Category Archives: Travel

World’s Best Bumpf


I thought you might be interested in this: It’s the World’s Best Tree!

No. Not the best example of this species of tree. Not the best species of tree.

The. World’s. Best. Tree.

This decision was made by a committee of appointed experts, without any apparent judging criteria, and that may or may not award second place to a tree in a different country – for a bit of variety, you know – after a ‘normalisation process’ is applied to the voting data.

Makes you want to visit the World’s Best Trees, just to post on social media, doesn’t it?

If you’re a sucker for this sort of thing, we had the announcement of Asia’s Best Restaurants recently. Fully nine of them are in my adopted home-town, but they include one that I’ll never visit again because it was so average, and another that…well, maybe, but only after a bit of arm-twisting.

It makes for headlines though. And it’s a great marketing tool for those appearing on the list. But I think it’d be better known as Asia’s 50 Hardest Restaurants to get a Booking For Now. Fortunately there are plenty of others worth trying that aren’t having the joy sucked out of them by serious foodies with their Instagram devices.

It is good motivation for me to get out and discover some others, at least.

You’re on track to see the launch of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants soon in your neck of the woods: Melbourne, April 5 – mark it in your calendar.

Read all about it in The Age here.

I’m rather impressed that the futility of the exercise was noted in the story: “Despite the absurdity of attempting to compare and rank millions of restaurants around the world the brilliant simplicity of the list made it an instant hit.”

It’s restaurant reviewing for the simple-minded social media generation! We’ve seen how well dumbing things down goes for American presidential elections, so now let’s ruin the restaurant industry too. And if the sheer number of wannabe Ferran Adrias ruining my dining enjoyment with their ill-advised foams and mismatched ingredients is any indication, it’s already happening. Picasso’s suggestion that you need to ‘Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist,’ clearly applies in the kitchens of the world too, though it’s a shame so few aspiring chefs seem to agree.

But it is hard to argue with numbers: When the event was held in New York, it apparently “resulted in over US$73 million worth of coverage with a reach of 13,476,821,864.” Impressive, galaxy-wide coverage then, reaching nearly twice the world’s population? Does E.T. agree it’s finger-licking-good? Or just more marketing bumpf? I’ll let you decide – but remember 13b people/visiting aliens can’t be wrong.

In the meantime the World’s Best Elbow belongs to…

Barcelona part 1…of many

Hey Dan,

Well it’s that Barcelona time again, and that means food. Seriously good food.

In three nights and an extra day of marathon dining we got to Tickets, Bar del Pla, Restaurant Arume, and Cuines Santa Caterina before collapsing in an overstuffed heap. My double cheeseburger at Caravelle for lunch before even starting was probably not my best idea. But it is a good burger…maybe there’s a post on the casual dining scene later.

So first things first: Tickets. Here you have the Adrià brothers post El Bulli, so of course it is a foodie Mecca. Strangely, San Pellegrino only ranks it 42nd best restaurant in the world, but then that list is so flawed it is almost a joke.

What it does mean is that you’re lucky to get a seat at Tickets. Every day at midnight they open a day two months hence and if you’re online on their booking system  at that moment, and can figure out how the system works, you may just get a seat. This meant waking up at 5:00am on a Sunday morning in Bangkok. For you Australians life gets a bit easier.

I managed to secure a table for four at the very Spanish time of 9:30pm.

The first surprise is that Tickets is not some dimly-lit establishment with starched tablecloths, starched waiters and starched customers. The entrance looks like a theatre, the waiters are in ringmaster uniform, the lights are bright, and the place is buzzing. The nose-snubbing at formality is capped-off with a wall of Japanese waving cats behind the bar.

You get the idea that the Adriàs want to put on a performance, and that even the dullest foodies who are there to check the place off a list will get swept along with it.

You can choose your tapas a la carte, but the menu is so extensive that we just went with the kitchen’s suggestions.

