When we think of England, we think of centuries of tradition, the “Commonwealth on which the sun never sets” and a style and class associated with a rather starchy people with aristocratic tendencies. While the Queen and the House of Lords irresistibly evoke this glorious Empire, it becomes evident when visiting the country that here everything looks to the future and a spirit of youth wafts over a country where every extravagances and craze becomes the height of fashion!
The city founded its power on navigation, thriving on the banks of its beloved River Thames while keeping an eye on the sea beyond. Although it lies 70 kilometers upstream from the Channel, London is a maritime metropolis, a city of docks and warehouses, a center of commercial and political conquest. Its bond with the sea gives the British capital its distinctive colors: a sky in an endless palette of grays, its streetlights casting billowy yellow pools in the misty night, its deceptively untamed parks cloaked in deep, dark greens. From the far-flung corners of the globe that once made up its empire, London has learned the art of subjugating nature. In St. James’s Park and in front of the lovely brick townhouses of South Kensington, bursts of primrose and forget-me-not blossoms adorn meticulously groomed lawns. But there’s more to West London, where earls and countesses rub shoulders with well-heeled expatriates, than its elegant avenues and squares. Contemporary art and design, a lively culinary scene… this is a hive of creativity.
The reputation of its music festival makes it easy to forget that Glastonbury, thought to be the site of the mythical island of Avalon, entered the annals of history nearly a millennium ago when local monks claimed to have discovered the tomb of King Arthur in a tree trunk. Risible as they may seem today, such fables are treasured here as timeless truths. This is Celtic country, a land of traditions where legends are as real as the rock stars who grace the stage here every summer. Even though little is known about the great Arthur, the people of Glastonbury are firmly convinced that his remains were brought here in the early 6th century after his death on the battlefield. With the Saxon Wars a distant memory, today’s certainty is southern England’s warm and pleasant climate, which produces a rich harvest. In springtime, orchards in blossom transform the Kentish landscape into a tableau of bright colors and delicate scents. Late summer in the so-called “Garden of England” sees more and more vineyards bearing fruit, in preference to hops, traditionally picked by East End Londoners and hung out to dry in the round towers of Kentish oast houses. The ancestral royal hunting ground of the New Forest, England’s oldest national park, is at its resplendent best in the fall.
Restaurant in town. Founded in 1967 by Albert and Michel Roux, Le Gavroche quickly became a benchmark for fine dining à la française in London’s exclusive Mayfair. Continuing the family tradition, Michel Roux Jr. took over in the kitchen in 1991. A new look, a new burst of creativity, combined with the incomparable recipes, such as the Soufflé Suissesse, which cemented the restaurant’s international renown. Chef Michel Roux Jr. showcases the very best of French produce with his seasonal cuisine, with dishes that feature Challans duck and lamb from the Pyrenees. Ava Gardner, Charlie Chaplin and Robert Redford have all dined here, the clientele being as brilliant as the menu. ... Learn moreless
Hotel and restaurant in the country. The Vineyard has been described as a temple to Californian wine. Just outside Newbury, about an hour from London, it certainly deserves its reputation and more. The cellar holds over 30,000 wines from both the New and Old Worlds, as well as the unique and award-winning estate wines of the owner, Sir Peter Michael. It is also celebrated for its contemporary French cooking with a Mediterranean touch, using seasonal sustainable produce prepared by the executive chef. The hotel lives up to expectations, too: traditional bedrooms, spacious contemporary suites, spa and a private art collection to die for, make it a delightful retreat for gourmands and the curious alike. ... Learn moreless
Restaurant and hotel on a river. The creative and definitely French cuisine of Chef Alain Roux includes pan-fried lobster medallions with a white port sauce, or fillet of salmon cooked “en papillote” with pine needles and served with a star aniseed sauce. In the idyllic village of Bray, on the terrace, in the shade of the willow tree or in the inn’s cosy rooms, let yourself be soothed by the calm of the River Thames flowing by the inn. And if you ever wish to explore the surrounding area, you can visit Windsor Castle or stroll around Savill Garden, one of Britain’s greatest ornamental gardens. ... Learn moreless
