Warm beige tones, rich graphic accents, and futuristic chairs give Le Jules Verne a contemporary elegance, while dishes from superstar chef Alain Ducasse create a joie de vivre in diners' mouths. But the real showstopper at this restaurant-set more than 400 feet above Paris in the Eiffel Tower-is its panoramic view. From the tower's south pillar, diners look out on barges navigating the Seine and clusters of steely gray rooftops stretching for miles.
Restaurants have long been setting tables in locales with dramatic views, but often the food has paled in comparison. With the dramatic evolution of the global culinary scene, however, it's more than safe to look past the cocktail menu at many of the world's most beautifully situated restaurants. "They actually have a view and good food at the same time," says Tim Zagat, co-founder of the Zagat Survey restaurant guides. "It's a combination that was rare 10 or 20 years ago."
So where are the top places that harmonize amazing vistas with delectable victuals?
At Asiate, in New York's Mandarin Oriental Hotel, eyefuls of Midtown Manhattan's cloud-grazing buildings and the lush refuge of Central Park draw locals, tourists, and special occasion diners, and executive chef Toni Robertson is up to the task of keeping the Asian-influenced cuisine at the same high level as the 35th-floor restaurant. "The challenge I have is I have to compete with the view, but as a chef, I always win," she says.
The Big Apple is hardly alone in providing winning skyscraper meals. At Felix, on the 28th floor of Hong Kong's Peninsula Hotel, guests soak in the city's striking setting from a slick dining room designed by Philippe Starck while feasting on dishes like Tasmanian salmon with crushed eggplant-tomato horseradish cream and roasted challans duck breast with black sesame hummus.
Of course, some of the world's most spectacular restaurant views are born, not made. At Ambrosia, on the Greek island of Santorini, the island's sea-filled volcanic crater provides a rocky perch for the terraced restaurant, from which diners gaze out on an otherworldly blue sea. Santorini fava puree with grilled octopus and caramelized onions brings Grecian flavors to the Aegean seascape.
And up in British Columbia, diners at Eagle's Eye Restaurant-part of Kicking Horse Resort-survey snow-capped peaks as they tuck into Rocky Mountain cuisine infused with hints of chef Alain Soret's native France. Riding a gondola up to the restaurant 7,700 feet above sea level gives some guests the impression they're going to an alpine snack shack.
"Lots of people expect to find burgers and doughnuts up there," says Soret. They're surprised to be greeted with romantic fireside dining and entrees like roasted venison with almonds, pancetta, and juniper jus served with fig-saffron risotto.
Whether you crave rough-edged mountains or deep ocean views, a glitzy skyscraper scene or a secluded retreat, these restaurants offer mesmerizing views with menus worthy of the scenery.
Cuzz's/Courtesy of Barbados Tourism Authority
Cuz's Fish Shack, Barbados
The fish "cutter" sandwich is a Bajan obsession, and this decades-old clapboard hut on Carlisle Bay is the place to get hooked. Cuz's kids now run the show, but the recipe is the same: pan-fried blue marlin, lettuce, tomato, pickles, fiery Scotch bonnet sauce, and cheddar cheese or a fried egg on a pillowy roll. Needham's Point, Hastings; no phone. $
Cortesía de Cusco Restaurantes
Limo, Cuzco, Peru
Request a table on the balcony of Limo's colonial-era hacienda, overlooking an elegant plaza. Alpaca sweetbreads and lomo saltado (marinated beef with fiery amarillo peppers) accompany the best pisco sours-and vistas-in town. 236 Portal de Carnes; cuscorestaurants.com. $$
Il Pirata, Praiano, Italy
Antonio Sersale, owner of Positano's Le Sirenuse hotel, swears by the sea-urchin linguine at this Amalfi Coast idyll, where a sun-drenched terrace is built into rocks above a glittering cove. Via Terramare; ristoranteilpirata.net. $$$