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21 April 2014

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The Hit List 2013

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Hit List 2013 - Unknown7.jpg7.jpgLondon may be the thumping epicentre of all that is foodie but there's some fantastic top-drawer options for those that live outside the hustle-and-bustle or those that want a weekend away. After careful consideration from Square Meal's UK reviewers as well as your comments from the annual Square Meal survey, we can now reveal our Top 50 list of out-of-London restaurants for 2013.

WINNER: Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons £££
Church Road, Great Milton, Oxfordshire OX44 7PD; 01844 278881
The ultimate dream ticket for out-of-town indulgence and comfort
Embedded in a ravishing slice of Oxfordshire real estate, Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons was launched by adopted national treasure Raymond Blanc (pictured below with Square Meal editor Ben McCormack) in 1984, and since then, has established itself as the most coveted blue-chip getaway in the land. Here is a vision of pure escapism guaranteed to transport world-weary souls back to la belle vie.

It’s hard to believe that this honey-coloured stone manor has been a part of the British gastronomic landscape for nigh on three decades, but few would deny its supremacy in the luxe country-house stakes. Le Manoir continues to show others how it should be done and fully deserves to be this year’s BMW Square Meal Best UK Restaurant.

From the moment you are greeted by name and relieved of your bags on the driveway, you know this experience will be very special indeed. The hotel’s atmosphere is spellbinding, tingling and soothing in equal measure, with gently seductive distractions all around – whether you are taking afternoon tea, sipping Champagne or strolling around the fragrant gardens and glasshouses nurturing the year’s harvest.

Blanc nailed the notion of ‘seasonality’ long before it became a buzz word (just look at the first Manoir cookbook) and has been a vocal champion of organic food since the 1980s. Around 90 varieties of vegetable and 70 herbs are now grown here, all destined for the kitchen. Long-serving head chef Gary Jones is in tune with his mentor’s all-embracing vision of ‘sustainable harmony’ and his team continues to deliver world-class food worthy of the restaurant’s two Michelin stars.

Almost everything is infused with the essence of pure, intelligent French cuisine – from an exquisitely pretty plate of smoked salmon mi-cuit with horseradish and cucumber, to roast loin of venison with Grand Veneur sauce, or squab baked in a salt crust with mushrooms and Madeira jus. There’s also room for the most perfect wild-mushroom risotto, as well as more eclectic creations such as roasted Goosnargh duck breast with caramelised chicory, clementines and a sauce heady with jasmine tea. As for dessert, expect thrilling invention, divine patisserie and mind-boggling artistry through and through – as proven by a picture-perfect deconstructed tiramisu with luxurious Coeur de Guanaja chocolate cream.

Fabulous aperitifs, canapés and gasp-inducing extras make everyone feel cherished as staff go about their business with impeccable poise – ushering guests hither and thither, folding napkins, lifting cloches and attending to every nicety. If you enjoy being genuinely pampered, nowhere else does silkily orchestrated service quite like this. Of course, you will pay handsomely for the velvety escape of a lifetime, but this superlative out-of-town grandee remains the gold standard for sheer class, professionalism, good manners and unadulterated comfort. In short, this consummate performer weaves magic.

WINE LIST: Raymond Blanc’s vast, French-dominated list has something for everyone. Stellar names abound, particularly for Bordeaux, Burgundy and Rhône, but there’s also room for lesser-known areas, including Blanc’s home patch, Jura. BEST BUY 2011 Château Ollieux Romanis, Cuvée Classique, Corbières, Languedoc, France, £45

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2. L’Enclume £££
Cavendish Street, Cartmel, nr Grange-over-Sands, Cumbria LA11 6PZ; 01539 536362
Former smithy with two Michelin stars
Simon Rogan, chef/proprietor of this world-class restaurant-with-rooms, now focuses exclusively on the ingredients available in this lush part of Cumbria, and has acquired an organic farm to produce most of the raw materials for his kitchen’s daily output. Forget printed menus, just relish the experience and marvel at his pitch-perfect, beautifully controlled artistry: a visually stunning creation of two varieties of carrot, presented with slivers of ham fat and a sprinkling of nasturtium flowers, for example, typifies his talent for distilling pure flavours from uncompromising ingredients. Otherwise, you might be treated to anything from ice-cool marinated mackerel with thyme flowers, pennyroyal leaves and droplets of radish essence, to musky meadowsweet ice cream with hazelnut and apple. This is astonishingly subtle cooking, matched by informed service and a thoughtfully collated wine list.

