An exceptional gastropub in Berkshire, England, a top locavore dining room in Tuscany, and other wonderful restaurants in great vacation spots.
If you’re wine-tasting on the Moselle River:
In a beautiful park setting in Saarland, the schizophrenic region that can’t decide whether it’s part of France or Germany, chef Klaus Erfort has earned three Michelin stars updating classics like venison, which he pairs with sherry and morels. Fish like turbot served with sautéed totani (squid) is especially good, thanks to the Saarbrücken fish market. Sommelier Jérôme Pourchère oversees a list of about 550 wines, somewhat predictably strong on France and Germany.
If you’re taking a day trip from London:
Like so many chefs, Daniel Clifford, owner of the two-Michelin-starred Midsummer House in Cambridge, made his second restaurant a casual place. Situated in Essex, roughly between London and Cambridge, the Headley is Clifford’s exceptional take on European pub food. Dishes range from simple, delicious Welsh rarebit and golden fish-and-chips to more elaborate smoked boudin noir and sautéed Parmesan cheese and truffle gnocchi.
If you’re visiting Windsor Castle:
Although the Royal Oak is co-owned by Michael Parkinson, the Larry King of Britain, this isn’t a celebrity hangout. Instead, it’s a wood-beamed but mercifully unkitschy English pub that’s less than an hour by train from London, in the Berkshire countryside near Windsor Castle. The updated British cooking, by chef Dominic Chapman, is straightforward and features superb produce. Lunch might start with dandelion greens and Stilton salad studded with pears and walnuts, then continue with Old Spot heritage pork belly with peas and braised onions. The wine list is carefully considered, with some serious Bordeaux and Burgundy bottles that are ungreedily priced—a 1998 Château Haut-Bages Monpelou, for instance, comes in at around $55.
If you’re spending time in Cornwall:
The Isles of Scilly, the gorgeous vacation spot in southwestern England, are well worth the journey from Cornwall—a two-and-a-half-hour ferry trip (or a mere 20 minutes by helicopter) from Penzance to St. Mary’s, and then 20 minutes by private boat. Teän recently won a Michelin star for new head chef Kenny Atkinson’s outstanding seafood-based local cuisine. Superfresh Cornish mackerel with beet confit and fennel puree, and just-caught Scillonian sea bass with Falmouth Bay scallops are just two of his specialties.
England’s Hotel Terravina
Gerard Basset, co-founder of England’s Hotel du Vin (11 wine-focused properties), opened his luxe new hotel and restaurant in the New Forest near Southampton. Unsurprisingly, the wine list is terrific, with 350 or so selections. Wherever possible, the modern-British food, like pumpkin risotto with New Forest porcini, is local and organic.
If you’re vacationing in Tuscany:
David and Catherine Gardner, owners of the highly regarded Beccofino and Trattoria Baldovino in Florence, have now snagged an exceptionally fine chef, Francesco Fineo, for their new hotel and restaurant in Greve in Chianti. Fineo’s menu is broadly Tuscan, focusing on vegetables from the kitchen garden, fruit from the surrounding park and olive oil from the villa’s groves, locally pressed. Meats for his simple grilled dishes, like the excellent bistecca fiorentina (a grilled T-bone he serves with truffled mashed potatoes), are provided by the local butcher. The cellar, a former dungeon, houses some amazing Tuscan wines, such as the hard-to-find Querciabella and La Massa.
If you’re in the Alps:
Emmanuel Renaut, one of Europe’s rising star chefs, trained for years with the legendary Marc Veyrat before opening his small restaurant in the smart Alpine ski town of Megève. His sophisticated cooking—sea urchin with warm coffee cream and sweetbreads with maple and eucalyptus—is dazzlingly original, intensely flavored and fantastic.
What’s New in Nice
Jouni—La Réserve de Nice
Famous Nice, France, restaurateur Jouni Tormanen has moved his popular restaurant to a white Art Deco building on the port, with stunning sea views. The daily changing menu has Provençal roots but reaches around the Mediterranean to Italy, Morocco and Spain. Upstairs it’s fancier, but the food is just as good in the downstairs bistro, where Sébastien Mahuet serves fabulous sea bass à la plancha (griddle-cooked).
If you’re traveling to Majorca:
In the old and rather beautiful harbor town of Puerto de Sóller on Majorca’s northwest coast—a town with no shortage of excellent restaurants—chef Annett Mihm does a fantastic job of updating classic Majorcan dishes. Tiny squid, which are brought in from down the street, are fried with wild garlic, and local spring lamb is served with tumbet, the rich Majorcan stew of potato and eggplant. To drink, it’s hard to beat the newly popular local wines—Anima Negra, for instance.