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She may have been Heston Blumenthal’s sous chef at The Fat Duck, but Emily Watkins isn’t taking the molecular gastronomy route at her solo venture, The Kingham Plough. The likes of cock-a-leekie pie and crisp pork belly with celeriac mash are scoring very highly with locals, as are the wide-ranging wine list and stylish rooms at the extensively refurbished, picturesque Cotswold pub. Kingham, Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire. Tel: 01608 658327.
A new Padstow restaurant with no Rick Stein link? Surely not. Well, Custard did poach its head chef Dan Gedge from Stein’s Seafood Restaurant but, otherwise, there’s no connection. And it seems you don’t need the support of Britain’s favourite food hero to succeed; reports about the simple, best-of-British menu have been glowing. We particularly like the sound of Dartmouth kippers with lemon butter on brown toast and Cornish plaice with samphire and brown shrimps. 1a The Strand, Padstow, Cornwall. Tel: 0870 170 0740.
You can count the number of really good restaurants in Cambridge on less than five fingers, which is why the arrival of Alimentum has been loudly applauded by locals and critics alike. The kitchen turns out sound, modern European cooking, based around top-notch local ingredients: think crisp pressed suckling pig, braised chicory and apple puree. The set-lunch and early evening deal is particularly good value at £15.50 for three courses. 152-154 Hills Road, Cambridge. Tel: 01223 413000.
Cambodian, Thai & Vietnamese influences are pulled together in Newcastle’s first pan-Asian restaurant, Barn Asia. The slick restaurant delivers tapas-style dishes such as tempura king prawns or pork and shiitake mushroom dumplings, Thai curries and bang bang chicken against a backdrop of floor-to-ceiling windows with views on to Waterloo Square. Waterloo Square, Newcastle. Tel 0191 221 1000.
Will the Ludlow site that formerly housed Hibiscus (which recently reopened in Mayfair) receive the same acclaim in its new incarnation, La Becasse? Early reports suggest it might. Alan Murchison, the man behind Berkshire’s L’Ortolan, has created the modern French menu which features carefully crafted dishes of pan-fried brill with chive gnocchi and horseradish veloute or poached breast and confit leg of local partridge with roasted chestnuts, black pudding and thyme jus. 17 Corve Street, Ludlow, Shropshire. Tel: 01584 872325.
The historic town of Battle (where the Battle of Hastings took place) has a new restaurant. Nobles Restaurant uses local, seasonal produce in modern European dishes: think sesame-seared tuna with udon noodles, or roast pork fillet with celeriac purée and parsley cream. There’s also a range of lighter bites such as a ploughman’s lunch, and the two-course set lunch menu is aptly priced at £10.66. 17 High Street, Battle, East Sussex. Tel: 01424 774422.
Due to launch in November in the heart of Manchester, Ithaca is a sprawling restaurant, bar and members’ lounge spread over a multi-storey building. The ground and first-floor dining rooms will serve modern pan-Asian dishes created by executive-chef Paul Day, who has held senior positions at Nobu and Nahm, while the second and third floors will be home to the cocktail bar and members’ lounge. 36 John Dalton Street, Manchester. Tel 0870 740 4000.