In London we are lucky enough to have some of the world’s best restaurants on our doorstep, so it would be easy to assume there’s no reason to venture elsewhere to get our foodie fix. But beyond the boundaries of the M25 lies an exciting array of exquisite dining destinations with rooms, allowing you to escape the circus of the city for a night or two while reconnecting with nature or learning a new skill.
A four-hour drive from London, you’ll find The Black Swan at Oldstead (blackswanoldstead.co.uk) – a Michelin-starred farm-to-fork haven in North Yorkshire owned by the Banks family. The 10 acres of crop on the family farm next door, alongside a specially curated three-acre kitchen garden, enables the family to grow their own produce and procure unique ingredients for chef Tommy Banks’ innovative menus. Guests can stay in one of nine individually styled bedrooms around the estate and are automatically booked in to the restaurant for breakfast and dinner. Dishes showcase the Banks’ home-grown fare, foraged ingredients and unusual flavours created through fermenting, pickling or prolonged ageing. Two such dishes are the Crapaudine beetroot salad and a delicious potato creation with fermented celeriac.
Further north, in the village of Gullane on the east coast of Scotland, seven hours by car from London (or 40 minutes from Edinburgh), Tom and Michaela Kitchin’s The Bonnie Badger (bonniebadger.com) combines a similar ‘nature-toplate’ ethos with luxury accommodation for a calming weekend retreat. Working closely with Scottish producers and farmers, the restaurant uses seasonal, local produce to create traditional comfort food with a twist, from Loch Fyne oysters to a Highland Wagyu burger. The traditional inn, which dates back to 1836, has 12 luxury bedrooms – designed by Michaela alongside Stephen Paterson of Burns Design – each one a lesson in pared-back luxury, with crisp white linen, spacious marble bathrooms, original features and a muted palette inspired by the East Lothian landscape.
For a quick and picturesque escape from the city, the Georgian market town of Marlow is home to not one but three restaurants from chef Tom Kerridge. His two-Michelin-starred The Hand and Flowers (thehandandflowers.co.uk), which celebrated its 15th anniversary this year, is the ideal place to live like a local for a night or two. Enjoy warm hospitality and bold yet familiar dishes, such as slow-cooked duck breast with apricot gel, confit tart and dukkah crumble, and tirami-“choux” with hot chocolate sauce, until the wee hours before retiring to one of 11 rooms, scattered about the village, just a short walk from the pub. Plus, with Heston Blumenthal’s experiential restaurant The Fat Duck, and Michelin-starred The Hind’s Head just 20 minutes away in Bray, there are plenty of gastronomic delights to keep your mind off the hustle and bustle.
Another UK region that’s upped its culinary credentials of late – ideal for a foodie mini-break (a three-hour drive from London) – is Somerset. Chef and Great British Menu finalist Dan Fletcher has recently opened 28 Market Place in Somerton, while 30 minutes away in the town of Bruton – home to a Hauser & Wirth gallery and arts centre – the small but mighty farm-to-table restaurant Osip opened last year a stone’s throw from At The Chapel (atthechapel.co.uk). The Grade-II-listed former congregational chapel has been beautifully converted into a restaurant, bedrooms, bakery, terrace and clubroom with stark white walls, high ceilings and tall, arched windows perfectly offset by a nature-inspired palette throughout. The minimalist bedrooms are tranquil and characterful and there’s something for everyone on its extensive menu, which takes a Mediterranean approach to British food using locally sourced West Country ingredients.
If tranquil rooms and delicious food are not enough to pull you away from the city, Heckfield Place (heckfieldplace.com) in Hampshire has a more experiential offering just an hour and a half from London. Tapping into the 2020 trend for social travel and boosting your wellbeing by learning a new skill, the luxury hotel – set in a restored Georgian house with 400 acres of land – has an Assembly Programme, allowing guests to get crafty by making benches or spoons, as well as a selection of masterclasses and talks with prominent culinary experts. With two refined restaurants and the intimate Moon Bar, the food here is deliciously simple and seasonal, and its extensive cellar is an oenophile’s dream.
It’s not just learning a new skill that can have a raft of health benefits; studies have shown that reconnecting with nature can lower cortisol and bolster immunity after just 30 minutes (see our Forest Bathing article on page 25). Ynyshir (ynyshir.co.uk) – a luxury hotel on the edge of Snowdonia National Park in Wales – is the perfect place to do just this. Its lush woodland surrounds couldn’t be further removed from the stresses of the concrete jungle. Five hours from London by road or rail, the journey is well worth it for the health-boosting combination of Michelin-starred chef Gareth Ward’s incredible 12-course tasting menu, its sumptuous nature-inspired bedrooms and the lush woodlands of the RSPB Ynys-hir Nature Reserve that surround the property.
From nature-inspired menus with a farm-to-fork ethos to foodie masterclasses, escaping the city for a weekend of gastronomic pleasure has never been so appealing. Time to pack your bags and start exploring Britain’s unparalleled culinary delights.