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.
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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.
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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).
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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.
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21 Fore Street, Shaldon, Teignmouth, Devon, TQ14 0DE
“A great local restaurant with the right ideals”, ODE Dining started out with admirable green credentials and has never wavered in its eco-friendly approach. Owners Tim and Clare Bouget fitted out their cosy, three-storey Georgian townhouse according to strict environmental principles, and Tim’s kitchen is fully committed to using accredited organic produce. He’s also passionate about sourcing seasonal and regional ingredients (including sustainable line-caught fish and traditionally reared meats) for a creative modern menu that comes with a healthy undercurrent and smattering of global influences. You might find soy-cured Teign salmon with daikon, pak choi and ginger miso or summer vegetable bhajis with spiced butternut squash purée and sumac yoghurt, ahead of herb-crusted hake with crispy sand eels, sugar snaps and citrus butter or Eversfield lamb rump and Moroccan-spiced breast with smoked aubergine, chickpeas and tahini. This is “top-class cooking”, matched by a forward-thinking, all-organic/biodynamic wine list full of fine bottles. ODE has recently branched out with family-friendly cafés at Gara Rock and Ness Cove, which is also home to the Two Beach Brewing Company.
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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.
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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”.
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Capel Dewi, Nantgaredig, Carmarthen, South Wales, 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.
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Cobb Road, Lyme Regis, DT7 3JP
Perched high above the seaside town of Lyme Regis in Mark Hix’s native Dorset, this simple-but-chic venue is a smart cookie with stripped floors, undressed tables and spectacular views of the Cobb and the Jurassic Coast (a real “wow factor”). “Lovingly cooked” fish dishes are the stars here – from Hix-cure smoked salmon with Richard Corrigan’s soda bread to BBQ huss with summer slaw or grilled lobster with garlic and chips. Name-checked West Country ingredients abound on the menu: Portland pearl oysters with Trealy Farm chorizo; poached fillet of Lyme Bay cod with Fowey mussels and sea beet; Whitsand Bay ling curry... and so forth. Desserts cover a lot of ground too, from invigorating shots of Hix Fix jelly to luscious milk chocolate fondue with strawberries for sharing. “Prompt service” also does the place proud. Whites make up the bulk of the short, interesting wine list; otherwise explore the fascinating beers, ciders and “stunning cocktails” or stay sober with the specially filtered eco-friendly ‘house water’. If you fancy lingering in Lyme Regis, Hix Townhouse (eight bedrooms) is just a stroll away.
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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.
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Northcote Road, Langho, 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.
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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.
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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”.
More detail about Restaurant Sat Bains with Rooms
33-35 Castle Terrace, Edinburgh, Midlothian, 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.
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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.
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St. Mary Bourne, Andover, SP11 6BT
Part country boozer, part restaurant, part boutique B&B, the seriously revamped Bourne Valley Inn is going strong with an energetic young couple at the helm. Sit in the bar or relax in the beer garden with a pint of well-kept ale or a glass of wine; otherwise head to the restaurant for a teasing menu of eclectic bistro-style dishes loaded with flavour – from salt ‘n’ pepper squid with aioli or ham hock and corn-fed chicken terrine with charred leeks to lobster mac ‘n’ cheese, devilled kidneys or local hogget with crushed new potatoes, ‘pick your own’ asparagus and rosemary jus. Fans of pie and mash, fish and chips, burgers and Caesar salad are also well accommodated, while pud might bring a signature knickerbocker glory or lemon posset with lemon balm granita and pistachio biscotti. Sunday lunch revolves around traditional roasts, while Sunday evenings are reserved for tapas and cocktails. BVI also boasts a bespoke cake shop, and the gorgeous barn conversion next door is tailor-made for private events.
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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.
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3-5 Old Fore Street, Sidmouth, Devon, EX10 8LS
“An amazing family-run business”; “fantastic food, even better hospitality”; “a wonderful addition to sunny Sidmouth” – locals and holidaymakers clearly can’t get enough of this relaxed daytime eatery and weekend bistro. With its dramatic black rafters, artwork for sale, reclaimed elm tables and sought-after roof garden, The Loft certainly looks the part and delivers the goods with impressive consistency. Nourishing wake-up breakfasts open proceedings, before the daytime menu kicks in with its bright Med-accented ideas, antipasti boards, ‘gourmet burgers’, salads, “delightful” pizzas, pasta and fresh seafood – don’t miss the whole local crab in season. On Friday evenings, tapas is the name of the game (think boquerones, sobrasada, garlicky king prawns, grilled chorizo with peppers etc), while Saturday brings more ambitious suppers and ‘family feasts’ along the lines of vodka and beetroot-cured gravlax, sirloin steak pizzaiola with a garlicky polenta cake, and desserts such as olive oil and hazelnut cake. Note: the owners tell us they are ‘temporarily unable to open in the evenings’ – so ring ahead to avoid disappointment.
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54 The Shore, Edinburgh, Midlothian, 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”.
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Porthminster Beach, St Ives, Cornwall, TR26 2EB
Frolic on the sands with the kids, ride some waves or laze and watch the sun go down – it’s all on offer at this livewire whitewashed eatery bang on the beach The bright dining room is simply appointed with wooden furniture and tiled floors, while the patio is a top shout for alfresco meals (heaters and blankets are provided). Fresh Cornish seafood stars on the freewheeling global menu, which might run from crispy fried squid with citrus miso dressing, black spice and Thai salad to baked halibut with a salsa verde crust, celeriac, Parma ham and almond pâté or grilled stone bass with ras-el-hanout and chickpea fricassee. Meat eaters don’t go hungry either, chomping on the likes of smoked Cornish duck breast or roast Ibérico pork cutlet with beetroot, crayfish tails and sticky cider sauce before rounding off with, say, pressed chocolate cake, kumquats, chocolate vermicelli and tonka milk sorbet. The café also does a roaring trade with breakfast, morning coffee and afternoon tea between times. Service is tickety-boo and there are a dozen wines by the glass on the fairly priced list (note the cute plastic ice buckets, more commonly used for making sandcastles).
