9 Foodie Breaks Near London
Osip & Number One
Eat: Often dubbed the Notting Hill of the southwest, Bruton is one of the coolest towns in Somerset full of great places to eat, quirky independent shops and stylish hotels. Young Michelin-starred, ex-London chef Merlin Labron-Johnson heads up Osip, a tiny farm-to-table restaurant, housed in a lovely stone house that used to be the village ironmongery. The décor of tiled walls, exposed brickwork, pale linens and blue banquettes make the most of this small space where you’re guaranteed sublime food inspired by whatever ingredients Merlin and his team have cultivated themselves on the two plots of land they manage nearby, and what is available from local suppliers. There is no set menu but, in the evening, you will get small snacks and raw preserved vegetables, freshly baked breads and a broth to start with; this is followed by a series of large plates and various puddings to finish. A shorter option is available at lunchtime. Bespoke wine pairings are also available.
Sleep: Book a room next door at Number One, an elegant Georgian townhouse, medieval forge and row of cottages that have been converted into a 12-bedroom hotel set around a pretty courtyard. Restored original features lend character to all the rooms which are decorated in rich colours and vintage furnishings, and where on arrival you’ll find a truckle of cheddar cheese and crackers, local cider and fruit. Breakfast served at Osip is worth getting up for – choose from creamy rice pudding, freshly-baked brioches, soft boiled eggs, ham, toast, slabs of cheddar, homemade jams, granola and yoghurt.
Visit OsipRestaurant.com and NumberOneBruton.com
José Pizarro The Swan Inn
Eat: Opposite a leafy green between Esher and Claygate, you’ll find stellar Spanish chef José Pizarro’s fourth restaurant. The feel is decidedly English pub but, in true José style, the menu consists of Spanish classics using the best Spanish ingredients alongside locally sourced produce. There are over 20 tapas to choose from, including firm favourites like padrón peppers, jamón Ibérico, meatballs with spiced tomato, croquetas and Spanish omelette. If you’re super hungry, you can follow with Norwegian cod and chips or a large paella, which is ideal for sharing. At weekends during the summer months, grilled tapas are cooked on barbeques on the garden terrace.
Sleep: The six cosy ensuite bedrooms are set over two levels in an old, converted barn behind the pub. For a hearty breakfast the next morning, opt for the eggs and Catalan sausage.
The Waterside Inn
Eat: The Roux family celebrated 50 years of this renowned restaurant last year. Its picture-book riverbank location overlooking the Thames in Bray feels very English but the food is anything but. Alain Roux, son of Michel who passed away three years ago, is at the helm and continues the family tradition of top-end French cooking which has earned The Waterside Inn three Michelin stars since 1985. This is a place for a special occasion – it’s pricey but you are guaranteed a truly gastronomic experience. Choose from the à la carte menu or, if you want to really splash out, go for tasting menu, Le Menu Exceptionel, which has to be ordered by everyone at the table. Dishes include the likes of flaked Devon crab lightly scented with curry, marinated apple and fennel; duck consommé with foie gras and tarragon leaves cooked under a puff pastry crust; confit and grilled fillet of line-caught seabass, Kalamata olives potato gnocchi; and warm pecan nut soufflé with yuzu and dark chocolate. The dining room is romantically old fashioned and comfortable with lovely views, and the service is incredibly attentive. All in all, an amazing experience every foodie has to try at least once.
Sleep: Choose from 12 individually designed rooms, either in the main building or in one of the cosy cottages next to the main restaurant. We love the charming deluxe doubles which are large with wonderful views of the river from the attic window; for total luxury, book the stunning Mallards apartment which has a Juliet balcony with unparalleled views of the Thames, the perfect spot for breakfast; you also get a lovely sitting room with an outside river deck.
Eat: There’s nothing better than an English seaside town in the spring. In Margate, you can stroll along the beach before heading to this charming restaurant just off the seafront to enjoy delicious local seafood alongside simple, seasonal vegetable-based dishes. The menu changes daily, based on what is fresh from the boats that day, but expect simple but perfectly cooked scallops with Jerusalem artichokes; Dover sole with green sauce; or monkfish and clam bisque. The owners work directly with growers, fishermen and suppliers who understand how to make the most of their produce and, at the same time, minimise the impact on the environment. They also spend a lot of time researching the removal of plastic from their supply chain and have partnered with local community gardens to turn their vegetable food waste into compost.
