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Coppa Club

We’ve all seen the wisteria laden cabanas at Coppa Club Tower Bridge on Instagram. By winter the restaurant terrace is decked out with festive igloos, during the summer they are draped in faux ivy and wisteria, fading from pink, to purple, to lilac and white. Add in the fact that Coppa Club sits on the river with a view of Tower Bridge and it’s pretty much as picturesque as you can get in Central London. The setting is beautiful and it’s no surprise that the bookable cabanas were full all the way through summer in a matter of days of release, but how does the food stand up against the pretty surroundings?

I took my dad out to Coppa Club for Father’s Day and by sheer stroke of luck, there was space under one of the coveted cabanas for us to sit for our meal. They do hold some back for walk ins and we got there at just the right time. Since it was sweltering we would’ve probably been a little more comfortable in the cool inside space, which is beautifully designed with brass accents, old fashioned cane backed chairs and a big sweeping bar in the middle. But of course I couldn’t resist the wisteria so we sweated it out under one of the cabanas instead. When in Rome, after all.

Whilst sat in the sun and having ordered a pint of the Coppa Club lager on draught (£4.25) for my dad and the Cotes De Provence Chateau Minuty rose (£8.95 250ml) for myself – which was bloody delicious – we started to dig through the starter options to share. There are plenty of small plates and nibbles to order at Coppa Club and it strikes me that this is a great after work pit stop for a few drinks and some tapas style dishes to tide you over as you plough through some cold prosecco. Crispy fried truffled gnocchi (£3.50), fresh crab and avocado on crostini (£5.95) and Italian sausage rolls with hot mustard (£3.50) are as good an accompaniment to evening drinks by the river as any, in my opinion, but I digress.  That afternoon we opted to share the seared king prawns marinated in olive oil, chilli, garlic and lemon with sourdough bread (£6.95) and crispy calamari served with a delicious paprika and sriracha mayo (£5.95). Both were excellent and the prawns in particular were huge and juicy. A good start.

Although I’m usually one to be all over a brunch menu, we went to Coppa Club later in the day and had both eaten a decent breakfast so opted to order from the All Day menu rather than the brunch. Mains were their signature Coppa Club Hot sourdough pizza with spicy salami, Nduja, chilli, tomato and mozzarella (£9.95) which was definitely as hot as it sounds – and a solid pizza in a competitive market, though not up there with the specialists like Forza Win or Pizza East. My super greens and grains salad made up of quinoa, fregola, roasted beets, peas, broccoli, toasted seeds and chilli with added roast chicken (£12.90) was delicious and filling, something I’m always concerned places don’t get right with their salad offering. I did peek at the table next door at the brunch dishes that they were tucking into and have to say that the baked eggs and their Benedicts in particular looked very good, so I’d love to return to sample the brunch menu another time.

I also need to return to get another fix of that sticky toffee pudding they serve (£5.95), because that was good. I am a serious judge of London’s STPs and Coppa Club’s was very much up there – only pipped by my forever favourite from Hawksmoor. It was served with a good scoop of vanilla ice cream and most importantly, plenty of toffee sauce – enough that I had leftovers to scoop into my gob once the actual pudding had been demolished. That’s the sign of a good sticky toffee pudding if you ask me. So yes, happily the food and service do measure up to the beautiful setting at Coppa Club Tower Bridge. Go forth, get your wisteria Instagrams but moreover – eat and drink well.


Coppa Club, 3 Three Quays Walk, Lower Thames Street, London, EC3R 6AH
020 7993 3827

There are also Coppa Clubs at St Paul’s, Oxford Circus and Sonning-on-Thames in Berkshire, though the Tower Bridge one is the only one with cabanas on their terrace.

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London Street Food

Bleecker St. Burger

What makes the perfect burger? There’ll be arguments over this one for sure, but for me the top requirement is it needs to be messy, but not messy enough that the whole thing falls apart after two bites. The patty must be juicy, a bit pink and full of flavour, the cheese needs to be cheap and preferably of the American plastic variety: bright yellow and sticky. The bun is up for debate: I love a brioche, but a sesame seeded can also win out. Lightly toasted though, please.

