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Hotels

2015 Hotel Food Awards

We at Jetsetter live to travel and travel to eat. And nothing warms our hungry hearts like hotels with serious culinary chops. We tasted our way from St. Martin to Southeast Asia to unearth the best restaurants, minibars, room service menus and turn-down traditions at hotels worldwide. From starlit braiis amid galloping zebras to wine cave tasting menus and French pastry bars, Emily Saladino dishes up the best hotel experiences for travelers with voracious appetites.

Emily Saladino is a journalist and recipe developer in New York City. She has covered food, drinks, travel, and culture for Bloomberg, BBC, Travel + Leisure, and others. A former professional cook, she graduated from the International Culinary Center. She is currently the Editor in Chief of VinePair.

See recent posts by Emily Saladino

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Most Instagram-Worthy Hotel Restaurant The G Hotel, Ireland

Think Irish interior design is all fusty Chesterfields and rolling fields of green plaid? Think again. Celebrity milliner Philip Treacy combined sleek chrome, plush curved banquettes and a Crayola sampler’s worth of brightly colored velvet to create the mod, mod world at Gigi’s, the chic restaurant at Galway’s G Hotel. No filters needed for the accompanying signature lounges, either, where you can also eat until your heart's content: The Grand Salon has silver-tiled walls beneath 200 hanging mirrored lights, and the Ladies’ Lounge keeps things swinging with a Schiaparelli-worthy paint job, Andy Warhol camouflage chairs and psychedelic black and white carpeting.

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Hotel Restaurant Where the Food Is as Pretty as the People Cosmopolitan, Las Vegas

It’s a supper club. No, it’s an avant-garde theater. Stop, you’re both right. The Cosmopolitan’s hippest hot spot, Rose. Rabbit. Lie., defies categorization and expectation, combining experimental performance art courtesy of interactive floor shows with stiff libations, a catwalk ready crowd and beautifully presented fare. Join Las Vegas’s pretty people for imaginative club grub like pot au pho (made with filet mignon and beef brisket), caviar tacos and, for dessert, Jameson gelato topped with salted caramel. Or try the terrarium dessert, crafted from sculpted dark chocolate.

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The Godfather of Hotel Restaurants Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten

With nearly 30 restaurants worldwide, J-G is a force of (sustainably cultivated) nature. The Alsatian sensation began his career at the Mandarin Hong Kong and Le Meridien Singapore, and he revolutionized ho-hum hotel dining stateside with the 1997 opening of his eponymous three-Michelin-starred restaurant in Manhattan’s Trump International Hotel and Tower. Vongerichten has since breathed new life into such legendary establishments as the Public Chicago’s iconic Pump Room and opened a steakhouse in Las Vegas’s Aria Resort & Casino, a café in the Ian Schrager–designed Miami Beach Edition, and a beachfront boite at the One&Only Ocean Club in the Bahamas, among many others. We can’t wait to see what he does next. Photo by Francesco Tonelli

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The All-Inclusive that Makes Us Reconsider the All-Inclusive Casa de Campo, Dominican Republic

At many of the DR’s all-inclusive resorts, the food scene is more menos than mas. But a 2012 renovation and partnership with New York City’s legendary Le Cirque restaurant keeps Casa de Campo’s 7,000 acres feeling as fresh as an Evian facial mist. The resort’s “complete supplement” program redefines all-inclusive dining, from Cantonese dim sum at Chinois, to cassava empanadas and savory Dominican stewed goat (don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it) at Lago Grill, to regional Italian fare on hand-painted plates at La Piazzetta. Still hungry? Grab a few bocaditos before going yacht-party-hopping off La Casita, a Spanish restaurant in the marina, or don your Brooks Brothers linens to sample the lobster risotto at La Cana by Il Circo, an open-air fine dining restaurant with a poolside terrace, created in partnership with Le Cirque. Or try the shrimp salad and grouper paupiette at the Beach Club by Le Cirque, a clubby spot on the resort’s private Minitas Beach.

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Favorite Waterside Menu Six Senses Yao Noi, Koh Yao Noi, Thailand

The five restaurants at this all-suite enclave serve everything from spiced Phang Nga Bay duck to homey bowls of tom yum soup, but it’s the globetrotting menu at the waterfront Den that really wins us over. We recommend posting up in a suspended daybed overlooking the turquoise bay, and noshing on small plates such as fried pork ribs with tamarind sauce, lemongrass skewered prawns and grilled sea bass wrapped in charcoaled banana leaf.

