So, five good places to eat and five contexts to eat in.
Family with small children
1) We go once a week to our local italian restaurant. The boys share a “ravioli quattro formaggi” (and if you want to get great service in an italian restaurant, just get your four year old to order in italian) and we get a reasonably OK pasta meal each. There’s a bottleshop next door so we can have wine. Italian restaurants are fantastic for children. But
2) Yum cha is probably even better for children (I’ve only been a few times so that’s why it’s not #1). Here in Sydney, yum cha is a serious enterprise on a weekend. If you don’t turn up by 11 for lunch, you probably have to queue for half an hour at the best places. But once you get there, you have trolleys whizzing past, that you can choose enticing looking dishes (mostly finger food) from, and you can watch the trolley ladies stamp each time you choose a dish. Really, how could you lose?
Just came back tonight from the Bathers’ Pavilion. It’s not in the top drawer (only one hat in this year’s Good Food Guide) of Sydney restaurants, but it’s close. And it has the advantage of a wonderful setting. On a beautiful, calm, harbour, beach, walk out straight onto the sand and have a romantic promenade before or after your delicious meal.
For lunch while I’m at work, my favourite is a curry laksa from my local foodcourt. We are so lucky in Sydney that we have seriously good food dotted around the foodcourts underneath our office buildings. The asian options, particularly, can be wonderful. To find a great laksa, make sure you go to an outlet that is run by people from Malaysia – I had one from a Thai outlet the other day, and it just didn’t quite have the right blends of curry and coconut.
After we had children, we let slip our hobby of eating our way through the Good Food Guide. So I thought I should try and work my way through it by inviting clients to lunch. But it never quite worked out. I find you have to be quite nuanced inviting clients to lunch. They generally don’t have that much time to spend. And if you take them to too upmarket a place, they look suspiciously at you when you later send them a bill. So I ended up using my company’s corporate kitchen, which made quite tasty meals, but was a winner because they could time them perfectly to end the lunch at 2pm.
All that said, my most memorable “on business travel” meal was a dinner in Tokyo when I did a couple of weeks work up there. The managing partner of the Tokyo office took me to a kaiseki restaurant for the most amazing tasting meal. Each course was little more than a mouthful, but Japanese food is amazing for the way in which texture and taste interact. By the end of the evening, I wasn’t overly full (as I would have been from a special night out at a western restaurant) but I had had a food experience.
To get to the restaurant was a small, unobtrusive door in a side alley – Tokyo restaurants don’t really advertise themselves – it’s all about contacts (just like everything else in Tokyo).