I’m essentially describing Bleecker St. Burger. Named after founder Zan Kaufman’s favourite street in her native New York City, Bleecker St is a prime example of a small scale street food project that has blown up into a cult favourite amongst Londoners, all whilst retaining the passion that originally caused Zan to give up her law career for that big black van serving incredible burgers.

The burger scene in London has gone from strength to strength over the last few years; competition is fierce and there is constant debate over which is the very best burger in London. Before you jump in with your favourite, I implore you to try Bleecker St first. And I’m going to give you a simple instruction before you do: go double. After the first bite of my first ever Bleecker burger I instantly regretted not going double. After all, if you’re gonna do it, do it properly. These burgers sail to the top of many a ‘Best Burger in London’ list based on the quality of the meat that’s used. The beef comes from The Butchery in Bermondsey, where it’s dry-aged for up to fifty days, creating an intense flavour that I can’t recall being matched in another London burger. (Although of course, I am willing to sample dozens of burgers should you wish to disprove this). So yeah, with meat this good, you want to go double. Then add bacon.

Too often fries are pushed to the wayside in the quest for the best burger, and due to this I often skip them. However Bleecker St don’t shy away from their commitment to excellence and the chips are surprisingly good – rough cut and crispy (£3). They also offer a mix of regular fries and sweet potato with a blue cheese sauce named Angry Fries (£4), for those who are after something punchier.

Next time I visit (and it should be pretty soon, the Canary Wharf site is mere minutes from me, what a drag) I’m trying the famed Bleecker Black (£10) – a double patty extravaganza with black pudding cutting through the middle. People call it the best burger in London. I guess I’ll just have to judge for myself. You should too.

Have you had a Bleecker St Burger? Do you think it’s the best burger in London or have you got another favourite that beats it? Let me know in the comments!

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Cheap Eats London

Voodoo Ray’s

Voodoo Ray’s were on my list to try at this year’s Glastonbury, and then the mud happened. The mud that meant what should be a twenty minute walk between stages took forty five, and an hour across festival took two. Glasto is still my favourite place in the world, but that mud was trying and physically exhausting. It also meant I did not make it to Block 9, the temporary home of Voodoo Ray’s for the duration of those amazing days in June. That God damn mud.

Since then I have been meaning to make it to Dalston specifically to try Voodoo Ray’s famed pizza by the slice, American style. Luckily for me, this weekend I stumbled upon their smaller site at Shoreditch’s Box Park. Despite having already eaten lunch and ice cream in the two hours previous, we ordered a slice of the meatiest pizza they do – The Meat Is On: minced steak, pepperoni, ham and pancetta with oozing melted mozzarella; along with a couple of frozen margaritas to wash it down. I can now confirm that yes, it really is worth the hype.

Voodoo Ray’s is described as a New York style pizza joint, so I assumed their pizzas would be the kind of deep pan pizzas you get in the Big Apple, which isn’t really my thing. But instead they have combined the very American concept of buying large hunks of pizza by the slice in a chilled atmosphere with the more favoured Napoli style pizza of Italy, and it’s genius.

First off, these pizzas are HUGE. Measuring at 22 inches across the whole thing, one slice is bigger than my face. Generous with the toppings, there is a great range of choice, including plenty of vegetarian options that sound seriously enticing despite my inevitably wanting the meatiest pizza they do. The Green Velvet – artichoke hearts, green olives, sun blushed tomatoes, mozzarella, tomato sauce and green sauce looks particularly good and there’s even an option that caters to the vegan crowd out there. For the meat lovers there is almost too much choice. The Meat Is On was excellent but I definitely want to go back to try the King Tubby with fennel and chilli sausage, kale, caramelised onions, mozzarella and marinated tomatoes; as well at the Rubenesque with salt beef and sauerkraut. Of course the real joy with this being a New York style pizza place is the fact you can try multiple slices and therefore multiple toppings, though you’d surely struggle to see away more than three of these slices in one sitting, big as they are.

