Around the World in 80 Dinners

Janne Apelgren (left) and Joanna Savill

Janne Apelgren (left) and Joanna Savill

A new book from Janne Apelgren and Joanna Savill chronicles a global food adventure to some of the world’s best restaurants.

Around the World in 80 Dinners has a certain ring to it. That's what long-time food journalists Janne Apelgren and Joanna Savill figured when they hatched a plan to write a book about their eating adventures across more than two dozen countries. Here's how it came together.

Joanna: Between the two of us we have probably eaten hundreds of memorable meals, being the food tragics that we are (and having day jobs that make it okay to be eating and travelling obsessives). How to decide on just 80 to put in a book?

Janne: It came down to the meals we tell our friends about when they ask us for our list of recommendations. And the ones they've loved as a result.

Joanna: For me, it's the truly memorable meals. The thrill that starts from arriving and seeing the restaurant sign (I'm really here!) right through to the final flourish of petits fours. Which, at Magnus Nilsson's Fäviken Magasinet, in far northern Sweden, for example, were pretty damn out there. Meadowsweet candies, tar pastilles… actually, the memorable-ness there included a fabulous, totally home-y Swedish breakfast the next day. And beer and sausage in the sauna before dinner. And a little constitutional across the snow ahead of an endless drive to the nearest airport. In Norway!

Janne: A highlight for me was finally cracking a reservation at New York's Momofuku Ko, which I'd been trying to do for around seven years. It was so difficult to get in, hackers reportedly tried to get around the booking system. I finally got in last year. Equally unforgettable was hiking through Italy's glorious Dolomites and finding this brilliant chef in lederhosen at a cuckoo-clock restaurant accessible only on foot or skis - Gostner Schwaige. A simpler pleasure was going straight from Heathrow for the most perfect toasted cheese sandwich at Kappacasein in London's Borough Market.

Joanna: Osteria Francescana in Modena is a killer to get into. They only have 12 tables. Bookings open three months out, but usually go the same day. Even trying to swing a favour was touch and go. Winter is definitely easier. El Celler de Can Roca in Girona books out 11 months ahead. And Blue Hill at Stone Barns in New York is a plan-way-ahead place, too. But so, so worth it.

Janne: One restaurant won't make it into the book as we could never get a table... Ludovic Lefebvre's little Los Angeles restaurant Trois Mec sells tickets; sales open fortnightly on a Friday at 10am for the following two weeks. Turns out it's easier to snag a table for four or six than two. We should have drafted a couple of friendly locals to join us.

Janne: My biggest booking tip is research early. Keep an eye on their social media for late cancellations and, if you can, phone and talk to someone... and tell them you're Australian.

Joanna: Yes, throwing yourself on their mercy by telling them it's 3am and you've stayed awake especially can definitely melt a few hardened restaurant types.

Janne: And sometimes just turning up and offering to be in and out in an hour can work, too. That paid off for us in Hong Kong, for example.

Joanna: An Irish [food] critic Trevor White once wrote he could make up his mind about a restaurant in seven seconds. Agree?

Janne: I'm always nervous if I enter a restaurant and no one has food in front of them. I also hate eating in a restaurant with large tables of single-sex diners (unless I'm one of them) or where the music is completely out of step with the mood. Do you have any rules?

Joanna: For street food, the follow-the-crowds principle always pays off. That's what I did in Mexico City and I made some fine discoveries, standing on street corners watching blue corn tacos being stuffed with fresh white cheese and cactus (the fruit beneath the spines, of course) and then dribbling it down my chin next to corporate types in shiny suits doing the same. And the well-worn "I'll have what they're having". Rarely fails.

Janne: Your story of Lima's bars and markets had me so desperate to book the next flight…

Joanna: And you've been everywhere from the Eiffel Tower to the Lake Palace in Udaipur. And game parks in South Africa. And Zambia! Your description has totally changed my mind about the wildlife safari thing. Who knew you can eat well and have an elephant or a herd of giraffe trundle past your table? Definitely on the bucket list now. 

Janne: Hopefully this saves us ever having to write up our favourites lists ever again. Especially since we're putting so many tips and extra recs into the book. I've counted 500 places in total, in 24 countries.

Joanna: That many? Yikes. Reckon we have a volume two in us?

Joanna and Janne: Probably.

Around the World in 80 Dinners by Janne Apelgren and Joanna Savill is out now (MUP, print $45, e-book $22.99). Available at mup.com.au/items/198593 and everywhere books are sold.


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