The tikichris Best of 2015 series continues with a look at some of the most amazing restaurants I visited this year.
First of all, it must be said that a significant number of the restaurants listed in yesterday’s Best BBQ post would have featured prominently in this overall list had I not decided to give the BBQ places their own separate list. Definitely some of the best meals I had in 2015 (and maybe in my life) were enjoyed at a few of those BBQ establishments – and all of them listed were far better restaurants than most I’ve encountered, whatever the cuisine.
Also, I left out London restaurants as I intend to share my fave London eateries in future ‘best of’ posts in this series. As a London-based writer covering London first and the rest of the world second (although there’s more and more world coverage competing with London stories for my times these days), I tend to differentiate between what happens in London and elsewhere. Elsewhere was extra awesome this year – especially with respect to restaurants.
So without further ado, here’s a look at the eight best non BBQ/non London restaurants (plus two honourable mentions) I had the good fortune to visit in 2015. Please note, this list merely reflects how I chose to spend my time during the year and is comprised of well established and brand new venues as well as businesses that are somehow related to where work and play took me.
Abbaye de Montheron
Route de l’Abbaye 2, 1053 Montheron, Switzerland
Established in 1142 by Cisterian monks – and reopened in February 2011 after centuries of disuse – the ancient Abbaye de Montheron is a short drive from central Lausanne and is run as a contemporary inn with a kitchen committed to sourcing fresh and seasonal ingredients from local producers for dishes inspired by monastic traditions and the medieval history of the setting. Wines are local too (with some from neighbouring Eastern France and Northern Italy) and are all from small, independent winemakers practicing organic viticulture, and relying on limited filtrations and moderate levels of sulfites if any at all.
Crossroads Chapel Hill
Carolina Inn, 211 Pittsboro Street, Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27516, USA
Chef James Clark’s interpretation of Southern cookery using regionally grown, caught and raised ingredients adheres to tradition and eschews stereotype with a menu that’s as eloquently assembled as it is fun and yummy. Highlights (from a mid October visit) include sunburst trout with roasted apple, corn and Swiss chard with a cider moonshine reduction, and homemade sorghum butter pecan ice cream. A Catdaddy Spiced Moonshine with IBC Root Beer (one among a number of moonshine cocktails) is a treat as well. Yee haw and bon appetite!
Le Comptoir du Relais
Hotel Relais Saint Germain, 9, carrefour de l’Odeon, 75006 Paris, France
2010 winner of Masterchef (France), hotelier/chef patron Yves Camdeborde presents all the thrills of French fine dining without all the fuss (as long as you don’t mind making your rez well in advance or queueing up for a seating an hour or so before lunch) at his hotel’s bistro in upscale Saint Germain de Prés. Fresh and local ingredients form the basis for sophisticated but uncomplicated dishes paired with indie French wines, and served with efficiency and appreciation in a bustling little bistro in the heart of Paris. That glamorous joy de vivre folks seek when visiting the City of Lights? It’s all wrapt up in this delectable parcel of charm.
Beaulieu Road, Brockenhurst, Hampshire, SO42 7QL, UK
This New Forest “restaurant with rooms” that spawned a mini-empire of shabby chic restaurant-driven hotels lives up to its name with mega mains like the “extraordinary” Bath chap: pig’s cheek served on the jowl (with teeth still attached) with some super crave-worthy crackling. An equally scrumptious line up of other menu items is made with a focus as much on the what can be foraged in the nearby forests, sourced from local farms or grown in The Pig’s own garden as how it might be transformed in the kitchen. The Pig’s cosy lobby bar is a fine place for a countryside sip of whatever your preferred poison might be, and the rooms hardly suggest you’re staying in a sty.
La Pinte des Mossettes
Route des Echelettes 8, 1654 Cerniat, Switzerland
About an hour’s drive into the mountains from the village of Gruyeres, La Pinte des Mossettes is set in an Alpine chalet surrounded by forest, pastureland and stunning panoramas. The menu features locally sourced ingredients and seasonal dishes with a contemporary fine dining take on traditional Swiss recipes for scrumptious results complimented by fresh mountain air and tranquil rural ambiance.
Pronto A Comer Zé Da Quitéria – Jose Cardoso
Urbanização Do Passil, Lt. 6, Alcochete, Setúbal, Portugal
More truck stop than restaurant, this roadside cafeteria in the rural stretches of Setubal in southern Portugal serves (in a manner that’s somehow as heartfelt as it is perfunctory) authentic Portuguese food without reviving, enhancing or adding any twist to it – just doing what’s been done and appreciated for a very long time and with good reason. Rich and filling traditional dishes such as galo de cabidela (rooster cooked in blood) defy any notion that frugal cooking must be done at the expense of flavour. Room for dessert? An early summer lunch might mean an opportunity to enjoy a giant bowl of locally grown and super juicy cheers. The simple things in life truly are often the best and they’re plentiful and cheap at Zé Da Quitéria.
Ristorante Il Locandiere
Via Don Luigi Sturzo, 55, 95041 Caltagirone, Sicily, Italy
Opened in 2005, this small seafood (and only seafood!) restaurant in the epically Baroque southern Sicilian town of Caltagirone takes traditional Sicilian recipes and gives them a contemporary and slightly upscale twist. Swordfish prosciutto with almonds and orange? Anchovy and walnut fritters? Herring with orange and fennel? Locally produced organic wines made with indigenous Sicilian grapes? Yes please!
Le Zie Trattoria di Perrone Anna Carmla
Via Costadura, 19, 73100 Lecce, Puglia, Italy
A downhome foodie institution in the heart of Lecce, this popular house-converted-into-a-restaurant serves regional cucina casareccia (traditional made from scratch home cooking) in a comfy and welcome setting, bolstered by a fantastic Pugliese wine list.
The Ritz-Carlton, 2121 McKinney Avenue, Dallas, Texas 75201, USA
I dropped by this restaurant inside the lavish Ritz-Carlton for a taste of the much lauded BBQ, but sadly could only manage to fit a brief morning visit into my schedule and had to make it a “working” breakfast meeting with (super hospitable) reps from the Dallas CVB. Still, Chef Dean Fearing’s Pig and Grits (pulled pork, jalapeno Cheddar grits, poached egg, and tomato gravy) was a fiercely tasty way to start my Dallas day. I have the feeling if circumstances had been slightly different my visit to Fearing’s could have resulted in a ‘best of’ experience.
Antico Forno Roscioli
Via dei Giubbonari 21-22, 00186 Rome, Italy
The “old oven” at this Campo de’ Fiori stalwart dates back to 1824. Now in its third generation of ownership, the pizza baked here is extraordinary – even by Roman standards. Despites being one of my favourite meals of the year, I’d feel funny about listing it as a ‘best of’ restaurant knowing that the same family behind this humble bakery owns their own actual Roscioli restaurant just down the street. I’ve yet to try the restaurant. Next time?
More of the Best of 2015 to follow!