World's best restaurants: Hottest restaurants of 2018 named

LA POULE AU POT, PARIS

In June 2018, the two-Michelin starred chef Jean-Francois Piege bought La Poule au Pot, a legendary, 135-year-old, lace-curtained bistro that once served the night owls of the old Les Halles markets. He changed little, updating the kitchen and refreshing the dining room, but the peach-pink napery, the brass plaques of famous diners and the massive piles of golden pommes frites remain. It's a precious glimpse into French dining's past, from someone committed to preserve it for future generations – and it's a hoot. See lapouleaupot.com

GOLDEN FLOWER, WYNN MACAU

Golden Flower is one of the world's last truly great Chinese restaurants. Here, master chef Liu Guo Zhu specialises in the little-known northern Chinese Tan and Lu cuisines. To experience such old-school, banquet-style eating (in such luxurious surroundings) is a rare privilege. His double-boiled sea cucumber is a textural masterclass in ingenuity and umami and Cordyceps flower and bamboo fungus are a talisman of the medicinal nature of ancient cuisines; while his simple, double-boiled pork and chicken broth is an invitation to slowly sip, pause, meditate, and sip again. See wynnmacau.com

SANTINI BAR & GRILL, QT PERTH

Bond. Alan Bond. That's about as much 007-style cool Perth ever managed in the bad old 1980s. Nowadays Bond (that's James) would feel at home inside the sleek and sultry confines of the brand new 184-room QT Perth, home to Santini Bar & Grill. The first West Australian venue of Robert Marchetti, the QT chain's culinary guru, Santini was recently named Perth's best new restaurant in recognition of its thoughtful Mediterranean menu which eschews obvious crowd-pleasing dishes while, judging from a recent visit, simultaneously being an overnight crowd-pleaser. See qthotelsandresorts.com; westernaustralia.com

NEXT-LEVEL AUSTRALIAN DINING AT ORANA, ADELAIDE

The 2019 Good Food Guide's newly crowned best restaurant of the year is fluent in the ways of lillipilli, fermented bunya nuts, scarlet prawns, bush cherries and Geraldton wax – ancient flavours, presented in delicious new ways. To dine at Jock Zonfrillo's lively first-floor Orana in the heart of Adelaide is to watch Australian cuisine evolve before your eyes. Zonfrillo approaches cooking with native and wild ingredients proudly, defiantly and as an act of connection to the land. See restaurantorana.com

SPANISH SEAFOOD AT LA BARRA BY CARLES ABELLAN, BARCELONA

HFWNXP Black rice with shrimp, calamari, mussels and scallops on the plate closeup. Horizontal view from above satmay19eurofood 4/ Barcelona ? arroz negro ? black rice with cuttlefish at Carles Abellan?s La Barra in Barceloneta www.carlesabellan.com

Photo: Alamy

Two long cocktail bars snake around inside this sexy dining space from Barcelona's local hero Carles Abellan, former El Bulli head chef. But La Barra is an edible ode to Spanish seafood, in the heart of the lively, former fisherman's village of Barceloneta. Galician razor clams are opened over a robata grill, sardines come with smoked eggplant caviar, and grilled eel with garlic and pepper. The crusty, golden arroz with calamaritos is a revelation. See carlesabellan.com

ROMAN CUISINE REINVENTED AT RETROBOTTEGA, ROME

Dining in Rome just turned the corner from ancient to modern. Chefs Giuseppe Lo Iudici and Alessandro Miocchi are disruptive young chefs with a smart, contemporary restaurant in Rome's centro storico – note the immaculately tailored drawer from which you help yourself to your cutlery. A recent renovation has added more room to move (thankfully), but you're there for the seasonally driven wild boar tartare, salt cod marshmallows and spaghetti with absinthe and pecorino – and to update your Roman dining experience to right now. See retro-bottega.com

DINING AMONG THE VINES, SAUTERNES, BORDEAUX

Turn up at this lovely chateau and the first thing you see is a divinely unkempt vegetable garden, buzzing with bees. It makes sense – in 2011, Chateau Guiraud was the first premier grand cru domaine from the famous 1855 classification to receive organic certification. The final link in the food chain came in 2018 with its own restaurant, La Chapelle de Guiraud, celebrating equally local and organic food. Naturally, the golden nectar is available by the glass. See chateauguiraud.com

