The best eats of 2018
How, in one year, 10 countries and roughly 1095 meals does one begin to summarise a year of food? As an exchange student in France, most of that food has been cheap, supermarket-sourced meals, with the occasional cheeky pastry or panini thrown in (I mean, its France after all). Turns out, being on a budget when you travel doesn’t mean you can’t find some pretty incredible feeds. From blueberry herring at Nyhavn to fresh seafood tapas in Barcelona and a burger worth a two hour drive over the Swiss Alps to France (twice!), this year’s definitely brought out the goods. I’ve tried to narrow it down to my top few, but I couldn’t resist adding a little list of special mentions at the end.
Nyhavns Fægekro, Copenhagen (03/02)
- herring (including curry, onion and blueberry flavor)
- pork meatballs
This was our splurge meal. While everything else we ate on our weekend in Copenhagen was purchased from Aldi, we treated ourselves to a spread of traditional Danish food. Nyhavns Fægekro makes the list based on just how weird the food we ate was. Who would have thought herring marinated in blueberry would be our favourite? While so many aspects of Copenhagen made me question why I’d chosen France to spend my year abroad in, the food definitely wasn’t one of them. Going from croissants and paninis to a selection of cold, cured fish was a pretty big leap for us, but I’m glad we ended up stepping out of our comfort zones with this meal. The pork meatballs were of course delicious, but there’s something to say about having tried and liked six varieties of smoked herring.
Takeaway: Don’t order two seafood-related dishes in February. As delicious as the food is, an entire meal of cold fish doesn’t exactly fulfill those winter cravings.
Taillers 76, Barcelona (27/02)
- patatas braavas
- grilled prawns
- fresh mussels
- bread and tomato
- lamb ribs
- grilled vegetables
Maybe because it was the first Tapas we’d eaten in Barcelona, maybe it was because most things look pretty good after a jug of sangria, but I just can’t shake how good this meal was. We got the first seafood we’d had since starting exchange and the flavors were out of this world. Taillers 76 is also in a pretty prime location, as we stumbled across it between the university and Las Ramblas when we were trying to escape from the rain. Decorated in various pieces of furniture, colourful tiles and mismatched portraits, it felt more like entering an op shop than a restaurant, but once we were sat down it created a cozy and laid back atmosphere.
Takeaway: this place is worth visiting just for the amazing patatas braavas. I could honestly eat their red pepper sauce with every meal.
Benvenuto, Nice (02/03)
- mussels pasta
Our trip to Nice was far from smooth, and we didn’t expect a first meal this good. Greeted with the first properly sunny day we’d had, rosé (the region’s specialty) was definitely on the menu. we took advantage of being so close to Italy and indulged in some pasta, and it blew our minds. Benvenuto definitely did Italian food justice, and despite the unassuming storefront, the food and atmosphere inside was beyond incredible. Props to the extremely Italian chef who came out halfway through our meal to check if everything was ok – I’m not sure I could be understood through my mouthful of seafood but I think the vigorous nodding said enough.
Takeaway: I had the mussels pasta but a friend of mine ordered the squid ink pasta and swears by it. Definitely give it a go.
Giolitti, Rome (11/05)
- stracciatella and black cherry gelato
First day in Rome/last assignment for semester one submitted celebration went down a treat. Despite the crowds of frantic tourists, the gelato the size of my head was worth it. In fact, in four days of wandering Rome, we couldn’t manage to top Giolitti gelato. Yes, I was elbowed in the ribs more than a few times in our bid to get to the front of the queue, but maybe having to fight off a few frantic tourists to get our order in made the gelato all the sweeter. There’s nothing quite like enjoying a hard won gelato outside the store front as you watch the queues of sweating tourists fight to keep their place in the line though.
Takeaway: follow Claire’s lead and add fresh cream to the top of your gelato for no extra charge. It’s a life changer.
Il Fornaio, Rome (11/05)
- ricotta and chocolate tart
- pistachio tart
- proscuttio and mozzarella pizza
Another Rome find, this one on the way to the Vatican and with not much time for lunch. Il Fornaio made choosing a quick lunch one of the toughest decisions of the trip. After we’d finally settled on our pizza and desserts, the small chairs in front of the bakery were the perfect people-watching spot. We ate our lunch perched outside on the street, wiping greasy fingers off as we headed to our next stop. To be honest, I can say with certainty that the remains of my pistachio tart got me through the shoulder-to-shoulder crowds at the Vatican tour. Michelangelo who?
Takeaway: eyes bigger than your stomach definitely exists here, as you can choose the size of what you order. I recommend starting small and trying lots of things!
Poco Loco, Chamonix (03/06 & 14/08)
- Poco Loco burger
The legendary Poco Loco burger was probably the entire reason we did two trips over to Chamonix while I worked at Camp Suisse. Already hyped up by people who had visited before, the burger didn’t disappoint. It’s the perfect post-climbing feed, and the small, family-run restaurant makes for a really welcoming atmosphere (not to mention the best garlic sauce ever). Whether you’re enjoying it accompanied by whole bowls of fries (and calamari of course) with a group squeezed into their narrow upstairs seating area, or getting a burger to go and eating it on the pavement while people-watching, the burger is unforgettable.
Takeaway: I made a mistake in not ordering the Poco Loco burger my second time and missed out on the best bit: the sauce. Why would you order anything other than the burger literally named after the restaurant?
Dishoom, London (06/10)
- Baileys Chai
- Pau Bhaji
- Grilled Masala Prawns
- Black Dhal
- Matter Paneer
- Garlic Naan
Going off three separate recommendations that Lyn had picked up in her travels, Dishoom was worth the one and a half hour wait. We got free cherry wine and chai in the cold line outside, and treated ourselves to a Bailey’s chai at the bar while we waited. However, the star of the show was the food. From black dhal and paneer curry to amazing masala prawns everything we ate was full of flavor and tasted homemade. I don’t think we talked until the food was almost over, totally consumed by just how incredibly the food was prepared. I left torn between my new enthusiasm for curry and never wanting to eat Indian food again for fear of disappointment after Dishoom-level flavour.
Takeaway: prepare yourself for a bit of a wait and order the pau bhaji as a starter if you like a bit of spice. Also the chai is unreal!
Trdelník, Prague (16/12)
- Nutella Trdelník
It’s official! When in Prague, you eat Trdelník and when in Prague at Christmas time, you eat these chimney donuts filled with a healthy dose of Nutella at the Christmas markets in the Old Town Square. Think cylindrical donut meets churros, with a healthy coat of cinnamon sugar and coated with already-melting chocolate. Absolute heaven. Not to mention the perfect winter warmer if mulled wine isn’t your thing (or is beyond your budget). Another added bonus: these stalls are EVERYWHERE in the Christmas markets dotted around Prague, and the open fires that they cook over are a great way to defrost your fingers.
Takeaway: these are totally uninspiring when they’re not served piping hot, so don’t waste time trying to grab one from a store. Your best bet at a dreamy Trdelník is one that’s come straight from the fire.
- hotspicy paninis from La Fournée Croquante, Reims
- muffins myrtilles from OMA, Reims
- la Boqueria markets, Barcelona
- churros at Xurrena Laeitana, Barcelona
- lavender gelato from Fenocchio, Nice
- waffles in Bruges, Belgium
- strawberries from Friedberg Markets, Germany
- Adam’s Thai curry at Camp Suisse
- porridge at the Bennett house, Devon
- cream tea at Covent Garden, London
- Helen’s apple cake at Cleckheaton, Yorkshire
- Cinnamon buns at Hannah’s house, Birmingham
- Ginger hot chocolate at Cocovanka, Prague