Until recently, touring a sunlit vineyard fell under the ‘not on these rainy shores’ category of day out. However, thanks to recent bounds in UK-produced wine, Britain’s winery scene has bloomed – and we’re now seeing the rise of the vineyard restaurant.
According to WineGB, visitor numbers to British vineyards were up 17% last year, and a survey by VisitBritain found that 42% of inbound tourists said they would enjoy a visit to a UK winery. And while most vineyards offer a café or cheese board in some capacity, only a handful have invested in full-scale, five-star restaurants that are as much of a pull as the vineyards themselves.
Most are based in the south of England (due to obvious climatic reasons), but there are a couple of good ones further afield – like the bistro at Llanrech Vineyard in Wales. So, if you’re looking to be vined and dined right here in the UK, here are five of the country’s best winery restaurants.
Tillingham has history. There’s been a farm here since the 13th century, surrounded by 70 acres of sheep-dotted hills, ancient woodland, and – since 2016 – 40,000 vines. Its brightly bottled wines are organic and low intervention, with some aged in a Qvevri – a huge stone pot used by Georgian winemakers for the last 7,000 years.
Tillingham, Dew Farm, Dew Lane Peasmarsh, Rye TN31 6XD
The restaurant is in a converted barn with a south-facing terrace looking over the ambling vines (book the private dining room for the best views). And unsurprisingly, for a menu created by ex-Silo chef Brendan Eades, it was awarded a Michelin Green Star in 2021. Despite changing every day, plates always feature Tillingham-reared produce – e.g., mutton, caramelised cream, and smoked pink firs – and come dinner time, you’ll be there for a full six courses.
Chalk Restaurant, Wiston Estate
Fragrant wildflower meadows. Bulbs of pesto-lashed burrata. And you, frolicking through a vineyard to taste the sparkling wine British Airways now serves instead of champagne in its first-class lounges. If this sounds like your day out of dreams, set your navigation in the direction of Wiston Estate.
Wiston Estate and Chalk Restaurant, North Farm, Pulborough, RH20 4BB
Its alfresco restaurant champions a sustainable approach to food and farming, with a menu by chef Tom Kemble – who won a Michelin star at Mayfair’s Bonhams in 2015. His dishes use seasonal and hyperlocal produce from the estate and neighbouring suppliers – try the mushroom gnocchi or pesto burrata.
The Tasting Room at Rathfinnny
You’ve only been able to taste Rathfinny wines since 2018, but the vineyard has already got one of the most comprehensive restaurant offerings in the UK. Of the three available, The Tasting Room is the most luxurious – and sustainable (the entire vineyard is a certified B Corp and powered by renewable energy).
Rathfinny Wine Estate, Alfriston, Polegate, BN26 5TU
Everything you eat is elevated, elegant, and designed to pair with Rathfinny’s renowned sparkling wines. Plus, on selected dates in August, special long-table, barbecue-themed dinners take place in the vineyards themselves.
Staying on a vineyard in Wales? It’s possible – as Llanrech has proved since the ‘80s. The hotel is based around a whitewashed farmhouse that has been tastefully decked with wine-themed décor, with the corresponding vineyard producing a good selection of whites and rosés.
Llanerch Vineyard Hotel, Hensol Rd, Hensol, Pontyclun, CF72 8GG
However, the bistro is where Llanrech excels. It’s a stunner of a restaurant, with the vineyard on one side and an open kitchen on the other – neither of which you’ll be looking at by the time the food arrives, which is seasonal stuff to the tune of pan-fried wood pigeon, tomato tartine, and langoustine ravioli.
The Rows & Vine at Ridgeview
If it’s English sparkling wine you want, it’s to Ridgeview you must go. The first vines were planted when the idea of good English wine was laughable (about 30 years ago) – now, its sparkling varieties have won countless awards.
Ridgeview Wine Estate, Ditchling Common, Fragbarrow Ln, BN6 8TP
Its restaurant is a bit more casual than the others listed here, with most plates coming in under a tenner. However, you can still order oysters and Blanc de Blancs – Ridgeview’s award-winning answer to champagne – or the likes of gin-cured salmon and lamb rump dribbled with a red wine reduction.
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