Cip’s Club, Hotel Cipriani, Venice

When my best friend announced we were going to Venice for her 26th birthday, I knew we had to find the very best restaurant for a celebratory dinner. Three months later and we were soaking up the last of the afternoon sun, surrounded by rippling waters and eating delicious Italian delicacies, at the stunning Cip’s Club.

Cip’s is part of the glamorous Hotel Cipriani and has an exclusive but relaxed feel. The property is located on the less populated Giudecca Island parallel to the main part of Venice. Guests lucky enough to be staying or dining here can catch the complementary and very civilised private boat from Venice’s main ferry terminal, a charming way to reach your dinner destination!

After enjoying a Pretty in Pink Bellini at the outdoor bar, we were escorted round to the restaurant which is set on a wooden terrace overlooking Piazza San Marco. There was a warm glow from the setting sun as we sat down at our table, it felt incredibly special to be at such a luxurious yet unpretentious restaurant with tables covered in pristine white tablecloths with neat cutlery and napkins and handmade coloured glasses from the nearby island of Murano. We toasted with a glass of 2010 Marco Felluga Ribolla Gialla, a fine white wine from the little village of Oslavia, straw yellow in colour with a fresh, elegant taste and a touch of citrus exoticism.

Cip’s Club specialises in simple seasonal Italian dishes, everything is fresh and delicious. To start we had traditional pasta dishes: a tasty vibrant green pesto sauce with spelt pasta dusted in parmesan, and an exemplary spaghetti carbonara with broad beans presented with a raw egg yolk ready to be mixed in.

The meat and fish recipes were modest and classic without unnecessary frills. Grilled seabass on a bed of fresh vegetables was light and healthy, whilst the Beef fillet with spinach and potatoes was more of a masculine option. For something a little different I would recommend the Breaded veal with salad, a thin, crispy escalope accompanied by a garden-fresh salad of rocket and cherry tomatoes. We shared a couple of sweets between us, and if I had to choose a winner the tiramisu would get my vote, an airy, creamy delight served with strawberries.

Wandering back in the evening darkness, I felt a rush of adrenalin recalling our filmic evening. Boasting the best views in Venice, Cip’s Club’s location alone makes it the most desirable dinner reservation in Europe’s most desirable city… the exquisite food and exemplary service is an added bonus.

More information and book a table here.

City Social Bar, Bank

City Social, Jason Atherton’s newest venture, is to be found at the top of Tower 42 (formerly the site of Gary Rhodes’ eatery). Usually Atherton’s food is the star quality of any restaurant but recently I’ve found there has been a sense of style triumphing over substance. At Berners Tavern the glorious dining room steals the show and here at City Social it is the views which wow.

I left the bankers to enjoy the expensive restaurant menu and instead opted for a seat in the more casual bar area. If you are looking for sky high entertaining venues City Social’s stylish ambience, fashionable crowd and enviable views beat the local competitors, SushiSamba and Duck & Waffle; I am yet to try the Shangri-La Shard Bar.

The venue has a slick but vintage feel, with a great soundtrack of jazzy tunes. We were seated at a preferable table – from the window we immediately spotted The Gherkin, Cheese-grater and Walkie-talkie buildings, I had time to ponder why we gave our monumental buildings such domestic names! Bar food is expensive considering the portion sizes, but I enjoyed the inventive recipes: goat’s cheese churros with London truffle honey was the highlight, indulgent cheesy doughnut creations.

I loved the imaginative cocktails, which looked and tasted wonderful. The Root of All Evil is a must, presented in a silver goblet and adorned with miniature fake $100 notes – it looks quite the part against the impressive view. A unique concoction made with Walnut rum, Bramley apple syrup, Poire William, lime juice and root beer, it was a refreshing ice cold sour but nutty drink. Robin Hood Quince of Thieves is a delicious choice too, a mix of Somerset cider brandy, quince liqueur, honey mead, lemon juice, mini apple bullseye. It is served short, a smooth balanced drink that is impossible to not like.

For a celebration or special occasion, City Social is the perfect venue: you can raise a glass in the bar and nibble on the quirky snacks, but I wouldn’t waste your hard earned cash in the restaurant when the food at Atherton’s other establishments is far more worthy.

More information and book here:

The Golden Well, Prague

For our final meal in Prague we went somewhere quite special. The Golden Well, or U Zlate Studne in Czech, is known for its great location and wonderful views of the capital. With a glass of champagne in hand overlooking the beaming city, at last I could breathe a sign of relief and gather my thoughts. The weekend, albeit wonderful, had been a mad rush to see and do it all, but up here the adrenalin abated and we were able to spend a few totally relaxed hours enjoying a classy but relaxed meal.

The menu includes traditional Czech classics alongside more familiar dishes, it all sounded delicious and I struggled with the overload of information. Eventually deciding on a refreshing cucumber salad with parmesan crisps and pinenuts, and king prawns with avocado. Subtle seasoning flavoured these fresh and vibrant ingredients… both starters felt appropriately light for the summer heat.

Mains were a little richer – steak with foie gras and truffle and chicken schnitzel with mashed potato. As expected the steak was indulgent and full of flavour, we were thankful for the accompanying grilled vegetables. It arrived presented beautifully and sitting in a pool of marvellously tasty gravy! The chicken was a smarter version of the children’s classic breaded chicken, and I felt a little silly choosing such a plain dish, even though the Golden Well chef had done it justice.

Vanilla pannacotta with strawberry compote and luxurious chocolate brownie completed our most memorable meal in Prague. What a lovely restaurant and view, it still makes me smile thinking of it now.

More information here.