1. High-end hotspots can book out within seconds of reservations opening, usually weeks or months out. Lots of places have online booking, so hop on the web or call the minute bookings open, even if it’s 3am here. Staff are often sympathetic to Australians — we travel so far and have a reputation as adventurous, reliable and appreciative diners.
2. Check websites for deals. Pre-theatre slots can be a cheaper way in. Lunch can be less expensive, just as pleasurable, and easier to book. Or go on the waiting list and keep calling. If all else fails, turn up. Sometimes you will get lucky.
3. Do your homework on the specialties. Ask advice and be open to waiters’ suggestions. Say you want to try the signature dish. If service seems disinterested and chilly, let it slip that you’re Australian. It often warms things up.
4. If you do miss out or can’t afford a big-name chef’s restaurant, check if they have a second, less fancy venue.
5. In major European cities, restaurants can be closed on weekends, Mondays, August summer holidays and in January (the northern winter).
6. Try to go where the locals go and just follow your nose occasionally. Check out what everyone else is having – it’s usually the specialty of the house (or street food stall), and it’s probably very fresh given the turnover.
7. Markets rarely disappoint. They’re ideal for understanding how somewhere ticks, and they can be good, cheap places to snack and even sit down for a meal.
If you’re in self-catering accommodation, enjoy the bounty of local markets. Research where and what days local markets are open.
8. Breakfast like a local. It will save you money and enrich your travels.
9. Eating while standing at a bar counter is cheaper than table service.
10. Train travel is excellent for getting right into the heart of a city but train food can be awful.
Even if travelling first class, buy a baguette before you travel, or a little picnic from a fabulous food hall.
Long-standing RACV member Janne Apelgren is a former editor of The Age Epicure and The Age Good Food Guide. Joanna Savill is a former presenter on SBS’s The Food Lover’s Guide To Australia. This is an edited extract from their book Around the World in 80 Dinners, published by MUP ($45 print, $22.99 ebook).
Writers Janne Apelgren and Joanna Savill
Published in RoyalAuto Dec 16/Jan 17