From nose-to-tail dining in London to a Naples pizza joint, these restaurants are not to be missed
STARS, dispensed by Michelin and reviewers, are not the only way to rank restaurants. An elite group of classic dining spots has survived the twists and turns of fashion, seen generations come and go, and defied definition. When you’re eating your way around the globe, save some room for a meal at one of these destinations.
CONTRAMAR, MEXICO CITY
Fish is at the heart of Contramar, spanking fresh, piled high on tacos, marinated in lime juice and smothered in chilli. Octopus tostadas mix crisp crunch with cephalopod so soft and sweet it brings a tear of greedy joy to the eye. The pescado a la talla, a whole fish grilled with red and green salsa, is the sort of dish that should be placed on a pedestal and worshipped as a god. More: Calle Durango 200, near Plaza Cibeles, Colonia Roma, Cuauhtemoc, Mexico City, Mexico; contramar.com.mx.
Tetsuya Wakuda mixes classical French and Japanese techniques and ingredients, following the seasons yet never enslaved by them. Each mouthful zings with flavour, and each tiny piece of silken sea urchin or sea cucumber makes perfect culinary sense. This is food to wake the senses and turn on the tastebuds. It may be Michelin-starred haute cuisine, but being in Sydney it’s also a place to talk, drink and share the pleasures of the table. More: tetsuyas.com.
VICTORIA SEAFOOD, HONG KONG
OK, there’s not too much to love about the garish, over-lit room poised halfway up a Hong Kong tower. But forget your surroundings, for this experience is all about classic Cantonese food. As the name suggests, it’s all things piscine that make Victoria Seafood a classic. Don’t forget to order the freshly steamed flower crabs in Chinese yellow wine and chicken oil — silken and seductive, they’re possibly the finest thing to pass your lips in this Titan of culinary capitals. More: Citic Tower, Fifth Floor, 1 Tim Mei Avenue, Admiralty, Hong Kong.
LE GAVROCHE, LONDON
The Gavver is unmoved by passing fancies and transient trends, instead concentrating on flawless service and high-end Gallic cuisine that still dazzles and delights. There might be a little less butter and cream in the sauces than when culinary legends Albert and Michel Roux ran the joint, but under Michel Roux Jr it’s still some of the finest cooking in London, from the cheese-drenched bliss of souffle suissesse, a true Gavroche classic, to Le Caneton Gavroche, a whole duck complete with bowls of delicate consomme and three different sauces. More: le-gavroche.co.uk.
Too often, restaurants such as Rene Redzepi’s Noma are drowned in a maelstrom of their own hype. But despite all its accolades, the atmosphere is laid-back and unpretentious. And the food? Exciting, innovative and downright delectable. Live prawns, hauled from the fjords hours before; beef tartare spiked with wood sorrel; edible soil and foraged treats. Redzepi trained all over the world, yet Noma represents the very quintessence of its Danish terroir. More: noma.dk.
DA MICHELE, NAPLES
Purists will argue for years about exactly where the finest pizza can be found, but true Neapolitan pizza perfection is easy to sniff out. Just follow your nose to Da Michele in the winding backstreets of Naples. The menu is short to the point of being curt — margherita or marinara, in three sizes. Tomato sauce is freshly made and spread thin, the mozzarella dotted in molten, alabaster pools. The crust is the true star: a narrow, puffed-up rim, speckled with black blisters. There’s a slight crack as you bite, then a wonderfully dense chew. More: damichele.net.
ST JOHN, LONDON
The restaurant that proved there was more to British food than soggy vegetables, jellied eels and deep-fried Mars bars opened 18 years ago, and the pared-back prose of its menu matches the cool, clean, white walls of its Smithfield space. No cut or organ is overlooked at St John, the home of British nose-to-tail eating. Bone marrow, baked until wobbling, is slathered on sourdough toast, anointed with good salt and eaten with a mouthful of sharply dressed parsley salad. Lamb’s tongue comes with butter beans and green sauce, ox heart with horseradish. This is a place for bonhomie, and food that continues to inspire. More: stjohnrestaurant.com.
JOE’S STONE CRAB, MIAMI
Joe’s is open only from midOctober until mid-May, when the famed stone crabs are in season and the crowds flock to this legendary Miami Beach joint. Be prepared to wait, as there’s no booking. Joe’s has