Category Archives: Travels

The Real Turk, Woking

Like many, my passions include food (obviously) and travel, especially combining the two where the country’s cuisine weaves itself into the fabric of a holiday. A few years ago we visited Istanbul and enjoyed the best of both worlds, with the city’s history, culture and great food heritage it was a great trip. 

In Woking, we’d walk passed an empty restaurant, which was difficult to miss being next door to our favourite post-gym breakfast! Then suddenly spring signs of hope with a new signage and menu in the window for The Real Turk. The place opened recently and we popped in one Friday, arriving early (6:30pm) we took the opportunity to sit outside, making the most of a rare sunny evening. Menu-wise, there’s always lots of choice with Turkish food, plenty of starters both hot and cold, of course lots of meat, but also a wide selection of vegetarian options. 

As there was just the two of us, I didn’t fancy a selection of mezze, much preferring it when there’s lots of you to choose a table full of tastes and textures. So scrapping that idea, we went for two favourites – fried squid and hellim, I never knew that was the Turkish/Cypriot for halloumi! I found the staff chatty and eager to please with service speedy throughout, bringing the starters within a few minutes. Both of which are relatively simple things to, but can be overdone with just as much ease. However, these were really good – my squid came with the lightest of batters, covering flesh that was just cooked through, needing little effort to enjoy. On the side, the accompanying tartar sauce wasn’t too strong and acidic, completely different to what you’d get on fish and chips, thankfully as I can’t stand the stuff!! The halloumi came thickly sliced, charred till soft and gave a good squeak!

I’d spotted photos on their meat platters on Facebook, thinking we’d be fully prepared for it especially after our tasty experience in Dubrovnik, but was still taken aback at its size; especially as there was also rice and huge plateful of salad to contend with! From the outset it was obvious we’d struggle eating it all in one sitting, don’t get me wrong it wasn’t any fault of the food!!

Full platter w/ lamb shish, chicken shish, adana kebab, chicken wings and izgara kofte 

There are few things which are more enjoyable to eat than well cooked pieces of meat and here was a good example of that, my favourites the wings and kofte. However, the inevitable happened which was great news for me, as I ate the rest the following day! I’m really looking forward to going again and trying something else off the menu. 

The Real Turk

75 Commercial Way

Woking

Surrey

http://therealturk.com

Advertisements

Chicago

Ok, so why visit Chicago?? It’s probably not the first place that springs to mind when picking a North American holiday, but as we found out it’s got lots going for it. Before the trip my knowledge of the city came from stuff like the Chicago marathon, their love of deep dish pizza, Edward Hopper’s painting ‘Nighthawks’, being called the Windy City and watching The Good Wife. Fairly standard stuff, apart from that I was a bit clueless. 

Here’s some great things about the city:

It’s so flat!!

Chicago’s dead easy to get around on foot, but if walking big distances aren’t your thing or you want to venture further afield, the L (elevated train system) is cheap and straightforward to use. On our walkabouts we found Chicagoans so likeable and friendly, the city was far less crowded than New York and I’d say a lot more relaxed too.

Make the most of FREE stuff!!

One of the best things was the amount of free stuff to enjoy, including:

Millenium Park 

A public park slap bang in the Loop where you’ll find Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate, Frank Gehry’s Jay Pritzker Pavillion and the Crown Fountain. Definitely a tourist magnet, Cloud Gate’s seen from North Michigan Avenue and is a landmark that just lures people in.

img_8921-2

img_8902-2

img_8900-2

img_8898-2

img_8944-2

Free views anyone?!

As much as I wanted to experience the Sky Deck in the Willis Tower, I didn’t like price tag, especially when I found out a well known ‘secret’ spot with a fantastic view for free in the John Hancock Centre. Venturing up to the Signature Room on the 95th floor rewarded us with a great view for nowt, in our case we nipped into the ladies toilets where the photo was taken, as the restaurant wasn’t open yet. 

img_7837

We got another free view at Cindy’s in the Chicago Athletic Association, this cool bar has a terrace overlooking Millennium park and cracking cocktails to go with it!

img_8906-3

img_7129-2

img_8940-4

Chicago Cultural Centre

We loved its Tiffany-stained glass domes, marble lobbies and mother of pearl mosaics. 

img_7616-1

img_8036

img_8035-3

Lincoln Park Zoo 

Easy to get to, lots of different animals (200+ species) to see and free to boot; what’s not to like?! We spent a couple of hours there easy!

img_8971-2

img_8972-2

Museum of Contemporary Photography

Centrally located, just off Millennium Park and the Chicago Institute of Art. It was one of our lasts stops before our plane back to the UK and I’m glad we managed to fit it in as this small but perfectly formed museum likes to show contemporary work from new national and international photographers.  

