The best UK budget vs blowout restaurants

Riley’s Fish Shack, Tynemouth

There is always a queue to eat the fresh day-boat fish cooked over coals and served in dishes such as salt hake with caper and fennel salad or whole red mullet with salsa verde at this beachside fave. In the summer, tables, deck chairs and parasols extend the dining area out from the shack onto the sands. Plates from £14;


Seabird, London

Seabird’s swanky rooftop dining space is seafood-focussed, from the longest oyster list (10 varieties with fizz pairings) to the raw bar and Med-inspired plates such as Cornish cod escabeche and a fantastic house cava. The Sunday brunch menu includes king crab and caviar bikini with chives and crème fraîche, all with great views and music. Mains from £25;

Seabird's lavish terrace overlooking London

Catch, Weymouth

Located in the harbour’s handsome Grade II-listed former fish market, Catch is truly ingredient-led. Chef Mike Naidoo’s team writes the eight-course tasting menu around the incredible seafood bought from local day-boats by its sister business, fishmonger Weyfish. Dorset wines are available to pair with Portland crab dumpling broth, scallop ceviche or roast brill. Dinner from £65;

Italian restaurants


Sarto, Leeds

This is a classy, retro-modern space, serving neat snacks (wild garlic arancini) and fresh pasta dishes such as bucatini with caramelised celeriac purée, capers and thyme, or campanelle with a pork and ’nduja ragu. Pasta from £12.50;

Three arancini at Sarto restaurant in Leeds

Sonny Stores, Bristol

Husband-and-wife team Mary Glynn and Pegs Quinn’s casual neighbourhood restaurant serves a daily changing menu – Pegs’ River Café pedigree shows in dishes such as courgette cappellacci with pecorino sardo, and dover sole with broad beans sott’olio. Mains from £12;


Luca, London

This stylish Britalian – seasonal UK produce, Italian cooking – has quietly honed its craft, this year garnering a Michelin star. You can eat à la carte (mains from £38). But taking the four-course chef’s choice menu on the gorgeous covered terrace – lingering over dishes such as Hebridean lamb with caponata, aubergine, Borlotti beans and goat’s curd – is a sweet summer treat. Chef’s menu £85;

Sparrow Italia, London

From downtown LA to Mayfair, this plush modern Italian incorporates Med twists into its smart menu. Set over three floors with a secluded courtyard on the first, the menu presents luxe versions of classics including A5 wagyu carpaccio with pickled mushrooms and truffle, and lobster linguine with aqua pazza. Pasta from £22;

The plush modern Italian interior at Sparrow, featuring large tree pots situated in the middle of the room

Wine-focussed restaurants


Pairings, York

A build-your-own wine adventure, alongside good-quality cheeses, meats and deli platters. Opt for various wine flights exploring all points from rosés to orange wines. Share a bottle or dip into a large number of wines by the glass or carafe. Several of Pairings’ rarer, pricier wines are served in cost-effective 3 x 50ml flights. Flights from £14, platters from £15.50;

Bistro Freddie, London

Founder of Crispin, Dominic Hamdy’s new opening, Bistro Freddie, has a focus on small and independent producers and growers. Dishes such as fried skate wing with curry sauce and a hearty made-for-sharing rabbit, bacon and apple cider pie, £45 for two people, complement an all-French wine list curated by head of wine Alexandra Price.


Bossa, London

Chef Alberto Landgraf has brought his vision of high-end authentic Brazilian cooking from Rio to Mayfair with punchy sharing plates such as seafood moqueca. But wine is equally the star here with one of South America’s best sommeliers, Lais Aoke, ready to guide diners through the perfect pairing. Small plates from £27;

Seafood moqueca, a dish served at authentic Brazilian restaurant Bossa

Core, London

Exceptional food is guaranteed at Clare Smyth’s three-Michelin-star Core. Its wine collection, overseen by master sommelier Gareth Ferreira, is similarly exciting. Guidance is offered to newer wine drinkers, while connoisseurs love exploring Core’s 600-plus wines – a list that, in February, won the top UK prize at the Star Wine List awards. From £155pp;

Vegan and vegetarian restaurants


Budget 123V Bakery, London

A vegan pioneer at his eponymous Soho restaurant, chef Alexis Gauthier recently opened a nearby diffusion venue, housing a “fun, unbuttoned” restaurant, Studio Gauthier, and bakery-café 123V. The latter serves vibrant vegan sushi, brunch dishes and plant-based burgers. Mains from £14;

Tendril, London

Chef Rishim Sachdeva’s mostly vegan menu is a masterclass in considered, delicate veg cooking. Dishes are vegan unless otherwise specified (dairy occasionally features) and sing with incredible balance. Small plates include crispy beetroot bao and roast squash tostada, and his vegan tiramisu is a must order. Small plates from £7.50;

A man pouring a sauce over a dish at Tendril, which showcases a mostly vegan menu


Vanderlyle, Cambridge

Quietly, without making a thing of it, chef Alex Rushmer is doing something deliciously revolutionary. In dishes of fried mooli, monk’s beard and seaweed sauce, or lentil ragu and maitake mushrooms with hasselback potato and bordelaise sauce, his plant-led tasting menus render meat’s absence irrelevant. Tasting menu £75pp;

