Valletta in Malta is the best European capital city for foodies – with London coming in sixth place, according to new research
To be deemed the best capital for foodies, the criteria casino review website Bonusetu created a Foodie Index Score to rate the capitals.
The Foodie Index Score considers the total number of standard and Michelin Guide restaurants per square mile, the affordability of a three-course meal for two, the number of different cuisines on offer, and the percentage of restaurants that offer a vegan option in each city.
Valletta has 143 cuisines on offer and London has 204. Valletta’s average price of a three-course meal is £75, £3.80 cheaper than in London.
When it comes to Michelin Guide restaurants, London has 373 and Valletta has just 10. London has 17,980 restaurants in total and Valletta has 254 – fewer than London’s number of Michelin restaurants.
So how did Valletta come out on top? Industry insiders tried to make sense of the numbers and work out why London seems to have slipped so far down the list after the surprising Maltese winner.
Sussex-based chef Ben Slater moved to London to immerse himself in the capital’s food scene.
He said: “I have never been to Malta, and I’m sure some of the food is great.
“I’m guessing its location between Europe and Africa yields some really interesting culinary culture, but it is not a place any foodies I know have ever flocked to for anything but a holiday in the sun during our winter months.”
International food critic David Ellis has been to Malta a number of times, but still was surprised to see it bag the top spot.
“Tiny, tiny Valletta – where it just serves rabbit stew and local wine – there’s no indication [in the data] whether that’s any good. All of this data ignores quality,” he says.
“I do like the idea that [the data] does count the number of cuisines. I think that’s important because people want choice,” Ellis says.
That said, it’s not clear from the data if the number of cuisines on offer actually amounts to a variety of choice for foodies.
“You might have 198 cuisines in Paris but that could mean one Turkish restaurant in all of Paris against thousands of French ones,” Ellis says.
Paris is the only city that beats London on Michelin Guide restaurants with 449 and is surprisingly quite a bit cheaper when it comes to meals, costing £60 on average for three courses.
But does having Michelin-starred restaurants even matter to the industry professionals when considering the best foodie capitals?
“I don’t think having lots of Michelin restaurants makes a food scene better,” says Charlie Carr, London-based restaurant owner.
“In fact, I think it can be the death of a food scene because it makes it very exclusive,” he adds.
“Data that references Michelin stars, which are reductive at best, doesn’t have anything to do with quality or satisfaction,” Slater agrees.
Madrid based chef and restaurant owner Alberto says: “I don’t know how I would measure a city as best for foodies – it’s hard – but for me the most important thing is a positive experience and customer service is missing from the criteria.”
Something the Foodie Index Score does consider is restaurants with vegan options, of which Athens boasts almost as many as London at 19%.
However, it would not be ideal to be a vegan in Paris, with only 9.4% of restaurants offering alternatives, as opposed to London with 21.8%.
“Vegan options is quite a dated way to measure a food scene now,” Ellis says. “Restaurants that before didn’t have much beyond a mushroom burger now have three or four options.”
The food experts also felt that many cities with food scenes worthy of being on the list are missing and devising a list of only capital cities as the best foodie destinations is limiting.
“I think there are lots of other cities in Spain that should be on this list like Marbella or Valencia,” Alberto points out.
“Bristol has a great food scene. Manchester is massively up and coming. Even Stockport, which isn’t even a city,” Carr says.
So how did Valletta pip London – and four other capitals – at the post?
Valletta is Europe’s smallest capital – 0.24 square miles to be exact – so for its size, it’s doing an impressive job at catering for every taste.
London sprawls for roughly 607 square miles so unsurprisingly, Valletta wins on both the number of Michelin and number of standard restaurants per square mile.
Does this make Valletta the best European capital for foodies? Carr seems to doubt it.
“A restaurant experience is so individual and based on so many variables, like what is happening in the kitchen that day, what’s happening front of house, how the customer is feeling – all those things go into affecting restaurant experience.”
Featured image: pixabay