For families who favour feasting on fine fare, we have a fabulous selection of foodie places to stay, which cater brilliantly for children and parents alike. Some have truly inventive kids menus, others offer cooking classes, foraging and harvesting, and many are set in true gastronomic hotspots. Here are six of the best to savour…
For organic gardens where you can pick your own
You can’t get fresher food than the produce at Babylonstoren, a stunning Cape Winelands farm, 45 minutes east of Cape Town. Its beautifully landscaped 8-acre organic garden brims and bursts with colour, fruits, herbs and vegetables; help yourselves to 300+ types of plants if self-catering in the cottages, which come with excellent kitchens for gourmet creativity – pleasingly a fruit and veg box awaits on arrival. Kids love going on the morning garden tour, collecting eggs, herding ducks and feeding carrots to the donkeys. The Babel restaurant showcases this bounty in phenomenal colour-coded cuisine, the meat is organic and local, and make sure you save room for their sublime puddings (all half-price for children). There’s an onsite farm shop and informal Italian-inspired family menus are served twice a week in the Bakery. World-renowned food capital Franschhoek is only 15 minutes away.
For Slow Food
When qualified sommelier and Slow Food advocate Guido returned to his native Sicily, he found a large rundown estate on the slopes of Mt Etna whose fertile black volcanic earth was key to its transformation into a stylish and tranquil gourmet country retreat, Monaci delle Terre Nere. Extensive planting – fruit trees, grassy terraces, vegetable gardens, vineyards and olives – yields produce for the delicious meals served in the charmingly convivial restaurant Locanda Nerello (children can dine on smaller portions or from the basic kids menu); of course the wine is all from the island (the 3rd most important wine region in Italy). Breakfast is taken in the former wine-pressing room (we loved the fresh blood-orange juice) then you can request a picnic basket for the day’s excursions, which could take you up the volcano or down to the beach. There’s a small playground and swimming pool on site.
For an all-ages cookery academy
The Nam Hai, a luxury beachside design hotel near Hoi An on Vietnam’s central coast, is a wondrous playground for kids and adults alike. The villas are the ultimate in shipwreck chic (many have private pools), there are 3 pools, a superlative beach, and the excellent kids club has inventive activities from painting conical hats to kite-making, buffalo-cart tours to lantern-making. The wide-ranging culinary experience begins at the huge buffet breakfast. Expect global comfort foods (wood-fired pizza, sushi and sashimi, dumplings and fish in banana leaf) during the day in beachside La Sen; at night it serves contemporary Vietnamese. The more formal Cafe Nam Hai serves modern Asian fusion; there’s a kids menu, or book a babysitter and dine out a deux.
The Cooking Academy has courses for adults and kids using seasonal ingredients from the on-site farm: Juniors are taught rice paper rolling, chocolate work and biscuit baking.
For locavores and foragers
In the heart of the New Forest, contemporary-chic country house The Pig has an intense culinary flavour – food reigns supreme. All meals are enjoyed in a glass-walled conservatory with twisting vines and views into the estate. Almost everything is sourced within a 25-mile radius, much harvested from the walled kitchen garden (the micro-seasonal menu even has a ‘mostly picked this morning’ section). There’s a Piglets Menu for small fry. Mushrooms, berries and wild salads are gleaned from the forest by Head Forager Garry Eveleigh, and the whole family can join his foraging excursions: head to the coast to gather seaweed and shellfish, in autumn gather nuts and berries, enjoy wild salads and vegetables from the hedgerows in the spring. In summer head to the outer courtyard for flat breads and pizzas from the wood-fired oven.
For Michelin-starred magic
This specialist wine and spa hotel perched amongst Porto’s famous port lodges on the banks of the Douro may not seem an obvious place for families. However, The Yeatman is actually an inspired choice for a city break with kids (who will get a kick out of seeing a bed inside a wine barrel). The superb breakfast buffet will set you up for sightseeing (the Douro offers boat trips upstream and beaches downstream). Return to splash in heated pools (one indoor, one outdoor), and play in the Kids Club room. The Orangerie restaurant is open for lunch and dinner, has great views across the city and a sunny terrace, plus a crowd-pleasing kids menu including fish fillets and home-made ice cream. Book a babysitter for a mouth-watering gastronomic feast in signature 2-Michelin-starred The Restaurant; choose from 3 different tasting menus of traditional Portuguese ingredients presented with contemporary flair.
For an authentic working farm
In the majestic mountains of southern Crete you’ll find Eleonas, a collection of 20 cottages centred around a lovely swimming pool. The cottages are set up for basic self-catering but most will prefer to visit the traditional taverna serving proper home cooking 3 meals a day, which also has a kids menu and offers half-portions or takeaways. The agriturismo grows its own fruit and vegetables, produces olive oil, offers Cretan cookery lessons, and has goats and chickens, which guests are welcome to feed, plus they can gather their eggs. Nearby is a Farm Experience where kids can be a farmer for a day, looking after bees, milking goats and making cheese, riding donkeys and crafting traditional Cretan pies.