​Little Barwick House – ace restaurant with rooms

This is a version of an article published by the Financial Times. While the phrase ‘a restaurant with rooms’ conjures up a certain degree of romance, it also requires that those who choose to operate one fulfil certain criteria. The first is that no such establishment can be too large, otherwise it becomes a hotel. This criterion in turn means that such an establishment has inevitably to be family-run and that it is run for love as a way of life, as much as, if not more than, for the…






Eating out, and family strife, in the Welsh borders

This article is also published in the Financial Times. To my right on the panel discussing the charms of family-run restaurants at the recent Abergavenny Food Festival in Wales were Sarit Packer and Itamar Srulovich, the husband and wife team from London’s Honey & Co. To my left was Sam Clark, who with his wife Sam runs Moro and Morito in London, while alongside him sat Rory O’Connell who with his sister, Darina Allen, is part of the four generations of the family that run the restaurant, hotel and cookery…






Wining and dining in and around Oxford

This article was also published in the Financial Times.   For such a visitor magnet, Oxford has long been relatively short of seriously attractive places to stay and eat. We set off to explore a new possibility in the countryside south of the city, via lunch overlooking it. The modern, glass extension to the Ashmolean Museum, conceived by the architect Rick Mather, now provides a bright, sunny location for its top-floor restaurant. A colourful salad of herring, beetroot and sour cream; cannelloni stuffed with leeks; and a bottle of Riesling…






My most dangerous review – ever!

This article was also published in the Financial Times.   Writing this column has often involved a certain element of risk, most notably early morning meals in Asian food markets, but I had never before thought of requesting danger money before I even set off. We recently headed off into an area that radio bulletins were regularly warning us not to visit. Our plan was to spend the night within a ten-minute drive of the Somerset Levels, scene of the worst flooding in the UK for over 200 years, and…






Nick is back – via north Kent

This article was also published in the Financial Times. I have, perhaps not surprisingly for someone who has been at home recovering from surgery, been dreaming about restaurants a great deal over the past three months. Not specific restaurants, and not restaurants in the Platonic sense – great food and wine but no bill even if they are the stuff of dreams – but rather the bustling, sociable and human side of restaurants. And while in the past I have occasionally gone to sleep thinking about my last restaurant meal,…






The splendours of Seasalter

This article was also published in the Financial Times. After we had all devoured four very different appetisers – a plate of authentic pork scratchings; cubes of herring on soda bread wedged together by an apple jelly; and two local oysters dishes, one based on wild oysters – our heavily pregnant waitress approached our table with a smile and two more small dishes. ‘Steve says you’re having lamb later and he doesn’t like to waste anything,’ she explained, as she lay down the dishes that contained small cubes of devilled…






Fat Duck – a journey not a meal

I left my third meal at The Fat Duck in Bray, Berkshire, somewhat the poorer financially but with such strong memories of what proved to be not only the best meal I have ever enjoyed there but probably the most exciting meal I have ever eaten. And I can still enjoy four tangible memories of the four hours we spent at the table. The first is the bag of sweets that you choose from an intricate sweet trolley that is wheeled to your table at the end of the meal…






Great Country Pubs in South-West England – 2004

Great Country Pubs in South-West England – 2004 A brief version of Cobbett’s Rural Rides across south west England and the Cotswolds recently left me with the impression that the gastro-pub is flourishing in the country as much as in town. Not only are many in highly capable hands hands but there is now a two way traffic between the ambitious kitchens of town and country. The lure of rural life with its closer proximity to suppliers is inducing many chefs to leave ‘the smoke’ thereby raising standards in many…






The West House at Biddenden

The West House at Biddenden – 2005 As we set off on the nine mile journey from Ashford International train station to The West House in Biddenden, Kent, the scene which unfolded before us was fairly typical, according to my friend who has lived around here for the past 25 years. It was raining. The scenery, once we deserted the main roads, was stunning, still deserving in many instances of the county’s epithet as ‘the garden of England’. Biddenden is no more than three miles from the splendours of the…






Wilting in Wiltshire

Wilting in Wiltshire – 2001 I am not an aggressive man but I had made one point very clear to the rest of my family. If they did not treat me with due respect I would take them away for a weekend in the British countryside. Over the past few months of course nothing has seemed less exciting. The combination of flooding, foot and mouth and unseasonably cold weather has been enough to put off all but the most intrepid. Yet even for a family of townies there does come…