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This edition of TASTE brings you VisitBritain's latest round-up of new restaurant openings and foodie news from across the country, including the Nordic trend, London's new floating seafood restaurant, an afternoon tea tour of Edinburgh on a vintage Routemaster bus, and a new traditional Sunday roast burger.
TREND: Mexican wave
Move aside, burritos - it's taco time! These little corn tortillas crowned with tasty toppings have taken over in recent months, with three new London ‘tacquerías' opening in November alone.
Starting out as a pop-up taco shack, street food success story Breddos now has its first restaurant in London's Clerkenwell, using British produce in its colourful Mexican-American dishes, which are inspired by the roadside taquerías and eateries the owners encountered on their travels. El Pastór, named after the Mexico City favourite, a shawarma-style ‘el pastor' meat taco has opened in Borough Market. And, in Soho, flavours at new Corazón Taqueria include rich barbacoa 12-hour slow roast lamb with tangy tomatillo salsa, plus ‘huevos benedict' tacos at the weekend.
It's not just London, though. Taco fever has spread to Newcastle Quayside in north-east England, where Barrio Comida - once a pop-up Mexican food event - opened its first restaurant in December. You'll find tacos ranging from charcoal grilled prawns to black beans and avocado, alongside other dishes such as ceviche tostada.
TREND: Pop-ups go permanent
Breddos and Barrio Comida join a host of pop-up eateries so in demand that they've opened permanent sites - and the trend is continuing into 2017.
From its beginnings in a little 20-seater shipping container in London's Brixton, fans of Kricket - with its Mumbai-inspired food, décor and music - are rejoicing at its January opening in Soho. Combining local British ingredients with spices, flavours and aromas of India, Kricket's food and punchy cocktails, including the Espresso Chaitini, get very good reviews.
One of most famous burgers on London's street food scene, Bleecker St Burger, is opening its first permanent home in London's Victoria this month, serving its classic American burgers alongside milkshakes and beer. In Manchester, acclaimed street food trader Bangers and Bacon is bringing its passion for all things meaty to its first (and aptly-named) restaurant, BEASTro. In Scotland, A'Challtainn Bar & Kitchen at BAaD (Barras Art & Design Centre) is a brand new, multi-purpose venue concept dedicated to Glasgow's booming food scene from the creators of successful Glasgow pop-ups.
Following sell-out pop-up residencies and backing from leading industry figures, Perilla launched its first permanent site in north London in November, serving high-end dishes in a casual atmosphere, at an accessible price. The menu focuses on modern interpretations of European flavours with a twist, including dishes such as cuttlefish Bolognese. Chef Ben Marks previously cooked at the likes of Claridges and Noma, while front-of-house, Matt Emmerson brings relaxed service style to the table.
It's not just Scandi-style interiors that have a large following in London - four recent openings have brought new flavours to the capital. Renowned New York restaurant Aquavit has come to London with its Executive Chef Emma Bengtsson (the second female chef in the US to win two Michelin stars) at the helm, showcasing her modern Nordic cuisine.
If fine dining isn't your thing, Danish bakers Ole Kristoffersen and Steen Skallebaek have brought one of Copenhagen's best bakeries, Ole & Steen , to London, located in St James's Market and featuring an all-day menu. Meanwhile, in Covent Garden, Nordic Bakery opened its fourth site in December, serving up Scandinavian favourites such as dark rye bread and traditional twisted cinnamon buns from Finland. In February, Aster will be opening in Victoria's new Nova complex with a café and deli on the ground floor and an upstairs restaurant and bar. Executive Chef Helena Puolakka's menus will blend classic French techniques with the Nordic cuisine of her Finnish heritage.
TREND: Dry January
After the excesses of the festive season some of us need a break from alcohol, and luckily there is a fresh new solution to ‘what to drink if you're not drinking' dilemma. Hotels Lancaster London and The Arch London have joined the likes of restaurants Sexy Fish, Chiltern Firehouse, Hand & Flowers and The Fat Duck by featuring the world's first distilled non-alcoholic spirit, SEEDLIP, on their drink menus. Championed by some of the world's most celebrated bartenders and Michelin-starred chefs, this sophisticated, sugar and sweetener-free alternative to alcohol comes in different blends and uses distilled fresh herbs. The best bit? Zero calories!
