UK's Top 100 Restaurants

Whether at a white-tableclothed bastion of formal fine dining, a gastropub serving some of the tastiest food in the county, or a casual, city-centre Asian café, a meal in any of these restaurants will be among the very best eating experiences you will find in the UK today. Every year we compile the list based on the votes from our annual survey, conducted in 2018. Thousands of diners take part and the results are then moderated by the SquareMeal editor and his nationwide team of professional reviewers. No London restaurants are included in this list.

Updated on 01 January 2019

If you would like to see SquareMeal’s list of the top 100 restaurants outside London in order of merit, starting with number one (Casamia) and ending at number 100 (The Pointer), please click here. A position anywhere on our list of the best restaurants in the UK is a great achievement.

Casamia

1. Casamia

The General, Lower Guinea Street, Bristol, Somerset, BS1 6FU

“I can still remember and describe every dish from the tasting menu” admits one reader who had a “phenomenal experience” at Michelin-starred Casamia – Peter Sanchez-Iglesias’s hugely impressive harbourside restaurant located on the ground floor of the old Bristol General Hospital building. Inside it’s “simple but stylish”, surprisingly warm and inviting, with enthusiastic staff aiding and abetting the busy chefs as they take diners on an immensely flavoursome gastronomic journey inspired by the seasons. One-word descriptions give few clues to the sheer brilliance of the food, but all is revealed once the “delicately complex” creations start arriving on bespoke crockery: ‘salad’ means a super-fresh mix of dark and light green seasonal leaves with charred broccoli, sweet carrot and savoury juices; ‘beetroot’ is a masterly combination of yoghurt sorbet, pickled fennel and beetroot risotto with soft rice and pistachio for texture; ‘rainbow trout’ brings together a superb confit with a bisque, some delicate roe and wonderful “skin crisps” – an outright winner among a clutch of “world-class” dishes. ‘Turbot’ and ‘duck’ are also subjected to mind-bending transformation, while desserts (if that’s the word) could include ‘passion fruit’ – actually a “staggeringly good” three-part riff (granita, jelly, seeds) topped by a tarragon-flavoured custard and little dabs of meringue. With culinary invention “taken to a new level”, a top-class wine list and explanatory table service often provided by the chatty chefs themselves, Casamia is a genuine one-off and a worthy winner of the SquareMeal Award for the Best UK Restaurant, 2018.

£50 - £79
Modern European
L

2. L'Enclume

Cavendish Street, Cartmel, Grange-Over-Sands, Cumbria, LA11 6PZ

“An amazing end-to-end experience” chimes a fan of Simon Rogan’s cleverly reconfigured Lakeland smithy – and we’re not about to disagree. L’Enclume looks and feels gorgeous, although there are precious few distractions – apart from views of the garden from the conservatory-style dining room. Rogan’s cooking is all about distilling the essence of flavour, allowing nature, landscape and the seasons to gel harmoniously on the plate. Everything revolves around produce from the chef’s organic farm, combined with foraging trips and an unswerving commitment to Lakeland ingredients. The result is a multi-course tasting menu, devised on the day and delivered in style by “fine-tuned” staff who are at the top of their game. Proceedings begin with a swift procession of tiny mouthfuls: a glistening carmine beetroot leaf; fermented cabbage and Ragstone cheese; flaky crab and carrots, etc. After that, it’s hugely pleasurable avalanche of revelatory flavours, taking in everything from native lobster with broad beans and elderflower to Goosnargh duck with cherries and smoked beetroot. Elsewhere, an “exquisite” bowl of turnip broth with lightly pickled turnips, wild mushrooms and cheese dumpling wowed one visitor, as did the clutch of sweet/savoury conceits – notably a sorrel granita with forest berries and buttermilk. Alternatively, Rogan's chef’s table and development kitchen (Aulis) provides a more intimate culinary journey, while an “exceptional” wine list adds the final gloss. “It’s unlike anything you’ve ever tried”, concludes a determined fan who took two trains and walked for 40 minutes to eat at this two-Michelin-starred holy grail of modern gastronomy.

Over £80
British
Two michelin stars
SquareMeal UK Hot 100
The Sportsman

3. The Sportsman

Faversham Road, Seasalter, Kent, CT5 4BP

It’s picked up a sackful of awards in recent years, but The Sportsman “hasn’t been spoiled by its celebrity” – so writes a fan of this unlikely Michelin-starred roadside pub overlooking the bleak Kent marshes. Shabby-chic interiors, mismatched farmhouse furnishings, blackboard menus and real ales set the tone and you’re still expected to order at the bar, but congenial laid-back service adds to the charm of the place and the cooking is never less than “sublime”.  Maverick chef Stephen Harris is a champion of local sourcing and self-sufficiency who bakes bread, cures fish, churns butter and even produces his own sea salt. Yes, it may sound “weird” and homespun, but the food hits the heights without ever seeming overly fussy. We’re fans of the memorable book-in-advance tasting menu (a procession of pitch-perfect seasonal delicacies), but the daily carte also yields pleasures aplenty: poached rock oysters with apple and seaweed; thornback ray with brown butter, cockles and sherry vinegar dressing; smoked maple-cured pork loin with chorizo sauce; braised turbot with mussel and bacon tartare. For afters, there might be a nostalgic combo of jasmine-tea junket with rosehip syrup or a textbook raspberry soufflé with ripple ice cream. A final word on value from one reader: “you may not be getting the luxury and style that many starred restaurants provide, but you aren't paying for it either”.

£50 - £79
British
Gastropub
One michelin star
SquareMeal UK Hot 100
Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat

4. Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons

Church Road, Great Milton, Oxfordshire, OX44 7PD

We’ve said it before, but Le Manoir is damn near perfect in every department – a sentiment echoed by legions of fans, who seldom stint on the superlatives when it comes to Raymond Blanc’s fine-tuned take on country-house luxe. This immaculate Oxfordshire mansion is quite simply “faultless”, the “perfect treat” and a dream ticket for out-of-town indulgence with its ever-courteous staff, silkily choreographed service and “exceptionally creative” French-inspired cooking. Blanc’s vision of ‘sustainable harmony’ is buoyed by produce from Le Manoir’s showpiece organic gardens, and the result is a “superb, well-balanced menu full of seasonal flavours and surprises” – from veal sweetbread with spring asparagus, peas and morels to the ever-popular risotto of garden vegetables with tomato essence and chervil cream, salt-baked pigeon with cabbage, wild garlic and bacon or confit Gigha halibut with squid, chorizo and smoked red pepper. This is clear-minded, limpid cooking from a kitchen that knows all about consummate technique. There’s also room for gasp-inducing extras, peerless patisserie (millionaire shortbread with salted caramel ice cream, say) and lovingly ripened cheeses from M. Blanc’s home region (and beyond). Of course, it costs a fortune (particularly if you take a serious dip into the aristocratic wine list), but readers concur that the experience is “worth every penny”.

Over £80
French
Two michelin stars
SquareMeal UK Hot 100
The Fat Duck

5. The Fat Duck

1 High Street, Maidenhead, Berkshire, SL6 2AQ

“Words can’t describe how incredibly entertaining a trip to The Fat Duck is” – so writes a fan who was “made to feel like royalty” at Heston Blumenthal’s three-Michelin-starred wonderland. To say it’s pricey is an understatement: prospective diners currently have to shell out £325 up front for a ‘ticket’ that allows access to the 17-course itinerary. In return, the lucky ones are whisked away on an imagined day out, a holiday trip evoking lots of playful childhood memories with “incredible” staff acting as grown-up guides. It’s the “little touches” and personalised wizardry that really count, in fact the whole show is one gasp-inducing, side-splitting bonanza – although the theatrics are never at the expense of flavour. ‘Rise and shine’ means fun-pack cereal boxes (all crisp grains and jellies) as well as ‘cold… and hot tea’, while a trip to the beach involves the now-famous ‘sound of the sea’ (cured seafood nibbled while listening to the sound of surf through headphones). Later on, a proper three-course ‘dinner’ touts everything from hay-smoked veal sweetbread with baby gem to a boned and crisped chicken’s foot with red-wine mayo, before ‘counting sheep’ sees a meringue resting on a pillow floating above the table thanks to magnetic levitation. And we haven’t even mentioned the mushroom truffle log, the whisky gums or the sweets from the custom-built doll’s house. The verdict? “Five hours of sheer magic”. Yes, eating at the Duck is an immersive, multisensory fantasy, but we’re with readers who dub it a must-do “experience of a lifetime”.

Over £80
British
Three michelin stars
SquareMeal UK Hot 100
The Hand and Flowers

6. The Hand and Flowers

126 West Street, Marlow, Buckinghamshire, SL7 2BP

Tom Kerridge is currently doing for Marlow what Rick Stein did for Padstow: his name is everywhere, and his fingers are in an increasing number of local pies – including The Shed, a new private dining room a few doors away from his two-Michelin-starred flagship. “What’s not to love” exclaims one reader, and we’re not surprised when others wax lyrical about The Hand and Flowers: “fantastic and not too fussy”; “incredible food, so unique yet beautifully simple” – the plaudits just keep coming. The pay-off for lucky diners is a rolling menu of Kerridge’s greatest hits and tricksy fresh-faced ideas with a seasonal smile – think lamb and haggis toast with chorizo mayo, whipped cheese and mint jelly, slow-cooked duck breast with apricot purée, morels and a Moroccan-style savoury tart or the fish du jour served with char-roasted alliums, cheese mash, avruga caviar and sauce ‘bonne femme’. This is a world away from your average gastropub fodder, and there are delicious surprises right to the very end: one reader loved the “mini ale” served with his dessert (a boozy chocolate and ale cake with salted caramel and muscovado ice cream). The only downside is the fact that you have to book “ages in advance”, but that’s small beer when the restaurant can deliver such quality, warmth and pleasure.

Over £80
British
Gastropub
Two michelin stars
SquareMeal UK Hot 100
64 Degrees

7. 64 Degrees

53 Meeting House Lane, Brighton, East Sussex, BN1 1HB

“The outstanding performer on the South coast for the past few years”, declares a fan of 64 Degrees – and we’re not about to disagree. Like Brighton itself, it’s edgy, hip, leftfield and idiosyncratic – a rockin’ modern eatery from veteran local chef Michael Bremner (ex- Food for Friends and finalist on TV’s Great British Menu in 2017). It’s a thrillingly theatrical concept too, with an open kitchen occupying half the space, chefs wheeling out the dishes as they’re ready, and half the punters perched on yellow-topped stools by the pass. On offer is a tersely worded, on-message daily menu of “clever, clever” small plates (four each of meat, fish, veg and desserts), all “beautifully thought out” and presented with real panache –  as well as sense of fun. Picking at random from each section, you might have flat iron misozuko with Bovril and shallot, a fish riff involving brill, grapefruit and chilli or a veggie plate of Gorgonzola, kimchi and hazelnut. After that, keep things sweet with a Rum Bear jelly – a corpulent booze-soaked little beast that looks like a mutant from the Haribo menagerie, sitting alongside a heap of blazing-yellow sherbet. OK, your wine might be served in functional glasses, but staff are clued-up and accommodating, prices won’t cause any panic, and the whole shebang fizzes.

£30 - £49
British
Restaurant Sat Bains with Rooms

8. Restaurant Sat Bains with Rooms

Lenton Lane, Nottingham, Nottinghamshire, NG7 2SA

It sounds almost too surreal to be true – a boundary-pushing restaurant-with-rooms housed in a collection of converted barns near the Nottingham ruing road, with a flyover for company. Mind you, the eponymous Sat Bains is very much his own man, and his relentlessly inspired two-Michelin-starred cooking represents “experimental fine dining at its best”, according to one fan. Meticulous planning comes as standard, and we’ve been bowled over by the results. Evening meals take place in two rather neutral, stone-floored dining rooms, allowing diners to focus on Bains’ brilliantly balanced, colour-coded tasting menus – a succession of startling dishes with high-powered hits across the board. An introduction entitled ‘NG7 2SA’ (the restaurant’s postcode) celebrates the area’s wild pickings and sets the scene for esoteric marriages and cutting-edge concepts – think veal croquette with hollandaise, pickles and autumn ceps; tagliatelle of kohlrabi with ‘glasshouse’ pesto and Parmesan 2012 vintage or tagine-spiced Anjou pigeon partnered by a pastilla, melon and feta. After that, a ‘crossover’ signals the move towards sweetness in the shape of, say, Bramley apple with caramel, waffles and pine. This is no place for penny-pinching, so take full advantage of the stupendous big-money wine list. Meanwhile, Amanda Bains oversees a team of lovely staff who “go out of their way to make your stay so special”.

Over £80
Modern European
Two michelin stars
SquareMeal UK Hot 100
Midsummer House

9. Midsummer House

Midsummer House, Midsummer Common, Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, CB4 1HA

Daniel Clifford has been busy of late. Not only has the chef masterminded a serious refit of his two-Michelin-starred restaurant by the banks of the river Cam, but he has also reintroduced a conventional carte alongside his now-famous tasting menu. The lovely conservatory-style dining room’s new summery look (floral paintings, patterned chairs etc) chimes perfectly with the views over Midsummer’s gorgeous garden, and the atmosphere is helped along by “perfectly attentive” staff who know how to welcome their guests and foster a genuinely convivial atmosphere. “Precision and all-round excellence” are the watchwords. Meanwhile, Clifford’s kitchen maintains its reputation for “startlingly innovative” food in the modern idiom. Looking at the carte, there are many dishes we’d order in an instant: maple-glazed veal sweetbread with poached turnip, ox tongue, pistachio and maple syrup foam; buttered Cornish cod accompanied by roasted langoustine, cauliflower purée, Malossol caviar and oyster leaf; pork cutlet baked in salt and hay alongside a black pudding dumpling, apple and creamed cabbage (a masterpiece designed for sharing). Among the desserts, who could resist the reimagined tarte Tatin with garlic and bay-leaf foam or the Grand Marnier soufflé with poached kumquats and crème fraîche sorbet? The food is supported by a comprehensive, thoroughbred wine list designed to top off any “special occasion”.

£50 - £79
British
The Waterside Inn

10. The Waterside Inn

Ferry Road, Maidenhead, Berkshire, SL6 2AT

Its picture-book riverbank location may look and feel as English as The Wind in the Willows, but everything else at the three-Michelin-starred Waterside Inn speaks of top-end French gastronomy with a real sense of occasion – the culinary equivalent of haute couture. It’s all about silky sophistication and Gallic polish here, from the sumptuous furnishings and punctilious professionalism of the “impeccable” staff to the intricacies of the “perfectly executed” cooking. Expect a cavalcade of masterstrokes with that unmistakable Roux thumbprint: teasing amuse-bouches such as venison tartare on potato and whipped goats’ cheese; flaked Devon crab with ginger-scented cucumber jelly and oscietra caviar; fillet of turbot roasted in nut-brown butter with root vegetables, morels and vin jaune sauce; grilled pigeon breasts and crispy leg served with sweet pepper pipérade, potato terrine and ‘devil sauce’. After that, a cleansing granita sets things up for some truly astonishing showpiece desserts – perhaps chocolate cannelé with hazelnut praline and lime. “Everything par excellence”, drools an admirer. The wine list delves deep into the archives of French oenology and prices are scary, yet the sheer joy of dining at this serene stronghold of subtly reinvented haute cuisine is unsurpassed: “it’s hard to find a poor place to eat in Bray, but every visit feels incredibly special”, quips one admirer.

