We ate our way around the country in 2012, checking out some of the hottest new openings as well as discovering established local gems. Here are five of the best.
Brasserie Zedel, London
The classic French menu offers everything from soups and salads to seafood and steaks. Set in one of London’s most spectacular dining rooms – its columns are coated with 23-carat gold leaf – we always feel like royalty when we go, but with its prix-fixe menu at just £8.75 for two courses, it doesn’t cost a king’s ransom. Reservations are taken but can be hard to come by, so it’s useful to know that some tables are always held back for walk-ins. 20 Sherwood Street, London, brasseriezedel.com.
Owned by local couple Greg and Doug – deux messieurs of whom we’re very fond – Puschka is a riot of a room, with fuschia pink walls, floral cushions, squishy banquettes and place settings bearing the image of a winged Oscar Wilde. The concise menu is solidly British with some modern European touches, and ingredients are locally sourced. Don’t miss the signature dish of duck confit shepherd’s pie (pictured), and try to leave room for the chocolate fondant – it’s the best we’ve had anywhere. Puschka, 16 Rodney Street, Liverpool, puschka.co.uk.
Cichetti – Italian bar snacks – have been one of the biggest new restaurant trends to emerge in recent years, and nowhere does them with more style than Fumo. Set in what feels like acres of pale marble, sparkling brass fittings and glistening mirrors (perfect for checking out fellow diners), Fumo is seriously glamorous. But it’s not all style over substance; the food is excellent, too. We particularly like the fritto misto – and the expertly-made cocktails wash it down a treat. Fumo, 1 Waterloo Street, Birmingham, sancarlofumo.co.uk.
The Rustic, Norfolk
Norfolk has one of the most exciting emerging food scenes in the UK, and nowhere showcases it better than The Rustic. Here, chef Sam Bryant works culinary magic with the county’s bounty. The brilliantly-named ‘gluttony soup’ uses whatever gluts of vegetables there are at the time, and the fabulous burger, a huge ball of prime beef, conceals a decadent nugget of bone marrow at the centre. We love. Sam’s partner, Charlie, is the restaurant’s ebullient manager and ensures guests have great fun as well as great food. The Rustic, Strattons Hotel, Swaffham, Norfolk. strattons-hotel.co.uk.
In Japan, ramen-ya, bars serving only ramen or stock-based noodle dishes, are everywhere, but in the UK they’re still very much a novelty. The best to open in 2012 is Soho’s Tonkotsu. Taking its name from the Japanese word for pork bones, the base of their 18-hour stock, it offers just three ramen dishes along with a handful of side orders and craft beers, and brings an authentic taste of Tokyo to London. We particularly covet the eponymous tonkotsu ramen and the kara age – dangerously moreish fried chicken.
Tonkotsu, 63 Dean Street, London, tonkotsu.co.uk. (image by Paul Winch Furness)
For local recommendations on where to eat, take a look at our hotel reviews – each one has an individual restaurant review and other eaterie suggestions for the area.