Omicron or not, foodies are hungry for an overseas dining adventure. Once you’ve chosen which Vaccinated Travel Lane to take, where should you eat? We asked a few chefs and fellow chowhounds to share their culinary picks for the holiday season, and beyond.
Oncore by Clare Smyth at Crown Sydney
Level 26, 1 Barangaroo Avenue, Barangaroo, Sydney, NSW 2000, Australia www.crownsydney.com.au
The November-2021 opening of Oncore by Clare Smyth heralds the arrival of a culinary jewel in the Crown Sydney hotel complex. It’s the Aussie outpost of celebrated London-based chef Smyth, a former protégé of Alain Ducasse and Gordon Ramsay who relinquished her Chef Patron gig at Ramsay to open her own Notting Hill restaurant Core in 2017 (it snagged three stars this year). Oncore is Smyth’s aptly-named second act, a finedining restaurant where the emphasis is on natural and sustainable food, with chefs working in tandem with local farmers and producers – all in the quest for a perceptibly Australian identity. The A$300 tasting menu comes with stunning views of Sydney Harbour and the Opera House.
670 New South Head Road, Rose Bay 2029, Sydney, Australia www.charcoalfish.com
Josh Niland has a well-deserved reputation as a pioneering seafood specialist whose fin-to-scale philosophy leaves nothing to waste. He is to fish what Fergus Henderson of London’s iconic St John restaurant is to meat. Niland’s innovative ”Australian Fish Eatery” Saint Peter in Paddington is a showcase for high-quality, sustainably-sourced seafood, while nearby, retail store Fish Butchery is the place to discover a huge range of fish, aged seafood and off-cut products such as seafood offal. Making use of the lessunderstood parts of a fish is what motivates Niland – in his book, eyes, blood and bones are all fair game.
His latest venture is Charcoal Fish, a restaurant-quality, fish-andchip joint that offers just one native Australian fish on the menu: sustainably farmed Murray cod that’s aged for a week. Almost every part (92 per cent) of the fish is used, in typically imaginative ways: wings (meaty pectoral fins), gravy from heads and fins, potatoes roasted in fish fat, even Murray cod-fat caramel ice cream.
Helene Darroze at Villa La Coste
13610 Le Puy-Sainte-Reparade, France www.villalacoste.com
Chateau La Coste, a sprawling estate set in 500 acres of biodynamic vineyards, rolling hills and landscaped gardens near Aix-enProvence in the south of France, would fit any definition of modern-day luxury. Owned by property magnate Patrick McKillen, it features boutique hotel Villa La Coste, a state-of-the-art winery and buildings designed by a clutch of famous architects – Jean Nouvel, Tadao Ando, Renzo Piano and Frank Gehry among them. Scattered throughout the estate are site-specific art installations by the likes of Louise Bourgeois, Anish Kapoor, James Turrell and Hiroshi Sugimoto, plus gallery spaces housing contemporary works from the owner’s world-class collection.
On the food front, several venues offer casual-dining options for visitors but at the 28-suite Villa La Coste, there is a fine-dining restaurant run by culinary hall-of-famer Helene Darroze, who has a three-star restaurant in London and a two-star one in Paris. At Villa La Coste, her eponymous restaurant is set in a glass pavilion with panoramic views over the vineyards and surrounding countryside. It features a garden-to-plate theme aptly titled ‘Walk in the Gardens of Provence’. In other words, meat and seafood play supporting roles to vegetables.
”The quality of local produce is such that this decision was essential, as was an absolute quest for simplicity,” says Darroze. ”When we are lucky enough to find such exceptional vegetables and fruit, it is up to us to cook to enhance them, not transform them.” Humble legumes like the cucumber, carrot, chickpea and zucchini all get the right royal treatment by Darroze and her fellow chefs.
Javier Rodriguez, a chef based in Argentina, collaborated with Chateau La Coste as a visiting chef and was there recently to oversee the bottling of wines for El Papagayo, his restaurant in Cordoba. ”The chateau has all kinds of good things in one place,” he says. ”At Villa La Coste, you can enjoy a fine-dining experience based on local wines and produce, while the hotel offers a level of hospitality I have never experienced before.”