Sleep: Angela's three rooms are situated above the restaurant looking out over the harbour, each with a king size bed and ensuite shower room. They are furnished with the same ethos as the restaurant – to leave as small a footprint on the environment as possible. So, you get mycelium grown lamps, re-dyed waste wool rugs, cork floors, handmade wallpaper, recycled and bio-plastic furniture and bone china cups made using waste fish bones from the restaurant. On arrival, you’ll find some goodies in your room – freshly baked soda bread, yoghurt, compote and some of Angela's house-cured fish, plus a few seasonal surprises. A two-night stay guarantees a reservation in the restaurant and at Dory’s, the sister seafood bar just around the corner, which serves a changing daily menu of small plates.
Lower Beeding, West Sussex
Eat: Deep in the West Sussex countryside, near Horsham, Restaurant Interlude is located within historic Leonardslee House in an opulent dining room, complete with crystal chandeliers and antique furnishings. Under chef Jean Delport, the restaurant opened in the autumn of 2018 and gained its first Michelin star the next summer. Delport and his team’s ever-changing tasting menu is guided by what is available in the estate’s vegetable gardens and from local organic farms, and is described as a journey through the woodland gardens of the estate. The 21-course menu might include the likes of bracken fiddleheads, pine and burnt butter; snail fricassée, parsley and garlic; smoked scallop, birch and summer truffle; estate deer, skilpadjies [South African liver balls] and juniper; honey, salted caramel and whisky; and ‘Not So Milk Tart’.
Sleep: Grade II-listed, 19th-century Italianate style Leonardslee House has ten charming ensuite bedrooms that lead off from the ornately galleried landing. Each is individually designed by a different British designer such Nina Campbell and Christopher Farr to echo the flower-filled gardens – so expect floral fabrics and wallpapers as well as hand-picked antiques and chandeliers. The property is set within the historic woodland gardens of the Leonardslee Estate and sits on top of a valley with panoramic views. Guests have complimentary admission to the lovely gardens where there is a wallaby enclosure and a deer park, or you can tour the vineyard. And if you want something a little more rigorous, you are within a stone’s throw of some of the best walks in the South Downs National Park.
Eat: Thyme is a cluster of honey-stone properties in the Cotswold village of Southrop, a few miles from Burford. Owner Caryn Hibbert left her career in medicine just over 20 years ago and bought the manor house (where she still lives with her husband) and created Thyme – which she calls a ‘village within a village’ – by transforming some of the derelict buildings on the estate and buying up neighbouring properties. Today, it’s an elegant hotel with a cookery school, a destination spa, its own pub and the quintessentially British restaurant, the Ox Barn, run by her son Charlie Hibbert (ex Quo Vadis). You’ll dine in style in this spectacular barn conversion, which is large, rustic, light and warm all at once with exposed brick and endless wooden beams. The food is very much ‘of the land’ and the menu is small, changing daily based on what’s available from the vegetable garden. For starters, you could choose from dishes like crab, citrus and bitter leaves or smoked trout, caviar, potatoes and crème fraîche, followed by roast pork, chicory, salsify and anchovy gratin or cod, oyster and parsley sauce. you can also eat just a short stroll away at The Swan pub in the heart of the village adjacent to the green.
Sleep: The 32 rooms are described as ‘botanically inspired’ and are spread across several houses and cottages. No two rooms are the same – the décor and colours in each are inspired by their botanical name, incorporating pastels, floral wallpapers, carefully sourced antique furniture and fireplaces. The all-over feel is homely, warm, cosy and inviting – and we love the little touches like the honesty bars dotted throughout the property and a tipple by your bed at the end of the evening.
Eat: Just over an hour from London, between the M3 and M4 in north Hampshire, eco-friendly Heckfield Place is a beautiful 17th-century Georgian family home, set in a 400-acre estate of grounds including walled gardens, forests, meadows, lakes you can swim in and the hotel’s farm. Apart from being one of the UK’s best country house hotels, foodies come here to experience Skye Gyngell’s (of Petersham Nurseries and Spring fame) food. She is the culinary director and oversees the two restaurants: Marle and the more casual Hearth.
