Category Archives: Food


I have just returned from a week touring the Hudson Valley and the Catskills in upstate New York. Most of it was for a piece for The Times and it was a very successful trip – good food, dramatic modern art, fantastic scenery, Robber Baron’s grand historic homes, and some possibly too close encounters with local wildlife. But one standout was the hotel we stayed in on the last night, mainly because it was so unexpected (it was the result of a tip-off from a native New Yorker who said: ‘Don’t ask questions, just book in’).

If you read a lot of the US travel press you might think that the recent renaissance of the Catskills – which is a few hours’ drive from Manhattan, up I-87 or 90 – means it’s a Williamsburg with trees and mountains, with a farm-to-fork restaurant at every junction, an antique Americana collection on every porch, a cool bar beside every creek. This isn’t true, there is a lot of driving around (by our standards at least) to sample the best of, say, Delaware County.

The town of Andes in The Catskills is good for Americana

The town of Andes in The Catskills is good for Americana

After a slightly disappointing first turn through district, the highlights being Andes (quaint, good vintage clothes, antiques, coffee and cookies) and Delhi (bookstores, covered bridges, more antiques) but not fly-blown Bloomville (Table on Ten restauarant and not much else), I thought maybe The Roxbury might not live up to its billing. However, there is often something about the typography and colour scheme of a place’s signboard that tells you that you are in safe hands. “Contemporary Catskill Lodgings” this one teased in limegreen and black and it delivered.

The Roxbury and backdrop

The Roxbury and backdrop

The Roxbury is a themed hotel, in that each of the 28 units is decorated to a particular brief, in this case a TV show or movie. Now, I’m not always a fan of themed rooms. Sometimes hoteliers think that all it takes is a hideous shagpile carpet, a lava lamp and a couple of DVDs and bam! The Austin Powers Suite. Or a bit of gold MDF and organza and you have the Arabian Nights room. That isn’t the case at The Roxbury Motel.

The owners, Greg Henderson and Joseph Massa both have theatrical backgrounds and it shows (Greg does concepts, Joseph is the craftsman) in the outlandish concoctions. What makes The Roxbury different is the attention to details – every room is done with passion and panache. Most are based on the sixties TV shows that were on constant re-run when the owners were growing up. So there is a Star Trek room, where the ceiling becomes the galaxy of dopplered stars as seen in warp drive, created by a massive coil of fibre optic lights in the roof space, and where the bathroom tiles glow to recreate the holodeck. For I Dream of Jeannie, the pair used an ancient Roman technique to create a perfect spherical space to represent the genie’s bottle. Gilligan’s Island is basically a huge inverted coconut cream pie as baked by Ginger and Mary Ann.

The understated Amadeus-themed room

The understated Amadeus-themed room

Best of all, though, is a three-bedroom stand-alone single-story house called The Digs. It was inspired by the purchase at auction of artifacts that were previously owned by a man who claimed to have worked for the Board of Education. Greg and Joseph discovered that they were from places such as Persia/Iran, the Far East and various destinations not open to the usual US tourist in the 50s and 60s. They decided the vendor had been a spy-cum-archeologist and so created a huge backstory which means The Digs is filled with the sort of items that might be boxed up at the end of Indiana Jones – and indeed there is a room with a ceiling full of bullwhips, snake wallpaper, a Mayan temple hiding a pull-down bed and a giant boulder above the lobby in homage to Indy. There’s also a fish tank so special it has featured on Animal Planet.

The Digs' ceiling lamps - from Cairo.

The Digs’ ceiling lamps – from Cairo.

But here’s the thing: despite all the frivolity, the hotel work – the products are excellent, there are bathtubs as opposed to mere showers, the fabrics, tiles, lamps, ceiling fixtures are sourced from the best suppliers in the world, there’s a two-part spa (hot tub and sauna in one wing, steam and treatments in another) and the sheets are as good as those in the Four Seasons.

