Pining for large open spaces and fresh country air? These pubs are all close enough to town for you to countenance a day trip - and some have rooms to stay over if you fancy.
The Street, Little Dunmow, Dunmow CM6 3HT
Chef Paul Croasdale is newly in charge of the kitchen here. The former head chef of Alyn Williams at the Westbury is hoping to regain the pub's Michelin star (that was removed when previous Chef Patron Tim Allen left). He's setting out a menu to plunder his local Essex larder with a focus on foraged foods, local meats and sustainable seafood.
Alfresco options: The garden bar here is currently the focus for bottomless brunches, Friday fish and chip suppers and Saturday steak nights.
Staying over: The pub has three bedrooms (each named after a rare breed of pig) - complete with flat-screen TVs, Roberts radios and Nespresso machines.
Follow them on Instagram: @flitchofbaconLD
King St, Fordwich, Canterbury CT2 0DB
Securing a table at The Fordwich currently gets you top bragging rights - this is a place beloved of foodies and fellow hospitality professionals alike. On cooler days, a table inside by an open fire is the place to be to enjoy extraordinary food with a defined local and seasonal bent. Do opt for the tasting menu if your budget allows.
Alfresco options: There’s a lovely riverside terrace and that’s where they’re currently serving a lunch menu until 17 May when they can reopen fully.
Follow them on Instagram: @thefordwicharms
High St, Hunsdon, Ware SG12 8NH
Chef and co-owner James Rix trained up under Gary Rhodes and Alastair Little and was head chef at The Cow before moving to the countryside with his wife Bianca to open this gastropub. The daily changing menus here might include Josper grilled squid with piquillo peppers and merguez or Old Spot pork chop with duck fat potato cake. Sunday lunches are renowned and were recognised a few years back with a mention in the OFM Awards.
Alfresco: New this season is a covered and heated gazebo but there's also a terrace and lovely garden open from brunch onwards, which Theo Randall recently picked out as his favourite pub garden in the country.
Follow them on Instagram: @thefoxandhoundshunsdon
Main Rd, Howe Street, Great Waltham, Chelmsford CM3 1BG
Chris and Jeff’s Essex pub is properly historic - the building dates back to the 14th century. Here you can expect the brothers to serve up both pub classics and more modern dishes - so there is a pie, but it might be a slow-braised venison & root vegetable “French pie” served up with celeriac purée and quince.
Alfresco options: With both a covered terrace and extensive garden area, the Green Man is well set up for outdoors dining and is open now. There are umbrellas, but the whole area isn’t fully rainproof. Indoors dining resumes on 17 May.
Follow them on Instagram: @galvingreenman
33 Windsor End, Beaconsfield, HP9 2JN
Husband and wife team Daniel Crump and Margriet Vandezande-Crump have a background in top restaurants - their CV includes Petrus, Restaurant Gordon Ramsay and Trinity in Clapham. They took over this 700 year old coaching inn a few years back and were recently named as the UK's 'One to watch' award by the Top 50 Gastropubs list. The menu roams all over the world for inspiration, but returns to Britain for the best produce. So there's Orkney scallops with Green Nam Jim, soy and peanut and Cornish monkfish comes with soy, parsley and yuzu. Sunday lunches cover the classics and there's an excellent value lunch menu too.
Alfresco options: The large walled garden is open now and tables are both covered and there's plenty of heaters.
Follow them on Instagram: @greyhoundbeaconsfield
126 West St, Marlow SL7 2BP
Tom Kerridge’s gastropub in Buckinghamshire made history a decade ago, when it became Britain’s first pub to land two Michelin stars. There’s a separate bar area if you’re just after a drink - but really you’re here for the food The menu features elevated riffs on pub classics like steak and chips or a fish supper, along with dishes like Essex Lamb “Bun” with Sweetbreads and Salsa Verde. Desserts are very strong too.
Staying over: Situated in two cottages on and off Marlow’s high street, the 15 rooms here come with one unmissable treat - a cooked breakfast at the pub the next morning. One even has a hot tub out on its terrace.
