Eat like a local

The city

Barcelona 

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The Local

Georgia Rodriquez, dental nurse 

‘People obsess about how Spanish people like eating late — dinner tends to be between 9pm and 11.30pm. But our most important meal of the day is lunch. That’s when we eat the most, usually a three-course menú del día with drinks around 2pm, followed by a siesta for an hour or two. Dinner, like our breakfast, is normally very light — tapas and a drink — which is why we can have it late at night.

We love a wander along Las Ramblas — it’s such an important symbol of Barcelona, especially after last year’s terrorist attacks. But we’d never eat there — the food is a rip-off, and no good. Instead we go to Rambla de Raval, the more local stretch further north. My favourite spot is relaxed Suculent (suculent.com)

‘La Boqueria market is too busy, and too expensive! Instead we go to Santa Caterina, which is under a colourful roof near Parc de la Ciutadella. We love it for the charm of the stallholders — and the arroz negro (cuttlefish rice) at Bar Joan.

‘Just like everyone in Spain, we eat tapas, but they’re actually not typically local — and neither is paella. Authentic Barcelona restaurants will serve larger portions — we call them raciones — of dishes such as pa amb tomàquet (bread with tomato), barbecued

calçot onions, faves a la catalana (bean and sausage stew) and fideuà — a bit like paella made with pasta. The best place to go for a drink is Can Paixano (canpaixano.com).’

The city

Venice

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The local

Monica Cesarato, food blogger and guide

‘Venetians find any excuse to slip inside the nearest hole-in-the-wall-size bàcaro. I see tourists walk past these shadowy dens, either because they’re too nervous to enter, or they’ve mistaken it for someone’s front room. Cicchetti are the uniquely Venetian platters of snacks you’ll find at any decent bàcaro. The deal is: buy a drink, graze for free. Fill your paper plate with bruschetta topped with baccala mantecato (dried-cod pâté), sarde in soar (sweet-and-sour sardines) or cuttlefish in its own ink. You’ll find the best cicchetti in the Rialto, Dorsoduro and Cannaregio districts — look for a sign that says ‘ombre and cicchetti’.

‘Venice does the best risotto. The finest is risotto di go, made from a rich, saltybroth of tiny goby fish, which live in the city’s lagoons. It originated on the island of Burano which is where Venice’s fishermen used to live, and is still — to my knowledge — the only place you can find it served, at the Al Gatto Nero trattoria (gattonero.com).

The Rialto market is the beating heart of Venice’s food scene, but it can be a hive of tourists if you hit it at the wrong time. Get there when it opens, around 8am. Or, if you want a bargain, drift in at closing time, around 12.30pm, when stallholders pile unsold produce into ‘bargain bags’ and sell it at a heavy discount. You could buy a family-sized stew’s worth of fish for 30 per cent less than the normal price — great if you are self-catering.

‘In most Italian cities you can get a decent meal for under $30, but Venice is more expensive — at least if you want to eat well — because the quality local ingredients are produced on a small scale. If you want a proper, slap-up dinner, expect to pay at least $50.’

The City

Amsterdam

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The local

Juliette Menne, brand manager 

‘When guidebooks start to publicise “hidden gems”, we go elsewhere to avoid the incoming crowd’

‘Dutch people enjoy intimate haunts, so when guidebooks start to publicise ‘hidden gems’,

we go elsewhere to avoid the incoming crowds. In the trendy Pijp area, this has happened a lot, but there are still a few good places. For example, I love the filter coffee at Scandinavian Embassy (scandinavianembassy.nl). Or there’s Café Caron (cafecaron.nl), with excellent French red and white.

‘We don’t really eat traditional Dutch foods in restaurants — dishes such as boerenkool (slow-cooked kale and sausage) are more for home. However, you can find great Dutch ingredients used in the global restaurants here. For example, at central La Cacerola (restaurantlacacerola.nl), the menu is South American, but it still serves fresh plaice from Zeeland and pigeon from Drenthe.

‘Amsterdam doesn’t have many tall buildings, so visitors assume you can’t get dinner with a view. They’re wrong! Head towards the central station to the former Shell headquarters — it’s been renovated to house fancy hotels, clubs, and restaurants. Moon (restaurantmoon.nl), one of the top-floor restaurants, has the best views of the city, and spins (really slowly — you won’t get sick) while you dine.

‘Skip the caramel-filled stroopwafel — it’s just for tourists. Instead, enjoy our favourite snack — bitterballen, which are meatballs made with beef or veal. You can find them in every bar, because all Dutch people love them.

‘Pop-up restaurants are very popular here. They are all over the city, but outside it, too. Book ahead for a dinner trip to Vuurtoreneiland — Lighthouse Island — a small UNESCO World Heritage Site an hour’s boat-ride from the city (vuurtoreneiland.nl). Your ticket includes a five-course menu, boat trip, and all your drinks. In spring and summer, dinner is served up on a hill, and during wintertime it is in a romantic former military fort.’