As if this wasn’t enough, the pair have also bought a slightly sagging antebellum mansion down the road (see, which sits right next to a dramatic gorge and waterfall and they plan to do much the same with it (albeit more in keeping with the estate’s history than, say, The Jetsons room). Having toured the site, their plans are either insanely ambitious or just… No, I suspect The Roxbury at Stratton Falls will be ready within the two to three years they have allowed themselves. And I’ll be back.

The Digs living room

The Digs living room

See for rates. I flew with Virgin Atlantic ( and hired a car through Alamo. The ins and outs of a Hudson Valley fly-drive will be dealt with  in The Times Travel piece.


In San Sebastian, you know things are about to kick off when Jesus goes out. I am just back from the firework contest there, which involves manufacturers from several countries (this year, Spain, Italy and Austria) setting off thousands of pounds’ worth of explosives every night at 22.45, an event signalled by the illuminated on the ‘Sacred Heart’ statue of Jesus that overlooks the town being switched off. I’ll write about it further nearer the time next year, no doubt, but it is spectacular and, although busy, a great time to be in one of the best seaside cities in Europe.


We stayed on the Gros side of town, near the Zurriola surf beach, which has a great selection of pintxos bars (Hidalgo 56, Bodega Donostiarra, Senra) and good value restaurants (especially along Calle Zabaleta) that don’t suffer from the scrum afflicting the Old Town. You can see the fireworks from the beach here, too. You also get very generous G&Ts hereabouts (these below at the Ondarra Bar almost opposite the Kursaal conference/arts centre), which help the evening go with a different kind of bang.



A Duck With A View

The first thing everyone mentions about Hutong, the Chinese restaurant in The Shard, is not the view (very good) or the service (very jolly) or the red-lantern and dark wood décor (very sleek) but the prices (very high).


They are as incredible as Renzo Piano’s you’ll-have-someone’s-eye-out-with-that skyscraper – like the building itself, they just keep on climbing, until you are hovering around £60 for a Peking duck. But everything in The Shard is expensive – when the Shangri-la Hotel opens in May, rooms will start at £350 a night. To visit the viewing platform unannounced you’ll be mugged for £29.95pp (you can knock a fiver off for pre-booking). So when my kids said they’d like to go up The Shard for their half-term treat  I knew I was going to drop at least a hundred quid for the four of us for the outing, before food and drink. (To be fair, there was a very useful kids-go-free special h/t offer for the viewing gallery, but both ours being over 16, we were looking at full price). Oddly, though, Hutong came to the rescue.

It had just launched a set lunchtime menu of dim sum, any five dishes (e.g. poached wontons with chilli-garlic sauce, ginger and spring onion lobster buns, baked Wagyu beef puffs) for £28pp. OK, so that’s really no bargain by Chinatown standards, but at The Shard it’s a steal (and certainly comparable to Yauatcha in Soho). And you do get four pieces of each one, they are freshly made every morning and they are pretty damn’ fine. Now, I hear you say, four times £28 comes to… but you don’t need one set lunch each. We did two of them (£56) and half a Peking duck (£30), which is flashily carved at your tableside, and left replete after two hours for £86 (plus drinks and 12.5% service). Still expensive, but I haven’t even factored in the view yet.

Hutong is on the 33rd floor, so only about half way up the this anorexic glass pyramid, but even so it’s worth trying to bag a window seat for the always-mesmerising London birds’-eye view (I particularly like looking down on HMS Belfast for some reason, although we were seated on a different side). And if you don’t get a window, there is always the lavatory, from where you can gaze along the river to Tower Bridge and across South London to Kent. In the men’s, the urinals are positioned in front of plate glass windows, so that you stare down on what looks like a vast Hornby construction, with trains snaking in and out of London Bridge Station, feeling like The Fat Controller. Or perhaps Bob Crow.

* Hutong, Level 33, The Shard, 31 St Thomas Street, London SE19RY (020 3011 1257,

photo 5This is the view from the table, looking over Borough Market and Tate Modern.

