Best reason to eat your greens

Umibudo seaweed, Okinawa

Plants are the new meat and seaweed is the new plant. Okinawa is part of Japan (but closer to Taiwan than Tokyo) and its citizens are famous for their longevity — which some attribute to their excellent local cuisine. Visit Naha Public Market and forgo the vacuum-packed pig's faces for the little sushi-sized containers of umibudo seaweed. Also known as sea grapes, it's a vivid-green tentacle of salty bumps that pop like caviar and taste like oyster brine.

— Kim Knight

Best steakhouse

El Pobre Luis, Buenos Aires

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You've gotta love an open kitchen. On a Belgrano neighbourhood corner in Buenos Aires, you can peek through the window as you wait for a table and catch the glint of jumping flames. Meat masters work the barbecue at the centre of the parilla (steakhouse). You can pull up a stool for cold beer or a malbec and watch as every few minutes a chef carves through a cow with a bandsaw. Tables of old friends quaff and gorge. Fire, meat, blood, and wine: A meal at EL Pobre Luis is an abundant, primal, vital experience. The restaurant runs late into the Argentine night. You feel like a fancy caveman.

— Jack Tame

Best Economy Class meal

Qantas

The vegetarian curry on Qantas flight QF143 from Sydney to Auckland. It was just the right spice (and temperature) level and served with improbably fluffy basmati rice and premium-style flourishes. The airline increased the size of its economy meals by 50 per cent in 2014 as part of the all-inclusive ticket price on the highly competitive Tasman. The main was followed by a mango icecream bar and a chocolate truffle. Staff are generous with drinks too if you're thirsty. The bloke next to us on the way to Sydney polished off four (small) bottles of wine, as well as water sensibly offered by the crew.

— Grant Bradley

Best restaurant destination (NZ)

Rita, Rona's, Roots, Amisfield and Matakauri

Wellington's Rita served the most wonderful meal I ate all year, and I can't wait for its style — careful, simple food with a market-led menu — to rub off on Auckland. Rona's in Akaroa is my find of 2018 — do whatever you can to find a sunny table in the courtyard with two passionate chefs who've been lured back from overseas by unmatchable produce. While there, try Roots, the most incredible thing to come out of Lyttelton since Marlon Williams. In Queenstown, head out of town to Amisfield Winery and pray the scotch fillet is on, or live like a billionaire at Matakauri, a luxury resort that reserves a few lunch spots for people who aren't staying the night.

— Jesse Mulligan

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Best restaurant destination (Europe)

San Sebastian

Basking in its beautiful conch-shaped bay, the little Spanish city claims five of the world's top 30 restaurants. But many of its best eateries are hidden — underground (often literally) dining clubs called txokos in the Basque language. They sprang up in the 19th century for men to socialise and cook. Membership is strictly controlled — you have to be Basque, you have to be invited to join and you must be voted in — unanimously. In some clubs, membership can be passed from father to son on death. All 120 societies have long waiting lists. Most are apolitical; members discuss recipes, the best sources of produce, football (Basque teams only) and racing. Under Franco's dictatorship, they preserved the language and traditions. Most now admit women as guests – but not to the kitchen. If you can wangle an invitation, it's a social and cultural occasion to be treasured.

— Ewan McDonald

Best gin bar, USA

Juniper Cocktail Lounge, Las Vegas

Gin has become trendy and is less "mother's ruin" and more hipster chic nowadays. Boasting the largest collection of gin in Sin City, Juniper Cocktail Lounge is the place to be if you want to kick back and relax with the on-trend drink. Though it's in the middle of a busy casino, the atmosphere is relaxed and chilled, with a DJ helping you get into the party spirit in the evenings. No plain gin and tonic here, each gin cocktail is a clever combination of ingredients imaginatively presented — try the Carnival, which comes with candyfloss dissolving into it, or A Little Birdie, served beautifully in a bird-shaped glass complete with tail feathers.