Wine-wise the selection is not quite as extensive as you’d expect of a joint on the San Pellegrino list – then again, that list is pretty inconsistent in this regard too – but that’s okay as I’m on the steep part of the learning curve with Spanish wine, and am finding the reds from the Ribera del Duero region almost failsafe. Can’t remember what I ordered, but it was good, befitting the 50€ pricetag – that is at the expensive end from what I’ve seen so far.

But you’re not here for the wine: the food’s the star.


The first item to arrive looked like a cake – two bright red confections with cream between, and served on a cake plate. Turns out it was some featherweight beetroot meringue filled with horseradish cream, sliced into four at the table and meant to be eaten with fingers. Not your average start, and a sign of things to come.

The imagination that the kitchen displays is something else, and in ten or so courses the only real miss was a vodka-infused pear that looked like a urinal lolly, and my dining companions suggested this is what a urinal puck may taste like too. Odd.


Otherwise the relentless flow of dishes was superb. The tuna sashimi on a lime meringue stood out, as did the octopus, which was so good we ordered a second round.


The entire show ended on the third desert with some chocolate ice cream made at the table in a mortar and pestle and a jug of liquid nitrogen – again with the show.


In terms of creativity of cuisine, I’m blown away that San Pellegrino only ranks Tickets at number 42 – I’ve eaten at places higher on the list that don’t even come close. Then again, it is one of seven Spanish restaurants that make the list, and there must be pressure to spread out the prizes geographically, though perhaps not so far as Australia, which gets by with just the one…

The fact that it isn’t stuffy fine-dining probably works against it a bit in this arena too.

I’m less worried about that. The fine-dining rigmarole (and the serious foodies it often attract) can suck the joy right out of a meal. At tickets you get the happy informality of a corner tapas joint, with creativity of cuisine that is rare. Very rare.

It is a truly compelling combination.

Check out more Barcelona restaurant reviews (and more) at

Exotic Adelaide


Hi Tony,

I guess you’re basking in tapas, cerveza and all things Catalan at the moment? Got to find a time to come visit Barcelona soon.

While you are indulging in Michelin star restaurants by the dozen, we’ve been exploring the best that Adelaide has to offer.

A very brief visit to Adelaide for Sarah and Anthony’s wedding, we had a little time outside the formal festivities.

Now we’d heard stories about a mysterious place known as Africola. The rumours were that the food was on the money and the place was hitting the mark in every other aspect. But, this is Adelaide. A place where the list of the top 10 places to have breakfast in Adelaide include more than a few places which are more than an hour’s drive out of town (e.g. in the country). So, I was sceptical.

I flew in early evening and was whisked into the big-smoke by Julia. Our aim was to try and get a table at the most in-demand place in Adelaide without a booking. Something you simply wouldn’t try in Melbourne, London, Dubai, Port Moresby…well, most any place in the world.

Rolling in right on the dot of 6pm and we were seated by 6:00:05pm. Game on!

The menu is difficult to navigate, but the oh-so-hipster wait staff suggested the chef’s tasting menu. Who were we to argue? Matching wine? Alas, Julia was driving (I have an injured wing, so can’t drive).  

Africola is premised on South African food. So, to start, kingfish ceviche? Followed by a bowl of clams in a biriyani broth? Maybe it is the influence of so many cultures coming through? Hey, it was good. Could have had another bowl and been well pleased…some bread or naan please!?


Charred baby leeks. Did I mention I really don’t like leeks? But these were served with some pork sausage, like chorizo and some delectable white anchovies. Bless. We did need a steak knife to cut the leeks though.


And…meat. So much meat. Smoked, bbq’d beef short ribs and some bbq’d peri-peri chicken served with an array of pickles, a salad of endives and bitter leaves and a bowl of hearty, tangy polenta with fermented tomatoes. No, that wasn’t an accident. The tomatoes were meant to be fermented and I, for one was pretty happy about it.

Meat a plenty

At this point I could barely sit on the bar stool (which weighed more than me). But there was dessert to come. Chocolatey, minty, curdy, a good finish to the meal…but ended my glass of wine in a single bite.

