Mr. Harper's Travel Guide
England is by far the most populous country in the United Kingdom, with approximately 54 million inhabitants. Much of the land is extremely fertile, notably the wheatlands of East Anglia. Elsewhere, the countryside is divided into a characteristic patchwork of fields separated by stone walls ...
England is by far the most populous country in the United Kingdom, with approximately 54 million inhabitants. Much of the land is extremely fertile, notably the wheatlands of East Anglia. Elsewhere, the countryside is divided into a characteristic patchwork of fields separated by stone walls or hedgerows. American visitors will want to explore smaller cities such as Bath, Winchester, Oxford, Cambridge, Chester, York and Durham, as well as the country houses and justly celebrated gardens. Getting around is relatively simple: The roads are good and well-signed, though often crowded in the south. And the mainline trains are fast and comfortable, though expensive. Excellent food has spread from the sophisticated restaurants of the capital and can be found throughout the land. Some gastropubs even boast Michelin stars.
WHEN TO VISIT
The weather is changeable and generally mild. Summers may be warm and sunny, but there is no guarantee of fine weather. On balance, the best months for a visit are June, July and September.
Recommended Luxury Hotels in England
Best Restaurants in England
Chef Mark Hix’s place in Soho is perfect for a pre- or post-theater meal. The kitchen works exclusively with British-sourced produce, as seen in dishes such as soused Looe Bay mackerel with Yorkshire rhubarb and sea purslane followed by grilled Dorset blue lobster with fries and garlic mustard butter, or for meat lovers, hanger steak with baked bone marrow.66-70 Brewer Street W1 London US$75 http://www.hixsoho.co.uk/
Chef Alexis Gauthier has opened a terrific restaurant in a handsomely renovated Georgian townhouse in Soho. His menus change with the season but run to dishes such as Scottish lobster with Jerusalem artichokes, poached rhubarb and a verbena-infused velouté; and Welsh lamb two ways — roasted loin and rack with lightly spiced butternut squash, dates and pistachio-braised spelt. Closed Sunday and Monday21 Romilly Street W1 London Prix Fixe, US$65-95 http://www.gauthiersoho.co.uk/
It is always a pleasure to feast on a first-rate catch of the day at this Victorian-style seafood house in Covent Garden (which also makes it ideal for pre- or post-theater dining), with its softly lit, wood-paneled décor. Look for English classics such as potted shrimp and fish pie.28-32 St. Martin's Court WC2 London US$95 http://www.j-sheekey.co.uk/
A legendary seafood restaurant since 1851, this was a particular favorite of 007 creator Ian Fleming and allegedly is the place where he discovered that martinis were better “shaken, not stirred.” A wonderful display of mollusks and crustacea includes a fine selection of oysters. The smoked fish is marvelous, and for main courses, watch for delicious dishes such as smoked haddock with Colcannon potatoes, poached egg and mustard; or slip sole with spiced brown shrimp butter.20 Mount Street W1 London US$95 http://www.scotts-restaurant.com/
Set in a Georgian townhouse, the restaurant is the vision of chef Agnar Sverrisson. Using British produce as well as that from his native Iceland, Sverrisson has created a menu featuring the likes of lightly salted Icelandic cod with avocado brandade, peppers and coriander; and char-grilled Black Angus rib eye with ox cheek and horseradish. The restaurant has a Champagne bar and a well-considered wine list. Closed Sunday, Monday and Tuesday lunch.34 Portman Street W1 London US$90. Tasting menu, US$120 http://texture-restaurant.co.uk/
The best Indian food outside the subcontinent is generally reckoned to be in London. Once, the restaurants were mostly simple and the menus restricted. No longer. Elegant Amaya draws a well-dressed crowd, and chefs working in the attractive open kitchen prepare wonderful dishes that might include wild tandoori prawns; raan mussalam — leg of baby lamb, slow roasted with royal cumin and garam masala; and duck tikka with tandoori plum chutney.
This sumptuously decorated establishment sets the bar for Cantonese food in London and has maintained a Michelin star for several years. Terrific dim sum are always available, plus the imaginative menu includes the likes of stir-fried spicy venison, jasmine tea-smoked chicken and Alaskan king crab in a rich XO sauce.17 Bruton Street W1 London US$130 http://www.hakkasan.com/
Slightly off the beaten track near the Smithfield meat market in East London, chef Fergus Henderson’s restaurant serves traditional English food. You might start with the roasted marrowbones and parsley salad, a house classic; then a meat dish like braised rabbit with turnips and aioli, or maybe one of the savory pies such as hake and leek. Don’t miss the currant-filled Eccles cake or the bread pudding with a butterscotch sauce. Closed Sunday dinner.
The pioneer of upscale Indian cooking in London, this intimate place in Mayfair first won a Michelin star in 2001 and has maintained it to this day. Try delicious dishes such as broccoli cakes with potato and spring onions with gooseberry chutney; and slow-cooked lamb shank with turmeric, yogurt and a mix of freshly ground spices.
The latest upscale Indian place is Karam Sethi’s clubby establishment in Mayfair. The menu is extremely imaginative. For example, delicious game dishes feature ingredients such as quail, pigeon, guinea fowl, roe deer and muntjac (wild Indian barking deer). If it’s on the menu, the wild boar vindaloo is outstanding. Closed Sunday.42 Albemarle Street W1 London US$75. Six-course tasting menu, US$80 and US$90 http://www.gymkhanalondon.com/
Though it is located in fashionable Fitzrovia, Dabbous has a postindustrial style more in keeping with evolving East London neighborhoods. A committed locavore, chef Ollie Dabbous strives to make the natural tastes of his produce as eloquent as possible. Dishes you might find on the changing set menu could include grilled mackerel with toasted grains, Muscat grapes and lovage; and barbecued haunch of venison with Jerusalem artichokes, tarragon and rye. Closed Sunday.39 Whitfield Street W1 London Four-course set menu, US$85 http://www.dabbous.co.uk/
The Adam Tihany-designed restaurant of chef Daniel Boulud on the ground floor of the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park is ideal for lunch after shopping in Knightsbridge (Sloane Street, Harrods and Harvey Nichols). Diners enjoy delicious charcuterie, coq au vin, salads and hamburgers.66 Knightsbridge SW1 London US$75 http://www.mandarinoriental.com/london/dining/bar_boulud/