I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in this confession – but I choose my holiday destinations based on food.
Beaches are nice. So are galleries. And yeah, I love a bit of shopping. But honestly, for me, it’s all about the food.
I’m in the process of researching and booking my Summer vacation destinations (thank you Qatar for your long Government vacation allowances!). The criteria this year were: solid foodie credentials (of course), direct flights on Qatar Airways, minimum visa hassles and some cooler weather.
So, southern hemisphere here I come – at this stage Sydney, Cape Town and Argentina are favorites (plus a few other short beach-related forays in between and one special destination to appease AZ)
But if you are searching for a quick (or even long) trip this year, or need some inspiration, I’ve compiled a list of foodie destinations you should be adding to your bucket list – and some may surprise you (as they did me!).
First off the bat Oman is a surprising addition to this list but stick with me. An hour away from Doha, it’s an exotic destination with its mix of Arabic, African and Indian heritage. But in terms of food, I’ve seen the scene really develop in recent years, thanks to the country’s own abundant agriculture and fishing industry. The produce here is some of the freshest you will find in the region. I visited The spectacular Anantara Jebel Akhdar resort earlier this year – an hour from the capital and nestled in the mountains – and found the chefs there working wonders with the fresh produce. In the capital you can experience high end Indian food at places like Indus, or sambusa (crispy parcels stuffed with meat or cheese) and shwarma waterside at the Mutrah Souq. You can sample the sticky harees – basically wheat mixed with lamb or chicken – at local favorite Bin Ateeq. The country’s burgeoning five star hotel scene also throws up some interesting foodie options like spot on Indonesian food at Grand Hyatt Muscat.
How to get there:
Qatar Airways has 35 flights a week to Muscat.
Where to stay:
Anantara Jebel Akdhar: 2000m above sea level and a thousand miles from care. Splurge on a villa with a private plunge pool and sunset views.
Grand Hyatt Muscat: Your own seaside palace with foodie cred and excellent service.
No arguments here. Perhaps the foodie destination to beat them all, Bangkok is still always a surprise to me. I love the street food here but my last visit saw me eat at two of Asia’s best restaurants. David Thomson’s Nahm is everything you expect and more. Royal Thai cuisine cooked with skill and heart, my favorite dish was a sublime coconut and tumeric blue swimmer crab curry – chunks of tender meat nestled in a silky and richly spiced gravy. Meanwhile over W Bangkok, Turkish-born Chef Fethi, who helms The House on Sathorn, is turning fusion cuisine on its head. His tasting menu takes diners on a rollercoaster ride of his childhood and career. A dish dubbed “From My Mum” is a take on a Turkish dumpling called a manti and served with minter butter. Meanwhile his stint in Japan is exemplified by a sliver of perfect tuna belly. Exotic luxe.
How to get there:
Qatar Airways flies five flights a day to Bangkok, including the awesome A380. Check out my experience of its First Class here.
Where to Stay:
W Bangkok: Pumping with the brand’s trademark swagger, rooms are spacious and service attentive. Not the most centrally located, but the most fun.
Grand Hyatt Bangkok: Located in the heart of the action, close to food and shopping meccas, this hotel is big but also personal.
I promised some surprises and this underrated city is a foodie haven. A recent trip to the US saw me use this city as a hub – primarily because of the good flight connections with Qatar Airways and what a great decision that was. This is a city committed to its love of a good sandwich and lives and breathes awesome food. Your first stop should be Reading Terminal Market, which is heaving with foodie options. I’m not gonna lie, I may have visited DiNics several times for their fresh bread rolls stuffed with freshly pulled Italian style pork, topped with broccoli rabe and two delicious sauces. Meanwhile, I had been warned about being on point with my ordering of the city’s eponymous cheesesteak – wit, witout etc. Fear not, just dive in and ask for everything. The city’s thriving restaurant and small bar scene also took me by surprise, a standout being the excellent Bud & Marilyns, serving up contemporary comfort food like crispy cheese curds and Nashville Hot Buns with fried chicken, pickles and slaw. I’ve always been a long distance fan of Iron Chef Jose Garces and Amada is a great opportunity to try his unique take on tapas and Spanish food. On another note, it’s a very friendly city. People will randomly talk to you. Stepping out of the hotel within hours of landing I had three random conversations on the street. If it seems like I’m a little bit in love with this city, it’s because I am. Add it to your next US trip for the food, history and the people.I’m going back very soon, the laptop won’t stop me!
How to get there: Qatar Airways flies to the City of Brotherly Love five times a week.
Where to Stay: Hyatt at the Bellevue. Not the most luxe stay in town but the most central. The rooftop restaurant and bar, with stunning period detail and views across the rooftops of the city is worth the room rate alone.
