I have to confess that my husband is the haute cuisine foodie. I am an equal opportunity eater who likes a good pizza restaurant as well as a Michelin-starred restaurant. So when we decided to take a family holiday to the Costa Blanca, my husband promptly booked the two of us into the three Michelin-starred Restaurante Quique Dacosta in Denia, Alicante. The restaurant is named after the chef and owner, Quique Dacosta, who is one of the bright stars of Spanish nouvelle cuisine in the post-El Bulli phase of Spanish fine dining. Restaurante Quique Dacosta was named one of the top 50 restaurants in the world last year. We were curious about the hype!
Restaurant Quique Dacosta in Denia, Alicante Spain has a coveted 3 Michelin starred rating.
Quique Dacosta, himself, has a fascinating history. Born to a teenage mother, he started work in Denia washing dishes/waiting tables at the age of 14. He read voraciously about food and decided he wanted to open up a different type of restaurant.
He worked at the time at the same restaurant that would later become Restaurant Quique Dacosta. At that time though, it was a fairly standard family-owned beach town restaurant serving Mediterranean food. When he took over the restaurant, he turned into a destination for high-end Spanish nouvelle cuisine.
We weren’t sure if this contemporary sculpture of a cow was a reference to El Bulli
Not only is Quique Dacosta one of the youngest chefs to have achieved three Michelin stars but his cooking is completely self-taught!! Now, he’s got the flagship restaurant in Denia, three tapas restaurants in Valencia, a soon-to-open paella restaurant in London as well as several books.
Quique Da Costa has written a number of books.
We did not expect him to be in the kitchen on the night we ate at the restaurant. We were really surprised though when he came out and thanked us for coming to his restaurant. He even agreed to a selfie! I would never had the courage to ask Gordon Ramsay for a selfie in case he went off on a profanity-strewn tirade.
Quique Dacosta posed for a selfie with us.
Restaurante Quique Dacosta
The restaurant is housed on a white-washed villa near the beach on the outskirts of Denia. The decor is pure white simplicity splashed with modern works of art and a bevy of attentive waitstaff.
A calm and restrained color palette
Both the starters and desserts are served outside the main restaurant. You have a choice of a beautiful garden house or the garden itself.
The outdoor lounge area
The interior of the restaurant is whitewashed walls, bleached ceiling tresses and Mid-century modern furniture. We recognised the Baccarat tea light holder from a meal we had at the Grace Vanderbilt Hotel in Newport Rhode Island.
The Baccarat crystal tea light holders
Restaurante Quique Dacosta is open for a few months during the height of the main tourist season in the Costa Blanca. They close the restaurant for the remainder of the year in order to research and to prepare for the next year’s menu. In the interim, you could always go to Quique Dacosta’s Valencia restaurants which are open all-year round.
Restaurant Quique Dacosta Menu
Like many places with such high accolades, Restaurante Quique Dacosta tells you what you will have. Both the Quique Dacosta menu and the price are fixed. I can’t eat mussels and clams so they substituted those items for me.
Valencia Mussels as part of the starter.
The menu comes with a wine pairing which is also a set price. Alternatively, you can order from the extensive wine list. My husband chose to go with the wine pairing and I ordered a la carte. He said the wines were excellent and he was given 8 or 9 glasses during the meal.
The Quique Dacosta Menu is actually a work of art in itself and yours to keep. You open it up and it’s got the menu and a full-page description of the ethos of the restaurant. Inside the double-folded paper is artwork signed by Quique Dacosta.
Our menu was separated into 6 acts each of which had 3 dishes (which we decided were likes scenes in a play). Effectively you had 18 little dishes. Individually they were beautifully presented but tiny. Together, we were feeling very full by the end of the meal.
Quique Dacosta Dishes
Everything on the menu is sourced from within 75 kilometres so you really get a sense of the local flavours. Like so many high-end places, the menu incorporated offal into the menu. Presumably, doing something with chicken breast is too last century.
There is nothing to do but show you how the beautiful presentation of the food! Some of the plates were marked with the Quique Dacosta trademark so they must have made the dishwater to order, too. You’ll have to take my word that it is delicious.
We started with Act 1 in the garden house.
Dry octopus, roe of mullet, Torta of Lin Roe, Red Tuna Belly and papadum
Then we were shown into the restaurant where there was a surprise waiting for us at the table.
The surprise at the start of the meal.
What could it be?
Surprise! Prawn from Denia harbour
Next, we had Acts 2-5 which came out to a total of 12 dishes.
