THE FAB FOUR I EUROPEAN CELEBRITY RESTAURATEURS
THEdaring chef of snail porridge and bacon and egg ice cream fame opened Dinner by Heston Blumenthal at London’s grand Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park last year. While his famed Fat Duck at Bray in Berkshire has been described as being as much laboratory as restaurant, things are altogether more restrained in this big and airy L-shaped space. There’s a blur of activity in the open kitchen, pineapples turn on a spit like spiky yellow chickens (for Blumenthal’s sauternessoaked tipsy cake) and dry ice rises in clouds from the ice-cream churner (malted barley, biscuit and brown bread are among the madflavours). Dishes are formally provenanced via cookery-book notes on the back of the menu. Some of these tomes stretch back to the 13th century; so the archivist and the magician in Blumenthal introduces us to the likes of hay-smoked mackerel, powdered duck breast and quaking pudding. Dinner was Highest NewEntry (No 9) in the San Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurant Awards 2012. Tip: Weekday set lunches are most affordable. More: dinnerbyheston.com.
WHENin Paris . . . blow the budget at a three-star Michelin restaurant. Alain Ducasse at the Plaza Athenee is the place, if you want the full works. The high-ceilinged hotel restaurant is as grand as a chateau ballroom, all silver and grey with columns and chandeliers and waiters gliding as smoothly as figure skaters. Food is seasonal and French produce is celebrated — turbot from Brittany, saltmarsh lamb from Normandy, and chickens from Bresse served with their long black legs in the air, to be jointed and cut beside the table by a white-gloved waiter with special silver scissors. The cheese trolley is the size of a caravan, the desserts are as deceptively simple as ‘‘figs in leaves’’ and then, if you order a tisane, here comes the herb traymobile, a veritable kitchen garden on wheels lined with little pots of rosemary, sage, mint, lemongrass and thyme, ready to be snipped and infused. The French are very good at such theatrical displays. Or, for a Michelin morsel, sit at the hotel’s groovy glass bar for pate toasts, smoked salmon blinis and fine French wine by the glass. More: plaza-athenee-paris.com.
NOTeveryone can spare the time to potter about an English garden brimming with brassicas, but that’s not to say we have to miss out on experiencing the bucolic life of this shaggy-haired British champion of the local and seasonal. River Cottage Canteen and Deli in Plymouth, southwest England, last year became the second dining spot at which Fearnley-Whittingstall fans can get a taste of the regional produce featured on his popular River Cottage television series. The celebrity cook also has a canteen and deli at his River Cottage headquarters in Axminster, Devon. At Plymouth, the kitchen team is turning out seasonal vegetable mezze boards and heritage tomatoes on toast; pan-roasted pollock with spiced lentils and green sauce; and braised lamb with creamed potatoes and green beans. Desserts run to a very British rhubarb fumble. The canteen’s casual interiors are true to the River Cottage ethos, with the furniture looking as if it’s been freshly plucked from the back garden, and potted plants adorning the tabletops. More: rivercottage.net.
WHAT’Samantodo after he has closed the molecular gastronomy restaurant that projected him to international culinary fame? Opening Tickets tapas bar in Barcelona was the route gastro-god Ferran Adria chose after serving the final meal at award-winning El Bulli in the Catalan seaside town of Roses. Tickets, in Barcelona’s Paral-lel district, is run by Adria and brother Albert (his former partner and pastry chef at El Bulli) and has its focus firmly on the traditional Spanish bar snack. But old habits die hard and after 30 years at El Bulli it’s hardly surprising the Adrias have imbued this lessambitious dining spot (featuring five food and drink stations and a small bar next door) with many quirky flourishes, from front-of-house staff dressed as top-hatted ringmasters to some very familiar menuitems, including popping ‘‘olives’’ and liquid ravioli. And, like its more famous older sibling, it’s not easy to get in; you’ll need to book Tickets at least 60 days in advance. More: Avinguda Paral-lel 164, 08015, Barcelona; ticketsbar.es.