Ford Road, Margate
One of Margate’s iconic seafront buildings restored to its former life as a hotel. The cosy ground- floor restaurant serves Kentish wine, local gin and the likes of silky trout lifted with Hinxden Farm Dairy crème fraîche and crostini topped with creamy cannellini beans, and pork sautéed in parsley mustard sauce. Breakfast is a real treat, too. fortroadhotel.com
Furna is chef Dave Mothersill’s first solo venture, having earned his chops on the Brighton scene at the likes of perennial favourites The Salt Room and The Gingerman. The understated venue, opposite the Pavilion, features leather banquettes, elegant small dining tables and a counter at close quarters to the open kitchen where guest can dine while watching the chefs at work.
On offer is a regularly changing menu of small sharing plates. Dishes are bold and the flavour combinations unusual, but the results are spectacular – standouts included a honey and thyme Parker House roll with umami-rich roasted yeast butter and creamy smoked cod’s roe with a slick of grassy parsley oil to slather over; buttery soft milk-brined veal sweetbread with a crunchy roasted rice coating, subtly sweet Delica pumpkin and a meaty chicken reduction; and an al dente mushroom pappardelle ripiene singing with intense black garlic and tangy aged parmesan.
The paired wines are just as audacious as the food – including intriguing bottles from Greece, Japan and the South Downs. Inventive cocktails are worth exploring, too, each focussed on a single ingredient, such as tangy, smoky stem ginger and an earthy beetroot number with a welcome boozy kick. furnarestaurant.co.uk
The Boot, Cirencester
A cosy Cotswolds pub with a gourmet edge, The Boot in Barnsley is run by the team behind London’s The Chelsea Pig. Sit by the fire with local ales and seasonal dishes including a winter garden salad, Gloucester Old Spot pork chop with Hawkstone cider sauce, and beef wellington served with truffle mash. barnsleyhouse.com/the-boot
The Black Rock Group has a sound reputation in Brighton, with its roster of restaurants, including The Salt Room, Burnt Orange and The Coal Shed, already firm favourites with local diners. Tutto is the latest offering, an Italian restaurant set in a former banking hall on the outskirts of the North Laine.
The high-ceilinged interior, with its grand arched windows overlooking a small alfresco seating area out front, has stylish art deco touches and large, colourful, graphic art adorning the walls. The vibe around the small bistro-style tables is intimate and relaxed, with low lighting and mellow background music.
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The menu follows the classic Italian format of cicchetti, antipasti, primi and secondi, and there’s also a set menu if you’d prefer to delegate your choices. Opening options include buttery bone marrow with parmesan and gremolata on crisp toasts, and long-stemmed broccoli fritto with ‘nduja aïoli. The standout dish is the tagliatelle cacio e pepe with black truffle, the pasta cooked perilously close but just the right side of al dente, and the irresistibly silky sauce suffused with a perfectly judged hit of pepper. The roasted sea bass in an autumnal wild mushroom, shallot and confit garlic sauce was also excellent, the fish beautifully succulent, complemented nicely with a side of chilli-spiked brassicas.
