A Weekend in Herefordshire

Travel right now is not easy, I am craving it desperately, but for the foreseeable future will be concentrating on exploring the best of Britain. Herefordshire is a county that I knew very little about, sandwiched between Shropshire to the north, Worcestershire to the east, Gloucestershire to the south-east, and Wales to the west. So when I was invited to explore its burgeoning independent food and drink scene I was intrigued and excited.

Herefordshire

Despite the relentless rain we trundled down the motorway, just 4 hours even in rush hour Friday traffic. Visit Herefordshire arranged a great itinerary for me, ticking off key restaurants, pubs and artisan makers across the county.

Herefordshire

First stop was Hereford, a cathedral town in the heart of the region. We were staying at the Green Dragon Hotel, charming accommodation that was a quiet and comfortable place to spend the night. Breakfast next morning was served downstairs in the light and airy dining room, a range of fresh seasonal dishes, including delicious mushrooms on toast, and granola with homemade berry compote.

Herefordshire

There are quite a few eateries in Hereford worth trying, The Bookshop was one which everyone raved about, thanks to their great steaks and lively atmosphere. We had a great dinner here, the service was super friendly and the meat was noticeably of a high quality (you must try Hereford beef while visiting Herefordshire). We stopped by The Bookshop the next morning too for a coffee (they use the superior beans from local roastery, Method) and the brunch looked very tempting too.

Herefordshire

After a brief walk around town, seeing the iconic cathedral and stopping by a couple of foodie shops (I recommend Fodder for bread & pastries, Mousetrap for local cheeses, and Sensory & Rye for coffee or brunch), we were on our way to our next destination…

Pensons is the only restaurant in Herefordshire to hold a Michelin star, which it was proudly awarded last year, less than a year after opening. Head chef Chris Simpson previously worked for Nathan Outlaw, and brings skill and a lightness of touch to the dishes at Pensons. The restaurant benefits from being located on the Netherwood Estate, which is surrounded by green pastures. There is also a bountiful kitchen garden which grows many of the vegetables and fruit you’ll find on your plate at Pensons! We devoured the three course lunch menu, memorable dishes included perfectly cooked Plaice with cauliflower, watercress and crab sauce, and Duck with beetroot and blackcurrant.

Herefordshire

At Pensons we tried a delicious apple mocktail, and learnt a little about the incredible apples of the area. So it seemed fitting to visit Little Pomona next, craft cider makers who are producing some wonderfully refined drinks with the famous Herefordshire apples. Autumn is apple picking season and to celebrate Visit Herefordshire have created two great cider trails (The Cider Circuits) as part of their #madforapples initiative. The self-guided routes, both around 50 miles long, can be followed by bike or car and are named after two of the county’s apple varieties: The Newton Wonder heads north from Hereford, while The Redstreak heads south. Glorious Little Pomona features on the southern route.

Herefordshire

Herefordshire is known for its striking black and white architecture which we were lucky to spy in many of the towns we drove through… Bromyard was a great place to admire the monochrome houses, and whilst in the area Bringsty Vintage shop is worth a visit for retro homeware and trinkets.

Herefordshire

As the rain worsened we headed to Crumplebury, a lovely luxurious event space, with restaurant and rooms, surrounded by woodland, fields and animals.

Crumplebury has just reopened for the season and we were delighted to be one of the first to be back at this idyllic place. At the heart of the property is Green Cow Kitchens, the on site fine dining restaurant. We enjoyed a lavish dinner here before a very restful night’s sleep in The Oakley Suite, the most spacious and decadent suite Crumplebury offer. The room was decorated to a very high specification with modern amenities, a giant bed and a copper bathtub to ensure the most relaxing of stays.

Herefordshire

We also had a chance to see some of the beautiful event spaces and wholesome wildlife, which is used seasonally in the restaurant. Crumplebury is a brilliant option for weddings and work functions, an isolated countryside escape with a five star feel.

