Gourmet road-trip in the English countryside - Trends Business Trends on PC

Gourmet road-trip in the English countryside – Trends Business Trends on PC

As surprising as it may seem, we eat well in England. And even very well if you know the best gastropubs…

The English countryside is not, a priori, a dream tourist destination. Even less so for backward-looking gourmets who remember old-fashioned French comedies, such as Les Grandes vacances (1967) by Jean Girault with Louis de Funès or A nous les petits Anglaises (1976) by Michel Lang, which carry hackneyed clichés (but not always wrong) about English cuisine. With quivering mint jelly, canned beans in tomato sauce or roast beef cooked sole-style.

The English countryside is not, a priori, a dream tourist destination. Even less so for backward-looking gourmets who remember old-fashioned French comedies, such as Les Grandes vacances (1967) by Jean Girault with Louis de Funès or A nous les petits Anglaises (1976) by Michel Lang, which carry hackneyed clichés (but not always wrong) about English cuisine. With quivering mint jelly, canned beans in tomato sauce or roast beef cooked sole-style. However, fans of city-trips in London know that for more than 20 years, the English capital has established itself as a major gastronomic destination with a breathtaking international offer. In 2005 already, Heston Blumenthal registered his Fat Duck, three-starred in the Michelin guide, at the top of the best restaurants of the World’s Fifty Best… With Jamie Oliver or Gordon Ramsay, he has worked enormously, through cooking shows and other books to success, to restore the image of British gastronomy. Imagined on the principle of the Fifty Best, the Top 50 Gastropubs lists the best traditional restaurants in Great Britain, with real emulation at stake. When the Michelin guide no longer hesitates, for a long time already, to give stars to the best English addresses. And not only in the big cities… As soon as you leave London, England reveals charming little villages and single-lane country roads, bordered by high hedges joining together to form bewitching ceilings of greenery. Once off the ferry at Dover, after admiring the white limestone cliffs and once used to driving on the left, you won’t hesitate to spend a few days in Kent. Located at the mouth of the Thames, a few miles north of Canterbury Cathedral, the epicenter of Anglicanism, The Sportsman is one of the hottest pubs around. Michelin-starred, the self-taught Stephen Harris practices magnificent English cuisine between classicism and modernity. And this through a 70-pound menu that allows you to enjoy local delicacies: oysters, sea bass or even a wonderful fillet of sole with seaweed butter. Without forgetting the inevitable lamb, a must in England. Another must-see starred pub, the Fordwich Arms is delicately set on the banks of the Great Stour River, opposite the 16th century old town hall of the small village of Fordwich. Daniel Smith unveils a cuisine of great refinement, which again gives pride of place to local products: sweetbreads, lardo and lovage (16 pounds) or sublime turbot from the southern English coast, served with mussels and white beans with lemon verbena (34 pounds). Wow! In Bidborough, west of Kent, the Kentish Hare is more down to earth, to delight its customers with an impeccable little two-three course menu (28-35 pounds) logically crowned with a gourmet Bib. Between terrine of smoked ham, tomato salad from the Isle of Wight or sublime piece of crispy Middle White pork belly as only the English know how to prepare it, peas, cracked wheat and a nice gravy. If you prefer the sea inland, head to Angela’s in the bustling seaside resort of Margate for simple, well-made fish dishes. With the key a green star, rewarding the work on local and sustainable products. We loved the turbot cooked on the bone in lobster butter (25 pounds) and even more the posset (a lemon-infused cream), here flavored with fig leaves and served with a red fruit compote (8 pounds). Because yes, there are figs all over England in summer. Not to mention the delicious Kent cherries! Cherries that we found, in July, on the Rose menu, with mackerel cooked with a blowtorch (12 pounds). Based in the pretty little coastal town of Deal, in South Kent, the place offers room and board, thanks to a modern cuisine imagined by the excellent Portuguese chef Nuno Mendes, who thrilled Londoners at Viajante, then to the Chiltern Firehouse. Heading northeast, we head for the Cotswolds. An hour’s drive from London, this Area of ​​Outstanding Natural Beauty, a region indeed “of exceptional natural beauty”, made up of hills populated by villages with small stone houses, each one more beautiful than the other (and where the price real estate is almost as expensive as in the capital). For the postcard, we will go to Bibury, where the alignment of modest cottages gives the impression of plunging into the county of Tolkien’s Hobbits. A comfortable hotel, The Bell Inn offers the ideal base for discovering the villages of the Cotswolds. Especially since the restaurant, located in an old 15th century farmhouse, offers unfussy cuisine, rewarded with a Bib, and a rich natural wine list. Mention