Thanks to Gina Ryan for the pics.

Robbery with a side order of pheasant

The route from Bridego Bridge to Leatherslade Farm in Bucks is the featured Great Drive in this Sunday’s (15.12) Drive section of the Sunday Times. To celebrate, we have a fresh version of the film, now with a racy B&W section:

The pub mentioned in the article, The Hundred of Ashendon (01296-651296,, is well worth a detour even if you aren’t chasing the shades of robbers past – the chef, Matt, produces robust, seasonal, well-flavoured food (I had the pheasant and bacon pie, my co-pilot a lovely piece of turbot) without being over-fancy. If I tell you he has spent time in Fergus Henderson’s kitchen, you’ll get the idea.


I am interviewing chef Jason Atherton for the Sunday Times sometime soon and I recently realised I had a gap in my experience of his rapidly expanding gastro-universe. I had eaten at Maze when he was Gordon Ramsey’s small-plate protégé, had a memorable lunch at the Pollen St Social Club and a decent dinner at the Social Eating House (on the first full day of opening, and the debutante nerves showed a little) and a good-value lunch (£25.50) at Little Social, which for me showed Balthazar the way to do a Manhattan-influenced brasserie in London. But I hadn’t eaten at his latest joint, Berners Tavern, at the new London Edition hotel, just north of Oxford Street. Time to make amends before the meeting.
I used to have my breakfast meetings (a thing of the past, I’m pleased to say) there when it was the Berners Hotel, a low-key, faded five-star that clung to memories of its (distant) heyday. Now, it has been Ian Schragered – spruced and primped and Fabergé-d (look at the chandeliers) to brash, contemporary glory. Shrager’s still got that same quirk from the Royalton of trying to save on the lighting bills (maybe he’s heard about our energy companies), so there are corners of the public areas where flashlights ought to be provided, but it’s a very impressive lobby with, Schrager’s essential ingredient, a busy little bar. Oh, and that other trope of Ian’s – a phalanx of unnervingly attractive staff. You could certainly forget that, under its scrubbed, moisturized and waxed skin, this is a Marriott hotel.
The restaurant is even grander, the walls covered with a Tetris of mis-matched artwork, a soaring illuminated cabinet of spirits centre-stage at the bar and a roof to remember. Nobody could tell me when the triple-height, ornately plastered ceiling dates from (although the marble floor in the foyer is apparently 1830s), but this was once the site of Messrs Marsh, Stacey, Fauntleroy and Graham’s private bank. Like all good banks, this had its share of scandal. Henry Fauntleroy was light-fingered to say the least, helping himself, with a little creative accounting and the Georgian equivalent of dodgy OTC Derivatives, to £250,000 (a very large fortune back then). According to the judge at his trial at the Old Bailey, the banker “squandered it in debauchery”. Some things never change. Well, that’s not quite true – they hanged him for his embezzlement on November 30, 1824, the last man to hang for forgery in the UK.
Still, back to the food. I am not going to list the meal beat by beat in time-honoured fashion (‘We started with the soup..’). We went fishy, apart from a playful “ham, egg and peas” starter (brilliant), with perfectly cooked fish, lime-chilli scallops, baby squid and a watch-the-white-shirt squid-ink risotto. It was all executed and served with admirable precision. Prices are commensurate with the setting, mind. We paid £110 for four courses, water, tea and a reasonable bottle of Torrentes, from the lower rung of a wine list that quickly ascends to the heavens.
One bugbear among the opulence, and Berners Tavern is far from alone in this, is that I don’t like those credit card machines which say, even though you’ve paid 12.5% already, ‘Would You Like To Add A Gratuity?”. It makes you feel Steve Buscemi’s Mr Pink (‘I don’t tip.. I don’t believe in it’) when you press ‘No.’ There should be a “Yes, but I’ll pay it in cash, thanks” option. Better yet, just shut up with the questions.
So, the overall verdict – rolling in the whole experience, ambience and food – is that Berners Tavern provided one of my best meals out this year in what is unlikely to be topped as the most splendid setting (it certainly rivals the Wolseley in that respect). And it’s open all day. Maybe I’ll start doing breakfast meetings again.


