Filled with gastronomic delights, Europe is an endless foodie buffet. From one city to the next, with establishments ranging from historic to high end, travelers are spoiled for choice with an ever-changing menu of options. Here are five standout culinary experiences across the continent, from Dubrovnik to Helsinki. These alone may be worth the stamp in your passport!
Restaurant 360, Dubrovnik, Croatia
Several international chefs paved the way for Restaurant 360 to become Dubrovnik’s leading foodie venue. But it was after two locals took it over – Chef Marijo Curić and manager Rudolf Papac – that it received its Michelin star in 2018 and 2019, the only restaurant in Dubrovnik to be honored.
The City Walls, otherwise inaccessible at night, set a marvelous stage here, with centuries-old ramparts surrounding the terrace, as the starlit old port glistens below. But this wondrous setting is merely a backdrop to the symphony of flavors, wines and service.
The menu inspires a new appreciation of even the simplest ingredients with dishes such as a carrot starter, which turn this staple into a star by presenting it in several different ways. While you can choose two or three a la carte dishes, the two tasting menus are a gastro-extravaganza. One represents the chef’s take on the Mediterranean region, and the other reflects upon his work at 360, which started way back in 2007.
A personal sommelier will help pair some of the 500 labels from the wine list, which has twice been awarded the Wine Spectator’s Best of Award of Excellence. Rounding off the experience, professional but personable service infuses a dash of local spirit and hospitality.
In season 2020, Restaurant 360 will open in March for dinner only, and reservations are essential at least three weeks in advance.
Taste of Prague Food Tours, Prague, Czech Republic
Think Czech cuisine is all about meat, potatoes and beer? Well, that’s not too far off the mark. But as these four-hour food tours show, even simple classics can become refined dining experiences in the hands of the city’s best chefs.
Jan and Zuzi quit corporate life to start their foodie venture in 2011. They are now renowned among Prague residents for their spot-on blog and drool-worthy Instagram account. Their insider knowledge means their tours highlight the city’s innovative restaurant scene and offer a real insight into how Czech food, beer and wine intersect with local culture and history. As a result, there is no set route, rather a sensitivity to seasonality which showcases talent both established and new.
As well as partaking in the popular tradition of sampling lagers and the accompanying pub bites, guests discover creative, modern cuisine in Prague’s outer districts. Eska in regenerated Karlín and The Eatery in hip Holešovice often feature on the tour, as does the classic Prague ham: brined for 35 days, cooked for 10 hours and smoked for four, it is served with a combination of whipped cream and horseradish that is surprisingly delicious.
Frea, Berlin, Germany
Pushing new frontiers in ethical and ultra-sustainable eating, Frea became Germany’s first 100% vegan, zero-waste restaurant when it opened in Berlin’s hip Mitte district in March 2019. Seasonal organic produce delivered by regional farmers in reusable crates is just the beginning. In fact, everything is made from scratch right in Frea’s open kitchen, be it the crusty sourdough bread, pasta and chocolate or drinks like water kefir and hazelnut milk. Food scraps are composted and returned to the growers to fertilize their fields.
The uncompromising waste-avoiding concept even extends to the interior design. Filled with potted plants and with light filtering through big windows, Frea’s corner space exudes cozy, designer Scandi-chic. But the lamps were grown from a fungus, the abstract wall art is made from recycled plastic, and the mix-and-match furniture was sourced from classified ads.
Thankfully, Frea’s culinary acumen matches its ambitious eco-philosophy. The moderately priced menu is short but creative and might field such taste-sorcery as kohlrabi linguine with roasted shitake mushrooms and tomato dip. Desserts like melt-in-your-mouth chocolate mousse with beetroot granita make for a worthy coda. Popular liquid pairings include craft beer, natural wines and house-made kombucha.
Onyx, Budapest, Hungary
Walking into Onyx, Hungary’s only restaurant with two Michelin stars, is walking into expert hands. The white-glove-wearing staff is attentive, efficient and approachable, and the chef daring and dexterous. You’ll be seated in comfy throne-like chairs at widely spaced tables surrounded by grand chandeliers, onyx adornments and marble statues. Classical music softly plays in the background.
Lunch (Thursday to Saturday only) currently consists of three, four or six courses; dinner (Tuesday to Saturday) has four or six. You can choose between two set tasting menus: “Within our Borders” focuses on traditional Hungarian recipes with a modern twist, while “Beyond Our Borders” turns the limelight on the various cuisines of the world. The plates are all a work of art, the flavors flawless. The wine assortment is top-notch; you can either opt for a glass paired perfectly with each one of your courses, or order by the bottle – a sommelier is happy to assist. Eating out at Onyx will cost you a pretty penny, but the experience is well worth it.
Onyx is found on Budapest’s centermost square, Vörösmarty tér – home to one of Europe’s most magical Christmas markets – and is snuggled up next to the world-famous, century-old Gerbeaud Café, a perfect destination for a post-dinner coffee or cake. Try their namesake Gerbeaud Slice for an authentic experience.
Vanha Kauppahalli, Helsinki, Finland
Infused with the aromas, flavors and spirited history of Finland, Helsinki's Vanha Kauppahalli (Old Market Hall) is the capital's ultimate place to pick up picnic supplies or have a snack on-site. The distinctive red-and-yellow striped brick building was constructed adjacent to the market square and boat-filled harbour in 1888, and today still shelters traditional wooden stalls selling delicacies from around the country.
Kick-start a visit Helsinki-style at Robert’s Coffee (the Finns drink more coffee than any other nation at 12kg per person per year). Local specialties to look out for include breads in varieties such as tar (a favourite Finnish ingredient) from Konditoria Matti ja Mari; smoke-sauna-cured hams, sausages and more from Pajuniemi; forest mushrooms, berries, herbs and pickled vegetables from Baran Halit; and smoked fish and seafood at Kalakauppa E Eriksson, Kalaliike Marja Nätti (which stocks Finnish-cultivated caviar) and Andström (where you'll also find homemade honeys). Sweet treats span handmade Finnish chocolates at Kultasuklaa to munkkipossu (doughnuts filled with apple jelly) at Scandinavia Cafe.
Especially in chilly weather, don't miss a steaming bowl of lohikeitto (creamy salmon soup with fragrant dill) from soup specialist Soppakeittiö, or at the market's central, sit-down cafe-restaurant, Story, serving weekly changing lunch specials.
Produced by Lonely Planet for American Airlines. All editorial views are those of Lonely Planet alone and reflect our policy of editorial independence and impartiality.
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