Hot List: Country Pubs

There’s nothing quite like dining alfresco in a picturesque pub garden in the glorious British countryside. Here’s four of our foodie favourites

Kings Head, Hampshire

An onsite edible gardenlends this historic Georgian coaching inn extra allure where foodies are concerned. Cuisine at The Kings Head is seasonal and sustainable. Dont miss the signature snail rarebit.

With just eight bedrooms, each boasting bespoke decor, a stay here is an exclusive experience, and rain showers and hand-made toiletries ensure guests are thoroughly pampered. Given the inns proximity to both the county town of Winchester and the rural Hampshire countryside, you could hardly ask for a better location – especially when your base boasts its very own secret skittles alley.

Outside the Inn
Winchesters Cathedral and Castle are well-worth a visit, but so are the towns vast farmersmarket, independent shops and eateries. Golf nuts can brush up their game on hillside courses, whilst the gorgeous wild ponies wandering the New Forest National Park make a good long walk or bike ride essential. If youre in search of sea air, pop to Portsmouth to soak up the towns naval history, or enjoy a spot of sailing in Hamble. For bookworms, a visit to Jane Austens House is a must.

The Kings Head, Main Road, Hursley, Hampshire SO21 2JW, kingsheadhursley.co.uk

Seagrave Arms, Gloucestershire

For the past four centuries, this country house has leant honey-toned charm to the Cotswolds countryside. The palette for the inns eight bedrooms is inspired by regal shades, and few would deny that visitors are given the royal treatment, with home comforts meeting mod cons.

Fine food is a given; indeed, the Seagrave Armss is award-winning. In the dining room, theres local art on both the walls and the plate, with the menu offering reimagined classics like fish pie, and rabbit terrine accompanied by home-made beer mustard. Try more local ales in the cosy bar, alongside a full complement of carefully-chosen wines and craft spirits.

Outside the Inn
Classic Cotswolds architecture absorbs the attentions for a good long while – punctuate your wandering and wondering with frequent tea room stops. A long equine heritage means polo and racing are big business locally, with a visit to Cheltenham Racecourseoffering the perfect opportunity to don your gladdest rags. Shakespeares Stratford-Upon-Avon, Highgrove House, and Berkeley Castle keep the areas cultural quotient high, whilst nature-lovers are thoroughly spoilt at Westobirt Arboretum and on the Cotswold Way.

Friday Street, Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire GL55 6QH, seagravearms.com

The Trout Inn, Oxfordshire

If youre lucky enough to arrive here by boat, rest assured that this inn offers mooring. Set right on the river, the propertys waterside garden is altogether idyllic, and even hosts a hireable events pavilion during the summer months. Inside, guests take up residence in one of six river-hued rooms, each offering waterside views, rain showers, brass beds and vintage furnishings. When hunger strikes, youre in for a treat; the menu makes much of the rivers abundant fish. Rainbow trout comes chargrilled, lashed with crayfish butter and served with fries – surely the perfect local feast.

Outside the Inn 
You mustnt miss an Oxford excursion. Take a punt ride, trace the local literary history, visit Oxford Castle, and pop into the Ashmolean museum to feast on culture and notable food at its rooftop Dining Room. The citys covered market, meanwhile, reveals all sorts of treasures. More rurally, Rousham Park House & Garden offers sublime 18th-century landscapes, Blenheim Palace is home to top-notch fishing, and the Cotswold Wildlife Park brings you up-close-and-personal with all sorts of animals.

The Trout at Tadpole Bridge, Buckland Marsh, Faringdon, Oxfordshire SN7 8RF, troutinn.co.uk

Crab & Boar, Berkshire

This boutique inn offers a beautiful base from which to explore the Royal County that The Queen calls home. Each of its 14 well-appointed-yet-rustic rooms feature a hot tub, and a supremely comfy bed – perhaps even a four-poster – whilst the sprawling garden is a gorgeous place to while away a sunny afternoon.

Into fine food? The Crab & Boar is all about field-to-fork produce treated with the utmost respect; from Tom Scade, expect food which showcases the seasons bounty, whether its a bar snack eaten alfresco or a full-blown feast in the private dining room.

Outside the Inn
The bustling town of Windsor is a must for culture vultures, whilst those obsessed with Victoriana will adore Downtown Abbeys real-life home, Highclere Castle. When its time to get the adrenaline pumping, pop to the polo at Coworth Park, have a flutter at nearby Newbury Racecourse, or try your hand at shooting on Highclere Estate.

Crab & Boar, Wantage Road, Chieveley, Berkshire RG20 8UE, crabandboar.com

MEET THE CHEF: Tom Scade
Having worked at The Ritz and with chef Martin Blunos – now cited as a key mentor along with La Pont de la Tour’s Frederick Forster – Tom has a great pedigree. He also has great respect for local suppliers, citing Vickers Game, and Royal Windsor Estate as two of his local favourites, along with Flying Fish Seafood’s day boat catches from Cornwall – the county he called home for five years.

Charred Octopus, Tomato & Sourdough Salad

Serves 8

Ingredients
For the octopus
1 whole octopus, cleaned
1 carrot, cut into 4
1 onion, cut into 8
1 stalk celery cut into 4
½ head garlic
2 tbsp black peppercorns
2 sprigs thyme
1 bay leaf
5 x 330ml bottles of light lager (I like Sharps Pilsner)
1 lemon, juice only
Cornish sea salt and pepper

For the salad
24 semi-dried tomatoes
2 pickled shallots, sliced into rings
200g few-days-old sourdough bread, crusts removed, roughly chopped
a handful of basil leaves, torn
couple of good glugs olive oil
dash of red wine vinegar
Cornish sea salt and pepper

Method

For the octopus, place the all the ingredients except the lager, lemon juice and salt and pepper in a large, deep saucepan. Cover with lager, bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 45 minutes.

Remove the lid and simmer for a further 45 minutes – 1 hour, until the octopus is tender. Remove the octopus from the pan, discarding the cooking liqueur, and season with lemon juice, salt and pepper.

As soon as cool enough to handle, use a sharp knife to remove the tentacles from the octopus and cut them into 3cm pieces. Reserve until required.

For the salad, in a large bowl, combine the semi-dried tomatoes, pickled shallots, sourdough chunks,basil, olive oil and a dash of red wine vinegar, and season to taste.

When ready to serve, heat a little olive oil in a large frying pan set over high heat. Add the chopped octopus tentacles and fry briefly to reheat and char a little. Toss with the salad and serve immediately.

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