considered a rather upmarket dining venue, which attracts young professionals on their lunch breaks and, of course, tourists. Not dissimilar to the famous Altringcham Market in the UK , Lonja de barranco is essentially a high-end food court, with multiple producers, restaurants and street food stalls all in one place.

We said that we were just going to have a look around and not buy anything, but of course we couldn’t help getting a couple of nibbles just to see us through. From a chacutarie stall I bought Chicharron Sevilla – which translates as “Seville pork rind”. It might not sound very appetising, but these little morsels of slow-cooked and dried pork were a delight. Ours were cooked with garlic and rolled in spices (paprika was in there somewhere I think) and – even though the texture took a couple of bites to get used to – we snuffled the lot pretty quickly. My travel companion went for a spinach and ricotta empanada from a bakery stall. The pastry was thin with a generous amount of filling and we could’ve easily sampled more of the offerings on show.

I imagine this is a great place to bring friends for lunch if you can’t agree on what type of food you all fancy. Although not as cheap as some of the tapas available across the bridge in Triana, it still is good value and allows you to take a break with a glass of wine, watching the world go by.

 

Devour Seville Food Tour

For our final night in Seville, I decided to book us onto a tour I’ve seen highly recommended in several places. We met on Plaza Nueva with our guide Michaela, who promised us an authentic taste of Seville – from classic tapas to the more modern take on Spanish food influenced by other cultures.

Taberna Álvaro Peregil

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Our first destination was the second oldest tapas bar in Seville, predated only by the very famous El Rinconcillo. You could very easily walk past Tabenra Alvaro Peregil – located on Calle Mateos Gagos – and not notice, were it not for the small bar tables and groups of people gathered outside. This place is tiny and extremely unpretentious in its decor – keeping to a simple, traditionally Spanish style with a bar at the back of the premises and room for about four bar tables inside. This bar is one of the only that serves the traditional Vina de Naranja – Seville Orange Wine. One of only two products made with Seville oranges (the other being marmalade), this comes in a small sherry glass and tastes quite like a port. It went down very well with food we had:

tapas

  • Chiccarones from Cadiz: Similar to the pork we had at Lonja de Barranco, though this one was not dusted in spices but slow-cooked, sliced thiny and served cold.
  • Aged manchego sheep milk cheese.

Casa Morales

Our next foodie destination was just a 5 minutes’ walk away on Calle de Mateos Gago. A previous Bodega, the interior of Casa Morales was lined with enormous vats and packed full with people, mostly locals.  Here we got to try different sherries – one being a Manzanilla sherry and  other a Amontillado – to go with our tapas:

  • Bacalao and salmorejo montaditos – raw cod drizzled with the very popular salmorejo, a tomato-based puree similar to gaspatcho.
  • Jamón ibérico de bellota – one of Spain’s most famous exports. The bellota variety is considered the very highest quality as the pigs are fed on acorns.
  • Chorizo on bread was also served, though it was extremely soft and delicate – unlike any other chorizo I’ve had before!

Enrique Becerra

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Whilst the previous two venues had been authentic tastes of the traditional Sevillian tapas bar, this final destination took us somewhat forward in time to a more modern style of classic tapas being championed and paired with other, non-Spanish influences. Enrique Becerra is a large, traditionally decorated venue whose North-African influence comes through a treat in the delicious food they serve. We enjoyed several different wines, including our first and only Rioja of the tour, which were paired with each tapas that came out:

  • Olives, served with Mioro (DO Condado de Huelva) – a white wine from the nearby region of Huelva.
  • More bacalao (cod), this time in a pastry parcel and served with a Barbazul (VT de Cadiz).
  • Tuna with salmorejo.
  • Morrocan style lamb, served with rice and a Calros Serres Rioja.
  • Some sort of meat in sauce, the details of which I was too drunk with wine to remember.
  • Tocino de cielo – which is a Spanish sweet flan – paired with a Cream Sherry.

