Area Favourites - Midlands & East Anglia

 

Updated on 12 March 2014

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The Old Vicarage

The Old Vicarage

Ridgeway Moor, Ridgeway, Sheffield, South Yorkshire, S12 3XW

A country idyll located just eight miles from Sheffield’s urban sprawl, this converted Victorian vicarage is a beauty to behold, especially in summer when the wild flower meadows, gardens and hidden copses come into their own. Long-serving chef/patron Tessa Bramley can generally be found in her kitchen with head chef Nathan Smith, imparting wisdom and re-inventing the intricate seasonal specialties that she knows so well – think fillet of brill and ‘rope-cultured’ mussels with smoked salmon, chive sauce and potato pancakes or Gressingham duck breast on spiced red cabbage with tenderstem broccoli, pine nuts and plums. Desserts such as cherry delice with candied lemon, chocolate croquant, fresh cherries and kirsch sorbet also chime with the seasons, and it would be sinful to ignore the outstanding selection of unpasteurised British cheeses. The Bramleys also run a wine business, and their cellar is a treasure trove of fine vintages from around the globe.

£50 - £79
Modern European
Morston Hall

Morston Hall

Morston, Holt, Norfolk, NR25 7AA

“A Michelin star without the pomposity!” declares a fan who adores this class act on the north Norfolk coast. Morston Hall may boast high walls and a stately Jacobean facade, but the mood is low-key, laid-back and personal, with TV chef/proprietor Galton Blackiston and his attentive team creating just the right mood for celebrations large and small. With help from his head chef, Blackiston maps out a no-choice dinner menu served at just one sitting – a limited offer, but the results are presented with “real innovation and panache”. Introductory items might include a taster of Earl Stonham Wagyu beef with bordelaise sauce or roasted Jerusalem artichokes with goats’ cheese mousse, while the centrepiece could be Holkham venison with salt-baked beetroot, cabbage and white pepper jus or Dover sole with a Beaufort cheese crust and salsify purée. Exotic granitas refresh the palate, while dessert could bring hazelnut bavarois with chocolate sorbet. Although Morston Hall’s culinary reputation hinges on dinner, Sunday lunch also offers great value. Genial staff are as local as the ingredients on the plate, and the wine list is an impressive worldwide compendium.

Over £80
Modern European
Simpsons

Simpsons

20 Highfield Road, Edgbaston, Birmingham, West Midlands, B15 3DU

Greek-inspired landscaped gardens set a formal tone here, although we reckon the mood in Simpsons’ airy conservatory-style dining room is much more casual these days. Occupying a handsome Georgian townhouse in leafy Edgbaston, this Michelin-starred thoroughbred is “outstanding from the moment you walk in” – with added clout provided by boutique bedrooms and a cookery school (renamed the Eureka Kitchen). Overseen by chef director Luke Tipping, this venue delivers top-drawer modern food with real vision. Measured, thoughtful technique and a respect for the seasons underpin everything, from a starter of Wye Valley asparagus with Beesands crab, XO mayonnaise and crispy rice to Cornish lamb with tomato and courgette tart, spinach and black garlic or Brixham turbot partnered by sprouting broccoli, sea kale, monk’s beard and shellfish cream. To conclude, a dessert involving white chocolate, gariguette strawberry sorbet and almond further emphasises Simpson’s pedigree. A serious French-accented wine list adds gravitas, although staff bring some unaffected local charm to proceedings while making everyone “feel special”. Simpsons is a big shout for special occasions too.

£50 - £79
Modern European
Harry

Harry's Place

17 High Street Great Gonerby, Grantham, Lincolnshire, NG31 8JS

As restaurants go, they don't come more intimate than this. With only ten seats in a family-sized dining room and with husband-and-wife-team Harry and Caroline Hallam running the kitchen and front of house respectively, there's more than just a personal touch to this little place. The Hallams travel far and wide to find the best produce, of which evidence can be found in specialities like terrine of French chicken with leeks, coriander and balsamic or seared Scottish scallops with sauce of their coral, white wine and basil. Limited choices guarantee a well-balanced and expertly executed meal, but prices do run steep so watch those wine choices or prepare to indulge.

£50 - £79
Modern European
153 Bar and Restaurant at Hylands Hotel

153 Bar and Restaurant at Hylands Hotel

Hylands Hotel, Warwick Road, Coventry, West Midlands, CV3 6AU

With a clean-cut design unrivalled in these parts, this stylish modern restaurant is our top choice for Coventry. Simply set tables are generously spaced across the good-sized dining room, where wooden floors and pale yellow walls add to the breezy effect. Cooking, too, is contemporary, with tweaked Brit classics offered alongside modern Med favourites like the award-winning dish of pesto-encrusted cod with goats’ cheese and chilli macaroni and asparagus cappuccino. An interesting wine list and exemplary service complete the picture.

