You’ll already have heard loads about Padella, I’m sure, but here’s my two cents (pence)! The hype is indeed valid for Padella next to Borough Market – their pasta dishes are fantastic. On a not-so-recent day off a month or two ago, I met my brother there and between the two of us, we split three pastas (most everyone else seemed to be splitting a starter and then having a pasta each).

Their famous pici cacio & pepe (£6.50) lived up to expectations! The thick, chewy pici were coated with the unctuous mixture of cheese and pepper – fabulous.

Pici cacio & pepe

Likewise, there’s quite a following for their pappardelle with 8-hour Dexter beef shin ragu (£8.50). I’m a sucker for a good ragu and this was excellent.

Pappardelle with 8-hour Dexter beef shin ragu

Taglierini with Dorset crab, chilli and lemon (£12) was wonderfully fresh and the only thing that could have improved it would have been to be having it al fresco by the sea. I loved the different pasta shapes and the way they’ve been thrust into the spotlights here – I definitely don’t recall seeing pici anywhere else, for example.

Taglierini with Dorset crab, chilli and lemon

Even for a weekday lunch, we had to queue but the restaurant is bigger than I expected so it was only a 10 minute wait for the two of us that day. I’m not sure what it’s like on a weekend. Oh, and the menu does change from time to time!

Padella
6 Southwark Street
London SE1 1TQ

I’m not entirely sure why we’d not yet been to Karnavar on South End, Croydon’s restaurant street. It’s a more upmarket Indian restaurant and I think we were going to save it for a special occasion. Well, that is, until I discovered they have a spectacular deal for Sunday brunch – five courses for £25, or £40 if you want a champagne brunch, for a massive Indian style roast brunch. The menu is an Indian twist on the Sunday roast lunch but also features classics from their usual a la carte menu, making it a good first visit. We went one recent Sunday when we felt yes, brunch and yes, Indian food, and loved it.

Here we go. Five courses.

Chef Cooking Station and Starter Table

Course 1: Chef Live Cooking Station.
The station was placed at one end of the starter table (photo above). From here, you could place an order (or lots of orders) for freshly made dosas, oothapams, Indian omelettes, or Indian scrambled eggs. We shared a plain dosa (made small, just the right size for a buffet) and a beautifully made Indian omelette. We only realised after our meal that the chef manning this station was the chef-owner – he was just the friendliest!

Indian Omelette

Course 2: The Starter Table.
On the table by the window, there was a good spread of various dishes from which to help yourself. My particular highlights were the Roasted Dokla with Home Cured Sardines and Potato Salad, the fantastic Karnavar Special Golden and Candy Beetroot Chaat with Goji Berry and Moong Bean Sprout, and the Dahi Wada (Black Gram Dumplings with Yogurt, Mustard and Cumin). Take your time over them… it’s a leisurely brunch and you’re welcome to graze for as long as you like.

Starters

Course 3: Intermediate.
This course was brought to your table by a waiter wielding a massive frying pan full of Tulsi Seekh Kebab and Chicken Tikka. Both were very spicy and flavourful and I probably could have put away a lot more if I hadn’t been worrying about what and how much was coming next.

Seekh Kebab and Chicken Tikka

There was also a separate pan full of Salmon Pakora with Sweet Curry, Capers and Gherkin Sauce. This I loved, definitely putting away a few more than necessary – that sauce was like a fantastic Indian tartar sauce.

Salmon Pakora

Course 4: Mains.
Then it was time for mains. Each diner gets to choose one of the mains from the list but they can have as much of that protein as desired. My Roasted Pork Belly Coorg/Kerala style served with Mappas Sauce was fine but Blai’s Sea Bass Polichathu, Kerala Coastal style served with Mappas Sauce was finer. I think I had been hoping that the pork belly was spiced itself but most of the Indian flavour was from the onion sauce served alongside. Blai’s fish was exactly as I’d hoped for, all dusted with spice.

Roasted Pork Belly Coorg/Kerala style served with Mappas Sauce

Sea Bass Polichathu

It’s not a roast dinner though without all the sides! Garlic and fennel seed spiced roast potatoes were tender and delicious. Vegetables were an addictive Cauliflower thoran (addictive), an excellent Chef’s seasonal vegetables, which that day was Broccoli do pyaza, and my typical Indian meal must-have, Panchmel dal (think tarka dal). Carbs were a Saffron pulao rice and Butter naan (very buttery!). Like the mains, you could get more of the sides you desired. You can imagine how stuffed we were by the end of this course!