Minty goodness

The wine list is obscure, but short. Clearly the wines are designed to match the menu and the staff were pretty happy to help point in the right direction.

As is typical with Adelaide, it’s hard to charge much (people won’t come), so the whole thing was pretty reasonable.

Would I recommend you go there? Heck-yeah…but only if are already going to be in Adelaide. My tip, bring an appetite. This is not a place with modest helpings.

When we left the place was heaving. Good on them. Adelaide needs places like this to excite more innovation.

Looking forward to the scoop on Barcelona…in manageable portions.



Ol’ Blighty


Gday Tony.

I heard a rumour that you have been/are travelling? Anywhere luxurious? Somewhere full of tasty food?

We’re just back from a quick trip to London and Dubai. London for a short break, Dubai for a cracking good fun wedding.

Now before we went to London (I’ve never actually been before), I sought guidance from some trusted foody friends who lived there for a good period. I was half expecting to find stodge, the other half 300 quid/person uber Michelin star greatness. Guess what, we found the stodge.

Ok, so I didn’t try and secure a table at The Fat Duck or any of the other super premiums, but we did look for some simple, go-to food for mere mortals.

Staying in funky Fitzrovia, we expected this would be simple. A diverse selection of local eateries, each packed night after night with eager inner-city London dwellers had me, I must admit, a little excited.

Imagine my surprise to find that, in general, the food was pretty ho-hum though pricey. But we were expecting that.

In fact, we did find some cheap stuff in London…beer, chocolate and flowers. Everything else is ouchies expensive.

We did find a great little breakfast joint. As it happened, across the road from our Airbnb place. It was called Lantana. Guess where the owners are from? My go to was the slow braised ham-hock smoky beans. Worthy.



Now, living in Melbourne, coffee is an institution. Get it wrong and your café will not last the season. London however seems to pride itself on some pretty lousy stuff. Yeah, it’s reasonably priced, but that’s a bit like not-quite genuine, but pretty close to it truffles or caviar. It’s just not worth bothering.

Londoner’s seem to take pride in good ol’ fashioned pub grub. So, who were we to go against the grain. First night was a random pub nearby. The food was reheated, with soggy chips. The beer was cold though. We tempted fate and chose another pub, the Marquis of Granby.  This time the food was ok and the beer was cold. Guess you have to be in the know, as both pubs were bursting at the seams.


We tried to have some food at Harrods, after strolling around for the day, but baulked at the 27 quid hamburger. Needless to say, Harrods is not a thrifty place to obtain sustenance.

Qantas directed us to the American Airlines lounge on our way out. Not sure what to say about that. So best I leave it. I don’t even know if there was food to be had.

Dubai is next. Different place, different context.



…but the company was fabulous


G’day Tony.

Have you ever been to a restaurant which you’ve been looking forward to, a stunning building, surreal view, a modern setting (read: a little stark and uncomfortable) but then walked away at the end of the night thankful for your dining companion?


My lovely wife and I just spent the weekend on the Mornington Peninsula, courtesy of Royce & Jan. Yes, it was Christmas present from last year…the effect of simply having way too much happening. A cosy self-contained cottage, only a short hop to some interesting wineries and restaurants.

We were additionally fortunate that Meredith & Tim gave us a voucher for Ten Minutes by Tractor. That allowed us to combine the experience. Let me immediately dispel any thoughts that Ten Minutes was anything short of superb. It was sublime.

Ten Minutes is a worthy inclusion on your next visit. Option to go al a carte or degustation and an eclectic wine list which didn’t leave me wanting. Extremely attentive wait staff and sommelier. The wait staff are those who are clearly career wait staff. Yep, that good. And the food. Either locally sourced or at least from the type of producer who is well known for their quality produce.

Now, back to the stunning building. If it wasn’t for the fabulous company I would have little nice to say about the following night’s venue. Do I say something bad about it? Or offer them some opportunities to improve? I don’t want to feel like a whinge, but.

