Renowned South African foodie and Taste magazine’s food editor, ABIGAIL DONELLY, lists her favourite cities.
1 TOKYO Japan
Japan has always been on my bucket list (it’s a big list!) and my dream was realised when the Japanese Fair Trade Commission invited me to attend a food show and meet with top producers. I sampled A-grade nori – a variety of miso – and the best crème caramel from convenience stores at 3am on the way home from karaoke sessions.
A (very) early morning trip to the Tsukiji fish market was easily one of the highlights of my culinary career. Among dodging scooters and trucks packing and moving tons of fish and seafood, I sampled some exquisite seafood. It’s the biggest fish market in the world, and we ate thin sheets of prawn crackers, a touch of whale meat, which I politely accepted from my host, and bubbling oversized periwinkles cooked over the fire.
2 REYKJAVIK Iceland
The SA Chefs Association invited me to tag along with them to attend a cooking competition where representatives from SA were participating.
The hands-down “Oh My Gosh” moment was attending an actual Viking dinner. It was quite a gala affair and Hakari (a national dish of fermented shark) was on the menu. Needless to say we drank copious amounts of Brennivin, also fermented, but from potato not shark.
3 BAROSSA VALLEY Australia
I have a foodie crush on Australian food pioneer Maggie Beer, so when I was invited to test out chef and restaurateur, Neil Perry’s menu on Qantas, I made sure I organised a trip to the Barossa Valley to have dinner with Maggie at her restaurant, The Farm Eatery.
We ate outside on a full moon evening and I’ll never forget the incredible truffle-infused honey with her famous plum paste that we enjoyed with wedges of farm-aged cheddar at the end of the meal. It was my first trip as a food editor; I thought to myself, “… it just can’t get better.” But it did!
4 BARCELONA Spain
For anyone visiting Barcelona, you simply have to visit the La Boqueria market on the famous Las Ramblas pedestrian boulevard.
It’s Spain’s little piece of food heaven. I remember eating razor clams just off the grill and sipping on chilled glasses of cava amongst stalls overflowing with all sorts of mushrooms, tomatoes, tetilla cheeses and Jamon Iberico, the finest ham in the world.
5 BANGKOK Thailand
At the time, Nahm was voted the best Asian restaurant in the world and remains a Michelin-awarded fine-dining restaurant. While I spent many a memorable day discovering local street flavours, Nahm elevated these tastes and techniques into precise, top-notch plates that preserved the heritage of Thai street food. A standout dish was a floating jasmine candle that scented shaved ice dripping with lychee syrup.
6 PARIS France
Whilst attending a LavAzza coffee calendar launch at The Palace of Versailles one year… I know, don’t roll your eyes… the celebrated Catalonian chef, Ferran Adria of El Bulli fame was the chosen chef to oversee the feast. We dined on gold-guilded eggs hatched from porcelain egg-shaped vessels served to us nestled in carriages. You’re still rolling your eyes, aren’t you.
7 LONDON England
During my most recent travels, I managed to get a booking at Lyle’s, ranked 38th on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants of 2018 list, as well as best newcomer. It’s a simple, rather understated establishment where flavour is paramount. A dish that will remain a favourite food memory was the hay-infused custard nestled in the finest crust and topped with my first-ever taste of tayberries – softer than raspberries and juicer too.
8 CAPE TOWN South Africa
I am not sure many people can boast that they have eaten at The Test Kitchen, Eat Out magazine’s top restaurant for six years in a row. I’ve seen the restaurant transform over the years and the introduction of The Dark Room and The Light Room is a mind-altering experience that adds to the experimental, flavour-packed dishes.
9 MODENA Italy
Osteria Francescana is the number one restaurant in the word and the patron of this three-Michelin-star establishment is Massimo Bottura ¬– a rock star of a chef dedicated to preserving the heritage of Italian food through storytelling.
One of the many phenomenal dishes I was treated to on the tasting menu was a foie gras ice-cream lolly injected with a blob of 35-year-old balsamic. It represented Modena as the core of the Italian universe and celebrated the Italian terroir with almonds from northern Italy encrusting the top and hazelnuts at the bottom from southern Italy.
10 MAURITUS Port Louis
The capital of Mauritius has a wonderful mix of Chinese and Indian foods. At the Victorian-era Central Market, I was lucky enough to watch long, looping lengths of fresh noodles being made, I ate fresh, raw sea urchin sprinkled with chopped onion and Tabasco, and sampled wonderful vegetarian Indian street food – from bags of pineapple and chilli to delicious Bombay potatoes.