London: Scandi lunch at Aster

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The building works near Victoria station has been going on for years, but now some parts of the development are finally ready. The rest is still a building site but the whole Nova area is brand new and quite exciting. There’s a Shake Shack (yum!), Franco Manca (yes, please!) and lots more restaurants to explore. The Scandinavian one was the first one I tried out, with my dear friends Gaby and Rowena for lunch one weekend.

Aster, as the restaurant is called, has a very nice interior (like all D&D London restaurants) and has a café area, restaurant area, bar and deli.

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We had lunch in the café area but it still felt restauranty enough for a lunch.

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With lots of familiar items on the menu it was difficult to choose but we got there in the end.

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Gaby had the meatballs with potato mash, cream sauce and lingonberries. Really nice and I got a small case of food envy (even though my homemade meatballs are really nice too!).

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I went for the smørrebrød (open-faced Danish sandwiches). One with pork belly, apple sauce and lovely crackling on rye.

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And one with prawns and mayonnaise. The pork sandwich was lovely and ticked all the boxes but I was disappointed with the prawn sandwich. It tasted nice, but I would have expected at least the double amount of prawns. Smørrebrød always have more toppings than bread but here that wasn’t the case.

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Rowena had the Aster Caeser salad with prawns, smoked vendace and rye croutons, but it arrived without the fish on the plate (!) and we had to ask for it. Then it took quite a while until the complete salad arrived and it was also smaller in size than the first one.

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The food was nice though (not wow – but nice) so we had pudding as well. Rowena had the apple cake with custard above which was really nice.

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And Gaby and I had a cinnamon bun each which was amazing. Still warm, buttery and lovely. We also spied people around us having afternoon tea which looked great so definitely want to go back and try that.

There are definitely a few tweaks to be done here, both when it comes to food and service (it was rather slow and wobbly) but hopefully it was all teething problems and it’s fixed now.

Aster restaurant, 150 Victoria Street, London SW1E 5LB

Barcelona: Plaça Catalunya and amazing lunch at Bar Cañete

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Our last day in Barcelona (three days was the perfect amount of time for a city break here) was a bank holiday (just like in the rest of Europe) and all the shops (apart from one shopping centre) was closed. It wasn’t warm enough for the beach either so we walked around the city some more (we accumulated lots of steps this weekend!).

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Up to Plaça Catalunya and along Las Ramblas. The former was pretty quiet but Las Ramblas was packed with people. Why we weren’t sure as there’s nothing much to see and apparently lots of pickpockets.

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We also walked around El Raval, the neighbourhood of our lunch restaurant, Bar Cañete. It was a little run down, but it probably looked worse with all the shops closed. The shop windows are covered by a metal door, usually covered in graffiti, which doesn’t look all that pleasant but obviously serves a purpose.

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Our reservation at Bar Cañete was for 1pm, when the restaurant opened for lunch and when we got there a few minutes before 1pm there was already a queue of foodies outside.

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We got seated straight away and the restaurant was full in minutes! Our waiter was very efficient without stressing and really helpful suggesting dishes and wine. The ambience was great from the start and the food blew us away.

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The pan con tomate arrived to the table shortly after having ordered it and it was the best we ate in Barcelona! The bread was flaky and crusty but still a little soft and it was just the right amount of tomato, garlic and olive oil. And love the large portion size!

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The white asparagus cooked to perfection and recommended by our lovely waiter was amazing! So fresh and loved the subtle flavours.

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As you may know by now, I can never resist a good croqueta and the two types on offer here were certainly worth trying. The round one with jamon iberico was seriously nice, but the oblong lobster croqueta was even better. Absolutely delicious!

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The next dish was this “meatball” as it was called on the menu. We didn’t really know what to expect but we were both surprised and delighted to realise it was their version of patatas bravas, but with pork. The ball was made from mashed potatoes with bits of pork mixed in, coated in breadcrumbs and fried, then covered in a mayonnaise sauce and a spicy tomato sauce. OMG – it was incredible! So nice in fact we straight away ordered another one!

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The green been and shaved asparagus salad with nuts was also really nice and worked really well with the creamier dishes.

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We also had these lovely fried artichokes, but the portion was so large we couldn’t finish it. So sad.

