Food of the English Countryside

Food of the English Countryside

Denise Grünstein
Denise Grünstein
Thirty-three meals, 14 farm stands, and a black-tie picnic: Matt Lee and Ted Lee set out from London to find the best food in southern England's countryside.

When a restaurant as small as Wheeler's Oyster Bar in the coastal town of Whitstable gets a delivery, even diners feel the pinch. There are just four tables, and barely enough space between them for Delia Fitt, the restaurant's elfin proprietor-waitress, who rushes back and forth to the kitchen chirping lines that sound like poetry: Check for the window table/Prawns for the wall.

Just as we were sitting down for a midsummer lunch, Fitt hoisted a crate of chanterelles over the raw bar and through the tiny dining room to the kitchen, passing so close to our table that we experienced their flame-orange brilliance, the unmistakable scent of the forest floor lingering in her wake, as if we were foraging for mushrooms ourselves. The kitchen door swung open and Fitt breezed past us again, back in the direction of the raw bar. "No room in the kitchen/Is there room at the bar?" We offered to accommodate her precious cargo at our table, but she politely declined.

We'd come to England's southern coast to eat. Jokes about the ghastly dullness of British food were as stale as old ale. England's chefs had been gaining ground on their French and Italian counterparts, and Prince Charles was showing up at British cheese competitions (his Starvall Royal won gold at the British Cheese Awards), boasting about his organic kitchen-garden. Even rural pubs, those bastions of frozen fish sticks, were embracing the country's newfound passion for local, fresh food and giving their microwaves a rest in favor of betoqued chefs grilling day-boat sole to order.

Or so we'd heard. We wanted to chart England's food renaissance, so we planned a journey through the country's breadbasket, the fertile and temperate southern counties of Kent and East Sussex, whose warm soil and long growing season make them among the most productive in the country, yielding everything from potatoes to greens to grapes. This pastoral region is home to England's equivalent of the Appalachian Trail; it's more popular among budget backpackers and retirees with walking sticks than it is with gastronomes. The inauguration of the 90-mile High Weald Landscape Trail has made it an even more compelling hiking destination. But we knew that these counties—just a short drive from London—provide many of the city's markets and restaurants with vegetables, seafood, free-range meats, and cheeses. We arranged to travel at the end of July in order to hit the height of berry season and so that our last dinner in England would be the ne plus ultra in outdoor dining: a black-tie picnic at Glyndebourne, near Lewes, which is often compared to Ascot, but with divas instead of horses.

WHITSTABLE TO FAVERSHAM: Oysters, Berries, and Bentleys

Wheeler's, our first stop, seemed to confirm our hunch that a new age had arrived. Since 1856 the restaurant has served up the bounty of the area waters—creamy oysters, meaty whelks, marble-sized cockles—from its pink stucco storefront. Then, a few years ago, Fitt (the seventh generation of Wheelers) hired a young chef, Mark Stubbs (who had worked at the restaurant as a young boy), to develop a smart, seasonal menu. So, along with the sparkling shellfish selection from the bar, we had buttery gilthead bream with a thin cape of crisp, sea salt-flecked skin and a scattering of fresh English peas and broad beans that were luminous green, sweet, and grassy, and a pleasant departure from the gray-green "mushy peas" that had plagued us on previous trips to England.

Although Stubbs's ingredients were worth venerating—the lardons are from walnut-and-apple-fed Gloucester Old Spot pigs—the atmosphere was blissfully unpretentious. A couple dining at the next table noticed we hadn't ordered the brown shrimp, a Whitstable delicacy, and passed us their own plate of the thumbnail-sized crustaceans, teaching us how to pinch off the heads and pop the rest in our mouths—shell and all. The shells gave only the faintest crunch but the shrimp delivered a mighty dash of sweetness and brine.

Just a few hours earlier, we'd been collecting our baggage at Heathrow, and already we were uncovering a great truth about eating in England now—folks are so food-proud, when you're spotted as an outsider, you get schooled in the foodways of the region. Passing as a native has no dividend here.

