Travel is about indulging the senses, and none is more important than taste. We learn and come to understand much about people by the way they cook, share and enjoy food. Here are five of our finest dining destinations from across Europe, guaranteed to get your mouth-watering.
This boutique hotel and restaurant was named after the daughter of the first proprietors and, over the last thirty years, Vila Joya has become one of the Algarve’s most sought-after dining experiences, boasting two Michelin stars.
Austrian-born chef Dieter Koschina is responsible for much of the acclaim Vila Joya receives. He has taken the northern European dishes of his homeland and uses local produce, including a lot of seafood, to create exciting new tastes. This has most definitely been a labour of love for him – he’s been here since 1991 and knows his clientele.
While dinner is a tasting menu only, a la carte options are available at lunchtime and we recommend the Monkfish or Sea Bass if available. There’s a sizeable wine list of over 500 vintages and your hosts will be pleased to help you choose a bottle to go with your choices. Combined with the stunning views (the restaurant is located on a cliff top) and the relaxed decor, we think that this is the choice for guests looking for chic foodie delights in the Algarve.
Presided over by famous Italian chef Antonino Cannavacciuolo (familiar to millions of Italians through his TV career), the two Michelin Star restaurant at this beautiful lakeside Piedmont hotel, Villa Crespi, is a singular dining experience. Rather than the formal procession of starters, mains, and desserts, to eat here feels more like dining at a trusted friends country villa, who periodically brings out delicious treats.
After selecting from the wine list of over a thousand Italian and international vintages, there’s a variety of Piedmont-inspired amuse bouche to begin. You might choose to select from the frequently tasting menu or opt to choose a la carte. We recommend the pigeon with warm foie gras for one of the distinct tastes of this northern Italian region. Desserts are also a highlight, demonstrating technical expertise in the quirky constructions you are presented with, such as the glorious ‘fake egg’.
The warm, personal and attentive service you’ll find here is present through the rest of the hotel and one really does give the sense of being pampered, without it seeming obsequious. One of our absolute highlights in the north of Italy.
While we all love the theatricality and opulence of dinner at a fine restaurant, sometimes we look for something a little more authentic and unpretentious. The three eateries at Languedoc hamlet-turned hotel, Village Castigno offer just that, with something for all tastes. Le Table develops its daily menu based on what is available at local markets and grows some of their own vegetables and herbs on the estate surrounding the hamlet. Le Petit Table offers tapas and antipasti, in addition to small bistro meals. The philosophy here is that of ‘slow food’ and much of made is lingering over food shared with others, to the sounds of an old blues album. Le Thai, as the name suggests, offers Asian flavours, presided over by chef Cathelijne who develops a unique menu every day.
For a really unique dining experience, we recommend the ‘Nomadic Kitchen’ experiences on the weekends, when the owner’s son, Fons, takes guests to a stunning natural location for a guacho-influenced barbecue, using plenty of the local herbs that grow in abundance.
We can’t talk about Village Castigno and not talk about neighbouring Chateau Castigno, home of the Verstraete family who owns the hotel. It’s very much worth your time popping by to the winery to sample many of the wines on offer at hotel, from the source. We recommend the Terra Casta – a red wine perfectly suited to chilling and drinking under the Languedoc sun.
Long ago, the Witches of Burriac was the name given to a malicious group of spellcasters who made life difficult for villagers near the Catalonian seaside town of Alftafulla. These days, however, they’ve had a bit of an image makeover and now lend their name to the restaurant that sits alongside one of our favourite Spanish stays, the Gran Claustre Hotel.
The restaurant offers a seasonal menu of local Catalonian and Spanish favourites, using fresh meat and vegetables sourced from the region directly surrounding the town. The head chef, Jaume Drudis traveled the world, learning in some of the best restaurants in France, Germany, and the United States before returning and settling near the place of his birth, so as to give back to the region.
We love the open plan of this restaurant, with clear views into the kitchen to see the chefs work, as well as a glass-fronted wine cellar that contains many fantastic local, regional and national vintages. Book well ahead and you’ll be able to take a table in the kitchen itself, right in the middle of the action.
Our recommendation? Try the degustation menu that explores the distinct flavours of the region, including plenty of freshly-caught seafood such as prawns, crayfish, and turbot.
What is it about hamlets-turned-hotels that make them such fantastic hotbeds of gourmet bliss? Since the Ferragamo fashion clan took over this Tuscan hamlet, they have developed Il Borro into a regional and national centre of Italian dining – so much so that they’ve opened a restaurant in Dubai to deal with the demand.
Over the wide expanse of the Il Borro estate, three eateries cater for guests staying in the villas, houses and cottages on offer. Osteria Il Borro is the flagship restaurant, where chef Andrea Campani and team use ingredients that are grown on the estate and a huge wood-fired oven to bake and broil local beef, game, and poultry dishes in the local tradition.
Vincafé is much more informal and good for light lunches and antipasti – perfect after a stroll through the estate grounds
Finally Tuscan Bistro is where great regional cooking meets the fantastic range of wines produced by the estate. Built both as tasting centre and with a large table for group dining, this is the perfect venue for long lunches and dinners, punctuated with flights of whites and reds.
We recommend that guests here stay for at least a week, so they have the opportunity to try all three eateries. If you visit in one of the cooler months you can also try your hand at white and black truffle hunting, the results of which can be cooked up before your eyes for a delicious outside brunch.