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Llandrillo, nr. Corwen, Denbighshire, North Wales, LL21 0ST
Set on the edge of a picture-postcard village in the stunning Dee Valley, this converted shooting lodge and stalwart of the restaurant-with-rooms scene is all about elegance and comfort. Bryan and Susan Webb make a formidable double act (he mans the kitchen, she takes care of front of house), and the restaurant’s fans are legion – locals keep coming back for the superlative aged Welsh Black steak ‘au poivre’.
Bryan has Welsh blood in his veins and tips his hat to local food heroes – although his beautifully presented, Michelin-starred dishes show a confident French foundation and an emphasis on bright Mediterranean flavours: griddled scallops with cauliflower purée, pancetta, caper and raisin dressing; Goosnargh duck breast with morteau sausage, confit potato, cherry sauce and celeriac purée; new season’s lamb cutlets and slow-cooked breast with deep-fried garlic, vignole of peas, artichokes and broad beans. There are also a few more robustly patriotic riffs, including sea bass with laverbread, while puds might bring gooseberry and elderflower trifle. It’s all about dedicated seasonal sourcing and a clever use of top-drawer ingredients, with back-up from a lovingly collated and gently priced wine list.
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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.
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Friday Street, Weston Subedge, Chipping Campden, GL55 6QH
"Always amazing food and hospitality from the young team” says a fan of this revitalised Grade II-listed inn squirrelled away in a pretty little Cotswold village just a mile from Chipping Campden. Inside, the Seagrave Arms still retains many of its original features (beams, roaring fires, farmhouse furniture) and pleases drinkers with its real ales – look for beers from Hook Norton and the Prestcott Brewery. But the main business is food, with a smart dining room, an alfresco courtyard for fine-weather meals and a menu peppered with carefully sourced produce. Sea bream tartare with oyster mayo, pickled celery and sea herbs has a modish seasonal ring to it, while mains might run from a witty cod ‘BLT’ (roast loin, braised lettuce, dried tomato, bacon sauce) to flat-iron steak with charred leeks, garlic and the pub’s renowned chips. For afters, try something simple such as lemon posset or chocolate tart with pistachio ice cream. Polite staff and excellent bedrooms earn bonus points.
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28-30 The Close, Newcastle Upon Tyne, NE1 3RF
With a Michelin star in the bank, business is booming at the House of Tides, and big-name North Country chef/proprietor Kenny Atkinson has extended the interiors of this Grade I-listed merchant’s residence on Newcastle’s humming Quayside. Drinks are still served in the flagstoned bar, while the main dining space occupies the first floor: above this is a new pastry bar and private dining area, with a walk-in wine cellar at the very top of the building. It’s “excellent in every way”, says a fan. There’s a choice of menus, although innovative user-friendly food is the bottom line, with an emphatic modern British accent and some “fabulous” rustic notes – from mackerel with artichoke and blackberry or butternut squash with bacon and truffle to venison tartare with beetroot, blackberries and kale or lamb with broccoli, tomato and radish. After that, expect a sting in the tail from the likes of pear with almond and ginger or an assemblage of raspberry, lemon and pine nuts. “I’m dying to go back”, confesses one convert.
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Gleneagles Hotel, Auchterarder, Perthshire, Scotland, 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.
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3 Royal Terrace, Edinburgh, Midlothian, EH7 5AB
Set in a lushly refurbished Victorian townhouse, this one-off venture provides the setting for Michelin-starred Paul Kitching’s forays into gastronomic performance art and leftfield experimentation. The ‘21212’ moniker should really be ‘31313’ as there are now three starter choices, then soup, three mains, then cheese and finally three desserts. Both lunch and dinner can involve the whole shebang, although you can have fewer courses, priced accordingly. Kitching is a “hugely talented” chef who is capable of conjuring up a daily riot of fantastical constructions ranging from scallop ‘pudding’ with barley, onion and sweetcorn, prune and macadamia, pink peppercorns and balsamic to ‘halibut, egg shells’ (a combo involving prawn, cauliflower, walnuts, crab, rice salad and soy). The jokes come thick and fast as the kitchen works its magic – note ‘10CC’ (a dish involving 10 ingredients, all beginning with the letter ‘C’). As expected, desserts also let rip, from ‘ginger-nuts’ (chestnut, cinder toffee, glazed meringue, black berry brûlée and ‘crème stem’) to ‘APPPs’ (described as a ‘rice cream chocy egg’). It’s all about high-wire thrills here, and the whole show is backed by “great service”.
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Gidleigh Park, Chagford, North Tawton, Devon, TQ13 8HH
This blissful Devon hideaway bewitches everyone with its unashamed Englishness, aristocratic beauty, luxurious comforts and enchanting natural assets (including a stream meandering through the front garden).
The kitchen produces a procession of simple, yet refined dishes. On the menu, you’ll find the likes of John Dory served with Jerusalem artichoke, chicken dressing and crystallised seaweed, or a mix of duck breast with chicory and onion tart, beetroot and kale. Guests can choose from a seven-course tasting menu or the à la carte, while afternoon tea is served daily, between 3.30-5pm.
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Church Road, Great Milton, Oxfordshire, 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”.
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2c Wake Green Road, Moseley, Birmingham, West Midlands, B13 9EZ
“The best local restaurant I've been to”, declares a fan of this admirable neighbourhood eatery in a row of shops close to the centre of Moseley. Brummie chef Brad Carter brought it all back home when he pitched camp here, and with partner Holly Jackson running front of house, he has turned the place is an amiable set-up noted for its mix of classy informality and Michelin-starred British food of the best sort. “Simple, yet refined” sums up the approach, witness clear-flavoured seasonal dishes such as Tamworth pork belly with grilled peas and nasturtiums or Cornish turbot with beans, smoked roe and orange butter. Spanking fresh ingredients are the key, whether it’s a snack of wild sea trout and gooseberries, a serving of Tunworth cheese with malt bread and Australian Manjimup truffle or a dessert involving ewe’s yoghurt, raspberries and roses. Vegetarians have their own menus, meals are interspersed with lots of trendy extras, and the food is supported by a fascinating choice of global wines and beers.
