Travel


Day 3 was not a public holiday and the streets of Milan finally bustled again. Everything was open and we had our choice of cafes and bakeries for breakfast. We ended up at Panarello, a Genoan chain that is excellent. Our pastries were fantastic and if you have space for a box of their canestrelli (a buttery, ring-shaped biscuit), do get them.

Breakfast

Panarello
Piazza S. Nazaro in Brolo, 15
20122 Milano, Italy

We spent a long morning at the Pinacoteca di Brera, the main art gallery in Milan. The collection is amazing but poor Blai’s heart was broken as its Caravaggio was currently on loan elsewhere. Ah, an excuse to come back surely!

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We kept things simple for lunch, knowing that we would feast in the evening. We stopped into a cafe near the Pinacoteca which seemed to attract a huge lunchtime crowd. They had the usual primi and secondi for those who wanted a relaxed meal but it struck us that Milan was very much like London with its quick lunches on the run. Most people opted for the piadine and toasted sandwiches for their lunch; actually, this cafe seemed to specialise in piadina sandwiches, boasting a long list of them.

This was my piadina, a thin flatbread folded over a number of fillings and then toasted.

My Piadina

And inside? I chose the one with smoked ham, a bitter chicory similar to radicchio (I believe), mushrooms and tonnato sauce. Yes, that rather brilliant creamy sauce made with tuna. Delicious.

Tonnato Sauce!

Caffè Ponte Nuovo
Via S. Marco, 14
20121 Milano, Italy

There was more wandering around Milan, some sitting in a cafe, and then while Blai browsed a bookshop in the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, I worked up an appetite by climbing up to the roof of the Duomo! It’s good fun and it wasn’t at all as busy as I expected up there.

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And that night, we finally had Milanese food! I had had a few people recommend the Antica Trattoria della Pesa for classic Milanese cuisine and that was our one blowout meal. It’s not cheap but it was excellent. We were offered a few bites of a saltfish fritter and one with peppers as we perused the menu.

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OK, so we shared a Roman salad first but I do love an Insalata di puntarelle so! It was fresh and bitter and salty and tangy here.

Insalata di puntarelle

We had to have a Risotto alla milanese, though their risotto al salto (a fried pancake of rissoto alla milanese) was also tempting. It was utterly fantastic, smelling strongly of saffron, and with a wonderful bite to the rice and an overall savouriness.

Risotto alla milanese

A pasta dish that was shouting at us was their Tagliatelle ai carciofi , which was brilliant, with a touch of tomato.

Tagliatelle ai carciofi

And then we eschewed the ossobuco and the cotoletta for Cassoeula, which is a very typical wintry Milanese dish. It’s a heavy dish of pork sausages and other pork bits (not offal exactly but not common cuts) cooked for ages with lots of Savoy cabbage and served with soft polenta. This massive platter (the photo doesn’t seem to show its size) was really a serving for one that we split between the two of us! This was a hearty dish that filled us up and I can see its appeal and its necessity on a cold, wintry day.

Cassoeula

The desserts on offer were simple but after all that rich food, simple is all one desires. We split a Gelato di crema con marmellata fatta in casa. The fruit used in the homemade jam was some kind of plum. Again, simple but perfect.

Gelato di crema con marmellata fatta in casa

It’s not cheap, however, as the bill came to about €100 altogether but nothing could be faulted. It was a fantastic meal; do try to book ahead as it fills up quickly.

Antica Trattoria della Pesa
Viale Pasubio, 10
20154 Milano, Italy

Our final morning and our final breakfast in Milan (I barely eat breakfast here in London but if all cafes and bakeries here were like Milanese cafes and bakeries, I would have breakfast every day). This was the weakest bakery of our trip but was still better than many places in London. A pistachio croissant was fine while my cappuccino was too milky.

Pistachio Croissant

A savoury salame sandwich was excellent though.

Salame Sandwich

Our last morning was spent at the Museo Poldi Pezzoli, a small and intimate collection of art and antiques that doesn’t seem to attract the usual crowds of tourists (though to be fair, it did seem to be generally quite quiet in Milan – perhaps most tourists in Italy don’t bother with this city?).

