My top 5 restaurants around the world

This list for my favourite restaurants I have had the delectable pleasure of experiencing across the parts of the world I have travelled to.  All these restaurants below hold special food memories for me.  Disclaimer: This list is subject to change at any time :)

There are many, many fabulous restaurants and cafes that I’ve dined at – and many that I haven’t – but the ones I have listed have stood out from the crowd.  Here’s why:

Astrid y Gaston:  This restaurant was highly recommended in the trusty Lonely Planet under the heading “Splurge”.  Mum and Dad happened to be in Lima the same time Hubs (long time buddy) and I were there (it was a weird fluke – check out this post for more).  The restaurant ambience was oldy-worldy formal with a dedicated entrance reception and waiters wearing white gloves in the main dining area.  The service was impeccable and every dish that our party of six had made everyone ooh-and-aaah with delight.  This restaurant is one that we keep talking about over and over again.

Cape Lodge:  Conde Naste Traveller magazine voted this one of the top ten boutique hotels in the world and it’s easy to see why.  It is fine dining done with understated elegance.  Tables nicely spaced apart, the wait staff are well briefed and carry out their duties like European professionals, and the restaurant is beautifully appointed with views over a little lake (aka a dam).  Head Chef Tony Howell changes the menu daily to reflect the fresh produce he has been able to source that day.  It is magnificent for dinner and breakfast.

Irati:  This tapas bar with a restaurant out the back was a recommendation given by a local more than 12 years ago and it was so good back then we ate there twice.  When Hubs and I were in Barcelona in 2010, we went back and it was so good, we ate there twice!  The tapas are delicious and plentiful.  The restaurant has modern exquisitely executed dishes that won’t disappoint.  Price point was higher than average, but not hideously expensive.

Yin Yang:  After reading a review in Gourmet Traveller or Conde Naste where the Australian critic named this restaurant as serving “one of the best meals of my life”, I made Zorba and I a reservation. Classed as a private kitchen, owner Margaret Xu grows her own organic produce that she prepares sophisticated five course meals with.  The restaurant is tiny with only four tables on the ground floor.  The staff were attentive, each course was delicious yet unusual – think waterless soup – and the complete dining experience was one to savour.  Zorba also surprised me by proposing at a jewellery store in Hong Kong an hour before our dinner, so really, we could have eaten baked beans on stale bread and loved it. There as a lot of love in the air that night.  Yin Yang is expensive (especially when you have two bottles of wine with your meal!). It has had some vastly mixed reviews on Trip Advisor recently, but it gets a big thumbs up from me.

The Press Club:  Owned by Australian-Cypriot celebrity chef George Colombaris, the Press Club is a wonderful experience.  Fine dining, sophisticated menu and dishes, and a buzzy happening atmosphere. Angie, the maitre de, has been there for years and it excellent at her job.  The elements of each dish are vastly complex – some a little unnecessary (like liquid chips = lines of mashed potatoes, oh come on!).  The Sommelier was really helpful with our wine choice.  We had the degustation menu over five hours.  It is a real night out. Expensive, but worth it. Just once (or twice).

This list is likely to change after our trip to the Mother Country in a couple of weeks.  In fact, it is hard to believe that there aren’t any restaurants in Italy that feature in my top five.  I guess because there are so many great classic honest trattorias and restaurants all over Italy, choosing one would be near impossible.  Still, I’ll be doing some research to update this list soon ;)

I’d love to hear your favourite food experiences and why – leave me a comment!

OMG how did that happen?!

