The World’s Best Diet | Top 5 Takeaways From Around The World

English Breakfast

Fat-filled Full English Breakfast

Did anyone see The World’s Best Diet on Channel 4 the other night? Talk about food for thought…

No surprise that the UK didn’t score overly well. Hardly a shocker given that many of us start the day with a fry-up and round things off with a plate of fish’n’chips. Mind you, we did a lot better than the likes of Australia, which seems to be breeding a nation of chubbers. And there was me thinking they were all sports mad skinny-bilinky-long-legs down under.

Fish and Chips

Good Old Fish & Chips

Of course, one of the biggest culprits was the USA where waistlines are expanding faster than the frontiers of Russia into the Ukraine. A curveball came courtesy of Mexico. 50 or so years ago it was a fairly slimline nation. But American influence on diets has resulted in Mexicans piling on the pounds. Not only that, but apparently Mexico has one of the worst dental records due to all the fizzy drinks it glugs each year. It was really sad to see kids of 5 or 6 at the dentist with mouthfuls of black, peg-like, rotting teeth.

So who topped the chart with a holier-than-thou healthy food halo? My money was on Japan or one of the Nordic countries – all of whom did very well in the poll. However it was Iceland that took the top spot with its ultra-healthy mix of fish, fish and more fish – the rawer the better. Now, while I like sushi now and again and am partial to smoked salmon at weddings, I’m not a massive wet fish lover – at least not when it’s herring-y.

Thankfully, some of my favourite types of food made it into the top 10 with ItalySpain and France all scoring very well in the healthy eating stakes. Just as well really as I’d pulled together this blog post for First Choice the other day…

Top 5 Takeaways From Around The World

 

 

 

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My Gay Paree Travel Tips… Le Tango

I used to live in Paris and, a Frenchman aside, I picked up a thing or two about the City of Lights during my time there. Here’s one of my favourite nightclubs…

Le Tango ‘La Boîte à Frissons’ – 13 rue au Maire, Paris

Le Tango sign, Paris

Le Tango, Paris

Strictly shenanigans

This night-time haunt – tucked away in the northern reaches of the Marais district – first opened its doors in the 1930s. Back then, it would have been packed with couples pirouetting across the dance-floor to the foxtrot, the waltz and, as the name would suggest, the tango. Fast forward 80-odd years and the scene hasn’t changed that much except for one minor detail – these days the couples tend to be of the boy-and-boy variety.

Accordion accompaniment

Every Friday and Saturday sees this old-school dance hall host the popular gay club night, La Boîte à Frissons. Translated, that means ‘Thrill Box’. And while the sexual reference might ring true at 5am as the crowd begins to pair off for frissons between the sheets, the phrase is actually a slang term for the accordion – which is kind of apt given the music they play here.

Edith Piaf central

Like the soundtrack to a black-and-white weepy set on the banks of the Seine, the night kicks off with squeezebox tunes aplenty. As dance partners spin around to the paso doble, the DJs spin French classiques by the likes of Edith Piaf and Charles Trenet with a good sprinkling of the Andrews Sisters and Glenn Miller thrown in for good measure.

Hairspray fantasia

Towards the end of this ballroom blitz – normally around midnight – everyone in the club is invited to take to the dance-floor for a spot of formation dancing. As Di-Gue-Ding-Ding plays, everyone busts out some fancy Madison footwork à la Tracy Turnblad and the kids from the Corny Collins Show.

Madonna and co

Unlike Cinderella, the fun keeps on going well after the clock strikes twelve when the musical baton is passed over to a wacky mix of Madonna and MGMT by way of French heavyweights like Desireless and Dalida. Pop is most certainly the order of the day with everything on the menu except techno. Just as well really as I’m not sure it’d lend itself well to the kitsch lipstick-red décor and retro diner-like banquettes.

Refreshingly different

Much like the music, the crowd is something of a mixed bag. Über-cool hipsters rub shoulders with and geeks and dweebs – the likes of which you’d expect to see in the Star Wars bar. Throw in a troupe of ropey old trannies headed up by Madame Hervé and her sidekick Jazz and you’ve got everything necessary for an unpretentious, almost underground vibe. The result means Le Tango is nothing like the rest of the Parisian scene, which to be honest, feels slightly Manchester circa 1995. Quite simply, Le Tango is j’amazing.

http://www.boite-a-frissons.fr/home_en.htm

My Gay Paree Travel Tips… La Brigout Restaurant

I used to live in Paris and, a Frenchman aside, I picked up a thing or two about the City of Lights during my time there. Here’s one of my favourite restaurants…

La Brigout – 54 rue d’Argout, Paris

Culinary culture clash

It wasn’t the horsemeat. It wasn’t the snails. It wasn’t even the frogs’ legs. No, when it came to French mealtime shockers, it was the discovery that our Continental cousins are in love with Maccy D’s – or McDo as they call it.

Shame on you, France!

In fact, La France is McDonald’s most profitable market outside the USA. But I suppose it kind of makes sense when you think about it – thin-cut fries and a slab of beef isn’t that far removed from a steak haché with frites. Kind of.

