Celebrity chef pop ups? No thanks, I’d rather spend my money on the real thing

Published on Yahoo Lifestyle UK & Ireland on 1st May 2013:

Best restaurant in the world

Have you noticed a sudden influx of international chefs to London recently? And that visiting chef pop-ups of the Michelin-starred variety are popping up everywhere?

Well, as you’ll have probably gathered, they are in town for the World’s 50 Best Restaurants Awards. The highly regarded award, now in its 11th year, draws some of the world’s best chefs to the city. With their arrival however, came the slew of pop-ups.

Why not showcase their skills? After all, they are already in town.

Indeed many of these chefs are worth seeing in action, not only for their food, the demonstration of skills but also for the local knowledge that they can share. For the average person, it’s a great insight into some of the world’s best chefs, their food and their restaurants.

Read more at Yahoo!

Spanish dominate world’s best restaurants list

Published on CNN on 30th April 2013:

The results were leaked, Noma was no longer at the top. But no one was unduly concerned.

These things are bound to happen — the 11th World’s 50 Best Restaurant Awards show went on.

What started out as a feature in the UK-based Restaurant magazine is now the most revered and sought after accolade in the business. As Richard Vines, UK and Ireland chair of the awards and chief food critic at Bloomberg, says, “It’s the restaurant industry’s equivalent of the Oscars.”

Read more at CNN

Ten facts about Where Chefs Eat

Published on Life in Luxury on 29th January 2013:

  1. Where Chefs Eat is a directory of over 2,000 restaurants as recommended by over 400 of the world’s best chefs.
  2. There are recommendations are geographically arranged by continent: Oceania, Asia, Europe, Africa and North and South America, all mapped.
  3. There are also two indexes to help you navigate the book, by restaurant name or by recommendation type.
  4. For 26 selected cities, there are more detailed maps indicating the locations of the restaurants and in effect, turning the book into a local restaurant guide.
  5. Each of the 400 or so chefs involved has recommended a minimum of three restaurants according to the quality of food alone.
  6. The chefs were asked eight questions each: “Which restaurant do you eat at most regularly?”; “What’s your favourite place to go for breakfast?”; “Late at night where do you like to eat?”; “Which restaurant best sums up your city or region, a restaurant you’d consider a local favourite?”; “Where serves your favourite bargain meal?”; “Where do you go to celebrate a special occasion?”; “Which restaurant do you admire the most and wish you’d opened yourself?”; and “Which restaurant would you travel any distance to eat at?”
  7. It took 12 months to create, enlisting an editorial team of 25.
  8. Joe Warwick, who compiled the book, is the former editor of Restaurant Magazine who spearheaded the creation of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants Award.
  9. There are no rankings in this guide. Instead, the restaurants are categorised according to: “Breakfast”, “Late night”, “Regular neighbourhood”, “Local favourite”, “Bargain”, “High end”, “Wish I’d opened” and “Worth the travel”.
  10. Each restaurant listing includes address and contact information as well as opening hours, reservation policy, credit card, price range, style, cuisine and recommended for. Some also have quotes from chefs or short reviews.

Michelin-starred restaurants of the Côte d’Azur

Published on Yahoo Lifestyle UK & Ireland on 5th October 2012:

Port de Fontvielle, Monaco

As you fly into Nice, the glamour of the Côte d’Azur is immediately obvious. Yachts and speedboats race across the shimmering azure coastline like shooting stars flashing against the midnight sky; it’s still the playground of the oligarchs.

But the Riviera is also studded with jewels of a different kind – the Michelin-starred restaurants.

What are the big names?

Read more at Yahoo!


Published on The Arbuturian on 20th July 2011:

It’s curious, the life of a Chinese expat – if indeed you can call me that. Despite being born in China and raised in a typically Chinese fashion, to the beating drum of the Tiger Mother, I have lived in the UK most of my life and hold only a British passport. When the Census comes round and asks me how I describe my “national identity”, I want to say “a citizen of the world” or failing that, at least “none of the above”. The reality is I probably copped out with something standard like British Chinese.

