Category Archives: Eating Out

Restaurants, Inns and hotels worth a mention


Giulio Passami L'Olio

We came across this restaurant on our way from Castel Sant’Angelo to The Trevi.  Tucked away on a small road, Via di Monte Giordano 28, it looked typically rustic and there were a few locals under the awnings. The billboard outside offered Pizza/Pasta, side salad, bread and water all in for €12 which, by Rome standards seemed pretty reasonable.

Whilst not being exactly enthusiastic the service was competent and we ordered a Pizza and a spaghetti carbonara. The salad proved to be leaves with a few slices of tomato but the carbonara was as good as I have had anywhere, and a reasonable sized serving.  Josephine ws less impressed with her pizza but she had been spoiled with the one form the evening before!

We ordered a couple of glasses of the house red, about which one could not complain at al,l and at €3 each was well within budget.

The owner was obviously well known as there was a trail of local businessmen and women calling in and chatting over beer or wine.

Whilst one could not say it is top of the range it certainly provided a pleasant meal at a reasonable price and one cannot complain about that. The loos were clean as well!


Hot off the 07.00 flight from Belfast to Edinburgh and having picked up a hire car I was looking for a likely spot for breakfast. The Dreghorn services are well signposted off the A720 Edinburgh Bypass heading south.

There were not too many people about and the waitress was friendly and efficient. The tables were clean and the restaurant was generally bright and cheerful.

I ordered the “Early Starter” fry with a side of haggis, well it is Scotland, orange juice and tea. The fresh orange juice came first and was .3 litre bottle which is a bit much to go with breakfast I thought. Means they have no waste though as they charge £2.15.

The fry was fine and the egg soft, which is how I like them. Nothing special about the sausage and bacon but nothing to complain about either. As there were a couple of hash browns I kept the toast over to have with the tea.

I got a pot of marmalade from the waitress, which was duly added to the bill.

Toilets were immaculate so nothing adverse to comment on there.

Total bill, including the orange juice £11.45.  As I do not normally travel by road on the UK mainland I have no idea how this compares with other services.

Overall impression – adequate

The contributor of the photos is Steve Fareham ©


Just want to see the pictures – scroll to the bottom

Arrived in Fiumencino without incident and spent and then waited half an hour for the the bags to arrive on the carousel.  Could be worse. Caught the shuttle into Rome Termini, on time, clean, pleasant staff –  cheers Mussolini!

Hotel (Best Western) Ambra Palace about 10 minute walk away, would have been less if we had known the side streets. Really pleasant front desk staff. They actually still have a light meal menu available at 9.30. Previous experience of Italy told me we’d be lucky if they had a bar open.

Threw cases into room, chucked passports etc into safe and went down for a snack and a drink. Bar full of German ladies! Got complimentary drinks and ordered pizza, only thing available, 12” margherita arrives and is to die for. Have a couple of glasses of the house red and decide to call it a night. Set up free wifi with reception.

Get back to room to find case opened and cameras and lenses stolen. Report same to reception who are obviously used to this sort of complaint and tell us to report  it to police. Reception ring local station about  a km away and assure me that the English section is open. Walk to station to be told by wpc (or pretty Italian equivalent) to come back tomorrow.

Despite all the hassles we slept well and were down for breakfast around 7.45. Restaurant crowded with Germans and a spattering of Asian and Italian faces.

Could not complain about the food, plenty of fruit, scrambled eggs, bacon and a continental table with cheese, ham and salamis. Being Italy there was also buns or various types.

Following this we made another foray to the Carabinieri, only to be told that there was no officer available and to come back in the afternoon.

We walked round to the Termini to change our internet voucher for the Rome 110 Trambus.

Italians and other European tourists are not good at queues!  The first bus took on about a dozen and was full, twenty minutes later the second bus took 5.  The third bus, which was right behind, took us; having side stepped a couple of heavyweight ladies of indiscriminate origin and elbowed an attempt to muscle past. Unfortunately it was full on top so we watched the traffic from downstairs.

