Feature: Western European gastronomic delights

Monday, 13 June 2013 11:05 AM

With a reputation for producing world class food, Western Europe is the place to be for dining in style. From the sophisticated eateries of France to the open air cafes of Germany, there is a vast range of restaurants to suit all palates. So following on with our whistle stop tour of Western Europe’s top foodie cities, get your mouth watering with the second instalment of these continental treats!

Salzburg

A city of history perched on hillsides where the deep blue Salzach runs through: Salzburg is a very beautiful place. Dreaming spires, colourful buildings, ancient statues, and romantic gardens. Throw in a few green hills, a varied musical history, and a rich diversity of restaurants and bars, and you’ve got a top class destination heaving with things to see and do. This city that borders Germany was the birthplace of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and numerous tours and souvenir stalls pay homage to the classical composer. Mozart Balls can be bought in the Old Town, which are small delicious balls of chocolate covering a pistachio, marzipan, and nougat centre. After chomping on these sweet delights – first created in the late 19th century – head to the Marble Hall of Mirabell Palace where the Salzburger Schlosskonzerte play Mozart’s most beautiful works.

But it’s not just classical music which makes Salzburg so renowned: this was also where the beginning scenes of The Sound of Music were filmed. Numerous companies offer tours, and a good choice is with Panorama Tours, who offer four hour trips around the city. This includes the grand Leopoldskron Castle, which was used as the Trapp family home, and the beautiful scenery of St Gilgen and Lake Wolfgang, where the intro scenes were filmed. As well as the numerous other historical sights, such as the 1000-year-old Hohensalzburg Fortress, the city is also a food lover’s treat! Choose between restaurants, coffee shops, scenic beer gardens, and the fantastic chilled bars lining the right bank. This is the city with the highest number of gourmet restaurants in Austria, and also the oldest in the country – Cafe Tomaselli. The historic Old Town is a good place to dine, and the 660-year-old Blaue Gans hotel and restaurant is brilliant for basing yourself. Haggle for lederhosen in the markets, drink a litre of beer in the Mullner Brau beer garden, and treat yourself to the many sweets on offer such as a pastry-based Apfelstrudel or the light caramelised pancake Kaiserschmarrn. After your return home you’ll be planning your next trip in no time!

Brussels

Just hours away from London by Eurostar, it’s a wonder why the Belgian capital Brussels isn’t as popular as its neighbour Bruges. With a host of fine museums, religious sights, and architectural landmarks like the late Gothic Notre Dame du Sablon, the city is a fantastic destination for a long cultural weekend. With more Michelin stars per capita than anywhere else in Europe, this is a city of beautifully diverse beers, a strong national identity and chic restaurants to rival anywhere. As a city well known for its fresh fish, a good choice to begin your culinary adventure is the Sea Grill. Forget the ubiquitous (but delicious!) moules mariniere, and try the Waterzooi – a thick, creamy, fish soup. Other great dining options are De l’Ogenblik, set in the beautiful Galeries Royales St-Hubert, and Comme Chez Soi – a famed three Michelin star restaurant known for its house special of sole, white wine mousse, and shrimp.

For sightseeing head to the famous central market square – the Grote Markt – which is surrounded by stunning architectural delights and period guild houses. The oriental wonders of the Chinese Pavillion and Japanese Tower are a must, as is the small statue Manneken Pis. But don’t forget the chocolate! Renowned chocolate makers such as Neuhaus, Godiva, and Leonidas all make delicious Belgian handmade bonbons daily. Although they make a perfect gift for a loved one back home, why not try them with a steaming cup of coffee in the numerous cafes around town. Hot and sweet waffles can be found everywhere – from vending machines to cafes. Why not try Cafe Belga – a 1930s building which housed Belgium’s first radio station. For a midday snack or light bite, you can’t miss out on the chips served everywhere in cone shaped bags. Mostly served with mayonnaise, head to Friterie Antoine in the centre of town where a whole range of sauces can be added – from Brazilian pineapple infused flavours to the classic Flemish beer sauce carbonnade. And of course you couldn’t mention Belgium and its capital without mentioning beer. With a range of fruity flavours, strong fortified ales, and Trappist brews made by monks, the diverse range rivals fine wine for its taste. Just be careful, as some can have an alcohol content as high as 12 per cent!

So there we are, culinary cities and whistle-stop cultural encounters. Check in with us next week for more gastronomic holiday ideas in western Europe.

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