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The UK has lots to offer visitors, from castles to the countryside – but what about food? Admittedly, British grub has not always been the biggest tourist draw. However, times are changing, and its food scene is sizzling. From divine seafood in Brighton to award-winning sticky toffee pudding in Cartmel, here are the UK’s top foodie destinations.
The Scottish capital, which attracts countless foodie fans to its cobbled streets every year, is home to all manner of cuisines – but it’s best known for its haggis, cullen skink and cranachan. Try any of these eight restaurants for the city’s best haggis, the Albanach for top-notch cullen skink and the Whiski Bar and Restaurant for deliciously sweet cranachan. For a spot of fine dining, plan to visit the Radford family’s venture, Timberyard, which focusses on local produce and foraged ingredients, along with neo-bistro Aizle if you enjoy tucking into set menus.
The cutesy town of Woodstock, just beside Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire, boasts a slew of trendy eateries that attract residents and tourists from far-flung reaches. Many come here for the fantastic British and European fare, the best of which you’ll find at the Black Prince – go for the fish and chips – and the Feathers, for fine dining inside a 17th-century townhouse. However, Woodstock’s cuisine is not just limited to British and European; foodies fond of Italian dishes need to try La Galleria, an intimate space with a substantial menu.
If you can’t choose just one of these places for dinner, why not spread them over a couple of days and stay down the road at one of Oxford’s many great hotels?
No list of the top foodie destinations in the UK would be complete without this little gem in the Lake District. Cartmel is probably best known for its sticky toffee pudding, and you’ll want to visit the Cartmel Village Shop to get a taste of that award-winning deliciousness. If you want a proper meal, though, the village is home to Simon Rogan’s L’Enclume, the UK’s top restaurant according to the 2020 Good Food Guide. The heavenly nine-course tasting menu is popular for lunch, but if it’s a bit out of your price range, try the same chef’s one-time pet project, the Pig and Whistle, just down the road. Though Rogan has now parted ways with the restaurant, it remains a cosy and relaxed country bistro with a tasty menu of mostly British food, plus a surprise or two – try the spanakopita.
Once you and the family have eaten to your stomach’s content, stay the night at one of the Lake District’s best hotels, there are plenty of fantastic options nearby.
If you’re coming to the UK on holiday, odds are you will be coming into or out of London. The capital city offers foodies a wide variety of cuisines, but it’s particularly well known for its Sunday roasts and English breakfasts. The Red Lion & Sun is arguably the place to go for a roast, while you’ll want to try one of these spots for an exceptional English breakfast. For something a little more underground, Flesh & Buns is the latest offering from the Bone Daddies group and a great choice for those who love Asian-inspired dishes. Its take on the traditional Japanese izakaya joints brings drinking and eating together – Asian tapas if you will.
These offerings are, of course, only the tip of the iceberg in London, so plan to stay a night or two to really dig in. Book into one of the city’s top cheap hotels or, for a bit of pampering, one of these luxury hotels.
Brighton is a seafood lover’s paradise. And if you want the best, check out the Salt Room, a chic restaurant with sea views and a divine menu, from roasted scallops to barbecued monkfish tail. You also can’t go wrong with 64 Degrees. Chef and owner Michael Bremner’s tasting menu has impressive fish and meat selections, but the veggie dishes shouldn’t be overlooked either. For something more exotic, don’t miss the Chilli Pickle. This excellent Indian restaurant will spice up your life with thalis, biriyanis and more, all at reasonable prices.
Dining choices are abundant in this charming cathedral city in North Yorkshire. Food-wise, Ripon may be most famous for its treats, namely wilfra (or wilfrid) cakes – apple cakes that were traditionally made in Ripon for Wilfra Week (honouring St Wilfrid). While this tradition has fallen by the wayside, head to Wilfrid’s Cafe for some similarly delicious treats, such as apple pie topped with caramel. If you fancy a solid meal, visit the Old Deanery, where you can expect sumptuous British dishes and exotic takes on classic favourites in sparkling surroundings.
Once you’ve tried Ripon’s cuisine, take in the sights around the cathedral city, and spend a night in one of Yorkshire’s many charming boutique hotels.
The ancient market town of Ludlow in Shropshire, the “loveliest town in England” according to Sir John Betjeman, has become a popular UK foodie destination thanks in part to the annual Ludlow Food Festival. Taking place since 1995, it features top chefs and regional producers. Plan your visit around the festival if you can, but at any time of year, you can step into the Unicorn and enjoy great grub (try the stuffed peppers) beneath boughs of hops. Ludlowians are equally proud of their award-winning Thai restaurant Chang Thai, at which you can sample traditional delights and fusion foods.
After that, unwind and rest up in a tree dome, a cosy cottage or any of the other unique Airbnbs on offer in and around Ludlow.
Greater Manchester is home to some delectable local delicacies, perhaps most famously black pudding – typically associated with Bury – Eccles cakes and Manchester tarts. Try the first at the Chadwicks stall at the Bury Market, the second at the Grand Pacific and the third at Hansfords at the Arndale Food Market. For something a little spicier, you’re going to want to step into firm favourite Mughli. It’s Indian all dolled up, but with flavours that pack a punch. Forget your late-night post-club curry; this food deserves a night of its own.
Come to this quiet town for its Michelin-star restaurants. Heston Blumenthal, a self-taught three-Michelin-star chef, has been making waves since 1995 at the Fat Duck. Expect to be on a waiting list, but it’s worth it for the restaurant’s innovative, modern British cuisine. Also consider heading to Blumenthal’s other scheme, the one-Michelin-star Hind’s Head; you’ve got try Heston’s Eton Mess while here. For something a little less upmarket, the Crown at Bray is another reputable establishment covering pub classics in a beautiful dining room; settle down to some steak and bone marrow in front of a roaring fire.
Bray is only 45 minutes on the train from Paddington Station, so a trip here should be on the itinerary if you’re staying in a London hotel.
Christina Collins contributed additional reporting to this article.