Like eating well? Us too, and Europe is the place to do it. That’s because all of its countries are so close together, you can be eating soufflé for lunch and be head-deep in a bowl of perfect pasta by dinnertime.
Travelling by train is often the fastest, and easiest, way to do so, so we travelled with a Eurail pass, which allows you to hop on and off most trains throughout the continent at your leisure. Here’s how to eat authentically in Europe, at your own pace.
Try the unusual cheeses of Barcelona, Catalonia
Barcelona is already so famous for its beaches and architecture, but what about its cheese? Drop in at Llet Crua and sample some of the most unusual cheeses you’ll ever open your mouth to.
One of the local specialities is a cheese fermented with grappa in traditional clay pots called tupí – it’s strong and pungent, and the booziness seems to only heighten its savouriness. You’ll never settle for simple old Manchego again.
Hop on the train to Girona – less than 40 minutes away.
Eat sugary sausages in Girona, Catalonia
Sweet and salty are a match made in heaven – think ketchup on a burger, cheesecake, or that sweet/salty/sour balance of Southeast Asian cuisine.
Here in Girona, they make a kind of candied meat sausage. Yes, we know it sounds gross, but give it a go. You’ll see it at the markets (which is a must if you’re visiting any Catalonian city – the markets here are some of the world’s best) – and usually they’ll have samples out for you to taste. Gironell at Mercat del Lleó definitely sell it – ask for ‘botifarra dolça.’ And good luck.
Go for Michelin gelato in Catalonia
Heard of El Celler de Can Roca? Well, it’s one of the world’s best restaurants, and getting a seat can be hella tough. Lucky for you then that its pastry chef, Jordi Roca, runs a side-gig: gelato stores, with two in Catalonia – in Girona and Barcelona (there are stores in Madrid and Alicante too if you’re over in Spain).
Look out for it – it’s called Rocambolesc Gelateria – and it goes like this: go in, order your gelato flavour (baked apple! Rose! Orange, mango and carrot!) then your toppings (choco-popping candy! Meringue! Crispy strawberries!), or go one of their signature, beautifully-moulded popsicles in shapes and flavours that change as quickly as a Catalonian sunset.
From Girona, Lyon is a mere 4.5 hours away by train. Grab that Eurail pass and get ye to France!
Experience a bouchon in Lyon, France
When you’re in Lyon, don’t go the usual route of generic-French fare (we’re looking at you, duck confit and crème brûlée). Lyon has its very own style of restaurant, known as a bouchon.
Here, offal is the cream of the crop, and you may never have better offal anywhere, ever, because if anyone can cook it, the Lyonnaise can. You’ll find plenty across the city, but Daniel et Denise is famous for a reason.
Try their signature foie gras and sweetbread pâté, their tripe à la Lyonnaise and their tender calf’s liver, or go the traditional pike quenelle (a fish dumpling) if offal is taking things a little bit too far.
It’s under three hours by train to get to Vevey – you’re on your way to the Alps, baby.
Make your own chocolate in Vevey, Switzerland
Vevey is famed as being the adopted home of Charlie Chaplin, but it’s also home to one of the world’s best chocolatiers: Läderach.
Go behind the scenes at the shop and do their Chocolate Experience where you get a tour of their little museum and learn all about how chocolate is produced, before being led into the kitchen to make your own chocolate bar.
Be warned: there is a chocolate tap spouting hot, glorious, liquid chocolate reminiscent of Willy Wonka, so one must contain oneself and try one’s best to not throw one’s head under and chug. This is harder than it sounds.
You’re about to climb a mountain, albeit by train. It’s just over an hour to get to Château-d’Oex.
Make cheese in the Alps, Switzerland
When you’re in the Alps, you’ve got to eat fondue; you’re not a monster. But there’s a special restaurant where you can watch them make the cheese from scratch before you delve in. It’s called Le Chalet, and it’s situated in a tiny mountaintop village called Château-d’Oex, which you can get to easily via the beautifully ornate GoldenPass MOB Belle Époque train (you can use your Eurail pass on this).
Watch these artisans heat the milk from this very village over an open fire in the heart of the restaurant, and by the end of lunch, you’ll even see them pressing the curds into a mould, ready to be stored to perfect maturity.
You can use your Eurail pass to take you from Vevey to Geneva Airport via train – it only takes an hour and there are no transfers, making it the most hassle-free way to get to your flight. Plus, have you seen Swiss trains?
Eat deliciously in the air
If you’re going to spend your whole holiday eating, why not start on the plane? Etihad‘s Business Class passengers can eat when they like, not when suits the airline. As with any airline, you’re best to go with the cuisine of their home country when ordering. With Etihad that means anything Middle Eastern (or Indian, where an estimated 27 per cent of UAE populace hail from). Their biryani is swoon-worthy, with big hunks of tender chicken contrasted with crunchy cashews and fluffy, spiced rice. Heaven.