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After a couple hours in the museum, there was time for an early lunch, which started in a queue in a fishmonger’s. Oh yes, the Pescheria Spadari is a fishmonger’s that’s been situated in central Milan (a 5 minute walk from the Duomo) for around 80 years. In addition to selling fresh fish, they run a lunchtime bistrot with delicious fresh fish dishes. I think the menu changes a little each day but there’s always fritto misto, which we bought to takeaway and eat outside. It was about €10 and was as fresh and amazing as you’d expect.

Fritto Misto

Pescheria Spadari
Via Spadari, 4
20123 Milano, Italy

A final bite, before taking a tram to the main station, from where we caught a bus to the airport, was at Princi – yes, my beloved Princi in London is the only international outpost of this Milanese chain. Two slices of fantastic focaccia – one topped with sliced vegetables …

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… and the other sliced and filled with Parma ham. Yes, it’s as good as the one in London and while writing this up, I realise I need to make another visit to ours soon to get a taste of Milan again.

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Princi
Via Speronari, 6
Milano, Italy

I love Milan! Of course, with more time, I think we would have ventured out of the city centre more, especially to eat and I bet I would have fallen in love with it even more. Next time….there will be a next time. As is usual, all the photos from our trip can be found in this Flickr album.

Right, about a month ago, I realised we didn’t have anything planned for Easter (one of the few free holiday days I get off from work) and after a bit of a discussion, we came to the realisation that we were both jonesing to go back to Italy. A little while later, after a bit of googling, we had booked two cheap flights to Milan and a budget hotel as well.

And the next thing we knew, we were on a plane from London to Milan! Italy! The city of fashion! The city in Easter! Oh yeah, Easter. Easter in a very Catholic country turned out to be quite a difficult one for a couple interested in food. Many of the cities top eateries were closed on both Easter Sunday (many restaurants are closed on Sundays anyway) and Easter Monday and we ended up eating not the food of Milan or Lombardy but the cuisine of Parma, of Naples, of Emilia-Romagna. Eventually we got some Milanese cuisine (that’s for the second post).

We landed to beautiful weather – blue skies that were the perfect background to the glistening Duomo.

Duomo

Unfortunately, within about two hours, it started pouring with rain and we found ourselves trudging through empty and dead streets trying to find some dinner. We ended up in one of the only restaurants that seemed to be open – Salsamenteria di Parma.

After we placed our order, bread and a couple of sauces were dropped onto our table. These were the sauces for which they made their name – the two turned out to be whichever random two our waiter grabbed but they turned out to be scallion and artichoke. And they were excellent.

Bread and Sauces

It was a brilliant start to a fabulous meal. Here was polenta fritta e mariola, the latter being an incredible spiced cooked pork sausage.

Polenta Fritta e Mariola

Tripletta rustica was a selection of excellent salames and mortadella.

Tripletta Rustica

The Tripletta Parmigiana was a trio of pasta dishes – tortelli di zucca (pumpkin), tortellli d’erbetta (Swiss chard), and anolini di San Secondo. The first two were dressed simply in butter and parmesan while the last was served with a creamy tomato and cured ham sauce.

Tripletta Parmigiana

I had to get some vegetables in us and a padellata di verdure was a selection of vegetables slowly cooked with lots of olive oil.

Padellata di Verdure

For dessert, we shared a doppietta del goloso, a selection of torta sbrisolona, zabaione, and salame di cioccolato con panna. That torta was an incredible crunchy nutty biscuit and that salame! I’ve got to learn the recipe for it.

Doppietta del Goloso

Salsamenteria di Parma
Via S. Pietro All’Orto, 9
20100 Milano, Italy

The next morning was equally grey and drab but what immediately picked us up was a standing-by-the-bar breakfast at Panettone Vergani, one of the few places open on Easter Monday between our hotel and the centre of Milan. Blai’s chocolate croissant turned out to be freshly filled with a chocolate cream – two pumps worth!

Chocolate Croissant

My chosen colomba was similar to a panettone but without the raisins…. so hence it’s better! It’s only really for Easter and there was plenty of candied citrus peel within. And a cappuccino – gotta have my morning coffee. Blai, on the other hand, developed a daily spremuta di arancia habit – freshly squeezed blood orange juice!

