Ever wish you could have an expert critic on speed dial to tell you where to eat, wherever you are? Well, this comes close: T+L reveals its top dining picks in five European cities where the food is as spectacular as the locations.
Dinner + Drinks
With daring dishes such as oysters with mango sauce, as well as updated classics like steak tartare with caviar and chips, Jean Luc Figueras champions his own brand of Catalan fusion at Blanc (Mandarin Oriental, Barcelona, 38-40 Passeig de Gràcia; 34/93-151-8888; mandarinoriental.com; dinner for two $160). The dining room, designed by Patricia Urquiola, is as dazzling as the food. Later, join the fashion crowd for cocktails and tapas at B Lounge (Hotel Barceló Raval, 17-21 Rambla del Raval; 34/93-320-1490; barceloraval.com; drinks for two $25).
Breakfast + Lunch
Newcomers Christopher King and Tommy Tang—formerly of the handmade-candy store Papabubble—have transformed the city’s breakfast and brunch scene with their sleek new Café Federal (39 Carrer del Parlament; 34/93-187-3607; federalcafe.es; breakfast for two $20), in increasingly hip Sant Antoni. Take your pick of the three floors (from the communal dining table downstairs to a sunny roof terrace) and order the cocotte of baked corral (farmhouse) eggs with pancetta, or the slow-roasted local tomatoes on sourdough toast. Meander back through town and hit the beach for lunch at superstar Carles Abellán’s latest outpost, Bravo24 (W Barcelona, 1 Plaça de la Rosa dels Vents; 34/93-295-2636; w-barcelona.com; lunch for two $182). This new-wave asador inside the Ricardo Bofill–designed W hotel features steaks from 10 breeds of pedigreed cows (we loved the domestic Rubia Gallega), grilled to perfection over oak wood. If that’s not to your gusto, the grilled lettuce with garlic vinaigrette is extraordinary, too.
Snacks + Sweets
At Vioko (55 Passeig de Joan de Borbó Comte de Barcelona; 34/93-221-0652; vioko.es; scoops for $3.50) in Barceloneta, the dense, velvety ice creams and sorbets—in refreshing jasmine and grapefruit or exotic rose petal and violet—are ideal palate cleansers. Stroll up to El Born and pick up plump pistachios and Marcona almonds roasted at the 1850’s shop E&A Gispert (23 Carrer dels Sombrerers; 34/93-319-7535); then finish up your gastrotour with a copa de vino and tapas of small-production Spanish cheeses and charcuterie from the esteemed Cal Rovira farm in Berguedà, at pint-size bar Zim (20 Carrer de la Dagueria; no phone), in the heart of the Barri Gòtic. But it’s not over yet! Even at the airport, Barcelona doesn’t disappoint. The gratinéed macaroni timbale at Porta Gaig (Terminal 1; 34/93-259-6210; lunch for two $85; open noon to 5 p.m.) by chef Carles Gaig, whose other namesake restaurant (restaurantgaig.com) has a Michelin star, will go a long way toward easing the pain of departure.
Chef Favorites: Albert Adrià
Albert Adrià, former pastry wizard at El Bulli, has taken traditional tapas for a spin at the newly inaugurated tapas restaurant Tickets (ticketsbar.es). (The restaurant’s bar, 41, offers highlights of El Bulli as snacks.) Here, his pick of four classic Catalan haunts.
Bar Mandri: Claim an outdoor table in the folksy Sarrià district’s stalwart bar and try the city’s definitive patatas bravas. 60 Carrer de Mandri; 34/93-417-1129; tapas for two $16.
El Quim de la Boquería: Everything at this Boquería Market bar is exalted, especially the huevos con llanqueta, tiny sautéed fish served with eggs. 607 Boquería; 34/93-301-9810; elquimdelaboqueria.com) lunch for two $52.
La Clara: The ultimate Sunday lunch means a seat at the counter and a plate of La Clara’s house cannelloni. 442 Gran Vía de les Corts Catalanes; 34/93-289-3460; laclararestaurant.com; lunch for two $40.
La Plata: Inside the tiled Barri Gòtic bodega, order the small fried fish of the day (it’s not always sardines) and a dazzling tomato-and-onion salad. 28 Carrer de la Mercè; 34/93-315-1009; tapas for two $15.
