There’s nothing like sending out a call on Twitter or catching up with a local food blogger to feel like you’re getting straight to the heart of a city’s food scene. But sometimes (usually in those early stages of research) it’s great to forgo apps and websites and the fast-paced digital world and just revel in an old-school, paper-based travel guide. Particularly where food is concerned.
How decadent it feels to curl up with a respected author and read, in depth, what they have to say. Whether you’re seeking inspiration for your next trip or you’re looking for the perfect Christmas present for a travel- and food-minded friend, here are some of our favourite recent finds.
The Good Hotel Guide
The latest edition of this classic British hotel guide (reviews are based on both readers’ and inspectors’ reports) was published at the beginning of the month. To coincide, the publishers pick out several hotels for special awards, from Inn of the Year (this year the Lord Crewe Arms in County Durham, one of our November 2015 issue’s 10 Best Pubs With Rooms) to Welsh Hotel of the Year. We also like to keep an eye on the gourmet category in the editor’s choice section of the guide; this year’s selection includes Ynyshir Hall, near Aberdovey, which we included in our pick of Welsh restaurants for St David’s Day.
British Hotels and Inns
We might have their pubs app on our phone for locating the nearest Ploughman’s lunch when we’re out and about, but this latest edition of Sawday’s British Hotels and Inns Guide we prefer to keep by the bed, ready to flick through when we start planning our next weekend away. Its list of 300-plus characterful one-off hideaways and small, independent hotels are all written up in idiosyncratic style (there’s no dull, brochure-speak in the authors’ descriptive and opinionated prose) and there’s an emphasis on places that really care about locally grown, meticulously cooked, sustainable food.
Pictured below: Glazebrook House Hotel in Devon, as mentioned in the British Hotels and Inns Guide
The Monocle Travel Guide Series
Launched earlier this year by the team behind Monocle magazine, these informative city guides currently cover New York, London, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Madrid and Bangkok. Beautifully put together in Monocle’s trademark style (matt paper, candy colours, photos and illustrated maps, though sadly no cool infographics), the fact they’re written by a team of insiders means the content is sharp and up-to-date.
In the New York edition, for example, chapters range from sport and fitness, design and architecture and retail to hotels, walks and essays, the latter a great read on subjects as diverse as subway (sub) culture and the growing number of Brooklynites moving out to the Hudson Valley in upstate New York. The food and drink section is punchy and full of useful tips (which restaurants to skip a table at and make straight for the bar) whether you’re looking for a business lunch, brunch or a rooftop cocktail.
The New Art of Travel
First published in 2002 but re-issued this year with a foreword by Airbnb co-founder Brian Chesky, Alain de Botton’s musings on why – and how – we should travel is just as pertinent a read as it was a decade ago. As the sharing economy takes hold and the growth of social media sees travel (both of the physical and armchair varieties) bridging cultures and continents ever more swiftly and expansively this is a timely book, nudging the reader into questioning their motives for travel.
How many of us really ask ourselves why we feel like that weekend away in Prague or that week in Ubud? There’s a surprising lack of discussion about food as a motivator for travel given that so many of us plan our trips around our latest culinary craving but what is included will certainly provide food for thought (if you don’t believe me turn to page 271 and witness how quickly de Botton detours from discussing a café’s selection of beers to musings about sex tourism).
A Fork in the Road
When practical guidebooks just won’t do and you want a full five-course meal of a read rather than a snack grabbed on the go, this book is the one to turn to. We’re stretching it a bit to say this book is new (it was first published in 2013) but, although it won a James Beard nomination last year, it’s remained largely under the radar. If you’re starting out in destination-based food writing (or you just want to curl up with a glass of cabernet and a sense of wanderlust) it’s an inspiring collection of food-based travel writing. Topics range from the rituals of coffee drinking in Addis Ababa to the juxtaposition of food and design in Sri Lanka. And while most of the writers have a transatlantic slant (the book was edited by former Saveur editor-in-chief James Oseland) British stalwarts Jay Rayner and Giles Coren feature too.
Written by Rhiannon Batten
All images courtesy of Sawday’s
First published October 2015
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