A Frenchman in Cambodia

This article was also published in the Financial Times. I was introduced to the particular ingredients and cooking techniques of Cambodian cooking by two very different chefs in three very distinct locations. The first was the petite, charming and memorably named Vandy Van, who is in charge of the cookery school attached to the Amansara hotel at Siem Reap, close to the extraordinary temples of Angkor. The kitchen is located on the first floor of an atmospheric old wooden Khmer village house naturally cooled by the wind that comes off…






Eating out in northern Thailand

This article was also published in the Financial Times.   That three of the world’s top chefs – Heston Blumenthal from England, Daniel Boulud from New York and France’s Pierre Gagnaire – were to be in the audience for my speech on the future of restaurants in hotels was a further inducement to accept the invitation to speak. The primary one, however, was that I was to do so in Chiang Mai, northern Thailand. My enthusiasm was based on the memories of previous family trips to Thailand, where the colourful,…






Bangkok

Bangkok – 2010 I am sure that there are readers of this website, and my column in the Financial Times, who believe that I flit from one table to another without the slightest problem about reservations. That tables just magically appear as and when I want them at the right time and for precisely the right number. Things do go right most of the time, thanks to a combination of planning, access to the right telephone numbers and email addresses, and friends, some but not all in the restaurant or…






The Oriental, Bangkok

The Oriental, Bangkok The Oriental is not just a hotel but a landmark in Bangkok, an oasis of air-conditioned peace surrounded by traffic jams. It even serves afternoon tea in quarters once inhabited by the likes of Noel Coward. A brief ferry-ride across the Chao Phraya, the river that runs through the city’s heart, is the Oriental’s Thai restaurant, Sala Rim Naam, which must offer the bargain of the city: a lunchtime buffet from 12 to 2 every day supervised by a splendidly didactic female chef, which costs the equivalent…






Singapore

Singapore – 2006 During the 25 years I have known my brother-in-law I have never doubted a word he has said but I have always thought that his tales of quite how food-obsessed Singaporeans are bordered on hyperbole. Every time he returns from a trip to this verdant city-state to visit his wife’s enormous family, the tales of what he has eaten in their company grow more enviable – of enormous gatherings round the table whether they are visiting friends, going on numerous shopping trips or on longer trips to…






Bangkok away from the tourist-trail

Bangkok away from the tourist-trail – 2004 Bob Halliday, the American-born authority on the food of Thailand, made only one mistake in his guided tour of the most authentic restaurants of Bangkok – he took me to the best place first. Although from the outside Chote Chitr does not look impressive at all, Halliday had whetted my appetite en route by saying that this was one of the few remaining restaurants that was still in family hands after almost a hundred years and one where, even more crucially, they continue…






Singapore

Singapore – 2010 The open door to the wine cellar revealed an impressive collection. The aromas from the kitchen next door were alluring, and the waiter and waitress could only be described as wildly enthusiastic. But although the printed menu listed eleven wines and three Hakka dishes, specialities from one of the more itinerant Chinese tribes, with the food as good as any restaurant, this meal was taking place in the home of a food and wine lover in Singapore. The waiting staff were his 10-year-old daughter and nine-year-old son….






Beijing

The distinctive restaurants of Beijing – 2008 Restaurateurs in Hong Kong and Shanghai were quick to tell me the dishes that we must not miss during our stay in Beijing, most notably anything involving duck, the cook-it-yourself Mongolian hot pot and, for a quick lunch, any of the many noodle shops. But quite how different Beijing’s restaurants are from anywhere else I have ever visited only became obvious as we ate our way round this fascinating city. The most significant physical difference is their sheer size. I have eaten in…






Bombay

Bombay – 2006 In a city as closely associated with trade as Mumbai in southern India it is not surprising that Rahul Akerkar, the chef/proprietor of Indigo restaurant and Sanjay Menon, one of the subcontinent’s leading wine merchants, look on the months of December, January and February with such relish. “It’s more than just the festive season,” Akerkar explained. “There is a record number of tourists as the weather is clement and most conspicuously it marks the return of so many NRIs [Non-Resident Indians] – from overseas. There’s a lot…






Ooh, aah Cantonese

Ooh, aah Cantonese – 2010 After Winchester, Oxford and a stint with Lehmann Brothers in Tokyo, Fergus Fung now has two seemingly disparate roles in Hong Kong. He is the founder of the annual WOM (Word of Mouth), the leading guide to HK’s restaurants, as well as being a district councillor for Deepwater Bay. And, having walked the streets of Hong Kong with him, I can vouch that his political skills certainly make it easier for him to discover what is going on behind the scenes and why Hong Kong…