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Favorite Minibar to Raid Solage Calistoga, California

What’s better than a hotel minibar stocked with perennial favorites? (Fancy seeing you here, late night Popchips.) One that is refreshed daily with said crowd-pleasers and artisanal local fare. This elegant Napa Valley resort does in-room snacking right with its selection of organic yogurt, Kind bars and Cracker Jacks, plus carefully curated goods from area purveyors. Satisfy your sweet tooth with confections from Napa’s own Le Belge Chocolatier, or sip a craft IPA from Napa Smith Brewery, an award-winning indie producer less than 45 minutes from Solage Calistoga’s front door. And if you overdo it, know that you can work everything off in the morning: Each room comes with two complimentary cruiser bikes.

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Best Food-Themed Spa Boucan by Hotel Chocolat, St. Lucia

Get up close and personal with your daily antioxidant dose at Hotel Chocolat’s Boucan spa, which uses St. Lucia’s world-renowned cacao in four signature treatments. These most elegant of Whitman Samplers are administered in breezy treatment suites overlooking the Pitons, and they include deep tissue and Swedish massages using cinnamon-, peppermint- or nutmeg-infused cacao oil, as well as exfoliation therapies that use estate-grown beans and coconut oil, anti-aging cacao facials and moisturizing body wraps made from whipped cacao mousse.

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Hotel Restaurant Where Locals Outnumber Tourists Ace Hotel, New York City

New Yorkers have fickle appetites, and even the most renowned restaurant can lose its luster in a Manhattan minute. Yet the six-year-old Breslin at the city’s inaugural Ace Hotel remains one of the hottest tables in town — and not just with tourists. Skinny jeans–clad locals and the people who date them crowd the front bar, sipping cocktails named for punk songs ("I’ll take a Lust for Life, please"), while the dimly lit dining room is filled with well-heeled downtowners tucking into April Bloomfield’s Michelin-starred menu. Boiled peanuts, seafood sausages and briny Caesar salads are crowd-pleasers, but don’t miss the signature lamb burger, served on a butcher’s block with cumin mayo and thrice-cooked fries.

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Favorite Place to Brush Up on Your Cooking Skills Belmond Casa de Sierra Nevada, Mexico

Hotel cooking classes can feel somewhat simplistic, with premeasured ingredients and branded aprons overshadowing actual epicurean instruction. Classes at Sazon, the cooking school acquired by the Belmond Casa de Sierra Nevada in 2006, flip that script. The coursework spans regional ingredients like Pueblan nopales and pipian rojo (a popular Morelos sauce made from dried chilies, sesame seeds and nuts), as well as spicy salsas, seasonal sopes and guided shopping trips through the San Miguel market. Among the instructors are local chefs as well as Michelin-starred toques from international restaurants and Belmond hotels.

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Breakfast Worth Waking Up For Le Royal Monçeau, Raffles Paris

The motto for the spread of Pierre Hermé pastries and vanilla chantilly–scented waffles at this weekend brunch might as well be “No carb left behind.” Each weekend the Philippe Starck–designed La Cuisine restaurant is abuzz with comely hotel guests and chic Parisians, none of whom seem to weigh more than your average croissant. Each table setting is equipped with a pastry basket, which hungry guests can fill with as many pain au chocolats and pillowy brioches as they choose. (Pro tip: Don’t skimp on the croissants, which were named Paris’s best by the newspaper Le Figaro.) Complement your bakery feast with seasonal cheeses like Saint Agur or Mont d’Or, Lebanese meze platters and air-dried sausages from the Auvergne. Make a reservation, set your alarm and prepare to loosen your APC belt. Diet starts Monday, n’est-ce pas?

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Hotel Restaurant Where the Food Is as Stunning as the View Gritti Palace, Venice

A royal retreat several stories above Venice’s crowded campos, the swank Club del Doge pairs a classic Venetian menu with unparalleled views of the Grand Canal. Modern-day dukes and duchesses sip Luxardo Aperitivo spritzes on the sweeping outdoor terrace before tucking elbows beneath white tablecloths and nibbling silky risotto studded with charred octopus, buttery chateaubriand and house-made tiramisu with fresh strawberries.