I’m so delighted to have done this tour. Michaela’s enthusiasm and knowledge of the local area and it’s history was fantastic and something we would not have benefitted from during our short 2 night stay otherwise. Devour also run tours in Malaga, Madrid and Barcelona – should I be visiting any of these places I will definitely be booking onto another tour!

Triana Market

Mercado de triana

On the day of our departure from Seville, I was up bright and early to go and check out the Mercado de Triana. Over 150 years old, this traditional market is the go-to for locals grabbing their weekly essentials and enjoying some traditional tapas while they do so. As I went so early in the morning very few of the tapas bars were open, but I got to browse some absolutely fantastic-looking local produce from a variety of vendors.

In the end I bought a tin of anchovies and a couple of pinchos from a delicatessen stall. Each one comprised of a large olive, an artichoke and a slice of sweet red pepper, wrapped in a sardine and skewered together with a cocktail stick. I thought that this, along with some fresh bread, would make for a fantastic little snack on the bus back to Malaga. I was absolutely right – they were banging.

Other Things to do in Seville

It might be hard to believe, but I wasn’t stuffing my face for the whole trip. Here’s some other things we did:

Plaza de España

This historic square is one of the main attractions of Seville and is truly magnificent. We hired a boat and paddled around the canal, then had a wander in the shady Parque de Maria Luisa to escape the heat.

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La Terraza de EME

This was a fabulous bar we went to after our tapas tour which has a fantastic view of the Catedral de Sevilla. Cocktails are decent although predictably quite expensive, but it’s a nice way to end the day.

Metropol Parasol

We didn’t actually go to see this as we ran out of time but it was strongly recommended by our tapas tour guide Michaela. A weird, mushroom-like structure that caused a lot of controversy when it was constructed.

 

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Max Strummer

Du riechst so gut: A Taste of Berlin

Last weekend I had the absolute pleasure of visiting Germany’s bustling capital. With its fascinating history and rich arts scene, Berlin and its varied neighborhoods allow keen foodies to uncover all sorts of hidden gems.

Like our own London, Berlin has become a melting pot of different cultures – so a vast array of cuisines from across the globe have a strong presence in this sprawling metropolis. I got stuck right in but, of course, was keen to also sample some traditional German delicacies.

street food berlin

Max und moritz      Miss Saigon

Restaurant Bastard      Burgermeister

Badeschiff

Max und Moritz

This charming eatery is located on Oranienstraße – which is a long street featuring loads of cafes, restaurants and bars in the trendy district of Kreuzberg. Despite the sheer volume of places to eat here, Max Und Moritz stands out as a proudly and traditionally German dining venue – the restaurant’s name in fact is taken from a 19th century German story by Wilhelm Busch. The decor is simple but elegant and the menu lists a variety of traditional treats including Berliner Eisbein – pickled pork foot – and Bollenfleisch – a lamb stew. It gets very busy and we were lucky as walk-ins to get a table at all – even though it was past 10pm when we arrived.

German beer is cherished around the globe, so we ordered a couple of glasses of Berliner Weissbier, a refreshing and not too gassy lager, which really hit the spot on a warm summer’s night. We only had a main course, and I had a massive hankering for some schnitzel – which actually originates from Veinna, Austria – but is done incredibly well by the Germans.

My dining companion and I both ordered the size ‘small’ and I’m very glad I did because it was enormous – I dread to think what sort of a beast the larger size is! It came with roasted potatoes and a very pleasant side salad that comprised of leaves, red and white cabbage, beetroot, tomatoes and a lovely dressing.

Prices were extremely reasonable, with our Wiener Schnitzel’s coming in at €13 each. If you come to Berlin and want a range of traditional dishes to choose from, Max Und Moritz is the perfect place.

