25 must-visit foodie hotspots in the UK
Bristol was chosen as the European Green Capital of 2015. The restaurant that best expresses the city’s greenness is Birch. The short evening menu features the best of what the owners Sam Leach and Beccy Massey can create using home-grown ingredients or produce strictly from local suppliers.
2. Aberdeenshire, Scotland
Aberdeenshire is a grand exporter of all things wonderful: creamy Mackie’s ice cream; beautifully smoked fish; the famous Aberdeen Angus beef cattle; and fine Scottish whisky. A must-visit is Formartine’s restaurant and farm shop. John Cooper, the founder, smokes his salmon in old Ardmore whisky casks and pours local brewer Brewdog‘s Punk IPA into his excellent black pudding – which you can enjoy in the restaurant, with perfectly cooked eggs, for breakfast.
3. The New Forest, Hampshire
The Pig in Brockenhurst is a real foodie mecca in these parts. It has a smokehouse, kitchen garden, pigs, chickens and quail, and guests can hunt for wild food with forager Garry Eveleigh. About 80 per cent of the menu items come from within a 25-mile radius, like the Bath chap, a huge piece of pork jowl (served with jawbone, teeth and all) with salad leaves fresh from the walled garden.
4. West Dorset
A place of traditional thatched villages, the bucolic downlands of Hardy country and a serenely beautiful coastline. Get a table at Crab House Café in Wyke Regis. Here, the menu is written up twice a day depending on the fresh catch brought in by local fishermen.
5. Monmouthshire, Wales
The setting of The Bell at Skenfrith, by a bridge on a tributary of the River Wye north of Monmouth, is absurdly picturesque. Here, you can enjoy a disarmingly simple lunch with big, hearty flavours, from a special menu that makes the most of the offerings from the inn’s kitchen garden. After eating, take a tour of the raised beds and buy some fresh-from-the-soil produce.
6. South Devon
This magical place – with its landscapes shaped by winding rivers, calm estuaries and pretty coves – is a food lover’s haven. Head to The Winking Prawn, a family-run bar café and grill that has a devoted following among locals. Try the fresh mackerel or the Devon crab then finish off with Salcombe Dairy ice cream.
7. St Agnes, Isles of Scilly
Twenty-eight miles off the tip of Cornwall, warmed by the Gulf Stream, lie the tiny, sand-fringed Isles of Scilly. Cars are almost unknown, sub-tropical plants thrive and the simplest seaside pleasures evoke bygone decades. Food-wise, though, they’re bang up to date. At High Tide, chilled-out Kiwi chef Mark Eberlain works his magic on local seafood, veg and foraged items.
When it comes to high-quality food and drink, East Suffolk, with its patchwork fields and peaceful coastal heaths, is a land of plenty. In Orford, Pinney’s smokehouse has a beguilingly old-fashioned restaurant, The Butley Orford Oysterage. A simple lunch here of oysters from Butley Creek and skate wing with brown butter sauce will be as good as anything you’ll eat in Suffolk.
9. Argyll, Scotland
The hamlet of Kilberry has views to the Hebridean islands of Islay, Jura and Gigha. This part of the Scottish coast is among the country’s most scenic. It’s a great place for wildlife spotting, too: you may see otters, deer, and, if you’re lucky, golden eagles. Stay at The Kilberry Inn. Whatever you choose from the menu will be a dish to remember.
10. Frithsden, Berkhamsted
It’s just a two-mile walk from Berkhamsted to Frithsden, a tiny village in the pretty Chiltern Hills, where you can stop for lunch (or dinner) at the excellent Alford Arms. Their ethos: “If we don’t know who grew it, or where they grew it, we just don’t use it…”.
For unparalleled views of Rutland Water, go to The Finch’s Arms. A meat or fish sharing board will get the evening off to a relaxed start. In warmer months, eat breakfast alfresco or relax on the terrace with an afternoon tea and take in the view.
12. Ceredigion, Wales
At the historic inn, Y Talbot in Tregaron, there are open fires and Welsh wool rugs, and all the practicalities needed for an outdoorsy resting point. Head chef Dafydd Watkin trained under Marco Pierre White before returning home to Wales. He’s passionate about the produce from the rural surrounds, and much of it makes its way on to the menu.
With its warm, quirky and cleverly furnished country house style, the Anchor Inn sets the gold standard. As far as the food is concerned, the combination of fresh seasonal ingredients with a Modern-Brit-meets-Eurozone cooking style has proved a big hit. The dark green panelled restaurant keeps the vibe unpretentious, chilled out and romantic.