Key to Voodoo Ray’s achieving the real vibe of a NYC pizza joint is the price. Sure, in New York you can pick up a huge slice of brilliant pizza slathered in cheese for $3 a pop, but this in London and nothing ever seems to be much of a bargain anymore. Until now. These slices come in at £4 each, and for such high quality and the sheer size of them, that is a great deal. Dips to see off your crusts come in at 50p each including classic garlic mayo, sweet BBQ and a chili sauce that comes from a secret recipe, and you can also get mac and cheese on the side for a mere £4.50.

Frozen margaritas (£6.50) made with Olmeca tequila saw no complaints from a seasoned margarita drinker such as myself, and a variety of cold beers from around the world will keep others happy. What’s more, the original Dalston outpost is open until 3am Thursday through Saturday so it really does feel like being in the city that never sleeps. Voodoo Ray’s have successfully brought a slice of New York City to East London, and I for one couldn’t be happier about it.

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A Bit Fancy Food London

Ivy Chelsea Garden

You’ve heard of The Ivy, everyone has. It has long history of almost 100 years old entwined with celebrity visits, business meetings for the corporate world and special occasions. Whilst it’s certainly considered A Bit Fancy, the consistency of The Ivy’s reputation is surely based on its food, classic and high quality, as opposed to the famous faces who walk through the door. So when my best friend invited me to take the afternoon off to join her and some friends for a leisurely boozy lunch at The Ivy’s Chelsea outpost, Ivy Chelsea Garden, I naturally jumped at the chance. I rarely let the combination of the words ‘boozy’ and ‘lunch’ pass me by, and the opportunity to try The Ivy’s famed menu at last was enough for me to immediately book a half day off.

The Ivy Chelsea Garden is a beautiful restaurant. Stylish yet classic decor with white tablecloths, bevelled mirrors and beautiful big glass and brass lanterns throwing light across the room is second only to the pièce de résistance: a conservatory area that opens into the coveted garden. It was a beautiful day which would have made the garden area a dream but unfortunately despite requesting two months in advance, it seems you may need to know someone in order to secure a table out amongst the pergolas and fountain.

Seated in the buzzy main restaurant and starting as we meant to go on, we ordered a beautiful bottle of rose whilst we scoured the menu, everyone wanting more than one thing – the starters a particular battle. Apparently I’ve travelled back in time as I’ve recently grown a serious penchant for a good prawn cocktail, but after much deliberation I opted for the buffalo mozzarella with asparagus, edamame, roasted pine nuts, pesto and baby basil (£8.95). And what a choice; honest to God one of the best starters I’ve ever had. Good food is food that stays with you, and this dish is certainly one of them. Luckily for me, the others at the table were generous with their choices, so I got to try not one but two tuna dishes, both of which I toyed with ordering myself. Tuna carpaccio with spiced avocado, lime, creme fraiche and coriander shoots (£9.95) was no disappointment, but certainly out done by the melt-in-the-mouth Ponzu marinated tuna served with radish, ginger and mango with wasabi (£10.50). The arrival of salt encrusted sourdough (£4.25) and more of the aforementioned rose made the first course a hard one to beat.

Service was excellent throughout, and respectful of the fact we asked for a wait between courses, something that isn’t always the case and a real pet hate of mine. When we did get around to the mains, three of us had gone with the chicken Milanese topped with a perfectly fried egg with the goldest of yolks (£16.95), whilst the remaining of our party went for the sea bream. The former was excellently done, the brioche crust of the chicken crisping beautifully, along with perfect truffle Parmesan fries (£4.50) and thick cut chips (£3.75). For good measure I swiped some zucchini fritti (£3.75) too but found them too floury – the truffle and Parmesan chips came out on top in the potato stakes.

