Holiday eats – Restaurante Rebate, Alicante

Every now and again we all need a break. I recently returned from a lush two weeks off, one spent in Southern Spain with my wonderful other half who never takes holidays but was in dire need of relaxation, one spent milling around at home-home then driving across country to North Wales for some adventuring. All in all, we had a fantastic time and although I didn’t document this trip as much as previous holidays for various reasons, it was really good to have a proper break from pretty much everything. What we did do was sleep, eat, drink, repeat; basically my idea of living the dream (with some exploring thrown in of course). So without writing my usual fairly lengthy run-down of the whole holiday itself I decided to focus on my food highlight of the trip: Restaurante Rebate.

Staying in a family apartment not far away from the small town of Sucina, we hadIMG_7620 hired a car in order to get around and explore some places. This restaurant was recommended to us by said family and was easily one of, if not the highlight of the Spanish half of our holiday. Restaurante Rebate is tucked away down some remote, dusty roads towards Alicante and appears to be in the middle of bloody nowhere by all accounts; yet on arrival we were instantly impressed by the appearance, layout and style of the restaurant. Mostly focused outdoors, there was plenty of sun, plenty of shade and several gorgeous trees among the tables. A small platform had been placed in the middle for the main event; this was the Flamenco Show which is on every Wednesday and Friday lunchtime, according to their website, and which we’d booked a few days before flying out.

Setting the scene…

Once seated at our choice of table (sun or shade) we were offered drinks whilst perusing the menu, which we took gladly and I followed the waiter’s recommendation of a glass of IMG_7619Cava. Start as you mean to go on. Seeing as it was a gorgeous sunny day and we were planning on spending most of our afternoon there, we treated ourselves to the 4 course tasting menu for the bargain price of 24,50€. At this point I feel it important to mention how incredibly polite, attentive and accommodating the staff were to every question or request, adapting my courses to include only fish and vegetarian dishes without hesitation whilst my boyfriend took them as was.

As the cherry on top I opted for the accompanying wine flight, making it 25€, as I don’t currently drink red wine (nor much white wine that doesn’t originate from New Zealand) so was keen to expand my horizons. Also, red wine makes you seem quite adult, doesn’t it? This was a fantastic choice because our wine waiter was incredibly knowledgeable and clearly very passionate which made the experience all the more special – and myself proud that I’d chosen to be grown up and get sophisticatedly drunk on a Wednesday afternoon.

First course: ‘Waking up your tastebuds’

Parmesan & lemon jam, a hummus cone, orange & kale smoothie, fishcake on sunflower toast. Paired with a pale but fruity white wine which was delicious; not as sharp as I’d usually go for but very easy to drink. [Disclaimer: best to declare early-on that I am in no way a wine connoisseur so do forgive the lack of fancy terms here. Maybe oneday.] 

Needless to say, I was most excited about the hummus cone. It was awesome; sprinkled with a little paprika it was like a savoury ice cream cone of loveliness. Good crunch, too. I imagine that the fishcake could’ve been a close second because I love a good fishcake, however I think this was before they’d asked whether I ate fish or not so it was swapped out in place of a decorated cream cheese, also very tasty in fairness. The smoothie was weird as is any kale smoothie in my experience, but not unpleasant, and the parmesan with lemon jam was a delightful little sweet crunch to present a great texture contrast between the tasters. All of these nibbles complemented each other well in flavour and texture, so far so good. Before you ask, yes I did note the plastic bag and straw for the smoothie and yes, it could’ve been avoided but my Spanish is already very limited so I wasn’t sure how to convey this to the staff nor if they’d understand where I was coming from.


I chose the wrong seat for insta-worthy lighting, didn’t I?

Second course: ‘Refresh moment’

Cesar salad, strawberry salmorejo, ceviche served on patacon, beetroot tartare. Paired with a medium white wine, sharper than the last but still soft and equally as drinkable. It still had a hint of fruitiness but less so to coordinate with the savoury tasters in this course.

The salad was very tasty and refreshing with a light crunch, likely my highlight of this course as I particularly enjoyed the sprinkling of crumbs on top. Beetroot isn’t usually to my taste but despite being a little sharp, the tartare was more pleasant than anticipated and accompanied the salad well. I hadn’t understood what ceviche was (I now know it’s a kind of seafood) but the components worked well together and atop the sweet patacon it was a lovely little mouthful. The strawberry salmorejo turned out to be a tomato and bread-based purée, originating in Andalucia, and whilst this balanced out the dish in terms of texture by contrasting with the crunchiness of the salad and patacon it wasn’t to our liking to be honest. The taste of strawberry just seemed a bit strange in conjunction with tomato, though I understand its intention was to be refreshing.


