Food is a powerful draw – gourmand travellers will roam far and wide for a taste of the local, the unusual and the authentic. And while every country has its own dishes, some cities are particularly known for their sheer abundance of quality restaurants; the love their residents have for dining out; and the access they have to local produce and specialties. These five cities, taken from foodie lists in publications including Travel and Leisure and The Guardian, may be very different from one another – but they have one thing in common: a hunger for delicious cuisine.
New York City
New York is, without a doubt, a food town with a capital F. Restaurant openings are a blood sport here, and the cult of personality around chefs, restaurateurs, critics, and bloggers grows stronger every year, with devoted and enraged followers in equal parts. This is the place for fine dining and ethnic eats; for Michelin star chefs and line cooks who dream of opening gourmet hotdog stands; for classic French cuisine and Brooklyn beard food, the type of restaurants that use words like artisanal, small-batch and local on the menu. Food trends are amplified and multiplied in New York – from tasting menu-only dining at places such as Atera and Blanca to New Nordic cuisine at Aska – while the multicultural population means that dumplings, cured Spanish ham, and sheep’s milk gnocchi can often be found within a 10-block radius of each other.
New York’s real estate market has long since shaken off its doldrums from the economic downturn a few years ago, and it is a seller’s market because there is so little inventory. Supply in Manhattan is down 12.3% over the last three months and estate agents are blanketing coveted neighbourhoods such as the West Village and Chelsea) in Manhattan and Cobble Hill and Brooklyn Heights in Brooklyn with leaflets and cards, exhorting sellers to put their apartments and condos up for sale. Open houses are packed, bidding wars are back and all-cash offers above asking price are the norm, with prices averaging at $1.7 million for a two-bedroom apartment in Manhattan and $503,000 for the same in Brooklyn.
The rental market also has very low inventory. Currently, the average monthly rent in Manhattan is $4,406 for a two-bedroom apartment in a non-doorman building. The average rent for a similar two-bedroom apartment in Brooklyn is $3,185 a month.
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This city in eastern France is the undisputed Gallic capital of gastronomy due to its rich culinary traditions and to iconic chef Paul Bocuse, whose restaurants, culinary school and influence on the foodie world and other master chefs is immense. The January Bocuse d’Or, where chefs from 24 countries compete for a gold medal, is like the Olympics and the World Cup rolled into one biennial foodie event. Plus, a number of Bocuse’s proteges have restaurants in and around the city with multiple Michelin stars affixed to them.
But the world’s epicurean travellers are also attracted by Lyon’s warmly-lit bouchons (casual eateries) such as Café des Federations, the city’s feather-weight quenelles (a type of dumpling) and the various bits of pig that get inventively stuffed, roasted and turned into paté and sausages.
Many of the best restaurants and bouchons are in the Presqu’ile, the central district that encompasses the 1st and 2nd arrondissements and sits between the Rhone and Saone Rivers. These, along with the 6th arrondissement (particularly near the Parc de la Tete d’Or), are some of the most desirable areas, with large apartments, shops and restaurants. Vieux Lyon, the oldest part of town, which includes the 5th arrondissement, is also popular, with its narrow streets and historic buildings. “It is the most romantic part of Lyon,” said Stanislas Limouzi, a property agent in the city. “It is very touristic with good bars and restaurants, and is a nice area to live in for a short period of time.” A 70sqm flat in the Presqu’ile sells for around 280,000 to 310,000 euros and rents for about 1,000 euros a month. In the 5th arrondissement, a flat of the same size sells for upwards of 260,000 euros and rents for around 900 euros a month. According to Limouzi, the market has slowed recently, but prices remain steady, and the rental market is very active.
Just north of Lyon, the houses in the village of Saint-Cyr-au-Mont-d’Or are popular with expats, as is the village of Le Bois d’Oingt in the nearby Beaujolais region. “Le Bois d’Oingt is about 30 minutes from Lyon and a very good place for lovers of nature and wine,” Limouzi said. Prices for a 150sqm house in villages close to Lyon range from 600,000 to 700,000 euros and rent is about 1,700 euros a month, while in Le Bois d’Oingt prices are 350,000 to 400,000 euros and rent is around 1,200 euros a month.
