Food • March 2015
Rather than struggle to secure a reservation at the world’s top restaurants, why not head to lower-profile eateries where the same chefs offer superlative cooking, at more affordable prices. The Financial Times restaurant critic Bill Knott leads the way
The hottest London restaurant opening of 2012 was Dabbous. Nearly three years later it is still nigh on impossible to get a reservation. By contrast, chef Ollie Dabbous’s other venture, Barnyard will take just a few email requests. The decor is agreeably rustic; the food, though, shows as much invention as its smarter sibling. Try roast suckling pig with celeriac and caraway, hispi cabbage with clover and – on no account to be missed – popcorn ice cream with smoked fudge sauce.
Star NYC chef Daniel Boulud is known for being hands-on, and standards aren’t allowed to slip at any of his restaurants. Bistro Moderne is no exception – more casual than his flagship, Daniel, but with a menu as chic and contemporary as the sleek, bistro-inspired decor. The menu salutes the bistro, too: snails with chicken ‘oysters’, parsley and hazelnuts; and a classic coq au vin. Lighter dishes include a salad of Maine lobster with Jerusalem artichokes, grapefruit and apple, and a ginger-chilli vinaigrette. The restaurant’s best-known dish is a sirloin burger filled with short ribs, foie gras and black truffle, but the real steal is the three-course set lunch for $40.
Taillevent, one of the Paris restaurant world’s grandest of dames, has opened a brasserie: Les 110 de Taillevent. The truffle-smothered menu de saison at Taillevent is €390 a head without drinks; at Les 110, the three-course set menu is a trifling €44. All is beautifully cooked and elegantly presented, but the greatest thing about Les 110 is the reason for its name – 110 wines from all over the world, available by the glass.
Heston Blumenthal’s The Fat Duck put British cuisine on the map, but such glory comes at a price and tables are scarce. Try his Michelin-starred pub, The Hinds Head, which is close by and offers an equally inspired menu, albeit with fewer frills. Mains include a rich oxtail and kidney pudding, and fillet of duck with beetroot, barley and turnips. Puddings – rhubarb trifle, treacle tart with milk ice cream – are similarly hearty.
It’s tough to bag a table at Matsalen, Mathias Dahlgren’s tiny two Michelin-starred restaurant in Stockholm’s Grand Hotel; fortunately, Dahlgren also runs Matbaren in the same building, where seating is cheek-by-jowl, but the food equally impressive. Try Norwegian scallops with raw mushrooms, white soy sauce and brown butter; or blackened deer heart, which is creamy within, scattered with cress, fennel and toasted crumbs of rye bread. Vegetables are a strong point – try broccoli with pumpkin purée, strewn with hazelnuts and summer truffle.