How do we choose where to eat on holiday?

The smell of barbecues and freshly cut grass fills the air; the annual leave calendar is full to the brim; and there (was) a sense of cautious optimism about Scotland’s chances in the Euros. 

That can mean only one thing, summer (also known as silly season) has arrived. 

If you’ve got a trip coming up and you tend to experience new countries through your stomach, keep reading. 

When I think about my favourite holiday memories, they’re always centred around food…

Devouring the fried oysters from a street food vendor in Malaysia, sitting at the bar with my family at Cal Pep in Barcelona, where you tell the staff what you like and they bring you a selection of the best food you will ever eat, or going to the same restaurant year-after-year in Portugal with one of my best friends and her family (it’s called Mafuro 1 or “Chicken Shack” if you’re ever near Faro).

Rightly or wrongly, sitting in a gem of a restaurant, eating good food and drinking nice wine will always tickle my fancy more than ticking off a city’s best sightseeing spots and historical landmarks.

Personally, I think you should put as much effort into finding the best places to eat and drink as you do booking travel, accommodation, and everything else that comes with a trip. 

Sure, you might be lucky enough to stumble across somewhere that ends up being fantastic, but why leave it up to chance? They can’t all be bad, but not planning ahead probably means they won’t all be great. 

You’re on holiday! You deserve to eat nice food. But don’t let your precious annual leave slip away through your fingers. Get prepared in advance.

Here are some ways find the best spots before you take the trip:

How to spend 48-hours in ____ 

It’s not just because I work in PR, (often working hard to get clients into articles just like these) but I genuinely value the good old-fashioned printed recommendation. 

You’ll find these articles everywhere from The Guardian, Conde Nast, New York Times, and Cosmopolitan. They highlight the best things to do, places to visit, areas to stay and most importantly, what to eat. And you know me, I’m just looking for food. 

Not always, but places recommended can be on the pricier side. However, what they often do is mention what the local speciality is. Find out what that is and research places that are renowned for serving it – these can often be a highlight of the trip.

TikTok / Instagram 

Save, bookmark, and follow restaurants, bars and coffee shops ahead of your trip. Once the algo knows you’re coming, they’ll keep the recommendations flowing.

TikTok can be overwhelming and tends to be style over substance as a lot of content is focused on interiors as well as food. 

Do some research on where your favourite foodie influencers and celebrity chefs have been. I trust @topjaw to provide the best of the best. 

Has Anthony Bourdain been?

If the man himself has been inside a restaurant’s four walls and talked about it, you’re in for a treat. I needn’t say anymore. 

Trip Advisor / Google / Yelp

Joel Golby says as a society, we’re obsessed with rating systems. But with attention spans shorter than ever, do we really have time to trawl through julie678’s extensive Trip Advisor review and the 51 photos of her two-course meal? 

I’m sure the dishes looked great to the naked eye, but not so great from her Samsung. 

My advice? Avoid. (And yes I appreciate the irony in offering advice on what advice to take).

If you don’t know, get to know 

Booked an Airbnb? Ask your host for some recommendations in advance.
Staying in a hotel? Ask the reception.
Do you know someone who’s already visited? Ask them! They’ve done all the hard work for you.

Since I’m all about recommendations and recently back from a trip to Portugal…

Here are the best spots I visited in Lisbon and Porto 

@casaguedes for the pork sandwiches and white port + tonics
@neighbourhood.lisbon for breakfast burritos with all the dips 
Bonjardim for iconic and cheap chicken and chips (too busy cooking nice food for Instagram)
@winenotlisbon for charcuterie and great wine. If you can get a table the lovely staff explain what to try from each region
@thefolkslisbon for delicious coffee, try their special cold brew if it’s available  
@fares_lisboa for Middle Eastern delights 
@castropasteiddenata for the best pastel de natas, you can never have too many  
@pontofinalrest for the sublime views and monkfish rice
@musadasvirtudes for sunset beers and maybe the best fried chicken I’ve ever had 

Sure, many would avoid all of these tips for a quick bite and a seat (my boyfriend, Jack, isn’t always as keen as me to stand for 45 minutes plus to try a cult item, weird?). And yes, you could choose to eat somewhere by the beautiful yet busy waterfront, but that’s likely to come with a high price tag. 

As with all things in life, good things come to those who wait research

This got me thinking about how we approach the big old world of PR and marketing. 

Reliability and authenticity are key factors in any business – and trust is huge when establishing relationships.

We wouldn’t go into a new business meeting without doing our research. We wouldn’t offer an uninformed recommendation to our clients – and we wouldn’t hire a Storyteller without getting to know them first.

Trust is the natural result of lots of little positive actions. And when you can truly rely on someone’s recommendation, that’s where the magic happens.

Enough from me, happy holidays. 

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