I recently interviewed Ian Burrell, a (possible the only) “Global Rum Ambassador” for a piece in the Sunday Times Travel Magazine about rum in the Caribbean at Cottons his bar/restaurant in Camden ( That will be out in the December issue (available in November), but in the meantime Ian’s RumFest is taking places next weekend (October 12-13, 12-5pm) at Excel, with over 400 rums, including dozens you’ll never had heard of. Tickets cost from £25, which includes tastings and seminars, see Meanwhile, here is a rough outtake from the filmed interview, where Ian explains the legend of ‘overproof’ rum. There’s a little slip of the tongue (Spain captured Jamaica, not vice-versa), but watch for a different, more polished version when the ST Travel Magazine comes out. For more on Ian see


The sequel to DEAD MAN’S LAND won’t be out until January 2014, but this is a short article about Elveden/Thetford Forest in Suffolk, where much of the action takes place. It might seem a long way from the trenches of Flanders, but there is a definite connection.


What links the Koh-i-noor diamond, Ireland’s black gold, the first armoured tanks, onions, and one of the most extensive and well-used forest parks in England? The answer is the Elveden Hall Estate – currently owned by Lord Iveagh of the Guinness family – which is made up of 10,000 acres of farmland as well as 12,500 acres of heathland and woods (plus a well-hidden Center Parcs) which sits right next to Thetford Forest Park recreational area, where you can walk, ride or even Segway the trails (or zip wire through the canopy). Whether you like the great outdoors, locally grown produce with minimum food miles under its belt or fascinating local history, it’s a great spot for a weekend.

WHERE WILL I BE SLEEPING? The Elveden Inn (01842-890876,, which is owned by the estate, was once a dark, poky country pub, but has recently been sympathetically expanded, adding a conservatory and a large outside terrace. It has just four rooms (with two more planned), which follow a familiar boutique-ish vernacular– oversized leather bedheads, dark wooden furniture, crisp white bed linen, and clean simple lines. Nothing innovative, but streets ahead of the fusty décor that most pubs and hotels in the area offer. The staff is young, friendly and efficient, children and dogs are welcome and, for obvious reasons, it pours an excellent pint of Guinness.

WHAT’S FOR DINNER? Superior pub grub, from home-made pasty with seasonal farm vegetables from the estate (£11.95), local venison with rabbit rosti and cabbage (£13.95), Haddock in Guinness (of course) batter (£11.95), plus good filling ploughman’s at lunchtime (£10.50). Although vegetarians might struggle a little (only two choices on the mains), under-tens are very well catered for, with a main course (pasta, Suffolk ham and egg, mini-burger etc, with chips or jacket potato and baked beans or veg or salad), a fruit drink and ice cream for £6.95. There’s a Beer & Bands Festival 14-16th June, with guest ales and ciders and live music.

WHAT ELSE TO DO: Get out into the forest. For riders, Forest Park Riding and Livery Centre (01842-815517) at Santon Downham in nearby Brandon offers hacks along lovely bridle paths, taking in the pine trees, but also stands of sycamore, chestnut and oak, as well as crossing heather-rich heathland, from £20 per hour. At High Lodge Forest Centre (01842 815434,, parking charges £1.90 per hour to £10 for five hours plus) there are activity trails for kids (giant swinging tyres, ropeways etc.), orienteering trails, you can hire mountain bikes (£7.50 first hour, £3.50 subsequent hours, includes helmets; kids £6/£2.50), over-10s can take out an all-terrain Segway (£25 per hour), or swing or zip-wire through the canopy, all with Go Ape (, 10-17 years olds £20, 18 and over £30 for 2-3 hours in the tree tops; there is a new junior course for 6-12s, £15).