But enough of all that, let’s talk about THAT dessert. You may have seen it doing the rounds on Instagram; a chocolate bombe sitting in milk foam, melting as hot salted caramel sauce is poured over it to reveal a vanilla ice cream and honeycombe centre (£8.50). I know. Honestly, it’s worth making a booking at The Ivy for this dessert alone. It’s better than it looks and better than it sounds. Friends ordered dark treacle tart (£6.95) and frozen berries with yoghurt sorbet (£7.50), all perfectly lovely but the envy was palpable. Frozen berries over a chocolate bombe with salted caramel? Amateurs.

Regardless of whether the dessert of dreams stays on the menu (why would it not?), The Ivy is definitely a restaurant I’ll be returning to for years to come. Classic, fantastically executed food with attentive service in a beautiful setting, The Ivy feels like a real treat without the pretentiousness I’d expected. I just hope I can get a seat outside next time.

Have you been to The Ivy and had their famous chocolate bombe? Leave me a comment and let me know what you thought!

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A Bit Fancy London


For two people who have a shared brunch wishlist at least thirty restaurants strong, my best friend and I can take an astonishingly long time to choose where to eat. It took an hour’s debate to land on Jose in Bermondsey for a midday lunch post yoga (her) and chore morning (me) one sunny Saturday.

Jose is the first of chef Jose Pizarro’s three outposts of excellent Spanish food, set up on a cosy space on the corner of Bermondsey Street under the watch of The Shard. I’d been keen to try it out for a long time, and at Alli’s suggestion (likely to prevent her from having to travel no more than two minutes from her yoga class) I jumped at the chance to finally go.

Keen as ever, I was the first person there when they opened the doors at 12pm, quickly parked myself at the end of the window bar, catching the spring sun that poured through the floor to ceiling glass and ordered a bottle of their blanc de blanc (£36 a bottle). A regular prosecco drinker, it was a good change to have something a little drier and the blanc de blanc was an solid choice. Later in the day we would try the English sparkling Nyetimber down the road, and both agreed it’s one of the best sparkling wines we’ve tried. But back to Jose.

Of course, being tapas, sharing plates is the go to here, so we ordered a selection to start with including croquetas (£6.50), mixed cheeses (£12), pan con tomate (£3.50) and the inevitable cuts of cured meat: jamon iberico (£13) and cecina (£8), which came topped with bright red pearls of pomegranate seeds and turned out to be a brilliant addition. We drank our wine and on ordering another bottle topped up our order with tuna skewers (£10), chorizo peas (£7.50) and sukalki (£8), a beef ragu that felt more like an English stew than traditionally Spanish but well done nonetheless. The croquetas deserve a particular shout out, perfectly golden and filled with cheese and small chunks of ham, as does the chorizo peas topped with the perfect fried egg, which we were instructed to mash up all together before enjoying. It never occurred to me that three simple ingredients could taste quite that good together.

The thing about picking slowly at small plates with good wine and your best friend – aside from it being one of the best ways to spend a few hours – is how you become so full quicker than you expected. Full of good food, cold fizz and long conversation. Too full to order dessert, and I’ve heard very good things about their chocolate with sea salt and olive oil. Then again, that plus their ever changing menu is the perfect excuse to go back.

104 Bermondsey Street, London, SE1 3UB

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Australia Food From Travels Sydney

The Boathouse

Once upon a time, an English girl met an Aussie girl in the jungle of Northern Sulawesi in Indonesia. They were surrounded by tall trees, volcanoes and the sea; cockroaches and snakes; gibbons and crocodiles and a couple of sun bears too. The evenings were dull. Nothing really happens in the jungle at night for humans. The never ending boredom in the middle of nowhere was dispelled drinking beer and sharing stories, even if they were the only two people in the vicinity to partake. In the middle of nowhere this potty mouthed Londoner and this wild haired veterinary Sydneysider became fast friends.

This friendship was born out of large Bintangs and late night cheese toasties, and has continued through the years with food as a constant thread between us, even when I once accidentally made my friend sit through a BBQ full of every type of meat going with my family, not realising she had gone veggie since the last time I’d seen her and she was too polite to tell my dad after he raved about the meat his mate the butcher had provided for the occasion.