To be honest, we were trying hard to pass. We'd rented a 1968 heather-green Morris Minor—a dowdy, lovable workhorse of an English car—from a garage outside London, which we figured would ease our arrival at Glyndebourne. Of course we had packed our tuxedos and tickets, but we'd been told that some patrons bring their butlers and their good silver, and that the important attendees arrive from London by private helicopter. Short of rolling up in a Jaguar, speeding onto the scene in a shapely vintage Morris seemed the best way to downplay our provenance. We soon found ourselves at a dead stop in Whitstable traffic, with little else to do but sing along to Fairport Convention (a late-sixties British folk-rock group—the U.K.'s Grateful Dead) blasting on the stereo. Our performance earned a wink and a smile from a woman with a Catherine Deneuve air driving a sable-hued Bentley.

Later in the day, when we checked into Read's Restaurant with Rooms in Faversham, we were shocked to discover that the woman behind the wheel of the Bentley would be our host for the evening. Rona and David Pitchford had run a Michelin-starred restaurant for 30 years in nearby Painters Forstal when they decided to open an inn. The recently restored Georgian brick manor is the new backdrop for his talents at the stove.

As we strolled through rows of runner beans and baby lettuces growing in the garden, the gravel driveway filled with cars bearing London plates. A couple of Pimm's cups later, we understood what they had all come for: David's cooking is rooted in French technique but with a passion for Kentish ingredients. Our smoked eel-potato terrine was laced with minty chervil from the garden. A four-part riff on Moy raspberries—an early-season variety with a rosewater character—included a feather-light mousse, a vanilla custard tart with fresh berries, an intense sorbet, and a gelée. We were lucky, Rona said. The second week in July was the last of the Moy season. By Friday they'd be gone. Pity the poor weekenders.


APPLEDORE TO NEW ROMNEY: Microgreens, Farm Stands, and Fish 'n' Chips

Before we left New York, we'd contacted Frances Smith, a plucky, accomplished gardener and the co-founder of Appledore Salads. Smith's modest 18th-century farmstead just a half-hour's drive south from Read's has revolutionized fresh greens in the U.K. during the past decade. In the eighties, Smith was selling quail eggs to restaurants when her enthusiasm for vibrant salad greens caught fire with the chefs. "They were all serving the same tired romaine from Holland," she told us as we nibbled on five varieties of nasturtium blossoms. These days, her cosseted greens, like red orache, cocarde, Moroccan tea mint, and English mace, are picked at 6 a.m. and delivered to London's top chefs by dinnertime. Smith's customer list, as tough to crack as a courtside box at Wimbledon, includes pioneers such as Stephen Bull and Alastair Little, whose namesake restaurants changed the culinary landscape in England. And while what she grows at Appledore is enough to supply only a thin sliver of the London restaurant market, her influence reaches far beyond her own accounts: "The twenty different leaves I offer are provocative!" she trilled. "Once chefs taste what I'm growing, they put pressure on all their mainstream suppliers to follow suit."

After a quick "nibbling safari" in the greenhouses (they're called polytunnels here), Smith treated us to the kind of rustic shepherd's breakfast we had only dreamt about—delicious, slightly gamy lamb kidneys on toast, roasted tomato, streaky bacon with fried eggs—and chatted about the rise of "gastropubs" around England. But, she warned, many charming-looking pubs still serve frozen entrées (liver and onions, creamed chicken and rice) made by a company called Brakes (formerly Brakes Brothers). How to tell which ones do?"Just ask the barman, 'Is there a Brakes Brother in the kitchen?'" she advised.

Smith packed us off with addresses for a few gastropubs, a farmers' market, and a supermarket that represents Britain's new food world order. We hopped into the Morry and headed out but didn't get very far. A few miles down the road, we saw a sign—GIBBETT OAK FARM SHOP—that seemed promising. At the end of a driveway was a brick building with a stunning selection, not just of the farm's range of midsummer produce but also of fresh farmer cheeses with the creamy, crumbly texture of cheesecake; honeys and jams; and lusty, unfiltered apple juices, labeled by varietal: Falstaff, Red Pippin, and Cox/Bramley. If we'd visited in June, we would have been able to taste the Elsanta strawberries that are the pride of the farm.

