When it comes to eating out, we love the hip and the new. But we also value the time-honoured. Time Out's international magazine and online editors show you where to eat the latest cuisine and where to go when you want a culinary classic.
Sardinia The arrival of Sardinia on the Abu Dhabi dining scene a year ago was like a kick to the head. From its location, behind the Abu Dhabi Fitness Club, to its name (picked before they hired the chef), everything about this restaurant is surprising. Significantly, it drew our culinary attention away from some more traditional dining locations – still resting smugly on their laurels in the city's finest hotels – and offered an explosive menu to boot.
Café Layali Zaman This large, decaying building on the Corniche road is perfect for whiling away a warm evening by dipping into a mishmash of Arabian tapas and toking on a shisha. While the expats tend to avoid it, the locals have it heaving by 9pm, laughing it up over a family game of cards or backgammon. The place to be if you want to see how the Abu Dhabians do it.
Studio K Glitter balls and dog-eared '60s furniture set the vibe at this funky eaterie, theatre, cinema and nightclub. Unpretentious, tasty grub such as spicy lamb soup, orange cheesecake and the classic Dutch hangover cure, uitsmijter (think croque madame), is served by carefree, but rarely careless, students. Dine at tables or eat off your lap on one of the sofas overlooking the terrace. And you can borrow a board game, should your dining partner's conversation leave you bored.
Het Groot Melkhuis Place an order for a diet-busting, traditional Dutch pancake as large as your plate and people-watch from the lakeside terrace till they call out your order number. This chalet-style cafe/restaurant in the heart of one of the city's most popular parks is the ideal place to watch Amsterdammers at play. Families will appreciate the well-equipped children's area.
Duck de Chine Adhering to the rule that all the trendiest places in town are the hardest to find, Duck de Chine lies inside an inconspicuous building somewhere behind Sanlitun's famous bar street. The interior is best described as industrial chic, with high ceilings, exposed brick walls and huge, oversize red lanterns hanging above. A Bollinger champagne bar greets you at the entrance, and the menu boasts a cool crossover collection of Chinese dishes with the occasional French twist. However, the Peking duck is the piece de resistance, and is served and sliced at the table. 1949 The Hidden City, Courtyard 4, Gongti Bei Lu, Chaoyang district (+86 10 6501 8881/www.elite-concepts.com).
Quanjude Quanjude was established in 1864 during the Qing dynasty and remains a time-honoured Beijing staple thanks to its beautiful, traditional setting and its unwavering dedication to serving the ultimate Peking duck. When it was founded, this restaurant in Beijing's old commercial district of Qianmen became one of the city's innovators, serving the crisp duck in thin pancakes rather than the original sesame wheat bun. Today, that's become the norm, but those looking for a taste of old Beijing will do well to stop by this prestigious haunt – you may even spot a Communist Party leader or two.
El Baqueano This newly opened San Telmo eaterie specialises in regional Argentine meat – but not the traditional kind. Menu staples include wild boar (jabalí), ostrich (ñandú), hare (liebre), and alligator (yacaré), served up in dishes like alligator brochettes, lamb meatballs and llama carpaccio. To some, this bovine-dodging is pure heresy, for others, heaven.
495 Chile (+54 11 4342 0802).
Grand Parilla del plata San Telmo’s classic barrio, GPdP is the place to head if you’re in the mood for fine cuts of beef washed down with a Mendozan malbec. True, the service is on the slow side and the place is perma-packed, but for classic meaty thrills in a city built on beef, this takes some beating.
Custom House Some consider the meat-centric arm of the Spring/Green Zebra family a steakhouse, but don't expect Sinatra, Gibson martinis and teamsters wolfing down porterhouses. Instead, perfectly executed Berkshire pork chops, roasted New York strips and braised bone-in shortribs are served with sides that up both the ante and the seasonal factor. Fresh-faced servers might not know your name, but they know the name of every farmer who had a hand in what's on the plate, and for some diners, that's just as important.
Gene & Georgetti If it gets any more old-school than this circa 1941 steakhouse, we haven't seen it. Filling every inch of the wood-lined dining room are vinyl bar stools, chairs and banquettes as blood-red as the steaks (both well-aged, we might add). Servers range from formal to gruff, but they mean well and deliver the goods: textbook veal vesuvio, a 'garbage salad' (with a little bit of everything) fit for four, calf's liver sautéed with onions and bacon, perfectly seared chops, and garlicky shrimp de Jonghe casserole that the veteran staff swear the joint invented. Believe 'em – these are the Chicago old-boys you don't want to piss off.
Indian Accent Owner Rohit Khattar's Indian and pan-Asian outlets in London (Tamarai and Sitaaray among them) have influenced the internationally inflected Indian food at this cosy-but-elegant restaurant in the boutique Manor Hotel. There's an attached bar and a veranda overlooking the lawn. The top-notch waiters guide you through a choice wine list and a concise but playful menu. The backbone of the cuisine is regional Indian food (from Kerala to Kashmir), but the spicing and presentation are completely global. Don't miss the foie gras-stuffed galawat: soft minced meat kebabs with morsels of foie gras inside and a drizzle of strawberry and green chilli chutney. For mains, try the sweetish tamarind-glazed New Zealand lamb shank, or the rice-crusted red snapper moily – and save room for dessert. If choosing seems too hard, there's an affordable tasting menu.
