The Good Food Guide inspectors' meals of the year, 2023
Published 20 December 2023

The Good Food Guide's inspectors are some of the most prolific diners in Britain but more often than not, there's notes to take, cooking to scrutinise and a dining room to be read. When the reviews are filed, which meals - on and off duty - have stayed with them? Here are our inspectors' meals of 2023.

Woven by Adam Smith & Seasonality

Best restaurant I visited this year? I don’t usually like to recommend the most expensive places, but Woven takes some beating: our meal had all the artistry, labour intensity, coherence and inventiveness that food pitched at this level demands. ‘Oh, I see what he means’ and ‘that’s clever’ are the sort of responses elicited.

But as for recommending to friends, Seasonality has been top of my list. I’ve been frankly appalled at the prices charged by most venues within a ten mile radius of Bray/Marlow. Seasonality bucks the trend and its sheer joyful enthusiasm for food is contagious - and backed by serious nous in the kitchen.

  • Inspector HP

Smoke, Hampton Manor

I’d go back to Smoke's new counter in a heartbeat. It was fun, pacy, delicious, relaxed, a place that doesn't take itself too seriously but that is clearly ambitious. I loved that it was buzzing on a midweek evening, and with all sorts of people/ages/groups and solos like me.

Counters rely heavily on the personality of the chefs working at them, and on my visit the pair on cold starters and desserts - both are prepped at the counter – were chatty and clearly happy in their jobs. It added a lovely warmth to the experience, especially as a solo diner.

Fun, unconventional wine pairings kept the vibe going. I loved the ice-cider from Somerset with the dessert, and a bright, aromatic, very delicious South African pet nat to start with (El Bandito 'I Wish I Was A Ninja').

The whole experience was hugely, hugely enjoyable, hospitality at its most natural, instinctive best. Highly recommend.

  • Inspector ATE

Forza Wine at the National Theatre

My favourite meal or rather meals - I've been a few times both solo and in a group - have been at the new Forza Wine restaurant at the National Theatre. What I love about it there is that while the gutsy Italian-ish food is excellent, nobody is there solely for that. They're there to see a play, to meet friends, have a drink, or visit the South Bank. It's good value; there's a £15 lunch dish and a glass of wine deal or you can even, if there are four or so of you, order the whole menu for £150 (including a Custardo® or soft-serve for everyone). There are no dull pre-theatre menus; if you're pressed for time, you can just have a plate or two. It's noisy, busy, and at times a bit hectic, but it has a vibe and in all my years of going to dreary theatre restaurants, I never thought I'd see the day. Theatre restaurants up and down the country need to be paying close attention. It's interesting that it's come at a time just as the National Theatre is about to trial early curtain-up times; it will allow people to enjoy an evening of food and theatre on their own terms (and get home before midnight).

  • Inspector NB


My meal of the year was Wilderness. They really bring high end dining down to earth, they aren’t ludicrously pricey, the wine listing and service are best in class, and the uniqueness is off the chart without being inaccessible.

  • Inspector FT

La Trompette

It really was that summer lunch at La Trompette in July. Sitting on the terrace, wines by the glass, good badinage with the maitresse. The food is unfashionably complex Anglo-French, full of bright ideas executed with confidence and flair, every dish a discovery and a delight.

  • Inspector WS

Angela’s and Dory’s of Margate

Angela’s co-owner Lee Coad leads front of house with warmth and a big sense of humour. Lee’s not dissimilar to a master of ceremonies – especially so at a really memorable meal in August, when he was co-ordinating service to the dining room, pavement tables and tables over the road. Rob Cooper’s brief menu is chalked up on a board and hauled round tables, very French bistro style, and explained, tongue-in-cheek as old-fashioned – starters, main course, dessert – and is a roll call of simple but appealing fish cookery. I could eat here once a week.

But as visits to Margate are often weather dependent and last minute – not great for hard-to-book Angela’s - I find myself in their offshoot Dory’s more often. In fact, on Monday, I had my best meal ever. For a no-cook seafood/wine bar it’s a model of its kind. Dishes are made in Angela’s kitchen, the likes of soused paprika mussels are served cold, but brown crab on toast or smoked haddock and dill pie (with a fabulous pastry crust, much better than potato) are finished/reheated behind the bar. It is all quite simply delicious. And affordable.

  • Inspector CE

Le Gavroche

My favourite meal of the year was Le Gavroche - six weeks before they announced they were closing. Superb food, gorgeous service and a room full of people who wanted to be there and were determined to have a good time. The whole place was full of chatter and laughter.

  • Inspector CM

Le Nautilus, Le Guilvinec

Too many choices, but I'm paring back to the simplest things, done perfectly in their rightful place. In France this summer the perfect coincidence of a food origin story rooted in its authentic location and the simplest of treatments. In Le Guilvinec during heatwave: got up early to go and watch the return of the tuna boats and the prestigous tuna auction. A sensory symphony of sound, smell and seagulls. Watched the sun rise from the rocks outside the fish market then did a long coastal walk. Arrived by chance at Le Nautilus a small harbour bistro in a nearby village and decided to have early lunch given we'd already been up for hours. Noticed that chef/patron was one of the guys we'd seen buying at the earlier auction. Talked about tuna with him and he brought us the perfect summer lunch: slightly seared tuna loin, encrusted with milled seaweed and buckwheat, salad leaves from his garden and a local cider vinegar reduction. A simple bottle of muscadet and a lunch to remember.

  • Inspector EO

Abbey Inn & Homestead Kitchen

Abbey Inn, Byland Abbey. Bless them, three lovely courses, starter, main and pud. Fantastic quality, great cooking. And Homestead Kitchen, Goathland, lovely changing menu responding to seasons and what’s around.

  • Inspector TJ


My meal of the year is Rambutan in Borough Market which is Coventry-born Cynthia Shanmugalingam's love letter to Sri Lanka. I enjoyed the Tamil cuisine - curries, sambals, rotis, and particularly a tender Kalupol grilled chicken accompanied by an intoxicating sweet, spicy and tangy dip of tamarind and green chillies. Also, soft spicy fried aubergine moju infused with tamarind, followed by an intensely flavoured prawn curry.

  • Inspector RJ

Upstairs at Landrace

One of my favourite meals this year (and there have been lots) was lunch at Upstairs at Landrace in Bath. Located among the boutique shops, bars and restaurants of Walcot Street and away from Bath's main shopping area, it feels like a hidden gem, even if it's actually now a well-known destination in the city. It's a charming, intimate first floor space that was filled with light on a beautiful summer's day. Bonus points for the spiral staircase, they always add instant character and atmosphere. There wasn't a dish on the concise daily changing chalkboard menu that we didn't want to eat, and what we ordered reflected the obvious care and attention they put into the food here. Most importantly it was all incredibly delicious. Dishes are made to share but everything is so craveable you won't want to. Cheddar curd fritters were a close cousin to the Parmesan fries at Luca and equally as addictive. Duck, prune and hazelnut terrine displayed the skill of the kitchen and was a joy to eat. Serving cod's roe with the inspired combo of pickled cucumber, potato and egg raised what has become a ubiquitous dish to another level entirely. The handmade tagliatelle was the epitome of al dente and came with a rustic and assertive sausage ragu. Given that the ground floor houses one of the best bakeries in the UK, it was no surprise that the bread was top drawer. We were sat on a table next to the open kitchen, and despite the busy lunch service, the chefs were happy to chat about the food. Service was lovely and it's the sort of place you could imagine yourself whiling away an afternoon and suddenly finding it's time to order dinner. Given our experience in a nearby gastropub that evening, I really wish that's exactly what we had done.

  • Inspector LA

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