Area favourite restaurants near to London

Updated on 12 March 2014

Area favourite restaurants near to London

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L'Ortolan

L'Ortolan
£50 - £79
French

Church Lane, Shinfield, Reading, RG2 9BY

The very model of a smart country-house restaurant, this Grade II-listed vicarage has played host to some of the UK’s top chefs over the years (Nico Ladenis, John Burton-Race, Alan Murchison etc), and it now has a new wunderkind in the shape of Tom Clarke. Like his predecessors, the current incumbent brings high levels of Michelin-starred sophistication to proceedings, creating “beautiful plates” and wonderfully honed flavours from a larder of seasonal ingredients – think goose liver parfait with gingerbread and rhubarb, loin of hogget with sweetbreads and asparagus or poached loin of cod with oyster and coriander. The cheese trolley is a treasure-trove of ripeness, while desserts might offer a ‘toffee apple’ riff involving apple parfait, caramel and pecans. Well-drilled service depends on “amazing teamwork”, set lunches are a bargain for the blue-blooded Berkshire set, and the patrician wine list is notable for its impressive selection of organic/biodynamic bottles. The building may not look much from the outside, but the chocolate tones of the interior give out a soothing warmth and notable private rooms also catch the eye.

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The Cabinet at Reed

The Cabinet at Reed

The Cabinet at Reed
£30 - £49
Modern European

High Street, Reed, Near Royston, Buntingford, Hertfordshire, SG8 8AH

The Cabinet is a stunningly converted, 16th-century watering hole that shows admirable attention to detail in every aspect of its operation, from the fine ales & interesting range of wines on offer at the bar to the food served in the simply elegant dining room. Daily changing menus are dotted with carefully sourced ingredients, which are put to imaginative use in dishes such as braised local rabbit with chorizo hotpot, bacon & English cabbage or baked sea bass with rosemary sautéed potatoes & garlic aïoli. For afters, consider warm chocolate brownie with cookie-dough ice cream. An all-out gem that’s well worth the drive from London.

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The Sir Charles Napier

The Sir Charles Napier

The Sir Charles Napier
£50 - £79
Modern European

Sprigg's Alley, Chinnor, Oxfordshire, OX39 4BX

“Where better to escape London” says a fan of this lovably eccentric eatery high up on Bledlow Ridge. “The Napier” has been a fixture of the Chiltern scene since the 1970s, seducing countless visitors with its unique oddball charms: whether you’re here for a dreamy repast under the pergolas or a snuggle-up by the fire surrounded by surreal sculptures and crazy curios, ever-present host Julie Griffiths and her cheery team will ensure that a pleasurable time is had by all. Chefs come and go, but the current main man is delivering some tip-top dishes with a strong seasonal accent: Brixham crab salad arrives with lavache crackers, pickled fennel and cucumber, while rump of Welsh lamb might be paired with buttered hispi cabbage, dauphinoise potatoes and lovage. There’s a rich haul of locally bagged game too, while desserts such as gariguette strawberry and brown-sugar pavlova are a real treat. Otherwise, a mighty tray of ripe cheeses whiffs invitingly, and the “superb” wine list promises fun as well as the prospect of serious drinking. Frenetic Sunday lunch sessions often last long into the afternoon.  

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The Restaurant at Amberley Castle

The Restaurant at Amberley Castle

The Restaurant at Amberley Castle
£50 - £79
French

Amberley, Arundel, Pulborough, BN18 9ND

The moat may have been converted into a garden, but drawbridge, portcullis, gate towers & curtain walls are intact – for a good dose of history with your dinner look no further than this striking 900-year-old castle-turned-posh-hotel. The 12th-century Queen’s Room with its impressive barrel-vaulted ceiling delivers food that’s casually modern: witness roast quail with hazelnut, beetroot & peach salad with essence of beetroot, followed by john dory with lyonnaise potatoes, razor clams & smoked milk foam, & macerated figs served with a spice cake filled with fig jam & a smooth armagnac mousse for dessert. There’s an excellent wine list to match.

