Fun and good food in Athens

Ari Vezené’s business card says a great deal about this restaurateur who was born in New York and arrived in his first professional kitchen via Burger King while a student in Chicago. His eponymous restaurant ought to be at the top of the list for anyone planning to visit Athens. Under the restaurant’s name on the card is ‘Greek Inspired Bistro’, and then under his name is his role, described as ‘Chef/Butcher’. On the opposite side of the card is a chicken’s wishbone, the symbol of good luck. Vezené has…






Eating copiously in Athens

Dinos, short for Constantine, Stergides and Panos Deligiannis are the Little and Large of wine and food in Greece today. For any reader who is unaware of any of these four characters, let me explain a little. Syd Little and Ed Large were, as their names suggest, an unlikely comic duo on British television in the 1970s comprising one small fellow and one considerably larger who, I remember vividly, were favourites of my late grandfather. Dinos and Panos share the same physical attributes, as I trust my photo of them…






Food, drink and fun in Ireland

A version of this article is published by the Financial Times. Food and drink, and not necessarily in that order, have long been two very particular reasons for visiting Ireland. And whichever of these two you may prefer, the ensuing craic, the Gaelic expression for ‘fun’, is an added and inevitable bonus. A weekend around East Cork left me with the strong impression that there are now even more distinctive reasons to relish Irish hospitality. Part of this is naturally connected to returning economic confidence as restaurants the world over…






In praise of the Ballymaloe breakfast

See here for details of the next book, about menus, that Nick is planning to write, a follow up to The Art of the Restaurateur. Whisper it softly. Please don’t tell any member of the Allen family. And please do not tell anyone from Kerrygold. But for anyone fortunate enough to be invited to this year’s Kerrygold Ballymaloe literary festival (15-17 May) and staying there, there is one ulterior, self-centred and purely delightful reason for accepting the invitation to participate. It’s the Ballymaloe breakfast. Now I will in due course make reference…






Dublin – party on!

This article was also published in the Financial Times.   Chefs today are asked for their opinions on many extraneous issues but rarely for their views on the economy. This may be an oversight given their position at the fulcrum of supply and demand. Conversations in the kitchens of Ross Lewis of Chapter One, Dublin, Ireland, and Paul Flynn of The Tannery in Dungarvan, a two-hour drive down the coast south of Dublin, after we had enjoyed excellent meals in each restaurant promptly turned to the new challenges they are…






Eating out around Geneva

This article was also published in the Financial Times.   The sun had finally come out and those on both sides of the numerous stalls at the Saturday market in the Place du Marché in Carouge, one of Geneva’s more characterful quarters, were reveling in it. While the biggest crowds were drawn to the wine being poured by those working at Domaine des Esserts or to the six-piece band, two very different and much smaller stalls combined to exemplify the past few months’ unusually wet weather. One offered a range…






Definitely not a pig’s ear in Dublin

This article was also published in the Financial Times.   Dublin’s compact city centre readily reveals its charms and its less salubrious side. But on a recent visit it was the origins of the hands serving in its restaurants that acted as a mirror to this charming city. This phenomenon began at breakfast in the Dylan hotel. When our waiter, revealing a strong eastern European accent, asked for my breakfast order, I responded with a request for soda bread, butter and a cup of the strong Barry’s tea that is…






Inis Meáin – where seafood meets sweaters

This article was also published in the Financial Times. Even though it is now closed until Easter next year, I make no apology for writing about the striking restaurant with five suites attached which Ruairi and Marie-Thérèse de Blácam run on Inis Meáin, the smallest of the Aran islands off the west coast of Ireland. My trip there was two years in the planning although the hospitality and the beauty of the island made this investment unquestionably worthwhile. Inis Meáin first intrigued me 15 years ago when I bought the…






Budapest

Budapest – 2010 By the end of my first day in Budapest, I, and particularly my stomach, seemed to have gone native, to feel Pesti, the name given to anyone born in Buda or Pest, the two halves of this photogenic and food-obsessed city. My immersion had begun immediately, albeit innocently. An early morning walk past the British Embassy and into Vörösmarty Square had allowed me to watch one of the city’s numerous, temporary fairs being set up in which food stalls predominated. Huge sausages were being grilled alongside knuckles…






A trip to Istanbul

A trip to Istanbul – 2009 Standing outside her restaurant just behind the Marmara Pera hotel in Istanbul, Ece Aksoy readily acknowledged the enormous debt she and her colleagues owe to this city’s rich and complex history. ‘Ottoman cooking was the first real fusion cooking,’ she explained with a smile. Having cooked for over 30 years, Aksoy, 68, now quite understandably takes a more maternal role in the running of the restaurant named after her. But her food is still exciting, particularly for any lover of vegetables, as her modern…