Ampersand is currently more food obsessed than ever… we have all recently returned from research trips throughout Asia and our taste buds are suffering withdrawal symptoms after our mouth-watering culinary adventures. Hunting down sizzling street food, fine dining restaurants, hands-on cookery courses and exotic spice bazaars is undoubtedly one of the highlights of our job. If you love food too, read on for our pick of the best culinary experiences from our destinations.
- Indian food culture tour: From 7–19 January 2014 our favourite elite guide, Jonty Rajagopalan, is hosting a specialist culinary tour of India exploring four food-mad cities: Ahmedabad, Amritsar, Calcutta and Hyderabad. From street food to Royal feasts, Jonty will give you an insider’s view on the history of how India’s different cuisines evolved and how it affects every aspect of Indian day-to-day life. Dine with local families and leading chefs, take part in festivals and a wedding, and even visit temple kitchens for an adventure that will not only tickle your taste buds, but also let you taste the soul of Indian culture. Places are limited; for further details contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org or +44 (0)20 7819 9770.
- Urban street food safaris: For those of you who enjoy street food, we now arrange half-day food safaris in Delhi, Bangkok, Hanoi, Saigon, Luang Prabang, Beijing and Shanghai. A walking tour through busy lanes, people-watching and snacking on authentic dishes allows you to discover hidden highlights and offers the ultimate insight into what makes these cities tick. Our guides will take you into these cities’ most colourful areas where local dishes are prepared and enjoyed. Try your hand at making some of them yourself and dig in knowing that we have carefully sourced the very best (and safest) delicacies for you.
- Food-lover’s tour of Bali: Touted as the best new restaurant in Bali, Sundara is located on the southern point of Jimbaran Bay, which is only a short drive from Uluwatu, Nusa Dua, Seminyak or Legian. It got top marks from Mark, who visited two weeks ago – he highly recommends the succulent Jumbo Prawns, which were the freshest he has ever tasted. Our ultimate foodie tour of Bali would involve staying at 3 hotels: the holistic food favourite, COMO Shambhala in Ubud; the completely exhilarating Alila Uluwatu; and the charming boutique bolt-hole, Puri Ganesha in Pemutaran. Puri Ganesha is owned and hosted by the culinary legend Diana von Cranach (world authority on raw food and South East Asian cuisine), who by prior arrangement can take you on a special food tour of Bali, right through Indonesia and South East Asia; these can range from a half-day tour to two weeks.
- Gastronomic China: After cycling from London to Hong Kong last year, Mark developed quite an appetite by the time he hit China! With a 5,000 year old history, Chinese food is renowned for its far-reaching influence and multi-layered regional cuisine. Mark and I designed an foodie tour of China for people who want to witness the classic sites and stay in the best hotels, whilst savouring dazzling cuisine and exciting culinary adventures – from dumpling making in Xian, traditional tea ceremonies in Hangzhou, going behind the scenes of a Peking duck kitchen in Beijing, enjoying a private banquet on the Great Wall of China, to attempting to acquire a taste for spicy chicken feet!
- Cookery course in Galle: I have just returned from Sri Lanka where I had the most wonderful cookery class in Galle. The chef from Amangalla takes you to the morning markets where you pick fresh fish, meat, vegetables and fruit, whilst sampling the best street food along the way. Armed with your ingredients, you are then taken inland to whip up a killer curry in a beautiful paddy field with a fully-fitted traditional kitchen. I made nine different Sri Lankan specialities, all under expert supervision, which I later enjoyed for lunch.
- Singapore eating extravaganza: Ampersand’s Singapore specialist, Sacha, lived there for 20 years and travels back three times a year – partly to see her family and partly to eat! She is always seeking out the tastiest new eateries and revisiting old favourites. She can construct a bespoke eating itinerary of restaurants and neighbourhood tours catered to your favourite style of eating – from fine dining to street-side hawker food; from barbecued sting ray in Chinatown, masala dosa in Little India, to beachside chilli crab on the East Coast.
- In the last year of travel, these were the Ampersand team’s favourite food experiences:
Mine: Tea Leaf Salad at the remarkably named vegetarian restaurant: Be Kind To Animals, The Moon in Bagan, Burma.
Mark’s: Full moon private BBQ dinner on the beach at Amanusa, Bali (accompanied by a giant turtle who had come up to nest!)
Catriona’s: Hyderabadi Biryani at Falaknuma Palace, Hyderabad.
Ellie’s: A traditional Rajasthani thali at Ambrai, Udaipur, on the edge of Lake Pichola overlooking the Lake Palace.
Sacha’s: Full Keralan curry prepared in the tiny Houseboat kitchen on the Backwaters.
Louisa’s: Dhal Curry, steamed fish & king coconuts at Bar Reef, Kalpitiya, Sri Lanka.
Megan’s: Chaats at Bademiya in Colaba, Mumbai.
My mouth is watering just thinking about it all!