Public art 

The city has so much free art on display, some donated by world famous artists, such as Picasso, Miro, Chagall and Henry Moore. We saw many wandering around the city, whilst many were in the city’s municipal buildings. 

img_8994-2

img_8989-2

img_8995-2

Garfield Park Conservatory 

Easily reached with a trip on the L, this is one of the largest conservatories in the country and was well worth a trip out. There’s a beautiful palm house, fern room, dessert house and tonnes more. If you LOVE succulents, cacti, ferns and palms you will absolutely LOVE this place!

img_9021-2

img_7861-1

img_7851-1

img_7850-1

National Museum of Mexican Art

Another highlight reached by a trip out of town on the L, this museum’s located in the Pilsen neighbourhood. The area itself has lots of character with street art and this gem of a museum, full of thought provoking and beautiful pieces. I wished we’d been able to spend more time to really explore Pilsen, in particular see the colourful murals and try out some of amazing Mexican food we kept smelling. 

img_7889-1

img_7898-1

Explore the outer neighbourhoods

I kept reading about Chicago’s hipster suburbs and in hindsight we should’ve done more of it. The 606 is a useful stretch to consider – an elevated park trail linking four neighbourhoods together (Humboldt Park, Wicker Park, Logan Square and Bucktown). A couple of hours spent in Wicker Park before our flight home were definitely well spent, soaking in a bit of suburban culture and a tasty Furious Spoon ramen feed en route.

img_8065-1

img_8112-1

img_8079

Chicago by night

Many of the buildings become illuminated and bring the city’s skyline to life at night. 

img_8908-2

img_8909-2

img_8907-2

img_8950-2

Obviously not everything’s free (shame), here’s some of our favourites:

Chicago Institute of Art 

A place I could’ve stayed all day – their collection of American Art, Impressionist and Post Impressionist pieces were plenty to satisfy my artistic needs. One high point was seeing Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks, I was like an excited child when I spotted it from afar! 

img_9004-2

img_9002-2

Architecture boat tour

This was one of the best things we did – learning about the history of the city, the architects and their buildings that shaped the area after the Great Chicago Fire from interesting and knowledgeable guides. I can’t recommend doing this more, 75 minutes well spent!!

img_8985-2

img_8974-2

img_8984-2

img_8981-2

Great food scene

Maybe it doesn’t possess the reputation of other cities, such as New York and San Francisco, but Chicago has plenty going on. With lots of fantastic independent restaurants and bars, the city has a great food and drink scene to brag about, it’s not all deep dish pizzas and hotdogs either! 

Some of our food highlights included:

Minghin Cuisine – this all day dim sum joint was our first port of call after landing in the city. With lots of dim sum classics and roasted meats to choose from, I was completely in my element and ordered far too much (no surprise there!), and ended up being so full I couldn’t manage any more food until the following day!

img_7120-1

img_7176-1

img_7171-1

img_7166-1

img_7175-1

img_7178-1

img_7164-1

img_7173-1

img_7170-1

img_7180-1

Korean at Crisp was a great lunch stop – quick service, inexpensive menu choices (korean burritos, bibimbap, sandwiches, fried chicken etc) and really tasty food. My Seoul steak bowl of bulgogi beef and rice, paired with two awesome sauces was particularly good, inparticular their mayo based ‘atomic sauce’ and ‘smoky spicy BBQ,’ a spicy gochujang sauce.

img_7502-1

img_7505-1

Japanese at Momotaro was booked weeks in advance after reading fab reviews. The restaurant, located in popular Fulton Market District had an interesting cocktail list and mixologists who definitely knew their stuff. Waiting staff were helpful, which was much needed as the menu covers a lot of bases, so even for those knowledgeable with Japanese cuisine it may take of bit of deciphering. For me the hot dishes stood out more compared to the sushi, but on the whole we enjoyed the experience.