3. Purnell’s ££
55 Cornwall Street, Birmingham B3 2DH; 0121 212 9799
A home-grown chef and restaurateur bringing a touch of stardust to Birmingham
Last year’s recipient of our Best UK Restaurant award, Birmingham-born Glynn Purnell is a cook whose driving ambition is to make his birthplace an all-round foodie destination. Diners can pick from a six-course seasonal tasting menu or an eight-course ‘tour’ of the chef’s signature dishes, with the additional option of building your own three-course meal. Intense flavours are the name of the game here: a witty take on kedgeree in poached duck yolk with smoked-haddock foam, cornflakes and curry oil; a charcuterie plate of beef carpaccio, corned beef and bresaola with octopus and sticky candied onion, or even monkfish masala for true-bred Brummies. Well-spaced tables and smart, neutral decor suit the business crowd as well as courting couples, while polished staff are marshalled by knowledgeable, unflappably charming maître d’ Jean-Benoit Burloux.

4. The Fat Duck ££££
1 High Street, Bray, Berkshire SL6 2AQ; 01628 580333
Heston’s unassuming flagship is a bucket-list treasure
Heston Blumenthal’s three-Michelin-starred Fat Duck has that rare combination of serving astonishing cooking in a light-hearted way, making the four-hour experience more than worth its £195 price tag. Fun-filled dishes include a palate-tricking ‘hot and iced tea’; an Alice in Wonderland-inspired mock-turtle soup complete with a fake ‘pocket watch’, and a take-home goodie bag entitled ‘like a kid in a sweet shop.’ Wines from the scintillating list add to the pleasure, and spot-on staff engage with diners while effortlessly controlling the flow of the meal.

5. The Hand & Flowers £
126 West Street, Marlow, Buckinghamshire SL7 2BP; 01628 482277
Gold-standard gastropub with soul
Although a pub in name and feel, The Hand & Flowers is in fact a cleverly reworked restaurant-with-rooms with two Michelin stars under its belt. Chef/owner Tom Kerridge puts his personality and passion for British produce into unpretentious dishes that fully respect the seasons – witness a monumental starter of crispy pig’s head with artichoke, pancetta and chickweed, followed by a tranche of roast halibut teamed with, say, wild mushroom and bacon ragoût, plus dazzling desserts that usually include what readers call ‘wonderful soufflés’. Set lunches are good value, service is pubby in the best sense, and four fabulous bedrooms encourage stopovers.

6. Restaurant Nathan Outlaw £££
St Enodoc Hotel, Rock, Cornwall PL27 6LA;
01208 863394
Standout seafood dishes from a chefs’ chef
As one of the UK’s foremost seafood chefs, Nathan Outlaw impresses with his serious intention, innovation and technical accomplishments. He sources all-Cornish seafood carefully with a sharp eye on the calendar, and his nine-course tasting menu makes for a powerfully impressive experience, delivering an array of thrilling bijou dishes full of modish accents and dazzling flavours. Monkfish wrapped in bacon with a wild-garlic dressing is a springtime signature dish; other menu highlights include cured brill with blood orange and tarragon, or squid with mint and coriander, while the cheese course is a fantastic tribute to the region’s artisan producers. Desserts – such as a passion fruit and coconut ice-cream ‘sandwich’ – hardly rest on their laurels, either. The dining room itself is understated and elegant, and run by well-drilled, gracious staff.

7. The Kitchin ££
78 Commercial Quay, Leith, Edinburgh EH6 6LX; 0131 555 1755

One of Edinburgh’s foremost talents creates dishes ‘from nature to plate’
Michelin-starred Tom Kitchin – the 2011 holder of the top spot for this award – is widely regarded as one of Scotland’s culinary heavyweights, a chef whose cooking is driven by pickings from the country’s regional growers, producers and fishermen. Fresh seasonal ingredients are the building blocks of his dishes, and there’s a real craft and complexity about the results: a terrine of monkfish liver, for example, is served with a carpaccio of octopus and fennel-and-lemon compote, while rabbit is subjected to an ingenious but thoughtful treatment (the saddle stuffed with spinach and presented alongside a nicely crisped leg and a ragoût of the kidneys). To conclude, desserts such as a délice of elderberries, praline and dark chocolate with elderberry sorbet are simply exquisite. The dining room itself is a model of informality and restraint – part of a converted warehouse with bare tables, functional furnishings and a large window into the kitchen, which allows curious diners to see The Kitchin’s team in action.

