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Hare and Hounds
Photograph: Courtesy Hannah PattersonHare and Hounds

The 15 best restaurants in the UK

Looking for great stuff to chow down on right now? You’re in the right place: this is our ultimate ranking of the best restaurants in the UK

Huw Oliver
Edited by
Huw Oliver
Written by
Lucas Oakeley
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There are good restaurants to be found just about everywhere you look. Travel 30 minutes from your front door and I guarantee you’ll stumble on at least one brilliant mom-and-pop operation quietly going about its business, serving honest and delicious plates of food. Making a list like this – a round-up of the very best restaurants in the UK – is difficult because there are simply too many to choose from. There are good spots dotted all across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland working tirelessly to create dishes that will, yes, fill you up but also provide you with napkin-stained memories that you can carry with you for the rest of your life. This list is about those places. These aren’t the 15 best restaurants in the UK, but they are 15 of the best restaurants in the UK. Eat up. 

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Best restaurants in the UK

Manchester

Natural wine and seasonal small plates? You know the drill by now. Yes, Erst is one of those uber-cool restaurants where you can spend £8 on a plate that carries nothing but a neat row of nude anchovies but it’s undoubtedly the urtext restaurant of that genre. Those Cantabrian anchovies are excellently sourced and devilishly salty while other ever-changing inventive plates (think mussels in escabeche with marinda tomatoes, lardo and sourdough) and grilled flatbreads round off a menu of hits from head chef Patrick Withington. The wine list is excellent, too.

📍The best restaurants in Manchester

London

Chet Sharma’s BiBi is one of the most exciting places to eat in London right now. The restaurant brands itself as ‘contemporary Indian’ but, considering the artistry and ingenuity of dishes like Wookey Hole cheese papad and Kentish pea dahi puri, I’d say it’s selling itself short. There’s some extremely clever cooking going on here but none of that thinking and tinkering with the classics gets in the way of the most important thing of all: the deliciousness of the dishes that come out of the kitchen. Prop yourself up at the bar for front-row tickets to the show.

📍The best restaurants in London

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Bristol

Every neighbourhood needs a brilliant and ambitious restaurant. Sonny Stores is Southville’s. The chalkboard menu changes daily but you can always expect it to be packed to the rafters with delicious-sounding (and tasting) plates of Italian-inspired food. Fresh pasta, pizzettas and cicccheti-style snacks are all made in-house using high-quality produce and cooked with a judicious amount of restraint. Husband-and-wife duo Mary Glynn and Pegs Quinn have created something truly special here. Save room for the tiramisu.

📍The best restaurants in Bristol

Eglwys Fach, Ceredigion

Ynyshir is an experience. It is expensive, intimidating and they don’t cater to any dietary requirements. Don’t like it? Don’t go. That’s chef-patron Gareth Ward’s bullish approach and it’s one that’s as honest as it is rebarbative. Ynyshir is not for everyone but those that get it, get it. The multi-course tasting menu is Japanese-inflected and features some incredible produce cooked with extreme precision and gusto. This riot of a restaurant offers you the chance to lose yourself in a cavalcade of food that doesn’t pull any punches. It might just be the most fun you’ll ever have in a fine-dining setting.

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Aberthin, South Glamorgan

Some of the best meals in the UK are to be had at proper pubs that care about the food that comes out of their kitchens. The cooks at the Hare & Hounds in Aberthin care more than just about anyone. The furthest thing you could imagine from a poncy gastropub, this is still very much a pub-pub that’s frequented by plenty of locals and dog walkers. It just so happens that they’ve also got a Michelin Bib Gourmand. All of the food – from the freshly baked sourdough bread and cultured butter to the supple fresh pasta – is made from scratch in the kitchen. You can tell. Because it’s excellent.

Cairndow, Argyll and Bute

Looking out over the shore of Loch Fyne, Inver is a shining little jewel in the crown of the Scottish dining scene. It doesn’t matter where you live in the world, making the trek to this beatific restaurant comes highly recommended. Boasting shellfish sourced from nearby lochs, the menu at Inver is unsurprisingly seafood-heavy and even more unsurprisingly immaculate in its execution. Expect to eat a range of thoughtfully composed dishes that taste just as good as they look. Visit Inver if you’re after a modern reimagining of – and loving ode to – traditional Scottish cuisine.

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Stockport, Cheshire

Where The Light Gets In is a restaurant that’s all about openness. The kitchen and dining occupy the same open space (which was, in its previous life, a coffee warehouse) and there’s a similar transparency in the fact they don’t even offer you a choice of dishes. The seemingly simple – yet deceptively intricate – plates of food have nothing to hide and showcase the best ingredients from the farmers and fishermen that chef/owner Sam Buckley has spent years building an intimate relationship with. They operate with the intent of having a low or positive impact on the environment and that forward-thinking approach shines through in the dishes that come out of the pass. Sustainability has never tasted so good.

