You would expect The Specials, Ed Sheeran and The Zutons to drink behind the toughest doors in town, but they’ve all come around to this tucked-away 16th-century Suffolk pub, hidden a stone’s throw from the world-renowned recording studio Decoy. But their draw to The Ufford Crown isn’t just convenience. The elegant interior demonstrates contemporary nuance with a refreshing sensitivity to the building’s beautifully ramshackle aesthetic – this is not the theme park gentrification you find at most gastropubs a train ride from London. And then there’s the food. The work of head chef Alex Dunham, who was trained by executive chef and cofounder Will Hardiman (formerly of Coq d’Argent), is written into local legend.
GQ kicked things off with a runny-yolk, caramelised onion scotch egg, washed down with a pint of local staple, Adnams. A deliciously unctuous pork belly followed and was served with silky mash and an artfully balanced homemade Bramley apple sauce. The menu is regularly revitalised, with dishes making seasonal appearances. The same can be said of the wine list: the “Unusual Choices” selection is a revelation, with guest bottles as interesting as the pub’s patrons. The riesling and Picpoul De Pinet were particular standouts during our visit.
Working for the rat race? This is your antidote. Just watch whose shoes you’re spilling your Château Paloumey on to. Paul Henderson
High Street, Ufford, IP13 6EL. 01394 461030. theuffordcrown.com
A discreetly well-heeled village in bucolic West Sussex is an unlikely spot for former Moschino and McQueen model Jodie Kidd to open a pub. Yet, it’s artfully strategic. Kidd, a card-carrying car enthusiast, has set up shop almost exactly halfway between the smart end of London and Goodwood Motor Circuit, capturing the classic and exotic car set as they journey south. As much is clear from the car park (two Ferraris, one classic Porsche during GQ’s visit), even more so the menu. Considering the 15th-century country cottage was once a spit-and-sawdust local it’s bravely gastronomical, eschewing traditional pub grub for roasted guinea fowl with crushed artichoke, beef cheek on truffle-flecked pappardelle and crumbly pan-fried hake with king oyster mushroom, which GQ opted for. A dollop of artichoke purée and pickled shimeji added punch and nuance to the featherlight fish, which was artfully prepared by executive chef Paul Welburn’s team. Other highlights include the sticky, meaty pork belly and dense but light buttermilk sponge, served with crunchy honeycomb and honeycomb ice cream.
The menu here changes every couple of months but it’s always good. The Half Moon also throws special event dinners around four times a year, often showcasing regional fare (the latest included Sussex wagyu). No surprise – and somewhat fitting – that it’s recently been awarded a second AA Rosette. It’s every bit worth the drive out of Mayfair, regardless of what’s happening in the Duke’s garden. Matt Jones
Glasshouse Lane, Kirdford, Billingshurst, West Sussex RH14 0LT. 01403 820223. halfmoonkirdford.co.uk
Even though it is an overfamiliar convention, it’s still a delight to stumble across a pretty, welcoming pub in the heart of an English shire – especially when the sun is shining. The Tickell Arms is just such an enjoyable cliché. This duck-egg blue country house sits in Whittlesford, five miles south of Cambridge, and its ornate woodwork around the pointed windows and doors gives it a Lord Of The Rings Elvish-chic.
Inside, the bar is as you would wish: lived in but elegant. Its real asset is the new conservatory/restaurant, which sits next to a freshly renovated garden surrounded by verdant terracing and a pond with a waterfall. Around that, a collage of trees the colour of red setters, olives and avocados bears down on happy drinkers and diners.
Many of the beers are local, two of the best being Milton Pegasus, which has a caramel smoothness without being sickly, and Brewster’s Hophead, perfect for an afternoon in this suntrap spent watching heron pinch fish from the pond. The entire wine list is sourced from Languedoc-Roussillon: try the mineral tang of the Clos Des Papillons.