Every time I look at my beautiful sparkling engagement ring, I ask myself that question – how did that happen?   Seems to be a theme with Zorba and I.   Things just happen without a lot of fan fare or planning.  Like buying our house.  It just happened after we popped into a home open on the street where I was living.  We had only looked at one other house…

So here we were in Hong Kong, shopping, walking, sightseeing and just generally being tourists and trying to fit as much into our 16 hour lay over as we could – including eating.  For those who know me, they know that unforgettable food experiences are high on my list of priorities and a very important part of any cultural experience.  Naturally, I had done some research into where to eat in Hong Kong and made a reservation at a little restaurant one food critic had described as the place where he had one of the best meals of his life – Yin Yang [Ship Street, Wan Chai, tel 28660868].  We had 1.5 hours to kill before dinner and were both feeling a little weary after a long over night flight and 12 hours on our feet. 

We decided to make our way to Wan Chai, the district where we were having dinner, find a bar, and have a pre dinner drink.  Then I saw a jewellery store and I suggested / begged Zorba to go in – just to have a look.  In my mind, I was thinking that I should get some idea of the sort of engagement ring I’d like – and more importantly give Zorba an idea of what I like.  I had a suspicion that he was going to propose to me as soon as I got back from my trip.  Zorba said that trying on rings was a good idea and we went into Man Fook Jewellers in Wan Chai.  Funny, because of the name of the store, I took a photo of the sign out the front (must’ve been an omen!). 

We were seated straight away, given an endless amount of green tea and I was picking and choosing rings to try on and Zorba was critiquing each one.  It was really fun!  When I put it on, the ring that was later to become my engagement ring, I knew I’d found the kind of ring I was looking for. It is stunning without being ostentatious, so sparkly thanks to the ‘arrow’ cut of the diamond, and set in a very simple, classic, yet slightly unusual way.

Zorba asked me if I like it, and of course I said yes. It was stunning.   The chatty sales assistant was spitting out all this information – diamond from Sth Africa, high grade clarity and colour, authentication certificate, lifetime guarantee, able to trade it in for a bigger ring for the same price at any time, on sale (ended up being 40% off) blah blah blah… I could hardly listen to her – I was almost speechless and totally stunned as I watched Zorba pull out his wallet.  The conversation went like this:

Me:  Zorba, stop, what are doing?  You don’t have to buy this…

Z:  Sometimes in life you just have to seize opportunities when they come up.

Me:  But but but – Zorba – what are you doing?!

Z;  Are you sure you like it? 

Me:  of course I do! I love it!  It’s beautiful!!  but you don’t have to do this – what does this mean…?

[chatty pain in the ass shop assistant is blabbering away – I almost smacked her in the chops so Zorba and I could have a moment – after all, this was monumental!]

Zorba:  I think you know what this means.  Will you say yes?

Me [stunned/shocked/screaming inside HOLY COW!!!];  Of course I’d say yes, but you don’t have to do this….

Zorba:  Ti amo, versarmi

Me: … Huh?

Z:  Versarmi

Me [looking confused]:  I’m sorry babe I don’t know what that means….

Z:  Oh sh!t I got it wrong….

Me:  Do you mean ‘sposarmi’ (which means ‘marry me’ in Italian)?

Z:  Yeah! that’s the one!  I’d been practising – daaaamn, can’t believe I got it wrong!

Me:  hahahaahah!  bloody Greeks!  YES!!  [smooch in shop]

Z:  Babe, I was going to ask you in Postiano anyway – and sometimes when opportunities come up, you just have to grab them with both hands! 

Me:  Holy cow!!  Oh my GOD!!  FAR OUT!!!  YIPPPPEEEEEEEE!!!!!  OMG

IMG_0343   In Man Fook Jewellery Store in Wan Chai, Hong Kong.

And with that, we skipped out of the shop arm in arm, smiling big huge wide smiles, and headed to the restaurant for dinner. I almost tripped about 5 times because I could not stop staring at my ring and wasn’t watching were I was going.

As I wrote in my last blog entry, we ate a fabulously sensational meal, washed it down with two bottles of organic red wine, and then rushed to the airport for our flight to Roma. 

So there you have it! 

I have reminded Zorba that he got out of the proposal lightly – no big planned day, no nervous speech, etc etc.  I have since also reminded him that an engagement ring is usually one month’s (or more) salary – so i get change!!!  Hahaha!  It’s all good!

