Bar à iode – Seafood Paradise!

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To say that it’s a hidden gem in the heart of Paris does not even begin to cover le bar à iode. It ranks high on my list because these are one of those rare moments when quality, price point and service come together in perfect balance. Honestly, it doesn’t get better than this! However, in all fairness, I have yet to try L’ilot which embodies the same concepts but was sadly closed for the summer vacation period when we had attempted to get our hands on one of their highly praised seafood platters. Alors! A la prochaine!

So what exactly makes bar à iode so exciting? Let’s just say that Paris is not exactly seafood haven as the city is completely landlocked which is why fresh, high quality seafood is so expensive. This is also why finding a place like bar à iode is such a game changer. Prepare yourself for large, copious platters, much like the ones you get in Bretagne, Normandie etc…but for the SAME PRICE IN PARIS.

On this particular night, we had the petit iode platter which usually comprises of 4 fine de claire oysters, a portion of whelks, periwinkles, a portion of grey shrimps (also known as crangon crangon – funny name, isn’t it?) and a portion of cocktail shrimps. Since neither of us are huge fans of periwinkles, we asked the waiter to leave those out and give us extra whelks instead. It was done at no extra cost nor fuss!
We ordered 6 extra Cancales oysters, a squid carpaccio, dessert to share and a bottle of Riesling for only 59 euros!

Not only was the food highly satisfactory, but the service was also top notch, especially considering the amount of customers they had to handle.
We went on a Saturday night and of course, they were fully booked, save the terrace which they reserve for walk-in customers only. Despite this fact, we were still very well taken care of and frankly, there isn’t much more to say than, “What are you still waiting for?” Go and enjoy the rest of your summer with some fine de claire oysters and a bottle of sweet Riesling on the Boulevard Saint-Germain!

Address: 34 Boulevard Saint-Germain, 75005 Paris

Opening hours: Tuesday to Saturday from 12-3pm and 7-11pm

Check out the bar à iode website for the menu and/or further information!

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Etretat: The Perfect Weekend Getaway

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If the buzz and pollution of downtown Paris is taking a toll on you, maybe it’s time for a getaway and there really is no better place than Etretat. Perhaps Deauville as quite a few Parisians tend to go there but I’ve never been so I can’t say.

This charming location, though, is a two and a half hour drive from Paris so you could potentially do a day trip but having a full two days is strongly advised if you don’t want to fall asleep at the wheel!

You can either stay at a hotel or you can go camping at Yport which is literally just a 20-25 minute drive away from Etretat. There are several campsites gathered in one area that cost less than 20€ a night. Of course you would need to bring your own tent, camping car, inflatable bed etc but that’s all part of the fun! You also get to wake up to a spectacular view in the morning!

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One thing I would not advise, however, is dining at Le Petit Saint Pierre which boasts a fancy terrasse. We tried the mussels, the shrimps and the whelks and were extremely disappointed by the quality of their seafood. Other customers had also complained about the mussels, to which the waitress apologised and replied, “It’s not the season for them right now so it’s very difficult to find good ones.”

Meanwhile, in Etretat at La Flottille, they said completely the opposite and highly recommended the mussels. The food was impeccable and the service likewise!

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Overall, Etretat is divine. Both times I went, there were magnificent sunsets that bathed the entire seaside town in hues of orange, pink and violet. Even the sound of the waves are different in Etretat as the beach is mainly made up of pebbles so each time the ocean retreats, you hear the crunching sound of thousands of pebbles; oddly calming but not pleasant to walk on barefoot.

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Some interesting facts about Etretat: many people come here to commit suicide and a famous robber once hid his treasures in one of these caves. This doesn’t stop the hoards of holiday goers each year and it didn’t stop Monet from banging out a gorgeous masterpiece of Etretat back in 1883!