Follow them on Instagram: @HandFMarlow
High St, Bray SL6 2AB
Heston Blumenthal’s Michelin-starred pub in Bray is situated in a beautifully restored 15th-century pub just metres away from The Fat Duck. They’re currently working on a new menu celebrating British classic dishes, but one dish that won’t be going anywhere is their scotch egg - order one of these amazing bar snacks with a bowl of their equally popular pea and ham soup. There’s no outside dining here, so the pub will reopen on 19 May.
Follow them on Instagram: @thehindsheadbray
95 Bidborough Ridge, Bidborough, Tunbridge Wells TN3 0XB
One of this year’s new Michelin Bib Gourmands and a high climber in the 50 Best Gastropubs list, The Kentish Hare features brothers James and Chris Tanner at the helm. The menu reads really well, and there’s extensive use of their Big Green Eggs with a special BBQ section. If you’re just in the area for a walk, the bar area has its own bar snacks menu and a super wine and beer list.
Alfresco option: The pub has an expansive garden area and terrace here where lunch is being served until the whole place can reopen again.
Follow them on Instagram: @kentishhare
Horseshoe Rd, Bennett End, Radnage, High Wycombe HP14 4EB
With the kind of curb appeal that would make a film locations manager weep, the Mash Inn (named after owner Nick Mash) brings London’s obsession with the wood grill out to a bucolic setting in the Buckinghamshire countryside. They’re clearly doing something right - they were the Good Food Guide’s restaurant of the year in 2020.
Alfresco option: Right now they’re doing an outdoor ”Mash Inn" experience - a stretch tent covers the whole terrace and they’re serving long set lunches every Friday, Saturday and Sunday until they’re allowed to open inside.
Staying over: There are six bedrooms - two of which are self-contained in the garden (and open now).
Follow them on Instagram: @themashinn
Faversham Rd, Seasalter, Whitstable CT5 4BP
This Michelin-starred pub regularly tops critics’ favourite restaurant lists and The Sunday Times’ Marina O’Loughlin is a longtime fan. Perched on the Thames estuary, the pub’s Chef Patron Stephen Harris and his team serve up an exemplary fixed menu of thoughtful dishes - the slip soles in seaweed butter are, rightfully, legendary. It’s the kind of place you can go for a walk on the beach, as we did, between the mains and dessert. A very special place indeed.
Staying over: They have 5 lovely self-contained cabins for two, and the rate includes a light breakfast.
Follow them on Instagram: @sportsmankent
2 Hare Ln, Claygate, Esher KT10 9BS
If you’re looking for something a little different from your usual country pub experience, then Pizarro’s place in Esher is just the ticket. The menu offers all the delights you’ve come to expect from his London restaurant - Jamón Ibérico croquetas, pan con tomate - all transplanted to the countryside.
Alfresco option: With a covered and heated terrace, complete with booths, the outside space at José’s Surrey pub with its BBQ is perfect for pretending you’re actually somewhere in Asturias rather than off the A3.
Staying over: There are six comfortable rooms in the newly converted barn next to the pub.
Follow them on Instagram: @josepizarrorestaurants
Baughurst Road, Baughurst, Hampshire RG26 5LP
Recognised by both Michelin and The 50 Best Gastropubs list for its food, the menu here roams the British Isles for its provisions, so you might find Lyme Bay scallops on green pea puree or Roast fillet of Brixham cod with a preserved lemon and olive crust and marsh samphire. They have their own kitchen garden, chicken coop and flock of sheep all of which makes their menu very low on food miles. You can even buy their sloe gin and preserves over the bar counter to take home with you.
Alfresco option: Right now they’re serving lunch only in their garden - before being able to open the pub for inside dining.
Staying over: There are four rooms on offer, ranging from one over the pub to an oak barn - they're all very luxurious.
Follow them on Instagram: @thewellingtonarms
Petworth Road, Witley, Surrey GU8 5PH
Definitely not your average country pub, this one features what they describe as a “modern interpretation of firewood cookery and contemporary cocktails played out to a rock-a-billy, folk and classic blues soundtrack.” In practice, that means must-haves like nori tacos with ox cheek or cornflake fried avocado and a wide range of BBQ options and burgers that, while heavy on the high welfare meat, also provide loads of veggie treats too.
Alfresco option: The covered patio area is bookable now.
Follow them on Instagram: @whitehartwitley
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