Third course: ‘Fried specialities’

Mussel croquette, wild mushroom croquette, roasted chicken croquette, criolla pastry. Paired with a rosé wine, getting sharper again but with good flavour and body to it.

Here I had a vegetarian substitute for the chicken croquette but all of the fried delights were very satisfying and not over-greasy, fried just right. A heavier course than its predecessors, the sharpness of the rosé cut through the mashed potato within the croquettes nicely so that I didn’t feel overwhelmed or bloaty, just well fed (though the food-baby was beginning to kick-in). Moreover, by this point I was on my fourth glass of wine so was getting to the level of merriment that requires fried goods to keep you going. Perfect timing.


Fourth course: ‘Tasty’

Creamy Spanish omelette, roasted pear with blue cheese, duck delights on sweet potato puree. Red wine, medium bodied and rich without being too heavy or bitter of aftertaste – I enjoyed, much to my surprise.

This was possibly our favourite course because of the presentation of the omelette; it was IMG_7649deconstructed in such a way that a lightly cooked egg laid atop a crunchy base of what I think was some kind of thin, tiny homemade potato chips and some seasonings, and you had to stir them all up together to form the omelette. This might sound strange but it was bloody delicious and so creamy! Definitely our favourite nibble of the whole experience and I think it’s quite fun to get involved with the food as well as simply eating it. The roasted pear was done very well and balanced out the strength of the blue cheese, though because of the cheese I was glad it was a small portion as oppose to a normal-sized dish else it could have been overwhelming. The duck delights was thoroughly enjoyed by my other half in his tasters – despite his taking a likeness to some particularly photogenic ducks strutting around the restaurant from a nearby pond, pictured – but unfortunately I can’t remember what my duck substitute was and had been so distracted by said photogenic ducks that I’d forgotten to take a photo of this course. My apologies! What is pictured below is the red wine with this course and the dessert wine for the next.


Fifth course: ‘Small desserts’

Cheesecake, fruit salad with sangria, carrot cake. Dessert wine, sweet and very rich but a great end and matched perfectly with the desserts.

The deconstructed cheesecake-in-a-jar was a good mix of sweet and savoury but lacked the biscuit base we are so accustomed to at home so wasn’t a full cheesecake as far as we were concerned – enjoyable all the same. I helped myself to both portions of the fruit salad with sangria which was both refreshing and deceiving in the sense that fruit sounds healthy, but when one considers the four previous courses and sweet but tangy alcohol alongside, perhaps not realistically part of your five-a-day after all. But we don’t go on holiday to diet do we?! (Christ, wouldn’t that be a miserable world).

Last but not least, the carrot cake was perfectly spongey and deliciously moist. As someone who doesn’t like an over-abundance of carrot in their carrot cake, this was spot on; as was the relative amount of frosting (because I’m not keen on too much frosting either, I often find it over-powering). The cake especially paired with the dessert wine as light and moist met rich and flavourful, whilst the natural sweetness of each element of this course was what made it work well altogether to round off the meal without being sickly.


Final thoughts?

We loved this tasting menu and the experience overall. It felt personal, it felt special and everything was executed to a high standard for a real bargain price. At the end of the meal we felt full but not uncomfortable, very content and in my case very ready for an afternoon alcohol-induced nap. As I said at the beginning, this was likely the highlight of our Spanish holiday and as well as the brilliant food, the attentive and knowledgeable staff and the venue as a whole provided such a welcoming, friendly and easy-going atmosphere that you felt right at home spending several hours there as we did. I really would recommend visiting if you find yourself in the Alicante area, especially for the traditional Flamenco Show which was an encapsulating and exciting performance of several phases, a fantastic accompaniment to the meal itself. Information can be found below – if you visit too I’d love to hear your thoughts!

IMG_7626Diolch i chi a hwyl am nawr,

Charles xx

Information: 24.50€ for the taster menu, 25€ including wine flight.
Address: Carretera CV 952, Km. 10,5, 03190 Pilar de la Horadada, Alicante
Website: Restaurante Rebate

What we did in Madrid

Sometimes when life gets hectic and you find yourself feeling stir crazy, all you need is a good break away. My mother and I decided on a weekend in Madrid to blow the cobwebs away and refresh and we had a great time. I did do a little research beforehand such as reading blogs by Hungry City Hippy and Eat Liverpool, but for the most part we wandered our way around the city and went wherever our feet took us. That being said, Google maps is a godsend when it’s getting dark and you’ve lost your bearings!