Canapes served at Vanderlyle, Cambridge

Edit, London

This hyper-seasonal restaurant has a real commitment to sustainability with a zero-waste menu that uses ingredients from small farms, producers and foragers. The Daily Edit tasting menu changes to suit what is available. Clever cooking, including a risotto made with British Carlin peas, oat cream and oyster mushrooms, elevates dishes beyond the ordinary. Tasting menu £55pp;

Korean restaurants


Bunsik, Manchester

A viral sensation in London, Bunsik’s Korean-style corn dogs have now landed in Piccadilly Gardens. These crispy, deep-fried skewers of battered, crumbed chicken sausage (with the option of added mozzarella and diced fries) share a menu with Korean street food faves, including ddukbokki – tubular rice cakes in a spicy sauce – and fried chicken. From £4;

Korean dinner party, London

A homage to LA’s Koreatown, this buzzy restaurant from Ana Gonçalves and Zijun Meng (the duo behind TĀTĀ Eatery and TÓU) mashes up Korean, US, Mexican and Japanese influences in a delicious fusion. Chimaek Mondays gets you Korean fried chicken and a beer for £12. From £4;

A pair of hands loading up a a taco at Korean Dinner Party


Sollip, London

A highly personal restaurant where chef-owners, Woongchul Park and Bomee Ki, create exquisite, Michelin-starred dishes of broadly French-European origin but incorporating the Korean ingredients they grew up with. Think lamb with a haggis and doenjang sauce (fermented soybean paste) or courgette flower, dubu (tofu), sesame and pine nut. Tasting menu £135pp;

Sollip owners, Woongchul Park and Bomee Ki

Chung’dam, London

Bringing traditional Korean technique into a modern setting, Chung’dam has plenty of craft, from the BBQ featuring prime cuts cooked expertly tableside (including chateaubriand filet mignon and wagyu A3-5) to the beautifully made wooden pyeonbaek steam boxes which are layered up with meat, veggies, rice and seafood. BBQ from £12.50;

A selection of kimchi small plates at Chung'dam

Japanese restaurants


Matsudai Ramen, Cardiff

Hip, cheerful, industrial-edged canteen where ramen obsessive, James Chant, perfects his broths and noodles, and their interplay with toppings such as braised pork belly and soy-marinated ajitama eggs. Ramen from £12;

Sushi on Jones, London

With omakase menu prices often heading into triple figures, it’s refreshing that this London outpost of a New York fave brings it in for £48 for 12 courses. It’s an intimate space with only eight seats at a counter, so you can watch as head sushi chef Mattia Aranini and his team prepare and explain each course. Tasting menu £48;

A pair of hands assembling a sushi dish at Sushi on Jones


Koyn, London

A contemporary, high-end take on the traditional Japanese izakaya in a two-storey space. The calm upstairs room sees sushi masters man the counter making classics such as sliced yellowtail with truffle soy, and the lower ground has the added theatre of the robata grill and inventive plates including hojicha-smoked lamb cutlets with kuromame miso. Mains from £24.50;

Taku, London

The capital is currently enthralled by the intimacy and theatre of omakase dining; where, in sleekly designed counter-dining cocoons, highly skilled chefs prepare seasonal tasting menus for attentive diners. Chef Takuya Watanabe bagged a Michelin star within four months of opening this Mayfair 16-seater. Using mainly British produce, he is creating some of the city’s most elegant, flavourful hot seafood dishes and sushi. Tasting menu from £160pp;

West African restaurants


Chuku’s, London

Buzzy Tottenham fave, whose sharing plates of, say, quinoa jollof, salted caramel and kuli-kuli spiced wings, or suya-seasoned meatballs put a tasty, modish twist on traditional Nigerian cooking. Its brunch menu, £35 for three dishes and three cocktails, is very good value. Plates from £5;

Chishuru, London

After a summer of pop-up action at the Globe Tavern in Borough Market with a bargain £30 set lunch menu, Adjoké ‘Joké’ Bakare moves her permanent new site in late summer 2023 – keep your eyes peeled for the announcement at

Adjoké ‘Joké’ Bakare standing outside Chishuru's shopfront


Akoko, London

Executive chef Ayo Adeyemi’s tasting menu is rooted in tradition but sharply executed with great imaginative flair. Dishes may include tatale (Ghanaian plantain pancakes) with cashew cream and caviar, or moi-moi (a steamed pudding of puréed black-eyed beans with onions, peppers and stock) served with the Afro-Brazilian seafood and coconut milk sauce, vatapá. Tasting menu £120;

Hand pouring sauce over a roasted lobster dish

Ikoyi, london

Jeremy Chan and Iré Hassan-Odukale’s second iteration of their highly acclaimed West African fine-dining restaurant at 180 The Strand. The spice-focussed menu has evolved to new heights and cooking techniques courtesy of a much bigger space, while keeping the theme more than ever on micro-seasonal British ingredients. Tasting menu £300;