— Ilona Hanne

Best place for a Cuban feast outside Cuba

Versailles Cuban Restaurant and Bakery, Florida

Head to Little Havana and Calle Ocho in Miami for a better understanding of the Cuban community's strong influence on the Sunshine State. I wasn't prepared for everyone talking to me in Spanish, so it's a consideration when coming here; Spanish first, English second. Make your way to Domino Park to catch the abuelos (grandpas) playing chess, then stroll down the street and pick up cigars and a classy Cuban shirt before dining at this famous eatery. Authentic, hearty Cuban fare is served with gusto. Try the classic dish of arroz con pollo (chicken and rice), the classic Cuban sandwich (ham, swiss cheese, roast pork, mustard and pickles on toasted Cuban bread) and mashed green plantains washed down with Cuban coffee and milk.

— Dan Ahwa

Best Italian eatery in Wellington

Cicio Cacio, Newtown

If you didn't know about this place, you'd never find the authentic Italian gem in a funny old alpine-style building on grungy Riddiford St. The charming osteria is pumping every night of the week with fiercely loyal locals who love the ever-changing menu (which features handmade pasta, of course), which staff will write out for you on the paper tablecloths in case you can't see the blackboard. Be sure to book. You're welcome.

— Shandelle Battersby

Best secret bar

Mother's Ruin Gin Palace, Walthamstow

Housed in a renovated World War I munitions factory in the middle of an industrial estate, Mother's Ruin Gin Palace (mothersruin.net/palace) serves more than 80 gins and is in one of the most interesting lanes in London. There's an eclectic mix of live music, the sultry and inviting aromas of fresh jerk chicken and other Jamaican-inspired delights, and a vibe both exciting and relaxed. The gin is divine. It's handmade, distilled in coppers with individual names — Naomi, Ruth and Cecelia — and packed with locally grown, hand-ground botanicals.

— Anna Leask

Best Farmers' Markets

The best farmers' market experiences offer a mix of high and low — the jar of fancy preserve you can bring home for the grandparents, plus the massive crate of oranges at a price that you can pick up a kilo and work out what to do with them all later. Finally, you need good coffee and something to eat right there and then if you're hungry or hung-over. Otago Market at the Dunedin Railway Station was the best I visited this year, featuring all the above in a historic venue with friendly people. Special mention: Remarkables Market in Queenstown for something smaller and lovely, away from the bustle of resort life.

— Jesse Mulligan

Best place to enjoy the fat — and the lean — of the land

Put your digestive system in the hands of the Amisfield chefs and they will cook you a feast of natural goodness foraged from their own gardens and surrounding fields. The beautifully presented plates are matched with Amisfield's own wines for a dining experience you must try at least once. The chefs know where Queenstown's early settlers grew their now-heritage herb gardens and which autumn mushrooms will match the greens plucked from the edges of an ice-cold, snow-fed spring. You never know what you will get on the "Trust the Chef" menu — all the dishes are seasonal, inventive and carefully, spontaneously, constructed. Earth never tasted so good.

— Helen Van Berkel

Place for a sundowner

Jake's Hotel, St Elizabeth, Jamaica

Jake's Hotel, St. Elizabeth Jamaica. Photo / Supplied
Jake's Hotel, St. Elizabeth Jamaica. Photo / Supplied

My first time in beautiful Jamaica left an imprint on my mind; the omnipresent lull of reggae music, the lingering aftertaste of Red Stripe lager and Jamaican jerk spices on my tongue and the wafting smell of sunscreen and ganja. What I would do to be back in my sun lounger (or hammock) at Jake's Hotel, Treasure Beach, on the south coast of Jamaica at 5pm with a Jamaican mule cocktail in hand watching the glorious sunset, as waves crash below. On weekends there's live reggae and a chance to feast on whole fresh lobsters at US$20 a pop. With a rum nightcap and a dip in the hotel's saltwater pool before bedtime, this is how you put another day to rest.

— Dan Ahwa

Best rooftop bar

Moxy Hotel, Manhattan

Moxy's Magic Hour has attracted music royalty Rihanna and Beyonce and is worth a visit. There are two bars and the staff roll back the roof on a fine New York evening so you can enjoy a drink as the sun sets on Manhattan. The Magic Hour has its own access from outside the hotel. Watch out for the carousel though: it can be disorientating after a drink or two. Sit back, relax and watch the city's skyscrapers slowly light up as the sun sinks.

