Where Chefs Sate Their Dates
The interior of The River Café in London, designed by Stuart Forbes Associates and Mr Richard Rogers
“Traditional restaurant criticism struggles to be heard over the din of an online world where everyone has a voice. When crowd-sourcing, why not return to the source?” says Mr Joe Warwick author of Where Chefs Eat. At a time when hype often clouds the search for a decent meal, his insider guide for dining is an essential tool. “I went to elBulli years ago, and Ferran [Adrià] gave us two A4 sheets listing other places to go afterwards,” says Mr Warwick, when we discussed his book with him which is available on MR PORTER. “This book came from that. Tapping into that chef knowledge.”
One-time editor of Restaurant magazine and co-founder of The World’s 50 Best Restaurants, Mr Warwick created the first edition of his global guide to eating in 2013, and it soon became a bestseller. The latest instalment is set for similar success.
“I call it ‘neophilia’,” says Mr Warwick, fresh from a recent trip to visit the latest Noma residency in Tokyo. “The obsession we have with new stuff. Just because it’s a new restaurant it doesn’t mean it’s good. I think it’s better to judge after five, 10 or 15 years. And I’m a little tired of lists. The 50 Best is fantastic, but they’re places you can’t get into that everyone knows about. This book is a reaction to that. It’s more democratic, and has everything from little shacks to fancy dining places.”
This book was never meant to be every great place to eat in the world. It's a selection of chefs, and a starting point for a city.
Asking more than 600 leading chefs for their favourite restaurants across the globe, he cuts through the clamour and goes straight to those who know. And by that, we don’t mean the critics. Spanning 70 countries, each chef has provided restaurants based on categories ranging from “local favourite” to “high end”. In doing so, we avoid both that tricky notion of a “best” restaurant, and the obsession with the “new”. The result is a tome of recommendations you can trust – a travel guide for the taste buds where you’ll find Michelin-star chefs recommending no-frills Vietnamese, and high-end restaurants everywhere from Sydney to Switzerland. “When you’re in a new city you want something for a specific time of day or price point. This book was never meant to be every great place to eat in the world. It’s a selection of chefs, and a starting point for a city – somewhere for breakfast, lunch, somewhere fancy or cheap.”
With Valentine’s Day just around the corner we thought we’d task some of the stars of Where Chefs Eat to think of a favourite restaurant under a new category: the perfect place to take a date. Since any chef worth his salt would advise against eating out on 14 February (unless you’re spending money in their restaurant, of course) – here are eight of the world’s most romantic restaurants for any time of year. “Valentine’s Day is a busy day for chefs,” agrees Mr Warwick. “Personally, it’s the last night I’d go out to eat – you don’t get the best service and there’s a weird atmosphere. But I’m always interested in treating my wife, so knowing where to go for a romantic meal is a must.”
Download the app here.
Mr James Lowe
Head Chef, Lyle’s, London, UK
Mr Lowe has worked at The Fat Duck and Noma, and formed hip chef-trio The Young Turks in 2010. Previously head chef of St. John Bread and Wine, he opened his first restaurant, the seasonal British food-focused Lyle’s in East London, in 2014.
The River Café
Thames Wharf, Rainville Road, London, UK
From left: The River Café’s calamari ai ferri – chargrilled squid with fresh red chilli and wild rocket; the outdoor seating area at the restaurant
“It’s just such a beautiful restaurant. The produce, the staff and the setting are all fantastic. Go in the summer and you can sit outside by the garden away from the noise of the city. You can order anything and it’ll be great, but my favourites are the turbot or Dover sole cooked in the wood burning oven.”
Mr Mehmet Gürs
Head Chef, Mikla, Istanbul, Turkey
A chef and owner with more than 15 successful restaurants on his CV, Mr Gürs has been a pioneer of the contemporary dining scene in Istanbul, where he moved in 1996. Mr Gürs’ current restaurant Mikla is noted for its innovative approach and Nordic influences thanks to his Finnish-Swedish origins.
Strandgade 93, 1401 København K, Denmark
From left: a Noma dish of onion, pear, kelp oil (seaweed) and salt of wood ants; the restaurant’s interior was redesigned in 2012 by Space Copenhagen Mikkel Heriba
“A romantic meal is not necessarily about candles, roses and all that kind of stuff. For a true, sensual, sensory experience my number one bet is still Noma. The food, the staff and the light in the dining room – everything is just great. I checked with my wife and she definitely agrees.”
Mr Massimo Bottura
Head Chef/Owner, Osteria Francescana, Modena, Italy
Although culinary traditions are not easily challenged in Italy, Mr Bottura has succeeded with his three-star Michelin establishment in Modena. Voted third best restaurant in the world last year in The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, it combines contemporary art with avant-garde cuisine.
