Sherelle Jacobs of The Sunday Telegraph is impressed by the makeover of the Bradley Hare pub in Maiden Bradley, Wiltshire, where a hipster-style vibe combines nicely with some vintage touches.
The new venture of James Thurstan Waterworth, who used to direct the design of Soho House's European properties, and hospitality entrepreneur Andrew Kelly, is set in Maiden Bradley, a well-preened Wiltshire village. Formerly the run-down Somerset Arms, the pub has now metamorphosed into a delectable little weekend bolthole, where lavender beds tickle the outer walls, flowerpots climb the old stone steps, and driftwood benches soak up the sun.
The Soho House influence comes through in the indoor public spaces, with their cool, clubby feel. Kilim-cushioned nooks are concealed behind vibrant striped drapes, and weathered tables hold copies of Vogue and books on ancient Andean textiles.
Though there are seven rooms in the main house, I would urge opting for one of the five larger offerings in the Coach House. Millennial touches mingle with historic traces: brushed-copper fans are juxtaposed with original brick fireplaces. Guests can gaze out from their cushion-strewn window seat as jazz percolates from the Bose radio systems. The bathrooms come with huge rain showers, quinoa shampoo and apple-scented shower gel made by a Hertfordshire eco brand.
The cocktails are pretty much scientifically perfect – the Seasonal Sour, with gin, rhubarb and lemon, was a candied froth of joyfulness with just the correct slick of citrus.
The approach to food is equally rigorous, with a zero-waste approach that entails much fermenting, curing and pickling. My bream ceviche was flawlessly executed: zingy without being tart, the delicate but fleshy fish surrendering smoothly into the burly smoked mayonnaise, and crunchy kohlrabi cutting nicely through. Guinea fowl with brioche was cheekily decadent.
It's the kind of place where sides are a main event in themselves – including an almond slaw spiced with curry oil, and crispy pink fir apple potatoes with truffle that are off the scale. Desserts, such as apricot crumble, are pleasant, if not as fabulous as the savoury offerings.
Price: rooms from £115, including breakfast
Marina O'Loughlin of The Sunday Times is entranced by the fresh fish and friendly service at the relaunched Due South in Brighton, but suggests the chefs go easy over the fire.
The new brigade has updated the offering into something alluring: fresh fish, interesting grilled meats with sparky salsas, lots of sightings of miso, with the odd dish – smoked duck, port, truffle emulsion – that seems to have escaped from an earlier Brighton. I suspect the brains behind the menu might have been perving over a hugely influential restaurant in London Fields: those flatbreads, whole grilled turbot to share, the so-now Basque-style cheesecake. (Clue: Brat.)
I like my crisp-skinned mackerel fillet and its barrel of courgette, both pleasingly grill-blistered in a scarlet pool of (underpowered) gazpacho and a drizzle of yogurt. Chalk-stream trout is citrus-marinated, dotted with mandolined radishes and halved cherry tomatoes –basic, but nice enough. Dishes occasionally underdeliver. Take "baked seasonal potatoes, crème fraîche, chives": yes, please. But sliced, unevenly charred and dairy-splattered, they're a bit like something knocked up for an impromptu barbie.
Each of our three fish dishes could have done with a little less flaming time. A poor skate wing, considerably less: by the time it gets to us, stained a dramatic red from its miso and chilli coat, it has seized up, not so much grilled as mummified. Even the cheesecake: the trick to this style is the evenly "scorched" surface while the interior is still creamy; this one is just a big sponge. The blasting works beautifully with some miso (again) butter-soaked corn on the cob, though: smoking.
I know none of this sounds entirely like a rave. But I'd happily return: a bit more attention to detail could make a world of difference. And it's a lovely place to be – ambitious enough to satisfy the food snoberati (ahem) but surrounded by just enough of yer kiss-me-quick paraphernalia to remind us that we're at the great British seaside. I can cheerfully overlook hiccups due to the loveliness of the staff, especially the charming Scottish manager and a rather posh blonde lady whose aim in life seems to be the happiness of her diners.
Price: £129 for two, including 12.5% service charge
Lisa Grainger of The Times says the new owners of the Allice Hawthorn near York have successfully created an unpretentious but smart place to stay.
This 18th-century pub most recently changed hands in 2013, when a local businessman and his wife saved it from collapse. Its former stables and annexes of industrial-style, pale-timber buildings house eight Scandi-style rooms; upstairs in the pub there are another four.
The owners wanted to create somewhere unpretentious but smart – and they've done it. One half of the two-storey, red-brick building is a cosy pub for those who want a sausage roll and a pint. The other is the restaurant, all stone floors and stripped beams, sage-grey walls and distressed wooden tables, sumptuous green velvet banquettes and comfy tweed-upholstered chairs.
