The best meal that I've ever eaten was at La Tour d'Argent in Paris. The food stunned me and the wine was like the nectar of the gods. I've had so many bad meals it's hard to say which was the worst - perhaps a hamburger I once ate in a railway station.
I've had some of the best meals in the world in little truck driver's cafes in India, where food is so fresh and prepared just so simply that it is wonderful.
I like the purity, the quality, and the honesty that food can have. And it may sound weird, but I feel that food needs to be prepared with love. You really do pick up the energy that it takes on during preparation. I am currently writing a book that examines this in terms of quantum physics. All materials carry energies and memories, and I'm glad that this is now recognised and can be measured. I think this aspect should be appreciated alongside the nutritional value of the food.
My home is in Pembrokeshire, but our local places are pretty abysmal. I also have a home in Primrose Hill, and there's this amazing place there called The Engineer (65 Gloucester Ave, NW1, 0171 722 0950) which is actually a pub which serves organic food.
My favourite London restaurant is Grand Paradiso (0171 828 5818) at 52 Wilton Road, Victoria where I've been going for 25 years. It doesn't have a set clientele - I used to see Mrs Thatcher there before she became PM. The owner, Sandro, does the best salad in London - and he started making it at my request! It is made from the freshest things in the world and will always include something like wild rocket that he's grown in his own garden, or wild mushrooms that he's hunted for himself. I'm uncomfortable in places with over-inflated prices, because the people that run them know the whole thing is fraudulent and it affects their spirit and you pick that up. Sandro practices the preparation of food with love and respect, and I don't mean anything solemn - food as a celebration, which is what I think it should be.
I GENERALLY EAT OUT for prosaic reasons - nothing in the house, unexpected guests and so forth. But I value the total eating-out experience: a comfortable atmosphere, a warm welcome and quality of conversation. In food terms, I prefer the more democratic flavours of classic cooking to supermodern cuisine, chokabloc with whatever trendy flavour is in at the time.
Ballymaloe House in Shanagarry, County Cork (00 35 321 652531) fulfils alLane, 0171 409 1290) is excellent. He has a reputation for being fierce to guests he doesn't like, especially those who add salt to food, but he is a charming man and his food totally deserves its three Michelin stars.
! Hilary Rubinstein is the author of The Good Hotel GuideReuse content