20 FINE DINING EXPERIENCES AROUND THE WORLD
A common ritual in recent years has been that every jaunt requires an ultra-special evening. This translates to putting our glad rags on, enjoying an aperitif at maybe a rooftop bar and experiencing a well-deserved fine dining meal.
Here are a selection of my fine dining favourites around the world, which in some cases have actually inspired our travels to the destination!
1. JOHNS HOUSE
Fine dining begins at home and it’s funny how I only visited Michelin Starred John’s House, located in Leicestershire, only last year for my birthday!! A beautiful country location, with seasonal and locally sourced food from the family farm, presented beautifully and paired with the more exquisite wines and served in Johns farmhouse where he has resided since childhood.
One of the most memorable birthdays to date with a personal birthday message from John himself and signed menus to mark the occasion.
Vincents is without a doubt a contemporary but private fine dining experience in the capital of Latvia. The restaurant is located in the basement of a townhouse in a district famous for its Art Nouveau. The restaurant was opened back in the ‘90s by British born, Latvian Chef Mārtiņš Rītiņš. The restaurant has a close relationship with Latvia’s organic farms where they source their homegrown produce. One of the standout dishes for me is the ‘Chefs Surprise’, where an ice balloon encapsulates a delicate portion of crabmeat parcels wrapped in avocado cannoli eaten with coriander intertwined chopsticks.
3. NOA CHEFS HALL
A taste of the Baltics cuisine in Riga sparked my desire to visit more of the countries under ex-Soviet occupancy. One of the absolute standout dining experiences of my life would have to be at the coastal location of Noa Chef’s Hall in Tallinn. We were seated at the Chef’s Table, where we tentatively watched the theatrics of head chef Orm Oja, performed with his team of chefs and sommeliers, whilst giving us a private insight into his kitchen. The cuisine is locally sourced ingredients cooked with a contemporary but creative twist. It’s easy to see why Noa is Named one of the 50 Best Restaurants in the World and in the Nordic White Guide (Baltics equivalent of the Michelin Guide).
A Vegetarian and Vegan Restaurant by James Beard nominated Chefs, husband and wife team, Rich Landau and Kate Jacoby. Vedge offers exciting dining in Philly experience, celebrating the vegetable. Vedge can do some unimaginable things with vegetables, it seriously was an experience like no other. The Bar features natural wines, plenty of craft beers and a creative cocktail list, all selected to complement the wide range of tastes through the dinner and dessert menus.
5. LI GALLI
VILLA FRANCA, POSITANO, ITALY
Located at Hotel Villa Franca, just through a serene space overlooking the crystal like glowing waters of the coast, where the sky meets the coastline, sits Hotel Villa Franca’s sublimely mouth-watering restaurant Li Galli.
The kitchen is headed by the hotels executive chef, Vincenzo Esposito and his team. Vincenzo worked closely with Michelin starred chef, Gennaro Esposito to skillfully prepare an innovative, yet in keeping with the area and its local ingredients. The result is just sensational. Dr C and I enjoyed an evening meal at Li Galli. The restaurant is quaint, small, and incredibly stylish, with service that is so on point but the food, well that is just in a league of its own.
6. LA SPONDA
LE SIRENEUSE, POSITANO, ITALY
La Sponda is the Michelin-starred restaurant in the stunning Le Sirenuse hotel, with stunning beach views. The restaurant is utterly romantic with 450 candles lighting the restaurant each evening. It’s and incredibly charming and the produce is fresh contemporary Italian cuisine served alongside an impressive wine list.
7. IL BUCO
Down a cobblestoned walkway, in the heart of the coastal town of Sorrento, lies the beautifully positioned, Michelin Starred il Buco.
Head chef and owner Peppe Aversa runs a tight but relaxed ship at il Buco. His mere presence as he meanders through the diners, over seeing what is happening at the restaurant level as well as supervising the culinary delights being whipped up to perfection in the kitchen; just shows the passion Peppe has for his craft. Il Buco has retained its star since 2004 under Peppes’ supervision. Peppe, I have to admit has the fine art of taking local ingredients from Campagnia and combining them with classic as well as creative and inventive techniques to produce truly sublime dishes to showcase the diversity of local ingredients.
8. LA BOTTEGA DEL BUON CAFFE
Translated literally into English, La Bottega del Buon Caffè means ‘The good coffee shop’ and sits a little way back from the road with a view of the Arno river. Don’t be misled by the name, as believe me guys, your imagination and taste buds are in for quite the haute experience.
The head chef at La Bottega del Buon Caffe is Israeli born, Erez Ohayon. He commands his team effortlessly and it was a real pleasure to watch him and his team cook service on the night of our meal. Also the restaurant has their farm out in the Tuscan countryside where everything is hand reared and they take a strong farm to kitchen approach.
9. ORA D’ARIA
The one Michelin Star Ora D’aria is situated between the Loggia dei Lanzi and the Ponte Vecchio and refers to the ‘hour of air’ prisoners in the former prison opposite the restaurant were given.
Head chef Marco Stabile has a reputation for exciting, contemporary food that reimagines many of Tuscany’s classic dishes. The menu is modern, the surroundings are minimalistic and they do a separate Vegetarian Taster menu.
Two Michelin Star Spondi in Athens was a very special affair. It was our first Valentine’s Day meal out as we just happened to be in Athens at the time. A beautiful restaurant setting for a romantic meal with vaulted ceilings and open brickwork added to the ambience of being in the Greek capital as well as an exquisite kitchen run by chef, Angelos Lantos. The seven-course vegetarian menu was unexpected for Greece but beautifully presented and totally memorable with a tour of the impressive kitchen to start the evening.