Sides

Sides and Naan

Dessert was a tasting plate of (from left to right) Rasamalai (Indian Milk Cheese Dumplings with Pistachio), raspberry sorbet, and Kinnathapan Malabar (Rice and Coconut Pudding with Lemon Sorbet). I do believe this is the only course you cannot repeat but the little sweet bites were the perfect size after we’d stuffed ourselves from the previous four courses. Actually, no, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want another of the amazing rasamalai, some of the best I’d ever had.

Dessert Platter

Bookings are essential for Sunday brunch (it’s very popular) and can be made via their website. What I noticed was that the food was highly spiced and flavourful but not chilli-hot, making it perfect for families, and there were a lot of families that Sunday. Needless to say, go hungry! Oh, and if you’re a vegetarian or dining with vegetarian, there are vegetarian options for the more meaty courses (vegetarian but not vegan).

Karnavar
62 South End
Croydon
London CR0 1DP

I had a flying visit to Bern in Switzerland for work back in August, just as they were having a bit of a heat wave. I hadn’t been to Switzerland for a while (my last and only visit was a day in Zurich) and I’d forgotten how expensive the country was (an old work friend from Oslo even claimed Switzerland was pricey!). Here’s how I whiled away my time outside work (with a day free in the city) and the relatively budget decisions I made with regard to food.

I flew into Basel and then caught a train to Bern. From the main station it was a short walk to my Airbnb flat – having a flat with a kitchen is a definite budget helper. I didn’t have time on this trip to do any proper cooking but it’s nice having a space for a morning coffee.

It was straight out again for dinner and I settled on a cute restaurant’s beer garden for my meal – this was Restaurant Beaulieu. My kind waiter talked me through the entire (Swiss German!) menu and I decided to have schnitzel with rösti (Bern is known for its rösti). Excellent stuff it was too. The schnitzel were thick, unlike the thin kind you get in Vienna, and with a good crisp coating. The rösti had been cooked with onions and bacon, never a bad thing!

First evening in Bern and it's gotta be rösti (with schnitzel)!

I somehow managed to fit in a lemon and yogurt mousse as well. Delicious. As it’s quite a casual place with a beer garden, prices weren’t too high.

The lemon and yogurt mousse with strawberry salad was calling out to me. 🍋🍨🍓 What you don't see it the lovely outdoor dining space.

It was only after my work days were over that I had time to properly wander through this UNESCO World Heritage city. Here’s the famous Zytglogge …

Zytglogge Again

… and the Alps in the distance. One of those is Jungfrau.

The Alps in the Distance

The old town is surrounded by the river Aare …

The Aare

… and it’s small but beautiful.

Town Hall

Dinner that night was with a friend at Lötschberg, a casual, contemporary Swiss restaurant with a seriously impressive wine selection, all on display along the wall. My friend’s Hausgemachte Rösti mit Speck und Raclettekäse was a large rösti topped with bacon and melting raclette cheese.

Hausgemachte Rösti mit Speck und Raclettekäse

My St. Galler Kalbsbratwurst, a very tender, finely ground veal sausage, was served with an onion sauce and more rösti. This was probably the most rösti I’d ever had in my life up to now – good thing I like rösti!

St. Galler Kalbsbratwurst IGP mit Zwiebelsauce und Rösti

A green salad with lots of honeyed sunflower seeds on top helped us feel a little better about all that potato! The restaurant is expensive by London standards but seems about normal for Bern.

Grüner Salat

The next day was my free Saturday in the city, the one I dedicated to some sightseeing. I was in luck! Not only were all museums in Bern free that day (something about it being August and too hot for most people to bother with museums) and there was a festival celebrating the 100 year anniversary of the train line between Bern and Solothurn. In addition to getting my photo snapped as a driver of a vintage train, there was freshly pressed apple juice for all.

Freshly Pressed Apple Juice!

The rest of my morning was then filled with a visit to the art gallery and then to the Zentrum Paul Klee, a beautiful Renzo Piano designed building set out in the outskirts of the city. The latter is definitely worth a quick visit if you can. (Of course, it’s a lot better when it’s a free visit…)

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I had purchased a takeaway sandwich from Migros, a supermarket chain, in the centre for lunch prior to catching the bus to the museum. This turned out to be the smart budget option!

Takeaway Sandwich Lunch from Migros!

It was back to the city and a quick visit to Einsteinhaus to see Einstein’s actual desk …

Einstein's Desk

… and a quick view of what must be my favourite fountain in Bern (there are many fountains – all beautiful and most featuring bears) – the Kindlifresserbrunnen. Yes, he’s eating children…

Kindlifresserbrunnen

I made a quick pit stop at the tea room of the Confiserie Eichenberger – iced coffee and a paper cake, the latter being a delicious chocolate sticky meringue baked in a slip of paper.

