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Treat yourself to a weekend away in a restaurant with rooms this summer. Whether you venture just outside London to the Michelin-starred Hand & Flowers, or further afield to sample Simon Rogan’s celebrated cooking at L’Enclume in Cumbria, Square Meal suggests foodie destinations hidden in the UK’s loveliest locations so that you can plan your escape.
In brief: An edge-of-town location, just 21 miles from London, this is Marlow’s jewel in the crown, after being awarded its second Michelin star last year.
The lowdown: Ignore the fact that this looks and feels like a pub, The Hand & Flowers is a cleverly reworked, classy restaurant with rooms, run by a chef with a great pedigree. Discreetly decadent bedrooms are housed in nearby terraced cottages and feature huge beds, vast baths, rain showers and lots of indulgent extra touches; two have their own outdoor hot-tub deck.
What’s cooking: Genuine flavours, respect for British ingredients and a refreshing lack of pretension are chef Tom Kerridge’s trademarks, so look out for salt-cod Scotch egg with chorizo; loin of Cotswold venison with ox tongue and Bérigoule mushroom; and dazzling desserts such as chocolate cake with salted caramel and muscovado ice cream.
Cost: From £140 per double room per night B&B.
In brief: Located in Petersfield – an old market town in an area of outstanding natural beauty. The former 17th-century coaching inn is in a quiet street and may look like a pub, but inside offers a restaurant look and feel.
The lowdown: This is an old-school restaurant with rooms. From the front door, you step straight into the dining room, then upstairs to three bedrooms, and that’s more or less it – but it has been beautifully done. From the cream-coloured dining room to the intimate bedrooms (with mod cons such as flat-screen TVs and Wi-Fi), everything is highly stylish, yet simple.
What’s cooking: Chef Jake Watkins believes in English seasonality, and technically brilliant dishes may include pork cooked two ways with celery and cumin; turbot with Jerusalem artichoke risotto; and hazelnut macaroon with white chocolate and muscavado.
Cost: From £85 per double room per night B&B.
In brief: This may feel like a remote retreat, yet it’s only a few twisting miles away from major roads and the M6 – and well worth the detour. Culinary precision and a walk on the wild side are ample reward for a lengthy journey.
The lowdown: It’s a breath of fresh air – the dark beams, rough-stone walls and unfussy, neutral space could not be further from nostalgic Lakeland sentimentality. Bedrooms and suites have spread from the converted blacksmith’s to lavish houses and cottages throughout the village – none more than a couple of minutes’ walk from the restaurant.
What’s cooking: Recent years have seen chef Simon Rogan become more focused on the raw materials available in this part of Cumbria, acquiring an organic farm to grow the herbs, vegetables and fruits that now feature on his tasting menus. It’s this passion for food, as well as the commitment to excellence, that really steals the show.
Cost: From £99 per double room per night B&B.
In brief: Just over an hour by train from St Pancras International, Read’s occupies a grand Georgian manor house on the outskirts of Faversham, home to 500 listed buildings and England’s finest medieval street.
The lowdown: Run by David and Rona Pitchford, this is arguably the perfect base for exploring the area (Canterbury Cathedral is close by). The cosseting luxury of the six elegantly furnished rooms is on the traditional side, although one room does come with a wet-room shower.
What’s cooking: Terrifically assured cooking is rooted in classic French technique and built around the seasons. Expect dishes such as sautéed tiger prawns with orange-infused Puy lentils and Chardonnay butter sauce; slow-cooked belly of pork with crackling and baby spinach; and hot quince soufflé with homemade vanilla ice cream.
Cost: From £135 per person per night for dinner, B&B.
In brief: The former showroom of furniture designer Gordon Russell mixes city style with a cute olde-worlde Cotswold village. Nearby Chipping Campden and Stow-on-the-Wold provide the antique shops, or there’s the aspirational Daylesford Organic Farm Shop & Café.
The lowdown: A weekend in the Cotswolds is the quintessential break and Russell’s makes a delightfully unpretentious getaway. A warm welcome and a relaxing, convivial air draw an appreciative crowd of both locals and out-of-towners. Bedrooms are modishly luxurious and beautifully designed.
What’s cooking: Chef Damian Clisby sources his ingredients diligently, and quality shines through in dishes such as a bracingly fresh crab cocktail; rump of Lighthorne lamb with crisp-topped pommes Anna; and a perfect cherry clafoutis with crème anglaise. A constantly changing wine list and a cracking Sunday lunch also wow the crowds.
Cost: From £105 per double room per night B&B.
This feature was published in the spring 2012 edition of Square Meal Lifestyle.