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Hotel in Scotland with the best food?

I'd highly recommend Scarista House, on the west coast of the isle of Harris, in the Outer Hebrides. An old manse, right beside one of the most amazing beaches in the UK, where the food is spectacular. Ingredients are all local, and the fish and shellfish is particularly good. Wonderful breakfasts too. And Harris is absolutely gorgeous. We visited as part of a foodie trip, visiting the Three Chimneys in Skye, and then sailing from Uig on the isle of Skye over to Tarbert, from where Scarista House is an easy drive.

May 25, 2011
GillH in U.K./Ireland

Seville tapas - Short trip report - May 2011

No, not significantly, that I can remember. Vineria San Telmo seemed to be the best value for money ,especially considering the quality of the food and wine. Our total bill was largest at Enrique Becerra, but then the dish of flamenquins - which were lovely - was a very large dish. In most places, tapas dishes were around 3 or 4 Euros each and a glass of wine around Euros 2.50 - considerably cheaper than we are used to in the UK. If you have not already found it, look up the website of Ahazar-Seville, which gives lots of info about Seville tapas bars. She contributes to these boards and leads tapas tours in Seville, and her website has lots of really useful comments and photos. (She was the one who tipped us about Puracepa - thanks, Ahazar!) You will have a great time - it's a wonderful place!)

May 23, 2011
GillH in Spain/Portugal

Madrid - Short trip report - May 2011

Thanks, Erica. You are right - the quality of fish in Madrid was generally excellent, and our sole at La Trainera was very good (even if it would have been nicer to have eaten something with it!). But the turbot was the only fish on the menu for which no price was given - everything else was priced, either for the dish or by the 100g, which seems sensible. My friend was being sold the whole fish, and the waiter told us it was 900g (yes, it was large!) before we asked the price. I'm sure it would have been beautiful, but to us sceptics it did seem as if we were being encouraged to order the most expensive fish on the menu without knowing how much it was costing. (And as my even more sceptical husband pointed out, that was the price quoted before we ordered it - what would we have been charged if we had ordered it without asking the price?!) But the other wonderful meals we had in both Madrid and Seville more than made up for it, and we are missing the sunshine and tapas already!

May 22, 2011
GillH in Spain/Portugal

Seville tapas - Short trip report - May 2011

We're just back from a trip to Seville and Madrid, and given that I used the boards here to plan our eating, the least I can do to thank you all is report back on our experiences! I have written a separate report for Madrid which you'll find here - http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/785949

We enjoyed some amazing tapas in Seville. Note that we hadn't booked anywhere in advance; we had quite a few long lazy lunches that started at about 2.30, and in the evenings as long as we were there before 9 we could generally find a seat. In most places, we noticed that things didn't really get going until after 10pm.

It might be easiest to divide our meals up loosely by area:

Barrio Santa Cruz

VINERIA SAN TELMO - Paseo Catalina de Ribera, 4 - The best meal of our entire trip. Wonderful food - a mixture of the traditional and contemporary - and well-priced too. Even simple grilled sausage was unbelievably tasty, and came with chili fried potatoes. We also had and loved - crepes with black pudiding and red peppers, prawns in Japanese breadcrumbs and fried courgette, marinated tuna with seaweek and wasabi, and Iberian ham with quail's eggs. Just writing this down makes me want to be on that sunny terrace with these wonderful plates of food again!

CAVA DE LA EUROPA - Cano y Cueto 5 - Just round the corner from the Vineria San Telmo, at one of the gates to the old town. Modern tapas - pretty to look at and good to eat. We particularly enjoyed langoustine ravioli and the Argentinian sirloin.

LAS TERESAS - Calle Santa Teresa, 2 - Traditional bar amongst the lanes of the barrio. Lots of hams from the ceiling and seasoned old waiters. The food was decent but the main attraction of this place was the atmosphere.

The above 3 places are all within 5 minutes walk of each other, and thus suitable for a tapas crawl!

