The people have eaten, the public has spoken and the 10 most amazing hotel dining experiences in the world have been shortlisted and passed over to the Smith Hotel Awards judging panel. We’ll reveal the final winner here on 7 November, but while the judges chew over the contenders, cast a hungry eye over 2014’s official ‘Best Hotel Restaurant’ top 10. We asked you where gourmands should gather for great food and good times. This is what you said…
Gourmet highlights Winner of the 2013 Smith award for Best Hotel Restaurant
• Garden-fresh herbs and vegetables • Inspired seasonal menus
Given that the owner of this romantic Provençal inn, Alain Ducasse, holds more Michelin stars than any other chef in the world, it’s hardly surprising that the food is show-stopping. The restaurant, headed by one of Ducasse’s protégés, Christophe Martin, is a gastronome’s daydream that showcases the finest local produce in a daily changing menu of delectably inventive dishes. Vegetables, herbs and edible flowers are plucked from the gardens to ornament delectable dishes such as roasted young pigeon with polenta, beetroot and turnip. There’s no frippery or unnecessary extras; just simple, seasonal ingredients, intelligently prepared and served in a truly beautiful place.
Gourmet highlights One of the world’s best Thai chefs, David Thompson
• Innovative spin on traditional Thai favourites • Extensive wine, cocktail and tea menu
With a voyeur’s view of the poolside and a gourmet’s grasp of rare, regional Thai cuisine, the hotel’s sleek ground-floor restaurant Nahm, headed up by esteemed Australian chef David Thompson, tops every visiting epicure’s to-do list (not to mention a fair few ‘Best Restaurant in Asia’ shortlists). Thompson is a Thai food obsessive (his now-closed London venue was the first Thai restaurant to earn a Michelin star), and Nahm’s extensive menu of delicately robust curries, zingy salads and superlative stir-fries takes you on an unforgettable tasting tour of Thailand.
Gourmet highlights Runner-up for Best Hotel Restaurant in the 2013 Smith Hotel Awards • Tender wagyu beef from the Central Tablelands • Encyclopaedic wine list
The award-winning restaurant here has made this quiet spot on the Central Coast a point of pilgrimage. The grand main dining room, overlooking the gardens, is the spiritual heart of Bells at Killcare. But you’d be happy eating chef Stefano Manfredi’s food anywhere – robust duck and pork ragus, pan-fried veal, homemade gelati and antipasto plates that would feed a family. Italian heritage is overlaid with rigorous local and organic product sourcing, with highlights including Hawkesbury River oysters.
Gourmet highlights Runner-up for Best Hotel Restaurant in the 2013 Smith Hotel Awards • Hand-picked kitchen-garden produce and rare-breed meats • Scintillating tasting menu and soothing views
Lake House hotel in Daylesford is the ideal furlough for exploring the produce and wine of rural Victoria. Fans travel for miles to indulge at chef Alla Wolf-Tasker’s multi-award-winning, lagoon-view restaurant. For the past 30 years, Wolf-Tasker has been the champion of local producers and almost everything on her modern Australian menu is grown in the region. The menu changes according to the season, but expect house-made charcuterie, heritage vegetables and fruits, local trout, eel and cheeses, free-range pork and wagyu beef.
Gourmet highlights Playfully opulent dining room
• Triple Michelin-starred chef • Imaginative French menu
Flavours is a haven of flamboyant cosiness: leopard-print carpet, red-velvet chairs, boxy glass vases stuffed with fresh flowers, and sage-looking types painted in oils and hanging from the walls. Gourmet French classics are cooked and served with panache by thrice-starred chef Virginie Basselot. Her airy take on seasonal cuisine shows hints of exoticism in dishes such as stewed rabbit in sage aspic, duckling breast with lemon verbena, and sweets laced with yuzu, tonka beans and bergamot.
