Monday, 30 June 2014

Malta: Part Two

On day two of our trip to Malta, we decided to explore the island a bit. Therefore, bright and early, we hopped on a local bus and sped (....well, crawled) off to the capital city, Valletta.

First stop, breakfast. A very healthy breakfast at that. Consisting purely of lemon meringue pie and sugary doughnuts...

Once we had eaten our fill of sugary treats, we started exploring the fortress city. Each street held a different surprise, whether it was a beautiful secret garden, a saint perched on a plinth surveying the alley or simply another beautiful building or view.

We stumbled across the Knights Hospitallers museum, a fascinating place which told the story of the Knights of St Johns and their influence on Malta and the hospital they built. We learnt how surgeons in the middle ages were prized for their speed due to the lack of anaesthetic and how doctors realised that giving patients separate beds reduced the spread of infection (a novel idea at the time!). We also got a glimpse of the extensive cave system that runs under the whole of Malta, while learning about the gruesome effect of the plague on the small island. This exhibition was a lot of fun to explore but also very informative- I hadn't realised quite how steeped in history the tiny island was! Definitely worth a visit.

After roaming the length and breath of the sun soaked streets, we retired more than a little exhausted to the bus, where I sat dreaming of our air conditioned hotel room and our comfy beds!

Saturday, 28 June 2014

Malta: Part One

After an early morning flight from Stansted, my sister, mother and I arrived in Malta last Sunday to an onslaught of sunshine. After the early summer sun of England, those shining rays felt glorious and so we eagerly hopped in a taxi to find our hotel.

Before long we were there and starting to settle in. We were staying at the The George Urban Boutique Hotel, which was fairly centrally located in St Julian's and so provided us with a good base from which to explore. Despite being in a built up area, it had a rooftop pool (and a basement spa pool) and so we headed up to catch the last rays of the sunshine before getting ready for dinner.

After we'd spruced up, we wandered towards the harbour in search of food. We eventually settled on a pretty restaurant on the water front, with a rather extensive menu offering Italian and Maltese dishes. Of course, we quickly dug in! My favourite dish had to be a simple but gooey camembert, sesame seed and pear salad, which was perfect after the heat of the day.

When we'd finished eating, Mum and I went for a walk around the harbour in search of ice-cream. The sea front was buzzing with people, especially crowds of excitable Frenchies who were all watching their football team play in the World Cup on a large screen set up by the water. Their cheers of happiness and sighs of disappointment could be heard all around the harbour, adding to the lively atmosphere. I could tell this was going to be a fun holiday!

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

A Taste of Turkey: Saray Mangal

Jossi found this little gem of a place. She'd been telling me for ages that we should make some time to go out for dinner and eventually, we both managed to clear our calendars enough to fit in an evening of new food. Joss had been to Saray Mangal once before and had come away raving, so trusting in her impeccable taste, I was pretty keen to try it. Only thing was I'd never eaten much in the way of Turkish cuisine before and so didn't quite know what to expect...

The first thing that struck me was how colourful and lively the little restaurant was. We were greeted warmly and shown to a window table, right next to the counter which displayed all the food on offer. We could see directly into where the food was cooked and the chefs were more than happy to lean over the counter and help us pick our menu choices, explaining what went into each of the kababs. 

As soon as we ordered, a big bowl of delicious, warm, complimentary pide bread appeared, accompanied by two dipping sauces. We happily munched through it while chatting over our drinks. Joss had ordered a 'ayran' which is a yogurt drink mixed with salt and is apparently a national drink of Turkey, where as I'd gone for a slightly less exotic Fanta. I was soon jealous however when I saw how hers arrived, foaming over the rim of a beaten copper cup. 

Before long our food materialised, along with more of the yummy bread. We'd decided to share and so had gone for the 'special mix' which was a huge platter of chicken wings and chicken, lamb and lamb mince kebabs. This was all cooked in different spices and presented with a second (unexpected) platter of colourful salad and rice. 

We happily tucked in, chomping through the massive pile of food in front of us, before finally admitting defeat with only one lonely little chicken wing left on the table between us.We just couldn't manage another bite, no matter how much we wanted to!

 We ordered the bill and were shocked to discover that the entire meal had come to just over sixteen pounds which was a complete bargain, especially considering how stuffed we were feeling, the level of attentive service we'd received and amount of complimentary bread (which had just kept coming!). We left very happy customers and will hopefully be returning in the future!

Monday, 23 June 2014

Leicester: Jones' Café

Today, I'm going to share with you a badly kept secret... Jones'. Over the last few years, this café has been a firm favourite of my university friends and I, my record being five visits in one week! It's an addiction and now having left uni, I'm not sure how I'm going to cope without!

Unfortunately for us, it's also a lot of other people's fix as well- I've spent more than a few drizzly afternoons queuing out the door, hoping someone will leave before they stop serving food! However, when you get inside, you remember that it's all very much worth it.

To drink, I normally almost always order the home-made strawberry lemonade which arrives in a jam jar with fresh strawbs, slices of lime and lemon on the side. However, I have been known to stray away from this summery concoction to thick milkshakes, cream-topped hot chocolates or even the odd cocktail....

My favourite dish is the 'veggie bagel burger'. This is a delicious stack of roasted red pepper, mushroom, goats cheese and, if you're like me and ask for a few, fried onions, all incased in a bagel with chilli fries on the side. I love opening up my bagel and filling it with the home-made garlic mayo and ketchup, before squeezing it all together and digging in! It really is truly delicious.

However, I've recently discovered the thai mussels which are also amazing- a huge bowl of them comes floating in a tangy thai sauce. I've only ever had the starter size and have always had more than enough to share!

They also do breakfast foods such as eggs Benedict, full English and...pancakes and waffles! Yum!

The bar is always packed with batches of home-baked goodies, from festive cupcakes to slices of millionaires shortbread.

Essentially, what I'm trying to say is that I'm a big fan of this little café: the food is excellent, the staff lovely and the prices very very reasonable. Go!