Hotel restaurants are back in vogue, thanks to innovative menus from a new generation of talented chefs. Sally Shalam selects great places to stay, with food to match
Pennyhill Park, Bagshot, Surrey
There are fewer than 10 British hotels whose chefs have been awarded two Michelin stars, and outside London, that figure shrinks still further. Michael Wignall spent five years at North Yorkshire’s much-loved Devonshire Arms, where he held one star, before moving to Pennyhill Park in 2007. Last year, Pennyhill’s restaurant, Michael Wignall at The Latymer, was awarded a second star for his complex modern European cooking which is always a work of art. There is a 10-course tasting menu (vegetarian or carnivorous) and seven- or three-course set menus.
• 01276 471774, pennyhillpark.co.uk. Doubles from £215 room-only. Seven-course set menu £72
Cleveland Tontine, Staddlebridge, North Yorkshire
Regulars at this seven-room hotel, built in 1804, are returning after completion of a refurbishment which almost topped the £1m mark. The Staddlebridge location, close to the A19, places it on the radar between Teesside and York, handy for events at Mount Grace Priory and for the villages of Yarm and Hutton Rudby. This is Yorkshire, so you won’t need a magnifying glass to see your assiette of heritage beetroot with horseradish ice-cream. Classics (prawn cocktail, moules, steak) co-habit with the likes of chilli and fennel risotto, and duck-egg custard tart with blackberries.
• 01609 882 671, theclevelandtontine.co.uk. Doubles from £110 B&B. Three-course dinner about £36 a head
Knockinaam Lodge, Portpatrick, Dumfries and Galloway
On a gloriously remote cove hugged by woodland in John Buchan country, on Scotland’s rocky south-west coast, this 10-bedroom, trad, privately owned hotel is also easily accessible. Vegetables come from the hotel’s kitchen garden and everything from potato crisps to ice-cream is made in head chef Tony Pierce’s kitchen. Not for nothing does Knockinaam Lodge have the longest-held Michelin star in Scotland – Pierce delivers modern Scottish tasting menus which make the most of Hebridean shellfish, hand-dived scallops, meat from Galloway estates and smoked salmon from Allan Watson at Galloway Smokehouse.
• 01776 810471, knockinaamlodge.com. Dinner, bed and breakfast from £190 for two
The Samling, Windermere, Cumbria
This whitewashed Lakeland hotel has changed since I first visited more than a decade ago. Back then, all 11 gorgeous rooms were available only for exclusive-use bookings, so dinner was a clubby, private affair. Later, under the ill-fated von Essen hotel group, dining became more formal. Now the culinary team – headed by Ian Swainson (formerly of L’Ortolan and La Bécasse) with James Cross (from Noma in Copenhagen) – is putting The Samling on Windermere’s map for lunch as well as dinner, with a relaxed atmosphere and the delights of Cartmel venison and sloe gin crème brulée.
• 01539 431922, thesamlinghotel.co.uk. DB&B from £230 for two, B&B doubles from £150
The Hambrough, Isle of Wight
This little boutique hotel, on the southern coast of the island, has been described as Notting Hill on sea. Bathrooms with a view have certainly proved popular but it was former chef-patron Robert Thompson who really put it on the map by gaining a Michelin star in 2008. Now Thompson has left and the hotel has a new head chef, Darren Beevers, straight from Club Gascon in London. He’s putting autumn cooking classes on the menu, along with plenty of game.
• 01983 856333, thehambrough.com. Dinner, B&B for two from £280.
Kinloch Lodge, Isle of Skye
Kinloch Lodge, on Skye’s southern shore, holds the island’s only Michelin star. The former hunting lodge, hung with ancestral Macdonald portraits, is tucked down a long driveway. Canapes and aperitifs are followed by a new five-course tasting menu and wine flight. Also, this summer, chef Marcello Tully has launched his chef’s table for four. Watching your Knockraiche crème fraîche and vanilla panna cotta with Skye blueberry compote and caipirinha sorbet being assembled in front of you will almost rival the views from your bedroom. Pick dates in early November for deals and amazing autumn colour.
• 01471 833333, kinloch-lodge.co.uk. DB&B £170pp, special winter offer from 1 November-31 March 2014: DB&B from £99pp
The Pig, Brockenhurst, Hampshire
Ditch the jacket and tie: The Pig doesn’t stand on ceremony when it comes to mealtimes. This is a hotel (and restaurant) for the frazzled in search of earthiness, comfort and downtime dining. Its website reads like a Jamie Oliver cookbook – all potted herbs, hand-drawn arrows and recipes from the head chef. Hams and fish are home-smoked, fruit and veg picked and pulled from the beautiful walled garden behind the 26-bedroom hotel … you get the picture. Go now for an afternoon treat of wood-baked flatbreads on the terrace.
• 0845 077 9494, thepighotel.com. Doubles from £129 B&B, three-course dinner about £35
Fairyhill, Reynoldston, Gower, Swansea
For foodies and wine lovers, delightfully informal Fairyhill is a Welsh institution. A Georgian house with eight bedrooms, it comes complete with walled garden and trout stream on a 24-acre estate. Head chef David Whitcross has only just taken the reins (after working at The Fat Duck). You can still enjoy signature deep-fried cockle canapes on the terrace but menus now include temptations such as wild sewin (sea trout) with creamed potato, beans and peas, watercress and beurre blanc; and Gower lamb loin with filo of lamb belly, laverbread and capers, globe artichoke, and aubergine and peanut purée.
• 01792 390139, fairyhill.net. DB&B from £270 a night for two
The Peacock at Rowsley, Derbyshire
Originally the Peacock was built as the dower house for Haddon Hall (where The Other Boleyn Girl was filmed) but its history as a hotel stretches back almost 200 years. Expect modern haute cuisine, however, from current head chef Dan Smith, who joined six years ago from Tom Aikens in London. Wild sea trout with crab vinaigrette, pink grapefruit, cauliflower and avocado purée followed by lemon and olive oil cake with pinenut, yoghurt and olive oil sorbet are on the formal dinner menu. Three-course light lunch (half-size main) for £16.50 in the bar is a daytime treat.
• 01629 733518, thepeacockatrowsley.com. DB&B from £215 for two
Briarfields, Titchwell, Norfolk
Standing beside the A149, which traces the north Norfolk coast, Briarfields comes straight out of the nature-lover’s little black book. Twitchers leave sighting notes in a journal in the lobby. Briarfields has good, unfussy rooms, a private path to the beach, and a surprise element of rather special dining. Start with Brancaster mussels steamed with white wine, shallot, garlic, parsley and cream, or a marinated beetroot salad with Rosary Ash goat’s cheese and sherry vinegar, followed by baked sea bass with brown shrimp butter.
• 01485 210742, briarfieldshotelnorfolk.co.uk. DB&B from £145 for two