Herefordshire

Next morning we woke refreshed and revitalised, and after a quick but very tasty Crumplebury breakfast we headed off for a final morning of exploring.

We drove South towards Ross on Wye, for a hearty Sunday lunch at The Greenman, the celebrated pub in Fownhope. A generous roast awaited, with all the trimmings, the perfect sustenance before a local walk and the drive back home to London.

Herefordshire is the ideal weekend escape from London… an array of foodie spots are dotted amongst the verdant and gloriously green countryside, so you can both eat handsomely and get a breath of fresh air before returning to busy city life.

In collaboration with Visit Herefordshire.

Best Al Fresco Dining for Summer 2020

Despite the recent reopening of restaurants all over the city, I have noticed a lingering feeling of worry from friends and foodies about venturing out to eat. I have been eating in restaurants inside and out, but can’t deny that the al fresco options feel safer. While the weather is still warm it seems the only sensible solution is outdoor dining, so I have collated a list of some of my favourite options for you to enjoy this unique summer season.

Joy at Portobello

Joy at Portobello

Joy at Portobello is a new pop-up that occupies the space that was once home to Stevie Parle’s Dock Kitchen. This popular chef (behind hits such as Craft, Palatino and Pastaio) has returned to his original Portobello Dock site to bring us a joyful venue of food, flowers and fabulous produce (to buy from Canterbury’s Good Shed). The al fresco terrace overlooks the canal and diners sit amongst colourful wild dahlias, that were intended for this year’s cancelled Hampton Court Flower Show. We feasted on fresh and simple seasonal delights, favourites included grilled lobster with nduja, watermelon and feta salad, and a floral eton mess for dessert.

Flor

ASAP pizza at Flor

This Borough Market favourite has pivoted from a cosy dinner venue to an outdoor pizza and soft serve success. Borough Market has taken on a new persona; without the constant crowds, keen foodies gather at the sheltered outdoor tables (ideal even in the rain) and scoff the ASAP sourdough pizza. Choose from perfectly executed small plates (I loved the extra rich burrata, datterini & panzanella) and then opt for a red or white (based) pizza from the list. Our favourite was the ‘Getting Friggi With It’ – tomato sauce, mangalitsa sausage, friggitelli peppers, onion, but I also recommend the flavoursome ‘Thanks Shallot’ featuring grilled spring onions, mozzarella, ricotta, green garlic, wild marjoram. The soft serve is unmissable… flavours change weekly, we were lucky to catch the utterly delicious Fig Leaf with coconut. ASAP Pizza is also available to order on Deliveroo.

Elliott’s 

Another Borough Market institution, Elliott’s is a much loved restaurant, bar and natural wine shop. They have transformed their dining room and now occupy a large covered space in the market area. The summer menu utilises great seasonal produce from the market with appetising small plates, creative pizzas and grilled meat options. Pair your meal with a summery aperol spritz or glass of natural wine.

Brat at Climpsons Arch

Brat at Climpsons Arch

Tomos Parry won every accolade when he opened his Basque-influenced restaurant Brat a few years ago in Shoreditch. So it’s hardly surprising to see his pop-up version of the eatery at Climpsons Arch also booked up to the brim every night. This sociable space lends itself perfectly to this style of cooking and the fragrant smells of grilled fish fill the air as you sit down in the outdoor dining area. You’ll find all the Brat favourites here, from anchovy toast to whole grilled turbot, smoked butter potatoes to burnt Basque cheesecake. If you can nab a table I highly recommend visiting before the summer is out.

Llewelyns

Llewelyn’s

My South London favourite, Llewelyn’s, is another brilliant option for al fresco dining this summer. Their terrace has been extended in the Herne Hill square so there are now plenty of tables for hungry diners. This eatery feels particularly lovely at lunchtime when the buzzy atmosphere of the neighbourhood adds ambience and charm to the Llewelyn’s experience. The menu of smart comfort food changes regularly, so there is always something to satisfy everyone.