Let’s start with the matching wine. Ok, showcase your estate wines, but at least tell us what it is you are pouring…is it a sauvignon (blanc I assume?), a chardonnay, a pinot gris…a little info and if I like it I may even buy some to take home.

The kicker for me was mains. I opted for the lamb double…sweatbreads for entre and belly/rump for main. So why were both served on a bed of broad beans and spring peas with a jus. And that splodge of blended black garlic. It all felt a little same, same. Lacking a little imagination?

But what about the side of leafy greens? I would have been happy to pay extra to maybe have a little dressing…but a bowl of torn oak lettuce with nothing else? Rabbit food anyone?


We finished the night with dessert, but only after highlighting the spelling mistakes on the menu to the waitress. She thought it was very funny. Lucky really…I could easily have been mistaken for someone taking the piss.


Do I name the restaurant? No, let’s just say it was a winery restaurant and if you have seen the building in the photo at the top, you may know it.

So, doesn’t matter mater how good or bad, the company is the thing to make it a great night.



More convicts


G’day Tony,

I’m back!

Ducked away to Port Lincoln in South Australia for a few days for Sascha’s birthday. I opted to not go swimming with the great whites. Just a little too much for me.

Back to our Hobart trip. After the day at MONA, we got back to eating!

Dinner was at Franklin ( No, a different place from the previous night. Wood fired oven, open kitchen, quirky wine list (too quirky for my mind). Food was great, highlight being the octopus. Very funky place though. Very Frank Lloyd Wright feel to the building.


Mixed it up the next day for brekkie and went to a laundromat. Machine Coin Laundry is in Salamanca, but tucked out of the way. Clearly a haunt for locals though. A warning, their coffee wasn’t really crash hot. But you can get a maxi latte which has to be at least 500mls. But, bigger doesn’t make it better. The food was nice though. A few small change ups to standard fare gave it a fresh slant and it was well put together. You can do your clothes while you wait. Handy.


A stroll through the somewhat disturbing Salamanca market followed. I can see how it was once a nice market. Now it is full of nasty, albeit Tasmanian made, touristy trinkets. Julia did pick up a really cool cycling/travel/clothes bag from a local developer who I think will make it big one day. Very clever design (

Just because we needed the walk, we headed up to Battery Point and found an awesome bakery, Jackman & McRoss. The place is evil good. Go hungry and make sure your insulin levels are up. I thought for a few minutes I was going to have to call for an ambulance for Julia.


Ok, wine. It’s Tassie and they do some absolutely cracking good cool growth stuff. Pinot Noir and Grigio, Rieslings, Chardonnay and bubbles. Oh my, the bubbles. If you find yourself staring at a glass from the House of Arras, don’t offer to share it!

So we headed out in the piece of crap to Coal River Valley. If it wasn’t for the football (apparently), we would have been in Richmond in about 20 mins. Even in the rental. 10 mins in a capable car. I’ve got a thing for Pinot Noir from Tolpuddle, but they don’t have a cellar door, so we stopped in at Frogmore Creek. Settled down with a glass of their passable pinot and a cheese platter. What’s not to like?


We headed back for a nap and then a pre-dinner cocktail at The Long Bar in Constitution Dock, which isn’t very long. But it part of the Henry Art Hotel so is supposed to be the place. *yawn*

Dinner was at Ethos ( No menu, degustation only and matching wines. Chef sources local produce from less than 100kms away daily, then designs the menu. Every day is a different experience. The super young, but thoroughly capable sommelier matched the wines, again all local, brilliantly. This was an outstanding experience, but at circa $200/per, I guess you’d want it to be. We were pretty much last sitting, so had a good chat with the staff, including the young chef at the end of the evening. We are fans.

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Despite my misgivings about the coffee, we were back at the laundromat the next morning before the tediously drive to Port Arthur. Only made tedious by my change from gentle coaxing to yelling at the rental. Nothing helped. The drive is otherwise quite pleasant.