NATURELL, GHENT

 
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For €85 ($136) the multi-course "experience menu" at this seemingly simple Ghent restaurant with its quirky, cafe-like decor is worth the splurge and notable for its emphasis on vegetables, rich flavours and unexpectedly exotic notes. Among the sequence of dishes might be a superb orange-pepper creme brulee as an opening nibble, seabass with irizake sauce and cucumber, and pigeon with butterbeans, all imaginatively plated and served by attentive waiters. See naturell-gent.be

BULOW'S BISTRO, DRESDEN

There is of course a creative, upmarket dining option (Caroussel) at the Bulow Palais hotel, whose Relais & Chateaux branding guarantees a satisfied stomach. But the bistro is also mighty good, bringing a lightness to dishes such as monkfish marinated in saffron and yoghurt, or gnocchi with goat cheese, mushrooms and leeks. The indoors is elegant, but the outside terrace in this baroque-era neighbourhood of Germany's newly confident Dresden is very relaxing. See relaischateaux.com

VERWALLSTUBE, AUSTRIA

Ski resorts aren't known for their good food, let alone fine dining, but the interlinked Arlberg ski region is an exception. Exhibit A is this restaurant atop the Galzig cable car above St Christophe, where you can perch at 2085 metres and enjoy white-linen service and innovative, Gault & Millau hatted food such as calamari with chorizo and jackfruit, duck soup, or the deceptively simple Dover sole with lemon-caper butter. See verwallstube.at

SHAWARMA AT MADINAT ZAYED, UAE

Rashed Ali Hasan Restaurant doesn't look like much, because it isn't: it's a roadside takeaway shop, a run-of-the-mill shawarma joint peddling cheap eats in a remote desert outpost. Nonetheless, it's worth seeking out. The delicious wraps of barbecued lamb or chicken served with pickled vegetables, a few dressings, and big grins from the guys behind the counter prove there's more to UAE cuisine than celebrity-chef restaurants and hotel buffets. See visitabudhabi.ae

FUKAMACHI, TOKYO

Just how good can deep-fried food be? You're about to find out at Fukamachi, a Michelin-starred Tokyo restaurant that elevates the concept of tempura to a whole new level. Lunch here was one of the best meals I've had in 2018, a degustation-style feast of the finest seafood and vegetables dipped in batter and fried to a crisp, each perfectly capturing the flavour of the star ingredient. An experience worth every numerous cent. See tablelog.com

ARMANDO AL PANTHEON, ROME

Positioned so close to the Pantheon – seriously, you could throw an ice cube from your drink here and hit it – Armando should be an overpriced, touristy hellhole. And yet, this family-run trattoria serves seriously good Roman cuisine at a reasonable cost. Try the fried artichokes, the bruschetta with burrata, the cacio e pepe (pasta with cheese and pepper), and the scottadito, or grilled lamb chops. See turismoroma.it

SPUD POINT CRAB CO, BODEGA, CALIFORNIA

Opened by a husband and wife team in 2004, this little crab shack by the marina of Bodega Bay, where Hitchcock filmed The Birds, has earned quite a name for itself around California's Sonoma Coast. The set-up is nothing elaborate, just a handful of crab pots boiling out front of a shack, but the clam chowder, crab rolls and fish cakes are to die for, a fact reflected by the ever-present line out front. See facebook.com/Spud-Point-Crab-Co

O CURRO DA PARRA SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA, SPAIN

Hungry pilgrims craving Galician market cuisine will find it at this old town restaurant with its charming stone-walled dining room and narrow food-and-wine bar. Dishes include figs tartar, cebreiro cheese and foie; king prawns pil-pil, garlic salt, chilli peppers and spring onion; pork belly, carrots and mustard cream, roasted cherry tomatoes, and stunning melted bechamel and Iberico ham croquettes. Seasonal menu changes weekly. Its Tuesday to Friday lunch Menu de Mercado (market menu) is fixed price €13.50. This is fine-dining at moderate prices. See ocurrodaparra.com

DONATELLO, BOLOGNA

With its beautiful art nouveau interior, this restaurant run by descendants of the Fanciullacci family specialises in traditional Northern Italian cuisine of Emilia-Romagna. Opened by Donatello in 1903, it takes seriously the ritual of handmade Bolognese sfogline. Don't miss the amazing platters of cured meats such as prosciutto crudo di Parma and mortadella di Bologna, and the perfect ragu. Service is gentle; wine advice happily given. Check out the walls covered with signed photographs of former patrons of note. See ristorantedonatello.it/

GUCCI GARDEN, FLORENCE

Bold colour choices used inside the new Gucci Osteria, Florence.

