Treat your favourite foodie to a romantic getaway this Valentine’s Day (or any day, for that matter!), whether it’s a weekend getaway to a B&B in the UK with a personalised breakfast hamper; a romantic weekend break in Italy for a slice of la dolce vita; or even a bungalow fit for couples perched on stilts in a lagoon in The Maldives.
For a cosy weekend getaway – The Wash House, Suffolk
Orford, a little town on the Suffolk coast, is the perfect place for a romantic getaway. It’s home to a bakery, a seafood restaurant and a travelling fish ’n’ chip van that settles outside the castle every Wednesday. A few local pubs offer bedrooms, but for something unique, romantic and appropriately foodie, try The Wash House Studio, an old red-brick wash house fitted with a foldaway double bed, ensuite bathroom, small seating area and underfloor heating.
It’s compact, but cosy and stylish, with a collection of antique books, and beautiful views from its French windows. Upon arrival we were welcomed with gooey homemade brownies (you can buy more at the country market every Saturday), and breakfast is delivered to your door in a gingham-covered hamper. Start with local apple juice (from High House Fruit Farm, less than three miles away) followed by yogurt and homemade blackberry and apple compote (made using fruit grown in the garden), hard-boiled eggs, croissants and sourdough toast from Orford’s fabulous Pump Street Bakery. What better way to kick-start a day of exploring this picturesque corner of Suffolk?
orfordwashhouse.co.uk (to read our full review of The Wash House click here)
For a luxurious romantic break – The St Regis, Malaysia
Langkawi is an archipelago of 99 islands in Malaysia ideal for a romantic getaway, known for its picture-perfect beaches, romantic hotels and unspoilt nature; think waterfalls, jungle and mangrove forests. The St Regis resort sits in an idyllic cove on the southern tip of Puala Langkawi, the largest island in the group, and this romantic hotel’s design blends European and Middle Eastern influences with local art.
Breakfasts here are epic. The buffet offers every imaginable option – think freshly pressed juices, sushi and a dim sum station as well as more familiar Western options – and there’s also an à la carte menu with specialities like local lobster omelette, croissant French toast and shakshuka. For lunch and dinner, head to the beautiful Kayaputi restaturant, which stands on stilts in the sea. Sip cocktails on low sofas or suspended hammocks, with the sun setting around you. Much of the food is inspired by local flavours – dishes like sambal skate fish with rice cracker and coconut flakes are presented in delicate, perfectly crafted portions.
If you can drag yourself and your other half away from the beach, the St Regis also offers a bespoke Geo Forest Safari, which takes the form of a speedboat ride down the local Kilim river surrounded by wildlife, followed by a trek through caves of stalagmites and stalactites.
stregislangkawi.com (to read our full review of St Regis Malaysia click here)
For a slice of la dolce vita – Borgo Egnazia, Italy
Borgo Egnazia, or ‘village Egnazia’, is quite literally that: a network of streets and piazzas that lead to restaurants, swimming pools, gardens and golf courses. Now a hotel, it’s a self-contained bubble of luxury in Puglia, built entirely from tactile tuff stone.
Food is a priority, with six restaurants that pay homage to the Puglian tradition of timeless, simple, thrifty food. From grilled octopus at the sophisticated Due Camini, where vaulted ceilings twinkle with illuminated glass bottles, to rustic orecchiette or pizza at Mia Cucina and fresh seafood at beachside restaurant Pescheria da Vito, it’s easy to stay within the Borgo idyll – although if you’ve got a car, it’s also worth visiting the charming whitewashed town of Ostuni half an hour away.
borgoegnazia.com (to read our full review of Borgo Egnazia click here)
For a beachside Valentine’s – Santorini, Greece
Santorini is the poster-boy of the Greek islands: blue domes, white windmills and pastel houses line soaring cliffs. The island is also one of Greece’s culinary hot spots, with the volcanic mineral-rich soil producing superb wine, the ideal foil to traditional local dishes like chicken souvlaki and tomato fritters.
The loveliest part of the island is the pretty cliff village of Oia, home to a complex of studios, suites and villas, Esperas. Sunbathe, read and watch the ships come and go until dinner at Dimitris Taverna, a simple, bright fish restaurant on the quay where you can dine while watching the sunset.
You get a different flavour of the island high up on Oia’s cliffs. Here, Lycabettus claims even more spectacular views with tables that seem to float over the sea. This is Santorini fine dining, with a seven-course degustation menu that offers dishes such as sea urchin risotto, scallop carpaccio and lamb with rosemary, all matched with Santorini’s superb wines. During the day, hire a car and follow the maroon Wine Road signs from Sigalas vineyard in the north of the island to Hatzidakis in the south. There are 12 private wineries on Santorini, and they’re all keen to explain how they grow and harvest grapes.
