ZASS, POSITANO – Belgian chef Alois Vanlangenaeker won Zass a Michelin star in 2002 for dishes such as spaghetti Positano (made with a variety of local tomatoes) and John Dory in a lemon crust with a buffalo yoghurt and potato puree. Armed with a fabulous array of seasonal produce grown on the slopes of Il San Pietro hotel’s sun-drenched gardens, he now has a new €3-million kitchen designed by Andrea Viacava in which to work. Dinner is served on the most romantic of terraces overlooking the coast, or at the olive-wood chef’s table.
Dishes, served by white-jacketed waiters, are hugely accomplished and the atmosphere is elegant, but this is far from being pompous; slabs of sizzling pizza are served as an amuse bouche on colourful ceramic plates from nearby Vietri, a marvellously grounding touch.
TOQUE! MONTREAL – Norman Laprise, an early adopter of farm-to-fork food, shook up Montreal’s French restaurant scene when he opened here 23 years ago. And it’s still ahead of the game. Line-caught tuna is served with aubergine puree, matsutake mushrooms, herring roe and dulse sauce and the winter foie-gras poele comes with ground pine, crushed popcorn and ash oil. Everything is faultlessly executed and yet feels utterly spontaneous. The interior is as dramatic as it is sober, with a floating wine rack showcasing some of the restaurant’s excellent vintages as the main decorative feature. The polished staff, in true Montreal style, switch effortlessly between French and English, orchestrating proceedings like well-rehearsed actors in a long-running Broadway show.
WILTON’S, LONDON – Fashions come and go but Wilton’s has stuck to what it does best for more than 250 years: serving traditional food, perfectly cooked and simply presented. The salmon is fresh from a Scottish river; shellfish delivered live are cooked upon arrival; grouse, still feathered, are rushed from the moor on the night train to London. Chef Daniel Kent sources the very best ingredients to be found in the British Isles: even the cured trout comes from a chalk stream. Ending the feast are Edwardian puddings such as syllabub and trifles soaked in sherry, or a Welsh rarebit of mustardy cheese on toast triangles. It’s more of a dining room than a restaurant, where amorous liaisons are played out in the depths of the green velvet booths, and deals brokered by captains of industry and politicians. Discretion is as much a part of Wilton’s as its service.
LA PASSAGERE, CAP D’ANTIBES – The view from the terrace here is the same enjoyed by F Scott Fitzgerald when he rented this Art Deco villa, now the family-run hotel Belles Rives. A nostalgic Riviera vibe prevails, from the Thirties-style dining room to the Picasso-inspired ceramic plates. The delicate Mediterranean flavours created by Yoric Tieche are pure joy: salt-crusted sea bream with artichokes, and sauteed monkfish with passionfruit-ginger glaze, followed by whimsical puddings of rum-infused pineapple flam be with black-sesame ice cream, and limoncello souffle. It’s easy to see why it was recently given its first Michelin star. After-dinner drinks are virtually compulsory in the Fitzgerald bar, where you can imagine Scott puffing away on Chesterfields while scribbling notes for Tender is the Night.