Travelers are always looking for the places where the locals go, especially when it comes to restaurants.
During a recent visit to London I discovered not just one, but an entire collection of eateries that fit the bill. They offer appetizing attractions: excellently prepared, regionally-sourced farm-to-table food...good prices... friendly and knowledgeable service...a stylish décor straight out of House & Garden...and rooms buzzing with English accents.
I call these wonderful finds a "collection" and not a "chain", as each had its own style and menu. There is, however, a consistency in quality and ownership. You won't find any of them smack in the midst of tourist areas, which is part of their appeal, but mere blocks away in residential neighborhoods.
This collection of public houses, or gastropubs, is called Cubbitt House, named after Thomas Cubitt who in the 1800s built most of Belgrave and Eaton Squares. There are four, each with a pub on the ground floor and dining rooms and private rooms above; two have hotels accommodations as well. Check out www.cubitthouse.co.uk.
The Thomas Cubitt is in Belgravia, just down Elizabeth Street from Eaton Square.
The Grazing Goat is near Portman Square, where animals once grazed. It also has eight serene guest rooms for rent.
The Alfred Tennyson (formerly called the un-spellable Pantechnicon Rooms) is in Knightsbridge a few blocks from Harvey Nick's.
And The Orange is in Pimlico, not far from Sloane Square and across the street from Orange Square with its statue of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, who once lived just down Ebury Street. The Orange has four stylish hotel rooms for rent upstairs.
Friends who live in London propelled me to my first experience, at The Orange, with the magical words: Sunday roast. All the restaurants feature a selection of roasts on Sundays, which might be West Devon lamb or Kilravock pork. They're seasoned with herbs from Cubitt House's own gardens; the basil in my Basil Fawlty cocktail was grown in the pub's back yard. Each Cubitt House restaurant has won a Three Star Champion status, the highest accolade in the Sustainable Restaurant Association's rating survey.
At The Orange I seemed to be the only person not enjoying Sunday dinner with friends. There was a table of young couples, each with a baby or toddler. Another table of young women in designer jeans and LK Bennett pumps. They fit right into the rustic city décor of natural woods, open fireplaces, gilded mirrors, old prints, and a soothing yet sophisticated neutral color palette.
I loved my Sunday roast so much I'm tempted to try the collections' English breakfasts on my next trip to London. I might visit the Grazing Goat this time; it's a few blocks from Oxford Street and should fortify me for a shopping spree at Marks & Sparks.