The drinks menu is almost exclusively Italian, featuring red and white wines grouped by region, the common characteristics of each area helpfully explained. The cocktails remain faithful to the country, too, with four varieties of negroni on offer, and a stunning slushie-like sgroppino our favourite on the night. tutto-restaurant.co.uk
The duo behind cult spot Barletta has opened a cosy wine bar in seaside town Margate. Taking inspiration from French neighbourhood tabacs, sharing snacks include pâté en croute with pickled gherkins, potted smoked prawns and French onion tart. The eclectic, revolving wine list puts the spotlight on female winemakers, Eastern European vineyards and Kentish growers. setemargate.com
The Mess, Tisbury, Wiltshire
Galápagos Islands-born chef Ana Ortiz (previously Pythouse Kitchen Garden and The Newt) celebrates South American flavours in a new restaurant, café and deli in the former dairy building of thatched Wiltshire arts centre Messums. Ana serves up vibrant dishes, including Somerset beef empanadas, red quinoa tortilla with fermented cherry tomatoes and Wiltshire pork with achiote pasta and coal-roasted new potatoes. messumswiltshire.com
Chef patron Michael Shaw (previously at Le Manoir) heads up this contemporary space, hosting Japanese tasting menus that intertwine the finest ingredients from Japan with fresh UK produce. There is also an omakase experience at head sushi chef Andre Aguiar’s six-seat counter, along with premium sake and Japanese whisky pairings. musumcr.com
Boys Hall, Ashford
Boys Hall near Ashford, Kent, is a pub and restaurant with rooms in a beautifully converted 17th-century house. There is an ambitious menu overseen by MasterChef: The Professionals’ Robbie Lorraine featuring lobster doughnuts, house-cured salmon with balsamic pearls, Marmite-glazed celeriac steak, and local wines including a decent fizz by Simpsons. Lunch at £25 for two courses is a good deal. boys-hall.com
Catch at the Old Fish Market, Weymouth
Upstairs at the Old Fish Market, Catch has a vaulted timber roof and harbour views. The menu is crafted around the fish landed just outside the restaurant. ‘Local’ and ‘sustainable’ are top of mind for the rest of the menu too, with meat and game from the Dorset countryside and tomatoes from the Isle of Wight. You can also enjoy a mix of celebrated and lesser-known wines from Dorset, Hampshire and further afield.
The simplicity of the restaurant’s interior is echoed in the menu, with just a handful of dishes to choose from for each course. This translates to elegant plating – it’s no surprise that executive chef Mike Naidoo has names like Pollen St Social on his CV. As you’d expect with a sustainability-focused menu, it changes daily. We devoured a starter of crab with crab toastie and lobster agnolotti. Cod with wild garlic, cauliflower and cockles was delicate and delicious. We also took the waiter’s suggestion of crab potatoes to share – a bowl of crushed new potatoes mixed with crabmeat hidden under crab bisque. The tarte tatin was a well-executed finish.
The restaurant was busy when we visited on in March, so book early in summer when crowds descend. catchattheoldfishmarket.com
Chef Dean Banks puts the spotlight on Scottish seafood at his first-floor neighbourhood restaurant in Edinburgh’s West End. International twists liven up the fish that’s straight off the boats, including lobster crumpet with yuzu brown butter, seared hake with kimchi hollandaise and baked North Sea cod in Goan curry. The wine and cocktail bar downstairs is great for a pre-dinner aperitif, such as the signature pepper dulse and Lunun Gin martini. dulse.co.uk
Where the Light Gets In chef Sam Buckley is joining forces with sourdough baker Rosie Wilkes and potter Joe Hartley to open a bakery, deli and pottery in Stockport in early 2022. There will be freshly-baked loaves, swirly buns, sweet bakes and sandwiches during the day, with sourdough pizza and natural wine events on select evenings. instagram.com/yellowhammer_stockport
2021’s best UK restaurant openings
Kentish produce shines in seasonal dishes with an iconic seaside view
