The 25 Best Hard-to-Get-to Restaurants Worth the Trip Slideshow
July 11, 2013
The journey may not be simple, but the destination merits the effort
1. Tampu Restaurant at Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge, Peru
Travel by the Hiram Bingham train, operated by the Orient-Express, to reach the luxurious and serene Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge high in the Andes where you’ll instantly feel transported back to the ancient Incan era. Or, if you are bold enough, you can hike the 100 miles, because areas like Choquequirao and Espiritu Pampa are only accessible on foot — so get a local tour guide! Sit indoors or outdoors at the Tampu Restaurant, the gourmet choice of Machu Picchu’s very few restaurants, and you’ll be treated to a rare view of the ruins and lush vegetation. At this chic, modern gem you’ll rub elbows with some of the most adventurous and discerning travel enthusiasts from virtually every corner of the Earth. Here, you can choose from an international or Peruvian menu featuring local Andean specialties. Sip an expertly crafted Pisco Sour or muña tea on the patio while gazing at misty green terraces carved into mountain ridges and the Urubamba River at one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Order the rainbow trout tartare, then opt for authentic "causa rellena," mashed yellow potatoes with local spices stuffed with tuna or chicken and vegetables, or the lomo steak.
2. The Irish Pub in Namche Bazaar at the base of Mt. Everest, Nepal
En route to climb Mt. Everest, at 11,286 feet above sea level hike to a village called Namche Bazaar in Nepal. Found in between the slopes of the Khumbu Valley, it’s a hike to get there and the air is thin, but once there you’ll find plenty of mountain gear shops, plus a selection of teahouses and fried noodle joints, a karaoke bar, and an Irish bar. The Irish Pub is a must-see, where a dozen languages are spoken at once as international guests sip beer from around the world and Namche homemade whiskey with bar snacks. Get an "I was drunk in Namche" tee while you’re there.
3. Can Bernat des Grau in Mahón, Minorca, off the coast of Spain
Travel by boat to Minorca, the quiet younger sister to the clubby, celebrity-driven Balearic island, Majorca, off the coast of Spain. Take an unforgettable trip to the island (supposedly where mayonnaise was invented), where you’ll experience remote beaches, a widely varying landscape of protected ecosystems, low-key beach food stands that serve lobster stew and gin and lemonade, and less fussy hotel accommodations that will really make you feel "away from it all." You’ll appreciate that your fellow Minorca guests are real adventures who stray from the beaten path. While you’re there, don’t miss one of the area’s favorite and most authentic restaurants — Can Bernat des Grau. The ever-changing menu features fresh fish, oysters on the half-shell, and calamari caught daily by the Es Grau fishermen, served on fabulous, handmade pottery in a quiet setting. Also try the "chuleton a la plancha," or grilled steak platter, and local Spanish wines. Finish the perfect meal with an assortment of beautiful pies — including the Minorcan answer to banana cream pie!
4. The Rock Restaurant in Zanzibar
For a real experience-oriented meal, travel by boat from Michanwi Pingwe beach in Zanzibar to The Rock Restaurant, which, as you may have guessed, is located on a remote rock with the bluest ocean views. Nothing else but this exclusive restaurant is found here. Recline in lounge seating at The Rock Terrace for an unbelievable view at sunset or lunchtime. The food is equally impressive — consider the fish carpaccio marinated with lime, gnocchi with vanilla and prawns, and the special of the house, grilled lobster, cigal, prawn, fish filet, and calamari. Simple seasonal fruits offer a refreshing, sweet finish.
5. Restaurant des Pêcheurs at Le Sereno in St. Barths
Travel by boat from the French West Indies island of St. Martin or book a private jet to reach the elegant, remote island of St. Barths, where the food and the views are breathtaking (and will cost you a pretty penny). After tanning at the beach, visit the posh Restaurant des Pêcheurs at the beyond-stylish five-star hotel, Le Sereno, conceptualized by celebrated French designer Christian Liaigre. At the restaurant overlooking the sea, it’s all about fresh seafood with a French twist, so order the day’s whole fish catch "en croute de sel," which is inside a sea salt and herb crust. Cool your palate with tomato and pepper gazpacho, and King crab and avocado salad with sun-dried tomatoes, then try a trio of mini tuna, prawn, and Kobe beef burgers or beef tartare. But don’t miss an authentic Friday night bouillabaisse. Wash it down with vanilla rum and inventive homemade sorbets.