The next farm shop we visited had deliciously tart currants and strawberries with an intense, melon-like flavor, but we couldn't ask what variety they were because there wasn't a soul in sight, only a yapping terrier which, we presumed, was the strict enforcer of the honor jar. As we drove on, it became quite clear that if we stopped at every farm shop we passed, we wouldn't make it to Tenterden for a week: farm shops are southern England's convenience stores. But instead of garish neon signage, farm shops, tucked away down narrow lanes, are marked with hand-painted wooden placards that inform you from the road what's in season. Many are so sleepy, you feel as if you've stepped into the farmer's living room. In a few cases, you have.

In Tenterden there was a brisk trade at the farmers' market. Twenty or so stalls with green-and-white-striped canopies sold bunches of heathery wildflowers, cuts of fresh, grass-fed lamb, Pentland Javelin potatoes, enormous demilune bread loaves, several piles of apples and their ciders, glistening slabs of huss (a kind of shark), sole, and plaice (a flounder look-alike) from a Rye fisherman, and scones baked that morning by someone called Lesley. We retreated across the street to Waitrose, the supermarket Smith had recommended. From the parking lot, it could have been in Cleveland or Rochester. Inside, it was a different story: here were Premiere new potatoes grown by a farmer named Darren Searle and Chantenay carrots raised by one Max Howard. The farmers' photos—all rosy and earnest—were attached to the bins. It was as though Alice Waters had swept through and hypnotized the townsfolk.

We sped along route 259, toward the southeastern corner of England and the cluster of beachside fishing villages just south of Romney Marsh, an area with such prime lamb-grazing territory that its breed of lamb is named Romney Marsh, or Romney for short. In recent years, it has become the main source for grass-fed, organic lamb, but as we drove toward the water and the verdant farmland gradually gave way to broad, treeless plains and marshes, we saw no lambs—only tufts of lamb's wool blowing across the road. A light drizzle began to fall, and at the very edge of Britain, within cannon's range of France, the land became as desolate as tundra, the water wind-whipped and steely gray. Fish smokeries seemed to be the coast's answer to the farm shop. We stopped at one in Dungeness, aptly named the Smokery, where buoys and old boots were strewn about the yard. It was no bigger than a broom closet, but its array of smoked fish would thrill any self-respecting New Yorker. Jim Moate, his long silver hair tucked up under a panama hat, emerged from the house next door and helped us through the selection: mackerel, haddock, and various types of salmon, all cured and smoked over oak, without dyes, chemicals, or preservatives. What's the biggest seller?"Hot-smoked salmon," he said. "Piece of 'at and a jacket-potato's dinner, innit?" Unfortunately, we had two dinners scheduled for that night, so we ate a quarter-pound of smoke-streaked, peaty mackerel on the spot and stashed a slab of salmon in our cooler for a later picnic.

A mile from the Smokery, we found the Pilot, a fish-and-chips pub Frances Smith had insisted we visit. We'd been toying with the idea of skipping fish-and-chips—it seemed so Olde England—but she'd said the Pilot was not to be missed, and advised us to order the small plate, nothing else. When the fish arrived, tail and teeth were hanging over each end of a large oval platter. It was piping hot, cleanly fried, with flaky, sweet flesh and the kind of light crust that lulls you into thinking you could eat fried food all day long. The waitresses wore floppy blue hats that made them seem as if they'd stepped off of a Fairport Convention album cover, circa 1971.

Outside, the sky was roiling with rain, so we drove a few miles farther up the coast road and found our lodging for the night, Romney Bay House—an Italianate manse that rises from the dunes of New Romney, overlooking the Strait of Dover. Built in the twenties for the Hollywood gossip columnist Hedda Hopper, the house is now inhabited by a German hairstylist, his wife, two boxer dogs, and two cats. It was smartly furnished with bright chintzes and a well-stocked honor bar, and had a fire burning in the fireplace. Our rooms looked out over the golden-sand beach, neatly meted into parcels by jetties that extend far into the sea. After a short siesta, we reconvened for dinner number two, in the greenhouse adjacent to the living room, where tables were set for us and a dozen other guests. An inspired salad of lobster, smoked salmon, and prawns was followed by a flavorful, if well-done, duck breast and a plank of assorted English and French cheeses. When we lamented the absence of lamb on the menu, we were told that it was too common in these parts. Dessert was a soft meringue drizzled with homemade butterscotch and surrounded by radiant berries. The chef, it appeared, had been to the farm shops as well.

