The Pump Room, Bath, Somerset
Breakfast – or afternoon tea – at The Pump Room is the sort of thing that, after just one visit, could easily become a tradition every time you visit Bath. Enjoy a pot of Darjeeling, a smoked bacon roll, a pleasant eggs Benedict or the warm, heavily buttered, cheese and chive scones, while a moderately accomplished trio, or a string quartet, serenade the assembled, hungry masses.
Café Korb, Wien, Austria
While famed for its literary, artistic and psychology connections – it was Sigmund Freud’s favoured hang out – Café Korb has a fine programme of unusual music to accompany your schnitzel needs. Almost inevitably, given the location, their schnitzel is very good indeed. But avoid the sachertorte – it’s a little dry and a tad strange – in favour of the celebrated apfelstrudel.
L’Ambre Riad Fes, Fes, Morocco
Approaching the Riad Fes, on the edge of Fes’s famed and busy medina, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’re in the wrong place – but that’s Moroccan architecture for you. In the classic Moorish style, Riad Fes is inward facing, the humble exterior hiding an interior of quite stunning beauty. Once the door shuts, you’re in as tranquil a spot as you can imagine.
Dinner is served through the beautifully tiled main room and in one of the hotel’s newer sections, just to the side of the spa. Just follow the subtle smells of delicate spice and the gentle strains of the traditional music.
L’Ambre is a stylish room, with a soothing water feature and live but subtle music: on the night of my visit, an oud player added gentle backing to a subtly elevated traditional Moroccan feast. There is a theory that French food tastes better if you’re listening to French music. One imagines, though, that at L’Ambre, food would taste pretty damned good with anything on in the background.
To start, “un assortiment de fines salads Marocaines”, which I trust doesn’t need translating. This simple description doesn’t do justice to what’s delivered, however: bowl after bowl of well-cooked, deeply flavoured and sometimes unapologetically spiced vegetable dishes. Aubergines feature heavily and deliciously, and the carrots are remarkable.
It’s not often carrots become the star of anything but here – and all across Morocco, as it happens – they’re a surprising delight, cooked through but never mushy and tossed with lemon, cumin and olive oil.
A nigh perfect quail pastilla follows, the flaky, crunchy exterior giving way to the nutty, sweet, rich filling. The savoury/sugar-sweet combination can be a tricky balance, but here it’s spot on. But even this is trumped by a lamb tagine, served atop a fine disc of crisp potato. It’s rich, gently spiced, and perfectly cooked, yielding to the fork with the merest exertion of downward pressure.
Dessert is a simple fruit salad with a scoop of mango sorbet, a pleasing if inconsequential final course, although a sweet mint tea and a very well-made gin martini wrap things up in stronger fashion.