13 Next-Level International Restaurants Worth the Trip Alone
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The menus, locations and head chefs we'd cross seas for.
How often do you travel just for the food? How many episodes of Chef's Table have you watched and almost booked an airfare? It's time to take a five-minute break, put office work aside and tap into those glorious four weeks of delicious leave.
Take a coffee break and take a scroll through some of the world's most incredible restaurants, eateries that will get you itching to book your next trip from stomach growls alone. We've teamed up with NESCAFÉ to help you take the desk break you, as a hardworking human being, deserve. From the official 'world's best' to restaurants in sea caves, on rocks in the middle of the ocean, beneath waterfalls and under the sea, these 13 restaurants are worth the trip alone.
WHY IT'S WORTH THE TREK: It's the number one restaurant in the world, duh.
El Celler De Can Roca is the mastermind of the three Roca brothers, who are considered culinary geniuses for good reason. Their 55-seater is housed in a glass-walled dining room and exudes hospitality and family ties. Their food challenges the palate while also being comfort food at its core. This award-winning combination comes from their own gastronomic curiosity, which they've channelled in their 'gastro-botanical' research project, Terra Animada, which aims to catalogue rare wild species and ultimately reintroduce them into our food systems. Now that's cooking with a conscious that anyone can get behind.
WHY IT'S WORTH THE TREK: New Nordic cuisine you've seen on Chef's Table.
Fäviken is another Chef's Table cast member and number 25 on The World's 50 Best Restaurants list. Chef Magnus Nilsson has created what has become considered the world's most remote restaurant and is the figurehead for New Nordic cuisine. The restaurant is housed in an 18th century barn on a 24,000-acre hunting lodge where Nilsson forages, farms and hunts to provide the ingredients for his 20-30 course menu — think dishes using raw beef heart, reindeer lichen and trout roe encased in dried pig's blood — all made using ancient cooking practices. The location isn't the only exclusive part — the restaurant can only accommodate 12 diners each night, with guests staying in sparse rooms on the estate.
WHY IT'S WORTH THE TREK: It's dining in a sea cave.
The tiny Italian village of Polignano a Mare has found foodie stardom — The Summer Cave restaurant is situated inside an open limestone grotto along the Adriatic Sea, which the restaurant is naturally lit by. This is way more of a sensory experience than it is a culinary one, but you couldn't take in this view without a glass of wine and bite to eat. The seafood focused tasting menu ($100 four-course; $150 six-course) includes tuna tataki with balsamic and basil yoghurt, codfish with cucumber sauce and crumble tuna tartare with green tomato aioli. The Grotta Palazzese hotel opens their cave of wonders from Easter to October, so plan your flight.
You won't need scuba gear for this dining experience. Located at the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island Resort, this all-glass restaurant is secured five-metres below sea level and boasts 270-degree panoramic views of the coral reef and sea creatures surrounding it. The intimate 14-seater aptly serves a fresh seafood menu, with the six courses including dishes like reef fish tartare, Maldivian lobster carpaccio and the most indulgent caviar you'll ever have — you're eating it underwater, after all.
WHY IT'S WORTH THE TREK: MadAussie pride — and insane food.
Attica is Australia's only rep on the The World's 50 Best Restaurants list and is featured in Netflix's Chef's Table. The unassuming storefront is a global gem, where chef Ben Shewry brings his childhood dreams to life — his dishes are inspired by his youth in rugged North Taranaki, New Zealand. The menu makes use of native ingredients that are rarely seen in fine dining, like red kangaroo tartare and King George whiting cooked in paperbark. The extended tasting menu (a cheeky $230 per person) can be done in a thoughtful vegetarian version. Vego or not, Attica makes Australians proud of their ingredients that have been absent in the contemporary restaurant scene for far too long.
WHY IT'S WORTH THE TREK: You'll be dining in the middle of the Indian Ocean.
Rock Restaurant is essentially a hut, built on top of a rock, that sits in the middle of the ocean. It's not too far from the shore of Michanwi Pingwe beach, but is far enough to get the full effect. The private restaurant invites diners to wade, swim or boat through the turquoise water to their 14-seat restaurant. Owned by a local fisherman, the menu consists of whatever was caught that day, prepared with authentic, local spices and ingredients. Patrons can also enjoy local spirits while they soak in their surroundings — or lack thereof.
WHY IT'S WORTH THE TREK: It's the highest restaurant in the UK.
