Restaurants

Where to find the best Michelin-starred meals on a budget

Even Michelin-starred chefs, it seems, aren’t immune from the cost-of-living crisis. In a bid to make fine dining more affordable, Jason Atherton has cut prices across the board at Pollen Street Social, his flagship Mayfair restaurant (the three-course set lunch now costs £49.50 – down from £75 – and wines start from £7.50 a glass). At two Michelin-starred Kitchen Table on Charlotte Street, the cost of a 20-course set menu has come down by a third (from £300 to £200).  But even before we all started squeezing our belts, there were options for enjoying high-end food at not-so-high prices – if you knew where and when to go. Follow our

As good as pub food gets: The Red Lion, East Chisenbury, reviewed

The Red Lion, East Chisenbury, is in the Pewsey Vale on the edge of Salisbury Plain. Wiltshire’s strangeness surpasses even Cornwall and its menhirs: it has the greater volume of ghosts. I once spent an eerie day in Imber, the deserted village on the plain – the inhabitants were given 47 days’ notice to leave in November 1943, so American soldiers could shoot up Imber in preparation for invading Normandy. Its church of St Giles, perfectly maintained, is open one day a year in September. Its pub, the Bell Inn, was sold to the Ministry of Defence, and is not a fine restaurant with rooms but a red-brick ruin, with

Home cooking, but idealised: 2 Fore Street reviewed

The restaurant 2 Fore Street lives on Mousehole harbour, near gift shops: the post office and general store have closed, leaving a glut of blankets and ice cream, the remnants of Cornish drama. It’s a truism that Mousehole is hollowed out – tourism changes a place, and no one knows that better than Mousehole. Eating at 2 Fore Street gives the visitor the opportunity to examine what they have done with what they call love. There’s a mania for creating 30 perfect soufflés a night thatI cherish  Mousehole is one of those cursed villages that gather in the south-west: haunted in winter and glutted in summer, to paraphrase ‘The Pirates

Wuthering Heights in Devon: the Pilchard Inn, Burgh Island, reviewed

The Pilchard Inn sits at the entrance to Burgh Island, a minute tidal island off the coast of south Devon. The island is home to the Burgh Island Hotel, an eerie Art Deco masterpiece built by the son of a screw mogul, which dominates the view from Bigbury-on-Sea like Coney Island: it is more apparition than hotel. The hotel is faded, fascinating, plated in Art Deco and decorated with vast screws. I wonder if this is a joke: there is little information about the early years of the house, which vibrates with depravity and things unsaid. To compound the mystery, Agatha Christie wrote here in a shack by the sea,

Regulators should not roll over for Revolut

Since we launched our Economic Innovator (originally ‘Disruptor’) awards in 2018, I’ve had enjoyable contacts with well over 100 entrepreneur-led high-growth companies picked as finalists from across the UK. Most I met at convivial pitching lunches; the rest told me their stories by Zoom or phone. Only one chosen finalist has ever shunned both the lunch and the opportunity for a call: it was Revolut, the London fintech venture that’s currently hustling for a UK banking licence. Revolut’s 38-year-old Russian-born founder Nikolay Storonsky has built a serious disruptor, valued in 2021 at $33 billion. Though Schroders – as a Revolut shareholder – has marked that figure down to $18 billion,

It’s time to ban young children from restaurants

When you have small children just getting them out of the door can be traumatic. Finding and applying each shoe can be enough to provoke a tantrum – and not just in the parent. And no, they can’t bring their Power Rangers swords, because we are going out to lunch and everyone knows that plastic swords and restaurants don’t mix.  Eventually you will arrive at the restaurant, although it will 20 minutes later than the booking. As you push the buggy inside, the establishment falls quiet like the Slaughtered Lamb in An American Werewolf in London. There’s a scrape of chairs – a pause – then the chatter resumes. But in

Do London’s oldest restaurants still cut the mustard?

