If you’re seeking inspiration for your next culinary trip, here are some of the most unique affordable European hotels and retreats with fantastic food that have opened in the past year or two.
The Norrmans, Denmark
Swedish interiors stylist Anna Norrman and her chef husband Lars made the leap across the Öresund last year to open The Norrmans, a seriously stylish boutique b&b in Stevns, an hour south of Copenhagen. Breakfast comes on a tray which you can take up to your (lime-plastered, earthily coloured) room or out into the glorious garden and you can order a picnic lunch to take with you as you explore the surrounding area.
Dinner is a communal affair, consisting of whatever Lars fancies rustling up – it could be wood-fired pizzas, a French-inspired feast or a barbecue in good weather – all served with plenty of good wine and interesting company.
A greenhouse style room filled with pot plans and wicker sofas. Credit: Mikkel Adsbøl
El Gran Sueño, Spain
There’s a “slow hotel” philosophy at El Gran Sueño, a boutique rural retreat in the mountains of Asturias. It uses renewable energy and serves only homemade, organic food, with at least one dinner a week meat-free.
Tuck into freshly baked bread with grated tomato and local artisan cheeses for breakfast (with a glass of freshly squeezed Valencia orange juice or pressed Asturian cider-apple juice) before heading out to explore the surrounding mountains and woodlands. Having worked up an appetite, return to base for a hearty, home-cooked three-course dinner (the vegan chocolate and beetroot brownie is a must-try pudding).
Le Barn, France
Set within a 200-acre estate near Bonnelles, in the heart of the Rambouillet forest, yet only a 45-minute drive from Paris, Le Barn is a super-sybaritic rural escape, complete with stables, sauna, hamam and yoga shala.
An extensive kitchen garden provides much of the food for the restaurant and is the starting point for cookery classes with chef Marc Pagel. Menus are seasonal and sophisticated – you could find yourself eating strawberry gâteau in the garden in summer, or blanquette de veau at wooden communal tables in the colder months.
Le Barn is a super-sybaritic rural escape, complete with stables, sauna, hamam and yoga shala
Hotel Havgrim, Faroe Islands
The Faroe Islands have popped up on the foodie radar in the past few years and this recently-opened boutique bed and breakfast in a former Commodore’s house in Torshavn is the perfect place from which to discover their unique cuisine.
The most expensive hotel on our list it’s still good value for the pricey Faroes. Breakfast is served in a dining room overlooking the sea and includes homemade rhubarb jam (one of the few staples to grow on these windswept islands), Faroese mutton sausage and Faroese smoked salmon, along with hipster options such as ginger shots and homemade chia porridge with coconut milk. Staff can recommend one of the town’s few (but exciting) restaurants for dinner.
Breakfast is served in a dining room overlooking the sea. Credit: Mirjan van der Meer
Cressa Corona, Crete
This 16th century Venetian Ottoman mansion – complete with original stone-built oven and Turkish hammam – once belonged to a nobleman who kept his harem there. It’s now an adults-only boutique hotel in the Old Town of Rethymno, with just five light and luxe-y suites.
Choose to have your breakfast in-room or up on the hotel’s rooftop terrace, enjoying views over the medieval town; either way, you’ll be served a host of local, organic delights such as Cretan pies, Cretan barley rusks with tomatoes, local mizithra and graviera cheeses, omelettes and thyme honey.
Langhe Country House, Italy
An imposing 18th century farmstead near Alba, in Piedmont, Langhe Country House is surrounded by vineyards and hazelnut orchards and has been beautifully renovated by Alessandro and Nadia (also a Slow Food member and trained sommelier).
The only meal served here is breakfast but what a breakfast it is: hazelnut cakes and tarts, biscuits (baci, brutti e buoni), croissants, jams, seasonal fruit, cheeses from Alta Langa, sliced hams – all homemade or local. Cooking classes for typical Piedmont recipes can be arranged in the adjacent kitchen and guests are encouraged to help themselves to a glass of wine from the poolside wine fridge before going out for dinner in the local village.
The lavish breakfast complete with croissants, jams, bread, waffles, eggs and charcuterie
La Belle Vue, France
Run by another Swede who followed her dream south (this time to Neffiés, a dreamy village in the Languedoc) La Belle Vue features six individually decorated bedrooms, each one a vision of romantic French loveliness with vintage iron beds, antique linen, sun-dappled balconies and powdery tones.
Owner Yvonne makes the most of the area’s produce (saffron and wine among it) and each morning lays out a breakfast buffet by the pool consisting of local farm cheeses, homemade jams (made from fruit donated by the neighbour), bread and croissants from the local boulangerie and patisserie and fresh juices. Dinner is served on the terrace or in the dining room a couple of evenings a week; on Thursdays –when the local seafood man comes to town – it’s always oysters, moules frites and homemade crème brûlée served with Picpoul wine. On other nights, Yvonne can recommend one of the village’s restaurants.
D’une île, France
This group of 17th century stone farm buildings outside Rémalard, in rural Normandy, was lovingly converted into a beautifully minimalist guesthouse by the property’s former Dutch owners. Now, having recently been taken over by the team behind legendary Paris restaurant Septime, Bertrand Grébaut and Théophile Pourriat, it’s also drawing visitors for its food.
As you would expect from the revered duo behind it, the food is superb (a selection of small seasonal dishes is on offer at lunch and dinner – think leeks with savagnin vinaigrette, fresh walnuts and nasturtium, or cream puffs scented with fig leaf) and all the more so for being served in such bucolic surroundings (albeit only two hours’ drive from Paris).
Minimalist bedrooms with white furnishings at D’une île
Maison Cimes, France
Whether you’re hiking the peaks and valleys in the summer or skiing at the neighbouring resort of Les Orres in winter, Maison Cimes’ stunning location in the Hautes Alpes makes working up an appetite an absolute pleasure.
Owners Sandrine and Xavier have done up the five bedroom retreat (several of the rooms come with balconies overlooking the valley) in cool, contemporary style and they use local, seasonal and organic products wherever possible in the kitchen. On certain Saturdays, guests are welcome to join them in the kitchen for an informal cooking class over a glass of wine and prepare dinner together.
Striking mountain views from Maison Cimes
Casa Mae, Portugal
This beautifully converted historic house in the old town of Lagos is serious about sustainability. All its vegetables come from the hotel’s own 6000 square-metre kitchen garden, eggs come from the property’s 200 or so chickens and more than 90% of everything you can eat or buy on site is made in Portugal.
Breakfast is served by the pool and might stretch to kale and spinach toast with poached eggs or an Algarvian smoothie bowl, while lunch might consist of braised octopus from the local seafood lady or artisan cheeses with homebaked bread. The hotel also holds regular farm-to-table cooking classes, four-hour ‘cruise, fish and grill’ trips and other creative workshops.
More than 90% of everything you can eat or buy on site is made in Portugal
Words by Tatty Good