‘One taste explodes like a moon rocket booster’: readers’ favourite foodie finds in Europe | Restaurants

Winning tip: Super-fresh seafood in Athens

Hidden in the main hall of Varvakios Agora market in Athens is seafood so fresh that the air smells of saltwater. At Hasapika, you can choose your fish and specify how you’d like it cooked: seared octopus, salmon ceviche, gigantic fried prawns – the choice is endlessly delicious. But the highlight is the Hasapika pan – handmade pasta in a decadent tomato broth overloaded with crayfish, mussels and shrimp. It can serve three, but two of us fought for every last scrap, wiping the pan with warm, olive oil-soaked bread. My Italian friend declared it some of the best pasta he had ever tasted. Well worth €28 for two.
Suriya Bala

Meat rolls and mustard, Bucharest

Mici is the street food of Bucharest. Photograph: Mihai Tamasila/Alamy

At Obor market, a couple of miles north-west of Bucharest’s old town, Terasa Obor is an outdoor barbecue spot famous for its mici (pronounced “meech” and also known as mititei). Literally “small ones”, these are small meat rolls made from beef or lamb, similar to koftas, and a popular street food in Romania, with variations of the dish popular across the Balkans. At the centre of a bustling market, this is a prime spot for people watching and a favourite with the locals. Mici are five lei each (just less than £1), with fresh bread one lei, and are served with mustard.
Josh Rault

Briny bites, Norfolk

‘As simple as it gets’ … Brancaster Staithe’s Crab Hut Photograph: Sarah Weston/Alamy

The food at the Crab Hut, a cabin-turned-food-stall that sits quietly in the marshes of Brancaster Staithe, is as simple as it gets – small bowls of whelks (£2), cockles (£2.50), and crayfish (£3), and generous rolls stuffed with local crab (£4.50). There’s an honesty and a brightness in each bite, and yet a certain brine that makes you feel as though you’re tasting the north Norfolk landscape. There’s no indoor seating. I recommend you either grab a nearby picnic bench or walk through the marshes and on to the sand dunes.


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Sicilian punk tunes, Valencia

A street in Valancia’s Cabanyal neighbourhood. Photograph: Ioana Catalina Echim/Alamy

A soft, warm Valencian evening is rounded off perfectly and inexpensively by time spent in a small Sicilian, punk-inspired bar in Cabanyal: the Officina Meccanica Work in Progress. The magic mushroom burrata might as well be hallucinogenic, as the creamy richness is perfectly accompanied by the rosemary-infused melting mushrooms. A bowl of fresh panelle (Sicilian fritters made from chickpea flour and other ingredients) adds the exact amount of crunch to balance the flavours, which are further perfected with a glass of crisp Insolia (Sicilian white wine). The meal blends with the easy ambience to induce a sense of wellbeing that will resonate for months to come.

Fiery soup, Iceland

First a visit to wild Reynisfjara Beach; then some hot soup … Photograph: Giulio Ercolani/Alamy

During a recent trip to Iceland, after a long drive on the icy roads, we reached the village of Vík í Mýrdal on Route 1, close to the island’s southernmost point and home to the beautiful Reynisfjara black sand basalt beach. (The village is about 120 miles east of the currently active volcano zone around Grindavík). Here we discovered the amazing Soup Company. The menu is simple: there are soups to choose from – with free refill – and bread and butter. We had the appropriately named lava soup, a spicy red soup (main ingredients beef, black beans, red wine, onion, tomatoes, bay leaves and red lentils) served in a black bread bowl, with yoghurt on the side. It was as tasty as it was photogenic. Each spoonful revealed a harmonious combination of flavours, creating a culinary experience that resonated with the imposing landscapes.

Perfect pierogi, Kraków

Refuge from winter … No Bones, Kraków. Photograph: Robert Michalowski

Kraków was beautiful but austerely cold when we visited in January last year. Fugitives from the icy wind, we stole down an alley in the town’s historic heart to No Bones, a vegan restaurant three minutes’ walk from the main square. For the equivalent of £6.50, we ordered a platter of slippery pierogi, each dumpling delicate but substantial, each one a peppery umami parcel of cabbage and mushroom. Restored and warmed, we headed out again into the Polish winter to explore further. A perfect and delicious lunch should you find yourself in Kraków, particularly when the wind is blowing and the snow crunches underfoot.

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Seared tuna, searing the memory in Madeira

Surprisingly good dishes … Santiago Beach Bar

Tucked under the battlements of a medieval fort, above a rocky seashore, Santiago Beach Bar in Funchal is no place to expect “Oh my God that’s good” food … especially outside, in a storm. But, order a tuna bolo after a local beer, or three (just so you don’t feel you’re hogging the table, and the view) and what do you get? You get thinly cut, seared, tuna steak, as fresh as the wild sea you’re mesmerised by. You get a picture in your mind, a taste in your mouth, a memory you will always treasure.

Bari’s burnt spaghetti, Italy

Our tipster was impressed … ‘One taste explodes like a moon rocket booster.’ Photograph: David Innes-Wilkin

Spaghetti all’assassina, also known as spaghetti bruciati (burnt spaghetti), was the most amazing pasta we had in Bari; you can order it in most restaurants but we first had it off Via Massaua in the docks. It gets specially made to order. This is perhaps the most famous traditional dish in Puglia and has been featured on TV programmes such as Gino’s Italy: Secrets of the South. It also features in the Lolita Lobosco detective novels by Gabriella Genisi – the fifth book in the series was simply called Spaghetti all’Assassina – and the accompanying TV drama. The secret is in the tomato sauce and also in the preparation that simmers some of it to a crisp, partly burned spaghetti. Being very spicy, one taste explodes like a moon rocket booster to leave you gasping for air. People came up to see how we got on with it – we found the people of Bari to be so friendly!
David Innes-Wilkin

Georgian treats, Berlin

On my most recent trip to Berlin, I found my favourite restaurant yet, Der blaue Fuchs (The Blue Fox), a Georgian restaurant with arty walls, patterned tablecloths and outdoor tables overlooking the green Kollwitzplatz on Knaackstraße. This vegan-friendly place serves home-cooked Georgian classics like the iconic, boat-shaped khachapuri (cheese-filled bread). We had an appetiser platter with grilled aubergine and vegetable spreads flavoured with walnuts, pomegranate and regional herbs, including blue fenugreek, so distinctive and unique to Georgian cuisine. We then enjoyed warming bean stews in earthenware pots, washed down with Georgian wine from among the oldest wine traditions in the world.

When in Rome join the queue

A queue is a good sign. A queue in Rome for pizza in the rain? Worth the wait. L’Antico Forno Roscioli on Via dei Chiavari is the pizza joint to end all pizza joints. When you get in, fresh bread and pastry greet you on the left, before a counter of contorni tempts you. A wooden board filled with pizza options (thin and focaccia crusts) is your final stop. If they have porchetta (slow-roasted pork belly roll), get it. The potato and rosemary flatbread (no sauce) was exquisite, and the suppli (think svelte arancini) best in class. Be prepared to eat standing outside, whatever the weather.
Caroline Glendinning

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