Where to eat like a top chef
Momofuku's David Chang eating at Great NY Noodletown, New York. Photo: Gabriele Stabile
The Fat Duck, Bray, England
Heston Blumenthal enjoys a comforting breakfast at The Wolseley.
Blumenthal opened The Fat Duck, famed for its cutting-edge cooking, in Berkshire in 1995. He also owns The Hinds Head, The Crown and Dinner.
Maliks Tandoori, London
Noma's Rene Redzepi favours smorrebrod at Schonnemann in Copenhagen.
+44 162 852 0085, maliks.co.uk
''I think it's the best Indian restaurant in the country - they win award after award. I don't even order, I just let them send out stuff and try a bit of everything, it's always brilliant.''
Worth the travel
One of Sang Kee Congee shop's offerings.
Restaurant Sat Bains, Nottingham
+44 115 986 6566, restaurantsatbains.com
One of Britain's most gastronomically adventurous restaurants is unconventionally set on the industrial outskirts of Nottingham. A modern take on the old-fashioned concept of the husband-and-wife restaurant with rooms, Sat and Amanda Bains' urban oasis is in a collection of renovated Victorian farm buildings that pre-date the panorama of pylons. Book a night in one of the eight rooms plus dinner at either the chef's or the kitchen table to get closer to the cutting-edge but playful cooking.
Extracted from Where Chefs Eat, published by Phaidon, rrp $24.95.
The Wolseley, London
+44 207 499 6996 thewolseley.com
Such is its popularity as a breakfast venue, many of its loyal regulars never go to The Wolseley for lunch or dinner, although it's usually full for both. The morning menu is packed with comfort: crumpets, Cumberland sausage sandwiches, crispy bacon rolls, eggs benedict, fried haggis with duck eggs, omelet Arnold Bennett, and a fine selection of Viennese pastries, to name but a fraction of what's offered. Once the Piccadilly showroom for the old marque it's named after, it's now a grand cafe in the European style.
elBulli Foundation, Girona, Spain
From 1984 to 2011, Adria changed the course of haute cuisine with elBulli. He plans to continue that work with his foundation.
Rias De Galicia, Barcelona
+34 933 300 303, riasdegalicia.com
''A formidable seafood restaurant.''
The late '80s-early '90s time warp of a dining room aside, it's hard to fault anything else bar the steepness of the bill at this Galician seafood specialist, although, these days, that's the price of fish this rare. Aside from the vintage Joselito ham with which you can start your meal and the large range of cheeses with which you can finish, the only land food offered is simply prepared suckling pig, kid and veal.
Bar Pinotxo, Boqueria Market, Barcelona.
Baco Mercat, Los Angeles
Former executive chef of LA's Lazy Ox Canteen, Centeno is now owner of the popular flatbread sandwich outlet Baco Mercat.
Cactus Tacos, Los Angeles
+1 323 464 5865, cactustacos.com
''They're always open and the tacos are always reliably good.''
Gjelina, Los Angeles
+1 310 450 1429, gjelina.com
''The seasonality of everything is amazing, and the selection of farmers' market produce reflects Southern California's food scene.''
Gjelina is the hip Venice hangout that caused a stir by turning down a pregnant Victoria Beckham's special request. Gjelina's Cali-Med salads, sexy brunches and wood-fired oven pizzas are just right as they are, thank you very much. When it opened in 2008, it was the dream neighbourhood joint. Now that word has got out about its guanciale and green-olive pizza, braised artichokes with burrata, and butterscotch pot de creme, there are almost more out-of-towners than there are local artists and surfers. Tables in the backyard have the edge - just - over the industrial chic interior. Reservations are like gold dust, but there's always GTA (Gjelina Take Away) next door.
Wish I'd opened
L'Ami Jean, Paris, +33 147 058 689, lamijean.fr
''It's an inspirational restaurant for me, not only because of Stephane Jego's food but the elbow-to-elbow energy of the place, and everyone enjoying every minute of it.''
