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The best (secret) foodie destinations for 2015/2016

If you've lunched in Ludlow and picnicked in Padstow, try one of these less crowded culinary neighbourhoods on your next food trip. Here's a list of the best (and secret) hot spots for foodies in the UK, including York, The Roseland Peninsula, The Vale of Glamorgan


York

Leeds has developed a devoted culinary following in Yorkshire, particularly for its street food, but wander down one of York’s higgledy-piggledy back streets and you’ll find a new crop of artisan producers and young chefs putting the city’s food in the spotlight. Take chef Joshua Overington. Recently returned to his hometown after stints at Ledoyen in Paris and The Waterside Inn at Bray, his six-course seasonal tasting menu at intimate neighbourhood bistro, Le Cochon Aveugle, is one of York’s best-kept secrets. Think carpaccio of octopus, 12-hour short-rib with homemade black pudding, and charcoaled crème brûlée with ice cream and crunchy rosemary sugar.

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Elsewhere, the unassuming Italian, Le Langhe, is worth a visit for the game ragu alone – a rich, meaty sauce but one that doesn’t overpower the delicate fresh pasta it’s served with. In the on-site deli, locals fill their baskets with Italian cheeses, charcuterie and fine wines.

For produce sourced a little closer to home, join York’s recently launched food trail Treks in the City, to visit artisan breadmaker Phil Clayton, local coffee roasters York Coffee Emporium, and Sarah Puckett, who makes her Puckett’s Pickles within a mile of York Minster, before enjoying a specially designed menu at The Star Inn The City. Don’t fancy a tour? Many of these producers can be found at York’s Shambles Market (Parliament Street), which re-opened after a £1.6 million refurbishment earlier this year. Or book a trip to coincide with the York Food and Drink Festival, which runs in June and September.

Double rooms at Hotel du Vin cost from £149, room only. More information: visityork.org


The Roseland Peninsula

Padstow? St Ives? Port Isaac? Rock? The most difficult part of planning a foodie weekend in Cornwall is deciding where to start. To make it easy, set your sat-nav for the Roseland Peninsula, a wild-edged tangle of meadows, hedgerows, villages and coves that form a gnarled triangle of land on the opposite side of Carrick Roads waterway from Falmouth.

A little ferry runs to the latter from St Mawes, the peninsula’s largest village, but we stay put, drawn in by spectacular gin thyme cocktails – a mix of local Tarquins gin, tonic, lemon and sugar syrup – and delicately spiced kedgeree at The Idle Rocks. The sunny terrace here is the perfect spot for brunch, right above the water with wide-angle views of the surrounding harbour. At its newer sister, The St Mawes Hotel, plates of charcuterie and slow-roast pork with house slaw head up a more casual menu, but our toddlers have discovered the original hotel’s playroom. No chance of lunch at The St Mawes now, or at the neighbouring Tresanton.

Eventually, we make it higher up the peninsula to The Rosevine hotel. Treading a deft balance between family friendliness and grown-up indulgence, we enjoy perfectly pink roast lamb while the boys squabble over who has the coolest highchair.

Five minutes along the road from here is the Michelin-starred Driftwood, where chef Chris Eden serves hay-baked cabrito kid with goat’s curd, pomme dauphine, turnip and spiced granola.

It’s the peninsula’s more rustic food that draws us in, though. Over a long weekend we manage to work our way through chicken and ham pies at The Roseland Inn, take-away wood-fired pizzas from Slice and peppery sausage rolls from the Hidden Hut after a swim off Porthcurnick Beach.

Our base is the aptly named Mermaid Cottage, a triumph of elegant styling and practical comfort a few minutes’ walk from Porthcurnick. The kitchen comes with everything from Oxo measuring jugs to a Nespresso machine. We make the most of it for a last supper, stocking up on Da Bara sourdough (dabara.co.uk), fresh mackerel, greens, lemons and Rodda’s Butter at nearby Curgurrell Farm Shop. Forgoing the cottage’s large dining table and slick Eames chairs, we eat out on the deck, pairing our Cornish haul with views of the salt-slicked English Channel.

Mermaid Cottage sleeps 10 and starts from £1,217 for a long weekend. More info: roselandpeninsula.com


Mull

Beyond the cities, it’s Skye or Fife that most people turn to in search of a Caledonian food trip, racing towards the reassuringly reliable kitchens of The Three Chimneys, Kinloch Lodge or the Peat Inn. Don’t overlook Mull, though. Easily reached from Glasgow via the Oban ferry, it is one of Scotland’s largest and most dramatic islands, with mountains, lochs and white-sand beaches providing a rich haul of local produce, from hand-dived scallops to cheek-tingling cheddar cheese.

Base yourself at Tiroran House Hotel, a small country house in the west of the island where chef Craig Ferguson presents an impeccable menu of seasonally changing dishes, often peppered with foraged ingredients.

Head south-west to Ninth Wave housed in a 200-year-old bothy near Fionnphort, the ferry port for trips to neighbouring Iona. Here chef Carla Lamont grows her own vegetables while husband Johnny catches lobster. Or seek out The Crofters’ Kitchen and Garden at nearby Ecocroftwhere you can help yourself to fruit, vegetables and herbs from the garden, as well as soups and cakes, leaving what you owe in an honesty box. The same system works if you buy mussels from the side of the road at Inverlussa Marine Services.

