Dream Destinations: Seven delightful destinations for food and wine

Hawke's Bay, New Zealand

Exceptional produce and bucolic beauty await on the east coast of NZ's North Island.

THE EXPERIENCE Blessed with fertile soils and a Mediterranean climate, Hawke's Bay styles itself as "the fruit bowl of New Zealand", and it's not hard to see why when you zip down leafy country lanes on one of Juliet Harbutt's hunter-gatherer tours. After 30 years in the UK, the internationally renowned cheese expert has resettled amid the lush hills and plains of her homeland. A bespoke tour might begin with coffee and a squashy custard-filled doughnut at Ya Bon French Baker before heading to a family-run orchard cultivating 23 varieties of fig, an olive grower making peppery cold-pressed oil, and Arataki Honey's visitor centre to sample honey redolent of native flora. Gathering lunch supplies en route, Harbutt takes visitors back to her hilltop home above Black Barn Vineyards for a tutored cheese tasting, with salads, seasonal fruit, toffee-studded hokey-pokey ice-cream, and Hawke's Bay wines.

IDEAL FOR Sampling food at its source.

PRICE $NZ850 ($817) for a full-day tour for up to two people, including lunch; thecheeseweb.com/hunter-gatherer; hawkesbaynz.com.

–​ Roslyn Grundy

LIKE THIS? Try the Queen Street Food Tour, a stroll that takes in the sights, sounds and flavours of Auckland's CBD; thebigfoody.com; aucklandnz.com.

Bath, England

A rejuvenated dining scene means there are more reasons to visit Bath than just the hot springs and Roman architecture.

THE EXPERIENCE Bath has long been popular for Jane Austen reveries and the odd thermal spa, but the historic town is also a burgeoning food destination. The local-produce-loving Olive Tree earned Bath a Michelin star last year, while The Scallop Shell batters one of the South's best haddocks. Culinary legends Marco Pierre White and Pierre Koffmann opened a joint venture at The Abbey Hotel last October and food lovers keen for the full White experience can even bunk up at the chef's nearby 12-bedroom Georgian manor, Rudloe Arms.

White calls the place home and when he's not in front of the camera or opening a new restaurant, there's every chance you'll spot him holding court with hunting mates in Rudloe's bar. (Note that White shot all 22 roe deer mounted in the drawing room himself.) Guestrooms are beautifully decorated with Mouseman oak furniture, Terry O'Neill prints and deep bathtubs for waving goodbye to the cares of the day. A Damien Hirst spot painting brightens a dining room where supper is served daily and gosh darn, if September in grouse season isn't a delicious time to visit…

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IDEAL FOR Gastronomes, taxidermy enthusiasts and general dilettantes.

PRICE From £250 ($450) a night; rudloearms.com; visitbath.co.uk.

–​ Callan Boys

LIKE THIS? The English House by Marco Pierre White is Rudloe's Singapore sister restaurant with all the preserved grace, curios and elevated British comfort food of its older sibling; theenglishhouse.com; visitsingapore.com.

Casablanca Valley, Chile

Only an hour's drive from the capital Santiago, Chile's youngest wine region has finally come of age.

THE EXPERIENCE In the 1980s, intrepid Chilean viticulturists planted white wine grapes in the Casablanca Valley, a warm-climate subregion sandwiched between Santiago and the resort town of Valparaiso. Today, Casablanca is a member of the Great Wine Capitals Global Network, with a sophisticated wine route to match. Spend a few days driving between boutique vineyards like Villa Mirador, a producer of sauvignon gris, a grape varietal that was almost wiped out by the phylloxera virus in Europe. 

Try restaurants such as El Sauce in the village of Lo Abarca, a 96-year-old rib joint with a cult following; and Casa Macaire, a stately seven-room homestead set on its own 40-hectare vineyard, with features including a heated saltwater swimming pool concealed within the vines, a mini football pitch and an underground wine cellar. There are no televisions in the bedrooms; go horse riding, play tennis or board games, read, paint, or simply converse over a good bottle of wine.