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Ambleside Road, Windermere, Cumbria, LA23 1LR
Set in its own 67-acre estate overlooking Windermere, this white-painted house immediately signals its ambitions with a striking modern interior and vivid displays of contemporary art – it’s also reaping the benefits of a substantial refurb that has added a new kitchen, wine cellar and chef’s table to the hotel’s many assets. The cooking is fiercely on-trend, with new Nordic nuances and a larder of seasonal ingredients deployed for top-end dishes such as Penrith chicken with ‘hen of the woods’ mushrooms, nasturtium oil, nasturtium root and charred watercress. Elsewhere, Lakeland lamb loin is paired with confit neck, potatoes in lamb fat, pickled squash and anchovy, while smoked eel is torched and served alongside eel jelly, caviar, Samling-reared mangalitsa pork, Caesar-dressing custard and Japanese cucumber. Desserts are equally modish, and the wine list garners plaudits galore. With the development kitchen now in full swing, plus a progressive garden, livestock, and even a seed exchange project, this has the makings of a seriously self-sufficient project.
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Hambleton, Oakham, 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’.
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Cliveden House, Taplow, Maidenhead, Maidenhead, 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. André Garrett’s 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 chef’s 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’.
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Hollington Cross, Andover Road, Highclere, Newbury, RG20 9SE
“I always look forward to my next visit”, confesses a regular who drops into the revamped Yew Tree Inn every fortnight. It’s easy to see the attraction: the pub’s ancient charms remain very much intact, right down to the bare walls, scrubbed timbers and stained glass panels that mingle with tartan fabrics, leather sofas and thick white candles – although there have been big changes on the food front. The seasonal menu is now divided up into ‘graze’, ‘small’ and ‘large’ dishes peppered with British ingredients: nibble on crispy squid with smoked paprika aïoli or lamb ‘scrumpets’ with caper and onion mayonnaise before tackling calf’s liver with bacon, lettuce, peas and sherry vinegar sauce or whole grilled plaice with runner beans, broad beans, baby turnips and seaweed butter. For afters, try baked peaches with honey, Oxford Blue cheese and toasted walnuts or go flash with one of the luscious ‘liquid desserts’ – perhaps cookies and cream. With its warm welcome, “really friendly staff”, well-kept ales and extensive wine list, this place scores on all counts.
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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”.
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152-154 Hills Road, Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, CB2 8PB
ALIMENTUM CLOSED PERMANENTLY OCTOBER 2018
A cool prospect for adventurous Cambridge foodies, Alimentum comes modishly tricked out with polished wood floors, tinted glass, black tables and funky red chandeliers. An element of kitchen theatre is also present, thanks to a feature window that allows views into the kitchen. Bold strokes and challenging high-impact ideas shine brightly, from pork belly with langoustine, caviar, yuzu and cucumber to halibut with broccoli, wild garlic and oyster or 80-day aged beef sirloin and cheek partnered by charcoal, Jersey royals and salsa verde. Meals are fleshed out with lots of intensely flavoured extras, while flamboyant desserts offer new takes on the old classics such as ‘Battenberg’ or ‘Black Forest’ (dark chocolate, cherry, cherry beer and kirsch). Back-up comes from a strong international wine list with some particularly inviting selections from France and Italy – also watch out for the increasingly popular ‘supper club’ and ‘wine club’ events alternating on the first Sunday of each month.
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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.
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Lochaline, Argyll & Bute, Isle Of Mull, Scotland, 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”.
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Tower 12, 18-22 Bridge Street, Spinningfields, Manchester, Greater Manchester, M3 3BZ
REOPENS EARLY 2019 WITH CHEF AIDEN BYRNE AT THE HELM
Following Aiden Byrne’s departure, Nathaniel Tofan (his long-term deputy) has taken over as head chef at Living Ventures’ city-centre flagship, which combines a thrilling industrial-lite restaurant with an über-glamorous bar/lounge – located 10 floors apart in a reconfigured office block. The menus are enticing, from a great-value set lunch to multi-course tasting extravaganzas, a carte and elegant afternoon teas. A selection of chef’s snacks – crisp chicken skin with duck hearts, nori rice cracker with cod roe and nasturtium, and creamy foie gras mousse with grated truffle – whetted our appetite for an accomplished, well-executed lunch. Rich pressed confit duck terrine with tender foie gras, leek and pistachio was served with perfectly chewy sourdough and earthy truffle butter, while chicken breast, brined and poached until buttery soft, appeared alongside roasted salsify, artichoke purée and aromatic truffle vinegar. To finish, we liked the combination of sweet, sticky date sponge with parsnip pannacotta and butternut squash ice cream, as well as the skilfully rendered matcha and yuzu teacakes and melt-in-the-mouth mince pie macarons served with tea. A must-visit Manchester destination which continues to impress.
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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”.
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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”.
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1 Royal Terrace Gardens, London Road, Edinburgh, Midlothian, EH7 5DX
Occupying a building dating from 1836 that was once home to a gardener, with vegetable patches at the front, this charming restaurant delivers seasonal dining at long communal tables. A weekend brunch menu offers the likes of Arbroath kippers, beech-smoked anchovies and local bacon, while a daily changing lunchtime à la carte and evening tasting menu reflect the best of Scotland’s natural larder. On our visit, a snack of crisp Perthshire organic chicken skin was packed with intensely savoury flavour. We followed this with perfectly charred mackerel and a rich green fragrant lovage soup with fresh peas and smoky pancetta. Succulent Gigha halibut was served with a delicate lobster raviolo, while tender organic pork fillet came with asparagus spears, sharp gooseberry and a plump brawn dumpling. To finish, sweet, sticky honey cake was tempered by aromatic woodruff ice cream, strawberries and crisp meringue. Matched wine pairings are available from the inviting drinks list. Flawless cooking in laid-back surroundings.
Images by Jamie Ferguson
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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.
