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June 28, 2022updated Jul 18, 2022

The Best Fine Dining Cities in the UK

From London's world-class cuisine to daily catches in Cornwall, these are the best places to enjoy UK fine dining.

By Svetlana Nartey

The UK has always been a connoisseur of fish and meats with roast beef and battered fish engrained in its tradition, yet it has also embraced foreign culture, upholding the Indian-influenced Chicken Tikka as its national dish and foreign flavors rippling through its cities to bring forth the best fine dining.

London, the economic and geographical capital, is the UK’s prime tourist attraction and hence has the most voluminous food hub, but you’ll find countless fine cuisines scattered across the country. Whilst London takes to not only fulfilling taste but stimulating all senses with its bold and fantastical restaurant venues, seafront cities and towns utilize their freshest ingredients to create appetizing seasonal plates.

To taste the flavors that the UK has to offer is to experience its culture, influence and the personality of its citizens. Whether you’re eating for pure satiety or indulgence, a seat at these fine dining spots will satisfy either desire and take you beyond introspection and on a cultural journey.

Fine dining London

turbot dish from best fine dining cities UK

Line-caught turbot at Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester / ©@FoodStoryMedia

London is full of Michelin star restaurants, containing 71 in total, including five of seven three-Michelin-starred restaurants within the UK. It is not just one of the best cities for fine dining in the UK, but the world.

As we direct your attention to only the best, we must first stop at Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester. Earning its luxurious reputation due to the relaxed professionalism of its environment, Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester ensures satisfaction for each individual. Providing a tasting menu that hybrids with a la carte, customers are allowed to select dishes from the menu to cultivate a personalized savoring experience. While exquisite wine pairings are on offer, it is crucial to sample the signature Rum Baba whose unforgettable taste will linger on the tongue. Hélène Darroze at The Connaught further embodies the popularity of baba through its signature dessert served with a choice of aged Armagnacs.

At the opposite end of Hyde Park, CORE by Clare Smyth is able to access this very spot in your heart once you taste tradition with a twist. Fish and chips are elevated to soft potato and trout roe garnished by a buttery dulse beurre blanc and the ‘Cheese and onion’ (the UK’s favorite crisps flavor) is embodied in a warming broth. The UK’s most famous chef also tops London’s fine dining scene in southwest London. Matte Abé delivers an impeccable menu inspired by Gordon Ramsey at his eponymous restaurant. Restaurant Gordon Ramsey features delicately profound dishes such as lobster ravioli and stirringly sour bites such as the pickled girolle.

Conveyed by its playful name, Sketch is not your ordinary stand-alone restaurant but a colorful explosion of four separate bistros that are housed in a uniquely spectacular Mayfair building. Of course, one restaurant comes out on top, The Lecture Room & Library proves the most comfortable and serviceable of the four as your every need is attended to and thirst is quenched by the suggestions of a knowledgeable sommelier. Diners can expect a vast assortment of dishes that showcase the best of Pierre Gagnaire in elegance and presentation and most importantly, flavor.

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Fine dining in Edinburgh

The Kitchin fine dining room

A relaxed dining experience on Edinburgh’s Leith waterfront is on offer at The Kitchin / ©The Kitchen

Although the city Edinburgh features four exquisitely curated Michelin star restaurants, it is important to first acknowledge Restaurant Andrew Fairlie. Just over an hour’s drive from Scotland’s capital, the two Michelin stars awarded to this restaurant are done justly so. From caramelized veal sweetbread served with red wine and bone marrow through to a hazelnut praline parfait with bergamot caramel and pear sorbet, the a la carte menu boldly pairs rich meaty flavors with astringent sweetness and subdues fruity sharpness. Despite Andrew Fairlie’s passing in 2019, the outstanding upkeep of this restaurant makes dining here not only unforgettable but immortalizes his legacy.

Back in Scotland’s capital city, Conor Toomey will not disappoint as he presents the finest example of modern dining. Diners are offered no choice but are plunged into a three-hour tasting experience where each new plate is a scrumptious surprise. For those less spontaneous, a relaxed dining experience on Edinburgh’s Leith waterfront is on offer at The Kitchin. Although it also features tasting menus that are available in both a vegetarian and “prestige” option, its a la carte menu allows personal choice. From fine wagyu to roasted roe deer and a spring dessert menu of dark chocolate soufflé drizzled in water mint ice cream, the flavors are limitless if you chose to dine at this Edinburgh gem.

Scotland’s second most popular city of Glasgow also contains the famous Cail Bruich. Living up to its name, meaning ‘to eat well,’ Lorna McNee delivers poignant flavors inspired by her 12 years of partnership with the aforementioned Fairlie. If your pallet craves harmony, you will not be disappointed by the balanced texture of flaky crab with crunchy hazelnut nor the silky mushrooms atop crumby bread. Guests are welcome to sensually enhance this gastronomical journey by dining at the Chef’s Table in front of an open kitchen.

Fine dining in Greater Manchester

oyster dish from Mana fine dining

Mana utilizes the freshest available ingredients of the day / ©Mana

A single Michelin star restaurant crowns the city of Greater Manchester and seasonally guides our palette through time’s annual cycle. Devoid of a set menu, Mana encourages open-mindedness as the staff prepare dishes that utilize the freshest available ingredients of the day. Chef patron Simon Martin exploits Britain’s island geography to plate up the best that British waters have to offer, cultivating bold flavors and delicate textures that showcase Britain’s natural resources.

