As one of the UK’s major food production areas and with a wide range of eating out options from fine dining in country house hotels to gastropubs, cafes, delis and ethnic eateries Worcestershire is fast becoming a haven for foodies. We’ll begin our tour of the county’s tried and trusted with picturesque hotels.
There are few more stunning settings for a memorable gastronomic experience than Stanbrook Abbey, located in the village of Callow End between Worcester and Malvern. This former 16th-century abbey served Benedictine nuns rather than the general public until a decade ago. Forget the stuffy and unwelcoming décor that is often typical of old buildings. Stanbrook Abbey’s recently renovated restaurant, The Refectory, is brasserie-style while retaining the room’s original grandeur.
The Refectory is open for dinner, afternoon tea and Sunday lunch and presents a constantly-changing and creative menu of dishes showcasing seasonal ingredients alongside classic favourites. Chateau Impney in Droitwich Spa and Wood Norton Hotel near Evesham were built as French-themed hotels for different historical reasons – the former as a family home for John Corbett, known as the “Salt King”, and the latter for exiled French royal Duc D’Orleans and his family.
Sample fine-dining by Chaddesley Restaurant at Brockencote Hall
Wood Norton Hotel boasts the Fleur de Lys restaurant, which, again, isn’t unnecessarily over fussy or formal. The menu is modern, varied and seasonal with more than a nod and wink to the Vale of Evesham and its local produce. Brockencote Hall in the mid-Worcestershire village of Chaddesley Corbett has been awarded three AA Rosettes for the outstanding cuisine at its Chaddesley Restaurant, which provides an elegant, relaxed atmosphere with panoramic rural views for an overall fine dining experience that champions food excellence and the county’s artisan producers. Again, the menu changes frequently with the seasons so you can expect the unexpected with flavoursome dishes brimming with imagination and innovation.
Eckington Manor in Pershore also combines fine dining and luxury accommodation while satisfying an ever-increasing appetite – an in-house cookery school which gives diners and visitors the opportunity to learn more about how good food is sourced, prepared and cooked. The Manor serves British and European dishes – all with a twist using produce from its own award-winning farm, orchard, vegetable and herb gardens which underline the importance of using high quality, seasonal ingredients.
Also typical of the recent trend of demystifying where the food we eat comes from is Green Cow Kitchens, in the village of Whitbourne 10 miles west of Worcester. Launched in 2012, it offers a modern culinary experience based on its own unique story. Everything is locally sourced, mostly from the venue’s very own farm, which is reflected in a seasonally changing menu. In winter, expect pheasant, partridge and duck on the menu. Throughout the seasons, the chefs forage for wild garlic, hedgerow berries, damsons, plums, apples, pears, puffballs and elderflower.
Wood Norton Hotel boasts the Fleur de Lys restaurant, which, again, isn’t unnecessarily over fussy or formal. The menu is modern, varied and seasonal with more than a nod and wink to the Vale of Evesham and its local produce
Many of Worcestershire’s best hotels are focused around tourist-centric Malvern Hills with a strong focus on high quality cuisine. These include L’Amuse Bouche at the Cotford Hotel in Malvern, an award-winning two AA Rosette restaurant (and the winner of Visit Worcestershire restaurant of 2016 and nominee in 2019) which offers French-style cuisine.
At the Mount Pleasant Hotel in the heart of Great Malvern is the Mulberry Tree Restaurant, named in recognition of literary legend George Bernard Shaw planting a mulberry tree in Priory Park opposite the hotel in 1936 to mark his 80th birthday. Moving to the north of the county, The Orangery at the Old Rectory House in Redditch specialises in modern British fare but with tweaks on both traditional and modern dishes.
Similarly, Russells of Broadway, which describes itself as a restaurant with rooms, is a Michelin Guide recommended fine dining restaurant serving modern British food. Perched above the charming village of Broadway you’ll also find Dormy House, an award-winning hotel with stunning views and a restaurant menu that is both creative and seasonal.
Relax in the modern interior at Pensons
Enjoy the fusion of flavours and Michelin-star food
Worcestershire isn’t all about hotels and county houses though. Drop into almost any village in the county and you’ll find chefs passionate about serving fantastic food. Pensons is a relatively new kid on the block which has opened on the Herefordshire/Worcestershire border near Tenbury Wells.
Based in an exposed brick barn which appears to blend the countryside and hip Shoreditch, this Michelin-starred restaurant serves up a contemporary menu with a detailed and mouth-watering description of each offering. Dishes will include ingredients that have travelled from further afield, for example Isle of Wight cherry tomatoes, balanced with locally-sourced items such as Herefordshire Herdwick lamb.
If your preference is for a modern cafe bar experience, many restaurants vary their act depending on the time of day. The Terrace on the Hill in Great Malvern typifies this theme – high-end cafe in the daytime, fine dining restaurant on weekend evenings. Also, look out for Decanter Spirit in Bromsgrove, which is a wine shop by day and lively wine and cocktail bar by night.
