Osteria Francescana, Modena

It is difficult to put a meal at the world’s best restaurant into words. Of course that accolade has only been awarded by one set of expert-eaters, and I thought to myself throughout lunch there, is this the best meal I’ve ever eaten? It was without a doubt one of the finest, with each tiny course was more memorable than the last, so imaginative and delicious, I almost found myself closing my eyes in appreciation.

I won’t write much about Massimo Bottura’s Osteria Francescana, it is really a restaurant that should be tasted rather than written about, but here are a few photos from inside Modena’s most exclusive eatery…

Osteria Francescana

The town of Modena in central Italy is quiet and sleepy. I immediately noticed the strong food traditions, large vocal markets and tiny patisserie shops with piles of frappe (fried pastry) dusted in icing sugar. Bottura’s renowned restaurant has put Modena on the tourist map, and has shone a light on the rich produce which comes from this part of the country.

Osteria Francescana

There are just 22 covers per mealtime, and bookings are made 3 months in advance at 10am (Italy time) on the 1st day of the month. When the doors opened at 12pm we were greeted by a crowd of suited staff, each trying to help you with your coat. I was impressed to see the lack of dress code here, an indication that Massimo really wants you to feel comfortable, despite the 3 star label.

Osteria Francescana

Aula in carpione (re-imagined fish and chips)

Several tasting menus are available, or a la carte. I looked around and everyone was ordering the tasting option… why pay the same for 3 courses when you could try 9! The menus change with the seasons but I spotted a few favourites which I recognised from watching Bottura on the Chef’s Table programme.

The first course was a simple but complex rendition of fish and chips… a crunchy salty base topped with Carpione fish ice-cream!

Osteria Francescana

Memories of a mortadella sandwich

Mortadella is the cured meat of Bologna and tastes supremely better than the stuff we get here in England. Using the amazing flavour and the beautiful dusty pink colour Bottura reimagines the mortadella sandwich (an standard snack in Modena) into a thick and sumptuous mousse, spiked with powdered pistachio.

Osteria Francescana

Croccantino di foie gras in crosta di mandorle di Noto e nocciole del Piemonte, ripieno di Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena (foie gras lollipop with hazulnuts and a balsamic vinegar centre)

The food continued to arrive, the most immaculate plates of food each presented in it’s own way, with crockery designed to showcase the dish. An indulgent lollipop of foie gras was paired with Traditional Balsamic Vinegar, a thick and syrupy gel more intense than any vinegar I had ever tried before.

Osteria Francescana

Un’anguilla che risale il fiume Po (An eel swimming up the Po River)

Beautifully stark on the plate the eel was wonderfully cooked in a sticky glaze and served with two ingredients the eel encounters as it swims up the river… Campanine apple, cream of polenta and burned onion powder.

Osteria Francescana

Merluzzo Mare Nostrum (Cod and tomato)

This dish was perhaps the most ‘normal’ of the meal. A simple, perfect piece of cod with a bright and vibrant green tomato dressing.

Osteria Francescana

Ravioli di porri, foie gras e tartufi (leek ravioli with foie gras and truffles)

I was most excited about the pasta at Osteria Francescana, and it didn’t disappoint. This creamy dish combined some of my favourite ingredients, and wasn’t as clever as some of the other courses, but it tasted so wonderfully comforting and delicious.

Osteria Francescana

Cinque stagionature del Parmigiano Reggiano in diverse consistenze e temperature (Five ages of Parmigiano Reggiano)

The waiter delivered this pristine white bowl proclaiming that only the only two ingredients for this famous recipe are parmesan and time. Bottura’s love of parmesan is evident in every mouthful, how one cheese can be made into so many different textures and tastes is amazing.

Osteria Francescana

Riso grigio e nero (rice, grey and black)

This startling black plate of food concealed many ingredients; oysters, shallots, tomatoes, sparkling wine and topped with a dot of luxurious caviar.

