Whitstable Cafe and Kitchen, Whitstable

The Sunday morning in Whitstable, we rent bikes and decide to go for a long ride along the water. We stop by one of the grocery stores, but everything is bought already (its one of those kinds of weekends!) and so we head ot the Cafe and Kitchen to see if they’ll make take-away sandwiches for us.

The Cafe itself is very cute, with a big room in the back, and little seats in the front room. They serve everything from quiches, sandwiches and salads, to heavier main dishes.

We each went for the sandwiches, as they were the easiest to carry out. I got a roast chicken, tomato and avocado sandwich on sourdough bread. The creamy avocado made it just good enough.

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This is how Andre feels about his sandwich… he got the Coronation chicken sandwich, which was basically curried chicken on sourdough… no raisins, nothing else… pretty unexciting.

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So, back in Whitstable, perhaps we would try out the quiches or main dishes the Cafe has to offer, but we certainly would not come back for a sandwich, as we found them quite basic, not very tasty, and quite pricey for what they were!

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Byzantium Beach, Tinos, Greece

Second day of the mini-moon, we stayed near our hotel in Agios Sostis and decided to take it easy… for lunch, we walked all the way to the other side of the bay (maybe a 20 minute walk) to Byzantium Beach Club. They had a number of beach beds, a few tables, and a large menu… so we decided to give it a try!

We started looking at the menu, and they didn’t have half of the line items… but we managed to find a pretty good selection to order anyway.

We started with… yes, another Greek salad. Fresh tomatoes, sharp red onion, briny olives, cooling olives… a winning dish.Then, the aubergine, covered in tomato sauce and Parmesan… basically, an eggplant Parmesan – with basic tomato sauce and tons of grated cheese, it was fine, but nothing special.

Then, the grilled sardines… a generous serving, they were plentiful and nicely char-grilled. Again, these were fine but nothing to write home about, the grilling gave them a nice, crackly flavour outside, but they weren’t seasoned with anything more than parsley, and it wasn’t enough. 

Afterwards, I grabbed an espresso to wash it all down, and they brought us a homemade dessert that the waiter said was his grandmother’s recipe. It was basically orange rind in honey, but it was candied and tender while still being slightly tangy… with a nice bit of honey on top- spot on, and delicious. I spent the next few minutes trying to figure out how I could make this at home!

So would we come back? Yes, but hoping that more of the choices on the menu were available during high season, as it was really slim pickings. And everything we ate was fine, but nothing was out of this world… except for the free dessert!

That said, we may come back just for the beach chairs and atmosphere on the quiet bay…

Tarsanas, Tinos, Greece

That night, we tried out a restaurant in town that had many good reviews, and we weren’t disappointed. Tarsanas is located slightly off from the main port of Tinos but still on the water. As it was very windy, they hadn’t kept any tables outside, so we were all indoors, and the atmosphere was lovely. A mix of locals, young and old, along with tourists, some chilled music and great decorations (check out this painter!) made for a great environment.

Andre tried the local beer, which he really liked… And once again, we ordered a feast. We started off with some grilled, local cheese (not haloumi) that was served with a delicious tomato jam (the jam was more revolutionary to us than the cheese, but both were good).

Then, a good classic, a Greek salad, which as you can see was served to us in a HUGE bowl… again, after these two dishes, we would have probably had enough to eat. But no, we ordered on…

The grilled, local sausage. This was also a generous portion, as we were expecting maybe a 1/6 of this. It was nicely grilled, had the same texture as a saucisse de Toulouse but a taste closer to a Corsican figatel. A mix of Andre and I, go figure 🙂 We managed to eat this whole plate.

And then, some fresh fish (again, we thought that we were under-ordering by just getting starters…) The fish was very fresh and perfectly cooked… but the real winner?

The accompanying rice, mixed with dill, charred spring onions, and probably a lot of butter. It was delicious and addictive. Even after everything else that we ate for dinner, we managed to wolf down this rice… and I can’t wait to make it again at home! What a great meal…

Elia, Tinos, Greece

After a great few days in Mykonos, after family and friends had departed, we newly weds headed to Tinos, a neighbouring island, for a few days of R&R. Very different from Mykonos, Tinos is quiet with fewer restaurants, bars and even hotels… and much more open space. We spent the few days swimming in the sea, napping, eating and hiking.

Our first lunch, we headed near the hotel (a 30 mins walk) to Elia, a restaurant that is near the water but back a bit from the beach.

It’s a lunch place that has a pool, but it doesn’t look like anyone uses it, as there are no beach chairs or parasols anywhere…

We ordered a feast… first of all, a chicken salad, which had quinoa, corn, tomatoes, and lettuce in it… in a nice, creamy sauce. This alone could have made for a complete meal, but we were ordering with our stomachs…

Next came the fava bean puree, a favourite of mine. Topped with caramelised onions that broke up the creamy taste of the puree, this was as good as expected… but a much larger serving than expected!

Then, the feta wrapped in filo dough and drizzled with sesame seeds and honey. This sounded a lot better on the menu than it tasted. The feta wasn’t esepcially salty and the honey wasn’t especially sweet or tasteful… so the whole thing tasted kind of…blah.

And the zucchini fritters, which we wanted to try after having had the ones at Hippie Fish and loved them! These were okay, compared to at Hippie Fish, also served with tzaziki on the side… but my guess is, they had no feta mixed into the fritters themselves (maybe this is what really made the taste for the ones at Hippie Fish), and the zucchini and egg mixture on its own wasn’t especially seasoned, so we were left with a veggie eggy mix that was just… okay.

Overall, it was a lot of food, but none of it was great. We still made a pretty good dent in each dish, though, as we sat and tried to plan our route home along the coast.

