Best value UK restaurants for 2016

Our favourite ways to eat out well for less, and a punch of brilliant places where you can find a bargain

Diffusion dining

Many fine-dining chefs use their vast knowledge and talented teams to launch cheaper, more casual restaurants these days. For instance, Midsummer House’s Daniel Clifford recently opened a pub in Essex, the Flitch Of Bacon. Here are three of the best spin-offs…


Scran & Scallie, Edinburgh

The head chef at Tom Kitchin’s Stockbridge pub, James Chapman, came through the ranks at his boss’s Leith restaurant, the one-Michelin-starred Kitchin, and he still adheres to the fastidious practises he absorbed there. The Scran makes its own sausages, cures and smokes on-site, and buys-in whole animals to butcher. The difference is that now that effort feeds into populist dishes such as sausage ‘n’ mash, ham, egg and chips and a cracking steak pie. Not that the Scran is entirely traditional. Its interior exhibits a distinct designer Nordic flair, and alongside some creative cocktails, it serves new-wave craft beers including Yer Ben (£5.75), which Tom Kitchin created with Isle Of Skye brewery. Three-course set lunch, £15, mains from £9.50.

Outlaw’s Fish Kitchen, Port Isaac, Cornwall 

Nathan Outlaw has his two-Michelin-starred HQ in gorgeous Port Isaac, but, when you’re eating in the Fish Kitchen, there is no sense of having settled for second best. This quirky, olde-worlde building (check the tiny, ingenious toilet) has a unique character, it’s slap-bang on Port Isaac’s quay and its small plates are struck through with Nathan’s trademark creativity and restraint. From a simple, glorious pot of smoked, emulsified cods’ roe served with warm flatbread, to a dainty, flavour-packed plate of raw salmon with pistachio, grapefruit and pickled chicory, these dishes beguile. They change constantly too, driven by what the local boats are landing. Plates from around £7.

The Coach, Marlow, Buckinghamshire 

Kudos to Tom Kerridge, when the two-Michelin-starred Hand & Flowers outgrew its pub roots, he wasted no time in opening the Coach, a proper, nattily designed modern boozer that serves affordable grub. It even has several TVs so you can watch the football with your pint. Head chef Nick Beardshaw travelled to some of Europe’s top kitchens to perfect his dishes, many of which revolve around the open-kitchen’s rotisserie, which cooks everything from sides of honey-glazed bacon for the breakfast bagels to stuffed quails. Elsewhere, dishes such as pulled pork and courgette lasagne or chicken kiev with cauliflower cheese are witty crowd-pleasers. Mains from £9.50.

Take to the streets

From London’s Street Feast events to Newcastle’s Boilershop Steamer, Britain has a vibrant network of late-night street food markets. But there are also several permanent daytime operations where, safe from the wintry elements, you can get your fix for as little as a fiver

Glass Arcade, at St Nicholas Market, Bristol

You can find everything from rare stamps to jewellery at St Nicks (as the locals call it), but its Glass Arcade is home to some great street food. olive loves the slow ‘n’ low brisket rolls and 18-hour hickory smoked pulled pork at Grillstock, the sensational falafel, pickles and exotic salads at Eat A Pitta, and arty baker Tamarind Galliford’s gorgeous, creative cakes – spiced pumpkin cheesecake tarts, Laphroaig-spiked truffles – at the Ahh Toots tea room. Also, look out for St Nicks’ monthly late-night, street food party (@brisnightmarket). Lunches from £4.

Goods Shed, Canterbury 

Half farmers’ market, half food court, the Goods Shed is best known for its restaurant (mains from £14), where chef Rafael Lopez creates daily menus from the fresh produce that surrounds his kitchen: bass and skate from Broadstairs’ day-boats and newly harvested Kent veg. But bargain-hunting foodies can also grab hot meals from several stalls and kitchen-counter cafés (there are shared tables to eat at, too). Jonny Sandwich is a local lunch-break legend thanks to his gourmet fillings such as slow-roasted pork belly and pear, while Wild Goose’s small plates and ‘hedgerow’ cocktails (think wild thyme, edible flowers) are fascinating. You can eat well at the Goods Shed whatever your budget. As owner Susanna Sait puts it: ‘You can spend a fiver or 50 quid.’ Meals from £5.

Market House, Altrincham, Greater Manchester

An exemplary food hub, this historic indoor market has been transformed into a communal canteen where you can eat from multiple kitchens, including Honest Crust (arguably the best wood-fired pizza outside Naples), Great North Pie Co. and rare breed steak slingers, Tender Cow. From Sam Joseph’s sorbets to the craft ales (from £3.30 a pint) pouring at Blackjack Brewery’s bar, every detail is delicious. At weekends, after brunch (try Little Window’s morcilla, eggs and sourdough with chipotle ketchup), the action spills out into the market proper, with stalls like the revelatory vegan Gud and rotisserie chicken star Nationale 7 ramping up the excitement. The only problem? Getting a seat! Meals from £5; altrinchammarket.co.uk

Swap dinner for lunch

Are you looking for the best-value restaurant meals in the country? Then clear your diary and swap dinner for lunch. There are some seriously great-tasting bargains out there

Purple Poppadom, Cardiff

Chef Anand George is a pivotal figure in Cardiff’s recent culinary history. At Mint & Mustard and, latterly, Purple Poppadom, he has transformed the city’s idea of what curry can be. He brings a modern European presentation style and the sensitive spicing of his native Kerala to bear on dishes such as chaat (a tangy tamarind, chutney-laced ‘salad’ of samosa pastry, vermicelli puffed rice), the classic Kashmiri rogan josh or nadan kozhi, a Keralan curry of chicken thighs in a roasted coconut gravy. The restaurant itself is as slick and colourful as Anand’s dishes, and the set lunch is a steal. Lunch, two courses, £10.95.