Hotel and restaurant in the country. Hartwell House, one of England’s stately homes just forty miles north west of London. Hartwell House is a picture-book country house set within magnificent landscaped grounds. While the actual building dates from the 17th century, the history of the property itself, once host to the court of Louis XVIII in exile, goes back to Edward the Confessor, almost one thousand years ago. Its architecture bears the traces of successive periods and styles, from the rococo marble chimneypieces to the baroque style of the grand hall, and yet retains an elegant integrity. Its opulent rooms, with their high ceilings and period furniture, are perfect examples of quintessential English charm. ... Learn moreless
Restaurant and hotel in the country. Just outside Oxford, Chef Raymond Blanc presides over a magnificent manor house, renowned for its hotel, cuisine and stunning gardens. For Blanc, “if the work itself is transient, the memory of the flavour remains”. Amongst the abounding lavender, Blanc grows almost 90 varieties of vegetables and over 70 aromatic herbs, which you find on your plate, in one way or another. Blanc swears only by organic produce. The suites of the hotel, which all have evocative names and distinctive feels, the exoticism of Opium, the haven of tranquillity of Blanc de Blanc, the exuberance of Vettriano, are just as sublime. Enchantment in the land of Lewis Carroll and J.R.R. Tolkien. ... Learn moreless
Hotel and restaurant in a village. Deep in the heart of the rolling Wessex countryside and near the dramatic rocks and fossils of the world renowned Jurassic Coast, little has changed from the days it was immortalised in the novels of Thomas Hardy. Set in nearly two hectares of idyllic gardens, with a croquet lawn, health spa, and a collection of richly furnished guest rooms and suites, Summer Lodge is a small world in itself. Add in a restaurant of international repute, one of the best cheeseboards in the UK, a cellar boasting over 1 400 wines, and the 300 whiskeys and 100 brandies that are on offer, and it’s easy to see why guests come from so far and wide. ... Learn moreless
Hotel and restaurant in the country. This charming manor house was once the property of Queen Victoria, and the beautiful gardens still show her influence, especially the fine collection of ornamental trees and shrubs. The estate surrounding the hotel, is now one of Britain’s finest bird reserves. The lovely location between the mountains and beaches attracts a plethora of wonderful bird species. Located near Machynlleth, the ancient capital of Wales, the house is now run by Joan Reen and her husband, Artist Rob Reen, whose bold canvasses adorn the walls. The décor shows an artist’s eye, and each room is composed as a work of art. A warm welcome awaits at Ynyshir, where each guest is treated as Royalty. ... Learn moreless
Restaurant in the country. At the iconic Gleneagles Hotel in Perthshire, Chef Andrew Fairlie operates his eponymous restaurant. Located an hour from the coast, and surrounded by small farms, Fairlie is in a unique position to source the very best local produce, whether wild salmon from the river Tay, red grouse from the local moors or famous Aberdeen Angus Beef. In his fantastic Victorian walled “Secret Garden” he grows many products exclusively for his restaurant. The style of cooking combines classic French cuisine with contemporary ideas for an exquisite fine dining experience. Floor to ceiling silk drapes and rich, textured fabrics lend the room a touch of tasteful opulence. ... Learn moreless
Restaurant in town. The Greenhouse offers a tranquil sanctuary in the heart of London; as you walk down a tree-lined pathway, the hustle and bustle of Mayfair gently fades away. Within the restrained décor of his restaurant, Arnaud Bignon places great care into sourcing the finest produce. Drawing on classical French techniques, his exquisite, modern cuisine is enhanced by unusual flavours from around the world. From Orkney scallops, green tomatoes, verbena and samphire to organic Welsh lamb, cu-cumber, nori and black garlic, Arnaud’s unexpected combinations aim to surprise and delight diners. The Greenhouse’s menu is complemented by an outstanding wine list of over 3,400 differ-ent bins and highly knowledgeable sommeliers. ... Learn moreless
Restaurant in town. One of London’s most loved fine dining destinations. Hibiscus is renowned for Chef Claude Bosi’s intelligently creative cuisine. Marrying seasonal produce with modern, yet grounded techniques, Chef Bosi delights guests with a myriad of flavourful dishes. Located in fashionable Mayfair, the entrance on Maddox Street leads through the reception into the stylish and contemporary interior. Italian crystal chandeliers and French oak panelling add a gentle light to the room. Service is paced and attentive, yet informal. The wine list, created by Head Sommelier Bastien Ferreri, is authentic and exquisite. ... Learn moreless