Paper Cake

Then it was a late afternoon spent on Gurten, the local mountain where the locals go for picnics and I go to ride the toboggan!

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It was another bus to the Rosengarten (rose garden) above the old city, with its fantastic views.

View from the Rosengarten

It was also goodbye to Bern’s resident bears in the Bärengraben. Yeah, poor things – it had been a very hot day.

Resting

That evening, along with a bit of takeaway from the station, I bought some meringues and double cream from Gruyère, the combination being a very typical dessert in Switzerland. I just placed a couple of meringues on my plate and dolloped this incredibly thick and luscious cream on top. The combination is indeed fabulous! (And yes, it’s cheaper to get these from the supermarket than to have the dessert at a restaurant!)

Trouble! I've bought meringues and cream for an entire family and it's just me here!

But that wasn’t the end of my travels for I had to travel again to Basel for my flight back to London. For my train ride, I picked up a brunch from Sprüngli, definitely one of my favourite patisseries in Switzerland. They’re famous for their little macarons called Luxemburgerli but not this time. This time I had one of their quiches (oh so buttery) …

Train Brunch from Sprungli

… and my first in Switzerland Bircher muesli. This was, of course, a particuarly luxurious version made with lots of fruit and cream. Fantastic! And we’re now obsessed with it.

Bircher Muesli

There was a rapid tour of the centre of Basel before my bus to the airport. Highlights included the incredibly red Basel town hall …

Basel Town Hall

… and the ridiculously cute Tinguely fountain. I’m glad I didn’t miss this animated fountain which brought a smile to the faces of everyone who saw it.

Tinguely Fountain

All my photos can be found in this Flickr album. I’m hoping I can go back one day with Blai to see more of the Alps in the region!

On our walk back home through Gràcia from our lunch at Rio Teppan, I happened across a restaurant whose name rang a bell in a good way – La Singular. We revisited with Blai’s mom later during our trip and it did turn out to be a great meal. Their €10 menu del dia is creative and brilliant, as evinced by the crowds but there are no reservations taken for lunch so either show up early or show up late to avoid a wait.

To feed the crowds quickly, I can see that first dishes and desserts are made in advance and just plated while second dishes are cooked immediately. Blai started with the Amanida de llentíes amb vinagreta de cumí (lentil salad with cumin vinaigrette). This was brilliant with the earthy cumin playing nicely with zingy vinegar and the equally earthy lentils. Cumin isn’t a common nor popular spice in Catalonia but it was used wonderfully here.

Amanida de Llentíes amb Vinagreta de Cumí

I already knew what I wanted for my first dish when I saw the paella of black rice when we entered the restaurant. Arrós negre amb all i oli was delicious with its squid and mussels and the aioli served with it was clearly homemade with a very light, foamy texture.

Arrós Negre amb All i Oli

Blai’s second dish of an Asian-inspired Ventresca de tonyina amb soja, algues i brots (tuna with soy, seaweed and bean sprouts) was extremely fresh and not too heavy. I loved its simplicity.

Ventresca de Tonyina amb Soja, Algues i Brots

My Cuixetes de pollastre escabetxades amb taronja i hummus de pèsols (chicken legs in a vinegar sauce with orange and pea hummus) was also excellent. The combination wasn’t one I’d ever come across – peas and orange – but by golly, it did work. There are certainly some good ideas coming out of that kitchen.

Cuixetes de Pollastre Escabetxades amb Taronja i Hummus de Pèsols

Desserts were of the very simple sort that I love for everyday. Pastís de pressec (peach cake) was a slice of a simple sponge embedded with chunks of fruit.

Pastís de Pressec

The winner though was a Mousse de mató amb coulis de fruits vermells (fresh cheese mousse with red fruit coulis), all light and fresh.

Mousse de Mató amb Coulis de Fruits Vermells

Definitely a winner, this one! I think the menu changes daily too and from what else I’ve read about the place, there is indeed a thread of Asian-influence running through the Catalan menu. As usual, I’m keen to go back for dinner one day!

La Singular

Carrer de Francisco Giner, 50
08012 Barcelona

My heart was broken when we found that one of my favourite bakeries in Barcelona – Forn Mistral – was closed for holidays in August. Alas, it was a good excuse to visit La Fàbrica Moritz – the former old brewery for the Catalan Moritz beer – which is now a multi-storey restaurant/bar/shop.

