A month of celebratory comfort food

Food & drink

A month of celebratory comfort food

February might be January’s hangover, but there are many celebrations afoot – and decadent dining to go with them – to get you through this rather-long-feeling shortest month

Kate Weir

BY Kate Weir9 February 2024

Come February, gather round bubbling bowls for the Lunar New Year, boozily brunch for Mardi Gras and go low-key, but still loved-up, for Valentine’s Day. If you’re craving conviviality and food that feels like a warm hug, here’s how to get your fill…


10 February

It’s the year of the wood dragon, you’re draped in gold (the auspicious look for 2024), and plump scarlet envelopes signal good times ahead. Could you feel any luckier? Well, yes, because hot-pot brunches are back at lives-up-to-its-name Superfly restaurant (with its neon glow and TV wall playing vintage ads) at Beijing hideaway the Opposite House.

Here, winter’s warded off in as firecracker a style as the legendary scourge of the Lunar New Year, the Nian monster. Chopsticks frantic as table chatter add to clamorous flavours in broths both mushroomy and umami-rich, or packed with chillies that add a roundhouse kick – dunking in pickled cabbage and crunchy shoots, hunks of pork intestine and knuckle and other morsels, making a dish that evolves over dinner. Pair with ingot-resembling – if not entirely traditional – Big Mac-inspired dumplings for a pinch more prosperity.

Or bring the sharing-caring energy you want to take into the new year to Jing Yaa Tang, the hotel’s gourmet offering, where chef Li Dong gives Peking duck a Michelin-star mien. Aged for 45 days, smoked over jujube wood and roasted till its skin is lacquered and crackled, it’s the star in a soothing saucing and pancake-packing ritual.

And dine in similar style at…

King’s Joy, Beijing
Set across from Lama Temple, eaters of all persuasions may declare the vegetarian tasting menus here a similarly religious experience. Up to 14 artfully plated courses, plus a nightly harpist, unhumble the ingredients to the point of deserved self-importance.

Mei Ume, London
This City eatery celebrates in theatrical style, with lion and fan dancers, and embraces the tradition of the prosperity-toss salad (the higher the ingredient is thrown, the luckier); but is renowned year-round for its dim-sum, Peking duck and lobster.

Honey’s, Brooklyn
This ‘neverending hot-pot’ event in Brooklyn is a very sociable affair: bookings are for groups of four to eight, and things get less ceremonious and more magically messy the dunk-ier and drunker (on potent baijiu cocktails) you get.


13 February

Jubilance comes as easy as the livin’ at New Orleans’ Mardi Gras celebrations. How can you not get caught up in the purple, gold and green costumery; masked ‘krewes’ manning carnivalesque floats; many musical interludes; and friendly affrays over thrown beads, trinkets and prized coconuts tossed by the Zulu org? But, before you bling up like a New Jersey mafioso and go into sensory overload, take a – less jazzy – beat over brunch.

It’s testament to New Orleans’ culinary rep that James Beard-winning chefs abound; the Columns hotel has a whole team of them, so it’s ideal for leisurely brunching at a view-blessed point on the parade route (3811 St Charles Ave, comfortably away from the crowded French Quarter). Connect over homey gumbo bowls, at the mimosa and Bloody Mary stations, and while digging the plastic baby out of an unnaturally hued King’s Cake, as ever-buoyant guitarist and host of the digital Have a Great Day show Joshua Starkman gives the affair more love still.

And, over in the Marigny, Hôtel Peter and Paul also enjoys a great vantage point and has brunch picks we‘d rock up for without the promise of free beads: Gulf shrimp slick with pineapple-chilli purée, grits in chorizo gravy, salmon and smoked tomatillo toast… And cocktails with a woozy amount of bourbon and rye.

And dine in similar style at…

Ace Hotel New Orleans
There’s a lot going on at the NOLA outpost of the super-cool Ace group: Southern brunching with an Italian accent at Josephine Estelle osteria, drag shows, oyster and cocktail slurping at happy hour, and pitch-perfect music programming at the Three Keys gig venue.