TUNBRIDGE WELLS: Gastropubs and Grass-fed Lamb

We awoke to a sunny, cirrus-streaked blue sky and some fresh anxieties: we'd missed Romney lamb on its home turf and we had not yet had a meal at a gastropub. With renewed resolve, we drove away from the coast along the A262, past Sissinghurst, more farm shops, and a field of hop vines, to Tunbridge Wells, an old spa town on the border of Kent and East Sussex. Tun Wells, as the radio DJ's call it, almost qualifies as a city, with brisk traffic, an Indian restaurant, and a boutique hotel, the Hotel du Vin & Bistro, in a converted sandstone mansion. Our room was small but stylishly decorated with sisal flooring and sage wool upholstery, and it offered a bird's-eye view of the garden and the rooftops of the city. In the park, locals were playing soccer. We dropped our bags and, armed with a map, asked the concierge the quickest route to the village of Rushlake Green.

"Horse and Groom?" he inquired, guessing correctly that we were going to the gastropub there. "I'll phone. You'll need a reservation."

We set out for lunch and soon found ourselves driving along lanes wide enough for no more than a car and a half, lined with tall hedges. Finally, we reached a clearing, a tidy triangular lawn with cottages on each side, dominated by the Horse & Groom and the pileup of diners waiting outside for a table.


The pub looked classically English, like a Canterbury Tales stopover—sooty wood beams, copper kettles hanging above the hearth—but the collage of menu chalkboards that greeted us on the way in showed that the chef's take was decidedly modern. Sure, the Aberdeen Angus sirloin was paired with Yorkshire pudding and roasted new potatoes, but both the beefy squab breast with a pungent Dijon mustard glaze and the caramelized red onion-and-goat cheese tart would have been at home in a sleek brasserie in London or Paris. The Horse & Groom seemed to epitomize England's culinary enlightenment—simple, fresh, excellent—and had a passionate following: on our way out, a dozen walk-ins were still hoping to be seated for lunch.

Our dinner that night, at Thackeray's in Tunbridge Wells, was a bigger departure than we had expected. Inside the simple frame house, dark half-timbered walls met polished chrome, Lucite, and white leather. The light from a hundred votives flickered, and the room was buzzing to an ambient sound track. Thackeray's had undergone a major renovation in 2001, and Richard Phillips, then executive chef at Ian Schrager's St. Martins Lane in London, was brought in to update the kitchen. Phillips's menu is a pleasant culinary fusion, fundamentally French yet modern, fun, and sometimes sublime. A mullet mille-feuille with lemon balm dazzled: smoky tomato jam glazed the red mullet, which was set between three large, parchment-crisp grapefruit chips. Quail sausage was wrapped around a tiny bone, like a lollipop. And—finally!—the Romney, a delicious rump of new-season lamb, was the perfect balance of char and rare, with its purée of braised chicory, and a lavender-laced sauce, arranged Zen-like, in quadrants, on a square plate.

LEWES TO GLYNDEBOURNE: A Day at the Opera

We wanted to linger after breakfast in Tun Wells, but we had to get on the road to Lewes, 26 miles away—we needed to assemble our picnic dinner and had only an afternoon to do so. Fortunately, Lewes is a compact town with a huge brewery steaming away in the center and plenty in the way of provisions: a tiny traiteur's shop selling homemade terrines, a full-service gourmet deli and grocery, and a great deal of enthusiasm for food (at the pub where we stopped for a bite, the owner boasted that his sausage came from a local butcher whose other clients were Marks & Spencer and Harrods). Glyndebourne was just a 10-minute drive from Lewes, but we were running late; we raced to get dressed, pack a messenger bag full of food, and strip the blanket from the hotel bed.