Bukhara Former US president Bill Clinton says it's one of his favourite restaurants and in this case, he's probably telling the truth. Standard orders of Northwest Frontier fare include tandoori jhinga and barra kababs. Besides the famous, buttery dal bukhara, the luscious creamy raita is a surprise hit. If you manage to get a reservation, you'll find the rustic restaurant packed with businessmen sporting red-checked bibs instead of ties, families and more tourists than you can shake a guidebook at.
Karma Kafe Open just a few weeks, the alarmingly alliterated Karma Kafe has been brought to us by the folk behind international chilled-out chain Buddha Bar. You can tell. It uses the same formula: dim lighting, stunning décor, ethno-beats and exquisite dining and drinks, and looks set to become the place to see and be seen (if you can make anyone out in that dim lighting, that is).
Verre For years, Gordon Ramsay's Dubai outpost ruled the local fine dining scene. His pork belly and apple turnover were the gastronomic last word; his simple décor the ultimate in style. If you're the sort who likes (rather stiff) restaurants so hushed you can hear cutlery clinking at tables across the room, get thee to Verre.
The Pawn Old world clashes with new at this hip hangout for the young and restless. This converted pawn shop, built in 1899, has become the playground for those who enjoy fine wine at salaryman prices, not to mention gastropub grub, surrounded by fine art. Throw in a menu that changes depending on what's hot in the UK, a terrace that overlooks the trams trundling by, and a stunning dish of suckling pig, and you've got the makings of a pub for the ages.
Jimmy's Kitchen Open since 1928, Jimmy's is probably the oldest Western restaurant in town. This colonial gem has some serious stories to tell, from politics to romance, not that the immaculately dressed waiters would ever spill the beans. The gentlemen's club atmosphere is great for the older generation to reminisce, or for hipsters looking for a bit of historical humility. Like the uniforms, the menu has barely changed since opening, still rolling out steak Diane and baked alaska.
South China Building, 1-3 Wyndham Street (+852 2376 0327/www.jimmys.com).
Mikla Swedish-Turkish Chef Mehmet Gürs combines Nordic flavours with those of the Ottoman kitchen in Mikla’s dishes to much success. In contrast with the super fancy dishes at Borsa, Mikla’s dishes are rather simple, purposefully so, but still delicious. Located in the Marmara Pera hotel, Mikla also enjoys a wraparound view that enhances your dining experience. Plus, the 12-course tasting menu is a deal at 110 Turkish Lira (about £40). The Marmara Pera, Mesrutiyet Caddesi, Beyoglu. (+90 212 293 5656).
Borsa This restaurant serves traditional Turkish dishes such as kebabs, meze, mant (Turkish ravioli) and dolma (stuffed vine leaves), prepared as they have been since the reign of the Ottoman Empire. Businessmen come here to have working lunches, while most locals bring foreign guests here when they want to impress. Bit of a stuffy vibe though, so raucous dinner parties might want to go elsewhere. Harbiye (+90 212 232 4201/www.borsarestaurant.com).
Alma Probably every country has a chef that draws comparisons to Jamie Oliver: Henrique Sá Pessoa is Portugal's own. One of the most promising figures in national cuisine, he mixes cooking and screen talent with aplomb. It's difficult to book a table (try booking three-five days in advance), but when you manage to do it, at least you know you're buying your way into a showroom of Lisbon's beautiful people. And the prices are reasonable.
Gambrinus Suit up and pretend you're on a business trip. That's the best way to go to Gambrinus, the natural habitat for industrious types. Don't be scared, though: it's just the result of 60 years of history of serving the best food in town. Start with the appetisers that are put in front you (eat everything, but lay off the expensive shellfish), keep it up with the caldo verde soup and then, if you dare, try a bit of the alheira de mirandela with its six types of meat.
Albion at The Boundary Project Once a relatively barren land on the capital’s culinary map, east London now boasts a wide range of hip restaurants and cafes serving fresh, high-quality produce to a host of discerning Shoreditch-based creative types. At the top of the heap is the Terrence Conran-owned Albion, which calls itself a ‘caff’, but really couldn’t be farther from your archetypal greasy spoon. Within a sleek and elegantly decorated interior, the Albion serves the best in British cuisine at affordable prices. The rendition of crisply battered fish and chips is a particular favourite, but classics such as Irish stew and kedgeree are both equally pleasing to both palate and pocket.
J Sheekey Despite the abundance of fresh produce available along the coastlines of England, tracking down quality fish and seafood in the capital can be a challenge. Thankfully, you can always rely on London institution J Sheekey, which has been serving up a selection of the country’s finest fish for well over a century. Adored by theatre luvies and famous faces alike, J Sheekey’s central London location (and admittedly steep prices) has always attracted a fashionable crowd, but the quality of the cooking here is the real testament to its appeal. Everything from fish pie to chargrilled cuttlefish is cooked to dependably delectable perfection in a venue that is transfused with the excitement of London’s surrounding theatreland.