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28-29 Cannon Street, Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk, IP33 1JR
As quaint as its folksy name, Justin and Jurga Sharp’s idiosyncratic eatery occupies what was an old cottage-cum-bakery on a square once known as Pea Porridge Green. You can still see the bread ovens, while exposed brickwork, beams, wood floors and plainly dressed tables enhance the cheery, rustic vibe. The kitchen seeks out top produce for a menu of appealing dishes in the freewheeling modern style: expect lots of adventurous flavours and “seldom-seen ingredients” as Justin “pushes the envelope” and delivers “the most exciting nose-to-tail eating in these parts”. On a typical day, you might find sautéed snails with bone marrow, bacon, flat parsley capers and garlic butter setting the scene for Breckland muntjac loin with butternut squash purée, beetroot, golden raisins and harissa or sea bream fillet with a spiced aubergine and tomato stew, brown shrimps and salsa verde. Elsewhere, dry-aged steaks are grilled ‘over the charcoal fire’, while tarte Tatin is the sell-out dessert. “Exact cooking from Justin, perfect service from Jurga” sums it up – just add terrific home-baked breads, reasonable prices and a cracking selection of natural wines.
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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.
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10 Lady Lawson Street, Edinburgh, Midlothian, 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.
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West End, South Dalton, Beverley, Yorkshire, HU17 7PN
Done out in the best possible taste (think wood burners, heritage colours, polished woods and brown-leather chesterfields), this cracking 15th-century boozer out in the Yorkshire Wolds is known for using the best North Country produce in Michelin-starred dishes with thumping regional overtones. The kitchen works to exacting standards, but there’s nothing la-di-da about the food here, whether you’re in the mood for a salt-beef hash cake with fried quail’s egg, Yorkshire rhubarb ketchup and crispy pickled onion rings, parkin-crusted loin of roe deer with sticky red cabbage or fillet of wild halibut with salsify, baby leeks, crab croquette and blood orange bisque. To round things off, how about ‘five reasons to love chocolate’, a ‘trio of apples’ or cold lemon and thyme buttermilk pudding with a flapjack? Alternatively, grab a table by the crackling fire in the bar with a pint and a plate of James White’s bangers, bubble ‘n’ squeak and boozy ale gravy. This marvel of pubby virtues and fine food is also renowned for its “amazing Sunday lunches”, including 30-day aged sirloin of Yorkshire-reared beef.
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28 Westminster Terrace, Glasgow, Central Scotland, G3 7RU
“As authentic as it gets without being predictable”, the original Westminster Terrace branch of the Mother India empire still rules the roost, despite fierce competition from its tapas-style siblings. Deceptively accommodating, it operates on three floors – a contemporary-styled cellar for intimate get-togethers, a small ground-level space and a larger, Dickensian-retro dining room upstairs, complete with rich wood panelling and leaded windows. Canoodling couples and office parties can happily co-exist here. There are no generic “one-size-fits-all” sauces either, whether you’re nibbling on a prawn, crab and ginger pickle dosa, tackling poppadom-crusted halibut with chickpeas and roasted fennel or gorging on a robust dish of clove-smoked lamb with broccoli and green chillis. Vegetarians do particularly well here, weekend lunch is especially good value and bespoke fixed-price deals are worth discussing. You can even bring your own booze (corkage £2.50). In short, this is a top call in a city that “prides itself on its choice of Indian restaurants”.
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Waldorf Astoria - The Caledonian, Princes Street, Edinburgh, Midlothian, EH1 2AB
A classy proposition from start to finish, the ever-fabulous Pompadour at ‘The Caley’ represents the first Scottish foray for Chris and Jeff Galvin – the duo behind London big-hitters such as Galvin Bistrot de Luxe and Galvin at Windows. Inside, breathtaking views of Edinburgh Castle vie for attention with the elegant interior, a grand vision of belle époque affluence involving hand-painted Chinese panels, florid cornicing and pink chandeliers. The food more than matches up too, thanks to a kitchen that melds French technique with prime Scottish ingredients. The menu ‘gourmand’, in particular, showcases great culinary skill and precision – from a delicate lasagne of North Berwick crab with layers of scallop mousse and beurre Nantais (a reworked Galvin classic) or roast Loch Etive sea trout with fluffy herb gnocchi, sea beet and mussels to croquette of Lake District pork with grapefruit and pickled celeriac. After that, baked Crowdie cheesecake with Perthshire strawberries should fit the bill – otherwise, opt for the alluring trolley of artisan French and British cheeses. Suggested wines pair beautifully with the food, and formal yet friendly service completes a thoroughly luxurious experience.
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High Street, Tuddenham, Suffolk, IP28 6SQ
This enchanting venue’s crowning glory is its superb setting by a millpond, but historic Tuddenham Mill’s uncluttered, rustic-chic interior also holds plenty of allure for those who fancy some inventive cooking from a talented young chef/patron. Lee Bye has an enthusiastic appetite for local produce and the result is thoroughly modern food with strong Anglo-European overtones. Expect complex riffs and bags of creativity across the board – from an accomplished starter of Bertha-grilled pig’s cheeks with hazelnuts, spring onions and balsamic reduction to Breckland lamb with charlotte potato, aubergine yoghurt and golden ale or hake on the bone accompanied by peperonata sauce, brown shrimps and baby spinach. Desserts such as buttermilk pannacotta with Cox’s apple, muscovado and flapjack are out of the same mould, while the classy wine list features some exemplary drinking by the glass. With its boutique bedrooms, conference facilities, afternoon teas and kids’ menus, Tuddenham Mill really is an all-round winner.
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Market Place, Lavenham, Suffolk, CO10 9QZ
The dashingly handsome Great House still invokes pleasing thoughts of France in the heart of medieval Lavenham – no wonder it remains a go-to destination for many readers. Ancient timbers, muted colours and modern artworks create a cosseting atmosphere, while Régis and Martine Crépy play perfect hosts to an appreciative crowd who flock here for sharply tuned French cooking with plenty of modern flourishes. Quality is at a premium as the kitchen works its magic with perfectly judged flavours and textures: baked Isle of Man ‘queenie’ scallops with courgette fondue, Madras curry, tomato, garlic and parsley butter; French pigeon breast roasted on the bone with caramelised endive, red beetroot and bay leaf sauce; rack of English lamb with rocket jus, sautéed wild mushrooms and garlic espuma. Desserts are artistic creations such as a white chocolate and strawberry ‘sphere’ with rhubarb, red fruits and crème de menthe sorbet, although it’s worth eyeing up the terrific selection of cheeses from Suffolk and France too. Young Gallic staff are beyond reproach, lunches offer tremendous value and oenophiles can revel in the generous wine list.
