Top 10 Culinary Elite

Writer Zoe Louise Cronk | Published July 4, 2018

It’s not just fashion that oozes haute couture. The restaurant business gets in on the act too, where the real art lies in the kitchen. Now you can treat your taste buds to culinary delight wherever your travels take you

  • Tickets, Barcelona

    The perfect restaurant for foodies who savour exceptional gastronomy but don’t take themselves too seriously, Tickets in Barcelona is one of the most unique tapas restaurants you’re likely to come across. Seating 90, the playful atmosphere comes not only from the circus-themed decor (that somehow manages to be tasteful rather than gaudy) and imaginative menu but also from the open kitchens that surround the table, each showcasing a different preparation method. The culinary genius of acclaimed chef Albert Adria (brother to Ferran Adria of El Bulli fame) is clear from starter to dessert. Food as entertainment is the key, with some of the more memorably presented dishes including the porex with caviar and hazelnut oil, basil air-waffle and a tree hung with strawberries in an ‘elderflower cloud’ for you to harvest and indulge in using the pruning scissors provided. Still have room to sate your sweet tooth? Get ready for an experience worthy of Willy Wonka, as you’re taken to a dessert room with seemingly endless options. The famed Tickets cheesecake, sweet potato sorbet with tangerine and liquorice, and bread served with oil, chocolate and nitrogen ice cream are among the favourites. Tables for this high-end tapas are on months-long waiting lists, but it’s worth it.

  • Sexy Fish, London

    Asian fine dining with a twist landed in London in 2015, boasting one of the most prestigious addresses in the city. Mayfair’s Berkeley Square is renowned for its period buildings and high-class residents, and Sexy Fish is no exception. Inside it’s super sleek, with chic gold and black onyx interiors dotted with a wall-adorned cascading water feature and oversized silver fish by Frank Gehry. À-la-carte highlights include shichimi duck breast with kimchi and bone-in rib-eye with black truffle, while the newer Kuikku lunch menu allows for culinary exploration through six smaller dishes. Caramelised black cod with spicy miso, beef tataki and crispy tofu with honey chili are all well worth a taste, before a decadent chocolate dessert to round off your meal. The cocktail menu looks like a glossy magazine and is filled with inspired creations (many featuring their staggering Japanese whisky selection) for pre- or post-prandial sips. Celebrating? Spring for the private dining room complete with two coral reef tanks and a marble-topped bar.

  • Quintonil, Mexico City

    Nature takes centre stage at this upmarket Mexico City eatery, both on your plate and in the interior design. The bright, simple space features lots of wood and a number of ‘living walls’ covered in shrubs. The menu too features green, so abundant is it in vegetables from their private garden. Keeping their carbon footprint low is as important to Quintonil’s charismatic chef Jorge Vallejo as the food, which they achieve by ensuring their ingredients travel no further than 30 metres from their humble earthy beginnings to your plate. Vallejo takes a modern approach to Mexican cuisine by using traditional ingredients like cactus and tamales in new ways. A particular speciality, escamoles, is better ordered in Spanish as its great taste can sometimes be overlooked by its name in English – ant larvae. Judgement aside, it’s considered the Mexican version of caviar and is a popular choice for the adventurous diner. The ambience is relaxed and elegant. Expect a small and intimate setting with few frills but lots of flavour.

  • Central, Lima

    Leaving with a vocabulary as enriched as your taste buds, most people will struggle to identify and pronounce the little-known (but utterly delicious) fruits and vegetables that land on your plate at Central in Miraflores, Lima. It’s here that Chef Martinez sought to celebrate the vast biodiversity of his native Peru through food. Not so much a meal as a culinary journey, each of the 17 colourful courses features ingredients from different altitudes of South America, including lush jungle, atop a mountain and the depths of the ocean. His love of new flavours and curiosity about ingredient ecosystems is evident from first bite, as is his passion for promoting the nutritional, biological and anthropological aspects of each dish. The four tasting menus include Peruvian favourites like ceviche alongside inventive additions like sea snail, yacon root, pacay fruit and barnacles. The dishes change frequently thanks to his team who continuously scour the nation’s countryside in search of new ingredients, who have discovered a way to filter water on-site using reverse osmosis; a process that traps microparticles and bacteria, resulting in ultra-pure water.

  • White Rabbit, Moscow

    On the 16th floor of the Smolenskiy Passage in Moscow awaits the unexpected; a place where whimsical Alice in Wonderland themed decor lends a surprising storybook air to an elegant, upscale restaurant. It’s a different combination (playful and chic), but it works, thanks to the combination of gold and nude furnishings with vibrant paintings and statuettes of Lewis Carroll’s infamous White Rabbit. As for the fare, traditional Russian dishes with a Mediterranean and Asian influence are the focus, made using seasonal and locally sourced ingredients. The signatures by Chef Vladamir Mukhin include Black Sea oysters, boar cutlets and calf tongue in chokecherry dough, with the ultimate sweet choice being the King Stanislaw baba (yeasted rum cake) soaked in champagne with apricots and ice cream made from Russian cultured milk, ryazhenka. Oh, and if that wasn’t enough to whet your appetite, the restaurant’s glass dome affords stunning views of the city. Down the rabbit hole we go!

