What distance would you travel for an exciting food scene? From a Beirut beach break to a South American adventure, and a Canadian culinary hotspot, we select the best breaks for galloping gourmets.
Best for: dramatic scenery, fresh ceviche and punchy pisco sours
Chile is a country of extremes with towering mountains, pristine Pacific coast, lush farmland and rolling vineyards: terrain that yields a huge variety of produce. If you want a far-flung foodie adventure, this South American country, now connected to the UK by a non-stop flight (15 hours), is about as good as it gets. Set in a valley surrounded by snow-capped peaks, the capital, Santiago, is a great place to recharge.
Treat yourself to the ‘completo’, not just a hot dog but a Chilean national treasure, with as many toppings as you can handle – avocado and mayo among them. Got a sweet tooth? Chase the dog with a classic ‘mote con huesillo’, a delectable peach nectar, laced with cinnamon and served with a spoon. Both are readily available from street-side carts.
Hitting the town? Chileans usually drink their pisco (a grape-based spirit) in the form of a ‘piscóla’, a sweet concoction of pisco and cola, but don’t miss the opportunity to sample a more refined cocktail from Siete Negronis serving twists on the classic negroni. Try the barrel-aged version, or ‘baconvardier’, a fun American-influenced boulevardier, with bacon-infused bourbon (£6). Appetite stimulated, head to Puerto Bellavista for crisp calamari, piles of mussels, smoked ribs and chicken (dishes £7-14).
Santiago is an hour’s drive from the pounding Pacific but if you really want to escape the capital’s crowds, fly an hour north to La Serena, capital of the bohemian Coquimbo region, known for its sandy beaches and plentiful ceviche. Check into Santa Barbara, an old colonial-style hotel just outside the city centre, then wander down Avenida Del Mar, eyes peeled for sunbathing sea lions and low-flying pelicans, to Mar Adentro, the perfect place for a seaside feast: plates piled high with crab and fresh fish, chunky empanadas and stunning grilled octopus (dishes £6-16).For an evening tipple, try a pisco tasting flight or an inventive cocktail at Moscatel. Take a seat upstairs among the colourful murals of the Chilean poet Gabriela Mistral as you take your tastebuds on a trip. Nearby Elqui Valley is lined with cycle paths, yoga retreats, trekking routes and vineyards. Make your base in Vicuña, at the Hotel Terral & Spa and plan your activities from the rooftop terrace, a papaya sour in hand, admiring the panoramic view.
Highly recommended, the Elki Magic bike tour (from £13) travels downhill from Alcohuaz, through the vivid green valleys, with picturesque whitewashed churches and vineyards aplenty. Stop for lunch at Cavas del Valle, a tiny family-run vineyard producing luscious dessert wines and syrah, returning to Vicuña for grilled trout and thinly sliced chuletas beef at Chivato Negro (dishes from £5). Grab a spot on the leafy terrace with one of the local beers or pisco and enjoy live music in the courtyard.
If the local tipple has really impressed, take a ‘mixology tour’ and tasting at Vicuña’s Centro Turistico Cooperativa Capel (from £15) to learn about pisco production and the art of mixing it. Chile has some of the clearest skies in the world, so an evening trip to Alfa Aldea Centro Astronómico is a must (guided star-spotting from £9). Sip warm tomato soup while learning about the constellations for a totally far-flung experience. Georgina Kiely
How to do it:
Santiago: Matilda’s Hotel is a Belle Époque mansion in the hip Barrio Brasil area with great breakfast. Double rooms from £90 per night. La Serena: Santa Barbara Hotel has rooms from £65 per night. Vicuña: the Hotel Terral & Spa has double rooms from £70 per night. More information.
Best for: city buzz, sea air and exotic spices
In its 1960s heyday, Beirut was known as the ‘Paris of the Middle East’, a glitzy destination by the Med famed for its art, fashion, and culture. Although civil war left the city a no-go for a while, Beirut has long been safe and is thriving once more, and it’s just a five-hour flight from the UK. Having endured much, the locals know how to enjoy themselves, and the narrow streets are buzzing with new bars, restaurants and cafés, particularly in the fashionable Mar Mikhael district.The full diversity of Lebanon’s people and food can be found at the open-air Souk El Tayeb farmers’ market (Saturday and Wednesday). Founded in 2004 by former TV chef Kamal Mouzawak, it brings together producers from all Lebanese communities, selling fresh organic produce, herbs and spices such as sumac and za’atar, jars of pickled vegetables and traditional street foods including irresistible freshly baked maneesh bread topped with herbs and sesame seeds (street-food dishes from £2).