Over £80
French
Three michelin stars
SquareMeal UK Hot 100
The Artichoke

11. The Artichoke

9 Market Square, Old Amersham, Buckinghamshire, HP7 0DF

“Excellent in every way”; “a high-end star”; “a gem outside London” … readers continue to heap praise on Laurie and Jackie Gear’s Artichoke – a “small place with a great ambience” that seems to get everything right. Really confident clued-up staff help things along nicely, the well-oiled open kitchen adds its own entertainment, while the food is reckoned to be outstanding value for the quality on show. Laurie’s team are capable of delivering “unassuming world-class dishes” from an ever-evolving repertoire that runs in tandem with the seasons while hoovering up the best from the region’s producers. Regulars have their own favourites from the line-up: a picture-pretty plate of smoked haddock tartare with Royal Russet apple, radish and “beguiling” horseradish cream; a fat juicy roasted scallop with charred octopus, carrot, sea beet, pork and tarragon dressing; a vivid plate of Yorkshire grouse with blackberries, blackberry sauce and a cornet of foie gras ganache. Our own top picks include dishes from nearer home – notably saddle of Buckinghamshire venison partnered by smoked celeriac purée, a marvellous blue-cheese crumble, poached quince and cavolo nero. Presentation has “reached new heights” of late, especially when it comes to desserts such as a lemon bavarois with Arbequina olive oil jelly, citrus salad and powdery lemon thyme sherbet. Brilliant-value tasting menus and perfectly matched wines top things off admirably.  

£50 - £79
Modern European
Restaurant Nathan Outlaw

12. Restaurant Nathan Outlaw

6 New Road, Port Isaac, Cornwall, PL29 3SB

“The ultimate in classy fish cuisine”, Nathan Outlaw’s two-Michelin-starred flagship regularly proves why it’s up there with the very best in the business. The restaurant’s seafront setting and fabulous views resonate with the “sounds of satisfaction” coming from each and every table – testament to the sheer virtuosity of Outlaw’s cooking and his sympathetic approach to super-fresh Cornish seafood. Diners are offered just one tasting menu (lunch and dinner), but the balance, quality and invention are staggering – just consider a dish of sublime brill (“lightly cured by the master himself”) decorated with peas and mint. Outlaw also gives more humble species their full due: herrings are pickled and served with cucumber and seaweed; cod is lifted to “a whole new dimension”, lightly salted and matched with cuttlefish in red wine; lemon sole fillets are presented as a pair (one breadcrumbed, the other ‘au naturel’) with the simplest of accompaniments including purple sprouting broccoli and spring watercress. Finally, there are two “highly developed” desserts – perhaps a fresh-tasting rhubarb and custard ice cream ‘sandwich’ (“a delight to behold”) followed by a St Clement’s meringue pie with the flavours of oranges and lemons “ringing out”. Outlaw’s beautifully calibrated displays are backed by studiously matched wines, while service cleverly balances sociability with impressive expertise. It’s a tour de force – “a truly outstanding dining experience, and one to treasure.”

Over £80
Fish
The Elephant

13. The Elephant

3-4 Beacon Terrace, Torquay, Devon, TQ1 2BH

Torquay may be synonymous with Basil Fawlty and co, but The Elephant has put this Devon seaside stalwart back on the foodie map for all the right reasons. Boasting a gorgeous location overlooking the English Riviera, here is a capacious modern destination with lots of possibilities – a Michelin-starred restaurant for the whole family. The action takes place in a casual bare-boarded room with terrific harbour views and a menu of bang-up-to-date brasserie cooking fuelled by produce from chef/proprietor Simon Hulstone’s 69-acre Devon farm. A starter of heritage vegetable ‘samosas’ with goats’ curd and pickled mustard might precede roast Southdown lamb with black garlic, Roscoff onion, savoy cabbage and thyme jus or pumpkin fondant with spiced carrot juice. There’s Devon-reared beef too, while sustainable fish from the West Country boats could yield sea trout cured in brown sugar with lime-leaf emulsion or Brixham plaice accompanied by confit chicken wings, clams, brown bread and fried capers. After that, perhaps try forced rhubarb with baked custard and blood orange sorbet. Cheery service does what’s needed, and the wine list offers excellent value.

£30 - £49
Modern European
One michelin star
SquareMeal Gold List
Matt Worswick at the Latymer

14. Matt Worswick at the Latymer

Pennyhill Park, London Road, Bagshot, Surrey, GU19 5EU

“My favourite outside London” says a fan of Pennyhill Park and its flagship Latymer restaurant. The elegant dining room has benefited hugely from a recent makeover, while fans think that chef Matt Worswick (one of SquareMeal’s ‘rising UK stars’) “has really taken his menus to another level” in recent months. The result is sheer perfection in every department. Food-wise, expect a succession of “breathtakingly beautiful” dishes presented via a series of tasting extravaganzas in the modern idiom, with fabulous offerings ranging from a pairing of Colchester oyster emulsion, cured sea trout and Yorkshire rhubarb to a dessert involving chocolate delice, milk crumble and yoghurt sorbet. In between, there are even more “elegantly plated” Michelin-starred masterpieces – perhaps veal sweetbread accompanied by heritage carrot, pickled shimeji mushroom and liquorice or poached pavé of Gigha halibut with smoked almond pesto and seaweed beurre blanc. This is “incredible, creative and generous food” out of the top drawer. Meals are fleshed out with snacks and mini-courses, while the prestigious Pennyhill Park wine cellar provides “exceptional” drinking across the range. Knowledgeable service also strikes exactly the right note, without putting on airs and graces – “the chefs even came out to have a chat and go through the dishes”, noted one contented soul.

Over £80
Modern European
One michelin star
SquareMeal Gold List
Isaac At

15. Isaac At

2 Gloucester Street, Brighton, East Sussex, BN1 4EW

“A pioneer of genuinely local food, wines and craft ales”, twentysomething chef-patron Isaac Bartlett-Copeland and his equally fresh-faced crew are working wonders at this tiny Scandi-style restaurant, creating “maximum flavours from minimal ingredients”. High levels of concentration and “passion” are needed to hone the delicately constructed, exquisitely presented plates of food, which provide valuable content for Brighton’s Instagram accounts. The “ever-evolving” multi-course tasting menu is super-seasonal and hyper-local (the number of food miles is listed for each ingredient), so expect dishes with lots of on-trend grace notes: scallops with horseradish and apple; Denver steak with mushroom ketchup and fennel fronds; pork belly with broccoli, kohlrabi and cabbage. Meanwhile, foraged pickings come into their own when it comes to sweet treats such as sea buckthorn and crab apple sorbet or honey, sloe and walnut ice cream. Restaurant manager Alex Preston is “brilliant on the wine front”, so ask his advice when it comes to the all-Sussex list, which includes superb sparklers from Nyetimber and Ridgeview, whites from the Albourne Estate and even a fairly decent Pinot Noir from Davenports. Alternatively, opt for a Brighton Gin and Regency Tonic. We wholeheartedly agree with the fan who says this is “a real find” – “one of the best meals I’ve had outside London in a long time”.

£50 - £79
British
SquareMeal UK Hot 100
Paul Ainsworth at No. 6

16. Paul Ainsworth at No. 6

6 Middle Street, Padstow, Cornwall, PL28 8AP

“Paul Ainsworth and his team have something special here”, notes a fan of No. 6 – a restaurant that challenges Rick Stein’s dominion over Padstow. This Georgian terraced house is an endearing charmer, from its composed, elegant interior to its “delicious, inventive and beautifully presented” Michelin-starred food. The kitchen delivers wave after wave of inspired, fashionable dishes spanning everything from a smoked haddock ‘quiche Lorraine’ to ‘all the rabbit’ with grilled bread and September damsons. After that, keep things diverse with, say, local hogget, red garlic ketchup and sweetbread fricassee or the fish of the day from Cornish waters – perhaps white crab with leeks royale and ‘jack shell gravy’. The British cheeseboard is well worth investigating, while dessert could bring ewe’s milk cheesecake in puff pastry with bitter cocoa sorbet or Ainsworth’s famous reinvented ‘trifle Cornish’ flavoured with Tregothnan tea prunes and saffron. Visitors are treated to the warmest of welcomes, service is “top-notch” and the set lunch gets a big thumb-up. Those wanting a sleepover should check out the Padstow Townhouse (also owned by Ainsworth and co).

£50 - £79
Modern European
The Kitchin

17. The Kitchin

78 Commercial Quay, Edinburgh, EH6 6LX

“One to remember”, Tom Kitchin’s highly regarded Michelin-starred restaurant on Leith’s reenergised waterfront comes complete with a whisky snug and a temperature-controlled wine cellar – not to mention views of the kitchen from a specially designed window. Inside, there are hints of Scotland’s heritage (tartans, sheepskins, silver birch), while Kitchin’s highly distinctive cooking is still founded on seasonal produce from regional growers, producers and fishermen. ‘From nature to plate’ is the mantra, and that translates into clever, complex ideas “presented with flair and wit”:  a ‘rockpool’ of local seafood, sea vegetables, ginger and Newhaven crab consommé; boned and rolled pig’s head and langoustine tail with crispy pig’s ear salad; roasted rump ‘cap’ of Highland Wagyu beef with heritage carrots, celeriac and red wine sauce. To conclude, consider something delectably seasonal such as set Knockraich yoghurt with orange meringue and sea buckthorn consommé, but don’t ignore Kitchin’s “melt-in-the-mouth delicious” soufflés. The cosy dining room creates just the right mood, value for money is seldom in doubt, and visitors appreciate the chef’s personal touch as he greets everyone individually in the bar.

£50 - £79
Modern European
SquareMeal UK Hot 100
The Little Fish Market

18. The Little Fish Market

10 Upper Market Street, Hove, Brighton, East Sussex, BN3 1AS

The Little Fish Market is proof positive that good things really do come in small packages. Hidden down a nondescript Hove side street, this teeny but terrific fish restaurant is owned by the fittingly named Duncan Ray – a former chef from The Fat Duck, who creates seriously refined food in a tiny basement kitchen, while his sidekick Rob takes care of FOH “in the best possible way”. The fixed-price tasting menu is a constantly evolving affair dictated by the catch from the local boats, although diners can expect “magnificent” dishes packed with flavour: red mullet with rosemary, for instance, followed by black bream with wild garlic and pickled mushrooms or halibut with asparagus and caviar. Desserts are a highlight, witness chocolate délice or a combo of salted caramel, banana and vanilla. At £65 for five courses, this isn’t a cheap night out by Brighton standards, but the service (from just one waiter) is superb and the concise wine list is a good match for the fish. Book early, especially for weekends: tables often get snapped up weeks in advance.

£50 - £79
Fish
Benedicts

19. Benedicts

9 St Benedicts Street, Norwich, Norfolk, NR2 4PE

“A must-visit if you’re anywhere near Norwich”, this local institution and bastion of the city’s restaurant scene is enjoying a serious revival thanks to Richard Bainbridge – formerly head chef at Michelin-starred Morston Hall and a familiar face on TV’s Great British Menu. The interior still has that familiar bistro look and “cosy ambience” (inherited from its days as the old St Benedict’s Restaurant), but the cooking has moved up several gears since Bainbridge’s arrival, with lots of thrilling modern ideas now on show alongside some “nostalgic” revivals gleaned from the annals of British cookery. Doughty home-grown flavours shine brightly, although there are plenty of fashionable twists and “beautifully crafted” ideas along the way: Norfolk duck and pistachio pâté en croûte with grapefruit and Jack-by-the-hedge; mackerel with pickled elderflowers and East Anglian asparagus; Norfolk quail with lavender and rainbow chard; hay-baked mutton with cornichons and Jerusalem artichokes. After that, take a trip down memory lane for Thornage Hall rhubarb with cardamom and buttermilk or the ever-popular ‘Nanny Bush’s trifle’ with milk jam (a winning dish on GBM 2016). Service is “unobtrusive” but attentive, and regulars also applaud the excellent value for money.

£50 - £79
British
SquareMeal Gold List
The Black Swan at Oldstead

20. The Black Swan at Oldstead

Oldstead, York, North Yorkshire, YO61 4BL

“Special, unique, warm, unpretentious” is one reader’s verdict on The Black Swan, while another settles for “inventive, sublime, always pleases”. Either way, you shouldn’t mistake the Banks family’s 16th-century pub-with-rooms for a bog-standard country boozer – even though it still has a rustic flagstoned bar, ‘Mouseman’ furniture, local ales on tap and lovely views of the rolling Yorkshire Wolds from the highly productive kitchen garden. The serious business takes place upstairs in the Michelin-starred dining room, where chef Tommy Banks offers “exemplary, creative AND tasty food” built around a challenging 12-course tasting menu that reflects the best of Yorkshire’s seasonal larder and produce from the family’s smallholding. Langoustines are paired with salted strawberries, scallops are cured in rhubarb juice, lamb is given the salt-aged treatment, and a signature dish of crapaudine beetroot is cooked slowly in beef fat – although other dishes such as cod with cauliflower and parsley strike a more conventional note. As proceedings head towards their conclusion, you might be offered ‘damson and kernel’, sheep’s milk with Douglas Fir oil or even ‘root vegetable toast’ – not exactly your run-of-the-mill desserts. Saturday lunch is a trimmed-back version of the full works, while the impressive global wine list offers a staggering selection by the 100ml glass (thanks to Coravin). The atmosphere is engagingly welcoming, the rooms are “beautifully furnished” and the whole place has alluring appeal.

Over £80
British
The Whitehouse Restaurant Lochaline

21. The Whitehouse Restaurant Lochaline

Lochaline, Argyll & Bute, Isle Of Mull, PA80 5XT

“Unbelievably creative cooking” in a “wee hoose” way out in the sticks, this unassuming family-run restaurant just up the hill from the Mull ferry is worth the journey every time – “I’d travel a long way to get there”, confesses one of The Whitehouse’s many admirers. Simple white-walled interiors and rustic furnishings make for a homely atmosphere, setting the scene for “exciting”, uncluttered cooking using the best ingredients the area has to offer. The owners grow their own greenery, rear chickens and plunder the local larder for everything from smoked venison to chanterelles, although spanking fresh seafood is the star attraction: hand-dived Mull scallops and creel-caught langoustines are top shouts, but the daily menu might also feature artfully simple dishes such as whole roast Mull lobster with vanilla or Gigha halibut poached in seawater with wormwood and fennel pollen. There’s a genuine commitment to quality here, from the home-baked sourdough bread to “outstanding” desserts such as a tea-flavoured chocolate cloutie dumpling with whisky-spiked toffee. The chefs’ boundless invention is matched by service that is “bright, cheerful, friendly and eager-to-please”.