Port Arthur was very cool though. We’ll go back there to see more of it.


We stopped at a bottle shop in Hobart on our way back and grabbed a Pooley Riesling and a Josef Chromy Pinot and headed to the waterfront for some food-truck food with a difference. They’ve got 3 or 4 floating “caravans” which serve take away seafood. Some locals worded us up on Mako, and who were we to argue. It was good and pretty cheap too.

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Creatures of habit and we went back to Smolt again. Better coffee and some quirky dishes, which I like (ham hock on bed of puy lentils with poached egg and sour dough toast). Then off down the Huon River valley for a look at the salmon farms. If only there was something resembling a pub or restaurant anywhere…but no, nothing.


We’re planning a return, as it is quick and easy to get there, but looking for an AirB n’B place we can stock up on market fresh goodies and come more local pinots! I’ll let you know when we’re planning. I think you’d love it.

Let me know if you want to head down to Tassie. Pretty sure I can convince Julia to head back.




Convicts, whisky and gin


Hi Tony

I spent a few months in Launceston (Tasmania) back in 2005.

Can’t say it was the greatest fun I’ve ever had, but that was probably because I was running a woollen mill for my boss, the Receiver. Needless to say I wasn’t the most popular person in town. Strange, because I ended up saving 92 people’s jobs?!

Anyways, back then there seemed to be little scuttlebutt about Tassie, except for a few wineries and loads of logging/woodchipping. There was (is) a restaurant in Launie, Stillwater, which had a great rep, but that was about it. When I got there I discovered that there was a lot of hype about the local produce. It didn’t take long to figure out there is some pretty great wine and some tasty morsels to be found.

I’d been thinking about a return for a while, but this time to Hobart. A few people had worded us to up that we should visit Garagistes, but that ship sailed. It closed down a couple of months ago. Never mind, there were plenty of options for us to choose as alternates.

This was a trip for Julia’s birthday, so was intended to be a surprise, but technology let the cat out of the bag (thanks Qantas!).

I found a cool 1 bedroom apartment right on the water, half way between Salamanca and Constitution Dock. So far, so good. I even reserved a rental car to make sure we could get to where ever we wanted. Pity that was a piece of crap (thanks Budget), which topped out at 90 if there was even a hint of an incline.


The Tasmanians are getting a reputation for making good whisky. We found the Nant ( bar in Salamanca. Julia isn’t a fan of whisky, but I do enjoy a wee taste. I looked at a tasting board and when I got to the sherry cask I was reaching for my credit card, but at $165/bottle (500ml) I erred. What is interesting is that every man and his dog is making gin as well. Maybe because it doesn’t need to be bonded as long as whisky it is a way to earn some return on the spend on equipment? Some of it is really good too.


Have you been to Hobart? No? Do it, its fab.

To make sure we had somewhere to eat I booked the Friday and Saturday nights. Arrival at 9pm on a Thursday was an issue though. Who would have thought a city would be basically closed? Well, it was. We eventually found Frank ( Tapas style food and some ripper Pinot from barrel made things ok. Turns out it was a good thing I waved off the 3 course meal on the Qantas puddle hopper.

So, a fresh start and plans to head to MONA (Museum of Old and New Art) for the day. Brekkie…Smolt ( in Salamanca. Sister restaurant to Frank from the night before. Interesting menu, good coffee. Winning!

MONA is stunning. Even the ferry ride over is fun. I’m not really an art enthusiast and some of the installations were a little…ah…challenging. The 52 plaster cast moulds of vaginas was one. The “poo machine” another. But some were just flipping cool! You have to go to understand, but the building itself is worth seeing.


It was 4 day get away, so more to come.




Beer snacks part 2

Hey Dan,

Spain and Portugal

Of course we do

Beer snacks you say? After two weeks in Portugal and Spain I think I can say these guys have a handle on beer snacks – especially the Spanish.

