My life in travel: Heston Blumenthal
'New York has some amazing restaurants'
Saturday 18 December 2010
First holiday memory?
Going to Cornwall when I was a kid. We had to get up at about 3am and load into our old estate; I remember the buzz as it got lighter when morning dawned, and straining my neck to get my first glimpse of the sea.
At the moment it is skiing. I have three teenagers and it's hard to keep them from getting bored, so skiing is a great family holiday because there's so much to do.
Favourite place in the British Isles?
It has got to be Bray, Berkshire. The Fat Duck, The Hinds Head, the experimental kitchen and The Crown – it's where everything is until the 31 January when we expand into London with a new restaurant.
What have you learnt from your travels?
Thanks to my television work, I have been lucky enough to experience foods which I would never have had exposure to otherwise. I've milked a reindeer in Siberia (the milk tasted delicious), harvested Frankincense in the lost city of Ubar in Oman and tasted sea cucumber ovaries and blowfish sperm in Japan.
Ideal travelling companion?
My iPad: diary, entertainment and communication in one.
Beach bum, culture vulture or adrenalin junkie?
I get bored sitting on beaches and I do like to learn about a place, but really I'm an adrenalin junkie. I have just bought some new skis to go even faster. Wait till you read my next interview, it'll probably be about my skiing accident, although maybe I shouldn't joke!
The last book I read was fascinating but I can't remember the name of it. It was about the theory of the missing link between man and apes and also to do with energy source and cooking.
Greatest travel luxury?
A long-haul flight – total and utter uninterrupted relaxation. No phones, no emails; it's time to catch-up on reading and to relax.
Where has seduced you?
New York, for its energy. It has an incredible vibe, brilliant people, a unique and charged energy and, of course, an amazing restaurant scene. For a sensory experience the most intoxication I've experienced was in Delhi; the colours and heat and smells were overwhelming. It was strange at first because not all the smells were pleasant, but everything sort of mixed in with spices and flowers – an incredible place.
Better to travel or arrive?
Always to arrive.
Worst travel experience?
I was visiting friends in San Sebastian in Spain with my wife Zanna and the kids. We had a connecting flight in Madrid but when we arrived were told the flight was full. They told us to catch a flight to Bilbao instead. We ran to catch the flight but it was closed – there was no one around and the plane door was closed but the jet bridge hadn't been removed. Zanna knocked on the pilot's window and he opened the door and let us on. It was totally bizarre.
But then our suitcases were lost, never to be found again, and on the drive to San Sebastian from Bilbao one of the kids was ill with motion sickness, which set off one of the other kids; without our suitcases we had no clean clothes.
We were visiting Andoni, the chef of Mugaritz, whose girlfriend's family washed our clothes and took care of us. We actually had a great weekend in the end.
Years ago I went to Paris with two work colleagues. Our hotel had the most surreal set-up. They had two separate check-in desks, one for two-star and one for one-star. The lift had a padlock on it and the rooms were disgusting. There was a black line around the bed and I couldn't figure out what it was at first, but then realised that it was where people had stubbed out their cigarettes.
The Mandarin Oriental New York is an amazing hotel with spectacular views; sitting in the bar overlooking Central Park is incredible.
My favourite run is in Mallorca between Deia and Port de Soller, with the mountains on one side and the sea on the other. My favourite swim would be anywhere in crystal-clear water off a boat and my favourite drive is on the coastal road around the Cape in South Africa.
Best meal abroad?
The last one I remember having loved was sucking prawn heads in Spain after lightly grilling them on the barbecue for a few minutes, accompanied with a nice cold glass of sherry.
It would be like one of those Carlsberg ads: no one at the airport, security people who don't check you but carry your luggage on to the flight, loads of space with a real bed in a different room on the plane and the most amazing food on the flight with a wine cellar... I could go on.
London – it's home, it's incredible and it's beautiful. I love the multi-cultural energy and the restaurants are the greatest.
Courmayeur in the Italian Alps, with the family for Christmas.
Dinner by Heston Blumenthal opens at the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park in London on 31 January (dinnerbyheston.com)
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