Wine-ding our way around Saint-Émilion

This trip was all about food and wine for us. I had done my research before arriving and booked a couple of places which I would recommend you do as the restaurants in Saint-Émilion get very busy. We were there for five days and literally ate and drank our way around Saint-Émilion  It is a very pretty town, easy to walk around (not so easy to park) and plenty of wine houses, restaurants and quaint shops to choose from.

We stumbled upon La Bistro des Vignobles (KATER Score 8/10 – €70 for two inc. service) one rainy lunchtime and were greeted by very friendly owners and blackboard menus which sounded too delicious so decided to stay and eat. I started with some local oysters and Sam had foie gras with a beetroot raspberry jam. Both delicious and washed down with a superb glass of local white. We followed with steak and chips and for Sam and roast chicken, garlic potatoes and a spicy ratatouille for me. Quite classic and simple but really tasty. The recommended bottle of  Saint-Émilion red was nice too.

La Tertre (KATER Score 8/10 – €150 for two inc. service) is a traditional restaurant in the heart of Saint-Émilion offering classically cooked dishes along with a very nice (expensive) wine list. It’s a restaurant for a special occasion or a fine dining treat and I would recommend you book ahead. We enjoyed dishes of beef fillet with fondant and onion truffle sauce, lobster and chocolate fondant. Naturally our meal ended with a cheese plate. All deliciously rich and satisfying.

Whilst sampling some of Saint-Émilion finest we were recommended La Table de Catasseau (KATER Score 9/10 – €160 for two inc. service) which is outside Saint-Émilion  near Pomerol. Not one to ignore a local recommendation, I booked a table for lunch the next day. It was a very local restaurant and on our arrival everyone stopped and stared. No-one spoke much English. But with my pigeon French we persevered and ordered the ‘managers menu’, not knowing what was about to arrive – for me this is the best way to eat. The wine list was something else, so I took a punt at what looked like a reasonably priced bottle and ordered a Château Clos Saint Emilion Philippe 112, 2012. The waiter looked suitable impressed which made me feel better and wow, were we in for a treat. An amuse of truffle croquet came first, followed by lobster rolls, monk fish truffle risotto, the best beef wellington I have ever eaten, finished with the prettiest mixed berry and cream combination. And the wine was stunning. I would definitely recommend coming here if you’re ever in the area – don’t let the locals put you off!

We tried another restaurant near Pomerol called La Terrasse Rouge (KATER Score 8.5/10 – €90 for two inc. service) which I found online after a bit of research. It’s set on top of a working vineyard, offering stunning views across the region. It is modern in style with an open kitchen. We started with a local pork platter which we shared along with their homemade bread and assorted butters which was were divine. We followed with seabass and parmesan risotto for me and spit roast chicken, fries and salad for Sam. We had an early table at 12.30 and by 1pm it was jam packed with what looked like local business men mainly.

On another recommendation, we booked a table at Cafe Cuisine  (KATER Score 6/10 – €85 for two inc. service) this was a risk as it was 20 minutes away in Branne and a taxi cost 40 Euros one way! It was a true local restaurant, quite romantic and cosy. I really wanted to like it and the 30 Euro menu sounded delicious with mackerel to start, then veal for main and apple cake for pudding. Unfortunately both starter and main were served with purees and didn’t offer any texture or variety. I know that the French eat their meat rare but this veal was on the edge for me, despite asking for it medium to well. The apple cake was just ok.

When it was time to go, we asked for a taxi to be told that there weren’t any, they had finished for the night. Oh! Fortunately, a lovely English couple sat next to us offered to drive us back to our hotel, which was very kind. Our hotel got an earful when we returned. Not impressed. Perhaps we were just unlucky.

We ended our trip with a day in Bordeaux checking out the sights (which there weren’t many of) and trying to find something semi healthy to eat after our over indulgent week. We found a fab little Japanese place called Un soir a shibuya (KATER Score 9/10 – €65 for two inc. service no wine) with incredibly welcoming and friendly service. We each choose a mixed bento box of seaweed salad, maki, nigri, gyoza’s and tempura. It was delicious and a welcome break from truffle, wine and cream. I would recommend this place if you’re in Bordeaux.

