Southern Europe was an amazing experience for foodie travelers like us – the Mediterranean had a treasure trove of stunning backdrops against which we enjoyed some of the best food we’ve ever had. Here’s our foodie travel guide on the must eat dishes (and drinks) in each of the countries that we visited on this part of our European adventure.
We started our journey in Istanbul, right where East meets West in a melting pot of a city that blends elements from both sides of the Bosphorus. We only had half a day in the city, so we made the most of it by hitting up their impressive Turkish delight and baklava emporiums which had towers of the fragrant sweets in all sorts of dazzling flavours and colours on offer.
Our favourite was Osmanlizadeler which had the most beautiful displays, closely followed by Hafiz Mustafa 1864 where we stopped for a Turkish tea and rather intensely flavoured Turkish coffee, taken together with cubes of their delicious Turkish delight which taste nothing like what we get back home in Australia.
Best of all, these emporiums can vacuum seal the packs of the treats once you’ve selected which flavours you like, so you can bring these wonderful flavours home with you to share as souvenirs.
In the bustling Greek capital, you can indulge in some classic gyros to fuel you up for the long walk up to the incredible Acropolis. We got our fix with a range of freshly grilled rotisserie meats and falafel encased in fluffy pita bread from Mikro, which is conveniently located on the pedestrian mall close to the start of the route to the Acropolis.
For a sit down meal, you can’t go past one of the cafes on the slopes near the Acropolis which spill over with people as the night falls. Our friend recommended Yiasemi, which was cosy and had great value tapas at 5 euro a pop. We even ordered some ouzo to try – the milky looking Greek spirit really is only for the hardened drinkers among us.
Thankfully the wine in Santorini goes down a lot easier than ouzo – which we found out when we arrived on this postcard perfect Greek island surrounded by water so blue it’s hard to believe that it’s all real. We paid a visit to the scenic Santo Wines which sits on top of one of the many hills of Santorini, where we learnt about how they protect their grapevines from the exposed conditions on the island by growing them in an unconventional birds nest formation.
We finished off our visit to the Santo Wines cooperative with a full tasting of their locally grown wines (sparkling, whites and reds) accompanied by some Greek nibbles of cheese, olives and fava bean and tomato dips which were full of flavour. Sitting outside on their sunny terrace with views over Santorini’s caldera and sweeping 270 degree views of the azure sea, it’s hard to imagine a more picturesque way to enjoy some of the best whites we’ve ever tasted. We especially loved the Assyrtiko, a grape we haven’t seen in Australia much – in fact, we ended up bringing home several bottles of these wines with us as a memento.
The old walled city of Kotor in Montenegro is surrounded by majestic mountains to one side and water that is so clear and still that it almost looks like a mirror, to the other side. It’s slightly off the typical tourist track, but we stopped by for a quick visit when we trekked partway up the mountain and were rewarded by some stunning views over the fortified old town which used to be part of the Venetian empire.
After our trek, we went for a fresh seafood lunch at Galion, which is one of the top restaurants in Kotor located right on the water with uninterrupted views across the port. It was the perfect setting to celebrate my birthday and the prices were very reasonable considering the quality of their delicious tuna carpaccio with black truffle dressing and saffron prawn risotto.
The stunning port of Dubrovnik has its walled old town perched on the harbour and it’s no wonder that tourists have been flocking here, especially since Game of Thrones put it on the map as the shoot location for King’s Landing.
We enjoyed exploring the city by taking a walk along the raised city walls which gives you a bird’s eye view over the red tiled roofs of the well-preserved old town. But before we started our walk, we fueled up over lunch at Horizont, a sidewalk restaurant with views over the harbour.
One of the best things about this part of Europe is how liberally they use truffle like in Horizont’s deliciously creamy truffle and porcini cream fuzi pasta.
Truffle and Porcini Cream Fuzi Pasta
We also had to try their seafood, considering Dubrovnik’s prime seaside location – their succulent scallops with crab sauce were a highlight.
Scallops with Crab Sauce
All in all, we truly loved visiting this part of the world, with the spectacular scenery, azure waters and interesting culture of the region blending together to make it one of our favourite trips yet.