For romantic seafood dinners – Menorca, Spain
You could even squeeze this one into a weekend getaway. Clean turquoise waters, golden beaches and picture-perfect homes dotting the coastline – it’s easy to see why tourists flock here. But unlike other parts of Spain, this small Balearic island has managed to stay relatively unspoiled. Hotel Petit Maó recently opened in the island’s capital, Maó, minutes from the town’s heart on a street leading down to the busy harbour. It has six spacious bedrooms, and breakfast is made by the hotel’s owner, Nina; soft buns coated in powdered sugar, fresh fruit, toast served with wafer-thin slices of mahón, salty sheets of air-cured ham and sieved tomatoes with Spanish olive oil.
As in mainland Spain, tapas is big here. The most famous dish is caldereta, a Menorcan lobster stew that’s cooked and served in an earthenware pot. At cool, late-night café Pipet & Co (00 34 971 36 63 68) eat sobrasada (cured sausage), drizzled with honey, and spread on toast – and don’t miss Mestre D’Aixa (00 34 971 96 68 01) for its Galician ‘old cow’ sliced wafer thin and topped with mahón cheese, caramelised onions, herbs and breadcrumbs (you roll them together like a cigar). Or head to Es Mercadel, in the centre of the island, to fill up on brossat (a sweet bread/cheese pudding), and rubiol (the island’s version of empanadas) at Casa Sucrer. In between eating, go gin tasting at the last remaining distillery on the island, Gin Xoriguer, for a taste of the island’s many herbs.
hotelpetitmao.com (to read about our favourite Spanish foodie getaways click here)
For an indulgent hideaway – Grossarl, Austria
An hour south of Salzburg, Grossarl is ideally placed for a romantic weekend in the mountains. Stay at the Grossarler Hof a comfortable base with striking views. Luxurious facilities include a steaming outdoor whirlpool and Finnish-style spa, but the hotel retains the charm of a family-run chalet. The breakfast table is piled high with alpine cheeses and traditional jams, and dinner options include paprika-rich meat stews topped with fried eggs and sharp pickles, and comforting buttered späetzle (soft egg noodles) countered with bottomless glasses of floral grüner veltliner.
Higher up the mountain, schnapps is the drink of choice, with many of the huts distilling their own. Stop off at Muhlwinkelhutte in Dorfgastein for käsekrainer (grilled sausage stuffed with cheese), or Gehwolfalm for tiroler gröstl (potato, onion, bacon, sausage and fried egg). Sauerkraut is optional, but why wouldn’t you? After a day on the slopes, book a romantic horse-drawn carriage ride under the stars to the Aschaustüberl restaurant in Hüttschlag. Warm up with mulled wine round an open fire, then order the bauernbratl, traditional local dumplings, and kaiserschmarrn (shredded pancake) with apple purée.
grossarlerhof.at (to read about our favourite romantic ski trips click here)
For a hip weekend getaway – Casa Bonay, Barcelona
Hip Casa Bonay is a renovated mansion that makes other foodie hotels seem dull by comparison. Traditional hydraulic floor tiles are mixed with Gaudí’s iconic paving stones, adding a hint of edginess to its ground floor coffee bars and restaurant, and the stylish, pared-back bedrooms redefine luxury. Start your day with an antioxidant juice and a mango chia seed breakfast bowl from Mother’s in-house juice bar, followed by
a cold-pressed coffee lovingly crafted by Satan’s Coffee Corner.
Think light, bright, Asian-influenced dishes for lunch at another in-house dining option, Elephant, Crocodile, Monkey, which transforms into an innovative bistro by night, serving sharing plates of wondrous dishes like fried oysters with fennel salad and black garlic aïoli, and year-old, dry-aged beef tartare with mulato chilli and egg yolk. Sip vermouth
on the wood-decked roof terrace before dinner, then hit one of the jewel-coloured velvet sofas in the hotel’s bar, Libertine, for expertly mixed cocktails.
