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On the road with…Paul Ainsworth

Immaculate island:
Ainsworth loves the
beach and cobbled
streets of Zakynthos

What is your favourite on-the-road moment?

This year I did the food for the GQ Men Of The Year Awards at Tate Modern, which was cool but very hard work — it required months of planning and 700 covers. I then went straight to the airport to meet my wife and daughter for a week’s recovery in Zakynthos, Greece. I love how immaculate the island is — not modern immaculate like Dubai or Singapore but with beautiful white houses and cobbled streets. We went directly to Kalamaki beach and found a bar called Bar 111, which has a Café del Mar Ibiza vibe. Finally being beachside with my family and a cocktail was worth all the effort of that huge job.

What’s your favourite city?

I had an incredible time in Stockholm in 2013 with my wife, Emma, and Tom and Beth Kerridge. We went for a mind-blowing 20-course tasting menu at the Michelin-starred Frantzén restaurant (fixed menu £273, in the Gamla Stan old town. We had a glass-topped wooden box on our table containing a proving loaf of bread and just before course 13 they took the dough away, baked it in a wood-fired oven and brought it back, warm with caramelised butter. We also loved AG (mains approx £32,, a meat restaurant with an entrance like a London Tube station and meat hanging in cages. The next day I was so hungover, I went to the toilet in a coffee shop and forgot to lock the door, which was promptly burst open by Willem Dafoe. What are the chances?

When have you been most frightened?

I was staying in Camps Bay, South Africa, when a gang of crafty bank card cloners were in operation. The housekeeper let herself into the safe in our room, cloned my card and went on a massive shopping spree. The next night, we went to a less touristy area of Cape Town to a bar that looked great but was full of aggressive locals intent on making us feel uneasy. South Africa is a beautiful country and I’ve since had some fantastic experiences there but we changed our return tickets at the embassy and cut it short.

Tropical treat: The W Singapore Sentosa Cove has a crystal-blue marina

What’s been your most life-changing experience while travelling?

I didn’t realise it then but it was when I went to Ibiza 15 years ago. I went with a couple of lads from Southampton because we’d heard all these stories about superclubs and unreal DJs performing in the middle of swimming pools. I’ll never forget dancing in Space (now Hï, and seeing a plane fly overhead at sunrise. When I look back, I just think ‘wow’. The island, the vibe and the people are all incredible: it’s a timeless destination that changes you for the better once you’ve been. I’m hoping to go back next year for my 40th.

Strange encounter: Willem Dafoe

Where’s the strangest place you’ve spent the night?

A weird guest house in Weymouth I’d booked as a romantic break. The room had a dingy single bed and a hole in the wall where somebody had punched their fist through. We left and drove around until 10pm looking for an alternative but there was nothing available, so the worst bit was that we had to go back.

Magical: Frantzén in Stockholm (above) and skating in Central Park, New York (below)

And the best place you’ve spent the night?

The W Singapore Sentosa Cove (rooms from £182.90, It has views overlooking the South China Sea, tropical foliage and a crystal-blue marina. The rooms have cocktail bars and DJ decks.

Where are you going next?

I want to take my family to New York at Christmas. The Rockefeller Center tree, ice skating in Central Park — it’s just the ultimate city for Christmas magic.

Paul Ainsworth is chef proprietor of Rojano’s In The Square, Padstow Townhouse and the Michelin-starred No 6 in Cornwall