CHEF CONCIERGE • July 2020
Lockdown has eased and our eyes are bigger than our bellies, so the question is, which restaurants will have been worth the wait? To help slim down the pickings, six of the UK’s hottest chefs recommend their top local foodie haunts
The perfect brew: If you’re after a coffee, it has to be ManCoCo in Deansgate. I’ve been buying its coffee to serve at Adam Reid at The French for years, tasting and blending new recipes to suit each season.
The innovative option: The most interesting restaurant in Manchester (holding the city’s only Michelin star) is Mana (pictured), with chef Simon Martin. It’s a real gastro experience and all about the diners’ journey. Its creative menu includes dishes such as blue mussel, inoculated grains and pickled flowers.
Drinks to remember: Schofield’s Bar by Joe and Daniel Schofield is soon to be the hottest ticket in town. What these guys don’t know about liquor is not worth knowing. Joe has won international bartender awards, so he’s literally one of the best in the world.
Breakfast to wake up early for: Twelve Triangles Kitchen Table is a wonderful bakery with a few stores dotted around Edinburgh. It specialises in sourdough bread and pastries. Its kitchen table outlet is more of a café and there are always great breakfast options. A favourite of mine is the bacon sandwich with homemade ricotta on charcoal sourdough with smoked tomato ketchup!
The perfect brew: You’ll get the best cup of coffee at Williams & Johnson (pictured) at Custom Lane, in the heart of Leith. It’s such a great space, too. Go there on a sunny day and get a coffee to go, then sit looking out over the water.
Drinks to remember: A fantastic place to visit is Nauticus, a lovely bar also in Leith. It’s only been open a couple of years but they restored the building so beautifully and it feels like you’re sitting in an old-school pub.
To impress a date: Take them to Aktar Islam’s Opheem, newly anointed with a Michelin star and rightly so. The Midlands is well known for its forays into Anglo-Indian cuisine, but this is superlatively good in the category. Aktar maintains to me that his teeth are natural, but beyond his (definitely paid for) Hollywood smile, Opheem and its food sparkle. Don’t go à la carte – put your faith in Aktar with the taster.
Drinks to remember: 40 St Pauls is a tiny, heavily awarded gin bar, which embodies the best of the city – down-to-earth, understated brilliance. Enjoy a martini amongst the beautifully bizarre antiques at Ana Rocha, and do grab a coffee from Medicine Bakery (pictured). This place will make even the coldest of souls weak at the knees.
The innovative option: Of course, I’ll say my food at The Wilderness. But if you don’t like exceptionally sourced produce cooked over fire against a backdrop of rock ’n’ roll in a beautifully converted factory with over 150 years of history, then go for modern Nordic dishes at our brilliant neighbours, Folium.
Breakfast worth waking up early for: If there’s one place that deserves your love, it’s Brew & Brownie. The team and I lived off its raclette and bacon toasties before the Roots opening – very dangerous! Down the road from here, you’ll find one of my other favourite hangouts, Spark:York, a group of shipping containers with different independent street food traders. Always lots to see and eat there.
To impress a date: Personally I’d take them to Le Cochon Aveugle (pictured). The owners, Josh and Vicky Overington, are great friends of mine and run a very special place. It serves a surprise tasting menu, with Josh running the kitchen and Vicky in charge of all things wine.
Drinks to remember: How about visiting us at Roots? Our bar is on the first floor and overlooks the York Museum Gardens. My brother, James, creates the drinks (as well as for our first restaurant, The Black Swan) using produce foraged in and around Oldstead, Yorkshire. If you’re a beer-lover, House of Trembling Madness will be your paradise.
Breakfast to wake up early for: I’d get up early for the bacon naan at Dishoom (it’s a classic for a reason) or the eggs, sage and Serrano ham at Leila’s Shop in Shoreditch – just dreamy.
Snacks and coffee to go: You’ll find great takeaway options at Bao and ASAP Pizza (pictured), both in foodie haven, Borough Market. You’re spoilt for choice in London when it comes to the best coffee, but my top three are Pophams in Hackney and Islington, Crispin in Spitalfields and Over Under (west and southwest London).
To impress a date: It would have to be my favourite restaurant, Bright, in London Fields. Or the boundary-pushing Ta Ta Eatery’s Tóu with Zijun Meng as the head chef. I also love the atmosphere at The Elderfield pub in Hackney.
The perfect brew: Hands down the best coffee in Cardiff is Corner Coffee (pictured) on the city’s main high street. They import small batch coffee beans and you won’t find as fine a flat white anywhere else.
Drinks to remember: For an after-dinner cocktail session, Lab 22 is a brilliant bar tucked away in Morgan Quarter. It serves innovative cocktails, such as the crystal cut negroni, in a relaxed atmosphere. It also does a live jazz evening, which is awesome!
The foodie neighbourhood: My favourite Cardiff spot for food has to be Pontcanna. This spot practically fizzes with great restaurants (mine included!), pubs, microbreweries and small delis. It was also recently voted one of the best neighbourhoods in the UK.
Check the restaurant websites and social media pages for opening dates and safety announcements