And finally... Dinner in the Sky, which hosts dinners suspended from 30 metres in the air, is now taking bookings for 2017 in Glasgow, London, Bristol, Newcastle and Southampton.
Can't choose between a traditional British Sunday roast dinner or a juicy burger? Thanks to ROAST restaurant in London's Borough Market, you don't have to! Their epic new ‘roast burger' is a mouth-watering combination of roast potato, rosemary and garlic bun stacked with Welsh Black roast beef, carrot piccalilli, horseradish sour cream, melted ale and mustard cheddar, curly kale and pickled red cabbage, served with red wine and onion gravy.
London is no stranger to Michelin stars, and in January Anne-Sophie Pic, the only French female chef to be awarded three Michelin stars opens her first UK restaurant, La Dame de Pic. Diners can expect creative French luxury cuisine in the classical English setting of Four Seasons Hotel London Trinity Square. Also opening her first solo restaurant is Monica Galetti, former senior sous chef at two-Michelin-starred La Gavroche, and well-known for her contribution to the TV show MasterChef: The Professionals. Her Mere opens this month in Fitzrovia with a laid-back vibe and a simple, seasonal menu. Over in the City of London, English Michelin-starred chef Jason Atherton opened his second London restaurant, Temple & Sons, in November. The grill restaurant and all-day deli and bar caters for the increasing appetite for casual-style dining in the financial district. Its interiors are inspired by a traditional British grocery store and the menu focuses on traditional British dishes such as game sausage roll with creamy mash and gravy.
Two of London's famous museums have launched new culinary ventures, so if you fancy a side order of culture with your meal, head to the newly re-opened modernist Design Museum and its new restaurant, Parabola, owned by Peter Prescott and British design legend Sir Terence Conran and his wife Lady Conran. Or, on Sundays, visitors exploring the wonders of the V&A Museum can take a break with a Victorian-style afternoon tea in the elegant Morris Room. Devised by food historian Natasha Marks, the tea recreates authentic 19th Century dishes that would have been served in Queen Victoria's time.
California dreaming came to London in November with the opening of Pomona's restaurant and its American bar. With a menu inspired by chef Gareth Sanderson's travels along the west coast of America, dishes include ‘sweet potato toast with avocado, labneh, lime and cilantro gremolata' and ‘caramel croissant and prune pie with crème Anglais'.
From California to Australia, the brunch aficionados behind Timmy Green opened their latest cafe in Victoria's new Nova development in October, open from morning coffee to evening drinks, with local craft beers, an Australian wine list and house cocktails. Highlights on the menu include the famous banana bread sandwich and the huge side of barbecued lamb carved at the table. The team behind south-west London's Brew Cafes opened Antipodea in December by Kew Gardens station, an Australian inspired all-day Restaurant with a grocery-style shop. Dishes include baked eggs and a yellow Bloody Mary.
Where better to try a taste of the Caspian in January than JAN, a new restaurant celebrating Middle Eastern flavours from the culinary styles of Iran and Turkey. Signature dishes like grilled lamb chops and sea bream with harissa are cooked in a traditional charcoal oven, and there is heated al fresco space.
Also opening in January, Bala Baya brings Israeli cuisine has come to the arches of Southwark and is the first solo venture of Eran Tibi, who has worked alongside Yotam Ottolenghi. During the day feast on Tel Avi-style pitta bread, stuffed with slow cooked meats and salads, or larger dishes in the evening such as salt-baked salmon with tahini.
The team behind one of London's top vegetarian restaurants, The Gate, has launched The Gate Seymour Place, bringing its creative vegetarian food to Marble Arch in central London, with vegetables centre stage on its menu.
If you're looking for a cool drinking den with a few bites to eat, try tiny wine bar Enfant Terrible, which opened in December in Hackney. Inspired by Parisian wine bars, with just 12 metal counter stools tucked beneath the bar, it offers a daily changing wine list alongside cocktails and bar snacks like mutton tartare and the intriguing cognac and kampot pepper caramel brownie. Over in Soho, Company Below bar has reopened after a design and menu overhaul and is a great place to knock back a cocktail or two and feast on Bao buns.
British seaside restaurant Bonnie Gull opened its second Seafood Shack in Soho in December, offering the very best of daily fresh British fish and shellfish. Drawing inspiration from the British coast, Bonnie Gull Soho serves sustainable seafood and small sharing plates.