£30 - £49
Modern European
British
The Cliveden Dining Room

22. The Cliveden Dining Room

Cliveden House, Taplow, Maidenhead, Maidenhead, Berkshire, SL6 0JF

Famed for its racy aristocratic shenanigans back in the day, Cliveden still lives and breathes unashamed extravagance – although it’s also an entrancing prospect for high-end gustatory satisfaction. The sumptuous, softly hued dining room sits well amid the hotel’s flamboyantly Italianate glamour with its billowing drapes, ostentatious crystal chandeliers, portraits and velvety fabrics, but for all its adornments, there’s a feeling of genuine intimacy about eating here – and the views are stunning. As befits such a setting, the gently stimulating contemporary French cuisine promises rich seasonal rewards: Orkney scallops are simply served with radish, lemon and herb oil; ‘locally stalked’ fallow deer might arrive with watercress, chestnuts and pickled blackberries; rack of Devon lamb is embellished with artichoke, sprouting broccoli and lavender. Mighty servings of beef Wellington please the old guard, while desserts include peanut butter parfait with toffee, chocolate and honeycomb. Service is suitably “gracious” and the spectacular wine list is tailor-made for living the high life, although diners who don’t belong to the National Trust may baulk at paying a surcharge for ‘admission’.

£50 - £79
Modern European
The Salt Room

23. The Salt Room

106 Kings Road, Brighton, East Sussex, BN1 2FU

“A real show-off place” overlooking Brighton’s Seafront, this sibling of the meat-tastic Coal Shed is a star in its own right. Located behind a sleek black facade, The Salt Room mixes exposed brick and bare lightbulbs with a menu that majors on grilled seafood and meat. ‘Whole fish to share’ is one of the standouts and fans rate the “outstanding” ‘surf boards’ piled with grilled shellfish – although the Josper oven also delivers some “exquisite steaks” for the red-blooded brigade. Alternatively, try sea trout with oyster, spring onion, potato and wild garlic, a fish pie enriched with seaweed hollandaise or tandoori monkfish accompanied by cauliflower, coconut and ginger yoghurt, before rounding off with 'a taste of the pier' – a chunk of West Pier driftwood covered in nostalgic delights such as doughnuts, candyfloss, nougat, banana mallow and chocolate ‘pebbles’. The bar’s a good shout too with its clever cocktails and trendy wines, while slick, friendly service and a cracking BYO deal on Monday evenings (corkage £5) add to the overall buzz.

£30 - £49
British
Fish
SquareMeal UK Hot 100
Stovell

24. Stovell's

Windsor Road, Chobham, Surrey, GU24 8QS

“A complete rounded visit” awaits at Stovell’s – a sympathetically restored “mind-your-head” 16th-century farmhouse that blends rough-hewn beams, mullioned windows and low ceilings with vivid wallpaper, contemporary furnishings and deep-pile carpets. Fernando Stovell’s “epic food” continues to receive rave reviews as he fashions complex, finely honed dishes strewn with global influences – from guinea fowl (roasted over an open fire) with quince to a deconstructed beef Wellington with truffle mash (“an absolute must”) or melting Ibérico pork neck with pork popcorn, onion crisp and avocado three ways. There are also simple grills and a dedicated tasting menu inspired by Fernando’s Mexican homeland – think, fish tacos, duck carnitas and ox tongue infladita with chilli morita and black lime. To finish, keep it lively with a “tennis ball” of chocolate mille-feuille or carrot cake “served in a mini garden pot” with confit baby carrots and smoked sour-cream icing. The global wine list offers plenty of keenly priced drinking, but also check out the fab barrel-aged cocktails and “amazing” home-distilled gin. “You’d pay a ton more in central London for this”, cheers one fan.

£50 - £79
Modern European
SquareMeal UK Hot 100
The Raby Hunt Restaurant

25. The Raby Hunt Restaurant

Summerhouse, Darlington, County Durham, DL2 3UD

It may be no more than a dot on the map, but the hamlet of Summerhouse now boasts one of the north-east’s more ambitious and ‘evolving’ kitchens – plus a magnificent wine cellar to boot. Occupying a Grade II-listed former inn once frequented by the eponymous hunt, this reinvigorated restaurant-with-rooms is elegantly contemporary in style with proceedings now focused on just one über-sophisticated tasting menu of 10-15 courses from the cutting edge of modern British cuisine – with added delights if you plump for the ‘chef’s table’ experience. Self-taught James Close is working wonders here and his cooking (now touting two Michelin stars) is exceptionally skilful – witness voguish nibbles ranging from crab tacos or Lindisfarne oysters cooked at 62 degrees. The seasons also rule when it comes to plates of autumn salad, Cumbrian lamb, raw beef or razor clams with celeriac and almonds. After that, flavours collide in a tart of mango, yuzu and coconut, while black olive and chocolate keep company with sheep’s yoghurt; also prepare yourself for the enigmatically titled ‘Skull and Buddha’. Service is top-drawer, and the magisterial wine list offers pedigree, class and value across the rangve.

£50 - £79
British
The Three Chimneys

26. The Three Chimneys

Colbost, Isle of Skye, Highlands, IV55 8ZT

“Well worth the long trip”, Eddie and Shirley Spear’s converted crofter’s cottage by the shores of Loch Dunvegan promises matchless Highland hospitality, a lovingly curated wine cellar and food of tingling freshness for those who venture over the sea to Skye. Everyone is transfixed by the “unique setting and incredible scenery”, but there’s also plenty to admire in the stone-walled dining room with its contemporary grey tones and food-related prints.  The kitchen sets great store by sourcing and seasonality, although “stellar” Scottish seafood is the trump card – think scorched Dunvegan langoustine tails with fermented cucumber, tempura oyster and buttermilk or halibut roasted in Douglas fir with salsify, jus gras, Iron Age pork and baby gem. Also expect excellent meat and game, from wood-fired Skye red deer with charcoal-roasted beetroot to Orbost Soay lamb with pickled winter cabbage, black garlic and bramble wine sauce, plus fine British cheeses and desserts such as hibiscus and crowdie cheesecake with wheatgrass. Best of all, book a place at the ‘chef’s table’ within the state-of-the art kitchen, then retire to the House Over-By next door – “a wonderful place to stay”.

£50 - £79
Modern European
Ynyshir

27. Ynyshir

Eglwysfach, Machynlleth, Powys, Mid Wales, SY20 8TA

Manicured grounds, luxury rooms, courteous service and the peaceful surrounds of an RSPB nature reserve have long been a lure for VIPs and those after some Welsh R&R – although the star attraction at this glorious restaurant-with-rooms is the “awesome” cooking of chef/patron Gareth Ward. From the first taste of the home-baked bread with cultured butter through to the final sampling of strawberries with elder and yuzu, meals are shot through with intense flavours – not surprising, given that wunderkind Ward trained at high-flying Restaurant Sat Bains. ‘Ingredient-led, flavour-driven, fat-fuelled and meat-obsessed’, says a note on the menu and the results speak for themselves: mackerel might be paired with rhubarb and back fat, pollack is exotically embellished with black beans, and salmon could be given the BBQ treatment. There are also starring roles for Welsh lamb and Welsh Wagyu beef, while ‘desserts’ offer a profusion of sweet (and sometimes savoury) delights, from ‘birch porridge’ to miso treacle tart. Wines fit the top-end scenario, the dining room is a modern vision, and the chef’s table is a shoo-in for that special Michelin-starred occasion.

Over £80
British
The Pony & Trap

28. The Pony & Trap

Knowle Hill, Chew Magna, Bristol, Somerset, BS40 8TQ

A 200-year-old cottage boozer in the heart of the Chew Valley, The Pony & Trap is prized for its bar food (“as good as it gets”) as well as its Michelin-starred dining room – although there’s not a starched tablecloth or fawning waiter in sight. Family-run and dependant on chef Josh Eggleton’s foodie pals for many of its ingredients (note the list of local suppliers on the menu), this prestigious hostelry is known for serving up food that’s “a little bit special”: cured monkfish with crispy cheek and grapefruit; lamb rump and sweetbread with malted rye, swede and wild garlic; butter-poached brill with a hay-baked oyster, peas, radish and buttermilk. After that, we suggest bracing yourself for apple cake with caramel, walnuts and clotted-cream ice cream. An “excellent” tasting menu wraps up the whole repertoire in a desirable 10-course package, while the place shows its pubby roots with a cracking Sunday roast. In the words of one fan, “Josh Eggleton has got to be a chef to watch right now”.

£30 - £49
Gastropub
One michelin star
SquareMeal UK Hot 100
Ondine

29. Ondine

2 George IV Bridge, Edinburgh, EH1 1AD

Occupying a first-floor space above Victoria Street with wraparound views of Edinburgh's landmarks, Ondine is a “sleek but unpretentious” space with a crustacean bar holding centre stage, plus a jazzy helping of baroque fabrics and jaunty art. This is ‘a proper seafood restaurant’ declares chef/proprietor Roy Brett, who learned his trade with fish guru Rick Stein, and is renowned for his use of sustainably sourced, “super-fresh” produce (Ondine is accredited by the Marine Stewardship Council). Fixed-price lunch and pre-theatre deals might bring oyster ceviche ahead of Shetland mussels with soy, black beans and ginger, with lemon meringue pie for afters. Things move up a notch in the evening, when the kitchen offers more flashy stuff ranging from roasted shellfish platters and fruits de mer to sea bream curry, brown crab risotto with butternut squash or grilled Mull scallops in the half-shell with Chanteraise sausage and garlic butter. Although meat eaters might be offered rib of Orkney beef with oyster mushrooms and chips, Ondine is really about “the best seafood served by the friendliest staff”.

£50 - £79
Scottish
Fish
The Woodspeen

30. The Woodspeen

Lambourn Road, Woodspeen, Newbury, Berkshire, RG20 8BN

Star-spangled chef John Campbell (ex-The Vineyard at Stockcross et al) is well and truly back in the big time at this converted boozer just a few miles from his old stomping ground. Billed as a ‘smart country restaurant without formality’, The Woodspeen incorporates a pubby bar with Berkshire ales on tap, plus an airy conservatory-style extension with a sparkling open kitchen, vaulted ceilings and picture windows – the perfect setting for Michelin-starred food with strong seasonal accents. As expected, everything is “just perfect” – from char-grilled potato salad with horseradish, buttermilk and hen’s yolk or roast scallops with chorizo, broccoli and red pepper to roast cod with salsify, braised onion, and potted shrimps or local venison with malt-potato gratin, parsnip, cabbage hearts and chocolate. There are also big porcine platefuls and ribs of beef to share, while puds maintain the creative streak – how about a combo of crème brûlée, banana cake, pickled blueberries and muscatel ice cream. Service is charming, unobtrusive and efficient to a fault – although additional praise is heaped on the restaurant manager, who makes everyone “feel very special”.

£30 - £49
British
Restaurant Andrew Fairlie

31. Restaurant Andrew Fairlie

Gleneagles Hotel, Auchterarder, Perthshire, PH3 1NF

Gleneagles’ extravagantly expensive redevelopment continues apace, although there are no signs of upheaval at Andrew Fairlie’s “top-class” two-Michelin-starred restaurant nestled within the world-famous hospitality resort. Occupying “the most perfect setting” in a quiet corner of the complex, this is a calm, sophisticated space with enough formality to create a sense of occasion – think diffuse lighting, soft furnishings and lively paintings hung on textured brown/black walls. Fairlie’s precise and highly assured cooking is rooted in the classic European tradition and he’s a master of refinement: home-smoked Scottish lobster dressed with warm lime butter has been on the menu since the very early days, and other dishes also seem like old friends – the Highland lamb loin with slow-cooked shoulder, onion and red pepper, for example. Elsewhere, sophistication is the watchword (think wild mushroom and truffle ravioli with minted pea velouté or fillet of red mullet with saffron and fennel), while desserts such as lemon curd with citrus fruits and white chocolate are works of art. The “amazing” wine list may be as long as a school register, but the sommelier is eager to offer teasing suggestions.

Over £80
Modern European
The Coal Shed, Brighton

32. The Coal Shed, Brighton

8 Boyces Street, Brighton, East Sussex, BN1 1AN

“Beef to die for” is the big selling point at this Brighton offshoot of The Coal Shed in London. This place takes its protein seriously, with slabs of locally sourced fillet, rib-eye and rump sizzling on the kitchen's Josper grill and a blackboard listing different breeds, cuts and weights, all served with a choice of sauces (try the mushroom and bone marrow version). Black Angus burgers and spiced rack of lamb with yoghurt, zhug and chickpeas maintain the ‘turf’ theme, but there's also plenty to keep ‘surf’ fans happy – from kombu-cured monkfish to cod with mussels, clams, white beans and monk’s beard. Finish with tongue-scorching mini-doughnuts dunked in molten chocolate. The “busy” vibe and hard-edged, macho interior (stripped floorboards and industrial pendant lamps) feel right for the food, although it can result in a deafening din at peak times. Sensible prices, “amazing cocktails” and a drinker-friendly wine list with plenty by the glass or carafe are additional plus points. “Worth every penny”, chimes one fan.

£30 - £49
Steak
Brasserie
International
The Man Behind The Curtain

33. The Man Behind The Curtain

68-78 Vicar Lane, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 7JH

“Obscure food in a fashionable environment” is one reader’s snapshot of The Man Behind the Curtain. Taking its name from a quote in The Wizard of Oz, this cool white space atop Flannels clothes store promises views over the city’s rooftops and a menu that throws down lots of boundary-smashing gauntlets: thrills and challenges abound as maverick chef Michael O’Hare conjures up a riot of cutting-edge Michelin-starred dishes – although the whole experience sometimes feels like performance art. At lunchtime, you can graze from a ‘rapide’ menu, but the real action takes place in the evening, when it’s all about ‘the permanent collection’ – a tasting extravaganza involving 10 to 14 ‘sequences’ (aka courses) running from Wagyu beef with olive juice to a dessert involving cardamom and lemongrass soup with chilli sorbet. In between, expect the unexpected as the chef conjures up tomato tartare with beetroot and macadamia nuts, ackee and salt fish with tripe dumplings, artichoke and brioche Rossini or bowls of birds’ nest and kimchi ramen. To drink, off-piste wines and wacky cocktails are the stars – in short, this place is a genuine one-off.

