Relax like a superstar chef in 2021: From Scotland to Cornwall, some of the UK’s culinary legends reveal where they take a break – and sit back while someone else cooks sublime food
- Jason Atherton likes to unwind at Moor Hall in Lancashire, which has a two-Michelin-star restaurant
- Raymond Blanc is a fan of The Peacock in Rowsley – there is a fine-dining menu as well as a relaxed bar menu
- Jose Pizarro recommends The Gunton Arms in Norfolk, a pub with rooms set on a 1,000-acre deer farm
They may be lashed to the kitchen over Christmas, but where do top chefs such as Marcus Wareing, Raymond Blanc and Thomasina Miers go to recharge their batteries and be sure of an excellent meal?
We asked the stars to reveal their secret getaways to add to your list of must-visit places in 2021.
The Peacock at Rowsley, Derbyshire. Recommended by Raymond Blanc (Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons, Oxfordshire)
Raymond Blanc is a fan of The Peacock in the Peak District. The 15-room hotel mixes ancestral portraits and antiques with modern furnishings
One of the dishes on offer at The Peacock. It has a fine-dining menu as well as a relaxed bar menu
‘If I can escape for a few days of fishing, I like to stay at The Peacock at Rowsley in the Peak District,’ says Raymond.
‘It is a small hotel with a lovely restaurant – there is a fine-dining menu as well as a relaxed bar menu.
‘The key behind each dish is seasonal, quality ingredients – head chef Dan Smith is as passionate about this as I am.
‘Wherever possible, they serve local ingredients from the Peak District National Park, including organically reared beef and lamb from the Haddon Estate.’
Owned by Lord and Lady Manners, of Haddon Hall, the 15-room hotel mixes ancestral portraits and antiques with modern furnishings.
Step outside the front door and you are guaranteed beautiful walks. Dogs are welcome. B&B costs from £215 a night (thepeacockatrowsley.co.uk).
The Compasses Inn, Lower Chicksgrove, Wiltshire. Recommended by Thomasina Miers (Wahaca Mexican restaurants)
The Compasses Inn, which dates back to the 14th century, is all flagstones and wooden beams, and has an inglenook fireplace
‘The food is utterly delicious at The Compasses Inn – unpretentious, well cooked, with a really great kids’ menu to boot. And the puddings are a real wow,’ says Thomasina.
‘There are plenty of pub-grub options on the daily-changing menu, and a strong list of fine ales. It is in a beautiful part of the country, in the heart of the Nadder Valley.’
The 14th Century inn is all flagstones and wooden beams, and has an inglenook fireplace. Upstairs there are four stripped-back rooms, plus there is a cottage next door that sleeps four.
‘The rooms are cosy, done up rather as you might imagine a perfect country cottage,’ says Thomasina.
‘We had a really great time there – my seven-year-old even hit the piano in the dining room to serenade us – to a mixed review!’ B&B costs from £120 a night (thecompassesinn.com).
Gravetye Manor, West Hoathly, West Sussex. Recommended by Marcus Wareing (Marcus, The Berkeley, London)
Marcus Wareing likes to escape to Gravetye Manor, an Elizabethan manor in West Sussex with a Michelin-starred restaurant
‘Gravetye Manor is close enough to London so you don’t have to travel too far,’ says Marcus. ‘It couldn’t be more different though – it’s one of the most beautiful country houses in the UK, giving a real sense of old England.’
Downstairs, the Elizabethan manor house has oak-panelled walls, blazing log fires and a Michelin-starred restaurant with a glass wall. ‘The executive chef, George Blogg, is doing amazing things with his kitchen garden – it makes my kitchen garden look rough! For that reason, I’d suggest any dishes that use produce from his garden. They are absolutely stunning.’
The 17 bedrooms have original features and views of the gardens. B&B costs from £335 a night (gravetyemanor.co.uk).
Moor Hall, Aughton, Lancashire. Recommended by Jason Atherton (The Social Company)
Moor Hall has a two-Michelin-star restaurant run by Mark Birchall, which serves dishes such as black pudding and pickled gooseberry
Treat: Jason Atherton says you must try the tasting-style breakfast at Moor Hall
‘This seven-bedroom hotel has a fantastic two-Michelin-star restaurant run by Mark Birchall,’ says Jason.
‘There are some lovely little touches throughout your stay and the culinary experience from start to finish is really impressive.
‘Whole tables must choose the same menu, with inventive dishes such as black pudding and pickled gooseberry or turnip and crab with anise hyssop.’
There is also a more informal restaurant. Five of the rooms are in the Tudor manor house, with beams and perhaps a window seat and slipper bath. Two more contemporary rooms are located in the gatehouse by the lake.
There’s one more treat before you leave: ‘The tasting-style breakfast is not to be missed and definitely sets you up well for the journey home,’ says Jason. B&B costs from £220 a night (moorhall.com).
The East End Arms, Lymington, Hampshire. Recommended by Rick Stein (The Seafood Restaurant, Padstow)
Wood furniture, an open fire and monochrome photographs of musicians on the wall is what you’ll find at The East End Arms, pictured, which is recommended by Rick Stein
‘I love this pub on the edge of the New Forest. It’s owned by a mate of mine, John Illsley, who used to be in Dire Straits, and for all the time he’s owned it – since the mid-1990s – he hasn’t been allowed to change the traditional public bar.
‘The locals just won’t let him. The restaurant, which is really nice, has got loads of character.’
