Quique Dacosta - Dénia, Spain

Lunch - Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Quique Dacosta (the man) exudes an air of derring-do. He's a rakish charmer, a raconteur. But that concentration - his thoughtful, serious side surfaces quickly and we are plunged deep into a discussion about his cuisine and its place in the web of things.

Quique Dacosta (the restaurant) is a reflection of its patron. Four hours from Barcelona in the holiday town of Dénia, it is a disarming space - modern yet rooted in history (it was previously owned by his father-in-law). The servers are relaxed, and it is their consummate professionalism that sets diners at ease (the GM, Didier, gets a special mention for being a true credit to his profession).

Our party of five arrived at the restaurant for a 1.30pm appointment - the first of the day. The shaded patio was inviting in the heat of the Spanish afternoon - our meal, the "Tomorrowland" menu, began there.

Assinatura - Lisbon, Portugal

Dinner - Friday, October 3, 2014

By and large, the food we ate in Lisbon was cheap, but not particularly great. For example, a meal at the lauded Cervejaria Ramiro was only ~120 Euros (for 5!) and certainly better than anything we might get in San Diego, but it paled in comparison to seafood spots in Barcelona (is this just a cultural preference on our part?)

Our luck improved on our last night, with dinner at the fancifully decorated Restaurante Assinatura. I happened across it as a one-time mention on Chowhound, and it is evidently not on the Michelin Man's radar - too bad for them. Melodramatic waiter aside (and he was charming in his own peculiar way), this was a very enjoyable dinner.

The Ledbury - London, UK

Dinner - Monday, September 29, 2014

Over a decade since I was last in London, and only one night (a Monday, at that) to take in its burgeoning dining scene. I have been keeping my eye on The Ledbury for some time - chef-patron Brett Graham has a cooking voice that resonates with me. We had to visit. We made the short trek from our hotel by Paddington station to sleepy Notting Hill in the dark of a chilly Autumn night - what we ate certainly warmed our cockles.