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Lonely Planet have released their hotly anticipated Best in Travel report for 2023, and boy, are there some gems in there! But we know which destinations we’d be making a beeline for – the places where we can get a slap up meal, obvs! There’s a couple in there we weren’t surprised about (we mean, Italy? Duh! But it might not be the region you were expecting!) but there’s also some real surprises, too. We’ve distilled it even further to 3 destinations we reckon you should whack on your bucket list for 2023.

Whilst you have a gander at them below, we’re off to pack our bags – tara!

Montevideo, Uruguay

Looking up from ground level is the tower of Salvo Palace in Montevideo, Uruguay.

We told you there were some surprises! Thanks to some improved airlinks, this South American capital is opening right up, and quite frankly, so are our gobs. Montevideo is a proper charming city with a not-s0-fast paced style of living, influenced by the surrounding countryside. After all, it’s home sweet home to the world’s longest continuous sidewalk (the more you know!), perfect for burning off all the grub you’re going to be eating as soon as you land.

In a gorgeous, palm-tree lined setting, rich with architecture that spans colonial, neo-classical and Art Deco styles, you can bang your knives and forks at all sorts of amazing eats. But before you eat anything else, first you MUST try their world famous grass-fed beef! Apparently, there’s at least 3 cows per Uruguayan citizen. Each week, they gather together for an asado, where different cuts of grilled meat are served up alongside a hearty dose of veg. But if you don’t know anyone in town just yet, you can head to places like Casa Pastora, Mercado Williman, and García for a traditional parrilla – that’s a metal grid used for grilling – experience. Locals especially love García for its elegant dining room, often sought for special occasions.

If a big piece of meat isn’t your thing, there’s plenty of fresh seafood lined up (sorry) for you, thanks to Uruguay’s 410 miles of coastline. Es Mercat is said to be one of the finest seafood restaurants in the whole of Latin America, and with its location being just around the corner from the biggest port in Montevideo, fish doesn’t come much fresher than this. Try the corvina negra – the Black Drum saltwater fish.

But if you want a real slice of a Uruguayan past time? Grab a chivito for lunch, the country’s national sandwich. Which has us thinking – do us Brits have a national sandwich? And if not, which one would it be?! Anyway, chivito means ‘little goat’ but the sandwich doesn’t involve any goat meat, rather it’s piled with beef, bacon, lettuce, tomato, eggs, and cheese – with a nice, hearty side of fries to boot! It’s like a classic BLT, but on steroids. Sounds delish. Get one from one of Uruguay’s oldest fast-food chains, La Pasiva.

Umbria, Italy

A field covered in a rainbow of colours in Castelluccio, Umbria.

There are FAR less crowds in the many hilltop towns and villages that make up Umbria than you’ll find in Tuscany. Whilst we’re glad it’s still so under the radar, we’re also sad that many people making dream trips to Italy miss out on this region’s dreamy dishes. Perugia, the capital of Umbria, is really well-based for trips to see all the gorgeous hill towns that Umbria has in spades (and try all the food).

Italy was the origin of the Slow Food Movement, so it’s only fitting that for lunch you head to a Slow Food favourite, Osteria a Priori, for a classic Umbrian flatbread – torte al testo. A pretty ancient recipe, a torta al testo consists of a bread that’s sort of like focaccia – but an Umbrian would say it’s nothing alike – cooked on a cast iron plate, then stuffed with only the best pork the local butcher has to offer! You can also get it filled with some bitter greens or cheeses. Simple. Perfect. In need of being eaten, immediately. Preferably by us.

For something a little lighter, try a frittata al tartufo – a truffle frittata, to you and me. Made with a combination of eggs, black truffles (oooo), olive oil, salt, and black pepper, it’s another super simple dish that becomes extra on the tastebuds. Ragù d’agnello, meanwhile, is an Italian meat sauce with its origins specifically in Umbria. Expect pieces of lamb, some olive oil, garlic, and rosemary, as well some white wine and tomatoes. You’ll typically find it served over tagliatelle – remember, the g is pronounced like a y! Your mum’s spag bol, this is not (sorry, mum.)

The hilltop town of Assisi, in the Province of Perugia, in the Umbria region.

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

The skyline of Kuala Lumpur at night, with the KL Monorail in the foreground and the Petronas Towers glowing in the far.

The capital of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur has a skyline that features both minarets and skyscrapers – including the world’s tallest twins, the Petronas Towers. But head right back down to earth and put that schnoz of yours to the ground; it won’t take you long to find streets lined with food stalls – all shaded by the lovely staple of Asia, the banyan tree.

But before all that, let’s start with breakfast. You’ll want to get things going with nasi lemak. The national dish, you could say it was the English fry up of Malaysia. Dead simple, it’s made of lovely, fragrant rice cooked in coconut milk at its most basic (but still delish.) You can throw in some pandan or bay leaves, or maybe some lemongrass and ginger to jazz things up a little. You’ll probs find it served with sambal – a type of chilli paste – some crispy anchovies, and cucumber. Maybe a boiled egg, if you’re lucky! Just like with a fry up, nasi lemak is not to be taken lightly, and everyone has their favourite version. Nasi Lemak Tanglin is a staple for KLites – that’s a citizen of Kuala Lumpur – but you can also head to Village Park, where they’ll throw a fried chicken leg in too. Nice one.

Designed in an Art Deco style, you’ll know Central Market when you see it. Originally a wet market, it’s now the go-to place for grabbing bloomin’ all sorts – essential oils, batiks, pewter ware, even Durian fruit (maybe leave that one behind.) But enough about all that, what about the fooood?! Precious Old China is the place to go if you wanna try some Baba-Nyonya dishes, a cuisine born from the Chinese-Malay community it takes its name from. Expect Chinese wok cooking styles combined with Malay ingredients like candlenut, Vietnamese coriander, and fermented shrimp paste. But then some Indian and Middle Eastern spices are thrown in too! It’s sweet, and then it’s salty, and then sour and spicy. Try Laksa Nyonya – curry noodles with coconut milk – and Ayam Pongteh, which is stewed chicken and potatoes in a heavy gravy sauce. Sounds pretty familiar, actually…

But what about some sweet treats? Well, you’ve gotta try a pandan soft serve. Mega green with a taste that’s part pandan, part coconut (we’re sensing a theme here), it’s dead creamy and the perfect thing for sweltering days, which you’re defo going to encounter in Malaysia. Get some at Pandan Republic – cute and bright yellow, you won’t miss it – just around the corner from the Sri Mahamariamman Temple.

So which one has tempted your tastebuds, tickled your pickle? We’ll get you to wherever you’re headed, easy.

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