Miss Saigon

As I previously touched upon, Berlin’s population boosts a rich variety of ethnicities and cultures – which means extremely good-quality and authentic food from any corner of the world can be found here. We had read in The Guardian about Miss Saigon – a family-run Vietnamese restaurant, once again in Kreuzberg. You could easily walk past it and not know, as it’s tucked away on the corner of Skalitzer Str. and Manteuffelstraße, hidden by trees. Upon entry, however, the atmosphere was extremely welcoming and we were quickly seated at a vacant table.

To drink I opted for one of their cocktails – a rum-based Saigon Dream – which tasted not disimilar from a pina colada. My dining companion ordered a Vietnamese beer which – typical of many Asian lagers – was light, refreshing and served very cold.

Miss Saigon Starter

We spent ages browsing the quite extensive menu which included classics such as Pho (Vietnamese noodle soup), as well as plenty of tempting dishes I had never heard of before. One thing this restaurant seems big on is surf n’ turf, and many of the starters were a combination of shrimp and chicken or pork. I finally selected the traditional paper rice rolls, filled with minced pork and shrimp and my fellow diner went for the deep fried crab and chicken rice balls. Both came thoughtfully presented on the same plate, which I thought was really nice. My rolls were delicious, especially when combined with the fiery chilli dip that came alongside it – I suppose they were probably the Vietnamese equivalent of Dim Sum. My dining companion’s rice balls were excellent – very crispy on the outside and lushciously moist and soft in the middle. The flavour of crab still came through very well despite being combined with chicken.

Before our starters arrived we were served a complimentary vegetable broth – which was really tasty and flavorsome. Plus, I love free stuff – so I thought it was a lovely touch!

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For our main course I settled on spicy pork belly, barbecued on wood and served with noodles. It wasn’t quite what I was expecting, as the pork was in fact thinly sliced and served in a bowl on top of the noodles. The flavour was very unique – I can honestly say I’ve never tasted anything like it before – extremely smokey and deep with the heat from chilli sitting nicely in the background. It’s not one of those taste combinations you could eat forever – I just about managed to finish what was in my bowl – but I put that down to the fact is was so unusual and new to me. My fellow diner choose very well again and went for another surf n’ turf option – this time shrimp and chicken pancakes. These were medium-sized little packages, wrapped into a semi-circle and bursting with filling. I was surprised when I saw it wasn’t served with rice or noodles – but apparently after you ate all six on the plate there was no need for anything else as they were very filling. I managed to blag a taste and they were absolutely delicious.

We were too full for dessert, but apparently Miss Saigon is famous for its milkshakes and we saw a lot of people tucking into them as we left. All in all, this little eatery provides an authentic taste of Vietnam with good service and a warm, cozy ambience.

Restaurant Bastard

Our last morning in Berlin, and after walking up and down Oranienstraße for about half an hour looking for somewhere that served waffles, we changed our strategy and instead turned to the internet for nearby recommendations. Although the name was what first grabbed us, the reviews of Restaurant Bastard promised a lovely place for brunch that many locals visited – so off we went.

Located near Görlitze Park, the restaurant was absolutely bustling with people which is always a good sign – especially as it was away from any busy streets or attractions. We had to wait 10 minutes for a table to become free, so we were starving by the time we ordered.

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The venue itself is unapologetically shabby chic – the stars of the show here are the food, freshly made juices and excellent coffee. We had two lattes whilst we browsed the menu and they were the creamiest, loveliest things you could imagine.

Food-wise, I abandoned my want for a sweet breakfast (although pancakes were on the menu) and opted for what was called a Max Strummer – two fried eggs, bacon, cheese and salad on bread. The salad was well thought out and had all sorts in it – like baby radishes and pea shoots – rather than being an afterthought as is so often the case with other cafes. All of the different elements perfectly complemented each other when combined and the eggs were extremely runny and rich. I was very happy indeed and proceeded to finish the whole lot.

My dining partner went for a more minimalistic approach with scrambled eggs and smoked salmon. I got a little taste and it was very good – the portion sizes were also decent value for money.