Right as we were paying the bill, the waitress came out with something much better… their chocolate cake (and for free!) This was as chocolately, moist and decadent as it looks… a total winner! I would come back just for the cake!

Hippie Fish, Mykonos

Back to Mykonos and back to Hippie Fish for a meal – they were still closed when we came by in May, so this is the first time this season, and they’ve switched up their menu somewhat.

Luckily, they still have their king crab papardelle (whew!) but also new dishes… The seafront view hasn’t changed, though 🙂

The first and best new dish is the griled octopus. Last year, they would cut up the leg into small rounds that were grilled… and just okay. This year, they’ve kept the legs intact and let it caramelise on the grill… the flesh still has a little bite to it, and tastes really sweet…

I liked it so much that over the course of the week that we were in Mykonos, I ordered this octopus leg every single time that we had lunch at Hippie Fish (which was at least three). Once, I just had the octopus for lunch.

Then, the seabass ceviche, served with sweet potato. The seabass itself was nice, but I found that the rest was a bit too much… too much sweet potato puree, which didn’t work well with the ceviche liquid, it all mixed together into a mush… too many onions sprinkled on top, that hadn’t been treated (usually, they’ll soak them in water for a bit to take the initial bite out)… so overall, it was just ok.

Then, the zucchini dumplings fritters, which were new to the menu and a real winner. A mix of grater zucchini, feta and egg mixture, they were generous with the fresh zucchini, so this was basically all you can taste, with a bit of creamy feta binding it together. Served with a tzaziki dip, this was a light, lovely dish.

And the spinach salad, served with tomatoes, soft cheese and local, cured ham. I thought that the soft cheese would be the kind that is typically crumbled over the top of a Mykonian salad, but it turns out that it was slices of cheese that didn’t have much taste. The ham was also “fine,” though Andre spent the meal trying to decide if it was really ham, or maybe some kind of fish carpaccio? (not a great sign). This salad was just fine with its balsamic vinaigrette, but I wouldn’t order it again, given all of the other options on the menu.

And there we are! After a long lunch and snooze on the couch, we sat and watched the sun set for our first night in Mykonos and what was going to be the best week of our lives!

Hostal Empuries, L’Escala, Spain

A girl’s weekend in Catalunya… after our big night out in Barcelona, we headed up the Catalunyan coast for some R&R by the beach. We stayed at the Hostal Empuries, a lovely four-star eco-resort on the water that has a gourmet restaurant. Starving, we sat down at this restaurant right after arriving.

We started the meal with an amuse bouche, a mussel in seawater foam, served with small vegetables. It was a spoonfull of briny goodness, but nothing amazing.

Then, the appetisers. Sara went for the white asparagus, served in a white bechamel with salmon eggs.

Michelle went for the grilled prawns, which had a nice, grilled taste and looked lovely on their blue plate…

I had the baby squid in their ink, served with broadbeans and mint. The squid was cooked so delicately that they were barely cooked, but light in taste, and really nice, with the more substantial beans and squid ink puree in the middle.

Then, the mains, and remember, we are in paella country…

I went for the fresh snapper with peas and cream. The fish was also very delicately cooked, so it fell apart in your mouth, and tasted really nice with the fresh peas. The sauce itself was nice with a bit of parlsey, but nothing to write home about.

The girls went for one of two rice dishes… either the risotto with broadbeans and jamon Iberico (what a nice combo! the salty ham with the fresh, green broadbeans)

Or the lobster rice, which was cooked in a lovely broth and gave a light seafood  flavour to the whole dish and leaving a gravy on the dish that brought the rice together… again with rice that was cooked al dente, giving the inside of the rice a nice bite while the outside was still soft.

And for dessert? After all fo that food, there wasn’t a need for a heavy dessert, so I got the thyme sorbet. I wish it had had a little more flavour, it had a slight hint of the herb, but not more. But it was a light, refreshing end to my meal.

Overall, some very good dishes at the restaurant, and worth coming back to try some of the other ones out! You can’t go wrong, whether you come to the high end or bistro restaurants at this hotel!

Xiringuito Escriba, Barcelona

A weekend in Catalunya for my bachelorette party, whoo-hoo! We spent the first day/night in Barcelona, hanging out by the beach and relaxing, then having a big night of tapas and Barcelona bars!

But first, around midday, we headed to lunch along the beach, at Xiringuito Escriba, which is supposed to have some of the best paella… and we were not disappointed!

We started with some creamy croquettas and salad… if you ask me, the croquettas were slightly over fried, ie, they left them in the fryer just a few seconds too long so that they were over-crisped and slightly tasted burnt… but the insides were quite good, a nice, creamy bechamel with bits of ham… but because of the outside, they were slightly off.

The salad was quite good… a nice mix of veggies… and since there were five of us, we ordered a second one to share as well.

But let’s get on to the more interesting dishes… the steamed clams in white wine and garlic were light and delicious, the natural briny-ness of the clam juice mixing with the olive oil, garlic and wine, creating a sauce that you wanted to drink from the bowl…

And the paellas, oh, the paellas..

We went for the Escriba especial fish paella, served with all sorts of seafood, including mussels and clams, langoustines, prawns, and cuttlefish. The rice was perfect, nicely marinated in the sauce but perfectly crunchy. You see those wooden spoons? They’re meant to help you scrape the rice off the bottom of the pan, where it’s sticking, and you get to enjoy the crunchy texture of the rice, still hard on the inside but nicely cooked on the outside.

With this, we had the surf n’ turf fideo paella, which is made with vermicelli noodles instead of rice… and which I actually prefer, even though it doesn’t crisp up like the rice does and give you a crunchy texture.