Have you been to any of our recommended restaurants for 2016?
by Flora Howard
I’m a major food snob, but, when you’ve been brought up in a family in which the cooking was, I now appreciate, outstanding, eating in restaurants can be a letdown. All the ‘foam’ in the world can’t make up for tired ingredients and a bored chef, but, when it’s done well, British cooking is exceptional.
Our island geography, seasonal ingredients, ability to grow an enormous variety of produce and growing interest in cookery all create a nation of aspirational, talented chefs. We are specialists with local ingredients and, combined with our interest in gardens and our farming heritage, we pride ourselves on using whatever we can grow. All this adds up to uncomplicated, seasonal menus, enthusiastic chefs and beautiful places in which to enjoy the experience of eating out
2 Fore Street, Mousehole
Tucked up a side street in this tiny fishing village, it’s a breath of fresh air after sand sandwiches and sticky ice creams. Fresh, clean interiors and food to die for.
* If it’s sunny, reserve the table for eight in the ‘outside dining room’ (01736 731164;www.2forestreet.co.uk)
The Bell at Skenfrith, Skenfrith
This unassuming pub just over the Welsh border is a hidden gem. Take time to explore the kitchen garden, meet the pigs and explore the award-winning wine and Champagne list.
* There are excellent rooms should you over-indulge
(01600 750235; www.skenfrith.co.uk)
Fat Duck, High Street, Bray
It’s back. Heston Blumenthal has returned from his travels and is setting fire to our senses again, this time with a culinary journey round the world, conceived with the help of master illusionist Derren Brown. But will it top the snail porridge?
* Reservations for a new month will be available from the first Wednesday of every month—April 2016 will be released on January 6
(01628 580333; www.thefatduck.co.uk)
The Durham Ox, Crayke, York
A traditional pub with a laidback atmosphere and contemporary views on hospitality. Excellent food, fantastic service and seriously comfortable beds.
* Dogs allowed in bedrooms (www.thedurhamox.com; 01347 821506)
Tebay Services, Orton, Penrith
The only family-run motorway service station in the UK is a renowned stopping point to break the journey north or south and serves excellent local produce.
* Less well-known is the hotel just five minutes from the services
(01539 624511; www.tebayservices.com)
Beachhouse, South Milton, Sands
A ‘restaurant’ in a converted beach shack, with six picnicstyle tables outside and an open kitchen. Gets booked up weeks in advance during the summer period.
* Depending on your party’s size, you may have to share your table
(www.beachhousedevon.com; 01548 561144)
Le Champignon Sauvage
Suffolk Road, Cheltenham
Under the expert guidance of David and Helen Everitt- Matthias since 1987, it’s won numerous awards plus two stars from the Michelin Red Guide and Restaurant of the Year from our sister magazine, Decanter. Pure food magic, with an atmosphere to match.
* The owners have never missed a service in almost 30 years
(01242 573449; www.lechampignonsauvage.co.uk)
The Wheatsheaf Inn
West End, Northleach
Atmospheric coaching inn, with fantastic local food, a good bar with a roaring fire and comfortable rooms.
* Check the website for events—shoot days are planned for 2016—and indulge in some of the massage and beauty options on offer in the garden treatment rooms
(01451 860244; www.cotswoldswheatsheaf.com)
The Wild Rabbit
Church Street, Kingham,
Probably the most beautiful pub interior you will ever see, its renovation cost a reputed £1.4 million. Part of the Daylesford empire, it’s been described as ‘a re-invention of the traditional English Inn—a place to eat, drink and sleep’. Chef Tony Parkin was formerly the Bamfords’ own private chef.
* The wines are from the Bamfords’ own vineyard
(01608 658389; www.thewildrabbit.co.uk)
Gee’s Restaurant, 61 Banbury Road, Oxford
Seasonal Mediterranean food served on tables housed in an old Victorian-style greenhouse surrounded by greenery. Excellent for lunch—simultaneously elegant and laidback— and good value.
* Stay at the Old Parsonage, 1, Banbury Road, which is part of the same group (www. oldparsonage-hotel.co.uk)
(01865 553540; www.gees-restaurant. co.uk)
Image: Plate from Le Champignon Sauvage