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The Hardware Societe – From Melbourne to Paris

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Perhaps I haven’t posted very many restaurant/bar/cafe reviews on my blog but I have been discovering at least one new spot every week. The dining scene in Paris is like a dream come true! I’m always stumbling across some quaint little place tucked away neatly in an alley.

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Today was a sunny all day brunch restaurant called ‘The Hardware Société’ that a friend of mine had suggested. Don’t let the unsuspecting exterior fool you! It’s an Alice through the rabbit hole moment; once inside, you will be met with warm smiles from the staff and a flurry of activity.

The food matches the service in every way! I ordered the grilled mushrooms which came with a delicious dollop of pumpkin on the side, a sprinkling of peanuts that added to the delicious flavour of the mushrooms and two slices of bread. My friend ordered a popular dish comprised of baked eggs and a cauliflower purée. Needless to say, the presentation was top-notch and the prices were reasonable! I paid 14,50 euros for my meal and 4 euros for a cappucino making it a grand total of only 18,50 euros!

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So, if you’re ever in Montmartre and looking for a fantastic brunch joint, be sure to pop into the Hardware Société for a fantastic meal that will not disappoint!

The Hardware Société
10 Rue Lamarck, 75018 Paris
01 42 51 69 03
Follow The Hardware Société on Instagram

Sicily: Day 2 Taormina

DAY 2 – Taormina

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Taormina has got to be my favourite city out of all the ones we visited, and trust me, we visited quite a few during our short-lived nine day trip. Why Taormina then? This city definitely has a few more tourists than the rest but is also one of the livelier ones with bars and clubs every few metres. Every corner you turn is a feast for the eyes, architecturally speaking. The girls here can be seen donning stylish jumpsuits and wedge heels.



The day before, we had bumped into two holidaymakers as we were hauling our luggage into our cosy room in Villa Magara. The two energetic ladies were about to finish their trip and had enigmatically told us about how Taormina was rather posh, which really wasn’t their thing, but do try a granita* at Bam Bar.

Hallelujah! Thank God we bumped into them because as instructed, we found the charming, little, family-owned establishment right on the corner of a street. Our travel guide had listed this particular spot as well so it was a must-see and honestly, this place deserves a special mention because I had THE BEST granita of my life here. The granita tasted like real fruit and the flavours all blended perfectly. The rich chocolate granita was topped off with a flower of fresh cream so of course, this isn’t a low-in-calory moment but it was one I’d never forget! One thing you must remember is that Bam Bar is PACKED. We waited half an hour for a table!

*Granita: a course textured ice confection typically made from fruit – Merriam-Webster Dictionary

bam bar

The Garden of Villa Comunale is where we saw our first wedding; we saw two in total. The nervous bride, apparently from the UK, walked down the stairs with her father as the wedding guests and the visitors of the public gardens stood by and gawked at the procession. It was a perfect location for a wedding and the weather was gorgeous! How romantic to be wed one summer’s day on the island of Sicily…

 

 

Not To Be Missed:

(I won’t be listing churches or cathedrals as each city has hundreds! You can’t miss them!)

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Restaurants:

  • Bam Bar – Full description above
  • Timoleone CaféA jewel in the heart of Taormina. The place is cosy, quiet and more or less “hidden” which makes for a lovely escape from the constant site seeing and visiting. The staff spoke amazing english and was very professional!

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Accommodation:

  • La Finestra sul Mare – A bed and breakfast owned by Giovanni which we found on Airbnb. The room was large with a bathroom and a completely furnished kitchen on the way in. You have a terrace facing the ocean which looks splendid at sun set in all its pink and orange magnificence. Breakfast is provided for approximately 7-8 euros and you get dinner cooked by Giovanni and his wife for an extra 20-25 euros.

Wengu Cafe

Tiny raindrops start falling from the heavens and get progressively larger with each step that I take towards the cafe. A few moments after being greeted and seated by the waiter, the skies open up completely to release a tremendous thunderstorm it had been holding in for days.