Friday – arrival in the city

As we only had two and a half days in the city we operated a good balance of exploring, catching up on sleep/rest and eating. (Mostly the latter). On the Friday evening we arrived at rush hour and in the pouring rain – but at least we made it in spite of the snow and below freezing temperatures at home! Our Airbnb host’s assistant met us at the apartment, checked us in, giggled at my inability to do the careful jiggle with the keys needed to open the door (I have zero patience at the best of times) and pointed us in the direction of the nearest corner shop for a few kitchen supplies. It was a lovely little apartment, nothing too fancy – and, if you’re a light sleeper, not particularly sound-proof against noisy neighbours – but ideal for a couple (or mother & daughter) looking for a few days in a centrally-located city pad. Once settled in, we head out for a bit of an adventure and a wander and found ourselves heading in the direction of La Pecera, somewhere I’d heard about in Eat Liverpool’s blog and was very keen to try.

My mum went for the vanilla & activated charcoal ice cream mix, in a chocolate cone and with coconut shavings, mini cookies and sparkly balls (easy, tiger) on top. Mine was the salted caramel & matcha mix which sounds odd but was very tasty; topped with honeycomb, ginger biscuit crumbs and more sparkly balls, I was happy as Larry. The fish-shaped waffle cones are clearly the allure of this place but coming from a family where my dad fishes most weekends, we’re naturally drawn to anything fish-like. Sad, I know. All in all it was really good ice cream though, perfect treat to tide us over ‘til dinner and great for the ‘gram.


Our fishy-looking ice creams in La Pecera

After proceeding to wander the streets a little more, realise we were lost with no phone battery and do our best to ask for directions in a nearby pharmacy, we found our way home to regroup before dinner.

Artemisa, vegetarian restaurant

Much to our delight there were all kinds of choices for an evening meal along the street we were staying in, around every corner were more and more cafes, bars, bakeries and restaurants. We managed to get a table in this charming vegetarian place (which also happens to be 100% gluten-free for those sufferers amongst you) just five minutes’ walk from our apartment and, at this point, I was glad I’d downloaded a free Spanish phrase-book app as I (foolishly) hadn’t been prepared for so many non-English speakers. It was actually very refreshing!

There was plenty on the menu we fancied the look of but decided to opt for a sharing platter and some nachos & guacamole to start, also sharing a bottle of organic white wine. We demolished the nachos in minutes alongside some free appetisers, which I couldn’t identify but were nice all the same. The sharing platter was much larger than we’d expected but I ate as much as I possibly could (forgot to take a tupperware for leftovers on holiday didn’t I *eyeroll*). It consisted of: Persian pie, vegetarian croquettas, tofu slices in a Cabrales cheese sauce, curry vegetables and organic paella. Tofu took me by pleasant surprise yet again but my favourite of all this was the organic paella; each component of the platter was delicious with well-balanced flavours, very fresh tasting and nothing overpowered anything else. The organic wine was a perfect accompaniment. I was really impressed with this meal and with the plethora of incredible-sounding options, vegetarian and vegan, I’d definitely be back here should I visit Madrid again.

Saturday – Mercado de San Miguel

This was what we’d been buzzing for. After a much needed lie-in we head there for lunchtime and it was an elbows out, hold-onto-my-shoulder situation but we didn’t mind, all part of the excitement! People everywhere, food everywhere, I was in my happy place. Y’all know I love a food market.

We bustled our way around for a nosy and a sense of what was on offer, beginning with two sangrias and a plate of mixed olives. If that isn’t the perfect start to this kind of feast I don’t know what is. The group next to us had a pretty impressive spread on the go, they clearly knew what they were doing and I got the feeling the local tactic is for the wives to grab a seat and the husbands to go fetch the food (I wouldn’t be complaining). Olives demolished and sangria all sipped up using my bamboo straws (as pictured above), which the Spanish did not understand, we grabbed a small cone of mixed nuts to munch on whilst we surveyed the options in full.

