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.

The Langham Hong Kong

I have visited a few Langham hotels around the world and always feel at home in the palatial pink accommodation. The Langham Hong Kong is particularly grand and luxurious, thanks to the recent 30 million dollar transformation by London firm GA Design.

The spectacular sparkling lobby is a welcome contrast to the muggy, crowded streets of the city. Some walk in just to marvel at the beauty of the room and while we were staying a wedding photoshoot was making use of the beautiful backdrop. Visitors can choose to enjoy this area for tea and macaroons (Laduree have designed a bespoke ginger flower variety specially for the hotel) or indulge in a cocktail at the Artesian bar.

There are 498 rooms to choose from including 23 standard suites and 4 signature suites. We felt very privileged to be staying in a Langham Club Room, which offers numerous benefits in the Club Lounge. This exclusive and plush area serves breakfast, afternoon tea and evening canapés and cocktails. The service here was personal and attentive, which made me feel immediately at ease.

Every inch of the hotel feels new and glamorous. Our bedroom was pristine and perfect; a regal room decorated in subtle shades of biscuit and beige. Throughout there with accents of pink – a vase of hydrangeas and a handmade pink chocolate stiletto filled with truffles. The huge bed and thick draped curtains gave an extra feel of luxury. The bathroom was slick and chic, clad in white marble with generously-sized Chuan toiletries.

The hotel has a diverse range of dining facilities and T’ang Court is the jewel in the crown. A Hong Kong institution, this much-loved restaurant has been open for over 20 years with chef Kwong Wai Keung always at the helm. This year the eatery gained its third Michelin star, a proud moment for the whole team.

Despite its three star status this eatery has a casual and sociable atmosphere. It is a favourite with locals, and personalised chopsticks sit in a cabinet at the entrance for the restaurant’s most loyal families. Sitting quietly at a table for two I could observe the culinary traditions and group excitement as families were reunited to enjoy their favourite meal.

Accompanied with a pot of hot jasmine tea I enjoyed a wonderful set lunch at T’ang Court. The kitchen prepared a selection of their finest signature dim sum and famous recipes. Stir-fried Wagyu beef with spring onion and wasabi was a highlight, a simple but decadent dish with soft meat in a sweet and salty sauce with a spicy hint from the wasabi. I also really enjoyed tasting the traditional baked fresh egg tartlet for dessert. Not dissimilar to the Portuguese variety, this was a comforting sweet and creamy end to the meal.

The Langham flagship Chuan spa is currently located a short taxi ride away at Cordis Hotel. I spent a morning here admiring the panoramic views and being pampered. The treatments pay close attention to each customer’s needs. Before deciding on the scent of oil and massage type guests are invited to fill out a Five Element Questionnaire. This determines what needs attention in order to harmonise your body and soul. Therapists Jessie and Natalie worked wonders, soothing my muscles and clearing my head of niggling worries. I came in stressed from the busy city and left feeling lighter and brighter. Wherever you are staying this spa is a must for those needing a break from the sightseeing and shopping of Hong Kong.

Whether you are visiting Hong Kong for business or leisure, as a foodie or fashionista, The Langham Hong Kong has something for everyone. The stylish design and faultless cuisine showcase this hotel as the finest in the Langham collection.

More information and book a stay at The Langham Hong Kong here.

Lung King Heen, Four Seasons, Hong Kong

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, the staff provide every guest with professional but personal attention and Chef Tak’s passion for traditional but creative cooking is very much evident throughout the menus. With no formal training, Chef Tak’s creations are inspired by family recipes and traditions. The kitchen is known particularly for its exceptional seafood and dim sum.

Located on the fourth floor of the opulent Four Seasons Hotel, this large open-plan dining room is understated and elegant. It is a subtle space in comparison to the hotel’s other award-winning restaurant, Caprice. We sat at a central table, and quickly the restaurant filled up around us- families, friends and business lunches – it is definitely a restaurant for any occasion.

Most local guests choose tea to accompany their meal, so we did the same. The warm fragrant drink cleanses the palate between courses and the delicate taste complements the bold dim sum dishes. A small tasting menu had been prepared for us, highlighting a few of the chef’s specialties, whilst taking my dislike of fish into consideration. First, a few classic dim sum mouthfuls to wake up our tastebuds… each parcel was an explosion of flavour and excitement. The pineapple pork dumpling was the best, a yellow topped pastry (it doesn’t actually contain any pineapple) with a juicy meaty filling.

Also on the table were a few traditional sauces, all homemade at the restaurant. Particularly notable was the XO sauce, which is notoriously difficult to make, and needs a precise balance of components to create the correct taste.

The BBQ meats were perhaps my favourite part of the meal. Melt in the mouth sweet and tender pieces of pork, goose and duck that were each carefully roasted in the dedicated roasting room at the hotel, to attain an addictively good sweet crispiness.

Wok-fried Superior Australian Wagyu Beef Cubes with Morel Mushrooms was a hearty dish. High quality meat and fresh seasonal vegetables were coated in an irresistible sauce. The final savoury dish was a classic Chinese staple. Fried rice with shredded chicken sounds simple, but here it was made to perfection. Comforting and filling, every grain of rice was carefully separated and coated in a tantalizing salty hint; it was tasty and rich without the normal cloying greasiness.

Dessert was a trio of strange and delicious treats. Vibrant green lime pudding with aloe and mint was a light jelly dessert. I appreciated the lightness of the jelly though didn’t quite understand the flavouring. We also tried Osmanthus Jelly, a typical floral jelly that was intriguing and delicious; ideal at the end of a meal.

Lung King Heen translates to ‘view of the dragon’, and I was pleased to find the food is every bit as majestic as the name suggests. This Chinese cuisine is fit for royalty but the staff make everyone feel welcome, and it is that unusual balance that makes this 3-Michelin star establishment so special and unique.

More information and book a table at Lung King Heen here.