Last spring break I stumbled upon an unusual talent. It was a talent that my best friend, and best travelling companion, had been nurturing for a few years. It’s a talent that suspended the regular arguments incurred by traveling. A talent that led us into the heart and soul of the cities we explored together. Hopefully I now have you all itching to know what this magical talent is.The talent was finding the best restaurants in whatever city she found herself in. You’d be surprised the impact good food can have on a trip, especially when travelling with friends. Some of my best memories have been made over the splitting of a custard doughnut in Prague, or sipping an earl grey martini in a mixologist bar in Budapest. In the spirit of autumn, I thought I’d share the love, so here are my top tips to mastering this oh so important talent.
1. Get scouring the net for a local food blog
This is a tip that had never occurred to me, if you want to find excellent food, but lack the confidence to ask a local? Just get on the internet! If you’re lucky like I was in Prague last year you’ll stumble upon a gem of a blog listing restaurant upon restaurant for every budget! I was lucky and found a blog written in English, however, if the only food blog options you find are in the local vernacular, google translate is always on hand to help you on your foodie quest.
2. Ask about at home first
The student body at St. Andrews has a wealth of travel experience, take advantage of it. Ask around if anyone has travelled to your chosen destination, if you’re lucky you’ll land upon a recommendation from a friend of a friend who lives there, score.
3. Lonely Planet is seriously underrated
When In Budapest, in the absence of a local food blog and not even a basic understanding of the language, the Lonely Planet travel guide was our guiding star. While it offered up some true restaurant finds, you must exercise some caution. First of all, if it’s empty, back away slowly. If its jam packed with people speaking a language you don’t understand, chances are you’re on to a winner. Do not be scared off by ‘granny kitchen’ decor, or menus in plastic wallets, the quest for the best food is about embracing all restaurant environments, however rustic.
4. Ask a local
This is a given, but you have to be careful where you ask about places to eat. If you ask in you’re youth hostel you’re likely to get the answer we got: ‘Girls! Food? Why food? Pub crawl better!’ While possibly an accurate statement for some, personally I like to think that Rome was not sight-seen on jaeger alone. The best places to ask about local cuisine I have found has been from you’re host if you’re staying in an Air BnB, they’re usually more than happy to help. Or if you have already found one restaurant you’re crazy about, ask around the other diners for there preferred places to break bread/ naan/ dumplings. Generally, anywhere food is involved you’re likely to find a few local restaurant experts.
5. Sometimes you might just have to embrace a bit of spontaneity
I know I have waxed lyrical about this special skill of finding the perfect restaurant. Well unfortunately, while you can narrow this skill down to a four point formula, the final aspect of this skill is chance. You simply can’t beat that feeling of stumbling upon a tiny whole in the wall, were they don’t waste time on polite service. Instead your soul and stomach are fed with tales from the regulars and secret family recipes. That feeling of delighted surprise trumps all other foodie discoveries. So follow this guide as you’re starting point, however don’t let it tie you down too much, I mean what is travelling without a little spontaneity?
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