My love of Indian food is well documented both on this blog and on my waistline. I try to visit at least twice a year and Mumbai is always a good idea. No other city in the world can match it for sights, sounds, smells, tastes and just energy. It’s a truly 24 hour city with a big appetite. Your first port of call should be the excellent team at Mumbai Moments who will personally tailor a food tour for you – from cutting chai by the roadside through to where to get a great thali. A highlight of any trip to Mumbai is Pav Bhaji, native to Maharashtra. Pav in Marathi means a small loaf of bread and Bhaji means vegetable dish, in this case tomato. It’s addictive. Trust me.
How to get there: Qatar Airways has six flights a week to Mumbai.
Where to stay: Grand Hyatt Mumbai is my go-to hotel in this sprawling city. Spacious rooms and excellent food make up for it’s slightly remote location.
For many, Florence is a foodie dream come true. On my last visit, just when I thought I couldn’t eat another morsel, I always remarkably found my second wind. It’s here I truly embraced the art of appertivo or happy hour on steroids. Imagine a perfectly chilled and slightly sour Aperol sprtiz and unfettered access to an Italian inspired fingerfood buffet. I need to lie down just remembering it. Wine fiends should check out the revered wine bar Le Volpi e l’uva which has a team of passionate sommeliers on hand to guide you through some regional pours as well as excellent food like crostino with melted lardo and asiago cheese. In a city crawling with Michelin stars, I managed to snag a table at the contemporary Italian restaurant Ora D’Aria which is reinventing some old favorites like a tortellini with kale and lavender. If you want an immersive foodie experience, head to the Mercato Centrale, a two level food market. Here they love the “try before you buy” concept so you can happily sample meats and cheeses. One must-eat venue is Nerbone – the stand is as old and the market, the line sees market workers and confused Chinese tourists stand patiently and the service is perfunctory. But the hot boiled beef on a freshly baked roll with their trademark sauces is a thing of beauty.
How to get there: Qatar Airways has six daily flights to Italy, including Rome which is an easy connection to Florence.
Where to stay: St Regis Florence rates as one of my most extraordinary hotel stays ever. Gorgeous location on the Arno, old school service and even a Michelin star restaurant. Truly sublime.
This city is not for the fainthearted. What I love about it is that the locals really don’t care that you are there. They are the walking definition of ambivalent. I thrive on that. I’m like a puppy – the more you ignore me the more I want you to love me. This city is a haven for an adventurous foodie. Book yourself a food tour and get amongst it. Check out one of my favorite street foods – the bing or crispy pancake. A trip to Beijing can’t pass without trying Peking Duck. I consider myself a bit of an expert, having sampled it in Australia, Qatar, India, US and now…China. Duck De Chine came highly recommended and while expensive, elevated the humble duck and condiments to high art. As far as dining experiences go perhaps the most interesting wasn’t in a high end hotel or restaurant I was lured to the hutongs to check out the famed Black Sesame Kitchen. The kitchen and dining room give the idea of a big dinner party. People on my evening included fellow Aussies, Chinese businesspeople, visiting American couples and repeat customers. The 10 course menu was a greatest hits of Cantonese cuisine. Beijing is big and baffling but worth it.
How to get there: Qatar Airways flies daily to Beijing.
Where to stay: Park Hyatt Beijing is hands down one of the most spectacular properties in the Hyatt portfolio. The hotel starts on the 45th floor of the tower and every room has a view.
I fell in love with Athens as a 20 year old backpacker 25 years ago (cough). Say what you want about the Greeks, they do two things really well – cheese and anarchy. I have always admired the Greeks for their ability to enjoy life, create amazing food and manage to plunge their country into widespread chaos at the flick of a switch. I finally returned recently and found a city cosmetically changed (lots of graffiti) but the heart and soul still the same. And the food, well it’s even better than I remembered. While the famous yeeros (flatbread stuffed with pork or beef or chicken with salad and a pungent garlic sauce) can be found in the still fun Plaka and the funky Monastraiki areas, those looking for something different should head for Funky Gourmet for a creative take on this ancient cuisine. My favorite meal however was at Hytra, with a slick, modern décor, a view of the mesmerizing Acropolis and a focus on raw and locally sourced produce.
How to get there: Qatar Airways flies to Athens 21 times a week.
Where to stay: The Anenaeum Intercontinental is a little out of the action and looks soulless on the outside, but the rooms are well designed and spacious and if you snag one with an Acropolis view, it’s worth it.
I’m sure this list will be contentious. I’ve left out Istanbul, which is a great foodie city as is Budapest and of course, Paris. Not to mention Melbourne in my homeland, Bali has some funky vibes and great eats and Penang in Malaysia is street food central.
But I wanted to give you a taste of something different, somewhere challenging and a little off the eaten track.
Wherever your travels take you this year, may it be tasty and fun.
Where are you planning to travel this Summer?