As an event planner and foodie, I have spent three decades planning cocktails, parties and dinners. And I know one thing, there are four basic elements that need to be aligned in order to have a great dinner in a restaurant. Many other things may come into play but these are the integral ones:
- The space needs to have a nice flow and make one feel comfortable. Many great restaurants are in the form of a circle, so the flow of energy is better and is kept in movement. What does the space do for you? A successful restaurant has an environment that matches the food it is serving and the customers it attracts.
- Ambience – who else is in the room? What is the tone of the space? The feel? The vibe? A restaurant that focuses on selling upscale food should create an environment of dim lights, soft music and high-quality items, such as wine glasses and well-cushioned booths. A restaurant that focuses on selling fun and colorful pizzas to children should have an environment that’s vibrant and exciting.
- Service. How you are stewarded from arrival to departure is so important. Customers are the lifeblood of restaurants, and if employees do not make a point to satisfy the customer, the restaurant will see fewer and fewer people walk through the doors.
- These first three elements have an effect on your experience, but of course what you eat & drink is the most important element. Successful restaurants consistently serve fresh food that is exactly as described on the menu. Deliver bad food and everything is a bust.
I have been very lucky to have the pleasure of travelling a lot this past year. Being such a foodie, wherever I go, I try to eat in at least two great restaurants in town. Here are my top 10 choices of restaurants from the past year. Each of the restaurants was able to create a great evening and experience for me. Do keep in mind that I don’t believe in rating restaurants by numbers, just by a pass or fail. Roman style – thumbs up or thumbs down.
You can follow all of my restaurant reviews as VivreMaFrance online at Tripadvisor.com. If you have a restaurant that you would like me to review, let me know.
Vivre et manger!
Des Gars dans la Cuisine
72 rue Vieille du Temple, 75003 Paris, France
If you have one restaurant to go to in the Marais, make it this one. Frederic “et des gars” are the quintessential men about town – fashionable, handsome and funny. But the real secret is their divine menu. Chef Gil ROSINHA serves up a menu for everyone, all styled beautifully. “La Carte” changes seasonally, but they are always serving up a mix of French comfort food with modern twists. I had the soup du moment (cucumber and green apple gazpacho) followed by the Bœuf Aberdeen Angus (Grillé, Beurre maître d’hôtel aux 5 poivres rares) with a Chablis and a Bordeaux. Frederic’s wit can be served hot or cold, so do be careful what you order, you may actually get it.
pau Claris 192, Barcelona, Spain
Bar Mut is a food-lover’s paradise mix of Spanish and French in a black and white Bistro setting. From the moment we arrived we knew it was going to be good. It’s quite simple, there is no menu. Just a few questions to be ask instead. Then the food starts arriving, oysters, octopus, croquettes, sea bass and a grilled beef topped with slightly melted foie gras. The staff seamlessly served and cleared, to make room for the continuous services, all in a Tapas style. Be sure to check out the movie on their website … it says it all.
Via Sicilia 150 | situato tra Piazza Fiume e via Veneto incrocia con via Piemonte, 00187 Rome, Italy
Frederick created one of the best events and dinners I have ever attended, and I am a professional event planner. I was rather nervous having decided to hold my 50th birthday party and dinner in another country (Roma, Italy), but once I connected with him, all of my worries dissipated. He handled everything from the wine, champagne, the cake, the food service to organizing exactly what I wanted for the table seating and how the evening unfolded. The staff was attentive and served with a smile and some pizazz!!! The food itself was the best meal many of us had in Roma, and we are still talking about it. Get the octopus, the risotto, the duck, it was all wonderful. Not too mention at the end, he presented me with a 7 layer chocolate ganache cake with my name on it. A wonderful surprise to the very end. The next time we are coming to town, I will be making reservations again (very recommended as they are busy) and heading straight back to Il Fellini. Thanks again gents!!
Franzoesische Str. 47 | Berlin, 10117 Berlin, Germany
Borchardt is the kind of place you go to eat well and people watch – to see and been seen! It was founded in 1853 and originally catered to the Kaiser (King). It went on to survive the Second World War and the rise and fall of the Berlin Wall. Today, the well-heeled patrons dine on the 1st floor main dining room or in one of the many private rooms and banquet halls located on the 2nd Floor. It has the air of a lovely private club for all, without the stuffiness and formality of private club. But do remember, like a private club, no photography or video allowed. You will see European celebrities, politicians and the odd American star. The staff were welcoming and accommodating to our last minute request. Make reservations though, we were able to get a table at 9:30pm on a Thursday night for four people, but were placed in the corner (which was still fine). The German French food matches this atmosphere perfectly. So start with the oysters or the Borsch, or Caesar salad and then have the best Wiener schnitzel in town, all the while you watch the show in the center of the room.
