Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 26 May 2019

Culinary postcards: five foodies on the best things they've eaten on holiday

From grilled octopus in Greece to chef-recommended bouillabaisse in Marseille, we talk to five foodies about the best things they’ve eaten on holiday

Tarte au citron at Le Peron. Courtesy Matthew Broderick
Tarte au citron at Le Peron. Courtesy Matthew Broderick

Whether it’s smoky, straight-off-the-grill fish devoured on a deserted Portuguese beach, banana pancakes eaten at a roadside shack in Bali or a revelatory slice of pizza in Rome, there’s something about the food we eat when on holiday that means it simply tastes better. Here we ask five food lovers about their most memorable vacation meals and ponder whether it’s ever possible to recreate them at home.

Samphire in Lincolnshire and cockles in Norfolk

Radio presenter Stef Burgon and her husband, Simon, recently left Dubai to return to the United Kingdom. Before settling down to life in the medieval castle that they’re renovating in Kilmartin Glen, Scotland, they’ve decided to drive – and eat – their way around Europe in a camper van

Burgon says: “For me, food is like music in the way that it brings back memories. It’s years ago now, but I can still clearly remember ­gazing out to the sea on my first trip back home from Dubai, accompanied by fish, chips and scraps. Life was chaotic and the future unclear, but you can always rely on good old fish and chips from Tynemouth not to let you down.

“Simon and I dabbled in van life on a ­previous holiday and fell in love with the freedom of it. For a long trip like this one and with a tight budget, it was the obvious choice. We set off in mid-August and plan on being away until the end of December, heading first to Amsterdam and then on to Finland. As it gets colder, we’ll make our way towards France, before returning home.

“We both love food and it will play a massive part in our trip. We can’t afford to eat out at many high-end restaurants, but luckily the interior of our 2009 Ford Transit van is a dream, and the kitchen has an oven, grill and hob. Our plan is to cook a lot, and we’re really looking forward to finding local ingredients along the way and experimenting with them.

“So far we’ve spent a bit of time meandering around the United Kingdom, and each region stands out for its local produce. In Lincolnshire, we picked samphire from the marshes and foraged for mussels, then had them for dinner that evening. The following week, we ate cockles in Norfolk, watching families sitting on the edge of the quay crabbing like they have for generations.”

Stay up to date with Stef and Simon’s trip by following

@OffAirStef, and learn more about the castle project by following @kilmartincastle

Sampling local food while travelling around Europe. Courtesy Stef Burgon 
Sampling local food while travelling around Europe. Courtesy Stef Burgon

Fresh seafood in Santorini and grilled octopus in Mykonos

During the 10 years that she spent living in the UAE, Laura Rooney ate out more often than most – she was previously known as @hungrygirldubai on Instagram. At the moment, she is back home in Ireland, sampling the culinary delights that the Emerald Isle has to offer

Rooney says: “Without doubt, Greece, and ­specifically the islands of Mykonos and Santorini, are where I have enjoyed my most memorable meals. The food there is fresh, unpretentious and quite simply a joy to eat. A plethora of delicious seafood is caught every morning by local fishermen and distributed around the island’s restaurants, where it is combined with locally grown ingredients and herbs to make dishes steeped in tradition.

“I find there’s always something rather ­wonderful about eating when you are on holiday: spirits are high and you’re often surrounded by those you love, meaning that memories tend to be tinged with a sense of pure pleasure.

“Whenever I taste really good grilled octopus, I’m instantly transported back to a magical lunch I had at Kiki’s Tavern in Mykonos. This shack-like restaurant overlooks a stunning bay, and the space is intimate yet brimming with ­character. A tree grows freely in the centre of the taverna, and there’s no electricity, so all the freshly caught seafood is cooked to order in a traditional coal oven in the corner.

“I did try to recreate that octopus dish at home once and failed miserably – the result was an overcooked tentacle that tasted like a rubber flip-flop. Now I leave it to the professionals, and luckily for me there are several restaurants in Dubai where I can satisfy my Shirley Valentine cravings.”

For honest, no-nonsense restaurant reviews follow @hungrygirlbelfast.

The view from Kiki Tavern, Mykonos. Courtesy Laura Rooney
The view from Kiki Tavern, Mykonos. Courtesy Laura Rooney

Squid ink paella in Spain and Sri Lankan curries

Judy Karim’s love of travel, and specifically exploring different cuisines and trying new dishes, as well as her belief that food has the capacity to bring people together inspired her to start her popular blog When Judy Ate the Kela

Karim says: “Food awakens the senses like nothing else – you can see, smell, taste, touch and even hear it, which is why a meal or ingredient can be so memorable. It also tells you a huge amount about a destination, and its culture and history. My ­husband and I are both keen travellers and big foodies. We make sure we try local dishes ­everywhere we go, and as a result have shared some incredible food-based memories. We’ve eaten squid ink paella in Spain, devoured eclairs and macarons in France, enjoyed pad Thai noodles in Thailand, curries in Sri Lanka and baked feta drizzled with honey in Athens – the list goes on.

