Britain's food scene is continually changing: below we bring you some of the most newsworthy recent restaurant openings and food stories.
Edinburgh - festival city of food
Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland, welcomes four million people to watch 25,000 artists, entertainers and thinkers in more than 1,000 shows per day from June to the end of August. The festival atmosphere no doubts builds up appetites and what better way to explore the city during festival season than by its heady mix of cuisine and bars/pubs (the city has more restaurants per head of population than any other UK city!) from the elegant Castle Tea Rooms to The Devil's Advocate which serves more than 200 whiskies in this Old Town Victorian pump house. www.edinburghcastle.gov.uk, www.devilsadvocateedinburgh.co.uk
The Fringe Festival in particular, is about the range and affordability of the acts and the same can be said for the variety of great food to tuck into on a budget. Café/bistro Spoon has got it just right with the blend of high-end feel and a fresh and affordable menu. Prices hover around £4 for brunch and a glass of rosé is £3.50. And, what better way to round off a day of festivities than a traditional fish supper! Not any old fish and chips if you head to the Tailend, an Edinburgh stalwart; this chippie offers a simple sit-in area and serves up home-made chips with battered haddock or scallops, fish stew and pasta. Children eat free on a Sunday. www.spoonedinburgh.co.uk, www.tailendedinburgh.co.uk
Scotland is also celebrating a ‘Year of Food and Drink' throughout 2015 so there is even more to inspire and whet your appetite during the festivities:
The Royal Dick was once the Small Animal Hospital of the Dick Vet School. Now creatively transformed into a unique destination bar/café, Summerhall is the perfect location for taking in a festival show or just lapping up the atmosphere. As well as being a major festival hub of performance, Summerhall is also home to Pickering's Gin distillery and Barney's Beer brewery! www.summerhall.co.uk
Located just across the road from many main festival venues, Ting Thai Caravan is a perfect spot for a quick lunch or dinner in between shows. You may have to queue but the amazing Thai street food is worth the wait. Ting Thai started as a pop restaurant doing the August festivals and is now a year-round culinary treat. www.facebook.com/Ting-Thai-CARAVAN
Aizle is a Scottish Neo-Bistro on Edinburgh's South Side. Aizle has no traditional menu - something completely unique to Scotland and to most of Britain. With no restrictions, owners Stuart and Krystal have the freedom to utilize the very best produce farms and suppliers have to offer. The customer benefits by knowing everything on their plate is at the height of its freshness and seasonality. www.aizle.co.uk
VDeep is Scotland's first Communal Craft Beer & Curry Bar and headed up by comedian and Fringe Festival favourite Hardeep Singh Kohli. This new venture located in Leith brings a fresh twist on traditional Indian and Scottish food, pairing with the very best craft beer - Bangras and Mash anyone? www.vdeep.co.uk
Union of Genius is Scotland's first ever soup café - perfect for a healthy festival lunch! www.unionofgenius.com While, Hula, located in the heart of Edinburgh's historic Old Town, is a perfect spot to recharge those festival batteries and sample some of the fantastic super healthy juices and smoothies. www.hulajuicebar.co.uk
For something wee more indulgent heat to Mary's Milk Bar and escape to the mid-20th century with this Art Deco style gelateria to sample some world class gelato or some seriously special hot chocolate. Flavors change daily and are inspired by seasons and experimentation. The salted caramel will make an impression. www.marysmilkbar.com
One Square has created a mouth-watering Afternoon Tea experience for the summer, drawing inspiration from the botanicals in handcrafted Caorunn Gin, which hails from the Scottish Highlands. The Gin-Tastic afternoon tea can be enjoyed in the beautiful One Square Bar and Terrace which features picture-postcard views of Edinburgh Castle and some of the city's main theaters and festival venues. www.OneSquareEdinburgh.co.uk
Heading west has always been aligned to seeking new frontiers and innovation, which purveyors of excellence in local produce, flavors and drink are doing increasingly across England's west and south-west regions.
