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Europe

As well as their huge archive of UK restaurant reviews Jan and S are regular visitors to Europe. Presented below are reviews of some of the many fine restaurants they have frequented on those visits.

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Club 55, St Tropez

Club 55, St Tropez So this is what happened. It all began in 1955, of course, when Brigitte Bardot and her then husband, director Roger Vadim, were shooting And God Created Woman on the beach. They mistook a fishermanís hut for a bistro and asked if the owners would mind cooking for the crew. The owners, Monsieur and Madame de Colmont, didnít, so they did. When filming was finished, the Vadims liked it so much they kept on going for lunch and Club 55 was born. It started as an invitation only restaurant Ė Ďfor people we likeí says Patrice de Colmont, the son of the original owners, who still works in his familyís restaurant today. Then somehow, it evolved into one of the most famous restaurants in the world. Over the years in St Tropez, many more beach clubs and restaurants opened: Moorea, Bora-Bora, Aqua, and of course the notorious La Voile Rouge where naked women are sprayed with vintage champagne every day. But none have the cool or cachet of Club 55, which continues to attract a pungent mix of stars, royalty, locals and gangsters every day throughout the summer. ... read more

IL Castello, Sassari,Sardinia

IL Castello, Sassari,Sardinia Hello readers. S here. I came to Sardinia this week to eat some wild boar and nice wild fish, but itís all gone a bit wrong. The local authorities have just placed a temporary ban on the Sardinian fleet in a bid to boost fish stocks. The harbours up and down the coast are full of idle boats, while all the seafood dishes have been scratched off the restaurant menus. ... read more

Agnanti, Skopelos

Agnanti, Skopelos Skopelos is officially the greenest of all the Greek islands, its interior lush and verdant, the hills thick with pine, fruit and nut orchards and olive trees. Even though some like to call it the new Corfu, Skopelos has successfully evaded both holiday cachet and mass tourism for hundreds of years. Bizarre question of the week: will that now change with the release of Mamma Mia, the movie version of the West End stage show which was filmed here last year? Locals still talk about the month big Hollywood stars such as Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth and Meryl Streep blew into sleepy Skopelos Town, where the culinary speciality is a vegetable pie made by spreading a paste of mixed greens, egg and cheese on to sheets of filo pastry, then rolling it up and curling it into a spiral, like a Cumberland sausage. Dainty it ainíty. ... read more

Pavlos Fish Taverna, Skopelos

Pavlos Fish Taverna, Skopelos Oh, the Euro is a cruel mistress this summer! And have you seen the price of octopus? A dozen or so years ago, it was always one of the cheapest meze items on any Greek taverna menu. In fact, greedy S used to regard octopus the way a greedy octopus regards small crustaceans; as a cheap and tasty filler until something nicer, like an unsuspecting lobster or perhaps a red mullet or two, wanders along. Now it is one of the most expensive dishes on the menu. What happened? ... read more

Gran Canaria

Gran Canaria Gran Canaria. I know. It is not exactly the chic sud de France. Style is thin on the volcanic ground. Yet if you want dependable, cheap winter sunshine and to eat your own bodyweight in garlicky clams, then you could do a lot worse. On the southern coast of the island, the ocean booms and the sand dunes mass along the beaches in an undulating cordon of gold. At this time of year down here the heat hits the mercury at a steady 21c or so,the sunshine is damn near perpetual, the mosquitoes are noticeable by their absence and amid the high rise hotels and Irish pubs that clutter some of the busier streets, you can find backwater peace, solace and the occasional nice restaurant. You certainly will if you are with S, who will pound the streets until dawn in search of a decent plate of prawns. Donít forget that these islands are Spanish, which means lots of good, fresh fish. There will be mariscos. And delicious Albarino wine by the yard. Order no other wine, for it goes perfectly with all types of seafood. Unfortunately, any island with high numbers of transient tourists will also have its unfair share of rip-off restaurants. What you need is an S to separate the wheat from the chaff, the discreet from the naff. Here he picks three fish restaurants within 10 miles of each other on the south of Gran Canaria and delivers his verdict on the good, the not so bad and the ugly... ... read more