Osteria Francescana

Autumn in New York

Bottura’s wife is from New York, and I imagined she helped inspire this delicate and pretty dish of berries. Presented in the shape of an apple as an ode to the ‘Big Apple’.

Osteria Francescana

Tortellino in crema di Parmigiano Reggiano (tortellini in parmesan cream)

My favourite dish was perhaps the simplest. Perfectly made little tortellini filled with meat and dressed in a aromatic parmesan cream. I could have eaten it over and over again.

Osteria Francescana

Maialino da latte morbido e croccante (Pork belly with pickled vegetables)

This pork course was smallest meat course I have ever had in a restaurant. Placed on a plate with a variety of pickled vegetables (humorously in the shape of pigs), with drizzles of the finest sauce.

Osteria Francescana

Caesar salad in bloom

The prettiest palate cleanser I’ve ever seen. This ‘caesar salad’ is intended to be eaten in one of two mouthfuls, a floral salad of edible flowers and fruity powders, all perched on a lettuce leaf.

Osteria Francescana

Yellow is bello

We weren’t entirely sure what flavours were in this dessert, the soft and light mousse was heavenly to eat… blissfully light at the end of a big meal. I detected hints of saffron, perhaps pineapple and ginger. By this point in the meal I had learnt not to analyse too much and just enjoy tasting Bottura’s elaborate and artistic dreams.

Osteria Francescana

Oops! I dropped the lemon tart

The famous lemon tart dessert wasn’t on the menu we’d ordered but the waiter kindly swapped my set dessert for it when I said how much I had wanted to try it. Each minute ingredient on the right of the plate matched and contrasted carefully with the bright citrus flavour to make each mouthful different. A seemingly brilliant dish that is, in reality, painstakingly thoughtful.


More information about Osteria Francescana here.

Things to do in Hong Kong

I developed a love-hate relationship with Hong Kong after spending four action-packed days there last winter. The city is chaotic and crowded and the weather is humid and muggy, but the wealth of restaurants, bars and activities make it a great stopover for travellers with a few days to spare.

Peninsula Hong Kong

To Stay

The Peninsula – Known as the “Grande Dame of the Far East”, The Peninsula Hong Kong is much more than just a luxury hotel. This iconic establishment is one of the city’s main landmarks, and even those who aren’t staying hope to visit for a photograph or to sample the famous afternoon tea.

The Langham – Centrally located on the Kowloon side of town, this hotel feels particularly grand and luxurious, thanks to the recent 30 million dollar transformation by London firm GA Design. Marvel at the lavish lobby before heading up to your stylish suite. Renowned restaurant, T’ang Court has recently been awarded a third Michelin star.

Caprice Hong Kong

To Eat

Caprice – Caprice was opened in the Four Seasons Hong Kong by a team from the prestigious Le Cinq in Paris and quickly received two stars from the Michelin guide. The outstanding service and immaculate French cooking wows and the tables offer panoramic views overlooking the city skyline.

Lung King Heen – With a reputation as the best Chinese cook in the world, Chef Chan Yan Tak has a lot of customers who visit with high expectations. When the Michelin guide arrived in Hong Kong 8 years ago, his restaurant Lung King Heen at the Four Seasons received the ultimate recognition of three stars, an accolade it has retained ever since. Despite the grandeur of its reputation this restaurant has a friendly feel. Chef Tak’s passion for traditional but creative cooking is very much evident throughout the menus, and his dim sum is unbeatable.

Little Bao – The Taiwanese steamed buns known as ‘bao’ seem to be a worldwide craze. Little Bao in Hong Kong is fun eatery run by chef owner May Chow. Save space for the salt ice-cream with caramel sauce dessert bao.

Din Tai Fung – This dumpling institution originated in Taiwan, specialising in xiao long bao (steamed dumplings). There are branches all over Hong Kong satisfying the crowds with comfort food that tastes seriously good.

