Today’s address is a real gem hidden in the middle of the British countryside!
A couple of weeks ago we headed to the Cotswolds for a weekend away from the big smoke. We were blessed with amazing autumnal weather and spent the Saturday and Sunday exploring the little Cotswolds villages.
On Saturday, we happened to be in Stow-on-the-Wold around lunch time. Our plan was to find a cosy pub to grab a bite, but it all changed when we walked passed The Hive.
From the outside it looks like a conventional little tea shop. We looked at the menu which seemed appetising and thought ‘why not?’.
The big BIG highlight when eating at The Hive is the staff, ‘nice’ is an understatement. Everybody at The Hive is absolutely lovely! The waiters and the owners are all very polite, very friendly and, most of all, super attentive – by the end of our lunch I wanted to hug them goodbye!
Now let’s talk about the food, simple yet delicious is the best way I would describe it! The menu mainly offers simple lunch options like soup and sandwiches. The quantities are generous though and we left very full and in need of a digestive walk.
Andrew went for the egg and mayo sandwich. A generous melting filling sandwiched between two slices of ‘crispy on the outside and soft on the inside’ sourdough bread. What else can you ask for?
I picked the soup of the day which was sweet potato, coconut milk and spices.
On the side, I had the option to choose either white sourdough bread, brown bread or a cheese scone. I went for the cheese scone, obviously!
The soup was creamy and flavoursome, the cheese scone had the perfect consistency and cheesiness, and I was happy.
With still a little bit of space for something sweet, we decided to share a huge slice of the lemon and pistachio cake. Pure sweetness bliss…
So if you are wandering in the Cotswolds hills and looking for a place to have lunch, head to Stow-on-the-Wold!
One of the most impressive places to visit in Kyoto is the train station. You read that right, the actual train station.
It is very famous for its impressive architecture rising to 15 floors. The building is a futuristic take on architecture by Hiroshi Hara, where, spread other many levels, you will find shops, train’s platforms and many, many, many restaurants.
Our hotel wasn’t too far from the station, so on our first day, after dropping our bags, we headed there to see the view of Kyoto and grab a bite to eat before heading to Fushimi.
Once at the top of the station and after taking multiple pictures of the view we headed to the restaurant area where we found Katsukura.
As you would have guessed by its name, Katsukura serves tonkatsu – aka breaded and fried meat. It was also one of our favourite meal in Japan!
The queue at the front can be quite long as it is a fairly popular place, but it moves very fast. You won’t hang around too long in Katsukura, being in the train station the service is very fast so you don’t miss your train!
Once seated you have the choice between various meats or fish tonkatsu, I went for the crab meat cream croquette and fillet cutlet. All are served with shredded cabbage, a miso soup and rice.
One particular thing about Katsukura is the sauce making process. They are very proud of their sauces and you will be given several options to choose from at the table. You will then be given some sesame to ground yourself and mix with the sauce to create your preferred texture. We loved that entertaining step, it made us feel like we totally knew what we were doing (we didn’t).
Once the sauce was ready the meal was served. The pork was juicy, the crab meat croquettes were creamy; it was a very satisfying lunch. It is a great option for Westerners, as it felt like a more conventional meal with the meat and side of vegetable and rice.
Commonly I title my posts with the name of the restaurants I talk about, however in today’s case I had to find an alternative because the place I want to share with you is called ふみちゃん 流川店. Perfectly clear for people who speak Japanese, less so for the rest of us!
As you would have guessed from the title, ふみちゃん 流川店 speciality is okonomiyaki, a pancake/omelette and a traditional dish in the Hiroshima region. If you want to learn more about this local dish and others make sure to check the list of the 14 foods to try in Japan!
Now ふみちゃん 流川店 may not have a Latin Alphabet name but you will be able to find it by copy/pasting the name in google map, AND I took a picture from the outside so you will know exactly how it looks like!
So once you are in front of a restaurant that looks like the above, get in! Inside you will be greeted by a busy dining room and kitchen. Traditionally most okonomiyaki restaurants have an open kitchen and the staff cooks in front of the guests.
I took this opportunity to spy on others people’ plates (or hob in that case) to be able to point at what I want when the waiter would take our order.
