There’s an argument that we’re more spoiled for choice than ever before when it comes to eating out in the UK.
Whether it’s tasting menus, high-end brunches or dirty street food, the standard is ridiculously high.
But there are always going to be a few places which soar above and beyond, and Waitrose have picked out the top 50 in the latest edition of their annual Good Food Guide.
We could just include a list, but what’s the point in an article about food that doesn’t have envy-inducing photos of the stuff.
That’s what we thought.
1. Restaurant Nathan Outlaw – Port Isaac, Cornwall
Sure, Cornwall’s miles away from…well, everywhere, but it’s worth the trip just to eat at Outlaw’s restaurant.
You can count on excellent fresh fish, as should be expected from the location, and the eight-course seafood tasting menu will set you back £125.
2. L’Enclume – Cartmel, Cumbria
Located in the similarly remote Cartmel, Simon Rogan’s restaurant uses the best ingredients for seasonal menus.
Its 20 (Twenty!) course tasting menu comes in at £145, and example dishes include Aged veal in coal oil, shallot and oxalis, and Native lobster with broad beans, and elderflower.
3. Pollen Street Social – Mayfair, London
The highest-ranked London restaurant on the list, Jason Atherton’s piece de resistance features ingredients from across the United Kingdom.
Its a la carte menu includes a whole roasted duck to share, while highlights of the £98 tasting menu include Roasted Lincolnshire rabbit saddle & leg with Parma ham, summer beans, courgette, basil & preserved Amalfi lemon.
4. Restaurant Sat Bains – Nottingham, Nottinghamshire
If you want to make a real trip of it, you can stay in one of the rooms at Bains’ restaurant. That way you don’t have to worry about your journey home after lapping up the 10-course, £110 tasting menu (a seven-course version is also available).
The current sample menu includes lamb cooked three ways, as well as a beef tartare, while the wine list encompasses bottles from six continents.
5. The Fat Duck – Bray, Berkshire
The first of two Heston Blumenthal joints on the list, The Fat Duck is about more than just bacon and egg ice cream.
You don’t just get a meal there – you get an experience (instead of a menu, the website has an ‘itinerary’). And if you want to push the boat out, there’s an £8,500 bottle of wine on the menu that will make the £265-275 you spend on food look like pittance.
6. Restaurant Gordon Ramsay – Chelsea, London
Ramsay’s first ever restaurant, which turns 20 next year, is still considered his best.
The three Michelin-starred venue offers a la carte dining and a £145 ‘menu prestige’, including foie gras, lobster and king crab.
7. Hedone – Chiswick, London
Another London entry, Hedone was set-up by former blogger and self-taught chef Mikael Jonsson.
It boasts an ever-changing tasting menu for lunch and dinner which will set you back £95, or £135 with wine pairings. Dishes often change on a daily basis, but plenty speak very highly of its seafood options.
8. Restaurant Andrew Fairlie - Auchterarder, Perth & Kinross
If you feel like traveling up to Gleneagles, or if you just play a lot of golf, the highest-ranked Scottish restaurant is ideally placed.
The a la carte menu comes in at £110 for three courses, and offers a wide range of offal, seafood and more. Roast Veal Sweetbreads with cinnamon, mushroom and soubise, anyone?
9. Claude Bosi at Bibendum – Chelsea, London
Bibendum’s oyster bar is special in its own right but Claude Bosi’s restaurant is the main event.
Located on Fulham Road and boasting some impressive stained-glass window designs, the restaurant’s menu features fantastic seafood (yes, including caviar – it is Chelsea after all), and plenty of other special dishes, from the man who headed up Michelin-starred restaurant Hibiscus until 2016.
10. Casamia – Bristol
This family-run restaurant offers a tasting menu that changes daily and will set you back somewhere in the region of £100.
Reservations can only be secured through a ticket system, and will entitle you to a unique range of dishes personal to the Sanchez family.
11. Bohemia – Jersey, Channel Islands
Waitrose’s list isn’t restricted to the British mainland, and the Channel Islands’ number one restaurant can end up being a fair bit cheaper than some of the others on this list.
Some restaurants have a la carte menus. Others have tasting menus. Bohemia has a ‘surprise menu’. It does also offer tasting and ‘prestige’ menus, among other things, with sample dishes such as Foie Gras Cream with Sea Buckthorn & Kumquat, Duck Salad and Pecan
12. Ynyshir – Machynlleth, Powys
Located near the Snowdonia national park, Ynyshir is one of the best restaurants in Wales, if not the best.
