Read Gurd's guide to European culinary hotspots, then check out his 2024 food and drink predictions and our 10 winter sun destinations for foodies.

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Kingsbridge, Devon

The area surrounding Kingsbridge has become a culinary epicentre in recent years, with some of the most inventive cooking in the South West. At the heart of it is Wild Artichokes from pioneering culinary duo Jane Baxter and Samantha Miller, who serve up dishes like crab doughnuts with fennel and apple salad, and Basque cheesecake with plums. Outside Devon is a community skate park with a farm-café that specialises in world flavours with local ingredients, like its split pea pakoras with beetroot sadu. Millbrook Inn is a hidden haven whose menu serves up meat from the family farm, like smoked pork belly with Devon cider sauce. For a stellar Sunday roast, head to The Journey’s End, which features inventive small plates like burrata with chestnut honey toast.

Burrata with chestnut honey toast on a plate from The World's End pub in Devon

Munich, Germany

While the German city of Munich is most famous for its beer-fuelled Oktoberfest, it’s also a unique culinary destination. Hip restaurant Ciao Chang merges a Japanese izakaya with Bavarian cuisine serving up dishes like beetroot carpaccio with hokkaido, cashew and matcha-yuzu vinaigrette and Bavarian straw pig spring rolls. Dr Drooly is a trendy vegan pizzeria with inventive creations like its Shroomy with oyster mushroom cream, pangrattato and miso oil, and its Hot Birdie with pickled jalapeño, vegan “chick’n” and Drooly’s secret sauce. Bar Bravo is a lively Italian-influenced café-bar that specialises in aperitivo cocktails, Italian charcuterie and fresh pasta. And Ukiyo is a contemporary Japanese restaurant with dishes like soft shell crab karaage and flambéed salmon and prawn tempura sushi rolls.

Interior of a bar in Munich

Winchester, Hampshire

Known for its historic college and cathedral, Winchester and its surrounding villages are becoming something of a culinary hotbed. The Yard in the Candover Valley is a stunning working farm with a café that offers gourmet brioche buns and toasties, with coffee from on-site roastery Moon Roast. Academy is a coffee ‘laboratory’ which serves up speciality coffees, showcasing independent producers from around the world. And Cabinet Rooms is a family-run wine bar that serves cheeseboards and sharing platters in the evening to accompany a discerning wine list and seasonal cocktails, like its Montreal Negroni and Mango-Chilli Margarita.

Interior of The Yard cafe in Winchester

Aix-en-Provence, France

Aix has long attracted food writers eager to taste the region, and has recently seen a wave of new openings. Bar des Oiseaux is a stylish spot that serves traditional Marseillaise pizzas alongside regional classics like beef tartar and crème caramel, while Yves Restaurant serves Provençal classics with a focus on regional organic produce. Kava specialises in bistro-brunch dishes like roasted plum with thyme, hazelnut crumble and whipped mascarpone, alongside homemade raspberry bay leaf sodas and natural wines. For something a little more decadent, the chandelier-adorned Le Singe Vert serves truffled croque monsieur with yellow peaches and Provence melon.

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Table laid with cutlery and glasses and with a chandelier overhead

Rotterdam, Netherlands

Rotterdam is often overlooked as a place to visit, but hosts its very own booming culinary scene to rival that of famous neighbour Amsterdam. Putaine is one of the most innovative fine dining restaurants in the city, situated at the top of Rotterdam’s famous sustainable ‘floating’ offices. It serves up delicacies including white asparagus mousse with cream of coconut and magnolia kombucha sorbet, and hamachi, pandan and angelica root. New neighbourhood restaurant Diepnoord has a focus on seasonal local dishes and natural wines. Soju Bar specialises in Korean fried chicken in flavours such as honey butter, sticky cheese and spicy-sweet with peanuts. And OX is a secret underground Chinese speakeasy restaurant that serves up cocktails inspired by the Chinese zodiac.

Bibimbap bowl from Sojubar food with fried egg on top

Anglesey, Wales

Situated on the north-west coast of Wales, the island of Anglesey is home to a thriving food community. Dreamboat is a street food truck situated on the beach, serving up vegan and vegetarian bowls using own-grown ingredients, along with freshly cooked sourdough pizzas like its ‘figgy-goat cheese’ and ‘wild foraged chanterelle and garlic’ varieties. Artisan sea salt maker Halen Môn on the banks of the Menai Straight offers tours of its factory with a salt tasting. Cheesemonger and café & Caws specialises in the finest farmhouses cheese from Wales and beyond, including Caws Teifi from Ceredigion, a nine-month-old gouda-style cheese. And Llofft in Felinheli serves up inventive plates such as Welsh lamb flatbread with honey whipped feta, and brioche pork sliders with coriander and star anise caramel.