Nestled into a corner of Margate’s Turner Contemporary gallery, Barletta is a celebration of Kent’s producers, artists and chefs. The space is split into two halves – one side works as an all-day café, with freshly baked treats including rhubarb tart, tahini brownies and brown butter cookies on display. A grey booth slides down one wall of the more formal dining room, adorned with a tablescape mural by local artist Megan Metcalf; a riot of carrots, citrus and wine sketches. Floor-to-ceiling windows are dressed with seasonally changing dried flowers, framing views of Margate’s landmarks, from the harbour to the higgledy-piggledy old town and seaside-kitsch Dreamland sign. Kick off with a glass of strikingly dry organic prosecco or biodynamic Alsace crémant. Homemade focaccia is doused in pools of vibrant green Kentish rapeseed oil alongside a manzanilla olive tapenade, and burrata is dressed with bright and citrussy pickled radicchio. Gnocchi-like pillows of homemade cavatelli pasta are doused in a rich, meaty Italian sausage ragu, while a soupy gorgonzola and walnut risotto is made extra rich by swirling through a perfectly formed egg yolk. Finish lunch by pouring thick chocolate ganache over baked-to-order brown butter madeleines while the sun sets over the sandy bay, bathing the restaurant in a balmy golden glow. barletta.co.uk
Cal Byerley (ex Forest Side, Rogan & Co and Jesmond Dene House) and his partner Sîan Buchan have created a unique ode to their home county at Vallum Farm. The converted cow barn boasts views over Northumberland landscapes, from which many ingredients for the tasting menu and afternoon tea are plucked. Dry-aged carrots and lovage dress Berwick Edge cheese, and artichoke and blackened pear rotate seasonally beside langoustine. restaurantpine.co.uk
Linden Stores, Cheshire
Wine expert Laura Christie (co-founder of Oklava) and husband Chris Boustead have reopened their Islington wine bar and bistro in the canalside village of Audlem. Scarborough-born chef Chris takes inspiration from hearty Yorkshire cooking to create seasonal twists such as bubble and squeak croquettes with Bovril mayo, braised short rib with celeriac purée and Yorkshire parkin. Laura has curated a list of unique, great-value wines to drink on site or at home. lindenstores.co.uk
The Palmerston, Edinburgh
Bakery and coffee shop by day, cosy neighbourhood restaurant by night
The Palmerston inhabits a former bank in Edinburgh’s West End, a history that is reflected in the room’s grand dimensions, although dark green painted walls, warm wooden floors and tables and paintings by local artists give the space a more casual neighbourhood bistro vibe. Owners James Snowdon and Lloyd Morse keep things ticking from 9am with a morning menu of fresh pastries and coffee but come lunch and dinnertime it moves into more serious cooking territory. The concise menu changes daily depending on what’s available from local suppliers and cooking is confident and hearty with a focus on nose-to-tail eating. A generous slab of Mangalitsa and rabbit terrine is dense, peppery, porky and mildly gamey served with cornichons and warm grilled sourdough. Courgette salad comes with a piquant lemony, herby dressing and little bursts of crunch and creaminess from toasted walnuts and goat’s curd. Fish cooking is on point – a perfectly pan-fried chunk of monkfish is served on a bed of pretty rainbow chard and charlotte potatotoes, then topped with a salty, umami black olive dressing. We manage to fit in a slice of Victoria plum and hazelnut tart at the insistence of our server and it’s a delight – crisp pastry, dense warm frangipane and sweet plums – a memorable end to a faultless meal. thepalmerstonedinburgh.co.uk
Lilac, Lyme Regis, Dorset
Harriet Mansell’s restaurant and wine bar is a thing of local and seasonal beauty
Lilac breathes new life into a 400-year-old cellar, with flagged floors and exposed stone walls complemented by muted colours and simple furnishings.
The menu is a neat offering of small plates with a focus on vegetables and sustainability. Wine and food are on equal footing – pick from the artful and delicious small plates, like fennel seed focaccia with carrot top pesto, pickles, green tahini and dukkah, or a cheese plate, while you navigate the wine list. Choose sparkling, white or red on tap, or delve into the extensive list of low-intervention wines. We had a glass of the local Langham Zig Zag – crisp, refreshing, everything we wanted – and the soft option, a seasonal fruit spritz made with local berries and a delicate touch of rosemary.
