Here’s our expert guide on a few of the best things to do, eat and drink this year making your 2017 one to remember. Everything from Tom Kerridge’s new Pub In The Park fest, experiencing the ultimate fries at Bun house in Soho and some of the best roasts from Brighton to Manchester.
Inspired by Bangkok’s night markets and New York’s all-night diners, Somsaa in East London is going late every first Saturday monthly (6 May, 11pm to 2am), with a menu of fiery Thai street food classics, such as khao pad naem: fermented pork with Asian celery and fried rice.
One-off cocktails and DJs digging deep across the genres from house to Thai funk, will keep the party rocking’.
Dishes £5-£14; somsaa.com
People who eat chaat have their personal preference for more chillies, less tamarind or an extra squeeze of lime,” says Rakesh Nair, head chef at Vivek Singh’s Cinnamon Bazaar.
Consequently, between 3pm and 5.30pm, as part of the restaurant’s high tea, diners at this Covent Garden restaurant can customise their chaat (a kind of savoury salad), as it’s assembled from a tableside chaat cart.
Choices include a classic papdi of yogurt and tamarind-dressed puffed wheat, chickpeas and vermicelli and a novel combination of pressed watermelon, amaranth seeds, date chutney and masala cashews. £4.50-£5.75; cinnamon-bazaar.com
Eat in a disused warehouse – Xiringuito, the stylish mobile restaurant, is currently occupying part of the old Cains Brewery site in Liverpool’s Baltic Triangle. Its stay there has been extended until 28 May. Don’t miss the curried crab burger.
Mains from £14.50; xiringuito.co.uk
From Andrew ‘Koj’ Koljima’s new place in Cheltenham or Paul Foster’s Salt, to the Cheese Truck’s new Camden grilled Cheese Bar (thecheesebar.com), restaurateurs are, increasingly, going direct to you, the diner, to help crowdfund their venues. Inducements to part with your hard-earned can range from branded aprons or meal vouchers to a chef cooking you dinner at home, but, says Gary Usher, chef-owner at Chester’s Sticky Walnut, the primary motivation is: “Community spirit.
A huge part of it is people coming together to achieve something.” Gary has crowdfunded two restaurants, Burnt Truffle and Hispi, that deal in pin sharp modern British dishes such as his jacob’s ladder with kale, truffled parmesan chips and mushroom purée. He is currently raising money for a Liverpool site, Wreckfish (@wreckfishbistro).
Yes, supporters get off on having their names etched on the walls “People love having their picture taken with them,” says Gary, but, he thinks, it taps into something bigger: “It’s about people buying into something they believe in”.
Experience the ultimate fries at the new Soho bao joint, Bun House, the house fries are made from… you guessed it, deep-fried ducks’ tongues.
Buns £2.50; @8unhouse
Radio alice pizzeria
Italian-owned London pizza parlour, Radio Alice, experiments with ancient grains (spelt, enkir, kamut) in its specials.
Serious pizza need not mean staid pizza.
From £5.90; radioalicepizzeria.co.uk
Real junk food Manchester
With Mary-Ellen McTague at its helm, the Real Junk Food Project has gone from being an admirable social-enterprise to a must-do for foodies.
The ex-Fat Duck chef, who also ran Prestwich’s raved-over Aumbry, will lead the kitchen at the project’s imminent Manchester café-restaurant, which will intercept waste food and turn it into brilliant meals served at a pay-as-you-feel rate; realjunkfoodmanchester.co.uk
Help build skegness in cake, as part of the SO arts festival. Residents of the seaside town have been asked to create a 100m² edible map of its landmarks, in cake. Anyone can get involved. “You can be an individual, group, a business, a beginner or expert. There are no barriers,” says organiser, Simon Preston.
In the run-up, there will be baking tutorials and get-togethers and, on the day, a huge CakeFest tea party as the architecturally astonishing bakes are sliced-up and shared. 24 June – 2 July; sofestival.org
Vinoteca’s London bars now stock Camel Valley’s champagne-method 2014 sparkling red wine. An arresting development on the effervescent English wine scene.
Bottle £44.50; vinoteca.co.uk
Pub in the park
Tom Kerridge’s Pub In The Park fest will see some of the UK’s best pubs serving their signature dishes in Marlow’s Higginson Park.
There will be live music, pub games and chef demos from the likes of Monica Galetti and Angela Hartnett. 19 -21 May. Tickets from £25, children £15; pubintheparkuk.com
Florentine restaurant and bar
Breakfast like a 19th century aristocrat on a full English that includes scrambled ostrich egg, at the new London South Bank brunch café, Florentine.
Serves 4-6, £90; @FlorentineLDN
Expand your mind by registering for the Oxford Symposium on Food & Cookery, Britain’s most cerebral celebration of food. Note: there’s plenty of feasting between lectures.
