Frequent travelers are typically careful of our spending, proudly stretching a dollar as far as we can in order to have as many experiences as possible. That’s all well and good, but sometimes an all-out restaurant splurge is in order.
Here, 12 travel bloggers share their most memorable splurges, and the reasons they would do it all over again.
Christmas Day in Barcelona
Crysta at Well Worn Suitcase
During a family holiday in Barcelona, we decided to do something special for Christmas Day (partly to avoid any of us having to cook). Our research landed us on Restauranta Tragaluz, and I emailed them about a reservation about six months in advance, before their holiday menu was even in place. The price was quite a lot more than we typically plan to spend on a meal, but we decided to trust the spectacular reviews, and make a restaurant splurge.
Tragaluz (Spanish for skylight) is tucked into a quiet pedestrian alley. The space is beautiful, with a very classy, high-end feel that made our eight-year-old daughter feel like an absolute princess. They pride themselves on serving a modern twist on traditional food, and their pre-set holiday menu included seven courses of impeccable small plates.
Each of the seven courses was paired beautifully with artfully curated wine selections, and we felt perfectly pampered by a waitstaff clearly invested in our enjoyment.
If you are looking for a really special night out while visiting Barcelona, we highly recommend the exquisite Restauranta Tragaluz.
Number One Restaurant in the World
Pamela at Travel Like a Chieff
Life is too short to have a bad meal and I take this statement very seriously. On a recent trip to New York, I had to keep busy while the hubby worked, so he made sure to book a few top restaurants that I could enjoy alone. While some women would prefer spending all their time shopping I, on the other hand, decided to fine dine my way through NYC.
One restaurant splurge we got to enjoy together was Eleven Madison Park, this was our second visit and it will not be our last! Our first time was in May of 2017, right after they were named no. 1 on the World’s 50 Best list, and right before they closed for renovations during the summer months. During our first visit, we opted for the dining room tasting menu and were blown away. The service is second to none and Daniel Humm is a culinary genius.
Some of the standout dishes from our first visit included a foie gras torchon with maple syrup and pain d’épice; it was simply divine. There is a story behind this dish and our waiter made sure to share it with us. In 2014, they were looking for a new chef nationwide and they couldn’t find anyone until they tasted the foie gras. That’s how Daniel was chosen as head chef of this fine dining restaurant. The second was the carrot tartare; not only was this dish unique because of the ingredients but the presentation was also noteworthy.
On our second visit, we reserved the bar tasting menu since we were a little pressed for time and I recommend this option if you can’t sit through the 3 hours service in the dining room. Eggs Benedict for dinner? Yes, and it was exquisite! This popular breakfast dish is taken to the next level with pickled quail egg yolk, caviar, and freshly baked mini English muffins. Eleven Madison Park is fine dining at it’s best and absolutely worth a visit!
Magical Experience in Copenhagen
Brianne at The Lady Brianne
Copenhagen is known for being a foodie destination and of course home to Noma, a restaurant notoriously difficult to get into. In fact, my inability to book a reservation there is what led me to discover Restaurant Mielcke & Hurtigkarl, a beautiful fairytale estate on the outskirts of the city.
I traveled to Copenhagen to eat and I did little else while I was there. Tasting menu after tasting menu, neighborhood after neighborhood — I experienced the high and low ends of the gourmet spectrum and enjoyed a number of wonderful dishes over a long week. My final reservation was at Mielcke & Hurtigkarl, and it was undoubtedly the best. Even better, of all the multi-course tastings I tried, this final meal was not only the most affordable, but the most delicious and creative.
The setting of the restaurant was like something out of a dream; the estate included beautiful gardens, visible from the tables which were each set in front of tall windows on the perimeter of what appeared to be an intimate ballroom. An abundance of greenery continued inside with beautiful illustrations of plants both on the walls and the menus. Crystals hung down from the ceiling and the lighting was delicate and intimate.
For those who do not drink alcohol, rather than the standard juice tasting they offered house-made kombuchas, each more creative and delicious than the last. Each detail was so tastefully and perfectly attended to, each dish so perfectly executed. The flavors and textures were so varied and fresh and artfully presented upon beautiful handmade ceramics; a glorious finale to a decadent vacation. Three years and many meals and countries later, Mielcke & Hurtigkarl remains the absolute best dining experience I have ever had anywhere in the world.
