As Britain stirs from lockdown, a quiet revolution is shaking its gastronomy industry: the democratisation of the tasting menu. Once upon a time, overnight pilgrimages to hotel restaurants headlined by celebrity chefs had Michelin prices to match. That is changing, as foodie entrepreneurs lure gourmands to more laidback, affordable pubs with rooms.
Yet here is a story of survival as well as creativity. Lockdowns have rocked the hospitality industry, bankrupting big names – and those left fighting for survival have learnt they must adapt aggressively or die. Take Adam Handling, who recently opened his new Loch & Tyne pub with rooms venture in Windsor. The MasterChef judge, who has also appeared on Saturday Kitchen Live and The Great British Menu, lost two restaurants, a bar and a coffee shop to lockdown, split from his partner and was compelled to set up an upscale home-delivery meal kits service to save his business. He has come out fighting, as he now throws his all into achieving a Michelin star at his remaining Covent Garden flagship the Frog, and aims to make The Loch & The Tyne the country’s most sustainable pub. Plans in the pipeline for the latter include an eco-garden and a recycled water system.
For now, though, the team is pulling out all the stops to make for a memorable experience. While the pub is located just a 12-minute taxi drive from Eton and Windsor station, a classic car chauffeur service to and from guests’ homes is also on offer. I was whizzed across the M4 from London in a Bentley before arriving at the converted gamekeepers’ cottages snugly enclosed in Windsor countryside. I do hope they will be selling mimosas in summer on their graceful verandah, which is redolent of some millionaire’s sleepy mansion porch in Savannah. For now, though, as winter approaches, guests can make themselves at home with a tipple in the soothing wood-clad bar, all checked furnishings and sprigs of lavender, popped with a few pieces of bright modern portrait art.