Tag Archives: Food

Street food comes to Shrewsbury

I’m really excited to see the street food trend expanding outside London. And on 22 May, chef Marcus Bean is launching Eat Street in Shropshire’s medieval county town of Shrewsbury.

The pretty, bustling market town of Shrewsbury
The pretty, bustling market town of Shrewsbury

Among the eight traders that will be showcasing their street food will be seasoned street food favourites: The Beefy Boys from Hereford and London-based Dog Town London. They will be lined up alongside Shrewsbury’s Barkworths Seafoods, Eat Up’s big coffee van and Polly’s Parlour Vintage VW ice-cream van.

Add live music and entertainment and there will be a real festival vibe to the event. You can’t go home without one of Dogtown London’s Big Smokey hotdogs or a 12-hour smoked pulled pork bun.

Chef, and Eat Street founder, Marcus Bean in the kitchen garden
Chef, and Eat Street founder, Marcus Bean in the kitchen garden

Other flavours at the Eat Street Shrewsbury include wood fired pizza from the pizza Peddlers, hot dogs topped with chilli cheese from Dogtown London, fishy delights from Barkworths Shrewsbury Saint-Pierre stand, and ice-cream served from a vintage VW ice cream van called Florence.

* Eat Street, Shrewsbury will take place in the grounds of St Alkmunds church off Butcher Row, Shrewsbury on Friday 22nd May, 4pm-10pm. Entry will be free of charge.

For more information follow @eatstreetshrews on Twitter 

ALISON TYLER

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Restaurant review: The Ethicurean

We were driving down to Wiltshire on Friday, minus the children, with an hour or three to spare. We were hungry. “Is there anywhere that we could stop about an hour from here,” asked my husband optimistically somewhere between Worcester and Gloucester trundling down the M5.

I scoured the map. We didn’t really want to drive in to Bristol as we were heading south-east of there, to explore the Somerset/Wiltshire borders. And then I remembered I’d been wanting to try The Ethicurean for a while. But where was it? Not quite in Bristol.

A Google search and phone call later we were booked in to this ethical, hyper-local, sustainable restaurant that sits in a walled garden south of Bristol. I say restaurant, but  The Ethicurean is really a ramshackle greenhouse and shed, stuck to one corner of the Barley Wood Walled Garden. If that makes it sound scruffy, then you shouldn’t go. But if you love the romantic notion of sitting in the orangery of the very garden that the produce on your plate was grown in, and to hell with a bit of damp on the walls, or the wonky mis-matched tables and chairs, then this is the place for you.

The Ethicurean (photo by Jason Ingram)
The Ethicurean (photo by Jason Ingram)

As a gardener, an interiors addict and a greedy appetite for food, I was in heaven! Looking out, sipping cider from apples grown in the orchard, you could imagine Peter Rabbit might pop up at any moment and steal an organic carrot.

But, romance aside, the aims of this place are in credible. Virtually all of the food comes from the garden or is foraged locally, so menus are created each day according to what’s on offer. I was worried that we were visiting at possibly the worst time of the year – the winter season over, nothing would be growing for spring yet, apart from the earliest wild garlic and maybe some nettles and rhubarb.

The Ethicurean (photo by Jason Ingram)
The Ethicurean (photo by Jason Ingram)

I needn’t have been. They pickle and preserve what they can, so the beetroot starter with strained goats cheese was divine. They also make their own cider from the apples and even their own vermouth to go in the Negronis. Our other starter – cider and cheddar Welsh rarebit – did not disappoint. The cider and cheese had been cooked and turned in to a thick fondue, then spread on the doorstep slab of home-baked bread and grilled into submission. A sharp salad of winter leaves and pickled carrot in place of tomatoes, cut through the rich rarebit to clean the palette.

Our mains were even better – considering the chefs were cooking in a shed the size of, well, a shed, this was a miracle. My pork belly was pressed to squeeze out some of the fat and served with chipotle crackling, more beetroot, pickled apple slices and deep, forest green kale. The husband’s bavette was succulent and stylishly presented. We may have been in a garden but there was no heavy-handed presentation, the finesse of the food and it’s delectable flavours were matched by the delicate presentation.

The Ethicurean
The Ethicurean

Pudding? Sticky toffee apple pudding! It could have had more sauce – as the husband pointed out, it isn’t hard to whip up – but it was moist and treacly without being stodgy or heavy. All in all, we were bowled over.