When George William Wilton opened his shellfish-mongers close to Haymarket in 1742, he could never have imagined that his business would still be thriving 280 years later. The place has outlived ten monarchs and is as old as Handel’s Messiah. Before visiting, I imagined a typically Hogarthian scene with portly gentlemen in dandruff-flecked suits feasting on potted shrimp and vintage port. Perhaps they had dropped by for a ‘spot of luncheon’ before toddling off to their various clubs at nearby St James’s.  Up until relatively recently you might well have witnessed just such a quintessentially English scene; sadly, the agreeable old buffers who would once have frequented places such as Wiltons no longer exist in

A themed restaurant done right: The Alice, Oxford, reviewed

The Alice lives in a ground-floor room of the Randolph Hotel in Oxford, which venerates the fantastical and the savage, as Oxford does. The savage lives in the Randolph’s dedicated crime museum with cocktails: the (Inspector) Morse Bar. The Alice is named for two women: Alice Liddell, the daughter of the ecclesiastical dean of Christchurch College – the grandest and most unfinished Oxford college – who posed for photographs for Lewis Carroll, became Alice of Wonderland and later invented a ladyship (an act as English as anything that ever happened here). I wonder what hungover students make of it, because it is very bright The first, of course, is more

The wacky world of immersive dining

The human desire to turn life’s mundanities into something altogether more agreeable never ceases to amaze and amuse. Take our homes, for instance. Once we were content to live in caves as long as they kept us dry and were reasonably warm. Then we decided it would be more appealing to build our own caves but with the added benefit of shag-pile carpets, front doors and locks to keep the jungle at bay. This ability to cocoon ourselves from an outside world that had once housed us became something of a status symbol and so we built bigger, more elaborate caves loaded with ostentatious accoutrements such as silk wall linings and

How to see Bangkok without the crowds

In the deliciously darkened corners of the Vesper cocktail bar, in the central quartier of the Siamese capital known as Silom, the patrons are guzzling some of the finest cocktails east of Suez: from the exquisite complexities of the ‘Silver Aviation’ (Roku gin, prosecco, maraschino, coffee-walnut bitters, almond and lavender cordial), all the way to the heady simplicity of the ‘Mango Manhattan’ (bourbon, vermouth, white port, absinthe). What’s more, everyone seems to be having a good time. Which is maybe not surprising – this place was recently ranked the 14th best bar in all Asia (by the same people that bring you the World’s 50 Best Restaurants, Hotels etc), and

In search of the perfect seaside restaurant

Certain foods taste and look better in the sun, with the sea lapping against your feet. Fish and chips on the pier, oysters from a shack right by the water, or a supermarket sandwich, held with one hand while the other holds on to a tin of ready-mixed gin and tonic, sitting on a beach blanket and watching the windsurfers. A restaurant that does amazing food and offers a proper sea view will be a goldmine, booked up for weeks on end not just by locals, but city dwellers escaping the sound of juggernauts and police sirens in favour of seagulls and ghettoblaster music. In search of that perfect destination

Where to eat in London in 2023

The most recent additions to London’s restaurant scene have plenty to offer – from Palestinian culinary history on a plate and a slice of the American East Coast to a tasting menu with a twist and ramen worth writing home about. Here’s Spectator Life‘s guide to the best new openings to try now – and three more to look out for later in the year. Four to book now Akub, Notting Hill It’s funny how comfort food doesn’t need to be familiar to be instantly recognisable. You may not have grown up eating Palestinian chicken musakhan, but when you taste Chef Fadi Kattan’s version there’s sense of home that’s unmistakable.