img_7593

img_7603

img_7604

img_7607

The Publican in Fulton Market District is one of the city’s current hotspots (along with Momotaro), it’s basically a large beer hall serving great food and lots of it! Expect a menu heavily laden with seafood and pork dishes, brought to diners sitting at long communal tables stretching across the hall from end to end.

img_8010

img_8021

img_8025

img_8023

Tanta, this Peruvian restaurant really showed off the art of fusion food, with a concoction of European and Asian influences their menu makes a point of the cuisine’s diversity. I really liked the helpful serving staff, great cocktails; the Pisco Sour is recommended, great plates ideal for sharing and a lively atmosphere. We really loved the anticuchos skewers with New York strip, potatoes, corn and huacatay and the chafe aeropuerto, a side dish  of pork fried rice in a hot bowl, topped with a shrimp tortilla and a huge smack of spicy garlic in there for good measure. Enough to get scare off vampires! 

img_8195

img_8197\img_8201

Frontera Grill (N. Clark Street) was our Saturday brunch spot. A popular haunt with locals and tourists alike, it soon became full after we arrived and I’m not surprised – great brunch cocktails, lots of choice on the menu, really friendly staff and tasty food.

img_8287

img_8249

img_8255

img_8258

Coffee 

Chicago has great specialty coffee shops committed to serving direct trade coffee, we visited a few whilst we were there including Bowtruss, Intelligentsia and Asado. These three are definitely worth popping into with skilful baristas and great coffee!

img_7635

img_7271

img_8219

img_7613-1

img_7276-1

Doughnuts

I had no idea Chicago had a thing for doughnuts, but the city has shops aplenty with a huge variety for anyone with a sweet tooth to try! We saw many people going in for breakfast, one with a coffee seemed the done thing, from a long list we tried Firecakes, Do-Rite and Glazed and Infused, our favourite was definitely Firecakes. Personally I  found many just too big and too sweet (emphasising my lack of a sweet tooth), however saying that I still wish we’d managed to try The Doughnut Vault and Bombobar also.

img_7619-2

img_7630-2

img_7840-1

img_7841

img_8062-1

img_8059-1

Have you been to Chicago, what did you make of it?

Is there anything we should’ve done that we didn’t?! 

Dubrovnik

Recently my Instagram page has been filled with photos of Dubrovnik, the place had been on my list for ages, so after plenty of to-ing and fro-ing about the idea, we finally visited during the school hols. We’d arrived with high hopes after positive reports from mates who’d fallen in love with the place, and for us the place didn’t disappoint – it was beautiful and relaxing, easy to get around, with lots of cultural sights, decent local wine and tasty Mediterranean food. Our apartment was literally a few metres away from the Stradun which was perfect for us, we could explore to our hearts content and pop back for a bit of a siesta if we needed to.

Here’s a run down of a few must do’s I’d recommend in anyone’s itinerary:

Stroll down the Stradun

The old town’s famous street stretching between the city’s two main gates is probably one of the world’s most photographed. Luckily it wasn’t as crowded as it can be in the most popular months of peak season, being common place for waves of coach parties bringing tourists from the multiple boats that visit the city. It’ll probably be the first thing that catches your eye as you walk through the Pile gate, believe me!

img_9597

Walk the city walls

The most touristy thing to do here, with fantastic ever-changing views, at a steady pace with time to take in your surroundings and the odd photo or two, it’ll take 2.5 hours or so. There’s lots of opportunity along the way to break the journey up, either have a cold refreshment and a sit down or come down and fit in other sights en route. Safe in the knowledge your ticket allows you to hop on and off the wall, (not literally, but you know what I mean!).

img_0028

img_9906

img_9899

img_9878

img_0467

Explore the Old Town’s nooks and crannies

Meandering in and around the narrow streets and alley ways let us gauge a sense of the areas character; where locals go about their daily business, be it hanging out their washing (often in-between houses), chatting in the streets or selling handmade souvenirs. Easy to navigate around, one way or another they seemed to work their way back to Stradun every time.