— Helen van Berkel

Best Peking duck

Mott 32 Central, Hong Kong

One of the best restaurants I have ever eaten at, the focus at Mott 32 is Cantonese, with signature Beijing dishes and some of the best Szechuan food in central Hong Kong. Named after 32 Mott St in New York, the site of NYC's first Chinese convenience store opened in 1851, this Hong Kong outpost is particularly great on a Sunday afternoon with a group where you can sit around elegant tables, enjoy a cocktail and feast on duck and dumplings (try the Shanghainese Soup Dumpling with Hairy Crab Roe, in particular). Located in Hong Kong's central Standard Chartered Bank Building in a former storage facility, the award-winning interior is a great example of that old adage "eating with your eyes" — graffiti-covered walls and site-specific painted imagery pays homage to traditional Chinese interiors with a modern twist.

— Dan Ahwa

Best baked breakfast good

Banana Bread, Brisbane

Subtropical Queensland grows 95 per cent of Australia's bananas and there is no better use of this fruit than the cake they insist on calling "bread" because it is baked in a loaf tin and doesn't have icing. Whatever. Get banana bread for brunch all over Australia, but in Brisbane, head to suburban Albion and Fonzie Abbott coffee roasters, where thick slabs of the stuff are slathered in butter that mellows the "brightness" of a tangy, freshly roasted brew.

— Kim Knight

Most macabre tribute to lost dessert

Icecream Graveyard, Waterbury, Vermont

The tiny US state of Vermont punches well above its weight in terms of two things: liberal politics and food produce. Ben and Jerry's ice cream epitomises both of these. No summer road trip through the Green Mountain State is complete without an obligatory pit stop and a scoop or two. Favourite Vermont music-inspired flavours include Phish Food and Cherry Garcia. However, stray from the path to the rear of the factory and you'll find a leafy plot. Here the icecream makers have erected a "flavour cemetery" with a headstone to each of their discontinued desserts. Fare thee well, Rum and Raisin, taken too soon from our freezers.

— Thomas Bywater

Best meal in the Pacific

Bourail, New Caledonia

Many travellers salivate over New Caledonia's seafood but its red meat is even better — particularly in the island's Wild West region of Bourail. While the big portions of beef will satisfy your hunger after a day hiking Bourail's hills, the real treat is the area's venison. Deer are a pest on the mainland and a popular animal for Bourail locals to hunt all year round. It's served up on restaurant menus but there's nothing like enjoying it over a campfire barbecue. Emeric Amice runs the one-man tour company Gecko Evasion and cooks up a brilliant meal out in the wilderness. His smoky New Caledonian hotdog — venison sausage in a baguette — was the culinary highlight of my time in the small French territory. It's not just his barbecue skills that will impress, Emeric is a knowledgeable local and an expert guide of Bourail's best spots.

— Hamish Fletcher

Best food market in Barcelona

Santa Caterina

It is not and never has been La Boqueria. Like the rest of La Rambla, where it's located, it's a tourist trap of fast-food joints and overpriced eateries. For the real deals, head to Santa Caterina in the Old City. Built in 1845 as the city's first covered food market, it was dramatically renovated with a colourful, wavy roof in 2005. Little else has changed in 170 years: this is still an everyday market for the community, though it may not be as blue-collar as it once was, where families, office workers and chefs buy produce from shopkeepers who've plied their trades for generations, selling meat, veges, fish, cheeses and condiments. The cafes and delis are, as the Catalans say, "excel-lent".

— Ewan McDonald

Best long drop

The Atlantis resort in Dubai has dozens of ways to extract your child's inheritance, including Aquaventure, the on-site water park. It's not some nod to a water park like a chipped playground slide into a pool and free lilos. This is peak desert-conquering-petro-wealth-obscenity-level entertainment. Head straight for Poseidon's Revenge where, if you're not too light to generate the required momentum and not too heavy to make the ascent, you'll stand almost vertical, leaning against the inside of a slide, with a clear, plastic flap under your feet. A plastic coffin-lid cover will close you in, then nothing but views and heat and terror for 1, 2, 3, aaaaaaaaaaahh! And you'll plummet down and up and around a big loop at up to 60km, upside down and inside out, before emerging into the exit pool shouting obscenities in front of startled children. Maybe.

