St Moritz, Switzerland

Suvretta House, St Moritz, Switzerland – 2009 The lounge at the Suvretta House hotel provided three reasons why St Moritz, high in the Swiss Alps, is such a magnet for holidaymakers in both winter and summer. The first two were visual. There was the view straight ahead – high above the ski jump that was a focus for the 1928 and 1948 Winter Olympics rise majestic snow-dusted peaks. The second was the view down the valley towards Italy with two lakes gleaming turquoise in the late afternoon sunshine. The third…






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…






Mallorca

Mallorca – 2009 Mallorca rarely seems to get the coverage it deserves. Far too many column inches tend to be devoted to what happens in the relatively small area given over to the tourist resorts, neglecting the rest of the island that is far wilder and far more beautiful. Its food, too, tends to have a reputation for being reasonably good but not too varied. But this judgment overlooks one particularly distinctive quality that was only too obvious from just a few days at the turn of the year around…






Last Supper at El Bulli

Last Supper at El Bulli – 2011 Our excitement at being invited by chef-patron Ferran Adrià to enjoy a final dinner at El Bulli before it closes for ever as a restaurant later this year mounted even further when we saw the taxi driver who was going to drive us along the tortuous coastal road from nearby Roses to the restaurant. Neither of his arms was in plaster. On the last occasion we had made this journey, our taxi driver had one arm in plaster and she had insisted on…






Noma

Noma – 2011 At 11.30 pm, Mads Kleppe, the Norwegian sommelier at Noma, Copenhagen, currently the world’s most talked about restaurant, clinked one of the many empty wine bottles he had expertly served and eventually silenced our party of 14 in their private dining room. Before dessert, he wanted to take us on a kitchen tour. But as with so much at Noma, what we subsequently experienced was deeply unusual. The initial kitchen we walked through was relatively quiet but in the spacious second room, once used for events but…






Disappointment in Crissier

Disappointment in Crissier – 2012 A generation ago, when the prospect of a career at the stoves was still a twinkle in the eye of those chefs now acclaimed as the world’s best – Grant Achatz in the US, Heston Blumenthal in the UK and Denmark’s René Redzepi – this particular distinction was unanimously bestowed upon Frédy Girardet. Girardet’s home was Crissier, an otherwise undistinguished suburb of Lausanne in Switzerland, where he reigned until 1997 before handing over to Philippe Rochat, his long-term right-hand man. Earlier this year, Rochat handed…






Fäviken

Fäviken – 2011 I left home at 5.30 am for the dinner I had been eagerly anticipating. By noon I was standing outside Trondheim airport, the interchange for the Norwegian oil industry, looking out for a yellow taxi from Björn Olssons, as instructed. There wasn’t one, and when a local taxi driver responded to my question by asking whether I was expecting a driver from New York, I decided to head back into the terminal. As I did so, someone stopped me and asked ‘Are you Nick?’ Behind the long…






Pollen Street Social

Pollen Street Social – 2011 At 3.15 pm an elegant, silver-haired woman was walking past the bar of Jason Atherton’s recently opened Pollen Street Social in Mayfair with her husband firmly in tow. She spotted Atherton talking to his manager, came over, kissed him, congratulated him on the lunch they had just enjoyed and added, ‘It’s good to have you back, Jason.’ The return of customers like these is one of the principal reasons Atherton, his Filipina wife, Irha, and Mavis Oei, a family friend, have invested £3 million, alongside…






Make the place fit the space

Make the place fit the space – 2011 The Gilbert Scott restaurant, named after the original architect of the magnificent 1873 building that now houses the St Pancras Renaissance hotel, opened its own doors on 5 May 2011. Several days later, Eleven Madison Park in New York won the coveted ‘Outstanding Restaurant in the US Award’ at the important annual James Beard ceremony held in New York. Both restaurants share several common features. Each occupies magnificent spaces with high ceilings and plenty of natural light. Both buildings exude civic pride…