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I had walked past this cafe several times while wandering Dong Qu (the Eastern District or the East Side of Taipei; popular for its clubs, bars, cafes, restaurants and boutiques.) What personally attracted me to this cafe were the hammock chairs hanging from the ceiling. I’m sure it was the case for most passers-by! Several months after the first sighting, I was finally here for a coffee date with a girl friend. Wengu cafe is a cosy spot, also perfect for studying as the music is soft and not intrusive. You are allowed to sit for as long as you want which is somewhat of a rare phenomenon in Taipei since many cafes and restaurants tend to have a 1.5 hour time limit. The service is fast and friendly!

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Address: No. 16, Lane 160, Section 1, Dunhua South Road, Da’an District, Taipei City

Food & Drinks: 9/10

Service: 9/10

Environment: 10/10

Pricing: 9/10

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OVERALL: 9.25/10

 

I ordered a coffee latte and my friend had a blueberry dream from their “Pot Plant” series. As I had recently gotten my wisdom teeth removed, I couldn’t opt for any of their cold drinks and only had the tiniest taste of the blueberry drink but it was delicious! The coffee latte was pleasing and the taste, smooth. 

My friend ordered banana chocolate waffles with cream and ice-cream. It looked absolutely divine but I only had a tid bit as well. From what I could tell, the waffles were soft and fluffy! She finished everything so that’s two thumbs up from her.

As for the french fries, we ordered some to nibble on. The sauce was so good that I had to ask the waiter what it was. Apparently, it was a homemade Caesar salad sauce that made ALL the difference!

N.B.: Wengu Cafe has a minimum charge of one drink per person. Their drinks average
around NTD130-NTD160.

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Sicily: Day 1 Cefalu

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Nine days of non-stop travelling around the island, a different city each night and several foodie discoveries! Below is a recount and a few tips on how we managed.

What you absolutely must not forget to pack:

  1. COMFY SHOES! A pair of trainers is a must, flip-flops for the beach and some casual summer shoes should suffice! Wedges are alright if you absolutely must but you definitely won’t be needing your heels, girls!
  2. Sunscreen – You will need a lot of it especially when exposed to the Sicilian sun.
  3. A hat – Most useful for preventing a heat stroke
  4. A guide – because even if you do buy 3G/Internet, chances are, you won’t be getting a strong signal all the time. For the francophones out there, we found Le Routard to be most useful!

 

Recommended:

  1. Go right before or after peak season. Two return tickets with Easyjet for two adults were only 200 euros before peak season (we went around late June, early July) whereas a friend had paid 600 euros because his flights were during peak season.
  2. Book a car for your trip if you want to see several spots around the island autonomously which is how we did all the cities and spots below in nine days. We booked with Europcar who are more or less reliable but their Sicilian branch aren’t the best at answering their phones!
  3. Book accommodation via Booking.com (this website worked the best for us) and always go for the bed and breakfasts! They tend to be cheaper, especially before peak season where a night will cost you only 35-60 euros for two.

 

What To Remember:

  1. Sometimes there is a “coperto” or in other words, a cover charge for restaurants. It can be anywhere from 1-3 euros per person.
  2. Sicilian restaurants are incredibly generous in terms of portion. Usually, a meal at an Italian restaurant consists of:
    • antipasti (starter) – fresh salads, platters etc.
    • primo piatto (first dish) – usually risotto or pasta
    • secondo piatto (second dish) – meat or fish
    • contorni (side dish)
    • dolce (dessert)

Italians will typically have all of the above for a special meal but if you’re dining with one other person, most Italians will share a starter and order one primo piatto each. In my case, we often shared the full menu since we wanted to try as many different dishes as we could. Most of our meals came up to 30 euros on average.

  1. Parking can be expensive, ranging from 7-10 euros for a few hours…However, most of our bed and breakfast hosts provided free parking! The cheapest parking was at the Riserva naturale dello Zingaro where we paid only 3 euros for the whole day.