Over 30 Courses at a Top Restaurant
Amber at With Husband In Tow
In part, eating at one of the top restaurants in the world is not about the food, at least not in the same way as seeking out the best street food in a new destination. El Celler de Can Roca, in Girona, Spain, is not for everyday dining.
The entire evening was almost a blur, like we were dining in a fog. With each dish, we wondered not just at what we were eating, but where we were eating it. The chef, Joan Roca, offered us a tour inside the kitchen, where it is so quiet you could hear a pin drop.
As for the food? Yes, more than 30 courses, or bites” over more than 4 hours, with more wine than I can remember. This dishes were each a blend of classic Catalan recipes, reimagined into stunning new creations. Each dish like artwork. But, the one that stood out? It’s hard to pick just one favorite. But, Joan and his team served a cuttlefish with sake “lees,” or the residual yeast that results from sake fermentation. The lees came from a sake made near the restaurant in Catalonia, from rice that was polished, as sake is, in Japan. A true melting of international and local. This is one meal, that even a year after finishing, we still talk about on a regular basis. Truly memorable.
Price for tasting menu, with wine pairing: €300 per person. They are open for lunch, which might make this restaurant splurge more family friendly as dinner service doesn’t start until after 8:30pm.
Haute Cuisine in Japan
Sarah at ASocialNomad
Our biggest restaurant splurge in 4 years of travelling was in Japan. We wanted to stay in a traditional inn – a Ryokan and we found one in the onsen town of Kinosaki – where our stay included the amazing Kaiseki Ryori.
Kaiseki Ryori for us was a series of regional specialities – there were many dishes in our meal, most of a single bite, but all deliciously flavoured. We were served in our room on the low tables favoured in Japanese culture. The presentation was immaculate and elaborate.
There were 15 dishes each for us in our meal from tempura, Japanese pickled vegetable, a Japanese hotpot that we cooked on our small tables, grilled fish to the crab, the speciality of the house. And the crab was a whole crab each! We also had sashimi, snail and miso soup. We finished with rice which signals the end of the meal. We washed all this down with traditional Japanese sake with our meal and then Japanese tea.
Our traditional meal was served in a traditional ryokan room with tatami matting on the floor, cushions, low chairs and low tables. Our door screens were delicate paper and we wore the traditional yukata robes during our entire stay. It was a true restaurant splurge with a difference!
Dining 50 Meters Above Ground
Food is an important aspect when I travel (actually, it always plays an important role in my life) and when I travel, I try to try out different things – a lot of street food and once in a while some fancy dinners/lunches. When I visited Dubai last time, I tried something completely different. Well, I tried “Dinner in the Sky.”
While most of us have had dinner in the sky (aka dinner in a plane), this is actually a more or less new activity which you can do in several cities – now, you can do it in Dubai as well.
The dinner (you can also book an Afternoon Tea or lunch) comes with a price tag – the Afternoon Tea costs about 110€, lunch and dinner are even more expensive – but it is a unique experience. A big table, which can host up to 22 people, is lifted up by a crane. In about 50 meters height, with your feet hanging freely above the ground, you get your dinner/lunch/afternoon tea served.
The food is high-quality (the catering comes from the luxury hotel Westin Mina) and dining up there (I opted for the Afternoon Tea) does not only come with good food, but also with amazing views over Dubai Marina and the Beach.
While the experience is not cheap, this restaurant splurge is probably a meal that I will not forget so easily!
Family-Style Cuisine in Seminyak
Julianna at The Discoveries Of
One of the best meals I’ve had while travelling was on my recent trip to Bali.
This high-end restaurant is renowned for being one of the best Indonesian restaurants in Seminyak, and arguably Bali overall. It certainly didn’t disappoint.
Reviving the tradition of family-style dining in Indonesia, the restaurant serves up a roster of small dishes meant to be shared at the table. We clustered around the table, eagerly awaiting the arrival of the food and marveling at the restaurant’s rather dramatic interior.
The food itself is a mix of traditional Indonesian cuisine with a contemporary twist – dishes such as Krengsengan Pipi Sapi – east Javanese beef cheek, soy and onion and Kambing Kalio – Sumatran lamb loin, shank, rendang and burnt cabbage have been subtly updated by executive chef Maxie Millian.
