How far will you go for a great meal? Here are 10 restaurants worth planning a short break around, with places to stay on site or nearby
The Ethicurean, Wrington, near Bristol
Created from the old orangery of an Edwardian walled garden, the Ethicurean (mains from £12) creates much of its menu from what it grows. Expect maybe rabbit confit with lovage breadcrumbs, or goat bacon, from a daily changing menu. Winners of the Observer Food Monthly’s Best Ethical Eats award in 2011, the young team work to the motto, “eat local, celebrate native foods, live well”.
STAY a five-minute drive away at Lower Stock Farm (01934 862 997, lowerstock.co.uk, doubles £75) set in 250 acres of working land
Le Champignon Sauvage, Cheltenham
Long before foraging became trendy, David Everitt-Matthias was cooking astonishing plates using the hedgerow’s bounty to supplement top-quality produce. He and his wife Helen have been offering what many call “the meal of a lifetime” at Le Champignon Sauvage two-course lunch £26) since 1987. Now with two Michelin stars, the food shows a marked French terroir influence, cooked by or under the auspices of this quiet chef who has never missed a service.
STAY a short walk away at the Bradley, a five-star B&B (01242 519077, thebradleyhotel.co.uk, double rooms from £88)
The Hand and Flowers, Marlow, Buckinghamshire
At the Hand and Flowers (01628 482277, thehandandflowers.co.uk, two-course lunch £15), a posh pub in Marlow, owners Tom and Beth Kerridge earned a Michelin star within a year of opening, and another in 2012. Twice finalist on the Great British Menu, Tom Kerridge is now famous for his slow-cooked duck breast with peas, duck-fat chips and gravy, and his roast hog with salt-baked potatoes and apple sauce. So famous that the pub is fully booked at weekends for the next six months, but there are midweek slots.
STAY in one of the pub’s four cottages, named after breeds of cattle (£140 a night B&B) just a stumble away
The Raby Hunt, Summerhouse, County Durham
This former inn has in just three years gone from family bistro to Michelin-starred restaurant. Before the Close family bought the Raby Hunt (two-course lunch £22.95) chef James was a professional golfer. His tasting menu runs like a list of ingredients and inspirations: Lindisfarne; razor clam; grouse; spring lamb; strawberry.
STAY in one of two bedrooms at the inn (£125 for two including breakfast) in this Grade-II listed Victorian building
The Gunton Arms, Thorpe Market, Norfolk
The Gunton Arms (01263 832010, theguntonarms.co.uk, three courses about £30) is beautifully set in a 1,000-acre deer park. Stuart Tattersall, formerly of the Mark Hix empire, cooks venison sausages from the park as well as ribs of beef on a 16th-century open fire in the middle of the Elk Room. Sweet crab from nearby Cromer comes with mustard mayonnaise, and salmon from Loch Duart is smoked on site. Bar snacks such as crackling and parsnip crisps are available all day in the pub still used by locals.
STAY in one of eight stylish antique-filled rooms (doubles from £95)
The Walnut Tree, near Abergavenny, Monmouthshire
The Walnut Tree (two-course lunch £22) was one of Wales’s best-known restaurants (before it closed in 2007). It reopened under chef Shaun Hill, who moved here from Ludlow’s Merchant House in 2008 and took the place to a new level. The restaurant offers “proper dining”, with a confidently eclectic menu. Dishes such as suckling pig, empanadilla and morcilla brought another Michelin star.
STAY in Old Post Office Cottage or Ivy Cottage (£180 for two) in the grounds, or at the restaurant’s own Angel Hotel, (01873 857121, angelabergavenny.com, doubles from £101)
Y Polyn, Capel Dewi, Carmarthernshire
From the statement on their website – “Fat equals flavour. Live with it” – to the warning that they don’t pour your wine or use tablecloths, Y Polyn (mains from £10), this is a no-nonsense, all-about-the-food restaurant. Lamb from the Gower marshes, or Welsh black beef tell their own story on the plate. “We’re not trying to win any prizes for innovative food,” they say. But Y Polyn does win accolades for robust country cooking and down-at-home style.
STAY a couple of miles away at Llywn Helyg Country House (01558 668778. llwynhelygcountryhouse.co.uk, doubles from £119) which offers lifts to and from Y Polyn
The Kilberry Inn, Tarbert, Argyll and Bute
A 16-mile drive down a “wee” road between Lochgilphead and Tarbert brings you to the Kilberry Inn (01880 770223, kilberryinn.com, mains from £11) with its red tin roof and matching phonebox. Breathtaking scenery leads to a place offering the best of land and sea: beef and lamb from Ormsary, Tiretigan pork, scallops hand-dived in the Sound of Jura and mackerel smoked in a small cabin over the road. Chef Clare Johnson’s cooking has earned her a Michelin Bib Gourmand.
STAY in one of the Kilberry’s five rooms (DB&B £210 for two) – advisable as the inn is a long way from anywhere
Barley Bree, Muthill, Perthshire
Cuisine grand-mère is at the heart of Barley Bree (mains from £10.50) in the Perthshire village of Muthill, where Fabrice Bouteloup draws on a childhood spent on his grandmother’s farm. Wife Alison, a master of wine, has built a wide list sourced from six suppliers. The menu at the 18th-century inn changes daily but a main course could be slow-cooked ox cheek with confit vitelotte potato, beetroot and curly kale, carrot and celeriac cooked on a custom-built French stove. Barley Bree was named rural restaurant of the year in the Scottish Restaurant Awards 2013.
STAY in one of six en suite doubles, from £105 B&B
The Curlew at Bodiam, East Sussex
They like to point out that stile meets style at the Curlew at Bodiam (mains from £21) and big city cuisine almost certainly influences this country kitchen. Simplicity and seasonality are key to the evolved food at this converted coaching inn. Owned by Mark and Sarah Colley and awarded a Michelin star in 2011, the Curlew uses the best (mostly local) ingredients while still offering remarkable yet affordable dinners.
STAY in a modern-day shepherd’s hut recycled from old touring caravans in a glade close to Bodiam castle with the Original Hut Company (01580 831 845, original-huts.co.uk, from £79 a night)
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