6. Nordasti Hagi, Faroe Islands
Drive an off-roader on the Faroe Island of Sandoy on a trail, then a stream, then a rocky path of moorland until your vehicle is completely covered in mud and your stomach is growling. Then get out and walk 20 minutes and you’ll find yourself in for a treat at the rustic Nordasti Hagi restaurant loved by locals. Inside the 100-year-old farmhouse, you’ll post up at a kitchen table with a bottle of wine while you wait for lamb to be cut and prepared just for you. A meal of local lamb is served with homegrown turnips and angelica and topped off with a rhubarb tart. Do not expect a real bathroom at this distant spot.
7. Le Castellet in Paraty, Brazil
You can find French food in Brazil at the intimate, laid-back restaurant Le Castellet, in Paraty on the coastal edge of Brazil. At this secluded spot at the end of a long walk down a dark street in a small, old town, grab one of fewer than 10 tables and enjoy generous pours of wine, complimentary homemade breads with house-made infused rosemary olive oil, and made-to-order crepes with toppings like sun-dried tomatoes, cheese, and palm hearts cooked by the South France-born owner, who is also the chef. He also makes excellent crème brûlée and experimental grape-infused brandy. No credit cards accepted here.
8. Beijupirá in Fernando de Noronha, off the coast of Brazil
Enjoy a breathtaking sunset view while sitting under the beachfront veranda of Beijupirá, a romantic contemporary restaurant on the island of Praia da Conceição in Fernando de Noronha, an archipelago of 21 islands in the Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of Brazil. At this picturesque, quiet restaurant, local ingredients stand out and you shouldn’t miss the coconut banana empanadas and the catch of the day fish prepared with a special blend of cinnamon, tamarind sauce, and rice dressed up with curry, cardamom, and banana. Pair with a glass of rosé.
9. Petrel Hotel at Escondido Lake on Tierra del Fuego
Take a guided tour to Tierra del Fuego, an Argentinean archipelago off the southernmost tip of South America, for an experience away from civilization in the area referred to as the End of the World. It boasts quiet canoeing on Escondido and Fagnano Lakes, glacier hiking, boat rides to watch sea lions gather, bird watching, fly fishing, and beaver sightseeing tours. Take a guided car trip on the mud road due north, through the valleys of the Fuegian Andes, crossing the snowcapped Andes Mountains, descending to Fagnano Lake to the capital of Ushuaia’s Winter Centers. Here, in between the forest and lake and the beach ahead, you can dig into Argentinean barbecue lamb, fresh-caught local fish, and wine. In August, chefs gather in Ushuaia for a culinary festival. You can also learn the art of mushing and travel via dog sled.
10. Abençoado Bar at the top of Urca Hill in Rio de Janeiro
Travel by cable car up to Sugar Loaf Mountain, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. While there are no restaurants at the summit (except Pão de Açúcar Gourmet, the snack bar), be sure to stop for lunch at Abençoado Bar at the top of Urca Hill during your uphill walk (taxi rides are available but costly). The restaurant’s name translates to "Blessed" in Portuguese, and this is the halfway point to Sugar Loaf, where you can enjoy a gorgeous mountain view and a traditional, meat-centric Brazilian lunch with dishes like codfish fritters, shrimp turnovers, meat croquettes, and "escondidinho," a meat and manioc casserole with puréed yams and arracacha (a starchy root vegetable in between a carrot and celery). Try the boozy caiprinhas, too, which are made with the restaurant’s own brand of cachaça, or sugarcane rum.
11. Sunset Grill on Playa Norte on Isla Mujeres, Mexico
Sunset Grill boasts a coveted location on the tip of Playa Norte on the beachy Mexican island of Isla Mujeres. With white tablecloth-clad seating right on the beach, Sunset Grill offers the best sunset view on Costa Maya, paired with margaritas and grilled octopus, lobster quesadillas, nachos, crispy fried whole snapper, and seafood paella.