The only thing we couldn’t understand on this sunny, blustery spring Friday lunchtime, was why it wasn’t packed out? People of Bristol, what are you doing?! Perhaps you’re already too spoiled for choice by great, ethical, locally-sourced eateries…

The Ethicurean cookbook
The Ethicurean cookbook

ALISON TYLER

Britain’s best Eat Streets

Want to know the best foodie hubs across the UK? Here they are…

The news that Berkeley Street has become London’s hottest gastronomic real estate may not come as a surprise to foodies, but where are the most delicious streets in other cities?

The view from GB1 in Brighton
The view from GB1 in Brighton

Brighton: Kings Road

Situated on the seafront, this is the go-to destination for any food fan, especially seafood lovers.

Salt Room
Salt Room

The hottest new opening, right on the seafront, is The Salt Room, sister to the Brighton’s famous Coal Shed steak restaurant, who’s menu focuses on sustainable British fish, including cuttlefish, bouillabaisse and lobster – but the huge cocktail list is worth the trip alone.

The stylish GB1
The stylish GB1

Or try GB1, a glam culinary hotspot that is renowned for its exceptional seafood. Grab a seat at the central champagne and oyster bar and share a seafood platter, all sourced from the south coast – with 75 per cent caught within an eight-mile radius of the hotel.

Other King’s Road favourites include Smokeys, for a flavour of America (great for a Californian brunch), Steki, a Greek taverna with live music, and the Regency restaurant for traditional seaside fish and chips.

The seafood afternoon tea at the Victoria Lounge
The seafood afternoon tea at the Victoria Lounge

Head to the Victoria Lounge Bar and Terrace at the Grand Hotel for afternoon tea with a seaside twist – think salted scones served with crème fraiche, chives and Keta caviar, and treacle-cured salmon. Or make for the Hilton’s Waterhouse bar and terrace to sip on Sussex Mules and chow down on a local Hailsham lamb burger.

 

 

Bakers and Co
Bakers and Co

Bristol: Gloucester Road

The longest independent shopping street in the UK, Gloucester Road – also known as Stokes Croft – boasts pubs, foodie shops and restaurants nestled between Banksys and artists studios, with a laidback, alternative vibe, that’s uniquely Bristolian.

Poco Bristol
Poco Bristol

Start at the original Pieminster shop for a steak and ale pie washed down with a local craft beer, stop at Poco – voted Best Ethical Restaurant by The Guardian – for global tapas plates including roasted belly of pork with fennel crackling, homemade Moroccan harissa and chorizo and merguez sausages, then there’s an incredible co-operative called The Canteen, where free live music sets the backdrop for affordable “slow food” that’s all super sustainable and ethical.

Poco
Poco

There are two Caribbean restaurants – Rice and Tings and Plantation which turns into a salsa club after hours. For more musical inspiration, stop at the pub where George Ezra was discovered, the Gallimaufry, a curious bar combining local art, music, home cooking and good drinks, all under one roof.

Huevos rancheros at Bakers and Co
Huevos rancheros at Bakers and Co

Another late-night institution, Biblos is the place for wraps and snacks, while the morning after you’ll find everyone brunching at Baker’s and Co, a San Francisco-inspired café and deli where everything is baked from scratch.

 

 

Edinburgh's Grassmarket
Edinburgh’s Grassmarket

Edinburgh: Grassmarket 

The historic cobbled streets of the Grassmarket in Edinburgh’s Old Town are packed with amazing culinary independent shops and restaurants.

Melli's Cheese
Melli’s Cheese

Tempt your taste buds with some foodie shopping: Demijohn was the world’s first liquid deli when it opened in 2004 selling bespoke vinegars, oils and liqueurs; Melli’s Cheese is an Edinburgh institution that stocks the city’s best restaurants and is a delight for the senses; get a flavour of Scotland at the Saturday Market, which has an abundance of locally grown and produced organic vegetables, artisan breads, fresh meat and fish as well as street food and the most amazing gin macaroons.

Hula Juice bar
Hula Juice bar

Make a pit stop at the Hula Juice Bar – the Betty Ford Detox Smoothie is virtue in a glass; for something less saintly try Mary’s Milk Bar for a cosy gelato, hot chocolate or freshly-made chocolate truffles – you can even join the monthly truffle-making masterclass. If you like your tipples a little stronger there’s a clutch of traditional pubs including the White Hart Inn, Beehive Inn and the Last Drop Tavern.

OInk hog roast
OInk hog roast

As for dining out, new arrival Oink specialises in delicious hog roasts from the owners’ Scottish Borders farm, while Maison Bleue offers an eclectic mix of French, North African and Scottish cuisine all sourced from local suppliers and producers. Mamma’s Pizzeria serves some of Edinburgh’s best, fresh stone-baked pizza alongside delicious steak on the stone, pasta and a great range of starters, sides and desserts.

