The Food and Travel team has traversed the UK to find the restaurants that give you the most bang for your buck. Whichever you book, satisfaction comes served as standard
FOREST SIDE - £35 - FOUR COURSES GRASMERE
Head chef at Forest Side and a Cumbrian lad through and through, Kevin Tickle is fiercely proud of his county’s natural larder. The restaurant launched as part of the hotel with the same name in February 2016, making it the newest on our list. However, it’s wasted no time in establishing itself: within seven months it had earned its first Michelin star. Get in there quickly before word spreads, especially while it still has its top-value four-course lunch menu for just £35.
You’ll spot the influence of eight years working at two-star L’Enclume in Tickle’s food. He has an ethos rooted in provenance and seasonality, with 90 per cent of the produce is sourced from within ten miles. The majority of this comes from the estate’s walled garden, home to more than 125 varieties of vegetables and herbs. Tickle uses the surrounding 17ha of woodland as stomping ground for his foraged ingredients.
The dining room is best viewed in daytime as the floor-to- ceiling windows flood the room with natural light. Dishes are plated with hints of Nordic style on rough-hewn local pottery. The set lunch ‘bait menu’ will hook you in with plates like sourdough crumpet topped with sweet beetroot and wood sorrel, as well as Goosnargh duck with garden kale, parsnip and hen of the wood mushrooms. A list of predominately organic and biodynamic wines from artisan producers is the ideal pairing.
There are also cocktails made with foraged ingredients. Try a forager made with pineapple weed-infused vodka, homemade ginger beer and lime. With a menu that changes frequently to match what’s in season and available, there will always be a reason to come back
LIMA - £25 - THREE COURSES LONDON
We all know that a finding a quality three-course meal in the centre of London for less than £30 is tough but the hunt is over. To eat at Virgilio Martínez’s restaurant is to be transported from the muted heritage tones of Fitzrovia into the colourful heights of Peru’s capital city. His Central restaurant there is one of the top five in the world, so it’s fitting that his is the first and only Peruvian dining room in the UK to hold a Michelin star.
From Monday through Friday you can go for a leisurely lunch or early supper and drift away into the modern world of new Peruvian cuisine with its medley of cultural influences and intriguing ingredients like native potatoes and corn. All this makes for some unique, flavoursome and pretty plates.
The set menu is a culinary tour of Martínez’s home country that is wonderfully executed by head chef and lifelong friend Robert Ortiz. Martínez’s focus is on indigenous ingredients that traverse Peru’s starkly different ecosystems, spanning from the Amazon to the low-lying Pacific coast via the dizzying altitudes of the Andes. Start with ceviche, the national dish. Here it’s served with a twist that sees grains such as quinoa soaked in tiger’s milk playing bedfellow to rocoto chilli, purple potato, avocado and crazy pea. For mains, expect another stalwart of the Peruvian dining scene – duck escabeche with yellow chilli and red amaranth flowers. The crispy octopus with corn purée, spring onion and celery is reason enough to make a second visit. Super-sweet alfajores, a sandwich-like confection made with honey, cinnamon and almonds then filled with dulce de leche (caramel) ice cream makes for a toothachingly decadent end.
THE WHITEBROOK - £29 - THREE COURSES WALES
This elegant restaurant overlooks the lush Wye Valley in Wales. You’ll taste the best of the area in almost every plate, with the focus on foraged herbs like pennywort, bitter cress and lesser celandine. Chef-owner Chris Harrod trained under Raymond Blanc at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons and bagged a Michelin star just 11 months after opening. Expect French technique combined with premium Welsh ingredients. On his lunch menu, salmon confit is flavoured with elderflower, while raspberry mousse is served with crisp herb sorbet. Four of its eight bedrooms have just been redesigned with king-size beds and wet rooms. At less than £30 this is one of the best-value options on our list but if you’re feeling extra thrifty, head to the website which features excellent last-minute offers. At the time of printing, you could nab a deal for £100 for an overnight stay, dinner and breakfast.
AT LOCH LOMOND - £32 - THREE COURSES ARGYLL
This Edinburgh-born chef has been at the forefront of Scottish cuisine since 1999 and his two restaurants hold a Michelin star each. His Loch Lomond site was first awarded the accolade in 2011 and has held it ever since.
Trained by Marc Meneau and both Albert and Michel Roux Jr, it’s no surprise that classical French techniques provide the backbone to his work. However, he is careful not to overload dishes with unnecessary elements. Instead, he picks one locally sourced ingredient as the focus and builds up textures and seasoning around it.
Available at lunchtime on Saturdays and Sundays, the excellent-value set menu draws inspiration from the wild beauty of the highlands. Ceviche of trout from coastal Loch Etive is served alongside rich avocado cream and sharp pearls of pickled onion, while a roasted saddle of hare comes from nearby Burnsford Farm. Don’t miss the terrine of highland game with warming ginger jelly.