Guests are offered a choice of dinner menus based on time rather than number of courses, and you should set aside four hours for brilliantly-cooked options such as duck liver with river bacon & birch or crab with elder and green strawberry.
13. Dinner by Heston Blumenthal – Knightsbridge, London
More Heston, and this one doesn’t involve travelling outside London. However, it does involve time-travel, with dishes inspired by more than half a century of British recipes.
The enigmatic chef opened his Mandarin Oriental restaurant in 2011, with trademark dishes including Meat Fruit – chicken liver parfait shaped like a mandarin.
14. Fraiche – Oxton, Merseyside
Chef Mark Wilkinson has described Fraiche as “a very personal journey for me”, and the Merseyside restaurant is deliberately relaxed and informal in its setting.
Its menu changes regularly, as is often the case with entries in this top 50, but sample dishes have been known to include a Spanish omelette with quail egg and chorizo, and ‘textures of carrot’ with feta and pain d’epice.
15. Marcus – Knightsbridge, London
Located at the Berkeley Hotel in London, Marcus is the flagship venture of former Gordon Ramsay protégé Marcus Wareing.
The restaurant is a showcase of British produce, with sample menus including Rhug Estate pork belly, Goosnargh duck and Cumbrian rose veal neck. All with inventive accompaniments and coming in at £85 for three courses from the a la carte menu.
16. Le Champignon Sauvage – Cheltenham, Gloucestershire
Its name might mean ‘The Wild Mushroom’, but Le Champignon Sauvage is renowned for a whole lot more.
The family-run restaurant has been open for 30 years, and its menu – which has featured things like Cinderford lamb fillet with braised lamb breast, anchovy cream and dandelion and burdock salsa – has been praised by critics including Jay Rayner and Matthew Fort.
17. Adam Reid at The French – Manchester
Head chef Reid emerged victorious on The Great British Menu with his dessert, and you can get his stewed apple and hazelnut creation ‘Golden Empire’ for a £20 supplement on top of the £85 nine course tasting menu or £15 with the lunch a la carte offering.
The French also offers smaller six-course and four-course tasting meals, the former featuring crispy trotter with blood cake and smoked sausage among other courses.
18. The Ledbury – Notting Hill, London
Another of London’s must-visits, The Ledbury offers vegetarian and non-vegetarian tasting menus and a lengthy wine list from bottles under £30 to some costing several thousand pounds.
Australian chef Brett Graham also offers a four-course dinner menu where choices have included Grilled Cuttlefish, King Oyster Mushroom, Garlic and Radishes.
19. André Garrett at Cliveden – Taplow, Berkshire
Located a short distance from the aforementioned Fat Duck, Garrett’s restaurant offers lunch from £33 and dinner from £55.
His menus are not limited to seafood, but with a range of oysters and caviar alongside a raw bar, you’d be a fool not to go down that route for at least part of your meal.
20. Midsummer House – Cambridge, Cambridgeshire
Two-time Great British Menu winner Daniel Clifford is chef patron at Midsummer House, which earned its second Michelin star in 2005.
As much goes into the vegetarian tasting menu as goes into anything else on offer, while fish, poultry and vegetarian options all feature on a specially selected five-course lunch menu
And the best of the rest:
- Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester, London
- The Peat Inn, Fife
- The Kitchin, Lothians
- Sketch, Lecture Room and Library, London
- The Three Chimneys, Highlands & islands
- Moor Hall, Lancashire
- The Greenhouse, London
- The Ritz, London
- Castle Terrace, Lothians
- Forest Side, Cumbria
- Orwells, Oxfordshire
- Paul Ainsworth at No. 6, Cornwall
- Restaurant Marianne, London
- The Waterside Inn, Berkshire
- Restaurant James Sommerin, Glamorgan
- Artichoke, Buckinghamshire
- The Raby Hunt, County Durham
- Whatley Manor, the Dining Room, Wiltshire
- Restaurant Story, London
- Simpsons, West Midlands
- Restaurant Martin Wishart, Lothians
- The Sportsman, Kent
- Adam’s, West Midlands
- Freemasons at Wiswell, Lancashire
- Gidleigh Park, Devon
- Le Gavroche, London
- Hambleton Hall, Rutland
- Murano, London
- The Whitebrook, Monmouthshire
- The Man Behind the Curtain, West Yorkshire
(All images from Instagram and/or the respective restaurants on the list)