Burgermeister

Everyday, we crossed the bridge over from our hotel in Friedrichshain over to Kreuzberg (although I believe the whole area is being merged and rebranded Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg) and walked past a small, green hut underneath the train tracks called Burgermeister. We noticed that from around 11:30am until gone 11pm the limited seating outside would be packed and all afternoon/evening a long queue leading to the hut’s kitchen would be present.

Our final meal in Berlin had to be here, we decided, and we went at around 4:30pm to increase our chances of getting a seat.

burgermeister

Burgermeister have obviously cracked the formula to running an extremely successful eating venue. They have one thing – burgers in this case – that they do incredibly well, so they offer around 7 different varieties of burger, including a chicken and a vegetarian option. People come up to the till to order and are given a ticket with a number. When that number appears on the counter next to the kitchen they come and get their food. It’s a slick operation and the only waiting staff required is one elderly gentleman, who collects and recycles bottles from the tables. When the seating is at full-capacity, many take their food away and eat it on one of the parks and green spaces within a five minute walk of Burgermeister.

We both decided on the Hausmeista which contained burger, mushroom, bacon, cheese and the usual other burger garnishes. I had fries and my companion opted for cheesy fries, which I became quite envious of. This was not your normal cheddar but, in fact, the dirty packaged sort of cheese that is bright yellow and probably incredibly bad for you, but amazingly delicious. The burgers came packaged in very neat branded holders that kept them upright and made them easy to take to your table.

I must says the burger I had there stands out as one of the best I’ve ever eaten. The bun, which I think was brioche, wasn’t too thick and the filling was extremely generous. The meat component itself was so juicy and had a lovely charred flavour from the cooking as well. This is an absolutely perfect place to go at anytime of the day – a must-visit for any trip of Berlin.

Street Food

Berliners love their street food – the amount of stalls, huts and pop-ups you pass when exploring the city is testament to that. Here’s a few German snacks to get your teeth into:

Bratwurst

Large, curved, sausagey – what’s not to love? Probably the culinary symbol of Germany and the ultimate street food. Made usually from veal, pork or beef and often served with a bread roll and mustard. You can get one of these beauties on pretty much any corner in Berlin but I noticed there were a lot of Bratwurst stalls in the area around the Brandenburg Gate. I bought one from a stall just outside the S-Bahn entrance of the Berlin Warschauer Straße station in Friedrichshain. Unfortunately I was in desperate need and wolfed it down before I got a picture – find below a general stock image. Sorry not sorry.

bratwurst

Riesen Bockwurst

Another massive sausage – differing from the Bratwurst both in size (it’s larger) and in the way it’s cooked. Whereas Bratwurst is often flame grilled or pan fried, Riesen Bockwurst is simmered in water. I got to sample one at the airport en route back to the UK – several sausages were kept in a steamy container proudly on display. You had a choice of bread or potatoes to accompany it, along with the obligatory mustard. Lush.

Kebabs

They might not be traditionally German, but the kebab is without doubt one of Berlin’s favorite meaty treats and you’ll find several kebab outlets on most busy streets. This is mostly owing to Berlin’s large Turkish population and of course the fact that kebabs are absolutely banging. For the best of the best head to the southeastern side of Kreuzberg which has the biggest concentration of kebab eateries.

kebab queue kreuzberg

Currywurst

How could you possibly improve the traditional Bratwurst other than by covering it with ketchup and curry powder, served with chips? There’s a nice little outlet just before the bridge between Friedrichshain and Kruezberg (on the Friedrichshain side under the train tracks) that specialises in this German delicacy.

 

What Else?

When I wasn’t eating, I actually managed to do some other things. Here are my recommendations:

KAYAK BERLIN

We did the West Berlin tour and it was such a unique way to see the city. A 3 hour tour costs 33 euros, which is pretty reasonable.

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Wrangelkiez/Alt-Treptow

Such a cool area that I wish we had more time to explore, particularly at night. Walk through Wrangelkiez and cross the bridge of the first canal, just next to the petrol station you will find the entrance to some lovely riverside restaurants and cafes!

