Category Archives: Restaurants

Librería “La Central de Callao”

Where is it?

Situated a stone’s throw from El Corte Inglés and Gran Via, this place is completely unique. A mix of academic-chic, La Central de Callao is a 3 floored treasure chest combining over 70,000 volumes of specialized books in philosophy, history, social science and literature and a super cool bistro to boot.

What’s it like?

If unpretentious Bohemia is your thing, the bistro is a real find. Open until around midnight most nights, it boasts a great selection of cakes and savoury treats and would be an original substitute to grand alternatives.

Surrounded by books a-plenty, La Central’s bistro has a unique energy. Combining the soulfulness you find tree-side, the inspiration you find in bookshops with a cosmopolitan cosiness typical of Madrid, this little eatery is a real treat.

What else is on?

The lectures and presentations on offer are fascinating ranging from this month’s GRAF presentation dedicated to comics and illustration to Yasmina Khadra (one of the most important and famous writers of Algerian literary scene, with work published in more than forty countries) speaking next month.

Why go?

If you’re a creative type who gets excited by books and new places, try La Centrale. It’s good for the soul.

Details:

Dirección: Calle del Postigo de San Martín, 8, 28013 Madrid

Website

Teléfono: 917 90 99 30

Events

Horarios (El Bistro):

Lunes, martes y miércoles - 9.00 – 00.00

Jueves, viernes y sábado - 9.00 – 01.00

Domingo y festivos - 10.00 – 22.00

Las Bravas, St Katharine Docks, London

Where is it?

Tucked away in St Katharine Docks between Tower Hill and Tower Bridge, Las Bravas brings high-end, affordable tapas to London. Having opened in March this year, it’s not surprising it’s received rave reviews on Trip Advisor given the quality of the food and staff.

What’s the food and decor like?

The restaurant is top-end shabby-chic, with cosy enclaves for the winter months and full-length windows running dock-side. The menu is diverse, ranging from Foie Gras and Brioche with Serrano Ham and Lamb Chops with Rosemary Alioli to Fried Baby Calamares and Smoked Sardines.

What’s the damage?

Prices are very reasonable. Ranging from £5-10 a dish, the food is beautifully presented with charming service that’s rare to find.

Why go?

If you’d like a taste of Spain without breaking the bank, I can’t rave highly enough. This place is the tops.

Details:

Website

Address: Saint Katharine Docks, London, E1W 1AT

Tel: 0207 481 1464

Nearest tube: Tower Hill

Las Carboneras, Madrid

Reputedly the best-known flamenco bar in Madrid, Las Carboneras is a once in a lifetime experience.

Where is it?

Nestled behind Mercado de San Miguel in a jazz-club like hideaway, this is a world away from the classic ‘one-man band’ flamenco show. Featuring a quartet of dancers (flanked by two singers and guitarists), they dance one by one in dimly-lit surrounds, their focus broken only by applause. The intensity of their footwork builds skyward through the wooden stage, interrupted occasionally by a pit-pat of cheers from their comrades.

What is it?

Flamenco may seem flamboyant, but this is a serious affair. Uniting passion and control, severity and seduction, the alluring and the disarming, this is mind-boggling, soul scratching stuff. The dancers’ rhythmic movements are mesmerising, enrapturing the audience in a trance-like state whilst keeping them at a distance all at once. For no matter how musical you may think you are, this is a beat you can’t catch. The singers’ soulful wailings may capture your soul but there’s an eerie divide between audience and performer that cannot be crossed. Like a witch casting a spell, it’s engaging and alienating all at once. Eerie, powerful, elusive, it’s about feeling, not thinking. Even the Rastas stage-side, renowned for their rhythm, couldn’t get the beat.

Why go?

With personas as different as chalk and cheese, from the flamboyance of the opening dancer throwing her peach train around the stage in peacock-like fashion to the terrifying severity of her velvet-clad counter-part, flamenco at Las Carboneras is a sight to behold. A feast for the senses if ever I saw one, it’ll leave you changed. Go.

Contact:

Website

Address: Plaza del Conde de Miranda, 1, 28005 Madrid

Tel: 915 42 86 77

Hours: 19:30-24:00

Tickets:

Drink and Show - 33.40 euros

Tapas and Show - 65 euros +

 

Barossa, Parsons Green

Where?

