London has a deluge of glitzy drinking and dining spots, but when it comes to cosy pubs you can’t beat the countryside. We’ve found the most charming spots all within two hours of London, so you can devour a rustic Sunday lunch and still make it back to the Big Smoke in time for dinner…
The Swan Inn, Esher
With celebrated Michelin-starred French chef Claude Bosi and his brother Cedric at the helm, you know to expect big things from this charming Surrey hangout. Look forward to classic comfort food with a French twist –think crab on toast; Herefordshire beef fillet with gratin dauphinoise, Provençal tomatoes and shallot sauce; and, of course, a Sunday roast with all the trimmings.
How to get there: 40 mins by train from Waterloo, or 1 hr by car.
2 Hare Lane, Claygate, Esher KT10 9BS
The Churchill Arms at Paxford, Chipping Campden
With all the charm of a traditional English pub, Head Chef Nick Deverell-Smith takes his culinary inspiration from hearty British cuisine, so diners can look forward to a dazzling array of wholesome classics including Cornish lobster macaroni and cheese, smoked haddock soufflé and a gigantic beef Wellington to share between two. There’s a small selection of rooms upstairs too, if you really want to make a night of it.
How to get there: The train to Moreton-in-Marsh takes 1 hr 50 mins from Paddington, or 1 hr 30 mins by car
B4479, Paxford, Blockley, Chipping Campden GL55 6XH
The Mash Inn, High Wycombe
The epitome of rustic charm, this newly renovated 18th-century inn has everything from roaring fires and carved wood benches to an open-plan kitchen serving up an array of delicious seasonal dishes, all hand crafted by Chef Jon Parry – formerly of London’s The Bull & Last and Adam Byatt’s Trinity. Curl up beside the fire, sample the delectable range of wines and feast on handmade British classics including local pigeon and partridge chorizo with pickled blackberries and dry-aged British rib of beef with oyster and nettles.
How to get there: 1 hr 50 mins by train from Marylebone, or 1 hr 30 mins by car
Horseshoe Rd, Bennett End, Radnage, High Wycombe HP14 4EB
The Black Rabbit, Arundel
This riverside gem has been serving up perfectly poured pints for over 200 years. Overlooking the famous Arundel castle on the River Arun, you’ll be spoilt with waterside views, and for food, be sure to book in on a Sunday, their afternoon roasts are legendary.
How to get there: 90 mins by train from Victoria, or 1 hr by car
Mill Road, Arundel BN18 9PB
The Coach, Marlow
Tom Kerridge’s second Marlow outpost has a strict no-bookings policy, but if you can’t face waiting a year to book into his flagship restaurant The Hand and Flowers, it’s more than worth chancing a visit to this lesser-known bistro-style hangout. The food is phenomenal, and with a much more palatable price tag. Choose from a range of small, tapas-style sharing dishes, or order something altogether more indulgent like the towering ‘Coach’ burger with smoked pulled pork and dill pickle; smoked haddock with black pudding; scotch eggs with moilee sauce; or chicken kiev with cauliflower cheese.
How to get there: 1 hr 30 mins by train from Paddington, or 1 hr 20 mins by car
3 West St, Marlow SL7 2LS
The Sun Inn, Colchester
Tucked away in the heart of Constable country, there’s a laid-back, homely vibe to this village-style pub that makes it pretty difficult to leave. Exposed oak beams and open fireplaces add to the ambience, and food comes in the form of grilled squid with Tuscan-style beans; fresh linguine with sardines, orange, pine nuts, chilli and parsley; and large black pork fillet with honey lentils, harissa and piquillo peppers.
How to get there: Trains to Manning Tree from Liverpool Street take 1 hr 30 minutes, or 2 hrs by car
High Street, Dedham, Colchester CO7 6DF
Mr Hanbury’s Mason Arms, Oxfordshire
Set in a sleepy village in rural Oxfordshire, Mr Hanbury’s is another stylish pub/hotel hangout brought to life by the revered Artist Residence group. If you’re a fan of the boutique hotel collection, you’ll know exactly what to expect: all-out style with a few signature eccentric touches. It has a distinctly farmhouse vibe with exposed brickwork, open fireplaces and rustic stone flooring but, in true AR style, interiors are given a modern twist with dark and floral walls, chintzy velvet banquettes, and upcycled crystal decanters suspended from the ceiling. Food comes courtesy of Leon Smith, of previous Michelin-starred Pony & Trap fame, and everything is sourced locally from the surrounding countryside. Expect hearty British fare including pickled mackerel with creamy goat’s cheese; succulent lamb loin with crisp courgette flower bhajis; and Eynsham pigeon in a sweet port jelly with walnuts and caramelised chicory.
How to get there: 1 hr 50 mins by train from Paddington (via Oxford), or 2 hrs by car
Station Road, South Leigh, Oxfordshire OX29 6XN
The Oxford Blue, Windsor
Windsor’s ticket to gourmet grub; The Oxford Blue is the epitome of fine dining, gastropub-style. With its flagstone flooring, tartan upholstery and local ales on tap, it’s as traditional as country pubs come, and the food draws in crowds. Chef Steven Ellis champions locally sourced, seasonal produce with an inventive menu that’s “based on tradition and comfort, with a modern twist”. You’ll find familiar pub favourites including ploughman’s, onion soup and hake and chips, amongst a collection of fanciful plates including celeriac fondant, spelt risotto and game crouton with foie gras and bone marrow.
