While traditional boozers struggle to survive, The Good Hotel Guide lists dozens of thriving dining pubs quite as good as some swankier restaurants. Here, its Editor’s Choice reveals ten of the UK’s best gastropubs from the newly published 2016 edition. All have excellent bedrooms, so there are no worries about drinking and driving. And from Richmond Park to the Cornish coast and rural Wales, they are all well situated for a walk and fresh air. Prices quoted are for a three-course à la carte meal without drinks.
The Victoria, Mortlake, London
Greg Bellamy and TV chef Paul Merrett have a winning formula at this friendly redbrick pub-hotel. After a walk in nearby Richmond park, you can pick up a Penguin to read in the bar, or eat in the bar or conservatory restaurant, perhaps char-grilled Gloucester Old Spot chop with wilted spinach and green peppercorn sauce; or mushroom ravioli with roasted squash, wilted kale, aged pecorino, walnuts and truffle oil. Thoughtful touches in the modern bedrooms, in a separate building reached by a covered walkway (three on the ground floor), include a coffee machine and home-baked cookies.
10 West Temple Sheen, London SW14 7RT (020 8876 4238, thevictoria.net). Doubles from £135 with continental breakfast; à la carte £40.
The Horse and Groom, Bourton-on-the-Hill, Gloucestershire
"You won’t find fine-dining cooking here," caution Tom and Will Greenstock, owners of this Cotswold inn – before promising simply, "food heaven". Will Greenstock uses seasonal local ingredients, as well as home grown and foraged fruit and vegetables, then lets quality shine through. Choose from the blackboard menu, perhaps roasted sweet pepper, tabbouleh, ricotta and spinach, frisée; Tamworth pork chop, braised peas with girolles, bacon, thyme, and eat by the fire, or alfresco when the sun shines. The five spacious bedrooms – some with garden views – include such nice touches as home-made biscuits and fresh milk in a flask.
Bourton-on-the-Hill, Moreton-in-Marsh, Gloucestershire GL56 9AQ (01386 700413, horseandgroom.info). Doubles £120-£170, à la carte £27.
The Sun Inn, Dedham, Essex
Piers Baker has restored this ancient village inn at the heart of Constable country, where chef Jack Levine cooks a daily-changing menu with an Italian accent, using locally grown vegetables, rare-breed beef and pork, fish from the day boats at Mersea. A seasonal changing menu includes such dishes as slow-cooked saltmarsh lamb; wild sea bass, artichokes, asparagus, chives and crème fraîche. There are seven freshly decorated and individually styled bedrooms, some with views of Tudor St Mary's Church, two reached by an external Elizabethan staircase.
High Street, Dedham CO7 6DF (01206 323351, thesuninndedham.com). Doubles £135, à la carte £28.
The Red Lion, East Chisenbury, Wiltshire
Michelin-starred chef-proprietor Guy Manning and his American wife, Brittany, are the personable owners of this thatched village inn on the Avon. Produce is sourced from the best local suppliers, home grown, raised – or foraged by Guy. The menu might include potato gnocchi with Wiltshire truffle, ceps and parmesan; or roast partridge, baked beetroots, pickled pears, cavolo nero, spelt and sauce poivrade. Stay overnight in the bungalow annexe across the road, in one of five bedrooms (ask for a view of the riverside terrace), for breakfast with eggs from rescued hens.
East Chisenbury SN9 6AQ (01980 671124, redlionfreehouse.com). Doubles £150-£250, à la carte £40-£60.
Brownlow Arms, Hough-on-the-Hill, Lincolnshire
Talented young chef Ruaraidh Bealby brings a modern flair to such classics as chicken-liver parfait and plaice Véronique at Paul and Lorraine Willoughby’s Tudoresque, stone-built village inn. Have a drink in the cosy, beamed bar, eat in the stylish restaurant, choosing from an à la carte menu with seasonal specials – perhaps twice-baked soufflé, balsamic-roasted red onion and goat’s cheese; or saddle of venison with a mini venison shepherd’s pie. The seven bedrooms, in the main building and a barn conversion (three on ground floor) are praised for restful décor and attention to detail.
