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Restaurants & Bars 1

Trip Report England (long)

turbowine | Jun 10, 201811:20 PM

Just got back from a 23 day trip to England. Here are my restaurant thoughts!
A little explanation. Everything went into Trip Advisor along the way, an easy way to keep notes, just post it there every night. (Yes, I confess, I use TripAdvisor in addition to Chowhound…..)

So, each entry has a number as its first line. This is the number of points I assigned it in TripAdvisor. One to Five, Five being the highest rating.

Second line is the town (location) followed by the restaurant name.

Third is the TripAdvisor link, where you can find the address, hours and the restaurant website link as well (if they have a website anyway).

Finally, if I feel there is really something to say, I’ll add a paragraph of thoughts. For the rest of the list, all you need to know is “points” and you can go TripAdvisor to find out more.

The reason I’m doing this is that most of our meals were at pubs. A lot of similarities and nothing necessarily super fancy or fine dining or outstanding or incredibly unique. So it’s a time saver for me with so many run-of-the-mill restaurants.

This was a driving trip. Didn’t get everywhere in the country, but, it was a good start at seeing the place for one who’s never seen much English countryside before. So, to get started:

5
London: Marcus
https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restauran...
A “fancy” place, have to do this in when you are in London. First some useful info: There are no signs on the hotel. We walked up the street and thought we'd found the building but couldn't really tell from the outside. Walked inside, no signs in the lobby either. Bar to the left, restaurant to the right, but no signs. Still don't know if we are in the correct place. So walked over to the restaurant to inquire, turns out that was the "regular" restaurant, used for breakfast/lunch/dinner for the hotel guests. If you walk through it, you get to Marcus. But we had to ask to know where to go. Once inside and seated we were informed that Saturdays they only have the 8 course menu. No other menus, no ala carte. No big deal, but something to know. No decisions to be made there, so on to the wine list. Fairly big wine list, but by no means the biggest out there. As usual, my complaint is that there are not enough bottles in the 100 to 200 range. Lots below 100, lots above 200, but my sweet spot was lacking in options to my taste. However, they do use a Coravin so that gives you the opportunity to get some decent things by the glass and even by the flask (half bottle quantities). That's a good thing. The following doesn't do justice to the dishes, but the quick list of the meal was: Salmon, shrimp, potato, pork cheeks, beef short rib, lamb, meringue w/ coconut, toffee w/ peanut. About half the courses seemed good for white wine, and half red wine. Unusual! In my experience tasting menus are more weighted to seafood and not so much land animals. I like the mix here! To make things easy we just went with the wine pairings. One normal, one premium; which we could then share each amongst ourselves. Normally don't do this but it seemed like too much work to pick our own wines, and the pace of things seemed to be moving pretty quickly. (As in I felt some pressure to not peruse the wine list. My wife hates it when I spend too long on the wine list too.) Started with an off-menu amuse bouche, which was tasty. The bread was also very good. The first couple of courses came really quickly, but then settled down to a reasonable pace of not too slow, not too fast. Maybe they think people are hungry when they first arrive so want to get the feeding frenzy started to take the edge off? All the food was terrific, frankly, and the service as well. Not the ultimate in service, perhaps, but still very good. There was also an "off-menu" sweet that came after dinner, again very nice. Only thing missing is that we both thought an intermezzo to clear the palate would have been nice before the meat dishes. But that is a nit. What else can I say? No cheese course. Sometimes we like one, but we were fine without it tonight. Still surprised it wasn't offered, as they are common at restaurants of this stature. Do any native British folk work in a restaurant anymore? Nobody had English as their first language in this place. Really could not understand the sommelier at all, because of her accent. Maybe British customers are better at it than us Americans, but to my old ears, it was really tough. One final thought, once again, it’s something I've seen in many restaurants, I do not believe the wine pairings make financial sense. Especially a premium pairing. If you want to do this, do it because it takes the work out of it, because you can try 8 wines instead of 1 or 2, because you try things you might never buy or try on your own, but don't do it because you think it gives you good value for your money. If you want the best value for your money, buy by the bottle. That also lets you control how "premium" the wine is that you get. Anyway, don't let these thoughts turn you off, just thinking out loud. This was a terrific meal at a terrific restaurant.

