Doing life right, at home and away

Tag: restaurants

Bills restaurant and bar in Brighton

Of short and sweet in Brighton

We only spent two days in total in Brighton but, as I had been yearning to visit the city for so long, we really tried to make the best of it in such a short time.

Shops at dusk in Brighton

Now, if you are staying in Brighton for longer, I’m sure you can explore some other locations, but for benefiting from the best in the centre, I think we did a pretty good job. I imagine the secret locations, hidden gems are a bit farther outside the centre. But on such a short notice, we had no chance to look into them. So if you’re looking to have it short and sweet in Brighton, then look no further!

We stayed at the Ibis Hotel at the train station (as they are very dog friendly!), which is right around the corner from The Lanes; a shopping, eating and drinking area well known for it’s narrow lanes and quirky offerings.

So here goes, Sara’s Top Whatever “less-than-24h-in-Brighton-or-maybe-48h-depends-on-how-you-count-it” tips to Brighton! (but actually mostly just The Lanes)

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Dieppe harbour by night

Of lovely Dieppe and hidden treasures

Dieppe, what a great little find!

We had the loveliest of accommodations: Le Grand Duquesne, a mini-hotel with only 12 cosy and adorable rooms. There is a bunch of these real big, resort-y sea side hotels on the shore, but we thought that this intimate and picturesque hotel right at the square would be more to our taste. The staff was incredibly friendly, flexible and accommodating and it was right at the heart of the town, next to the cathedral and the market place. Also, apparently their restaurant is great! We didn’t want to be those people who both stay & eat at their hotel, but quite frankly, I’m sure that would’ve been a great call. It was packed on both the nights that we stayed there.

Le Grand Duquesne in Dieppe

A harbour town for over a thousand years, regardless of its small size, Dieppe has been largely involved in European history, in both war and trade. It was also a trendy and a hip place in the 19th century as a seaside beach resort, before the “beaching industry” bloomed in the more bourgeois (and warmer) Deauville and Trouville. But what is especially appealing, is that Dieppe is a great place to eat sea food, all year round. For example, it’s the best place in France for fishing scallops!

Dieppe town centre

So sea food is Dieppe’s pride and on our way back, we ate at this spectacular yet simple restaurant La Cale, which was so good it deserved its own post. We were waivering between La Cale and a way fancier, better known and popular alternative, Comptoir à Huitres, but finally decided on the former. The sort of restaurants as Comptoir à Huitres tend to be great, but always risk the possibility of being also a little (or a lot) overrated and overpriced – even when they are really good. If me and W have a “restaurant type”, it’s the sweet spot between the high end of the low end, and the low end of the high end.

But okay, say you’re a twat who doesn’t like sea food – what does Dieppe have for you? CALVADOS, MY MAN – that’s what.

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chalkboard menu at le cale in dieppe

Of eating in La Cale

We spent some good time trying to pick a restaurant in Dieppe. There is plenty of choice and it’s a little challenging to find the optimal one. If you’re in Dieppe right now, you should also check my other tips for the town.  After careful research, we picked La Cale.

Interior of La Cale in Dieppe

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, our sweet spot is at the low end of the high end and the high end of the low end.

Now, La Cale is a restaurant which celebrates seasonal, local ingredients and simplicity. That’s why the general layout of the food in the photos doesn’t look like much, but I can assure you it was absolutely fantastic – winter potatoes, sweet winter carrots and other root vegetable purees on the side. Nothing we ordered was out of season and the menu elaborated in detail most of the local suppliers and the waiters explained the rest. The food was very carefully flavoured – not over-spiced or over-garnished. Everything had this balance, bringing out the natural flavours of the ingredient in question. While I love complex and spicy foods, I appreciate this sort of approach. It’s sometimes the simplest things that work the best and I think it requires skill to recognise those situations.

Have you ever eaten in France in a good restaurant? Well, it’s often absolutely obligatory to reserve a table beforehand, if you don’t want to get hammered on apéritifs at the bar before dinner while waiting for a table. We did this faux pas : it was a Saturday and we had no reservation. We decided to go really early, right when it was opening to secure us a table.

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Dry stone wall in Thurso

Of Thurso: sea-sides and small-town boys

Thurso is a fascinating little town.