Cappuccino and Colomba

Vergani
Corso di Porta Romana 51
(MM Crocetta)
Milano, Italy

Walking around in the grey drizzle wasn’t great but we did manage to see lots of Milan and its churches that morning (most museums are closed on Mondays). We were ready for lunch and we stopped at the first place we could find that was open. This turned out to be Osteria al 29, an osteria that served Neapolitan food, including pizzas. But we were not in the mood for pizzas nor pasta and so we each ordered what was normally a secondo. My salsicce e friarielli hit the spot and caused me to fall in love all over again with the bitter greens.

Salsicce e Friarielli

Blai’s salmon was also delicious and served with all the vegetables one needed.

Salmon

Others were ordering pizzas which really did look excellent.

Osteria al 29
Corso Magenta, 29
20123 Milano, Italy

The highlight of the afternoon was a visit to the Basilica of Sant’Ambrogio, an outstanding church built in the Lombardy Renaissance style (this is the same style of all the little churches in the Vall de Boí which we visited last year). If you visit (it’s free), do pay the extra €2 to see the ‘treasure’ of the basilica. Oh, and take a look down in the crypt for the somewhat traumatising peek at the remains of three of the most important saints in Milan, one being Sant’Ambrogio, its patron saint.

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Finding dinner that evening was equally challenging. I thought that perhaps Easter Monday wouldn’t be as bad as Easter Sunday but our first choice of trattoria was closed. We weren’t going to risk going to yet another one on our list (much of the good stuff is located far from the centre) and so we went to Eataly in Piazza XXV Aprile. I’d visited Eatalys in Genoa and New York and knew what to expect – food!

We went to the section focusing on meat and fish (along with other tourists and Italians also looking for a place to eat) and ended up with a good selection. Our starter of arrosticini, thin grilled skewers of lamb, were fantastic – all juicy and lamby – and an Easter special.

Arrosticini

We split two main courses – one was veal cheeks cooked in red wine and served with soft polenta …

Veal Cheeks with Polenta

… and the other was grilled amberjack on a lemony potato puree. Both were excellent and as we’d never eaten at an Eataly properly, we were impressed.

Amberjack on Potato Puree

Dessert was found downstairs at a soft-serve gelato outlet, specialising in soft serve made from some fresh Alpine milk. Our stracciatella was milk soft serve topped with chocolate sauce that hardened on contact – good stuff! Thank goodness for Eataly at Easter!

Eataly Milano Smeraldo
Piazza XXV Aprile, 10
20100 Milano, Italy

Days 3 and 4, coming up!

We both happened to have the Valentine’s weekend free and thought we’d have that weekend away for a bit of a mini-break. We chose the town of Arundel with its magnificent castle though our timing was entirely wrong – the castle doesn’t open to the public before Easter! Still, there was plenty of walking through Arundel Park (bordering the South Downs), various antique shops to browse, and many excellent cafes to while away the time.

There was also one excellent dinner at The Parsons Table, run by a very experienced couple who spent time in London and Canada before returning to the UK to start their own restaurant.

I loved the space, which was apparently the former stables of the castle. The restaurant has only been open for a couple of months, tucked away between little boutique shops, and it’s larger than its exterior suggests, with tables spaced generously apart. Do book ahead; all the tables were taken that Saturday evening, which wasn’t a surprise given the occasion. I had chosen this restaurant based not only on reviews but also that they didn’t force a Valentine’s set menu on everybody that weekend. The only concession to Valentine’s seemed to be a big vase of red roses and a small selection of extra dishes only available that weekend. We mixed and matched selections from their regular menu and this Valentine’s one.

Warm bread and butter was set down after we ordered. Slices of sourdough and a rosemary bread were brilliant. Good start.

Bread and Butter

Pulled Ham Hock Croquetes, TPT Piccalilli were beautiful. These perfect spheres were chock full of shredded ham with the tangy pickles perfectly matching the croquetes’ richness.

Pulled Ham Hock Croquetes, TPT Piccalilli

Quail Ravioli with Mushroom Juswas off the Valentine’s menu. These fat parcels were clearly homemade and were served with a good amount of wild fungi.