Rick Stein has announced plans to open a restaurant in Sandbanks, Dorset, south-west England, in late autumn. The self-titled ‘Rick Stein' restaurant, with stunning views overlooking the water will offer classic, locally caught (where possible) seafood dishes alongside a more casual lunch time menu with dishes and will seat around 200. 2015 also celebrates the 40th anniversary of the opening of The Seafood Restaurant in Padstow. From humble beginnings the business now employs over 400 and includes nine restaurants, hotel and self-catering accommodation, retail outlets and a cookery school. Rick and his business partner, and former wife, Jill, are both still at the helm, with all three sons involved in the business. www.rickstein.com
If its Michelin-starred cuisine, and drink, with a quirky twist, that make your taste-buds tingle then David Nicholson's suite of establishments in Winchester, Hampshire (one-hour from London from Waterloo station) is a must-do experience. The Black Rat, housed in an 18th-century building, has one Michelin star and mixes up its modern British menu with local produce and veg from its own kitchen garden. His first Winchester venue, The Black Boy pub, opened in 1995, is a traditional drinking-hole still drawing in satisfied punters. Or wine enthusiasts can choose from more than 140 different wines by the glass on pre-charged cards at The Black Bottle. And, if you need a room for the night how about a stay in one of 10 individually-designed cells (rooms) at the recently opened Black Hole B&B. We're curious to see what Mr Nicholson does next. www.theblackrat.co.uk
Bristol, home to England's street-art aficionados, has just got that bit cooler, with the recent opening of Steak of the Art, an ever-changing gallery of art displayed around an equally artful and stunning interior; this is a steak and fish restaurant like no other! The brainchild of classically-trained chef and local entrepreneur Steve Bowen, the focus is equally on delicious affordable food and showcasing original pieces and limited prints from British artists. Steak of the Art has also opened in Cardiff, Wales. www.steakoftheart.co.uk/home
And, now you can indulge your hankering for a yummy pasty without having to get out of your car. The world's first drive-thru restaurant selling Cornish pasties has opened in Poole, Dorset, south-west England. For the first time ever, drivers are now able to place their order at one window, before driving to the next to collect their traditionally made Cornish take on fast-food. The eatery also features a 100-seat restaurant, a gluten-free bakery and a state-of-the-art baker-training facility and is the brainchild of the owner of Portreath Bakery, which already runs a string of shops producing the much-loved Cornish delicacy. www.portreathbakery.co.uk
Tasty trends in Wales
Things are hotting up in Wales, and it's not just the weather! New food and drink ventures making use of local architecture and new trends has seen the scene flourish in unexpected locations and with interesting flavor and cuisine directions.
It once housed public toilets, but the old Aberystwyth harbour building has recently been transformed into a new seafood café/bar called Pysgoty. Located on the seafront, Pysgoty is the newest venture of husband and wife team Rhiannon and Craig Edwards who took over Jonah's Fish Market in the town in January. www.facebook.com/Pysgoty
The much-anticipated new Dylan's Restaurant in Criccieth, Bangor, north-west Wales, opened in May. Housed in the Grade II-listed Morannedd building on the waterfront, this will be the second Dylan's Restaurant, with the first located at Menai Bridge, Anglesey, north Wales. www.dylansrestaurant.co.uk
This summer sees the opening of Cardiff's first 100% vegan café and kombucha (a drink made by fermenting black or green tea and sugar with bacteria and yeast) bar. Anna-Loka aims to offer delicious vegan meals made from organic ingredients, and also to show meat eaters the food options available in a no-meat lifestyle. www.facebook.com/annalokacafebar
If meat has to be on the menu head to Porro, a new venture from the team behind the highly successful Potted Pig restaurant, opened in May. Porro offers British cuisine inspired by Italian cooking in the heart of Llandaff, Cardiff. www.porrocardiff.com
All that eating can leave you thirsty for a decent coffee; Handlebar Barista has taken the hassle out of looking for a café or free table. This group of friends from Cardiff and their coffee bar on wheels can be found cycling and pouring the perfect Flat White around the Welsh capital, and also at various events. www.twitter.com/bikebarcardiff
Gin's reign continues
Whichever way you turn at the moment gin is flavor of the month...year...and beyond! Definitely the drink du jour it even has a global festival in its honor - World Gin Day kicked off in June with local and global events that included events ranging from a Gin and Speed-dating event in London to a World Gin Day lunch at Glennap Castle, a Scottish Baronial style castle in Ayrshire built circa 1870. www.worldginday.com www.glenappcastle.com
It is the variety of gins available, and appealing to most palates, that is dazzling; with many being British distilled. A complex drink, gin starts out as a neutral, flavorless spirit that is combined with an array of botanicals (predominantly juniper), which release their aromatics during the distillation process - this is what creates the signature scents and flavour variations. Quirky and interesting places to enjoy a tipple...or three: Boasting the largest gin selection this side of the Channel Graphic Bar, in the heart of London's Soho, even has a monthly club celebrating all things gin (www.graphicbar.com); for a lazy afternoon drink you can't beat sipping a coconutty Hoxton Gin & Tonic at The Exmouth Arms, a lovely traditional pub, a five-minute walk to Euston Station, London, with easy access for out-of-town visitors. www.publove.co.uk/Exmouth-Arms-Euston.aspx
The Gin &Tonic Experience at The Chesterfield Mayfair in London is an affordable way to try a variety of gins in a luxurious setting with a choice of four tasting menus - a bespoke tray is presented containing three gins showcasing different attributes from floral to citrus, spicy or smooth, along with the chance to see and touch 12 of the most common natural botanicals used to create these flavors. www.chesterfieldmayfair.com
The list of drink-worthy British-made gins is lengthy, and growing; here are a few of the most popular - Tanqueray No. 10, Sipsmith, Williams Chase London Dry, Berkeley Square, and Fifty Pounds - the name dates back to the 1736 Gin Act, which imposed a £50 licence fee on gin retailers. Luckily, the license fee has gone but the flavor has continually grown!