12. Tete on São Tomé Island, São Tomé and Príncipe
Check out the African seafood fare at Tete on the volcanic island of , located just more than a mile north of the equator and 150 miles west of the nearest mainland city of Port-Gentil in Gabon. Tete is the family-run, laid-back restaurant favored by locals for its authentic specialties like Mama Titi’s grilled cuttlefish, grilled squid, plantains, and cold local beers.
13. The Chart Room at the Grand Aleutian Hotel in the Aleutian Islands
Experience North Pacific Rim cuisine, extremely fresh seafood, and a magnificent view of Margaret Bay at every table of The Chart Room in Grand Aleutian Hotel in the volcanic chain of Aleutian Islands. While some of the area belongs to Russia, most of the archipelago is Alaskan, making this the westernmost part of the United States. The seafood buffet on Wednesdays at The Chart Room is so popular that you need a reservation to chow down on its huge portions of local halibut, salmon, and King crab.
14. La Perle Noire, Mahé Island, Seychelles
While "The Black Pearl" may remind you of Johnny Depp’s swashbuckler style in The Pirates of the Caribbean movie series, it’s actually the (translated) name of a secret food lover’s haven in the Seychelles island of é. Make a reservation before journeying on what can be an hourlong car trip to coastal Beau Vallon. Inside this ambient restaurant, dive into eggplant caprese, calamari, spicy crispy prawn, smoked scamorza, the local seafood platter, and steak filet. They also have a well-priced, comprehensive wine list with selections from France, Italy, South Africa, and South America.
15. Adeeb's Eco-Lodge on Socotra Island, Yemen
Dine under a palm leaf roof in a beachside eco-lodge, outside of Hadibo on the Republic of Yemen island of Socotra, where you’ll be surprised by the unbelievable flavors found at a compound. This is the best bang for your buck. Order fresh goat meat or grilled kingfish with rice seasoned with cinnamon, coriander, Greek cumin, and fried onions, beans, homemade bread, and date honey, served in a very humble setting with a fantastic view of the Indian Ocean just feet away, quietly surrounded by nature (one-third of the island's plant life is found nowhere else in the world).
16. Christian’s Café on the Pitcairn Islands
Christian’s Café is said to be the only real restaurant on the Pitcairn Islands; it’s only open on Fridays and visitors must bring an alcohol permit with them in order to drink. Talk about remote. If you do make it to the South Pacific island, which is a famous site of shipwrecks and once was a stopping point for mutineer pirates, you’ll experience a history-rich walk past caves, lagoons filled with sharks and poisonous fish, whirlpools, burial sites, spectacular coastline views, and the Bounty Bay site where a ship was burned by mutineers in 1790. Eventually you’ll hit Christian’s, and hopefully it’s Friday, you have a liquor permit, and can enjoy beer, wine, freshly baked goods, and local fish.
17. Hotel Gagarin Restaurant in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk on the Kuril Islands
Visit the restaurant at the Hotel Gagarin in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, which is located on the Kuril Islands. These remote islands are clustered in the Russian Far East, north of Japan, in between the Sea of Okhotsk and the Pacific Ocean. This area features a totally unique blend of food, cultures, and nature, with flowing rivers, captivating mountains, and volcanoes (the beaches are mostly volcanic). Travel by boat around the most desolate islands like Kunashir, where there is only one paved road and wonderful bird watching. At Hotel Gagarin, order the local salmon and sushi featuring the catch of the day. It’s located in a denser city center with other local restaurants nearby, too.
18. Maiya’s Restaurant, Marfa, Texas
Marfa, Texas, is on the radar as a cultural hub for artists, filmmakers, and musicians (the late minimalist Donald Judd started creating art exhibit spaces here in the ‘70s). It is not impossible to get to — you can take a flight or a long drive, but once you’re there, you’re really in the middle of the desert in far west Texas. Make sure you trek to Maiya’s Restaurant, where the chef, a former painting student from the Rhode Island School of Design, serves gourmet Italian-influenced treats that are a far cry from the standards of BBQ and Tex-Mex. Start with the fennel tartlet, a flaky, buttery tart shell filled with fennel, caramelized onions and Gruyère; and Maiya's Puntarelle, which is chopped celery, anchovy, lemon juice, olive oil, avocado, grilled bread, and parsley. Try the spinach lasagna with Gruyère and mascarpone cheese, or the grilled rib-eye steak from Creekstone Farms with gorgonzola butter, red-skinned mashed potatoes, and roasted asparagus. For dessert, chef Maiya Keck does a buttery, free-form crostata pastry with blueberry and crème anglaise.
