From London to Madrid, take a culinary tour of the hottest new dining rooms and the best of the established.

Like theater, opera, and fashion, restaurants have seasons. New hot spots appear overnight, while more established places take on fresh excitement with the acquisition of a star chef. , the food and wine editor for Esquire and a regular contributor to the Lifestyle Trends section of American Way, takes us on a culinary tour of five great European cities where there's a great deal of both happening right now. (Prices, in U.S. dollars, reflect a three-course dinner, without wine, and include tax and service, except in London.)


Menu at The Connaught

The CONNAUGHT HOTEL, CARLOS PLACE; 011-44-207-592-1222

Fusty Connaught regulars were terrified that star chef Gordon Ramsay would turn the venerable Connaught dining room into a trendy Euro-pub, but in fact all the fine woodwork has been carefully restored and the place lighted with warmth and grace. The young serv-ice staff couldn't be fresher and more appealing, and chef Angela Hartnett shows a fine flair for Mediterranean cuisine in sumptuous dishes such as pumpkin and amaretto ravioli with sage butter, onion velouté with fried frogs' legs, superb lamb with Niçoise garnish, and pear Tatin with lavender ice cream.

5 Raphael St.; 011-44-207-584-1010

This Japanese extravaganza, just off Brompton Road and across from Harrods, is a daunting success, mainly because of the bonhomie of a wait staff happy to help you with a menu that offers everything from sushi and grilled foods to nouveau Japanese cuisine, all within a dramatic but casual space of wood, stone, and glass. Sit at the counter, if you like, and sample the array of 30 different sakes. The crowd is very easy on the eyes.