Naples, Italy – From Pizza to a Michelin One Star

Any illusions I might have had about going low carb during my recent trip to Italy were quickly quashed the moment I landed in the country. There were simply too many temptations on offer – and to even think I thought I would be able to resist! So if you’re going to give in, then give in all the way I say. Pizza, pasta, gelato, cannoli – you name it!

So here is my first calorific blog post on Naples… Delizioso!


Sorbillo

Naples isn’t the prettiest city in the world but it is certainty a city of contrasts, from the worldly cosmopolitan air of the Santa Lucia area to the grimy parts around Stazione Centrale, its striking just how diverse this city is. Also nearby are the ruins of Pompeii, which were breath taking in their splendour.

But sites aside, one really comes to Naples for the pizza. One of the most famous Neapolitan pizzerias is Antica Pizzeria Sorbillo. Founded in 1935, some say this is the true home of pizza in Naples. In a city that is so famed for this simple dish of dough with topping, this is really saying a lot. The queues attest to its popularity. It may have been mid-afternoon when I went, but I was still required to wait 50 minutes for a table.

Sorbillo

Sorbillo

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Tel Aviv, Israel

I recently spent some time travelling in Israel and the highlight was undoubtedly Jerusalem. With its history, stories of conflict and beautiful monuments, I was totally captivated by this city that must surely rate as one of the most fascinating places on earth. But if Jerusalem was where I went for culture, Tel Aviv was the place that I hit for food (and the beach!). Tel Aviv is the second largest city in the Middle East with a cosmopolitan vibe and bustling energy, helped in no small part by the vibrant beach and warm sunshine. It plays host to some decent restaurants too, some of which I would like to share with you below should you ever decide to sample in the delights of this exciting city.

Breakfast at Benedict

In the short time that I spent in Israel, I came to learn that Israelis love their bread, strong citrus flavours (salads are often very lemony), and their dips, especially hummus and tahini which are available everywhere. Quick and easy foods include falafels and shawarmas which are a big part of the Israeli diet, and also popular, in particularly in Tel Aviv, is the humble breakfast.

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72 Hours in Madrid – Part Three: La Gabinoteca

Following on from Part Two

La Gabinoteca serves food in a tapas style but is far removed from your traditional tapas restaurants. I know I covered tapas places in Part one of my ’72 Hours in Madrid’ blog post, but La Gabinoteca deserves a mention all on its own. It was just that good. Anthony Bourdain featured it in his Madrid episode of No Reservations, but independent research on various food forums reveal that some suggest that it is worthy of the best tapas title in Madrid. I can’t possibly judge that, not having eaten at every tapas place in Madrid, but one does walk away with a feeling of being wowed by an experience that is so inventive, so complex and yet so simple at the same time.

The restaurant is the younger and less formal sibling of Las Tortillas de Gabino, a restaurant which has received a lot of critical acclaim. It is the brainchild of brothers Nino and Santi Redruello whose family of restaurateurs are responsible for La Ancha, a well known restaurant in Madrid.

The décor at La Gabinoteca was interesting to say the least. The restaurant is split into two levels with the more casual-bar dining area being downstairs. There is an eclectic mix of furniture including high chairs; low chairs as well as a ski lift (yes a ski lift). It was fun, quirky and arresting, and gave you lots of interesting décor points to talk about.

The menu is split into four sections: appetisers, meat, fish and desserts and the restaurant recommends you choose at least one from each section.

A dish of patatas bravas with octopus and a spicy salsa (€5.15) was tasty and comforting. The hint of spiciness in the sauce added a kick to the dish.

Patatas bravas & octopus

Patatas bravas & octopus

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72 Hours in Madrid – Part Two: Traditional Dinners

Following on from Part One

CASA SALVADOR

The idea for trying Casa Salvador came from Anthony Bourdain’s TV series called No Reservations. In case you have never heard of this show, Bourdain basically travels to different cities around the world to eat at some of the best food haunts that each of those places have to offer. I digress, but the food Boudain tried in the Hong Kong episode was out of this world, enough to make you salivate. Boy do I want Bourdain’s job!

Anyway, in the Madrid episode Bourdain goes to Casa Salvador. In its heyday, Casa Salvador was the place where bullfighters use to go, and famous celebrities, the likes of which included Ava Gardiner, also went if they wanted a bullfighter. You get the picture. The chef is Pepe who took over the restaurant from his uncle when he was in his teens. Pepe must be at least 60, so that gives you the sense of history surrounding Casa Salvador. There are lots of pictures of bullfighters from a bygone era on the walls, the ones you might find in a museum, and with all the waiters dressed in white jackets, there was an old school feel to the restaurant which I found rather charming.

