These days, meals in hotel restaurants can provide the gastronomic highlights of a trip. This year we ate memorably well in surroundings of immense grandeur at the Royal Mansour in Marrakech and enjoyed delicious Indonesian village food at The Warung, overlooking the Indian Ocean in Bali. Once, hotels regarded their restaurants as an afterthought. No longer. Here are our Editors’ Choice winners for Hotel Restaurants of the Year.
The Savoy — London, England
After a sensitive renovation in 2017, this historic restaurant in The Savoy hotel still looks grandly traditional, with an elaborate plaster ceiling, warm wood wainscoting and red leather seating. Sitting at the table next to Winston Churchill’s favorite, we enjoyed a meal of flawlessly presented British classics. I started with some sweet potted shrimp in a brown-butter sauce spiked with mace, followed by butter-tender Yorkshire grouse, which had just come into season, accompanied by braised red cabbage and creamed spinach. A master carver sliced the grouse, served whole, into more-manageable pieces for me. He also manned the roast-beef trolley, from which he carved rosy, melt-in-your-mouth slices. I increasingly crave food like this, food that is beautifully prepared, deeply flavored and unfussy. With service that was formal but friendly, Simpson’s in the Strand became one of my favorite restaurants during my entire time in London. The cuisine, service and décor combined into an experience that could only be had in London.
Royal Mansour — Marrakech, Morocco
Our dinner in this lavish Moroccan restaurant in the Royal Mansour hotel began with a ewer of orange-flower water with which to ceremonially wash and perfume our hands. We relished every beautifully presented dish of the eight-course tasting menu, overseen by Michelin three-star chef Yannick Alléno, followed by a selection from the gorgeous Moroccan pastry cart. Standout courses included spiny lobster in an orange-mustard sauce with beet purée, and lamb cheek with Moroccan black truffle. The talented self-taught sommelier, Zakaria Wahby, selected local wines that paired perfectly. I especially liked the ripe, fresh and refined Château Roslane Les Coteaux de l’Atlas Premier Cru with the lamb. As we ate, a singer performed traditional music accompanied by an oud. La Grand Table Marocaine created a dining experience that was utterly transporting in every respect.
The restaurant of this five-room hideaway at Lešić Dimitri Palace in the old center of Korčula has a sublime pine-shaded terrace overlooking the Peljeśac channel. There we enjoyed aperitifs of classy Tomac Millennium Brut as the setting sun turned the channel to gold. Our personable waiter, Andrija Kovač, also serves as the restaurant’s assistant sommelier, and he has an encyclopedic knowledge of Croatian wine. He recommended excellent pairings for my “sushi” of sea bass-wrapped prawns topped with fresh-grated horseradish and tobiko, a decadent quenelle of foie gras mousse with crunchy brioche crumbs and apple purée, and rich, slow-cooked quail ragu and rare quail breast with gnudi-like egg yolks cured in salt and sugar. It wasn’t so long ago that Croatian restaurants served food that was at best fresh and sustaining but nothing more. As this delicious and creative dinner illustrates, the best chefs in Croatia can now compete with the best chefs anywhere.
Alila Villas Uluwatu — Bali, Indonesia
“Warung” is the Indonesian word for “foodstand.” In Bali, as elsewhere in southeast Asia, much of the most delicious food is to be found at casual, family-run street-front cafés. In contrast, The Warung restaurant at Alila Villas Uluwatu is an extremely glamorous indoor-outdoor space with an open kitchen, located next to the horizon pool, with a spellbinding view of the Indian Ocean. The menu, however, features authentic dishes that are prepared and spiced exactly as they might be in a local village. I began with the classic sate lilit ikan. Minced fish is bound together with coconut milk and molded onto lemongrass spears before being grilled. Afterward, I tried babi panggang, an Indonesian dish of pork ribs that are first slow-cooked with spices and then grilled over coconut husks. The highlight of the meal was ayam betutu: chicken stuffed with herbs and cassava leaves, wrapped in a banana leaf and slow-steamed for three hours. The Warung brings a powerful sense of place to a sophisticated contemporary resort.
The Silo — Cape Town, South Africa
Sometimes it can be hard to concentrate on eating at The Granary Café at The Silo, as the view out of the huge sixth-floor windows, over Cape Town’s marina and the V&A Waterfront, is so endlessly enthralling. But, ultimately, the cuisine is sufficiently delicious to command your attention. Chef Veronica Canha-Hibbert describes the dishes on her “casual and contemporary” menu as “good, honest and approachable food that showcases seasonal, local ingredients.” I think she is being too modest. During our stay, we enjoyed triumphs such as springbok shank with creamed potatoes and heirloom vegetables, Cape seafood curry with nigella-seed naan, green-banana sambal and lemon atchar, and stuffed baby squid risotto nero with lime crème fraiche and chimichurri. The Granary Café pulls off the trick of being both extremely relaxed and extremely chic. We found the service to be exemplary, and the staff members are consistently charm personified.