In the restaurant, GQ began with the duck parcel, packed with satisfyingly rich, sticky meat. We followed this with pork tenderloin, served with balls of ham hock, black pudding crumb, baby onions and carrot purée. With Tenderstem broccoli and red wine gravy, it managed, despite the busy plate, to stay nuanced and balanced, each ingredient contributing to something really special. Other standouts were the venison haunch with rosemary and potato croquettes and the lemon sole. The menu changes every couple of months, but this little piece of Middle-Earth/England is consistently good. George Chesterton
North Road, Whittlesford, Cambridge, CB22 4NZ. cambscuisine.com
If the cluster of pubs carved into the sandstone cliffs below Nottingham’s beloved castle are anything to go by, the city has a rich pedigree when it comes to drinking. Among this coterie of storied hostelries – including one claiming to be the UK’s oldest – the understated Hand & Heart has established itself as one of the city’s most loveable pubs, due to its quirky cave setting and Camra-endorsed roster of real ales.
Although its location – a ten-minute hike from the city centre – makes it a pilgrimage for passers-through, the former brewery’s 2008 reinvention has turned it into an inner-city destination for ale aficionados and date nights. Stepping past the low-key entrance and cosy bar, complete with piano, its subterranean sandstone cave has a conspiratorial quality to it, with reclaimed furniture, fairy lights and rough-hewn leather sofas adding to its rustic appeal.
A lengthy drinks menu includes a coppery house ale from Derby’s Dancing Duck brewery, which comes accompanied by locally sourced, homemade food, standout Sunday roasts and a folk-led live-music schedule, making the Hand & Heart a worthy visit for any band of merry men. Ben Olsen
65-67 Derby Road, Nottingham NG1 5BA. thehandandheart.co.uk
It's more like a charming Georgian home on a well-heeled street than a traditional London pub, but they’d been pouring drinks at The Clifton in St John’s Wood since the late 19th century – including, some say, for Edward VII and his mistress – until its sudden closure in 2013.
However, Ben and Ed Robson, the brothers behind the much-mourned Boopshi’s schnitzel bar in Fitzrovia, came to its rescue this summer. Having also run the first pub they ever drank in, the Horseshoe in Hampstead, they bring bags of experience and it shows: the new-look Clifton combines a homely bar with a plant-filled conservatory for dining, plus a simple garden out front.
Local and craft beers are plentiful; there are six house G&Ts with twists such as grapefruit, rosemary and cloves; the considered wine list comes courtesy of sommelier Raul Diaz (Sunday Brunch). On the succinct bar menu, the warm and crumbly haggis sausage roll with a smudge of homemade ketchup (£4.50) is an instant classic. The restaurant offering changes frequently, but you’ll find the likes of white asparagus with duck egg and lardo (£8.50), Dedham Vale ribeye (£24) and a solid line in fish dishes jolted by nduja and saffron aioli. GQ dares them to include schnitzel one day, too. Jennifer Bradly
96 Clifton Hill, London NW8. thecliftonnw8.com
Nestled in the Cotswolds countryside, not far from Stratford-Upon-Avon, sits 2018 GQ Food & Drink Award winner The Fuzzy Duck. Refurbished in 2013 by the family behind British soap company Baylis & Harding, the pub takes its cue from the brand: affordable luxury.
While the interiors are a hit, the undoubted focus is the food. The Fuzzy Duck boasts the likes of soft-centred black pudding scotch duck eggs on the menu. And while almost comically large portions should be reason enough for you to take a leisurely drive to Armscote, if you need more persuading then know this: a local butcher’s lamb shank is a modest £18.50. On the succinct bar menu, the homemade malted milk and oat loaf with pork crackling butter is an instant classic.
