New restaurants in The Good Food Guide 2020
Published 05 September 2019

Peg, Hackney

The Good Food Guide 2020 is published next week so bag your table at these new entries before word gets out...

Scandi Style

Hjem, Northumberland
Not made it to Fäviken, the world-famous restaurant in deepest Sweden that closes for good in December? Fear not. Alex Nietosvuori’s minimalist Hjem (meaning ‘home’ and pronounced ‘yem’) captures the spirit of its Scandinavian forebear, only closer to home. Alex built up a serious CV in his native Sweden (including at Fäviken) and in Denmark, as did his partner, restaurant manager and Northumbrian Ally Thompson (pictured). From the bright dining room of the Hadrian Hotel in the Tyne Valley village of Wall, watch the kitchen team prepare the six- or 12-course ‘surprise’ tasting menus, conjured from local and foraged produce. Among the line-up might be glossy chicken skin crisp enough to snap, topped with smoked cod’s head and oregano from the kitchen herb garden. Sommelier Anna Frost really knows her stuff, and you can sleep it all off in one of the small hotel’s 11 bedrooms.

Island Paradise

No 10, Jersey
“No 10 comes as a welcome breath of fresh ocean air on the Jersey dining scene,” said our inspector after a visit to Joe Baker’s town-centre spot just a couple of blocks from Liberation Square. Joe (right) is fully living up to the traction created by his recent success on Great British Menu, with a style of cooking that is unostentatious, yet bursting with the kind of flavours and combinations that enable island produce to shine. Take, for example, a brilliant opener of luscious Brookland Farm pork belly on a heap of samphire in an eastern broth of preserved lemon, coriander and chilli, all topped with a smoked anchovy. Or an inspired composition of octopus with Ossau-Iraty cheese, ’nduja and confit tamarillo. A bowl of baked hay custard, topped with a layer of glossy rhubarb jelly and torn basil that adds heavenly aromatics, was described as “utterly gorgeous”. Staff are clued-up and always on the ball, and there’s a stone-walled basement bar (pictured) serving of-the-moment cocktails.

Community Cafe

The Warren, Carmarthen
Launched after a crowdfunding campaign, this fetching café is home to open-mic nights, quizzes and live music. Spread across a rambling series of rooms (hence the name) with bar at the back, it’s a convivial space for a top breakfast, great-value lunch or more substantial dinner (Thurs-Sat). Founder and chef Deri Reed makes everything on site and there’s a wealth of local suppliers: your cappuccino comes from Coaltown Coffee Roasters; Rhosyn Farm pork belly is used to stuff your lunchtime roll; Wye Valley asparagus (in season) features in a risotto that appears on the wallet-friendly pre-theatre menu (Thurs and Fri). The focus on ethical sourcing extends to the drinks list, which includes hand-crafted gin from Jin Talog. No wonder The Warren picks up this year’s award for Best Local Restaurant in Wales.

City Chic

Peg, London E9
“An exciting little place” is how one visitor described this no-reservations wine bar and restaurant in a scruffy but oh-so-cool part of east London. The spare interior – pegboard menu, terrazzo counters (made from recycled yogurt pots, don’tcha know), unforgiving bar stools – doesn’t exactly encourage diners to linger. Nor does it hint that the culinary compass points much further east to Japan and, in particular, to yakitori. Chicken bits and pieces (hearts, wings, thighs) figure prominently in beautiful, low-budget dishes (most are between £3 and £11) prepared with a precision that the paper napkins and pastel-hued plastic plates belie. Those skewered hearts, cooked wondrously tender, might come under a blizzard of fresh horseradish; crispy-skinned wings are encrusted with shichimi togarashi; and full-
flavoured, juicy thigh is spiked with a fiery lemon kosho. Elsewhere on the daily-changing menu, smoked eel with sweet-tart blackcurrants cooked down in beef fat is a glorious new way with a luxury ingredient, while Tenderstem broccoli with a walnut miso dressing (left)elevates the everyday to the sublime. Expect to make explorations through the 150-strong list of low-intervention wines plus beer and sake too.

Capital Views

The Lookout, Edinburgh
No prizes for guessing the inspiration behind this restaurant’s name; from its home in a gravity-defying cantilevered glass cube perched on top of Calton Hill, The Lookout delivers arguably the best views in and of the city. While it would be
easy to trade off its physical attributes alone, this Edinburgh newcomer scores a double, as its modern Scottish menus are every bit as impressive as the setting.
The kitchen is run by the team behind The Gardener’s Cottage, a former Good Food Guide regional award-winner, though here ambitions are more (ahem) lofty. Culinary know-how and impeccable ingredients combine in a standout dish of egg-yolk raviolo in a silken sauce of Tunworth cheese and wild garlic, beneath a delicate nest of shoestring potatoes. Seafood is a strong suit, too, with soft, sinuous skate paired with lightly pickled razor clam and burnt lemon. Though prices on the à la carte and tasting menus climb skywards, the fixed-price daytime deal brings proceedings gently down to earth.

Hearty Pub Food

The Bell, Oxfordshire
‘Buzz’ isn’t a word that’s often applied to pubs in sleepy Cotswold villages, but this “convincingly ancient” whitewashed hostelry with its steak nights, happy hours and Oxfordshire-brewed ales has been causing quite a stir. So popular has it become that there’s even a spin-off at swanky members’ club Soho Farmhouse. It’s not about destination dining, though. Rather, the characterful Bell does a good line in pub food, pleasing the die-hards with double cheeseburgers, pies – perhaps chicken, leek and wild garlic – battered fish and Sunday roasts. There are also generously topped pizzas with ‘burnished crusts’ straight from the wood-fired oven.
The full line-up is peppered with good things: Cotswold IPA rarebit with soldiers and pickles (actually a fondue-like dip with fingers of toasted sourdough), plus nicely gamey venison meatballs in rich tomato sauce with soft polenta and a generous scattering of parmesan. Puds are out of the nursery-food mould: jelly and ice cream, rice pudding, custard tart. There’s nothing fancy about The Bell, but it’s the kind of local we would all love to have on our doorstep.

Savvy supper

Food by John Lawson, Leigh-on-Sea
“What a find!” declared our inspector, acting on a reader tip-off about this ‘no-menu’ restaurant deep in the commuter belt. Now the word is out on the relaxed neighbourhood spot, squashed between a café-cum-deli and a gift shop, where great things are happening. John Lawson (below) earned his stripes in the kitchens of Raymond Blanc and Gordon Ramsay before setting up on his own in Melbourne. When he was diagnosed with a brain tumour in 2015, he used food to support his ongoing recovery and it’s this healthy-eating ethos that underpins the cooking here. But there is nothing holier-than-thou about the organic or foraged produce, the vegan or free-from dishes, or the grass-fed meat: they are quite simply delicious.
“Worth every penny” was how one enthusiastic diner, now a loyal regular, summed up Lawson’s £48 four-course no-choice menu. Our inspector heaped praise on memorable Aberdeen Angus featherblade paired with roasted cauliflower and a cauliflower and cashew purée, as well as the first-rate front of house. But don’t just take their word for it: get yourself a day return to the Essex seaside pronto.