Blue Frog You don’t visit the Frog to eat, you go there to catch the live music, admire the futuristic décor, watch pretty people flirt with the DJ and hobnob with rich culturati with overpriced cocktails. The grub is pleasant, though unmemorable, relying much on styling and imported ingredients to keep pace with its surroundings. But here, it’s merely something to keep the tables company.
Trishna At Trishna, lowbrow lunch-hole for local executives before it turned touristy in the 1990s, the seafood is always fresh, the crab always too big for one person and the adjacent table always too close for comfort. Everyone orders their crab in butter-garlic sauce, eating with their hands, dripping the sauce all over the table and feeling thankful they tucked their napkins under their chins. Trishna has a vegetarian menu, but it’s been MIA for years.
Sai Baba Marg, near Commerce House ad Rhythm House, Kala Ghoda, Fort (+91 2261 4991).
Marlow & Sons Marlow & Sons doesn't approach GC when it comes to oyster variety, but it boasts a convivial atmosphere where there's always something worth shelling out for. This Williamsburg bar and grocery store comes courtesy of Mark Firth and Andrew Tarlow, the team that packs 'em in at Diner next door, and the excellent Marlow & Daughters butchers. Small wooden tables and benches dot the sidewalk in front and inviting plank tables fill the relaxed back dining room.
Grand Central Oyster Bar & Restaurant New York City was once a world-renowned oyster town, and this beloved 90-year-old hero of the half shell, situated in Grand Central's lower level, reminds diners of that former glory. Two large rooms flank a white-topped counter where eaters can choose from around 30 varieties of bivalves. Since the delicacy isn't terribly filling, try one of the famously huge desserts: the apple pie bursts forth with razor-thin slices of fruit.
Grand Central Terminal, Lower Concourse, 42nd St (at Park Ave) (+1 212 490 6650/ www.oysterbarny.com).
Puff house Proudly dishing out the city’s best pastries since 1964, Puff House will take you back to the USSR. Pasteboard napkins and a coffee-like drink from a bucket can’t diminish the impact of the delicious all-natural food.
25 Bolshaya Konushenaya Ulitsa (+7812 314 0868).
Chatterbox If you only have time for one local meal, it has to be a plate of Hainanese chicken rice at Chatterbox. While it’s remarkably more expensive than a hawker stall option, the price difference buys you one of the best plates of chicken rice you’ll ever have. Marvellously oiled rice with softly poached chicken and a trio of condiments, garlic-infused chilli, fresh ginger and sweet dark soya sauce, and a dazzling view of Orchard Road from 38 floors up.
Newton Circus A true Singapore experience is not complete without sampling its array of mouthwatering street food, and one of the best places to tuck into an array of local favourites is Newton Circus. A stone’s throw away from Orchard Road, the open-air food court has approximately 100 stalls to graze through. Especially recommended are the kambing mutton, carrot cake and popiah (spring rolls), but half the fun is walking round and deciding what to order. Keep an eye out for the small square signs with the letters A, B, C, D on them: these indicate the cleanliness of each stall.
Sepia Restaurant and Wine Bar A brand new addition to Sydney eating is all the more exciting because of the man behind the pans. Martin Benn is the ex-head chef of Tetsuya’s and one of the most accomplished cooks this city’s ever seen. His new restaurant/wine bar offers stunning food for fewer dollars in a Parisian bistro-style dining room.
Tetsuya’s Sydney chef Tetsuya Wakuda has been cooking in Sydney for 25 years. His 13-course degustation is a true Sydney experience and the service is peerless. Dishes come out with fists flying, each one a knockout. With stunning ingredients, outstanding service and the option of taking your own booze, you can see why this restaurant leaves the rest for dead. 529 Kent St, Sydney 2000 (+61 2 9267 2900/www.tetsuyas.com).
Rotisserie Market Behind the large bar at the entrance to the Rotisserie Market, diners are greeted by a huge rotisserie, boasting mouthwatering portions of chicken, duck and spare ribs. This is by far the most colourful and happy dining option in Tel Aviv, with its multi-coloured lights, eclectic furniture and picturesque old advertisements that adorn the walls. Apart from its grilled fare, the restaurant offers a tasty tapas menu which includes roasted beets, pickled calamari and succulent sausages. Cocktails such as Mediterranean Cava and chilled sangria complement the food perfectly.
1 Ahuzat Bayit St (+972 03 517 1333).
Yo’ezer Bar Yayin Yo’ezer is a magical restaurant. With its hand-painted floor tiles and cave-like stone walls, blackened by years of candle smoke, the whole space exudes a wonderfully foreign, romantic atmosphere. The menu offers classic rustic French food, and the dishes are a monument to shameless hedonism: staple dishes include forty-egg-yolk noodles, porcini and potato gnocchi, pate de campagne, and of course the famous entrecôte (rib-eye) steak. The menu is accompanied by a huge international wine list. Yo’ezer has been a favourite of true foodies and wine-lovers for years, and is considered one of the best restaurants in Israel.