The Best of Fine Dining in Europe
It is impossible to talk about ‘European Cuisine’ as an entity in itself; the different countries all offer their own unique and extraordinary culinary delights, reflecting each country’s personality and approach to cuisine.
A Club Med holiday gives lovers of fine dining the chance to experience some of the best cuisine that the continent has to offer. Whether it is the classic, luxurious and intricate cooking of the Parisian chefs, the simplicity and freshness of Italian fare or the seasonally-influenced, contemporary cooking of Portugal – gourmet-loving travellers are in for a treat.
Pomp and precision in Paris
The French take their food very seriously and their restaurants reflect that. Even the cafés at service stations take pride in their baguettes and frites, so if you visit a top restaurant in the self-styled Michelin capital of Europe, then you are in for a truly gastronomique experience.
There are hundreds of top-class dining establishments in the French capital, but for sheer opulence then Le Restaurant on the Rue des Beaux Arts is the place to go. Chef Julien Montbabut’s Michelin-starred eatery serves up dishes such as Hare with Creamy Chestnut Soup, Lobster Bisque or Brittany Crab with Yuzo Mousse, in surroundings that match the opulence of the ingredients.
La Dolce Vita
Hop across the border to neighbouring Italy, another favourite location for Club Med holiday guests, and you will find a very different approach to food. Simplicity is key here and most Italian chefs believe that the best dishes contain just three main ingredients.
This simple approach has paid off for the owner and chef at Osteria Francescana, Massimo Bottura. Trained by the famous Ferrari Adria at Spain’s El Bulli, Bottura’s menu couldn’t be any further removed from the complex dishes of his mentor.
Bottura’s menu is based on the food of the peasants of Modena, but as one food critic said: “It might be called pasta in broth, but it is like no other pasta or broth I have ever tasted.”
Portuguese tarts and other delights
Portugal has long existed in the shadows of its better-known culinary neighbours, but now it is bursting out of the shadows with its own Michelin scene.
The availability of ingredients from the sea, the vines and the land has attracted chefs from other parts of the world to settle in Portugal and this has had a knock-on effect on the quality and range of food.
The most popular style of cooking is contemporary European, and Austrian chef Hans Neuner is a fine example. Ocean Restaurant at Vila Vita Parc, Porches has been in Neuner’s hands since 2006, and he earned his second Michelin star just two years ago.
The oldest restaurant in Lisbon is the Tavares, which opened in 1784. Chef Arlindo Madeira has married the gilded wood carvings, Venetian mirrors and crystal chandeliers to a menu that also reflects traditional Portuguese food and eating – lots of fish, shellfish and the perennial favourite, suckling pig.
Portugal stakes its culinary claim
It is said that you learn about a place from its food, and in Portugal the food reflects a country that has known many visitors – whether they were the invaders of the past, the visiting merchant seamen or today’s holidaymakers.
Portugal’s cuisine mirrors its cosmopolitan and multicultural style; it has spice, simplicity and sweetness, and it is definitely worth sampling.
So there you have it – sample the foods of a country, and it will tell you more about the passions of its people than anything else.