for the fish and chips (16 pounds), where the fish, breaded in beer, is crispy to perfection, served with good homemade fries and mashed peas, here made from real fresh peas. Not to mention the traditional sticky toffee pudding (7 pounds), so decadent that we would eat it every day… Needless to say that, in the morning, the full English breakfast is just perfect. North of the Cotswolds, in the village square of Illmington, The Howard Arms offers a nice stopover on the way back from Stratford-upon-Avon and Shakespeare’s birthplace. This popular pub offers a thoughtful menu with, for example, a magnificent Manx Loaghtan lamb (a breed from the Isle of Man), served with glasswort, caponata sauce and anchovies (28 pounds). Or a strawberry trifle (8.50 pounds) prepared according to the rules of the art. Going down to the south, we will stop at Bruton, a pretty village in Somerset, where Merlin Labron-Johnson (former chef of the excellent Portland in London) settled in 2019 at Number One Bruton, a trendy hotel, where it splits between the Old Pharmacy, an excellent wine bar with neat nibbles, and Osip, a fine starred restaurant. Contemporary and refined, the cuisine highlights, through two six- or nine-course menus (89 or 109 pounds), the best local products. Including the wonderful raw milk cheddar from the Westcombe Dairy, located a few kilometers away and which you will visit for its cheeses, but also for its excellent beers and charcuterie. Perfect for preparing a picnic at Stonehenge, an unmissable Neolithic site nearby. Continuing the road towards the West and Devon, we will not fail to take long walks in the national park of Exmoor – with in particular the sublime Valley of Rocks, along the sea, in Lynmouth – or in the evocative national park of Dartmoor, whose desert landscapes filled with free-roaming sheep inspired Sir Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles. At the eastern entrance to the park, in Tavistock, The Cornish Arms is nothing less than the perfect pub. We would gladly swap his Bib for a macaron, as the dishes are amazing. Run by John Hooker and his wife Emma for ten years, the establishment is proud of British gastronomic heritage. The chef thus prepares the best Scotch eggs imaginable (9.25 pounds), with runny egg yolk, Heston Blumenthal style. While he dares the mint jelly (sublime) as an accompaniment to the lamb, with beans and burnt onion (28.50 pounds). Not to mention the sea bream fillet (29.50 pounds), gray shrimp vinaigrette and dill béarnaise. Or strawberry trifle (9.50 pounds), available in jam, jelly and sorbet… Fabulous! A little further north, in Brampton, The Swan is a very respectable village pub, with small, simple rooms and a good table: haddock fish and chips (15.95 pounds) or sardines fresh piperade sauce and garlic oil (pounds). Two excellent fish from Brixham, a south coast fishing port. If you are passing through Bolton Bridge on a Sunday lunchtime, you will sit down at the Devonshire Arms for the traditional Sunday Roast. The roast beef (20 pounds) is rare and the roast pork crispy (18 pounds). All served with vegetables, beautiful Yorkshire puddings and a gravy (sauce). In the south-east of England, Cornwall impresses with its very rugged coast, where you come across a replica of Mont-Saint-Michel (in Penzance), wild beaches (like the evocative Kynance Cove) or even windswept capes, such as Cape Lizard or the aptly named Land’s End. Not to mention the ruins of Tintagel Castle, where the ghosts of Arthurian legend still roam. In the very touristy port of Padstow, you can taste the iconic Cornish pasty, a turnover stuffed with steak and vegetables, excellent at the Chough Bakery for example. Not far from there, we will discover in Bodmin, in the open countryside, the St. Kew Inn, a competition pub, which still serves real cask ales and other artisanal ciders straight from the wooden barrels and which here are more than drinkable – that change from the usual flat and temperate beer! In summer, we eat Porthilly oysters (24 pounds for six), a small port opposite Padstow, in the beer garden, followed by half a lobster (30 pounds) with Café de Paris butter (in French in the text) or a beautiful John Dory with gray shrimps, caper butter, both grilled over a wood fire. To the east of Cornwall, in Launceston, Coombeshead Farm is another address not to be missed. Tired of London, the young chef Rose Maxwell magnificently showcases the products of the farm: chicken, lamb, beef, vegetables and fruits, through a high-flying rustico-modern cuisine. On the unique menu (45-72 pounds): chicken liver pâté, chicken pie, fragrant chamomile ice cream (a kind of chamomile with pineapple flavor) with gooseberries… Staying here is mandatory. Not only for the spacious and comfortable rooms, but also for the terrific breakfast. No wonder Michelin inspectors awarded a green star to this exemplary farm. Unfortunately, it remains to take the road to Dover. And to take advantage of the ferry crossing to collect all these beautiful summer memories. And to wonder if we would not return to the south of England in autumn or winter, to take full advantage of the game season…


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