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High Street, Harome nr Helmsley, 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”.
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Wantage Road, Chieveley, Newbury, Berkshire, RG20 8UE
Local foodies may recall this picture-perfect pub-with-rooms as The Crab at Chieveley, but following a takeover by the Epicurean Collection in April 2015, it has been refurbished and rebranded as Crab & Boar. Set in lush Berkshire countryside close to Lambourn, this venue still has plenty of aces up its sleeve – from chic Country Living interiors to pretty outdoor spaces. The original Crab was famous for fish, and fresh seafood still play its part on the menu – although it now competes alongside seasonal meat and game dishes with a strong British accent. Porthilly oysters, charred octopus with broad beans and Jersey royals or Cornish plaice with leeks, braised chicken wings and macaroni share the billing with, say, beef tartare, grilled sirloin steaks, spatchock chicken or pork belly with wild garlic and celeriac purée. For afters, think British with lemon posset. In fine weather, also look out for ‘kitchen garden’ menu of small plates and salads. Chic bedrooms make The Crab & Boar an affordable escape for sporty Londoners too (racing and country pursuits are thick on the ground hereabouts).
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78 Commercial Quay, Edinburgh, Midlothian, 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.
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352 Castlehill, The Royal Mile, Edinburgh, Midlothian, EH1 2NF
Occupying a prime site deep in Edinburgh’s “touristville”, this gloriously gothic 16th-century building is renowned for its genuinely archaic and extravagantly baronial decor – a riot of elaborate tapestries, luxurious drapes, statues and cherubs, plus an enchanting Secret Garden reached via stone staircase. It’s a shoo-in for romance with a big dollop of heritage thrown in for good measure. The kitchen covers all bases, and it isn’t afraid of bullish Franco/Scottish flavours: dressed crab, haggis, steak tartare or Oban oysters on ice could precede roast turbot with parsley sauce, grilled fillet of Scotch beef or roast loin of Cairngorm venison with black quinoa, pumpkin, pickled pear and bitter chocolate oil. For afters, indulge in frozen berries with Amaretto sabayon or a deconstructed marjolaine. Prices are “steep”, although you can also soak up the Witchery experience by ordering from the two-course lunch and theatre menu. Sadly, the regime sometimes creaks under pressure, but all is forgiven once you start perusing the extraordinary wine list – a huge all-embracing tome stuffed with treasures from around the globe.
More detail about The Witchery by the Castle
HMP Cardiff, Knox Road, Cardiff, CF24 0UG
Forget all those clichés about prison grub, this enterprising eatery at HMP Cardiff offers “fabulous food in a unique environment with a socially conscious twist”. Like its siblings at other HMPs, it was set up by the Clink Charity as a training establishment for inmates and an ‘opportunity for rehabilitation’ – all supported by local businesses and members of the public. The dining room has a bright, clean-cut contemporary feel, while the food shows a strong European bias – from generous helpings of pan-fried trout with saffron potatoes, wilted rainbow chard and seaweed butter sauce to striploin and braised shin of beef with fondant potato, cauliflower purée, roasted shallots and bordelaise sauce. Start with a ballottine of guinea fowl and ham hock; finish with raspberry mille-feuille. Of course, no alcohol is allowed on the premises, but with “brilliant” food and service as standard, who cares. Note that all reservations are made through The Clink website, including ‘gourmet dinners’. It’s “nice to see an initiative giving something back”, concludes one fan.
More detail about The Clink Cardiff
11 Charles Street, Hoole, 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.
More detail about Sticky Walnut
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”.
More detail about Maison Bleue Bury St Edmunds
Clarence Parade, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, GL50 3PA
It may be hidden away in one of Cheltenham’s Regency terraces, but Jon and Helen Howe’s smart little restaurant is cherished for its personal approach and “consistently good food” – he cooks while she oversees front-of-house in friendly, engaging style. The cream and white dining room may feel a tad formal, but service is refreshingly free from airs and graces. Likewise, the kitchen tempers ambitious, whimsical ideas with good sense and a respect for the basics, transforming high-spec produce into thoroughly modern dishes ranging from Springfield Farm chicken with smoked eel, Jersey royals and wild leeks to day-boat turbot partnered by bulgur wheat, ratatouille, salsify and brown shrimps. Locally reared lamb in a good call in season, while desserts mighty include a cheeky riff on sticky toffee pudding involving a soufflé, salted lime caramel and custard. Prices are surprisingly modest (particularly at lunchtime), and there are plenty of inviting possibilities on the approachable wine list. “Our first choice when eating locally”, noted one fan.
More detail about Lumiere
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.
More detail about Simpsons
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.
More detail about Casamia
Oakfield Place, Clifton, Bristol, Gloucestershire, BS8 2BJ
Set in a viewing gallery overlooking the 24-metre blue-tiled pool at Bristol’s regenerated Victorian lido, this comfortable breezy space is one of the most exciting eateries in town – with the bonus of a spa, poolside bar and other treats. The kitchen has forged a reputation for astutely handled food with broad Mediterranean overtones and influences ranging from Spain to the Middle East. Fuss-free, vibrant flavours shine through in a raft of colourful dishes running from ajo blanco with cherries and basil or lamb’s sweetbreads with girolles, broad beans and jamón to slow-cooked rabbit leg with peas, morcilla and mint or broad bean falafel with carrot and orange-blossom purée and Turkish salad. The wood-fired oven also gets a good workout (whole plaice with sherry butter, asparagus and crispy capers, say), while desserts might bring Jerez cream with poached cherries, anis de mono and almond biscotti. You can drop by for breakfast too, and a tapas menu is served in the poolside bar. The Lido’s various ‘swim and eat’ packages are also worth checking out.
More detail about The Lido 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.