We were given the choice between a conventional western table or a traditional Japanese one. Andrew isn’t great at sitting on the floor (he’s weird, don’t ask) so we went for the conventional table.
Once seated a waiter, who didn’t speak at all English or French (fair enough), came to us, and followed a session of pointing at the Japanese menu then at the English one to place our order. We didn’t take too many risks and went for the classic okonomiyaki. We sipped on our refreshing beers while watching the chef cooking.
Finally our okonomiyakis arrived, and they were absolutely delicious! The layers of pancakes, noodles, pork, squid, cabbage and cheese melted together to create the most filling and tasteful dinner.
It is good to note that okonomiyaki is a very filling dish (again I have no idea how Japanese people stay that skinny but hey!), so make sure to come hungry to ふみちゃん 流川店 otherwise you will end up like me, sweaty and with bad ‘I am too full’ posture.
Spoiler alert! This was by far the best beef we had during our entire trip in Japan. Starting with a pretty major statement but I truly mean it! If you are going to only eat wagyu beef once, eat it at Tsurugyu!
Now let me introduce you to the place itself, Tsurugyu is a Kobe beef restaurant just outside Osaka city centre. From the street it doesn’t look like anything special, and the avenue it is on is actually dead quiet during the day which makes it a bit difficult to find at first.
Get inside and you are entering a dark and elegant little cocoon. The place feels special with all tables sheltered by curtains giving it a lot of privacy. George Clooney could be at the table next to you and you wouldn’t even know it.
It is good to note that you will need a reservation to eat at Tsurugyu. It is a very popular place. Not speaking Japanese? Don’t worry, just swing by and ask if they can book a table for you. We went one morning there and asked if they had availability on the same evening, which luckily they did!
Our waiter deserves a special mention too. He was hilariously patronising but in the nicest possible way. He must have thought “Those Europeans have absolutely no clue what they are doing!” and spent most of the evening showing us how to eat each ingredient properly. We felt like primary school students but also learned a lot about Japanese table manners.
Now let’s talk about the best part – the food! I could literally just tell you that it was epic and leave it there with a few snaps, but it was such an excellent meal that it deserves a few more words before I leave you drooling at the pictures (well except if you are vegetarian, look away now).
Once sat at the table, the waiter got the grill ready while we were deciding which cut of beef to go for. We ordered two different types of beef, both not too fatty as I am more of a lean cut type of person.
With the meat, we ordered a side of kimchi, which I am completely obsessed about by the way, since I learned that it is good for your guts health.
We also ordered the cold noodles as per our waiter recommendation. I would describe it as a very cold and very light ramen. Worth a try!
We then got busy cooking and grilling!
And following our teacher… I mean, our waiter’s instructions we dressed our plates as Japanese people would do. Meat at the bottom and the various sauces and salts at the top but never mixed together!
There is not much more I can say than: “YOU NEEEEEEEED TO GO EAT AT TSURUGYU!”
On our first night in Kyoto we headed for dinner at Gogyo Ramen. The restaurant is in Kyoto’s city centre right behind Nishiki Market.
You will know you are in the right place when you will see the queue in front of the restaurant and flames coming out of the kitchen. “Flames you said?” Yes I did! Gogyo’s signature dish is ‘burnt’ ramen, so to prepare it they literally have to burn it!
After queuing for a good while, we finally made it in and sat at the bar in front of the kitchen. Great way to have dinner while watching a pyrotechnics show!
One big big BIG highlight of our dinner at Gogyo was the staff! They were the nicest waiters we could have wished for! They helped us with our bibs (I told I am not good with chopsticks!) and when I said I had never tried plum wine they immediately offered me a glass of it ‘on the house’. By the way if you have never tried plum wine, make sure you do, it is delicious!
Genuinely friendly is the best way to describe the staff there!
Now to the food! Ramen can be extremely filling so we didn’t go too crazy with our order to make sure we could finish our dish (I hate wasting food!). We ordered fried gyozas as a stater, which we shared. They were really good and one plate was enough between the two of us, knowing what was coming next…
For mains we both went for the signature dish, the burnt ramen. Andrew went for a version with more toppings, I went for the regular one.
The taste is a lot stronger than a normal ramen. It is very smokey and it does have a burnt after taste so I am not sure everyone would like it. I found the texture to be oilier too but overall we did very much enjoy it.