Visit some churches and monasteries 

Some of the highlights include the 14th Century Franciscan Monastery, with a beautiful and tranquil cloister and it’s pharmacy still in use today. 

img_0092
Cloisters of the Franciscan Monastery

img_0093

Another monastery of note is the Dominican Monastery, built at a similar time to the city walls. A dominant structure, it’s exterior seen to the fullest when walking the city walls, it’s cloisters are peaceful and the church possesses some artistic gems. 

img_9878
Dominican Monastery 

img_0367

img_0366

img_0388

img_0389

In close proximity to each other on the Stradun are the Church of St. Blaise, the Sponza Palace and the Rector’s Palace. 

img_9795
Church of St. Blaise
Sponza Palace
Rector’s Palace 

Explore Dubrovnik at night 

With many of the highlights lit up and on show, a stroll through the old town is worth while a portion of your time with many restaurants, wine bars and musicians to entertain. Our apartment was just off the Stradun, so a few times I tried to capture a shot of a empty street, and was finally successful at 4am.

Treat yourself to ice-cream, sorbet or both!

Before we’d even arrived in Dubrovnik, I’d been given the heads up of how yummy the ice-cream was and it didn’t fail, completely living up to expectations!! With plenty of ice-cream parlours lining the Stradun, we found ourselves spoilt for choice, do the right thing and get a couple of scoops for yourself!

img_9604-1

img_0085

img_0414
Take the cable car up Mount Srd

In a matter of minutes, four to be exact we had panoramic views of the Old Town, it’s neighbouring islands and the Adriatic.

Watch the sunset at Buza Bar

Stepping through a hole in the city wall, some steps lead to a bar that seemed to hang off the side of the cliff. Timing it so we could get a table (it can get busy), the bar has an inviting atmosphere to enjoy the view of the Adriatic sea, Lokrum island and the glow from the sunset.

img_0309

Visit an island or two

A great way to avoid the crowds on really busy days was a boat trip to one of the neighbouring islands. With only a 10 minute boat ride from the Old Port our jaunt to Lokrum gave us a botanical garden full of cacti, succulents and lots of other species of plants, lush forests, a secluded salt water lake (The Dead Sea) perfect for a cooling swim and local inhabitants peacocks and rabbits.

Lokrum Island

Dinner at Taj Mahal

Yeah, the name may not sound very Croatian and when I first read it I stupidly had second thoughts about going there. However, after looking at the menu of traditional Bosnian food I was won over and my meat loving husband needed no convincing after that!! The service from the get go was spot on and the food awesome – I can highly recommend the Genghis Khan platter!!!

img_0439img_0442

Have you been to Dubrovnik, what did you make of it?

Was there anything we should’ve done that we didn’t?

Little Berlin Jaunt

Turn back time to last weekend, along with thousands of others I completed the Berlin Marathon – a goal of mine for the last ten months. 

With a couple of travel guides reused from a previous visit and some research scouring local blogs I’d got together a list of food spots worth trying out. However, with all the best intentions my priority was still the marathon and with time taken to travel and the need to collect my running pack from the event’s expo, it left us with Saturday and possibly Sunday after the race, depending on the condition my body was in to explore and try things out. 

Here are some photos from the weekend, some of the food was a bit hit and miss in terms of quality and at times we experienced complete disasters with service to the point of walking out of one restaurant:

Preflight brunch at Heston Blumenthal’s The Perfectionist’s Cafe in Heathrow Airport – limited on gluten free options for the other half and whilst my eggs and bacon on a muffin had lots of good point to it, such as crisp bacon and great poached egg with a glorious intensely orange yolk, it was all a bit too precise and nice. Cocktails were good though, their Bloody Mary came with its very own tabasco filled pipette so you could alter it to your taste. 

Brunch at The Perfectionist's Cafe, Heathrow Airport
Brunch at The Perfectionist’s Cafe, Heathrow Airport

   

Tired and needing food quickly after hot-footing it to the Berlin Marathon’s running expo to pick up my race pack, instead of finding one of the places on my list, we succumbed to getting food from one of the events traders with typical Berlin fare – Bratwurst, currywurst and fries, it did the job satisfying any hunger pangs.