Monkfish liver presented as a work of art.
Fish but what a presentation!
Cauliflower rice, Guirras sheep sweetbread and morels mushrooms
Slices of rare beef
Instead of being an accompaniment, the bread became a course in itself.
Sweet corn bread
This was called Khaleesi but no idea how it works with Game of Thrones.
Thin tomato skin crisp with tomato mousse
The last scene of Act 6 was presented back in the garden setting. Yes, that rose really did have an edible part on top.
One of the dessert ‘scenes’: Cinnamon branch, prunes, petals of roses and gin tonic of apple
Quique Dacosta Further Afield
Quique Dacosta has expanded beyond his original base of operations in Denia. He has his flagship restaurant in Denia, Alicante and tapas bars in Valencia.
He is planning a chain of paella restaurants in major cities called InPaella by Quique Dacosta because he has been interested in this particular Valencian dish for years. The first InPaella is slated to open in London by the end of this year.
Quique Dacosta Valencia
The Quique Acosta Valencia tapas bars are a nice alternative if you don’t fancy having the restrictions (or price tag) of a full fixed menu.
El Poblet in the historic city centre of Valencia is a one-Michelin starred restaurant. It is Quique Da Costa’s foray into democratising high end dining with meals priced to come in less than €100. The meals at El Poblet tend to be dishes that he has served in previous seasons at Restaurant Quique Dacosta so there’s less R&D involved. Think of it as the diffusion line equivalent for a couture fashion brand.
The gastro-bar Vuelve Carolina is located nearby El Poblet. I could see me taking my kids to this restaurant because they have rice and steak dishes (and a giant chocolate chip cookie for dessert!).
Mercat Bar has an extensive menu which would work for more adventurous children as well. It’s a gastro-bar with affordable prices designed to seem like you are eating at a local street market. The food is all locally sourced but with an international touch. For example, there is gazpacho and ham baguettes but also tacos and noodles.
Visiting Restaurante Quique Dacosta
Restaurant Quique Dacosta is open for lunch and dinner. On the booking form, it asks if you need space for a buggy so presumably you could bring young children to the restaurant. The restaurant is located at Urbanización El Poblet, Calle Rascassa, 1, 03700 Dénia, Alicante. You can book online.
Accommodation in Denia, Alicante
We were supposed to stay at a Home Exchange villa in Denia but it turned out to be a complete nightmare. We stayed one night at Hotel Villamor which turned out to be quite close to Restaurant Quique Dacosta. Although rated only 2 stars, we found the hotel to be perfectly fine.
For the rest of our trip, we rented a villa in Javia, a town nearby to Denia, through AirBnB. We rented a car through Avis at Valencia airport for the duration of the trip. The drive from Javia to Restaurante Quique Dacosta took 20 minutes.
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There aren’t many options for decent food, never mind good food, in the area between Waterloo and London Bridge. Located pretty much adjacent to Southwark station, Thai Silk stands out as a culinary beacon in this wilderness. Thai Silk is that rare beast – an affordable yet authentic Thai restaurant in London. With great food and service, this restaurant is a local Southwark treasure and attracts a neighbourhood crowd.
Authentic and affordable Thai cuisine near the Tate Modern Museum and the Imperial War Museum.
Authentic Thai Restaurant in London
We found the food appropriately spiced and tasty. We tried the Thai street food dishes which Thai Silk have recently started. The dishes include Thai sausages, crispy dried pork, Thai sour spare ribs and an assortment of salads.
Thai sour spare ribs
Minced Pork Cakes are part of the Thai street food menu.
By the way, when the menu says hot, they mean hot as in authentic Thai cuisine levels of hot and spicy. I found out the eye-wateringly hard way! My husband thought it was fine though.
Black bean and prawns
My standout favourite dish was the panaeng gae (lamb shank cooked in a rich red curry). Wow! The curry had layers of flavour and the lamb just melted in your mouth. The manager told us that we were not the only ones who love this dish. Thai tourists come to his restaurant for a taste of home.
Lamb shank in rich red curry sauce (photo credit: Thai Silk)
There is a good value lunch special of a starter and a main course served with rice or noodles. Alternatively, an early bird dinner before 7pm offers a similar deal but with an extra vegetable dish.
We did not take our children to lunch with us at Thai Silk. In the spirit of experimentation (and gluttony) we tried out a few dishes on the menu on their behalf. For example, we sampled the chicken satay and the pork noodles and decided our children would have liked them.
The Chicken Sate was grilled to perfection with a mild peanut sauce.
