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By now, it’s clear that farm-to-table is no fleeting trend. The demand for fresh, locally-sourced ingredients is here to stay – and hotels are taking note. But while many properties are simply patronising nearby farms and farmers’ markets, a few exceptional retreats are going the extra mile by growing their own fruits, herbs and vegetables, and even raising their own livestock, to ensure that every aspect of every meal is fresh, local and utterly wholesome. Of course, these are no ordinary farms, offering guests upscale accommodations, tranquil spas and awe-inspiring natural beauty. Read on for five of the world’s best luxury farm hotels offering an authentic farm-to-table experience… and so much more.
1. Blackberry Farm, Tennessee
Tennessee is a treasure trove of natural beauty. Dotted with hand-painted red barns, historic plantations and curving country roads that lead to hidden waterfalls, the Volunteer State is the perfect mix of unfettered beauty and Southern charm. Set against the majestic backdrop of the Great Smoky Mountains, the 68-room Blackberry Farm estate is situated on 4,200 acres of private wilderness.
With a carefully curated farm-to-table menu and a wine cellar with more than 170,000 bottles, Blackberry Farm offers an impeccable dining experience overlooking the rolling green hills and smoky Blue Ridge Mountains of Eastern Tennessee. Menus are created by an impressive team of artisans, including a chef, master gardener, baker, cheese maker, forager, butcher, preservationist and sommelier. The resulting dishes are truly estate-to-plate, with such highlights as the Springer Mountain Farm chicken (served with Carolina Gold Rice grits, forest mushrooms and greens from the garden) and the North Carolina mountain trout (accompanied by caramelised potatoes, fresh pole beans and smoked fumet).
In-between meals, anglers can fish more than 1,000km of streams, which are naturally sourced with rainbow and brown trout, as well as the native Southern Appalachian brook trout. And hikers can explore miles upon miles of wooded trails located throughout the picturesque mountains.
2. Belle Mont Farm, St. Kitts
Set on 400 acres of lush farmland and tropical forest on the northern slope of St. Kitts’s lush Mount Liamuiga, Belle Mont Farm focuses on sustainable luxury, growing its own organic produce – without the use of pesticides or unnecessary chemicals – and sourcing meat and fish responsibly from the land and sea. This commitment is reflected in the menus offered at the Kitchen, the Mill Bar, the Farm and Arthur’s – all of which serve Kittitian delights with a modern twist like papaya lamb stew and braised chicken roulade, as well as more contemporary fare.
Designed by the world-renowned architect Bill Bensley, the resort’s 84 cottages are a luxurious take on traditional Caribbean chattel houses, upgraded with crisp white bedding accented with vibrant pops of blue, rainwater showers and wraparound decks with stunning views of the Caribbean and surrounding forest. When not exploring the farm, guests can venture out to the Valley of Giants and the UNESCO World Heritage Site at Brimstone Hill, or sit back and relax at the resort’s infinity-edge pool.
3. Babylonstoren, South Africa
Set in the heart of South Africa’s postcard-perfect Cape Winelands, Babylonstoren is so much more than a historic Cape Dutch hotel. The 178-acre estate is centred on a 17th-century farmhouse and showcases the bounty of the pastoral Western Cape, with views of the Du Toitskloof and Franschhoek mountains and sprawling gardens brimming with more than 300 plant varieties.
Whitewashed walls, elegant gables and earth tones that mirror the surrounding landscapes bring a sense of warmth to the Farm Hotel, which includes six one-bedroom suites, three one-bedroom cottages and four two-bedroom cottages. Babylonstoren also offers the Farmhouse suites and the Owner’s House – which dates to 1777 – upon request. The hotel’s other amenities include a pool, a spa set within a forest of bamboo, a healing garden and a tasting room.
Of course, Babylonstoren’s 8 acres of gardens are the biggest draw. Here, guest can smell, pick and taste their way through a maze of seasonal delights – among them yuzu, chestnuts and exotic orange prickly pears – before feasting at the award-winning Babel restaurant. The rotating menu is based on what’s in season: in summer, that means salads brimming with pineapple, gooseberries, granadillas and apricots; in the winter, expect heartier fare like slow-cooked leg of lamb in red wine sauce.
4. Single Thread, California
Chef Kyle Connaughton – who formerly headed the research and development kitchen for Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck in the United Kingdom and has cooked at restaurants from Spago in Beverly Hills to Michel Bras in Japan – rethought every detail of the dining experience at Single Thread, the highly-acclaimed restaurant he opened in Healdsburg, California with his wife, Katina, in 2016.
Japanese ryokan inns – and their intense devotion to hospitality and intricate kaiseki menus – were the inspiration for the couple’s new venture. Upon arrival, guests are greeted by name with a cup of warm cider, then ushered to one of five modern and minimalist guest rooms, adorned with local art and stocked with an assortment of well-curated amenities like Aesop toiletries and Ratio coffee machines.
But the real magic happens in Single Thread’s dining room, where every element, from the softly polished furniture to the ceramic serving pieces, was designed to the Connaughtons’ specifications. The exquisite 11-course menu is built around ingredients grown by Katina at the restaurant’s nearby 5-acre farm, and Kyle showcases them in dishes so beautifully plated they are nearly floral arrangements.
The first course, called Mid Winter in Sonoma County, is presented as a landscape, with a series of 12 single bites – celery root roasted in a salt crust with bergamot remoulade, a silky chawan mushi custard, wild mushrooms cooked in white miso with crisp chicken skin – all placed on a soft bed of moss collected that morning on the farm.
Courses that appear to be simple are filled with complexity. The dish called Sunchoke looks like a tumble of the roasted roots with watercress and pine nuts. But they have been baked in a Japanese clay pot called a donabe until they are deeply earthy, then cut and finished over almond wood in the hearth. Some are pureed with bone marrow. Others are left whole and dabbed with a preserved-lemon vinaigrette. Bits of Mangalitsa pork jowl — brined and cooked sous vide, some crisped over open flames – add a final contrast of flavour and texture.
5. Soho Farmhouse, England
Rustic meets chic at Soho Farmhouse in Oxfordshire. The 18th-century English countryside getaway is a more pastoral approach to the Soho House brand’s members’-only properties, offering guests a respite from their daily stresses and demands. In addition to 40 cosy stand-alone cottages (which can be reserved by members and non-members alike), the property features a four-bedroom cottage and seven-bedroom farm house, ideal for guests wishing for added privacy and space. Interiors of each showcase exposed wood and brick, along with neutral tones and modest hints of colour in the furnishings to create an atmosphere that oozes comfort and elegance.
Farm fresh fare for each of the property’s many restaurants is locally sourced from Soho Farmhouse’s garden, which features over 500 fruits and vegetables. Of the extensive restaurant selection – which ranges from traditional English fare to a Japanese-style grill – the Main Barn stands apart for its enticing breakfast, lunch, dinner, and afternoon-tea menus. A visit to the local Farm Shop is a must for fresh flowers, wines, local cheeses and a bit of retail therapy. Besides grazing and shopping, guests can play tennis, go horseback riding, detox at the spa, swim in the infinity pool, or catch a movie at the 60-seat theatre.