4
London: Sichuan-Folk Chinese Restaurant
https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restauran...
Came here based on these reviews and it only being a few minutes’ walk from where we were staying. Had the pork dumplings, the fried green beans with minced pork, the twice cooked pork and the boiled beef in spicy sauce. All was quite good, though in a place like this (with dozens of options) I think your experience may all depend on what you order. We were quite happy. Washed it down with lots of water (a bit spicy) and a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc from France. Prices were good, people friendly and authentically Chinese. Place was happening, crowded with people coming in all the time. Food served quickly and efficiently. Portions were a good size too, good value for the money. If you want Chinese, you won’t go wrong here.

3
London: Berners Tavern
https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restauran...
Brunch, picked because of reputation, both here on chowhound and on Trip Advisor. I think the primary reason to come here is because you want a fancy decorated room with a lot of help staff dressed in fancy uniforms offering reasonably good service. That's the appeal that I saw in the place. Not that that is a bad thing. Just something to know. We came for Sunday brunch. First thing was a gentleman who came around with a champagne cart. Made the decision easy for us that starting with a glass of champagne would be a good thing! We were kind of in a breakfast mood so ordered the eggs with salmon and the ham & cheese omelet along with a side of bacon. To start we had the salmon with beets and the pork pie. Went for the latter because I'd read here about the theater of the table side service. That was kind of fun, but in hindsight not a reason in itself to order this. The salmon starter was great, nice size serving of salmon but not so many beets. After the starters it was at least 20 minutes before we got our mains. A bit too long, in our opinion. Made us feel forgotten. Everything was good, again the salmon was very nice. Not much to say about the ham & cheese omelet. Basic, not much to go wrong, not much to go right. The side of bacon, however, was definitely over-cooked to my tastes, which was too bad. Should not be potato chip crunchy. Anyway, as this was brunch and we ordered the breakfast items mentioned, I'm not sure this is a fair review of the chef's abilities. Just not a lot of chance for the chef to shine with these food options. Given this experience, I have to say this place is ok, but nothing too special, fair or not, it's all I've got to go on. Lunch or dinner may be a better time to come here. I wouldn’t come back for brunch, as it wasn’t anything special.

3
London: The Holly Bush
https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restauran...
Stopped in for a light lunch while walking around Hampstead. This is a delightful neighborhood, you really must go. Take a guided tour or research on the internet what to see, but get on the backroads and enjoy! As for lunch, the building is great, lots of old world charm and character. Nice staff, decent pub.

5
London: Roux at Parliament Square
https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restauran...
Decided we needed something Fancy in London. Should be easy to do but we waited a bit too long and found many places already fully booked. Found this spot had availability (I think we were the last to get a spot). We went for the full seven course menu. (Though they count what I would call an "intermezzo" as a course, a little lime custard to clear the palate. To me that's cheating. Intermezzo's should be off-menu.) We did go with the optional cheese course, so I guess that makes it a true "7", right? They also had some "off menu" amuse bouche to start, which is always nice. Staff was nice, no service faux pas with us (though I think we witnessed a few with our neighboring table). The Sommelier was a very nice woman. I'm not sure anybody on the staff speaks English as their native language, which was interesting. Didn't always know the full descriptions of the meals because of trouble comprehending the explanations, their accents gave us a challenge. We ordered a glass of champagne, a half bottle of white, and another glass of white to go with the amuse and the first four courses. Then a glass of red for the meat course followed by a half bottle of dessert wine for the cheese and dessert courses. It's nice that they have the Coravin system so that they can offer some high-end wines by the glass. On the other hand, their half bottle selection was a bit sparse. I was all excited to see it on the contents page of the wine list, and then very let down when I saw the actual list. For a multi-course meal, a big half bottle selection would be nicer to select from. (I suppose they want people to order the wine pairing, but I never trust those to be a good value.) The courses were crab, asparagus, sweetbreads, halibut and lamb. We requested different desserts so we could try more, the strawberry was standard, and we also got a salted caramel tart. (The strawberry was better.) Of course, this list doesn't do the meal justice as it doesn't describe the preparation or accompaniments. I will say the sweetbreads appeared to be ground and formed into a sausage, which made them better to my taste. I found the lamb a bit gamey for my American palate, but I think that is a European thing. The amuse were nice, pappadam with romesco sauce and sour cream, a crunchy tuna thing and some kind of cracker that we never really understood what it was. (Our table neighbors didn't either, and we all joked that we couldn't fathom what the waitress was saying through her accent.) I thought that the cheese course was a little overpriced, at 5 pounds a piece. My wife thinks the course portion sizes were a little light for only a "6" real "courses" (which is why we added the cheese course). With the bill we got some off-menu sweet treats (which is a nice touch when restaurants do it). Something I'll call a mini-cherry filled donut as well as a white chocolate ball with, I think, passion fruit juice in the middle.