Dinner + Drinks
Your most important reservation: Noma (93 Strandgade; 45/3296-3297; noma.dk; lunch for two $725), considered by many to be the best restaurant in the world. New Nordic Cuisine star René Redzepi romances local ingredients in tour-de-force presentations such as caramelized salsify with Gotland truffle purée, milk skin, and rapeseed oil. For dessert: biodynamic barley and birch-tree sap. Expensive? Yes, but it’s the foodie’s holy grail. A savvy wine list—rich in French, Italian, and Austrian offerings—and a dashing neo–Midcentury Modern interior are just two of the draws at Ved Stranden 10 (10 Ved Stranden; 45/3542-4040; vedstranden10.dk; wine for two $24), an oenophiles’ hangout housed in a former tea shop that dates back to 1796. In good weather, sip a glass outside at a canal-front table. Over in the Vesterbro district, Kødbyens Fiskebar (100 Flaesketorvet; 45/3215-5656; fiskebaren.dk; dinner for two $155) opened to raves inside a now-trendy renovated slaughterhouse complex. The brainchild of Anders Selmer, former wine director at Noma, Kødbyens mixes industrial chic—tile walls; meat hooks used for coat hangers—with a party vibe. But the kitchen is serious about seafood, putting an artful Scandinavian twist on dishes such as razor clams dressed in fennel and ramson cream, or Bering Sea king crab with horseradish and celery. Throw back some briny Lim Fjord oysters at the raw bar while watching jellyfish float by in a giant aquarium. Last call isn’t until 2 a.m. (midnight on Sunday) at Ruby (10 Nybrogade; 45/3393-1203; rby.dk; cocktails for two $36), a high-ceilinged space located near the Gammel Strand. Make your nightcap a Pisco Smash (pisco with grapefruit juice, pineapple syrup, mint, and sage).
Coffee + Snacks
When touting Copenhagen’s serious java cred, connoisseurs usually cite the Coffee Collective (10 Jaegersborggade; 45/6015-1525; coffeecollective.dk; coffee for two $9), in the scruffy-cool Nørrebro district. The four founders include the 2006 World Barista Champion and the 2008 World Cup Tasting Champion. After catching a whiff of the bergamot notes in your Hacienda La Esmeralda special, stroll over to sweet-smelling Karamelleriet (36 Jaegersborggade; 45/7023-7777; karamelleriet.dk) to admire candies being made with vintage equipment. The store’s co-owner Charlotte Vigel—a.k.a. the bubblegum pop singer Tiggy—is as much an attraction as her butterscotch dainties.
From classic to cutting-edge, here are three restaurants that offer up Denmark’s signature open-face sandwich.
Aamanns Etablissement: Try toppings such as cold-smoked seasonal herring with potatoes, capers, and lovage dressed in elderberry vinaigrette. 10-12 Øster Farimagsgade; 45/3555-3310; aamanns.dk; lunch for two $65.
Restaurant Schønnemann: Book a week ahead at the 1877 institution and order the halibut with truffled-omelette sandwiches. To drink: a selection of four dozen aquavits. 16 Hauser Plads; 45/3312-0785; restaurantschonnemann.dk; lunch for two $50.
Royal Café: What happens when you cross sushi with smørrebrød? “Smushi,” at this neo-Baroque space. Try the smoked mackerel with boiled egg and tomato jelly. 6 Amagertorv; 45/3312-1122; theroyalcafe.dk; lunch for two $58.
Breakfast + Sweets
The pastry chef Pierre Hermé’s menu at the new Royal Monceau Raffles Paris (37 Ave. Hoche, Eighth Arr.; 33-1/42-99-88-00; leroyalmonceau.com) is the buzziest breakfast of the moment, but if your vision of a Parisian matin involves baked goods of a more savory sort, claim an outdoor table at Bread & Roses (7 Rue de Fleurus; Sixth Arr.; 33-1/42-22-0606; breadandroses.fr; breakfast for two $30), a chic organic bakery with an unbeatable location on the edge of the Luxembourg Gardens. Press on for more in-depth pastry research at La Pâtisserie des Rêves (93 Rue du Bac, Seventh Arr.; 33-1/42-84-00-82; lapatisseriedesreves.com; pastries for two $11), from the French sugar sultan Philippe Conticini. Burnished tarte Tatin displayed in space-age glass capsules not your speed? Opt for the vibrant fig sorbet just up the street at the artisanal Le Bac à Glaces (109 Rue du Bac, Seventh Arr.; 33-1/45-48-87-65; lebacaglaces.com; sorbet for two $11).