Thai Silk Bar, Lounge and Karaoke
More than just a restaurant, Thai Silk is a place to gather and make memories. The restaurant has got a great outdoor space with lots of tables. I can see this outdoor patio being a major summer hangout when the weather is good. In addition, there is a bar and lounge area with a DJ every Friday night.
The stylish bar area at Thai Silk Southwark in London
In addition, there are karaoke rooms upstairs with over a 100,000 songs in multiple languages. After a few drinks, who knows you may want to challenge yourself beyond Katy Perry and find yourself wanting to sing out the latest Thai hit song!
Thai Silk Southwark
Bought by the Royal China group, there had been initial plans to change Thai Silk into another Royal China outpost. Luckily the new owners realised they had a neighbourhood gem on their hands and kept the restaurant as is. They did bring in some of their staff from the Royal China in Marylebone to oversee the place.
If you are going to the fabulous Tate Modern Museum, you will get off at the Southwark tube stop. This restaurant is conveniently located right near the tube. Other nearby attractions are the Contemporary Applied Arts space (showcasing British craft), the Millennium Bridge, Imperial War Museums and the Imperial War Museums. By the way, my children loved the Imperial War Museums.
Thai Silk is located at 94-95 Isabella Street, London SE1 8DA. It is open for lunch and dinner, drinks and private functions.
I received a complimentary lunch at Thai Silk in exchange for this review. As always, this post and my opinions are my own.
We got into the taxi and my husband realised he had forgotten the name of the restaurant where we were dining. For someone who is super-organised at work, he is remarkably forgetful as soon as he leaves the office. It was up to me to explain where we needed to go while he was trying to get a signal on his phone to find the address. My explanation of sail-shaped tower building seemed to make no impression on the Pakistani taxi driver. Luckily, his taxi meter had a photo of the Burj Al-Arab and we were able to tell him to take us there. Good thing then that we were having dinner at the Burj Al-Arab in Dubai and that a photo of the building is splattered everywhere in the city.
About the Burj Al-Arab
The Burj Al-Arab stands on an artificial island connected by a bridge to the mainland. A guard has to check that your name is on the list before you are even allowed onto the bridge. The better to keep the plebs away.
It likes to think of itself as a 7-star hotel although technically there is no such thing. Even the Emirates Palace in nearby Abu Dhabi doesn’t try to beat such rankings. Frankly, the last time I was blinded by so much bling and opulence was at the Emirates Palace. The Burj Al Arab’s been voted tops in the world’s luxurious hotel stakes by the Daily Telegraph, Travel & Leisure and others.
The hotel was designed to become a symbol of modern Dubai in the same way that the Eiffel Tower, the Statue of Liberty or other well-known architecture symbolises their cities.
I think the interior is as interesting architecturally as the famous exterior. It has a vast atrium and buttresses that soar to the ceiling.
The interior architecture is visually stunning.
This hotel has been criticised for being more style over substance. Unfortunately, that could be said for all of Dubai. And, it’s done just fine.
The hotel is shaped like the spinnaker sail of a yacht . On the top there is a helipad. Because you know every sailing yacht needs a helipad. The law of physics shouldn’t stand in the way of dreams.
When the Burj Al-Arab is lit at night, the architecture is thrown into sharper relief.
The whole hotel is speckled in gold leaf and marble. If you want total over-the-top opulence, then this hotel is for you. There are butlers, in-room check-in, a pillow menu and free Wi-Fi (yeah!). The two Royal Suites are the peak of extravagance and meant for those guests only used to the best. Costing over $20,000 a night, each Royal Suite takes up one half of the 25th floor. Take a look via Architectural Digest because we definitely can’t afford it. Not unless this blogging gig kicks it up several notches.
Some impressive facts about the Burj al Arab in Dubai:
- The atrium is 590 ft tall.
- The hotel has 28 duplex floors with 202 suites. The smallest suite is a little less than 2000 square feet and the biggest is more than 8000 square feet.
- There are 4 swimming pools and a private beach.
- Almost 30% of the hotel is non-usable space.
- It took 5 years to build and 2000 immigrant construction workers toiling in the sun.
And, don’t let anyone tell you that this hotel doesn’t give freebies. You get free access to the Wild Wadi Water Park (owned by the same Jumeirah Group) and located down the road from the gates. You could probably get yourself driven there in one of the chauffeur-driven Rolls Royce.
It doesn’t get more Dubai than this photo. A flock of Rolls Royces in front of the Jumeirah Beach hotel shaped like a wave coming towards the Burj Al-Arab Hotel which is shaped like the sail of a yacht. Surreal.
