La Granja del Pollo Asado, Madrid 09-2019

The final lunch in Madrid before leaving was one I wanted paella. Unfortunately nothing was open before 12, which limited the time and effort required to have it. Instead we went for the local roast chicken place, run by Chinese people, but still cooking up a mean roast chicken and some delicious chicken rice also.

€8 for a whole chicken is not bad at all. Not what I would usually go for in Spain, but fast local food when required.

Bar Restaurant Plazhi I Ri Caci, Sarande 09-2019

After driving back to Sarande and returning the car, we had enough time for one final Albania meal before taking the ferry back to Corfu. While walking toward the port, an older man sitting outside his shop saw us and asked what are you looking for? Some food I guess. Albanian? Yeah. Cross the road and go down the stairs and walk until you find the restaurant. And so we did. And opposite the beach with its perfect blue Mediterranean waters we came across Caci.

A couple of wasps seemed to hover, but not too bad overall.

- Salad - giant and the largest we had during the trip (maybe ever) with loads of chunky feta;
- Tave kosi (yoghurt casserole with lamb) 900lek - I tried hard to find this dish anywhere and failed. It is more a dish that is served at homes or more inland toward Tirana. In Ksamil I asked our Airbnb host and he didn't know anywhere to find it. Luck would have it this final place would allow me a national dish before leaving. It was like a tender lamb quiche with a tangy sour yoghurt flavour. I liked it;
- Fried squid 1100 lek - quite good. Bit chewy. Bit of salt.

Considering the location along the beach, the meal was great value overall. I left full, exchanged my remaining lek for € at a good rate at a random travel agent, and boarded the ferry which was actually (reasonably) on time.

Thanks Albania.

Guvat, Ksamil 09-2019

For the final dinner of the lovely week in Albania, we wanted a slightly more special one. The choice was between Apollonia (walked past on first evening with welcoming wait staff and a nice menu) or Guvat (which was on my list for Ksamil). After a bit of internal deliberation, we ended up at Guvat including getting the best seats in the house (which has a reserved sign until we arrived) to watch the sunset.

The sky had beautiful colours with which to enjoy some cocktails (pina colada and banana daiquiri with fresh fruit). Some average bread, somewhat plain tzatziki and pretty decent olive oil started off the food too.

- Fried hard cheese (kackavall) 500lek - I had difficulty finding this cheese fried on local Albanian menus, and finally took the opportunity. The cheese was thick, firm, squeaky, salty, delicious - it was perfect. It did cool quickly though;
- Black cuttlefish ink & cuttlefish risotto 1200lek - cooked al dente with lots of cuttlefish, red peppercorns and grated cheese;
- Linguine "Xha Aliu" with seafood, tomato, cognac, red pepper, garlic 900lek - pasta was slightly al dente. The seafood was one prawn, and bits of octopus and squid. The sauce was really tasty like a spiced chilli tomato base. It was exceptionally good in flavour.

A beautiful setting in the September twilight, without pesky insects, and a gentle not-too-cold breeze. A lovely environment with excellent food. Would definitely go back for the cheese and linguine if I'm ever in Ksamil again.

Brothers Fish & Meat Tavern, Ksamil 09-2019

Brothers seemed to be a well rated dining venue and it surprised me to find the building with a gated metal fence just off the main road, with a dumpsite of building shell and neglected cars in the adjacent carparking area. Interesting. It was a quiet lunch after spending the morning at the ruins of Butrint National Park.

There is an enclosed spit outside in the courtyard but due to the off-season, it wasn't in use.

The minimally English speaking elderly couple cooking and serving were quite homely.

- Spicy cheese grilled topped with olive oil and peppers;
- Stuffed peppers with rice 550lek - quite simple, salty and nice;
- Greek souvlaki with kofte 650lek - very ugly kofte that were quite average. But the bread and tzatziki very good.

I have to be honest and say the food was average. It also didn't look like the pictures of dishes on the front of the restaurant. Maybe it's an off-season thing...

Hello Creperie, Ksamil 09-2019

My partner was craving crepes - an odd choice in the middle of Albania. But luck would have it that as I searched out some breakfast burek, I walked past a creperie. What are the odds.

After seafood dining at Ftelea (and being pretty full), the idea was to go for a light crepe to finish the day. One can always have plans but those went out the window pretty soon, we realised. It probably would have helped to see the monstrous creations.

They are only open from 1800-2400 which made it perfect for the last deal of the day. And they also have a fun quote "Waffles are just crepes with abs".

- Dried fruits waffle (ice cream, chocolate, walnuts, almonds, raisins, hazelnuts) 500lek - this was the world's largest consumer waffle, huge and thick but still cooked well. There were lots of crushed nuts, whole walnuts and topped with vanilla icecream. There's no way we could finish that;
- Pineapple sweet crepe (white chocolate, coconut, pineapple, cinnamon) 300lek - the crepe was large and thick, not so much the thin delicate French type. The white chocolate made it a too sweet (not a fan of it generally). The warm pineapple was delicious though.

