What makes a meal memorable? There are so many factors – the location, the company around the table, the wines drunk and of course, the skill of the chef. I still recall the revelation I had 30 years ago after my first meal at Harveys, where Marco-Pierre White was first in charge of his own kitchen. It was perhaps more pronounced, as I had returned that day from Paris, where I had eaten at several two star Michelin restaurants. Suddenly, I realised that his meal surpassed them all in skill and sheer pleasure.
On an occasion more than a decade earlier, while I was a war correspondent in Indochina, there was a memorable dinner in Phnom Penh in the closing weeks of the war. It was a harrowing experience, with constant rocket fire and an impending sense of doom as the perimeter around the city shrunk on a daily basis. As a diversion from this, a group of fellow correspondents had arranged for the best French restaurant in town to stay open after curfew. There was much consumption of Dom Perignon plus an entire suckling pig to help us forget about the miseries we witnessed. Despite the intermittent sounds of gunfire and mortars, we were able to leave safely, though the staff had to remain overnight, generously compensated by us for their exceptional efforts.
My recent visit to Hong Kong was hardly on the same level of danger as that, though it was impossible to avoid the roadblocks and conflicts between the police and protesting students. The interesting thing is that while there are always flashpoints in war or civil conflicts, equally, there are even larger zones where life proceeds on a more or less normal basis.