Europe for foodie groups
Date Posted: 24/03/2015
Exploring Europe one dish at a time...
Few cuisines are as suitable for groups as tapas. With a party of a certain size, you can sample the entire menu at certain restaurants. That’s why the phenomenon of bite-size dining is breaking away from its traditional Spanish roots and springing up all over the world.
You can now conceivably suggest to a group an evening of “Peruvian-Chinese-French fusion tapas” (the names of these inventions tend to be more of a mouthful than what is put in front of you) and they probably wouldn’t bat an eyelid.
With this in mind, we’ve put together an itinerary of Europe for foodie groups. Tick off each of these gastro stops one by one, or work the lot into one great foodie tour de-force.
Many French establishments have started serving single oysters with an early evening drink (apéro). Bars in Paris, such as the Mary Celeste (1 rue Commines - 75003 Paris), have an oyster happy hour from 5pm to 7pm where oysters can be ordered for €1 alongside your drink.
Portuguese tapas are known as petiscos, which also translates as ‘delicacy’. This relatively unknown version of the small plate makes for a really authentic travel discovery. The word petiscos evokes small rustic cafes and lovely tiled taverns, the more hidden away the better.
The Portuguese will often make an evening out of petiscar, snacking on cured ham, cheese and olives. But for a true petisco experience, you should order the house speciality in bulk and enjoy feasting on it several times over. In Lisbon, a delicious place to pesticar together is Restaurant Alfandega (Rua da Alfândega 98, Lisbon, Portugal).
Over in Venice, the local small plate speciality is cicchetti. These are served in traditional bacari (something between a wine bar and a restaurant) which are specific to Venice. Venetians can spend their whole day consuming cicchetti, hopping between these establishments on something not dissimilar to a pub crawl.
Many of these bacari are located off the beaten track, tucked away on little backstreets, so hunting them down can be a fun activity in itself. Once found, such specialities as polpette (pork meatballs) provide the perfect excuse to have a glass of wine. Historically, when bacaris first started appearing, Venetians used to have a drink as early as 9am!
To inspire you on your canal crawl for cicchetti, La Cantina (Cannaregio 3689, Campo San Felice, Venice, Italy) makes a great starting point.
Greece has an established cultural equivalent to tapas – meze (or mezethes in the plural). A meze is neither a meal, nor an appetizer, but a dining experience in itself consisting of a selection of small plates designed to enhance the experience of a drink and create a nibbly backdrop to a social gathering.
Impossible to pick a standout bite-size representative of Greek meze (hummus, tzatziki, pitta, olives and grilled calamari all jump to mind immediately), these dishes are best in combination. So gather your group, order some Ouzo or wine, and enjoy building your own meze spread.
In Athens, try Saladin (Megalou Alexandrou 111, Kerameikos) for a rustic experience or To Mauro Provato (Arrianou 31, Pagrati) for a smartened-up version of meze dining.
In Poland, pierogi, small savoury dumplings, make an ideal Eastern-European bite-size morsel. As the fillings of these little pies are becoming more creative and exotic, they are increasingly considered to be a bourgeois treat. They were even featured on MasterChef last week.
No longer associated with grandmother’s kitchen, pierogi can be found across Poland in cheap little cafeterias and stylish, chic restaurants alike. Przystanek Pierogarnia (Bonerowska 14, Kraków, Poland) in Krakow is a charming, mouth-watering example of the more low-key end of the scale.
This dinky eatery can only fit six people at a time, so groups can’t eat in. However, they can make like the locals and take their dumplings out onto the beach outside. Pierogi also come in sweet varieties with fillings such as blueberries, bilberries or raspberries.
If you don’t have the time to organise every element of a European foodie tour, take a look at the tours travel specialists offer. Parties ages 18 to 35 have options like Contiki, while more mature groups can look to specialists like Saga Holidays.