Back in August, we decided with my sister to spend a long weekend in Prague. We’d never seen the city and its always been on my list, so off we went! In the weeks leading to our trip, we infinitely pinned things to do and places to see in one of Europes most magical cities. One pin led me to a food tour. I’d always wanted to see cities through the eyes of locals and discover how they spend their time, their weekends and holidays. After a bit of research, I found a tour called Prague Food Tour. From their website, we saw that it was something simple, fun and truly local. The guides were Leona and Georges and we were set for a few hours around local places.
The new kid in town. Bistr’eau. This place holds a very special place to my heart as it is my husband’s hard earned success. If you’ve been following us for a while, you know my husband Jean (initially an electrical engineer and financial consultant) is a food lover and amateur Chef. His dream for the past few years was to have that restaurant where he would go crazy and work on his passion. This summer, he found it.
If you’re faithful readers of this blog, you’ll know that half of my heart lives in London, the city of my childhood travels and last student year. What’s more, is that my sister’s been living there for the last three years so I’ve been visiting frequently. Inspiration strikes when I’m there and we constantly find loads of things worth sharing. So if you frequently visit London for work or to visit family and friends, here’s a series destined to give you a glimpse of the city through our eyes.
This week, it’s all about workweek lunch. Here are 5 places to grab a quick lunch in Soho/Covent Garden.
When we need an escape from our routine and a change of scenery, we immediately plan a trip to explore a new country. Yet, we more often than not stop right in the middle of that booking because we think twice about the budget.
What we rarely think of is a weekend away in our own country that has many places left to explore. Places you never thought existed a few kilometers away.
Last weekend, the lovely people of Via Mina Hotel in Tripoli, invited us over for a relaxing stay. Believe me when I tell you I woke up on Sunday morning not sure of where in the world I was. The old souks of Tripoli are the miniature reproduction of Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar. The pubs we visited at night were the reflection of Rome’s laid-back Trastevere. The streets around Al Mina region resemble the Old Croatian towns. This can give you a clear picture of the mixed feelings you get during your two-day stay.
That weekend was a huge eye-opener on the possibility of things to do in Lebanon. Here’s what you can do during a weekend in Tripoli.
Where to Stay:
Via Mina Hotel. This refreshing and cozy Bed & Breakfast is all you need to relax and unwind away from work and busy Beirut. What was an old inhabited house became the coziest place to stay. Just that smell of organic green tea soap gives your mind peace the entire time.
What to do:
Visit the souks in the center of Tripoli. You’ll get the same experience as visiting the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul if you’ve been. Make sure you go to “Khan el Saboun” (i.e. the soap market), where you’ll find loads of organic soaps.
Take a walk along the Mina. If you’re staying at the Via Mina Hotel, the Mina is a three-minute walk away. If you’re an early riser, you can visit the fish market where people place bids on the freshest fish. You can also walk around the Mino area in the morning and witness fresh bread-making, live foul and hommos cooking and a joyful atmosphere.
In the evening, there are pubs two minutes away from the hotel. Timmy’s is one of the crowdiest. Its architecture is also something you don’t see every day.
If you’re craving for a nice seafood meal, Borj El Samak (which is right next to Via Mina) is a good choice.
Lately, I’ve been pessimistic about Lebanon and long to travel the world. The most important lesson I learnt that weekend is to never make up your mind about something before you experience it yourself. We all have our made-up ideas about certain places and it’s easy to get influenced by the media, our parents’ anxieties, and even our own stubbornness. But I promise myself, here and now, to be more positive and appreciate what we have.
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On my last trip to London, my sister and I decided to take a few days off from the city and go see something new in England. My mom was there with us as we hopped on a three-hour train to the Lake District. I was looking forward to a calm weekend in the British countryside, away from the city rush. Having lived in a small British town before, I missed that fresh air and tranquil rhythm. I was excited for a weekend of walking in nature, fresh scenery and local food.The Lake District is a mountainous region in the county of Cumbria in North West England. Cumbria is home to the highest mountain of England (Scafell Pike), as well as its largest natural lake: Windermere – which is where we spent our weekend. Lake District is famous for its lakes, forests and mountains, so we were in for a treat! We returned to London full of energy and a clear mind.
A weekend at Lake District, England
After checking in, put on your comfortable shoes and start walking around town. It is the friendliest place I’ve been to recently. Shops, cafés, restaurants, and bars are all close to each other. When you walk a bit further down, you get to the lake where you can enjoy an amazing scenery and relax.
What to do:
Walk to Bowness on Windermere (i.e. the lake), enjoy the scenery along the way and book your seat on a boat tour for amazing scenery and a bit of History.
The second walk should be on a path only locals are familiar with. We were told how to get to the path and walked down to another side of the lake. It has officially become my happy place.
