Image credit: andBeyond
A stellar meal with an arresting setting can sometimes be the sole reason to jet off to some faraway corner of the world. Now that gastronomy has taken its act to the level of art, immersive culinary encounters coupled with beautiful destinations can only boil down to one conclusion: a match made in heaven.
Epicureans, tuck in to these feasts of the senses that you will treasure a lifetime.
#20. Dine in a South African boma
Awe-inspiring scenery and impressive wildlife are two things that South Africa has built itself a reputation on for centuries. But it’s not only the superlative game-viewing that draws intrepid travellers to the Mother Continent. On the culinary front, game lodges such as andBeyond Phinda Private Game Reserve offer you a sybaritic dining experience as topnotch chefs know how to whip up magic in the kitchen and serve it in the heart of nature. To savour the luxury of the savannah’s wide open spaces, there’s nothing like wrapping up your day around a blazing fire in the boma (traditional livestock enclosures) with a selection of international dishes freshly prepared with the best ingredients.
#19. Take fine dining to new heights in Thailand
Taking fine dining to new heights has never had a more literal meaning than in this Thai tropical haven. On Gulf of Thailand’s Koh Kood, the emphasis is on innovation and authenticity. Here, Soneva Kiri’s Treetop Dining Pod is the ultimate dinner-with-a-view experience, which allows you to enjoy gourmet delights and fine wines from an elevated bamboo pod hoisted up into the tropical foliage of the island’s ancient, lush rainforest. Don’t be taken aback when your mains get delivered via zip-line by your personal acrobatic waiter!
#18. Go deep down for an underwater dining experience in the Maldives
This encounter is not for those with bathophobia (fear of depths) as you’ll literally be surrounded by marine life curiously saying hello from the other side (sorry, Adele), but the entire dining concept at Ithaa at Conrad Maldives Rangali Island in the Maldives is as cutting-edge as it gets. Its trump card is the world’s first underwater restaurant accolade and the culinary delights are not to be overlooked as well: the menu consists of fine international and Maldivian dishes, which you can enjoy while gazing at the visual wonder of coral gardens and inhabitants.
#17. Get a dose of the Outback at Uluru in Australia
There’s something quite romantic about a sunset dinner with a view, especially when the view is that of the peculiar Uluru or Ayers Rock in the heart of Australia. You can even enjoy some bonus pampering basking under the shimmering outback sky, with the massive fiery-red rock looming large in the background. The nightly Sounds of Silence is a popular under-the-stars buffet dinner-experience, which comes complete with a didgeridoo player — making it easier for you to fall for this surreal-looking landscape.
#16. Watch live seafood slicing by haenyeo and enjoy sashimi in their company
For centuries, female divers in South Korea’s Jeju Island have made their living by harvesting seaweed and shellfish — one of the island’s most celebrated traditions that unfortunately is set to become a thing of the past. The numbers of these free-diving females, who can typically hold their breath for over two minutes underwater, have dropped drastically from over 10,000 about four decades ago to just a couple thousand in recent years. For an exclusive glimpse into a very unique occupation, opt for a specially-arranged cultural immersion session, where you not only get to see a haenyeo perform deft knife skills slicing up seafood and taste the delicacies, but also interact with and learn first-hand the way of life of one of these brazen women. Complete the initiation by visiting the Haenyeoui Jip located near major tourist attractions or along the coast, where restaurants offer bounty freshly caught by haenyeo.
#15. Experience the ultimate romantic dinner inside a cave
Let’s face it, even the most initiated foodies will be wooed by the charm offered by a natural setting. For instance, the renowned Grotta Palazzese, located in a limestone cavern in the southern Italian city of Polignano a Mare in the picturesque region of Puglia, is synonymous with sweeping vistas of the Adriatic Sea and has been drawing diners since the 18th century, when Italian nobility held banquets within. Over in Southeast Asia, the wine cave at Six Senses Ninh Van Bay is every bit as good. Its centrepiece may be the versatile collection of wines, but the simple fact that you’ll be feasting on remarkably fresh lobsters, king prawns and fish in such a distinctive space, is a delight in itself.
