Wednesday, October 02, 2019

The Munchies, Top Ten

These, I have decided fairly arbitrarily, are my top ten favourite restaurants in the world.

I have had a bizarrely fortunate, privileged existence which has allowed me the opportunity to stay at some of the world's finest hotels and dine at many of its most celebrated eateries, including a handful with Michelin stars. Yet none of those made the cut for this list, because it is far more personal than an attempt to fanfarronear some sort of objective, solipsistic scale of culinary quality. 

Instead, here are the places I would simply run to if ever I were to find myself once more in one of the relevant locations. There are memories to be satiated. 

There are ten of them, but there is no particular order. 

Pétrelle, Paris (France)
My wife and I got into the habit of avoiding Paris in the noughties. We'd circumnavigate it, stay in Rouen or Orléans and breathe a sigh of relief. But then in the early part of this decade I discovered the Eurostar out of St Pancras. In three hours I could be at the Gare du Nord and shortly afterwards at the Anvers metro stop, just a short walk away from Petrelle, which is everything one could ask of a small restaurant in this lovely, if occasionally abrasive city. It seems it may be closed for refurbishment right now, which is a pity because shamboliic kitschiness is its very essence. 

The African Queen, Beaulieu (France)
A permanent reminder of a movie I have always meant to watch. An absolute favourite through choldhood, adolescence and early adulthood. My mother could make me smile just by mentioning it. There's always something special about eating in a small port. 

Sylvain, New Orleans (USA)
This is such a good city in which to eat and drink, but this bistro is the place that most caught my attention. Set in a seventeenth century carriage house in the French Quarter, Sylvain sits on the funky gastropub end of the serious eating scale. 

El Bar Liguria, Santiago (Chile)
I've made three trips to Chile in the last few years and I'm starting to think of Santiago as my favourite destination in South America. Liguria might even be the place I'd choose to teleport to right now over all other contenders. It was the first location I settled at in SCL — a meeting place suggested by a Guatemalan entrepreneur who'd spent some time in the city  and I can't quite pinpoint now what the enduring appeal has been, other than the fact that it resembles in many ways a joint that I frequented in London in my youth called Wheelers in St James's. Sitting at the bar and interacting with the eccentric types who served the food and wine was always a key part of the experience.

El Yantar de Baco, Cenes de la Vega (Spain)
Back in the early noughties we criss-crossed the Iberian peninsula in our car on multiple occasions, trips that almost inevitably involved many fine meals, often surrounded by highly-animated families with children close to midnight. Yet the one that sticks in the memory took place in this packed little bar-restaurant with its sawdust-covered floors in a small town quite close to Granada.

Umakyu, Tokyo (Japan)
This spot in Shinjuku's Piss Alley encapsulates for me the very essence of Japan. First taken here by V's old friend Satoshi, with whom she studied in London back in 1991, I have returned again and again. The first time Satoshi ordered up horse sashimi, on the grounds that this was possibly the best way to amusingly vex an Englishman. I consumed it without undue protestation and then returned and ordered the same dish on my return, alone, in 2015.  

Kito Kito, Kyoto (Japan)
There are so many places in Japan where one can sit at a long bar and partake of a series of small, exquisitely-prepared dishes. This just happens to be my personal preference. 

Casa Oaxaca, Oaxaca (Mexico)
Said to have been the favourite restaurant of Gabriel García Márquez, this is simply the best place to dine in Mexico's most mole-laden city. 

Mestizo, Santiago (Chile) 
If I didn't live in La Antigua I think I'd probably adopt an essentially pescatorian diet. For a city that's landlocked about an hour and a half by road from the Pacific, the range of fishy options in Santiago is extraordinary, starting with the Mercado Central, and leading all the way up to this, a smart and innovative contemporary seafood restaurant in the swish neighbourhood of Vitacura. 

La Vigie, Monte Carlo Beach (France)
Another childhood favourite that I know my father would probably have cited as his favourite place in the whole world. Set beneath Villa La Vigie, which was first derelict, then Karl Lagerfeld's crib, before becoming a sort of mega-premium airbnb option, this was the place that SBM in Monaco used to blood its its latest generation of potentially lifelong staff. It features the sort of summer buffet for which radical Islamists would trade in their heavenly virgins. These days, according to their Instagram feed, it has been somewhat hipped up, which may or may not be a good thing.

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