Under £30
Modern European
Hambleton Hall

Hambleton Hall

Hambleton, Rutland, Leicestershire, LE15 8TH

A “breath-taking” location overlooking Rutland Water is just one reason why visitors graduate towards Hambleton Hall – a quintessentially English country retreat done out like a petite French château, complete with superbly landscaped grounds, terraced gardens and magnificent antique-filled interiors. The restaurant occupies an appropriately stately room, while “impeccable” well-tutored staff mix grace and good humour with consummate attention to detail. Long-serving chef Aaron Patterson produces top-class food in the modern idiom, and readers confirm that the results are “absolutely spectacular”. A prettily designed menu celebrates the seasons, and the kitchen follows suit – think a terrine of heritage carrots with spiced carrot ice cream followed by fillet of John Dory with sorrel risotto, fennel and orange. Presentation is picture-perfect, whether you’re in the market for a plate of Launde Farm lamb or something luxurious from ‘gourmet corner’ – perhaps fallow deer with celeriac and chocolate tortellini. To finish, signature soufflés and tiramisu lead the pack, or you might fancy lemon, fig and sablé breton. Set lunches are deemed “good-value”, and the authoritative wine list is proudly prejudiced ‘in favour of the little guy’.

£50 - £79
British
One michelin star
The Cafe at Brovey Lair

The Cafe at Brovey Lair

Carbrooke Road, Ovington, Thetford, Swaffham, Norfolk, IP25 6SD

As you sweep into the understated kitchen-cum-dining room of Brovey Lair, you might think you’ve been transported to the Caribbean. The view over the terrace & swimming pool to the lush two-acre garden has a plantation prettiness, & it’s less like eating in a restaurant & more like dining at a private dinner party. There’s no choice, but the menu is tailored on booking. Tina Pemberton's imaginative Asian-fusion food focuses on fish & seafood cooked in front of you on a teppan grill. Peerless stir-fried tiger prawns on a bean shoot salad with chilli, mint & coriander & a touch of lime is one element of a menu that runs to an intense portobello mushroom & miso soup, teppan-grilled Cajun-spiced swordfish with a vine tomato, lime & sweet chilli marmalade, & exotic bitter chocolate mocha truffle torte. At £45 for four courses with coffee, it doesn’t come cheap, but you won’t get stung by the wine, which has plenty of choice under £30. Should you be staying in one of the two luxurious garden suites, you can look forward to an extraordinary breakfast. Booking is essential.

£50 - £79
International
The Olive Branch - Stamford

The Olive Branch - Stamford

Main Street, Clipsham, Rutland, Stamford, Lincolnshire, LE15 7SH

“Consistently fabulous food in a quintessential English country setting” is one reader’s glowing verdict on the Olive Branch – a Michelin-starred pub-with-rooms at the heart of a photogenic Rutland village. The interior is idiosyncratically rustic with lots of agricultural touches, while the kitchen is keen to please – offering everything from toasted sandwiches and pork-pie ploughman’s to smoked haddock with bubble and squeak, Thai-style cod curry or roast chump of lamb with chorizo hash browns and ratatouille. Blackboards list top-notch wines and regional ales from breweries in Oakham, Stamford, Grantham and elsewhere, while Sunday lunch is a traditional roast. In summer you can also get plates of tapas and fruits de mer on the pretty terrace. No wonder this place is a favourite with the smart local set, as well as travellers looking for a posh pit stop off the A1.

£30 - £49
Gastropub
Fischer

Fischer's at Baslow Hall

Calver Road, Baslow, Bakewell, Derbyshire, DE45 1RR

Don’t be taken in by the mullioned windows and gabled wings, this grand edifice next to Chatsworth Estate was actually erected in 1907 for a vicar with a penchant for all things archaic. Since 1988, it has belonged to Max and Susan Fischer, who have turned it into a civilised retreat with Michelin-starred cooking as the main attraction. Max and head chef Rupert Rowley are capable of great things, although you can expect to pay handsomely for the privilege of sampling their high-end ‘classic’ menus (£78 for three courses). Fashionable riffs and modish techniques abound: fillet of red mullet is cooked over ‘burning coals’ and served with red pepper, aubergine and Ibérico chorizo, while slow-roast loin and shoulder of rose veal is partnered by hand-rolled macaroni, truffle dressing and herb purée. For afters, how about Brillat-Savarin pannacotta with pomegranate granita? Classy wines are also aimed at those with fat wallets.

Over £80
Modern European