Grain Store
Grain Store

But for a truly Scottish treat seek out the Grain Store, above the market and beneath stone vaulted ceilings and archways of the original storerooms used by the warren of shops below, serving the very best of Scottish produce.

 

 

Circo Lounge
Circo Lounge 

Bournemouth: Poole Road

The Westbourne neighbourhood, centring around Poole Road is brimming with independent delis, cool cafes and artisan food shops, just a 15-minute stroll from the beach.

Le Petit Prince bakery
Le Petit Prince bakery

Le Petit Prince on Poole Road sells delicious, award-winning bread made on the premises as well as cakes and coffees; a little further up the road is Chocol8, a luxury chocolate shop and coffee lounge.

le-petit-prince-patisserie

Something savoury? Badger and Bumble is a fab deli offering British cheeses and pies; Circo Lounge is a laidback brunch and tapas bar with a cool, casual vibe, while Geneve, an American-style diner and burger joint is one of the best places to eat in Bournemouth.

Circo Lounge
Circo Lounge

Best of all, you can bag up your farmers market (on the first Saturday of every month) and deli feast and wander through a wooded pathway from here to Alum Chine beach for a picnic al fresco.

 

 

Trinity Kitchen
Trinity Kitchen

Leeds: Trinity Leeds, Boar Lane

The city’s glossy, glass-covered shopping area, is also home to some of the best restaurants and to Trinity Kitchen – each month five different street food trucks are lifted into this industrial-chic space to create an ever-changing, vibrant grab-and-go eatery, that’s as cool as it is affordable.

Noisette bakery
Noisette bakery

For cocktails, try the garden-inspired Botanist and share a watering can (yes, really) with friends – the Raspberry and Sage (sage, black grapes, raspberry vodka, elderflower liqueur, grenadine, white wine and lemonade) is our favourite pick. The Alchemist is a stylish spot for a lazy brunch or lunch.

Kerb Edge at Trinity Kitchen
Kerb Edge at Trinity Kitchen

For something more substantial, Crafthouse, five storeys above Boar Lane with glittering views, headed up by Lee Bennett pays homage to the areas amazing local producers and serves up the best of British and Yorkshire. Angelica, on Trinity’s top floor, has become the city’s latest go-to destination for drinks and dinner – the Raw Bar and the rooftop terrace are the must-book seats.

Trinity Kitchen
Trinity Kitchen

Meanwhile, Meatliquor will satisfy and burger cravings, and those with a sweet tooth should head down Boar Lane to Roast and Conch, the flagship café and restaurant from the team behind Hotel Chocolat.

 

 

Manchester House
Manchester House

Manchester: Spinningfields

One of the city’s most vibrant, newest destinations, Spinningfields is fast-becoming Manchester’s gastro capital.

Manchester House in Bridge Street serves Michelin-worthy modern British food (from Michelin chef Aiden Byrne) in a warehouse setting, while it’s lounge bar up on the 12th floor and roof of the building is a real draw too, with 360 degree views of the city.

Manchester House
Manchester House

The Left Bank Café in the People’s History Museum is a lovely place to catch up over lunch or a glass of wine, make sure to bag a seat on the waterside balcony. Pick up sweet treats at Hey Little Cupcake, or move straight onto the stronger stuff at Oast House or Neighbourhood – a Manhattan-inspired bar.

The Lawn Club reopens next month with a members-club feel and a retractable roof so that you can savour drinks and British small plates (very now) al fresco.

ALISON TYLER

This article appeared in Metro on 17 March 2015

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My date with Deliciously Ella

Today I interviewed the gorgeous and utterly charming Ella Woodward, aka Deliciously Ella, whose blog has taken the internet – and the food world – by storm.

Incredibly, this proponent of clean living and eating is just 23 years old, and she’s no fad dieter either. Although she espouses the benefits of going wheat, dairy, refined sugar, meat and caffeine free, she discovered her strain of healthy eating after a debilitating illness.

Determined to make a difference, Ella decided to try and eat herself well after reading the inspirational story of Kris Carr, a stage four cancer sufferer who took matters into her own hands by radically changing what she put into her body. Ten years on she has kickstarted an eating revolution.

video211

Ella’s journey began three-and-a-half years ago when she binned her Haribo and crisp habit to embark on eating herself back to health. She literally chopped, blended and cooked her way to good health, vibrant energy, glowing skin, shiny hair and a fitter body.

