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Bray, Berkshire
Photograph: Chris Lawrence Travel / Shutterstock.com

7 hidden foodie destinations in the UK

These unassuming towns and villages are punching well above their weight, with experimental menus and world-class ingredients

Written by
Emma Vince
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If you thought that only big cities get the swish restaurant openings and edgiest chefs, think again. Several of the UK’s most unassuming towns and villages punch well above their weight at plating up a dining experience to remember, with experimental menus, world-class ingredients and fine-dining frills.

With celebrated chefs setting up shop in their local neighbourhoods – and with access to the freshest ingredients offered by more rural locations – you can find flourishing foodie scenes in blink-and-you’ll-miss-’em towns.

What with so many people considering holidaying in the UK this year, these alternative destinations are a great way for gourmands to plan an itinerary around some of the country’s lesser-known areas – while guaranteeing a slap-up meal every night.

From market towns with Michelin stars to tiny medieval villages dishing up big flavours, we’ve turned the spotlight on seven of the UK’s best-kept foodie secrets that are well worth seeking out.

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Hidden foodie destinations in the UK

Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk
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1. Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk

The historic market town of Bury St Edmunds is home to Suffolk’s one and only Michelin star. Pea Porridge is part of Bury’s rich history – the cottages that form the restaurant date back to 1820 and it’s named after the old town green that once stood opposite. The daily-changing menu is anything but traditional, though. Its produce-driven approach combines local ingredients with flavours from North Africa, the Middle East and the Mediterranean, with dishes like Suffolk wild rabbit kibbeh and a Basque-style cheesecake. For a less rustic vibe, head to Maison Bleue for French fine dining with crisp white tablecloths, impeccably dressed waiters and a wine list so impressive it scooped the Michelin Guide Sommelier Award last year.

North Berwick, East Lothian
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2. North Berwick, East Lothian

A short train journey east of Edinburgh delivers you to the seaside town of North Berwick. It’s attracted day-trippers for decades thanks to its iconic seabirds and sandy beaches, but now you can combine a day at the coast with a day of eating very well. Start with a trip to Steampunk Coffee for the finest flat white in town, then follow your nose one street over to pick up a fresh loaf at Bostock Bakery. For lunch, the Herringbone is a crowd-pleaser, while the Lobster Shack offers the freshest catch of the day in an informal setting right on the harbour. For dinner, drive down the road to Gullane to the Bonnie Badger where chef Tom Kitchin has transformed a rustic coaching inn. The price-to-quality ratio of his seasonal Scottish cuisine is so good that the Michelin Guide awarded it a  ‘Bib Gourmand’ this year.

📍The best things to do in North Berwick

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Bruton, Somerset
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3. Bruton, Somerset

For such a dinky village in the middle of nowhere, Bruton punches above its weight in both the art and culinary worlds. The Hauser & Wirth gallery draws in a creative crowd and Roth Bar & Grill feeds them. Set in an old cow shed, the grill is half true to its rustic roots – its popular Wagyu X Burger is made with beef raised on the farm – and half a ‘salon-style’ art exhibition featuring contemporary artists. Other Bruton restaurants of note include Osip, which was awarded a Michelin star this year for its farm-to-table cuisine. Working with whatever’s in season and harvested that morning from its local allotments, the staff have done away with menus and instead ask visitors to trust they’ll serve up something delish.

📍The best things to do in Bruton

Bray, Berkshire
Photograph: Chris Lawrence Travel / Shutterstock.com

4. Bray, Berkshire

To someone passing through, Bray looks like any other quaint parish town. But it has a secret: It’s home to two of the UK’s three-Michelin-starred restaurants. Stellar reputations aside, the two couldn’t be more different. One of the longest-starred restaurants in the UK, The Waterside Inn offers fine-yet-unpretentious dining on the banks of the Thames. The menu may be French – think crispy frogs’ legs with basil agnolotti – but the setting is quintessentially British, with weeping willows and swans sailing past. For something completely different, Heston Blumenthal’s The Fat Duck is one for more experimental foodies. The Fat Duck turns 25 this year and to celebrate you can book tickets for the retrospective ‘anthology menu’ where each seasonal ‘volume’ features some of Heston’s most original dishes.

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Deal, Kent
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5. Deal, Kent

Whitstable’s culinary revival is no secret, but a little further along the coast, new kid on the block Deal has been much quieter about its appetite for cool new restaurants. The Pop-up Café started life as a temporary arrangement but its all-day brunch sandwich with fresh sourdough was so well received that it’s now a permanent fixture, despite its name. Being so close to the continent, it’s no surprise that French food makes a big appearance, too. The Frog & Scot’s menu changes daily but offers the best of both its namesake countries with dishes like pig’s head and haggis terrine and stonebass, beurre blanc and parisenne potatoes. If you’re in Deal on Sunday evening, slip down a passageway off the High Street to Victuals & Co. Each week, it runs a ‘Raid the Larder’ event, where chefs make up dishes on the spot to use up leftover ingredients from the previous week’s menu.

📍The best things to do in Deal

Aberystwyth, Ceredigion
Photograph: Milosz Maslanka / Shutterstock.com

6. Aberystwyth, Ceredigion

If the last time you visited Aberystwyth was to see your mate who went to uni there, then you’re missing out on a whole other scene. SY23 recently put Aberystwyth on the culinary map when it was awarded a Michelin star (and Michelin’s Opening of the Year Award) for its ten-course menu featuring foraged, pickled and fermented ingredients. But the quaint seaside town has always had loads of independent restaurants. Mediterranean café Medina is a great example with a menu filled with fresh mezze, kebabs and salads. Wine lovers should head to Ultracomida for its huge range of Spanish wines and deli-based menu. This little space started out in Aberystwyth back in 2001 with a small seating area in a cellar and has since opened in several other locations, including a brand-new Vinoteca y Dispensa that launched in Cardiff this summer.

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Cartmel, Cumbria
Photograph: Peter Moulton / Shutterstock.com

7. Cartmel, Cumbria

As of this year, this teeny medieval village in rural Cumbria became home to the first northern restaurant with three Michelin stars. Many of L’Enclume’s ‘truly traceable’, hyperlocal ingredients are harvested from chef Simon Rogan’s nearby 12-acre farm, although a few might leave you furtively Googling before you order (Red Orache? Diana radish? Marigold salt?) Those with a sweet tooth might also be interested in Cartmel’s most famous export. Twenty years ago, the top-secret recipe for the Cartmel Sticky Toffee Pudding was born in the village shop. If you can’t justify a trip to the Lakes to grab one, you’ll find the famous Cartmel-branded puddings on the shelves in Fortnum & Mason, Selfridges and other fancy stores.

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