The handsome Warwickshire town of Leamington Spa grew in the early 19th century as a resort for the wealthy infirm who came to take the waters at the elegant pump rooms. There’s lots of Regency architecture to admire in the town; and plenty of excellent restaurants too, showcasing British contemporary cuisine, and styles from further afield. Here’s our list of ten of the best.
Bistro, French, $$$
Oscars, Warwickshire | Courtesy of Oscar's
Oscar’s may look small and unassuming but it is one of the best spots for food in Leamington. The bistro has received excellent write-ups from the Michelin Guide, and was awarded four stars out of five in the prestigious Harden’s Guide. Serving up classic French food, Oscar’s sits on Chandos Street in the middle of town. It’s one of the Coventry Telegraph’s ten best places to eat in Warwickshire, and has also received excellent reviews for the food in the national and local press. On the menu you’ll find dishes like field mushrooms roasted in garlic and rosemary on brioche, moules marinières, steak frites, and côte du boeuf with sauce béarnaise.
La Coppola, Warwickshire | Courtesy of TH Photography - The Mallory Court Hotel
La Coppola is situated on Regent Street in Leamington and serves up high-quality Italian fare. Chef Fabio Giacalone brings over plenty of ingredients from Sicily, Campania, and Parma and offers an à la carte menu with bruschetta and antipasti to start such as Campania mozzarella, prosciutto with melon, fresh sardines and calamari. You can then move onto main courses of pizza, pasts, risotto or dishes like veal with parmesan and aubergine, pan-fired chicken with Italian sausage and sun-dried tomatoes in white wine and pepper sauce.
Elma, serves up highly-rated Turkish cuisine with a touch of Greek influence in there too. You can order meat platters to share and lots of dishes are prepared on the traditional charcoal grill. The platters include Mediterranean meats with mozzarella and olives or a mix of mezzes, then there are stuffed vine leaves and main courses like kereviz guvec, a chicken stew with saffron and orange, and kuzu pirzola, lamb chops marinated and served with chips and rice. And if you’re not feeling adventurous you can have a fillet or sirloin steak with gorgonzola or red peppercorn sauce, it will be equally delicious.
The Fox and Vivian, Warwickshire | Courtesy of TH Photography - The Mallory Court Hotel
The Fox and Vivian is a traditional pub on Clarendon Avenue in Leamington, offering consistently excellent food and gaining fantastic feedback. It’s extremely popular so book ahead to guarantee yourself the chance to sample the food and the craft beers available from the bar. The menu is full of interesting burgers: steak burgers with melted cheddar, or blue cheese and field mushrooms, and goat’s cheese and caramelized onion. Or you can opt for a full rack of BBQ ribs or a half chicken off the chargrill.
The Stag at Offchurch, Warwickshire | Courtesy of The Mallory Court Hotel
Just outside Leamington is the village of Offchurch, once a stronghold of King Offa of Mercia in the Anglo-Saxon age. The Stag is a gastro pub beneath a traditional thatched roof, with a reputation for great food. Chef Nigel Brown trained under Raymond Blanc and since opening The Stag in 2008 has won the National Food Pub of the Year in The Publican magazine. The menu is Anglo-French in feel and takes advantage of lots of fine Warwickshire produce. The dishes include twice baked Berkswell cheese soufflé, roasted wood pigeon, and steaks sourced from Aubrey Allen’s butchers on Warwick Street in the town.
Kayal, Warwickshire | Courtesy of TH Photography - The Mallory Court Hotel
Rather than serving up typical Indian cuisine, Kayal quite specifically offers the seafood recipes of the Kerala region of India and has been featured on TheHairy Bikers cooking program. Dishes are influenced by Portuguese colonialism, traditional spices, and the wonderful seafood available in Kerala. However seasoned a curry lover you are you’ll find something new to try here, like the Njandu curry of crab cooked in the shell with spices or Tilapia Pollichathu cooked in a spice paste and wrapped in banana leaves before steaming.
In the basement of a handsome Georgian townhouse on Dormer Place is Queans, described by Harden’s Guide as ‘Great British food at its best’. And when Matthew Norman, The Telegraph‘s restaurant critic came here in 2012 he awarded Queans five stars out of five. So you can expect an exceptional meal, with a choice of homemade ice-creams to follow. Chef and proprietor Laura Hamilton does a great job behind the scenes running the restaurant and sourcing fresh, local ingredients. The menu’s plates include fillet steak on a bed of horseradish and spinach with honey and mustard gravy, and roasted tenderloin of lamb with sweet potato and red pepper mash and rosemary gravy.
The Moorings at Myton, Warwickshire | Courtesy of The Mallory Court Hotel
The Moorings has built a reputation for good food and drink. The proof is in the pudding: The Moorings won the Pub of the Year Award for 2012 at the Eagle Star Awards. You’ll find this excellent pub on the banks of the Grand Union Canal in Myton, just outside the centre of Leamington. Among the options for dinner are roasted pigeon breast, charcuterie of Suffolk salami, chicken liver parfait, and Suffolk chorizo; and delicious Cotswold sausages with onion marmalade, red wine jus and bacon butter.
Restaurant 23 on Hamilton Terrace is an excellent destination for fine dining. With 3 AA Rosettes, it’s got a reputation for serving some of the best food in the county. Chef and proprietor Peter Knibb trained in the three Michelin star kitchens of Chez Nico in London, and at Leamington’s Mallory Court Hotel. There’s a tasting menu available for you to sample the culinary wizardry of Peter Knibb, or à la carte dishes like Lincolnshire smoked eel with beetroot, apple and horseradish, or loin of Balmoral venison with glazed ham, red wine pears and chestnuts.
Just south of Leamington in the Warwickshire countryside is the Mallory Court Hotel. There’s the brasserie or dining room to choose from but you’ll need to book ahead in both cases. The dining room has three AA Rosettes, and the brasserie has two, choose the dining room for a more formal feel, and the brasserie for something more relaxed. Both have won praise from Michelin for their contemporary, seasonal British and European cuisine. To give a sample of the dining room menu, there are dishes like glazed pork cheeks, roasted artichokes, and Berkswell cheese to start; then saddle of fallow deer with black garlic, risotto, and deer ragout fritter for mains.