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Great chow destinations OUTSIDE London?

In the early stages of planning a trip in the English countryside next April and chow is a determining factor. Any thoughts? Bonus points if in/near a cathedral town. No part of England is out of the question at this stage. TIA.

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  1. Winchester is a very pretty cathedral city and has a fabulous farmers' market on some Sundays. It also has some nice places to eat - the Wykeham Arms is a local gem, Hotel du Vin (haven't been to that one personally but it's supposed to be good). There are lots of cute shops too.

    I am slightly biased though because it's where I grew up...!


    1. Bristol (near Bath) is a centre for 'green' (ie organic) food in England. Lots of great restaurants, and slightly off the main tourist routes.
      I'm completely biased though, as Ilive in Bristol!
      (and there is a cathedral, and has a local airport with cheap flights to Ireland and Scotland)

      1. The Lake District would be my absolute top foodie location. Lots of good restaurants. Lots of good hotels (with good restaurants). Lots of good pubs (with good restaurants). And, of course, "countryside" like nowhere else in Britain.

        And, assuming you stay in the southern part of the The Lakes, you are very close to Lancaster (county town of Lancashire) with its cathedral.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Brit on a Trip

          I would agree with the recommendation for the Lake District. Very good pubs with excellent food (often in portions designed for hill walkers) and a selection of good restaurants (approx. 4 Michelin 1 star restaurants). The scenery is fantastic.

          Ludlow is considered the "foodie" capital of England so a good selection of restaurants. I haven't been but it is closer to London than the Lake District.

          Another area to consider is Devon/Cornwall (again a long trip), the "West Country" has beautiful scenery, some great old country houses - check out "The National Trust" web-site. The food scene is also very good with some great chefs - at the top end Michael Caines at Gidleigh Park runs a renowned hotel and restaurant, plus there are lots of pubs that do local food especially seafood from the Devon/Cornwall coast. You can even venture to Padstow (home of Rick Stein) - personally I think he is a bit overrated but I have had a good meal at his bistro (he has approx. 5 restaurants in town) and the town and coast are very pretty. Also just down the coast is Jamie Oliver's beach restaurant "Fifteen" (just north of Newquay), so you can experience two TV chefs in quick succession..

          I love Brighton and it is good for food (esp young and fashionable), I live near Bristol and it is good. But both are quite large cities and thus you don't really experience the countryside.

          1. re: PhilD

            Ludlow isn't so foodie these days since the Merchant House and Hibiscus closed (the latter has moved to London). Still worth a weekend in September when the Food Festival is on. And not too far from Hereford and its cathedral (which holds the 13th century Mappa Mundi)

        2. I'm partial to Brighton and the Sussex coast. Brighton has a very good food scene, partially since it is a getaway destination for Londoners from the hustle and bustle of the city. I don't think there was anything I was craving that I couldn't find a decent restaurant for in Brighton. It's also a good destination if you like seafood.

          If the weather is pleasant this coming April, then I strongly suggest making a visit. Aside from the food, it's got a nice, pebbly beach, the Royal Pavillion, lots of interesting small shops in the Lanes, and is also very close to the English countryside and the Downs. If you plan to visit, base yourself in Brighton and take the trains out to Lewes (sleepy medieval town with Harveys, an excellent local brewery), Arundel (home to the Duke of Norfolk, his castle, and Arundel Cathedral), Chichester (Chichester cathedral), and other points of interest which escape me now.

          2 Replies
          1. re: misswills

            There are some good spots in Hove and Rottingdean, too - not to mention the scenery.

            1. re: misswills

              Arundel has some good pubs and there used to be a good French restaurant in the town.

            2. Tewkesbury has a beautiful abbey (you can stay in the gatehouse, courtesy of the Landmark Trust) and is a very pretty small town, though it was badly affected by the floods this year. It is quite close to Cheltenham, where you can eat superbly at Le Champignon Sauvage. Good walking in the Malvern Hills too.
              And check out Canterbury - I have read good reports of a restaurant focusing on foraged food.

              1. I got married in The Lakes District. We stayed at The Sharrow Bay. That was a dining experience! Does anyone know if it is still good? What are some names of good restaurants there, we are going in March. It is so wonderful there. Love the tea!!!

