Best places for food in February

A Singapore institution, Lau Pa Sat food market offers a wide variety of cuisine.

Prime climes mean that wine is the star of the show this time of year with New Zealand, Australia and Argentina beckoning with delicious bevvies aplenty, but we’d be remiss not to mention balmy Singapore and it’s burgeoning Michelin-starred eateries. There’s never been a better time to loosen that waistbelt and indulge…

Head to Singapore for drier skies, cool gardens and great eating

Loitering just one degree north of the equator, Singapore guarantees warmth year-round, with average temperatures a fairly consistent 27°C (81°F). February, however, is one of the driest months and – if you come after Lunar New Year (a national holiday) – it isn’t crazy busy. Humidity is always high, but it’s easy to find respite in a metropolis that’s trying to rebrand itself as a ‘City in a Garden’. Find shade downtown in the Botanic Gardens or the high-tech Gardens by the Bay, created in 2012. Or take a bus ride into the surrounding wildlife-rich rainforests. Perhaps the chief reason to visit, though, is to eat. Hawker centres serve up phenomenal food in cheap, canteen-like settings while top-end eateries are getting ever better – Michelin Guides launched its first Singapore edition in 2016. Seek out chilli crab, spicy rendang curry and a range of Nonya dishes, unique to the region.

Trip plan: Spend a few days sightseeing, and take a street-food tour to get a taste for less touristy neighbourhoods!
Need to know: Upcoming Lunar New Year dates are 28 January 2017, 16 February 2018, 5 February 2019, 25 January 2020.
Other months: Nov-Jan – wettest; Feb-Oct – hot, humid, drier.

Feast with fewer people on New Zealand’s South Island

 

mussel
Feast on local delicacies like green-lipped mussels on New Zealand's South Island.
Image courtesy: ©bankmoophoto/Getty Images

February is a New Zealand sweet spot. It’s one of the hottest months (20-30°C; 68-86°F), yet Kiwi families have taken the kids back to school. This makes it a good month for popular, weather-sensitive places, such as Abel Tasman National Park – far better to walk, kayak and camp amid the golden sands and forested headlands here when it’s sunny and quieter. While you’re in northern South Island, tag on the Marlborough region too. It’s home to more than 150 wineries, which will be thickening with grapes, before the March-May harvest; utilise February’s good weather to tour between cellar doors by bike. And February is when the Marlborough Food and Wine Festival (in Blenheim) showcases the region’s best produce: cherries, strawberries, apricots; Kaikoura cheese and Cloudy Bay clams; blue cod and green-lipped mussels from the Marlborough Sounds. There’s also good eating at vineyard restaurants and chances to take seafood cruises to catch your own.

Trip plan: Combine activities in Abel Tasman with arty Nelson, Marlborough wine-tasting and whale-watching in Kaikoura.
Need to know: The ferry from the North Island docks at Picton, 62 miles (100 km) east of Nelson, 19 miles (30 km) north of Blenheim.
Other months: Dec-Feb – warmest, busiest; Mar-May – cooler, foodie, quiet; Jun-Aug – cold, wet; Sep-Nov – warming.

Cool down with therapeutic waters and a thriving foodie scene in Daylesford, Australia

Beautiful sunset over Barossa Valley
Sunset at the vineyards close to Daylesford.
Image courtesy: ©Troy Wegman/Shutterstock

Want to escape the sizzling streets of Melbourne? Then take a short drive inland to the European Alps. Well, sort of. The town of Daylesford, tucked into Victoria’s central highlands, was first settled by Italian Swiss gold-rush stampeders in the mid-19th century, and retains an old-world chocolate-box vibe. Having attracted an abundance of artisans and alt-lifestylers since, it also has thriving cultural and foodie scenes. All this makes Daylesford an idyllic escape, with cool swimming lakes, beautiful botanic gardens, galleries and antiques stores, farm-gate stalls and fancy restaurants. There are also rejuvenating mineral waters: 72 natural springs have been identified. Stroll a shady nature trail with an empty bottle to fill up at a remote pump; each spring is said to have a different mineral content and a different taste. Test your palate further at one of the local vineyards’ cellar doors.

Trip plan: Daylesford is a 90-minute drive from Melbourne. Use it as a base for exploring the Macedon Ranges’ countryside, villages and gold-rush history. Daylesford has spectacular accommodation options, ideal for a romantic escape.
Need to know: If it gets really hot, head up 3314 ft (1010m) Mt Macedon, summer retreat of Melbourne’s 19th-century elite.
Other months: Dec-Feb – hot; Mar-May – harvest, mild; Jun-Aug – cold, crisp; Sep-Nov – warming, blooming

Raise a glass to the greatness of grapes in Mendoza, Argentina

Argentina, Mendoza Province, Maipu, grape variety Malbec vine
A bunch of Malbec grapes growing in Mendoza in Argentina.
Image courtesy: ©Westend61/Getty Images

This is the most intoxicating time to visit Mendoza, the heart of Argentinean wine country. Vineyards dominate here – every hillside is scored with vines – and in hot, sunny February they’ll be healthily heavy with fruit in anticipation of the March harvest. A festive atmosphere reigns, with every bodega (and there are around 900) open for tours, tastings and celebrations. The leafy, plaza-dotted city of Mendoza makes a good base. Alternatively, some wine estates offer characterful accommodation amid the vines, with backdrops of the snow-capped Andes. Activities such as biking, hiking, horse riding and golf are also readily available during this dry, sunny period, and doable in the knowledge that a beefy Malbec will be uncorked and waiting on your return.

Trip plan: It’s a two-hour flight from Buenos Aires to Mendoza. Tour the vineyards, adding on walks and rides. Consider combining with the wineries of Cafayate, further north.
Need to know: The Vendimia (Harvest Festival) is held on the first weekend in March.
Other months: Dec-Jan – hottest; Feb-May – best for wine tours; Jun-Aug – cool, nearby skiing; Sep-Nov – spring blooms.

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