Food is a big part of any holiday, nothing really encapsulates the culture and atmosphere of a place like the food that’s served and the rituals and practices surrounding meal times. Routines built around food and dining really do highlight key differences that can be attributed to social and political ideals in the different parts of the world. Long, extended lunch times and late dinners in Southern continental Europe for example contrast sharply with more clearly defined regimented meal times in Britain and Germany.
In fact many go away with the food they’re going to sample at the forefront of their minds and actually structure their holidays around eating at particular regions or specific restaurants. With this in mind I put together a list of the best five European cities for foodies. This is by no means a definitive list and based on personal experience, but I can guarantee that culinary critics and plain old gluttons alike will find something to tantalize the palate…
Diversity is the dish of the day in London, a city where the eclectic mix of inhabitants I reflected in the vast choice of cuisine on offer. London has everything from Argentinean steak houses, and steamy, intimate Vietnamese cafes to minimalist curry houses and traditional British pubs serving stodgy grub. More importantly, because of the sheer volume of restaurants there is plenty of competition which means the quality is extremely high wherever you go. Just make sure you wear elasticated trousers as you will want to try everything…
If you’re not an avid skier, you probably haven’t heard of Chamonix, and you’re even less likely to hear it mentioned in the same breath as haute-cuisine. In fact I found the food in Chamonix to be as far from ‘haute’ as can be, for me it shared more similarities with traditional British dishes. Stodgy, substantial and filling best describes food from this region. Why? Because that’s what skiers need to keep warm and maintain energy for a long day on the piste! Rhone-Alps food is characterized by strong cheeses, cured local meats, particularly ham, eggs, and rich, creamy sauces.
There is something about Jerez that makes in inherently more Spanish than the rest of the country, perhaps it’s the location on the southern tip of the country, but a passionate Latin vibe really envelops this region and it’s reflected in the food. It’s more the attitude to eating than the food that strikes you in this city, dining is such a social activity, with restaurants opening late into the night, it’s not uncommon to see families sitting down to tapas or Paella at 10pm. This is not to say the food takes a back seat however, Tapas in Jerez is exciting to eat and delicious, combining local delicacies like Tortilla (Spanish Omlette), Gazpacho, roast Suckling Pig and fried Octopus.
If you’re watching your figure, avoid this one! Brussles, as anyone with a sweet tooth will know is the world capital of Chocolate and the many boutique chocolatiers are the closest you’ll ever get to Willy Wonka’s famous factory. Of course Brussles is also the place to drink beer, with thousands of different ales available and hundreds of medieval taverns to drink them in, Brussles is the place for the cultured larger lout. To make things worse for the fitness freaks taking a trip here, Belgium is also the birthplace of chips, or ‘fries’ and the cafes and brassieres here certainly serves some of the most delicious crunchy potato slices I’ve ever tasted!
‘Fresh, local produce’ seems to be a buzz phrase for restaurants and supermarkets in the UK right now. We are all aware of the benefits of eating locally produced food, and taste is certainly one of them. I vouch for the fact that no other country embraces this mantra like Portugal however, in Portimao, there are makeshift gazebos lining the harbor front where you can sit and actually watch sardines being caught, barbecued in the open air, then served to you in a matter of a few minutes. My idea of food heaven.
Joe Johnson is a food lover (if you hadn’t guessed!) and travel blogger. His next foray will be his Thailand holidays; he hopes the food will be up to scratch!