Gourmet hotel breaks
Hungry for a gourmet break? From fine-dining country-house hotels and restaurants with rooms to Michelin-star-spangled kitchens at the culinary cutting edge, we've truffle-hunted hotels and foraged the world to cherry-pick those Smith stays that go above and beyond when it comes to cuisine. Whether you want a gastronomic experience par excellence or delectable farm-to-table fare, our gourmet breaks collection has a hotel to suit your foodie taste. Bon appetit!
Escape in eco-luxe style to Song Saa Private Island, an effortless rustic-chic spread of private-pool villas dotting pristine Koh Rong islands. Feast on spanking-fresh seafood, loll in the blissful spa; a cheeky dip in the secluded outdoor bath tub is an absolute must.
Knai Bang Chatt’s modernist villas are set on Kep’s simple but stylish seafront, boasting driftwood day-beds, a gulf-view pool and art deco styling. Lazy lunches and greedy dinners are taken at the Sailing Club, but for a castaway treat staff can organise a beachfront barbecue at nearby Rabbit Island.
Start in spick-and-span Singapore, a city known as much for its designer shops and scintillating street food as its superlative airport (yes, Changi really does have a rooftop pool, giant slide and butterfly garden). Hop across the Straits to Malacca, a little gem of shaded alleys, Portuguese ruins and inspired Nonya cuisine. The Petronas Towers dominate Kuala Lumpur (or KL as it’s affectionately known), a pulsing but laid-back metropolis with a pleasing café culture and serious shopping habit. Stock up on tea stops and cool air in the undulating Cameron Highlands, lose yourself in foodie-heaven Penang or relax in sultry Sabah, where you can climb majestic mountains, dive Sipadan’s turtle-rich waters or play with orang-utans.
You’ll find to-die-for green curries and wok-fresh pad thais at every street corner, but no visit to Thailand is complete without sampling its flavourful regional cuisine and lesser-known culinary gems. Fiery papaya salads, larb laced with holy basil, salted fish straight off a charcoal grill and all manners of delicious morsels wrapped in banana leaves are there for the tasting; one notch above a street stall, Chote Chitr may well serve the best meek rob (crispy noodles) and wing bean salad in Bangkok. David Thompson’s celebrated Nahm tops every epicurean’s to-do list with treats such as jungle curry with freshwater fish. Don’t miss the rainbow of salty-sweet Thai desserts: pumpkin-steamed custards, honey mangos with sticky rice and piping hot banana roti are worth the loosening of belts.
Claypots in St Kilda, at 213 Barkly Street, for fresh uncomplicated seafood, and in or outdoor dining. It’s BYO wine, with a no bookings policy, and always full of locals. Donovans, set in a 1920s bathing house in St Kilda, has an incredible shoreside location, great service, chic style and delicious Modern Australian-meets-Italian food. Go for the terrace on a hot night. Attica, at nearby Ripponlea, was recently voted Victoria’s best restaurant (and number 21 in the world) under chef Ben Shewry, and serves delicious tasting menus. Vue de Monde – on Level 55 of the iconic Rialto tower – is sophisticated and cool with a view to rival the Shard!
For a five-star gourmet hotel break in Spain, rustic boutique hotel Casa la Siesta will sate your appetite. The owners’ table d’hôte is an unmissable feast of kitchen garden-gathered fruit and vegetables and excellent local delicacies. On your country getaway, look out for the secreto Ibérico (a hidden cut of marbled meat – fatty, but delicious), and the staple of Spanish cuisine, seafood straight from the coast, just 12 kilometres away.
For your first course, spend two nights in Verona, the historic city known as the home of Shakespeare's fictional star-crossed lovers. But there's nothing fictional about Palazzo Victoria, a luxurious, modern-meets-mediaeval boutique hotel hidden away among the city's cobbled streets. Be sure to sample the work of the Michelin-starred chef in the restaurant.
Worth getting out of bed for
– Dine at the hotel's Corso Porta Borsari restaurant
– Go wine-tasting at the Allegrini vineyards outside of town
– Day-trip to Venice for seafood risotto
Served on a stick, or sipped from a steaming bowl, Hong Kong’s cuisine rewards the brave. We dare you to steel your tastebuds and dive in.
What’s cooking? Warming congee, yak’s milk cheesecake, fat noodles and sticky char siu – Hong Kong is a bubbling and boiling, scent-swarmed hotchpotch of tastes and textures.
• Hidden within the visceral melee of Gage Street wet market, Lan Fong Yuen is a historic reassuringly shambolic spot for a restorative cup of silk-stocking milk tea – a pungent concoction that’s achieved city-wide fame.
• Causeway Bay is threaded through with Dai Pai Dong eateries. Ho Hung Kee is one of our favourites; here fish, chicken or 100-year old eggs can be added to your congee (Chinese porridge).
• Yan Wo Dou Bun Chong’s modus operandi is extraordinarily well-executed tofu dishes; in fact, it’s the only thing on the menu, but their tofu fa pudding finds perfection in simplicity.
