Brothers Édouard and André published their first restaurant guide in 1900. It was part of a plan to get more cars on the road. The brothers figured that if they could persuade people to branch out and discover new places to eat, then it would encourage everyone to drive more... and wear-down their tyres faster. So the Michelin Guide was born.
Over a century on, restaurant guides have never been more prevalent. The World’s 50 Best Restaurant wields huge power and influence, while the Michelin Guide now has a vast, global reach. They employ a troupe of professional eaters – gourmands who spend their working days chasing tip-offs on best places to eat, no matter how remote.
Dill, in downtown Reykjavik won Iceland’s first Michelin star last month. Then there is Fäviken – a 12-cover restaurant in the remote wilds of northern Sweden which currently holds two stars, and the Michelin-starred street food shack in Hong Kong selling chicken rice and noodles. Fans of The Netflix series, Chef’s Table, will be familiar with sense of longing to visit Francis Mallmann’s private Patagonian island where the Argentine chef develops fire-pit recipes, or travel to the Slovenian hills where Ana Roš uses local ingredients to create masterpieces.
The good news is that there are so many adventures to be had closer to home. Look beyond the London stalwarts, and familiar high street names, and you’ll discover that some of the best cooking is happening in Britain’s most unexpected nooks and crannies. It’s no coincidence that destination diners often crop-up in remote surroundings where the best ingredients can often be found – oysters, venison, mushrooms. Part of the adventure is tracking them down. You’ll reap the rewards.
Putting in a bit of work for your dinner always makes it taste better anyway!
You could drive an hour and a half from Glasgow ... but surely the best way to arrive at this lochside restaurant is by boat. Guests are invited to “drop anchor in the bay” before coming ashore to try chef Pam Brunton’s dishes. Start with a G&T (made using their own tonic cordial), before moving onto the dark-crusted sourdough with house-churned butter. Dishes are inspired by the surroundings – think Otterferry oysters, followed by halibut with brown shrimp. Combine top ingrednients with Brunton’s creativity and delicate touch and it’s little wonder this young restaurant was named best in Scotland by The Sunday Times.
Stracthlachlan, Strachur PA27 8BU
Travel to the Mendip Hills, and track down the Barley Wood Walled Garden – where you will find The Ethicurean. It’s little surprise that the Victorian surroundings have influenced the restaurant, which have taken the Victorian garden setting to heart, and shunned industrially produced in favour of age-old methods like preserving and fermentation. Far from feeling fusty, dishes feel fresh and are absolutely crammed with flavour – from pork belly with sauerkraut to a ‘Somerset Affogato’ (clotted cream ice cream, honeycomb and double espresso). A short stroll round the gardens afterwards, past the glass growing frames, orchards and beehives demonstrate why this restaurant is so inextricably linked with its location.
Barley Wood Walled Garden, Long Lane, Wrington, Bristol S40 5SA
Lewannick isn’t the picture-perfect part of Cornwall which tourists usually flock to. But those who have a nose for a good meal will have sniffed-out this stunning farmhouse, which launched late last summer. It’s run by chef Tom Adams (of Pitt Cue fame), and is surrounded by farmland, which home Adams’ herd of woolly mammoth-like Mangalista pigs. Guests are invited to settle into one of the six bedrooms, before meeting for a communal dinner, followed by a stunning breakfast the following morning ... where the Mangalista bacon is a real highlight – and makes it worth the trip in itself.
Coombeshead Farm Lewannick, Cornwall PL15 7QQ
5 MORE DESTINATION DINERS...
Sosban and the Old Butchers (Anglesey)
Lake Road Kitchen (Ambleside)
Cote du Nord (Sutherland)
The Company Shed (Mersea Island)
Haar (Hebridean pop-up)