Centro/Arsenal

BAR EUROPA - c/ Siete Revueltas, 35 - Under the same ownership as the Cava de la Europa, this place, between the Alfalfa and the Plaza Nueva, is atmospheric with tables outside in a small square. Both food and decor are more traditional than the sibling cafe. Tuna was good, moussaka rather bland, and both croquettes and salmon tartar nice though someone had been heavy-handed with the cream.

PURACEPA - Plaza San Francisco, 8 - Modern wine bar close to Bar Europa, just beside the Plaza Nueva end of the shopping street Sierpes. Great wine list. The tapas list is short but the food is lovely, and the staff very friendly. We'd definitely recommend it! They also have a restaurant, Albarama, a few doors along, which we'd have tried if we were there for longer!

ENRIQUE BECCERA - c/Gamazo, 2 - There are lots of enthusiastic posts about this place - at least, the tapas bar rather than the restaurant - and our experience was good too. Salmorejo (cold tomato soup) was lovely, as were the flamenquins (asparagus and cheese), and the grilled goats chesse with caramelised onion also very good. We found the lamb meatballs a little bland, but in general appreciated the tasty tapas served by helpful staff in a buzzy bar.

Similarly, these 3 places are close enough to each other (5 minutes from Enrique Becerra to Puracepa, and another 5 minutes on to Bar Europa) to form the basis of a tapas crawl.

In summary, I would tell people not to miss Vineria San Telmo, and I'd be happy recommending the other places we visited too.

May 22, 2011
GillH in Spain/Portugal

Madrid - Short trip report - May 2011

We've just returned from Madrid, and thanks to Chowhounders we ate some great food, but we also had some misses. So I thought I'd share our thoughts. (We also visited Seville on the same trip and I've written a separate report on our experience there - see http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/785952

)

In Madrid, we were staying in the Recoletos area, close to the NW corner of the Retiro park, and in general we found that the tourists disappeared as we moved east from there.

Our two favourite bars for tapas were:

BIOTZA, Calle Claudio Coello, 27 (in the Recoletos/Salamanca area). It's worth pushing your way through the (overwhelmingly local) crowd to get some tapas at this busy place. The food was some of the best we had on our trip. If I had a local bar that served calamari as good as that at Biotza, I'd be there every night! But our other food there was lovely too, and good value.

ARZABAL, Calle Doctor Castelo 2 (facing the NE corner of the Retiro). We loved Arzabal - the staff were incredibly friendly; the food was lovely; the bar had a great vibe and we seemed to be surrounded by locals, not tourists. Salmorejo (tomato soup) and marinated sardines were particularly good, and there was a fantastic choice of wine. So good, we returned another night - to be warmly welcomed by the staff.

Another evening, we had some tapas in La Colonia de Goya ( Jorge Juan 34, also in Salamanca) but we didn't stay long - the only white wine they had was sweet, and the tapas we ordered were all extremely ordinary in taste and presentation. And yet it was relatively expensive too. Of course,the beauty of tapas is that you can just move on when the food disappoints.

Oh, that we had been able to do that when we went to LA TRAINERA! This was the biggest disappointment of our Madrid trip. We were meeting friends and I had booked this famous fish restaurant in advance of our trip. But my advice to people would be to avoid this restaurant, or least be prepared that:

1. If you are a tourist, you will be directed past the buzzy front room and bar to one of the back rooms where they seem to corral all the foreigners, where there was no atmosphere (we asked to move to a different room, but of course they couldn't accommodate that and after that the service was decidedly icy).

2. They will recommend items that are not priced on the menu, that are astonishingly expensive (our waiter suggested the turbot, and when one of our party seemed interested in it, the handsome fish was brought to him with a flourish - when we asked how much that would be, he went away to check, and came back with a piece of paper on which was scribbled Euros 54.60!! That was for one piece of fish alone!).

3. Your fish will come on its own, with no sides of any kind - no carbs nor veg. My grilled sole (Euros 28.50) was lovely but I would have appreciated something with it, yet the menu contained no side dish options nor was anything offered.

Overall, the whole experience was incredibly irritating, and we won't be returning to La Trainera.