The Garden at The Berkeley

If you find yourself needing a venue in central London for celebrating a special occasion I implore you to book the Berkeley. A magical terrace at one of London’s most prestigious hotels, this sparkly pop-up restaurant is wowing guests with their immaculate service and comforting dishes. Refreshing cocktails and vibrant dishes will transport you to a Mediterranean island, so even if you can’t fly away on holiday you’ll feel a million miles from home in their lantern-lit garden.

Zebra Riding Club at Birch Community

Birch Community was finally able to open its doors last week after lock-down delayed the venue’s final renovation works. Situated in Cheshunt, just 30 minutes drive from North London, this multi-disciplinary space is an artistic hang-out for creatives urbanites needing a quick escape from the city. It provides a place to sleep, work, eat and explore, all whilst being surrounded by 55 acres of nature.

Birch Community

I was delighted to be asked to be a founding member, and spent 24 hours last weekend living the Birch way of life. Admittedly the hotel is not 100% ready yet, some finishing is a little rough around the edges, and the design and focus suggests they are still fine-tuning the place’s identity and purpose. However, everyone seemed to be having a great time trying out pottery and glass-blowing classes, relaxing in the music rooms and best of all, feasting on the superior Birch food offering.

Birch Community

The food is all overseen by the brilliant Robin Gill, of The Dairy and Darby’s (amongst others) fame. I have been finding solace throughout the pandemic at his Brentford bakery outpost, Rye by the Water, so was delighted to find a bakery onsite at Birch. Here, guests are invited to take part in the sourdough shaping and pastry preparations. In the morning we tried all the pastries on offer: rich and buttery delights accompanied by Caravan coffee from the Birch coffee shop.

Zebra Riding Club

The undoubted highlight of our stay at Birch was the meal we relished at Zebra Riding Cafe, the main restaurant on site. This impressive dining room feels more grand and luxurious than the other rooms, and I predict many will travel simply to try this eatery, even if they aren’t staying at Birch.

Zebra Riding Club

The restaurant’s philosophy and ever-changing menu is led by nature and seasonality, and much of the ingredients will be grown on site at Birch. There is little choice, instead a versatile set feasting menu caters for all with a comforting selection of Robin’s delicious inventions.

We began our lunch with cocktails from the succinct but tempting selection. Of the two the Birch Old Fashioned was our favourite, a smooth strong drink with a hint of herby birch sap.

Zebra Riding ClubZebra Riding Club

Service was attentive but discreet throughout our meal and I was incredibly impressed with their careful attention to detail when it came to our complicated dietary requirements. Rest assured vegetarians and vegans will not miss out here.

The meal kicked off with an assortment of bite-sized snacks… I particularly adored the fresh courgette tart, which was light, zingy and summery.

Zebra Riding ClubZebra Riding Club

The next two dishes were ideal for butter addicts like me… Heritage grains with Kentish corn, and a fresh egg from Birch’s rescued hens, was warming and soothing with a lovely texture and umami flavour profile. We sat in silence as we slurped it up. Next we were treated to Heritage King Oyster mushrooms swimming in a hot rich buttery jus spiked with rosemary, dulse and pickled kombu.

Zebra Riding ClubZebra Riding Club

The main event was an ode to Swaledale lamb, accompanied by tropea grilled onions, wood oven Cornish mid potatoes and green salad. It was a suite of loveliness, but for me, it was the succulent, salty lamb ragu with garden sorrel that won over my heart, and stomach. The sticky, sweet quality of the meat made it impossible not to finish, despite it being very rich.

Zebra Riding Club

The meal finale came in the form of a palate-cleansing Blackberry ripple ice-cream with diced white peach and rosemary sablé biscuit. A yummy pairing of flavours and the perfect end to the meal.

Zebra Riding Club

After months of confined eating at home it was a real treat to experience The Zebra Riding Club, another triumph for Robin Gill and a highlight of the Birch experience.

More information about Zebra Riding Club and book here.

I was a guest of Birch, as one of their Founding Members.