The menu changes daily depending on seasonality, with meticulous cooking bringing out the flavours of carefully sourced ingredients. Heritage beetroot is served with a cream of its own leaves and pangrattato, and griddled flat beans come with smoked anchovies and local goat’s cheese. Pork belly with slaw and zingy rhubarb ketchup was the only meat on offer on our visit, but with vegetable brilliance in the form of moreish stilton & ricotta-stuffed courgette flowers with honey and hazelnuts, you won’t miss it. lilacwine.co.uk
The third in Phil and Deb Lewis’s mini restaurant empire in the Welsh capital, Kindle encourages a circular economy with local farmers, gamekeepers and gardeners. Fire and smoke are used to create small plates such as sangak flatbread with burnt aubergine butter, tangy South Indian mackerel soup and a pig’s head, trotter and bean stew. There’s a ‘no napkin’ ethos and a commitment to creating new ingredients from seasonal surplus. kindlecardiff.co.uk
The team behind London’s trio of neighbourhood bistros, Salon, Levan and Larry’s, has taken its sustainable forward empire rural, to a former bank in South Petherton. Chef Nicholas Balfe has relocated to run the restaurant, which offers counter dining at the open kitchen and an outdoor grill beside the kitchen garden. Look out for Somerset ex-dairy beef tartare, grilled celeriac with broccoli tops and seaweed béarnaise, and caramelised apple crumble. holmsomerset.co.uk
Bundobust Brewery, Manchester
Mayur Patel and Marko Husak have been partnering with northern breweries since 2013 to create perfect pairings for their vibrant Gujarati street food dishes (think paneer tikka skewers, fennel-spiced kale bhajis and tarka lentil dhal). The team has just launched Bundobust Brewery, where it can brew its own craft beers in-house, including a smooth and creamy porter, and bitter, hoppy IPA. bundobust.com
Superico Restaurant, Edinburgh
Tapas-style dining with a South American twist
Part of a double-whammy opening (its sister Superico Bar and Lounge has just opened a few doors down), this small, stylish space feels buzzy and welcoming as you walk down steps into the long dining room. Yellow banquette seating lines the wall, and there are splashes of colour (from the vibrant tiles in the entrance to the pretty glazed crockery) as a nod to its South American influences. The main evening menu follows the sharing plates model with an eclectic mix of ingredients – expect dishes like octopus with avocado crema, fennel and salsa cruda, and pork belly and cheek with chicharron, corn and wilted greens. On Sunday afternoons, the menu is pared back to a few sandwiches and sides. We tried the Mexican aubergine torta – a hefty stack of crisp tempura aubergine slices stuffed into a soft torta roll – and melt-in-the-mouth veggie empanadas with a squash, pepper and goat’s cheese filling, on a fiery red mojo sauce. The star side was a generous stack of padron peppers blistered from the grill with a blanket of finely grated Grana Padano, and there is a short but good value aperitivo list at £5 for a spritz or bloody mary. superico.com
Heron, Leith, Edinburgh
Stylish shorefront restaurant with local ingredient focus
This anticipated new opening from Tomas Gormley and Sam Yorke comes after their successful Bad Seeds fine dining at home pop-up during lockdown. The room is calm and airy with double-height ceilings, white wood panelled walls and clean contemporary lines. The large windows look out on to Leith Shore where, if you’re lucky, you might see the feathered visitor the restaurant was named after. There are two menus available at lunch, the à la carte and a two- or three-course set menu (which we were advised was a lighter option). The cooking is delicate, precise and visually stunning with a real respect for the carefully sourced local ingredients. A starter of lobster claw comes on a buttery crushed potato terrine tower with a rich tomato and saffron sauce poured tableside for drama. Creamy cod brandade is served in a bowl studded with plump mussels and clams, and bursts of salty samphire and a chunk of focaccia alongside for dipping. Mains include perfectly pink lamb loin with piperade and a vivid green salsa verde, and a chunk of pearly flaked pan-fried cod with tiny cubed potatoes and sea vegetables in a creamy sauce split with fig oil. Service is friendly, warm and attentive, and there’s a lovely pace to the dishes coming out. A perfect place to while away a leisurely afternoon. heron.scot
The owner of east London’s neighbourhood restaurant, Brawn, has opened a seaside sister restaurant at Margate’s iconic pier destination, Harbour Arm. Enjoy lobster spaghetti and Catalan salt cod salad with a quintessential view back over the harbour to the Old Town. Ingredients are sourced locally, many grown on musician and restaurant partner Matthew Herbert’s farm 10 miles from the town, with wines from Europe’s boutique vineyards. Full review coming soon.