Unknown-1   History buffs might want to explore why nearby Thetford and the Eleveden church are pilgrimage sites for Sikhs – in 1860 the British wrested control of the Punjab from the young Maharajah Duleep Singh, who was just eleven. As part of the war booty, he had to hand over the legendary Koh-i-noor diamond (now part of the crown jewels and valued at £80m). He was also exiled from India and given Elveden Hall, which he converted into an astonishing Maharaja’s palace. It became one of the great shooting estates of the country, frequented by royalty and nobility. Now empty, it is currently being (slowly) restored by Lord Iveagh, whose family bought the estate after Singh’s death (and allowed the land to be used for secret testing of the first tanks in 1916). You can glimpse the house from the churchyard of St Andrew and St Patrick Church on the A11, which is where Duleep Singh is buried (along with his wife and his son Albert). A walking trail and driving route around Thetford (see takes in the Ancient House Museum (a 15th century merchant’s dwelling), a dramatic statue of the Maharajah on peaceful Butten island, as well as sites further afield associated with the man.

Even if you can’t see Singh’s country seat, you can buy the estate’s produce (especially its onions, pickled and otherwise, of which it produces a great deal, and locally reared and wild meats) from the excellent farm shop, which come with a decent if pricey café attached. It also puts on events in the nearby walled gardens – a mini-crufts Dog Day on Saturday July 14 and outdoor theatre on August 17th & 18th and, on September 7th, the return of the Big Onion food festival (where there’s more to eat than onions – cookery demos, food stalls/stands and live music). There is also free spectating of cycling events through the estate, a sort of Tour de Thetford (Saturday Jun 8 & 29th). See for all details. Rooms at Elveden Inn (01842-890876, cost from £105 B&B.


Sadly we didn’t have room to fit in all the good fast food recommendations from Chowzters’ ( bloggers in the Sunday Times article on April 21. So here is what you were missing:
Blogger: Yvo sin
White BearYvo Sin 135-02 Roosevelt Ave, Flushing, NY 11354
(718) 961-2322
White Bear may be a hole in the wall, but #6 – wontons with spicy chili oil (12 for $4.50/£2.95) – makes overlooking the tiny space totally worth it. The wontons are quickly steamed, topped with pickled mustard greens and a slick of chili oil (fiery red, but not particularly spicy), and then handed to you on a Styrofoam plate (if it’s to stay) or in a Styrofoam container. Ambiance and decor isn’t the focus here, and that’s all obvious once you take your first bite.

HONG KONG – Juliana Loh
Aberdeen Fish Market Canteen
102 Shek Pai Wan Road, Aberdeen, Hong Kong
This place is open at the crack of dawn, and as it’s eponymous name suggests, the owner Ar Lo gets the freshest daily catch from the market next door and this local dive doubles as a canteen for those working at the fish market. There is no formal lunch menu here, tell the owner your budget and what you’d like to eat and he puts together a menu for you. Some signature dishes to order here include the salt and pepper calamari, garlic and vermicelli with scallops, scampi with fried garlic, stir fried clams with black beans and chili sauce, deep fried abalone and a range of catch of the day fish to choose from. If you’d like a little variety away from seafood, there are side dishes like stir fried vegetables and fabulously well done French toast – Hong Kong style with caramelized condensed milk drizzled generously over. Beer needless to say goes well with your seafood orders, a Chinese beer like Tsing Dao goes pretty well with it. A meal for two would set you back about 700HKD aprox = 90USD / 60 pounds.

BERLIN -Suzan Taher
Curry 36Mehringdamm 36, 10961 Berlin, (
Don’t be put off by the perennial queue it moves fast and in no time you will be feasting on this Berlin institution on a cardboard plate.
Steckerlfisch & Co
At markets around Berlin, (
Charcoal grilled fish served on paper with blobs of seaweed and dill mayonnaise.
Hamburger Heaven
Graefestrasse 93, 10967
Standing out among the many independent hamburger shops for serving hand cut fries, fresh mayonnaise and house made ketchup. Pick from regular, free range or organic patties.