Over £80
International
One michelin star
Sticky Walnut

34. Sticky Walnut

11 Charles Street, Chester, Cheshire, CH2 3AZ

Funky young chef (and master of crowd-funding) Gary Usher has done a terrific job here, turning the Sticky Walnut into a brilliant local bistro that receives top marks for consistency, value and quality. Gary’s upbeat, sparky cooking matches the restaurant’s offbeat vibe with a succession of creative ideas amalgamating influences from the Med and beyond – all served at very reasonable prices. The eponymous ‘sticky walnuts’ might appear in a roast beetroot salad with spiced pumpkin seeds and ricotta, but he doesn’t overplay the ‘nutty’ theme, preferring to channel his energies into intriguing dishes such as crispy duck hearts with pickled shimeji mushrooms, wild garlic and silver skin onion or butter-braised skate wing with caramelised cauliflower, yoghurt and sunflower-seed crisp. Some meaty mains are a tad more conventional (think chateaubriand with cauliflower cheese and red wine sauce), while eclectic desserts might include spiced coconut rice pudding with poached pineapple and sugared hazelnuts. The food is complemented by some intriguing world beers, trendy aperitifs and plenty of wines with gentle mark-ups.

£50 - £79
Modern European
SquareMeal UK Hot 100
Adam

35. Adam's Restaurant

New Oxford House, Birmingham, West Midlands, B2 5UG

“What a place! Food is top notch and the setting is lovely”, so writes a fan of this latest offering from Michelin-starred chef Adam Stokes (formerly at Glenapp Castle in Scotland). Occupying a one-time sandwich shop in Birmingham’s commercial district, this stylishly sophisticated gaff has been tricked out with faux marble, globe lights, mirrors and a cathedral-like trompe l’oeil centrepiece to create a dramatic backdrop for the chef’s formidable culinary talents. On offer is a choice of menus defined by clever, playful conceits and terse dish descriptions – from ‘guinea fowl, shiitake, smoked potato, braised leek’ to ‘halibut, asparagus, wild garlic, Jersey royal’. Opening salvos might include a punchy combo of Norfolk quail with Jerusalem artichoke, hen of the woods mushrooms and monk’s beard, while seasonally inclined desserts could feature Wye Valley rhubarb with orange blossom and yoghurt. Set lunches are “a good option for client meetings”, but whatever you choose, this head-turning Brummie challenger is bang on the money for a city with an ever-rising foodie profile.

£50 - £79
British
One michelin star
SquareMeal UK Hot 100
The Hind

36. The Hind's Head

High Street, Maidenhead, Berkshire, SL6 2AB

“Slightly more accessible” than the neighbouring Fat Duck, this reconfigured 15th-century coaching inn promises “the quality that you'd expect from Heston Blumenthal, but without the bells and whistles”. Refreshed and dolled up in 2017, the ground-floor dining room retains its ancient pubby feel via reclaimed panelling, rich red leather banquettes and antique beams, while the newly minted ‘Royal Lounge’ upstairs comes draped in quirky Heston-isms including a 3D-printed cockatrice and a blunderbuss chandelier. Food-wise, the old carte has been replaced by three regularly changing set menus named after English queens. The three-course ‘Mary’ version might yield a chicken, leek and ham pie pot pie with mash followed by a ‘quaking pudding’ (cinnamon, nutmeg and compressed apple), although dishes from the four-course ‘Aleyn’ also show customary Blumenthal precision (seared scallops Waldorf with celery, walnut dressing, sea vegetables and dill oil, for example). Elsewhere, the fabled Scotch egg comes with mustard mayo, while other classics such as lapsang souchong-cured salmon also put in an appearance. Service is chirpy and relaxed, and there are some “great G&Ts” alongside the serious wine list. “A place to remember.”

£30 - £49
British
Gastropub
SquareMeal UK Hot 100
Orwells

37. Orwells

Shiplake Row, Binfield Heath, Henley-On-Thames, Oxfordshire, RG9 4DP

Named after George Orwell, who spent his childhood in the area, this brilliant eatery has been painstakingly realised by Ryan Simpson and Liam Trotman – two chefs known for their “clever creativeness” (according to one reader). Well-bred pubby charms, good looks and reasonable prices belie a defiantly British repertoire based on locally sourced ingredients, foraged pickings, home-grown vegetables and honey from the owners’ hives. The kitchen works hard, setting the tone with superb home-baked sourdough bread before diners are treated to a cavalcade of picture-perfect plates ranging from a “thoughtful composition” involving three kinds of home-grown tomatoes, goats’ cheese and sweet onion to proper honeycomb in a “heavenly” chocolate cream. In between, it’s “brilliant fine dining” all the way, whether you’re sampling a “staggeringly good” dish of veal sweetbread, with charcoal mayo salsify and pickled cabbage or sea-fresh monkfish in company with salty crispy kale, roast cauliflower, brown butter and cream. Set menus offer outstanding value and the thoughtfully chosen wine list features some “exemplary Coravin flights” – although Orwells’ “unfussy ambience” remains one of its greatest assets.

£50 - £79
Modern European
British
Gastropub
SquareMeal UK Hot 100
The Seafood Restaurant Padstow

38. The Seafood Restaurant Padstow

Riverside, Padstow, Cornwall, PL28 8BY

This is where it all began for Cornish empire builder Rick Stein, but more than 40 years down the line, his illustrious flagship is still “simply glorious” and “a real treasure”. Quality is the watchword here: the spacious white-walled interior (designed by Jill Stein) is bright, modern and artily decorated with a no-bookings cut-price seafood bar at its heart, while the kitchen majors on exemplary fish cookery driven by “super-fresh” daily supplies from nearby Padstow quay. Flavours from Stein’s travels dominate the show, so start with some local Porthilly oysters before cruising your way through the likes of sea bass ceviche with smoked chipotle chilli, black cuttlefish risotto or the famously messy Singapore chilli crab. You can also take the classic route by ordering a whole Dover sole, hake and chips or turbot with hollandaise, before rounding off with Mexican rice pudding or apple tart. The atmosphere can’t be faulted, staff are “fabulous” and the authoritative list is stuffed with seafood-friendly whites; the waterfront location is also a dream – especially if you’re staying over.

Over £80
Fish
SquareMeal UK Hot 100
L

39. L'Ortolan

Church Lane, Shinfield, Reading, Berkshire, RG2 9BY

The very model of a smart country-house restaurant, this Grade II-listed vicarage has played host to some of the UK’s top chefs over the years (Nico Ladenis, John Burton-Race, Alan Murchison etc), and it now has a new wunderkind in the shape of Tom Clarke. Like his predecessors, the current incumbent brings high levels of Michelin-starred sophistication to proceedings, creating “beautiful plates” and wonderfully honed flavours from a larder of seasonal ingredients – think goose liver parfait with gingerbread and rhubarb, loin of hogget with sweetbreads and asparagus or poached loin of cod with oyster and coriander. The cheese trolley is a treasure-trove of ripeness, while desserts might offer a ‘toffee apple’ riff involving apple parfait, caramel and pecans. Well-drilled service depends on “amazing teamwork”, set lunches are a bargain for the blue-blooded Berkshire set, and the patrician wine list is notable for its impressive selection of organic/biodynamic bottles. The building may not look much from the outside, but the chocolate tones of the interior give out a soothing warmth and notable private rooms also catch the eye.

£50 - £79
French
SquareMeal UK Hot 100
Morston Hall

40. Morston Hall

Morston, Holt, Norfolk, NR25 7AA

“A Michelin star without the pomposity!” declares a fan who adores this class act on the north Norfolk coast. Morston Hall may boast high walls and a stately Jacobean facade, but the mood is low-key, laid-back and personal, with TV chef/proprietor Galton Blackiston and his attentive team creating just the right mood for celebrations large and small. With help from his head chef, Blackiston maps out a no-choice dinner menu served at just one sitting – a limited offer, but the results are presented with “real innovation and panache”. Introductory items might include a taster of Earl Stonham Wagyu beef with bordelaise sauce or roasted Jerusalem artichokes with goats’ cheese mousse, while the centrepiece could be Holkham venison with salt-baked beetroot, cabbage and white pepper jus or Dover sole with a Beaufort cheese crust and salsify purée. Exotic granitas refresh the palate, while dessert could bring hazelnut bavarois with chocolate sorbet. Although Morston Hall’s culinary reputation hinges on dinner, Sunday lunch also offers great value. Genial staff are as local as the ingredients on the plate, and the wine list is an impressive worldwide compendium.

Over £80
Modern European
The Dining Room at Whatley Manor

41. The Dining Room at Whatley Manor

Easton Grey, Malmesbury, Wiltshire, SN16 0RB

Lavishly turned out as a country-chic hotel, this ivy-clad Wiltshire grandee is now one of the UK’s great escapes – an epicurean package crowned by the immaculately appointed Dining Room. The departure of chef Martin Burge left new boy Niall Keating (ex-Restaurant Sat Bains) with big shoes to fill, but he’s risen to the challenge by beefing up the tasting menu to 12-plus courses and garnering a Michelin star in the process. Global influences abound, although there’s a fondness for Asian twists – as in turbot with pear and yuzukosho seasoning or a pairing of dried tuna, miso soup and turnip. Such zesty experimentation occasionally teeters off-course, but the gastronomically curious will have a field day and there's much to enjoy – from silken tofu with Exmoor caviar and chicken broth to a dessert involving clementines, black truffle and miso. Simpler pleasures, such as crisp-crusted mini sourdough loaves and post-dessert ‘treats’ also demonstrate a slick kitchen. Equally dynamic wine pairings are a worthwhile investment, while the sight of the chefs out front is a nice touch. For big-event dining in a sumptuous, pastoral setting, Whatley Manor’s still a winner.

Over £80
Modern European
One michelin star
SquareMeal UK Hot 100
Salt

42. Salt

8 Church Street, Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, CV37 6HB

Made possible by a £100,000 crowd-funding campaign, chef Paul Foster’s ambitious but unassuming Michelin star restaurant has straightaway become the leading light in Stratford-upon-Avon’s dining scene. The narrow townhouse contains two intimate, sparsely adorned rooms of bare wood, brick and whitewash, leading to an open kitchen from which similarly simple but immaculately rendered dishes emerge. Veggie ideas have a modern edge, but the real emphasis is on meat, fish and game – as in homemade black pudding with cauliflower purée, roast cod in green sauce with braised beef shin and pickled vegetables or Otterburn Mangalitza pork with salted pear, malted artichoke and sprouting broccoli. Seasonality is a byword, which means that show-stopping desserts such as sea buckthorn mille-feuille with fig, goats’ milk and dulce de leche or Yorkshire rhubarb, buttermilk ice, ginger crisp and sorrel are unlikely to be on the menu for long. Prices are very fair (particularly if you opt for a prix-fixe lunch), while staff are effortlessly warm, zipping through fascinating wine flights with zero pomposity.

£50 - £79
Modern European
One michelin star
The Jetty Christchurch

43. The Jetty Christchurch

Christchurch Harbour Hotel & Spa, Christchurch, Dorset, BH23 3NT

It may be tucked away in the grounds of the Christchurch Harbour Hotel, but The Jetty operates as a stand-alone restaurant – slap-bang on the water’s edge overlooking Mudeford Quay (“spectacular views” guaranteed). Sleek, cool and fashionable, with acres of glass and a big decked terrace to deliver those knock-out watery vistas, it has already made its name as a local hot spot. At the helm is one-time Michelin-starred chef Alex Aitken (well-known in these parts), who shows his pedigree with a raft of “immaculate”, flavour-driven dishes based on seasonal produce and daily deliveries of spanking fresh fish from the quayside. Expect anything from seared fillet of stone bass on crushed potatoes with wild garlic and Mudeford crab sauce or a mixed seafood grill with fennel, tomato, herbs and seaweed mayo to seared calf’s liver on champ with wilted spinach, orange, lemon and tangy citrus sauce. For dessert, Aitken’s signature passion fruit soufflé with passion fruit sauce is “to die for”. Keen prices and attentive service are further reasons to be cheerful.

£30 - £49
Fish
SquareMeal UK Hot 100
Burnt Truffle

44. Burnt Truffle

106 Telegraph Road, Heswall, Merseyside, CH60 0AQ

Another winner from Gary Usher (he of Sticky Walnut and Hispi fame), this Merseyside barnstormer occupies a modest sandstone building off Heswall’s main drag. Inside, a clean, classic interior allows Usher’s eclectic seasonal food do the talking – so be prepared for plenty of surprises. Given the restaurant’s name and parentage, it’s not surprising that meals begin with pillowy soft sourdough accompanied by truffle and walnut butter, while starters could promise anything from soused mackerel with pickled rhubarb, crème fraîche and radicchio to new season’s beetroot with the house ricotta and linseed crackers. Bright, unusual flavours also stand out when it comes to mains of pan-roasted lamb rump with roast mussel emulsion, tenderstem broccoli and silverskin onions or steamed cod accompanied by new potatoes, spinach and dill butter. Cheeses are true Brits, while desserts span everything from fresh doughnuts with buttermilk custard to ginger parkin with butterscotch sauce. The combination of zesty cooking, great value and terrific service puts this place way ahead of the local competition.

£30 - £49
Modern European
Y Polyn

45. Y Polyn

Capel Dewi, Carmarthen, Carmarthenshire, SA32 7LH

Run in the style of a chill-out country inn with scrubbed-up rustic surroundings and a dressed-down outlook (no tablecloths, no obligatory wine pouring), this wonderfully remote and gently idiosyncratic Y Polyn never fails to please. Readers regularly applaud the kitchen’s commitment to “high quality fresh Welsh produce”, so expect big portions and earthy presentation, although culinary inspiration comes mostly from the Mediterranean. Typical dishes might run from pappardelle with venison ragù, or warm confit duck terrine with pickled mushrooms and spicy fruit sauce to roast rump of Welsh lamb with caponata and salsa verde or pan-roasted brill with baby spinach, red chard, Jerusalem artichokes, cockles and anchovy butter. After that, pear tarte Tatin or egg custard tart with raspberry ripple ice cream await – or you can delve into the assortment of prime Welsh cheeses to go with something from the extensive wine list. “Very good value” is also guaranteed, with prices including a big dish of vegetables, water and superb home-baked sourdough bread.

£30 - £49
Modern European
SquareMeal UK Hot 100
Sorrel

46. Sorrel

77 South Street, Dorking, Surrey, RH4 2JU

“What a chef!” exclaimed one reader after discovering Steve Drake’s latest venture. Having vacated the high-ranking Clock House in Ripley, he has now set his sights on even bigger things in this “understated but elegant” new restaurant in one Dorking’s historic old buildings. As before, Drake offers a carte alongside a signature multi-course ‘discovery menu’, although the underlying theme is ambitious contemporary cooking with a strong seasonal accent. According to readers, the results are “utterly divine”, always interesting and beautifully executed: consider scallop with smoked cauliflower, curried oat granola and cucumber ketchup or a pairing of English asparagus, red mullet, sea purslane, oyster and horseradish or even a main plate of brill offset by dried mushrooms, celeriac, kombu, sea vegetables and chicken juices. There are some highly creative meat-free dishes too (roasted and smoked cauliflower with date and cucumber ketchup, for example), while desserts such as roasted pineapple, spiced caramel, yoghurt, dill and camomile stay with the programme. Meanwhile, a “very well-informed sommelier” is one hand to guide diners through the cosmopolitan wine list. One to watch, we think.

