Sasha Wilkins eating wagamama ramen in Camden

This is a Sponsored Post in association with OpenTable

It’s no secret that I love food and  I love travel. It couldn’t have been any other way in my family: my parents are the people who drove all the way to Valencia in Spain from London in a open top sports car for their honeymoon in the late 60s, at a time when this was not a normal thing to do. The tiny colour photo that I still have of my mother in her early twenties, somewhere in the Pyrenees, sinking her teeth into a huge baguette at the side of the road sums up my family’s philosophy. Will travel for food.

One of my earliest food memories is from one of the annual trips we took as a family in the 1980s, all the way down through France, again to Spain. We stopped for the night in a small town somewhere in La France Profonde and ordered supper. I must have been about eight years old but that meal is indelible in my mind: melon to start, steak – medium rare, of course, to follow, mousse au chocolat and a tiny pyramid of chevre.

Everything about it was perfect and made even more so by the elderly waiters, the whitewashed dining room, the grown-ups eating around us who pinched our cheeks and took it as normale that little children would be staying up to eat supper with their parents.  I remember nothing else from the trip (apart from walking smack into a glass door – clumsy child, clumsy adult).

And when I look back at all my childhood holidays the food is the constant peg on which the memories hang: the enormous flat pans of paella for Sunday lunch the beach restaurants at Nerja in Spain where my grandparents lived, the special cut of pork steak we’d buy from the Spanish butchers to barbecue outside, the trays of peaches from French markets when we were camping, the first time I let a langue du chat biscuit melt on my tongue, whilst sitting under a pine tree in a Vendee campsite. The chip kebabs my sister and I would make at lunch at tavernas on Corfu before being allowed to choose an ice cream from the cabinet for pudding. My mother asking my father to stop the car on a Spanish hill so she could pick oozy figs from a tree at the roadside, and the sharp scent of the rosemary she would pick to roast chickens for supper in our villa.

Now that I am the grown up I’ve made a whole new set of travel memories, most of which have food at their heart. I think nothing of detouring for miles to visit a restaurant on a road trip, or visiting a city just because I want to try a speciality. I am the person who sits at the back of conferences abroad working out whether I have time to run out to eat my lunch in that place around the corner that someone recommended to me. (In Singapore at Asia Fashion Conference a few years ago a speaker mentioned the dumplings at Din Tai Fung and I was in their nearest branch an hour later ordering them.)

The restaurant at The Nare Hotel cornwall

I can’t even begin to think of a trip anywhere – within Great Britain or in foreign, where what I am going to eat doesn’t take centre stage in my planning. I want to know what to eat and where to eat it.

I scout for recommendations on LLG – in fact, I did so only last week for my upcoming trip to Northern California, on Twitter, from my friends, from friends of friends, from the internets – I use OpenTable to research places not just make reservations, because I know they’ll give me a great overview of the places people are talking about at any given moment and it’s super helpful to be able to check menus too.  And then I make reservations before I land for, if I can’t eat at my planned spot on a trip, the sadness is great.

Fly to Dine

And it turns out that I am not alone. OpenTable, now the world’s leading online restaurant booking
platform, have conducted research that shows that almost a third (31%) of the UK factors dining out options into their choice of holiday destination, that cuisine is one of the most important factors when booking a trip, more important than nightlife and outdoor activities, and that 55% professed to having flown for food within the last 5 years.

(This thrills my soul – these are clearly my people, I am clearly British.)

I was fascinated to discover that France is the nation’s favourite country to travel to for food (52%), whilst the favourite food city is Florence with over half (7 out of 13) of the UK regions surveyed naming this as their dream destination for dinner.

25 Fly to Try Dishes

So for all those people who travel to eat – like me, and using their insider chops, OpenTable have put together a list of their 25 Fly to Try Dishes around the world. Although I thought I was well-travelled, I have only visited Nahm in Bangkok (SO GOOD), and the three London places from the list, so I’ve clearly got a whole lot of food travelling ahead…that pizza in Chicago definitely has my name on it, and so does that lasagne in Los Angeles…

Fortnum & Mason afternoon tea in the Diamond Jubilee Salon
Fortnum & Mason afternoon tea in the Diamond Jubilee Salon

Global Dining Passport

Handily for me and for you, OpenTable has functionality that enables diners to search, discover and make reservations at restaurants across the globe, in their local language. Think of it as a ‘Global Dining Passport’ to help the global traveller become a global diner. It really is incredibly useful – the global booking functionality gives access to over 38,000 restaurants across more than 20 countries. I’ve used it myself in Singapore and in Hong Kong, and it just makes life so much simpler – and delicious.

Do check out www.opentable.com

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4 comments

Reply

I am saving the list! This is gold value! Best places and best foods!

Reply

I’m very dubious about this list – Red Spice Road’s pork belly? Seriously? I wouldn’t walk a block to go to Red Spice Road for anything, let alone fly across the world for it. Sugary, bland, extremely average faux Asian food. Melbourne has much better to offer than that.

Reply

Your advice on boutique hotels in Paris helped me create a wonderful holiday for my mother and I, a couple of years back. So grateful! This list is in valuable, as you are Sasha. Thank you.

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What a great marketing idea! I went to grade- and high school with the Sober girls in Greensburg PA, one of which is now the CEO of OpenTable (Christa Sober Quarles). Food tourism is a great way to really get to know another culture. Thanks to you and OpenTable for encouraging this kind of travel.!

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