Kamal is also behind one of Beirut’s essential lunch spots, Tawlet, which hosts a weekly-rotating roster of chefs from across Lebanon. Showcasing regional dishes, the day’s offering is laid out as a buffet with bowlfuls of fresh fattoush, meze such as kibbeh – raw lamb mince with bulgur – and freekeh with spiced chicken and pine nuts (lunch, £26 per person).Shawarma is a street-food staple in Beirut and the ubiquity means it’s easy to indulge. Makhlouf and Jabbour (+961 9 254 500) vie for supremacy in the east of the city, both serving sublime flatbreads, stuffed with chicken or lamb, salad, garlic mayo, plus chips soaked in the meat juices (wraps from £2.50).
For something more upmarket, Liza provides opulent surroundings. Set on the second floor of a refurbished 19th-century mansion, the palatial space is decked out with Moorish-style window dividers, intricately designed wallpapers, patterned tiles and glittering gold fixtures, offset by cool white marble. The food is similarly refined with updated Lebanese classics such as lamb shank confit with spiced rice, and sea bass with Swiss chard and tahini (mains around £15). Joel Porter
How to do it: The Phoenicia is Beirut’s most luxurious hotel with sea views, two pools, a spa, several bars and restaurants, and a breakfast buffet serving homemade bread. Double rooms from £228 per night, including breakfast, taxes and fees. Day trip: Lebanon is a small country with plenty to see nearby. Just a 45-minute drive away from Beirut is Byblos, one of the oldest cities in the world. Enjoy fresh seafood by the ocean at Chez Pepe (+961 9 540 213).
Best for: a melting pot of cultures and mainstream veganism
Home to over 200 ethnic groups, Toronto serves an atlas of cuisines, including outstanding Asian food. But lately, Canada’s largest urban centre – about an eight-hour flight from the UK – is getting inventive. Among the sky-scraping pop-up cityscape on Lake Ontario, innovative chefs are fusing exotic flavours and conjuring food with anarchic confidence.Experience a fast-changing foodie scene with a Drink Toronto walking tour (90 minutes, £52). Local co-founder Erin Henderson, a certified sommelier, hosts super-fun, insider tours taking in such sleek venues as Buca Osteria & Enoteca on once-tatty King Street West. Chiccetti bites include fried zucchini flowers with nduja, and a standout Garibaldi Campari orange aperitivo.
There are also forays across town for flights of house craft brews at futuristic beer factory Northern Maverick, and local oysters are paired with Niagara wine at atmospheric seafood joint Rodney’s. Toronto has a decent crop of farmer’s markets set in green spaces blossoming in the city’s former industrial areas, where you can sample everything from emerging Quebec cheeses, to seasonal beets, berries and smoked meats. The Saturday market at Evergreen, the old brickworks that largely built the city back in the 1800s has forested trails through the former quarry where you can walk off any excess purchases.Keeping high-rise development at bay, the hippie Kensington Market neighborhood has a graffiti-clad, lowrise charm. It’s a great place to pick up Jamaican street food at Golden Patty (187 Baldwin St), or superb Cantonese BBQ from King’s Noodles (26 Spadina Av), and excellent Swedish coffee and kanelbullar at Fika. New arrival, Grey Gardens serves Asian-inspired, umami-rich seasonal small plates (£9-16) with modern Canadian flair in a minimalist polished concrete bar and restaurant. Try spot prawns with charred cucumber, Arctic char with black citrus or spring alliums with bone marrow and horseradish.
With an entire neighbourhood rechristened for its vegan credentials, plant-based food is far more than a trend in Toronto. But beyond Vegandale – in the Parkdale area – restaurants like Planta in swanky Yorkville serve exemplary upscale vegan cuisine of the Californian school. Try a kelp Caesar, a watermelon poke, or avocado lime tartare with ‘beet’ tuna (dishes around £6-11).
As in any other North American city, brunch is king here. Try Annadore House, a hip new Art Deco-vibe hotel whose bar-restaurant Constantine dominates the entire ground floor, serving duck confit hash with poached eggs, and eggs Florentine with smoked trout and za’atar biscuit (mains around £11). Sarah Barrell
How to do it: The Kimpton St George displays local art in sleek guest rooms and Tisha Myles’s wallpaper jewelled with blue jays (the bird for which Toronto’s baseball team is named), a daily wine hour (free), and the Fortunate Fox pub-diner. Doubles from £200 per night. Day trip: Medal-winning wineries, many with superb restaurants, are in nearby Prince Edward County. Niagara-on-the-Lake is a 12-minute flight from Billy Bishop Airport or two-three hours by road. More information.
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All recommendations have been reviewed and approved as of August 2019 and will be checked and updated annually. If you think there is any incorrect or out of date information in this guide, please e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Travellers are advised to read the FCO travel advice for the country they are travelling to.
Assistance for this feature was provided by Tourism Toronto, Pisco Chileno and Pro Chile and The Phoenicia Hotel.
Photographs: iStock/Getty Images Plus, Larisa Blinova/Alamy Stock Photo, Alexl A/Alamy Stock Photo, Marc Bruxelle/Alamy Stock Photo, Shawn Goldberg/Alamy Stock Photo, Marco Pinarelli, Chilian Pisco Uk, Karim Sakir.