However, in general we loved Madrid. One final, non-food tip - we took a 3 hour cycle tour of the city with Bravo Bikes, and it was an absolutely fantastic way to see the city. In addition to telling us about the places we passed, our guide also pointed out his favourite bars and cafes as we moved around town. We highly recommend it!

May 22, 2011
GillH in Spain/Portugal

Indian in Edinburgh

There's a newish Indian in Dundas Street (number 3A1, near to the junction with the Queen Street Gardens) which gets good reviews - the Spice Pavilion - and that's a short walk from your hotel.

May 22, 2011
GillH in U.K./Ireland

Restaurants in Madrid

We've just returned from Madrid, and I wish we'd had JuanDoe's fantastic report below when we were there! But I had used the Chowhound boards before we went and enjoyed some great tapas. We were staying in the Recoletos area and in general we found that the tourist disappeared as we moved east from there. In particular, we had wonderful tapas and seemed to be the only foreigners in the bustling bars of BIOTZA, Calle Claudio Coello, 27 (in the Recoletos/Salamanca area) and ARZABAL, Calle Doctor Castelo 2 (facing the NE corner of the Retiro).

May 22, 2011
GillH in Spain/Portugal

Rome in May

I'm working on my Italian, but it's going to be a while before I sound like a local, and with my strawberry blond hair and freckles I'm never going to look like an Italian! Thanks for your feedback, too, Katie. Wherever I travel, I hate to be treated as a tourist - but sometimes it's difficult. I live in Edinburgh, and I think we have a similar problem here - not with overcharging, but with the ambiance and client mix. The restaurants frequented by locals tend to be very different from the ones visited by tourists. Luckily, I think boards like this one generally
help to point interested foodies in the right direction!

Apr 14, 2011
GillH in Italy

Rome - Trip Report - Trattoria Monti, Antico Arco, Le Mani in Pasta - October 2010

I'm ashamed to say that I did not. If it had happened at the time, I would have. But by the time I got home, and got my credit card bill and saw 2 separate charges two days apart, I couldn't be bothered with the hassle (and cost, if I had phoned) of chasing up for what was a relatively small amount. I should have emailed and asked but I no longer had my original receipt with the various charges laid out.

Apr 14, 2011
GillH in Italy

Antico Arco, Glass Hostaria or Casa Bleve.....

We were treated as tourists at Antico Arco, sadly, and our overall experience was disappointing as a result. Here's my initial review:

"The food was also fantastic at Antico Arco, but the experience marred by some awkwardness when we arrived - we were led to the upstairs room which was completely empty and soul-less. We asked if we could have a table by everyone else downstairs. There was a bit of a performance involving a phone call to check, and eventually we were led downstairs again. From then on, service was good, though not particularly warm. But it was probably another 45 minutes before any other party went up to that floor, so had we stayed at our designated table we would have been eating on our own for the majority of our meal."

Subsequent to writing that review, I received our credit card bill. 2 days after deducting the amount we signed for (which included a tip), another charge was made by the restaurant to our credit card, equating to about 10% of the previous bill. I suspect they rely on it being too much hassle for people to complain once they get home, but it left a bad taste. So if you look and speak like a local, you may be treated well; otherwise, beware!

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Antico Arco
Piazzale Aurelio, 7, Roma 00151, IT

Apr 14, 2011
GillH in Italy

Rome - Trip Report - Trattoria Monti, Antico Arco, Le Mani in Pasta - October 2010

Sernoff, I agree with you completely! Thank you for drawing my attention to the posts on this subject - I have added my thoughts so that if Katie or Maureen or whomever decide to draw up a list of culprits, the name of Antico Arco is added to it!

I hope you have a lovely trip, and I'm glad to hear you're hoping to include Trattoria Monti, which was low-key and all the more enjoyable for that; exactly what a good neighbourhood restaurant should be.

