Travel writer Deborah Cater’s quote “you have to taste a culture to understand it,” beautifully sums up why seeking out authentic food is a prime aim for so many world travelers. Experienced travelers know that eating a culture’s signature dishes, in restaurants valued by the people of the country, brings a far deeper connection with a place than visiting the “must-see” tourist spots. One sure way to find the best restaurants wherever you travel is to consult the Michelin Restaurant Guide. Michelin has been rating the restaurants of Europe since 1920, when the ratings were part of its road maps designed to increase automobile tourism. Now one of the most well-regarded food reviews, chefs covet even a single Michelin star (the guide awards up to three) from the anonymous Michelin inspectors, and very few restaurants pass the test. For your next trip to Europe, come closer to understanding the culture of your destination by treating yourself to a memorable meal at one of these Michelin-rated restaurants.
To get an idea of how rarely Michelin awards its highest rating, Paris, one of the world’s great food cities, has just ten three-star restaurants. Perhaps one of the most sought-after reservations in Paris (be prepared to wait two months for a reservation) is chef Pascal Barbot’s “Astrance.” Diners at this 25-seat restaurant, located across the river from the Eiffel Tower, are treated to a different “surprise menu” at each sitting, asked only how many courses they wish to eat. The atmosphere is fine dining, yet surprisingly unpretentious, despite signature dishes like Barbot’s famous layered galette of raw mushrooms, foie gras with hazelnut oil and lemon confit.
Rome’s sole two-starred Michelin restaurant is Il Pagliaccio, which Michelin inspectors described as “a breath of modernity in the heart of Renaissance Rome.” In the tiny contemporary restaurant, Chef Anthony Genovese serves a seasonal menu featuring Italian food with Asian influences, like his teriyaki-marinated beef or duck leg with tamarind sauce.
When the Michelin inspectors awarded Chef Michael Kempf’s Berlin restaurant FACIL two stars they noted that “it’s hard to imagine a more pleasant place to eat.” The Guardian echoed this sentiment, pointing out the beautiful space with its retractable glass roof, excellent service and, above all, the unforgettable food.
Budapest’s Borkonyha Wine Kitchen, located near the picturesque Basilica, is one of only four restaurants in the city to earn a Michelin rating. The dishes are a modern take on Hungarian classics like Mangalica pork, served with excellent Hungarian wine.
DiverXO was described by the Michelin inspectors, who gave the restaurant three stars, as “an exciting and groundbreaking culinary wonderland.” Located in Tetuan, a working class neighborhood in Madrid, the décor is more about character than class. The restaurant’s colorful chef, David Munoz, serves inventive food meant to shock the senses and subvert expectations, such as beets that turn out to be fish or wasabi ice cream.
One of only two three-star restaurants in London comes one of the country’s most famous culinary exports, Gordon Ramsay. At Ramsay’s flagship restaurant in Chelsea, Chef Clare Smyth serves elegant and daring French cuisine, including the signature poached ravioli of lobster, salmon and langoustine.