8 Chefs Professionally Playing With Their Food

Contributor
Some of the most interesting and experimental eats around the world
Noma, Copenhagen

Ditte Isager

Noma, Copenhagen

Much like our reaction to Oprah's departure from her daytime talk show, we are not taking the loss of Ferran Adria's elBulli very well. Set to close (and begin morphing into a foundation) this July, elBulli has been considered the best restaurant in the world for years and is home to some of the most innovative techniques in cooking today. To better deal with this imminent loss, we found ourselves dreaming of other restaurants worth traveling for. We'd surely visit Heston Blumenthal in London, Anatoly Komm at Varvary in Moscow, and the vegetable patch at Margaux in Berlin, to name a few. Here are eight European establishments we're practically booking flights to already.

Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, London

It’s out with the new and in with the old at Dinner by Heston Blumenthal. The man who made molecular gastronomy famous has taken inspiration for his new restaurant — which has an enviable position in London’s Mandarin Oriental Hotel, overlooking Hyde Park — from 13th- to 19th-century British cookbooks.

The recipes, of course, have all been given a dash of the infamous Blumenthal flair (his Fat Duck outside London has, like elBulli, been named World’s Best Restaurant, and still lingers in the top 10) to make them more palatable to 21st-century tastebuds. A starter of Roast Marrowbone (recipe circa 1723, served in a bone) — marrow chopped up with parsley, anchovy, breadcrumbs and mace (which is the seed covering of nutmeg and has a similar flavor) — is kept from being overly heavy with a side of pickled vegetables and salad leaves. (Photo above, chef Blumenthal's take on bacon and eggs at the Fat Duck, courtesy of Flickr/Sifu Renka)

The Braised Celery main course (circa 1730) is rich, filling, and savory, thanks to the addition of parmesan and cream, with chopped pickled walnuts, apples, and onions giving it texture. Desserts are simply unforgettable, with Tipsy Cake (not one for teetotallers) served with spit-roast pineapple, while Brown Bread Ice Cream with salt butter caramel (circa 1827) is presented on a crunchy, oaty wafer with a sprinkling of pear cubes. (Photo above, of "Meat Fruit," courtesy of Flickr/Manne)

What Blumenthal and executive chef Ashley Palmer-Watts have created here is a historic royal feast you’re unlikely to ever forget, experimenting with old recipes and new methods. It’s not the kind of place you’d eat often — this is hearty fare, with enough calories in one meal to sustain you for a day or more — but is truly a one-off and a refreshing exploration of Britain’s surprisingly diverse and inspirational historical cuisine. Book far ahead, but if you can’t get a table, try your luck by walking in unannounced. They save a few seats for walk-ins, so you might be surprised. (Photo above, of lamb broth with hen's egg and vegetables, courtesy of Flickr/Manne) Jill Starley Grainger

66 Knightsbridge, London; +44 (0)20 7201 3833

Noma, Copenhagen

Yet again securing the number one spot this year in the World’s Best Restaurant List, chef Rene Redzepi’s Copenhagen restaurant has never been one for playing it safe. Eschewing the critic-pandering technique of Frenchy froths, foams, and foie gras, Noma has brought Scandinavian cuisine to international acclaim. With its position on the edge of Denmark, separated from Sweden by a bridge, Noma has plundered Northern Europe’s indigenous ingredients to produce its inimitable dining experience.

Daily foraging for mushrooms and other wild foods, along with the day’s catch from The Sound and hearty animals from the region, provides inspiration for the seven-course tasting menu served to all diners. You might start with scallops and beech nut served with watercress and grains, followed by pickled vegetables and bone marrow, rounded out with Jerusalem artichoke and marjoram with apple and malt. To secure a table, you’ll need to book three months ahead, but don’t purchase a plane ticket until you have a definite date. This place is so hot, even A-listers struggle to get in. And at seven courses for DKK1,095 (USD $205.00), you’ll need to either be on business expenses or save up for a meal here — but it’s sure to be one you’ll talk about for years to come. (Photo courtesy of Ditte Isager) Jill Starley Grainger

Strandgade 93, Copenhagen; +45 3296 3297