Best bib and tucker: Michelin Hants & Isle of Wight
Muddy’s dusting off our fanciest shoes for a Michelin-approved fine-dining table, as rated in the latest guide. Did your local make the cut?
We’ve all had a ton of missed special occasions and date nights recently. This month, at long last, it’s time to get glammed-up and catch up on some stylish fine dining. Here’s our roundup of the Hampshire and Isle of Wight restaurants, gastropubs and country inns featured in this year’s Michelin guide. Go forth and eat well.
One of the fanciest restaurants in the Forest, Elderflower impressed the Michelin inspectors with its “creative modern dishes.” The food here also made a big impression on Fred Siriex when he visited with Chris Bavin last year – and it’s easy to see why. The pair tucked into beautifully presented red mullet, caught by local fishing boat, with lobster linguine and an Isle of Wight tomato salsa. The foodie crowd will be booking up fast now they’ve clocked what Fred and co. have been eating – and so will we.
The Crown Inn, Upton
Just inside the North Wessex Downs near Andover, chef-patron David Watts has been busy sprucing up the interior of his fantastic fine dining countryside pub, The Crown Inn, ready for a return to indoor dining. Michelin love a spot of well-executed creative flair and quite rightly rate his “eye-catching dishes packed with colour and contrasting textures and tastes.” If you’re ready to get your gourmet on, how about the likes of this pigeon dish with roast beets and quinoa? (above). Or ‘butter poached Scottish langoustine, roasted pork belly, fennel, carrot puree, shellfish emulsion and caviar?’ Oh, my…
The Black Rat, Winchester
Muddy used to live a hop away from this now well-established fine dining restaurant (and many a merry night was had in its sister pub, The Black Boy, and wine bar, The Black Bottle). No longer a Michelin star, once reopened, Head Chef Matt Noonan will no doubt be redoubling his efforts to make this cosy Winchester spot shine bright once again.
Fat Olives, Emsworth
Michelin is bang on the money with its summary of Fat Olives, picking out the gorgeous building (a 17C fisherman’s cottage), “charming” patrons (hospitality veterans Lawrence and Julia Murphy) and menu of “classic British dishes with a modern edge” that make good use of and support small local suppliers.
Hoddington Arms, Upton Grey, Basingstoke
Better known to many as “the Hodd”, this traditional country pub in the village of Upton Grey near Basingstoke has plenty of fans locally. Michelin raves about its “wonderfully atmospheric former barn” setting and “classic pub dishes” that are “full of flavour”.
The Pig, Brockenhurst
The original Pig in the now legendary group, the New Forest fine dining restaurant has gorgeous interiors and rustic charm by the sackload. Their true ‘field-to-fork’ ethos has been a huge hit with guests and laid-back foodies like your local Muddy. And Michelin certainly agree: “The gardener and forager supply what’s best from within a 25-mile radius and cooking is unfussy and wholesome.”
Pulpo Negro, Arlesford
The only Hampshire restaurant to get a coveted Bib Gourmand this year, the Michelin Guide really rates Barcelona-born Head chef-patron Andres Alemany’s “authentic tapas”. Rather than trotting out the usual, often clichéd small plates, you’ll find more imaginative fare here, like the rare breed pork chop, clams & mojo verde that’s brand new on the menu.
36 on the Quay, Emsworth
A stalwart of the Hampshire dining scene, 36 on the Quay hasn’t managed to reclaim the longstanding Michelin star held by their former chef-patron. Nonetheless, local-born head chef and owner, Gary Pearce, still impresses with informal fine dining and those harbour views.
The Thomas Lord, West Meon, near Petersfield
Located in the sleepy village of West Meon, The Thomas Lord is owned by the Upham pub group. Named after the former local who founded Lord’s cricket ground, it’s a quintessential countryside pub, done well. Michelin loves their “hearty” British dishes and alfresco pizzas – and so do we.
Marle, Heckfield Place, Heckfield
Culinary director Skye Gyngell helms Marle restaurant at Heckfield Park, the gorgeous, Georgian country house hotel. Seating is in the cosy, fireside Hearth and light, orangery style Glass House dining rooms. Shining through in the top-notch cooking are plenty of ingredients grown on the estate’s own biodynamic farm. Book a fine dining weekender here and you’ll be talking about it for months.
The Purefoy, Preston Candover
A charming redbrick gastro in the picture-perfect countryside village of Preston Candover, Michelin rate chef-patron Gordon Stott’s simple pub classics just as much as his fine-dining fare. Epic Sunday roasts are always a hit.
Wellington Arms, Baughurst
This 18th-century former hunting lodge on the edge of the Duke of Wellington’s Stratfield Saye estate is a foodie dream come true. On-site are chickens, bees, sheep, pigs and the most beautifully kept kitchen garden you’ll ever see. Michelin inspectors describe the cooking as “generous and satisfying.”