W is from Thurso – the Northernmost town of mainland Scotland. I actually challenge you to check on Google Maps where it is. Nah, nevermind, I’ll just add a link here.

Caithness coastline

I cannot get enough of these views, their majestic rawness, their almost inexplicable beauty. Brace yourselves – there will be plenty of adjectives in this post. There is something to the smell of the sea in the air, the distant yet distinguishable Orkney silhouette in the horizon, the wild grey sea and the overarching grey sky.

Drystone wall with lichens

Every time I walk out to the street from our friend’s place and get a view to the sea, I feel a sense of relief. I could live for these landscapes – maybe that’s why people stay here, or come back. Quite a few of W’s friends who left to big cities for university, eventually came back. Quite genuinely – I can understand why. How do you get used to not seeing this every day? Do you not feel completely suffocated in a land lock city?

Thurso beach

When we go for a walk closer to the shore, where the river meets the sea, it’s hard to tell exactly where the sky begins and the water ends.

I’m not gonna lie to you, there isn’t much to do or see in the traditional sense of touristic activities. But that’s sort of the beauty of it: you walk at the beach, you stare in the distance and breathe in the salty air, you have a pint or ten in the pub. You go home. Rinse and repeat. You can go to the movies though. And to the only night club in town. (they’ve got a wikkid  website, too) There are also quite a few standing stones you can visit.

I have a sense for rugged aesthetics. I choose a winter holiday in northern Scotland over a beach holiday in Southeast-Asia any day. At face value, Thurso is this grey, grim looking windy town made of  sandstone. But somehow, there is just so much more to it. Probably the best people I know come from Thurso. I often wonder, if the nature and our surroundings shape our characters.

So what should you do once in Thurso?

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Gourmet food at Chez Yvonne, Strasbourg

Of eating in Strasbourg

While there is a rather limited amount of things I miss from my time in Paris, there is the food. If you are interested in Strasbourg overall, you should also read my other post. 

But, overall, eating in France is great.

It was actually Paris (and France) that shaped my attitude towards food and cooking so significantly. Don’t get me wrong, my mother is an amazing chef and taught me well, but in France, such culinary wonders are right at your fingertips and the choices are so endless that it will change you forever. Of course rather ironically, when living in Paris, cooking was practically impossible because of the inexistent kitchens.

Alsace is an interesting region due to their complicated history, being kind of the buffer zone of whatever happened between France & Germany. If you actually look at the timeline of Alsatian rule, it’s been ping-ponged by nations and empires probably a dozen times! (actually more, but I got bored of counting)  

So while Alsace is arguably not French in the traditional sense of the word (or neither is it German – my friends from the region tend to say, smirking, that they are Alsatian, which in the historical context makes a lot of sense),  whenever I cross the border – the change in attitude towards food culture is immediate.

Alsatian food is relatively different to the rest of France, due to the German influence. Pork is more widely used and Choucroute – the local version of Sauerkraut – is a regional speciality, alongside some more German-style sausages.

One of the most famous local specialities is a tarte flambée (or a flammkuechen in German) – which apparently originates from some Allemanic German speaking farmers in the region, who would  use a thin sheet of dough to test the heat of their wood fired ovens.

Tarte Flambe in Alsace

An other – a personal favourite – is the Baeckeoffe, or “backer’s oven”  by the local dialect. It’s the epitome of what to make in an Alsatian clay pot in the midst of the winter. It might even be the reason I have Alsatian clay pots! It’s a multi-meat stew (traditionally mutton, beef and pork), seasoned with Alsatian white wine and juniper berries and a selection of root vegetables bringing it together. Other things, such as leek, thyme, parsley, garlic, carrot and marjoram (or oregano) are used to give extra flavour.

The legend tells, that the Baekeoffe is actually inspired by a traditional Jewish dish of Shabbat, the Hamin (also called Cholent). The original dish was developed over centuries to conform to the prohibition of using fire from Friday night until Saturday night. The trick was to prepare it on Friday afternoon, then give it to the baker, who would keep it warm (and kinda cook it) in his cooling oven until Saturday noon.  A super cool trick from the baker:  apparently, he would take a long piece of dough, kind of a “rope”, and line the rim of the pot, then get the lid seal extremely tightly and keep all the moisture in.

By now, I’m sure you are wondering about the alcohol situation. Well let me tell you.

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