8. NEW The French by Simon Rogan ££££
The Midland hotel, 16 Peter Street, Manchester M60 2DS; 0161 236 3333
King of the north west takes on Manchester
Famous for its glorious belle-époque decor, The Midland hotel’s historic dining room relaunched this year under Simon Rogan. Fans of L’Enclume and Roganic will be comfortable with excellent, characterful six- or 10-course tasting menus that demonstrate a complete understanding of British vegetables, herbs and flowers, with playful dishes such as a tartare of beef with ’coal’ oil and kohlrabi. Head chef Adam Reid is in charge day-to-day, and there are plenty of capable faces front-of-house – both new and familiar. Rogan will open the hotel’s second dining room later this summer.

9. The Waterside Inn £££
Ferry Road, Bray, Berkshire SL6 2AT; 01628 620691

Lovely riverside setting completes an outstanding gastronomic experience
The Waterside Inn has been around since 1972, held three Michelin stars for half that time and is now considered something of a national institution. It is loved by readers for delivering a luxury experience with consummate expertise and ‘genuine charm’, thanks to legions of demure staff who ‘look like film stars’. The enchanting riverbank setting is ‘as English as a Miss Marple film set’, although the cosseting dining room provides a backdrop for Alain Roux’s subtly inventive take on classic French haute cuisine. A dish of pike quenelles with langoustine tails is precision cooking of the highest order, while cocotte of oxtail and beef cheek braised in Beaujolais with button onions, mushrooms and smoked bacon is all deep flavours and glossy saucing; incredible desserts crown it all. The wine list delves deep into French oenology and prices are frightening – even so, it’s worth smashing the piggy bank because this is ‘le restaurant exceptionnel’.

10. Restaurant Sat Bains with Rooms £££
Lenton Lane, Nottingham NG7 2SA; 0115 986 6566

High-end cooking in an unlikely location
A barn conversion holed up in Nottingham’s industrial wastelands sounds an unlikely setting for a groundbreaking eatery, but Sat Bains’ classy restaurant-with-rooms is guaranteed to blow your socks off with its wondrous, two-Michelin-starred food. Naming the amuse-bouche after the restaurant’s postcode is one way of describing an amazing amalgamation of savoury custard, horseradish ice cream and wild-garlic soup, enriched with daily-changing, locally foraged pickings – perhaps watercress, nettles, elderberry vinegar and a lovage tuile. Elsewhere, there are star turns aplenty, all colour-coded on the menu according to the five tastes (salt, sweet, sour, bitter, umami): Jersey Royals with dashi, onion juice and ham; roe deer with cauliflower, pear, blue cheese and chocolate; or jelly and ice cream with pine and Earl Grey tea. Also watch out for the chef’s unannounced extras (perhaps a renowned riff on ‘ham, egg and peas’). Up front, Sat Bains’ wife Amanda and her team provide sweet-natured, insightful service – especially when it comes to advising on suitable choices from the restaurant’s cleverly organised, top-flight wine list.

11. Midsummer House £££
Midsummer Common, Cambridge CB4 1HA; 01223 369299
Two-Michelin-starred conservatory dining room serving forward-thinking dishes
Book well ahead if you want to experience the sense-tingling thrills of Daniel Clifford’s cooking. His style may be classically minded, but it comes with an innovative streak, although his impressive technical ability is applied in the pursuit of flavour rather than showing off. Much is still made of unexpected contrasts, as in a stunning starter of seared scallops with a succession of textures and flavours such as celeriac, truffle, Granny Smith apple and caramel, while his unmistakably modern approach sees roast brill teamed with surf clams, cucumber, wasabi and sorrel. By contrast, char-grilled beef with béarnaise is an impeccably executed take on a classic. Desserts are an absolute joy to behold and savour, service is spot on and the Victorian villa by the river Cam is serenity itself.

12. Gidleigh Park ££££
Chagford, Devon TQ13 8HH; 01647 432367
Disarmingly serene dining room with an ever-so-English sense of decorum
This dreamy woodland oasis is a crowd magnet, as is the cooking of two-Michelin-starred chef Michael Caines and his brigade. To start, Brixham scallops
are paired with celeriac-and-truffle purée and a soy-and-truffle vinaigrette, while langoustine cannelloni appears with braised fennel and shellfish sauce. Game always gets a good outing in season, while Dartmoor lamb could come with boulangère potato, fennel purée and a tapenade jus; desserts also demonstrate the kitchen’s unwavering consistency and skill. Their expertise is matched by an equally professional front-of-house team, while a blockbuster wine list is the perfect liquid asset.