Mauro Colagreco at The Maybourne Riviera
06190 Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, France www.maybourneriviera.com/fr/
Rodriguez may have spoken too soon, because just 220 kms due east of Chateau La Coste, along the Côte d’Azur, a similarly stunning level of hospitality exists. On a rocky peninsula overlooking the town of Roquebrune-Cap-Martin and the Mediterranean, his friend and fellow Argentine-born chef Mauro Colagreco has just opened Ceto, the flagship restaurant at The Maybourne Riviera – merely the newest member in Paddy McKillen’s impressive line-up of luxe hotels. McKillen, whose properties include Claridge’s and The Connaught in London (where Darroze has her flagship restaurant), has a penchant for star chefs and showcase restaurants. That makes Colagreco a perfect fit.
Colagreco’s own 3-Michelin star restaurant Mirazur is in Menton, just a 10-minute drive up the road from The Maybourne. The Mirazur team recently completed a pop-up in Singapore and visitors fresh from that experience can expect more of the same at Ceto – only with home-field advantage this time. The focus here is on seasonal bounty from the Mediterranean, a nose-to-tail approach with fish and crustaceans, cooked on a grill in the open kitchen. The restaurant also operates as a ‘marine culinary workshop’, with a mission to research sustainability and regional marine species.
Henne Alt-Berliner Wirtshaus
Leuschnerdamm 25 10999 Berlin, Germany www.henne-berlin.de
Witzlebenstrasse 31, 14057 Berlin, Germany www.engelbecken.de
Rirkrit Tiravanija is a globe-trotting contemporary artist (based in New York, Berlin and Chiangmai) who enjoys mixing food, art and people. In addition to more conventional artforms, he’s noted for conceptual installations that revolve around community – cooking and sharing Thai meals in exhibition halls and gallery spaces. He loves traditional food culture and his picks here include two Berlin classics. ”These are places that have survived the comings and goings of time and tastes,” says Tiravanija. ”It’s the specificity of the food to the place, it’s the atmosphere which gets you closer to the belly of the place.”
The legendary Henne (The Hen) opened for business in 1908 and the restaurant once straddled the Berlin Wall. The house specialty is freshly-roasted corn-fed chicken, served with coleslaw or potato salad and washed down with a local beer. ”It’s an old, old establishment with cultlike adoration: simple but special,” says Tiravanija. ”It is Berlin in girth and spirit through and through.”
Engelbecken is another of Tiravanija’s favourites, the place he goes to for classic Austrian dishes like Schnitzel (breaded, deepfried veal) and Tafelspitz (a specific cut of boiled beef). ”They have wonderful seasonal dishes such as wild boar, venison and chanterelles,” he says. ”In the winter, a great selection of Schnapps both cleanses the palate and lifts the spirit.”
4th Floor, 49 Hyoja-ro, Cheongunhyoja-dong, Seoul, South Korea www.onjium.org
Onjium, the go-to restaurant for Seoul-based visual artist Jinnie Seo (right), whose works span painting, sculpture and public installations, is the culinary arm of a four-storey cultural institute dedicated to preserving traditional Korean culture – fashion and architecture make up the other parts. The restaurant, which received a Michelin star in 2020, is lauded for its ability to research and update ancient recipes using local and seasonal ingredients in a stylish contemporary setting.
According to Seo, the cuisine has roots in the primary components of Korean cooking, namely ganjang (soy sauce), gochujang (red chili paste) and doenjang (fermented soybean paste). ”Onjium’s seasonal menu is shaped by the freshest ingredients available,” she says. ”Each dish draws on recipes from prominent regional families, passed on for generations, together with flavours inspired by royal court cuisine from the Joseon Dynasty.”
The main drivers of the cuisine at Onjium are Cho Eun-hee and Park Sung-bae, who head a team of chef-scholars intent on researching every intricate detail of Korean cuisine. ”I appreciate the holistic nature of the dining experience here,” says Seo. ”Onjium offers truly singular creations filled with jeong – that warm and enduring, distinctly Korean sense of affection and hospitality that no other word quite captures in full.” For incontrovertible proof that jeong travels well, head to New York City, where Onjium opened a branch a few days ago – on the second floor of an upscale car showroom featuring models from Hyundai’s luxury brand Genesis.