Can’t bear to leave? Upstairs you’ll find boutique bedrooms with roll-top baths and serene countryside views. Well placed for exploring the surrounding villages of the Cotswolds, The Fuzzy Duck is the ideal place to enjoy a summer weekend. Eleanor Davies
Ilmington Road, Armscote, Stratford-Upon-Avon, Warwickshire CV37 8DD. fuzzyduckarmscote.com
If in need of a stiff drink following the bracing eight-seater flight and ferry transfer from Land’s End, visitors to Tresco are in luck, with its New Inn (the island’s only inn) just a short walk from the quayside. One of the five inhabited Isles Of Scilly, life on Tresco – population just 175 – revolves around this lively stone-clad pub, which offers a welcoming spot for locals and newcomers throughout the year. Its sun-kissed south-facing beer garden heaves during the warmer months thanks to a roster of fortnightly live music, regular ale and cider fairs and a twice-yearly spring-tide festival, which sees a sandbar unite Tresco with the neighbouring island of Bryher.
A strong food offering includes the island’s ubiquitous Tresco beef dished up as burgers and steaks, vegetables from the local Abbey Garden and never-fresher Bryher crab and lobster – expect to see the boats return with the day’s catch just hours before it ends up on your plate. Behind the bar you’ll find a choice of beers by the aptly titled Ales Of Scilly brewery; a pint of Schiller golden ale is a well-deserved end to a day traversing the island’s subtropical gardens, golden beaches and castle ruins. Ben Olsen
New Grimsby, Tresco TR24 0QQ. tresco.co.uk
Rather than just bemoaning the decline of high-street butchers and traditional pubs, Tom Kerridge has done something about it and, ingeniously, combined the two.
At The Butcher’s Tap, which opened late last year, you’ll find Hereford-cross Aberdeen Angus slabs dry-ageing in the windows and cast-iron mincers adorning the walls. In the chiller, there’s Packington corn-fed chicken; game from West Wycombe Estate; and strings of sausages, made in-house. It’s all locally sourced and butchered on-site by long-time Kerridge collaborator Andy Cook. He tells GQ that it’s the forgotten cuts often overlooked by the supermarkets, such as Jacob’s ladder, ox cheek and flank, that draw in the locals.
The no-frills pub is in the same room. There’s sport on TV, local beers, such as Rebellion Smuggler (£4), on draught and a simple menu, including a fiery hot dog smothered with pulled pork and pickled chillies (£7.50) and hot sausage rolls (£3.50), served until they’re sold out. The daily evening special (£7.50) – Irish stew, stuffed Yorkshire puddings, pork ribs – is always meaty. Jennifer Bradly
15 Spittal Street, Marlow, Buckinghamshire SL7 3HJ. thebutcherstap.co.uk
A coastal stroll westwards from Brighton to Hove can either deliver a wish-you-were-here seaside glow, or prove a battle against some aggressive elements. Regardless of your meteorological luck, be safe in the knowledge that waiting on the other side is a bastion of Englishness – a darn good pub. The Ginger Pig has equally popular siblings around the Brighton area, all carrying the red-headed gene – The Gingerman, The Ginger Fox and The Ginger Dog also incur high local praise. As you swing through the revolving door, you’d be forgiven for believing you’d taken a wrong turn at the Channel, such is the air of Parisian brasserie evoked by the slick, dark wood trim. An instantly warm atmosphere and comfortingly carpeted bar stools, however, quickly betray The Ginger Pig’s publican credentials.
The menu is a celebration of English pub classics, with the occasional deft nod over La Manche. The Ginger Pig does meat well. The first whiff comes courtesy of the Bloody Mary, which features their deliciously umami roasted bone marrow vodka. A Sunday offering of roast sirloin glistens a deep red with a suitably silky taste to match. Vegetarians are looked after too, with some splendid meat-free affairs – the leek, potato and Duddleswell (a fragrant, creamy local sheep’s cheese) pie is feather-light and velvety. The perfect liquid accompaniment is always on hand, as The Ginger Pig tailors its extensive wine list to its menu, with pairing suggestions offered with educated enthusiasm and a selection of Coravin-extracted wines available for finer occasions. Hop enthusiasts need not fret, with a plentiful array of beers behind the bar celebrating Sussex success stories, including local favourites Bedlam Brewery and Dark Star Brewing Co. Can’t bear to leave? Eleven ensuite bedrooms will open upstairs just in time for summer. Ailis Brennan
3 Hove Street, Hove BN3 2TR. 01273 736123. thegingerpigpub.com
Back on home soil, the Galvin brothers plant the seed of something special in Essex.
