Magnificent monuments. Vivacious views. Mouth-watering mountains. Historical and cultural significance. Budget-friendly. Glorious sunshine. Activities and sports. These are just a few of the criteria that one might use when selecting a holiday. However, that is not the case at Broderick HQ. It is all about the food.
Previous trips included long drives to Marseille to sample authentic bouillabaisse; to San Sebastián to see what the fuss was about, at Mugaritz and Arzak, to Lyon because it is the gastronomic capital of the world, to Piedmont for shades of boiled meats and hazelnut (not together, of course), to Barcelona for siestas and tapas, and to Tuscany for sensations of olive oil. A venture across to Jordan enthralled me with traditional Mansaf and sticky, barbequed pigeon. Cairo provided us with street delicacies and a spicy tomato dish that I never heard the actual name of. Stockholm has always been a favourite for its subtle flavours that include salmon, dill, and berries with exciting names that you certainly cannot find in your local Carrefour or Lulus.
Our list of destinations that are sure to be visited soon, include: Tokyo, Lima, Copenhagen, Lebanon, and pretty much anywhere across the South of France. We are lucky that we can experience some of these wonderful cuisines right here in the UAE, but nothing can replace going to experience the ‘real thing’. The bouillabaisse that I had in Marseille (at Le Peron) was on a different level and was the catalyst for my tasting dishes in the places where they are renowned.
So, where should a teacher go? Here are my recommendations based on nothing more than my own experiences of varying credibility. The flight times from the Middle East vary, but if you happen upon these areas, be sure to check them out and let me know what you think.
London, UK. This is a place close to my heart and is a must-see for food, in case you believe otherwise. Long gone are the days of shoddy English fare, as the thriving metropolitan brings the best of cuisines from around the world. My top tips for the lesser-known eateries can be summarised as follows:
- Black Axe Mangal, Islington. The food is big, bold, and the smoked meat is sure to smack your senses around your head. As is the music. Not for the faint-hearted but I 100% guarantee that you will thank me if you visit.
- Trafalgar Tavern, Greenwich. The best view of London is from the top of Greenwich Park. Visit the Royal Observatory, walk back through the park, along the river and find this place. Order whitebait and sit outside to take in the aromas of the sea. Tell your friends about the time Jonny Lee Miller filmed here, as did Jonny Depp at the Royal Naval College opposite.
- Hakkasan or Yauatcha Soho, Soho. If you have tried Hakkasan in Dubai or Abu Dhabi, then this is the next level. Michelin-starred dim sum to make you an ‘expert’ at your next brunch. At Yauatcha Soho, you should ask for a table downstairs next to the bar, that is a 40-foot fish tank. The lunch menus are, as always, very affordable.
- The Frog, Shoreditch or Covent Garden. Adam Handling is the brains behind this informal level of fine-dining that was recently awarded a Bib Gourmand. His Beetroot, Beetroot and More Beetroot is a wonder to behold and the chicken butter will have you shunning all other kinds of butter for the foreseeable future.
- L’Atelier by Joël Robuchon, Covent Garden. Again, visit for lunch and experience Michelin-starred amazingness. Order the crispy, noodle-wrapped hen’s egg and record your reaction for your next Insta-story. I promise that your wide-eyed wonderment will get likes.
- San Sebastian, Spain. Small enough to be relatively quaint, large enough to have thriving beaches and nightlife. The number of Michelin stars per square metre is extraordinarily high, but the cost of these eateries may restrict you to a one-off visit. Supplement a three-Michelin star night out, with the restaurants hidden around the city and try the amazing array of fresh seafood, as well as the brilliantly evocative Basque-style tapas; pintxos.
- Romania – This is on our to-do-very-soon list, as I have been lucky enough to be in the presence of Romanians and their cuisine for the past four years. The Transylvania and Bucovina regions stand out especially, but a famous ‘must-try’ restaurant is the Caru cu Bere in Bucharest, as well as the slightly more ubiquitous, Taverna Sarbului, which can be found in multiple locations. Thanks to my fellow teacher, Alexandra Fatu, I can recommend that you try tripe soup; a soup well known across the Balkan, Bulgarian, Turkish, and Greek regions. Just try not to think about what is inside the soup, but it will invigorate you for the holiday fun you have planned. Alex’s top tip for you is in line with my own; try it all! Romanians have a special gift for making the weird and unappetizing taste amazing.
- Amman, Jordan. This is my wild-card. Wandering down Rainbow Street and trying mansaf is contrasted by fine dining in the major hotels, but one thing is the same – the aromas and flavours of the Middle East remain with you and are distinct enough from what we eat here in the UAE. Once you have braved the roads, the walkable centre of Amman is littered with history and wonder. This is definitely the place to follow your nose around the backstreets, where you can find meals that cost almost nothing.
When travelling to new places, whether for food-related reasons or not, I always use these top tips:
- Follow your nose. When choosing somewhere to eat, shun the obvious and follow your nose. If you pass a restaurant that smells great, eat there. Your sense of adventure will be enhanced as you come off the beaten track to find those hidden wonders.
- Try the same dish more than once. For example, when I first tried bouillabaisse and mansaf, I tried them in different places so that I could compare how they made me feel. This ensures that you avoid eating one inferior version of a dish and having a skewed view of what a dish/cuisine should really be.
- Be open-minded and polite. This is so obvious, but my own experience of travelling with others shows me that so very few do this. As international teachers, this should be a given, so allow yourself to try the local foodstuff. A polite manner will encourage restaurants to let you try samples of their favourite dishes, especially if you try and order in the native tongue.
- Ask the locals. Where do they go? What is their favourite dish? What do they eat to celebrate? The answers to these questions should ensure an authentic experience.
- Do not ask the internet. Following on from the point above (and bearing in mind you are reading this via the web), popular websites for travellers are full of angry, biased people. The fact that a fake restaurant was able to become the number one rated eatery in London tells you everything you need to know. Be brave, explore for yourself.
I hope that these four destinations can at least inspire your own journeys or change the way you eat when travelling. Too often, I see conservatism and mundanity in food choices, when being on holiday should be the time to remove those culinary shackles and go wild. Where are you going this summer for your travels, and what can you expect from the cuisine? I am keen to hear more at @finediningmatt.
By: Matthew Broderick @finediningmatt