£50 - £79
Modern European
One michelin star
Rogan & Co

47. Rogan & Co

Devonshire Square, Cartmel, Cumbria, LA11 6QD

Following the trend pioneered by Heston Blumenthal at Bray and Rick Stein in Padstow, Simon Rogan is turning his own little corner of England into a self-styled foodie destination. The chocolate-box village of Cartmel is his chosen home patch, and Rogan & Co sets out to complement the world-class natural-born food served at nearby big sibling L'Enclume – although the forward-thinking dishes offered in this likeable dining room (think ancient beams, leather upholstery and neutral fabrics) stand up well in their own right. Starters of scallop mousse in a cabbage leaf with smoked eel and ‘wasabina’ oil or a pairing of duck sausage, Jerusalem artichoke and elderflowers prove the point, while mains are defined by the Cumbrian landscape and embellished with pickings from Rogan’s farm in Cartmel (‘Valley’ venison with preserved cherries and poached celeriac, for example). To conclude, iced apple with meadowsweet and rosehip is a picture-pretty countryside conceit. Snacks of, say, cod tongues with ramsons are bang on-trend, while the entertainingly annotated wine list offers a sound choice from around the globe.

£30 - £49
Modern European
One michelin star
Nut Tree Inn

48. Nut Tree Inn

Main Street, Murcott, Kidlington, Oxfordshire, OX5 2RE

A centuries-old thatched country inn beside a village pond, with heavy stone walls, lots of exposed woodwork and a productive kitchen garden (complete with rooting pigs), The Nut Tree certainly has bags of character. It’s still a “lovely local pub” dedicated to serving the locals, but a Michelin star gives notice that food is in the ascendancy here – no wonder people come from miles around to sample what the kitchen has to offer. Michael North’s menus pull together an impressive roster of seasonal ingredients, from a salad of griddled asparagus, broad beans, Parmesan and lemon vinaigrette to slow-roast Blythburgh pork belly with crispy croquette, broccoli and Granny Smith apple. This is “high-class cooking”, beautifully presented, stunningly delicious and bursting with big flavours. Meanwhile, desserts such as chestnut parfait with rum sauce or a chocolate and coffee ‘bar’ with chocolate jelly, coffee purée and milk ice cream end proceedings on high note. Some people (ourselves included) prefer the old part of the pub rather to the newer extension, but hard-working staff are always happy to extend courtesies and goodwill.

£50 - £79
Modern European
The Pig

49. The Pig

Beaulieu Road, Brockenhurst, Brockenhurst, Hampshire, SO42 7QL

From the ivy-meshed Georgian house ringed by New Forest oak to the racks of wellies and rooms furnished like an antique country pile, everything about the laid-back Pig feels just right. At its heart is a “charming” glass-roofed restaurant with a suitably horticultural vibe, while the enthusiastic kitchen is fed by seasonal bounty from a productive walled garden, polytunnels, a smokehouse and the local countryside (courtesy of a resident forager). Expect “creative, slightly rustic, on-trend food” from a menu full of artisan treats: honey and mustard chipolatas feature among the moreish ‘piggy bits’; ‘walled garden’ fritters are served with wild garlic mayo; New Forest mushrooms pop up everywhere, and fish might include whole plaice on the bone with pink fir potatoes and brown butter sauce. For afters, the lemon and basil posset with macerated strawberries has bags of seasonal oomph. Alternatively, pizza-style flatbreads are served from the wood-fired oven on the terrace (no need to book). The weighty wine list is stuffed with unusual bottles, while cocktails include zany concoctions served in Kilner jars. “Great service” also gets the nod.

£30 - £49
British
Adam Reid at The French

50. Adam Reid at The French

The Midland Hotel, 16 Peter Street, Manchester, Greater Manchester, M60 2DS

Simon Rogan is long gone, but his protégé Adam Reid continues to turn heads at this flagship restaurant within Manchester’s vintage Midland Hotel. Though the grand dining room’s opulent decor hasn’t changed, eating here feels less formal than before – but no less impressive, with Reid stamping his own distinctive mark on proceedings. We’ve had our share of thrilling encounters here – from seared scallop with trout roe and roasted onion broth to a superbly executed dish of salt-aged duck with vivid purple beetroot and pickled elderberries. Other standouts have a noticeable North Country accent – think nibbles of dripping toast with grated tongue or a Lancashire ‘tasty’ cheese and onion pie with lovage and eel, as well as a meat-free combo of ‘tater ash’ with mushroom ‘catsup’, bread and butter. To finish, rhubarb jelly with ginger malt ice cream is one option, but don’t miss Reid’s ‘Golden Empire’ dessert – an award-winner from Great British Menu 2016, consisting of a golden candy apple adorned with hazelnut crumble and meadowsweet custard. Meanwhile, spot-on service ensures a stunning gastronomic experience without any fine-dining stuffiness.

Over £80
British
Restaurant James Sommerin

51. Restaurant James Sommerin

Beachcliff, The Esplanade, Penarth, Cardiff, South Wales, CF64 3LA

Occupying the ground floor of a grand old Edwardian building overlooking the estuary on Penarth’s esplanade, James Sommerin’s restaurant gets everything right. The light-drenched dining room is smart but free from formal frippery, with a view into the open kitchen from generously spaced tables, while FOH (managed by James’ wife Louise) is warm and natural, but also well-informed – whether you’re enquiring about the all-British cheese display or the treat-packed wine list. With a Michelin star under his belt, Sommerin delivers some show-stopping dishes, be it a liquid pea ravioli smothered in sage cream and Serrano ham (as seen on Great British Menu), wild sea bass with langoustines, ginger and artichokes or a dessert involving banana, chocolate, peanut and caramel. Great produce is a given (we love the 32-day aged sirloin), and the food is reckoned to be superb value too. Diners opting for the tasting menu are treated to the full show, “with the chefs serving and explaining each course”. And if you’re going down that route, you might fancy making a weekend of it by booking one of the beautiful boutique rooms.

Over £80
Modern European
Lympstone Manor

52. Lympstone Manor

Lympstone Manor, Courtlands Lane, Exmouth, Devon, EX8 3NZ

Since departing Gidleigh Park in 2015, Michael Caines has reinvented himself as patron chef at this most ambitious of projects. Welcome to Lympstone Manor – a grand Georgian pile set seductively in 28 acres of landscaped grounds, with vineyards sloping down to the Exe estuary in Devon. The restaurant itself comprises three light and airy dining rooms, each looking towards the estuary and individually embellished with modern artworks. 

As ever, Caines’ food is defined by seasonal supplies of West Country produce, and in terms of ambition, execution and technical complexity, he is certainly cooking at the level that previously won him two Michelin stars: braised Brixham turbot might appear with wild mushrooms, spinach and truffle butter sauce, while Cornish duckling is partnered with chicory braised in orange, anise and orange-scented jus. Elsewhere, a deliciously guinea fowl drizzled with a lemon thyme sauce and served with fondant potato and summer vegetables is as good as it gets, while a lemon polenta cake with tangy lemon curd, tart lemon sorbet and an exquisitely light vanilla foam is an exercise in culinary harmony, which rivals the much loved hot pistachio soufflé. 

You can plump for the à la carte but, if it’s a one-off visit, we suggest diving into the delights of the ‘signature’ menu. Either way, expect “exquisite dining” and a Michelin-starred “assault on the senses” enhanced by perfectly matched wines from a list which champions English vineyards alongside classy global names. From the cocktails, try the beautifully elegant ‘Arabella’ gin and tonic, a super-premium collaboration between Michael Caines and Salcombe Gin.

Over £80
British
One michelin star
Bohemia Jersey

53. Bohemia Jersey

Green Street, St Helier, Jersey, Channel Islands, JE2 4UH

Noted for its swish boutique opulence, the trendsetting Club Hotel & Spa sits well in St Helier’s fashionably moneyed financial quarter – although cool elegance prevails in the flagship Bohemia restaurant. But don’t be fooled by the dining room’s wood panelling, leather chairs or muted brown and grey furnishings, because there’s nothing subdued about Steve Smith’s Michelin-starred cooking. A bewildering array of menus is offered, although the ‘surprise’ and ‘prestige’ options provide the most comprehensive demonstrations of the chef’s talents. From the first taste of ‘shrimps, pistachio and brown butter’ to the last mouthful of ‘spiced apple and blackberry’, it’s a roller-coaster of intricate flavours and contrasting textures. Along the way, you might sample the following: oyster cassonade with cucumber and yuzu; turbot with Cevennes onion, smoked eel, rock samphire and mustard; belted Galloway sirloin with broccoli, English wasabi and oxtail on toast. Meanwhile, the carte offers some more approachable ideas including lamb loin and braised neck with Jerusalem artichoke and goats’ cheese. The food is matched by an impressive international wine list, with France in pole position.

£50 - £79
Modern European
The Coach

54. The Coach

3 West Street, Marlow, Buckinghamshire, SL7 2LS

In stark contrast to the nearby The Hand and Flowers, Tom Kerridge’s Coach conversion is an eminently user-friendly, no-bookings all-day boozer-cum-eatery with a terrific atmosphere and capable staff. This compact, cosy place puts the bar centre stage, with music playing, comfy leather banquettes and bags of foodie appeal. Breakfast ‘hotdogs’, kippers and kedgeree do the business first thing in the morning, while the full menu offers ‘small plates’ with the option of ‘meat’ or ‘no meat’. Choose the former and you’re in the world of the rotisserie, with competition from the likes of the Coach burger or venison chilli with red wine, chocolate and toasted rice cream; choose the latter and you could have Caesar salad, moules marinière or fish fritters with tartare sauce. For ‘sweet’, check out the gypsy tart with Old English spice and blackberry sorbet. Grazing plates, cakes and nibbles fill in the daytime gaps, alongside pints of ale and a concise list of quaffable wines by the glass. This is “food at its best”, and the award of a Michelin star is testament to the Coach’s class.

£30 - £49
Gastropub
The Whitebrook

55. The Whitebrook

Whitebrook, Monmouth, South Wales, NP25 4TX

Set among pine forests and trickling brooks, this long-time gastronomic beacon on the edge of the bucolic Wye Valley now serves a real taste of its surroundings. Mixing delicate French technique with super-premium Welsh produce, Raymond Blanc protégé Chris Harrod currently employs a full-time forager to provide pickings for his kitchen. These wild things now form a vital component for his distinctive cooking: Wye Valley asparagus might be paired with ‘hedgerow pickings’, maritime pine and Tintern mead, while Orkney scallops are garlanded with pickled alexanders, roast chicken skin and nasturtium. Elsewhere, ground elder pops up in a dish of day-boat turbot, while wild chervil and bittercress are the chosen feral companions for a plate of squab pigeon and forced rhubarb. Desserts also get the treatment, as in a combo of blackcurrant, camomile and sage. Readers “love” the tasting menu, the set lunch is bargain and warm courteous service is a given – whatever the occasion. There’s also an impressive wine list to peruse (including some local Welsh names), or you can try Chris’s own pine-infused gin – perfect if you’re staying over.

£50 - £79
Modern European
Castle Terrace

56. Castle Terrace

33-35 Castle Terrace, Edinburgh, EH1 2EL

There’s something rather special about Dominic Jack’s contemporary dining room in a Georgian townhouse beneath Edinburgh Castle Mound. Like its elder sibling The Kitchin, Castle Terrace is the real deal: the food is out of the top drawer, service seldom misses a beat, and there are treasures galore on the high-value wine list. ‘From nature to plate’ is the now-familiar mantra, and raw materials of distinguished provenance go into starters ranging from a tartare of North Sea gurnard with apple and crispy croûtons to ravioli of fresh herbs with a spring pea velouté. Every detail is also spot-on when it comes to clear-flavoured mains such as seared monkfish wrapped in Ayrshire ham with peas à la française or roasted and braised Inverurie lamb partnered by aubergine and apricot. To conclude, a veritable galaxy of smile-inducing desserts might feature anything from a warm Granny Smith apple pie to Scottish heather honey soufflé with sour-cream ice cream. Great-value lunch packages are worth a punt, and engaging staff make everyone feel valued.

£50 - £79
British
The Idle Rocks

57. The Idle Rocks

Harbourside, St. Mawes, Cornwall, TR2 5AN

Built in 1913 on the site of St Mawes bakery, this aptly named hotel and restaurant is perched on the rocks overlooking the harbour – a “perfect setting” for a spot of relaxation and some “just incredible” food founded on Cornish ingredients (especially seafood from the local boats). There are Porthilly oysters to nibble, ahead of eclectic ideas such as teriyaki mackerel with radish, avocado and cucumber or gilthead bream partnered by smoked aubergine, olive, basil and shellfish bisque. Landlubbers, meanwhile, might prefer pork belly with black garlic, parsley and anchovy followed by sirloin of lamb accompanied by white sprouting broccoli, red onion and broad beans. For dessert, perhaps plump for baked Alaska with rhubarb, a Cornish ‘fairing’ biscuit and gin. There’s “real attention to detail and seasonality here”, notes one reader who also loves the dramatically refurbished and beautifully appointed dining room with its spacious outlook and big windows. “A truly special experience”, sums it up.

£50 - £79
Modern European
Roger Hickman

58. Roger Hickman's Restaurant

79 Upper St. Giles Street, Norwich, Norfolk, NR2 1AB

Roger Hickman’s immensely likeable restaurant is a treat to visit with its comfortingly familiar interiors, civilised demeanour and understated elegance – and it comes with the bonus of cleverly crafted modern food. Sharply defined seasonal flavours are the key to Hickman’s cooking, as in blowtorched mackerel with mackerel mousse, gooseberry and horseradish or lamb’s sweetbreads offset by textures of garlic and potato terrine. Thoughtfully sourced and sympathetically handled ingredients also stand out when it comes to mains such as roast turbot with ceps, salsify, mash and chicken wings or duck breast and pressed leg accompanied by turnip, crispy egg yolk, blackberries and wild rice. Hickman likes to give classic desserts a contemporary spin – think strawberries with yuzu, pistachio and basil or a fusion of chocolate, honey, cashew nuts and milk. Service is always courteous and affable, set menus are excellent value and the wine list comprises a fine collection of carefully chosen bottles from across the globe.