Neatly positioned on the New King’s Road, a stone’s throw from Parsons Green tube station, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Barossa is another mainstream cafe.  Not so. An independent Coffee House & Australian Kitchen, the understated facade of the cafe belies its character.

How eggcellent is it?

My first encounter was the result of months of sibling raving and suspicions that said sister might have over-egged the pudding, so to speak.  I must say, however, I was pleasantly surprised.  The eggs were cracking as promised with a Bondi Brekkie feast complete with smoked bacon, corn fritters and poached or scrambled eggs.  Now I’m a regular, I like to mix up the egg treats – whether benedict, florentine,or royale, I am yet to be disappointed.

Healthy alternatives?

I’m a particular fan of the sourdough toast which is an unusual addition to the fry up, giving it a healthier taste you wouldn’t associate with a naughty treat.  If you’re looking for something lighter, there are various options on offer, from avocado on toast with tomato and feta, to toasted banana bread or granola with greek yoghurt and blueberry compote.

Scrummy lunches?

If it’s lunch you’re after, you’re spoilt for choice.  With a delicious range of all day sarnies, from the classic BLT or a sausage feast, to crab cakes with chilli and lime or the superfood salad with chickpeas, quinoa and feta, there’s something for everyone.

Tea for two?

Thirsty for coffee or tea – you’re in for a treat.  A range of loose leaf teas are served in funky see-through tea-pots which sit atop your mug and are activated by pressing southerly while coffee beans are sourced by Caravan Coffee, roasted by hand in small batches daily and stamped with a frothy heart or leaf.  

Sweet tooth?

For a sweet accompaniment you can choose from a fluffy freshly made muffin, a slice of red velvet cake or other fondant fancies a guilt-ridden glutton might term ‘terribly light’.

Best bits?

Best features of Barossa? The large glass fronted facade, the delightful window seat, the range of artwork on sale and the fantastically friendly staff who give their local competitors a run for their money. If that isn’t enough to tickle your fancy, there’s also the option for hire for after-hours events, lunches, meetings and parties for up to 70, complete with canapé menus and even a wedding cake package. Tick, tick and tick.

Contact:

Address: 277 New Kings Road Fulham, London, SW6 4RD

Tel: 0207 751 9711               

Website

Nearest tube: Parsons Green

BlaBlaBla, Chueca

If you like a bit of French…

If you like 5* French food and shabby-chic, bienvenue à BlaBlaBla.  Situated between Banco de Espana and Chueca, this is a French Bistro with a twist, the kooky aesthetic making the decor as memorable as the food.  And gold star for the funky little bar area that greets you before you enter the restaurant proper – the perfect spot to have a gin and tonic before settling in for the evening.

If music be the food of love…

The menu is extensive with dishes ranging from Foie Gras Salad, Eggs Benedict, Fish and Chips, Giant Calamari, Steak Tartare and Oysters.  Prices range from 9 to 19 euros which seems like a pretty fair deal given the ambience, decor, quality of food and service.  Be warned though, ladies, if you don’t like steak you may have a job on your hands keeping the boys away from the Chateaubriand. For the non-steak lovers out there, this is a four-inch section of beef tenderloin, one of the most tender cuts of beef going.  The sort of bloody treat that turns Western man into primal beast.

Will I like it?

If cosy, cosmopolitan chic is your style, this is a wee treasure.  The perfect mix of sophisticated and eclectic, BlaBlaBla has universal charm.  Top tip – wrap the evening up with one of the chocolate shots…  You won’t be disappointed.

Contact

Address: Calle Prim, 13, 28400 Madrid

Website

Tel: 91 523 44 66

Nearest metros: Banco de Espana/Chueca

The Piano Bar, High Street Kensington

What do the critics say?

If you like cocktails, cosiness and live music, read on.  Quoted as being ‘one of the best nights out in London‘ by Edward Sullivan from the Evening Standard, The Piano Bar is nestled behind a single black door opposite Kensington High Street tube station.  With live piano playing six days a week until the clock strikes midnight, this wee place is a hidden gem.