Jess comes from a beautiful part of the world, the Northern beaches of Sydney, and as much as I love Sydney city, I really love escaping up the coast a little and staying with my friend. Not least because I love my friend made in the most unlikely of places, but because going to Avalon means a trip to one of my favourite restaurants in Australia that she introduced me to – The Boathouse.

The Boathouse originated in Palm Beach, otherwise known as home to Home and Away, but luckily for Sydneysiders, they have new outposts edged around the city, at Balmoral in Mosman and Shelley Beach in Manly. The whole dining experience here is everything it should be in Australia – al fresco, by the water, fresh food (plenty of it healthy) and good, cold wine. It just feels Australian.

There is plenty of seafood, and I can personally vouch for the high standard of battered fish and thick cut chips they serve up here, as well as a beautiful fish pie. In fact the chips are amazing and deserve a proper mention; seriously crispy but fluffy on the inside, and plenty of them. Salads are colourful and plentiful, scarlet beads of pomegranate seeds adding a brilliant crunch; the bucket of prawns a popular choice and the burgers not amiss either. The wine list isn’t overwhelming in size, but all expertly picked and naturally, predominantly Australian.

Whilst I haven’t had the pleasure of a Boathouse breakfast, the menu includes all the usual suspects, with avo on toast with poached eggs, bacon and egg rolls, french toast, bircher muesli and the very Australian healthy breakfast of a veggie bowl with eggs, avo, smoked salmon, brown rice, chilli and greens. The coffee is very good too, cappuccinos and the like beautifully presented with a smattering of chocolate shaped in their signature anchor logo. There’s also a deli of delicious fresh produce, and there are rustic tin vases of beautiful blooms you can purchase too.

There are many restaurants in Australia that make me wish I could pop over for a weekend, just eat and drink and catch up with the many friends who have made the move, but The Boathouse is up there among the ones I miss most.

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Asia Bali Food From Travels Indonesia Ubud


Kafe and The Garden Kafe alike are a part of the extremely successful and pretty famous Yoga Barn in Ubud. Offering a wide range of different yoga classes every day from early until late in this sleepy town, The Yoga Barn has many loyal customers and as a result their café outposts get pretty busy. Kafe is further toward the centre of Ubud on Jalan Hanoman, whilst The Garden Kafe overlooks The Yoga Barn studios within grounds of tall banana trees and even taller coconut palms in a mass of green. Set far back off the road, the latter is a peaceful place, away from the sound of scooters hooting.  The staff are friendly and attentive, and as you may have guessed by now, the food is seriously healthy. Mostly vegetarian with an extensive vegan and raw menu, Kafe caters excellently to the health conscious yogi crowd.

Whilst you couldn’t pay me to turn vegan, the few times I did grab food here during my time in Ubud left me impressed with the quality and freshness of ingredients, and I enjoyed knowing I was eating something truly healthy to go with my side of yoga class. And frankly it made me feel like I’d really earnt my evening Bintangs.

The wide range of different meals on the menu is impressive for a mostly vegetarian and vegan café, as well as inventive. There are a huge amount of breakfasts and mains to choose from, not to mention a large list of salads and raw desserts. The grilled veggie and feta salad I had at Garden Kafe one day was delicious and pretty sizeable at that. Kafe and the smaller outpost at The Yoga Barn do have slightly different menus, and the former is slightly more expensive. Kafe serves dinner in the evening whilst Garden Kafe closes at 6pm.

The juice menu is extensive and there’s no alcohol served, so forget it if you’re after a cold Bintang with your lunch. Kafe’s juices (18,000 – 30,000 IDR) are highly popular of course (because this is Ubud); each juice designed to help your body in some way by aiding digestion, energizing, detoxifying – I could go on.   My personal favourite was the Energy Drink: pineapple, apple, ginger and cucumber blended together, and I actually liked it so much I would go to Kafe simply for it, which I’d consider a pretty strong accolade from a staunchly non vegetarian patron. These two hangouts are the perfect healthy option to help you immerse yourself in all things Ubud.

