There's a fine balance to be struck when it comes to finding the perfect destination for a weekend break – you don't want too much of your precious time to be guzzled up by a lengthy journey, yet you want to be far enough away from the city to feel as if you've escaped. Enter Egerton, Kent, which is an easy hour-and-a-half drive from London, yet remains an idyllic country bolthole with little else but than postcard-perfect cottages, sheep and cows for company.
Sitting slap-bang in the middle of the tiny village, The Barrow House is a charmingly crooked 16th-century coaching inn (known as The George until a few years ago) that, in its modern iteration, has become a light-filled and spacious country pub, with three guest rooms upstairs. Each one is plush, comfortable and full of homely touches, like a fridge in the hallway that's kept stocked with water and milk, while the bathrooms are chic and modern. It's so peaceful, you're guaranteed to sleep well – giving you more energy for all the eating and drinking you'll be doing while you're here.
Back downstairs, the food comes via Kiwi chef-patron Dane Allchorne. It's his second site (The Milk House in nearby Sissinghurst came first), and has an approachable, seasonal, pub-style menu that's heavy on local ingredients and Mediterranean flourishes. You're all of half an hour from the coast here, which means the fish is particularly good: we were bowled over by smoked mackerel served with potato rosti and citrus sour cream – simple, but with a beautiful mix of textures and flavours.
Kent has the same chalky soil as the Champagne region in France, making it perfect vineyard territory and home to one of the UK's best-known wine producers, Chapel Down. The estate's headquarters are situated at Tenterden, a 25-acre plot that's just a 30-minute drive from Egerton, and you can visit for educational tours of its vineyards and tastings of various Chapel Down wines, from its best-known sparkling wines through to its Union Red pinot noir, which is light and juicy, with summery notes of cherry and vanilla.
There's a 'wine kitchen' here, too – an unmissable pitstop for anyone who likes food, wine, or both. The modern British cooking of Tom Genty earned The Swan at Chapel Down two AA rosettes and a Michelin Bib Gourmand last year. Tuck into handmade truffle gnocchi or chicken and duck liver paté while overlooking the vines – all washed down with plenty of wine from Chapel Down’s portfolio, obviously.
Picturesque villages are par for the course in this area, and Wye, a 25-minute drive from Egerton, is no exception. The hilly village is home to The Kings Head, an award-winning local boozer that feels more pubby than restauranty in comparison to The Barrow House and The Milk House. There's a self-evident local focus here – we kept ourselves watered with G&Ts that used a gently spiced gin from Kentish distiller Anno, while munching on particularly good charcuterie from nearby Weald Smokery and a Scotch egg that was everything a Scotch egg should be: gooey and golden in the centre, and encased in a crisp outer crust.
If The Barrow House is approachable, pub-style dining, The Milk House is a slightly more refined spin on the same. Like at its sister restaurant, ingredients are largely sourced within a 20-mile radius, meat is free range and often rare breed, and fish is sustainable. We stopped in for Sunday lunch, kicking things off with perfect, razor-thin carpaccio and beetroot-marinated salmon, before moving on to a flakey tranche of herb-crusted sea bass.
We visited at the tail end of winter and just missed the lighter spring menu (which would go down a treat on the pub's bright and sunny terrace), but if the winter edition was anything to go by, you're in safe hands here. What's more, chef and owner Dane has his eye on opening another site within the next few years – watch this space.
Getting there: trains from London to Ashford International start at £60.40 for an open return from thetrainline.com. We’d recommend driving to Egerton, though – it takes an hour and a half from central London, and a car is useful to have for getting yourself from hotel to hamlet to farm to restaurant, and vice versa.