To stay at a cozy, quintessential country retreat, preferably one with an exceptional restaurant, should be part of any English holiday itinerary. The sort of place that lines up Wellington boots to be borrowed and has guestrooms with French windows, roll-top baths, posh bathroom amenities, and gorgeous drawing rooms with roaring fires. Perhaps a romantic, woodland setting or park views, maybe a golf course, and an award-winning spa too. Dining — from lavish evening dinners and cocktails to good old Sunday lunches and indulgent afternoon teas — is the cornerstone to many of these country hotels. If there’s one lip-smacking way to really embrace country living, this is it. (Photo: Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons)
For a truly gastro-getaway, food at these hotels must not only be fresh and organic, but also local. No longer stuck in a time-warp nowadays, re-vamped countryside hotels are attracting not only Londoner’s out of the city on weekends, but also jet-setting visitors from overseas, not to mention the odd celebrity. Here we pick five of the very best appetizing places to stay — all are relatively close to London and are easily accessible by a mixture of train and taxi.
Oxfordshire — Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons
Raymond Blanc’s country retreat is a gastronomes delight. With its cooking school, two-Michelin starred restaurant, and two-acre kitchen garden that produces 90 types of vegetables and over 70 varieties of herbs — countryside dining doesn’t get any better than this. It is eye-wateringly expensive, as you’d expect, but guaranteed to deliver one of the best meals of your life.
Buckinghamshire — Hartwell House
Combining countryside chic with fine dining — the very best of local produce and seasonal offerings — here it’s all about dishes such as chicken liver parfait and pan-fried Cornish cod with crushed new potatoes — delicious and all delivered with outstanding service. Hartwell House also has a remarkable history, stretching back almost a thousand years to the reign of Edward the Confessor, so staying here is also an education. (Photo: Flickr/Andy Davy)
Hertfordshire — The Grove
A modern take on the countryside retreat, this welcoming hotel has comfortable rooms and 70 chefs. Colette’s is the fine-dining restaurant, which serves good British Cornish lobster, Brixham Bay crab, and Scottish langoustine. Popular with Londoner’s — the spa here is first-rate and golfers are well looked after — Tiger Woods won the World Golf Championship here and said it was "one of the finest new courses" he’d played.
Gloucestershire — Barnsley House
Avoiding the “showroom look,” this is one of the UK’s very best countryside hotels, with gorgeous rooms, a private movie theatre, and gardens that are among England’s most famous settings. The Pottager Restaurant uses local and fresh produce from the gardens at the back of the hotel to create English dishes with an Italian twist. (Photo: Caroline Eden)
Berkshire — French Horn
Old-school elegance with a touch of French influence, The French Horn with its river-side setting is really a restaurant with rooms. Here, diners here can expect excellent service and dishes such as Dublin Bay prawns, Orkney scallops, quail, foie gras, and Cornish crab — as well as an outstanding wine list to pair these dishes with.