She didn’t count calories or try to deprive herself of anything natural, she found natural sugars to sweeten dishes so that she could still enjoy brownies (sweet potato brownies) and chocolate cake (with raw cacao powder and beetroot), and she calms cravings with homemade date and almond bites.

An hour in her company was inspiring – I immediately headed to Sainsbury’s and spent £95 on nut milks, agave nectar, dates and brown rice.

cover-blog

Her book Deliciously Ella is released this week and is set to transform the way we eat. You only have to look at the supermarket “free from” aisle to see how the food industry is responding to our desire to eat cleaner, healthier food that is free from gluten and dairy.

I, for one,  can’t wait to try some of her sugar-busting ideas! I’ll let you know how I get on…

ALISON TYLER

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A festive feast – with a twist

Seasonal food is one of the most hotly anticipated aspects of Christmas, whether it’s the spicy scent of warm mulled wine, the turkey-and-trimmings meals, or the show-stopping desserts. But retailers and restaurants are getting more creative than ever with their festive concoctions – any one for mince pie ice cream?

Cafe Royal's Minceroonie
Cafe Royal’s Minceroonie

The mincearoonie
A pillow-y macaroon, all light and airy with a crisp crunch and a chewy almond-y interior, meets a mince pie filling – a spicy, raisin-packed jam centre. The brainchild of Andrew Blas, executive pastry chef at London’s Café Royal, the genius of this dessert is that the macaroon isn’t too sweet, so that you really taste the Christmas flavours. Buy them on their own, to take away, or as part of a sit-down afternoon tea while you’re out Christmas shopping. www.hotelcaferoyal.com 

sprout_juice_2960602b

Brussels sprout juice
I tested this, so that you don’t have to – unless of course you really like Brussels sprouts. Marks and Spencer’s seasonal apple, pear and Brussel sprout juice, which promises to deliver two of your five-a-day. Even though the drink contains just eight per cent sprout, there is a definite whiff about it. I’m sure it’s a new kind of superfood and a clever way to get us to eat (or drink) our greens, but it’s certainly an acquired taste. www.marksandspencer.com

mincepieicecreamFestive ice cream
Christmas in a scoop. Sainsbury’s has created Taste the Difference farmhouse ice cream, made with free-range eggs and Devon cream, in two fruity flavours: the mince pie ice cream comes complete with mincemeat and pastry pieces, while the caramelised orange ice cream is studded with chunks of cranberry compote (£3.25 for 500ml, www.sainsburys.co.uk). Not to be outdone, Waitrose has a Christmas pudding ice cream, created by Heston Blumenthal (£4.49 for 500ml, www.waitrose.com).

compressed_Fortnum__Mason

Buck’s Fizz marmalade
For retailers, Christmas means glitter, and increasingly that even includes novelty drinks containing flecks of gold. So it wasn’t surprising that before long food would follow. At least you can expect a quality product from Fortnum & Mason – so why not wow your family at the Christmas breakfast table with this Buck’s Fizz marmalade (£7.95, www.fortnumandmason.com) containing edible glitter. If Fortnum’s hadn’t already created it, someone on the Great British Bake-Off would surely try.

Want more glitter? Buy the new Fortnum and Mason Glitter Shortbread (£9.75) or M&S’s Gold G&Tea (£11.99, www.marksandspencer.com) – a pre-mixed gin cocktail infused with tea, elderflower, lemongrass, and flecks of gold.

The Christmas burger
A restaurant-take on the obligatory festive sandwich that every lunchtime outlet comes up with at advent, the Christmas dinner burger, is essentially a turkey roast and the veggie option (camembert cheese with cranberry relish) in one brioche bun. You also get a sprout instead of a gherkin, smoked bacon and a lettuce leaf, just in case it was too easy to get your mouth around before. It’s served with a side of roast goose-fat potatoes – of course it is. £13.50 from K West Hotel & Spa, available throughout December.

Christmas pie
Recreating a sweet-meets-savoury festive pie – the original mincemeat pie concept that dates back to the 13th century – Brompton Food Market’s Spiced Mutton and London Porter pie contains rare-breed mutton, spices from Spice Mountain at Borough Market and ‘Brew by Numbers’ Porter – brewed in London with Columbus and Bramling hops. It’s as intriguing as it is intoxicating, and a hearty alternative to turkey. www.bromptonfoodmarket.com

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Mince pie praline chocolates
They may look like mince pies, but these beauties are instead filled with praline chocolate – a great idea for guests who don’t like the traditional pasty treat. £6 for 6, www.johnlewis.com

Christmas Dog

The Christmas Dog
As a general rules, dogs are not just for Christmas – unless we’re talking hot-dogs, in which case it’s a brilliant idea. At Shake Shack, try the Shack Dog ‘n’ Blanket – a Sillfield Farm Cumberland sausage wrapped in bacon and topped with pumpkin maple mustard (£6, www.shakeshack.com).