19. Mr. Chaak at Chichen Itza, Mexico
Take a long drive through the rural villages of Mexico en route to tour the historic pyramids of Chichen Itza. After hours of trying to delicately fit your large Converse sneakers on the petite stairs of the Mayans, who were a much smaller-footed population, you need a break. Head over to Mr. Chaak, a very simple, cheap little joint where you can cool down with a fresh mango smoothie or cold beer, homemade guacamole, and spicy queso fundido with Valladolid sausage before taking on the rest of the road trip through the Yucatán. They also have free Wi-Fi, you know, just in case you need to double-check those directions again.
20. Ithaa, Maldives
It doesn’t get much more remote than a restaurant under the sea. For a special vacation dinner, visit Ithaa, the world’s first all-glass undersea restaurant in the Maldives. The eatery can also brag about having the largest wine cellar in the country. Dine on contemporary European food, 5 meters (about 16 feet) below the surface with panoramic views of coral gardens and bright blue waters. Enjoy champagne and Malossol caviar, a crispy mascarpone cheese and truffle dumpling, Maldivian lobster carpaccio, and reef fish tartare with poached quail egg and passion fruit dressing, then a mandarin sherbet palate-cleanser, followed by Black Angus beef tenderloin with apple and goose liver tortellini, and finished with a variety of sorbets and ice creams. Not surprisingly, Ithaa translates to "Mother of Pearl."
21. Grutas Restaurant on Madeira Island, Portugal
Visit Grutas Restaurant on the Portuguese Madeira Island. This restaurant isn't just on an island; it’s inside a volcanically formed cave. It’s tough to get to, but the unique view and the fresh fish are worth the trek, as is the Poncha cocktail, prepared with honey, lime, rum, and lemon.
22. The Old Forge, Scotland
The Old Forge is a beloved establishment that draws locals and visitors from across the world who are intrigued by the pub’s Guinness World Records listing as "The Remotest Pub" on mainland Britain. There are no roads in, so expect an 18-mile hike or a 7-mile boat ride to the village of Inverie. Indulge in homemade beer-battered haddock and chips or, for lighter fare, try the Loch Nevis mussels steamed in white wine and fresh bulb garlic served with crusty bloomer bread. Try local brews, Guinness of course, "obscure" malts, gins, ciders, and many more spirits.
23. Turistua in Hammerfest, Norway
Take the zigzag path through Saltfjellet to the top of a hill overlooking Hammerfest, Norway, where you’ll try Turistua Restaurant’s traditional dishes — like seal — with a glorious view of the city and port on a summer day. Experience Sami culture, songs, and food and learn about local history from knowledgeable staff. The bold diners will order seagull eggs garnished with fish roe, or the bidos, a reindeer and vegetable stew.
24. Fäviken in Järpen, Sweden
Farm-fresh is the lure at this remote Swedish restaurant, located on the expansive farms at the foot of the stunning Jämtland mountains, so the menu’s seasonal changes focus on enhancing the flavors of vegetation in its peak. You can also expect fresh game and a cupboard full of condiments that are jellied, pickled, and salted in-house according to traditional methods. The Fäviken Game Fair, which takes place at the end of July, is a three-day wilderness fair that attracts more than 30,000 people.
25. Treehotel in Harads, Sweden
Experience Swedish design at its most creative — by staying in a sleek hotel room high in a tree, deep in the woods, an hour outside of Lulea. Just 40 miles from the Arctic Circle, these extraordinary tree houses rely on retractable staircases and clever use of materials. Some, like the Mirrorcube, are made with mirrored glass, so the structures literally blend into their natural surroundings. After enjoying a dinner at the wild game buffet of reindeer, bear, salmon, caviar of Kalix, and Arctic char, go watch the Northern Lights.