Grantham Road, Hough On The Hill, Lincolnshire NG32 2AZ (01400 250234, thebrownlowarms.com). Doubles £110, à la carte £40.
The Feathered Nest, Nether Westcote, Oxfordshire
This old malthouse, refurbished by Tony and Amanda Timmer on their return from a stint as restaurateurs in the Algarve, opened its doors as a village pub in 2010. Kuba Winkowski cooks ambitious modern British fare, using locally sourced and home-grown ingredients. Eat in the restaurant, looking on to the terrace, such dishes as duck liver, apricot, almond, vanilla crumble, and mizuna; or chargrilled Ibérico pork feather loin, chunky chips, chorizo, garlic mushroom, romanesco sauce and mixed leaf salad. The four bedrooms are contemporary in style, with many nice touches – coffee machine, fresh flowers and fruit, chocolates, books and magazines.
Nether Westcote, Oxfordshire OX7 6SD (01993 833030, thefeatherednestinn.co.uk). Doubles £190-£230, à la carte £50, set menus £29 for three courses.
The Stagg Inn, Titley, Herefordshire
Steve and Nicola Reynolds’ unpretentious medieval-cum-Victorian inn is popular with locals, especially at weekends. Eat in the cosy bar or in one of three dining rooms, where Nicola runs the show and takes orders. Steve’s cooking showcases Herefordshire produce, with fish from Cornwall and eggs from the Stagg’s own hens. Maybe crispy hen’s egg parsley soup, kohlrabi and parmesan; or lamb sweetbreads, black pudding and walnut crumb; Herefordshire beef fillet, watercress puree, smoked bone marrow and horseradish mash. The seven bedrooms (three at the Old Vicarage a short stroll away) have antique furnishings and original features.
Titley, Kington, Herefordshire HR5 3RL (01544 230221, thestagg.co.uk). Doubles £100-£150, à la carte £35.
The Cat Inn, West Hoathly, West Sussex
At Andrew Russell’s tile-hung 16th-century inn in this pretty hilltop village, head chef Alex Jacquemin builds on the reputation of his predecessor, Max Leonard, for pub classics and more adventurous cuisine. Goat cheese in a crisp hazelnut crumb, roasted figs, Parma ham, say; or pan-fried breast of corn-fed chicken, tarragon polenta, sweetcorn and wild mushroom jus. There are four well-equipped bedrooms with coffee machines and fresh milk in a flask.
North Lane, West Hoathly, West Sussex RH19 4PP (01342 810369, catinn.co.uk). Doubles £120-£160, à la carte £30.
The Gurnard's Head, Zennor, Cornwall
Salt air and walks along the coastal path assure guests of a good appetite at the Inkin brothers’ dining pub with rooms, where chef Jack Clayton cooks the best of local produce. Eat in the bar or one of two dining rooms, where fresh fish plays a starring role: Newlyn crab claw, bitter leaves, samphire and fennel; ray wing, crushed potatoes, chard and samphire brown butter. There are paperbacks to read before a roaring log fire and seven cosy and well-equipped bedrooms, more homely than luxurious, with fresh flowers and warm blankets.
Zennor, Ives, Cornwall TR26 3DE (01736 796928, gurnardshead.co.uk). Doubles £110-£175, à la carte £19-£29.
The Felin Fach Griffin, Felin Fach, Powys
Another winner from brothers Charles and Edmund Inkin, this modern-meets-traditional dining pub is close to Hay-on-Wye with views of the Black Mountains and Brecon Beacons. Max Wilson creates exciting lunch menus and suppers using the pick of local ingredients – from baba ganoush, imam bayeldi, goat’s curd, buttermilk cracker, to slow-cooked pork belly, hash browns, blue cheese, artichoke and pancetta. There are seven handsome bedrooms with fresh flowers, home-made biscuits and Roberts radio (no TV – so unrelaxing!).
Felin Fach, Brecon, Powys LD3 0UB (01874 620111, felinfachgriffin.co.uk). Doubles £125-£165, set menus £28.50, à a carte £35.
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