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Antico Arco
Piazzale Aurelio, 7, Roma 00151, IT

Trattoria Monti
Via di San Vito,13a, Roma , IT

Apr 14, 2011
GillH in Italy

Rome in May

Katie, this is very interesting because we had a similar experience at Antico Arco. You, Maureen and other Chowhounders had been very helpful when I was planning our trip, and I wrote a Rome trip report in October 2010. In it, my description of Antico Arco was...

"The food was also fantastic at Antico Arco, but the experience marred by some awkwardness when we arrived - we were led to the upstairs room which was completely empty and soul-less. We asked if we could have a table by everyone else downstairs. There was a bit of a performance involving a phone call to check, and eventually we were led downstairs again. From then on, service was good, though not particularly warm. But it was probably another 45 minutes before any other party went up to that floor, so had we stayed at our designated table we would have been eating on our own for the majority of our meal."

After writing that review, I received our credit card bill - and discovered that two days after the cost of our meal was deducted, another charge was made by the restaurant to our credit card of approximately 10%. And we had left a tip in our original bill too. Of course, they are relying on the fact that it is too much hassle (and Euros!) to phone up and complain after we have left the country. But it left a very bad taste in the mouth and I certainly won't be recommending the restaurant to anyone; no-one likes to be taken for a ride.

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Antico Arco
Piazzale Aurelio, 7, Roma 00151, IT

Apr 14, 2011
GillH in Italy

Rome - Trip Report - Trattoria Monti, Antico Arco, Le Mani in Pasta - October 2010

Grrr - an additional "service charge". It's a clever short term wheeze, because once you're home it seems too much hassle to start arguing with the credit card company about a smallish charge like that. but long term it can't be helpful for their business, as news travels...

Apr 14, 2011
GillH in Italy

Rome - Trip Report - Trattoria Monti, Antico Arco, Le Mani in Pasta - October 2010

I didn't try to book Le Mani in Pasta online, but phoned them directly. I speak very little Italian, but I was very clear that I wanted to reserve a table in the upstairs room ("di sopra") on the ground floor rather than in the basement. I seem to remember that the person who answered the phone spoke reasonable English, but they always appreciate any attempt to speak Italian!

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Le Mani in Pasta
Via dei Genovesi, 37, Rome, Lazio 00153, IT

Apr 14, 2011
GillH in Italy

Edinburgh Dining Suggestions

I tend to agree with AWaiting that the most special thing about the James Thompson restuarants (Tower, Rhubarb and The Witchery) is their surroundings. The Secret Garden room at the Witchery is one of the nicest rooms in Edinburgh in terms of ambience, and the Tower has some great views of the castle. Their food is good but none of them have blown me away in the way that other restaurants in the city have. Another problem with some of these high end places is often the other diners; but we've found that to be less of a problem at proper foodie places like the Kitchin.

Jan 26, 2011
GillH in U.K./Ireland

Edinburgh Dining Suggestions

Thanks for the full report - it's always interesting what others thought. Glad it all went so well, and we'll try and get better better for you next time!

Nov 09, 2010
GillH in U.K./Ireland

Rome - Trip Report - Trattoria Monti, Antico Arco, Le Mani in Pasta - October 2010

No problems at all with language - everyone spoke very good English. I booked by email and got a prompt reply. They have a good website (with an English version and prices). We had been advised by other Chowhounders to book an early time as the kitchen sometimes struggles when it's busy. We were there at 7.45 on a Friday evening and were amongst the first there, so if returning I'd be tempted to book for 8pm. Definitely ask for a table on the ground floor where you enter, as I thought the top floor room had no atmosphere, whereas that main floor was very comfortable. I am embarrassed to say that I can't remember exactly what we had - my main was fish and we finished with the cheese selection - although it was delicious and beautifully presented. I think my expectations for this meal were very high - everybody had told us how much we would love it and although it was good, the performance about our table at the start and subsequent service (efficient but not particularly friendly) was irritating, so I didn't enjoy the experience as much as I expected to. I've also just got our credit card bill in and an additional sum (of around 10%) was added a couple of days after the cost of our meal was deducted. I'm sorry to be slightly negative - I really did want to be able to gush about this meal, and the food was the nicest we had in Rome, but the overall experience was nice but not amazing.