Jego's pedigree (Christian Constant at the Crillon and Cambdeborde at La Regalade) and talent make it tough to get a place at L'Ami Jean's famous farm table. Renowned for his roasts and braises, some of his meat dishes - such as the Kobe Cote de boeuf or half-raw quail with head and beak intact - border on downright filthy. The decor is bistro-punk, layering weird brown junk in a room lit like a dentist's surgery. But the clients' eyes are on their plates, and although prices are soaring, you get the feeling they would gladly pay twice as much for another shot at Jego's mythical rice pudding.
Amber, The Landmark, Hong Kong Island
This Gagnaire, Passard and Savoy-trained Dutchman is culinary director at Hong Kong's Landmark Mandarin Oriental.
Worth the travel
The Chairman, Hong Kong, +852 25 55 2202, thechairmangroup.com
''Represents the good old days of Cantonese cooking, when everything was made with fresh and honest ingredients.''
The Chairman sits in the newly fashionable section of the city that Hong Kong's estate agents have decided to dub Noho, as in north of Hollywood Road. Steering away from the traditional and increasingly controversial Cantonese culinary bling that is shark's fin (endangered) and abalone (unsustainable), this restaurant has still managed to set out its stall as a destination for quality modern Cantonese cooking. From the free-range chicken raised in the New Territories to the steamed flower crab with chicken oil and Chinese rice wine, the emphasis at The Chairman is on the quality of the ingredients, keeping things light, and presenting them well and simply.
Dimdim Sum Dimsum, Hong Kong, Mah Wah Building, 21-23 Man Ying Street, Jordan, Kowloon, +852 27 71 7766
''The mirrored walls let you see what the locals are ordering. You'd be really pushed to spend more than $HK100 ($12) a person here.''
This unremarkable-looking little dim sum shop in Kowloon has found fame since winning an award for Hong Kong's best dim sum - no mean feat in a city that's drowning in top-drawer dumpling dispensaries. The menu mixes classics with more unusual house specialities. Go beyond siu mai and har gow for pan-fried tofu skin with chicken and cumin, fried nine dishes and pig's blood with XO sauce, and steamed tripe with black pepper sauce. For those with a sweet tooth, a special mention goes to the pineapple buns - made with chunks of fresh fruit - and sesame seed balls.
Man Wah, Mandarin Oriental Hotel (pictured below), Hong Kong, +852 28 25 4003, mandarinoriental.com/hongkong
''This is Hong Kong's signature Cantonese restaurant and often referred to as Hong Kong's most beautiful dining space due to its imperial splendour and panoramic views of Victoria Harbour and the cityscape. The menu by chef Man-Sing Lee contains local favourites alongside seasonal specialities with touches of modern flair and some of the best Peking duck in town. They also have excellent steamed seafood dishes, and I truly enjoy their great hot and sour seafood soup.''
Sang Kee Congee Shop, Hong Kong, 26 Hillier Street, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong Island, +852 25 41 1099
''In true Hong Kong style, if you want to go for a great authentic congee breakfast, here's where you'll find one of the very best.''
Run by the same family for more than 40 years, this specialist in Sheung Wan is worth seeking out for the viscous rice porridge the locals call breakfast. There's no sign in English so have the name written down in Chinese, and remember, you're here for the congee, not the interior design. The choice of ingredients changes according to the seasons, as does the consistency of the congee - the colder the weather, the thicker it gets.
Momofuku, New York, Sydney, Toronto
Since opening the Momofuku Noodle Bar in 2004, he now has five very different Manhattan outposts, plus restaurants in Sydney and Toronto.
Great NY Noodletown, New York, 28 Bowery, Chinatown, Manhattan, New York, greatnynoodletown.com
This Chinatown classic delivers on the far-from-empty promise of its name. It's true that service can be brisk - understandable, since it's open until 4am, making it a popular post-bar-crawl, small-hours spot for the well oiled and the weary. But the lengthy menu - which covers all the bases from congee to barbecue meats, via various poultry and seafood dishes, to a list of noodle soups - is good enough to warrant inspection in the cold and sober light of day. Particularly worthy of investigation is its soft-shell crab, in season from about May to October.
