Mr Porter Eats
Remote Restaurants Worth The Journey
Seven distant dining spots where the surroundings are as spectacular as the food
You’ll need to pack your hiking boots to reach Berggasthaus Äescher-Wildkirchli in Switzerland. Photograph Prisma Bildagentur AG/Alamy
Modern chefs live – and are increasingly judged – by core principles, one of which is to cook with local, seasonal and organic ingredients. This is optional for most, but what unifies the world’s best remote restaurants is that their very existence is dependent on what comes off the land or out of the sea; their menus determined by what’s there and then.
Whether travelling to the far north of Sweden for raw meat, into the tea plantations of Hangzhou to rediscover the lost art of Chinese fine dining, or to the mountains north of Kyoto for grilled freshwater fish, dining at a restaurant where the food is an honest expression of its spectacular environment elevates the eating experience to something more unforgettable. Here are seven gastronomic somewheres in the middle-of-nowhere whose reputations justify the adventure. Read on to find out how to reach them, and what to expect when you arrive.
Clockwise from left: Eucalyptus smoked loin of lamb with its cultivated wool; relax in the tranquil gardens; the unadorned interior of Mugaritz. Photographs by Mr José Luis López de Zubiría
The “philosophy” of chef Mr Andoni Luis Aduriz is to touch all of the senses, not merely taste. He thus plays with our perceptions, and us, whether via edible cutlery or clay-covered potatoes refashioned as pebbles. However, like his great mentor and pioneer of molecular gastronomy, Mr Ferran Adrìa, Mr Aduriz balances his theatrical instincts with grown-up, technical cooking. You might be invited into the kitchen where only your dietary requirements will determine the menu that is served. There is no menu, per se, more a sequence of dishes and “experiences” that will probably last for four hours. The grounds of Mugaritz, whose gardens the staff encourage you to roam, are used by the chefs to grow organic fruit and vegetables. Beyond that, the setting, in the Basque hills outside San Sebastián, is spectacular: a verdant postcard of the comparatively unknown landscape of northern Spain.
How to get there: Fly into Bilbao and get a bus to San Sebastián. Mugaritz is about a half an hour taxi ride from the town centre. Better still, hire a motorcycle and soak up the sights of the Basque Country.
Insider tips: Bring an open mind for Mr Aduriz’s creations, and don’t miss out on the pintxos bars, such as Ganbara (Calle San Jeronimo) and La Mejillonera (Calle Puerto), in the old town of San Sebastián.
Aldura Aldea, 20, 20100 Errenteria, Gipúzkoa, Spain
What to pack
The Three Chimneys, Scotland
Halibut, squid, Anna potato, carrot, kale, lobster tomalley and tarragon butter; Three Chimneys is located on the edge of Loch Dunvegan, in the northwest of the Isle of Skye. Photographs by Mr Angus Bremner
Situated in the northwest part of the Isle of Skye, which sits off the west coast of Scotland, chef Mr Scott Davies’ restaurant is renowned, not surprisingly, for its excellent and spectacularly fresh seafood. The white-washed building and annex – “House-Over-By” – sits alone, metres from the edge of Loch Dunvegan, among the hills, glens and moorland near the foot of MacLeod’s Tables, the distinctive flat-topped mountains of the Duirinish peninsula. The proprietors, Ms Shirley and Mr Eddie Spear, have held the premises for more than 30 years and their restaurant is the end point for much of what is harvested by the network of local fisherman, farmers and crofters. Skye can be bleak in that very particular and bewitchingly beautiful way that only remote parts of the northern UK can be. But the Three Chimneys’ hospitality is famously warm.
How to get there: The nearest airport to the Isle of Skye is Inverness – which is approximately a three-hour drive away from the Three Chimneys. Go via the toll-free crossing at the Skye Bridge from the mainland at Kyle of Lochalsh. Other more scenic routes can be found here.
Insider tips: Wear stout boots, pack waterproofs (Patagonia is our preferred brand), and be prepared for every kind of weather
Colbost House, Dunvegan, Isle of Skye
What to pack
Royal Mail Hotel, Australia
Wagyu, pine mushrooms, gnocchi, garden carrots and sweet potato; chefs cook using fresh ingredients from the organic kitchen garden. Photographs courtesy Royal Mail, Australia
Although Royal Mail might not be out on its own, its location – in the town of Dunkeld (population: 461), at the base of Mount Sturgeon, on the edge of the Grampians National Park – means its remoteness is defined by its distance from major urban centres. Dunkeld itself is a three-hour drive west of Melbourne. The hotel-restaurant is also committed to long-term sustainability: chefs gather ingredients daily from the organic kitchen garden, orchards and olive groves on the premises; free-range eggs come from their own hens, and Royal Mail’s farm provides the lamb and beef used in the restaurant. These ingredients are cooked according to molecular gastronomic techniques first imported to the restaurant by Mr Dan Hunter, who had been head chef at Mugaritz in Spain. As well as being known for some of the best and most avant-garde cooking in Australia, The Royal Mail Cellar is home to the country’s foremost collection of bordeaux and burgundy wines.
How to get there: Fly into Melbourne. Dunkeld is a three-hour drive from Melbourne, just over an hour from the western end of the Great Ocean Road.
