Danish chef Rene Redzepi is quoted as saying ‘People will travel anywhere for good food – it’s crazy.’ While not everyone might travel abroad for the food alone, we’ve all got to eat, and it’s here that I think it is important to pay tribute to some of amazing culinary experiences we can find across the globe.
For me, food and dining is an essential aspect of any holiday. Now, I am really not as chunky as you might think for someone that makes a statement like that, but I would like to argue my point here.
Dining abroad is not just about the food itself (although obviously this is a huge part), it’s about trying an important aspect of a different culture, mixing with the local community, taking the time to sit back and process what you might have discovered that day, and sometimes being brave enough to eat something when you have no idea what it is (note to self: learn some more Mandarin before going to China again…)
It also tends to be something you remember; good or bad, it makes a lasting impression.
So far, the foodie hotspots I’ve discovered have often been footnotes on the bottom of my posts, so I thought it was about time we took a quick trip worldwide to highlight some of the culinary delights and treasures I’ve had the pleasure to discover while on past travels. I might not be as well travelled as some, but I these figure quite high up on my list so far. If you are heading to any of these destinations, why not check them out?
Queen of Curry, Bangok, Thailand
From the second you walk through the door of this modest looking restaurant in central Bangkok, you can’t help but feel at home. This probably comes from the fact that it is a family run restaurant, with their holiday pictures from all round the world smiling down at you while you eat. With only a handful of tables, the atmosphere is intimate and warm, and the food is simply amazing. Having first been taken by an expat friend on our first night in the city (a true sign that it must be good!) we’ve returned a number of times since. With an extensive menu, there is a lot to choose from and it doesn’t disappoint. From my own visits, I would personally recommend the chicken satay followed by the Thai yellow curry dish.
If the owner is around, grab her for a chat – she spent a few years living and working in Romsey in the UK to allow her to be able to set up Queen of Curry when she returned to Bangkok and as such her English is very good. All in all, having travelled around Thailand, this is still my favourite place to eat. The high TripAdvisor rating means I can’t be the only one that thinks so.
Location: 49 Soi 50, Charoenkrung, Bangkok, Thailand 10120 (round the corner from Saphan Taksin and Sathorn Pier)
ION Food Hall, ION Orchard Mall, Singapore
If Singapore should be recognised for one thing, it should be its amazing variety in cuisine. In Singapore, cultures and their food preferences collide and merge brilliantly together – Chinese, Indian, Arabic and more. While the very best food is often eaten sitting on plastic chairs at plastic tables in local food courts, if you are flashing your hard earned cash on Orchard Road, then the ION Food Hall makes a good alternative. More than 80 stalls take you on a gastronomic trip around the world. From Taiwan’s Bubble Tea and Japanese Gyoza, to Peking Duck and American fried chicken – there is something for everyone. The beauty of it is, you can mix and match whatever you feel like. If you are feeling thirsty, there also is no need to leave your seat; servers on segways will come round and sell you a drink as you eat to save your feet. Make sure you try a Singaporean curry puff at Old Chang Kee, a small pie consisting of specialised curry with chicken and potatoes in a deep-fried or baked pastry. You’ll want another, and will be pleasantly surprised at the value for Singapore!
Location: 2 Orchard Turn, Singapore 238801
Romdeng, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
When you visit Cambodia, you will hear a lot about the plight of its street children. An organisation that is working hard to help change the futures of some of these individuals is Mith Samlanh (“Friends” in English), a local organization working to provide street children with training and educational facilities. One way in which they are doing this? The Romdeng Restaurant in capital Phnom Penh, a training school for young adults. In itself, this makes it worth a visit alone as you are served by both friendly teachers and students, clearly distinguished as they train ‘on the job.’