                2 Replies
                1. re: Alica

                  I can only speak of the Holbeck Ghyll where we stayed in the summer and Lucy's in Ambleside. Both very good but at opposite ends of the price scale.

                  Gilpin Lodge, Sharrow Bay and Miller Howe all continue to get good local write-ups as restaurants in the "country house hotel" style. Linthwaite House at Bowness is wonderful hotel with non too shabby a restaurant (Great "full English" breakfast).

                  I have a friend who raves about the Drunken Duck near Ambleside - restaurant in pub. There's another pub right at the southern end of Lake Windermere and on the river that flows into the lake. Can't recall it's name but difficult to miss. Excellent lunch.

                  There's another good lunch place in Ambleside which, again, I can't recall the name. It's literally behind the little tourist office that spans the stream at the northern end of town. Featured on Ramsey's Kitchen Nightmares but was absolutely fine last year.

                  Difficult to find bad food in the Southern Lakes.

                2. the crown & castle in Orford, Suffolk is a great place to go. owned and run by food writer Ruth Watson and her husband. it's opposite an old castle built for and by Henry II. (It is the earliest castle for which all the building accounts survive)
                  it appears they now run the other pub in town too...

                  suffolk (like norfolk) often gets a bashing (with good reason) but there are parts of this county that are absolutely stunning. in the area is woodbridge (the home of constable's tide mill painting) and one of the oldest towns in the country (there is now a lovely eatery on the waterfront in woodbridge, and a pint of adnams at the kings head is compulsory as it is thought to be the pub from which the Duke of York marched his men), aldeburgh, snape maltings & sutton hoo (for a bit of a history lesson). heading back toward cambridge is Bury St Edmunds which has a sensational cathedral and then of course, cambridge in itself is a delight and i am sure others can give you more accurate and current advice than I on where to eat there.

                  1. The biggest hitter with country towns these days is Bray (obviously) has the fat duck, waterside inn and caldesi en campagna - but the town itself is miniscule. But it is very close to Oxford and not far from London. Last August my husband and I went to Whitstable in Kent which is cute and by the sea. It has fantastic fish restaurants (Whitstable Oyster Fishery Co, Wheelers Oyster Bar) and a tapas bar (Williams & Brown Tapas) and there are plenty of nearby country pubs including The Sportsmen. Its quite near Canterbury which is sort of the mother of all Cathedral towns (and has some nice eating options these days. Less obvious and still not too far away from London.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: condimentqueen

                      Bray is right down the road from Windsor - much closer to that than Oxford. I didn't realize there is a Caldesi there. That's good to know! Thanks for mentioning it.

                    2. The Three Crowns Inn in Ullingswick, Herefordshire is a rural pub with fabulous gourmet food. It's near the cathedral cities of Hereford and Worcester. The Ivy in York, where I had one of my best meals in England a couple of years ago, has been redecorated and changed its menu to a simpler brasserie format, but I would assume it is still very good. Hamilton's Brasserie in Stow-on-the-Wold is a great place in the Cotswolds.

                      1. I just recalled another excellent restaurant. The Boar's Head Inn in Ripley, Yorkshire. It is close to the cathedral town of Ripon. We had a wonderful dinner at the Boar's Head. Very elegant traditional atmosphere with superb up-to-date food.

                        1. Bump. These are extremely helpful suggestions, thank so much! We are now planning a swing roughly from the Vale of Evesham (favorite B&B) down through Dorset to Winchester and across the south coast ending in Canterbury over about 2 or 3 weeks in April/May so several of these suggestions are perfect. (The rest are filed for the next trip.) Keep them coming!

                          8 Replies
                          1. re: GretchenS

                            In the New Forest - not that far from Winchester and perhaps on your route in the South - is The Thatched Cottage. It's got very nice food and a good tea as well. Any idea where you'll be in the South on the way to Canterbury?

                            1. re: GretchenS

                              Fab sounding trip.

                              Depending on your route through Evesham, Russell's at Broadway might do nicely. I know the village is horribly twee and touristy (Edinburgh Wool Mill shop and scented candles sort of place) but this is pretty good. www.russellsofbroadway.com.

