You'll find great food and wine right across the British countryside. Emma Hughes of Country Life offers her pick of the best gastropubs, restaurants and hotels
Happily, the days when you had to get on a plane to eat (and drink) like a king are long gone. Whether you’re planning an away-day around a special Sunday lunch or a week in foodie heaven, there’s a corner of the UK that will tick all the boxes. Here’s a list of boutique hotels, glorious gastropubs and restaurants with rooms that are well worth seeking out.
The Cotswolds, as ever, are in a league of their own. The Wild Rabbit in Kingham is a real home from home – if your home comes complete with exposed beams, crisp linens and perfectly fluffy white robes hanging on the back of the door. In a crowded field, the locally inflected menu really stands out: think crispy Daylesford egg with Jerusalem artichoke broth and truffle, pig-cheek and smoked eel salad with nasturtiums and Creedy Carver duck. A boutique hotel that boasts its own garlanded restaurant, Thyme on the Southrop Manor estate draws a starry crowd, but the emphasis is very much on comfort food. Plus, there’s a cookery school in the grounds where you can learn to whip up your favourite dishes. Head further west to Abergavenny for a spectacular meal overlooking the Brecon Beacons at The Hardwick – don’t miss the terrine of pedigree Welsh pork and venison served with pickles and toasted sourdough, paired with a glass of local Pinot Noir from Ancre Hill Estates.
In East Anglia, at The Gunton Arms in Norwich rib of beef to share is cooked over a fire that wouldn’t have looked out of place in Henry VIII’s court, accompanied by a thoughtful, and well priced wine list. Bedrooms overlook Gunton Park – magical on a misty morning.
Kent has long been known as the garden of England – and, increasingly, it’s the vineyard too. Some of the very best English wines are produced in this county and Gusbourne Estate’s Blanc de Blancs is the star of the list at The Sportsman, just outside Whitstable. It’s a place of pilgrimage for foodies, who book months in advance to sample the slipsole in seaweed butter, the braised brill and the feather-light soufflé. Towards Canterbury, The Fordwich Arms has been given a new lease of life by Dan Smith of London’s Clove Club, and now serves up dishes such as Stour Valley pheasant dumplings and local crab with pickled cucumber.
Food-lovers in Hampshire gravitate towards The Pig in Brockenhurst on the edge of the New Forest. Local is the kitchen’s watchword: whatever the team can’t grow in the garden is sourced within a 40km radius – and rooms couldn’t be cosier.
Down in Devon, Hotel Endsleigh is set in secluded woodland on the Tamar. In the restaurant local bounty gets the Italian treatment (sea bream with parmesan gnocchi, cavolo nero and crab bisque), while afternoon tea is a highlight – remember to dollop the cream on first like a true Devonian.
The Wars of the Roses may have ended centuries ago, but Yorkshire and Lancashire are still in healthy competition when it comes to special places to eat and drink. In the red corner The Cartford Inn near Preston showcases the very best of the region (Bury black pudding, seafood caught off the coast, local cheeses); while in the white corner The Star Inn at Harome is a Michelin-starred, 14th-century thatched longhouse on the edge of the North Yorkshire Moors. Chef Andrew Pern’s menu is clever but playful (Galloway beef tartare with smoked bacon, HP ripple ice cream and fried bread sprinkles, anyone?) and the tasting menu is accompanied by an inspired matching wine flight.
Scotland and Northern Ireland
A true destination restaurant, The Three Chimneys on Skye has six beautiful bedrooms that come with an automatic dinner reservation. Sit down to Loch Harport oysters, Orbost Farm Soay lamb and heather honey parfait, and you’ll understand why The Good Food Guide voted it Restaurant of the Year 2018. Across the Irish Sea, cult favourite Harry’s Shack in Portstewart (028 7083 1783) serves sparklingly fresh seafood to a crowd of devoted foodies, some of whom have travelled hundreds of miles to be there.
Emma Hughes writes for titles including Waitrose Food, The Telegraph and Time Out. She was previously deputy features editor of Country Life