Crepes, macarons, lemon meringue pies and churros for desserts; stews, sushi, pasty-like things called empanadillas, all kinds of jamón and all the seafood you could want for mains/tapas; fresh fish, cuts of meat and all kinds of cheeses for you to try there or buy to take home. I could have easily spent my weekend eating my way around this place, but we still tried our best in the time we had. Without rambling on forever, here’s the run-down of our nibbles:

  • Sangria, olives stuffed with sundried tomato, olives stuffed with salmon & cheese, manzanilla olives (because I like ones that still have the stone in)
  • Mixed nuts for snacking
  • Chickpea & spinach stew which was bloody delicious, may even try to recreate it at home
  • Tuna maki rolls which I know isn’t Spanish but couldn’t help myself
  • Ham & cheese empanadillas or, as mum called, it ‘a foldy over thingy’ (obviously this was hers not mine)
  • Two big fat G&Ts: a raspberry gin with strawberries, orange peel & tonic and a Larios Spanish gin with lemon & tonic. These were pour-by-eye, strong measures and I was loving it.
  • Churros & chocolate dipping sauce because it would be a crime not to when in Spain…
  • A raspberry and a pistachio macaron to finish (very good but not quite Cocorico Patisserie standard)

Looking at it now it doesn’t seem as much as it felt. There were a couple of other things I’d have liked to try if I’d had the room such as oysters or some calamari, although I was put off slightly by the latter because there was no accompanying sauce so I thought it might be too crispy alone – is serving lemon mayo with calamari a purely British thing? After all that we were full, tipsy and my poor mother who isn’t quite as seasoned a day-drinker as I (not sure if that’s a good thing) was ready for an afternoon nap. Lesson learned for next time: be sure to bring tupperware on holiday so I can buy now and eat later, maximising my foreign food market game.

Saturday night – Las 10 Tapas de Santa Ana

Tonight we wandered around another part of town we’d not yet explored in search of some authentic tapas and possibly drinks. I had wished we’d been more organised and booked somewhere for the Saturday night, I’d read about a couple of highly commended places that required prior booking, however with the Beast from the East threatening to disrupt our flights we’d thought it best not to tempt fate.

There’s something kind of relaxing about walking around a new city at night (with your wits about you, of course), the lights, sounds, smells and opportunities change and in a place like Madrid you know you’ll never be short of places to go or things to do. There were quite a few theatres around and they seemed like a popular evening attraction; this restored my faith in humanity a little when, at home, there seem to be ever-increasing funding cuts to the performing arts which occupied so much of my life as a youngster and hold a special place in mine and my family’s hearts. Despite this, we were on a food mission and landed on a place in Plaza De Santa Ana with jazzy little placemats and very friendly, helpful staff. Here’s what we ordered (excuse the bad lighting on photos):

  • Two Spanish beers
  • 6 mixed croquettas (2 fish, 2 chicken and 2 ham I think)
  • Padrón peppers with Essex salt (a favourite of mine after trying them at Curado Bar)
  • Crispy fried cheese with puréed pumpkin and quince jelly
  • Goats cheese toasted roll with caramelised onion (not sure how Spanish it is but one of my favourite flavour combos ever so I almost always order it)

I always love to try local beers and lagers whilst away and I’ve rarely been disappointed, this was no exception. Not too heavy, not too sharp, just light enough for a meal without taking up valuable food space or risking a bloat. The croquettas were very fishcake-esque mostly being filled with creamy mashed potato but that was absolutely fine by me, satisfying as hell. The jelly from the crispy fried cheese went well with my fish croquettas as well as the cheese itself, which was perfectly gooey once cut open without being too hot and burning your tongue as can sometimes happen. The toasted roll was a little tough to the bite and could’ve used more caramelised onion to balance the flavours out a bit more, but still enjoyable.

To my surprise, the highlight for me (after the cheese balls) was the peppers as they’re so moreish and easy to devour in seconds. Really hits the spot as a side dish or bar snack and the salt isn’t overpowering, just marries nicely – I developed a taste for them after trying at Curado Bar, which I definitely recommend for a little slice of Spain in Cardiff. All in all this was a satisfying meal after a day of really good food, but we decided to move elsewhere for dessert and a cocktail to mix things up, treating ourselves to ice cream sundaes and mojitos. Not pictured because my phone had had enough!

