The best Sunday lunches within an hour of London
Even the most London-centric among us wants to get out of the Big Smoke once in a while — escaping to rustic vistas, kitchen garden vegetables and the chance to get wellies dirty. But many of us have neither the time or means to make a full weekend of it.
This is where the ‘just out of London Sunday lunch’ really comes into its own. Londoners get a countryside fix but can roll back to the capital in the evening, full of fresh air and farm-to-fork food.
It’s sort of like a London festival but in reverse – you get all the benefits but can sleep in your own bed. (With this said, many pubs have rooms or cottages for anyone who actually does not want to sleep in their own bed).
We recommend leaving town early and going on a little – (or long) walk before your Bloody Mary’s.
Given that there is little more disappointing than a sub-par Sunday lunch each of our picks have been chosen because they won’t serve you hard grey meat or lumpy gravy. Carrots won’t be nuked, Yorkshire puddings will be generous and certainly not disappointing deydrated shells of batter.
These lunches are all an hour or less by car from London. Most – but not all – are located in small villages unserved by public transport. This doesn’t mean that trains, buses and taxis can’t get you there, but it might take a little longer to get your paws on the pork crackling.
The Hand & Flowers, Berkshire
The only pub in the UK with two Michelin stars and run by Tom Kerridge it is no surprise that the mere mention of The Hand & Flowers makes people salivate. Yet, despite its accolades the place is friendly and the food surprisingly unfussy. The focus is not on obscure ingredients, rather making sure the flavours speak for themselves. Which they will. From the robust safety of Chateaubriand to the more unusual squid lasagne or pork accompanied by liquorice — the menu is a joy to choose from, one of those rare occasions where you aren’t sure what you’re getting but it will be better than you could possibly have imagined.
The whole site, 40 minute’s in the car from Zone 2 (West), is magic — have a wander and take in the little cottages where some lucky guests can stay. The Hand & Flowers is pricey, there are no two ways about it but it really is like nowhere else.
126 West Street, Marlow, SL7 2BP, thehandandflowers.co.uk
The Cat Inn, Sussex
The food here is so pretty even people who are appalled by the idea of taking a snap of their plates will find themselves tempted to record these culinary masterpieces. The beef, chicken and pork roasts are all top notch and there is a lot more on the menu besides: the Harissa roasted tofu must pique the interest of even the most dedicated carnivores.
The Cat, an hour’s car ride from Zone 2 (South), has a stellar wine cellar but also champions delicious drops from Sussex. There are plenty available by the glass which is refreshing, and most welcome for anyone with a busy Monday.
There is an over-sevens policy which will be a deal breaker for parents or music to the ears of anyone hoping to enjoy a Peppa Pig theme tune-free lunch.
North Lane, West Hoathly, West Sussex, RH19 4PP, catinn.co.uk
The Fox & Hounds, Hertfordshire
A fifty minute drive out from Zone 2 (North) in the village of Hunsdon is a stately looking gastropub which every Sunday without fail serves exceptional rib of roast beef, accompanied by faultless roast potatoes. There is more on the menu at The Fox & Hounds of course: expect seasonal fare with lots of fish options such as a lemon sole for two and the type of puddings that make you need to loosen your belt. See the stem ginger ice cream for more details.
There’s even a little shop here with lots of tasty local produce and deli delights that you can take back to London with you.
2 High Street, Hunsdon, SG12 8NH, foxandhounds-hunsdon.co.uk
The Hoop, Essex
This cute little pub a 45-minute drive from Zone 1 (East) is a sight for sore eyes – white wooden clapboard gives it a fresh New England aesthetic while inside it’s all wooden beams and cosy corners. There’s a bar downstairs, a dining room upstairs — and in summer the pretty garden at the back fills up quickly.
On Sundays, the roast sirloin of beef is a top pick – complete with a juicy gravy you could be tempted to order by the bowl and drink like soup. Ditto the custard which comes with the traditional crumble pudding. Staff are friendly and accommodating — there’s a ‘just ask’ ethos which only adds to the relaxed atmosphere.
High Street, Stock, Essex, CM4 9BD, thehoop.co.uk
The Pointer, Buckinghamshire
Bordering the green, The Pointer is one of many jewels in an utterly gorgeous ‘why do we live in London again?’ village, only a couple minutes over an hour’s drive from Zone 2 (West)
The Sunday lunches are notable not only for the meat and seasonal vegetables which are always locally-sourced (The Pointer also has its own butcher shop right next door) plus Yorkshire puddings but also for the extras that allow you to pimp your plate, if you will. Pigs in blankets are absolutely not just for Christmas, especially when they have this bacon to pork ratio. Vegetarians need not panic – there’s a full veggie roast available and it’s deluxe so you won’t have to do that whole ‘I’m happy with a couple of potatoes honestly’ schtick. Puddings are elevated classics — Sticky Toffee puddings with salty sauces and rhubarb pavlovas (the latter is a work of art).