Chesil Rectory, Winchester
Tucked inside a beautiful Medieval timbered house, the ex Mirabelle and Fortnum and Mason chef, Damian Brown, cooks what Michelin describe as “classically-based dishes informed by local, seasonal produce and given a modern twist”. Think chalk-stream trout pastrami, crisp, Bere Mill Lamb Shoulder and a mighty Sunday roast. All eyes now on the restauranteur’s latest venture, Inn the Park, just a short walk away.
The Greyhound on the Test, Stockbridge
Summer nights by the River Test, cosy candlelight meals in the characterful oak-beamed restaurant and fantastic food from Head Chef Phil Bishop at The Greyhound on the Test. The Michelin Guide really rates this Stockbridge stalwart’s “elegant décor” and “appealing range of dishes” – and so do we.
The East End Arms, Lymington
Owned by Dire Straits guitarist John Illsley (a fact not lost on Michelin), the East End Arms serves a hit list of classic dishes on its menu featuring plenty of great local ingredients. Still very much a local boozer (with a local following), its good food and friendly service delight visitors too, meaning happy guests all round.
Kyoto Kitchen, Winchester
Precision is important in Japanese cuisine and the much-loved Kyoto Kitchen gets it spot on. Michelin says: “Authentic Japanese dishes are prepared with care and there’s good detail in the execution.” Girl’s lunch or date night, this is the place to get your sushi fix.
Hartnett Holder & Co, Lime Wood, Lyndhurst
The all-conquering Angela Hartnett and Lime Wood partner Luke Holder (above) serve up a fabulous menu of Italian-influenced dishes like seabass, squid & chorizo bolognaise alongside their own Tuscan wines at this destination New Forest hotel restaurant. Michelin think the set lunch is a steal.
The Three Tuns, Romsey
Pretty hanging baskets, open fires and simple wood tables: The Three Tuns is a classic country pub with a straightforward menu to-boot. Think ploughman’s, local chalk stream trout salad and epic fish & chips, with plenty of local superstar ingredients. Michelin says: “classic pub dishes are fresh, generously proportioned and full of flavour.” The inspectors also had their eyes on the (daily special) pies.
The Terrace Restaurant, The Montagu Arms Hotel, Beaulieu
This flagship hotel restaurant has had a bit of a rollercoaster with Michelin, shining bright before losing its star in 2016. Head Chef Matthew Whitfield has been at the helm since 2019. He’s a local lad from Southampton who’s worked in Michelin Star restaurants internationally. And now, he’s definitely on the Michelin radar. They say: “this is a chef who really understands how to pair flavours and everything is on the plate for a reason”.
ISLE OF WIGHT
The Aquitania, The Seaview Hotel, near Ryde
Listed in the guide as ‘Seaview’, the popular ivy-clad Island hotel has had a refurb and rebranded its restaurant as ‘The Aquitania’, (after the distinguished 1914 ocean liner, known as ‘the ship beautiful’). New dishes like Stone bass with sautéed girolles, buttered potatoes and Champagne sauce (above) from Head Chef Bruce Theobald look absolutely gorgeous. Michelin says: “Good value set-priced menus focus on carefully prepared, classical seafood dishes and ingredients are good quality.”
Head chef Robert Thompson has been focusing on a nationwide home delivery service during the pandemic. But fans from near and far will no doubt be looking forward to the reopening of his smart Newport fine dining restaurant. Michelin says: “original cooking makes good use of island ingredients and exhibits some interesting flavour combinations.” They also recommend snagging one of the three top tables in front of the open kitchen.
The Conservatory, The George Hotel, Yarmouth
If you like your fine dining restaurants with knock-out views, the George Hotel is the place to go. Smart interiors, plenty of Island produce and stylish indoor or outdoor dining will make it a meal (or mini break) to remember. Michelin clearly agrees, saying: “this airy brasserie with a sizeable terrace offering views over a lovely garden which leads down to the water’s edge.”
The Hut at Colewell Bay, Freshwater
A Muddy must-visit on the Island, we can’t think of anywhere better than The Hut for a sunny afternoon of oh-so-stunning sea views and lingering lunches. Michelin says: “sit on the terrace or under retractable roofs and enjoy anything from fish tacos to a fruits de mer platter.” Well, who are we to argue?
One to watch: The Hambrough, Ventnor
A former Michelin star on the Island but absent from the Guide in recent years, the smart Ventnor restaurant and B&B have just announced Matthew Tomkinson as their new Head Chef. Previously, Tomkinson has won a star at The Goose in Britwell Salome, Oxfordshire and as Head Chef at the Montagu Arms in Beaulieu. He’s sure to go all out to get The Hamborough back on the Michelin fine dining radar.