Eating your way around the world

It's said that the way to a man's heart is through his stomach. This idiom doesn't apply only to men. Place a well cooked, well presented meal that she didn't have to prepare, in front of a woman and you're half way to conquering her soul. Especially if an extraordinary dessert follows the meal, such as caramelised milk chocolate hazelnut tart or raspberry white chocolate coupe.

Each city in the world has restaurants that can be divided into three types: the dives, the family restaurants and the elegant dining rooms where eating is an experience to be savoured. It was only a matter of time before some idle souls declared themselves culinary experts, and earned reputations as food critics who could either make or break a restaurant. They are both feared and revered as they create lists of the top restaurants in the world and lists of the worst restaurants in the world. One of the most well known restaurant guides for international restaurants is the Zagat guide, also famous for its numerous citations in the book and movie version of American Psycho.

In New York one the best restaurants, described as an "in-vogue lounge", is The Rein Bar and Bistro. The decor is warm and sophisticated as well as pleasantly eclectic in its use of colour and texture. The restaurant is situated just left of the Garden City Hotel's main lobby. The cuisine is American and Continental. The Rein is open for breakfast, lunch and supper seven days a week. They provide nightly entertainment and a late menu for New York's night owls or workaholics.

The Rein's executive chef is classically trained Steven De Bruyn, who specialises in breakfasts ranging from smoked Norwegian salmon to thick challah French toast. His appetisers include buffalo chicken wings with blue cheese, apple and celery jicama as well as warm goat cheese tart with onions and walnuts, arugula salad and balsamic vinaigrette. Main meals vary from exotic guava barbecue chicken to ginger marinated grilled shrimp with mango-red pepper jam.

The Tamarind Restaurant was the first Indian restaurant to receive a coveted Michelin Star in 2000. To date it's the only Indian restaurant in the UK to have received a Star and to have held it for five years. They use only the freshest ingredients in creating their exotic Indian dishes. They are well known for their subtly attentive service, while their patrons never want for anything.

Rajesh Suri has been with the Tamarind since 1998 and is currently the General Manager. He is an expert on food and wine and is able to recommend the finest wines to accompany any meal. He is vastly experienced in the food industry and as been credited with helping the Tamarind to retain its Michelin Star for so long. Rajesh has won his fair share of awards, including Restaurant Personality of the Year for 2003, given by Best on Britain Awards, as well as Best Front of House Manager for 2001 and 2002.

In the heart of Rome, just two blocks from the Vatican, is the Hotel Atlante Star. The 6th floor of this hotel plays host to the magnificent Roof Garden Restaurant "Les Etoiles", which offers a 360 degree, panoramic view of the city. Seating is available indoors and outside to suit the changing seasons, but the view is equally as picturesque no matter where you happen to be seated.

The cuisine on offer at Les Etoiles is classical, traditional Italian fare combined with innovative and creative culinary ideas. All ingredients used in the restaurant are natural and fresh. The menu at the restaurant varies according to the seasons and what produce is available. The ingredients in the dishes are chosen for their contrasting textures or the way they balance delicate flavours. Some examples of this innovative approach to cooking include: artichokes stuffed with ricotta and pecorino cheese and Venetian style risotto with squid ink.

France as a country is legendary for its culinary skills. Its well-trained and talented chefs are in great demand all over the world. Paris is a city particularly blessed with culinary variety when it comes to fine dining. Shining through all the brilliance of its rivals, the legendary Le Meurice sparkles with centuries of 5-star luxury and Parisian confidence.

In February 2007 it was announced that the Head Chef of Le Meurice, Yannick Alleno, had been awarded three Michelin Stars. After his first six months of working at the hotel he was awarded two Michelin Stars, an honour seldom given after such a short period of time in one kitchen. Recently he was given the title of "espoir", which is a new Michelin category to distinguish chefs that are on their way to their third star, which is the chef's Holy Grail. At just 38 years old, Alleno is not only one of an elite group of chefs to have achieved three Michelin Stars, he is also one of the youngest to do so.

There are so many clever and often quoted adages regarding the eating of food being a joyous occasion; one to be celebrated and shared with loved ones; one to be lingered over and savoured. There aren't too many that involve popping a box meal in the microwave, plonking yourself in front of the TV to wolf it down, while your eyes glaze over and your brain falls asleep. You need not travel to Rome or Paris to enjoy a lovely meal at a restaurant. Any place where the service is good, the atmosphere is comfortable and the food melts in your mouth is going to be worth the visit. If your idea of a great place to eat out is somewhere where you can wear beach shorts, no shoes and the food comes wrapped in newspaper, lift your beer in the air because this toast is to you.

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