The best European food experiences hand-picked by the Stylist team

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Stylist Team
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Wine and cheese on counter of cafe in Paris, France.

The Stylist team think back on their favourite foodie memories from the continent

Often the best meals we have on holiday aren’t at fancy Michelin-starred restaurants that you need to reserve a table for six months in advance. Instead, they’re usually places you stumble upon whilst wandering around a city, following your nose for the scent of good, home-cooked food. Or somewhere you run inside to seek shelter from torrential rain. How about Parisian steak served with a signature mustard and butter sauce, paired with re-ups of pomme frites?

From riverside fried Dutch meatballs to fresh pasta in the shadow of Lisbon’s Cathedral, the Stylist team think back on some of their favourite European food experiences below. 

Churros in Seville, picked by beauty writer Hanna Ibraheem

“The streets of Seville are filled with so many hidden gems, but there’s nowhere quite like Bar El Comercio. This coffee-bar is over 100 years old and has kept its cosy and authentic Spanish vibe through the years. Part of this is probably because it’s always been passed down generations of the same family.

When you walk in, you’ll be left in awe of the stunning blue and white tilework and aged cast iron and marble tables. But the best part of any Instagram-worthy restaurant is when the food is just as great as the decor. Bar El Comercio’s menu is packed with lots of options to make you drool, but the café is best known for its churros.

The chefs are constantly dishing out warm and freshly-made churros with a side of thick chocolate dipping sauce (which you can also drink, no judgement here). Wash it down with a refreshing sangria or one of the bar’s popular coffees.”

Belgian Frites in Brussels, picked by sub-editor Meena Alexander

“A dish that essentially consists of potato and mayonnaise may not life-changing, but hear me out. If you’re going to gorge on fried carby goodness you’ve got to do it right, and there’s no better place to do it than Brussels. The Belgians are all about their frites (as proven in their ongoing dispute with France over who invented them) and their condiment of choice is mayo – loads of it.

There are hundreds of (chip shops) in the capital, but if you’ve only got time to sample the wares of one, choose Fritland. This city centre hatch has been serving up happiness in paper cones with little colourful forks for 40 years, and it is serious about using the best and freshest potatoes – not a freezer in sight. 

After dragging my heels around the rain-soaked Grand Place and being thoroughly underwhelmed by the pint-sized statue, the comfort of freshly-fried potatoes smothered in tangy sauce was enough to make me sigh with contentment.

There’s currently a petition for Belgian frites and mayo to be given UNESCO World Heritage status – someone pass me a pen.”

Cal Pep in Barcelona, picked by acting deputy editor Rosamund Dean

“We had only been dating a few weeks when we booked a minibreak to Barcelona. Sounds romantic, but we didn’t count on pissing rain the entire weekend. Looking for shelter, we stumbled across Cal Pep, a tiny tapas restaurant where in the city had crammed in to escape the downpour. Normally, only groups get a table (couples and singles have to eat at the counter) but, because it was so busy, they gave us a table for two.

There was no menu – the waiter simply brought out dish after dish of delicious food, from crispy whitebait and cheesy croquettes, to tuna tartare and sausage with beans. After a bottle of cava, we moved on to red wine and, by the time we were polishing off the lemon mousse, we had totally lost track of time. 

After four hours, we stumbled, blinking, out into the late afternoon. It had finally stopped raining, not that we cared by that point. Less than a year later, we were married and, now that we have two kids, four-hour lunches are a distant memory. But what a memory.”

Bitterballen in Amsterdam, picked by digital writer Megan Murray

“Amsterdam has been my favourite city since I first visited six years ago. Over time I’ve been back nearly every year, making friends and having the privilege to explore a little more of the culture each time.

One of my favourite foodie memories is heading down to a Hannekes Boom, a salvaged and recycled furniture-shack-style, waterfront café hidden in the middle of the city that serves up the traditional Dutch snack, bitterballen.

These deliciously fried little balls of meat, butter, flour, parsley, salt and pepper are unbelievably moreish and act as a type of bar snack that you just keep ordering over and over again. Sat with my friends in the sun, looking across the water and nibbling away a newly discovered tasty treat was a great moment.”

Entrecote in Paris, picked by social media editor Sarah Lakos

“My favourite meal has to be at Le Relais de L’Entrecote in Saint-Germain, Paris. The restaurant has a touch of the tourist trap earlier in the evening, however dine after 8pm and you’ll be sat with the locals. For the uninitiated, Entrecote is steak that comes with a side of chips. But it’s not just steak is it, when served at Le Relais de L’Entrecote. It comes with their secret recipe mustardy butter sauce. If they bottled it, I’d buy it.

On this particular occasion, I adored sitting in the hub-bub of the restaurant, with unaffected wait staff who in true Parisian form provide minimally friendly service. Steak is replenished, as are the pommes frites if you want a second serve. You’ll hear the conversation at the tables next to you, so sardined-in and wonderfully warm from the vigorous dance of people coming and going with cloches and trays weaving around them.

My partner and I got through a bottle of red wine (an essential with the meal), seconds before we were handed l’addition. We left full and osmotically-French after the experience. I shall return.”

Fresh pasta in Lisbon, picked by commissioning editor Sarah Biddlecombe

“One of the best meals I’ve ever eaten was on a rickety table balanced on a wonky pavement in Lisbon. My friends and I had stumbled upon the restaurant on the last night of our holiday, after being intrigued by the sight of diners eating in the shadow of the city’s gorgeous old cathedral. 

The restaurant’s speciality was fresh, handmade pasta, and you could order up to three different kinds to be piled onto one plate. I had an incredible truffle pasta with a classic Bolognese and carbonara, topped off with loads of parmesan cheese. Delicious.”

Image: Getty