Insider tip: Bring a camera, and a Hugh Johnson’s Pocket Wine Book.
98 Parker St, Dunkeld VIC 3294
What to pack
Dragon Well Manor (Longjing Caotang), China
Clockwise from top left: “Oil-exploded” river shrimp (or “fast-fried river shrimp”); the impressive entrance to the dining pavilions; the serene setting of Dragon Well Manor. Photographs by Ms Fuchsia Dunlop
Following China’s Cultural Revolution in the mid-1960s, many of its cooking traditions – lighter, more intricate recipes and longer menus (“fine dining”) – were replaced by the need to cater for the masses in cheaper, more industrial ways and the proliferation of what we now, at least in the West, think of as “Chinese cuisine”. Its status as a refined craft duly diminished. But at Dragon Well Manor, owner Mr Dai Jianjun has rediscovered a lost Chinese culinary history. A leather-bound ledger details the life, death, origin and provenance of every ingredient on the menu. The restaurant – actually a collection of small private “villas” – is situated in the vast, rolling Longjing tea plantations, home to one of the country’s most famous green teas.
How to get there: Fly into Hangzhou Xiaoshan. From there, either get a taxi or hire a car – the drive is approximately one hour.
Insider tip: Pack a notebook to accurately record a once-in-a-lifetime experience
399 Longjing Rd, Xihu, Hangzhou, Zhejiang, China
What to pack
Fäviken Magasinet, Sweden
Scallop cooked over burning juniper branches; the hunting estate and nature reserve in Jamtland, where Fäviken is located; the spacious wooden dining room. Photographs courtesy of Fäviken
Some eight hours north of Stockholm, Mr Magnus Nilsson’s restaurant is probably the world’s most famous remote restaurant. At least among the cheffing fraternity. Alongside Noma’s Mr René Redzepi, Mr Nilsson is the poster boy for “New Nordic” cuisine – the voguish, often minimalist, high art of modern cooking. Ranked at number 25 in the 2015 list of The World’s 50 Best Restaurants, Mr Nilsson’s use of traditional ingredients and cooking techniques – reindeer lichen and raw cow’s heart; curing, pickling and smoking being examples – have neither prevented him from garnering global recognition nor obstructing the intrepid many willing to make the trip. Indeed, foraging and the cooking techniques at Fäviken are elected out of necessity as much as they are through choice. With temperatures known to plummet to –20°C, it’s not, as you might imagine, the kind of environment in which produce tends to thrive.
How to get there: Fly into Trondheim. It’s about a two-and-a-half-hour drive to Fäviken if you have reserved a room there. If not, stay in Åre – a two-hour drive from the airport.
Insider tip: Pack merino base layers, a Canada Goose jacket, and a hip flask.
Fäviken 216, 830 05 Järpen
What to pack
Sabazushi (lightly pickled mackerel sushi); Miyamasou is surrounded by a forest of Japanese cedar trees. Photographs by City Foodsters
Miyamasou is a ryokan – or inn – set in the hills an hour north of Kyoto city. Opened by chef-owner Mr Hisato Nakahigashi’s great-grandfather, it once acted as a stopping point for the pilgrims who travelled to the Bujō-ji Temple on the Daihizan mountain. A multi-course kaiseki menu – featuring local delicacies, such as ayu (freshwater fish) – is served, imbued with a particular tradition of tsumikusa – meaning foraged or freshly picked. There is a deep connection to both history and the land, where even the chopsticks are hand-carved from small chestnut branches. Miyamasou is considered one of Japan’s most important restaurants and said by some to have, if not directly, influenced some of the world’s best, well-known restaurants, including Noma.
How to get there: Fly into Osaka. From there – it’s a two-hour drive north, via Kyoto. Alternative methods for reaching Miyamasou are listed here.
Insider tip: Stay the night in one of the private pavilions by the side of the passing stream. Find out how to book here.
375 Daihizan, Hanaseharachi-cho, Sakyo-ku
What to pack
Berggasthaus Äescher-Wildkirchli, Switzerland
Rösti (grated, fried potatoes) or chäsrösti (with cheese) topped with speck and fried eggs; dine with a view at Berggasthaus Äescher-Wildkirchli. Photograph (food) Mr Kurt Reichenbach/Schweizer Illustrierte; (restaurant) Prisma Bildagentur AG/Alamy
While this might not be a restaurant whose food competes with the very best in terms of refinement, it is a restaurant that reaches giddy heights in another, much more literal way. The only way to access this ramshackle 170-year-old guesthouse and restaurant is by hiking up the Ebenalp mountain or (as is probably advisable) by cable car. The food is hearty and classically Alpine – rösti (grated, fried potatoes) or chäsrösti (with cheese) topped with speck and fried eggs – which is precisely the sort of satisfying, carb-heavy fare you need on an often cold, very exposed mountain’s edge. Look out for the stunning views of Lake Constance, Appenzell and out across the Canton of Thurgau.
How to get there: The closest major airport is in Zürich; the closest city is St Gallen. Take the Ebenalpbahn cable car up the mountain from Wasserauen. From there, the guesthouse is sign-posted, and it’s about a 15-minute hike.
Insider tip: Buy a return ticket for the cable car. And take a compass (read: smartphone).
9057 Schwende District