The new rooms feel airy – larch and fir beams, walls and ceilings give a contemporary ski-cabin look; Shaker-style armchairs, three-legged bedside tables and woollen headboards in muted greys and greens add to the Scandi feel. High ceilings and skylights in the upstairs rooms allow for more light; the largest have free-standing baths and walk-in showers.
Chef John Topham was previously at the helm of the Angel Inn at Hetton and the General Tarleton in Ferrensby. It's Topham's à la carte menu for which people drive from York or Harrogate: sea bass ceviche with mango and chilli, or roast Ibérico pork with blackberry sauce.
Price: B&B doubles from £120, main courses from £14.50. Score: food: 4/5; location: 4/5, rooms: 4/5
Jay Rayner of The Observer applauds the fact there is nothing elegant or poised about the cooking at the Pigs in Edgefield near Holt, Norfolk
I could list all the starters. I could tell you that it includes honey-roasted figs with goats' cheese and chopped walnuts. This is not what I'm here for. I am here for the Piggy Pieces, a mixed board of their pig-based starters at £16 for two.
They have nailed the essentials. Start with the crackling. If that's a disappointment, you might as well curse the gods of expectations and sod off home. The two pieces here are crunchy and furiously bubbled. They are salty and have just the right underlay of fat. They lie, like some honour guard, across the top of the dense, spiced and potted pork that breaks into threads as you plunge into it. There are doll's house-sized cheese and smoked ham bread rolls, served warm, to spread it on.
To one side is a flaky, sesame seed-speckled sausage roll, atop a dollop of their own fruity brown sauce. On the other is a black pudding and pork scotch egg, the yolk just the right side of jellied. There is a pot of crunchy pickled vegetables which, slightly oddly, is mostly sweetcorn, but which does the job of cutting through the plunging depths. There is also a cast iron skillet of sweet and tangy barbecue beans, complete with lardons.
The drinks list is big on ales, many of them local, including Jigfoot Norfolk Golden and Woodforde's Wherry. I have no idea what these are like. I just adore the names. The short selection of wines all come by the glass, carafe and bottle.
Grace Dent of The Guardian is reminded of "Wagamama with a nod towards an Ikea café" at the first UK branch of Japanese chain Marugame Udon in London's Spitalfields
The most stripped-back udon dish starts at £3.45. Kamaage is served straight from a kama pot with a smoky fish dashi to dip your plump noodles in. From there, the udon dishes range from £5 to £8. You can throw in some freshly made beef nikutama udon or chicken katsu curry udon, as well as a tempura boiled egg, limitless soft-serve ice-cream and bottomless peach ice tea, which you'll find by the complimentary, build-your-own condiment station.
Imagine a canteen where you grab a tray, choose a freshly made udon dish, then move past piles of serve-yourself warm, battered and breadcrumbed things – pumpkin korroke and nori tofu tempura are especially good – before tackling the omusubi section (seasoned rice with a topping and wrapped in seaweed), before paying up by the tills near the pickles, kimchi, kombucha and a white wine sold cold by the can.
Marugame Udon already has about 800 sites in Japan and a further 250 around the world, and in the opening week of this, its first British branch – a 100-seater restaurant in Spitalfields, east London – they had people queuing up at 11am. Within days of opening, they announced a second venue, a 150-seater at the O2 Arena on the Greenwich Peninsula. If this billion-dollar rollout goes to plan, there is a Marugame Udon coming to [a place] near you.
Price: about £12 per head, plus drinks
David Ellis of the London Evening Standard is on the fence as to whether Pizzeria Mozza, newly transported from Los Angeles to London, is worthy of the hype.
Pizzeria Mozza has been relentlessly hyped as the London introduction to LA's Nancy Silverton, a certified Big Deal over there but... well, do you know her? Silverton is credited as America's breadmaker-in-chief, the woman who introduced the stars n'stripes to sourdough.
Silverton's conceit is to mix multiple bread flours to make her dough, and the style is its own: this is neither Chicago's hateful deep dish nor New York crisp, nor Neopolitan or Roman. She has created something airy and soft, only a little chewy.
It is the second best bit of a PLT, where fat-streaked pancetta wins out, all affably salty and smoky. Pops of roasted tomatoes punch through. The only mistake is synthetic onion cream, done in lines like yellow mustard on a baseball game hot dog. The alla Benno is the cousin of the hated Hawaiian but here, ham is swapped for linen-fine sheets of speck and pineapple sliced similarly, adding just a spark of sweetness. Jalapeño peppers prickle the tongue.
We can't leave without a slice of banana gelato pie. It is a skyscraper with a helipad of cream and looks like it's straight out of the Happy Days diner but swerves the artificial, fifties sweetness. We leave in two minds but with plans to pop by again; I'll need to wait and see but there might just be enough here to make Silverton a star this side of the pond, too.
Price: £120 for meal for two plus drinks, including service
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