Romdeng serves a great variety of Cambodian food, from the traditional to the more contemporary. If you are feeling brave, then the crispy Tarantulas served with a lime and pepper sauce, followed by stir-friend Red Tree Ants with beef and holy basil might be for you. They will even bring your eight-legged friend out to say hello before he meets his maker if you fancy it. If like me you prefer your food a little more conventional, then the famous fish amok served in a banana leaf, the national dish of Cambodia is a must-try. Set in a beautiful colonial building surrounded by fairy lights, dining outside on the terrace is a relaxing experience. and a welcome break from the hectic pace of the city.
Location: #74 Street 174, Phnom Penh
Sur Le Pouce, Paris, France
Sur Le Pouce is an actual ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ hole in the wall cosy-ing up to the Notre Dame on the Rue d’Arcole. This ‘sandwicherie’ may only have a tiny number of seats, but great filling lunches, brilliant wine and amazing ice cream (hello salted caramel goodness!) to refresh you in the Parisian heat. With a name literally translating to ‘On the go’, we stumbled across this place while searching for somewhere to grab a quick lunch. Don’t be tricked by not realising you can’t go inside, you just need to push past the man cooking food out on the street front to be greeted by the cosy interior.
Alongside the sandwiches and ubiquitous crepes offered out front, inside there is a much wider menu of cooked items to choose from. On the drinks front, it’s a common and welcome tradition in France for restaurants to offer house wine by the pichet. You are offered a small jug of red, white or rose, and can usually choose a quarter, half, or full litre – a very reasonable €6 for ½ pichet made lunch time much more interesting!
Overall, it is nice to find somewhere in the middle of Paris where you won’t be paying over the odds for a quick lunch, or needing to resort to a fast food chain. Here, lunch is fresh, tasty and affordable. It’s no wonder we returned a couple of times in a short break.
Location: 7 Rue d’Arcole, 75004 Paris
The Burger Joint, New York City, USA
When I visited New York for the first time earlier this year, my colleague repeatedly told me to check out the ‘secret’ burger restaurant in the lobby of the Le Parker Meriden Hotel. Wondering how secret it really was, it’s surprising! When you arrive at the hotel, look for the velvet curtain on the left, with the only clue being a small neon burger sign and a small doorway. Inside, the room is covered with scrawlings on the walls and table from past visitors (with the odd celeb thrown in) and a small scattering of places to sit.
Repeatedly voted as offering some, there are no gourmet options, just good old fashioned beef burgers, perhaps with cheese, fries and a drink. While the menu is short, the queues are not, and getting there at 11.30 to beat the crowds (or so I thought), we still had to fight for a seat amongst the sea of suited workers grabbing an early lunch. Make sure you have decided what you want before you reach the counter, as they don’t appreciate you umming over what to order.
I had a cheeseburger, fries and chocolate shake – a proper American meal – and it was good. The burger oozed, the fries were crisp and the shake thick. No wonder it’s popular! By the time we left, the queue stretched half way around the lobby, so go early or arrive late if you plan to visit.
Location: Le Parker Meridien New York, 119 W 56th St, New York, NY 10019
Buster’s Sea Cove, Toronto, Canada
Confession time. I have a weakness for calamari. If it’s on a menu, then I’m ordering it. Which is why when I read about the great, fresh sea food served at Buster’s Sea Cove in the back corner of Toronto’s famous foodie St Lawrence market, I thought it might be worth a visit. Little did I know that I would experience food heaven.
Place your order in a quick fire system, watch it be passed along and cooked fresh in front of your eyes – this is a fast food joint with a brand new meaning. In no time at all, I had a huge portion of crispy calamari (you can choose for it to be grilled or fried) with fries which was simply jaw-droppingly good. It’s not just calamari obviously; favourites include Boston Blue Fish & Chips, 100 per cent crab cakes, sword fish, steamed mussels, coconut jumbo shrimp or clam strips. The menu is broad and smells incredible as it cooks.
As my long-suffering partner found out, if something is good enough for you to walk for miles in almost 40 degree heat to eat again before you fly home, you know it was good!
Location: 93 Front Street East, St Lawrence Market, Toronto, ON M5E 1C3, Canada