What do you do before you go on holiday? Some people shop for new clothes (ok, I do that too), pour over guidebooks (yup, also guilty), read endless Booking.com and TripAdvisor reviews (hey! As they say, it's knowing what sorts of bad you personally hate when it comes to choosing a hotel - I can deal with a bad breakfast review for instance as I'd prefer heading to a local cafe anyway, but a room that smells of smoke or weak WiFi drives me up the wall).
But what I really love doing before going on holiday? Browsing through hundreds of restaurants and bars to get a taste of what's in store even before I get to a new city.
But how do you separate the tourist traps from the real local gems? Here's how I pick where to eat when I go on holiday:
Food blogs and Travel blogs
Forget TripAdvisor, we all know it's top 10 list of restaurants in a city is questionable at best, When it comes to picking places to eat in I trawl food blogs and travel blogs. Sometimes it's the description of an actual dish, at other times it's the setting or a photo of a market, if something makes me feel "I'd like to experience that!" it goes on the list.
While I usually ignore Top 10 Lists for restaurants I do pay some attention to Top 10 Lists for bars - let's just say the variables that define a good bar for me are more defined. Good drinks, good views, good atmosphere, music at a decent level to let me hear what my companion has to say, quirky enough to warrant a visit... the list isn't too long or complicated.
Local City Guides
City guides like the local versions of TimeOut etc. are invaluable in finding out what food festivals and events may be going on in a city while you are in town. Online city guides with monthly calendars are a great place to look not just for food festival recommendations but a host of other one-off interesting events.
Friends with similar tastes - what can I say? They know me better than the tracking software prompting me to check out what I "might also like". More importantly, they know what I'd hate. So if a friend who has visited a city before me tells me I really should try a particular dish or visit a particularly restaurant, I will most likely make it a point to visit.
Yes, I am a sucker for checking out restaurants mentioned in famous novels or cafes with literary connections. This is the only time I will happily visit a tourist trap. In fact, I have my next one already lined up...Cafe Iruna in Pamplona, immortalised in numerous references in Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises. What can I say? It's so much more evocative than checking out a restaurant's Zomato rating :)
How do you pick restaurants and bars while on holiday? Would love to know your top tips.
Named Best Blog for Food & Travel
Top 10 UAE Food Blogs in UAE