Against the backdrop of a 1,000-acre deer park, the Gunton Arms is run with all the hospitable warmth one could wish for in somewhere so rural. Chef Stuart Tattersall used to work for well-regarded restaurateur Mark Hix and it shows in his simple approach to carefully sourced local food.
15. Cartmel, Cumbria
Few places match food and setting more harmoniously than Simon Rogan’s extraordinary restaurant with rooms, L’Enclume. It’s now the Lakes’ chief culinary attraction. Simon teases the best out of ingredients from Cumbria’s larder with precise modern techniques, but no one will feel out of their depth, thanks to confident staff who know how to demystify the details.
16. Burford, Oxfordshire
The Windrush Valley, between Burford and Witney, is enjoying something of a moment, with new establishments pairing cool design with nods to local flavour. The Swan Inn is a great example. While the setting is rustically charming, the cooking captures exactly what food-savvy diners are after: gutsy, modern bistro-style dishes delivered with minimum fuss.
The Cartfood Inn a quirky pub-hotel where contemporary design blends harmoniously with wood beams and fireplaces. Bold cooking with upfront flavours never fails to impress. The kitchen draws on good local ingredients (perhaps a platter of Fleetwood seafood or pan-roasted saddle of Pilling Marsh lamb) and includes both traditional pub offerings and more adventurous options.
18. Auchterarder, Scotland
Who hasn’t heard of Gleneagles? The palatial hotel stands resplendent amid three championship golf courses interspersed with beautiful parkland. The hotel is also one of Scotland’s premier dining destinations. Here you’re treated to the full works – from perfect canapés to ingenious petit fours. The home-smoked lobster (dressed with warm lime and herb butter) is a classic Fairlie starter and, of course, the other principle dishes are stunning.
The outskirts of Nottingham, overlooked by electricity pylons and the busy A52 flyover, is one of the most unpromising locations for a top British restaurant. But restaurant Sat Bains is in its own rural oasis by the River Trent and it takes pride in its setting – before the multi-course menus kick off, diners are treated to a taster based on ingredients foraged from the restaurant’s postcode. The culinary style of Sat Bains is full of understated personal flourishes and attention to detail, always with the understanding that superb seasonal ingredients come first.
It’s hard not to be dazzled by this ancient university city or by Midsummer House, the Victorian villa on Midsummer Common. The chef and owner Daniel Clifford has worked conscientiously to make his restaurant a beacon of excellence and the result is a finely judged balance of innovation and classicism. Fabulous seasonal ingredients take centre stage. Choose from five, seven or 10-course tasting menus and expect complexity married to precision all the way.
21. Chelsea, London
Restaurant Gordon Ramsay remains one of the most impressive of London’s top French restaurants. The place has always created elegant, accessible dishes that combine classic French indulgence with contemporary flair. But under the guidance of chef Clare Smyth global currents inform what emerges from the kitchen. That said, classics such as the glorious ravioli of lobster, langoustines and salmon , and the foie gras with roasted veal sweetbreads and almond velouté remain triumphantly on the menu.
22. Great Milton, Oxfordshire
Turning each corner at Le Manoir reveals a picture-perfect loveliness which, together with the abiding presence of ever genial chef Raymond Blanc, has kept this country house hotel popular for 30 years. The two-Michelin-star kitchen delivers precise, clever contemporary French compositions and, as you’d expect after a turn around the vegetable garden, seasonality remains the watchword for the monthly changing menus.
23. Cheltenham, Gloucestershire
Despite being a culinary big-hitter, Le Champion Sauvage exudes relaxed sophistication. David and Helen Everitt-Matthias have been running this restaurant for nearly three-decades in which time the kitchen has cultivated an enviable reputation for garnering raw materials at their seasonal peak. Breads are some of the best you’ll encounter, especially the sweet-savoury bacon brioche. The Cinderford lamb with roasted sweetbreads is a signature dish.
24. Port Isaac, Cornwall
After five seasons at Roc’s St enodoc Hotel, Restaurant Nathan Outlaw, famous for its seafood, has recently moved to nearby Port Isaac. According to Outlaw: “nothing’s changed apart from the property and the opening days,” so expect culinary pyrotechnics on a menu that will continue to champion the finest fish and seafood available in the waters around Cornwall.
25. Skye, Scotland
It was the renowned Kinloch Lodge that put Skye on the food map thanks to its owners, food writer Lady Claire MacDonald, a great advocate of Scottish food, and her husband Godfrey, High Chief of Clan Donald. Long-standing chef Marcello Tully is Brazil-born and French-trained. Add to the mix exceptional Scottish produce and you get a beguiling combination in dishes such as Mallaig sea bass with lime and coconut.
Do you have a favourite UK foodie hotspot? Let us know in the comments…