Dining at the Burj Al-Arab
There are nine restaurants in the building all of them trying to outdo each other (it would seem). The Skyview Bar is located 660 feet above the Persian gulf with panoramic views. Gold on 27 is a nightclub decked out in (what else?) more gold leaf. Sahn Eddar is where you can have afternoon tea. The Al Mahara is a seafood restaurant located inside an aquarium. Junsui is Japanese food in a setting drowned in Swarovski crystals. These restaurants have half-price menus available for children – very handy because these places are NOT cheap.
A portion of the aquarium can be seen from the lobby.
What I thought was really cool (if you want to see more than one restaurant) and have a half-day free to spend just eating is the Culinary Flight Restaurant Experience. You get to try the different restaurants for either lunch or dinner. For example, pre-dinner drinks at the Skyview Bar, appetisers at one restaurant and then two different courses and dessert at three of the other restaurants. During low season (summer), it runs 875 AED (US$ 238) for lunch without drinks. Obviously the price only rises from this base figure.
Al Iwan Restaurant
We opted to try the Al Iwan which serves Middle Eastern fare because you figure you have to get the best Arabic food in this place. Al Iwan means ‘Royal Hall’ in Arabic and it’s definitely sumptuous. It is a buffet so that you can try a variety of different dishes. There is a small corner serving non-Arabic food such as pasta.
The Al Iwan Restaurant is a restaurant located on the lobby floor.
The theme of the restaurant was red and gold and ornate. Really ornate. It was about this time when the gold glare got to me that I envied my husband who is colour-blind.
Red and gold, red and gold. The theme was consistent.
Red and gold reflected in arches and mirrors. And, this is in a dimly lit restaurant.
From top: bread basket, camel milk pudding and baby lamb ouzi
Photo Gallery of Burj Al-Arab
This place has got to be seen to be believed.
The reception desk
The lobby with its intricate rug all specially made for this hotel.
A gold-plated elevator. Why not?
If you would like to see more photos of the inside, please check out my Steller Story on the Burj Al-Arab.
I hope you enjoyed this tour inside the Burj Al-Arab. We satisfied our curiosity of what the inside of such a symbolic building could look like. I’m not sure we’ll be rushing back but it was good to see how the 0.001% live.
You have to be a dedicated foodie to chase around the Welsh countryside in search of a specific restaurant as dusk gathers and the children are grumbling that they are hungry. Sure, we could have stopped at any number of pubs that were in the area but we were in search of something special. Wright’s Food Emporium was purported to be delightful by both The Guardian in its roundup of the top 40 UK restaurants and a blurb I had read in Conde Nast Traveller. So we were people on a mission. We had wasted time putting in the wrong postcode into the car’s GPS but a little hiccup like that only made us more determined to find Wright’s Food Emporium.
Wright’s Food Emporium
The drive through idyllic countryside in search of The One was worth it. Wright’s Food Emporium is both a restaurant and a food store located in a converted country pub in Carmarthen, Wales. From what I could tell, Carmarthen is a handful of houses on the side of the road. Even in a little village, there has to be an obligatory local pub which in this case has become Wright’s Food Emporium.
We piled into one of the side rooms and settled in for some good eats. Thanks to our having taken the scenic route, we avoided the Sunday lunch crush at the restaurant.
A reminder that you are in a different country!
The food in the cafe is simple yet delicious. I personally think it is more of a restaurant even though they like to call it a cafe. Made from locally sourced ingredients, the quality of the food is apparent with every bite. There is a fairly extensive and creative menu written on a chalkboard. The Welsh rarebit was the best I have ever had. My friend pronounced his roast beef sandwich excellent as well.
The service at the cafe is exceptional. Everyone was friendly and happy to explain the menu. The wonderful staff made a plate of pasta for my fussy-eater daughter even though it wasn’t on the menu. For my dog who was looking hopefully at the waitress from under the table, they gave him some left-over sausage. How incredibly kind is that? I love when good restaurants are not hoity-toity.
Welsh rarebit is just another form of grilled cheese sandwich.
A roast beef sandwich
We couldn’t pass up on the desserts for which there was a great selection. Our table went with an assortment of British favourites – pear tart, cheesecake and sticky toffee pudding.
The dessert table
These cake bars were too healthy for me!
