50 Ultimate Food Moments

Tommy Lee enjoyed it in a curry house. Clarissa Dickson Wright had hers on a farm in Berkshire and The Prince of Wales discovered his as a child. These are just three of the leading stars, culinary luminaries and, er, royals who reveal here the greatest food experiences of their lives
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Jamie Oliver chef

"I was in Japan promoting one of my books and feeling totally jet-lagged. It was 4am and I found this sushi bar. It was just amazing to be eating such great sushi and drinking beer at that sort of time, as it's not the sort of thing you can find in the UK."

Al Murray comedian and former 'Hell's Kitchen' contestant

"Right now, it has to be my own stab at bread and butter pudding - just the normal recipe - which beat Gordon Ramsay's bread and butter pudding in a blind tasting on his television programme. He used French bread, triple-yolk custard with Baileys and cranberries in it, and he lost. It was absolutely hilarious."

Allegra Hicks interior designer

"My most blissful food experience was on a recent break to the Amanwella hotel in Sri Lanka. My husband and I ate a leisurely breakfast overlooking the Indian Ocean, enjoying the sound of the waves on the beach. Breakfast comprised tropical fruit freshly picked from the trees accompanied with the pomegranate juice squeezed moments before reaching the table."

The Prince of Wales farmer

"As a child, mutton was one of my favourite dishes. A few years ago, I realised, whilst talking to upland sheep farmers about the poor prices they were receiving for their older ewes, that it has all but disappeared over the past 30 or 40 years. I thought it would be wonderful if we could help boost the incomes of our hill farmers, and reintroduce people to this delicious and versatile meat, by encouraging a mutton renaissance. Since I launched the Mutton Renaissance Campaign last year, I have been overwhelmed by support from a galaxy of culinary stars who all share my belief in the quality of mutton as a dish."

Chris Wood founder of the Top Table website

"Eating a plate of fresh crayfish, blue soft-shell crab and conch fritters at Monte's Restaurant and Fish Market in the Florida Keys. No frills - just out of the sea, on to the griddle and out on to your table. It was real spit-and-sawdust American style."

Giorgio Locatelli chef

"I will always remember tasting truffle for the first time. This big plate of risotto came to the table and my grandfather sliced the truffle on top and everyone took a little bit. It tasted of the ground and of the woods - a rich, complex, sexual flavour."

Remi Krug Champagne magnate

"For me it was all about a glass of wine. At 1pm I was poured a half glass of this wine at a restaurant south of Lyon, it was part of meal where we were tasting 15 different wines. At the end of the meal, at 6pm, I had to catch the TGV train to Paris for dinner, but I was still sipping at this original wine, so I asked permission to bring it with me. I put a sheet of paper over it and in the TGV I was continuously sipping - people were just looking at me oddly in the carriage, as I drank this glass of golden liquid. I finally finished my glass as the TGV entered Paris at 8pm, so it had taken me seven hours to drink, with every sip driving me to the next level - it just had this endless dimension of discovery which, of course, Krug is also all about. It was a Batard Montrachat, 1978 vintage from a fantastic producer called Amonet."

Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall chef and food writer

"A good haul of fat September mackerel off the Dorset coast. First, eaten raw on the boat with hot English mustard and soy sauce. Then barbecued on the beach with driftwood and bay leaves. And the remainder were dill-cured for the coming week."

Graydon Carter editor 'Vanity Fair' magazine

"I was at a friend's house in the country. By midnight everyone else had gone to bed, and he and I were getting kind of peckish. We found some venison in his fridge, chopped it up in half-inch chunks, seared it in a pan with olive oil and salt, and washed it down with a serious Burgundy. That was 20 years ago, and I can taste that venison like it was yesterday."

Clarissa Dickson Wright television presenter

"Guernsey milk straight from the cow is what I shall have for breakfast the day they hang me! The best I've ever had was from a farm in Berkshire called Prosperous. It had a depth, creaminess and a flavour that is quite unlike anything I'd ever tasted."

Marcus Wareing restaurateur

"When I was about 11 or 12 years old, I cooked a traditional English breakfast for my parents one morning. It's one of my first memories of cooking something at home, but I think it was pretty good and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I made bacon, fried bread, fried tomatoes, mushrooms and fried eggs. They were over the moon and loved it, although I hadn't told them I was going to do it, so when I woke them up my mum's first reaction was, "Oh my God, you've been at the stove." The kitchen was a disaster area.