£50 - £79
Modern European
World Service

59. World Service

Castle Gate , Nottingham, Nottinghamshire, NG1 6AF

“I have been eating at this place for my entire adult life” admits one Nottingham local, adding that he loves “the attention to detail, the lovely ‘library’ bar and the perfect service” on offer at the World Service. Oriental artefacts, candelabra, mirrors, leather sofas, a palette of neutral colours and, best of all, a sheltered, oriental-style patio garden set the tone in this modern annexe of centuries-old Newdigate House. Staff are “efficient yet welcoming”, while the menu promises a raft of “sensibly priced” seasonal dishes ranging from sea bream escabèche with saffron shallots and compressed oranges or a mini pigeon and duck liver Wellington to wild sea bass with crispy squid, courgette and aubergine relish or herb-crusted lamb loin accompanied by chou farci, peas, baby gem and dauphinoise potato. There are some attractive desserts too, perhaps caramelised milk chocolate ganache or a trendy vegan riff involving matcha green tea, whipped tofu, jackfruit, lychee and lime consommé.  Back-up comes from a “comprehensive” drinks list.

£30 - £49
French
The Beehive White Waltham

60. The Beehive White Waltham

Waltham Road, White Waltham, Maidenhead, Berkshire, SL6 3SH

“How reassuring to find a restaurant that takes pleasure in making its customers feel welcome”, notes a visitor to The Beehive – a solid-looking redbrick village pub on the other side of the M4 corridor. Chef Dominic Chapman made his name at The Royal Oak, Paley Street, and all his familiar trademarks are here: “peerlessly professional” cooking based on top-class ingredients plus a daily-line-up of “expertly balanced” dishes bursting with bold flavours.  Top picks from our recent visits have included a “properly crispy” tart of beetroot and punchy goats’ cheese, and a winning plate of Cornish cod with intense red wine jus, wild mushrooms and gnocchi, although the chef’s signature wild rabbit lasagne with wood blewits and chervil continues to vie for top spot. The level of enjoyment is maintained by first-rate desserts including a “brilliantly conceived” modern take on a toasty baked Alaska. The Beehive is still a genuine local boozer, so also expect draught beers, quiz nights and bar snacks, not to mention views of the village cricket pitch over the road. “I’ve never had a bad meal here”, affirms one regular.

£30 - £49
Gastropub
Maison Bleue Bury St Edmunds

61. Maison Bleue Bury St Edmunds

30-31 Churchgate Street, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, IP33 1RG

“Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful…” exclaims one of Maison Bleue’s many admirers – in fact, everyone has a good word to say about this much-loved Suffolk restaurant. There’s a certain Gallic charm at work here: the decor is suitably bright and breezy, staff deliver “a very French welcome”, and the kitchen “punches well over its weight”. Fish is the strong suit, so book ahead if you fancy gorging extravagantly on fruits de mer, or dip into the day’s haul for sparkling ideas such as seared Orkney king scallops with smoked haddock, sauce ‘bonne femme’ and squid-ink tuile or Gigha halibut and razor clams embellished with dill, sprouting broccoli and roasted salsify. A few plainer dishes are also available, alongside some serious meaty contenders – think saddle of rabbit with sautéed snails, parsley sauce, baby courgettes and red pepper. After that, go for something sweet (perhaps chocolate and coffee ganache with buckwheat ice cream) or request the all-French cheese trolley – we’re told it’s a real cracker. “You’ll be treated like a Hollywood star”, notes one fan, “and you’ll leave having booked your next visit”.

£50 - £79
French
Lake Road Kitchen

62. Lake Road Kitchen

Lake Road, Ambleside, Cumbria, LA22 0AD

‘Hyper-seasonal, climatically local cooking’ is the name of the game here, which means a tuned-in zeitgeist-hugging amalgam of ‘preserving and pickling’, ‘working with nature’ and so on. It should come as no surprise that James Cross cooked at world-beating Noma before deciding to shake up touristy Ambleside with his radical cuisine. Expect wild pickings and indigenous ingredients galore, all combined in revelatory dishes with lots of new Nordic echoes: meaty snails are dressed with a fearsome green miso made in-house from peas and beans; roast squab is given a Scandi edge with lingonberries, girolles and yarrow; a sweet caramelised scallop is enlivened with fennel shavings, bee pollen and sunflower seeds. Elsewhere, beef carcases are dry-aged for months on end and there’s a signature dish of whole roast cauliflower basted in goat butter, while desserts might include a cleverly fashioned blackberry tart garlanded with citrusy oxalis leaves. Lake Road Kitchen is a modest no-frills space with wooden planking on the walls, bare tables and an open-to-view working area – it’s also the kind of eatery where you’re expected to pour your own wine (sourced from Northern Europe, naturally).

£50 - £79
Modern European
Hambleton Hall

63. Hambleton Hall

Hambleton, Rutland, Leicestershire, LE15 8TH

A “breath-taking” location overlooking Rutland Water is just one reason why visitors graduate towards Hambleton Hall – a quintessentially English country retreat done out like a petite French château, complete with superbly landscaped grounds, terraced gardens and magnificent antique-filled interiors. The restaurant occupies an appropriately stately room, while “impeccable” well-tutored staff mix grace and good humour with consummate attention to detail. Long-serving chef Aaron Patterson produces top-class food in the modern idiom, and readers confirm that the results are “absolutely spectacular”. A prettily designed menu celebrates the seasons, and the kitchen follows suit – think a terrine of heritage carrots with spiced carrot ice cream followed by fillet of John Dory with sorrel risotto, fennel and orange. Presentation is picture-perfect, whether you’re in the market for a plate of Launde Farm lamb or something luxurious from ‘gourmet corner’ – perhaps fallow deer with celeriac and chocolate tortellini. To finish, signature soufflés and tiramisu lead the pack, or you might fancy lemon, fig and sablé breton. Set lunches are deemed “good-value”, and the authoritative wine list is proudly prejudiced ‘in favour of the little guy’.

£50 - £79
British
One michelin star
The Sir Charles Napier

64. The Sir Charles Napier

Sprigg's Alley, Chinnor, Oxfordshire, OX39 4BX

“Where better to escape London” says a fan of this lovably eccentric eatery high up on Bledlow Ridge. “The Napier” has been a fixture of the Chiltern scene since the 1970s, seducing countless visitors with its unique oddball charms: whether you’re here for a dreamy repast under the pergolas or a snuggle-up by the fire surrounded by surreal sculptures and crazy curios, ever-present host Julie Griffiths and her cheery team will ensure that a pleasurable time is had by all. Chefs come and go, but the current main man is delivering some tip-top dishes with a strong seasonal accent: Brixham crab salad arrives with lavache crackers, pickled fennel and cucumber, while rump of Welsh lamb might be paired with buttered hispi cabbage, dauphinoise potatoes and lovage. There’s a rich haul of locally bagged game too, while desserts such as gariguette strawberry and brown-sugar pavlova are a real treat. Otherwise, a mighty tray of ripe cheeses whiffs invitingly, and the “superb” wine list promises fun as well as the prospect of serious drinking. Frenetic Sunday lunch sessions often last long into the afternoon.  

£50 - £79
Modern European
The Crown at Burchetts Green

65. The Crown at Burchetts Green

Burchetts Green Road, Burchetts Green, Maidenhead, Berkshire, SL6 6QZ

There’s plenty of competition hereabouts, but readers rate this highly idiosyncratic pub as one of the best gastronomic destinations in the area. The Crown is a quirky little place, with an infectious atmosphere in the tiny bar, a pleasing conservatory and a plainly decorated, cream-walled dining room. As one of the restaurant scene’s more eccentric characters, chef/proprietor Simon Bonwick runs the kitchen single-handedly and leaves front-of-house to members of his (very large) family – especially his eldest son. That said, the results on the plate are hugely impressive, marrying British seasonal ingredients to the big-boned richness of French provincial cuisine: rillettes of wild boar with beer pickles; croustade of sorrel and spinach; slow-cooked veal cheek with ‘rather nice veal sauce’; roast cod with watercress and horseradish. To conclude, expect French-inspired ideas such as tarte Tatin, pistachio charlotte and Black Forest ‘cadeau’ as well as hot treacle sponge (‘like when you were little’). Unbeatable prices and a passionate, personable approach to hospitality also do much to enhance the persona of this Michelin-starred rural rendezvous.

£30 - £49
British
French
The Seahorse Restaurant

66. The Seahorse Restaurant

5 South Embankment, Dartmouth, Devon, TQ6 9BH

“A fine example of a chef/patron restaurant” this well-liked seafood stalwart has the kind of warmth you might associate with a bedded-in eatery on an Italian backstreet – not a Devon waterfront. Eating here is always a real pleasure, and the staff are “equally welcoming to young and old alike”. Proprietor Mitch Tonks has positioned himself as the natural successor to Rick Stein’s crown in the West Country, and he certainly knows all about “supremely fresh, brilliantly cooked fish”. Much of the daily catch comes from nearby Brixham, and the kitchen treats its seasonal haul with due respect: mussels are steamed with vermentino wine, bay leaves and chilli; hake is dressed with broad beans, peas and mint hollandaise; John Dory is partnered by slow-cooked fennel and tomato. Elsewhere, Dover sole, monkfish and red mullet are grilled over the fire, along with Pyrenean lamb chops, osso bucco and salt-aged Glenarm steaks. Italy dominates when it comes to desserts such as scroppino, zabaglione and lemon tart. The £20 ‘locals menu’ offers terrific value, and the extensive fish-friendly wine list vigorously supports European vineyards.

£50 - £79
Fish
SquareMeal UK Hot 100
Freemasons At Wiswell

67. Freemasons At Wiswell

8 Vicarage Fold, Wiswell, Clitheroe, Lancashire, BB7 9DF

Hidden away in picture-pretty Wiswell, this atmospheric and stylishly reconfigured Lancashire hostelry now cuts quite a dash with its thoughtful blend of rich heritage colours, mismatched antique furniture and country prints, while young informed service and a bold, contemporary menu belie the traditional surroundings. Local lad Steven Smith is on top form at the moment, delivering a succession of high-end crossover dishes such as a pork pie baked in brioche with roast langoustine and a sauce of char-grilled asparagus or roast rump and kofta of Herdwick lamb accompanied by BBQ baby gem, miso aubergine, mint and yoghurt. Elsewhere, those with plainer tastes get admirable satisfaction from plates of simply grilled fish and slabs of 60-day aged Hereford beef with duck-fat chips, while desserts hit the heights with show-stopping soufflés and luscious creations such as dark chocolate with pineapple poached in Pedro Ximénez caramel, rum, raisin and peach sorbet. The food is matched by an impressively diverse wine list loaded with classy bottles at very reasonable prices. With its superb outdoor eating area, this place is also a shoo-in for special bashes.

£50 - £79
Modern European
British
The Hardwick

68. The Hardwick

Old Raglan Road , Abergavenny, Monmouthshire, NP7 9AA

Stephen Terry’s much-lauded inn-with-rooms is custom-built for just about any socialising opportunity (special-occasion or otherwise): there’s plenty for those who enjoy wallowing in oak-beamed pubby rusticity, while others feel right at home amid the varnished wood furnishings and affluent leather sofas. The kitchen thinks big when it comes to local sourcing and bullish contemporary flavours, but also satisfies diehards who get their kicks from plates of pork and venison terrine, duck hash or beer-battered haddock with skinny chips. Overall, the emphasis is on gutsy high-end cooking and flashy presentation without prissiness – as in roast hake and braised octopus with white bean and chorizo fabada, braised rabbit with deep-fried polenta or a veggie riff involving roast butternut squash and char-grilled tenderstem broccoli with locally made feta, savoury granola, yoghurt and deep-fried sage leaves. To finish, check out the ripe Welsh cheeses or take your cue from the calendar with, say, poached Evesham rhubarb, soft-baked cheesecake and shortbread crumble. Head to the bar for real ales or peruse the substantial list of reasonably priced wines.

£30 - £49
Gastropub
Timberyard

69. Timberyard

10 Lady Lawson Street, Edinburgh, EH3 9DS

“Wonderful space… wonderful food” raves a fan of Timberyard. Housed in a shabby-chic timber warehouse and one-time theatrical props store, this restaurant is rightly proud of its enterprising approach to foraging, butchery, curing and growing your own, while the “delightful” owners also support Scottish producers, as well as stuffing their drinks list with “hidden gems” (including natural wines, floral cocktails and small-batch beers). Meals revolve around a choice of multi-course menus, with many dishes beautifully adorned with herbs and flowers from the Timberyard ‘patch’. Well-balanced small plates might range from mackerel, oyster, parsley, kohlrabi and horseradish to veal sweetbread with truffle, artichoke, sea purslane and hazelnut, while bigger items could include cod with white asparagus, capers, raisins and turnip or a combo of venison and beetroot bolstered by ramsons, juniper and onion. For dessert, sweet strawberries might appear alongside lemon verbena, sheep’s yoghurt and elderflower. Private dining takes place in an old brick shed and there’s a sought-after south-facing yard for alfresco meals, while “enthusiastic, knowledgeable staff” add the final gloss to this idiosyncratic Edinburgh destination.

£50 - £79
Modern European
British
Cin Cin Brighton

70. Cin Cin Brighton

13-16 Vine Street, Brighton, East Sussex, BN1 4AG

There’s barely room to swing a leg of Parma ham in this cute Italian restaurant, which seats just 18 diners at a U-shaped counter around an open kitchen and bar. Owner David Toscano is here most nights (and days), pouring bracing Negronis accompanied by fat glossy-green olives and duvet-like focaccia. Meanwhile, the one-man kitchen sends out a succession of small plates bursting with flavour. Expect nibbles and small plates including Jersey royals with salsa verde and egg-yolk jam or soused mackerel with rhubarb ‘di mostarda’, although most people head straight for the silky handmade pastas (pea and ricotta panzotti with confit trout, for example). Also, don’t miss the sharing boards of superb Italian cheeses and salumi, but do save space for the blood-orange and Campari carpaccio with white chocolate. Cin Cin is a great venue for people-watching, whether that’s ogling fellow diners at the counter or simply admiring the ballet of chef, barman and owner working together in the tiny kitchen – “I love the one-on-one service”, notes a fan.

£30 - £49
Italian
SquareMeal UK Hot 100
Coombeshead Farm

71. Coombeshead Farm

Coombeshead Farm, Lewannick, Cornwall, PL15 7QQ

Many foodies will know Tom Adams as the precocious chef/founder of London’s meat-loving Pitt Cue, although this venture sees him out in the sticks – at a 66-acre farm in east Cornwall, which he runs jointly with Birmingham-born April Bloomfield, chef at New York’s Michelin-starred Spotted Pig (who visits when she can). Dinner is a multi-course set deal that kicks off with nibbles served in the lounge of their 18th-century farmhouse – or outside if it’s fine. After that, guests commune around a 12-seater table just off the kitchen, with views of the chefs at work. Unsurprisingly, the menu largely revolves around animal protein, particularly locally reared, rare-breed Mangalitza pig – from crispy skin with rowanberries to cured ham with cassis. Cornish fish pops up from time to time (Looe scallops with braised kelp and smoked broth, say), while vegetables and herbs always get a decent look-in, from asparagus with hogweed to a sweet riff involving nettle curds, pineapple weed and rhubarb. If you want to make a trip of it, book one of the five stylish ‘farmhouse’ bedrooms, and expect an equally meaty breakfast.

