1. Italy – It’s been number one for the past three years in this category, which just goes to show that we can’t get enough of pizza, pasta and Italian fine wine. One of the most accessible cuisines for Brits, Italian food is both familiar and exciting, and as much pride is taken over street snacks as over fine dining. Fresh ingredients and traditional recipes take precedence, and repeat visitors can experience different cuisines in every region. For some, going to Italy to eat isn’t enough – inspired by the likes of Rick Stein and Gino D’Acampo, they want to follow in their footsteps and book food tours and cookery holidays.
2. Thailand – There’s a reason all-inclusive packages don’t do as well in Thailand as in some destinations, and low costs on the ground are only part of it. Fresh, vibrant flavours with a touch of fire are beloved of British visitors, who like to get out of their hotels and visit restaurants, markets and street food stalls in their quest for authentic flavours. Cookery classes are widely available through hotels and tour operators, so holiday makers can take a few kitchen skills home with them as a delicious souvenir.
3. Greece – “I adore Greek food”, says Affinion Travel’s Alexandra Holmes. “I often try to replicate baked feta – in the microwave – but it doesn’t have quite the same impact as eating in greek taverna”. Simple flavours, fresh ingredients and a warm welcome are key to Greek cuisine, and many might agree with Alexandra that the backdrop plays its part too, whether you’re eating octopus at a quaint Harbourside restaurant or klefitko in a pretty village taverna.
4. France – “France has the best gastronomy in the World”, says Travel Counsellors’ Gillian Davis, and with the list since Perfect Places began, many of you clearly agree. Ingredients are taken seriously, whether it’s one of the 450 types of cheese, truffles hunted by pigs, or hand-harvested sea salt, and cooking is viewed as an art, be it in a sophisticated Parisian restaurant or a rustic bistro. And that’s before you’ve started on the wine.
5. Spain – Whether you’re snacking on a pinto or ticking into a paella, Spanish food is full of sunshine and sure to make you smile. Simple dishes have their appeal, but Spain’s fine dining in destinations such as San Sebastian and Bilbao is having real impact. After all, Ferran Adria, widely considered to be the world’s finest chef, is Spanish. The destination’s cuisine mirrors its sociable sense of fun, with tapas to share over long lunches, and dinners that start at 10pm and run late into the night.
6. South Africa – When we watched this year’s Masterchef finalists competing over a hot break, the general public learnt what agents always knew – that South African food is truly exceptional. its cuisine draws on a wide range of influences and culinary traditions to create something unique, and the destination’s wine is renowned the world over.
7. Vietnam – Fiery, fresh, packed with herbs and spices, and sold on every street corner, Vietnamese food is part and parcel of any trip to the destination, and its no surprise that cooking classes are popular as clients try to learn the correct balance of salty, sweet, hot and sour flavours to take home and replicate.
8. Japan – The land of sushi, sashimi, teppanyaki and tempura has moved up one place from last year. The Japanese are rightly proud of their cuisine, and few places in the world take as much time and care over the presentation of their dishes. Visitors love the experience of visiting Tsukiji, the world’s largest fish market, in Tokyo, plus the country’s whiskies are making a name for themselves on the international scene.
9. Singapore – “Singapore is a foodie’s paradise”, says Kate Goodrich of Peakes Travel Elite – which is why it’s so surprising it hasn’t made the list before. This melting-pot nation brings together a host of Asian influences and flavours, and everything from street food to fine dining is memorably executed and utterly delicious.
10. Australia – “I loved trying all Australia’s different meats – ostrich and kangaroo were very tasty”, says Cruise Nation’s Andrea Harries. Aussies take their food very seriously and visitors find flavours as memorable as the backdrop when they dine alfresco on a boat beneath the Sydney Harbour Bridge, or under the outback stars at Uluru.