Località Runate, 15, 46013 Canneto sull’Oglio, Mantova, Italy
From left: dal Pescatore was established in 1925 and now has three Michelin stars; the restaurant’s signature dish, tortelli di zucca
“Me and my wife, Lara, have been celebrating our anniversary for the past 19 years at this restaurant in the Mantovan countryside. We dine at lunch so we can enjoy the bucolic setting and the beautiful 45-minute drive from Modena. Lara has a soft spot for the fried frogs legs, and me, the snail soup. The head chef, Nadia, usually serves her exquisite tortelli with pumpkin filling – Mantovan style, with a hint of amaretti biscuit, spicy mostarda and Parmigiano Reggiano – for dessert.”
Mr André Chiang
Chef and owner of five restaurants
Known as one of the most inventive chefs around, Taiwan-born Mr Chiang cut his teeth in the best French restaurants – including Le Jardin des Sens in Montpellier and L’Atelier de Jöel Robuchon in Paris – before opening Restaurant André in 2010, which The New York Times has said is one of the “top 10 restaurants in the world worth a plane ride”.
285 Avenue Victor Hugo, 26000 Valence, France
From left: the interior of Maison Pic – a family business for 120 years – was designed by French architect Mr Bruno Borrione; one of the restaurant’s stunning desserts
“This is great for a romantic meal because it is set in the lovely town of Valence in south east France – which is perfect for a walk. Maison Pic hotel rooms have a modern, luxurious design with a cutting-edge feel. The restaurant’s executive chef Ms Anne-Sophie, who is France’s only female to have gained three Michelin stars, cooks her classic French-based food with extra precision and subtlety.”
Mr Mauro Colagreco
Head Chef/Owner, Mirazur, Côte D’Azur, France
The only Argentinian chef in the world to hold two Michelin stars, Mr Colagreco apprenticed with the likes of Messrs Alain Ducasse and Alain Passard in France before opening the Menton-based Mirazur in 2006, which is currently 11th in The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list.
Zass, Il San Pietro di Positano
Via Laurito, 2 84017, Positano, Italy
From left: set on the cliffs of the Amalfi coast, Zass sources most of its ingredients from its garden and the surrounding sea; a delicate dish using astice
“It has a splendid view and a unique location. An Italian kitchen with soul, good local products and friendly service – I would recommend ordering any seafood-based dish, or anything containing the restaurant’s homemade pasta. I also particularly enjoy the vegetables, which are all grown in their garden.”
Mr Niall McKenna
Chef/Owner of James Street & Co
After training in London for 12 years under Messrs Marco Pierre White, Nico Ladenis and Gary Rhodes, Mr McKenna returned to Belfast in 2003 and opened the award-winning James St. South in an old linen mill. As a competitor on BBC2’s Great British Menu in 2010, his dish was chosen for a banquet hosted by Prince Charles.
The House Restaurant, Cliff House Hotel
Middle Road, Ardmore, County Waterford, Ireland
From left: The House Restaurant’s halibut with shrimp, black quinoa and chicken jus; the Cliff House is regarded as one of the finest boutique hotels in Ireland
“The best romantic date night would be at the Cliff House Hotel in Ardmore, Cork. The view, room and surroundings are first class. Add to that great food and wine and you have a combination that works beautifully. The dish I would like to highlight is the soufflé – superb.”
Mr Matthew Orlando
Head Chef/Owner, Amass, Copenhagen, Denmark
California-born Mr Orlando has worked with everyone from legendary French chef Mr Raymond Blanc to Mr Heston Blumenthal at his three Michelin-star restaurant, The Fat Duck. This is where he met Mr René Redzepi, who employed him at the world-beating Noma. After a stint at Mr Thomas Keller’s three Michelin-star restaurant Per Se, he opened Amass in 2013.
Al di la Trattoria
248 5th Avenue, Brooklyn, New York City, US
From left: the rustic interior of the Al di la Trattoria; and the restaurant’s spring salad
“My wife and I used to live a 10-minute walk from here. It is super casual, but has this unbelievable charm to it and the food is awesome. It’s good, solid, rustic Italian food that you don’t have to use your brain to enjoy. The best dish I’ve had there is the signature dish – cuttlefish with oxtail and creamy polenta. It’s ridiculously good.”
Mr Claude Bosi
With restaurant-owning parents, Lyon-born Mr Bosi grew up immersed in a world of quality produce, seasonality and the discipline of professional kitchens. In his late twenties he earned a Michelin star at Overton Grange in Shropshire. He opened Hibiscus in 2000, which gained its second Michelin star in 2003.
La Colombe d’Or
06570 Saint-Paul de Vence, France
La Colombe d’Or, located in Côte d’Azur, unites a Provençal way of life with a unique modern art collection
“The most romantic place in the world is La Colombe d’Or in France. It’s in a truly beautiful setting in Saint-Paul de Vence, which has so much history to talk about over dinner. I think it’s a magical place to take any date.”