March 31, 2010

Plachutta, Vienna…this is heaven on earth

Filed under: Austria, Food & Beverage, restaurant, Travel — Tags: , , , , , , — PEr @ 11:55 am

“For the best in Viennese cooking.” Plachutta sure wasn’t kidding when they coined their slogan.

“Boiled Buttock” dosn’t quite sound like the holy grail of gastronomy, but don’t miss the chance to dine here. Plachutta specialises in the boiled beef dishes that the Viennese love so much. Few restaurants have built such a fetish around one dish as Plachutta has done with Tafelspitz, offering 10 variations of the boiled beef dish. The differences between the versions are the cut of beef available.

The atmosphere in the restaurant is very cosy and the service is excellent. I first enjoyed the soup, with vegetables and dumplings. Then I spread some crisply toasted rye bread thinly with bone marrow before tucking into my main course. I got a copper pot with a delicious beef soup with a generous chunk of beef cooked in the broth.  Hash brown potatoes, chives, and an appealing mixture of horseradish and chopped apples accompanied the dish. The tafelspitz is incredibly tender, flavourful and mouth-watering.  Not sophisticated but perfect cooking.

If you are tempted to ask what’s so special about a cut of beef boiled in broth for hours, you’re definitely missing the point. In order to understand the Tafelspitz, you must experience it the real (that means Plachutta) way!

I have been to Vienna around six times but now I really wonder where I’ve been. Not having tasted tafelspitz at Plachutta means I’ve never really been to Vienna. This time, I have finally arrived!! It was that good. This is the true truth and I always say it as it is.

March 30, 2010

Le Meridien Hotel Budapest…impersonal service at a good location

This headquarters of the Budapest police (read: police station) in the heart of Budapest was converted into the le Meridien Hotel 10 years ago. The style is not modern but the bedrooms and bathrooms are quite spacious. The floor heating is a great thing – heated floors should be obligatory in five star hotels!!!

The hotel is in a great location as it was close to the, Danube river front, Opera House, and St Stephen’s Basilica. The subway station is just around the corner, a few meters away from the hotel. We trained to Vienna from the Keleti Railway Station which was 15 minutes away from the hotel. 

However, the front desk staff, who, though were helpful, exuded the impression that they were just going through the motions and want you out of their faces as quickly as possible. The staff needs more briefing on how to be more out going, friendlier and cordial

This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

March 29, 2010

Menza, Budapest…a MUST in Budapest

This is the bottomline: the best restaurant in Budapest. If I were to come back to Budapest I this would definitely be the first stop for me.

A place to delight all senses. A good buzzy ambience and the menu selection is the exact essence of the Hungarian dishes’ repertoire …with a modern twist. The food is excellent (yes, it is really that good) and, as I found with most places in Budapest, the staff all spoke a high standard of English.

Being so popular, it is a very busy restaurant, but don’t let that discourage you – either book your table in advance (like me), or if you’re not that organised, just show up and wait. It’ll be worth the wait.

The gulyás soup was prepared traditionally with nice chunks of beef and vegetables in the broth. The Chicken a la Menza was a casserole-type dish mixing large slices of chicken with mushrooms, french fries, and cheese, all topped with a broiled camembert cheese crust on top. The donut filled with goose liver was truly a mouth-watering experience! The veal stew with dumplings was amazing!

Diners can choose a Hungarian wine to complement the meal from the restaurant’s extensive list. I had the best wine in my 16 days in Europe here. I had the Szentgyorhy Hegyi cabernet savignon 2008 Szaszi Pince.

The servers are exceptionally attentive and aware of guest needs, without hovering. The staff waiting on us was attentive and I never felt forgotten while waiting. With great friendly service, and with an attractive retro-vibe all around (though the unique 60s/70s retro style, with orange, green and brown decor, might be a little jarring on some senses), you can’t go wrong with this place. The wallpaper, tablecloths and even bathroom tiles look great! The music is kinda lounge and chill. Very good.

The conclusion: Menza is a stylish place which has not forgotten that a good restaurant is about satisfying and honest food. And the proof is there: it’s always full, with a very relaxed atmosphere at the same time.

A must visit!

March 28, 2010

Tigris Restaurant, Budapest….not as great as it’s made out to be

The classy Tigris Restaurant  could soon earn a Michelin star – the most prestigious restaurant rating there is.

Bolstered by this knowledge, we had our lunch there upon arriving in Budapest and hurriedly dumping our luggages in the hotel.

When thinking of a Hungarian food, I can only come up with goulash and if I am asked to describe it, I would have said it was a heavy thick meaty stew. Turns out, the version I found in Tigrist were none of those things. Goulash was actually a light broth, flavored with paprika, diced veggies and some meat, usually beef.

The ambience – atmosphere and decor – was nice. The service was English-fluent, attentive, professional and friendly.

Though the goulash soup was quite nice, the cutlet of pork in bacon with a selection of beans and peas was pretty bland and not memorable. The meal certainly wasn’t the “best in the world,”…not even the “best in Budapest.” Once again, this is the true truth. I always say it as it is…


March 27, 2010

Duna Bella Danube Daytime Sightseeing Cruise…..only if you have nothing else better to do

Filed under: Cruise, Hungary, Travel — Tags: , , , , — PEr @ 11:54 pm

Duna (Danube) Bella is an hour-long daytime sightseeing cruise on the Danube, sailing between the splendid vision of Buda and Pest. Headphones are provided for those interested in listening to a running history of the city and its major sights (commentary is available in 30 languages). During the trip we were guided by the 2 parts of the city as “Buda” and “Pest” were telling us their stories about the curiosities along the river. The Danube is a beautiful river but the ramblings of the commentaries over the headphones would put you into a coma and you’ll miss the beauty of the river.