Seville – time for tapas

We love visiting Spain, and usually find ourselves around Malaga as we have friends who live nearby. This time we decided to meet up somewhere different so via Airbnb we booked a beautiful town house in the centre of Seville with a roof top pool – much needed in the 40-degree heat. We stayed for a week whilst they joined us for a long weekend.

Seville is packed full of tapas restaurants, ranging from traditional to modern in style. We were literally spoilt for choice, so after a bit of research (thanks to TripAdvisor) we decided we’d take a chance and book a food tour with Azahar Food Tours (KATER Score 8/10 – €65 pp) Not something we have done before, but friends had recommended that we try it, so we thought why not. We also decided that as we would be eating our way around Seville and with this blog in mind, we would mark each tapas bar out of ten as we went around. Here goes.

Our tour was made up of our tour guide, a local girl who taught English by day, a lone American guy, myself and Sam which was great, as a big group wouldn’t have been the same.

We started in the main square by the Cathedral and headed to the oldest Tapas restaurant in Seville, Casa Morales (KATER Score 8/10 – inc. in tour) They have been serving up local wines, sherries and tapas for over 150 years. We enjoyed a glass of sherry to pair with our manchego cheese, venison chorizo, jamón and salted cod – it was all absolutely delicious and a great start to our tour.

Seville - Jul 17 (06)
Jamón, Venison Chorizo and Manchego from Casa Morales

We then had a short stroll towards the Alcázar of Seville (Royal Palace where they filmed Game of Thrones) to Casa Roman (KATER Score 7/10 – inc. in tour) where we were warmly greeted by the owner and ushered to a table. It felt like a proper local spot, with no other tourists in sight. Pork cheeks, mushrooms with salsa verde, salt cod and pork cuts, chips and gravy were promptly served and washed down with some delicious local red wine.

We ended the tour in a modern style tapas bar called Viniera San Telmo (KATER Score 5/10 – inc. in tour) which had a great atmosphere and a promise of something exciting. We ordered some gambas, squid ink spaghetti with crab, beef carpaccio and lemon meringue pie. Unfortunately, it was all a little style over substance for me and I found it all a bit bland.

Overall I would recommend a food tour to anyone on a city break, it was a great introduction to Seville, our tour guide was full of interesting facts and advice plus it gave us a chance to get our bearings for the next few days of tapas grazing.

Over the next few days we visited:

  • Bar Catedral (KATER Score 8/10 – €12 for two inc. service) Smack bang in the tourist area so didn’t expect too much but surprisingly good pig cheeks and artichoke salad
  • Baratillo (KATER Score 7/10 – €15 for two inc. service) Delicious Russian salad, roasted peppers with mackerel and some Jamon
  • Bartolomea (KATER Score 7/10 – €30 for two inc. service) A modern looking tapas restaurant in the Arenal district but unfortunately the sous vide squid let this down as it was overcooked. However, the mushroom and cheese risotto was gorgeous
  • Postiguillo (KATER Score 6/10 – €20 for two inc. service) In the Arenal district we had a quick stop here to break up the walk and enjoyed some Jamon, fois gras and manchego – average
  • Petite Comite (KATER Score 8/10 – €25 for two inc. service) A great find where we sampled some local croquettes, potato salad, pork cheeks and artichokes with Jamon
  • Bar Kiko De La Chari (KATER Score 9/10 – €10 for two inc. service) This place doesn’t look like much as it is literally a whole in the wall with a couple of aluminium tables and chairs in an alley way BUT wow do they do a good meatball! We also sampled their ‘potaje de garbonzos’ (chickpea stew) which was delicious – definitely recommend seeking out this place
  • Sal Gorda (KATER Score 10/10 – €35 for two inc. service) This was our absolute favourite tapas restaurant, we went their twice, taking our friends when they arrived. Over near Alfalfa plaza, a less touristy spot in Seville we enjoyed seabass with spiced noodles, tuna tartare, pig cheeks with creamed potato, lamb shoulder, prawns in a yuzu dressing finished off with a selection of local goats cheeses. Everything was beautifully presented and was delicious – an absolute must when visiting Seville.
  • Las Teresas (KATER Score 9/10 – €10  for two inc. service)  This is the place to go for your jamón fix. Traditionally cut jamón, using a just a knife and no ham stand you are greeted with a ceiling of hanging meats. The jamón was melt in your mouth and the best we had all week. A busy hang out for the locals but a definite stop off for anyone visiting Seville.

