The innovative UK restaurants that are worth travelling for

Fierce locavorism and an inventive spirit are the hallmarks of the UK’s latest crop of destination restaurants
Holm exterior
Ed Reeves

Linden Stores, Cheshire

Narrowboat devotees know the village of Audlem for the lock-side Shroppie Fly, one of the best watering holes on the Shropshire Union Canal. Now there’s another reason to dawdle. Chris Boustead (former chef at famous East London pub The Ten Bells) and Laura Christie (founder of Turkish-oriented Oklava in Shoreditch) originally opened Linden Stores in the capital, but decided to escape city life with their young son just before the pandemic, alighting here to be nearer their families. 

Small plates at Linden StoresLucas Smith

This cosy, teashop-sized space on the high street has become a showcase for local produce, Christie’s eye for interesting but affordable wines and Boustead’s relaxed, unfussy style of cooking. Ingredients such as heritage carrots take centre stage, tumbled with hung yogurt and prune puree; foraged wild garlic is used in an aioli for dipping plump croquettes of pea, mint and fettle (English feta); a crisp-skinned fillet of red mullet sits atop a slice of sourdough slathered in red-wine-marinated onion and carrot. Boustead also likes to bring childhood flavours from his Scarborough upbringing – hence the umami Bovril mayonnaise and gingery Yorkshire parkin, crowned with a bauble of rhubarb ice cream. A neighbourhood restaurant worth travelling for.

Address: Linden Stores, 3 Shropshire Street, Audlem, Crewe CW3 0AE

Lunar, Staffordshire

The village of Barlaston may seem like the dark side of the moon for London-based foodies, but it’s easily reachable: just ride the train to Stoke-on-Trent and turn right by the statue of Josiah Wedgwood. The pioneering 18th-century potter gathered with other eminent thinkers of the day at a supper club known as the Lunar Society, which lends its name to this new project from former Whatley Manor chef Niall Keating. Inside a warehouse-sized space on the Wedgwood estate, a giant moon rises over upcycled dining tables and ghostly ceramic moulds line the shelves, while a secret door swings open to reveal a turf-floored cocktail bar

Dining under the moon at Lunar7 Fifty

Keating grew up not far from here, and was determined to showcase his county’s overlooked farm produce, which he and head chef Craig Lunn finesse into Asian-inspired dishes every bit as delicate as the bone china they are served on (with the potters’ studio opposite, this is a rare example of kiln-to-table dining). Black pudding and quail’s egg are paired with kimchi and herb congee; miso sweetbreads are tender, toffee-ish nuggets; an egg custard is garlanded with crabmeat and spring peas; and, in a scene of pure tableside theatre, a chicken baked in Wedgwood clay is smashed open with a hammer and carved, spilling out treasured rice. A mould-breaking restaurant for this part of England.

Address: Lunar, Lunar World of Wedgwood, Barlaston, Stoke-on-Trent ST12 9ER 

Bridge Arms, Kent

Back in 2018, former Clove Club chef Daniel Smith and his pastry-chef wife Natasha took over Arts and Crafts pub the Fordwich Arms, drawing a whole new crowd to a tiny village near Canterbury that has barely seen buzz since the Middle Ages. Gone were the scampi and chips; in their place were whipped cod’s roe, venison dumplings and an ice-cream rendition of a Daim bar. It won a Michelin star, and a devoted following. 

Bridge Arms bar

Last year the couple repeated the trick a few miles away in their home village of Bridge, taking over a similarly inglenooky pub and winning a star within months of opening. This sequel is less formal than Fordwich – no tasting menu or bouches – but takes the same approach, gathering up local ingredients as rosy-cheeked as The Darling Buds of May – creating whimsical dishes that both surprise and reassure, drizzled with Kentish rapeseed and scattered with edible flowers. A jade-green pea mousse, studded with jellies and hazelnuts; a posy of crisp-skinned confit chicken wings, painstakingly deboned and served with rich roast chicken butter sauce; a pitch-perfect hunk of brill anchored by a crisp potato pavé. While you’re here, drop into The Pig at Bridge Place down the road for a drink, or ramble up Star Hill to Bourne Park, spotting buzzards, egrets and storks on the wing. A gastropub only in the most elevated sense of the word.

Address: The Bridge Arms, 53 High Street, Bridge, Canterbury CT4 5LA

Henrock, Cumbria

While Simon Rogan’s third Michelin star for L’Enclume was the big news of 2022, his other fine-dining restaurant in the Lake District still feels a little under the radar (and a lot easier to book). It opened not long before the pandemic hit, in Linthwaite House just above Windermere (the name refers to a rocky outcrop on the lake). While many ingredients are plucked from Rogan’s own farm in Cartmel, its menu ranges wider than L’Enclume’s determinedly British outlook, taking in influences from the chef’s travels. 