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Asia Food From Travels Gili Islands Indonesia Lombok


The first time I ever went to Scallywags I had to take myself off to bed at 9.30pm after having eaten myself into such an uncomfortable state that I couldn’t do anything other than lie horizontal and rub my tummy. And I mean that in the best possible way: I couldn’t get enough of the food. Never tell a hungry backpacker that a buffet is All You Can Eat.

Along with my friends Hannah and Adam, I had spied Scallywags on Gili T due to its beautiful décor – all rustic wood features, blackboard menus and candle lit lanterns overlooking the sea. Heading back from beers over on the Sunset side one evening, we were further lured in by the piles of fresh fish and meat set up for the evening’s BBQ. We’re already picking what we want, but it’s out of our price range and we know it. I say ‘out of our price range’ – it’s literally around £6 for a meal with a beer, but when you’re backpacking your relativities change. Sometimes you just have to treat yourself though, so in we go, and I haven’t looked back since. Scallywags is one of my favourite restaurants in the world, and I always go back without fail when on the Gilis.

The quality of food here is excellent, and really, the value for money is great too, even if it’s not quite backpacker budget. The staff are friendly and efficient, the menu is large, the setting is idyllic and as a result, Scallywags is busy every night. Should you choose the BBQ, you simply choose your fare (the steak is excellent, as is the tuna – and they know how to cook to specification here – my tuna steak is always as rare as I like it) and grab a plate to pile high with the salad buffet that comes included in the price, plus a jacket potato or rice. Learn from my mistakes and mind not to over eat though – you don’t want to miss the fun Gili T is famous for later in the night.

The a la carte menu is just as delicious (I’m told the butterfish is off the charts), and the tapas dishes they offer are perfect for lunchtime. The menu ranges from salads and sandwiches to pies, lamb shanks, steak, local Indonesian specialities and of course – fresh fish dishes. Scallywags has an extensive range of international wines starting from 350,000 IDR for a bottle (or 80,000 – 95,000 IDR per glass), as well as being one of the only places on the island that serve pints of Guinness.

My last visit to Scallywags was for a boozy lunch on my birthday this year, where my friend and I shared a huge sharing platter (140,000 IDR) which included their excellent salt and pepper calamari and chorizo with aioli dip, as well as the seared tuna tataki and rocket salad with ginger, soy and wasabi dressing (85,000 IDR) and a side of creamy mash potato, because it was my birthday and mash potato is probably my favourite food in the world. Once again defeated on stomach space, I’ve never made it to dessert, but the blueberry ice cream (20,000 IDR per scoop) I used to get from the Scallywags outpost on Gili Air holds a special place in my heart.

Scallywags has long been my number one recommendation for dinner on Gili Trawangan, and even with serious competition cropping up all the time as the island develops, it’s still my favourite place for fresh seafood BBQ. Oh also, if you’ve got a bit of money to spend, you can even stay at Scallywags, both on Gili T and Gili Air. But don’t tell me if you do as I’ll be eternally jealous, okay?

Scallywags Resort, South Beach, Gili Trawangan, Nusa Tenggara Bar. 83352, Indonesia
+62 370 6145301

Also at: Scallywags Beach Club, Gili Air

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Asia Food From Travels Gili Islands Indonesia Lombok

Kayu Cafe

Warning: food envy – high risk. This is the place to come on Gili Trawangan if you’re looking for a great salad to help counteract all the damage you’re doing with the day-long Bintangs that merge into one big haze of making friends whilst drinking in the sea, sundowners at sunset and a night of the debauchery that Gili T is famous for.

Breakfast runs all day at Kayu, which is perfect for edging off the effects of the night before with omelettes, eggs benedict, full English and pancakes alongside healthier options such as granola and oatmeal. They have drinks fully covered too, offering a vast array of coffees: hot, iced, blended, flavoured (the creme brûlée made with ice cream, caramel and vanilla was delicious); plenty of health juices made with fresh fruit; smoothies and herbal teas.