The Harbor House Inn
5600 South Highway 1, Elk, CA 95432, USA www.theharborhouseinn.com
Marcus Jernmark, former head chef at Stockholm’s 3-Michelin star Frantzen (and part of the opening team at Zen in Singapore), has just moved to Los Angeles, where he plans to open his own eatery in late 2022. His VTL restaurant pick for the US is Harbor House Inn, a remote restaurant-with-rooms in Northern California’s Mendocino County. It sits on a bluff flanked by the Pacific Ocean on one side and giant redwoods on the other, accessible from San Francisco via a 230-km drive north along coast-hugging Highway 1.
The 25-seat restaurant (awarded a second Michelin star this year) is housed in a renovated 105-year-old landmark building in Elk, a former logging town (current population: 208). There, chef Matthew Kammerer performs culinary magic with locally-sourced seafood and meat (including elk) and produce grown on-site, making use of the foggy conditions and natural salinity. The 8-to-12-course tasting menu (US$245) is inspired by the Northern Californian coastline and most of the cooking is done using natural heat sources: fire, steam and smoke. If you manage to snag a room with your restaurant booking, you’re in for a special treat.
”A meal at Harbor House Inn is on my absolute bucket list right now,” says Jernmark. ”This place is just unreal – it’s destination dining featuring a locally-sourced profile and influenced by a Japanese aesthetic. There is an underlying Asian tone to the food, but it’s done in a very sophisticated modern American way.” He adds, ”There’s great seafood this time of year: local oysters, clams and spiny lobster, and they also preserve a lot of their herbs and vegetables. You’ll be hearing a lot more about this restaurant in the years to come.”
The Four Horsemen
295 Grand Street, Brooklyn, NY 11211, USA www.fourhorsemenbk.com
If you decided to make a random trip from tiny Elk clear across the country to the other end, it’s possible you could end up in Brooklyn – especially if good food and wine are a primary consideration. ”Brooklyn has become a Mecca for the foodie,” says Chomwan Weeraworawit (right), a curator, producer and all-around creative type who shuttles (pre-pandemic) between Bangkok and New York. She makes it a mission to seek out culinary gems in each city she visits and when she’s back home in the Williamsburg district of Brooklyn, that gem is invariably The Four Horsemen.
”It’s not new (2015) but always feels fresh with an ever-changing menu of seasonal New American cuisine-with-a-twist,” says Weeraworawit, who has collaborated on food-related projects with the likes of Gaggan Anand and Angela Dimayuga. ”There is always a fish crudo on the menu, excellent seafood small plates, and the extensive list of natural wines is what makes it truly awesome, with knowledgeable and hip sommeliers (this is Brooklyn, after all) to explain the daily pours.”
Fear not if you feel the need to up the hipness factor, because a co-owner of the restaurant is James Murphy, frontman of the electronic dance-punk band LCD Sound System (his wife Christina Topsoe runs the place). He recently opened a vinyl music bar next door (Nightmoves or Daymoves, depending on the time of day) with, says Weeraworawit, ”insane sounds, a great DJ line-up and a fantastic wine and cocktails selection.” VTL flight to New York, anyone?
41 Redchurch Street, London E2 7DJ , UK www.bluemountain.school
There’s a shared culinary sensibility between Onjium in Seoul and Maos in London’s East End. Like Onjium, Maos is one part of an interdisciplinary, multi-storey space that includes a tea house-cumlistening room, an exhibition space and a shop with garments and ceramics for sale.
The original restaurant took a communal dining approach, with one table and 16 seats around it, but the reimagined post-pandemic version has separate tables and one Michelin star. Guests take turns moving from their table to the kitchen, where they watch part of their tasting menu being prepared. Chef Edoardo Pellicano (right) explains what they are about to eat. Several snacks, 10 courses and about four hours later, diners will have sampled a menu that includes lobster aged in wild duck fat, wild wood pigeon with fermented black bean umeboshi, and grilled aged maitake mushroom with wild boar fat, beeswax and walnuts.
”Our food at Maos has been inspired by Southeast Asian flavours and techniques while using the most seasonal local produce available,” says Pellicano, who is half-Singaporean. ”A lot of dishes on our menu have been inspired by nostalgic food memories from my childhood. Our menu for the winter season focuses on game, fermentation and preserving techniques.” He adds, ”What makes London so great to visit during the Christmas season is the culinary scene – there’s just so much diversity on offer here.”
The article was originally published in Business Times.