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Eating differently – 4 unusual places to eat in Europe

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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.

Agriturismo - unusual places to eat
Enjoying the freshest of food at Armania Agriturismo

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.

Sitting in the back garden Restaurant Le Galet
Sitting in the back garden

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.

Hanging out with the chefs - unusual places to eat in Europe
Hanging out with the chefs

Hidden restaurants

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)

unusual places to eat in europe

54 thoughts on “Eating differently – 4 unusual places to eat in Europe”

  1. Wow! What fun experiences! I always love getting to find little things like this that are so authentic and unique. I agree that you can usually only find things like this by talking to the locals and ganging new knowledge. The next time I’m in Italy, I’m definitely going to look up an agriturismo!

  2. Eating food straight from the farm sounds outstanding! You know exactly where your food comes from – though I don’t think I could eat anything if I met the animals… For the auberge in France, do they sell their farm produce/meats to the bigger restaurants or are they truly just for locals?

  3. Eating without a menu sounds like an amazing experience – they will serve what is best and the most fresh! What a great concept, I love farm to fork style meals.

  4. Hi Ivy, there will be plenty in Tuscany. Just check out the website on the link in my post and you’ll be able to search. Rural, just means they have to have space to have a farm. I wouldn’t think there’d be any along the Amalfi Coast – way too restrictive, but further inland there would be.

  5. Love this post! I would’ve never known about these unusual places. You mentioned that agriturismo is only found in rural places in Italy. We’re working our way up from Amalfi Coast to Lake Como next spring, do you think we’ll be able to find any on the way? The only slightly rural place I can think of is Tuscany but I don’t even know if that counts.

  6. I prefer the small cafes and restaurants that serve farm fresh meals, changing daily. Auberge looks amazing and exactly the kind of place that I eat at. Of course, it is in France (my favorite cuisine).

  7. These are great! I love skipping over the Lonely Planet recommendations and trying something different.

    My favorite (downscale) version of these are NYC’s loading dock lunch counters. There are fewer each year, but they’re always great and such a unique experience. It was one of the few pros of spending so much time working in Midtown!

  8. Thank you for sharing some unique experiences in Europe. I’ve been 3 times now to Europe and I’ve been to hidden restaurants which are much better than the tourist haunts. I haven’t been to an Auberge or farm to table experience so that would be really interesting to try.

  9. You have highlighted some pretty cool dining experiences here. I particularly like the idea of the agriturismo and Garden to Table options, as they have minimal food miles! But I’m sure the agri option is probably not great for veggies like me. Love the concept though.

  10. These all sound really neat! I think I’d love the garden table option in the French Alps! I find gardens to be so peaceful. I also love that they use ingredients farm the farm! Thank you for a great post :)

  11. I love the idea of eating on a farm or someplace where you can see the food straight from the field to the table. Hidden restaurants make me think of hidden menus too. So many places are doing that now too. You have to be in the know to know there’s a secret recipe and menu item back there to try. mm mm mm.

  12. La Maison du Guil was simply delightful. The hosts (both Belgian) made a life change and gave up corporate careers for the B&B. It is just incredible. I have a review on Trip ADvisor on this place if you are interested.

  13. man those ravioli looking things look great. Do you find in your agriturism/farm to table restaurants that they tend to be more vegetarian based? The only reason I ask is because I had great foodie experiences walking the Camino with the small villages and farms feeding the albergues but they were not vegetarian friendly at all and we had two girls who whined the whole time.

  14. Wow! Very unique dining experiences indeed – I love the idea and the lengths that you went to! Definitely bookmarking this so I can try some of these out when I get my butt back to Europe. La Maison du Guil definitely looks right up my alley :)

  15. I think food is such a great way to experience a culture and area, and all these I’d be game for. The butcher shop / restaurant looks like a fun experience–and I’m sure the meat is excellent.

  16. Ryan, one day I will get to Cambodia to check out the Kampot pepper farms. I have read so much about them and am just dying to do it. Getting close (in Vietnam soon) but not quite going to get into Cambodia. That dinner sounds amazing too.

  17. I love that so many of these food options support the local farmers and communities. Its great to give back to the locals while you travel and eating like this is a perfect way to do it. Also love hole in the wall “hidden” places! Great article

  18. This was an awesome read! I was supposed to be in Europe right now but due to unforeseen events, I am not :/ Haha, soon enough! :D

  19. These are all hidden gems and worth value for money and promise a great experience. I especially loved the concept of ‘Garden to Table’ in France and Agriturismo of Italy. Quite an experience to eat amidst nature and sure all the stuff you are gorging in are natural to the core.

  20. From my experiences the food at the auberges in France is always amazing. They seem to whip up an awesome meal just like that from scratch in the middle of the mountains :-)

  21. These all sound really awesome! I love trying out unusual places to eat like this. I’ve always wanted to check out the Agriturismo in Italy–there’s something about the fresh food right from the farm and actually staying there overnight that sounds so wonderful. I’d love to check all of these out sometime!

  22. It looks like you’ve found some real hidden gems here! I love the idea of Restaurant Le Galet, it is so special that it’s for locals or for dining via referral.

  23. Great suggestions for food options. The French are all about fresh, which is part of the reason why their food is so great. I’ve also stayed at several agriturismos in Italy. Marvelous, always!

  24. So many unique and different eats! Lol have you heard of the Lavatory Cocktails in London? London’s public toilets have been closing at a rapid rate, but the space hasn’t been wasted…they’ve turned former lavatories into restaurants and bars! The Bermondsey Arts Club on Tower Bridge Road is one of them :D

  25. I love such hidden restaurants and unique experiences while visiting a city. That’s why its important to know locals/befriend them – you learn so much about the culture and hidden spots, which, as a tourist you would never find out. Restaurant le galet looks the best to me.

  26. What a great list of unusual places to eat in Paris. Love the hidden restaurants and didn’t know they had them at Marché d’Aligre. Great advice, seek out the local places for authentic and unusual experiences. Pinning this post to my Paris board :)

  27. Great list guys… I love the Agritourism in Italy, we have eaten so many good foods and drank delicious local wine while exploring the local villages and farms. Definitely a different and unique way to explore Europe, the culture and the cuisine of a place.


  28. Food tourism in Italy is my dream! I would love to go around the country and try the traditional food of every region. What you’ve described for Italy sounds just perfect. I wouldn’t need a menu at all, just rely on what the locals or the local chef would recommend.

  29. What cool dining experiences! It’s pretty neat to see where the food comes from and to be a part of the cooking experience. Great post!

  30. This was such a unique post! I had no idea things like this even existed! Definitely going to try this out next time I’m in Europe.

  31. So delicious…I love a good food find and these look simply delicious. Ill look out for it next time I’m there!

  32. Loved this post! It’s so satisfying to go to our roots and eat what they used to eat in earlier days and in the same environment. So much different from the crowded touristy places and their restaurants dishing out meals in bulk.

  33. Hi Kerri,

    How bout that steak?! Amazing how fresh these farm meals are. Different continent but I recall dining at a pepper farm in Kampot, Cambodia. World renowned, gourmet pepper there, sprinkled on the food and fresh veggies as well. Served under a little roof beside home and farm. Not unlike the spots where you dined above.


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