A crowd left at the Colosseum so we made it up the stairs for the journey to St Peter’s Basilica. The commentary seemed to be offset from where we actually were which made identifying sights a little difficult.

basilica san pietro

Basilica San Pietro

We finally arrived at the square, were suitably impressed and went off to find the queues for the Vatican museums where we were informed that the Sistine Chapel is not open on Sundays excepting the last in the month when it is free (but the queues go on for ever).  We decided to give it a miss and to came back on the morrow.  So we filled our water bottles at the fountain at the end of the square and set off to walk to the Colosseum by way of the Tiber footpath.

looking towars Iosolo

Looking towards Isolo

It is a pleasant walk along the river down to the Isola.  There is a two way cycle path and an expanse of cobbles running alongside the river and well away from the city traffic up above.  There was a charity run taking place so lots of “fit” people were jogging or walking in the opposite direction.  Never did discover exactly what they were running in aid of.

We departed the river without finding the bridge so nobly held by Horatius against the Etruscan hordes and headed for the Circus Maximus, the ancient athletics field; the Palatine which, according to Livy, was the home of the original Romans, and the Colosseum.

maarket cafe

market cafe

By this time we were starving and passing by a rather dodgy looking Taverna on one corner and a pizza takeaway on the other we discovered what proposed to be a Agora Touristica but without any tourists.  It was a small market with stalls selling all kinds of produce, with trestle tables in a corner dispensing hot food and wine out of a 5 litre demijohn. In the courtyard to the rear there was a covered seating area and a fountain.  We indulged in a huge cold roast pork bap, Italian sausages, cauliflower and 2 plastic beakers of wine, the lot coming to around €10.

Thus refreshed and having replenished our water from the fountain we headed for the Palatine box office to get tickets for the Colosseum.  I produced our Belfast Senior Citizens bus passes and was given free entry to all the sites, happy days.



The Amphitheatrum Flavian as the Colosseum was originally designated is definitely not to be missed. I will not go into the details but it was the largest amphitheatre in the Roman Empire and could hold around fifty thousand; every seat being numbered.  The engineering expertise to raise and lower animals and people from the lower levels directly into the arena is staggering. It says something that this was built to stage gladiatorial combats, mass executions and the slaughter of animals for the delectation of the masses, and the aristocracy of course. Click here for in depth info. We spent nearly two hours inside with the aid of audio/visual handsets rented for €6 and well worth the money.

Michaelangelo's Moses (with Horns)

Michaelangelo's Moses (with Horns)

From here we decided to wend our way back towards the hotel and lo and behold around a corner we came across San Pietro in Vincoli, Literally St Peter in Chains, a church that not only displays the chains which bound St Peter in Jerusalem but also a massive Michaelangelo statue of Moses, complete with two small horns (these being the subject of a piece by Freud apparently) and a couple of throwaway pieces by students of the master.

Josephine buys a hat outside and when we tell the girl selling that we are from Belfast not Dublin she says we must be good protestants???

Santa Maria Maggiore

Santa Maria Maggiore

From here past Santa Maria Maggiore and thence back to the Carabinieri and;  success at last – there is actually an officer there. Fill in form get it signed and stamped and am summarily dismissed as Lazio are in the process of beating Bologna!

Walk back to hotel and collapse into chair in bar with a cold beer.

Retire to room to recuperate in shower – nothing missing!



Out for another walk around the Giardini Piazza Vittorio Emmanuele II with it’s florists stalls. Meander back down to the Piazza Maria Maggiore  and get no further than the Antico Caffe’ Santamaria. Good move; bruschetta to die for and they do a spicy pasta and bacon beyond compare.  Josephine not so taken with the Lasagne. The wine was good and we followed it up with an ice cream and coffee.


And so endeth the first day.  For the interactive map of our days walk click here


Day two – Assignment:  Visit Vatican museums and the Trevi fountain.

According to the concierge there is public transport strike so we elect to walk. It is about an hour and 20 minutes across the city and far better than the bus anyway.  There are bits of ancient Rome  around almost every corner. Also quite a lot of buses and trams!

We finally arrived at Basilica and are told that there is, approximately, a two hour queue to get in. We were accosted by various guides offering immediate access and a guided tour for anything from €70 – €35 each.  We finally gave in to a nice girl called Antoinette from Sligo! She settled for €35 each as we are pensioners. The set up was run by two Serbs – enough said!

Sfera con sfera

Josephine at the Sfera con Sfera

It turned out to be money well spent.  We were an eclectic group of eight, a Danish couple, a Dutchman with his Columbian partner and a pair of Israeli lads. Our guide was a diminutive Roman girl named Ava whose enthusiasm and vivacity were infectious. It is a pretty slick operation, the guide and party have short range radio so that you do not have to strain to hear or worry about getting lost.