Khans of Kensington London
3 Harrington Road | South Kensington, London SW7 3ES, England
Excellent authentic Indian food near Victoria and Albert Museum & Harrods. I love this place. It is a modern take on northern Indian cuisine without missing a beat. We were six in our party, having spent the afternoon sightseeing and shopping. Some members of our party had not tried Indian food before, so we decided to share everything and not order to many spicy dishes. We arrived at 9pm without a reservation and got a table! The room was nice large, but with cozy sections all around and on several levels. The service was a bit slow to start, but with a bottle of dry wine, some onion bhajia and pudina aloo tikki we were all set! It was great at this pace, which gave us the time to relax and enjoy each other’s company. Once the food started flowing it seemed endless – mixed tandoori was the biggest hit, but we also ordered the Salmon, Prawns and Lamb Korma. We really enjoy our meals and sharing our food. A great spot for lunch and or dinner, but I would recommend reservations for dinner, as we were lucky. Thanks again Khan!! We will be back again.
445 Rue Saint-Pierre, Montreal, Quebec H2Y 2M8, Canada
The best caterers and Old Montreal Restaurant for during the day. The small café and tucked away in the ¾ basement of an Old Montreal Office building the food is home styling at it’s best. The chefs, Rob and Patrick along with the staff are friendly and warm and the food matches this style perfectly. I always get the mac and cheese, as it is to die for! But any of the daily soups, fabulous sandwiches or the daily combo are tops. All the food is local and homemade using farm fresh ingredients. They are only open during the day from 8am to 4pm. Lunchtime is hoping. I also happened to use their services as a caterer in downtown Montreal. By far, they were the most sought after food at my events, hands-down. It all comes delivered in handy rectangular boxes coloured in blue to look like the Titanic. That is were the comparison parts, instead of sinking, they rise to the occasion.
3, rue Terral 34000 Montpellier, France
Pastis is a small restaurant tucked away in one of the many limestone hotel particulars in L’Ecusson near the St. Anne’s Church. The concept of Chef’s choice is always my favourite and this does not disappoint. There are no menus! They are known for their attention to detail and ability to serve food to anyone regardless of their allergies and dietary needs. Simply explain what you can and cannot eat and you will be given a glorious meal designed just for you. We also did the wine pairing with each course and were not disappointed. Pastis is known for it’s gastronomy and fine dining and they set the benchmark quite high. It is a must do while in Montpellier.
30, cours de Verdun 69002 Lyon, France
The Brasserie Georges is a located in the 2nd arrondissement of Lyon near the train station. It is the oldest brasserie in the city and one of the largest brasseries in Europe. “Good beer and good cheer since 1836” is the motto of this place, and even though they have won over 18 prizes for their beer, they deliver much more than just good beer and cheer! It is the ultimate French Brasserie menu. They have all the traditional French foods, oysters, l’escargot, steak au poivre, choucroute St. Georges, magret du canard and saucisse lyonnaise. The huge space is an art deco enthusiast dream. You can easily get in without a reservation for two people, but you may have to sit at the bar to wait for your table. I recommend reservations for four or more people. In the city known for gastronomy and fine dining, this is the benchmark. It is a must do!
Le Pois Penche
1230 Boul Maisonneuve Ouest, Montreal, Quebec H3G 1M2, Canada
I cannot say enough good things about this restaurant. The food is divine, the service excellent and the décor beautiful. The huge central bar, a la Paris and the comfortable furniture are very welcoming. I have eaten here many times over the past few years, as well as hosted many private parties and dinners (for a local university), in their two private rooms. The sales team work well to ensure your event is a success, from designing the room, the menu and the wine list. I can also tell you the menu has something for everyone, so bevy up to the bistro menu and order several services of food. I always start with 6 huitres (oysters), then steak et frites and rounding it off, with the chef’s perfect chocolate profiteroles. Two other of my favourites are the rillettes de maison and the crab cakes, both excellent! It is a little touch of Paris in downtown Montreal.
Korunni 820/1, Prague 120 00, Czech Republic
Homemade Czech food at it’s best. Several locals, who told us this is the best place to get good authentic Czech food, gave us the name of this restaurant. It did not disappoint. We made a reservation and upon arrival realized just how popular this place was. It was packed and there seemed to be countless numbers of staff as well. The space kind of looks like an old fashioned diner, but there we other rooms decorated a little more upscale and upscale too. They even had a cool playroom for the kids. I started with the fillet of herring in sweet-sour marinade with apple, red onion, egg, cress and radishes salad, served with warm dark pumpkin bread. Then had the stewed veal with black beer, onion and malted vinegar served with mashed potatoes washed down with the Pinot Gris from Chateau Bzenec. Excellent! The servers were jovial and nice. We will be back!