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Lords Of The Manor

Lords Of The Manor

Lords Of The Manor
Over £80
Modern European
British

Upper Slaughter, Bourton-on-the-Water, Cheltenham, GL54 2JD

A great deal of money has been lavished on this handsome Cotswold stone rectory resulting in a stylish blend of classic country-house ambience with a funky contemporary feel – think bold colours and modern fabrics alongside grand fireplaces, mullioned windows and period antiques. Vibrant paintings and opulent flower displays dominate the dining room, where a “polite buzz” provides a fitting backdrop to the food – a procession of classy dishes in the modern Anglo-European mould. Starters such as a ravioli of Norfolk quail breast and foie gras with thyme-infused consommé or lobster and cauliflower linguine with shellfish and caper dressing show a “consistent balance of ingredients”, while mains might range from pan-roasted Gigha halibut with vermouth cream, braised fennel and preserved lemon purée to a four-part plate of pork with pickled pear, carrot purée and hazelnuts. The wine list is a masterly tome with exceptional bottles from big names and off-piste producers alike. There’s also praise for the friendly efficiency of the staff and the “perfect tempo” of the service.

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Forbury

Forbury's Restaurant & Wine Bar

Forbury's Restaurant & Wine Bar
£50 - £79
French

1 Forbury Square, The Forbury, Reading, RG1 3BB

Xavier Le-Bellego previously worked with Raymond Blanc & John Burton-Race, a pedigree that has won him many devotees who believe Forbury’s is unchallenged in the area. The kitchen team brings high-end experience to bear on proceedings in a menu of traditional French dishes with a hint of modernity. Sea bream with saffron potatoes, red pepper & wild garlic is one of several strong seafood items, though earthy meat dishes such as slow-cooked pig's trotter with caramelised calf's sweetbread, morels & pomme mousseline are equally well rendered. A full-scale glass fascia spanning the entire breadth of the restaurant gives it a welcoming sense of airy brightness.

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The Waterside Inn

The Waterside Inn

The Waterside Inn
Over £80
French

Ferry Road, Bray, Maidenhead, SL6 2AT

Its picture-book riverbank location may look and feel as English as The Wind in the Willows, but everything else at the three-Michelin-starred Waterside Inn speaks of top-end French gastronomy with a real sense of occasion – the culinary equivalent of haute couture. It’s all about silky sophistication and Gallic polish here, from the sumptuous furnishings and punctilious professionalism of the “impeccable” staff to the intricacies of the “perfectly executed” cooking. Expect a cavalcade of masterstrokes with that unmistakable Roux thumbprint: teasing amuse-bouches such as venison tartare on potato and whipped goats’ cheese; flaked Devon crab with ginger-scented cucumber jelly and oscietra caviar; fillet of turbot roasted in nut-brown butter with root vegetables, morels and vin jaune sauce; grilled pigeon breasts and crispy leg served with sweet pepper pipérade, potato terrine and ‘devil sauce’. After that, a cleansing granita sets things up for some truly astonishing showpiece desserts – perhaps chocolate cannelé with hazelnut praline and lime. “Everything par excellence”, drools an admirer. The wine list delves deep into the archives of French oenology and prices are scary, yet the sheer joy of dining at this serene stronghold of subtly reinvented haute cuisine is unsurpassed: “it’s hard to find a poor place to eat in Bray, but every visit feels incredibly special”, quips one admirer.

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The Royal Oak Yattendon

The Royal Oak Yattendon

The Royal Oak Yattendon
£30 - £49
British

The Square, Yattendon, Thatcham, RG18 0UG

A stunning, quintessential English country pub with rooms nestled in the Yattendon estate near junction 12 of the M4. The Royal Oak offers simple, unfussy, Michelin rated food, ten luxurious bedrooms, award winning real ales, roaring log fires and a quite beautiful walled beer garden with al fresco dining under a leafy vine terrace.

