Dishes may be a mere moment in the mouth, but the flavors, smells, combinations of flavors and textures – like Proust’s madeleines – are kept in our memory for many years to come. A sip of pesto takes me straight back to the Piazzetta in Portofino, watching the chic set dock their yachts in the harbor. The pungent aroma of truffles transports me to Piedmont, sitting among the red-leaved vines under a blue autumn sky. When eating grilled fish, I can almost hear Lisbon trams passing by. All of these foods evoke layer upon layer of happy memories and sensory nostalgia.
As the best chefs on the planet celebrated after this month’s San Pellegrino & Acqua Panna World’s 50 Best Restaurants award ceremony, we food-centric travelers diligently took notes, then mapped out and planned our vacation routes and weekend getaways. week based on winners. Some restaurants are really worth the trip.
Of course, not all crème de la crème restaurants are within your reach. Waiting lists and high prices are barriers — but those willing to embark on a culinary adventure will be rewarded with dozens of award-winning meals that fly under the radar at a fraction of the price. Many renowned chefs have opened more affordable spin-off restaurants in beautiful locations where you can sample their trademark flavors and understand their skill set. And culinary greats like Franco Pepe can turn a cheap slice of pizza into a gourmet experience.
Read on for our list of the 10 best affordable destination restaurants to check out this summer…
Auberge Du Cep
Set amidst the picturesque Beaujolais hills, the Auberge du Cep, with its pink walls, green shutters and Michelin star, offers a daily market menu that’s worth a detour. Chef Aurélien Mérot deftly takes advantage of the rich bounty of the surrounding terroir to offer the best of French cuisine. Traditional pastries, foie gras and mustard and pistachio pate en croûte can be followed by chicken cooked in Fleurie wine – and the treasures from the cheese cart can be paired with local wines if desired. For an amazing epicurean experience, try the Market menu for £23 (00 33 4 74 04 10 77; auberducep.com).
How to do this: Stay at the nearby Auberge Les Hauts de Chénas, with pool and wine museum, from £85 a night (00 33 4 74 06 76 31; hautsdechenas.fr).
The only representative of Portugal on this year’s 50 Best Restaurants list, the Belcanto restaurant by José Avillez has two Michelin stars – but here at the Mini Bar you can taste and feel its cuisine free of charge. You can create your own meal from the wide variety of “acts” on the menu (the restaurant used to be a former theater) but for me it’s the little things that say the most. Try the Algarve prawns marinated in lime, the roasted chicken with avocado cream, smoked cheese, piri-piri and lemon, and the veal croquette with Dijonnaise truffle, priced at €10, €5 and €6 respectively (00 351 21 130 5393; minibar.pt).
How to do this: Stay at the B&B Theatre, keeping to the theatrical theme, for £147 a night (00 351 213 472 024; theatrebbb.com)
Seven thousand lamps light up the walls of chef Dani García’s BiBo, three Michelin stars, located in the heart of the Spanish capital. The lighting is a nod to the glow of the Málaga Feria street party, while the food pays homage to García’s birthplace. This brand is a conscious decision by García to democratize haute cuisine and while the vibe is casual, the dishes dazzle. Try the oxtail ravioli, the chef’s spicy white shrimp crudo with garlic slivers, or their creamy ink croquettes made from squid ink stew, and you’ll be dancing flamenco. Dishes cost £19, £16 and £10 respectively (00 34 918 052 556; grupodanigarcia.com/bibo).
How to do this: Stay at CR7 Madrid, the Madrid outpost of footballer Ronaldo, from £92 a night (00 34 917 717 035; pestanacr7.com)
Gourmets flock to the Canton of Graubünden and the smallest city in the world to try chef Andreas Caminada’s dishes. Casa Caminada, housed in former stables that have been converted into 10 rooms, an organic bakery and a restaurant, is opposite the famous three-Michelin-starred Schloss Schauenstein restaurant. Caminada’s food is just as spectacular as the one served across the road. The dining experience is an immersive tribute to the region – try the traditional pizzoccheri made with buckwheat flour and served with chanterelles and bacon, for £25 (00 41 81 632 30 50; casacaminada.com).
