Elizabeth Meryment checks out some top European dining spots where you don’t have to eat and run
ESTAURANTS with rooms is a concept that makes perfect sense. What’s the point of a long drive home after a vastly satisfying meal when you can retreat to a lovely suite and make a real occasion of the experience? In Europe, particularly in Britain, the chef-owned hotel is a booming trend. So much so that even Gordon Ramsay has got in on the act. The York and Albany, London: Nothing in the food world is a trend if it’s not being done by British superchef Ramsay. As if having innumerable Michelin stars and too many angry television shows doesn’t give him enough to do, Ramsay — with the help of protege Angela Hartnett and her head chef, Colin Buchan — late last year opened this 10-room boutique hotel and restaurant in the rapidly gentrifying north London suburb of Camden.
The rooms are luxe — polished floorboards, 400-count Egyptian cotton sheets, period antiques and opulent baths — while the menu, with its Mod-Brit flourishes (try, perhaps, red-leg partridge with curly kale and truffle chips), is well-priced and intriguing. www.gordonramsay.com/yorkandalbany. The New Angel, Dartmouth: He’s older than Ramsay, and not half as sexy, but fellow Brit, celeb-chef John Burton-Race, is another hooked on the restaurant-withrooms concept. Burton-Race may come across on the small screen as unbearably cranky, but his establishment in England’s gorgeous southwest is much loved for its sophisticated French-inspired fare and simple but elegant rooms.
And after a dinner of Cornish cod or Dexter beef, what could be better than climbing your own staircase to the attic’s Mount Boone suite with its sitting room and roll-top bath? www.thenewangel.co.uk. Restaurant Sat Bains, Nottingham: Sat Bains was a rather obscure English chef doing good modern food before his appearance on cult cooking show Great British Menu made him an international food star. At his super-sleek and now very popular restaurant in Nottingham, Bains combines top produce with cuttingedge techniques. Try, for instance, milk-fed rabbit with langoustine essence, roast langoustine and corn and afterwards stay in one of Bains’s eight sophisticated rooms in this most gorgeous of English rose settings. www.restaurantsatbains.com. Arnolfo Ristorante, Tuscany, Italy: Chef Gaetano Trovato has been running this Tuscan institution with the help of his brother Giovanni for 25 years and it is hardly surprising visitors keep returning. Set in a 16thcentury stone house amid the rolling hills of medieval Colle di Val d’Elsa, the restaurant holds two Michelin stars. Trovato offers sophisticated Italian fare — his pan-fried scampi with goose liver is said to be otherworldly — while the rooms are simple and elegant. www.arnolforistorante.com. L’Andana, Tuscany: Alain Ducasse may be one of France’s most-loved chefs, but his unwavering passion for beauty has lead him to open this exquisite restaurant-hotel in Tuscany’s Maremma province. The hotel is set amid 200 magnificent hectares that once belonged to the duke of Tuscany and has its own vineyard, winery, orchard, olive grove and more. And while the restaurant is housed in a medieval ‘‘ barn’’ (a description that can be employed only in the loosest possible sense), the Tuscan cuisine is hardly unsophisticated. Only top-notch local prosciuttos and sausages make the grade here, and are served alongside vegetables and herbs picked from the property’s garden. www.andana.it. Domaine des Andeols, Provence, France: While on the subject of Ducasse, it’s hard not to rave about another of his restaurant-hotels (apparently he’s obsessed with them). The nine guesthouses in this Provence property, opened in 2007, feature some curious designs, with tribal artefacts displayed alongside Andy Warhol paintings on the walls, and the food is in the extreme haute cuisine range (try a cold green soup for starters). The experience is reported to be extraordinary. www.domaine-des-andeols.com. Maison Troisgros, Roanne: One of the earliest of the restaurant-with-rooms genre, Maison Troisgros was established in 1930 and is still going strong under the patronage of scion Michel Troisgros and his wife MariePierre. While the restaurant consistently makes it on to French culinary top 10 lists courtesy of Michel’s kitchen brilliance, the hotel’s surprisingly minimalist decor makes a welcome change from many over-the-top French hotels. The Japanese-inspired rooms make a perfect retreat after indulging in some of France’s best food (if budget permits, try the crawfish with violet olives and streaky Zibello ham). www.troisgros.fr. ElBulli Hotel, Seville, Spain: This elBulli is not located at the famous Ferran Adria restaurant, which is far away on Spain’s northwest coast, but it is run by the chef widely regarded as the world’s best. Set in a 10thcentury Moorish farmhouse, the hotel aims to offer an experience similar to that of the restaurant; that is, one that stimulates all the senses. Each of the hotel’s rooms is different and features antiques and artworks.
And the food? Well, I like the idea of lunch: tapas served by the pool between a leisurely 1.30pm and 3.30pm. One of the hotel’s three restaurants also offers a tasting menu from the famous restaurant which, of course, is what guests are really here for. www.elbullihotel.com.
Snack attack: Gordon Ramsay’s boutique hostelry The York and Albany, in the fashionable north London suburb of Camden, has a strong focus on food
French dressing: Maison Troisgros, Roanne
Full bed and board
For a stellar dine-and-stay experience in Australia, the following getaways fit the bill:
Jonah’s, Whale Beach, NSW: On Sydney’s northern beaches, anchor yourself in one of 11 boutique guestrooms after taking in unrivalled ocean views while dining on George Francisco’s excellent Mod-Oz cuisine. www.jonahs.com.au.
The Royal Mail Hotel, Dunkeld, Victoria: Chef Dan Hunter won The Royal Mail its GourmetTraveller 2009 Regional Restaurant of the Year gong. Try his exquisite offerings then retire to your room within the Royal Mail Hotel or at Mt Sturgeon Estate, a nearby working sheep station. www.royalmail.com.au.
The Loose Box, Mundaring, Western Australia: Cosy cottages and French degustation dining at its best, courtesy of celebrated chef Alain Fabregues. www.loosebox.com.au.
Lake House, Daylesford, Victoria: One of Australia’s premier gourmet destinations: fine diner, luxe hotel, spa and relaxation retreat rolled into one. www.lakehouse.com.au.
Bells at Killcare, Central Coast, NSW: Stefano Manfredi’s Italian-influenced food and relaxed, beach-chic villas make for the perfect getaway just 90 minutes north of the Sydney CBD. www.killcarebells.com.au. Michelle Rowe