Restaurants with rooms
BAnG! is the latest new café/bar with rooms to open in the center of the popular fishing port, Wells-Next-The-Sea, on the increasingly popular North Norfolk Coast, around three hours' drive from London.
Occupying a restored Grade-II listed building to create a bright contemporary ground floor café restaurant, four stylish individual bedrooms and a south facing patio, BAnG!, is named in fond memory of co-owner Christopher Tennant's father, the late Lord Glenconner, who called his own restaurant in St Lucia ‘Bang Between The Pitons.'
Simple food is served all day in a relaxed and friendly ambience, as well as coffee or drinks, beside the wood burning stove on cold winter days or in the courtyard in the summer months. Children are welcomed to both the café and accommodation, with four rooms available for guests ‘to rest and relax at their own pace'. www.banginwells.co.uk
SEASON, a new cookery school located within the impressive 63-acre grounds of Lainston House, Hampshire, has just launched.
Part of Exclusive Hotels and Venues, SEASON features a state-of-the-art kitchen area with six double sided workstations incorporating the latest Gaggenau equipment and Bulthaup kitchen furniture along with a demonstration table for theory and presentations. Classes are designed to appeal to novice and confident home cooks with the desire to challenge and hone their chef skills: Full or half-day courses will cover roast meats, bread making, jams, marmalades and chutneys, chocolate, perfect desserts, knife skills and the art of Charcuterie.
Award-winning chefs will also ensure the courses are extra-special and include 2 Michelin Star (and 5 AA Rosettes) Head Chef, Michael Wignall at The Latymer and Matt Gillan Head Chef at The Pass, South Lodge (1 Michelin Star and 4 AA Rosettes). Guests of SEASON will be able to sample their creations with the chefs, offering a true plot-to-pot-to-plate, memorable experience.
SEASON will offer guests full and half day cookery classes as well as gastronomical overnight breaks at Lainston House. Classes are available from £75 for a half day and from £155-£185 per person for a full day for up to 24 people. www.exclusivehotels.co.uk/cookery_school
Eating on the streets across London
Londoners' lust for ever-new food and drink experiences has seen the growth of night-street food stalls and markets which, in little more than a few years, have popped up and quickly taken root, and are here to stay, come rain, hail or shine!
The creative food bursting with adventurous flavors is matched by an ambience that is festive, noisy and colourful; with the brief rapidly expanding across the landscape to include music, art, shopping and even getting a haircut if you wish.
An early leader of the scene, KERB, was set up in 2012 as a community of food traders. It has now stretched its reach across London and offers foodies the delights of a truly cosmopolitan London with food reflecting its diverse and delicious ethnic cuisines. Coming to a corner near you KERB can be found currently delighting foodies at these and other locations: Southbank Centre, Kings Cross and Paddington. Make sure you check out Rainbo, serving yummy Japanese-inspired gyozo and salads from a 1948 Ford Pick-Up. Dates and times vary www.kerbfood.com
Wildly popular Night Tales, a winter cocktail fest, has merged into Summer Tales, 15 weekends of food and fun at Red Market space on Old Street in east London - Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. Four bars whip up cocktails alongside street food stalls and pop-ups from some of London's best known restaurants including Burger and Lobster. The fun continues with DJ's, hammocks for resting your over-filled belly and a sun terrace for sipping those cocktails. www.nighttales.co.uk
Urban Food Fest street food and bar night market takes place at the Euro Car Parks in Shoreditch, east London, and features 15 global gourmet street food trucks and stalls that change each week. And, what is good food without a premium bar and cocktail bar with specialist urban cocktails available at the Fest? Live music and seating make this a swanky street affair. www.urbanfoodfest.com
New kid on the block, Playground and Proof, has upped the ante with the launch this month of a weekend market in Field Works, Hackney. Playground offers an eclectic range of food (ice-cream sandwiches anyone!), haircuts in the sunshine, scandi design and arts and crafts among other things. Perched above, Proof, a year round in-house bar and roof terrace, overlooking London Fields, serves up mescal cocktails, cider and beer. Watch out for Sunday night cinema on the roof. www.playgroundandproof.com
Other night markets creating local food heaven across the city include: Brixton Night Market (www.brixtonnightmarket.co.uk); Model Market, Lewisham South London (www.streetfeastlondon.com/model-market); Little Feast, Shepherd's Bush (www.wefeast.co.uk), and Street Feast, various locations (www.streetfeastlondon.com).
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VisitBritain Media Teampressandpr@visitbritain.com