Over the last two decades or so, the reputation of British cuisine has improved massively. A generation of chefs influenced by the best of continental Europe has used British ingredients to create a resurgence of traditional British cooking techniques that is complemented by a fresh and innovative approach.
When it comes to identifying the top British restaurant currently, then The Fat Duck in Bray in Berkshire consistently tops polls and surveys. Under the control of chef Heston Blumenthal, whose scientific cookery methods are now famous, this restaurant continues to produce high-quality, innovative food.
It has three Michelin stars and many happy diners have emerged from this restaurant feeling as if they have enjoyed the meal of a lifetime. The experiences here are often strange and somewhat unnerving at first, but everyone eventually comes out having enjoyed themselves.
The tasting menu at the Fat Duck is a particularly interesting experience, with delights such as snail porridge and a dish based on the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party making their way on to the menu. However, although Blumenthal’s restaurant currently scores highly, there are many other British eateries which are beginning to challenge his top spot.
Liverpool is a city that has benefitted from a huge regeneration project over the past decade, with the Liverpool One shopping centre and a raft of hotels in Liverpool city centre having popped up recently. Along with this, the standard of restaurants has shot through the roof over the last few years. If you are looking for tasty British cuisine using locally sourced ingredients, then Simply Heathcotes is the place to eat in the city. It is located in the Beetham Plaza in a striking granite and glass building. The Lancashire lamb is superb, while chef Paul Heathcote’s famous Bury black pudding is an absolute treat of texture and flavour.
Also in the North of England, Kendells in Leeds is developing a reputation for great French-themed dining. There is an open-plan kitchen where you can see the chefs at work and the menu is heavily influenced by French bistro cooking. The decor is relaxed and slightly rustic and the feel overall is of somewhere that you might find by chance in a sleepy French village. It’s an excellent fusion of Yorkshire hospitality and Gallic flavours.
A contrast to this can be found in Cumbria, at a restaurant called L’Enclume, where Simon Rogan continues to show his flair for precision, innovation and wondrous pleasure in the ongoing possibilities of fine dining. Harmony and focus remain Rogan’s key concepts and the venue enjoys a marvellous setting in a medieval village in the Lake District. With no menu, the chefs create dishes according to what produce is available at that particular time, creating truly spontaneous food. With many
The Restaurant Sat Bains, in Nottingham in the East Midlands of England, is also a place where innovation rules the day, but in a slightly more scientific and precise way. Chef Sat Bains uses precision techniques and complex methods to produce his stunning food. Duck muesli is among the dishes here and each dish is graded with colours according to the dominant flavours you will find in it.
Gordon Ramsay has become one of the most famous names in British cuisine, with his big, bold, modern French flavours sending him to a position of global media fame. However, the chef at Gordon Ramsay, Royal Hospital Road, London is Clare Smyth.
Many critics have observed that Smyth might actually handle Ramsay’s recipes better than the man himself, while the waiting staff work in well-drilled precision patterns. Try the roasted pigeon for a real treat.
Nathan Outlaw is a chef from Cornwall who has begun to develop a fine reputation. Working from the Restaurant Nathan Outlaw in Rock, Cornwall, he has a huge passion for seafood cookery which is reflected in his menus, which make full use of the fruits of the Cornish seas.
The Good Food Guide of 2011 made this venue the best fish restaurant in the UK and anyone who loves seafood cooked in innovative ways which emphasise their natural flavours should head here.
Hibiscus, in Maddox Street near Oxford Circus in London, is another restaurant with a French chef. Claude Bosi came to England in 1997 but his homeland continues to massively influence the dishes on offer here. He is a native of Lyon and the techniques of his home city combine with the flavours of British produce to offer bold yet precise dishes in a relaxed atmosphere.
If you are looking for something that merges British produce with Italian technique and tradition, then Aqua Italian in Bath is a great choice. It’s located in Walcott Street and authentic Italian tastes and flavours are served in a hospitable atmosphere. The seared tuna salad and the smoked chicken and asparagus are especially recommended. If you fancy sampling the dishes of Aqua Italian, there are plenty of Bath hotels to choose from, suiting all budgets.
Back in London, the Pollen Street Social, where Jason Atherton is the chef, continues to impress with its very urban blend of bold flavours and a contemporary vibe. Both customers and reviewers have been impressed with what Atherton’s venue can offer, with the efficient service often highlighted as a real positive.
The old jokes about British cuisine no longer really apply. This list is far from comprehensive but gives an idea of the kind of quality that visitors can now find in Great Britain. Using global influences and local produce, it is no lie to say that some of the world’s finest chefs are now producing some of the world’s finest food in the United Kingdom.