My eating out habits changed in 2017 as well as lots of other things – being single I’m looking for a different kind of restaurant experience as compared with being in company.
The good news is I had plenty of highlights to choose from again! As usual, I’m only choosing from places where I’ve eaten while travelling.
Lismore Gaelic Heritage Centre/ Comann Eachdraidh Lios Mor. I loved relaxing there, especially when the weather allowed me to eat outside. The staff are friendly (they’re islanders, after all) and the food is good. Best of all is the serenity of sitting there surrounded by nature and wonderful scenery on a quiet island where nothing is ever busy and traffic is close to non-existent.
Palmi Börek Sarayı in Girne (Kıbrıs). It’s a pastry/bakery place, as you’d find in Turkey. I bought my breakfast simit there most mornings – to take away. One day I had lunch there – börek and ayran. Just delicious. It’s a tourist free environment, so don’t expect the staff to speak anything other than Turkish.
Mado in Istanbul. Do you ever just go into a place you like the look of and it turns out to be a brilliant move? Then afterwards you hear from friends that it has a “top” reputation? That was me in Istanbul. I had a lovely (but basic) dinner in Can, and Mado is almost next door. It’s a bakery and pastry type of place. My baklava with Turkish ice cream and Turkish tea was fabulous. Add to that the location across the street from the Blue Mosque… anyway, a real highlight of the gastronomic year.
The Colonsay Hotel. The dinner I had there was memorable for sure. The first reason is that I had to cycle there – about 3 miles. The wind and rain started about halfway. I walked into the (quite elegant) restaurant looking as if I’d been through a hedge backwards. The main reason is how good the food was. I had oysters grown on the island as a starter, and beef raised on the island as a main course. Both were just wonderful. The service was good too – they were kind enough to give me a table in a corner beside a heater so that I could dry out gently and with a little privacy.
Little Wing in Belfast. My brief visit to Belfast and Derry in April seemed to involve very little to remember as far as food is concerned – unless I think of how mediocre the breakfast was at the Ibis. So, my pizza at Little Wing was a real highlight. Nice place, friendly service and very good pizza. I’ll be back next time I’m in the city.
Le Petit Riad in Ouarzatate. I’d chosen the half board option and it was a huge success. The dinners were superb – Berber cuisine and always a tagine, but varied and delicious. The service was great too – friendly and attentive. The dining area is a real joy to the eye as well.
Habous in Ouarzazate. Habous is top of the list in my Lonely Planet guide book, so I tried it for lunch on my first day in town. It happened to be 24 December. It also happened to be 18⁰c and feeling warmer than that in the sun – so I sat outside. It was excellent and I came back to eat there twice. Being on your own and a long way from home at that time of year has the potential to make life a little lonely. It’s experiences like enjoying a lovely lunch outside in the sun which reminded me I was the lucky one and to be grateful for it all.
Afriquia Gaz, Bouzeroual. A roadside service station in the Drâa Valley, in the Moroccan Sahara. I stopped to use the toilet and saw they have a cafe. I asked the man behind the counter what was available (knowing what the answer would be). Yes… “tagine”! “What’s in the tagine?” I was bold enough to ask. “Meat” was the answer. I was bold a second time and ordered it. Then I went outside to sit and wait for my food. Now, having spent quite a while that morning driving through the Drâa Valley – rugged desert mountains flanking a forest of palm trees on either side of the river – I should have been ready. But looking up after I sat down was the first time a noticed the view which would accompany my service station lunch. In front of me was Djebel bou Zeroual (1,594m – 5,229 ft), the ksar/village of Bouzeroual and the palm forest of the valley. Stunning. The tagine was good too, but it’s not always just about the food.
This year’s winner? It has been a tough choice. Any of the places I’ve chosen for the short list would be a worthy winner.
In the end the award goes to that service station – not for the food, but for the view!
ⓒ iain taylor, 2018