Recognised with a Michelin Green Star, Marle is open to both residents and outside guests, and most of the ingredients on the menu come from the self-sustainable estate’s biodynamic farm, orchard or garden. The food is show-stopping and seasonal – expect dishes like Cornish cockles and clams with n’duja, wild garlic and white beans; scallops with yellow polenta, XO sauce and baby spinach; River Test trout with almond curry butter, farm pak choi and crispy shallots; grilled Heckfield lamb with farm purple sprouting broccoli, bagna cauda and Jerusalem artichoke; and pork chop with Savoy cabbage, capers, cornichons and potato purée. Hearth was once the estate stables, and the character of the original building is still very much there. Centred on an open fire, the cooking is classic and simple focusing on the very best produce available on the day – the menu might include wood fired flatbread with wild greens, ricotta and Berkswell; smoked oyster mushrooms with cobnut, soft herbs and sherry vinegar; grilled monkfish with savoy cabbage, mussels and mussel butter; and saddle of rabbit with pancetta and celeriac. Pre or post dinner, the Moon Bar has a great list of cocktails made from liquors and infusions created with fresh ingredients from the home farm.
Sleep: Staying overnight in one of the stylish 45 rooms feels like staying in the most fabulous country house. Cosy, comfortable and homely, rooms are sumptuous, decorated in soft greys and pale browns, with marble fireplaces, English oak furniture, and mats and headboards handwoven from rushes from the River Ouse in Suffolk. Before you set off in the morning, be sure to swim in the lake, join a yoga or Pilates class, or unwind with a relaxing treatment at The Little Bothy spa.
Le Manoir Aux Quat'Saisons
Great Milton, Oxfordshire
Eat: Food takes centre stage at Raymond Blanc’s honey-coloured manor house just outside the pretty Oxfordshire village of Great Milton. The restaurant has had two Michelin stars for 38 years and is another must-visit destination for foodies looking to celebrate a special occasion. Raymond was a pioneer of seasonal, organic produce and sustainability long before most other chefs and, pre-dinner, you can stroll around the gardens where you will see some of the vegetables, mushrooms and herbs you’ll be eating later. With the seven-course taster menu, expect dishes like chargrilled Scottish langoustine, tender leek and miso; spiced Cornish monkfish, gewürztraminer and Fowey mussels; and roasted Anjou pigeon, celeriac, prune ketchup and savoy cabbage – though these change seasonally. You can also opt for wine pairings or choose your own wine from the cellar that stocks over 1,000 mainly French wines.
Sleep: While the restaurant is the main attraction, Raymond has applied the same attention to detail to the accommodation. Each of the 32 individually designed rooms draws inspiration from Raymond’s travels. No matter which you pick – from the deluxe rooms to the two-bedroom suites – they are all fabulously luxe and so comfortable you’ll never want to leave. The four ground-floor suites, located in the garden courtyard, have a distinctively French feel – we love Blanc de Blanc, a serene eco-friendly space in shades of white and cream with natural textures; or if you fancy something less minimalist, book Opium which is decorated with oriental touches, including wood panelling and an original Ming stone carving. In the morning you can wander beyond the kitchen gardens to the orchards and Japanese garden or round off your stay with a cookery course or, for the green fingered, head to the Garden School where you can learn about seasonal pruning; seasonal vegetables; growing beautiful, healthy vegetables without equipment, fertilisers or feed; growing herbs and spices to create bespoke cocktail flavours; and growing flowers with tips on growing cut flowers and then getting the best vase life from them.
Ventnor, Isle Of Wight
Eat: This lovely, recently renovated restaurant with rooms on the Isle of Wight overlooks the Ventnor esplanade. After a stroll along the coastline, enjoy a wine tasting, followed by a multi-course set dinner where all 14 diners sit and eat together around the wine room table. Dishes are simple but big on taste, and the unique menu changes each day based on what is available locally. Expect the likes of winter minestrone and cured trout; venison tartar and baked potato; crab and lobster ravioli; and roast rump of Briddlesford dairy cow. You can opt for wine pairings from their carefully curated selection of wines or choose a wine from their 400-bottle cellar. The above dinner is available during the winter months (from October to March – we recommend booking now for later this year); from April, it is only available if you book four rooms or more. Or you can stay here, enjoy the wine tasting and then eat at their sister restaurant, also called The Terrace, which overlooks the harbour in Yarmouth or at the excellent True Food Kitchen, one of the island’s top restaurants just two minutes’ walk away.
Sleep: There are six lovely, bright ensuite rooms, decorated in chic tones of dusty pink, calming blues and greens with wood panelling and comfy beds. All have sea views for you to enjoy watching boats pass by in the Channel or the fishermen coming into Ventnor Harbour.
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