When was the last time a meal was the most memorable part of a holiday? For a lot of travellers, understanding a culture is best done through its food. These moments might be unplanned, as simple as a street vendor discovered by sheer luck, or via a recommendation from a local or a friend. Taste and smell are powerful senses, adept at bringing us back to a place and time when our memory of it has faded. This is why among all of the adventures, stories and people we encounter when travelling, food experiences stand the test of time.

Serious foodies won’t leave this to fate – often booking a restaurant first and then building a holiday around it. Here are five destination restaurants around the world that are considered more of an experience than just a meal.

Pro-tip: Try searching for hotels by the restaurant name in the Excite Holidays booking system to see a list of available hotels sorted by distance from the restaurant. 

Mirazur

Menton, France

Recently crowned the world’s best restaurant, Mirazur sits on the border of France and Italy in the seaside town of Menton. The food takes influence from the local area, celebrating exceptional seasonal dishes, many of which are from the restaurant’s own terraced gardens. Expect fresh herbs, flowers and citrus, uncommon ingredient pairings and sweeping views of the Mediterranean.

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Gaggan

Bangkok, Thailand

After ten years of operation and a four-year run as the top restaurant in Asia, Gaggan Anand’s iconic restaurant is set to close in 2020. In that time, Gaggan has redefined and elevated Indian cuisine. A fan of Rock n’ Roll, Gaggan brings a similar energy to his 25 course degustation, which over the years has taken on a more global influence. Expect to be surprised with every dish, with unusual (but delicious) combinations like sea urchin with hay flavoured ice cream, or a curry which is designed to be licked directly from the plate.

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Osteria Francescana

Modena, Italy

Crowned the best restaurant in the world in 2018, Osteria Francescana may have closed if not for a food critic that was forced to stay overnight in Modena after bad traffic, choosing to dine that evening in the little-known restaurant. For a long time, the creative Italian dishes (think Heston Blumenthal) served here were rejected by the locals of Modena, who hold traditional views of what their food should be. Owner Massimo Bottura is obsessed with pushing food to its creative limits, operating with a child-like creative freedom. His most famous dish is titled ‘The Five Ages of Parmesan’ – and presents local parmesan cheese of different ages in five different ways, including parmesan air, and foam. With only 12 tables, this is certainly one to book in before planning the rest of the trip.

 

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Den

Tokyo, Japan

In Japan, Kaiseki is a traditional multi-course, set menu dinner. At Tokyo’s Den, which is currently ranked the 11th best restaurant in the world, owner Zaiyu Hasegawa puts his own creative spin on Kaiseki dining. Dining at Den is a very intimate experience, with only a small number of bench seats facing the open kitchen, and a separate private room. Standout dishes include ‘Den’s Salad’, packed with 20 different ingredients, including a stuffed ant; and the ‘Dentucky Fried Chicken’, a KFC-influenced dish served in its own takeaway box, with a small toy to take home.

 

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Disfrutar

Barcelona, Spain

Three former El Bulli staff run this avant-garde Spanish restaurant, so diners can expect every mouthful to be an adventure. The dishes are immaculately presented and creatively prepared, with the decor offering a more casual, laid-back style to offset what is on the plate. With the whole experience including up to 30 rapid-fire, bite-size courses, the whole experience can feel completely surreal at times – but that’s hardly surprising when you are tucking into liquid salads, Gazpacho sandwiches and elderflower raindrops.

 

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