Quail Ravioli with Mushroom Jus

Slow Cooked Beef Cheek (Bourguignon) was a special that day that had nothing to do with Valentine’s day…. They just happened to have some nice beef cheeks in, I guess! And I’m glad we ordered this as that beef check was just melting away and its gravy was perfect with the pureed potatoes and vegetables. A couple of lardons and mushrooms were the nod towards the Bourguignon style.

Slow Cooked Beef Cheek (Bourguignon)

Pan Roasted Loin of Sussex Coast Cod, Saffron and Cured Tomato Risotto, Padano Cheese was from the regular menu. The combination sounded like perhaps an odd mixture – I don’t think I’ve ever had fish with risotto or risotto with tomato. But it worked as the tomatoes provided the acidity for the fish.

Pan Roasted Loin of Sussex Coast Cod, Saffron and Cured Tomato Risotto, Padano Cheese

Again from the Valentine’s specials was the Assiette of Desserts, a selection to share for two. There was a chocolate ganache tart, a slice of lemon tart, a white chocolate cannolo on poached rhubarb, and a scoop of rum and raisin ice cream. Everything was excellent but of particular note was the cannolo with rhubarb. I’ve only just recently learned to appreciate rhubarb and these tender pieces were superb.

Assiette of Desserts

With Blai’s post-meal tea also came a couple of perfectly crumbly buttery biscuits. I think I may have scoffed them both!

Biscuits

The bill for all the food (but not service) came to a very reasonable (approximate) £60. I’m not sure what I expected from Arundel but they’re lucky to have such a fabulous place on their doorsteps.

I definitely hope to return … perhaps later in the year to see the castle too!

The Parsons Table
2 & 8 Castle Mews
Tarrant Street
Arundel, West Sussex
BN18 9DG

I spent a couple nights for work in Glasgow last week and took myself out for a nice dinner for my first evening. A recommendation from Rachel was Crabshakk and rather conveniently, it just so happened to be located very close to my hotel. I had made a booking for my lone self and that turned out to be a good idea even on a Tuesday night; the restaurant was packed the entire evening with both reservations and walk-ins. It’s a small space with bar seating and a few tables on the ground floor and a few more tables upstairs. I think I went there expecting a rustic looking place (I mean, shakk!) but the place is surprisingly modern with a few vintage touches here and there.

I discussed the menu with the very friendly waiter and went with a mix of his recommendations and my absolute must-haves. We both agreed that instead of the usual starter-main meal configuration, I’d go with a selection of starters. The Tempura squid with soy and coriander dipping sauce (£8.25) was indeed excellent but I could have swapped this for something a little different. The portion was generous for a starter and many other tables were sharing one order.

Tempura squid with soy and coriander dipping sauce

Off the specials blackboard were my must try: Queenies with garlic butter (£8.50). These little scallops were cooked on a hot plate with all that butter and arrived bubbling furiously. I leaned back to avoid getting butter all over me! When the noise settled, I tucked in carefully – these were some beautifully tender little scallops. And what a bargain they were – there were plenty in that dish!

Queenies with garlic butter

Bread and butter (£2.25) was ordered to mop up the butter (just the bread without the extra butter spread on, of course).

Bread and butter

An order of 3 Crab cakes (£8.35) turned out to be these petite things. But oh, what crab cakes!

Three crab cakes

Look inside! These were just chock full of crab and there was barely any discernible binding ingredients. These were some of the most impressive crab cakes I’d ever had.

Inside a crab cake

And thank goodness too for that bit of salad on the side that helped refresh my palate a little. Maybe I overdid it with the bread and garlic butter.

I needed a bit of tea at the end of my dinner to wash down all that richness. My green tea came with a little bit of tablet which is not exactly ‘light’ itself! Whatever – it all went down the hatch as I adore the sweet grainy texture of tablet.

Green tea with tablet

Everyone was very friendly, not just in Crabshakk but in Glasgow overall! It’s a great city with lots of good eating (I had a good meal the next evening as well – but that was a work related one) and I’m keen to go back soon to see and eat more of it!