Okay, there’s some cheating here – tapas goes with beer just as well as with wine, and eating tapas (or pintxos, the tapas on a spike usually served on bread) is something of a national sport.

There are a few ‘standard’ items on a tapas menu like olives, anchovies, and calamari that are obviously good beer snacks, though hardly only available in Spain. The fact that it’s available on every corner means they do it with good ingredients though.

Spain and Portugal 4

Olives and anchovy fillets; yeah, that works

Oh, and beer – well, the available almost everywhere on tap local Estrella Damm or (why is this everywhere?) Heineken – is cheap at somewhere between 1.30 and 1.50 Euros a glass. I must say I don’t mind the Estrella for a mass-produced beer. It’s a pilsner, so pretty easy drinking, and has a very fine, creamy head. Apparently the bottled stuff is nowhere near as good.

Also what’s interesting is that the whole microbrewery thing doesn’t seem so big here. One reason may be the pricing – when the majors are so cheap, competing is not going to be easy. That said, I did find a few nice, hoppy ales – Espiga Garage IPA and a Cervesa del Montseny – in a hipster bar in central Barcelona called B-Rita.

Spain and Portugal 6


What is hot right now – hotter than Hansel in Zoolander – is gin and tonic. Traditionally the Spanish make it in a large goblet full of ice, which makes for nicer presentation than the usual tumbler. The bar at the Hotel Urban in Madrid had literally pages of gins and tonics from which to choose, though at around 15 Euros I can see why they’re keener on serving these than beers.

At Carmelitas in Barcelona, the G&T selection was more limited, but at 7.50 Euros better value – and the bartender had a very heavy pouring hand.

But back to the beer snacks.

Jamon is like a religion in Spain, and when you get the proper jamon Iberico belotta (made from black Iberian pigs fed on acorns), resistance is useless. I’m a convert. It was on my breakfast plate, almost always a component of lunch, and on the pre-dinner tapas menu too.

Spain and Portugal 5

Do you have any jamon? Just another store in Madrid

Some Spanish friends tell me that their vegetarian friends eat the stuff. It is that good. With its strong flavour and saltiness, it is the perfect beer snack.

But deep fried – anything deep fried – is almost always something that goes with beer, and croquettes are the ultimate.

Spain and Portugal 8

Portugese style croquettes: Good, but there’s better

You get croquettes in different flavours, and bacalao, or salt cod, is pretty common. I had some in Portugal – though these were made with potato, rather than béchamel, which is the preferred Spanish method. The former were a bit dry and chewy, whereas the latter almost always yields a hot, creamy, salty, fishy mouthful. I’m hungry just thinking about it.

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Forget the flavoured croquets; I’ll have the jamon

But when croquetas are made with jamon, that’s a combination made in heaven. The ultimate beer snack? I think so.



World’s best beer snacks

Hi Tony,

It doesn’t seem to matter what country you visit, ok with a few exceptions, but a chilled frothy ale or lager can be found AND usually combined with some form of tasty, salted snack ultimately making you want more and another beer as well.

Japan is no different. No, not salted nuts, but rather boiled and salted soy beans. Edamame. For a moment you can even convince yourself of their nutritional worth. After all, they are merely boiled soy beans, right? If it wasn’t for the lashings of salt, I think you’d be safe.


I know you introduced me to tasty fried seaweed snacks from Korea, but we’ve tracked down ones with tempura on one side. So much fried, salty seaweed goodness. Makes me want another ice cold micro brew.

What about the age old fav? Simple, I know, but done well fries and some aoli is pretty hard to go past. Hot, crispy, salty potato goodness.


Perhaps it is because it was cold when we were in Japan and autumn is very much upon us here, but the edamame or fries for me as both are warm or hot in the case of the fries. When the weather warms up again, maybe I’ll err back towards the seaweed snacks?!

What have you found in your travels which you’d say make the world’s best beer snack?







Hi Tony.