Po’s Atelier – A pastry mecca found in the Sheung Wan district, Po’s Atelier is a minimalist bakery selling delicious breads and cakes. Pick up a bag of madeleines at the shop, or head to Deadend cafe around the back to relax with a coffee.

22 Ships – Jason Atherton’s Hong Kong outpost is always busy, serving tasty tapas inspired by the flavours and ingredients of China. Don’t miss the roasted suckling pig with pineapple and piquillo peppers.

Yardbird – Yardbird is a modern izakaya that specialises in yakitori dishes of skewered grilled chicken. This neighborhood restaurant has a food menu created by Chef Matt Abergel who aims to use the entire chicken, grilling the different cuts over traditional Binchotan charcoal. My favourites were the Chicken oyster yakitori and the Korean fried cauliflower.

Tim Ho Wan – This no-fuss diner is known as the ‘cheapest Michelin star restaurant in the world’. Get cosy amongst the locals and tick off the items on the menu you want to try. We particularly enjoyed the Baked bun with bbq pork and the Steamed shrimp dumplings. There are several branches but only one has a Michelin star.

Lab Made – This ice-cream parlour serves super smooth gelato, made with the freshest ingredients and frozen with liquid nitrogen. Flavours change constantly, I tried sea salt milk with caramel popcorn.

cocktails Hong Kong

To Drink

Cupping Room – There are now three branches of this speciality coffee shop in town. The stylish interiors encourage guests to relax and the coffee is flavoursome and delicious.

Coffee Academics – This company is known for sourcing top quality coffee beans from around the world, and consequently is always full with tourists and locals needing their caffeine fix. They also run coffee classes.

Quinary – Often listed as one of the world’s top 50 cocktail bars, the Quinary is a well established bar in Hong Kong’s central district. The mixologists create drinks which seek to engage all five senses, try the thrilling ‘Earl Grey Caviar Martini’.

The Woods – This concept bar specialises in artisan liquors and innovative drinks. The bar is magically decorated with woodland themed objects. We tried a ‘Peach Old Fashioned’ and a ‘Chamomile Bees Knees’ with hints of tea, vanilla, honey and lemon.

view of Hong Kong

To See & Do

Peak Tram – For the best views of Hong Kong join the queue of tourists for a trip up in the Peak Tram. This funicular railway has been running since 1888 and attracts more and more people every year. A return ticket will cost around £9 including a pass to go to the Sky Terrace 428, the highest 360 viewing platform in Hong Kong.

Stanley Market – This enormous market in the quaint village of Stanley, on Hong Kong Island’s south coast, is a huge hit with locals, expats and tourists. Wander the stalls and pick up bargain Chinese souvenirs.

Nail Library – The most stylish nail bar in town,  Nail Library is designed to look like a New York loft-style bookshop. There is a huge array of shades and brands to choose from, including Chanel, Christian Louboutin and Dior and the therapists are attentive but friendly while pampering your nails.

Man Mo Temple – Hong Kong’s only Man Mo temple, built in 1847, pays tribute to the God of Literature (Man) and God of War (Mo). It is a magical place, with spiral incense sticks burning on the ceiling and golden urns on the ground. I found the scent is overpowering, but inside it is too beautiful to miss.

tang tang

To Shop

Tang Tang Tang Tang – This is the flagship store of Sir David Tang’s newest lifestyle label. If designer items from Shanghai Tang are out of your price-range this is the perfect place to invest in a similar style of luxe Chinese homeware or accessories. I bought a lovely delicate cashmere scarf, with a striking and intricate blue and white pattern.

PMQ – Located in the hip SoHo area, the PMQ (formerly Police Married Quarters) is a creative hub for local designers. Check our fun shops like Haus Collective and Goods of Desire.

GRANA Fitting Room – This store is a wardrobe of essential garments in every colour and material you could ever dream of. GRANA select the world’s best fabrics and then design simple tailored clothing, which you can try on in this ‘fitting room’ before ordering online.