Gourmet highlights Divine pasta and a gourmet grill
• View Roman ruins while you dine • Brilliant for Sunday brunch
The airy grey-and-white Borsari 36 restaurant centres on an open kitchen, turning every diner into a guest of the chef. Also behind the menus at Il Salviatino in Florence, Carmine Caló (motto: ‘ingredients and imagination’) has won admiration for his take on Italy’s culinary tradition; there’s a particular emphasis on home-made pastas, and perfect grills from the open-air barbecue. In the courtyard, among olive trees and aromatic herbs, diners can gaze down at the Roman ruins below: it’s one of the best brunch spots in Verona.
Gourmet highlights Unique floating restaurant
• Excellent Indian Ocean seafood • Watch sea life swim by as you dine
Le Prince Maurice has four restaurants, but by far the most spectacular is pontoon-perched Le Barachois. Down a lantern-lit walkway winding through mangroves, four wooden platforms float on the lagoon: the perfect sunset setting for romantic dining à deux. A lesser hotel might be tempted to let the scenery hold sway, but executive chef Michael Scioli’s expertly crafted cuisine is almost enough to pull focus from the scenery. The finest fresh seafood – Madagascar Faye Faye crab or grilled lobster – is drawn from the Indian Ocean. (And do keep an eye out for Johnny, the three-metre shark who can sometimes be spotted circling beneath you.)
Gourmet highlights Produce cured and smoked on site
• Hand-reared meats and foraged ingredients • Celebrated chef duo of Angela Hartnett and Luke Holder
If you had to choose a cheffy double-act to run a kitchen, you’d be hard-pressed to pick a more perfect pairing than Angela Hartnett (an alumna of Gordon Ramsay and Marcus Wareing turned legend in her own right) and Luke Holder (fresh from doing stove-time at Tuscan three-star Enoteca Pinchiorri). At Hartnett Holder & Co, they plunder their British and Italian heritage, forage for fungi in neighbouring woods, hand-rear their meat and cure it in the onsite smokehouse to bring refined comfort food – on small, less formal plates – to the tables of their aristocratic-but-cosy dining room.
L’OLIVO AT CAPRI PALACE HOTEL & SPA, ITALY
Gourmet highlights Capri’s only Michelin two-star
• Sublime sea-view terrace• Strong emphasis on regional specialities and produce
Elegant L’Olivo, the only restaurant in Capri which has two Michelin stars, serves superlative Mediterranean cuisine from young chef Andrea Migliaccio. Bright, white, furnished with cosy armchairs and sofas, and festooned with luxurious cashmere, linen and cotton, the dining room spills out onto a terrace overlooking the pool and the isle of Ischia, the chef’s birthplace. As you’d expect for someone rooted in the region, Migliaccio crafts menus that are fiercely proud of Campania’s produce (the rabbits that abound on his native island frequently find their way into his ragu), and which showcase his technical proficiency and attention to detail. Even the breads are exquisite.
Gourmet highlights Fine-dining; unpretentious atmosphere • Wonderful wine cellar and no corkage fee for Sonoma wines • Farm-fresh locally sourced ingredients
Wedded to the land and changing with the seasons, the Modern American restaurant menu reflects the hotel’s Sonoma surroundings, tapping local farms for meats, veg, fruit and cheeses. Executive chef Dustin Valette is a Sonoma native, and handles a cornucopia of regional ingredients with aplomb. Scallops are a perennial favourite – whether pumped with black truffle oil or dusted in caramel popcorn powder and swimming in sweetcorn soup – and mains tend towards bold and ballsy flavour combinations that could easily overbalance in less meticulous hands.
TASTY TIPS Oh, and while we’re on the subject of the finest hotel-restaurant kitchens in the universe, don’t miss our new free iPad app Great Global Chefs. Built by the chaps behind Great British Chefs and featuring recipes from 20 of the best Smith-hotel chefs around the world (including many of those featured on the awards shortlist), it’s the ultimate app for gallivanting gourmets keen to create restaurant-quality dishes at home. Download it now.