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The Air Up There

Where can you find the best, freshest, tastiest air in Britain? Do Not Disturb takes a deep breath.

Have you ever really thought about air? About how it can smell or even taste? Sure, you probably notice if the air around you is a little ripe, or smells of chips, and you may notice just-sprayed air freshener or cut grass – but for most of us, that’s it. We’re dependent on the stuff and surrounded by it, but rarely pay it any real attention. Once you do start thinking about it though, it’s clear that, much like personal tastes in food or wine, air is a highly subjective thing – and people can veer from mountains to kebab shops in their preference. So where is do our experts think you’ll find Britain’s perfect air?

Heston Blumenthal, chef awarded 3 Michelin stars for the The Fat Duck in Bray

‘Cornwall. It’s fresh and salty and you get the smell of seaweed. It always makes me hungry.’

Bruce Palling, food columnist for The Wall Street Journal, Europe

My favourite air (outside of the Himalayas) drifts over Eilean Shona, a private island off the Scottish Highlands on the west coast. For me, its greatest attraction is the slightly iodised tang it exudes outdoors, while indoors it is frequently blended with the finest Bordeaux on the planet.

John Torode, restaurateur, chef and presenter of Masterchef

I would say beach air and, as I am not allowed to say Australia, I will say the beach in Northumberland near the amazing Dunstanburgh Castle, just around the corner from Craster. Saltwater-filled air and the hint of smoke from the smokers of the famous Craster Kippers.

Valentine Warner, chef and author of The Good Table (Mitchell Beazley)

It is a toss-up between the wall of sweet peas in my parents’ kitchen garden or the incredible blanket of bluebells where we lived in Dorset. I’ll go for the bluebell wood, a secretive place nestled in the vale below Lewesdon Hill. The smell was a heady mix of stream, the flowers, wild woods and farming. We used to go on magical picnics; happy days.

Tom Harrow, wine expert who runs

Between Crunnock and Buttermere in the northern Lake District, there is a remote waterfall called Scale Force. Just at the bottom – where the water hits the stones – it smells like white Burgundy. Wine bores like me are always saying things taste like white stones under water, and it’s that smell.

Dawn Davies, wine buyer for Selfridges and ex-head sommelier at The Ledbury, London

Smell is like a memory key and it’s very much at the centre of my life. When I cycle home through Shepherd’s Bush, right by the Hammersmith and City line underground stop, I go past a kebab shop which always reminds me of a market in Zanzibar Town. I’ve never gone in so I don’t know what it is they cook which reminds me so strongly – and not going in is part of the intrigue.

Melissa Coles, Beer Writer and Author of Author of Let Me Tell You About Beer (Anova Books)

I’m lucky enough to live near Fuller’s Brewery in west London and the air when the malted barley meets hot water never fails to give me goosebumps.


By Rebecca Seal



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