What’s the vibe like?

If you favour flamboyance over minimalism, this may not be your bag.  Characterised by its cosy bistro interior, The Piano Bar is understated, continental chic with the real treasure lying in the gastronomy, cocktails and musical magic.  Like me, you may find yourself staying far later than planned, mesmerised by classics like ‘Wonderwall’ and ‘I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues’ as you make your way through Vodka Martinis and Risotto Balls.

What of the menu?

The menu includes a range of treats from the Charcuterie Board to the mouth-watering Roast Pork Belly & Apple Slider on a Homemade Brioche Bun, with prices ranging from £5-10 for the Weekly Menu and £12 for the Buffet Menu (which must be ordered in advance). 

Do you need to book?

The only red flag is to book a table to avoid disappointment.  With no cover charge and a pretty special ambience, it’s no surprise The Piano Bar is popular. And if you get to hear Nick Reeve (aka the Pianoman) play, you’re in for a treat.

Contact:

Address: 106, Kensington High Street

Nearest tube: High Street Kensington

Website

Tel: 0207 938 4664

Hours: 

Tuesday-Friday, 5pm – midnight

Saturday-5pm – midnight

Sunday – 6pm – 11.30pm

Live Music:

Tuesday-Thursday 6pm – 11.30pm

Friday 6pm – midnight

Saturday 6pm – midnight

Sunday 8.30pm – 11.30pm

The Troubadour, Earls Court

One of my favourite venues in London, the Troubadour is a cafe-bar-restaurant-club extraordinaire you have to visit at least once.  With pots, pans and all sorts of trinkets hanging from the beam-lined ceilings, this is a fantastical hubbub as magical as Alice’s Wonderland.

Music, you say?

Located at 263-267 Old Brompton Road and established in 1954, The Troubadour is one of the last remaining coffee houses of its era in London, with a club room in the cellar which has hosted the likes of Bob Dylan, Elton John, Jimi Hendrix and The Rolling Stones.  Steeped in artistry befitting its name (a Troubadour was a lyric poet or performer from the High Middle Ages), it continues to host live music and poetry, mainly by performers who write their own material.  The performance area downstairs remains an intimate space for 120, with a cosy underground jazz club feel, dance floor and cocktails served until the early hours.

What’s the cafe like?

The ground-floor cafe is a spell-binding affair which caters for every taste bud and budget.  From The Brompton Burger and chunky chips to ‘The Troubadour Trio’ – a scrumptious spread of hummus, taramasalata and pumpkin dip with pitta bread and crudités – you will not be disappointed.  The jungular garden nestled at the rear of the cafe is but another feature to enjoy on a warm summer’s eve.

What’s the Wine Shop like?

The variety doesn’t stop there, with the neighbouring Wine Shop providing a calm alternative to the fast pace of the cafe and club next door.  Available for private parties, it was also awarded the ‘Best Argentinian Wine Retailer of the Year’ in 2010.  Wine-tasting evenings and Troubadour Feasts are superbly hedonistic events involving a several course dinner based on a chosen region or country in return for paying a fixed fee and the promise of meeting new and interesting people (The Troubadour tends to attract engaging sorts).

Do they do private parties?

If that’s not enough for you, The Troubadour Gallery is an elegant room perfect for use as a private party room for drinks for up to 70 guests or a buffet lunch or supper for up to 50 people.  Located on the first floor, it is designed in classical fashion with wooden floors, large windows and high ceilings.

Not sure it’s your bag?

If you’re an artistic soul who enjoys the eclectic, visit The Troubadour.  It’s one of a kind.  And if you’re a touch nutty, wear a hat on a Tuesday and you’ll get a free dessert!

Contact

265 Old Brompton Rd, London SW5 9JA

Website

020 7370 1434

Music Gigs: £5 for advance online bookings / £7 on the door

Poetry Evenings: Mondays Fortnightly 

Hours: 9am-Late  

Iroco, Madrid

A cross between A Midsummer Night’s Dream and an Italian arte fantasy, the outdoor terrace at Iroco is the stuff of fairytales. With tables nestled between overhanging trees, dimly-lit lanterns adorning low-hanging branches, this is the perfect setting for a romantic rendez-vous.

