Top venues for top nosh. It’s all happening in a corner of the country near you.
There are two schools of thought when it comes to eating in the regions. The first is a rather dour indictment espoused by metropolitan types that runs along the lines of:
‘Any old fool can open a restaurant in the sticks, there’s no competition and the parochial types who live outside London wouldn’t know a good thing if they were slapped in the face with a salted cod.’
The other is equally partisan:
‘Regional restaurants don’t have a ready pool of urbanites parading like a stream of ants in the direction of the latest trendy food monger who spent more on interior design than he did on the kitchen.’
The truth probably lies somewhere between the accusations of lack of competition and superficiality. Undoubtedly there are some stodgy ventures out there who survive because locals have little choice but in the main restaurants outside the capital have to work very hard to survive.
Each of the eateries we’ve chosen is the very best in its class and proof of a vibrant culinary scene beyond the huff and puff of the big smoke.
Neighbourhood Hangout – Elliot’s@ No.1 Harbour Street, Whitstable, Kent
Elliot’s@ No.1 Harbour Street is exactly the sort of neighbourhood hangout we all dream of. Somewhere not too fancy, serving damn fine, unpretentious food where the atmosphere is friendly and inviting. Where the prices are reasonable and your loyalty will be rewarded. A place you can build a relationship with. Go alone, take visiting friends. Enjoy breakfast, lunch and dinner, knowing it will all be good.
Lucky Whitstable – every town should have one.
Chic City Italian – Cucina, G&V Royal Mile Hotel, Edinburgh
I’m not often swayed by in-house hotel restaurants. Save for a few notable exceptions they tend to play a bland second fiddle to the hotel. Cucina makes it into the exceptions category. Nothing about it – the drop dead gorgeous tasting menu, the funky atmosphere, the slick, friendly service – feels like a restaurant appended to a hotel. Chef Mattia Camorani, a man who’s spent a significant amount of time in the company of one of my favourite Italian chef’s Giorgio Locatelli, has created a stand alone success story.
Easily one of the UK’s top Italian restaurants.
Finest Dining – The French, Manchester
Sometimes we want it swanky. Proper swanky with glistening crystal, succulent food and sumptuous surrounds. Where the pleasures are dropped like pearls on the table, one after another by impeccably turned out staff. The French is such a place. A fin de siècle throwback given a glam makeover. Where the chefs lavish attention on rich, indulgent dishes that are at least equal to the splendour of the setting.
A feast for Manchester courtesy of Simon Rogan of L’Enclume fame.
Stylish Country – The Wild Rabbit, Kingham, Oxfordshire
Should you wish to retreat from life and reside instead between the pages of a glossy lifestyle magazine. And who wouldn’t want this….even just for a few hours. Then The Wild Rabbit will be a delight. It is the latest outpost in Lady Bamford’s – Daylesford Organics – eco empire of all things chic and organic. Food is emphatically heritage, heirloom, organically reared and truly tasty in the gastro-pub tradition.
Heritage and artisan are King at The Wild Rabbit.
Rural Restaurant with Rooms – The Bell at Skenfrith, Skenfrith, Monmouthshire
The Bell has perhaps the trickiest remit of all our regional choices. Its glorious setting in rural Monmouthshire means that survival depends on keeping locals happy and seducing further flung clientele. All around is evidence that The Bell works incredibly hard to achieve to fulfil both these goals. Everything about it is very real. The food in the garden is quite clearly grown for the kitchens and not for show. The pub is quite obviously a pub – not someone’s interpretation of what a pub should be. And the food is simple, well cooked and all you would hope.
Upholding the best traditions of the country inn.
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