More detail about The Raby Hunt Restaurant
36 Clarke Lane, Kerridge, Bollington, Cheshire, SK10 5AH
Snuggled away in the well-manicured Cheshire countryside, this tranquil, neatened-up boozer still finds room at the bar for thirsty locals, although inspired cooking is the real draw here. Various menus and options are available on different days, but the food always shows serious gastronomic ambition, with bold, creative flavours shining through in, say, starters of duck egg with wild garlic velouté, ham hock and spring onion or wood pigeon with shiitake mushrooms, parsnip and watercress. After that, well-chosen seasonal produce receives fiddly high-end treatment, as in lamb rump accompanied by asparagus, nettles, sweetbread, beetroot, pressed potato and salsa verde or Danebridge trout and mussels with samphire, quinoa and lemongrass. To conclude, we like the sound of the cereal pannacotta with wild rice granola – another example of the kitchen’s idiosyncratic approach. A team of well-tutored, knowledgeable staff attend to every detail, and there’s a sharp terroir-led wine list too – what more could you want in this neck of the woods.
More detail about The Lord Clyde Bollington
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.
More detail about Adam Reid at The French
Llanddewi Skirrid, Abergavenny, South Wales, 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.
More detail about The Walnut Tree
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.
More detail about The Elephant
Ferry Road, Bray, 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.
More detail about The Waterside Inn
25 Broad Chare, Newcastle Upon Tyne, NE1 3DQ
Seasoned Newcastle restaurateur Terry Laybourne is the main man behind The Broad Chare – a thumpingly good, Bulldog-Brit gastropub opposite Café 21 on the city’s trendy Quayside. The sturdily furnished first-floor dining room is the place for accomplished plates of “amazing, locally sourced food” – think warm onion tart with fried duck and wild mushrooms, rare-breed pork belly with garden brassicas and scrumpy or spicy black pudding with smoked haddock and mustard. Specials such as ham shank and pease pudding are scrawled on mirrors, and the line-up also extends to things on toast, salads and puds such as chocolate stout mousse with ginger snaps. ‘Proper pub, proper beer, proper food’ is the venue’s slogan and it takes care of boozy business with a polished oak bar dedicated to obscure North Country real ales such as Mordue Apollo 40 or Full Mash Bhisti IPA. An “air of unashamed but spectacular of dumbing down” also shows in brilliant snacks such as crispy pig’s ears, hand-raised pork pie or cauliflower fritters with curry mayo. In short, “a proper British picnic, upliftingly simple, but beautifully crafted”.
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The Midland Hotel, 16 Peter Street, Manchester, Greater Manchester, M60 2DS
“Mr Cooper’s made a difference to Manchester when it opened” – and it still does, according to one local fan. Named after a certain Mr Thomas Cooper (a well-known local gent whose house and renowned gardens occupied the site back in 1819), this classy-looking dining room within the historic Midland Hotel is now an international brasserie with a standout cocktail bar attached. The interior plays to the theme with various areas recreating Mr Cooper’s house, while ingredients are of the highest quality. Visitors are sold on Mr Cooper’s “constantly changing menus”, a host of ideas ranging from buttermilk tiger prawns, Spatchcock spring chicken with a red wine and thyme jus, and sweet potato lentil and coconut curry. Desserts roam around too, taking in everything from caramel tart with mascarpone ice cream, to a clementine, pomegranate and pistachio meringue. With its keen prices, kids’ deals and Sunday roasts, Mr Cooper’s still does the business – even if it’s more conventional than its neighbour, Adam Reid at The French.
More detail about Mr Cooper's
Felin Fach, Brecon, Mid Wales, LD3 0UB
With its motto ‘eat, drink, sleep’, this is the kind of rural inn-with-rooms everyone dreams about. Imagine views of the Brecon Beacons, a sturdy red-brick facade and – inside – tiled floors, big wooden beams, granny’s kitchen tables, well-worn leather sofas and seasonal open fires. Also expect personable service and a bevy of customers who look like they’re fresh from a shoot for the Boden catalogue. The kitchen taps into a network of local suppliers and knows how to get the best from top-notch produce – without making the food too fancy. Terrific-value lunches could be as simple as mushroom and tarragon soup, slow-cooked pork belly with hash browns or even a ploughman’s with pickles and soda bread, while supper could run from cured and oak-roast salmon with cucumber and borage via Welsh rib-eye with chips and béarnaise to pistachio cake with poached pear and sour cream. Also don’t miss the palate-expanding selection of Welsh cheeses. Bright ideas in the kitchen lead to bright flavours on the plate, and there’s a terrific wine list too, with ne’er a supermarket bottle in sight.
More detail about The Felin Fach Griffin
126 West Street, Marlow, 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.
More detail about The Hand and Flowers
High Street, Bray, 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.”
More detail about The Hind's Head
6 New Road, Port Isaac, 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.”
More detail about Restaurant Nathan Outlaw
Orford, Nr Aldeburgh, Suffolk, IP12 2LJ
TV’s ‘Country House’ guru Ruth Watson and her husband David have created a “warm welcoming” retreat for all seasons at this dreamy Suffolk restaurant-with rooms: from summer drinks on the terrace to weekend papers in front of a roaring log fire, the owners’ “eye for detail” is evident throughout. Food-wise, casual lunches offer a mix of British and Mediterranean favourites ranging from ‘proper’ steak and kidney pie with shortcrust pastry to warm crab and saffron quiche or grilled mackerel fillet with peperonata. Dinners promise something similar with the addition of a few flashier seasonal items such as griddled squid with spiced salami and datterini tomatoes, rack of Suffolk lamb with slow-cooked shoulder ragù and grilled chicory or line-caught cod with Orford samphire and cockle risotto. For afters, chocolate nemesis is a winner, and we’re told that Sunday lunch is fantastic too. Simply factor in an enticing wine list bolstered by lots of bargain bin ends and a choice of super bedrooms for some desirable R&R.