Photo: Gucci Garden

Talk about dream teams. Take the world's top chef – Massimo Bottura of the celebrated restaurant, Osteria Francescana – then add one of Italy's most stylish fashion houses, Gucci. Blend together, throw in a prime perch on Florence's Piazza della Signoria, and you have the new Gucci Osteria. More accessibly priced than Osteria Francescana, Gucci Garden features flavours from around the world, but also showcases some of Bottura's signature dishes, including tortellini with parmigiano reggiano cream. See gucci.com

HIGHLANDS BAR AND GRILL, ALABAMA, US

According to the prestigious 2018 James Beard Awards, America's best restaurant is in the unlikely destination of Birmingham, Alabama. Highlands Bar and Grill serves upmarket southern comfort food with a French twist – think Gulf shrimp cocktails and stone ground baked grits. The awards also named Highlands' pastry chef, Dolester Miles, the best in the country, too. Try her deliciously decadent buttermilk pie to find out why. See highlandsbarandgrill.com

BENACUS, INTERLAKEN, SWITZERLAND

Swiss cuisine tends to conjure up thoughts of artery-threatening dishes such as fondue, rosti and raclette, but they're not the only items on the menu. At Benacus, an intimate Spanish-influenced restaurant in Interlaken's picturesque Old Town, you'll find innovative cooking using fresh, seasonal produce. Highlights include a delicate tapas of Iberico ham and wine-soaked chorizo followed by tender Iberian pork cheek served with braised beetroot and a rich cream cheese mash. See benacus.ch

POPINJAYS, THE MURRAY HOTEL, HONG KONG

Popinjays - Bar - Hong Kong

Photo: Supplied

Housed in a striking rooftop glass pavilion, Popinjays is the crowning glory for The Murray hotel, Hong Kong's most exciting five-star property to open in years. Headed up by French chef Didier Quennouelle, the restaurant serves two seasonal degustation menus during the week plus a lavish weekend sharing menu with unlimited cocktails. Start your evening on the spacious wraparound terrace with an aperitif and mesmerising city skyline views. See niccolohotels.com

THE IVY, BRIGHTON, BRITAIN

This year's most notable restaurant opening in the English seaside city of Brighton is the first outpost of London celebrity magnet The Ivy. Featuring leather banquettes, a striking onyx bar and a colourful interior with Brighton-inspired artwork, the brasserie's menu includes seasonal British classics (the shepherd's pie is a favourite) and innovative cocktails such as the Candy Floss Fizz, a sweet, effervescent mix of prosecco, rose, lychee and rum. See theivybrighton.com

ADULTS-ONLY KORO RESTAURANT, FIJI

Koro dining - Hilton Fiji Beach Resort

Koro dining - Hilton Fiji Beach Resort

At last, some really great food in Fiji. At the new KORO Adults Only Complex at Hilton Fiji Beach Resort & Spa, there's not a chicken nugget in sight. The menu of small plates offers grown-up bites including braised pork belly sliders, barbecue prawns with charred corn salsa, and pan-fried haloumi with pumpkin and pomegranate. Rated No. 1 in Denarau by TripAdvisor readers, KORO offers beachfront all-day dining. No kidding. See www3.hilton.com

CHURRASCARIA PALACE IN RIO

Ask any hotel concierge in Rio de Janeiro for their top restaurant pick: nine times out of 10, they'll say Churrascaria Palace. One of the city's most celebrated steakhouses, the Palace has been open in Copacabana since 1951. Charming waiters circulate with all-you-can-meat skewers, dripping with the juices of prime rib, sirloin steak and more. Say "when" you've had enough, and be sure to leave room for the endless buffet of sushi, oysters, soups, salad and cheese. See churrascariapalace.com.br

ISSAYA SIAMESE CLUB, BANGKOK

Outstanding Thai chef Ian Kittichai has created a dining experience worth flying to Asia for. At his flagship Bangkok restaurant, Issaya Siamese Club, diners are tantalised by the vibrant interior design in a classic century-old garden villa, cosseted by the service and then seduced by the food. We pray Kittichai never takes the mussuman curry lamb shank off the menu, nor the banana blossom and heart of palm salad with roasted peanuts in a chili jam dressing. See issaya.com

Writers: Anthony Dennis, Terry Durack, Ben Groundwater, Brian Johnston, Nina Karnikowski, Katrina Lobley, Rob McFarland, Alison Stewart, Guy Wilkinson, Ute Junker, Kristie Kellahan, Sheriden Rhodes.

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