BUENOS AIRES – Alexandra LazarAli Lazar
Parrilla, Rodriguez Peña 682, Recoleta
Recommended dish: Peña Empanada de carne frita
A down to earth neighbourhood parrilla (steakhouse) that specializes in grilled meats, Parrilla Peña also offers a complimentary fried beef empanada at the beginning of each meal. It’s one of those perfect crispy, doughy, fried, flavourful bites where you wish you could go home with a dozen more, but then realize you have a massive steak dinner coming out next (order the bife de lomo, or tenderloin).

ISTANBUL – Tuba Satana

Karadeniz Pide Doner Salonu
Mumcu Bakkal Sok No: 6, Beşiktaş.
In the middle of Beşiktaş Food market, lies one of the best döner places in the city. Order a portion on top of pide, and enjoy the heavenly taste of the succulent meat, great with pickles, onions and ayran. Hurry, it sells out very quickly and it’s only open for lunch. Around £5.40, with ayran yoghurt drink.

ROME -Tavole Romane

Cesare al Casaletto,

Via del Casaletto 45. Price: average 30€ plus wine. After a full day of walking and some time to relax take the 8 tram reaching the end of the line to have dinner at Cesare al Casaletto. It’s a perfect trattoria to enjoy an authentic local experience, with a menu including dishes that change according to season and Roman calendar days. Choose your sauce and preferred pasta shape (mezze maniche with carbonara is recommended). Don’t miss also fritti misti, deep fried starters. It also has an excellent wine selection.

Gelateria del Teatro
Via di San Simone 70 (another shop in Lungotevere dei Vallati 25-27).
If you are still hungry after dinner I recommend a visit to the historical center of the city and an evening stroll near Pantheon and Navona square followed by a refreshing natural gelato at Gelateria del Teatro. Liquorice and sage & raspberry are two of their fantastic non-traditional flavours. A cone is a shade over £2.

RIO DE JANEIRO – Tom Le Mesurier

Nova CapelaSAMSUNG
Avenida Mem de Sá, 96 Lapa
00 55 (21) 2252-6228 ‎
Nova Capela is renowned for selling the best Bolinhos de Bacalhau in Rio. Inside the crisp golden shell you’ll find a luscious mix of delicious salt-cod, potato and herbs. For an authentic taste of Rio, add a few drops of fiery chili oil and wash it down with an ice cold draft beer. Price (per bolinho): R$3.50 £1.20).

Tacacá do Norte
Rua Barão do Flamengo, 35 Flamengo
00 55 (21) 2205-7545‎
Tacacá is an amazing Amazonian soup, brought to Rio by Amazonians who moved the city looking for work. The soup features huge, juicy shrimps in a base of jambú, a tangy leaf with strong anaesthetic properties. This delicious combination is served in a traditional drinking gourd and will leave your lips numb and your tongue tingling. Price: R$13 (£4.30)

Rua Barata Ribeiro, 7 Copacabana
Tel: +55 (21) 2275-6147
The sandwiches of Cervantes are legendary among late night revellers in Copacabana. Inside the lightly toasted milk bread you’ll find layer after layer of juicy filet mignon, topped with a massive slab of melted cheese and Cervantes’ signature addition, a slice of gently grilled pineapple. Sounds strange but this combination really works, as evidenced by the queues leading out the door after midnight. Price: R$23 (£7.70).

* The Chowzter/Coca Cola Fast Feasts Awards, hosted by Alexander Armstrong, take place at East London’s Village Underground on April 28 and tickets cost £25 including drinks plus the chance to buy food from some of London’s best food trucks (Pizza Pilgrims, Big Apple Hotdog, Spit and Roast). See for tickets. Winners will be announced on the website.