Crabshakk
1114 Argyle Street
Finnieston
Glasgow G3 8TD

Once the working week was over, there were only about 20 hours left to eat to my hearts content. The last dinner was at an Uyghur restaurant recently featured in Lucky Peach magazine. The Kashgar Uyghur Restaurant is located very close to the main train station (München Hauptbahnhof) and on first glance is a fancy kebab joint. We went upstairs where it’s a plain restaurant and you’re handed takeaway menus from which to order. We left it all to a colleague who was the most knowledgeable on Uyghur cuisine (from Xinjiang province in China) and he went ahead and overordered for us all.

I don’t have the ‘official’ menu names for anything – everything was listed in Chinese or German, of course. We started with samsa – baked handheld pockets of flaky dough filled with a lightly spiced minced lamb mixture. These were brilliant and I probably could have made a meal of two or three of them.

Samsa

A dish of cold spicy noodles (laghman) were topped with a hot stirfry of lamb and vegetables.

Cold Spicy Laghman

Beef stomach was soft and tender, not unlike slurping down beefy jelly.

Beef Stomach

Then came a stir fry….of lots of different things. And so we renamed it the stir fry of everything. Those flattish clear bean noodles were spectacular.

A Stir Fry of Many Things

Dapanji – Big Plate Chicken – was probably my favourite dish of the evening. Large flat belt noodles were served with the fabulously delicious bone-in chicken, pepper and potato stew. Here was just a portion for one – my friend would have ordered the larger version had I not stopped him!

Dapanji - Big Plate Chicken

Another dish! Stir fried egg and cucumber and meat. The mild cucumber was a soothing balm to our now tingling tongues.

Egg and Cucumber and Meat

And still there was more – ok, our final dish of stir fried laghman. Excellent as it was, we could only pick at it. Excellent noodles, yes, excellent.

Stir Fried Laghman

Overall, excellent! Highly recommended! There is another Uyghur restaurant nearby (that more resembles a Chinese restaurant) but according to my colleague who tried both, this was the better one.

Kashgar Uyghur Restaurant
Dachauer Str. 4
80335 Munich, Germany

And then on my last morning, before my flight back in the afternoon, I had to fit as many Munich foods as I could into my gob. I didn’t do too badly.

My main stop that morning was the Viktualienmarkt – Munich’s famous outdoor food market. Sure there are tourists around but you’ll also find locals shopping for the week or picking up something a bit special. I joined the locals in the queue at one of the mushroom stalls and bought a mixture of wild mushrooms to cook at home that night.

Mushrooms//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

I also stopped at the Münchner Suppenküche, one of my favourite stops from over a decade ago, and I was happy to see that it’s still going strong. This large bowl of chicken noodle soup was €3,50 and it remains one of the best chicken noodle soups I’ve ever had.

Chicken Noodle Soup

Münchner Suppenküche
Am Viktualienmarkt Abt. 3 Stand 5/28/29
80331 München, Germany

Leberkäse! This is one of my most favourite Bavarian foods. Yes, I should have also eaten weisswurst but leberkase! If you’re not familiar with it, I guess I could liken it to posh Spam/bologna. You can get it everywhere. At snack stands, a hot slice will be sandwiched in a roll. In restaurants, a slice is likely to be served with potatoes and a fried egg. As I was noshing on the hoof, it would have to be in a roll for me. I took a tip from somewhere on the Internet and got my leberkäse in a roll directly from one of the Viktualienmmarkt’s butchers – they’ll slice the hot meatloaf and weigh your slice (nice and thick!) before shoving it into a sliced roll and handing it over. Look at that massive wodge! With a little mustard, it was some fine eating on the hoof while doing some sightseeing in the centre.

Leberkase

I had to end my haphazard ‘meal’ with something sweet. I concluded my tour of Munich with a stop at Cafe Luitpold, close to Odeonsplatz. I only found out later that the breakfasts/brunch here are quite famous but I only had the time and the stomach space for Kaffee und Kuchen.

The Cake Counter

Choosing a cake from the massive display was certainly challenging! But in the end, it was another slice of Prinzregententorte. It was perhaps a more elegant looking slice but taste wise – well, both were excellent!

