My Life In Travel: Simon Rimmer, chef
'New York wins hands down for restaurants'
First holiday memory?
Rhosneigr on the south-west coast of Anglesey. I remember driving with my parents in the back of a heavily loaded Morris Minor. We stayed on a farm, so my early memories are of fresh eggs for breakfast.
A road trip from San Francisco to San Diego in California with my wife and our two kids. We rented apartments all the way down, instead of staying in hotels. I like the ramshackle nature of the northern limits. I fell in love with the hippy culture of Santa Cruz – it's not quite as perfect as Southern California. Then we headed down to Santa Barbara and Del Mar, and saw humpback whales and elephant seals along the way.
Favourite place in the British Isles?
A small village called Kirkby Lonsdale in the Lake District. I live in Manchester, so it's about an hour's drive before you're in a different world. It feels like it's frozen in 1955: there's a butchers, traditional cheese shops and nice pubs.
What have you learnt from your travels?
Hong Kong was an incredible learning curve in terms of cooking. For the Chinese, it's all about celebrating difference and using every part of the animal. You eat chicken gizzards and duck feet, which teaches you a new approach to food.
Ideal travelling companion?
My wife. We've travelled with our kids since they were very young and have hopefully brought them up to have a good attitude towards travel. They love the whole experience of getting in the taxi to the airport; deciding what books to buy; and what films they're going to watch on the plane.
Beach bum, culture vulture or adrenalin junkie?
My perfect holiday would be to start in a city so I can ease out of the work frame of mind, and then be somewhere on a beach where I can relax.
Biggest travel luxury?
Flying above cattle class and staying in nice hotels. I'm a hotel junkie, so every year when we go to New York, we make sure we stay somewhere good, like the Soho Grand.
I consume trashy crime novels at a high-speed rate. I like Michael Connelly, Mark Billingham and Peter James in particular. They have all the action and escapism you need.
Where has seduced you?
Ibiza was a massive surprise. We went on a family holiday and it was everything you don't expect it to be. I'm naturally inquisitive, so there are very few places I wouldn't want to return to, especially because work takes me to unusual places. I went to Norway filming recently, and travelled on a Hurtigruten cruise into the Arctic Circle. I'd definitely go back if I could.
Better to travel or arrive?
Arrive. In Valencia, when you're travelling from the airport into town, you bizarrely drive past paddy fields – which you don't expect to see in Western Europe. You see all these guys in their little boats harvesting rice.
Worst travel experience?
Going to Koh Samui on our honeymoon. We stayed with a friend in Bangkok the night before and drank our body weight in alcohol. It was about 90F and we sat in a taxi for two hours with no air conditioning and the sun beating down on the backs of our heads. My wife lay under the chairs in the airport to make herself feel better.
A place in Newport, Shropshire. There was someone else's hair on the towels and dirt throughout the avocado bathroom suite.
I was lucky enough to stay in the Four Seasons George V hotel, just off the Champs-Elysées in Paris for work, which was one of the most opulent places I've ever slept in – the rooms made you feel like royalty.
Along the Calle de Quart in Valencia. It's this long street with bar after bar of restaurants. You've got an incredible charcutería next to a paella stall, next to a bar called Johnny Maracas, which has the oldest staff in town. One of the best restaurants is a place where all they serve is lamb. You eat lamb chorizo and chops that you cook for yourself at the table.
Best meal abroad?
Tabla in New York. It's closed now, but they used to do modern Indian cuisine with really high-quality produce and beautiful combinations of flavours. Also, the Spotted Pig in the West Village is incredible: I remember to this day a plate of vegetables I had there. And then Rosa Mexicano, where they do great homemade guacamole. New York wins hands down.
Japan. There's a big gap in my cultural and food education waiting to be filled. I'm intrigued by the exciting mix of modern culture coupled with a strong sense of history and tradition.
I'm off to the Lake District again for New Year with the family. We've recently acquired some dogs, so we're staying in a pet-friendly cottage for a week in Kirby Lonsdale. We'll drink at the Sun Inn pub and eat at The Royal, a beautiful Georgian hotel that's just reopened.
Simon Rimmer will host a food festival at Hawksbill by Rex Resorts in Antigua (2–9 April, 2012; rexresorts.com)
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