23 restaurants to save your summer
Published 09 August 2023

Credit: Rochelle Canteen, Shoreditch, London

It’s been a damp squib of a July and early August, but with the promise of a return to sunnier weather this week, here’s a reminder of what summer eating can be all about.

Dovetale, the latest restaurant from chef Tom Sellers is in London’s just-opened 1Hotel Mayfair and the knickerbocker glory trolley is a piece of genius. Let your imagination run wild, or go on-menu with a Boozy Bocker, piled high with coconut & rum and vanilla ice creams, roasted pineapple, whipped cream, and coconut shavings. Tropical sunshine meets nostalgic dessert – yes please!

Staying with the sweet taste of nostalgia – and Sellers – don’t miss the trifle at Story Cellar in Seven Dials which our inspector described as ‘ethereal sophistication’. There’s a classic of the type at Lark in Bury St Edmunds too, its ingredients changing with the seasons, and at Benedicts in Norwich, Nanny Bush’s trifle, with its berries, cream, hundreds & thousands, and popping candy, has become the stuff of nostalgic pudding legend following chef Richard Bainbridge’s 2015 dessert triumph on the BBC’s Great British Menu competition.

Rambutan, the debut restaurant from Sri Lankan chef-author Cynthia Shanmugalingam is a joyful smash-hit of flavour, colour and – yes – sunshine. Head to its Borough Market home to find whole crab curry, Sri Lankan coconut dal, and hot butter calamari, dishes guaranteed to chase away rainy-day blues. Pick a counter seat for a ringside view of lively kitchen activity.

Watch a game of cricket from the dry comfort of a country pub such as The Beehive at White Waltham which overlooks the village cricket ground and delivers a Berkshire setting that is as English as the weather. Tuck into the likes of a wild rabbit lasagne starter, dry-aged steak with pommes anna, and millefeuille with hazelnut-mascarpone filling as White Waltham take on Thatcham Town on August 19th.

Pull up a counter seat for half a dozen Maldon rock oysters at The Oyster Club in Birmingham, followed by a luxurious seafood platter, and let the sea come to you. In London, find it where else but at Bentley’s Oyster Bar where even cooler weather is met by the restaurant’s superlative Cornish fish stew. And given the name, it’s not surprising that a dedicated oyster bar takes centre stage at Covent Garden’s The Oystermen, a personally run seafood restaurant with a handful of outside tables should the weather be co-operating.

Head to the garden. There are so many to choose from, but in London we do have a soft spot for the tucked-away peace of Rochelle Canteen, and the all-day welcome of the lovely inner courtyard of The Garden at Corinthia. In Clerkenwell we consider Luca’s compact covered garden with its fireplace, cobbles and foliage worthy of a Roman palazzo. And there aren't many settings more desirable than Dinings SW3, a modern Japanese restaurant tucked at one end of an exclusive Knightsbridge mews, and sporting a beautifully spacious courtyard (complete with a mature tree) for alfresco meals.

Eat the freshest Cornish seafood at Argoe, the purpose-built, wood-clad building overlooking Newlyn’s picturesque harbour. Or be seduced by the super local, bright summery produce on the menu and on display at the Goods Shed, Kent. In Sheffield, Domo delivers a taste of Sardinia in its lively restaurant, bar and deli; there’s even a large terrace for drinks and aperitivi – if necessary. While Bacareto, a Venetian bar and restaurant in the heart of Cardiff offers generous, inventive and often free-form take on Venetian food, ranging from cicchetti to not-so-small plates.

Bridport has punched above its weight food-wise since the Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall days but it's still a surprise to come across Dorshi, a cool café-cum-dining room serving terrific cocktails and pan-Asian small plates. Gees is a long-standing favourite of the north Oxford beau monde and now has a heated garden terrace, though its essence has always been the beautiful conservatory restaurant and the catch-all Med-inspired menu. Though not strictly by the sea, North Yorks Craigs by the Sea is the perfect café destination after a stroll along the beach, while Bristol’s BOX-E boasts a heated canvas stretch tent for their terrace, which can come as a welcome relief on the Bristol wharf. Or just head for the best restaurant view in Manchester. 20 Stories is an eye-popping experience, literally towering above its nearest rival for glitz.

Or you could simply put faith in the name – The Sun Inn, the much-loved pub in pretty Dedham in Essex. The sign is sunny, it’s sunflower-yellow paintwork is sunny, and its menu is sunny – expect the likes of a Cromer crab platter, grey mullet with crab and saffron sauce, and a summer berry posset. What could be more summery?