If you’ve ever been camping, dining in a forest might not sound like the most novel idea. But if your version includes sitting around a campfire on REI chairs, grilling sausages, toasting s’mores and drinking wine from a tin mug, then you’ve only experienced one one kind of eating outdoors. And believe it or not, there are so many more forest dining experiences to try. Ever sat amongst towering trees while devouring gin marinated beets, oysters with watercress or lamb curry with naan bread straight from the tandoor? Or eaten dinner in a bamboo pod strung from the trees? These restaurants nestled in the woods will sprout your imagination by offering fancy fare in fantastical forest settings.
Mahua Dinner, India
On the edge of India’s Pench National Park—the forest that inspired the Jungle Book—guests can tuck into a lavish al fresco dinner which commences under a giant mahua tree. Tables are laid with freshly pressed tablecloths, a fire is lit, lanterns are strung from trees and chefs offer up a harvest table of Indian delights: palak paneer, naan bread, rotis, kebabs and pilaf; all complemented with icy beers and wine.
Dutch Oven Dinner at Hoshinoya Mt Fuji, Japan
There are limited seats available at Hoshinoya’s Dutch Oven dinner, which takes place under a canopy in a mountainside forest facing Mount Fuji. Under heated blankets, diners sit at tables angled towards the magnificent trees and flickering campfire. The French-inspired menu features four courses with warming seasonal dishes like wild boar, roasted potatoes and risotto served alongside local wines. While some of the courses are plated, others require some DIY. Yes, here, you do indeed have to sing for your supper. At each table guests are encouraged to cook elements of their meal in the small Dutch Oven, which sits atop a flame. Rest assured, the work is light (you’ll likely stir the risotto or flip a steak) and it doesn’t include cleaning any dishes.
Located deep in the Swedish woods, Stedsans is possibly the closest you’ll ever get to a real-life fairytale. Owned and operated by Danish couple who formerly owned a restaurant in Copenhagen, Mette Helbæk & Flemming Hansen, Stedsans is a ‘hotel’ (with cabins and a sauna on the lake) with a solid focus on food. Every evening, Hansen creates a feast using hyper-local ingredients, paired with natural wines. The kitchen is totally off-the-grid and all the ingredients are sourced from nearby (chocolate, coffee, olive oil and wine are literally the only things they import). Dinner, which takes place in a wood and glass structure surrounded by trees, is followed by drinking around the campfire until the wee hours of the morning.
Domaine des Etangs, France
At Domaine des Etangs, ditch the on-property Michelin star restaurant in favor of a forest dining meal. Surrounded by pristine woodland, the 11th-century chateau has unlimited space for forest meals. Scattered lanterns, blankets, a fire pit—the experience is as fantastical as they come. The dishes are prepared from local seasonal ingredients: fruit from the farm, veggies from the garden and crayfish from the Moulde River. Guests are even invited to forage for their own ingredients like mushrooms, which are collected in the forest.
Treepod Dining at Soneva Kiri, Thailand
Positioned in a cosy wooden pod set amongst trees, diners at Soneva Kiri can absorb magnificent views of the ancient tropical rainforest and ocean while feasting on gourmet dishes. A basket with meals like fish in banana leaves with lime and wood roasted spiced lamb are delivered to the table by a waiter… on a zipline. Once the dishes have been laid out, the waiter swiftly leaves, and you’re left suspended in the air with zero disturbances.
Pure Food Camp, Sweden
Helmed by Sweden’s first female Michelin-starred chef, Titti Qvarnstrom, Pure Food Camp guides guests on a culinary journey in Sweden’s Scanian Forest. And not just for one meal, but for a number of days. The camp is extremely hands-on, so expect to forage for food and cook dinner over an open flame alongside Qvarnstrom. Other activities include visiting a farm and a castle—as well at least one meal prepared entirely by one of Sweden’s most revered chefs. However, you’ll have to wait a little longer to book, as Pure Food Camp is on hiatus until next year.
One & Only Nyungwe House, Rwanda
It’s hard to escape the forest views at One & Only Nyungwe House. Set on a tea plantation bordering the Nyungwe Forest, one of Africa’s oldest forests, meals at One & Only Nyungwe House commence on the outdoor patio overlooking the misty trees or on a candlelit deck positioned above the treetops. In the kitchen, is skilled chef Treasure, who whips up daily meals of lamb with confit potato and duck with caramelized cauliflower and couscous using fresh ingredients from his garden.