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Andy Hayler’s Top 5 Elite 100 Meals

In the run up to next year’s awards, food critic Andy Hayler picks out his five favorite meals from restaurants that made the Elite 100 2014.

Each year Elite Traveler polls its readers for their favorite restaurants, and produces a Top 100 list driven by the votes of paying customers. From a personal perspective, here are five meals from that set that particularly impressed me in the last year.

Azurmendi (number 7 on the list) is perched on a hillside near Bilbao. The striking glass building has state-of-the-art greenhouses and gardens that supply the restaurant, and you begin your meal with a tour of the facilities and a picnic in the atrium. Eneto Atxa’s cooking is modernist, with plenty of culinary technique of display; flavor combinations can be innovative but still make logical sense. Highlights of my most recent meal here included an egg yolk injected with black truffle broth, spider crab with apple in various textures, and chickpea stew with oxtail ravioli.

Pergola (number 8) sits atop one of the hills of Rome, overlooking St Peter’s Cathedral. Head chef Heinz Beck lectures in nutrition at a local university, and his classic Italian dishes have a light touch. Fagotelli carbonara is a signature dish, and a modern osso bucco with concentrated veal jelly is a stunning example of modern cooking technique at its best.

Another restaurant with a view is Robuchon au Dome (number 16) in Macau, in its all-glass cupola on the top of the Gran Lisboa hotel. Chef Franck Semblatts shows faultless culinary technique when working with the luxury ingredients on display here. From the faultless Comte gougere that began the meal through to sweet onion foam with pea veloute and bacon, and the perfect Hokkaido scallop with puy lentils, the meal was a culinary tour de force.

Pierre Gagnaire (number 17) has his flagship restaurant just off the Champs Elysee in Paris. His dishes often showcase a core ingredient in several within a single dish. A lobster at my most recent meal appeared as roasted tail, claw with lobster mousseline and also as intensely flavoured bisque. The attention to detail could be seen in the stunningly delicate pommes soufflées served with a langoustine dish, the shellfish itself served in five different forms. This is one of the great restaurants of France at the top of its form.

Hof van Cleve (number 19) is in a simple farmhouse in the Flanders countryside. Head chef Peter Goossens has built this restaurant into the finest in Belgium, displaying fine classical technique with touches of innovation. King crab with Romesco sauce and vegetables displayed the high quality of the ingredients used here, as did best end of beef with ras el hanout spice mix and sweet Cevennes onion with perfect ceps.