#14. Take a short hike to have an igloo fondue lunch overlooking the Matterhorn
It’s not often that your lunch view is that of Switzerland’s most iconic mountain: the mighty Matterhorn. For a taste of the Swiss mountain life, take a ride on the Gornergrat Railway from Zermatt to Rotenboden from January to March, and from there, head to the Igloo Village by taking a short hike. Expect to be treated to majestic, 360-degree alpine vistas while enjoying a delicious and quintessential Swiss delicacy: a hot cheese fondue.
#13. Indulge in canapes and sun-downers while submerged in Botswana’s Okavango Delta
The UNESCO World Heritage Okavango Delta knows no bounds when it comes to its rich ecosystem, and the best way to experience its intricate canals is, naturally, by taking a traditional mokoro or riding in a motorised boat. Plus, the real excitement is all about the impromptu surprises you will stumble upon along the way. Think floating setups featuring varied sundowners and palatable canapés meant to spice up your safari vacation.
#12. Dine exclusively at a natural waterfall in Thailand and enjoy a post-meal dip in cool waters
A remote location needn’t prohibit one from fine dining or a hearty dose of romanticism. For a lasting impression and a night of culinary pampering, retreat in the heart of Khao Lak’s verdant jungle, where you and your significant other can bask in The Sarojin’s private candle-lit champagne dinner prepared by your very own personal chef. The pièce de résistance here is definitely the roaring, overflowing waterfall, which adds a unique touch to the experience and even invites you to take a refreshing post-meal dip in its cool waters!
#11. Have a castaway meal on a deserted island
Perfect to enjoy with your better half, this Robinson Crusoe type of experience will easily make you feel like the last two people on earth. From Soneva Fushi, which is set on the privately-owned tropical island of Kunfunadhoo in Baa Atoll, an UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve, sail to impossibly azure waters to a private sandback in the Indian Ocean and dine on luscious courses under the illumination of lantern light. Indulge in luxury tents, swim, sunbathe and enjoy your day before you are “rescued” the next day with a scrumptious breakfast and a boat ride back to your hotel.
#10. Learn cooking skills from a prestigious culinary institution
Multi-Michelin-starred Alain Ducasse is one of the world’s best chefs and perhaps the heavyweight of French cuisine. For dedicated gastronomes, his cooking school, L’école de Cuisine Alain Ducasse in Paris, France promises a full immersion in the fine culinary art. There’s a great deal of recipes to master; classes include everything from puff pastry to the ubiquitous macarons to sophisticated quintessential French dishes.
#9. Have a sophisticated dinner at the feet of Michelangelo’s famous David
It’s hard to ignore the great appeal of pairing food and art, and in any art aficionados’ book, this is synonymous with perfection. If you’re a gourmand for both epicurean and aesthetic delights, don’t miss the, perhaps, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to dine lavishly – and privately – at the feet of one of the greatest masterpieces in the world: Michelangelo’s David housed in the Galleria dell’Accademia in Florence, Italy. Unlock a new level of appreciation of traditional and contemporary Italian gastronomy, which is an art in itself.
#8. Bask in a luxury picnic in exotic locales
It’s a known fact that Peru has emerged as a new global culinary epicentre lately. Blessed with a fertile ecosystem, the country is constantly reinventing its culinary scene and the way gastronomy is perceived, so much so there’s simply an air of excitement when it comes to food. For a good dose of nature and gastronomy, follow the path of Inca royalty to Machu Picchu and revel in a luxury picnic lunch at Huaypo Lake. Boasting glamping-like tents set up beautifully by the lake shore, the setup will impress you as much as the culinary delights and the Peruvian wines will! Over in Myanmar, travellers can withdraw into the serenity of Inle Lake beneath the Blue Mountains to get reconnected with nature and experience a romantic picnic in the Shan hills at sunset.