Typical of the upmarket Salamanca district, the menu and service are understated and classy. From sashimi and seafood risotto to steak tartar and fresh tuna, these are foods for sophisticated palates.

With prices ranging from 13 to 24 euros for a main and 8-10 euros for cocktails, this really isn’t bad value for money for the priceless surroundings and stellar service. If you can stretch to a bottle of the Marques de Murrieta Reserva, the most delicious Rioja around, you’ll be in heaven.

Contact

Address: Calle de Velazquez, 18, 28001

Website

Nearest Metro: Velazquez

Tel: 914 31 73 81

 

Duck & Waffle, London

Balancing atop the 40th floor of London’s Heron Tower, Duck & Waffle’s unique food and panoramic views give other city haunts a definite run for their money.

Inspired by broad European and British influences, the restaurant offers feast, fizz and fun 24/7 – from breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner through to late night menus.  And when I say 24/7 – it literally is open all night.  The all-day menu is served from 11am to 2am; the late night menu, from 2am until 6am; and breakfast, from 6am to 11am – hardly your average post-Disco venue.

With prices being generally medium-range (brunch or breakfast averages at about £20-£25 per head), it’s pretty affordable given its vertical appeal and designer vibe.  Though tempting to opt for your typical choices for breakfast or brunch, the restaurant’s name-sake dish – the duck and waffle – really is a must try.  Consisting of confit duck with fried duck egg and mustard maple syrup, it might sound stomach churningly rich, but is a real treat for the taste buds and a great sharing plate if you want to balance it off with your standard fry up; with other unusual dishes including BBQ spiced crispy pig ears, bacon wrapped dates, spicy ox cheek doughnut and pollock meatballs with lobster cream.

Finally, if you’re on the hunt for a great private room with outstanding views, the restaurant has possibly the best in the capital.  With capacity for 20 people and a minimum spend of £1,000, it’s pretty reasonable value when all’s said and done.

So if you’re not vertigo afflicted and want to experience unrivalled, panoramic views with dishes and choices to match, Duck and Waffle it up.

Contact

Address: The Heron Tower, 110 Bishopsgate, London EC2N 4AY

Phone: 020 3640 7310

Website

Seville, Spain

Seville is without doubt one of Spain’s most vibrant, colourful and traditional cities.

With row upon row of orange trees lining its cobbled streets and Moorish architecture bedecking the horizon, it’s a truly magical city that many have heard of but not yet visited.

Having been fortunate enough to have spent a year abroad sampling its charms, I have first-hand knowledge of some must-sees and dos which I outline below in order of preference:

1. Aire de Sevilla Spa Arabic Baths

Man or woman, spa fanatic or not, this is a truly magical life experience that will make your holiday. Hidden behind a typical entrance door on the narrow cobbled street of the aptly named Calle Aire, herein lies an oasis of calm that tends to the weary mind and body. At €40 for two hour access, it’s great value and a truly intimate experience with only 10 or so people allowed entry at any one point. The owners could surely make a mint out of commercializing this unique venue by cramming it full of weary tourists, but this would defeat its objective to rejuvenate the senses and soothe your soul. Its various rooms comprise candle-lit, water-filled ‘caves’ dotted with Arabic lamps and ambient music. From hot, lukewarm, and cold hydro-jets, to eucalyptus-infused steam rooms and salt-water pools, the ambience really is something to behold. Once your time is through in the low-lit spa areas, you can slowly amble to the relaxing lounge area for a small pot of tea or a cocktail with a pastry – the perfect start or end to your day.

Calle Aire, 15, 41004 Sevilla, Spain; +34955010025: http://www.airedesevilla.com/

2. La Carboneria

An incredible, bohemian flamenco bar nestled on a back street of Barrio de Santa Cruz, this venue is a hidden gem and firm favourite with friends who have visited it. Come 8pm, this converted, modest coal yard is packed to the rafters with locals and tourists alike, with live nightly flamenco performances at no extra charge from 11pm onwards. Its walls bedecked with colourful artwork and ceilings lined with rickety old ceiling fans, it is quintessential Spanish at its best and a must visit for all.

