Lifestyle & Culture

Jackie Harding: A travel foodie’s best dining experiences from Athens to Oslo … and a couple of losers

My foodie travel hits and a couple of misses.

The trouble with not travelling is that you don’t get to experience the highs, and sometimes the lows, of newly discovered restaurants in the countries you are visiting. I miss trying meals that are new to me; that approach food in a local way and that surprise me. So, I have taken to watching Masterchef and remembering some of my foodie travel hits and a couple of misses.

So let’s start with the “highs” of dining with my recommendations below.

Athens

Greek food is superb when it’s fresh and served in a small taverna on the edge of a beach.

GB Roof Garden at the classy Hotel Grande Bretagne, was the location of one of my memorable meals. This is a special-occasions venue for sure … it was my birthday after all! The location was wonderful with views of the Acropolis and the city and the restaurant tastefully decorated – you couldn’t help but feel just a little bit special as you were escorted to your table.

When we ate here it was November, but I can imagine how wonderful it would be sitting on the rooftop terrace in the summer with a cocktail in your hand. The restaurant does have a dress-code after 18:00 but who doesn’t like to get dressed up.

The staff were friendly and quietly efficient and were helpful with advice on food and wine pairings. The food is Mediterranean, fresh, creative and absolutely delicious! Even better the dessert menu is created in collaboration with one of France’s Top-10 chocolatiers, so you had better leave some room.

Main courses range from 21 euros for pasta to 49 euros for a U.S. Black Angus ribeye steak. You can see the menu here.

TripAdvisor rating: 4.5 out of 5, 1,546 reviews.

Bistro Baret

Amsterdam

The Netherlands is not famous for its cuisine unfortunately, but that being said it has some wonderful restaurants to discover, especially in the cities. Bistro Baret is one such surprise, tucked around a corner near the Carré Theatre. The small menu was familiar to anyone who eats out in the Netherlands but had a great choice for vegetarians and the staff were friendly and attentive. It is small and cosy and they do have an early service for those attending any events at the theatre. It is obviously popular with locals which always fills me with hope.

Main courses range from 19.50 euros for Stake Beret to 56 euros for Côte de Boeuf (two people.) See the menu here.

Trip Advisor rating: 4.5 out of 5, 94 reviews.

Lisbon

Now here is a city that has become incredibly popular with global foodies, and deservedly so. Sr. Lisboa was a surprise find on a visit to Lisbon. We literally walked around the corner and thought, “that looks like it might be nice.”

Boy, were we wrong. It was outstanding!

It is a tiny restaurant so definitely book ahead but the food is so worth it. We were wowed and ate the most delicious food of our whole trip. The menu is tapas style and, with a party of six to share and taste with, we managed to sample many of the dishes and didn’t dislike one. Even better the desserts were every bit as good as the savory selection. In fact I’m salivating just remembering.

Main courses average about 12 euros,and you can see the menus here on Facebook.

TripAdvisor rating: 4.5 out of five, 884 reviews.

Munich

Germany can get an unfair wrap for its food and I have had some wonderful meals in Munich, but if you don’t put some effort into finding a great restaurant it can be a bit “meat and potatoes.”

Prinz Myshkin on the other hand was the most superb vegetarian/vegan restaurant. My husband generally expects meat on his plate when he eats out as he doesn’t always get it at home but even he was impressed by this delightful menu.

I loved the modern way the food was treated and presented and the stylish location, which is a long way from
the usual “crunchy granola/mother earth” venues you generally eat veggie food in. Most people rave about the bratwurst, the pork hock or the knödel after their trip to Bavaria but I am all about Prinz Myshkin!

Dinner prices range from about 13.20 euros for spinach pizza to 21.50 euros for Curry Diablo. You can see the menu here.

TripAdvisor rating: Four out of five, 870 reviews.

Palma, Mallorca

When you think Spanish food you think tapas. Tast Unión in Palma was discovered through local friends and what a discovery it was. The restaurant is in the busy shopping centre but as you walk inside you know you are somewhere where food is revered. The display of tapas lining the chilled cabinets are like gems in a jewellers, and once chosen the waiters keep arriving at your table at intermittent intervals with more little bites to try. There was a wonderful, loud enjoyment of food surrounding you as you tasted each delicious morsel.

