Calcot Manor


We needed somewhere beyond special in the Gloucestershire side of the Cotswolds to celebrate the last few days of a best friend’s unmarried life. Calcott Manor seemed to be the obvious choice. Located in the small village of Tetbury, it is surrounded by rolling countryside and known for outstanding food and a tranquil spa. This manor ticked all the boxes. After a slightly stressful, sticky drive from the city, I quite literally fell into the arms of Calcott. It is the kind of place where you feel instantly relaxed and very much at home.

Our rooms were beautifully decorated with real country elegance.  After a quick freshen up it was straight to the Conservatory Restaurant. There is another dining option which is slightly more casual – The Gumstool Pub – a menu packed with all the classic British favourites such as shepherds pie, fish and chips and the Calcott burger. If the conservatory food is anything to go by, I’m sure the Gumstool does more than justice to those  British classics.

The Conservatory is for fine dining and we definitely dined finely. The menu was mainly British inspired, with some interesting European touches and good use of seasonal produce and ingredients from the surrounding area. I had been recommended the scallops to start, sauteed and served with Jerusalem artichoke, bacon jam, white balsamic and treviso. They certainly did not disappoint. For main, I went for the daily special, a fresh Salade Nicoise with strips of tuna steak. If I do say so myself, I make my own mean Salade Nicoise, out of habit always using the canned version. This salad blew mine off the table, it was super fresh and had the right balance of egg, potato and tuna, and speaking of tuna, the steak was tender and cooked to perfection. I will probably never make my own Salade Nicoise again! The finale, my favourite,  a dark chocolate torte and Calcott’s was rich, strong and bitter, exactly how it should be. the Mille Feule was another highlight much lighter!

A wonderful country retreat, you don’t always need to leave England to have a holiday, sometimes the best ones are the British ones!





The Lord Nelson

lord nelson

An English bank holiday in Suffolk! Southwold to be precise, affectionately known as Notting Hill by the sea.  When visiting a new place there are always certain things that you simply have to do/eat/drink. Southwold is no different. You simply must take a stroll on the pier.  Artist Tim Hunkin has created a number of wild and wacky slot machines an. simulator rides, there are no prizes, except the experience you have. You must have fish and chips, you must try the local Adnams beer and you must enjoy an afternoon tea. For this I would suggest Magpie bakery, the sea salted caramel brownie in particular. So say you have fish and chips on the promenade at lunch then mid afternoon you start to asses the dinner possibilities. The options are quite wide, after politely diving into 4 different gastropub/hotel vibes to check the menu and vibes. I count myself as officially being able to say if you go to Southwold you must go to The Lord Nelson, it is synonymous with the town. I would go as far as to describe it as its very own heartbeat.

From the moment you walk in, you feel welcomed and excited by the vibe. Winner of many Pub awards, The Lord Nelson sits in the centre of Sassy Southwold and right on the coast. The kind of place where if the walls could speak, the book would be epic. Early May Bank holiday the pub was bursting at the seams, instead of being annoying this just seemed to add to the atmosphere. However with regards to eating, you need a table to eat and the way you get a table is by swooning in on one when and however you possibly can. Reservations or queuing mean nothing to Nellies. We played a tactical game of working out who were furthest along with their meal, who are competitors were and what zone they were marking. This seemed to work and after one drink, we had a table for 2 in the snug. The menu is traditional, wholesome pub food, with all the favourites including; fish and chips, venison sausages, curries and burgers.

To start I had the soup of the day, freshly picked asparagus from the field down the road, delicious! For main I had beef chilli nachos. Ok so not entirely authentic to Mexico but so wholesome and tasty I really didn’t mind. The standard Chilli con Carne was also a great option served with rice, sour cream and a separate plate of extra nachos. The burger was insanely large with a brioche bun, my favourite and the fish and chips seemed to go down a storm as well. As I was considering finishing on a high, I heard hushed tones from the table next to me, ‘they do awfully good desserts here.’ Sticky toffee pudding it was and very true,  an awfully good dessert.

A trip to Southwold would not be complete without a visit to The Lord Nelson, I can’t image what more you could want from a Suffolk pub on a bank holiday.

Ape and Bird

This gastro pub is from the EVER expanding Polpo empire.  All of Russ’s restaurants so far have been very distinctive with small sharing plates as the main focus. The talk of London, how would this work in a pub? Located in arguably the centre of central London, Cambridge Circus where Covent Garden meets Soho. It is in the heart of shopping/theatre/officeland. When I think of Polpo, I think small and fighting for a table. At the A &B,  bagging a table aspect hasn’t changed that much but size most definitely has. This is large, set over 3 floors with 4 different bars and 2 areas to eat. The menu really is gastro pub, with all your naughty faves; prawn cocktail, pies and burgers. Some polponess does shine through in the side orders – roasted beets with kale pesto (oh hi California) and the truffle chips are beyond divine. You have to leave space for some good olde English puds – apple and black current crumble, sticky date pudding and flourless choc cake (not so traditional English, more Cali!)

Imagine when a tourist comes to London and quickly want to tick traditional pub off their to do list, yet unknowingly wander into a weathersppons or brewers fayre. This is where they should end up, a pub for London to be proud of with good atmosphere in a central location and excellent food to match, landlords listen up! Oh and Londoners this is not just for tourists,  no of course not, you will love it for after work just drinks that turns into the best meal you have had in a while.

The Hut

The Hut on the Isle of Wight, what are you thinking? A small wooden shack serving plain sandwiches and walls ice creams? Think again.

The Hut is located in Colwell bay near Freshwater and a stones throw from The Needles, the best part about the hut, the best way to arrive is by boat, weather Simon Cowell style super boat or smallest floating device you can find. I arrived courtesy of a friend’s valiant rib. We let down the anchor and were escorted ashore by one of the owners (YOU HAVE TO MAKE A RESERVATION) this is a small beach which you can imagine used to be low key and fairly undisturbed with a hut providing cold drinks and ice creams. That hut has been turned into something special; I kept making comparisons to Mediterranean equivalents. Most of the seating is outside, everything is whitewashed with glimpses of blue in the logo, water glasses and plates. The actual hut has been kept perfectly simple but with wonderful attention to detail, the door handles are large knots of robe the pull cord light switches have a beach hut on the end, the cutlery is served in a perfectly sized brown paper bag with the blue hut label stamped on.

The menu is similar to the decor, simple yet exactly what you fancy. It is dominated with seafood, mussels, crab, prawns and lobster, alongside meaty favourites ham hock for starters and a classic burger or pork belly for main. I went for gazpacho to start and half a lobster for main but as usual tried tasted a few others from either side. You cannot wrong with the lobster served with garlic mayonnaise and real chips. Washed down with a supreme Italian prossecco, take me BACK. The desserts didn’t blow me away; I had raspberries in white chocolate sauce. We arrived at the restaurant at 1:30pm and didn’t leave until 5pm that has to be the sign of a fantastic dining experience. Even if you have to row from the mainland this place is worth it.