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The Chester Grosvenor, Eastgate, Chester, Cheshire, CH1 1LT
The majestic Grosvenor hotel’s hot-shot restaurant is a sight to behold – a luxury-strewn pillared room with a veritable battalion of dutiful waiters primed to deliver silky-smooth, highly polished service. If time seems to stand still amid the antiques and gilded accoutrements, Simon Radley’s Michelin-starred food certainly doesn’t look back, and his willingness to embrace all things new yields a menu with countless rich possibilities: a starter entitled ‘jellied eels’ involves poached and fried oysters, sea vegetables and leafy lemon purée, while ‘two hens’ brings butter-poached Black Leg chicken, native lobster and Périgord truffle. Elsewhere, ‘tongue and cheek’ is an amalgam of veal pastrami, grilled fillet, cracked mustard, hot radish and cipilloni onion broth, while desserts aim to challenge and surprise – think preserved Catalan tomato with iced nectar, fruit candy, goats’ curd and almond turron or a pairing of Gariguette strawberries and Sarawak pepper with minted sweet peas. However, some things never change – the bread trolley is a thing of wheaten beauty, the wine cellar remains thrillingly well stocked, and intuitive staff know all the right moves.
More detail about Simon Radley at The Chester Grosvenor
Balquhidder, Lochearnhead, Central Scotland, FK19 8PQ
You’ll need your SatNav to track down this gloriously remote, pink-washed farmhouse retreat in the rugged heart of the Trossachs National Park, but it’s well worth the effort – especially when you can gaze out towards Loch Voel and Loch Doine. Chef/patron Tom Lewis follows the ‘farm to table’ ethos to the letter, with his own smallholding and livestock contributing to his sterling efforts in the kitchen. Home production is a given here, and you can taste the results on a daily changing fixed-price dinner menu full of fresh-tasting, clear-favoured seasonal dishes – from mountain hare with shallot purée, kohlrabi, pancetta and black truffle to dark chocolate and espresso pavé with cherry sorbet and Mhor crème fraîche. In between, there might be Blairgowrie beef, home-reared Tamworth pork and Perthshire Blackface lamb (perhaps with celeriac purée, green-top carrots and crispy anchovy), while Scottish fish could be represented by Scrabster pollack with cockles, globe artichokes, spinach and pink peppercorns. Prices are kinder at lunchtime, but it’s worth investing some spare cash on the highly personal wine list with its fascinating blend of pedigree vintages and quirky self-styled ‘oddballs’.
More detail about Monachyle Mhor
The Green, Kingham, Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire, OX7 6YD
Set up by chef Emily Watkins and her husband in 2007, this rambling old Cotswold hostelry attracts an affluent country crowd with its good-looking interiors, fine food and equally fine booze. The bar offers local ales and comfort-zone snacks in a bucolic setting of beams, exposed stone and open fires, but the main action is in the laid-back, rustic-chic dining room. Emily’s kitchen sends out a clear message about local sourcing – think chilled cucumber and lovage soup with Windrush goats’ cheese and celery-seed loaf or Cotswold spring lamb (loin, steamed pudding and confit breast) with young carrots and broad beans. However, this is landlocked Oxfordshire, so fish comes up from Cornwall – perhaps charred and crispy squid with courgettes and saffron or wild sea trout with a home-smoked trout ‘Scotch egg’, pickled cucumber, samphire and pink fir apple potatoes. For afters, don’t miss the superb British regional cheeses or desserts such as strawberry soufflé with clotted-cream custard. And there’s no need to go home either: six exquisite, contemporary bedrooms are kitted out in style.
More detail about The Kingham Plough
6-9 Hythe Bridge Street, Oxford, Oxfordshire, OX1 2EW
Food critic Giles Coren came here for an unexpected post-cricket lunch back in 2009, and his subsequent glowing write-up in The Sunday Times set the ball rolling for this highly rated Chinese restaurant. Luckily, Sojo has outlived the hype, concentrating instead on delivering lip-smackingly delicious food with strong regional overtones. The menu covers a lot of territory, from Cantonese stir-fried chicken with celery or deep-fried whole sea bass in sweet-and-sour sauce via Shanghai-influenced dishes (crispy garlic chicken, prawns coated with salted duck-egg yolk) to fiery Szechuan-style fish slices in sour/spicy cabbage broth or punchy dried tofu with minced beef. Noodles and rice plates are popular at lunchtime, while dim sum brings an excellent selection including Shanghai dumplings, steamed pork ribs in black bean sauce, ‘beef stomach’, chicken buns, congees and so on. Pan-Asian crowd-pleasers such as chicken satay or Thai ‘red’ duck curry might seem somewhat out of place here, but good-natured service ensures that nothing grates in the lacquered and panelled dining room. ‘So’ and ‘Jo’ are the names of the owner’s grand-daughters – hence the moniker.
More detail about Sojo
High Street, Lavenham, Suffolk, CO10 9QA
With a forest of centuries-old beams, standing timbers and inglenook fireplaces, this elegant family-friendly hotel and spa is “full of charm” and traditional to the core. But while the setting might seem straight out of tourist-brochure heaven, the cooking is refreshingly sharp and modern – especially in the “exceptional” Gallery Restaurant. Lunchtimes are “particularly relaxed”, but the place puts on its glad rags for “fine dining at its best” in the evening. Dinner might open with confit pork cheek, piccalilli and pea shoot salad or a smoked salmon Scotch egg, before seared halibut with cannelloni, braised turnips, shrimps and razor clams or roast corn-fed chicken breast accompanied by pearl barley, confit shallots, baby leeks and crispy chicken wings. Veggies get a look-in, while desserts might include rhubarb cheesecake with honey ice cream. As for drinks, go for Suffolk real ale or one of the highly quaffable wines by the glass. If something more casual is required, head to the airy, open-plan Brasserie or the Airmen’s Bar (appropriately decked out with wartime memorabilia).
More detail about The Gallery Restaurant at the Swan
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.
More detail about The Hardwick
South Lodge, Brighton Road, Nr. Horsham, West Sussex, RH13 6PS
In addition to swanning it in the swanky Camellia Restaurant, visitors to this lavishly refurbished Victorian mansion can also get up close and personal to the culinary action at the Michelin-starred Pass – a dramatic dining space right at the heart of the kitchen, complete with LCD screens beaming footage of the action. It may sound gimmicky, but this is serious stuff. New man at the pass Ian Swainson (ex-The Samling) has taken over the reins “with some success”, and his dramatic tasting menus are full of unexpected flavours and contrasts – not to mention tongue-in cheek dish names: ‘eye of the beholder’ involves braised whelks with oyster emulsion, sauce nero and shrimp vinaigrette, ‘three pigs’ is an assiette of suckling pig with truffle cream sauce, wild garlic and asparagus, while desserts might feature ‘concrete paradise’ (poached rhubarb and purée with rapeseed-oil vinaigrette and balsamic meringue). Swainson’s team “take food to another level”, staff are “so attentive” and the wine list is full of treasures (ask for a tour of the cellar).
