Foodies traditionally flock to London to check out the best new chefs and restaurateurs. But by doing so they’re missing a trick. The number of Michelin-starred establishments outside the capital has been growing rapidly and there are now 97 restaurants holding the coveted accolade dotted around the country – two of which have been awarded the maximum three stars.
In Cumbria, which has a population not much larger than the borough of Croydon, there are seven restaurants with Michelin stars to their name. Follow our guide to the best gastronomic experiences the rest of Britain has to offer.
The Red Lion, Wiltshire
A thatched cottage next to a babbling brook: The Red Lion looks as though it has been plucked straight out of the pages of Snow White – not the Michelin Guide. It has none of the white tablecloths and incomprehensible menus you’d expect from an haute cuisine establishment.
Instead it focuses on dishing out platefuls of great food that you would want to eat time and time again, from an incredibly moorish blue cheese and broccoli soup hiding sweet gems of pickled potato to a zingy lemon tart buckling under mountains of fluffy meringue and creme fraiche sorbet.
There’s a standard a la carte menu or you can go for the “take it or leave it” option, where the chef prepares a number of courses based on whatever he feels like making that day. Both offer excellent value for money. Expect to pay less than £50 for three courses off the menu.
Most importantly, don’t forget to pick up a tub of the restaurant’s home-made ice cream to take home. The raspberry and wasabi sorbet is no less than a stroke of genius.
The super friendly staff will be more than willing to give a tour of the kitchen garden and pig sty outside so you can see first-hand where most of your meal came from.
The Whitebrook, Monmouth
Plonked just over the Welsh border right in the middle of the Wye Valley and with its nearest city around 30 miles away back in England, the Whitebook is not the easiest restaurant to reach. However it is certainly worth the journey.
At few other restaurants will you spy the head chef foraging in the hedgerows as you pull up to the driveway. Chris Harrod, the chef in question, combines wild ingredients growing locally with produce from the best farmers and butchers in the surrounding Wye Valley and Brecon Beacons.
The presentation is exquisite, with flowers and herbs used to add artistic flourishes as well as to introduce diners to surprising new flavours such as the chestnut-like taste of lesser celandine and sweet but spicy mugwort.
Stand-out dishes include the different cuts of slow-cooked suckling pig, which melt away in your mouth, and braised fennel with Monmouthshire truffle.
The tasting dinner menu typically costs £95 without drinks but for a real treat go for the £170 option where The Whitebrook’s sommelier guides you through his six expertly chosen wine pairings.
The restaurant also has eight rooms which overlook the surrounding woodland and is well located for exploring the local area. Tintern Abbey is seven miles away and Clearwell Caves just six.
Restaurant Interlude, Horsham
Pulling up to the entrance of this fine dining spot – housed within the Italianate mansion of Leonardslee Estate – you’re greeted by a 10ft fountain in the shape of a tree and real life wallabies hopping along the driveway. However this is just the start of the wild and wonderful experiences to come.
The best tasting menus tell a story. Interlude’s has between 14 and 19 chapters (or courses) that tell different tales of the estate’s farmers and foragers – as well as its history and owners – depending on the season.
Delights include four types of roast deer, all from Leonardslee, in a game broth and treacle tart topped with wild cherry. There’s a hint of South African cuisine in there too, with dishes such as biltong carrot and egg with rooibos foam.
The estate’s owner, Zimbabwean-British businesswoman Penny Streeter, owns vineyards both in South Africa and three miles down the road in Sussex, which help to stock Interlude’s astonishing store of around 100 fine wines.
The restaurant is set within a Grade I listed garden, overflowing with rhododendrons and magnolias, plus a 240-acre woodland and vineyard, and is just a 10-minute drive from Horsham.
The Garden Experience menu is 14 courses for £95 while the Estate Experience is 19 for £130.
The Black Swan, Yorkshire
From its appearance, The Black Swan looks like any nice gastropub you might find on the edge of the Yorkshire Moors. But don’t let the cosy fireplaces and antique paraphernalia trick you.
Its tasting menu changes regularly and is a far cry from your typical pub grub. Dishes are always highly creative and experimental – ranging from langoustine in a lemon verbena bisque to ice cream made from woodruff, a sweet-tasting plant foraged locally.
Many of the ingredients are hand-picked from the restaurant’s kitchen garden or harvested from the surrounding 160-acre farm which head chef Tommy Banks’ family has lived on for centuries. In 2013 Banks became one of the youngest ever chefs to be awarded a Michelin star at the age of just 24.
The restaurant, housed inside a 16th century inn, also has nine bedrooms in a nearby stable block, available for b&b guests.
Those who don’t live locally can enjoy Banks’ menu from home, as The Black Swan has recently launched a service delivering ready-made food boxes to your door. Two three-course meals each serving two people costs £75.
Moor Hall, Lancashire
This two-starred establishment sits midway between Liverpool and Stockport.
Housed inside a grand manor house which dates back to Henry VIII’s era, the restaurant itself is surprisingly modern. It has skew-whiff glass bubbles for lamps and a floor-to-ceiling glass frontage offering impressive views onto a lake.
Head chef Mark Birchall is a local Lancashire lad and tries to capture the local landscape with his cooking, using ingredients grown on the estate’s five acre plot where possible.
The food is modern too, and quite theatrical. Offcuts of logs appear with ribbons of house-cured charcuterie, followed by mackerel dusted with petals and wild blackberries under a halo of muscovado sugar work.
Moor Hall was named the best restaurant in Britain in the 2019 National Restaurant Awards and has seven luxurious guest bedrooms. The eight course tasting menu costs £155.
Isle of Eriska, Argyll and Bute
Commanding on its own tidal island on the west coast of Scotland, few restaurants have as spectacular a location as Isle of Eriska.
It is part of a 19th century baronial mansion where roaring fires and tempting cocktail and whiskey cabinets greet you at every turn. The island estate, which stretches across 300 acres, is inhabited not just by well-heeled hotel guests but also highland cattle, wild badgers, grey seas and even the odd golden eagle or two. Before their meal, diners must cross by foot from the mainland via a wooden bridge.
Given its seaside location, the seafood is naturally a must-try. The smoked salmon with horseradish cream is understated but sublime. Don’t miss trying the cheese trolley either, which spills over with small production British cheeses.
Three courses from the a la carte menu will set you back £75 including tea, coffee and petit fours.
Guests have no shortage of entertainment at hand, with a croquet lawn, clay pigeon shooting, a golf course and spa.