Not far from the Samuel Beckett bridge, The Marker Hotel opened in 2013 as part of the regeneration of Dublin’s docklands. Its sleek, ultra-modern looks reflect the area’s young, cultured, techie vibe. The Brasserie and the Rooftop Bar & Terrace have been designed not just for guests but also to attract non-resident diners and drinkers. Head chef Gareth Mullins cooks quirky, modern Irish food in the airy Brasserie with Asian and Middle-Eastern touches. There’s crispy Wicklow lamb breast with broad beans, sweet and sour aubergine, pine nuts and chilli basil salsa (€10) and slow-cooked pork cheeks with black bean mousseline, pak choi, pickled daikon and plum jus (€24).
The Rooftop Bar and Terrace has a definite NYC vibe, with outdoor sofas (heaters and blankets in winter), a menu of small sharing plates and a cocktail list of ‘forgotten classics’ such as The Liberal Bourbon, made with sweet vermouth, angostura and orange bitters (€13). For the ultimate laid-back food experience, stay an extra night and book the Brasserie’s Sunday afternoon dining event, Le Drunch. A lunch/dinner mash-up, it mixes cocktails (including an epic Bloody Mary, €9.50), a live DJ and hangover-friendly food such as huevos rancheros with black-eyed beans, chorizo and guacamole (€14).
Double rooms from €159 (themarkerhoteldublin.com). For more info see visitdublin.com.
Briny, beautiful Gothenburg is the Scandi destination for those in the know. The Nordic region’s largest port is a place defined by the sea. Just 20-minutes north of this pretty, canal-lined city lies Bohuslän, a wild coast of clapboard fishing villages and scattered islands best explored on a seafood safari. Learn to catch and cook the marine big five – langoustine, lobster, oyster, shrimp and mussels, then dine quayside under a late-setting Swedish sun. Safaris (£65) out of the newly opened mussel bar in the elegant old clock tower at Lyckorna (klocktornet.nu) come highly recommended.
At Salt & Sill on nearby Klädesholmen island, try a tasting-board of six marinated herring (£14) or tuck into seasonal lobster on the terrace; the adjoining floating hotel is on hand if the setting proves too seductive. In the city, the new STF Göteborg is a bargain – a boutique hostel with plush beds and generous smorgasbord breakfasts (rooms from £50 a night). Stop for coffee at Da Matteo, a quintessentially cool Gothenburg bakery/roastery serving a supreme café ristretto and wickedly good cinnamon buns (£4). But leave room for dinner at Wasa Alle (wasaalle.se), with veggie and seasonal tasting menus (four courses from £43), organic wines and most produce sourced from within four hours. Smart, sustainable and effortlessly cool, this is exemplary west coast Sweden.
Five-night trips to Gothenburg and the west coast cost from £758 per person, including flights, transfers, accommodation and a Gothenburg Pass (sunvil.co.uk/discovery). More info: goteborg.com, westsweden.com
The Lowther name is everywhere in this part of Cumbria (main image, above) – pubs, village schools, a ruined castle, even a village bears the name. Now, capitalising on its organic estate and gastropub, the Lowther family has turned to hotel-keeping with the opening of Askham Hall. The 12 rooms here have expensive beds and show-off bathrooms but, with discreet staffing (there’s an honesty bar for drinks, no real reception and no morning papers service) and occasional misfires – sachets of UHT milk and instant coffee on tea trays – it’s not a standard hotel.
The upside is character – oodles of it. Amid samey design hotels and upmarket chains, Askham Hall stands out. There are secret staircases; its walls play anything but safe with contemporary, avant-garde, paintings; its grade-II-listed garden blooms with established plants, and its views could only be bettered by the National Trust.