Sunday – a bit of culture; the National Archaeological Museum of Spain

As our last day, we thought it best to do something other than eat even if just for a morning. There are a wealth of museums and art galleries in Madrid to choose from and I’m sure many of them are quite the experience, but we decided the National Archaeological museum was more our thing than paintings and such. Despite only having a few hours (my bad, I love a lazy morning especially on holiday) we really enjoyed reading about the evolution of our species, ancient jewellery and pottery found in the area from early settlers and even more learning about the development of weaponry, gold & silver decoration and the expansion of the Roman Empire in Spain. There was plenty to nerd-out over if you like your history and geography. Again, I know it might sound weird saying that walking around the city to and from the museum was a part of what made this holiday really enjoyable but it’s true, it’s like people-watching but with some stunning architecture and new sensory experiences thrown in. Plus, it’s just nice to be somewhere different, isn’t it?


The grand entrance to the Archaeological Museum


Cute little park outside of it, sun shining through the trees at last!

And back to the food…

The area of town the museum was in seemed nice, we walked around a bit in search of an afternoon nibble, but soon realised it was a little too nice and more pricey than we were willing to pay for. The cafes and restaurants we walked past looked very enticing, the perfect place to dine al fresco with a cold glass (or bottle) of wine, but we’d spotted MásQMenos on the way up that we returned to for a small lunch of cheeses, mini Spanish pizzas called cocas, and a chorizo in cider tapas dish for my mother instead.

Over the course of the weekend we couldn’t help but notice that there was always a queue outside this one taco place near the vegetarian restaurant from our first night, Takos el Pastor. So on this last day, we thought we’d wait in line and see what the fuss was about. There weren’t many veggie options but I took my chances with a mushroom & cheese and some sort of cactus fruit taco, whilst my mother enjoyed a traditionally fried beef and a chipotle chicken. They were relatively small but tasty and great value for money, I could see why so many people were taking full advantage of the 1 euro per taco deal! But unfortunately I’m still not sold on mushroom [besides the mushroom dish I had at Cathedral 73 those of you that remember that post, that was a surprising exception]. I think this is more of a place for you meat-eaters but it was nice to be in a queue and chat to a few people during the wait and it was clear why this place seemed so popular. Cheap, cheerful, happy food.

Madrid was a delightful little city break with so much to see and do and a plethora of foodie places to eat your way around the city. A weekend well spent, I look forward to returning one day and definitely recommend it for a refreshing getaway, though I would recommend doing your research and booking one of the many renowned restaurants in the city for an evening as I wish we had. It would’ve just been the icing on top.

Diolch i chi a hwyl am nawr,

Charles xx


Edinburgh Adventures pt.1 – Castle, Kismot & Countryside

I’ve been back over a month now and I still can’t stop thinking about this beautiful, magical place. And by magical I mean literally because Edinburgh is the birthplace of Harry Potter himself, something my other half was ridiculously excited about… But let’s start at the beginning.

Whilst our early morning flight might have at first seemed like a bit of an inconvenience, it did, however, mean that we were leaving Bristol airport as the sun began to rise. It was absolutely beautiful – talk about early morning views!

This also meant that we arrived in Edinburgh and got to the hotel around 8am, way earlier than the standard 3pm check-in, although once we arrived to drop off our bags the man working on reception was kind enough to check us into our room straight away hassle-free – if we hadn’t have been so tired, dazed and confused we’d have acted as delighted as we were! We chose to stay in The Village which was a convenient 15 minute drive into town, also hosting a spa and very well-equipped gym which suited us perfectly. After a last-minute room upgrade, we also had Sky TV and a king-size bed – perfect! A quick recovery-nap later, we set out to explore the city and headed straight for the top of our list: the castle.

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We were v big fans of the cute theme

Edinburgh Castle is situated right at the top of the Royal Mile, the buzzing main hub of Edinburgh city centre. The architecture of the whole city especially in this area is astounding; everything has original character and you can walk around and perfectlyFile_003 (3) imagine how it all was back in Victorian times, Edinburgh has managed the miracle of modernising and keeping up with the times whilst retaining and glorifying its originality, history and authenticity. On our approach to the castle we stopped by the Luxury Scottish Ice Cream van, this was a real treat.

As we got chatting the vendor proudly told us of how this was a family business for generations, 100% of the ingredients used are sourced locally within Scotland, many of them coming from Edinburgh itself and surrounding areas, even the flavouring used was naturally and locally produced and how this and the process itself was a best-kept family secret which created the rich, creamy texture that made this ice cream so special. And it was rich, creamy and special – we loved it! I’m a big fan of responsibly sourcing local ingredients (and ice cream, of course) and it makes me so happy to see it proudly advertised like this. It really does make a difference in terms of taste, in my opinion.