— Chris Reed

Best breakfast in Edinburgh

The Roseleaf in Leith

It doesn't matter if you're setting up for a full day pounding the cobbles or just working off last night's show, in Edinburgh breakfast is the most important meal of the day. The Roseleaf in Leith Docks is just the place. With a carved red sandstone exterior in the former Black Swan pub, it's chock-full of flavour and character. Recommendations include the "Big Yin" — the Roseleaf's full, cooked breakfast — or "Cullen Skink" — a traditional, creamy soup of smoked fish from the east coast. It's famous for an eccentric all-day cocktail menu — it's not just tea served in china pots.

— Thomas Bywater

Best laid cutlery

Yen restaurant, W Taipei

Up the hotel lifts and on the floor with the sculptures made from knives and forks and spoons is a very special dining room. Yen serves peking duck to die for and a cabbage soup which sounds simple until you read the words "matsutake mushrooms" (up to $1000 a kilo at the start of the season). It's all very, very, very good, but the first thing you'll notice is your place setting. Long, elegant cutlery. Long, elegant chopsticks. One pair black. One pair purple. To travel is to be educated — eat from your own plate with the black chopsticks; select from shared plates with the purple. You're welcome.

— Kim Knight

Best quick breakfast

European bakeries

I'm a big believer in a quick and easy breakfast — and few places in the world have this more nailed down than Europe's pastry shops. You can't go wrong with whatever you choose but here's a few tips I picked up on a recent sojourn to Paris, Lisbon and Copenhagen. Make sure your French bakery calls itself a boulangerie — the Republic's laws mean a shop can't describe itself as one unless its goods are baked on site — so you know it's going to be fresh. Get your egg custard Portuguese tarts from train stations, neighbourhood bakeries or corner stores. They're just as good as higher-end outlets but are only two-thirds of the price. When in Denmark, just ask for a T-snack; I got blank looks when trying to ask for a "tebirkes" — the sweet, poppy-seed pastry that's ubiquitous in Copenhagen's stores.

— Hamish Fletcher

Best surprise souvenir

Aelan chocolate from Vanuatu

Meaning "island" in Bislama, this award-winning chocolate, which we picked up in the Luganville duty-free store, is made from locally grown cocoa, and the profits are shared with local growers. It's batch-produced and there are flavoured varieties as well as "island of origin" bars from Epi, Santo, Malo and Malekula, each with their own characteristics. You can also tour the factory, which I'm hoping to do next time I'm in Port Vila.

— Isobel Marriner

Best oysters

Bay of Islands

Sure, Bluff oysters are worth raving about, but my favourites will always be Waikare Inlet oysters from the beautiful Bay of Islands. Whenever I'm there I try to eat as many of these little suckers as I can — and on a trip in October, I used them as a gateway to get my girlfriend into oysters served natural. I find they're a bit milder than others, with a delicious creamy texture and aftertaste. The highly recommended Charlotte's Kitchen in Paihia and the Duke of Marlborough in Russell serve them fresh by the dozen, although I could probably eat an endless amount.

— Eli Orzessek

Best coffee in America

El Exquisito Restaurant, Miami

Miami is amazing — it's like no other American city. There's so much to love: the weather, the Latin culture, the food and street art in Wynwood — but the revelation for me was the coffee, specifically the Cuban coffee. Absolutely the best I've ever had — sweet, strong and sustaining. Be careful though, the first night I was there I had two cortados (an espresso with milk) in the evening and didn't get to sleep until 5am. Order at a restaurant's ventanita (a walk-up window — you'll see them all around Miami, often with a queue of locals at the window).

— Greg Fleming

Best breakfast buffet

Mayfair Hotel, Adelaide

I've eaten at many a breakfast buffet during my time with Travel and when I stayed at this boutique hotel in Adelaide, I was only planning to have a small bite. However, once I saw the offerings, that plan quickly went out the window. Dedicated to sustainability, the hotel produces its own honey from beehives on the roof. At breakfast, you can sample a great selection — which I did on a variety of breads. The rest of the buffet is also ace: smashed avocado, buffalo mozzarella salad, salmon and much more. I left for my day trip exploring the Adelaide Hills full and satisfied.