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In Alt-Treptower you will also find Badeschiff, a beach-style venue with bars, food, deck chairs and a pool on top of the River Spree! I would love to do the area around Berlin Arena and Treptow Art Center again at night – although it looks fairly inactive during the day I have a strong suspicion that’s when the area really comes alive.

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SPY MUSEUM

If you’re a fan of all things espionage this is your place! Went in here on a bit of a whim but the history of spies through the ages, collection of nifty (and often fatal) gadgets and James Bond exhibition makes for a wicked experience. And there’s a laser game. A LASER GAME.

 

I was sad when my Berlin adventure ended but fortunately I don’t have to wait long for my next foodie adventure. Watch this space because in the next month I’m doing a tour of Andalucia including Seville and Grenada, as well as Ibiza!

 

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Glouglou and Les Halles Castellane, Montpellier

For my last night in Montpellier I headed once again to the Old Town, this time to Rue du Pila St Gély – the home of wine-loving eatery Glouglou. The following morning I went hunting for a special type of goat cheese at a market near Comedy Place.

After my experiences at Petit Bistro and Le Grillardin the bar had been set very high, so I was determined to round off my trip to Montpelier with another heavenly eating experience.

Glouglou

Glouglou sits on a fairly bustling street, just away from a tram track and main road. The inside of the restaurant is very fitting for a bar à vin, it’s curved stone ceiling giving the venue an intimate, cellar-esque feel. It was too nice an evening to sit inside, so out I went to enjoy the ambiance and do a spot of people watching on one of the several tables outside.

As a result of disproportionately stuffing my face all week I wasn’t really that hungry and decided a main course and a glass of wine would be enough for me. Glouglou has a really innovative and fun system for their wine – instead of receiving a menu, you are given a card (about the size of a bank card). Then the waiter explains you go inside the restaurant to what can only be described as a wine vending machine and insert your card, then make your selection. Helpfully there are 3 sizes to choose from, starting with a ‘taster’ option (about 5 sips of wine). So in the space of one night you could potentially try several different types plus no need to attract a member of staff’s attention if you want a refill, just help yourself!

When it came to the food I felt like trying something new and noticed that sweetbreads where on the menu. I, unlike many, really like offal so I thought there was no better time to give them a go. The term ‘sweetbreads’ usually refers to the thymus or the pancreas of an animal, mostly calves or (as in my case) lamb. A lot of people are icked out by this, but really in 2016 Britain we’ve forgotten what a luxury prime cuts of meat were not so long ago – these days we can pick and choose whatever part of whatever species at our convenience. This, however, has made us really wasteful, unadventurous and fussy, and my feeling is that we owe it to the animal whose life has been sacrificed for our dinner to eat (or at least try) everything that comes from it . Anyway, rant over. But, seriously, we should all be eating more offal. Because it’s banging. And cheap.

Back to my Glouglou sweetbreads. They came in a cassoulet containing mushrooms, carrots etc with the obligatory basket of bread. The gravy of the casserole was deep, rich and flavoursome – you can see just by looking at the picture below what a nice shine it had too. The sweetbreads themselves were not as strong in taste as I was expecting – more similar to kidneys rather than liver and would probably be a great introduction to offal for someone who is not used to it.  All in all I was pleased with my dinner and used the lovely spongy-textured bread to wipe the dish clean.

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Glouglou is a great little bistro and is an excellent place to go with a few friends, whether it’s to eat or exploit their very clever self-service wine system!

 

Les Halles Castellane

My final morning in Montpellier consisted of me waking up extremely early to go on the hunt for a particular type of goat cheese at one of Montpellier’s main markets. I got my first taste for cheese produced in this way in the beautiful rural region of Dordogne, which is located between the Loire Valley and the Pyrenees. Ash was originally used to protect the surface of young cheeses, but since it’s been discovered that it also improves surface moulds and how they grow. Spread thickly on a water cracker with a little spoonful of chutney or cherry jam, it’s quite literally the dream so I was keen to find it whilst I was in France.

