Have I ever written a post as important as this one? My crowning achievement of blogging topics. My ode and dedication to my fellow Bread & Butter Aficionados. Yes, this is for those who eat at a restaurant and are still absurdly delighted to be given the most humble of Starters To Your Starter, wolfed down (pun totally intended) within a few bites. For those who look at a meagre butter portion for the table with distrust and confusion, and kindly ask the server, “Is this one just for me?” Yes, my friends, this is the 5 best bread & butters Stag and I have ever had, from restaurants all around the world. A list we have been testing for years now, all in the name of journalistic integrity — and, as always, for science.
If you are looking at this post like I do to tiny butter portions — with distrust and confusion — then I will say, you are not alone. Many people overlook the bread & butter offering at a restaurant, thinking it subpar to the 3-course story of exposition-climax-denouement that is about to come. And really, many will argue, it’s just bread and butter. How can someone get it wrong?
But oh, they can. And oh, they do. I also will argue that, because of the simplicity of bread & butter (I’m pretty sure we’ve been eating this delectable duo since the beginning of time), to make it taste otherworldly shows true culinary skill.
Anyone can make a fancy plate of food; not everyone can make bread & butter taste like a fancy dish.
Wolf & Stag’s 5 Best Bread & Butters* From Restaurants Around the World
*’Butters’ in this instance do not have to be literal. Any form of delicious fatty content to be spread on bread during a meal counts as a ‘bread & butter.’ Before all you haters gonna hate.
1. Bread that rises as you dine at Ravintola Olo, Helsinki
This is a bread course made for bread worshippers; a bread that is seriously not kidding around. When we arrived at our table in Olo, we noticed we each had a little cast iron pot with what looked to be dough in it next to our plates. Of course, because #fancyrestaurant, we didn’t question it.
We only found out during our meal that this was our bread course, given to you mid-way through your meal. It was indeed rising as we dined, to be baked for our 4th course (5th? 25th? the meal was spectacular and I was in a food-coma daze) of the evening. Brought out to you, fresh and warm, to be ripped and dunked into the most delectable garlic cream soup. Out. Of. This. World. Stag and I have been talking about nothing else since.
2. Seaweed and Yuzu butters at La Côte, Carnac (Brittany)
This gem of a restaurant is located a brisk and beautiful walk away from Carnac’s monoliths. We stopped at this place for lunch on a warm, sunny day on a Brittany road trip. Hidden off a side lane, this secluded restaurant has an outstanding, fairy-like garden surrounding the glass-walled restaurant. We ate outside, of course, and were treated to an outstanding 3-course meal. But, because France, prior to 3 courses was the bread & butter, which happens to be what made this meal so memorable. Warm, crusty bread arrived (and let’s be real: all bread in France is YUM) with not one but two types of fresh, homemade butter. The seaweed butter was by far our favourite, salty and creamy in a way that nothing else was. The yuzu was bright and lemony, juxtaposed beautifully next to the saltiness of the other.
The best part? When
Stag we finished our bread before the butter, they brought us out a whole other loaf of bread. We then finished the butter before that round of bread, and right away we received two full new things of butter. This went on a few times before I started to get a bit embarrassed and asked Stag to stop eating it. A perfect lunch, if you ask me.
3. Brown butter glory at Pidgin, London
Three of the restaurants on this list we’ve eaten this year, which either means they’re freshest in our minds or we’ve really upped our game for stuffing our faces. Pidgin had been on our to-eat list in London for quite some time, so I was thrilled we finally managed to go this past Spring. The meal was seriously incredible (innovative, inspiring, mouthwatering: the Holy Trio of meal descriptions). However, our meal was set off on the right path by the opening bread and butter. Warm, salt-crusted sourdough was met with — wait for it — brown butter. Imagine salty butter mixed with the caramel sweetness of brown sugar, and oh my goodness. I want it now. I am pretty sure my exact words were, “I could live inside this butter.” And what a glorious life it would be.
4. Lard made fancy at Le Coucou, New York
Now I am not going to lie: this one is more Stag’s choice, not mine. Spreading whipped pig’s lard on a piece of bread is not what I normally call a ‘fun time.’ But, in the interest of Science, I gave it a go. I was not a fan at first bite (I’m not a huge meaty-taste person), but the more I delved in (again, in the name of journalistic integrity), the more I began to love it. The carnivore that is my husband, on the other hand, was dying of happiness with each mouthful. To each their own. Either way, it was something I had never tried before, and that surprise is what helps Le Coucou make this very important list.
I was impressed, though, that they also brought out plain salted butter in addition to the lard. Which, in its homemade simplicity, was tasty perfection on soft, doughy sourdough.
5. Bread and oil simplicity at Restaurant Arles, Amsterdam
Sometimes, the pure, unadulterated simplicity of bread & butter, done well, is all you need. Or in this case, bread & oil. Our visit to Arles in Amsterdam was one of our favourite restaurant experiences of all time. I’ll be posting about this amazing find on our Amsterdam City Guide (coming soon!). For now, I’ll simply tell you all about the bread offering, which was simple and full of quality. You could tell that olive oil was the good stuff, seasoned to perfection. The crackle of the crust echoed as we tore into the loaf, soft and doughy on the inside, full of flavour.
The best part, though, was the service: as soon as our bowl of oil or basket of bread neared to empty, our server immediately brought us a new one, no questions asked. Or shame given. Noticed particularly when we got to Round 3 and felt oddly at ease with our life decisions. Bread ftw.