There are so many unusual places to eat in Europe. As you would know by now, eating and exploring different cuisines is a very important part of our travel. It’s fun but can be scary at the same time. It also delivers an incredible learning experience, both for our minds as much as our palates. When the travel is over, it creates an enduring memory as we seek to recreate those foods in our own home.
Great food can be found in so many places, and if you look further afield, away from the standard restaurants and cafes, you’ll be amazed at what you can find
Agriturismo in Italy
An agriturismo is a broad term used in Italy that covers any agricultural activity that brings visitors to a farm environment. Typically, it includes accommodation on a farm, viewing or being involved in farming activities, or eating at their restaurant. Depending on the location, all activities might be on offer.
Our experience with an agriturismo happened in the deep south of Italy, near a small town called Rossano Calabro. I tried many times to book over the phone, but with no English spoken on their end and real, conversational Italian not mine, it became too difficult.
This is not unusual. Agriturismos are in rural areas, usually reasonably difficult to get to, have no public transport access and can quite often not be accessible via the internet. Directions can be a bit hit and miss also. For us, that’s all part of the experience and quite often, the adventure!
Our experience here at Armania Agriturismo was incredibly authentic. So much so that I was a little concerned about what exactly might be delivered for my lunch. Within the confines of a stone-built building, the walls were a warm yellow and the tables covered in lace tablecloths, giving it a homely feel.
There was NO menu. None at all. In this agriturismo, menus are unnecessary as the meal of the day depends on what they produce on their farm at the time. We didn’t need to worry though, as a gigantic steak, the size of a dinner plate made its way to the table for each of us.
Whilst I was happy to eat this fresh piece of meat, I did have to ask for it to spend a little more time on the hotplate. It was so rare it looked like it had literally come straight from the cow. In the meantime, I just ate a little more of their fabulous homemade bread. The olive was manufactured from their own groves and the accompanying salad from their gardens.
Any overall guide to Italian agriturismos can be found here.
Garden to table in the French Alps
Unassuming and existing for years without the need for any fanfare or promotion are places such as Restaurant Le Galet. This restaurant is really only open to locals and those who are referred by locals. In our case, our host at La Maison du Guil in Eygliers (French Alps) kindly rang ahead and informed the owners that we would be dining with them.
At the back of a restaurant lies the hidden garden. It’s a cosy environment and one which could only really be enjoyed in the warmer months. The garden shed is a sign that we are in an unusual eating environment, but it offers us a little privacy from the close quarters of the other diners.
It doesn’t get any more local, personal or fresh when you dine here. A menu board with limited options is brought to your table. All food that is served here across the three courses is freshly harvested from their garden the same day. Hence why some of the options may be deleted during the evening, as supplies are used up.
On the way out, I popped into the kitchen to say thank you to those who had prepared our meal for us. This is the part I love the most, and I find that they are always most welcoming.
There are hidden restaurants aplenty all over the world. One of my favourites is in a butcher shop (or Boucherie) in Paris. With a high table as the dividing line, Les Provinces sells fresh meat to locals on one side, and cooks it up for hungry diners on the other. It’s tucked away in the shops that line the Marché d’Aligre, virtually invisible to those outside. It’s a place where you have to be “in the know”
They are a great idea and it always makes me feel less like a visitor when I find one.
Auberge in France
My favourite auberge in France are in rural communities, where the food that is served in their restaurant (inn) comes directly from their farms. It’s fresh, seasonal and local. In many cases, the Auberge can also be linked to France Passion sites, which are great if you are travelling by motorhome.
We had an exceptional experience at Auberge et Ferme du Reid a family owned and run farm, restaurant and inn. Everything they served came from their farms, where they run cows, pigs and donkeys. Once again, I got to have a very personal experience with the owners that simply isn’t possible in most restaurants.
If you are interested in eating at any of these kinds of places, wherever you are in the world, the best way of finding them is to ask locals. Most of these places do not advertise, cannot be found in tourist brochures and rarely have websites. Because of this, they are also usually very reasonably priced, and can quite often be BYO. It just depends on the location. So next time you are visiting a new city, be sure to think about the unusual places to eat and bring that culinary adventure into your world.
Have you been to any of these? Got any great tips? Let me know below as I’m always on the hunt for more exciting and unusual places to eat in Europe (or anywhere in the world)
Looking for more foodie options in Paris. Here’s a great resource available from Amazon.