ZOILO ,London , certainly the best Argentinian option in town

I will write this post in Spanish for a couple of reasons. Number one is for all my beloved Argentinian and Spanish speaking followers. Second as  a way to celebrate change. This blog is dedicated to art de vivre and it has never been intended to discuss politics. But I am so proud and happy that the people from Argentina decided last week end to say “Basta!”to Peronism and populism which brought this wonderful country at the very edge of collapse. There is hope again and I sincerely hope the new president will be called Mr Mauricio Macri. VAMOS ARGENTINA. VAMOS “CAMBIEMOS!”  

Ahora hablamos de comida. De comida argentina espectacular en Londres. El lugar  se llama “ZOILO” y se encuentra al lado de Selfridges en el número 9 de duke street. 

Nos gustó mucho el diseño tipo bistro parisino. La gente. 

El concepto son tapas para compartir. Cada tapa tiene precio entre 3.50 GBP ( por una empanada ) y 10 GBP ( por los platos caliente como el burger ). 

Creo que nunca comimos tan rico en un restaurant argentino. La provoleta sin duda la mejor que nunca tuvimos. Y probamos muchas estos últimos Díez años. 

La empanada súper casera con una masa muy liviana. Un tiradito de sea bass como en los mejores peruanos. 

Como plato caliento mi mujer pidió un asado. Ni les cuento la calidad de la carne. Cocción perfecta. 

Yo tuve el burger. Igual. Un éxito total !

Por el vino, elegimos 2 bodegas que siempre nos gustó. La linda 2011 y trumpeter 2013. 6 GBP la copa. Imbatible en Londres. 
Terminamos con peras cocinadas en vino tinto, servidas frías con un sorbete de ricota. Acompañado por una copa de vino dulce tinto. Un malbec obvio. 

Comimos con 7 tapas y 6 copas de vino. Por menos de 100 GBP. 

Les digo. Este lugar les vas a encantar ! Hace falta reservar con anticipación. 

Un abrazo a todos. Te quiero ARGENTINA !



Mercado BELCAMPO – José Ignacio

This is a new comer in the Village, recently opened in December 2011. Mercado BELCAMPO is producing organic fruits and vegetables in their Estancia located 30mn in land, which they are selling and serving at their restaurant situated at the very entrance of José Ignacio. They also organize upon request traditional uruguayan “Asados” at the Estancia. Understand the best BBQ you’ll ever experience. Asking the restaurant, you can also be offered to visit the farm.

We have been cooking the past 2 days using their production. Tomatoes, beetroots, carrots, eggplant, eggs, herbs, onions, basilico, lettuces…. What can I say ? You immediately feel this is being done with passion and deep knowledge. So a first set of congratulations to the team behind this organic and sustainable initiative.

Tired of cooking, we decided yesterday to have our lunch at their place. Possibly one of the best simple food we’ve had for a long period of time. My wife had  “Empanadas de Carne y cebolla ” as a starter followed by “Ensalada de remolachas asadas, huevos duro y ricotta” being the main course. I respectively had “bruschetta de tomates secos, mozarella y albahaca” followed by “Sandwich de carne, pepinos y cebolla”. As you read, this is no sophisticated food at all and something we can all do at home. All this was simply wonderful. We should have stopped there…but kept being tempted by the desserts. And ended up ordering “una tarta de chocolate con dulce de leche” and “Panqueque con dulce de leche y azucar”.

We want to say a big thank you to the staff for this authentic moment and encourage them to keep simplicity and freshness at the center of their approach for the years to come. Do not leave your values aside with success !

Best and see you soon.

Bruges, the city of tastes !

We’re just back from a long weekend in Bruges, Belgium. The best way to reach this UNESCO protected town is with no doubt by train. From Paris it took us around 2H30 mn and you can easily book your tickets on SNCB network. I will not here detail how beautiful and charming bruges is. You will find that on so many other blogs or websites. But it is indeed very true and a stop there when visiting Europe is a must.

