London hasn't always been renowned for its cuisine, but it certainly offers the most eclectic and varied menus in the world. Is it the best? I think Paris or Rome would dispute this. But it is the most exciting and creative city at the moment. British chefs in London are now among the best in the world.
My personal favourites include Le Gavroche in Mayfair. This institution is now in the hands of the son, Michel Roux Jnr, who is doing his father proud bringing modernity and excitement to the cuisine. The Japanese fare at Zuma in Knightsbridge is hard to fault; it comes up trumps every time. Zaika, on Kensington High Street, does unbeatable Indian fare, and The Cinnamon Club in Westminster serves Indian haute cuisine in a stunning setting. I also like Hakkasan, behind Tottenham Court Road, a quintessential modern Chinese that is still leading the way, and The Square in Mayfair, which serves two Michelin-starred new British fare.
And that's just a sample of what I think is the best of the eating-out scene in London: it reflects the breadth of choice and cuisine now on offer in the English capital.
When I first came to Britain 35 years ago, there was no food culture. If anything, food was dividing people rather than uniting them, creating social strata, reinforced by strong etiquette and heavy protocol. So it was refreshing to go over to Ireland and discover Dublin, a city where the people didn't seem to care about your social status. Dublin was full of life, with wonderful bars and brasseries and a great supply of good music and beer. The Irish really embraced me and I discovered a culture just about to come into its own.
All my experiences there impact on my memory of the place – whether it be cooking kippers for breakfast on a beach barbecue, breathing in the atmosphere of a traditional old pub to the lively beat of Irish music, or the many times I fell out of the nightclub Lilies Bordello in the early hours of the morning to feast on breakfast in Suffolk Street at what was then Mr Pussy's Café de Luxe and is now Nude. As ever, in a good city, you need to find a good French restaurant. Les Frères Jacques in Dame Street became my haunt and is still one of my favourites.
Dublin has firmly established itself as a gastro-town. You can find excellent fresh produce right in the heart of the city, in the open-air food markets such as Temple, and you will find the highest level of cooking. Some of the finest restaurants in the city can be found in its top-end hotels. Halo Restaurant at the Morrison, on Ormond Quay, has great views across the river. This stylish hotel has a very relaxing atmosphere and is where chef Richie Wilson serves up modern international cuisine.
Bono's hotel, the Clarence, on Wellington Quay, houses the Tea Room where chef Mathieu Melin uses seasonal local ingredients and creates inventive Irish dishes with a European twist. And I particularly like Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud at the Merrion Hotel, on Upper Merrion Street, which has two Michelin stars, and the Citron café at the Fitzwilliam Hotel on St Stephens Green. Dublin is a gastronomic paradise.
Paris has always raised the bar in gastronomy. It has the most Michelin stars per capita of any city and its architecture provides an unequalled backdrop for the finest dining experiences.
Having said that, while Paris is full of culinary talent it has unfortunately lost some of its inspiration and creativity. This is no fault or weakness in the chefs; sadly it is politics that has undermined restaurants and the eating-out scene. The 35-hour week has crippled the industry and means that many great restaurants are fighting for survival, rather than for creativity.
But it is not all doom and gloom. I have many Parisian favourites, but my top four are Joël Robuchon's two restaurants, La Table de Joël Robuchon, on avenue Bugeaud, and L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon, on rue de Montalembert, a concept which I am so pleased to see now working so successfully in London.
L'Ami Louis, on rue du Vertbois, is a fantastic restaurant that defies its unchic and unfashionable location far from the hip part of the Marais. And Le Boeuf sur le Toit, on rue du Colisée, is a wonderful city institution that goes from strength to strength.
Senderens, on Place de la Madeleine, is run by chef Alain Senderens. He used to run the same place when it was called Lucas Carton with its three Michelin stars. But he gave all that up last year and reopened the same place with a makeover and his name above the door and now already has two Michelin stars.
At Pierre Gagnaire, the eponymous restaurant, on rue Balzac, Gagnaire has a winning way with textures and flavours that is hard to find anywhere else. He has restaurants in many world capitals but his French base is simply one of the best.
Paris has always been an exciting place to eat and still is, but it is about to rediscover its pace and its performance – just watch.
Rome's architectural and historical treasures are mind blowing. Wherever you are, you will find an incredible statue, another charming little church filled with priceless works of art, or a great edifice, such as the Colosseum. But the best experience is just discovering the city by walking the streets, learning what goes on in the heart of the city for the Romans themselves.
Like all great cities, you will find a breadth of choice in restaurant terms – gastronomic, business, trendy – but I still always seem to head for the traditional trattorias, which never disappoint and always surprise with the consistency of food offer, even if the service can vary. As a result, I don't normally eat in great restaurants when I am in Rome. I associate Italian food more with what you find on a local street.
Having said that, you will always be well looked after at La Rosetta, a true fish and shellfish experience on via della Rosetta, near the Pantheon. I still remember the delightful taste of a strozzapreti con calamaretti (pasta with baby squid) that I ate there. I proposed to Natalia on the Spanish Steps and afterwards we went to Palatium, nearby on via Frattina, which celebrates food from the region of Lazio with a feast of traditional regional recipes.
I really admire the way chef Heinz Beck shapes the menu according to seasonal produce and personal inspiration at La Pergola at the Cavalieri Hilton on via Alberto Cadlolo. This roof-garden restaurant has three Michelin stars and is definitely among Italy's top 20.
Another wonderful place is Il Pagliaccio – which means the Weeping Clown. It's elegant and formal but with warm and casual service. It's on via dei Banchi Vecchi, near the Tiber. It's charmingly characteristic of the less touristy parts of Rome. All the food is fresh and flavoursome with an accent on fish and dishes from the Mediterranean.
I also love L'Altro Mastai on via Giraud near Piazza Navona, which is fabulously chic and trendy and has a Michelin star. The head chef, Fabio Baldassarre, is a wonderful character – full of energy and ideas. He is really one to watch – his cuisine is beautifully sourced and echoes ripe and round Mediterranean flavours with exquisite attention to detail of seasonally changing dishes.
Le Gavroche (020-7408 0881; le-gavroche.co.uk);
Zuma (020-7584 1010; zumarestaurant.com);
Zaika (020-7795 6533;
The Cinnamon Club
Hakkasan (0871 223 8002);
The Square (020-7495 7100; squarerestaurant.com)
Nude (00 353 1 677 4804);
Les Frères Jacques (00 353 1 679 4555; lesfreresjacques.com);
Halo Restaurant (00 353 1 887 2400; morrisonhotel.ie);
Tea Room (00 353 1 407 0800; theclarence.ie);
Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud (00 353 1 676 4192;
Citron Café (00 353 1 478 7000; fitzwilliam.com)
La Table de Joël Robuchon
(00 33 1 5628 1616;
L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon
(00 33 1 4222 5153; as above);
L'Ami Louis (00 33 1 48 87 77 48);
Le Boeuf sur le Toit (00 33 1 5393 6555; boeufsurletoit.com); Senderens (00 33 1 4265 2290; senderens.fr);
Pierre Gagnaire (00 33 1 5836 1250; pierre-gagnaire.com)
La Rosetta (00 39 06 686 1002; larosetta.com);
Palatium (00 39 06 6920 2132); La Pergola
(00 39 06 3509 2152;
(00 39 06 6880 9595;
(00 39 06 6830 1296;
Further cooking Raymond Blanc will be giving cookery demonstrations in January at Soneva Fushi and Soneva Gili in the Maldives. Book through cazenove + loyd (020-7384 2332; cazloyd.com)Reuse content