Oct 25, 2010
GillH in Italy

Rome - Trip Report - Trattoria Monti, Antico Arco, Le Mani in Pasta - October 2010

Just back after a wonderful few days. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, although I admit to being flabbergasted by how much busier the city was since my last visit around 10 years ago. With such a plethora of tourists and restaurants, I was pleased that we had researched and booked meals in advance.

Rather ironically, in light of recent posts by others, our most enjoyable meal was at Trattoria Monti. Service (from the two brothers and another younger guy) was extremely friendly, and the food was fantastic; we couldn't fault a thing!

The food was also fantastic at Antico Arco, but the experience marred by some awkwardness when we arrived - we were led to the upstairs room which was completely empty and soul-less. We asked if we could have a table by everyone else downstairs. There was a bit of a performance involving a phone call to check, and eventually we were led downstairs again. From then on, service was good, though not particularly warm. But it was probably another 45 minutes before any other party went up to that floor, so had we stayed at our designated table we would have been eating on our own for the majority of our meal.

Another night, we walked to Travestere for Le Mani in Pasta. Another enjoyable evening, notable for the fascinating walk through the Ghetto and across the Tiber to get there, and, once in the restaurant, the warm welcome and the outstanding pasta. (We had specifially booked a table upstairs and were very glad we had.) The rest of the food was decent but if returning there I would have nothing but pasta - which is the point of the place after all!

I also enjoyed the market at Campo di Fiori for the photography opportunities - and for the pizza by the slice from the bakery in the corner of the square.

So thank you, Chowhounders, for all your help, which added considerably to our Rome experience!

Oct 18, 2010
GillH in Italy

Edinburgh Dining Suggestions

According to their own website, they open at 6.30. I'd tell them in advance the time by which you need to be away, and then you should be able to have a good meal at a decent pace there. Service is good there, so as long as they have advance warning thye ought to be able to accommodate you without you feeling as if you are being rushed. Allow 15 minutes for the taxi trip back to the Royal Mile. They have an email address too - info@thekitchin.com so you should be able to ask them questions, tell them your time limitations and then book using email. But if you are worried about timing, then you'd get a lovely dinner at Ondine too, which is just a stone's throw from the Royal Mile. (and thanks to orchidalbion for correcting my post - I did of course mean the cafe of the Gallery of Modern Art (rather than the Museum of Contemporary Art - I've just come back from holiday and am getting my art gallery and museum names all mixed up!) Do let us know how you get on!

Oct 14, 2010
GillH in U.K./Ireland

Rome - 4 casual dinners - thoughts on my list please!

Just back after a wonderful few days. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, although I admit to being flabbergasted by how much busier the city was since my last visit around 10 years ago. With such a plethora of tourists and restaurants, I was pleased that we had researched and booked meals in advance.

Rather ironically, in light of recent posts by others, our most enjoyable meal was at Trattoria Monti. Service (from the two brothers and another younger guy) was extremely friendly, and the food was fantastic; we couldn't fault a thing!

The food was also fantastic at Antico Arco, but the experience marred by some awkwardness when we arrived - we were led to the upstairs room which was completely empty and soul-less. We asked if we could have a table by everyone else downstairs. There was a bit of a performance involving a phone call to check, and eventually we were led downstairs again. From then on, service was good, though not particularly warm. But it was probably another 45 minutes before any other party went up to that floor, so had we stayed at our designated table we would have been eating on our own for the majority of our meal.

Another night, we walked to Travestere for Le Mani in Pasta. Another enjoyable evening, notable for the fascinating walk through the Ghetto and across the Tiber to get there, and, once in the restaurant, the warm welcome and the outstanding pasta. The rest of the food was decent but if returning there I would have nothing but pasta - which is the point of the place after all!

I also enjoyed the market at Campo di Fiori for the photography opportunities - and for the pizza by the slice from the bakery in the corner of the square.

So thank you, Chowhounders, for all your help, which added considerably to our Rome experience!