As long as you are not expecting a classic ramen like at Ichiran, and that you are open to try new flavours, you will love the burnt ramen of Gogyo!
Also, if you are going, make sure to say ‘hi!’ to the lovely staff for us!
It is not all about sushi in Japan, far from it! I would almost compare Japanese cuisine to French cuisine, there is so much diversity! Meat dishes, fish dishes, pastries, Japanese food is varied and you won’t get bored while eating there.
Now it can be a little overwhelming and intimidating to order in a Japanese restaurant. What does that mean? What should I try? Is that even fish?
If you are planning to visit Japan and are a bit of a foodie like me, keep reading! I listed below the 14 Japanese foods you have to try. Some you will be familiar with, some you may never have heard of, all are delicious!
***FYI, the list below is not a ranking, it is simply in the alphabetical order***
Now are you hungry? Good, keep reading!
Yes, you read that right, curry is one of the most popular dish in Japan. You will find curry houses at every street corner. Coco Ichibanya is one of the most popular rice curry restaurant chain. The most famous type of curry is the katsu curry which is made of rice, curry sauce and breaded meat, usually pork.
Also known as breaded and deep-fried pork cutlets, it doesn’t sound very healthy but it is absolutely delicious! It is a popular lunch option served with rice, miso soup and shredded cabbage. The best tonkatsu we had was at Katsukura in Kyoto train station!
Kaiseki is a traditional multi-course meal. You know those delicate little eatable pieces of art you see in any guide about Japan? That’s kaiseki!
The first time we had it was for breakfast in Kyoto in our riokan, and we felt a little overwhelmed as to what should be eaten first on the tray. Luckily we then had lunch and kaiseki again with one of my Japanese friends in Tokyo, she explained to us that there is no formal order, you eat from the little plates as you wish!
Matcha tea may only be a recent trend in the western world but it is a very traditional ingredient in Japan. You can drink matcha tea of course, but you can also have matcha sundae, matcha cakes, matcha mochi, matcha ice cream, the list goes on and on and on!
One of my favourite snack in Japan. It’s sweet, filling and has the weirdest chewy texture, I love it! Made of a mochi, a rice paste and stuffed with various fillings, it is the perfect mid-afternoon sweet treat when walking around Japanese cities.
My favourite? The mochi and red bean paste daifuku. Soooo good!
A savoury pancake/omelette, is the best way I would describe Okonomiyaki. It is a traditional dish from Hiroshima, so if you are in the area make sure to have one! It is extremely filling so it worth coming to the restaurant with an empty stomach for this one.
Our favourite on-the-go lunch option while in Japan! It is super filling, tasty AND low on calories. I developed an addiction for the tuna and mayo one, I also promise to learn to make them at home as soon as we were back from Japan. The later has still not happened…
After spending two weeks in Japan, I have honestly no idea how Japanese people remain so thin. The food is rich and there is an endless variety of pastries. Rice base, wheat base, banana cream filling, red beans paste, name it and it probably exists in Japan!
The dish that doesn’t need more introduction and a very popular meal in Japan. It is delicious an there is a surprising amount of variety! We loved Ichiran’s classic ramen and the ‘burnt’ one from Kyoto Gogyo Ramen.
Red bean everything
Similar to matcha, red beans seem to be a go-to ingredient in desserts. I had mochi and red bean paste, red bean milkshake, pudding, etc.
Now if you think of red beans you may not think of delicious sweet treats, but don’t be deceived by the look and the name! It is delicious and the taste is similar to candied chestnuts. Hmmmmmmm….
Surprisingly a lot less popular than we thought it would be! Sushis are eaten by Japanese people but probably not as much as ramen or any rice dish. The best place to get some is at Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo.
Tempura is originally a Portuguese dish, not a Japanese one (thanks Wikipedia!). However, the battered and fried dish has been made very popular by Japan after the recipe was imported there. Fish, vegetables, everything can be ‘Tempura-ed’. It’s also a great way to try new things, for instance, this is how I tried eel for the first time (picture below), and I loved it!
Now when talking about beef in Japan, we are talking about an ingredient more than an actual dish. There are plenty of ways to eat wagyu beef, it can be prepared as a grilled steak, a sashimi, sukiyaki and many other ways!