Many of Worcestershire’s best hotels are focused around tourist-centric Malvern Hills with a strong focus on high quality cuisine
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It’s a long time since country pubs offered little more than a ploughman’s lunch or a crusty cob and if you’re out and about in Worcestershire you’ll discover fantastic gastropubs just about anywhere. Among the best of these is the Fox and Hounds at Lulsey near Malvern, which was voted best Worcestershire pub of 2019 in the National Pub and Bar Awards and is another seemingly unimposing looking pub from the outside with traditional décor inside. Don’t be fooled – once again, the focus is on locally-sourced food and good quality ales, lagers and ciders.
Also close to Malvern you’ll find The Inn at Welland, The Baiting House at Upper Sapey and The Swan Inn at Hanley Swan. In the south of the county is Jockey Inn, located between the small towns of Pershore and Upton-upon-Severn, The Dew Drop Inn at Lower Broadheath – handily placed if you are visiting The Firs, birthplace of Sir Edward Elgar – and The Royal Oak at Evesham.
Fill up on pub classics in cosy surroundings
To the north of the county, The Hop Pole at Bewdley and The Forest at Feckenham are also highly recommended. Down in the Vale of Evesham, they take their local produce very seriously – well, to a point – and asparagus is king. Evesham Asparagus is an internationally recognised protected delicacy with the jolly green Worcestershire vegetable awarded the same European Protected Food Name Status as Champagne, Cognac and Roquefort cheese. The asparagus even has its own annual festival to celebrate the growing season and like the well-produced shoots themselves it is no limp affair.
Launched by the British Asparagus Growers Association in 2006, the festival comprises a series of themed events every April, May and June and has its own mascot – Gus the Asparagus Man, obviously. Among the fun activities taking place on or around St George’s Day you can take a coach tour around the Vale’s key asparagus related locations on the Asparabus, including the famous The Fleece Inn at Bretforton. The Fleece Inn, which is now owned by the National Trust, was named Visit England’s Tourism Pub of the Year 2016, stages two asparagus auctions which attract hundreds of visitors.
It’s a long time since country pubs offered little more than a ploughman’s lunch or a crusty cob and if you’re out and about in Worcestershire you’ll discover fantastic gastropubs just about anywhere
Food and drink festivals
Other popular Worcestershire food and drink festivals include Worcester Gin Festival, Great Malvern Food Festival and Eastnor Chilli Festival (Herefordshire technically but right on the border), all in May. Droitwich Spa Food Festival takes place in June, Pershore Plum Festival and Worcester Beer and Cider Festival are both held in August and Broadway Food Festival can be visited every September.
The Three Counties Show, which is held at the Three Counties Showground near Malvern in June, has a strong emphasis on locally produced food and drink and the autumn show at the end of September is billed as the ultimate harvest festival. Worcester Food Festival, a free food festival in the city centre held over two days in July, fills the streets with top quality products. Around 60 stalls offer a wide selection of food and drink products from artisan bread and chocolates to local gin, cheese and marmalades.
Resistance is pointless as many vendors serve street food for visitors to enjoy on the go from freshly-made burgers and curry to paella and pizza. The city’s attraction-packed and family-friendly Victorian Christmas Fayre, held annually on the last weekend of November/start of December, features a plethora of street vendors proffering alfresco food and drink of all types. For an urban culinary experience, you’re spoilt for choice if you head into Worcester city centre at any time of the day or night.
Try something new at one of Worcestershire’s many food festivals
The Faithful City is crammed with eateries. While there are specific food areas in Cathedral Plaza, opposite Worcester Cathedral, and in Crowngate Shopping Centre, where you’ll find many of the usual high street chains clustered together, there are also many independent cafes, bars and restaurants that offer something deliciously different.
Pride of place location-wise are Browns at the Quay on South Parade and the Old Rectifying House, on North Parade, both set beside the mighty River Severn and offering contemporary dining experiences. A short walk away from the main city centre streets is Ostlers at Number 1. Ideally situated for Worcester Racecourse and the Swan Theatre, the restaurant has been serving an imaginatively-created, high quality menu for the past two decades.
For a more traditional setting on the euphemistically named New Street, which has many overhanging black and white timber framed buildings including the house where King Charles II hid as Royalist forces rampaged through the city at the end of the Battle of Worcester in 1651, is Saffrons, a popular bistro. Owners Nick and Chrissy Hunt’s mission statement is straightforward: No pretention, no fuss, just local high quality food served in a friendly informal environment.
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Image credits: ©Chaddesley Restaurant at Brockencote Hall; Dormy House; Johncarey2019/Patricia Niven/Pensons; Mika/Robin Stickel/Unsplash