I think it is one of the true pleasures of life that luxury travel and fine dining experiences often come hand in hand. Hotels all over the world are the proud parents of Michelin-star restaurants – which means that gastronomists such as me can use their holiday as an excuse to take advantage of world-class restaurants (and wine cellars!) without having to set foot out of their hotel.
After some serious thought, I have come up with my three favourite hotel experiences for true food lovers in our collection. I didn’t simply pick the ones with the most Michelin stars; instead, I recommend properties that offer wide choices in terms of location, culinary variety and dining experience.
Please Note: all of the fine-dining restaurants and experiences mentioned here are (understandably) popular, so we suggest that you make a reservation in advance. Just advise us at the time of booking and we can make all of the arrangements.
Belmond Reid’s Palace
Reid’s Palace is the epitome of old-world charm. This 10-acre Madeiran retreat has played host to many famous, well-heeled guests over the years – you can rest assured that you will be treated like a movie star as soon as you cross the elegant lobby. With 5 restaurants and legendary social dining opportunities, we recommend this hotel to those looking for today’s culinary innovations alongside the charm of yesteryear.
The Dining Room at Reid’s Palace is an institution; the huge wall mirrors reflect the glinting tableware and crystal chandeliers, creating a glamorous ambience for a smart dinner. In contrast to this traditional setting, the William Restaurant, which occupies an incredible location overlooking the cliffs of Funchal Bay, boasts a Michelin star for its contemporary cuisine. I would recommend a dish from the lobster menu to experience the succulence of fresh Portuguese seafood.
There are plenty of other dining options to explore during your stay. Breakfast – which I was recently told by a client was the best buffet breakfast they have ever enjoyed – is served in the light and airy Garden Room. Drinks and light snacks can be ordered from the Pool Terrace throughout day, which also hosts a well-stocked hot and cold buffet over lunch.
An excellent alternative evening option is the Ristorante Villa Cipriani, which takes full advantage of the hotel’s clifftop location. You can enjoy its delicious Italian fare from the open-air terrace.
What sets Reid’s Palace apart from other hotels with a gastronomic focus is its dining opportunities beyond the restaurant. A classic British afternoon tea is served daily on the terrace – the scones and finger sandwiches (along with a cup of tea and a glass of champagne, of course) make a nice change from a midday plate of anything from the pool bar.
Every Monday night provides the opportunity to don your glad rags for a Dinner Dance in the Dining Room, where you will be treated to a decadent four-course dinner and music from a live swing band. On Sundays, the space is taken over for a similarly smart Champagne Gala Buffet. I would highly recommend going to one (or both!) of these events during you holiday for a real experience of Reid’s Palace’s charm.
The Ritz-Carlton, Abama
The Ritz-Carlton, Abama stands out as one of the finest luxury resorts on the Canary Islands. It sprawls along the hillside, the earthy red Moorish-inspired architecture of the outside hiding a sleek, modern set of interiors. With no fewer than 10 restaurants and 3 separate bars, there is certainly no need to leave this large country estate in search of dinner.
Gourmands are spoilt for choice at the Abama. A must-visit is the two Michelin-star M.B, the signature restaurant of Chef Martín Berasategui, for a taste of Basque cuisine at its very finest. If you’re in search of something a little different, make your way to the Abama Kabuki, the Michelin-starred Japanese fusion restaurant that has set tongues wagging in Tenerife ever since it opened. I love how this concept combines flavour with theatre; a Kabuki Bar, Sushi Bar and Kabuki Space make dinner into an evening of entertainment.
There are so many other restaurants to try out during your stay – easily one per night, if you’re looking for culinary variety. For your meat fix try the 20/20 Steakhouse; for fresh seafood grab a table overlooking the ocean at El Mirador; enjoy excellent Italian cuisine at Verona; or sample traditional Spanish fare at Txoko, another restaurant set up by Martín Berasategui.
Quick bites and light lunches can be enjoyed all over the resort, including the pool (Los Chozos), the golf course (La Casa Club) and the beach (Beach Club).
One of the ways in which I think the Abama excels is in its after-dinner options. If you’re enjoying an evening of elegance and sophistication, a cocktail at the lobby bar to the tinkle of piano keys is the perfect nightcap. My personal favourite, however, is Cubanika, a throwback to Cuba’s La Bodeguita del Medio in the 1940s. The bar offers a plethora of rum-based drinks along with its own range of cigars, the ‘Abama Luxury’. It even boasts its own cigar sommelier – now that’s an opulent end to a memorable evening!
Vila Vita Parc Resort & Spa
This beautiful five-star resort is set in an incredible 54 acres of subtropical gardens. We often recommend Vila Vita Parc to those food lovers looking for a holiday in the Algarve; there is so much choice available, with an impressive 10 restaurants and 6 bars that all have their own distinct theme and flavour.
The hotel’s signature restaurant is the Ocean, with an Atlantic panorama from its vast windows, which certainly lives up to its name. Hans Neuner, awarded Portugal’s Chef of the Year in 2009 and 2012, runs its two Michelin-star kitchen. The menu is short compared with a few of the other top restaurants on this list, but utterly delectable. The other fine-dining restaurant at the resort is the Atlântico, which offers French and Portuguese cuisine with another stunning ocean view.
Variety is the name of the game at Vila Vita Parc. Want to discover the authentic flavours of Portugal? Try tapas from the rustic Adega in its pretty position overlooking the swan lake. Looking for more of a Moorish flair? The Aladin Grill Restaurant has an atmospheric Moroccan feel and serves fresh fish and meats from its open grill kitchen. Or, if you have that nagging urge for a wiener schnitzel and a stein (don’t we all?), you will be delighted to discover the resort’s very own German Biergarten!
Of course, there’s more: breakfast and a casual dinner at Bela Vita; teppanyaki at Mizu; poolside dining at Whale; and beachfront fair at the Arte Náutica and Praia Dourada. If there’s one thing I can promise about your stay, it’s that you won’t leave with an empty stomach.
One place that I would definitely recommend escaping to during your stay is the Cave de Vinhos. These dramatic wine cellars with their swooping arches are constructed from bricks imported from Greece, Austria and Egypt, housing over 11,000 bottles of wine. You can book a wine and cheese tasting in these atmospheric environs, at which the knowledgeable sommeliers will introduce you to the secrets of the cellar. The morning after you may want to clear your head with a delicious Portuguese bica coffee from the hotel’s relaxed cafe.
If your taste buds are tingling at the thought of such incredible holidays for gastronomes, contact us for advice on which hotel to choose, when to go to take advantage of all of the restaurants, and which dinner reservations need to be made before you step off the plane!