It’s no surprise that during the course of our travels so far we’ve had a fair few memorable meals – from the sublime to the downright depressing. We’ve picked our top 7!
Auberge Chez Pierre – Dades Gorge, Morroco
Memorable for: Adventurous twists on traditional food, and an incredible setting
Matt: Morocco is rightfully famous for its wonderful food and drink – from sizzling tagines to refreshing pots of sweet mint tea – and you normally don’t need to go far to find great examples of traditional cooking. To experience all the delights of classic Moroccan cuisine with a fine dining twist, however, takes a little more luck – and we were incredibly fortunate to find ourselves staying a night at the Auberge Chez Pierre, a lovely guesthouse nestled at the bottom of the beautiful Dades Gorge which specialised in just that.
We were on our first of two nights on an excellent tour to the Erg Chebbi dunes with Desert Majesty, and hadn’t really given much thought to this particular night, which we thought was going to be more of a ‘stopover’. However, having already spent some time in the madness of Marrakech, this place was the perfect contrast to the hustle and bustle of the souks and we were delighted from the moment we stepped through the door. With an intimate dining area on the rooftop terrace, we savoured a stunning four course meal of Moroccan-European fusion dishes – all whilst being serenaded by traditional Berber music and the reassuringly relaxing orchestra of crickets and birds. The food, setting and atmosphere made for a simply flawless evening – this guesthouse and its restaurant is certainly worthy of being a destination in its own right.
Yat – St Petersburg, Russia
Memorable for: The most delicious selection of homemade vodka
Lucy: So this was one of my favourite days of all time; the incredible Faberge museum all morning, traditional ‘Pelmeni’ for lunch (which almost made it on to this list) and then an afternoon visit to Peterhof Palace. This was all finished up with a meal in Yat (Ять), a restaurant in a cellar/basement kinda thing close to the Winter Palace.
The food was delicious (homemade-style Russian food – think blinis, borsch etc) but it was the homemade vodka, available in countless quirky flavours, which stole the show. What set off as a slightly apprehensive order of two to try turned in to us sampling most of the options – some more than once – culminating in us buying a bottle and managing to transport it back to the UK. Our absolute favourites were the ginger and the cranberry. A special shout-out to the sea buckthorn flavour, which should really only see the light of day as a deterrent for anyone who is overindulging.
Matt: It also had actual house rabbits (to fawn over, not to eat)!
Bianca’s Restaurant – Gibraltar
Memorable for: Stunning sunset setting
Matt: We always try to sign off our final night of travels with a special meal – and this isn’t the only ‘final night’ meal to make it on to the list! Gibraltar was our end destination after our Morocco adventure, and was the perfect place to relax and ease ourselves back into ‘British’ life. Many a raid on the pastry counter at Marks & Spencers was carried out.
We’d loved wandering through the marina, sneaking peaks at the crazily fancy yachts and enjoying the gorgeous sunsets – so we’d decided to have our final meal at Bianca’s Restaurant. By no means the fanciest restaurant in Gibraltar (no way could we afford that!), but a well-established eatery with a varied menu of classics; with the ideal location a stone’s throw from the ocean. The big winner of the evening was the sea food – deliciously cooked sea bass and some lovely sword fish; all washed down with generous helpings of white wine! The hours slipped away as we watched the sun go down and reminisced about the highlights of our trip; this was a wonderfully relaxing meal in the absolute perfect setting.
A random supermarket – Sarajevo, Bosnia & Herzegovnia
Memorable for: The most desperate meal we have had on our travels so far
Matt: We arrived in Sarajevo super late, having travelled up from the beautiful town of Mostar. Being budget conscious, still-technically-student travellers at this point, we’d booked ourselves in to the cheapest place we could find in Sarajevo which had semi-reasonable reviews. Rooms Mahala (no longer taking reservations, sadly) was our home for the princely sum of £4 a night – a great price, but with the downside of being a good 2km walk uphill from the city center. Normally this would not be an issue – but at 10pm, starving and tired from our bus journey, we were desperate for food.
We were told we’d struggle to find anywhere still open by the time we got into town (it was a quiet midweek), but were pointed further uphill where we’d been informed we’d find a late opening supermarket. Find it, we did. A Tesco superstore, it was not! This was little more than a tiny cramped room carved out of someone’s semi-detached house, and seemed to specialise in selling anything and everything – providing it was either inedible or required a fully functioning kitchen to prepare.
Needless to say, our £4 a night accommodation didn’t quite stretch to the luxury of a hob – or even a microwave – so we picked up literally the only packet food we could find, plus a couple of dubious drinks. The surly looking lady at the till viewed our shopping with a mixture of pity and disgust, and we headed back to our room to ‘enjoy’ a floor picnic of packet croissants (they had a 3 year shelf life!!!), a packet of biscuits (Baked Rolls – which have, to be fair, become a staple of our travels in Europe), peach juice and a bottle of water.