From what I can tell, the place is extremely popular – it’s huge and we did find the food to be excellent. The menu is just as huge – but on closer inspection, you’ll find some repetition in the ingredients and how things are put together. This is a good thing as giant menus tend to strike fear in my heart. Anyway, there are lots of little bites and big dishes too; we went with a mixture of tapas and Catalan classics for our dinner that night. There are even some Swiss specialties on the menu in honour of the founder of the Moritz brewery and some German dishes as it’s a brewery!

Croquetes crocants de pernil ibèric were priced by the unit and were exceptional, perfectly creamy and chock full of ham bits. All the frying here was done to perfection (and we are suckers for anything deep fried).

Croquetes crocants de pernil ibèric

El fregit d’Arenys was a mixture of fried monkfish nuggets and quartered artichokes, all served with romesco. Fantastic. (On a separate note, the fish and chips platters that went past us also looked excellent.)

El fregit d'Arenys

Braves d’aqui are their version of patatas bravas (the usual version is also available). This turned out to be the usual fried potatoes topped with aioli and, instead of the more common spicy tomato sauce, a spicy red chilli oil. Very simple and very good (though I think I missed the tomato sauce!).

Braves d'aqui

Coca de recapte artesanal lleidatana was a beautifully thin, savoury pastry topped with escalivada and preserved sardines. It was only as I took the photo that I realised that it looked like the Catalan flag!

Coca de Recapte

Desserts were entirely unexpected – some very creative, some very traditional – and all not the kind of things you see in the usual Catalan restaurants. Blai’s gaspatxo de pressec (the creative) was indeed a cold peach soup topped with a refreshing yogurt ice cream and drizzled with olive oil.

Gaspatxo de Pressec

My Orelletes d´Alacant (the traditional) turned out to be one giant crisp fritter! This sugar dusted piece of fried dough was thin and crisp and not unlike a Canadian BeaverTail (though thinner). There were some anise seeds embedded throughout and was served with a small glass of anis too. I loved this.

Orelletes d´Alacant

Well, holidays for Forn Mistral meant that we discovered La Fàbrica Moritz. It’s a good place for groups or picky eaters as you’ll definitely find something you like on the menu; when we were there, we saw a table of two couples happily tucking into just a ham sandwich each. They’re open from breakfast until late at night; their breakfasts look fantastic but I’ll need to drag myself out of bed for that one day! Personally, I do prefer the atmosphere at Moritz’s other restaurant at El Born but this place has great food too.

La Fàbrica Moritz
Ronda de Sant Antoni, 39-41
08011 Barcelona

There’s a restaurant in Gràcia called La Ceba (The Onion) which specialises in truites – the Catalan word for Spanish tortillas. Their main menu lists truites made with many ingredients, some of which you perhaps cannot imagine in an omelette, as well as other Catalan dishes. We ate there one lunchtime this summer and ordered off their more expensive menu del dia (they have a cheaper one as well – and it also looked good) at €13,80 each. Service from the off was…well, off. The servers were ill-tempered and rushed off their feet at the lunchtime crowd. They seemed to hate our (the diners, any diners) existence. That said, the food is fabulous so perhaps someone’s happy in the kitchen.

A torrada d´escalivada, formatge manxego i anxoves gratinada was a large slice of toast topped with lots of the Catalan grilled vegetables, melted cheese and anchovies. While simple, the toast was delicious in its simplicity and generosity.

Torrada d´Escalivada, Formatge Manxego i Anxoves Gratinada

We had to have a truita, of course – here was a truita de carbassó i patates (courgette and potato). Excellent. It wasn’t overcooked and had just the right egg to filling ratio. Its perfect size inspired me to go out and buy a pan that’s just that diameter (I bought it and it’s great!).

Truita de Carbassó i Patates

I had seen a hamburger go to a neighbouring table and it looked great – we ordered one. This excellent hamburguesa amb ceba caramel.litzada (cooked to a perfect juicy medium) came with salad, fries, and that lovely large dollop of caramelised onions.

Hamburguesa amb Ceba Caramel.litzada

Our other second dish was the Catalan classic botifarra amb mongetes seques – a big grilled fresh sausage with cooked dried beans. Excellent and especially excellent were the beans, which had been fried a little after they had been boiled. Usually you just get boiled beans.

Botifarra amb Mongetes Seques

Notice how both were big, hearty meat dishes – we needed a break from fish after our time on the Costa Brava!

