Our food trips with olive often include a dose of “hygge”, that Danish word that encompasses life’s simple pleasures. In Nordic countries, and Denmark in particular, people are good at taking time to enjoy these little distractions from everyday stress – lighting candles for dinner, sitting in a cosy chair to enjoy a cup of coffee or going for a phone-free walk. Hygge is not exclusive to the Nordic countries. though. Below are a range of trips from the UK, France and beyond that have given us that cosy “hygge” glow.
North Jutland, Denmark
Say Denmark, think Copenhagen. But travel further north and you’ll be rewarded with pristine coastal views, beautiful architecture and cleverly cooked seafood. In Jutland, the most northerly part of Denmark, begin in the region’s biggest city, Aalborg, and then head north towards Skagen, Lønstrup and the Grenen sandbar, where the North Sea and Kattegat Sea collide in a tumult of frothy waves. Here, white beaches lie undisturbed, the sea is as clear as it is cold and the houses are clean, white and unfussy. Dress like the Danes, who never go anywhere without a big woolly scarf.
A must-visit restaurant is Villa Vest in Lønstrup, 50 minutes north of Aalborg by car. Impossibly romantic, it looks as if it’s floating on the sea and makes the most of its happy situation with panoramic windows. Watch the sun set while enjoying beautiful plates of grilled oyster brioche, turbot with hollandaise and pine powder, and white chocolate mousse with sharp rhubarb sorbet – food worthy of a Michelin star, although the chefs here are only interested in making ‘ordinary people’ happy.
Bounce along past thatched cottages, green fields and beech woods in East Devon to the tiny village of Gittisham. Here, down a driveway, is The Pig at Combe, an Elizabethan manor deep within a 3,500 acre-estate.
Pig hotels’ founder Robin Hutson and hotel director Fiona Moores have done away with a traditional reception desk in favour of a glamorous bar with a roaring fire that couldn’t get more hygge. As you enter the room a rack of deep pink umbrellas and garden herb-infused vodka bottles say “welcome, throw off your coats, sink into a red velvet sofa and get going on the cocktails.”
A unique camp, far from any road and surrounded by granite outcrops and birch forest, the Canvas Hotel is a cluster of 10 stylish yurts, a sauna, a shower and a larger yurt for meals. Pricing is all-inclusive and experiences are tailor-made for guests. It’s set on the edge of a lake in an area full of biking and walking trails, but the food is integral to a stay here; the camp chef makes post-adventure feasts that range from fresh lobster to moose steak, all on a table-top raclette grill. Check out these other great places to eat and drink in the wild in Scandinavia.
Savoie Mont Blanc
Under makeshift wooden wigwams in a field above Lake Annecy 300,000 snails snooze. Despite that large number, snail farmer Philippe Héritier can’t keep up with demand from local chefs. His gros gris (big greys) are prized because they’re more tender than traditional Burgundian snails, and because they taste better (a fact he ascribes to letting them gorge on the rich grass of the French Alpine foothills).
Terroir is key to Héritier, who also produces biodynamic wines on his five-hectare vineyard, the Domaine des Orchis. As with the snails, Héritier believes that you are what you eat – or absorb through your roots. It’s not a new concept, but it’s one we’re happy to swallow with a chilled glass of 2014 Roussette de Savoie and a helping of snails, served sizzling in butter, parsley and garlic.
In the design district of the Finnish capital, Hotel Lilla Roberts is bold and glamorous. Despite the elegance the hotel embraces a general feeling of “hygge” – a wooden fireplace crackles beside a wall of birch logs, design books are scattered on side tables and squishy burnt orange sofas, and leather chairs, are perfectly placed to watch hip passers-by.
Winter days in Finland are short and seriously cold, so bedrooms come with cosy fur blankets, plush rugs on parquet flooring and velvet armchairs in deep plums, mustard yellows and teals. The hotel bar, Bar Lilla E, is a destination in itself for those in the know on Helsinki’s hip cocktail route. The dramatically spot-lit wooden bar (it just happens to sit next to a crackling fire) makes a stylish backdrop to a menu of Nordic-inspired cocktails. Each cocktail comes with a little extra, be that a tiny cheese triangle and small cup of black coffee on the side, a little juniper salmon smorrebrod or a tiny bed of grass to enhance the freshly mown smell.
French ski resorts, as a rule, are not as chocolate-box pretty as those in Austria or Switzerland. But there are exceptions, of course, and Alpine chalets that fall the right side of cowbell chic. Les Servages d’Armelle is one of them. In the little resort of Les Carroz d’Araches near Flaine, at the foot of the slopes of the Haute-Savoie, this hotel and restaurant is built with timber from an old farm. It has an authentic log-cabin vibe, the creak and reek of wood, with the odd nod (pony-skin stools in the bar) to the 21st century.
This trip packs in plenty of hygge, including rustic restaurants with roaring fires and a spit roast, and aromatic and dry white Savoie wines.
Unless you’re so addicted to the white stuff that only the finest off-piste will do a ski trip should be like any other holiday – one dominated by good food and drink. And, on those terms, there are few more satisfying destinations than the Italian resort of Alta Badia. No other valley in the Alps can boast a higher concentration of Michelin-starred restaurants than the pretty Dolomites resort of Alta Badia: a fact its chefs are extremely proud of. So much so, that they take part in a yearly event called Taste for Skiing.
Kicking off with a gourmet ski safari in December, this season-long culinary festival combines haute cuisine with local wine and head-in-the-cloud views. The ski safari is made up of dishes created by 14 internationally renowned chefs; try them across 14 of the region’s rifugio (mountain huts). Forget the heavy cheese- and potato-laden slope food you know – here you’ll find the lightest, silkiest folds of handmade pasta, creamy barley with local suckling pig and earthy marjoram, and fine seafood in delicate sauces.