The Christmas party season is officially over, and with it, our collective waistlines are expanded. Also on the increase is our realisation that the traditional food of our native shores has limits. Roast meat and plain veg, stodgy puds, lots of fried stuff; the festive season’s fare doesn’t leave much room for imagination. So, as 2019 lands, and you raise your sluggish, booze-addled head above the parapet to declare you need an extended period of a different cuisine, why not try one of these? Our 5 IDEAL European city breaks for foodies.
There are many reasons to take a city break to Barcelona; the distance, the ease, the city’s layout, the party and arts scene, the football….but the food, until recently, wasn’t considered a star attraction. This has all changed in the past decade, with big name chefs opening lauded restaurants, and generations-old tapas bars finally getting the recognition they deserve. The city is also home to what is widely thought to be the world’s best food market, La Boqueria. While that’s a pretty bold claim (Bangkok’s Or Tor Kor might have something to say about that), when you’re sitting side-by-side with a companion at one of its long, convivial tapas bars, quaffing cava and watching chefs work wonders with phenomenally fresh produce, you wouldn’t want to be anywhere else in the world.
Perhaps the best thing about the culinary scene in Barcelona is the small sharing plates and rubbing shoulders with sociable strangers; the perfect antidote to all that Christmas feasting with extended family. If you’re looking for a hotel to rest after that full-to-bursting feeling you get after too much imbibing, then teletext has some great ones in Spain.
If you’ve got your heart set on Italy and food is your priority, we’d suggest eschewing the traditional favourites of Rome or Florence in favour of the magnificent city of Bologna. For one, some of your most loved Italian dishes hail from here; bolognese, lasagna….the list goes on and gets more delicious the closer you get to the city. What’s more, the world’s best restaurant, Osteria Francescana, is just 30 miles away. What’s stopping you?
Another longed for ‘white’ Christmas in Blighty spent in mild, drizzly conditions? Well, while heading to Copenhagen in Winter may not guarantee snow, it’s pretty likely to happen. And the Dane’s brilliant way of embracing cosiness in the face of harsh conditions make it a great getaway at this time of year. But we’re not here to talk about the weather or hygge; it’s food we want on our lips.
The Danish capital is one of the world’s great foodie destinations, full of fresh fish, lightness of touch and a love for preserving and fermenting; just the ticket in the post-Christmas slumber, we think. If you’re looking for that ethos best encapsulated in an affordable restaurant, we can’t recommend Kodbyen’s Fiskebar, in Copenhagen’s groovy Vesterbro district, highly enough. If you don’t want to commit to a sit down meal, then dividing your dinners between the two famous food markets, Refshaleøen and Torvellanhe, is sure to satiate your hunger.
It’s a bit predictable, a bit cliched, a bit obvious, sure; but it’s known as Europe’s great food capital for a reason, right? It’s a city which smells of food, in the best possible way; there’s a certain aroma of sweet, freshly baked pastry which seems to permeate through every wall and linger on every street. Obviously, Paris has fine dining at its heart, with easily the most Michelin stars of any European city, but you can eat well here for surprisingly cheap, with the right planning and at the right time; even at some top-end places.
If you’re looking for a mid-range option which still delivers knockout food, we highly recommend Les Cocottes. Or if you’re looking for a taste of old school Paris, with dirt cheap wine, stereotypically brusque wait staff and hearty food, then look no further than Chartier, a Parissien institution.
Yep, we know we talked about escaping England and the festive season’s hangover, but there’s not many places in the world so resolutely un-Christmassy as London in January. And the great thing about England’s capital is the huge variety of food on offer; if you want to avoid anything approaching ‘British’ food, then it’s not hard in London. The culinary scene draws from the city’s rich cultural melting pot; you can find just about any cuisine in the world here, from Burmese to Kazakhstani and beyond, showing the best of multicultural London in all its glory. South-East Asian and food from the Indian sub-continent is particularly well represented; Som Saa, Kiln, Gymkhana, Trishna and Laos Cafe are just a few of our favourites that you should definitely try if you’re in this neck of the woods.