Perched on the 40th floor of Heron Tower, Duck and Waffle features views that are literally unparalleled in the UK. Executive chef Daniel Doherty's restaurant stays open 24/7 and he takes late night dining very seriously. Their namesake dish ($17) is a winner for breakfast, brunch or a late night snack — golden brown waffles topped with a crispy duck leg, fried duck egg and mustard maple syrup. The menu is generally playful and unusual, with dishes like ox cheek grilled cheese ($13) that has onion jam, a fried egg and sriracha between the bread as well. Day or night, the views are unbeatable.
WHY IT'S WORTH THE TREK: Ingredients foraged from the Amazon. The Amazon.
Alex Atala reinvented Brazilian cuisine with D.O.M., which sits at number nine on The World's Best Restaurants list. For those wondering, the acronym stands for 'Deo Optimo Maximo', a Benedictine saying used to mark homes that were hospitable to travellers. Atala takes frequent trips to the Amazon to forage for new ingredients, working closely with local indigenous cultures. His four- or eight-course tasting menus use previously undiscovered ingredients like priprioca, which has only been used for cosmetic purposes until his team unlocked the nourishing goodness of it. It'll cost you a pretty penny and is one of the most expensive restaurants in the city, but you won't find anyone complaining.
WHY IT'S WORTH THE TREK: The world's best (and most unassuming) sushi restaurant.
Don't let the tiny, subway station vibe fool you — this is no Sushi Hub. The three-Michelin starred restaurant is considered the best sushi restaurant in the world, especially after it was featured in the highly popular documentary Jiro Dreams Of Sushi. Jiro Ono's 20-course omakase menu will cost you ¥30,000 or around $400 AUD, but his expertise and technique goes beyond that of nearly any other sushi chef. Sukiyabashi Jiro takes phone call only reservations the first of the month prior to when you want to visit, so this isn't one you'll be just popping into.
WHY IT'S WORTH THE TREK: Bayside eating where you shuck your own. Also, those barbecued oysters.
Hog Island Oyster Farm is just that — an oyster farm situated on Tomales Bay where you can literally see the water your seafood is coming from. The Boat Oyster Bar serves raw and barbecued oysters beside the bay to communal tables, while The Hog Shack sells freshly harvested shellfish to go — sold live and unshucked. The Hog Island team also encourages "shuck your own picnics" which includes a reserved picnic table, charcoal grill, oyster shucking tools, lemons, hot sauce, hogwash and a complimentary shucking lesson.
WHY IT'S WORTH THE TREK: Traditional Kaiseki dining (and David Chang's obsessed with this place).
Kaiseki is an ancient Japanese dining experience, attempted only by chefs who have the traditional skills and techniques for such preparation. Kikunoi is set at the foot of the Higashiyamamountain range and the seasonal menu is homage to Mother Nature herself. The all-female hostesses are dressed in traditional robes and silently serve dish after dish of tasting plates using archaic practices of hospitality and decorum. This may seem a little 'old world sexism' to some, but the tradition of Kaiseki dates back to the feudal era and is a tradition the locals are very happy to uphold. The restaurant itself was established in 1912 and is currently headed by the third-generation chef Yoshihiro Murata. Also, David Chang digs this place.
The Waterfall Restaurant in the Villa Escudero Plantation Resort is housed within in a former coconut plantation and sits right on an active waterfall. The man-made falls flow right under diners' feet as they enjoy lunch served on precariously placed bamboo dining tables. The menu includes local Filipino stews, served buffet style. Most patrons wade in the waterfall after their meal — not sure they abide by the fifteen-minute rule here.
WHERE IN THE WORLD: Vis Island, Croatia
WHY IT'S WORTH THE TREK: Nine-hour lunches (and washing your own dishes in the sea).
This one is for the marathon eaters out there. Senko's is all about the slow-food experience, emphasising all-local ingredients and long, lavish feasts. The stone cottage restaurant is owned by Senko Karuza, a writer, artist, philosopher, and chef. Located on the remote Croatian island of Vis and set on a rocky cliff above the gorgeous Adriatic, Senko's signature dish is their brodet, a bouillabaisse made with red mullet, prawns, conger eel red scorpionfish. It may be the only restaurant in the world where guests help clean after their meal (you wash your own dishes in the sea, really), but after experiencing this quality of food we bet you'll willingly roll up those sleeves.