Chutney Mary, London, SW1
New meets old at this stylish St James’s restaurant with its hybrid of classical and modern décor. The smart doorman sets the tone at this classy venue, likewise the glittering Pukka Bar for cocktails. But its main dining room is the real jewel in the crown complete with mirrored columns and soft lighting. The creative Indian cuisine runs to inspiring combinations with luxurious touches and well-dressed presentation. Baked venison samosas, tamarind and date chutney might precede halibut tikka with dill and green chilli. A dark chocolate ‘bomb’ filled with milk chocolate mousse and passionfruit sauce is a skilful dessert.
Farmyard, Norwich, Norfolk
The philosophy at this modern and minimalist restaurant in the heart of the city is quite simple – find the very best Norfolk produce and serve it in a relaxed bistro setting. From the sourdough to the handmade butter, everything is made from scratch, with meat, fish and vegetables cooked over charcoal for added flavour. From the daily-changing menu, a tender piece of belly pork with Chinese-style XO sauce and BBQ onions might lead on to roasted rump of lamb with celeriac, mushroom and fenugreek. Finish with a home-made chocolate bar with miso caramel, candied peanuts and milk sorbet.
KOL Restaurant, London, W1
This hot-spot new Mexican feels unlike dining anywhere else in the capital. Warm tones and textures, beams, leather seating, eye-catching lighting and displays of heritage items create an engaging authentic buzz, reinforced by a centrepiece open kitchen. Uptempo, yet relaxed, Lastra’s kitchen turns out labour-intensive, prettily plated super-modern dishes on a repertoire of tasting menus (with a choice at mains) that express Mexican culture and innovation through British ingredients, while also championing wild foods and seasonality. Bright, fresh, colourful flavours dance on the palette with chilli used hyper-skilfully in many forms; witness a ‘tostada’ course of chalk stream trout with pasilla Oaxaca, courgette, berries and wild garlic
Pentonbridge Inn, Pentonbridge, Cumbria
Just on the English side of the border but closer to Scottish towns, this fully refurbished inn has built a sound reputation for good food. There’s a blend of modern and traditional inside, with exposed brick, log burning stoves and a stylish decor. Much of the produce used for the imaginative menus comes from the owner’s nearby estate and gardens. Solid technical skill underpins the dishes, which are big on flavour and precision presentation. Cornish crab with quail egg caviar and leek and potato foam might precede Cartmel Valley red deer, crispy haggis, neeps and tatties with bone marrow sauce.
Pétrus by Gordon Ramsay, London, SW1
Pétrus by Gordon Ramsay is very much a fine dining environment with service of the highest order. The dining room has a circular dynamic with a glass wine cellar in the middle. It’s comfortable, modern and light; think leather chairs and white linen, and pastel tones jazzed up by splashes of claret. All crockery, cutlery and glassware is of the highest standard. The menu may start with an organic egg with sweet corn, bacon and black truffle, continue to Cornish cod with violet artichoke, pine nuts, courgette and olive, and wind up in a delicious hazelnut souffle with salted caramel ice cream. Outstanding wine list.
The Clock House, Ripley, Surrey
The namesake signature clock above the front door of this imposing Georgian building certainly draws the eye on well-healed Ripley’s pretty High Street. Inside is equally elegant, with on-trend pastel shades and clean lines set against stripped-back old wall timbers and tall street-side windows. A relaxed vibe extends to the informed, sunny-natured service, while chef Paul Nicholson’s thoroughbred modern cooking delivers via a roster of fixed-price menus, including tasting options. Simplicity, lightness of touch and flavour reign supreme in dressed-to-thrill dishes of panache; take ‘sparkling-fresh’ line-caught plaice with coco beans, pork and fennel to a Bakewell dessert with cherry and almond, while formal-code amuse-bouche and in-house bread are equally classy.
The Grill at The Dorchester, London, W1
The revamped restaurant at the heart of The Dorchester presents a contemporary reworking of the legendary British grill room first established in 1931. The chandeliers, parquet floor and intricate gilded ceilings provide a glamorous backdrop for a meal here, with some diners seated close to the action in front of the open kitchen. Start with veal sweetbread, potato pancake, bacon and cabbage before a precisely cooked piece of first-rate Cornish turbot with borlotti beans and grelot onion. Yoghurt soft serve, apricots, London Honey and almonds is a clean and refreshing finale, although the soufflés are as good as ever.