“I went to Barcelona recently, and thanks to the rich flavours and fresh ingredients, it really was everything you could possibly want from a food destination. The tapas was incredible, the paella out of this world and the crema Catalana heavenly.

“Although it’s nearly impossible to replicate the exact taste of those holiday dishes at home, that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy trying. I seek out recipe books from every country I visit, and my top tip is to try to buy ingredients and bring them back to use in your own kitchen – I’ve had great success making Sri Lankan curries that way.”

For more insights and stories, follow Judy Karim on Instagram @when_judy_ate_the_kela

Squid ink paella. Courtesy Judy Karim
Squid ink paella. Courtesy Judy Karim

Octopus pintxos in San Sebastian

You might think that when successful Dubai chef and restaurant consultant Tomas Reger has some downtime and goes on holiday, he’d be keen to escape the kitchen environment, but that’s far from the case

Reger says: “Dedicating time to travelling, experiencing culinary trends and being aware of what is happening on the global food scene is important for both my personal growth and business research. And what better excuse to try the best restaurants than that you are doing so ‘for work’? In all honestly, though, even when I’m choosing where to holiday with my family, I always look for places to eat in advance.

“When doing so, I like to mix things up. If there is a Michelin-starred restaurant nearby or a chef I admire, I’ll make sure I visit them. I also speak to the locals and ask for personal recommendations.

“Food is, of course, a necessity – we need to eat – but it can provide immense pleasure, too. If you’re lucky, every so often you’ll taste something that you simply can’t forget and it will leave a mark. This ­happened to me when I tried some charred octopus pintxos from Atari Gastroteka in San Sebastian, Spain. The ­restaurant itself was packed, so I ate the dish sitting at the top of some church steps ­surrounded by people – the atmosphere was absolutely amazing. Pretty much every time I eat octopus now, it makes me want to go back.

“I never try to recreate dishes from my travels exactly [or] copy recipes; I prefer to take inspiration and collect ideas.”

Learn more about Reger’s latest culinary venture by following him on Instagram at @cheftomasreger

Chef Tomas Reger introducing his daughter to her first Michelin-star restaurant on holiday. Courtesy Tomas Reger
Chef Tomas Reger introducing his daughter to her first Michelin-star restaurant

Bouillabaisse and lemon tart in Marseille

As a self-confessed foodie and guest contributor to UAE restaurant review site FooDiva, Matthew Broderick is not only passionate about great food,

but also knows a thing or two about where to find it (his never-fail tip for finding a good restaurant when

on holiday is to follow your nose until you smell something delicious)

Broderick says: “I love simple flavours and classic ­dishes, two things that France does better than anyone else. My wife speaks French as well, so perhaps it’s no surprise that the country is always our first-choice ­holiday destination.

“The first time I ate bouillabaisse in Marseille was a standout moment. I’d driven there specifically to try my favourite dish in its place of origin. We didn’t plan which restaurant to visit in advance, but simply followed our instincts (and noses), ending up in a place called Le Peron. It was everything I’d ever dreamt of: tables overlooking the beautiful sea, stunning food, authentic bouillabaisse and the best tarte au citron I have ever had the pleasure to eat.

“When I order bouillabaisse now, my feelings are bittersweet. It brings back happy memories, in the sense that I’m eating something special to me, but the current dish can never match the taste of the original and the joy it brought, so disappointment sets in.

“Food has such a capacity for not just evoking memory, but making an emotional connection as well – whether that’s bringing back a childhood experience or the happiness of a holiday. I think that cooks can really tap into this idea, too. The chefs at two of the best restaurants in the UK at the moment (in my opinion) – Restaurant Sat Bains and The Black Sawn by Tommy Banks – are doing just that with great success.”

For more culinary insights from Broderick, follow @finediningmatt on Instagram

Bouillabaisse at Le Peron courtesy Matthew Broderick
Bouillabaisse at Le Peron courtesy Matthew Broderick


Read more:

Recipe: Lobster tikka masala with cumin rice

11 new Dubai and Abu Dhabi summer brunches to check out

Where art meets coffee: why there is nowhere else like Dubai's 701


Updated: March 11, 2019 10:11 AM