More Food-Focused Hotels
Set on an enormous sustainable farm, Belcampo specializes in immersive culinary experiences, including a seed-to-shot master barista course with Blue Bottle Coffee and an outing with the hotel chef where you’ll catch your own lobster and cook it for lunch (with a little professional help).
For a per-person flat rate, the Ace in Palm Springs will happily arrange either a BBQ Night or a Taco Party, wheeling a gas grill and all the fixings either to your patio or to one of the hotel’s many outdoor semi-public spaces. They’ll keep you and your group supplied with steak, chicken, seafood and the works — book in advance to avoid a dangerous case of BBQ Envy.
A luxury hotel in the overgrown business park of Gurgaon might seem an odd choice for a gustatory paradise, but the Leela is practically a culinary theme park — its flagship restaurant features no fewer than seven separate show kitchens, another restaurant is home to a sous-chef who was formerly a Master Chef judge, and a third offers four guests each night a thirty-six-course Italian dinner.
At the most fundamental level, a hotel is a machine for generating privacy — shelter, comfort, and peace and quiet are its most basic aims. Turning this private experience into a social one has proved to be a difficult challenge for the world’s hoteliers. Maybe that’s why the winner of our Rethink Hotels contest seems to have looked to restaurateurs, rather than hoteliers, for inspiration.
The Allotment uses food, not sleep, to structure the guest experience. It’s made up of four distinct elements, the first being the Allotment Market, where local producers and retailers sell food grown and made in the area in and around New York City. It’s a magnet for food-minded visitors, as well as a source for the dishes prepared by the hotel’s restaurant.
The Allotment Restaurant is the second element — but rather than a typical, top-down menu, it allows for input from guests, who are encouraged to bring their own ingredients to supplement the restaurant’s basic recipes. Meanwhile the open kitchen allows guests an unusual amount of access to the kitchen’s inner workings, and an unusual amount of collaboration between the chefs and the patrons.
Third is an off-site element, the New York Good Food Tours. Locals and tourists alike are invited to explore the New York food scene alongside the hotel’s chefs, whether that means a short walk to a local food market or a city-wide driving tour of rooftop or hothouse producers.
And phase four is the Allotment Rooftop. Here our British readers might have a head start on our American audience, as the concept of an allotment garden is already a familiar one. It’s simply a large, urban garden subdivided into individual-sized plots. Here locals might tend a crop from seed to harvest, and hotel guests might pop in for classes, tips or just a bit of agricultural atmosphere.
Our jury fell hard for The Allotment’s concept — Shuwa Tei put it most simply when he said “this idea makes me feel like visiting.” He particularly appreciated “the successful link between the market and restaurants, which are both necessary functions in the hotel.” Meanwhile Brent Hoberman admired the way the culinary focus, and especially the rooftop garden, “brings people together, allowing the hotel to have an ‘audience’ and in turn, an experience, which will make it a hub.” And that’s what this contest is all about.
Congratulations to Dean Moran, the winner of the grand prize, which includes a six-night stay at a top Tablet hotel.
As for the next step, we’re cooking something up as we speak. The most straightforward way to try out the concepts presented by our Rethink Hotels finalists might be to build them, but our expertise, frankly, lies elsewhere. Simply put, we’re the art gallery, not the artist — nor are we so fortunate as to have fifty million dollars lying in some unused corner of the office. We do, however, happen to have a customer base of more than a million highly experienced travelers, and we might just be able to find a way to user-test these new ideas in the virtual world. Watch this space.
Second Place: Carry On, New York, by Evan Thompson
Third Place: The Match, by Katja Butzke
Fourth Place: Convergence, by Caroline Fraser and Simon Diesendruck
Community Prize: Open Plan, by Andre Pradiktha