The city

New York

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The local

Kara Rota, podcast host 

‘Do go to a deli, but don’t ask to have your bagel toasted! It’s a quick way to ‘out’ yourself as a tourist — and some places flat out won’t do it. For me, peak New York is lox (brined salmon) on a bagel from Zabar’s (zabars.com)— ideally eaten on a bench in Central Park, while reading The New York Times. For a great sandwich, try Eisenberg’s in central Flatiron, right off 5th Avenue, where you can sit at the counter — have it with fries and a Lime Rickey (eisenbergsnyc.com).

‘It’s a myth that New Yorkers always buy pizza by the slice — we tend to have our own favourite neighbourhood pizzeria. Mine is Arturo’s in Greenwich Village (106 West Houston St), for pizza with a bottle of good red and a live pianist to listen to. My order is a thin-crust cheese pizza with extra garlic.

‘Steakhouses, for us, are more of a formal thing — we’d go to them when our parents are in town, or for a work dinner. That said, my grandparents used to take me to Ben & Jack’s (benandjackssteakhouse.com) near the Empire State Building — a total classic. But it’s more New York then than New York now.

‘Don’t eat a hot dog from a cart. I mean, I would, but let’s just say I’ve got a strong stomach. Instead, go to one of the classic shops — Crif Dogs in the East Village (113 St Marks Pl), or Gray’s Papaya on the Upper West Side (grayspapayanyc.com). They’re grungy and lived-in, but more reassuring.

‘The biggest mistake tourists make is sticking to the safe chain restaurants around Midtown, rather than walking into a darkened storefront with delicious smells wafting out. I’ve had some of my most memorable meals at weird places that I knew nothing about. The place to wander is Midtown’s Koreatown, where you can get some of the world’s best sundubu (tofu stew) and bibimbap (mixed rice) for no more than the price you’ll pay for a turkey sandwich.’

The city

Tokyo

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The Local

Ko Nishida, bartender 

‘We don’t expect you to know everything about Japanese etiquette. But don’t use chopsticks to pass food’

‘Bad sushi doesn’t exist in Tokyo, but if you want the best, head to Tsukiji Market* for breakfast or lunch. Yes, it’s in the guidebooks, but Japanese people really do go there. My favourite spot is Tsukiji Itadori Uogashi Senryo (itadori.co.jp) — its chirashizushi (sushi rice bowl) is delicious.

‘Don’t stick to Japanese food. Tokyo chefs love perfecting individual dishes, and that goes for foreign cuisine, too. For example, there are some great burger places — I like JS Burgers Cafe (burgers.journal-standard), in central Shinjuku or Shibuya.

‘We don’t expect you to know everything about Japanese etiquette. But don’t use chopsticks to pass food, and never rest them upright in your rice bowl — it reminds us of a funeral. And remember that slurping when eating ramen is considered polite, so be loud!

‘Many restaurants have a lunch deal for about 1,000 yen ($9), often with a salad, main course and drink. Look for signs that say ‘seto menu’.
I like Pariya (pariya.jp) in Shibuya (the area with the famous crossing), where you can choose from a buffet. You may need to book, but in the evening look out for ‘course menus’ — set menus with all-you-can-drink for about $50. Try Shirubee (1- 11-5 Jinnan Shibuya Tokyo) for Japanese dishes with a twist, such as mackerel blowtorched at the table.

‘Rather than go to just one restaurant, try out a food complex where you can hop between several. Nakameguro Koukashita (nakamegurokoukashita.jp), under railway tracks in relaxed Nakameguro, has a great range of Japanese curry places, plus a yakiniku (grilled meat) bar and bakery. Or in the museum-packed Ueno district, Ameya-Yokocho has a line of homely izakayas.’

The city

Paris

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The local

Gaëlle Lochner, graphic designer

‘Snails and frogs’ legs are not something Parisians eat. We’d tend to go to local brasseries for steak-frites or a tartare, or a big salad with chicken livers. Most places do these typical lunch dishes well. I like Chez Gaston, in the 11th arrondissement — it does a great salmon tartare (112 Blvd Richard Lenoir).

‘Waiters aren’t as rude as everyone thinks. If you say “bonjour” and make an effort to show you’re friendly, they will, too. But these guys work hard and if they’re tired of someone’s attitude they won’t hide it. Don’t worry about leaving a tip, though — French people don’t.

‘Every neighbourhood has a café where you could spend your life. Outside the centre, you might not get waiters in starchy aprons, but you’ll pay $6 for a drink instead of $13. For instance, in the gentrifying 20th arrondissement, I might drop in to Aux Ours (auxours.fr)

for coffee after I’ve dropped my son at school, or meet friends there for lunch, or drinks in the evening. Or all three!

‘You don’t have to avoid the touristy areas to eat well. Montmartre, for example, sees a mix of tourists and locals — people do live round here, so among the rip-offs are some good- value restaurants. Le Rendez-Vous des Amis (23 Rue Gabrielle), for instance, is a few minutes from the Sacré-Coeur, but it’s a lovely place with tables on the street. And right on the Seine, Péniche Marcounet (peniche-marcounet) is one of several lovely riverside bars — and has Notre Dame views.

‘Have at least one market-bought picnic. Every district has a market, usually three times a week — Marché d’Aligre Beauvau in the 12th is well-known but locals love it.’

 

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Credit: The Sunday Times Travel Magazine / News Licensing