Harry Becher party organiser for concierge service Quintessentially

"In a Spanish village called Cazalla de la Sierra there's a bar called Los Mellis with strip lighting, a lot of mess, white plastic chairs, paper napkins - but out of nowhere they bring you the most unbelievable tapas - particularly their calamari, and pan-fried mini lamb cutlets. It's not glamorous, but it's just incredible."

Dan Lepard photographer -cum-baker

"In the 1980s I was sent by a magazine to photograph the famous Italian film director Federico Fellini on set. We'd been shooting all day, and he invited me to join him and the crew for a simple ragout with bread and wine. It was a great meal, and at that point I really began to understand what Italian food is all about."

Enzo Scalzo director of Patisserie Valerie, London

"Every year I spend two glorious days tasting ice-cream in Rimini, Italy. I come away so inspired by the delicious and unusual flavours - not to mention the creative spectacle that greets my eyes. My appetite has been whetted and I arrive home excited and ready to recreate homemade Italian ice-cream in my own gelaterias."

Tom Hodgkinson editor 'The Idler' magazine

I think he best meals are the ones that I pick for free. Near where we live in Devon there's a field where parasol mushrooms grow, which we pick and deep fry in batter. We also pick sorrel and nettles for risotto. There's no shopping involved, no cost and therefore no wage slavery. The procurement of food becomes a pleasure. Perfect."

Richard Reed co-founder of Innocent drinks

"My most memorable food experience was on a houseboat in the backwaters of Kerala in India. We'd stop for the chef to find fresh ingredients: eggs, fresh vegetables and rice from local farmers. He would then prepare the most incredible meals for us."

Skye Gyngell chef

"I was 17 and a friend of my parents took me out for supper in a restaurant, just outside of Florence. For dessert a bowl of the most perfectly ripe peaches came to the table. The memory of eating that one, perfect peach will always stay with me."

Jonathan Downey owner of the Match bar group

"A homemade bacon and egg sandwich - rind off the bacon, over-easy egg, thick-cut white bread and a cup of black tea. It's the ultimate reward for a hard morning's manual labour or a cure for a late-morning hangover. I think it's the only thing I've ever eaten that tastes better because I made it myself."

Vivek Singh executive chef at The Cinnamon Club

"A memory that stands out for me is going to a Bengali wedding as a child and eating cakes of spiced mutton, covered in breadcrumbs and served with a tangy mustard. The food usually tasted much better at weddings that I wasn't invited to."

Lady Carole Bamford owner of Daylesford organic foods

"I was at the most amazing market in Catania, Sicily. I was handed a slice of glorious Sicilian lemon with a scattering of coarse sea salt. I savoured the delights of skin, pith and fruit on the street corner of the Duomo - something so simple and yet so memorable."

Richard Ehrlich drinks writer

"My first taste of escargots à la bourguignonne, at a French bistro in Manhattan called Les Pyrénées. I was nine years old. This was my birthday present. That sizzling platter of snails hooked me on bourgeois French cooking; I'm still hooked."

Alan Yau restaurateur and owner of - among others - Hakkasan and Busaba Eathai

"I had the best tempura soba noodles I've ever eaten at a hole-in-the-wall place in Tokyo about four weeks ago. Tempura is extremely hard to get right, but these had the most perfect colour, aroma and crispiness - I could eat that every day."

Tania Bryer television presenter

"My father is South African so I spent a lot of time there when I was younger. I grew up always dreaming about having malva pudding - an apricot and toffee sponge that my aunt Zetta always cooked for me. The smell from the kitchen was utter bliss."

Danny Wallace comedian

"I have a friend called Stefan who constantly tries to introduce me to eating odd things like herring sperm, or elk. I prefer my food to be normal, but last time I visited him I thoroughly enjoyed some donkey sausage. The only other things on offer that evening were testicular, so I can only hope that this wasn't a theme night, and that the donkey meat came from somewhere a little higher up."

Nick Selby and Ian James owners of Melrose and Morgan delicatessen

Selby: "My top experience would have to be my mother's Sunday roast: rib of beef and Yorkshire pudding, roast potatoes cooked in beef dripping and carrots."

James: "Arriving home from school to the smell of cakes freshly out of the oven. One particular favourite was the Barra Brith, a tea loaf from my Welsh mother. Tea-soaked, juicy, plump fruit, candied peel, baked into a moist, spiced golden crumb, and each slice smeared with butter."