The best places to eat in Bristol

Thousands of people have fled London for buzzy, creative Bristol in recent years. Among them: top chefs, bakers, brewers and baristas. ‘There’s a thriving community of young food entrepreneurs, many refugees from the viciously profit-driven London restaurant scene,’ says Xanthe Clay, chef, food writer and Bristolian. ‘They are taking advantage of lower rents and rates to cook what they want to cook – not what some venture capital backer demands.’ Those to watch include Jamie Randall and Olivia Barry – the chef team behind Adelina Yard, near Queen Square in the city centre – who bring experience working with the likes of Angela Hartnett. There’s also James Wilkins, an ex-pupil of

The horror of gastropubs

Last week saw the publication of the 14th annual Estrella Damm Top 50 Gastropubs of Great Britain, a list consumed by middle-class foodies as eagerly as a £27 fish finger sandwich served on a piece of slate, washed down by a non-alcoholic cocktail in a jam jar. Couples scroll through former drinking holes transformed into Michelin-starred restaurants with ‘wacky’ names such as the Unruly Pig and the Scran and Scallie, noting the ones they have been to and others to put on a gastronomic bucket list – the bucket probably being what their sweet potato fries are served in. It’s a far cry from George Orwell’s 1946 essay ‘The Moon Under

Noma and the death of fine dining

The Menu is a horror film about fine dining that revolves around a psychotic head chef (Ralph Fiennes) who runs a destination restaurant on an American island. The island is uninhabited apart from the chef and his staff, who pluck it for the most refined marine treats to serve the obnoxious clientele on a nightly surprise menu. As I sat in the cinema watching it recently, I felt delighted, then sick, then scared – and then enlightened. Enlightened because I finally understood that fine dining – once the summit of high living and my own former obsession as a greedy twenty-something working in lifestyle journalism – is over. It is

The rise of the high-end curry house

Back in 2000, not one Indian chef in the UK held a Michelin star. For many people, dinner at a curry house meant a formica table, plastic cutlery and warm salad garnishes on Brick Lane.  Two decades later, all that has changed. There are seven Michelin-starred Indian restaurants across London and haute cuisine curry houses are taking over swathes of Mayfair and other upmarket areas that were previously the domain of chic French bistros and Italian osterias.   So what’s behind the rise of the high-end Indian restaurant? And which are the dishes not to miss? We spoke to four top chefs at our favourite upmarket Indian eateries in the capital

Where to find a taste of Greece in London

Last time I visited Toronto, Canada, I stayed in Greektown, home to one of the largest Greek communities in North America. Several scenes from My Big Fat Greek Wedding were filmed here, and street signs are in Greek as well as English. On the day I arrived, jetlagged and disorientated, I happened upon a restaurant that was so authentically Greek I imagined I could smell the pine trees and hear the soft chirp of crickets. A couple of elderly men sat drinking ouzo at the bar, and rather than being led to a table I was taken into the kitchen where Maria (reader, that was her name, what can I do?) was

London’s best jazz bars

When jazz music arrived on our shores in 1919, with the first British tour of the Original Dixieland Jazz Band, it received a frosty welcome from many. Other performers tried to get the group kicked off theatre bills, and the tour ended abruptly – with the Original Dixielanders being chased to Southampton docks by a lord who had just found out the lead singer had been trying to seduce his daughter. Happily, in the subsequent 100 years or so, jazz has gone on to earn a firm place in our hearts and record collections. With the return of London Jazz Festival, which runs from today until 20 November, we hunted down

I’ve found the only gastropub worth eating at

The gastropub, an invention of the early 1990s, is a terrible idea. They burst on to the scene when breweries were made to sell off many of their pubs for a song to make way for competition, encouraging Marco Pierre White wannabes to snap them up and replace cheese sandwiches and pork scratchings with kidneys on toast and anything that could be put together in a kitchen the size of a shoebox. Many of them have food prepared off-premises but charge restaurant prices. There are no proper tablecloths, the glasses are made to survive if dropped on concrete floors and it all feels a bit like going round to your

Echoes of John Lewis: Piazza at Royal Opera House reviewed

The Piazza is not a piazza – a realisation which is always irritating – but a restaurant in the eaves of the Royal Opera House, now restyled and open to those without tickets to the opera or ballet. If it were honest, Piazza would name itself Attic or Eaves, but the Garden, as idiotscall it, has long been a slave to delusions of the most boring kind. (It is no longer a garden in the wreckage of Inigo Jones’s square. I wish it were.) I would be happy to dine in a restaurant called Eaves – my favourite hotel is a hole in a wall by the Jaffa Gate in