Oct 13, 2010
GillH in Italy

Edinburgh Dining Suggestions

I think I have found my foodie twin in Orchidalbion as I'd wholeheartedly back up all the places mentioned. Ondine is a fabulous restaurant for lunch or dinner; all their fish is fantastic, from top to bottom - even their classic fish and chips is superb, and it is bang next door to your hotel. The Kitchin would also be my choice for top meal in Ediinburgh (even though it's a taxi ride away) - the food is fabulous and locally sourced, service is top-notch and the atmosphere is unstuffy. And Urban Angel, Peter's Yard and Wellington Coffee are all great picks too.

I'd through in a couple of suggestions too - I live over in the New Town (the Georgian part of town), so if you wanted to try something over this end of town, there is Redwood, a tiny, tiny restuarant with wonderful locally sourced food, cooked by a Californian. We also are regulars at Iris in Thistle Street - the menu uses good local meat and fish and we're never diappointed. It's quite casual and usually buzzing. Agree with others that Andrew Wishart's food is lovely, ranking alongside The Kitchin (and also in Leith), but with a sightly more formal atmosphere.

Finally, I'd suggest you try the Scotch Malt Whisky Society in Queen Street for at least a drink and perhaps food in their upstairs bar. In theory, you need to be a member to drink in the bar, but just say you are interested in membership (they have a lot of overseas members) and go upstairs to the bar. They have a range of whiskies straight from the cask (and very very strong!) and their food is good, and their bar food is very good value too. It's a very nice spot. They also have a branch in Leith which might be somewhere to head before or after a meal at The Kitchin or Martin Wishart.

The final thing to bear in mind is that many of Edinburgh's museums, galleries and attractions have good cafes. The cafes at the Botanical Gardens, Holyrood Palace, Dean Gallery and the Museum of Contempory Art in particular are good, and make a good place for a light bite after an explore!

In summary, my 3 top "nice" restaurants would be The Kitchin, Martin Wishart and Ondine. Do try at least 2 of them, and perhaps try Iris or Redwood too. Enjoy!

Oct 13, 2010
GillH in U.K./Ireland

Rome - 4 casual dinners - thoughts on my list please!

Thank you all! I will report back....

Sep 30, 2010
GillH in Italy

Rome - 4 casual dinners - thoughts on my list please!

Thank you, Maureent, this is all extremely useful too. Planning this trip is proving to be almost as enjoyable and interesting as actually going on it! I need to get booking now, and will update this thread when we get back to Edinburgh.

Sep 17, 2010
GillH in Italy

Rome - 4 casual dinners - thoughts on my list please!

Thank you both so much, Katie and Ttoommyy. This is very useful indeed - and it looks as if I have the 4 dinners all sorted now! We really appreciate your help and are so looking forward to our trip now. I'll be sure to update this thread on our return.

Sep 16, 2010
GillH in Italy

Rome - 4 casual dinners - thoughts on my list please!

I am going to Rome for the first time with my husband 6-10 October and so am planning our evening meals for Wednesday to Saturday nights inclusive. We are staying near the Spanish Steps, and ideally want to walk to dinner (up to 20-30 minutes away), but given we are in town for 4 nights we don't mind going further away for one or two nights. We prefer casual places, with good food and a nice relaxed ambiance. We particularly want to AVOID places where there is a focus on style over substance, and where the clientele, food and decor have too much bling!

I have spent time reading previous posts on these boards - which have been really helpful, so thank you all for your comments - and have picked out a few places that seem to meet my criteria. We're not looking for a series of blow-out meals, but I want to do a little research so that we aren't disappointed. I am a little concerned that they may be a little "samey" so I'd appreciate your thoughts please! Many thanks!

La Campana
Colline Emiliane
Almando al Pantheon
Grano
Babette
Le Mani in Pasta (worth going over to Travestere for?)
Antico Arco (for a slightly smarter night out - worth the trip for the food and ambiance?)
Cul-de-Sac
Casa Bleve

Sep 14, 2010
GillH in Italy