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From enjoying a gourmet dinner as you look out over stunning Uluru/Ayers Rock, to simple but tasty Guatemalan cantinas — the following suggestions from our specialists are sure to whet your appetite...

Fresh, locally sourced ingredients and dishes are a great way to experience a culture.
Fresh, locally sourced ingredients and dishes are a great way to experience a culture.

Food and travel go hand in hand. Not only is (good) food something we all relish, it also enables us to get closer to a culture. Just as important as checking out hotels and excursions is finding the best food experiences, and our specialists are all too happy to help!

Southeast Asia: Vietnam

Southeast Asia is blessed with some truly spectacular cuisine, so choosing one country to focus on is an almost impossible task. While there are a lot of contenders I have opted for Vietnam, with its unique blend of Chinese spices and the influence of former French colonialists. Flavors are sophisticated, taking advantage of an array of herbs rather than the other culinary heavyweight in the region, Thailand, with its brash 'in your face' chili led cuisine!

Refined and varied, Vietnamese food excites the taste buds with over 500 national dishes. The national dish is ‘pho’ (pronounced ‘fur’) — a delicious noodle soup, typically served with beef or chicken. It is accompanied by lime, Vietnamese mint, pungent fish sauce and lightly spiced with chili.

Some of my favorite restaurants:

Quan an ngon, Hanoi and Saigon
This restaurant scores highly for both food and atmosphere. Here you can savor the flavors of Vietnam with regional dishes normally only available from street side stalls. What makes it special is that the dishes are cooked around the perimeter of the restaurant and you can just wander up and ask for something you like the look of. There's a great mix of locals and visitors.

Streets, Hoi An
Streets, Hoi AnStreets is a restaurant with a cause. The restaurant is staffed by disadvantaged young people and street children who complete an 18 month program, which gives them all the skills they need to gain employment in the hospitality industry. All profits get plowed back into the scheme. Plus it serves up extremely tasty local and international cuisine.

Lac Thien, Hue
This place may not look like much from the outside but the food more than makes up for the less glamorous surroundings! A great place to experience the region's famous imperial cuisine such as Banh Khoai, a fried pancake served with peanut sauce, which you fill with pork and shrimp. The restaurant is run by a hard working deaf-mute family.

To find out more about tailor-made vacations to Vietnam, visit the Vietnam section of our website.

North & Central Asia: Japan

The food of the North and Central Asia region is arguably some of the most iconic. From delicate plates of sushi in Japan, through to the stir fries of China and borsch in Russia, the food is as diverse and exciting as the landscapes from which it originated. Of all the different styles of cuisine however, for me, it is Japanese food that is the most intriguing.

We could devote a whole magazine to the regional variations and delicacies to be found in Japan. Local produce is often bought as a souvenir when traveling in Japan, such is the diversity. In Hiroshima for example, the locals tell you that you simply must try okonomiyaki for lunch, a delicious pancake filled with meat or fish, noodles and cabbage, topped with a fried egg and various tasty sauces. We agree!

Some of my favorite restaurants:

A typical ryokan dinnerApollo +, Kyoto
We chanced upon this restaurant on a staff trip back in 2007 and have been recommending it ever since. The relaxed and informal atmosphere makes for a great evening and some of our past clients have been so impressed with it that they ate there three nights in a row!

Yoshikawa, Kyoto
Some of the best tempura in Japan is served here in the beautiful surrounds of the traditional Yoshikawa ryokan. Dine at the counter to watch the chef in action. The restaurant is small and very popular so advance reservations are essential.

Gonpachi, Tokyo
A Tokyo chain which has various outlets across the city, our favorite being the Ginza branch. It serves up a mixture of charcoal grilled skewers, salads and grilled fish, along with sushi. It is fun to sit in the main restaurant, with the waiters shouting orders loudly across the room.

To find out more about tailor-made vacations to Japan, visit the Japan section of our website.

Africa: South Africa

South Africa is renowned for its hospitality, wine and superb cuisine. Cape Town and the Winelands offer an array of dining experiences, ranging from the rustic to the sublime. Lesser known, however is the Western Coast, north of Cape Town, where numerous restaurants are emerging thanks to a handful of inspired chefs.

Here you'll find Paternoster, a sleepy fishing village and a popular escape from Cape Town, where locals and visitors come to relax and enjoy the seafood. The Western Coast's unspoilt coastline offers an array of fresh produce including oysters, crayfish, clams and other local specialities, such as dune spinach (similar to samphire) and bokkoms (dried fish).

My favorite restaurant:

Oep ve Koep, Paternoster
Oep ve koep restaurant, South AfricaUp and coming is the innovative restaurant Oep ve Koep. Chef Kobus has a small restaurant of six or so rustic tables set under trees. Kobus serves some delightfully local dishes that take in the essence of the Cape's heritage using only locally sourced produce.

He offers traditional South African dishes with a twist, such as bobotie, a Malay-inspired baked dish, made with the angelfish rather than the customary beef.

If you are inspired to sample the local delicacy of bokkoms, this is the place to do it. Kobus dries his own fish and serves them on toasted homemade bread, blissful with a chilled glass of white wine! The restaurant is dedicated to local produce, all herbs are grown in the garden and even the salt is collected from the rocks by the beach.

