Many or Europe's top-end restaurants have escaped unscathed from the global financial meltdown
France is home to several, with most holding several Michelin stars
At Restaurant Pic in Valence, France, the set menu costs $455
Step inside some of Europe’s top restaurants and you wouldn’t know there had been a global financial meltdown a few years ago.
These temples to haute cuisine are still unashamedly, perhaps reassuringly, expensive.
In this rarefied world of showy dining, the cost of a single dish nudges into three figures.
And that’s before you pay $1,000 for a bottle of wine.
In return you get some of the world’s most prized ingredients – truffles, caviar, blue lobster – served in fantastic surroundings.
France leads the way, with four restaurants making our list – five if you count Monte Carlo.
It is, after all, the land where Michelin stars are as common as the designer handbags that get their own chair in these glittering palaces.
1. Le Meurice (Paris)
The king of haute cuisine, Alain Ducasse, holds court in the Versailles-style grandeur of one of Paris’s finest hotels.
While there’s gold lining the walls of this three-Michelin-starred restaurant overlooking the Tuileries gardens, there’s black gold on the plate – supremely expensive black truffle.
Signature diner: Refined gourmet with a nose for earthy pleasures.
Signature dish: Whatever truffle dish suits the season. A starter of scallops and black truffle goes for $165.
Le Meurice, 228 Rue de Rivoli, Paris, France; +33 1 44 58 10 55
2. Sketch Lecture Room & Library (London)
This top-price British venture created a stir when it opened in 2002 as people swooned at the thought of paying $66 for a starter.
They’re still stunned, but as much by the outlandish decor of this dazzling Mayfair townhouse as by the prices.
The a la carte menu remains eye-wateringly expensive, hence the popularity of the seven-course tasting menu for the bargain price of $157.
Signature diner: Jaded aging hipsters who like to flash their cash.
Signature dish: Langoustine done five ways, from raw to grilled.
A snip at $80 – then again, it’s only a starter.
Sketch, 9 Conduit St., London; +44 20 7659 4500
3. Restaurant Paul Bocuse (Lyon, France)
Chefs come and go, but Paul Bocuse can rest in the knowledge that his restaurant just north of Lyon has held three Michelin stars since 1965.
Signature diner: Serious gourmets intent on worshipping at the temple of French cuisine.
Signature dish: It’s a tie between the truffle soup Bocuse created for French president Valery Giscard d’Estaing back in 1975 ($117) and the main course of red mullet dressed in crusty potato scales ($83).
Restaurant Paul Bocuse, 40 Rue de la Plage, Lyon, France; +33 4 72 42 90 90
4. Noma (Copenhagen, Denmark)
Chef Rene Redzepi’s creed is: If it’s not available in the Nordic regions, it’s not going on the plate.
He’s taken foraging to a new level, feeding people stuff you wouldn’t know was edible.
Noma has been named as the world’s best for three years in a row by Restaurant magazine.
If you book now you might get a table sometime this century.
Signature diner: Those who like their cuisine on the cutting edge.
Signature dish: Wild duck so local you can practically pinpoint the last river it swam in.
Noma, Strandgade 93, Copenhagen, Denmark; +45 32 96 32 97
5. Restaurant Pic (Valence, France)
Anne-Sophie Pic is France’s only female chef with three Michelin stars.
It’s in her blood – she’s carrying on the family dynasty started by her great grandmother in 1889.
There’s no shout-y male chef nonsense here – it’s subtly and exquisitely classy.
But you might let out a little scream at the $455 set menu.
Signature diner: Well-bred, well-dressed and well-behaved. Save your vulgar bling for the Riviera, please.
Signature dish: Sea bass with caviar, created by Pic’s father in 1971.
Restaurant Pic, 285 Avenue Victor Hugo, Valence, France; +33 4 75 44 15 32
6. Solo Per Due (Vacone, Umbria, Italy)
If a busy, buzzy restaurant is your thing, you might want to think twice about booking this 19th-century villa in the central Italian countryside.
“Solo Per Due” means “only for two” – there’s just one table, one menu and one price: $345 per person (not including wine).
But if you’re looking for romance as well as riches, this is the place.
Signature diner: Seriously loved-up fans of Italian food.
Signature dish: Some of the best cannoli you’ll get north of Sicily.
Solo Per Due, Via Villa di Orazio 2, Vacone, Italy; +39 0746 676873
7. La Marmite (St. Moritz, Switzerland)
The altitude matches the prices at this St. Moritz institution at the top of Corviglia mountain.
Perched 2,468 meters over Switzerland’s swankiest resort, La Marmite calls itself the highest gourmet restaurant in the Alps.
Fish and chips means caviar and even the humble club sandwich is made with lobster.
Signature diner: The nouveau riche of the ski world.
Signature dish: Carrousel, a mixed platter of foie gras, smoked salmon, lobster and caviar for $370.
La Marmite, Corviglia, St Moritz; +41 81 833 6355
8. Le Louis XV Alain Ducasse (Monte Carlo, Monaco)
Back in 1987, Prince Rainier of Monaco hired Alain Ducasse (him again) to create a restaurant at the Hotel de Paris that would win three Michelin stars in four years.
Ducasse did it in three (the show-off).
The restaurant’s namesake would have felt at home in the regal rococo splendor, where even the simple business of handing out the bread rolls has been turned into theater.
Signature diner: Well-heeled high rollers from the casino next door.
Signature dish: Steamed blue lobster from the restaurant’s tanks at $220 a head.
Le Louis XV Alain Ducasse, Hotel de Paris, Place du Casino, Monte Carlo; +377 98 06 88 57
9. Les Airelles (Courchevel, France)
You won’t be surprised to hear that the world’s largest ski domain is also home to some of the most extravagantly expensive cuisine.
Even the humblest espresso costs €5.
The pinnacle of the Three Valleys has to be Courchevel, where chef Pierre Gagnaire’s seven-course tasting menu ($342) at Les Airelles teems with luxurious ingredients.
Signature diner: Moscow millionaires.
Signature dish: Vintage caviar served with vodka granita and borscht jelly.
Les Airelles, Rue du Jardin Alpin, Courchevel, France; +33 4 79 00 38 38
10. La Pergola (Rome)
Rome’s only three-Michelin-starred restaurant comes with fantastic panoramic views of the Eternal City from its smart base in the Rome Cavalieri.
It also seriously loves the white truffle from Alba in northern Italy.
If La Pergola’s “standard” nine-course menu at $290 doesn’t do it for you, you can pay an extra $117 for a sprinkling of this magical ingredient.
Signature diner: Sophisticates who know a high-class place when they see one.
Signature dish: Red mullet with white truffles and puréed cannellini beans. Yours for only $135.
La Pergola, Via Alberto Cadlolo 101, Rome; +39 06 35091
Mary Novakovich is an award-winning journalist and travel writer with particular experience in Europe.