Experiencing the local culture is a huge part of traveling and trying traditional cuisine is largely connected with that cultural experience. From South Africa’s most innovative restaurant at Tswalu Kalahari to the colorful local food markets of the French Riviera, get in touch with local culture while traveling with these immersive dining experiences.
Klein JAN – Tswalu Kalahari
Following three years of research into the culinary traditions and ingredients of the Kalahari, South Africa’s first Michelin-starred chef, Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen, opened Klein JAN at South Africa’s Tswalu Kalahari.
The restaurant’s chairs are crafted using repurposed French oak wine barrels. A glass wall opens up in fine weather, creating a fully immersive dining experience in the undulating plains of the Kalahari that the Tswalu team strives to conserve. Other features of Klein JAN include a subterranean root cellar, located 13 feet below the ochre sands of the Kalahari. To access the cellar, guests step back in time at the 100-year-old Boscia House before opening a door to the descending helical staircase infused with the unmistakable scent of petrichor.
On-Board Sushi – Fregate Island
One of the most revered hideaways in the Seychelles, Fregate Island offers complete privacy and seclusion with 17 beautifully crafted villas throughout pristine nature.
Guests can spend their days on Fregate’s private yachts snorkeling, diving and fishing where Fregate Chefs can turn the catches of the day into fresh sushi and sashimi for guests to enjoy.
Land of Darwin and Cacao Tour – Quasar Expeditions
Taking place in the Andes, Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands, Quasar Expeditions offers an exclusive Land of Cacao and Darwin experience, in partnership with Pacari. The experience offers guests to retrace the steps of the Mayo-Chinchipe-Marañon culture of 3,300 B.C. and explore the land where the Cacao plant was first turned into the food of the Gods.
Travelers venture into the hot humid environment that is essential to grow the most flavorful cocoa beans on the planet, follow chocolate’s progress throughout history and discover the artful process involved to turn the cacao bean into the prized and varied delicacy enjoyed today. Following the chocolate exploration on the mainland, guests venture deep into the land of Darwin as they explore the Galapagos Islands in style.
Sustainable Farm-to-Table Offerings — Singita Sabora Tented Camp
The newly redesigned Singita Sabora Tented Camp is an entirely new approach to an African safari dining under canvas, and the camp’s food experience is one of the most innovative elements of its reinvention.
Building on the sustainable, farm-to-table approach that underpins Singita’s approach to cuisine, Singita Sabora offers guests total flexibility around menus. Guests can fill up wicker picnic baskets with gourmet treats from the lodge’s all-day “Guest Deli” and enjoy on private decks or at one of the secluded dining spots around the camp. And, each tented suite features a personal pantry, perfect for in-room meals.
Thai Street Markets – The Ritz-Carlton, Koh Samui
Guests at The Ritz-Carlton, Koh Samui, on the site of a former coconut plantation, can enjoy an immersive cultural and food experience with the property’s Fisherman’s Village excursion.
Every Friday night Fisherman’s Village comes alive with a festive street market featuring locally-made apparel, souvenirs, food, and more. Guests can stroll through the open marketplace, enjoying the delightful waterfront eateries and authentic Thai evening. Following their visit, travelers can enjoy The Ritz-Carlton, Koh Samui’s unique Baan Talat outdoor dining experience that offers an array of authentic Thai street food dishes, including Pad Thai, Gai Pad Krapow and Crispy Pork Belly served with fragrant jasmine rice. Various market stalls are also set up to recreate the lively atmosphere of a Thai street market, similar to Fisherman’s Village, offering local favorites in a vibrant and stylish setting.
Local Food Markets and BeefBar Experience – Hotel Lou Pinet
Open every Tuesday and Saturday, an open-air Place des Lices Provencal market in Saint-Tropez invites tourists and locals alike to discover the wide range of colorful food and suppliers. The market is a massive square where locals gather to sell their fresh products ranging from fruits, vegetables, fish, meats, chicken, bread, pastries, cheese, sausages, spices, olives, and herbs.
Hôtel Lou Pinet in Saint-Tropez offers its own immersive culinary experience onsite at their famous Beefbar, a sophisticated concept based on premium cuts of meat, created by Riccardo Giraudi in 2005. A successful mix of quality produce and chic, super modern simplicity, Beefbar brings a touch of excellence to one of the most beautiful places on the planet. While the Black Angus Prime, Wagyu WX and Kobe beef remain the menu’s guest stars, other less carnivorous and more Mediterranean influences bring some added flavor.
Where to book the most immersive dining experiences
The most ground-breaking restaurants can be booked via Marchay, a curated, membership-based travel service. Marchay’s Travel Manager Valentina Robayo recommends El Cielo, a molecular concept-based Colombian restaurant with locations in Bogota, Medellin, Miami and DC. The tasting menu is based on Colombian local products and traditional dishes. Other recommendations include Eleven Madison Park’s new vegan tasting menu and Casa de Chá da Boa Nova outside of Porto in Portugal. The Michelin-starred restaurant by Chef Rui Paula was designed by Pritzker Siza Vieira and focuses on locally sourced seafood.
Niarra Travel, a start-up premium travel company offers a number of immersive travel experiences and fun itineraries that include discovering the different cultural gastronomies of the world. In the Highland mountains of Scotland, Niarra offers a taste of local sustainable cuisine and inventive cocktails. With Fife Arms, a partner property, boutique hotel and Braemar Landmark, the company can arrange wild food foraging with the hotel’s resident forager to learn about the local plants and vegetation of the area.