Salads are a speciality of Kayu’s, with a wide range on the menu. The halloumi and quinoa salad is excellent, made with fresh ingredients and decked out with fancy cucumber ribbons. The yoghurt mint dressing was perfectly complimentary and there was plenty of it. Its the perfect size for lunch and generous on the halloumi, which I think we can all agree is the most important thing when it comes to halloumi, or indeed cheese in general. They also do an excellent quinoa and feta salad with honey and mustard vinaigrette, amongst plenty of other options, as well as a good range of paninis and a few pasta dishes too, so there really is something for everyone here.

After you’ve made attempts to fix your body with a juice and a salad (if you haven’t opted for a strong coffee and Full English, that is), there’s a big glass cabinet full of amazing looking cakes to undo all the good work: three layer chocolate cake, brownies, banana cake, apple slices and if you are aiming to be more health conscious, raw energy balls. This is one of the only places on the island that take care to offer some of the healthier options usually found in Ubud, and the café even sells some products from some of Ubud’s more famous health cafés for the islanders.

The food at Kayu Cafe is high quality, and you do pay a little more for it, with food coming in between 55,000 – 70,000 IDR and healthy juices at 39,000 IDR. The good news is tax and service is included, unlike many places in Indonesia, so in effect you’re not paying much more than elsewhere anyway. Wifi is free and strong – when it works! (The island is well known for its regular power cuts.)Service is a little slow, but you’re on island time, and I can think of worse places to wait for my food that overlooking the waters of Gili T.

Kayu Cafe, Gili Trawangan, Lombok, Indonesia. To the left of the jetty in front of the night market as you look out to sea.
+62 (0) 878 6239308

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Europe Florence Food From Travels Italy

All’Antico Vinaio

Turns out Tuscans are quite into their sandwiches. English paninis are quite different though – an Italian panino (singular) won’t go anywhere near a toaster. Italians also don’t do paninis by halves. They are absolutely huge and you will have no chance of being hungry two hours after one of these for lunch. They also happen to cost around €5 a pop.

All’Antico Vinaio held TripAdvisor’s top spot for best restaurant in Florence during my time there, so I figured I had to give it a go. With the following five places also being taken by other panino shops, there is clearly strong competition and a lot of hype around the simple sandwich in Florence.

But these sandwiches are anything but simple. With a queue on each side of the street snaking away from All’Antico Vinaio’s two outposts in Via dei Neri, the Palazzo Vecchio tower overlooking the crowds, it’s instantly clear that a lot of people have been checking TripAdvisor for tips.

And this time, TripAdvisor gets it right. These sandwiches are definitely worth hunting down and queuing up for. The staff are full of that classic Italian energy; joking and flirting with customers as one of them chops up the last of what is their clearly very popular roast beef and throws it onto a tray with a hunk of bread for people to sample. Hands fight their way in and it’s gone within seconds (my hand was one of them and it really was very good). They bark at you for your order and it’s impossible not to feel the pressure, after all the queue is huge and full of customers with hungry eyes, and you want everything in the glass cabinet shoved into one sandwich. Thankfully All’Antico Vinaio have made things a little easier by listing their most popular paninis for struggling customers to choose from.

I went off book and chose a random selection of whatever looked good (it all looked good). I chose salami piccante, roasted peppers, aubergine, tomatoes, basil and what turned out to be the stand out for me – stracchino, a very soft and creamy cheese, smeared over the bread as a base to all the other ingredients, finally stuffed with rocket and drizzled with balsamic glaze. One of All’Antico Vinaio’s outposts is purely take away, the one opposite offers the opportunity to sit inside and eat. Although most opt to sit on the pavements of Via dei Neri, eating in concentration in a spot of Tuscan sun, there are advantages to opting for indoors. Namely that you can buy a glass of wine as an accompaniment for a mere €2, and pour it yourself from a selection of about four bottles on the counter.

Sadly I had a train to catch, so I ate my panino walking back through the centre of Florence in time to collect my luggage from my B&B for my journey to Milan, happily unaware of the dried balsamic on my chin for at least forty five minutes. It’s messy one but all the best sandwiches are.

Via dei Neri, 74/R, Firenze, Italy
+39 055 238 2723

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