A restaurant with some stately rooms might be a more accurate description, because it’s the restaurant that shines. Askham perches tables in a conservatory setting on a floor of colourful encaustic tiles. Food is served on plates made by a potter in the village, and chef Richard Swale packs a lot into the day’s tiny but precision-designed menu (£45pp for three courses, with just two choices for each). Canapés of pork belly and an elderflower ‘biscuit’ that tastes a bit like a posh Ritz cracker are fun. And, from oxtail tortellini with broccoli, onions and Hawkeshead beer to roasted duck breast with spring greens, chicory tart, turnip and medlar, every dish includes produce from the Lowther estate or kitchen gardens. Best of all is dessert: a paean to rhubarb, with panna cotta, yoghurt sorbet and a side of pistachio cake. Double rooms from £150 (askhamhall.co.uk). More info: golakes.co.uk
Banish thoughts of rusticity: Domaine de Manville is a palatial hotel in the mountains outside Avignon that has grown from its origins as a cereal farm into the hottest retreat for Parisians. The olive-carpeted Alpilles National Park is a wild counterpoint to this 30-room hotel – all grand chandeliers and cool, muted colours, and a labour of love for local couple Patrick and Edith Saut. Dine poolside in the village square-style courtyard where chef Steve Deconinck (formerly with Michelin-starred Chez Bru, Ferran Adrià and Marc Veyrat) is in his element presenting dishes tableside.
The menu is ripe with Provençal flavours – sunny tomatoes, olive tapenade, anchovy paste and plenty of seafood (the Camargue is an hour away) – but in keeping with the hotel, rustic elements are refined. Crab comes rolled, sushi-like, in zesty cucumber and cool avocado cream (€29); deep-water prawns and whelk are scented with saffron, dressed with a basil emulsion (€36). Local flavours are artfully employed in the spa, too, where products blend pine, olive oil, verbena, jasmine and royal jelly. Relaxing by the pool (inset above) under autumnal plane trees with a glass of rosé from Edith’s sister’s winery is equally therapeutic.
Double rooms from €235 (domainedemanville.fr). Returns from London City to Avignon from £135 (cityjet.com). More info at visitprovence.com
There are no goose barnacles at Loulé market, but chef Andrew McGie isn’t perturbed. Choosing ingredients for a cataplana, he finds the freshest sea bass and clams before going into the butcher’s for chorizo. As head chef at Conrad Algarve , he sniffs out the market’s hidden delights (rosemary honey, oregano, wild thyme, sea salt and figs) before knocking back a café cortado at one of Loulé’s many coffee shops. He knows his wine, too, and points out the best alvarinhos to take home from wine shop Garrafeira Mestre Baco.
Back at the resort, a glamorous, ultra-modern hotel in golfer’s paradise Val do Lobo, he demos the cataplana, explaining that the dish is named after the copper pan in which it’s cooked. He layers peppers, sweated with garlic and wine, with sliced potatoes, tomatoes, coriander, saffron and sea bass, finally adding clams and white wine, and cooks it for 10 minutes. It’s delicious, albeit more rustic than his menu at Louro, his restaurant at the resort which features Portuguese ingredients in contemporary dishes such as lemon pepper baby squid, and seafood risotto with sea-scented foam. The family-friendly hotel takes its food very seriously: breakfast is a generous buffet of Portuguese cheeses, fruit and pastries including pastéis de nata (the famous little custard tarts). Even the poolside bar, Dado, serves excellent picanha (steak skewers), salada Algarvia (like Greek salad, minus the feta) and petal-strewn sangria.
The bar at Gusto is overseen by award-winning Wilson Pires. He’s particularly proud of the juniper ice he makes, which gives a G&T a lovely blue glow. It sets the tone for dinner at the restaurant, renowned chef Heinz Beck’s only restaurant outside of Italy. Decorated in cool Scandi-style, with oversized globe light fittings and an open kitchen, this is Michelin-style Med cooking; snows and foams feature on the elegant tasting menu and the all-Portuguese wine list is a treat.
Two nearby restaurants deserve a visit: Paixa features modern art, banquettes made with Vogue-print fabric and chandeliers, but serves down-to-earth tapas: pork ears bathed in garlic (both soft and crunchy), marinated broad beans, and cod salad with chickpeas. At Marufo 1 – a busy chicken shack – dinner with a carafe of house wine comes in at under €20 for two.
