10 country dining spots to inspire your next day trip

Staycations are becoming ever-popular for obvious reasons in 2020, and with them the rise of day trips. When the British countryside presents so many options, it can be hard to decide where is close enough from London to get there and back within a day. To help you make up your mind, we’ve rounded up our favourite dining destinations all within a few hours of the capital – and all in idyllic settings.

From bustling indoor street food halls to Michelin-starred restaurants to seaside shacks serving some of the country’s best fish, this is a guide for all those who will travel for truly good food. 1 The Hand & Flowers, Buckinghamshire Helmed by Tom Kerridge, The Hand & Flowers in Marlow is the only pub in the UK to hold two Michelin stars.

Food is as good as you can expect from the celebrity chef – think elevated pub dishes at high price points (Sunday lunch here ranges between GBP46 and GBP56). You’d be hard pushed to find a bad review of this well-loved dining spot – its unfussy, hearty plates use high quality produce, while its off-site boutique bedrooms are spacious and well-kitted out to service your every need. If you can’t book a table at The Hand & Flowers, then try Kerridge’s two neighbouring pubs, The Coach and The Butcher’s Tap.

The Hand and Flowers, 126 West Street, Marlow, SL7 2BP 2 The Fat Duck, Berkshire No guide to the best restaurants outside London would be complete without The Fat Duck, arguably the most famous dining spot in Britain.

Heston Blumenthal – the Willy Wonka of food – has created a restaurant famed for its experimental dishes, including The Sound of the Sea, a small plate of sashimi, served on a glass-covered box filled with sand, and Meat Fruit, a ball of chicken liver parfait wrapped in mandarin gel. Thanks to The Fat Duck, Bray, a village near Maidenhead, has become a foodie mecca, and its assortment of restaurants boast seven Michelin stars in total. The Fat Duck, High St, Bray, Maidenhead SL6 2AQ

3 The Sportsman, Kent Don’t let appearances deceive you – The Sportsman might look like an average rundown pub on a barren stretch of Kentish coast, but its food has earned it a Michelin star and a host of glowing reviews from the UK’s leading critics. Run by brothers Philip and Stephen Harris, it specialises in “serving good food in relaxed and informal surroundings”.

Unsurprisingly given its seaside location, fish is key to the five-course menu, which changes daily and includes recipes from the past 20 years along with new ideas. The Sportsman, Faversham Road, Seasalter, Whitstable CT5 4BP 4 The Company Shed, Essex

Fish doesn’t get fresher or more mouthwatering than at The Company Shed on Mersea Island. Don’t expect flounces and frills, this family-run cafe is primarily a fishmongers with a few tables inside and outside its wooden slat walls. You can’t book and you have to bring your own bread and wine, and the space is often packed-out.

The queues are worth it – the seafood platters are huge and utterly delicious, and the hot food whipped up by the family is just as good if you want something a little warming. The Company Shed, 129 Coast Rd, West Mersea, Colchester CO5 8PA 5 36 on the Quay, Hampshire

36 on the Quay, a former cottage, sits on the harbour of the fishing village of Emsworth in Hampshire. Views are sweeping, overlooking the sea, while a sheltered terrace is an added bonus in the summer. Chef Gary Pearce has experience at the acclaimed two-Michelin-starred Noma in Denmark, so expect great things from his simple, seasonal menu.

If you don’t fancy a sit-down meal, then order from the family’s food truck which offers seaside classics with a high-end twist – truffle parmesan fries anyone? 36 On The Quay, 47 South St, Emsworth PO10 7EG 6 Sun Street Feast, Kent

Canterbury’s Sun Street Feast opens on 6 August, uniting the city’s best-loved street food vendors to create an indoor food market that promises quality food inspired by countries around the world. Start with a craft beer at Pork & Co, before tucking into a burger or a taco, and finishing up with a New Orleans-inspired beignet, a fluffy, sugar-covered pillow-like doughnut. Either choose a table outside on the idyllic cobbled street or, if the weather’s unforgiving, sit inside and enjoy music and the street food market atmosphere without getting cold.

Before you get the train home, make sure you stop off at The Goods Shed, next to the station, which offers delicious local produce to recreate your favourite dishes at home. Sun Street Feast, 25-26 Sun Street, Canterbury, CT1 2HX 7 The Curlew, Sussex

The talented brothers behind The Small Holding Farm in Kent are the latest owners of The Curlew, a historic coaching inn serving high-end food to well-heeled visitors. Since Matt and Will Devlin’s takeover, there have been two AA rosettes and a mention in Harden’s 100 Top UK Restaurants. The menu focuses on produce sourced both locally and from Small Holding to create small, well-presented sharing plates focused on British cuisine.

Staff are known for being a perfect blend of attentive and personal, and only too happy to share the stories behind certain dishes and wines. The Curlew, Junction Rd, Bodiam TN32 5UY 8 Artichoke, Buckinghamshire

Artichoke opened in 2002 to great fanfare and has notched up numerous accolades since including one Michelin star, as well as inclusions in the UK Top 100 Restaurants Square Meal 2019 and in the Top 50 UK Restaurants Good Food Guide 2020. The Modern European menu offers imaginative, perfectly flavoured dishes with ingredients often sourced within the local area. The friendly service and understated, Scandi-inspired decor make this a perfect destination restaurant.

Artichoke, 9 Market Square, Amersham HP7 0DF 9 The Unruly Pig, Suffolk Named by the Michelin Guide as one of the top six food pubs in the east of England, The Unruly Pig in Suffolk has more recently been listed in The Top 50 Gastropubs chart.

Head Chef Dave Wall, who has worked at restaurants including Bibendum, Gordon Ramsay’s Boxwood Cafe and Claridge’s, focuses on British food influenced by Italy, spanning burgers and risotto to a host of delicious-sounding pasta dishes. This 16th-century pub run by a former lawyer has lashings of personality, with an array of eclectic art to catch your eye as you eat. The Unruly Pig, Orford Rd, Bromeswell, Woodbridge IP12 2PU

10 Stovell’s, Surrey Fernando Stovell, who have previously cooked for the Queen, brings a slice of his Mexican heritage to Chobham in Surrey with Stovell’s. Choose between the Mexican taster menu or from the unpretentious a la carte and enjoy what is a breath of fresh air to the Surrey dining scene.

This is largely European food with Mexican flourishes, with bold, exciting flavours. The restaurant is housed within a Tudor farmhouse, Stovell’s may have the same Farrow & Ball decor as its neighbouring restaurants but the quality of it food makes it a stand-out. Stovell’s, 125 Windsor Rd, Chobham, Woking GU24 8QS

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