Float your boat on Regent's Canal and climb on-board for lunch or a cruising dinner on London Shell Co., a new floating restaurant that opened in December, housed inside the refurbished Prince Regent canal boat. Specialising in seafood, unsurprisingly, the menu includes seasonal dishes such as Morecambe Bay oysters, home-cured Scottish salmon and game for autumn.
Pick a number from one to five! Stefano Cresci's Florentine pizza restaurant Pizza Toscana is opening its first UK site in Soho. It will serve a core menu of five pizzas - named simply Pizza 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 - with Tuscan toppings such as pecorino cheese instead of mozzarella and chopped Costoluto Fiorentino tomatoes instead of passata. Starters, other mains and desserts will also grace the simple menu.
All aboard The Red Bus Bistro for a new afternoon tea tour or a gourmet burger tour around the stunning sights and historic culture of Edinburgh. During the one and two hour tours on this vintage 1966 Routemaster bus, guests will be invited to 'dine and download' a dedicated Red Bus Bistro tour application using free Wi-Fi on-board. The bus departs from St Andrew Square Bus Station.
Alchemilla is the latest addition to Finnieston's foodie quarter, with Glasgow local Rosie Healey as Head Chef. Expect exciting contemporary Ottolenghi-style dishes with eastern spices and small sharing plates in relaxed minimalist surroundings.
Also new to Finnieston is Chelsea Market - a great place to go for a lazy brunch, long lunch or dinner. Relax in a cosy booth or on one of the vintage cushioned bench seats and peruse an extensive wine and cocktail list.
Newly opened Table 11 is the sister restaurant of Crabshakk and serves up delicious fish-focused small plates. Highlights include lobster dumplings in watermelon Thai green curry, laska broth and salt cod acras.
The latest addition to the restaurant scene in Glasgow's East End is Bilson Eleven. It's located in a 19th century townhouse, but offers a modern approach to classic flavours, techniques and Scottish ingredients.
Glasgow restaurant group Rusk & Rusk has recently opened its latest venture, The Spanish Butcher, in Glasgow's Merchant City. Premium Spanish meats and fish are high on the agenda and the décor gives the restaurant a cool New York vibe.
Themed as an old pharmacy and with an emphasis on healthy living, The Drugstore Social bar uses foraged ingredients as the base of its health-conscious cocktails and food menu.
Two new specialist brewpubs opened in Glasgow at the end of last year. The Shilling Brewing Co. is set in the historic surroundings of a former bank, serving up its own brews on tap alongside specialty pizzas. In Glasgow's West End, Crossing the Rubicon has 14 draught lines and four cask lines, as well as an ever-changing variety of guest beers and curries from around the world.
Wales now has a total of seven Michelin-starred restaurants - in the most recent guide Restaurant James Sommerin in Penarth, just south of Cardiff, and Sosban and The Old Butchers Restaurant on the island of Anglesey off the north-west coast of Wales received new stars.
Fancy a shisha with your halal burger, or a Charles Dickens-inspired breakfast? Cardiff is now home to two unique new foodie experiences. Due to open this month, Cloud is a shisha bar with an American-style halal food menu, and will be the first of its kind in Wales. Offering more than 100 shisha flavour combinations and 20 ice cream flavours, it will have an 'oasis area' featuring sand, real palm trees, floor cushions and a water feature, as well as a luxury VIP area. With a very different theme, new Charles Dickens-inspired café Dickens of Charles Street aims to transport its diners back to the Victorian era. Serving breakfast, light meals, afternoon teas and Sunday dinners, its dishes are named after famous Dickens characters - from Oliver's breakfast bowl to Nancy's pancake stack.
Combine iconic Welsh architecture with a new afternoon tea at The Senedd in Cardiff Bay, home to the National Assembly for Wales. Known for its distinctive design, visitors can learn about the building's fascinating history on a free guided tour before or after relaxing with afternoon tea on the balcony of the building's Oriel Café, overlooking the water. A choice of either coffee or Welsh tea is accompanied by sandwiches, freshly made scones with jam and clotted cream, mini quiches and traditional Welsh cakes - all baked fresh in-house. Yum!