There wasn't a bevy of helicopters hovering over Glyndebourne as we'd expected, but the parking lot was heavy with late-model Rolls-Royces and Jaguars and chauffeurs, who were chatting in groups. A car parker directed us into the pole position on the lot, though whether it was for our swank ride or because he wanted us to make the curtain, we'll never know. We ran across the lawn, which was tranquil and devoid of people but covered with blankets, wicker hampers, and a number of elegantly set tables (a lone butler arranged flowers). We threw down our blanket and bag in an empty patch of green, rushed to the concert hall, and took our seats just as the curtain was rising on Janacek's Katya Kabanova, a swooning modern opera, and a lively production for which we were glad to have crossed the pond.

However, the main event—the one we had come for, at least—was the intermission, or "interval," as it's called here. As soon as the curtain fell on the second act, we ran to the green to witness the scene: 400 people in dinner jackets and formal dresses sashaying from the modern concert hall to their picnics.

Within moments, silver thermoses of gin were being passed around. Champagne corks were popping, crystal was clinking. Understatement be damned: this country relishes the pageantry of a meal.

We unloaded our bounty—the salmon from the Smokery, a few fine cheeses, an anything-but-dull salad, and a bottle of Carr Taylor, the local bubbly. After the day's hustle, we finally relaxed, as though a black-tie picnic on the grounds of an ancient castle, with a herd of sheep wandering about, were just another day. And then a voice broke in from a neighboring blanket.

"Are you from the States?" asked a woman in a black velvet and taffeta gown.

Was it our lug-soled hiking boots?Or that, lacking stemware, we'd resorted to swigging wine from the bottle?

She asked if we would take a picture of her with her beau, and proffered a camera.

"You must think this all terribly English," the woman said.

Happily, we told her, we did.


The Facts

High summer finds Kent and East Sussex at their greenest, loveliest, and driest. Since most towns on the route are no more than a half-hour drive apart, you can cover a great deal of ground in as little as five days. A visit to any one or two of the towns on our itinerary could easily be done as a weekend, or even a day trip, from London.

WHERE TO STAY
Read's Restaurant with Rooms Spacious bedrooms overlook the kitchen gardens of the manor's restaurant; here, haute France meets fresh Kent. DOUBLES FROM $328. MACKNADE MANOR, CANTERBURY RD. FAVERSHAM; 44-1795/535-344; www.reads.com
Romney Bay House A quirky, delightfully chintz-filled hotel (built by gossip columnist Hedda Hopper) with rooms on the English Channel. DOUBLES FROM $140. COAST RD., LITTLESTONE, NEW ROMNEY; 44-1797/364-747
Hotel du Vin & Bistro All 36 bedrooms at the clubby, cool boutique hotel have Egyptian linens. DOUBLES FROM $164. CRESCENT RD., TUNBRIDGE WELLS; 44-1892/526-455; www.hotelduvin.com
Shelleys Hotel A 17th-century manor that is the hotel of choice for Glyndebourne-bound opera lovers. DOUBLES FROM $248. THE HIGH ST., LEWES; 44-1273/472-361; www.shelleys-hotel.com

WHERE TO EAT
Wheeler's Oyster Bar & Parlour Reservations are required to grab a spot at one of the four tables or at the raw bar for the area's best seafood. DINNER FOR TWO $75. 8 HIGH ST., WHITSTABLE; 44-1227/273-311
Horse & Groom Outdoor tables are the best at this gastropub, where game and fish are prepared simply. LUNCH FOR TWO $80. RUSHLAKE GREEN; 44-1435/830-320
The Pilot An honest-to-goodness fish-and-chips spot, with waitresses in smocks and gingham hats. FISH-AND-CHIPS FOR TWO $20. BATTERY RD., DUNGENESS; 44-1797/320-314
Thackeray's The new wave in country dining has arrived at the 17th-century residence of William Makepeace Thackeray. DINNER FOR TWO $113. 85 LONDON RD., TUNBRIDGE WELLS; 44-1892/511-921
Pilgrims Where else on earth does a ploughman's lunch mean smoked heirloom tomato, local ham from rare-breed pigs, and farmhouse cheddar?LUNCH FOR TWO $61. 1 HIGH ST., BATTLE; 44-1424/772-314

