Olive Magazine

18 UK restaurants that top chefs love to eat at

Published: August 18, 2016 at 10:52 am
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Six of O’s favourite chefs tell us where they love to eat and about those memorable meals which, years later, they can still taste

Peter Sanchez-Iglesias, Casamia, Bristol (pictured above)


With his brother Jonray, who sadly died late last year, Peter has minted a style of highly creative, ultra-seasonal cooking which continues to thrill diners at Casamia’s slick new central Bristol location. Casamia holds one Michelin star. @petercasamia

Bulrush, Bristol

“I’ve made it a goal to eat out more this year because, ultimately, that’s why I’m in this job – I love the romance of restaurants. I’ve been to Bulrush three times and it’s blown me away. It’s very relaxed. You can hang around and have the tasting menu or, if you want a more express thing, one plate. The space itself is quite stripped-back, which I like – white walls, bare tables, natural clay crockery. Quality-wise, George Livesey’s dishes are in the Michelin realm: well-sourced ingredients, well-executed cooking, and it’s different too, because he takes inspiration from Japan and he’s into foraging and preserving. He uses some really unusual ingredients like rose petal vinegar. I love his octopus with heirloom tomatoes, tomato consommé and wakame seaweed. Octopus isn’t easy to cook, and that consommé is banging. His asparagus with walnuts and elderflower hollandaise is another interesting flavour combination, as is his phenomenal dessert of pine yogurt with seasonal poached fruits, such as rhubarb and quince. George has his own style and with Katherine (Craughwell, who runs front-of-house) they’ve stamped their personality on the whole restaurant, be it in the music they play, or the homemade liqueurs (some made by George’s mum) that they use in their cocktails, such as cassis, vin d’orange and sloe gin. I think George is going to have serious awards and accolades coming his way.” Starters from £7.50, mains from £14.50; bulrushrestaurant.co.uk

A chef cooking meat over an open flame on a grill

Hart’s Bakery, Bristol

“I love Hart’s; good coffee, awesome savoury croissants and their sourdough is so, so good.” Savouries/lunch, £3-£6; hartsbakery.co.uk

Tasty Ragga, Bristol

“Caribbean BBQ stall found at various markets and festivals. I dream about the jerk chicken wraps!” Meal deals £6.50; tastyragga.co.uk

A female chef posing for a photograph

Nieves Barragán Mohacho, Barrafina, London W1

Bilbao-born Nieves is the culinary dynamo who, as executive head chef, gives Sam and Eddie Hart’s Barrafina restaurants their auténtico edge. @nievesbarragan1

The Seahorse, Dartmouth, Devon

“I first visited The Seahorse 10 years ago. Mitch Tonks, who is the chef and co-owner there, had been at (Barrafina’s then sister-restaurant) Fino, he loved it and said, ‘come to my restaurant and I’ll cook for you’. Nowadays it’s my favourite place. The restaurant is a stunning room overlooking the estuary with a very special ambience
– it feels like home. The food may look simple – perhaps just three ingredients on the plate, and Mitch is not overly fussy about presentation – but it’s backed-up by real skill. Being by the sea, and because he knows everyone locally, Mitch has the best seafood and he really knows how to preserve flavour in these amazing ingredients. His white port scallops are heavenly, as is the cuttlefish cooked with fennel, tomato and orange juice served with a cuttlefish ink polenta. Mitch also introduced me to roasting fish using a charcoal oven (we have one at Barrafina Adelaide Street and Drury Lane because of him), and he loves to cook delicate fish such as brill or John Dory whole, on-the-bone, as we do in the Basque Country. It’s always a long dinner. I never want to leave.” Mains from £20; seahorserestaurant.co.uk

A restaurant with mustard-yellow banquettes and dining chairs

The Ninth, London W1

“This is Jun Tanaka’s place and, so far, his rabbit lasagne is my dish of the year.” Mains from £15; theninthlondon.com

Quality Chop House, London EC1

“Unbelievably tasty, interesting English food. The cod with langoustine and hollandaise is wonderful.” Mains from £14; thequalitychophouse.com

A female chef posing for a photograph

Minal Patel Prashad, nr. Leeds

Head chef at one of the north’s most celebrated Indian restaurants, Minal’s Gujarati vegetarian food packs revelatory layers of flavour. @Prashad_veggie

Salvo’s, Leeds

“Normally, in India, you eat Indian food everywhere, so when I came to Britain in 2004, I discovered lots of new cuisines, from English to Chinese. My husband Bobby first took me to Salvo’s about six years ago and it took some time to get used to these Italian flavours. We know John (Dammone, Salvo’s co-owner) and so he would make specials for us and put a little more chilli in certain dishes for me, but, nowadays, I love the cheesy gnocchi ai quatro formaggi. I like the simplicity of it, it’s soothing and homely and the potato gnocchi are really light. We’re vegetarian and I also really like the casarecce frattese, a short tubular pasta served with tomatoes, mozzarella, pecorino and my favourite vegetable, aubergines – from Puglia in this case. I don’t drink alcohol, so with my meal I’ll usually have an Italian blood orange juice. We normally have Monday off, so we might go to Salvo’s with our young daughter. It has a really good family-friendly atmosphere, the service is warm and it’s good to see the owners working in the kitchen. When we first went it was tiny, but it has been expanded recently and now it’s a really open, dynamic space.” Starters from £6.50; mains from £8.50; salvos.co.uk

Two white plates of smart food with olives and salad leaves

Benares, London W1

“Lovely food and atmosphere. I like to see how Atul Kochhar is experimenting with Indian cuisine, its ingredients and presentation.” Mains from £21; benaresrestaurant.com

Akbar’s, Bradford

“I usually order a mixed vegetable curry or slow-cooked channa dhal and the special potato and pea brown rice is beautifully fragrant.” Mains from around £7.95; akbars.co.uk

A male chef wearing a blue apron and posing for a photograph

Stephen Toman, OX, Belfast

Stephen is the chef and co-owner at Belfast’s modern, seasonally-driven one-Michelin-starred sensation, OX. @oxbelfast

Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, London SW3

“This is a special occasion place – I ate there in 2008 before my honeymoon. Gordon Ramsay’s restaurants are the crown jewels of the UK food scene and, having grown up reading his books, to eat those classic dishes such as his lobster, langoustine and salmon ravioli, was amazing. I went on a beautiful summer’s day, the room felt fresh and it’s more relaxed than you might think. You’re a wee bit nervous going to a three-Michelin-starred place like that, but you’re made to feel at ease.

