Header images: Langoustine shallots at Muesli; Hija de Sanchez ice lollies (image: Kyle John Photography); crispy chicken with corn polenta and the interior at Ravintola Kaskis
If, like us, you're planning your trips for the year around the restaurants you want to visit, then you'll welcome some suggestions for your hit list.
In the latest in the Diners Club 50 Best Discovery Series, you'll find six restaurants well worth visiting in Scandinavia and North East Europe, all of which have received votes in the 2016 voting for The World's 50 Best Restaurants.
1. Ravintola Kaskis – Turku, Finland
Kaskenkatu 6a, 20700 Turku
+358 44 7230200
Carpaccio with forest mushrooms and onion sauce at Ravintola Kaskis
In a sentence: Turku on Finland's south-west coast is rapidly gaining a reputation as a foodie hotspot, with this cool bistro set up by three friends leading the charge.
On the menu: Punctuated with fabulous ingredients from reindeer and perch to foraged herbs and organic vegetables, the four- or six-course menus change frequently. Both always kick off with a cold whitefish starter – a dish that is now in its 19th incarnation, adorned with fresh flowers and herbs. Other highlights could include elk and reindeer crispbread with chocolate sauce or carpaccio topped with forest mushrooms and onion.
Discover more about Ravintola Kaskis
2. Duo Gastrobar – St Petersburg, Russia
Kirochnaya St., 8A, St Petersburg, 191028
+7 812 994 54 43
Macaron with chicken liver mousse at Duo Gastrobar
Why go? This pleasant bar and restaurant has been welcomed with open arms by a young and trendy St Petersburg crowd, who appreciate its simple but well-executed Mediterranean food and relaxed personality.
The vibe: The 'duo' behind the restaurant are young friends Dimitrii Blinov and Renat Malikov, who have worked at various restaurants across the city. They have instilled the dining room with a hip, laid-back atmosphere thanks to whitewashed walls, shabby-chic tables and colourful banquettes. More than reasonable prices and a nice line in coffee and cake in the afternoons add to its charms.
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3. Noa – Tallinn, Estonia
Ranna tee 3, Pirita linnaosa, Tallinn
+372 508 0589
Josper oyster at Noa (image: Johannes Hoimoja)
The low-down: Constructed from wood and glass with stunning sea views, this sleek restaurant wouldn't look out of place in an episode of an interior design show. Add inventive cuisine, an eclectic wine list and a fine dining 'chef's hall' and it's easy to see why Noa has been a hit since opening in 2014.
What's on the menu: Bold international flavours from green tacos with shiso and onion marmalade to fried perch with ramson potato purée. The 'chef's hall' (a kind of restaurant within a restaurant) serves a five- or seven-course tasting menu including oyster with a creamy garlic sauce, topped with pomelo, or pigeon with roasted onions and a rich jus.
Discover more about Noa
4. Muesli – Moscow, Russia
1/15 Kotelnicheskaya Embankment, building B, Moscow
+7 495 915 35 00
Dried beef shoulder at Muesli
Chief reason to visit: Set over two floors of an imposing Stalinist skyscraper, Muesli is an intriguing blend of different ingredients. Retro dining rooms and smooth service bely the thoroughly modern cooking style of young chef Vladislav Korpusov, who mixes New Nordic influences with Russian ingredients.
What's on the menu? Modern and traditional cooking techniques are the hallmark of dishes such as dried beef shoulder accompanied by sweet and tart tomato hearts or turbot cooked sous vide at 48oC and drizzled with a sauce made from chicken hearts. Finish with 'edge of the forest,' a visually stunning creation comprising moss, sugar syrup, chocolate and raspberry.
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5. Hija de Sanchez – Copenhagen, Denmark
Torvehallerne, Frederiksborggade 21, 1360 København K, Copenhagen
Tempura-fried cod fish tacos at Hija de Sanchez (image: Kyle John Photography)
What's it all about? Chicago-born chef Rosio Sanchez was a pastry chef at Noma for many years, but left to explore her Mexican heritage with a taco stand in Copenhagen's Torvehallerne's food market.
What to order: The tacos are made daily from scratch with corn flour imported from Mexico and 'queso' made to a traditional Mexican recipe in Denmark. Fillings change daily from 'al pastor' (spit roasted marinated pork with pineapple) to 'El Paul' - crispy fish skin with gooseberry salsa. Don't miss the colourful paletas (ice pops) which are decorated in freeze-dried fruits, cajeta (caramelised goat's milk) and chilli powder.
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6. Atelier Amaro – Warsaw, Poland
ul. Agrykola 1, Warsaw 00-460
+48 22 628 57 47
Sterlet at Atelier Amaro (image: Jacek Poremba)
In a nutshell: 'Where nature meets science' is the strapline for this daring restaurant, which pushes the boundaries of Polish cuisine with cutting-edge technique allied to stunning local ingredients.
What's on the menu: As much artist as chef, Amaro's food is visually stunning with seasonal produce forged into elaborate and highly original dishes as part of a five- or nine-course tasting menu. Think snails with asparagus served in a jar filled with smoke or a combination of lard, hay and cauliflower served on staircase carved into a small log.
Discover more about Atelier Amaro