The island’s main town, Tobermory, is famous for its rows of multi-coloured houses. Here, at Café Fish, much of what’s on offer comes fresh from the family fishing boat. Take a seat on its outside terrace to watch sunsets over the Sound of Mull as you tuck into a haddock, salmon and mussel tom yam, or a shellfish platter. If you’ve got room, head out to Sgriob Ruadh farm to pick up some Isle of Mull cheddar. Or summon the boat at Ulva Ferry and hop across to the far-flung Boathouse tearoom for locally grown oysters, home-baked bread and cakes.

Double rooms at Tiroran House cost from £180, B&B. More info: holidaymull.co.uk


The Vale of Glamorgan

We’ll let you into a secret: five minutes off the M4, near Cardiff, is a beautiful Welsh vineyard with its own cookery school, woodland walk, two restaurants, and rooms to stay in. Llanerch Vineyard serves tranquillity with the best of local Vale of Glamorgan produce: eat huge portions of Duffryn Bach lamb rump in its formal restaurant with a glass of soft Cariad rosé – the tables overlook the vines it came from. If you’re staying, pay extra for a smart ‘superior studio’ as standard rooms are fairly basic.

South of here, Penarth, a Victorian seaside resort, is by far the Vale’s best town for food. Start with lunch at Bar 44, a modern tapas restaurant where trained ‘hamistas’ carve jamón ibérico perfectly; croquetas are given a Welsh twist with a Cordoba goat’s cheese and sweet leek filling; and chocolate mousse is made impossibly smooth with arbequina oil. Don’t forget the 100% Spanish wine list, or sherries chosen by co-owner and UK sherry ambassador Owen Morgan.

A brisk walk up the beautifully-restored art deco Penarth pier should set you up for dinner at James Sommerin, a Michelin-starred fine dining seafront restaurant manned by its namesake. Welshman James offers a five, seven or 10-course tasting menu, showcasing his delicate style of cooking and love of local produce. Despite the simple name, cod, caper, potato, bread is exquisite; rabbit with cavolo nero and parsnip is some of the richest, sweetest meat we’ve tried; and clever wine-pairing takes an already excellent meal into 10/10 territory.

Double rooms at Llanerch Vineyard cost from £75, B&B. More info: visitwales.com


London’s Chinatown

Red lanterns, all-you-can-eat buffets, hanging ducks and shops flogging ‘oriental delights’. If you’re on a night out in the West End and in search of a booze-absorbing chicken chow mein, Chinatown is a safe bet, but you probably wouldn’t think of planning an evening of culinary indulgence there. Dig a little deeper, however, and you’ll find a more epicurean side to this central but overlooked London neighbourhood.

We kick off lunch at Beijing Dumpling (23 Lisle Street, 020 7287 6888) literally, having ordered the chicken and chilli versions. Served in a gently salted bouillon, they have a rich, spicy punch to them. Next, a row of little steamed crab and pork parcels arrives at our wooden table, fresh from the cook in the window (we later watch her roll flour-dusted dough, shape it into dumplings then spoon them into a large bubbling pot). Each plate of dumplings costs a fiver, which explains why the restaurant fills up as quickly as the cook’s tower of steamer baskets as lunchtime gets going.

Dinner at Baiwei (8 Little Newport Street, 020 7494 3605), with its communist-poster murals and snazzy red chopsticks, is more hit and miss. Chinese food expert Fuschia Dunlop helped create its menu of Sichuan café-style dishes, but while a plate of twice-cooked belly pork with black bean and chilli has an earthy smokiness to it, the farmhouse silken tofu with crispy bacon and Chinese broccoli is surprisingly bland.

Chinatown may be a handy, inexpensive, way to explore Chinese regional cooking, but there are more off-piste flavours to try here, too. Decent versions of most Asian classics, from sashimi to bibimbap, can be easily tracked down, while Middle Eastern tastes are catered for at The Palomar and Spanish ones at Morada Brindisa, which opened in March. At Opium bar, a dimly lit, three-storey temple to cocktails that’s approached via a nondescript doorway on Chinatown’s main drag, we order tequila and tea-based Opium #5s and watch as they smoke, Hogwarts-style, across the bar.

No chow mein to soak up the alcohol for us though. Instead, we stop off at the Chinatown Bakery (7 Newport Place, 020 7287 7995) for a bag of little fish-shaped waffles, fresh from the rotary machine in the window. Soft and sweet with a dot of custard at their hearts, they’re cheaper than a bag of chips, and nicer too.

More information: chinatownlondon.org


This feature was published in June 2015

Words: Alex Crossley, Rhiannon Batten, Charlotte Morgan, Audrey Gillan. Photographs: Getty, Michael McKinstry, MRM Pictures, VisitYork, Rhiannon Batten, Samantha Jones, Islandscape Photography, Audrey Gillan.


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This week we celebrate Yorkshire Day with web editor Alex Crossley (who also happens to be from Yorkshire!). Alex returns to her home county to explore the independent food scene in Leeds including a lesson in British charcuterie from Friends of Ham as well as matching speciality coffee with Yorkshire-made sweet treats at North Star.

olive magazine podcast ep63 – Leeds independent food scene special