Calle Levíes, 18, 41004 Sevilla, Spain; +34954214460; http://www.levies18.com

3. El Rinconcillo

With its name literally translating to ‘the corner’, this is the oldest tapas bar in Seville located on the corner of Calle Gerona 32 near the church of Santa Catalina. Steeped in history and a firm favourite amongst locals, this venue is tradition embodied. Aging hams adorn its antiquated ceilings, orders are messily etched in chalk on the bar while the waiters are dressed smartly ready to deal with the chaos that ensues during the lunch-time rush. Standing at the bar or hip high barrel tables is the best way to really experience the buzzing atmosphere although there are more formal tables available in the restaurant should you wish to rest your weary feet after a day of site seeing.

Calle Gerona, 40, 41003 Sevilla, Spain; +34954223183; http://en.elrinconcillo.es/

4. Bar Rio Grande

Seville’s coolest outdoor bar, El Rio Grande is, as its name suggests, situated on the imposing banks of the River Guadalquivir at the end of the buzzing Calle Betis. Upstairs lies a more formal restaurant area bedecked in smart white tablecloths and crockery, however the lower level outdoor area is where the magic really happens. Nestled among lush palms, smart decking and low-lit hidden lighting is a hideaway bar area overlooking the stunning vistas of the river. A secret Spanish Neverland, this bar is a must visit for its stunning location and magical atmosphere.

Calle Betis, 69, 41010 Sevilla, Spain; +34954273956; http://riogrande-sevilla.com/

5. Las Reales Alcázares

One of my favourite places on earth. The Alcázar of Seville is a royal palace, originally a Moorish fort and the oldest royal palace still in use in Europe, with the upper levels of the Alcázar still being used by the royal family as the official Seville residence. Room after room showcases beautiful art and architecture, but for the real romantics out there, the gardens are the true sight to behold. Elegant palms and beautiful flowers scatter its extensive grounds, with shade-drenched benches located at regular intervals to allow its visitors to take in the surrounding views, protected from the strong Spanish sun. Located in the centre of town opposite the Cathedral, any stresses that you feel will quickly fade away after an hour inside this beautiful space.

Patio de Banderas, s/n, 41004 Sevilla; +34954502324; http://www.alcazarsevilla.org

6. Plaza de Toros de la Maestranza

The magnificent bullring is considered to be one of the finest in Spain and is one of the oldest and most important in the world. Whilst sections of the younger Spanish population are against the sport, it remains phenomenally popular in Seville, with its electric atmosphere being an essential experience. With its impressive Baroque façade dating from 1762, the arena accommodates 14,000 bodies – which tend to be dressed in their finest Sunday best. If you don’t fancy experiencing the gore of a bullfight, tour visits take you to the modestly sized museum, which traces the sport’s history from the 18th century to present day – here you can peruse an array of costumes, posters and bull’s heads, as well as paintings of some celebrated Sevillano toreros. Situated at the heart of the city overlooking the river, the bullring is the most striking visual symbol of both Seville and wider Spain, and will prove a memorable experience.

Paseo de Cristóbal Colón, 12, 41001 Sevilla; +34954224577; http://www.plazadetorosdelamaestranza.com

7. Barrio Santa Cruz

The primary tourist neighborhood of the city and the former Jewish quarter, Santa Cruz is bordered by the Jardines de Murillo, the Real Alcázar, Calle Mateas Gago, and Calle Santa Maria La Blanca/San José. Its labrynthine streets house many of Seville’s oldest churches and several plazas full of bars and terraces – brimming with character it is the perfect area to amble gently around before or after a relaxing lunch.


8. Catedral De Sevilla

The largest Gothic cathedral and the third-largest church in the world, Seville’s cathedral is a masterpiece. The Giralda, its bell tower, stands at 343 feet high and is the perfect spot to take in the panoramic views of the city after a short walk up the 35 stairs. With construction having begun in 1184, the building is steeped in history and traditionalism. Grand, elegant and traditional, the cathedral is one of Seville’s finest attributes and will astound your senses.

Av de la Constitución, s/n, 41004 Sevilla; +349020996 92; http://www.catedraldesevilla.es