Traveling is not only about the joy, and sometimes the pain, of strolling around a new destination. Cobblestone streets, historic landmarks, indigenous wildlife. You have seen it all today. Now, it is time to partake in another side of the nomad experience. Eating ! It is a great time to rest your legs for a bit and enjoy the local cuisine. Not just the food, but a lot of the time, with a little research, an off the beaten path setting can be quite an experience in its own right. It is also a great way to get some traveling tips by chatting up your waiter. You would be surprised as to how much you can learn by just asking a restaurateur about what to see around his or her city. There are hundreds of incredible spots around the world. Here we will focus on some of the most unique restaurants in Europe. Some of them, experienced by yours truly.
Bouillon Chartier, Paris
Lets start your culinary tour with a favorite of mine. For that, we have to head to Paris, in the 9th arrondissement, on the north bank of the Seine. Le Bouillon-Chartier, a local institution since 1896, was created by two brothers, Frederique and Camille. “Bouillon” in French means stew. As such, during the belle epoch ( la Belle Époque ) period, that type of establishment had a specific and simple purpose. To offer an affordable meal option to the blue-collar workers of the surrounding markets or factories. You were not very likely to sit next to Zola, Monet or Rodin. Workers would bring their own utensils, napkin and bowls. Nowadays, the place is buzzing with tourists from around the world, willing to stay in line outside for the opportunity to enjoy a very well priced meal in an incredible building that still showcases the beautiful architecture of the early 20th century. If you become a regular, you might even be allowed to bring your own cloth napkin and leave it on the premises between your visits.
Rating : $ ( $20 USD per person for a three course meal )
Restaurante Sobrino de Botín, Madrid
How about, we continue our tour, heading south, to Madrid. Here, in the capital, lie the foundations of the Spanish royalty since the mid 16th century, under the governance of King Philip II. With that, came a fast expansion of the city and the origin of the building. In 1725, the tavern was created but, due to local laws, could only cook what the guests would bring in. Since then, the restaurant having changed ownership only twice and, having survived wars ; has remained an historical staple of the Movida Madrileña, known in English as the Madrid scene. With its traditional architecture and museum like decor, you will be able to enjoy Castilian dishes the restaurant is know for, including the suckling pig or roasted lamb cooked in the original oven. A glass of sangria wouldn’t hurt either.
Are you ready to walk through those doors as Goya did when he was an employee in his younger years.
Rating : $$ ( $50 USD per person for a three course meal )
Grotta Palazzese, Polignano a Mare
A little further along our food trip, we find ourselves almost at the bottom of the boot. I am talking about Italy. More specifically close to the town of Bari, in the Apulia Region. An area with a wealth of diverging cultures. Throughout the last 2000 years, it has been under control of many empires. Roman, Byzantine, Normand, Spanish than France with Napoleon. Eventually the kingdom of Naples gained its independence and later became a part of Italy. Surrounded by such an incredible natural landscape, it is easy to understand why so many empires wanted to conquer the area. You will be equally in awe when you walk into this troglodytic establishment which dates back to the 18th century. The restaurant is considered one of the most romantic places in the world for dinner and it is well justified. Just like the town itself, Polignano a Mare, the Grotta Palazzese hotel and restaurant property sits on the edge of a cliff, overlooking the Adriatic Sea. The restaurant itself is in an open cave with beautiful lighting. As you hear the waves breaking on the rocks, you can enjoy traditional Italian cuisine such as ravioli stuffed with Burrata or a fresh seafood risotto. It is truly a hidden gem where the service is known to be impeccable.
Rating : $$$ ( $200 USD per person for a three course meal )
Hungry yet ? Let’s dive in and as usual, depending on local customs, don’t forget to tip your waiter !
Expert tourist, I love visiting new places, discovering new cultures and meeting new people. With this blog, and my business "Itinerary of a passport", I want to share my passion, ideas and experience.