Great European Restaurants
Companies have certainly cut back on business trips abroad, but they are still part of the equation. When your next business trip takes you to Europe, the pot will be sweetened considerably. While in the grand capitals of the Continent, travelers can expect magnificent architecture and historically rich attractions—not to mention the opportunity to dine at some pretty extraordinary restaurants. Of course, you expect exemplary culinary experiences in such cosmopolitan centers as Paris and London, but you might be pleasantly surprised at the gourmet offerings in the capitals of Eastern Europe, including Prague and Budapest. Read on for a sampling of some of the venerable Continental restaurants that you should consider during your next trip across the pond.
Les Ambassadeurs PARIS, FRANCE 10 Place de la Concorde, +33 1 4471 1616, crillon.com
It helps to be dining on an expense account at this très sophisticated, Michelin-starred restaurant at the Hotel de Crillon, perched on a prime location on the Place de la Concorde. The beautifully decorated space (a former 18th-century ballroom), with 25-foot-high ceilings, Baccarat crystal chandeliers and Italian marble–and-mirrored walls, is a favorite of high-powered politicians and French television and movie personalities. Chef Jean-François Piège, who worked with Alain Ducasse at the Hotel Plaza Athénée, has garnered much praise for his refined French fare, such as Dublin Bay prawns with French caviar, Bresse chicken with morel mushrooms, veal sweetbreads with a carrot purée and wild turbot with black truffles. The sommelier can help you navigate the prodigious wine list, rich with selections from Burgundy and Bordeaux.
Kampa Park PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC 8B Na Kampe, +42 296 826 112, kampagroup.com
A magnet for international celebrities and dignitaries, including Matt Damon, Angelina Jolie and Hillary Clinton, Kampa Park is the crown jewel in a super-successful restaurant group owned by Norwegian-born entrepreneur Nils Jebens. Located on the riverbank in the Mala Strana neighborhood (dominated by the imposing Prague Castle), the restaurant offers fabulous, unobstructed views of the famous 14th-century Charles Bridge. The dining rooms have vaulted ceilings, modern chandeliers and nutmeg-hued walls, and in warm weather, the most coveted table is out on the garden terrace, just steps from the Vltava River. Beef carpaccio, wild-mushroom risotto and seared monkfish are a sampling of items found on the internationally themed menu.
J. Sheekey LONDON, ENGLAND 28–32 St. Martins Court, +44 20 7240 2565, J. Sheekey got its start in 1896, when seafood market stall holder Josef Sheekey got permission to sell his oysters in the courtyard of a building owned by Lord Salisbury. Today, it is one of London’s most popular restaurants (and part of the empire that also includes Le Caprice and The Ivy). Inside the burgundy-colored façade, diners will find clubby wood-paneled rooms and framed photos of the restaurant’s famous clientele. Crab bisque, fish stew, John Dory and Dover sole are just a few of the many seafood dishes on the menu. There’s also a new art deco–style, horseshoe-shaped oyster bar where you can grab a chair, order a glass of champagne and enjoy half a dozen rock oysters from Strangford Lough, in Northern Ireland.
Gundel BUDAPEST, HUNGARY Allatkerti Korut, +36 1 468 4040, gundel.hu You’ll feel like you’ve been transported back to the Austro-Hungarian Empire while dining in this art nouveau former palace dating from 1894. Owned by New York restaurateur George Lang and cosmetics tycoon Ronald Lauder (both of whom are of Hungarian ancestry), Gundel is consistently ranked as one of Eastern Europe’s finest restaurants. The interior is decorated with oil paintings by Hungarian masters, brass sconces and mahogany-paneled pillars, and the cuisine is a modern take on traditional Hungarian dishes: goulash soup, smoked goose liver and chicken paprika with egg spaetzle. Be sure to sample the local vintages, including robust reds from Eger and sweet Tokaji dessert wine, along with homemade strudel.
La Rive AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS 1 Professor Tulpplein, +31 20 520 3264, Amsterdam.intercontinental.com This Michelin-starred restaurant at the InterContinental Amstel, a historic hotel dating from 1867, has long been a celebrated culinary destination in this city of canals. Design accents include wood-paneled walls, floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the Amstel River, an antique green marble fireplace and specially commissioned china from Villeroy & Boch. Parties from 8 to 16 can dine amid La Rive’s impressive wine collection in the candlelit Wine Room. Dutch-born chef de cuisine Rogér Rassin’s Mediterranean-French menu includes such specialties as sautéed turbot with bok choy and carrot chutney, Wagyu sirloin steak with a bay-leaf jus and baby vegetables, and sautéed monkfish with mussels, fennel and basmati rice. For dessert, try the farmhouse cheese selection.
Other exceptional dining experiences in European capitals:
The Witchery by the Castle EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND The Royal Mile, +44 131 225 5613, thewitchery.comCatherine Zeta-Jones and Ewan McGregor are fans of this delightful restaurant in a 16th-century building at the gates of Edinburgh Castle in the Old Town. Enjoy Scottish specialties like Angus beef and smoked salmon, along with fine wines.
Botin MADRID, SPAIN 17–19 Calle Cuchilleros, +34 91 366 4217, botin.es Madrid’s oldest restaurant, dating from 1725, is also one of its best for traditional Spanish food. Feast on cochinillo asado (roast suckling pig) and sangria, and don’t be surprised if you spot King Juan Carlos—the monarch has his own corner table.
Patrick Guilbaud DUBLIN, IRELAND 21 Upper Merrion Street, +353 1 676 4192, restaurantpatrickguilbaud.ie Savor contemporary Irish dishes, including Connemara lobster ravioli, West Cork scallops and Wicklow venison with apple polenta at this elegant restaurant inside the Merrion Hotel, fashioned from several 18th-century Georgian townhouses.
Alt Luxemburg BERLIN, GERMANY 31 Windscheidstrasse, +49 30 323 8730, alt-luxemburg.de Long considered one of Berlin’s best restaurants, Alt Luxemburg attracts locals and visitors with chef Karl Wannemacher’s modern German dishes, spiced up with Asian accents. Try the monkfish with saffron sauce and pan-fried foie gras.
JILL FERGUS has a soft spot for classics and considers the 21 Club as one of her favorites.