Sumptuous restaurant meals are one of the decadent pleasures of traveling. But there are times -- say, after a long day of exploring or business meetings -- when the idea of eating dinner in a bathrobe seems equally compelling.
Happily, now that many of the world's top hotels offer five-star room service, there's no need to sacrifice haute cuisine for comfort.
Once considered the last resort of weary business travelers (and the subject of Marx Brothers' comedy), room-service dining has finally come into its own.
Gone are the days when hotel guests could expect only defrosted seafood and soggy breakfast pastries on their trays; now, sophisticated dishes made with artisanal ingredients are making their way upstairs.
Some are even whipped up by superstar chefs; at New York City's Chambers Hotel, for instance, guests can order sublime French-Asian dishes from Má Pêche, the ground-floor restaurant run by David Chang (of Momofuku fame).
Among the many other room-service treats you won't need to lift a finger to enjoy (unless that finger is helping to hold a fork) are lunchtime specialties like Wagyu-pastrami sandwiches (at the Little Nell in Aspen) and custom-mixed cocktails (at the Loews Miami Beach Hotel).
The delivery is as memorable as the food at Twin Farms in Vermont, where servers light candles, uncork wine and dim the lights for a private romantic dinner.
The pièce de résistance, though, may well be at Le Taha'a, a French Polynesian getaway, where ukulele-strumming canoeists deliver breakfast to guests' overwater bungalows. Restaurateurs, beware...eating in is the new eating out.
Chambers Hotel (New York, New York)
Known for its in-house art collection (more than 500 works are displayed in the guest rooms and common areas), the Chambers is similarly famous for the culinary artistry whipped up by its resident chef, David Chang. Má Pêche, on the ground floor of the hotel, is the only midtown outpost of Chang's Manhattan restaurant empire.
Order a plate of steamed buns --filled either with lobster; maitake mushrooms and chicarrón (pork rinds); or black-bass tartare and gooseberries -- and you'll understand why Chang's wizardry has won multiple James Beard awards in recent years. Rooms, from $325; 212-974-5656; chambershotel.com.
Waldorf Astoria Chicago (Chicago, Illinois)
Set in Chicago's historic Gold Coast neighborhood, the Waldorf Astoria, designed by renowned local architect Lucien Lagrange, is one of the city's most sophisticated lodgings. Every guest room here has a proper dining-room table, where staffers arrange flowers, pull out chairs and serve in-room meals on elegant china.
The room-service selections from in-house Balsan restaurant include sustainably sourced Alaskan king crab legs, poached lobster on the half shell and platters of house-made charcuterie and artisanal cheeses. Rooms, from $395; 312-646-1300; wachicago.com.
Hastings House (British Columbia, Canada)
Set on an island just west of Vancouver, this seaside country resort has suites with private balconies overlooking Ganges Harbour.
The view makes a perfect backdrop for an alfresco dinner; among the ever-changing menu items offered by the hotel's chef, Marcel Kauer, is Champagne-poached British Columbia halibut with green peppercorn and spinach risotto. Rooms, from $295; 800-661-9255; hastingshouse.com.
Le Taha'a island resort and spa (Taha'a, French Polynesia)
Like most of French Polynesia's luxury resorts, Le Taha'a occupies a private islet (or motu), where most guests stay in individual overwater bungalows.
As if waking up each morning surrounded by the turquoise water of Taha'a Lagoon weren't stunning enough, having your breakfast pancakes and tropical fruit delivered to your private deck -- by a strumming ukulele player in a canoe -- is sheer heaven. Rooms, from $850; 689/507-601; letahaa.com.
Liberty Hotel (Boston, Massachusetts)
Though originally built in 1851 as a prison, this stately building (converted to a hotel in 2007) is now a place where guests feel grateful to do time. In particular, they're appreciative of the Liberty's sleek guest rooms, many with sweeping views of downtown Boston and the Charles River.
They're a lovely setting for enjoying in-house chef Lydia Shire's New England--style dishes, like crab-cake eggs Benedict, lobster-topped pizza or sumptuous Boston cream cake for dessert. Rooms, from $199; 617-224-4000; libertyhotel.com.
The Little Nell (Aspen, Colorado)
Sure, the in-room dining at this boutique Rocky Mountain retreat is decadent (how about a pre-ski breakfast of lemon-ricotta soufflé pancakes with homemade raspberry syrup?).
But for get-up-and-go types, who like to partake in hotel activities like horseback riding and mountaintop yoga, the folks at Little Nell go the extra mile: Their kitchen staff will pack a gourmet picnic lunch to take along, with options like local Wagyu pastrami on rye or faro salad with nuts and pomegranates. Rooms, from $265; 888-843-6355; thelittlenell.com.
Got a tip for amazing in-room eats? Share your recommendations in the comments section below.