Spa breaks for food lovers: four of the best for 2022

Embracing holistic wellness extends to how we fuel our bodies; a philosophy that is celebrated by the world’s leading wellness hotspots. Here are some of the best.

Lefay Resort & Spa offers outstanding views of the Dolomites.

Photograph by Lefay Resort & Spa
By Lucy Gillmore
Published 17 Mar 2022, 11:28 GMT

Best for gourmets

Forget lean cuisine and limp lettuce leaves, the new spa food trend is the gourmet tasting menu. There’s been a seismic shift in philosophy; food is no longer the enemy but an integral part of the wellness journey, with menus focusing on healthy, seasonal and organic ingredients. Lefay Resort & Spa in the Dolomites’ is one of the pioneers, with its fine-dining restaurant and food concept, Lefay Vital Gourmet, created by chef Matteo Maenza ­— a protégé of Alain Ducasse. His menu is divided by altitude: Valley Floor, Mountain Pasture and High Mountain dishes celebrate local organic ingredients. The two new tasting menus (eight- and 12-course), The Path and The Peak, include dishes such as Spaghetti Monograno Felicetti with smoked mountain butter, cornelian and venison, and Walcher Undergrowth, a walnut emulsion with chocolate mousse, blackberry compote and mountain pepper ice cream. Doubles from £295, B&B. 

Best for the gut

Since the word ‘microbiome’ started hogging the health headlines (that’s the three or so pounds of bacteria we carry around in our intestines, which affects both our physical and mental health), we’ve all been focused on the state of our stools. A leaky gut is bad news for the immune system and coaxing it back into shape through diet is the aim of a number of spas, such as Selman Marrakech at the foot of the Atlas Mountains in Morocco. The spa’s personalised programmes follow the Chenot method with BioLight Cuisine recipes designed to help the body detoxify, and improve and balance gut flora using ingredients with anti-inflammatory and alkaline properties ­­— think plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables and fermented foods such as kimchi and sauerkraut. In the UK, venture to Seaham Hall’s Serenity Spa: the Ozone restaurant features dishes designed to aid digestion and improve gut health with an emphasis on kimchi, kombucha and miso. Raw & Cured at Lime Wood also goes down the gut route. Typical dishes include a bowl of Jane’s Grains granola for breakfast, and for lunch a home-cured Loch Duart salmon with fermented fennel slaw and English cucumber alongside a raw and fermented beetroot salad with blueberries, pickled apple and Somerset feta.

Best for vegans

Plant-based food has never been more in vogue. More and more people are switching to a vegan diet, with over 600,000 people signing up to the Veganuary challenge in the UK in 2022. Healthy vegan menus are a natural fit for a wellness retreat, and an increasing number of spas are offering a choice of plant-derived dishes, menus and vegan spa days.  At MasQi, The Energy House, near Valencia, nutrition is a key part of the wellness philosophy. The menu is largely vegan ­­— with a wild fish course at dinner, and includes a macrobiotic breakfast of miso soup for waking up the digestive system, along with porridge, fresh fruit, nut butters and organic sourdough breads. For lunch it might be vegetable paella, shiitake risotto, buckwheat crepes or Vietnamese rolls with peanut butter. Doubles from £263, full-board. 

Best for farm-to-table

The field-to-fork ethos has side-stepped seamlessly into the wellness scene. A growing number of spa hotels not only have their own kitchen gardens, but some even have their own farms. How the produce is grown and its provenance is woven into the food philosophy. Naturhotel Forsthofgut, in the Austrian Alps, is a family-run spa hotel founded by farmers. Much of the food served in the restaurants comes from their 54-acre farm, where they rear their own hens, geese, pigs and lambs, foraging for berries, herbs and mushrooms in the surrounding forest. What they don’t produce themselves ­— from mountain cheeses to organic vegetables — they source from neighbouring farms. Doubles from £190. 

Published in the 2022 edition of National Geographic Traveller (UK) The Spa Collection

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