Soup dumplings

The thing is, no matter how British you are, if you’re Chinese there’s no denying it. For one, you look Chinese. At best, you can pretend you’re Japanese or something but where’s the sense in that? While I haven’t done my best to embrace my Chinese heritage, I don’t exactly reject it either. I’m Chinese but not really Chinese, like being Jew-ish rather than Jewish.

The other thing about being Chinese is that people automatically assume that you know all the best Chinese restaurants to go to, especially when they discover that you write about food. The reality, of course, is very different. I almost never visit Chinese restaurants for fear of spoiling fantastic memories of Chinese food. Also I firmly believe that my mother can do better.

You see back in the 90s when I first moved to the UK, my parents thought that visiting Chinese restaurants was like a taste of home. It was said that wherever there were people, there was a Chinese restaurant and more often than not, it appeared to be true. Unfortunately in those days the food was just so awful – everything seemed to be sweet and sour gelatinous orange blobs, resembling some grossly exaggerated bacterium from Pluto. It really pained me to go to these restaurants and I made a point of avoiding them like the plague.

Lamb skewers

Fast forward a decade or so, I found myself going to my first sort-of Chinese restaurant for a review (Goldfish, Gresham Street) and I wasn’t horrified by it. In fact, I was even impressed by some of it. I was beginning to warm to the idea of Chinese restaurants again – the food has certainly improved and gained an air of authenticity. A few more choice spots later (Yauatcha and the likes), I felt like I was finally ready to step into Chinatown, where there is the highest concentration of Chinese restaurants in London, for something other than the Prince Charles Cinema.

Coming from the capital of Sichuan, Chengdu, I am familiar with and often crave its restaurant and street food so I made a beeline for the Empress of Sichuan where spicy is the word. At the Empress of Sichuan, the chilli oil didn’t disappoint and neither did the quality of their Sichuan peppercorns. If you can brave the chillies, the pork in spicy soup is the thing to have but otherwise go for the milder lamb skewers.

If you can’t handle spice at all then it’s probably best to go for something milder, like the soup-filled dumplings (Xiu Loung Bao) at Dumpling’s Legend. Each hot-pocket of deliciousness is hand made in the kitchen, to order, and comes in a whole selection of different flavours. There is an etiquette to eating these, I am told, for both grace and safety.

You see the snowy steamed pastry holds a piping hot filling as well as its cooking juices, scoffing the whole thing in one go will surely leave you an injured tongue. So the thing to do is to carefully pick up the dumplings by their pointy top and place its base on to the Chinese soup spoon provided, then bite off only the top section in your first attempt. This will release some of the steam trapped inside and allow the cooking juices, or the soup, to cool a little. I suppose this helps you to savour the flavour too.

For a real mixture of Chinese cuisine, both the spicy and mild, Leong’s Legend is a good choice. The menu isn’t extensive at this cosy little venue but you can order the Xiu Long Bao and some of the spicier dim sums too. But of course there are lots of others offering a similar selection in the vicinity.

Assorted skewers

What is surprising is that it’s not all Chinese restaurants in Chinatown, there are also a fair few Japanese restaurants. Take Ikkyusan on Gerrard Street for example, it’s quite well known for shabu-shabu, a Japanese variation on the Chinese hot pot, but it also serves some impressive sushi. The “dragon roll” is the house special and tastes as good as it looks. And then there’s Sushi Ga Ga round the corner which serves sushi and ice cream in a much less informal environment. Neither is Chinese and yet, somehow, they feel quite at home in Chinatown.

Am I pleased about these gastronomic discoveries in Chinatown? Definitely. The Chinatown today certainly serves up a much more impressive fare than it did some ten years ago. And with an abundance of other venues to explore, there’s plenty of opportunities for experimentation. As to whether I’ll be embracing Chinese restaurants from now on, I’m still not sure about that one. But at least I feel a little less afraid of venturing in and giving it a go.