American diner Dirty Bones also has a signature Christmas Dog, featuring a turkey & stuffing sausage, which is cooked in red wine gravy and comes served with cranberry puree in place of ketchup (£23 as part of the Christmas menu, www.dirty-bones.com)

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Cookie and Caramel wreath
Half Florentine (which is already a sticky, caramelised festive nutty treat), half milk chocolate wreath, this pretty, sweet treat is also decorated with cocoa and shortbread biscuits and make a delicious stocking filler. £7 for 100g, www.HotelChocolat.com

Mulled wine cheesecake
Who doesn’t love mulled wine? It really is Christmas in a glass. Well now you can have Christmas on a plate, with Asda’s Chosen by You Mulled Wine Cheesecake, which is spiced with cinnamon, candied orange and Christmas spices. £7, www.asda.com

croquembouche

Croquembouche kit
If you want to blow everyone else out of the water as the Christmas host-with-the-most this year, then hotfoot it to Tesco to pick up this Finest Croquembouche patisserie kit. Yes, some DIY is required to create the 60-strong towering cone of profiteroles, that you then drizzle with chocolate sauce and edible sparkling stars. It’ll definitely be a foodie instagram-moment, when you carry this to the table – just don’t drop it. £15, www.tesco.com (in store from 18 December)

Christmas afternoon tea
The festive Champagne afternoon tea at TwoRuba has all the usual suspects, plus mince pies, Bucks Fizz truffles, Christmas cake and stolen – if that doesn’t get you into the festive spirit, what will? £19 per person, www.tworuba.com

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A Pine time
The tree is one of the key scents of Christmas – but are you brave enough to drink it? The Mistletoe and Pine cocktail at the Paramount Bar (£12, www.paramount.uk.net) contains pine-infused Bombay Sapphire gin, shaken with a splash of Pimento dram, freshly squeezed lemon juice, cinnamon sugar and an egg white.

Or head to Marks and Spencer where they are selling Adnams Southwold Spruce IPA, a fragrant blend of hops and Norway Spruce (£24 for a case of 12, www.marksandspencer.com).

ALISON TYLER

This article appeared in Metro on 23 December. See the print version HERE.

Screen Shot 2014-12-30 at 23.07.18

Join the sloe food movement

Chances are, you’ll have sipped sloe gin at Christmas, but sloes, or blackthorn berries, are actually a wild autumn fruit, and thanks to a mild spring followed by the downpours of rain this month, ‘Christmas’ is coming early with a bumper harvest of sloes appearing more than month earlier than usual. The rain has caused the fruit to think that frost is on the way and start producing fruit early – the same thing happens to other hedgerow fruits including blackberries, haws, rose hips… and even grapes, making 2014 a vintage harvest.

Sloe berries
Sloe berries

Foragers love sloes, which are part of the same family as plums, cherries and peaches, but look like a small damson and taste very tart indeed. Add enough sugar, though, and they become spicy, plummy and complex in flavour – which makes them taste extra delicious in desserts, drinks and even tarting up savoury dishes such as venison and duck.

Blackthorn bushes are often used to form a traditional “brambly hedge” because of their spiny, dense branches, and are a common site along country lanes and hedgerows, around fields and on scrubby land in towns. The fruits, just over a centimetre in size, are a dark, purply-black bruise colour and grow in clusters at the ends of the spiky branches.

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Thanks to the early, and bumper, bounty, sloes have ripened already so instead of waiting until after the first frosts in October or November to pick them, they are ready now. You’ll know they are ripe if they are soft to touch. And the riper they are, the sweeter they become – though they’re still tongue-curlingly sour without any added sugar. “I’ve already picked some this season and they are great,” confirms forager and author of the River Cottage Hedgerow handbook John Wright. “Just make sure that they are purple and soft, and choose the fattest ones you can find.”

Sloe gin
Sloe gin

So, once picked, what can you do with them? Sloe gin is ludicrously simple to make. “It’s the classic country drink,” says Wright. “Round where I live in Dorset, everybody makes it.”

“The curious thing about sloe gin – aside from the rather marvellous flavour – is that there are only three ingredients and around 4,000 different recipes,” explains Wright. He works to a basic recipe of 250g of sugar and one litre of gin for every 500g of sloes. Combine them together in a bottle, then all you do is wait, with the occasional shake of the bottle now and then, for the flavour to develop and infuse so that you get a sweet, syrupy, festive liqueur. Eight weeks is about the minimum time required, but the longer you leave it the smoother it becomes.