13. The Walnut Tree Inn ££
Llanddewi Skirrid, Abergavenny, Monmouthshire
NP7 8AW; 01873 852797

A triumphant comeback for a once-struggling inn
The Walnut Tree Inn’s atmosphere resounds with chat and laughter, and the food certainly merits a special journey (cottage accommodation nearby is a bonus). For this we have to thank chef/proprietor Shaun Hill, who rescued the iconic venue a few years ago and won back its Michelin star with intelligent cooking served in friendly, informal surroundings. The good-value set lunch might bring plaice with shrimps and dill, while the carte could yield smoked eel with brandade and horseradish cream, or rack of lamb with its own suet pudding. To finish, look for reinvented classics such as toffee rice pudding with mango and pineapple or baked chocolate mousse with honey ice cream.

14. Adam Simmonds at Danesfield House £££
Henley Road, Marlow-on-Thames, Buckinghamshire SL7 2EY; 01628 891010
Five-star dining destination nestled in the heart of a beautiful grand hotel
The understated luxury of this designer dining room is a cocoon from the outside world. Smooth, knowledgeable service and Adam Simmonds’ extravagantly talented cooking certainly help to focus the mind on matters gastronomic, and the Michelin-starred chef draws on the best contemporary techniques to create a harmonious blend of highly intricate flavours, textures and aromas. Dinner brings a choice of tasting menus – a vivid procession of thrilling dishes that might commence with a plate of langoustines, mackerel, anchovy and English wasabi. After that, roasted venison fillet with chestnut purée, confit celeriac and bacon crunch raises the bar even further, while a dessert of frozen white-chocolate mousse with blackberry purée, dehydrated white chocolate and nasturtium flowers maintains the wow factor right to the end. A cracking wine list, too.

15. Le Champignon Sauvage ££
24-26 Suffolk Road, Cheltenham GL50 2AQ; 01242 573449
A smart facelift for this 25-year-old beauty
Le Champignon Sauvage celebrated its 25th birthday last year with a smart, contemporary makeover, in keeping with chef/proprietor David Everitt-Matthias’ stunning food. Seared flank of Dexter beef is served with Hereford snails and parsley purée, hogget is paired with woodruff, roasted parsnips, cockles and samphire, while desserts such as bergamot cannelloni with mandarin jelly and liquorice are equally captivating. David never misses a service, and his wife Helen oversees the dining room, ensuring the restaurant keeps its local and personal street-cred sky high.

16. Whatley Manor £££
Easton Grey, Malmesbury, Wiltshire SN16 0RB; 01666 822888

Sophisticated cooking delivered with bells and whistles in a breathtaking setting
‘No expense spared’ is an understatement when it comes to describing this dramatically renovated 1920s’ hunting lodge – now a favoured weekend chill-out for City execs and foodies alike. Formal evening meals are served in the elegantly appointed Dining Room (two Michelin stars), where chef Martin Burge continues to fine-tune his culinary style, creating complex, modern and utterly sublime dishes. A carpaccio of cuttlefish is dressed with poached lobster, bouillabaisse jelly and cherry tomatoes, while main courses might feature poached and roasted veal fillet teamed with slow-braised cheek, caramelised sweetbread and hazelnut purée. All in all: brilliant timing, brilliant technique.

17. Andrew Fairlie @ Gleneagles £££
Auchterarder, Perthshire PH3 1NF; 01764 694267
Modern dishes using the best Scottish produce
Occupying a quiet corner of the exclusive Gleneagles resort, chef Andrew Fairlie’s two-Michelin-starred restaurant is a sophisticated space that’s formal enough to create a sense of occasion. Fairlie’s precise and highly assured cooking is rooted in the classic European tradition: Scottish lobster is home smoked and dressed with lime-and-herb butter, while cinnamon-roasted veal sweetbreads arrive with grilled lettuce and Parmesan cream. Seasonal game is also a strength, and desserts such as candied chestnut with pumpkin-seed sponge and yoghurt sorbet are works of art. Service is equally assured.