It was a wonderful experience. Sure you can find Indonesian food on the island at a fraction of the price, but Merah Putih turns a meal into an experience you won’t forget quickly and I loved it.
Dream Family Restaurant in Sri Lanka
Andra at Our World to Wander
Has it ever happened to you while traveling to come to such a delicious restaurant that you would just want to return there over and over again? If not, I recommend you to go and have a meal at the Dream Family Restaurant in Tangalle, Sri Lanka. We went up there based on some internet recommendations and ended up having all our meals there.
What is really special about this restaurant is the fact that it is indeed a family business. You will not be seated at a fancy table, you will actually eat in the courtyard of a charming Sri Lankan family. And in that family, everybody contributes somehow.
The father is the fisherman. Early each morning he jumps in his boat and sails to catch some fish. He does this every day and the menu of the restaurant will be set on that particular day according to the catch of the day. So no matter what type of fish you order, be it calamari, prawns, grilled fish, surely it will be fresh.
After the father brings the fish, then it’s the mom’s turn to come into action. She will cook the fish in the most delicious way possible. She offered us some incredible meals and her mango salad is mouthwatering. And lastly, their son is the host. He will take the order and also chat with you. He is an extremely friendly and helpful guy.
For Christmas day he spoiled us with some yummy prawns and stories about the history of Sri Lanka. This is how I would define a restaurant splurge – having a perfect meal in an authentic environment, surrounded by the local culture.
Digging in to Some Reindeer Soup
By Verity at Veritru
Sometimes there is a meal that really sticks in your head and this is one of them! We’d been told that while in Iceland we needed to head to Svarta Kaffid, a traditional Icelandic restaurant who only have two things on the menu. A meat soup and a vegetarian soup, both of which come served in a giant bread roll which is as big as your head. It’s quite an experience and the day we managed to get inside the meat option was Reindeer; an Icelandic favorite.
We ordered two soups and Icelandic beer to wash it down with and for a country with very expensive food, it worked out to be our cheapest evening. It’s a hearty meal to literally dig into, ripping off chunks of bread as you go; but be warned, get there early or be prepared to queue up around the corner.
Now my partners favorite thing to do around Christmas is tell kids he ate Rudolph.
An Authentic Dish in Hyderabad
Somnath at Travel Crusade
I would like to give my readers the actual flavor of the authentic Biriyani served across various outlets in India. The authentic and the most popular ones are found in Hyderabad, which gives the real taste of the dish.My favourite restaurant for the same was Ruman, near the city premises, and the good thing was that it was cheap and affordable. The biriyani was yellow in color served with raita and soft drinks. Both veg and non veg options were available so there were no issues on that part.
There was a special option of that dish available in the restaurant with double the price and could serve a group of two people. There are other commercial outlets where the dish was available but I would recommend all travel and food junkies to try Ruman in the future.
A Memorable Pop-Up in France
Chris at Explore Now or Never
We enjoyed some incredible dining experiences throughout France and sampled all the things on our way from Paris and Normandy to the land of fois gras in the Dordogne. And yet, our most memorable meal was at Chardon, a tiny pop-up restaurant in Arles in Provence on a sizzling summer day (100 degrees farenheit/38 Celsius!)
Chardon was founded by a thirtysomething power couple that came to fame through creative pop-up dinners around Paris… and eventually the world. So naturally, they paid it forward by creating a cozy, bohemian restaurant space where they could welcome other little known chefs and sommeliers in a one- to three-month residence.
The idea is to promote exchange and discovery while staying true to fresh, local flavors. And it did not disappoint. When we were there, an incredible chef and sommelier Aussie couple were wrapping up their residence.
The small plates menu was fine-tuned for the sultry summer heat. We started with a Nord Spritz aperitif and cold bouillon with zucchini, duck and green almonds with a hint of wasabi accompanied by smoked potato bread with onion butter. Then we moved onto a beautiful bowl of tiny purple clams with green strawberries and fennel in a pastis vinaigrette broth.
We shared a bowl of handmade black ink squid cavatelli with crab, spaghetti squash and zucchini flowers for a main, and washed it down with a cool and fruity Vouvray wine. And we capped the meal with an indescribably delicious homemade cardamom ice cream with apricot puree, peaches, wild prunes, and crumbled nuts. Possibly the best meal of my life.
An Exclusive Experience in Ubud
Nathan at Foodie Flashpacker