Les Halles Castellane is Montpellier’s main covered market and is fairly large in size. Unfortunately as I went so early a lot of the stalls were still closed but I did get to have a nose around – producers there included greengrocers, winemakers, butchers, bakeries and, of course, cheese mongers.

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On approaching the cheese counter, I saw what I wanted straight away and the kind lady at the stall was able to confirm it was goats cheese. It came in a small but perfectly formed portion – which was great as it meant it would keep for that little bit longer. A portion like this cost me just under 6 euros – in the picture on the right-hand side below is the oval-shaped cheese in the bottom centre.

In typical, dozy Greedy B fashion, I left the cheese in the fridge at a friend’s London-based flat before I even got a chance to taste it! Quelle tragique! So I’ll have to come back and edit this post once I’ve reclaimed it, if it hasn’t been snuffled already.

Montpellier was an absolutely wonderful experience and I was so lucky to enjoy this historic and culturally rich part of France as part of a work trip. I tried to make the most of the gorgeous food whilst I was there, and even got to do some sight-seeing! Here’s to more French adventures – hopefully very, very soon!

 

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Brexit Cocktail Recipe

If you’re struggling to cope with today’s Referendum result, why not try my twist on a traditional Caribbean Rum Punch?

Whilst the standard Rum Punch recipe uses dark rum and icing sugar I’ve traded these for spiced rum such as Sailor Jerry or Captain Morgan. This concoction of ingredients is delicious but lethal so go easy or you could end up completely obliterated. The good news is that by the time you wake from your rum-induced coma the value of your savings might’ve increased to what they were worth in 1987. Hooray!

Please note that by ‘measure’ I mean a 25ml shot of liquid.

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For this cocktail you will need:

  • 2 measures Sunset Very Strong Rum (available online or widely in the Caribbean)
  • 1 measure Spiced Rum
  • 1 measure Pineapple Juice
  • 1 measure Orange Juice
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1/2 measure of Grenadine Syrup
  • Dash of Angostura Bitters
  • Whole nutmeg

Serves 1

Method:

  • Put all ingredients except the nutmeg in a cocktail mixer and shake. Pour into a tall glass filled with crushed ice and grate a little nutmeg on top.
  • Decorate elaborately with pineapple and orange slices if you feel like it or perhaps – on a day like today – neck it all down in one, think ‘This is lovely, I’ll have more a few more this please’ and move to the West Indies.

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La Herradura: La Gaviota & Municipal Market

Two things that the Spanish do best are paella and jamón ibérico – I was lucky enough to find both these in the Andalusian village of La Herradura during my stay there recently. 

My quest for Ibérico ham was actually for my Mum as a little souvenir from my travels – plus I knew if I got some really good stuff I’d get mega brownie points. First, however, I headed to a chiringuito recommended to me by a pal for lunch with only one thing on my mind – paella.

Lunchtime: La Gaviota

It was a still, beautiful day – perfect weather for eating al fresco in such stunning surroundings. La Gaviota sits just on the beach after you cross the bridge heading west along the seafront. As the paella is made fresh, you need to order about 90 minutes in advance – so a little forward planning is required but it really is worth it.

When my paella arrived I was delighted – it was absolutely brimming with seafood including enormous prawns, muscles and squid. There’s nothing worse then when a paella is all rice but that was certainly not the case here. What struck me most was how succulent everything was – you could really tell it had been made fresh to order and all the different flavours came through to form what can only be described as an absolute party in your mouth.

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Washed down with a couple of cold Tintos de Verano in the sun it was as close to a spiritual experience as you can get. And just look at that view!

Cost: Paella for two and four Tintos came to around 30 euros. The pan might look slightly on the small side in the picture but it was perfect adequate for two hungry people.

If you want to find out more about La Gaviota give them a follow on Facebook, you’ll be glad you did. As well as their standout paella they also do brunch and tapas.