Due South, Brighton
Deftly executed open-fire, seasonal dishes, celebrating local Sussex produce
Due South occupies an enviable spot under the arches on the seafront, overlooking the iconic West Pier. Head chef Mark Wadsworth’s food is seasonal and British, with an Asian inspiration. But his USPs are that he cooks everything over an open fire, and that all his ingredients come from within 35 miles of the restaurant.
The vibe is relaxed, with alfresco tables out front and two intimate, low-lit levels within. Service is welcoming and attentive, with staff happy to make recommendations. The wine list features a strong showing of Sussex sparkling wines, and there’s a creative selection of cocktails. We enjoyed the tart Saint Hibiscus made with Court Garden sparkling Sussex wine, hibiscus liqueur and lemon juice.
Start with the must-order wood-fired sourdough – a gloriously fluffy pillow laden with salty anchovies and slathered with rosemary butter. Fish is treated flawlessly, whether served raw as a small plate (wild sea bass sashimi with wasabi crème fraîche) or wood-fired as a main (our whole lemon sole special with confit garlic and charred lemon was a sweetly succulent gem).
But save room for the unmissable wood-fired cheesecake, a generous, gloriously light slice with a toasty top, accompanied by sweet, juicy, macerated cherries.
Elevated Argentinian-inspired dishes in a cool contemporary setting
Aktar Islam’s farm-to-table hotspot is a celebration of seasonality, fresh produce and the finest cuts of meat around. Settle into the foliage-filled interior and expect a warm atmosphere, an energetic buzz and open-flame cooking. If you need some expert guidance, the staff are all committed steak specialists and won’t let you put a fork wrong. Everything on the menu has regional South American flair, from the artfully plated pulpo to the chunky, chilli-laced prawns. For those taking their meaty odyssey seriously, don’t miss out on a slathering of smoked bone marrow on crunchy toasted focaccia. On to the main event, Pulperia boasts the best beef from around the globe, from 17-year-old Galician Blonde prime rib to share between two, to a young and tender sirloin. Any non-meat eaters won’t feel left out with a choice of seasonal plates including a suitably indulgent truffle tagliatelle. Top off your dining experience with a bottle from their extensive wine list, showcasing juicy South American offerings.
The Old Pharmacy, Bruton
Head to Merlin Labron-Johnson’s low-food mileage restaurant in an old ironmongers shop in rural Somerset, and bookend your lunch at the chef’s newly-opened, all-day wine bar and épicerie, The Old Pharmacy. Merlin grows produce on his own veg plot Dreamers Farm, which/that customers will have the opportunity to enjoy in pretty small plates and toasties or to take home, along with treats such as Tamworth charcuterie and Osip’s home-fermented cider. Full review coming soon.
Burnt Orange, Brighton
Brighton’s hip new hang-out for cocktails and sharing plates
Burnt Orange is a restaurant and cocktail bar from the team behind popular Brighton foodie haunts The Salt Room and The Coal Shed. Dubbed as a hip new hang-out for adults, it has a buzzy, bar-like atmosphere and extensive cocktail list – we loved the zingy, grapefruit-based Dizzy Berry, but those who like a harder drink will enjoy the Burnt Orange martini. Designed to be shared, the food focusses on seasonal ingredients, mostly cooked over fire. Start with hot, pillowy, wood-fired flatbread slathered in sesame brown butter, and cumin-heavy hummus with crunchy hazelnuts for dunking. Dishes change with the seasons but expect starters such as hot polenta chips topped with tartare-style raw beef with gherkins and a hint of truffle, finished with grated sheep’s cheese, and perfectly salted, spiced calamari with silky, preserved lemon aïoli. Larger dishes include meltingly soft miso aubergine with soured cream, crispy onions and refreshing pops of pomegranate; tender Galician octopus swimming in a rich, spicy harissa butter sauce with roasted peppers and potatoes; and giant, juicy prawns with punchy zhoug dressing. Extra hungry? Order a side of the crispy, skillet-baked potatoes coated in a garlic and herb cream and topped with cheese – you won’t regret it.