  • Ultraviolet by Paul Pairet, Shanghai

    The lack of decor at avant garde restaurant Ultraviolet by Paul Pairet is interesting in itself. In the intimate 10-seat dining room there is no artwork on the walls, no artefacts to pique your interest – just utter simplicity. Yet look a little deeper and it’s one of Asia’s most technologically advanced restaurants, featuring computerised lighting, dry-scent diffusers, multi-channel surround sound and high-definition projectors, making for an innovative, well-researched sensory experience. Your sense of smell, for example, is hugely evocative and can trigger decade-old memories and your imagination. It also impacts your sense of taste, which is why Ultraviolet sources a signature scent with perfect depth and strength. From warm to cold, earthy to dramatic, its creators knew too the importance of lighting in setting an atmosphere, and use it to full effect with the help of projectors. These fill the dining room with static wallpaper and dazzling scenarios, creating a new ‘episode’ for each dish. The experience is incredible, and that’s before mentioning the 20-course meal that will enliven the taste buds and challenge what you thought you know about flavour.

  • Arpège, Paris

    Michelin stars are known to come and go, but not for Arpège in Paris. It was more than 30 years ago (only 12 months after opening) that this foodie favourite was proudly awarded not one, but three of the prestigious gastronomic stars, which they have maintained ever since. But it’s not just Michelin recognition that sets Arpège apart. Six years in, famed chef Alain Passard closed the doors claiming he was simply burnt out. But there were still flavours simmering within, and it wasn’t long before he reopened announcing that the menu had been completely overhauled as meat-free. Today it’s renowned as one of the world’s best vegan and vegetarian restaurants with dishes sure to convert even the most devoted of carnivores. The best bit? Ingredients are sourced from Passard’s own biodynamic farms and are delivered fresh on a daily basis, so no preservatives or wilting leaves in sight. As well as much-loved dishes like green curry aubergine and candied chicory, one of the most well-known on the menu is praised for its intriguingly delectable flavours: a warm poached egg yolk served with sherry vinegar cream and Canadian maple syrup.

  • Tree Pod, Koh Kood

    The treehouse dreams of your childhood got a luxurious makeover at the five-star Soneva Kiri resort’s unique Thai dining experience. Perched 20 feet up in the trees of the Koh Kood rainforest is your very own bamboo treepod, where you’ll enjoy a meal that literally takes you to new heights. With surrounding tropical foliage and the vibrant turquoise of the Gulf of Thailand in front, this is a new kind of 360-degree panorama, complete with the rainforest creating an enchanting soundtrack. And the theatrics don’t stop there. Your food makes an entrance via the zip-line acrobatics of your waiter, who carries dishes through the leafy canopy while precariously suspended mid-air. The menu comprises ingredients sourced from the resort’s own organic garden as well as local markets. Any meal should include their playfully monikered ‘canapés in the canopy’ like banana and taro chips, and their speciality galangal baked fish and coconut prawns. Romantic, authentic and oh so memorable, the creative brains behind Soneva Kiri have achieved something special.

  • De Librije, Zwolle

    Dutch restaurant De Librije sees guests select seasonal ingredients that are then used as a guide to the diner’s taste and made up into a fabulous seven-course meal that’s totally customised. The cuisine here is all about regional cooking, and the restaurateur couple behind the triple Michelin-starred De Librije have been forging a new path for Dutch cuisine over the last two decades. They are particularly known for quirky gastronomic notions and cutting-edge techniques, clearly evident in every plate. Fancy dining à la carte? Don’t miss the river trout with almonds and sherry, or the veal sweetbread with pineapple and peanut sauce. And it’s not just the food that makes it so popular. The restaurant is housed in a former prison; a grand 18th-century converted building with a striking glass and steel roof.

  • Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, Melbourne

    In celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal’s first permanent foray outside the UK, Dinner arrived in Melbourne in 2015 and became an unwavering fixture atop the city’s best restaurant lists. It’s the Antipodean version of the London eatery of the same name, both of which have an industrial feel and take culinary inspiration from bygone eras. “Our dishes are inspired by creations from the past,” explains Head Chef Ashley Palmer-Watts. “The ‘meat fruit’ for example is inspired by the theatre and illusion of King Henry VIII’s grand banquets. Ours is a sphere of smooth, creamy chicken liver parfait encased in a mandarin gel. It looks just like a mandarin, complete with dimples and a stalk.” Pre-dating even King Henry VIII’s meat fruit is the curried kangaroo tail (available only in Melbourne) of the year 1390; the same year as the highly praised sambocade (goat’s milk cheesecake) delectably served with elderflower and apple. With food steeped in history and even more flavour, Dinner is well worth a visit on either side of the globe.