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February 26, 2016

3 European Michelin Star Restaurants For You To Try

Text by Mala Vaishnav and Shraddha Jahagirdar-Saxena

At these three Michelin star restaurants in France, Italy and Switzerland, the dining experience is all about pampering the palate and committing the flavours to memory

L’Amphitryon, Colomiers, Toulouse

Gracefully poised in the environs of an international airport and the aeronautical world of Airbus, is a gastronomic gem polished to a glow by Yannick Delpech. Born into a family of winegrowers, the award-winning chef’s passion for pastry as a young boy led him to apprentice with one of France’s top chocolatiers and win his first coveted star at the age of 24 making him the youngest Michelin-starred chef in France.

In the two-starred L’Amphitryon, simplicity and vibrance coexist with sunbeams dancing on the floor through arched glass windows that open out onto a canopied terrace. White embossed linen, rust-backed chairs and a stylish ‘chandelier’ crafted from drinking glasses bestow an air of rock chic to the eternally elegant. The menus, sporting the signature long-legged figures are aesthetically placed slightly ajar at each place setting. The meal is a dream.

A delicately poached egg atop almond milk, asparagus and lemon jelly is smooth to the taste and those who savour the eggplant cream with foie gras shavings murmur their approval too. There follow crispy rolls stuffed with goat cheese and spinach,  candied lamb shanks and green ravioli and the desserts are pears draped with orange chutney and mould wine jelly or infused with milk and thyme.  All this is washed down with a 2013 white from the Loire Valley and a red from Languedoc Roussillon.

A great believer of the correct melange of produce, soil, climate and tradition to craft a memorable feast, Delpech describes his cuisine as attractive, flavourful and respectful. It is to his credit that a devastating fire in 2011 could not keep a good chef down. L’Amphitryon reopened less than a year later with a brand new seasonal menu.

Il Palagio, Four Seasons, Florence

Once the stable block of a palazzo that is now the Four Seasons, the swishy restaurant continues to be encircled by the historic past, visible in its antique, vaulted ceiling and sturdy columns. It has also gathered a clutch of high fives in the fine dining hemisphere, among them a much coveted Michelin star, a number four ranking on the epicurean website The Daily Meal’s 101 best restaurants in the world and  a ‘dish of the year’ listing in an influential restaurant guide. Celebrated chef Vito Mollica even has a book written on him, the first of a 30 gourmet book series.

Il Palagio flaunts traditional Tuscan cuisine with quirky modern touches that has given birth to their signature special of cavatelli pasta cacao e pepe with red prawns and marinated baby squid. Local produce personally sourced by Mollica and his team — who share his passion for quality and freshness — ensure that the menu retains its stylish authenticity. At our evening of a birthday celebration, the lobster salad with celery veils and the porcini mushroom risotto are classic in creation and punchy in flavour as is the Icelandic salt codfish on creamed parsnip and cruschi peppers. And the frozen mango egg with caramel Chantilly and chocolate crumble is a sensuous piece of edible art. In the invigorating months of October to June, the enormous French doors open out onto an elaborate Sunday brunch on the terrace. The cheerfully laid tables overlook the hotel’s 11-acre sprawl of landscaped gardens that lead to the 16th-century Conventino, once a convent, now a quieter part of the main property with its own front desk and entrance.

Rasoi By Vineet, Mandarin Oriental, Geneva

After a long stroll around Geneva — where my colleague Falguni (Kapadia) and I capture the sights and sounds of the Swiss city, ambling around paved streets, walking in and out of shops, stores and boutiques — we head towards our appointed destination for the evening meal, The Mandarin Oriental, where the culinary delights of Rasoi by Vineet await us. We leave the bracing cold of the city behind us and head indoors into its welcoming warmth. The night is still young and the eatery on the ground floor has just opened for the evening repast.

Rasoi by Vineet is the first fine-dining Indian restaurant in Geneva and is reputed to offer a mouth-watering one-Michelin-starred journey into the world of contemporary Indian cuisine. We settle down at our corner table by the windows and, taking in the cityscape, are prepared to enjoy the gourmand meal — in which Bhatia has used his imagination to seamlessly blend flavours to create a fusion of textures and taste in an extremely modern way — that follows.

The innovative fare that makes its way to our table is wonderfully complemented by the decor of the eatery. Shades of red and black play with each other in a highly dramatic, yet relaxing, interior and a large tandoor is the eye-catching centrepiece of the space.

Spared the need to make a choice, we sit back and, in leisure, enjoy the multi-course meal that begins with a panna cotta. Since we have differing palates, we enjoy both the vegetarian and the non-vegetarian offerings on the menu. I am suitably intrigued by what follows — the grilled curry leaf-ginger lobster broccoli khichdi, and spiced lobster jus sour cocoa powder. I gingerly taste it and need no urging to polish it off. Next on the agenda is the coconut chicken tikka with coriander rice, cooked in a Malvani chicken masala and I have no difficulty in recognising an old favourite in a new avatar. A palate cleanser has us in readiness for the next platter — a smoked tandoori lamb filet, served with mustard potato mash, onion chutney okra fritters, lamb samosa and a black lentil-truffle oil sauce. Just as I feel that I cannot eat any more — and I can sense the same from Falguni’s satiated expression (she has been wooed by vegetarian counterparts) — comes the fitting finale to the meal. The dessert. The rasgulla-chocolate cheesecake, ginger gel lemon confit and fennel-chocolate soil are creatively enhanced by the saffron lego kulfi — the last bringing back memories of our childhood.

We have spent a pleasurable few hours partaking of fare by Vineet Bhatia that presents the familiar with an extremely innovative twist. And experienced a magical slice of India in the land of chocolates, cheese and the Alps!

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