It is not possible to describe the wonders on show – starting in the square dominated by the golden “Sfera con Sfera” by Arnaldo Pomadora. An enigma of a piece as its meaning is open to interpretation.

Vatican ceiling

Not the Sistine but!

It is a two and a half  hour walk through galleries of Greek and Roman statues with amazing ceilings,, tapestries, frescos and paintings by the masters. Like the Taj Mahal no photographs can do it justice – you have be there.  I liked the touch that the major artists painted each other into these huge masterpieces so that each one has Raphael, Michelangelo, Donatello and daVinci appearing in windows or watching from the periphery.  The culmination of the tour is the Sistine Chapel (link is a interactive 3D panorama). I did not know that the ceiling is not painted it is a fresco made up of coloured plaster. The chapel is smaller than one would expect or maybe it is just that it is so crowded it feels claustrophobic.

From the Sistine through the back door into the Basilica San Pietro, the largest Christian Church in the world.  A huge cavern of a building with innumerable side chapels and monster sculptures and paintings. Really impressive. One ends up with a sore neck from looking upwards.

Castel san

Castel Sant' Angelo

Next stop, or rather saunter past, is the Castel Sant’ Angelo a papal fortress, originally built as a tomb for Hadrian (of the wall fame) about 15 minutes from the square. We take in an ice cream on the way. Across the Tiber again and head down the side streets in the general direction of the Trevi.  We stop on the way to take some sustenance in a taverna.  Main, salad, bread and a bottle of water for €12.  This looks good after some of the prices we have seen in passing. Once again we are pretty lucky and the pasta with chorizo is 1st class. Josephine reckons her pizza is 2nd class, but she is not a pizza fanatic anyway. The water is OK but we wash it down with a glass of house white at €3 a glass.

Suitably refreshed we walk on down the calle to discover a veritable plethora of trattoria with single course from €5, we have arrived at the the artists centre on the Piazza Navona.  This is a huge oblong square, originally Domitian’s circus, hence the shape.  It is considered one of the most beautiful piazza in Rome and is enhanced by the Church of Sant’ Agnese in Agone.

pantheon portico

Pantheon Portico

From here on to the Pantheon, originally a temple to all the pagan gods, it was converted to a Christian church in 609.  The huge portico is made up of 3 rows of 8 columns, each 60 tons of Egyptian granite (as if there wasn’t enough in Italy). The interior is 40.3metres diameter and the same height with a single hole in the ceiling for light.  The floor is concave to let the water flow out through a central drain. More impressive statues and altars and not as crowded as I expected.

From here on towards our last must see destination – the Trevi fountain. It takes one by surprise as you meander up the narrow streeets, suddenly there it is in all its glory, hemmed in by shops and alleys! Another sight that photos really do not do justice.


And so we made our way somewhat wearily back to the hotel.  Passing the Quirinale Palace, the official residence of the President of Italy, which is situated on the highest hill in Rome – we know we climbed it!  Also en route was the 4 fountains crossroads. We stopped for a cold beer at a small taverna and were serenaded by a couple of troubadours with fiddle and a xylophone – well worth a couple of euros.

So endeth our whistle stop two day tour of the sights of Rome

We had our last meal out in a little restaurant recommended by the hotel and about 5 minutes walk away, the Trattoria Cecio. It says something about it’s popularity that there were turning away casual diners – no booking no table. Josephine had the sea bass and I the squid – not a hint of rubber. We shared a massive Ice and Chocolate confection for dessert. Josephine asked for an Irish coffee which brought howls of derision from the waiter and, beleive it of not, it arrived in an espresso cup – I had a coffee and a grappa. On his way back I explained to the waiter about Tesco’s “BOGOF” and was rewarded with a free grappa – a fine way to end the evening.