Stay at within walking distance of authentic eateries and markets – and the home of Hong Kong hot spot Café Gray Deluxe – The Upper House will keep connoisseurs happily sated.
Italy's booted ball is a degustation-worthy destination in its own right. Plump olives, grapes and citrus fruit sprout from Sicily's fertile soil, there are few middlemen between the sea and your plate, and pistachios, marzipan and creamy cheese are worked into dreamy dessert creations.
Known for ricotta: piped into cannolis, encased in pasta or baked and eaten with a spoon, Sicilians love it. Capers from Salina, blood oranges from Catania and panelle chickpea fritters are very good; cannolis, gelato and Marsala wine cater for sweet-toothed Smiths.
Dishes here are tableaux vivants of star-turn ingredients. Fresh and flavourful fish sprinkled with herbs, and pasta with spare sauce: a dollop of ricotta, juicy tomatoes, a drizzle of olive oil and a jaunty basil leaf makes a perfect pasta alla nonna. Candied-fruit-dressed desserts are comparably flamboyant
• A humble but punch-packing ingredient, capers are liberally sprinkled over Sicilian dishes; those from Salina are the most revered. The Aeolian Island's caper buds, preserved with salt instead of brine, are the island's pride and joy, and they're infused into gelato and panna cotta during the caper festival in June. Salina's also the only place where Malvasia wine is produced.
• Prefer your wine honey-hued and sweet? Visit Marsala on the west coast, to drink your fill of its eponymous plonk. Take a cellar tour of Florio Winery, then stop at Donnafugata Winery for more Dionysian swigging and slugs of grappa. The famed vino was first produced by the English, but maybe it's best to keep schtum about this when mingling with Marsalesis.
• With iridescent swordfish, frilly-legged langoustines and surprised-looking skates, Catania's fish market is a dizzying, and pungent, experience. Dishes are simple – a smattering of squid tentacles, a squeeze of lemon – but oh so good. Wash down with very fresh orange juice from the stalls and finish with cannoli from Prestipino Cafè or chiacchiere biscuits at Savia pasticceria.
Stay at homestead Azienda Agricola Mandranova; here you'll find yourself drifting to the cucina frequently, whether to eat co-owner Silvia's home-made fare or to make your own in the excellent cookery school.
While it can't quite match the French wine industry's cachet, Napa Valley's largely organic, Tricolore-waving gastro offerings will raise a 'Que c'est délicieux!' from the most patriotic Gaul. The region's sun-kissed rows of vines spread for miles over gently rolling Californian hills; with more than 300 estates to explore, even dedicated oenophiles may be overwhelmed.
Known for wine, wine and more wine… Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Merlot are especially sippable. Food-wise, pick up chicken and pork from Hudson Ranch, olive oil from the Cliff Family Winery and peaches and meyer lemons from Frog's Leap Winery.
Food isn't second fiddle to drink in Napa: tasting menus with soulmate wine pairings wow Michelin inspectors and St Helena Farmers' Market has succulent organic fruit and veg. 'Freedom fries' may be a faux pas, but luxe fried-chicken joint Addendum, and chilli and 'franks' at Gott's Roadside are skewed to heartland tastes.
• Yountville is Napa Valley's hedonistic heart: home to Moët-Hennessey-Louis Vuitton's Domaine Chandon estate and Michelin-star-amassing eateries, including The French Laundry and Bouchon. Wine pairings are, of course, discerning.
• No mere mortal can sample all of Napa Valley's quaffable delights. However, it's possible to get an informed overview in a day or two. We suggest a select few: pinot noir at Taittinger's Domaine Carneros, sauvignon blanc at The Lane Vineyard, a rich Cab Sauvignon at Joseph Phelps Vineyard, moscato at Kuleto Estate and a sophisticated slap-up meal at Auberge du Soleil.
• Culinary Institute of America’s California campus, in St Helena, offers expert cookery demonstrations from the next generation of superstar chefs. The Institute's suite of eateries – Bocuse Restaurant, Greystone Restaurant – show off their alumni's wizardry with dishes such as Oaxacan hot-stone soup.
Stay at Carneros Resort and Spa, a mod farmstead in between Napa and Sonoma, where guests can tuck into mouthwatering organic cuisine and arrange an on-site wine-tasting – or take a tour, if you prefer.
Where Barachois, Constance Le Prince Maurice, Mauritius
Cuisine Gallic-Asian fusion
What's the inspiration for your cooking?
Nature for the colours. People and traditions for the structure. Gormandising for the taste.
Favourite ingredient right now?
All the citrus fruits – and particularly preserved.
Fresh baked home-made croissants with home-made cherry jam, in my family home when I was a kid.
Where do you like to eat out?
In a small family restaurant (generally Italian; if possible in Italy), and at Le Bristol in Paris, to eat Eric Frechon's food – the best in the world to me!