Seven nights at Conrad Algarve from £799 per person, including return flights, private transfers and B&B (itcluxurytravel.co.uk). For details of a series of Portuguese food pop-ups in the UK this autumn and winter see tasteportugal-london.com
Historic-but-hip Brody House is a cultured hub where you can savour the bohemian spirit of the Hungarian capital in one bite. Since its rooms and apartments are part of the Brody Studios members’ club (you don’t have to be a member to stay), which also runs music and art events, they’re networked with in-the-know locals. This includes Taste Hungary’s Carolyn Banfalvi, author of Food Wine Budapest (£16.99, Little Bookroom), and a pro at getting guests to sample harder-to-find varieties of the nation’s excellent grapes. The company hosts a Tasting Table in the nearby Palace Quarter (€40pp), but it can dispatch knowledgeable young winemakers to Brody House to talk you through Montrachetupstaging Tokaj and spicy ruby Bull’s Blood over antipasti platters of local cheese and charcuterie (€90pp).
A stroll from Brody House is Macesz Huszár. This informal Jewish eatery delivers home-style cooking; schnitzel (£7), stuffed gooseneck (£4) and layered flódni cake (right, £3). Trendy as it is – sharing owners with the nearby DJ-soundtracked Doblo Wine & Bar – the ambience is traditional. For another intimate meal, book one of only 18 covers at Kispiac Bisztró well in advance. Foie gras pâté is the national delicacy, but we favoured the roast chicken (£5) and house-made pickles (£1.50). In the event of a hangover, you can’t beat a soak (£14) at neo-Baroque Széchenyi thermal baths.
Double rooms at Brody House from £56. Return flights from Luton to Budapest from £52 (wizzair.com). For more info see gotohungary.com
A new crop of food trails and safaris means it has never been easier to visit enthusiastic small producers, and taste freshly picked, churned or distilled produce. One of the best for autumn is the Snowdonia Safari in Anglesey, with its range of cheese and wine trails, mushroom foraging trips and ‘vegetable voyage’. We experienced a bespoke trail, starting at Môn ar Lwy, a small ice cream producer serving up velvety scoops of salted caramel and rum and raisin. Next up was Hooton’s Homegrown, a family farm that started off with a little shop on the side of the road and now stretches to a café and shop (don’t leave without some of their elephant garlic), and the nearby Halen Môn store for salted caramel sauce, umami
seasoning (a blend of shiitake mushroom powder, dry seaweed and salt) and hand-cooked crisps seasoned with Halen Môn sea salt. At Anglesey Farmers Market producers include Y Cwt Caws (Dulas , 01248 410372), an artisan dairy stall stocked with creamy Peli Pablo, a soft goat’s cheese mixed with herbs and marinated in sunflower oil, and Ffetys, a Welsh take on Feta. And, when you want to linger over the island’s ingredients via a sit-down meal, order a smoked fish and dill Scotch egg, with crispy bacon bits, watercress and lemon and laverbread mayonnaise (£8.50) or braised local belly pork with apple puree, maple cream, black pudding fritter, roasted sage potatoes and carrot and swede ‘stwnch’ (£14.95) at the Black Lion.
Double rooms at Cleifiog B&B from £90 (cleifiogbandb.co.uk). For more info see visitwales.co.uk
Old Harwich is truly old, with winding streets, Dovercourt lighthouses, more timber-beamed pubs than it’s feasible to visit in an average weekend, and not a straight line in sight. The Pier, smack on the end of the seafront, is housed in two historic buildings: a pretty blue-and-white hotel built in 1864 in the style of a Venetian Palazzo; and a former inn, The Angel, where guests can make the most of a private sitting room for family get-togethers.