4
London: Chandos
https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restauran...
Pretty much a pub, but what made it for me was that this is a Samuel Smith's house and they have the complete lineup of beers from the brewery. Nice variety of styles, more variety of styles than I've seen at any other pub, both on tap and in the bottle. (Which I have to say is pretty disappointing in general. England has a rich culture of a variety of beer styles but most pubs only carry a handful of them. Too Bad…)

3
London: Bierschenke
https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restauran...
Stumbled across this while googling what might be near our apartment. Stopped in for dinner to have something different. We ate Sausage, Flammkuchen and pretzels (with the potato salad, sauerkraut and red cabbage sides). Decent collection of German style beers on tap. Four imported German, Four home-made. Didn't look at the bottle list. Small wine selection. Lots of snapps, and they do them "by the meter" which tells me this place is a go-to place for drinking orgies. Pretzels were dry, potato salad was NOT German potato salad, rather traditional American style. Sausages were good, Flammkuchen too. Red cabbage was too sugary for my taste. Friendly helpful staff in a "beer hall" environment. Not the greatest food, emphasizing the drinking party aspects but still a decent change of pace.

4
Cambridge: Bread & Meat
https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restauran...
In the thick of Cambridge: This is a great stop while walking around town. Only thing that would make this better was some beer on tap. But they had plenty of beer and wine options in the bottle. Tried the Porchetta, Philly Cheese steak and the chicken sandwiches. All were good, very good. Friendly helpful people too. On the Porchetta, my one comment would be that the crackling, in my opinion, was a distraction on the sandwich. Too crunchy. So I took it off the 2nd half and ate it solo. Poutine also very good! Nice gravy. These guys know how to make a sandwich!

4
Cambridge: The Oak Bistro
https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restauran...
The lovely town of Cambridge: Had dinner here. Nice to be in a good British restaurant again (a change from pubs). Beef Wellington, Halibut, Gnocchi with boar ragu, all was very good. Located on the edge of the university district, it's easy to get to. Not sure how old it is, but they claimed that there was a time when they had a stable for you to park your horse in. Nicely appointed with a great staff. Wine list is the biggest we've seen so far in this trip. They also had a separate champagne list, as well as some half bottles on the wine list (not something you see very often).

4
York: Khao San Rd
https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restauran...
Visiting York: If you like Thai food, eat here. Tom Kha, Pad Thai, Panaeng Curry, Pad Prik King, Pineapple fried rice, All tasty! Good, friendly staff. A few decent bottles of wine. What more do you need? Only thing I noted was that they'd never heard of fresh spring rolls, which I thought odd, as they are very popular at home. But their deep fried ones were just fine... (Of course, I do think those are a Vietnamese thing, so many there is just some cross pollination happening here in the States that isn’t happening in England.)

4
York: Rustique Lendal
https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restauran...
In the wonderful city of York: This was a dinner meal for us. French onion soup, Beef Burgundy, Pork shanks, Duck Confit. Escargot. All very delightful. My wife says the best escargot ever. Pork shanks were big and meaty. I thought the gravy a bit sweet (apple cider based) but others thought it great. Beef Burgundy was nice and tasty. Duck Confit was terrific. Came with a gravy (not something we've seen before) which really added to the dish. The Ratatouille was quiet tasty, as was the red cabbage. Nice pot du chocolate and banana crepe desserts too. Decent wine list of French selections. Staff was great. Decor fit with the French theme. Nice location on a pedestrian street in the old city.

4
Deganwy: Paysanne
https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restauran...
In Northern Wales: This place is a real treat, had a very good meal here. Falls into that "I'm tired of British food and need a change category." Really enjoyed the French change of pace this place provided. Walls are covered with French art. Ambiance is pleasant. Location has nice view of Conwy across the water. The owner/waiter is a very pleasant fellow, funny really, we had a good repartee going. Nice French wine list. Quality stuff at reasonable prices. The mushroom & stilton pastry, parsnip and basil soup and escargot appetizers were lovely. For mains we had the guinea fowl, chicken with olives & lemon sauce, Pork with plum sauce and Sole with lemon sauce. Only complaint was the chicken could have used more olives. Otherwise all were quite tasty. Desserts were also good, blueberry/almond tart was a delight. Raspberry tart was nice. Good coffee. Overall a very good experience. Very good value for the money too.

