Ten culinary weekends in Europe
Bahía de la Concha in central San Sebastián is a city where snacks are taken seriously. (Mark Read)
This article is the third in a series featuring destinations and activities perfect for a quick getaway. From cuisine to culture to the great outdoors, discover ideas that will help you make the most of your weekend.
In destinations where cuisine becomes interactive, food and drink are hardly mere supplements to a great holiday. From ale in the Lake District to pasta in Bologna to wine in Bordeaux — food and travel make the perfect companions.
Bake bread in the Brecon Beacons
If The Great British Bake Off has inspired you to get your hands floury, consider a course at Caroline’s Real Bread Company (from £140), in the heart of Wales’s Brecon Beacons. The one-day class covers the general principles of bread making and teaches a variety of techniques to help you create the perfect loaf. Spend your spare day exploring the area’s cafés and restaurants – Number 18 in Crickhowell serves tutor Caroline’s focaccia and ciabatta, and the Bridge Café is the top local choice for dinner.
Caroline’s Real Bread Company can provide self-catering cottages (from £50), or the Gliffaes Country House Hotel has luxurious rooms (from £90).
Caveman cooking in the Highlands
With the UK spending £1 out of every £8 in Tesco, it’s easy to forget where our food originally comes from. But trained archaeologists Alex Henderson and Rosie Hazleton offer a chance to reconnect with the culinary habits of our forebears with a Wild Cookery weekend in the remote Scottish Highlands (£150). Guests spend Saturday in the 100-acre Crochail Wood, foraging for riverside greens and digging and lighting – using flint – the pit-oven favoured by prehistoric man. All this is preparation for an evening spent feasting on slow-roasted lamb or venison, accompanied by home-brewed nettle beer. On day two you’ll return to recreate some other ancient dishes – including herbwrapped fish cooked on an open fire and pot-boiled stew with dumplings – before taking a wildlife-spotting woodland walk among red squirrels and pine martens.
A couple of miles from base camp, 19th-century Struy Inn offers rooms above its cosy bar (from £80).
Cook perfect pasta in Bologna
Though most famously associated with the rich spaghetti dish beloved of British families, Italy’s university city of Bologna has a lot more to offer its visitors than meat sauce. Spend a lazy afternoon wandering its medieval terracotta streets and perusing trattoria menus, and you’ll soon discover that spaghetti Bolognese is an alien concept to Italians – here, ragù alla Bolognese is served mostly with tagliatelle. A portion at Drogheria della Rosa, a charming converted pharmacy, costs £7.30. Next, learn how to cook the dish from scratch with an English-speaking chef at Bologna Cooking School. You’ll be shown how to make fresh pasta and the all-important meat sauce as well as a variety of antipasti and fluffy tiramisu. There’s also an opportunity for a guided visit to the local market, and to sample other classic Italian ingredients such as Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and balsamic vinegar (from £140 for a half-day course).
Housed in a 14th-century convent, Hotel Il Convento dei Fiori di Seta marries contemporary frescoes with modern décor (from £115)
Seek out supper clubs in Berlin
Hidden among the German capital’s inauspicious apartment blocks are some of the city’s best places to eat. Supper clubs, privately hosted dinner parties for paying guests, also offer the chance to have a nosy round the homes of real Berliners. Try Fisk & Gröönsaken (£20), where locals Jan and Melanie serve meat-free modern German dishes such as beetroot consommé with pumpernickel dumplings in their art-filled living room. Or visit Phoebe in Berlin, run by a French-trained Taiwanese chef, for pan-fried scallops and shrimps with sweet peppers and onion or melon and white wine gazpacho (from £45). Follow with cocktails at one of Berlin’s underground bars, such as 1930s speakeasy-themed Reingold, or Green Door, a kitsch pleasure palace with doorbell entry under a nondescript neon sign.
Charming and centrally located, Ackselhaus offers 12 individually designed bedrooms – with themes ranging from nautical to Hollywood – that come with small living rooms and kitchenettes (from £120).