Burger sliders in Anglesey, Wales

Isle of Skye, Scotland

Skye, the largest island in the Inner Hebrides, boasts a rich natural larder of ingredients and historic traditions of preservation using local techniques. Chef Calum Montgomery champions these at Edinbane Lodge, a converted 16th-century hunting lodge whose restaurant is dedicated to the island’s crofts, seas and artisan producers. It serves up dishes including monkfish with Edinbane wild garlic and scallop roe, seaweed and chanterelle crackers. Broadford’s Deli Gasta transforms the island’s ingredients into gourmet sandwiches like 'The Monarch', made with Great Glen venison salami, plum and apple chutney and Scottish cheddar. And the menu at the secluded Stein Inn focuses on sustainable seafood from the LochBay shores, with a choice of more than 130 Scottish whiskies.

Monkfish on a plate garnished with green herbs

Jersey, Channel Islands

A short hop from the UK (or France), Jersey – famous for its prized potatoes, oysters and rich custard-yellow cream – is having a gourmet revival. New restaurant pêtchi, from island-raised chef and Great British Menu finalist Joe Baker, is leading the charge. Its menu celebrates the abundance of the island’s local seafood with dishes such as chancre crab and seaweed tarts, and a signature wood-roasted lobster rice. JEJU, housed in St Helier’s historic fish market, specialises in fresh sushi and Korean-inspired dishes made using the daily catch (pictured below). Over on St Ouen’s Bay is SANDS, whose menu is inspired by Australasian and Californian coastal cuisine, with homemade tacos and sodas like its apricot/cardamom and lychee/vetiver. And for a nightcap, head to The Porter’s Store, a stylish speakeasy with live music and cocktail masterclasses on offer.

Oyster from Jeju on a bamboo steaming basket

Totnes, Devon

The market town of Totnes in Devon has some of the most progressive organic restaurants in the country. The Bull Inn is driving the charge with its ecological and social impact pledges, including commitments to “field-grown, not flown”, mindful meat, seasonality and supplier-led organic food. Its inventive menu includes such dishes as roasted courgettes with whipped tahini, preserved lemon and pumpkin seed picada, and basque cheesecake with plums. Eversfield organic farm shop & café has a menu of all-day brunch classics such as toasted banana bread with seasonal compote and Turkish eggs with warm chilli butter. The Totnes Sunday food market is the biggest in Devon, offering up fine produce from local producers. For a taste of fine dining, head to Gather, which showcases ingredients sourced locally or foraged from Devon’s fields, shoreline, rivers and hedgerows.

Plate of food from The Bull pub, Totnes

Bayonne, France

The tranquil city of Bayonne embodies the gastronomic energy of the Basque region, known for its artisanal hams, and as the French capital of chocolate. The legendary Chocolat Cazenave serves up intense bubble-topped ‘sparkling’ hot chocolates in porcelain cups. Chocolaterie Xokola Etxetera specialises in chocolate spreads infused with piquant Espelette pepper, and L’Atelier du Chocolat Bayonne has its iconic Bayonne chocolate shard bouquets. Eat pintxos including jamon croquettes, truffled croque monsieur and Pyrenees milk-fed lamb kebabs at Les Basses Pyrénées bar. Then, for dinner, head to La Brasserie Basa for fish dishes with daily catch from the local village of Saint-Jean-De-Luz, and sweet creations such as buckwheat almond praline choux to finish.

'Sparkling' hot chocolate in a porcelain cup

Östersund, Sweden

Situated in the middle of Sweden, Östersund is a Unesco City of Gastronomy and boasts one of the highest numbers of small-scale food artisans and organic farmers in the country. Innovative bistro Republiken Bar & Kök serves everything from moose carpaccio to cellar-matured goat’s cheese from local farmers. Nästgårds Farm Restaurant (open in summer) and its sister BUA create menus with sustainability at their heart, with dishes such as halibut with coriander seeds, rose pepper, green tomato and fried sourdough. The menu at Hamngatan 12 fights against food waste by using surplus produce, with upcycled dishes including its potato and leek soup topped with crispy pork belly. But for something iconic to the region, Wedemarks Café is where the smörgåstårta – a savoury layered ‘sandwich cake’ of rye bread, shrimps, salmon and pickled vegetables – was invented.

Smörgåstårta, a savoury layered ‘sandwich cake’ of rye bread, shrimps, salmon and pickled vegetables.

