The 6 Best Out-of-town Dining Experiences
✨ FREDDIE HUTCHINS
Londoners seem to fall into two categories: those who need to get out of town sometimes, and those who don’t. Although I was struck by our friend Nick Curtis’s argument that the Capital is the only place to spend Christmas, I know I fall firmly into the first camp. I love getting out of town sometimes. The feeling of putting distance between myself and the Big Smoke never fails to help get my shoulders down from their habitual position up around my ears, and my jaw unclench and cease its habitual molar grinding. Heading somewhere else, discovering something new, is always a tantalising prospect. And when you know you’ve got a fabulous dinner waiting for you at the end of the road, what could be better?
What follows is a list of the most exciting, innovative and - in their own ways - luxurious out of town dining experiences the UK has to offer.
1. The Black Swan, Oldstead
My partner booked us in here for my 30th birthday. In short, it was wonderful, and I can’t wait to go back. I won’t, however, be using Google Maps to get us there: we entered in our destination before starting out in London, and only discovered something was amiss when Google announced we’d arrived: apparently at the geographic centre of the North York Moors National Park. Wondering whether the Black Swan was in fact the real-life Jamaica Inn, we got back in the car and undertook a (very) lengthy detour via Whitby (which is nowhere near Oldstead,) culminating in a rather flustered eventual arrival in the cold, rainy dark...
All was worth it. The place really is a local village pub, with folks drinking pints at the bar downstairs – whilst upstairs there just happens to be a low-key, tastefully appointed dining room serving the most extraordinary food. Opting for the full tasting menu and drinks package, we were treated to the likes of smoked venison carpaccio on a ‘forest floor’ of micro-herbs, inspired by chef Tommy Banks’s days spent smoking in the woods as a teenager. Fabulous, right? Every dish told a story - was a story, and everything we ate included flourishes and touches foraged from the hedgerows and lands around. Such a treat. I’d go back again in a heartbeat.
2. L’Enclume, Cartmel
This is where I want to go next. The Lake District is one of my very favourite places on earth, and a two Michelin star restaurant nestled in the beautiful Cumbrian countryside has got to be a special thing. The wonderful Anna Shaffer recommended it to me as her place of choice for special occasion – and anywhere that’s good enough for Anna is good enough for me!
L'Enclume has received consistently rave reviews since its opening in 2002, receiving multiple awards and near-perfect ratings. One of the first 'local' restaurants to connect the world outside its doors with the food on its plates in a meaningful way, L'Enclume's ethos is now much emulated, but some would say never bettered.
3. The Three Chimneys, Isle of Skye
We’ve booked in to eat here on our honeymoon. The Isle of Skye holds an impossibly romantic allure for me anyway – all Boat Songs and Talisker whisky. Any Hebridean I encounter is quick to point out the midges and the coachloads of tourists making up Skye’s less laudable features, but these aside, not enough fuss is yet made of The Three Chimneys. Accorded 2018 Restaurant of the Year by The Good Food Guide, this low-roofed establishment overlooking the sea is quietly (or not so quietly now) taking the food world by storm. I can't wait to see what the fuss is all about.
4. The Hand & Flowers, Marlow
‘Gastopub’ is the ultimate humble-brag when it comes to Tom Kerridge’s two Michelin star pub with rooms. With a waiting list up to a year long and a buzz other establishments can only dream of, this place is the ultimate in easy-going luxury, delivering on all fronts.
5. The Fat Duck, Bray
The original – and still the best? I’ve no idea myself, but this place, now on its third Michelin star, is the stuff of legend. At £325 per person, it’s also the most expensive dinner on the list. And the most mysterious: the menu is described as a ‘Journey’ designed to bring childhood holiday experiences to life. No snail porridge for me, thanks.
6. The Pig, Brockenhurst
I’ve talked about the Pigs on a previous blog - but they really deserve a mention in their own right on a foodie list. Everything you eat whilst staying there is either home-grown, home-reared, or sourced from very close by. Not only is this a satisfying feeling, it also produces truly delicious results. It’s also curiously much more satisfying to eat food that, whilst tasting significantly better than anything one might be able to procure from the supermarket, also manages to look more ‘humble’ too - it’s all wonky carrots, speckled apples and mismatched salad leaves.
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