Bishop's Dining Room and Crypt Bar

The Square Blanchland Durham DH8 9SP

It was the roast chicken that did it for us. Winding through the medieval stone rooms of the Lord Crewe Arms, we passed an enormous fireplace – big enough to stand a rugby team in – in front of which, entire chickens were turning on a spit. All very Gormenghast – didn't even need to look at the menu, chicken it was. Turns out it's not the only thing chef Simon Hicks finishes on the fire or in the smokehouse. His menu is a real delight of roasting, smoking and grilling, with robust English flavours and ingredients balanced by seasonal produce from the hotel kitchen garden. So you might be looking at asparagus with a soft-boiled duck egg, say, or a rump of veal with sage butter, followed by a hearty, traditional English pud. The chicken? Everything it promised to be – pefectly juicy and moist, served with straw fries and an endlessly replenished jug of moreish gravy. The restaurant is a very handsome dining space of country tweed, rustic wooden floors, flower-filled vases and big windows onto the grounds – if you're staying the night, you get to have breakfast here too, which makes a great start to the day. The Crypt bar is even better, a medieval, vaulted, stone-walled space with a fully functioning cocktail bar, plus a range of real ales, including one or two of their own. It's also the local pub, so Blanchland characters and visiting guests mingle over homemade pork scratchings and veggie crisps. Seriously fabulous all round, we couldn't fault it.