Sabich Charnihovski, Charnihovski Street, Tel Aviv
Dish to check: Sabich (duh!)
Tel Aviv by day is what I imagine Beirut must have been like before it fell. Coffee kiosks everywhere, people chilling and chatting in groups in the sun in the wide central reservations, plenty of youths sporting dreads and skaters galore. Sub-cultures are important round these parts — which is a seriously good indicator of the psyche of the place and everyone seems to be smoking dope like it’s going out of fashion. The one thing that really stuck out is that there is no sign of trouble. Day and night there are people walking the streets, one of the most laidback places I've ever been and the polar opposite to LA or JoBurg, it has a real bohemian sense. The only reminder that I'm in Israel are the occasional soldiers strolling nonchalantly about packing some serious firepower.
Whenever my brother Pilpeled picks me up from the airport he takes me straight to my favorite Sabich spot. On the way we always pass a kid sat on the kerb with his laptop, jacking someone's WiFi, like it’s the most normal thing in the world to be doing on a Sunday night. The Sabich tastes like nothing else, and each takeway place has its own twist adding their own secret ingredients. It’s basically pita filled with spicy fried aubergine, boiled egg, lemon juice salad, tahini, hummus and potato. Sounds like shit but tastes so fucking good.
Curry Quest,89 Durban Rd, Mowbray, Cape Town
Dish to check: Bunny Chow
When the South African government began bulldozing District 6 – a multi-racial district of central Cape Town in 1966 – the dispersed inhabitants were mostly sent to new-build apartment blocks in a dusty desert-like plain outside of Cape Town called the Cape Flats. By the year 2000 the Cape Flats had become a no-go area for most whites, blacks, policemen and any other person who simply wants to live. The gangs run the place, gangs that go by names like The Young Americans, Hard Livings, Nice Time Boys, Mongrels, Scorpions and Laughing Boys. Most gang members like their tik, guns, customised/modified cars, hip hop and dagga (weed). They speak in Cape Slang, a mix of English, Afrikaans and Cape Malay. These are not black Africans. They are Muslims, descendants from Malaysia. Commonly referred to as Cape Malay or Cape Coloured. These are the real South African gangsters. Forget Tsotsi. That was just a crap film compared to what’s going on in the Cape Flats.
The food of choice for these good people is the Bunny Chow, a recipe originally from the streets of Durban, South African, home to the largest Indian population outside of India, but today the Bunny is now eaten all over SA. The dish originated from when some kids wanted some curry from a street stall and didn’t have any plates, and so used a holed-out loaf of bread instead. So it’s half a loaf of bread hollowed out and filled with a meat curry. Lekker! And you’ll be hard pressed to find a better Bunny than the one served up (fast) at Curry Quest.
Eat Vell Hotel, Main Street, Kotagiri, Tamil Nadu, India
Dish to Check: Egg Biryani & Rassam
The highlight my trip round India was meeting John and Heather Roderick in a small hill station called Kotagiri, high up in the Nilgiri hills in Tamil Nadu, Southern India. John ran the local restaurant – the Eat Vell – and after I’d eaten everything on the menu he invited us round to his house for dinner one night to meet his wife, Heather. I’d heard lots of ‘horror’ stories about kidnapping, getting ripped off, drugging and other bullshit, and so I was a little on my guard as I walked around to their bungalow with a box of assorted booze, but the evening was wicked, the company was great (John and Heather were Anglo-Indian and spoke better English than I did) the food amazing and the drink flowed (serious hang-over). I ended up spending a month living with them, and this was when I discovered what it was really like to be Indian; listening to unbelievable tales of life, love and death of the average Indian; tales that you wouldn’t hear on the tourist trail. Anyway, enough of the schmaltz, John is a brilliant Indian cook and he taught me the basics of Indian cookery... His Egg Biryani & Rassam is the nuts. Never bettered.
Café Marhaba, 36 Back Piccadilly, Manchester
Dish to check: Chicken Karahi and Garlic Naan
From Vegan veggie to supreme Indian and Pakistani dishes, Manchester has it all covered and with its baggy history coming to life in the very laid-back Northern Quarter, it serves it all up with a unique attitude. I try to spend as much time as possible here (usually with Sam from Central Station Design) and th place I eat every time I’m here is the Café Marhaba which isn’t a restaurant, but more like a corridor, serving the best halal tandoori cuisine this side of Karachi. When I asked the cook about his food he described it as ‘Manchester Curry’ but it’s much more than that. The place has a guy whose sole job is to make naans and then slap them into the tandoor with a dirty-assed tea towl. A bowl of curry and a naan is all you need here. I usually go for the chicken karahi, but their chicken tikka kebab is a killer starter if you are a fat fuck.
Hotel Indépendence, Segou, Mali
Dish to Check: Capitane and Fries
I was seated next to the toilet on the shitty Air France plane from CGD, and arriving in Bamako late at night was a blast of hot air and complete madness. My contact had not managed to sort out the VIP treatment off the place (as promised) and when I got to the immigration hall it was total Babylon. There were no queues, enforced yellow fever jabs for those who hadn’t sorted it prior to arrival, and a bun fight without the buns for the attention of the two sleepy looking officials waiting to check passports. I got stuck in and resigned myself to a massive wait. Then a mirage appeared: a confident Malian Official striding through the masses, blatantly shoving them out of the way in her official capacity. She strode up to me and showed me a clip board with my name on it.
‘Is this you?’ she asked.
Yes. I nodded, so glad for some way out of there.
‘Then follow me!’ and away we went, pushing the others out of the way. A couple of guys began shouting at us, but this was sorted with a shout and a stare from my new friend.
Nine hours later I’m in the middle of fucking no-where in a place called Segou. It’s 125 in the shade and I’m feeling a bit faint. After a day shooting the shit out of everything I’m ready to die but then I get served in the Hotel Indépendence. Best food in Mali by far: Basically fish and chips by the pool, knowing that the president sleeps and eats here when he’s in town. The place is run by two legendary playboys from Beirut, who know how to cook up some shit, and know a thing or two about hospitality.
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