4
Conwy: Signatures Restaurant
https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restauran...
In Northern Wales. Did a lot of research in the area as one of our party was having a birthday while we were in Conwy. Looking for the special place to eat that night. I’d read about several places here on Chowhound that all sounded good: Hayloft @ Bodnant; The Loft @ Bulls Head; The Dining Room @ Bodysgallen, etc. but ultimately decided they were a little to “gourmet” for my crowd. I would have liked them, but some in my party were more ‘meat & potatoes’ kind of people (there is a reason we are mostly eating at pubs). So I settled on Signatures. Good reviews, menu shows that while somewhat fancy, it’s still pretty standard fare. It’s outside of the Conwy old town walled city (by about 1.5 miles). You pull up and there is a security shack with a guard. You say “I'm here for Signatures” and he lets you in. Then you drive in and you look around...and you realize you are in a trailer park. What the F__? I guess the idea is for those trailer park people to have a good dinner too. And a good dinner it is! Squash soup and Bacon & scallop starters were great. Duo of Venison, Duo of Lamb, Duo of veal were also very good. Coq a vin was just ok; kind of bland. The one miss. Be sure to order extra sauce (with all of them). Stickie toffee pudding, lemon tart and chocolate Fondant were also very good. Wine list was very nice, with a great variety and some "higher" priced wines than we are used to seeing. Staff extremely helpful and friendly. This place is trying very hard to be a high end restaurant. And mostly succeeding. And doing it without the food being too "foo-foo" and without crazy high prices. Glad we braved the trailer park!

4
Stow-on-the-Wold: The Stow Lodge Hotel
https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restauran...
Stow was our base of operations in the Cotswalds. This is probably the nicest place in town. It was great to go to a real “restaurant” as a change of pace from pub food. (This review is for the main restaurant, not the bar in the hotel.) Cloth napkins, tablecloths, etc. Civilization! We enjoyed the Asparagus starter, the Grilled Filet of Beef with Stilton sauce, braised Lamb rump and Chicken in peppercorn sauce. All were terrific. All came with additional veggies and potatoes as side dishes (2 kinds of each) which really added up to too much food, but it was good 'n tasty. We sent most of the potatoes back and we had to skip dessert unfortunately, just too full. But it sounds great on the menu. The staff was very hard working, always hustling around. But very friendly and helpful. The ambiance in the place was great. One of the better wine lists we'd seen so far on the trip, but then again, we'd mostly been to pubs.

3
Chepstow: Mamma Mia
https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restauran...
In Southern Wales: Not much of note here (you see I gave it a 3) except that Mamma Mia is actually gone now. It is now a restaurant called The Pepper Mill. I tried twice to get Trip Advisor to close the entry for Mamma Mia and open a new one for The Pepper Mill, but both attempts failed. Strange, they’ve done it for me in the past. So anyway, I ultimately posted my review under Mamma Mia. There are now at least 3 Pepper Mill posts on the Mamma Mia page in Trip Advisor. Oh Well.

4
Lacock: Sign of the Angel
https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restauran...
Traveling from Bath to Oxford, we stopped in this delightful little town. Very old, historic town center that is pretty much converted over to the tourist trade with shops and restaurants. The buildings are great; go inside the restaurant and just marvel at the antiquity. Food is good and they have interesting local beer (sadly only in bottles).

