Thursday, 20 September 2018

Bistro Guggenheim and The Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain

What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear Bilbao? Is it pintxos? The warm and welcoming Basque people or is it the Guggenheim Museum? You can't really visit Bilbao without seeing the Guggenheim Museum. The impact of this building has forever changed the way the world thinks about Bilbao, a struggling industrial town that is now a cultural metropolis. Built in limestone, glass and titanium in the shape of a bouquet of fish tails, this colossal structure was designed by Frank Ghery especially for Bilbao. It is incredible to say the least.

The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao is featured in Dan Brown's Robert Langdon mysteries series, Origin. Dan Brown's books are always about intriguing subjects that stimulate further discussion. You'll be at the edge of your seat reading this brilliant book and I suggest you read it before you visit Bilbao. 

Jeff Koons' "Tulips"
A giant bouquet of multi-coloured balloon tulips.

"Maman" (spider) by Louise Bourgeois

"Puppy" covered in flowers by Jeff Koon located in Plaza Aguirre outside the museum.

left photo- Fog Sculpture by Fujiko Nakaya
right photo- La Salve Bridge by Daniel Buren and Tall Tree & The Eye by Anish Kapoor

We dined at Bistro Guggenheim after visiting the Guggenheim Museum. It has a nice funky interior fitting for a modern museum. The dishes were fantastic, portions were generous and were thoroughly enjoyed by all.

Dining inside one of the greatest buildings of our time with fantastic views of River Nervion made it even more special (request for a table near the window).

 We opted for the starter, main, dessert, water and wine (yes, they gave us a bottle!). It was an excellent meal from start to finish and definitely value for money. A rare find in a popular touristy area.

Spider Crab Terrine

Cod Stew and King Prawns

Roasted and Deboned Lamb


Idiazabal Cheesecake

Petit Fours

Avda. Abandoibarra n2
48009, Bilbao, Bizkaia, Spain
+34 944 239 333

Thursday, 13 September 2018

Where to Eat Txuleton in Bilbao? Berton, Bilbao, Spain

When I travel, I always take heaps of pictures. If you're anything like me, you'll post and share them on Facebook. It's an obsession, I mean "passion". I always have fond memories of looking back at these photos particularly of food. It wasn't really just about how I enjoyed the meal, it was something deeper. Eating my way around the world allows me to experience and learn more about people, culture and food. It is a never-ending source of learning and inspiration. 

Basque Country in Northern Spain is known for its unique culture, language and cuisine which differ notably from the rest of Spain. This region's cuisine certainly packs a culinary punch and it's becoming more famous worldwide.

Txuleton is what you call a bone-in ribeye steak in Basque and it is an absolute must-try when visiting the region. These beef from old cows are slowly cooked on a wood-fire grill and the result is juicy, tender steaks with a wonderful intense flavour.

Berton is one of the best places to try these exceptionally tasty steaks with amazing pintxos and apple cider.

This is the classic "Gilda". A simple assembly of pepper, olive and anchovy pierced together by a toothpick. It is perhaps the most famous of all pintxos. It was named in honour of Rita Hayworth's most famous film role. 

Here's another hidden food gem from the Basque Country, it is the Basque Cider which is produced using apples that are grown in the Basque Country. 

This is how apple cider is poured!

Put your steak on the grill and add salt. I'll say it again- exceptionally tasty!

One of the things I like about Bilbao is its mix of old and new architecture. What used to be an old rusty industrial city is now transformed into a sleek and modern city while maintaining its old Basque spirit.

Keeping the old but adding something new with a touch of Philippe Starck, that's Azkuna Zentroa in Bilbao (below). What was once a neglected wine storage building has been converted into a leisure and cultural centre. There are shops, cafes, library, cinemas and a huge open space on the ground level with 43 stunning pillars supporting the 3 magnificent buildings of Azukna Zentroa. It's a place skipped by many tourists but is a must-see if you're a fan of architecture, glad I went.

Just a stone's throw away from Azkuna Zentroa is the dazzling multifaceted block of glass and steel structure that houses Basque's new Health Department Headquarters. The building is truly an architecture and engineering marvel. It is quite simply, strikingly beautiful.

