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AROUND THE WORLD IN 8 TEA DAYS


Many people over the years have commented on my uncanny resemblance to the great David Niven, that urbane and stylish proponent of all things English. 

I can’t see it myself.  The elegance? The poise? The womanising? The drinking?, The pencil thin moustache? Oh, well I suppose perm any two from five.

 

And yet this year, one of the lasting testaments to his style of acting “Around the World in 80 Days”, has been deemed worthy of a remake starring none other than Steve Coogan.  

Its come to something when one of the most charming men of the 20th Century is recast by a sneering, nondescript Mancunian, with a penchant for white powder and ladies of the night (allegedly).

That said, it set me wondering about the possibility of doing a 21st Century circumnavigation in just 8 days – rather than 80 days – whilst stopping off for dinner, or tea as we call it in the North, each night along the way.

It was bound to be fraught with problems, however, because, as ever over the last 12 months, our indomitable restaurant research has thrown up – believe me that is the right word – a whole selection box of otherwise unwanted Turkish Delights.

For example there is the atrocious restaurant that we visited in Buenos Aires that was more pretentious than a throneful of SIR Ben Kingsleys.  It had everything going for it – and everything that could go for it had gone.  Our “weighter” was particularly well described, as he could have illuminated the room – if he had moved away from the window.

The onion soup starter was an Iranian nuclear experiment that had somehow avoided detection by International Atomic Energy Commission.  The chicken main was so far off course that it had clearly been a sufferer of the Avian Influenza A (H5N1) Virus with a faulty gyroscope and as for the dessert…the apple pie was sweeter than Catherine Zeta Jones dipping puppies in sweet and low.

The fact that it was mostly empty came as no surprise, no doubt due to the fact that its prices being on the perpendicular side of steep, indeed, it struggled to maintain its position in the bottom half of the league table marked mediocre.  Not so much the Latin Quarter – more Empty Quarter.

Consequently, Argentina doesn’t figure on our whirlwind tour, the places that do, however we would heartily recommend.

They were chosen, in response to that oft quoted comment – “Oh, I’d love your job, travelling round trying different restaurants all the time”.

Trust me, after this particular excursion, I am now happy to stay in with a bottle Lambrini and a Pot Noodle.

Day One – Fat Duck at Bray, United Kingdom,

 

Where better for a wonderfully memorable meal before embarking on the night flight to Roma than the best restaurant in driving range of Heathrow – or any other global airport come to that  – the incomparable Fat Duck at Bray.  Heston Blumethal’s unrivalled laboratory of choice. 

Fortified by our snail porridge and green tea and lime mousse in liquid nitrogen we were suitably prepared for our excursion.

Thumbs Up

 

Nitrous Oxide is also known as laughing gas – so your evening is sure to be a giggle.

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Women are notoriously picky about which small, slimy, squiggly things they put in their mouths.

Day Two – Checchino Dal 1887, Rome

 

Originally merely an osteria next door to a slaughterhouse, this was where the workers came to enjoy that most Roman of delights – offal.

Now run by the fifth generation of Mariani’s, diners can enjoy delights such as a salad of celery and cows feet or pasta tossed with pieces of suckling calf’s intestine cooked in spiced tomato sauce.

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Offal has often been known as a powerful female aphrodisiac.

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Women are notoriously picky about which body parts/organs they put in their mouths.

Day Three – Al Mahara, Dubai

 

Jewel in the Emirates particularly sparkling crown of restaurants must be reserved for the Burj al Arab’s subterranean “underwater” restaurant Al Mahara.  Long gone are the days when you simply alight your cab to be greeted by the Maitre d’ on the steps, here your submarine pilot collects you before taking you on a 3 minute “underwater journey” to the restaurant itself – that’s certainly one way to make an entrance.

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Arriving by submarine certainly makes parking easier.

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The chances of doing a runner, however, are somewhat reduced.

 

Day Four – Bukhara Restaurant, India

 

I’m always up for an Indian, in more ways than one, so the thought of breaking our journey on day four with a meal in Delhi’s acclaimed Bukhara Restaurant was the perfect stopover.

