The ideal gastronomic route, followed by the great culinary connoisseurs, inexorably must go through four European cities: Paris, London, Brussels, and Geneva. In their old streets, the gourmands have access to hundreds of small delicatessen boutiques where they find the most exclusive and delicious products from around the globe.
In France, these stores are called épicerie fine and are characterized by their elegance and good taste. You can find one on almost every corner. One of the most sophisticated is Colette, a space that must be visited by all who consider themselves modern. On the other hand, one of the longest-running delis is Le Bon Marché, dating from 1860.
Tourists wait in line in front of the most famous shops, from Galeries Lafayette and the charming Bread and Roses to the Maison Berthillon, where the ice cream can be addictive. And we must not forget Fauchon, a brand that has crossed borders with its emblematic pink packaging with black and gold design.
Hédiard Madeleine is further evidence of the fondness Parisians feel for anything exquisite. It is impossible to forget the Mariage Frères and Dammann Frères tearooms; the pastries and nougats from La Grande Duchesse; the Beau et Bon, which offers a gastronomic tour of France, and Terres d’apéritifs, featuring food and drink from all over the world.
In London, as in Paris, these decadent-looking establishments full of local products are mixed with modern stores that have immaculate shelves with the most diverse items. What is not there, simply does not exist. The big department stores such as Harrods, Selfridges, and Harvey Nichols, are usually the most popular, and you would have to take a charming stroll to find the small independent shops.
Our first selection leads to Paxton & Whitfield, an ode to cheese that opened in 1797; and Prestat, an establishment from 1902 that features amazing truffles. Deserving a special mention is La Fromagerie, Neal’s Yard Dairy, and Charbonnel et Walker.
Especially noteworthy are Partridges, and Mortimer & Bennett, which offer online purchases but only in the United Kingdom. The small and elegant Ottolengui space is present in four elite London neighborhoods; Fortnum & Mason is a favorite of tourists, and Melrose and Morgan offer items from small British producers.
Brussels has become the queen of chocolate and Pierre Marcolini boutiques have earned the status of chocolate jewelers. Brands like Neuhaus and Leonidas have weathered the competition by betting on the ballotin, a small cardboard box containing several layers of pralines. Another national pride of Belgium, beer, should be enjoyed in breweries as charming as Ala Mort Subite or La Porte Noire.
Geneva, Switzerland, is also known for its own sweet version of life, and its cheeses and chocolates compete at the highest level with those produced by the Belgians. The city is full of pristine and desirable delicatessen boutiques, and gourmands will find their paradise in La Bonbonnière. The Arn Chocolaterie and Chocolaterie de l’Arveson are also teahouses, and the specialty at Micheli is black cocoa. Another destination worth visiting is Globus Delicatessa, which prides itself on offering “classic gastronomic moments.” ■