18.NEW Paul Ainsworth at No. 6 £
6 Middle Street, Padstow, Cornwall PL28 8AP; 01841 532093
Top-notch Michelin-starred cooking that is making a name for itself in foodie Padstow
This Georgian terraced house in the centre of Stein-dominated Padstow ticks all the right boxes: a composed, elegant interior, committed staff, and a pedigree chef who has established himself as a class act. His constantly appealing menu is inspired by local supplies and the seasons, delivering the most fashionable of gastronomic experiences that offers a cavalcade of flavours and textures – from blowtorched mackerel with celeriac rémoulade, Parma ham and cucumber, to Galloway chateaubriand with ox cheek, grilled leek, horseradish and red-wine sauce.

19. The Peat Inn ££
Peat Inn Hamlet, nr St Andrews, Fife KY15 5LH; 01334 840206
Beloved by both fans and newcomers
This classy inn does tweed curtains, low beams and log fires better than most, and has rightly become an iconic Scottish destination. Chef/proprietor Geoffrey Smeddle’s ever-changing seasonal menu ranges from smoked breast and cannelloni of wood pigeon with crisp tongue bonbons and spiced apple compote, to a pavé of salted Amedei chocolate with coffee mousse, blood-orange sorbet and chocolate crackling. Service is formal but never stuffy.

20. Fraiche ££
11 Rose Mount, Oxton, Wirral,
Merseyside CH43 5SG; 0151 652 2914
Small but perfectly formed restaurant
A frosted shop front in a village appended to not-so-pretty Birkenhead is the setting for low-key Fraiche. Chef Marc Wilkinson’s modern (even futuristic) cuisine gets the details just right: ingredients are boldly matched in exciting combinations, from sherry-braised salsify with chicken-skin crisps, verjus and truffle shavings, through perfectly timed monkfish with squid, textures of olive and blood orange, to burnt white-chocolate mousse with coffee meringue. The top-class 300-bin wine list is a fine match for the food.

21. The Gunton Arms £
Cromer Road, Thorpe Market, Norwich
NR11 8TZ; 01263 832010
Best-of-British food in a quirky country setting
The Gunton Arms’ admirers swoon over its 1,000-acre deer park, handsome interiors and relaxed vibe. Brit food champion Mark Hix has a finger in this pie (one of his chefs runs the kitchen) – so it’s no surprise that the menu is defined by local, seasonal flavours and earthy rusticity. Whether you’re nibbling Middle White pork sausage rolls in the bar, sharing a rib of beef cooked over the open fire, or sampling grilled mackerel with gooseberries, shaved fennel and cucumber salad, there is little with which to find fault. Service is genuine and natural.

22. Northcote ££
Northcote Road, Langho,
Lancashire BB6 8BE; 01254 240555
A champion of all things Lancastrian
Nigel Haworth’s bullish restaurant-with-rooms is all about big flavours and precision-tuned cooking (ably interpreted by head chef Lisa Allen); careful sourcing also means that simple things such as a forager’s soup of lovage, bitter cress and sorrel, or beef tartare, will be perfect. Other sensational dishes reveal a respect for seasonal pickings and moorland game, while beautiful presentation adds a sophisticated gloss to more robust offerings. The star dessert has to be a melting ginger pudding with iced double cream and caramel custard. The kitchen’s unbridled generosity is backed by warm, friendly service and endorsed by a Michelin star.

23. Castle Terrace ££
33-35 Castle Terrace, Edinburgh
EH1 2EL; 0131 229 1222

Another triumph for Kitchin team
A second venture from the brains behind Michelin-starred Edinburgh high-flyer The Kitchin, Castle Terrace has also picked up a red gong – thanks to chef-patron Dominic Jack’s fine-tuned seasonal cooking. Through deft handling, carefully sourced raw materials yield pure flavours: witness starters such as grouse pâté-en-croûte with pear, prune and port, alongside mains including fillet of tender Ayrshire pork served with black-olive-and-basil gnocchi, artichoke and parmesan – plus show-stealing desserts such as millefeuille of apples and yoghurt cream with nougatine and praline.

24. The Artichoke ££
9 Market Square, Old Amersham, Buckinghamshire HP7 0DF; 01494 726611
This Bucks barnstormer is one to watch
The increasingly confident Artichoke has taken over the building next door, adding an open kitchen to the mix. Laurie Gear’s cooking is newly buoyed up by sophisticated techniques, with intricate dishes such as fillet of Cornish mackerel with Isle of Bute seaweed jelly, pickled mushrooms, pomelo and brown-shrimp cracker, or Chiltern venison with venison salami, young beets, horseradish mousse, sprout tops and sloe-gin sauce. Service is superb, the wine list offers fascinating tipples, and the lunch menu is a bargain.

