It’s three months since my last blog so there’s a lot to fill you in on, including a number of European trips.
Lyon, France’s Food Capital:
My early October trip was a birthday present from friend Sofyanah, an avid fellow traveller and foodie. You may recognise her name from previous blogs. We’d talked about visiting the ‘food capital’ of France for some time for just that reason alone! Flights from Manchester to Geneva were much cheaper (with a train to Lyon thrown in), than flying directly there. Plus it was a good excuse for a night in the Swiss city.
Lyon did not disappoint. It’s old town (Vieux-Lyon) was a magical maze of winding traboules: Lyons secret passageways, through buildings, courtyards, and up and down staircases. They are an ideal way of visiting the city’s hidden and colourful past.
The funniest story of the trip happened on the first night when we visited Chez Chabert, a Bouchon Lyonnaise (a traditional restaurant serving authentic Lyon cuisine). For me, trying different cuisines is an important part of any trip. So on entering this cosy, quaint Bouchon I was ready for any food challenge put in front of me…..or so I thought!
Although Sofyanah is vegetarian we opted for the €27 set dinner after being assured they could cater for her requirements. This gave us a shared option of cold appetisers, which are passed around the restaurant in giant bowls for diners to pick and choose amounts as they pleased. I loved this concept as it leads to a very social way of dining. On offer was fresh bread, cold herring, potato salad, beetroot, and pigs nose. I tried a little bit of everything and it was all fresh and tasty.
For mains I chose the Ox Tongue, and this was when it went downhill. The one time previously I had eaten this, the tongue had been slowly cooked and was presented as a terrine. This time however, underneath the delicious tomato sauce and potato, there was a huge intact tongue! You could see the ‘bobbles’ on the skin surface and a central vein throbbing out. I tucked into the middle of the tongue in an attempt to at least try some of the meat. One fork full was more than enough as my stomach continued to churn. I was in a dilemma, I didn’t want to appear rude leaving the tongue pretty much intact on my plate, so there was only one thing for it. As Sofyanah passed over some napkins, I wrapped the tongue up and placed it subtly in one smooth movement into my handbag!! Tongue-gate was born!! I also shamefully smiled with my thumbs up as the waiter walked past not long after the ‘act.’
Dessert meanwhile was delicious, as we went back to the sharing style. There were baked plums, meringue, creme caramel and rice pudding!
A few other recommended places to visit in Lyon includes the following;
⁃Les Halles de Lyon Paul Bouche:
Established in 1971, this remarkable indoor food market offers the very finest local produce. The vast array of fresh fruit, vegetables, meats, spices, cheeses, chocolates, wines, and breads are a feast for the eyes. Whilst the numerous bars and restaurants make this an ideal location to sample Lyon’s gastronomical delights. Renowned Michelin star chef Paul Bouche stamped his name of the markets after renovations in 2004.
– The Basilica of Notre-Dame
Catch the funicular tunnel railway up Notre-Dame, a vital part of the Lyon cityscape, with amazing views of the city. From here it’s a short stroll to the Roman ruins.
⁃Le Mauvaises Herbes: Restaurant for tasty vegetarian food using local ingredients (booking is recommended).
⁃Le Palais de la Biere: One of Lyons oldest pubs serving a good selection of French and European beers.
⁃Le Desjeuneur: A cafe serving up delicious breakfasts and brunches.
We had 24 hours in Geneva to finish off our 4 night trip. In this time we climbed to the top of St. Pierre Cathedral for some panoramic views of the city, wandered around the old town, walked to Lake Geneva, drank some delicious hot chocolate with macarons, ate some delicious Swiss Raclette cheese in Les Armures restaurant accompanied with some Swiss wine (that was cheaper than Sofyanah’s water!) Geneva is notorious for being one of the most expensive in Europe. It’s not all about the bling though, there’s lots of history and beauty in its old areas.
Being able to travel outside of school holidays certainly has its financial advantages. Our 3-night stay in Bratislava in early December, including return flights from Leeds, came in at just under £100 per person!
Sofyanah was my companion once more, along with Abi, an ex-housemate when I lived in Manchester, and whom I’ve also travelled with before with including our epic South America trip in 2016.
Two days was enough time to explore Bratislava. It was an interesting town, with clear evidence of its tough communist past still present, however with a feel that its keen to move forward with tourism being a key part of this.
The Christmas markets had open the week earlier. They were small in comparison to other places, but this was nice, it was less touristy as the majority of customers were locals.
(Bratislava Christmas markets Breakfast video!)
Walking around the old town is must including up to the castle for what we are told are great views across the town, it was too much of a foggy day for us to see anything when went. Here are some recommendations of places to visit that we enjoyed;
– Soho Asian Restaurant, Dunajská
Seriously, one of the best Asian restaurants I’ve ever been too! A simple, small menu in a cosy, intimate venue. Main dishes will set you back just £6-7, whilst a glass of delicious Slovak wine is a little over £1 a glass, it’s cheaper than the soft drinks!!
– No.1 Slovak Pub
A tradition Slovak pub in the old town is worth a visit, despite the questionable customer service! We tried some of their own beer brewed on the premises with pickled Cucumbers and Sesame Seed coated sweet Dumplings.
– Bratislavský Meštiansky Pivovar
Serving up traditional Slovak cuisine, this restaurant was just a few hundred meters from where we were staying. I enjoyed the Confit Duck leg with braised Red Cabbage, Traditional Potato Pancakes (Loksha) and Ham Dumplings. Vegetarian options however are very limited.
On the third and final day of our trip, we decided to travel over to Vienna with it being so close. It was a short hour bus drive over the border to Austria’s capital city (€10 return bus on Slovak Lines). There were Christmas markets all around us, and stunningly impressive buildings and statues. The city was far more touristy than Bratislava, and clearly wealthier.
We visited the 1516 pub which had its own micro brewery (thanks Mark for the recommendation!), and took full advantage of their beers!
Food wise we enjoyed Chicken Schnitzels, Sheep’s Cheese Pierogi (pasta dumplings), Goulash and soup served inside bread rolls, and of course Apple Strudel!
Messy Cook Plans for 2020:
I’m currently planning what I want to do food wise this year. 2019 was very quiet on the supper club front, one reason was that we’ve been doing work on the house. The one supper club that I had planned in for September I had to unfortunately cancel due to illness.
Already I’ve been hired as a private chef for the first time at a hen do in March. I’ll be serving up a three-course dinner party to a group of 16 ladies. I’ve also been in conversation with a few Leeds based independent cafes/bars for potential pop-up opportunities so watch this space on this. Me & Thomas have plans for a veggie supper club, along with lots of other ideas of course!! 😋
x The Messy Cook x