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The Vineyard at Stockcross

The Vineyard at Stockcross

The Vineyard at Stockcross
Over £80
Modern European

Stockcross, Newbury, RG20 8JU

A magnet for wine-lovers, the über-luxurious Vineyard hotel, spa and restaurant is aptly named after owner Sir Peter Michael’s Californian winery. Inside, ‘The Judgement of Paris’ (a 1976 tasting that put American wine on the world stage) is referenced in a vast painting in the lobby’s all-glass wine cave and also on the indulgent ‘Judgement’ menu, where dishes such as tartare of Longhorn beef with sorrel granita, lime and pickled shallots or halibut fillet with Brixham crab, samphire and orange bisque are paired with French and US wines from the 3000-bin list. Otherwise, the carte offers similar creations ranging from roast veal sweetbread with chestnut purée and girolle sauce to textures of plum with candied walnuts and liquorice ice cream. Knowledgeable staff give guidance, and the glamorous dining room provides a fitting backdrop to proceedings. Appealingly priced lunch menus keep prices in check; alternatively, blow the budget on one of the luxurious rooms and some Napa Valley fizz in the terrace-side California Bar.

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Gravetye Manor

Gravetye Manor

Gravetye Manor
£50 - £79
Modern European

Vowels Lane, East Grinstead, West Sussex, RH19 4LJ

Although it’s situated close to Gatwick Airport, this enchanting Elizabethan manor feels a world away from the rat race, surrounded by 1,000 acres of fields, forests and its own stunning gardens (designed by Victorian horticulturist William Robinson). Inside, it’s a picture of cosseting luxury, with a gracious wood-panelled dining room at the heart of things and SquareMeal ‘rising star’ George Blogg in the kitchen. Expect stunningly creative and “utterly delicious” Michelin-starred seasonal assemblages ranging from slow-cooked pheasant eggs with cured pork fat, roasted pink fir potato salad and sorrel yoghurt to crown and faggot of local wood pigeon with pointed cabbage, preserved blackberries and brassica flowers or charcoal-flamed native lobster with baby carrot, bronze fennel and buttermilk sauce. After that, what could be more calendar-friendly than apple-blossom custard with rhubarb sponge and ginger beer? There’s also a more casual all-day ‘lounge and garden menu’ divided into categories such as ‘from our own smokehouse’. Gravetye’s wine list is a real aristocrat, with fine pedigree on every page, and the place also earns bonus points for its “impeccable service, warm ambience and very clever cocktails”.

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Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat

Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons

Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons
Over £80
French

Church Road, Great Milton, Oxfordshire, OX44 7PD

We’ve said it before, but Le Manoir is damn near perfect in every department – a sentiment echoed by legions of fans, who seldom stint on the superlatives when it comes to Raymond Blanc’s fine-tuned take on country-house luxe. This immaculate Oxfordshire mansion is quite simply “faultless”, the “perfect treat” and a dream ticket for out-of-town indulgence with its ever-courteous staff, silkily choreographed service and “exceptionally creative” French-inspired cooking. Blanc’s vision of ‘sustainable harmony’ is buoyed by produce from Le Manoir’s showpiece organic gardens, and the result is a “superb, well-balanced menu full of seasonal flavours and surprises” – from veal sweetbread with spring asparagus, peas and morels to the ever-popular risotto of garden vegetables with tomato essence and chervil cream, salt-baked pigeon with cabbage, wild garlic and bacon or confit Gigha halibut with squid, chorizo and smoked red pepper. This is clear-minded, limpid cooking from a kitchen that knows all about consummate technique. There’s also room for gasp-inducing extras, peerless patisserie (millionaire shortbread with salted caramel ice cream, say) and lovingly ripened cheeses from M. Blanc’s home region (and beyond). Of course, it costs a fortune (particularly if you take a serious dip into the aristocratic wine list), but readers concur that the experience is “worth every penny”.