Interactive chef’s table experiences in an elegant Georgian townhouse
In a prime spot off the leafy market square of Henley-on-Thames, a converted Georgian townhouse hosts a food lover’s hideaway. Venture through the sophisticated The Grill restaurant to the back of the building, where two elegant chef’s table dining rooms host intricate, interactive dinners. In The Thames room, sit on velvet stools, strategically placed around a sparkling open kitchen, and watch chefs pipe cheese into gougères, pincer peanuts onto passion fruit chocolate desserts, and sprinkle puffed rice onto sizzling duck breasts. Young, talented chef Alex Payne kicks off his eight-course tasting menu with Oxford sourdough, made using a 120-year-old starter originally from Italy, providing a springy base for whipped, mousse-like beef fat and cultured Irish butter. Highlights of the menu include chicken liver parfait delicately sandwiched between crisp chicken skin in a savoury spin on the Jammie Dodger, and halibut cooked in beurre noisette served with a sesame-covered Jersey Royal potatoes, celeriac purée, sweet fennel jam and sea buckthorn gel. Treat yourself to the Dine & Stay package to prolong your experience in one of the seven elegant rooms, featuring restored marble fireplaces, industrial copper lamps and roll-top, claw-foot baths.
The Elder, Bath
Sophisticated wild game suppers and lavish Sunday roasts in an elegant Georgian terrace
A series of intimate, green-panelled dining rooms make up Bath’s new restaurant from wild game chef, Mike Robinson. Dark wood floors, framed hunting paintings and terracotta-coloured leather banquettes add a lavish cosiness to the converted Georgian terrace that also houses the city’s boutique Indigo Hotel. Dinners kick off with a complimentary rosemary- and sherry-infused venison tea served with crusty, warm granary bread. Highlights of the menu include venison tartare on a squidgy brown butter crumpet, cod cheeks in a creamy guanciale sauce with puffed rice and pea purée, and an elegant black bream fillet with crisp capers and Jersey Royals. Visit on a Sunday to tuck into a sophisticated roast of perfectly pink beef, a dinky copper dish of the crunchiest golden roasties and a yorkshire pudding filled with caramelised onions and white sauce.
Michelin-starred restaurant, Pensons, nestled in Netherwood Estate on the Herefordshire/Worcestershire border, has added two rooms to its courtyard garden, available to book as part of a dinner, bed and breakfast package. Head chef Chris Simpson farms, forages and grows his own ingredients on the estate to create a seasonal, five-course tasting menu that includes dishes such as cured salmon with sorrel sauce, lamb and Little Gem, and plaice with crab butter sauce. pensons.co.uk
James Snowdon (The Harwood Arms) and Lloyd Morse (Spring, Primeur, Magdalen) have opened the ‘ultimate neighbourhood restaurant’ in a former 20-th century bank in Edinburgh’s West End. The duo work with Scottish farmers to sustainably butcher local breeds and prepare nose-to-tail dishes such as Hebridean hogget with slow-cooked fennel and chard, whole grilled mackerel with white beans and Pernod, and porchetta, wild garlic and fennel sandwiches alongside the city’s Obadiah Coffee. Full review coming soon.
Jericho neighbourhood’s new restaurant and wine bar offers more than 400 wines, including 50 available by the glass, alongside Dominique Goltinger’s seasonal small plates that highlight locally foraged ingredients. Full review coming soon.
Pony Bistro, Bristol
Siblings Josh and Holly Eggleton have taken on a warehouse behind The Bristol Beer Factory taproom to open the latest iteration of their Michelin-starred pub, Pony & Trap. This striking space spotlights Chew Valley produce to serve contemporary twists on British bistro classics, including mushroom parfait with smoked pear chutney, cured monkfish with pickled garlic stem and petits pois, and Shepton Mallet rainbow trout with asparagus. Full review coming soon.
Reviews by Alex Crossley, Georgina Kiely, Anna Lawson, Dominic Martin, Ben Curtis