When it comes to publicans, chefs who hold Michelin stars make very good ones. Tom Kerridge’s The Hand And Flowers, Heston Blumenthal’s The Hinds Head, Brett Graham’s Harwood Arms... If you know how to provide great food and even better service, you can’t go wrong.
That theory goes some way to explaining why Chris and Jeff Galvin have just opened a pub on the outskirts of Chelmsford. The chef-restaurateur brothers have built their reputations on award-winning and highly acclaimed French cuisine in London and Edinburgh, but for their latest “pub-luxe” venture – they launched their first with Galvin Hop in Spitalfields – they are returning to their Essex roots.
One of the county’s oldest pubs, The Green Man dates back to 1314, but a £3 million makeover has turned it into a grand design Kevin McCloud would be impressed by. Look closely, especially from outside the front and in the old bar, and you can still spot the ancient inn within, but it’s around the back and into the 90-cover glass-roofed dining room where the money has been spent. It’s a bold, bright and modern space that doesn’t overdo the bling.
And the food is good. Not as good as it should be, not yet, but it is on the way. The pub classics are all here (Colchester crab mayo, lamb curry and game pie) and the Sunday roast is a classic in terms of quantity if not quite quality. To be fair, GQ visited a week after opening, so the kitchen was struggling slightly to meet the demand of a full house, but the service was good, the prices more than reasonable (three courses for just £25) and the range of local craft beers on offer tip-top.
The Galvin brothers have done the hard part, they just need to get their Green Man brigade up to speed and they’ll be laughing. Looks like the only way is Essex after all. Paul Henderson
Howe Street, Chelmsford, Essex, CM3 1BG. 01245 408820. galvinrestaurants.com
After apprenticeships in the most demanding kitchens going, chef Nick Deverell-Smith takes an early retirement (of sorts) in the country.
What do you do if most of your cooking career has been spent at the highest level, working with the likes of Gordon Ramsay, Marco Pierre-White and Eric Chavot, and then serving as head chef at The Restaurant at Soho House and Dean Street Townhouse? Well, you’d probably retire to the Cotswolds. Which is exactly what Nick Deverell-Smith has done. The only surprise is that he is just 34. A bit young to be opening a country pub, isn’t it?
“I suppose so,” he says, “but after 12 years at the Michelin-star level, I wanted something more relaxed, less formal and I wanted to cook the kind of food I love.” Taking the Tom Kerridge approach to the menu, Deverell-Smith specialises in turning pub classics all the way up to ten, using local ingredients prepared with great care and genuine passion (plus a fried egg). Standout starters include chicken livers on toast with cider onions and smoked haddock soufflé. For mains, look no further than pork T-bone with mash, Churchill’s chicken stew with crusty bread and breaded veal with anchovies. If you have room for dessert, go for anything with the words “sticky”, “crumble” or “chocolate” in the title. They also serve a killer Sunday lunch.
If you want to make a weekend of it, there are also rooms available. Given that the pub dates back to the 17th century, you shouldn’t expect much in the way of cat-swinging opportunities, or any soundproofing for that matter, but the rooms are smartly finished and have a cosy charm. They also offer some stunning views of the countryside. In fact, after a long walk, a big lunch, and a few pints of Lion from the nearby Hook Norton Brewery in front of the inglenook fireplace, retiring to the Cotswolds starts to make a whole lot of sense... Paul Henderson
Paxford, Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire GL55 6XH. 01386 593159. churchillarms.co
Come for the views, stay for the food at Nathan Outlaw’s latest.