The castle itself was great fun to explore and has amazing views out over the city. Standing proudly is a huge cannon named ‘Mons Meg’ who has an incredible history having been capable in her hay-day of blasting a whopping 150kg gunstone two whole miles! There’s also all sorts of passages and look-outs as well as live demonstrations of historical practices, yet our visit wouldn’t have been complete without a quick tea & scone stop and a browse through the gins and whiskeys in the castle shop. I came away with small bottles of two types of Edinburgh Gin and a Stag’s Breath honeycomb whiskey, all of which were delicious, as well as a fridge magnet for my mother’s ever-growing collection.

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Next was our dinner stop which I’d chosen based on a recommendation from a friend and which I could not wait for: Kismot.

Despite being a little away from the main city centre, this family-run independent business is an absolute gem and deservingly highly rated on TripAdvisor. It hosts a wide variety of unique dishes such as the protein passanda, the deshi khani, the Kismot killer and the chocolate massallam as well as the exclusive haggis, marshmallow or chocolate naans. There are still plenty of regular Indian and Bangladeshi dishes to choose from but it’s always great to try something different and this was certainly a treat; I choseFile_004 (3) the marshmallow naan and a king prawn chocolate massallam (featured right) aka grated milk chocolate in a tandoori yoghurt and cream sauce. Although this sounds strange, like a bowl of chocolate sauce, it was actually deliciously creamy and rich and the chocolate added texture rather than overpowering with its sweetness. Genuinely an incredible dish, I would 100% recommend.

Also, the marshmallow naan I have been preaching to everyone about since my return as it was absolutely amazing! Again, sounds strange but I loved it, without a doubt File_005 (4)my favourite naan I’ve ever tasted despite its sugary stickyness. The other half chose the exclusive homemade deshi khani (featured left) which comes with its meat on the bone for extra added flavour. All in all, we both had brilliant plates of food and would definitely go back again – although maybe don’t order too much if you go because we struggled to finish and I was very upset that we couldn’t take it home and save for later (due to the obvious lack of microwaves in hotel rooms).

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Next day, full of fuel for the adventure, we decided to take on Arthur’s Seat in the (temporary) glorious sunshine. There are two different routes you can take and being the seasoned, bold adventurers we are we went for the more challenging route up, saving the leisurely stroll for the way back down. The views were incredible, looking out over the city with the castle standing proudly over it, this was a city we had instantly fallen in love with. A bit of a scramble and what felt like several thousand steep steps later, we made it to the top and almost fell back down again – the winds were whipping up a right old frenzy and I clung to the summit for dear life. But, views were totally worth it. 4 kilometers, 6036 steps and just over an hour very well spent and would certainly recommend to anyone visiting Edinburgh.

To be continued in part 2…


Diolch i chi a hwyl am nawr,

Charles xx

Iceland Adventures

Snow! The first time some of us had seen it in years! I mean the proper, good, solid kind of snow that makes that amazing crunching sound when you walk on it.  It was awesome, I had way too much fun finding all the fresh patches that hadn’t yet been trodden – perfect for crunching. We fumbled our way into town following the tourist maps to the best of our ability and so the adventure began. (I apologise here for the length of this one, I had a whole four days to squeeze in!)

First stop, food. Obviously. It’s important to note, however, that when eating out in Iceland, shopping around for the best deal is vital unless you’re an absolute baller. In fact, finding the best deals for anything in Iceland is highly recommended because whilst it’s undoubtedly a stunning and amazing place, it’s definitely not cheap in the slightest – just accept this before you go. You will spend a lot of money. No way around it. (Especially with the currently decreasing value of the GBP…)

I’d heard from others who’ve visited Iceland before that eating out for a big lunch was cheaper than dinners if at all possible, so on this first day of finding our way around Reykjavik and getting our bearings we found a nice warming curry for late lunchscreen-shot-2017-01-10-at-20-54-00 courtesy of a cute place called Hradlestin. What really drew me in was the Thali on offer that I’ve seen tweets about from the new Chai Street in Cardiff (yet to visit but it’s on my list). It’s a type of Indian street food made from a selection of small dishes which looked absolutely delish (see opposite photo, courtesy of their Instagram).

Upon entering the restaurant, however, it turned out there was a special offer on tikka masala that day and asimg_2344 previously mentioned, tourists have to take up all the offers they get! These came with an individual rice and a couple of small naans each; mine was chickpea and the others were chicken. Personally, I very much enjoyed my curry although some of the others made the good point that there wasn’t enough veg to pad out the sauce. The way the food came in small metal pots all stacked together was cool though, overall it a good 7/10 on the food for me. Despite the inevitable expense, I also obviously couldn’t have gone on holiday and not tried the local beers… this time, the classic Icelandic Boli. As usual, absolutely no complaints from me; it was smooth, bubbly, no jazzy after-taste just proper good, honest beer – loved it!