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Favorite Meal in the Wild Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Resort, South Africa

Trekking through a rare wildlife reserve (yes, that is a Cape Mountain zebra galloping on the horizon) that boasts 130 installations of ancient Bushman rock art can make a person hungry. Bushmans Kloof has just the thing in Kadoro, a centuries-old shepherd’s house under an ancient blue gum tree in the heart of the reserve. The stone building has not been modernized, meaning a lodge chef cooks over an open fire and you dine by candlelight. The dishes are served beneath the starlit Cederberg Mountains and include your own private braai, or barbecue, as well as a hearty potjiekos stew.

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Favorite Turn-Down Treats Farmhouse Inn and Restaurant, Sonoma, California

The evening turn-down ritual at Sonoma’s Farmhouse Inn will have you reliving your warmest summer camp memories — provided you bunked with a Michelin-starred chef in the heart of the Russian River Valley. Each night guests head to the butterfly garden to toast s’mores made with Valrhona chocolate over a firepit, or grab supplies and fix their bedtime snacks in the privacy of their own guestrooms, which are kitted out with fireplaces. The hotel, fresh off an $8 million renovation, makes the marshmallows on-site and absolutely will not judge if you ask for seconds.

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Best Welcome Gift Shangri-La Hotel, Bangkok

If you love tropical fruit but do not necessarily know the best way to peel a spiny rambutan, the Shangri-La knows just how to say, “Welcome to Thailand. Please put down the butter knife.” The Thai fruit basket that greets guests at this 25-story Bangkok behemoth is a step beyond the cursory bottle of wine or anonymous box of gourmet chocolates given to VIPs at many luxury hotels. Filled with local delicacies like dragonfruit and lychees, as well as a helpful multilingual pamphlet with an explanation of each fruit and how to eat it, the Shangri-La’s basket feels like an initiation into the gastronomic culture of Bangkok.

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Most Romantic Dinner for Two Belmond La Samanna, St. Martin

Beachfront dinners are a dime a dozen at Caribbean resorts, and the preset menus are rarely worth their salt (spray). La Cave, the wine cellar and private tasting room at Belmond La Samanna, is next-level romantic. Reserve at least one week in advance, share your personal menu preferences with the attentive staff (“My husband prefers crab to shrimp”) and prepare to be dazzled by an intimate candlelit dinner served two floors below sea level. The 12,000-bottle wine cellar spans New World Carmenere and Beaune Clos des Mouches Premier Cru, and the seasonal menus highlight local ingredients with a strong French accent, as in citrus-marinated duck breast and chilled melon soup.

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Favorite Place to Fish or Forage Your Own Meal Saffire Freycinet, Tasmania, Australia

Separated from mainland Australia by the Bass Strait, Tasmania has a distinctly wild, frontier-of-Middle-Earth vibe. Farm-to-table is more way of life than marketing term here, so channel your inner René Redzepi when you check into one of the 20 suites at Saffire Freycinet. Private culinary excursions include digging for bivalves at the sustainable Freycinet Marine Farm, on the appropriately named Great Oyster Bay. Rest assured, those waders do indeed look good on you.

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Room Service that Delivers the Cool Factor The Line Hotel, L.A.

Mobile maestro Roy Choi leaves the lackluster turkey clubs and middling Merlots that dominate hotel room service menus in the dust. The Line delivers such freewheeling fare as pork fried rice and thermoses filled with instant ramen to guestrooms via hand-pulled wagons. Orders are wrapped in vintage cloths, some with Hello Kitty or Curious George patterns, in a playful nod to how Choi’s parents would wrap food to bring to other Korean-American households. If you ask us, Spam and eggs never looked so good.

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Favorite Food Ritual that Keeps Us Coming Back Castle Hill Inn, Newport, RI

The Kennedys had their Cape Cod compound and the Obamas their Martha’s Vineyard estate. For the rest of us, there’s the all-American, dare we say it presidential glamour of lawn parties at Castle Hill Inn. Pack your boat shoes, head to Newport and contemplate the state of Narragansett Bay while slurping native littleneck clams and briny Matunuck oysters on the Victorian mansion’s 40-acre waterfront.

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