Desserts were an average flam

Flam

… and an amazing pastís de formatge (cheese cake) that Blai says was the best he’s had in the city.

Torta de Formatge

So yeah, hopefully it’s not always this grumpy in the restaurant as they’re putting out some terrific food. I’d love to go back in the evening to try one of their many other truites.

La Ceba
C/ La Perla, 10
Barcelona

The bus to Cadaqués was the most nerve-racking, white-knuckle bus ride we’ve ever had. Our bus driver was going a little faster than we would have liked and he zipped around the corners, hugging the dry cliff edge and occasionally having to back up to let a car pass. We emerged into the Cadaqués sun breathing hard and feeling more than a little woozy. It felt good to dump our things at our hotel and take in the fresh air with a stroll around town and by the sea.

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Casa Blaua

It’s a beautiful town! The former fishing village no longer homes fishermen but just tourists in the little whitewashed houses. Its difficult to reach location meant that the town has been protected from the tourist hotels you find further down the coast and has thus retained its charm. Apart from the sea, the town itself, clinging onto the hills of Cadaqués, is a beautiful setting in which to walk around.

Anyway, lunch time. We chose a restaurant close to out hotel: Can Shelabi, with its menu del dia. To start, excellent fried seitons (fresh anchovies) …

Fried Seitons

… and the salad of the day, which turned out to be some fantastically flavourful and garlicky esqueixada, a traditional Catalan salad of salt cod, tomatoes, onions and peppers.

Esqueixada

Now, this was a delicious tagine of sea bream but it’s the dish I’d most like to forget as a treacherous fish bone went down my throat and caused much anxiety. It was delicious but let’s go on to the next dish.

Tagine of Sea Bream

Grilled sea bass was served with white rice and tomatoes. Again, fresh and delicious but altogether a bit dry – a little sauce of some kind would have helped with the rice.

Grilled Sea Bass

We both opted for a simple banana with chocolate for dessert. While the banana could’ve been riper, the chocolate sauce was gorgeous, dark and not too sweet.

Banana with Chocolate

The afternoon was spent walking first to Port Lligat to see Dalí’s house …

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… and then finding ourselves another quiet beach to while away the late afternoon. We succeeded! Cadaqués is smack dab in the middle of the Parc Natural de Cap de Creus and the water was even clearer here with lots of fishes and crabs and sea anemones to ogle. Next time though we’ll need to get some shoes that’ll ensure our feet aren’t cut by the rocks.

Our Favourite Beach

We hadn’t planned anything for dinner and just went off in search of a nice place that had space. That place turned out to be Mut and we only had to wait a short while for a lovely table outside, facing the sea. We shared a number of plates with drinks: escalivada with goat´s cheese, …

Escalivada with Goat´s Cheese

… more seitons, this time in vinegar, …

Seitons

… and a Catalan classic of pa amb tomàquet with anchovies. Perfect. Everything here was excellent.

Pa amb Tomàquet with Anchovies

Cadaqués by Night

The next morning, we checked out of our hotel and spent the morning strolling around more of the narrow whitewashed streets of Cadaqués and then finding our own little rock on which to perch and dip our toes into that crystal clear water.

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I had taken notice of a promising looking restaurant earlier that morning and we returned there – Can Pelayo – for lunch. Blai’s sardines were again fresh and fantastic (as you can imagine, when we returned to Barcelona, we took a break from fish).

Sardines

My gazpacho was exactly what I wanted, cold and refreshing. 

Gazpacho

Our shared fideuà looked spectacular and was fine; it didn’t have the same wonderful seafood flavour of the paella we had in El Port de la Selva though. Still, a fine eat and certainly a good deal as part of a €15 menu del dia.

Fideuà

There was dessert too – watermelon and crema catalana. Service was a bit of a mess when we were there though but it was laughable rather than stressful. Hopefully things will improve!

After lunch, we caught a bus to Figueres – ok, it’s not exactly the Costa Brava but it is part of the Dalí Triangle (the third and final vertex being the Gala Dalí House that is Púbol Castle). It was about 5pm when we arrived in Figueres and it was the perfect time to see the Dalí Theatre-Museum as there was no queue for tickets.

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There was even a little time to see the small collection at the Museu de l’Empordà, where we were delighted to find a couple of original capitals from the monastery we visited while we were in El Port de la Selva. After that, it was onto a Rodalies train again, back to Barcelona (delicious pastries were purchased for our train dinner).

We loved the Costa Brava! If you’re planning a trip there, I can highly recommend the official website of the region as I turned to it often. All photos from this little trip of ours can be found at this Flickr album.