£50 - £79
British
Luscombes

72. Luscombes

The Golden Ball, Lower Assendon, Henley-On-Thames, Oxfordshire, RG9 6AH

Situated just outside Henley-on-Thames, in leafy Lower Assendon, family-run Luscombes is “a restaurant with soul” – a likeable rural eatery that oozes pubby olde-worlde charms with its rustic furniture, warm neutral tones and cosy fireplace. Lunch is an affordable deal, while dinner is a classy but pleasantly unpretentious affair, with generous space between tables and a menu designed to whet the appetite. Chef/patron Stephen Luscombe, who trained with Marco-Pierre White, is passionate about locally sourced produce and his food is a “picture of reliability”: cheese soufflé is dressed up with celery and walnut salad), local venison and chicken pie with creamed mash pleases the traditionalists, and there’s pork belly with devils on horseback and winter cabbage too. Fish comes up from Stephen’s native Cornwall (think mackerel on toast or cod with BBQ cauliflower, apple, pine nuts, sherry vinegar and chips), while desserts such as raspberry soufflé are well worth the wait. With friendly, swift service and a well-considered wine list added to the mix, Luscombes is spot-on for the neighbourhood.

£50 - £79
British
Craig Millar @ 16 West End

73. Craig Millar @ 16 West End

16 West End, St Monans, Fife, Scotland, KY10 2BX

Briny-fresh, locally sourced seafood is the big selling point at Craig Millar’s restaurant, although it’s almost outdone by the stupendous views across the Firth of Forth to Bass Rock. With the local harbour just a stone’s throw away, it’s not surprising that top-drawer fish is guaranteed – and Craig makes the most of the catch for a repertoire of emphatically flavoured contemporary dishes. A starter of ‘sea-reared’ trout (cooked at 44 degrees) with miso caramel, oyster, dashi and parsley sauce ticks all the on-trend boxes, but there are also more conventional ideas on show – think a smoked haddock and cheese ‘tart’ or cod with chorizo, butterbeans, goats’ cheese and spinach. Those who prefer meat might be offered Parmesan-crusted venison loin with salsify, kale, beetroot, crosnes and pickled turnip, while fancy desserts are in the mould of apple pannacotta with bramble sorbet, granola, apple sponge and salted caramel. Staff know the ropes, the home-baked bread is a must, and wine buffs are also in for a treat – thanks to a smartly assembled list.

£50 - £79
Fish
The Star Inn Harome

74. The Star Inn Harome

High Street, Harome nr Helmsley, North Yorkshire, YO62 5JE

Since arriving at The Star, chef/proprietor Andrew Pern has turned this 14th-century thatched hostelry into a Michelin-starred repository for top-drawer seasonal produce from Yorkshire and beyond. Fish and game always play a part – as in fillet of turbot with wild garlic pie, charred garden alliums, moss parsley and oyster velouté or saddle of local venison ‘cooked over pine’ with a braised faggot, spiced red cabbage, fermented black garlic and sauce d’epices. A ‘locals menu’ offers some simpler pubby ideas such as creamy mussels in Ampleforth cider or venison cottage pie, while dessert might be milk ‘n’ honey – a little chilled buttermilk and Champagne rhubarb cream with Harome honey, rhubarb sorbet and honeycomb. The heart of the Star is still the bar, where you can eat without booking amid ‘Mouseman’ oak furniture, brass ornaments and touches of tartan; otherwise take advantage of the sheltered front terrace and garden. Note that accommodation is across the road in Cross House Lodge – it’s also worth taking a stroll around the “fabulous village”.

£30 - £49
Gastropub
One michelin star
SquareMeal UK Hot 100
Northcote

75. Northcote

Northcote Road, Blackburn, Lancashire, BB6 8BE

A comfortable country house hotel on the edge of the Ribble Valley, Northcote has held a Michelin star for over two decades. Chef Lisa Goodwin-Allen has recently taken the reins from her mentor Nigel Haworth, and while the restaurant’s snow-white cloths and sparkling glassware still smack of traditional fine dining, the new menu is fresh and modern. Lancashire’s natural larder provides ample opportunity for seasonal, locally sourced ingredients to shine. Char-grilled asparagus was packed with flavour, served simply with creamy sheep’s curd and sharp wood-sorrel leaves, while deliciously sticky lamb breast came paired with a pillow of caramelised shallot purée. A photogenic dish of fat, sweet scarlet prawns with wild-garlic foam and beurre blanc sauce was a technically perfect rendition; we followed it with an earthy plate of succulent squab pigeon, its breast roasted on the bone and the confit leg accompanied by turnip and morels. Matched with note-perfect wines and friendly service, this is a treat of a tasting menu: light and playful, but with real confidence and skill on show. An inviting new chapter for this legendary Lancastrian heavyweight.

Over £80
British
Afternoon tea
One michelin star
SquareMeal UK Hot 100
JSW

76. JSW

20 Dragon Street, Petersfield, Hampshire, GU31 4JJ

Housed in the shell of a 17th-century coaching inn, this charming restaurant-with-rooms has all the prerequisites of its age: old beams, a well, an expansive cellar and three tunnels to other buildings in the ancient town of Petersfield. The cream-coloured dining room is as spare as the less-is-more style of  Jake Saul Watkins (JSW) – a chef who prizes seasonal British ingredients. His technical brilliance and “innovation” shine through across the board, from a lasagne of scallops, leeks and nasturtiums to South Downs lamb ‘two ways’ or butter-poached chicken with crispy hen’s egg, morels, asparagus, Jersey royals and wild garlic. Game is a standout in season, and be sure to sample desserts such as honeycomb parfait or the cheeky rhubarb ‘Jammy Dodger’ with baked hay custard, which show off Jake’s culinary prowess to the full. Service is spot-on, prices are “affordable” and the “fine wine list” list is remarkable for its breadth and diversity – no wonder diners enjoy staying over in the comfortable bedrooms.

£50 - £79
Modern European
Simpsons

77. Simpsons

20 Highfield Road, Edgbaston, Birmingham, West Midlands, B15 3DU

Greek-inspired landscaped gardens set a formal tone here, although we reckon the mood in Simpsons’ airy conservatory-style dining room is much more casual these days. Occupying a handsome Georgian townhouse in leafy Edgbaston, this Michelin-starred thoroughbred is “outstanding from the moment you walk in” – with added clout provided by boutique bedrooms and a cookery school (renamed the Eureka Kitchen). Overseen by chef director Luke Tipping, this venue delivers top-drawer modern food with real vision. Measured, thoughtful technique and a respect for the seasons underpin everything, from a starter of Wye Valley asparagus with Beesands crab, XO mayonnaise and crispy rice to Cornish lamb with tomato and courgette tart, spinach and black garlic or Brixham turbot partnered by sprouting broccoli, sea kale, monk’s beard and shellfish cream. To conclude, a dessert involving white chocolate, gariguette strawberry sorbet and almond further emphasises Simpson’s pedigree. A serious French-accented wine list adds gravitas, although staff bring some unaffected local charm to proceedings while making everyone “feel special”. Simpsons is a big shout for special occasions too.

£50 - £79
Modern European
The Greyhound on the Test

78. The Greyhound on the Test

31 High Street, Stockbridge, Hampshire, SO20 6EY

“Best for lunch on a warm day in the garden” says a fan of this reconfigured and rebranded Hampshire inn with pretty grounds backing onto the namesake river Test. Inside, it’s all low beams, wood floors, antique furniture and wood-burners, with a promising restaurant attached. The kitchen bakes its own bread and coaxes the best out of top-drawer ingredients – perhaps devilled duck livers on toast or oak-smoked chicken with sweetcorn pannacotta and ‘nduja, ahead of cannon of lamb with salt-baked artichoke, capers, freekeh and sprouting broccoli or pan-fried cod with curried celeriac, mango salsa, spiced salt cod and puffed rice. There are steaks, grilled fish and burgers too, followed by deceptively simple desserts such as salted caramel tart with cocoa and yoghurt sorbet. This is unbuttoned but “precise” modern cooking, matched by “warm, laid-back service”. Breakfasts, Sunday roasts, top-notch wines and seven individually designed bedrooms (plus a further three in the ‘leet’ cottage) complete a package that “never disappoints”.

£30 - £49
Gastropub
Purnell

79. Purnell's

55 Cornwall Street, Birmingham, West Midlands, B3 2DH

As one of the original stars of Birmingham’s resurgent foodie scene, local boy Glyn Purnell’s flagship restaurant knows exactly how to satisfy its customers by offering a series of light-hearted menus full of kooky but highly convincing ideas. The version entitled ‘Purnell’s journey’ might take you from ‘faux’ Black Canary potatoes with chorizo via monkfish masala with pickled carrots to white chocolate délice with Yorkshire rhubarb and meringue, while ’10 years in the making’ features the likes of ‘1,2,3,4,5... once I caught a fish alive!’ (tuna sashimi, Orkney scallop, black garlic, dashi, seaweed etc) or rump of Wiltshire lamb with smoked aubergine, capers and basil. Diners who fancy some fun can also book for ‘Brummie tapas’ in Purnell’s ‘living room’, where the line-up runs from carpaccio of Herefordshire beef with braised octopus, bresaola, crème fraîche and sweet ‘n’ sour onions to a dessert involving blood orange, white chocolate and dried viola flowers. Well-spaced tables and smart, neutral decor suit the business crowd as well as courting couples, while polished staff rarely fluff their lines. “A brilliant and unusual dining experience”, concludes one fan – and we concur.

£50 - £79
Modern European
Restaurant Martin Wishart

80. Restaurant Martin Wishart

54 The Shore, Edinburgh, EH6 6RA

Chef and well-respected restaurateur Martin Wishart has held a Michelin star here since 2001, and standards remain sky-high at his suave flagship restaurant on Leith waterfront. Thick pile carpets, stripped pine panelling and mellow colour schemes create a mood of suave sophistication, while Wishart’s cooking takes account of Scottish produce – although his seasonally changing repertoire bears all the hallmarks of rarefied and refined French technique. You could open your account by ordering ravioli of snails with Shetland mussels, Ayrshire wild leeks, garlic shoots and white onion velouté, before tackling braised veal cheek with a fricassee of peas, morels and broad beans. After that, a dessert of brown butter pannacotta with blackcurrant crémeux and Granny Smith granita might beckon. There are also two tasting menus (including a veggie version featuring the likes of basil gnocchi with sprouting broccoli, monk’s beard, celeriac and Parmesan), while the superlative wine list offers some fine food-matching possibilities. Some readers applaud the “flawless attention to detail” and the service from “friendly French-speaking staff”, while others point out that lunch is “excellent value for money”.

Over £80
Scottish
French
One michelin star
The Pointer Brill

81. The Pointer Brill

27 Church Street, Brill, Buckinghamshire, HP18 9RT

Set in a handsome hilltop village between Aylesbury and Oxford, this well-manicured pub/restaurant hybrid is the project of a City insurance whizz, who has tied it in with the farm down the road. As a result, The Pointer has access to all manner of (mostly) organic ingredients, while meat from the pastures also goes to the local butcher and village school – it’s a genuine community hub. Executive head chef James Graham learned his trade in some of the country’s top kitchens and it shows: sensitivity and attention to detail are paramount, whether it’s a hunk of home-baked bread, ham hock terrine with piccalilli or ‘Peter Rabbit’ accompanied by glazed carrots, baby gem and camomile broth. Fish is from further afield, of course, but items such as roast hake or pan-fried grey mullet still receive home-grown accompaniments (wild garlic and pea fricassee, asparagus and chive oil, to be precise). To conclude, the dessert menu might usher in lemon polenta cake or blueberry pannacotta with coconut sorbet. Excellent local ales are on tap and service gets full marks.

£30 - £49
Gastropub
The Gingerman

82. The Gingerman

21a Norfolk Square, Brighton, East Sussex, BN1 2PD

Brighton restaurant legend Ben McKellar still keeps a keen eye on his original eatery – an “utterly reliable local stalwart” that is now reaping the benefits of a major refurb. The once-dark and intimate bistro-style dining room has been opened up, allowing natural light to flood through the front windows. The simple yet stylish interior also incorporates smart wooden tables and leather banquettes. There’s a broadly French slant to the cuisine, tempered by an instinctive understanding of simple, unaffected partnerships. The kitchen makes the most of top-class ingredients, as seen in a starter of asparagus soup with a poached quail’s egg, toasted ciabatta, Old Sussex Cheddar and home-cured lardo. This could be followed by poached halibut with seaweed butter, smoked garlic and lemon purée, morels and wild mushroom velouté or honey-roast quail with truffle polenta chips, peas and pied bleu mushrooms, while dessert might be lemon parfait with buttermilk and Gingerman honey sorbet. Excellent service, reasonably priced wines and a stellar cocktail list help to make this a highly satisfying prospect for locals and weekenders alike.

£30 - £49
Modern European
Skosh

83. Skosh

98 Micklegate, York, North Yorkshire, YO1 6JX

“I want Skosh in London (along with its Yorkshire staff)” declares a southern fan of this perky eatery housed in a reimagined Grade II-listed building not far from York’s historic Micklegate Bar. It’s not big or flashy, but with “incredibly creative” food, real friendliness and a buzzing vibe, “you cannot help but smile” when eating here. The name is a contraction of the Japanese ‘sukoshi’ (meaning ‘a small amount’), so it’s no surprise that the (open) kitchen goes down the small plates route, gleaning influences from around the globe for a palate-teasing menu stuffed with “tasty innovative morsels”. There’s a big ‘wow’ factor here, whether you’re nibbling on crab puris with broad beans and tamarind, crispy Saddleback pork with fig ketchup or spring peas and radish with lemongrass, coconut and Thai basil. Alternatively, fill up on bigger servings of hanger steak with kimchi turnips, grilled Goosnargh duck breast with rhubarb jam and chilli oil or tandoori-style Galician octopus with pickled gooseberry purée. Cheese is given a modish makeover, while sweets might bring mango lassi with a saffron custard doughnut. In short, “fantastic food in a wonderful city”.