 

DAY 1 – Cefalu
We landed in Palermo early and picked up our
rental car (an adorable mini Fiat) at the airport. Most of the morning was spent driving to Cefalu which was a one hour and a half drive from Palermo airport. We arrived at midday where we lunched by the beach and ordered way too much food as it was our first day and we were completely unaware of the copious Sicilian portion sizes.

All in all, Cefalu is a lovely, little seaside town with charming beaches dotted around its harbour. Though it didn’t make my favourites list, it was a lovely welcome to the beautiful island of Sicily.

 

Not To Be Missed

 

Restaurants

Popular with tourists as their outdoor dining area sits directly in front of the ocean. Perfect spot for watching the sun set over dinner but rather expensive coperto if memory serves me well…

 

Accommodation

Daniella was a gracious host! She spoke English and the check-in time was relatively flexible! The location is excellent and provides an amazing view of the city. The pool was a huge plus and the breakfast was laden with sweet and savoury pastries and breads for only 4 euros per person! The one and only downside was perhaps the mosquitoes but you will be given two repellents: one for inside the room and the other to be placed outside the apartment.

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Restaurant 14 Juillet

A Cosy Traditional Bistro de Quartier


I have been told by local Parisians that if you want authentic, traditional French food, this is the place to be! It might not look like much from the outside and yes, I admit, there is much left to be desired in terms of décor but it emanates a warm vibe and they serve food you will never forget!

The first thing I noticed was how welcoming the staff was, making little jokes here and there to instantly put one at ease. One of the waiters spoke excellent English which is definitely a plus for the tourists out there.

The whole meal cost 86 euros for two. We had a starter and a main dish each while we shared the dessert and the bottle of wine. The portions were absolutely generous and the wine was delicious; a good Bordeaux never fails to delight!

Address: 99, rue Didot, Paris, FRANCE

Food: 10/10

Service: 10/10
Environment: 7/10
Pricing: 9/10

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OVERALL: 9/10

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DETAILS

Wine: Chateau de Carpia 2010 (25 euros)

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Starter 1: Salade d’avocat avec les crevettes roses et le pamplemousse
Absolutely loved this light, delicious salad with a Dijon mustard dressing. Dijon mustard is an absolute favourite of mine, perfect for making a honey mustard sauce if you’re cooking salmon.

IMG_8060Starter 2: Carpaccio de St. Jacques
This lovely dish is composed of a thin layer of raw scallops with a fresh dressing of lemon. It’s a special at 14 Juillet so if you’re a lover of raw seafood, don’t miss it! I personally am not a huge fan of raw scallops.

IMG_8063Main dish 1: Carpaccio de boeuf
Nothing more to say about this classic carpaccio dish complete with olive oil, parmesan cheese and rucola! It also came with a side dish of lightly salted chips. Carpaccio is perfect for a light summer dinner.

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Main dish 2: Coeur de rumsteak au St. Marcellin, gratin Dauphinois

The least visually stimulating dish but it is DIVINE and racked with calories! This dish is the absolute opposite of main dish 1. The beef was cooked perfectly pink and rosy on the inside but drowned in an odorous French cheese (called St. Marcellin) that was melted over the top. Extra carbs for this dish come in the form of gratin dauphinois; potatoes sliced and stacked between layers of fresh cream. If you are EXTREMELY hungry, you can go for this dish and skip the starter.

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Dessert: Profiterolles
Again, a generous portion! Which I’m not complaining about because with my salad and carpaccio de boeuf, I still had some space left for a little vanilla ice cream sandwiched between choux pastry dripping in one full ladle and a half of chocolate…

PS: A little extra recommendation for those of you who might be visiting 14 Juillet in a group of three or more people: TRY THE EPAULE D’AGNEAU CONFITE for me. It’s a 1 kg – 1.2 kg of lamb and was most definitely too excessive for two diners but I’ve heard it will give you one of the biggest food orgasms you’ve ever had and it’s a 14 Juillet special nonetheless!