The waffle certainly didn't help my abs at all.

14 Hills, London 11-2019

Located high up on level 14 near Bank, is the newly opened 14 Hills restaurant. It is a lush area full of green and I can only imagine how many landscape people must be responsible to keeping everything alive. Even the entrance to the lift (complete with door person) has wow factor with the impressive enormous LED screen on the ceiling entrancing you while you wait.

Once upstairs, you are greeted and then we were shown to the bar. There are expectedly good views from the top, including a small part of Tower Bridge on display. The Xpress Martini sounds excellent, but not wanting to have a late night awake, I opted for The Hive (Patron silver, Olmeca blanco, Montelobos Mezcal infused with thyme, aperol, amaro montenegro, honey, fresh lime) £11.5. It was an alright drink with a bit of smoke to it. I couldn't understand the honeycomb and stirrer on top, which really seemed for art decoration but little functioning else.

We waited 30mins for the table, which I think was because they forgot about us (maybe confused us for another couple). People who arrived with and after us were already seated, and it wasn't because the place was full. It was however, their opening night and so I think a little concession needs to be made (as the food was 50% off).

The French FOH staff and the French waitress made me think they was something French about this place. And the menu confirmed there certainly was. Some good quality bread (excellent crust) with butter started things off in typical French fashion.

- Crab (white crab, crab essence, cauliflower, oscietra caviar) £17.5 - warm bits of crab meat covered by a foam. Pretty good although I would have preferred a stronger crab flavour;
- Game (pork, duck & pistachio terrine, pastry crust, brandy cherries) £14 - a cold dish with reasonable crust (given it is cold) surrounding the the meats and asparagus. Pretty good actually;
- Turbot (roasted, with cuttlefish risotto, beurre blanc) £26 - a nice fish albeit bony with a rich sauce and a thick black risotto;
- Rossini (beef fillet, mushroom duxelle, seared duck liver, toast, madeira & truffle sauce) £36 - very tender, very rare (to request) fillet, with tangy mushrooms and an excellent piece of foie gras (that didn't have a very strong liver taste). Really good dish all around.

I'm generally not one to go for French food, but the quality of cooking here was very high. It has a nice setting too if you are willing to pay those prices.

Ftelea Fishop & Grill, Ksamil 09-2019

I was trying really hard to find a local fishmonger to buy some things to cook at home. It proved surprisingly difficult with the only one coming up on a Google search being at the beach area opposite The Mussel House. I never made it there.

I asked the owner of Zace Studios (our accommodation) and he recommended nearby Ftelea which he said you can buy fresh to cook home, or pay them an extra 100lek or so to cook for you takeaway. That would have been much cheaper than eating there, but when on holiday why not enjoy the conveniences of an atmospheric eating place. I had actually mentally noted the place while walking home from the main beach area as a seafood place that smelled good and was full of people into the evening, when most other restaurants centrally were very empty in the off-season.

- Arugula salad 400lek - bitter rocket and parmesan;
- Prawns 1000lek for 300g - flavoursome, cooked well with a little chew. A marked difference in 300g compared to the terrible Genti;
- Grilled squid 800lek for 300g - unseasoned but well grilled squid and excellent once salted lightly;
- Gilthead 650lek for 300g - panfried well with crisp skin and soft flesh.

An excellent meal overall. I'm disappointed we didn't have enough meals left to go back.


The Mussel House, Ksamil 09-2019

The Mussel House has a good reputation for - you guessed it - mussels from the local waters. I think it is the opposite side to Lake Butrint proper, but I'm sure the water is roughly the same. It's a steepdrive up/down off a mainroad, so I would be surprised if accidents didn't occasionally happen there. But none this time at least.

Along the offroad, there doesn't seem anything else there other than The Mussel House. And there's certainly lots of people coming to eat happily, including some Italians who were praising the food and pasta.

What I remember is several wasps that wouldn't leave us alone. It just meant careful moving and eating so as not to agitate (or swallow) any of them. Also the waters around were teeming with tiny little fish that seemed to detect you looking at them and move away. They would come up to the surface and make tiny little breaks in the water

- Mussels saganaki 550lek - deshelled in tomato and feta sauce. Quite good, although it did seem like a small serve and not the best way to taste the mussels for themselves. It really wasn't what I was expecting; from the waiter's description I thought it would be shelled mussels steamed in a light salsa with chopped tomatoes;
- Butrint Lake Eel 750lek for 300g - very nice grilled, with thin bones, soft flesh and little heads to chew on.

Overall a nice place to have some local seafood. Would go for the normal mussels next time.