6th May 2016
The way we like to eat is changing dramatically. Fragmented lifestyles mean that the dining table – once the heart of family life – is no longer regarded as an essential purchase when setting up a home. Restaurants are changing too. Dining out is becoming less formal, with more flexible opening times and menus reflecting the way we live now. It means that chefs and restaurateurs feel positively encouraged to experiment with ground-breaking ideas and to tailor their offerings to their particular location as well as to customers’ expectations. There’s no doubt that British food has never been more exciting with creative start-ups, supper clubs and underground dining events packing a punch in a versatile dining-out scene.
Take Bravas, a Spanish tapas bar located on Cotham Hill, Bristol. It started life as a secret underground supper club run from the owners’ Bristol home and is now one of the city’s most in-demand eateries. In Leeds, Good Food Guide spies have reported favourably on The Greedy Pig, a greasy spoon by day that morphs into a restaurant, The Swine That Dines, on Friday and Saturday evenings, serving small plates cooked by an ex-Harvey Nichols chef.
This trend for an all-day café, serving breakfasts, sandwiches, coffee and cakes, trading up to a slightly more refined restaurant in the evening, is one we are beginning to track at The Good Food Guide. Norse, in Harrogate, is a daytime café turned Scandi-style restaurant at night. While Silo in Brighton is a bakery and café whose twice-weekly evening menu proved so successful that they now open for dinner on five nights.
Elsewhere, The Canvas Café in east London might be known for breakfast and brunch, but one of London’s newest venues takes over one night a month – Nick Gilkinson’s The Potlatch is a supper club featuring a different monthly chef. And winning the prize for the most unusual place is Hill & Szrok in London’s Broadway Market. A butcher’s by day, it becomes a no-reservations restaurant in the evening, with meals served at a communal table. The menu changes daily depending on what’s good in the butcher’s shop.
Read on for more of the best we’ve found…
Treat yourself £££
Silo | Brighton, Sussex | silobrighton.com
In a chunky warehouse in the North Laine, Douglas McMaster has created a bakery, café and restaurant. Waste free, sustainability obsessed, environmentally aware, this is where old and new techniques collide to create food that places provenance and flavour above all else. The short choice breakfast and lunch menus remain popular, but the evenings have proved a big hit. Tasting menus are the way to go – omnivore (pheasant breast, parsnip and pear) or herbivore (cauliflower, green rye porridge and red onion) – or there’s the option of ordering individual dishes from either menu.
Norse | Harrogate, Yorkshire | norserestaurant.co.uk
The white-tiled daytime café Baltzersens (think pickled herring with potato salad, or open sandwich of meatballs and lingonberry jam) morphs into a Scandi-inspired restaurant at night, offering a list of eight small, medium or large plates as well as a tasting menu. Norse presents predominantly northern-climate ingredients like mackerel, bass, mussels and kale, liberally sprinkled with more esoteric finds of grelot onions, monk’s beard (green shoots, similar in appearance to samphire), wild leek and maitake (giant mushroom), all eagerly explained by a youthful, check-shirted team. Good bread, delicious smoked butter and the likes of loin of Scottish red deer, meatballs, beetroot, kale, cocoa nib crumble and hibiscus dressing add up to an operation that’s very hip for Harrogate.
Great value ££
Wright’s Food Emporium | Llanarthne, Carmarthenshire, west Wales | wrightsfood.co.uk
Wright’s is a foodstore-cum-restaurant for the passionate – a former coaching inn stripped back and lightened in typically trendy, rustic style, its rooms include a wine store, deli and a hotchpotch of furniture, with blackboard menus listing the day’s creations. The kitchen takes what’s in store, plus what’s available from local suppliers and runs with it. Highlights from the daytime menu include pork belly cubano and an exceedingly good pear upside-down cake. In the evening you can chow down on beef dripping fried bread, egg and chanterelles, then Cardigan Bay crab linguini.
Osso | Peebles, Scotland | ossorestaurant.com
Conveniently located by the Eastgate Arts Centre, this casual daytime café offers lunch, brunch and teas to shoppers and day trippers seven days a week. Tuesday to Saturday evenings, the soups, scones and pushchairs give way to a classier experience, while retaining the informality of service. Soft candles now accent the dark wood and mirrored finishes to set a more subtle stage for modern bistro cooking. Home-soused mackerel with pickled cucumber and a wasabi-sesame finish, or dry-aged rump steak, malt-glazed ox cheek, watercress and mushroom ketchup show a chef prepared to incorporate global inspiration with local Borders ingredients.
Pythouse Kitchen Garden Café & Shop | West Hatch, Wiltshire | pythouse-farm.co.uk
You would be hard pressed to better the bucolic scene at this former potting shed on the Pythouse Estate. Wiltshire’s answer to Petersham Nurseries (the popular garden centre and tearoom in west London) overlooks a Victorian walled garden, nursery and the fields beyond, and deftly walks the line between elegant and rustic. Tea and homemade cake is on offer throughout the day, but it’s also a lovely spot for lunch, offering a concise menu – say spiced beef meatballs with lime and coriander yogurt, or broccoli and goat’s cheese tart. On Friday evenings only there is a set three-course dinner menu.
Marriott’s Warehouse | King’s Lynn, Norfolk | marriottswarehouse.co.uk
Housed in a centuries-old warehouse, this quayside eatery marries fascinating maritime heritage with a cool lounge area, local artworks, great views and a diverse menu bolstered by blackboard specials. Breakfast, coffee and cake, lunchtime sandwiches, small plates, sharing platters and easy mains give way to evening dishes that suit Marriott’s aspirational neighbourhood to a T. Expect the likes of beetroot panna cotta with goat’s cheese and pistachio salad, and honey and orange-glazed duck breast with wild rice, wild mushrooms and Chantenay carrots.
Article originally published in Waitrose Weekend, 28 April 2016. For more news stories, life-style features, wine recommendations, recipes and weekend entertaining, download the Waitrose Weekend app.
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