Worth the journey: 4 Michelin starred restaurants in small towns
The promise of good food is always a good excuse to explore an unfamiliar town or region. The famous Michelin guide, considered to be the holy grail of fine dining establishments around the world, was first published in 1900 by the Michelin brothers to encourage motorists to take road trips – and boost demand for their car tyres! Today the guide’s 1-, 2-, or 3-star ratings are highly coveted by restaurants chefs and are the indicators of fine dining for food connoisseurs.
While the Michelin starred restaurants of cities like New York, London and Paris are well-known, those located in smaller towns and rural areas often need to be sought out and discovered. The majority of the most highly-rated restaurants in the Michelin guide are not to be found in big cities, but in small towns, so the journey out of the big city is well worth it!
Here are a few of our favourite Michelin starred restaurants situated in small but picturesque towns which are worth the drive. Each of these are rated 2- or 3-stars which means they definitely merit a detour or special journey just for the culinary experience they offer and diners can expect excellent (2 stars) or exceptional (3 stars) cuisine of outstanding quality.
Osteria Francescana in Modena, Italy
Located in the charming medieval centre of the town of Modena in Italy’s Emilia Romagna region, Osteria Francescana is owned and run by internationally-reowned Massimo Bottura, one of the country’s best-known chefs. Not only does Osteria Francescana boast 3 Michelin stars, but it was also voted third best restaurant in the world by Restaurant Magazine in 2013 and 2014 and numero uno by the Italian food guide l’Espresso – Ristoranti d’Italia.
When he first opened Osteria Francescana in 1995, Chef Bottura’s goal was to combine culinary innovation with contemporary art and design. Today this culinary institution is known for its avant-garde and experimental dishes inspired by traditional Italian cuisine. The restaurant has only 12 tables in a muted setting decorated with modern art works.
Website: Osteria Francescana
Where to stay: Palazzo Torriani
Hertog Jan in Zedelgem, near Bruges, Belgium
The medieval town of Bruges in Belgium’s Flanders region is a must-visit for its atmospheric architecture and romantic canals. Another good reason to make the trip is to dine at Hertog Jan, managed and run by Chef Gert De Mangeleer and Sommelier Joachim Boudens.
‘Driven by simplicity’ is the message which welcomes visitors to their website and less is certainly more at this 3 Michelin starred restaurant which focuses on authentic dishes, local ingredients and natural flavours. Earlier this year, Hertog Jan moved to a new location in a unique rural setting on the outskirts of Bruges where they grow their own vegetables, fruits and flowers used in their signature dishes. Menus are seasonal featuring Hertog Jan’s classic dishes, as well as the chef’s latest creations.
Website: Hertog Jan
Where to stay: Huyze Weyne B&B
St Hubertus in San Cassiano, Badia, Italy
The mountainous region of South Tyrol in Italy’s far north is best known for its spectacular Dolomites mountain range and great skiing. But the stunning mountain landscapes are not the only reason to visit this unique and beautiful region. South Tyrol also boasts the most Michelin starred restaurants in the whole of Italy, with 23 Michelin stars shared by 20 restaurants.
Hotel Rosa Alpina’s 2-starred St Hubertus restaurant, named after the patron saint of hunters, is the creation of Chef Norbert Niederkofler. The Michelin guide describes Chef Niederkofler’s cuisine as “a superb mix of precise, technical know-how and delicious Italian flavours.” In his ‘Cook the Mountain’ approach, he uses only local ingredients gleaned from the mountains and cooked up in innovative ways.
Website: St Hubertus
Where to stay: San Lorenzo Mountain Lodge
Bastide de Capelongue in Bonnieux, Vaucluse, France
Nestled in a fabulous landscape of lavender fields near the historic hilltop village of Bonnieux in southern France, Chef Édouard Loubet’s 2 Michelin starred Bastide de Capelongue offers a veritable feast for the senses. A lover of nature and gardener at heart, Chef Loubet creates his fragrant culinary masterpieces with the freshest of local seasonal ingredients, herbs, and flowers he grows in his own vegetable and herb garden or sources from local farmers in the region.
The bright and airy restaurant is located in an elegant stone farmhouse which also houses a hotel. There are 6 tasting menus offered here featuring meat and vegetable dishes infused with the flavours and colours of Provence. Don’t miss the chance to sample the fragrant truffles which grow here and are used in a variety of dishes.
Website: Bastide de Capelongue
Where to stay: Terrace de Provence
Post by Isabel Putinja, Travel Writer