It is a truth universally acknowledged that a ham sandwich eaten in the rose garden at Versailles tastes exponentially better than the exact same ham sandwich eaten almost anywhere else in the world. There’s a reason so many marriage proposals happen over dessert courses in five-star restaurants, and the reason has little to do with the tuna tartare and more to do with the romantic thrill of eating a delicious meal in a beautiful setting. For a meal that makes a lifelong memory, our visual senses must be stimulated along with our gustatory; the combination of loving what we see and loving what we taste marrying in our minds to produce a pleasure we don’t mind paying a premium for.
While there might be a lot to be said for homey diners and mom and pop bistros, a truly magnificent restaurant can feel like fairy tale magic, transforming the basic necessity of eating into an act of artistic expression. An avant-garde restaurant concept can make a meal feel cutting edge, daring even, while a classically designed dining room with its upright opulence makes dining absolutely indulgent, bringing to mind the daylong celebrations of bygone monarchies, allowing us commoners, for the length of a meal, to understand what it truly means to feast.
To compile this list, we took many factors into consideration. The first thing we looked for were accolades for the structure itself: design awards and mentions in esteemed architectural publications. Then we looked at the designers of the restaurants; for example, Odile Decq, the mastermind behind L'Opera, is one of France's most influential architects, so the restaurant itself is a piece of practical art.
A beautiful location was also a factor because even the loveliest dining room can be a drag if it overlooks a parking lot. And finally, because a restaurant must be functional as well aesthetically pleasing, we took into consideration the acclaim of the restaurant as a whole, using Michelin Stars, awards, and positive press as our guide.
In this list, you'll find some of the most celebrated dining spots in the world, lauded for both the quality of their food and the beauty of their environments.Take a look at our slideshow for photographs of some of the world’s most beautiful restaurants. Some have a rustic, countryside charm, while others incorporate high art and truly astonishing architecture into the dining experience. All are meticulously planned and elegantly designed, truly dream dining destinations.
3. Le Louis XV, Monte Carlo, MonacoChef Alain Ducasse opened this venerable Monaco institution on a dare from Prince Ranier III, who bet the chef that it was impossible to win three Michelin Stars in four years. The prince was wrong, and one of the world’s greatest restaurants, Le Louis XV, was born. The food is classical French, and the interior is nothing short of astonishing, with glittering crystal virtually dripping from the magnificently high ceilings. Truly, an experience fit for a king.
2. The Four Seasons, New York, U.S.A.
This beacon of modern dining is truly part museum and part restaurant. Opened in 1959, the building was designed by architectural superstar Miles van der Rohe, the interior by design luminary Phillip Johnson. Their intention was to combine art, architecture, and food to create a dining experience like no other. The Four Seasons was designated an interior landmark by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission in 1989, and even the glassware and chairs have appeared in museum exhibitions. Along with their James Beard Award winning meals, diners at the Four Seasons are treated to up close viewings of Picasso's Le Tricorn curtain, which has hung on the wall connecting the restaurant's two dining rooms since its opening, although the curtain may currently be in danger. This restaurant is a genuine triumph of American architecture and should not be missed by anyone who appreciates fine art, fine food, or both.
1. Ithaa Undersea Restaurant, Conrad Maldives Rangali Island, Maldives
To gain entrance into this unusual restaurant — the first of its kind in the world — guests must descend a spiral staircase at the end of a long jetty. Once inside, they find themselves in Ithaa Undersea Restaurant, dining beneath a clear acrylic canopy, viewing the ocean from underneath like fairy-tale mermaids, as they’re treated to a scrumptious modern European menu.
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