You will find dozens of boutique hotels, luxury ones or bead & breakfast. We did stay at Bedandbruges , a lovely B&B ran by Louise and Francis Hardy. Should you go there, stay in “La tour” which is a medieval tower completely restored in 2009. You will enjoy the entire place for you ( 2 people ) at a bargain of 95 € per night breakfast included. The owners do also offer to swap their personal home and that could be an option for large families and a week stay.

"La tour" at Bedandbruges

Peaceful Bruges

This B&B is situated slightly off the touristic heart of the city and you will need a 10mn walk to join the most visited monuments. Which for us was a plus as we could stay out of the crowd. Another possibility is to rent a bike at around 10€/day as this is the perfect way to discover the city and its surroundings. We would even suggest you to bike along the canal from Bruges to Damme ( 7km away, a lovely medieval village ) and then to Sluis ( Holland, 18km from bruges ). You will need around 3H back and forth. We’d suggest to stop for lunch at Damme which offer various excellent options. We personally ate at “Restaurant ZuidKant” whom the chef has been working quite some time with the famous Thierry Marx chef in Cordeillan-bages.

ZuidKant terrace
Langoustines marinées, crème d'avocat et fines herbes
Cappuccino et ravioli de Homard, parmesan et huile de basilic

One of the best and most creative cuisine we’ve experienced lately. By far above most of the 1 or 2 star michelin restaurants we were lucky to taste in France those past years. Count on 50€/person with 1 glass of wine. Another option when in Damme is to eat at “De Bonheur” which has been indicated to us by several locals. The next day we went to have lunch at the Refter which is ran by the son of the nextdoor 3 star michelin “De Karmeliet”. Should you have the choice, eat in the patio. We ate twice there for around 40€/person. Excellent products in general, succulent fish. I personally recommend the fish soup which beats easily many of the ones i could taste in sunny southern France.

La carte, Refter Bistro
Soupe de poisson et sa rouille
Velouté d'asperges, crème de brocolis
The kitchen , Refter Bistro

We also had excellent dinner at Rock Fort ( likely to be rated soon 1 star michelin ). Really amazing quality and very good and affordable wine list. But quite disappointed by the atmosphere ( we were at the bar, not in the main dining area ) and more problematic by the time we had to wait between each plate ( around 30mn ).

All in all we spent a wonderful time and discovered new flavors and tastes, met passionate and friendly people. Without a doubt, the belgian gastronomy is about to play a major role and taking over its French neighbour ( if not already the case ).

Some other places where to SLEEP : B&B Côté canal and B&B number 11

Enjoy bruges !

Hotel Ravesi – Malfa – Eolian islands

We’ve seen many places in Southern Europe the past years. But this one is likely to be our best discovery so far. The Eolian islands are located North-East of Sicily. Approximately 2 hours cruise from Milazzo harbour. The archipel is composed of 7 islands. All being wether former volcanos or still very active ones. The most famous being Stromboli.

We opted for Salina island. The pictures will tell more then hundred words. But here is a non exhaustive list of adjectives i would use to describe it : suprising, impressive, wild, generous, authentic, beautiful, unknown, preserved, different.

We ended in a boutique hotel named “Ravesi” in Malfa, a small village in the Northern Part of Salina. Also one of our best stay so far. The owner, Carolina, will welcome you very warmly. She is also personally cooking both breakfast and lunch. Do not expect any gastronomy there ! But we promiss you will eat fresh, simple and enjoy ! At the reception desk is Giuliana. She is absolutely perfect and will make sure your experience in Ravesi remains unforgetable.

Book in advance as Ravesi does only propose few rooms. The one we had and the others we’ve seen are very nice. Recently remodeled with simple furniture. Most have sea view. From the terrace you will enjoy clear view on the islands of Panarea and Stromboli.

How to get there : by speed ferry’s from Milazzo harbour. Ustica line is one of the company’s which will bring you there in around 2H for 17€/person.