Rock has gone and got itself a bit of a reputation. Rick Stein mocks its conspicuous arriviste second homers from across the Camel Estuary in Padstow, and with so many new-built, glass-fronted box houses it can seem distinctly un-Cornish (just like Rick Stein). Gordon Ramsay bought a £4.4 million mansion there, then enraged the locals with plans to knock it down and rebuild it. What it certainly does have is a pub with fine indigenous beer, flavour-packed food and a view that is almost impossible to beat.
The Mariners is part of Nathan Outlaw’s empire (he has two restaurants in Port Isaac plus the Michelin-starred Outlaw’s at the Capital in London) and GQ got the best of this in pub form. The soft, richly flavoured venison with pickled red cabbage was one of many seasonal specials – including turbot, sole, lobster and mussels – that, as is often the case, exceeds the regular menu in terms of excitement and local provenance.
The bar has a partnership with the local Sharp’s Brewery, and its range of subtle, beautifully balanced ales (which helpful staff are happy to pair with your meal) is worth exploring: the Atlantic pale ale, Spiced Red 2012 and the Single Brew Reserve are the standouts among more exotic flights of fancy. But however good the food and drinkare, it’s tough to divert your gaze from what lies beyond your table. It really doesn’t matter who builds what in Rock behind the Mariners, in front will always be the sun setting gently over the sands. George Chesterton
Rock, Cornwall PL27 6LD. 01208 863679, themarinersrock.com
There’s a vast garden at the back of the Mayflower, dotted with heavy wooden tables and overlooking a fine slipway and its harbour’s bobbing yachts. Seafarers like to wander in through the back gate to enjoy a pint of something local with impeccable views of the south coast. (Lymington, you’ll note, is the smarter and more mature type of British coastal town, with its narrow cobbled streets, Georgian architecture and clutch of sailing clubs that have bred more than their fair share of Olympians.)
Non-seafarers are catered for, too – this big Hampshire pub on the New Forest fringes got an early summer makeover, and the sleek main bar has been kitted out with real log fires and a private dining room. They also added an elegant terrace with a separate menu to the snackier garden. As only seems polite in an upscale pub these days, there’s plenty of local produce – including fresh fish and South Downs lamb, naturally – plus a gin menu.
Upstairs, you’ll find six bedrooms, also thoughtfully revamped, with roll-top baths, Egyptian cotton on king-sized beds and impossibly serene views across those yachts on the Solent. Jennifer Bradly
King’s Saltern Road, Lymington, Hampshire, SO41 3QD. 01590 672160. themayflowerlymington.co.uk
If you were to throw your novelty tube of coloured sand anywhere in the Isle Of Wight, chances are you’d hit a pub selling beer-battered cod, so ubiquitous is the holiday staple. So it’s a blessed relief to visit The New Inn in Shalfleet, where the ambition of the menu – and the ingredients and skill to meet that ambition – raises it beyond the fare of its many island rivals. With an emphasis on local fish in spring and summer, all delivered daily from catches at nearby Yarmouth and Ventnor, which switches to game (including local partridge and pheasant) when the leaves turn to brown, there is a broad and evolving specials board. The dairy and fruit and vegetables also all arrive from local producers, and owner Martin Bullock, manager Daniel Witherwick and their staff complement warm service with an impressive knowledge of the menu, including where it once swam, flew or walked.
After successfully pulling off a starter of deep-fried black pudding bon-bons (a delicacy so hit-and-miss it can be like playing meat Russian roulette), they delivered a Seafood Royale, a platter the size of a roll-on roll-off ferry, that includes lobster, crab, prawns, whitebait and succulently just-cooked fish of the day (the megrim flatfish was particularly buttery). If you want a Royale with cheese, you could take on the chips drenched in gallybagger, a much-loved sweet and nutty local cheese (the name is an old Isle Of Wight word for scarecrow) or, if you are fish-averse, GQ recommends the pork belly with chilli and apricot and a lavender-infused crème brûlée to finish.