— Eli Orzessek

Best seadog

Waiheke

The seadog is one of the more obscure items on a fish and chip shop's menu, but it's my absolute favourite. If you've never partaken in this delicacy, it's a crab stick in a hot dog bun with tartare sauce — sometimes with cheese and lettuce. While I've tried many over the years, I found the best at Waiheke's Little Oneroa Beach Takeaway. They keep it simple, but it's always perfect. A toasted bun, crispy batter encasing soft surimi and a generous amount of creamy tartare sauce — biting into one is pure perfection and I make sure to eat as many as I can when I'm on the island over summer. Add chips into the bun to make it even better.

— Eli Orzessek

Best vending machine

Star Casino, Gold Coast

The Star Casino at Broadbeach, Gold Coast, is a homage to all things gold and glittering. Though it gives off the air of sumptuous decadence, you remember you are in a casino that wants you to buy expensive drinks and make reckless spending decisions as quickly as possible when you see the usually-considered-classy beverage Moet and Chandon being sold via vending machine. While this rankled slightly, I couldn't help but admire the brazen delivery method of the appealing little bottles, and the wonderful catchphrase on the machine that said simply "open the now". Because if champagne isn't about immediacy, then what is? Just don't think too hard about the subconscious psychology of bowing down to the glitzy money-hungry machine to retrieve your allocated treat.

— Sadie Beckman

Best airport barbecue

Q Smokehouse, Terminal E, Houston

I always seek out good barbecue when in the US. I got the barbecue bug after trying a plate of Smoque BBQ's brisket in Chicago. Houston has great barbecue but I only had five hours before a connecting flight and the city's sprawl and traffic meant racing out to famous spots like Brooks' Place or Burns wasn't on the cards, so I was resigned to having a bad airport sandwich. Then I found — or rather smelt, while wandering around terminal E — Q Smokehouse. Opened earlier this year, it's the only airport barbecue spot in the US that smokes its meat on-site. Copper tubes vent the wood smoke up through the airport's ceiling, but that sweet, smoky barbecue aroma is still evident. The Q menu features smoked brisket, ribs, sausage, turkey and pulled pork. Trust me, you won't need to eat on the plane.

— Greg Fleming

Best meal on a plane

Lobster thermidor, Singapore Airlines

There are many areas of human progress that can frankly be written off as half-hearted disappointments. We went to the moon, only to lose interest in space. We released the work of Beethoven, Hendrix, Aretha Franklin and Prince, only to follow it up with the catalogue of One Direction. We invented the internet, only to follow it up with cyberbullying and poop emojis. But the advance in airline food — from freeze-dried hell-matter to lobster thermidor — is a thing of wonder. A testament to humanity's progress. With Singapore Airlines' new "Book the Cook" feature, premium passengers can go online to select their meals in advance; those in Business Class or First can choose lobster. It's an insanely wonderful treat.

— Winston Aldworth

Best gin bar, Asia

Atlas, Singapore

Inside the recognisable Parkview Square building you'll find the grand lobby and bar of Atlas, an art deco treasure with a wide range of spirits and cocktails on offer (as well as delicious food). But it's gin that is Atlas' speciality: its collection of more than 1000 gins took two years to assemble, with offerings from 43 countries — including 11 from New Zealand — as well as rare collectibles if you're feeling flush. Throw your glad rags on and order a gateway cocktail in the form of a Singapore Sling.

— Lorna Subritsky

Best booze tasting

KoHana rum, Hawaii

A chance encounter with some KoHana Hawaiian Agricole Rum at the the Four Seasons Oahu at Ko Olina saw me, the next day, exploring the sugar cane fields where it is grown, distilled and bottled in Kunia, West O'ahu. The repurposed pineapple plantations' transformation back to native crops of sugar cane brought to Hawaii by the early Polynesians is very impressive and sets the scene of a farm-to-table business ethos with uber-stylish branding.

Seeing how simply a sugar-cane press works, making me an instant glass of cane juice, was like a science lesson. Exploring the dozens of species of sugar cane, each with its own Hawaiian legend, spiritual origin and agricultural purposing, captured my imagination — especially, the three canes used for a love magic ceremony. By tasting time my appreciation was real, the yummy variation of proofs left me with a warm feeling in my belly and an education to boot.

— Ricardo Simich

Best dinner cruise

Steamboat Natchez, Mississippi River

On the Gray Line's dinner cruise aboard Steamboat Natchez, diners enjoy the Dukes of Dixieland jazz band and a unique view of the New Orleans city skyline. The buffet has the best New Orleans cuisine including gumbo. The two-hour cruise departs from Toulouse St Wharf behind the infamous Jackson Brewery, where you can find more music and drinks.