Scalini, 85 Botanic Avenue, Belfast

First time we have tried Scalini’s Italian restaurant on Botanic Avenue.  They do not accept bookings for parties under 8 but as this was a pre theatre meal we arrived at 6 to find plenty of room.  Beware that you may have to climb a few staircases to your table as they are set out on a number of floors. The service is friendly and efficient, they whisked our coats away which is something that is sadly lacking in a lot of restaurants. Having seated us and provided menus we were not immediately hassled to give in our order.  We were accompanied by Linden and Amy and all four of us settled on the pasta as main course.  My Fusili Milanesi, smoked bacon, chilli, mushrooms and peas was not to be faulted and as I got a share of Linden’s Carbonara and Josephine’s meatballs I can also vouch for the standard of these dishes.  Amy did not give me a chance at her Linguini Pescatore, but as the plate was bare except for mussel shells we can take it that it met with similar approval.  The house red is an Italian Shiraz which goes very well with pasta and is a snip at £13.45.

Of course we couldn’t pass up the sweet menu. Try the Affogato, a scoop of vanilla ice with biscotti served with a shot of expresso and the same of Amaretto on the side. Moorish.

Lovely meal well served and all in including wine £69.50 – who could ask for anything more.


It was almost a BBQ but for once the weather forecast was right on the mark and at 2pm precisely the rain started and the BBQ became a buffet.

Held in honour of Jennifer’s birthday a goodly crew assembled for a Sunday afternoon of philosophical debate. This was abandoned after a couple of glasses and we got on with putting the world to rights.

The Society has elected to split into  ladies and gentlemen’s  sections which hold their discussions in separate rooms where possible (or opposite corners of the bar) thus obviating any requirement to moderate their observations in terms suitable for the delicate ears of the fairer sex.

The spread laid on was worthy of a royal banquet with fish pie, lasagne with and without garlic, curry, breads with and without garlic; followed by a selection of home made sweets.

The gentlemen formed a quorum to discuss serious matters pertaining to the well being of Norn Iron but were hackled by a couple of dissenting back benchers.

Another afternoon and evening completely wasted in the best possible manner.

Thanks to Roy and Jennifer for hosting, Linden for the photos and everyone else for subscribing.

CO CO, 7-11 Linenhall Street, BELFAST, BT2 8AA

If you haven’t been yet try it out. We were invited by friends to the Hi-Life Dining club get together celebrating  COCO winning their Restaurant of the Year award.  Due to circumstances beyond my control this is the first chance I have had to update my site.

When we arrived there was a very accomplished all girl swing/jazz band performing in the foyer.  A chat with their manager somewhat later in the evening identified them as the Swing Girls.

This intro was accompanied by a remarkably good Prosecco Frizzante (last time I had one this smooth was in Treviso) and canapés.

Our companions for the evening were the  Grahams’, the Johnstons’, both of whom we have dined with before, and William Wallace and his wife Claire. Two famous names on one table!

The first course was Hand Dived Scallops, seared, with Jerusalem artichokes, gnocchi and a lobster gratin and accompanied by a South Australian white wine.

To clear the palate a grapefruit and Campari sorbet followed.  This is not for the faint-hearted. I am a Campari fan and found the combination, how shall I put it, interesting.  If one is not a Campari fan I can understand the comment “breath taking”!

The main course was a Chateau de Blomac Minervois 2008 – Oops! Sorry! that was just the wine that went with the roast sirloin, potato rosti truffle Madeira etc. By this time the conversation and craic had become as important as the meal and the impeccable service, overseen by Tom, the Aussie manager, assured that a memorable evening was under way.

I’ll not repeat the error of the previous paragraph, the sweet was an Apple Tatin, I’ve added a link to save explanation, with vanilla ice cream and; yes, you’ve guessed, a superb Sauternes.

The coffee was a real godsend and we did manage the petit fours, though in truth we did not really need them!

All in all an  evening memorable for the food, wine and excellent company, not necessarily in that order.

An experience we hope to repeat in the not too distant future.



ACCS Conference, Wexford 2011

Not the best position for up and down

The best way to start an ACCS conference is with a round of golf and when Rosslare Golf Links is the venue it takes a lot of beating. There was quite a good turn out and the threatened rain did not appear, however the off shore “breeze” made for some interesting approach shots.  The bunkers also made a deep impression!

The conference was held at the end of March in Whites Hotel in the centre of Wexford town and it is certainly to be commended for both service and food.

The SOS Stand

We always enjoy this conference as the delegates are a really friendly crowd and the officers and staff of the association  are a pleasure to work with.

It is a time to catch up with many acquaintances that one only sees once a year, both clients and other exhibitors.

The first day ended with an excellent dinner followed by the inevitable poker school.  As usual we hjad to borrow a deck from reception as nobody had thought to secrete one on their person!