Henrock terrace above Windermere

Much of it is Asian inspired, simply because he “bloody loves Asian food”. There are deep-flavoured dishes such as miso-glazed aubergine and smoked vegetable dashi, and – something of a signature – Peking duck with roundels of celeriac and a date and gochujang croquette. With head chef Sam Fry in charge and Greek bartender Andreas Grammatikopoulos shaking up cocktails such as mastiha and marigold-infused gin, this is dazzling food in a hotel that feels like a grande dame without the glower – easy enough to pop in just for a fish-finger sandwich on the terrace, and a walk in the sculpture-filled gardens.

Address: Henrock, Linthwaite House Hotel, Crook Lane, Bowness-on-Windermere, Windermere LA23 3JA

Holm, Somerset

This decade may prove to be a turning point for the work-life balance of restaurateurs. Nicholas Balfe made his name with seasonal spots Salon, Levan and Larry’s, in Brixton and Peckham, but has swapped South London for South Somerset. Holm is a restaurant (with rooms opening in 2023), workspace and community garden set in and around a former Dad’s Army-style bank in the village of South Petherton. Merlin Labron-Johnson’s Osip, in nearby Bruton, is an obvious comparison. 

Kitchencounter seating at HolmEd Schofield

The restaurant bakes its own bread and grows some of its own produce, with the rest coming from nearby farms and dairies. “You just don’t get the same connection or immediacy in London,” says Balfe. His mantra of simple, seasonal food cooked well is best summed up in a lamb dish comprising Otter Valley hogget, Pitney Farm spring cabbage, anchovy and foraged wild garlic – matched to a glass of low-intervention Sicilian Frappato-Nero d’Avola. The crew know how to have fun, too, with co-director Mark Gurney as adept on the turntable as he is at pairing a sparkling perry from the Temperley orchard with a pear dessert. As with the team’s much-loved London restaurants, eating here is like joining in one big dinner party.

Address: Holm, 28 St James's Street, South Petherton TA13 5BW

Pensons, Worcestershire

It’s all about the soil and the terroir here. In this barn of a restaurant on the Netherwood Estate (literally a double-height barn, raw in brick and beam), you’ll see objects found in the fields over decades by ploughman Ivan Turner. Stone Age arrowheads, medieval tiles, Sixties toy soldiers, all creating a potted history of this rural enclave. Similarly, the menu is a snapshot of the region’s ingredients, many taken from the kitchen garden. Chris Simpson won a Green Michelin Star this year for sustainable dishes that quiver with freshness, such as cured trout with asparagus, pickled apple and a cereal crunch of sourdough crumbs. 

Pensons gardenBritt Willoughby Dyer

Ask for a mint tea and the waiter will nip outside to pluck leaves; pelargonium shoots are infused for cocktails. Patron Peta Darnley is evangelical about the region’s talents (“lots of people talk about local but not many are as hyper-local as us”), encouraging collaborations: the centrepiece basketware chandelier that twirls down like a fairground slide, the napkins woven in a farmyard mill a mile away, the ceramics fired on Shropshire’s Clee Hills. It’s how Britain may have looked had we ignored the Industrial Revolution and stuck to cottage industries instead. Two courtyard bedrooms opened last year, so you can wake up, inhale the country air and head for a walk through nearby woods to a boathouse. A tactile, multi-dimensional distillation of one of England’s overlooked corners.

Address: Pensons, Pensons Yard, Tenbury Wells WR15 8RT

Annwn, Pembrokeshire

After years working with Raymond Blanc at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons and in Michelin-star restaurants around Europe, Matt Powell took a breather. He moved to Pembrokeshire and started fishing bass from the rocks, attuning himself to the rhythm of the tides and seasons; then started taking people foraging, picking winberries, sea purslane and gorse flowers. If ever you were lost in the wilderness, Powell – gently spoken and able to conjure a meal from the shoreline – is the person you’d want to bump into. Last year he planted himself in a Victorian walled garden on the River Cleddau estuary, adjoining The Little Retreat campsite, and opened a 12-cover restaurant to showcase his almost folkloric knowledge. 

Dish of Limpet and the Littoral Zones at AnnwnMatt Powell

Lamb is cured in sea salt and herbs, and dried for 100 days; mallard seasoned with coriander-like sea plantain. Powell likes to pair ingredients that grow near one another, making oil from beech leaves to serve with chanterelles that sprout beneath the tree. If there’s a signature ingredient, it’s seaweed: gathered from storm-tossed beaches and turned into dishes such as The Littoral Zones (five different seaweeds and limpet mousse arranged on a bed of pebbles), one titled simply Kelp, dry-aged for a year and made into broth, a rockpool dish of truffle-like intensity. Seaweed crackers are dipped into a puree of Pacific oysters. This is food at its most meditative, amid a swirling landscape of water and sky.

Address: Annwan, The Old Potting Shed, Lawrenny, Kilgetty SA68 0PW

Ugly Butterfly, Cornwall

The floor-to-ceiling windows in the dining room here are like an IMAX screen, showing a continuous reel of Carbis Bay’s glorious sea, surf and sand. It’s these views that made the difference between Ugly Butterfly being a summer pop-up and a permanent fixture. “As soon as I drove down the hill from St Ives and saw the Blue Flag white sands and the water I thought, holy hell!” says chef Adam Handling, who had never even set foot in Cornwall before. Handling’s original Ugly Butterfly pop-up in Chelsea was cut short in lockdown but its ethos carried on.