Am currently sitting on an Asama 625 super-express Shinkanzen (bullet train) from Tokyo to Nagano. I’ve never been on one before, but can highly recommended it. Smooth is an understatement. All the while cruising at a lazy 325km/h. This is one of the older, slower trains. As you would understand, the red Shinkanzen is the really fast one.

We’ve just finished our stint in Tokyo. Off to the snow for some downtime.

Tokyo really did turn it on for us. Not only did we get thoroughly spoilt by our local friends, but we also happened to arrive just before cherry blossoms. There is a reason the Japanese celebrate this so passionately. While we had the pleasure of sharing the cherry blossoms with a few others in Ueno, we unfortunately missed the spectacle that is the Imperial Gardens. Next time perhaps.


Our food adventures continue, with breakfast being the only thing to disappoint. I just don’t get the infatuation with the worst that the US can offer. Bad, and I mean bad, coffee matched with an ultra-sweet donut. Try as we may, the best we got was a bakery for a croissant or one better, an almond croissant. Nice, but just not breakfast.


Dining at railway stations is a Japanese pastime. You wouldn’t do it in Australia, maybe Thailand? The choice of food types and quality on offer at Japanese railway stations is extra-ordinary. Cheap, fast, and chock full of stuff. Much of it I wasn’t able to identify, but it tasted damned fine.

Ok, on downside. I don’t get the Japanese fixation with smoking. You cant do it on the street, so they do it in restaurants instead. I’ve never wolfed down a bowl of piping hot udon as fast as when the table next to us lit up. Sometimes you find a restaurant with a smoking section. This is often neatly divided from non-smoking by a bamboo blind (or similar). I’m going to go out on a limb and say that it is simply shit at keeping smoke out.

Speaking of hungry. I’ve been told there is a snack trolley on the train. Yeah, no sign of that happening. Might put this on hold and explore the train a little.

no food trolley

Back. Hungry, bordering on hangry (hungry angry). The people across from us had a picnic they bought on the station platform. Smells great.

Ok, quick snack in Nagano station from 7-Eleven. They have sushi fresh daily and often find Japanese grabbing their lunch from 7-Eleven, Lawson or Family Mart. Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. It actually works quite well.

An hour in a taxi to Hakuba, because we were too late for bus. Hakuba is a hot little snow town. We are staying in Happo One (pronounced “on-e”). Unfortunately it is very late in the season and a lot of bars and restaurants are closed. Despite that, we found and onsen in our hotel and there are a multitude of restaurants on the mountain where you can get ramen, katsu (fried pork fillet), ramen, curry, fried chicken, ramen, pasta or ramen. While a good katsu-don (fried pork fillet with egg on a bowl of rice) or katsu-curry (you get the picture), the ramen is often the way to go. Salty stock flavoured with miso or soy, some noodles, bamboo shoots, spring onions, seaweed and an egg, with optional slice of roast pork, tempura or similar. $6-10/bowl and you are good for the afternoon, even with some skis strapped on and lots of vertical feet to cover. Did I mention it is good washed down with an icy cold Kirin or Sapporo? If you are lucky they might even have some Suntory Malted, which is just that little bit more special than the standard lager.


Breakfast continues to disappoint us. Miso soup and trimmings is nice from time to time, but the Japanese appear to have determined that the US has the best breakfast offerings going. Sure, a stack of French toast with fresh fruit and maple syrup, with a side of crispy bacon is a nice treat, but even that is hard to find. Pale, limp bacon, scrambled “eggs” (not sure they are made from egg), pan fried potatoes and plump little pork sausages. Ok the sausages are good, but I can’t only have those.

We are off shortly to Japanese BBQ. It’s derived from Korean BBQ, but with some Japanese flare. Perhaps I should say “Japanese improvement”? I don’t want to be unfair to Koreans. We are planning a trip to Seoul next year and I am excited about that visit.

Better fly. Getting that hangry feeling again.

We’ve got another day here before Tokyo and home. Still plenty of time to eat.