The signature dish here is ‘rabo’, braised oxtail (€16), which Bourdain lapped up with fervour when he visited Casa Salvador. This dish is quite common place in traditional restaurants in Madrid and I couldn’t think of a better place to try it then at Casa Salvador. The oxtail was tender and beautifully cooked, and the braising sauce was rich and flavoursome. This dish was cooked how ‘mama’ would have probably made it back in her day. The only thing that let it down was that it was a bit too salty.

Oxtail

Oxtail

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72 Hours in Madrid – Part One: Tapas

ESTADO PURO

What does one do with 72 hours in Madrid? There is of course a wealth of art to feast your eyes on (think Prado) and the fixtures at the Bernabeu would probably tempt many sports fans. But with the likes of Ferran Adria as one of the forefathers of modern Spanish cooking, I was most excited by the prospect of exploring some of the food options that the Spanish capital had to offer. That and the likelihood of warm and sunny weather had the makings of a very good time indeed.

In the first of a three part series, I will talk about Spain’s national institution, tapas, with the first tapas bar on my hit list being Estado Puro. The chef patron is Paco Roncero, the head chef of the two Michelin-starred La Terraza del Casino restaurant in Madrid. Roncero is not only considered to be one of the best chefs in Spain, he was also one of Ferran Adria’s star disciples and this modern touch showed in his take on the famous Spanish tortilla.

Named on the menu as a ‘21st Century Spanish omelette’ (€4.50), the waiter described the omelette as “like eating soup”, and the comparison rang true with the omelette appearing in a glass and consisting of beautifully caramelised onions covered with two foams, one of which was egg and the other of potato. Each individual component was delicious, but this 21st Century version had no texture. And for this reason the traditional versions, when done right, are in my opinion far more satisfying.

21st Century Spanish Omelette

21st Century Spanish Omelette

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la vie Restaurant Wins its Third Michelin Star

About six months ago I was treated to a superlative dining experience at la vie Restaurant in Osnabrück, Germany which had two Michelin stars. Particularly memorable was the skrei tartare which was every bit a three star dish.

Well I am happy to say that la vie was awarded a much deserved third Michelin star last week to take Germany’s tally of three star restaurants to nine.

Many congratulations to Chef Thomas Bühner and his team!

To read about that meal, click here.


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Le Dauphin Paris

Le Dauphin Paris is from Basque-born self-taught chef Inaki Aizpitarte who set the bistronomy (bistro-gastronomy) scene in Paris alight when he opened Le Chateaubriand. Famed for its accomplished and affordable cooking, it currently holds 9th place in the San Pellegrino 50 Best Restaurant in the World Awards. Le Dauphin is the baby sister of Le Chateaubriand and is located next door to its elder sibling. The menu at Le Chateaubriand is a no choice set menu, but at Le Dauphin, the menu offers more variety by way of a tapas-style menu with starter size portions.

The restaurant is modern with lots of marble and simply furnished. A number of tables are allocated for bookings, but there is also a central bar area for walk-in diners.

We started with corn velouté with gouda (€9) which was sublime with its lovely sweet corn flavour and beautiful creamy texture. The dashes of gouda cheese running through the velouté provided a robust contrast, and the sprinkling of fresh dill added a lovely aroma to the dish.

Corn velouté

Corn velouté

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Restaurant Tim Raue – Berlin, Germany

Tim Raue

Tim Raue

Restaurant Tim Raue, a one star Michelin restaurant in Berlin, is named after its executive chef, Tim Raue who has gained fame in Germany for his unusual approach to Asian cooking. His style is best explained on the restaurant’s website as ‘Asian cuisine characterised as a combination of Japanese product perfection, Thai aromas and Chinese cooking philosophy’. Raue came from rough and humble beginnings. His abusive upbringing and time spent in a gang as a youth is common knowledge in Germany – he’s also just brought out an autobiography. But despite this, he’s still managed to achieve success by winning a Michelin star and the Gault Millau Chef of the Year award in 2007.

What is also interesting about the food at Restaurant Tim Raue is that it does not use any dairy products or complex carbohydrates. Raue’s philosophy is that you should be able to eat a full meal and feel full of energy afterwards. Therefore you will not see any potatoes or rice on the menu. Not serving rice is not an Oriental concept. Even the word for ‘meal’ in Cantonese literally translates as ‘eating rice’. But ok.

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