A lovely label for your gin, as found on Pinterest
A lovely label for your gin, as found on Pinterest

“The secret,” says Wright, “is to make more than you need and leave it for as long as possible. After two or three months it will taste fruity; after six months it will take on an almond-y taste, almost like Amaretto; and after 20 years it will taste velvet-smooth like Madeira.”

And once you have the sloe gin, you can combine it with blackberries to make blackberry and sloe gin sorbet, add it to a fruit sponge pudding for an extra kick, or even braise meat with it.

But if you want to use those sloes now, just add sugar to create sloe and apple jelly, or combine it with blackberries, new season apples and cobnuts to create a foraged, autumnal crumble or cobbler.

 

More hedgerow bounty…
Grab a basket and hit the hedgerows for a free, fruity feast.

Blackberries
Wherever there is a patch of neglected land or a hedgerow, you’ll find brambles, laden with ripe and juicy berries – they look like big raspberries, but they’re black, sweeter and juicier and will be ready from September onwards.

Rosehips
You’ll find these orangey-red fruits, that are potent in vitamin C, from late summer onwards, both on roses in your garden and wild, rambling ones in hedgerows. Turn them into syrup, herbal tea, jam and jellies, or rosehip soup – which is a popular dish in Sweden.

Cobnuts
A variety of the hazelnut, cobnuts are especially common in the South, where they grow wild in woods on hazel trees. Young, green cobnuts have a taste like coconut, while ripe, golden ones, are sweet like hazelnuts. You’ll probably also find cob- and hazelnuts in parks… if the squirrels don’t get there first.

Mushrooms
Unless you know what you’re picking, or are with an expert (they don’t call John Wright “John Mushroom” for nothing!), you don’t want to go picking random mushrooms. But armed with a guidebook or a forager, you’ll find them popping up in woodland and grassland from about now and throughout autumn. John Wright has mushroom foraging courses at River Cottage in Dorset.

The wild, wild West Country

To the wilds of Wiltshire and Somerset, or SoCo as I’m calling it, short for South of Cotswolds.

The green arc around Bath’s eastern side, where the West Country ends and the Wolds begin has long been neglected by travellers who zip through heading south for Devon, north to the Cotswolds, or straight through to Bath, Bristol and beyond.

But not anymore. This lush green, properly rural corner of the country has had a noticeable influx of not-so-muddy boots hot-footing it out of the city and into this bucolic, arty no-mans-land.

The tiny towns of Bruton, Frome (which boasts swanky private members club and hotel Babington House on its doorstep) and Bradford on Avon, all have a historic grandness about them, while also remaining just the right side of quaint to be thriving, interesting towns to live in and not just visit.

A wave of galleries, hotels, foodie producers, restaurants and cultural outposts have been putting this hot spot on the map.

Most recent, and notable, is contemporary art space Hauser and Wirth, on the edge of Bruton in Somerset. Drive out of the town (do stop for food, wine and a night at At The Chapel on the high street) and you’ll easily miss this farmhouse and its barns that have been converted into a world-class gallery. Outside, Subodh Gupta’s giant gleaming milking pail bucket, a Louise Bourgeois spider and the gently swaying Piet Oudolf-designed gardens (he of New York’s Highline fame) give away the fact that something altogether new is happening here.

It’s a cultural version of Daylesford in Gloucestershire, a daring and brave mix that includes an art shop, four galleries, landscaped sculpture gardens for outdoor walks; and a truly fantastic restaurant and bar – the Roth Bar and Grill. A farm shop will open in spring 2015. We turned up on a wet Saturday in November, knowing they were fully booked, with two toddlers in tow, and they still smiled cheerily and managed to find us a table. The simple, unpretentious food is a sort of Ottolenghi meets gastropub hybrid. What they do is simple but amazing (so much better than complicated and failing!). The pulled pork and coleslaw ciabatta was great; chicken with rosemary roast new potatoes kept the four-year-old very happy; and the salad of butternut squash, kale and roasted tomato with spelt and goats cheese that was meant to be the side dish, stole the show.

And the bar… if only we hadn’t driven! It’s an ‘oasis for cocktails’, with a dizzying installation built out of local reclaimed materials by Dieter Roth’s son and grandson, Björn and Odder Roth. The children loved trying to spot some of the more obscure items amongst the junk: a rolling pin, a violin, a shoe!