Over in the little fishing town of Mumbles on the western edge of Swansea Bay, Croeso Lounge opened at the end of last year in the town's new Oyster Wharf development. This buzzy venue has an eclectic décor, and offers a great range of lunch and dinner choices, with lovely seaside views. The menu includes grilled halloumi salad, tapas served with ciabatta, chorizo hash and a falafel burger with wood-roasted pepper and basil pesto - as well as lots of gluten free and vegan options.
The 40-acre Lingholm estate near Keswick in the Lake District opened its own artisan bakery in November. Lingholm Bakery is set in a small building dating back almost 150 years and would have formerly been known to the author Beatrix Potter as a potting shed during her many summer holidays on the estate in the late 19th century! Try the tasty signature sourdough as a yummy souvenir.
An exciting new restaurant for the Lake District, Gilpin Spice, opened at the Michelin-starred Gilpin Hotel & Lake House in December. Its informal menu features sharing dishes from the Indian sub-continent, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, Japan and China. Executive Chef Hrishikesh Desai sources all of the spices personally from around the world.
With three new openings in December alone, it's an exciting time for the city's foodie scene. With great views across the Newcastle city-scape, Chaophraya is a luxury rooftop dining experience, taking diners on a culinary journey through regions of Thailand.
Newcastle restauranteur Andy Hook's new restaurant, Dobson and Parnell, is set in a Victorian building with an elegant high-ceilinged dining room. Specialising in British and European cuisine, the menus feature dishes like pressed wild rabbit, hake smoked clam and smoked wild duck breast.
A new addition to Newcastle's Quayside is Shilling - a stylish bar and restaurant with a sustainable ‘nose to tail' ethos, where chefs use as much of an animal as possible in their meat dishes, while the bar's mixologist creates cocktails using every part of the ingredients needed.
Manchester has become one of the UK's most exciting foodie destinations and it looks like 2017 will be another delicious year for visitors to this vibrant city.
The Refuge by Volta, housed within the opulent surroundings and soaring ceilings of the The Principal Manchester hotel, is the work of Justin Crawford and Luke Cowdrey, two former DJs-turned-restauranteurs. The globally-influenced menu features small plates and sharing dishes - try the People's Lunch for a great value feast.
Chef Samuel Buckley, who headed up the kitchen at L'Enclume (considered by some as the UK's best restaurant), has just opened Where the Light Gets In - a new restaurant and market housed in a Victorian warehouse in Stockport, just outside of Manchester's city centre. The restaurant's tasting menu is based on the ‘catch, harvest and slaughter' of the day. Future plans for the space include a ground floor café and grocery shop, plus a basement gin parlour.
GG Hospitality, the company backed by Manchester United football legends Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs, has recently taken over the restaurant spaces at the National Football Museum. Acclaimed chef Michael O'Hare is heading up The Rabbit In The Moon on the upper floors of the museum, described as a 'space-age Asian' restaurant which launches this month.
Set a few minutes' walk from the sea, the award-winning Chewton Glen hotel in Hampshire is opening a purpose-built cookery school, The Kitchen, in early February 2017. Led by chef tutor Rob Cottam, there will be classes for all skills and ability levels, and the kitchen garden will provide ingredients for students - and even visiting celebrity chefs.
In November, healthy fast food chain Leon opened its ‘most family- and eco-friendly' restaurant in Oxford, with a play area, children's library and customer recycling station. The new venue has two new vegetarian options for breakfast - a halloumi muffin and a veggie egg pot - alongside favourites such as Moroccan meatballs and the fish finger wrap. Cyclist customers will receive free Leon coffee vouchers.
Organic Home Farm is located on the impressive Goodwood Estate in West Sussex and has been farmed by the family for more than 300 years. Its new restaurant Farmer, Butcher, Chef opened in November and its dishes feature beef, pork and lamb all born and reared on the estate, fed only on home-grown organic produce. The butcher is directly involved in designing dishes according to what cuts are available, which means nothing is wasted.
This month, Michelin-starred Indian chef Atul Kochhar is bringing his modern British food with an Indian twist to his new restaurant, Hawkyns, at the Crown Inn in Amersham, Buckinghamshire. After enjoying dishes like scallops with leek terrine and chicken tikka pie, guests can retire to one of the inn's 38 rooms for the night.
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VisitBritain Media Teampressandpr@visitbritain.com