Britain’s reputation as a culinary wasteland has long disappeared and in its stead, the UK now plays host to some of the most innovative restaurants and talented chefs worldwide.
With Simon Rogan, Marcus Wareing and Nathan Outlaw batting for the Michelin-starred team, the likes of Hawksmoor, Hix and Meat Liquor representing the city patrons, and Honest Burger, Herman Ze German and Kimchinary championing high-end fast food, we now have better dining choices than ever before.
And yet, there’s nothing more satisfying than discovering an amazing local restaurant right on your doorstep, especially if it’s managed to stay under the radar. No long queues to get a table, no inflated prices – just incredible food and drink served in a great atmosphere.
We’ve selected five of our favourite UK hidden gems, below.
Situated in a blue-tinged room on Edinburgh’s South Side, Aizle really is unique. Instead of a traditional menu, diners are presented with a list of ingredients and asked to cross off anything they don’t like. The chefs then create the dishes based on your feedback!
Expect a mostly British menu with notes of fusion and a refreshingly diverse choice of ingredients. A five-course tasting menu will only set you back £45 (or £75 with drinks pairings), and they source organic ingredients from local producers, so you get guaranteed freshness and quality.
Not only that, mixologist Krystal’s concoctions are to die for. Check the website for monthly ‘harvest’ information.
Address: St Leonard’s St, Edinburgh
Back In 5 Minutes
Run by London’s Disappearing Dining Club, Back in 5 Minutes’ small dining room can be found nestled behind a clothes shop along Brick Lane.
With seating for just thirty patrons, it’s an intimate experience, made more special by its convivial atmosphere – expect to get cosy with your neighbours.
The menus change daily but predominantly centres around Head Chef Fred Bolin’s Scandinavian roots, so expect plenty of cured fish with seasonal accents. This is unfussy food that packs a punch, and is the perfect antidote to the area’s more pretentious (and pricey) fare.
Address: Brick Lane, London E1
Menu Gordon Jones
Menu Gordon Jones has possibly one of the least inviting facades a restaurant could have. Situated next to a post office on a street corner, with its cheap white sign and 1970s glazing, it could easily be mistaken for a Costcutter if you weren’t looking closely.
Step inside, however, and you’re in for a treat. It has won numerous awards for its exquisite British food, and with chef Gordon Jones at the helm, it’s not hard to see why.
Dishes such as sashimi of yellow fin tuna, beef tendons and Dorset wasabi ice-cream, and purple carrot cake, blood orange and yoghurt parfait will blow your socks off, or if you’re in the mood to be surprised, why not choose the chef’s ‘surprise’ tasting menu?
Address: Wellsway, Bath
The Prince really benefits from being set back a few streets from Stoke Newington’s bustling Church Street, where tables are all but impossible to find and service can feel rushed.
Recently restored, this Victorian pub is vast and sprawling, but manages to feel cosy the whole way through – perhaps due to its collection of small rooms. A garden area is perfect for the summer, and a more formal restaurant sits quietly at the back of the building.
It is the food, however, that should bring you flocking: simple dishes such as chickpeas, tomatoes and goat’s curd offer explosions of flavour and succulent ingredients, masterfully cooked.
Produce is seasonal so expect the menu to change – but one thing you’re guaranteed is quality.
Address: Kynaston Road, London N16
Cookham is a small, picturesque village which sits just along the Thames, down river from Marlow and Henley-on-Thames, famous for being home to artist Stanley Spencer.
Disguised as an ivy-covered English cottage, nestled on the village’s historic high street (if you can call it that: there are about ten shops) Malik’s is championed by the likes of Heston Blumenthal as one of the best Indian restaurants in the UK.
Low lighting, attentive service and mind-blowing texture and spice combinations are the name of the game here. The menu is vast, so don’t be afraid to ask for recommendations.
Address: High Street, Cookham
You’ve heard our recommendations, so now we want yours – know an under the radar restaurant that delivers in terms of both quality and service?
Share it in the comments section so we can create a list of must-visit destinations around the UK.