— Alanah Eriksen

Best Art Gallery Restaurant

GOMA

"I've heard," said a colleague, "that the restaurant at the Queensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art in Brisbane is rather good ..." She wasn't kidding! The GOMA restaurant wasn't just good; it was superb. I ate Maremma Wild-Raised Duck with persimmon, cauliflower and cumquat and a side of green beans with a soy butter emulsion. It cost A$52 (and was worth every perfectly cooked mouthful). GOMA's philosophy is to "deliver a dining experience as insightful and evocative as the art that surrounds it" and, on this occasion, back in July, it delivered on that. Why can't more museum and gallery cafes and restaurants do the same?

— Dionne Christian

Best wine tasting experience

Chateau de Pravins, Beaujolais

Bringing wine back from an overseas trip brings to mind the old coals to Newcastle analogy, but when it evokes memories of a French vineyard like this one, it's worth the extra care with packing. Founded in 1251 and only owned by three families in the intervening 800 years, the vineyard features a heritage-protected manor house with a grand cellar in which tastings are conducted. Owner Isabelle Brossard lost her vintner several years ago and decided to make the wine herself; she also made the bold move to be fully organic. One taste of her rich chardonnay and you'll be convinced that both ideas are genius.

— Lorna Subritsky

Best millennial brunch

Bam Bam Bakehouse, Gold Coast

Find the freshest breads at boulangerie, where goods are baked on site. Photo / Getty Images
Find the freshest breads at boulangerie, where goods are baked on site. Photo / Getty Images

Forget smashed avocado, here they serve it violet. Brightly hued beetroot hummus is the key, paired with chargrilled sourdough, spiced labneh (a Middle-Eastern cream cheese) a poached egg and black sesame. This quirky dish is just one of the creative offerings that characterise the vibe of Bam Bam Bakehouse, where you may well spot a celebrity Instagramming their breakfast. Actress Margot Robbie held her hen's do here last year, choosing to take part in making their famed pastries while drinking G&T's instead of hitting the clubs in a silly veil. Even Vogue magazine has deemed it a "hotspot". Large sunnies and effortless chic required, along with the patience to be able to queue for a table at peak times.

— Sadie Beckman

Best seafood market

Les Halles, Avignon

Made famous by authors like Peter Mayle, the market of Les Halles has been a meeting place for Avignon city-dwellers for over a century. The market features 40-odd vendors offering a tantalising taste of Provencal gastronomy, from olives and cheeses to duck confit and truffle oil. But it's the seafood that's the star of the show: there are piles of giant prawns, maze-patterned fish and colourful coques peche. Pull up a stool at the oyster bar, and lunch like a local over a glass of wine.

— Lorna Subritsky

Best coffee in Asia

Hanoi

Vietnamese coffee is well known — a drip filter poured over ice with a few tablespoons of artery-whacking sweetened condensed milk added for good effect. Yes please. In Hanoi, they take it a step further, running an egg yolk into the condensed milk before mixing it all together. The result, called ca phe trung, is a joyous, good morning tiramisu — a rich treat that's the perfect way to start your day.

— Winston Aldworth

In Hanoi they take coffee seriously. Photo / Getty Images
In Hanoi they take coffee seriously. Photo / Getty Images

Best dinner with art

Vienna Museum of Art History

Fancy dinner in jaw-droppingly impossible splendour, followed by an evening of gorgeous art? Vienna's Kunsthistorisches Museum serves a grand buffet in its upstairs cafe-restaurant, where the walls are all marble and high, gilded archways, the tablecloths are brocaded linen and the desserts are everything you would expect in this city of cakes. Schokoladenkuchen, or "black and white" chocolate cake, for the adventurous; schokoladenbrunnen mit belgischer schokolade, a "chocolate fountain with Belgian chocolate, fruit skewers and sweets" for those who are brave beyond reason. Afterwards, you're invited to walk it off in the galleries. This museum owns the Cellini Salt Cellar, the world's largest collection of Brueghel's and masterpieces by Rembrandt, Raphael and Rubens, Caravaggio, Vermeer and many others.

— Simon Wilson