FOOD STOPS
The Smokery This rickety cabin on the southern coast sells a tantalizing range of smoked local fish. PEARL COTTAGE, DUNGENESS RD., DUNGENESS; 44-1797/320-604
Tenterden Farmers' Market Bakers, fishermen, and farmers gather beneath striped awnings on the town green the second Saturday of every month from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. TENTERDEN
Beckworths Delicatessen A tiny, tidy storefront that sells house-made pâtés, vegetarian terrines, and other picnic essentials. 67 HIGH ST., LEWES; 44-1273/474-502
Food Rooms East Sussex's answer to Dean & DeLuca, but with more emphasis on locally raised, grown, and harvested produce. 24 HIGH ST., BATTLE; 44-1424/775-537
Greenacres Farm The ewe's-milk Flower Marie from cheese makers Kevin and Alison Blunt won a top prize at the Nantwich International Cheese Show in 2002. Also not to be missed: their Golden Cross goat cheese. RTE. A22, GOLDEN CROSS; 44-1825/872-380
Stonehill Farm Pick currants, blackberries, and raspberries in a gorgeous glen with a view of the South Downs. CHIDDINGLY RD., HORAM; 44-1825/872-553
Williams & Brown Delicatessen Fine Italian charcuterie, like prosciutto di cinghiale and mortadella, are the shop's signature specialties. 28A HARBOUR ST., WHITSTABLE; 44-1227/274-507

WHAT TO DO
Glyndebourne Festival Opera Pack your tuxedo if you plan on attending this garden-party opera. THROUGH AUGUST 31; TICKETS FROM $34. GLYNDEBOURNE, LEWES; 44-1273/381-3813; www.glyndebourne.com
Downderry Nursery Dr. Simon Charlesworth owns and runs this living exhibit of 300 varieties of lavender. PILLAR BOX LANE, HADLOW; 44-1732/810-081
Harvey & Son Southern England's epicenter of the Real Ale movement offers tours of its brewery Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesday evenings, by appointment, June through October. BRIDGE WHARF BREWERY, 6 CLIFFE HIGH ST., LEWES; 44-1273/480-209
Old Lighthouse On a clear day, you can see all the way to France from the top of this 1904 lighthouse. DUNGENESS RD., DUNGENESS; 44-1797/321-300

SHOPPING
Adamczewski The Fuller Brush man meets Clodagh at this diminutive, minimalist shop selling handmade brooms and soaps. 88 HIGH ST., LEWES; 44-1273/470-105
Cliffe Antiques Centre Affordable vintage English prints, jewelry, and knickknacks. 47 CLIFFE HIGH ST., LEWES; 44-1273/473-266
Louis Potts & Co. Classic bone china and glassware patterns, updated to be more modern than Victorian. 43 CLIFFE HIGH ST., LEWES; 44-1273/472-240
Trevor Mottram Without a doubt, the most extensive selection of cookware in all the British Isles. 33-41 THE PANTILES, TUNBRIDGE WELLS; 44-1892/538-915


High summer finds Kent and East Sussex at their greenest, loveliest, and driest. Since most towns on the route are no more than a half-hour drive apart, you can cover a great deal of ground in as little as five days. A visit to any one or two of the towns on our itinerary could easily be done as a weekend, or even a day trip, from London.

WHERE TO STAY
Read's Restaurant with Rooms Spacious bedrooms overlook the kitchen gardens of the manor's restaurant; here, haute France meets fresh Kent. DOUBLES FROM $328. MACKNADE MANOR, CANTERBURY RD. FAVERSHAM; 44-1795/535-344; www.reads.com
Romney Bay House A quirky, delightfully chintz-filled hotel (built by gossip columnist Hedda Hopper) with rooms on the English Channel. DOUBLES FROM $140. COAST RD., LITTLESTONE, NEW ROMNEY; 44-1797/364-747
Hotel du Vin & Bistro All 36 bedrooms at the clubby, cool boutique hotel have Egyptian linens. DOUBLES FROM $164. CRESCENT RD., TUNBRIDGE WELLS; 44-1892/526-455; www.hotelduvin.com
Shelleys Hotel A 17th-century manor that is the hotel of choice for Glyndebourne-bound opera lovers. DOUBLES FROM $248. THE HIGH ST., LEWES; 44-1273/472-361; www.shelleys-hotel.com