You can even sleep here – Durslade farmhouse, which is emblazoned with Martin Creed’s neon words “Everything is going to be alright” – can be rented by the week and sleeps 12.

Up the road in Frome, was the best little shopping street I’ve seen in a long time – St Catherine’s Hill. Packed with indy boutiques, arty spaces and a bit of new age dream catcher thrown in for good measure (well we are a stone’s throw from Stonehenge and Glastonbury after all), it’s a fantastic town to potter and purchase Christmas presents in. The Archangel makes a great pit-stop, and if you want to swoon about in luxury, nowhere (really nowhere, except perhaps Limewood) does it better than Babington House.

In Bradford on Avon, there’s a great mixture of shops, galleries and places to run about. The kids will love the country park; we played pooh sticks on the footbridge over the rive, and the wandered up to Fat Fowl – a great all-day bistro with jazz on a Sunday and an upstairs play area to occupy the kids.

Stay at Woolley Grange, just outside of Bradford, where children are the stars of the show. It feels more like a friend’s rambling house party than a hotel, with higgledy rooms that accommodate almost any arrangement of family set-up, and two restaurants so that you can go posh and grown up, or gastro and family. The pool and spa are perfect for rainy days – and everyone has kids so there are no glaring looks – while the Woolley Bears’ Den is a free (yes free!) Ofsted-registered crèche run by Joan who has been with the hotel for 20 years. My two came running out with pictures and freshly made, if delightfully wonky, jam tarts and the older one asked if she could go back again the next day. High praise indeed.

Who says a cultural break and kids can’t mix?

My secret address book

www.brutontown.com

www.hauserwirthsomerset.com

www.atthechapel.co.uk

www.discoverfrome.co.uk

www.stcatherines-frome.co.uk

www.bradfordonavon.co.uk 

www.fatfowl.com

www.woolleygrangehotel.co.uk

Chic chic chicken

Here’s a piece I wrote for Metro this week about the explosion of new chicken joints that are hip, ethical and healthy…

Chicken METRO

In the paper there wasn’t room to mention the myriad of new places, so I have added a few more here:

First it was gourmet burgers, then posh pulled pork, now it’s the turn of chicken to get the chic treatment. From the ironically-hip Chicken Shop and ChickenLiquor in London’s gritty-but-cool neighbourhoods to Fire and Feathers – an upmarket Nandos for the foodie crowd – the latest breed of chicken restaurants promise free-range birds and top-of-the-range rotisseries.

Chicken Shop
From the brains behind the celebrity-strewn private members’ club Soho House, Chicken Shop may rub shoulders with the likes of Chicken Cottage, thanks to its edgy locations such as Kentish Town, Tooting and Whitechapel, but the similarities end there.

“I think chicken would be my last meal,” explains owner Nick Jones, “so I wanted to get it exactly right. The best chicken is the one you cook at home, so we’ve tried to recreate that, but affordably.”

Months went into researching and developing the concept, including sourcing the best chickens (free-range from Banham’s farm in Norfolk, in case you were wondering) and creating a secret marinade recipe and inventing a unique rotisserie grilling system.

The industrial, exposed brick walls, pipes and high ceilings are the backdrop for make-shift furniture, a counter, and a vinyl record player so that diners can choose requests (and even bring their own records with them to play) while chowing don on chicken served from 1950s-style white-and-blue enamel plates and bowls.

And the menu? Chicken is the only main course on offer, served with triple-cooked chips, coleslaw, corn on the cob or salad. No wonder they’ve just opened in the new hipster hotel, The Hoxton Holborn. www.chickenshop.com

Chicken Shop
Chicken Shop

 

Tramshed, Shoreditch
Mark Hix has stripped back the menu with his latest string of Tramshed and Hixter restaurants. Diners can choose from simply ‘cock’ or ‘bull’ to share (and kids eat free) – the Indian Rock chicken is sourced from Swainson House Farm in Lancashire while the Glenarm Estate steak is aged in a Himalayan salt chamber.
Damien Hirst’s enormous formaldehyde sculpture of a cow and a cock loom overhead to remind diners of exactly what they are ordering. Try the signature roast barn-reared chicken with stuffing and chips, which arrives doing a headstand, feet in the air, if only to instagram it! London, www.chickenandsteak.co.uk 

Tramshed
Tramshed

 

Crafty Chooks
There’s a buzzy and chilled-out atmosphere at this all-day eatery, just metres from Hove beach, that starts with the stylish industrial style interior and mid-century modern furniture. As the name hints, Crafty Chookc combines craft beers and free-range rotisserie chicken supplied by local butchers. Hove, 01273 722846, www.craftychooks.co.uk