Aldeburgh, Suffolk

Aldeburgh, a small seaside town in Suffolk, is famous for its annual music festival, and something of a hot gastronomic ticket. Nestled at its heart is The Suffolk – home to Sur Mer, a restaurant with a rooftop terrace with sea views and six individually designed rooms. Its menu includes dishes such as dressed Suffolk crab with pickled cucumber, and Pump Street dark chocolate tart. The Lighthouse, meanwhile, serves simple home-cooked fare with a neighbourhood vibe, and even has its own gin, Lighthouse 77, with botanicals including heather and liquorice. Sea Spice is a beautiful restaurant that combines local Suffolk produce with flavourful Indian cooking. The beach is lined with shacks selling boxes of prawns and smoked fish from local artisans including Butley Oysterage. And, like all great coastal towns, there’s an iconic chippy – Aldeburgh Fish & Chips makes its the traditional Suffolk way, fried in beef dripping.

fish and chips 2

Whitley Bay, North Tyneside

The sandy seaside town of Whitley Bay has become one of the most exciting culinary destinations in Tyne and Wear. Popular brunch destination Kith & Kin serves up inventive dishes, such as spiced clementine french toast and salt beef reuben hash, while the local family-run Pranzo Trattoria specialises in Italian tapas made with locally sourced ingredients. The Vietnamese/Southeast Asian-inspired menu at Omni includes a 12-hour beef shin and peanut curry, and crispy oyster mushroom bánh mì with pickled slaw. For drinks, independent natural wine shop Kork hosts expertly curated cheese and wine tastings with sourdough breads from Northern Rye microbakery, while Baba Yaga’s House is an artsy fairytale bar with an eclectic drinks menu that includes a range of artisanal absinthe.

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Guimarães, Portugal

The historic town of Guimarães is known as the birthplace of Portugal, and its food scene proudly preserves the country’s culinary roots. Founded in 1953, Pastelaria Clarinha specialises in regional pastries such as the tortas de Guimarães: a flaky shell-shaped pastry filled with ground almonds and pumpkin purée. At fine dining restaurant aCozinha, chef António Loureiro’s mission is to celebrate Portuguese traditions through sustainable gastronomic innovation; while vegetarian cooperative Cor De Tangerina is founded on principals of fair trade and organic sourcing, turning local ingredients into homemade dishes including potato pavé with chanterelles, acorn and beetroot mayonnaise. A little out of town, located under the rocks of Monte da Penha, the rustic takeaway hut Adega do Ermitão offers up petiscos (traditional tapas-style snacks) such as cod fritters and toasted flatbreads with fatty bacon and sardines.

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Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire

Known for its spirited community ethos, which has attracted writers and artists for decades, Hebden Bridge is now a hotbed for culinary creatives. At its heart is Kitchen 91, a micro-bakery and dining room in a converted weaver’s warehouse specialising in Italian cuisine with sustainability at its core. Independent cooperative Valley Organics sells ethically sourced ingredients from local producers, and Goo Cheese has a range of more than 100 British and continental cheeses with an emphasis on lesser-known cheesemakers. Stylish contemporary restaurant Coin is the best spot for dinner, serving small plates such as Crown Prince squash, rocket, Loch Arthur yogurt and smoked almonds alongside an extensive list of natural wines. For a nightcap, lively bottle shop Drink (open until 10pm) has a range of regional craft ales, fruit sours and cloudy gose beers from across the county.

Kitchen 91 interior

Trondheim, Norway

With its striking location in the central Nordic fjords, Trondheim is renowned for its unique gastronomy and buzzy cycling culture, which boasts the world’s first bike lift. Michelin-starred Heidi Bjerkan is one of the city’s culinary pioneers. Her contemporary restaurant Credo transforms the very best of the region’s produce into dishes such as scallops, blackcurrant leaf oil, apricots and ginger, or brioche with fermented plum jam, sea urchin, finger lime and lardo. Meanwhile, stylish nature-focused wine bar Spontan Vinbar specialises in small plates, including monkfish with cloudberries, and local cheeses with rye bread and apple purée. But the cosiest spot in town has to be Sellanraa Bok & Bar, a café-bookshop that serves up local coffee roasts, fresh-baked cinnamon canelés and chocolate tortes with salted caramel.

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Trondheim on the river Nid. The spire of Nidaros Cathedral can be seen in the background.

Asti and Alba, Piedmont, Italy

Situated in a picturesque region of north-western Italy, at the foot of the Alps and less than 19 miles apart, each town boasts unique gastronomic traditions steeped in a friendly rivalry that goes back centuries. Asti, the province’s capital, is famous for red wine risotto al barbera, slow-cooked stufato meat stews and garlicky anchovy bagna càuda served with crisp raw vegetables such as fennel, radish and asparagus. Lively family restaurant Campanarò is the best place to try these traditional dishes, while buzzy Lo Stregatto serves up the best aperitivo spritz in town. Alba is best known as the home to the world’s oldest white truffle fair, held every October, and makes a great base for exploring the famous wineries of Barbaresco and Barolo. Regional dishes include ravioli al plin with sage and butter, carne cruda (similar to beef tartare), vitello tonnato and the delicacy bunèt, a chocolate hazelnut crème caramel pudding. Atmospheric La Piola specialises in these dishes with a seasonal menu, while award-winning Gusto Madre does the best pizza.

Vineyards landscape at sunset, Langhe-Roero wine region, Italy. Unesco site

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