Dining room at Ugly ButterflyJohn Hersey

“There’s no such thing as an ugly butterfly and the same goes for food offcuts,” he says. “We use the byproduct of something phenomenal and age it in something phenomenal, then serve it with no garnish.” At Carbis Bay, this means lobster blanched then aged for 24 hours in retired dairy cow fat and seared on the barbecue. Cod liver becomes a taramasalata dip; shucked oyster shells are infused in vodka for the Fal-Town Martini. Rules are strict: every ingredient has to be sourced from within Cornwall’s borders, and even the design is done in-house, reusing lights and furniture from previous projects. A seaside restaurant pushing sustainability to the next level.

Address: Ugly Butterfly Restaurant and Bar Cornwall, Carbis Bay Estate, Carbis Bay, Saint Ives TR26 2NP

Pine, Northumberland

Very few restaurants go from rumour to Michelin star as fast as Pine. The first whispers came during the pandemic winter, with news that chef Cal Byerley – one-time right-hand man of Simon Rogan and head pastry chef at Lake District favourite Forest Side – had bought an old cattle shed by Hadrian’s Wall with his partner Siân Buchan, a former assistant manager of Newcastle’s House of Tides. 

Ian Waller plating up at PineJoe Taylor

The timber-and-glass reality, opened last summer, has exceeded even the most feverish expectations. The main dining room – accessed via an industrial steel staircase beneath a roof space of dried wildflowers – is decorated in muted shades of grey, white and conifer green that echo the windblown Roman landscape seen through huge windows. The cooking has the same cool northern edge. Byerley – who grew up on a farm a few miles away, and still forages for woodruff, gooseberries and meadow-sweet – has created a 16-course love letter to his home turf. Dry-aged lamb comes with a lamb-fat muffin like the bread-and-dripping that once sustained Northumbrians, while the wild leek and Doddington cheese canelé is a dream version of the plate pies that remain a Saturday night staple round these parts. Pine received Northumberland’s second ever Michelin star, just nine months after opening – but the sense of local pride feels more important than any outside recognition.

Address: Pine, Vallum Farm, Military Road, East Wallhouses, Newcastle upon Tyne NE18 0LL

Killiecrankie House, Perthshire

Queen Victoria, famously, adored Pitlochry. Who wouldn’t? The Perthshire setting – at the soft, sepia-toned, south-eastern edge of the Highlands – is beyond dreamy. Whitewashed Killiecrankie House is a short drive north of the pretty town centre. Something of an institution, it has recently changed hands and been catapulted into the 21st century by its new owners, Tom and Matilda Tsappis – a chef and sommelier who left careers in finance and advertising to start a much-loved London supper club. 

Killiecrankie groundsAlex Baxter

There’s a smart little bar, a library-lounge overlooking the kitchen garden and five impeccably renovated bedrooms. The open-plan kitchen-dining room comfortably seats 18 – still small enough to feel convivial, but just large enough for self-involved couples to remain in their bubble. Tom and Matilda deliver – in person, with much engaging banter – a modern-Scottish tasting menu of great wit and finesse, with elegantly executed reinterpretations of familiar favourites: Moray Firth squid cooked in its own ink, for example, or dripping-fried porridge, a high-end homage to the humble porridge “piece”, only this time the intense beefiness derives from braised Highland wagyu tail, onion cream and wild garlic flowers. The introduction of still more unexpected, cosmopolitan flourishes – miso tablet, a black-pudding madeleine – seals the deal. Irresistible.

Address: Killiecrankie House, Killiecrankie House, Pitlochry PH16 5LG

Robin Wylde and Lilac, Dorset

It takes some nerve to open a great restaurant in Mark Hix’s backyard – the charming seaside town of Lyme Regis – but following the success of her pre-lockdown pop-up, local chef Harriet Mansell has opened two. At former pottery shop Robin Wylde, with its framed dried flowers and elegant forest-green banquettes, she deals out exquisite tasting menus that shift as rapidly as the Dorset sky. The spring version was heavy with flavours foraged from nearby beaches – pepper dulse, saltbush, dulse and rock samphire – while recent dishes included a sublime mushroom tart using lion’s manes and shiitakes from West Dorset suppliers Grown Up Mushrooms. 

House pickles and cured sardines at LilacMatt Austin

As well as wine pairings, there’s a soft pairing including shrubs and seasonal ferments such as lilac and woodruff kombucha. It was while looking for more space to store her impressive collection of wines that Mansell discovered the cellar down the street. Comfortably refurbished, Lilac is a more informal wine bar with a list that includes Familiar Faces and Perfect Strangers, the latter rare and organic wines. The small-plates menu spans nibbles and starters (coppa, split-pea hummus) through heftier servings (hake with sorrel cream) to British cheese and pudding. And the man coming in for a bite and a quick glass? Very like the handsome Mr Hix.

Address: Robin Wylde, Silver Street, Lyme Regis DT7 3HR; Cellar 57 - 58 Broad Street, Lyme Regis, Dorset, DT7 3QF