Since 2010, Tokyo’s restaurants have received more Michelin stars every year than those in Paris or New York, making it the gourmet capital of the world. Tokyo’s chefs follow a tradition of cooking with local, seasonal produce and fresh seafood, which they use to their best advantage. The city is also home to food theme parks such as Gyoza Stadium and Ice Cream World, vending machines filled with canned coffee drinks, and probably more food fads than anywhere else in the world (today its pancakes, tomorrow it might be cod roe). People will queue for hours to eat at Sushi Dai and Daiwa Sushi in the famous Tsujiki Market or flock to the Takashimaya depachika (food hall) for the latest French pastry. From wagyu beef to a bowl of ramen, from a homely izakaya (pub) to the most exclusive sushi restaurant, Tokyo residents have a massive amount of choice at any budget.
The most popular neighbourhoods for expats are Omotesando in the Shibuya ward, Azabu, Hiroo and Roppongi in the Minato ward and Daikanyama and Nakameguro in the Meguro ward. There are no restrictions on foreigners purchasing property in Japan, but most expats choose to rent. While the property market in Tokyo is currently experiencing some foreclosures and increased interest from buyers looking for investment properties, the city’s rental market is one of the most expensive in the world and is best navigated with an experienced estate agent. The average monthly rent for a 77sqm, two-bedroom flat in Shibuya is 324,875 yen, while in Meguro, a 94sqm, two-bed flat rents for 358,875 yen a month. A 95sqm, two-bed in Roppongi goes for 386,983 yen a month. The average cost to buy an apartment in Tokyo is 39.2 million yen.
Located in Mexico’s southwest, the city of Oaxaca is the country’s home of haute cuisine. The indigenous cultures of the region, such as the Zapotec, one of the pre-Columbian peoples from this area, and the various growing zones have created many diverse culinary traditions. “Oaxaca has many unique dishes not found elsewhere in the country, such as tejate [a drink made from maize and cacao], tlayuda [toasted tortilla dish], and of course the seven moles,” said Alvin Starkman, co-owner of Oaxaca Culinary Tours. Mole – a sauce that makes use of many different chillies and even chocolate – is the most famous Oaxacan export. Chocolate can be found in many forms all over the city, and the open-air markets are filled with local produce such as squash blossoms, corn, peppers, and cheese. Chefs inspired by the local food and culture have opened stellar restaurants, including La Biznaga, a temple to slow food, and Pitiona, opened by Jose Manuel Banos Rodruiguez, an Oaxacan chef who trained under Ferran Adria at El Bulli.
Around the Zocalo, the city’s main square, the historic centre of Oaxaca is laid out in a grid pattern and is a popular area in which to live. House prices are high, so many people look to rent in Zocalo and in nearby neighbourhoods such as De Jalatlaco to the east and Reforma and Xochimilco to the north, where monthly rents for a two-bedroom run from 3,500 pesos to 10,000 pesos. Houses in the historic centre sell for anywhere from 3.5 million pesos and up.
On the outskirts of town, San Felipe del Agua is a popular area for building modern, but expensive houses. “The land and house costs are extremely high in San Felipe,” Starkman said. “The areas of Colonia Loma Linda, Ejido Guadalupe Victoria, Tlalixtac de Cabrera and San Andrés Huayapam have good value and are great for fresh air, safety and security, and are no more than a 20-minute drive to downtown.” Lots are 2,000 to 6,000 pesos per square metre (a good-sized lot is around 770sqm) and construction costs 7,000 to 8,000 pesos per square metre.
This city-state takes the state of its food and dining very seriously: the government promotes it, the residents debate it and everybody eats very well. Singapore’s cuisine is a result of the delicious mix of Chinese, Malay, Indian and Eurasian cultures that mingle here, and Singaporeans all have their favourite spot for chicken rice, chilli crab or laksa (a hot and spicy soup). “We are a nation of complete foodies,” said Carole Ann Coventry, director of Coventry and Seah property agents. “We will travel miles for good local food.” The hawker centres (food courts) are temples to street food, where day or night, diners descend on their favourite hawkers manning grills and woks. (There is even an ieat hawker app to help locate the delicacy you want.) The annual World Gourmet Summit in April and the Singapore Food Festival in July attract the world’s top chefs and foodies, while young chefs are creating exciting dining destinations with hawker stalls and restaurants such as Saveur, Wild Rocket and Immigrants Gastrobar.
Most internationals moving to Singapore rent, since foreigners are restricted from purchasing property unless they are permanent residents (although there are no restrictions on buying condos). Currently the rental market in Singapore is holding steady, Coventry said, adding, “there is more accommodation available in the Central Business District [CBD], which is popular with young professionals.” Near the CBD and the main shopping street of Orchard Road districts 9, 10 and 11 continue to be popular, and the average rent in these areas for a two-bed flat is 4,500 to 5,500 Singapore dollars a month. The international schools are usually located on the edges of the island and families with children often move to be close to them.
This feature is adapted from BBC.