Winning tip: Broth in Warsaw
With time to kill in Warsaw between trains, I wandered out of the central station for food and within five minutes stumbled upon the Radio Café on Nowogrodzka. Inside, I found walls covered in cold war memorabilia and learned that the owners worked for Radio Free Europe at that time, giving the authentic Polish restaurant its name. I decided against the pierogi (dumpling) menu (from £5.50) and went for the zurek w chlebie soup (£3.50). This did not turn out to be a lighter option but a thick meat broth with sausage and mushrooms served in a large rye bread roll. It was a final delicious and satisfying Polish meal in a unique setting.
A vegan in Tallinn
In Tallinn’s cobbled old town, just under 10 minutes’ walk from Balti jaam, the main station, is Vegan Restoran V. In an atmospheric old building with tables that are candlelit even at lunchtime, it serves fabulous vegan lunches and dinners. I ate jackfruit, chickpea and beetroot balls with smoky onion sauce (€10.50); cashew, sea buckthorn and berry dessert (€6.50); and, best of all, Estonian seeded bread with lavender salted “butter”. Call at the market next to the station for supplies for the journey, including warm sweet black bread and hot soup from the pine cabins outside.
In a stew, Nuremberg
From the main station, head away from Nuremberg’s historic centre and within 10 minutes you’ll reach Willy-Brandt-Platz and Shashamane, a lively and warmly welcoming Ethiopian restaurant, incongruous amid the brutalist office buildings that surround it. A full house of locals, banana beer from bowls, and reggae music (the eponymous Ethiopian town has strong ties with Jamaica) nicely ease you into getting hands-on with your food. Instead of cutlery, thick dollops of sticky spiced stews are eaten with injera, a spongy pancake-like sourdough. You’d be a fool not to go for the huge mixed plate of about seven different stews, but you’ll need to gird yourself for the challenge.
Don’t rush, have another dumpling, Bonn
Directly opposite Bonn train station is Cassius Garten, a vegetarian treasure trove of amazing soups, breads, dips, hot dishes and salads, as well as delicious vegan pastries and cakes. You serve yourself and pay for your food by weight, so if you can avoid overloading your plate, it’s pretty good value too. I got a big selection of salads, German dumplings, Thai vegetable noodles and a coffee, followed by some vegan blackberry ice-cream, for under €15. Makes a nice change from the slightly stuffy, meat-heavy, Beethoven-themed restaurants across the rest of Bonn.
A dosa Paris
When at Gare du Nord with time to kill before your Eurostar home, head down rue du Faubourg St-Denis along the east side of the station for a change of culinary scene and a world beyond the croque-monsieur. At Paris Chennai Dosa, dosas washed down with fresh juice or lassi were a welcome change of pace – after a stag/hen weekend involving snails, steak and breakfast wine – and a wonderfully tasty and nourishing choice to keep us going for the journey home.
Family pizza, Venice
If you are getting a late-night train out of Venice, give yourself enough time to try the family-cooked food at Pizzeria Vittoria. The 10-minute traffic-free stroll is rewarding in itself, along the waters of the Grand Canal and over the Ponte degli Scalzi – the Bridge of the Barefooted. This simple unassuming restaurant serves tasty Venetian food at unusually reasonable prices for the location. Pizza, fish and meat courses start from €10. It has been run by the same family since 1938, and black and white photos on the wall tell the history of an eatery that locals love: mother-and-daughter team Giuliana and Elisabetta make all welcome, and table-sharing adds to the fun.
In the Flo, Bordeaux
I had a couple of hours to kill at the train station while visiting family. Ignoring the generic sandwich bars, I ventured out of Saint-Jean station to discover “my home” Chez Flo, where you eat well – especially if you are a vegetarian – for €10. With an eclectic mix of decor – red walls with red leather banquettes – Chez Flo is frequented both by locals and travellers. With fantastic couscous, great pizzas, Japanese evenings and great value, you will be made to feel very welcome in this friendly establishment. You might even chance upon the place during one of its film evenings . They are worth missing your train for (that’s another story).
Germanic flavours, Lyons
Brasserie Georges, by the station in Lyons, is one of the oldest restaurants in the city. We stopped by for huge plates of steaming wurst and sauerkraut on our way to a skiing holiday in French Alps. In a massive room that used to be the station building, the whole experience is slightly surreal, with hundreds of diners and waiting staff constantly bursting into song to celebrate a guest’s birthday. It specialises in fatty pork dishes, sausages and other Germanic delights, but also catered for the vegan in our party with an excellent beans, spinach and dauphinoise potatoes dish (€13).
Seafood galore, Volos, Greece
Volos railway station is moments from the harbour in this coastal city on the Greek mainland. Stroll down to the sea and watch fishermen selling fresh fish from their boats, then wander through the Palia warehouse district – atmospheric streets lit with festoons and dotted with tsipourádika (tavernas). Seven minutes’ walk from the station, we chanced upon Brighton Gastronomiko, an impressive restaurant started by two Greek friends who met at university in Brighton (hence the name). The food is fresh and portions are generous. We spent a warm evening feasting on lovingly prepared, innovative dishes – including fava bean purée with octopus – and washed it down with excellent local wine.
Paella perfection, Málaga
A twenty minute-walk from Málaga’s María Zambrano station across the river, El Jardin is a venerable and characterful Spanish restaurant in a fantastic location, right by the cathedral gardens in the middle of the old city. The building dates from 1887 and the inside looks as though it has barely changed since. Step into a cool marble interior, warmed by dark wood, gilt mirrors and plants tumbling down wrought-iron pillars. If you’re lucky, the resident Liberace-style performer will be playing the ancient piano, complete with candelabras. We especially loved the lunchtime paella (€20 for two people). But it’s the combination of character and location that make El Jardin such a treasure.
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