Locanda Verde, New York, +1 212 925 3797, locandaverdenyc.com
''I love the lemon and ricotta pancakes here.''
Attached to the Greenwich Hotel, a luxurious 88-room operation co-owned by Robert De Niro - Hollywood icon, restaurateur extraordinaire and patron saint of Tribeca's revival - this is an in-demand downtown breakfast destination. The kitchen is overseen by New York restaurant-scene legend Andrew Carmellini (also currently of The Dutch and formerly of A Voce and Cafe Boulud), whose morning menu includes ricotta with truffle honey and burnt orange toast, oatmeal with grappa-stewed fruit, and polenta waffles with spiced apples and marsala cream.
Torrisi Italian Specialties, New York, +1 212 965 0955, torrisinyc.com
''It's not just Italian-American food. It's definitely their food and their point of view.''
When this tiny 20-seater in NoLita opened in the summer of 2010, styled as an old-school Italian grocer, it operated as a sandwich shop during the day. Now that Rich Torrisi and Mario Carbone (chefs and equal partners in the operation, who liked the sound of ''Torrisi'' best) have Parm next door (and at Yankee Stadium) doing the retro Italian sandwich thing, Torrisi's open kitchen is given over to a daily changing seven-course set menu and elaborate 20-course tasting menus. The former takes the traditional Italian structure of antipasto, pasta, meat or fish, followed by delicious dessert.
wd~50, New York, +1 212 477 2900, wd-50.com
''Their eggs benedict is delicious and amazing. One of the best dishes in the city.''
Wylie Dufresne's wildly creative ''New American'' on the Lower East Side opened in 2003 with the backing of fellow chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, who didn't carve out his restaurant empire without recognising talent. Front of house they make things feel casual, with a room that's laid-back and modern, while keeping the service switched on and literate. It needs to be when you're explaining a menu that's about quirky combinations and playfully deconstructing American comfort-food classics - whether it's clam chowder, southern-fried chicken or a lox and cream-cheese bagel.
Worth the travel
Sushi Sawada, Tokyo, 5-9-19 Ginza Chou-ku, Tokyo, +81 335 714 711
''Sushi Sawada serves the best sushi in Tokyo. It's as old-school as it gets - there's nothing in the kitchen except charcoal and a box of rice. People argue about rice, it's serious. It's simply one of the best sushi restaurants in the world.''
Sushi master Koji Sawada's seven-seater Tokyo sushi-ya is hidden down a quiet Ginza alley, where its discreetly marked entrance is obvious only to those in the know. That hasn't stopped Sushi Sawada from becoming Tokyo's most talked-about sushi restaurant, thanks in part to the Michelin Guide anointing it with two stars and the ensuing breathless media coverage. The discreet panelled room is only for the deepest of pockets, but it's arguably the definitive raw-fish experience. Expect various types of sea urchin, otoro tuna ever so lightly grilled over charcoal, and miniature sushi masterpieces served directly on to the hinoki wood counter.
Noma, Copenhagen, Denmark
Redzepi is the Albanian-Dane behind Noma, opened in 2004, whose Nordic-sourced agenda changed haute cuisine in Scandinavia and beyond.
Local favourite Schonnemann, Copenhagen, +45 33 120 785, restaurantschonnemann.dk
Proudly serving traditional smorrebrod (open sandwiches) since 1877, its dark wooden interior with gingham-draped tables is an essential stop for any right- thinking food tourist on a visit to the Danish capital. The organic meat, poultry and dairy on the menu might be 21st century, but the sand on the floor is a reminder of the 19th century, when the place was warmed by charcoal burners and filled with farmers on their way back from delivering to the market. The sandwiches are huge, the aquavit (a favourite Danish spirit) list long. If in search of ''New Nordic'', go elsewhere - this is a taste of old Copenhagen.
This is an edited extract from Where Chefs Eat, published by Phaidon, rrp $24.95.