London

Is a BYOB Thai joint in Leytonstone one of the best restaurants in the whole of the UK? Yes. The specials blackboard is the stuff of legend and chef-patron Sirichai Kularbwong has capably manned the hobs at Singburi as it has transitioned from a cult favourite to one of London’s hottest and hardest-to-get reservations. The food is pretty hot, too. Portions of gutsy moo krob fly out of the kitchen, combining crispy, unctuous pork belly with a slug of fresh chillies and an aromatic waft of basil to lasso it all together. Singburi is a restaurant that innately understands how flavour works. They know when to hold ‘em and balance a dish with a touch of sweetness or bitterness and, crucially, when to fold ‘em and throw that balance completely out the window for a welcome onslaught of heat.

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Holywood, County Down

Good restaurants will feed you. Great restaurants will feed you and give you a dining experience that you’ll daydream about at your office desk for years to come. Noble is a bijou place located in the heart of County Down that doles out sturdy food and warm service – the staff will make you feel like you’re a part of the family the moment that you walk through the door. Leaving here without a smile on your face, and a belly full of buttery fish, is pretty much impossible. Make sure to get involved with the sharply curated wine list, too.

Launceston, Cornwall

Look up the word ‘bucolic’ in the dictionary and know what you’ll find? A definition of the word bucolic. Which is exactly what Coombeshead Farm is. This guesthouse and working farm is plonked in the midst of rural Cornwall and offers a host of keenly priced set menus that show off the best of the farm’s lovely produce. Conceived by chefs Tom Adams and April Bloomfield, it’s perhaps the purest indictment of farm-to-table eating in the UK. Well worth a trip and an overnight stay.

📍The best restaurants in Cornwall

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Glasgow

As small and unassuming as it might seem, The Real Wan is home to some serious southwest Chinese cooking. Chef-owner Lea Wu Hassan grew up in the city of Guiyang and has brought a taste of her home with her to Glasgow through bowls of geda chunky noodles, potsticker dumplings and street food-style fried mussels. Surrounded by a tangle of chilli, garlic and ginger, those plump mussels are a beautiful example of wok hei and real testament to Lea’s skills.

📍The best restaurants in Glasgow

London

Putting a modern spin on a classic dish can be dangerous territory; the heart and soul of a dish can sometimes get lost in the process of modernising something that’s so entrenched in tradition and nostalgia. The chefs at Chishuru, however, make it look easy. Specialising in contemporary West African cuisine, cooked using old-school recipes and techniques, Joké Bakare's Brixton restaurant is a must-visit. The £48 set menu is packed with everything from rib-sticking portions of gbegiri soup to yaji-coated bavette. It’s a whirlwind of a menu that’ll leave you lost for words and have you immediately pawing at your phone to make another reservation.

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Margate, Kent

Keep things simple, and do them well. That’s the philosophy at Angela’s in Margate. This small restaurant has a tight focus that pays off in dividends – set yourself at one of their sturdy tables and prepare to fill up with screamingly fresh seafood and simple, seasonal vegetable-based dishes. The menu changes daily based on what the team can get fresh from the boats that morning, and it’s rare that you’ll see anything written on the board that doesn’t make your heart race and your mouth water. Monkfish. Hake. Dover sole. British fish is given the respect it deserves at Angela’s.

London

You can’t book this Bermondsey restaurant (which means coming for an early dinner to avoid a big queue is recommended) but it’s easily one of the best places to get a glimpse of where the food scene in London is at right now. Expect British-ish cooking, served on small-ish plates, that makes the most of seasonal ingredients. An order that comprises at least one (or all three) of whatever fritter, salad, and tart they’ve got on is de rigueur when visiting 40 Maltby but it’s hard to go wrong with any of their dishes, to be honest. The wine list is one of the deftest in the city and showcases some seriously good producers.

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Edinburgh

Taking over the space previously held by The Little Chartroom, Roberta Hall McCarron’s Eleanore is an ode to good taste. Both a restaurant and wine bar, Eleanore is somewhere you’ll feel just as comfortable coming for a glass and some snacks before dinner as you would sitting down with a bottle and some big plates for the full shebang. The menu leans Scottish but the kitchen isn’t afraid to deploy ingredients such as ‘nduja, shaoxing, tofu and Thai basil like depth charges to get the results they want. If this is a glimpse towards the future of Scottish dining, we’re all in for a treat.

📍The best restaurants in Edinburgh

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