Steve Vickers: freelance journalist and travel writer UK Sweden

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I'm a freelance journalist, travel writer and guidebook author based between the UK (cold) and Sweden (colder).

I've worked for The Independent, The Washington Post, The Observer, BBC Radio 4, Which? and Rough Guides, among many others, and grabbed front-page headlines with my investigative research. I also built this website. You won't find any adverts, sponsored blog posts or phoney travel recommendations here; just some of my work, plus stories from out on the road.

April 30, 2011

Adrift in the Atlantic

Filed under: Madeira — stevenjvickers @ 11:10 am

Cast adrift in the Atlantic, the sub-tropical island of Madeira has never had the same reputation for culinary excellence as big cities like Tokyo, Paris and Rome. So when it was announced that six of the world’s finest chefs (including Michel Roth, the executive chef of the Ritz in Paris) would be working together at Il Gallo d’Oro, the island’s only Michelin-starred restaurant, there was naturally quite a buzz.

View from the Cliff Bay Madeira

After a champagne reception packed with Portuguese journalists, we sat down to eat. The stomach-stretching 10-course extravaganza lasted a full four hours, with medallions of mango-drizzled lobster followed by tender cuts of Kobe beef and, later, delicate raspberry pastries covered by beautiful sugar cloches.

Next day, I joined the award-winning chefs on a special tasting trip to Blandy’s Wine Lodge in Funchal’s Old Town, where Madeira’s most famous brand of fortified wine is still produced today. We started with a five-year old Madeira wine, then – six samples later – got to try a vintage from 1920. According to our guide, it had spent 86 years maturing in an oak barrel. It tasted like that too: imagine warm toffee, dried fruit and a dollop of spicy chewing tobacco thrown in for good measure. It was tasty, sure. But I’m not convinced it was worth the €355-a-bottle price tag.

Blandy's Wine Lodge, Funchal

Straight after the tasting session (perhaps a bit stupidly) we took to the angry-looking seas for a trip along the island’s south coast. After sailing for almost an hour, sun had replaced the rain, and we were bobbing up and down 500m below one of the world’s highest sea cliffs.

Sea cliffs in Madeira

High sea cliffs Madeira by travel writer Steve Vickers

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