For a midday refueling, head to the 25-seat Rino (46 Rue Trousseau, 11th Arr.; 33-1/48-06-95-85; rino-restaurant.com; lunch for two $56), where young chef Giovanni Passerini sends out an unforgettable sardine ravioli with ricotta and fennel consommé. Or fortify yourself with plump croquettes de jambon at the zinc counter of L’Avant Comptoir (3 Carrefour de l’Odéon, Sixth Arr.; no phone; snacks for two $30), the new hors d’oeuvres bar from alpha-bistronomist Yves Camdeborde.
Venture to the wayward Quartier des Gobelins, where le tout Paris has been flocking to experience the zingy, citrus-inflected cuisine of year-old L’Agrume (15 Rue des Fossés St.-Marcel, Fifth Arr.; 33-1/43-31-86-48; five-course prix fixe dinner for two $96). Chef Franck Marchesi-Grandi is a veteran of such haute kitchens as Le Bernardin, in New York City; at L’Agrume, he and his bubbly wife embrace a more casual vibe, offering vigorous welcomes, generous pricing, and such unexpected delights as ginger-seaweed scallop carpaccio and an ethereal grapefruit soup ringed with an emerald moat of basil oil. Call ahead and ask for comptoir (counter) seats.
Chef Favorites: Christophe Michalak
Christophe Michalak, the award-winning pastry chef at the Plaza Athénée (plaza-athenee-paris.com), offers the scoop on the city’s most decadent treats.
Des Gâteaux et du Pain: Paris’s meilleurs croissants are worth a trek to this design-centric bakery in the 15th. Try the fleur de sel–and-caramel religieuse pastries, too. 63 Blvd. Pasteur; 33-1/45-38-94-16; desgateauxetdupain.com; pastries for two $11.
Du Pain et des Idées: Hit this antiques-filled boulangerie in the 10th Arrondisement for Christophe Vasseur’s astounding baguettes. 34 Rue Yves Toudic; 33-1/42-40-44-52; dupainetdesidees.com; pastries for two $10.
Pain de Sucre: At this beautifully curated Marais patisserie run by a pair of Pierre Gagnaire’s former pastry chefs, try marshmallows in flavors such as rose and angelica. 14 Rue Rambuteau, Third Arr.; 33-1/45-74-68-92; patisseriepaindesucre.com; pastries for two $13.
Patrick Roger: Pavé (a smooth, bitter-chocolate bonbon with lime ganache) is the top choice at adventurous chocolatier Patrick Roger’s stylish boutique. 108 Blvd. St.-Germain, Sixth Arr.; 33-1/43-29-38-42; patrickroger.com; chocolate for two $12.
Chef Anna Hansen’s inventive, globally inflected small plates are irresistible for lunch or dinner at her shabby-chic Clerkenwell spot Modern Pantry (47-48 St. John’s Square; 44-20/7553-9210; themodernpantry.co.uk; breakfast for two $30). And when the morning sun glints over the white wooden tables, good luck choosing between the English breakfast and Hansen’s signature omelette, laced with sugar-cured shrimp and a bracing dash of smoked-chile sambal. From here, it’s a long, leisurely amble across the Millennium Bridge to Borough Market. Arrive before the lunchtime crush at Wright Brothers Oyster & Porter House (11 Stoney St.; 44-20/7403-9554; thewrightbrothers.co.uk; oysters for two $40) to sample half a dozen of the freshest bivalves in town. Back across the Thames, St. Paul’s Cathedral beckons with its dazzling restoration, a new installation by sculptor Antony Gormley, and greenmarket cuisine at its Restaurant at St. Paul’s (St. Paul’s Churchyard; 44-20/7248-2469; restaurantatstpauls.co.uk; lunch for two $68). Tuck into New British knockouts such as Loch Duart salmon with purple broccoli and a lemony leek purée. And isn’t it nice to know that the gingerbread ice cream sandwich is sweetened with honey from Regent’s Park bees?
Dinner + Drinks
After dark, get thee to Soho, the current epicenter of London’s restaurant renaissance. Recession-friendly prices, a low-key vibe, and delicious cicchetti (Venetian snacks) make prime-time seats scarce at the wildly popular Polpo (41 Beak St.; 44-20/7734-4479; polpo.co.uk; dinner for two $45). Downstairs has just been turned into the Polpo Campari Bar, a mostly standing-room-only bar with snacks and wines by the glass—truly in the Venetian bacaro style. Alternatively, or while waiting for a spot at Polpo, head around the corner to Mark’s (66-70 Brewer St.; 44-20/7292-3518; hixsoho.co.uk; cocktails for two $19), the groovy, boozy basement bar of the restaurant Hix, namesake of food idol Mark Hix. Should your evening require a more adventurous script, consider the newly Michelin-starred East End hot spot Viajante (Patriot Square; 44-20/7871-0461; viajante.co.uk; dinner for two $210), located in the handsome former town hall in Bethnal Green. The envelope-pushing tasting menu might include a razor-clam shell filled with smoked yogurt and rosemary dashi. Dessert: a deconstruction of carrots, courtesy of chef Nuno Mendes, who trained at El Bulli.
