Chutney Mary, London, SW1
New meets old in this stylish St James’s restaurant, which combines classic and modern decor. The smart doorman sets the tone in this stylish venue, as does the glittering Pukka Bar for cocktails. But the main dining room is the real jewel in the crown, complete with mirrored columns and soft lighting. The creative Indian cuisine has inspiring combinations with luxurious accents and a neat presentation. Baked venison samosas, tamarind and date chutney can precede halibut tikka with dill and green chili. A dark chocolate ‘bomb’ filled with milk chocolate mousse and passion fruit sauce is an expert dessert.
Farmyard, Norwich, Norfolk
The philosophy of this modern and minimalist restaurant in the heart of the city is quite simple: find the very best Norfolk produce and serve it in a relaxed bistro setting. From the sourdough to the handmade butter, everything is made from scratch, with meat, fish and vegetables cooked over charcoal for added flavour. From the daily changing menu, a tender piece of pork belly with Chinese XO sauce and BBQ onions can lead to roast leg of lamb with celeriac, mushrooms and fenugreek. Finish with a homemade chocolate bar with miso caramel, candied peanuts and milk sorbet.
KOL Restaurant, London, W1
This hot-spot new Mexican feels different from dining anywhere else in the capital. Warm tones and textures, beams, leather seating, striking lighting and displays of heritage items create a captivating authentic buzz, enhanced by an open kitchen in the center. Uptempo, yet relaxed, Lastra’s cuisine showcases labour-intensive, beautifully plated super-modern dishes on a repertoire of tasting menus (with a choice of main courses) that express Mexican culture and innovation through British ingredients, while also advocating wild foods and seasonality. Bright, fresh, colorful flavors dance on the palette with chili used extremely skillfully in many forms; witness a ‘tostada’ course of lime brook trout with pasilla Oaxaca, zucchini, berries and wild garlic
Pentonbridge Inn, Pentonbridge, Cumbria
Just on the English side of the border, but closer to Scottish towns, this fully renovated inn has built up a reputation for fine dining. There is a mix of modern and traditional inside, with exposed brick, wood burning stoves and stylish decor. Many of the produce used for the imaginative menus comes from the owner’s nearby estate and gardens. Solid technical skill forms the basis of the dishes, which are grand in taste and precision presentation. Cornish crab with quail egg caviar and leek and potato foam can precede Cartmel Valley red deer, crispy haggis, neeps and tatties with bone marrow sauce.
Peter by Gordon Ramsay, London, SW1
Pétrus by Gordon Ramsay is a true gastronomic environment with service of the highest level. The dining room has a circular dynamic with a glass wine cellar in the middle. It is comfortable, modern and bright; think leather chairs and white linen, and pastels brightened by splashes of burgundy. All crockery, cutlery and glassware is of the highest standard. The menu can start with an organic egg with sweetcorn, bacon and black truffle, move on to Cornish cod with violet artichoke, pine nuts, zucchini and olives, and finish in a delicious hazelnut souffle with salted caramel ice cream. Excellent wine list.
The Clock House, Ripley, Surrey
The eponymous signature clock above the front door of this imposing Georgian building is sure to draw attention to Ripley’s well-healed beautiful High Street. Inside, it’s just as elegant, with trendy pastel shades and clean lines against stripped old wall wood and tall windows facing the street. A relaxed atmosphere extends to the informed, sunny service, while Chef Paul Nicholson’s thoroughbred modern cuisine is delivered through a selection of fixed-price menus, including tastings. Simplicity, lightness of touch and taste reign supreme in dressed to exciting dishes with panache; take ‘sparkling-fresh’ line-caught plaice with coco beans, pork and fennel to a Bakewell dessert with cherry and almond, while formal code amuse-bouche and house bread are equally stylish.
The Grill at The Dorchester, London, W1
The revamped restaurant in the heart of The Dorchester presents a contemporary take on the legendary British grilling space first established in 1931. The chandeliers, parquet floors and intricate gilded ceilings provide a glamorous backdrop to a meal here, and some diners sit close to the action for the open kitchen. Start with veal sweetbreads, potato pancake, bacon and cabbage for a precisely cooked piece of prime Cornish turbot with borlotti beans and grelot onion. Yogurt soft serve, apricots, London Honey and almonds is a clean and refreshing finale, although the soufflés are as good as ever.