Prinzregententorte

Cafe Luitpold
Brienner Str. 11
80333 München, Germany

And then it was off to the airport! Goodbye, Munich!

Goodbye, Munich

I love the city! Other points to note include the fact that it’s safe. No one bothers you at night when you’re walking around and everything’s wonderfully clean. The food is good everywhere and there are plenty of options other than Bavarian food nowadays. I do hope to return soon (especially when my kilo of Ritter Sport runs out)!

Here’s a general tip – there’s a very well-stocked supermarket at Munich Airport. I bought tonnes of things to shove last minute into my suitcase.

All my photos from my trip can be found in this Flickr album.

So I was travelling again as you could probably gather if you follow my Instagram and Twitter feeds. This time work took me back to the Bavarian city of Munich for a week. I love this city – my first and only visit was about 10 years ago when my brother and I spent a wintery week there indulging in everything Bavarian and Christmas. This time there were no Christmas Market stands and the weather for the most part was quite pleasant; oh yeah, and there was mostly work too, forgot about that. And I now have a little bit more spending money than an impoverished student (I still shop like a student though – I brought home 1.2kg of Ritter Sport).

Surprisingly (or perhaps not, I don’t know), not much has changed about the city in over a decade. Sure there are a few more international high street shops but there are still lots of independent shops and little cafes. I think even the food scene has improved somewhat.

Our first evening’s dinner was at Kuchlverzeichnis, a very traditional Bavarian restaurant with, yes, lots of pork on offer. We all shared a few starters first. There was a traditional platter of Bavarian snacks (I really enjoyed the obatzda), …

Pork Platter

…a venison pate served with a berry and horseradish compote,…

Venison Pate

…and shredded duck in aspic. All excellent and all plates cleaned.

Duck in Aspic

For my main course, as soon as I saw schnitzel on the menu, I couldn’t look away. But instead of the traditional Viennese style veal schnitzel, I went with a Münchner Schnitzel, a thin pork cutlet first coated in mustard before being crumbed and fried.

A Munich Style Schnitzel

We had to try a traditional Bavarian Cream, here served with fruits. It’s simply a pastry cream thickened with gelatin, nothing much to shout about.

Bavarian Cream

Kuchlverzeichnis
Rosenheimer Str. 10
81669 München, Germany

On some afternoons, I hopped over to True & 12 which seems to be considered one of the best ice cream places in the city. The flavours were indeed pretty fabulous! Here’s a chai latte and mango+ginger…

A bit of ice cream this afternoon - chai latte and mango+ginger flavours!

…and ‘Happy Monkey’ – a banana ice cream with chocolate chips, caramel and cinnamon sugar.

A scoop of 'Happy Monkey' - banana ice cream with chocolate chips, caramel, cinnamon sugar. Happy happy!

I really liked that scoops were sold individually, so you could have just 1 or 100.

True & 12
Rosenheimer Str. 14
81669 München, Germany

One particularly memorable teatime was spent at Konditorei Wölfl where we had a difficult time choosing just one cake from the myriad of homemade choices. I settled for a Prinzregententorte, a Bavarian cake made with thin layers of sponge cake interleaved with chocolate buttercream and covered with a dark chocolate glaze. It was as amazing as it looked and sounds and their other cakes also got the thumbs up from my colleagues. I hear they get queues down the road on weekends and I would recommend trying to get there on a weekday if possible.

Kuchen

Konditorei Wölfl
Kellerstraße 17
81667 München, Germany

A few days in and the pork levels in our bodies were already starting to get a bit high. We took a break one evening with Afghani food at a place nearby – Chopan (to go). Massive plates of basmati rice pilau and tender lamb and heavily spiced spinach ensured that we left satiated, our tastebuds enlivened again.

Narendj Palau

Chopan (to go)
Rosenheimerstraße 6 + 8
81669 München, Germany

Sometime later during the week, a few of us were getting a little tired of the sandwich lunches and we left in search of a kebab. Oh yes, this was my first German döner kebab and now I understand what the fuss is about. I mean, look at all that salad! It’s, like, fresh and whatnot all on top of some quality meat (by quality, I mean I can identify it as meat, unlike those elephant leg doners).