On your third walk, which should be done close to sunset, walk up one the hills and get ready for the most beautiful view you’ll ever see.
If you’re a fan of books and literature, Beatrix Potter’s museum is a must-visit. There, you’ll find Peter Rabbit and learn more about the great author’s life.
Where to Eat + Drink:
We didn’t try all of Windermere’s restaurants and cafés, but I can tell you some of our favorites:
Wild & co. for an amazing sandwich and a great atmosphere
Francine’s for a cozy and warm dinner
Little Chippy for a nice Fish n’ Chips on the go
Homeground Coffee & Kitchen for the most relaxing afternoon tea or coffee, with a scone on the side of course!
This weekend will forever stay one of the happiest memories of my life. Also, I always read about finding your happy place for you to be able to go back to it in your mind whenever times are tough, and I can safely say that I have found it.
If you live in London or if you’re visiting soon, I suggest you book your train tickets and head there for a break 🙂
Have you ever been to the Lake District?
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Sunny weekends are still ahead of us and we’re all looking for creative things to do. One of my favorite places in Lebanon is Batroun. The beautiful scenery brings you back refreshed and ready for another busy week after the weekend. There are so many things to do there other than lying on the rocks and soaking up the sun. Be it during summer or on sunny winter weekends, Batroun and its surroundings is a great destination for all kinds of activities.
Here are some ideas around the region for weekends ahead. There’s a little bit of everything for everyone!
When I say Batroun, I’m also talking about its surrounding towns, like Tannourine, Chekka, Anfeh, Douma and others. So here goes:
1- Tannourine: Start with an early morning hike in the beautiful reserve. The Tannourine forest is actually the biggest one. It starts in the Batroun casa and ends in the Bechareh casa.
2- Saydet el nourieh: On your way down from Tannourine to the beach, pass by Saydet el Nouriyyeh for a spiritual hour and a breathtaking view on the shore.
3- Make sure to pass by ‘Helmeh’ for a nice and refreshing lemonade!
4- Visit Batroun’s old town, it’s beautiful and untouched.
5- You can now go lie down on the rocks and take a dip in the sea. There’s a lot of choice when it comes to which beach you can go to. You can choose between Bonita Bay, White Beach, and Pierre and Friends, or go to Joining beach or Dany’s Bar for a less mainstream experience and great fish.
6- Make sure you stay there till sunset, you won’t regret it a single minute. Those places are great for those who love fishing as well.
7- If you choose to sleep and spend the weekend there, two of the best places I’ve been to are Beit el Batroun and Mayouli. Beit el Batroun is simply the loveliest and most relaxing place. Mayouli is a bit different than Beit el Batroun as it’s more of an ecological place, with the freedom to have barbecues in a corner of the garden.
8- Go up to one of Batroun’s vineyards the next day for some wine tasting. Ixsir has the most magical setting, and Aurora is another great choice.
9- Have a late BBQ lunch on the rocks. You can find a lot of public beaches with clear blue water and settle there.
10- For a nice late afternoon drink, try Colonel Beer. The setting is relaxed and the beer is excellent!
There you go! A perfect weekend in Batroun 🙂 I’d love to hear about your suggestions!
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Every culture has its own way of interpreting one dish. They all add their twists and spices, making it particular to their tastes and habits. Restaurants too have to gratify the palate of the people they are serving. One thing I’ve noticed about Italian restaurants in Beirut is that they add crème fraîche to a lot of their pasta sauces. Almost all Italian people I’ve met are quickly revolted by the act of adding cream to pasta sauces. They also consider the use of a spoon to roll your spaghetti as a disgrace. But here in Beirut, it is considered to be the proper practice of eating Italian food. Where did these habits come from you ask? From restaurants, of course. Who started it? I think it’s a chicken and egg type of story.
But it’s safe to say that the way the Lebanese have adapted Italian food has somewhat strayed away from the original cuisine. So because we can’t go to Rome everyday (check out 20 Things about Rome), we’ve been on a quest for ‘real’ Italian restaurants in Beirut.
My judgment of ‘what makes a restaurant Italian’ is personal but of credible experience. I’ve been to Italy a lot, read about their food, talked to people and been in their kitchens, cooked a carbonara and more with them, and visited their restaurants accompanied by locals.
In my mind, the ones that serve the famous spritz or bellini have the knowledge, the ones that serve dishes cooked with fresh ingredients have the quality, and the ones that present the place and the dish well have the honesty and authenticity.
There are many criteria that can lead you to judge a restaurant as being typically Italian and accordingly, I’ve ranked the top 10 I’ve tried in Beirut, keeping in mind that all of their menus contain dishes adapted to the taste of the Lebanese audience (hospitality rules oblige).