Tapas average about 2.50, and you can see the full menu here.

TripAdvisor rating: 4 out of 5, 2,017 reviews

La Tana del Lup

Pedara, Sicily

Italy. Food. What more can you say?

La Tana del Lupo is a total immersion into Sicilian life and I was given this gift whilst travelling with my husband on business. His Sicilian contact had arranged a meal here with some of his friends and I’m not sure we would have found it, or even been able to understand, had we not had locals to translate and explain.

Set on the slopes of Mount Etna, this tiny restaurant seems to have grown up and around its original function as a wine press. The nooks and crannies are as intriguing as the enchanting food that is brought to the table. There is no menu. You just share with the staff what you like, or are allergic to, and then the table is laden with Sicilian meat dishes, their specialty, and the sommelier advises you on the local or Italian wine that would pair best with the dish. They also have a great selection of artisanal beers.

I can already see the dishes of fresh pasta steaming on the table, the meal all served “family style.”

Heaven!

The restaurant is currently closed and no current menu is listed.

TripAdvisor rating: 4 out of 5, 301 reviews

Oslo

Vaaghals, my last restaurant was another bonus of business travel, a super restaurant that I have mentioned a couple of times in previous pieces and where I hope that one day I am able to eat at again! The restaurant focuses on Norwegian ingredients and earned a Michelin star in 2020.

Again, much as the Sicilian restaurant, Vaaghals concentrates on “family style” eating which, since the pandemic, is something we all dream of doing! It also serves to individuals too though. The ingredients were deliciously fresh and
presented beautifully and remains on my list of best eating experiences.

One course starts at 195 Norwegian krone, which is currently at parity with the euro, and goes up to 385 krone for three. You can see the menu here in Norwegian.

TripAdvisor ranking: 4 out of 5, 412 reviews

List of Shame

I am only going to mention a couple of “misses” as those experiences I prefer to forget! They are not representative of the countries I am visiting, and I usually have a good experience that puts the bad one in the shade. Other than inedible food my biggest “bugbear” is poor service. Treat me like you are happy I am there and then I am happy!

Cochem, Germany

Zom Stuffje, was a disappointing experience as we had read such good reviews on Tripadvisor. As with many German restaurants the vegetarian selection was poor to non-existent and the food underwhelming. But what really sealed the deal for it to get on this List of Losers was the attitude of the staff!

Obviously the restaurant is a family concern and I appreciate that problems happen but having one of their small children standing on the stairs in their pyjamas crying is not what customers expect on their evening out. To add insult to injury though was the fact that whilst waiting for a quite a while to be served our dessert we noticed the staff all sitting at a table eating their dinner!

Customers first was obviously not the restaurant policy.

Lucca, Italy

Old Charlie’s looked promising with tables on a piazza in the sun, all of which appeared to be full of happy diners. So, we sat and enjoyed the sunshine and the “people watching.” We sat and we sat, “Oh there is a 40 minute wait for food” we were told. Okay, the two beers we ordered have still not arrived but we will be happy to wait. Sunshine. Vacation etc. Still we waited, so I reminded the waiter, in a polite manner we had been waiting for 30 minutes for someone to bring our beers and his reply? “Puh.” Needless to say we did not eat or drink at this restaurant! We all understand that restaurants get busy but if the staff’s attitude is that you are the problem then it’s time to leave!

About the author:

Photographer/writer Jackie Harding was born in the United Kingdom. As a long-time expat, she lived in Boston for 12 years and in the Netherlands for the past 10 years.

Trained as a nurse in the U.K., she worked for nine years in the United States as a special education teacher’s assistant. Since moving to the Netherlands, she has discovered writing and photography.

Contributing to Dispatches since 2016, Jackie has written about her travels around Europe as well as about expat life and issues.

She also covered the Women’s March Amsterdam.

She’s married to British businessman Martin Harding and is the mother of two international adult children.

You can read more of Jackie’s work for Dispatches here.

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