In restaurants, bistros, bars and pubs throughout Britain, green practices and rural values are very much in vogue. But out in the greenery of the Cotswolds – the verdant cluster of idyllically English villages sandwiched between Bristol and Birmingham – there’s no need for restaurateurs to bang on about ‘local, organic produce’. After all, when you’re running a gastropub in Kingham, say, sourcing pork for your sausages from the farm just down the road isn’t a cynical attempt to harness the culinary zeitgeist or woo ethically minded eaters, it’s just common sense. So surrounded is the region by top class produce, in fact, that it can reasonably lay claim to be the home of the country’s freshest ingredients. Read on for our pick of the venues that make the most of them.
Best for fine dining
Lords of the Manor
The restaurant at the idyllically English Lords of the Manor hotel picked up a Michelin star back in 2009, and the quality of the cooking has held true ever since. The seven-course tasting menu pays homage to the surrounding woodland, pairing roast pigeon with girolle mushrooms and wild garlic, while a starter of pistachio-crusted foie gras comes with poached cherries. Completing the experience, the cheese trolley features 20 different specimens, all of them British. Really want to feel like you’re in a Jane Austen novel? Take your coffee and petit fours out to the adjoining patio, which looks over an immaculately kept croquet lawn. Lords of the Manor, Upper Slaughter, Gloucestershire (01451 820 243)
As the Cotswolds’ only two-Michelin star restaurant, Le Champignon Sauvage (01242 573 449) is well worth investigating, its somewhat drab dining room brightened by some exquisite Anglo-French dishes. In Winchcombe, 5 North St (01242 604566) offers a great value tasting menu at £64 a head, with highlights including pan-fried sea bream and roast venison.
Best for gastropub grub
The Wheatsheaf Inn
When booking a table at this much talked-about pub, it pays to turn up early. Strictly punctual diners will miss out on an opportunity to sup a pre-dinner pint of local ale in the adjoining snug, which features stacks of board games and sofas that are as satisfying and comforting as anything on the menu. That’s not to say that the food is all belly-warming stodge and no flair – the Wheatsheaf adds its own initiative to the gastropub blueprint, with delicately flavoured cheese soufflés and truffle risottos just as impressive as heartier, more mainstream plates of fish and flesh. The half grilled lobster is a stand-out dish, the tender tail meat laced with a devastatingly good garlic and herb butter. The Wheatsheaf Inn, West End, Northleach, Gloucestershire (01451 860 244)
Though it’s extremely brief, the menu at The Kingham Plough (01608 658 327) covers all bases, featuring a burger, steaks and a pie of the day, while vegetarian dishes like scrambled duck eggs with courgettes, mushrooms and truffles are by no means a meat-free compromise. The Seagrave Arms (01386 840 192), meanwhile, offers a more carnivore-centric line-up, serving foie gras with roasted butternut squash and braised rabbit with leeks.
Best for afternoon tea
The Inn at Fossebridge
Though this stately hotel and pub is better known for its steaks and Sunday lunches, the large lakeside dining area also makes it the ideal venue for an afternoon of outdoor indulgence. Expect smoked salmon, duck egg and honey roast ham finger sandwiches, followed by pavlova, lemon meringue pie and chocolate brownie. And while a flute of Taittinger champagne to kick off is optional, only a fool would pass on a decadent dénouement of scones with jam and Cornish clotted cream. Belt-line feeling the strain? Don’t panic, there’s four acres worth of gardens – including a stretch of the river Coln – in which to walk it off. The Inn at Fossebridge, Stow Road, Fossebridge, Gloucestershire (01285 720 721)
Located within Cirencester’s pedestrian-only Woolmarket, Café Mosaic (01285 656 362) offers a peaceful escape from the buzz of the town, with fruit or chocolate-chip scones, teacakes and gateaux served up daily between noon-5pm. Though it operates mainly as a chocolatier, Lick The Spoon (01225 811 125) also has a small seating area, which you’ll generally find crammed with sticky-faced patrons tucking into cocoa-centric tea-time treats, including ‘proper’ home-made hot chocolate.
Best for something different
Indian restaurants are just as omnipresent in the Cotswolds as they are in the rest of the country, but few have a reputation as solid as this relatively young upmarket spot. Forget chrome bowls of generic spicy slop – Koloshi specialises in modern Indian cooking, with scallops, seabass and monkfish featuring on a menu that’s reassuringly light on curry house clichés. Meat-free mains (rather than the usual cut-and-paste sides) are a great touch – try the colourful sabzi kahrai curry for a sweet and spicy mix of butternut squash, aubergine, green chillies, cumin and fenugreek. Dishes are inventive to the last, with a dessert of gently spiced, poached pear and chocolate sauce rounding things off in typically mould-challenging style. Koloshi, London Road, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire (01242 516 400)
In Stroud, Thai Royal Orchid (01453 764 077) does justice to all your lime-leaf-and-lemongrass-accented favourites, while the dining room takes it easy on the stereotypically Thai furnishings. Polynesian-themed Storyteller (01242 250 343), meanwhile, is known for a pleasantly brash party atmosphere and huge plates of steak, fish, chicken wings and just about anything else you’d care to chuck on a white-hot grill.
Trains leave London Paddington for Moreton-in-Marsh (in the north of the Costwolds) every hour and take around an hour and 35 minutes, with an off-peark return ticket priced at £30.40.
With a history that dates back to the 17th century, the charmingly presented Lords of the Manor hotel in the pocket-sized hamlet of Upper Slaughter is the perfect base for a gastronomic tour of the Cotswolds, featuring sprawling gardens, cheery staff and furnishings that complement the country gent vibe. The full English breakfast (featuring sausage, bacon and black pudding from local pigs, naturally) is not to be missed. Rooms start at £199 per night when booked through LateRooms, who, until the end of August, are also offering a 'Stately Break' package for £2625, which includes two nights at the hotel, breakfast, entry to Batsford Arboretum and Blenheim Palace, two dinners at the on-site restaurant, a personal butler and – wait for it – 48 hours with a classic Jaguar E-Type convertible. For cash-strapped lords and ladies, there's also a scaled down version of the package for £1000 (don't worry, it still includes the Jag).