Great gourmet getaways
British breaks to dine for are closer than you might think. From cookery courses to Michelin-starred inns, Andy Lynes selects the best from a mouthwatering menu
Wednesday 25 September 2013
What's the attraction?
The days when British food-lovers had to travel to Provence or Tuscany for a gourmet getaway are long gone. Artisan food production is on the increase and world-class home-grown culinary talent can now be found the length and breadth of the country.
There is also an increasing number of residential cookery schools (see the website lookingtocook.co.uk for the latest courses) and hotels offering gastronomy-themed breaks. Even Britain's wineries have got in on the act, offering tours and courses.
Celebrity chefs at hotels
Angela Hartnett's menu for Hartnett Holder & Co at Lime Wood in the New Forest (023 8028 7167; limewoodhotel.co.uk) reflects the chef's Italian heritage, with pasta made fresh twice a day for dishes such as linguini with goat bolognese. The evening à la carte menu costs around £40 for three courses. Beyond the dining room, the foodie-centric hotel features a David Collins interior in shades of Farrow & Ball and tastefully refined rooms that start at £255, room only.
After nearly 30 years, Raymond Blanc is still wowing diners at Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons (01844 278 881; manoir.com), his converted Oxfordshire manor house. Here, his obsessive attention to detail shows in every aspect of the hotel and the restaurant, where he serves produce from his own gardens in exquisite dishes such as ravioli of langoustine with summer garden herbs. A double room costs from £545, including breakfast. The evening à la carte costs about £120 for three courses.
On 19 October and 2 November, Le Manoir is offering hosted mushroom foraging day-trips in the Chilterns. The price of £240 per person also includes a champagne reception and lunch at the hotel.
Geoffrey Smeddle is a true champion of Scottish produce. The menu at The Peat Inn, Fife (01334 840206; thepeatinn.co.uk), a converted 18th-century pub on the crossroads of a hamlet near St Andrews, is packed with regional game, beef, seafood and cheese.
The "Epicurean Indulgence" deal costs £295 per couple and includes a one-night stay in a luxury suite, with bed and breakfast and dinner from the six-course tasting menu, without wines.
In the late 1980s, Shaun Hill was part of the vanguard of modern British cooking. He remains an influential figure as chef-proprietor of The Walnut Tree Inn, Llanddewi Skirrid (01873 852797; thewalnuttreeinn.com), a simple but stylish Welsh rural inn. More importantly, his food is fantastic. Hill applies accomplished technique to the highest quality ingredients to create dishes such as calf's sweetbreads, pig's head cromesqui and mustard dressing.
Accommodation in one of the inn's two cottages costs from £180 including breakfast. The evening à la carte costs about £45 for three courses.
Residential cookery courses
Uncover the secrets of the professional kitchen by becoming chef for a day at Blackaddie, Dumfriesshire (01659 50270; blackaddiehotel.co.uk). The price of £150 includes lunch and a full day in the kitchen, joining top chef Ian McAndrew and his team for their morning menu-planning meeting, then assisting with the "prep" and at the lunch and dinner services. An optional one-night stay with four-course dinner for two people sharing a double room costs an additional £204. Dates by arrangement.
The recently refurbished cookery school at luxury castle hotel Swinton Park, Ripon (01765 680969; swintonpark.com) offers a range of classes led by Stephen Bulmer, formerly of the Raymond Blanc Cookery School. Courses include the two-day Cooking with Star Quality masterclass from 8-9 October. The price of £310 includes two days' tuition covering breads, starters, main courses and desserts. A double room costs from £160 including breakfast.
Sample English wine country
The Marquis at Alkham, Dover (01304 873410; themarquisatalkham.co.uk) has acquired its own vineyard a short walk from the restaurant with rooms. The plot is planted with pinot noir, pinot meunier and chardonnay grapes, used to make Chalksole Vintage Reserve sparkling wine. Drink a glass (£8.95) with one of chef Charlie Lakin's gutsy and delicious dishes, such as Dover-caught crab, green peppers, sea arrowgrass and bloody-mary dressing. Double rooms start at £89, including breakfast.
English wine making isn't confined to the south. You can drink Holmfirth Winery's (01484 691861; holmfirthvineyard.com) rosé and sparkling wines at the Yorkshire vineyard's restaurant with a plate of pan-seared queenie scallops with boudin noir (black pudding), cauliflower purée and cumin caramel. Two nights in a one-bedroom, self-catering apartment costs from £180. Go for a Gastrotel
You're just as likely to spot off-duty chefs as gastro-tourists dining at Restaurant Sat Bains, Nottingham (0115 9866 566; restaurantsatbains.com), where the eponymous chef's experimental approach is like catnip to professionals and punters alike. You never know what you might be eating but recent dishes have included Goosnargh duck with treacle, parmesan and sweetcorn. A mid-week package including a double room, seven-course tasting menu and breakfast costs from £135 per person.
Take a culinary-themed break at The Priory Bay hotel, Seaview, Isle of Wight (01983 613146; priorybay.co.uk) where former Noma chef Oliver Stephens is making culinary waves. The price of £580 for two nights includes a tutored wine tasting, cookery demonstration or a foraging trip around the estate, two dinners (one including complimentary wine), one lunch and breakfast both mornings.
In the city
L'Enclume (015395 36362; lenclume.co.uk), Simon Rogan's Lake District restaurant with rooms, has just replaced The Fat Duck as No 1 on The Good Food Guide's 50 Best list. You can also sample his food at the Midland hotel in Manchester, where the £79, 10-course tasting menu at The French (0161 236 3333; the-french.co.uk) blends foraged ingredients with futuristic techniques. A double room costs from £85 including breakfast.
Two-Michelin-starred French chef Claude Bosi knows a thing or two about running a pub, as the refurbished The Malt House, Fulham (020 7084 6888; malthousefulham.co.uk), proves. The signature bavette steak with hay scented hollandaise sauce is a revelation. The evening à la carte costs about £40 for three courses; a double room costs from £125 including breakfast.
Simpsons, Edgbaston (0121 454 3434; simpsonsrestaurant.co.uk) a luxurious Michelin-starred restaurant and cookery school with rooms, is one of Birmingham's leading culinary lights. Modern Mediterranean dishes on the £90 tasting menu might include pigeon with cherry, chocolate, pistachio and chicory. A double room costs from £160 including breakfast.
Strap yourself in for a wild gastronomic ride at 21212, Edinburgh (0131 523 1030; 21212restaurant.co.uk) where chef Paul Kitching exercises his imagination with dishes such as "Fancy A Smoke" – smoked salmon, mackerel, haddock with caviar, olives and curried cream. A five-course menu costs £68; doubles from £150 room only.
"There's a lot of money being put into pubs and pub bedrooms. The Gunton Arms in north Norfolk (01263 832010; theguntonarms.co.uk) is a brilliant example. The chef, Stuart Tattersall, used to work for Mark Hix so it's very simple, gutsy, ingredient-led cooking. They've got a big open fireplace in the restaurant where they grill meat. It's the country house hotel idea, but with all the warmth and buzz of a pub." Elizabeth Carter, Consultant Editor, The Good Food Guide (thegoodfoodguide.co.uk; £17.99)
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