The meal forces assimilation with both British culture and Martin’s personality as we consume what he calls an “alive, evolving and immersive” cuisine. Located only a 14-minute walk from Manchester Piccadilly Station and neighboring the trendy Northern Quarter, Mana is a must-go when exploring the city.

Venturing a little south to Stockport, Samuel Buckley’s restaurant Where The Light Gets In similarly adheres to seasonality and sustainability earning it a Michelin Green star. Mirrored by its open kitchen, utter naturalness and transparency illuminates a space that plates ingredients sourced naturally and often from the restaurant’s own farm.

The intimate dining room accommodates only 30 guests and allows for sincerity to further transpire as it invites conversation about the food’s origin. Stimulating this discussion are the team who move between tables with tales of the restaurant’s farm, farmers and fishermen who enabled the meal. As you navigate through the ever-evolving menu harmonious with seasonal availability, the experience becomes a narrative into which you are effortlessly immersed.

Fine dining in Birmingham

Sample dish from Simpsons

At Simpsons Restaurant, Luke Tipping perfects British tradition / ©Simpsons

Renowned for its Balti, Birmingham’s curry houses peak at Opheem. Refusing to conform to tradition, Aktar Islam presents Indian cuisine with breathtaking novelty, earning his restaurant a Michelin star in 2020. His menu, updated multiple times a year for seasonality and catered to both vegetarian and pescatarian diets, never falters on taste.

The tasting menu encourages customers to try grilled corn smothered in spice butter and corn ice cream, bite into succulently roasted pineapple garnished with coconut and lime and playfully tear apart a spongy milk loaf which can then be dipped into a flavorful spice plate. Accompanying this, Opheem’s wine pairings surpass temporal boundaries, borrowing flavors from both the old and new worlds as well as various Coravin serves to offer the best possible auxiliary alcohol.

As well as the best fine dining Indian restaurant, the UK city features four other Michelin-starred restaurants that redefine modern cuisine. At Simpsons Restaurant, Luke Tipping perfects British tradition, presenting a Cornish cod main dolloped with a bitter-sweet courgette shellfish cream and served with jersey potatoes. A plant-based menu further ensures enjoyment for all dietary requirements. Mushrooms are given umami when placed in a miso and dashi broth peppered with artichoke and floral nasturtiums garnish.

Coming with a different seafood spin, at Adam’s, Adam Stokes draws on Japanese cuisine to bring a wasabi heat to crimson tuna, soothing the tongue with creamy avocado and yolky chawanmushi.

Purnell’s head chef, Glynn Purnell, brings similar flare to his menu. Offering a flavorful Fish du Jour with pickled mustard seeds that explode with a fiery tang. Purnell offers impassioned originality as well as wholesome familiarity with dishes such as haddock and eggs that feature Mother Prunell’s special twist.

Topping it off, Brad Carter hones our palette back to British tradition at his restaurant Carters of Moseley. Featuring classics like cured pork, English truffle and the simply pleasurable bread and butter, this Birmingham-based restaurant will transport you through British history through taste alone.

Fine dining in Cornwall

Nathan Outlaw’s restaurants reflect the beautiful serenity of Port Isaac’s architecture / ©Outlaw’s New Road

Although a county and not a city, Cornwall is impossible to ignore, with its bountiful coastline inspiring many a Michelin-starred chef to set up a fine dining outpost. Outlaw’s New Road and its sister restaurant Outlaw’s Fish Kitchen dominate the Michelin scene in Cornwall with Paul Ainsworth at No.6 in Padstow the only other Michelin-starred restaurant close by.

Found in the small fishing town of Port Isaac, Outlaw’s restaurants reflect the beautiful serenity of the town’s architecture. At New Road, the wooden-furnished interior glooms the inside of the restaurant so as to draw attention to expansive windows that offer stunning sea views. As you consume a seafood-oriented sample menu of freshly caught seabass, monkfish and thornback ray, it feels as if you are afloat on the ocean, granting authentic freshness to each dish.

Contrasting this sea voyeurism, Outlaw’s Fish Kitchen presents an invitingly casual space with white-walled interiors. Drawing attention away from the outside and instead into the kitchen space, a homely sense of the kitchen is created through this focal unity. Long, cushioned seating areas and wood-top tables invite a sense of belonging as you sink into the comfort of the many propped pillows. Diners are treated to hearty plates of mackerel tartare, crispy ling and lobster dumpling. The creatively palleted fish ignites conversation and community contrary to the New Road’s fish in its natural element and seafront backdrop that arouses contemplation.

Also utilizing the abundance of seafood, Paul Ainsworth at No.6 presents a warm, raw scallop, truffle cured cod and wild Cornish turbot drenched in onion gravy. Yet daring to unsettle, the restaurant surprises customers with innovative food combinations. A whole pigeon served with pain au chocolat is featured as a third course, preceded by a bird’s liver dabbled with sweet carrot ketchup.

Whether you are looking for your taste buds to be challenged or cleansed by the salt-water of fresh fish, a trip to Cornwall is certain to satiate you.

[See also: Experience the Magic of Cornwall at The Idle Rocks, St. Mawes]

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