Gothenburg is, so they told me, much like my home town of Liverpool – a once thriving port, with its own dialect, music scene and quirky sense of humour. I forgot to ask if it had an underperforming football team, too. But I wasn’t there for similarities, I was there for differences. Unlike Liverpool, Gothenburg is somewhere you go for great food, especially seafood and it is perfectly positioned geographically and culturally to take advantage of the current thirst for all things Nordic and locavore. I was here to eat.

If you want to see the legendary Gothenburg bounty from the sea, you visit Feskekörka – the Fish Church, which really does look like a Piscean house of worship  – market on the riverside, where the downturned mouths and black-button eyes of dozens of marine species stare back at you from their marble resting places. Better yet, you climb the stairs to the mezzanine level, where tiny Restaurant Gabriel (00 46 31 139051,, lunch only, approx £30pp) takes the produce from the slabs below and cooks it as simply as possible – if at all.


Chef Johan Malm won the World Oyster Opening Championship in Galway in 2010 (and came a close second in 2012) and he apologises profusely that he has no Swedish bivalves to offer me, blaming ‘lazy divers’ (all Swedish oysters are hand-harvested and, in fact, there have been storms). Instead, he serves up six fat French numbers and a perfectly poached piece of hake. ‘People don’t really believe this, but our menu is just a guide. If you see a fish you want downstairs, tell me how you would like it cooked, I’ll buy it and I’ll do it. It’s as close as you can get to eating straight from the sea.’

The best way to get to Ulf Wagner and Gustav Trägardh’s Sjömagsinet (Adolf Edelsvärds gta 5, 00 46 31 7755920, is to take a trip on that sea, or at least along the river towards the sea, out past the fish market, the giant Stena ferries and the new waterfront developments to Klippen. Here, in an old East India Co. warehouse, is a very different take on using the local produce.


Sjömagsinet is unashamedly fancy food, not so much in the cooking techniques – there’s no molecular trickery – but in the combination of flavours. So expect baked anglerfish with chipotle jus, ragout of piglet shank and black salsify or saddle of venison with oyster vinaigrette. It was Ulf who told me that Gothenburg has the best seafood on the planet. At Sjömagsinet the meat’s pretty damn’ good too. A set menu is around £65; matching wines doubles that.

It is a long way from hip and heaving Harlem to nature-loving Gothenburg – the nearby archipelago is one of the city’s great attractions – but for Jimmy Lappalainen it is a homecoming. Born in a small village up the coast, as a young cook he went to New York and managed to secure a position with Marcus Samuelsson (Ethiopian born, Swedish-raised in Gothenburg, American culinary star), who opened the ground-breaking Red Rooster up at 125th St, Harlem in 2010, with Jimmy as chef. When Samuelsson was invited to oversee the restaurants at the new Clarion Hotel Post in Gothenburg, he brought Jimmy with him to be Executive Chef in situ (Samulesson pops over from Harlem every other month), although he has since moved up to be overall Food & Beverage manager for the hotel. ‘Obviously I’ve shipped some of New York back with me, too,’ he says. Not least in the scale of the room, which feels like a NYC public building.


The hotel is a new-ish (opened January 2012) conversion of the grand old city post office, and Norda (00  46 31 619060,, its restaurant, is located in the former postal hall, all soaring pillars and panelled ceilings, draped with great swathes of deep red curtains, giving it a vast, theatrical feel. The food is Swedish with an American twist – the classic hot dog is still in a bun, but it’s a wild boar sausage in brioche with home cured pickles (£12), or there’s elk carpaccio with maple syrup (£15). And, again, there is very good plain seafood: ‘Some things you just let talk for themselves,’ says Jimmy. And the oysters all say: ‘eat me’.

GETTING THERE: SAS (0871-226 7760, flies to Gothenburg from Heathrow. The Clarion Hotel Post (00 46 31 61 90 00, has doubles from £130, room only.

FURTHER INFORMATION: Visit Sweden ( and Gothenburg (