The restaurant was recently given a facelift by designer Ian Smith, who has transformed it into a cool, calm backdrop from which you can admire the majesty of Loch and Ben Lomond. Chairs the colour of sea moss contribute to a contemporary feel but other than that the palette is as muted as Rannoch Moor on a misty morning. The restaurant is part of Cameron House, a five-star boutique hotel, which is a lovely base for exploring the area.
PURNELL’S - £35 - THREE COURSES BIRMINGHAM
The UK’s second city is finally catching up with the rest of Britain in terms of quality restaurants. Leading the charge is local lad Glynn Purnell, whose flagship site sits in an upmarket shopping area near the cathedral and has held a Michelin star since 2009. His plates exude the wit for which he’s becoming known from his television appearances and adhere to his ironic philosophy of ‘Brummie tapas’. The lunch menu varies with the seasons, though at this time of year expect cured sea trout with pickled beetroot, black pepper cream and barley, followed by glazed pigs cheeks with creamed celeriac, golden raisin, grape gel and celery salad. In terms of restaurant design, Purnell’s won’t win any awards but there’s enough variety on the menu to keep you coming back for more time and again.
SOCIAL EATING HOUSE - £26.50 - THREE COURSES LONDON
Jason Atherton sure knows how to treat the Michelin men: in the UK alone, three of his eight restaurants have been awarded a star. Social Eating House, one of our favourite Soho haunts, is perhaps the most unstuffy top-end restaurant we’ve eaten in. The convivial vibe is modern-day-Brooklyn-meets-belle- époque-Paris-bordello: think moody lighting, weathered red leather banquettes and on-trend exposed brick walls lurking behind a small entrance that’s cloaked by heavy velvet. The Blind Pig bar upstairs makes itself known only by a protruding snout on the door and optician’s sign, adding to the intrigue.
Awarded a star in 2014, its best-kept secret is the lunch, available from Monday to Saturday. Chef-patron Paul Hood’s food is along the contemporary bistro line so expect simple yet vibrant plates full of gutsy flavours. Start with salted cod brandade and black pudding followed by the satisfying pork jowl, which is cooked slowly with bitter spices and served with grilled hispi, mustard and apple. The mac ’n’ cheese with girolles is also a winner. As for pudding, hazelnut and pear financier, please.
GYMKHANA - £30 - THREE COURSES LONDON
The latest arrival on London’s Michel-Indian scene won its star a year after opening, receiving a wave of rave reviews from all of the UK’s eminent restaurant critics. Themed like an Indian gymkhana (a high-end sports and social club), it’s up there with the glitziest curry houses you’re ever likely to try – and the cuisine stands up to its setting. The lunch menu defines itself as three courses, though is bolstered by poppadoms and chutneys at the start and a selection of sides with main course. Five options are available for starter and main but our advice would be to go for the duck egg bhurji with lobster, followed by the kid goat keema. Both are delicately spiced with enough punch to remind you exactly the style of cuisine you’re eating.
THE ELEPHANT - £19.95 - THREE COURSES TORQUAY
For anyone travelling to the English Riviera looking to bypass a twee Basil Fawlty experience, head straight to Simon Hulstone’s excellent modern British restaurant. It’s the best value on our list and the clean-lined interior matches the immaculate plating. Regardless of the time of year you come (though we’d certainly suggest leaving a booking until spring – Torquay isn’t known for its bucolic charm in winter) you’ll always get the best in South-West produce. Be it crispy local lamb shoulder with broccoli and courgette purée or Brixham hake, celeriac and horseradish ‘risotto’, you’re in for a treat. Sides do come in as £3.50 extras but they are well worth the spend.
THE WOODSPEEN - £30 - THREE COURSES NEWBURY
In just over two years, John Campbell and his team have transformed a run-down country pub into an effortlessly sleek restaurant serving standout cuisine. This may be the fourth Michelin star he’s garnered throughout his career but the Liverpudlian chef opened The Woodspeen because he wanted to go back to cooking ‘wonderfully simple, seasonal dishes’. The fact the Michelin men can’t get enough of him is testament to the creativity that creeps into every dish. Don’t miss pheasant breast with caramelised sprouts and bacon (Campbell often goes shooting with the local butcher, so game is always a good order here) and creamy cauliflower cheese risotto served with pickled walnut dressing. 01635 265 070, thewoodspeen.com
THE ROYAL OAK - £30 - THREE COURSES BRAY
You’ll already be familiar of this corner of Berkshire for its gastronomic greatness. Home to two three-star Michelin restaurants – The Fat Duck and The Waterside Inn – Bray is well and truly on the map but this quaint village is home to plenty more that offer great value and quality food. The Royal Oak has held a star for seven years and its lunch menu is the approachable face of fine dining. Expect simple pub classics given a refined twist with British ingredients. Opt for guinea fowl and ham hock pie served with buttery mash or roast rump of lamb with shallots and garlic purée. This is the sort of place where you can mop up every morsel on your plate and no one will raise an eyelid as it’s got the same atmosphere you’d find at any quality local.
This article was published on 16th March 2017 so certain details may not be up to date.