#1 Harry’s Bar
Harry’s Bar is my recent favorite. It is THE place to fine-dine, enjoy great wine and beautiful dishes. The staff is extremely friendly and knowledgeable. The sommelier recommends excellent wine and the service is the most professional I’ve seen in a while. When it comes to the food, you won’t regret one bite of it. Apart from being exceptionally tasty, every dish is carefully crafted and full of colors. The presentation clearly reflects their recent Michelin Star touch. Don’t hesitate to go there for a nice, romantic dinner or even for a business lunch, where you’ll find a set menu for the circumstance. Make sure to try their Fleur de Courgettes with ricotta cheese, beef carpaccio, beetroot risotto and panna cotta. An unforgettable Italian experience in the heart of Beirut.
When walking into Totò, you’re struck by the simple yet uplifting décor. The way they managed to give an identity to the place while keeping the original charm of this old house is admirable. Waiters and staff are not only nice and helpful in your choice of dishes, but they also have a sense of humor. Their seafood risotto is one that I won’t forget. I also love their pizzas and their Totò Express concept upstairs for a more relaxed dinner experience or for takeaway and pizza night at home.
Every time I visit Rome, I go to my favorite place (Vicolo 88) for an absolutely delicious Spaghetti al Vongole. In my mission to find it in Beirut, it’s at Marinella that I discovered one very close to the taste I never forget. The interior is refreshing and the changing menu gives you the certainty that their ingredients are freshly picked. The presentation of their dishes is lovely and the waiters are friendly and professional.
#4 La Traviata
La Traviata doesn’t serve pizza but they sure make it up by serving the freshest pasta dishes in town. If I’m looking for a place to have a calm, relaxing lunch or dinner with a good dish of traditional pasta, this is the place I think of. They also have generous service, offering bites and nibbles before your order comes through, and great knowledge about Italian wine. Oh, and no ketchup allowed! Their carbonara, tiramisu and most importantly their tortellini al cioccolato are a must-try.
The best thing about Cucina is its location. Located in the most modern and trendy part of Beirut, it’s a good place for hip lunches in the sun and dinners. The staff is welcoming and friendly. Their appetizers and risottos are a good choice followed by pain perdu for dessert, which is worth a try. I’m heading there for a friend’s birthday tonight to enjoy a nice setting for this special occasion rather than the relatively average food.
Al Dente’s risottos are a must-try as well as their desserts. This hidden place gives a feel of authentic old Italy mixed with a refined character. Their appetizers include the famous Melanzane gratinate alla Parmigiana and Mozzarella di Buffala which is one of my favorite mozzarellas. It’s an excellent place for a special occasion.
Dottore is the type of place where you go for comfort food and good wine. Burrowed in one of Hamra’s inner streets, it’s the perfect place to spend a cozy night with a few friends. All you need is their wooden-oven baked pizzas, the spinach crepe and really good Italian wine that the staff will perfectly recommend, and you’re set for a great night.
Nestled in one of the inside streets of Mar Mikhael, Mario e Mario offers a very special menu. Get ready to taste dishes you haven’t before, as this fine-dining Italian knows how to use fresh ingredients and transform them into a beautiful and innovative dish. The place is charming and romantic and the table is set with special little touches. I also love the use of fresh ingredients in all of their dishes. You’ll also be very happy with their famous olive oil and bread served before your main order.
#9 La Posta
If you’re planning on booking a night out at La Posta, make sure you ask to be seated outside. The staff shows gusto for Italian food, and their pizza is not too thick or too thin. Their portions are generous but you can be sure you’ll get a refined presentation. Go for a seafood linguine with a nice wine or head there for Saturday brunch with friends or family.
If you’ve been to Italy, you must be familiar with the Aperitivo concept. L’Osteria is one of the rare Italians in Beirut that master the Spritz and its accompaniments. Their dishes are also appetizing and typically Italian. You can head there around 7 pm for a fresh Spritz and a cheese/cold cuts platter. They also serve homey dishes that will satisfy your tasty Italian food cravings.
Any Italian place to add to the list?
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I can’t complain about our national food. The mezza and everyday dishes are nothing but healthy (unless you over-use oil or fatty ingredients) and full of flavor. But my weakness for spices and that mix of different ingredients that varies from one culture to another, gets the better of me every time I have to choose where to go out for a meal. I’m afraid to say that I prefer a great ethnic meal over our traditional food contrary to Jean’s opinion, but we’re working towards a compromise 😉
What I mean by the word “ethnic” is precisely what I mentioned above. For some (like myself), ethnic is food from other cultures, in which ingredients we know are used differently and ingredients we don’t know are there for us to discover. For others, the meaning of ethnic is different as it is only meant for specific cultures or countries around the world.
So when we don’t feel like cooking at home, here are the top ethnic food places we visit in Beirut that give my palate what it needs to feel satisfied.