A memorable meal – arguably for all the wrong reasons – but one which will live long in the memory nonetheless.
Unknown Restaurant – Ohrid, Macedonia
Memorable for: Food that never stopped coming at bargain prices
Matt: I curse myself for not noting down the name of this place. I apparently picked it based on the strength of its TripAdvisor reviews (so surprise there), but can’t for the life of me remember what it was called. Stalking back through lists of Ohrid restaurants isn’t bearing any fruit either – a great shame, because this place was an absolute gem.
Macedonia is one of the cheapest countries we have been to – you can eat and drink like royalty, and this restaurant absolutely typified our experience in this wonderful place. We fancied trying out a typical local restaurant, and had found this place – comfortingly off the beaten tourist track – which looked like it would fit the bill perfectly. The menu had some excellent translations into English, and I simply had to try the ‘Meet in Pottery’ to see what delights awaited. Lucy was slightly more conservative in opting for the ‘Macedonian Salad’, and was sat patiently waiting for what we thought would be a quick and reasonably light dinner.
How we had underestimated this place! Despite just ordering two main dishes (if a salad can even be described as a main dish!), we were presented with what can only be described as a Macedonian feast. First came the bread – pretty normal for any restaurant, fair enough – except this was an actual loaf of bread served with a range of spices and sauces. This was followed swiftly by a bowl of olives, onions and tomatoes – to Lucy’s relief, this wasn’t the salad she had ordered, which was brought out quickly afterwards only with my (delicious) Meet in Pottery; which was exactly what it sounds like. Oh, and it came with another bowl of salad.
AND THEY WEREN’T DONE YET! No sooner had we had our actual mains placed in front of us, and thanked our waiter, than we were presented with a plate of french fries. This was the final offering (aside from ketchup served in a teddy bear) of a wonderfully bizarre meal, in which the free offerings from the kitchen hilariously outweighed what we’d actually ordered.
The final bill? A phenomenal £7.
Pizzeria Portas – Split, Croatia
Memorable for: Lucy bursting into tears in the middle of dinner (happy tears, honest!)
Lucy: Another of the ‘final night’ meals to make it onto this list – although I can barely remember what I ate! I think it might have been pasta….and I think it was in some sort of courtyard with vines and trellises….
Anyway, this meal in Split was memorable because we accidentally found out our degree results there. Split was the final destination of the Balkans adventure which had lasted most of the time between sitting our final university exams and getting our results.
We’d always intended to ignore results day and wait until we were back in the UK. That is, until Matt connected his phone to WiFi to message his parents and a photo of the results board promptly popped up. To look or not to look? We looked. I cried. Matt looked bemused (as did the other diners), and that was that.
The rest of the evening was a bit of a blur – getting takeaway mojitos and wandering along the waterfront in a deliriously happy state, not even carrying about the impending thunderstorm and torrential rain that quickly followed (even if it did dilute our drinks…grrr).
Matt: The food was also great….
So, those are our picks from our travels together. With the exception, perhaps, of Sarajevo’s floor picnic, we’d go back to any of them in a heartbeat. We’ve also decided to throw in a bonus pick each from trips we’ve done independently.
Matt’s Bonus Pick: Ugali – Mount Kenya
In March 2019, I set off on a wonderful trek up Mount Kenya – Africa’s second highest mountain – with my brother James. We were guided by the wonderful GoToMountKenya, and were consistently blown away by how great the food was – cooking a meal in a hut at 4200m can’t be an easy task.
I have fond memories of previous trips to East Africa, where a staple part of many diets is Ugali – a cornmeal porridge great for stews, curries and the like. I’d asked one of our crew what they ate on the trek, and got quite excited when I was told they were having Ugali most nights (this would be similar to getting excited about rice, bread, or potatoes – it’s that common). Ugali isn’t normally served to Western trekking clients, but they kindly offered to make us Ugali for our final night.
It was the absolute perfect accompaniment to our classic beef stew, and a lovely way to finish our trek – massive thanks to our team from GoToMountKenya for going the extra mile!
Lucy’s Bonus Pick: Moss Landing, California
Lucy: Whilst Matt and I have shared many a memorable meal, my bonus entry is a wonderful meal shared with my family on the final night of our California road trip. After two weeks of beautiful national parks, we finished up in Moss Landing, a little up the coast from Monterey. There, we found an establishment which was fish market by day and restaurant at night, jutting out over the water.
From our table, we could watch the raft of sea otters floating by and listen to the sea lion calls. As expected, the seafood was amazingly fresh and perfectly cooked; as was the artichoke (a regional speciality). Long after the food was finished, we were reminiscing about all the places we’d been over the last two weeks, watching the sun slip into the sea. Magical. Unfortunately the restaurant is now closed, but that evening will remain one of my favourites forever.