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To finish off our meal we had the suckling pig with potato mash and the most delicious sauce. I like to finish a tapas meal with a main course-like dish as it fills you up differently than the more snack-y bits. This was really heavy but absolutely amazing. No pudding required.

This was the perfect way to end a perfect (apart from the not so warm weather) weekend in Barcelona with the perfect travel buddy!

Bar Cañete, Carrer de la Unió, 17, 08001 Barcelona, Spain

 

 

Barcelona: La Pedrera and tapas lunch at Cerveseria Catalana

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One of the highlights on our long weekend in Barcelona was definitely La Pedrera. A colleague of mine recommended it and we found it really interesting.

The building, designed by Gaudí in the beginning of the last century, is so different to anything I’ve seen. It’s part wacky, part beautiful and part ugly in my opinion but definitely interesting!

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Even the doors are very different. It’s refreshing to find out that this building was designed over a hundred years ago as it still feels modern.

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The best part of the audio tour that was included in our ticket was definitely the rooftop. Unlike other rooftops there’s no greenery or seating area. Instead you can walk around in this art installation with crazy chimneys.

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It’s such an experience and the views are breathtaking.

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Especially this perfect view of La Sagrada Familia.

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Just look at the proportions. Pretty cool!

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Back inside there’s a small exhibition about Gaudí’s work and techniques that was interesting, but entering a flat furnished exactly like it was when the building was built was more interesting to me.

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The crazy features are toned down, but you can see Gaudí in every detail. The door frames, the handles, the metal features outside of the windows. And somehow it works with the traditional furniture.

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Back on the ground floor you find this impressive art installation. So different. Although it’s a museum, people still live in the other flats in the house today. I cannot recommend this enough. Even if you’re not a Gaudí fan (I’m not), or that into art or architecture you’ll still find this interesting – I promise. It’s just a completely different perspective.

La Pedrera,  Provença, 261-265, 08008 Barcelona, Spain

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After this cultural experience it was time for lunch so we walked to the much talked about Cerveseria Catalana. It’s touristy but authentic and insanely busy. I’ve had it recommended by friends and they all love it.

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I certainly see the appeal. The only downside is the waiting time. They don’t take bookings so you put your name on a list on arrival and they’ll shout your name when the table is ready for you. Or, you can just hover by the bar seats and snatch them when somebody leaves, as there is no list for those seats. That was a lot faster and what we ended up doing.

I like the vibe sitting at the bar counter, especially in a busy tapas bar at lunch time. That’s where the action is.

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The first two dishes we had were these gambas (prawns) in olive oil and garlic and padron peppers. Both nice but not that special.

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But the tortilla, that blew us away. It’s seriously good. Just perfect in every way and tasted divine. I would come back just to eat it again.

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These mini beef burgers with cheese and sautéed onions were also amazing!

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Lunch at the bar counter, this was our view. As you can see they have some dishes lined up at the counter as well so you can order just by pointing if you’re not sure what’s what.

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I pointed to this pinchos with crab, mayonnaise and corn. So good, just incredibly filling.

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I also had these razor clams, that I didn’t see on the translated menu, but our bar counter neighbours had ordered them so we did the same. Yum!

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We were too full for pudding, but I like the dessert menu displayed like this.

Cerveseria Catalana, Carrer de Mallorca, 236, 08008 Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona: Park Güell, La Sagrada Familia and sandwich lunch at Praktik Bakery Baluard

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Hola!

Just back from a long weekend in Barcelona with my best friend from home, Emma, I’m dying to share it all with you. The restaurants and the sights. So let’s start off where we ourselves started; with Park Güell.

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We both arrived late on the Friday night so didn’t see anything of Barcelona then, but we stayed up talking long into the night. After breakfast on Saturday we took a taxi to Park Güell as it was all across town from our hotel.

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We walked around the huge park for a good hour and a half taking in the different ‘rooms’ and enjoying the magnificent views. It’s a good mix of Gaudí quirkiness and greenery. And it feels very exotic with palm trees, oranges trees and cacti a plenty.

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There are lots of buildings (and some lived-in houses!) all in very different styles but because the space is so large and different it fits!

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It’s a real oasis bang in the city and although many people visited when we did it never felt crowded because of the vast green spaces.

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For us, not being all that crazy about Gaudí’s style, this was a great way to explore it in a an accessible way.

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Although not my style at all, I find these gingerbread houses adorable!