To find out more about tailor-made vacations to South Africa, visit the South Africa section of our website.

Central America: Guatemala

Guatemalan food is traditionally based on the staples of corn, rice and beans, but having lived, traveled and worked in this beautiful and diverse country I realized there was so much more to the cuisine than at first glance.

The country has a range of culinary influences, from the Spanish and Maya right through to the Caribbean in the east.

GuatemalaThere has also been an influx of international cuisines, and the beautiful colonial city of Antigua is the perfect place to experience both the traditional and the fusion cuisine that makes Guatemala such an interesting place for traveling foodies.

Some of my favorite restaurants:

La Fonda de la Calle Real, Antigua
Tasty local snacks that you will find everywhere include tamales made with corn or rice cooked in a leaf wrap and filled with meats, vegetables or cheeses, and tortillas. If you enjoy hearty meals then try 'pepian' and 'tapado'. The former is a meat and vegetable stew served with corn tortillas, very common in the highlands, and the latter is a rich seafood stew found on the Caribbean coast. An excellent place to try these is La Fonda de la Calle Real.

Hectors, Antigua
You really won't go far wrong in Antigua by just exploring the cobbled streets and trying the local family-run cantinas that offer simple traditional fare, but one of my favorite places is Hectors. This small 'hole in the wall' type restaurant with about seven tables serving bistro food is in a lovely location in front of the La Merced church. Very informal but very popular!

Meson Panza Verde, Antigua
If upmarket is your style, the Meson Panza Verde is regarded as one of the best eateries in the country. Set in a beautiful colonial building, it serves gourmet international cuisine with a Guatemalan twist.

Las Palmas, Antigua
For vegetarians, Las Palmas is increasingly coming on the radar as the place to go for a delicious well-priced range of options where diners can more often than not also enjoy live music.

To find out more about tailor-made vacations to Guatemala, visit the Guatemala section of our website.

Australasia: Australia

Though Australians gravitate naturally to the barbecue, their cuisine has come a long way over the last few years. The influences of immigrants from the Mediterranean, spices from neighbors in the Pacific and Asia, and an abundance of home-grown produce have evolved into fashionable 'fusion' cuisine. Australia's key cities boast some world class restaurants while the countryside has plenty of agricultural areas, farmers markets and vineyards often close to a nice local restaurant.

Travel along the coast and it won't be long before you find somewhere serving delicious fresh seafood including some of the best fish and chips found anywhere. Once you reach the Outback, however, you are more likely to celebrate Australia's long-established culinary achievements: the ice-cold beer and the hot meat pie.

Some of my favorite restaurants:

Tetsuya's, Sydney
Consistently voted as one of the world's best restaurants, Tetsuya's is a truly memorable experience and serves Japanese cuisine enhanced by classic French techniques. Course after delectable course of unique and delicious fusion food complemented with superb service. Situated in the heart of the city the restaurant is an expensive option, but worth it for a special occasion.

Harry de Wheels, Sydney
Harry de Wheels, SydneyHarry de Wheels is a Sydney institution serving pies to locals, visitors and celebrities since the 1930s, as the photos testify. It's now permanently located on the Woolloomooloo wharf in Sydney harbor.

Tali Wiru, Yulara Resort, Uluru
There are few locations that can rival the dining experience of Tali Wiru at the Yulara Resort. Sat atop deep red sand dunes among wild spinifex grasses and with the imposing Uluru/Ayers Rock as a backdrop, a champagne sundowner is served followed by a delicious gourmet dinner.

Cape Lodge, Margaret River
The award-winning restaurant at the Cape Lodge Hotel in Western Australia is in an idyllic location surrounded by manicured gardens and vineyards and perched on the edge of a lake. The menu changes daily based on local produce and is served with exceptional wine from the area.

To find out more about tailor-made vacations to Australia, visit the Australia section of our website.

Indian Subcontinent: Sri Lanka

The Indian Subcontinent is a food lover's paradise, but for me, it is the cuisine of Sri Lanka that stands out. Sri Lanka is famous for its spices and that is something that is reflected in its complex and varied cuisine.

With part of its population relying on fishing, it is no surprise that seafood is another key ingredient often used in what the country's food is most famous for; mouth-watering curries. Lunch and dinner usually consists of rice with fish, chicken or mutton curry served with a number of side dishes of which coconut sambol is probably the most famous.

Sri Lankan cuisineCoconut sambol is a tasty mix of ground coconut, chili peppers, dried fish and lime juice. Other popular dishes include mani pittu, a steamed mixture of rice and grated coconut, roti (a Sri Lanka derivative of the chapatti) and hoppers, a kind of pancake made of fermented rice flour batter.

Some of my favorite restaurants:

Beach Wadiya, Colombo
Some of the best curries can be found in local restaurants dotted around the island, but true Sri Lankan curries are often a touch too spicy for western taste buds.

However, Beach Wadiya in south Colombo is a great place on the beach, serving some of the country’s tastiest seafood. Always fresh and served in a friendly atmosphere.

Raja Bojun, Colombo
A hidden gem and a true attraction for local food lovers is Raja Bojun. Overlooking the ocean, it is a venue frequented by locals and expats alike.

To find out more about tailor-made vacations to Sri Lanka, visit the Sri Lanka section of our website.

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