1) Mótto, Mar Mikhaël, Beirut. This charming bohemian-style little place is located in one of Mar Mikhael’s streets. We went there several times for brunch (once for Sri Lankan and another time for Palestinian which was cooked by my good friend Hisham from Cook in 5 m2). I heard they also make exquisite Ethiopian meals so that’s on my list!
2) Little China, Monot, Beirut. If you’re looking for a simple and authentic place to have a casual dinner with friends, that’s your place to go. Food is delicious and affordable.
4) Jaï, Clémenceau, Beirut. Thaï food places are rare in Beirut. Jaï satisfies your Asian food cravings provided you reserve in advance as the place is tiny. They deliver but I’d advise you to go and have your meal there for a fresher experience.
I have yet to try one of the Indian restaurants here in Beirut and let you know which one is my favorite. Any suggestion would be greatly appreciated 🙂
What are your favorite ethnic food restaurants in Beirut? I’d love to know!
We live in a world where freelancing is becoming the trend, where bloggers are increasing and where meetings take place in trendy places instead of a standard office. Coffee shops are thus the place to be. A few days ago, I got a message from a friend asking us where he could go sit and work calmly with fast wifi and a nice cup of coffee. That’s when it dawned on me that I only knew about 2 places – the ones I visit all the time. But there surely had to be others. So I kept digging in my head and came up with those 5 places I think are the top to go work in.
Breadonbutter’s Top 5 Coffee shops to work in Beirut
Urbanista – Gemmayzé
The interior of the place is already enough to make you productive and creative. It’s really a coffee shop/library where you can spend the day working, eating and meeting people.
L’Appartement Beirut – Sioufi, Ashrafieh
This is a calmer place to work for days when you really have to concentrate. This charming appartment turned coffee shop/drinks/art showcasing place is welcoming and warmly decorated.
Dar Bistrot and Books – Clémenceau, Hamra
I like to go work at Dar on mornings just because of their excellent breakfast. If the weather is not too hot, their garden can be used as your inspirational place. Book lovers, prepare to rejoice.
Balima – Saifi Village
A quiet place in the midst of the city, surrounded by painting-like architecture will sure spruce up your creativity. A nice tea pot and your laptop will suffice.
Papercup – Mar Mikhael
Papercup has no wifi but you can take it as good news and go there to quietly work offline, surrounded by books. Order a latte and a piece of their daily cake and you’re all set! You can read all about the place on this link.
Where do you work? Any additional recommendation?
Back in Rome last August (click here for more details), we fell in love with this place my sister had recommended (here). On the day we stumbled upon Sant’Eustachio Caffé, we weren’t really looking for it, but just the sight of it made us feel like we had reached an oasis in the middle of the August heat. Once we’d taken a seat on one of the tables outside, we quickly learnt the difference of price between being served outside or just having a quick coffee inside, standing at the coffee bar. We opted for a seat, 1 cold coffee for me, one fresh Kampari/Orange for Jean and both of our captivating books. I can still feel the charm and pleasantness of it all 🙂
Sant’Eustachio Caffé is located in the heart of Rome, just minutes away from Piazza Navona and the Pantheon, facing the actual Basilica named for the martyr of Saint Eustace. We went there twice while we were there for a nice coffee a l’italiana. When you enter to order, you learn the charming story of this place.
Sant’Eusatchio has been successful and crowded since 1938. Kissinger and many other international famous people have visited it. I say Kissinger because the owners are so proud of his visit that they hung the newspaper story about it on the wall and on their website (you can see the picture below).
Sant’Eustachio is not merely a Coffee shop, but also a Roaster. Brothers Raimondo and Roberto Ricci began running the Caffè in 1999 to continue the family tradition of selecting coffee varieties and offering a range of product prepared with a legendary secret blend. Their priority is only one: ensure consistent quality. The Sant’Eustachio coffee blend is made with the best Arabica beans. The raw coffee is slowly roasted over wood.
You can of course sit down for a nice cup of coffee but you can also purchase it and make it at home.
All the coffee varieties, roasted, washed and selected, are top quality. The freshness and the high quality of the product guarantee an ever fresh fragrance and a quintessential aroma which cannot be found in the coffees of large-scale retail trade.
Of course, the place is now more touristic and more expensive than typical Italian coffee places, but in my opinion, at least one visit there would be a nice addition to your trip.
Another great thing about Sant’Eustachio Caffé is their Buon Caffé initiative
The Buon Caffé Program is an initiative by Sant’Eustachio Il Caffè. The Program consists in donating the extra proceeds from the sale of the traditional Sant’Eustachio Blend to COOPFAM, the Brazilian Fairtrade certified co-op from which Sant’Eustachio buys coffee. The protagonist of this initiative is the consumer who, through a traceability procedure, can actually control the use of the proceeds.
Have you been to Rome? Any other places to recommend?