Eat, drink and be merry with a hotel that goes the extra mile to feed our food obsession, says Isobel Finbow
If you are what you eat, as the infamous saying goes, and you munch on poisonous blowfish in Dubai, truffles in France and sip martinis in the Seychelles, what does that make you?
The answer: just one of many holidaymakers enjoying the most imaginative food and beverage options on offer at hotels around the world.
Whether it’s Michelin-starred chefs or cultural encounters, barbecue classes or market tours, hotels are breaking tourists out of their comfort zones and pushing the boundaries of cuisine and dining experiences.
With the success of The Great British Bake Off and MasterChef, the interest in hands-on courses and celebrity chefs is rising quicker than one of Mary Berry’s sponges and is sure to be reflected in your clients’ holiday requirements. Here are a few offerings to tickle your tastebuds.
Gone are the days when the British holidaymaker requested egg and chips for dinner. Along with the ever-expanding variety of cuisine back home comes greater expectations for holiday dining.
With this in mind, hotels are jostling to provide culinary excellence by offering world-class cuisine and renowned chefs.
November and December see Grand Hotel Mencey in Tenerife continue its ‘Star Women’ series, where Michelin-starred female chefs hold a masterclass from 11.30am-1pm, and from 9pm present a tasting menu at the hotel’s restaurant. On November 2 it’s Yolanda León from Cocinandos in León (masterclass €30, tasting menu €68), while on December 7, double Michelin-starred chef Fina Puigdevall takes the reins with her tasting menu ‘Buckwheat in the kitchen’ (masterclass €40, tasting menu €80).
Last spring, chef and restaurateur Jean-Georges Vongerichten (left) – who has opened successful restaurants at New York’s Trump Tower, Shangri-La in Vancouver, and W Hotel in Boston among others – joined forces with Eden Rock, St Barts. He has taken responsibility for the hotel’s two restaurants, The Sand Bar and On the Rocks, and has infused the menus with trademark zest including dishes such as local fish tartare with avocado, radish and ginger marinade.
DINING WITH A DIFFERENCE
Hotels in countries previously overlooked as culinary destinations are increasingly keen to showcase local and traditional cuisine.
At Casa Gangotena in Quito, Ecuador, chef Andrés Dávila uses traditional dishes as a starting point, such as locro (potato soup), which draws on many of the country’s 350 different kinds of potato. Three hours northwest in the Andes, David Barriga of Mashpi Lodge uses ingredients found in the surrounding rainforest, including fresh mint, lemongrass, spices and chillies, to create classic dishes.
The theme of authenticity continues at Cicada Lodge in Nitmiluk National Park, Australia. Indigenous chef Mark Olive’s signature dish – seasoned crocodile tail with a mixture of native herbs and spices, wrapped in paperbark and slow-cooked in a large pit – is sure to provide a unique experience.
For even more daredevil choices, head to The Oberoi, Dubai, where pan-Asian eatery Umai is the only restaurant in the United Arab Emirates with a licensed fugu chef, trained to prepare Japan’s legendary poisonous blowfish.
If your client is looking for a more intimate meal, Jade Mountain in Saint Lucia has introduced private dining experience Chefs on Wheels, whereby a world-class chef comes to your room and prepares three courses for $296 per couple.
COOKING UP A STORM
Not content with making clients pay for their gourmet dinner, some hotels even make guests cook it themselves. Or rather guests can sign up willingly to take part in cooking classes with the added bonus of consuming their creations at the end.
In a move that’s sure to get the pulses of barbecue-addicted dads racing, Peter Island Resort & Spa in the British Virgin Islands has brought in weekly grilling and smoking classes. At $100 for full-board guests and $200 for others, tong-wielding holidaymakers are put through their paces on the barbecue, battling to become king of burgers or ribs.
Passion is the secret ingredient when it comes to tapas lessons at Casa de Carmona in Seville. After a gastronomic tour of the flamenco capital, guests roll up their sleeves and learn the fine art of cooking the bite-sized grub.
Shaken? Stirred? At Banyan Tree Seychelles’ Martini cocktail mixology class, guests will learn the techniques behind three classic martinis: the Classic Dry, the Creole, and the Malted Martini. The experience plus three martini cocktails starts from €35.
Hotels may offer authentic food, but travellers who want to get to the heart of their destination might prefer to head to markets and eateries where locals dine.
Explore Thailand by tuk-tuk at the InterContinental Samui Baan Taling Ngam Resort in Koh Samui, as executive chef Luke Macleod leads the Culinary Tuk-Tuk Adventure. The half-day tour visits local suppliers, fishermen and the resort’s organic gardens, followed by a class using those fresh ingredients and lunch (£78). Along with cookery classes for kids (left), this month the property added a Thai ‘junior tasting menu’ to encourage kids to develop their palates (£20) .
Provence hotel Crillon le Brave also gets guests out into the countryside with its quintessentially French activity of truffle-hunting. There are three English-speaking wine and truffle-hunting weekends where guests will learn how to find, prepare, cook and eat the gourmet delicacy (available November 7-10, 21-24 and 28-December 1, from £1,024 for two sharing a standard room or £1,231 for a deluxe).
For an authentic Indian experience, the chef at The Oberoi, Mumbai, accompanies guests around markets on The Oberoi’s Spice Trail to see the vivid colours of fresh Indian produce (four hours, £74 per couple).
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