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Crooked Billet, Newton Longville

Crooked Billet, Newton Longville

Crooked Billet, Newton Longville
£30 - £49
Modern European

2 Westbook End, Newton Longville, Milton Keynes, Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, MK17 0DF

Serious passion goes into the running of this charming country pub which is something of a dream come true for husband and wife team John and Emma Gilchrist. Sharing an enthusiasm for quality sourcing, the two have created a winning combination of bold but wholesome cooking, courtesy of Emma’s assured handling of seasonal local ingredients, and wines of rare and genuine appeal from master sommelier John’s blockbuster of a wine list, which enhances the experience further by offering each of the near 325 wines by the glass for perfect matches with each course. Menu descriptions can sometimes hint at busy flavours but the sound execution of dishes eschews complication so that the different taste elements are brought together in a fine balance. For instance, a starter of pan-fried scallops has a lively sweet chilli and tomato jam that's toned down by creamy creme fraiche. For every far-flung influence – Szechuan-spiced pork belly to start, lemon and mint couscous with the swordfish at main – there are also home-spun dishes like roast chicken with spring onion mash and savoy cabbage or pork loin with apple, black pudding and prune compote.

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The Fat Duck

The Fat Duck

The Fat Duck
Over £80
British
French

1 High Street, Bray, Maidenhead, SL6 2AQ

“Words can’t describe how incredibly entertaining a trip to The Fat Duck is” – so writes a fan who was “made to feel like royalty” at Heston Blumenthal’s three-Michelin-starred wonderland. To say it’s pricey is an understatement: prospective diners currently have to shell out £325 up front for a ‘ticket’ that allows access to the 17-course itinerary. In return, the lucky ones are whisked away on an imagined day out, a holiday trip evoking lots of playful childhood memories with “incredible” staff acting as grown-up guides. It’s the “little touches” and personalised wizardry that really count, in fact the whole show is one gasp-inducing, side-splitting bonanza – although the theatrics are never at the expense of flavour. ‘Rise and shine’ means fun-pack cereal boxes (all crisp grains and jellies) as well as ‘cold… and hot tea’, while a trip to the beach involves the now-famous ‘sound of the sea’ (cured seafood nibbled while listening to the sound of surf through headphones). Later on, a proper three-course ‘dinner’ touts everything from hay-smoked veal sweetbread with baby gem to a boned and crisped chicken’s foot with red-wine mayo, before ‘counting sheep’ sees a meringue resting on a pillow floating above the table thanks to magnetic levitation. And we haven’t even mentioned the mushroom truffle log, the whisky gums or the sweets from the custom-built doll’s house. The verdict? “Five hours of sheer magic”. Yes, eating at the Duck is an immersive, multisensory fantasy, but we’re with readers who dub it a must-do “experience of a lifetime”.

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Thackeray

Thackeray's

Thackeray's
£50 - £79
Modern European

85 London Road, Tunbridge Wells, Tunbridge Wells, TN1 1EA

Once home to Victorian writer and satirist William Makepeace Thackeray, this “Tunbridge Wells institution” makes an immediate impact with its all-white, New England exterior. Inside, it’s beautifully maintained with glowing lamps, muted colours and exuberantly furnished private rooms – a smart backdrop for some meticulously crafted modern French cooking. There’s plenty of creativity on show here, although it never goes over the top – witness a tantalising starter of poached lobster with chilled ‘white tomato broth, sorrel and smoked haddock mousse. After that, you might go for dry-aged beef fillet, roast salt marsh lamb or pot-roast guinea fowl with Brighton Blue cheese macaroni, Kentish asparagus, broad beans and baby artichokes. To finish, try the apple mousse paired with blackberries, a tonka-bean flapjack and green apple sorbet. The tasting menu is “an adventure into the unknown (in a good way)”, the sommelier “deserves a pat on the back” for his astute wine pairings, and there’s a gorgeous Japanese terrace garden for fine days – no wonder readers say it’s “well worth the trip out of London”.