Last year, Fergus Henderson cooked an offal extravaganza. 7-9 July, day packages from £110; oxfordsymposium.org.uk
Share your Sunday roast
Ordinarily, a terrible idea but not at Refuge in Manchester (£39; refugemcr.co.uk) or Brighton’s Coal Shed (£35; coalshed-restaurant.co.uk), which serve huge sharing platters of everyone’s favourite meal. The Refuge’s roast comes with Vimto-braised red cabbage, while, at Belfast Italian, il Pirata, you can huddle over porchetta and gnocchi. From £18; ilpiratabelfast.com
The first Indian chef to bag a Michelin star, Vineet Bhatia’s food remains fearlessly ambitious. Forget curry house staples, his newly rebooted London restaurant doesn’t serve rice or naan but, instead, a complex 11-course tasting menu.
This is duck korma. But not as you know it. £105pp; vineetbhatia.london
Shanes on canalside
There’s plenty going on at Shane’s on Canalside in East London, from Shane Harrison’s unusual Kentucky fried rabbit to his rare enthusiasm for foraging for nettles and elderflowers on Hackney Marshes.
This Kiwi eco-chef also leads wild butchery classes that end with a cooking demo and game feast. £85pp; shanesoncanalside.com
Celebrate the ultimate marriage of gelato and cocktails at Stafford’s My Belle’s. Try an orange sorbet-based mimosa or a signature sour of almond sorbet, amaretto, lemon and egg white. From £5.95; mybelles.com
Leeds indie food
Explore Leeds’s left field food scene at Leeds Indie Food fest, which, this May, will include a ‘dining in the dark’ night at Northern Monk brewery, a five-course doughnut and beer pairing menu at the Cross Keys and off-beat supper clubs from the much-tipped Norre (@norreleeds) and Balcombe & Smith (@balcombe_smith).
11-28 May, events individually ticketed; http://leedsindiefood.co.uk
Discover foodie Darlington
Most food nuts who visit Darlington come to eat two-Michelin star food at Raby Hunt (from £80; rabyhuntrestaurant.co.uk). But there’s plenty else to try besides, from lush rural gastropubs such as the Bay Horse (thebayhorsehurworth.com) to Robineau’s bakery-café (robineau.co.uk) and top real ale pub, Number Twenty 2 (villagebrewer.co.uk).
The clink charity
Try prison food at the Clink charity’s restaurants, which do sterling work retraining offenders. Two of its restaurants are actually within the prison walls and require diners to undergo pre-dinner security vetting, but its Cardiff and Styal sites are open to all, for dishes such as braised ox cheek with potato and leek gratin and seasonal vegetables. Mains from £13.50; theclinkcharity.org
Wedgwood the restaurant
You can, for instance, explore Dorset’s hedgerows and sea shore with MasterChef winner, Mat Follas, before lunch at his Bramble deli-café (£145pp; matfollas.com).
In Edinburgh, Paul Wedgewood takes private groups out with an expert forager, then cooks for them at his eponymous restaurant. £150pp; wedgwoodtherestaurant.co.uk
Served with Cornish lamb, chervil root, seeds and cocoa nib at Fera (mains from £28; feraatclaridges.co.uk) or cod, chestnuts and cavolo nero at Manchester’s Hispi, these witchetty grub lookalikes – Chinese artichokes – are everywhere. Mains from £13.50; hispi.net
Events in the sky
Book now for London In The Sky, a dining table suspended 100-feet in the air (no, we’re not making this up), where diners can enjoy food from Lima’s Robert Ortiz, Orwell’s Ryan Simpson and Club Gascon’s Pascal Aussignac, who will cook and serve guests from an island on the platform.
There are also events, this summer, in Glasgow, Newcastle, Bristol and Southampton. London, 19-30 July, from £50pp; eventsinthesky.co.uk
Turbo charged G&Ts
Treat yourself to a turbo G&T as featured in episode 35 of Olive magazine’s podcast. This super-charged mix of gin, tonic and coffee (created by cold brew champs, Sandows), has jumped its initial Insta-storm and is now cropping up on menus at, for example, London’s Hotbox, £8; hotboxlondon.co.uk.
Putting a twist on the turbo, Liverpool’s Maray serves a Café Alfons, an espresso, pink grapefruit and demerara G&T, £8: maray.co.uk
Chow down on cactus – this plump, fleshy ingredient is available as a spicy side-salad in the evenings at London’s Benito’s Hat (from £6.75; benitos-hat.com). It’s also cooked into sauces at the northern mini-chain, Pancho’s Burrito.
From £5.60; panchosburritos.co.uk
From the pedal-powered Companio Bakery trailer on Manchester Victoria station each Tues/ Thurs,(4-6pm). Artisan baker Russell Goodwin’s savoury danishes are epic.
From £2; companiobakery.co.uk
Enrol on a Get Growing course at River Cottage’s Dorset HQ (includes three-course seasonal lunch, £145pp, 8 June; rivercottage.net), or swot-up on gardener Charles Dowding’s ‘no dig’ techniques at Daylesford’s Gloucestershire farm.
11 May, £125pp; daylesford.com
Words | Tony Naylor
Images | Steven Joyce | Luke Hayes | Carol Sachs | Mossman family import company | Jake Tilson | Bacon the beech | Earl Smith | Shanes on canalside | Mark Scott | The clink charity