IDEAL FOR Oenophiles, grey nomads.

PRICE $CLP250,000 ($538) a night including breakfast; casamacaire.com; chile.travel.

–​ Ian Lloyd Neubauer 

LIKE THIS? Drive from Santiago across the Andes into Argentina and visit the Mendoza wine region, home of malbec; experiencemendoza.com.

Palermo, Buenos Aires

Your peso stretches further in this sprawling suburb of the Argentinean capital.

THE EXPERIENCE Palermo is Argentina's answer to Melbourne's Fitzroy or Sydney's Surry Hills, with streets lined with art and towering six-storey-high plane trees, large leafy parks, cool cafes, hidden bars, fashion stores, boutique hotels and dining options both traditional (hola, Don Julio steakhouse) and on trend. The most hip right now is Proper – no bookings, in a warehouse conversion, share plates, wood-fired oven – tick, tick, tick, tick. Jammy figs and crisp caper leaves straddle smashed, smoky eggplant and stracciatella cheese, to be piled onto sourdough. Asparagus plays with nutty sunflower seed purée (perhaps the next hummus). 

 But it's the dulce de leche flan – the filling an often plain custard that is ubiquitous on menú del día lunch deals – that exceeds expectations. The superlative silky-smooth, jiggly panna cotta pudding is proper lush, and definitely not for sharing. Stock up on the caramel spread at Dulce De Leche Co – who knew it could have its own terroir?

IDEAL FOR Sweet tooths, budget foodies.

PRICE Dulce de leche flan with vanilla cream, $ARS140 ($5); properbsas.com.ar/en; dulcedelecheco.com; turismo.buenosaires.gob.ar.

Annabel Smith

LIKE THIS? Step outside your comfort zone to the high-altitude, low-attitude provincial capital of Salta in the country's northwest for regional lard-fried empanadas, multicoloured landscapes and a train ride "to the clouds"; argentina.travel.

Some of the great food on offer at Palermo, Buenos Aires.

Some of the great food on offer at Palermo, Buenos Aires. Photo: Supplied

Camino Trail, Spain

The famed Camino de Santiago is one of the world's busiest pilgrimages. And now it's attracting devotees of a different kind.

THE EXPERIENCE The 800-kilometre Camino de Santiago is a network of trails across Spain leading to the shrine of the apostle Saint James in Santiago de Compostela in Galicia. It's been a spiritual journey for millions since the Middle Ages, but food pilgrims have now found "The Way" as well. The route can be narrowed to an easily digestible 100-kilometre bite, starting in Pamplona, capital of the Narvarra region, beloved for white asparagus and fields of hot red pimientos.

Walking 25 kilometres is a long but not unreasonable goal for each day, aided by the medieval towns positioned handily every five kilometres and sleeping each night in three-star hotels (having had your luggage transported ahead). The best spot to finish is in Logroño, the capital of the Rioja wine region. Party in the pintxos bar-crammed central streets (the best is Calle Laurel) and drive to the epically beautiful, Frank Gehry-designed Hotel Marqués de Riscal for a Michelin-starred lunch.

IDEAL FOR People who love exercising as much as they love eating.

PRICE UTracks offers a range of tours: from the self-guided 100-kilometre walk to guided Food Lover's tours including the 15-day Food Lover's Spanish Camino itinerary; from $6990 a person twin share; utracks.com; spain.info.

Ardyn Bernoth

LIKE THIS? Try doing the last leg of the Camino, walking into Santiago de Compostela, with its famous cathedral, remarkable stone architecture, arcaded colonnades and centuries of religious worship.

Local ham on the Camino Trail, Spain, where a healthy walk breeds a healthy appetite.

Local ham on the Camino Trail, Spain, where a healthy walk creates a healthy appetite. Photo: Supplied

Uruguay

It may be South America's second smallest country, but when it comes to wines it's a standout – plus there are great beaches and wild countryside.