Berlin Marathon Expo, curry wurst, brat wurst and fries
Berlin Marathon Expo, curry wurst, brat wurst and fries

Saturday morning started off well with brunch at Parker Bowles, in fashionable district Kreuzberg. Open all day, their menus go from breakfast through to dinner, including a range of omelettes which we both went for. Great that they all start off being veggie, but can be pimped up with extra bacon or chorizo if you fancy it, our omelettes with a couple of fresh juices went down a treat!

Saturday brunch at Parker Bowles
Saturday brunch at Parker Bowles
Parker Bowles brunch omelettes
Parker Bowles brunch omelettes

After wandering around the city for a few hours, my legs started getting tired and I didn’t want to ruin myself before the race the following morning. Realising it was also way passed lunchtime, readers my know that lunchtime in our house is 12pm – it was nearly 3pm, we found ourselves at Gendarmenmarkt and stepped into the nearest Italian we could get a table at, everywhere was either predictably heaving or wasn’t really suitable.  Good old marathon special of linguine al bolognese was perfect and a bit of a bargain too!

Marathon pasta - at Amici in Gendermenmart
Carb loading Marathon Special – Linguine al Bolognese!!

One disadvantage of eating lunch late was knowing we’d probably be eating dinner fairly late too, in hindsight we should’ve booked somewhere, but we didn’t and we’ve learned from our mistakes! The first restaurant we tried – Ristorante Malatesta, we’d been given a table about to be cleared in their outside dining area, and were asked to stand and wait for it to be done. Ok, no problem this would’ve been fine, but it took so long we ended up looking like complete lemons stood next to the front door. Eventually it was cleared and we plonked ourselves down with a couple of menus I picked up from the side, we then watched as waiting staff basically whizzed around completely ignoring us, when we did manage to get eye contact they joked if we were ready to pay the bill!!!! We hadn’t even ordered,  let alone eaten anything!!! Not at any one time did a member of staff give us the time of day –  it was truly horrendous!! I know it was very busy, but there’s one thing being busy and making an effort to keep customers happy, it’s completely different when the staff are completely oblivious! We ended up walking out completely frustrated!!

So still on the look out for a feed, we ended up in another Italian a few blocks down the road, its name I’ve forgotten though. We were slightly more lucky this time, this time our order was taken but took an hour to get to us, we even worked our way through a bottle of wine which seemed to trigger some action from staff…I wonder why?! Apologies for the sarcasm, this is completely for want of a better phrase a first world problem and life could be a million times worse, however, it’s not the best when you know you need to eat, get a good nights sleep if possible, get up early to run in a race you worked towards for ten months. At least this place, did try to make amends for their confusion and delays, but I think I was so peeved I couldn’t be bothered with the whole thing – I just wanted to eat and go to bed! Like I said earlier, in hindsight we should’ve booked and have definitely learned the hard way!!

Saturday night - trying my best to carb load for the race!!
The night before the race, trying my best to carb load.

The race itself was amazing and tough in equal measure, the crowds were fantastic and it was wonderful to run with so many thousands of people from first-timers to the world’s elite at the same time; approximately 40,000 had entered the race and 36,000 finished it! Having the chance to see parts of the city I’d never seen before was a treat too and getting a new PB was the icing on the cake!

I distinctly remember nearly two years earlier after running my first marathon, I hardly ate anything, a few crisps was as much as I could handle. This time I was on much better form and actually managed a tasty plate of Augustiner sausages on mash and white cabbage at Augustiner am Gendarmenmarkt. Such a different experience from our attempts at dinner the night before – it was just as busy but service was jovial, friendly and efficient, our server also gave great recommendations in particular the sweet mustard condiment that was offered.

Post race refuel - curry wurst, sausages and mash
Celebratory post race refuel at Augustiner am Gendarmenmarkt – curry wurst, sausages and mash

The next few hours were spent resting up and having my legs rollered to stretch out the muscles – trust me they needed it, followed by dinner at well known North African restaurant Baraka. Reminding me very much of Leeds’ Caravanserai or one of my current local favourites Jeitta in Woking, the lady who served us was friendly and efficient, from a menu that’s not massive by any means there’s still enough choice to suit. I found the food tasty, in particular the tagine with meatballs and cous cous which was delicious. 