Visual Culture – A super cool optical boutique for glasses addicts. The store was established in 2008 and stocks unique and special frames from designers all over the world.

Lantau Island

To Escape

Lantau Island – From Hong Kong city centre it is easy to reach both beaches and rainforests for a day trip. We spent a day at Lantau island, one of the largest islands in Hong Kong and home to a range of interesting sites. Be brave and take a journey on the ‘Ngong Ping 360’, one of the world’s longest cable car journeys, before visiting the Big Buddha and stunning monastery. If you have time, Tai O is a lovely village to explore, and you may even get a glimpse of the Chinese pink dolphins!

Céleste Restaurant at The Lanesborough

I have had two jobs in Knightsbridge and I’ve often walked past The Lanesborough Hotel and admired the grandeur and exclusivity of the building. Last year the hotel reopened after a 19 month refurbishment, which cost around 60 million pounds. Needless to say, the interiors are suitably lavish and luxurious. I visited the hotel’s Céleste Restaurant last week, newly awarded with a Michelin star, to taste the food and have a sneaky peek at the new decor.

Céleste RestaurantCéleste Restaurant

The dining room is magnificent, with a large central skylight, pale blue ornately decorated walls and an elevated seating area. There is also a private dining room for up to 14 guests for special occasions. With a reservation at noon, we were first to arrive in the restaurant, so I had the opportunity to wander round and explore every beautiful detail.

Céleste Restaurant

The food is overseen by Eric Frechon, the three-star chef from Le Bristol in Paris. Everything is carefully served and presented by the organised and friendly waiting staff. We started with a glass of bubbly and some delicious bite-sized canapes.

Céleste RestaurantCéleste Restaurant

There is a very reasonably priced 3 course lunch menu available everyday for £35 per person. Keen to try the specialities of the season, we chose from the a la carte menu, which is filled with irresistible recipes. I opted for the oven baked celeriac with crushed black truffle and comte extra vieux millesime. It was a seemingly simple dish, but on the plate, a carefully prepared combination of lovely textures and subtle flavours made it truly delicious. Light and delicate, I could have eaten a second serving. The sauteed squid with black ink porridge and red wine sauce was much heavier but equally delicious, a thick starchy base with tender pieces of seafood.

Céleste RestaurantCéleste RestaurantCéleste Restaurant

We struggled to choose from the array of main course options, but eventually decided on brown hare with peppercorn, and lamb with jerusalem artichokes and goat’s curd. Both plates were strikingly arranged, with the sauces served on the side. The lamb was nicely cooked with complementing woody artichokes, black garlic and creamy smooth goat’s curd mousse. Hare seemed like a sensible choice during game season, and the saddle was richly seasoned with spicy peppercorn. I loved the flavoursome braised shoulder tortellone which was topped with a decadent piece of foie gras.

One of the experienced sommeliers looked after us throughout the meal, serving the finest complementing wines to taste with each course. The unique choices were unusual but delicious pairings that made us appreciate the food at Céleste even more.

Céleste RestaurantCéleste RestaurantCéleste Restaurant

Desserts were another highlight, we sampled three from the menu: pear with honey and spices, Guanaja chocolate with cashew nut and coffee bean, and pineapple with pina colada mousse and sorbet. The exotic pineapple dish was a work of art with finely crafted sugar in the shape of a pineapple, which cracked open to reveal tropical mousse and cream. The sophisticated cocoa dessert is perfect for chocolate lovers of all ages, with a subtle hint of coffee and a lovely warmth from the cashew nuts. My favourite though was the understated pear with honey, a beautifully balanced pudding, which cleansed the palate and satisfied my need for a sweet hit.

Céleste Restaurant

Although we were the first to arrive at Céleste for lunch, we were nearly the last to leave. I savoured every moment of our meal here, and hope to return to this magnificent dining room for another regal meal soon.

More information and book a table at Céleste Restaurant here.