Fresh off the boat, Bay of Naples
Portamarina Seafood is perched at the end of the jetty in Sorrento’s old marina. They cook whatever comes in from the family boat and it is stunningly good – and stunningly good value. A massive plate of flour-and-salt-dusted anchovies for €6 was a standout but pretty much everything is worth a go. A cold Peroni, the freshest fish perfectly cooked, and the sun going down over the sea. A cliche perhaps but of such restaurants are cliches made. No booking, so choose your time carefully or you’ll be waiting – but it is worth it.
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Truck stop heaven, northern Pakistan
Lamb with lentils – the smoky dregs of a huge pot hung over the fire – with flatbreads hot off the stones beside the fire, at dusk in a roadside truck stop in the Chitral Valley. It was the day my brother and I rode mountain bikes down from the Shandur Pass in northern Pakistan – we’d taken our time and were too late to look for somewhere to camp, so the truck stop provided bed and board. Total price about £2, including paratha and green tea for breakfast. No precise location and definitely no website. But the memory lives on as one of the best meals of my life.
‘The place I’ve been looking for on every holiday I’ve been on’, Tarifa, Andalucía
We found Cervecería Varadero in Tarifa – it’s listed as a fishmonger rather than a restaurant on Google – while on a whale-watching holiday. It looks very ordinary from the outside, but the fish is just incredible. It only opens at lunchtime and appears to be staffed by the fishermen who’ve caught that day’s offerings. It’s where I had, for the first time, deep-fried ortigas de mar (sea anemones) and tortillitas de camarones – the most amazing little shrimp fritters, a local speciality (pictured). There’s usually a queue but it’s so worth the wait. This is the place I’ve been looking for on every holiday I’ve been on, and I can’t wait to go back.
Seafood lock-in, Tarragona
We were recommended a seafood restaurant in an octagonal building at the port, where the trawlers unloaded. After we’d tried about 15 types of seafood, a massive storm struck and the plastic coverings were lowered. After about 30 minutes of downpour, with water pouring through the ceiling, the waiter (who’d been drinking out of his own bottle) brought over another bottle of wine and said, “It’s free until the rain stops.” An hour and another eight types of seafood later, he brought us another bottle and said, “Nobody’s going home tonight.” This sounded a bit ominous at the time, but three hours later the rain eased up, we tipped generously and finally left. Marvellous!
So far soy good, Kyoto
Our ryokan hosts in Kyoto recommended Shoraian to us. Having navigated a bamboo grove and monkey forest, we arrived at a picture-perfect tiny restaurant beside the Katsura river. Removing our shoes, we were led to our own private dining room and seated on the floor. The restaurant specialises in tofu and we were presented with a succession of exquisitely presented courses on an array of different crockery: creamed, gratinated, chilled, steamed, grilled and boiled tofu. The only break from the seemingly endless stream of delicious soy curd was a stunning wagyu course, the beef marbled and truly melt-in-your-mouth. Such a memorable experience!
• shoraian.com, about £60 a head
Like Sunday roast but better, Croatia
Ignoring for a second the idyllic riverside location, with the breeze cutting through the humidity of night, the lamb peka at Konavoski Dvori restaurant, 20 miles south of Dubrovnik, was quite simply the most delicious lamb I’ve ever eaten. It’s like a Sunday roast where the meat has spent the past two years doing nothing but lifting weights and eating avocados. It’s cooked with potatoes (which absorb the lamb fat in a most agreeable manner) in a charcoal fire-pit, covered by a large, bell-shaped iron lid. You have to order it in advance, but my lord it’s the sort of thing to remember and get emotional about.
‘We’re ordering another one, right?’, Borneo
Kuching, Borneo. Fried banana slices covered in thick batter with shredded cheese melting on top – served in a little red plastic basket lined with a thin napkin. We screw up our faces at the sight of it before shrugging and diving in with little pink plastic forks, creating unsaid margins for our own sections. It’s crunchy and soft. Sweet and savoury. Salty and creamy. All at the same damn time. The humidity is causing my hair to curl around my face as I chew, the riverside breeze sweeping across my collarbone as I reach in for more. The unfamiliar chatter of the locals surrounds us as we gabble in English about how much we adore this. I close my eyes to savour each sensation. “We’re ordering another one, right?”
If you like pina colada … Cuba
The sign at the multicoloured roadside shack outside the town of Sagua la Grande said, “Best Pina Coladas in the World.” We were cycling and stopped: “Two of your finest please.” With a flourish, the gnarly old proprietor, cigar stogie in his mouth, put a coconut, a pineapple, a bucket of ice and a bottle of rum on to his makeshift counter. He handed me a massive machete and with a tobacco-stained grin said “Help yourself!” We smoked cigars and drank with Carlos all day … and returned to Colón late, our bikes balanced on the back of his rusty old pick-up.
Cocoa Mountain – clearly a readers’ favourite!
This week, six readers tipped this place! Ed.
Travelling around Scotland by campervan, we came to the small village of Balnakeil, on the northern tip of the British mainland, close to the sea. Actually it felt a bit like the (most beautiful) end of the world. Fields, sheep, narrow roads and a cold wind, though sunny. And in this middle of nowhere, we found these chocolate makers called Cocoa Mountain. I will never forget this unbelievably creamy, sweet hot chocolate, which I sipped from a big mug on their porch. I have never had a better hot chocolate in my life. And I’m over 50. I took some chocolate powder home, and some of their delicious truffles. I would travel all the way from Germany again just for them, especially the chilli lemongrass ones!
To dal for, northern India
My favourite food memory was on the journey back from the Spiti Valley in the Indian Himalayas. My boyfriend and I had been motorbiking around India for several months and had experienced many pitfalls. On our way down this mountain the only road was blocked by landslides. Trucks had been gridlocked for days. A group of truckers saw us and invited us over to eat with them. Using a portable stove they made a meal from the supplies they were transporting. We ate the most delicious tarka dal and rice, followed by handfuls of fresh snow peas from the truck. They even provided rum!
Perfect tandoori fish, Yemen
One of the best meals I ever had was in a restaurant in Sanaa, the largest city in Yemen. It was incredibly simple, a large fish suspended in one of the tandoor ovens they use for baking bread until the outside was charred and the flesh perfectly cooked. Then the whole fish was put on the table with heaps of freshly baked flatbread and limes.