Today for lunch, we sampled that super German specialty, the döner kebab.

It was back to Bavarian food for a couple more nights and our meal at Haxnbauer was memorable mainly for the ridiculous amounts of meat before us. Between five of us, we first shared a platter for two. Goodness, if this was for two, then surely this was for two as a main course.

Starter Platter

While I was freaking out about the size of the knuckles and thinking of ordering slices, the others were keen to order by whole knuckle (warning: this is not a budget move by any means). When you state that preference, your waiter will come along with a platter of knuckles, with prices stuck on toothpicks, from which to choose. One veal knuckle and one pork knuckle then. These were whisked back into the kitchen for slicing before being presented to us yet again. Both were excellent but my favourite was the pork with its crackling, of course.

One Veal Knuckle, One Pork Knuckle

We eschewed the usual sides (sauerkraut and mash) and went with an eclectic mix: potato pancakes,…

Potato Pancakes

… red cabbage with apple,…

Red Cabbage with Apple

…pickled cucumber with dill,…

Pickled Cucumber with Dill

…and creamed mushrooms.

Creamed Mushrooms

Of particular note were the cabbage (a little sweet and a perfect pairing to the pork) and the mushrooms (like a chunky cream of mushroom soup).

No, we didn’t have dessert; actually we had to pack up meat leftovers. Booking recommended.

Haxnbauer im Scholastikahaus
Sparkassenstraße 6
80331 München, Germany

More in Part 2!

I’d heard a lot online about Chen Ji in Barcelona. Strangely enough, we passed this restaurant a few years ago as we went shopping in a Chinese supermarket across the street; I was getting some ingredients for a dinner I was making, I think. I’ve already forgotten about what I made for dinner that night but I remember the restaurant; we got a good vibe from it…something about the way it looked clearly indicated that it wasn’t like the other Chinese restaurants in Barcelona. And that’s a good thing – some of the stuff in the city can be grim. There’s been lots of buzz about it online recently, all in Catalan/Spanish of course, and after showing Blai a few photos of the food, the restaurant shot up to the top of our must-try list. Dumplings! Hand pulled noodles! Cheap as chips! We settled on visiting one day during our holidays for lunch and brought along Blai’s brother too.

We found the restaurant in the middle of C/d’Alí Bei, the street running down a neighbourhood that is fast becoming the major ‘Chinatown’ of Barcelona. There are a few serious-looking restaurants and a couple of well-stocked Chinese supermarkets. Chen Ji has one of those narrow shopfronts that leads to a much larger interior with plenty of seating, all of which filled up when we were there for a weekday lunch. Most were locals, a few were tourists, and the split between Chinese and non-Chinese diners was about 50:50.

One popular dish at the restaurant is what’s listed on the menu as ‘xiao long bao’. These are like no xiao long bao I’ve ever had… if you’re not familiar with them, they’re those Shanghainese soup dumplings, thin skinned, filled with meat and soup and steamed. These were more like sheng jian bao, pan fried with their breadier skins and moist but less soupy insides. They were excellent and such a bargain at €3 for a portion of 9.

"Xiao Long Bao"

Their fried rice was excellent, one of the best restaurant fried rices I’d had in a while. With a little bit of chilli oil on the side, bam, good eating. This is miles better than any of the arròs tres delícies you’ll typically find.

Fried Rice

We had to order some hand pulled noodles too. They’re available in soups (for stupidly little money) and stir fried too. We went for stir fried with beef and vegetables, dry being easier to share than wet. The noodles had a good chew and were delicious – full of flavour and packed with ingredients.

Fried Hand Pulled Noodles with Beef and Vegetables

With the three dishes and a large bottle of water, the bill for the three of us was under €15. Bargain!

Their menu was full of dishes you’d be hard pressed to find elsewhere in the city: various vegetables, fish dishes, offal. There’s even a menú del dia – three or four dishes from a hot buffet will be piled onto a divided metal plate (yeah, like a prison tray) and from what I saw, it’s a lot of food. We’ll be back!

Chen Ji
Carrer d’Alí Bei, 65
08013 Barcelona

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