The days when touring England cricket teams were forced to take their own supplies of baked beans are long gone, with India now being home to several restaurants of global repute.  That said, few can compare with the delights of this stunning restaurant, located in New Delhi’s Maurya Sheraton Hotel.

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Visit during the cricket season, and there is every chance that the great Mr Boycott himself might be in here enjoying a meal, with one of his paramours.

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Visit when the Aussie cricket team are in town and you’ll find Shane (who ate all the pies) Warne practically a resident.

Day Five – Hong Kong

 

Felix, The Peninsular Hotel

The sun may have set on the British Empire but no visit to the Far East is complete without a stopover at the Peninsular, where our favourite restaurant, of course, could be none other than their own Felix.

High above the harbour lights, this dining experience is not for the vertiginous, not least of all those visiting the gents, who as is well known get an unrivalled opportunity to make their “views felt” on the colony’s new rulers.

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Looking out from the gents urinals through the floor to ceiling windows, you are able to make your views felt on the colony’s new rulers.

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Looking in from an adjacent skyscraper may not be so appealing.

Day Six – Sydney

 

Tetsuya’s

 

Another night flight brings us to ever sunny Sydney where Tetsuya’s beckons and where Mr Wakuda’s 10 course degustation menu comes in at a cool A$175 per person.  Our twice cooked de-boned spatchcock with braised daikon & bread sauce was nearly as good as the grilled wagyu beef with asian mushrooms & lime jus which prepared us for the next leg of our incredible journey.

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Visit when the Aussie cricket team are in town and you’ll find Shane (who ate all the pies) Warne practically a resident.

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Rather surprisingly for a country with less than one pair of trousers per household, the staff can be rather stiff and starchy – thankfully unlike the food.

Day Seven – San Francisco

 

The French Laundry

Again having experienced more red eye than Wes Craven, night seven saw us touch down in Steve McQueens San Francisco, so I am sure I don’t need to tell you our next port of call, because it clearly had to be Thomas Keller’s pristine The French Laundry.

A little drive out of town, its again a chance to try a wonderful tasting menu with delights such as fava bean agnolotti – young fava beans, roasted abalone mushrooms and madras curry “emulsion”.

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A restaurant with a name like this won’t find any problem removing the stains should the waiter have an accident with the soup.

 

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At $210 a head, said soup costs a lot more than the dry cleaning.

Day Eight – New York

 

Per Se

 

Our arms now aching, the final leg was but a trans-continental hop.  The craving, however, for Mr Keller’s food proved too much, so we stopped for a final helping at his New York restaurant Per Se.

Located at the Times Warner Centre over looking Central Park, its been wowing the East Coast this last 18 months, just as he has the West for many years.

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This journey of a lifetime is finally over and I don’t have to eat anymore superb food.

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My AMEX bill arrives on Tuesday.

Now feeling as old as David Niven and probably looking even more worse for wear than Steve Coogan after a weekend at Stringfellows with Courtney Love, we come to journeys end.

Never again do I want to hear that line “oooh you’ve got a great job you…” because my liver is now more pickled than a Landes Goose force fed for its whole life on a Foie Gras farm in Fontainebleau.

Fat Duck

High Street

Bray

Berks

England

Tel: 01628 580333

www.fatduck.co.uk

Checchino dal 1887

Via Di Monte

Testaccio 30

Rome

Tel: 06 5746318

www.checchino-dal-1887.com

Al Mahara

BURJ AL ARAB

PO BOX 74147

DUBAI

UAE

TEL: 971 4 3017777

www.burj-al-arab.com/dining/

Bukhara

Maurya Sheraton Hotel

Diplomatic Enclave

Sadar Patel Marg

New Delhi

110 021

India

Tel: 91 11 26112233

Felix, The Peninsular Hotel

Salisbury Road

Kow Loon

Hong Kong

Tel: 852 2315 3188

www.peninsular.com

Tetsuya’s

529 Kent Street

Sydney

Australia

Tel: 61 2 926729000

www.tetsuyas.com

The French Laundry

6640 Washington Street

Yountville

Calafornia

USA

Tel: 1 7079442380

www.frenchlaundry.com

Per Se

10 Columbus Circle

New York

USA

Tel: 1 212 823 9335

www.perseny.com

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