4
Wells: The Courtyard Restaurant
https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restauran...
Have to go to Wells, for the cathedral, after all. Went here for dinner because of the good reviews, but when we walked in the door we wondered if we made a mistake. First of all, it's somewhat hidden. In a court yard off of Sadler Street that isn't obvious at first. Look for the LED "restaurant" sign through the courtyard doorway to the street. It's just across from the Cathedral green. If you can't find it, just keep looking. Oh, also, it's only open 4 days a week. Wed-Sat. Anyway, when we walked in, the decor was modern casual, with modern music playing in the background. No table cloths. After all the ancient buildings we'd been in this trip, made us think we'd stumbled into a fast food joint or a cafeteria. But we were there and had the reservation, so we stayed. A big negative to us was the wine list. Only 4 wines, 2 white, 2 red. We prefer a bigger selection, who wouldn’t? However, they do allow corkage, wish we'd known that in advance! Bring your own wine, you won’t be disappointed! Didn't see any draft beers either, only a few in bottle. Something else they could work on. Should have some local bottled beers available. So the drink scene was pretty disappointing. Anyway, on to the food. Menu had some interesting selections. Tried the mushroom soup, the stuffed chicken, the scalloped pork fillet, and the filet steak. All were very nice! Decent portions, tasty food. Steak was cooked to order. Got the Stilton sauce to go with it; that was a tasty addition. Veggies weren't over cooked. Chips were nice and crispy. Sauces on the chicken and pork also good. Prices very reasonable. Great value! Onion rings were not as good as in America, but can we say that isn't to be expected? Wine was mediocre, but again, from the wine list, that was to be expected too. That is the biggest drawback to this place. Family owned (father is chef, brother-in-law sous chef, daughters run the dining room and wash up the dishes). Very friendly and helpful people.

4
Bretforton: The Fleece Inn
https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restauran...
In the Cotswalds, this is a nice enough pub but what’s noteworthy about this place is that it is a fantastic old building. Worth a stop if you are in the area.

4
Chagford: Chagford Inn
https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restauran...
While visiting Dartmoor, we made a point of eating here while in town because it has reputation as one of the best places in the area. Overall we enjoyed it. Nice wine list, not large, but a proper variety at reasonable prices. Friendly staff. Be sure to book ahead, they can be very busy, given the aforementioned reputation. The rabbit w/ bacon over linguine was outstanding. Recommend! The braised beef (think pot roast) was good but simply the beef. Would have preferred a nice sauce or gravy to go with it. The Filet with "shin" ragu was also good. The Filet wasn't the best, but was ok. The ragu (from shredded leg meat) was very good. Tasty sticky toffee pudding too! A step up from a pub.

4
Old Basing: The Crown at Old Basing
https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restauran...
Have you ever noticed that the first restaurant of a trip often provides some of the best memories? I call it the “airplane effect.” After 15 or more hours of travel time to arrive here, that beer tastes pretty damn good, and the food too. This place is a pretty basic pub, with decent outdoor seating at old picnic tables. Really enjoyed the Roast beef sandwich, one of the best of the trip (really, “airplane effect” aside). It’s outside of London heading southwest, not too far from Heathrow. Great first stop! Actually wasn’t too hard to find without any help other than my memory of what google maps said. Speaking of that, at Heathrow we discovered we needed a new Sat/Nav (GPS) system. The staff was very helpful in pointing out directions to the nearest “motoring” store where we could buy a new one.

The rest of these are listed, as I said at the beginning, but without additional comments. Follow the Trip Advisor link for more info.

3
London: Tower Tandoori
https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restauran...

3
London: The Nags Head Covent Garden
https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restauran...

4
London: The Astronomer
https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restauran...

4
Cambridge: La Pergola
https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restauran...

4
Great Casterton: The Crown Inn Restaurant
https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restauran...

3
York: The Exhibition Hotel
https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restauran...

3
York: Golden Lion
https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restauran...

4
York: Delrio's Restaurant
https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restauran...

4
Liversedge: The Gray Ox
https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restauran...

4
Beddgelert: Prince Llewelyn Hotel
https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restauran...

4
Conwy: Restaurant at The Castle
https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restauran...

4
Abersoch: The Vaynol
https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restauran...

4
Stretton: The Partridge
https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restauran...

4
Bibury: Catherine Wheel
https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restauran...

4
Stow-on-the-Wold: The Old Stocks Inn
https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restauran...

4
Stow-on-the-Wold: The Bell at Stow
https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restauran...

4
Oxford: King's Arms
https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restauran...

3
Cardiff: Owain Glyndwr
https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restauran...

4
Chepstow: Sitar Balti
https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restauran...

3
Monmouth: The Inn at Penallt
https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restauran...

4
Wells: Rugantino Restaurant
https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restauran...

4
Wells: The Fountain Inn Gastro Pub
https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restauran...

3
Wells: Anton's Bistrot
https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restauran...

4
Taunton: Ring of Bells
https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restauran...

4
Tavistock: Cornish Arms
https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restauran...

3
Chagford: Ring O' Bells
https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restauran...

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