When you think of sharing a rustic hearty meal with a local family whilst on your travels, how do you imagine it to be? I see myself immediately conjuring up images of being unexpectedly invited to my neighbours villa (of course it’s a villa!) to share a meal overlooking some incredibly picturesque vineyard in Tuscany. The wine is flowing, the conversation effortless and the Italian food brought to the table by an Italian mamma who’s lovingly made everything from scratch. Okay, it’s fair to say that I’ve probably watched far too many Hollywood movies. These types of spontaneous experiences are not likely to happen too often for the average tourist passing through a city. In any case, the above scenario relies on being at the right place at the right time or you would have to actually be a neighbour. Now having said that, I did excitedly discover recently that it is possible to connect with everyday families, those families that are not opening their homes as a business but more as a chance to dine with local families who are passionate cooks.
When I’m travelling, I often do a search online to find out what types of family dinners or cooking classes are around that are run by locals in their homes. What I’m after is the authentic local experience, the bona fide home chefs around the world who are willing to open their homes. I recently discovered a wonderful concept by Bon Appetour that is uniting travellers with a ‘home restaurant’ experience, where you are able to dine around the world with locals and their families.
It’s a simple concept and arranging a dinner with a local is easy, as it is all done securely online. From the Bon Appetour website you can start browsing through the cities that you will be visiting. Once you have selected a city, you will be given a list of home restaurants in that area. Each host will have a detailed description of who they are and what they offer on the menu. Once you have settled on a host you can go ahead with a booking. Prices are upfront, so you won’t be required to exchange any money on the day or night of your meal.
Then it’s just a matter of turning up and enjoying a delicious home cooked meal with your hosts.
I first found out about Bon Appetour through some online networking. I was to be travelling around Southern Europe solo for around five weeks and the opportunity to experience some home cooking with a family sounded like a great way to connect with people whilst I was on the road.
I got on the website and began browsing the cities I was visiting. I actually found it quite fun looking at all the home chefs and their menus throughout the world. I even searched to see if there were any home chefs in my country out of curiosity, to see what was on their menu. Eventually I settled on a home restaurant in Istanbul, as I would be visiting Turkey in a couple of months time. I sent off a couple of emails to the host prior to committing to a booking, so I could check that our dates suited both of us. Once a time and date was established I proceeded with the booking and we arranged to be in touch again closer to the date.
On the night, I was hosted by Erinc and his partner, a professional couple living in the heart of Istanbul. Both were ever so welcoming and they were already underway with preparing the evening meal when I arrived. Conversation flowed easily during this time and I was offered a pre-dinner drink and nibbles, whilst the cat entertained us with her funny antics.
On the menu was what a typical Turkish family would eat. For the main I was able to try Hunkarbegendi which translated to English means ‘Sultan likes it’. The dish consisted of sautéed beef pieces with tomato sauce, served on top of a grilled aubergine puree. This was accompanied with another traditional dish called Sarma, which was vine leaves filled with rice. The meal was washed down with the traditional drink of Ayran, which is basically a watery yoghurt (it is very popular in Turkey). To finish off for dessert, I was served Dondurmali Irmik Helvasi – a semolina cake served warm with ice-cream.
Throughout the evening we learned lot’s about each others countries, culture and of course what I thought of Istanbul. It really does feel like you are having dinner with family or friends and it is something I will do again on my next trip. It is a unique experience and connecting with locals really shows you a different side of a culture.
I would imagine that experiences can vary greatly depending on what each host offers. Having a review system in place helps with giving you a better idea on what others have experienced with a particular host. Most people are immensely proud of where they come from and will do their utmost to ensure you see a wonderfully traditional aspect of their city through their food and conversation.
If you are looking for an authentic local experience rather than trying pot luck with unfamiliar restaurants, then this is a fantastic concept. You will be the guest of honour in a locals home and experiencing a real family meal. If this is something that appeals to you and you are looking to book a dinner or even if you are just curious, then head to the Bon Appetour website (link below) for more information.
How to book
To book at a home restaurant around the world you will need to visit the Bon Appetour website below.