WHERE TO EAT
Wheeler's Oyster Bar & Parlour Reservations are required to grab a spot at one of the four tables or at the raw bar for the area's best seafood. DINNER FOR TWO $75. 8 HIGH ST., WHITSTABLE; 44-1227/273-311
Horse & Groom Outdoor tables are the best at this gastropub, where game and fish are prepared simply. LUNCH FOR TWO $80. RUSHLAKE GREEN; 44-1435/830-320
The Pilot An honest-to-goodness fish-and-chips spot, with waitresses in smocks and gingham hats. FISH-AND-CHIPS FOR TWO $20. BATTERY RD., DUNGENESS; 44-1797/320-314
Thackeray's The new wave in country dining has arrived at the 17th-century residence of William Makepeace Thackeray. DINNER FOR TWO $113. 85 LONDON RD., TUNBRIDGE WELLS; 44-1892/511-921
Pilgrims Where else on earth does a ploughman's lunch mean smoked heirloom tomato, local ham from rare-breed pigs, and farmhouse cheddar?LUNCH FOR TWO $61. 1 HIGH ST., BATTLE; 44-1424/772-314

FOOD STOPS
The Smokery This rickety cabin on the southern coast sells a tantalizing range of smoked local fish. PEARL COTTAGE, DUNGENESS RD., DUNGENESS; 44-1797/320-604
Tenterden Farmers' Market Bakers, fishermen, and farmers gather beneath striped awnings on the town green the second Saturday of every month from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. TENTERDEN
Beckworths Delicatessen A tiny, tidy storefront that sells house-made pâtés, vegetarian terrines, and other picnic essentials. 67 HIGH ST., LEWES; 44-1273/474-502
Food Rooms East Sussex's answer to Dean & DeLuca, but with more emphasis on locally raised, grown, and harvested produce. 24 HIGH ST., BATTLE; 44-1424/775-537
Greenacres Farm The ewe's-milk Flower Marie from cheese makers Kevin and Alison Blunt won a top prize at the Nantwich International Cheese Show in 2002. Also not to be missed: their Golden Cross goat cheese. RTE. A22, GOLDEN CROSS; 44-1825/872-380
Stonehill Farm Pick currants, blackberries, and raspberries in a gorgeous glen with a view of the South Downs. CHIDDINGLY RD., HORAM; 44-1825/872-553
Williams & Brown Delicatessen Fine Italian charcuterie, like prosciutto di cinghiale and mortadella, are the shop's signature specialties. 28A HARBOUR ST., WHITSTABLE; 44-1227/274-507

WHAT TO DO
Glyndebourne Festival Opera Pack your tuxedo if you plan on attending this garden-party opera. THROUGH AUGUST 31; TICKETS FROM $34. GLYNDEBOURNE, LEWES; 44-1273/381-3813; www.glyndebourne.com
Downderry Nursery Dr. Simon Charlesworth owns and runs this living exhibit of 300 varieties of lavender. PILLAR BOX LANE, HADLOW; 44-1732/810-081
Harvey & Son Southern England's epicenter of the Real Ale movement offers tours of its brewery Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesday evenings, by appointment, June through October. BRIDGE WHARF BREWERY, 6 CLIFFE HIGH ST., LEWES; 44-1273/480-209
Old Lighthouse On a clear day, you can see all the way to France from the top of this 1904 lighthouse. DUNGENESS RD., DUNGENESS; 44-1797/321-300

SHOPPING
Adamczewski The Fuller Brush man meets Clodagh at this diminutive, minimalist shop selling handmade brooms and soaps. 88 HIGH ST., LEWES; 44-1273/470-105
Cliffe Antiques Centre Affordable vintage English prints, jewelry, and knickknacks. 47 CLIFFE HIGH ST., LEWES; 44-1273/473-266
Louis Potts & Co. Classic bone china and glassware patterns, updated to be more modern than Victorian. 43 CLIFFE HIGH ST., LEWES; 44-1273/472-240
Trevor Mottram Without a doubt, the most extensive selection of cookware in all the British Isles. 33-41 THE PANTILES, TUNBRIDGE WELLS; 44-1892/538-915

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