LONDON For serious gourmands, the big news this year is chef Gordon Ramsay's third Michelin star, which is keeping his eponymous restaurant consistently packed (Ramsay's new project is a restaurant at Claridge's due to open this fall). If a reservation eludes you, head east toward the financial district, where Top Floor at Smiths of Smithfield caters unapologetically to carnivores (it flanks Smithfield, the Victorian meat market). The spread of organic, spotlessly sourced meats includes Islay côte de boeuf (aged 27 days), rabbit, venison, and pigeon, with some sorry-looking monkfish for the person who didn't read up on the menu. $75-$90. 67-77 Charterhouse Street, London EC1M6HJ, England. 44-20-7236-6666.
Foliage, the new restaurant at London's Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, delivers impeccable dishes relying on seasonal produce and motifs from both sides of the Channel. The à la carte menu includes classic starters (foie gras with salad of leeks) and off-the-wall entrées (spiced loin of venison in bitter-chocolate sauce; pot-roasted red-leg partridge in sloe gin) that surprisingly and consistently please. The interiors are by ubiquitous New York designer Adam Tihany. $30-$55. 66 Knightsbridge, London SW1X 7LA, England; 44-20-7201-3723.
How different from Bush Bar & Grill, a hip, casual, French-bistro-style eatery that opened in up-and-coming Shepherd's Bush. It occupies a former dairy with the de rigueur exposed kitchen and ducts. By day, nearby BBC journalists use it as their canteen; by night, it turns into a high-octane restaurant with a brief, well-chosen wine list and dumbed-down, organic menu—roast skate wing, wild-mushroom omelet, grilled rib of beef. Frankly, the food is not the point. Like Pharmacy, the Notting Hill restaurant that once had the monopoly on the West End fashion set, this is a place to quaff Champagne over a long, light meal. $40. 45 Goldhawk Road, London W12 8QP, England; 44-20-8746-2111.
MADRID Since opening on Valentine's Day, 2000, La Broche has been an instant hit, earning the 32-year-old chef Sergi Arola two Michelin stars. The room is unusual for Madrid—sophisticated, simple, all white. Arola's cooking, influenced by three years at the three-star El Bulli, is eclectic, uninhibited, and thoroughly exciting. Have the tasting menu—recent standouts included intense and briny poached clams in seawater with a lemon gelée, sautéed prawns with potato ice cream (yes, really), and red mullet on a red-wine risotto with pear emulsion. Tasting menu, $120. 29 Miguel Angel, Madrid 28010, Spain; 34-91-399-34-37.
New fashionable spot for lunch: Restaurante I. Judging from the SRO crowd at 3:30 on a recent afternoon, chef Javier Gomez, formerly of the very trendy Veridiana, is packing them in. The garlicky calamari with squid-ink noodles and the cod wrapped in Iberico ham are superb. One pretentious touch we could do without: having the menus appear in sealed red and orange envelopes. $75. 10 Barquillo, Madrid 28004, Spain; 34-91-522-82-26; www.restaurante-i.com.
NEW YORK CITY Stark, symmetrical, clean-lined and colorful, NL is very Dutch, and just the ticket if you like your restaurants pared down and hip. Open since December, the tiny 35-seat SoHo space doubles as a design showcase, the work of hell-bent-for-modern Dutch architectural firm Concrete (who designed a series of spectacular venues at home, in addition to Harvey Nichols in London, and the soon-to-open London and Rome Supper Clubs).
Occupying center stage is a minimalist's dream open kitchen animated by intense Dutch chef Roy Wiggers, who's reinvented his native fare with a colonial dash of Indonesia and Suriname. On the Dutch side are a velvety mustard soup with crème fraîche and scallions; herring tartare with apple, beets, and a citrus-soy vinaigrette; tournedos in a green-peppercorn sauce served with peerless fries (and mayonnaise for dipping). Indonesian rijsttafel and Surinamese roti conjure up the colonies. A glorious conclusion is a soufflélike chocolate cake with cream of advokaat, a thick liqueur of egg yolks and brandy. $70. 169 Sullivan Street, New York, NY 10012; 212-387-8801.
BUENOS AIRES The Alvear Palace Hotel , a stately neoclassical colossus that seems to look down its nose at its Polo and Versace neighbors, has been the focus of Buenos Aires society since its gleaming brass doors first opened in 1932. But the hotel is clearly not resting on its well-earned laurels: With the help of the architectural firm Matsumoto Sobradelo, the Alvear has recently updated its legendary restaurant, La Bourgogne, renovating the sleek, mahogany-clad dining room and installing a traditional Argentine parilla, or grill, to bring a hint of delicious—and carnivorous—local flavor to one of South America's top gourmet experiences. $160. 1891 Avenida Alvear, Buenos Aires 1129, Argentina; 54-11-4-808-2100.
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