Travelling to Dine: The Best Foodie Holidays To Take in 2022 - The Gloss Magazine

Travelling to Dine: The Best Foodie Holidays To Take in 2022

Plans for city breaks and summer hols always start with the food – or the long-awaited restaurant booking – says Katy McGuinness …

Once a chowhound, always a chowhound. Know us by the lists on our laptops, the accounts we follow on Instagram, by our restaurant triangulation. We’re the people who can’t countenance a holiday destination that doesn’t involve good food, the ones who are still smarting over the bad meal we had in the shadow of the Duomo in Florence a decade ago. (How could we have allowed this to happen? We drop our heads in shame.)

Put food and wine front and centre of your travel plans, we say, and no matter how bad the weather, how poorly the team plays, how expensive the shopping, how disappointing the AirBnB, the exhibition or the play, we’ll still have a good time and come home with recommendations to share. Wasted food opportunities are another matter altogether.

My first tentative steps as a chowhound began in Paris, when a job at Habitat in Les Halles provided me not just with a comprehensive vocabulary when it comes to kitchen equipment, light fittings and curtain fixings, but also with a weekly allocation of Tickets Restaurant – vouchers intended to be used for lunch each day but which I saved up for weekend blowouts.

Over the course of that student summer I discovered fondue, oysters, tagine and pho … and life has not been the same since. In late September I took an overnight train to Italy and trekked through the dark, wet, pre-Google Maps streets of Venice in search of a tiny restaurant said to serve the best polenta in the city, perhaps even in the whole of Italy. I didn’t know what polenta was, so you can imagine the look on my face when our waiter delivered the plate of gloop to the table.

Fritto di pesce, Acqua & Mais, Venice

Back in Venice this winter, ostensibly for the Biennale but armed with reservations at ANTICHE CARAMPANE, ALLE TESTIERE and AL COVO, we stayed in an apartment just steps from the VINO VERO natural wine bar. We nipped around on vaporettos, splurged on the occasional water taxi, and ate crudo fresh from the lagoon. Between the serious meals and visits to Peggy Guggenheim’s palazzo to drool over her impeccable collection and to Murano for glass, we trawled the cicchetti bars of the backstreets, with diversions to L’BACARO D’BISCHER for paninis on schiacciate, to Rosticceria Gislon for mozzarella in carrozza with anchovies and to Acqua & Mais for fritto di pesce, where in with the fish we found little chunks of deep-fried polenta (so much tastier than the wet stuff). Venice, it turns out, is a food city to cherish.

It’s hard to go wrong in Italy (so long as you avoid that wretched tourist joint by the Duomo) – just ask Stanley Tucci, whose Searching for Italy series will help you work up an appetite. (Piedmont in truffle season is next on my list.)

In the north, travel by train between Bologna, Padua, Parma and Mantua, soaking up the colonnades and frescoes, between slurping on bowls of tortellini in brodo, and put your name on the waiting list at Massimo Bottura’s OSTERIA FRANCESCANA in Modena, while being prepared to slum it at his FRANCESCHETTA if you don’t get in.

Massimo Bottura’s Osteria Francescana, Modena

Now we can travel for rugby again, I’m lining up restaurants for Rome next spring. You can’t go to Rome and not eat at ARMANDO AL PANTHEON at least once, but DA BRUNO and SANTO PALATA are special too and come February 2023 I’ll have a list as long as my arm of new places I want to try.

Armando al Pantheon, Rome photograph via @LATA85

I once booked a villa in Sicily by contacting the owners of a restaurant I wanted to visit – IL CONSIGLIO DI SICILIA in Donnalucata (because critic Marina O’Loughlin said it was her favourite restaurant in the world) – and asking if they knew of anywhere nearby available to rent. They recommended a house owned by a regular customer, a doctor in Turin, and we repaid the favour by eating in their restaurant three times in a seven-day holiday. Aside from spectacular sites such as the Temple of Apollo in Syracuse, dating from around 565 BC, which happens to be handy for the wonderful FOODMARKET IN ORTIGIA, you can have a brilliant food holiday in Sicily – not to mention a brilliant wine holiday – and you’ll leave with a better understanding of its culture through the mellifluous influences which combine to make its food so distinctive.

You only need one good restaurant to make a holiday – more is always better – but a precious holiday can be ruined by bad food. (Trust me, if you’ve ever holidayed in Croatia, you’ll know what I mean.)

Omega 3, Platis Gialos photograph via CARLA ETCETERA

If you’re thinking of a Greek island, why not make it Sifnos, the food island, known for amygdalota, almond cookies shaped like Roman noses or bourekia, ricotta, ground almonds, cloves, cinnamon and honey first wrapped in pastry and then doused with icing sugar, and revithada – chickpeas, onions, bay leaves, salt and pepper and the merest squeeze of lemon – into a dish that’s more than the sum of its parts? Eat once at OMEGA 3 in Platis Gialos – a casual beach joint favoured by Tom Hanks – and you’ll want to book in again immediately. (Yes, we ate there five nights out of six, because by the third night we were in the off-menu club, which is always a place you want to be.)

Sacha, Madrid photograph via CARLA ETCETERA

In Lyons, you can stuff yourself in the bouchons and atone the next morning at Le Corbusier’s monastery, La Tourette, while in Madrid you can get up close to Velasquez’ mesmerising Las Meninas and worship at the Reina Sofia between sherries at LA VENENCIA, rabbit ribs at LAREDO, and old school deliciousness at SACHA (order the lamb).

You will always – so long as you keep tabs on openings and closings, and follow the right social media accounts – be surrounded by good food and by the best art, theatre and shopping in London, Paris and New York. A hi-lo mix of fine dining and street food, including cuisines you can’t find at home, is always the best plan. On my next trip to NYC I’m planning an expedition to a particular Chinese food court in Flushing for xiao long bao, said to be the finest in the five boroughs.

A destination restaurant in a remote location, on the other hand, is high-risk. You’d want to be sure you’re going to like it. HIŠA FRANKO in Kobarid, Slovenia, high up in the Soca Valley overlooking the weirdly vivid blue water of the river below, where Ana Ros has two Michelin stars, is one that merited the (terrifying) three-hour taxi ride from Trieste. But if the food and wines hadn’t been so extraordinary, it mightn’t have been worth it.

There’s nothing more dispiriting than returning from holiday having wasted opportunities to eat good food, realising that there was an excellent restaurant within easy reach of where you stayed only after you’ve arrived home. So, make like a proper chowhound, do your research and come back with no regrets.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m just off to check out flights to Singapore. Hotelier and restaurateur Peng Loh (one of the owners of Sheen Falls, who happens to have a supremely hunger-inducing Instagram account), says his hometown is the perfect destination for a food obsessive, with its hawker culture recognised by UNESCO. There I’ll be queuing for the cheapest Michelin star establishment in the world – Hill Street Tai Hwa noodles, and checking out the incredible variety of food available in this multicultural city, from all manner of Chinese dialect cuisine to Malay, Indian, Eurasian and Peranakan. Peng tells me you can dine like a king on a pauper’s budget, all in a safe and hygienic environment, which sounds like an unbeatable combination.


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