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Kits Coty

Kits Coty

Kits Coty
£30 - £49
Modern European

15 Old Chatham Road, Bluebell Hill, Aylesford, Kent, ME20 7EZ

Whether you’re eating in the contemporary dining room, off-set by glass-fronted windows, or enjoying a summer’s day on the al fresco terrace, the views from the brasserie at Kits Coty are bound to impress. There’s a lively, Mediterranean slant to the regularly-changing menu with classics like French onion tart & seared tuna with nicoise salad alongside more adventurous dishes of char-grilled marlin with crushed purple potatoes and samphire or roast rump of lamb with white beans and salsa verde.

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Fredrick

Fredrick's Hotel Restaurant Spa

Fredrick's Hotel Restaurant Spa
£30 - £49
Modern European

Shoppenhangers Road, Maidenhead, Maidenhead, SL6 2PZ

The privately owned Fredrick’s Hotel (the Losel family have been here for over two decades) deals in text-book glossy hotel surrounds, impeccable service, and a posh restaurant with prices to match. The upmarket carte may include pig’s trotters with sauce ravigotte & medallions of veal with a sweetbread crust and fresh morels, but there’s also cream of asparagus soup and supreme of chicken with fried scampi orientale for more traditional home counties tastes. ‘Fredrick’s Sweet’ rounds it all up nicely. A lovely patio is made for those hot summer evenings with a winter garden for the rest of the year.

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Vanilla Pod

Vanilla Pod

Vanilla Pod
£50 - £79
Modern European

31 West Street, Marlow, Buckinghamshire, SL7 2LS

Marlow and its environs aren’t exactly short of destination restaurants, so chef-owner Michael Macdonald and his small kitchen brigade have to try just that bit harder to attract diners to this cosy, characterful dining room in what was once the poet TS Eliot’s out-of-town bolthole. But attract diners they do, and the Vanilla Pod is fully booked most nights of the week, as well as attracting locals with its “excellent-value” lunch menu. On offer is “exceptional” Anglo-French cooking, with subtle twists favoured over showy modernisms: gravlax cured with vodka and coffee; lamb fillet accompanied by white cabbage infused with juniper and orange; stone bass poached in red wine; duck breast with lentils and Madeira sauce. Thankfully, they don’t overplay the vanilla theme, preferring to round things off with desserts such as apple streusel or lime leaf pannacotta. The atmosphere is “smart without being stuffy”, staff are on the ball, and the Francophile wine list includes plenty of bottles for that special occasion.

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Auberge du Lac

Auberge du Lac

Auberge du Lac
£50 - £79
Modern European

Brocket Hall, Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire, AL8 7XG

Nestled at the heart of Brocket Hall estate (an 18th-century country retreat turned gold-standard hospitality venue), Auberge du Lac occupies a quaint one-time hunting lodge overlooking an ornamental lake (“a must to wander around”, notes a fan). Inside, friendly, obliging staff usher guests into a mini-maze of atmospheric rooms, before presenting them with a seasonally inspired menu that’s a joy to peruse. Chef Matthew Edmonds joins Auberge du Lac from The Gantley Arms (where he achieved two AA Rosettes) and London's sky-high dining space Searcys at The Gherkin and his pedigree shows: the food may cost a pretty penny, but it’s great value when you consider such “beautifully presented” and “consistently excellent” delights such as oak-smoked haddock chowder or duck foie gras ballotine. Next, crisp suckling pig, black pudding croquette and apple or the famous Norwegian skrei cod with eel and salsify. For dessert, check out the fragrant chai tea parfait, and don’t miss the spectacular cheese trolley. Want to stay? Rooms are available at Melbourne Lodge, just a short stroll away.

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