Municipal Market

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The next morning I set off on my mission for jamón, and only the finest ibéricon would do. La Herradura hosts a small selection of markets, one of them being the a fresh food and flower market Monday – Saturday from 9am until 2pm. The Municipal Market is hosted in a traditional, almost church-like building on the seafront.

Straight away I found the vendor I was looking for, and he kindly pointed me in the direction of some jamón ibérico. I decided to go for the already vacuum-packed stuff as I was taking it back to the UK with me. A 100g packet cost 10 euros which seems pricey, but is a fraction of what you’d pay for premium charcuterie like this back home. Plus this variety was jamón ibérico de bellota – where the pigs are fed on acorns – which is considered the finest and most desirable grade.

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Needless to say, my Mum was beyond pleased with her souvenir – she has a taste for the finer things in life so she knew it was the real deal. I was also extremely tempted to bring back some cheese but resisted (my last cross-Europe cheese run via hand luggage ended quite badly). However I did take a cheeky snap, how could I not?

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I wish I had a little more time to look around the market when more stalls were open – I arrived bang on 9am and the only others ones trading at that hour were a wine vendor and a butchers. It would’ve been fantastic to see some fishmongers, especially right next to the sea – although as I strolled along the seafront it looked like a lot of locals fish themselves. Can’t say I blame them on mornings like this!

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Cheeky Vouchers: Brighton & Hove Foodies Festival

The Foodies Festival comes to Brighton on the 30th April – 2nd May and features top chefs as well as cracking masterclasses, pop-up restaurants and smashing street food.

I went last year and walked into a sherry tasting – which provided a comprehensive explanation of the drink’s origins and history, as well as five or six different sherries paired with nibbles. Although, unlike other food events in the Brighton area, you pay for entry there is an awful lot on offer at this festival. I imagine, if I had a bit more time and forward planning, I could’ve attended a few more tastings and masterclasses (which are mostly free of charge) making the ticket price of  £14 (£11 for concessions) very good value for money.

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Taking place on Hove Lawns, this year’s Foodies Festival will have a range of attractions including a cake & bake theatre, BBQ arena, feasting tent, brew your own beer and a live music stage. Most excitingly, the headliner in the Chefs Theatre is Michelin-starred Matt Gillan –  chef at The Pass and winner of Great British Menu 2015. Matt’s winning “Teaching & Preaching” dish for the competition looked absolutely gorgeous and showcased goat, a relatively unpopular meat here in the UK,  in the best light possible.

Even better news is that there are quite a few vouchers and deals kicking around for entrance to the festival. They’re all quite similar but I’ve listed all the ones I’ve found here as they give you various options.

2-for-1 on tickets with showguides: From the Foodies Festival Facebook page. Just enter ‘FOODIES’ when booking on the Foodies Festival website. Reduces the normal £14 entry to £9 and you get a showguide.

Various offers: From Groupon. Choose from the following:

  • £10 for one standard ticket and show guide (up to 44% off)
  • £18 for two standard tickets and two show guides (up to 50% off)
  • £34 for four standard tickets and four show guides (up to 53% off)
  • £69 for two VIP tickets

Various offers: From Travelzoo. Choose from the following:

  • Friday events… £8 for one, or £14 for two
  • Saturday, Sunday and Bank Holiday Monday events… £10 for one or £18 for two
  • Each person will also get a show guide
  • VIP tickets* are now £49 for two (instead of £70) for Friday events and £69 for two (instead of £76) for Saturday, Sunday and Bank Holiday Monday events
  • As well as Brighton, this offer applies to Foodies Festivals in Bristol, Birmingham, Tatton Park, Harrogate or Oxford.

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It looks like it’s going to be a great weekend down on Hove Lawns, so get your ticket in advance at a bargain price. Don’t forget to follow Foodies Festival on Facebook for the all their latest news.

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All images copyright Pageturner Photography