How to get there: 1 hr 15 mins by train or car
The Oxford Blue, 10 Crimp Hill, Old Windsor, Windsor SL4 2QY
The Kings Head & Bell, Abingdon
This delightful 16th-century coaching inn is set deep in the heart of the beautiful market town of Abingdon-on-Thames. Combining rustic charm with a few stylish modern touches, and less than two hours from London, this has all the makings of a boozy Saturday lunch date – just make sure you don’t miss the last train home…
How to get there: Trains to Radley station take 1 hr 20 mins, or 2 hrs by car
10 East St Helens Street, Abingdon OX14 5EA
The Nag’s Head, Woking
Nestled on the outskirts of Woking, perched opposite the Brockwood Country Park, this cosy pub delivers big on rustic charm. Snuggly sofas and leather armchairs sit beside roaring log fires, with the kitchen serving a moreish mix of sharing plates and nibbles – think box-baked camembert and Mediterranean mezze – and hearty mains including lobster and Devon crab fishcakes; chicken, leek and crème fraîche pie; pan fried sea bass fillets; and 28-day aged rump steak.
How to get there: 45 mins by train from Waterloo to Brookwood, or 1 hr 30 minutes by car
Bagshot Road, Knaphill, Woking GU21 2RP
The Crown at Bray, Maidenhead
Mixing traditional British cuisine with a relaxed, homely atmosphere, Heston Blumenthal’s delightful 16th-century inn is a world away from its cousins down the road – the slightly more upmarket Hinds Head and the famous Fat Duck – but that doesn’t make it any less appealing. Low ceilings, distressed old beams, open fires and comfy sofas are reasons alone to curl up with a bottle of wine here on an autumnal afternoon, but naturally with Heston at the helm, the food is also worth sampling. Tuck into plates of fish and chips with crushed peas; braised pork belly with crackling; macaroni cheese with pickled mushrooms; and Hereford burger with pastrami, smoked cheese and pickles.
How to get there: 50 mins by train and bus from Paddington, or 50 mins by car
High Street, Bray, Maidenhead SL6 2AH
The Wheatsheaf Inn, Cheltenham
Located just two hours outside of London in the quaint market town of Northleach, this chic Cotswolds gastropub – part of the celebrated Lucky Onion group – has all the charm of a laid-back country hideout, with a few stylish contemporary quirks. Roaring fires, flagstone flooring and cosy interiors give a distinctly heritage feel, whilst punchy touches of modern artwork, including a pop-art portrait of Kate Moss by Sebastian Krüger, add a modern edge. The pub area is fairly tiny – there’s enough space for about five people to perch around the bar – but the two dining rooms provide plenty of space to settle down for a long lunch or dinner. The menu is simple, rustic and locally led, with standout dishes including twice-baked cheddar soufflé; River Yealm rock oysters with Tabasco and shallot vinaigrette; Wiltshire lamb rump with white beans, peppers and salsa; and succulent chateaubriand for two. Be sure to try the Sunday roast chicken – it comes piled high with roasties, veg, pigs in blankets and a generous dollop of creamy bread sauce. Delicious.
How to get there: 2 hrs by car
West Road, Northleach, Cheltenham GL54 3EZ
The March Hare, Guildford
Combining the cosiness of a traditional English inn with the stylish flair of a French brasserie, The March Hare offers delectable French cuisine in a timeless British pub setting. As a White Brasserie, the March Hare is sister to the popular family of Brasserie Blanc, so gourmets will be suitably impressed with the menu – think decadent dishes of duck leg confit with black cherry sauce, slow-cooked bœuf bourguignon and deluxe coq au vin alongside plates of pie and mash, gammon and steak and suckling pig for the Anglophiles.
How to get there: 50 mins by train from Waterloo or 1 hr 30 mins by car
2-4 South Hill, Guildford GU1 3SY
The Lickfold Inn, Petworth
Celebrated chefs Tom Sellers and Graham Squire offer a modern take on British pub classics. If you’ve tried Tom’s Michelin-starred London haunt, Restaurant Story, you’ll know you’re in good hands. Hole up in the bar and work your way through the glorious menu – the scotch egg and Welsh rarebit are must-orders – or book into the upstairs dining room, where you’ll find an array of inventive dishes all inspired by the local countryside, including gin salmon, cucumber, dill and seaweed; smoked duck breast, cherry and fresh almond; guinea fowl, BBQ asparagus and walnut; halibut, cauliflower, yeast and redcurrant; and côte de boeuf for two.
How to get there: 2 hrs by train and bus from Victoria, or 1 hr 30 mins by car
Highstead Lane, Lickfold, Petworth GU28 9EY
The Hand and Flowers, Marlow
You might have to wait a while for a table, this gastro gem gets booked up almost a year in advance, but once you do finally get one, you’ll be blown away by Tom Kerridge’s exceptional Michelin-starred fare. Dive into hearty dishes of Gunnerside grouse with black pudding; West End Farm pork belly with malted English onion; and beer-roasted chicken with celeriac royale and truffle mayonnaise. One thing’s for sure, no one ever leaves this pub hungry.
How to get there: 1 hr 30 mins by train from Paddington, or 1hr 20 mins by car
126 West Street, Marlow SL7 2BP
The Greyhound On The Test, Stockbridge
This award-winning countryside escape is a haven for foodies. The kitchen serves up delicious British fare – think tuna tartare with avocado, capers and crispy won tons; smoked haddock and prawn kedgeree; and pork belly with caramelised apple and bubble and squeak – in the cosiest of settings. Expect low ceilings with original beams and splashes of Farrow & Ball on the walls. If you can drag yourself away from the dining room, outside you'll find glorious views of the Test Valley and the River Test, which runs alongside the pub.
How to get there: 2 hrs by train and bus from Waterloo or Paddington, or 2 hrs by car
31 High Street, Stockbridge SO20 6EY