Stories to dine out on…

We asked some of our team to tell us about their most memorable meals.

Kate: “Remember the days when you couldn’t get into El Bulli? Neither could we, despite pulling every ruse we could think of. But there was an alternative: Ferran Adrià’s other place at the time, El Bulli Hacienda Benazuza, a 10th-century Moorish farmhouse-turned-hotel just outside Seville. Working alongside his mentor, chef Rafa Morales had earned two Michelin stars on his own merits, with a 26-course tasting menu to challenge your senses and stretch your waistline. Diners weren’t told in advance what they were eating, and as the evening wore on, and the wine flowed, the whole restaurant became friends, as we swapped ideas, guesses and comments on an astonishing array of inventive and incredible dishes. My only regret: I was too full the following morning to tackle one of the most sumptuous breakfasts I have even seen.”

Paul R: “When you’re associating international hotel brands with quality dining, Sheraton probably isn’t the first name that springs to mind. Nor, it has to be said, does Kuwait sit at the top of the list of most people’s gourmet destinations. But this was my first experience of Persian cuisine (or Iranian for the politically-sensitive). It was 1997, and the hotel - built in 1966 and destroyed in the Gulf War in 1991 - had recently risen from the ashes to recapture its original splendour, with the stained-glass windows and ornate mosaic arches and inlays of the Shahrayar Restaurant as its showpiece. Cue a feast of dishes - laban infused with mountain garlic, aubergine with kashk, chicken skewers with saffron, lamb and okra stew, and faloodeh (an unlikely-sounding but utterly delicious combination of milk, rose syrup, vermicelli and sweet basil). I could go on. And did.”

Paul P: “Middle East hospitality isn’t a cliché: and where better to experience it than at Najd Village in the heart of Riyadh. The menu is your perfect introduction to local cuisine - lamb soup with ginger, liver with onions and peppers, jareesh, chicken saleek, steamed camel (yes, you heard correctly), wheat pancakes in butter and honey - and sitting cross-legged in little private sections around a courtyard, dishes are served on a huge mat in the middle, with the rice spilling over as you all tuck in with your increasingly-fragrant fingers. If you’re being harsh you could say it’s a little touristy. But this is Saudi Arabia, so the term is a relative one.”

Lucy: “I blame the godparents. I was 18, just old enough to drink, adamant that I didn’t like red wine, and would have to admit that my definition of fine dining at the time was Miller & Carter. On a holiday in Portugal, Kate and Paul decided to change that by taking me to Vila Joya. Not just a Michelin restaurant of course. This one had two stars. A menu that changed daily. And several dishes that I’d never heard of (even in the English translation). But I was hooked. Fast-forward ten years and I’ve travelled the world, and even clinched a senior cabin crew position with British Airways courtesy of my knowledge of red wine. I‘ve also been lucky enough to have eaten in many other astonishing places. But you never forget your first love.”

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