New Orleans bites
The city that rebuilt itself on food and music - New Orleans is now one of the most important and exciting cities for cuisine in America. So let the good times roll and head out to one of these top-rated restaurants...
La Petite Grocery
4238 Magazine St, New Orleans, LA 70115 +1 504-891-3377. Open for lunch Tues-Sun, 11.30am-2pm and dinner 5.30pm - 9.30pm or until 10.30pm on Friday and Saturday.
This has to be your push-the-boat-out meal - if you manage to bag a table, as with all the accolades bestowed on this 11-year old restaurant, you'll find everybody else in the city wants to dine at chef Justin Devillier's tables too. The food here has been described as “French bistro with a Southern twist,” and we'd agree – it's fine dining, done the NOLA way. On the must-try list are the famous blue crab beignets with malt vinegar aioli ($15) – definitely worth the hype; light, fragrant and gone from the plate in seconds. We loved the little mason jar of house pickles ($4) to nibble on and the handmade fettucine with guanciale, crawfish tails and lima beans ($16) was a great starter to open on. Moving on to mains and chicken is taken to a whole other delicious stratosphere as it is roasted and served with ricotta cavatelli, confit shimeji mushrooms and greens in a ham broth ($29) – nothing short of sensational. The Turtle bolognese ($21) is a house classic (as is the burger ($16) for the more traditional types) and the perfectly cooked beef tenderloin with Anna potatoes and grilled rapini ($34) was definitely worth writing home about too. Paired with some seriously classy wines and a few tasty sweet dishes on the dessert menu (the Louisiana Cane Sugar crème brulee ($7) gets the thumbs up), it's easy to see exactly why this restaurant is consistantly named as one of the best in New Orleans. lapetitegrocery.com
800 Magazine St, New Orleans, LA 70130 +1 504-522-1744. Open Mon to Thurs 11am-10pm and until 11pm on Fri and Sat. Closed on Sundays.
Peche Seafood Grill is another restaurant that's been heaped with praise not just locally, but nationally too. Focusing on fish (clue's in the title, people) it also boasts a menu that takes staples of Southern cooking and re-invents them in the most delicious ways. Dive straight into the raw bar and the tuna tartare with pickled red onions ($14) is a light and fragrant way to ease you in to the menu. Then, a tasty side of fried bread balls with sea salt ($5) – way better tasting than they sound. It was a taste of the South again in a fiery catfish and greens with chilli broth ($10) and the seafood gumbo ($9) had layer upon layer of deep, complex flavours. Away from the fish dishes, the grilled lamb skewers with pickled salad ($14) were so good we ordered them again and the cauliflower gratin ($6) was a masterclass in just how good florets can taste when doused in cheese and grilled. Pastry chef Maggie Scales can't be far off being award winning herself, as the pineapple rum cake with dulce de leche ice-cream ($9) and the sticky apple toffee cake with sour cream ice cream and candied walnuts ($9) hit the sweet spot so well, we're still dreaming of them to this day. pecherestaurant.com
600 Poland Ave, New Orleans, LA 70117 +1 504-948-9111. Open everyday from 11am until midnight.
Way over on the far side of the Marigny is Bacchanal's wine shop and restaurant. This is one of the coolest, casual places for a bit to eat and perfect for those balmy evenings as you can sit out in the fairy-light lined garden and listen to a live jazz band too. Enchanting? Yeah, you could call it that. The ever-changing menu consists of sharing plates that you order at the kitchen, then choose your wine to be corked from the shop. On the night we visited, there was an incredibly rich confit chicken leg with duck fat and cornspoon bread ($12) – Louisiana seems to be able to do things you've never even dreamed of with the lowly chooks. Grilled sardines ($10) were served with roasted peppers and a caper golden raisin vinaigrette and the chunky grilled pork chop was paired with an anchovy and balsamic rocket salad ($16). Desserts? We'd head straight back in to the wine shop to select some fresh cheeses for a cheese board and, go on then, we'll have another bottle of red, thanks. See? Told you it was a dreamy spot. bacchanalwine.com
St Roch Market
2381 St Claude Ave, New Orleans, LA 70117 +1 504-609-3813. Open Monday to Sunday, 7am - 11pm.
We discovered this food hall and market almost by accident on our last day – this historic venue had only opened for the first time since Hurricane Katrina just 12 days earlier. The deal is it's around 15 local food and drink stalls celebrating both the best of New Orleans cuisine and some beautiful new fusions of tastes. We loved the Koreole stand – marrying the best of Korean and Creole, just like the owners did – with it's tasty Koreole fried chicken and bibimbap (one of the best selling dishes in the market, we're told). A special shout as well to the Lagos stand and their excellent Egusi, plantain and jollof too. Elsewhere, there's charcuterie Shank, seafood from the Curious Oyster Company and (obviously) some excellent cocktails. It's also a community effort, with local people being trained up and working at the restaurants and bars, so it definitely deserves some love at some point in your trip to NOLA. strochmarket.com
601 Gallier St, New Orleans, LA 70117 +1 504-944-9272 Breakfast: Mon-Fri: 8a.m-11 a.m Lunch: Mon-Fri: 11 a.m-2:30 p.m Dinner: Mon-Sat: 6 p.m-10 p.m Brunch: Sat-Sun: 8 a.m-2:30 p.m
This is a friendly, neighbourhood restaurant in the Marigny that you just wish they'd open in your own 'hood. Famed for their praline bacon (sugar coated bacon – what's not to love?) and their “real food done real good” motto, it's their weekend brunches that are the reason there's always a queue out of the door, week in, week out. We had great breakfast cocktails (Bloody Marys and Mimosas @ just $6) while waiting at the bar for a table and to be honest, we needed the extra time to peruse the menu. It's hearty, full-plates of food that would easily see off any French-Quarter-induced hangovers: Cajun bubble and squeak ($16.5), Campfire steak and eggs ($19), Red neck eggs ($14) or the traditional shrimp and grits ($14.5) will all set you up for another day of excesses in the city. And we'll definitely drink to that. elizabethsrestaurantnola.com