The Hambourgeois

The Hambourgeois

Le Big Mac vs the Hambourgeois

What I can’t fathom is why the Frenchies go gaga for Le Big Mac when clearly the world’s best burger is right under their big, wine-sniffing noses. The aptly-named Hambourgeois is a home-grown delight à la française and is, without exception, the tastiest beef’n’bun combo I’ve ever scoffed. Honestly, it’s a death-row meal contender.

To-die-for delicious

So what makes it so God-damn delish? Well, it’s smothered in a gloopy-gorgeous layer of melted Reblochon cheese, not to mention a good helping of caramelised onions and a dollop of mustard-mayo. Topping things off – quite literally – are strips of thin, air-dried beef (because 150 grams of pure minced beef just isn’t enough cow). A monster portion of homemade chunky chips completes this culinary feast-cum-coronary on a plate.

La Brigout Restaurant

The Hambourgeois is the star of the menu at La Brigout – one of my fave restaurants in Paris. You’ll find this dinky little eatery tucked away on rue d’Argout, just a stone’s throw from the hipster hangout that is rue Montorgueil.

Parisian Cute

Parisian Cute

La Brigout

La Brigout

Oh-so French bistro

The place itself is everything a Parisian bistro should be, right down to the cabaret chairs and the intimate candle-lit tables. The whole place reeks of France (in a good way) – much like the baked Camembert which takes pride of place on the list of entrées alongside treats like crab tartare and foie gras.

Ze Menu

Ze Menu

Trad-cool cuisine

Run your finger down the menu and you’ll find more in the way of French fare like pot au feu (a rustic, peasant-y stew) and poulet Basquaise (moist chicken breast with a tomato and red pepper ratatouille). The great thing about the menu is that it’s seasonal so you’ll see things come in and out. If you’re here in the winter, try the wine-rich boeuf bourguignon. For something summery and light, give the pan-fried sea bass a whirl.

Poulet Basquaise

Poulet Basquaise

Puddings and plonk

La Brigout does a mean line in desserts, too. The éclair Paris Brest is airy yet wonderfully creamy while the moelleux au chocolat, with its gooey caramel centre, envelops the tongue faster than it trips off it – try saying moelleux after a couple of glasses of vin rouge. Talking of which, the wine list ticks off everything from Sauvignon through to Sancerre and doesn’t break the bank, with most tipples coming in at the 25-euro mark.

Paris Brest

Paris Brest

Vin Rouge

Vin Rouge

Friendly fellas

No mention of La Brigout would be complete without a word or two about Guillaume and Nicolas – the handsome duo who run this place. Unlike some Parisian establishments, you’ll find no bof shoulder-shrugging attitude here. Instead, these garçons lead a charm offensive, the likes of which hasn’t been seen since Maurice Chevalier thanked heaven for little girls.

Brunch-tastic

One last thing. La Brigout has started serving brunch now. Along with eggs and smoked salmon, you’ll find the ultimate hangover cure – yep, you’ve guessed it, the Hambourgeois. Beats a Big Mac any day. Bon appétit folks.

http://labrigout.fr/

My Gay Paree Travel Tips… Hotel Crayon

I used to live in Paris and, a Frenchman aside, I picked up a thing or two about the City of Lights during my time there. Here’s my favourite city break hotel…

Hotel Crayon – 25 rue du Bouloi, Paris

Arty Paris

No trip-ette to Paris is complete without a visit to the Louvre. Either that, or a mosey round Place du Tertre, the one-time village square where Toulouse Lautrec, Van Gogh and Picasso used to hang out. With all this talk of art, what better place to call home pour le weekend than the aptly-named Hotel Crayon? I stumbled upon this place by chance – an internet booking blunder, truth be told. But what a great little cock-up it turned out to be.

Reading up in reception

Reading up in reception

Funky decor

Funky decor

Hotel Crayon

Hotel Crayon is a dinky little hotel, with just 27 chambres to its name. All the rooms are decked out in loud and proud hues. My room, for example, was painted slut red. And while the chambermaids were doing their thing, I managed to get a sneaky peek at some of the other rooms – the lime green number just opposite me looked pretty cool.

The slut red garret room

The slut red garret room

French 'art' AKA porn

French ‘art’ AKA porn

Boutique and bijou

As well as a Warhol-esque palette, the rooms are all kitted out with vintage furniture that’s been given a 21st-century makeover. The focal point in my bijou bathroom was an antique, Versailles-like vanity unit that had been customised to support a butler’s sink.

Bijou bathroom

Bijou bathroom

Julie Gauthron

A certain Julie Gauthron is the funky French designer behind the hotel’s look. She even made sure the corridors were given the pop-art treatment with wallpaper that wouldn’t look out of place in well, Wallpaper* magazine, and room numbers woven into the pile of specially-commissioned carpets.

