Usually when your job requires you spend the night in…
After Anthony’s post (Best steak in London?) about the so-good-we-drooled T-bones Team Smith had at the Hawksmoor steakhouse, we thought you might like to meet Will Beckett, the well-travelled man behind the meat, as it were. [Thinking to self: goodness, must rein in those cheesy puns.] A kindred soul of Smith’s, he’s not averse to globetrotting in the name of research – scouring the world for the finest cocktail ingredients and menu inspirations (and, from time to time, fine ale). So, while Will himself is on a tequila-tasting mission way down Mexico way, we bring you his porch-sitting, beach-dreaming, voodoo-drinking responses to Juliet’s travel-related grilling. [Really. Must.]
Soneva Gili in the Maldives, where we spent the first half of my honeymoon. Quite aside from being in Paradise, lazing around in hammocks, diving with stingray and sharks and eating incredible food each and every meal and, of course, the natural bliss of entering the sanctuary of marriage, I have never been anywhere with a more genuine ethos of hospitality, from the first moment to the last you are surrounded by incredible staff who make the whole experience a pleasure from start to finish.
Most disappointing hotel experience?
A ryokan near Mount Fuji. Bliss for other people I’m sure, but the idea of sleeping on a wicker mat, being loudly woken up at 06.00 for a breakfast of raw fish and pickles before hanging out naked with a bunch of Japanese men and my 22-stone traveling partner in an outdoor spa isn’t really my bag …
We feel your pain. And that’s why we like to stick to luxury spa hotels, thank you very much.
I’d go back to Great Huts in Boston Beach in East Jamaica with a huge group of friends (tree house for me, huts on the ground for them) and recreate the most relaxing day of my life – eating jerk pork (this is the absolute epicenter of jerk cooking), drinking rum and Dragon Stout on the beach. Actually the first time round, I was actually drinking rum and smoking huge joints in the open-air Jacuzzi listening to Bob Marley, but I’m older and wiser now. As it’s all a dream, I’d be drinking Appleton 250 limited-edition Jamaican rum (from the bottle), and Scarlett Johansson would probably be frolicking nearby on the beach.
Favourite places to eat while you’re away?
Everywhere and anywhere. The only thing we ever plan is eating, and it doesn’t matter if its Jaime’s Carnitas (a cheap shredded-pork place in Guadalajara, Jalisco), Keens (a legendary New York Steak House) or Enrico Bernardo in Paris (where I had the best food-and-wine dinner I’ve ever had).
Describe your fantasy holiday home…
Probably something simple – a whitewashed villa by the beach in Menorca. My wife is from Menorca and we go more than three or four times a year. I’d love to have something near her family, with enough rooms for friends to come and visit any time they want. In an ideal world, we’d also have a pool (Maria has no idea why: “What’s the point if we’re next to the sea?”) and a small garden and be a short walk from shops and a little bar that serves great tapas. I’ve always liked the idea of being a regular somewhere like that. Finally (and this one really stumps everyone), when I’m older, I’d like to be one of those guys that sits in a chair by the front door saying hello to people as they walk past, doing nothing in particular.
Do you have any travel essentials?
I can’t go anywhere without music and books. My idea of hell is having nothing to do, so I devour books. Recent hits include Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond; The Book Thief by Markus Zusak; and Life and Fate by Vasily Grossman (although the latter is definitely not for the faint-hearted!)
What’s your favourite souvenir ever, and why?
My university course included a year abroad, which I spent in Lome, Togo and St Petersburg, Russia. The souvenir of the whole thing is a bottle of Russian Smirnoff with a voodoo stick in it. I bought the voodoo stick in the fetish market (not that kind) in Lome, where the priest told me that all I needed for extra ‘puissance‘ (and if you don’t know what I’m talking about, the word was accompanied by a 45-degree raised arm, a huge grin and a finger pointing to his forearm) was to cut a bit off the stick and put it in a small glass of spirits. I ended up putting the whole stick in the bottle of vodka and it’s been there, stewing, for over 10 years. I don’t know why I haven’t used it yet, but maybe I’ll get it out when its time to try and have kids…!