In terms of chronology, this should come immediately after post 1 on California – it should cover Malibu (very briefly), Santa Barbara, Monterey and Santa Cruz. We kept Miley Cyrus’ Malibu and Rita Ora’s Anywhere on repeat as we drove on the Pacific Coast Highway through Malibu towards Santa Barbara – Malibu is extremely pretty to drive through, but that’s about it.
Touted as one of the things to eat in Malibu, there were long lines stretching out of Neptune’s Fish Shack. We waited for about 15 minutes before our orders were taken – it was not an entire waste of 15 minutes of my life because I could see the ocean from where the shack was.. it was super gorgeous (see above). Food wise, the fish tacos were a waste of calories, and the clam chowder was salty and creamy (it was pretty decent). Our highlight in Malibu had to be Grom – nothing like some italian gelato to cool off in er, Californian Winter.
On our way out of Malibu and towards Santa Barbara, we had to drive through Oxnard and Ventura, which by now everyone knows was devastated by the great Californian fires. Every time I think about this leg of the trip I count my lucky stars that the fires didn’t break out when we were there. I cannot fathom how difficult it must be to have everything you know disappear.
Santa Barbara is super quaint and has lots of Spanish architecture – it looks a lot like Stanford (the university). Also, because of the Spanish architecture and how quiet it is during the evenings, it tends to look haunted at night. There is very little street lighting and we had to drive in the dark, which was pretty scary. Santa Barbara is also full of one way roads, so please just trust google maps (we learnt this the hard way).
A quick yelp led us to Brophy Bros for dinner. By the wharf, it was lively and fully packed at 8pm – we scored the last two seats at the bar when we walked in. Brophy Bros is everything I’d imagine a wharf-side seafood restaurant to be – warm service (but never intrusive), great seafood and a winning clam chowder!
I started with an oyster shooter (raw oyster, tobacco and lots of grated cheese) which was really worth it at $3 per pop; the oyster was massive. Teddy and I both thought the clam chowder was the best we had that trip – it was creamy but not stodgy, and certainly not overly salty. Lots of clams and just the perfect belly warmer on a cold wintry night. I got the seafood scampi which had copious amounts of garlic and butter – it was good, but it tasted even better the next day (we doggybagged it home). The star of the night had to be the salmon salad with sesame dressing – the salmon was perfectly tender (no overcooked fish, yay!) and paired perfectly with the salad which was very slightly seasoned. Portions are obviously massive; the prices, extremely reasonable. Do not miss this.
While Santa Barbara at night looks haunted af, this is almost every street along Santa Barbara in the day – totally worlds apart!
Monterey / Carmel by the Sea
After Santa Barbara, we slowly made the drive up towards Monterey.. and caught this beautiful sunset at Moonstone Beach Park.
Dinner that night was at Jeninni, a place recommended by RJ (and if RJ recommends something, we are obviously going).
Charred octopus with lemon marmalade – I had high expectations of this one but I think we have been spoilt by Cicheti. This fell short of our expectations as it was a tad mushy. However, the char was excellent and the octopus was sufficiently smoky. We liked this but did not love it.
This was a different story. Stuffed squid with chorizo and cous cous on the side – man, this is a dish I could eat over and over again. The squid was so thin and the chorizo added a lot of porky flavour to an otherwise boring dish. That said, anything with chorizo is bound to be good so… perhaps this was already a winning combination to begin with. (And thankfully RJ is able to recreate this)Steak – honestly cannot remember much about this – we enjoyed it but that’s about it. Again, brussels sprouts with chorizo sauce (ie a winning combination) – but it was the raisins that made this charred sprouts such a winner. It was sweet, salty and smoky – to all my friends who hate brussels sprouts, YOU MUST TRY THIS.
The next morning we explored Monterey and obviously after seeing Bubba Gump we had to make a visit as Tdy has never been to one. I’ve always found Bubba Gump to be serve decent food for the price – but it’s really more about the experience. I love it, and I’ve never even watched Forrest Gump.
We set off for the 17 mile drive that afternoon. It was a very well spent $10 as the coast was full of views (like the one below):Sunset at Carmel by the Sea – a quaint, seaside town that is extremely hilly. This was my favourite sunset of all the ones we caught.
Gilroy / San Juan Bautista
The timeline is getting hazy now, but I remember the next day was Gilroy day (aka factory outlets) and I hadn’t had any In-N-Out yet. So here’s some gratituous food porn – an animal style cheeseburger with grilled onions.
Tbh, I wasn’t very impressed with Gilroy – my aunt E was right, should’ve gone to Camarillo instead – it’s bigger, with more range of shops for me to splurge the (non existent) cash I have.
I also wanted to show everyone this gorgeous place we found in San Juan Bautista. There is absolutely nothing to see or do but this hotel is super gorgeous. Its Spanish architecture done right (aka not haunted) and beckoned us into the hotel with its twinkling fairy lights; a much welcomed light at the end of a very dark Highway 101.
With all amazing finds there is of course a catch: there is a utter lack of food options in this town and because it’s so quiet, deliveroo and ubereats aren’t options either. That said, this was hands down our favourite find of the trip.
I am now getting tired of writing this super long travelogue but I’m very nearly done – only Palo Alto and San Francisco left, and then I can start on Hong Kong, where I discovered a new place which I cannot wait to write about!