Oh, and you can’t go to Brill without visiting the windmill — either before or after your lunch stroll through the village to this lovely local landmark.
27 Church St, Brill, Aylesbury, HP18 9RT, thepointerbrill.co.uk
The Hind’s Head, Berkshire
With a Michelin-star and Heston Blumenthal at the helm, it is no wonder this 14th-century coaching inn is not only a huge hit with punters, but is always topping critics’ ‘best pub’ lists.
The hype is acute — and valid. It’s a whole experience, from the interiors which are essentially an enlarged cabinet of curiosities — taxidermy, gilt, toile de jouy — with low lighting and leather banquettes, to the food which can only be described as a masterclass in perfection. Blumenthal is famous for his culinary innovation and capacity to surprise but the Sunday lunch is remarkably traditional. The menu is small — ideal for dithering decision-makers — but thoughtfully balanced and, needless to say, cooked to absolute perfection.
The Hind’s Head is a 35-minute drive from Zone 2 (West).
High Street, Bray, SL6 2AB, hindsheadbray.com
The Star, Surrey
The latest venture from friends and The Ivy allumni James Lyon Shaw and Jamie Dobbin, The Star is a lovely little spot almost exactly an hour’s drive from Zone 2 (South) which specialises in making guests feel cosy and comfortable — think log fires, Sunday papers and unpretentious but delectable lunches. The emphasis is one of communion and indulgence — there are all sorts of sharing bits for the table from oysters and flatbreads to tarte tatins for two, while the roast lunches are hearty. If you feel like bucking the Sunday tradition, or would rather have fish there are plenty of main courses that don’t feature Yorkshire Puddings or gravy.
Petworth Road, Witley, GU8 5LU, thestarwitley.co.uk
The Lord Nelson, Oxfordshire
The Lord Nelson is nestled in the almost impossibly picturesque village of Brightwell Baldwin: a cluster of thatched cottages in honey-hued stone and narrow winding roads. Midsomer Murders has even been filmed here, that’s how far up the charming barometer it is.
On Sundays, the17th-century pub itself attracts loyal locals and those who travel from miles around to tuck into the roasts. Inside it’s cosy — roaring fire, friendly and relaxed staff — while on summer days the back courtyard comes into its own and buzzes with people having a glass of something cold and crisp with olives before lunch. London is just under an hour away by car from Zone 1 (West). Expect absurdly good Bloody Mary’s followed by traditional roast beef.
And the staff have certainly been to charm school – no matter how busy it is, they are invariably consummate can-doers.
Brightwell Baldwin, Watlington OX49 5NP; 01491 612497
Horse Guards Inn, West Sussex
Named after the household cavalry who would often stop by for refreshments — their horses grazing nearby — this 350-year-old South Downs pub, just over an hour’s drive from Zone 3 (south west), still provides bucolic beauty and moreish sustenance.
It is quite simply a mood board of whimsical countryside perfection all year round with rustic mismatched antiques, wild flowers and log fires while in the summer the hidden garden with its hammocks, straw bales and daybeds only serves to elevate the dreaminess. Don’t be surprised to find hens clucking about the place either — only adding to the home-spun feel.
The food is serious business. Vegetables and herbs are grown onsite and contribute to a menu that is ever changing and in service to the seasons. All produce is, as far as possible, locally sourced from independent suppliers. The level of care that goes into the presentation of each dish or drink is truly remarkable and has the depth of flavour and expertise to match. Sunday lunch plates are generous in every way but save room for the puddings which are comfortingly old-fashioned delights such as Bakewell tarts or chocolate pots. Don’t be afraid to buck Sunday tradition when you order — the steaks are magic.
Upperton Road, Tillington, GU28 9AF, thehorseguardsinn.co.uk
The Victoria, Surrey
A pub in a celebrity haven with eye-watering house prices, might seem a little intimidating or somehow not in the spirit of a relaxed Sunday escape. But, The Victoria in Oxshott (27 minutes drive from Zone 2 (South West) is as warm and welcoming as any local pub but with a menu that will please die-hard traditionalists and culinary explorers alike, created by chefs who have worked with the likes of Heston Blumenthal and Gordon Ramsey.
Sunday lunch offers carnivores their beef and pork roasts, but it also includes thoughtful alternatives for vegetarians or people who always choose two starters including delicate risottos or seasonal soups.
And you needn’t brace yourself for a massive bill: £40 is an absolute bargain for three delicious, generous courses.
High Street, Oxshott, Leatherhead, KT22 0JR, thevictoriaoxshott.com