Where to eat : by far the best restaurant is Portobello which is located in Santa Maria, the main island’s harbour. 7KM’s away from Malfa. The fish and sea food are simply amazing as they all come from around the island. Rather expensive at around 50€ per person. But worth especially at night on the terrace. Some other options in Malfa but nothing that spectacular worth more lines. Ah yes ! Avoid the restaurant of the hotel Signum which is clearly over rated and clearly targeting the few VIP’s visiting the island.

We do have many other tips for you on what to do and see when in Salina. Just email us and we will help the best we can.

Enjoy the Eolian islands !

Restaurant “La Cambusa del Capitano”, Aci Castello – Sicily

We flew from Paris to Catania with Easyjet ( east of Sicily ) which took us 2h30. We arrived late morning and the temperature was already around 22°C. Approximately 10 more then in Paris. So the trip was already worth it ! 

We had our hotel booked in the famous “Taormina” which is around an hour drive from Catania Airport. As we were quite hungry we decided to have our lunch on the seaside and picked a restaurant recommended by the Michelin guide ( a modest one not awarded anything special ) in the little harbor town of Aci castello. The place is called La cambusa del Capitano and is ran by Chef Alfio. 

As very often in Italy, the owner and the staff came to our table quite quickly to get to know eachother, talk about their beloved island and more importantly present us the fresh fish and sea food they had that day.

Seduced by the freshness of the Calamaretti we’ve ordered a plate to share. They came fried and were absolutely succulent. “Ottimo” as you would say in italian. We were promised to a great time.

Calamaretti fritti

We then headed for the serious staff and the “primi piatti”. And naturally chose pasta. My wife had spaghetti alle vongole ( sea food ).  I had the “Gamberi e cozze” ones. Those were simply the best cooked pasta we had during our sicilian stay.

Spaghetti Gamberi e Cozze
Spaghetti alle Vongole
We finished the lunch with the classic Tiramisu. It was so good that it directly went into our stomach. So no picture to illustrate what we here pretend. 
All in all an excellent first food experience in Sicily. All ingredients very fresh. Simply but perfectly cooked. Friendly chef. And quite cheap as we’ve spent all in all 25€/person with wine and coffee.

I and Alfio !

La cambusal del capitano : Via marina 65 , Aci castello, Sicily. Closed on wednesday. 

Obra de Arte – Mugaritz

This is art to me ! Soon Mugaritz restaurant will re-open its doors ( planned for June 2010 ) close by the wonderful city of San Sebastian, Pais Vasco. By then you can visit their website at mugaritz.com or follow them on twitter @mugaritz. Better book your table now ! 

A special wednesday evenning in Palermo Holywood, Buenos Aires

We yesterday went out with my wife to celebrate our 5 years of knowing each other. It was early April 2005 in Barcelona. We are not really sure about which day. Indeed we are pretty sure we just can’t remember the exact day. Anyway, we decided to celebrate those very good memories and experience a couple of good places in the Palermo Holywood district of Buenos Aires. 
We started at Olsen, located in calle Gorriti 5870. As summer is still around here in BA, we decided to have a drink on the terrace. They have an extensive Vodka list. Indeed from all over the world. And very naturally we’ve ordered 2 vodka based cocktails ( 8 to 10 USD each ). And a little picada ( equivalent of tapas ) ! Just to warm up our senses….
Then my wife had reserved a table close by at Tô restaurant. Tô was opened 11 months ago by a French young guy we’ve met yesterday, full of energy and passion. The atmosphere is very friendly. The staff impecable. The design modern while convivial. And more importantly the food is succulent. The owner calls his cuisine FRAPANESE. A well distillated mix of French and Japanese. As I normally do not pay too much attention to those marketing words, i would use the following adjectives to describe what we had : extremely fresh, very well cooked, tasty, suprising, generous, inventive, audacious.
So all in all, a very good moment. Another one i should say. Thanks to my wife. Thanks to the incredible friendliness of the Argentinian people. This is a value they have not lost so far : the art of welcoming you and making all they can so that you can only enjoy. 
Budget per head at Tô : 35USD with drinks.

Entonces, gracias a la gente de Argentina ! Que siguen asi !

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