Food for thought: the best gourmet getaways
Eat, sleep, repeat! Food and travel go together like, er, gin and tonic (cheers!). If you find top nosh plays a key part in making your holiday a success, take things a step further and make it the focus.
Tantalising our tastebuds with new cuisine is one of the best parts of travel and one Muddy Stilettos never tires of. Whether we’re tucking into a Portuguese pastry or Keralan curry, it’s always a treat to try local dishes so here are some of our favourite escapes for foodies – from Michelin-starred restaurants to in-the-know tapas joints, it’s all in good taste.
LIfe’s all about balance. On holiday we’re usually content to eat catch of the day barefoot on the beach washed down with a local beer, but occasionally it’s great to get dressed up and work our way through a ridiculously fancy seven-course tasting menu and these are the places we’d most like to do that…
The release of the Michelin Guide France is always a big deal and this year there were 49 newly-starred restaurants including La Rotonde, Hôtel du Palais’ glam restaurant in Biarritz on the southwest coast. What’s the big deal? Well the five-course tasting menu takes you through the ‘byways of the Basque country’, think John Dory cooked in fig leaf and roasted guinea fowl, artichoke and truffle. Oo la la.
Go easy on the cheese and pack something with an elasticated waist, because you’re going to need a big appetite and plenty of room if you visit Vila Vita Parc between May and November. The Portuguese resort’s celebrating its 30th anniversary in style by bringing together 25 renowned chefs with 51 stars between them for a series of themed fine dining events. We fancy the World Edition session on August 2, when 10 chefs from around the globe – all with three Michelin stars – will cook up a storm.
Elsewhere in Portugal, Four Seasons Hotel Ritz Lisbon is creating a foodie buzz in its new restaurant CURA, where Head Culinary Curator (great job title) Pedro Pena Bastos recently gained it a Michelin Star, making it the newest Michelin-starred restaurant in the city *books flight*.
Three-starred Noma in Copenhagen’s currently the number one restaurant on the planet according to World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards (basically the Oscars of gastronomy), so if you want to see what all the fuss is about – pickled walnuts, squid, melted smoked lard, quail with berries and pickled pine have all featured on previous menus – book a table and make a long weekend of it by staying in cool new floating hotel Kaj.
Over in Africa, Royal Mansour Marrakech hotel’s Massimiliano Alajmo (aka the Mozart of Italian food) is the youngest chef in the world to have received three Michelin stars for Sesamo, the hotel’s glam new Italian restaurant. But the gourmet goodies don’t end there as elsewhere in the grounds you can dine at The Nest, a new private dining space set high above the gardens with uninterrupted city views and serving a Mediterranean and Asian-fusion menu by three Michelin-starred chef Yannick Alléno.
MOUTH-WATERING CITY BREAKS
Not all cities are created equal when it comes to gastronomy. Prague, for example, may look stunning but Muddy had a bad experience with soggy dumplings that we’d rather not repeat.
San Sebastian in northern Spain, on the other hand, is packed with more than its fair share of incredible places to eat, from tiny pintxo (tapas) bars like Borda Berri (order the grilled octopus) and Gandarias (check out the scallop skewers), to world-renowned eateries like Arzak. In fact this humble seaside city has one of the highest number of Michelin stars per square metre than anywhere else in the world, including Paris and New York. Go for a mini break and stay at Akelarre, which overlooks the Bay of Biscay and happens to have a three Michelin-star restaurant.
The best vegetarian meal Muddy’s ever had was in West Hollywood, which is no surprise as WeHo’s packed with a lifetime’s worth of dining experiences. Where did the heavenly event occur? Gracias Madre, which serves diners like Gwyneth Paltrow ground-breaking, plant-based Mexican cuisine in an indoor/outdoor setting. Also, brunch at The Butcher, The Baker & The Cappuccino Maker (BBCM) on Sunset, chomp farm-fresh fare on The Eveleigh’s ivy-covered patio and head to Connie & Ted’s for lobster rolls and oyster platters. Check in to just-opened Short Stories Hotel and enjoy Californian bites in the open-air courtyard restaurant.
Istanbul in Turkey is always a treat for foodies. Its melting pot of cultures results in pots of amazing street food, from pizza-like pide to every type of kebab you can imagine. And if you want something more high end there are places like Wolfgang Puck’s Spago, the hip rooftop restaurant at The St Regis Istanbul hotel.
COOKING HOLIDAYS & WORKSHOPS
Want to recreate the delicious flavours of holiday back home? Time to book a cooking escape! I’ve got my eye on a week-long organic farm break in Umbria, Italy with Responsible Travel, where classes learning how to make local, seasonal specialities are matched by down time wine tasting, taking dips in the pool and excursions to nearby Orvieto.
For something a bit more bucket list, how about a sushi-making experience in Japan with a world expert? Matsunozushi, a family-owned, fourth generation restaurant in Tokyo is headed by chef Yoshinori Tezuka who has cooked for all the greats including presidents and royalty. You can join a private sushi-making workshop and learn how to prepare authentic Edomae sushi then enjoy a meal prepared by Yoshi – major bragging points at your next dinner party.
After something less intensive? Enjoy a brilliant two-and-a-half-hour Thai cooking class during a stay at Six Senses Yao Noi in Thailand – all the lessons are customisable and kick off with a tour of the organic veg gardens and kitchens.
Or enjoy a weekend at Fez Cooking School, part of Palais Amani, a gorgeous riad within the walls of the Moroccan city’s ancient Medina. Muddy’s been and enjoyed exploring the locals souks, picking up fresh herbs and ingredients, before learning how to cook a delicious chicken tajine with all the trimmings back at base.