Corridor art

Corridor art

Cool carpets

Cool carpets

Superb location

The great thing about the Hotel Crayon is, despite all its grand designs, it manages to sidestep that aloof, ‘art gallery’ feel that plagues so many boutique hotels. Instead, this city pile gives off the kind of warmth you usually only get at a guesthouse. Throw in the fact that it’s just a couple of minutes’ walk from the Louvre, not to mention the Louvre-Rivoli metro, and you couldn’t ask for a better citybreak bolthole.

http://www.hotelcrayon.com/en/#//2

My Gay Paree Travel Tips… May Day with ‘Muguet’

I used to live in Paris and, a Frenchman aside, I picked up a thing or two about the City of Lights during my time there. Here’s the first of ‘My Gay Paree Travel Tips’…

May Day with ‘Muguet’ – Rue Montorgueil, Paris

Printemps à Paris

Paris in springtime – there’s nowhere like it. Need proof? Then take a stroll through the city when the boulevards and quaysides erupt into a riot of pinky-cream blossom. But it’s not just the trees that are in bloom at this time of year. Parisians usher in the first hints of sunshine with bouquets of white lilies.

Muguet des Bois AKA Lily of the Valley

Muguet des Bois AKA Lily of the Valley

May Day, French-style

As May Day swings round, make-shift stalls start popping up on every street corner selling posies of lily of the valley – or ‘muguet des bois’, to give it its French name. Normally, selling flowers (or anything else for that matter) requires a permit. However, what with May 1st being a national holiday, you can sidestep the usual red tape. As such, anyone can sell the dainty bell-like blooms without fear of getting a wrap on the knuckles from ‘les flics’.

Rue montorgueil

Of course, the city’s florists cash in big time, setting up enormous snow-white arrangements beneath their shop-front awnings. But head to somewhere like the ever-buzzy rue Montorgueil and you’ll spot charity workers and entrepreneurial Parisians erecting trestle tables to sell lily stems to passersby.

Perfumed Paris metro

It’s a lovely tradition which everyone seems to embrace. From floppy-haired ‘flâneurs’ to snappily-dressed ‘hommes d’affaires’, you’ll see all walks of life clutching their sprigs to give to their mums, girlfriends, wives, mistresses – you name it. But the real plus point? It’s the one day of the year when the Paris metro smells more like the perfume counter at Galeries Lafayette and less like the local ‘pissoir’.

Zone 2, Frogs & ‘Exasperdating’

New Home

New Home

I’m not quite sure how this happened to me. Last weekend I moved into a new flat. Nothing particularly odd in that per se until you learn that said flat was in – shock horror! – Zone 2.

Anyone who knows me well will agree that this is really out of character. Reason being, for years I’ve been a Southbank-loving, Zone 1-only London boy. And that’s not the end of it. The catalyst for this move to the sticks? A fella. Yep, for the first time in my life I’m – gulp – co-habiting. Part of the co-habiting arrangement was saying au revoir to central London.

Home Sweet Home

Home Sweet Home

For ages I thought it’d never happen to me – you know, finding someone and having a proper grown-up relationship (I say grown-up – we bonded over Mysterious Cities of Gold and Chip ‘n’ Dale Rescue Rangers). Suffice to say I was convinced I was going to be one of life’s perma-singletons. And that wasn’t for want of trying…

Back in 2012 I embarked on a dating mission. I figured it’s a numbers game and so went into override, signing up with all the big online dating sites and apps. Let’s just say it wasn’t my most successful endeavour and I kept a log of, well, my dating disasters.

French Frog

French Frog

Now that I’m (almost) in the smug married camp, I think the time has come to share my nightmarish tales and hopefully give some hope to any single people out there who are looking for ‘the one’. Trust me when I say, you have to kiss a lot of frogs to find your prince. Who, in my case actually happened to be a frog. I had to move to France to find him.

So, here’s the first instalment of ‘Exasperdating’. Enjoy.

Exasperdating Logo

Exasperdating | Micro Boy

Age: 26
Height: 5’7” (allegedly)
Build: Bit porky
Hair: Black
Eyes: Blue
Job: Something to do with government policy

I don’t do Sunday-night dates as a rule. The prospect of work the next day is bad enough, without a potential date from hell to contend with. Plus, there’s the Antiques Roadshow to consider. Don’t judge – it’s my thing. Anyhow, Micro Boy was really eager to meet up. I’d already had to cancel a couple of times, so I thought I’d break with convention and grant the poor guy a Sunday audience.

Chatting online he seemed right up my street – cute, intelligent and with a good job in White Hall. He loved the fact I was up-to-speed on current affairs and watched Question Time (apparently, finding a gay who knows the name of the Chancellor of the Exchequer as opposed to Kylie’s third album is quite a mean feat). So, everything was looking good. Until I met him…

The little liar – and do I mean little. Five foot seven? In what country? The People’s Republic of Lilliput? Seriously, I half expected him to totter over singing ‘we represent the lollipop guild’ a la the Munchkins in the Wizard of Oz. Now, I’m hardly what you’d describe as tall but I felt like the Jolly Green Giant next to him.

His deceit didn’t do him any favours. When he asked what I’d like to drink, I asked for an orange juice – the dating equivalent of poking someone in the eye. As for how I extricated myself from my hook up with Micro Boy, I told him, ‘I’m really sorry. I’ve got to go home now. To iron a shirt.’ Ouch.