                              If you're as far west as Worcester, Shaun Hill (ex Merchant House @ Ludlow) now cooks at the Glasshouse. Havnt eaten there and would love to know what it's like. I enjoyed Ludlow. www.theglasshouse.co.uk

                              You'll know that this is a particularly good area to find decent pub food. As there are several motorways crossing the area, it might be worth you having a search on www.5minutesaway.co.uk. I can vouch for the Berkeley Arms at Junction 6 (Evesham) on the M5 and The Swan at Junction 7 (Worcester).

                              Down on the coast, the Landgate Bistro at Rye is excellent and good value (I think other Hounds have also similarly commented).

                              And, finally, in Canterbury, you must go to the Goods Shed on Station Road West. It's an all-week farmers market with very good local produce. There's an upscale cafe (or downscale bistro) serving lunch and dinner that mainly uses produce from the market.

                              New Year; New Username. Still...


                              1. re: Harters

                                John, glad to see you have come down from your trip. Stay off the drugs..!

                                1. re: PhilD

                                  Cheers, mate. BoaT worked OK when I was asking for things on the US boards but I use my new name on a well known travel review website ( the one that advises you on trips, so to speak) so it seemed a good idea to make the swap.


                              2. re: GretchenS

                                Gretchen - I would guess that you may be passing through Bath on this route. If you do then three places to recommend are:

                                White Hart - a good eating pub, seems to be the best in Bath at the moment, always full with good food. A short walk from the railway station in Widcombe.

                                The King William - the was the previous hot eating pub, still very good. Slightly out of the centre on London Road, but you walk past he Star Inn to get there - a wonderful unreconstructed pub.

                                Casanis - a nice little bistro, good French provencale cuisine, small but good standards, and a nice change from a pub.

                                None of these are expensive all with £10 to 12 mains.

                                As John says you are in great pub country as you come down through Wiltshire, Somerset and into Dorset. Best to get a good pub guide book to help you find them - I like Alaister Sawday's Special Places books (he has a web site)

                                1. re: PhilD

                                  I like those books too.

                                  No visit to Bath this trip and Worcester was last April on the way to Cheshire. This itinerary is shaping up as 4 nights in Salford Prior (Vale of Evesham) at an amazing B&B with outstanding food (Salford Farm House), 3 nights on Dorset coast, 3 or 4 nights around Chichester, 3 or 4 nights over towards Canterbury (maybe a night in Cranbrook and then 3 in Tunbridge Wells).

                                  Thanks so much for all the great ideas, they are all being noted and will be used on another trip if they are not on the route of this one.

                                  1. re: GretchenS

                                    If you're on the Dorset coast, there are lots of good places to eat. There are two good "shacks" which serve very fresh fish and seafood - one is at Weymouth, (turn right just before you head over to Portland) and is called the Crab House Cafe, and the other is on the beach in Burton Bradstock, near Bridport. Both are very informal (particularly the one in Burton) and the food is great. Also near Bridport is West Bay, which I love - a really small fishing harbour with lots of fish and chips, but it also has the Riverside Cafe which is an excellent seafood restaurant.

                                    We recently had good meals in a pub in Symmondsbury, a village next to Bridport. It's called the Ilchester Arms, and is a proper pub with a big open fire, but which also serves good food - nothing outlandish, but you know that the pork chop you've eaten is from a happy pig.

                                    1. re: Theresa

                                      I'm rather late to this discussion, but my husband and I just got back from 5 days in the English countryside and had a great time.

                                      I highly recommend Kent, especially this time of year (early summer) b/c the weather was great! We went to the seaside and picked up some great seafood at a roadside stand that was incredible -- cockles and prawns, etc. Canterbury is a beautiful old village/city, and the cathedral there is definitely worth a visit. When in Canterbury, Tiny Tim's Tearoom is a MUST. Their scones and clotted cream are heaven, and we had brunch there -- fantastic! I hear Saturdays the lines are out the door.

                                      We were also in Suffolk and Essex. Suffolk was beautiful and very picturesque: rolling green hills, cows and sheep, perfect old homes. While Essex isn't the nicest part of the country, we hit up a few outstanding gastro-pubs (sorry - can't remember the names!).