The kitchen can’t contain the most ambitious chefs. Massimo Bottura is the latest to embrace the whole house by opening Casa Maria Luigia, a 12-room inn that celebrates the traditions of his native Modena, Italy. It’s a recipe for success as travellers get an exceptional place to dine and stay, while chefs get to concoct a fully immersive experience – and enjoy better profit margins. Here’s a tasting menu of chef-owned hotels that share an intimate scale and pride of place.
Casa Maria Luigia
Most Modena-bound travellers know where they want to eat: Osteria Francescana, the three-Michelin-starred restaurant that tops the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list. But finding a place to stay has been considerably less satisfying. Now chef Massimo Bottura and Lara Gilmore, partners in life and business, are applying their good taste to Casa Maria Luigia, an 18th century stone house on Modena’s outskirts. Named for Bottura’s mother and open as of May, the hotel showcases the couple’s favourite things, including modern art, Gucci wallpaper, Dedar fabrics and a vinyl record collection. The set-up encourages mingling, with an eat-in kitchen for breakfast; a garden for lounging by the pool or under a century-old olive tree; and bocce (lawn bowling) and tennis courts for working up an appetite (next stop, the wood-burning pizza oven). There’s no formal dinner service – to encourage sampling local trattorie – but rooms supply the Emilian essentials: half-bottles of lambrusco and wedges of Parmigiano Reggiano.
credit: Callo Albanese e Sueo
Lake House is a stylish fine-dining restaurant and resort about 80 minutes from Melbourne. But 35 years ago, the property was marshy scrubland no one wanted; Daylesford itself was a down-on-its-luck spa town. Enter chef Alla Wolf-Tasker, her artist husband Allan and soon-to-be-born daughter Larissa. Alla had a soft spot for the area as her Russian émigré parents had a dacha (second home) up here. The couple, much to the local farmers’ bemusement, set about building a French-style restaurant – hand-planting silver birches and poplars in the grounds and slowly convincing producers to fork over their best ingredients. Today, Alla is one of Australia’s most respected chefs with a string of popular cookbooks to her name. Lake House continues to evolve – poolside suites are the latest addition – alongside Daylesford itself. A new and diverse generation of Melburnians are descending on the town’s boutiques, cafes, bookshops, festivals and, for that special treat, Lake House.
After 20-plus years at British luxury hotels Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons and Gidleigh Park – where he helped the restaurant earn two Michelin stars – in 2017 chef Michael Caines opened a property of his own, Lympstone Manor. Caines transformed a dilapidated Georgian farmhouse into a refined 11-hectare retreat in his home county of Devon. It overlooks the Exe Estuary, whose rich birdlife inspired the names of the 21 rooms and suites – among them the yellow-browed warbler, magpie and heron. The earth-tone interiors blend with the surroundings, and some suites feature outdoor soaking tubs and fire pits. Within six months, Lympstone Manor earned a Michelin star for modern British cooking that champions fish, beef and produce from within 40 kilometres of the property. Afternoon tea, with its oven-fresh scones, local jams and clotted cream, is an affair to remember. Not content to rest on his laurels, Caines has planted 17,500 vines that will eventually yield sparkling wine.
Beit El Tawlet
Having grown up during Lebanon’s civil war, Kamal Mouzawak decided to harness the power of food to create common ground. He began by launching Beirut’s first farmers’ market, Souk el-Tayeb, for small-batch producers, no matter their background. Next came Tawlet, an acclaimed homestyle restaurant whose cooks hail from across the country. The menu changes daily based on what’s in season and who’s in the open kitchen. That warm lunchtime hospitality extends round the clock thanks to an upstairs guesthouse, Beit El Tawlet (beit is Arabic for home). Its eight rooms have an appealingly lived-in feel: plants, rattan furniture, embroidered pillows and local art and antiques.
Guests wake up to a generous breakfast and can try their hands at making fatayer (savoury pies) or rolling stuffed vine leaves. Inclusive as ever, Mouzawak has expanded his concept of home across Lebanon, opening Beit Ammiq in the fertile Bekka Valley, Beit Douma in a mountain town and Beit El Qamar in the former capital of Deir El Qamar.