I have to say Lyles has just revolutionised the Michelin Star establishment ambience for me. Located in Shoreditch it was recommended to me by a friend and did most definitely impress. They accommodated a fantastic vegetarian taster menu for me and provided a relaxed, non-stuffy atmosphere. Chef James Lowe kept a watchful eye over the restaurant from the open kitchen where diners turned up in laid back attire and the focus was on the food and its quality.
12. DIRT CANDY
NEW YORK CITY, USA
Dirt Candy is owned by Amanda Cohen, the James Beard nominated chef and owner of this fine award-winning Lower East side vegetarian eatery. It has been recognised by the Michelin guide, five years in a row and with a simple ethos to create innovative food that patrons crave, something that is done with vegetables that has never been done before minus the politics of because being veggie is good for you etc!
They don’t guarantee you’ll like it all but I can most definitely vouch that I DID and Dirt Candy will not take a tip from you as they believe that all their staff are professional who should receive a living wage therefore the menu prices have been raised by 20% so all staff from cooks to servers to dishwasher washers get recognition for the team effort.
Beautiful presentation, innovative flavours and simply excellent service!
13. LA GUARIDA
Being seated in this beautiful paladar or private restaurant was a beautiful affair from our first night in Havana for my special birthday! Well, we heard Barack Obama had dined here when he was president of the USA so if it’s good enough for him, it was always going to be pretty darn fine for me.
The food was pretty much focussed on sea food but they did rustle up some great vegetarian alternatives for me and the mojitos were spot on (well, Havana is the home of the Mojitos). Think eggplant caviar, grilled Mahi Mahi, sweet potato chips, with the warm Caribbean breeze in an elegantly styled colonial building.
Also recommended to me by a friend, Juvia was the ultimate rooftop destination for a fine dining brunch in Miami. With views over the ocean and city, a DJ accompanying a beautiful brunch menu and fabulous service, this was one of the most special brunches I’ve ever consumed. Plus it helps with that sun kissed glow of Miami’s South beach as a backdrop. Totally book yourself into Juvia if you’re in Miami, a fabulously indulgent and memorable affair folks!
BELMOND COPACABANA RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL
Mee located in the Belmond Copacabana Hotel in Rio is one of the first restaurants in South America to be awarded a Michelin Star and let me say its absolutely not a surprise. Staying at the hotel was one thing, eating here was the icing on the cake! Mee is run under the watchful eye of Ken Hom and prior to its opening, chefs were sent to Bangkok and other parts of Thailand to perfect the Asian techniques, which makes the Asian cuisine on the menu some of the finest in the world.
16. EL TUPAY
BELMOND MONASTERIO, CUSCO, PERU
One of my favourite hotels in the world, located in one of my favourite’s cities in the Andes, Cusco, naturally houses one of my favourite fine dining experiences in the world! El Tupay at the Belmond Hotel Monasterio is known for its superb international cuisine, featuring locally sourced ingredients in a beautifully intimate and romantic candlelit, surrounded by vaulted ceilings and the monastery courtyard. What’s more, is that you dine with the sound of Cusco’s best tenor and soprano elevating your feasting experience!
17. MANU TUKI RESTAURANT
SOFITEL PRIVATE ISLAND, BORA BORA, FRENCH POLYNESIA
Bora Bora makes it on everyones bucketlist but the Sofitel Private Island Motu is really quite something else. An exclusive island off Bora Bora mainland with all the privacy and intimacy one would ever want and therefore the restaurant reflects this perfectly. Manu Tuki is situated high on the island with views over a handful of exclusive over water villas and Mount Otemanu in the backdrop, the food is fresh, seasonal and mainly made up of vegetables and seafood caught hours before cooking. The resident chef is able to make something to order and specification with the exception of availability of ingredients. Paradise food in a paradise setting.
18. ITAIPU RESTAURANT
BELMOND DAS CATARATAS, IGUAZZU FALLS, BRAZIL
Belmond das Cataratas is the only hotel situated in Iguazzu National Park and with a awe-inspiring vista of the 252 falls that makes up this vast landscape. The menu is made up of a signature selection of Brazilian international dishes cooked by an esteemed chef who has made this quite simply one of the best restaurants in Brazil to dine. The gush and crescendo of the orchestra known as the force that is Iguazzu Falls will have you in utter engrossment.
19. Yi BY JEREME LEUNG
RAFFLES HOTEL, SINGAPORE
Yi By Jereme Leung is run by celebrity MasterChef, Jereme where Chinese delicacies from classic to modern influenced fare is served in the modern yet sophisticated white hued space in the colonial Raffles hotel. The ingredients are single sourced and seasonal with a big touch of refinement creating a immersive multi-sensory experience.
KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA
A stunning rooftop restaurant with the best views of Kuala Lumpur. Contemporary European dining prepared with premium imported ingredients and local Malaysian products. Located on the highest floor of the EQ, Equatorial Plaza, the kitchen is run by Chef Hans Boren from Gothenburg and is well versed in holding a Michelin star. Stunning food, beautiful clean modern copper-toned interiors and definitely one the best views of the cityscape in town!
Do you enjoy a spot of fine dining on your travels or do you enjoy cooking a fine dining meal for yourself and your family? Let me know in the comments below…