Flavoursome and melting in the mouth, the quantities are usually small but the quality is incomparable!
Last but not least, Yakitori, a grilled skewered meat dish. It is commonly served with a miso soup, soy sauce and some rice. It is also one of the more accessible Japanese dish for westerners who are new to Japanese cuisine. If you are around Shibuya in Tokyo, make sure to have some yakitori at Toritake!
Here you go, you have your food menu for your trip to Japan! Now buy that plane ticket, a bib and cutlery (if like me you are not very good with chopsticks) and go discover Japanese cuisine!
The place I am sharing with you today is truly special. A very unique experience, outstanding food and a real insight into Japanese culture. Ready? Let’s go!
Imahan specialities are sukiyaki and shabushabu. Both cooking methods involve preparing the food at the table. Sukiyaki means that the food is fried in a pan, and shabushabu is when the food is cook in a hot pot.
Now to find Imahan you will have to go underground. You read that right! In Japan, shops and restaurant are spread over multiple levels and in Shinjuku, Tokyo there is an entire other city underground. Imahan is in the underground area right next to the Hilton and the Hyatt.
Once you found it you will enter another world. Shinjuku is very modern, Imahan is very traditional. The waitresses wear elegant kimonos and the decor is the reflection of a traditional Japanese home. You can immediately feel that you are somewhere special where people whisper and guests are kings.
Once seated, we were offered a cup of green tea and a hot towel to wash our hands. We looked at the menu and settled for the sukiyaki ‘course’ option, which includes starters (with an S and you will see why in a minute), the beef, sides and desert. A real fest!
You can see on the picture that prices are quite steep, Imahan Sukiyaki is definitely not a cheap eatery. The experience is so special though that we were happy to spend that money on a memory we would cherish for ever.
Now let’s talk about the waitresses, as I mentioned earlier they are all wearing the most elegant kimonos, they will also spend the entire meal at your table! Yep, that’s the thing that took us the most by surprise. We thought we would be given the pots and the ingredients and cook ourselves, but instead we had a waitress dedicated to our table, who cooked for us the entire time, and in front of whom I embarrassed myself with my lack of chopstick skills.
The entire dinner was a ceremony and we were treated to so many dishes I lost count after 3, luckily I took pictures! So let’s go through it together!
First, the waitress set up the pot.
We then got served our first starter, which was made of many things I didn’t know or couldn’t recognised, it was also the most beautiful thing I had ever seen!
It was followed by a miso soup.
Which was followed by beef sushis (soooooooo good).
Still hungry? Good, because that was only the appetisers. Now the serious things started! The waitress brought the beef and multiple sides.
We got served a first bowl of beef in egg. Raw eggs are often served with rice and meat in Japan, it is a little weird at the beginning, but you get used to it!
We then got a second serving of beef with vegetables.
At that point I started to feel SERIOUSLY full, so I turned around expecting to see almost empty plates… Nope, another mountain of meat and vegetables was waiting for us. I HAVE NO IDEA how Japanese people stay so skinny!
Everything was so good though that I just kept eating. Luckily it was getting ‘lighter’ with mainly vegetables and tofu being served at that point.
The waitress looked at us with a gentle smile, turned off the gas and took away the pot. I was happy to see that we were close to the end with only dessert remaining as I was completely stuffed! But.. Oh wait! There was more! The waitress came back with another soup.
Served with pickled vegetables.
And a last serving of eggs with rice!
My stomach was hurting at that point, but finally I saw the light at the end of tunnel with dessert being served. Small and refreshing, perfect after such a filling meal!
Our meal at Imahan was amazing, the food was delicious and the plates stunning to look at. My only advice though, don’t eat AT ALL before to go there!
A stone’s throw from the busy and world-famous Shibuya crossing, Toritake is a perfect place for a lunch break. Their speciality? Yakitori !
Yakitori is a cooking technique used in Japanese cuisine in which meat is skewered and grilled on charcoal fire. Fun fact, yakitori in Japanese means ‘burned chicken’.
From the outside you wouldn’t even notice Toritake. It is in a quiet street right off Shibuya train station, but don’t be deceived by the small door. Once inside you will realise that you are in one popular place! The restaurant is usually packed! You may need to wait for a table but rest assured that it will worth it. When we visited the place there was only one other tourist couple, every one else was Japanese!
