With London eternally stealing the gastronomic spotlight, it’s easy to miss the array of foodie gems that are scattered across the UK. So just in case you’re lucky enough to escape the capital and taste the clean air of the provinces, we have compiled a list of our top ten Michelin-starred restaurants outside of London. Whether you’re as far south as Cornwall’s Port Isaac, or as northerly as Perth and Kinross, there’s no need to lower your fine-dining standards – The Handbook has found the best of Britain’s culinary offerings, nationwide.
The Top Pick
As the only other 3-starred restaurant outside of London (the other being the famed Fat Duck), we had high expectations of Bray’s The Waterside Inn. Luckily enough for Alain Roux, The Waterside Inn lives up to its stellar rep. We were absolutely spoilt for choice in the range of dishes on offer – menus change four times a year with the seasons and there are 9 to choose from: Le Menu Gastronomique, Le Menu Exceptionnel, Les Hors D’Oeuvre, Les Salades et Légumes en Fête, Les Poissons, Les Viandes, Les Compléments De Garnitures, Les Fromages and Les Desserts. Le Menu Gastronomique is the jewel in the crown of the Waterside Inn, and most impressively its three courses are decided upon every morning, based on the freshest ingredients Roux can source – meaning depending on when you visit, you are certain to have a completely unique gastronomical experience.
The Hot New Entry
A 2017 addition to the UK’s Britain’s Michelin-starred restaurants, this year is the first time The Raby Hunt has been awarded its two star status. With big boots to fill given the quality of the other restaurants at the top of their game, The Raby Hunt stands unintimidated as the culinary star of the North East. Indeed, it is the North East’s as first ever starred restaurant – quite the victory. Set in the small hamlet of Summerhouse, County Durham, The Raby Hunt is a thoroughly modern restaurant whose coolest feature has emerged from its recent renovation – enormous glass walls now enclose all the drama of the kitchen, which guests can watch from the comfort of their seats. Let’s just hope chef James Close steers clear of any Hell’s Kitchen action now he’s got a paying audience!
The Returning Victor
A trusty favourite, Heston Blumenthal’s The Fat Duck in Berkshire retained its 3-star rating in this year’s listings. Ever imaginative, diners are presented not with a menu but an itinerary of their time at the restaurant, inspired by childhood memory, nostalgia and adventure. Charting the excitement of the Sunday day out, Heston has got as carried away as usual – even manipulating the feeling of passing time with lighting designed to simulate the movement from day to night. While the extravagant pricing has garnered a little bit of criticism (see The Telegraph’s exasperated – ‘Tell me, Heston – can any meal really be worth £255?’), above all others, this is the restaurant with the name and credentials to carry it off. Plus, imagine the likes on that instagram of the ‘Counting Sheep’ dish – a meringue served on a pillow that appears to float on a cloud.
The Art Lover's Destination
Leed’s The Man Behind the Curtain was awarded a Michelin-star this year, though it would probably feel more at home in Shoreditch than its current West Yorkshire home – with both the setting and menu inspired by contemporary art. Artwork by the edgy Schoph Schophfield as well as sculptures by Gareth Griffiths adorn all corners of the restaurant, and though certain elements of the restaurant might veer occasionally into the pretentious, they are saved by the pure excitement of the venue, and the seating amongst Griffith’s vibrant pieces. Presentation of the food is unusual to say the least, and it is clear that each delicately created item on the menu is a statement in itself. Notable items include ‘hand massaged octopus’, ‘foie gras donut’, and one item listed on the menu just as ‘emancipation’. You get the idea.
Restaurant Nathan Outlaw sits at the top of Port Isaac and could have very well been chosen for its particularly stunning view as it could its food. Indeed the great expanse of rugged Cornish coastline visible from Nathan Outlaw’s windows adds to the very special place this restaurant takes up on the Michelin-star ratings (it has two, by the way). It is without question, however, that the real star of this coastal show is the seafood menu. Caught sustainably – and daily, in small day boats off the Cornish coast – features like the ginger and chilli lobster and crab and kohlrabi exemplify the honest but exceptional skill of Nathan Outlaw. The four-course tasting menu almost makes the five-hour drive from London to Cornwall bearable… almost.
The Best of Scotland
While it may be only in our humble opinion that Andrew Fairlie’s is the best restaurant in Scotland (it totally is), it’s certainly the nation’s only two-star culinary venue. Located within the glamorous Gleneagles hotel in Perthshire, Andrew Fairlie offers our choice of Michelin-Starred dining if you find yourself north of the border. The menu is inspired by the partnership of French fine-dining with the authentic flavours of Andrew Fairlie’s Scottish location and heritage. Our top recommendation – and the best demo of this French-Scotch fusion – is the signature smoked lobster, the intense smoke infusion the result of five hour smoking over whisky barrel chips. Expect Highland game in the Autumn, and Scottish shellfish in the winter, which, if you’re lucky enough to visit during snowfall, provides the perfect accompaniment to the winter wonderland that Gleneagles becomes.
The Wine-Lovers' Seventh Heaven
Gidleigh Park, proud receiver two Michelin-stars, is host to Michael Wignall – an acclaimed chef who has won Michelin-stars in every kitchen he has headed since being awarded his first star in 1993. Pretty impressive. With this in mind, it is hard to visit the restaurant expecting anything less than excellence – and Gidleigh Park does not disappoint. The real wonder of Gidleigh Park is the relationship between its food and its wine, and this is hardly a surprise given it plays host to one of the best collections of wine in the British Isles. The wine cellar at Gidleigh Park accommodates over 1,300 bins and 13,000 bottles from around the world, and is internationally renowned. If you, like us, are feeling a little intimidated by its fifty-page wine menu, don’t worry – there is an expert sommelier on hand to help pair your food with your drink perfectly.
The Best of Seasonal Dining
Raymond Blanc’s Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons is nestled in the Oxfordshire countryside, and takes full advantage of the gentle slopes and green spaces of the county. This is a meal you can feel good about – not only the result of delicious food, but because of Blanc’s admirable commitment to sustainability. The two-acre surrounding kitchen garden grows ninety types of vegetable and seventy varieties of herb, as well as an orchard of apples, pears and quinces all providing for Blanc’s menus. This love of seasonality ensures not only dishes inspired by the natural flavours of organic produce, but means freshness is guaranteed – you can literally see your dinner growing outside of the restaurant windows. With two Michelin-stars and a cooking school for budding chefs, Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons may not just be home to one of Britain’s working chefs – but the beginnings of future culinary stars.
The Perfect Sunday Dinner
Morston Hall, a gorgeous Norfolk country house hotel dating as far back as the 17th century, is also home to a Michelin-star winning restaurant of the same name. Charming and intimate, it’s as if the walk into Morston Hall sees the pace of life visibly slow down to walking speed – you can almost forget about the hellish commute waiting for you on Monday. Lovely. Unsurprisingly, it is for this reason that Morston Hall stands as the perfect spot for Sunday dining; the homely setting provides the perfect backdrop to courses like herb crusted lamb, potato terrine, roast cauliflower and white wine jus. At £40pp, Morston Hall’s Sunday dinner menu provides the ideal way to experience Michelin-star dining with the extravagance that you might expect replaced by an informal atmosphere, and reasonable pricing.