Like the food, the bar stocks seasonal ales of various hues from three local breweries (all with predictably silly names), while one master brewer from Goddards has gone rogue, producing the first Isle Of Wight gin and vodka. Oh, and they do serve beer-battered cod and very good it is, too. George Chesterton
Shalfleet, Isle Of Wight PO30 4NS. 01983 531314. thenew-inn.co.uk
With meat fit for royalty, local ales and ambience to spare, this elegant hostelry is a true triple threat.
The almost comically good roast potatoes should be reason enough for you to take a leisurely Sunday drive to The Three Oaks in Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire, just 25 minutes west of London. But if you need more persuading, then know this: its Sunday lunches, featuring meat from the Queen’s butcher Aubrey Allen, are a modest £16.50 – winning a Michelin Bib Gourmand (the value-for-money award) and a loyal fanbase. After all, while many restaurants boast of “seasonal ingredients” and “local produce”, head chef Mikey Seferynski genuinely knows his artichokes from his elderflowers.
The venue is beautiful – elegant, modern and expensively finished. Indeed, it describes itself as a “country eating house”, Buckinghamshire code for “fancy pub”. Behind the bar until mid-September, look out for Blonde, a refreshingly light summer ale produced by Rebellion Beer Co, based around the corner in Marlow. The wine list, too, is supplied by independent wine merchant Corney & Barrow and features unsung old-school gems such as Delamotte champagne. So, if you manage to catch the last rays of summer, then take a chilled glass of Blonde (and those roast potatoes) outside to enjoy them in the flawlessly manicured sun-trap gardens. Jennifer Bradly
Austenwood Lane, Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire SL9 8NL. 01753 899 016. thethreeoaksgx.co.uk
You can tell a lot about the character of a pub by the cars parked outside. It’s like in foreign cities where the best street food will be on the stand with the longest queue of locals. On this particular visit, we saw Bentleys parked next to Ford Transit vans and Ford Focuses next to motorbikes. A varied clientele then, who enjoy the company of the pugnacious pub dog, Millie, and the friendly, timely service of the live-in landlords. Couple that with a menu with just the right combination of homely charm, metropolitan-tinged experimentation and healthy portions – GQ recommends the saltimbocca scotch egg (£7), pan-roasted monkfish (£17) and the “Gin Foundry” list, which rivals any of London’s trendiest bars – and you’ve got a good reason to make a trip to the Bedfordshire countryside. Conrad Quilty-Harper
Milton Bryan, Bedford, MK17 9HS. 01525 210044. miltonbryanpub.co.uk
Enjoy the ancient and modern charm of Britain's oldest pub (yes, another one) in Stow-On-The-Wold and the stunning ales of its sister venue.
If you were served a pint by every pub that claims to be the oldest in England, well... you wouldn't remember your own name, let alone those of all ye olde ancient inns claiming the title. The Porch House in Stow-On-The-Wold, Gloucestershire, however, makes a pretty good case. Housed in a Grade II listed building (parts of which date back to 947AD), it features wonky stone flag floors, sloping skull-cracking lintels and even the ghost of a 15-year-old boy who has been floating around since 1630.
The spectral teenager would, however, hardly recognise the place since he mysteriously shuffled off this mortal coil. Following a £1 million refurbishment in 2013, all 13 guest rooms have been given a rustic, romantic design makeover, and the addition of a large rear conservatory is the perfect spot for a lazy breakfast or lunch. The original dining room - with its antique furniture, old-fashioned portraits and inglenook fireplace - would be far more familiar.
As would the menu, to anyone who has ever set foot in a gastropub in the last 20 years. A greatest hits collection including ham hock terrine, cheddar soufflé, roast Barbary duck breast, old spot pork chop and sticky-toffee pudding will spring no surprise, and it is all done well if unremarkably. Far more commendable are the four Brakspear cask ales brewed at the Porch House's sister pub, the Bull On Bell Street in Henley-On-Thames.