IMG_4533

Baraka - hummus with fried lamb, tagging Marrakesh and shish kebab with bulgar wheat and rice
Baraka – hummus with fried lamb, tagging Marrakesh and shish kebab with bulgar wheat and rice

I’m sure I’ll be back in Berlin again as it’s got so much to offer with its cultural heritage and the fantastic food and drink scene, next time I’ll be a spectator if the race is on so I can make the most of it.

My 2014 Favourites!

The time of year has come where we make lists of our favourite things, for me as a so-called food blogger, it’s time for me to look back at some of the memorable eating experiences I’ve had. So with that in mind I’ve scoured the last year and picked out my favourites.

These aren’t in any particular order by the way:

1. The Man Behind The Curtain – whether Leeds’ food and drink scene is heading towards a Michelin star is debatable, the execution of the food and the service here are second to none and deserves to have praise heaped on it. The food is innovative, aesthetically beautiful and exquisite to boot.

image
Part of the degustation menu

2. NOM Deli: one of the things I enjoy about food blogging is meeting people. I’m not the most out-going person, but this has brought me out of my shell more, and talking to like-minded individuals who base their work around the love of food is very inspiring. So when meeting the team from NOM Deli that’s what happened, they love the food from their native homeland and are serving their take on Banh Mi, bun and pho in Leeds city centre. I remember vividly trying the Banh Mi at Kirkstall Deli Market and being completely blown away by it! I’m definitely hoping to visit them again, to try out their Friday evening menu in the new year! Fancy reading about my experience at NOM, click here.

image
Banh Mi with BBQ pork

3. Stuzzi – this is another one of those wonderful combinations of brilliant food produced by the most passionate of people! I know I’ve recently written about this team, but what the hell because I adore their Italian food and their infectious love for their cuisine! Both of my Stuzzi experiences at the Belgrave Music Hall residency and at their new home in Harrogate have been memorable. To read about my Stuzzi encounters click here.

image
Stuzzichini sharing box

4. Tartine Bakery, San Francisco – this summer I spent seven days exploring the city to the fullest. If I was to choose one from the many amazing eats we had on that trip, for me it would have to be the afternoon we spent in the Mission District, firstly joining the back of an already long queue that hugged the building, then admiring and drooling over their beautiful bakes from afar. Having eyes on stalks to grab a table as soon as one came free then slowly devouring the prettiest tarts ever!!! The fresh fruit tart and lemon cream tart were both an absolute delight – so light and dreamy. A absolute must visit!! To read my experience of patisserie heaven in San Francisco, click here.

image
Lemon cream tart

5. The Reliance – this isn’t necessarily based on one of my most recent reviews, our annual Christmas lunch, but also from eating here many times over the years. It’s a firm favourite in my eyes delivering on many levels and all important ones for me; great food served at reasonable prices, lovely staff all found in a relaxed space. Our Christmas lunch a few weeks ago just reaffirmed this for me! To read about my last couple of visits click here.

Meatball sandwich
Meatball sandwich
Confit duck
Confit duck

6. Le Langhe – this Italian restaurant in York won me over with it’s perfect pasta, so much so that we ordered seconds! Simplicity in its ingredients, yielding tasty results, I could eat a bowl of that silky pasta all over again as I type, it was so good!! Click here to have a read of my visit.

image
Game ragu

7. Belgrave Feast – Oh I’ve eaten, and I’ve eaten well over the last year, enjoying amazing street food at Belgrave’s monthly feast!! I’ve gone on ALOT about the Belgrave in 2014 making it a difficult one to whittle down, so I thought which would I always go to time after time, without question I would have to pick out Arepa!Arepa!Arepaand Fu-Schnikens!! Both are extremely comforting, more-ish and damn tasty! 

image
SobreBarriga Arepa
image
Gua Bao with sticky ox cheek

Where have you had some memorable meals and why?

http://www.themanbehindthecurtain.co.uk

http://www.nomdeli.com

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Stuzzi/356068864465742

http://www.tartinebakery.com

http://www.the-reliance.co.uk

http://www.lelanghe.co.uk

http://www.belgravemusichall.com

http://arepaarepaarepa.blogspot.co.uk