#7. Dine on the ocean floor in Nova Scotia
Home to pristine beaches, picturesque lighthouses and quaint coastal towns, Nova Scotia is considered one of Canada’s most beautiful provinces. Not only does it brim with natural attractions, but foodies are particularly pampered here as the bounty of the culinary experiences is enviable. For a memorable dining setting, during summer, head to Burntcoat Head Park on the Bay of Fundy, home to the world’s highest recorded tides. Picture this: at low tide, you’ll be able to enjoy a locally-inspired dinner right on the ocean floor and take in a unique setting: red sandstone cliffs, an abundance of fluorescent green seaweed and tidal pools teeming with sea life.
#6. Dig in a 3-course meal on the Hiram Bingham luxury train to Machu Picchu
Hiram Bingham is one of the world’s great train journeys, taking passengers from Poroy on the outskirts of Cusco to Machu Picchu Pueblo, the small town at the base of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. Ride this elegant Orient Express locomotive through the Urubamba Valley to experience the only Andean-inspired gourmet 3-course dinner on a luxury train in South America. The ever-changing view will surely add to the pleasure!
#5. Be one with the desert in a sand dunes dining experience
The world’s fascination with the desert is obvious; rugged and mysterious, this vast space can invoke the splendour of an Arabian Nights fantasy instantly. And what better way to get up close and personal with this mysterious landscape than by serving scrumptious delicacies that reflect the desert culture? In the Thar Desert near Jaisalmer in India, The Serai pledges feasts as visually enchanting as you can imagine: sip on sundowners in the adieu glow of the fiery planet and tuck into lavish dinners under dining tents whilst digging your feet into the warm and soft golden-hued dunes — in true Maharaja fashion. Over at Palais Namaskar in Marrakech, Morocco, you will be flown above the Atlas Mountains to the Sahara, where the biggest draw remains having lunch in the empty wildness of one of the most hypnotising deserts in the world.
#4. Go on a king crab safari in Kirkenes, Norway
Many aspects about the Arctic will be charming even to the most seasoned travellers. It is, after all, home to awe-inspiring landscapes, frozen fjords and focuses on unique experiences such as catching the Northern Lights and going on husky adventures. In Kirkenes, located 15 kilometres from the Russian border, you will be able to get up close and personal with this unique environment and experience a tantalising glimpse into the remote shores of the Barents Sea. During the winter months, kitted out in thermal clothing, hop on a snowmobile and explore the pristine frozen seas with a local guide who will teach you how to prepare a hole in the ice and catch the famous king crabs, which will then be served to you by a cosy fire.
#3. Experience mountain-top dining
Mountain tops are the perfect spot for an intimate lunch with a view. Nothing beats a “venue” that has everything you need for a leisurely afternoon al fresco; expect making your entrance in style by helicopter to Kahurangi National Park in New Zealand and being treated to your very own gourmet alpine five-course lunch overlooking stupendous scenery all around. Over in the Southern Alps, the Minaret Station Alpine Lodge welcomes you with possibly the country’s most remote fine-dining experience, accessible only by helicopter.
#2. Have breakfast with the rare Rothschild giraffes at Giraffe Manor in Nairobi, Kenya
Giraffe Manor, located just 45 minutes’ drive from Nairobi in Kenya has been shaking up the way breakfast is perceived for quite a while now, even though it is a tall order! Here, around 12 resident endangered Rothschild giraffes amble around the estate from the break of dawn to literally lean down into the dining area, allowing guests to marvel at their long eyelashes and feed them breakfast in your pyjamas. On top of that, there’s also a Giraffe Centre where you get the chance to stroke and kiss these friendly giants as well learn more about this species.
#1. Work out a Bedouin appetite by paragliding in Zighy Bay
Located at the Musandam Peninsula in Oman, Zighy Bay has the know-how to completely captivate intrepid travellers right from the very beginning. More importantly, perhaps, the rugged landscape offers plenty of exciting opportunities to justify all that calorie intake. Make your entrance to Zighy Bay in style — James Bond style no less — as you’ll be literally flown onto the beach by paragliding right from the top of Zighy Mountain. Keep your eyes open and soak in the splendidly-chiselled coastal vistas! Later on, your well-deserved reward would be to indulge in a lavish Bedouin dinner, while perched high in the dramatic sandstone Al Hajar mountains, enjoying an eagle’s eye view of the spectacular views over the Gulf of Oman.