img_6681My love affair with Italy started as a teenager.  I remember watching a whimsical, cute love story called ‘Only You’ with Marisa Tomei on her journey to find her destiny.  The backdrop of Tuscany, her driving down the windy roads of the breath taking Amalfi Coast or running through the majestic streets of Rome in search of her true love.

My journey was a little different to Marisa’s however both on a journey of love.  So my Italian adventure started in Naples for the best pizza, then Sorrento (actually paradise) and finally the iconic and enchanting city of Rome.

With so much expectation there was no way I was going to be staying in a full board soulless hotel.  I had found the prettiest little guest house called Lubra Casa Relax and relaxed it was. Massa Lubrense is one of the oldest villages of the Sorrento Peninsula.

As well as being authentically beautiful they also ran an Italian cookery class.  I was sold from the word go.  All this beauty and I get to learn how to cook real Italian cooking from mama Lucia…this was my kinda holiday!

So mama Lucia was the mama of the house.  Her welcome was warm and there was no doubt that food was her passion.

We gathered around a large rustic table in her kitchen.  Adorned with our aprons, flip flops and the obligatory large glass of vino rosso we stood in anticipation.   Her eyes twinkled with excitement as she gave away her secret recipes that had been passed down through generations.

The meatballs cooked on lemon leaves were a sensory delight.  Cooking with lemons from this region is something else.  These lemons are twice the size of the lemons I’m used to back home, the colour is the happiest, sunniest yellow and it literally smelt like a lemon grove in the kitchen.  You can’t help but smile when cooking with the queen of all lemons!

A great little tip I got was to rub a bruised garlic in the bowl that you are mixing the meatballs in.  This way you get a gentler hum of garlic and no bits.

Making gnocchi was another favourite of mine.  Now this was not a time to be watching my carbs, I think gluten free maybe on par with blasphemy here.  I personally find any type dough making thoroughly therapeutic.

The great thing about this cookery school was that we all got to feast on our labor of love.  Sitting out on the terrace overlooking the Sorrento peninsular.   The conversation and wine flowed and it felt like a piece of heaven.  As the sun went down , it cast a warm golden glow all around us…Amore x

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Pali hill Cafe (Pan european food)

So it was Christmas day in Mumbai where the closest thing to Rudolph was the friendliest waiter at our hotel whose name was actually Rudolph and perhaps a passing cow!  Jai and Anya (my little terrors) where unified in their plea ‘no more curry’!

Ten days in and good old blightly felt quite far away.  I was on a mission…we were all going to sit around a table and eat Christmas dinner.

After a lot of googling and racking up my phone bill (note to self get a chip next time) I came across Pali Hill Café, and they had Christmas dinner on, jackpot! We all met in the lobby, and looking back now, the excitement we all had of eating turkey and brussel sprouts is quite hilarious.

Pali hill café is in the fashionable district of Bandra.  It has a somewhat cosmopolitan, creative feel.  If you happen to start speaking to a local, you’ll find out that New York is their second home and an insight into their fascinating bohemian life between the two cities ensues.

Pali Hill Café has an urban cool quality.  Walking in, you greeted by an industrial chic setting which feels authentic rather than contrived.  The welcome is warm like the Mumbai air.  Ketan the general manager was an absolute delight and you could see he loved the place.  On one wall there was old black and white Charlie Chaplin movies being projected.

We were taken to a table that was right in the middle.  The wine list was interesting and with some seriously good Indian wines, which they were happy to let me sample first.  We decided on a red called Revello, which I highly recommend.

We ordered the mince lamb patties which were good but for me the goats cheese wrapped in aubergine and asparagus stole the show. We were all literally cooing with delight and my mum was busy trying to get the recipe off the chef before me!

For main no surprises, we all went for Christmas dinner, bar my mum who being a veggie is not overly excited by turkey!  In actual fact her vegetarian lasagne was amaz balls, and I had serious food envy as the turkey nostalgia was wearing off.  Having said that it was just what I wanted and beautifully presented.  In fact, they took real pride in producing a beautiful plate of food that wasn’t poncey.

It’s the little details that really impress you sometimes.  Having asked them to split Anya’s and Jai’s dinner into half, I was so taken back by the smaller plates that arrived, presented just like ours and served to them as two of the most important little people on the table.

The wine flowed and so did the conversations. There was such a laid back effortless feel to the place yet the attention to detail was second to none.  We ordered the chocolate brownie with ice-cream which no lie was the best god damn brownie I have ever eaten.  Maybe it was, maybe it was because I was so far away from home.  As I sat back in my chair and looked around me, a wave of that warm fuzzy feeling came over me.  I would never forget this Christmas…

‘my vision for getting the whole family around a beautiful table eating Christmas dinner was happening right in front of me.  Memories are made by the people in your life and the food that you eat…thank you Pali Hill Café’.