Dylan Jones editor of 'GQ' magazine

"My best dining experience this year has been in Stuzzico, my local Italian in London's Marble Arch. They serve the best pasta this side of The River Café. It's so rare to find a good local restaurant that serves food as good as the big boys, but this is it."

Tara Calcraft founder of the Tea Palace

"It is the memory of eating hot, toasted crumpets, oozing with butter and honeycomb at my grandmother's house as a child. It was freezing cold outside, there was a log fire burning and you could hear the wind whistling down the chimney."

Terry Durack restaurant critic

"I was in Darwin in Australia, sitting on Mindel Beach, with an icy-cold stubby of beer in one hand and a bowl of tongue-tinglingly spicy Thai green papaya salad in the other, watching the biggest, roundest, reddest sun sink slowly into the Timor Sea. It was the most Australian that I have ever felt."

Christine Hayes editor of 'Olive' magazine

"I'd been invited to try chef Haru Inukai's food at Galileo, the restaurant at The Observatory Hotel in Sydney. The first course was so beautiful that I wanted to frame it. It was a square plate divided into four with the following in each corner: foie gras eaten with a tiny spoon from an eggshell; scampi in a clear gazpacho; one perfect oyster; and a slither of gravadlax. Snapper followed, then steak - both exquisite. Finally, a glass of tiny, jellied strawberries with a slick of mascarpone. The strangest thing about it was how mood-enhancing the food was - walking into the city afterwards I felt totally elated."

Tom Parker Bowles food writer

"There's a place in Nashville that's called Prince's Hot Chicken Shack. It's in a fairly insalubrious part of town, but it serves fried chicken that is just incredible. Words don't do it justice - it's a perfect contrast of crisp batter and succulent chicken - and the extra-hot version is incendiary."

Caroline Waldergrave managing director of Leiths School of Food and Wine

"Delicious food can only be truly delicious if it's a shared experience, and for me that's with my family. I've been with them to Nobu in London twice so far and the service was out of this world. Both times I had the black cod with miso - it had a subtle flavour and a texture that was amazingly tender - like nothing I've ever tasted."

Tom Aikens chef

"I was about 14 years old or so, driving back from a ski trip in France with my mother and father, and we booked into this hotel just south of Bordeaux. It had a two-star Michelin restaurant but at that age I was still a bit fussy, so I just asked for a salad to start with, followed by a steak and chips. It was a tomato salad - vine-ripened tomatoes, a simple olive oil dressing, finely chopped shallots and mixed herbs - very simple, but delicious. The beef fillet had been cooked in duck fat and tasted fantastic - it was like slicing through butter. It was my first proper, grown-up meal and it was just amazing."

Morgan Spurlock documentary maker whose films include 'Super Size Me'

"Biting into a sea urchin at a sushi place in Tsujiki Market, Tokyo, because it felt like the ocean exploding in my mouth. I was eating this amazing sushi at six in the morning in the middle of this crazy market and I thought, 'This is the way I should start every morning.'"

Mourad Mazouz restaurateur

"Many moons ago, I was in charge of food on a beautiful sailing boat that cruised around the south coast of Bali. We went out one day and we got very lucky and caught a load of fish. We had a grill on the boat, so we gutted the fish, ate some of them raw and we put the rest on the grill. It was the freshest tasting fish that I've ever had and it's something I'll never forget for as long as I will live."

Raymond Blanc chef

"The Maldives sets the benchmark for romance, love and escapism. I bought freshly caught fish and lobster, and enjoyed it accompanied by Dom Pérignon 1990 with my love, on a golden stretch of secluded beach."

Alison Nelson owner of the Chocolate Bar, New York

"I have an addiction to chocolate banana-bread pudding. It's made and served at this pub, The Half King, in Chelsea on the West Side of Manhattan. I love their Guinness there too - they go well together. The first time I ordered the dessert I was so in love with it that I asked to meet the chef to thank him. He thinly slices the bananas and then it's layered with homemade white bread and a hot, bitter-sweet chocolate sauce."

Tommy Lee musician

"We went to St Martin's Spice in Covent Garden - it was great. They closed the place down for us and did a really spicy chicken vindaloo."