Tea + Snacks
If you find yourself in Marylebone, fulfill your desire both for cheese and tea with a sampling of obsessively sourced farmhouse beauties, one of Robert Wilson’s single-estate teas, and perhaps a couple of crumbly almond biscotti at the oh-so-chichi La Fromagerie (2-6 Moxon St.; 44-20/7935-0341; lafromagerie.co.uk; tea and cheese for two $28). Or do the same over on Pimlico Road at Daylesford Organic (44B Pimlico Rd.; 44-20/7881-8060; daylesfordorganic.com; tea and cheese for two $20), Chelsea’s farm-to-table answer to La Fromagerie.
Whether you crave a perfect pint or a spot of grub beyond bangers and mash, these four favorites deliver the goods.
The Albion: A real neighborhood haunt, the Albion, in Islington, draws in fashion-crowd regulars for the solid food and Georgian interiors, yes, but also for the vast garden— a lovely, verdant escape in the warmer months. 10 Thornhill Rd.; 44-20/7607-7450; the-albion.co.uk; beer for two $12.
Drapers Arms: A redo of an old pub in the same neighborhood as the Albion, cofounded by the son of restaurant critic Fay Machsler. Which means that the food is at gastropub level (and the drinks are just as good). 44 Barnsbury St.; 44-20/7619-0348; thedrapersarms.com; beer for two $12.
Punch Bowl: Believe it or not, even if Guy Ritchie is an owner, this place is the real deal. Great beers on tap—plus a vibrant crowd of wannabe tough guys and faux-Cockney friends of the ex–Mr. Madonna. 41 Farm St.; 44-20/7493-6841; punchbowllondon.com; beer for two $14.
The Rake: This diminutive pub in Borough Market offers mind-bogglingly esoteric and constantly changing on-tap selections, plus more than 150 bottled beers. 14A Winchester Walk; 44-20/7407-0557; beer for two $10.
Pizza + More
For a taste of authentic Roma the way real Italians like it, pop into Antico Forno Roscioli (34 Via dei Chiavari; 39-06/686-4045; anticofornoroscioli.com), just off the Campo dei Fiori. The storefront is an old grocery that sells artisanal cheeses, fresh bread, and all manner of salumi—cut straight from the whole hog’s legs on display. The state-sponsored Enoteca Provinciale Romana (82-84 Largo del Foro Traiano; 39-06/6766-2424; dinner for two $72) serves Rome province’s top foods and wines. Nattily dressed locavores sip Lazio-produced wines (Frascati; Marino) at blond-wood tables and order such local favorites as smoked provolone wrapped in eggplant. The very authentic 00100 (88 Via Branca; 39-06/4341-9624; 00100pizza.com; pizza for two $15) rivals Gabriele Bondi’s Pizzarium (43 Via della Meloria; 39-06/3974-5416; pizza for two $12) for the best takeout pan pizza in Rome.
Breakfast + Brunch
In his namesake restaurant, Filippo La Mantia (50 Via Vittorio Veneto; 39-06/4214-4715; brunch or lunch for two $112; dinner for two $210; hotelmajestic.com) at Hotel Majestic, the Sicilian chef serves Rome’s best buffet brunch. He eschews onions and garlic in favor of basil, mint, and spices. Try the creamy ribbon pasta with pistachio pesto, grouper, and nutmeg, then end the morning with tangy cassata ice cream over candied fruits.
In 2011, Il Pagliaccio (129A Via dei Banchi Vecchi; 39-06/6880-9595; dinner for two $370; ristoranteilpagliaccio.it) became only the second restaurant in Rome to gain the coveted Three Forks award from the Italian foodie bible Gambero Rosso (after La Pergola, under Heinz Beck). The reason? Anthony Genovese’s palate-startling innovations (risotto with Alpine cheese and persimmon) and pastry chef Marion Lichtle’s daring desserts (rice and red rose parfait).