After Travel and Fashion, my third big passion in life is Food. For real, I’m a massive foodie. So travelling the world is always an opportunity for me to discover some delicious meals and some fantastic new restaurants. Even on a measly backpacker budget, I have managed to experience some wonderful dishes.
So this is a rather indulgent post on the best meals and restaurants I have had the pleasure to experience throughout my travels. Hopefully you can take away some tips from it!
- Nisha – Luang Prabang, Laos
I didn’t realise what an integral role Indian food plays in my everyday diet, until I travelled Southeast Asia. 2 months in and not a Saag Aloo in sight, I was struggling. Until I came across the oasis in the desert that was Nisha in Luang Prabang, Laos. I ordered everything and it was such a dream. All of the usual suspects on tap such as Bombay Aloo, Chicken Tikka Masala and Cheese Naans… And still within a backpacker’s budget. I couldn’t really ask for more. My ridiculous craving for Indian food at this time may have contributed to how highly I have rated this meal, but I still remember it as a complete luxury. If you see an Indian restaurant on your Southeast Asia travels – eat there. You don’t know when you’ll see the next one.
- Pad Thai – Khao San Road, Bangkok, Thailand
I know a lot of backpackers that turn their noses up at street food. It does feel a bit strange the first time you see a street vendor whip you up a meal and realise the lack of health and safety standards being adhered to… But once you taste it, you’ll be going back for more. Pad Thai on Khao San Road remains to date the best street food I’ve ever eaten. So simple, made in a matter of minutes and satisfies my appetite, which is no mean feat. Ignore your inner germaphobe and take the plunge. You won’t regret it.
- Max Brenner – Sydney, Australia
Calling all Sweet Tooths! Every chocolate fantasy you’ve ever had will be satisfied at Max Brenner! Ok not all of them you weirdo… But seriously, you like chocolate? You like Max Brenner. This chain of chocolate bars have now gone pretty global so you may already have one in your hometown, in which case this is probably old news. But I was brand new to the delights of this place and it was spectacular. I went there for a special birthday treat and spent a good portion of my visit deciding what to have…Chocolate Fondue, Strawberry Crepes, Belgian Waffles, Souffle, Pastries, Sundaes, beautiful Hot Chocolate and even shots of pure melted chocolate. I know right. http://maxbrenner.com.au/
- New Sea View Villa – Sihanoukville, Cambodia
Sihanoukville in Cambodia is not known for its cuisine – it’s a backpacking mecca of sunbathing on the beach all day and partying all night. But I had some surprisingly good meals there. My favourite restaurant was New Sea View Villa, a stone’s throw from the beach. It’s mainly Italian food and was so delicious. At that point in my trip, all I had eaten was Thai and Cambodian food with the odd burger or salad in hostels. So a beautiful 3 course Italian feast, complete with lemon cheesecake, was an absolute dream. I stayed in Sihanoukville for 8 days and I reckon I ate at Sea View at least 6 times. It’s that good. And at $2.50 per course… you just have to. Once I chose a different restaurant and it sucked so went back to Sea View for a second dinner. That’s right. I think I had 5 courses in total. The ‘Night of Two Dinners‘ has gone down in history with my backpacking pals. The staff are lovely and it’s actually quite romantic, should you meet the love of your life at JJ’s… http://www.sihanoukville-hotel.com
An honorary shout out to the breakfast at Monkey Republic. Another good shout if you’re in the area.
- Morning Glory – Bangkok, Thailand
My favourite Thai dish I discovered on my travels was undoubtedly Morning Glory. It has a strange name, yes. And you feel awkward asking for it, yes. But it is fabulous. It’s a simple dish of water spinach cooked in garlic. It doesn’t sound too appetising I know, but its beauty lies in its simplicity. Usually served with rice and I tend to smother everything in soy sauce – beautiful. I ate this dish all over Thailand so no specific restaurant recommended, but you need to get your hands on this when you’re out there I’m telling you.
- Vintage Kitchen & Vintage Closet Cafe – Brisbane, Australia
Whilst on my Working Holiday Visa in Australia, I did a lot of weird and wonderful jobs. One of which was waitressing at a Vintage Café in Cooperoo, Brisbane. So I’m a little biased on this one. Actually I’m a lot biased. The manager of Vintage Kitchen & Vintage Closet employed both me and my friend Kate, gave us the whole of Christmas and New Year’s off work to go on adventures and even lent us her car for road trips – good boss. So VKVC will always be seen in a positive light for me. But completely objectively, they do a damn good breakfast. And that’s coming from someone who used to serve the food… Most waitresses I know would never eat where they worked, just from boredom of seeing the same food all day every day. But VKVC is a winner for me – Sautéed mushrooms, baby spinach, shaved ham off the bone and aioli on sourdough, with a lovely coffee, is my personal favourite. This is also where I discovered White Mochas and my obsession with them has not diminished. Check out their website, they also sell vintage clothes so well worth a visit – http://www.vintagecloset.com.au
- La Marrakchi – Marrakech, Morocco
Straight up – I wasn’t Marrakech’s biggest fan. I much preferred Casablanca. Don’t get me wrong, the medina is gorgeous and I spent a fortune on beautifully hand painted tea-light holders and pretty little trinkets. But you get a lot of creepy men hollering at you and following you… even when you follow advice and dress neck to ankle in baggy clothes… Well that was my experience anyway. But I escaped the hustle and bustle of the medina in a lovely little restaurant slap bang in the middle of the medina – La Marrakchi. It overlooks the main square of Djemaa el-Fna so you can experience the atmosphere of the market, the snake charmers and all, without the leering and the pickpocketing. All while enjoying a delicious meal! I had a vegetable and cous cous tagine and it was cooked to perfection. I highly recommend it for a break from the Moroccan madness.
- Dick’s Last Resort – San Diego, CA
Ok, this one isn’t actually for the food. The story of this place goes like so… Dick, the owner, was in financial trouble and it looked like his restaurant was about to close, so he told his wait staff to do whatever the hell they wanted… including being rude and sarcastic to customers. And that was the key to his success! It sounds weird I know, but basically the waiters are wankers – sarcastic about your order, write stuff on napkins and stick it to you, blow the wrappers of straws at you… and for some reason it’s completely entertaining. I think the ‘waiters’ are improv actors or something because they keep a straight face the whole time. I don’t think I’m selling this that well but it’s good for a laugh. The food is KFC-esque fried chicken, but like I say, it’s more for the experience!! http://www.dickslastresort.com/
- Joe’s Pizza – Manhattan, NY
On my first ever trip to New York, my main aim was to find the best cheesecake Manhattan had to offer. My travel companion was also intent on finding the city’s best pizza. Well on the cheesecake front, I was pretty disappointed. I still maintain that the best cheesecake I’ve ever had is the Honeycomb Cheesecake from ASK. Seriously try it – don’t be a food snob, it’s amazing. But the pizza hunt came up trumps with the most amazing slice I’ve ever had from Joe’s Pizza. It’s easy to find on the edge of Greenwich Village on Carmine Street and is no-frills all the way. Just great pizza. The slices are giant, the tomato base is full of flavour, and oh so cheesy! NB. You’ll recognise it as the pizza joint that Spiderman works at in the Toby Maguire days! http://www.joespizzanyc.com
I’m now ridiculously hungry so I need to wrap this up. One top tip I’m going to give you is to take photos of the amazing meals you eat. I clearly was too busy enjoying them and subsequently didn’t have many actual food photos to add to this post. Bon Appetit!