 

Fatty Bau (Pan asian food)

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So I met up with a friend of mine who is a born and bred in Mumbai the correct term would be Mumbaikar.  She and her sister knew my love of food and wanted to showcase the best the city had to offer, they arranged a very cool brunch.

Now before I get onto the food a little about the company…it was ‘very Bollywood darling’.  Three very glamorous women, effortlessly cool having a no holds bar conversation about anything and everything!

There were lots of giggles, followed by gasps, followed by ‘really’, ‘absolutely’!  I am in love with the accent and find myself nodding my head frequently and gaining an inflection at the end of every sentence.

There is a real excitement amongst the table as we all studiously read through the menu.  I suggested that the person who recommended the place orders plates to share.  It makes it far easier and the anticipation is far more heightened…

‘if you are anything like me and often get a bout of food envy this is the best possible way to taste everything’!

The char sui bau is a must, held together in a soft fluffy bun with a green apple kimchi that cuts through the sweetness of the pork.  The mushroom ramen was comforting with a hum of spice coming through.  The portions are generous so I would recommend to order a few to start with and top up as you go!

The Californian and Salmon sushi felt like a delight, with all the heavily spiced food I had been eating this was just what my palette needed.

As the desert menu headed our way we all paused leaned back in our chairs and and looked at each other…we were ‘Fattied Out’!

 

 Soda Bottle Opener Wala (Irani food)

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Now that’s a mouth full, and with a name like that you kind of have to bring something a bit extra to the table…and they did.

You can’t book a table here and as I had a large group of seven I ended up waiting about 1 hour and 30min.  You have to manage your expectations in India.  Even though everything takes a little bit longer and it feels like total chaos things still seem to get done.  Take the roads for example, it’s a wonder anybody gets anywhere and yes probably not on time but they do they get there.

If you can get into the right mind set India is an experience you will never forget.

So the waiting wasn’t too bad as they had a courtyard in front and my kids found some other kids to play with.  There were chairs to lounge around on and I got talking to a family who had emigrated from South Africa two years ago.  As I told her about my blog her eyes lit up and she reeled out her top eating places.

This is one of the things I love about having a blog…people love food and you connect with people through food.

The front of house staff were extremely helpful, attentive and happy which always helps.  As we were chatting away suddenly our table was ready and we ushered in.

The interior pays a loving homage to the Irani cafés of a bygone age.  The atmosphere was electric with a heavy buzz of chatter and an even heavier buzz of music.  It had a very seventies vibe like walking into Studio 54 Mumbai style!

‘There was so much to feast your eyes on from multi-coloured retro lighting, to a DJ spinning some tunes on the decks to a miniature train making its way around the circumference of the restaurant’!

So we started by ordering several starters, with some main dishes.  This is a place to share and just keep asking for more!  You will find some sure favourites that you can keep topping up on!

Now this was a time to hang up my healthy hat and just order because it was sooo darn tasty.  The chilli cheese pav was a glorified version of cheese on toast and it literally disappeared the moment it was placed on the table.  The eggs kejriwal, spicy deviled eggs that had the saltiness that left you wanting more.  OMG and the tereli maachi well I don’t know how many portion of that we ordered.  This was a seriously good fish dish, flaky fish with a masala hit that actually is making my mouth water just thinking about it.

There wasn’t much room for main as we had OD’d on the starters but the sali chicken and bohri keema pav totally hit the spot.  This place is not about fine dining or elegant flavours, its about bold, unashamed smack you in your mouth flavours…this ones just for pleasure!

 

Origen, San Pedro, Marbella
35-45 euros

This place was definitely needed after the craziness from the night before! San Pedro is in a perfect location, just 10km outside of the glitz, glamour and hedonism of Puerto Banus, allowing you to dip in and out of the madness!

Nikki Beach did not disappoint but once back at our apartment I was glad to be far from the madding crowd. My friend had been raving about this little café, and she had every right to be.

It felt like we had stumbled onto this oasis of goodness, yumminess and friendliness. The service was smiley and our waiter talked us through the various options on the menu, whilst we downed our green juices.

The menu was small but perfectly formed, the options fit nicely on to one side of the page. Split into three sections ‘Good morning’, ‘Carry on eating’ and ‘Appetizer. I started with ‘Seasonal fruit with honey, chia seeds, hemp and yogurt’. It was just what I needed to put some colour back in my cheeks and restore balance.

The ‘Corn taco’s filled with organic chicken’ was to die for. The freshness of the guacamole, the perfectly cooked chicken in a tomato sauce brought together in a crunchy taco was doing a samba in my mouth! The first five minutes consisted of no talking just moans of delight, then a light bulb moment as my bestie had the genious idea to sample the organic wine, well it would have been rude not too…when in Rome or should I say Marbella…

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