Osteria Francescana in Modena, Italy, was recently named the world’s best restaurant for 2016.
After ranking third in 2013 and second in 2014, Osteria Francescana received the most prestigious award in global gastronomy, the World’s 50 Best Restaurants. The winners are determined by almost 1,000 food writers and critics, chefs, and restaurateurs from 27 regions around the world.
Here are a few photos that reveal what it’s like to dine at the best culinary institution in the world.
Homemade sourdough with Tuscan olive oil
The bread came hot because, of course, it had just been baked. It was as perfect as you could imagine a sourdough loaf to be – pull it apart and the crust cracks and the flesh tears in chunks. It’s chewy, thick and rich.
An olive oil producer once explained to me Italian olive oil, if shotted, will make you cough and splutter. The olives are pressed early and pre-ripe so the oil is peppery and intense. This oil was text-book.
Tempura with carpione
Osteria Francescana’s fish and chips. Carpione is Italian for carp and it’s also a fish preserving technique using spiced vinegar. The dollop on top was a savoury ‘carpione’ flavoured gelato. Underneath is a perfectly crisp tempura canister containing fillets of aula, an anchovy like freshwater fish. It’s cold, hot, crispy, chewy and creamy – like eating the periodic table but much tastier.
Grissini, ciabatta rolls and multigrain croissants
Exactly what it looks like.
Multigrain croissants are an excellent idea. They’ve got the fluffy interior and flaky skin of their normy cousins but they’re more savoury multi purposed. If I learnt how to make them I’d be very constipated.
Bread, butter and anchovies
“Crack it open. It is best eaten all together.”
The bread crust turret cracks with a heavy spoon swipe. The walls fall into a buttery cream while the anchovy froth ceiling drools into a bed of fresh fish and herbs. Like butter and anchovies on toast but easier to eat and more complex to taste.
Livorese red mullet
The sheet on top has the texture of fried dried cheese – it snaps when you bite it. It’s covered in mixed olive and tomato dust. The fish underneath, outrageously tender and rich, bathes in a bouillabaisse tomato soup. The dust is very powerful in flavour so every bite combines all of the ingredients in a perfectly balanced cocktail.
Eel swimming up the Po
One of the restaurant’s most famous dishes and one of the tastiest things I’ve ever eaten. Tastiest. The eel, soft and fatty, is sous vide then grilled and vanished with Saba, a balsamic like grape juice syrup. On top there’s flakes of vanilla ash and underneath is a powder of burnt onion. The green jelly to the left is an intense green apple reduction, tart and sweet, and to the right is creamed polenta. The story is simply an eel swimming up a river. All the ingredients the eel would find on river’s edge are on the plate.
Caesar salad in Emilia
Simply a piece of lettuce intricately stuffed with 26 different ingredients. Looks ordinary and tastes like the best Caesar salad you’ll ever had.
Five ages of Parmesan Reggiano, in different textures and temperatures
10 months, 20 months, 30 months, 40 months and 50 months. A cream, a sponge, a mouse, a foam and a crisp. All served at different temperatures. Parmesan from Reggiano is fucking good and so was this. I would like to know what the producer of the Parmesan thought of this dish.
Frog in a pond
Pond side: Roasted frog legs covered in herbed bread crumbs
Pond tender: Giant sheet of slithery pasta with aromatic flowers in top
Pond water: Black truffle and coffee sauce
Pond debris: toasted pine nuts, hazelnuts and mushrooms
The weirdest thing we ate. I could imagine some people disliking this because it’s actually quite pond like – the pasta is goupy and the sauce is boggy. It’s a slimy mess to feel and it tastes crazy. I was not one of those people.
Cotechino 365 days a year
Apparently when Italians come to Osteria Francescana they only order the traditional dishes. Italian food is the best in the world they say. Why would you want to eat weird shit? I just want a really fucking good ravioli. Inside is cotechino, a pork sausage traditionally eaten only at christmas, steamed over sparking red wine – this way the fat drains out and leaves a really flavoursome but lean sausage. The pork bits are packed in with lentils in a rich meaty soup. I imagine old Italian men, sun wrinkled and cigarette hoarse seeing their whole lives and weeping after eating this.
Half roast chicken
A tender slice of chicken breast next to a wing of whitlof sheltering a mash of truffle foie gras. Probably the most underwhelming thing I ate. It feels weird saying that about a meal I loved eating but it’s all relative. Some hugs are worse than others – none of them are bad though.
Foie gras ice cream bar with traditional balsamic vingar from modena
The foie gras filling hides a puddle of 50 year aged balsamic vinegar. When you bite the foie gras slides open on your teeth and the vinegar seeps out like tree sap. There is no ice cream. The foie fras is sour, savoury and fucking intense and the vinegar is almost entirely caramelised. The coating is roast almonds and hazelnuts.
White, green and red
Milk gelato, green pea mouse and strawberry sorbet with mint and clovers. The closest you can get to making a garden taste like a dessert. I loved this. The leaves are bitter and the cloves particularly are chewy and stringy – alone they would probably taste like ass but with the desserts they make everything taste fresher – part of making the dish a story.
Oops! I dropped the lemon tart
A lemon and limoncello mascarpone zabaione with lemongrass sorbet under biscuit and surrounded by dots of candied lemon, bergamot jelly, spiced apple, chilli oil, lemon oil and honey capers. The tart itself is zingy, sweet and creamy in different parts. The little bits and drops on the side would be difficult to combine with the tart but they’re all incredibly intense in flavour. Each one adds a different layer onto the tart – sour, salty, spicy, bitter or sweet. It’s a fun idea and it’s magnificently tasty.
Chocolates/petit fours/unnamed delicious things
Raspberry jelly, coconut amaretti macaroon, chocolate and coffee truffle, brownie, hazelnut and coffee gianduia.
– Nicholas Jordan