Stay in either and you can eat formally in the Harbourside restaurant on the first floor, with views stretching past the working port of Felixstowe to the sea (the sunset is spectacular from up here); or in the more relaxed Ha’penny Bistro downstairs, where you can see boats bob across the quayside by the old pier. Fish and seafood is what you should choose (though the meat is also excellent). In the restaurant, dishes range from pots of Harwich whelks in cider vinegar (£4.50) and crab tacos (£9.95) to south coast grilled lemon sole (£21.25), all fresh and beautifully prepared. The bistro menu includes a 70s-style prawn cocktail (£7.50), fish, crab and prawn curry (£18.50) and, of course, fish and chips (right, £11.50). Breakfasts are stupendous; stick with the fish theme and have kippers or smoked salmon with scrambled eggs. And if you have children in tow, make their stay extra special and ask to borrow a crabbing line and some bacon to catch your own at the quay.
Double rooms from £120 (milsomhotels.com).
It’s still gloriously warm in this part of Turkey as autumn begins. Ipek Tolbas, owner of Hotel Villa Mahal built the coastal hotel from scratch 25 years ago, and looks forward to this quieter time when she can spend more time with her guests. Rooms are sleek and stylish, and Turkish delight in each room is the first sign of the hotel’s commitment to good food. Breakfast on the top floor terrace is a generous buffet of local ingredients, including honey, olives, melons, beyaz peynir (a feta-style cheese), yoghurt and mint tea. There are other stunning eating places, too, like the waterside restaurant, and the rooftop terrace.
Nearly 200 steps below, lunch and dinner are served at the waterside restaurant. Lahmacun (a thin Turkish pide with minced-meat) is cooked in a stone oven, and other highlights are courgette fritters with yoghurt and garlic sauce, swordfish carpaccio with fennel and orange, and Ottoman lamb. Across the bay is Kalkan, a pretty harbour known for its rooftop restaurants. British diners (and most visitors to Kalkan are Brits) love the reasonably priced narince, a (softly honeyed white wine) and dishes such as lamb-stuffed courgettes at Kalamaki to aubergines with couscous and cinnamon at Zeytinlik (Hasan Altan Caddesi, 0242 844 3408).
There’s a colourful market on Thursdays, where you can buy honey, cheese, locally grown fruit and veg, and snack on gözleme (pastry) stuffed with meat, veg and herbs or cheese and cooked on a griddle. Villa Mahal can organise cooking classes and wine tastings at local restaurants such as Guru’s Place – the owner will pick you up and teach you how to make authentic Turkish family food at his unassuming roadside restaurant. For a lazier day, take a gulet or catamaran cruise where a simple lunch is cooked on board. In quieter months, you’ll more or less have the sea to yourself.
Seven nights at Hotel Villa Mahal from £1,000, including return flights, transfers, B&B accommodation, a Turkish bath and a day’s gulet cruise (exclusiveescapes.co.uk). For more info see gototurkey.co.uk
Hansen & Lydersen is a Norwegian salmon smokehouse that sets up stall every Saturday at Maltby Street Market. Stock up for brunch, along with St John doughnuts, Monty’s Deli salt beef, and Finest Fayre scotch eggs. It’s a 30-minute walk through the city to Cheval Three Quays, a smart new serviced-apartment complex on the banks of the Thames, near the Tower of London – each of Cheval Three Quays’ 159 apartments has a modern, well-equipped kitchen, many with river views from Tower Bridge to The Shard, so it’s the ideal way to make the most of produce from both Maltby Street and Borough Markets. Browse the apartment’s copy of the cookbook Canteen: Great British Food (£20, Ebury Press) to inspire your shopping trip, then pick up British charcuterie from Borough’s Cannon & Cannon , Bread Ahead’s sourdough, and Chegworth Valley’s veg .
Also on the doorstep is St Katharine Docks, home to Bravas, which has unbeatable Spanish gin and tonics and tapas. But to enjoy your stylish home from home, or if you have kids with you, bed in for the evening with a decent bottle from Borough Wines . Our pick for autumn is the rich and spicy, blackberryish Cedrus Malbec, £8.
One-bed apartments from £198 per night (chevalresidences.com).