Of course the highlight of any conference is the Gala Banquet on the second and the hotel did us proud with a superb six course meal. A copy of the menu is displayed here. No prizes for the error which was missed by most people, including me, until well after the event!

A few horth speeches followed,   the Bishop making a definite play to be considered for a spot on Comedy Club, and these being completed the music department of Gorey Community School entertained us . Both the choir and musicians were absolutely outstanding and would have held their own om any professional stage.

Of course the evening ended with another obligatory poker school in one corner and a ceili in the bar.

We had decided to stay on for an extra couple of nights so, once the conference was more or less wrapped up on Saturday morning we took off on a tour to our old camping haunt at Carne Beach. I used to leave Josephine and Maggie Shore and the two children there, in a tent, for August and commute at weekends.

Carne beach

The Lobster Pot

Another landmark of the area was the Lobster Pot restaurant and this appears not to have changed to any degree in the past 23 years!

Kylemore Quay

Following this we motored on round the coast to Kylemore Quay for lunch and then back to Whites for a snooze before venturing out for dinner.

We had chosen a French restaurant, Jacques Bistro, at the Greenacres gallery just around the corner from the Hotel.

It is unique in as much as many of the tables are set in the wine shop so one is surrounded by racks of wine! The food and wine were excellent, though the cheapest wine on the list was €29!  I went for one of the specials, a Casoulet of Toulouse sausage, pork belly and duck on a bed of beans – unbelievably filling!  Josephine picked another special, Black Sole Muniere.  Needless to say I managed their Crème Brulee.

Jacques specials

Altogether a most satisfactory few days.

The Silver Fox, Kilmore Quay, Wexford

Kilemore Quay is a picturesque heritage fishing village on the south east coast of Ireland about 22km from Wexford Town and has been an RNLI lifeboat station since 1847.  With it’s thatched cottages, harbour and views out to the the Saltee Islands bird sanctuary and St Georges Channel it makes an ideal spot to stop off and explore a little of the local history, and have a bite of lunch of course.

We picked on the Silver Fox restaurant, from about half a dozen possibles, as the ideal spot and it turned out to be a good choice, although Josephine reported that the tea was an awful grey colour and tasted the same; but then if you will order tea when there is wine and cider available I have little sympathy!

Crab Claws & Prawns

Josephine only wanted a scone but I could not resist the Crabs claws and tiger prawns in garlic butter with a side salad.  They managed to serve the claws so that you do not spend a great deal of time and effort attempting to dig the flesh out so it was a double treat!

We finished our visit with a visit to two “craft” shops along the front. Although they had one or two nice pieces most of  their offerings were definitely geared to the lower end of the tourist market. If that is what sells who can blame them.

Altogether a very pleasant trip out.


Café des Amis, 11-14 Hanover Square, London WC2P 9JE

Café des Amis

The Café des Amis is tucked away up a very narrow side street, designated as Hanover Square, between the Long Acre and Floral Street.  We had come across it on the Top Table website where they were offering half price on food which seemed too good to miss.

It has a downstairs bar and the restaurant is at ground level. We arrived fifteen minutes early and were shown directly to our table. Eeven at 5.30 it was beginning to fill up! A waitress brought menus and the wine list and asked if we would like a drink.  Beware if you order shorts and mixers.  We are not used to the bulk dispensers, common in London bars, so did not think to ask for the whiskey with just a splash of ginger.  Josephine got a full glass.  It was not a problem with my gin as I would always use the full bottle of tonic.

We ordered starters, Josephine the French onion soup, whilst I opted for the classic steak tartare, which is not something one sees too often these days.  These arrived with astonishing speed. The soup was thick with onions and topped with cheese on toast and very satisfying.  The steak tartare was served with crisp toasted french stick, salad and a drizzle of dressing.  It is chopped with onion rather than minced which gives it a smoother texture that I have had before.

The house red was Le Bosq Rouge, which was from a variety of grape types and would suit just about any palate.  Definitely a good choice.

Our main courses were sirloin steak with a pepper sauce, served with chips and vegetables for Josephine and calves liver with smoked pancetta on a bed of mash for me. The only complaint would have been that, compared to Irish mash or champ, it was a little watery.

Service in general was very good and the waiters efficient and smiling.

All in price including the now mandatory service charge £72.00.