THE EXPERIENCE In Uruguay's growing wine scene, tannat grapes make the difference, along with the terroir. Young wineries are springing up with innovative wine makers at the helm. Taste new premium wines at the Sacromonte Crafted Wines and Landscape Hotel, a 90-minute drive from Uruguay's colourful capital, Montevideo. Accommodation is in "shelters" with an eco-focused design that reflect lush grasslands and water reservoirs in mirrored facades.

They stand on a local stone base and blend into the landscape with circular pools and "living" grass roofs. Dine at a 12-metre table overlooking manicured vineyards with views to the untamed sierras of eastern Uruguay and feast on wild boar or beef at an asado. Venture to nearby boutique wineries, olive plantations and the tiny town of Pueblo Eden, population 100. The beaches of Punta del Este and Jose Ignacio, 45 minutes away, are known as the Saint Tropez of South America.

IDEAL FOR Travellers with grape expectations and devotion to design.

PRICE From UYU14,000 ($600) a night; sacromonte.com; turismo.gub.uy.

Sue Wallace

LIKE THIS? Nearby Chile has a fabulous wine scene. Wine Paths offers tailor-made winery tours; winepaths.com; chile.travel.

Heckfield, Hampshire, UK

Frolic in the market towns, moors, castles, cathedrals and cosy pubs of Jane Austen's Hampshire, just an hour from London – then relish England's newest and most luxurious country house resort.

THE EXPERIENCE Try to get to Hampshire in bluebell season – mid-April to late May – and watch the woods and river banks shimmer with their mass floral displays. For full sensory overload, stay a night or two within the walled gardens of the 18th-century Georgian estate Heckfield Place, and spend your time wandering through the orchard picking fruit, helping harvest vegetables from the biodynamic home farm, punting on the lake, or fly-fishing on the estate's own Whitewater River.

Australian-born culinary director Skye Gyngell (also of London restaurant Spring) cooks produce from the 177-hectare estate over beech in a large open hearth designed to make you feel at home.

IDEAL FOR Cashed-up lovers who crave a weekend on the farm without the chook poo.

PRICE From £350 ($639) a night, including breakfast; heckfieldplace.com; visit-hampshire.co.uk.

–​ Jill Dupleix

LIKE THIS? Try Soho Farmhouse, the 40-hectare estate created by London's Soho House group, with 40 log cabins around three Cotswolds-fringing lakes; sohofarmhouse.com; cotswolds.com.

Bray on Thames, England

A world-famous gourmet destination and island getaway is just down the river from the centre of London.

THE EXPERIENCE It's mentioned in the comedic 17th-century ballad The Vicar of Bray, but the food at Bray on Thames, a village on the banks of the River Thames, is no laughing matter. Two of the UK's five three-Michelin-starred restaurants – The Waterside Inn and The Fat Duck – are found here. And now there's Monkey Island Estate, a new boutique property on a small private island of the same name. The irreverent moniker harks back to 1738 when the then-owner, the Duke of Marlborough, placed statues of monkeys in his various gardens to surprise visitors.

The estate has 41 suites, six luxury residences, a modern brasserie with a hand-painted Renaissance ceiling, plus a floating spa housed in a traditional narrowboat.

IDEAL FOR Gadabout gourmets and Anglophiles.

PRICE From £250 ($460) a night; monkeyislandestate.co.uk; visitthames.co.uk.

–​ Ian Lloyd Neubauer

​LIKE THIS? A three-hour drive from Bray on Thames, the Isle of Wight offers glimpses of England the way it used to be, where country roads lead to forests brimming with squirrels, medieval manor houses and seaside villages; visitisleofwight.co.uk

Heckfield Place’s Sun House sits within the Hampshire
estate’s walled gardens.

The Sun House sits within the walled garden of Heckfield Place, a Georgian estate in Hampshire. Photo: Courtesy of Heckfield Place

To read more from Good Weekend 52 Dream Destinations visit The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and Brisbane Times.

To read more from Good Weekend magazine, visit our page at The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and Brisbane Times.

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