28 JAN 2019: Don’t get Gavin Landry going about mushy peas. Just the words make VisitBritain’s executive VP for the Americas turn as green as the notorious British in-delicacy.

“If I ever hear fish and chips or bangers and mash again, and get defined as mushy peas one more time…” he sputters, taking a breath to compose himself. “There is so much more to Britain in terms of food and drink!” he says calming down.

Bad food is one of three major myths Visit Britain and Landry are eager to bust. The others are that Britain is big and that it is as lacking in luxury as it is in extraordinary edibles.

First, food: “You’re talking 115 Michelin-star restaurants throughout the country,” Landry says of a land that was once synonymous with bland when it came to food choices.

“And there’s really cool stuff,” he says, offering an example of a “tremendous” Edinburgh restaurant he dined in recently, L’Escargot Bleu, known for its unique fusion of Scottish and French cooking. “They blended the typical Scottish and French foods and cuisines and it was wonderful,” he says.

Cathy Stapells of VisitBritain’s Canada office concurs, citing a plethora of “gorgeous country manors” that boast top-notch dining and sometimes even celebrity chefs as part of the experience. “You book in for a couple of days, maybe for a weekend and have some fantastic food,” she says, noting that opportunities exist all over Britain.

Which plays to another of Landry’s laments – the notion that what good dining Britain does have is confined to London.

It’s a similar refrain to the second myth Landry would like to dispel: that Britain lacks luxury. “There is a theory that all, or most, of the luxury that exists is in downtown London,” he says. “The reality is there is approachable luxury and great experiences throughout the country.”

Stapells namechecks five-star Ellenborough Park near Cheltenham, Llangoed Hall near Cardiff in Wales, and Chewton Glen Hotel & Spa in Hampshire, along with a host of manor houses in the Cotswolds, as just some examples of retreats where visitors will find “fine dining, great spas, a roaring fire when it’s cool and crisp outside” plus prices that are substantially cheaper than they are in London.

The third of Landry’s myths is that “the ‘great’ in front of Great Britain conveys some sort of vast wilderness or that it’s some sort of large country” – which is to say, one that is time consuming and difficult to explore.

In fact, he says, “Great Britain is really a small country that you can get around by rail in roughly four hours to almost any location.” Moreover, he adds, “many of the really good things outside of London are [only] an hour or two away by rail.”

Not that one can’t drive, he adds, but, overall, “ease of travel” in Britain is Landry’s point. And that, he says, is no myth.

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Michael Baginski

Editor at Large, Mike Baginski is well known and well respected within the industry across Canada, the US, in the Caribbean, Mexico and numerous other destinations outside North America.

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