Franco Rossi, Bologna

Franco Rossi, Bologna Some restaurants close overnight, while others die a long, lingering death over a number of years. Their prognosis might be terminal, the chef might be mad, but you couldnít beat the life out of them if you tried. Is Franco Rossi one of those restaurants, clinging to the high rise ledge of gastronomy by its manicured fingernails? ... read more

Le Duc, Paris

Le Duc, Paris Paris is burning, but my pain grillť isnít, so thatís OK. Something is in the air. Perhaps itís because the city just got 20 minutes nearer on the Eurostar, maybe it is the bracing slap of brilliant, winter sunshine in the streets of the French capital. Yet Paris has never looked more alluring, nor the restaurants so inviting. This is despite the current tensions and political unrest, which will remind many of the rough and tumble of the Thatcher years at home. Apt enough, as S and I whisk past the British Embassy in the Rue díAnjou, the place where Mrs T once stood on the steps and faced political oblivion, although she didnít realise it at the time. That was 17 years ago, although it seems like ancient history now. In the same street, the headless bodies of Louis XV1 and Marie Antoinette were buried in lime coffins after their brush with the guillotine. In a city full of seductions, the fact that every rue and avenue twitches with dark secrets remains one of Parisís most captivating traits. ... read more

La Nicchia & La Favarotta, Pantelleria

La Nicchia & La Favarotta, Pantelleria La Nicchia is the most famous restaurant of the island of Pantelleria. Stingís been here, to eat ravioli stuffed with ricotta under the shade of the orange tree on the terrace. So have Giorgio Armani, Riccardo Muti and Carole Bouquet, the French actress who owns a vineyard here. Anyone who is anyone makes it up the hill to have dinner here at some point, although there are moments when I really donít know why they bother. La Nicchia is one of those restaurants that doesnít so much rest on its laurels as roll about inside a giant haystack of them, while kicking its little restaurant legs in the air. Situated high on a hill on the road to Scauri, it is the kind of place that treats non-regulars with a disdain bordering on unkindness, while extracting as much money out of their pockets as possible. S was charged 30 euros for his small John Dory on our last visit; an outrage from which my boy has yet to recover. At least they cooked it nicely, which is about the most I can say about them through clenched teeth. ... read more

Trattoria del Pesce Fresco, Palermo

Trattoria del Pesce Fresco, Palermo There are a lot of crummy restaurants in Palermo, but Trattoria del Pesce Fresco isnít one of them. Situated down near the port, on a breezy avenue that offers a tantalising glimpse of sea over lanes of traffic, it tenders a respite from the clamour and grime of the ancient centre. More importantly, this particular Trattoria is refreshing and notable in other ways, particularly for being an honest and straightforward enterprise in a city known for the fiscal rapaciousness of many of its catering outlets - especially those intended to appeal to visitors. ... read more

Bologna, Italy

Bologna, Italy S moans that Bologna is an expensive city, but has he seen the shoe shops here? No, of course he hasnít, because heís always too busy stuffing his face in restaurants and making whimpering noises about the egg-rich, yellow pasta that is so typical of this region. Emilia Romagna has long been one of the wealthiest areas in Italy, and this prosperity is reflected in the lavishness of many of its dishes and preparations. The best known, of course, is Bolognese sauce, or ragu, which cookery writer Anna del Conte describes as the perfect example of Bolognese cooking. It is, she writes, rich yet well balanced, lavish and yet restrained, meaty and yet fresh. I like that in a dish. And also in a man. Meanwhile, in her new cookery book, published in May 2007, Connaught head chef Angela Hartnett gives her excellent recipe for ragu. Hartnett's family originate from a village in the region called Bardi, and she insists that the meat for the sauce (a mixture of chuck steak and veal rump) is finely chopped, not minced, because it tastes so much better. ... read more

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