More detail about The Pass at South Lodge
Shire Hall, High Pavement, Nottingham, Nottinghamshire, NG1 1HN
Located beneath Nottingham’s historic Galleries of Justice, this super-slick, effortlessly stylish venue has all the right ingredients for a night out. Whether you’re in for some post-work socialising or a hot date, Ibérico is a cool customer with its rustic-chic blend of Moorish tiles, leather sofas, mirror-backed frescoes and vaulted ceilings. Get things started with a glass of txakoli (the fruity sparkling white wine poured from a dramatic height), while contemplating a menu that mixes classic Spanish tapas with contemporary Asian-inspired dishes. Charcuterie and cheeses are a fixture, but the full line-up might run from lamb tartare with black garlic, pickled radish and sourdough via mushroom carpaccio with truffle sauce and pickled mooli to grilled mackerel with ajo blanco, grapes and tarragon. Pans of seafood paella suit those who are famished, while desserts offer anything from churros and hot chocolate to macerated strawberries with yuzu yoghurt and sorrel. Livewire staff are well up to the job. A casual sibling, Bar Ibérico, is at 17-19 Carlton Street, Nottingham NG1 1NL.
More detail about Ibérico World Tapas
Fox Road, Trent Bridge, West Bridgford, Nottinghamshire, NG2 6AJ
Backing onto the famous Trent Bridge Cricket Ground (a “big bonus”), this renovated gastropub is named after two legendary 1930s fast bowlers – Harold Larwood and Bill Voce. Inside, it can get boisterous (especially if England are playing), but the place has bags of atmosphere and style with its open-plan layout, retro wallpaper and red leather seating. “Superb” staff are on hand to dispense real ales, guest beers, eclectic wines and signature cocktails, while the food has plenty of British seasonal oomph. Steaks and beer-battered cod are best-sellers, but also look for devilled sprats, whole Cromer lobster with garlic butter and fat chips or roast pork belly with preserved rhubarb, salt-crusted potatoes and watercress aïoli. To finish, go for farmhouse cheese or a pud such as buttermilk pannacotta with honey-roast apricots. Whether you’re after breakfast, afternoon tea, pizza, a kids’ deal, Saturday brunch or “the best Sunday lunch in Nottingham”, this all-round family-friendly package “never disappoints” – and it’s “brilliant value” too.
More detail about Larwood & Voce
17 Jubilee Street, Brighton, East Sussex, BN1 2ED
Now firmly bedded in behind a huge glass frontage in the ultra-modern Myhotel complex, this idiosyncratic eatery continues to wow Brighton’s creatively minded foodies with its deft and complex take on Indian cuisine. Chef Alun Sperring (ex-Cinnamon Club in London) has drafted in a team of chefs from across the subcontinent to give the menu a strong regional bias, while his wife Dawn is a friendly presence out front – where splashes of colour, fairy lights and shelves of provisions add extra zest to the canteen-style dining room. Signature dishes such as red tandoori sea bream, oxtail Madras and ‘nagaland’ pork (crispy belly pieces in a fiery hot-and-sour curry laced with habanero chillis) remain as fragrantly enticing as ever, although it’s all about freshness and attention to detail – from potent homemade green chilli pickle to the last-minute sprinkling of perfumed rose water over mutton biryani. Sunday brunch is family buffet fuelled by Bloody Marys and Bavarian beers, while on Monday lunches are dedicated to the ‘king thali’ (£10). Punchy New World wines stand up well to the vibrantly spiced food. Visit the CP food cart parked outside for takeaway boxes.
More detail about The Chilli Pickle
185a Cowbridge Road East, Canton, Cardiff, South Wales, CF11 9AJ
Fans of Anand George’s top-flight ‘nouvelle’ Indian cooking at Mint & Mustard (also in Cardiff) will know what to expect here: fresh ingredients, fresh flavours and fresh ideas (alongside a few trusty favourites). The unassuming first-floor dining room has all the curry-house trademarks (rich colours, subtle lighting, simple modern fittings), although people are here for the food rather than the look of the place. Specialities such as Bombay chaat, Keralan calamari, Kashmiri rogan josh and Malabar biryani (cooked under a flaky pastry crust) show the kitchen’s regional scope, while one reader singles out “the most incredible soft-shell crab” (dusted with curry leaves and garlic). Also don’t miss Anand’s signature ‘tiffin sea bass’ served on curry leaf-infused mash with a raw mango, ginger, coconut sauce and beetroot pachadi. To finish, try the renowned ‘chocomosa’, tandoori pineapple or a brace of exotically fragrant crème brûlées. “Best Indian in South Wales”? We wouldn’t disagree.
More detail about Purple Poppadom
1-3 York Road, Bristol, BS6 5QB
Originally just plain old Bell’s Diner, this funky boho veteran has been given a lift following the arrival of new owners and a chef from the Flinty Red wine bar on Cotham Hill. There’s a touch more informality about the place now, with vintage curios strewn about the three eating and drinking rooms, plus a bright menu of eclectic small plates with a strong Mediterranean and North African tilt. Expect full-on seasonal flavours, a freewheeling approach and lots of fashionable artisan ingredients: white peach, tomato, goats’ curd and basil salad; roast hake with smoked ham hock, broad beans, peas and samphire; pork and chorizo albondigas with sweet pepper and saffron sauce. After that, how about lemon meringue tart or toasted marshmallow ice cream? As the name implies, Bell’s is also big on drinks, especially craft beers, local real ales, sexy cocktails and aperitifs, although top marks go to the wine list – a terrific compendium of bottles from sunnier climes with modest cash mark-ups.
More detail about Bell's Diner & Bar Rooms
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.
More detail about The Seahorse Restaurant
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.
More detail about Le Champignon Sauvage