Louie, London
It’s in Covent Garden (fittingly close to Ronnie Scott’s), but Louie speaks in an intoxicating drawl through its Southern-French menu, (think buttery lobster and razor clams in oyster custard), and the jaunty musical inclinations of its Alligator Bar – seeya there later…

Henry, Hong Kong
While cherry-picking dishes from across the US’s southern seaboard, Henry steakhouse has the Mardi Gras spirit(s) infused through its boozy menu, with whisky-aged steaks, sherry-slugged lobster bisque, and Irish coffees with tonka-bean sweetness.


13 February

Platters of bread-and-bacon dumplings, goulash thick enough to stand a spoon in, porcine offal of mysterious origin, and molasses-dark beer: Czech cuisine is, at times, more a kind of gravitational force than ‘comfortable’.

As Lent looms, Masopust (the country’s take on Mardi Gras) drives citizens into a sausage frenzy, and carnivores are catered for by the likes of the Emblem Hotel’s George Prime Steak. But, vegetarian and vegan cuisine has made huge strides here since the days bowls of sweetcorn or peas were often the alternative to pork knuckle and blood soup. And so you can ethically celebrate the season with ease.

Spots such as the named-on-the-nose Vegan’s Restaurant, set in a 16th-century building below Prague Castle (dishes pictured above), and Lehká Hlava (on the Vltava’s right bank) even do meat-free takes on trad dishes, such as svíčková (‘steak’ with dumplings, cream and berries) or goulash, while Satsang reworks mac and cheese, burgers and all kinds of curries for purely plant-based decadence.

And dine in similar style at…

Palo Verde just outside the Old Town
In this leafy, coolly calm dining space (all dusky pink and rugged wood), you can feast ethically on warming soups, stacked seitan bagels and tofu noodle bowls – all vegan.

Belzepub in Žižkov
While dressed in hues the Dark Lord would give a spiky thumbs up to, the eats in this low-key vegan hang-out are more saintly: NoFish and potato salad, locally loved utopenci (pickled ‘sausage’ and onions), and plant-based barbecue ribs.

Pastva in Smíchov
Set a stumble from the Staropramen tasting room, Pastva has an industrial-chic dining room and a menu the meat-abstaining can take solace in, with pumpkin and smoked tofu pies; spinach, basil and walnut risotto; and lentil lasagna.


14 February

Come Valentine’s Day next Wednesday, would you rather be sat opposite each other at a prim white-clothed table, peering awkwardly around a candelabra and decoding cutleries; or cosily body to body, snuggled into a banquette, surrounded by white-noise chatter, awaiting something belt-loosening?

London’s pub-roast scene is on a roll, getting a gourmet zhuzh while keeping portions Herculean and not tinkering with the classics. Take the Bull & Last by Hampstead Heath (see header image) – the sort of place where you could arrive mud-spattered after a dog walk to dine, or dress up to share a slab of North Essex shorthorn prime rib, or aubergine Wellington with confit tomato (menus change frequently), then snoozily head upstairs for a soak in the Faraday suite’s freestanding bath tub before bed.

Or pick a Sunday either side of Valentine’s and pitch up at the Princess Royal, Notting Hill to feed each other oysters from the raw bar before tucking into lemon-y, thyme-infused chicken, generous slices of porchetta, or gnocchi swimming in gorgonzola cream. Before a royally good sleep (or not, as the case may be…) in bedrooms brought to life with pattern and colour.

And dine in similar style at…

Shoreditch House, London
This clubby spot – with a much-loved rooftop pool – lures in East London’s creative crowd, and impresses with its of-the-minute happenings and signature vintage-leaning chic, but it’s not too cool for an old-school roast with all the trimmings and plant-based options too.

Boys Hall, Kent
With dining helmed by Shane Pearson – whose London eatery Blacklock has often been hailed as a roast-master, but also showed his veg-pertise with the worldly small plates at Caravan – elevates their offering with neighbouring-farm-sourced ingredients and fire cooking.

The Pig at the South Downs, West Sussex
Those buttery greens, honeyed carrots, and parsnips with a caramel-ly crunch taste all the better when you know they’re from a kitchen garden just steps away. It’s what the Pigs were built on, and they still do it all very well, whether your centrepiece is chargrilled hispi cabbage or beef fillet from Trenchmore Farm.

But wait, there’s more culinary excellence to celebrate in our gourmet getaways collection.