After a wander round the harbour and some more of the town, we then did what many tourists do as the next best way to keep things as cheap as you can: find the nearest budget supermarket and stock up on supplies. This is especially useful if you’ve lots of day trips planned like we did which involve hopping on and off buses; taking your own packed lunch and snacks can really help to keep your overall spending down by trying to only buy 1 meal of the day. Plus, it can help keep you energised for all the walking (which I loved as sad as that sounds!) and keep you awake – four hours of daylight per day in November-time really makes you sleepy when you’re not used to it we discovered! Although I’m a very keen sleeper anyway so I, of course, took full advantage of every possible napping opportunity. (Who doesn’t?! Y’know, when in Rome…)

Day 2 and it was adventure time: the Golden Circle tour.

GoPro and headstrap on, lunch supplies in our rucksacks, we were good to go. Whilst the first stop of Thingvellir National Park was some lovely scenery, the incredibly cloudy weather and low pressure that lingered during our stay unfortunately obscured what I’m sure was a lot of the natural beauty in the distance. But I did get a cheeky selfie with some Icelandic sheep (see left) so y’know, swings & roundabouts. img_9477-2

The next stop was Gullfoss Waterfall which was absolutely stunning! Even in the foggy weather. It’s glacier fed and you can see it rolling down from the outlets into a smaller waterfall which in turn feeds the larger one – it was incredible! See selfie below, I was absolutely loving life. But, let’s be honest, the big guns here were the geysers

The main attraction is Strokkur, the most regular geothermal hot spring in the world, erupting on average every 5-8mins. Everyone crowded around nervously waiting for the big event… after a while you begin to wonder if the expression ‘a watched kettle never boils’ applies here… but then POW up it goes! Outstanding natural beauty at its finest – I was in geography nerd heaven (and managed to get some good footage too! Follow this link for a cheeky slow-mo). More than this, the snow on the ground everywhere fills you with the instinctive giddy excitement that kids get on their first white Christmas – you can’t help but beam with delight and giggle with excitement that you’re in such a (naturally) magical, beautiful place.

To round off the tour we went to see some Icelandic horses which are apparently a big thing. They were very pretty to be fair but personally I was much more interested in the farm cat that was hanging around as horses really aren’t for me, but I did face my fears and stroke one or two. Anyway, it was then time for dinner again.

img_2166Barber Bistro Bar was our host tonight and had a nice, slightly more elegant feel to it (a lot more elegant that we were dressed in our walking boots and thermals!). A good menu left most of us all spoilt for choice: I went for a vegetarian club sandwich consisting of Goats cheese & caramelised onion (one of my favourite food combinations ever), a grilled pepper and salad, with a side of sweet potato fries. Despite the bread bun itself being a little too floury for my liking this meal did hit the spot, but I found myself wishing I’d gone for the teriyaki salmon my friend had which looked and apparently tasted incredible. Also around the table was Icelandic fish & chips and a chicken risotto which also received good feedback. All round a good, hearty meal, a good bottle of prosecco between us and great customer service – 8/10.

Day 3: The Blue Lagoon.

This was the day we’d been waiting for. Rest, relaxation, natural face masks – what a girls holiday is usually all about! Plus it’s the thing you always see looking amazing on Instagram… only problem was the thick fog and mist still hadn’t shifted so unfortunately our views didn’t look quite as good as this one!


Nevertheless, the comfort of such naturally hot and healthy bathing waters was pure luxury after being wrapped in so many layers for the past few days! We also quickly realised that the blue lagoon could act as a natural floatation pool; great entertainment as we star-fished to our hearts content, feeling our troubles drift away for a moment. Bliss. The face-masks were also great fun mostly because people-watching was hilarious – some made as much of the free one as physically possible, with one lady who must’ve gone back at least 7 times, whilst some seemed to think that if they covered as much skin as possible that it would benefit them more than just applying to the face… we weren’t convinced but a glass of bubbly, some blurry photos and several hours later we were thoroughly pampered and getting peckish. But with the whole rest of the afternoon to ourselves what were we to do?