It is good to note that the waiters do not speak English but they do have an English menu and a little bit of pointing and smiling should do the trick!
Once you ordered, you will be given a warm wet towel to wash your hand (common practice in all restaurants in Japan) and you will be served a glass of green tea (once again applicable in almost all restaurants we visited in Japan).
We both went for the chicken menu, I ordered the 3-skewers option, Andrew went for 5 or 6. The chicken is served with a side salad, pickled vegetables, rice and a miso soup. A delicious and filling lunch to keep you going all afternoon.
It is also good to know that Toritake is ridiculously good value for money! It was one of our cheapest meal, yet it was delicious and the quantities were very generous! If chicken isn’t your thing they do other type of meat and yakitori fish. Look no further if you are having lunch in Shibuya, Toritake is the place you want to try!
Our first ramen experience in Japan was at Ichiran in Tokyo. We went to their Shinjuku branch as it was the closest to our hotel. I call it an ‘experience’ as it couldn’t have been further away to any restaurant experiences you may have in the western world.
In the centre of the vibrant Shinjuku neighborhood, just east of the train station, you will find Ichiran-Shinjuku. It is easy to identify it as, chances are, there will be a very long queue at the front. One very very popular place! Forbes actually goes as far as calling it the best ramen in the WORLD!
Eating at Ichiran is a step process! Step 1, queue. Step 2, order from the very confusing, all-in-japanese machine. It took us a few trials and errors to get our orders right, and, to be honest, we still got some extra sides we didn’t even know we had ordered once we sat. The idea is that you select your ramen base and then all the toppings you want as well as the drinks.
You are then handed a piece of paper where you can select how you want your noodles cooked (soft, medium, hard, etc) and so on, my favourite option is hard noodles!
Once you have ordered, step 3 is to queue, again, to be seated. You will be waiting in front of the galley kitchen where you can see the cooks preparing the orders extremely efficiently. In Japan, the objective of the restaurants is to feed you quickly and efficiently. Forget about a 2-hours French style dinner and banter.
Step 4, take a sit! This is when it gets even more exotic for westerners. There are no tables in Ichiran, you will be seated at a bar with dividers between you an your neighbours. A great way to eat quietly and be left alone. That made for one very anti-social meal with my husband, but it was such an amazing experience that we just embraced it!
Last step, food time! Little hands will appear from behind the curtain in front of you and will serve you drinks, the ramen and its toppings. Now, be quiet and eat that delicious ramen!
Ichiran food was delicious, it is such a surreal and oh-so very Japanese experience that I would recommend going 100%! You will definitely feel lost in translation there.
One thing Italians do extremely well, among many other things, is coffee or caffè!
Sitting at a terrace to sip on an espresso is an integral part of the Italian lifestyle. Which is the same for French people! So I just felt at home when taking a sit at a table on Gilli‘s terrace in Florence!
Gilli is an institution in Florence. It has been serving coffee to the locals since 1733. You will find it on the main square, Piazza della Repubblica, right in the centre of town.
The interior is very elegant, real interior goals if you like grand and classic design. But if you are visiting on a warm day, take a sit on the huge terrace and watch the world passing by.
Pick from their selection of coffees – espresso, caffè freddo, cappuccino, the world is your oyster!
Now the most difficult decision you will have to make is if you also fancy a little bit of food and more particularly a sweet treat. Gilli’s shop windows are decorated with the most beautiful and delicious-looking treats. And this is only the outside!
Go inside and pick from a huge selection of colourful pastries. Cannolis, fruit tarts, chocolate cakes, pick the best looking one!
We went for coffees only, I picked a cold cappuccino and Andrew went for an espresso with a little bit of chocolate in it (I forgot the name, sorry!). It is good to note that you will be served a selection of biscuits with your coffee, so if you are not very hungry don’t order a pastry, save your appetite for these!
So does it really worth visiting Gilli? I would say yes, once, for the experience. The coffees are good, but the place is a little bit pretentious and you can tell the prices reflect some of the waiters’ attitude. We had a lovely time there and I am glad we went, but I don’t feel the need to rush back.