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And the views – breathtaking!

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Park Güell is free to visit, although one area requires a ticket). We were happy to just walk around the free part of the park. And although it has lots of hills the bigger paths are all wide and accessible (as the daughter to an occupational therapist I notice these things). It’s not the kind of park where you bring a picnic or sit on a lawn but there’s a restaurant and other vendors if you get thirsty or peckish.

Park Güell, 08024 Barcelona, Spain

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Our next stop was La Sagrada Familia, but we didn’t go in. For us it was enough to view it from the outside. There is such a thing as too much culture. Plus we were hungry and needed a sit down.

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But it’s pretty incredible.

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Amazing details.

La Sagrada Familia, Carrer de Mallorca, 401, 08013 Barcelona, Spain

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We stopped for sandwiches at a lovely bakery in a hotel for lunch, that we just happened to walk past. I had read about the Barceloneta branch of the bakery so knew it would be nice! And it was.

I had a crusty baguette with jamon and tomato (so good!)  and Emma had one equally nice with manchego and sundried tomatoes. And to finish off the meal we shared a lovely tarlet with strawberries and raspberries (chocolate crust, crème pâtissière and fresh sweet berries) .

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Everything in the bakery looked super fresh and inviting, and the seating area was light and airy; the perfect place to enjoy a quiet sandwich lunch.

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Praktik Bakery Baluard, Calle Provença 279, Barcelona, Spain

London: dim sum at Grand Imperial

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Luckily all my friends appreciate good food, but out of them Gaby is definitely my dim sum buddy! Last time we went for dim sum she introduced me to a new restaurant, and one of her favourites; the  Grand Imperial at The Grosvenor Hotel just next to Victoria Station.

We ordered most of their dim sum menu; xialong bao, pork buns, scallop dumplings and prawn dumplings, duck spring rolls with hoisin sauce and the most amazing turnip cake.

All the dishes were really nice and very authentic. Although it lacks the bustle of China Town, which I find charming, it’s very authentic yet more upmarket without being expensive.

Grand Imperial, The Grosvenor Hotel, 101 Buckingham Palace Rd, London SW1W 0SJ

Skanör: lunch at Stationen

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Most restaurants I visit back home are in Malmö, the biggest city in the area I’m from, but in the summer there are lots of smaller places scattered by the coast and in the countryside. In winter, not so much, but there are a few exceptions, like relatively new Stationen in Skanör. I had lunch with my friend Cecilia and Fredrik here one day at the beginning of the year and it was nice to see the restaurant was full, even in January.

All three of us ordered their classic burger with slaw and fries which was really nice and the portion was very generous too. On top of that coffee or tea and cookies were included in the lunch option. This is fairly common in Sweden and I think it’s really nice as you can sit for longer.

Bäckatorget 10, 239 33 Skanör

Malmö: lunch at the new food market

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When I was at home in Sweden for Christmas, everybody was talking about the new Saluhall (food market) that opened in Malmö in November. There used to be a food market in the centre of town when I was younger but it was redeveloped around 10 years ago. I really liked the old one, although it was more like a food court than a food market, but this new one is a good mix of both. It may lack Borough Market’s charm and diversity but I’m still really impressed by it. The space is used really well and although there aren’t that many vendors everything is there; produce, flowers and nice food. And everything is of the best quality.

My friends Malin and Emma  and I came here for lunch but next time I really want to buy groceries as well.

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The three of us had completely different lunches but ate together at a shared table upstairs. Most food stalls have seating but you can sit anywhere you find an empty table.

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I was absolutely starving (verging on hangry) and decided on a burger from Falafel & Burgers as I’d heard they were very good. And it was. it was rather greasy, but in a good way. Will definitely go back.

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Emma had a salad from her new favourite place Holy Greens. They have some really interesting flavour combinations, like this one with melon and mint.

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Malin was also starving and decided on a pizza.

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Hedvigsdal only have two pizzas on there menu (cheeky!) but apparently they’re so good one doesn’t need a bigger menu. Can’t wait to try one when I next visit. And love the fact that the pizza comes in a basket!

The food market is really nice and although not bang in the middle of town it’s a short walk away from the Central Station. It’s really buzzing here at meal times so I would suggest coming early or late to avoid queues.

Malmö Saluhall, Gibraltargatan 6, 211 18 Malmö, Sweden