If you do want to head outside, make the most of the crisp, sunny winter days with lazy paella lunches al fresco. Kaiku has a lovely terrace on Barceloneta beach, or there’s Barraca’s sun-splashed first-floor dining room with views of the Med. At night, convivial Can Cisa Bar Brutal is the place to work your way through local natural wines paired with superlative tapas.
casabonay.com (to read about the best foodie neighbourhoods in Europe click here)
For a weekend of candlelit fine dining – Crillon Le Brave, Provence
Hilltop Crillon Le Brave is a vision of Provençal style; a clutch of honey-hued, pastel-shuttered houses surrounded by olive groves and vineyards. Now a gourmet hotel, its chefs gather pork from the Ventoux, asparagus from Mormoiron and trout from the river Sorgue. While they transform it into elegant dishes, spend your time playing boules in the terraced garden, relaxing by the pool or in the tiny spa, or exploring further afield: Avignon is a short drive away.
Inside the eight village houses that form the hotel, 28 rooms and seven suites have glorious views of the Rhône valley or Mont Ventoux, and are decked out in chic, country style with painted furniture and a smattering of antiques from nearby L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue.
Whether you opt for Jerome Blanchet’s fine-dining restaurant (and dishes such as young pigeon cooked two ways with a crumble of sweet onion and peach flavoured with verbena), or rustic Bistrot 40K (produce from within 40km of the hotel), the focus is on seasonal and local ingredients. One of the highlights of a stay, however, is breakfast on the hotel’s sunny terrace – a gourmet spread featuring fresh fruit, local cheeses, croissants and homemade granola laid out on a rustic farmhouse table. In between meals, borrow one of the hybrid bikes to explore the villages and vineyards of the Ventoux.
crillonlebrave.com (to read about our best French holidays for food lovers click here)
For a private bungalow retreat – Gili Lankanfushi, Maldives
The Maldives may be geographically spectacular, but they’re not known as a gourmet hot spot. Recently, though, there’s been a shift towards more local and sustainable cooking, with Gili Lankanfushi leading the charge. Food isn’t just an afterthought at this island resort, but a real focus. Like many Maldivian retreats, the majority of ingredients have to be imported, but head chef David Bakker is passionate about local sourcing.
Regional fish is a highlight of Gili Lankanfushi’s menus, and guests are welcome to tour the resort’s organic market garden and witness the impressive range of vegetables, salad leaves and herbs that the team have managed to propagate in the island’s recalcitrant sandy ground. Hotel buffets will never seem the same after you’ve sampled the highlight of the island’s culinary week, the Asian Street Market. This string of authentic food stalls is held on the beach every Thursday night, replete with billowing smoke, flaming hobs and a procession of Malaysian skewers, Japanese pancakes, Vietnamese pho and Peking duck.
All of the resort’s 48 bungalows perch on stilts over a crystal-clear lagoon and, while chic, they have a Robinson Crusoe feel – think lots of wood, breezy lounging spaces and open-air showers. Relax on your private deck and watch fish dart through the electric-blue water beneath, or plunge into the Indian Ocean and snorkel around the reefs.
gili-lankanfushi.com (to read our full review of The Maldives click here)
For an undiscovered foodie break – Lake Bled, Slovenia
Peace, quiet and unspoilt countryside makes Slovenia one of the most romantic places to visit in Europe. The best starting point is Lake Bled, a serene, mirrored lake set against the snowy peaks of the Julian Alps, with a tiny island in the middle that you can row to. Admire the blue waters from Bled’s clifftop castle then stop for lunch at its restaurant.
Decoration-wise, it feels Scandinavian – clean, with candles and tiny bouquets of alpine flowers on white beech tables. The menu is also fuss-free and natural: try a Gorenjska salad with young lettuce, fennel, green apple, buckwheat porridge and sour cream; a platter of local cheeses or buckwheat dumplings with tarragon in a rich porcini sauce.
To get the real Slovenian experience book into a farmstead or homestead overnight. They’re run by locals and are usually basic but charming – Ročnjek farmstead in the village of Gorjuše, a 30-minute drive from Lake Bled, looks like a mountain log cabin, with a paddock outside and rooms that mirror the alpine theme.
Dinner is served in a sweet house-on-the-prairie-style room, decorated with pretty cotton curtains and a beautiful ceramic stove. And it is unmissable. We expected nothing more than a platter of cold meats were served home-smoked trout with a kind of horseradish bread sauce; soup made from mushrooms foraged in nearby Pokljuka forest; a salad of wild dandelions, eggs, local olive oil and balsamic vinegar (remember how close to Italy Slovenia is); homemade struckli, with layers of soft, dough-like pastry and cream cheese; lamb chops cooked with flaked almonds; sweet, rich fillets of locally-shot deer; and slow-cooked beef tomatoes with braised fennel.
It was also the perfect excuse to head out for a moonlit, post-dinner, walk.
slovenia.info (to read our full foodie trip in Slovenia click here)