Jardines Kalea, 11, Bilbao, Spain
944 16 70 35

Tuesday, 4 September 2018

LAOS- Cool Things To Do In Luang Prabang. Tamarind Restaurant, Tak Bat Ceremony and Kuang Si Falls

My son, ever since he was 15 months old has always been willing to try anything new. I tried to establish good eating habits with him early on which means sugary drinks and junk food were never introduced in hopes he'll be forced to eat more fruits and vegetables. Hence, eating out and travelling with him was never an issue. He can pretty much eat anything. 

 My family loves Lao cuisine and have tried it many times in Sydney but being in Luang Prabang meant that we had the opportunity to delve a little deeper into its cuisine. With plenty of wonderful Lao restaurants in Luang Prabang, which one should you try? If you are into exploring the more exotic and authentic flavours of Lao cuisine then go for Tamarind Restaurant, but don't just show up and expect to get a table though, the restaurant is always crowded so a reservation is certainly a must, especially at dinner time.

Many of Tamarind Restaurant's dishes contain complex flavours and exotic ingredients that  tasted incredibly delicious. We thoroughly enjoyed every single dish. These were some of the best Lao dishes I've had the pleasure of tasting and made me wish I was back in Luang Prabang again.

Infused Lao Lao Shot

Stir Fried Young Pumpkin with Kaffir Lime and Ginger.

 Platter of Lao Specialties with Sticky Rice
Luang Prabang Sausage, Dips, Relishes (Jeow), Kai Pen (river weed), Lao Beef Jerky

 Chunky Bamboo Shoot and Vegetable Soup

Stuffed Lemongrass (Oua Si Khai)
Fragrant lemongrass stuffed with chicken, kaffir lime and coriander with lime peanut dipping sauce.

Fish in Banana Leaf (Lok Pa)
Fish in a delicate dill and basil sauce, steamed in a banana leaf parcel. 

Purple Sticky Rice Dessert in Coconut Milk and Tamarind Sauce

Lemongrass Tea

Lao Peanut Brittle
Coffee and Lemongrass Tea

Luang Prabang is the perfect place to see one of the most sacred Lao traditions, the Alms Giving Ceremony known as "Tak Bat", a procession with takes back to the 14th century. Every morning at sunrise people line the streets of Luang Prabang. We set out early at 5:30 am to see the monks come down the main street to receive alms. Do not disrupt the procession to get a selfie and observe this ritual in silence. Just keep your distance, zoom your lenses if you need to, as long as you don't stand in their way and be respectful. It was a humbling experience and worth getting up early for. Do not miss this beautiful ancient ceremony.

As part of the tradition, one must leave a small amount of rice on the whitewashed walls of a temple after the "tak bat" ceremony.

After observing the ceremony we went back to our hotel for breakfast. We stayed at Lotus Villa located in the central part of Luang Prabang and situated right next to where the Alms Giving Ceremony happens every morning. The daily breakfast was excellent with lots of options, you can choose anything you want from the menu as long as you finish what you order. You get to relax and enjoy this delicious breakfast at their outdoor terrace with lovely views of its charming little garden. 

Mango and Sticky Rice

Lao Khao Soi is Luang Prabang's version of khao soi. It is entirely different from the northern Thai khao soi which is coconut curry based and tasted slightly similar to laksa. Lao khao soi has a light, fragrant broth served with rice noodles and topped with minced pork, tomato, fermented soybeans and chilli. 

On our second day in Luang Prabang we explored a little further afield and hired a local taxi out to Kuang Si Falls. It's a stunning three-tiered waterfall with the opportunity for swimming. Kuang Si Falls is so beautiful where pale turquoise waters cascade over limestone formations. It's well worth the journey. 

Tamarind Restaurant and Cooking SchoolAt Ban Vat Sene, Luang Prabang 
*bookings essential

Lotus Villa Boutique Hotel
15, Ban Phone Heuang, 
Unit 3, Kounxoa Road, Luang Prabang, Laos
+856 71-255050