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Sometimes a restaurant is elevated above the everyday, producing food so extraordinary that it becomes a culinary temple. And for die-hard food enthusiasts these temples are well worth the pilgrimage. Of course, the surroundings are good for a gander too, but we’re talking about planning a getaway where the food is the raison d’être. From Sweden to Spain, these are the restaurants to spend your air miles on.
Three Michelin stars; eight tables; four hours; 20 courses; £250. The numbers definitely stack up for Maaemo, where seasonal, local Norwegian fare is revered by a seamless team of chefs, hovering in a glass box above the diners (as you do) in an ultra-slick, wholly unforgettable restaurant. A feature on Masterchef in 2016 has made it even more impossible to get a table – we’re coming too if you do.
Where to stay – The Thief Hotel, for design-led elegance on the water’s edge.
Spawning its own documentary film, Jiro Dreams of Sushi, the hype is hard to believe on first glance. Housed in the basement of a subway station, you’ll wait months for a table at this tiny three Michelin-star counter restaurant, but your meal – an exquisite selection of the chef’s choice of sushi – can be over in under 30 minutes. But of course, it is so much more than just a meal. This is an incomparable exploration of the art and taste of some of the best sushi in the world. If your luck is down getting in, Tokyo is brimming with destination-worthy sushi restaurants and our second pick is Kyubey.
Where to stay – Aman, Tokyo for an ultra-stylish stay and views across the Tokyo skyline
San Sebastián dominates the world’s best restaurants lists with the highest number of Michelin stars per square metre in the world, and Arzak is often credited as headlining the foodie revolution in this town. Ensure Michelin-star fatigue doesn’t kick in by putting it at the top of your hit list, and you’ll be treated to a molecular approach to Basque cuisine where as much effort goes into the presentation as flavour. For those less keen on tasting menus, à la carte is on offer too. Then start lining up your next tasting targets…
Where to stay – Hotel Maria Cristina for old-school, movie-star glamour.
Our top pick for intrepid travellers, getting to Faviken requires some dedication. With the closest airport, Ostersund, still an 80km drive away in its own hunting estate, you get an idea of how remote this place is. Only open 20 weeks of the year and with room for just 12 guests, most of whom stay in this isolated hut 200 miles south of the Arctic Circle, we recommend getting fired up for your meal with a traditional Swedish sauna. The dinner itself revolves around traditional techniques and local, often foraged, of ingredients. The result is so exceptional that – when we checked – the restaurant was booked up until the end of the year. Persevere and you will be richly rewarded, not just by dinner, but the legendary breakfast that follows.
Where to stay – Faviken itself, where just five rooms make for an intimate stay surrounded by striking Swedish scenery.
This restaurant’s location in the heart of Napa Valley ensures that the wine list more than stands up to the food. Despite having been open for nearly 25 years, its reputation has never dwindled, and it’s impressively managed to hold on to its three Michelin stars. Choose from one of two set menus; the chef’s choice or one exclusively celebrating vegetables. With an improbably long waiting list and incomparable setting, the food still reigns supreme and earns its place as America’s ultimate destination restaurant.
Where to stay – Bardessono, for middle-of-nowhere luxury and a rooftop pool
Eschewing the Michelin stars flaunted on the rest of this list, La Colombe D’or instead offers up an art collection that trounces many galleries. Bathed in pastel-hued Provençal light, the magical hotel courtyard and rustic dining rooms casually surround you with works by Picasso, Miro, Chagall, Matisse and countless other renowned artists who exchanged their creations for room and board. Haute cuisine it may not be, but this fine French food is made all the greater by the inspiring surroundings.
Where to stay – La Colombe D’or itself, where impressive artwork fills the bedrooms too.
Spain’s second entry on our list has been repeatedly ranked number one in the world and still holds three Michelin stars. Combining the skills of three brothers – a chef, a sommelier and a patissier – the stylised Catalan food has been wowing diners for over 30 years but has recently taken up new residency in an impressive architectural home. Opt for the 14-course menu (you can go for seven, but why would you?) and get stuck into cutting-edge cooking from the people who coined the term.
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