We were lucky enough to visit the Triana area on a day where they were celebrating La Vela de Santa Ana, a festival dedicated to the mother of Virgin Mary. This basically meant all the locals took to the street and pop up bars and tapas spots were spread all along Calle Batis. We stopped off for a beer and enjoyed some pulpo a la gallega (freshly cooked octopus) which was a real treat. I’m not an octopus lover normally but this was something else, sprinkled with some smoked paprika and olive oil, so simple yet delicious.

Seville was absolutely fabulous, the food, the culture and the company was just perfect – I would go back in a heart beat although maybe not in July (too hot)!

Belfast – a foodie birthday surprise

As a treat for my birthday, my husband Sam took me to Belfast for a long weekend. It’s become a bit of a tradition to be away for our birthdays, although Sam’s is in St Lucia for his in November, so I think I might have drawn the short straw this year.

That said, Belfast was a real foodie surprise for me. My colleague Pete had organised a table at OX (KATER Score 10/10 – £175 for two inc. service) for my birthday dinner on the Friday night. I’d heard great things about the restaurant, and the experience did not disappoint. For an incredible £50 you get their full tasting experience featuring the very best local and seasonal produce, expertly put together and beautifully presented. There is no menu, just a list of local and seasonal ingredients that chef has to choose from that month. I loved this element of surprise. For an extra £30 you can experience their wine pairing which was superb. It was a cracking first night of our trip.

Saturday was spent exploring Belfast, starting with a traditional Irish breakfast, which nearly finished us off it was so big. I’ve never had so many varieties of bread and pancake on one plate. We sampled the famous Tayto crisps washed down with a few (too many) pints of Guinness.

Realising we hadn’t eaten since breakfast we needed to refuel and luckily stumbled across a fab little place called Yügo (KATER Score 8/10 – £35 for two inc. service) Serving modern and contemporary Asian inspired small plates this was right up our street. We sat at the bar and enjoyed some delicious bao buns, pork dumplings and spicy pork mince with green beans.

Belfast is a beautiful city, we found the people incredibly friendly, the pubs and bars welcoming and full of Guinness memorabilia. We can’t wait to go back!

California – Octavia saves the day

I can’t tell you how excited I was about our trip to San Francisco, a real foodie capital so I’d heard. We had planned two weekends in San Francisco and the week in between exploring nearby Carmel, Monterey and wine favourite Sonoma getting around in our hired convertible mustang. I’ve never been so disappointed in my life. Don’t get me wrong it was a great trip and we did have some real food highlights but in the main, the food just didn’t live up to expectations and was generally very expensive.

Let’s be honest, Sonoma was never really going to be about the food – it was all about the wine! We did however have a great foodie experience in the Pangloss Cellars (KATER Score 8/10 – £80  for two inc. service) where we had one of our first wine tastings and were offered small treats of seasonal cheese and canapes designed to accompany the wines – it was the perfect start to our wine tasting. It was unfortunate then to realise that Pangloss were unique in their offer as none of the other wine houses offered so much as a cracker.

Carmel and Monterey were probably the most disappointing in terms of food. So many restaurants on offer yet sadly none that we tried were any good. The scenery around here though was absolutely breath-taking, so it’s well worth a visit regardless. Monterey did give as Poke Lab (KATER Score 8/10 – £22  for two) which was about as exciting as the food got here. Unfortunately I spent too many hours searching TripAdvisor; getting a little obsessed with trying to find the right restaurant (we’ve all been there).  I was left wondering who was leaving these restaurants good feedback and scores of 5 out of 5.