 

Crafty Chooks in Hove
Crafty Chooks in Hove

 

Crafty Chooks chicken
Crafty Chooks chicken

 

Fire and Feathers
Love piri piri chicken but can’t bare the idea of Nandos? Then this hot new joint is for you – Fire and Feathers brings the best of Portuguese piri piri to the Made in Chelsea set. After starting life as a pop-up last summer, Fire and Feathers has a tight menu of just four choices for starter, main and dessert. They select smaller, Gressingham corn-fed birds for optimum flavour, that are spatchcocked, grilled, then cut up on the bone – try the large chicken platter that comes with a choice three sauces, garlic, piri piri or dynamite. Fulham, www.fireandfeathers.co.uk

Coop
Simple food, well done, is the promise made by this hip restaurant that serves chicken spit-roasted over a flame pit. Think smokey and charred on the outside and melt-in-the-mouth tender inside. There are a dizzying array of sauces, from mild to fire-in-the-mouth hot (try the Scotch Bonnet sauce at your peril!) and a comforting selection of classic favourites on the dessert menu that make this restaurant a winner for families and hipsters, alike. Newcastle upon Tyne, www.coopchicken.co.uk

Coop Chicken in Newcastle
Coop Chicken in Newcastle

 

Clutch
Guilt-free fried chicken? Sounds too good to be true, but this new restaurant sources all of its rare-breed poultry from a small free-range farm in Wiltshire, then fried using the finest grade groundnut oil that is free from cholesterol and trans fats – but will that mater when you’re tipsy and starving on a Friday night in Hackney?
Happily, the menu lives up to the ethical benchmark that Clutch has set itself: expect buckets of sweet soy and garlic or peppery buttermilk chicken, parmesan and lemon chicken tenders, or honey and sesame wings, served with whipped feta or red pepper chilli chutney. De-lish. London, www.clutchchicken.com 

Clutch
Clutch

 

Chicken Shack
In Bournemouth’s buzzing Boscombe, and now with an outpost in Winton, Chicken Shack is devoted to premium quality, locally-sourced chicken, cooked on a bespoke rotisserie grill. There’s a US-Southern spin to the menu, with sides including New Orleans greens, homemade slaw and corn on the cob. Bournemouth, www.chickenshackuk.com

Chicken Liquor
From the team behind MeatLiquor, comes this ironic fried chicken shop serving wings and boneless bites (which sound suspiciously like nuggets) in a range of coatings, with a stripped-back décor, pounding hip-hop, and a cool Brixton venue – did someone say coals to Newcastle? And if further proof were needed of chicken’s new renaissance, MeatLiquor has now added a chicken section to its menus in Leeds, Brighton and London.
London (and Leeds and Brighton for MeatLiquor), www.chickenliquor.co.uk

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Cleaver
Famed for its Norfolk chicken, cooked on a charcoal grill and rotisserie, with a smattering of different sauces – from smoky tomato to hot ‘n’ spicy – this stylish, hunting lodge of a restaurant (think leather banquettes, reclaimed oak cladding on the walls, and salvaged floor tiles) also serves up wings and a range of chicken salads, as well as the now-ubiquitous burgers and ribs. This new chain comes from the team behind Prezzo so expect to see more popping up across the country in the near-future. Cobham, Wokingham, Leatherhead, Billericay, Oxford, www.cleaverrestaurants.co.uk

Le Coq
The thinking behind this neighbourhood north London restaurant couldn’t be more simple. The set menu of spit-roast, free-range Sutton Hoo chicken is adapted slightly each week – different sides and sauces pimp up the basic bird – and the ethos is to serve the best-quality, most deliciously succulent chicken. Bold, unfussy and brave in it’s single-minded approach, at £22 for three courses, it’s also a pretty good deal. London, www.lecoq.co.uk

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Clockjack Oven
The chicken at this Soho rotisserie joint (plans are afoot to open 15 of them over the next five years) is free range and ethically-reared on co-operative farms in Brittany. The menu comprises just one dish, chicken, that is marinated in herbs and cooked over an intense heat to brown the skin while keeping the meat succulent and flavourful. London, www.clockjackoven.com

You’ve read about the trend, now make it yourself:

Out on 1 October, Chicken by This Morning chef Marcus Bean (£20, Nourish Books) is an imaginative collection of inexpensive, healthy recipes for wowing friends – smoked chicken and wild garlic risotto – creating speedy meals, or updating classics with a chicken-y twist, from scotch eggs to lasagne.