How to do this: Stay at Casa Caminada itself, in one of the charming rooms, from £180 per night
El Bar De Paco Morales
History and heritage are the pillars of Paco Morales’ menu at NOOR, two Michelin stars. Morales is dubbed the “Indiana Jones of Culinary” for his ability to retrieve the past and bring it in culinary form to the 21st century table. In its lively and fun, centrally located bar El Bar, its hallmark of originality and freshness come in different forms. Try their mini sandwiches stuffed with calamari and lemon mayonnaise, or their signature orange salmorejo soup with smoked cod and cheese snow, followed by beef bone marrow with spicy raw tuna and mustard seeds for £3 .80, £7 and £10 respectively (00 34 957977421; elbardepacomorales.com).
How to do this: Stay at Mourish Hospes Palacio del Bailío from £140 per night (00 34 914 363 478, hospes.com/en/palacio-bailio)
The renovated art nouveau Samaritaine building was one of the hotel openings of 2021 under the auspices of LVMH and its brand Cheval Blanc. While the Plenitude Restaurant has achieved three Michelin stars, another culinary highlight is Limbar on the ground floor. Fresh-faced pastry chef Maxime Frédéric, a rock star in the pastry world, can talk yogurt and chocolate, flour and pastry until the cows come home. Indulge in their sublime Beaufort cheese pie, candied egg yolk, oak leaf lettuce and toasted corn in a very crispy cornbread for £20 (00 33 1 40 28 00 00; chevalblanc.com).
How to do this: Stay at the bijoux Hôtel Sainte-Beuve for £182 per night (00 33 1 45 48 2007; hotelsaintebeuve.com)
A cozy sight on Copenhagen’s seaside, BARR (which was the original location of the legendary NOMA restaurant) serves impeccably presented North Sea cuisine. Think salted sea bass with white currants, cream of parsley and grilled peas, or an oyster mushroom schnitzel with brown butter sauce, capers and lemon; choose something from the excellent beer menu to accompany you. Rustic wood interiors enhance the casual dining atmosphere, where chefs bring their own dishes and diners can linger. Dishes £24 and £28 respectively (00 45 3296 3293; restaurantbarr.com).
How to do this: Stay at First Hotel Mayfair on posh Vesterbro for £154 a night (00 45 70 12 17 00; firsthotels.com)
Mauro Colagreco, who runs the three-Michelin-starred Mirazur restaurant in Menton (number one on the San Pellegrino list in 2019) has not forgotten his Argentinian roots. In addition to his gastronomic offer, Mirazur, and his recently opened restaurants on the Riviera Maybourne, he also opened Casa Fuego, a family canteen that revisits Argentine classics, around a wood-fired oven. Not far from the Italian border, with beautiful views over the old town of Menton, you can enjoy empanadas with llajua sauce, yellow tail ceviche with cilantro, jalapeno and sweet potatoes, and grilled squid served with Patagonian potatoes. Dishes cost £9, £14 and £22 respectively (00 33 4 93 17 13 15; casafuego.fr).
How to do this: Stay at the Hotel Napoleon for £156 a night (00 33 4 93 35 89 50; napoleon-menton.com)
Pepe in Grani
Franco Pepe is probably the most famous pizza maker in the world. He forged a link between pizza and haute cuisine that earned him a huge following and many awards. His restaurant, in a former 18th-century mansion not far from Naples, has become part of a pilgrimage for pizza lovers. He has an outpost at L’Albereta in Franciacorta, northern Italy, where he produces a light dough topped with a rich cheese coating, sliced with lemon zest, elevating the simple to the sublime. Pizzas from £10 (00 39 0823 826 718; pepeingrani.it).
How to do this: Stay at the art-rich Atelier Inès in Naples, from £160 per night (00 34 94 433 422; atelierinesgallery.com)
An offshoot of the three Michelin-starred Da Vittorio restaurant, this partnership with the Belmond group has resulted in a perfect restaurant that opens onto the charming Piazzetta of Portofino. Grab a table and watch the world go by: the stylish shoppers with their bags from nearby Loro Piana; the yachts bobbing in the water. Order the trofie with homemade pesto, a Ligurian specialty that the chef serves in front of you, tossing the short, thin, twisted pasta into the dense green basil sauce to release its aroma. This unforgettable experience costs £29 (00 39 0185 2678 531; davmare.com).
How to do this: Stay at the small B&B Tre Mari Portofino, overlooking the bay, from £182 a night (00 39 185 044434; tremariportofino.it)