The grocery section was small but charming and well-stocked. They had chicken and leek pie as well as potatoes dauphinoise for taking away. I took these dishes back to London so that we could relive the gourmet experience back home. Yeah, they were delicious! Even my daughter loved the chicken and leek pie.
fruit for sale
The grocery section of Wright’s
Refillable wine bottles – what a great idea!
Wright’s own craft beer
I did wonder what a fabulous place like Wright’s Food Emporium was doing out in the middle of nowhere in Wales. That sentiment, however, is the Londoner in me talking. Wright’s are clearly doing booming business so there are plenty of appreciative gourmands in Wales. Of course, it helps too that the owner, Simon Wright, is a Welsh writer, food critic and restaurateur. He knows exactly what he likes and he’s brought that knowledge to his food emporium.
Visiting Wright’s Food Emporium
Wrights Food Emporium is located in the Golden Grove Arms in Carmarthenshire in South West Wales. It is actually conveniently located near the A40 and the Brecon Beacons National Park. They suggest you make reservations for the cafe if you are larger than a party of 6. It’s quite popular so I suggest you go during an off-peak time.
This post is linked up with Weekend Wanderlust and Pierced Wonderings.
On a cold and rainy day in London, I was really glad I was meeting my friend for dim sum. With its hot food which is not too filling for lunch and sharing plates that encourage conversation, dim sum is comfort food for many people (and not just the Chinese!). We both knew that the dim sum at Royal China is the best in London. There was really no question of going anywhere else!
Royal China Queensway
The Queensway branch of Royal China is located just a few doors down from the tube stop so we didn’t even need to crack open our umbrellas. The interior has walls of dark lacquer, low lighting and a cozy atmosphere even though the restaurant is quite big. We could have a conversation fairly easily with no shouting to be heard above the din.
The interior of the restaurant
Even at lunchtime on an unremarkable weekday, the restaurant was busy. Royal China is renowned for its dim sum and, unsurprisingly, popular with locals and international visitors alike. Although the dim sum is a tad more expensive than at other places, the quality is excellent. In any event, dim sum is still a relatively cheap lunch. I am firm believer that you get what you pay for.
The Dim Sum at Royal China
We ordered our green tea to warm us up and prepared to feast on little dumplings. The dim sum came, fast and furious, delicate little morsels which exploded in tasty fireworks of flavour in our mouth.
Vietnamese spring rolls
Although the restaurant was full, service was fast and efficient. Our teapots of Chinese tea were readily filled up. The dim sum was brought out and our empty dishes cleared in regular intervals.
Steamed prawn dim sum
My favourite dim sum were the steamed prawns. My friend was a fan of the cheng fun. We both ate until we were stuffed and content. It’s surprising how little morsels can fill you up fast!
dim sum variety
At the waiter’s recommendation, we tried some dessert dim sum. Let’s face it, dim sum is not known for its dessert options. He recommended dumplings with custard inside because they were very popular with other patrons. They were so good that I may have to reconsider my stance on sweet dim sum.
Our Verdict on Royal China
What did we think of the dim sum at Royal China? Delicious. Both my friend and I are regular visitors of Royal China but usually for dinner. It has been a long time since we stopped in the middle of our day for a leisurely lunch. Unlike other lunches though, dim sum didn’t make us want to go home for a nap (an impossibility with children finishing school in the afternoon). Dim sum at Royal China for lunch was the perfect answer.
If there was anything bad about our meal, it was that it made me miss the Royal China in St. John’s Wood which closed down a few years ago. This branch was an easy walk from our house. We would order takeaway from Royal China all the time. When my parents-in-law visited us, this restaurant was the one place we could all agree we liked. When the St. Johns Wood branch closed, we transferred our allegiance to the two Royal China restaurants in Marylebone. Yet, I still miss the convenience of having a Royal China in walking distance from home.
The dim sum is such an important part of the restaurant’s menu, every Royal China restaurant has its own dim sum chef. Each chef will put on variations on his choices so you can be assured that it won’t be the same as another branch. For example, you can get steamed pumpkin and taro cake at the Queensway branch, deep fried duck pastry at the Baker Street restaurant or lava egg yolk custard buns at Canary Wharf.
Royal China Queensway is located at 13 Queensway just a few doors down from the Queensway tube stop. The restaurant is open 7 days a week for lunch and dinner. This branch was the first of a group of eight restaurants under the Royal China umbrella. There are three in Central London alone (Queensway and Baker Street) as well as various other convenient London location and a branch in Singapore.
My lunch at Royal China Queensway was complimentary. My review and opinions, however, are entirely my own. This post is linked up with Travel Photo Thursday and The Weekly Postcard.