Gotland: Sylvis döttrar café on Fårö

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A real ‘must’ when visiting Fårö, the little island just north of Gotland, is a fika (coffee and cake) at Sylvis döttrar, a bakery and café on the island. My friends mentioned it like an institution; it must have been around for years, so we made sure to visit in the afternoon.

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The place was very popular with a long queue of tourists waiting to buy their baked goods, but we were not all that impressed.

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Both mother and I are keen bakers and we all found the cakes a little basic. And some slightly dry. I got a sense that the café was past its prime, living on its reputation from years ago.

A real shame, when so many people come here for fika all summer long.

Sylvis döttrar, Fårö Bukleks 1526, 624 67 Fårö, Sweden 

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Gotland: Lauters wonderful café on Fårö

 

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Driving around the small island of Fårö, looking for sustenance (it was lunch time after all), I spotted a pretty driftwood sign by the road pointing us in the direction of Lauters Café.

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I think it epitomises the island perfectly with it’s ruins, makeshift furniture and laid-back vibe.

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You could play boule, have a siesta in the hammock or even a massage.

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Or have lunch. Which is what we did.

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Mum and dad had the sandwiches to your left with cooked brisket and mustard, and I had one of the wraps in the foreground with smoked salmon, horseradish and rocket.

Simple food, but very well prepared. There was also a huge lunch buffet serving lots of salads, sausages and pancakes for pudding. That was too much for us though, but we couldn’t resist something sweet to finish off our lunch.

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The traditional saffron pancake, typical for Gotland.

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With dewberry jam and whipped cream of course. To my mother this is a little piece of heaven, and this one in particular was amazing. The best one either of us had ever had.

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We also had to have a cardamom bun and it was equally amazing. I think this might be my new favourite café.

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The kind of café I wouldn’t mind owning one day. Set in the beautiful countryside, a place to have good food and just hang out.

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Gorgeous, isn’t it?!

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And the best part, was definitely having that saffron pancake in this milieu; among the ruins.

Lauters Bar Mat Café, Fårö Lauter 1993, 624 66 Fårö, Sweden

Visby: dinner at Donners Brasserie

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We arrived Visby in the afternoon, having been up since 5am, so we were quite happy just walking around the town for a bit (taking some photos) and then have an early no-fuss dinner.

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We ended up at Donners Brasserie and sat outside people-watching (so much fun when most people were dressed in medieval attire). You could tell it was the end of the season as none of the restaurants were full up but at least we were not alone dining here.

The menu was quite simple and although the smoked prawns for a starter appealed we were all hungry starving and went straight for the main course.

Mother had arctic char with potatoes baked in tin foil and served with a coriander mayo. Not ground-breaking but it was cooked well.

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I had the steak with bearnaise sauce and fries. The meat was slightly over-cooked but still nice.

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Father had the largest portion (so generous!) of lamb racks I’ve ever seen, with sautéed vegetables and a potato salad.

The food was nice, and not very elaborate but I can see it appealing to the crowds in the summer. It was all fresh and cooked well just lacking a bit of oomph.

Donners Brasserie, Donners plats 3, 621 57 Visby, Sweden 

Sweden: dinner by the beach at Badhytten

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My first night in Sweden was sunny and glorious and I spent it the best way possible: with dear friends having dinner at the beach.

This restaurant, bar and nightclub is our favourite place to go in the summer as the setting is beautiful and the place has a fun atmosphere. In recent years it’s been rebuilt, so although the charm from when I was younger is gone it feels a lot more modern and grownup in it’s current design.

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We all enjoyed our meal here, it’s not a place where you come just for the food, but combined with the decent wine list, helpful waiters and lovely atmosphere it’s a lovely place.

For the starter, we all ordered exactly the same, the Scandinavian classic Toast Skagen. It’s essentially prawns in mayonnaise and dill served on toast. Here the toast was brioche  (nice!) and it was nicely presented with a ribbon of cucumber holding the prawns in place. Extra plus for the generous size!

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For our main courses two had the cod loin with pea purée, new potatoes and carrots, two steak and fries with bearnaise sauce and one fish stew.

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We were all pleased with our choices, and although the menu is very similar to last year, it’s consistent. My only remark was that my steak was rather overcooked, but still nice.

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After the two courses each we were far too full to have pudding, so instead we moved to the lounge area of the restaurant to finish our wine and have teas and coffees. Then later on we hit the bar and dance floor upstairs!

Badhytten, Skanörs hamn, 239 30 Skanör, Sweden

London: The Palomar, Soho

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The Palomar in Soho is a snug little restaurant serving up dishes from the Jerusalem of today and has been around for a while. It’s still as popular as when it opened and I had a fab dinner with my friend Felicity here quite a while ago that I’d like to tell you all about.

Arriving on a weekday after work the small restaurant was of course full (always expect a popular Soho restaurant to be full unless you go very early or very late) so we put our names on the list and when in search of a drink.

