A taste of the top chefs for less
Published 18 July 2023

Credit: Story Cellar

You’ve heard so much about a particular chef, find the restaurant and the menu tempting but hesitate at the sheer cost of it all. Then consider the chef’s diffusion line restaurant instead. Less expensive in order to reach a broader market, these secondary openings are where you might find the influence of a chef whose cooking you like but with less of a strain on your pocket.

It’s all relative of course. To eat at Gareth Ward’s World Class-rated Ynyshir in Wales costs an eye popping £345 (without alcohol). Gwen, Ward’s latest opening in the centre of nearby Machynlleth, is an eight-seat communal-table restaurant where the menu costs £100 and is headed by Ynyshir alumnus Corrin Harrison. Worth knowing about too is Gwen’s no-reservations wine bar and a wine shop and its very affordable small plates menu.

Fans of Tom Sellers’ creative, contemporary cooking should check out Story Cellar in Covent Garden. With Seller’s flagship Restaurant Story near London Bridge closed for refurbishment until later this year, Story Cellar is where you’ll find his exceptional team cooking small plates (around £15) and the likes of grass-fed ribeye (£42), mussels in ‘Story’ cider (£28), rotisserie chicken (£32) – and plenty of fries – in an informal counter-dining setting.

The Black Swan & The Abbey Inn

If the £175 tasting menu at The Black Swan feels a stretch, head to the Banks family’s recently opened pub at nearby Byland. The Abbey Inn’s £20 ‘Byland burger’ is fast getting a reputation, and its meat comes from the family’s Dexter herd, echoing the uncompromising approach to ingredients established at the Black Swan.

The Old Stamp House & Kysty

Kysty is the casual sibling to Ambleside’s acclaimed Old Stamp House. The focus on Cumbrian ingredients is the same as at Ryan and Craig Blackburn’s flagship, and while the £95 Old Stamp House dinner is extraordinary, Kysty’s heritage tomatoes with Curthwaite goats’ cheese curd (£12), and Cumbrian lamb rump with fermented apricot (£29) are less of an investment.

Bibendum & Oyster Bar at Bibendum

Pop in for half a dozen native oysters (from £4.50 apiece), or a ‘Bibendum burger’ and fries (£23) at the Oyster Bar on the ground floor of this iconic building. The Oyster Bar is an informal alternative to Claude Bosi’s super-elegant French restaurant upstairs (dinner there is £165), but loses nothing of the French vibe. You can even order a seafood takeaway.

Moor Hall & The Barn

Moor Hall is ‘truly remarkable’, our inspectors report – World Class, in fact – but head to the adjacent brick Barn for a more laid-back experience. In this ‘jumping first-floor joint’ a set lunch costs an accessible £42, but includes ingredients harvested from the same five acres of kitchen gardens as used by Moor Hall where the £225 Provenance menu is the stuff of special occasions.

Outlaw’s New Road & Outlaw’s Fish Kitchen

Head down the hill from Nathan Outlaw’s main restaurant in Port Isaac, Outlaw’s New Road, to find tiny Outlaw’s Fish Kitchen. There’s no less careful an approach to fish-sourcing and cookery at the harbourside restaurant, just simpler offer and a price tag that reflects that. Six small plates come as and when ready and cost £88 compared with £175 for the full tasting menu up the hill.

The Star Inn & York Minster Refectory

The Star Inn at Harome, Andrew Pern’s storied pub-restaurant, offers a tasting menu for £125. You can eat there for less, but check out York Minster Refectory to find Andrew’s style – classical but with bags of Yorkshire personality – in all-day brasserie dishes such torched mackerel with gooseberries (£14), and Yorkshire Wolds chicken with lyonnaise potatoes (£23).

Pollen Street Social & Social Eating House

Jason Atherton’s exceptional Mayfair flagship offers tasting menus at £165 and £190 (for the chef’s counter experience). But here’s a good hack. Alex Parker (ex City Social and Claude Bosi at Bibendum) is back in the Social fold. His extraordinary chef’s experience menu, devised with Atherton and served in the Social Eating House kitchen, is £115.

L’Enclume & Rogan & Co

The GFG’s number 1 and World Class restaurant, L’Enclume, is on the £250 bucket list of many a restaurant-goer, but check out Rogan & Co for a dose of the famous Simon Rogan magic for a relatively modest £79. Expect ingredients from Our Farm and rigorous attention to detail across three courses plus snacks, a pre-dessert and petits fours.

Osip & The Old Pharmacy

At one end of Bruton high street is Osip with its the impeccable Top 20 credentials; right next door is The Old Pharmacy with its bare tables and simple dishes that come as and when ready. They share owner Merlin Labron-Johnson’s farm-to-fork ethos, but one will set you back £120, while at the other a bowl of caponata is a delicious £8 and grilled octopus with punchy ‘nduja £22.