Modern British restaurants


Harvest, London

Chef Jesse Dunford Wood (Parlour, Six Portland Road) puts a fun, populist spin on seasonal British food. His latest venue, Harvest, offers a good-value lunch (three courses, £20) with mains including mackerel, fried potatoes, sorrel and apple ketchup, while at dinner, family sharing dishes for three or four include a whole roast chicken, chips and salad for £60. Mains from £19;

Interiors at Harvest, feautring green leather booths, tall plant pots and smart wooden chairs

Hereford Road, London

A neighbourhood favourite since 2007, Tom Pemberton’s (formerly of St John Food and Wine) simple but innovative cooking keeps the crowds coming back to this relaxed space in Notting Hill. The set lunch menu is an absolute steal with dishes such as beetroot, sorrel and boiled egg, and grilled mackerel, cucumber and kohlrabi. From £16.50 for two courses;


20 Berkeley, London

A celebration of all things British from the English manor house styling of the dining spaces to the producers and artisans (Dorset snails, Ealing burrata, Shropshire iberico) namechecked on the seasonally changing menu. Big sharing ‘chargers’ like the slow-grilled whole turbot delivered for the whole table create extra drama. Mains from £26;

Newlyn John Dory dish at 20 Berkeley

Killiecrankie House, Perthshire

Both playful and cerebral, this restaurant-with-rooms celebrates the Scottish larder with contemporary vigour. From a venison tartare taco, to Irn Bru-infused wine gums, chef Tom Tsappis’s tasting menu is diverse and delicious. His take on that historic snack of set, sliced porridge (here, filled with 16-hour-braised wagyu oxtail, fried in wagyu dripping and topped with pickled walnut purée and Isle of Mull cheddar) is a tantalising must-eat dish. Tasting menu £105;

Mexican restaurants


Barrio comida, Durham

Raised in California and surrounded by five-star Mexican food, chef-owner, Shaun Hurrell, is fastidious. His taqueria presses its own tortillas daily. Do not miss the slow-braised birria or spit-roast pork tacos. From £4.50;

The interiors at taqueria restaurant Barrio, including a row of bright red tables and chairs with leafy plants

Tacos Padre, London

Irish-Spanish chef Nick Fitzgerald worked at Pujol in Mexico City before setting up a stall in the hustle of Borough Market to serve tacos, including beef short-rib suadero with aged beef fat and morita salsa, chicken asado and cauliflower al pastor with guajillo adobo – and an increasingly famous salsa macha every day until 6pm. Tacos from £4;


Los Mochis, London

This new restaurant pioneers Baja-Nihon cuisine (a blend of Mexican and Japanese) with a mix of ceviche, sashimi and tiraditos on offer. The taco menu is a great place to experiment, with 18 variations including the signature miso cod, and pato carnitas with teriyaki duck. Add a tequila or mezcal flight from the huge selection. Tacos from £15;

Interiors at Los Mochis, including a colourful mural, banquette and fairy lights and greenery on the ceiling

Kol, London

In his ingenious use of stellar UK produce to recreate authentic Mexican flavours in London, chef-owner Santiago Lastra is redefining what is possible. Certain items (heritage corns, rare cacao) are imported to support artisan Mexican producers, but tasting menu dishes – say, langoustine taco with smoked chilli and sea buckthorn – are predominantly conjured from the British landscape. Tasting menu £145pp;

Langoustine Taco at Kol, London

Indian restaurants


Curry Leaf Café, Brighton

In its craft beer selection, brunch dishes, lunch thalis and street food dishes (from loaded masala fries to fried chicken brioche sandwiches), Curry Leaf blends serious spice knowledge with fresh ideas. Plates from £5.50;

Thali Tray, Newcastle

Previously a street food stall, Thali Tray now has a prime spot in the city centre’s Bealim House (also the home of Newcastle Gin Co distillery). The traditional metal trays are loaded with regional curries, fresh naan or puri, cardamom lemon rice and pickles, and there’s also an Indian-inspired brunch offering. Add a bespoke South Indian coconut gin for the full experience. Trays from £13.95;

A metal tray loaded with regional curries, fresh naan, puri, cardamom lemon rice and pickles


Bibi, London

BiBi is informed by generations of familial Indian cooking, led by chef Chet Sharma, who has worked in some ambitious kitchens (Moor Hall, Mugaritz, L’Enclume). Exceptional UK and Indian ingredients underpin a tasting menu and lunch-only à la carte that consistently excel in dishes such as aged Swaledale lamb barra kebab or Devon scallop in a sauce inspired by the lemonade, nimbu pani. Dinner tasting menu £125pp;

A small plate served in a shell at Bibi in London

Empire Empire, London

The Indian disco era of the 1970s inspired this new opening from Harneet Baweja (Gunpowder). Eat traditional dishes such as bihari boti kebab, tandoori broccoli and chicken malai tikka from the open grill serenaded by 70s Bollywood bangers from the bespoke jukebox. For the ultimate in luxe dining order the showstopping lobster dum biryani to share, £42 – complete with the crustacean’s head emerging from the pastry lid.

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