All of which helped the oldest inn in England to win the 2015 AA Pub Of The Year and The Good Pub Guide's "New Pub Of The Year 2016". So, in summary, the Porch House stands out as the best, oldest, new pub in the country. Paul Henderson
Digbeth Street, Stow-On-The-Wold, Cheltenham GL54 1BN. 01451 870048. porch-house.co.uk
The Shakespeare seems an odd name for a pub that sits in the 800-year-old shadow of the Anglican mother church, especially with the more obvious association of the Bard’s Canterbury-born contemporary Christopher Marlow and this natural tourist mecca for fans of Geoffrey Chaucer’s Tales. No matter, a pub by any other name would smell as sweet. The Shakespeare is in the oldest part of town and offers a warm welcome for a huge variety of customers, mixing locals, tourists and, at the weekend, an influx of revellers from the surrounding countryside. The menu is conservative but full of good things, such as the shredded pork and mustard croquettes, while the rich and varied butchers board and seafood board are – to GQ’s mind – a more interesting option than the regular main courses. Not that there’s anything wrong with the burgers, steak, sausages and other turbo-charged classics on offer.
But the best thing about The Shakespeare is the wine bar that can be reached through and well-worn courtyard – packed when the weather heats up – between the two buildings. It’s here you really get a feel for the age of these shambling streets and the bar itself is cosy, intimate and has a great range of wines and flights to suit a long, lazy evening.
Butchery Lane, Canterbury, Kent. CT1 2JR. 01227 463252. shakespearecanterbury.com
At an old coach house in the suburbs, Michelin-starred Indian specialist Atul Kochhar spearheads a new take on the great British menu.
The fire in the bar was out and some of the soft furnishings had yet to arrive – not the most auspicious start to Hawkyns, Atul Kochhar’s first foray into gastro-pubbing. But then we were still in the midst of dry January and it was only a few days into the two-times Michelin-starred chef’s reign at The Crown at Amersham, a 16th-century coaching inn whose food and beverage – now under the control of Ross Bott, Kochhar’s protégé, fresh from his stint at his mentor’s contemporary Indian, Sindhu at Macdonald Compleat Angler – was dearly in need of a reboot.
The 32-year-old Bott has delivered on this and then some: out go the generic bar snacks and in come tabletop barbecues on which to prepare your very own mini burgers. In a further break with tradition, there are eight wines on “tap”, using an innovative vacuum-packed system. But it’s in the dining room – a hymn to Nordic style without the accompanying hygge (until those cushions arrive...) – where Atul has really gone to work. The food here is simply exceptional, worthy of a far bigger and better resourced kitchen, expertly co-opting seasonal specialities with an artist’s eye and nose for diner satisfaction.
Kochhar’s chicken tikka pie has been temporarily removed from the menu (too many walk-ins expecting a trad tandoori in the heart of the commuter belt), but Bott’s deconstructed fish and chips is a superb stand-in, the cod served with pea purée and battered “scraps” – the “bin ends” of the fish fryer’s art. But this is far from gastro fare – the scallops are expertly pan-fried and served with a phalanx of leeks done three ways (terrine, purée and burnt to a fine ash), while wood pigeon is served with puy lentils and charred onions, following another turn with the chef’s blow torch.
You can train it to Amersham (half an hour from London, followed by a ten-minute taxi ride), or stay the night in one of The Crown’s 38 Ilse Crawford-decorated rooms. In which case, you might as well book a treatment at the neighbouring Red House spa and get over the idea that for exemplary, innovative cooking in a traditional English environment you need travel any further from the capital. Bill Prince
NB: Ross Bott is no longer in charge of the kitchen (July 3 2017).
16 High Street, Amersham, HP7 ODH. 01494 721541. www.hawkynsrestaurant.com