Le Gavroche, London

Dinner at Michel Roux Jr’s pillar of the fine-dining establishment – with its starched linens and cashmere-smooth service – would cost you upwards of £120-a-head. At lunch, however, you can enjoy three-courses of chef Rachel Humphrey’s impeccable, two-Michelin-starred food plus a half-bottle of wine for £54.80 per person. You’ll have to book months in advance, and the vibe is unapologetically old school (gentlemen must wear a jacket), but there’s nothing fusty about modern French dishes such as brioche with snails en persillade or cod in seaweed beurre blanc with trompettes. Occasionally, lunch is partnered with biodynamic wines created exclusively for Le Gavroche by Languedoc winemaker, Michel Chapoutier. le-gavroche.co.uk 

The Pipe & Glass Inn, Beverley, Yorkshire  

A smartly refurbished, 15th-century inn on the edge of Dalton Park, Lord Hotham’s country pile, the Pipe & Glass, may have a Michelin star but, says chef-owner James Mackenzie, it’s very much a pub: ‘It doesn’t have to be truffles and lobster with everything.’ Consequently, at lunch, James still serves gussied-up sandwiches and several mains at £12 including a deluxe ploughman’s and sausages (from ace local butcher James White) with bubble ‘n’ squeak and a sage and onion gravy. Order with a pint (from £3.15) of Two Chefs, a beer that James created with the Star Inn’s Andrew Pern. Sandwiches from £7.50, lunch mains from £12.

Pipe and Glass, Beverley, Yorkshire

Cheat and stay in

For foodies, getting your dinner delivered has historically been the option of last resort. Most of us could only choose between a bog-standard local Chinese or pizza chains that deliver more guilt than pleasure. In the last year, however, the takeaway landscape has been transformed. Deliveroo has spread rapidly across the UK, signing-up both savvy independent and respected chain restaurants, such as pizzeria Rossopomodoro and Comptoir Libanais. It even has Michelin-starred Trishna on the books. London competitor, Supper, delivers for two-starred venues, Tamarind and Benares, and more will follow as the idea of eating restaurant food at home becomes commonplace and delivery companies multiply (in London, see also Resto-In). The beauty of this is that it allows us to eat our favourite restaurant food, while minimising the extra expense of taxis, tips and booze.   

One-course wonders

Eating gets expensive if you feel compelled to have three-courses. olive has a solution: dropping-in for one amazing main and a glass of wine, then moving on. Here are three places where youll feel comfortable allowing yourself a quick treat

Ox & Finch, Glasgow

O&F’s owner Jonathan MacDonald used to cook for the McLaren F1 team, so he should be used to flying visits. His modish West End restaurant has a high table for six, by the bar, which can’t be reserved and where people can eat ad hoc. Alternatively, Ox & Finch is open all day, so if you want to try just a couple of its on-point small plates, visit mid-afternoon, when it’s quieter. Regulars swear by the confit duck with Thai yellow curry and a crispy rice baton, the Black Angus rump steak served with Jerusalem artichokes and king oyster mushrooms, and the lemon and Earl Grey baked Alaska. To drink, try a Camden Town or Wiper & True beer from the discerning craft menu (pint from £4). Plates from £4.50.

Hawksmoor, Manchester and London 

As any olive reader worth their Maldon sea salt could tell you, Hawksmoor runs Britain’s finest steakhouses. It takes beef from grass-fed British cattle, expertly grills it and serves it with some of the best sides you have ever tasted – a benchmark Béarnaise, incredible short rib-laced macaroni. What’s less well known is that each of its sites (with gentleman’s club décor and hip, friendly staff), has a bar where you can roll-up and eat anything from the main menu (try the exceptional rib-eye, £26.50), or a short bar selection of burgers and sloppy, meaty sandwiches. It’s a very cost-effective way of ‘doing’ Hawksmoor. Bar meals from £8.50, mains from £12.50.

The Stagg Inn, Titley, Herefordshire 

Things are a bit topsy-turvy at The Stagg. At lunch, locals love to cram into the cosy bar, with its exposed brickwork, timbers and old pub jugs. Turn up unannounced and you may end-up eating in the modern restaurant section. At night, the reverse is true. Either way, chef-owner Steve Reynolds (historically, the first pub chef to bag a Michelin star), is an easy-going host who positively encourages one-plate dining. At lunch, alongside keenly-priced specials such as a locally-shot pheasant kiev, his menu includes various dishes at around £10, such as homemade sausages ‘n’ mash and a ploughman’s where you can choose three cheeses from 20 sourced within 30 miles. The Little Hereford from nearby Monkland dairy is fantastic. Lunch mains from £9.90.

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