Alex Best model

"The Auberge du Lac restaurant on the stunning Brocket Hall estate in Hertfordshire has a brilliant new English chef, Phil Thompson, and he does amazing British beef with oxtail, smoked bacon and wild-mushroom lasagne, which is the most memorable and delicious meal that I have ever eaten."

Monika Linton owner of Brindisa

"I was on holiday in Spain with some friends in 1991 in the Sierra de Gredos, seeing our bean supplier, and we decided to visit the curing rooms of Joselito Iberian ham, owned by two brothers, Jose and Juan Luis, near Salamanca. Visiting the bodegas of the curing house was overwhelming. All I could see was corridor after corridor of hams hanging in the silence of the cool underground cellar. And there was this fantastic aroma from the sweet, nutty fat which slowly infiltrates the silky meat. And the flavour was unforgettable."

Andy McNab author of 'Bravo Two Zero' and 'Aggressor'

"It was only about two days ago, at a Gaucho Grill in Manchester. They're doing the world's biggest lumps of meat. The guy turned up with all the different cuts on the platter and explained it all. Really, really good meat."

Claudio Pulze restaurateur

"I had the most amazing 34 courses I have ever tasted at Ferran Adria's restaurant El Bulli, outside Barcelona. We ate lasagne of tripe, cockle in sea water and algae jelly and ravioli with squid. The experience was like the first time that my father took me to the opera - I didn't expect to enjoy it, but when I walked out I was totally gob-smacked."

Geraldine Leventis owner of Raoul's Cafés and Deli

"I will never forget the flavours, rich golden yellow colour and texture of the most delicious scrambled eggs in the world, served on wafer-thin toast with handmade butter at Hotel Bernini Palace, Tuscany. "

Jo Elvin editor of 'Glamour' magazine

"There is a great café called the Lamrock on Bondi Beach in Sydney. The doors open on to the beach, and it used to be a real glitterati spot. Like all Aussies, I love seafood, and I particularly liked calamari - until one day, in about 1992, when a piece went down the wrong way and I almost choked to death, sitting opposite Natalie Imbruglia who was convulsed with laughter. I've avoided calamari since, but everyone loves the Lamrock."

Giles Coren food writer

"There's a chef called Tom Ilic who told me that English roosters have particularly large testicles, and invited me to try some. A plate arrived with vol-au-vent filled with various sweetbreads, and sitting on the top were three bollocks on a skewer. Delicious."

Bill Granger chef and owner of 'Bills', Sydney, Australia

"It was eating a bucket of prawns, fresh brown bread and butter and mayonnaise over the water, just south of Sydney. Our car had just broken down, so it was that combination of the unexpected, pure simplicity and sitting outdoors on a perfect day."

Jeffrey Steingarten food writer

"Ever since that snowy night in Alberetto delle Torre when Cesare Giaccone roasted a shoulder of kid on a spit over a smouldering acacia fire, I have been striving to recreate his magical fireplace in my apartment in New York. I believe that I am only six months short of success."

Keith Floyd television chef and writer

"I will never forget eating in George Perry-Smith's famed Hole in the Wall restaurant in Bath in 1959. His laden table of hors d'oeuvres, followed by a plump partridge, simmered in white wine with cabbage and juniper berries, propelled me into a hedonistic life of food and travel."

Sue MacGregor broadcaster and presenter of Radio 4's 'A Good Read'

"It was Christmas lunch in South Africa in the late 1960s, the last one I would spend with my parents. We dangled our feet in the Palmiet River and ate cold turkey salad and Christmas pudding fried in butter. It was absolutely the best Christmas meal."

Tom Avery explorer

"During our world-record North Pole trek in 2005, we lived off ever-depleting rations. Matters became worse when the dogs ate much of our supplies. When we arrived at the Pole there was just enough left for a celebratory bowl of spaghetti Bolognese. Food never tasted so good."

Paul Gambaccini broadcaster

"The Oxford and Cambridge Club on the day of the wedding of Charles and Diana. I sat on my own eating a lunch of vichysoisse, lobster and raspberries with cream, then walked out to get a prime view of the procession. I apologise to those who had queued for days and acknowledge the damage this does to my street cred."

Compiled by Simon Beckett, Sarah Harris, Adam Jacques, and Rhodri Morgan. With thanks to Ways With Words ( www.wayswithwords.co.uk) and Action on Addiction ( www.aona.co.uk). Tania Bryer supports the Angels Against Addiction campaign ( www.aona.co.uk)

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