With wood furniture, an open fire and monochrome photographs of musicians on the wall, it makes the perfect backdrop to enjoy good local produce, including trout with edamame and smoked pancetta or ribeye with smoked paprika roast potatoes.
Upstairs are five attractive bedrooms decorated in tans and blues with Mulberry fabrics which, says Rick, ‘have been beautifully done by John’s wife, Steph’. B&B costs from £85 a night (eastendarms.co.uk).
The Pig in the New Forest, Hampshire, and Studland Bay, Dorset. Recommended by Helene Darroze (Helene Darroze at The Connaught, London) and Tom Aikens (Muse by Tom Aikens, London)
Tom Aikens says The Pig hotels ‘never fail to impress’. He likes to stay in one of the quirky shepherd’s huts at the Dorset site
Helene Darroze loves that most of the produce used by The Pig hotels is locally-sourced
The litter of seven Pig hotels in Britain, with their shabby-chic rooms, have strong foodie credentials.
‘I love the fact that the menu changes based on what the forager brings in each day and 95 per cent of the menu comes from less than 25 miles away,’ says Helene of the original Pig, in the New Forest.
‘They also have a wood-fired oven where they cook pizzas and flatbreads which my girls particularly love.’
Tom agrees: ‘The Pig hotels never fail to impress: you know from the moment you arrive that you’re going to be properly looked after. Their Dorset site has amazing views and is right on the coast.
‘You can stay in proper luxury or in one of their quirky shepherd’s huts which are cosy. And you can’t get much better than produce grown in their own garden and fish from the Dorset coast caught that day.’ Room-only stays cost from £155 a night (thepighotel.com)
The Gunton Arms, Thorpe Market, Norfolk. Recommended by Jose Pizarro (Pizarro Restaurant, London)
Room to roam: Jose Pizarro recommends The Gunton Arms in Norfolk, a pub with rooms set on a 1,000-acre deer farm
‘This pub is set in a 1,000-acre historic deer park near Cromer, so my advice would be to ask chef Stuart Tattersall to cook some venison,’ urges Jose. ‘He prefers simple preparation of outstanding local ingredients to over-fussy dishes with too much going on – exactly the way I like to both cook and eat. There is no finer food, in my opinion, in Britain.’
He adds: ‘If you are into art, the place is full of work from the best artists including Tracey Emin, Damien Hirst, Lucian Freud, Glenn Brown, Beatriz Milhazes, Albert Oehlen, Glenn Ligon, Paula Rego, Frank Auerbach and many more – superb!’ Upstairs, beautifully designed bedrooms with Persian rugs and antiques overlook the park. B&B costs from £95 a night (theguntonarms.co.uk).
The Hardwick, Abergavenny, Monmouthshire. Recommended by Tristan Welch (The University Arms, Cambridge)
‘An authentic and unpretentious hotel run by the talented chef Stephen Terry, The Hardwick has to be one of my favourites,’ says Tristan. ‘Stephen’s food is simple, delicious, relaxed and altogether sensational. The menu is constantly changing and is sourced from local ingredients which is what I love about it.’
As well as local pork and lamb, it has a strong seafood element to it – one of the chefs is even called a ‘crab whisperer’.
Small plates are available sitting at the attractive bar, while the dining room proper has a rustic feel, with its wooden floor and tables. ‘It is one of Michel Roux Junior’s favourite restaurants, so if my recommendation isn’t enough, surely that is!’ says Tristan. Simple bedrooms are off a central courtyard. Room-only stays cost from £149 a night (thehardwick.co.uk).
Mhor 84, Balquhidder, Perthshire. Recommended by Tom Kitchin (The Kitchin, Leith)
Mohr 84, pictured, offers a great wine and beer list, according to Tom Kitchin, as well as locally sourced food
‘Mhor 84 is part of the Mhor brand, which includes the nearby boutique hotel Monachyle Mhor, run by Tom Lewis and his family. A lot of their food is sourced from their farm at Monachyle Mhor and they have a great wine and beer list too,’ says Tom.
The all-day menu, served in a large Scandi-style room, features cakes made at sister bakery Mhor Bread. Food options include everything from breakfast to Scottish steaks and local oysters.
The motel, on the A84, is a simpler, less expensive option than the hotel, with 11 rooms done out in white with splashes of colour. ‘It’s right by Lochearnhead and is perfect for a stop off on the way to the Highlands,’ says Tom. Room-only stays cost from £90 a night (mhor84.net).
Coombeshead Farm, Lewannick, Cornwall. Recommended by Merlin Labron-Johnson (Osip, Bruton)
The restaurant at Coombeshead Farm is in the restored barn. Merlin Labron-Johnson says it serves ‘some of the best food I’ve ever eaten’
‘Off the beaten track in rural Cornwall, Coombeshead Farm serves some of the best food I’ve ever eaten,’ says Merlin. ‘Tom Adams, one of the owners, keeps pigs so there is a real focus on pork here, as well as on vegetables that they grow on the farm.
‘There’s no choice in the menu but the highlights are always homemade charcuterie and Ben Glazer’s famous bread from the onsite bakery.’
Dining is communal in the restored barn, which has a homely feel, with crockery made by local potters. There is a reading room with honesty bar, and even a pickling room.
There are only five bedrooms but they are snug and comfortable, with gin decanters by the bed, and the breakfast is unforgettable. Coombeshead is adults-only. B&B costs from about £180 a night (coombesheadfarm.co.uk). A reopening date has yet to be announced.