Adam Hills: ‘I vowed to try every food but I couldn’t eat lutefisk – it’s dipped in chemicals that dissolve bodies’ | Food

I’ve been off the booze for about five or six years. But then I was at Russell Crowe’s farm and he’s had the bar from [2010 film] Robin Hood rebuilt there. It was just the two of us watching rugby league and he said, “Do you want a pint?” I said, “I’m off the booze. I haven’t had a drink for two years.” And he went, “But you’re in the Blind Rabbit. You’ve got to have a Guinness in the Blind Rabbit.” And I was like, “Do you know what? I can’t argue with that.” So I had half a Guinness, and then a few other people turned up and he let me off the hook after that.

Living in Australia, in particular in Melbourne, we have a very strong coffee culture. Last year, I discovered a new secret coffee in Melbourne. It’s called a Magic: it’s a double ristretto and then three-quarters hot milk, rather than the rest of the cup like a flat white. Supposedly that’s the perfect combination of milk to coffee and it’s what baristas used to make for themselves after their shifts. It’s less milk, stronger coffee, less bitter, it’s the business.

I lived in Sweden when I was 27, 28, and made a vow I would try every food that was put in front of me. The one thing I couldn’t go at was lutefisk. It’s fish that’s then dipped in virtually ammonia. Places that sell it in the US had to get a special dispensation because, basically, the chemicals you use for it are the same chemicals you use to dissolve a body if you’ve committed a murder.

I met Scott Hallsworth, who used to be head chef at Nobu, at a charity gig for the Royal Flying Doctor Service in Australia. We got along, I went to his restaurant and the food just blew my mind. Then, during the lockdowns, they had to close, and my wife said, “Well, you’ve got a little bit of money lying around. Why don’t you invest?” I told that story to Tom Kerridge when I was on a TV show with him, and he said, “Yeah, that’s a great way to blow 20 grand overnight!”

I’m really just a 12-year-old in a grownup’s body. In Melbourne, with my wife and kids, we have takeout every Tuesday: Thai Tuesday. And I’ll have the same dish every Tuesday: crispy, honey stir-fried chicken with pineapple. I’ll call up and they’ll go, “Oh hi Adam. Yep, I know what you want.” I look forward to it every Tuesday, why would I want to mess it up and get something else?

There’s even a thing in Australia called a barbecue shirt. It’s a short-sleeve collared shirt, buttons down the front, and it will usually have an almost tasteful but Hawaiian motif on it. If someone has a barbecue and you want to be slightly dressed up, but it’s still hot, you put on your barbecue shirt. I’ve got two. I brought one of them with me to London last time I was back here but it just didn’t look right. It only looks right in Australia.

There’s always the Tim Tams v Penguins argument. Which I will have none of: look, Penguins are great, but they are not Tim Tams. Not even close to Tim Tams.

My nine-year-old daughter likes to invent dishes that I have to cook, like pumpkin soup served in a pumpkin. Or pizza dumplings. We rolled out a pizza base, put toppings in the middle, then wrapped it up like a dumpling, then drizzled a little cheese and pizza sauce on the outside and baked it in the oven. They were pretty good, actually.

Scott suggested a book to me called Unreasonable Hospitality by Will Guidara, who ran Eleven Madison Park in New York when it became the world’s No 1 restaurant. It’s about going above and beyond when people come in the door: paying for their parking if the meter’s about to run out. And this book has changed the way I work on The Last Leg. It made me go back and go, “OK, what are the little one-percenters we can change that will make a big difference?”

My weakness is ribs. Our office on The Last Leg was around the corner from a place in Soho called Bodean’s BBQ. I would take the writers there on Wednesday and Thursday for lunch. We realised nothing funny was being written afterwards: we were in a meat and carbohydrate coma.

I love going to the Freak Scene [the restaurant Hills is a partner in] and watching people enjoying the food. There’s something satisfying in knowing you’ve helped provide not just a good night out for people – because that’s what happens when you do comedy – but that you’ve fed them. I’m just really wary I don’t become Rocky Balboa, wandering around telling people stories of my past.

It really would be ribs. I marinate them in a sauce: tomato sauce, Worcestershire, barbecue sauce and some Vegemite. Then wrap them up in foil, put them on the barbecue, but not on the direct heat. Then put them on the grill directly over the heat so they really crisp up.

Vietnamese iced coffee: it’s the combination of the sugary goodness of the condensed milk and the double espresso hit. I mean, it can’t be good for you, but it’s like rocket fuel.

Place to eat
In London, the Delaunay. Love it. The food is just gorgeous and the amount of star-spotting is ridiculous: it could be Andrew Lloyd Webber, Brian Cox. Once Barry Humphries came in and sat next to me, and we had a lovely old chat.

Dish to make
Tacos. They’re very simple and it’s such a lovely convivial atmosphere, because you’re all reaching over each other, grabbing bits and pieces. My one addition – something I picked up in Hawaii actually – is grated apple, especially on fish tacos.

The Freak Scene, 28 Parsons Green Lane, London SW6 4HS;; The Last Leg is on Channel 4, Fridays, 10pm


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