25. The Sportsman £
Faversham Road, Seasalter, Kent
CT5 4BP; 01227 273370
A serious restaurant in pub clothing
A world away from trendy Whitstable, this scruffy roadside boozer overlooking bleak salt marshes hides a highly accomplished operation that touts a Michelin star. Chef and co-proprietor Stephen Harris delivers inventive menus that name-check first-class local ingredients – perhaps a slip sole grilled in seaweed butter, a perfectly roasted chicken, or the catch of the day, followed by a faultlessly executed lemon tart with meringue ice cream. It’s not just Harris’ cooking that makes a virtue of simplicity and economy: dishes are listed on a blackboard, orders placed at the bar, seats taken at plain scrubbed tables and staff cheerfully informal. A low-key treat.

26. Michael Wignall at The Latymer ££
Pennyhill Park Hotel, London Road, Bagshot, Surrey GU19 5EU; 01276 471774
Dazzling dishes in a luxurious location
The two-Michelin-starred Latymer – located in a country-house hotel amid 123 acres of Surrey parkland – mixes ‘Henry VIII surroundings’ with uncompromisingly modern cooking, diners say. Chef Michael Wignall is on dazzling form, treating diners to exhilarating, unpredictable creations – perhaps a mosaic of Goosnargh duck and chicken with shavings of marinated foie gras, Jerusalem artichokes, truffle dressing and Asian-style duck tongues, or a gentler combo involving two cuts of hare, chanterelles, Brussels sprouts choucroute, poached pear and parsnip cream. Desserts are on-trend, the wine list is tempting, and front-of-house staff are true professionals.

27. The Seahorse Restaurant ££
5 South Embankment, Dartmouth, Devon TQ6 9BH; 01803 835147
The freshest fish in a convivial setting
It’s only been plying its trade for a few years, but The Seahorse already has the timeless quality of a long-serving, family-run eatery. Much of the daily catch comes from nearby Brixham, and Mitch Tonks and his team treat it with due respect. The charcoal-fired Josper oven extracts maximum flavour from the likes of scallops roasted with white port and garlic, or shareable grilled monkfish with Provençal herbs, while puds might include refreshing blood orange, Prosecco and Campari jelly. The extensive wine list leans heavily on Italy.

28. The Royal Oak £
Paley Street, Littlefield Green, nr Maidenhead, Berkshire SL6 3JS;
01628 620541
Bucolic gastropub with celeb backing

It may have Michelin-starred status and celebrity owners (Sir Michael Parkinson and his son Nick), but this village pub is modestly unassuming. Chef Dominic Chapman serves a seasonal menu of sturdy dishes: starters such as pickled Cornish herrings with beetroot, horseradish and watercress set the tone, with high standards maintained in main courses of wild Berkshire venison with sauce poivrade, or sea bass with samphire, cockles and mussels. Desserts provide a truly memorable finale.

29. NEW Hartnett Holder & Co ££
Lime Wood Hotel, Beaulieu Road,
Lyndhurst, Hampshire SO43 7FZ;
023 8028 7167
Chef collaboration that works magic
A tie-in between Michelin-starred Angela Hartnett and Lime Wood’s head chef Luke Holder, this swanky offering serves dishes that mix locally sourced ingredients with Hartnett’s love of all things Italian: home-cured, home-smoked meats are tangy and succulent, halibut sits in a puddle of briny-fresh cockle broth, and silky spaghetti is topped with hunks of Isle of Wight lobster. Staff are sweet and solicitous.

30. The Hardwick £
Old Raglan Road, Abergavenny, Monmouthshire NP7 9AA; 01873 854220

Rustic restaurant with big, bold ideas
Stephen Terry’s much-lauded eatery has grown dramatically of late, while his cooking has become more clever and complex – although you can still get your fix of posh versions of pub classics. Otherwise, try gutsy dishes such as pigeon breast and chorizo on bruschetta with lentils, sherry vinegar and crème fraîche, or Middle White pork loin with cocoa beans, Swiss chard, wild mushrooms, pecorino and dandelion, plus epic feasts for two. To finish, the shareable ‘plate of chocolate loveliness’ always delights diners.

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This article was published June 2013 in Square Meal Lifestyle summer magazine

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