As a chef, you tend to dissect everything, but you’re there to enjoy it – I didn’t go in with a clipboard and pen. I had the tasting menu and I particularly remember the lamb with these beautifully turned artichokes that had a Provençal garnish of olives and herbs. It was quite classical in its technique, but current: very fresh in its flavours. The plating is very exact and on beautiful crockery. It’s all very confident. There was some theatre, too; the petit fours were white chocolate truffles served on dry ice. There are other places that I’m still dying to get to, such as Simon Rogan’s Fera and The Fat Duck.” Three courses, £110; gordonramsayrestaurants.com

An immaculate plate of fine-dining food with charred sweetcorn

The Muddlers Club, Belfast

“The cool kid: dark 80s feel, loud music, amazing cocktails and very fresh, seasonal food. The beef carpaccio with tarragon, egg yolk and burnt carrot is quite unusual.” Mains from £14; themuddlersclubbelfast.com

Castle Terrace, Edinburgh

“Dominic Jack is one of the UK’s best chefs. His red mullet tartare is phenomenal.” Three courses, £65; castleterracerestaurant.com

A male chef wearing a striped blue and white apron, posing for a photograph

Ben Radford, Timberyard, Edinburgh

In this hip warehouse space, Ben applies a Nordic methodology (seasonal, local, foraged, home-smoked), to create fascinating dishes from peerless Scottish produce. @timberyard10

Andrew Fairlie at Gleneagles Hotel, Auchterader, Scotland

“The first time I visited Andrew Fairlie it was bucketing down, but Gleneagles Hotel still looked beautiful. It’s enormous, the grounds are stunning and, from the minute you walk in, you’re waited on hand-and-foot, but in a friendly way. The staff are always ready with a smile, there is no pretence. The restaurant is in the windowless heart of the hotel, so whatever time it is, or whatever the weather outside, you’re in your own lavish bubble of crisp linen and polished silver cutlery. Andrew’s smoked Orkney lobster dish with lime herb butter, in which the meat is first removed and the shells smoked over whisky barrel chips, is fantastic. In 2012, the restaurant acquired a nearby walled garden and, since then, the style of the food began to change from being classically French (say, foie gras terrine with sauternes and caramelised fig), to something more influenced by this light, abundant produce. Last year – I’ve been four times since 2011 – they ran a tasting menu using just their own ingredients and those from within 20 miles. People throw ‘local’ and ‘seasonal’ around but, for me, Andrew Fairlie is a Scottish restaurant genuinely committed to that ethos. Seeing the possibilities of that was quite influential on Timberyard.” Three courses, £95; andrewfairlie.co.uk

An elegant fish dish at Andrew Fairlie at Gleneagles Hotel, Auchterader, Scotland, served in a pristine white bowl

The Dairy, London SW4

“This is where London cooking is right now: a fun, cheap, bustling restaurant and constantly evolving, technically great food.” Plates £6-£10.50; the-dairy.co.uk

The Honours, Edinburgh

“The chateaubriand is hands-down the best steak I’ve ever had. Fantastic service, too.” Mains from £22; thehonours.co.uk

A smiling female chef dressed in chef's whites, posing for a photograph

Lisa Goodwin-Allen, Northcote, Lancashire

Executive head chef at the Michelin-starred Northcote, Lisa takes Lancashire ingredients and traditional dishes and turns them into world-class dining. @_LisaAllen

The Coach, Marlow, Buckinghamshire

“I went last summer when it was newly opened and what Tom (Kerridge, the owner) has done with it feels really welcoming. It’s still a pub where you could drop in for a pint or watch the football on Sunday, but it’s also quite elegant. It’s in a lovely old building in which they’ve kept some of the original features, but it now has a really attractive bar, there’s lots of leather, little bespoke wooden things that your cutlery sits on, nice placemats. It feels like a pub but it’s been elevated with the refurb. It’s really social, too. You can see into the kitchen with its rotisserie and interact with the chefs, the waiting staff are really friendly and the menu includes small and sharing plates. The food is pubby but very tasty and done with flair and imagination. The chicken kiev with gem lettuce and peas was brilliant, as was the venison chilli con carne and – I’m a big fan of this dish – the steak tartare with a fried quail’s egg and rye cracker. There’s a great selection of gins, tonics and interesting garnishes such as dill and rosemary. If you’re into gin, it’s quite exciting.” Small plates from £5, large plates from £10; thecoachmarlow.co.uk

A male chef in action, preparing to taste something he's cooking in a saucepan

Inn at Whitewell, nr. Clitheroe, Lancashire

“An amazing old building with really good pub food, say braised lamb shoulder with parsley mash or spicy squid noodle salad.” Bar mains from £10.30; innatwhitewell.com

Benedicts, Whalley, Lancashire

“A café that serves all homemade food and good cakes. It has a deli attached, too.” Mains from £6.50; benedictsofwhalley.co.uk

Words Tony Naylor Photographs John Arranchara Blackwell, Kirstie Young, Elaine Hill, John Carey, Myburgh Du Plessis

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