I soon realised that Carmel and Monterey are full of travellers and tourists of a certain age. Not wanting to sound ageist but it made sense, the food was generally very bland and boring. Not to mention large in portion size and incredibly overpriced.

San Francisco was a mixed bag – we had some amazing burgers and fast food experiences namely at Pearl’s (KATER Score 8/10 – £30  for two inc. serviceburger joint and the Ferry building marketplace – I particularly fell in love with their ‘wedge salad’ – such a simple dish of iceberg lettuce drowned in a blue cheese dressing, I’m literally salivating as I think about it! Not the best example below as I kept forgetting to take a snap – too busy eating!

We wanted more than fast food, so we checked out China town and came across Z&Y (KATER Score 10/10 – $65  for two inc. service) restaurant specialising in Sichuan cuisine. From our travels in China we became big fans of Sichuan food, particularly the dumplings and the hot and sour soups. Z&Y did not disappoint. After a 20-minute wait (you can’t book) we ordered all our favourites plus a whole seabass drowned in chilli oil. An absolute must visit if you’re ever in San Francisco.

We did a 10-mile walk from our hotel, across Golden Gate Bridge and onto to Sausalito which was fantastic. We had been recommended a restaurant in Sausalito and as we got there ahead of time, we went for a quick beer in the Barrel House Tavern which had a great vibe and views across the water. Our restaurant called the Spinnaker (KATER Score 5/10 – $95  for two inc. servicewas perfectly positioned on the waters edge giving a panoramic view of the bridge and the city. The food unfortunately was not as good. It was a bit old fashioned for our liking, carpet floor, linen on table and a trolley service for clearing the tables (you must know the type). The oysters and white wine were good but other than that it was sadly a deep fried fish affair. We should have stayed in the Barrel House Tavern.

We ended our 10-day trip at Octavia (KATER Score 10/10 – $130  for two inc. serviceMelissa Perello’s newest restaurant. We enjoyed a series of small plates which we shared and included oysters, pork loin and halibut. You can even take your own wine for a reasonable corkage fee. A great end to a fabulous trip.

Nicaragua – lobsters, beaches and volcanoes

We spent three weeks in beautiful Nicaragua over Christmas and New Year exploring the stunning beaches in San Juan and Popoyo on the west coast; experiencing island life on the Corn islands; enjoying the Colonial architecture in Granada and climbing volcanoes on Ometepe island. Everywhere we went offered a unique experience and it was exactly the same for the food.

Island life had to be our favourite with the freshest lobster dinners served at Comedor Maris (KATER Score 8/10 – $50 for two inc. service) which was like eating on someone’s front porch, and certainly added to the authenticity and local feel. There is no menu just a simple choice of ‘lobster, shrimp or chicken’ – no more no less just simple and delicious.

The street shack next to the ferry dock served some of the best chicken, rice and beans for as little as a few dollars, all served with the biggest tub of homemade chilli sauce I have ever seen (KATER Score 9/10 – $8 for two inc. service). Locals would stop by the shack just to pick up a bag of their tasty plantain crisps – Nicaraguans love plantain. Island life offered simplicity and what better picture highlights this than below.


Back on the mainland, Granada offered us more local treats along with some western fare. Some tourists avoid the local food stalls which is a shame as this is where I find you get the best local experience, be it through the food and / or the people.

We were serenaded in the town square whilst eating a local pork dish called ‘Vigorón’, a cabbage salad, boiled yuca, and fried pork belly wrapped in banana leaf – really really good. Another local favourite is the ‘Tostones con queso’ fried plantain with melted cheese on top. Interesting combo but not one I’m likely to try again.

We also sampled some western style food visiting Pita Pita which offered some really tasty Lebanese food, a welcome break from all the plantain and beans. For Christmas lunch we went to Restaurant El Zaguán (KATER Score 8/10 – $120 for two inc. service) where we had some fabulous steaks and of course plantain!


Nicaragua has to be up there as one of my favourite countries, there is just so much to see and experience – a real foodie adventure.