£30 - £49
International
Gravetye Manor

84. Gravetye Manor

Vowels Lane, East Grinstead, West Sussex, RH19 4LJ

Although it’s situated close to Gatwick Airport, this enchanting Elizabethan manor feels a world away from the rat race, surrounded by 1,000 acres of fields, forests and its own stunning gardens (designed by Victorian horticulturist William Robinson). Inside, it’s a picture of cosseting luxury, with a gracious wood-panelled dining room at the heart of things and SquareMeal ‘rising star’ George Blogg in the kitchen. Expect stunningly creative and “utterly delicious” Michelin-starred seasonal assemblages ranging from slow-cooked pheasant eggs with cured pork fat, roasted pink fir potato salad and sorrel yoghurt to crown and faggot of local wood pigeon with pointed cabbage, preserved blackberries and brassica flowers or charcoal-flamed native lobster with baby carrot, bronze fennel and buttermilk sauce. After that, what could be more calendar-friendly than apple-blossom custard with rhubarb sponge and ginger beer? There’s also a more casual all-day ‘lounge and garden menu’ divided into categories such as ‘from our own smokehouse’. Gravetye’s wine list is a real aristocrat, with fine pedigree on every page, and the place also earns bonus points for its “impeccable service, warm ambience and very clever cocktails”.

£50 - £79
Modern European
The Beckford Arms

85. The Beckford Arms

Fonthill Gifford, Tisbury, Warminster, Wiltshire, SP3 6PX

“A go-to when looking after the in-laws” admits one fan of The Beckford Arms – a delightful pub-with-rooms on the edge of Fonthill Park. Inside, this smart, gentrified bolthole is tricked out with polished wood floors, blazing fires and soothing colour schemes, while the food promises “innovative” pickings bolstered by produce from Fonthill Gifford’s community allotment and seasonal bounty from the region’s food heroes (look for the named-checked ‘supplier of the month’). Ploughman’s, day-boat fish and chips and an outstanding cumin-spiced lamb burger represent the pub side of things (not forgetting the “best Scotch eggs on the A303”), but the kitchen is in touch with current trends – witness small plates of chalk-stream trout ceviche with chilli, coriander and charred baby gem or more substantial servings of char-grilled calf’s liver with roasted carrots, braised chicory, kale and bacon. Desserts also cover all bases, from rice pudding to salted caramel affogato, while regularly changing West Country ales and ciders supplement the decent wine list.

£30 - £49
Gastropub
Le Champignon Sauvage

86. Le Champignon Sauvage

24-26 Suffolk Road, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, GL50 2AQ

Since launching Le Champignon Sauvage back in 1987, David and Helen Everitt-Mathias have turned this Cheltenham champion into a destination cherished for its highly personal approach and exquisite, one-Michelin-starred food. Famously, David hasn’t missed a service since arriving here and he continues to apply red-hot technique to top-drawer produce and seasonal pickings. The result is a procession of “truly breath-taking” dishes ranging from pig’s trotter stuffed with nettles, snails and ox tongue (a standout for one reader) to partridge with sourdough gnocchi and turnip or roast cod with confit chicken wings, chicken juices, salsify and woodruff. Game fans might also relish the roasted wood pigeon with black pudding cream, potato and fig terrine, dandelion and burdock salsa, while desserts could feature a luscious duck egg custard cream pointed up with rhubarb and hibiscus.  David’s wife Helen and her team “couldn’t be more friendly or helpful”, and the wine list is a veritable treasure trove of delights. Above all, it’s reckoned to be “phenomenal value for money” when compared to similar places in Michelin’s starry galaxy.

£50 - £79
Modern European
The Leaping Hare Vineyard Restaurant

87. The Leaping Hare Vineyard Restaurant

Wyken Vineyards, nr Stanton, Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk, IP31 2DW

Set among gorgeous gardens, ancient woodlands and seven acres of vineyards, this stunningly restored 14th-century barn on Sir Kenneth and Lady Carla Carlisle’s estate is an out-of-the-way gem. In addition to home-produced Wyken wines, expect impeccably sourced seasonal food with the emphasis on flavour and a bias towards genuinely local ingredients: crispy pig’s head with rhubarb, kohlrabi rémoulade and radish; rack and belly of Wyken lamb with sprouting broccoli and wild garlic; fillet of hake with saffron potatoes, red pepper and spinach; glazed passion fruit tart with white chocolate mousse. It’s an impressive output, given the diminutive dimensions of the kitchen. Alternatively, take advantage of the daytime café (open until 5.30pm) if you’re after breakfast, a simple lunch (Wyken venison sausages, salmon fishcakes etc) or something sweet from the array of home-baked goodies. Service keeps it casual and kids are more than welcome – they will love the sheep, llamas and peacocks running around. There’s an excellent ‘country store’ on-site and the local farmers’ market pitches up here every Saturday morning.

£30 - £49
Modern European
Read

88. Read's

Macknade Manor, Canterbury Road, Faversham, Kent, ME13 8XE

David and Rona Pitchford’s covetable Georgian manor house on the outskirts of Faversham is the very model of an unpretentious country restaurant-with-rooms, combining a “gorgeous setting” with personable service overseen by the hosts themselves. Inside, all is cosily domestic, although the refreshingly restrained menu suggests serious culinary intent (despite some determinedly old-fashioned touches and a sprinkling of food-related literary quips). For more than three decades David has honed his own version of Anglo-French cooking, relying on top-drawer ingredients and well-tutored expertise to deliver the goods. The seasons matter here, with pickings from the manor's own walled garden, local game and fish from south-coast boats deployed in harmonious ways. Examples of his “beautiful fresh local food” might include ‘fruit-fed’ loin of pork with spinach, pickled Russet apple and pork jus as well as roast breast of pheasant with spiced red cabbage, blackberry purée and celeriac, but the repertoire also accommodates more eclectic ideas – crispy crumbed king prawns with smoked paprika and lime aïoli and compressed watermelon, for example. To conclude, try the famed deep lemon tart or the hot blackberry soufflé. Impressive wines too.

£50 - £79
British
Chapter One

89. Chapter One

Farnborough Common, Locksbottom, Kent, BR6 8NF

Keen out-of-town prices combined with pleasingly elegant decor, capable service and clever cooking make Chapter One well worth a drive down the A21. Chef/patron Andrew McLeish fashions all-manner of worldly-wise dishes from top-drawer materials and the result is vivacious Michelin-starred food with a high degree of culinary technique. The kitchen deals in exquisite plates loaded with big, bold flavours: starters of braised veal tongue with pickled shallots and sauce gribiche or mackerel rillettes with scorched cucumber, Greek yoghurt, horseradish and mustard ‘frill’ might give way to crispy cod brandade with poached egg, braised oxtail with salt-baked celeriac or Josper-grilled Ibérico pork shoulder and braised cheek with roasted carrots and roscoff onion. “McLeish also uses venison he has personally culled”, says one who knows. The bread is “to die for”, while appealing puds might include milk chocolate and praline mousse with hazelnut cream and raspberry sorbet. With “first-class service” and sommeliers on hand to help with food-matching selections from the extensive and “fairly priced” wine list, Chapter One is “great every time”.

£50 - £79
Modern European
The Walnut Tree

90. The Walnut Tree

Llanddewi Skirrid, Abergavenny, Monmouthshire, NP7 8AW

“A great all-round experience!” exclaims an admirer of this reinvigorated Welsh icon; others simply confirm that it’s a truly special restaurant. We’re also fans of chef/patron Shaun Hill, and reckon he deserves a round of applause for putting The Walnut Tree back on the Michelin-starred map in his highly distinctive manner. This place works to a magic formula, serving keenly priced, intelligent food in refreshingly unfussy surroundings (beams, local artwork, rustic furnishings etc). The “calm yet friendly” vibe is helped along by chatty but knowledgeable staff, and vegetarians “always feel very welcome” here. Cracking set lunches are a bargain, while the equally good-value carte could yield anything from twice-baked Lancashire cheese soufflé with beetroot to skate with grilled octopus and red pepper sauce or veal kidneys with streaky bacon and cassis. Cleverly realised British and European flavours also collide on the pudding list – think Jaffa torte or caramel fondant with milk ice cream. The location in the foothills of the Black Mountains is glorious and the whole place regularly resounds with chat and laughter – there’s even bookable cottage accommodation nearby.

£30 - £49
British
Restaurant Moor Hall

91. Restaurant Moor Hall

Prescot Road, Aughton, Lancashire, L39 6RT

Previously executive chef at two-Michelin-starred L’Enclume, Mark Birchall has brought his own distinctive style to this restaurant-with-rooms within a historic 16th-century manor house. The renovated dining room has a modern, laid-back feel, with surrounding glass walls giving panoramic views of the lawns and lake. Much of the restaurant’s produce is grown on the five-acre site or sourced locally, and the result is two tasting menus showcasing Birchall’s innovation and formidable talents. Appetisers of crisp, light black pudding parcels set the tone for a series of beautifully presented dishes demonstrating impressive skill and attention to detail. A pretty plate of baked carrots is dressed with chrysanthemum and sea buckthorn, monkfish is cooked on the bone with a mussel and squash stew, while Holstein Friesian is partnered by barbecued celeriac, mustard and shallots. To finish, herbally embellished desserts could include Worcester Pearmain with woodruff, almond and whey caramel, but don’t miss out on a visit to the dedicated cheese room. With friendly, professional service and flawless cooking in elegant surroundings, Moor Hall cries out for repeat visits. “I absolutely love it”, declaims one convert.

Over £80
British
Where the Light Gets In

92. Where the Light Gets In

7 Rostron Brow, Stockport, Greater Manchester, SK1 1JY

Tucked away in Stockport’s Rostron Brow (once infamous for its ale houses of ill-repute), ex-L’Enclume chef Sam Buckley’s curiously named gaff is a bright, loft-style space with an open kitchen and views across the rooftops towards Robinsons Brewery. There’s no regular menu; instead, diners are offered a procession of small plates and snacks ‘inspired by the day’s catch, harvest and slaughter’, with virtually nothing going to waste. Thrilling combinations abound, and Buckley’s “inspiring” kitchen demonstrates remarkably high levels of precision, imagination and skill across the board. Top calls from our visit included delicate raw langoustine carpaccio with fragrant rose, plum and lavender, plump steamed mussels with a caramelised mussel and hawthorn broth, slowly roasted pigeon breast and leg accompanied by sweet salt and a hint of nutty morels, and a Victoria plum cake with plum stone-infused cream. Dishes are accompanied by specially matched wines or innovative juices designed to complement the culinary creations. In all, this is an electrifyingly unique dining experience – and a revelation for Stockport.

£50 - £79
British
The Dining Room at Chewton Glen

93. The Dining Room at Chewton Glen

New Forest, New Milton, Hampshire, BH25 6QS

Over the years, Chewton Glen has evolved and expanded from a traditional country house retreat into a small resort – and the food side of things is showing signs of a full-strength comeback after a period in the doldrums. Done out like a swanky conservatory with pale furniture, big windows and splashes of greenery, The Dining Room exudes confidence and casual excellence, helped along by “fabulous attentive staff”. The menu brings together influences from far and wide, although everything depends on impeccable ingredients (many from the hotel’s kitchen garden): tuna tataki with avocado purée, Thai lobster curry and Cornish turbot with chicken wings, aubergine and miso dressing share the bill with slow-cooked ox cheek or Quantock duck breast accompanied by sweet potato, sprouting broccoli and heritage carrots. Oysters, salads, grills and roasts from the trolley also feature, while dessert might offer chocolate fondant with Calvados ice cream or pineapple and black pepper tarte Tatin – all backed by a truly monumental wine list. Meanwhile, a casual restaurant/cookery school, The Kitchen, is helping to raise Chewton Glen’s foodie profile even higher.

£50 - £79
International
Terre à Terre

94. Terre à Terre

71 East Street, Brighton, East Sussex, BN1 1HQ

Serving “vegetarian food that’s a joy to eat” since 1993, this coolly contemporary but accessible restaurant remains a meat-free diamond in a city known for its open-minded approach to all things gastronomic. As ever, the kitchen knows how to dazzle when it comes to putting ingredients together, while the flavours in the astonishing Asian-edged food continue to challenge and excite. Long descriptions may baffle, but the results are all down to sublime spicing and inspired combinations. Korean fried cauliflower with sweet ‘n’ sour sesame, onigiri rice, soused daikon, kohlrabi and pickled mirin ginger jelly is an enticing oriental combo, while ‘arepas mole ole’ has Latin American overtones with its cornmeal cakes, turtle bean cassoulet, avocado hash, lime Tequila cream and more besides. To finish, check out the ‘lush truffle brownie’ or ‘churrismo’ (doughnut straws with vodka-steeped cherries and sticky salt caramel ‘dunker’). An imaginative organic/biodynamic wine list and personable, informed service also tick the boxes.

£30 - £49
Vegetarian
Bulrush Restaurant

95. Bulrush Restaurant

21 Cotham Road South, Bristol, Bristol, BS6 5TZ

Chef George Livesey’s culinary CV reads like a Who’s Who of the UK restaurant scene, and all that experience is paying off handsomely at Bulrush – the Bristol gaff he runs with wine-savvy partner Katherine Craughwell. Together, they’re an “enthusiastic and skilled couple” who have turned these premises into a genuine neighbourhood restaurant with a “relaxed but very professional” outlook. Meanwhile, George’s kitchen delivers “amazing food at unassuming prices” with seasonal favours and foraged pickings figuring prominently on the menu, and lots of perky, imaginative ideas executed with real élan: BBQ broccoli with smoked junket and preserved lemon sets the tone, while mains might include Speckle-faced lamb with Jersey royals, artichoke and wild leeks. Fish from the West Country boats could yield turbot with tulip (yes!), radish, green tea and crab, while desserts have included pumpkin-seed ice cream as well as barley grass parfait with wild strawberries and saké. Katherine’s drinks list covers everything from local beers, cider and cocktails to a decent showing of biodynamic wines.

£50 - £79
British
One michelin star
Forest Side

96. Forest Side

Wildsmith Hotel, Keswick Road, Grasmere, Cumbria, LA22 9RN

Chef Kevin Tickle learned his trade at high-rolling L’Enclume before decamping to this fairy-tale Victorian gothic mansion, set in over 40 acres of beautiful grounds (including an ample kitchen garden). As you might expect, his cooking is built around foraged findings, home-grown ingredients and locally sourced produce with a seasonal date stamp. It’s an ever-changing feast, but for maximum thrills, we suggest the 10-course ‘Grand ’Un’ tasting menu – an array of “really lovely, inventive dishes” with Michelin-starred cred. Be prepared for jaw-dropping creativity as you progress through a daily line-up inspired by the local landscape: ‘campfire’ chanterelles cooked in bone marrow with corned brisket and mushroom broth; venison pastrami with smoked juniper yoghurt; Cumbrian rare-breed pork with smoked potato custard, damson and ‘garden shenanigans’; scorched pear with malt, ginger beer and birch sap – plus majestic cheeses from the Courtyard Dairy. Paired drinks are equally innovative, from zesty aperitifs to Old World wines, sparkling saké and sticky sloe gin. Forest Side’s elegant dining room and warm, genial staff tie the whole package together for a truly memorable experience.

Over £80
British