Now before anyone starts getting excited about a wedding – don’t.  We have always said, well, I have always said, that I want to take the money and run.  So there might not be a big fat Greek wedding….!  We have no idea what we are going to do just yet – just enjoy Italy and enjoy being engaged.

The end.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bonkers in Hongkers

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We did it! We finally left Australia and as I suspected, I left all my stresses behind.  Stress about leaving home for 6 months, stress about my job (or even if I’ll have a job to come back to), and all the other anxieties that are normal when you are about to leave home.  FINALLY the excitement of the adventure ahead was washing over me – as I suspected it would.  Yay!! Yay!!  Yay!!!  I’ll be the first to admit I was a major stress head in the lead up to this trip.

After a near empty albeit delayed flight to Hong Kong, Zorba and I were feeling excited to have 16 hours in Hongkers whilst in transit to bella Roma.  Our luggage was checked through all the way to Rome and it was exhilarating and liberating to walk out of the airport with only hand luggage.  If only I could travel with nothing more than hand luggage all the time! In fact, that’s my mission for my next trip – hand luggage only, not 18.5kg of stuff that threatens to crush my vertebrae!

Hong Kong felt strange at first.  At 10am, the streets, shopping malls, and trains were eerily quiet.  Not that many people around which was the polar opposite of what we were expecting.  I had already done some research into where we should eat, being the foodie I am, and we set out on foot to find Tim’s Kitchen.  It was awarded one Michelin star had a great write up in Gourmet Traveller magazine and also in the Lonely Planet.   After 30 mins of walking, Zorba’s hunger was starting to turn into grumpiness so I knew it was time to eat.   We found Tim’s kitchen at 93 Jervois St, a narrow busy grotty kind of street.  with very basic plain furniture, no adornings on the wall or interior design of any kind and only about seven tables seating a maximum of 40 – it was hard to believe this place had such a reputation. 

We arrived right after opening time and had to share a table with other people, which seemed to be the norm. I ordered their signature dish, homestyle garoupar fish with choy sum, prawn balls with chilli and black bean, and fresh noodles with crab meat.  The green tea was as cleansing as it was plentiful and everything we ate was delicious.  At $30 for both of us, we were thrilled with our first Hong Kong food experience.

Zorba and I wanted to check out the technology shops, something Hong Kong is renowned for.  The Chai Wan computer centre was beyond our wildest dreams – it was like a modern Middle Eastern Bazaar, squished into two levels of a low ceilinged old building.  Hundreds of small shops were packed with every kind of computer and phone gadget you can think of.  Walter, my dad, would have gone nuts in there!  I wanted to buy everything, as per usual, but it was hard at first because we were so overwhelmed – didn’t know what to look at first! I did manage to buy a 320G portable hard driver for less than $80 – happy with that sensible purchase. 

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We also spent some time hanging out in the gardens, in a coffee shop, and avoiding the designer boutiques of which there are thousands.

For dinner I had reserved us into Yin Yang in the Wan Chai district, a teeny tiny world-class modern Cantonese restaurant that one Australian food writer described as ‘one of the best meals of my life’.  It cost 10 times what lunch cost but was worth it.  The owner / chef Margaret Xu grows her own organic produce and uses it to prepare unusual but extremely delectable delights.  I can only describe her cooking style as “George Colombaris-esque’ – the elements of each dish had a twist that you would never expect:  smoked abalone, honey in satin, soup without water (pigeon broth / juice), jellied vegetable and seafood stack, baby lobster with handmade noodles, and Chinese roasted baby suckling pig with kumquat relish.  We washed 9 courses down with two bottles of organic NZ pinot noir from Urlar winery.   Both of us were feeling extremely happy and in a celebratory mood and didn’t care that dinner cost us more than A$300.

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We are dying to get off the packed flight from Hong Kong to Rome – less than two hours to go – COME ON!!!