Last July I wrote a post on my favourite foods from around the world, and where you could find them in London. Having travelled extensively throughout my twenties I found it very hard to narrow it down to just five, so here are five more of my favourites.
It is almost 11 years to the day since I first visited Paris as a 21 year old, with a very firm appetite and knowing exactly I liked. I was poor as a church mouse. I’d just been interning in Washington DC for six months and towards the end was living off a credit card and trying to make ends meet a little further by earning tips hanging up coats in one of DC’s busy steakhouses. Needless to say, my three days in Paris on my way home to New Zealand were not spent in luxury.
However, that didn’t matter at the time. It still doesn’t matter. I firmly believe you can go to France on any budget and have incredible food experiences. My most recent jaunt to France was for a hen party back in May. We spent two days in Carcassonne and, like every other trip to France, lived out of their patisseries, bakeries and delis when we weren’t stuffing ourselves with goats cheese salads, cassoulouet or magnificent French ice cream I think my best memories from France generally involve a fresh baguette with comte cheese followed by a mille feuille with an orangina on the side. Pure utter heaven.
I’m still not sure where in London to find baguettes as fresh as the French do them, but I am aware of some excellent French restaurants, my current favourite at the moment being Les Deux Salons in Covent Garden where the ladies and I recently did brunch.
In 2006 I had to leave the UK for visa reasons and headed back to New Zealand for what I assumed would be a permanent move. Little did I know back then that I’d eventually qualify for another visa and return two years later. Assuming that my days of endless travels were nearing an end, I took four months to get home and spent two of those in India, a place I was in love with one minute, in hate with the next, but blown away by constantly with its assault on my senses of sight, sound and smell.
In my first week there I got very ill. It wasn’t pretty and I lost a lot of weight over seven days until we eventually decided to head to family of a good friend in Kashmir. It was there I was introduced to Indian sweets and fed them non-stop until the family decided I wasn’t too fragile any more My memories of these sweets ever since have been linked to this amazing family who let us into their home, insisted we join them for the incredible Diwali celebrations and treated us like their own daughters.
I’ve found Indian sweets in the UK to be a bit hit and miss, but was recently introduced to Pistachio Rose, the company of Rekha Mehr who infuses Indian flavours with French style patisserie. A complete match made in heaven as far as I’m concerned. You can find her creations in Fortnum and Mason, or create your own High Chai banquet through Lime and Tonic.
I lived in China many moons ago and at the end of my year there joined Friend R on a six-week excursion around South East Asia, where I fell head over heels in love with Vietnam. Its people are wonderful, there is so much to see and the food is out of this world.
There were two things I discovered in Vietnam – that they learned baking skills from the French so as a result do outstanding bread – and that Pho is the best soup on earth. I also found that that they do coffee in an interesting way which really appealed to my sweet tooth, so as a result was drinking two to three cups a day of instant coffee with sweetened condensed milk. Thankfully I got out of that habit rather quickly (when I discovered lime soda in Cambodia) but I never lost my deep love of pho. I can’t tell you where my favourite bowl of pho can be found in London as I’ve had it done brilliantly in lots of places, but Cay Tre and the Viet Grill (sister restaurants) in Hoxton and the Green Papaya in Hackney do very good versions of it. Head there now, stuff it with chillies and enjoy – ideal any time of year.
Oh USA, a place where I spent more than four years living in and somewhere that has a big place in my heart. I love everything about America and think its people are truly awesome. Both stints of living there (when I was a teenager, and again, when I was 21) involved putting on big amounts of weight but I think for good reason, not just their enormous portions.
It is hard for me to decide what my favourite dishes from the States are as there are so many and I could go on for days, but I’ve narrowed it down to two:
- The humble bagel with plenty of cream cheese
I also want to include Maryland crab cakes, hamburgers, nachos, hot dogs, pretzels, Pepperidge Farm Goldfish, pancakes, giant sized cokes, Reeses peanut butter cups, chocolate pie, cherry pie and the rest in here.
My favourite bagel shop in the entire world can be found at Brick Lane Beigel Bake where for £1.60 you can get a generously filled salmon and cream cheese bagel. I use any excuse I possibly can to go there.
At the other end of the spectrum, Burger and Lobster does brilliant lobster for £20. It comes with salad and fries and it’s impossible to walk out of there still hungry.
Being from New Zealand and with the appetite of a “good Kiwi girl” I couldn’t resist including the country in here. Antipodean cafes are popping up all over the place and with good reason. They do outstanding coffee (don’t get a flat white from a big chain when there are plenty of good independent coffee shops that do them perfectly) and do brunch better than anyone. When I go home to NZ every two-to-three years I put aside a lot of my spending money to eat brunch with friends and family, then repeat the process at dinner. New Zealand has a proud tradition of good baking and fresh ingredients. It is definitely not a place that should be overlooked for its culinary traditions.
I have two favourite New Zealand owned places in London. I don’t think you can go wrong with a flat white with a banana choc-chip muffin from Nude Espresso in Brick Lane or Soho, and for an unforgettable brunch, the Modern Pantry has to be it.
There are plenty more countries that I haven’t highlighted but these are some of my favourites. Shall I do a third instalment at some point?
I was recently invited to join the Brancott Estate Curious Club for people who love their travel, food and wine. Unfortunately due to my current “situation” I’ve not been able to attend the first of their events, however, they have been very kind and offered me a prize to give to one of my lovely readers, just in time for Valentines Day.
If you leave a comment, stating what your favourite combined wine, food and travel experience has been, in the usual section below, then you will be in the chance to win a hamper with all you need to make a perfect blini, a fabulous bottle of Brancott Estate New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and two Riedel glasses. Perhaps an evening in next Thursday is required? I will sit here and await your stories.
You can find out more about the Curious Club through some of my favourite food bloggers. See the London Foodie, Utterly Scrummy and Fuss Free Flavours posts on it (I can’t read any more, they make me too jealous).
Rules: To enter the competition simply leave a comment below with your favourite food, wine and travel story (keep it punchy!) by this Thursday 7 February at midnight and I will pick a winner first thing on Friday morning (your email address will come up in my comment emails). Competition is only available to UK residents I’m afraid and I will pick a winner at random.
Brancott Estate is widely stocked throughout the UK. Many thanks to them and Weber Shandwick for this great give-away. You can learn more about Brancott Estate through their website or by following them on Twitter @BrancottEstate.
P.S. An amended version of this post first appeared on Lime and Tonic’s blog.
FRIDAY 8 FEBRUARY: Using http://www.random.org the winner is Manasi! Congratulations Manasi, I will put you in contact with Brancott Estate to arrange delivery. Thanks everyone for your fantastic entries – put me in the mood to get on a plane and go back eating my way around the world. Trips to Margaret River, Crete, Amsterdam, Sangatte and Alcala are going straight on the bucket list.