The Phallological Museum. Obviously…

In other words: it was literally a museum of penises. As huge and as hideous as you can imagine. Personally, I found it hilarious entertainment – and it wouldn’t be a true girls holiday without something rude, right? I won’t go into too much detail but here’s some photos of me having fun!

Still full from our burgers and seafood pasta prior to the phallic entertainment (which was a lovely and very filling meal by the way, no complaints) we decided to grab a few drinks at a cool-looking local whiskey bar before heading off on the half-hour walk home. Dillons had a rustic, cute and cosy feel to it, dimly lit with fairy lights draped across great wooden beams and bar that was lit up spectacularly with funky coloured back-lighting. By this point we were looking to spend a bit of money as it was nearing the end of the holiday, so I didn’t mind forking out for a couple of whiskey sours and a single on the rocks. Most of the others opted for glasses of wine, cider, or G&Ts, most of it all reasonably priced as well – by Icelandic standards!


The bar at Dillons shining like a beacon of hope and joy

To finish we played card games and ‘Heads Up’ – which, although I know sounds wild for a group of girls in our early twenties, was and always will be a great way to spend an evening with old friends. There’s a great kind of nostalgia about playing games on holidays that will never get old.

Day 4: The Big Adventure. South Island Tour.

This was the day we got to walk behind a waterfall and see the black sand beach – we could not wait! It got off to a great start with our insanely cool tour guide Iris (who we all had a bit of a woman-crush on by the end of the day); she was just so cool and chill and told us stories of her growing up in the area with her family and how she likes to go hiking and camping with her friends around here… all we could think was “please take us with you!”. Driving through the land of Thor really brought home how incredible Icelandic scenery really is, the whole landscape is fascinating varying from great open green plains to mighty mountains and glaciers… and waterfalls.

Skogafoss and Seljandsfoss to be specific; the first of which has a very impressive 60m drop and the latter of which you can walk all the way behind, pretty awesome! Both get you slightly soaked but that’s all part of the fun! Next was Reynisfjara, the black sand beach. Watching the North Atlantic come crashing down onto the shore with such immense natural power and beauty was very humbling – but also slightly terrifying. Not just because I’m still working through my fear of deep and open water, but because the rip tides at Reynisfjara are well known for being deadly powerful and must be treated with the utmost respect. The sculpted basalt coastline was equally as awe-inspiring, featuring impressive columns similar to those seen at Fingal’s Cave in Scotland which were also great fun to jump off! Coming up next, however, was the true star of the show for me…

Solheimajokull, a sublet of Myrdalsjokull glacier. I freaking love glaciers. This stop was essentially just getting off the bus, walking up the valley and looking at/taking photos of the glacier but it’s impossible not to take another few minutes to once again stare around in awe of such insane natural beauty and phenomena. I had such envy for the lucky buggers who can afford to go hiking on this glacier, I would’ve absolutely loved to as I couldn’t when in New Zealand due to instability; but alas, that’ll have to remain an adventure for the future.

That evening our last supper was not what you’d expect, but we came across an Icelandic tapas place and couldn’t resist. SmakkBarinn was joined onto BarAnanas and just up the road from Reykjavik chips, all of which we visited and enjoyed. There were two options: 4 pots of tapas or 6 pots of tapas. Both came in individual little jam jars and all slotted into the appropriately sized board, it was super cool! (And very convenient for someone like me who isn’t really down with the whole sharing food thing). I dived in head-first and went straight for the 6 option; 4 mains and 2 desserts. I regret nothing.

My choices were along the lines of: some breaded cod goujon-type things, petite langoustines fried in a vodka batter (both very good); a mini lobster soup which wasn’t very nice, the balance of flavours had gone wrong somewhere; some deep-fried cheddar with red onion jam (amazing); and for dessert I chose a chocolate caramel pudding with coconut and blueberry ice cream with praline. The pudding had a very mousse-like texture and was nice but the ice cream was the real star of the show, smooth and creamy and the blueberry flavour was just right, not too tart. All in all everyone was very well satisfied and it was such a lovely final supper in Reykjavik; a perfect end to a brilliant holiday with my best friends!


Yummy Icelandic tapas: our final meal

Here’s to many more! I hope this helps any of you who may have Iceland on your bucket list, I can’t recommend it enough as an amazing place to go! Plus, there’s different things to do in each season so you can kind of go whenever depending on what you’re after. Yes, it’s very expensive, but worth the experience in my opinion. Go on, treat yourself…

Diolch i chi a hwyl am nawr,

Charles xx


Squad goals? I think so.