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About an hour later our seats at the bar were ready and our enthusiastic water welcomed us and started to recommend dishes from the menu. The kabaneh, a Yemeni pot baked bread with tahini and a tomato sauce was a must and we loved dipping the fluffy bread in the different sauces.

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Next we had a special for the day; crispy Jerusalem artichoke with tuna rillette and duck fat which was amazingly good. Loved loved loved this one!

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The burnt courgette tzatziki was another favourite. It also pairs very well with the bread!

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Another special, the bonito carpaccio, savoury cookie crumble was also really nice! And full of freshness.

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The Jerusalem style polenta with asparagus, mushrooms, parmesan and truffle oil was pure indulgence (I wish I could cook polenta like that!!) and a real treat.

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But the deconstructed kebab with minced beef & lamb, yoghurt, tahini, cured lemon and harissa disappointed us a little. It was still nice – but lacked a bit om oomph compared to the other dishes.

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So did The beets go prawn with smoky beetroot, labneh, prawn jus, basil and chilli but it was still a nice plate of food. Just lacking a bit of wow factor.

All together we had a fantastic evening here, chatting with our waiter, the people next to us and of course each other, enjoying some excellent food and lovely wine! This is what Soho is all about for me; the informal yet amazing dining experiences.

The Palomar, 34 Rupert St, London W1D 6DN

London: New York Italian at Hai Cenato?

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Jason Atherton’s empire continues to grow and the latest restaurant to open was this New York-y Italian restaurant in the new Nova development by Victoria. It’s in goof company with Rail House Café, Aster, Franco Manca etc. nearby.

The first time I came was early one Sunday evening with my friends Helen and Pete and their son Eddie. We’d had a lovely Sunday afternoon exploring the Natural History Museum, had eclairs and coffee at wonderful Maitre Choux and a walk to Buckingham Palacea and were happy to sit down and tuck into some food just as the skies opened.

Hai Cenato? (means ‘Have you had dinner?’ in Italian) certainly feels New York-y with it’s high ceilings, long bar counter, sketched portraits and cosy feel. It’s nice but relaxes and the menu echoes that with pasta dishes, rosso and bianca pizzas and meats from the grill.  and modern yet cosy interior.

They also have a kids menu and children eat free on Sundays, which is a nice touch.

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Eddie chose a pasta with tomato sauce and plenty of grated parmesan from the kids menu  and was very pleased with his choice.

Helen and I both chose the corzetti pasta with bolognese sauce sage, browned butter and grated Berkswell cheese. It was absolutely delicious and felt very indulgent. The sauce was really rich and could have done with a bit more pasta because of the richness but it was a nice size portion. We also shared a side of amazing crushed potatoes that soaked up the last of my bolognese.

Pete chose a lovely vibrant green risotto with oeas, broad beans and crab that was just perfectly executed.

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We were certainly full after our main courses but still fancied pudding and after a quick browse on the (excellent) dessert menu I chose the brioche with salted caramel ice cream. I just love salted caramel and expected a dainty dessert, perfect to finish off my meal but instead I got a large (burger size) brioche bun and THREE scoops of salted caramel ice cream (insert surprised emoji here). The flavour combination was spot on of course but the portion size ridiculous, especially after such starchy food as pasta or pizza.

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Helen’s chocolate and coffee fondant with creme fraiche, puffed rice and caramel was more the size we had expected and absolutely delicious!

We had a lovely dinner here, but also experienced some (I hope they are) teething problems like slow service and I got poured a flat glass of prosecco which just shouldn’t have left the bar and it took ages to get a new one. It’s not the end of the world of course, but I expect an overall smooth and lovely experience when I go to a restaurant, especially when it’s a quiet evening.

I went back last week with my friend Nick for pizza and a glass of wine and the service was a lot better (i.e. smooth) and the place buzzing with people. Oh, and the pizza? DIVINE!

Hai Cenato?, 2 Sir Simon Milton Square, London SW1E 5DJ

London: relaxed brunch at Rail House Café

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Another restaurant to open in the new development by Victoria is, Riding House Café, cleverly calling this branch Rail House Café.

I love the original restaurant on Great Titchfield Street, as much for it’s wooden interior and cosiness as for the food. This new restaurant is all modern with large glass windows but is still cosy in the same way.

I came here a while ago with my friend Daisy for brunch one Sunday and it was so lovely I would happily go back every weekend. The interior is really relaxed with sofas as well as proper tables, inviting you to take it easy and not rush. We had coffee and a proper brunch dish each. Daisy went for an avocado toast with additional poached eggs and crispy bacon, whereas I chose a version of Eggs Benedict but with crab cakes instead of ham.

Both dishes were really well executed and lovely, and really substantial. Such a great brunch spot!

Rail House Café, 8 Sir Simon Milton Square, London Victoria SW1E 5DJ