The brochure stated that “champagne or cocktail and a choice of wine, beer or soft drinks” are included. That is false advertising, because  champagne was NOT served, though I requested for it. Instead we had wine and a mocktail.

The crew seemed to be having a party on their own in the glassed-in compartment at the front of the boat. You get the feeling they are have been down this river 1,001 times and are getting through the motions, trying to get it over with.

If you have an hour to kill when in Budapest, go down the Danube in this boat. Otherwise, there are better ways to get to know Budapest. I say it as it is because this is the true truth.

Malev Hungarian Airline…pleasantly surprisingly delightful

Filed under: Airline, Hungary, Travel — Tags: , , , , , , , , — PEr @ 10:56 pm

It was only a 1hr 5min flight from Warsaw to Budapest, but what a pleasantly surprisingly delightful 65 minutes that was! It certainly didn’t start that way.

We had to board through buses and the flight was (forgiveably) slightly late. You know what they say about 1st impressions?!

Service onboard was polite, professional and flawless. We got a (tasty) muffin, a juice and a cup of coffee and efficient service. The cabin crew even smiled!

It was comfortable in cattle-class. The plane was clean, comfortable seats with plenty of space – legroom was generous and seat widths were OK. Budapest airport clean and not congested. All in all, it was a good expereince and I’d have to conclude that Malev offers good value for money. That’s the true truth and I still say it as it is.

March 25, 2010

Zapiecek Polskie Pierogarnie, Warsaw…Grandma’s cottage cooking and ambience

Filed under: Food & Beverage, Poland, restaurant, Travel — Tags: , , , — PEr @ 3:15 pm

The staff were very attentive  and the waitresses have short dresses and wear a corset on top of those dresses.  The restaurant itself is small but comfortable. It has the “Grandma’s country cottage” look, with pots and pans hanging from every shelf, and lots of hard timber touches.

The pierogies were very good. These are Polish dumplings –  one of the most popular choices for a meal in Poland, and it’s also one of the most popular Polish exports abroad. Nearly all Polish restaurants feature the standard choices of pierogi with such fillings as meat, cabbage, and cheese and potato but here in Zapiecek, you can also choose from spinach, cheese, and seasonal fruit fillings. Grandma’s broth and the Polish sausages are good also.

I highly recommend this place for a good Polish dinner or lunch. It is here that I had my best Polish meal in the 3 days of my first trip to Warsaw. By the way, that’s the true truth as I say it as it is…

March 24, 2010

Patrick’s Irish Pub, Warsaw…the only Irish pub with NO Irish food

Filed under: Food & Beverage, Poland, restaurant, Travel — Tags: , , , , , — PEr @ 6:01 pm

I was looking for an Irish pub to watch the Manchester United vs Fulham game. The first Irish pub I went to said they were not planning to show the game, so I landed up in Patrick’s. It was a Sunday afternoon 2.30pm and there were agroup of less than 10 people in there watching the 1st Formula One race of the season. They switched channels to football after Alonso had won the race. The group of people left and I watched football in a Ghost town.

Other than the waitress serving us, the other staff have faces like monks in pain and it’s no wonder considering the atmosphere they work in. No Irish food on the menu here. “How can you be an Irish pub if you don’t serve Irish food,” I quizzed. “We serve Guiness” was the answer.

I’ve had had my share of pub going (Irish pubs included). If you like Irish culture and tradition, DO NOT GO, never, ever, go to this so-called “irish pub”. The fact that the tricolor flying inside is actually an Italian flag sums up the Irishness of this place. The only thing Irish about Patrick’s is the number of Poles working behind the bar. This sounds awful, but it IS the true truth because I only say it as it is

March 22, 2010

AleGloria Restaurant, Warsaw…a strawberry field day

Filed under: Food & Beverage, Poland, restaurant, Travel — Tags: , , , , , — PEr @ 4:38 am

The interior design is lavish and creates an awe-inspiring atmosphere. It’s difficult to interpret the almost exclusively red and white decor. Could it be the Polish national colours? Pleasure and purity? Life and afterlife? At the entrance one’s attention is drawn by a huge tree with red strawberries and the strawberry motif is repeated a number of times, so much so that you’ll quickly notice that strawberries take center stage in the design of this spacious basement restaurant.

Borscht is made with raspberries, beets and balsamic vinegar?  This is definitely Polish culinary “fusion.” It is amazing that the most well-known and traditional soup in the country may be given such subtle touches which have a big impact on the flavour. Meat-eaters will enjoy the half a duck polish style stuffed with apples and red cabbage.

Go ahead and indulge in this amazing combination of Old and New Poland, with taste and style but expect to pay for a belt-loosening feast. That’s the true truth and I say it as it is.

March 21, 2010

Berlin City Segway Tours…the ONLY way to get to know Berlin

Filed under: Germany, Tour, Travel — Tags: , , , , — PEr @ 7:02 am

Moving around effortlessly, seeing Berlin’s sites, tons of fun, cool (guaranteed to attract envious looks), knowledgeable, engaging and humourous guide, time to stop and take pictures. This all adds up to an awesome and phenomenal way to oriented oneself to the city sights.

I am a 10th time traveller to Berlin and yet I thoroughly had as much fun as the first time visitors. I discovered how the Prussians built the country into a military superpower while segwaying through Brandenburg Gate and learn about the last days of the Third Reich on top of Hitler’s underground bunker.

The Segway is a self-balancing, personal transportation device that’s designed to operate in any pedestrian environment. Riding the segway itself was a lot of fun.  It’s a LOT of standing though so wear comfortable shoes!  
Great time!  Recommend a segway tour (only a segway tour will do from now on) to anyone wanting to get a different view of Berlin! Once again, this is the true truth. I say it as it is…..

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